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. Silhouettes

Chapter II

~ Silhouettes ~

“We live in a world of stone and shadows, I’ve learned to read people from their shaded outlines alone.”

 

 

If I’m being honest, inside the stranger’s house is not much warmer than the outside. At least I know I’m relatively safe from wandering eyes as he’d been confident enough to light a candle, the very reason I’m in here now. If I wasn’t so curious. My curiosity is almost as potent and dangerous as my anger, maybe even more likely to get me into trouble. Trouble like the man now sitting sprawled across a cot while I pace nervously. 

“Who are you?” I decide to start at the basics first. I need to get a feel for him before I pry for information. If only Tenjey was here, she’d have no trouble coaxing all his darkest secrets out. 

“Ridser Vizzoin,” he lights another candle, a lopsided column of wax with a short segment of road dipped in oil protruding from the top. He also taps on the walls to wake the fungi inside, flaring to life in tiny glass pockets imbedded into the clay walls. The bioluminescence of the fungi gives off a blueish glow, while the candle is all red and warm amber. With the two shades of light playing across his face, Ridser is oddly alluring. Shadows that should make his face appear gaunt and grey only succeeds to accentuate his cheekbones, while his eyes are a piercing, vivid shade between rich amethyst and the purpler side of indigo. He has dark hair, but it’s impossible to tell wether it’s black or brown. Or dark, burnished silver, like mine. 

“I s’pose I owe you my name in return. Olyxe Heregale, but you’ll hear people call me Ash.” I reach upwards with a gloved hand, unfastening the veil. I want him to see my whole face, memorize each detail. 

I’ve been told by a few I am beautiful. In the way something fierce is beautiful, not like Tenjey who’s all innocence and warmth or Fenly who’s wicked seduction and careless touches draw many. Regal, the word is. I’ve such an angry glare in my eyes and hard set to my face, nobody stops to analyze the finer details. 

The veil is draped over my arm, and I stop my pacing so I can have the maximum effect on Ridser. The black eyes, glossy charcoal hair, pale skin. The anger, defiance glittering like hard diamonds inside of me. I expect him to look away. Or at least flush. He doesn’t so much as glance elsewhere for a second. Then, slowly, he blinks. I can tell he’s puzzled by something he sees. 

He gets up, leaving the candle on a small wooden table. He turns away, so all I can see is his silhouette. The slope of his shoulders, tilt of his head. 

“You’re the most unusual person I’ve ever met,” he murmurs slowly, turning farther away. I walk over next to him, so that we can both be silhouettes in the candlelight. “I can’t figure you out, yet I can see more into you than anyone I have encountered before. There’s so many layers to you, Olyxe Heregale.” 

“There’s so much I don’t know about you, Ridser whatever-you-said-your-last-name-was. Yet here I am, trusting you. Talking to you. In your house, when I’m supposed to be sleeping!”

“Vizzoin. Viz-oh-en. Rid-zer Viz-oh-en.” He pronounces, smiling goofily. “And if you want to sleep, there’s a spare cot. I’ll fetch it for you. In the morning, you’ll take me to your house in exchange.” He pauses, moving away from my side as if to go get the cot right away. “Do we have a deal?” 

“I guess I don’t have much of a choice.” I complain. I hate having to rely on other people. “There’s no way I’m sleeping out in the street, but I also won’t make it home before the lights come back on and I have to get to work.” 

“Oh, you work?” Ridser saunters off, presumably for the cot and hopefully for a blanket or two as well. Goosebumps prickle my arms. I hate the cold. 

“Sort of,” I answer vaguely, awkwardly staring at the veil draped over my arm and then the candle on the table. The house is small enough I can still hear Ridser clearly from wherever he wandered off to. 

“What do you do?” He asks, suddenly reappearing with a cot—and a blanket, and pillow. 

“I...” there’s really no way to describe what I do. Sometimes I steal. Get into fights. People like me pay me to get rid of things, mostly. Turn stuff they can’t stand to look at anymore into dust. They pay handsomely for it, too. “Well, not many people hire those like us, so I guess you could say I’m kind of an entrepreneur.” 

“I’m a fungi farmer. Of the edible kind, not the light-up kind.” I think I see Ridser blush. He assumes I’m some kind of artsy entrepreneur with a dainty shop and steady pay, not that I get money for touching the stuff people don’t want anymore. Junk, garbage or sometimes stuff like a cheating husband’s most prized possession or an enemy’s most expensive shoes. 

