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Clockwork Shades

Updated: Dec 22, 2020


Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash


Clockwork Shades

by Dillon J. Romney



1

Aarush yearned for the Grasslands, which was a place full of beautiful, endless tall grasses. It was also a world separate from Earth and full of magic. Aarush and Aiyden, both seventeen years old, had just left the Grasslands, returning to Earth through a portal pathway. They were heading home, only intending to stay for one night to gather supplies. Then, they planned to make their way back to the Grasslands.

Aarush walked along the rocky shore of a small stream surrounded by dense balsam fir and thin jack pine trees. She looked at the back of Aiyden, his dirty blonde hair, his tan skin, and recalled having sex with him in the Grasslands. She wanted to go back there and lose her virginity all over again.

Back in the Grasslands, they had discovered that they had supernatural abilities. Aiyden could conjure fire out of things, turning metal molten, lighting wood on fire, and control the intensity of the flames. But it was more of a manifestation than a wielding. Aarush’s ability involved wind and light, but she didn’t understand it or know how to use it. Regardless, she had discovered love and power in the Grasslands, two things she had never had before.

For now, Aarush felt good, almost airborne. The sun warmed her dark, brown skin and nearly black hair. The stream bubbled along to her right, and birds sang in the spring-green trees. It was hot, midday, the insects were minimal, except for buzzing bees. She breathed deep and looked from the blooming flowers to Aiyden.

She did not want to go back to Calgary. But Aiyden did. He said he needed to check on his mother and that they should grab some supplies before they set off again. Aarush wanted to find the pathway back into that other world now. She thought that they would find everything they needed there. They had an idea of where to find that pathway. It should be near Ghost Lake, which was northwest from Calgary.

Aarush didn’t want to see her own parents. Her father had practiced an extreme form of Islamism, and her mother had cowered in his shadow. Aarush’s home life had been one of abuse and oppression that her father had justified with insane religious claims. The more Aarush had learned about Islamic beliefs outside her home, the more she had realized that her father’s interpretations of Islam were corrupt. She didn’t hate her religion; it wasn’t evil. She hated her parents; they were evil.

Aarush was afraid of what waited for her back home. When she had last left, she had tried to kill her father. He might be dead; she didn’t know. After smashing him in the face with a heavy, glass snow globe, she had run off into the forest. That was when she had met Aiyden for the first time. Together, they had found the portal pathway to the Grasslands by chance, only later discovering they had lived in the same neighborhood.

Aarush worried that the cops would be looking for her in the city. She had told Aiyden this, but he said they would be careful, and only stay for a single night at his house.

These thoughts were upsetting Aarush, and so she switched mental gears. She wanted to remain in the moment.

She thought back to the magic of the Grasslands. Aarush had felt a peaceful companionship with that place, and had fallen in love with Aiyden there. She had never felt either of those things before. Her tyrannical, physically abusive father and her timid, useless mother had seen to that.

Aarush thought of her naked body on top of Aiyden’s, and what it would be like to take him by the stream that minute.

“Hey, we’re here. You have to see this.” Aiyden said, standing on a hill where a steep path led back into the city from the outlying forest.

Aarush, her arousal and calmness fading fast, caught up with Aiyden. They stood together on the rise, facing north, and looked out across their neighborhood. It was mid-day, but there wasn’t a single person or car moving anywhere. They walked to the east side of the hill, where a different portion of the city was visible. There was no one anywhere. Nothing moved. There were no sounds except for birdsong.


2

“Where is everybody?” Aiyden wondered.

“I don’t hear anything but the birds,” Aarush replied. She was right; they should never have come back.

Her previous feelings of comfort and ease vanished. Her stomach lurched. The emptiness of the city frightened her, but it also enhanced her hatred of the place. The very structure of it, homes and playgrounds and parks all joined together for happy families, was not for her. The usual commotion of the city had always distracted her from that simple fact. Now, her emotions seemed to fill that emptiness and expand throughout it.

Everything she had ever done here was marked and marred by physical and mental oppression. She needed to leave. Now.

“Let’s go back into the woods. I don’t like this,” she said.

