The Police

Her parents named her Despair.
She never forgave them.

Her worn black combat boots thudded across the wet tarmac. She looked around, her eyes skimming across the dilapidated buildings, the smoke toppling into the sky, the police patrolling the streets—

The police.

When Despair was a child she had always had this wonderful idea of the police – they were heroes. They saved lives. They helped make the world a better place. But the police weren’t like that, not now. Just the sight of them marching by, with their black clothes and guns and shiny police badges, was enough to send civilians running back into their houses. If they were lucky enough to have houses.

Despair looked down as she passed a group of police smoking on a street corner. Letting her short, damp hair hide her face, she sped up until she was alone again. Then she looked up and sighed; it had seemed like such a noble cause, when it had first started. The world was overpopulated, unorganized – the crime rate had skyrocketed. And all they were doing was helping.

It was a simple concept: when you were born, you weren’t given a name, but a number. That number was entered into The Computer, along with your fingerprints and all your other identifying markers. Then The Computer would determine what career you would go into, and you would be taken to School, educated solely for whatever occupation you had been given. You received a badge stating your profession that you had to wear at all times. Then, when you were old enough, you were sent wherever you were needed, and you worked. Everyone was paid the same amount, everyone worked the same long hours, and no one ever quit. There were curfews and rations and very strict laws.

And at first it had worked. The police were put in place to make sure everyone followed the rules, and things began to run smoothly. But there’s something that happens, Despair mused, when you treat people like that. After the system had been in place for a while, the government and the police had, perhaps just to justify their actions, begun to think of civilians as nothing more than animals.

Despair wrapped her arms around herself, ducking her head against the rain. She remembered when she had learned everything about The Computer, about what it did and how it worked; about how babies were just given numbers and taken away from their parents as soon as they were born. No one had names or families except people in the government or the police, the select few who were very very rich, very very powerful, and very very lucky. Anyone else who wanted to escape, who wanted to keep their children, had to go underground. Families were rare and illegal.

Despair sighed, pausing in the middle of the street and looking around. It was quiet – there were no sounds except the rain and the creaking of old metal hinges in an abandoned house.

She pulled out a cigarette and groaned in frustration as her lighter slipped out of her wet fingers. It clattered across the street, landing at the feet of a boy.

Despair blinked. He was very young, no more than four or five, and he didn’t have a badge. He was small and skinny and dressed in rags, but when he smiled at her his whole face lit up.

“Here,” he said, picking up the lighter and handing it to her.

Despair took it slowly. “Thanks.”

“That’s pretty,” the boy said, watching in wonder as she lit her cigarette. “What is it?”

“A lighter,” Despair murmured. Her eyes flickered up and down the little boy. “Don’t you have somewhere you need to be?”

His eyebrows pulled together, as though he was straining to remember something. “No,” he finally said. “I’m just waiting here for Mama, she went to get bread and—”

NO!

Despair almost dropped her lighter again as the shriek rang out, shattering the air. A woman ran out of the shadows and fell to her knees next to the little boy.

“What did I tell you?” she cried, grabbing him roughly. “What did I tell you to do if one of them ever saw you?” Tears were dripping down her cheeks, and as her eyes flickered to Despair – taking in her black uniform, her gun, and her shiny police badge – terror crossed her face. She hugged the boy closer. “I told you to pretend. I told you to tell them you lost your badge and don’t know how to get back to school. You don’t ever tell them you have a mama, not ever!”

The boy was crying now, hiding his face on his mother’s shoulder. She looked up at Despair, wrapping her arms tightly around her son.

“Please,” she whispered, “please. Don’t take my baby away.”

Despair looked at them, huddled together on the wet ground. She knew what she was supposed to do in situations like this – she would radio for backup. More police would be there in seconds. The boy would be entered into The Computer and put into School. And the woman…

Despair shut her eyes. Her fingers toyed with the radio on her belt; she slowly unclipped it and brought it to her mouth. A sob escaped the woman’s throat. There was panic on her face, but she didn’t beg, she didn’t fight. She just spoke one word.

