Chapter Zero: "Young Observations"
The landscape confused me at times. My reasons for such misunderstandings made little sense to me until I reached adulthood, and even now, I’ve wondered about my birth within the corrupted society. Our homes were built sparingly of a single wood with so few nails that it often lead to the failure of an entire structure. Several homes collapsed within recent times on my very street yet my family viewed these instances so normally.
My father’s occupation provided me and my small family a bit more nails for our home and maybe a bit more food on the table. His wisdom earned him a seat among the Village’s Council, though he often complained about the fore coming decisions. My mother argued with him about his beliefs and morals surrounding these results, but they typically ended their predicaments agreeing to disagree and dropped the subject.
The serpent streets, serving as both paths and front yards, wound through the poorer quarters of the village. Clumps of grass grew at the base of beams along the front porches, but with summer-like conditions peaking within the next few years, they shriveled and dried to nothing. My mother and I wondered down a salient path to the end of our winding street.
While the men worked, mothers often hurdled in groups, sat in bent rocking chairs across the front porches, gossiped about the nothingness their lives consisted of, and watched their children entertain each other at the foot of the crooked stairs. My mother rarely participated in the meetings, but her single friend seemed more trifling than anyone else.
My mind too young for the entertainment of sand castles, yet too immature to care if my hands and face became coated in a thin layer of dirt, seemed minutely distracted when Mrs. Dalerhan swung upon her front porch. Her words blasted anyone in heavy debates.
“Have you heard the councils latest agreement?!” her tone snooty, but her rags of clothes spoke otherwise.
My mother would often hesitate before she spoke. “I have heard the latest decision.” Her thin legs danced between the banisters as I sat nervously in the dirt below them.
The porch swing creaked under the heavy weight of the woman as her fat nose hardened. “It’s the most ridiculous decision yet. There is nothing wise about it.”
“Do you lack the wisdom to understand what is wise?”
Mrs. Dalerhan jarred her head with a glare upon my mother. My eyes shrunk upon the insult. A pair of angry adults worried me.
“I do not lack the smarts you speak of. But why would they chose the next village leader over which of the children is married first?!”
The subject of the conversation rose above my comprehension.
“AYVA!” a young boy several years younger than me greeted me with a handful of dusty dirt. “PLAY WITH ME!”
“No,” I pushed him with intentions of being gentle. His bottom patted against the ground. “I don’t want to play right now.” And luckily, his toy shovel, hardly a piece of wood, seemed far more interesting.
“--because marriage is a decision that needs to be thought through, to be planned, yet unplanned at the same time. It is anyone’s biggest step in life, plus it has to be approved through the village leader to begin with.”
The fat woman shook her head. “There are loopholes. Something bad will come about this one day--I just know it.”
“At least there are variations in who is to become the village leader. It’s no longer set in stone that the oldest is to take over.”
The woman crossed her arms, her snarled nose permanently etched between her pale cheeks. “Well, I find it enough non-sense that the next village leader is in that bloodline. They are a vile bunch, I tell you.”
My mother tried to find some sort of light within the family. “Have you met their daughter? Dyllynn is very talented with her gifts.”
The porch swing creaked. “They all have that same gift: seems like it’s ran in the family for decades. Everything would be much different if they were Human.”
“It would make little sense if Humans ran the village. Inhumans are much more superior to us--they can protect us if we ever needed it.”
A hot spot of soil struck the soul of my foot. “Stop it,” I glared at the young boy. The mixture of dirt and saliva streamed across his dimples--his smile prominently stuck.
“Mom,” I called her name out of aggravation of the young child, but her conversation seemed to continue.
“You WOULD say that….” the woman’s voice rose defensively. “After all, you’re Inhuman yourself.”
My mother’s voice rose, a rare sight for even her daughter. “Though I am classified as Inhuman, my abilities are hardly worth identifying. My youngest daughter is Human. I would never underestimate her.”
My brow lowered in distress, both from the toddler’s agitations and my Mother’s tense voice. The woman continued in a calming fashion as if she had outwitted my mother. I knew even at such a young age that it was nearly impossible.
“But you did.”
“NEVER underestimate a Human or Inhuman. But we can be logical until proven otherwise.”
The break in the conversation came so I intervened. “MOM!”
Her attention came to me. “Yes, Ayva.”
“I’m ready to go home.” It became evident to my mother once I glared at Mrs. Dalerhan’s little boy. The annoyances of the entire family grew upon us both.
“Mrs. Dalerhan, I do believe my husband will be home soon. Will you excuse us?”
“Be on your way then.”
My mother carried herself down the steps in a single steady rhythm. I understood this pattern as a need for controlling anger, but regardless of her intentions, her anger remained.
She spoke to me as I led the way home.
“I just want you to know that me and Mrs. Dalerhan weren’t speaking about you or your sister.”
My hair flipped across my shoulders as I bounced and hoped. “I know,” I spoke carelessly.
“We adults can get a bit carried away.”
“Ayva,” she stopped me, and with her hands on my shoulders, spoke words I’d later appreciate, but forget. “Just because you don’t have gifts doesn’t mean you can’t change the world.”
Her eyes shinned the same color as mine--crystallized aqua. What began as a serious conversation led to a starring contest. Might I had been punished, as I felt, it would have been in the comfort of our home, not in the middle of the streets. But as her brow rose, she searched for some form of comprehension within me.
“Ayva, do you understand, dear?”
My head rose up, finishing with a single slant down. “I understand.”
“Are you sure?”
Her cheeks rose. “I don’t ever want you to feel like you’re disabled. There aren’t many of us left.”
This single smile became the last to fill my eyes.