“We need supplies, Aarush. We need food and gear from my house. Also, where the hell is everyone? I want to know,” Aiyden said, sounding irritated with her. He set off down the hill.

“We don't need supplies. Why did we even come back to this world?” Aarush asked, knowing the answer.

“Because the portal pathway brought us back here, Aarush.” He looked at her with anger on his face. “The magic that was there wanted us to come back here.”

“But we found that map and it shows another portal in Ghost Lake, damn it. Maybe the magic wants us to go straight there,” Aarush said.

“After we go home first.”

“Everyone here is dead or worse! We have to go!” She shouted at him. She didn’t know everyone was dead or worse, but she thought it might convince him. It didn’t.

Aiyden kept walking. She couldn’t believe it. Not one minute ago, she’d wanted to take his clothes off. Now she wanted to throw rocks at him. Aarush’s face felt hot. This was the first time she had been angry with him.

She considered running back into the woods and leaving him forever. She even turned one foot and rotated her shoulder. However, the same empty streets that magnified her hatred also made her think that her parents were dead or worse. So what was there to be afraid of? That sliver of curiosity sent her down the hill to follow Aiyden.

The grass on the hill’s path was wind-beaten and brown. Small purple flowers clung to life at her feet. She didn’t know what they were, but they were beautiful.

At the bottom of the hill, they came upon a fenced-off pathway. Its asphalt was broken apart by tree roots. They walked along it and emerged into a residential street.

“My house is at the end of the street on the right,” Aiyden said. “This road is usually full of little kids and mothers.”

“Maybe they’re all dead.” Aarush had followed, but she had no intention of making it easy on Aiyden. “Or worse, like I said.”

“Jesus, Aarush.” Aiyden gave her a sharp look.

They both looked on into the street. Birds chirped, and a slight breeze fluttered about. There was nothing else going on. Aarush now had a rock in her stomach. She felt heavy, and every part of her strained against this place. But, her curiosity about her parents kept her with Aiyden. And maybe her love for him.

“I don’t like this,” Aarush whispered. Bright, sunny residential streets shouldn’t be so empty. Other than its lack of activity, the area seemed fine. There were no signs of disaster or long-term abandonment. The houses were unharmed, the lawns were trimmed, and there was no garbage lying around. It was all crisp. “We need to leave; it’s too clean.”

“Too clean?” Aiyden asked, sounding incredulous.

Aarush glared sideways at him, and then back into the dead street. In her mind, her memories populated its emptiness.

Her dad had always beaten her and shamed her inside their home. That somehow made the outside street a fake place. She had often walked home from school to find her dad waiting on the steps, a smile on his face, waving at the neighbors. He would let her go inside first, then close the door. The sunshine would fade, and the dark, dreary interior of her home would settle onto her like a weighted vest. The joy and happiness of the kids outside in the sunshine or snow had not been her life. It had been a distant place, even though it existed right outside, and should have been within reach.

Her life was that shadowland behind the front door. Or, at least, it had been; if her parents were gone, then was that nightmare life gone too?

“Fuck it.” Aiyden started walking right down the middle of the street.

“Jesus, Aiyden, what if something dangerous is here? We should walk closer to the houses, or something…” Aarush said, but on second thought, she didn’t want to walk near those empty windows.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” he said, but Aarush heard a nervous tremor in his voice.


3

Aarush followed a little way behind Aiyden. He made it to his front door while Aarush was still in the street. He entered his house and closed the door behind him without looking back.

Aarush paused; Aiyden was angry with her. She felt the crushing force of loneliness deep in her heart. She loved Aiyden, but he was mad at her, and so she quickly tumbled into depression. She wanted to curl up into a ball and lay in the street. Aarush had never been good at handling her emotions.

She saw someone to the right, out of the corner of her eye. Her eyes swung that way, but he or she remained in Aarush’s peripheral vision. Her eyes slid right again, and the person, or thing, she thought, shifted. Her eyes twitched right, and she had to move her head to follow the shape. It stayed at her periphery until she had turned a one-eighty, then it was gone. She blinked hard several times, thinking, did I just see that?

Aarush clenched her teeth and took a deep breath.