“Why?”

And Despair stopped. Because she didn’t know why. All her life she had been raised to believe that the police were good. That civilians were bad. That she had a duty to the world, and as long as she did what she was told then she was one of The Good Guys.

A tear slid down her face as she went against everything she had ever been told. Slipping the radio back onto her belt, she walked rapidly away, leaving the stunned woman crouched on the street.

“Go home quickly,” she said, not looking back. “They’ll be patrolling this street soon.”

She walked as fast as she could, her brain running over everything she’d ever learned, questioning it, really questioning it, for the first time in her life. With each step she took she sobbed harder, until she finally reached the docks and collapsed.

She had no idea how long she sat there by the water. When she had finally cried herself out she realized the decision had been made, even though she hadn’t meant to make it.

She crawled to the edge of the dock. Pulling off her police badge, she dropped it into the water. Then went her radio, and her gun. She emptied her pockets, dropping anything that identified her as who she was. Then she gasped, lunging forward as her lighter slipped into the water.

She watched as it sank, then laughed slightly.

“Oh well,” she murmured, throwing her cigarettes in too. “I’ve been meaning to quit anyway.”

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windows to the soul

when he was a baby he had the brightest blue eyes anyone had ever seen. they were huge and round and surrounded by dark curtains of eyelashes, and people always whispered about how full of laughter they were.

when he was seven he still had the brightest eyes anyone had ever seen, but you could see the strain in them. they weren’t a child’s eyes anymore; he had seen things no one should ever see.

when he was eleven he learned how to fake the laughter. he refused to say that he was putting on a mask (how cliche). he convinced himself that it was no one’s business. that he was just helping them by not telling them. so when his eyes itched with tears he would disappear, hiding away from his friends and sobbing until he couldn’t breathe. then he would return, smiling and laughing, and praying that his red eyes wouldn’t give him away.

when he was thirteen he broke. his eyes were purple with shadows and bruises, and red with tears, and when people looked at them they didn’t even notice the blue anymore. they noticed the emptiness. they noticed the despair. they noticed the helplessness. people starting avoiding his eyes.

when he was fifteen his eyes were still shadowy. he hid them under his dark hair, avoiding the glances of curious girls. but however he tried to avoid them, the girls’ eyes followed him wherever he went. and he discovered that these girls provided an excellent distraction from his life. he made up a different story for each one, learned how to make them fall for him (like a pizza delivery – in thirty minutes or less) and then he’d disappear as the sun rose, pocketing any valuables he saw and leaving them sleeping. When they woke up, all they’d ever remember were his eyes.

when he was sixteen his eyes locked with someone else’s, and for the first time in god knew how long he pushed his hair out of his face. when her eyes flickered shyly away he instantly longed to see them again. so he walked up to her, and hesitantly (he was never hesitant) shyly (he was never shy) he gave her his real name (he was never honest). when she smiled his heart stuttered, and suddenly the weight of all the bad things he’d ever done came crashing down on his shoulders.

when he was sixteen and a half he told her she was the most amazing girl in the world. he told her he loved her. and then he told her his story. he stared at his hands the whole time. part of his mind was thinking of everything he had with her; of all the times they’d talked til two in the morning, of playing with her hair, of the way she always smelled like his favorite flower. and when he finally finished talking he shut his eyes, terrified that he had just lost the most important person in his world.

when he was seventeen his eyes were full of laughter again. he talked nonstop, and his smile was brighter than the sun. sometimes he would scoop her into his arms, thinking about how just having one person who knows everything about you can make you feel human again.

when he was eighteen he married her. there was no trace of doubt in his eyes, no shadows or secrets or fear. he rested his forehead against hers, and whispered that he loved her. she wrapped her arms around him and laughed softly.

