Strange Eyes

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When Halona arrived, I wanted to run to her. Her welcome presence was so warm and full of light- something that we all needed in such trying times.

But I could sense her worry as she smiled at me, Ahanu having greeted her at the door. “Hello, Jane.” She spoke. I stood. She looked beautiful- so matronly in her flowing white robes, her hair hanging long. I hugged her tensely, my blanket falling from around my shoulders. Sam stood beside me. He touched my elbow.

It was one of the first and only times that Halona had called me only by my first name. Most of the time, she called me a-ge-yu-tsah, meaning girl, or a-tsi-lv-s-gi, meaning flower. Even she couldn’t mask her own distress at the impending confrontation with the dreaded u-so-nv.

The other men had begun to file in. I stepped away as Sam hugged Halona quickly, exchanging a few whispered words with her. They spoke too quickly for me to translate. Shortly, Sam took a hold of my hand. We ventured near the fireplace once again. Les had come to stand near us, along with Adonis, who came beside Ahanu.

“Hello all.” Ahanu spoke, breaking up some of the tenseness. I nodded my head at him, giving him the warmest smile I could muster. It seemed that we had done this before- the tense meeting. The bearing of bad news. The cold vise of fear threatening to overcome us all.

We needed some light in our lives again.

With a twinge of sadness, I remembered that evening that seemed like years ago when the boys and I had played football outside of the safe house. They had all seemed so young. That was the day, I recalled, when I had decided that they had become my home. That there was no better place in the world, despite the fear, than with them.

I knew that still stood.

I remembered Sam sitting alone on the porch, his mystery still unsolved. I had to smile. I recalled the way that fading sun caught in his dark eyes.

Looking over at him as we stood beside the fire, the others filing in slowly with Halona standing at the center, I noticed that he looked tired. He always looked tired. I knew he didn’t sleep. But this time, the tiredness had permeated every part of him. It was in his bones. His eyes. His hair. I squeezed his hand. He looked over at me, giving me a small smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

I leaned into his ear. “You need rest. Sleep tonight.” Sam just looked at me. We both knew he couldn’t guarantee that. I grabbed onto his jaw with my other hand and pressed my lips to his mouth, softly. He seemed surprised, but melted into the kiss. It was quick. We pulled away, some of the lingering warmth stirring in our bellies. I smiled softly, grateful for him.

Ga-ne-tli-yv-da. Welcome.” Ahanu spoke first. He stood near me, Adonis at his side. Adonis and Sam made fleeting eye contact. I always relished in the crackle of their familiar connection. It meant power. Reassurance. Strength.

We all put our hands in fists over our hearts, bowing slightly to him. Sam didn’t let go of my hand even for that. He used his left hand.

“I can feel the strength of your magic in this humble place. The tribe is honored of your presence here. Please, know that the light follows you wherever you go. There is no power of darkness that can relinquish you of that.” Ahanu’s words hummed in the quiet air. They rang with power and assurance. I closed my eyes, relishing in the feeling of safety that they gave me.

“Halona will speak now of the coming threat.” Adonis’ strong and deep voice rang out across the small living room of Ahanu’s home. I opened my eyes. His topaz ones gleamed with power, settling on each one of us. His long hair was tied back. He wore a tank top. He looked as Alpha as he had ever looked.

“My children.” Halona said in greeting. Her sweet voice was like rain. A cool waterfall, steaming in the midst of the quiet fire of our fear. She was like her own magic, slowly working to release us of our eternal burden.

“I know of the kind of the u-so-n-v.” She said this grimly. The entire room fell silent. I looked across the circle at Rick. He stared at me with a quiet intensity. He was ready. We all were. “Although the tribe has not encountered them before to this degree, I know some of what to expect.” I could sense her hesitation. She wanted to prepare us, however she also wanted to protect us. There was a duality about her intentions that neither we nor she could ignore.

Halona took a deep breath, seeming to prepare herself. Looking at her standing there, the light of the fire flickering off of her skin, I couldn’t help but feel the magic in my blood. Flowing through my veins. “They are cold-blooded creatures. They have no morality. No compassion. All that they know is death and destruction and despair.”

