Here’s the finished short story sorry for late publication! My parents got the first copy so I didn’t want to spoil it for them! Enjoy the following short story!
In the gloom of a murky forest, a heavy air hung that night, but not of heat or fog. A mist of melancholy had swept over the woods. It emanated from a man with such a bright face you would not suspect he was the source of such sorrow. His face shown in the moonlight and he sighed deeply as he pulled his knobby knees to his chest. Such a handsome man could surely not be alone? Where was his wife? Family? Friends? Human interaction had not been possible for him since the incident. At first he didn’t mind; some soulful time to himself to mull over his gift. Then the loneliness crept in like a thief in the dark. He had contemplated suicide several times, but could not bring himself to do it. Others were destined to die young and yet they wanted to live. He would live for them; their unfinished lives bouncing around his head like a bucking bull. They haunted his memory then…and now.
The incident: Ronan enjoyed sharing a ride on his rocking horse with his twin brother, James, regularly. He would hug his stubby arms around James’ waist and they would play like that for hours; stacking blocks, making car noises, and scribbling over dad’s work reports by accident. They were two four year olds hot in pursuit of life’s true happiness. Then the day Ronan and James turned five, James had taken ill. They pulled Ronan from their shared room so he would not get sick. But that would not stop him; Ronan could sense his twin was distraught. James was itchy, spotty and miserable. So he snuck into their room and peered over the bed rail to steal a glimpse of his brother. Their mother eyed them through the door and then she saw a green shadow sweep over Ronan’s face and just before he reached to kiss his brother’s nose, Ronan’s face grew pale and faint spots started to appear.
“No!” shrieked mother.
Ronan fell over from surprise and his face returned to its normal rosy hue. “Mommy?” he asked as he began to cry.
“Ohh no, no baby,” she hushed him and rocked him back and forth in her arms. This only reminded Ronan of the rocking horse and he wailed louder, yearning for his brother.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” panted dad. He had bounded up the stairs when he heard her scream.
“I think Ronan is an empath,” she sobbed.
Ronan would only come close to his brother again one last time, but he could never touch him for the gift bestowed on his fifth birthday would curse him forevermore. The Empaths are those who take on the disease or illness of another after making skin to skin contact with them. If they touch someone who is ill or diseased it cannot be reversed and they must live with that disease until they die. If they get too close, they experience it for a brief moment until they step back. Ronan was inches from his brother when he died from chicken pox. James had grown scaly, and his pox were red, bloody, and hot with infection. Ronan watched him draw his last breath a week past their birthday. His eyes widened and then he collapsed in a heap to the floor, unconscious. He would wake a minute later, but he would not realize until he was twenty what would have happened if he touched his brother that night. He longed for death’s sweet, dark sleep. He wished to rejoin James, where they could embrace and the worst thing that could happen is they wheeze from hugging each other too tight.
Ronan sat up in a tree, with his only companion being the animals because the rules of being an empath only applied to humans. All things that scurry, creep, crawl, and swim on earth were safe. Sometimes he imagined he was toying with a pretty woman’s hair when he stroked the dog that came visiting the forest every now and again. The dog looked like a mop with his fur always partially covering his inky eyes. Ronan glanced around the forest through the ominous fog and saw a figure. He shuddered, but made no moves to run. Whatever it was, it was cloaked and had no intention of turning back. The figure continued towards Ronan and had its’ hands in front of itself like it was surrendering. The hands came close together in front of its’ body and back out to the sides several times, waving frantically. Ronan slipped a mask over his face and pulled gloves over his tapering fingers. The figure stepped into the light and whispered, “Hello.”
“Hello?” answered Ronan.
They both gasped, and pleaded at the same time, “Don’t touch me!” The figure sounding more frightened and high pitched than Ronan. It was a girl, and when she looked down at the ground hiding her face, her white blonde hair fell out of her hood, and a piece stuck to her plump, red lips. Ronan stared softly at her through his mask, drinking in the appearance of another human after only stealing glances of them through the trees for years. The girl raised her chin and smiled. Just then leaves rustled nearby and not quietly like when the animals disturbed the earth. This was larger. Someone else?
“Hey, what are you doing? Step away from the girl!” shouted a man gruffly. Then he fired. It wasn’t meant to end this way. Not for him.
The bullet pushed through Ronan’s chest, he did not go flying backwards, blood did not spurt from the wound, but it would kill him. Blood slowly soaked through his blue sweater and began to pool in the creases of his jeans. He felt something soft brush over his face. The dog. It’s’ fur ticked his cheeks and his heavy paw sat on his chest. Then the stars from above swirled around his head and the blackness washed everything away.