“When we have kids,” she whispered, “I hope they have your eyes.”

all the pieces

i was raised by hope.

i was raised by airplanes and travel and adventures
by foreign language and tired feet
and “stop whining, we’ll get there when we get there.”

i was raised to find my way by the stars
to look at the world through my own eyes
and to do the things that scare me.

i was raised to believe that home isn’t a place on the map
home is people and feelings
and love.

i was raised by family
(little and broken, but still good)
with support and comfort and mistakes to learn from.

i was raised to dream
to see through reality to the beauty underneath
to watch and listen and understand.

i was raised by pirates and fairies
by mermaids and Greek gods and heroes
and the crinkling pages of books.

i was raised oddly
unconventionally
with secondhand clothes and organic food
empty bank accounts and lots of restaurants
never a house but always a home

i’m a walking idiosyncrasy

and

i was raised by hope.

smile for me

His eyes were the brightest blue – like someone had captured the sky and placed it lovingly in his irises. They drew people in, despite (or perhaps because of) his blank stare. All the nurses adored him. They’d crowd into his room, bringing him toys he never touched and games he never played.

There was one nurse, Laura, who loved him more than any of the others. “I bet,” she’d say, “that you have the prettiest smile in the whole world, Eli. Won’t you smile for me today?” She’d crouch down next to him, ruffling his hair playfully, but he never smiled, never spoke. He’d just sit there in the corner, staring blankly in front of him, until slowly

oh so slowly

the room emptied.

They all hate you, you know. They despise you. They probably want you dead.

Eli shivered, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Leave me alone,” he whispered.

Why? I’m helping you. You like them, don’t you? Especially that one. Laura. The voice was venomous. You like her. And you think she likes you. But she doesn’t. She hates you. She wishes you would disappear.

A tear slid down Eli’s cheek. He hugged his knees to his chest, trying to shut his mind out, trying to escape. But he couldn’t.

So life went on…

“Good morning, Eli! Won’t you smile for me today?”

Ignore her. She’ll kill you. She’ll hurt you if you talk to her. It’s just a trick. You know that. She hates you.

…and on…

“Hey there, Eli! It’s a beautiful day outside. Want to go for a walk? Maybe it’ll make you smile, hm? Will you smile for me today?”

Don’t look at her. Don’t do anything. You know what’ll happen if you talk to her.

…and on.

***

They were bad that night. Worse than they’d ever been. Eli was lying on his bed, staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, trying to distract himself.

He’s a worthless little brat, isn’t he?

Tell me about it. Look how sad he is. “Smile, Eli. won’t you smile for me?”

The mocking voice echoed in Eli’s ears, and he pulled the blanket over his head. Laughter rang through the room.

Aw. Look how scared he is.

Stupid little boy. Why don’t you talk to us, Eli?

Eli shuddered, putting his hands over his ears.

Maybe he just can’t hear you, hm? Talk louder.

Eli. Talk to us

you worthless little

brat. talk to us, Eli

Eli

Don’t ignore us, Eli—

Eli jumped out of his bed and ran into the hall, leaving the taunting laughter behind him. Laura. He had to find Laura. Slowing down, he started peering into rooms. She had to be there somewhere, he knew she had to be there somewhere.

After wandering the dimly lit halls for several minutes, he heard her voice. He started to run towards it, but paused, hearing his name.

“…poor little boy. I wish there was something I could do, you know?”

“You do a lot,” said a voice Eli didn’t recognize.

“But it doesn’t seem to help. He just sits there, staring at the walls. He’s a six-year-old kid, you know? He should be playing and laughing. He shouldn’t be in here.”

“I know. But after what happened to his parents, what can you expect? After what he saw…”

Eli frowned. He didn’t remember any parents. He didn’t remember anything except his room here, and his voices, and his Laura.

You don’t remember, do you? Cackling laughter rang in his head. You don’t remember what happened. Don’t you miss your mommy, Eli? Hm? Don’t you remember anything?

Eli’s hands shook as he pushed his hair out of his eyes. He heard laughter, but not the taunting laughter he was used to – a woman’s laughter, soft and warm. His chest started to ache; he felt like ice-water was running through his veins.

