"He hates me." Patrick nodded definitively. "Marcus's a great guy, with a wonderful smile, he always laughs at my jokes and asks how I'm doing; he's bright and athletic. And he hates me."

"Last week, you said that Marcus was probably your best friend."

"Yeah, no, he is that." Patrick gave another nod, wriggling a little as he tried to find a comfortable position on the couch. "I mean, partly just by value of us being roommates, but even so... we go to parties together, he works as my wingman sometimes, I work as his, we show each other funny youtube clips and stuff... and he hates me."

"Interesting." Dr. Sandburg's fingers tapped against the audio recorder on the desk. "What makes you so sure?"

"Just..." Patrick gave a frustrated shrug. "...I don't know! Nothing I can really put my finger on, just... stuff. That he does. Or says."


"Yo! Patrick! So good to finally see you up!" Marcus looked up from his book and grinned at him from behind the breakfast table.

"Morning." Patrick yawned, grabbing milk from the fridge.

"Technically it's the afternoon."

"Eh." Patrick dropped into chair across from him. "Close enough." He yawned. "Just... up late last night."

"Ha! You and Lisa paint the town red?"

Patrick eyed his roommate. "We watched a movie. Like we do every weekend."

"Sounds like a wild night!" Marcus waggled his eyebrows. "You and that girl of yours, tell you what!" Sobering suddenly, he remarked. "You're really lucky, man. To get set up with a mate like that...?"

"'Mate' is stretching it a bit far." Patrick's strange look grew more pronounced. "You should really come to the anime club sometime. I keep telling you, there's a surprising amount of girls there. They would love you."

"Some other time." Marcus waved. "Honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with a real girl if I found one anyway. The girls here are..." He sighed. "You never really know who they are. I mean, who they seem to be, sure, but... what are they like underneath? Really?"

"Well, you never know if you never try." Patrick answered as he dumped a load of cereal in his bowl. "The girls in the anime club seem nice, anyway." Giving Marcus a quizzical look, he asked: "You get new contacts? Your eyes look weird for some reason."

"Contacts!" Dropping his book, Marcus clapped a hand over his eyes and dashed toward the bathroom. "I knew I forgot something!"

"You should just get glasses." Patrick glanced at the book: How to Spot a Neptunian Skin-Changer. He rolled his eyes. "They're easier to remember."

Marcus poked his head back in the room. "Some of us care about our appearance."

"Glasses are good for your looks." Patrick defended. "They make you look smarter."

"Well." Marcus ducked back in. "Guess that explains why you like them so much."

"Yeah, funny." Patrick gave a weary shrug. "Hey," he called, "want to watch some more of The Prisoner tonight?"

"If you really want to, I guess." Marcus came back into the dining room, rubbing his eyes. "I, ah..." he paused, "...may not be able to stay for all of it. Meeting the guys for a basketball game."

"Really?" Patrick tilted his head.

"Yeah." Marcus tilted his head. "Didn't I tell you about that?"

"Nope." Patrick eyed him.

"Oh. Sorry." A shrug. "I'll be sure to invite you next time... do you play, at all?"

"Dude." The look grew more pronounced. "I told you. I played forward center in high school."

"Oh, right." Marcus snapped his fingers. "Sorry, it's just... you're always watching TV. Don't seem like the type."


"Marcus and I tried to form a basketball league last fall." Patrick shook his head. "He knows I love basketball. I'm pretty sure I even love it more than he does. And he just forgets that? What the hell is that supposed to mean, 'the type?'" He sighed and leaned back. "I don't know... do you think I offended him somewhere, doc?"

"I would think that very unlikely." Dr. Sandburg shook his head. "Has he mentioned anything?"

"Of course not." Patrick shook his head. "He's too polite. Everybody's too damn polite."

"What about your other friends?" Dr. Sandburg asked. "Ryan and... Dale, wasn't it?"

"The same." Patrick huffed. "Incredibly polite. Probably hate me too. I pass them and say hi, and they ignore me. I try to join in their conversation and no one responds. I see pictures of a party I never heard about."

"Like the basketball game."

"Exactly! Like the basketball game!" Patrick half-sat up and pointed at the doctor. "Probably a perfectly innocent explanation for that, but it doesn't keep me from feeling like the one everyone wishes wasn't around. And there's other things."


