In Ryan's world everyone is born with a perfect pair, two jigsaw pieces that fit together perfectly. That is to say, everyone but Ryan. A single being. Imperfect, useless and out of sorts. What will happen to Ryan when his own family discard him?


1. Drunk

Ryan stared at the emptiness of the Lake of Torrment.  No-one came here, unless it was to mourn for an unmatched soul.  Any and all who died without completeing their life's mssion of finding their pair were sent a drift in the lake on a prye.  That hadn't happened in at least ten years.  This would be where he would go when he died. 


Despite knowing its purpose, Ryan liked there.  It was always misty and dark over the lake and the water was murky and sludge-like no matter the weather but it was peaceful and constant.  All around, the lake was encased by the sparring fringes of the Eternal Happiness Forest.  That was where pairs went to break their True Circle and live for forever in eternal happiness (five guesses as to why it was called the Eternal Happiness Forest).  That was where Ryan's parents had gone. 


Ryan chewed the inside of his cheek absent-mindingly.  His thoughts were on the dream he had had the night before.  He had dreamt that he had entered the Happy Forest without his pair and out-of-view evil things had chased him through the thickening brambles, cooing and shreiking to each other.  Ryan let the rising morning sun wash over his face and chase away the tendrils of his dark dream that clung to his thoughts but a small part wouldn't loosen its grip on Ryan's mind. 


Everyone else his age had already found their pair and yet still Ryan hadn't.  If he didn't find her today, on his seventeenth birthday, he would be declared a single being and banned from the Eternal Happiness forest for forever.  God, he hoped that wouldn't happen.  For the last year, he had gradually worked his way from unworried all the way to tearing-out-his-fucking-hair as more and more of his school friends dropped out of school as they found their true pair.  It had been a week since te last person had dropped out.  By law, it was required for Ryan to stay in scholl until he found his other half but no-one wanted to enforce that when he was the only student left in his year so he just stopped showing up. 


A quiet rumbling startled Ryan from his thoughts.  He looked up and noticed a dark hazelnut brown wolf slinking between the trees.  Ryan froze.  Wolves usually didn't come this far out of the forest but winter had been particularly harsh this year and Ryan's village had barely managed to scrape by.  It was amazing that this wolf hadn't totally starved like so many other animals. 


The wolf crept closer and closer to him. Ryan was breathing heavily now.  He had heard stories of men savaged by wolves.  Not from the men themselves though.  Ryan stood slowly and bent into a crouch.  He kept his eyes glued to the wolf and tried to take deep breaths.  It crept closer and closer until Ryan could count the prominent ribs on the starved animal.  It's hackles rose threateningly as it contined to circle him.  Ryan moved with the animal, never leaving his sides exposed.  Suddenly the wolf pounced on him.


Ryan moved quickly and gracefully.  He leaped a second later after the wolf and hit it, full-force, mid-flight.  The wolf yelped in surprize and wiggled to get free but Ryan held its head firmly under his arm.  He used his weight to keep the body of the animal down and kept one hand clamped over the wolf's snapping jaws.  He used his other hand to instinctually look for the wolf's throat.  He found it eventually and squeezed it harder and tighter.  The wolf gradually grew more weaker and weaker.  Fr once, Ryan thanked the harsh winter; no way could he have taken a well-fed, powerful wolf at full strength but half-starved, sick and weak?  No problem. 


The wolf lay still benath Ryan now and the whole forest had gone unnaturally quiet.  The only sound was Ryan's heavy breathing.  Ryan let go of the wolf and collapsed next to it.  What had he just done?  He had just killed one of the forest's divine creatures with his bare hands.  He reached out and touched the soft and wiry fur of the wolf.  Instead his hands brushed over skin.  Ryan yelped and reared back, stumbling over his own feet in his haste to get away from that thing.  He had only moved a foot away but he found that he couldn't move away any farther.  Oh hell, oh hell, oh hell, he chanted in his head.  In front of him, lay a starved dead naked girl in the place of the wolf.










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