The Dark One

By: Jennifer Martucci

The Demon Hunter (Book 2)

Chapter 1

Throughout much of my life, I’ve felt as if I’ve been bobbing around, sort of wandering aimlessly, without a real purpose. I’m sure I’m not the only sixteen year old who’s ever felt that way. In fact, I’d venture a guess that most feel exactly that way. Not yet adults and able to enjoy the privileges associated with adulthood and no longer children young enough to reap the rewards of childhood and littleness, kids in my age group hover in an in-between phase, a kind of developmental gray area. At least that’s how I’ve always viewed my existence. Until now, that is.

Riding in the backseat of my mother’s CRV and headed to our new residence in Patterson, I experience a strange phenomenon. I’m not sure how to precisely articulate what I’m feeling, all I know is that I’m struck by a sense of connectedness to the town we’re destined for. The closer we get, the stronger the feeling grows. It rewards me with a kind of calm and quiet happiness, a sense of belonging that grows so potent, I know I’m in the exact place with the exact people I should be with at this exact point in my life. My mother and my sister have always been my anchors, the people who secured me to a sense of being where I should be. I always figured that wherever they were would be home, even if it were a tent in the middle of a desert. But as I ride in the back seat of my mother’s CRV and head toward our new house, that comfort they’ve provided through the years is replaced.

Peering out the rear window, I watch as an endless sea of trees rolls past. Their leaves are a vibrant array of greens that pop against the cobalt sky unfurling endlessly with little more than a few wispy clouds marring it. All that I see is a far cry from the never-ending stretch of asphalt I’m used to. And for the first time in my life, I am coming home. Not to a home that is familiar to me, and not to any home I’ve ever known, not physically at least. I’m going where I belong. I almost feel as if I’m answering a calling. Where I’m called from and who or what beckons me remains to be seen. All I know is that I’m moving toward the place I need to be, the place I’m needed.

“Ugh! Could this be more of a hayseed, country town?” My sister’s exasperated tone, dripping with acid and complete with a drawn-out huff, interrupts my reflective mood. “I can’t believe this is where we’re going to live now,” she continues grumpily and gestures to the passenger side window, beyond which the scenery is lush and verdant.

“Oh come on, Kiera.” My mom reaches across the center console and pats my sister’s leg. “It’s a nice town, a safe town.”

“Yeah, plus we’re going to live in an actual house,” I chime in to try to help.

Living in a house is something we haven’t done in as long as I can remember. All I’ve ever known is an apartment building, elevators and concrete playgrounds. The house we’re renting now is small, not much larger than our apartment really when the basement isn’t factored into the square footage, but it sits on slightly less that two acres of land. When we looked at it with the real estate agent, we fell in love with it. At the time, even Kiera had cracked a smile. Now that the reality of leaving and not returning to the place we called home for so many years has kicked in she’s lashing out. I, on the other hand, am actually excited at the prospect of a new beginning. Not popular by any means, I was virtually invisible in school. With a student population that exceeded four thousand and a principal and vice principal per grade level trying to police such an enormous crowd, school was never a place I felt comfortable in the least. To the contrary, I felt perpetually lost. I wasn’t a small fish in a big pond. I was a fleck of sand in a vast sea, never noticed. Never relevant or important to anyone. Sure, I had one or two guys I played basketball with at the court two blocks from the apartment, but they were little more than acquaintances. I never even felt the need to say goodbye to them. Kiera, on the other hand, was enjoying an entirely different experience in high school. Popular with everyone from the athletes to the debate team to the stoners, she was universally accepted and adored. It’s hard to believe anyone could tolerate her for more than ten minutes and not strangle her. At best she’s unpleasant. At worst she insufferable. It’s a mystery to me that she was as well-liked as she was. But I’m sure the side of her my mom and I see differs dramatically from what she shows others. Which one is the real Kiera? Well, I suppose the jury is still out on that one, though I suspect she’s neither. Regardless, I fully understand why she’d resist moving. She actually has a life she’s leaving behind. For me it’s a fresh start, a hope that all the madness that’s accompanied me after the shooting, will dissipate, that I will be me again, or better. I don’t want to feel the strange pull again. I don’t want to find myself wandering in strange neighborhoods by car or on foot. I want a normal life, want a chance at enjoying the latter part of my teenage years. I can only hope that’s why I was drawn to this location, that instinctively, a part of me knows I can have a normal life here. I hope that was the draw, at least.

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