I didnt' have time to read over it, so pardon any of the awkward parts/mispellings/crappy grammar. Enjoy.


7.

Michael

I threw a look over the field, my eyes directed towards Stu's modest establishment. The roofs of the used cars and the steel sheets of the shed reflected the white light of the sun, causing green circles in my vision as I turned back. Dawn wasn't following, good. She couldn't be around for what I was about to do.

I headed towards the creek I knew wasn't too far away. It was neatly hidden, if you stood at Stu's backdoor, with nothing but the endless grassy fields to look upon. But as you walked until the garage was the size of your thumb, and the long grass turned into a sea at your feet, rippling like waves caught in torrents of wind, there is a gentle decline and then you hear a trickling of water and you walk a bit further and there is suddenly a creek at your feet. A creek in a sea.

Looking about, my surroundings didn't touch me. I felt nothing for the running water or the sun in the east, nor of the cool breeze that moved the hairs on my arms. It was like looking at something, it was blatantly there, existing because it existed, and yet I couldn't see it for what it was. What it meant, just that the grass was green and the dirt was brown and I was high above it. I couldn't imagine living like this again, forever, until my death. Feeling nothing. Just an empty shell, devoid of anything real. It was a life I was lucky enough to have escaped, and I never wanted to go back.

I closed my eyes, my vision turning red as the sun shone through my eyelids. I let myself slump a little, and I tried to hone in on my centre. Breathing deeply, slowly, I eventually found my core. I could sense my feelings buried under layers of my Concealment, pushing against my chest, wanting to get out. I usually didn't have this much trouble keeping my emotions hidden away, but being around Dawn was a new experience all together. I had possibly gone on nine runs before Dawn, picking up newlings as they stumbled, confused and delirious, out of New City. Most of them had sobered by the time I had brought them to the Old, their sombre moods a result of an uneventful journey, shock and lack of curiosity.

Dawn was different. With one of her looks, especially the impassive one which she uses very often, but is so intense that I almost always ask her what she is trying to do to me, could shatter my Concealment if I wavered all but slightly. She is also curious, bordering on incessant even. Can't she see that I am not a really great explainer? That it was not my job at all, and my only assignment is to deliver her to Old City? No, I don't think she can. And she has grown worse with time. Or perhaps that it's just me, weakening under her Influence. But, despite all of this, I admit it: Dawn intrigues me. Not at all like Catherine, whose mind I will never understand. Or Heidi, who is such a stone woman that every slur I send her way she just swats it away as if it were an annoying fly. Dawn is different, and I don't know why, or how.

I felt the heat on the back of my left hand. Dawn had touched me there before, after I had tried to show her how to read my emotions. I had carried her in my arms twice before, had helped her get around, but not once did that strange heat sink into my skin and flare half way up my arm. Maybe it was because my Concealment was down slightly, and she had been prying at me. But this had never happened before, and why I should be feeling the remnants of her touch now, quite a while later, was beyond my comprehension. I would ask Heidi when we get to Old City. Maybe.

Just thinking about Dawn, I realized only now that my Concealment had weakened slightly, and the emotion behind it had seeped into existence. My senses were heightened – the smell of nature, raw and wild that it stings the nose, and burns the throat; the sound of the grass swishing against each other in a rhythm that is the drum of nature, and the birds chirping in the distance trees, heralding the melody; and as I opened my eyes, the brightness of the sun's rays as it reflected off the clear water, the deep blue of the sky and the blinding white of the clouds, exalted in colour – and then I started to feel like I existed again.

I let my Concealment drop away, until I was completely exposed, my feelings, my soul you could say, finally there. Relief overwhelmed me. I was free from the prison I was told to maintain, and I breathed it in deeply. It was rare for an Arch to completely rid himself of the Concealment, for it was essential for survival in the Old. But I needed to know where the Fallen were – that's why I was out here, and that's why I had gone to these measures.

I closed my eyes again, and I inhaled deeply. I let my body drop to the ground, until I was on my back. The grass pricked my arms and my neck, and for the most part all I could sense were snails nearby. As I relaxed into the ground, I began to feel myself becoming part of my surroundings: like a sheath of grass, I had always existed there, in that spot, until the next winter, or like a pebble at the bottom of the creek, I stayed there until I eroded. Einstein, that great physicist of last century, had said that everything was connected. Heidi had told me that, when I was just a newling and still learning the ways of the Archs. Although I was as transient in that spot as anything else was in the world, I told the creek, the grass, the snails and everything else around me, that I belonged here, at this particular point in time anyway, and they believed me.

I suddenly felt very light-headed, and then I was obliterated. I took no discernable mass, and although my physical body lay there, I was in no way confined to it. Instead, I existed in everything, well at least to the extent of which my prowess could take me.