We fall into silence. I decide it’s time to start prying for more juicy tidbits of knowledge. 

Staring at the wall of glowing fungi, I think back to when my mother used to talk dreamily about the Topside. She described the stars, how a great ball of fire would supposedly turn the sky yellow-green and light up the tens of billions of people below. These glittering glass balls are not unlike the stars that came when the fire-ball left in my mother’s stories. 

They cast out light, small gems in a world of darkness. I admire how the shadows play across Ridser’s nearly still form. Once again, he’s silhouetted by the dancing light. We live in a world of stone and shadows, I’ve learned to read people from their shaded outlines alone. 

“What exactly does you Curse do, Ridser?” I walk to where he laid out my cot, not far from his own. He drops the blanket and pillow, leaving me to orient them so that I face away from him. 

“I told you, I can see people. Catch snapshots of what makes them who they are or what they’re feeling at that moment.” He smiles, a warm smile. “Like how I know right now, you’re feeling a very strong curiosity directed towards me. I have to say, I’m rather flattered to be the centre of your attention.” 

“Well, it’s not like there’s much else to focus my attention on.” I slide my gaze over the small room, one of three. I assume the others serve as a kitchen and for storage, while the one we’re in now with its cot, small table and dim lights, is where he sleeps. Overall, the room is very plain. Stone walls, stone floor, stone roof. Made of a reddish coloured clay for the most part, except for the floor. Underneath my feet is the habitual grey stone, the same as encloses all of Haven. 

“Sure there is, if you tried hard enough.” He smiles coyly, knowing he still rests at the centre of my thoughts. Though he obviously can’t see so much as he boasts he can, or else he’d know exactly what I’m thinking about. 

“As enjoyable as casual banter is, I’d much like it if I could go to sleep right ‘bout now.” I grin, surprised by the slight twitch of his lips. He’s disappointed and trying very hard not to let it show. Nonetheless, he tosses back the linens on his own cot and climbs in. Despite my gut telling me to attack now, while he’s vulnerable and his back is turned, I follow his example and wedge myself between the blankets and threadbare, comfortless cot and rest my head on the lumpy pillow. 

It takes a while to drift off into a fitful sleep, even longer for the lights to grow bright again. I yawn, stretch my arms, collecting myself to my feet. Then I pace, waiting rather impatiently for Ridser to wake up. 

“Your turn,” his raspy voice declares. My footsteps must have woke him up, even though I move like a shadow. He rubs his eyes, blinking blearily. 

“My turn for what?” I take a subtly defensive stance, watching as he stretches his arms wide. Despite his slim build, his arms are lined with lean muscle and his entire demeanour, relaxed if not a tad cocky, suggests he knows how to fight. The general distrust of people that kept me safe all my life tells me not to get too comfortable around him. Sure, he’s like me, but not in the same sense as Tenjey or any of the others in our loose circle of friends are like me. 

“Show me where you live,” his eyes glisten with the challenge. “I showed you my home, you show me yours.” 

“That’s not how it works,” I scowl. He laughs, those blue-violet eyes bright. In the improved lighting, I can see they’re not blueish purple but blue and purple. A rich navy with interwoven tendrils of vivid amethyst. 

“We had a deal,” he says. I can’t tell if his voice is vaguely threatening or not, but decide it’s best to agree. Besides, what could he possibly do? I need to get back to Tenjey, back to familiarity. Each second that ticks by while I’m confined within these strange walls makes my lungs tighter and tighter. There’s also something about him I’m drawn to, in his boldness and confidence.

“Fine,” I agree, before breaking out into a wicked grin. “But you’re going to have to try and keep up, a’ight?”

“Oh, I’m sure that’ll be no trouble.” He wanders off once again, and I don’t care enough to ask where or why he’s gone. I simply retrieve my veil, smoothing out the folds of glistening obsidian lace. The pattern in the lace appears at first to be random whorls and swirls, but anyone who dared look close enough would see abstract letters spelling out ashes and dust over the vague silhouette of a woman. A friend of my mother’s had made it, with a Curse that made her blind. I can’t remember the exact details of what it was, I only remember she couldn’t see but still made the most wonderful textiles.

When Ridser comes back, I can tell he’s changed his clothes. He wears a plain black shirt, a pair of black pants, leather riding boots and a grin saying I’m ready. No words are needed. I fix the thick laces of my own boots, wiping off suspicious splatters of dark red from the steel tips. 

“Ladies first,” Ridser steps aside mockingly, gesturing for me to go first. I batt my lashes in an innocent way Tenjey has perfected and I struggle with. 

