Halo: The Unchained

Going to summer camp was just about the worst decision Ryan Winters had ever made. Spending three months around a bunch of idiots who thought "tru dat" was correct grammar was certainly not his idea of a good time. But, according to his adoptive mother, he wasn't good enough at pretending to not be a mutant. So, there he was, trying to spend more time with the human persons so he could learn how to be a human person. There was only one problem:

Jared Hall.

*Read full summary inside*

**This story is currently undergoing some editing, all unedited chapters have been unpublished :)**

***This is a Seven Realms Novel. For More Seven Realms fun, please read The Forest of Eyes and Shadows and The Marked Series***

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5. The Wings of Betrayal

The Wings of Betrayal

The sweet sound of curfew was what finally saved me.  What was it about the Hall kidnapping that had people so entranced?  There was so much going on in the world that was way more important— but no, they were much more concerned with a little boy who went missing ten years ago.  It’s like, seriously, get over it, people! He isn’t going to come home— I mean; I’m not going to go home… Anyway, the worst part was, I had been sitting there for so long, my back started to hurt like hell!  

I have to say; whatever God is up there making all the decisions sure dealt me some pretty cruel cards down here.  Really, it should be a crime.  What reason did Mr. Creator have to give me twenty pound growths sticking out of my back?  They bleed, and they shed feathers, and it’s just not a very nice experience.  Seriously, fuck that guy— God, whatever.  I wasn’t even 100% sure there was a God up there, but it gave me someone to blame for my problems, so, you know, win-win. Pain shot through my back again, and I cringed.  Even when I had them tucked away so they couldn’t be seen they hurt like hell.  I couldn’t help but wonder if human boys experienced back pain as bad as what I have to go through.

Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t call myself inhuman.  Truthfully, I didn’t know what I was.  I never had.  I mean, as far as I knew, I was born to two human parents, and I had a human brother.  So why am I so… inhuman?  Because God is cruel and likes playing pranks when he creates people?  Not even the doctors had an explanation for why I was the way I was.  It was kind of a big deal when it happened, but no one ever figured it out. I was doomed to forever be a medical anomaly. Just like all the other mutants who started popping up after me.

I walked back to my cabin, the pine trees blurring around me as I walked up the wooden steps that lead to the door. I paused on the deck, taking a deep breath. I could run away. I could run away right then and there and no one would ever see me again. I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone ever again. I shook my head, trying to erase that thought from my mind. Running away from my problems wasn’t going to magically fix everything. I learned that the hard way.

I finally threw open the door to the cabin, listening to the wood creak from the force. The cabin was small, with bunks on either side of the walls, and one lonely window in between. The circular rug sitting on the floor looked like it had been there for ages, and I honestly couldn’t tell if it had once been a vibrant red, or if it was always a gross faded brown.

Unfortunately for me, I was greeted by my wonderful cabin mates— the idiot jock, and weird Goth kid.  The dream team, right there.  Especially when that idiot jock wouldn’t stop talking about things he couldn’t even begin to understand.  He never got out of the whole “let’s talk about Jared Hall because we have nothing to do but poke around in something we know nothing about and can’t possibly understand” mode.  The most annoying thing ever is hearing about yourself from someone that doesn’t even know he is talking about you.

I shook my head as I walked over to the bunk I shared with Mr. Never-speaks and tried to ignore Josh rambling on and on as he laid down on the top bunk of his bed, throwing a football idly at the ceiling. Tyrin was sitting on the top of our bunk, his legs dangling over the edge a little. I couldn’t tell if he was listening or staring off into space, since he hadn’t even bothered to push his long bangs out of the way of his eyes. Seriously, didn’t that get annoying? I would go crazy if I constantly had hair blocking my vision. Also, it was creepy. Really, really creepy.

I started rummaging through my suitcase, just barely tuning into whatever nonsense Josh was spewing out of his mouth. “I’m just surprised they haven’t moved on already. Personally, I’m getting tired of hearing about nothing but Jared Hall and the Hall family whenever I turn on the news. It’s like, there’s other news out there to report, dudes!”

I knew it was stupid, but I found myself getting really annoyed, really quickly. “You want to talk about people not moving on? Do you even listen to yourself? Seriously, the Jared Hall ship sailed forever ago!  Nobody cares!”  I snapped, which was a mistake. I turned in time to see the corner of Josh’s lips pull back into a smug smile.  He was incredibly amused by the fact that he pissed me off.  Ever since the incident that ruined our friendship the year before, he could not stop trying to find new ways to annoy me.  Yeah, that’s right, Josh and I used to be friends.

You can see just how great I am at making life choices.

I saw a grin flash across Josh’s face.  Fuck, he totally baited me. And I fell for it. Like an idiot. “Why?  Isn’t it important for us to know about the things happening in our world?”  He questioned, making my blood boil.  Seriously, did he know how to do anything other than argue?  I wished I could read his mind so I could exploit all his weaknesses.

