The last thing Ashlin expected was a reunion. Now they are back.
|They were there when I came back from taking Fred for a walk in the dunes. Two huddled figures on the beach, wearing clothes that were clearly non-existent to today’s fashion sense. They were watching the breakers pound the shore – they weren’t running around or talking or eating, they were just staring at the green-brown sea. And it was weird, I thought, because most of the kids from Residence were at the annual beach party further down south. Fred trotted over to say hello and to sniff around. The girl ignored him and turned around to glare at me with dark, accusing eyes, while the boy, who was much bigger, continued to observe the murky waves. Suddenly Fred got spooked and started to growl. I trudged across the sand and grabbed him by the collar but even as I pulled him away he just kept on growling. It was then, in a flash of recognition, that I saw the boy’s face. I should have obeyed my first instinct and ran, ran like there was no tomorrow, but I didn’t.
“What are you staring at?” snapped the girl. Her voice was furious and ragged. Under her glare I started to sweat, even with the sun setting and the wind getting cooler every minute, it felt like mid afternoon. I was blazing as if under the glare of the sun itself, it’s entire focus on me; as if it had forgotten to warm the entire planet, and now only focused its energy on me. Still I kept my eyes locked with hers, and I realized that she was shaking in fury. I willed my feet to move, even if just a few steps. But I could feel all my determination and will power melting as the treacherous waves carried it away. Then another flash of memory hit me and I jerked my eyes away from hers. Now I remembered why I felt so dazed; the girl had me mesmerized and under her control. I would not allow that. There was no way I was giving in to their unnaturally cruel beauty.
“Who are you?” I said, pretending to not remember anything. “Why have you been here all day?” I uttered each word carefully to show that I had full control over my thoughts now.
“Oh you don’t remember us, do you?” she sneered, her lips tightening to reveal her sharp, pointed teeth. “If you don’t stop playing your silly games, I swear I will rip you apart into a million pieces and…”
“Stop it Fiona!” the boy cut her off and jumped to his feet, suddenly standing right in Fiona’s face. “I’ve already had enough of you. You’ve done enough damage as it is, now let me handle this.”
He turned and faced me. His face looked fallen and eyes tired, yet they still had their fiery blaze within them. I understood why I hadn’t recognized him right away. That other time he had looked so strong, powerful and…magical. Now he just looked drained, tired and old. It was as though he had aged years in just a few months. I wanted to touch his hand and comfort him, but instead I searched deeper into his eyes all the while knowing the danger involved. He stepped closer to me, his eyes scrutinizing my face and turning a calm, persuasive green. Instantly, I felt the tension leave my body and in its place the calm that he sent through his eyes settled. I smiled taking a step closer to him. He towered over me and where I should have felt scared and intimidated, I felt joy and reassurance. He smiled in return, but unlike before, his smile did not touch his eyes. It hung there on his lips, a false pretence, dying as he saw something in me that he did not like. He frowned and turned away, and as he did so the spell broke. I started breathing hard again and my face scrunched up as my annoyance returned. Still I forced myself to keep up the act because it was my only option. They had to be convinced that they had successfully wiped my brain clean. If they found out the truth it would put me and others in grave danger. What would they do to me? I shivered at the possibilities of the punishments that would bring my ultimate demise. I don’t know why I was so shocked to see them and how I suddenly feared them like the first time I ever saw them. I had spent enough time with them before to get used to their unnatural acts and powers. DID I really get wiped? HAD I failed in my attempt to escape the unjust process? But that wasn’t possible; I still remembered them didn’t I? Remembered every little detail of my adventures with them and my near death experiences too. Had they managed to clear some portions of my brain? That would explain the months of headaches and memory lapses that I had been experiencing. Thinking about my suffering brought back the rage that I had been trying to suppress. Looking at his hardened expression made me so angry that I thought I would break into tears. Just the thought of what he might be thinking made my bones hurt. But he couldn’t know that; he couldn’t know anything. I couldn’t allow myself to hurt him once more, so I pushed my desires and hopeful thoughts to the back of my head and straightened up to face them both.