The silence was loud in itself. My heart pounded in my brain.

“Adonis has already informed all of you that the u-so-nv are in human form by day, as you are. However they are not fatigued by their Change. They live among regular society. Among humans. They are extraordinarily beautiful- immortal beings. The defining feature that sets them apart is the silver of their eyes.”

A shiver went up and down my spine, over and over and again. The image was burned into my mind of the silver eyes in my dream that I’d had months ago, when the light was leeched from the world and all that remained was darkness. And those eyes.

I thought of the boy with the silver eyes that had been watching me from the quad. This had already begun long before I could have known.

Sam squeezed my hand, sensing my distress. I looked at him, grateful. We met eyes momentarily before turning our attention back to Halona.

“By night, they are a dark parody of you, the ga-ne-tli-yv-da. They blend with the snow and ice, running with incredible speed and agility that can only be matched by you, my gifted children.” Halona paused. “You have been touched by the blessed light, the good of the spirit realm, while they, dark creatures, have only known darkness. The only way to defeat them is through the light. Do not adopt their ways of murder and darkness. Do not turn from the forces of light. For if you do so, you will never overpower them. And all will be lost.”

Her words resonated in the air, weaving through all of our minds as we looked on, the coldness gripping our young hearts that had once been so carefree. “Ahanu and I will prepare you as much as we can. But magic can only do so much.”

“I can feel them nearing us.” Halona spoke, her voice a whisper. A cold chill gripped my heart. She trembled, her hands shaking as she brought them to her face.

“You don’t have much time.”

I opened my eyes. Sam and Adonis looked at each other. I looked around at the others that surrounded Halona: Max, Damon, Rick, Paul, Les, Hunter. I even met eyes with Ahanu, who looked pale and somber in the face of such heaviness.

It was happening. It was really happening. We were going to confront these evil beings.

And I wasn’t sure that we would make it out alive.

We were to depart the coming night.

Halona and Ahanu had cast some magic over the forest to protect us. It was a true wilderness- we were in deep Oregon country. Winter was fast approaching. Snow would be on the ground within the week. They said that there were ‘pockets’, as they called them, within the wilderness that we could reside in without being harmed when we needed to rest from the Change. Otherwise, we would be traveling constantly.

A confrontation with the u-so-nv was truly inevitable.

They told us that we wouldn’t know what to look for or how to spot them. Many of them had special gifts- gifts that could be used to their advantage. They could appear in many forms. Blending with the snow.

But we were ready.

The day before we were to leave, we were all resting in preparation for the long span of traveling. We didn’t know how long it would last. We didn’t know who would survive. It could go on for months- even until the summer.

When I thought of summer, the time when all of us would be human again, it seemed like eons away. I didn’t know what would come of that winter- or the spring, for that matter. The world would be cloaked in darkness. It seemed that light would never come again.

I didn’t know if I would ever see my parents again. Or my brother. I was beginning to think of them less and less often. It was as though my past was becoming a distant spot on the rapidly expanding horizon. It was slowly being swallowed up by the magnitude of my circumstances. Thinking of Sam’s mother, I knew that sometimes, this was for the better.

And so, I slept for most of the day, only awakening when dusk was approaching.

Golden light streamed in through the window of Sam and I’s room in Ahanu’s home. He had been accommodating to all of us, and hadn’t questioned our bond. I assumed that he could sense the golden thread of the imprint that so deeply connected us. My eyes stared out the window. Trees swayed in the evening breeze. I could make out other homes of people in the tribe in the distance- modest wooden homes that were simple yet beautiful in their own ways. One home had a stained glass window that I couldn’t stop looking at. As I looked closer, the sun streaming in on the red, orange, blue, and yellow iridescent glass, I realized that it was shaped like a wolf howling at the moon.

I spotted Sam and some of the others in the near distance, speaking with some of the men of the tribe. They all looked astoundingly small beside those of the pack. I was then reminded of the power that we held, the reverence that we commanded from these humble people. I didn’t feel worthy of it, somehow. But I was honored, nonetheless. Again, I could feel the pulse of the magic in my blood, deep and old as the world itself.

