The air was thicker with heat and filled with sour smells that, she feared, were coming off the bodies bumping into her from all directions where Tegin had taken her. Nothing could be seen through her blind eyes but she could tell they were in a mall. There was a bustle about the floor where children and adults alike stamped their feet down to hurry to wherever their destination may be in the store. The sounds and smells of food being cooked wavered all around her while Tegin pulled her through the crowd by her dainty hand. The store was one they had visited once before, she could tell because of an aroma of lavender candles and cedar woodchips caught her nose. Those smells came from a little antiquity shop beside the clothes store Tegin brought them to a few months back to steal clothes from. They passed that clothes shop however; Tegin was sure to never steal from the same store twice for fear of being caught.
Tegin was her younger brother though he acted often as an older one the way he took care of his blind sister Annika. They were only two years apart, Tegin being 16 years of age, but he acted far beyond his years. The cost of living the life they both had lived since far beyond the age of remembering. Homeless was the word to describe their hardship. They had grown up in a ally just behind a Mc Donald's until a cop fresh on the beat found them there and brought them to the precinct where the rookie cops chief promptly put them into foster care. At ages 13 and 11 Annika and Tegin ran away from their foster home to resume living life homeless in an abandoned building a few blocks away from the mall they were in now. They preferred life on the run with no home and no certain tomorrow. It suited them best since their parents had run from them when they were still mere toddlers, too young to even remember what they looked like. Never did they dwell on that subject for to long, it pained them to greatly, so to the two of them they had no parents just each other. They only ever needed one another, no system could help them. They had each other. That was enough.
It wasn't easy living the life they lived. Very often they were chased by police officers and they had to steal their necessities on a regular basis which was what they were doing now. They both needed new clothes, it had been a long while since they had a clean pair of anything to change into and that was very unpleasant at times for the both of them. They needed food because, even though they had woke up long after the sun had started its ascent into the sky, they still hadn't ate one bite of food yet and Annika's growling stomach couldn't bare much more of that. What they really needed though was personal things like shampoo and soap for washing. How long had it been since Annika had washed herself with a cloth soaked into a bucket of hot soapy water? Or worse yet, how long had it been since she washed her hair? Slowly she ran her fingers through her short hair and felt the grimy oil accumulated from months of laying her head on a dirty pillow and not washing it in the morning coat itself on her fingers. It made her happy she was unable to see how disgusting it must look.
She wondered how filthy her whole self must look. She had never actually seen her visage due to the fact that her sight was knocked loose in her head just a few years after she was born (one of the only memories from her infantile years she could remember) but she had a rough image Tegin had produced by explaining to her what she looked like. He said she had black hair (black being the only color she knew personally) and she was pale. Tegin explained directly afterward that pale was like white and white was the opposite of black. She had to guess if being that opposite of black was good. He told her also that she was a small thing even for a woman who, he had to explain further, were in normality much smaller than men yet she lacked even the norm in that matter. She, according to him, wasn't even an inch past 5 foot whatever that meant and he could touch each of his elbows when he hugged her around her waist. Still the knowledge, if that's what it could be considered, didn't quench the desire inside her to really see herself through her own eyes. She would always be the blind lame who was forced to rely on her younger brother as if he were a dog to lead her around so she wouldn't run into things or fall of a curb and land in front of a car. With a tiny sigh she gripped his hand wishing with all her might that the tiny pressure adjustment would make Tegin give her the ability to see for herself even though it was an incredibly farfetched wish. One that Tegin could never fulfill.
Tegin responded to her squeeze by stopping their walking and bending down to her level so they could speak. Even without sight Annika could tell he was much taller than her. She always heard his breath far above her when he was standing at his full height and he always had to bend down to talk. His hair tickled her forehead when he did which also gave her the implication that his hair, whatever the color, must be shaggy. He was scrawny though, she knew that from hugging him. Her arms overlapped when she hugged around his torso and she felt very little muscle on his bones. Like now her hands felt that under pressure as she moved her grip from his hand to his biceps so she could better balance herself.
"What's wrong Sis?" Annika was still getting use to how much deeper Tegin's voice was as opposed to what it use to be. The few first few months of change had scared her beyond explanation. He enjoyed waking her by talking close to her ear. Each morning she woke she heard an alien voice that, only after hysterically screaming her brothers name, did she realize was actually her brother. She was less prone to screaming now but there were moments now and again in which she became frightened thinking it was a stranger trying to take a hold of her hand and not Tegin.
