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

3. Killer

Chapter III

~ Killer ~

“My very skin is a weapon.”

 

 

“I didn’t kill him,” I protest weakly, beginning to wilt under so many heavy glares. The people I’ve known all my life, with their eyes full of suspicion and distrust. To them, they’re looking at a stranger. In away, I’m looking at strangers too. “There’s no way I’d ever risk going back to Isolation. No way.”

“Then who did?” Jasma challenges, a snarl of disgust curling he lip. “Who killed the man you fought with only hours before, in the exact same way you almost killed him yourself.”

“You know I’m not stupid! I do stupid things, sure, but not like this!” I wave my hands wildly, forgetting Ridser is watching. Forgetting he exists at all. “Even if I did kill him, there’d be no body left to be found. You have to believe me, please. Whoever did kill Inneo was likely whoever he chose to prey on next. If you ask me, I’d bet his pride was so wounded, he went after another young woman to make himself feel better. She was lucky enough he was injured and she had enough skill to defend herself.” 

“Why should we believe you?” Fenly narrows her eyes. I can see I’m wearing them down, regaining their trust. 

“Why should you believe me?” I echo, pushing an incredulous laugh. Time to strike back at her for all those angry glances and muttered cusses. “Because, Fen, I’m not a two-faced snark like you.”

“If I may interrupt, once again,” Ridser waves, all eyes flying to him. He shows no signs of awareness towards the daggers being tossed his way or how all but me bristle when he speaks, hackles raised. “Olyxe and I were kind of in the middle of something, so if you could speed this along, that’d be great.” 

“Really, Ash?” Tenjey runs her eyes up and down over Ridser. “Who is he? What’s he doing here? What’re you doing with him?”

“None of your business,” I mutter, pushing my way past them. Making sure I get a good, long look at each face before I go. Katpin, her blue-black hair pulled starkly back to reveal hard eyes and a stern set to her thin lips. Noko, her own amber-brown hair cropped short. Her eyes, a cloudy teal. Jasma, honey gold hair, charming smile, impossibly pale blue eyes. Fenly, dark gold hair a waterfall as it spills across her shoulders. Each of them, so different. Lastly, I find Tenjey. We argue, disagree, bicker yet at the same time she’s my closest friend of all. It takes me a while to wrench my gaze from her innocent brown one, but when I do I’m filled with a sense of betrayal. 

Where I’d wilted before, I suddenly feel a blooming burst of anger like droplets of blood unfurling in water. I brush stiffly past the whole crowd, Ridser hot on my heals. Knowing I can trust him to follow, I don’t bother to tell him where we’re going. 

We round a bend, walk down a steep slope and stop abruptly beneath a sloppy box made from grey-brown clay. A cheaper, weaker material than red clay and nowhere near as sturdy or costly as the crisp white houses of the rich. Not made from clay at all, but blocks of white stone cemented together.

“Home at last,” I mutter under my breath and push aside the blanket I’d replaced my door with when I accidentally punched through it a while ago. 

“Home? You... you live here?” Ridser glances around in disbelief. Once inside, I watch him analyze each cluttered surface. Piled high with weapons or gloves, corners stuffed with stacks of books. 

“Yes, I do. The world of entrepreneurs is not as well-paying as that of farmers, it would seem.” He ignores the jab, picking up a knife and examining the blade. I hardly use half the weapons, but the small rebellion gives me a thrill. It’s a collection, more than anything. A tiny way I can defy those in power and their stupid law against anything remotely dangerous, to keep it out of the hands of the people like me. As if I were not lethal bare-handed. My very skin is a weapon. 

“Um, Olyxe...” Ridser gazes down at the floor, scuffing his boots on the stone. “You’ve been in Isolation before?”

“Oh,” I stiffen, remembering he’d heard every quipped exchange earlier. Now he knows a less-than-flattering part of my past. Every dreadful moment I try not to remember floods back. Each lash of a whip, slash of a blade. It didn’t take them long to figure out they couldn’t harm me with their usual tools of torture, so they took my clothes and replicated the material almost exactly. Not only did they make leathers for whips, they made sharp, dark blades that gleamed even blacker than the half-darkness we were kept in. I shiver, thinking of the scars. Sharp slices of silver, over my arms. Legs. Back. Another reason for the layers upon layers of clothes. 

“My sister’s in there,” Ridser suddenly blurts, drawing me out of my own head and the memories still haunting me. “She was sentenced almost a year ago.”

“Oh,” I can’t think of anything else to say. “Yeah, I was in there for almost two years. I would’ve been getting out around the same time she was going in... if you don’t mind me asking, why was she sentenced?”

“A crime I committed.” His eyes burn with a dark flame of self-loathing. I recognize guilt, anger and a hatred for himself so deep it’s a wonder he can still meet my eyes. “I tried and tried to tell her I should pay for my actions, but she refused. She kept saying that she’s the older sister, she ought to be protecting me. I should’ve argued harder, but I didn’t. I was selfish. And scared.”

“I’m sure you did everything you could,” I offer weakly. Despite my curiosity, I don’t pry farther. 

“No, I didn’t.” He lowers his gaze. There’s a rawness to him, a well of undiluted emotions. His jaw is set hard, eyes still burning with dark fire. I don’t know how to comfort him, what to say. I haven’t the slightest clue what to do other than stand there and stare in shock at the level of emotion he’s radiating. “What... what was it like?”

“I survived,” I answer softly, recognizing the spark of hope flaring to life in his intoxicatingly purple eyes. I’ve never seen a shade quite like it before, not quite navy yet not quite violet. That flash of hope dances in their glittering depths as I try to scrape together something I can say to neither drown nor kindle the spark. One thing Isolation thought me, hope keeps you alive. Too much hope, kills you. “I’m sure she will too.”

