Deafness

Is the minute of fakeness,

Pretending we don’t know,

The truth of what you say, because

It’s undeniable, how much it’ll hurt

When we hear that dagger in the heart.

Black Taffeta.

She walked down the empty street, her head swinging from side to side, her legs wobbling left and right.  She teetered on her eight inch heels, the bottle of whiskey swinging in her hands.  She was walking her walk of fame, just like the one she walked down the catwalk.  Deranged laughter escaped her lips, as the darkness seemed to slowly suck her humanity away.

She was icy pale.  Her skirt, black taffeta, fluttered above mid-thigh and her corset shifted from side to side.  Only her coat, edged in fur, hung askew on her neatly dressed person.  Her left shoulder was exposed beneath that black slowly unplaiting hair.  The effort that she had put in pinning her hair up came undone so easily.

She laughed, her laugh slipped so easily from her lips, like liquid gas, combining with the damp cold air around her.

She threw the bottle to the slick wet ground and slumped against the pole.  What had she done to deserve this?  Where was this darkness coming from?

It covered her, suffocated her, took over every inch of her bare skin.

She had been drunk on the catwalk.  Her selfishness too much for her.  She had to succumb, to drown her sorrows in that bottle of vodka.  So much ecstasy, so much alcohol, so much want.  And it all disappeared, everything, all her emotions, all her fears, all sense of thought.  It was all gone.

But that stupid voice remained in her head.  That voice that nagged her now, telling her to think again.  But she’d still walked down that catwalk because she had everything to lose.  Without that walk, that look, that particular charisma, she would be nothing, nothing but what she’d been made to be.

Her arms shook as she pushed off the pole.  Her eyes, unfocussed, blurry as she twisted her head left and right.  She was on some street.  She was some place alone.  It was dark, very dark, and despite her heritage she felt afraid.

Was it possible for the darkness to become even darker?  She stumbled against the pole, the fear so very clear as the chills crept up her arm.  No! Her mind rage as the alcohol faded from her eyes, and her head cleared in the icy coldness.  Her hair stood on end, not just on her arms but up the back of her neck as well.  Her skin felt cold, colder than ice, and her legs, bare and stork-like, though elegant, wouldn’t move beneath that black taffeta.

Reap what you sow!”  The shadows screeched in her ear.

The shadows came, a darkness of her past, from every corner of the dilapidated street.  They crept from the cracks in the asphalt and slithered over the buildings passing over windows, blocking off the moonlight, and ruffled her taffeta skirt.  She shivered and wrapped her shaking hands in her skirt.  From habit the words slipped from her mouth.

Esthmet, esthmet…” Go away, Go away, “Tavisham, Tavisham.” Find home, find home.  “Esthmet, esthmet, tavisham, tavisham.

Since she was a child, the elders had trained her to be the shadow returner.  She had many names, among which some of her more famously known, the grim reaper and the angel of death belonged.  But in all essence, she had the power over the shadows, one part of her job, the lost souls must be returned to that space in between so that the mortal world can continue living.  She has trained all her life for this, and yet, she had thrown it away for a mortal life.

The shadows screeched under her mantra, they writhed and shivered until they retreated.  But as they shrunk back they hissed their warning to her.  She was near mortal now, having stayed so long acting as a mortal.  Her power had weakened, but she was still strong.

“Black taffeta?  Charming.”

She spun at the sound of his voice.  Michael stood there leaning against the wall, inseparable from the darkness in his high collared black coat and black slacks.  Wrapped around his wrists were strips of taffeta.

Infuriated, her hands unwillingly clenching into fists, she spun away from him and once again walked down that street.  She should have known.  For someone like her, she couldn’t be lost.  And for that, the elders would do anything to ensure she continued down her rightful path.

“Don’t walk away from me,” he demanded taking her arm and jerking her back.  She stumbled against him, a move that worsened her fate, and made it easier for him.  He held tightly to her arms.  “You belong with us, always, not here with mortals.”

He looked down at her skirt once again.  “You even still wear our mark.”

“It was a part of the costume.”

“Do you really expect me to believe that?”  His finger pushed her chin up.  The icy wind returned, stronger than before, it gusted passed them, ruffling her taffeta and his coat.  “Yet you still respond with the knowledge of the elders, something given to you only for the purpose of using your powers as they should.”