Patrick had just gotten out of class and was heading down the hallway when he spied Lisa, Ryan, and Dale standing in a knot in the hallway, laughing. As he approached, Lisa moved, ever so subtly—moving, Patrick realized a few seconds too late, to close the circle from visitors. But he was too close to pull out now, so he halted just outside the circle with a polite smile on his face.

"...and he's like, 'Well, that's not what most people do.'" Ryan was saying.

Dale scoffed. "Has that guy ever been on the internet?"

"Exactly! Right?" Ryan gestured to the other. "How many times have you seen that on forums?"

"Guy needs to get with it." Lisa rolled her eyes. Another burst of laughter broke from the group.

"Maybe it's just people posing." Patrick attempted to interject, still unclear as to what "it" was.

The laughter died down. Looks and shrugs were exchanged. "Yeah." "Maybe." "Perhaps." "Marcus isn't, that's for sure."

"Ugh." Lisa groaned. "Marcus. What does that guy know about people, anyway?"

Dale laughed. "About as much as any... ow!" Ryan had elbowed him and given him a sudden sharp look. Lisa also had a curiously mortified expression on her face.

An uncomfortable silence fell over the group. Patrick looked from one to the other, but no one seemed willing to speak.

"Hey," he said at length. "You guys get my e-mail? Wanna carpool to the animation convention on Thursday?"

"I might stay away." Ryan gave a shamefaced smile. "No offense, but it's not really my thing.

"I haven't decided yet." Dale shrugged. "Maybe. Marcus has a sketch portfolio he wants me to look over."

"Marcus is getting a portfolio together?" Patrick blinked. "He never told me. What's it on?"

"Oh, I can't remember." Dale waved dismissively. "'Ideal human forms' or somesuch. A bunch of face studies."

"I should be at the convention." Lisa spoke up. "Assuming nothing else comes up."

"Assuming nothing does, be sure to stop by Studio 2B." Patrick advised. "I'm giving that presentation on Super Force Gaiden High I've been working on all year."

"Oh, you're presenting?" Lisa looked at him.

"I'm sorry, I thought I told you guys that before." Patrick gave a hopeful smile. "But yeah. It's been a big project, I'm pretty proud of it. You guys should come and hear it."

"Sure!"

"Sure!"

"Sure!"

"Great!" Patrick beamed. "I'll see you guys there."

An uncomfortable silence fell again. Patrick considered breaking it again, but felt curiously reluctant to do so.

"Well." He finally said, clapping Dale on the shoulder. "I just saw three of my favorite people, so I had to stop."

Dale gave him a smile. "Good talking to you, man."

"Yeah." Ryan echoed.

"Yeah." Lisa nodded. "See you later, babe."

And just like that, the circle closed and resumed their discussion. As Patrick walked away, he heard another burst of laughter.


"So who did show up?"

"Nobody." Patrick groaned, squirming on the couch again. It seemed to be very poorly designed, as if the furniture maker had not quite understood the point of a couch. "I mean, they all had good reasons—Lisa's friend had a crisis, Dale had Marcus' sketches to look over, and Ryan straight-up forgot." He grimaced. "But it still feels... deliberate somehow."

"Have you asked them?"

"What good would that do?" Patrick twisted his head to gaze disconsolately at Dr. Sandburg. "'Hey, guys, do you hate me?' What are they supposed to say to that?" He sighed and slumped back. "It'd just make me look all paranoid and insecure." He considered this a moment. "...which... I guess I am, but I'd rather not be seen as that, you know?"

"Humans tend to seize on explanations that satisfy their previous assumptions. Are you sure you're not just seeing these things because you want to?"

"Maybe. Probably. That's more or less what I keep telling myself, but it doesn't help." Patrick stared at his feet disconsolately. "I shouldn't have joined them. It probably came across as incredibly rude. Lisa was trying to ward me off."

"Lisa—you mentioned her earlier. The girlfriend?" At Patrick's nod he pressed. "Tell me about her."


Patrick came in the door. "Hey, baby!" He called. "How are you?"

"Be with you in a minute!" Lisa's voice came from the bathroom. "I'm just putting my face on."

Patrick grinned and shook his head. "Hey, I think you're going to like tonight's movie!" He called, reaching into his pocket. "It's A Scanner Darkly—It was one of my favorite movies in high school. They have all this rotoscoping stuff, it's really neat."

