Only Half Monster

The world is divided in two, the Vasco and the humans. You could almost say the Vasco had superpowers, but the reality is much, much darker. In a destroyed world where the Vasco rule, the humans are being slaughtered, and towns obliterated.

Z is a young man with a secret that must never get out, for he fits in neither with the humans nor the Vasco. But after reminiscing with his past, and a series of unfortunate events, he is thrust into the war and he must get his hands dirty if he wants to uncover the truth about himself and those around him.

It seems you can never truly know a person, until you know yourself.

Note: I've currently drafted 30,000 words of this story, but needs significant editing before uploading. Names of characters will change at some point, and chapters will soon be changed to delete plot holes and remove pointless ramblings.

If you're enjoying the story, please leave a like/favourite, and feedback is greatly appreciated!

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8. Self-Acceptance

Chapter 8

 

'Self-Acceptance'

“When you stop living your life based on what others think of you, real life begins."
― Shannon L. Alder

 

It was approaching midday, and now that the dust had settled from the fight this morning, the sun had come out and Z could really feel the heat even in the shade. He and Alistair were stood outside a small café that looked like it was barely still standing.

“Fran’s Café,” Z said softly, sad to see that such a pleasant part of his childhood was close to ruin, nevertheless it still stood, and he was thankful the little paper sign read ‘open’.

“It’s been a while, I know,” Alistair said in a serious tone,” but rest assured the only difference is its appearance, the food still tastes just as good as it used to!” he added smiling.

 

Z stood in silence for a moment, taking in the sight in front of him, memories of his childhood rushing back to him. Back then, this café thrived with business, with people arriving from all over parts of the city just wanting a taste of the specialty pancakes served here. It would no doubt still be as popular now if people found out it was still standing, and so long as Francis was still running it. Z remembered Francis to be quite a large built man in his mid-thirties, with tanned skin, thick black locks and a well-shaven beard. His personality, however, is what helped bring in all the business for he was such a happy chap, polite and always made him laugh when he was younger. He just couldn’t do enough for you. Even after losing his wife years ago, who had helped to run the café for decades before she died, Francis still had remained a happy and bubbly person, at least on the outside anyway. Looking at the café as it was now was hard to take in, as Z remembered how back then the café itself was a beautiful sight. It was a small building, the top half covered in beautiful and old-fashion bricks of all shades of brown and red, whilst the bottom half was painted cream, with never a speck of dirt to be seen. The café was lined with bright purple, striped awnings which helped shade the little black tables and chairs outside from the heat on summer days. Small red troughs on the two large windowsills were always bursting with lavender bellflowers and attracting butterflies, making the little town café seem more from a fairy-tale world. The café now was not quite so fairy-tale like. Many of the bricks had crumbled and been stained black from the ash and dirt, whilst the creamy paint was more of a dirty brown with damp patches all over. Moss peaked through the cracks on the walls whilst the two windows were boarded up with only empty flower troughs on their sills. The awnings were stained and full of gaping holes and the tables and chairs were non-existent. It was truly a devasting sight and he dreaded to see the inside.

 

“Are you going to stand there all day?” Z’s thoughts were interrupted, and he snapped out of his daydream, focusing on Alistair standing impatiently in front of him with his arms crossed.

“Sorry. After you,” Z insisted, extending his arm towards the wooden doors just behind Alistair, indicating to him to go in. Z followed him inside, despite the uneasy feeling he had about the whole situation. Despite his new promise to move on from his past, this was still going to be a difficult task, as he never would have expected to be in this café again, let alone with the man who betrayed his trust.

 

Stepping into the café was easier than he thought as he stood in the doorway, a bell ringing upon their entry. He was glad to see that the inside wasn’t in as bad as a condition as he had initially expected. The dark oak wooden flooring he could tell was kept clean and well brushed, whilst the walls looked like they had been recently painted a fresh new creamy colour. With all the windows boarded up it was quite surprising how well lit up the room was by the large ceiling lights and single lit candles on each of the round wooden tables. There weren’t as many tables left, and there were only one or two run down looking booths, but then he imagined this place didn’t get as many customers anymore so there was no need to have as many tables as there used to be. Despite the surprisingly good condition of the café, it was so much barer than it used to be. No pictures on the walls, no jukebox or tablecloths lining the tables, no potted plants or tv in the corner certainly made the place seem empty and lifeless, and that’s what made being here so difficult for Z, for his happy memories were each being tarnished in turn.

