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A World Without

Summary

In a world where everyone is blind there are secrets that are hidden in plain sight. The key to unlocking those secrets lies within the desert but life is never as simple as it first appears...

Zero ~ Background

Kirk is a city where the monarchs that ruled over them had sight but the population was blind. The sighted gene would pop up in the population every so often, about every 100 years, and the monarchs would take those children and raise them as their own. They write in Braille using boulers, they're like fountain pens only with glue cartridges to create bumps instead of ink.

One ~ Kai Capalda

15th June 114P.R.

 

Mt Marble Kirk. That's its proper name, but everyone likes to call our cosy city Kirk.

It's surrounded by desert and in the middle of nowhere. There are bumps on the ground and ropes to hold onto to above our heads to guide you to your destination, on junctions there is Braille written on the rope so you can turn off down the right road but most people know the windy streets off by heart so don't need to touch the ropes at all. Trains are the quickest and safest way to get around Kirk. They have wide carriages with different textured seating, carpets and walls in each carriage to keep people preoccupied during journeys as people tend to have very strong (and sometimes violent) feelings about different types of music.

 

But for me the two things that make Kirk the most amazing place are the theatres and the markets. Flocks of people come in their hundreds to listen to a single gig but hands down Ella Walker has the most beautiful voice. Markets also are a people fest, as we get merchants coming and selling wonderful materials, new sound technology and exotic things from abroad. No one is ever curious enough to follow them, they just come and go like a gentle sandstorm that leaves moist air behind it.

 

The houses in Kirk are filled with material, like in the trains, each room has a different texture to provide atmosphere and in a weird way, feeling. All outward doors have to be heavy and strong to fight against the sandstorms we get and the trains are all called to a halt in such circumstances. At the centre of Kirk there is the oasis that is the centre of our water system. But above it is, what I call The Rock, where above the oasis there isn't a ceiling, there is another level with things overhanging. They are similar to desert shrubs but bigger, with more feeling and massive twigs. The mass of it is incomparable to anything else, standing on the rooftops with it's ill felt weeping sadness.

 

I've never talked to others about the Rock as I feel like they're unaware of it. I have also become aware of other rooftop secrets. Streets weaving between the 2nd floor of the houses and Braille signs above the reach of any hand. The strangest thing is these 2nd signs are not written with boulers, they are in another form, smooth and wide letters bound together in some foreign material.

 

I love my Kirk, so peaceful yet full of noise. I just want to tell people to listen, not to the hum of social media but to life clicking and ticking around them like a perfect clockwork city. Not that I can tell them anything of course. Me being mute and all.

 

But don't worry, being mute isn't the worst part. Oh no. Because I'm different, so different that my parents became afraid of me. Afraid of it. I can hear the trains waiting at stations when there's no sound. I can go out at midnight and touch the things in the sky. Only I'm not touching these things nor am I hearing the trains. It's something better, it fills me with amazement and it tells 1,000 Braille words without having to feel the Braille.

 

But. It's bad, it's a curse and it terrifies me. Although I keep trying to block it out I can't stop thinking about it.

 

When I was 6 (in 102P.R) my parents realised what I could do and they became afraid. My dad would beat me and tell me not to speak of it. My mum, being a historian, would tell me stories about the monarchs and how their curse corrupted them. She would tell me about how they were hunted, how they were killed in the revolution and now seen as pure evil. They warned me never to speak of it. To anyone.

 

Ever.

 

The words they said have haunted me, terrified me and ever since then I've been pretending. Pretending to be like everyone else, pretending that I'm normal, pretending I'm not cursed.

 

Then my world collapsed, not in a moment but over time. From the moment my parents found out, I used less and less of my voice, scared that I would blurt out the evil. So much so that by the age of 10 I had no voice. Just nothing. Now over the years I've wanted a voice but all there is, is silence, that same eery silence is all that fills my ears. So I started tapping, at home, at school, I ended up making up my own language to communicate. I call it tap talk. When I was tapping, non-stop, urging my mum and dad to learn the language all they did was take me to A&E. There the doctors said it was good that I had a way to make sound, to have my own unique voice in the world.

 

They also told me to write, to keep a diary about anything and everything in my life.

 

So here it is. Another Year about anything and everything. Kai's Diary.

 

Note to self: Get a better name than diary for my diary. Also strictly speaking it's a notepad but that's not a problem.

Two ~ A Normal Day

With my school bag resting across my shoulder I set off across town. I put my hand up and ran it along the rope. Within 15 minutes I had reached the Rock. These giant weeping shrubs feel overwhelming yet I have a sense of being invited, invited to explore. I step onto the train as my hand transferrers from rope to carriage keeping my head turned towards the Rock.

 

Blink.

 

What was that? I turn my head downwards rolling it through my mind. A jerk made me stand up straight as the city high-speed train set off, tilting my head to the side again I carried on rolling it through my mind. It was something, different. Like a house but not a house. Taller, softer, nicer. Alien. That was it. Something alien. The train picked up speed, only 5 minutes to college now. I sit down and get out my diary and my bouler,

 

19th June 114P.R.

 

All the trains in Kirk, even the ones going out of Kirk, are unbelievably fast. 150Mph. So it never takes very long to get anywhere, unless you're going a long way.

Kirk has four big districts so needs high-speed trains to get people around in good time, there is:

 

Kirk North. The shopping district. You have the market twice a year in the square, we also have; material shops, music shops, supermarkets, specialist shops, bouler shops, chocolate shops, café’s, restaurants, stationary shops and many more.

Kirk East. The entertainment district and also where I live. It has theatres and music halls (where gigs take place), museums, parks, the zoo, the cathedral, 2 theme parks and tours of the city and the surrounding desert.

Kirk South. The working district. With over 900 factories, 95 headquarters and 2,700 business’s. It is also where approximately 50% of the Kirk population work.

Kirk West. The service district. Where my college is along with all 50 nurseries 35 primary schools, 20 secondary schools, 10 colleges and 5 universities. There is a lot of nature and most of the area is very natural. Kirk West also includes the Kirk People's Hospital (The KPH), our main and biggest hospital, which has brain, cardiac and spinal blocks that are very specialised and highly sophisticated. The whole of the KPH is worth around £75billion.

 

“Kirk West. Station 64. Westhope Lane. Last station before entering Kirk North.” I stand up, gather my things and exit the train. The loud hum of chatter fills the air in seconds. My hand reaches up and searches for the rope. I stop. There's no rope. The little kids couldn't reach it if there was. Smiling slightly I carry on, lowering my hand back down. The ground is covered in bumps instead, that I use to navigate my way to college. After a while I hear a familiar voice, I reach my hand out and touch Rhiannon's wrist.

“Hey” comes the reply, “good weekend?” I tap once one her wrist. My language: one tap is yes; 2 taps is no; 3 taps is maybe or ok. It gets more complicated than that but those 3 are the very basics. My 4 best friends; Rhiannon, Emily, Megan and Matthew are as fluent in it as I am.

“So,” continues Rhiannon “Anything exciting happen?”

No. The bell goes and I follow Rhiannon holding her hand as we go into form. Our teacher, Geoff Burns, takes the register and Rhiannon answers for me like she always does. He then makes some announcements of exams, timetables and events that were going on before we went out to the train,

“Everyone got their booklets to make notes on this field trip?” asks Geoff.

“Yes” come all the replies.

“Ok then, everyone get on board.” Geoff calls. There is much pushing and shoving in the moments that followed but I managed to get seated by my friends.

Do you know how long it will take to get there? I tap on Rhiannon's wrist.

“No idea Kai sorry” She replies.

“What's this?” I hear Emily ask.

“Kai's asking how long the journey's going to be”

“Two hours I think he said” Megan answered. The train gives a jerk as it sets off out into the desert.

Three ~ Heading West

The old man's cloak drags behind him and his feet move slowly. The air was dry and stuffy and he moves with gentle silence as he steps over the scorpions. The snakes weaving in and out of the sand let him pass as if he is just a whisper on the wind. The old man turns, scuttled into his hut and gathered together what he needs for the day. He got his spiel, his ¼ full water bottle, his compass, his maps, the carter, his bouler and a couple of sheets of plain paper before gathering them together and putting them in a bag. The old man came out, reaching his hand out to the camel's hump and moving along to it's head,

The air's very rough today he says looking off into the distance. He looses contact with the camel as it bends down and he clambers onto it. Rising back up again, the morning was already heating up.

I think we'll go westHe says with a calm boldness.

The camel was almost as old as Alexander himself and they had a lot in common: they both had been stuck in the desert: they both had a passion for exploring and they both had forgotten the way home.

“Slow down there RandyAlexander called but the camel took no notice as Alexander's bouler slides around messing up his mapping of the area, not that it mattered too much, the only thing they had passed was a rattlesnake going the other way. Each step meant only that more sand could be seen on the horizon. Sand. Sand. And more sand. Alex taps Randy once on the shoulder, Randy stops and lowers to the floor allowing Alex to clamber down. Alex waddles over to the cactus plant and jams the spiel into it, letting the clear water flow down into his water bottle. Once it was full he let Randy come and have a drink. After that Alex filled himself to the point where he was happy, he pulled out the spiel and let the cactus be. He got back onto Randy and taps him twice on the shoulder, Randy stood up and started off.

 

Keep going Randy, anything could be on that horizonAlex says putting his bottle into his bag. He took out the carter, which was a crumpled piece of paper with a single square on the left hand side of it. It had the letters, the carter, on the top right side of it so that was it's name. He had found it in one of his history books that he'd brought from Kirk about 50 years ago. He had no idea what the square on it meant or where it was but he was sure it was a map because there was the faint outline of a compass in the top left corner.

 

And this time, heading west, he was hoping that the horizon was going to offer something a bit better than sand.

Four ~ On A Train

It has been an hour and a half in this carriage overwhelmed with the buzz of voices. I close my eyes trying to block out the noise and it's only when I turn my head to the side that I realise someone just walked past me. I frown, those heavy footsteps sounded like our teacher, Geoff Burns. What's he doing? I wonder. I stand up and walk quietly after him, careful not to touch anyone as that would alert them to my presence. Invisible, I reach the cabin door just seconds after Geoff goes in, leaning on the wall I focus and listen.

“...those kids of your's going to shut up any time soon? comes a voice I don't recognise.

They are not kids, they are teenagers and unfortunately they can go on all dayGeoff replies. Thanks. Sir.

“Well at least I'm not with them all day. I'm only carrying them for another 30 minutes and we're on time.”

“No sign of any sandstorms them?”

“None at all. Why do you ask?” I listen in closer to Geoff’s reply,

“Because of the train that was caught in a sandstorm last week.”

The driver laughs, “That was a misprint on the newspaper, they were caught in a brainstorm”

“What?”

“The drivers were pulled into a brainstorm by the passengers for some charity event, meaning they got distracted. For 3 hours. They came back late and told people it was a big brainstorm only some misheard and put down that it was a big sandstorm.” The voice laughed, but Geoff carried on in a serious tone,

“No sandstorms or brainstorms forecast then?”

“Nope all clear, now please return to your own gossip storm back there.”

“My pleasure.” Geoff was certainly not impressed with the driver. I stayed where I was as Geoff came out of the cabin and returned to his spot at the far end of the carriage, after all, no sandstorms ahead, no dramatic fall outs between Geoff and the driver, no fights in the carriages and everyone else talking merrily. What could possibly go wrong?

Five ~ The Horizon!