"Oh! That reminds me!" Lisa called. "Have you seen the college's new telescope? You can see clear to Venus on it."

Patrick frowned. "No... I don't have clearance for the observatory." He admitted.

"Don't have... oh, but of course you wouldn't." Lisa's voice took on a commiserating tone. "Pity. It's got great detail. You can even see the houses."

"On Venus?"

"No, not on Venus, on... oh, never mind." Lisa came in, blinking her eyes. "There. Gah, I hate contacts."

"Why do you wear them, if you hate them?" Patrick glanced quizzically at his girlfriend.

"You wouldn't understand." Lisa shook her head, walking past him and dropping on the couch. "It's different for you."

"Cause I'm a guy?"

"That too." Lisa nodded. "But you need to look right if you want to get anywhere here. Now." She looked at him expectantly. "Let's watch this movie of yours."


"Hanging out with Lisa in general is weird." Patrick frowned. "Like... not bad. Pretty good, really. Just... not as good as I was expecting, somehow."

"Could you be more specific?"

"Well... like cuddling. You know about cuddling, right?"

Dr. Sandburg sent him a very dry look. "I've heard of it, yes."

"Right. Sorry." Patrick gave a shamefaced grin. "Well... I always heard like it was this delightfully natural thing. Like... you know, you throw your arm over your girl... and she just fits into the crook of your arm, perfectly. And it feels perfectly natural, like she's always belonged there, and you can feel her heartbeat, and... you know?"

Dr. Sandburg was nodding. "That sounds about right."

"Well, I must be doing it wrong, then." Patrick shook his head. "Because all I ever feel is that my arm is falling asleep. Maybe my arm's the wrong shape or Lisa's the wrong height..."

"You really need to stop thinking in this manner." Dr. Sandburg protested gently. "It can't be healthy for you."

"I know, I know." Another huff of frustration. "It's just... not what I expected. It seems like we must be doing something wrong. And I know our conversations aren't what I thought, either, it's like we're on two completely different wavelengths."


As the credits rolled across the screen, Lisa shifted slightly under his arm. "So, that's your favorite movie?"

"Yeah. It was in high school."

"I always loved War of the Worlds." Lisa said, decidedly. "We should watch that sometime. Ooh! Or V! Hi-lar-ious. The aliens are SO unrealistic it's not even funny."

"Well... they're aliens." Patrick shrugged.

"Yeah, but they're..." She shook her head. "They're just so over-the-top. That's why I love it. Aliens are just so familiar—I see them, I know where I am. Not like a lot of sci-fi, that gets all trippy with mind games and stuff."

"So... this movie..."

"Oh!" Lisa's eyes flew open wide. "No, not this movie! No, this movie was great. I loved... I loved the microscoping stuff."

"Rotoscoping."

"Yeah! It was great!"

"It's interesting how it fits into the theme, too." Patrick offered. "Like that bit where they're in the restaurant, talking about the reality lurking under the surface..."

"Ooooh! That's totally a thing in V. We should really watch that. I bet you'd love that."

Patrick sighed. "Yeah." He said, ignoring the tingling feeling in his arm. "I probably would."

There was a few moments' silence.

"Well." Lisa said, slipping out from under his nerveless arm. "I've got a big assignment due tomorrow, so... you should probably go."


"At first I thought she just hated the movie, and was pretending to like it for my sake." Patrick appealed to the doctor. "But now I'm wondering if she expected me to kiss her, or make some moves, or..." He sighed.

"It is possible, certainly." Dr. Sandburg's pencil was making vague swirly motions. Patrick suppressed an irrational suspicion that he was just doodling on the pad. "I believe some sort of good-night kiss is usually customary on dates."

"Yeah." Patrick nodded. "I keep telling myself to, but... it just never feels right, you know? Sometimes I think we have nothing in common. Like we're completely different species."

"Males and females are very different in many ways." Dr. Sandburg looked up with a smile. "But I can assure you that Lisa, and all your friends, are perfectly normal human beings, just like you and me. Very likely they're struggling with the same issues you are."

Patrick sighed again. "Easy to say..."

"Here." Dr. Sandburg's pencil made a series of short, jerky, up-and-down motions, and he ripped off the bottom of his notepad. "This is a new medication I want you to try." He smiled amiably as Patrick took it from him. "It's not an anti-psychotic."

