Truth lay with his back facing the door, eyes closed, but he still knew that it was Jorine who had entered his room. From six or seven feet away he could hear her heart flutter and labor as it tried to push too little blood around a too large body. Truth could smell her anxiety rise off her in slightly sour waves, and her quick and hungry sweetish breaths. He could feel the life energy of her bounce off the walls and then ricochet onto his skin, piercing him with a thousand tiny needles. When Truth turned around to face her, in the darkness that was his world, he could see the orange and red outline of her portly body in pulsing waves of heat.
Jorine cleared her throat loudly before speaking in a voice so honeyed with bogus affection that Truth winced. Almost everything about this one hurt. “I have your dinner.” Then as if being forced, she belatedly added, “Dear.”
Truth nodded. Speaking would only encourage her and then she’d never shut up.
“You even have a piece of hot apple pie for dessert.” Truth shifted his eyes downward, to the tray she was holding. Wisps of faint blue light were almost imperceptible against the heat emanating from her enormous girth. Nothing on that tray was hot. He hadn’t eaten a hot meal since the incident last week. They were afraid him, and fire.
Jorine and Jamal had always been somewhat cautious with him. Tests proved he was what they called gifted even though they had only witnessed his skills twice. The first time was when they met seven years ago. The second time was last week.
Truth remembered listening to them argue with his guardian while he played in the darkness of his bedroom. The discussion began civilly with his guardian, Malak, welcoming them into his home and offering them dandelion tea. Truth was interested in these people because they rarely had guests, so he sat by the door and listened.
They came to their point when they ran out of things to talk about. One could only talk about the weather so much, and besides, nothing had changed. That summer was the hottest on record. For more than a month, the temperature reached one hundred degrees. The sun seemed to press against the atmosphere. Summer came earlier and hotter than in years past, and would continue to, is what the elders predicted.
Jorine did most of the talking, as she always did even to this day. “We’d like to test Truth to see just how gifted he is.” After a brief silence, Malak, not only refused, but he asked them to leave. He called them Scientists in such a caustic way that Truth knew immediately that something was wrong and that these people were dangerous. When they insisted, threatened to hurt Malak and take Truth by force, Malak yelled for Truth to run. But how? The world outside of the cool darkness of his bedroom was a ball of fire, red and white and orange. The multiple life energies of pedestrians, good and bad, as well as animals pierced his skin like mean daggers, set his brain on fire. Truth collapsed on the sidewalk outside of his guardian’s home and this is where his new caretakers retrieved him. In voices not nearly as nice as Jorine’s was now, they ordered him to be silent and they stuffed him into the back of their vehicle. He never knew what happened to Malak.
Angry, afraid, pained, Truth pulled heat from his surroundings; the engine of the car, the waves of heat as they rose from the concrete outside, Jorine’s massive bulk. He pooled that energy into the back of his head, his neck and chest and then let it loose inside the compartment of the car. The car burned from the inside out and while they all made it out alive, not all were uninjured. The driver, unable to come back into service with Jorine and Jamal, lost the use of his hands as the flesh of his fingers fused into tight scars once healed.
Truth had been with them every since and few days had passed when they didn’t try to make him perform, like a monkey on a leash. They’d been unsuccessful until last week, when for the first time they used pain as a motivator and the threat to hurt his twin; a twin who until then, he didn’t even know existed. Since that day last week, a few things had changed. Firstly, they had to move into this fortified pent house because the old house required so many repairs now that it was simply a loss. Secondly, Jorine was now the only person to come to Truth, because despite her anxiety she was far braver than Jamal. Thirdly, now that they understood how dangerous he could be if he chose, they felt obliged to keep him locked behind a steel plated door with an electric lock.
They didn’t realize, or were too afraid to consider, that Truth could destroy this place just as easily as the last. Truth stroked the tender scar on his forehead. They were responsible, but he had decided to forgive them.
As if she knew what Truth was thinking about, Jorine’s heart quickened and the rhythm became erratic. “We need to talk, Truth.”
Truth’s eyes lifted again, from the tepid pie to Jorine’s face. He saw her tremble, fat rippling softly, and he smiled. He wasn’t necessarily pleased to know that he instilled fear, or that he freaked her out, as she often said about the silver-gray mirror like discs that were the irises of his eyes, but he did think it funny the way her fat rippled when she shuddered or walked or even breathed too deeply. She was mass in motion. She was funny to him.
