By Juniper Peterson
The water was cold. That single detail stood out to her more than anything, more than the brightness of the lights, more than the dirtiness of the tiles, more than the boy opening the door. Wait, a boy? Had he seen her? Was he one of them? She stood up from the edge of the pool and started to run.
“Wait!” he shouted.
She stopped. If she ran she would only get caught. She turned around to face him. He looked familiar. She knew him. “You!” she whispered. She pointed her finger, as if to accuse him, and shouted, “It’s you!”
“One could call me that,” the boy replied. This was the first time she had heard him speak and she noticed something strange about his voice, but she couldn’t quite place it, “One could call anyone that really.” The girl looked confused. “You is simply a term used to address a person who is not one’s self,” he explained.
“But it’s you!” the girl shouted. “You were the one who— ”
“I’ve done many things,” he said, “but I remember you.”
“You remember me?” she asked.
“One doesn’t simply forget a girl once they shoot you in the head.”
“You remember what I did.”
“But you…you’re not,” stammered the girl.
The boy shook his head, “I wish I was, but death has a very strange feel to it, don’t you think?”
“But you died!” she shouted, “I saw you!”
“It’s almost like sleeping, but it’s not quite, is it?” the boy continued. “Some would say it’s more permanent, but not me. For me it’s more of a phase.”
“A phase,” the girl said.
“I sometimes wish I could die,” he said, “I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone else, but I want to die. I wish I could…”
“It’s not…it’s not optional. You will at some point…” Her head started spinning. She took a step back and tripped over her own foot. The water engulfed her in a freezing hug. She gasped in surprise and water flooded her lungs. In a daze she felt something grab her and pull her to the surface of the pool, but it was too late. She was drowning. She knew she was going to die and she accepted it. The world became blurred and faded. Nothing seemed real, not anymore.
She could make out one thing that she knew to be real. It was the boy. He was there. He never left. She suddenly felt something. Like a rusty sword entering her gut. Regret. She was leaving. What would happen to her? Where would she go? The boy knelt by her side. She had to hold on, she couldn’t leave. She had to stay, for him. She had to. She felt the water take over her lungs. Her breath had abandoned her. But she couldn’t go. She wouldn’t. She knew that she had to though. Why was he still there? Why hadn’t he left? He should have left. But the boy was there, hovering over her. Like an angel, she thought. A cold dark angel that wished for death. She couldn’t look at him. She closed her eyes.
“No…” he whispered into her ear. She was almost gone, the life was nearly drained from her body, when she felt his cold lips touch hers, only for a moment, but that was all it took. The kiss of life. Her eyes opened and she saw him lying next to her. He did not move. He did not breathe. He did nothing.
She heard the sirens and ran. Not far, just across the street. She watched as the flashing lights stopped next to the building. She watched as the cloth covered his body and they carried him away. She knew the truth, but she did not believe that it was true. He had died. She should have died, not him. Another death. She closed her eyes.
It was Friday, August 6th, two days before the girl would see the boy at the pool. She was standing on a street corner watching the cars go by, waiting for the light to change. No cars had gone past in a while. The street was empty, but there was one boy sitting on a park bench. She looked at him, he looked at her. She quickly turned her attention back to the traffic light, which was now green. She hurriedly walked across the street and into the house. The girl’s house wasn’t like other houses; it was more like a museum. The walls were lined with glass cases full of a timeline. The history of weapons. It started out with the first weapon, (which her father claimed was a rock, although his daughter said that it didn’t count as a weapon) and it went all the way down the walls through spears and pistols all the way up to modern machine guns in the case just next to the door. It was an interesting sight for anyone who chose to enter the house of the Kestonie.
On the night of August 6th, however, the cases of weapons was no more of a demotivation than usual for the masked man who slowly made his way through the door, up the stairs, and into the bedroom of the girl’s father, all the while wielding a small metal object, sharp enough to pierce flesh. The girl heard the scream from her bed, halfway across the house. She bolted through the door only to see the dagger fall onto his heart.
