Chapter Four

The arms wrapped around her torso lead her back into the sewer. The smells assault her nose as soon as she is handed down the rungs of a ladder. She bites her lip underneath the cloth covering her face and neck; her vision swims inside her head as her legs go limp. One of the beings holding onto her curses and drags her upright before tightening his hold, “Now ain’t the time t’ go fainting. Ya’ better stay upright, ‘fore I drop ya’ out of frustration.”

She gulps and wishes that she could with crossed fingers. But her legs seem to be disconnected from the rest of her body. The swimming in front of her eyes intensifies, and she wonders if this is what it was like for the first few years of her life. She does not remember how she felt. She only remembers what she saw behind her eyes in a place where no one could reach her.

Now she is in the world, now she is a part of the world. But she is not sure if she has ever truly existed. The Sights that she sees are real to her. She could almost reach out and touch them with trembling fingers. If they did not hold so much death and destruction she would.

Her head seems to buzz inside her skull, and she finds herself praying for something that she cannot expect, “Sa. Let me go Sa, let me go.” But she knows that Sa will never let her go. It is not a fact that she has learned or something that she has questioned, it is simply what is. She is a catalyst, she is a vassal, she is a bondsman. She is someone to be fed images and movies that may not exist. She is someone who does not know what reality is. She is someone who does not know the faces of the beings that she sees. She simply sees what she sees. She sees what Sa shows her.

She has often called her Sight a curse, but she has never truly been able to think of it as a horrible thing. Perhaps it is. But perhaps she is the horrible thing, perhaps the fact that she has a Sight is a horrible thing. The Sight in itself is not, or it is. She could not imagine herself separated from her Sight or Sa. She defines herself by what she sees.

She used to wish that she had a normal life. She used to wish that she was just like all of the other mismatched criminal beings in their town, but she wonders if perhaps she has always secretly hoped that she will never be normal. Her legs buckle underneath her, and the arms around her torso haul her back up; but she does not see cloth in front of her face when she looks back up from where she supposes her feet are.

She sees large almond eyes staring at her; she sees hair like tentacles painted in bright green with gold stripes swirling down them in bands. She sees a face without a smile and without a mouth. But she knows that there is a mouth underneath the swirl of stars that the eyes and hair blend into. She cannot hold back her gasp as something rushes through her and makes her fall backwards. She knows that she is still on her feet and held up by the arms around her torso, but she is falling through an empty void of the universe.

She is falling down a well without an end. And then the stars are gone and she is back in her body for a moment. But the moment it takes for her to find her feet again makes the space in front of her eyes swirl; this time it is not the image of someone who does not exist. It is an old car with the engine running and exhaust pouring out of its hood. The car in empty, but a family stands around it. The man is fiddling with pipes underneath the grey dust cover as a woman holds the hood open with one hand and joins him. Their hands are covered in the stink of car exhaust and oil that spilled across wires splayed open.

Three children stand towards the back of the car: the oldest is tall enough to match her father’s height and her mother’s face. She herds the two other small children towards the trunk where they pull out luggage and set it on the ground. They are ready to walk to their destination. An old town collapsing underneath the weight of think dust and sand that has settled across each house and artificial building. The family can clearly see it if they look forwards. And the crater that the town is sinking into is slowly widening with a crackle makes the air tremble. But they do not seem to be in a hurry; their plan is not to help the beings that are fleeing. And they ignore the shrill calls that are just heard on the wind.

No, they slowly fix their car and the children wait with their luggage as they watch. The town slowly sinks until the only thing left in a pile of rubble at the bottom of a cavernous crater.

She gulps for air as someone in front of the group of arms holding her hisses stop. Footsteps near her as she tries to place her weight on her feet instead of the arms around her. Someone tears the fabric off of her face and peers down at her, “What are ya’?” The voice is curiously soft as she blinks in the dim light of ancient flashlights, “Not something ya’ want.” Her voice sounds choked. The boy with spiked hair peering down at her with beings spread around at his back does not seem to have heard her. He takes two steps closer and she smells the soap of stolen aftershave as his breath whispers against her skin, “I highly doubt that. I heard somethin’ about someone who dropped out of school only a few years in an’ was kept in their house. That wouldn’t happen t’ be ya’ would it? Somethin’ tells me it might hav’ been.”

