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"These bandages cover more than scrapes, cuts and bruises from regrets and mistakes. I've been hoping your moping around the street again. I've been tripping from sipping the dripping dirty water tap. I've been poking a voodoo doll that you do not know I made. These bandages are anonymity. I've been shaking from making an awful decision. I've been running and running... feels like my head is spinning round and round and round and round! Bandages on my legs and my arms from you... Bandages, bandages, bandages! Up and down on my legs my arms from you... Bandages, bandages, bandages...." - Hot Hot Heat

by Silva Noir

Chapter 19: bandages

He took a walk to clear his mind. If the rednecks were waiting with their guns, so be it. The one he loved was taken away by a rumor. Rumors had destroyed his life. He had one friend left, so he decided to bring extra French bread for him. Someone was already sitting on the boulder by Anthony's alcove. The swan was nowhere to be seen, most likely hiding from the unfamiliar human.

"Hello," Palmer greeted the young girl. She looked rather innocent with blonde hair separated into pigtails in elastics and soft light blue clothing. She didn't look up, preferring to continue to stare at the gash gushing blood from her palm, which he saw as he stepped down the hill to her side. "Are you hurt?!"

She turned her head and answered with hooded eyes, "I wanted to see if my blood is still red." Her lips curled up wryly. "It is," and then she frowned once more. "My body keeps changing to the point where I wonder what is left of me."

"Well," looking at her closer she seemed to be somewhere around twelve, "I think at your age that's supposed to happen. But um... I'm not the one to ask about it." He pulled a handkerchief from his baggy jeans pocket. "You should cover that before it gets infected or mosquitos start thinking you're an open bar." He went to dip it in pond water but thought better of it. They'd looked at pond water under a microscope in school and there had been all sorts of nasty critters floating around in it. "Well, I guess you'll have to live with it sticking to the wound ... really sorry. I know what that's like. Really painful to pull it out once everything's dried up." He wrapped the clean cloth around her pale little hand. "Don't worry, I didn't blow my nose in this. Its one hundred percent booger free. I keep it more in case I get hurt than for snot."

"If you need it for yourself, why are you giving it to me- a stranger?" She examined the bandage. Tied tight enough to stop the flow of blood, it wasn't too tight as to sting.

"Because ... you needed it," He shrugged, sitting next to her. "I help whoever and whatever I can, but hardly anyone asks me to. I can't stand seeing pain because I can feel it.... in me, physically. Seeing you, I felt deep, deep pain. And not just from your hand."

"Rather personal, aren't you?" she snapped.

"You must think I'm one of those creepy guys who kidnaps girls. I'm not, really. I can't walk away knowing you're in so much pain. I can't. So if you want to talk about anything, I'll listen," he offered in a kind whisper. "I'll understand if you want to take it out on me... I don't know if I'd trust some random person either."

"You are hardly a threat to me," she sighed. "What is your name?"

"Palmer Haritzeder."

"So you're the one..." Her eyes met his for the first time. The color was the exact same as brilliant silver that he'd only seen before on David. Her eyes were a slightly shape and much colder. His had always been searching; hers were staring the world down in determination. "Elizabeth Xilvrin, pleased to make your acquaintance." She shook his hand with her good one. "My half-brother was living with you, correct?"

"Half-brother?" Well, that explained it. David had never mentioned her before. "He was ... until he accused me of ratting him out. I would never tell anyone's secret they asked me to keep. Never! But now he hates me..."

"You have my condolences. It is pointless and wicked to punish the innocent." She picked up and skipped a flat rock across the pool of water with the injured hand, not phased by any discomfort.

"Yeah, well, that's the story of my life." He tried skipping a rock but it plunked in not far from where he;d thrown his arm. "Tossed around, not smart enough or strong enough to belong with anyone, anywhere..." he sulked. "I'm good for nothing."

"I wouldn't say that," she touched the knot he'd fastened on the handkerchief. "You are good for something." Elizabeth took a moment to collect her increasingly confusing thoughts on the older boy beside her. She'd never had the urge to be nice to anyone other than her superiors. As he'd had the impulse to make her feel better, he felt one to return the favor. "You have what humans with the strength and intelligence you admire lack ... true goodness. If there were more like you..."

"Thanks, but I don't think the world needs any more of me, it doesn't seem to like the one it has..."

"I like you," she didn't quite know what she was doing, but something inside her told her to get closer to him. She crawled into his lap and faced him. Hesistantly, nervously she kissed him once, very light. She stopped after that, feverishly embarrassed. She slumped, leaning her head against him more in shock than affection. "Why did I...?" She asked him as if he knew. "I don't understand this feeling." She couldn't move away. Her body was magnetized to where she knelt. "This is where someone pulls me away, hits me, and brings me to my senses." She panted, trying to push the clouds of confusion from her head.

"No," it took him a while to speak. He hugged her tight. "That's not right, no one has the right to do that. No one."

"You don't know me!" She wrenched herself away. She couldn't deal with genuine sentiment. She shook her head furiously trying to rid herself of the thoughts of escaping with him forever to this private oasis. "I can NOT be doing this." She was reprimanding herself more than she was him. "You are crying. Why?" she demanded.

