Iris Hale: HUNTER *NaNoWriMo Draft 2016*

*NaNoWriMo 2016*/
Periliares are a crafty bunch. You might know them as 'demons'. They hate that word. The idea that all of them are evil is idiotic. The same way all humans aren't evil, not all periliares are evil. Just top of the food chain. And a lot of them have superiority complexes. That's where I come in. Most of them view themselves as gods, which is fine, whatever. But the second they think they can kill more than their fill, I have an issue.
My name is Iris Hale, and I'm a hunter.
/©Molly Looby

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28. Twenty-Eight

Erin appeared just after lunch, and I gave her a longer hug than usual. What surprised me was the vigour with which she hugged me back.

“I’m sorry,” she said when she pulled away.

“No. I’m sorry.”

She smiled. “We’re so stupid, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

I asked her about Sam out of politeness and to sweeten her up a little bit. It seemed to work as this smile crept into her face as she was talking. There was that gleam in her eye again. I didn’t like it.

Corey knocked on the door maybe half an hour later and had his stupid grin on when I answered the door. Erin was half a step behind me, clearly not wanting to miss a thing.

“All right,” he said. “Ready to go?”

I shouted goodbye to Sylvie who was upstairs in the studio and jumped on my bike, which had been beyond a nightmare to pull out of the shed at the bottom of the garden. I hadn’t used it since before I’d broken my arm at the beginning of July, and I swear it was more uncomfortable than ever.

We set off towards the river and nobody said anything. I couldn’t think of anything to direct to either Corey or Erin that would start up a three-way conversation. Lucky for me, after about five minutes, Corey started asking about which teachers Erin had for various subjects and what options she’d taken. I wasn’t in on this conversation, but I didn’t care. As long as someone was talking.

I took the two of them to a long track Sylvie and I had found a few summers ago, and we stopped under a tree for a while. It was still dry enough to sit on the ground, and I was determined to take possibly my last possibility this year to do so. October had been kind enough so far, but it wouldn’t be long until everything was soggy. I lay back on the ground and used the hood of my coat to keep my hair from touching the grass. Shutting my eyes, I sighed, listening to the birds. Corey was still managing to get stuff out of Erin. Her tone sounded friendly enough, and I was sure he was shooting her his great smile.

“Baking, huh?” I heard Corey say.

“Erin’s the best baker you’ve ever seen,” I said, not opening my eyes. “No competition.”

“I’m not that good,” she said.

“Stop being so modest.” I pushed myself up on my elbows to see the two of them sitting on the grass closer than I would’ve expected.

“Well, next time you bake something, can you bring some into school so I can taste it?” Corey said.

“Sure.” Erin giggled.

I furrowed my eyebrows at her, but she wouldn’t meet my eye.

“My dad likes to cook,” Corey continued. “He pretends he doesn’t, but he secretly does.”

“Can you imagine dinner cooked by your dad and dessert baked by Erin?” I smiled. “We’ve got to try that sometime.”

No one said anything after that, so I flopped back down onto the grass. There was a weird atmosphere in the air between Corey and Erin, and I couldn’t work out why.

After a blissful three minutes of silence, Erin spoke. “What am I doing here?”

“What?” I turned my head to look at her.

“Why am I here?”

“We’re just hanging out. You’re my best friend. I like having you around.”

She shook her head. “This is all very strange. You two aren’t talking.” She looked between Corey and me. “If I wasn’t here, I assume you’d be talking, I just don’t know what about.”

I shot Corey a glare as he opened his mouth to speak.

Erin, of course, saw it. “What is going on, Iris?”

I couldn’t answer that question without lying, so I sat up and looked at the grass and started picking it, throwing it into a pile at my side.

“I’m getting sick of this. What are you keeping from me?”

“Look,” Corey said, and I snapped my head up to watch him. “Iris is keeping something from you, but she doesn’t want to scare you.”

My eyes bugged out of my head. “Corey!”

“What? She knows you’re keeping something from her. Look at you. You can’t keep lying to your best friend. Tell her the truth.”

