People out in the hallway were as noisy as everyone in Missy’s hospital room had been.
LM’s feathers bristled.
A trio of nurses passed him. One of them gave his crooked, bristled out wings a “What the heck is that?” look.
LM quickly turned into Capernaum and the nurse looked away. He curled his hand into a fist.
It is and isn’t my hand.
It’s my hand and Capernaum’s hand. His skin, his scars, his size. But my bones, my nerves, my muscles. My mind controlling this body’s movements.
I am not Capernaum.
He tightened his fist.
Capernaum set him down and opened The Institute’s front door. LM quickly grabbed his hand and held tight.
LM walked down the hall.
Maybe I can find a quiet spot. Somewhere.
LM widened his eyes as he followed Capernaum into the building. So many people. So much enclosed space. So much noise. People staring at him.
And he could see it running down their faces.
Black oiled words.
No, not words.
Just one word gooing out of their eyes and sludging down their cheeks.
One ugly word: Freak.
LM looked at the faces of the people around him. But their thoughts were mostly calm. Or they were fixated on their own personal griefs. He walked past them unnoticed and uncommented on.
His feathers bristled out.
“I can’t. I can’t do this!”
Capernaum squeezed his hand. “I’m here.”
LM rubbed his thumbs over his index fingers. His fingers. Capernaum’s fingers. His hands. Capernaum’s hands.
He looked up at Capernaum and he felt safe.
But it is all an illusion. I am not Capernaum.
His heart ached.
Capernaum is gone. He is no longer here.
No matter what else happened, Capernaum would always be there to protect him.
He will never be here again and it hurts.
It hurts so much.
A man of undeterminable age approached. He had white hair and mirrored sunglasses. His gray suit had a distinctive fuzzy appearance. “Well?” He stopped in front of them. “What have we here? A new acquisition for our elemental program?”
LM wasn’t sure what an elemental program was, but it sounded intimidating. He hugged Capernaum’s arm.
“No. This one is mine, Antioch. No one is to lay a finger on him or poke him with any needles.” Capernaum smiled kindly at LM. “He’s mine.”
Capernaum, my friend. My dear friend.
The pain was too much. He couldn’t breathe and it hurt. He gasped for breath. Every short exhale pushed him closer to tears.
“Come with me and I’ll show you around.”
LM’s back muscles twitched in an attempt to flap his wings. His feathers rustled, but his wings could not flap.
But it was okay.
Capernaum saw him as someone special, not as a freak. He saw him as someone who deserved to be saved.
He rubbed his face against Capernaum’s arm.
My dear friend.
LM turned the corner.
I miss you.