Sand. More, exciting sand. Alexander wipes his eyes as Randy trundles forwards, Alex drinks the last of his water and taps Randy to a stop by the nearest cactus. They fill up on water then Alex gets out his map and sighs,

“We're officially off the map now. Not that it makes it any more exciting” Alex folds up the map and puts it way. He reaches for a piece of paper, gets his bouler and writes in big letters, SAND. Then with another sigh he lets the wind take it, waiting a moment, he turned to watch it disappear into the.

 

Sand?

 

That isn't sand.

 

Alex rubbed his eyes.

 

No.

 

It isn't sand.

 

It isn't sand.

 

It ISN'T sand!

 

Alex almost leaped onto Randy, tapping him twice, twice again, twice again. Randy was already moving, Alex kicks with his heels urging him to go faster. He did. Randy starts to gallop shaking Alex up and down, which wasn't good for his spine, not at his age. Still Alex urges him on. Onwards the thing that isn't sand. Closer and closer, the object split into 2, then 3, then a lot more. Was this the square on the carter?

 

Randy halts and Alex jumps down into the deep, soft sand. He waddles forwards with his cloak dragging behind him and touches the stone but his eyes drifted upwards to the rest of the ruin. His foot lands on the smooth marble floor, running his hands along the wall that stretched upwards to the sky. It’s broken and sandy now but underneath it was magnificent, built by craftsmen with magnificent pictures on the walls, carved stones to fit each room differently. The floor is cold even in the midday sun, the walls stretching around every room told a story: pictures of battles; portraits; pictures of a city standing high and beautiful; birds and plants; market scenes and the exchanging of wonderful items. There had been colour here but now it is grey and faded, the walls were now rough and gritty.

 

He comes to a set of stairs, there is no floor above but Alex climbs up to the top. There is a small ledge, he sits down taking out some paper, his compass and his bouler. He measured north and marked where another map finished, he has many maps but the most exciting thing on most of them was an extra tall cactus or a snake nest. He sees Randy down waiting on the sand, a tiny dot compared to the size of this ruin, the ruin was too small to be a manor house and not the right type for a castle. A mansion? A holiday home maybe? Finishing off his map Alex takes another piece of paper and draws what is in his view. There is a big entrance way right in front of him with pillars either side of it, below his feet begin the stairs running to his right, up to where he is sat. There is evidence of a left stair coming round to the same point but half of it is missing. To the left of the entrance is a large room with window spaces, opposite to this is a larger room with one whole side gone, coming back is a room with high walls and many marks on the floor, the left back handside is a room with a fireplace and places to cook, stains lay on that floor. The floor in all the rooms, the pillars and the hall are slabs of marble, the walls are a cream coloured stone which have plaster remaining in some places.

 

Alex pauses drawing for a moment to look at the walls. There are definitely remains of pictures on the walls and the marble on the floor with waves in it but from this angle the hall floor looks like an owl. Yes there’s an owl, the white parts in the marble weave together to make a massive owl. Alex stands up deciding he should get a better look. He turns and is walking down the stairs when his spiel falls out of his bag and smashes into a step, he bends down to pick it up when he notices the step is hollow.

 

More than that something is shining. He reaches his fingers under the marble step and pulls it up. Underneath it there were letters, a piece of cloth, a note, a photograph and a large enclosed pot. The writing on the letters are written in Braille but they did not write them using boulers, the Braille was smoother and joined in places. Alex knew this strange writing and substance as painting and paint. Alex picks up a letter starts reading it,

 

Dear Lisé,

I hope you are enjoying your time at The Lodge. I've heard that our mother, Teresa, will be returning soon. The blind rabble seem to be a bit lost and day-dreamy without their queen. What are you getting up to these days? I would love to come and share your holiday however someone needs to keep a watchful eye over our rapidly developing Kirk,

 

Your Sister,

 

Emillè.

 

Alex picks up the other letter. This one is dated,

 

14th April 3086

 

Hello again my darling sister,

I am looking forward to your return. I got your letter and glad to hear about your paintings at The Lodge. The replacement signs you have done for us around Kirk are wonders to behold. I've never looked at them closely before but I was walking down Sir Walters Street going to get a new dress at Lu Bernadette's but there was a crowd coming out so I waited. During that time I gazed around and saw the detailing on our sign. Is there a golden owl on the top left of every sign?

Anyway, my main reason for writing was that with Teresa Màrrene back as the reigning Monarch,

 

Monarch. Alex pauses. He knew that word. Was he taught about it at school? No. He was reading about it recently. In our...

 

Our...

 

History. That's it.

Alex goes back to the start of the line and carries on reading,

 

Anyway, my main reason for writing was that with Teresa Màrrene back as the reigning Monarch, you wrote you feel restless and you feel an atmosphere of tension among the workers. I know you are scared sister but this slave, you say, that's gone missing from The Lodge. You needn’t fear, even if he did make it back to Kirk he would be dead within days, none can survive in the desert for long. Not the blind at any rate.

 

Yours Sincerely,

 

Emillè.

 

Alex folds the letters up and puts them in his pocket. Remembering something he rummages in his bag and pulls out the carter, he scribbled on it, The Lodge, by the square. Then he reaches down and takes out the piece of cloth. It is purple with a gold shape in the middle, Alex turns it to make out what it is. An owl. Just like the one in the marble hallway he'd seen only moments before, he looks at the fine detailing on it and the Braille beneath that reads, The Watchful Owl. Putting it way in his pocket he carries on rummaging. A Note.

 

To whoever reads this. My name is Lisé Màrrene, the year is 3086 and I am 28 years old. I am descendent of the monarchs who have ruled over Kirk and it's surrounding desert for over 3,000 years. I have a sister called Emillè who is 30, 3 brothers: the eldest, 37 named Perry, the youngest, of 18 is Leonand the other, Edmon is the same age as me.

 

I hope you have heard stories about the Seer's Kirk, for it was beautiful with spires reaching up to the skies, marble paths, silver train tracks running over cobblestone, beautiful extensive gardens, bright and vibrant colours everywhere and every street was a feast for the eyes. Our palace is set in centre of this marvellous city with it's magnificent grounds. The seers, what the monarchs were called back then, called in for their people to enter the city, to behold it's charm and elegance but they did not care. The commoners did not see, they took instead to the senses of touch and sound, destroying the sense of sight in the process.

 

The Feast Of Light. The end to the awe-inspiring Kirk that the seers had dreamt and built only 100 years before. After the “feast” all the colour had faded from the city, the streets seemed darker and the relationship between the seers and the common-folk became distant. They had killed Kirk. They had, KILLED. The perfect vision.

 

So we built our own life, above them with our streets paved with marble running across their rooftops, we hand painted our own signs, each generation looking after our Kirk and replacing things if they had turned sour. We have 10 lots of blind families that we use generation after generation for building, constructing and serving. Our personal slaves. But mostly we leave the blind to their own, we watch over them and rule them as expected because they are our empire and our power. However we make sure to be separate from them as we are pure and gifted by the Gods and they are not. Every young monarch that is born is taught that history and taught what the blind can do and will do if they ever get the chance again.

 

So if you can read this then I assume you also have the divine gift therefore you are rare and phenomenal, just like us. Seek us out and you will be welcomed with open arms, Kirk lies to the east of here. You will be able to find us in the Grand Palace.

 

Alex blinks. He put the note down on a step and draws a long breath.

 

Letting the breath out he speaks to himself,

Blimey. Looks like some people had it worse than I did.His eyes then trace downwards to the photograph that lay face up. It was a family, clearly, and it appears to be Lisé's family. Sat on a chaise in the middle of the photograph is an elderly lady, around 50 years old, her hair is curly and her eyes look young. She is clothed in a dress that is white, it has lace on the arms, neck and fine red embroidery can be seen climbing down the side of the dress. That must be Teresa, Alex thinks to himself.

To each side of Teresa sit two girls on the floor. The one on the left looks older than the one on the right. She has golden hair that rests calmly on her shoulders, her dress is the same as Teresa's but with gold embroidery. Alex guessed that was Emillè. One on the right the other girl is almost the mirror image of Emillè apart from her brown hair, the green embroidery on her dress and her younger complexion. Lisé.

Directly behind Teresa stands a man, his posture is tall and strong and he looks as if he is King. Alex thinks for a moment that he is the King, up until he looks closer and notices he is in his late 30's or early 40's so he can't be Teresa's husband. His suit is black, his hair is brown and his hand is placed caringly on Teresa's shoulder. That must be Perry, Alex concludes. To the left of him and behind Emillè stands the youngest looking boy, he is in his late teens and wearing a charcoal suit. He has curly hair. Leon. To Perry's right and behind Lisé stands the last person. His suit is grey and he has a glazed look about him. Edmon.

 

Alex folds the photograph up with Lisé's note and puts them in his pocket. The last item is a large enclosed pot. He eases the lid off and looks at the strange substance. Taking out some paper Alex dips his finger into the substance and writes an A in Braille on the paper. Then he smells the substance and rubs it between his fingers,

Paint.Alex says putting the lid back onto the pot.

 

Suddenly he hears a loud wailing behind him. Alex whips round. It was Randy. It was then he feels the wind, the particles of sand brushing his face and hears the sound of thunder. Alex turns his head to look behind him.

 

A sandstorm.

 

Stretching across the whole horizon, blocking out the sun as it comes. He could see the force it carried, like the inside of a tornado. The colossal beast was coming right for him. Alex lurched up grabbing the pot as he fled down the stairs, across the hall and into the entranceway. He leaps from the marble onto Randy, landing violently in the saddle. He kicks with his feet with such intensity that they stab into Randy's ribs.

 

They fly across the desert. Desperately trying to stay ahead of their destruction.

Six ~ What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Someone tapped my elbow. They tapped again. I reluctantly take my fingers out of ears which, by doing so, welcomed me with a tsunami wave of gossip,

“What where you doing?” I hear Emily ask.

Trying to blot out the noise, until someone stopped me, I tap harder than I had meant to on Emily's arm,

“Sorry” I hear Emily reply as she recoiled her arm from my grasp, Kai, I know you don't like large crowds

I don't not like large crowds it's just these buffoons, I reply to Megan's statement, once again tapping harder than I had anticipated. Sorry, I add with almost no pressure,

“Don't be. It's good to know that we don't count as buffoons” Megan finishes and I hear Rhiannon and Emily laugh, but without hearing any sound. I jerk my head to the side, Damn my disorder. Deficiency. Defect. Affliction. Fault. Curse.

 

I scream.

 

I'm hurled down the carriage as my body smashes violently against the sides, stabbing screams fill my ears as I am flung like a rag doll. I feel things ripping through my clothes and into my body making my internal organs lurch and jolt inside my bleeding torso. I claw at anything solid sending intense pain through my nerves that ricochet round and round like a piercing echo. Violently I am rammed into an object so forcefully that I fall and slump.

 

 

 

 

Motionless.

Seven ~ The Sprint

Sand. Why is it always SAND! Alex screws his eyes shut as Randy raced over the boiling desert floor sending more sand up into Alex's eyes. Faster. Faster. Alex's cloak is pulled off and dragged into the advancing maelstrom. He dares not look back for he can hear the wind howling and swirling behind him. He dares not look back.

