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.


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.

17. Flashback

Chapter XVI

~ Flashback ~

“I am Cursed, I am hated, but I am proud of who I am and would never change, for anyone.”



The bars of the cell are black smudges in my peripheral vision. I imagine wrapping my fingers around them, watching as they dissolved and stained my hands with soot. I’m too weak to carry out any of my fantasies, barely having enough energy to keep my eyes open. Let alone cross to the other side of the cell, fend off guards who are in prime fighting condition and retrace the steps I took all those months ago back to the surface. 

I hate myself. Self-loathing scorches at me right alongside of my anger. I did this to myself. This is my fault, being locked in here like someone weak. 

The last time I ate, I threw up everything and dry heaved until a guard finally came and gave me a sedative. When I woke up, I was greeted by a bowl of cold, lumpy—yet edible—sludge and a glass of remarkably clean water. They don’t want us to die down here, because that would mark the end of our suffering. The sludge is still where they left it, two sleeps ago. 

By now I’m ravenous, incapable of holding off the hunger any longer. I snatch up the bowl, not even bothered there was no spoon to eat it with. 

I tip it to my lips, letting the cold globs of greyish goop slide into my mouth. My tastebuds light up with joy, ecstatic to experience flavour not laced with the tang of arsenic. I finish off the bowl in a couple of gulps, washing it down with the untainted water. The small mercy restores some of my depleted strength, but not enough. 

The experience of elevation is only surface-deep. I’m still bone weary and exhausted, barely capable of pushing away the tray to the farthest corner of the room. 

They come with the whip moments later. Maybe they were waiting for me to eat before the beating, so I would be strong enough to survive. Or maybe the timing is simply a coincidence. 

As usual, I expect the whip to become nothing more than greyish dust, accumulating in the corners of my cell. When they carefully remove my shirt, being sure not the touch my toxic skin and wearing several pairs of thick gloves in case they do, my back begins to prickle from the damp chill of the air. If you could even call the thick, acrid atmosphere air. I cough, still ailed by the residue of sickness. Lung infections had swept through many sleeps ago, and I had not been exempted from the illness. Because of the poor conditions, my body is still fighting it off, all this time later. 

The pain is blinding. I hadn’t been expecting it, hadn’t been prepared, and I cry out. My joints give out and I crumble to the floor, suddenly aware that I wear nothing above the waist other than my gloves. 

A whoop of joy berates my ears. The sound doesn’t belong in these mouldy tunnels, with their perpetual gloom and misery. 

Something hot burns in my eyes, fat tears sliding down my cheeks and drawing lines through the grime caked on my face. They hit the floor, as a precursor to the crimson droplets that follow. Five more flashes of pain occur in the following minutes, before eventually I cannot take it any long. I rip off my gloves, using them to wipe off the majority of the blood that’s dribbled down over my sides. The Vulture readies his whip again, but I don’t give him the chance to use it. 

I push my aching body to a standing position, grabbing the handle and wrenching it from the Vulture’s grasp. The memory of a tale told to me by one of the prisoners nearby rises to mind, how vultures where massive monsters which existed when the Topside was inhabitable. They preyed on the weak, the dying and the already dead. If their prey fought back, they were stupid and clumsy, incapable of defending themselves. I was also told they did not walk by ground but sailed through the air, so likely the stories were nothing but that, stories created in the mind of a madwoman. Everyone knows nothing bbiigeer than a rock beetle can fly. Regardless, some of the characteristics were applicable to the guards, explaining how they got their name. 

The Vulture stares at the leather tendrils laying in an untidy pile by his feet. They were too cocky, having only made the actual flails out of resistant material and not the handle. Now, the weapon is useless. 

The guard tosses my shirt back at me, slamming the bars closed once again. My eyes shut as well, the feeling of being trapped once again rising and causing a sudden onslaught of panic. I push it down, drawing in deep and steadying breaths. My lungs burn and ache, but at least by now my nose has stopped noticing the reeks of sweat and decay. 

Panic finds me, but it is outweighed by despair. I will rot down here just like everyone who came before me. The only question I still have is what will get me first, will it be starvation, the lung infection, or the beatings? 

Part of me doesn’t care anymore. Everything inside is anger-scorched, ruined and empty. 


