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from The Gods' Own by Alexis Cunningham

Copyright © 2019–2020 Alexis Cunningham

Chapter 23
What Leo Knew

1st Kekel 6039

Another year dawns and I can’t keep on like this. Pretending. The entire world might be blind but I’m not and I’m sick of pretending otherwise. I see them everywhere. The dead, or whatever they are. I see their red eyes in my dreams. Sometimes they see me too. How is it possible, monsters can look so sad? School is a waste of time. I’m learning lies, nothing I read is real. What good is a degree in nonsense? What can it teach me about the world I see but no one else admits is real? Father will be angry. Esa will understand, I think. She won’t admit it. She’s always been better at pretending than I am, but she knows what’s really out there.

14th Kekel 6039

I walk the streets, everyday, all day. I walk and I see. Truly see. There is a whole world hidden away in the cracks, the allies, the shadows of this seedy little city called home. I feel alive for the first time in twenty-one years. All my senses are alert. I see colours I never knew existed. I hear the dead speak. I go where they go. I live as they live, and somehow that is not an oxymoron. The dead truly do live, because, I am learning, they are not dead. Not in any sense that means anything. They might have died in flesh but they think and they feel the same as I. It has only been a few weeks but I have already learned so much. All it took was opening my eyes.

Father is disappointed, of course. He was so proud that Esa and I were accepted for higher learning; we are the first of our family to go to the university and I know that father feels I am letting not just myself, but our family down. Esa told me so to my face, but am used to ignoring her when she’s in her snits. Father says nothing, he never does, but I know he blames himself for what I am. The magic in me. I tried to talk to him about the dead. We fought. Father tells me I have to stay away from the dead. That they are dangerous. But he won’t say why. Hypocrite. The man trained me and Esa in magic, just as his father trained him. But he never told us how much more there was to the world, than normal eyes can perceive. Although it hurts me, I am sickened by his cowardice and that he would inflict that cowardice on me.  

I will show him. I’ll keep going on my journey of discovery. There is so much to learn. Where do the dead come from? Why do they stay here, when their lot is so miserable? It is my goal to have the answers to these questions within the month.

13th Vihonin 6039

Father was right. The dead are dangerous. What a horrendous curse it must be, to feed on the life of others. What a joke the Cloister’s teachings truly are. There is no grace, no promised land beyond the sky. When we die we are condemned to walk the streets invisible and starved until we fade away. Yet I am not afraid of the dead because they hunger for my life. What could be more human than to hunger, after all?

More so than ever I am determined to learn more. I cannot believe that this is the way things are meant to be. That all of life is struggle and death offers no surcease. These ‘greys’ need someone to champion them. They are people too. There must be something I can do.

21st Vihonin 6039

I am learning so much. There is some pain, yes, but this life has become my classroom and I have never felt more alive than when I am with the dead. Death defines life, it gives our struggles meaning. And if that meaning is merely defined by that of predator and prey? Well then, so is the natural world. Perhaps this is how we humans remain connected to the natural and the primal?

There is an irony, great and profound, in the knowledge that I did not know I truly had a soul until I started to give it away.

3rd Dalon 6039

Even as spring blossoms, I am as the walking dead. As my mind opens to the real I feel myself slipping away from the world I knew before. Esa is worried. We are twins, she is the other side of the coin that is my self. How could she not sense how I have changed? She came home from school to see me, prompted no doubt by our father. I don’t know what to say to her. How can I tell her that I would willingly sacrifice every piece of myself for the answers I seek? My eyes are open and I fear nothing more than my old blindness.

My new grey friends have begun to trust me. They speak freely around me and it is only now that I realise how much they kept back before. I have been learning about the magical underworld. The street practitioners, as they call themselves. These men and woman –all of them like me –who refuse to be bound by the laws of the blind. They fascinate me, I admit, but not enough to distract me from my mission to find out why the dead are trapped here.

To that end I have had some success, while none of the greys I have spoken to know why they linger on this mortal plane they have begun to speak of a place where they were free of their hunger and able to regain their living form. They call it the “Eyrie”. The way they speak of this Eyrie one would believe it was the blessed Sky Kingdom, but they assure me it existed here, in the city.

I am determined to know more about this Eyrie and why the greys speak of it only in the past tense. I am sure if I knew more about it, if perhaps I could find it, I could learn more about the nature of the dead and how I might help my new friends.

7th Dalon 6039

Sometimes I feel so raw inside, it is like my mind is bleeding. The shadows have sharp edges and colours assault me. The world is too much and I am always cold. Except when the rage comes. Sudden and strange, like a tidal wave. I am angry. I am raving. I am laughing as I cry.

I made my sister cry. I punched my hand through the window, just to watch myself bleed. I wonder, am I dying inside?

 

18th Dalon 6039

I have a job, tending bar on Milos Street. Father is pleased; I can see the hope in his eyes. The futile, ridiculous hope that I might leave my studies behind and rejoin the tedium of the blind. If he knew what sort of club it is he would not be so pleased. I get to see my friends there. But more than that, I watch the owner, Mladin Yaraslav. He is a street practitioner; a conjurer and a crook. My friends say he is the New Boss. The Old Boss, they say, built the Eyrie before Yaraslav put him away. They say the Eyrie fell to ruin when the Old Boss was deposed. Now they have no choice but to work for Mladin Yaraslav as if they are the spoils of war; one king falls, another rises and the greys go where the hope is, slim and corrupt as it might be.

I am not a fool, for all that father and Esa think I am sick in the head and whisper about me behind my back. I know that my studies are dangerous. I walk a one-way street; there is no turning back. I want to know who the fallen king was. I want to find the Eyrie. I need to know if this all there is to life and death.

25th Dalon 6039

An interesting thing happened today. A man came to see Yaraslav. Most patrons come for my friends “services” but this man was uninterested in my friends’ charms. His name was Anorin and, from overhearing him, I have fo...






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