Chapter One: To Her Own Device

"How did I get here?" Cree asked herself while walking the streets of Ohio. She had just past Memphis Avenue and not a person was in sight which wasn't so unusual for a Tuesday night.

How quickly things change. Just days ago Cree was living the life of a normal teenager, but now she was on her own. How did things go so wrong? She wondered. All she knew was that she didn't have a home anymore. She looked down at her hands and felt that if it wasn't for them none of this wouldn't have happened, and what of her real parents? Did they throw her away because of her hands? Had they know what she was to become, or maybe they were just like her?

She remembered that man saying that her mother was dead, but was that the truth? She didn't know anything anymore, only that she could no longer her life with Elizabeth. One day she was going to find out who her parents were, and it was going to be tough because she didn't even know their names. Somehow, she would find a way?

Learning that Elizabeth was not really her mother was a blow at first, but she started to really think about it, it did make sense. The way Elizabeth treated her, not like a daughter at all but an obligation. She never felt any real love from the woman she once called her mother and she used to blame it on herself, thinking she was just a bad kid. Now, she realized that Elizabeth was the one with the problem and not her. She was glad she left but it didn't mean she was any less scared.

*It was raining hard and she never thought the day she left her mother's house the weather would be like this, but how a person's imagines things to be and the reality of it were too different things. She would rather have the fantasy, but that wasn't possible.

She trudged on through the road to nowhere. Rain soaked her hair and clothes, and her tennis shoes squeaked loudly. She was a little embarrassed by the sound but still she kept going.

She soon found shelter where she could take a rest and get out of the rain. Her wet hair flew into her face stinging her skin. At that moment she wished she were home, but she no longer had a home. She could barely recall how it all happened.

One moment she was just an ordinary school girl who biggest worry was flunking history and the next her mother turns out to not be her mother and was trying to pawn her off on some guy who wanted her for who knows what reasons, and she wasn't so curious to find out why. Her instincts told it was something bad, and those instincts have never failed her before.

The gifted hands she thought she had been blessed with had become a curse. Cree slumped down in the only dry spot on the ground. The rain continued to pour down. The strike of thunder made her jump out of a sitting position, but the rain wasn't about to let up.

Cree waited for the longest time, but soon she was shivering and her hands felt as if they were about to freeze. She concentrated all her energies on her hands. She wished to be under this leaky structure. She closed her eyes, hugging herself while slinking down into the fetal position.

Something was happening, something that both terrified and excited her. Slowly her body warmed itself. She opened her eyes to see that it was raining as hard as it was before, but she was completely dry. Her once limp hands were rejuvenated.

She looked up to see the holes in the worn tarp, but no rain came through them. Had she touched the tarp and had not been aware of It? The whole situation spooked her. She ran from the shelter and into a nearby diner. She was damp again but not nearly as such as before. She sat down at the corner booth at the far side of the entrance door. She was paranoid that people were staring at her, but the diner was practically empty at this time of night.

She heard a ticking sound above her head and looked around until she spotted the origin of the sound. She saw a clock. It was a circular chicken clock whose feathers served as the block's hands. She looked around being wary of everyone in sight. She saw an old man sneakily eating a bowl of soup with a small spoon.

She also saw a young couple in a romantic embrace in the booth on the north end of the diner. Besides the counter girl with the greasy unwashed hair, Cree saw no other signs of life.

The girl came sashaying up to her table. She was wearing a stained waitress's uniform that at one time could have been white. The dress was two sizes too small, making the girl look pudgy.

"What'll it be, honey?" she asked, snapping her gum.

"Coffee, please," Cree said, her raw throat cracking her speech.

"Anything else?" the girl asked after another snap.

Cree shook her head and the girl walked back behind the counter. At that moment someone stepped through the diner's front door. Cree slumped into her seat feeling a sudden pang of nervousness. It was a man about thirty wearing an old flannel shirt and grimy jeans. She looked out the window to see a huge semi-truck parked on the opposite side of the street.

She wondered if the rig belonged to him. She hadn't seen it there when she came in, but Cree didn't feel she needed to be very observant tonight. The man said something to the waitress that Cree couldn't hear. Then he looked over at her. She slumped down again. She didn't want him to notice her, but it was too late. He was walking her way. She closed her eyes and wished with all her heart that she could disappear, but he had seen her and sat down in the seat opposite her.

"Hey, little girl, what're you doin' out after curfew?" He asked as he took off his baseball cap. It had the Yankees printed on it and she wondered if he was from New York.

She pretended not to hear him and didn't answer. It was always safer to be wary of strangers. Instead, she just looked out the window.

"Waiting for someone?" he asked.

She turned and looked at him suspiciously. "You ask a lot of questions," she said. Then she turned back to the window. "Is that your rig out there?"