"Sorry I just wanted to know if we are almost there." The voice that was her own was the only thing that belonged to her that she knew well. It was low and husky for one of the female lineage, this she knew from listening to other woman chatter in obnoxiously high tones. Because of that her voice was unique and it often times drew unwanted attention to herself which was one of the reasons she either remained silent or when she did speak it was barely above a whisper. The main reason Tegin leaned in so close to her when they conversed. She could feel the eyes of people who had been able to hear her watching her now with an interest that created an annoying buzz in the base of her neck.
"Yeah, almost. You remember the plan right?"
"Your going to take me into a clothes store so I can get myself some clothes while you wait outside the store for me then we are going to go get yours and get food on the way out," She felt him squeeze her shoulders lightly to show that she was correct, "but Tegin do you think we could get soap or shampoo and some bleach and sandpaper for you?"
A soft chuckle reached her eyes that memory told her was Tegin's, "What do you need that stuff for? You tryin' to look pretty for yourself?"
This was where Tegin's immaturity showed itself and Annika grew impatient with it instantly, "I may not have the eyes to see myself but everyone else here does and I'm sure there is a presentable standard for public Tegin. Plus you probably look unfit for eyes yourself."
He took in a sharp breath which she registered as a gasp, "That's terribly insulting, true, but insulting none the less."
"Well then get soap so we can fix that."
"I don't need it, I look hot no matter-ouch! Annika!" While he spoke Annika had pinched a small bit of his skin between her fingernails to shut him up, "Fine! I'll pass through the hippie shop to get your shampoo and soap! God. Did you have to go and get abusive?"
"It's good for you." She muttered, letting a ghost of a smile touch her lips, as Tegin pulled them into a practiced tuned walk.
Annika felt herself being pulled into a part of the mall she was unfamiliar with. Every bit of the store was marked in her minds eye with a scent or sound but here, wherever here may be, was uncharted territory. It made her uneasy. She liked knowing where she was going that way she always knew how to get away. Fear lined the inside of her stomach, constricting it painfully into a knot, as Tegin pulled her past shops not known to her nose nor ears until they came to a stop.
"Alright I'll be standing right here for when you come out. Don't get us caught." Tegin patted her head in the hopes of raising her sprits right before he pushed her into the store with a light shove.
The momentum of the shove pulled at her feet faster than it did her body causing her to stumble into a metal rack of clothes. It teetered along with her, both of them about to give into gravities pull, until a steadying hand grabbed them both.
The hand belonged to a woman, she could tell because of the nails length and the smooth polish that coated them. She reeked of exotic perfume and the underlying aroma of weed which explained why there was such an abundance of the perfume. Annika had to pinch her nose to keep herself from gagging.
"What are you blind or something?" The woman's voice snapped once she had let go of Annika and righted the clothing rack. Not the most cheery person.
"I am actually. That was kind of senseless of you. And rude." Annika snapped back. Hey if she was going to be a jerk to her then Annika had every right of being one too.
"Huh? Oh whoa you are. Your eyes look like milk. How cool is that?"
Annika swallowed hard to keep herself from reaching out to find the girls face so she could punch it, "Not at all. Thank you. Is there anyone else who works here that can assist me? Maybe someone less on drugs?" Annika didn't even wait for the woman's retort, she simply turned and walked away.
She knew how to walk through a clothing store without Tegin's help. The aisles were set up perfectly for someone who was blind. They were narrow and weaved from one to the next like a maze only instead of the purpose being to get one lost it lead directly to the cash register. Annika guided her self by brushing her finger tips across the lapels of coats or hems of jeans hanging on the racks she walked past. Once her fingers felt air instead of fabric she pivoted her body left or right until she was making her way down yet another aisle. She knew if she did this long enough, looking helpless, someone that worked here or even someone who didn't would try out for the "Good Samaritan" roll and come to aide the poor blind girl.
As if on que Annika felt someone approach her and reach out to her in a polite southern voice, "Excuse me darlin'? You need some help?"
Time to play the blind damsel in distress, a part that always left Annika's ego in poor shape, "Oh I'm so sorry. I'm so stupid I should have just listened to my Dad. Stupid, stupid, stupid! I'm really sorry. I'll just go."
It took only a matter of seconds for the woman to bite right onto Annika's hook, "Now hold on there honey! Just calm down, you don't seem stupid to me so you can just stop beating yourself up! What seems to be the problem here?"
