Joey Devon and the Dark Thorn
Joey Devon, eleven years old, sat in the grey room with a palm tree in the corner and an Ael’Suthra sitting on a chair on the row to the left of him. The Ael’Suthra was a grey, elf like creature, with large cat’s eyes and ears, and two long slits in a shortly furred nub as a nose. Behind the Ael were the blinds and the streets below. They were on the first floor of the three storey building, the children’s psychiatric initiative, run by humans but maintained by the Ael. The Ael’Suthra shifted the paper in his hands, shaking it to arrange the pages, and then he turned the page. Joey knew what he was reading. He was reading about the resistance attack on the Ael’Suthra Dynasty building in New Hampshire. He could feel it somehow. He’d seen the paper this morning, glanced at the page fourteen write up about the attack, and he just knew that the Ael was reading it. He could feel the Ael’Suthra’s emotionless disposition, reading the story like it was just a walk in the park or about some other daily occurrence without the need for any alarm. They were weird, the Ael, and they were in charge. When his mother had received the news that there was something wrong with her son she had known that the Ael’Suthra had something to do with it. It was a giant hush up, but everyone knew that the Ael’Suthra were trying to suppress something in the human experience. They would take the strange ones away from their homes and run tests on them. Adopt them into their military force if they were compatible. That was the way it had been for hundreds of years. It was one giant big mess up that the Ael’Suthra were even here.
“Stop looking at it,” whispered his mother harshly into his ear, and Joey realized that he’d been staring. He snapped his head into a downward stare at his hands, but flicked his eyes quickly over to the Ael’Suthra again, who was now watching him with those cold, intense eyes, white hair moving strangely as if caught in a slight underwater current.
There was a feeling that the Ael would produce in you when they looked at you. It was like they were too close, like they were inside your soul with the intention of hurting you with you unable to do anything about it. You were filled up with fright until you looked away. Joey, as a younger child, would sometimes seek this glare, and he would look back fearlessly, trying with all his might to overcome the feeling of dread and cold that would well up and grip at his heart. He had always hated the Ael’Suthra; it had been so ever since he’d had a run in with one of them as a five year old. He remembered the day with a vengeance.
He’d been in the shopping centre, shopping with his mother. It was rare to see the Ael’Suthra in the human shopping centres, but sometimes they would come, to buy food for their human pets that they sometimes kept, the nicer ones that is, who would allow their pets to cook their own meals instead of eat the spam that they were usually given. The Ael’Suthra was in the frozen food isle, and Joey had run up to it to give it a hug. It had slapped him back with amazing force and he had slid into one of the freezers, cracking his skull on the panelling. He had never forgotten that day, not then and not since. It had fuelled his hatred for them.
A few minutes of twiddling his thumbs passed and he was called into the office of Dr. Handler, child’s psychiatrist, and Joey knew his name not by any supernatural means but by the plaque on his door. “Don’t tell him anything, don’t tell him anything at all,” his mother whispered to him harshly as they got up and entered the room. She sent a worried look at the Ael’Suthra in the chair that had its head up from his paper and was looking at them.
The man Dr. Handler was a nervous type of man. He had a brown side over, and wore glasses on the tip of his nose. He welcomed them into the room with a wide arm gesture, and then peaked around the corner to nod at the Ael before closing the door.
“Right, let’s get started. I’m Dr. Handler, and you must be Joey Devon.”
“Yes, that’s right,” said Joey with a choked out feeling in his throat. The nerves were getting to him.
“I’ve heard some disheartening reports about you, Joey. Doing which craft in school? That’s grave, very grave indeed.
His mother sniffed and looked aside. It was clear that she wasn’t enjoying this. The psychiatrists of the institute were renownly severe if they heard anything at all that was awry, and even worse with the prescribed punishments. They were Ael’Suthra lap dogs and everyone knew it.
“I wasn’t doing witch craft,” said Joey stubbornly. “I can make things move with my mind.”
“Rubbish,” Dr. Handler returned with a snarl. “It’s witch craft, you reek of it. Everyone knows that we humans are against such sacrilege. You will be lucky if I don’t lock you up in the ward by the end of our session here, you little cretin.”
At this Joey’s mother was suddenly paying attention. “No, please, Dr. Handler. He’ll be good. He’ll take the medication, anything. Just don’t lock him up.”
“Silence, woman,” Handler said with a bitter acumen. His lips trembled and he pushed his spectacles further up his nose and sat down with a bump onto his roller chair.
“Joey, I would like you to recount the incidences leading up to your devilry. Please.” He gestured with his hand for Joey to start.
