(this is still pretty draft-y (as are the other chapters); so let me know what needs to go.)
Aaron poured every drop of The Memory Erase liquid over Oliver until a thin layer of smoke enveloped him. He pocketed the glass bottle then checked his watch. Fifteen minutes until the boy would be barely a shell. As he watched Oliver’s body turn an eery shade of white, he prepared for his next move: abandoning Oliver in the Unmarked world, alone, confused and deplete of all past memory. The only person to know he was missing was close to, if not already, dead. Which was unfortunate. Her convulsing body flashed through his mind. He shook it off. He hadn’t meant to kill her. She had gotten in the way. This was business.
And so was keeping Oliver alive.
Aaron knew the cost of back stabbing Declant. His throat felt tight just thinking about it, as if invisible fingers were wrapping slowly around it.
But he had run through every reason to kill the boy and concluded something– Declant was being selfish. Like always, he jumped to conclusions and acted irrationally, which irritated Aaron to no end. Leaders should be methodical. Rational. Not paranoid. In fact, Declant’s very characteristics had been used to describe a murderous other.
A chill crept over Aaron, but tightening his jacket did nothing to warm him. Otto Nakahara, who used his Destruction Mark to break and torture the Marked community, was irrational. Paranoid.And obsessed with the evil his mark possessed.
This boy though, thought Aaron, watching the perspiration collect on Oliver’s face under the dim glow of the porch light. Maybe not this boy.If he learned his mark’s full potential–could do great things. Better things than Declant could ever accomplish.
The thin layer of smoke was moving; with every breath Oliver took, the Memory Erase seeped through his nose, mouth, pours, slowly removing pieces of his memory. Then, oozed out his ears like crawling bodies of fog, fleeing his mind; fleeing his being. When he’d open his eyes again, he’d be as dead to this world as Declant needed him to be.
Aaron flipped his collar up to shield his neck and buttoned his jacket. His breath appeared like white apparitions, floating through the thickening mist, which smelled like Unmarked subway tunnels he had wandered as a boy. Suddenly, a rush of childhood memories flooded his mind, causing his stomach to churn; nausea crept up on him, and it wasn’t until he noticed the smokey wraiths around Oliver disappearing that he was able to pull himself out. It was time to leave. He snapped a picture, swung Oliver over his shoulder and took off down the long, empty road heading to town.
The dark stretches between houses played to Aaron’s advantage, shielding the noise of his shoes scuffling against the pavement and allowing him to pick up his speed. Oliver bounced against him, his chin digging into Aaron’s shoulder. Either adrenaline or the fact that he had depleted Oliver of all his memories lead him to believe Oliver felt lighter. However, half-hour later and Aaron’s breathing became strained; his shoulder ached from the boy’s deadweight; and just as he was about to curse his own plan, Aaron caught sight of glowing street lamps ahead. He increased his speed, ignoring the burning flaring up in his side, and readied his mark in case he encountered any opposition. Declant wouldn’t show his face here this late, but he had servants everywhere.
However, well after midnight, the town felt abandoned. The dimly lit streetlights cast a hazy glow across the storefronts and only the crackling hum of the lights could be heard. Aaron stopped at the closest storefront, a small brick building with a red awning that jutted out and read Press Pot Coffee. He hoisted Oliver higher on his shoulder, then placed his mark flush against the cold brick, holding it there for several seconds. Waited for the tiny prick he’d feel on his palm–a bit of his blood, gone–and prepared for the jump into the Unmarked world.
It was over in seconds.
As if an invisible egg were cracked over him, a cold chill spilled from his head down through his neck, shoulders, arms all the way to his feet. His body stiffened, every limb now paralyzed, his hand frozen to the wall; then, just as panic began to well up inside of him, fearful his lungs would freeze before allowing him his last breath, the jump, the transition into the Unmarked world, was complete and he was now standing in Queen Anne, Seattle–the Unmarked city equivalency of his own community.
His body thawed. He breathed deeply, filling his lungs with air, and lowered his hand. He was standing on a similar street, outside a similar building, though instead of a french press dangling in the window, a large family portrait hung prominently behind the glass. Suddenly, he remembered he hated coming here. His parents were here. His parents, who he abandoned at a young age, had abandoned the Marked world years ago. Aaron felt his heartbeat race at the thought of it but quickly shut the feeling from his body. They were dead to him.
He shifted Oliver to his other shoulder and took in his surroundings. While the two world’s never coexisted, the Marked world resembled the Unmarked city of Queen Ann as closely as Oliver’s mark resembled Otto’s. This was what Aaron was banking on. Oliver’s memory would allow him to remember barely his name; he’ll be stumbling around here without any drive to return. And since Declant would rather admit he was paranoid than enter the Unmarked world, Aaron’s plan was bulletproof.
Except for the pinch of blood announcing his illegal journey. He’d have to destroy any signs of his being here later. For now the question was where to dump the boy. Not that it mattered. Just drop him in an alley, thought Aaron, almost exhausted with his own petty questions. But something seemed to abate his frustration and quietly, he ventured closer to town.
By now, Aaron’s entire body ached like it’d been hit with the flue; Oliver weighed heavily upon his shoulder, which he was convinced resembled a purplish bruise. The inky sky, however, gave Aaron the perfect disguise to stumble unnoticeably down the street to a shop where a light upstairs glimmered in the window. Something about the soft glow above forced Aaron to stop.
Maybe he could leave Oliver here. Maybe someone would find him.
Jaw locked, Aaron dumped Oliver hard on the ground of the tiny shop. For a split second his clammy and corpse-like face sent a shock of fear through Aaron, wondering if the boy still had breath in him.
His chest rose every so slightly.
Good enough. Without looking back, Aaron disappeared into the night.
The boy had no chance. He had nothing. He’d remember nothing. And no one. Aaron returned to the shop where he had entered the Unmarked city; just as the paralyzing sensation of the jump overcame his body, the boy flashed through his mind. And Aaron wondered how soon it would be before Oliver Pastorius died.