Like any other summer morning, Yuen woke up in his bed with his sheets all crumbled up at his feet. The sun had infiltrated his room through the curtains, creating a greenhouse effect through which you couldn't continue sleeping. Soon his bedroom would be worse than any professional sauna in Sweden. His throat felt dry, so he took a sip of water from a glass standing on the nightstand next to his head. The water was lukewarm, with a stale taste, but he didn't want to get out of bed just yet to get it fresh. When he moved his head, there was a stinging pain throughout his skull, not unlike a hangover. He moaned in response and cringed. He didn't go out last night, what did he deserve this for? Was this the heat's doing? Maybe he should get up after all.
As he pushed his feet out of the blankets onto the ground, and shifted his weight on it, he became aware things were a little more serious. Every muscle in his body ached as if he'd done a complete workout for three hours straight. It was painful to stretch anything, and any movement he made was stiff and difficult to control. This went beyond dehydration, what was going on? He wasn't getting ill, was he? After several glasses of water from the washbasin he stumbled downstairs towards the living room and kitchen, still in his PJ's.
Judging from the sound of streaming water and tingling of cutlery on dishes, his mother had already started breakfast without him. "Mom, I think I might have…" He interrupted his sentence when he'd reached the kitchen and saw someone already sitting at the kitchen table. If this had been his sister Monica, that would have been all right, but it wasn't. It was a foreign man, having a go at the toasted bread with scrambled eggs his mother usually made on Sundays. It wasn't Sunday. "… caught something," Yuen continued, staring at the man.
The man was quite young – somewhere in his twenties. He didn't look very healthy. His skin was pale near white, giving Yuen the idea he could look straight through him, and his body was overall meagre, like he had been starving himself. His pants contained a few dirt smears, and his t-shirt must be old, judging from the holes in it. The man looked up upon Yuen's arrival, showing him his face. Dark brown hair that didn't seem to be his natural colour wildly curled around his face, and his eyes had a very odd colour – grey, but very white, almost transparent. The man quickly swallowed the bite he'd been chewing on. "Good afternoon, I'm Leo."
"Yuen," Yuen answered blankly. Did Leo just say it was the afternoon? It couldn't be, he had no reason to sleep through the morning. He looked at his mom in the kitchen, hoping she'd explain the unannounced presence of this Leo-figure. His mother seemed nervous. Did that mean…? But there was a gab of at least fifteen years in between them! His mother never took guys home, and even with the age gab, this guy was kind of creepy – he didn't look unfriendly, but he couldn't deny his eyes were frightening to look at. They had too much depth to be contacts, but if that was his real eye-colour he must have some kind of condition – not that Yuen had any idea what kind of condition that could be.
"Would you like some eggs too, Yuen?" his mother asked, completely ignoring the fact there was a stranger sitting at their kitchen table. Without waiting for Yuen's answer, she put a plate with toast and eggs on the table opposite of Leo, together with a glass of milk. Yuen usually protested whenever his mother made him drink milk, but this wasn't the time for it. Not sure what else to do, Yuen took seat. Leo had gone back to his eggs. At the speed he was eating them, he must be very hungry. Could he be a homeless person? He didn't look that messy.
Once Leo had finished his plate, Yuen still hadn't touched his, which didn't went unnoticed. "Are you feeling okay?" Leo asked, showing more concern than you would expect from someone you hadn't met before. "You said you feel ill? Any weird tastes in your mouth?"
That was an oddly specific question. "Uhm, no." He tried his mother's eyes again, but she still didn't feel like explaining anything. When he watched her walk around in the kitchen, he suddenly noticed she was limping with one leg. When had that happened? Yesterday everything had been fine. "What's with your leg, ma?"
She smiled at him. "Don't worry about it. I got bitten by a dog yesterday during my late night run. Had to go to the nurse's office straight away. I didn't want to wake you."