“Ok, ok, Dr. Handler. First I noticed I could do it was when I was playing out by the rope swing, near the year four classroom. I wasn’t strictly to be there, but it was after school so really the rules didn’t apply, it was just a play ground like any other. I could hardly reach the rope, and then, when I stretched out, it came to me, just like that.”
“Is that it? No incantations? No demon summoning?”
Dr. Handler wrote down in his note pad. “Interesting, yes…” He finished with a dot. “And the next time?”
His mother tugged at his arm, but it was too late, Joey was caught up in an immature battle of wills.
“I was playing around with my pen and it moved.”
“Ridiculous! You asked your demon to make it happen, didn’t you? Things like that just don’t happen on their own, something evil has to make them happen, every good person knows that.”
“No, I’ve never met a demon.”
“You little liar,” he said angrily, thumping his hand on his desk. He then retreated embarrassedly and shifted his spectacles up his nose.
“What’s up your arse anyway, what’s your problem? What’s really going on here?” shouted Joey bitterly.
“You little demon worshiper, how dare you speak to me like that,” he said, face going red and blotchy, lips trembling and spitting flecks of spittle.
Joey was getting scared, and one most unfortunate habit of Joeys was to lash out when he got scared. “What’s wrong with you? you’re delusional,” he said to the man.
The doctor got out of his chair, grabbed Joey by the neck and frog marched him over to the full length mirror that was stuck to the wall. Joey saw himself. He saw his strong young body, his black shoulder length hair, his pale complexion.
“This,” he shook Joey, “—is an abomination. This,” he shook Joey once again, “is going straight to the ward.”
“Joey,” cried his mother, standing up to run over and hug him. He was going to the ward. Children never got out of the ward, and even if they did they were never—ever—allowed off their medication, nor were they ever the same as they were before. There was a name for kids who got out of the ward: Shells, because that’s all that remained of them when they got out. They were husks of their former selves. Joey’s mother broke down into tears and Joey comforted her. Dr. Handler straightened his tie and leaned over to his desk phone. He pressed the button.
“Yes, security please, to escort the mother from the building and to prep the son for transportation.” There was a muffled reply, caught in the buzz of the electronics and not fully understood by Joey or his mother. “Yes,” the Doctor replied succinctly, looking down at the pair with a hateful glare. “I do think that Ael’Suthra supervision is necessary.”
Ch 1, The children’s ward.
Joey’s mother left him fighting against the security guards. She whipped her bag at them and screamed until they grabbed her hair, hit her some, and pulled her screaming along the ground. Joey watched her, himself in the grips of a security guard who was fitting him with a straight jacket whilst another forced an injection into his arm. He cried out in pain as the needle stung, and struggled against them, crying out to his mother for help. His mother cried her last words at him as she was pulled out of the door.
“Never let them get to you, Joey. Never back down. Try to find the Dark Thorn, Joey. Try to find them. Please!” And then she was gone.
Joey felt tired now and looked up to his captors. The Dark Thorn? Then he looked across to Dr. Handler. Then he felt it, the cold, fearful feeling. He turned to see an Ael’Suthra glaring down at him, with that evil soulless glare. The feeling intensified tenfold. It had never been this powerful before. He glared right back, gritting his teeth and snarling at the Ael’Suthra. Then he blacked out.
He woke in the back of a truck. There was a guard there, sipping on a thermos cup and talking to the driver through a small, grated window.
“And then do you know what he says? That I was just like one of them and deserved to be thrown to the dogs.” He cracked up laughing. “Stupid citizens, no idea about anything.”
“Boy do I love smacking them around,” chuckled the driver through the grate.
Joey kept silent. He didn’t want them to notice that he was awake. He felt groggy and sick, as if he might spew up his lunch at any moment. He looked out of the window to the back. It was opaque, but Joey could tell that it was night. He must have been out for hours. He flicked his eyes across to the guard who was sitting on the bench whilst he himself was laid out on the floor. The guard had a dagger. He closed his eyes, concentrated. He felt the Dagger in his mind, was the dagger. He pulled the dagger upwards, it was stuck. There was a clip holding the dagger safe. He frowned darkly, gathering power, hair flowing like in a wind. He unclipped the clip, pulled the dagger up, and then he stabbed it deep into the guards leg. The guard yelped out in pain.
“What was that?” cried out the driver in surprise from behind the grate.