"Sure." Patrick looked at the prescription doubtfully. "They don't call them that anymore, do they?"

Dr. Sandburg's smile was unyielding. "Take it whenever you start feeling down. Come and see me again in a month and we'll see how you've improved." Standing, Dr. Sandburg held out his hand.

Taking this as his cue, Patrick stood also, and shook it—a short, jerky motion. "I'd, uh, like to use the restroom..." he indicated.

"Ah!" Dr. Sandburg pointed. "Go left out of here, then right at the first hallway, and there'll be a unisex on the left. Left, mind, be sure you get the right door."

"Thanks." Patrick nodded, pushing open the door to the center. "See you next month, Doctor." As he paced down the hallway, he glanced at the prescription. In the upper-left corner was what looked like the tail end of a drawing.

Or it might be the number 6, or a giant balloon chart of some kind. Patrick reminded himself, sighing. He really hoped this prescription worked.

His thoughts came to a crashing halt as a man came charging out of a sidedoor, nearly knocking him over. "Bathroom." The man said urgently, bloodshot eyes wide. "Outta my way, bathroom, bathroom!"

"Hey, I was gonna..." Patrick started, but the man pushed past him and charged into the door clearly marked "Unisex." Patrick groaned as he heard the lock click shut. Resignedly, he leant against the wall and waited.

Moments passed. Guy must be sick or something. Patrick mused, remembering the man's terribly bloodshot eyes. Glancing to the left, he noted that the door the man had come out of was ajar. Presumably he had been in too much of a hurry to properly close it.

Curious, Patrick stuck his head in. It looked like some sort of surveillance room. A few comfortable office chairs were pulled up in front of a wall full of computer monitors, each full of different security feeds. He could see images of the front lobby, the office area, even the room he'd just left. Dr. Sandburg was puttering around the desk, fiddling with some paper.

They must like to reference the feeds for later study. Patrick quashed the guinea-pig-like sensation he was feeling, and glanced over at the other screens.

Slowly, he frowned. These didn't look like they belonged in the psychiatry firm. That was a dining room table in there, and that couch was much too bedraggled, and that cafe...

His eyes grew wide. He recognized that cafe. He and Lisa had eaten there last week—her choice. And then he recognized the others—His and Marcus's dining room, Lisa's couch, even the hallway at the college, the various classrooms he was in...

Patrick stepped closer to the desk, eyes lost in amazement. Each one of these seemed to be watching one of his favorite spots. He leant forward on the desk and nearly knocked over a pair of glasses atop a mound of papers. Glancing through them he read: Subject 006 records—vital stats—activity diary.

Sudden movement brought his attention back to the monitors. Several people were filing into Dr. Sandburg's office—Ryan, Dale, Marcus... and Lisa. Marcus winked directly at the camera as he came in, and Dale elbowed him, grinning.

"Please, sit down." Dr. Sandburg's voice seemed somewhat distorted as he gestured to the couch. "Make yourselves comfortable."

Then he reached up to the top of his greying head and pulled at his long frizzy hair. His face stretched, distorted, and began to slide off, revealing the scales, frills, and tiny ridges underneath. He reached up to his eyes and popped off his contacts, revealing the slitted irises.

"We have a lot to go over."

END


A/N: Check out my book The Nephilim Protocol on Amazon for 2.99! I've posted the first few chapters here on Fictionpress as a quick preview so you get an idea of what you're getting.

Everyone in his life has always seemed to hate him. Chad doesn't know why. He never can do the right thing to please anyone. He doesn't understand what he's supposed to be guilty of, or why everyone assumes he's so dangerous. When a friend tries to shoot up the school, Chad smashes through a brick wall in the fight to stop him. And then he knows.
Descended from the race of the half-angel Nephilim, Chad has gained massive strength, quick reflexes, and varied strange abilities. Once, his ancestors were kings, Templars, demigods; ruling the Earth with cruel indifference. Now, their descendants are imprisoned on the most remote location in Alaska-Attu Island, hundreds of miles out in the ocean.
Up against the camp's guards, the fatal Alaskan weather, and even his fellow Nephilim campers, simply surviving is a challenge for Chad. He doesn't want to die at the camp, but at the frozen edge of the world, can even an angel escape?