Author’s Note: We’re all weak when offered what we think we want, right?
Luna read to him, and he sat, listening to her voice, trying to convince himself that he could do as she wished and not leave. He should go back to the barrens. He could have killed her when their hands brushed, and she didn’t seem to care, but he did. He could have do so much worse than what he’d done, and then she would be gone. Her voice, her laughter, her paintings… He could not take away all of those things and so much more. That was the danger of what he was.
“Then they all died. The end.”
He looked over at her. “It can’t be. They were just— Oh. I see. You are teasing me?”
She grinned, and he shook his head. She moved closer, like she might just touch him again, but he he backed off from her. “You should not do that. I don’t see why you would risk it. What I am is not a joke. I could kill you.”
“I dated a guy who set my hair on fire. I must have something wired wrong in my brain or something. I’m not afraid.”
“You should be.”
“But I’m not.”
“You would be if you did not live on a backward little planet without knowledge of the rest of the universe. Humans are like children in the terms of the other species, and you have yet to learn what and who you are—you have not made your acquaintance with the main powers of the universe.”
She shrugged. “Why do I want to meet them? They want you dead, and as far as I’m concerned, people who want my friends dead aren’t worth caring about.”
He frowned. “You… consider me a friend? How is that possible? You do not know me, nor should you trust me or want to spend time with me. I am a child of the vortex. I am a being with insatiable hunger and limitless capacity to destroy.”
She gave him a look, rolling her eyes. “Do you think that it would be any less ridiculous if I said you shouldn’t be friends with me because—gasp, the horror—I’m a woman? I’m female, I’m useless, let’s go kill me like they do in lands where they only want boys or where I’d have no rights! That’s it!”
She laughed, shaking her head. “Look, you don’t want to hurt anyone. You said as much before. You don’t have to, and you do your best not to, so why should I be like those others who hate you just because of what you are? That’s like wanting to hate me for being born female.”
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s as bad as you think it is. I mean, if you were nothing but destruction, why don’t you kill every thing you walk on or bump into as well? You could. You probably should. It’s like the whole out-of-phase but never falling through the floor aspect that many scifi shows fail to acknowledge. If your touch can only destroy, why don’t your feet do it, too?”
“I am not exactly… human.”
“I know that. Still, if you’re a black hole, you should be sucking in things from everywhere, not just your hands. It’s almost like…” She rose, going to the counter and picking up a book, carrying it back with her. “I think there must be some kind of mental component to the whole thing. If you can walk and sit without eating anything, then you’re already controlling it enough to where it only works if you touch things with your hands.”
“I cannot control it.”
“I think you can,” she said, holding the book out to him. “Try it. Try and open it without destroying it. You just have to want to—or maybe you need to think about it like you’re walking on it. Either way.”
He shook his head. “I can’t. It won’t stop with one book. It could be you and the store and—”
“It won’t be. Not if you don’t want it to be.”
“I never wanted to destroy a solar system, either, but I helped do it.”
“That’s why we’re starting very small. One book. If you can do that, then maybe you can learn to control bigger things, to never fear your hunger again.”
He wanted that more than he could say. She knew so little of the universe, but she made some compelling arguments that he wanted to listen to. He almost reached for the book, but then he stopped. “Put it on the ground. No, outside. Someplace less likely to create a chain reaction if you’re wrong and I can’t do this.”
She nodded, carrying the book to the door, and he followed her with reluctance. This could go so wrong, and if it did—he did not want to be responsible for more deaths.
“How about here?” she asked, setting the book down on the sidewalk. “It’s nice and inorganic.”
“Should be fine.” He looked at the book, trying to prepare himself. It was just the sidewalk, just like walking over it. He could do this.
He cursed as he felt the hunger’s approval, knowing he’d ruined the book, and forced the hunger back on himself so that he would not take more than that.
“Tynan? What’s happening? You’re not… puking, are you?”
“I cannot vomit anything I consume. That’s not how it works. I do not—don’t come closer. I have to let the hunger exhaust itself on me now.”
She sat down next to him, ignoring his caution. “You didn’t tell me that was what you had to do to stop it. You look so—I can’t even begin to imagine the pain. I… You’re going to be okay, aren’t you? After this is done?”
He nodded. “Yes. It just… hurts a bit now, but that will pass.”
She bit her lip, lowering her head. “I’m sorry. I thought I was helping. I didn’t know—”
“I wanted to try. A part of me still does.” He sighed. “If I could control it, if I wasn’t just a monster, if there was another way besides the curiosity…”
“There has to be. You didn’t kill me when we touched.”
He shook his head. “Perhaps that was too brief to make a difference. Do not suggest we try it for any longer a time. I will not risk your life. It is time I go.”
She folded her arms over her chest, and he thought she might cry again, though he could not see why she should cry for him. He forced himself up off the ground and took a breath. “Thank you for reading with me and sharing your art with me.”
“Don’t go just because that one experiment went wrong. We should have thought it through more or something, but you’re talking like someone who is not coming back again, and I got enough of that from Mom before she died and—Don’t. Just don’t. I’m not going to listen to it because you are coming back.”
She turned, rushing into the bookshop, and he watched the door shut. He had made a promise to her, but he did not know how he could fulfill those words. He did not want to see her this way, for her pain was as evident as his had been, but he could not take it away or comfort her.
He should go, and he should stay far away from here. Perhaps then she would forget about her “friend,” give up on the idea of helping him control what he was. He didn’t know how to leave, though. He’d never had anyone say he was a friend before, and he thought he wanted that more than his hunger wanted to destroy.
He forced himself to walk in the opposite direction, his steps taking him away from her and all the complications she created.