“What the hell was that, what did you do to me?” I shouted to their faces, trying to be as aggressive as possible. I looked up and down myself to show my astonishment. Then I rubbed my eyes to exaggerate the effect. Finally, with a deep sigh I said “What are you people…? Please just leave me alone.” I turned and started to walk away. As I slowly trudged towards my cabin on the far left of the residence I heard Fiona’s voice arguing.
“Well that went well. Letting you handle it. I told them to send someone else with me, but nobody listens to me. Now look, she won’t talk to us.” I could imagine the two of them glaring at each other. It was quite except the sound of my feet trudging through the sand, and the waves quietly rolling in and out. Fiona gave up first and with a heavy sigh jerked her head in my direction. At least I thought she did because her next words seemed aimed at my back.
Did you pick up her thoughts? Is she lying?” I suddenly stopped to listen to his reply. How could I be so stupid? Of course he’d been listening the whole time. He would know the truth no matter how hard I tried to hide it. No matter how deep I buried my thoughts he would push through them all to get what he wanted. Slowly I started walking again, not wanting to hear his reply anymore. I had to get to my room quick. I had to pack and run. Run as fast as I could. Things were definitely going to get out of control now. He probably knew everything and was already putting the pieces together. Great. Me and my stupid plans.
“No, I don’t think she’s lying. But I can’t be sure, she broke contact too soon, I was still looking.” His reply made me gasp and I was sure that they both heard it. I turned and gave them an awkward smile. I was shocked. Not only because he was obviously pretending not to know anything, but also because of another lie he said so effortlessly. I hadn’t broken contact. Hell no! Why would I ever want to not touch him. Under his sparkling eyes, I wouldn’t be able to. It had been him who had turned around and let me go. And even then my previous experiences with them told me that the time he had had was more than enough to get the information they were looking for. Why would he lie? Why would he allow me to go so easily? There was a sudden spark of hope, but I quickly pushed that train of thought away.
“Ouch…” I said. “I stepped on a broken shell?” I knew the instant I said those words that they sounded like a lame excuse, but how could a brain be expected to think so fast after going through so much disorientation? I saw his face turn pale and his eyes grow wide, and then he took quick steps towards me and started to reach for my foot. A bunch of things happened then. Firstly, I jumped back and away from his grip. Second, Fiona grabbed his shoulder and stopped him dead in his steps. And much to my embarrassment, I thought she was jumping me, so terrified I staggered back further and tripped over a pile of sand and pebbles that looked like a half built castle. I landed on my head and tried to use my hands to cushion my fall, but ended up twisting my left wrist, and with it came a shriek of pain. My eyes started to water, more from embarrassment then pain, although the pain was pretty bad too. I wanted to scream some more but I didn’t know how he will react so I bit my tongue and tried to keep myself under control.
Still I couldn’t stop the involuntary tremors and as a result my entire body shook. I knew I was making this harder for him than it needed to be, harder than I had intended it to be. Actually, I hadn’t wanted it to effect him in at all, and because I was so confident about them ever finding me, the idea was absurd. What my reasoning behind that observation had been is now unclear to me. Of course they would find me! I had been a fool for believing otherwise. Who had convinced me? Wrong question. Another jolt of pain ran through my body but this time it wasn’t from my recent injuries. No, no…don’t think about that…don’t. I felt like a dying soldier who had given his entire life to fighting the enemy and had now lost the battle. I could see it all slipping away. All my hard work in trying to block out the memories. My attempts to mix the truth and the lies so that I could find the comfort to live with myself. In some ways I wanted them to find me, because it would further prove there unbelievable but also undeniable mystical ways. But above all, because I still yearned for my other life. The life that I had so carelessly thrown away. I wanted to connect with all that I only now dreamt of. Events that were now flat, stale and colourless, from my repeated recalling of them. I wanted to know what my decisions had done to the people I loved. Well, to the other people I loved. What had become of their worlds under my shadow, after my escape.
I lay on the sand for what seemed like an eternity, when finally I was able to use my uninjured hand to push my self up. I peeked at the two figures. It was starting to get dark so all I saw were two silhouettes with the ocean in the background. He had returned to the giant stones and had his head in his hands. Was he crying?
