She Was Always In The Dark
The day she realized that the darkness didn’t disturb her anymore was a very disturbing day.
3. Part 3 of 3
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She spent the intervening hours ignoring other voices, and sitting with her eyes closed, viewing places where light was not synonymous with pain. Sometimes, instead of looking ahead, (for she had long since realized that her visions of light were of the future) she would shut her eyes tighter, until the images went away, and just amuse herself with memories of her beautiful voice.
The voice she considered to be ‘hers’ was not the one that proceeded out of her mouth when she spoke. It was the one, the only one, which caused her to speak. It was the voice of a man she had never laid eyes on, but whom she was certain she would recognize on sight. It was the voice of the beautiful man from her visions, she was sure of it, though he was careful never to say so.
The voice had come to her years before. She did not know how many, but she guessed perhaps eight or ten years ago, judging by the changes in her own body since that time. She noticed how her flat chest had filled out a bit, and she noticed other things – the way her body reacted to the voice had changed. Recently her voice had commanded the others not to shave her head anymore. She often reached up a hand in the darkness to feel the hair, still spiky because it was so short, but growing. She had forgotten what hair felt like, and she very much enjoyed the feel of it now. Besides the new blanket that had appeared on her bed, it was the only soft thing in her dark world.
She had noticed things about her surroundings as well. Things which had been present all along, but not as noticeable to her when she was a child. She knew, for example, that the voices could see her. In the darkness one night, with her voice as her guide, she had run her hands over the walls and discovered that one was different from the others. One held a small window, which only showed in one direction. She could not see through it. But she knew they could see her. It had been a game to her for quite some time, focusing her dim visions on the window, to show her who was looking through it. And with time, her visions had responded to the prompting. Now, after years of practice, they would come to her unbidden each time someone stepped up to her window. It greatly unnerved the watchers when she appeared to acknowledge their presence. All except for her voice – the beautiful man. HE was never unnerved. Never, until tonight.
“What have you seen today, Alice?” her beautiful man had asked her. She was already smiling before he spoke. She had seen him as he approached her window and pushed the button that activated the static prone speaker.
He always began with that question. She told him about those who had come to her window that day. The curly haired woman had been kind to her, which seemed to please him.
“The red-eyed man was also here,” she added quietly, her usual smile falling away. She received no response. This was not unusual. At times the beautiful man would be distracted during their conversations. She closed her eyes to focus on him but did not see, as she expected, that he was hurrying off to deal with the gray haired patient down the hall. She saw him sitting in stunned silence on the rickety stool just beyond her window. And then, as if time had sped up, she saw again the vision – the nightmare – that had haunted her for years. The red-eyed man was tearing her beautiful man apart. In her mind she heard the voice she had come to cherish, screaming. She winced, and dashed the tears from her eyes with an angry snap of her wrist.
“Did he speak to you?” the beautiful man asked after a time. She could hear the careful tone of his voice, which told her that he was trying not to frighten her. But she was already frightened. He must know it. She had told him about the recurring vision long ago, when she had not known him as the beautiful man.
“Yes. He told me he would take me from here. He said I would see the sun again.”
And the silence returned for her. She bowed her head in the darkness. She was ashamed that when the red-eyed man had offered her sunlight, for just a moment she had wanted it more than anything. “I told him I didn’t want to leave. I like it here.” And she had told him so, because she had not desire to leave her beautiful man. He had been angry. “Then he went away,” she said simply. This, also, was true.
Still the beautiful man did not reply. Alice opened her eyes, but continued to use her sight, trying to locate him. Trying NOT to let herself see the horrifying vision that had plagued her for so long. Trying not to let herself believe it would come true, as so many of her other visions had done.
She saw him sitting, and sitting, and talking again. But then the vision shifted and she saw him standing and opening a door to a dark room and then she saw –
She snapped herself out of the vision abruptly, horrified. Had that been HERSELF she had seen? Was it even possible? In her mind’s eye, she compared the thin, scruffy-haired young woman to the plump child with bright eyes that she still thought of as herself. She knew her body had changed, but she hadn’t realized it was so profound. She was still reeling from the vision when the door to her darkness opened. Beyond it was the beautiful man. And beyond him was light. She cringed, vaguely recalling that light meant pain.
