Chapter One: Shadows
I saw the shadows move in the courtyard today.
Reacting on instinct, I rolled into sunlight. I crouched, watching, waiting for the ripple that was the enemy shadowstepping. Nothing. My eyes darted about, my muscles tense. Gradually, I relaxed. I shouldn’t have been there, not with the sun high and the contrast between shadow and light great. But I liked the courtyard. Our father, Damian, called it a hodge-podge of history. I just knew it was pretty and peaceful and my distraction could have gotten me killed. But no creature slipped from the shadows; I was lucky. My twin brother would have been furious with me, and for that reason I stupidly didn’t raise the alarm.
I knew Shane stood sentry on the other side of the wall, along with Jorge. The residence was important enough to rate an army presence, and Shane was often stationed here. He hated it. He wanted to be on the frontlines, doing something useful, not here, with our father the coward, where any could recognise our shame.
At least he could be proud of me
, even though I wasn’t allowed to enter the military. I was marked; born with immunity in my blood and too precious to risk in battle. It wasn’t so bad. I wanted to fight, like Shane, but I was necessary still. I told myself I didn’t mind the endless blood tests and the prodding and the poking. Sometimes I even believed myself.
I went straight from the courtyard to the dim hallways, were the shadows were cast by artificial light, and underground to the residence proper. I entered Damian’s study and tried to ignore the surge of comfort at the unique room. Shane disapproved of it. It was neither proper nor hygienic. Damian sat at his desk, bent over work.
“Father. There may have been an incursion in the courtyard.”
Damian’s fingers flew over his keypad as he brought the security systems up onto the monitors. It took him only seconds, and my comfort at the room dissolved into resentment. He was brilliant. He could do so much for us, and yet he hid here, afraid and weak.
“Everything seems fine. What were you doing there at this time?” He turned, radiating disapproval. Raising a false alarm was better than letting something slip by. My actions, on the other hand...
“I’m sorry. I was foolish.” I made my voice meek and bowed my head in case my face wasn’t sombre enough.
His slow chuckle startled me; I darted a quick look through my lashes. “Sofie, my dear. It’s good to see your response for once, not Shane’s.”
I frowned, confused – I had made a perfectly proper reply; Shane would have said the same had he been so foolish as I. He would have been sincere, but I wanted to be, so that counted for something. Damian moved to speak again, his gaze gentle.
But the alarm blared and cut off any explanation he might have given.
Shane met us as we headed for the surface – he’d just been relieved, but he already knew what was going on. One creature: an intrusion, not an invasion. But, Shane explained with terse words, there was an anomaly. A girl, running from the creature.
“A girl?” Damian’s voice was too mild.
“Don’t ever describe a child as an anomaly.”
As we waited in the elevator that seemed to move at the pace of an old-world one, Damian and Shane stood either side of me and the air bristled between them. Even as I shot Shane an understanding look, a slight roll of my eyes, I couldn’t help but agree with our father. A girl is not an anomaly.
We were almost too late. The creature bent over the girl – she must have tripped. It was going to kill her, to rend her, to eat her, to – my thoughts skidded to a halt. There were too many horror stories; I didn’t know what was true. But it was anger that rushed through me, not fear, despite never having been this close to one of them before. It looked up, a jerky movement like a trapped animal. Training took over, and I stepped back out of harm’s way. Shane nodded in quick approval; I couldn’t help a smile.
Jorge’s primary weapon was charged, but he couldn’t use it for risk of hitting the girl. Shane pulled a handgun, but it was Damian who rushed in, unarmed, and the creature bolted from him. It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man alive.
And I hated him for it. I hated the evidence that he wasn’t a coward, despite not being out there fighting. Because it made me question why.
No one bothered to chase the creature; we were too near the woods, and that was their territory. Shane wanted to, but I still stared at Damian. He bent to lift the child in his arms. By watching her, I began to think there was some skill involved in being a girl
, for I could not remember ever being treated so gently. Like I was a precious commodity, yes; like I was fragile, no. I was just treated the same way as Shane, and for the first time I resented it. I dragged my eyes away.
My gaze fell on the creature. He spun to face us as he reached the shadows large enough to step through. I stared. He looked so... human. Like he thought and felt, like me. And I realised I thought ‘he’, not ‘it’. I couldn’t think ‘it’, not when he glared back with such angry but sad intelligence.
Shane followed my gaze. He smirked. “Mutant. He’ll die easy.”
I shook my head. The creature stepped back and disappeared. Biting my lip, I stared at the space he had been. He was a mutant, a creature, our enemy. But he looked far too human.
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Twins & Paranormal Creature.
CC: Skin, Eyes, Poses
Let me know if the pictures are crazy, I'm trusting automatic resize and they looked crazy in the preview.