Our Dark Lies

Olyxe “Ash” Heregale is not to be messed with. She lives for violence, laughs in the face of danger. She’s driven by a rage so bright and fierce, it’s not wonder she does so many stupid things.

Freeing the prisoners of Isolation, a place haunted by living and dead alike, perhaps the most stupid of all.

With a handful of people like her, Cursed and misfits, she will either change Haven forever or bring the demise of all her kind.

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Author's note

I don’t really know what genre this fits in. It’s a bit sci-fi, with a good dose of dystopia and apocalyptic, and intermingled fantasy and supernatural. Also, a healthy amount of violence and strong women beating up bad people.
AA

14. Horrific

Chapter XIII

~ Horrific ~

“Knowing my end is coming, all I can think of is the horrific things I’ve done that I will have no more chances to make amends for.”

 

 

My heart thuds in my chest as if someone has replaced it with a drum and proceeds to beat it. Each blow echoes through my ribcage, as my feet slow to a similar pace. This is it. These are the last few moments. Any second now, Kednit will turn around and I will do what I came here to do. In the space of a moment, I will lose the last shard of my purity. My soul will be forever blackened, even if I’m doing something wrong for the right reason. There’s no turning back, no cleaning this blood from my hand. 

Kissija is utterly still. I glance back at her several times, expecting to see her disgusted or mortified. Instead, she is completely blank, staring off at something in the distance. 

I turn back to Kednit. He turns towards me. For a moment, our eyes lock and my heart stops, everything slowing down to a virtual stop. 

“You again,” he snarls, and suddenly the world leaps back to normal speed and my heart begins to thunder once again. He takes a step towards me, and the pressure immediately crashes over my mind. I force my way through it, advancing on him.

My knife gets heavier and heavier in my hand. There’s no way I can do this. I simplyly cannot.

Yes you can. This is what you want to do. This is what you need to do. I ignore the voice, pushing everything away except for the gleaming edge of my blade and the sheen of sweat along the base of Kednit’s neck. That’s where I’ll strike. It will be quickest and most painless method, and when it’s over I’ll free my hand from my glove and get rid of the evidence. 

Energy pulses beneath my skin, begging for release. I try to ignore it, clearing my mind of everything until I’m utterly still and empty. 

The pressure is too much. I drop to my knees, mouth opening and contorting to form a soundleless wail of pain. Stubborn as always, I refuse to let go of consciousness even when the throbbing in my head threatens to overwhelm me. My grip on the knife slips, but I manage to get enough of a hold to drive the blade forward. It slides into his knee with a sickening squelch, and I gasp. Stunning black splotches erupt to and fro across my line of sight, easing up as Kednit abruptly rips his attention away from me and focuses on the knife in his leg. 

He howls, launching into a strand of cusses I don’t bother to listen to. He wrenches the knife free and tosses it far enough away so I’ll have no hope of retrieving it. 

It’s not too late. I can turn back and run, nothing mandates I must kill him. In fact, the very opposite is true. I shouldn’t do it, I can’t. Every admission Kissija made, every time she told me something she’d been keeping to herself for fear of her safety, echoes in my mind and forces my hand. I push myself to my feet, launching into an unarmed attack. 

I kick him solidly in his chest, transferring the momentum and using it in a punch which hits him in the face moments later, connecting with his cheekbone. Underneath my gloves, my hands itch to feel the cold kiss of open air and the warmth of living flesh. It would be easier, but painful. I can only imagine the utter agony of being slowly torn apart, being reduced to nothing more than shards and fragments, a dune of ash to be forgotten once touched by the wind stirred up by a person’s footfall. 

He counterattacks by hitting my with a foot to the gut, sending me back a few steps and knocking the air from my lungs. I suck in quick gulps of air, but he doesn’t give me enough time to recover before striking me in the knees. 

I fall, surprising even myself as I duck into a roll and spring up with deadly speed, knocking him away. My foot snaps into a powerful kick, and I feel ribs crack as it connects with his side. 

The pressure returns, and I fight with renewed vigour against the onslaught. Without a shred of dignity I grab him around the waste, throwing him to the ground by using my momentum and my weight. I ram my sharp elbows into his side, knocking the wind out of him. He gasps for breath and I free my hands from their cloth cage, letting them hover over the bare skin of his neck. I can’t do it. I have to. He knows very well what my touch can do. His face pales, all the blood draining away as he goes utterly still. Wide-eyed, he gulps and squeezes his eyes shut. There’s no shame in showing fear under these circumstances, and he doesn’t even try to break away, at the risk of my touch. 