“What do you want?”
“I want you to perform.” She shook her head. “No, I need you to perform.” She set the tray down on the table, steel against steel. The cold sharp sound raked his nerves. “We were wrong. We shouldn’t have tried to force you. We should have told you the truth.” Her aura, her color, changed from red to pink.
He nodded. “Tell me more about the girl, this twin of mine.”
Jorine stepped closer. “We don’t know anything, I swear. Only that she exists somewhere. They’ve been trying to get her for years, to join her with you.” She clasped her hands together, twisting and wringing her fingers. Her color steadied to a solid fuscia. She was telling the truth.
“Why haven’t they been able to get her?”
She shrugged her shoulders. More ripples. Truth smiled. “They’ve heard stories about a girl who might fit the description, but nothing has ever panned out. They are only stories. Either her guardian is very good or your sister is dead.”
Truth recalled the image of the girl into his mind. Today, while he slept to evade the boredom, he saw her as he had never seen anything else. Not in waves of heat and light, but in solid bold colors and textures. He saw her in detail in relief against a cold blackness that could have only been night. Her fiery eyes set in a face as smooth and brown and hard as fire cured clay. The moment her vision came to him, he knew that she belonged to him in some way. How else to explain the way he was able to see her, the way he was suddenly able to see like everyone else.
Truth considered Jorine’s words. It was really a pity. The Scientists hoped to join him with this girl, no doubt to control them, to experiment on them, to use them as weapons, or harvest their DNA. He didn’t know for sure. But they had no idea how dangerous that would be. Having him in captivity was one thing. He had certain gifts, and could be a danger if he so chose, but he didn’t. It didn’t serve him in anyway. He knew no one outside of Jorine and Jamal, and while he didn’t love them, he didn’t hate them either. They had fed him, given him a home. In fact, in their own sick way, they had treated him like the child they never had. He had never been hungry or cold or harmed, until last week.
But if he could be reunited with his twin, he would have family and no need for them. If he could be reunited with this angry beautiful girl, he wouldn’t feel obliged to stay here with these people. He would leave them and they could do nothing to stop him. And if they tried, he would use their own life energy against them and burn their world to the ground. He might be willing to do that if it meant being with the girl from his vision.
Jorine moved forward again, one timid little step. “Please Truth. Anything you can do.” She lowered her voice. “They’re threatening us. They said they would demote us, remove us from the Order of Scientists.” Lowering her voice even further, straining to breath. “There is no middle ground. You are either a Believer or a Scientist. One or the other. Being neither is worse than being nothing. Being a Midling,” repulsed by the idea, Jorine shuddered as if she was suddenly cold, “is the same as being nothing. We’d be living in some alley. We’d be dead.”
Her color changed again. Her outline was red now, in a bold wavy line.
“We’re desperate, Truth. That’s why we did what we did. We won’t do it again, I swear it.” Truth caught himself before his hand went to his forehead. That place still throbbed sometimes.
Her breaths quickened and her heart jittered between beats.
An idea came to Truth and he was surprised at his own daring and recklessness. “I might be able to help.”
“Yes, yes, anything, please.”
He chuckled softly. “Jorine, you had better calm down. You’re going to have a heart attack.” And he wasn’t joking. She was just that close to going over the edge and into the void. Her heart was going too fast in her chest for him to count the beats.
“Tell me. What will you do? How will you help us? You’ll do one of your tricks, right? I’ve heard about this thing called shifting. Do you know how to do that?”
Truth’s voice hardened.
“No. I won’t do any tricks.” He smiled again when she shrank back. Why should he do tricks when he could get what he wanted simply by raising his voice? “She is coming,” he said.
“Who is coming?”
“My sister, my other half.”
Jorine was struck silent by this news. This was a first.
“Oh.” She started twisting her hands again. “So…you’ll help us catch her? Is that it? Yes. You will help us catch her and we will have two of the special children. With two of the special children they wouldn’t dare think of kicking us out of the Order.” She giggled sickly. “As a matter of fact, we might be awarded a position on the board.” Jorine rushed forward as fast as her short thick legs would allow. “I always knew that you were a good boy. You’re going to help us. Good, good boy.”
“Yes, I will help you.” Until that moment, Truth never realized how easy it was to lie.