The masked man saw the girl and ran after her. She bolted down the stairs and slipped halfway to the bottom, sending her tumbling into the glass case that held slightly dated guns. She picked up a small pistol and fumbled with it. It wasn’t loaded, but her father had shown her how to load the guns when she was younger. Never how to fire though, it couldn’t be that hard, just pull the trigger. She found the case of bullets on the ground and loaded the gun carefully, like her father had taught her. Just six bullets. 1…The man in a mask reaches the bottom of the stairs, 2…He holds the dagger over her about to plunge it into her chest, 3…he hears police sirens in the distance, 4…he puts his dagger in his belt still dripping with her father’s blood, 5…the masked man starts to walk towards the door, 6…the girl stands up and runs out of the door after him. The police see her.
The girl pointed the pistol at anyone who spoke, tears of anger streaming down her face.
One of the police officers stepped forward, “Calm down,” he slowly inched towards her, “What’s your name?”
“Kara,” she barked, pointing the weapon at the officer who spoke.
“Kara?” said the officer, “That’s a pretty name. And how old are you?”
“Sixteen,” snapped Kara, “Where is he? Where did he go?”
“Now Kara,” he said, “how about you put that down and we’ll talk, okay?”
Kara shook her head and stepped back. Then, out of the corner of her eye, she noticed something. The boy was still sitting on the bench. He hadn’t moved since that morning. The boy looked at her and stood up. In one motion, Kara swung the gun towards him and pulled the trigger. She had never fired a gun before. In that moment, time slowed down. There was so much noise that she thought she might go deaf, the smoke clogged her throat, the force of the gun pushed her to the ground and pried the gun out of her hands. Her head hit the pavement and time went back. She got up and ran as fast as she could. She didn’t care where she went, she had to get away from here.
Kara hid next to the building and watched the ambulance drive away. The police must have followed her here and found him instead. She would be charged with his murder twice now. She smiled briefly at that thought, but confusion flooded her mind again. Perhaps they were twins? No, that couldn’t be, the boy had told her that he remembered her, and there was no one else there that night. But she’d seen him die. She’d seen the bullet enter his brain. It had been a lethal shot. He should be dead. Well, he was dead, but not for that reason. Kara wiped her eyes with her hands and headed in the opposite direction of the ambulance and police cars. As soon as she started walking, she stopped. Her legs refused to work and her mind couldn’t think straight. She sat down on a bench and realized something. She hadn’t slept in two days. The longest she had gone without sleep before this was not even half of a night when she stayed up watching the stars with her father. It was during a meteor shower, they had seen three meteors that night. Each time they had seen one, Kara had made a wish.
Her legs curled up on the bench and her head found a relatively comfortable position, comfort was the least of Kara’s worries at the moment. She was wanted for the murder of that boy, twice, and possibly the murder of her own father. Her eyes closed and she fell into a deep sleep…
“You’re alive!” Kara was woken up by a hand on her shoulder and that exclamation. She sleepily rubbed her eyes and focused on the person who had said that. The blur of the morning soon went away and she recognized the boy.
“No!” she shouted and ran away from him as fast as she could. He followed, shouting after her for her to wait. She ran until she couldn’t run any longer. She stopped and turned to face the boy, “Why are you following me?” she demanded, “What are you? Why are you here?”
The boy circled her once and sat down on the ground. He sat there for a moment, studying her from head to toe, “You’re different,” he said suddenly, jumping to his feet, “At the pool, you stole my life before I could give it to you.”
“I’ve never stolen anyone’s life, what are you talking about? How could you give it to me?”
“You took my life,” said the boy.
Kara stopped and looked at the ground. “It was an accident,” she said. Her guilt was overtaken by curiosity. “You didn’t stay dead. What are you, a vampire or something?”
The boy laughed, “No, no. That’s not what I mean.”
“How could you mean anything different? What are you?”
“Calm down, sweetheart,” he said, “I’m no different from you.”
“Of course you are, you’ve died twice, and you’re still here!”
“You’ve died too,” he said, “Yet here you are.”
Silence. Kara took a short breath in and it came out in a cough of tears. She crumpled to the ground sobbing. She was confused and scared. He wasn’t making sense. The boy came over and put his hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it away. Tears streamed down her face uncontrollably. The boy did nothing but sit there and wait for her to finish. Kara felt his eyes burning through her flesh as she tried to stop the tears.
