Speak Soon

A Protector is meant to guard Simples and eradicate the monsters of the world, marked only by a birthmark and a pendant, with nothing special about their blood or body. When another is found, with a strange quirk, a certain Protector is intrigued. Takes place in Modern Day Philadelphia. For the COB contest.

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1. Speak Soon

They found her in a parking lot near a park, face-down but breathing, the tell-tale birthmark hidden under the strap of her tank top, beside her collar bone. They brought her home, put her in a bed and bandaged her wounds. Then, they waited for her to wake up.

The first time Cam saw her eyes, he’d been reading to her out of a textbook on the history of combat with the dim light of Philadelphia’s rainy sky lighting the pages. The sleeping girl had made a small noise, the first in the two weeks she’d been lying there. He’d called for the others in the house, who rushed in, but not before her eyes opened, revealing eyes that resembled the green of a leaf in the spring so closely that he wondered if they contained chlorophyll. They were startling compared to how pale her skin was and the darkness of her chocolate hair.

She didn’t speak, they found after a few hours. No amount of water or propping her up or asking her questions would bring her voice. She wrote though, letters like little scratches on the paper and words that took most of the alphabet a few times and a dictionary to create.

Her name was Laura. She was fifteen years old and lived in the suburbs. She could remember being attacked in broad daylight, in her front yard. She didn’t feel pain and no, she’d never been able to talk. She wrote questions as well: Who were they? Where was she? Did they find her?

Cam’s mother answered her patiently. They were a family that lived in the city. She was in their apartment. They had found her, or rather, her son Cam and daughter Kaitlyn had.

Cam had never had patience and after waiting two weeks for the girl to wake and sitting through the exchange of questions and answers, he became irritated by the evasive answers his mother gave. He reached for the box he kept his little glass pendant in, held it up to his father, who nodded, and walked out, fastening it as he went. He didn’t enjoy being marked for what he was, but supposed it was better than being mistaken as a Simple just because his mark wasn’t visible.  As soon as his shoes hit the pavement, the noise of traffic and too many people in a small place hit him like a wall, though he didn’t mind.

It was easy to disappear in a crowd.

While he walked, Cam thought. He thought about the girl, who despite being pale and wounded hadn’t seemed fragile to him. She was obviously meant to be one of them: though he’d gathered that from the way his mother had sidestepped the topic of what exactly the family was, she may have been marked but not turned. They wouldn’t want to give out too many details in that case.

If the girl was a Protector though, it would explain the birthmark, the attack, and Cam’s thought that Laura was not easily broken.  Yet, if she was a Simple, it would explain his urge to protect her.

His fingers brushed over his own mark, the strawberry birthmark one of his only imperfections, placed on his elbow.  It looked more like a scar now, but he’d always had it, always been marked.

Being a Protector was easy for him, second nature. He’d been born with the ability and taught the responsibility of his role. Cam and all other Protectors were meant to protect Simples, the humans unaware of the monsters around them, and to eradicate the monsters, which was futile, but their weight to bear.

A hand grabbed Cam’s arm and he turned quickly, already reaching for a knife, to see Kaitlyn, gasping for air and putting on her necklace with one hand. He sighed heavily, shaking her off.

“What, Kate?”

“I’m coming with you. The girl’s so quiet it creeps me out.” Cam thought of the sound that had alerted him to her waking. Maybe she wasn’t so quiet.

“I won’t be out long,” he protested, already itching to go back to the apartment and confront Laura. Had she lied about not being able to speak?

“You won’t know I’m here.” Anyone else would have been wrong, but Kaitlyn was good at being near without being annoying. She was the only person that was easy on Cam’s nerves and low level of tolerance. She walked just beside him so that he didn’t have to look back to see if she was following, but stayed out of his way and remained quiet.

***

When Cam entered the room Laura was staying in it was quiet. Laura was sitting in a chair. She looked up at him from the book in her hands, the textbook he’d been reading. She reached for her pen.

“Don’t bother,” he said. “You lied. You can talk.”

The girl’s expression didn’t change at first, but then her eyebrows drew together, lines of confusion wrinkling the skin. She pulled the pen and notebook from earlier into her lap and wrote.

I didn’t say that I can’t speak. I said I never have. Saying that I’ve never spoken isn’t a lie, since I haven’t uttered a word in my life. I suppose I’m fully capable of talking and I never said I wasn’t.

She handed the book to him and he read.

“Then why don’t you talk?”

Laura gave him a withering look, extending her hand for the book. When he didn’t give it to her, she stood and took it from him. He could see her letters taking shape and making words as her pen worked over it.

The world is full of too many spoken words. I’ve never contributed to that overpopulation and I do not intend to now, just because a foolishly impatient Protector tells me that I have the ability.

Cam blinked.  “Are you a-“

                There were already words on the page.

                Yes I am.

                “And you know that I-“

                Yes I do. It took me until you left to figure it out. Nice job of holding up that pendant, genius. By the way, I believe I’ve lost mine.

                He laughed.  “We’ll get you one.”

                Laura nodded and wrote.

                Your mom said you’d help me get home? I understand if you can’t. Simples are everywhere and always in mortal peril, threatened by immortals and nightmares of their own creation.

                “Of course I will.”

***

                Outside her house an hour later, Laura silently pointed out the place she was attacked. Dark had fallen, but their companionable silence was unique and rare, as well as something neither wanted to break, though Cam had brought the pen and notebook just in case.

                Eventually Cam asked where her parents were, and whether or not they’d be worried. She wrote that her parents were gone, destroyed in a fight against a coven of rogue vampires months ago, but because she was a Protector, she was allowed to live alone. He gave her his sympathy and she was writing her acceptance of it, that death was the inevitable danger of what they were when out of a shadow, a darker shape seemed to explode toward them.

                Cam’s dagger was in his hand within a second as he pushed Laura back, behind him, toward the car he’d driven her there in. She fought him, running for the shadows herself, producing a scream from Cam and a sword for herself that she must have hidden there. She was running over with the speed only a Protector would possess, but she wasn’t fast enough.

                Cam’s lungs felt as though they’d deflated and been jarred. The thing that he identified something wolf like was on top of him, its paws crushing him, its claws shredding him.

                A girl screamed his name, an unfamiliar voice that sounded strange to his ears, which were being deafened by the sound of his blood pounding through his veins.

                He could see her through the black spots in his vision, which intensified as the weight from above him was removed.  Laura was there, saying his name over and over, her voice sounding sure then. At first, he could see her face and hair, then just her face, darkness clouding the edged, then her eyes, green and full of fear.

                “Cam!”

                The word, his name echoed as he drifted through the black waves of unconsciousness.

                Laura drug him inside, bandaged his wounds, called his family, and waited for him to wake as he had for her.

                When Cam woke hours later, he was lying on a couch, covered with a blanket, and bandaged so thoroughly he found bending an impossible task. Faint light came from the television, which illuminated Laura in a chair, watching him.

                “I blame you,” she said, her voice still warped, unpracticed.

                “I knew you could talk,” Cam said, pleased. Her voice was feminine and kind.

                “Kaitlyn was here. She told me to have you call when you came to.”

                “I will.”

                “I’m going to make something for you. Call your sister. Get rest. There are plenty of other monsters in the city.”

                “Or in the suburbs,” Cam added.

                “So it would seem,” Laura laughed, a sound like an exhale and a word.

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