"For you."

"For me? No one cries for me." She wanted to go back to his arms so that she could cry as well, something she hadn't done for years. "I have other things I must do," she nodded, agreeing with her inner voice of reason, "I have no time to cry." She picked up her backpack which she had been hiding under the lip of the boulder on which they had been sitting.

"You're so young, there's got to be someone I could call to get you out of whatever you're stuck in. What about your brother? Does he know?"

"That he has a half-sister? No. Different mothers, you understand. Fishing through the bottom, she pulled out a rectangular box, the size of a shoe box made of tin. A combination lock kept the lid shut. "Here," she handed it to him. "Consider it a gift for this." She unraveled the bandage to show the skin had fused back together with a silvery sheen on the scar. "If you want to know how to open it, remember... " she rolled up her sleeve to show a tattoo in thickly inked numbers, "X-192, with the position of X in the alphabet as the first number."

"What's in it?" He held the box the furthest away from him as he could. His only clue was the word 'Pandora' scratch-carved on top.

"You know the story don't you? The Greek girl given a box to guard, curiosity got the better of her, she opened it and..." she stopped when his clueless expression told her he hadn't. "Only open it when you tire of world and wish to change it."

"How can something that fits into this change the whole world?" He was puzzled. "OK, well, here..." he pulled off a few of his bracelets and slid them around her wrist. "This is a better gift than a bloody rag. The green one David gave me ... you will tell him, won't you? Tell him I never did anything to hurt him and never would. I don't want either of you to be in pain. If you need any help, I'm in the phone book. Call me, OK?"

"If I happen to see him... I shall relay your message," she promised.

"That is why you're here, right ... to visit him? The reason he was staying with me was because he liked my family, having a real home ... he said so. I think he'll be happy to have a real related sister, even a half one."

Flicking her fingers she quickly covered herself in a sheet of metal. Simultaneously, the same substance crept up her legs. David's transformation may be fast, but hers was doubled in speed. A kangaroo shape was hammered out from the inside. Once complete, she bounced off without saying good-bye. She was fleeing from her own heart.

"Must run in the family," Palmer fiddled with the number dials in considering whether to peek at the contents ... he put in the turned the first two numbers, then scrambled it again. "Hiding behind that shield, pretending to be smart and tough ... and they're just little lost kids..."

"BLUE and white," a formation of pleaded felt navy miniskirt and snowy fuzzy sweater wearing young ladies clapped posing atop a crayon blue mat int he center of the East gym. In back of them a DJ blasted funky beats from giant speakers with base heavy enough to rattle bones. "Blue AND white," the girls switched positions, fake smiles plastered on their faces, clapping all the time. "Blue and WHITE. GO~ooo~ooO Devils! WOO!" They had a massive group hug before making way for the gymnastics team to do flips on the mat.

"WE have no brains. We have NO brains. We have no BRAINS? Airheads! Woo!" Rabbit clapped along and mocked from her seat in the lower right set of bleachers in the center of the senior class.

David liked the joke, "How long do you think it took them to think up that gem? They really seem to love it, using it every single game and rally..." He had to talk in her ear. The mixed sounds of sample loops from the DJ, cheers, and the talking of the whole high school gathered to watch the sad display of school spirit made it hard to hear. "At least this is the last one we ever have to witness. Plus, it got us out of the last classes of the day."

The cheerleader clan did another tired routine then moved back to make way for a senior boy on one sport team or another, David never paid much attention to those things. Silly girls shouted the popular guy's name and swooned. He barked into the microphone, "This is our last game of the season so let's give it all we got and see all of you out there Friday night to see us beat those Bulldogs!" The crowd whooped in excitement ... except for David and Rabbit.

She slapped away his hand that had been rubbing her knee below her skirt hemline possessively. "So the Bulldogs are the rival team? Here is an idea. Why not sneak under the bleachers and become a demon image of their enemy? That is your type of fun, is it not? It would make this much more entertaining."

"Usually, I would. There's only a few weeks left of school and I'd really like to graduate," He looked very unmanly negotiating with her, "I've done everything you've asked me to so far, but I'm not going to risk my diploma over this."

"Not even for this?" her smooth hand brought his face closer to hers for a kiss. When he whispered 'no' she made it deeper and deeper until his will melted.

"Get a room!" a classmate a row up threw and empty plastic bottle at them.

His head rested on her shoulder. David glared at the trash-tosser, "bite me."

"You should show them what a real devil is like," Rabbit cooed.

"I would love to rip all of their heads off, trust me ... but I can't, sorry." He got up, slinging his black backpack over his shoulder. "I'll be home later, all right? I love you." He was eager to leave the gymnasium even though the rally wasn't through ... too loud, to stuffy, and too superficial for him. He never had any pride in this school or anything related to it. He had other more important matters to tend to.

In the hall he saw Palmer retuning back to the rally from the boy's bathroom. Palmer, spotting him, dropped to his knees and put his hands over his head expecting a painful death in retribution from what the rumors said he had done to his ex-friend.