She pulled back with all her might.  Control, that was what they all wanted.  She wanted freedom, but she never said she would disappear forever.  She knew exactly how long she could remain in this mortal world before she began completely mortal.  “I’ll come back, I always will, but I’m still only a girl, only seventeen.  I’m not immortal yet.”

And she walked away.  For a long time, the bonds of her future had bound her where someone like Michael could not.  They held and cut and sliced her into an incomprehensible mess.  But she had continued training, training until her voice was hoarse and the backs of her hands were scarred from the cane used against her when she failed.  But still they remained with her, everything she learnt and she knew, they remained because she was the soul returner, even Michael knew the significance of the black taffeta.  Always, no matter how hard she ran.

Missing.

Your face is on all those posters.  So happy and unabashed, you laugh.  But your laugh it matches not the words on the poster.  Come back.  What happened?  Where did you go?  The poster rests on every pole and billboard.  I know you want to come back.  Come back alive.  I touch the missing poster.

Friendship.

The bond that holds them together is unbreakable.   Through thick and thin, through heart breaking battles, they remain strong.  They may part, but always they come back.  They take a different turn in the fork, but always they will cross again.  Friendship never ends as long as it’s maintained always, it will always be there.

Sometimes there is life.

Sometimes happiness is balanced by sadness.  Sometimes there is only happiness, and only sadness.  Standing on the waterfall, Valerie didn’t know if she had both.  She didn’t know if she was sad enough to jump, or if she was happy enough to grab on forever.  The water flowed endlessly like the turbulence in her heart.

Superhero.

You aren’t a superhero if you don’t help the people out there.  I catch the falling kid in my arms.  I was no more than a kid myself.  I considered myself a superhero, but was I?

The kid looked up at my sixteen year old face.  He smiled widely.

Yes, that’s what makes a superhero.

Faerie.

Faeries existed all around us.  I knew that.  Mum made sure I did.

She said, “stay away from the ring of toadstools that stand alone on the hillside. ”

“Don’t step inside it and count to three, spinning so that your skirts fly.”

“Don’t make a wish.”

“Don’t believe in it.”

“Don’t ever go by yourself.”

That’s what she said.  Those were the rules.  They were always the rules.  Maybe I thought they were bull.  Maybe I believed in them just a tiny bit.  But overall, I wanted to see the ring for myself.

“Oh come on Emma, this is what you wanted.”  I looked to my pretty but senseless friend.  Robyn Puca Lokianna was her name.  Or at least so she said.  I wondered if it was true.  Who had a name like that these days?

“Oh come on Emma,” she said, drawing me to her with her hand.  Her wide pretty grey eyes focussed only on me.  Just beyond the next meadow was the hill that mum warned me about.

“I don’t know Ro.”  My voice quivered unexpectedly.  Hardening myself, shaking away whatever fear it was that was holding me I looked at her.  “Mum said…”

“Pooh!  Screw your mum!  This is the twenty-first century Emma, not the fifteenth.  Like there are such things as faeries!”

Robyn was so convincing. Her argument made some sense, or at least that what my brain was agreeing with as it forced me to nod my head, however jerkily it may have seemed.

“Okay…I guess you’re right.”

“Yay!” She said gleefully jumping up and down clapping her hands.  “You won’t regret it!”

Somehow I doubted that.  The thing with Robyn is that well, she’s perfect.  I mean she’s not the hottest or the most beautiful girl at school, but she is pretty.  I always called it her ‘charm’, her ability to get people to listen to what she had to say.  Because believe me, they always listened.

One time she didn’t do the essay we had three weeks to do.  Later after she spoke to the teacher, she told me that she got an extension.  I believed her.  Even though I never saw her hand it in.

When we were small, a little boy fell of the monkey bars, Robyn was right beside him when he fell.  The teachers asked if anyone saw what happened, but no one did, even though we were right there.  All we knew was that the kid had been sitting cosily on the monkey bars talking to Robyn.  He also happened to be the guy I liked.  So I was jealous enough to imply that I might have seen Robyn do something.

But later when the teachers took Robyn away, she came back flouncing, her skirts flying like she was the happiest person in the world.

She stopped in front of my desk and just looked at me.  I didn’t like the look of sadness and defiance on her face.

“I thought we were friends Emma.”

“We are.”

“Then why?”

“Because you know why!”  I remember whispering harshly.  God I was only eight then.  Even so, I didn’t forget the blossoming amusement on her face.  She laughed then she asked if I could keep a secret as though we hadn’t argued at all.  Since I regretted telling on her I nodded, and she said, “People like listening to what I tell them.  Besides he wasn’t worth it!”