She shakes her head and straightens up as much as she can, “No, I ain’t some sort of missing girl or somethin’. I’m just someone who likes t’ spend time in theaters.” She waits for the boy to say something and clenches her hands tighter; people always say that certain things are not worth the consequences that you might face. But she is not sure if her current position would be any worse than the consequences. It could be, but even the consequences of her actions would be pleasant.

She has already changed out of her dress, and now she has the freedom to make a choice that her mother has always made for her. She should make the same choice that was made for her: she should not attempt to do something that she may regret. But what could she possibly regret? Anything, everything, nothing.

“I hear ya’ were a seer of some sorts too. An’ I’d kind of like t’ find out if whoever said that is right. Someone like ya’ could come in awfully handy at some point, don’t ya think?” His question is not a question at all. She swallows thickly and hopes that no one will notice, “I ain’t a seer or any such thing. I’m just a girl out past th’ time I should be.” The arms around her tighten their hold as the boy steps even closer, “I don’t believe that. I think ya’ know exactly what ya’ are, and I think that ya’ don’t know yer own worth, but I can show you that just as quickly as ya’ ask me to.”

She digs her feet into the ground, but the cement stops her, “I ain’t goin’ to ask ya’ for anything. And I ain’t a seer.” The boy shoves his face into her own, “An’ I still think ya’ are. Yer opinion is as irrelevant as a-“ His voice cuts off as she brings up her knee and buries it into his stomach. She can feel bone give way around her, and the imagine of what she knows he will look like if his body ever happens to be pulled out of the sewer makes her bite back a well-earned smile.

The beings around her break into chaos; boys scramble to their leaders side, the arms holding her hiss and tighten even further, but she jumps backwards and sticks her arms into their stomachs. She flees away from the infighting that is quickly beginning to follow her as her own stomach aches. She never thought that she would end up here, she never thought that she would end up in this position. But her body leads her over her mind as she scrambles up a ladder to the street level and turns to the left without thinking.

She runs far longer than she needs to as the manhole cover is lifted up and beings climb out. They do not dare to shout on the streets. And she runs until she is sure that they will not be able to catch her. At least, not tonight. She stops at the edge of the junkyard. The rough bumps of metal and brittle plastic seem to invite her as she searches for the rusted remains of the bus that used to take her to school.

She stumbles on the dark ground; the sun slipped underneath the horizon a long time ago, but she can still see the pink and orange sky that turned into the red of dried red wine on a tablecloth. She shuffles her feet to know that they are still hers and sits down on the nearest solid object. Ridges of metal dig into her legs as she curls up on top of a separated fender.

She cannot get the tentacle framed face that Sa showed her out of her head, and the sinking city is still replaying over and over. She heard about a sinking city a long time ago; it was in a book that her parents owned, but she was caught reading it once and banished from her parents bedroom for the next month. People wanted to forget about the sunken city. But she doubts that it was because of peevishness. She thought she figured it out awhile ago, but she forgot the words that she would have turned those thoughts into.

But the sinking city is irrelevant, to her at least. And yet, she cannot forget about it. And she cannot banish the feeling that everything Sa has shown her over all of these years leads to one thing. One single thing that she cannot comprehend or imagine. Why else would she be some sort of catalyst for these sights that she has never been able to understand? Perhaps Sa likes to play with her, but it does not feel like a game. This does not feel like a game. But it could be a game that Sa has not come up with. In which case she is simply where she started again: the sights that she sees could all lead to one thing.

She stands up and bites back a yell as she trips over something hard. She will travel to the mountains tomorrow. She will see if she can find Sa. And once she has, perhaps she will ask for an answer to one of her questions. She shakes her head, one of the gangs in town has already seen her, it will be safer for her to leave the town no matter what she does. And yet, she killed their leader and she is sure that they will come looking as soon as they decide on a new one. They may not limit themselves to the streets. Their leader was their leader for long enough that they will not leave him behind easily.

She turns towards the mountains with the ridges on the sides of her legs rubbing against the cloth of her pants and her backbone becoming straighter. It was worth it. What she did was worth it. And now, now she needs a plan. This is not simply about her parents anymore, or even about the thing that she knows she has that anyone will search for. No, this is about everything that Sa has ever shown her, and anything that she has ever read. She is not alone anymore, but she is the most alone on the planet. She can use her half envisioned plan now, as soon as the sun has risen. She will wait through the night. For now.

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