“This one will do, yes?” Alistair suddenly said pointing to the first round, wooden table that he came to.

“Yes, that’s fine,” Z said after a minute. He was spacing out a lot lately. Z and Alistair took their seats across from each other, and Z noticed how they were the only ones in there. As the pair pondered over the menu, a large figure appeared at their table. Z looked up from under his hood to greet the figure.

“Francis…!” Z gasped softly, even though he half expected him to be still here, it was still quite a shock seeing him after all this time.

“Well, well, well. He lives and breathes,” Francis said in a serious tone before smiling and extending his hand towards Z. Z gripped his hand tightly and shook firmly. Francis was still the largely built man he remembered, but now with his age it was hard to tell whether that was due to fat or muscle. He still had his beard, though it was less prominent and more grey than black. As for his hair, well, there was not much left to speak of.

“It’s been a while. I apologise for not having returned sooner, but… I found a home, a family,” Z explained, and he saw Alistair’s raised eyebrows in the corner of his eyes.

“Hey, no hard feelings here,” Francis said, cheerfully, “I’m just glad to know you’re alright. No need to ask what you’re having. I’ll whip up some specialty pancakes now, on the house. One plain and one with double whipped cream with strawberries and chocolate chunks, Z?” he asked, speaking quickly and looking at Z for confirmation. Z nodded, slightly shocked, and Francis laughed. “You haven’t changed one bit,” he laughed, turning on his heals and heading into the kitchen. For a moment, Z and Alistair sat in silence, perhaps in shock, but a slight smirk then appeared on Alistair’s face, and for once Z felt like laughing too, though he didn’t.

“Thank you, Z, you know, for saving mine and Maddie’s life. We really are grateful, the whole town is,” Alistair said softly, breaking the silence.

“It was nothing, honestly,” Z said as he fiddled with the cutlery on the table, surprised at how posh they looked. Z truly meant what he said though, as it really was nothing. He could easily have killed those Vasco without barely lifting a finger, though he managed to maintain his control surprisingly, for he despised anyone – human or Vasco – who could hurt a child like that. 

Alistair smiled, possibly at the thought of finally rebuilding the bridges between them after all these years, but his smile was short lived, as suddenly it disappeared, replaced with a frown and the shine in his eyes disappearing.

“Where did you get that?” he asked dispirited, as he reached over the table and gripped Z’s wrist.

“What are you doing? Stop!” Z exclaimed, his voice panicked, and fear in his eyes. But Alistair ignored him and reached over with his other hand and yanked the sleeve of his cloak up, revealing all the marks along his arm.

“This,” Alistair said sternly, pointing to the silver wristlet on Z’s arm, “I saw it when you put your arm on the table. Who’s is it?”

“It’s not mine,” Z started, but suddenly, he realised something. Alistair had just seen his marks and the first thing he asks is whose wristlet he was wearing? “You…you’re not surprised?”

“Oh, come on, Z. I may be an idiot but I’m not that stupid. Have you forgotten he found you all those years ago, completely cloak free? And did you think I wouldn’t be suspicious after you saved me and Maddie with that incredible strength,” Alistair explained, and Z’s mouth dropped open and somehow, he was the one more surprised. This went a lot differently in his head. Regardless, it was all making sense now. He never once acted surprised when Z used his strength, and he never even questioned the cloak he was wearing all this time.

“If you knew all this time then why’ve you not said anything?” Z asked, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Because you were clearly hiding yourself for a reason. I figured when the time was right you’d tell me,” Alistair said sincerely.

“I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you or anyone else to lump me in with the rest of the Vasco. My mother drilled it into me when I was young for that exact reason,” Z explained. Alistair sat in silence for a moment.

“Will you show me your face?” He asked suddenly. Even though it was only taking off his hood, it seemed so difficult for Z to do. But this was Alistair, the man who could have been his father, and regardless of the past, he had the right to see what Z looked like after all this time. And so, with slight reluctance, Z slowly and gently pulled his hood down, exposing his Vasco self.

Incredible,” Alistair whispered, staring in awe at the marks streamed across his face and down the side of his neck. Z was shocked at the word he used. In what way possible could his marks be called ‘incredible’? “They look exactly the same,” he said smiling “and still only one half?”

“Ye-” Z began answering but suddenly he saw Francis approach them from the corner of his eye, and without a second thought, he quickly swung his arm under the table and turned his head away.