Then Ronan woke up, not peacefully as he did when he roused in the forest to the chorus of birds, but he was jolted awake. He gasped and writhed in pain.
“Let me take it, please,” asked the girl.
“You’re an empath too?” coughed Ronan. Her face was going green.
She nodded and pressed harder on the wound which made him wince. His sweater was now in a wet, bloody ball beside his head. The only barrier between him and her was the thin white shirt, now scarlet, that clung to him. The girl ripped at his shirt, and Ronan struggled.
“No,” he choked. “You can’t.”
“Yes I can.”
She tore just enough fabric away from the wound and she dug her fingers into the bullet hole. Ronan gagged and spit blood. With all his remaining strength he inched his fingers across the dusty ground and groped for bare skin on her wrist. At last he found it and he gripped it tight letting his head fall back against the ground. The green light then appeared on Ronan too. Blood had been dripping out of the girl’s cloak, but it now slowly to a mere trickle, as did the wound on Ronan’s chest. She leaned over him letting her blood mix with his.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked holding back tears. “Let me have it. I don’t want to live like this anymore.”
“I can’t let you. I’m sorry.”
“Please,” she begged.
“No, I’ve never met someone like me.”
“No, listen please!” She stopped and sniffled. “I was like you once. I thought I was alone. My own twin brother wasn’t even like me anymore. From the time we were born we were always trying to be a little different from one another. We thought an activity or a favorite food would define us as individuals, but we were wrong. It was this “gift” that alienated me from him, from everyone.”
“I’m so afraid, I can’t even get close someone without seeing death. But then I saw you. An innocent man, shot because of-god, you’ll die. Please. There is no one I would rather die for, than one of my own.”
“Don’t give in.”
“I’m done.” The girl’s lip quivered.
Ronan fought against the energy bringing him back, and he rolled onto his side embracing the burning pain. “Share it.”
The girl looked at Ronan. She was weakening. She nodded and allowed him to assist her.
Ronan started to feel warm again even in the chilling mist of the forest. A tingling sensation radiated from his chest into his arms, and he felt a monstrous pinch where the bullet holes in his chest and back were. He roared in agony for many moments as the layers of skin rejoined. The girl lay whimpering in the dirt as she endured Ronan’s pain. When the blood stopped pouring they both gingerly sat up. Beads of sweat raced over their cheeks and more collected on their foreheads.
The girl could not have been more than seventeen years old. Her boldness was unrestricted like that of a child. She hooked her fingers under Ronan’s mask, tickling his eyelashes, and carefully peeled off the mask. His once amethyst eyes brightened in the moonlight to that blur of color you see when a blue jay takes flight. The girl’s heart soared.
“I haven’t seen a man since I was eleven,” she breathed. She thought about touching his cheek to see if it was soft, but she retracted her hand before the temptation overtook her. “So you must be about forty, right?” Her judgment was underdeveloped; another indication of her age.
He chuckled, “No, I’m twenty-eight.”
“You survived this long without touching anyone?” she inquired.
“I never even came close,” he lied. An image of James invaded his thoughts.
“So, now what?”
“Well, I can’t leave you by yourself,” he said accentuating yourself. He sounded fatherly. “We can stay together for a while. I’m Ronan.”
“I’m Olive,” she said. Her pale cheeks flushed.
They sat in silence staring at the ground for minutes, and it seemed earth-shattering when Olive finally spoke. “Hey, how come when we touched we both didn’t die from blood loss?”
“Well people survive gun-shot wounds,” Ronan offered.
“But not to the chest,” Olive shot back. “We aren’t even bleeding anymore. Besides I would have accepted your wound fully and I should have died, and you lived.”
“It’s like we healed each other.”
“It’s never been recorded,” she said, staring into oblivion. Olive shook her head trying to complete her thought. “What happens when two empaths touch, I mean. How many of us are there, anyway?”
“I dunno exactly. One in twenty-five I think it is.”
Ever since the apocalypse of 2157, genetics don’t work the way they did before. When the humans came back into existence, it was as if genetics didn’t exist anymore. It was all controlled by the government. The Balance was always in equilibrium, always maintained. Always. Everything was taken in a quite literal sense nowadays. For example, when it is said there is a 1 in 5 chance a person will have blue eyes, it means that for every five babies born there is one with blue eyes. It just happened that way, but sometimes there are errors. But those are “taken care” of. Also, everyone is born with a prophesy, but no one knows what it is, for their own safety. Also, prophesies don’t exist to everyone’s knowledge, they are kept secret. Everyone thinks they have free will. But there is only one family that remains who were blessed with free will, but like most things, they are unaware they possess it. One gene mutation allows for free will. There were others before, but now only the silver-hairs. The silver-hairs have been hunted all their lives by the Watch, a secret society formed by the government to “regulate” the free-will interaction in people’s lives. They doubled their squad numbers when they discovered a daughter of the family was an empath. You do the math.