The guard in the back was crying out in pain. “It was my dagger, my daggers in me.” The guard snapped his head around to Joey, who opened his eyes wide with fear and started wriggling like a worm, trying to box himself up under the bench to protect himself. The guard crawled over, holding to his leg that was seeping blood, and took out his baton. “Little *beep*. You’re going to get it now.” He lifted his baton, and Joey, without the ability to protect himself with his arms, suffered the full force of the blow, the little magic he put into deflecting it useless against the full force of a grown man. He blanked out.
Time passed and was in and out of focus. Men grabbed him. He was bobbing. His mother was there. It’s ok, son, don’t show them your powers, the Dark Thorn are coming for you. There was a face smiling beside her, a face that he’d never seen before. They were gone in a swirl of black, then, he was in the night again, being carried by men in white coats. They took him inside a building.
“He’s awake, get him with another needle.”
“He might die, we’ve already given him one today.”
“Who cares, it’s not like we need him for anything, one this defiant, he won’t be a candidate.”
“None ever are, you know. They all get sent to the experimental station, besides the weaker ones that they let go.”
There was a sharp prick at his skin, and for the third time in one day, he was out.
When he woke he wasn’t in his straight jacket, and he was now in a small, colourless room. His head ached. For a few minutes he laid there, head throbbing painfully. A woman came in with a trolley. She took a duster to the bed besides his, and then to the window and bed side table, then she startled as she saw Joey looking at her.
“Awake,” she gasped. She then straightened herself up. “By the look of that bump on your head we thought you were a goner, boy.” She came over and rubbed the wound with her hand to test it. Joey cried out in protest. “By god, it’s almost healed—a strong one, then. The Ael’ Suthra aren’t going to like you much, boy. They never go easy on the strong ones. Better to hide your talent, boy, and be kind to them, clear your head of all nasty thoughts of them, then they may even take to you. Like the other nicer, vacant ones. The ones they can train.” She left a meal, took the other one from the table in the middle of the room, and then left with the trolley and closed the door.
Joey got up and wobbled over to the door, vision going in and out of focus, and hand to his head. He scraped at the door. No handle. He went back to the table in the middle of the room and sat down. There was a sausage, some mash and some snow peas on the plate, besides the plate were a knife and fork. He got stuck into it, carefully, not chewing too hard as the wound on his head would throb if he did. He surmised that it was lunch, as the day shone through the windows and birds outside chirped. Too substantial to be breakfast, too early for dinner. That was what he surmised anyway. About half way through his meal the door opened and an Ael’Suthra and two human orderlies filed through.
“Grab him,” the Ael’Suthra ordered.
The orderlies ran up to Joey and grabbed him firmly as if he were a rat who’d taken to the baby’s bedroom.
“Right, let me get a look at him”
They took him from his seat and up to the Ael’Suthra, to stand not a foot away from him. The Ael’Suthra was taller than the humans; they almost always were taller than the humans.
The Ael’Suthra straightened himself up and folded his arms behind his back, his tail swishing up to rest in one hand formally. “My name is Rostecrutio, and I am the head of this establishment.” His large Ael’Suthra eyes wondered menacingly from eye to eye, and Joey stared right back at them.
“Do you know why you humans find it hard to look into our eyes, human?” the Ael’Suthra said in perfect English, leaning forward to bring Joey into better perspective as he appraised him.
“No,” said Joey, struggling against his captors.
“It’s because of the vast intellect you see in our eyes. You humans fear it. You fear reprieval from all the little sins that you, in your mortal stupidity, have committed in every second, every minute, every day of your miserable lives.” He lent in closer, establishing the eye contact more and more severely until he was nose to nose with his captive. “So tell me, boy, do you fear me?”
Joey, in that moment, thought of his mothers promise, and thought of the cleaning woman’s warning. He grit his teeth. “Yes,” he said, bowing his head and releasing himself from the full force of the Ael’ Suthra’s gaze. “I fear you.”
“Good,” Rostecrutio said, leaning back and smiling at the men who averted their eyes from him. “Follow me. Take him with.”
They left the room, one man holding Joey by the arm, the other walking beside them.
“I’ll forgive you for that little incident in the van, you know,” Rostecrutio said with a smile and a swing of his tail, with its white tuft of fur and silky length. His tail was covered in little silky grey hairs like most of his body and was about a meter long. “We don’t look lightly on defiance here at the ward, but we do look for indifference when it come to the treatment of other humans. That is a quality we do prize, and you seem to have it in spades. He’ll be alright though, you know.” Rostecrutio said with a look back to Joey, who was being dragged along in the firm grips of the orderly. Joey winced under the cold stare. “We have ways to repair what you have broken. Ways which you too may learn in time.”