Fiona seemed more alert and when she saw me looking she started to make her way towards me. This caused me to panic and I started looking around for something to protect myself with. If she was going to get me, so be it, but I wasn’t going down without a fight. I tried to get up but my recent fall left me aching and unwilling to move. A feeling of pitiful uselessness took over me. Then I gave up and just slumped back on the sand again and closed my eyes. I heard her feet take a few more steps, and then stop. At the intermission, I opened my eyes and saw her looking over me with the same unappreciative expression. I hadn’t expected her to look sorry or even touched by my struggling figure, but her lack of concern sent pangs of pain through my body. She let me struggle for a while and slowly her angry features twisted into an amused smile. She folded her arms and with a sudden jerk of the leg she kicked sand in my face. This move took me completely by surprise and I choked on the sand that was making its way down my throat. Instinctively, I covered my face but my attempt came a little late and the sand was now everywhere. In my mouth, where I could taste it, rough and salty. In my eyes, where it brought tears and itching spasms of pain. She didn’t stop there, when she heard me cry out loud, begging for her to stop, she glanced over at him expecting him to stop her and then with a smug expression she gave another cruel barking laugh and kicked me hard in the gut. I grabbed my stomach as I curled into a ball and started to weep, clearly powerless and defeated. As I continued to beg for mercy I realized with a shock that this was just the beginning. There was more pain where that came from. And what was more, I understood that I deserved this pain. I understood the reasoning behind the hatred and cruelty. Out of all the emotions that humans were capable of, I felt guilt. I stopped my begging and made an attempt to ask for forgiveness. I couldn’t hide it anymore. Besides the promise to myself had no meaning now when my end was so near. I caught my breath and yelled out.
“SORRY! I’AM SORRY! SORRY! Please…please…just kill me…” As I said these words I felt my screams turn into whispers and then into moans. My eyelids drooped and I saw the devil above me looking stunned. She hadn’t expected such an easy confession and was perhaps even sad to get it, because it would mean killing me quickly and making their way back as soon as possible. Then before I could completely fall under I stole a glance towards the figure on the rocks, but couldn’t find him there. Even now this frightened me and I searched for him until my eyes saw a tall figure wrestling down Fiona. She was screaming in protest, but to me it sounded like echoes in a distant land. I smiled, unable to stop myself. It took him awhile but at least he saved me a painful death. They struggled for a while tackling each other. I waited patiently for him to win the fight and make his way to me so that he could finish what had started a long time ago.
Abruptly, she stopped moving and lay limp on the ground but not unconscious because I could see her chest rise and fall as she breathed. Then I felt a slap on my cheek, but not an unkind or harsh slap, but a soft and frantic one. He was there, trying to pull me out of the void that I was falling into. He didn’t say anything or maybe he did and I couldn’t hear, but he stroked my hair and caught my shoulders and shook me. Even in the pitch dark that now surrounded us I could see his face that was perhaps even more agonizing than mine.
“Please, let it be quick.” I choked out, wanting him to understand that I wasn’t going to resist. My breathing started to slow and my eyes were now completely shut. I didn’t bother to try to keep them open because more than the burning that the sand left behind, it pained me to see him so fallen and tortured. I knew that he would suffer from the painful memories I had given him for the rest of his life and so I wanted to make his suffering less. I only had seconds left before I was gone, I could feel it, the cold spreading through me. So I did the only thing I could think of…with my lips I formed the words that would end it all. Just one more lie, that’s all. Just another lie except this time it was for the benefit of someone else and not for selfish reasons. That’s what I told myself.
“I hate you. Always…hated you.” It hurt to say these short words. Not physically, although that was part of the pain, but it hurt in ways I couldn’t explain to myself. It felt like someone was burning the inside of my throat and cutting my heart into strips. I couldn’t tell what I sounded like, but I knew it had to be convincing.
“Always will…sorry ‘bout the other lie though. I had to do it.” At this I gave a weak smile trying to complete the image of a ruthless, selfish creature. He stopped the shaking. I hoped he heard this and not just whispers but I didn’t stay around long enough to find out. I just felt his grip tighten around me as though he just realized something and then it was dark, cold, and empty.