Max - I feel like I'm going to HURL. Which, even if I wanted to do, I couldn't do, because I haven't eaten. I can't even drag myself out of my room. And while I'd be able to muster the strength to roundhouse Fang until he begged for MERCY, I'd be mush around an Eraser. In fact, all I want to flipping do is lie on this bed with our old laptop and catch up on my Hulu. Apparently, being heartbroken is not leverage enough to get Nudge to give up the NEW computer, so I'm stuck with the old laptop. But what to my wondering eyes should appear, the very moment I turn the thing on?
What did that stupid deserting crap-bag ex-boyfriend, ex-best friend with the most perfect hair do? He DIDN'T delete his crap off the desktop before he fled my life and left me all alone. That's what he did.
Do I open it? Do I open it? Of course I freaking open it!!!!!!
|Good leader||Drill sergeant|
|Could possibly kill anyone/anything with bare hands||Could possibly kill me with bare hands|
|Can save the world||Has to save the world|
|Smart||Knows it all|
|Good taste in music||Can't sing. At all.|
|Likes me||Hot for Dylan|
|Eats as much as I do||Burps like a trucker|
|Believes in me||Skeptical of EVERYONE else|
|Needs me sometimes||Doesn't need me sometimes|
|Thinks with her heart||Reacts with her heart|
|Keeps me on my game||Stubborn doesn't cover it|
|Nice lips||Bony toes|
|Can act like she's my mom||Eew|
|Wants to make the world a better place||Takes on too much|
|Could stay with her forever||Distraction from what we need to do|
Hot, Hungry, and Thankful Not to Have HIV O'Clock
Here we are in Africa, where the focus is not on us and our problems. It's on the crippling injustice in the world. The GDP ("gross domestic product"—don't ask me; just look it up!) of Chad is 16.1 billion dollars. The GDP of the USA is 14.3 trillion dollars. Chew on that.
It's pretty overwhelming. What can I, in the tiny scope of one life, possibly do to make a lasting and large change in the world? I'm a bird kid and a borderline celebrity at this point ... but still, I'm just a drop in the bucket.
I'm down tonight, so here I am blathering on like Nudge. Max is asleep, and so is everyone else. Strange. We bird kids don't take sleep for granted, you know? Occasionally things chill out ... but they never really chill out. We just forget how crazy everything is ...
Okay. The bottom line is that what Angel said scared the bejeezy out of me. There. I said it.
'Cause I'm going to die "first" and "soon."
I could string that sinister little mind-reading Shirley Temple up by her pinafores for her total lack of elaboration. Except Max about beat me to it.
I'm lucky. Somehow I got the "unable to visually emote" genetic modification. Because inside, when Angel said that, my blood froze and my bird bones ached.
So what's her prediction worth anyway? Where does it come from? From a Voice, like Max's? Doesn't mean it's right. We only assume it's always going to be right, because it has the power to invade her brain and be so FLIPPING CREEPY. But creepy doesn't mean all-powerful.
It's like I'm trying to talk myself out of this. Of course we're going to die. And it's probably going to be sooner rather than later. And it's not going to be fun. Look at the life we lead.
Twelve hours ago were we not being shot at by crazy guys on camels with semiautomatic weapons?
That's what I thought.
I'm Not Telling, Colorado
The Day Before Our Birthday O'Clock
So, we have on The Gift List:
Iggy--Gory, gooey, blood-spattering audiobook on CD. CHECK
Nudge--584,395,004,981 fashion magazines. CHECK
Gazzy--Illustrated history of blowing crap up for eons. CHECK CHECK
Angel--Angel? A camera, a great gift for a smart, creative kid. CHECK
Max-- ... Roses? They die. LAME
Max-- ... Poetry? And she beats me up .... OW
Max-- ... Jewelry? ... Pretty? ... Can't be used (easily) as a weapon?