Eight ~ I Dare Not Look Back

I lie in a heap with my spine on a slant up against the carriage roof. We had suddenly stopped, flipped and got thrown off the tracks. My head weighs a thousand tonnes as I lift it off the roof slowly and my by body jitters uncontrollably. I can hear shallow breaths and some faint weeping, I feel the space around me as I can't physically move and my disorder is useless now. I want to call out, I want to shout and scream, I want to,

“Kai.” A voice calls out to me in the dark. I whip my head to the side. Ow. Fingers reach out and touch my leg, I go out to reach them,

Megan, are you alright?

“There's something sticking into my leg. But otherwise I'm alright,Comes the reply.

Can you hear the others? There was a pause.

No, Megan tapped back. I fell back in surprise when Megan followed the quiet tap with the bellow Listen up! If you can move we need to find a way out of this train before something gives and we end in flames!” Groans follow and I hear banging as people reach and start hit the walls to find a weak spot. Megan brushes by my left side and bangs behind me. I move.

 

Fuck!

 

Something is wrong with my hip. I take a deep breath and move again. Shi. I hold my ground and control the pain. Screaming starts to fill the carriage as people panic and the banging gets louder. I bite my lip and try to move.

Again.

And Again.

Closer.

And Closer.

To the side.

My hand lands hard against the hot metal wall. Slam! Slam! Slam! My heart cries out, Slam! Slam! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! I recoil as my hand shakes violently and sharp pains fill my head. I turn away blocking out the banging, ramming and screaming.

 

There must be a better way of doing this.

 

Reluctantly I start searching my mind, using my curse as my guide. Immobilised physically I search, I feel every person, I hear every detail, I touch every part until.

Smoke.

Something was on fire.

The banging stopped.

I felt a wave of heat on the left side of my face.

And I hear a crackling of fire.

The banging starts again, faster and harder.

My heart is beating to the sound of those broken and damaged hands.

Searching. Searching.

There must be something!

Nine ~ There!

I lie in a heap with my spine on a slant up against the carriage roof. We had suddenly stopped, flipped and got thrown off the tracks. My head weighs a thousand tonnes as I lift it off the roof slowly and my by body jitters uncontrollably. I can hear shallow breaths and some faint weeping, I feel the space around me as I can't physically move and my disorder is useless now. I want to call out, I want to shout and scream, I want to,

“Kai.” A voice calls out to me in the dark. I whip my head to the side. Ow. Fingers reach out and touch my leg, I go out to reach them,

Megan, are you alright?

“There's something sticking into my leg. But otherwise I'm alright,Comes the reply.

Can you hear the others? There was a pause.

No, Megan tapped back. I fell back in surprise when Megan followed the quiet tap with the bellow Listen up! If you can move we need to find a way out of this train before something gives and we end in flames!” Groans follow and I hear banging as people reach and start hit the walls to find a weak spot. Megan brushes by my left side and bangs behind me. I move.

 

Fuck!

 

Something is wrong with my hip. I take a deep breath and move again. Shi. I hold my ground and control the pain. Screaming starts to fill the carriage as people panic and the banging gets louder. I bite my lip and try to move.

Again.

And Again.

Closer.

And Closer.

To the side.

My hand lands hard against the hot metal wall. Slam! Slam! Slam! My heart cries out, Slam! Slam! SLAM! SLAM! SLAM! I recoil as my hand shakes violently and sharp pains fill my head. I turn away blocking out the banging, ramming and screaming.

 

There must be a better way of doing this.

 

Reluctantly I start searching my mind, using my curse as my guide. Immobilised physically I search, I feel every person, I hear every detail, I touch every part until.

Smoke.

Something was on fire.

The banging stopped.

I felt a wave of heat on the left side of my face.

And I hear a crackling of fire.

The banging starts again, faster and harder.

My heart is beating to the sound of those broken and damaged hands.

Searching. Searching.

There must be something!

Ten ~ 15

The notes become distant and Ella Walker's voice fades away. Other sounds fill my ears: muffled cries; shouting; scratching; the knocking of metal; voices shushing, calming; and the violent knocking against my own skull. Suddenly there was an explosion and once again I feel scorching heat against my body, monstrous screaming erupts but the crackling flames roar louder. I feel a tear run down my face.

 

Am I conscious? Am I aware of what's happening?

 

A blur of voices, flames and sand whip around my head. Hands touched my face, my side and my chest.

 

What's going on?

Thump.

Blackness.

 

As I come around I move my head gently to shake off my dream-state.

Kai?the first clear voice I hear is Emily's. In the background the crackling of the flames is but a whisper and in the place of heart-wrenching screeching is weeping. Just soft continuous weeping.

Are you alright?Emily's hand is trembling and she sounds half as if she is about to cry. Her hand keeps moving around my face, searching for more signs of life. I touch her hand and tap slowly,

I'm alright, what happened? I hear her breathe in deeply,

After Megan had got out through the air duct. She had ran her hands along the outside until she had found an emergency door and pulled it open. People scrambled to the outside but.she gulped, “But.” she paused again and whimpered. I squeezed her hand in an attempt to comfort her, “there was a sandstorm. A massive, raging one. It was so bad that sand stripped patches of our skin off. People huddled together for protection and others huddled over the more serious wounded,”

Like me.

“Yes like you.” Emily’s voice shook and her hand stroked my face, “then the train caught fire. People had still been inside. People who... she stopped unable to continue.

Hey, hey. Shh. I comfort her. Feel her head find its way gently onto my chest and in return I stroke her hair. I can feel bald patches covering her head where there is remains of sand lying in the wounds. I let go suddenly, seizing up in pain almost ramming Emily in the back of her head with my knee. I hear Emily yell but I was burning, from the inside out. Sharp shots of pain were twisting and bending my hip. I feel hands pull me straight and voices trying to calm me. I now feel clearly the mountain of bone that lay out of it's socket. Agony rips through me, making me lurch and contort violently,

Lie still.A voice called over my muted screams and two hands grip my shoulders to the floor, “Lie still.” The voice comes again. I try but my convulsing body won't allow it. A wall of hands pin me to the sand. My jittering heap slowly calming and the pain reduces until I am motionless once again.

Good.Someone says picking up my hand, “how are you now?”

Better, I reply. My mind clears and I immediately recognise the voice as Matthew Turner. One of my best friends. He wants to be a doctor at Kirk hospital, his mum is a brain surgeon, quite literally, and his father is a physiotherapist for the spinal block.

Can you move?I feel him gently touch my shoulder, still holding my hand. I shift ever so slightly. Fu. I feel the pain smile as I grimace and ready for the agony,

Ok. Ok. That's enoughHe says. I feel my own hand clenching and squeezing Matthew's

What is it?

I believe you have dislocated your hip.I become aware of his hand gently pushing my knee down,

Hurts, I manage to utter.

I know. He keeps pushing gently as the pain's smile widens.

Are you going to?

“Put it back in. Yes.” His voice is gentle yet unnerving. He suddenly forces my leg down, hard, onto the sand.

Shitttttttttt...

“Sorry Kai but one more move then no more pain” I don't reply, 1. 2.I take a deep breath, “3.”

I gasp. Gasping, gaping and swallowing, “Kai!” Matt hit's my face, I batter him back, “Kai.” I hear Matt sigh with relief.

What. Happened? I blink.

“You started going into shock.The tone of his voice worries me for a moment but I sigh and start to smile at the lack of pain.

It's a lot better, can I get up?

Just stay down for a minute or so”

Did you do it? Is it back in?

“Are you in seering pain?” I have to think for a moment at Matt’s statment.

No.

That's that then.” Matt smiles and a sudden thought strikes me,

Where's my diary? My bouler?

Don't worry, they're right here,Matt handed me my diary and bouler. I let out a sigh as I hold them close to my chest, “Emily brought them out when she helped drag you out of the wreckage.”

What are people doing now?

They are, um, searching for those who didn't get out.

How many?

7, including Geoff Burns and the driver.

Who were the other 5?

“Ruben Jones, Joe Daniels, Charlotte Couper, Lottie Dowley and Rhiannon OrtenHe stops. Rhiannon? My hand trembles slightly, She died getting everyone else out.Matthew's soft voice comforts me slightly and I take a deep breath.

I'll try and sit up. I feel Matt's hands as he puts them onto my neck and my lower back. I slowly roll forwards and a slight brush of pain passes by my right leg. Deep breath. I put my feet down and,

Yes! I'm up. I dig my toes into the sand and I smell the air.

Can you walk?I take a cautious step forwards.

Yes, I feel a smile cross my lips and Matt hugs me from behind.

What are you doing?Matt says as I turn and walk away from Matt and towards Megan's distant but recognisable voice,

Kai?comes her voice as I touch her hand.

Hey, you alright?

“Kai!” Megan practically leaps into my arms and I hold her there, You alright? You were writhing! Emily told me.

I had a dislocated hip.

“Ouch.”

How's the leg?

It's doing alright, Matt covered it with some material.

Material from where?

The clothes from.Megan didn't need to continue, I turned away from her and was greeted by my disorder which twisted my heart. Silence crept into the air and I realised out of the 15 of us who were left, no one else was talking,

What about survival?

“Don't worry my uncle made me go on a desert survival course.

So you know how to find water and food?

“Yeah.”

Do we have any supplies on us?

Everyone brought some food and water for lunch, remember?Megan reminded me, I paused waiting for my brain to click.

Yeah. We did. What about animals. Snakes and scorpions?

“I know what they can do but I think Matt could know more about treatment than I do.”

Ok, so Matt's the medic, you're the knowledge box and Emily. Where's Emily?

“Emily?” Megan calls out.

“Yeah?” I feel Emily touch my other hand only moments later.

How are the others coping?

Ok, but they want to stay by the train.

Not a bad idea, that way it'll allow us to wait for rescue.Megan adds.

Ok. Get a cover up, because this heat is already starting to drain our energy.

Eleven ~ Escape

19th June 114P.R.

 

Kirk is hot, but nowhere near as hot as this. I have gathered the rest of the clothing off the dead, helped the others set up a cover to sit under and managed to get a clear idea of our situation.

There are 15 of us, stuck in a desert. We have enough food and water being rationed to last us 2, maybe 3 days. We have no way to send for rescue but waiting by the train is our best chance. We have 2 people with serious injuries and everyone has some raw skin from the freak sandstorm. Mine is on the side of my face.

My hydration's low and I'm refusing water, the others are more important than me. If anyone's going to die it should be me as it would bring an end to this devil's power. I'm trying to ignore the curse as it only brings pain now, it has always only brought pain.

My hip is better. It aches but doesn't feel like it's about to shatter or explode anymore. Megan's leg has something stuck in it but Matt has bandaged it so it lowers the risk of infection, he also treated Ffion, who's left arm was severed at the elbow in the crash.

Overall there's no sign of danger, everyone's doing alright, shaken, but alright. How long before we all try and kill each other is the question now.

 

I put down my bouler and let out a sigh. I tilt my head upwards, my defect doesn't make my stomach lurch now. Everyone is chattering softly, some mourning, others trying to shake off what happened.

I search the landscape, almost everything is sand. Wait. There.

 

Movement.

 

It was coming fast. Right for us. I stand up, trying to find out what it is. I don't know but it's speeding up, coming like the wind to engulf us. I start to move uneasily.

“Hey!” I hear Emily exclaim as I accidentally bump into her,

Something's coming, it's coming fast and I think it's dangerous.

“What?” Emily laughs a little at this not understanding.

Trust me, it's coming. We need to go.

“How do you know?” Emily's voice has become stern and serious.

Run. I repeat, run!

“What's going on?” I hear Megan ask behind me.

