The Ill-Fated Ones

"Beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and devil are fighting there, and the battlefield is the heart of man."


1. The Ill-Fated Ones

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As I sat cross-legged on the Wall, peering over the fifty foot drop at the littered ground, I knew it was Drafting Day. Dozens of Newbies ambled reluctantly across the grass, dressed in the clothing of the Towns People, which starkly contrasted the clothes they would soon be wearing as members of the Guard.

"Those poor unfortunate souls," Gabriel said. "They have no idea what they're in for." He grinned, despite the sober nature of his words. 

"No, but I'm sure you'll tell them," I replied. Gabriel had been my Guard partner since I had gotten drafted three years earlier. His hair was either blonde or strawberry-colored, depending on the amount of sunlight. Since the sky was currently leaden with overcast, it was a dull golden halo, growing back quickly since his last shave. Mine was exactly the opposite--dark, long and tangled due to neglect and braided down my left shoulder, that way it wouldn't become entwined with the strap to my AK-47 that I kept on my right shoulder.

A group of Sirians made up the back of the line. They were all beautiful, of course--with their white hair, skin so pale it was translucent and the clear blue pools of water that were their eyes. After the Converging, they were the clear leaders, as they were vastly more intelligent than humans and ten times as beautiful. For some reason, it was easier following beautiful 'people'...

"At least try to be nice to this set of Newbies," I said, tilting my head slightly. "Don't you remember how scary Drafting Day was?"

"Better that they get accustomed to life in the Guard, don't you think? That way they won't get too comfortable."

I laughed incredulously. "As if they could get comfortable. They are the 'Ill-Fated Ones' afterall," I said, putting air quotes around the phrase. It was the name given to the Guard members by the superstitious Towns People.

"Oh, shut up, Maia. You know that name is derogatory," he said, his mouth pulling down on both sides until he couldn't hold up the sad facade anymore. His usual grin appeared on his face to take it's place.

"Hey, you two," a voice called from behind us. Simuetaneously, we both whipped our heads around to face the voice. We stood up immediately after realizing it was a Sergeant.

"Yes sir?" Gabriel said, his hands behind his back and feet apart, just like me.

"A group of Class C beings has been spotted by the Aerial Guard. They are five miles south of the main camp. They are to be terminated." He said the statement so casually, it was hard to believe he was telling us to kill something. He didn't even look up from his clipboard.

We both nodded as he left us, his eyes on still the clipboard. Gabriel sighed loudly, expelling some of his annoyance. He hated going on missions, as did I.

"Well, let's get this over with." We both grasped our guns with both hands, wiping the smiles off our faces and entering the zone that could only be understood by other Guard members.


As we made our way through the foresty brush, I couldn't shake the eery feeling that seemed to stick to my surroundings. Every crevice and corner of the path I was trekking across was cold and uninviting. The smell of damp leaves and bark was pungent and the freezing drops of rain that found their way through the canopy of trees were making me shiver. And worst of all, it was utterly unlit and filled with dark shadows.

My mother once told me that people used to be afraid of the dark. In the moment, it sounded ridiculous but since then, I’ve developed a theory. Perhaps they weren’t actually afraid of the dark but rather the overwhelming sense that something was in it. Something that they couldn’t see or hear but that they could feel. I could only imagine the sense of relief that came with switching on the light and realizing that you were alone.

But after the Converging, everyone realized that that wasn’t true at all. We were never alone.

And even though I knew Gabriel was only a few feet away from me, judging by the sound of feet crunching twigs and leaves, that thought was alive in my mind. It wasn't as if the government distributed a catalog of every inter-dimensional being after the dimensions converged. For all I knew, there could be an invisible creature I've never encountered walking alongside me right now.

I wondered what it was like when the Converging happened. I imagined being one of the clueless people who was enjoying their day when--pop--everything abruptly changed. One minute they were blissfully unaware and the next? The next minute they were sharing their dimension with creatures that nearly diminished the population.

Little did they know, we always shared this Earth with a multitude of beings, we just didn't have the sight we needed to be aware of it. We were protected by the borders of our dimension that separated us from them. Until they collapsed.

If it wasn't for the Sirians, the human race might've become extinct within a few months. But even after a few decades, we're still thriving. There was a whole new generation of people born within the compound that they created. And I was a part of that generation. This was all I knew.

"Maia," I heard in a whisper. Grasping my gun a little tighter, I followed the breathy sound of Gabriel's voice. My eyes focused in on a shadow in the dark brush which encompassed Gabriel, kneeling down with his gun resting on the trunk of a fallen tree. He motioned for me to join him silently.

Kneeling next to him, I squinted to see what he was seeing. In a group, huddled together, were four or five Class Cs. Their skin was leathery, gray, and completely hairless and their mouth was filled with razor sharp rows of fangs. There appeared to be something lying in the middle of their huddle and their faces seemed distressed.

A feeling of concern blossomed in my chest for these foreign creatures. Almost instantaneously, as the thought floated through my head, one of them turned around. Our eyes locked. And though everything about us was utterly different--even our eyes contrasted greatly, green and solid black--in that moment, we were exactly the same. Two scared creatures with concern for someone other than ourselves.

