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This is my personal favorite. I hope you enjoy it!
Tyson had always preferred going places on foot, seeking open space as if it could help him control the strange power within him. For as long as he could remember, he’d felt an explosive in his chest instead of a heart, fire pulsing through his veins even in the calmest of times.
In closed spaces he was an even bigger threat. If that explosive in his chest went off in the house, there was no chance of people running. In the house, Tyson always kept a distance from his family—knowing it wouldn’t help forever.
And yesterday he’d finally lost control. Now that his life was over, he looked at his reflection in the car window and saw what he truly was: A daemon.
I hate cars, he thought, tracing patterns on the window. When Tyson doodled without thinking, he always wound up creating tongues of fire like the one that ended his life.
It smelled like lavender in this car, but Tyson suspected his presence was corrupting it with the odor of smoke. He didn’t know why the strange man with the silver car was so keen on helping him. He’d found Tyson in a shoddy old neighborhood, looking for an abandoned place to hide. He’d been looking for a shack where no one would find him unless they followed his trail of smoke.
The man’s wife hadn’t protested to letting Tyson into their spotless car. In fact, she practically shoved him in the back with their son who, though he said nothing aloud, watched the daemon with his nose in the air.
If they were hauling him to an orphanage, Tyson would find a way to escape. He couldn’t afford exploding again in the presence of other children. He dared hope, vaguely, that they would offer him some food before leaving him to charity. Tyson was already a daemon, it made no difference if he stole a cheeseburger from them before vanishing into thin air.
The blonde woman in the passenger seat turned, holding out a pile of neatly folded clothes. “These are for you,” she whispered.
She had knowing blue eyes. Tyson sensed that her words would have calmed anyone else like healing water, but he couldn’t bear to get wet. His world was one of sulfur, ash thickening his memory; smoke blurred the details, leaving only the ache of self-hatred and rejection.
Daemon, they had always called him; now he knew it was true.
He took the clothes selfishly, even though he knew he’d ruin them when he ran away. The thought brought him a pang of guilt, for something in her eyes made him trust her even though they were opposites—she with her soul of healing water, while his was of smoke and death.
The man who was driving found Tyson days before. He proceeded to ask questions about why Tyson was alone, where his parents had gone, why he was in such a bad neighborhood. The daemon knew better than to say the truth: That he’d been looking for a place to haunt, the prison where he’d live the remainder of his life.
This man persisted, finding him again and coaxing him into the car. He even brought his family the second time, perhaps in case he needed to wrestle Tyson to the ground. The daemon fixed his gaze on the clothes; if he looked into that woman’s eyes, her kindness would shake his resolve.
“You don’t have to tell us what happened,” the man said as he drove. “Not yet. But we want to help.”
He had the accent of a foreigner—Italian, Tyson guessed—but his wife spoke like an American. The boy sitting next to him hadn’t said a word; he was the only person in this car treating Tyson as he deserved, like a criminal.
Should Tyson tell them what happened? He wasn’t ready to recount it, not yet, not while the echo of his sister’s dying screams fresh in his mind. Not with smoke still blurring his eyes, unwanted tears he deserved.
He closed his eyes, succumbing to the dreaded memory.
She’d been playing in the attic, where Father built her a dollhouse with wood from the forest behind their home. He was a talented toymaker; that dollhouse had lined pillars, a thatched roof, lace curtains…
“Tyson!” she had screamed down the stairs. “I can’t reach Emma!” Emma was her favorite doll, the one she venerated like a real person.
The boy made a frustrated sound. He’d been trying to finish his charcoal drawing, his hands black from the stick he was using. Normally he helped her reach things on the shelf, but he’d been utterly absorbed in the piece…
“Use your stool, Hailey,” he retorted, making a thick and pronounced line of charcoal across the sketchbook page.
She must have tried using the stool but failed, because a brief pause ensued. Then she shouted again, “Tyson!”
Another pronounced line. “I’m busy.”
His stick of charcoal slid off the page, leaving a smudge on the tablecloth. Mother would kill him for that. Tyson felt a wave of fear and anger creep over his body, and the dark energy in his soul slipped from his control.
Suddenly the house smelled of smoke…
“What’s your name?” the woman in the passenger seat whispered.
Tyson’s hands were trembling; he needed to leave the car before he killed an entire family. “No one needs to know,” he said through his teeth, peering out the window at the shadowy English road. “I want to get out.”
“You aren’t going anywhere,” said the man. “We know what you are.”
“Then why am I in your car?” Tyson shouted, exploding for the first time since the man found him. “Why would you want a daemon in your car?”
“Yes,” said the blonde boy suddenly, breaking his silence. He spoke carefully in even tones, like a professor or a general. “Why is that, Giulino?”
“Julian,” the man snapped. “Be kind, Peter, or say nothing.”
“You aren’t a daemon,” the woman added, turning in her seat to fix Tyson with those eyes. “You’re a Changeling, and there are ways to control—”
“It’s too late for that!” Tyson realized he was sobbing between words. “What’s the point controlling myself when I already killed my sister?”
He felt Peter inch away.
“Because you didn’t mean to,” said the man—Julian, Giulino, whatever—“because you didn’t ask for these abilities, and they don’t have to be bad.”
“My sister is dead!” Tyson shouted. “Because of me! She’s dead!”
The woman’s eyes clouded over. He feared for a moment he’d made her cry, but her words were steady. “It was a terrible accident,” she whispered. “It’s never going to stop hurting, but you deserve a new life.”
“No,” he choked, “you should kill me.”
“We are going to love you,” she told him, almost a command. He broke into tears just then, lacking the willpower to argue. He turned to the window, unable to stop the tears sliding down his cheeks—water instead of fire—misery instead of anger.
Daemon, they’d called him since he was a baby. Mother always said it; Father refused to make him toys, because he feared Tyson’s red eyes. No one had ever loved him like they did his sister; this woman must be an angel if she could love a daemon.
He closed his eyes, allowing this family to take him away. He shouldn’t be allowed to make his own decisions. If they refused to send this daemon to jail, he would succumb to their control.
Peter’s shoulders relaxed; perhaps it settled his nerves to see Tyson cry. He clasped his hands in his lap, addressing the daemon for the first time: “What’s your name?”
A sob escaped him. “Tyson,” choked the daemon, hating the sound of his name, how the T came powerfully like an explosion. “My name is Tyson Rakes.”
“You’re one of us now, Tyson,” the man at the wheel said, looking at him in the rear-view mirror. “And we’re going to help you control your ability.”
Tyson said nothing. They might help him learn to control his ability, but nothing would erase the guilt from in his firecracker heart. They drove into the night, leaving him to wallow in miserable silence.
He was tempted to reply and say Good luck helping a daemon.
Question #3: Why is Tyson crying?