Someday My Pain Will Mark You Who: Lily and Max (special guest appearance by their deities’ enemies) What: Lily is chased and Max reveals what he’s been up to. Where: Around town When: December 8th, late afternoon.
Lily hated feeling like she didn’t have control over the situations in her life. She had begrudgingly accepted that she...glowed...after her body seemed to glow at different awkward points: after succeeding with a particularly hard yoga move, another time when a new recipe came out perfect, and most often when she was particularly happy while in bed with Idris. He had been a gentleman and not asked her about the glowing and Lily happily pretended nothing unusual had happened.
She hadn’t told her brother about the random instances, preferring to take control of that situation if she couldn’t control the damn light that radiated from her skin. Her brother had seemed too excited when they had that weird experience in the apartment. She didn’t want to encourage him at all and it seemed, despite Max acting odd, that he had let go of the spectacle.
Max hadn’t been home when Lily decided to go out and do some Christmas shopping. She hoped he was still gone when she got home so that she could wrap the gifts in peace without having to worry that he would walk in and the surprise would be ruined. But as the sun began its early descent for the winter day, Lily grew tired like always and thought it best to head home.
Lily walked along the sidewalk in the direction of her car. Her ballet flats making only the smallest of noises on the concrete. She was alone, surprisingly enough with the holiday season in full swing, and easily caught the sound of footsteps following her. Pausing, Lily glanced over her shoulder, noticing a man following her. If memory served, he’d been following her for some time. His head was tipped forward, hiding his face in shadow, but the size and general shape of him was both vague and yet familiar. The gait of his step was something she knew well, and when his head rose to reveal itself to the light, she gasped.
“Hello, my little girl,” he drawled out slowly, coming to a stop just as Lily had. Arthur Castle certainly looked worse for the wear; he looked like an old bag that had seen better days. Wrinkles lined his face, calling out his age to all who looked upon him; veins popped out under the skin of his hands, the flesh nearly worn down to the bone. He wore the image of a lean, hungry dog.
“Did you miss Daddy?”
It took Lily a space of three breaths before she was able to answer. Her eyes, bewildered, looked around the area to see no one around and nervously she took a step back. “You aren’t supposed to be here. You...you aren’t supposed to be anywhere near Max and I.” She took in a shaking breath, quickly starting to feel like the child she once was under his care (or lack there of). “No. I didn’t miss you. I’ve never missed you. What do you want?”
“What any father wants,” he replied, his voice gravelly and low. With short steps, he began to approach Lily in the same way a predator stalks its prey - carefully, watching for the moment when the prey might leap away, begin the chase. The grin on his mouth seemed insatiable.
“Children can’t be raised without a father. You...and Max...need a male figure in your lives.” The steps moved closer, coming just shy of three feet away from the woman with the fiery curls. “Or we could think about me. How I’ve been banned from seeing my children, all because I wanted the best for them. How I was locked out of their lives without any word to my own defense.” His hand came up from his side, the fingers reaching to touch Lily’s cheek.
“Max and I have been doing fine without you,” Lily snapped and slapped his hand away from her. She moved backwards, taking nervous, quick steps to keep distance between her and the man who just happened to be her father. “The best thing you ever did for us was get out of our lives. Max is perfectly fine without you and so am I.”
She sounded sincere, that was for certain, and her voice was also filled with anger -- which was good -- because it covered the quiver that surely would have been in her voice. The one that said she wasn’t entirely sure she helped raise Max in a decent way. It was her biggest concern: that she had failed him.
“I don’t know why you’re stalking Max and I but please stop. Just...leave us alone. I won’t report you. Just go.” Lily took another step back, free hand still raised as if she would force her father not to come any closer if need be.
A tsk tsk sound emanated from his throat, the hand shifting to hold up a warning finger. “Stalking? I’m merely watching out for my children. As any good father would do. I don’t know what I’ve done to warrant such hate... I have to wonder, does Max feel the same? Or did you inspire that in him? Create these...seeds of hate in my own son.” He took another step into her personal space, invading it just to drive her up the wall. She did look so much like her mother, but he could barely remember that woman; no, all he saw in front of him was his daughter, the daughter, this young woman who...glimmered, shone, sparkled almost as brightly as the very sun did in the sky.
“How is our dearest Max? You two were inseparable as children. How is it that you’re alone, now?”
Lily took another handful of dancing steps backwards and further down the sidewalk. She glanced to the side and realized she was on the back end of one of the longer stores. She’d have to either run into the parking lot or just run along the length of the store. The sidewalk, she’d stick to the sidewalk, because she could always turn into the shopping area if need be and search for help. Turning back to her father she sneered as he brought up some of her most secret of worries. Had she molded Max into the person he was? Did he truly feel for their father? He had been so young when they moved to their grandfather’s house that surely Max didn’t remember him very clearly.
