Tenderness Echoes Ch. 1.5byjthserra©
Tenderness Echoes Part 1-1/2 He Needed Space
Destin looked down at his bare feet. He wiggled his toes trying to ward off the needles he felt shooting through them. He had been busy that morning reclaiming his space from the forest. He noticed a squirrel approach the far corner of his square. It paused at the boundary between the living forest and the dead patch of ground Destin called his own.
"You step in my space and I'll do you too," he shouted at the squirrel. The squirrel wandered off, avoiding the square of dead foliage in the middle of the forest.
Since his mother died, Destin needed space, more space than he got in the foster homes and orphanages. He bounced from home to home as he frightened his foster parents with his "gift." Usually it was only a plant he killed, but occasionally, if he landed with a particularly patient family, he would do a pet or two.
Although it hurt when he did it, it was really quite simple. Once he touched anything living, it would just fade away. There was no pain, no struggle, whatever he touched softly died.
Finally, when he was twelve, he broke away from the system. No more foster homes, no more people to stare at him in horror, no more family "closeness." His mother was gone, she was the only person he ever wanted to be close to. But he never could, he never could get close to her, until that final day. He remembered that day so vividly:
Even in sleep, her face wracked with pain, the same pain he saw each time she moved. He wanted to touch her, to hold her, but was afraid. He knew that with even the slightest touch she would go, never to return. He feared living without her.
At nine, he knew of his darkness. His mother tried to explain his "gift" to him. He reached a finger to one of the plants in his mother's hospital room. The green leaf shined in the dim fluorescent light. At his touch, it suddenly yellowed. Destin felt the needles of pain spread through his finger as the plant drooped to a limp brown.
He looked back at his mother, the one person he loved most in this world, the one person who didn't shy from him, who didn't stare at him, who didn't fear him. The one person he knew he could never hold, or kiss, or even touch.
She moaned in pain. Her eyes opened. In those eyes he saw her pleading and knew what he must do. He gently climbed into the bed beside her. Watching her shallow, labored breaths, he did something he never remembered doing before: he wrapped his arms around her and held her close.
As the needles rolled though his body, he felt her relax. In the tenderness of his embrace her breathing calmed. He whispered, "I love you." Her head eased onto his arm. He kissed her forehead and silently said, "Goodbye."
Since that day he needed space, no matter the cost. After running away, he found an abandoned shack in the forest and moved in. He would sneak into town to steal a few items here and there. By now most people knew of him, so they tried their best to avoid him.
The forest had started to reclaim the shack, so Destin cleared back the vegetation. He would simply remove his shoes and walk about touching the branches with his hands, and dragging his feet through the undergrowth. The forest was pervasive, so he had to do this every few weeks. He maintained a comfortable distance between the forest and his shack.
Destin survived, but as time passed he realized he could not continue living this way. His mother taught him that stealing was wrong. He had learned to capture and painlessly kill some of the small animals around his shack, he knew he needed more than that to keep going.
The shot echoed through the forest, a loud crack, like a pine tree splitting in the winter cold. Destin crouched low in his yard afraid of a stray bullet. But he heard no more shooting. He figured the hunter missed the deer and decided to go home. In a few moments he went back to clearing his yard when he heard a stumbling. He looked up to see a young doe roll into his square.
The doe tried to get up and run, but it couldn't. The hunter had not missed, the shot shattered both front legs. The doe struggled to get away for a moment. Then looking into Destin's eyes, it got very calm. It lay on its side motionless, quietly moaning. Destin gently reached out and touched the doe's flank. Its breathing immediately calmed, then slowed to nothing. Destin watched its eyes slowly cloud.
Needing the food, he cleaned the deer, hoping that his use of the deer made its death a bit less senseless. He remembered the shock of seeing the deer trying to escape with the shattered legs. A tear tumbled down his cheek when he thought of the pain. Remembering the deer, remembering his mother, Destin realized what he must do.
The next morning he walked into town. He avoided the crowded streets, but still drew some stares. He tried to tell himself that it was just his dark clothes and hair, but he knew why they stared. Towards the far end of town he saw the sign: Dr. Jacob Ives, DVM. He knew most of the animals the doctor treated would recover, but he knew others would not. As he knocked on the door he knew he could help.