I don’t mention the scars. The torture. How the guards, stony and silent, had been driven by the all-consuming urge to cause pain. They never smiled, but when I screamed I saw their eyes light up with joy. 

Silent as a whisper, I weave my way throughout my home. The word tastes bitter in my mind, the concept foreign and strange. Home. A rugged, rudimentary structure with sloppily made walls and clutter drenching every surface. I ought to gather up all the knives, daggers and hide them away. 

Ridser eases himself onto my bed. Bed. Not even a cot, nothing more than a haphazardly piled collection of worn, threadbare blankets I bury myself in when I want to sleep. Regardless, he smooths out the scratchy material and settles in. 

“Are you hungry?” I ask, unaccustomed to having anyone within these walls but myself or Tenjey. The handful of times I’ve visited others, friends of my friends for one reason or another, they were always courteous. Offered drinks, snacks and made sure every surface was meticulously near and orderly. 

“Starved,” he mutters, eyes downcast so I can only read him by the scowl twisting his dry, cracked lips. “I don’t have much of an appetite, though.”

“What about a drink? You look parched.” I don’t give him much time to answer, already handing him a glass bottle full of water. It’s a shame to give away such a precious resource, but at least it gives me something to do. I’ll have to pay to refill it later, the cost of water growing and growing as the underground streams dry up or become tainted from the poisons of the Topside as they leech deeper and deeper. 

“I don’t need your water,” he protests weakly, averting my gaze. I’m about to shrug and go stash the precious liquid in some crevice or corner when he finally reaches for the bottle. 

Thankfully, he only takes a couple of swigs to wet his lips. Then he recaps the bottle and hand it back. We lapse into a thick silence, the air between us swirling with words we want to say but can’t figure out the right way to form them into sentences. I can tell Ridser is thinking of his sister, and I’m thinking of her too. Of bleak, harsh stone slick with blood dripping from deep gashes across my body. Instinctively, I reach a hand to my collarbone where I know a jagged line of rosy platinum slashes across my pale skin, underneath the heavy black fabric. Memories push against the mental barriers I’ve so carefully crafted and tears press against the backs of my eyes. 

“What’s her name?” I ask softly, a sad smile dancing across my lips. I always wanted a sister. He doesn’t need me to specify who, I can see a similar sad smile tugging at his own face. 

“Keila,” he whispers, eyes taking on the glassy tones of someone lost in memories. We sit in silence for a moment, before he abruptly pushes to his feet, having gathered himself surprisingly quickly. A smirk quirks at the corners of his mouth. There’s a new resolve to him, a hardness to his eyes and a determined set to his jaw. “No more dwelling on the past. Let’s go have some fun.” 

He wants to forget. Move on. There’s nothing to be gained by standing around trying not to cry. I can’t help but smirk right along with him, excited to see what his idea of fun might be. Shaking off the last cobwebs of sorrow and the weight of past mistakes, I look him in the eye and wait. I’m not sure what exactly I’m waiting for. A reason to trust, an explanation as to why I do trust him even though I hardly know him. Maybe some sort of sign to let me know I’m on the right path, that this won’t end in grief or bloodshed. If I found it in me to open myself up to Tenjey and the others in our ragtag circle, why not Ridser? 

I can’t restrain myself from studying every corner of his alluring pupils. Each streak, splash and swatch of varying purple hues. The first hint he’s something different from the rest. I wonder about his ability, his Curse to always know how people feel. To see into people and learn their darkest secrets. Useful, but also a burden. More than likely he’s kept awake by the horrors he’s glimpsed, the monstrosities inside people’s minds. 

“So, this ‘fun’ of yours. What d’you have in mind?” I grin, imagining the rush of adrenaline and the thrill of running, of fighting. 

“That friend of yours I constantly catch flitting through your mind. Her name, Tejy? She’s Cursed, isn’t she?” He asks, keeping himself carefully neutral so not to show whatever scheme he may be concocting. 

“Tenjey?” I hesitate. Trusting him with my own secrets is not really an option, he’s made it clear there’s no way to hide anything but my very thoughts from him, but it feels wrong to give him information about Tenjey. For as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve had each other’s backs. This feels oddly like a betrayal. Nonetheless, the words fly off my lips before I can weigh the outcomes. Almost as if I’m eager. “She can persuade people, per say.” 

“Ah,” he remarks, thoughtfully running a hand through his hair. Ebony locks tumble into his eyes, his hair still dark as pitch even in the bright blue—almost white—glow of the fungi ampoules dangling on thin threads from the ceiling. “D’you think she’d like to join us?” 

“Dunno,” I scoff, casting my eyes upwards toward the glowing glass vials and their soft blueness. “Depends on how mad she is at me. Why?” 

“Olyxe Heregale, how would you like to stir up some trouble?” 

“Depends, Ridser Vizzoin. It depends on how much trouble. Too little, it’s a waste of my time.” I allow a smile. Not a smirk, a grin of hostility or a smile with the intent to anger or intimidate. An earnest smile I reserve for very few. 

“What would you say if I invited you to a celebration hosted by one of Haven’s richest citizens, Brile Farh?” 

“I would ask how exactly you plan on getting us, two Cursed, into such an event.” I raise my eyebrows, eager to see if he’s suggesting what my mind’s already started to hope. It’s almost too good to be true. 

“Strap on your knives, Ash.” I can’t be sure if he heard the nickname earlier while accusations were flying, or if he garnered it from my memories. Maybe I’d given it to him willingly when we first met, my head is spinning far to much for me to recall or to care. “And let you persuasive friend know we could use her help.”

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