Suddenly, there was a cool, calm, giddy feeling in his head as he walked, congealing around his temples; a warm feeling. Joey thought it was coming from the Ael’Suthra. Obey their every order. Make no friends. Suck up to them like the snootiest of lapdogs. And don’t try to reply, you’ll give us away. We’re coming for you. It was only a whisper, but still, Rostecrutio looked around, bothered, and sniffed the air.
“Can you smell burnt ham, Simon?” he asked.
“No? Perhaps not then,” he said with a swish of his tail and dismissed it.
Joey’s eyes widened. Could the Ael’Suthra read his mind? It took his steeliest nerve to keep from seeking out towards whoever had just contacted him. Whatever the reason was, it kept his hopes up and he made a mental promise to adhere to exactly what the internal voice had told him, and to a key. “Yes, sir,” he said suddenly, almost as if it were of no volition of his own.
“Hm?” Rostecrutio looked around. “Yes sir what?”
“You... said you may have something to teach me.”
Rostecrutio smiled. “This one may even out do Talian in his time,” he said to the orderlies jovially.
Joey made a mental note of the name. Talian. That may be a friend, or maybe an obstacle to finally making it out and finding the Dark Thorn, whoever or whatever they were.
They were led through the hall of bedrooms, numbers on each door in shiny metal, and out into a room with a giant hexagonal shaped bunker with glass windows and a bunch of Ael’Suthra and orderlies sitting around in it. They looked up to see Joey pass, and Joey kept his head down. The ward, he learned, was situated mostly around this glass enclave, with a mess hall and lounge room with a TV and a bookshelf and some games like monopoly and chess on a table set out around it. There was a courtyard on the other side of the mess hall, and the courtyard had a pretty garden and high walls with barbed wire spun in sharp circles around it. There were two orderlies smoking outside in the courtyard. No children were out there at the moment.
“We’re taking you to the lunch time meeting,” said Rostecrutio. “We always have it after lunch.” He chuckled at himself as if he’d made a joke. “You’ll find that there are a lot of other bad kids here, Joey. Be careful not to start a rebellion against us, won’t you? You’ll get the shock bed for that I’m afraid.” They approached a door.
“Ah, here we are then. You can go, Fellows, I can take him from here.” Rostecrutio put an arm on Joey’s shoulder and opened the door. There were a bunch of Ael’Suthra standing around the room in purple and red zip-ups, the women in purple, the men in red, and human children sat in white clothes on the floor.
“And that is why humans need guidance. Ah, a new recruit have we, Rostecrutio?” The Ael’Suthra at the front looked over to Rostecrutio and then down to Joey who stood beside him in the door frame. Joey felt the burn. Rostecrutio hugged him around the shoulders.
“Yes, a tough little blighter this one, Merver, stabbed the guard in the van over. Only in the leg, mind you. Still, quite a rebel for the cause, don’t you think?” Rostecrutio jostled him by the shoulders. “Isn’t that so, Joey?”
Joey was looking up at him, at the ear to avert the feeling of his large cat like eyes, with their bright yellow iris and large slit of a pupil; like a snakes. Rostecrutio was looking at him expectantly. Joey suddenly realised, it was a prompt.
“Yes, sir. A rebel for your cause, sir.”
“Good,” said Merver, the group leader, then, “Sit down, Joey. You should find room for yourself.” Then she spoke to Rostecrutio their alien tongue. They looked more cold and calculated as they spoke to each other, more harshly at least than when they had spoken to Joey, as if they handled their captives with kid gloves. Rostecrutio had certainly acted more civilly than any other alien had in direct contact with him before. Maybe it was a tactic of theirs. Maybe the teeth came out later. He made a mental note of it. At the end of their discussion, Rostecrutio left, and Joey was sitting on a spot on the floor.
The Ael’Suthra were a strange bunch. Some leaned on the wall all cavalier; some glanced amused around to the others, whispering to each other with glee; others watched the children meekly, like cats. The ones in purple, the women, were taller; the ones in red, the men, shorter. There wasn’t much difference between them though, only about an inch, and there wasn’t much deviation in the heights of one alien to another, they were all roughly about the same in stature. The aliens each were about seven foot all up, much taller than humans.
“Let’s welcome out newest member, Joey Devon,” said Merver. Some of the pupils clapped.
“Bloody bastards,” said a boy to Joey’s left, winking as he clapped. “I’m Ralph, pleased to meet you,” he whispered, sticking out a hand.
Joey looked at him sorrowfully, then stuck up his hand.
“Yes, what is wrong?” said the Ael’Suthra up the front.
“That boy just called your kind bastards.” Ralph’s jaw dropped in absolute horror, eyes wide and head shaking.
