Life is very interesting, and quite diverse. No two lives were the same. I’d experienced this firsthand…
Yet, no matter what choices they made, no matter what they did, no matter who they were… They all made the same exact mistake. They chose to devote their one life to another person. It’s only fitting that all of them would be equal in death, dying by the same blade in the exact same manner.
But that was why this particular situation was so weird.
I had stumbled across a little boy, all alone, sitting on a bench outside of a store. Normally I wouldn’t have paid him any mind, but his parents were likely nearby, and that would net me another victim.
I had a thought. I had taken out a few parents with children before, but I had never thought about the kids themselves. They had to depend on their parents to survive, and the paradigm over what to do conflicted me for a moment.Love is evolutionary. It seemed like it was too late.
Those birds I used to like had the right idea. When their children were old enough to fend for themselves, they were sent out into the world on their own.
Unfortunately, humans would not be so easily swayed, I knew that for a fact. Many parents would rather die than lose their child.
Well, at least now we had a place to start.
“Are you a superhero?” I heard.
I turned to see two little excited eyes looking at me. The kid was brave, I’ll give him that.
“Yes,” I responded, turning my attention back towards the entrance of the store. If this kid’s parents were anywhere around, they’d be in there.
I waited around for a few minutes, trying my best to stay out of view of any locals. The kid didn’t stop asking me questions. I couldn’t blame him, I did have wings, after all.
Finally, his parents walked out of the door, and the child immediately ran to his mother’s side.
I heard him cheerfully announce, “Mommy, look! A superhero!”
The parents recognized me. I had to make my move. I charged at the mother, knife in hand, and drove it into her chest before throwing her off to the side.
I didn’t dissipate my knife afterward, instead holding onto it and using my other hand to grab the child.
Pulling the child close, I heard the screams of his father. I put my knife to the child’s throat, “Make any funny moves and I’ll kill him right now.”
The dad stopped in his tracks, tears welling up in his eyes. He looked fairly young, only being around thirty.
“What… What do you want?!”
“Nothing in particular, but I would like to propose a deal.”
“I’ll give you anything you want!”
“We’ll see about that.”
I threw my dagger on the ground, then slid it over to the father.
“I could easily kill you, in return for your child’s life. There’s your chance. Want to make a move?”
The desperation on this man’s face was something I’d never seen before, even since I had started my crusade.
I held my grip on the child’s arm, not taking my eyes off the man in front of me. I waited for a while, but the dad never attacked. He just collapsed on the hard sidewalk, bawling his eyes out.
I counted down from ten, but when I got to zero, he hadn’t moved. I walked over and picked up my dagger off the ground, dissipating it.
“Good choice,” I stated, releasing the child. He ran back over to his father and embraced him, both still sobbing. The father got one last good look at me before I took off back into the sky.
I can’t say I expected that. Maybe there is hope for saving everyone else.
Although… Maybe I did expect it, deep down. I’d killed many, many people, but not once had their partner tried to save them, very few of them even stepped in to help.
No, every single time, most would either made a run for
it, or just sit there in shock. The very fact that neither of them would ever start running as soon as they saw me proved that they were ignorant. They would rather make sure that their partner was okay…
The same logic should apply to your child, and apparently, it did. After all, if a baby duck falls behind its mother, the mother duck knows to preserve herself than even look back.
Time and time again, I was proven right. There was still a basic survival instinct inside each and every creature, no matter how many layers of love covered it up. Children weren’t special in that regard.
Ava and I used to talk about having kids one day. There’s probably an alternate universe where we did end up having a good life together.
But if I had a choice… Would I want to live in that universe? I wouldn’t even know that there was a problem. I would be happy living out my perfect life with the girl of my dreams.
I pondered that scenario for a while. I knew that I didn’t have a choice in the matter, but that didn’t stop me from pondering it.
I came to the conclusion that the rest of humanity needed me more than I could ever need Ava. I wouldn’t be happy about it, but if presented with the choice, I would choose what fate decided for me in the first place.
If I didn’t end up doing this, there was no way of knowing if anyone else could have. The world might have remained in an endless lie. I didn’t care if a single person was happy about it, I didn’t even care if I was happy about it, humanity needed it.
The world had better prepare itself, because I wasn’t going to wait until it was ready.
Where did it all go wrong…?