The clicking of the lock is the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard, assuring me I’m back in present times. I have no concept of how many minutes passed while I got trapped inside my own head, but I have the vague idea it’s been awhile. 

Denrik pokes his head inside, offering me an expression that is half reassuring smile, half disgruntled frown. 

“It’s time for you to go. Enise insisted we retrieve his son to escort you... do you know him, Ridser I believe?” He eyes me with a puzzled lilt to his eyes, as if he can’t quite figure me out. 

“I know him,” I affirm. 

“May I ask, how? What’s your connection to him?”

“We were... friends. I hadn’t met his father until earlier, so you can rest assured we will not be seeing much of each other in the future.” 

Denrik chuckles, easing the door open fully. He gestures for me to leave, and I walk free. For some reason, Enise must have lied and said the weapons found were his. By doing that, he sentenced himself to Isolation when he could’ve easily dragged me down with him. On top of that, he arranged for Ridser to come get me. Something isn’t quite adding up about the man and his blood-coloured gaze. 

I’m escorted all the way to the opposite end of the building, where Denrik opens the door for me and bids me farewell. I still can’t figure out why he kept me safe, but I decide not to dwell on it. Same as in Isolation, small mercies are best forgotten and buried. 

Ridser is waiting for me a few steps away from the entrance. I freeze, the Law Office looming behind me and Ridser standing in front of me, his posture relaxed. For some reason, it’s him that fills me with apprehension.

He turns to face me, an eager gleam in his violet gaze. His lips move, but he clearly cannot dream up any words to say. 

“Let’s walk,” I command. He follows behind me, not saying a word. I set the pace slow, waiting to see what direction he takes. Several times he opens his mouth as if to say something, but each time he closes it once again, without uttering a single word. My heart leaps at his proximity after all this time apart. 

“So, are you alright?” 

“I’m fine,” I hiss, quickening my pace slightly. As of now, it appears we are headed back to his house. Which is good, because he owes me an explanation for all this. “You wouldn’t believe all I just went through. Quick question; how come you never mentioned before that your father is a sadistic psychopath with eyes the colour of blood?” 

“Y’know, I was going to, but I never found the right place to insert it into a conversation.” He surprises me by pulling a candle out of his pocket and handing it to me. “This is for you. As an apology for leaving you in the dark.”

“I like it dark, thank you very much.” I attempt to hand the small, crudely shaped column of wax back to him. 

“I’m serious.” He slips it into my pocket, flashing a goofy grin. 

“I am too,” I declare, suddenly aware we’ve come to a stop. His face is merely inches away from mine. I raise my hand, letting my fingers trail over his cheek. Then I rear it back and slap him with all my might, satisfied with the fleshy clap of skin. 

“Hey! What was that for!” 

“Pass it on to your father, if you see him before they throw him in Isolation,” I spit, beginning to storm off. He grabs me by the wrist, spinning me around. His indigo eyes plead with me. 

“Please, give me a chance to explain. The person who brought me to the Law Office told me what happened. I did not expect him to go that far.”

“Alright, but this better be good, or else you have a lot worse than a slap on the face coming your way.” I fold my arms, pinning him under my best glare. To his credit, he barely flinches. 

“We’re almost back to my house. Could you please come with me?” He takes my gloved hand, pretending to tug me along. I can’t help but laugh, a warmth relighting in my chest. It goes cold moments later, as I remember everything he did wrong. The list is lengthy. 

Nonetheless, I walk with him back to his house. When we get there, he offers me a seat before launching into the explanation. 

I sit. Something in me wants to refuse, my stubborn defiance I usually cling to. But today, I ignore it. The fight with Enise has sapped my energy, and I hadn’t realized it until now, riding the after waves of adrenaline. 

“Tell me why in the world you would use your father’s name, when he is so terrible?” I spit the words like venom. 

“Because I thought he was dead.” Something in his expression is pained. “In fact, he was. I watched him die, watched the light fade out of his eyes. Back then, they were brown. I watched him die, and I hauled him all the way to the Obituary, where they hooked him up to a monstrosity of wires to make sure his heart was definitely not beating. It wasn’t.” 

“So that’s it? He was thrown into the catacombs and then miraculously reappeared with the eyes of a demon?” 