Then she saw the shape again in the corner of her left eye. It was like a shadow at the edge of her vision. Her eyes shifted that way. There is no helping something like that. When something appears in one’s peripheral vision, instinct takes control.

The thing stayed at the corner of her eye. What the fuck? she thought, how could anything move that quick?

Her eyes flicked left, and she turned with them.

She shifted left until she had turned another one-eighty. The shadow flickered out of view and then back, but in her right eye. She tried to catch it by snapping her whole head that way. It didn’t work. No matter how fast she twitched her head or eyes, the shadow remained either in her right periphery or her left.

Panic flooded her veins. Her eyes flickered back and forth while she spun in circles. To her horror, as she turned, the figure came closer. With each eye twitch, it got a little closer and clearer. Aarush closed her eyes and was about to scream when a cold hand covered her mouth, and another hand gripped the back of her neck. She shook and slowly opened her eyes.

Aarush looked into unblinking, unmoving eyes. They’re glass, she thought, glass eyes. Its jaw hung down, slack, exposing a toothless black hole. The sunlight in the street should have lit up its gaping mouth, but it didn’t. The darkness there seemed to suck in the light. This thing held her there, letting her take in its slightly human features.

Aarush didn’t try to struggle; pure terror froze her limbs. Something writhed under the things face, making it look like black dirt full of earthworms that couldn’t break the surface. A hood covered the rest of its head. It wore a dark blue robe covered in gold scrollwork.

Its glass eyes seemed to see her, but also to see nothing at all.

As it moved, its glass eyes did not shift within its sockets. However, its gaze remained on her; she could feel it. What does that remind me of? she thought.

Then it came to her: photographs. Aarush thought of photos where people looked into the camera during the shoot. It always seemed to Aarush that, no matter where she stood in a room or how she held a snapshot, the person looked at her. The sensation was unshakeable, always there.

That was the exact feeling she got from this thing. Aarush shivered and looked into its horrible glass eyes. She waited for it to kill her.

She thought of her supernatural power, but she didn’t know how to conjure it. Perhaps, she thought with dismay, that strange wind and light aren’t mine to control.

The creature removed its hand from Aarush’s mouth and put a finger over its mouth. But, it wasn’t a hand, not exactly. It was shadow-like, not solid. It wavered like smoke but cohered enough to look like a hand. Within the smoke, she saw gears spinning and little pistons firing. And didn’t she hear a slight whirring sound? Like machinery working behind a heavy door, she thought. Was it mechanical or living?

The creature’s smoky hand swirled outward. Freezing cold wind wafted out the thing's mouth and pushed the smoke toward Aarush. She wailed in a trembling high pitch. The smoke from the creature’s hand changed into small black tornados and drove into her pupils. She writhed backward. The pain was monumental, like two icicles stabbing through her eyes and into her brain. She couldn’t understand how it didn’t kill her instantly.

Her vision vanished. It had taken her eyes; she was sure of it. She was blind. Everything went black. She would never see anything again, and this thing would keep her alive and torture her.

The creature’s other hand kept her from breaking away as she kicked and slapped wildly. But as she heard the whirring of vast, far away machinery, her thoughts faded to black.


4

Aarush woke. Her mind swam with fog, and her eyelids felt heavy. She was hot, yet the air she breathed was cold. Her thoughts evaded her, and she tried grasping at them to realign herself. But it was like trying to grip fast-moving clouds.

Where am I? she thought. That question slipped away. How did I get here? That thought, and any possible clues, also left. When did I last see Aiyden? That too withered.

She blinked her eyes and looked around. Her focus slowly returned. The gears of her mind kept slipping, but then some of them engaged. The hill, she thought, the street, Aiydens house… that thing… my sight…

Her vision cleared, and her thoughts solidified. She could see! She was alive! And then her heart sank back down.

The creature that had attacked her was in front of her.

Aarush was in a small room. Wooden benches lined the left and right sides, maybe three meters long each. Above the benches, small square windows scarcely let in light; they were grimy and tinged brown. She assumed she was in a basement. On each bench sat two more of the same awful creatures, five in total, and all of them gazing at her.

