Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lost by Zoe Nichols

“I need you to find my mother,” a low, familiar voice says, and I look up from my burger to meet a pair of golden brown eyes. They’re staring at me from beneath a shock of white-blond hair and they plead.

He looks like he belongs here, oddly enough. I’d thought anyone below the age of thirty would look out of place in a smoky beer-and-burger joint like this. It’s more of a bar than a diner and people treat it like one. In dark booths and on stools, people are having liquid lunches instead of solid ones. Yet, decked out in worn jeans and a faded band tee and sporting some beard, he doesn’t look like the twenty-five-year-old high school teacher’s aide I know he is. I’m only about two years older but we’re worlds apart mentally.

I fit. It kind of makes me blink to see him.

He looks like the other men slouched around here.

He looks like me. The only thing different is my skin is dark brown, but color don’t mean a thing in places like this. Too bad the real world isn’t like that, too.

I stare at him hard. “I’m not in the business of finding people anymore,” I say flatly.

“I know.” He sits because I haven’t told him to fuck off yet, and he knows me well enough to know that if I haven’t said beat it in the first five seconds he’s got a chance to talk me into something. Doesn’t mean I’ll do it. It just means he has a chance. Plus, Eric’s a friend.

One who, despite my efforts, means a little more than I really want him to. “Ethan, I don’t have anywhere else to go,” he mumbles, shoving a hand through that bright hair. It’s like a beacon in the half-assed lighting.

He makes a sound of exasperation when I don’t say anything. “Please, Eth,” he says hoarsely. “The last time I saw her, she was fucked to hell on coke and God knows what else. Now she’s gone. Fucking poof. I just…I gotta know she’s okay. Maybe try and talk her into coming home.”

There’s the light of eternal hope in those golden eyes. They’re like a mirror into that bright soul, and reflexively I see myself, the exact opposite. Once upon a time, I’d been a part of an organization called Savior. A well-trained group of empaths and psychics scattered across the country, hunting down lost relatives and missing kids by using the Spark method. All life had glow, a spark that pointed them out as alive. Sometimes, the spark was weak, a sign they were dying or giving up hope of being found. Sometimes, the spark was like a glow that led us right to people. We’d had about a ninety-nine percent success rate. So when that one percent failure happened, it took us all down. That one percent was usually because we simply couldn’t find them. No Spark. Nothing. The mind readers had a theory, but I never wanted to believe it. I pushed it away, hundreds of times. I’d finally walked away when the crushing guilt became too much to bear, when I’d had to deliver one too many ‘I’m sorry’ speeches to devastated families.

Unlike Eric, I’ve lost my hope. My soul is likely as dark as my skin.

Now, Eric, who knows damn well why I don’t do this anymore, is here, asking for help. My hands fist without me wanting them to. What’s worse is that I can feel his emotions. I know he doesn’t want to ask me; the regret is screaming at me. But I can feel his desperation, his frantic worry over his mother. A woman I’ve met exactly once, back in college, and that one encounter imprinted one fact on me in blinding neon colors: she’s an out and out addict. She hides it, yeah, they all do. But with someone as insignificant in her world as me? She didn’t bother hiding it very well.

Come to think of it, she didn’t hide it from Eric very well, either. Not that he doesn’t still try to help her. Says something about their relationship right there. I want to tell him that there’s no point in hunting down an addict, but I can’t form the words. I can’t hurt him like that.

He’s my friend and I have so very few of them. For my sanity, mostly. Empaths don’t do so well with too many people around them. All that emotion equals twenty-four-seven migraine.

Right now, I’m actually shielding pretty tight. I’m only getting impressions of what people are feeling and I can deal with that. Except for Eric. No matter how hard I try, I can’t block him.

“Eric,” I say slowly, determined to imprint the possible fruitlessness of this task. “Eric, even if I find her, your mother…she’s sick, ya know? When people reach that level of sickness, they rarely wanna come back from it.”

“Don’t talk to me like a child,” he snaps out and I straighten, my own temper igniting. He sees it but ignores it. I can feel his anger rise. “I know the fucking chances of her coming back are slim, but…but I just gotta try, okay?”

I grit my teeth and look away. That little part of me that still wants to help, that still wants to save, pokes at me. His pain is agonizing, drowning me. I slam the door on that part of me that can feel it but it’s too late. I’ve never been able to say no to Eric, not when I first met him back in college and not now, when he needs me.

I turn to him slowly, my thoughts settled but angry. “Look, I’m not promising anything, okay? But I’ll try.”

My heart skips a beat when he nods solemnly, his eyes losing their shadow. Fuck me, he thinks I’m gonna find her. That faith is humbling and scary. But seeing it strikes a chord in me.

I want to find her, just to keep that faith.

Fuck me.


Bookmark and Share