“Oh please,” Francis said half laughing half offended, as he stood beside their table, “do you realise how loud you both are?” he asked, and after a moment of silence, Z turned towards Francis, and raised his arm back onto the table. Francis smiled, and the pair watched in silence as he wondered over to the door and flipped the paper sign to say ‘closed’, before disappearing back into the kitchen. Almost immediately, Z grabbed his fork and tucked into his pancakes, after all, it had been over 13 years since he’d had them last. The hot dough melted on his tongue, swiftly followed by the cool sensation of the cream and the sweet, juicy strawberries. God, how he had missed these.

“I’ve wanted to ask you Z, what made you come back?” Alistair asked, as he too, tucked into his pancakes.

“I kept having the same nightmare over and over, one that told me I needed to let go of my past. Yesterday…” Z clenched his fists, “Yesterday was the day my mother was killed fourteen years ago,” he said softly, his body still desperately trying to grieve, but Z was strong. A stray tear ran down Alistair’s face, after realising he’d made that day so much harder for Z than it already must have been for him.

“I’m so sorry, Z,” Alistair said softly, wiping under his eyes with his fingertips.

“I figured it was a sign. The nightmares… The date approaching. I wanted to finally try and move on… So, I burnt the house to ashes. But luckily, I remembered to grab this first,” Z said, shaking his arm with the wristlet on. “It’s Abby’s. I’m not quite sure why I put it on, but it clamped down and wouldn’t come off, so I’ve had it on ever since.” Alistair furrowed his brows and reached towards Z to observe the wristlet.

“It’s on,” he said abruptly. Z looked at him, confused. “The tracker is on, look,” Alistair added, pointing at the small green light flashing near the clasp of the wristlet. Z pulled his hand away and had a look for himself, squinting at the tiny light.

“Shit!” Z exclaimed, Alistair was right. He hadn’t even noticed. He must have been so in a world of his own when he put it on that he didn’t notice the light come on. “So, they know where I am. Great; no doubt they’re already after me,” Z said frowning. The Vasco he’d fought earlier must have come to this town to find the tracker that had suddenly been activated. 

“Correction,” Alistair interrupted suddenly, “They’ll be out to find Abby. They’ll know who the tracker belongs to, so they’ll be looking for a girl.”

“Of course,” Z said, breathing out slowly, this was not his tracker, he never had one because nobody knew he existed.

“Regardless, it’s no good you having the Vasco tracking you and causing fights, it will only lead to more bloodshed. You need to get it off,” Alistair said sternly. 

“I have tried,” Z said, a hint of annoyance in his voice that Alistair would think he wouldn’t have taken it off immediately if he could have.

“It’s no use you just tugging at it, it’s probably made of Vostryx, a silver metal and the only type to overpower a Vasco,” Alistair explained. Z looked surprised, he’d heard of Vostryx before, but he was more surprised at Alistair’s sudden acquired knowledge.

“How do you know so much?” Z asked curiously, stabbing his fork into another section of his pancake to eat. Alistair had already finished his pancakes, but Z was savouring the taste, for this was probably the last time he was ever going to have them, at least for a while anyway.

“Let’s just say… I found a hobby,” Alistair said shrugging, waving his hand slightly to dismiss Z’s question. Z stayed silent as Alistair continued to speak. “Look, I’m sure we can find someone who can take this off for you, it can’t be that hard.” Z thought long and hard. He didn’t know anyone, why would he? How the hell did Abby get hers off?

“Wait, that’s it!” Z shouted, “Abby mentioned a man’s name on the night she left! Dammit, what was it, what was it?” Z exclaimed, ruffling his hair as he tried to remember. “Was it Shin? Shin-something?”

“Shino-Oku,” a voice sounded from a distance. Z stopped rambling and looked around in shock. It wasn’t Francis, he was nowhere to be seen. “I think that’s the man you’re looking for,” the voice sounded again, but this time a shadow appeared from one of the booths in the far corner of the café. He approached their table slowly.

“I didn’t know anyone else was in here!” Z mouthed to Alistair, both of their faces perturbed. Z watched as the man walked slowly towards them, his back straight as he looked dead ahead. He looked to be in his early thirties, wearing immaculate black jeans and a tight brown waistcoat that complemented his large muscles. A black fedora sat atop his neat brown hair, tilted downwards and casting a shadow over his face, with his stubble the only facial feature visible. He grabbed a wooden chair and swung it towards their table, jumping on it the wrong way around.