Their eyes were the focal points of their presence: those bright, white, unmoving, unblinking, glass eyeballs fixated on everything and nothing, like the eyes in photographs. Each wore dark blue robes with sprawling golden stitch work. Their faces were all like writhing, wet, black dirt, mouths all gaping open and pure black, hands smoky and flickering. A faint, ticking clockwork emanated from them and whirred throughout the room.

There was one doorway in the room, across from Aarush. It was dark blue with golden inlays and had a bright, golden handle.

Aarush remained still, keeping her eyes on the monster that stood over her. Fear encapsulated her mind. She was going to die, that was for sure, but why hadn’t they killed her already? Why had they brought her into this place? She considered speaking but didn’t know what to say.

Then a voice emerged in her mind. It came from the creature in front of her. She knew because it drew her attention like a mental magnet.

It said, “The black smoke I forced into your eyes should have killed you. But it didn’t. That is why you are here.”

Aarush thought that if someone sped up a clock’s ticking and shifted its pitch for intonation, then that would approximate this thing’s voice.

“Can you read my mind?” Aarush asked.

All five creatures shook their heads. None of their eyes shifted in their sockets. Photos, she thought, like photos of the long-dead whose ghosts, whose shades, are looking at me. Goosebumps broke out on her skin.

“Can you speak out loud?” she asked. Again, the silent head shake and unmoving eyes.

They can’t read my mind, but they can speak into it? Aarush thought. The fuck…

“Why didn’t you kill me another way?” Aarush asked.

Their response was strange laughter, like a roomful of clockworks moving way too fast.

Clockwork shades, she thought, that’s what they are.

The shade that stood above Aarush moved over to the dark door with the golden handle. It turned the handle and opened the door. The dim light within the room should have pushed into that darkness, at least a little. Instead, that darkness pushed against the light, stretching toward Aarush. It was as though a shadow crept into the room, forcing the light to retreat.

In a flash, Aarush understood that they intended to push her through that door, and she decided to fight. Aarush stood, thinking of her magic, but knowing she couldn’t summon it.

The creatures, sensing her hostility, all moved in on her.

Aarush ran at them, swinging her fists. She slammed her right fist into one of their eyes. It was like punching a glass marble into the mud. There was a thwacking sound, and her hand came away streaked with black tar. She threw her left fist, but one of the shades caught her wrist. A moment later, she couldn’t move. They all had iron-clad, but still smoky, hands on her. Four of them held her limbs, while the fifth grabbed her head.

One of their eyes was now deeper in its muddy face, thanks to Aarush.

“Just fucking kill me. Don’t put me in that god damn darkness!” she yelled. “Let me go! Let me go you fucks!”

They dragged her toward the door, and the lead clockwork shade spoke into her mind, “You will go into the darkness. There is something special about you. And that place,” it jerked its head back toward the open door, “will take it from you. It will seep into your pores, reach into your soul, and pick apart your sanity. It will take your essence, and feed it to us.”

Aarush’s anger fled her. She withered and wilted. For a moment, she stopped fighting, but only because she wanted to keep her tears at bay.

Oh Christ, Aiyden, where are you? she thought.

Then she cracked, crying and begging.

“Please, please, don’t put me in there. Not in there. Anywhere but there,” she said, weakly writhing against their grip. Nothing could be worse than what waited in that darkness; it reminded her of the shadowland that had once been her home.

That ticking laughter ran through her mind again.

“Please, please, no. No,” she whimpered.

Together, the five clockwork shades walked her to the door. Ice cold air rushed into her nose and mouth. But it seemed to increase her internal temperature. She felt as though a fever was coming on.

Then they threw her through the door. She did not land on solid ground, but fell into empty, complete darkness. Down and down she went, free-falling in the dark, barely able to breathe due to the cold, rushing air. Yet her insides roiled with heat.

Aarush fell for a very, very long time.


5

She was sure that once she hit the bottom, wherever that might be, she would splatter and die. She actually wanted that. The fear, the seemingly endless fall, and the feverish pain of internal heat and external cold were too much. Aarush’s descent took her to her limit. Her attempts to grasp her magic all failed, and she waited for the end to come with a blessed, splattering quickness.