“What is it?” Erin cocked her head a little to the side, and one of her hands was dancing around near her mouth like she wanted to chew on her nails but daren’t because she’d touched the ground. “You can tell me anything, you know that.”

“I know.” I sighed. “But this isn’t anything like what you’re thinking. Whatever you’re thinking, that’s not what it is. This is scary stuff that I don’t want to share with you. I don’t want you to know what I know because you can’t take it back.”

She was shaking her head. “Well, I want to know it. Whatever it is. We’re best friends. We’re supposed to tell each other everything. Whatever you’re keeping a secret, I can handle it.”

“You’ll think I’m crazy.”

“I won’t.”

I stared into her kind, hazel-brown eyes. There was so much kindness in her face, so much acceptance. It looked as though she’d already decided that she was going to be okay with whatever I was about to tell her. Little did she know that was impossible.

I took a deep breath before I said it out loud. My deepest secret. “Erin, now, you won’t believe this, but please. I’m telling the truth now. Corey can back me up. Corey knows about this. That’s why we’re friends. You won’t believe it, but maybe you will in time.”

“Iris.” She put her hand on my knee. “You can tell me.”

“There are these creatures called periliares,” I said before I could take it back.

Some of the accepting expression had already dropped off her face.

“You would recognise them as demons. They look like humans, mostly, and have an ability which they use to harvest Vitalem. A lot of them are fine and just get on with it, but others get greedy and have to be stopped. The people who stop them are called hunters.” I looked her dead in the eye. “I’m one of them. I’m a hunter.”

Her mouth was a straight line. Her eyes were a little narrowed. Her eyebrows were coming together.

I didn’t say anything more. She continued to stare at me.

It felt like two lifetimes before she spoke. “What?”

“I know. I told you it sounds crazy, but it’s true. That’s why I had that bruise a little while ago when I told you I fell down the stairs. That’s the reason I broke my arm in the summer. Pretty much anytime there’s any kind of injury on me, it’s because I’ve been hunting.”

She looked at me, and then Corey, and then me again. I would’ve given anything to know what she was thinking. Although, I wasn’t sure I’d like what I’d find.

Erin took a deep breath, shutting her eyes for a second before looking right at me. “You really expect me to believe that?”

“See, I knew you wouldn’t believe it at first.”

“At first? You’re going to carry this crazy thing on? Do you know what you sound like?”

“Yeah. I know, but I’m telling you the truth. I hate lying to you, Erin. And now I guess I don’t have to.”

She jumped up. “You really believe this, don’t you?”

I stood too. “It’s the truth.”

“Oh my God. You actually think this is the truth. You’re not trying to mess with me. Oh my God.” She started scrabbling around for her bike, and I jumped in front of her.

“Erin, please. Don’t go.”

“Move out the way.”

“No. Please. You don’t have to believe me this second, but please will you think about it?”

She was shaking her head.

“Erin,” Corey said, moving closer to us. I’d almost forgotten he was here. “She’s telling the truth. That’s why she’s been round my house. My dad and his girlfriend are hunters. We always have been. I wanted to team up with Iris. That’s why we started talking.”

“No. This is madness.”

“It’s the truth,” Corey said.

“And you expect me to believe it?”

“Please,” I tried again. “Please. You can talk to Sylvie.”

Her eyes widened. “What? Sylvie knows about this?”

“Yes. She doesn’t like it. She wants me to stop.”

She took a step back. “I can’t. No.”

“Erin, please. Just think about it.”

“You’re delusional.” She grabbed her bike, and before I could stop her, she was already riding away.

“Erin!”

She was peddling faster than I’d ever seen her move.

“Erin! Please! Erin!”

She didn’t turn round, didn’t slow, didn’t stop.

I just stood there staring into the distance, watching her go. A shiver coursed through me as a cold wind blew. I hadn’t realised I was cold. I pulled my coat tighter round me and tried not to burst into tears as I watched my best friend disappear from sight.

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