“Let me put it in simpler words,” said the boy when she’d stopped crying, “You…aren’t human.”
“I’m not human,” she laughed softly, her voice still sticky with tears. “There’s a surprise.”
“If it makes you feel any better, neither am I.”
“Yeah,” she said, “I kind of got that.”
The boy smiled.
“Alright then,” said Kara, “if I’m not human what am I?”
“You’re a Novaklon, sweetie,” he said, “in English, that translates to thief.”
“I’m not a thief!” Kara insisted, “I’ve never stolen anything.”
The boy cleared his throat, “If you’ll stop interrupting, I’ll tell you what it means.”
Kara smiled sarcastically.
“Thank you,” said the boy, “Novaklon are not human, but you couldn’t tell that from looking at them.”
“But why are they called thieves?” asked Kara.
The boy looked at her.
“Sorry,” she said.
He continued. “Novaklon have the ability to give, and steal, lives. That’s why they’re called thieves.”
“How does that work? How can you steal a life?”
“In the pool, you died,” said the boy. Kara started to protest, but the boy stopped her, “I saw you were dead, and I know you’re not human because I died. I was going to give you my life, but you stole it before I could.”
“Wait, I was dead,” said Kara. “How could I steal something if I was dead?”
“That’s quite simple, actually. That part, we can’t control. If someone’s bare skin touches ours, then we live again, and they die.”
“That hardly seems fair,” said Kara.
“It’s not,” said the boy, “not at all. We can’t stay dead, and each time we live, we have to live with the guilt of knowing that someone else has died for us.”
They sat in silence after that. Kara sat processing what she had just heard and trying to understand. The boy sat there watching Kara think, as if trying to read her mind. They sat like that for a few moments.
Kara broke the silence. “But,” she said suddenly, “If you were going to give me your life anyway, how do you know I stole it?”
“Oh,” said the boy, “I started to drown before I kissed you.”
“What does that mean?”
“I touched your arm before I kissed you and my lungs started to fill with water and I drowned. If I had given you my life, I wouldn’t have died the same way you did, I would have simply died.”
“So,” said Kara, “If you steal someone’s life, they die the same way that you did?”
“Even if you were eaten by a shark or something? They would just all of a sudden, um, I don’t know, bleed to death of random teeth marks that just appeared?”
“Pretty much,” said the boy. Kara giggled at how serious he looked, “Also if I was giving you my life, I wouldn’t start to die until I kissed you.”
“The kiss of life,” Kara smiled, “like in a fairy tale.”
“Precisely,” he said. No one spoke for a moment. “I’m Jake,” said the boy as he extended his hand.
“Kara,” said Kara as she shook his hand.
“It’s lovely to make your acquaintance, Kara,” he said.
Kara smiled. “I’m tired,” she said as she felt her eyes start to get heavy.
Jake laughed. “Well,” he said, “That would make sense. You’re always a bit tired after you’ve died once or twice.”
Kara gave him a sleepy smile and fell over gently onto the fountain where she had been sitting.
She woke up and found a hoodie jacket draped over her like a blanket. She sat up and looked around. The boy was gone. Well wasn’t that just great? He’d left, now what was she supposed to do? He probably wasn’t even real, she had probably dreamed the whole thing up. No, that couldn’t be, if it was all a dream, she would have absolutely no reason to be sitting on a fountain. What if she’d imagined him? Was he her imaginary friend or something? Whatever. He was gone now. She didn’t care though, she could—
“Kara!” a voice interrupted her thoughts. She turned around and saw Jake walking towards her. She kicked herself for being such an idiot. “You’re awake,” he said.
“I am indeed,” she replied, “And where have you been?”
“Over there,” he said, “I found a cat.”
Jake sat down next to her and sighed, “What a beautiful morning.”
Kara nodded. “Hey Jake?”
“How old are you?”
“How old do you think I am?” he said.
Kara studied him for a minute, “Seventeen.”
Jake nodded, “I haven’t told you that, have I?”
“Told me what?” asked Kara.