She fell for what seemed like hours. At one point, she even fell asleep from exhaustion, only to wake up still falling. Her sleep had been dreamless and restless. She lost touch with time. Had she fallen for two hours? Six? Twelve? She didn’t know.

Aarush thought that when she had almost killed her father and ran away, that she had escaped the oppressive, tyrannical darkness of her shadowland forever. She had been wrong. She might be trapped in another version of it forever.

Then, Aarush’s fall ended.

She was moving fast, wind whipping at her as if she were hanging out of a car on the highway. However, her landing was relatively soft. It was as though she had only tripped and landed on the ground. There was no blissful, splattering death.

The air was ice cold and her insides burned with fever. She sweated profusely. The only thing that kept her from overheating and passing out was the cold air. However, the cold wasn’t comforting; it was painful. It stung her skin, throat, and lungs. It frosted over the perspiration that poured out of her skin. That was awful, but the fall was over and, despite her earlier death wish, Aarush cried with relief.

She noticed that her sobs echoed in the dark as if she was in a hallway. Only, there seemed to be many odd hallways. Her cries traveled away in one direction and then returned to her from another. She stopped sobbing because of it.

Just like they had in the empty streets of her neighborhood, her memories now populated this emptiness.

Aarush recalled the time that her father had entered her room one night. He had lashed her with his belt, and then had watched her cry herself to sleep. She was sure her father was waiting down here for her, and that her mother would be nearby to watch whatever unfolded.

“Hello?” Aarush’s voice trickled and bounced into the dark, rippled down unseen and maybe non-existent hallways, and then came back to her from different angles.

She swallowed hard and stood up, feeling the unique oppression of this darkness. It was not just absolute dark, as in the complete absence of all light. It also felt tangible; seeping into and pushing against Aarush. She felt it pushing into her ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and vagina. It felt like sentient water prodding and exploring her entire body. It was living darkness, and it wanted her.

“What the fuck do I do now?” she asked herself, trying to sound unafraid, and failing. The echoes fluttered away and came back behind her.

Walk, Aarush, walk; it is all you have right now. And so she did.

The ground felt solid at first, but then it slowly became soft, sticky, and sloppy. Also, she did not encounter any walls; there seemed to be no hallways after all. She turned around to go back the other way, back to solid ground. However, she only found herself in deeper mud. Liquid squirted out from under her feet.

“Oh god, fuck, Christ, let me out of he—” Something cut off Aarush’s words. The sound of her voice died immediately after leaving her mouth; no more echoes.

She tested it again. “Hel—?” Same thing, no echoes, and a sensation that made her decide not to speak again.

The sound of her voice had gone out, and then something had pushed the noise back into her, choking her. It was the living darkness; it had pushed into her when she spoke. She was sure of it. She felt like she had tried to talk underwater.

This, too, reminded her of her parents; everything she had ever said or expressed was shoved back into her with severe punishment.

Her fear reached a staggering altitude, bending her psyche until any further tension would cause a mental breakdown. So her emotions went numb as a defense mechanism, trying to hold off the impending meltdown.

Aarush plodded along in the mud. Ice-cold wind hit her skin, and fever raged inside her. She waited, absently, for her mind to snap. When that happened, she would go crazy and begin screaming long and hard. Then the invading darkness would rush down her throat and she’d choke to death on her own screams.

Aarush felt violent. This was all Aiyden’s fault; he had brought her back to Calgary against her will and he had left her alone in the street. When I find him…

That was when fingers, or at least she thought they were fingers, reached in from the dark. One brushed her cheek. She stopped walking and barked a horrified yelp. Darkness rushed into her mouth like water, and she coughed. More darkness flooded in, and she couldn’t breathe. She slapped her hands to her mouth to stop making noise. The dark stopped flooding in.

Why does it only invade when I speak? Not when I breathe? It chokes and prods at me like water, but I can move normally…

Aarush wanted to scream but managed not too. Instead, the pressure of fear came out in tears from her eyes. The tears burned hot and the cold wind chilled them.

Then the sentient, water-like dark pushed into her face. Aarush felt pressure on her eyeballs, like someone leaning on her sockets with flat hands. Soon, it would crush her eyes, and the shadows would consume her brain.

