Chapter 27: Bright Shadow, Part I

Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 526

"So open your eyes, child


Let's be on our way


Broken windows and ashes


Are guiding the way


Keep quiet no longer


We'll sing through the day


Of the lives that we've lost


And the lives we've reclaimed"


- Prayer of the Refugee, Rise Against


Lance stood in an alleyway. In a flurry of whipping fire, Zidane appeared across from him. The crossbreed's small legs gave out instantly, slumping him against the wall across from Lance. The blood was still on his face, splashed across the center of his nose and eyes with heavy flicks towards the outside of his features.

Lance didn't breathe. He wasn't sure he knew how to anymore. He just stared, eyes fixed on the prick the blade had created on Zidane's lower eyelid and the pink hand marks on his neck that were quickly turning red. Seeing it all, but not taking it in. He just watched everything replay in his head. All the blood. The organs. The wind chime spiking through Kyrene's head. All of it repeating over and over until the unbearable emptiness inside his chest pulled him away.

Then, like dominoes falling, it all came at once; his upper body shook, bowing forward with every heavy movement of his lungs. They weren't sobs; they were barely even breaths. It was the clipping sound that happens when pain becomes too much to hold in, and out of pure natural desperation, the body tries to eradicate it. It was a sound, a motion, that Lance had at first thought unfamiliar—something only seen in movies and TV. But then a memory came to him, one that reached out from somewhere far away.

He was young, rolling a toy car on the frame of a doorway. Then he was watching his mother. She was slumped over the kitchen table, her arms covering his view of her face. Her back lowered in quick sobs, her inhales nothing more than quiet moans. Lance wanted to say something, wanted to ask what was happening. But a glint of light caught his focus; a gold ring he had never seen bounced against the floor, as if it had fallen off the table.

The alleyway came back to him like he had just woken up from a dream. His face was wet, the spaces below his eyes dabbed with tears. A few more fell before Lance felt something move through him. He didn't remember inhaling but there was something traveling through his lungs, spreading into the rest of him and relaxing everything it could. Easing away the tension locking his muscles, fading away the thoughts that had caused such stress. He remained in a haze-like state for another moment, perfectly content with allowing every breath to repair him. And then the feeling faded, escaping out through his nose like smoke. The last memory Zidane had showed him nothing more than a blur, his own repressed one like a profound but fleeting thought.

Lance focused back, seeing that Zidane had stopped moving. The crossbreed was still hunched over, face covered by his bent legs and arms limp near his ankles. He stayed, motionless, until Lance saw the single drop of water fall on his head.

A second drop hit. Zidane lifted his head, barely moving away from his knees. A moment passed before he looked up to the sky, staring at the grey clouds. Another raindrop landed, hitting his nose; he flinched, eyes closing.

The rain quickened and within a matter of seconds it was pouring. Lance looked back to Zidane just in time to see the crossbreed sprint out of the alleyway, arms covering his head. Lance's entire body clenched with tension as he saw Zidane bolt into the street. Cars sped past, some slamming on their horns and others narrowly missing.

Lance was teleported again to the edge of another alleyway. He watched as Zidane sped past him, halting in the middle of the alley with his head turning every which way as if looking for something. After a moment, he stumbled back, hitting the wall and sliding down against it.

Lance's calm strides made no sound against the concrete, the falling rain never touching him. He listened as Zidane spoke, his seventeen-year-old voice ringing out against the sound of the rain.

"It was the first time I'd seen any of it," he said, looking to the sky. "Rain, cars, people. I had no idea what to think, where to go." His hands opened, gesturing to the ground beneath them. "What I was even walking on. It was foreign— all of it."

Lance nodded, taking in what he said. He couldn't help but notice the blood on Zidane's face was now gone, the large streak that had been smeared and smudged from the pressure of his face against his knees completely washed away by the rain. The darker spots near the chest of his single-pieced robe, however, told Lance that not everything was free of blood.

Something in Lance came to surface, an odd feeling that ballooned against his chest. They needed to talk about it, everything that had just happened. The memory might be most of a blur now, but Lance still remembered the basis of what happened. Zidane's life, family... Gone. It needed some kind of closure.

Lance could feel the crossbreed's attention on him, but nothing left Zidane. No words of solace or farewell, no recollection of a happier memory. With a pain in his lungs, Lance realized that there were probably very few of those. At least during those first five years. Five. Jesus, most kids his age had just stopped drooling on themselves. It wasn't fair. None of this was fair.