"Yeah, headed to the Big Apple," he said with a smile. "Ever been there?"

"Naw," she said, shaking her head back and forth.

She saw a newspaper lying on the table. It was New York Times. There was a picture that caught her eye. It was a picture of a middle-aged man standing in front of the school that had a sign the said The Drell Institute. It was the same place that was in her newspaper clipping that she had in her scrapbook. She picked it up and read the caption.

'Doctor Martin Drell, owner and operator of the Drell Institute gives speech today on Sadian Rights.'

She stared at it for a long time, before the stranger sitting across from her coaxed her out of it.

"Hey, what are you lookin' at?" he asked.

"Nothing," she said and looked away from the newspaper.

She looked down at her rain soaked clothes, and an idea popped into her head. Her best bet at getting away from here was hitching a ride. Her head start would only last until morning when Elizabeth would discover that she was missing, but knowing the woman who was her mother for her whole life days would possibly go by before it would a occur to her that she was gone. Still, she did not want to waste a second. The Drell Institute, she thought. Maybe that's where she belonged. She convinced herself of that more and more.

"Hey," she said. "Do you think you could give me a lift? It so happens that we are headed in the same direction."

"And why would a little gal like you be travelin' alone?" he asked looking skeptical.

"Why all the questions?" she asked as the waitress came with her order.

"Okay, you had the cheese steak, and you had the coffee." She practically dumped the food on the table and left as quickly as she came.

"Is that all you're having?" he asked.

"Not hungry," she said, sipping her coffee. After a few minutes she said, "Now, what about that ride?"

"I'll give you ride alright," he said and she perked up thinking she had fooled him. Then he added, "A ride home."

She shot up from her seat. "I'll take that as a no," she said in a somewhat angry voice. "Don't worry. I'll get there on my own." She ran out of the diner forgetting to pay for her coffee. She figured that act now made her a thief. She didn't care anymore. She had spent too much time being a good girl, but in the end it was all for nothing.

She once thought she was like the heroines in the fairy tales, be a good girl and you'll get the castle and prince and everyone would love you. She knew now that life didn't work that way. She was no longer a child, no longer innocent, even though she wanted to be. At thirteen, she was thrown into the adult world. It was a den of wolves where she was the prey.

The rain had let up some, but it was now darker than it had been. There were people on the street but not the kind of people who would offer help to a homeless girl. Parma was among the lower class suburbs. Those who lived there were usually those from its mother city who made a little money whether legally or otherwise. Those who weren't among the high-class derelict were retirees whose time was running short. They only wished to be left alone to die in peace.

Cree walked until her legs ached. She made it to the highway and sat down at a rest stop. She felt like she needed sleep but dared not. The only possessions she had in the world were what she carried in her backpack. Some clothing and notebooks and her stash of money she had saved along with a few sandwiches. It didn't seem like much but to her it was worth a fortune. The rain had stopped by now, but the rain had never bothered her. It was the darkness she always feared. In this situation she was forced to face her fears. She was getting used to it, but it still made her shiver. Thirteen years old and here she was, still afraid of the dark.

She watched cars and trucks speed down the highway wondering where they were all going in such a hurry. She could only guess. The noise of the rushing cars came quietly then rose in volume, only to fade away again. The repetitive rhythms echoed in her head until she couldn't stand it anymore.

Cree rose from the place she sat and ran, but no matter how fast she ran the noise of the cars speeding down the highway remained with her. She wished someone would stop and take pity on her, but she wasn't counting on that. She continued walking slowly learning to ignore the sounds of the passing cars.

After crossing the next exit, Cree felt as if someone were following her. She turned back when she reached the rest stop. A large truck pulled up. Her first notion was to run but for some reason she felt safe.

The engine fizzled for a moment and then shut off, and the man stepped out. Cree gasped because she was surprised to see that it was the same man she met at the diner hours ago.

"What are you doin' out here, little girl?" he asked. His tone was scolding making her feel like she was about to be punished for something. "Or should I even ask? Don't you think you should go home?"

"I ain't got one." He looked surprised that she said that, but her tone implied that it was the most natural thing. "That's why I'm going to New York. I got some friends there waiting for me, so I should be on my way." Cree turned to walk away when the man's voice loomed in her ear.

"Wait," he said. She turned back and a smile came to his face. "Come on." He waved his arm up signifying that she should follow. "I'll give you a lift." She hesitated for a moment, but he walked towards her a few steps. "You can't walk all the way to New York."

She was happy to have the company, but she remained wary of him. She didn't want him to know that this was her very first road trip on her own, and she was not particularly enjoying it.

The trucker started up the engine and pulled back onto the highway. He turned towards Cree several times to see her shifting uncomfortably.