“You’re a Novaklon, remember? Well, there’s this other little thing where…” he paused, “Well, you see…I’m 76 years old.”
Kara paused, “What?”
“When a Novaklon is killed for the first time, that’s what their body looks like for the rest of their life.”
Kara thought about that for a moment and then she said, “So you’re like that kid in Tuck Everlasting where he has to stay a teenager forever.”
“Pretty much,” he said, “only…yeah, pretty much.”
“So, how did you die?” asked Kara, “The first time.”
The boy laughed, “I, um, I tripped.”
“Yep, I tripped over a brick and hit my head on the sidewalk.”
“Well that was smart,” Kara laughed. “Wait, so I died…”
“Yes, you drowned.”
“Does that mean that I’m going to look like this forever?”
“Not forever,” said Jake, “just until you die.”
“Until I die?” asked Kara, “I thought you said that we couldn’t die.”
The boy sighed, “It’s complicated.”
“You…when…um, if…hmmm,” Jake paused, “It’s sort of like an expiration date. If you’ve been dead for, um, four months or something, it wears off. You stay dead.”
“So if you’re not resurrected for four months you stay dead?”
“Well,” said the boy, “It’s different for…um, depending on how old you are, it gets shorter. So, if you died, it would be something like two years or something.”
“Well, wait, wouldn’t that cancel? I mean, if you’re five million years old, wouldn’t it be like a day or something?”
“No,” he said, “It’s always at least a month and there’s some ways that you can make it longer if you’re older. I don’t know, I haven’t memorized all of the rules of this species, I just live and die and whatever happens, happens.”
“Um,” Kara coughed, “Okay.”
“You ask a lot of questions,” said the boy.
“Well, I did just find out that I’m a supernatural being who can’t die.”
“I have a question for you then,” said the boy. “What was with all of the police outside of your house that night?”
Kara sighed and told the story of that long night. He didn’t say a word for the entire story. Kara’s voice shook a little bit when she described the man in the mask. The dark shadow looming over her, her voice hot with anger as she described the blood dripping from his dagger. When she finished her story, a long slow breath escaped her lungs. She wiped a small tear off of her face.
“You’re her then,” said the boy, “the girl who killed all of those people…” He stood up and walked in a circle around the fountain, “You can’t be though, because while I was sitting here talking to you, about five people have been stabbed to death.” The boy sat down next to her on the fountain again. He looked at her suspiciously, “So why are you running?”
“If you were in my position you would run too,” she said. The boy gasped as he was pulled backwards. Kara stood up and saw him being held almost a foot above the ground by the gloved hand of the masked man. Kara didn’t breath for a moment. The masked man stared at the boy and then he gasped suddenly.
“It’s you!” The man sounded very surprised. It was the first time that Kara had heard him speak. His voice was hoarse, as if he had been shouting at someone for a long time.
“You know,” said Jake, “we were just talking about you.”
“You know him?!” shouted Kara.
“I was about to tell you—ough” said the boy as he fell onto the ground.
The masked man took a step backwards. “Both of you,” he said. He sounded almost…scared.
Jake stood up and brushed himself off, “Can we help you with something, Sir?” The masked man didn’t respond. Kara could see the dagger hanging from his belt. It was stained red on the tip from not being washed after a kill. She had barely taken her eyes off of it when she felt it’s cold tip plunge into her chest. The world froze, time slowed down again. Her hands wrapped tightly around the masked man’s wrist. In slow motion, he pulled the dagger out of her chest and it fell to the floor. The blood slowly drained from her body. The masked man cried out and fell into puddle of her blood on the ground, Kara’s hands still wrapped tightly around his wrist. Kara’s knees bent and slammed against the ground. Her head was spinning; the world was blotting itself out until it was completely black.
Her eyes opened. She was soaked in blood and the masked man was lying next to her. He was dead. She jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder.
“Kara,” she heard a whispered voice. She turned around and saw the boy. She saw her cold dark angel there to bring her back to life. He helped her get up and put both of his hands on her shoulders, “Kara,” he said. He looked her straight in the eye. She felt his eyes burning into hers. He didn’t say anything else. He simply took her by the hand, and they ran.