Maybe I looked horrified, maybe I looked like I didn’t know what I was hearing, but I knew something was not quite right.  I knew because the teachers never mentioned the little incident again.  Just like the guy in year nine English three years ago had a scared look on his face every time he saw either Robyn or I.

He’d tried to kiss me when I hadn’t wanted to be kissed.

Robyn had saved me.

It was a shame, I’d liked him too.  But turns out he didn’t like me as much as I thought he did.  He just wanted some action more than anything.  So he forced himself on me.

It was Robyn barrelling through the bedroom door like it wasn’t locked, crying, “touch her again and you’ll wish you never did.”

The thing is, to me, Robyn looked like Robyn when she was angry.  And I was so bloody grateful she’d come barrelling in.  But when I looked at him.  He looked terrified.  I was so sure he pissed his pants because I could smell urine in the room.

He never spoke to me after that.

Robyn pulled me through the meadow, not caring about any earthy potholes or my ankles for a matter.

“Robyn!  Slow down!  What’s your rush?”

“We have to hurry Em!  Being by the faerie ring when it’s not exactly noon will make this a pointless venture.”

“What’s so special about noon?”

“Noon is the faerie midnight.  The toadstools become a portal then.  They sparkle!”  Her eyes gleamed.  I didn’t like that gleam.  It frightened me.

Robyn was frightening sometimes when she was determined.

“There it is!”  I followed her pointing arm.  Yes, there is was, a solitary ring of toadstools.  It circled the hill top.  This ring of tiny red toadstools.

“Let’s stand inside.”

“Robyn!  No!”  I pulled my hand out of her grip at last.  “What about what mum said?  What about noon?”

“Oh come on.”

Robyn was reckless.  Mum was cautious.  And I, well, I was timid.  “But what happens if I forget one of mum’s rules?”

“I’ll make sure you don’t.”  She was already standing in the centre of the circle.  Her skirt billowed about her.

I shivered.  The sun had disappeared for a moment.  If we only stood in it for a moment, it should be okay, right?

“Your mum said never to go by yourself, right?”  She asked.  I nodded.  “Well you’re not alone.  I’m here.  I’ll keep you safe.”

Her smile was dazzling.  There was something about her words that made me believe everything she said.

“Okay then.”  I took her offered hand and stepped into the circle.

“Oh wow.”  Everything about the hilltop changed the moment I stepped in.  The light was brighter, the air was warmer, and the toadstools, the toadstools sparkled.

Horrified I tried to get out, my head was empty but for the fear.

“Robyn!”

But when I turned around, Robyn wasn’t there anymore.  Instead, a shining, inhuman figure stood outside the ring.  “I’m sorry Em.  But you should have listened to your mother.  Even if most of her rules were fiction.  You should have at least listen to the first rule.”

Choice.

“You wanna join us?  Take the stupid gun!”  He yelled at him.  The gun was in his hand.  He had taken, but it wasn’t taking that the guy wanted it.  It was the act that came with taking.  He weighed the options in his hand.  Then he put it back, ducking for cover.  “Kill him!”

Fate.

In my mind I see things, hear things, think things; things that aren’t real, great or spectacularly life inspiring.  But they’re there.  Telling me, whispering to me, sneaking into my mind.

I stumble to the stairs, cold and metallic, they clang beneath my heavy boots.  My head throbs.  Ba-dum.  Ba-dum.  BA-dum!

I climb with my hands and knees, feeling for the next step to haul myself up.  I’m blinded by the sight that I cannot see.  I’m blinded by what my brain tells me.

The vision has always followed me.  It has always preceded me.  I wondered  had all those who’d died had known whether they were going to do it?

Death follows me.  He shadows me as I walk, as I crawl, as I climb.  He knows my fate. Perhaps he has known it for years.

Destiny finds me too.  But unlike Death, Destiny does not stay.  Destiny comes and goes, straying to my right shoulder while Death waits by my left.  They are patient and unassuming but they wait, reminding me all the time exactly how much of my fate they already know.

I shove the heavy rooftop door open.  It weighs more than the world and the burden on my shoulders.

The night is cold against my skin.  The sound of silence but howls in my ears.  What have I left but than to edge my way slowly over to the top of the summit?