Remember, Eli? The voice was dripping with anticipation. Don’t you remember?

Eli slid down the wall, images flashing in front of his eyes. He saw his house again, with the vines growing up the sides. He saw his parents laughing. He saw his bedroom, with all his toys and books.

Do you remember them screaming, Eli?

Eli’s breath was coming faster now. He heard the window smashing. He heard his mother screaming, heard his father yelling that the police were on their way. He heard laughter, the taunting laughter he’d grown so used to. He heard the gunshots – just two, shattering the quiet night. He remembered the blood…

“Eli – Eli! What’s wrong?”

Eli was vaguely aware of Laura’s arms wrapping around him, pulling his head onto her shoulder. He struggled to breathe as the sobs forced their way out of him.

Get away from her, you idiot boy! What are you doing? Get away, don’t let her touch you, get away—

“Eli, calm down! Hey, stop it – stop it! You need to relax, you’re okay, everything’s okay—”

Eli struggled to pull away from her, but she tightened her grip, pulling him onto her lap.

“Don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me, I’m sorry, please don’t hurt me…” Eli sobbed.

Laura blinked. “I’m not going to hurt you. Hey. Look at me.”

Eli’s eyes slowly found their way to her face.

“I’ll never hurt you,” she whispered, wiping his tears away. “I’ll never let anyone hurt you.” She gently pulled his head back to her shoulder. He wrapped his arms around her neck, waiting for the voices to yell at him, to tell him to get away. But the only voice in his head was his own. And he suddenly knew that even if they did yell at him, he wouldn’t believe them. He knew that Laura was good. Laura would fix everything. For the first time in too long, he felt safe.

And finally – even though she hadn’t asked him to – he smiled.

fairy kisses, eyelash wishes.

i always loved the way your breath mingled with your coffee when you were waiting for me on those icy days. your eyes were bluer than the winter sky and warmer than the sun… i couldn’t help smiling when i saw them.

Please talk to me. Open your eyes. Please open your eyes.

whenever i used to cry you’d brush your lips across my eyelids, leaving a trail of fairy kisses where my tears used to be. then you’d give me a bowl of ice cream and tell me so many jokes that i’d laugh until i started crying all over again.

I know you can hear me. You have to be able to hear me. Please…

i remember when you made me that jar of origami stars. you put all the colors of the rainbow in there except for green, because i never liked that. and you told me that it was really a jar of wishes. you said that i could make a wish on every single star, and when i ran out of stars you’d make more. you said i should always have as many wishes as i wanted. i told you that eyelash wishes are really the best kind, and you said that if i really wanted a jar of eyelashes you’d be happy to oblige.

I’m so sorry. I know it’s my fault. I should have been there, the roads were too icy to drive and I should have been there and I’m so sorry.

your eyes were so pretty on those icy days… i always wondered why they looked prettier in the cold.

I love you. Can you hear me? I love you. You know what I’ve been doing? I’ve been wishing on my eyelashes. Remember how you told me that eyelash wishes always come true? You have to wake up. Please. Before I run out of eyelashes.

the ice… your eyes were always so pretty in the ice. so pretty.

Oh God. Hey. No. Don’t do this.

so pretty…

God, no. No. Open your eyes, please, please, open your eyes. Talk to me, please, oh God, please, no, no, no, I can’t do this without you, I can’t—I can’t. Don’t you dare leave me. You can’t let go, you have to wake up, please

don’t leave me.

Hey—hey… your eyelids are moving. I know I’m not imagining that, I know you can hear me, say something. Please. Say anything.’

‘…Mmph. Don’t tell me what to do. I can leave you if I want.’

‘Jesus fucking Christ. Oh, God—shit. Shit shit shit.’

‘Hi to you too.’

‘Hi. I love you.’

‘I love you too. Don’t cry.’

‘I knew you’d wake up. God. I knew you’d wake up.’

‘Mhm… Of course, silly. Eyelash wishes always come true.’