I had lost everything. I lost Travis, I lost my career, and now, I had lost so much time just waiting for a chance to fight. Tockman kept spending more and more time in his lab, and Penny was usually up there pestering him, so more often than not, I was alone.
Alone and bored. I just sat in the back room, usually bouncing a ball or something… I missed Travis so much. I still remember the day that we first met, one of the best days of my life…
Who could’ve known that it would lead to this?!
“B-brr… It’s… S-so cold…”
The air was crisp and chilly, but that didn't stop many people from strolling through the town and enjoying themselves at the park. They went about their days as if the weather wasn't a hindrance, doing some shopping or going out to eat or whatever else they had come to the town square for.
Among those people were me, having buried the bottom half of my face into my sweater as I walked toward the pond, originally unaware of the cold when I left for the day. I was shivering and doing my best to stay warm, but going back home to grab a heavier jacket was out of the question; it was a decent walk away, and it wasn't this cold when I first headed out.
Sitting myself down on a bench once I reached my destination, I let out a bothered puff of air through my nose, curling my limbs close to myself and looking off across the pond, staring out toward the sunset.
I was originally shocked when I felt a jacket wrap around my shoulders. I jolted around to look at the culprit. It was a young man, with short cocoa-colored hair and friendly green eyes, not to mention the smile on his face.
When I turned around to face the boy, I couldn't help but sink into the warmth that his jacket provided, just for a moment. It had been a long time since anyone had ever shown me such a kind gesture, and I more than appreciated it.
Once that moment was over, I took the jacket by the collar with my hand, holding it back out to the man with a soft smile on my face.
"Th… Thank you… So much…” I began, a slight stutter to my words, “But this is… This is yours. I can't take y… Your coat. You'll f… F-freeze…!"
"I'll be fine,” the man assured, the flannel of his sky-blue sweater obviously not doing much to warm up his arms. He wasn’t going to let that show through to me, though.
The friendly stranger walked in front of me and placed his hands on the cold bench, lowering himself onto it. He pulled his knees to his chest, wrapping himself into a little ball as he stared at the lake in silence.
I watched as he sat beside me in a similar position, and an idea came to my mind. Unfurling myself, I got to my feet, standing beside the man as I fanned out his coat and draped it across his shoulders and over his front.
I couldn't help but smile as I did this, not wanting to take his attention off of the pond as I sat myself back in my original spot.
"I really d… Do appreciate it, but I… But I don't wanna dirty your c… Your coat… Or anything. I don't ev… Even know your name…!" I spoke in a fairly quiet tone.
"Travis Montgomery," he confidently replied, once again handing back the balled-up jacket to me. "There, now we know each other. Come on, I insist. I've got more jackets…"
"A… Are you sure…? I have plenty at h… At home. I just didn't th… Th… Think I'd need one for… For t… T… T…”
The cold was getting to me, and I bashfully drew the jacket around myself once again, nuzzling myself into it. For a moment, I closed my eyes as if I was about to fall asleep, letting the protection work its magic before opening my eyes to look at Travis and trying to speak again, a soft smile spreading across my face.
"Ava… Ava Milliken. Thank you… So much…! I really… Really appreciate it."
"No problem…" Travis responded, holding his breath for a moment before speaking once more.
"So… I- I wonder if there's any easy way to get a new heart… Mine was just stolen."
“Was that a pick-up line?” I asked almost teasingly, a blush starting to creep across my face and warm my cheeks up. I did my best to hide it by picking up the jacket’s collar and holding it in front of my lower face, gazing off to the side. It had been quite some time since I’d had someone try something like that on me, so I was more cautious about it this time around.
“That one was p… Pretty good, I’ll give you th… That…!”
“Oh, I’ve got a ton more where that one came from. My college roommates got tired of me being single for the third Valentine’s Day in a row, so they bought me a big book as some sort of gag.”
“Did… Did it work?”
“You tell me.”
A particularly bad gust of wind nipped at our faces, and Travis had to take cover within the collar of his sweater.
“Are you sure you’re… You’re okay…? I don’t want… I don’t want you to be cold!”
“We can compromise,” Travis suggested, scooting a bit closer. He held the coat out like a cover and draped it over the both of us.