Death hovers by my side as I find my way up the roof.  I look for handholds and footholds.  The tiles were gritty against my calloused hands.

Halfway up I stopped and turned.  Breathing, my breath fogging up the night, the cityscape stretched all around me.  My eyes looked down.  Only a hill as high as the one my house sat on could show me this unbelievable sight.

“Why do you want me to climb the roof?”  I ask to no one in particular.  Death never spoke, but Death could hear.

And like always Death was quiet.  Death and Destiny never interfered.  Death and Destiny stood aside to watch.

I looked at the short bit of roof I still had to climb.  It wasn’t far.  But it wasn’t like I climbed roofs for a living.  I breathed again.  My breath surrounding me like a cloud.

“It is my destiny isn’t it?”  I asked.

The silence from Death was all that surrounded me.

Fate had led me here.  Fate had always been leading me.  Fate took me to school to watch my peers.

The visions didn’t show me my future.  Even though at first, I always thought it was mine.

But I see her now, standing on top of my roof.  My younger sister, thirteen.  It was her in the visions.  Not me.

And now Death walked beside me, Death and Destiny.  Fate followed behind me.  He watched broodingly, because he was Fate and he knew what my sister didn’t.  He knew, as did Death and Destiny what I will find.

I hauled myself over the apex and sat down uncomfortably.

“Rela, don’t.”  I breathed hoarsely looking at the slender girl in front of me.

When I’m ready I stand.  I almost feel Death offer a hand of kindness or was it Fate?  But it was a wisp of darkness that brushed faintly over my elbow, that barely supported me at all.

My house is stranger than most.  It has three stories; the fourth sitting at the very top.  It is an attic with an old-fashioned roof.  The rest is metal and highly resembles a maximum security vault.

It was supposed to be safe.  But like everything else in this world, it wasn’t.  I should have known.

I bet others didn’t have this problem, this supernatural calling of the horrid, horrid angels of Destiny, Death and Fate.

They didn’t have the visions I did or the freak headaches I had within my own house.  It was the house, this house.  Why did I live in this house?  Was it the house?

“Rela please.”

“Do you know, it’s like fate put us here.  That this house, the only house in the suburb should be the one with the faulty security.  How does it feel?”  She sounded manic.  I had to stop her.  Rela was my only flesh and blood left.  Mum was gone.  Dad was gone.  But Rela was here.

I cursed this world of fear and oppression.  I cursed their want of power.  Their ability to make us think the way they wanted us to.

“Rela please!”  I lurched forward grabbing her.  She screamed and jerked back throwing me off balance.

“Rela!”  I screeched, feeling my foot slip off the roof.  Her eyes widened as she recaptured her balance.

“Faith!”  Her eyes were wide with absolute horror as she lurched forward to catch me.

But I was already falling away.  Her hand brushed my arm.  But she was too far to grab it.

I fell for the time it took to live a lifetime.

Ba-dum.  Ba-dum.  BA-dum!

I gasped as the ground embraced me, my arms and legs sprawled out in all angles.  There was no pain.  There never would be.

“FAITH!!”  Rela’s strangled cry would fill the air with sorrow.  She was only thirteen.  And now she had a whole lifetime to live.

Fate touched his lips to mine, Death watched with Destiny as Fate pulled my spirit from my body.  Then he pulled away, his hand never straying from my arm.

Fate had never been happy with the outcome because he had known.  The difference being, of the three angels, their wings surrounding them, encasing them, that Fate spoke to me.

It was but a voice in my mind, but I heard it like a whisper even as I looked up at my distraught sister.  The neighbours were already coming.  In my heart Fate whispered to me.

This was your fate…as it was hers, she will be safe…

He was right as I could see.  Our next door neighbour was already taking Rela safely in her arms and taking her away.

The Song.

A thousand summers passed as she waited on the stage.  The audience wouldn’t wait forever.  Afraid, she knew this was her chance.

She took the microphone in hand, and looked once more out into the glaring lights of the audience.  One song could change her future.  One audition could change her life.

And she sang.

One Day.

One day can change everything, and change nothing.  One day is the centre of the heart and the heart of the centre.  You cannot change one day if that day has already begun.  That day is done, and done it has been.

Walk.  I walk along the river.

Feel.  I feel the breeze amongst my hair.

Think.  I cannot change a thing.

Life is a bittersweet memory.  I stop and look to the river, its wide expanse stretching beyond the distance that my eyes can see.  I look.  The bridge is not so far.  I walk.  To the bridge to cross the river.

