A/N: Flashback taken out, small details added.


Chapter 1: A Shade of Black

The sunlight slowly transcended Mikhail's face; his gray eyes cowered behind his brown, squinting eyelids. Though the warm rays blinded him, he couldn't help but stare at the source of his glowing visitor as if something darker were hiding in its core.

"Black or white," Clair asked, standing between her son and the store window with a suit in either hand. She was helping Mikhail pick out something for him and his cousin's graduation dinner, an event his closest relatives would be attending. Her arms moved up and down like a balance, as though she were weighing the pros and cons of either purchase.

Her best portrayal of Lady Liberty was still not quite enough to get Mikhail's attention, still dazed by the large star and a phantom he hoped would reveal itself. Graduation day was coming up for Mikhail, and he dreaded its arrival. It was the end of a routine he'd become accustomed to for the last 12 years of his life, and the beginning of one he would be free to construct on his own accord. No more eight hour school days, two hour naps, and homework filled nights. Besides working over the summer, Mikhail would have a lot of free time on his hands, but freedom to do what? What can a person who doesn't know who they are or what they want to become do with so much time? Perhaps he would write more poems and songs riddled with pseudo-emotional lyrics and experiences he never truly experienced, or even attempt to revive his comatose social life, victim of a collision of egotistical proportions. Though he knew both scenarios would leave him completely unfulfilled, he felt if he couldn't find some sort of comfort within himself and with others he would wind up making it through life by the skin of his teeth, or not making it at all.

"Black is so depressing, but this white is bound to get stained," Clair thought. She let out a heavy sigh, her cowrie shell earrings flailing about as she shook her head in indecisiveness, a trait Mikhail believed he too was blessed with.

Clair's indecisiveness, however, did not keep her from writing bestselling books and teaching at the neighborhood's middle school. Mikhail felt if Clair could overcome her nature, he could as well. They were blood after all.

"Mikhail, get it together son," she snapped.

Mikhail's attention snapped from the sun and to his mother, his eyes focused on the contrast between her dark brown skin and the sun setting behind her. Neither suit sparked his interest. To Mikhail, they both said so much about nothing. He hated how people made everything symbolic, and he couldn't help but think of how he'd be judged in either color.

"Black, how mature," he thought they'd say, or "All white? I bet he's very neat and clean." Mikhail was bothered by these thoughts. How could someone make such swift assumptions about him when he barely knew himself? Mikhail uninterestedly studied the suits before slowly dragging his eyes to meet his mother's. "Neither," he sighed.

Clair pursed her lips and stared at him, but her soft eyes weren't nearly intimidating enough to alter his decision. Clair hung both of the suits up behind her and glared back at her son. Her eyes were red, likely because she'd been up at all hours of the night trying to meet her current book deadline. She placed her hands on his shoulders and looked at him pleadingly.

"You don't want to wear a suit to the dinner?" she asked.

Mikhail's nostrils flared. "I don't like those suits."

"Well just pick one, any one. I just want you to look nice."

"I know," he muttered under his breath.

In all honesty, he didn't want to go to the dinner in the first place, but he knew his mother would take it personally.

Mikhail was tempted to tell her the truth, but Clair was a very sensitive woman who could be worked into a fit of tears if a bee buzzed at her the wrong way. Mikhail picked up a gray suit from the rack near him. He stared at it, lost in the nothingness that oozed from its every fiber. "Gray? Well, it's still a nice suit," he heard them say, and that's all he wanted to hear from them.

#

Car rides always felt like epic treks when Clair was around, at least for Mikhail. She always had something to rant about. Mikhail was not interested in the history of his ancestors, illiteracy, or children with no home training, so he had nothing genuine to say. Her sensitivity and his sarcasm didn't mesh in the best way possible, and often resulted in the two constantly butting heads. Mikhail often debated with himself whether or not he liked his mother or not. He loved her with all of his heart and would do anything for her, but he didn't care much to be in her company all of the time, or any of the time. He often wondered if she felt the same way.

They had lived in Cade, MI. all their lives. It was a small suburb about 40 minutes north of Detroit. Many maps didn't even include it until a few years ago, at the people's request. Not too much ever really went on there as it was mainly a farming town. A few businesses moved in and out sporadically, but nothing major. Mikhail didn't care too much for it. Dirt roads, farms, stray farm animals. He'd seen it all and was ready for something new.