Taking a moment to collect my thoughts as both my mind and cheeks blazed to life, I eventually nuzzled myself into a comfortable position, closing my eyes to try to calm myself down.
"Yeah… Yeah, this works… Are you comfy…?"
Travis bounced his leg a bit in nervousness, before taking a deep breath.
"Alright, look… I'll just cut to the chase. Would, um… Would you-… Do you want to go out to dinner or a movie sometime?"
Any effort that I made to quell my raging blush was immediately undone once I heard this question. Looking over to Travis with wide eyes and a quiet squeak of surprise, I stuttered out my response, completely stunned about it all.
"I…! I… I… I mean, uh… Sure…? I mean, it sounds nice, and you're nice, but… God, I haven't done something like this in… In a long time. I'm sorry…!”
"No, no, no… It's perfectly okay to be nervous. I'll be honest, I haven't ever dated anyone before… Well, we'll never know if we don't try, right…?"
“Um… I guess you’re not wrong!”
“…Wanna feed the ducks?”
“I’d love to!”
The same man who gave me so much to live for… Was responsible for stripping the lives away from so many innocents? It was impossible.
The Auburn Demon embodied everything wrong with the world, while simultaneously taking on the purest physical form imaginable. It was paradoxical, impossible, and yet, gave me a lucid understanding of reality that was never before possible.
I’d never be the old Avalonia again, no matter my fate… But I had to press on, and shape myself into someone new, someone I could be proud of.
I caught the ball as it bounced back to me, before squeezing it tight in my hand.
“Alright, demon… I’m going to find you, and when I do, I’m going to make you regret ever crawling out of Hell…”
Isn’t life grand? It’s a constantly changing puzzle, and now things are finally starting to come together.
I stared at the dagger in my hand, admiring every detail of it. It was crafted to perfection, shaped to the will of its creator. If there is some divine being, we have always been at their mercy, but now, we can take control of our own lives!
If I could manage to extract even a fraction of the powers weaved into the thing, I could become the most powerful man in the entire universe. Nothing would be impossible anymore.
It seemed wrong to abandon science like that, especially considering my life’s work. But then again, it had to be destiny that this power should fall into my hands.
Even so, that was still a long way away. For once, I set my time travel work to the side and tried to figure out this dagger. Avalonia spoke the truth. The master of this was able to bend the world around him to his liking.
It was odd. The world had experienced nothing supernatural at all until it just suddenly popped into existence at once. Whoever this “Travis” was, he had come back from the dead, not to mention the extraordinary powers that he possessed.
I hated to say it, but I had given up on trying to explain the dagger. Some things are beyond the understanding of even me. I didn’t need to understand it, though. I just needed to wield it.
Unfortunately for me, the only current subject was greatly malevolent. I predicted that if he found out what we were doing, he would slaughter us all without a second thought.
I wasn’t willing to try it out on myself, not unless there was a 100% chance of success, something that could take weeks. Luckily for me, there was a willing test subject within arm's reach.
If the experiment should succeed, I could fully study its effects on a person, as well as have our threat taken care of. It would give me the chance to perform tests, the likes of which the world has never seen. If it was to be a failure… Well, I would cross that bridge if I needed to.
I really hoped that Penny would never hear of that. She was annoying enough without knowing of my intentions. Wouldn’t want to be down a power source.
Penny was badgering me the past few days. All “Can’t we defeat him, Doc? We have weapons for it!” this, and “Is Ava okay? She seemed off last time I came…” that. It was frustrating. Though, she did spend most of her free time away with that Zinovi boy, so that was a blessing.
I took pity on her, in a way. She would rather frolic around in flower fields with her boyfriend all day than do something that actually matters. Penny was sympathetic, choosing to care for Ava instead of seeing the opportunity of a lifetime right in front of her.
That opportunity was bigger than Ava, bigger than Penny, even bigger than me. It was just a shame that the world’s first experience with it had to be so… Negative.
I didn’t understand it. A twenty-something year old gets another shot at life with powers far beyond any other mortal, and what does he do? Slaughter a bunch of couples. Ridiculous.
But there was a part of me that understood. Penny passed on the story of Travis’ death to me. If love had screwed me that bad, I would abandon it without a second thought. I just wasn’t going to wait to die to realize that.