“I don’t know. He showed up, and he was not like himself in anything other than image. I was overjoyed to see him alive and well, I didn’t stop to think of it then. I took him into my home without a heartbeat of hesitation.” He pauses, a rueful grin spreading on his face. “It didn’t take me long to figure out he’d changed. He was more volatile, quick to anger. And violent.” 

“So you sent him after me?” I shake my head in utter disgust. The Ridser before me now is not the one I knew. “You’re even more of an idiot than I thought you were.” 

“I didn’t know he would be that extreme. He’s still loyal to me, and I figure if I just showed up then you’d knee me in the groin and walk away.” He quirks a slightly humoured smile. “I hear it’s something you’ve been known to do.” 

“Yeah,” I agree distractedly, still caught up in my thoughts. “But I don’t think I can forgive you, just so you know. Not when I will have this scar on my neck as a constant reminder of what your father did to me.” I shiver. “How could you come from a man like that? I can hardly stand to look at you, there’s him in every angle of your face and every subtle gesture you make.”

“I am nothing like that man.” His voice is a low, angry rumble. 

“You are everything like that man,” I hiss. “His blood runs through you’re veins and there’s no denying it.” 

I get up, moving to leave. Ridser grabs me by the arm, his touch gentle. He is shameless in pleading with me. His eyes beg, loosening the weight which had settled over my chest, previously unbeknownst. 

“Please, stay.” His eyes are wide and sincere. Something about him is suddenly open and earnest, and I can’t help but to sit back down. 

“I don’t know, Ridser. This doesn’t feel right, it feels like I’m betraying myself by sitting here in a room with you.” I sigh, closing my eyes and unceremoniously rubbing my temples. Ridser begins to pace, desperation clinging to every inch of him. 

“I’m so sorry, Olyxe. If I had known he was this unpredictable, I would have found you myself and apologized right away. I was weak, and I was scared I’d lose you. But if my father went and asked you to come back with him... well, I don’t know what I was thinking. I was thinking straight, clearly. How can I begin to redeem myself to you?” 

“Well,” I mumble softly, pondering my options. “There is one thing you could possibly do.” 

“Name it, anything.” He suddenly stops pacing, turning to face me directly. 

“I need you to get me into Isolation,” I declare. The expression on Ridser’s face is indecipherable, but lies somewhere in the shocked area.

“What? Why?” 

“You know my fiends? Katpin, Fenly, Noko, Tenjey and Jasma?” He shakes his head yes, still confused. “Well, they’re being sentenced to Isolation. I need to get in there so I can free them.” 

“And how in the world do you expect me to get you in there?” 

“You have connections.” I state simply, cocking my head at him as if to say ‘you do,  don’t you?’ and narrowing my eyes. “So use them.”

“This will take a lot of string-pulling, you know. Not in any way is this considered a small favour, but if it is how I get you to forgive me, I’ll try my best.” He sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I will ask one thing of you, though. When you’re in there, will you get my sister, Keila, out as well?” 

“This is not about your sister, and this is not how it is supposed to work.”

“I don’t care how it’s supposed to work,” he snaps, eyes pained. Part of me remains transfixed by their purplish depths. “What’s one more person to save? If anything, I’m doing you a favour by giving you even more of a chance at redemption.” 

“You’re not doing me nothing,” I growl. “And I couldn’t care less about being redeemed.”

“Then I won’t get you in there to save your friends, if you don’t promise to come out of there with my sister.” Ridser’s face is suddenly stern, deeply creased and intense. I shiver, but hold my ground. His offer taunts me. I otherwise don’t have much choice. No one is allowed to see the entrance to Isolation when they’re being brought in or taken out, so I have no clue how to find the deeply buried prison. Ridser and his associates in the Rich Districts are my best shot. I find myself nodding. 

“Fine. I’ll do it, but this will not make us even. Keep in mind every extra minute I’m down there is an extra risk to my life. You might be doing something big for me, but I’m the one actually risking life and limb doing something even bigger for you.” 

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he comments, nodding sombrely. He extends his hand, offering it to me to shake. “I give you my word, I will get you into Isolation.”

“And I give you my word, I will get your sister out.” We clasp hands.

“Now, are we done here?” I ask bitterly, glaring at my surroundings with thinly veiled distaste. Ridser shifts uncomfortably.

