Go ahead, stare. See if I care. I don't give a crap.
Over the years, I'd perfected my I'd-kill-you-any-day-so-you'd-better-look-away-first glare, which I now threw at anyone who looked my way.
They especially stared at my new hair. Last night, I'd found an old pair of scissors and hacked away. Uneven, jet black, boy length—add the violet eyes and I'm terrifying, even if I'm only five foot one.
Someone touched their own hair, then snickered at me. Another shielded their child's eyes and hurried away. Others simply changed direction, although I'm pretty sure someone started crying at the sight of me.
My face was flawlessly blank, save for the glare that could kill. I was here for only one reason, and that had nothing to do with these people. I just needed to find that house, then I'd be on my way out of here.
A boy about two years older and a foot taller then me was poised, ready for a fight. His eyes shot daggers and his voice dripped venom. "What do you want here, murderer?"
I smiled grimly at him. "What I want is no business of yours—leave me be and I'll return the favor."
He stepped forward, eyes burning into mine. "It would be much appreciated if you'd leave now—that's not a request." He had to be kidding me—ordering me around? He rushed at me, and I heard someone shout his name.
As he passed, I sidestepped and was instantly behind him. I reached out and snatched one leg out from under him, causing him to fall, stretching his arms out in front of him. I yanked the leg up, forcing him to flip over, facing me. His eyes were wide, frightened, as he looked at my face.
I smiled without glee and drew my back as far as I could. This was it. Now I'd drive my fist hard into his face. The force would shatter it; chards of bone would destroy his brain, leaving him dead.
And yet now I hesitated. I didn't understand this. I'd been trained to kill mercilessly, without the slightest thought or cause. But now I was free of the chemicals rendering me without a conscience. Still, what was this boy to me? Within moments he could be just another name…and yet I couldn't bring myself to harm him.
This made no sense. I had all the necessary pieces in place. He'd threatened me, after all. I had the proper training and positioning. But still I paused. Why? Why should I care for this one boy, when I'd never cared for others before him, even if I'd had much less of a reason? What was wrong with me?
Though…what if it was this new awareness that came with the lack of drugs? What if my purpose wasn't to kill, as I'd thought before? But, if not as an assassin, what was it?
No. My sole purpose in life was to do what I'd done my entire life. It was the only thing I knew how to do. It was what I was best at. So why couldn't I do it now?
My eyes tore into the boy's face as if he could answer my questions. What was wrong with me? Just do it, get it over with, before you can convince yourself otherwise!
My fist, still poised midair, twitched slightly from the tension of which I was holding it. He winced at the movement, and sudden anger filled me for my hesitations. I drove my fist toward him with severe force.
To my frustration, I stopped less than an inch from his face. What was my problem? Why couldn't I just…My thoughts stopped right there. His face…it was so, undeniably terrified.
Every ounce of frustration, anger, or any negative emotion towards this other person left me, completely. I released him from my grasp, my furious glare melting into oblivion in a matter of seconds.
I became aware of my surroundings; I realized everyone had frozen. There was no sound, save for my almost victim's breathing, ragged with fear. Our eyes were still locked on each other's, both clearly astonished.
No one moved for several more seconds and then everyone continued on their way in absolute silence. For many more long minutes, our eyes stayed locked. Then I couldn't stand it anymore and, turning, dashed away, leaving him standing there, still, staring off after me.
My legs burning, I sprinted away from the scene. No doubt it would be the talk of everyone tonight; the murderer who didn't murder the boy.
I stopped breathing unconsciously. It scared me so badly that I actually halted, forcing myself to breathe in and out deeply a few times, before pushing forward again.
I went faster and faster until I could barely feel my legs, and only when I felt almost ready to faint from exertion did I allow myself to pause. I had made it to my destination anyway, albeit very different than I remembered.
The exterior of the house used to be white, if memory served. For a brief moment, I entertained the thought that I'd come to the wrong house, or perhaps that it'd been knocked down and this was a new house.
It had received a new paint job, to say the least.
Violent purple coated the walls, interrupted only by the yellow stains I assumed were eggs, and a few strips of toilet paper.
The eggs were obviously identified by the rancid smell pervading the air. I wrinkled my nose against it, sneering. This was definitely the right place. I planted my hands on my hips, my expression automatically fading to blankness.
I stomped towards the front door, flinging it open. The eggs' smell got worse inside, but there were other stenches too.
I scouted out the area, the entire upper floor, saving the lower for later. Each room was worse than the first—the three bedrooms, each bed smashed; the bathroom, the sink and toilet lying, broken, on the floor—I wondered who's done it. Had those men who'd come to get me and kill my mother done it? Had the townspeople, angry at me, done it?
When I went downstairs, I saw the kitchen in a similar state. The wooden table was in splinters, chairs had broken legs or no legs at all. There was a knife protruding from the wall, and suddenly I was hit with a distinctly familiar scent—blood.