RUN! I urge Emily as I whip around, grab Megan by the hand and start to run. I bash into people knocking them out the way, sending out yells.

“We need to get out of here. Come on run!” I hear Emily shout from behind. As the stampede of feet comes flooding to my ears, I hear another thing. Growling, low growling. I've heard it at Kirk zoo but I can't think of what it is. Not now. Megan starts slowing, her leg is pulling her back and I slow with her. People pass us, I put my arm out trying to find Matt,

“Kai?” It wasn't Matt's voice but it was defiantly a male voice, “we need to go” the stranger tugged at my arm. It was Christian, I moved his arm so that it touched Megan, who was now kneeling on the floor.

“My leg,” Megan whimpers. I can hear the growling getting louder, please not now, not now. Megan was hauled out of my grasp as Christian balanced her onto his shoulder.

“Come on!” I grab his hand as it stretches out to me. We run on, desperate. The amount of bare feet roaring across the ground must have triggered a mini sandstorm as I can feel my face being scratched at and torn. We race through the desert, our hearts beating at our chests. Half an hour drags by and we start to slow, are we safe?

I realise I can't hear growling, I turn and my disorder makes me smile. Sand. Glorious sand. Nothing but sand. Not even a broken train. When I turn back everyone is seated on the ground, safe. I fall down onto the sand a little harder than I had meant to. I close off, back into my mind,

 

What were those things?

 

They were fast.

They were big.

Their growling you would hear from the big cats at the zoo.

But there aren't any big cats in the desert. Are there?

Tigers? No.

Leopards? No.

Cheetahs? No.

Jaguars? No.

Lions? No. Yes. No.

Then it came to me,

 

Cougars. A slight smile of relief crosses my lips as I tune back into the world around me.

 

Get your hands off me!I jolt my head upwards.

“Or what?” Once more my curse makes me want to hurl as Will hits Nicole in the face.

“Oi!” I swallow as Will lunges forward and Edwin lunges as well. This is welcomed by Lydia's and Nicole's screams,

“How much more!” Will cries back as he attacks the girls, “How much more water are you going to waste?! When will you realise there are others apart from you?!”

“When you stop beating us up!” The girls reply loudly. Thumps and crashes followed as they battle in the sand. I stand up and with the help of Edwin, Megan, Emily and Matt we manage to pull them apart.

“Stop it!” cries Megan, “we need to store water. Ok?”

“What about food?” I hear Izzy comment, “I'm hungry.”

“Only when we're desperate otherwise it'll only make us more thirsty” Megan commands.

“What about those. Things that chased us away” Theo adds. “Where are they?”

Where do think? I want to spit in his face.

“It doesn't matter, when they come after us again. Which I have no doubt they will do. We're gonna be an easy target. And fighting amongst ourselves proves that.”

“Well then what do we do, smart-arse?” Adam's sarcastic voice I would recognise anywhere.

“Travel in the same direction we were running in.” Emily cuts in.

“But that's stupid.” Adam replies.

“Ok then, which way is Kirk?” Emily’s comment finally made everyone shut up. I went over to Emily and touched her hand.

“Kai?” Emily asked me.

To your left. That's the direction we were running in. Emily called out.

“This way, follow me.” She turned and made sure to walk loudly in the direction I had said.

“How do you know?” I hear Kier call from behind her.

“I don't.”

“Then how do you have any idea about the direction?” Gwen asks.

“Talk to Kai.” Emily’s final comment drifted across the crowd and slowly vanished. None did, they just set off after Emily. But I heard snippets of conversations as people started walking past me,

“What's she got? Like a 5th sense or something?”

“Yeah and the way she drifts around it really...”

“Creeps me out.”

“Anyway how come she's so sure of herself?”

“How can she possibly know something like that?”

“Maby she's possessed but the devil!”

“Maby she is the devil!” I shake my head. Don't listen. Don't listen. I am not the devil! I am NOT the devil!

Everyone slowly passes me and Megan is at the back still limping a little. I make my way over to Matt, who is helping Ffion stand up,

Her dressing's coming off, I tap to Matt, then I take off my top and hand it to him, we can't handle losing another friend. Matt takes off the old bloodied material and ties my top onto Ffion's stump,

“Matt?” Ffion asks trembling slightly. She is still weak from the blood loss.

“Don't worry, I'm just changing the material.” I hear her smile.

“So you're shirtless now?” she giggles a bit reaching a hand out towards him.

“Unfortunately not.” My fault picks out the disappointment on her face as her hand rests back against her chest. Then I hear Matt smile, “But Kai is.” Ffion stops like a clockwork figure that needs more oil.

“Thank you, Kai.” she said softly. I turn away and join Megan supporting her leg. Now Ffion is suspecting me. Well done Kai. Well done you.

 

“They're suspicious of you, you know” Megan perks up.

I know, I'm not exactly making it better. Once again I hear Megan smile. Then she becomes serious,

“Look, me, Matt and Emily don't know how you do certain things.”

What things? I have been careful not to ever let anyone now about my curse and yet,

“The way you can find us in a crowded playground when we're not making any noise. The way you walk down the street. The way you talk and are so sure about Kirk clicking and ticking like a clockwork city. The way you are immersed in thoughts all the time, even when you are at your busiest. The way you write your diary. The way you walk, breathe and just go about being you.”

No reply.

“Look, we take you for who you are. All this might be because you have no voice and that's perfectly understandable but we are suspicious too Kai. You're not normal but we'll stick to you no matter what.” I step away from her. Don't you patronise me. I know that there's something wrong with me. I know. You don't understand. You can never understand. I want to scream at her. I want to beat her until she is bleeding. I want to tear at her face and her hair. I want to rip and claw and mangle her. I want to show her what the devil can do.

Twelve ~ Running

I gasp for air. What? What? What?

 

Maybe they were right.

 

I turn.

 

Maybe the devil is me. And it's taking me over like ivy strangling a tree.

 

Killing me over the last 8 years. Letting things slip. Letting people get suspicious. Letting them get doubts. Letting them get fears. Just like the revolution.

 

It's suffocating me, draining me. Where is he? Where am I? Is Kirk real? Are there other's? Other people taken by the devil? Others like me?

 

Hands touch me suddenly and I punch Matt in the face. I cover my mouth with my hands as he reaches out for me. I can't. I can't.

 

Shaking my head I sprint off past Emily and the others. Out into the desert's wasteland. I can feel the devil clawing at my face and my feet. His hands squeezing my heart and howling into my ears. Just make it STOP!

 

I want to leave the accusations behind but the further I run the closer they get,

“....5th sense or something?” I hear my classmates echo in my mind.

“...creeps me out.” the words echo around my head.

“So sure of herself?...”

“...possibly know...”

“...she's possessed...”

“...the devil,” The word bangs against my skull.

“is the devil.” Bang!

“But Kai is.” I become aware of tears forming in my eyes.

“Thank you Kai.” Ffion's voice is now raw and sharp as it darts around my mind.

 

“Thank,”

 

“You.”

 

 

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

 

 

“Kai!” I snap back into reality.

 

“They're suspicious you know” I shake my head at the voices.

“You're not normal.” I am normal! I am! I shout.

 

My legs keep running on and on.

 

“The way you find us.”

“The way you walk.”

“Talk”.

“Ticking” At that word my pace slows.

 

Ticking.

 

“Ticking.”

 

Ticking.

 

“Clicking!” Megan's poisonous voice rattles through me as I speed up again,

“...immersed in thought...”

 

“...go around...”

 

“...suspicious too Kai.”

 

Kai.

 

Kai?

 

Kai?

 

“but it's perfectly understandable”

 

“understandable.” It echoes round my head.

 

SMACK!

Thirteen ~ The Hut

A faint rustling of paper starts to fill the silence. My mouth is damp and the air is a little cooler here. I turn my head slightly and I sense a man. I lean in curious but I accidentally fall off the ledge that I am lying on, into the hot sand.

Hey.I can feel the old man's hand touch me softly as he speaks, “are you alright?” I reach out my hand to him. But I quickly widthdraw it, “Don't be afraid, I want to help you. You look scared”. Look? What does he mean, look? Are you hurt?I stand and turn to leave.

Where are you going?I'm drawn to a stop. There's something about him. Something that's different to others I've met before, “I'm not going to hurt you, I want to help.” his voice is soft and soothing.

How can you help me? How can anyone help me? How could you possibly help, when you don't even understand! I step out of the hut and turn away from him.

 

But maybe. Maybe you're like me. Maybe you sense things that others can never understand.

 

No! I cover my face with my hands keeping him away.

“You act very strangely.” I hear him say, “The way you move your lips like that and the way you move sharply, with uneaseI take my hands away and he moves towards me. Can you see me?See? What does he mean see?

I shake my head as a faint chuckle reaches my ears,

Sorry, living in the desert generally disconnects you from people.” He starts to move around and move his hands, Sight. It's being able to look around and see things. It's a fifth sense that allows you to pick out your surroundings. In music you have things like pop, rock, classical and folk. Then in sight you have colours like red, green, blue, yellow, white and black.he turns back towards me,

Red is overflowing with pain and anger but yet is filled with love and passion, green is nature and life that's all around us, blue is sadness yet beautiful in every way, yellow is joy and happiness, white is pure and plain then black is full of fear and excitement. It's like hearing when there's no sound, it's like feeling the air that surrounds us, it's like tasting when there's nothing to taste. So. Can you see?Sight. Is that what this disorder's called? Can I?

 

See?

 

Is this what it is to hear in complete silence? Is this what it is to feel emotions outside as well as inside? Is this part of nature? Am I a natural part of nature? Is this the naked world? Is this how it's meant to be perceived? And is this monstrous pain that twists and gurgles inside me, is it evil? Was it ever evil? Was it ever here? Why is it here now?

 

This strange man in the desert. This old man. Is he like me? Is he like me?!

 

I reach out my hand to him, shaking it in offering. Urging him to take my diary and. Diary. Where's my diary? I run back into the man's hut. I hear things fall onto the floor as I search frantically. I'm tapped on the shoulder and I jerk back.

Here.” The old man hands me my diary and bouler, quickly adding “I haven't read it.” A smile forms across my lips as I hand it back to him opened at the page dated:

 

15th June 114P.R.

 

I'm hoping he'll know I mean for him to read it. He nods at me, gets up, goes outside and starts reading. I bound after him and lie in the sand. It's warm, no it's hot. No. It's boiling but I don't care. Red? Is sand Red? No. Sand's not angry, it makes me feel happy and alive. Alive? Green then. No it's not alive,. Blue? No. Yellow? No. Wait. Yellow? Yellow's joyous and happy. Yes the sand's yellow!

My fingers flow over the yellow sand. Writing out in braille my heart's delight.

 

 

 

“Kai...” The man's voice is stern. He turns to. See. What I have written in the sand, “The sand is yellow!” he reads out loud, “Yes, yes the sand is yellow.” His smile fades as I stand and turn towards the old man. “You can't talk.” his voice is soft as I shake my head in reply.

His words reach out like hands, surrounding me, entangling me and holding me. They flow through my body as easily as wind over the sand. He holds me there and soothes me, calming my every nerve. My eyes close and the silence enfolds me.

 

I remember a moment from when I was little. It was the day that my parents found out about what I had. I was in bed, with mum and dad standing in the doorway.

“What do we do? What do we do?” mum's voice is scared and urgent, “I don't want our

little girl to be hunted in the streets Tim. I don't want her to be murdered and people to celebrate her death.”

