Cursed Valentine's Day: the last Starseed

Patrick Ryan Jr.

Ten years earlier–Austin, Texas

 “If you cry, your mother will fire your tutor, and we’ll be rid of her. She’s too nosy and bullies us all the time under her rigid authority. Call her mean. Then we’ll finally be in the clear.”

“Go ahead, hide your mother’s jewel in the maid’s coat; it will serve her right. She has no right to refuse service.”

“That’s right, trash the flowerbeds. It’ll do that idiot gardener’s feet in. We can kill the earthworms if we want to.”

For as long as I can remember since my accident, I’ve heard this voice in my head urging me to do things I know deep down aren’t right. But I realized that when I obeyed it, things worked out the way I wanted them to, and then I could do whatever I wanted. So I ended up following and applying its advice, which turned out to be very sound. The first year, I could even hear two of them, but little by little, the other voice faded into silence, leaving the field open to the one that now accompanies me daily.

It’s the only company I’ve ever needed, because it’s the only constant in my life. I’ve had a lot of nannies, tutors, and housekeepers. But the truth is, I’m alone, isolated in this vast mansion where my quarters are in one wing and my parents share another. In fact, the only time I see them is at events with other adults. That’s when I get their undivided attention to take photos for the press, because I’m the heir to a powerful political clan.

I don’t know why, but I haven’t felt anything since I almost died. Or, on the contrary, I feel them too strongly. Like anger, which I’ve had to learn to hide from the world in order to fulfill my role within my family. It was the voice that helped me, advising me what to say or do to get what I wanted while flying under the radar. It also explained to me that I wouldn’t be complete without it, because my mind is a mixture of essences of which it has become the dominant one. Even if I don’t understand everything, I believe it because I know deep down that I’m not normal, which would be unacceptable to my parents, who take great pride in the perfect image our family offers society. It’s their “stock-in-trade,” to use their favorite expression, when they talk about us among themselves, forgetting that I’m present at their evening debriefings. They talk about the contacts and maneuvers they’ve undertaken with so-and-so to support my father’s political ambitions. My mother helps him as best she can, because they’re a “team,” and she’ll do anything to further the family’s plans.

As a result, I don’t exist as a person in their eyes. On the other hand, I’m the heir who “must follow in his father’s footsteps when the time comes to take up the torch,” as the family tradition dictates. So I’ve had to learn how to put on a good show at the right time. The voice has guided me well whenever the need has arisen, not only by giving me the strategies I needed to follow to achieve my goals, but also by explaining to me everything I didn’t understand about my parents’ motivations toward me. This has allowed me to be left quietly in my corner, apart from the obligations of fulfilling the “family destiny.” The Ryan clan has accumulated wealth since the gold rush, building it up over time in a real estate conglomerate. Our illustrious family has a governor or senator in every generation, ensuring a lineage worthy of French aristocrats.

Over the years, I’ve developed two real passions. The first has turned out to be astronomy. I’m irresistibly drawn to the stars, especially the Rosette Nebula. Even if I can’t see it in the night sky, the photographs I’ve been able to find fascinate me. In the shots I’ve been able to observe, I see a rose calling out to me. As it’s a quiet hobby, my mother was more than happy to indulge my whims and give me the books and telescopes I needed to observe the stars… and the people around me. The voice was right: it’s amazing what I can discover when people don’t know they’re being watched. It’s much better than any TV program, in fact.

My second passion is anatomy. Similarly, my mother was more than happy to give me all the most advanced books in my early pre-teen years. As long as I didn’t interfere with her social activities and didn’t make waves, I had free rein. What’s more, it reinforced my parents’ belief in the “heir of genius” they’d sired. To read such things before the age of ten is unusual, and they brag to their friends about my great potential. However, I already know that my path is mapped out and that I won’t be able to indulge my passions as fully as I would like. So, I’m enjoying them while I can.

But theory is one thing, and practice is another. I want–no, I need–to understand the mechanics of a living being. And I’m finally going to be able to do just that, because for my eleventh birthday, I’ve got the little laboratory I’ve been coveting for my experiments.

“You see, you’re going to be able to indulge in vivisection. Believe me, it’s the most intense sensation you’ll ever feel!”

I believe the voice that speaks to me and already know where to find my first subject of study. That’s where my telescopes come in handy. Spying around, I can see that some neighbors have had a litter of puppies. It shouldn’t be too difficult to steal one and study it in the secrecy of my soundproof den, to which no one but me has access. The contractors have just finished transforming the space that was reserved for my tutor, who left last month because I’ll be going to boarding school at the end of the summer. The icing on the cake, according to my mother, is that it’s a good way of giving me a sense of responsibility by forcing me to maintain it myself. What I see in it is that I can do whatever I want without anyone finding anything wrong with it.

Now I have to think about how to dispose of the remains of my experiment when I’m done, but I’m not really worried about that. The voice knows how to make soda to dissolve flesh and bone.

“When you have enough expertise, we can move on to another level. But for that, you need to train and practice. A lot. So we don’t get caught. I’m going to teach you everything I know, and you’re going to have to make my knowledge your own by practicing. But believe me, it will be well worth it!”

The voice promises me extraordinary sensations that “only the power of life and death over another living being can provide,” according to it. It’s a pity I can’t enjoy my gift all the time, but it will be all the more fun to return every school holiday. Planning is also part of the fun of the experience, and I have a feeling I’m going to have a lot of fun…

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