"Get up. You look pitiful. I'm not going to hurt you," David told him. Palmer only whimpered. "I know the film was stolen, she jumped to conclusions. She has reasons for not trusting anyone. I don't hate you but I don't have time to deal with everything and try to fix it either. So from now on, learn to stand up for yourself." His long stride allowed him to step right over the short ducking boy. "See ya."

He bumped into Sue, who was taking an extended cigarette break, outside the exit. "so these pictures that blackmail you that Sparky snapped ... how NAUGHTY were they?" She winked. "Got some big secret you're willing to share with the rest of us?" She elbowed him in the ribs, the smoke wafting under his nose.

David growled, "Before spreading a story around you should ask what really happened first from those involved."

"And how INVOLVED were you?" She asked, smarmy, putting out the ashy stub on a brick in the wall.

"Don't be stupid," he turned a corner and turned species.

Outside traffic provided background noise to an otherwise silent house. No one appeared to be at home. "Melanie?" The Xilvrin-cougar padded through the kitchen and living room. "Did you get my message on the answering machine? I have the notebook you asked me to write in for you. It helped..." he called out from a feline maw.

"Up here," a door creaked open upstairs.

Before accepting the invitation he let go the armor. "You'll be happy to know I'm not suicidal anymore and I don't pass out due to not eating. Though life hasn't become any easier overall, at least I'm trying to live it."

Shades were drawn and all light fixtures had been removed or covered over in the baby blue bedroom. All mirrors were smashed. Broken pieces were scattered where they'd fallen. Creaking of a rocking chair directed focus to where she tottered, clutching the big teddy bear Sue had given him the same day at the mall as he'd met the two junior high best friends. Melanie's hands were swathed in gauze. Black sunglasses concealed her eyes. Slowly rocking back and forth she asked him, "What did you do to me?"

"What do you mean?" he sat on the corner of her bed, dropping his backpack. He unzipped it to take out the record of daily life she'd told him to keep. "I haven't been here since that night when I..."

"Slit your wrist with a scissors," she finished his sentence for him. She pulled at the seem of the mummy wrap, unwinding it one strip at a time. He watched in fascination. No wounds were apparent until she reached the tips of her fingers, which she'd saved for revealing last. Holes under the nails oozed a mercury-like liquid. "Some of that poison in you got in when I was cleaning up after I accidentally cut myself. A few days later I start to get sick. All my insides hurt so bad and my skin itched like poison ivy. Then the skin cracked and peeled away and the pain inside got worse. Like something was eating me from the inside and using it to grow something else. I told my parents it was chicken pox ... but its not, is it? And all over me its like I'm being sealed in by this new skin. All over except my head. Its doing other things to that."

He inspected her more closely. This was why he had to generate armor. Otherwise, Xilvrin would leak out endlessly like a broken faucet from all ten digits. That is, if his toes weren't closed in by hooves. Mom was right. I guess I really am contagious. "Have you tried turning into anything yet?"

"Turning into anything?" She asked if he had lost his mind. He'd forgotten that he hadn't told her what he could do with his extra set of veins and the 'poison' in them. "I can't even stand to look at anything. My eyes sting." She removed her sunglasses and raised her lids slowly. Here eyes had gone from a guileless ebony to cold steel.

He explained what it felt like to physically be him as best he could, "When I am uncomfortable or feeling trapped I know I have an instant escape. I'm always aware of the silver lines under my skin woven amongst blood veins, muscle and bone. The ropes have me tied within but not as a prisoner ... more like securing and holding me together. I couldn't imagine what it would be like not to have them there. True, that night I did try to cut them out because I wanted to either be normal or die trying. But what is normal anymore?"

"I used to think I was normal," she said simply, but the comment hurt him just the same.

He took a breath and continued, "I can feel a tightness in my fingers as my hand tenses. Its like forcing your nails to grow with your mind. Have you ever pricked your finger on a needle or splinter and squeezed out all the blood that would come out down to the last drop? That's how it feels only without injury. There's no real pain, only pressure."

"Then why do I feel like crap?" She crossed her arms. "You have no idea how bad it is... I'm not a girl anymore. I'm a thing! A weird, gross thing!"

"I don't know. Maybe because you're transforming from one hundred percent human to less human, and more of something else. I was born this way. And there are things missing from me that would be on a natural human ... losing those I guess would be unpleasant. You'll feel better once you've had a metamorphosis." He took her hand in his, not letting her hide away. He didn't want her life to be life his was growing up. "Once you have a flow you can direct it as a conductor directs and orchestra. He knows how it should sound and has the sheet music in his view ... the structure so to speak, and then moves his hands to that the musicians play what he asks. With Xilvrin you move it with your gut feeling, your emotions ... not thinking too hard ... it becomes instinct. So draw on something in you can feel being, and try being it," he encouraged.

She still looked at him as if he has eight cards short of a full deck. She eventually agreed to give it a short after he continued to beg. It was at least a better option than rocking back and forth in the shadows of her room all day praying to God for it to go away.

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