“Shhh, Melissa. She won't be. She won't be.” Dad was scared as well, I could hear it in his voice, “we are the only people who know. And nothing bad will come of that.”

“But how long do you think it'll take. One day, sooner or later it will come out. And people will know what she can do.”

“She won't he hunted like the monarchs. She has never done any evil.”

“Do you think they will know that!” They were gradually getting louder as I curl up in my bed shaking, “there are people still around who hold the revolution very strong in their minds.”

“It doesn't mean they'll murder her.”

“Your great grandfather was in the revolution. Wasn't he?” I hear the slight snide in my mothers voice.

“Doesn't mean I remember it or still thirst for revenge.”

“But some do. The Blackwood's are known for being strong minded about the revolution.”

“That's one extreme family and not even them believe there are any monarchs still walking the streets.”

“Even so, Kai thinks that what she has is a gift and that makes her more likely to say something.”

“Then we need to teach her to fear it, for her sake.”

“It's a curse on her and if it comes out it will strike at not only her but us and anyone who's close to her.”

 

My mind switches back to the train crash, the old man's embrace grips me tightly as my body threatens to start shaking. I remember the smoke and the screaming, the banging and the attack. The escape from the pain and the suffering. But. What got us out? What got us away?

 

I did.

No.

 

 

 

Sight did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I gasp. I search again and my mind threatens me with voices saying I'm the devil. I helped with Ffion, I got everyone away. I found a way out,

 

I saved. 15 people.

 

It's not a curse.

 

It was never a curse.

 

It was never evil.

 

I saved lives.

 

Sight saved lives.

 

The devil does not rule me!

 

All the fear I brought upon myself!

 

“I am free!”

 

“What did you say?” I turn to the man. He's fixed on me.

“I'm free.” I hear it too, a voice struggling to speak over the silence. Like a faint brush of wind by my ear, “I can speak!” the mousy voice squeaks as I run and knock over the old man. I start laughing and giggling like a 6 year old, “I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak.” My feet start dancing in the sand and the rhythm of my words becomes faster, “I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak.” I hear the old man laughing. My arms are spread wide and the words bounce around my head joyously, “I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak. I can speak!”

“Kai!” I stop. Matt? The voice comes again, louder this time, “Kai! Where are you?” I turn and catch sight of them. Matt is stumbling forwards in-front of the group with, from what I can make out, Ffion's body hanging from his arms. I start running.

“Matt!” my mousy voice wines as it struggles to my ear. I clasp onto his arm as I reach him.

“Kai?” For a moment I look behind him. The others are slow, stumbling and being supported by each other. I see Megan leaning against Emily and Christian being held by Kier as they trudge forwards. “Is that you?” my attention turns back to Matt.

Yes. I tap,

“Where have you been?” Matt’s voice rocks me but I hold my nerve.

Thinking. I feel Matt start to fall as the old man lifts Ffion out of Matt's arms.

“What are you doing?” comes Matt's weakening voice as I hold him up, “what's happening?” I find out I can't support his weight as I lower Matt onto the sand.

“Everyone! If you want to survive follow me!” The old man’s voice echoes around the group. With all my strength I heave Matt up and put his arm round my shoulder and I took now join the stumbling group.

“Kai?” I turn and am immediately aware of tears starting to form in my eyes as Megan's pain-stricken face greets me.

“I'm sorry, I'm so sorry.” My voice manages to conjurer up. Tears roll down my cheeks as I realise what I've done to them. My voice didn't register to her.

“Who is that? The old voice?” Her voice was strangely calm as she joined my pace.

“I don't know.” I attempt to reply. Could Megan even hear me?

 

With Matt getting heavier by the second. I follow the old man and my classmates back to the hut.

Fourteen ~ Black

I sit on the sand. Unfriendly reminders come to my mind of my best friends lying unconscious, injured, exhausted and even dead. I slowly pick up my bouler as I sit under the sky,

 

21st June 114P.R.

 

What have I done? I abandoned them, alone in the desert.

 

I've met a man. He's like me. He can. See.

 

I can talk also. Seeing and talking. Two skills I've both discovered and rediscovered.

 

But at what cost? The cost of my friends?

 

“Black” I whisper. I follow the words as they leave my mouth and drift backwards,

“Everyone's resting.” Matt walks up to me and puts his hand on my shoulder, “Are you alright?” I put my hand on his slowly hand.

Yes.

What happened to you? Who is that man?I feel his breath on my face as he leans in closer.

I. I take a gulp. I panicked, ran away from you and everyone, finding this place and that man.

Do you know who he is?

No. I can almost touch the distance between us in the air as I feel him sit down beside me.

Bit of a mess this isn't it.” I don't answer. Silence fills the air for a moment, Oh.” Matt says half in surprise, “I brought you this.Matt hands me a top.

Why?

Kai?I pick out the comedic tone in his voice, you're half naked.Only realising myself I jerk a hand up to reach and touch my bare chest. Luckily I'm wearing a bra. I put on Matt's large shirt to cover my bare skin.

Thank you.

You're welcome.The awkwardness crawled back into the conversation, Why didn't you come back sooner?

I was unconscious, the old man was caring for me and when I heard you I came running.

How did you become unconscious?

I hit the hut.

 

 

 

Why...Matt says smoothly after a moment.

Why? Matt moves his hand away.

 

 

 

Why didn't you come back?I take his hand again.

I did.

“No.” This time he jerks his hand away violently. “Why didn't you come back?” I. Did. Matt turned to me, You ran Kai. You turned your back and you fled. Why!His anger turns sharply to a short laugh. Just listen to yourself.”

 

Silence.

 

You.” Matt's voice is growing louder, You can't talk, you can't shout, you can't lead, you can't advise, you can't have your say and you can't tell someone they're wrong. And you know why?”

No. Matt's voice chills me to my skeleton, “Because you're a selfish, helpless, lame excuse for a human-being.” The chill runs down my spine,You abandoned us!He is shouting now, “You saw your chance and you took it! I don't care about you. People have died. People are still dying and you left us to rot!He spits beside me. I hear a soft shuffle then the man's voice over the silence,

I've done all I can. Both wounds are clean but the infection has spread. I don't know how long they can survive out here,

Thank you for what you have done.Matt leaves and I'm left in the darkness.

 

“Black” I whisper.

What?the man scuffles closer.

The air. It's. Black.

At the moment yes.

“It's full of fear.” I am aware now that the old man is standing next to me.

I heard what he said.I feel the man's hand reaching down to touch me. I turn away.

 

How long was I unconscious for?

2 days.

 

Oh God.

 

“Here.” The old man hands me a piece of cloth with what looks like an owl on it. Below the owl in Braille it says, The Watchful Owl.

What's this?

I don't know,

Why give it to me then?I hear an anger undertone in my voice,

Have you seen it anywhere before?

No, why would I?Doesn't he realise what I've just done to 14 people! Wait. I pause and think about the streets in Kirk. I. See the streets weaving and tucking in and out of each other, I see the 2nd floor weaving between the houses and the Braille signs above the reach of any hand. Yes

What?Comes the man in surprise, You know this?

I've seen it before, on secondary signs above our reach.

Yes, yes!

There are streets too, above us.Were these connected? I gaze back down at the owl in my hands, The Monarchs,

Exactly!the sharp voice makes me jump. I turn to see the man kneeling on the floor searching through paper. He must've gone back to his hut and got this magnitude of paper, “Here, read these.” I get 2 bits of paper shoved in my face. I frown at that man, I still don't know his name. I pull the paper down off my face and to reading distance. The writing was written in Braille but they had not written them using boulers, the Braille was smoother and joined in places,

 

Dear Lisé,

I hope you are enjoying your time at The Lodge.

 

Their letters. I carry on reading,

 

I've heard that our mother, Teresa, will be returning soon. The blind rabble seem to be a bit lost and day-dreamy without their queen. What are you getting up to these days? I would love to come and share your holiday however someone needs to keep a watchful eye over our rapidly developing Kirk,

 

Your Sister,

 

Emillè.

 

I put the letter behind the other one and start reading it,

 

14th April 3086

 

Hello again my darling sister,

I am looking forward to your return. I got your letter and glad to hear about your paintings at The Lodge. The replacement signs you have done for us around Kirk are wonders to behold. I've never looked at them closely before but I was walking down Sir Walters Street going to get a new dress at Lu Bernadette's but there was a crowd coming out so I waited. During that time I gazed around and saw the detailing on our sign. Is there a golden owl on the top left of every sign?

Anyway, my main reason for writing was that with Teresa Màrrene back as the reigning Monarch, you wrote you feel restless and you feel an atmosphere of tension among the workers. I know you are scared sister but this slave, you say, that's gone missing from The Lodge. You needn’t fear, even if he did make it back to Kirk he would be dead within days, none can survive in the desert for long. Not the blind at any rate.

 

Yours Sincerely,

 

Emillè.

 

I finish reading and turn to the man,

“Well?” The man's voice is eager.

The monarchs.I state.

Yes, yes. But what does it say to you?I glance back at the letters.

It refers to the watchful eye and owls on signs.

Yes...I could see the man's eyes widen along with the tone of his voice at this.

They can sight and they take pride in see.

Other way round.

What?

They can see and they take pride in sight. Sight is the noun, to see is the verb

I gasp. “The watchful owl.”

What?

In the streets, in Kirk, there is another floor. Like the whole city is on two levels, one for us and one for the monarchs.I slow, A city above a city.I hear more scuffling of paper behind me.

“Yes. Yes! Here.” I get up and walk over to the man, “Ghost stories. People walking down an empty street in the early morning and hearing voices.I turn my head to look at the torn and partially burnt Braille.

 

I could hear them, cold whispers like the dead come back to haunt us. I could feel a presence, it was unnatural. I called out. Then the whispers vanished. Like they had never existed.

 

Whispers, whispers, whispers everywhere. Come and find me, face me if you dare. The dead are coming so say your final prayer. The whispers are ready to snatch you from the air.

“Where's that from?”

“We used to chant it on Halloween. We thought it was a warning of a sandstorm that could kill us all. But what if. All it really meant was,

The watchful owl.” comes the man's voice.

Whispers, whispers.I whisper, Whispers everywhere.The man takes the letters from me, They hated us.I feel the man turn to face me, “Lost and day-dreamy. Lost and day-dreamy.

Here. Returning soon could mean thatthe man's voice faded as he focuses on another part of the letter and I run the words through my mind. Lost and day-dreamy. Lost and day-dreamy. Lost and day-dreamy. “Not the blind at any rate” Not the blind? The man caught my attention. I open my eyes and snatch the letters back. Running my fingers across the lines I find the one I need,

I know you are scared sister but this slave, you say, that's gone missing from The Lodge. You needn’t fear, even if he did make it back to Kirk he would be dead within days,The newest realization went whizzing round my mind. The revolution.

What's the revolution got to do with this?He asks and I turn to him.

Excitement starts climbing in my voice, My mother said that the revolution started with a man who appeared out of the desert. He called out and told people of slavery, suffering and violence the monarchs had caused for them over 3,000 years. This must be him. Stephen Blackwood...

You're on a roll!the man exclaimed, “Read this,” another piece of paper was waved in my face,

Wait.I glance down at the letters again. The date, 14th April 3086. The year of the revolution. “It is him!”

“3086. Of course” the man joins me. More shuffling of paper, Look.from what I can make out he is holding up a time-line, 11th April, he escapes. Then on the 28th he arrives in Kirk, 30th he hires a music hall. Then 1st May he broadcasts his experience over a live performance and the radio's speaking about the truth of the monarchs.

