Date: March 20, 3045 Onyx's 18th Birthday
Where: Togan Headquarters, Capital City
When: 12:47 AM
Perspective: First Person
I sat on the too soft bed and looked at the picture of my parents. They were traitors; and I should've burned this, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. A knock on the door alerted me to my uncle's arrival; he always wished me happy birthday around one in the morning, because he worked late and didn't arrive home until then; the tradition must've stuck even though we were on 'vacation'. A Tattoo Ceremony is hardly a vacation.
"Onyx, are you awake?"
"Yes, Uncle Peter, I am awake." I slid the photograph under the mattress and smiled through the darkness of the room, only illuminated by the full moon outside the large french doors behind where I perched.
"Happy birthday, kid."
"Thanks, Uncle Peter. Not much of a birthday."
"Onyx, its time for you to choose. The Alliance, or the Togans."
"What do I do?"
"Alliance, you run. Togans, you get tattooed. I didn't have this choice when I was your age. No one did. Choose wisely."
"Sounds easy enough."
"It is, here." My uncle handed me a small black box. "Your father was going to give it to you on your eighteenth birthday but-"
I opened the box, revealing a silver locket in the shape of dragon, in the claws of the dragon was lily. I opened the locket ignoring the tears that were forming in the corners of my eyes. I saw a picture of him and my mother, also in the box was a letter. I looked up and noticed my uncle had quietly slipped from the room.
By now you are eighteen, and if you're reading this, it means both I and your mother are dead. I never wanted to leave you; but I couldn't kill you either. I'm sorry my darling daughter if I have ruined your view of men, or father's in general. I love you Onyx, everything you will ever do I will be proud of you. You could do nothing to change that. I love you.
Tears sprang into my eyes as I read my dead father's letter or note. On the back was a letter from my mother. I braced myself and continued to read.
I am so proud of you. Today is the special day. The day you choose whom you'll fight for. I wish I would've been strong enough to resist. But alas, I'm tattooed forever-even in death. But you have the option, to run from all of this. Be the brave woman I should've been thirty years ago. The Togans cannot remain in power.
My darling forgive me if I cannot be with you at this ceremony. I'm sorry its not the day you envisioned. If you're reading this, I must be dead. I love you my precious gem. My daughter, my Onyx. Choose wisely, ma Cherie.
Love Mama, forever and always."
I dropped the paper and cried. They knew they were going to die. They were tattooed and they joined the Alliance anyway. But so did Uncle Peter. I shoved myself off the bed and walked to the balcony. Down below was another tattoo-ee who couldn't sleep. His name was Styx, and he happened to be my best friend. He had the blackest hair, that shone in the moonlight-like the gem I'm named for. I had met him at a dinner years ago and his eyes had captivated me-they were bright green almost like acid with flecks of blue and gold. They really set off his perfect olive skin, lightly tanned to a rich caramel color. He was beautiful to put it simply.
"Styx! Hey Styx!" I called down to him. He looked and smiled.
"Hello Onyx. You cannot sleep as well, my beautiful owl?"
"Yes, come up to my room."
"Alright." Styx climbed up the trellis that connected balconies to one another, he braved the rose thorns and greeted me with his perfect smile. I mentioned I had met him years ago, that was only half true, in reality I had met Styx a few days after my parents had died. I loved him, and he didn't know. A part of me wanted to tell him, wrap up into his arms and kiss those perfect lips, but another part of me was too afraid of being left alone and the rejection.
"Onyx, are you ready?"
"Ready for what?"
"To run. No ink is going to ruin my skin."
"Yes, I'm ready to run." Styx smiled, Styx was only a nickname I had given him. I was reading Greek Mythology and seven year old me thought if anyone was going to drag me to Hell, it ought to be Hyden Pickford, so Styx was born. He liked it and the meaning behind it.
"Onyx; I want to tell you something."
"What? Your real name isn't Styx?" I said in between packing a light bag of necessities.
"Funny. No, Onyx, when I look at you I feel-safe, and I see hope. I see a future with you away from all of this. Onyx, I love you."
"What?" I asked, dropping the little black box the locket had come in.
"I love you." Styx said picking up the box.