“It’s alright, Alice,” he said in a shaky tone that told her it was anything BUT alright. And yet his voice was even more beautiful without the speaker’s static. She stared into his eyes, which were a burnished gold color that might have concerned her, if she’d seen anyone’s eyes recently enough to remember that the color wasn’t natural, for eyes.
He reached out to her, and she didn’t shrink away from his hand, though she didn’t take it, either. “Come with me,” he whispered. “I can protect you from the red-eyed man.”
“James,” she said, standing. “He told me his name is James.” She watched her beautiful man cringe at her words. His hand fell to his side in a gesture that bespoke defeat.
“And what is my name?” he asked hopelessly, his eyes full of pain.
“Sebastian,” she replied at once, cocking her head and grinning. It had been years since he had tried to tell her his name, but she remembered. It had been during a time when she still didn’t understand what she was or where she was, or why. When she had been trying to withdraw. She suspected that, when this was all over, she might go through another such phase. The idea of walking into the lighted corridor behind Sebastian was daunting. However, it DID seem adventurous. And it had been a long time since she’d been allowed to be adventurous.
She watched the man’s flawless face light up and her breath caught. He truly was the most beautiful person she’d ever seen – even in her visions. He reached out his hand to her again, and this time she stepped forward and took it without hesitation. She didn’t even flinch at how cold it was. She had no inkling that it should be otherwise, as she had no clear memory of touching anyone before that moment.
Alice let Sebastian lead her through the dimly lit corridor, stopping only once. “The gray-haired man’s room,” she whispered, staring at the closed doorway. There was a patient number on the door, but no name. But she didn’t stand still for long. The hand that grasped hers was pulling, pulling her away. They stepped outside into the night, and Alice looked up, and then down.
The sky was cloudy, and the ground was wet. Neither stars nor moon were visible, but she didn’t miss them. It had been a long time since she had thought of such things. As soon as they were out of the building, Sebastian shed his white medical smock, and she saw that he was dressed professionally underneath it, with glossy shoes and dress slacks. She watched him throw down his tie, the loop that had been about his neck torn raggedly. But she continued to smile at him. Part of her knew that that was not the proper way to remove a tie, but she couldn't make herself care while her beautiful man was smiling at her.
He lifted her into his arms, then, and she pressed her face against his shoulder contentedly, but keeping her eyes wide open. It had been so long since she had seen anything with her physical eyes. Buildings flashed passed them, and then trees and more trees. She caught a glimpse of a lake. At one point only did Sebastian speak.
"Tell me again what my name is, Alice," he whispered, in a voice tinged with hopefulness. She told him.
"But I just think of you as my beautiful man," she added, unaware of the childlike quality of her own voice. His arms tightened around her and she felt the wind increase. He was moving faster. Finally she closed her eyes, as everything was a blur to her anyway. She slept.
When she awoke, she felt odd. She could feel pine needles prickling into her elbows, and tree roots digging into her back, and some other kind of pain that seemed to be in no particular place, but in every part of her body at once. She rolled over, eyes unfocused. It was so bright. Part of her knew that she was seeing sunlight. She closed her eyes against it, recalling the darkness. "Sebastian?" she called out, after a time. But there was no answer. There was no Sebastian.
She didn't cry out again, as it seemed pointless. Eventually, (she didn't bother counting the days) the pain stopped, and she felt her body stop twitching. She opened her eyes to find that it was dark again. A thin crescent moon was peering at her through the pine needles above her, and the scent of the forest was all around. She didn't move. Instead she listened to scurrying noises made by nearby animals, and watched the progress of the moon across the sky, wondering how she had come to be lying on the ground. After a time, she closed her eyes again, and when she did, she was assaulted by a series of images so clear, so vibrant that they left no doubt in her mind that they were real. They were going to come to pass.
She saw a beautiful blond man with a thousand moon-shaped scars sitting in a small cafe. She saw herself drinking the blood of a bear while others looked on. She trained her vision on each of the people in turn, and was shocked by how much of their lives was revealed to her. Then she thought again of the first man she had seen. "Jasper," she whispered into the darkness, as she watched the handsome man introduce himself to her. And she smiled, and lifted herself from her bed of pine needles. She had an appointment to keep, and she was feeling adventurous.