I stop again and knee, expecting with every moment that I will see the birth of ripples spreading over the water caused by the boat of Charon.  But when I look up there is nothing there.  Evidently.

Then I dip my hand into the water.  It’s cool and polluted, but I do it anyway.  I am so small beside the river whether I am sitting, standing, or kneeling on the river edge.   Just like I am but an insignificant being in this vastly populated world.  So what difference would one day make?

I look at the water, it’s dark and murky, unpleasantly unclean.  I have no doubt that it would stain my body and health with its black mark of death.  I watch in silent horror as the surface changes.  It doesn’t reflect the sky and its blueness.  Or the sky and its puffy white clouds I’m so far away from.  Instead it shifts and changes, and morphs into something else.

It is a mirror, a bowl of water, with a crystal in the centre.  It calls to a past I want to forget.  It calls to the days that are insignificant.

I walk to the bus stop and say hi to the girl I call my friend.  She laughs and says hi then pulls me along the bus to the back where all the boys are.  Then she flirts with them while I sit next to here, trying control my blush as I talk to the guy on my other side.

He’s nice.  I like him.  I’ve liked him for a while.  I tell myself I’m not nervous because he’s talking to me.  I tell myself I’m nervous because I’m afraid of what I’ll say.

The bus stops and the idea of class at nine hits me full force.  There’s still forty-five minutes until it starts, Les drags me to the canteen where she stacks up on unhealthy but absolutely delicious breakfast foods before plonking me into a chair with a bunch of rowdy guys.

They roared and punched her in the arm while their hands reached for her food.  I batted them away for her.  Like always.  She was incapable of keeping them out of her food.  When I wasn’t around, she’d end up with nothing but one or two.  And this was why she loved me.  Because I was her wingman, her best friend, her buffer, her food saver.

If we hadn’t been the only two loners in year seven too quirky for the rest of the class, then we’d never be friends.  But I know this is the reason why we were friends in the first place.  Because neither of us could really ever truly be the best friend of someone else.  Nor could we get along too well with a bunch of other girls.  We had our secrets, and we had the reasons why we could not go out like the other girls.  And we bonded in that way, even if we never actually told each other why.

We trusted each other.  Somehow indefinitely, and because of that our fates seemed entwined together.  But I was still me.  I was still the only.  I was still alone.

When class began, I sat in my usual seat beside a random friend.  She chatted unnecessarily about some party or another.   I nodded and smiled, it was customary, familiar, repetitious.

The teacher started speaking then and her talk was drowned out.   Thank god.

I scribbled mercilessly all over my book.  Touché I didn’t actually write anything.  Recess passed like a breeze.  Les buying a chunk of food, and me buffering the hoard of people trying to take her food.  She flirted again.

Maths was the bane of my existence.  Why not?  Since the reason why I was in maths in the first place was because I was egotistic enough to think that I was good enough.  But I couldn’t back out now.  No matter how much I hated it.  The rowdy guys from this morning flooded the seats next to me and around me and badgered me all lesson.  I wasn’t surprised, they needed my help.  So I did my work ahead and helped them in class rather than doing my work.

Too bad, I was such a pushover.

Lunch came and they all dragged me with them even though I might have preferred to find a quiet place, far away, a place that doesn’t exist.

I buffered for Les again.  She was forever always in my favour.

Then the day ended with another class, again, I was doing nothing more than scribbling in my book.  I was too far ahead for the teacher to comprehend.  Too bad.

And when the day ended, I had received more than the norm in invitations to parties, Les looked at me.  I gave her a sad smile and put them in the bin.

The scene disappeared, and the river was once more a river.  It was as it was.  Flowing and fluid.  Liquid darkness that could poison me bit by bit.

I took off my boots and pulled off my socks.

The water was warm.  I pulled off my other boot so that I could stand on the stairs, with my feet in the water.  It seemed to call to me.  It seemed to want me to swim.  The other side of the river wasn’t so far.  It couldn’t possibly be as far as walking to the bridge to cross what I could cross now.

So Much Pain.

She was in so much pain.  It hurt too much to think.  The arguing didn’t stop.  She tried so hard.  So hard.  And she’d accomplished nothing.  Silence.  All she wanted was silence.  Then nothing could be said.  It would be much safer.  She told herself everything was fine for so long.  Who was she kidding?