The clicking sound that accompanied Gabriel's switch as he lowered it on his rifle was so loud in the moment that I jumped, though I kept eye contact with the creature. It dawned on me that he was about to shoot and a thought that wasn't my own sounded through my head, 'Don't. Please.' And I knew it was the creature I was sharing a moment with.

"Gabriel, wait," I pleaded in a hushed voice

"What?" he replied, though I could barely hear him over the noise in my head. 

'My child is hurt. Please help her.' Without thinking, I stood up, alerting the others of my presence.

"Maia, what were you thinking--"

I held up a finger to him, while the other creatures scattered, leaving only the mother who spoke to me and her bleeding child on the ground. "How do I know this isn't a trick? How do you I know you won't kill me if I try and help?"

The creature looked taken-aback. 'We've never hurt anyone. Your people are the ones hunting us.'

"But the Sirians told us--"

'The Sirians lie. They've hunted our kind for centuries. We've done nothing to deserve it. Now they've injured my child. We only want help. We only want our species to coexist peacefully.'

Though everything I had been told my whole life about the beings we shared this plane with was screaming at me that she was lying, I knew deep down that she wasn't. But why would they lie to us? Why would they employ us, draft us into the Guard, and make us give up our lives to hunt beings that want nothing more than coexistence.

'We're smarter than they are.' 

I didn't know what that meant or what I was supposed to do with it, but watching that child lay bleeding and vulnerable on the ground released my inhibitions. "They don't want to hurt us, Gabriel. We have to help her."

"What are you talking about, Maia? Have you gone insane? You've been talking to yourself this entire time! You heard what the Sirians told us. They're dangerous," he said, his eyes wide with concern.

"They're not! Tell him like you told me. Please," I pleaded with her. She gave a slight nod before turning to face Gabriel. 

"I don't know what--" But his sentence was cut off and his focus went inward. I knew he was hearing what I heard.

"Told you," I said after a few seconds. He didn't say anything back but he looked down, his hands still on his rifle, his face red with embarrassment. 

Without waiting for his reply, I climbed over the fallen tree trunk and reached the child in only a few seconds and kneeled down beside her. "What should I do?" I looked up at her for answers but her face held nothing but hopelessness. The expression on her face, though she looked so foreign, reminded me so much of my mother the day I was drafted into the Guard. That was the day she realized she had lost her daughter.

"We'll take her back to the Compound. They can help her. If we tell them that you don't want to hurt us, they'll understand. They have to," Gabriel said, joining us after his shock wore off. 

I looked down at the child, wondering if it was the right move. She was so small, probably the size reaching my mid-thigh. She couldn't be more than a few years old, though I didn't know how fast these creatures aged. She was still steadily bleeding from her leg which appeared to have been shot, probably by the Aerial Guard.

"Okay. We'll take her," I said, wrapping my arms around her and lifting her up so that I was standing once more.

'Are you sure it's safe?' 

"I won't let anything happen to her. I promise."

I tried to communicate this to her through my eyes but the warm blood that soon soaked by black Guard jacket hindered me. "We have to go. Now," Gabriel said, his hand resting on my shoulder.

I knew he was right, so with one last backward glance, I trudged through the forest with the little girl in my arms. Her skin was a lot smoother than it had originally appeared and now that I was close, I realized that they weren't hairless at all. The hair on her head was so light was it was barely visible under the canopy of trees.

"I can carry her," Gabriel offered.

"It's fine," I said. "Just guard me." Without a sound, he moved behind me.

As we walked back to the compound, I realized just how much I was projecting my fears onto my surroundings. The crevices and corners that had seemed so dark before had sunlight touching them, illuminating the shadows. The smell of damp leaves and bark was no longer pungent but fresh and welcoming. And I no longer feared the creatures that we shared this single dimension with. They were here all along and deserved to be here just as much as I did.

"We're nearly there," he said, resting his rifle on his shoulder and taking his place in front of me. The forest cleared and soon we were faced with the massive Wall. It seemed so much taller as I looked up at it, as opposed to looking down from the top.

"Stop!" It was one of the guards, noticing that I had the creature in my arms. "Put the creature down and step away."

"No, it's okay! They don't want to hurt us. But this little girl is hurt and needs medical assistance immediately!" I said, attempting to convince them. She let out a moan then, and I knew it was urgent. "Please."

The guard member lowered his gun and I realized there was a crowd around us. No one seemed to be hostile or ready to shoot. Maybe Gabriel was right...

I began to walk towards the entrance. It was going to be okay...

A Sirian walked out of the entrance doors then and his bright blue eyes went wide. "What are you doing? Someone kill that thing or it will kill us all!" he sounded, but none of the guard sounded convinced. She was so little after all. How could she hurt anyone?

"Did you not hear me?" he roared. "Give me that!" He took the gun from one of the guard members and pointed it directly at me. His eyes seemed wild and I knew he was preparing to shoot.

I froze, unable to move or even think. Another moan registered. A click of the safety on a rifle. The whoosh of a bullet traveling through a chamber. A bullet colliding with flesh.

The Sirian went down faster than I thought possible, leaving a splash of blood on the Wall behind him. Finally I could move. I looked at Gabriel with eyes wider than I thought possible. Now he was frozen, still pointing the gun in the direction of the fallen Sirian.

I grabbed his forearm and thought quickly. We had to do the only thing we could--run

So we did. We ran from the only home we knew with the bleeding girl in my arms.

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