Speckle Eye

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She was standing in the middle of the road, right outside my house. I froze the second I saw her. What was she doing here?

It was then that our eyes met. Even in daylight they seemed to glow. It was the first time that I’d seen the deep gash on the right side of her face instead of the left, I noted. Then she started walking directly towards me at approximately the pace of a charging cheetah and before I could run, she grabbed me. “Cat Madigan?” she demanded. I nodded my head rapidly. “Good.” She released me. She was only slightly taller than me, and even then she seemed to tower over me. “What do you know about me?” she continued, becoming more and more frightening by the minute. 

“Um…” I swallowed. “You’re…Kaya, right?”

“Indeed. Now, why have you been watching me?”

“Huh? Watching-ow!” She had grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. Oddly enough, this terrifying woman was less frightening to me than the shadows were. I had probably seen too much of her life to be afraid of her by this point.

“Answer me!” she snarled. 

At that point, I decided it would be a good idea to scream out for Daniel; if Kaya was here, then chances are, he was too. Before I could though, I heard a roaring sound, and I turned to Kaya. “Get off the road!” I yelled. I wrenched myself out of her grasp, grabbed her, and pulled us back onto the side path. The asshole in the sports car zoomed past seconds later, making no attempt to slow down not only for us, but for another car pulling out of the driveway. 

I looked back at Kaya and tried not to laugh. Her eyes were bugging out of her head, her jaw hung open. No, it was more than that, she was visibly shaking. “…you okay?” I asked tentatively.

“What the FUCK was that?” she screeched. That was it. I lost it. After failing to conceal the first snort of laughter, I just doubled over, giggling helplessly. 

She looked down at me, confused and irritated. “What are you doing?” she said suspiciously.

“Your face,” I crowed. “I’m sorry, I really am, but…” I just buckled over laughing. Kaya stared at me. “It’s okay,” I reassured her. “It was just a car, they come by all the time here. Don’t worry about it-”

Don’t worry about it?!” she shrieked. “That thing tried to maul us! Just because we were in its way! Didn’t you hear it growling at us? I knew you humans were murdering bastards, but…why are you still laughing?”

Tears were streaming down my face. I suddenly had a vision of a Hungry Hungry Hippo totting down the road like Pacman. Omnomnomnomnomnom… “Oh Christ, oh god…” My stomach was starting to hurt. 

Eventually, I managed to calm down. I looked up, and saw that the anger had faded from Kaya’s face. “Okay, I’m okay now,” I informed her. “Are you okay?”

She nodded. “You, on the other hand, are insane.” 

“Uh huh.” I grinned. “Well aware of that.” Kaya was quiet again. “Do you want to come inside?” I asked. She hesitated. “It’s okay,” I reassured her. “They…the humans can’t see you here.”

“That’s why-”

“No, I mean they literally can’t see you. You’re invisible.”

“…invisible?” I nodded. I held out my hand for her to take, but she just stared at it. “Okay…” I sighed, taking it away.

She stood there. “What…did that mean?” 

“What?”

“…you offered me your hand. What did you mean by that?”

“…it’s a gesture,” I said weakly.

“What kind of gesture?”

“…friends?” I didn’t know how that would go down with her. “Forget it, I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m sorry. Do you want to come inside?”

Silence. I took this moment to look at her face. There was no cruelty in her gaze, quite the opposite; she was scared. If you took away her scars, her mutant purple eyes, there was just a scared little girl.

Suddenly, she thrusted out her hand, holding it in front of me as I had done. She looked at me expectantly. 

Without question, I placed my hand over hers, and the claws closed around it.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

“Why are they screaming at eachother?” Kaya asked, as my mother and father screamed at eachother while we quietly walked past them.

I shrugged. We ducked inside my room. “You’re lucky,” I told her. “It’s one of the cleaner days.”

Inside was Daniel. “There you are,” he said, walking over to Kaya. “Everyone at Helevia is having a heart attack right now, are you aware?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “Can you let them know I’m alright?” Daniel looked confused. “I’ll return soon. Unless you’d prefer to stay here with us.” She seemed oblivious to Daniel’s lack of interest or notice of me. I flushed and turned my head.

Daniel sighed. “I’ll go back. Will you be taking care of her from now on?” For the first time, he acknowledged my existence in this room.

“What do you mean?”