"Well," Annika put so much false emotion into her lies she could feel the woman grow uncomfortable with the knowledge that Annika was on the verge of fake tears, "it's just that I'm blind and my dad babies me. He thinks I should be wrapped in bubble wrap and kept in a small dark room to stay safe but I tried to convince him I'm strong so he told me to come in here and buy some new clothes for school. He said if I could do that then he'd consider letting me have more freedom but," Annika stopped to let out of a few Oscar winning sobs to which the woman patted Annika's shoulder affectionately to comfort her, "But once I came in here I became overwhelmed and got scared and didn't know what to do! Please! Please help me? I don't want my dad to be right, he'll never let me out of the house again! I'm not even allowed to have friends! Please Miss, won't you help me?"
With the hook set, all that was left to do was to reel the woman in which went over perfectly, just as planned, "Oh my! Of course I'll help you darlin! Your father sounds like a horrible man!"
"He is," Annika let out more choked sobs as she allowed for the woman to lead her by the shoulders off to another aisle, "He even hits me sometimes." Okay so it was a bit melodramatic but she had to make sure this lady stayed in her hands and stayed workable otherwise her entire plan would fail.
"Oh my god! That's horrible!" The woman's voice gushed with maternal anger, "Well you forget about him right now okay honey? Just let Aunt Jackie worry 'bout it. Okie Doke sweetie pie?"
The smile that touched Annika's lips was genuine but it was birthed from the woman's ignorance of being Annika's toy not for the reason she thought, "Okay Aunt Jackie," Another ruthless smile, "what are you doing?" Annika could hear the screech of metal rubbing against un-oiled metal and the clank of a hanger being picked off the rack then placed back.
"I'm trying to find you some nice clothes dear," More screeching as she moved the clothes around on the rack, "Wha'da kids like to wear these days honey pie?"
"Oh well I like jeans and layered t-shirts and maybe a nice winter coat?" It was winter after all and being homeless, winter could have a real nasty bite if she didn't have layers of warm clothes on.
"Okay you wait right here okay darling?"
"Yes Aunty Jackie."
"That's a girl." Aunty Jackie patted Annika's head before walking off. She listened closely until the woman's high heals were barely recognizably before she pulled out an empty inhaler she had picked up off the ground on the way here out of her pocket. Another few seconds went by while she listened to make sure Aunty Jackie was still way to far away to notice her doings then she dropped the inhaler onto the floor by her feet. Then she waited.
Finally after what seemed like forever Aunt Jackie came back and handed Annika a bundle of material then guided her over to a dressing room to try the clothes on to see if they fit. Before she went in the room Annika smiled at Aunt Jackie and gave her a hug as thank you for all the help she was giving Annika. Or at least that's what Aunt Jackie thought. What was really going on was Annika was reaching into her purse and pulling the woman's wallet out without her noticing. Right when they broke apart Annika stuffed the wallet into the front pocket of her sweatshirt and disappeared into the dressing room. First thing was first, she put on the new jeans which fit snuggly and when she ran her hands down the fronts and backs of the legs felt a few wear holes put there for looks. Aunt Jackie was trying to make her look stylish. How infuriating. Annika liked to be ignored, not put out there with "cool" jeans. With a heavy sigh Annika felt around until she had put on two spaghetti strap undershirts and slipped on a long sleeve shirt over all that. Each shirt was made of a thin, soft material but the three of them combined warmed her up nicely. Lastly she put on the winter coat she had requested; a warm polyester navy pea coat that hung a little ways past her hips. Very nice even if the pants were a little long and the jacket was a size to big for her petite frame.
Annika opened the woman's wallet and took out what felt to be a considerably large wad of cash, folded it, and tucked it into the back pocket of her new jeans.
"Oh don't you just look cute as a button!" Aunt Jackie squealed once Annika left the dressing room. She spun around on the woman's order like a ballerina in a music box, "Come on dear, I'll take you to the register so you can pay for it."
"Okay." Annika let woman lead her to the cash register before she gasped in a way one would if they had just witnessed their dog being hit by a truck.
"What's wrong honey?" Aunt Jackie's panic ridden voice sounded in her ear, much to close to her ear.
"It's my inhaler! I think I dropped it! Could you go get it for me? Please? My dad will hit me if I loose another one!"
"Oh of course dear! Where'd you drop it you think?"
"Over in the aisle you made me stand I think."
"Alright you stay put now ya'here?" Annika nodded and when the woman turned to leave she slipped the wallet back into the woman's purse, now considerably lighter. A clean theft. Annika smiled at her deed while she waited for Aunt Jackie to come back to watch her pay for the clothes with her own stolen money. She chuckled lightly. That poor gullible woman never saw it coming.