I mean, for the love of god, Penny let a whole family of strangers stay in her apartment for a night, then escorted them to a shelter and practically babysat them. I’ve overheard her phone calls with them, those people are crazy, and she just invited them into her home and dotes on them with open arms!
If it were up to me, I would’ve avoided eye contact and continued on my way with maybe a little “I’m sorry for your loss,” if I was in a good mood. But, no, of course not, Penny’s poor little conscience would just eat her up if she decided to make a rational choice for once in her life.
Penny wasn’t without her uses, though. Her pure kinetic energy allowed me to progress far further than I would’ve otherwise, and it did help to have an extra pair of hands around for convenience.
I’m sure she’ll do just fine in life. She’ll build up a nice little family for herself, likely find success in her writing, and live out the rest of her life in bliss. That may sound like a perfect life for some people. For a lot, that’s really all that they want.
But there is a fine line between what people want and what they need. I honestly didn’t care if Penny wanted to marry this boy, or whatever her plans were. The key word there is “I”.
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, you can’t make an impact on the world if you don’t make yourself known. You’ll be lost to time, since it won’t slow down just because you want it to.
Sometimes, what you need, and what the world needs, is just to set your ambitions aside for a moment and think of the greater good. Do what you have to do, not what you want to. Fate decides our purpose, and if I didn’t accomplish mine, I would’ve failed as a human.
I can feel it, I was given life because I had something I needed to do. I needed to be the one to introduce the world to a higher power. Be it my dagger here, or the time travel work that I’ve dedicated my life to.
Trust me, Penny. You don’t want to defy fate.
Zinovi was busy with work at home today, so I was on my own. I didn’t really mind that, though. Sure, I liked hanging around with people, but we all need time to ourselves, too. A sort of mental recharging, in a way.
I stopped at the store for a treat for the family I was helping out. The kids were adorable and seemed much happier now that they were under a roof again. The mother was a sweetheart, too. She was really thankful when I came to visit and check up on them. I called them when I couldn’t visit due to being with Doc and Ava. I frowned ever so slightly. I hoped Ava was ok… Last I heard from Doc, he had her go back to her place…
I shook my head to clear it as I finished gathering the surprise treats—some candy for the kids to share and some chamomile tea for their mother. I hummed as I went on my way back to Doc’s, as usual. He was asking me to come by a lot more frequently, just like he usually did when it came to inventions that needed lots of power. Whatever. As long as I could work on my writing. Having people to visit and read my stories to was nice, but it made my usual day busier than before, and sometimes that meant less writing got done.
As I neared a crosswalk and pressed the button so I could cross the street, I noticed two figures curled up with a blanket around them. They looked pretty worse for wear…
The man was holding a piece of cardboard that he made into a sign. It read, “Lost jobs. Couldn’t afford rent. Please help” In front of him and the woman next to him—the two looked like siblings—was a can with a few coins at the bottom.
I frowned. They really had some rotten luck. Digging into my bag for my wallet, I saw that I had two twenties. I could part with forty bucks. Besides, it would help them better than me. I took out the bills and put them into the can, smiling at the two astonished faces of the homeless siblings. “I hope you find a way back into that apartment someday!” The woman actually teared up at my words.
“Thank you, Miss! Thank you so much!”
I nodded and turned to see the light at the crosswalk changed. I jogged across the street before it could switch back and I kept on going. Doc’s shop was pretty close now. I could tell from the smell of garbage that was left in some nearby alleys. I wrinkled my nose. Did the garbage trucks ever come by here? It was gross how all this junk was piled up around this part of town… Sure, not many people lived here, but it was still ugly and disgusting.
As I turned a corner, Doc’s shop in sight, I heard some rustling and froze. It happened again, coming from behind me. I paled. I tried to think of what to use as a weapon in case that crazy Travis guy was about to pounce. I saw some broken bottles and grabbed one, swinging around and holding it up, ready to bash this psycho one…!
…But the source of the rustling, as it turns out, was a small, shivering, skinny ball of fluff. It mewed pitifully. My eyes widened and I put the bottle down, sighing in relief at the fact that my “aggressor” was really just an abandoned black kitten tangled in some garbage. I carefully untangled it and slowly picked it up. It wriggled around, but it must not have had too much energy because that’s all it did.
