It was a race against time as Skyler thudded down the stairs that morning in only his socks and pants, all the while attempting the ludicrous task of buttoning up his shirt and combing his mess of a hair at the same time.
He came to a grinding halt at the kitchen door, using the frame as support as he tried to catch his breath. Hearing a distinct click, he looked up.
A slender woman with hair as bright as the sun stood beside the kitchen table, staring down hard at something she held in her hand.
“You’re two minutes late,” she informed him after laying down the chronometer, catching the boy’s gaze.
The boy groaned at this, wiping the sweat from his forehead and letting out a long sigh.
“Mother, it’s summer.” He glanced at the wall clock. It read 6:12. “Can we please not do this everyday?”
“Nonsense!” She seemed appalled, stress lines marking the otherwise young face as she left her place to close the distance between them. “It’s important to wake up at exactly the same hour everyday. It keeps your mind and body disciplined.” Her face softened though when she stopped in front of her son, who was as tall as she was, hands coming up to straighten his shirt and fingers finding themselves untangling the knots in his hair, many shades darker than her own.
“That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t take a few naps throughout the day. Do you feel tired?” As she said this, those same fingers moved down to his dark grey eyes, inspecting the bags under them like a doctor would with their patients.
Her touch made Ink stir, the fluid like organism sprouting from Skyler’s shadow on the kitchen floor and traveling up the boy’s body in the form of dark tendrils. It came to rest on his shoulders, closing around his neck, it’s silk-like touch changing to the warmer, softer texture of a wool scarf. At the same time, another part of Ink split, morphing into a bag of ice that was soon dropped onto his head and a thermometer that shoved itself into his mouth.
“Great, now I have two people worrying about me,” Skyler chuckled after removing the glass thermometer from his lips and the bag of ice, which wasn’t actually cold, from his head. Even his mother couldn’t help but smile at the creature’s antics; she unwrapped the scarf from his neck, murmuring to Ink something about weather and inappropriate clothing before she let it melt away from her hands.
“I’ll be leaving in ten minutes. How’s today's schedule looking?” she asked as she began to gather her things.
“Nothing special,” he answered, opening the fridge and kitchen cabinets to prepare his breakfast, Ink helping every now and then by holding things for him and laying them on the table. There was milk, bread, fruits, bacon... He opened the cabinet where they kept the cereal; there was a chocolate one in the front, one that he wasn’t planing on eating, but when his hand passed by it, Ink shrunk and snapped around his wrist.
“No, I’m not eating that.”
A soft sound rang in his ears, similar to a balloon slowly releasing its air, one that Skyler had learned to identify as Ink’s version of a human whine.
“Alright,” he sighed, smiling. “But you wont be throwing a hissy fit when I cook broccoli tonight,” the boy warned, taking his seat at the table. Anyone would be shocked to see so much food for one single person, but what those people don’t realize is that Skyler has always needed to eat for two. The same went for sleep.
“Are you going to the archery grounds?” his mother asked when she returned to the kitchen, hair in a bun and suitcase in hand.
“Do I have a choice?” he questioned back, watching Ink transform into two chubby little dark humans, one holding a bow and arrow and aiming at the other one, who was running around in hysterics on the table trying to avoid the arrow. The last one looked suspiciously like his Microbiology teacher...
“Don’t be like that. Your teacher said you were quite good.”
“You know I prefer the shooting range, mother,” he said in a serious tone, but had to then stifle a chuckle at Ink’s James Bond impression.
“I do as well, Sky. Next week it’ll reopen and then you can go, but until then it’s best if you keep yourself busy with a similar activity.” She went over to him, giving him a kiss and straightening his hair one last time before letting him go. “Don’t forget to give that letter to Miss Rose on your way to the research lab.”
“Try to be a little bit nicer and smile more, can you do that?”
“Alright, alright.” He conceded, giving her the biggest smile he could muster as reassurance.
She was at the kitchen door when she turned to him, a serious expression on her face and silver eyes. “Keep in touch, and if I’m not home by the time you’re back, call the police and don’t call my work number. Don’t stay in the house, stay-”
“Stay in the college dorms, I know.”
This was typical of his mother. She would say things like that everyday before leaving the house, a paranoid behavior that Sky had concluded was simply part of her personality and something they had in common, albeit much less exaggerated on him. He never believed for a second that something would actually happen.
How wrong he had been.