T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 4 : memory
An 8-year-old tow-headed boy stared wistfully out of the rattling plexiglas window. His gray eyes seemed dull compared with most other children’s endless amazement of the world. The very essence of his life was drained away leaving but an odd yet lovely pale skinned shell behind. The bus hit yet another pothole in the crackled road that sent everything shaking. The mousy haired woman in a nurse’s coat beside him lost an apple from her grocery bag. The shiny red fruit rolled down the isle towards the back and curved under a man's seat where it wobbled but stayed, moving around in an enclosed circle.
"Oops" he whispered to her, closing over the top of the brown paper bag with one slender hand. "It got away"
"It did" she smiled back. It wasn't often she took him out of the house even for simple errands. "Did you have fun today?"
"No..." he sighed. "I'm sorry, Ruth” among the blurs of patchy green lawns and vinyl sided suburban houses and mini-marts of the nameless town that could have been any-town; he picked out a sight that had sudden interest for him. Youngsters his age with bright cheerful souls swung happily, slid joyfully, jumping, running, laughing and playing together on playground equipment. A few flew a kite with some adults, the rainbow colored diamond drifting and weaving high in the air. "Can... can we go there?" he pointed and tugged on her sleeve.
"Don't touch me,” she warned with a cruel gaze that softened when she was the fear scrawled on the boys face ad he coiled back. "Davey, I told you why we can't go to those anymore."
"Well, he started it... " He crossed his arms and glowered. "He said he wanted to borrow my dog tags to play war. I told him you said I couldn’t ever take them off. Not ever. He made fun of me. He tried to take them. He tried to hit me. So I hit him back..."
"With a fist full of metal" Ruth scowled.
"He was bigger than me. I had to,” little David pleaded. "It won't happen again. I promise. Please?" Tears threatened to fall if he didn't get his way. "Why! Why won't you let me play with other kids!”
"Shush. Don't make a scene now. If you call attention to yourself they'll take you away from me. Do you understand? They'll hurt you bad. You don't want that to happen do you? I'm looking out for your... and the other kids... safety. You're different from them. That’s why you can't be a part of their games."
"I won't hurt anyone. I won't get hurt." his little hands bawled into fists "I'll be good, I really will. Please... I just want to play, just for a few minutes. Just a little while." Pink lips pouted but his theatrics had no effect on the cool-tempered chemist.
Crying did him no good so he retreated to silent defeat. From what Ruth had said that where he had hit the older boy and with what had sent him into a coma for several days. He deserves it, thought David, he picked on people, was mean to them. Mean people like that deserve to die.
Ruth swallowed her nerves and grabbed her son’s hand as they stepped off the bus. He looked into the eyes of strangers searching for something he had no words for. None of the passengers smiled or acknowledged him. Their gaze was fixed past and through him as if he did not exist.
“It’s warm” his fingers tightened around Ruth’s. There were so many miniscule grooves and texture in hers compared to his own and not simply because of the age difference. He had an entirely different set of skin.
“Not particularly,” she bemoaned the weather for being short of perfect.
“Your hand… it’s warm. Is that bad? Is that why you don’t want me to touch you?”
“There’s nothing wrong with my health. Its you that…”
“I’m conty-geese?” he squeaked, startled.
“The word is contagious,” she corrected like a studious teacher. “And N-“ she paused, the negative affirmation to his inquiry lingering on her lips. “Perhaps,” she instead lied, “You wouldn’t want to make anyone else sick, would you? Imagine how it would scare them to see Xilvrin leaking out of them”
“Is there a cure?” he asked over the whirr of traffic.
“No. I tried everything I could to make you normal. Your body resists all medicines and treatments.”