“So we can touch people, but we need another empath to help us heal.”
“But would you want to share in that kind of suffering again?”
She frowned. “I just want to di-” She stopped.
Ronan cocked an eyebrow. “You just want to what?”
Olive sighed deeply raising her frail shoulders and dropping them abruptly in the process, “It’s not important.” Her eyes hardened. “There has to be a way to live in peace…”
“I am in peace.” Ronan offered.
“You are hiding,” Olive said accusingly. “From who?”
“Not from whom. From it. Disease.”
:”You mean…you aren’t being hunted?”
“Hunted? Why would I be?”
“Do you have,” she paused and leaned closer to him as if the trees were snooping. “free-will?”
Ronan pinched his face in confusion, then chuckled. “Everyone has free-will.”
“Yeah I chose to save you. Didn’t I?”
Olive shuddered at an image of blood dripping that entered her mind then it occurred to her. “My blood. It mixed with yours.”
“So, my blood is free and I have passed it onto you!” she exclaimed.
“Everyone has free-will!” Ronan insisted.
“No you don’t. Everyone has a prophesy.” She further explained the conspiracy of the government and the elimination of free will from the genetics pool, and how it now only exists as a mutation.
“But we still don’t know if my choice to save you was “free-will” or just part of my prophesy.”
“It doesn’t matter. We need to figure out a way to free everyone else from their prophesies.”
Ronan averted his eyes hoping she would dismiss this outrageous idea, but still Olive continued to stare at him. A coldness swept over his body as she pursed her vampire lips at him.
“Okay,” he muttered.
A devious smile crept across Olive’s mouth and she pulled her hood over her head. She rose and trekked through the forest lightly like a deer, barely disturbing fallen branches or leaves. Ronan dragged himself after her, not as sprightly as the young girl. She whipped around and tossed his mask which hit the bottom of his chin with a smacking sound like when you shake out a towel.
“You’ll need that where we are going,” she said peering down at the mask briefly and then she continued on without looking back to check on her new companion.
They reached the edge of the forest within the hour, but there they remained for an additional two hours. Neither would budge beyond the threshold of the iron gate into where other people actually existed. They just sat in the bushes letting their hot breath poison the crisp cool air of an October night.
“It’s the small hours of the morning. It should be safe,” whispered Olive. Ronan nodded. The two sat staring for ten more minutes in silence before Olive stood and walked with immense hesitation onto the sidewalk. Ronan slinked behind her and when he stepped into the streetlight he nearly ran in fear of his own shadow. Olive then walked with the smoothness of a celebrity down a red carpet, her long black coat flapping against her legs. Her steady gait ceased when a couple walked into view. They hand their arms hooked around the other’s back, and the man craned his neck down so his nose nuzzled against the girl’s. Ronan reached out and touched Olive’s pale, exposed hand. She allowed him to hold it as he led her away. When her focus returned she hung a hard left behind the trees where the two found themselves in front of a dumpster.
“What are we doing here?” Ronan whined as he pinched up his nose in disgust.
“Shhh,” pressed Olive. She knocked on the dumpster and what echoed was not the sound of metal, but of wood. She cracked a smile and then swiftly kicked the door in. Ronan knew not what had happened, only that he had pins in his neck like whiplash as Olive dragged him through a passage of filth. They splashed on through the muck for what seemed like nearly a half hour.
“How do you know this place?”
“My mother was taken captive when she was pregnant with my sister. My brother tried to rescue her. He told me to wait in this passage. I come through sometimes…a lot of times actually,” she breathed.
“And your mother?” Olive shook her head.
They pressed forward slowly now as they approached a door that looked similar to a porthole on a ship. It teetered in between the hinges-not completely shut. Olive’s eyes gleamed.
Ronan longed to sit. He felt extremely dizzy and wanted fresh air. Olive poked her head through the doorway and then grabbed Ronan’s sleeve while he stared at the wall. He tripped and banged into a shelf. Several orbs shattered to the floor. They both inhaled sharply, but nothing happened.
“Maybe you should wait outside. This is dangerous.”