“Name’s Arthur,” he said confidently, extending his tanned arm towards Z whilst completely blanking Alistair. Z observed his dark mischievous eyes, with a strong jawline and well-defined cheekbones. No marks; he was human. Z reluctantly held out his hand, and Arthur swiftly pulled off Z’s glove before gripping his hand, and shaking firmly, admiring his Vasco marks for a moment before letting go. Z glared at him, feeling threatened and exposed, and when Arthur realised, he let go immediately. In a relaxed manner, Arthur reached straight into an inside pocket of his waist coat and pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it, and pressed it down on the table in front of Z, but his hand remained covering its contents.

“Let me ask you a simple question," Arthur said suddenly, looking Z dead in the eye. "Whose side are you on?” Z was taken aback by such a question, so much so he found himself unable to answer straight away. Flashbacks of his mother’s blood on human hands made him question the answer which should have been obvious. Which side did he want to be on?

“I d-don’t know,” Z stammered, for once struggling to talk about such a subject aloud. Arthur tutted slightly and shook his head.

“It’s always the same,” Arthur said, though Z had no idea what he meant. “When you’ve realised it for yourself, come find me at Maya. I’ll be waiting,” he added, lifting his hand from the paper on the table, revealing an advert for “soldiers all shapes and sizes” to join Maya’s Rebel Army. Underneath, it read: “If it’s a war you want, it’s a war you’re gonna get. Pick up your weapons, if you can handle the gore, because Ciro Delerosa is gonna be no more.” Z sat there and stared at the poster. It sounded like quite a bold statement to fully declare a war against the one Vasco who started everything. Though he admired their determination, it was a death wish for certain. Alistair, who had been sitting in silence and occasionally taking a bite of his, now cold, pancake, turned the poster towards him to have a look. “Not you, old man. We’re looking for soldiers not deadweight.” Alistair glared at him but didn’t dare retaliate against a man whose strength was so unknown, and from the looks of it, Alistair had also clocked the large sheathed sword on his back. He must be one of the soldiers.

 

“You mentioned a man, Shino-Oku was it? Can he get this wristlet off?” Z asked, interrupting the two glaring at each other and stopping things from potentially escalating.

“Yes,” Arthur said, slowly turning his gaze back towards Z. “He lives in a huge house, unmissable, just outside Rosemarch. Just find Celeste in Rosemarch and ask her for directions,” he explained. Celeste… did he know a Celeste? He lived in Rosemarch nearly all his life, but he couldn’t put a face to the name. He’d have to ask Ava when he got there.

“How do you know this man can take off this wristlet? It’s made of Vo-”

“Yes, Vostryx. I’m pretty sure he knows how to take off something he invented,” Arthur interrupted. Z’s mouth fell open, whilst Alistair’s face simply lit up like he’d just had an amazing idea.

“I had no idea,” Z said slowly, still in shock that he would meet the man who made these wristlets, but he couldn’t help but feel angry for someone who made such a discriminatory accessory. How would Shino-Oku react to seeing a half-blood Vasco. He shivered at the thought. Z broke out of his train of thought, and crossed his arms, leaning back in his seat. “Why are you helping me?” he asked seriously, something that had been playing on his mind. There was a moment of silence and the tension built before Arthur spoke.

“Because one day, you’ll have to return the favour,” Arthur said, springing to his feet and sliding the chair back to another table before walking towards the door. “I’ll see you around half-blood,” he added looking over his shoulder, before exiting the café and leaving the two sat in a deafening silence.

 

“What just happened?” Alistair asked suddenly, breaking the silence. The two sat in bewilderment.

“I have no idea. And I’m not sure what his intentions are, but I’m grateful for his help,” Z replied.

“How do you know he was telling the truth? That this isn’t all a trap?”

“I don’t. But I don’t have any other options,” Z said, and Alistair furrowed his brows. “Don’t worry. Now is not the time to act like a doting father. I can handle it myself, you of all people should know that.”

“Let me come with you,” Alistair insisted. Z looked at him dumbfounded.

“What for?” Z inquired, bluntly, “I’m sorry but, what help could you do?” His words were harsh, but even Alistair knew he was right.

“Look,” Alistair confessed, “I can’t change what happened, I’m not condoning it nor am I expecting you to forget and move on. But I’m here now, and it’s like I’ve been given another chance to be the father I never got the chance to be. So please, let me come with you and try and make it up to you, give me a chance, Z,” Alistair pleaded wholeheartedly, his green eyes wide and glistening with hope.