"Oh! Styx I love you too! You're the sweetest person I've ever met. That was beautiful. I had no idea you felt that way." Styx wrapped his arms around me and I lifted my head so that our lips almost touched. He was closing the distance when a knock on my door interrupted us.
"Hide!" I whispered as I disentangled myself. I opened the door and was relieved to see Uncle Peter. "Uncle Peter, do you know what time it is?"
"I'm sorry Onyx, but you have to go. Now. Its two hours into your birthday, they'll be coming for you."
"Alright, goodbye uncle."
"Goodbye Onyx." We embraced and he turned went into his room. He winked before closing the doors. I sighed and found Styx behind the drapes.
"How cliche." I said laughing.
"Ready to run?"
"Hell yes." I replied. "Down the drain pipe?"
"Sixty stories of drain pipes?"
"Better, or we could have the Alliance pick us up in their no sound helicopter."
"That could work." I said.
"So, to the roof." Styx said, grasping my hand, I grabbed my bag in the other and we raced to the roof. The locket was cold against my chest, why wasn't it absorbing my body heat? When we reached the roof, the helicopter hummed quietly and the Alliance members stood next to it.
"So how do we get in contact with them?"
"This." Styx held up a watch with a letter A in the center. "You press the A and you can talk to them."
"Oh." Styx picked up my locket from where it rested. "What are you doing?"
"Your locket is like my watch. Press right here, and you can talk to anyone in the Alliance."
"Are you ready?" and Alliance member whispered.
"Yes, we're ready." Styx whispered. He grabbed my hand and we piled into the helicopter. It took off without hesitation, and I fought the urge to hurl. Styx took my hand, his face a sickly green. I was used to hover crafts and floaters but nothing like this.
"Its alright, everyone puked the first time up." The pilot said with a bemused expression.
"How reassuring." Styx grumbled.
I looked out the window and saw the world from up above. It wasn't so scary from up here, where the Togans couldn't reach us. I wasn't sure what the Togans were, besides our relentless rulers.
"What are the Togans exactly?" I asked to anyone who had the answer. The helicopter was quiet, not just quiet it was dead silent.
"The Togans are, creatures very unlike humans. They come from a distant planet, I cannot remember the name; only that it was destroyed. They are shape shifters, and feed on the dead bodies of traitors. Traitor blood I suppose is the sweetest. But it doesn't stop them from killing the loyalists. They will eat anyone, kill anyone." The man who had spoken to us earlier whispered. "They took my wife and children...ate them in front of me they did...because I was of the Alliance. They don't have to kill you with the tattoo if your disobedient. They have other ways of inflicting pain. My boy, he was only twelve. My wife she was pregnant-they ate her, they ate the baby out of her while she was still alive and breathing...kicking and fightin' screaming for help that no one could give her. They had me chained to a wall; forced to watch my family's murder." the man said, his lip quivering. "What did they do to you lassie?" he asked of me.
"My father was joking...only joking about it while playing Skiff with my uncle, and then his tattoo, it burned him from the inside. Then my mother followed suit. Killed herself because my father's life was taken from him, by a tattoo. The Dragon and the Lily." I said toying with the locket.
"You're Onyx, ain't you?"
"I knew your parents. Nice folks, your dad was a bit daft but you seem to have come out just fine."
"What about you boy?"
"They broke into my home, and killed everyone I loved. I ran away and hid, I hid in Onyx's uncle's barn and stayed there. She found me a few days later and we've been inseparable ever since."
"Sick son's of bitches ain't they?"
"Hell yes." I whispered trying not to cry. "How do we kill em?"
"Easy enough, fire."
"That's it?" I asked incredulously. "Why not just burn Capitol City to the ground?"
"Because the whole damn city is fire proof." the pilot said quietly. "We're here by the way." The helicopter landed in a clearing of trees and bushes and then, she saw it, just through a gathering of pines, the Alliance Headquarters. Home. She smiled for the first time in eleven years. She got out of the helicopter first and her knees wobbled and she fell to the grassy forest floor. Styx helped me up and I smiled again. The Alliance members showed us the way into the city and Styx and I smiled even more at all the tattoo-less people. Here tattoos were optional, and chemical free. I was finally home. My locket warmed and the warm voice of my uncle engulfed me.
'Onyx, did you make it alright?'
"I'm fine uncle. Thank you."
'I'll be there soon.'