His lips part, then close again. He opens his eyes, staring at me with such desperation my heart aches. I can’t do it. I have to. 

Finally, he speaks. 

“Why?” One simple word, enough to punch holes in my resolve. I let my eyes fall shut, but not for long. I snap them open again. 

“Because you’re a vile person. Did you ever wonder if there’d be punishment for every horrific thing you did?” My hands tremble. Every time they get closer to his skin, Kednit grows a lighter shade and shakes harder. 

“What do you want? I can give you anything. Money...?” 

“I want nothing.”  

“Yes you do. Everyone wants something. What if I use my status as a Street Patroller to keep you out of Isolation. You can punish someone else, without having to suffer for it.” 

“I won’t go to Isolation because there will be no body to find.” 

“Then you must know someone in there, a friend or a relative or something?” He’s begging, trying to bargain for his life. I try to block it out, but I can’t. It’s tempting. Promises of freedom for myself and my friends. I could use him to get everyone out of Isolation. 

“Actually, there is. Four of my friends are scheduled for a trial. If you can get them out, I won’t kill you.” 

“Deal.” He has the nerve to crack a smile. I drop my hands. Suddenly, he ducks away and jumps up to his feet, a crushing weight falling over me. My eyes swim and I can hardly breathe, my lungs constricted. 

“What—” I rasp, and he simply smirks at me, walking over and driving me to the ground with one solid blow to my back. 

He begins to walk away slowly, laughing and smirking the entire way. He doesn’t make it far, I begin to crawl forward. With each fraction of an inch I move a thousand more pounds are dropped on me. My face twists into a snarl of determination. I push myself, edging closer and closer as Kednit creeps farther and farther away. 

I stop. There’s nothing left to make me keep going. I let my eyes close, giving in to the weight trying to crush me and drag me under. The sound of his footsteps as he approaches me are demeaning, echoing around inside my head like bullets ricocheting off the walls of my skull. I force my eyes open, watching as he raises my knife. He had somehow retrieved it, and now all hope is lost. I can’t move, I can’t defend myself or even run away. 

Walls I’d put up threaten to come crashing down under the onslaught, and I prepare to be bombarded with nightmares from my past. 

Every single thing I’ve ever done taunts me from below. Every snarky remark, every time I raised my fists. Knowing my end is coming, all I can think of is the horrific things I’ve done that I will have no more chances to make amends for. 

Even though I’m desperate to cling to life, I refuse to beg. I clamp my jaws shut, watching the trembling blade of the knife. There’s no way I will be reduced to a beggar, there’s no way I will grovel at his feet as I plead for mercy. He wouldn’t give it to me anyways, he’d only have the satisfaction of witnessing me break. 

The knife. The blade has gone dull, as if it knows the man who holds it is not its rightful owner. I watch as he begins to lower it, feeling my life draining out even before the blade attains my skin. 

Suddenly, his eyes go wide. His lips quiver, as he tries to form words. No sounds come out. I lower my eyes, to the dark splotch creeping through the black material of his shirt. The tip of a blade barely glints, protruding only slightly from his stomach. A shocked Kissija stands trembling behind him, lips moving too fast to form coherent words. Her hands are shaking violently, her knees wobbling so much I suspect they might give out. 

“B-before we left y-your house, I t-took a knife, just-t in case I might-t need it,” she stutters. “I’m sorry, I thought he was going to k-kill you.”

“He was,” I mutter sourly. My head throbs, my vision being tossed askew as I try to stand. I make it barely a breath before my legs give out and I fall back, landing hard against the stone. Everything is spinning, and I start to cough. Something wet and hot trickles down my chin, and I taste blood. Explosions of darkness close over my vision. 

“Ash? Ash!” Kissija calls, and I feel hands on my shoulders, shaking me. This only worsens the pain, making my brain slide hectically about inside my skull as my thoughts crash into one another, impairing my ability to form cohesive sentences. 

“Ugharghhurrr...” I groan, weakly trying to push her away. In a strand of rambled nonsense, I attempt tell her to stop shaking me. “Sturgshakeghmee... urghh.” 