A noise behind her alerted her attention and she suddenly was overwhelmed by the scent of perfume and weed. Annika couldn't help but let a low growl of annoyance leave her throat.
"Oh it's you again! Milk eyes."
"I'll give you twenty bucks if you let me punch you in the face." Annika mumbled.
"Nothing. Here," Annika pulled out the cash wad and handed the clerk a couple of the bills off the top of the wad, "keep the change." Then, without waiting for Aunt Jackie to come back, Annika felt her way out of the store where Tegin intercepted her.
"Wow your clothes actually match, I'm guessing you didn't pick these out? You don't have much of an eye for style Sis." Tegin laughed at his own joke while Annika growled again.
"Oh ha-ha! You're a comedian Tegin! So freaking funny. God your annoying," Annika then rolled her eyes and handed him the wad of cash she stole, "Here. Now you don't have to steal your clothes or the food."
"Wow Annie these are all hundreds. Who'd you steal from? Donald Trump?"
"I told you not to call me that. Ever. I make's me violent inside. Now can we go? I just want to go home. I'm tired of people."
"Everything makes you violent inside Annie." He mumbled as he took her hand and lead her to another store.
Tegin sat her down on a bench and asked her to wait for him while he got himself some new clothes and them both some lunch. Respectfully she obliged his wishes and she now sat there with her legs tucked under her waiting for him. She stayed occupied by listening in on other peoples conversations. There were a few interesting ones she picked up on, one made it sound as though a couple were leading themselves up to a divorce, when she heard something sickening. It was similar to that of a snake slithering across a sidewalk except it was accompanied with the sound of a terrible hacking like someone were quite literally coughing up their lungs onto the malls linoleum floors. The sound was moving slowly towards her too and as it drew closer a vile odor came with it. A potent odor that made her double over on the bench, gripping the edge of the seat as tightly as she could without breaking bones, and dry heaved. She would have puked had she had food in her belly. It smelled very much like a dead body had crawled under a dumpster and rotted there for a few weeks before it came back out and decided to take a stroll through the mall.
Fear. A sudden fear burst to life in her stomach and clawed at her insides like a wolverine trying to break out of a cage. It was displaced and unnatural that just a smell would stroke such a feeling deep inside her. Yet there was another part of her that was convincing her it wasn't just that rotting flesh smell that had done this. It was the presence of that smell that created this. Part of her knew this was wrong. Part of Annika knew that this was the very reason children were afraid of looking under their bed after the lights were turned out.
She scooted as far back as she could before the bench rest pressed into her back. She was trapped. The smell was so close she felt it breathing and coughing on her. It's breath didn't smell dead but it did smell like rotting meat as if it consumed the stuff and the smell vented through its skin.
"Go away." She squeaked in a pathetic voice just before she felt a hand big enough to be a baseball glove close around her throat. Fiery pain burned under the grip of that scaly hand and burned down her throat. Scream! She needed to scream! Get Tegin's attention so he can come save her! When she tried to obey her raging thoughts all that happened was her tongue felt as though it had been doused in gasoline and lit aflame.
"You Kya Night." It's voice was clearly not human, far to deep and animal like to be. It spoke with the fluency of a three year old and even if she could figure out what it meant the thick accent weaved into its words made it unclear. What she did understand didn't make sense to her. You Kya Night? What was that supposed to mean?
"No I-" It squeezed tighter, killing the whisper she had managed to let between her lips.
"Kya Night! Food for good Goblin like me. Good food." It hacked out a laughter.
"Hey Sis I got us fast food. Hope you don't-what the hell! Let go of her!" Tegin's voice boomed from her right where he had disappeared not but a few minutes ago. She heard the rustle of a bag then felt an oily piece of food hit her cheek. The Goblin, as it had called itself, hissed towards Tegin's direction. It clearly didn't like to have chicken nuggets thrown at it. The pressure around her neck disappeared allowing her to finally catch a breath and the burning left her skin. Instinctively she brought her fingers up to feel the skin it had been gripping so tightly with inferno's under each fingertip and wasn't surprised to feel the flesh there raw from being burnt.
"What in all of heaven and earth are you!" Tegin gasped out. Annika felt a new fire burn her but this consumed her entire body starting from the inside out. Protective instincts she would call it. Protective instincts would also be what she blamed for the very reason she stood on wobbly legs to go find Tegin. The tone in his voice had told her something just wasn't right and it set off the big sister alarms in her.