Another memory came to her; her father straddling her and slapping her face until her eyes swelled up.

Aarush closed her eyes and gritted her teeth as hard as she could. Her mind crackled with approaching insanity, but she had a little more strength left to hold it off.

She might find a way out if only she didn’t allow the dark inside her. She couldn’t shed tears, she couldn’t make sounds, or the darkness would sneak in and eat her insides. She steeled herself to continue walking. The pressure of her terror, instead of coming out in expression, pushed harder on her fragile mind.

Aarush lifted one foot and realized that she had sunk into the mud up to her shins. She panicked and lifted her other foot and then fell face-forward into the muck.


6

The sliver of Aarush’s sanity that remained told her not to scream. She didn’t.

Upon falling, Aarush threw her arms out to prevent her face from hitting the mud. Her hands sunk in deep, but her feet came free. She used her knees and shins to keep from sinking further. The pure horror of drowning in the mud flashed through her mind, and she held still. It might be like quicksand, she thought.

She moved slow, slow, slow, trying to engage her core, pulling back with her feet and knees. Her arms came a little way out of the mud when she heard a slipping, sucking, sloshing noise.

Something was rising out of the mud near her face.

She stopped moving and held her breath. Her arms shook from exhaustion and fear. She could sense a presence. Something wet and horrible was close to touching her mouth.

More fingers poked all over her body and in her hair. They tickled her thighs, which was the only place Aarush was ticklish. Despite the situation, it worked, and her legs began to shake. A lunatic hilarity bubbled up in Aarush and she almost burst out laughing.

The fingers moved up to caress the highest, softest point between her legs. Suddenly, one wet finger slipped into and out of her ear, then in and out, in and out. Aarush’s whole body shook; the physical exhaustion and mental disturbance was becoming unbearable.

Whatever was in front of her face touched her lips; horribly lightly though, like a lovers tongue caressing her mouth. If Aarush screamed, that tongue would shoot into her throat, and the darkness would follow. The fingers between her thighs touched her vagina, and she thought the darkness meant to molest her. She would be pulled into the mud and die with horrible things inside of her: muddy tongues, inhuman fingers, and living shadows.

The cracks in Aarush’s mind fractured further and deeper, but she still held on. She needed out of this place for the sake of revenge. A crazy desire flowed through her; she wanted to put Aiyden on the ground, slap him around until he bled, and then sexually ravage him, which he would probably agree to, but either way, she would have him her way. He would never abandon her again.

Distantly, it occurred to Aarush that the fault was with the clockwork shades. Regardless, her anger clustered around Aiyden.

Aarush continued her slow fight to stand up. It was hard; the mud was sticky and adhesive. The fingers pushed at her, but not strong enough to keep her down. The tongue from the mud followed her up and gently caressed other parts of her face.

Aarush made it to her feet, shivering and shaking, sweating and twitching, but she began walking again. She realized her shoes were gone. When did that happen? she wondered and felt all sorts of bugs and slithering things at her feet. They began biting, stinging, and gouging skin away. It hurt, but Aarush had mentally curled up into a ball. Most of the external stimuli grew distant.

But it was all still scraping away at her sanity.

Aarush walked on like this for a long time.


7

Aarush stopped trudging along when the darkness finally invaded her brain. This was the strangest and most horrible sensation of everything she experienced in that dark hell.

She felt a spike of ice stab into the side of her head, and she almost fell over from the force. She thought she was dying, but the pain faded, and the clear sensation of something rearranging sections of her brain swept in.

She felt a conscious being, with surgical precision, explore her brain. It seemed to prod all those places that enhanced her negative emotions: fear, hate, the desire for violence, resentment, revenge, all erupted in her.

Rather than fight it, Aarush welcomed it. It was a different kind of power from what she had discovered in the Grasslands. Suddenly she understood why her father had abused her and controlled her for all those years: power. Control.

She also realized that the sensation she felt now, the darkness invading and controlling her emotions, was nothing new. A piece of her father had resided in her all this time. His ceaseless assaults on her being had had a design: to craft a demon within that would stay with her forever. A little demon in her mind that would push her emotions this way and pull her actions that way. Now, with the darkness doing the same thing her father’s demon had done, she could see the similarity.