What could be possibly right for Max? That girl is fiercer than a rattlesnake. Pft. In fact, the first few times we kissed, I thought she was one. That girl was a regular old teeth-banger. (And they call me Fang.) Thank goodness she was genetically engineered to have good teeth. If she had braces, my gums would have been ground beef. But I wouldn't care if she was the worst teeth-banger in a pool of every high school student on the planet. In fact, I like her more because of it.
Man, I really don't know. I'm not really sure. The secret to gifts is ... ? Right, ask me, the fifteen-year-old (tomorrow) bird man. I know everything about gift giving. I learned in charm school.
I think the secret to a great gift is that it should be personal. It has to prove that you know and care about someone enough to know what she'd love. And I'm so dead.
I hope I made the right choice. That ring, I want it to mean something.
She's going to think I'm the corniest guy on the planet.
Las Vegas, Nevada
We Won the Jackpot—If by Jackpot You Mean You're Willing to Deal with Exile—O'Clock
Welcome to the funhouse, Faxness. You've arrived in fabulous Las Vegas, otherwise known as the most genetically modified city on the planet. Looks can be deceiving, folks. Unnatural bliss, ladies and gentlemen, unnatural, impossible bliss.
Last night Max and I arrived in Vacationland--and promptly proceeded to stuff as many corn nuts, funnel cakes, spumoni cones, sushi rolls, heroes, falafels, cheese steaks, burritos, and wasabi peas into our mouths as we could find.
So romantic, I know. But it was, though. It was awesome. It was about seventy-five degrees and crisp and dry out. It was perfect, walking down streets, licking spumoni. The city was lit up like neon heaven.
But it was sad too. I thought by going somewhere we'd blend in, we'd be able to escape. But the thing about Vegas is that it's impossible, even for one second, to forget that this city is totally false. There's even a fake Paris.
It reminds me that being here in Vacationland with Max, just being alone together doing outrageous fun things, that's false too.
Or short-lived, anyway. How long did it take for Dr. Hagen-Doodie to find us? Less than twenty-four hours? Exactly.
I can see it in Max's eyes--we're going to last about as long in Vacationland as we did in Max School.
Surprise! Life isn't Las Vegas. Or Disney World. For us bird kids, maybe it's more like Death Valley.
I don't think I've ever hated anyone more than I hate you. Maybe evil scientists. But they don't count. The way I feel about you is different. I can't control it. I don't care that you're a test-tube mutant and can't help it. I don't care if you're the nicest and smartest dude in the universe and can sing better than Bono. I want Max to be mine. You have no right to touch her. I don't care how the wack-job whitecoats programmed you. I've been at her side practically since the day she was born.
But I can't be around. My anger toward you is getting in the way. Clouding my decisions. I don't know what is the right thing to do. And this thing with Max ... it's a thing with you too.
I have no choice but to respond to this. Why? Because it ‘s funny. Never underestimate the power of funny. It moves mountains.
I’ve commented your blog with my questions for THREE YEARS. You answer other people’s STUPID questions but not MINE. YOU REALLY ASKED FOR IT, BUDDY. I’m just gonna comment with this until you answer at least one of my questions.
DO YOU HAVE A JAMAICAN ACCENT?
DO YOU MOLT?
WHAT’S YOUR STAR SIGN?
Don’t know. “Angel, what’s my star sign?” She says Scorpio.
HAVE YOU TOLD JEB I LOVE HIM YET?
DOES NOT HAVING A POWER MAKE YOU ANGRY?
Well, that’s not really true….
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THE SOULJA BOY?
Can you see me doing the Soulja Boy?
DOES IGGY KNOW HOW TO DO THE SOULJA BOY?
DO YOU USE HAIR PRODUCTS?
No. Again, no.
DO YOU USE PRODUCTS ON YOUR FEATHERS?
I don’t know that they make bird kid feather products yet.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?
There are a bunch.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SONG?
I don’t have favorites. They’re too polarizing.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE SMELL?
Max, when she showers.