“I hope not,” he declares, striding over to where I stand and leaning in close, so that his face hangs millimetres away from mine. His eyes are on fire with passion. Something within me stirs, a familiar yet foreign warmth unfurling in my chest. For a moment, I imagine how it would feel for his lips to graze mine. He seems to be wondering the same thing, heat rolling off of him in dense waves. 

His eyes bore into me, intense and demanding. I bristle at the challenge within them, the sure certainty that I want the same thing as him. 

He raises a hand, his fingers hovering a hairsbreadth away from my cheek, so close I can feel the air tremble as they shake, feel the heat they exude. What would it be like, to feel the touch of another person? 

I blush when I realize he can peer into my mind, get snapshots of the images running through my head. I immediately shut down. He doesn’t sense the abrupt change.

“Would it be alright...?” He whispers, voice low and hoarse with desire. I place a gloved hand on his chest, and he leans his face closer to mine. I shove him away. Hard. His eyes go wide, startled, his mouth forming a small, soundless ‘oh’ and his eyes flick back and forth while he attempts to decipher the meaning behind my sudden rejection. 

“You can’t touch me,” I remind him. His eyes widen farther as he realizes how close he came to my lethal skin. Moments pass as we stare at each other, faces flushed and blood pounding. 

“But I want to so bad...” he half moans, half whines. I shake my head. Suddenly, he perks back up as if a light has suddenly been lit inside his brain. When he begins to speak, his speech is eager and rushed. “I’ve finally created the Remedy, Olyxe. We can break our Curses, you can finally feel the touch of another living soul.”

I ponder it for a moment. “I don’t know how to say this without offending you, but I will pass. My Curse is part of what makes me deadly, but more importantly it makes me who I am. I will gladly tolerate the malicious glares and rash words, because this is how I was born and I am completely fine with that. I am Cursed, and I’m done moping about it. Your touch isn’t worth giving up a defining part of myself.”

“Olyxe, just think about it. There would be no more Isolation Law, no more hiding from people and their hatred. We could be like everyone else. Olyxe, please.”

“I don’t want to be like everyone else, and I’d like to see what would happen if anyone ever tries to put me in a cage again.” My eyes burn, and I lock Ridser in their soulless depths. A fierce pride engulfs me. I am Cursed, I am hated, but I am proud of who I am and would never change, for anyone. Even Ridser. “So you listen to me, Ridser. Our Curses are a part of us, a part of our heart and soul. Why should we care what other people think? If anything, this makes us infinitely better than them. We’re extraordinary, Ridser, and in what world should we be ashamed of that?” 

“In this world, Olyxe.” His tone is harsh and grating. “Maybe in the before times, when we lived Topside, our existence would have been treated differently. But this is Haven, not the world as it was before, and we have to live with it the way it is.”

“But what if we didn’t?” I throw up my arms in frustration, my voice escalating rapidly as my anger grows exponentially. “What if we didn’t, Ridser? What if we weren’t Cursed, but gifted? What if we used what we could do and reshaped this city and all of humankind. We’re all that’s left, the people within these walls. And people like you, people like me are the ones capable of changing it. We shouldn’t hate who we are simply for being born different, we should embrace ourselves!” 

“No Olyxe, you simply don’t understand how this world works.” Ridser’s voice gets lower and dangerous. “I’ll get you into Isolation, I already gave you my word, but after you return I want you out of my life.” He pauses, glaring at me with heavy anger. “You’re blind, Olyxe. You’re blind and screwed in the head.”

“Am I screwed up, or am I the only one in this whole city who’s capable of thinking straight?” I move to leave, but don’t fully exit before turning around once more to make sure Ridser remembers every detail of my ungodly eyes and otherworldly hair. 

He says nothing, looking away. I pretend I don’t care. Truth be told, I don’t care all too much. I just wished I could see the look on his face leave, see the inevitable fall as he watched me leave. The last time we parted ways, I was angry and quaking from the force of my own fury. This time, I am stone instead of fire. In this case, the departure feels concise, final, and I can’t help but relish it. The parts of me that warmed near Ridser have reverted to stone, the way they’re meant to be. 

It won’t be long before I return to Ridser to collect my payment. He gave me his word, and I gave him mine, and we must carry out the bargain to uphold the sanctity of our honour. First, though, I will need to gather my strength—and a handful of allies. 

And after this whole ordeal is over, maybe I will hunt down the green-eyed boy and teach him that no one gets to mess with my head and walk away unharmed.

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