Aphelion Issue 228, Volume 22
May 2018
 
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The Real Me

by Susan Anwin


We were part of this group at high school, almost all of us human (me passing as one), and for a while all was well, so much so that sometimes even I forgot what I was. They were my friends, and we hung out during breaks and after school and spent the summer holidays at each other's cottages. I fit in seamlessly, and good that I did. It is vital for my kind to blend in. It shouldn't be too hard as at first glance we look just like humans. The problem starts when we develop feels for them.

Of course the good times couldn't last. Lucy joined the class in 7th grade; I knew she was bad news the minute she stepped through the door. She took bullshit from noone; she had that kind of fearless bravado that put even us boys in shame. She stole from shops and sneaked into abandoned factories as a pastime. Of course she became a member of our group in no time. She was the one to find us new headquarters when our old one got discovered. But not only that; despite her lousy grades she was very much awake. You could talk with her about everything and anything. Seeing her soon became the high point of my day. Of course I was very much aware of the danger this implied. I won't be able to hide the truth much longer; I was developing a crush. I had to break the news to my family as this might affect them as well.

"What have you done?" my mother sat by the kitchen table, somehow collapsed in on herself.

"It's not his fault," my father countered her with weary resignation. "He's at that age. We'll have to move again and keep a low profile for a while."

I wanted to protest. I liked living in this town, here was a place where I finally felt welcome, but I was not in a position to complain. I brought this on us.

There was no way around it; I had to say goodbye to my friends, and to Lucy of course. The little defect of my kind is widely known, it's how we are identified by prospective hunters. See, when we fall in love, we undergo certain... changes.

The following weeks we were busy packing and moving our whole lives to yet another city. I tried to see Lucy as little as possible. The hunch that she wasn't completely indifferent towards me either didn't make it any easier. I could already feel some of the changes in me. Sometimes I had to leave my friends abruptly with some fake excuse and withdraw into a toilet stall, preferably outside hearing distance.

I couldn't delay it any longer. It was our last day together, all the guys looked as listless as I felt. After we said our final goodbyes, I turned to Lucy. "Can we talk in private?"

My closest friends knew about my feelings, but for once they decided not to be jackasses about it.

Lucy and I went in a little further among the trees where we were outside seeing and hearing distance. I followed her and knew with a wistful certainty that it was the last time I saw her dark red curls bounce in the hazy sunshine.

"So, the thing is..." I had no words to explain her, all I could hope was that she would be as fearless and cool about it as she was about anything else usually. I could already feel the change taking over me, so maybe all I had to do is let it speak for me and hope Lucy would understand.

She paled to a ghostly white hue under her freckles. I know the change is a lot to take in if it's your first time seeing it, but it still hurt to see the shock and repulsion on her face. I don't have the ability to speak in this form, so all I could do is watch her bolt screaming from the clearing, the only sound in the ensuing silence before the clamor of the hunters began, was the sound of my heart breaking.

THE END


2018 Susan Anwin

Susan Anwin was born and raised in Budapest, Hungary. Her flash-fiction "Talk of Armadale trees" was featured in the anthology My Favourite Place, published by the Scottish Book Trust in 2012. Her short stories "Fog-People", "Eddie's Lousy Saturday", "You'll die as fish", "People of the Green Cloud", "Dragonfly-man", "Daddy is Driving the Car", "Soul for Sale", "Dark Sister" and "The Man Who Broke Time" were published by Aphelion in 2016 and 2017.

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