He swiped his hand away and with horror uttered, “I hurt you,” before running as fast and far as his slim little legs would take him. He ignored his mother’s desperate and angry cries for him to return. Weaving through others out for a stroll and tar bubbled dark wood telephone poles he blindly stampeded forward to an unknown destination. As his emotional levels and adrenaline rose the silver substance wove itself about his boyish limbs and torso. A young woman with baby carriage screamed at the sight of the half-metal, half-child creature. In confusion he ran into traffic to get away form her. The first car swerved around and missed him by the slightest faction. The driver laid on his horn thick and cursed about a careless kid in tinfoil playing in the street.
The second vehicle, a large forest green 4x4 truck, slammed into the amorphous shape sending it flying into the air. Dazed, David could only think about what he felt and connect into a string of things that made sense acceleration, weightlessness, flight, getting away, the ground far beneath, the rush, and the kite from before… Two glider wings spread from the ball of liquid as a tail flattened in a fan for a rudder. The front of the UFO turned into something between a plane nose and a birds beak. He drifted gently to the other side of the road in the bizarre flying apparatus.
Shedding his outer armor into dissipation, he curled into a ball on a pile of pine needles on an unkempt lawn of a white house. All he could do was scream in agony the impact had drove rushing through his bones. Hard throbbing torturous sensations beset him. His world was blinded with red shooting pain. He screamed until his throat burned and began to cough up blood.
Dimly he heard a car pull up and someone step out. An unfamiliar man’s voice proclaimed in a rough manner, “So the story followed through after all this time. Pity, you eluded me for so long. Ten years and this charade will come to an end.”
With all the strength he could muster, David pulled himself up, red dripping from his chin and staining the cotton fabric front of his shirt. He gulped some of the nasty iron tasting thick fluid back and croaked “What?”. His head spun and vision swirled so the exact image of the man’s features eluded him. He could vaguely make out the color and silhouette of the vehicle… a forest green truck.
“Ms. Reid has been hiding you away. No longer,” he stated in a way that made it clear in David’s mind that he was much better off with Ruth’s fear of him than to be in fear of this stranger. He felt more alone and vulnerable than ever before under the intruder’s glare.
“Aren’t you supposed to call 9-11 or something when someone gets hurt bad?” David weakly challenged. He tested his legs. It would pain him greatly, but he could still morph and take off if he needed to.
“Come with me and I’ll make sure you get taken care of,” the mystery man offered.
“No. I don’t think so,” David shook his head and jarred a migraine into his already addled brain. He had to make it back to Ruth. The last thing he should do is change shape in front of this aggressor but it was the only chance for escape. It may be his only chance for survival. With backbreaking labor he let the metallic goo flow again, already feeling the strain of exhaustion the multiple morph was going to cause on top of his injuries. In the back of his head he recalled a nature discovery program that aired on television had said the cheetah was the fastest animal for short distance sprints. That form was exactly what he needed so he concentrated all of his beaten body and brain upon it.
When it was shaped far enough for him to flee, he did so at breakneck speed. A gun drawn from the man’s coat fired behind him. He dodged the bullets that whizzed with clumsy luck, the few that managed to hit bounced off the now tough yet elastic outer casing. Through the reflective shimmering haze he spotted his solo matriarch furtively searching for her lost child. She was but a wavering blob as if seen from underwater and he was far too eager to surface. He leapt into her open arms and quivered, afraid to demorph.
“What kind of prank are you trying to pull?” She held onto the life size cheetah noticing the blood dripping down between its fangs. “David… did you… did you KILL someone?”
He shut his eyes, external and true, managing to growl out, “Run. Home. Now. Hurry.” Through the morph hand were no longer warm. They had no feeling at all. She wisely took a route through the backyards of houses and woods, preventing the man from grabbing them off the street, without ever being told of his existence. She’d abandoned her groceries without a second thought. Her life –both their lives- were far too important to risk over apples, bread, and milk. Despite how hard she was on him she truly did care for the strange being cradled in her arms. He was her son after all, her own flesh and blood. Not wholly, of course, but a part of her DNA was a part of his. That was enough to motivate her into looking after the inhuman boy.