Lily grasped at her mother’s pendant as if it would help her think clearly and took additional steps backward. “Max is fine,” Lily replied shortly and with an air of confidence she didn’t really have. “He’s perfectly fine. And he’s an adult now, he can do what he pleases....anyway, I don’t need to explain my actions or his to you. We’re both adults now, we don’t need a father, hell we don’t even need guardians. We want nothing from you.” She stepped back again, becoming more and more skittish.
The smile didn’t abate from his face for even a moment. If anything, he only seemed further amused by Lily’s attempts to be brave, as though it were not a young woman standing in front of him but a frightened little girl. One he was quite familiar with, one who he’d put the terror into. He could see it dancing around in the back of her eyes, the corners of her mouth as she sneered and pretended to be strong. So much like her mother. And yet something else, as well, something that put the steel into her and made her more than what she appeared to be. But Arthur had a few secrets of his own, and it was about then that something in his face spasmed, a muscle under the skin, something shifted to a more animalistic revelation.
“It doesn’t matter what you want from me,” he replied, his voice becoming chillingly cold. “This is about what I want from you.” And he jerked forward, grabbing the strap of her purse.
Lily jumped and pulled at her purse. He was a threat and he appeared more dangerous than Lily could ever recall. He was different, changed, and much worse than he had ever been when she was a child. In a flurry of movement, Lily let her father have her purse and spun to run. She kept the bag of gifts tightly in her hand, she could use the bag as a weapon as need be, but the purse had to stay behind. Hadn’t that been one of the things her mother had said? If someone grabbed you, if they were trying to steal something, just let them have it and run.
And Lily ran, only pausing to turn into an inlet of the buildings, assuming it was and entry way back into the center of the shopping center but only discovering it to be a docking station for shipments. “Shit,” Lily whispered before glancing back from where she came to see if her father had followed.
From the opposite direction came a sharp little bark - two wolves appeared seemingly out of no where, unless they had come from within the shipping dock itself. They were large, standing nearly four feet tall, much larger than wolves ought to be; dark fur rippled along well-toned muscles, and yellow teeth glistened as both mouths lolled open, red tongues panting in the twilight. One advanced toward Lily, taking a deep sniff of the air around her, sampling just what she might taste like. Its tail thumped once, as though in invitation to the other animal, who advanced as well, both crouching low as if they were going to pounce.
Lily froze, unsure of what to do. Dogs -- wolves -- chased their prey. Running was surely a dangerous thing to do when facing one of your greatest phobias but it was all that Lily wanted to do. All that she could think of doing. A small sob escaped her throat although she wasn’t crying. She was too frightened to make much more emotional progress. She was too frightened to move.
Go, don’t let them catch you, a voice said in her head. It was a reasonable voice, a smart voice, and despite that Lily’s feet were seemingly frozen to the ground, she was able to move them, able to turn, and able to begin running as fast as her feet would carry her. The wolves leapt after her, instantly giving chase. Their long legs and large paws ate up the ground as quickly as Lily left a path for them, closing the distance between the young woman and the animals with surprising quickness.
Just as one of the wolves was about the sink teeth into the back of her coat, a large rock came hurtling out of the stratosphere to hit the lupine creature squarely in the head, forcing a loud yowl of pain from the animal. It stopped, snout rising in the direction from whence the object had come; a figure landed on the pavement, hands outstretched to balance itself and keep from falling over. Dressed entirely in black, the turtleneck it was sporting for protection showed signs of wear and tear, and the ski mask over its face protected any signs of identity.
“Hey, mangy mutts,” it, he, yelled, seeking to gain the attention of both animals. He only saw that they were two large dogs chasing a woman, and so his attention stayed on the wolves for the moment.
“What are you doing?” Lily called to the oddly dressed man. She recognized his voice but lent no thought to who he may be. There were bigger concerns at the moment. She understood, he was trying to help her, but the wolves looked like they would be willing to attack anyone. The tall strawberry-blond paused in her running, a number of feet behind the man, and looked between him and the wolves as she tried to catch her breath. Glancing around, she couldn’t see her father, but she almost preferred to have to deal with him than these wolves. Run, leave them behind, don’t let them catch you. But Lily couldn’t consciously leave this man to deal with the animals. “You can’t fight them, they’re huge, just get away from here. We need to call the police or something.”
Her eyes flicked to the animals as they licked at their mouths and took steps forward. Lily reflected the movement and backed up further.
The question drew his attention, and the eyes just visible under the mask widened in recognition. Quickly, though, before more questions could be asked of him, he disappeared. Literally, right where he’d been standing. The wolves stared at the spot where the masked figure had been, confused. A box near one dumpster in the shipping area moved, potentially denoting where the man had gone, and one wolf jumped forward, grasping it in white teeth to rip it to shreds.