"Two Kya Nights? How?" The raspy, bear like voice growled in confusion, "Unless you two be cubs of Kya Night. Kya Night cubs? Oh yes. Such smart Goblin me be!" It cackled again causing it to break down into another fit of spastic coughing.
Annika took that time to search for Tegin, "Where are you!" She hissed as she fell to her knees and felt around in front of her. Her fingertips brushed against something warm and silky her mind took only seconds to process as Tegin's hair. Wet slickness coated her fingers as she drug her fingers through his hair to touch his face. Something terrible inside her told her that wetness was blood. Her probing hands reached his arms and she felt alien rivets in his flesh, more slick wetness seeping from it. Like thunder, waves of quivers washed over her body making it impossible for her to continue her path down his body.
"Annie, it burns. It burns Annie. Please make it stop burning!" He kept whispering over and over as she sat there on her knees shaking violently. What was she supposed to do? The self proclaimed Goblin was recovering from its coughing fit behind her and she could hear it slithering towards them. Closing in for its kill. Annika clenched her fist. Anger burned through her like never before because of the feeling of being completely useless at this very moment. It fueled the spite now consuming her entire tiny figure. Annika had never went to school but she had learned a few things here and there by listening and just at that moment something she had heard once came to mind. A star, she recalled as she rose to her feet, when put under massive pressure after far to long burned brightly until it became something new. The star undertook a new name as it entered a new phase of life from its change. That was Annika now. A star that was in the stages of burning itself into something new.
As she turned her body to face the sounds creeping up behind her the fire that had been heating up her up before turned into a wildfire. White hot streaks of pain shot through her body starting at her feet until it stopped at her eyes, searing them to a degree so hot she screamed and clutched her useless eyes. The pain remained present there for what seemed like hours, ebbing away the last bits of what made up her former self until finally, finally it died away. When she removed the cover her hands had created over her eyes things were indeed different for her. Bright, harsh light bit her at sensitive new sight as she blinked away the tears from the pain. She could see! Really, actually see with these stupid eyes in her head! They took in the other humans standing in a petrified circle around their little scene going down. Colors like nothing she could have ever imagined danced before her vision. Black was really starting to look like it had no place in her life as she took them all in. How was this possible!
Don't question it, she quickly snapped at herself, just use it. She felt herself nodding for what would appear no reason. Glancing down she saw her brother lying on the glossy flooring staring back up at her. Her breath stuck in her throat. This was the first time she had ever laid working eyes upon her brother, it was a shame she couldn't see him under better circumstances. For instance, when he wasn't laying there bleeding to death. His shaggy black hair was matted to his cheeks and forehead with his own blood leaking from a gash in his hairline. More slash wounds marred his body from the neck down. He was shaking so badly she could hear his body smacking against the floor with each spasm. His eyes, which were a lighter shade of black she noted, looked to be filled with angst. Did he think he was going to watch his sister die? Or was it he thought he was dying?
She couldn't look at him any longer. More pressing maters were now drawing near like the Goblin for instance. It was as offensive looking as it smelled. Large shark like teeth jutted from its thin lips coated in a layer of Tegin's blood and its beady little black eyes with one white dot in the center darted around from the crowd gathered, to Tegin, to Annika. The skin coating its hunched over bone structure looked warped and blistered in some places like it had been blasted with a blowtorch recently. A scale covered tail flickered behind it as it took slow steps on mismatched legs towards her. Talons bigger than her hands jutted from the tips of its knobby little fingers and its stubby toes.
"Night cubs. Night cubs. Great One will be pleased. Will give old Goblin much meat to chew on!" It spoke cheerfully to itself. As it drew close Annika felt that familiar fire that had ignited her anew began to sting in her palms. The warm pain spread quickly throughout her entire hand, shooting up her arm and wrapped around her heart until she felt like she were going to explode.
Acting out of pure instinct she stepped forward, ducking under the Goblins razor fingernails as he swung his paw at her, and pressed her palm firmly against the Goblin's skin just above where its heart would be. Her eyes widened as she watched from under her hand black webbing began to crawl under its skin in thin tendrils, crawling slowly from where her hand was pressed against its shoulder clear to its neck and down its chest. Goblin convulsed once, twice, screaming as it did before finally going limp and falling at her feet. There was a dull ache in the back of her head, throbbing more intensely with each beat of her heart until her new vision restored itself to its former black and her knees buckled.
"Please," She whispered as her whole body sunk to the floor, "Help…" then she fell to sleep.