Less Than Human - 2

The van was loaded with all sorts of provisions, and Reid was quite pleased with himself for keeping it so organized. His boss, Mr. Landers, often called him soft-headed and feeb but also admitted that despite his stupidity, Reid knew how to keep things in order. He’d usually follow this by saying but I guess even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then and start laughing, and Reid would join him, because thinking about blind squirrels actually finding nuts seemed pretty funny to him.

He liked his new friends very much. Helena especially, because she was so pretty and she didn’t look at him the way most pretty girls did. She’d call him “sweet” and sometimes even touch his face. He loved her very much, and even though he was pretty sure she’d never be with someone as stupid as he was, Reid very much hoped that one day he could marry her.

Cassius was a good friend too, always smiling at Reid’s jokes, even the ones that Mr. Landers thought were dumb and childish. He also told Reid how useful he was being, and that always made Reid feel good, because most people didn’t bother letting him know he was doing a good job at all. Most people wouldn’t even talk to him. Mr. Landers said they didn’t want to catch his “stupid”. Reid didn’t think that it worked that way, but he would often make sure he didn’t stick around them too much. He didn’t want to be blamed for that.

Tiberius wasn’t so nice to him, but he wasn’t mean, either. Mostly he just acted like Reid wasn’t there at all. He was polite, always making sure to thank Reid for anything that he might do for him, but he still made Reid a little anxious, with his always-serious face. He never looked mad. In truth, Reid thought he looked very sad. He remembered his mama would talk to him whenever he felt bad. He wondered if maybe Tiberius just needed a person to talk to.

Reid kept away from Magnus. He was scary, always looking so mad with everything in the world since Reid had first met him. He also shouted, not like the others. Mr. Landers used to say when people were mad they were “gonna spit fire” and Reid always thought that it was funny. He didn’t think it was so funny now, because Magnus looked like he might actually spit some fire, and Reid was afraid he would spit it at him.

Reid was driving along the backroads, his eyes focused on the road, never wanting to look around, like Mr. Landers had told him he had to do. But that was before he had a Celestial sitting in the seat next to him, looking over a map in the way that a person might study a big book in school. Cassius always concentrated so hard on the maps when he looked at them. He’d ask questions from time to time, and Reid could usually answer him. He knew this empty place, back before it had fallen apart. Even though there was nothing out this way but haunts and memories, he still liked it.

“This is all camp ground?” Cassius asked him, peering out the windshield.

“Hunting ground, now, yep,” Reid replied, pleased with himself for knowing. “Used to be all kinds of buck and doe up in these parts.” He tilted his head sadly. “Don’t see ‘em too often no. I hope they aren’t gone, like most stuff.” A wistful smile played at his lips. “I kind of liked deer.”

Cassius nodded. “You have a good heart, Reid. I hope that the deer are still here as well.”

The truck jolted slightly, and Reid glanced in the rearview mirror. “Sorry,” he said in a soft voice. His face was no longer so pleased. “These roads are full of holes. No one ever came this way and tended them. I suppose they were too busy with learning the fancy new things that you fellas brought here on your spaceships!” He laughed, a loud, honking sound that was piercing in the cab of the truck. “I always wanted to go on a spaceship, ever since you all came.”

“Perhaps one day you will be able to,” Cassius said.

“Nah, not me,” Reid answered. He looked frustrated. “I tried to apply to go off-world. I would have loved to drive on a whole ‘nother planet. But they wouldn’t let me.” He gently drove around a gray, skeletal tree limb in the road. “Mr. Landers says subhumans can’t be trusted to start things the right way. Said I’d probably blow up the colony before it could even be colonized.”

“Like most humans, Mr. Landers is a great, bloated fool.”

Reid squawked in surprise, and Cassius even jumped. Magnus was hovering between the seats, ducking low; his intense amber eyes scanned the road. “S-s-sorry, Magnus, sir, I didn’t know you were there,” Reid stammered. “I dint mean t-t-to holler like that, no sir, I dint.”

Magnus smiled, but he looked neither friendly nor amused. Cassius frowned. “Cease this, Magnus. You’re frightening him.” There was an edge in his voice.

“He should be frightened, considering what lies ahead,” Magnus replied. He regarded Reid for a moment. “Your employer, Mr. Landers, is a fool, Reid. Not because he called you subhuman. You are classified as such. He is a fool, because Mr. Landers, like the rest of them, believes that subhumans would make things worse. Those that call themselves regular humans…they would be the ones that would destroy.”

“Y-yes sir,” Reid affirmed, just wishing that Magnus would no longer speak to him.

Cassius rose from the seat. He had to hunch over, and he swaying slightly with the movement of the truck, but fastened his eyes on Magnus. “Stop frightening Reid. He’s not scared of what lies ahead. He’s scared of you.”

Magnus met the gaze, and Reid could feel the tension crackling around him. Neither Celestial backed down from each other. Reid slowed the truck, afraid of what was about to happen.

“Magnus, allow Reid to drive, please,” came Tiberius’s voice from the back of the truck, serene and placid. “We have much ground to cover, and he knows the roads.”

Magnus smiled, and again, Reid could tell that there was only fury embedded in his features. He glanced down toward Reid with the same intense glare that he had been giving the road. “If I frighten you, Reid, understand that I mean you no harm.” He turned and moved toward the back, shuffling and ducking.

But know this as well, subhuman, Reid heard in his mind, in a voice that clearly belonged to Magnus. Fearing me is the wisest thing that you could ever do.

The End

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