All of a sudden the hush of his bubble seemed to expand to cover the whole market as everyone turned their head to the sky. A black disc, sinister and ill-boding, crept its way over the face of the sun. From above, it must have looked to be a sea of faces, with one black patch where a face was gazing not at the sky, but the ground. The boy was unimpressed by the spectacle above. His only interest in the eclipse was what came in the change of light.
"Half-light," he whispered, barely audible. "She comes." His voice was cold and calculating, emotionless, simply making an observation. As the sun darkened further, he felt a hand pressed to the nape of his neck.
"Hello, Zaccheus." The voice was female, but it was impossible to estimate its age. Zaccheus smiled.
"Hello, Boreino. How are you?"
"I'm fine. I'm wonderful. How long has it been?"
"A few hours. I spoke to you this morning."
"An eclipse. How different from the usual circumstances."
"Yes. Tell me, Boreino, why can I not look at you?" As soon as the words left his mouth he knew he'd made a mistake. He scratched under his eye. Her voice grew angry.
"I've told you before and I'll tell you again, it will hurt you. Now say no more on the matter."
"I'm sorry. I didn't-"
"Show me your arm." He scratched under his eye.
"Why would you ask me that? You know I-"
"Show me your arm." With a final scratch, he obeyed. Purple bruises, bruises that could be in the shape of fingers, encircled his upper arm.
"She grabbed me just as I went to breakfast this morning. It completely took me by surprise, I had no idea she was there."
"Is this all?"
"Yes, I managed to squirm out."
"Good. I don't like it when she hurts you."
"I know." Her hand still pressed to his neck, he felt the other lightly touch upon the mark under his right eye. "How did you find out?"
"That this is not, as you claim, a birthmark? I knew since the moment I saw it. I have seen many scars, my love."
"How did you know it was my sister?"
"Why else would you hide it?" Zaccheus smiled at her ability to outsmart him. It was so uncommon. He had grown to like the strange creature who visited him.
"Your hands are nice. Cool, but not cold."
"Thank you. It is a warm day, is it not?"
"Yes. Very warm. One of the warmest days of the year, no doubt. Can you not tell?"
"I cannot feel it. I feel, as you said, 'cool'. What kind of heat is it?"
"Dry, but not too dry. Too many ants though."
"Why do you have an aversion to ants?"
"I don't have an aversion to ants. I have an aversion to things that scuttle." Boreino giggled.
"So you have an aversion to ants."
"Has your brother sent word?"
"Yes, he is finding his studies fascinating. Alexandria is good for him."
"Well, that's good. Have you considered following in his footsteps?"
"I prefer to make my own."
"How oddly childish yet manly of you."
"I understand manly, but childish?"
"Your refusal to comply even at your own expense."
"The eclipse is about to end, Zaccheus. I'm afraid I must leave you again. Goodbye, dearest."
"Goodbye, Boreino." He spun, just in time to catch a glimpse of the creature who had haunted his life for the past year. He couldn't explain what he saw. It was faceless, nameless, wordless. A scream echoed through his head, of anguish and despair, as the creature witnessed his gaze.