I am repulsed by the sound of her name in his mouth.
“Deborah wasn’t sure Mara was the one. In Providence, Deborah thought it might be the older brother, actually. But after some birthday party, her foster daughter convinced her it was Mara. The asylum was chosen as a staging area, in the hope that the fear of spending the night there would trigger the beginning of Mara’s manifestation. And it did.”
It sinks in slowly, what he is saying. He is talking about Claire, Jude’s sister. He is talking about the asylum, the place where Jude nearly raped her. He is telling me how it was staged, planned, and my bemusement morphs into loathing. I don’t know how I’m still standing.
“Mara ended up teaching me as much about you as you taught me about her. More perhaps. I had no idea how your ability worked. How you heard things, what you saw. But it was hubris,” my father says. “If there is a way to arrest the anomaly, we haven’t found it. You might be the key to it, Noah, but we’ll never know as long as she’s alive. And you can’t stay away from her, and she can’t help what she is.”
I almost can’t wait to hear his answer. “And what is that?”
“Every generation someone along the affected bloodline develops an ability that parallels an archetype—”
Fucking hell. Time to go.
My father smiles, as if he can hear my thoughts. “My son, the skeptic. I was once too. But tell me, haven’t you ever wondered why she can’t wish for anything good?”
His words erase the snide comments that were on the tip of my tongue, and replace them with a memory. I wondered exactly that. And I wrote about it in the journal I kept for Mara.
My theory: that Mara can manipulate events the way I can manipulate cells. I have no idea how either of us can do either thing, but nevertheless.
I try to get her to envision something benign, but she stares and concentrates while her sound never changes. Is her ability linked to desire? Does she not want anything good?
“She is the embodiment of the Shadow archetype—destructive, harmful to herself and others. She embodies Freud’s death drive.”
“How dramatic.” I glance at Mara but she doesn’t meet my eyes.
“Mara can will what she wants,” my father continues, “and her desires become reality. But the nature of her affliction is that she will never create anything good.”
Even if what he says is true, I am simply out of fucks to give. I had few to spare to begin with. But I watch Mara as he speaks these nonsense words—“carrier,” “anomaly,” “manifestation,” et cetera. What they mean doesn’t matter to me, but what they mean to her does matter. I haven’t seen one flicker of hate or fear in her eyes—if I had, we would be gone already. Instead I see something else. Understanding.
“Reluctant though you may be, Noah, you are the embodiment of the Hero. You don’t have to learn to become good at anything. You simply are the best at everything. Your telomeres don’t stop replicating. If you aren’t killed, you might actually live forever. You have every gift, Noah.”
I don’t want them.
“But once she has fully manifested, if you are near her, you’ll be powerless. Vulnerable. Weak. She can’t help what she does to you. She is your weakness, as you are hers.”
I HADN’T REALLY BEEN WORRIED until I heard those words. Noah’s father wasn’t going to kill him. He most likely couldn’t kill me, or I wouldn’t be alive. So I simply sat back and enjoyed watching Noah arrogantly swat away his father’s grave warnings, his dire predictions. He was the boy I loved, still. He couldn’t have cared less. But then.
She is your weakness.
Contraindication: Mara Amitra Dyer
As you are hers.
Contraindication: Noah Elliot Simon Shaw.
“When she evolves fully, you will be at risk every day you spend with her. Your cells will not regenerate. Your telomeres will not replicate. If she exceeds her threshold—if she is in pain, or afraid, or under severe stress, and you are close? You will not be able to heal yourself. Her ability is dominant; it negates yours. Which is why I made sure she was told you had died. Your propensity for self-harm, a side effect of the gene that makes you different, makes Mara irresistible to you. It isn’t your fault, but being with her isn’t your choice.” And then David Shaw gave me this look, a mixture of pity and contempt. “He wouldn’t love you if you weren’t what you are.”
I remembered kissing Noah in his bedroom during a thunderstorm, watching his lips turn blue. I remembered facing him in a midnight-colored dress on a silent beach after I’d read something I shouldn’t have, and thought I understood what it meant.
“I won’t be what you want,” I’d said to Noah then.
“And what do you think that is?”
“Your weapon of self-destruction.”
Noah had said that I wasn’t, that I couldn’t be, and I’d wanted so badly to believe it. But hearing those words issue from his father’s mouth sliced me open with the truth.
“I don’t want to be here,” Noah’s father said. “Whatever you think of me, I loved your mother. She was my life. She was my reason for existing. And I promised her that I would keep you safe. I may have failed her in every other way, but I cannot fail at that. Look at Jude,” he said, gesturing to him. “A project of Deborah’s, one that has not paid off.”
If Jude minded being spoken about as if he were a thing, as if he weren’t there, he didn’t show it. His expression was flat, his eyes empty.
“He is unpredictable and unstable, despite Deborah’s efforts to control him. It could be said that he is responsible for her death, since he is the one who let Mara out.”
“It was a mistake,” Jude said then, in a firm, alien voice.
David regarded him warily. “Yes. It was.” Then he refocused on me. “What is happening to Jude will happen to you, too, Mara. You hallucinate. You are violent in response to pain. You show signs of dissociative personality disorder. You are on your way.”
Maybe I was already there.
“I knew your grandmother, once upon a time. Not well, not well enough at all, but she haunted my wife in the guise of a friend, a confidant. She was unpredictable. She was unstable. She was a liar, like you, and a murderer, like you. She led my wife to her death, and you would lead my son to his.”
Noah interrupted his father. “You think I care if I’m powerless? That’s what I want.”