Then,I continue, Early morning on the 2nd, mobs of the people march down the city with flames, the slave families. Slave families? Attack them back by the order of the monarchs armed with guns.

The monarchs retreat, outnumbered, leaving their weaponry behind.The man continues, On the 5th Lisé arrives back and is the first to be shot by the mob. Morning of the 6th the Blackwood family make their way into the Grand Palace using the secret door.The man turns to me quizzically.

Don't look at me. I don't know of any secret doors...I reply. I carry on reading, “Emillè is the second of the six to be shot while in the garden mourning her sister. Next is Edmon and Leon on the night of the 6th. The then final day of the revolution. 7Th May 3086, the prince, Perry, is shot followed by the Queen, Teresa. What do they mean a secret door?I question.

“I was half hoping you could tell me that.” The man replied.

Well. There are no stories, that I know of, that involve the monarchs coming into people's homes. There are no stories of a palace that belonged to the monarchs and none ever queried it so I guess that people never thought about it.”

“But the Blackwoods found it and found a way in.”

There was a pause and I re-read the letter, Stephen Blackwood was a slave. He must have known the way in, he would have know where the palace was.

And is.

What?

And is. The revolution was 114 years ago if my mind serves me correctly. A grand palace can't just disappear. It must be somewhere.

The rock.I whisper. My mind fades back to the alien thing 3 days ago. In the centre of Kirk above the oasis there is another floor, it is surrounded by these weeping shrubs and I am fascinated by it. There's no way in, the streets continue below it and none seems to even know it's there.

Here look at this.Paper flutters in-front of my face and once again I take no notice.

 

 

What's your name?I ask turning.

“What?”

“You know my name but I don't know yours.” I stand looking at him. He pauses,

Alexander. The words struggle from the man's throat, “It's Alexander.” I blink. Before me he transforms, his old face sharpens, the lines fade from his forehead, his waist narrows and he grows taller. I face a man that I guess is about my age of 18. His eyes fix on me with wonder and sorrow that both paralyses me and transfixes me. The man stands silently still. The hairs on my neck start to rise and I begin to feel uncomfortable. I look away and when I look back the 18 year old was now back to an elderly man.

I haven't said those words in 54 years.He says softly. I lift my head and I am about to say something when, Here.I take hold of the paper that's now crumpled in his hand and outstretched for me to take it.

 

To whoever reads this. My name is Lisé Màrrene, the year is 3086 and I am 28 years old. I am descendent of the monarchs who have ruled over Kirk and it's surrounding desert for over 3,000 years. I have a sister called Emillè who is 30, 3 brothers: the eldest, 37 named Perry, the youngest, of 18 is Leonand the other, Edmon is the same age as me.

 

I hope you have heard stories about the Seer's Kirk, for it was beautiful with spires reaching up to the skies, marble paths, silver train tracks running over cobblestone, beautiful extensive gardens, bright and vibrant colours everywhere and every street was a feast for the eyes. Our palace is set in centre of this marvellous city with it's magnificent grounds. The seers, what the monarchs were called back then, called in for their people to enter the city, to behold it's charm and elegance but they did not care. The commoners did not see, they took instead to the senses of touch and sound, destroying the sense of sight in the process.

 

The Feast Of Light. The end to the awe-inspiring Kirk that the seers had dreamt and built only 100 years before. After the “feast” all the colour had faded from the city, the streets seemed darker and the relationship between the seers and the common-folk became distant. They had killed Kirk. They had, KILLED. The perfect vision.

 

So we built our own life, above them with our streets paved with marble running across their rooftops, we hand painted our own signs, each generation looking after our Kirk and replacing things if they had turned sour. We have 10 lots of blind families that we use generation after generation for building, constructing and serving. Our personal slaves. But mostly we leave the blind to their own, we watch over them and rule them as expected because they are our empire and our power. However we make sure to be separate from them as we are pure and gifted by the Gods and they are not. Every young monarch that is born is taught that history and taught what the blind can do and will do if they ever get the chance again.

 

So if you can read this then I assume you also have the divine gift therefore you are rare and phenomenal, just like us. Seek us out and you will be welcomed with open arms, Kirk lies to the east of here. You will be able to find us in the Grand Palace.

 

I blink. The Seer's Kirk. I feel my heart start to beat faster. Spires. Marble. Silver. Gardens. Colours. New words. New meanings. New things to discover.

The Grand Palace. It is somewhere! I search my mind trying to find the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. A summer market comes into mind. What would that compare to an ancient city? In all it's charm and elegance. The monarchs, amazing people who knew the world of true beauty.

 

I re-read the bottom of the letter. You also have the divine gift therefore you are rare and phenomenal, just like us. Seek us out and you will be welcomed with open arms.

 

Welcomed.

Not beaten, not frightened, not back-stabbed.

 

Welcomed.

 

 

 

Kai?I turn upwards as my shoulder is shook, Kai.

Me? Yeah I'm. I just. Just fine.My head becomes heavy and I realise how sleepy I am. “I should go to bed.”

Of course. If you find a bed. There should be some room. Somewhere.Alex’s voice is unsure but I take no notice. I turn and walk slowly towards the hut, the blackness closing in behind me.

 

 

 

“Why is it that all the answers are always written in plain sight?” Alex whispers to himself. He pauses. Then continues slowly, Whispers, whispers, whispers everywhere. Come and find me, face me if you dare. The dead are coming so say your final prayer. The whispers are ready to snatch you from the air.He shuts his eyes violently.

Fifteen ~ The Journey Back

Kai.I jolt awake and my hand grips the note. “Kai.” Déjà vu rushes through my mind as Matt's hands hold my shoulders. I open my mouth to speak,

I stop.

What is it? I tap. Matt sits beside me,

“I'm sorry I shouted at you yesterday, it's not your fault. I was scared, exhausted and hurting. I will never do it to you again, I promise.Matt's arms wrap around me and bring me in tight. I pause for a moment, then I let the warmth entangle me. When Matt releases me from his coils I stand up and walk outside. The. Yellow, sun beats down on my face and on my body. I see Alexander kneeling down scribbling on paper while also twisting round with a compass in his hand.

“Good morning!” he calls. I bow my head, he pauses for a moment looking straight at me then carries on.

“Kai!” A hand presses on down on my shoulder. Her voice is weak.

Hey, how's the leg?

“Yeah, it's not bad.” Megan's voice slows, “Not as bad as Ffion's arm at least.”

Hey. Megan's face drops and tears threaten to fall. We'll find a way home. Don't you worry. Megan releases me and slumps gently into Emily's arms. I turn my attention to Alex scribbling and turning on the sand,

Well?I keep my voice very quiet so the others can't hear me.

“I think I know.”

“Know what?”

“The way home” his eyes light up as he said it.

“Which way?” the excitement climbs in my voice. Alexander gathers up his things into a pile then bellows out,

“Everyone! I've found the way back to Kirk, follow me.” I watch as he walks triumphantly towards the rising sun. With footsteps following behind me I start after Alexander.

Are you sure this is the way home?I ask.

Yes.he pauses, Has Matt talked to you yet?I turn and look back briefly to see the line of 15 people.

I don't know. Possibly.

Possibly?

I can't remember, does it matter?

I'd hope it matters.

What's this about?

Everything. I don't reply, It has everything to do with you. Kaiatana.

What did you call me?” I say sharply.

Kaiatana.

How do you know that?Anger presented itself into the conversation.

How do you think.He replies with venom rising in his voice.What are you planning to do when we get back?

What do you think.I'm angry with him. How does he know my real name? My name is Kai, always has been. Always will be.

 

22nd June 114P.R.

 

My name is Alexander. I am 72 years old and survived in the desert for the best part of 54 years. I met you (Kai) yesterday after you survived a train crash and collapsed outside my hut, since then I have learned that you can see. You have a natural instinct for colour and an excitement to learn. In a previous entry you described your view of Kirk and how you came to fear sight.

 

You talked about Kirk being peaceful yet full of noise, you perceived life clicking and ticking around you like a perfect clockwork city, you could read 1,000 Braille words without having to read the Braille and I have seen for myself the love you have for everything around you. However you were afraid of sight, it made you feel amazing yet your parents made you scared of it, scared of blurting it out. Since then instead of a voice all you had was that eery silence is all that fills your ears.

 

That's how I found you. Afraid, helpless and silent but you had to learn to love who you really are and not to fear it. From learning and listening to me you allowed yourself to come to grips with sight and colour, then I as started to love the real you as I would a daughter, you found your voice.

 

But I fear in my mistake of seeking knowledge and trying to learn myself I have mislead you, you seem to have become focused upon Lisé's note which I believe has started to make you cold to those around you. Matt, who has only been trying to protect you, you have turned away; when I asked where he was you have no idea; this morning you bowed your head to me and you haven't once asked about your diary. I fear if you return to Kirk alone with this inward focus you will become separated from those around you.

 

As for the situation now, we are in the desert with 14 other people not including me, you and the camel (Randy). We are heading back in the direction of the train crash, I hope to find and follow the tracks. We have very limited food, enough water to last us for the night and half of tomorrow, we have enough heat to keep us alive if we snuggle together (including Randy) and so far we have had no casualties and no animal attacks although we have only been walking for less than a day.

 

Alex puts down the bouler and the diary then looks over to Kai. She is sat alone, away from the group, facing towards the horizon. He pauses there for a moment wondering if it is the right decision to return to Kirk and what he's going to face when they do return.

 

He stands, watching Kai for a moment longer before turning away, walking over to the shivering huddle of teenagers curling up against Randy. Taking off his cloak he wraps it around as many of the teens as he can before sitting against Randy's warm body himself and closing his eyes.

 

23rd June 114P.R.

 

We have made good progress today, we found a dry river bed and managed to get water. We got to the train tracks and it seems to have calmed nerves in the group and given them both a metaphorical and literal sense of direction. You're keeping your distance from the group, I hear you muttering under your breath and I watch you stare for long periods of time at the horizon. I keep being questioned by Matt about you, asking where you are and why you are acting like this. Then he turns to me, wondering about where I came from and why I seem to unlock something within you that he isn't even aware of. They're all worried about you. Worried and afraid.

 

24th June 114P.R.

 

The water is lasting us but no food is making everyone on edge. I feel like a fight is about to break out at any moment, people just want to lean up against the tracks but the heat would be too much for anyone. The smell also isn't helping as we haven't showered for days, many people are getting headaches and the water rations are too small. You do have your share but you stay secluded. At night you stay staring at the distance just frozen in time, I dread to think of what it will be like when we do reach civilisation again.

 

25th June 114P.R.

 

I can see on the horizon the silhouette of Kirk, surrounded by a cloud of dust. The low lying city stretches out on the horizon but a central structure in the centre is all I can seem to focus on. I haven't stepped one foot back into that city, I could have travelled back so many times, I could have swallowed my guilt and gone home. But it seems to be towering over me, holding me down and reminding me of her.

 

I can almost feel it's blood pumping round it's streets, it's breath on the warm air and it's voice.

 

Just calling out my name.

 

Alexander.

 

I feel sick watching it sit there waiting for me to come crawling back on all fours. The silhouette crushing down on me burying me back into the sand. I did nothing wrong, I just wanted freedom.

 

Alex closes his eyes and pauses for a moment. He leans against Randy and opens them again.