“Run!” He urged the woman on with his voice, coming from the other end of the shipping yard. The wolf who’d stepped up to destroy the box turned its head in the direction of the sound, moving to where presumably the invisible man was. Its companion waited, still close to where Lily stood. She felt a grasp on her elbow. “Shhh! Just...walk backward...quietly and quickly.” There was a gate to the shipping yard - if they could get it closed with the wolves on the other side, presumably they’d be safe.
Lily obeyed, slowly backing up from the wolves and keeping her eyes on their movements. Blindly, she reached for the invisible hand that had grabbed hold of her elbow and held on. “Max?” Lily’s voice came out quivering and very low but she didn’t remove her gaze from the wolves. “Is that you?”
“Shhh!” He kept his shushing noise as low as possible, continuing to drag his sister backward. The metaphorical cat was out of the bag now, but his first concern was getting Lily to safety. Where the hell had those wolves even come from? Was there a traveling circus in town? Bit by bit they edged toward the gate, the one wolf continuing to nose around the dumpster in heated pursuit of its prey. The other’s ears pricked, turning around like radar dishes, and its head turned to see the siblings attempting to make an escape.
“So much for quiet,” Max griped, grabbing Lily around the wrist and giving her a pull - for once, his height, which still just barely overcame Lily’s, provided him the strength to tug her along, trying to pick up the pace as quickly as possible in order to get them behind the gate and away from the obvious danger.
Lily clamped her mouth shut and followed her brother’s lead, still carrying the bags of gifts as she ran to keep up with him. But then she broke her own silence, unable to keep quiet while she had so many questions. “But where are we going to go? Dad was back there, he tried to grab my purse and I threw it at him. I don’t even have my phone or my car keys. We gotta get into a store or something!” Max ignored his sister’s statements for the time being, intent on getting the fence between them and the wolves, who were quickly gaining ground.
They moved past the gate, and a foot or two past Max released Lily’s arm, instead turning to grab the gate and slam it closed. There was a simple drop bar that would keep it closed, but it wasn’t locked, nor necessarily steadfast against the wolves’ barrelling figures. They rammed the fencing, causing it to tremble from the force of two large animals battering it. Max fell back a few paces, watching the snarling canines attempt to force their way past the barrier.
“Shit...” Then the realization of Lily’s earlier statements settled in, and he turned back around to look at his sister. A hand rose to remove his mask, errant brown curls tumbling around his head, mussed from the tight-fitting cap. He rubbed at his face, no glasses there to impede or help his vision, and he took a moment to register what exactly was going on. This was like Halloween all over again.
“You saw Dad? Where?” Then he shook his head. “You’re right - let’s get inside. We can call a cab, or a locksmith for the car, or whatever... Come on.” Taking the bag of gifts from his sister, he wound his other hand through hers and immediately moved to direct them both indoors.
“Max, it’s a ship yard, I don’t know if anyone will be able to hear us. These doors are for the shipping docks,” Lily pointed out. Trying to focus on a new problem other than the wolves clambering at the gate. “Maybe if we bang on the doors loud enough someone will hear us.”
Lily let out a shuttering breath and felt the fear of the past number of minutes catch up to her. Her hands tremored slightly and her eyes stung with tears. Biting at her bottom lip, Lily turned back to the gate and stared at the wolves as they pushed at one another while trying to force the gate open. “Dad was following me,” Lily answered faintly as her hands began to quiver more. “He wanted to see us. He wanted something.”
“There has to be somewhere we can go. Across the street or something, a coffee shop or a fast food place. We just need people around us.” He pulled Lily along, letting the sight of the wolves battering at the gate fade into the background as they turned a corner. The sounds, however, of barks and of strained metal followed them like some malicious ghost. Max schooled his face so that any trace of worry was buried under the concentrated effort to keep his older sister safe.
“So you saw him just before the wolves...” The idea that his father had a hand in the attack did not entirely surprise Max - from a young age, his fantasies of his father had always spiraled toward the dark and terrifying. Linking the man with such frightening imagery had become second nature to him, and Max wouldn’t be startled at all to find that the man was involved with the attack on Halloween as well. Maybe their father knew what was going on in the building, was part of it... But that still left too many gaping holes, too many things that were inexplicable.
“Over here,” he finally said, breaking the wall of silence they’d fallen against. A small-business coffee shop on the corner with barely enough room for fifty people would be their safehouse until a cab could arrive to take them home. He’d figure out how to get the car back to the building once Lily was safely ensconced back at their apartment. Holding the door open for her, he swept them both inside, grabbing a table amidst three others and presumably the owner, who was stationed behind the counter. The bag was set on a seat, Max eying the windows to be forewarned of the wolves’s escape.
“Go see if they have a phone? Call a cab company. They can take you home.”
