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

12. Kindhearted

Chapter XI

~ Kindhearted ~

“She smiles, only faintly, but genuinely.”

 

 

I collapse at my doorstep, breathing heavily. No one gave chase, and part of me is disappointed. As tiresome as it may be, I relish the thrill of the sprint, the humbling experience of being hunted. Being untouchable, there’s always a sense of detachment from physical threat. The only threat I really take to heart is that of the Isolation Law and all it entails. 

Muscles burning, I stumble inside and gulp down a bottle of water. A few moments of uncertain silence tick by, before a thumping suddenly echoes through the small structure. 

“Hello? Is Ash Heregale there?” Someone calls. My mind whirs, analyzing the voice. A young female, who speaks with forced confidence betrayed by a slight tremor. Intriguing. I recap the bottle of water, meandering to the doorway where a young woman now stands. Her auburn hair is disheveled as it puffs around her head in thick ringlets, while her muddy brown eyes are bloodshot and anxious. She rubs her lips together, worrying them into a slight frown. 

“Depends, what are you looking for?” I ask, quickly switching into my business voice. Cold, disdainful, stern. With no betrayal of the emotional firestorm perpetually raging inside. 

“I’m Kissija Farrofen. I need your help,” she declares, and I work hard to maintain my ambivalent expression. “I hear you can make problems... go away.” 

“Again it depends, what kind of problem are you talking about?” I ask, and she edges closer. The phosphorescent lights catch on her face. She tilts her head, emphasizing a gouged up cheek and bruised eye. I try to hide my shock.

“A big problem.” She pauses, choosing her words carefully. “One I cant fix myself. Because if I could, I definitely would have already.” 

“And is this problem a who, or a what?”

“I’m ashamed to say a who, and his name is Kednit Fairchaise.” My blood runs cold at the name. There’s likely only one or two people with the name Kednit in Haven, and I happen to know one of them. 

“What is it you’re looking for me to do? I get rid of things, not people.” Though I wouldn’t mind taking care of this one, I add mentally. 

“We’ve been romantically involved for almost a year now, but these pass few months he’s become increasingly jealous and overbearing, acting as if he owns me and I’m obligated to comply with his every demand. It’s gotten to the point where he’ll hurt me if I don’t meekly agree with something he says.” I frown, puzzled. I’d assumed Kednit was romantic partners with the Patroller, Peron. He must’ve been involved with Kissija first, before Peron, and now takes his frustrations out on the female lover he no longer cares for. 

“And you want me to... get rid of him on your behalf?” To this, she nods soundlessly. 

“You’ve got to help me,” she pleads. “His Curse could kill me, and I have no way to fight back. With each passing second he gets angrier, more feral and unpredictable. I used to look into his eyes and see only profound love, but now I see cold, harsh hatred and icy apathy.” 

“I’ll help you.” I declare, my heart breaking at the vulnerability in her eyes. Despite her confession, she doesn’t appear weak. She has a fighting spirit, too stubborn to break even under the stressful circumstances. 

“Thank you. You’ve saved my life. Name your price, and I’ll pay it. I don’t have much money, but I work hard and I’m sure I can come up with anything you ask, even if it takes a few months,” she offers me a kind smile, masking a turmoiling sea of sorrows. “I would do it myself, but he’s too strong for me. I’ve tried, but I only end up getting more hurt.” 

“Don’t worry, there’ll be no cost. Getting to rid Haven of a man like Kednit will be rewarding enough.”

“Thanks again,” she smirks. “I take it you’ve met him before.” 

“I have,” I nod, running my eyes up and down over Kissija. Something about her resounds well with me, and I’m prompted to do something rash. I move aside for her to step in. “How ‘bout we have a chat all about it?” 

“I know a good place. Come with me.” She grins, but I can tell it’s weak. The part of her dedicated to earnest smiles and easy laughs has clearly been damaged, same as with me. I can tell we’ll get along well. She turns around, walking down the road with me following close behind. “It’s not far,” she promises. 

It isn’t far. We walk for a few minutes, until we reach the edge of my neighbourhood, where it meets with a more middle-class area. There’s an old public building there, currently busting at the seems. A few people sip steaming blackish brown liquid from misshapen clay mugs, while others chat and laugh like normal people do. The building has been used for different purposes throughout the years, but the concept of this place is foreign.

“What is it?” I ask, for once dumbfounded and without sarcastic remark at the ready. 

“They call it caw-fee and ‘T.’ It’s apparently from humankind’s Topside days, but they found some huge stores of it that no officials wanted to touch and the historians were gonna burn. The owners of this place bought a bunch of it and prepared it according to some references found in historical texts.” She explains, distractedly rushing up to the building. The ruddy clay has been painted starkly white, as if mimicking a house from one the Rich Districts. But the paint is flaky and stained, reminders we will never quite have what the rich have. 