 

You know the only time you can really tell someone the truth is when they're not listening. I watch you night after night sitting there, still as the earth yet as fragile as the air. You remind me of myself, still, calm,

 

Alex smiles.

 

quiet.

 

Although I grew up in a family very different to yours. My parents both worked on the Southerly farms, they would be away for months at a time so most of my childhood was actually spent with my grandma. I fell in love with history, I read lots and lots of books and I read poetry that started to open up my world.

 

I never felt the urge to tell people about my sight, it wasn't normal and I suppose part of that was my grandma becoming slowly deaf. We use to communicate by literature, I would read one of these poems and then I would give them to grandma to try and figure out the meanings within them.

 

In her old age she seemed to lose her knowledge of what sound was, and I never truly knew the knowledge of what sight was.

 

But we managed fine, learning to treasure what we had. I felt safe with her, I felt loved and I suppose cosy is the best word.

 

But then grandma died and I went to live with my uncle and aunt.

 

I went deeper into my books and deeper into the poems wanting to understand every word, I would walk around town looking, watching and listening. People started to avoid me, they saw me as this weird boy who is strangely silent, who spends far too much time trying to “understand things that are not meant to be understood”. I grew weary, I started to feel like a thousand eyes were on me, watching my every move from the library to school to my own home. Alexander, Alexander they whispered, all I wanted to do was discover but the whispers grew louder and louder, Alexander they would say, Alexander!

 

He stopped writing leaving the bouler to roll off the diary.

“Alexander.” Alex repeated and he shook at his own words.

 

He took a breath and felt as if a weight had been taken from his shoulders.

 

So one night, I packed my bags, taking my essentials, my history books, my uncle's knowledge of building houses, and a book of poems that grandma loved. Then I went off into the desert, I just walked and walked building huts to stay in. I've probably built 25 or so huts in these past 54 years, maybe more. I can never remember. Although I always meant to return to Kirk. One day. But there is this overwhelming feeling of something else being out here.

 

Something woven between the threads of our understanding.

 

Something that we missed in our revolution to gain freedom.

 

Something strong that we failed to break apart.

 

And I think we're getting close.

Sixteen ~ New In The Old

The sun is rising up from behind Kirk, the yellow slowly peaking through the gaps in the buildings. The group has finally shut up, over the past few days I've just wanted to escape the endless moaning and groaning of them. My feet move heavily beneath me but my eyes are fixed. I want to run straight for the city, breathe it's air, feel it's heart beat and listen to the under-working hum of the streets.

 

But this heat has drained me, all the days spent in this oven has caused even the very air in my lungs to ache. All I can do is stagger forward next to these dusty tracks.

 

“Hello.” Alex says in a curious voice, appearing beside me. I look ahead and I see why he's curious. The railway station in front of me has it's storm doors open and more than that I can see a man,

Hello!Alex shouts, Hello!” he shouts louder. The man turns and I hear him call,

“Dave? Is that you? Have you found them?”

“This isn't Dave and found who?”

“The missing college students”

I open my mouth and try to shout but my voice wheezes and I cough violently. Alex puts a hand lightly on my back and I feel myself start to tilt forwards.

Who are you?I hear the man call as he starts coming towards us.

That doesn't matter and yes, yes I have the studentsAlex calls. I bend forwards more and feel Alex's grip tighten on me. I hear voices coming towards me, they pass me and they all collide into one voice. I can't tell who's voice is who's, I feel my lungs move heavily in my chest as the air wheezes in and out.

I can feel myself being led forwards, voices grow louder and I can neither see nor hear individuals now. A familiar feeling finds itself beneath my feet, the train travels smoothly and I know we are heading for the hospital. Heavy breathing passes by my ears and people brush past me.

I feel several people help me down onto a bed. I hear a muffled conversation going on between who I think is Alexander and a nurse, but I'm not sure. People move in front of me, several people touch my hands and I feel sleep wrapping around me.

 

Kai? It's Alex. As the blanket of sleep lifts off me I feel Alex standing in front of me. I pause for a moment, I feel refreshed, awake, alert and focused.

I need to get to the RockI say. I stand and step towards Alex, I feel his warmth as he comes forward. Ouch.

Hey, slow down.Alex says as I feel something fall out of my arm.

“No. Get off me. I need to get to the Rock.” I push past him and start walking forwards. It's harder than I imagine, my legs are stiff and heavy. I pass people, bumping into some and I can hear Alex apologising to them behind me. As I make my way through the hospital, I become aware of the endless blackness as I search for a way out onto the street.

Kai. Kai. Slow down.I don't listen to Alex. There, yellow. I stagger towards the open door, half running, half walking.

Kai!”

 

I take a deep breath. I feel the heat on my face, the air in my lungs, the voice calling me to the Rock.

Kai.Alex takes my arm. I shove him off, turning I see it. The wall of dry shrubs rising above all the buildings. I walk quickly towards it.

 

Soon I near the edge of the rock. I stop and look up searching for a way in,

“Kai!” Alex shouts from behind me. I don't reply, Kai.” he pauses as he catches his breath, you know you won't be able to scale the walls.I turn a fraction towards him. You might want to try looking inside.I hear the slight sarcasm in his voice but keep listening, I've read of a way into the monarch's palace, the slave families and them were the only ones who knew a way in

So a secret door?

That was invisible to the rest of the blind population. Yes. That would be my guess.

So it would be under the rock somewhere?

Somewhere.I turn and walk under the rock, I follow it round as we circle the oasis. The chatter around me doesn't fade as my sight starts to fail me.

Alex I can't see.I say as I begin to panic.

Don't worryAlex's words strangely enfold me just like they had done in the blackness of the desert.

Alex” I move my eyes and the darkness seems to part as people pass before me. I can see them.

Night-vision, takes a bit of getting use to.Alex whispers over my ear.

“What are we seeing for?”

Looking for. To see is to perceive with eyes but to look is to direct ones gaze in specific direction.

Fine. What are we looking for?

I'm not sure.Alex replied, the voices start to dim as the people fade away.

This door won't be different to the walls if the blind can't find it.My mind starts churning out the possibilities before I finish the sentence.

Except the families.

It could be anywhere under the Rock.

But there could be more than one entrance,” My pace slows.

How do we know we have one and not just a wall?

I was thinking about that. They would have to have some sort of marking on the wall, my best guess is something in the paint I found in the ruins.We walk on and the air starts to cool. It was getting later in the day. I keep my eyes fixed on the walls, Here.

Where?I turn to see Alex a fair way away with his hand against the wall.

What is it?

The owl. It's hard to see in the blackness but it's clearly there.I come to him and I have to look hard but I see it too, drawn onto the stone in the same substance that lies on the 2nd signs above the shops.

Handle? Where's the handle?

Blind. Remember.I let out a disapproving groan, stand back and let Alex use his eyes. He squints and feels around the wall. Ah, ha.he jolts his hand, grunts as he pushes forwards and in a lengthened silence he smiles. Got it.The door slides silently to the side and yellow hits the floor.

 

I grin.

 

Finally.

Seventeen ~ The Grand Palace

I am transfixed as the hot sun beats down on my face. My eyes adjust and I can see the wall of shrubs rising up beyond,

Come on.I hear Alex's excited voice. I turn and see him grinning just inside the doorway. I grin myself and step gladly towards him. The wall of shrubs now transforms into a towering covering of beauty. Desert plants that I have only ever heard of and never imagined in all my life fill me with excitement and amazement.

Wow.Alex uttered, echoing my thoughts. Hang on.”

“What?” I stop just as he has.

Listen, I hear a faint wisp of wind, sand whispering quietly and the sound of my own breath.

Listen to what?I ask.

Alex pauses, “The water.”

I frown. But then there is something. A faint whooshing sound, What?I hear my own voice change tone.

Yeah. I suspect it's their water supply, probably through pipes coming up from the oasis below, feeding the plants. I just nod at Alex’s statement. I move my eyes to look around at the variety of desert shrubs.

There.I turn to see what Alex is looking at. Just rising above the shrubs I see it,

“It's just like what I saw on the train” Alex frowns at me, “I saw it rising above the shrubs as I boarded the train. It's alien.

“It's not like anything I've seen before either.” Alex comments, “Come on.” He starts off and I follow him like a dog to their master. I frown at him as we make our way, weaving along the crystal clean path. As I turn the corners I notice cream coloured pillars standing between the shrubs. Some are falling apart, some are stumps but there are the odd ones that are fully intact, they have patterns flowing from the bottom to the top of them like vines climbing a tree. I look up as the path opens up into a courtyard and I stare as the alien building stretches before me.

The grand building rises up in a soft coloured cream stone, pillars stand between every window and door that run across the front, gothic styled towers sit upon the roof as they surround the golden dome that stands stretching out of the palace and into the sky. Standing before us are two huge wooden doors, each a semi-circle of dark coloured wood. Brass metal weaves naturally over the wood, swirling and turning as it goes from one door to the other seamlessly.

As we step towards the tall and unmoving doors I notice an owl carved into the stone standing above the entrance door with it's watchful eyes staring down at us.

 

The doors creek and jolt as Alex pushes them open. A faint layer of dust lies upon the floor, light flows in through the countless windows and below my feet I feel the cold touch of marble. I step forwards into the entrance hall. Patterns mark the ceiling and floor made of pure silver. All around me I see scenes painted into the walls; markets, construction and people. They flow round the walls flowing seamlessly from one to another. The vibrant colours now faded by age but still the magnificence of each scene lingers on. I start to recognise places,

Albert's Street” I whisper.

Where?” Alex joins me by one of the market scene.

It's in the posh end of the town, it's full of wedding dress shops, fine wine shops and really expensive places.

Alex points to a figure, “That I think is Emillè, the one with the gold embroidery My attention then turns to the staircase that rises up at the far side of the entrance hall. I reach my hand out to the banister and follow the stairs to an upper gallery.

You go on ahead, I'll look around down here. I hear Alex call out to me. I walk around the upper gallery transfixed by the detail in the pictures.

Soon I come to a door tucked at the edge of the gallery by a window, I push it open to find a large room with portraits of men lying upon the walls. I walk to the middle of the room where I run my hand over the perfectly laid table, with enough places set for a small army. Fresh flowers stood between the places. I notice a small bell at the head of the table and a large jug sat in the centre.

Each table setting seemed to have about 9 sets of cutlery. Why would anyone need 4 forks? Alongside each setting was also a goblet and a napkin. In one of the walls I notice a hole by a shaft, a knife is sat on the edge of it. I run my fingers over the handle of the knife looking curiously at the curved blade.

 

I feel my left shoulder hit something and I spin, knife in hand. A blur of motion covers my vision and I feel my body yank to a stop. My head whips round to join it and as my vision clears a halted scream falls from my lips.

 

Half crouching down with her two hands gripping onto a vase was a girl staring at the floor with a knife resting on her neck.

Eighteen ~ Sophia

My hand uncontrollably starts to jitter and the knife starts to cut into her neck. The drops of blood start to fall onto her grey dress as she stays silently still. My hand jitters more violently and the knife digs deeper into her neck. I shut my eyes desperately not wanting to hurt the girl any more and in the darkness I feel my mind moving. It takes me back to the desert, back to the morning we set off. I hear Matt's voice,

“I'm sorry I shouted at you yesterday, it's not your fault. I was scared, exhausted and hurting. I will never do it to you again, I promise.In the blackness I feel warmth wrapping around me and entangling me.