Lily sunk into her seat, staring blankly in front of her until Max heard her ask her, no, tell her to call a cab. Her eyes flicked up at her brother, still filled with unshed tears, and she pressed her lips together. “I’m not going home by myself, Maximilian. Not after dad and then those... dogs. What if dad is waiting there? He has my purse, he could figure out our address by my license. My phone is there, he could get your number, he has the key to the apartment, the key to my car.”
Her voice was rising steadily until she realized how loud she was becoming and fell silent. Glancing about her, she ensured that no one was looking before leaning forward and staring at Max. “What were you doing there?”
Pulling his eyes away from the window, Max visibly shed the alternate, brave shell that he had been wearing in favor of a sympathetic expression. He moved the bag of presents to the floor, and sat down across from his sister, taking one of her hands in his own.
“Breathe, Lil, breathe. I know...this is a lot. But...you remember that night, when you...glowed and I turned invisible?” He kept his voice low, trying to be as brief and simple in his explanation as possible. “Well, I know you wanted to forget it. But I didn’t. I’ve been...practicing. And, well...” He took a deep breath, and decided to just spell it out entirely.
“Lil, I think we’re super heroes.”
Lily stared at her baby brother for an extended period of time. Long enough that the silence between them began to become awkward. Blinking, she leaned back in her seat and turned her gaze to her table. “Max...I don’t think we’re super heroes.”
Her eyes flicked back to her brother and she frowned, not wanting to destroy his notions of grandeur for them. With everything that was going on...maybe he was reverting back to a more child-like state. When they were younger and their lives had been so confusing with the stress of their father followed by the near non-existences of their grandfather’s care, Max had often times had elaborate daydreams. It had always been best to go along with it. “I...I haven’t told you but the glowing thing...it’s happened more than once.” She pulled her gaze away from his and wrapped her arms around her torso. The growling and barking of the wolves still haunted her mind and she was still shaking slightly. “But it isn’t something I can command...not really. Anyway, I don’t know how that would make me a superhero and...those wolves. They wanted that glow. Something in me told me as much and I can feel it. They wanted to devour me. Not in a typical wolf way...I mean literally.”
A grin spread over his features, excited by her words rather than woken to sobriety. “It’s been happening to me, too! The invisibility, at least. Lily, I’ve saved lives. I haven’t told you about the bruises and cuts because I knew you’d worry, but on Halloween I met this girl named Alex, and we were attacked by these...strange women, I can’t even describe them, but they weren’t human. And now these wolves, with Dad, maybe...maybe he’s behind all of this! Maybe he’s controlling them, trying to hurt us again.” He squeezed Lily’s hand, trying to make her not only understand, but accept what they were. That would make things so much easier, so much simpler.
“How else do you explain these things? You can glow, I can turn invisible, I mean, it’s not like we got bit by radioactive spiders but it’s not something everyday people can do!”
Lily’s frown only grew but she squeezed back, her fingers tightly amongst her brother’s. She agreed with one thing: that their father very well was behind this. But she wasn’t convinced they were “super heroes”. Hearing that her brother had been trying to help people warmed her heart but she still did exactly what he had feared and worried. The black eye from the month before made sense now and Lily worried that there would be more, at the very least.
“What are we going to do about dad...?” Lily asked faintly. She sniffed and wiped at her eyes to rid them of the unshed tears. Blinking, she shifted on her seat and looked back at her brother, what her father had said about Max weighed on her mind. “You’re okay...right? You’re happy and you... you aren’t mad at dad because you think I want you to be, right? You’re not hurt or anything?”
Confusion colored his face. “Lil, why would you think that? What are you...” Letting the words trail off, Max sighed. “Look, I’ll get you something to drink, call a cab and take you home, OK? I think...this is too much.” For a young man his age, he was acting with surprising wisdom. After the confrontation with their father and being attacked by wolves, it was obviously too difficult for Lily to comprehend or process what he was trying to tell her. But, surprisingly, he wasn’t going to hold it against her -- in every book he’d read, comic that had divulged the secrets of heroes to him, he knew it was difficult to come to terms with being ‘different’. Lily might be one of those who would be forever trapped in such a state, willing to disbelieve that there was anything abnormal about them. Patting her hand, Max rose from the table and completed the actions he’d described: he bought two cups of hot chocolate, a homemade recipe special only to that cafe, and used their phone to contact the Yellow Cab company. Assured that it would arrive in no less than twenty minutes, he returned to his seat near his sister and handed her one of the steaming drinks.
“Drink this. Things will be alright, OK? We’ll figure this out. Change the locks on the apartment door, whatever we have to do. You’re safe. I won’t let Dad hurt you.” The words were soft, and his hand rested on Lily’s while he caught her gaze, pressing the intention of his tone into her mind as gently but as firmly as possible. Lily’s shoulders dropped, the tension leaving a little as she gripped the cup of hot chocolate. She made a small smile at her brother, squeezing his hand again before dropping her face to stare at the table.