On second thought, don’t give me mind reading powers.

“This isn’t the same thing as being caught up on current events.  This is just a stupid case about a stupid family who obviously craves the fame the media is giving them, and can’t accept that their kid is probably dead.  It’s not important, it’s annoying.”  A year after her son’s disappearance— my disappearance— Natasha Hall had appeared on TV to plead with the “kidnapper” to return her son to her.  The clip instantly went viral online, and since nothing ever came from that plea, no one could let it go.  Six months later, they released another plea.  Then another.  And another. It never stopped. Not that I was surprised, Natasha always did have a love affair with the camera that was rather creepy.

Although, if I was being honest, I didn’t expect them to go that far.  It’s not like they cared about me at all.  They left me for dead multiple times.

I stood, walking around my bunk and slipping into the small bathroom to try and get away from Josh and his ludicrous theories. Alas, he didn’t take the hint. It wasn’t long before Josh’s annoying voice slipped into the bathroom. He was even yelling just to make sure I would hear him from the other side of the cabin.

“Jeez, sinister much?”  Josh raised his eyebrow in response to my annoyance.  “Don’t you feel a little bit sorry for them?  Their son has been missing for ten years! That probably sucks ass.”

“Oh, yeah, I’m sure “it sucks ass” is exactly how they would put it.”  I hissed in response.  I walked out of the bathroom, crossing my arms over my chest as I glared at Josh. Out of the corner of my eyes, I noticed Tyrin straighten up a little. So, he was listening. “Besides, there was never any evidence of a kidnapping. Maybe they murdered him and now they are trying to cover it up. It wouldn’t be the first time.”  I decided to avoid the phrase “ran away” as long as I possibly could.  I couldn’t have people catching on, and the last thing I wanted was to be sent back to that demon of a mother.

Josh stopped throwing his football and sat up on his bed, the hairs on the top of his head brushing against the ceiling of the cabin. He narrowed his eyes at me a little, and the smug smile from before had turned into an annoyed frown. “Why are you so stuck on this whole murder thing?  There’s not exactly any evidence for that either!”  Josh pointed out.  

Ugh, I hated it when he was right.  Honestly, what could I say to that?  More lies?  More bull shit that I pull out of my ass?  After bull-shitting your way through life for nearly eleven years, you begin to forget what is reality and what is fiction.  And it wasn’t like he was wrong. Last time I checked, I wasn’t dead. “That seems to be the problem with this case, right?  There’s never any evidence.  No one knows shit, isn’t that right?  Isn’t that the suspicious thing?”  I shouted.  Yeah, in hindsight, that probably wasn’t the best course of action. A+, Ryan.  Way to draw attention to yourself.

Josh raised his eyebrow.  “Dude, you don’t have to yell, I’m right here.”  The way he said that made me want to gouge out his eyes with my fingertips.  I scoffed at him.  It was like every time he opened his mouth, it ignited the fires of hate burning inside my heart.

“Whatever, I’m just saying.”  I slammed my suitcase shut, watching it skid across the floor, kicking up a thick layer of dust.  Whoops.  I flopped on my bunk and decided to just ignore them.  There wasn’t any point in getting worked up. If there was one thing I knew for sure about Josh, it was that he was stubborn as hell. He was going to believe whatever he wanted to believe. I couldn’t convince him— or anyone, for that matter. All I could do was lay low and not draw attention to myself.

What I really needed, was a long nap and a good stretch.  The difficult thing about being at a summer camp with 37 of your not so close friends and classmates was that it wasn’t exactly a normal thing to see a 17-year-old guy walking around dragging 13-foot wings behind him.  It would be like walking around with “FREAK” stamped on my forehead, or “Look at me, I’m Jared Hall” carved across my face.  It wasn’t exactly the ideal situation.

So, two hours later, when the moon was high in the sky and my stupid cabin mates were fast asleep— well, one of them, that Goth kid had snuck off somewhere, probably to do something, you know…  Gothic…— I decided to step out for a bit.

The most important thing was getting somewhere secluded in the deep, dark, and dangerous woods so I could release some of the tension building up in my back and get an actual decent night of sleep.  God, being around a bunch of people I had to hide everything from made me thankful that the woman who picked me up ten years ago was super accepting of the whole “little mutant child with wings and a strange magnet for dead people” thing.  Sneaking around was a hard gig to have 24/7.

As I slowly tip-toed across the cabin floor, I tripped over a suitcase that was lying in the middle of the carpet.  I crashed to the ground with a huff, cursing whichever idiot it was that left their bag lying out in the middle of the floor.  What the hell was that about?!  What were we, animals?! Oh, wait, that’s my suitcase. Whoops…  I scurried to my feet and turned around to see if Josh was awake.