 

Something hits the floor and I snap back. I hear the girl gasp and I put my hands up reading for an attack. Instead I hear a soft and peaceful voice,

“You need to be more careful.” I watch as she rises up and puts the vase back onto it's stand, she then reaches for a napkin and puts it to her bleeding neck. My eyes stick with her as she bends down and picks up the knife, only to freeze as she points it at my neck, “Who are you and how did you find me?” I swallow,

“I'm. Kai. A student from the train crash.”

“Kai? Last I heard you couldn't talk.”

“I couldn't. But. Things happened. You're only the second person to hear my voice.”

“Second?”

I swallow again, “Yes.”

“Who's the first?”

“A man. He was in the desert.”

“Is he here?”

“Yes.”

“Why are you here?”

I pause for a moment, “Curiosity.” I feel her turn the knife so the edge is picking my skin.

“Why are you really here?” A longer pause falls over me.

 

“Because I don't want to be alone.” Those words almost drive the knife through my neck. But instead I feel it drop away and her soft voice rinse over me,

“No one is ever truly alone.” She says softly, I lift my eyes to watch her tilt her head to one side, slowly remove the napkin and press against the wound with two fingers. She places the bloodied napkin by the knife on the shaft. She then walks over to a dresser and takes out a clean napkin arranging it in the exact same shape of all the others. “I've known hate, I've known prejudice, I've known fear but I've never known loneliness.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Cleaning. Tidying. Thinking. Discovering.” She gives a little smile, “Like a caretaker in an abandoned concert hall.” She giggles silently to herself.

“Why are you in this place?”

“Why would I not be?” She finishes laying the napkin and turns to me, “When you're the only person to know about such a beautiful place you have to admire it.”

“Who are you?”

“Just one of the many, I disappear so easily that I may as well not be there at all.”

“But you're not one of the many.”

“What makes you say that? You don't know who I am.”

“I know that you can see,” She looks at me, “You know with these.” I point at her eyes.

“With what?”

“Your eyes.”

“What about my eyes?” I realise.

 

She's blind.

 

“What about my eyes?” She repeates.

“Nothing. I just thought that. Nothing. How did you find this place?”

She smiles, “I didn't have to find it. I grew up in it.”

Anger crosses though me, “But the Monarchs are all destroyed.” I call out but she keeps smiling,

“I'm not a monarch.”

“You're a Blackwood?”

“Sophia Blackwood. Stephen Blackwood was my great, great, great, granddad. Now as you are here would you like me to take you to your man from the desert?”

“You've spoken to him?”

“No, but I heard which way he went from the entrance hall. And I think it would intrigue you to know what he's found.” I follow her out of the dining room and back along the upper gallery, as we walk my eyes widen as the silver patterns running up the walls seem to form a door. We reach the top of the stairs and I stop,

“What's in there?” Sophia turns to me.

“Why don't you find out?” I look at her then I turn back and push against the white-coloured wall.

The hefty door opens and I feel a shudder run down my spine. As I walk through the massive hall it stretches up above me to the dome where the sun beats down onto the smooth marble floor, the colour reflects around the hall clearing it of any cobwebs. At the far end the throne stands on a raised platform, steps lead up to it and above the throne itself stands an owl carved into the stone with fierce eyes fixed on those standing below.

 

Then my eyes turn to the tapestries. Down each side of the hall 3 tapestries hang, all full body portraits so perfectly done that it feels as though they are standing there in flesh and blood. I instantly recognise the faces and I bow, slowly. In the empty hall I say their names,

Jessika. Elen. Samtha. Benedict. Otto. Hugh.”

 

Each are in beautiful tailored outfits, colour is weaved into the very threads of their clothes.

“Beautiful aren't they?” Sophia’s voice comes from beside me.

“Yes.”

The first monarchs. The first people who set foot in Kirk.

The seers.

“This is why I love this place. It's so different and beautiful and undiscovered yet it's part of a history that we all know.” I turn to her and watch as her eyes move around the room. How is a blind girl this amazing? How can she see without eyes? Sophia turns to me, “Anyway, do you want to find something even more intriguing?” I turn away and walk out of the room following Sophia. We go back into the entrance and hall and turn left by the brass covered doors. The corridor stretches out in-front of me to a room with an arch covering the entrance. As we get closer I begin to see the bookcases lined by side by side.

We step into the library where the arch above me seems to turn and twist out sideways; it seems to braid itself along the upper shelves of the bookcases and lights lined the ceiling shining down onto each and every book. I could hear Sophia’s hand brushing gently against the books as we walk, our footsteps are muffled by the carpet that sits quietly below our feet.

I hear a muttering and pages slowly creaking as they are gently turned over. I turn the corner and see Sophia looking at the same thing I am, Alex is sat with a large dusty red book in-front of him. The cover reads ‘Poems of the uncovered land’, sat by his left elbow is a rusty gun and in his low voice he is muttering,
Alex?I say. He moves slightly towards the gun but he doesn't register me, Alex?” I say again and his hand moves again to rest on the gun. I see Sophia start to move behind me to the side of a bookcase, Alex? I say again.

 

He turns suddenly and I duck as the gun is fired at my head.

Sorry. He says quickly and turns back trembling slightly, The words. They don't make any sense. Sophia turns her head round the bookcase. Alex silently touches the gun. “Who is this?”

Sophia.” I say calmly walking to Alex and take the gun from his grasp. I turn to throw it when Sophia grabs it and she shakes her head,

Don't. She turns to Alex, “the words don't make sense because you're reading the wrong book”

Excuse me?”

The words don't make sense because you're still a child.”

A child?! Have you seen yourself? Who are you to tell me what to do? Sophia shuts her eyes and shakes her head,

Caretaker in an abandoned concert hall with a bird trapped in the curtains.” Alex looks at her confused then looks at me. I close my eyes just long enough to give Alex the message. He looks back to Sophia. “You're trying to read without knowing how to read” Sophia gently tells him as she leads him around the corner.

What is this? I am not a child! I am not the one who is naïve, you are. You can't even read these books.”

Neither can you.” Alex stays still but I watch as Sophia gently raises her hands in self defence. “You want to learn?” Sophia lowers a hand to point at a seat, “Sit.” I watch Alex sit as Sophia reaches for a book then sits beside him. I turn from them and notice a box decorated with gold sat on a shelf. I open it to find a pile of neatly folded letters. I take out the top one and examine it. It is very fine, thin paper with a deep red seal on the back of it. On another it is the same only with a yellow seal. I rummage through the letters finding several different coloured seals. I open a letter and start reading it,

 

Dear Teresa,

Since the last time we met I have been thinking deeply about the matter of Riof, I am very fearful about you're lack of concern about this. Simply knowing and watching what he his doing is not enough, we must act immediately and severely. I have met with Charles, Sylvia, Jules and Louis in Alais and we are obstinate that we must end his foul practices for the sake of Chezelle and of it's people. I therefore am informing you of our decision to march on Chezelle and to take it over by force.

 

I do not know where you stand Teresa but know this. The seers that founded Kirk may have been blind to the people but we call upon you to see the light. We will stand with you to help uphold the connection that we strive for. But if you are not willing to stand among you're own people and would rather side with Riof's foul methods, we will been keeping a watchful eye on you. And so will you're people.

 

The King of Roumanix,

 

Nicolas.

 

We're not the only ones. I whisper.

What?” Comes Alex’s confused voice.

There are other towns, outside our walls.”

What are you talking about? If there were other cities we would have found them by now.

Sophia smiles interrupting Alex in the process, What if you were never told about them?

Alex turns an angry glance at Sophia.

I'm going there” I speak in the silence.

I'm sorry?”

Don't you talk.” I direct my voice at Alex, I never belonged here. Not really. What use is someone who everyone is afraid of? I stop and look at Sophia, “I'm going to find something. Something that's been lost for a long time. Sophia smiles.

You can't just take off like that-” Alex stands to continue but Sophia stops him. She turns to me and smiles.

Here, she hands me a book. I look down and on the cover it reads, Colours of the World. Then all at once Sophia brings me in close and grips my hand,Don't be the caretaker, she raised her mouth to my ear and whispered, Be the messenger. she lowers back down and I look into her bright green eyes. And there for a moment she looks back into mine.

Nineteen ~ Epilogue

26th June 114P.R.

 

Out into the desert again. I never thought that I would be so happy to be leaving Kirk. Well, I never thought I would be leaving Kirk. I remember mum and dad warning me of the Blackwoods, warning me of their disquiet connection and fascination with the monarchs. But I now understand the real unseen obsession was never about fear or hatred towards the monarchs but instead it was about knowledge and beauty. I suppose in a way that is what Nicolas is wanting between the monarchs and the people.

 

I smile to myself,

 

Chezelle, Alais and Roumanix. All cities.

 

My smile starts to creep into a grin,

 

Other cities. New cities. New monarchs. Monarchs who want nothing but beauty and knowledge within their cities.

 

I straighten my back and speak in a deep voice, “Nicolas. The King of Roumanix.” I laugh to myself, “Teresa. Simply knowing is not enough.” Suddenly my foot hits a rock, “Oh, fu... fudge.” I stop shaking my foot and put it down only to spot a rattlesnake in the sand a little way away. I direct my voice at it, “We will be keeping a watchful eye on you.” As I get closer to it I raise my voice, “And so will your people!” The rattlesnake makes a quick getaway and I laugh immensely. I pick up my bouler and start writing again,

 

I wonder did the other monarchs know about the revolution? And if they did why haven't they come to Kirk? Or why haven't they done anything? Maybe they just thought it was best to leave us alone.

 

We're alright though. I mean Matt, Emily and Megan will be alright without me. I'm sure Matt will go on to be a great doctor, and Emily and Megan will find their way. Something in me also tells me Ffion's going to be alright. As for Alex, I am not fearful for him, I'm jealous. He gets to keep Sophia. He gets to live, learn and love her as he would his own daughter. The only trouble that has been caused has been caused by, well. Me. I could have just stayed mute. Stayed fearful. Stayed under the control of the dead monarchs. But it's too late for that.

 

What did Riof do? Was he another monarch? What were his foul methods?

 

“Too many questions.” I stop writing and shut my diary. I look down and the diary isn't shut, my bouler is left on the page. I lift it out but then I notice something, a different handwriting in my diary. I turn to a page marked,

 

24th June 114P.R.

 

It was Alex's writing. I sigh and shut my diary again. Now is not the time to look over memories, even if it was only 2 days ago. I put my diary, bouler and the gold decorated box to my side. I turn and look at a cactus. I walk over to it, put the spiel in and drink until I am no longer thirsty. I then turn back to the cactus,

“Look at that. Sand. Lots and lots of sand. Apart from you.” I tap the cactus and immediately regret it. I start to take out the thorns but keep talking, “Quiet isn't it? Silent almost. Nothing but the rare whisper of the wind.” I listen for a moment to the quiet moving of sand, “And how do you feel in this harsh environment?” I turn to the cactus, “Different? Alone? Hushed?” I pause and I shake my head, “Shhh, I know.” I tell the cactus, “You'd rather be alone.” I gently tap the cactus then I look up at the sky, raise my hand up against the sun and turn so my shadow is on my left side. As I start to walk again I begin tapping the box in a rhythm. And as I stare into the southerly horizon I speak my thoughts out loud to Nicolas, the King of Roumanix,

 

For 114 years we have been purposely disconnected. For 114 years you have soundlessly turned your eyes away. For 114 years you have let us softly fade into the desert.”

 

Well I am the messenger of that silenced city and you will hear my voice.”