“Shadows follow her. That’s why Nereida sent me here to begin with. More often than not, I have to rescue her from them. But if she’s more comfortable with you…”

He can’t wait to be away from me. “If she wishes,” Kaya said mildly. “I cannot always be here however, and you seem more adept at this than I am.”

Daniel nodded. “I’ll see you then,” he said to her. He started walking towards my door.

“Goodbye,” I said softly after him.

I hadn’t expected him to reply. “Good day, Miss Madigan,” he said absently. Then he was gone.

“You don’t like him?” Kaya questioned me.

“It’s not that,” I told her. “I’m just…well, he doesn’t really like me.”

Kaya thought for a moment. “He was glad to have saved you,” she said to me. “He just doesn’t enjoy being in this world.”

“Why?” 

“Because no one sees him.” Kaya sighed. “Everyone one in my world but Nereida sees him as an animal. And in your world, everyone treats him as though he doesn’t exist. You as well.”

Guilt swelled up in my stomach. “I don’t know what’s real anymore,” I said in a whisper. “I’m…I’m the only one who can see you; no one else can. I’m…” I looked pleadingly at Kaya. “Please tell him I’m sorry. If he wants to speak with me, I’ll come with him and talk privately. It’s just…”

“-you don’t want everyone looking at you strangely,” Kaya finished. I flushed. “No, I understand. It’s obvious how this would look to other humans. And you shouldn’t be discriminated for talking to us. I’ll advise him on this. And what you said.”

“…thanks.”

We sat there quietly. I looked up at her. “Why have I been seeing you?” I asked.

Kaya frowned. “I came to this world to ask you this as well. Nereida tells me nothing.”

“What did she tell Daniel?”

“That a special girl needed saving.” I snorted at being called ‘special’. “And if he saved her, then she’d help him find his home.”

“…what good is that going to do?”

“Why do you say that?” Kaya’s eyes narrowed.

I looked down, suddenly afraid. “No one can see you guys,” I reminded her. “Even if Nereida finds out who he is, he won’t be able to go back. Not if they can’t see him.”

“Worst case scenario, he finds out what happened to his loved ones, and gains closure,” Kaya returned.

“…what would he do then?” 

“That’s up to him.”

“…I cannot imagine a fate worse than being invisible and alone.” 

“He won’t be alone.” I looked up to find Kaya staring at me. “You and him have the same eyes, you know.”

“We do?”

“Yes.” She gazed intently, holding my chin with her hand, careful not to claw me. “Millions of little lines, multicoloured dots. Blue, green, grey, gold, brown, olive. Scattered like a cluster of stars. You both have galaxies for eyes.” She turn turned from me and stared at her reflection in the mirror. “We only have the one colour. We’re so…dead. You humans are so full of life, so dynamic. Me and my mind, we’re all monsters. Not just me. We’re not all aware of it, but we are.”

“…no. You’re really not.” I took her hand and pushed myself against her chest, wrapping my arms around her. She froze, then after a few seconds, returned the hug.

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The Strange Wills of Hearts

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“Ray?”

I see her when I get on the bus to go home, and I nearly run to reach her before someone else sits down next to her. “What is it?”

She has a bright smile on her face as she tells me. “He’s awake,” she says. “He wants to see you.”

“Thank god.” I nearly crush her in my arms, and I feel tears running down my face. I hadn’t realised how worried I had been. “It worked then?”

Ray nods. It’s as if she has lifted a giant weight which had been crushing my chest. I suddenly feel like I could sprint home to see him. Instead, I impatiently wait on the bus, praying that the traffic doesn’t slow it down.

I break out into a sprint when I get off the bus, though Ray still arrives at my house before me. I manage to slow myself down before my mother sees me running, but as soon as I enter the door, I head straight for my room.

He’s there, lying down on the bed when he sees me. He grins as he sees me. “What took you so long?” he asks in a faint voice.

I just throw my arms around him, and it’s a long time before I let go. “I thought you were going to die,” I whisper.

“It takes a lot to kill me,” Daniel says. “Though to be fair, that was pretty close.” He releases me and leans back to look at me. “You look like shit,” he concedes.

I grimace. “That’s generally what mass blood loss does, see.” He looks shocked. “Didn’t they tell you?”

“Tell me what?” Daniel asks. His eyes narrow and he glares over at Noah, who is standing by the door.

I look behind me. “I insisted on it,” I said. “You lost too much blood, and mine was the closest match.”

“Goddammit Cat Madigan,” Daniel groans. “You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Yeah well, you shouldn’t have attacked Christan either.” He growls at that. “Yes, the asshole deserved it, but you forgot who you’re dealing with.”