“Very well,” said the Ael’Suthra, raising a hand whilst her hair began to waver slowly, as if in a breeze. She jutted her hand out and Ralph began crying out in pain as if he was being electrocuted. When it ended after a few moments, Ralph was lying there on the ground with drool coming out of his mouth. The other students mouthed their horror to each other. Joey felt sick, and Joey felt afraid.
“Right then, let’s continue,” said Merver. She pulled a string to a white sheet of material used as a projector screen, and behind it, as it reeled up, was a felt board with a grid on it covered in names and medallions. “Let’s see, yesterdays rewards... yes, hm...” She folded over a sheet on her clip board. “Right, Kevin gets a crescent moon for cruelty to another student.” She stuck the felt shape onto the board and patted it down. She looked back to the clip board. “Lacey gets a cat for compliance, well done, dear.” She stuck that on the board also. “Travis gets a star for refraining to use his powers whilst in the electric bed. Well done, Travis. That must have been a tremendously hard feat, I’m sure. And Stacy gets one for compliance too. Right that’s it for the positives. Now for the negatives. Trevor gets a lightning bolt for reading an Ael’ Suthra’s mind, tut-tut, Trevor.” When Trevor cried out in protest that he couldn’t control his mind reading, Merver turned and jutted out her hand and Trevor began convulsing on the floor. “No chit chat, students. Harry gets a lightning bolt for planning to escape.” Harry sat very silently until he began to cry, “and Henry gets an empty plate for talking back to his seniors, no dinner for you tonight, Henry. Just be glad that it wasn’t worse, dear.” Henry slouched onto the floor and looked over to Ralph who was sitting very quietly, rocking back and forth on the floor.
Joey looked at the felt graph with names and medallions stuck to its surface, watched as an alien stuck his name in an empty spot on the board, Glanced at the long list of medallions alongside the names. He quickly learnt who the bad students were and who the good ones were. Kevin looked around at him and smiled mischievously. Joey nodded back at him and kept his head down, remembering the warning not to make any friends here, none at all.
“You will soon learn that we are very kind here at the ward, Joey,” said Merver, “But we are very strict about dissension. Be careful to heed our warning.’ She turned to glance at the felt medallion board, “—as dinners missed are unpleasant, and the shock bed? Well, that’s even worse.”
Out in the corridor after the meeting, Joey was pushed to the floor and struck his knees on the hard plastic surface. He flipped onto his back to see who his assailants were. It was Ralph and another boy. The Ael’Suthra filed through the door, and Ralph smiled down at Joey, not even glancing at them. They looked at Joey on the ground, smiled, and went by.
“They condone violence here, Devon. Don’t think that your Ael buddies are going to protect you now.” Ralph kicked him in the thigh.
“So why did you do it?” asked the other boy, tears nearly coming into his eyes. He kicked Joey. “Why are you with them?”
“Speak like that and you’ll be sent to the experimental ward,” warned Joey viciously. The boy looked worriedly at Ralph.
“Don’t worry, Sam. We’re getting out of here.”
Joey grit his teeth. “You’ll never make it out of here. Not without the help of the Dark Thorn.”
Ralphs eyes widened. “What did you say?”
Joey grinned menacingly. “Well, let’s just say that if the Dark Thorn ever did come around you’d probably want to still have your wits about you. The shock beds destroy people. You’d want to stay out of trouble.”
Ralph laughed. “Even if they did come they wouldn’t take you.”
Suddenly, Kevin came out of the door, saw what was happening, and slammed Ralph into the wall. Kevin was bigger than Ralph, and older. Ralph looked scared. Sam backed away from them.
“Watch it, Spew.” Kevin let him go and walked over to Joey to help him up. “Don’t let them get to you, Buddy. We know what side we’re on.” Kevin then walked off, leaving Joey standing there with Ralph and Sam.
Ralph shrugged his shirt back into place. “A mean one, that one.” He looked at Joey. “You’ve chosen the wrong side, Loser.” Then he walked off. Joey pushed himself up off the ground.
The next few days passed slowly. Joey ate, participated in the meetings and group activities. There was contact Frisbee outside on the grass, cooking, history and counselling, which everybody called brain washing group on the sly. Most of all he watched them. Everyone. He watched the Ael’Suthra, watched the children, watched the workers behind the glass windows. He slowly figured out that not all Ael’Suthra had magic, just some of them, the ones in charge. He soon too figured out that some students were more powerful than others. He learnt that in the powers group—a group held every night at seven, a group that all the children looked forward to despite themselves.
And that's that. Feel free to critique and praise =^.^=