Thursday, 1 October 2015

Lighting Shadows

By Aline-Mwezi Niyonsenga

“Don’t be like this.”
The wind whipped her braids to her face. Whatever he’d just said had lazily reached her earbuds and evaporated into the trance track booming through her skull.
“Please?”
She sighed and languidly took an earbud out.
“I’m sorry,” she stated.
Placing the earbud back, she watched through drooped lids the way his mouth took on a warping ellipse, growling, snarling. Then he touched her, and she lost it.
She was alone on the roof when it happened, she’d say.
But when what happened?
She was truly alone on the roof.
“These disappearances have happened more frequently over the past month,” the news anchor read.
Kira impatiently flipped strands of her ink black hair over her shoulder, “What are we supposed to do about these?”
Sabine shrugged, taking cashews from a bowl on the kitchen counter. “Exactly what the letter says?”
While her friend groaned, Sabine wiped her hands free of salt and again reached for the lavender-scented parchment paper.
You must think like her.
“We know it’s a she,” Sabine offered hopefully.
“Out of the thousands of women and girls in Kelsey!” Kira switched off the television. “I’m dying. This is ridiculous. I’d actually rather do homework.”
“We could meditate,” Sabine retried, “make a list of the clues the media has shown us.”
“Males have disappeared,” Kira sighed.
“In and around the southeast.”
“High school juniors to college freshmen.”
“Students of Kelsey High and Kelsey Tech.”
“We don’t know Kelsey High kids!” Kira whined.
“Kira,” Sabine wheedled, “yes you do.”
“No.”
“Yes.”
“Can’t we just end on, ‘Those boys deserved it?’” Kira crossed her arms.
“No one deserves to disappear.” Sabine paused, frowning, “Disappear…”
Kira’s phone rang, jolting Sabine from her thoughts. After a few minutes of nodding and yessing, Kira hung up and gave Sabine a tight smile.
“Guess who gets to do work experience at Kelsey High for spring break?”
Magician’s Rite Academy’s Work Experience Program was basically a week of torture that Elite Scholars kids endured by silently counting volunteer hours like crosses against the soul-sucking remarks of spoiled rich kids, according to Kira. It didn’t help that Kira and Sabine were among the few that wore impressive, albeit overly formal uniforms for the occasion of trying to show the world that Magician’s Rite wasn’t the rough, shady school that the Kelsey High kids so readily wrinkled their noses at.
Sabine smiled easily, hoping her dark face would be further obscured by blindingly white teeth. Kira levelled an even gaze at anyone who dared to size her up. Meanwhile, their student ambassador giddily showed them around the school before stopping in front of a door labelled 1A.
“These students really need your help and I mean really,” the ambassador hushed.
Sabine frowned slightly before replying, “Do they get enough support from their teachers?”
“Of course!” The girl squealed. “But even they can’t help them. I was going to mention that you have Mrs. Wilson as a supervisor, if ever you guys need help,” she slyly added.
Suddenly, a girl bumped past Sabine’s shoulder and reached for the door, knocking past the student ambassador as well.
“Hey watch it!”
She ignored the warning and entered the room, black earbuds embedded in her ears. Sabine’s shoulder felt hollow where she was touched.
1A sprawled out like a computer lab with various circular tables scattered around where students in similar antisocial gear including headphones and bangs concentrated hard on their notebooks or snickered at their laptops. Once Sabine and Kira were introduced and started checking up on each student’s work, Sabine patiently gathered her courage for an opportunity to approach earbud girl.
“Hello, what are you working on?”
The girl’s heavily mascaraed lashes never lifted. Sabine had to concentrate hard on her physical presence, for fear her all-black garb would turn her into an inconsequential shadow.
“Are you trying to disappear on me?” she asked.
The girl’s hand, wielding a felt pen that steadily coloured black streaks against the margins of her paper, paused then resumed.
“If you ever need help,” Sabine finally offered, “just ask Kira or me.”
Meanwhile, Kira made the mistake of sitting next to a blast from the past, literally, judging by his air blown fro.
“Hey good-looking,” her ex-creeper-admirer grinned, “you gonna be my teacher for the week?”