“Is he going to do it again though?” Daniel’s voice is hard as ice.

“I don’t know. My guess is not, though.”

He scoffs. “You would’ve killed him if I had died,” he states.

“Of course.” I smile at him, but it doesn’t reach my eyes. “In this world, that’s the only thing left after everything else that matters is gone.”

He’s not looking at me. Instead, he’s looking behind me, and the tired look on his face before becomes one of absolute loathing. I immediately know who it is. “You aren’t welcome here,” I inform the king behind me.

“Am I not to be forgiven ever?”

“No,” Daniel and I say in unison. “I’ve already given you my terms,” I remind him. “And I’m assuming you are not missing an eye, are you?”

I hear him walking towards me. “One more step and you’ll regret it,” Daniel says, shaking slightly.

“Get out,” I order him. Daniel begins to shake more violently. “Noah, get here now!” Jhaq pulled my arm. “I’m not leaving him!” I told her. “Daniel!”

Ten seconds later he stops, and he lies there, shivering. I sit beside him and stroke his forehead, measuring how hot he is. “How many of these have happened?” I ask.

“This is the third,” Noah tells me. “Don’t let his blood pressure rise.”

I think of how much the sight of Christan enrages Daniel, and how my mother and my brother could come in and start screaming. “Don’t let them in again,” I order. “At least not while he’s conscious. He needs to recover and he’s in no condition to work, especially not with his Grace.”

“Yes my lady.” He leaves, and Jhaq, Ray and I are left in the room with Daniel, who has gone silent.

“You are learning, Miss Madigan,” Jhaq observes.

“What do you mean?”

“Miss Madigan, you are a lady,” Jhaq insists. “And now you have the words of one.”

“I…no, I’m not.” I look down at Daniel, now sleeping with a peaceful expression on his face. “I’m not a lady, I’m just his friend. To them, I’m a pet human he keeps for company, no one would take me seriously.”

“No.” Jhaq’s voice is determined. “Master Noah takes you seriously. That is a certainty.”

She was right. Noah paid attention to me and didn’t treat me like a monster. He didn’t call me Freak. That was how Christan was before though…
_______________________________________________________________________________

Daniel woke up again later on, and when he went to sleep, it’s wasn’t the aftermath of a seizure. He was upset about his eye, but he calmed down after I reassured him how awesome guys with eyepatches were. His vanity satisfied, he soon drifted off to sleep, his head cradled in my lap. I didn’t try to move him, I just sat with him.

Noah came in and sat down by Daniel’s bedside. “His Grace has promised he won’t intrude when Daniel is awake,” he informed me. “He doesn’t want Daniel to die, so he won’t do anything that would do him harm.”

If Daniel dies, I will not hesitate to make every fibre of your being burst into flames. “What about Thommand though? I’m more worried about him than his Grace.”

“He’s not going to do anything either. I don’t know if you know this, but Daniel’s a valued member of the king’s peers. Christan doesn’t want him dead now anymore than he did when he held out that dagger,” Noah explained. “Besides, Daniel has a fever still. Thommand’s scared for his own skin, he won’t go near anyone who is sick.”

“True.”

He was quiet for a moment. “You…you and Kaya were close, weren’t you?”

“Of course we were.” And now we’re too close for comfort.

“She mentioned you,” he told me. “She told me how you needed help, with them.”

“The shadows? Yeah, I remember.” Those used to be what I was most afraid of. My Delirium was still being created, from Kaya’s memories, I hadn’t fallen down that rabbit hole yet. “She was going to help me, before…”

“I know.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “How much…do you know about her?”

I thought about it. “I…I know she was escaping from here when she got attacked. Then I saw everything after.”

His face went dark. “Oh.”

“Yeah…” I grinned a little. “There was that too,” I added.

“I…”

“I’m the last person to judge anyone,” I told him. “Your secret, and Kaya’s, is safe with me.”

“Thank you.” Noah went quiet, as if he was about to say something, but changed his mind.

“What is it? Ask whatever you want.”

“Did she…” He sighed. “All my life, I’ve never stopped wondering what went on in that girl’s head. And I can’t help but wonder…” He looked up at me. “You saw her memories. Did she…feel the same way that I did about her? Even a little bit?”

I tried remembering Kaya’s thoughts from long ago. It seems like a lifetime ago, in a way it was. There was so many emotions, so strong and vivid. Rage and fear are the most powerful ones. But there’s calm too, calm and care and trust.