"A dog, seriously?" Yuen asked shocked. "It could have rabies or something, did they give you an injection? You should have called." He didn't remember going to bed early last night, which was strange. Stranger was that the whole of last night was a bit of a blur – he vaguely remembered having dinner, and everything after that were mere bits and pieces with no coherent story. He was used to that after a night at the pub with his friends, but even then he wouldn't 'lose time' until he was exceptionally drunk. He might be coming down with something very serious here. It wasn't unusual for his mother to go out late for running – she often did exercise at odd times, which supposedly helped her job as a police officer. He had never given it much thought. Since the nearest hospital was in the big city, which was about an hour drive, it made sense for her to go to the nurse's office too.
"Nah, it's okay, Leo here got me back home, he's one of the nurses," she replied, finally shedding some light on the mystery. Why this guy stayed over wasn't explained, however.
"Is that what happened," Leo mixed in with the conversation. Yuen couldn't read him well, but it seemed to him Leo was annoyed, to say the least. "Forgive me for getting the wrong idea," Leo continued, "I thought the members in this family were fully immersed in everything."
He certainly wasn't pleased with something. The effect of Leo's words on his mother were a lot stronger than Yuen would have thought possible. He hadn't seen her as anxious as she was now in a long time. She had come to a complete standstill with all her attention focused on Leo as if he was a snake that could attack at any time. The last time he'd seen her like that was when he had asked about his father – that hadn't been a pleasant, or long, conversation. He was at a complete loss as to what Leo was talking about – he got the idea Leo meant his mother wasn't being honest, but why would she lie to him? Their relationship was very open, which was quite special if he were to compare it with how many of his friends had difficulty with their parents.
"Leo, can we talk in the hallway for a second?" His mother said with a forced soft voice. Yuen felt uneasy watching the tension between the two as they stared at each other for a good few seconds.
Leo eventually broke eye contact. "I don't understand how it's even possible he doesn't know – it's wrong. I don't want to take part in that," Leo's anger – if he had been angry at all, it was difficult to say – had changed into something that resembled disappointment or sadness.
What was going on here? His mother wasn't denying Leo's words at all, which probably meant there was some truth to them, but how could a random nurse know more about his mother than Yuen did? Why would she keep things from him?
"Leo, please try to understand…" his mother tried. Yuen was confused to see her so desperate, especially against a guy who was but a few years older than he was.
Leo shook his head. "There's no need," he spoke calmly. He stood up and brought his empty plate and glass to the sink, his movements closely followed by Mom. "Thank you for the food and letting me stay over, I much appreciated it, but I think it's best I leave now."
His mother looked helpless as she watched him walk towards the door in the hallway. Leo turned around before opening the door. "I know we have barely met, Yuen, but if you need help in the near future, I won't mind, just call the nurse's office and ask for me. If I'm not in they'll probably give you my number." He turned his gaze towards Mom when Yuen didn't respond right away – Yuen wasn't sure what to say. "The same goes for you, Charlotte. If I don't get a call I'll probably check in with you in a few days, if not only to see how your leg is doing." With that he left.
Yuen and his mother stared at the hallway door a few seconds longer than when they heard the front door close. Leo's revelations left a strange atmosphere in the room. There were burning questions on the tip of Yuen's tongue, but he felt like he would be breaking a thin fragile line of unspoken words that would detonate everything around him if he let them out. His mother was still very anxious.
"I'm sorry about that," his mother eventually broke the tensed silence. "It must have been very confusing to listen to."
Confused was an understatement. "Mom, is there something you haven't told me?" He had always known there was something Mom didn't want to speak of, and despite wanting to know more so very badly, he had granted her the privacy, because he imagined it was too painful to talk about – his father's death. He wasn't going to let this go as easily. His mother sat down in Leo's previous seat and folded her hands together on the table, then looked him in the eyes with a serious expression. "I think I've made a grave mistake, Yuen. Leo made me realise that. What I'm about to tell you will sound ridiculous or horrifying, and you may not believe me at first, but I'm asking you to listen very closely, and give it some time for consideration."
Yuen nodded, feeling scared and excited. He certainly was going to listen, with the intention of memorising every single word.
