The Essence of Sin

Chapter 1

It started when I was five years old—an idiot little girl. I was fighting with my parents. It was so long ago, my mind doesn’t even remember what we were arguing about. Something stupid, probably.

We were walking around in the city, waiting for the Fourth of July fireworks to start. The streets were packed with restless bodies, suffocating me. I clung to my mother’s hand with a death grip as we navigated the streets. The blinding lights penetrated the foggy air, but the shroud of night made it menacing. I remembered covering my ears from the thundering noise of human activity around me. Since I was so young, all the adults and older teenagers were terrifying to me, dark shadows cast on their pale faces, vicious eyes staring me down. But now I figure it was just my imagination.

Then I was screaming at my parents and throwing a tantrum like the baby I was. I didn’t know what possessed me right then, but I took off into the throng of people, leaving my parents in my dust.

Mistake number one.

I wound through the streets, running as fast as my tiny legs would take me. It felt that the farther I ran, the darker the streets got. The air was thick with smoke and laughter. All the men were drinking and a couple of them were draped with scantily dressed women. A group of teenagers called out, jeering. I screamed as they tried reaching for me, their eyes so full of corruption, hatred, and anger. They were animals. I fled, not looking back. My lungs caught on fire, as if I were drinking lava, but all I could process were the intimidating people covering the streets. If I could remember one thing about that night, it was the fear that controlled me. My stomach was in knots and my fists were clenched. I felt tears falling down my face in buckets.

I kept running even when I thought it was impossible to move another inch. My calves burned, my chest heaved, and my breath came in short rasps.

That’s when I met them, the people that changed my life.

I was so disheveled and disoriented that I didn't know where I was going and crashed right into a group of boys. I fell down, hitting the cold pavement, but strong arms pulled me to my feet.

“Are you okay?” a voice asked. I looked through the tears streaming from my eyes at a boy who was much older than me. I gulped. “You lost?” he asked. The dim lights were reflecting shadows on his angelic face, making him look like the reincarnation of God. I shook my head vigorously, my words choked back in my throat. “Then where’s your parents?”

“I hate my parents!” I shouted, finding my voice momentarily. A boy with fire-red hair came up to me. A bit shorter than the other boy, he had a soft face, kind and gentle; but his eyes gave away the mischief that plagued his mind.

“You ran away?” He had a look of confusion on his face that I would never understand. It was a simple question, but there was something else fueling it. Disbelief maybe. I nodded as the hold on my arm loosened, and all of the boys jerked their heads to scan down the road. I realized why when I heard shouts coming our way. They didn’t sound very happy. Or friendly. The eight boys looked at each other and ran.

“Wait!” I called after them. As they escaped farther and farther away from me, something clicked. I stared after them in longing, wishing to be like them, so strong and alive. Wishing to be with them. Without a second thought, I sprinted after the gang.

Mistake number two.

Fireworks blasted into the air, saturating the ink-black sky with shots of color and light. What happened next was a blur in my memory. I barely remember the rush of air streaming past my face and my heart beating a mile a minute. Everything flashed past my vision, going much too fast for my eyes to make sense of it. All I could see were the backs of the boys ahead of me. Their sneakers pounded against the pavement, not stopping even when they ran into someone. They spun around the crowds with the grace and agility of fleeing gazelles, as if their movements were well rehearsed. We wound in zigzags around stalls, into alleys, through crowds—anything to lose our pursuers. Luckily, running was my forte, and I was fast. Really fast. Although their legs were much longer than mine, I was able to keep up, but just barely.

Finally, the boys dared to slow down to a walk when their steps began to falter from exhaustion. We were all panting like dogs. I hurried next to the redhead since he was at the back of the pack. When I reached him, he turned to me with a surprised look on his face, but then he just shrugged it off. We walked deep into an alleyway where there was just enough light to see the dirt that filled the ancient cracks in the stone walls and garbage abandoned in the corners of the street. At the end of the walk was a giant chain-link fence, more than four times my height and as wide as a house. I couldn’t see past the thick, canvas curtains that were behind the fence, protecting whatever was on the other side from the natural elements. The gate was locked with a giant padlock, and one of the younger boys—or so I guessed from his scrawny size—pulled out a key from his pocket and stuck it into the keyhole. I heard a click, and then the gate pulled out, screaming on its rusty hinges. The boys strolled in, and I naturally
followed. The one holding the gate open glanced at me in uncertainty for a moment, but he ushered me in anyway. I heard the gate clank shut behind me, and I ducked under the canvas sheets as the others did.

I had entered a house—of sorts. A worn couch was situated in the middle of the large space, facing a small TV covered in Ninja Turtle stickers. To the right I saw a table littered with half-eaten slices of pizza and cans of pop. Some clothes were scattered about: a t-shirt, some jeans, a hoodie. Circular strobe lights on the ceiling gave off a grungy, yellow light. Mismatched lawn chairs were strewn about in which the boys now seated themselves. Not knowing where else to go, I plopped myself on the floor. The oldest boy, a kid with jet-black hair and irises greener than emeralds, held a golden necklace to the light, examining it with a practiced eye. I found out later that they had stolen it from the people that had been chasing us.

“How much do you think it’ll go for, Jared?” a raven-haired boy with glasses asked him. The glasses boy looked slightly younger than Jared did, perhaps by a year or so. Jared appeared to be around twelve, more than double my own tender age. I was scared out of my wits around him because he was so much older than I was. Jared glanced at the glasses boy for a split second before returning his gaze to the trinket that was slowly spinning on its chain.

“At least four or five-hundred,” he replied, tossing it to a very large, scary-looking, dark-skinned youth who was quietly sitting to the side. “Gio, get a price on that tomorrow.”