It mewed in protest at leaving the ground, but it also seemed to be thankful, especially after I held it close to help warm it. It only looked a few days old… Maybe a month old at most… It should still be with its mother, but it was totally alone and fending for itself…
“Easy, little guy… I gotcha…” I soothed. Hm… Doc had some basic foodstuffs in the shop for when he stayed there late, so he had to have some milk and cream for it…
Wrapping the poor kitten in my coat, I carried him with me to Doc’s and immediately went into the back room and to the fridge. I managed to make up a makeshift bottle for the kitten and I went upstairs to see Doc, cradling the bundled animal as it suckled from the bottle like a baby, its paws kneading at the air for more.
“Hey, Doc… Look who I found outside…!~”
Doc looked up from some papers and squinted at me, before saying flatly, “Oh joy. A feral beast. What fun.”
I scowled. “Doc, it’s just a kitten. The poor thing was all tangled up in the garbage outside, so I decided to take it in.”
“Without just giving it to the local shelter and letting them deal with it? It could have diseases and bugs and all kinds of—“ He paused and wrinkled his nose. “Ugh… I can smell it from here…!”
“It was in the trash, that’s why! Are you even listening, Doc?” He rolled his eyes.
“I don’t see why I have to. None of what you’re saying is vital to me. You pulled a mangy cat out of the trash and brought it into my lab. What good does that do anyone?”
I was starting to get annoyed. You would think that even Doc would like pets, especially the kind of pet that mostly took care of itself! “Just because something doesn’t change the world doesn’t mean we should ignore it or not do it!” I shifted my hold on the content kitten bundle I was holding, making sure it kept eating. “Helping one person might not change the whole world…” I looked up at Doc. “…But it changes the world for that one person.”
“Good for that one person, then. That one insignificant person out of billions.” I stomped my foot, startling the kitten and making them mew shrilly before I calmed it down. Doc didn’t even flinch.
“No one can change the whole world every day, Doc! And h-how can you say that?! Every person is important and-and special!” I just couldn’t believe what Doc was saying. “All this ‘change the world’ talk is making you crazy! People aren’t valuable unless there’s lots of them… Love is useless a-and not worth your time. Do you hear yourself?!”
“I do. And I don’t see why anything I’ve said is an issue, Penny. Now hook yourself up so I can start this experiment. I’ve already been waiting an hour or so for you and all you’ve done in your lateness is rant to me about my supposed ‘ill logic’, apparently.”
I just stared at Doc in shock. He looked serious. He really, honestly, seriously did mean what he said. “So you’ve never loved anyone, then?”
“Again with this nonsense love busine—“
“Not even your parents?”
The Doc actually froze up at this, his face wrinkling in confusion. He stuttered a bit, as if trying to respond, before he glared at me. “…My personal life is none of your business.” Both of us were raising our voices now. Doc had stood up and was glaring down at me. Curse my height disadvantage.
“…So that’s a no, then?”
“Penny, that’s not what I—!”
“Not even me?!”
There was a pause. The air was tense. I could see Doc’s hands in tight fists out of the corner of my eye. He slowly stood up straight, adjusted his goggles, and looked down at me with indifference and anger. “You, if anything, are my employee. We share, if anything, a business relationship. I have no need nor desire to have anything more than that with you. In fact, I barely see you as anything more than a daily annoyance.”
I felt air leave my lungs as Doc’s words echoed in my head. I shrunk down and started to tear up. He had never taken such a dangerously low and forced tone with me before. I knew he wasn’t lying by the way he said it and the way he acted. “Stop this childish nonsense and hook yourself up. I have work to do and I’m almost two hours late on it at this rate.”
I held the kitten close to me and took a step back. “…Find someone else to power your garbage for you today, then.” Before Doc could do anything—if he was going to bother doing anything, that is—I sprinted out of the shop, down the sidewalk and across the street. I kept running, crying as I did so, until I made it to the shelter. I tried to wipe my tears away and clean myself up before walking in to see the family, but I probably still looked a mess.
The family was right there near the door as I came in, their smiles of welcome turning to frowns when they saw me red in the face from crying and holding the squirming kitten in my arms.
“Penny, what happened?”
“Is the kitty ok?”
The kids looked up at me with wide eyes. I didn’t answer and bowed my head, sobbing again. The mother gently held me in a hug and the children hugged my legs. We just stood there, me crying as Doc’s words haunted me.