Someone’s going to find Cain’s body and report it. I said it before, and I'll say it again. It's the one thing that's on my mind right now, aside from all the events leading up to this.
My town has crazy laws, which means crazy punishments, but for some reason, I can't bring myself to care about it right now.
I slowly get to my feet and hobble out of the woods. Jallowan is probably a walk away from my house, but it feels like Cain chased me for miles until we stopped and fought here.
My feet hurt even when I'm only three minutes into my walk back.
Like mother, like son, huh? She murdered someone, and now so did I. Only difference was that, back then, Harvey Town was less severe with their punishments, and she just got a lifetime imprisonment. I might get a really slow, painful execution.
And I can't do anything to prevent that. Other than 'he was trying to kill me' — which nobody would believe, considering everyone hated me and were likely biased, even if they didn't like Cain either — I had no other phrase that could justify my murder.
And when it came to Dad…
Well, if he were alive right now, he'd be horrified.
"You're going to counseling?"
Cain gave a disgruntled sigh and a nod.
"Good," I said. "Listen, I dunno what's going on with you, but you need someone to talk to."
"I don't know what's going on with me either!" he barked, abruptly snapping his head and sending his ferocious gaze piercing into mine. "You think I know anything? NO!"
Several people in the cafeteria, who were already whispering about him for weeks, had looked up and scooted away, pure terror crossing their faces. The little freshman kid, named Vincent, practically ducked his head and stared at the table. Poor guy had been trembling violently around Cain ever since he got beat up.
"What… why don't you know?" I asked, tilting my head. "I thought you did…"
"There's something in my —"
All of a sudden, he grabbed his throat, tightening his grip against his neck. Choked breaths escaped his mouth, but not much more.
"Cain, Cain!" I shouted, gripping his hands. After three forceful tugs, I pulled them away from his neck, and he lurched forward.
Cain deeply gasped for air and spent the next few moments panting.
"Cain," I said slowly, starting to tremble, "I think you need a doctor."
"NO!" He nearly jumped out of his seat. "They're not gonna get me one. My parents won't get me one." His eyes were crazed and wild, gaze darting from left to right, up and down. "Can't do much. Can't do much."
"I… I think you really need one, though." It was getting way too damn hard to stay calm right now, especially with all eyes on us. "Because you're acting violent and animalistic; it's been happening ever since we went to camp. Did you come in contact with an animal? Do you have rabies?"
"No," he growled. "I was fine. I'm fine. I don't feel pain. I didn't see any animals. Told you — I don't know what's going on!"
"Okay, it's not rabies. But then… then why did you randomly attack a poor kid unprompted? Why did you… why is any of this happening?"
"Why do I have to repeat myself?" he screeched. "I. Don't. Know!"
In a split second, his fist hit me right in the jaw.
My head flung sideways as gasps and screamed fill the air of the cafeteria. Jabs of pain ruthlessly harrowed my face, as I shook my head and scooted off the bench.
"Dude! What was that for?"
Cain punched his own best friend. He… he punched me, of all people.
This wasn't my friend. This person couldn't be Cain; could it? He was nice. He was friendly. Where did that person go?
"What?" he barked, standing up from the bench and glaring at everyone in the lunchroom. I stumbled back, grabbing my lunch bag with vibrating fingers.
"Get away from him, please," said a girl's voice behind me.
Erica Brown, a student with short black hair and dark eyes, quickly tugged at my arm. "Come on, sit with us. Cain isn't safe."
For a split second, I didn't even process that someone was actually being nice to me for once in my life. And even when I did, it became a passing thought.
"You're leaving?" Cain glared at me, his voice reaching every single wall in this gigantic room.
"I'm sorry, man," I said while I followed Erica to her table. "I think I need to leave you alone."
"You really need to," Erica muttered under her breath. "Trust me, he's losing it. I'm sorry to say it, Mallor, but your friend is losing it."
I knew. I understood everything she was saying. I understood she had a point.
And I hated that. I utterly, absolutely hated that.
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"So what's going on with that boy? He hurt you?"
Dad's eyebrows were knit, and panic was visibly flaring up; you could see it in his eyes. He shifted restlessly on the red couch of our little house.
"Yeah," I said, dropping my backpack to the wooden floor and leaning it against the round brown table in the room's center. "I don't know, Dad. I'm trying to help him, but he's just… I don't think whatever help he's getting is gonna work."
A few moments of silence passed. I awkwardly slipped off my socks, headed towards the white door at the front of the house, and tossed them onto my sneakers near the red rug.
Dad inhaled deeply, slowly. And he exhaled just the same.
"Mallor, I never thought I'd have to say this, but stay away from that boy. No matter what. You can't get involved with him anymore."
I swallowed. "I… I know. But… but… I just wanted to help him —"
"I understand that. You're a good kid, and I didn't expect anything different from you. But sometimes, you gotta put your safety first."
"Well, what about everyone else?" I asked, desperately trying to change the topic. "So long as he's inside school, I'm not sure if anyone is safe."
"Then… then just try your best to be. Don't engage with him, don't talk to him. If looking at him makes him mad, then don't do that either." He looked up at me, eyes shining and voice soft. "Please, Mallor, I want you to be safe."
I looked down. "He wasn't like this. He never was. He was ten times more charismatic, ten times less violent. Until the camping trip. And now… now I just have no clue what's going on."
"When we went camping?" Dad raised a brow. "Something's wrong. Rabies isn’t likely; we didn’t see a single animal, nor did he complain of any biting. But… was there something else? Something in the woods? Mallor, do you think that Jallowan woods is haunted?”
“What — I mean, I don’t know. I’ve heard it was always safe. Nothing like this has ever happened before.” I sighed. “I said he needed a doctor, but he said he couldn’t get one. So I don’t know what medical or mental condition he has. I don’t even think his crappy parents would make him act so crazy.”
Dad sighed and shook his head. “Okay. We don’t know what it is. So if we can’t figure that out, then the least we can do is stay away.”
“Okay. Okay, I will.” I sighed and spun around, walking towards the hallway that branched off from the foyer.
“I’m gonna change now. Today has been… awful."
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"The school isn't doing jack about this!" Dad shouted later that day, when it was about eleven at night, slamming his phone into his nightstand. "Somebody hit my son —"
"Dad, forget about it," I mumbled, my hand resting on my room's doorknob. "They didn't care when Cain beat Vincent to a bloody pulp. None of the schools care." I shrugged. "It's… it's normal."
"Normal, but not right!" he shouted.
I sighed, too tired to care about anything right now. "Both you and I need to just go to sleep."
My hand twisted the knob and pushed the door opened. I entered my room, instantly flopping down on my bed with a million thoughts racing through my mind. So much for heading to sleep.
It would take hours for that to happen.ns 18.104.22.168da2