A sick part of her only wanted to get out of the dark to enact something similar on other people: Aiyden, for starters.

Aarush crumbled to her knees and lost her mind. The pressure of her father’s little demon, mixed with the living darkness and her willingness to embrace these emotions, cracked her mind into a million pieces. Tears washed down her cheeks, and she screamed with all her energy. She could take no more. Death would be a pleasant, cool pond compared to this.

Invading darkness rushed into her mouth and eyes like oily, pressurized water. Aarush began to drown on blackness.

When Aarush’s mind snapped, something else came together in brilliant clarity: a bright wind within her. She felt it, saw it, grasped it. She had felt this twice before. It was her magic: wind that carried light, and light that carried wind. As her mind fell apart at the pinnacle of her torture, that magic became available to her.

While she wasn’t exactly in control of her magic, part of her wanted to negate it and allow the darkness to do its work. She could do that; she had a choice. These two separate forces acted on her, but she could choose which one she submitted to.

And so she chose the light for one reason; she didn’t want to be like her father. But it was a near thing; she almost decided on the darkness and her father’s kind of power.

Aarush’s blessed, magic wind blew the shattered parts of her mind away. She was free. Although she didn’t fully grasp what she was free from, she felt clear and singular; all her old chaotic, human anxieties vanished. Her mind, as she had always known it, became something different. All her terrible emotions and vicious desires fled. There was less of her now, but she felt almost pure.

As the darkness was killing her, Aarush felt herself withering away, but her power gathered quickly.

The wind within her mind was also the wind all around her. Even hear in the heart of darkness, Aarush felt it gathering from all directions. It rushed to her and formed into whirlwinds at her feet. She embraced it, let it speak to her. It rose against the sentient darkness in her mind, and those evil shadows paused. All of the other external terrors ceased.

Aarush’s wind-light, as she was now thinking of it, pushed harder. It escalated quickly into a gale-force wind whipping within her neurons and through the rest of her body. It shoved the darkness and the demon out, and Aarush could breathe again.

The withering, dying sensation left her. At her back, a small but furious hurricane formed, lifted, and coalesced. It condensed further and then shot into the back of her head like a bolt.

A shockwave of force ripped through her brain, but it was sweet and strong, not painful. Not like the icicle she had felt earlier. Through her eyes, a great white light shone out. Aarush couldn’t see anything, but she didn’t need to. The light from her eyes tore open the endless dark.

Her magic washed everything poisonous away from her. The darkness and all its horrors retreated.

Aarush’s wind-light ripped open a hole in the fabric of that dark hell, and there, on the other side of the rip, more light met with that of Aarush’s magic. Although she couldn’t see, she could feel that light, and she knew where to go. Her wind-light pushed her toward the exit.

She walked through the opening and into the street beyond.

Once Aarush crossed over and bathed in beautiful sunlight, the light from her eyes winked out. Her normal vision returned, and she spun around to watch the rip in space close. The darkness disappeared, and she was free.

Aarush sat down hard under the blazing sun, on bright green grass near several pine trees, and passed out.


8

Aarush woke up just as Aiyden was running down the street.

“Jesus, Aarush,” he said, kneeling on the grass next to her. “Did those fucking creatures get at you? Are you okay?”

“Yes, fine. Did you see them then?” Aarush felt good, almost airborne. The feeling reminded her of the Grasslands.

“Yea, I killed one. Aarush, your eyes. They look oily; they are shimmering. Are you sure you’re okay?” Aiyden asked.

Aarush nodded. She felt the faint remnant of evil, like a thin layer of oil over a vast, otherwise healthy ocean. Some elements of her father’s little demon and the living darkness held on.

While she wasn’t in control of her magic, she could submit to and aim toward it. She could allow her wind-light to guide her, and then someday, she might learn to control it.

Aarush understood what she needed to do. She would have to live in such ways that the light within her would outgrow the evil. She had to wash away the oil. She had that choice, and she would make it.

Maybe. That oily, demon darkness was tantalizing...

She looked up at Aiyden. “We have to stop the clockwork shades.”


End


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