|Octavian my main man... No? Okay... >__>|
Hey guys, so here's where the far-fetched ideas come in, like I said, just roll with it, everything will be explained! And as usual, I hope you enjoy this chapter XD
"When we don't know who to hate, we hate ourselves."
-- Chuck Palahniuk
There was a silence.
Peace reigned in the Arabian night, as nothing stirred in the houses in the north. Even the ocean of sand that carried on into the distant lands, purple and silver under the moonlight, rested under hushed tones; their soft peaks the playground for the warm summer winds.
It was they that made the usual cold nights bearable.
They danced in the empty dirt streets and whisked the scent of fresh bread and familiar spices into the boy's face. Cinnamon, vanilla bean, earthy cocoa, and his favorite, freshly ground nutmeg, all shared their light powdery fragrance in the cool night.
The open window's curtains twirled and undulated quietly in the breeze and a blonde boy looked out as if he could see the lands that his mother told him about. As if he could see past the miles and miles of sand that trapped him here.
She was there, sleeping; buried under the large and heavy wool covers. The boy smiled as he heard her soft mumbling.
There was nothing to do now, nearly everyone was a asleep. And those who weren't did not want to be stuck baby-sitting at this time of hour. For them, the night was a time for the celebration of the naked flesh-- Octavian thought adults reveled in this celebration much too loudly-- behind closed doors.
Sometimes his mother would shout at him. She didn't understand why he stayed up late into the night, 'looking for things that are not there' ...
'That were never there...'
Actually, she didn't understand why he stayed up late at all. He remembered one time she actually compared him to that weird creature...
"You are like those birds..." she shook her head, "they circle the skies and call out in a soft voice to one another... their eyes as wide as saucers as they look to the ground. For what?-- I could never tell..."
He was just about to go back to the warm pile of sheets when he heard a sound. No. Not just any sound, a cry, sharp and loud in the clear air.
Poking his head out of the large window, he looked out and about to find its origins. A dog scampered off into the streets frantically, as it almost runs straight into a group of men who were preparing clothing and spices and goods to sell in the morning, it darted through legs and jumped overturned baskets. Until it dashed to and fro and finally disappeared into the shadows.
The men's laughter echoed as they packed up their things. Nothing else stirred in the night. "My love? What are you doing?" The boy jumped, startled by the sudden attention. "Come back to bed." A tired voice called out from behind him. As he turned he saw his mother, her black hair falling lusciously down her shoulder and her bright honey brown eyes staring back at him with stern impatience.
"I am sorry, mama," he shuffled back and extinguished the fire with a shower of water from the jug sitting on the small table next to him. The flames died with a rebellious hiss, cascading the room into darkness; relinquishing its warm orange glow to the moon's silver as it poured through the open window and tinted everything in a faint ghostly white.
The mud walls seemed larger, less like prison walls. "I was just... outing the fire..." His mother did not buy this explanation of course, she raised a brow, a smile soon spreading across her full lips. Octavian was just happy she seemed amused. Usually she got upset.
"Yes, like you should have done over an hour ago," she motioned for him to come,"By letting the flames burn, you waste the candle..." Scratching her scalp she squinted as her eyes adjusted, her nose wrinkled, almost in annoyance, "And they're getting more and more expensive these days," she sighed.
Strolling over, he climbed into bed and looked up at the woman whose acceptance meant everything to him. She had skin that always reminded him of the cinnamon sticks that was often sold in the market-- while his skin was pale... like paper... 'Sickly', if he were to describe it the way the villagers do. The only difference was that she often smelled of nutmeg and a number of sweet spices.
It was because of her job.
He didn't ask about it and they never talked about it.
Whenever she dressed in her red satin, be-jeweled her black hair and adorned herself with perfumes, no one said anything; she just kissed his head and told him sternly to be careful and to always: stay in the house.
Then she was off for the whole day.
Now, she dressed in a pale shirt and some baggy pants, now she wasn't just a strange beautiful woman-- she was his mother-- and it was now, as she stroked his cheek and placed kisses on his face, that he felt like he was really loved.
She let him into the layered blanket to escape the chill of the night and pulling him closer she hugged him tightly. Inhaling deeply she looked into his face and kissed him. She gazed out the window, then, for a while, she paused. Her finger to her lips while she eyed the mud ledge of the window. The curtains fluttered softly. Finally her warm eyes were looking at his icy blue ones, "I heard a noise..."
"I did too!" The child wiggled his toes.
He buried his face into the crook of her neck, making her laugh, "You haven't done this since you were small... Are you scared?" The boy hid a smile and tried not to giggle.
He knew what was coming next, but he feigned ignorance and shook his head ruefully. "No? I thought I heard... a monster...!" The boy disappeared under the sheets and his mother followed him under; they immersed themselves in the warmth as if it was a world different from the one just outside the thick brown blanket, his mother hushed his insatiable laughter, her slender finger to her lips again, "I think I heard him..."
"Where?" The blonde's blue eyes grew wide as the woman peeked out of the barrier between their world and the next, scanning the room. He occupied himself with straining out the random barks, boisterous laughter of venders, clanking of wood and the quick shuffle of feet in cool sand that were strung deeply within the silence.
"Here!" She started tickling him mercilessly. The boy squirmed as his mother playfully blew on his belly, with his pale face red with laughter he managed to get the upper hand and started tickling his mother back, they played underneath the sheets, wriggling and wrestling until they both were exhausted and giggle-happy.