“Oh—okay. Ash, what happened you? What did he do to you? Was I too late?” 

“N-nuh,” I slur, coughing again. The heaviness has started to lift, the dizziness taming slightly. “I just need some time to rest. Let it wear off.” 

“We need to go. We can’t just stay here and wait for another Patroller to show up and drag us into prison.” She frantically glances around, as if suspecting someone to appear around a corner. 

“Prison for you, maybe.” I have to stop, take a deep breath and wait for another wave of dizziness to roll over. “But for me, I’d be sent back to Isolation and I wouldn’t be let out again.” 

I try and push myself open, blinking heavily against the onslaught of black spots. My legs threaten to give out as I shakily climb to my feet. I suck in deep, steadying breaths and try to clear away the pain. Kednit’s body lies in a disgruntled heap, blood pooling out around him. I walk over to him and kneel down, letting my hands fall against his chest. The streaks of darkness are slower to creep through him, slowly crawling. My mouth goes dry as I watch, his body slowly crumbling and becoming a pile of ash and dust, until there’s nothing left except for his pool of blood and my knife. 

I reach for the knife. It is not one on my mother’s special blades, so it is not immune to my touch. As I’m reaching, my finger grazes the blood and it too turns to ashes. I step back, faintly admiring the drifting pile of grey dust left behind. No one will ever know this used to be a man. When people walk by, they will simply complain about getting dirt on their clothes, unaware the dirt they’re cursing at is all that’s left of what was once alive. 

Remorse pierced through me, untamed even by the memory of Kissija’s wounded back or the sight of her bruised face. Grief doesn’t care how bad Kednit was, it sweeps through my chest and steals my breath anyways.

I turn back to Kissija. She lowers her eyes. Not before I see the fear in them. She saw me turn a man to dust, no wonder she’s afraid. Even weakened, my Curse is prominent. My Curse is deadly.

She turns around, and we begin to walk away in silence. The walk is not long, but it feels like an eternity before we get back to her house, the entire trip passing in silence. Neither of us have anything to say, so neither of us say anything. When she opens the door, we’re met by a shocked woman with eyes the exact same as Kissija’s. 

“Mother. I didn’t realize you’d be home.” Kissija glances warily around, trying to hide her surprise. “Are Ilnessa or Leizin home?” 

“Not yet. Where were you?” Her eyes fall on me, widening with barely perceptible shock. I can’t help but feel self-conscious, thinking of my unnatural hair and eyes black like coals. “Oh, who’s your friend?” 

“Mother, this is Ash Heregale.” She gestures to me. 

“Oh, this is just what I was afraid of.” Her mother sighs heartily. “So I guess you are Cursed?” 

“Why’s that matter?” Kissija frowns, studying her mother. “Ash is a friend. I met her awhile ago, but never mentioned it. I never thought it was relevant.”

“So you don’t know?”

“Know what?” Kissija sighs massively, closing her eyes and rubbing her temples. “We went through a very stressful ordeal only a few minutes ago, so could you please keep the ominousness to a minimum?”

“I can’t believe you’d bring one of those into our house, much less befriend one.” Kissija’s mother rubs her lips together in the same why her daughter does, closing her eyes as if struggling with a massive internal debate. “A long time ago, I was almost killed by one of her kind, now here you are, bringing that into our home.” 

Hearing her cold words is a shock, like a blast of icy air to my face. “You can’t be serious...?”

“Yeah, I was. I haven’t forgotten it since. They have no emotion in their eyes, Kissija. If you didn’t realize this horrid excuse for a person was nothing but an empty vessel for anger than you’re blind.” She turns to me. “I bet when your mother first saw you, she knew no one would ever love the baby with grey hair and black eyes, and the second she laid eyes on you she knew you were a disgrace to humankind’s name. I’m surprised Kissija never figured it out, considering no one else in our family has had the same trouble recognizing abominations.” 

“What are you saying?” Kissija runs a piece of her coppery hair between her fingers, absentmindedly staring at the floor. She raises her eyes up to her mother. “Are you trying to tell me Ash and the people like her are some sort of terrible monsters? I know Ash. She wouldn’t hurt anyone without merit.”

“You couldn’t see it? It’s not obvious, but if you look closely enough you can see the hatred in her eyes. She will never be capable of feeling anything but wrath. Get it out of my house this instant.” 

