Prequel to "I Am." Friend of mine asked for a more detailed description of Luka and Simon's relationship, and I was happy to oblige.
Just because this is a prequel doesn't mean you should read it before "I Am," so you can choose to read this story or that one, if you're a first-time reader.
Fictional world, fictional logic.
Warning: thoughts and suggestions of suicide in this story. Don't read if you don't like that kind of stuff.
I ran through the forest as a wolf. There were so many times now that I just needed to run. I needed to run from my brother, I needed to run from my best friend who's trying so hard to help me but just doesn't understand, I needed to run from my ex - my brother's girlfriend - I needed to run from the past, I needed to run from my thoughts, I needed to run from reality. No matter what I did, horrible thoughts filled my mind, terrible pain in my chest.
Every time I looked in a mirror, every time I got lost in thought, every time someone talked to me, every time I was left alone. It didn't matter what was happening around me. All I could ever think about was how terrible my life was, the monster that I was, what I'd been forced to become.
I wondered so many times if I should just go back to where I belonged, where I would finally know the peace that I deserved, that I had ripped away from me. Yet I knew that there were people here that would never forgive me if I just left them. There are small things left in life to cling to, though not a lot. Enough that I would miss though. Just barely.
When I run as a wolf, when I push myself to my absolute limits, feel the strain in my muscles, feel the pressure of the wind pushing against me, and the ground which I push against to gain speed, I can drown out the ache in my chest that makes me want to end everything. I can just forget everything that's within me, the despair tearing me apart from the inside out.
Today, I ran further than I had before. I just kept running until even my strong wolf legs burned from fatigue, letting the pain of hunger seep through my stomach, as I had trouble stomaching meals these days. I tried to keep the tears that forced their way into my eyes down, thinking of nothing but continuing forward. Nowhere in particular. I didn't think about where I'd go in life, because that was the whole reason tears came in the first place.
I had no life left, and if I was just going to die at the end of any path I took, what was the point of even taking it? I was conflicted in that sense, whether I should keep walking down this futile journey called life, or whether I should just stop all the pain and go back to where I came from, where I should be right now, where I belong.
I only stopped when my body couldn't go on, when my limbs could no longer keep up with the demands my brain gave it. I collapsed on the ground, breathing heavily, not caring if something came and attacked me right now. I wouldn't care. If I lived, I lived, but if I died, I died. Yet even through my pounding head, my burning lungs, my aching legs, the pain in my heart wouldn't cease.
I felt so lost, so unsure of what I should do, where I should go. In the end, I was just…tired.
Sleep began to take me, and I looked forward to the time when I would no longer be able to think, to be able to get this weight of this depression off my chest. And so as my mind began to darken, I hoped and prayed that I would be able to dream of some kind of relief, make the darkness in me go away if even for a moment.
When I woke, I instantly knew that I wasn't in the forest. I was no longer resting on the grass, I no longer smelled the trees or felt the breeze (didn't mean to rhyme there) and instead I was greeted with hard metal.
When I moved to sit up, I felt the collar around my neck. Still in wolf form, there was no way to remove it without my hands, and when I tried to transform back to normal form, nothing happened. Power-nullifying. Great.
Looking around, I saw that I was in a ten-foot by ten-foot by ten-foot cage. Pretty big, I had to admit. If I was gonna be trapped in a cage, I'd have expected it to be smaller. Unless whoever put me here didn't plan for me to be the only occupant.
I looked around again only to find a small boy lying in the corner of the cage. He was in dirty rags, curling into himself so well that it was really hard to notice him.
Emerald eyes peeked out from behind his knees cautiously, and he was visibly trembling. His hair looked to have been white at some point, but at the moment, it was extremely dirty, tinted brown in a speckled pattern, as though he'd rolled around in a bunch of dirt for days.
"Hey, are you okay?" I asked.
At my voice, he shrieked and tried to turtle into himself further.
"Hey, I'm sorry," I said beginning to speak a little softer. "Are you okay?"
I tired to tap into my training on how to deal with PTSD victims. This boy looked terrified, and he looked like he'd been here for a long time. He seemed to be wounded, small cuts and scars all across his arms and legs, dried blood coating his skin along with the dirt and he was extremely thin, starved for more than a couple years.
From just the first glance, I knew that I had to be gentle with him. I approached slowly, trying to make sure I didn't look like I was going to eat him or anything. Problem with being a wolf is that they're predators, and seeming harmless isn't an easy feat. Once I got close enough, I sat down, hoping to not loom over him.
"What's your name?"
Green eyes peeked out to look at me hesitantly. Names could sometimes mean power for certain species, and so it was understandable why this boy would be hesitant to tell a talking wolf his name, especially when he had been locked in a cage with the intimidating creature. Or maybe his name didn't bring up any good memories.
From what I could assume just by looking at the boy, he'd been in this place a while, and hurt, possibly tortured, on a daily basis. Because of his starved state, it was hard to tell how old he was. He could just be a child, or he could be a young adult that's been starved for years. Neither option sounded very nice.
"Simon," The boy said in a small, soft, yet hoarse voice.
It sounded like he hadn't used his voice in a long time, or he'd done a lot of screaming recently. The moment he spoke, he cowered once more, as though expecting a punch from speaking up. It was such a tragic scene, and his little voice made my heart clench.
"Simon? That's your name?"
Simon nodded quickly, still trying to keep back. His jade eyes looked me up and down cautiously, and it wasn't hard to understand that he still didn't trust me.
"Don't worry, Simon. You'll be fine."
Simon flinched at his name, and hesitated for a long time before relaxing only slightly.
"What are you?" He asked in his small voice.
"Me?" What was I? Could I even call myself a man at this point, or just a monster pretending to be one? "I'm a wolf."
"Wwwooolllfff," Simon repeated slowly, as though he'd never said the word before. That was worrying.
"You're not a man."
I tensed for a moment. How did he know? That wasn't possible. It couldn't be. He was just a little boy, and there's no way he could see the real me, right? No, not possible. Not possible…
"I'm a male, if that's what you mean."
Simon seemed to study my words, signaling that he either didn't trust me (probable), thought there was some kind of secret message in my words (good or bad, I couldn't be sure), or didn't understand my Crystalian. I'd learned a lot of languages as a part of my training, but it wasn't like I didn't know when I was speaking proper Crystalian, as it was my first language.
"No, I mean them."
He looked outside the cage, and a good distance away, there were two guards standing at attention at a door. They weren't looking our way, staring straight ahead at the wall on the opposite side of the room we were in, as though they were just manikins. They were definitely soldiers, guards. They were pretty big, physically fit, dressed in suits, and looked to be armed with those beating sticks that cops usually had, Tasers, guns, and swords. Not uncommon for those in the military, as I had been a soldier at one point as well. At least, before the incident happened.
"They hurt me. They lie to me. They put me in here. They tell me to do things then hit me. They don't feed me. They throw me into places with monsters, and they hurt me too. Then, the men don't help me, they don't heal me. They throw me back here, and repeat."
His speech was very basic, like when you were trying to form a paragraph another language, but only knew the simplest sentences, such as "I like something," or "I'm feeling happy." He either didn't speak Crystalian as his first language, or he didn't speak very well altogether.
"Are you a monster?" He asked me.
A question I've been struggling with a lot lately. I wanted to say no. I wish that I could. I wish that I could be like everyone else and say without hesitation, "Of course not." But I couldn't. I couldn't close my eyes without seeing what I really was underneath. I could never say I wasn't a monster. I was. But that's not what Simon needed to hear right now.
"In a way, yes, but in another, no."
"I'm the monster that's going to get you out of here."