“Maybe I should. But my mother was left behind last time I sat in that passage waiting for my brother to return.” Ronan pleaded with his eyes. “I’m done waiting.”
“Okay,” he said.
Olive pushed on the aisles of shelves. They tumbled like dominoes. Crashing, shattering glass, and then they felt it. The room was getting cold. A steam emanated from a vent above their heads.
“Stay low!” shouted Ronan. Olive hit the deck, trying to avoid glass but failed. She scrambled to the shelves across the room. There she saw it. Ronan Shielden. She gazed at the orb as her vision started to go blurry. She saw Ronan lying there…dying. Then a foot came down and smashed the orb.
“Why would you do that?!” Olive shrieked. She snatched pieces of the obliterated orb trying in desperate attempts to fit them together again. Her hands were shredded by the glass and she lay there sobbing, hiccupping and scratching at her face. “I want to know what happens!” Ronan grabbed her hands and held them away from her. He lifted her in one smooth motion and carried her to the passageway. She curled up against his broad chest and hung her arms around his neck, bloodying his collar and hair. Before he set her down he felt her hands stop clenching and her breathing slowed. The mist…so it was draining them. Ronan stumbled back through the porthole and began furiously kicking the rest of the shelves over. He glanced up at the remaining shelf and saw two missing places over Lily Silverhair, and Declan Silverhair. Olive’s mother and brother. Gone. He turned away and stopped over his smashed prophesy, and looked into the broken pieces. He saw himself reaching up to grab Olive’s wrist, asking to share the pain, and then he saw his bulky boot come into view and the orb exploding into millions of pieces. He sighed and his eyelids began to droop. With all his remaining strength he raised his leg and kicked over the last of the prophesies. Ronan’s legs buckled underneath him and then before he knew it his shoulders and head bounced off the ground. He looked around stunned, and lay there for a few minutes letting the mist sink down lower to his nose. He inhaled softly and sputtered the deadly vapor invading his body. He rolled onto his stomach and inched like a worm through the porthole.
A foot stood in the doorway. It was not his own in smashed glass. It was tactical and stood firmly with no intention of budging. He followed a muscular calf up a navy pant leg, and black vest. And soon he was looking down the barrel of a gun. The man’s eyes were scared. His pupils shook in his iris’s.
“I am sick,” he whispered.
He grabbed Ronan by the throat. Hard. Now he was surely to die. He choked, but made no moves to save himself.
“A deadly disease,” he snickered devilishly. “No cure.”
Ronan did not turn green. He turned red, and purple, and soon blue. From lack of oxygen. He was just choking! He grabbed the man’s hand and then kneed him in the groin, after which he fell down whimpering in a ball. Ronan lay next to the man, wheezing, panicking.
“Not dead. Not dead,” he said over and over. “Free.”
He grabbed the gun and held it over the man’s chest.
“This is the only thing that can kill me now,” bellowed Ronan triumphantly. With that he unloaded the gun and took it apart and scattered the pieces.
“Olive?” he asked softly. Olive’s blood dripped off his neck and splashed next to her head.
Her eyes fluttered once then shut. “Prophesies,” she mumbled.
“He threatened to touch me. He’s sick. He’s-”
“He can’t hurt you. You’re safe,” he said rubbing his neck. Purple finger marks had already started to appear. She sat up slowly and leaned against Ronan’s chest until she could manage on her own. Safe. They were safe.
The two hobbled down the tunnel and into the dark night, their only light being the streetlights every 50 or so feet. A very ominous road ahead of them.
“The other empaths?”
“What of them?” asked Ronan.
“They can heal each other. No one needs to suffer any longer,” Olive smiled; her lips red, but not with lipstick. With blood. She stuck her mangled hands in her pockets wincing slightly. The two limped down the sidewalk and in time they came to a hill beyond the city. Olive turned to Ronan and threw her arms around his middle because that’s as high as her short figure could reach. She kissed his cheek and left a bloody lip print on his stubble. She turned up her driveway and dashed inside with the excitement of a child. They would meet again in 20 years. Only a flicker of recognition between them, and their lives continued on course. Not of a prophesy, but of their own choosing.
When Ronan smashed his own prophesy…he realized it was his destiny to free every one of their own prophesies. It was planned from the beginning that Ronan Shielden would be the one to save us all.
Now the empaths weren’t empaths anymore. The only thing they carried were themselves, not the fear of disease. For a while their normalcy would weigh heavily upon them. Too good to be true. But they grew to like other people, and the timidness eventually subsided. Now they walk among us. They can talk, touch, feel. They live.