The sheets of black filtered our windows from the outside world as time passed on. My father’s late coming worried my mother and older sister. A newly revised law became effective within the recent months that no man or woman could be outside of their home after the second Star set behind the trees. My father helped write the law, and place it in order--I knew it well.
My mother, sister, and I bundled upon a dark yellow couch. The fire burned between two single rows of dim bricks, spitting sparks at any random time. My eyes struggled to peer into the heat waves as my back rested against the folded legs of my mother. Her eyes, like mine fixated upon the fire, mutilated the pages of a novel. She had collected many over the years--most of them gifts from my father.
My eyes nearly asleep, her shaking leg woke me, yet I continued to lay upon her legs.
“Where is Father?” my sister finally broke the silence.
My mother closed her book, and tilted her head down. “I don’t know.” She struggled for a moment to free herself from my dead weight, and finally spoke: “Ayva, baby, hop up.”
I wiggled as the warmth of her legs left me and the heat of the couch rested upon my back. The door opened, but my eyes remained shut. My father’s voice broke the tension.
“By the look on your face, I don’t suppose my message got here?” he said.
“Where have you been?” my mother’s voice remained quiet, and no longer full of worry. She appeared to trust him--she knew nothing else but honesty from the man.
“Avey,” he called out to my sister. “Go to your room while your mother and I talk.”
The couch shifted beneath me as she obeyed our father without another word spoken, which might have been strange coming from her, but strange none-the-less that my father had failed to come home on time.
“Ayva,” his raspy voice called. I gave him no response as my mother intervened.
“She is asleep.”
“Are you certain?” footsteps lightly beat against the wooden floor. Loudly, they came beside me. My body remained motionless, but my ears listened. “Very well.”
“Is there something wrong?” the worry came in her voice.
Seconds passed by.
“I’m not entirely sure what might come out of this, or what might even be happening,” he cryptically spoke. “It’s almost too mind-boggling for me to comprehend.”
Their voices fell behind the wall of the dinning room, yet loud enough for me to listen.
“Just tell me,” my mother pushed him.
“The decision of our next village leader was not the only subject discussed today. There is--”
“Spit it out!”
“There is an Inhuman in the village who is not from here.”
“What do you mean?!”
“This is top secret. Only five of us know. Now it’s six. You cannot speak of this.”
She continued with her original question. “What do you mean: they’re not from here? Where else would they be from?”
My father became silent.
“Are there other villages out there like ours?”
My father continued his silence.
“What was discussed exactly?”
He broke the silence. “If he or she had the right to live quietly among us.”
“Do you know who it is? Have you met them?”
“What did you tell the Village Leader?”
“He was neutral on the matter at first. Then, once it became a four way tie between me and the other three councilmen, he gave the final say-so.”
“And what was that?”
My father heaved a deep breath. “He approved of it.”
“But why? Do we even know anything about this other village?”
“I know nothing about this person--not their name, where they’re from, nothing. That’s why I couldn’t approve.”
The conversation began to strike me in pieces as my mind began to fall into a coma. They spoke for hours. Sometimes quietly, and other times with raised voices.
“I didn’t approve of the new law about the village leader either,” his voice came later.
“I thought it would be a great idea,” my mother stepped upon him.
“There are flaws in the system that I couldn’t pinpoint…”
And at another point in time, my mother asked: “Are you sure there are no psychics locked in your head?”
Physical contact woke me from my dreams. One arm reached around my waist, and the other cradled my head. Such an approach to lift me came about my father. His rough chin scrapped across my forehead as I moaned.
“Go back to sleep,” he spoke to me softly, but timidly. An unidentified fear tightened the syllables in his words, and in dismay did I do exactly the opposite. A candle bobbled in the haze by the hand of my mother. She led us down the hallway, and into the master bedroom.
My parents bed rested in the corner to my right. The flickering flame, hardly alive from my mothers jagged movements, reflected her distraught look upon a crooked window. The pit of my stomach began to swell in anticipation.
“Father, what’s wrong?”
His heavy hand pressed against the back of my head, my cheeks resting against his chest. “Nothing, go back to sleep.”
No further sounds left my lips. I trusted him, but sleep was no longer an option.
“Did you hear it again?”
“No,” his voice deep within my ear.
“Put her in the closet.”
My head rose. “What? No.”
“Shhhh, baby.” My mother came to me. “Be quiet.”
My gut swirled in the hype of the unexplained moment.
The door swung open. My father bent to place me neatly within the corner, and my mother came behind him. With the silhouette her head turned, “Go get Avey,” she demanded out of her husband. She turned back to me. “Don’t speak a word.”
My eyes became heavy, but still tearless at this point. “Don’t leave me.”
Her hand fell across my mouth. “Don’t speak.”
The water drenched my vision of what little came to me in the first place. The door began to close. I reached out, and caught it. “Momma,” I sobbed. “It’s dark.”
“Do not speak,” she told me one final time.
Sound became my vision.
The windows busted, long series of glass striking the floor within my parent’s room. My body trembled in the fight for pure silence. My cheeks became a wet cold. My arms grew steadily numb. And my heartbeat, once so soft did it beat against the ribs of my chest, did it pound against my sensitive eardrums.
A thud struck the floor.
My heart at such a fast paced skipped several beat in a single second.
The footsteps silently creaked across the wooden floor.
The glass crunched beneath boots.
“Who is in my house?” my mother’s voice quivered.
Seconds passed uneasily.
“It wouldn’t matter.”
The voice protruded from several areas of the room.
“Tell me why you’re here?!” my father’s voice heightened.
“…I’m here to protect the bloodline.”
My mother’s final words motivated me to silence…