“Well isn’t this lucky.” I can’t help but laugh, incredulous. “This can’t be happening, can it? I mean, what kind of twist of fate is this?” 

“I can’t believe you were almost killed. How come you never told me?”

“I would have told you, Kiss. The only thing stopping me was that I had no idea how to say it. I mean, how would you have reacted to me saying ‘I was almost murdered in cold blood by a monster that should’ve never been able to coincide with the human race.’ I just didn’t want you to always be living in fear. I guess some healthy apprehension wouldn’t have gone astray” Kissija’s mother laughs as well, as if she’s attempting to lighten the weight of tension settling over us. “Will you ever forgive me?” 

“What? I’m not angry, I’m... shocked.” 

“I can understand that,” her mother sighs again. “I know you said you just went through something really stressful, so I’ll leave you be, but... that creature needs to get out of my house this instant. I can’t be near it.” 

I stare off into space, unable to process the information after being dumped on us. Kissija’s mother continues to sling her horrid accusations. Kissija is my friend, I want to protect her. From the start I felt I could trust her, I felt the urge to protect her and keep me safe. My mother never told me she hated me, she was the only person at the time who didn’t watch me with hate in her eyes. All this time, I knew there was bad people out there, I’ve met plenty of them. However, I never could have anticipated Kissija’s mother would be one of the, 

My chest is suddenly tight with an unidentifiable emotion. After everything I went through, this is the last thing I expected to hear. Kissija’s mother is still talking, but I hear nothing but an indistinguishable blur of noise. I suck in a deep breath. The air is too thick, it claws at my throat as it goes down, making my lungs ache when I draw it in. My head starts to pound again, and I close my eyes. I can’t do this, I can’t deal with  this revelation. Kissija doesn’t appear to be doing much better, she has tears in her eyes as her lips fly, likely slinging harsh words to her mother. 

Feeling trapped, I begin to back away. I need to get out. 

I turn tail, throwing open the door and bolting down the street. My mind is whirring but no coherent thoughts form. 

Everything breaks apart, shattered into pieces. Everything I thought I knew about my world comes into question as my brain searches for a distraction. Who is my father, what happened to him? Did my mother really try and reach the Topside, or did guilt over having a child who was Cursed finally eat her up so that she felt she had no place left here and needed to get away. For all I know, my parents could have started over with little memory of their Cursed child. 

The harsh words sting. I can’t let them wound me too badly, or else I will become vulnerable and weak, torn apart by the cruelty of others. 

I’m haunted by memories of Kednit’s face, of how his fear thrilled some small part of me. Before, I was fine with the feral anger inside of me. Now, even that feels wrong. 

I’m not right. No one should have eyes black as mine, or skin capable of turning anything it comes in contact with to ash. The anger inside of me is not human, it is an animal slowly tearing up my soul until I’m as burnt and blackened inside as Kednit. How can I ever be sure the actions prompted by my fury are really justified? Where is the line between right and wrong, good and vile? 

In Isolation, the line was blurry and indistinct. I couldn’t tell where immoral acts laid or where acts of goodness resided. Here though, in Haven, the line is infinitely shifting and shaking, bending and warping. For everyone, the boundary is different. For me, I’m not sure where it is. 

All I know is that I’ve definitely done some things which fall on the wrong side. I’ve done some horrific things, and I deserve the nightmares which are likely going to be thrown my way. 

Maybe Kissija’s mother was right. I always knew people thought that way, but hearing it so directly, with such venom, is wounding in a new sense. 

I start to run. There’s nothing left inside of me but a desire to get away, forget all the problems I have. I want to close my eyes and let the world fade away, so there’s nothing left to tear my apart. Every inch of my body is on fire with the desire to escape. Get away. Find a paradise inside my head and stay there for eternity, so I can finally experience what it’s like to be weightless. 

Part of me knows this can never happen, but I ignore the nagging voice telling me to go home, forget all that just happened. I will eventually, but for the moment I need to run. Run away from all my problems, and likely towards some new ones. 

The lights overhead are getting farther and farther away as I head for the very edge of Haven. Stone walls loom not all too far away, a reminder we can never leave. 

Everything burns. I can’t stand the knowledge Kissija will likely exit her mother’s house with a newfound hatred for my kind. 

 
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