DO THESE QUESTIONS MAKE YOU ANGRY?
IF I CAME UP TO YOU IN A STREET AND HUGGED YOU, WOULD YOU KILL ME?
You might get kicked. But I’m used to people wanting me dead, so.
DO YOU SECRETLY WANT TO BE HUGGED?
ARE YOU GOING EMO ’CAUSE ANGEL IS STEALING EVERYONE’S POWERS (INCLUDING YOURS)?
Not the emo thing again.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FOOD?
Anything hot and delicious and brought to me by Iggy.
WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR BREAKFAST THIS MORNING?
Three eggs, over easy. Bacon. More bacon. Toast.
DID YOU EVEN HAVE BREAKFAST THIS MORNING?
DID YOU DIE INSIDE WHEN MAX CHOSE ARI OVER YOU?
Dudes don’t die inside.
DO YOU LIKE MAX?
DO YOU LIKE ME?
I think you’re funny.
DOES IGGY LIKE ME?
DO YOU WRITE DEPRESSING POETRY?
IS IT ABOUT MAX?
IS IT ABOUT ARI?
Why do you assume I write depressing poetry?
IS IT ABOUT JEB?
ARE YOU GOING TO BLOCK THIS COMMENT?
WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?
A Dirty Projectors T-shirt. Jeans.
DO YOU WEAR BOXERS OR BRIEFS?
No freaking comment.
DO YOU FIND THIS COMMENT PERSONAL?
Could I not find that comment personal?
DO YOU WEAR SUNGLASSES?
Yes, cheap ones.
DO YOU WEAR YOUR SUNGLASSES AT NIGHT?
That would make it hard to see.
DO YOU SMOKE APPLES, LIKE US?
DO YOU PREFER BLONDES OR BRUNETTES?
DO YOU LIKE VAMPIRES OR WEREWOLVES?
Fanged creatures rock.
ARE YOU GAY AND JUST PRETENDING TO BE STRAIGHT BY KISSING LISSA?
WERE YOU EXPERIMENTING WITH YOUR SEXUALITY?
WOULD YOU TELL US IF YOU WERE GAY?
DO YOU SECRETLY LIKE IT WHEN PEOPLE CALL YOU EMO?
ARE YOU EMO?
DO YOU LIKE EGGS?
Yes. I had them for breakfast.
DO YOU LIKE EATING THINGS?
I love eating. I list it as a hobby.
DO YOU SECRETLY THINK YOU’RE THE SEXIEST PERSON IN THE WHOLE WORLD?
Do you secretly think I’m the sexiest person in the whole world?
DO YOU EVER HAVE DIRTY THOUGHTS ABOUT MAX?
HAS ANGEL EVER READ YOUR MIND WHEN YOU WERE HAVING DIRTY THOUGHTS ABOUT MAX AND GONE “OMG” AND YOU WERE LIKE “D:”?
DO YOU LIKE SPONGEBOB?
He’s okay, I guess.
DO YOU EVER HAVE DIRTY THOUGHTS ABOUT SPONGEBOB?
CAN YOU COOK?
DO YOU LIKE TO COOK?
I like to eat.
ARE YOU, LIKE, A HOUSEWIFE?
How on earth could I be like a housewife?
DO YOU SECRETLY HAVE INNER TURMOIL?
Isn't it obvious?
DO YOU WANT TO BE UNDA DA SEA?
I’m unda da stars.
DO YOU THINK IT’S NOT TOO LATE, IT’S NEVER TOO LATE?
WHERE DID YOU LEARN TO PLAY POKER?
DO YOU HAVE A GOOD POKER FACE?
OF COURSE YOU HAVE A GOOD POKER FACE. DOES IGGY HAVE A GOOD POKER FACE?
CAN HE EVEN PLAY POKER?
Iggy beats me sometimes.
DO YOU LIKE POKING PEOPLE, HARD?
ARE YOU FANGALICIOUS?
I could never be as fangalicious as you’d want me to be.