I let out a sigh of relief when he did nothing more than groan and turn over.  Before I had the chance to really make an ass out of myself, I slipped out of the cabin and made my way into the woods in my pajamas and slippers.  Again, not exactly the idea situation to be in, but there was nothing I could do about it.  If I tried to scramble into clothes after making all that noise by tripping over my own suitcase, I would risk waking up Mr. Idiot Jock.

It was about a fifteen-minute hike to the meadow I had picked out specifically for stretching out.  Walled by trees, complete with a nice cushy little patch of grass, and it was only about five minutes to the left of the hiking trail, but no one would venture there— especially since they make it pretty clear that going off the trail was a bad idea.  Probably a bad idea for them, but as someone who deals with ghosts on a daily basis, I would say I am more than qualified to handle a scary patch of forest and not get lost.

I checked around briefly as I walked, to make sure no one was following.  Really, though, who would want to follow me?  I highly doubted that anyone would find what I was doing even remotely interesting.  And it was probably like three o’clock in the morning.  Teenagers are way more interested in sleeping at that time of night.

It felt like I walked for hours by the time I made it to the meadow.  Hiking was not exactly on the top of my list of things I wanted to do in the middle of the night.  But, at least I made it in one piece.  I let out a huge sigh of relief as I kicked off my slippers so I could feel the grass swell in between my toes.  There was a little breeze out, but it felt kind of nice on my aching back.  The moonlight illuminated the little patch of meadow, giving me just enough light to see.

It was nice to not have the glare of the streetlights around.  Everything was quiet— well, not quiet quiet, because nature isn’t exactly silent, but it was nice to not have the rushing freeway next to your window or people getting home in the middle of the night and being really loud about it.  It was more relaxing than the city.

I took a deep breath of fresh air.  Mostly, it was just nice to not be around anyone.  To not have to pretend anymore…  I paused for a moment and looked around again, just to be sure. You can’t blame me for being suspicious. My life is never that simple.  Thankfully, there were only a few shadowy figures hanging around, but it wasn’t like the dead people were going to run around shouting ‘I saw Jared Hall! I saw Jared Hall!’  

I reached up and unbuttoned my shirt, shrugging it off slowly.  A gust of wind rushed through my feathers, tickling my wings gently as I extended them out as far as they could go.  I didn’t let them out nearly as much as I should.  When I found out that I could hide them beneath the skin of my back, I basically always kept them there, despite the tremendous amount of energy it took.

I stretched my wings, letting out a little grunt of relief as I flopped down on the bed of grass, just lying and staring at the moon as I let the grass tickle the edges of my wings. It was like a little piece of heaven in my constant hell.  I laid there for a while, letting the blanket of grass soothe my muscles.  Then, I let my mind silence.  I was too tired to think.  Too tired of hiding.  Too tired of listening to confused people spout nonsense about a case they knew nothing about.  I was tired of not being able to use my powers, out of fear that Natasha would somehow find me again.  For once, I just wanted to lay on my back and forget about everything in the entire world.  And that’s what I did.  I laid on the grass and stared at the stars.

No worries.  No annoying people.  No noises other than the breathing of nature.  Just complete, total, blissful, solitude.  

A rustle came from the bushes.

Fear shot through me for a brief moment, causing me to shoot up, my wings falling limply behind me.  There was no time to hide them.  “Who is there?”  I demanded, but no reply came.  I let out a little laugh.  “Way to be paranoid, Ryan,” I grumbled at myself.  There was no way anyone had followed me.   Josh was sleeping like a log and Tyrin was pretty much nowhere to be found, so who could have possibly seen me?  Everyone else was asleep.  It was probably a rabbit, like in the movies.

I sighed and shook my head, sitting up in the grass.  Still, something felt a little off.  It didn’t feel like your typical middle of the night venture into the woods all alone deal.  I felt like something was… watching me…  You know, something other than the dead people.  Call it a gut feeling.

But, like I said, it was probably just me being paranoid.  I moved my wings so I could lay down and get comfortable once more on the grass.  I debated for a moment if I should just sleep there.  After all, I never liked sleeping with my wings packed like sardines against my back.  It was an uncomfortable experience, take my word for it.  I took a deep, calming breath.  When you’ve been hiding for seven years, being a little paranoid every second of your life was a pretty common thing.  The trick was learning how to control it.

After a few moments, I closed my eyes again, letting the cool breeze wash over me.  It was nice to just be alone— in the middle of the woods, in the dark of night, when no one knew where I was.  It sounded like the beginning of a horror movie or something. Which, I guess, made me the nameless guy at the beginning who gets killed within five seconds because he’s stupid. Honestly? Sign me up. I’d take that over summer camp any day of the week.

Snap.

A branch broke.

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