He looked up, meeting Zidane's eyes. They were brighter, a few shades past medium blue. With the light smile still on his face, he continued on.

"Trust me when I say my life gets better. I need you to hold on to that thought, okay?"

Lance pulled in a breath, ridding the tightness of his throat. He nodded. "Yeah, okay. Sure."

Zidane returned the nod before looking away, eyes passively scanning the wall in front of him. And then he laughed, giving a light shrug.

"Well, I'm not even sure how to explain this part. Um, I stayed in the alleyway for a little while. Lived off what I could find in the dumpster—learned fairly quickly that I couldn't digest any metals. Most of the stuff was either rotten or leftover fast food." He gave Lance a tight smile. "Neither went down so well."

Lance pushed away his own memory, trying not to think of the deep plummets his vomit had made against the toilet's water. He shifted his feet, wanting to ask how Zidane had survived. To his surprise, the crossbreed had faded from his sight.

When Lance blinked again, the alley had changed. Dark, thick liquid was splashed against the ground and bottom of the walls, most crusted and dried. Flies buzzed around, some prevalent to the vomit while other remained in the open dumpster. Lance found his stare traveling to his left, near where Zidane had been sitting just a moment ago. On the wall, drawn in nearly faded mud, was a marking made up of thin, intricate swirls. These lines eventually created a circle, the bottom outer swirl bending into a horizontal line that looked like the handle of a mirror. In the center of this circle was another symbol—one rather simple, but completely foreign. Zidane's voice cut through Lance's thoughts.

My celebration for turning six.

Lance focused back on the drawing, not wanting to voice his curiosity of what exactly this symbol meant. Zidane's words were enough; the context was what mattered. Breathing through the anxiety tightening around his chest, Lance focused on Zidane as he faded in next to the drawing, sitting down and leaning against the side of the dumpster. His legs were bent, arms limp by his sides. Lance noticed the thinness of hands, the fact that Zidane's single-pieced clothing seemed larger on him than it had before. The hollowness of his eyes stood out to him especially, and Lance watched the crossbreed's eyes droop closed.

Someone walked into the alley, their movements hurried as they passed Lance. Zidane was alert; he pulled his legs out of the alley's path, pressing and hiding himself against the dumpster's corner. His deep eyes stayed closed, not daring to look up as the stranger passed by. A light cry of disgust made Lance look up, watching as the human raised the back of his hand to his mouth, turning away from the alleyway's walls. A string of slang and curses left him, steps quickening in pace and bringing him out of the alley and away from the stench Lance could hardly smell.

Not more than a heartbeat later, Lance sensed something behind him. There was no movement, no sound that could have given any other indication, but as he turned, Lance saw something in the alley's shadows. Someone was there, crouched low and moving quickly. They were tracking, prowling on two feet, but any chance Lance had at seeing more than a moment's worth was suddenly gone.

He was looking through Zidane's eyes again, sitting down and staring at the alley's opposite wall. Beneath the shadows, Lance saw the eyes peering at him. Red and narrowed in caution. Lance felt Zidane's lungs stop as if they were his own; he felt the thin but terrible line of fear bolt down the center of his body. Lance stared, feeling nothing but Zidane's fear and, as the moments stretched on, a single hint of something else. Relief.

The figure, still nothing more than a pair of eyes and the faint outline of a narrow body, finally spoke.

"What are you?"

Zidane's lungs started working again in quiet, rapid breaths. Lance sensed their movement at a distance, his own organs working again on their own. His sight, however, remained connected with the crossbreed.

"Answer," the voice snapped, his eyes narrowing in a glare, a familiar flash of metal catching the alley's light.

"S-Spiro. I'm Spiro."

"What else?" The words were a snarl, ripping through the air between them.

Sounds came from Zidane, brief whimpers moving against his closed lips. As if he wanted to reply but couldn't. It only lasted for a moment as his hand rose, arm turning upwards until his fingers pointed to the sky. His sleeve fell downwards as a result, the blue fabric bunching around his stick-thin arm and leaving his hand uncovered.

The marking was studied for a long time. No more words came from the other side of the alley. Finally, Lance watched the figure straighten, beams of sunlight revealing part of the stranger's face. Pure red hair and one eye that barely lightened in the sun. A thin jawline could be seen on the opposite side of his face.

"Come with me," he said, meeting Zidane's eyes. He turned, moving in the direction he came from and disappearing out of sight.

Submitted: November 23, 2019

© Copyright 2023 Meaghan Kalena. All rights reserved.


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