You looked so beautiful today. I’m going to remember what you looked like forever. And I hope you remember me the same way—clean, ha-ha. I’m glad our last time together was happy.
But I’m leaving tonight, leaving the flock, and this time it’s for good. I don’t know if I’ll ever see any of you again. The thing is, Max, that everyone is a little bit right. Added up all together, it makes this one big right.
Dylan’s a little bit right about how my being here might be putting the rest of you in danger. The threat might have been just about Dr. Hans, but we don’t know that for sure. Angel is a little bit right about how splitting up the flock will help all of us survive. And the rest of the flock is a little bit right about how when you and I are together, we’re focused on each other—we can’t help it.
Jeb and Dr. Hans are even a little bit right. Jeb with his weird way of showing up at the most random times—with the most random but kinda relevant advice. Dr. Hans about mutants being the way of the future and about how we should learn about ourselves. Not that I want to be injected with anything, ever. But the world is changing, and there are others of us out there. I can’t tell you how I know. But I do. And how we save the world, that’s a huge question. It’s complicated, Max. It’s so very large.
The thing is, Maximum, I love you. I can’t help but be focused on you when we’re together. If you’re in the room, I want to be next to you. If you’re gone, I think about you. You’re who I want to talk to. In a fight, I want you at my back. When we’re together, the sun is shining. When we’re apart, everything is in shades of gray.
I hope you’ll forgive me someday for turning our worlds into shades of gray—at least for a while.
It’s not right that we’re together. There are too many risks and too many reasons why not. I must not be selfish.
You’re not at your best when you’re focused on me. I mean, you’re at your best Maxness, but not your best leaderness. I mostly need Maxness. The flock mostly needs leaderness. And Angel, if you’re listening to this, it ain’t you, sweetie. Not yet.
At least for a couple more years, the flock needs a leader to survive, no matter how capable everyone thinks he or she is. The truth is that they do need a leader, and the truth is that you are the best leader.
I’ve learned everything from you. It’s one of the things I love about you.
But the more I thought about it, the more sure I got that this is the right thing to do. Maybe not for you, or for me, but for all of us together, our flock.
I know where I’m going, but please don’t try to find me. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, besides wearing that suit today, and seeing you again will only make it harder. I don’t know how I’m going to manage to do what you do all by myself. If I were to see you again, you’d ask me to come back, and I would, because I can’t say no to you. But all the same problems would still be there, and I’d end up leaving again, and then we’d have to go through this all over again.
Please make us go through this only once.
We must stand strong, alone and apart.
I love you. I love your smile, your snarl, your grin, your face when you’re sleeping. I love your hair streaming out behind you as we fly, with the sunlight making it shine, if it doesn’t have too much mud or blood in it. I love seeing your wings spreading out, white and brown and tan and speckled, and the tiny, downy feathers right at the top of your shoulders. I love your eyes, whether they’re cold or calculating or suspicious or laughing or warm, like when you look at me.
You’re the best warrior I know, the best leader. You’re the most comforting mom we’ve ever had. You’re the biggest goof ball, the worst driver, and a truly lousy cook. You’ve kept us safe and provided for us, in good times and bad. You’re my best friend, my first and only love, and the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen, with wings or without.
Tell you what, sweetie: If
I accomplish what I’ve set out to do and in twenty years we haven’t expired yet, and the world is still more or less in one piece, I’ll meet you at the top of that cliff where we first met the hawks and learned to fly with them. You know the one. Twenty years from today, if I’m alive, I’ll be there, waiting for you. You can bet on it.
Good-bye, my love.
P.S. Tell everyone I sure will miss them.
P.P.S. Tell Dylan he was right. He belongs with us.
NEEDED: GEN 77 and/or HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRIDS
Feel like you don’t fit in? Do you know that you’re different? Can you do things no one else can? If you know what I’m talking about, the world is changing and I need your help.
Tell me your skills and send me your coordinates. I’ll be in touch.