I was suddenly aware of Dawn, who I could even detect at an unusual distance away from Stu's house, where she physically dwelled. She was a strong one, stronger than any other newling I have met before. No wonder I was so weak around her. Dawn seemed angry right now, and I suspected that anger was directed at me. Indeed, the tendrils of her emotion charged at me, like electron to proton, and I had to duck from her Influence before I was sucked in. I had a job to do.

I crawled away from her, and headed south-west. My body served as an anchor to my tangibility. I could feel myself rooted in my chest, so I wasn't about to leave my body behind. It was only in death, as Heidi explained to me in the early days, when an Arch's soul could leave our physical bodies. The Fallen did not believe this, or if they did, they decided the soul wasn't a necessary thing. How I hated them, for being so callous and inhumane.

I allowed the creek to take me first, then I was on the road again, leaping from tree to tree. Nature understood where I wanted to go, the wind lifted me from the ground and tossed me for miles. And then I sensed them. They felt like a black hole. I couldn't see them, a soul can survive without eyes, but I could sure as hell feel them, or rather, not feel them. In a way, they were incomprehensible. It was like a blind man trying to read, a deaf man trying to hear music, either way, the Fallen existed without existing - impossible.

They were moving fast along the road, and there were two of them. I knew that this was not the only team to have been dispatched from New City, but it was the closest one to us right now. They were closer than what I would have liked, and considering Dawn's strength, I wasn't sure that they will give up as easily. But I was certain that they could detect me now, what with their technology doing the work for them. And perhaps they sensed Dawn too, for I was told that their machines were quite sensitive. But right now, I was quite appeased at the distance they had to close if they were to catch us.

Dawn

Michael's chest moved up and down, so I knew he wasn't dead. It was as if he was sleeping, but I doubted it. I knew this because I didn't feel the calmness of his sleep, nor the void in his conscious state. I knew something was different because now he felt like something... real.

I sat down beside him on the grass, watching his eyeballs move from behind his eyelids. It looked like he was having a bad dream. A frown had developed on his forehead, and I was tempted to rub my thumb between his eyebrows. But I didn't. I resisted. I didn't know what was happening to him and I didn't want to make it worse.

Michael had told me to stay at the house. I wonder, would he be very angry when he came to? I must have sat there for twenty minutes, but it had been a nice twenty minutes, just looking at him. Then something happened, something stranger than anything I have experienced so far.

Michael bolted up, his eyes still closed and his hands on my arms. The frown deepened and his jaw sharpened, and the tattoo on his neck pulsated from whatever frustration he had on his mind. His grip on my arms was becoming increasingly stronger, and I fought the pain and heat of his hold. But was it pain? It felt nice in a way, and not because the pain was nice, but because it was Michael's hands.

"Dawn..." he whispered, "what are you doing here?"

"I...I..." I didn't have an answer for him.

This wasn't like the incident in the car. Or maybe it was, but something else was happening. He had no barriers. I felt no hindrance whatsoever. His emotions were for the picking, and I could sense them all around me. They brushed against my skin, warm and lovely. He was the grass and the wind and the sun, he was everything. He enveloped me, suffocating my lungs and clouding my head, and all this for only his hands on my skin. I couldn't really interpret his feelings, not yet, because my own emotions had suddenly erupted out of me and were inhibiting my abilities to decipher his. I was faint and confused and tired and, well, mainly confused.

"You know, you feel different?" I said, not sure of what I was suppose to say at this point.

I froze. Michael leaned in towards me, his face so close that all I saw were his eyelids. I found my hands around his neck. His neck was soft and I could almost feel his tattoos lacing about my fingers. A flourish of excitement washed over me. I wanted to be closer to him. What was this? What was this fascination with him?

"Just don't do anything rash," he answered as he felt my fingers around his neck, and as his own hands travelled from my arms to my hips.

He smelled wonderful, suddenly like cinnamon. I pulled myself closer to him, wrapping my arms around his neck. I could feel him breathing in my hair. His touch sent daggers of heat through my clothes, and I shivered. It was strangely wonderful.

"Stop!"

He opened his eyes. I was seized by the anger in them. They were dark hurricanes, and only then did I sense his anger seeping through my own excitement. He didn't want to touch me. No. Michael looked at me as if I were toxic, as if his skin burned from my fingertips. It must have been just me. I drew myself away from him, and I almost fell back into the grass. He stared at me, and I was reminded of the gazes of the people in the Gas Station. I felt ill. He was snarling now, and low grumble in the back of his throat.

"Run, Dawn," he spat.

I hesitated.

"RUUUUNNNN!"

I ran.