"So why did you leave home?" Cree didn't answer only looked out the window. "Okay, you don't want to talk about it. That's fine. You listen, and I'll talk." She sat back barely listening to him tell his tale. "I left home, too, but I was a bit older than you, sixteen in fact. Yeah, those were the days. I joined a cult. You know, dancin' around a bonfire and sacrificin' forest animals. Don't remember exactly, but one good thing came out of it though."

"And what was that?" Cree asked, looking up at him. Her tone was defiant, feeling like he was about to give her a lecture.

"I met my wife." Cree just rolled her eyes and looked out the window again. "Yeah, me and Sally been together for fifteen years. She's the one who got my act together, the reason I got me this job. Now, what your story?"

"I don't have a story," she snapped but still refused to look at him.

"You gotta have a story," he said with a laugh. "If you're plannin' on livin' in New York it's a requirement."

"My mom licked me out," she finally said and let out a long frustrated sigh. She folded her arms and slumped in her seat. It was only half a lie. If she hadn't taken off she had no doubt it would have come to that.

"Okay, okay, little girl," he said, trying to keep his eyes on the road.

"It's Cree," she said, finally looking up at him.

"Cree? Hmm... I like that," he said. "It's simple and to the me. My name's Hal." He offered her his hand, but she refused to take it. He once again put both hands on the wheel and concentrated on the road. There was dead silence for a few minutes then he said, "New York. You'll love it, kid. It's a cesspool of vagrants, murderers, Sadians, and so-called liberators."

Cree shot up at hearing the word Sadian. It was what she believed she truly was. She didn't remark on his comment. She rather pretended that he didn't say it. Instead she just stared down at her hands. They were what made her different... or rather cursed. She convinced herself that the word Sadian didn't exist, telling herself that was her imagination that had conjured it up.

They had ridden for miles in silence. Cree was just now accepting that her old life was gone. She had paid a price for her carelessness and had been sentenced for a crime not committed. She was Sadian in the way of the trials, but her trials had just begun. She wasn't sure what she would do once she reached the city, but a change would occur. In all of evolution change was inevitable. She doubted this trucker could understand that. How could he when she didn't understand it herself.

"Well, here we are," he said. "New York City. Can I drop you somewhere?"

"No," Cree said quietly "Here's fine."

She jumped out of Hal's truck before he could protest. For all his kindness she couldn't trust him. She came to the realization that she couldn't trust anyone. With her bag strapped around her shoulders Cree ran down several streets before her breath abandoned her. She stopped in front of the deli and slumped to the ground. Only then did she realize how hungry she was.

She had saved money by hitching a ride, so after what she had been through that night she needed to indulge in a hot meal. She couldn't remember the last time she had eaten, and she wouldn't get too far on an empty stomach. When she finally caught her breath she walked in. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror and realized how disheveled she really was. She was too hungry to let embarrassment hinder her goal.

As she came to the counter, the service girl who couldn't have been more than a few years older than her gave her a strange look.

With a crooked smile she said, "Can I help you?"

"Roast beef with Swiss and a lemonade."

"Sure, just a minute." The girl stared at her while she was making the sandwich. "That will be seven-fifty."

Cree almost didn't believe it. The prices in New York were almost double of what they were in Ohio. She thought that maybe coming here was a mistake, but she made that choice and now she was stuck with it.

As she walked the city streets she feared that everyone was staring at her. There were drunks on the street corners, sleeping on the sides of buildings, alleyways and park benches, even the people in the passing cars. For the first time she realized that she was truly alone. Life with Elizabeth Bowman wasn't perfect, but at least she had a roof over her head.

Cree walked down street after street. She didn't know where she was going nor did she care, but the night would soon come, and she needed to find a place to sleep. She dared not go to the mission. She didn't want to get picked up. She had heard stories of authorities throwing kids in jail for running away from home. How she wished her secret had never been found out.

She walked all the way down to the lower east side where the lights of the city seemed to dim. That's when she felt chills overtake her. She noticed a lot of bars, one with the saying 'Live Nude Girls'. She didn't really know what that meant. People passed her on the street, but none took notice of her. She pushed her way along until she ran into someone.

"Hey, watch it." She turned to see a boy around her own age. He wore an old worn out jean jacket and denims with holes at the knees and a black baseball cap that said 'Bite me'.

"Sorry," she said holding on tightly to her backpack.

"Look, girly. Ya don't watch yourself. Ya gonna get cut."

Suddenly there was a commotion a few blocks down, and the boy looked up. "Damn."

"What is it?" Cree questioned.

"Can't talk now. Gotta go." The boy took off running.

"Hey, wait," Cree shouted running after him.