Without second though, I’m off. Using my momentum, I vault onto the low roof of a nearby building. Probably used for storage, barely as high as my waist. From there, I leap to a higher building, this one hardly tall enough for a person to fit without squatting down. It takes me only a step to cross, it was probably also constructed for storage. It’s the perfect stepping stone onto the roof of a house, though. And I’m off, feet churning through the air and heart hammering with the thrill of the run. I’m headed in the same general direction as I came from, but until I find some familiar landmarks I’m basically just as good as lost. 

Ridser’s panting breaths are the only indication he’s still with me, within hearing distance but still a while behind. He was not expecting a fast-paced rooftop sprint, probably more of a jaunt and no faster than a leisurely walk. 

I leap from rooftop to rooftop, relishing the thrill piercing my chest each time I toss myself into open air. The adrenaline, the burning in the muscles of my legs each time they bunch and release to propel me forward. I love it. The laboured, gasping breaths of Ridser and the steady rushing in and out of my own air. 

He might’ve shouted for me to slow down a handful of times, but his voice is drowned out by the roaring of my blood and the air rushing past my ears, the thumping of my heart against my ribs and thunder of footsteps against rooftops. Finally, I begin to get flashes of familiarity. The half caved in hut, the chunk out of the stone floor that always reminded me of a bite. 

Recognizing where I am, I veer sharply to the left and drop down to the ground, landing lightly with surprising grace. Ridser is almost entirely lacking in said grace with his own landing, nearly toppling over and going headlong into the ground. 

A laugh bubbles out of me, quickly cut short. Where seconds before the streets were empty, silhouettes step from the shadows. Soon enough, familiar faces glare out at me. 

“Olyxe!” Fenly squeals. She races over, golden brown hair tumbling over her shoulder and her blue eyes stare out at me from their frames of thick, curled lashes. I can’t count how many times Tenjey has cussed on Fenly for being so effortlessly beautiful. After all, that’s her Curse. To be so gorgeous nobody can ever hate her. No one else can see how she’s Cursed, but I do. She will never know how someone truly feels about her, never know true love because every soul drops down to revel before her regardless. 

“I see you’re back, after your convenient disappearance. Why’d you do it, huh? And why’d you let us take the blame?” Jasma steps forward until we’re so close I can feel her pulsating hatred and distrust. Ever since we met, Jasma and I have drifted in and out of friendship and dislike as easily as the lights of Haven fade and brighten. “And who’s that you’re with?”

“Why’d I do what?” I spit, ignoring her second question. Looks like for the time being, Jasma and I aren’t getting along. “I’m not obligated to stay in one spot all the time. Or tell you where I’m going if I want to leave.” 

“You’re reckless actions got us all in trouble!” Tenjey finally steps in, shoving aside Fenly and Jasma. Both girls bristle at being dismissed, but make no move to reclaim the spotlight. “They found the body, Ash. We all saw it, so there’s no point in lying. What I can’t figure out is why you didn’t make the evidence disappear.” 

The way she says disappear, I take a step back. “I have no sweet clue what—or who— you’re talking about.”

“Inneo Gathrast. Does the name ring any bells?” Tenjey snarls. “Because you and you’re temper almost killed him before, it’s no surprised you finished what you started.  Now they’re threatening to bring the Isolation Law down on all of us, for being your ‘known assets.’ You might want to go back down, but I certainly don’t.” 

“I didn’t kill anyone.” I insist. There’s nothing else too say. “I swear to you, I never killed no Inneo Gathrast.” 

“If I may interject,” Ridser pipes up and five pairs of eyes snap to him. I can’t bear to watch. “I can testify that Olyxe here never killed anybody. She was with me for the majority of lights-out, and before then I’m sure she was walking all the way from here to where I live.”

Five pairs of eyes suddenly snap back to me, I can feel my cheeks heating. She was with me. I know how they’ll take that, there’ll be no living it down. 

“Regardless, we’ve got only a few weeks before they draw the verdict and ship us off to Isolation. I hope you’re happy with yourself, Ash. You’ve sentenced us all to rot to death in that hole.” 

“What exactly—” I run my gaze over everyone gathered in the street. Jasma, Fenly, Katpin, Noko, Tenjey. “—happened to this Inneo?” 

“Fistfight.” Noko answers, breaking her usual silence. “He was kicked and punched to death.” 

I grimace. No wonder they blame me, that does sound exactly my style. 

 

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