We walk inside, and I immediately scowl at the hyper atmosphere. People bumble about, charring eagerly as they sip their caw-fee or T. Kissija walks confidently up to the table at which people in black aprons stand, letting her russet hair fall into her face to hide the scratches and bruising. 

“Could you get us two caw-fees, please.” Kissija asks, smiling sweetly. Her talent for acting is one I envy, as she smiles amicably and chatters away to the lady at the table, who vanishes for a few moments before returning with two mugs made from an unfamiliar beige clay. She hands them to Kissija, who promptly hand one to me and a handful of coin to the lady. The fragrance of the beverage is pungent and unpleasant, the liquid inside the mug inky black and hot as fire. 

I take a sip, turning it over in my mouth before spitting it back out in the mug. It’s bitter and Sears off my taste buds, but I try my best to keep from gagging and drawing unnecessary attention to myself. Kissija appears to dislike the caw-fee as much as I do, but she chokes it down all the while trying to keep the hair that hangs in her face from falling into the mug. 

“This is vile,” I remark, and to my delight Kissija let’s out an amused scoff. “How can you drink it?”

“My sister owns the place. I’ve got to at least pretend to like it.” She stares into her mug, eyes distant as she drifts off into the abyss of her mind. “One time, I loved going to whatever shop my sister had decided to open up on a whim, just so I could watch the people. Now, though, I can’t help but edge away every time someone gets close to me. I hate him, Kednit. Not for what he did to me physically, but for the way he’s changed me. It makes it almost pointless for you to kill him, since all the long-term damage has already been done.” 

“It’s not pointless.” I snarl, imagining tossing the scalding hot contents of my mug all over his wretched face. “Trust me, it’ll be worth it.” 

“What did he do to you?” She asks, tilting her head in a friendly, quizzical manner. Her eyes search mine, and I cringe against the predictable flicker of fear or disgust or hatred. To my amazement, she shows nothing other than gentle curiosity. “It’s clear he did something, I can tell by the ways your eyes darken when I mention him.”

“Let’s just say, we’re not exactly friends. I actually broke his nose earlier, I’m pretty sure.” 

“Good,” she mutters, sounding oddly satisfied. “Serves him right.” 

“I’d gladly do it again.” I comment lightly, working up the nerve to ask the big question. I need to know if Kissija is Cursed. The question burns in my mind, an uncontrollable urge to know if we are alike in that sense or not. I take a deep breath, mulling over my words as I could think the mug tightly in my hands for warmth. “So... Kednit is Cursed. Are you?”

“No, I’m not,” she flashes a rueful smile to the floor. “I wish I was, though.” 

“I’m sorry, did I hear you right?” My jaw hangs open as I am utterly baffled by the words to have left her mouth. How could anyone possibly wish they were Cursed? Living in fear of being sentenced to Isolation, seeing the hatred in people’s eyes. “Trust me, you don’t. There’s a reason we’re called Cursed, you know.”

“Yes, but if I did have an... ability like yours, I wouldn’t be so helpless. I could stand up to people like Kednit. I wouldn’t have to ask for help from strangers.” 

“But you’d be hated by the rest of Haven, who aren’t Cursed.” I argue, trying to wrap my mind around Kissija’ claims. It seems impossible, every logical part of my brain telling me she must be lying. But why? What incentive does she have to lie about this? In fact, she’d be better off saying the exact opposite. 

“None of that matters. All I want is to be strong enough to defend myself, to not cry myself to sleep because I’m useless and week.” Her eyes burn with untold stories, memories of every time she felt lesser, weak. 

“You are not useless or weak.” I snap, scouring her eyes for any hint of madness. “You survived. I could tell from the moment I met you that you’re a fighter, and that hasn’t changed. Not only can you take a beating, but you also refused to let it break you. You certainly do not need a curse to make you strong.”

“You know what, Ash?” She smiles, only faintly, but genuinely. “That’s the best and most crazy thing I’ve heard in the longest of times. I think we’re gonna be friends.” 

“You bet,” I flash her an exaggerated wink. She laughs, and for the first time since I met her, it doesn’t sound hollow. “And you know what, I protect my friends. Trust me, I’ll teach you to defend yourself. If you feel vulnerable, I’ll show you how to knock out your enemies without having to be Cursed.”

“Thank you,” she whispers, taking a long gulp of her drink and chocking it down. Her eyes lock onto mine, full of earnest appreciation. 

“Come on,” I lay down my mug, fishing some change out of my pocket to repay her. I don’t have much, but I grabbed a fistful of coin from my emergency supply before we left. I hand the money to her. She refuses to take it. “Let’s get out of here.”

“Agreed.” She sets down her own mug, having nearly finished off her drink. “But don’t tell my sister how much this stuff sucks. She’s really into it, just like all these other idiots who think the Topside era is cool.” 

“My mother was always fascinated with the Topside,” I blurt, regretting the admission before I even finish speaking. I can predict the question coming next.

Was? What happened to her?”

