Shai was crouched behind the wall watching and waiting, like he had done the day before
and the day before that. But this time it was different, because today one of them had come to the surface and he felt in his bones that something was going to happen.
Shai's heart thudded in his chest when he saw that it was a girl, but was it the one he was looking for, his sister. He prayed it was.
The very thought of Owl brought back on a immense tidal wave of pain and desolation as Shai remembered the day when he had lost all he ever loved and the Earth became a living hell.
That fateful morning, three years ago, when a world war had been declared and what had followed was worse than any person could imagine or any horror film could describe, because it was real.
Nuclear and biological warfare had cracked the Earth, annihilating most of the human race and starting what could not be called a race, only an atrocity of beings that were human no longer and purely evil.
The war had killed Shai's parents and the pale mutant beings had taken his sister, but Shai had never given up the hope that he might someday find Owl and this was what drew him back, everyday, without fail, to the abandoned subway where the pale people lurked.
Shai was bounced back roughly from his memories upon seeing the girl begin to move uneasily in her nightmares, as if trying to break the bonds of ignorance and terror that she, as one of them, was constantly imbued with.
Even having no idea as Shai did if the girl was his sister or not he still felt the need to rush up and try and save the girl from the chains of her mind ,but no, Shai knew that they were dangerous and that their warped minds caused them to kill all except for their own kind.
He could not risk death . . . yet.
Her hands twitched and her eyelids spasmed. She couldn’t breathe and couldn’t scream. The echoes of something once said leaked into her brain and her mouth tried to form the words, but nothing came.
Desperately she clawed the wall, hands searching for something to mutilate and destroy and finding nothing she dug her nails into her own skin, blood seeping onto her hand like spilt wine. The pain clarified her mind, and the words she had been taught slithered into her mind like fog, ominous and grasping.
“Do not fear the dark, because we are all children of darkness now.”
But not her, because she was different . . . her eyes were the color of fire and she could see in the light and the dark . . . so she was an outcast.
Shai saw the girl wake with a jerk and sit up suddenly, her lank dark hair falling over her pale face. She was shaking and her bloodied hand convulsed with each breath she took.
Shai pulled back into his hiding place behind the ruined wall as the girl began to unfold her body and stand up. Looking out again he glimpsed just how tall she was, over six feet and thin, so very thin that he could almost see her ribs through the white tshirt she wore.
The girl bent over and reaching out her long pale arms she grabbed a ragged leather jacket from where it was crumpled upon the ground and wearily swung it onto her shoulders, wrenching her long black hair from out under the collar as she turned and began to walk back towards the underground with her strange limping gait.
Shai gasped aloud and then stuttered in fear as he realized that the girl had heard him.
He turned to flee but it was to late, she was beside him in a moment, her long pale arms coming at his throat with a thin glint of a blade delicately poised in one of them and her white teeth gleaming eerily in the halflight. Shai struggled desperately but to no avail as the girl had him firmly pinned against the wall and escape was impossible.
With a hiss of breath the girl languidly raised the blade to lacerate his throat . . . but at that second Shai finally raised his eyes to meet hers and she made a sound deep in her throat and dropped the knife because in Shai’s eyes she saw mirror images of her own . . . amber and unquenchable.
Now Shai understood why he had gasped when the girl had turned to go back to her underground haunt ; he had seen his own eyes reflected in her face and instantly he knew that this was no coincidence . . . this girl was his sister, taken so long ago by the gangs of the underworld.
“Owl” Sahi uttered, breath coming fast in shock.
The girl inhaled sharply and held up her hand as if trying to ward him off and Shai saw the mark of the underworld scarred on her hand as she shook it toward him, air catching in her throat.
He felt his eyes fill with sudden hot tears when he understood that she could no longer talk,
But when Shai looked into her darkly shadowed eyes he knew that there was no doubt, this was his sister.
The girl, Owl, crouched down and grabbing the knife from where it lay on the ground she twisted round and began to run back toward her dark sanctuary, the underground.
Shai saw it coming though and lurching forward he grabbed her wrist,
“NO . . . you mustn’t go back there, can’t you see what they have done to you? . . . You’ve become a zombie like the rest of them . . .”
He swallowed a jagged lump in his throat and felt his eyes begin to water again.
“Do you even remember me . . . your brother??” Shai’s voice was harsh in the silence.
Owl recoiled back against the wall, cowering away from this boy who had her eyes and could make words with his mouth.
She shook her head violently and held up her scarred hand so that the boy would not come any closer.
“Owl, please, I’m your brother”. Tears seeped from Shai's eyes making pale rivulets in the grime of his face. Shaking her head again, Owl began to sidle away from the boy . . . seeking the darkness that she had become, as lizard like she crawled toward the steps only thinking to get away from these emotions so foreign to her.
Shai hurled himself at Owl, and grabbing her arm, he thrust his head forward into her face, locking eye contact with her. Frantically, she shifted her eyes seeking somewhere to hide but only finding Shai’s eyes, her own eyes, staring back at her and burning fiercely into her very soul.
Memories stirred within Owl and her lips cracked open with a scream and she remembered how it was to make words with her mouth.
The city, with its mutilated buildings and slashed of streets hulked over them like a giant ogre,
soundlessly watching their combat to regain Owl’s soul.
The rain began to trickle down and then to pour and pour while lightening splintered the grey sky and thunder shook the earth.
It came to Owl in flashes . . . like the lightening, as she remembered the war, the explosions, the deaths and then the pale people, who had taken her into the underground and cloaked her mind in a shroud of darkness and fear, but now it was breaking free and she was no longer one of them.
And they crouched there, two humans in the shadow of a ruined world, and became real again, whole again . . .no longer silhouettes in this grim city.
Then Owl spoke and her voice was like none Shai had ever heard before, raw and unused when she said one sentence and he then knew that the world was not over, that there was still life and light and hope.
“My brother . . . Shai, I remember you”. Tears began to drop down Owl's cheeks, mingling with the rain and she put up her hand to her face and looked at the water on it wonder, as if she had never seen rain or tears.
A sob of pure emotion tore from Shai's lips and he grabbed his sister in his arms and they rocked back and forth together comforting each other and healing the rifts of anguish.
“I am Owl” she said.
And in their lair the pale people stirred apprehensively because they sensed that their end was near, because the humans were strong when they were together.