The woman ran her hand through her son's hair; she often described it as the color of the fur of barley whenever the sun ripened it. It was golden but with whitened edges. "Please do not go near the windows at night," the boy frowned. "Pleeeease?" His mother batted her eyelashes and pouted but he didn't laugh like he usually did, instead he sniffled as a ball formed at the back of his throat, choking him as the tears filled his eyes to the brim.
The mother cooed and hushed and comforted, and the little boy, resting his head in his mother's chest, felt the warmth and sincerity from the vibrations that echoed from her chest. She squeezed him in another hug, as if by transference, the pain would seep into her.
The woman braced herself for the question.
"Why?" His little voice cracked, he could no longer keep his reserve and broke, "Why, mama? why can't I go outside and play in the day?" He was tired of sneaking around like he was a criminal, he had tried his best when he was younger to stay inside, but everything seemed too... empty.
So unforgivingly similar.
What was he supposed to do? The excitement was right outside. Vendors were hollering and children romping in the market a few streets down, and the wind carried the sound of their folly to him. Mocked him.
So he'd put on his cloak, slowly peek out the door and escape into the morning, where the day seemed much more free. Where he himself felt free.
And now, as he thought about what his mother said when he asked again if Uncle Ammar and Aunty Ghada could take him to the market today, he cried. She had been furious.
'They weren't even family, strangers may love you all they want, but if danger comes stalking they'd save their kids. Not you. They take care of themselves, Octavian. Not you.' That's what she said, and he knew it was true, but he couldn't help but think how unfair it was.
She held his shaking figure as he controlled himself-- like she taught him-- breathing heavily and limiting himself to shorter sobs, then to sniffles. Soon he was silent, staring blankly into space while he was comforted by his mother, soothingly rubbing his back.
He felt pathetic.
"I am so sorry. I am so sorry, my little baby..." She wanted to cry too but she knew that more tears would not solve anything. She had to be strong, so he could be too. Her sleepless nights weighed down on her appearance, and that was affecting her... clients.
All the rumors circulating through the streets scared her. As if she needed any more reason to be... Black omens were becoming more and more frequent. A young child of ashen skin and pale eyes was not something to be welcomed.
At a time like this, that child, it would be held in suspicion. As an object of dark magic... A walking scapegoat to slaughter. "I-It is very dangerous for you outside..." the mother explained, "... My people... they are not as accepting as I wished," she kissed his forehead and he sniffled again, almost in response.
Eventually they smiled at each other, "But never mind that, my dear." She flipped her hair behind her shoulder and smiled coyly, "There are things that I should have explained to you long ago, you are my special little boy, but I never told you how special..." Maybe this would take his mind off not being able to go outside.
After all, there was a fondness for fables with such similar dilemmas elsewhere in the world. Women who had come across certain men of a... Higher status. Who wouldn't be, at the very least, a little bit intrigued. And, Octavian was a very practical child anyway.
He might not even believe it.
His blue eyes, alien to her for more than half the years she had raised him, caught her own, "...Am I... so immensely special that you will not punish me for looking out the window...?" He pulled a hopeful grin.
She chuckled, "Not even close." The boy sighed but listened to his mother, "Your father was a foreigner..." she raised a brow, "and do not give me that look, I know you know he was a foreigner-"
"Was he pale like me, mama?... Did he have light hair and blue eyes? Where was he from-"
"My love, he was gorgeous, his hair was brown but it was as if the sun kissed the edges and turned them gold. He had the most beautiful eyes... they were so warm and mischievous," she bit her lip, "and his lips-"
"Ewww!" She laughed and hugged the boy, who had covered his ears when he heard where this conversation was going. He spoke eventually, "Do I look like him...?"
"Your eyes." Cool fingers ran across his cheeks, her thumb stroking under his eyes gently as her large hand held the small boy's face, "Both of your eyes looked-"
"Yes..." Her smiled faded, "...and old." The boy's brows curved in confusion, but before he could ask any more questions, the night air erupted with screams. The sound of pottery shattering, doors being pounded on and men shouting made both of them shoot out of bed.
The mother raced to the window- she was first- and peeked outside. And there it was: three houses down- two houses down- one house to go. The roaring inferno of blinding orange and red ate away at the houses a few paces down the street. Like an enraged dragon, the flames howled into the night, burning it away, making the shadows leap and scatter as the fire whipped at them in furiously. Smoke rose in the air like ghostly tendrils, reaching up first in wisps that reflected the moon's eerie silver and then in billows.
Octavian whimpered, he saw something. Something strange. Within the black billows of smoke and ash, faces moaned and screamed, their faces stretched in a torturous manner. The hollow sockets of their eyes seemed to look straight at him. Straight through him.
The face swallowed itself and was hidden by other towers of the thick grey. Embers and ash rained down to meet the muddied ground where women and children were now running.
They all scattered, like ants, their path was erratic. Fear took hold of the boy so he looked up at his mom, his heart beating like a rabbit's in his small chest and his mind became watery and dizzy. He was waiting for her to say something. Anything: She suddenly covered her mouth in shock and jumped back from the window.
The world was on fire.
[Question of the week: "Is it worse to be burned alive, or to drown?"]
"You know you're free when neither the gods nor can the Sands of Time hold you... Freedom calls for you by name..." ~ Anonymous
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