I'd smelled this every day for the past year. I should feel comfort, shouldn't I? That's how 'comfort' worked. Then again, I'd never really felt it before…
There was an odd sensation in my stomach, as if there was something on fire in there. My head felt lighter than normal, and my nose tingled a bit at the smell. Was this what comfort felt like? I didn't like it. Not one bit. But maybe comfort was supposed to be something you didn't like. Thought that didn't make sense…Why would it be a positive thing if no one liked it?
A breeze whipped through the house from the open window hole—the windows themselves had been removed—and the smell hit me again, snapping me out of my thoughts. I stood in place, glancing around me, turning, until I found myself facing that knife again. There, on the wall, written in blood, was a not addressed to me. It said, quite pleasantly and in horrible, drunken handwriting: Get the hell away from the town.
What a welcome home.
I wasn't sure how long I sat there. I didn't think of time passing. I didn't think of the wounds and scars on my house.
My thoughts wandered over every nick and crannie of my memory. Eventually I noticed I was sitting down, still staring at that note, but my eyes were unfocused. Every thought, every memory, I ran over in my mind.
I started at my earliest memory, combing through till that memory. But I never got past that. The incident, then there were only pieces. Fragments of memory. Fragments of memories better left untouched.
When I was a little girl, my mother and I bought a new house. This one. I never knew why we'd left my father, but my first memory was of us buying this house. Here we'd lived, for a few years. When I turned ten, my mother and I assassinated out Lord. She'd found out about some plan he'd had, and it didn't look good for us. We'd been frightened, afraid to leave, so we'd killed him.
They had, of course, found out about it. And they were very angry. They stormed into my house, and there were…
So they'd killed her. They took me under their wing, so to speak, and given me some sort of chemical, although I was unsure of what it was. My memory was blurry here, but from what I could sum up, I had killed everything in sight. Fine, that was unfair—anything that got in my way.
I remembered my training—where to hit to kill fastest, where it would be the most painful, require the lease amount of force, the act of intimidation. How to easily get information out of someone. Hours of constant work. Tedious exercise. Ruthless exams. Countless tests.
All of them had thin film over them, as if viewed through a foggy window. There were a few others, too, but nothing of worth. During this time, I was the Grand Emperor's little pet, his 'pride and joy'. But he didn't care about me, just what I could do for him. Even through the foggy window, I could see that clearly. It was more obvious than the color of the night sky.
What wasn't clear was why I'd stayed there so long. Sure, I was strong and their 'weapon', but it was clear that I wasn't ever worth wasting those drugs used to keep me there in the first place, however powerful I was or made them.
I tipped my head back presently, realizing it had gotten dark outside. I was done staring at those words on my wall. I picked myself up, going out to the back yard. My short hair tickled the back of my neck as I looked towards the sky. It was clear, a solid, blue-black color that seemed to be that color only to highlight and show off the key point—the stars.
There was no moon, but it was gorgeous. The stars themselves had an almost bluish tint. Whenever I saw the stars on a night like this, I felt some deep connection with something very far away. And it was as if we shared some secret, a deep, poetic, ages-old secret which had been kept safe for generations, only to be spoken of at moments like this. The sky, stars, moon—it was so far away, so wise, so uncorrupted by anything we might screw up down here.
I sat down on the cool grass, leaning back on my arms, propped up behind me, my eyes never leaving the sky, having our quiet discussion, comfortable and understanding each other.
The day came where I woke. It came like a slap to the face. Everything jumped into sharp focus, as if I'd stopped crossing my eyes. I was still taking in detail, even now, almost thirty hours later. There were things that I just remembered, like the wide, ever present sky. When all the world leaped into focus, I remembered the land like it had been painted behind my eyelids.
Immediately, I was drawn to this area. It'd taken me twenty eight hours to run here, without stopping to rest. All I'd seen was a mental picture of this property. My property, technically, and I was going to take it back for keeps. It did belong to me, and no one would dare cross paths with me.
Proprietary issues aside, my own body was foreign to me. During my hours of running, I felt nothing. No burn in my legs, no shortness of breath from the excursion at first. It was as if my body and mind were two separate units, and working them together was impossible. The problem was, either I explored my almost foreign mind, or I continued the normal bodily functions.
At certain points, I would be so deeply engrossed in my thoughts I would stop breathing. It'd taken me the twenty eight hours required to get here to get them working together, as if they were stubborn children after a fight.
Now, as I listened to my even, steady breathing, I rocked forward to take my weight off my hands. My right fingers found the spot on the smooth, pale skin on my left wrist, feeling the constant, rhythmic beat of my heart. If I focused on that slight pressure, I could feel the gentle thrumming of my heart through my whole being. My thoughts fell in time with this music.
When I looked to the stars again, I saw them sparkling, winking, twinkling to that same beat. They were smiling down to me, telling me to confess to them.
My guards went up. They wanted something out of me. No, I wouldn't give it to them. Not even these beautiful, honest stars. They could be lying to me to.
They looked sad, but continued smiling their kind smiles down on me. But I knew the truth. Never trust anyone but yourself. That was how I'd gotten here in the first place.
But, too, there were those wise stars, murmuring and smiling down at me. "Carpe noctem, Caelyn," they whispered. "Seize the night."