“I’d say so,” I told him. “After what Kaya went through, she swore never to trust anyone again, but she came close to doing that.”

“Truly?” Noah doesn’t seem convinced.

I smiled at him. “I don’t know how much Kaya loved people. People who go through all pain can either abandon love entirely or depend on it even more. But she cared for you the most, I can assure you that.”

He gave me a tired grimace. “You loved her,” I said. “Even after she was changed. Why?”

“I…continue to ask myself that question.” Noah paused. “When I knew her, she was the brightest girl in the world, and she didn’t care less what people thought. She was beautiful. And after…I still saw her that way. Even with her purple eyes and her scars, she was still my friend.” He smiled at me. “You have friends in your world, friends who stay by you as well.”

“Yeah…but none of them felt the same way that you did about Kaya.”

“Not one?”

“No.” I hold out my left hand, showing him the scars. “No one wants to love a freak.”

“He does.” Noah looked down at Daniel. “He will not abandon you…Cat.”

“I hope not.” I touched Daniel”s forehead again. It’s warm, but not feverish. “Hearts are so strange, aren’t they?”

Strangers in Delirium

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I’m used to people shouting at me when I wake up.

Today, it was Daniel.

Everything was blurry when I opened my eyes. “Where am I Daniel?”

He didn’t say anything, but he held my hand reassuringly until my sight returned. My other senses returned, one by one. This is what I took in; the walls were made of stone, but they weren’t threatening like a prison cell. It was warm, and it smelt of pine; Daniel must’ve put pine nuts in the fire. This wasn’t a hard bench I lay on, instead, all I could feel was soft, smooth sheets.

Then I realised we weren’t alone.

I could feel the eyes on me, and I rolled over to see them. They all flinched when I looked at them. “Am I really that hideous?” I said dryly.

“Humans,” Daniel said, as if that explained everything.

I recognised the little girl peeping through the crowd. “I know her,” I whispered to Daniel. “Her name’s Ray, right?”

He nodded once, and in that moment, the girl dashed through the people to him. He picked her up and squeezed her quickly. “My goddaughter,” he told me, before popping her on the bed beside me.

“Hello…” Daniel, this is not a good idea, there is a difference from a child from Reality and a child from Delirium. I don’t want her to start screaming, I’m a freak as it is!

But, to my surprise, the girl smiled at me and sat next to me on Daniel’s bed. Her presence managed to calm me in front of all the nosy strangers; out of all of them, she was the most ‘human’ looking. It didn’t stop me from recoiling from the others.

Daniel, as if hearing my silent plea, spoke up. “She isn’t on show. Either state your business or leave.”

The majority left, though a couple had legitimate reasons to speak with Daniel. That didn’t stop them from taking a second glance at me anyway. While they spoke, I looked at Ray. She was barely three years old, from what I saw. Her hair was golden and silky looking, but it was her eyes that were the most comforting. They were plain, green, human eyes. Nothing more. She smelt of roses and cream, and when she hugged me, I didn’t resist. After they left, I asked Daniel why I was here.

“Why are you ever here?” was his response.

I just ignored him. We sat in silence for a while, until he just talked to himself. “Things are mad at the moment. The Highest wants a party, I’m sad to say. In times like this…”

I was silent. There’s a great deal that can be said in silence and stillness. It’s so unnatural, that people automatically know that there is something wrong. Daniel stopped and sat down next to me. “What happened?”

I shut my eyes.

“What,” he pronounced. “Happened.”

I made a little movement with my hand and he was quick to realise. “Who did it?” he demanded.

“They’re all shadows to me,” I said softly. I felt as if the warmth from the room had returned to the fire, leaving me in the cold.

Suddenly, Daniel snatched me up in his arms and held me close against him. “Daniel…” I objected.

“Why…” he was saying over and over. It was alarming, Daniel had never done that.

When he released me, the girl had vanished, and I felt exhausted. I lay down on the bed and told Daniel, “I don’t feel like going back to Reality yet. I just need to sleep.”

He nodded.

“But I can’t.”

“Nightmares?”

I nodded.

“They can’t get you here.”

“Because they’re afraid of you.”

“I won’t go.”

“Please don’t,” I tell him.

Daniel sat next to me; I’m now used to him being with me when I struggle sleeping. I closed my eyes. “Why?” he murmured again.

You should be teasing me. Why are you being kind? “Why?” I agreed.