When she brought him over the threshold of the humble dwelling the currently residing in he discarded the cheetah guise and fell to the oak floor. “A man… after me… shooting… car… hit me… It hurts! IT HURTS SO MUCH!” he cried freely, hot saltwater tears mingling with drying blood and mixing with the melting remnants of the Xilvrin into odd congealed little blobs.
A thunderous rapping on the door interrupted his frantic breath-constricted speech. Ruth hesitated a moment before peering through the peephole.
“OPEN UP, Dr. Reid!” The man’s voice from before bellowed and continued to knock so heavily the door shook on its hinges.
Ruth backed away slowly, shaking. She tripped over David still crouched on the floor landing with an audible thud on her back. She whispered to him, not missing a beat “David, baby, hide. Quickly. Don’t come out, no matter what you hear.” Her eyes were wide as the fists banging on the front entrance ceased their abuse. “Now!” she pleaded with urgency.
He tugged at the fraying rope cord to the trap door at the top back in Ruth’s bedroom closet. He scrambled up and over the shelves doing his best not to knock anything over. A glossy black heel descended after being jostled from its perch but he grabbed it at the last second. He put it back it its checkered cardboard box and continued his ascent into the attic. Once amongst the insulation and splintery beams he began what he knew would be is final morph of the day. On hands and knees he crawled to the hiding space, a non-functional air duct. He took a deep breath to steady himself and then wiled the Xilvrin to spread out to the extent of the boxed shape, trapped inside a tiny prison of his own creation, complete with a realistic looking facsimile of a locked lid.
The man at the door set his gun to the knob and shot off the lock and made his way in.
Downstairs, David could hear the echoes of yelling, fighting, and further gunshots. He wondered what he would do without Ruth for the first time in his life. She was always there. Her leaving or being taken away from him had never occurred to him. He had no other family or friends to run to. Worse yet, what if that man took him and shot him or did God knows what?
“Where is he, Dr. Reid?”
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” slap… ”I haven’t seen him” …slap.
“Nevermind, I’ll find him myself.” A gunshot…
Ruth’s voice was silenced but the man continued to bellow and crash through the rooms. Dressers were knocked over as well as other furniture. Several breakables were smashed and doors forced open or slammed. David held his breath as the trap door screeched open and the man’s heavy footfalls came dangerously close to his place of escape. Only by some sort of divine intervention did he not spy the air duct lid was unusually shiny. He left with disgust. It was hours before David dared to move.
When he finally emerged the sight of Ruth laying disheveled and bruised on the couch sent him rushing to the phone to call for help. She told him not to bother, the man would only find them in the hospital as well, and bring reinforcements. She hadn’t been shot, but there was no doubt she had received severe reprimand of her keep of the young monster.
“We have to leave here David. Soon as I can move, we’re leaving… He’ll be back soon. A new town a new names in a new state for a while, maybe we can erase ourselves and begin again,” she sighed with bloodshot eyes “You see now why we can’t let anyone know about you and I? You se why we can’t let anyone get close? You see now? It’s dangerous… So very dangerous…”
He collapsed at her feet in a crumbled mess. The shifting had taken all his strength away, not to mention the collision. He let the world fade to black, hoping Ruth, being the adult in charge, would be able to handle the situation herself from here on in...
7 years later....
"Earth to Davey" a yellowed hand was waved in front oh him. "Hey space case, welcome back to the planet."
"Huh? Oh sorry Ruth... I mean, Sue"
"Geez, you were really out of it there."
He shifted uncomfortably pulling his coat closer around him. "Just remembering another day on a bus like this. A bad day."
"Well, don't you think about that now, ok? We're gonna have lots of fun you and me and forget everything else."
"Ok" he shyly agreed.
“Because we’re friends. Best buds…”
“I can’t have friends, or…”
“Or what? You’ll explode?” she laughed.
“Someone always gets hurt because of me. That’s what she’s afraid of…” He mumbled quietly to himself, bangs masking his eyes.
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