“I’m not sure,” I answer truthfully. “The last place she was seen was the tunnel to the Topside. I don’t have a clue what happened to her after. If she got to the Topside and the toxins killed her, or if she couldn’t get out and starved to death in that wretched tunnel, unable to get out.”

“That’s... tragic. I’m so sorry.” 

“Why’re you sorry? It’s not your fault she was crazy enough to dream of some Topside paradise and think she could be the one to find it.” I answer bitterly. The wound of my mother is a raw, angry one which never quite closes. 

“You have my sympathy,” she offers a sad, timid smile. 

“Thank you. Now come, let’s go. And you can tell me more about your self.” I demand, all but dragging Kissija out of the shop. 

“Where should I start?” She wonders, not giving me time to make a suggestion before rambling off about her family. “My father was decently wealthy man, but he was foolish about his money and wouldn’t spend it on anything, not even a nice house in one of the Rich Districts. He amassed his money through creating various businesses, which he proceeded to sell once they reached their peak and showed signs of decline. So he had lots of money, and never spent it. When he passed away, he left his fortune to mostly his business partners, knowing we’d spend his precious money on frivolous things.”

“Mmhm,” I grunt, to let her know I’m listening. 

“Now my mother, my sisters and I live in a fair house pretty much at the heart of one of the more uppity of the middle class neighbourhoods. I have two sisters, Leizin and Ilnessa. Ilnessa is the one who runs the place we were just at. Leizin works for her, and I have a job as the head of a food preparation staff for the wealthy. It pays pretty well.” 

“Interesting,” I mumble, storing the information away to better understand her. My brain immediately analyzes the information, sorting out the useful from the trivial and tucking it away in different corners. 

She suddenly stops talking, obviously deciding she’s shared enough. I don’t blame her for wanting to keep stuff to herself, so I don’t pry. She remains silent for a few minutes, leaving me to reengage the conversation. I’ve never been one for chatting, even with friends I’ve known for years and trust with my life. 

“How’d you meet Kednit?” I ask, trying to sound as gentle and kind as I can. Not an easy feat, considering my naturally angry disposition. 

“He works as a Street Patroller. I met him one night when I was walking home alone after a long day at work. It was pretty dark and I was scared, so he walked with me all the way to my home, even though it was a while away and outside of his area to patrol. I think that was what made me like him at first. One simple selfless gesture and I fall head over heals... how stupid am I?”

“You’re not stupid, but maybe a tad naïve.” I scoff, regretting the quip as I wait the few tense heartbeats for Kissija to react. Thankfully, she appears unbothered by the scornful sarcasm. 

“No, I’d say I as definitely stupid. I remember thinking ‘he must be such a good person,’ and look at how wrong I was!” She chuckles bitterly, as if each word is sour and rotting. Her eyes are bright, but I can’t tell if they’re slicked with tears or not. I certainly hope not. 

“You couldn’t of known. He dragged you in until it was too late, then he showed his true colours. He’s like any predator, luring in unsuspecting prey. It’s who he is, how he lives.” I stare at the ground hard enough for my eyes to bore holes in the stone. Thankfully, it shows no signs of giving way from my harsh glaring anytime soon. Kissija also glowers at the stone, rubbing her lips together. I’ve picked up on the nervous habit, Something she does whenever she thinking hard or stressed. 

“I suppose, though I’m still disappointed in myself. I should’ve seen it coming. There’s no way I could’ve known from the start, but I should’ve been able to tell when he turn on me. Now I’m left feeling like an idiot with lots of bruises. 

“How bad is it, exactly?” I ask, trying not to sound nosy or pestering. “I mean, what did he do? Is it just your face?” 

“No, it’s not only my face.” We slow, coming to a full stop before she pulls up her top, a loose swathe of silky fabric even glossier than her leather boots and a stark contrast to her velvety pants. What she reveals drives all thoughts of clothes from my mind. All up and down the length of her ribcage is bruised, ugly purple and brown splotches covering her side. He back is lacerated with cuts, some long and shallow while others are shorter and deeper, most having the greenish scabbing and oozing pus of infection. 

“Come with me,” I command urgently, pulling her along down the street. “I need to get you back to my house so I can try and do something about the infection. Does it hurt?”

“It burns as if hot acid is being constantly poured down my spine, every time I move and for minutes after.” She pauses, tilting her head in the way she does when she’s curious. Something I can’t explain shadows her eyes, before she shakes her head to drive it away and her irises return to their usual grey-brown colour. “Can you really cure the infection? Make it stop hurting?”

“My mother was a scientist,” I admit. “I have a ton of her old stuff lying around. It’ll be easy to find some healing salve she concocted.” 

“Alright,” she offers me another one of those rare, genuinely happy smiles, which I Return whole heartedly. “And, Thank you—for everything you’ve done for me. All your kind words, all of it. I owe you, but I’ve not even the slightest idea how I could begin to repay you.” 

 
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