Yuen looked out over the water of the pond in the park, watching the sun set on the mirror of the surface in vivid shades of orange and red. He had taken his drawing block with him, though the page currently facing him was blank. His reasons for bringing his drawing equipment with him had more to do with comfort than with the intention of practising his artistic skills. He often came to the park to draw, since the quiet sounds here gave him the ease of mind he needed to focus. He leafed through the pages to watch his sketches of hands, trees, this park, birds, people, and occasionally his favourite character of the anime he was watching. He was a big fan of Killua from the anime hunter X hunter. He usually drew the white-haired character with its best friend Gon. Neither Monica or Mom understood his slight obsession with anime. Monica laughed at him whenever she saw Killua doodled in one of Yuen's notebooks – since they were twins they were in the same class. His mother encouraged his regular drawing more, but could also appreciate whenever Yuen decided to draw in a less realistic style.
He stopped at a drawing of a big, black dog he had recently drawn at this very same spot. His intention had been to draw the grimm introduced in the Harry Potter franchise – in there, a grimm was described as a big black dog that was the omen of death for any person who saw it. His inspiration had therefore been "death, the dog of the underworld", which had resulted in a big black figure with piercing red eyes – though he hadn't used colour, so in the drawing it was grey – in which the ribs and shoulder blades were clearly visible. Here and there the skin of the creature was ripped open, only to show bone and darkness, no muscle or blood; a decaying wolfs hound that was somehow kept alive. He had been quite content with how it had turned out, since it had managed to scare his friend Eva. He now completely agreed with the girl and wished he hadn't drawn it. Was that what he looked like during the full moon? Or would he take after Lupin – the werewolf in the story – half human, half wolf? Would his transformation be just as painful as Lupin's was made out to be?
Yes, he was terrified, and not just because it might be painful. His mother had told him who had bitten her – not that she held it against him, he hadn't turned her, she said. He couldn't remotely begin to understand why he would do such a thing. His mother had told him not to worry, but that was about as effective as saying you shouldn't think of pink elephants. There was a monster inside of him, somewhere, right under his skin, it was hurting the people he loved, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He didn't understand how it was true, but it had to be. There was no reason to think his mother had gone insane, and this went too far for a prank.
She has to die.
The raw voice startled Yuen – he thought he had been alone in the park at this hour. He looked around to see the source, its direction hadn't been clear, though he felt it had come from someone standing next to him. No one was around. There were no bushes nearby people could hide in, no trees – nothing. "Hello?" Yuen called out.
Oh, and now he listens, freaking imbecile.
Yuen looked around once more, but he truly was alone. "Who's there?" he breathed, like a child playing the game, but he feared the answer.
Who do you think? I've had it with your idiotic behaviour. Day in, day out, you go to that horrible place where they make you sit all day, and bore you to death with nonsense, and you take it! You don't protest, you go back, you smile when they insult you, but listening to me – oh no, forget it. I've had to watch you live your life, while shouting at you to listen to me, but I was completely helpless – for years. Guess which evil was behind it. I'll erase it from existence, you'll see.
Yuen's breathing went faster and faster as he started to understand the situation. The voice was coming from his head. He should have considered it form the start; he was going insane himself. This couldn't be happening.
Oh please, get a hold of yourself. We're not insane.
When was this going to stop? Oh God, make it stop. His breathing had reached a speed that was much too high – he was getting dizzy – but he couldn't stop it. Every corner in his head was made of pure panic.
Jeez man, keep it down. We've been together forever. You're pathetic.
Yuen was vaguely aware his head was nearing the ground, the next second he was staring at the twilight sky. He didn't feel the pain of the impact. He wasn't much aware of the reality around him, but somewhere in the back of his mind, he was aware of a pair of grey, transparent eyes looking at him from above.
Okay, so it took longer than expected (because I've also been reviewing many stories of others). I think I've at this point introduced all main characters (well... other than the "bad guy(s)" of course). My "proof reader" (aka my mother) didn't understand who the voice in Yuen's head is, and I'll explain later, so it's no big deal, but I am wondering if you understood it. I'd also like to have a party, because I've never reached chapter 6 with any story (pathetic, I know...), and I have everyone who reviews to thank for that. Lately I've been getting more critical reviews, and they're much appreciated, because it helps me know where I stand and where I want to go.