“Alright fine,” Z mumbled, anything to stop Alistair from gazing at him like that. “We better get moving,” Z suggested when he realised they both had empty plates, so he didn’t want to sit around and waste any more time. The pair began getting up and ready to leave, when their ruckus caused Francis to come out from the kitchen.

“I’m very sorry fellas, I didn’t realise there was someone else in here,” Francis said apologetically. “That sneaky youngster better not have nicked anything,” he added, his brows furrowed as if he was remembering past negative experiences.

“Don’t worry about it,” Z said, reassuring Francis that everything was fine. “After all, he did provide some useful information,” he added.

“Well here,” Francis continued, holding out a small, worn brown tote bag. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help but overhear you talking about Rosemarch. So, I prepared this for you both,” he added, handing the bag to Z and stepping back. Z peered into the bag and saw it was full of food and drink.

“This is too much!” Z exclaimed, shocked at such a nice gesture.

“No, honestly, take it please, it will only go to waste. I don’t get many customers in here anyway,” he said sadly, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Z handed the bag to Alistair for him to look, but mainly for him to carry.
“Thank you, Francis,” Z said, as he firmly shook his hand once more before they left. “It’s been good seeing you,” he added, and Alistair nodded in agreement as Z opened the doors and the pair headed out.

“Likewise! Take care both!” Francis shouted from inside, and Z smiled as he seen him waving from over his shoulder.

 

Once outside, Z grabbed the sides of his hood with both hands and was about to pop it up over his head when he felt Alistair’s firm grip on his wrist stopping him.

“You shouldn’t be afraid of being different, you should be afraid of being the same, the same as those monsters. But you are different, Z, because you're not a monster, and you never will be, so you need to stop hiding and show people who you truly are,” Alistair said with all sincerity. Alistair was right. Although he didn't know much about who he truly was, he knew for a fact he wasn't a cold-blooded killer. He had people who cared about him and he didn't even realise. Alistair, Francis, Maddie, his family back in Rosemarch and even Arthur didn't see Z as someone they should be afraid of, and finally he saw that now. Maybe he already knew that deep down people would accept him, but that all these years he had been hiding because it was him that couldn’t accept who he was all along. He didn’t want to be seen because he was afraid of who he was. He just wanted to be normal, to fit in, but concealing himself and hiding himself away only pushed him further way from normality and made him feel completely alone. Not anymore. He was afraid, but he was ready. Z nodded to Alistair and slowly put down his hands. They stepped out of the shade, and the hot sun suddenly shined onto them. Everything looked brighter now that he didn’t have the hood casting a shadow over him. Z and Alistair began walking towards the border of Bingry, listening to the birds chirping loudly from the elm trees dotted around.

 

Suddenly, their peace was interrupted by a faint calling of a woman’s voice, who kept getting louder, and louder, and louder.

“Mayor!” the high-pitched voice exclaimed. “Where are you going, Mayor?” Z and Alistair both turned around to see a middle-aged woman, holding her stomach and panting like she’d just finished a marathon.

“Cindy!” Alistair gasped. 

“Where are you going? You’re not leaving, are you?”

“Yes, I’ve got urgent business I must attend to,” Alistair said, looking up at Z who stood still and silent, looking nervously at the woman.

“But what about-” the woman began but stopped dead in her tracks after seeing who Alistair was next to. She eyed him up and down for a moment, her mouth half open, and Z was preparing himself to run when the woman screamed, but instead, she simply turned her gaze back towards Alistair and stepped closer towards him. “What about the town, you’re our Mayor,” she urged, her voice sounding worried.

“You’ve always wanted to be Mayor, right Cindy? Consider this your promotion for good behaviour. Take care Cindy!” Alistair chuckled as he turned on his heels and began walking away, leaving the woman in complete shock for a few seconds before she hollered, “You're joking right?” but it fell on deaf ears.

 

“Are you coming, Z?” Alistair called out to Z who was just stood in shock. The woman glared at Z.

“You better look after him, freak!” she yelled before storming off. Z didn’t know whether to be hurt or over the moon with that encounter. Though he concluded that being called a ‘freak’ was far better than being called a ‘monster’. Z caught up with Alistair who had stopped to wait for him.

 

“I think someone has a crush on you,” Z snickered, followed by a hard shove from a glaring Alistair, before the pair began their two-day trek towards Rosemarch.

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