“Okay, Boss,” Gio said obediently, tucking the necklace into his pocket.

“Shaun, you go with him,” the boss ordered, turning to the glasses boy. Shaun nodded, seemingly bored already now that they were safe at home. He went over to the couch where he dug through the cushions until he found the remote control, with which he turned on the TV. He flipped through the channels at lightning speed, but one eye was kept glued in my direction. The volume was on mute.

An awkward silence ensued as the boys finally locked their eyes to me, remembering that some intruder was sitting in their living room. I shifted uncomfortably under their gazes, suddenly regretting following them here. What had I gotten myself into?

“What’s your name?” Jared asked after a moment, piercing into me with his sharp, emerald gaze.

“Kara,” I answered quietly, fidgeting with my fingers.

“You want help finding your parents?” he asked, going over me with critical eyes.

“No! I never wanna go back home!” I shouted, surprising myself and the others with my sudden outburst. I clamped my mouth shut and stared at the floor. Jared shrugged, seemingly satisfied with my answer. The redhead questioned me about how I had gotten there. I don’t remember my answer, but I think all I told them was that my parents were being mean, so I ran away.

Once the oldest boys—who looked like the leaders of the group—finished interrogating me, they moved to the table and scarfed down the remaining food, shoving in mouthful after mouthful of leftover pizza and washing it down with a few cans of Pepsi. A chestnut-haired kid with honey-colored eyes offered me a large piece of chocolate pie and a glass of milk, which I took graciously when my stomach roared.

After dinner, the boys started playing video games—Super Smash Bros. to be exact. I had never been any good at deciphering what all those buttons did, so I sat next to the only boy who was not entranced by the flashing lights on the TV screen.

“I’m Lenny,” he said the moment I found a seat next to him. “I’m seven years old; how old are you?” His expression was extremely soft, almost sleepy as if he were in an eternal dreamland. The clothes he wore were simple—a white jacket and plaid pajama pants. Gray eyes almost blended into his pale face, but this lack of color was offset by the shaggy, golden-yellow hair that brushed the tops of his shoulders.

“Five,” I answered. He was cuddling an enormous book to him as he smiled at me, and he promptly turned back to the book and flipped it open to a page in the middle. I stared at the foreign characters in awe that was almost fearful. The words were so tiny! And where were the pictures?

Lenny noticed me watching him over his shoulder and asked, “Do you know how to read?” The horrified storm that replaced the calm expression on his face made me cringe with guilt as I shook my head. “I’ll teach you then. We can start with Dr. Seuss. I think there was a copy of something lying around somewhere. . . .” His voice trailed off as he stuck his tongue out the side of his mouth and scampered off on all fours like a dog into the dark unknowns of the hideout. He was back in a flash, balancing an entire stack of books on his head. After carefully removing them and fanning them on the floor in front of him, he settled next to me and flipped open to one of the thinnest books.

“Okay. Do you know this letter?” he asked. Pointing to a giant A on the page, which had a picture of a shiny, red apple on it.

“A!” I replied happily. Lenny nodded and smiled.

“And these?” He pointed to B and C in succession, and I could tell him the answer quickly. However, once we reached L, I was stumped. It looked just like a J!

“L is for Lenny!” he exclaimed, bending his body into an L shape. I laughed and nodded. “J is for Jared, who’s the boss.” Lenny pointed to the eldest, who grunted in anger at the TV, shaking the gray controller around furiously as the redhead laughed maniacally.

Let me just say that after Lenny’s strange lesson that night, I could confidently say that I knew every letter of the alphabet and the sounds they all made. And I could even read the words “cat” and “hat.” That right there had just made this entire adventure worth it. I was reading!

While teaching me to decipher The Cat in the Hat, Lenny didn’t touch on anything related to my family or the fight I had had with them, which suited me just fine. He asked me my favorite color—purple—and what I had for breakfast that morning—pancakes. They were pointless questions, but at least I had made a friend.

Two twin boys also came to talk to me a little while later. Everything about them from their cropped white-blond hair, to their icy-blue eyes, to their scattering of freckles was identical. They played guessing games with me, smiling silently at each other whenever I lost, which was every game. After a while, they seemed to lose interest in pestering me and moved on to the youngest boy, the chestnut-haired kid that had given me pie. He looked about six.

When the elder boys finally decided it was time for bed, it was very late, surely past my bedtime. They started pulling out fleece blankets and couch cushions, piling them on the floor. Upon climbing into these makeshift beds, Shaun realized I didn’t have a place to sleep. I stood in the corner, sheepishly looking out at them.

“Don’t worry, we can share, Princess,” called out the mischievous redhead. Princess? They thought I was a princess! “I’m Ryo, by the way.” I made my way over and climbed into his cot, permanently reserving a spot in their gang.

Mistake number three.
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DISCLAIMER: This story contains strong language, violence, alcohol, drugs, sex scenes, nudity, and basically anything you'd find sinful and inappropriate for young children. YuffieProductions is not responsible for the corrupting of innocent minds, increase in impulsive shrieking at the sight of a motorcycle, insomnia, loss of bladder control, or any injuries that may have been caused from reading this story. The characters in this book are professionals. Please do not attempt robbing a bank, flying unlicensed helicoptors, driving motorcycles at unlawful speeds, shooting anyone with a gun (unless it's a water/nerf/paintball gun), hacking police computers and installing malicious viruses/spyware/malware/dancing monkeys, drugging and kidnapping CEOs of big companies and their butlers, buying illegal drugs from South America, or breaking into military bases while impersonating soldiers.

Happy reading!