Imprint

*NaNoWriMo 2015* ©Molly Looby *Winner of the NaNoWriMo Competition!* Lex lives in a society obsessed with words. From the day they’re born their skin is covered in words, parts of themselves. The good, the bad and the ugly. Words such as ‘Trustworthy’, ‘Honest’, ‘Kind’ and ‘Brave’ are emphasised and others like ‘Liar’, ‘Thief’, ‘Judgemental’ and ‘Cruel’ are hidden as best as they can. But you can’t hide everything. Your words determine your place in the world and they never lie. When Lex discovers her latest imprint she knows nothing is going to be the same again.

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5. Listener

After school on Friday I dropped onto my bed and shut my eyes, head pounding from the longest week of my life. For the first time ever, I had no homework to do over the weekend. Having an issue bigger than school itself was doing wonders for my work. I had to do it because I had nothing else to occupy me from the horror that was my own life.

Pulling my bandana off, I flung it against my wardrobe and stared at my wrist. Makeup had covered it but I could still make out the letters thanks to a day of wear. Killer. Was I really? I thought about it day in day out. I had no reason to kill anyone. I didn’t hate anyone enough. I would never do something so drastic. I was certain.

Femi passed the door as I was staring at my skin. She backed up and came through the doorframe. “What you looking at?”

I didn’t answer and she came to sit on the end of my bed.

“It’s probably not as bad as you think, let me see.”

I pressed my wrist to my heart and looked at her. “It’s worse.”

She shook her head. “No one gets as upset as me when they get a new imprint. It’s always nothing.”

“It’s always coverable. It’s on my wrist.”

She waggled her arm around, her bangles jingling and jangling. “Still coverable.”

I sat up. “You’re not even covering anything.”

She shrugged. “I’m just saying, it’s possible.”

“I don’t want anyone to see this one, Fem. Never.”

“Then you can borrow my bangles. I’ve got enough of the things. I’m sure it’s nothing.” She budged up closer. “Let me see. You’re probably overreacting.”

I squeezed my wrist tight. “I don’t want you to treat me any differently.”

“What?” She furrowed her eyebrows. “How could I? You’re my sister. I love you. No word on your skin is going to change that.”

“But the words never lie.”

“Even so.”

My heart was crashing around inside me and my chest seemed too tight. It took all my courage to wrench my hand from my heart. I licked my thumb and smoothed over the place where Killer was hiding. I offered my wrist to Femi, holding my breath as she took it and turned her head to the side to read it better.

At first she said nothing. She only stared, blinking a few times before staring again.

“What?” She bit her lip and pulled my wrist closer as though that was going to help. “I don’t – I don’t understand.” She gave a short hard laugh. “It’s a joke, right?” She met my eyes. “It’s got to be a joke. It’s not funny, Lex.” Her voice lost all humour as I didn’t say anything.

“It’s not a joke.”

She gripped my hand tight. “But . . . what did you do?”

I snatched my arm back. “Nothing! How could you think that? I haven’t done anything.”

“But . . . that doesn’t make any sense. When did it come up?”

“A couple of days ago.”

“But it can’t be saying that because it’s not true.”

I held my wrist up. “Well take a closer look.”

“You’re not . . . thinking of doing anything are you?”

My heart dropped. “Fem, really? You think I could?”

She put a hand in her bouncy hair. “No you’re right. I’m terrible. I’m sorry. Of course you wouldn’t. But . . .”

I didn’t say what she was thinking. The words never lie.

“How can it be wrong?”

“I don’t know.” I sighed. “What am I supposed to do?”

She looked around the room for a moment. “I don’t know but it’s gonna be okay.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because it has to.”

“But why? The universe doesn’t owe me anything.”

“It doesn’t owe you that.” She only glanced down as though afraid to look. “This isn’t fair.”

“You don’t think I’ve been telling myself that this whole time?”

“Well . . . have you looked online? This might be a problem some people have. Maybe it’s a condition? Maybe it’s okay?”

“What do you think I’ve been doing? Of course I’ve tried that. I’ve tried everything. I don’t know what to do now. My whole life has turned upside down. Nothing is simple anymore.”

She took my hand again. “When did this happen?”

“At school.”

“In History.” Her eyes widened. “I knew something was wrong. Well what were you thinking then?”

“What do you mean?”

“In that moment. What were you thinking? There must be a reason for this. Something that made it show up. It’s not random.”

“I . . .” I struggled to think back. All I could remember was the all-consuming terror. “I don’t remember thinking anything.”

“You must’ve been thinking of something. You certainly weren’t listening.”

I shook my head. “But whatever I was thinking it wasn’t murderous. I don’t have murderous thoughts!” I buried my face in my hands. “What do I do?”

She shuffled next to me and put her arm around my shoulder. “It’ll be okay. Just keep covering it up. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“You don’t really mean that.” My voice was dark. “How can you? The words never lie. All the other ones are true. Everyone’s are. That means this is true too. Why would there be an exception for me?”

She took a breath like she was about to speak and then let it out again. “I don’t know. I don’t know what this means.”

“It means I’m going to kill someone.”

“Don’t say that. You’ve got your free will. You’re not going to do anything. You don’t want to, right?”

“Of course I don’t!”

“Alright, alright. I just thought I’d ask. It’s just a word, Lex. It can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. It shouldn’t change anything.”

“But . . . what if someone sees. What if someone hears about it?”

“So what if they see?”

“They’ll think I’ve killed someone. What if someone goes to the police?”

“No. They wouldn’t.”

“What if they did?”

“You haven’t done anything. You’ve nothing to worry about.” The anxiety in her voice set a tremor along my body.

“You heard Mum the other night. How can you fight against what’s written? No one would believe me. This would be enough to put me away.”

“Well it shouldn’t be. You haven’t done anything.”

“Yet.”

She pulled back. “What?”

“I haven’t done anything yet but it’s written here for a reason.”

“You can’t truly believe you’re going to kill someone?”

“I have to! Why else did it show up? This wouldn’t have happened to you or Spence! I’m a horrible person and I’m clearly going to do horrible things.”

“Stop it! You are not a horrible person! Don’t let a stupid word make you think you’re any less than you are. It doesn’t mean a damn thing!”

I sat there, blinking at her for a few seconds. “Okay, Fem, I’m sorry.”

“Okay?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

“Good. Because we’ll figure out a way to stop this.”

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