Chapter 2

How many more people are going to die? They're all so desperate to see the wonders around them, that's why they happily volunteer to be guinea pigs. Like lemmings they line up for the slaughter. It never seems to cross their minds that Dr Lec's experiments may not work. He wants to help our community to see again. These surgeries are meant to achieve just that. But they keep on failing. Poor, poor Kaea. As for me, I'm just as bad as the rest of those lemmings. How could I be so hopeful? How could I expect it to work? How could I be so stupid? And worst of all, how could I ever encourage her? I lean against a tree to catch my breath and try to rid myself of the image of Kaea's weak heart fading away.

Then the vision strikes me.

Someone is coming for me. But they don't yet know who I am. I wish I could see them. They're in a foreign village not that far from here called Ulswale. I have never heard of such a place before. Dr Lec has always told us it is not safe to venture into the outside world but all the occupants look so happy. There are ribbons hanging from the streetlights and decorations glitter everywhere. The people there have eyes! That can't be possible... Everybody in the village is dancing to festival music in the streets. Then a scream cuts the celebrations short. A young girl is brought through the crowds gently cradled in the arms of Kaelan to my surprise. She lies there limply with her auburn hair covering her face. Kaelan brushes it away from the sockets where her eyes aren't. Or at least I get the feeling they shouldn't be there. But they are. Bloodstained they may be but they are there. The girl isn't breathing.

When I come to I realise I'm lying on the ground by the tree. I guess I must've collapsed. That's weird...a vision has never knocked me out before. I sit up. Rubbing my aching head I wonder what my waking dream means. Then I open my eyes. Oh my god.

Can it be true? Have I reached enlightenment? But I'm only one year old! Suddenly I see a shadow coming towards me through the forest. I hear the dull metallic footsteps of a guardian. I scramble to my feet and start to run again. I don't know why but I don't feel safe around the guardians. I just can't bring myself to trust robots so easily unlike the rest of the townsfolk who seem to just accept them taking them for granted. Sometimes I wonder where they came from in the first place. I tried asking Thomtas but he just hit me. That was when I had my first vision. It wasn't much then, just a group of mixed up feelings that seemed more vivid than ever. But I got the gist. I knew they couldn't be trusted but at the same time I knew it wasn't their fault. They can't help how they're made surely?

I don't stop running although I can feel it sapping my strength. I need to get away. I don't care how dangerous the outside world is, if my vision was correct then I'm better off there than here. It's not like I've got anything to enjoy here. Nothing interesting happens, the only news we hear is from either the grown-ups which is generally filled with gossipy lies or from Dr Lec who says the same thing almost every time. The guardians aren't too chatty either. Some of them are okay but if there's one thing I really hate it's their eyes. They're always watching you and sometimes I swear that they flash a deep red, the colour of blood, or so I'm told. Kaelan told me about colours. Kaea is – was - my best friend. Kaelan was my second. He seemed to know anything, I liked him for that. He was always there to answer my questions. Why am I speaking in past tense? Just because I'm going out of town for a bit doesn't mean I'll never see him again.

I slow to a steady walk and take in the sights around me. None of the people in my town have eyes, except when they reach enlightenment. Even when they do that it is not from a couple of puny organs stuck in your head, it is like an enhanced form of echolation. Now I can see everything, the sky is darkly set above me and the thin creaking trees cast shadows in these nightmare woods. I cannot wait until day, and then I can relish in true colours not these menacing dark tones. I don't want to sleep; I want to embrace this new vision. Yet I know I must rest. Before I can think I rub the space where eyes would be on any ordinary organism. The urge came out of nowhere, I knew I would feel nothing but smooth skin and yet I felt something. The shape of eyeballs.

Too weary to consider the implications of my latest discovery I stumble through the forest hoping to find shelter. If I am to sleep it has to be far away from the guardians, far away from what's left of my home. It doesn't feel complete without Kaea. I try not to think about her but it is difficult. Instead I focus on finding a place to stay. Then a dark shadow looms over me. I cower, afraid it is Thomtas with his hitting hand poised.

"Who are you?" asks an unfamiliar voice.

It's a stranger. I relax a little and turn to face this new person. I can tell from one glance that she's young, no older than me. Her short golden hair dangles down her back and her eyes sparkle with a gleam I've never been able to see before. I'm too tired to contemplate the fact that she has eyes. It'll just make my head hurt further.

"Nobody comes this deep into the forest. Dad says it's dangerous. He's says it's full of madmen. Are you a madman?" she garbles.

"Well, I'm not a man." I reply hesitantly.

"Oh good then, I'm not allowed to talk to madmen. Who are you?"

I freeze, unsure of what to say. If I am truly running away I should not give my real name. Unfortunately I know very little about names and in my confused state of mind I tell her the first thing that comes to my head.

"Tired."

"You sure look it. That name suits you. It's weird though, who's called Tired these days?" she says. I am asking myself the same question. She rolls the name round her mouth, getting used to the feel of it. "Tired, Ty-erred, Ty-r. I'll just call you Ty for short."

"Ty. Hmm. I like that."

"I'm Etala. But everyone calls me Ettie. What are you doing out here?"

I sway slightly and then lean against the tree. My head is still throbbing from my latest vision. Part of me still thinks that this enlightenment is a dream.

"I-I'm looking for somewhere to stay."

"Whoa you don't look too good!" I don't feel too good either. My head is pounding. "You can stay with me." Ettie says firmly. "Come on!"

With that she sets off at a brisk march. I take a deep breath and follow.