Kira’s smile froze. “Yeah, call me when you’re actually doing work.”
“Aww, come on, don’t be like that,” he pouted.
Resisting the urge to groan, Kira zeroed in on an opportunity. “Know any of the guys who’ve disappeared?”
The guy’s smile faded. “No, but I know who’s done it.”
Kira raised an eyebrow, “Really?”
“Ms. Emo over there,” he whispered, jerking his head in the direction of a table that Sabine was leaving.
Kira narrowed her eyes. “Why do you say that?”
“All the dudes that disappeared,” he replied, leaning closer, “she was playing them.”
Kira rolled her eyes, getting up from the table. “Don’t you mean they were stalking her?”
At night she wandered the city. The wind whipped through her braids. Adrenaline pumped a healthy pink across her sallow cheeks. Again, she visited the roof. Again she wasn’t alone.
“Hello,” a shadow detached itself from a chimney wall, dressed in a black skater dress, boots and fingerless gloves, a mask below the odd cat ears. “My name is Sceptre.”
Another shadow crouched in the moonlight, lit by a white jester’s cosplay resonating with the bells on her three-pronged hat as she grinned beneath a white mask. “Jester at your service,” the figure bowed.
Again, the girl lost the words they said, except for a snippet that finally reached her ears.
“We’ve come to help you disappear,” Jester announced.
Suddenly, the girl’s cheeks drained of pink and she shook her head. An earbud fell out and she tried to put it back in, but this proved unexpectedly hard as the earbud slipped and slipped again.
“Ms. Emo needs to go,” Sceptre confirmed, spinning her namesake in one hand. “Played too many boys to stay.”
Jester slipped cards from her sleeves. “Time to play our game.”
The girl lost it.
In a second, the roof was enveloped in black ink and Sceptre and Jester tumbled in its darkness.
“Now what?” Sceptre snapped, unable to glimpse her partner.
“We think like her,” Jester swept her gaze around the darkness, searching for a way out.
“Help!” A voice shouted.
“We’re gonna die,” another whined.
“So this is where the losers went?” Sceptre frowned. “Is this a pocket dimension or…?”
“Yes,” Jester nodded. “It’s like she’s been filing them away…”
“Well obviously she hates the thought of others thinking she played them,” Sceptre deduced, “but why did she pay attention when you said we’d make her disappear?”
“It’s a defence mechanism. Naturally she doesn’t want to, and those boys must have provoked her somehow.”
Sceptre paused, deep in thought.
Jester pondered, “Scared her into thinking they’d make her disappear…”
“But how?”
“I’ll kill you!” A voice shrilled. “I swear!”
“They touched her,” Sceptre realised.
“Really?” Jester frowned.
“Trust me, I know.” 
Taking a deep breath, Sceptre advanced in what she hoped was the direction she last saw the girl.
“They won’t go away,” she stated matter-of-factly, then raised her voice, “They will never go away.”
The darkness tremored. Jester’s heart fluttered, suddenly wary of shifting ground.
“You haven’t let go of them you know,” Sceptre continued. “They’re still here, inside of you, closer than ever. You’ve just pushed them deeper into you.”
Jester tripped as the ground became a wave that heaved her up and dropped her.
“Let them go,” Sceptre calmly ordered. “Let yourself go.”
The air groaned like a beast in a cavern.
“It’s the only way you’ll grow from this. You need to cut loose, pull out the weeds.”
She reached forward and wrapped her arms around the space in front of her.
“And for that you need to rely on someone other than yourself for once.”
Suddenly the darkness became peppered with shimmering dots until it blended with the Kelsey skyline. Sceptre withdrew her arms from the girl’s shoulders, allowing her to dry her tears with her sleeves.
Glancing at the five boys who either lay prone on the ground or blinked in bewilderment, Jester gave the signal and the three of them disappeared behind a screen of smoke.

The next day, Julie waved Kira over to her table, shyly murmuring for help with Maths. Beneath the black colouring of the previous day, the words ‘Thank you’ sprawled in generous cursive.

2 comments:

  1. Great story! Love that you created such a strong narrative arc in such a small word count. It works really well!

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    1. Thank you! It means a lot to hear that. ^-^

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