The Young Chimera

As suddenly as it began, it was over; there was nothing left but silence.

Eve was motionless. She stood at her corner and gazed at the destruction, her body paralyzed, her eyes vacant. Her heart and lungs were frozen and heavy in her chest, and though she knew what had happened, though she had seen every detail, she remained still and unresponsive. In those few, agonizingly long seconds, she was hollow, a shell of the person she'd been just moments before. All she could do was stand and stare at the distant scrap pile of metal, rubber, and blood.

Movement: a bloody arm dangled from the shattered window of the truck, finally bringing life to the crumpled heap. It frantically searched for the door handle and, with an arduous tug, swung the door open. A man tumbled out of the truck and landed face-first onto the pavement, his body limp and pathetic as he struggled to get up. He forced himself to his feet--his clothes were tattered, his face smeared with blood--and as he stumbled away from the wreckage, his eyes darted around desperately until finally locking on to Eve.

"Don't you tell anyone, little girl," he slurred, staggering toward her. "Don't you tell a goddamn soul, y'hear me?"

It hit her then like a ton of bricks; her senses were abruptly brought to life, working at once with adrenalized, feverish intensity. Her heart pounded as if it could escape from her chest, and an uncontrollable pulsing surged in her brain. It was a pain she had never known, a torturous throbbing that spread through her skull until her entire field of vision was consumed with darkness. Her limbs shook as tears poured down her face, and with what felt like every ounce of energy she had within her, she let out a gut-wrenching scream.

Eve sprinted toward her parents' car, her cry echoing down the street. Her hair was plastered to her wet face as she howled for her parents, desperate to see their faces, but all she could see were scraps of metal and a stream of smoke oozing from the mutilated car hood. She hadn't noticed the truck's sudden resurrection or the death of its driver. She hadn't seen her neighbors pouring from their houses, nor did she hear their shrieks: "It was her!" they cried. "She killed him!" She didn't feel her aunt snatch her up and grip her tightly. All she felt was the heaving of her lungs, the rawness of her throat, and the strange, defiant pulse in her brain.

"Did you see what she did?"

"She's one of them!"

"She's so young..."

Their words reverberated in the background, fading away until all she could hear was the sound of her own piercing, terrorized scream.

Eve's eyes shot open, and she gasped for air. She propped herself up atop her mattress, cradling her aching forehead in her hands as her breathing slowly normalized. It was a nightmare--an all-too-familiar nightmare. The same nightmare she had been having every night for the past eleven years. She turned to her side and checked her clock: 7:53 a.m. With an obscenity-riddled grumble, she dragged her body out of bed and began her morning routine.

Eve stumbled across the studio apartment and parked herself in front of the bathroom mirror. She wasn't a little girl anymore: she was nineteen years old, nearly a grown woman. Her corkscrew curls had softened into long waves of coffee-colored hair that cascaded down her freckled, olive shoulders. The spitting image of her late mother, she had large brown eyes, full lips, and an angular face, with sharp cheekbones and a pointed nose. She was slender, gangly, and awkward, with legs that extended endlessly, her height clearly inherited from her late father. As she hurriedly brushed her teeth, she stopped for a moment and stared at her reflection--at the subtle hints of her parents looking back at her--and then quickly spat in the sink.

The abrupt ringing of her phone interrupted the silence. Eve checked the clock--8:02 a.m.--and rolled her eyes, ignoring the noise, letting the call go to voicemail. Without the slightest hint of urgency, she rummaged through her measly closet and pulled out a grey hooded sweater, a pair of cutoff shorts, and her favorite black combat boots, then shimmied the clothes onto her body and combed her hair into place with her fingers before heading for the door. She grabbed her skateboard, yanked at the doorknob and stopped; her phone still sat on her nightstand, its message light blinking brightly as if to torment her, and she sighed with irritation as she shoved the device into her pocket and slammed the door behind her.

San Francisco was sunnier than usual. Normally, Eve wouldn't even fathom wearing shorts in the middle of June, but the sky was a little bit more blue than grey, and streams of sunlight perforated the clouds. She dropped her skateboard to the ground and pushed off, gracefully gliding down the street and swerving around the pedestrians meandering across her path. The wind tossed her hair across her shoulders and the sunshine warmed her hands and cheeks, but even in that moment of peace she couldn't help but notice them: the disparaging faces of those who watched her speed by, their mouths twisted into grimaces, their eyes beady and scornful. She pulled her hood over her head as she skated down the road, though she knew it wouldn't do her much good. They still watched her. They always did.

Eve reached Haight Street, skating by a group of lost tourists who gazed disappointedly at their less-than-impressive surroundings. She passed the rows of alternative boutiques and hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and still the scathing stares followed her. It was of no consequence to her--that was a lie of course, but one she told herself so frequently that she nearly believed it--and besides, she would only be there for a short while.

She found her spot: Bob's Pawn Shop, right in between the Chiquita Taquera and the Shang Wu Holistic Pharmacy. Bob himself sat outside smoking a pipe with his old German shepherd, but aside from that the entire block looked startlingly unfamiliar. A line of police cars circled the corner, their lights flashing as the officers cluttered the sidewalk. The pharmacy was a mess: the windows were bashed in, and caution tape covered the entire storefront. The owners, an elderly man and woman, were crying as they gave the police their statements, their voices frantic and distraught. Suddenly, they stopped and stared at Eve, and soon the officers followed suit, their faces wearing the same look of disdain that had haunted her since she'd left her apartment. Without a moment's hesitation, she tucked her skateboard under her arm and made her way into the pawn shop.

The shop was dingy, poorly lit, and layered with so much dust that she could feel it in her lungs. A few patrons were scattered across the room; they talked to one another, giggling at the obscure artifacts, until they heard the door close behind Eve and saw her walk into the room. Their faces dropped--there it was again, that horrible, ugly scowl--and the room became eerily quiet aside from the slight hum of the vintage radio. One of the patrons, a regular whom Eve had seen before, pointed her nose in the air and, with her little finger raised, turned up the volume of the radio.

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a sci-fi novel by Jenna Moreci