Though Clair couldn't stop her ramblings, Mikhail eventually tuned her out as he became lost in the moon's face. He always felt some strange connection with the snowy white satellite. It slowly crept from behind the clouds, as if it were sneaking to meet him and only him. For those moments he stared at the moon, not even his wandering mind could pull him from its hypnotizing effect. He felt as though he were in a trance, like the moon had cast a spell on him and wouldn't let his eyes look elsewhere, or even blink.

Red lights flashed in his peripheral as he stared off into space. He slowly moved his head toward the window as the red lights grew brighter and more erratic. A small smile worked its way onto his face, his eyes now filled with childlike wonder. Now there were red and blue lights, but what were they? Was it a message from space his fatigued mind couldn't comprehend, or was he on the brink of a spiritual awakening? He took in a deep breath, awaiting something life-changing to happen.

"As long as it's not another seizure." He let his guard down and waited.

"Stop," A faint voice said, gliding over the onslaught of flashing lights, which were now accompanied by sirens.

"Stop?" he repeated?

Clair slammed on the breaks, jerking Mikhail forward, then back into his seat. "Mom!" he snapped at her before registering the look of shock and horror on her face. He looked out the windshield to see numerous police vehicles blocking off the area.

"I was on to something!" he shouted at her.

"More like you're on something boy."

One of the police officers walked to the car and tapped on Clair's window, prompting her to roll it down.

"Ma'am, you'll have to—oh, hello Clair!" The officer's authoritative tone changed to one of nervous admiration. It was Barry, the sheriff of Cade city. He'd had a crush on Clair since they attended high school in Detroit together.

"Good evening sheriff, what's going on over there" she said warmly, looking ahead.

"You really don't want to know."

As the two bantered, Mikhail opened his door and stood outside to get a better look at the crime scene. There were several men dressed in toxic waste suits streaked heavily in blood. They resembled ghouls who had yet to clean themselves of their victims' remains. One of the men was holding a pair of antlers, equipped with the tattered remains of a mutilated deer head. As he carried the head to its destination, blood dripped from it and splattered on the suit and the road. Mikhail watched in disgust as his stomach sank into the ground. The man dropped the deer head into a containment bag, as did the other men who trailed behind him.

"Seven deer heads?" Clair was appalled.

"Yep, seven heads. Must have been one hell of an accident." Barry began to whistle nervously as an even more appalled Clair twisted her face at him.

"You can't possibly believe—"

"It's what we have to go with until we run some DNA tests. There were bite marks on some of them."

Mikhail got back in the car nauseated from the faint scent of what he presumed to be blood. Still, he was slightly intrigued by grotesque scene. After a few minutes of half explanation, subtle flirtations from Barry, and a long detour, Clair and Mikhail finally made it back home.

#

Mikhail was exhausted. Not physically, but the thoughts running through his head left him far too occupied to do much more than lie sprawled across his bed. It was so soft and comforting that he sometimes felt he was lying amongst the clouds. The back of his greased head rested on the palms of his large hands, aching with each image that manifested within. If he were worried about money, cars, and other things that seemed completely irrelevant to him, he could easily be set for life. "Mr. Suma Cum Laude" is what his family began to call him after he received his final report card from high school, another 4.0. Along with acing his ACT and SAT with perfect scores, he could go anywhere he wanted, all expenses paid. Even if he had performed poorly in school, money would be the least of his worries since Clair inherited a family fortune from her late father. Many would think Mikhail had it made—he was rich and a genius to boot.

Mikhail's legs dangled from the bed as he stared out his bedroom window, barely touching the sea of clothes beneath. Maybe he could be an athlete. He had always been pretty agile and strong as a child, likely because he was more physically active in those days. The most physically demanding thing he had done recently was fall down the stairs at school. Still, he had a nice physique. "Modeling?" he thought. He had been hit on many times by women, and even a few men. He laughed at himself. The thought of teenybopper admirers and crazed fanboys made him shudder, and both ideas quickly fizzled into nothingness. One thing was for sure, and it was that he could not let himself lead a life that wouldn't leave him satisfied in the end. Mikhail felt the only reason he was successful in school was because he wanted to please those who cared for him. He thought if people praised him for such stellar performances in his endeavors, perhaps he would feel content with life. He was wrong.

Mikhail's thought pattern was soon disrupted by a scraping noise from outside his window. Startled by the sound, he jumped from his bed and pressed his face against the window. There was no wind, and no branches for the wind to blow at his window. He stared for a few minutes before realizing nothing was outside, just darkness. He sulked back to his bed a bit disheartened. The prospect of something exciting happening to him of all people was too farfetched. He plopped back onto his bed and drifted off to sleep.


A/N: Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you think, your reviews are very helpful to me.