In the Dark: Chapter Two

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It’s been just over eleven hours since I departed–I’ve since left residential areas and am walking in a forest, following a busy road maybe twenty feet to my right. The time has been uneventful; I didn’t encounter anyone else during the night, and I was able to continue walking as I ate my “lunch” (a simple sandwich). I’ve been contemplating leaving the forest, maybe trying to hitchhike, for the past half hour; I don’t really want to go out into the light and expose myself, but if I can reach my destination faster… It’s difficult to decide.

I also have to figure out how I’ll feed myself. I have food packed for the next day or two, but that’s it. I have some money, of course, but I doubt it’d last me more than another day–and my journey is supposed to take a week. If only Jonathan hadn’t been so abrupt with me, I might have had time to plan…

It was one A.M., our usual meeting time. I had been waiting there, in the park nearest to my house, for the last hour, practicing turning off my mind and letting the dark do my thinking for me. I was like that when he arrived, sitting on a bench with my hood pulled down over my face and letting the shadows wash over my consciousness.

I had seen him coming maybe half a mile away, walking from wherever it was he lived in the east. I didn’t open my eyes, however, until he was sitting right next to me.

“How far?” he said once I had taken off my hood.

“Three quarters of a mile,” I said, picking the high end of my estimate.

“Impressive.” He didn’t sound sincere–but he never did.

“What are we doing tonight?” I asked when he didn’t speak further.

“Combat practice.” He stood up, heading towards a largish clearing.

I hesitated a moment before following–we had practiced fighting in concept before, but something in his tone and his way of speech implied we’d be doing something more.

It turned out I was right–when we both reached the clearing, he had me stand ten feet away from him and told me to ready myself.

“Attack me,” he said, and waited.

This time I didn’t hesitate–I immediately grabbed the shadows around Jonathan, pulling them tight against his body. He struggled visibly for a moment, but I kept the shadows in place–then, all of a sudden, I no longer controlled them and instead of surrounding him, they leaped towards me and I was the one immobilized.

I, too, struggled physically at first, but whereas my shadows had had give to them, I couldn’t move a muscle–couldn’t even breath.

Then he released me and I fell to the ground, unable to regain my balance in time.

“You can’t incapacitate someone stronger than you, Tobias,” Jonathan said. “You have to fight.”

I got to my knees, panting, keeping my head pointed towards the ground. Then, as fast as I could, I punched forwards, sending the shadows flying towards Jonathan. Looking up, I saw him stagger and I drew to my feet–a force punched me, hard, and I went flying backwards before I could even register what was happening.

Jonathan was walking towards me, shaking his head as I stood up.

“You should have seen that coming and stopped it,” he said, and I grimaced. “I’ve had pupils years younger than you who’ve had more power and control.”

My stomach churned with shame.

“But I can’t keep teaching you forever. The migration is tomorrow–you’ll be going.”

The shame turned to elation mixed with uncertainty, but I just nodded my head.

It’s dark in the forest, but the brush slows my progress to a crawl and so I finally decide to head out by the road. It takes a few minutes to reach it–the flora is thicker as I near the forest’s edge, and I have to force myself through vines and bushes. I pull my hood up as the sunlight reaches me and pause a moment, using my eyes to scan my surroundings a moment before turning to the left and walking directly at the side of the road.

I continue like this for a few hours before my hunger starts to reach intolerable levels and I decide to take a rest–I’ve been awake for sixteen hours now, and it’s time for “dinner”. I duck back into the forest and find as comfortable a place as any–a small bed of pine needles. I take off my backpack and set it on the ground, then sit next to it and dig out one of the sandwiches I made, contained in a plastic bag. I eat quickly, and when I’m done I close the backpack and lay down next to it (I don’t wish to crush my only food source by using it as a pillow). I’m tired from the long stretch of walking, and despite the light and the hard ground I fall asleep shortly.

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