I sat up in bed, resting my chin on my knee as I kept staring out the window. I watched Sam. His hair was getting longer. He looked tired- as he always did. I knew that he hadn’t slept that night, despite my commands of him. He was the only one that could help himself. And I had a strong belief that he wasn’t the one preventing himself from sleep.

It was another force entirely. Stirring in his dreams.

I had the suspicion that he had nightmares frequently- although he had never told me this. It made me deeply sad to think of him in such a frightening and lonely state. I wanted to protect him.

But I knew that just wasn’t in my power.

He shook hands with one of the tribal men, Rick standing beside him. Max and Damon were there, too. As was Hunter. I assumed that Adonis was speaking with Halona or Ahanu, or one of the tribe’s other leaders. I didn’t see Les or Paul anywhere.

I thought back to that evening a couple of days before, when I had overheard that agitated conversation between Paul and an unknown other. He had sounded so…angry. We don’t know anything, that’s the problem, he had said. Something about his tone of voice had chilled me to my core. Paul had always been soft-spoken since I’d met him- maybe a little too soft-spoken.

I watched as Sam and the others made their way back to Ahanu’s house.

I got out of bed, venturing into the hallway and out into the living room. Halona was in the kitchen, Adonis sitting at the simple bar. He had a cup of steaming coffee in front of him. He wore glasses, a newspaper sitting in front of him.

“Hello Jane.” He said, giving me a rare smile. His topaz eyes sparkled in the afternoon light streaming in from the many windows. It was moments like those when I could see the real human in him, not just the stalking wolf that had appeared outside of my house on that chilled fall night so many weeks before.

That seemed like a lifetime ago.

“Hi.” I addressed both of them with a smile as pleasant as I could manage, gesturing to the chair beside Adonis. He nodded in answer to my request. I noticed that he made effort to shield the newspaper from my view, tucking it beneath his folded arms. “How are you?” He asked me.

I looked at him. He was the Alpha. I couldn’t necessarily ask him why he was doing what he was doing. Every one of his actions had a purpose- for the good of the pack. My eyes went from the newspaper under his elbows to him. He looked at me as though to challenge me, his eyes taken on a stern expression for a split second before returning to their geniality.

“I’m fine. How are you both?” I looked away from Adonis’ pressing gaze to Halona, who wiped down the kitchen counter with a yellow washcloth. She smiled at me, her usual warm self.

“I am much-fatigued. But I feel that whatever is willed by the spirits shall happen, and I am at peace with that.” Halona always had to be so deep in her answers, in much contrast to short-winded Sam and Adonis. I looked back toward Adonis, who seemed to have returned to a more normalized version of himself.

“I feel the same. We have a large task in front of us. But I have faith in us and the power of the tribe.” He looked at me meaningfully. I forgot about the newspaper, Halona having slid a cup of coffee in my direction as well. It felt strange to be drinking coffee in the middle of the afternoon, so near to nightfall, but nothing was strange for me anymore. It had already gotten as strange as it could get.

I heard the sound of the front door opening, the screen door creaking, and I fought myself not to get up from my seat to greet Sam. I put my hands along my coffee mug, taking a sip. It felt nice and warm. Golden steam rose up in the sunlight.

“Hey.” Sam’s voice could be heard from behind me. I heard his heavy footsteps against the wood floor. I felt his hands slide around my shoulders. He didn’t kiss me- he kept his distance. I understood it. We were all on edge.

“Hello Samuel. Would you like some coffee as well? Rick? Max? Damon? Hunter?” They all agreed, and we switched the party to the nearby dining room table. Sam pulled out my chair. It was then that I had a trivial thought: we had never gone on a date.

As I mused over this, sipping my coffee and looking at him beside me, I couldn’t help but smile.

I reached over and touched his arm. The others were in the midst of their own conversations. We had a moment of privacy. I was sure that he could feel my emotions when he looked at me, an expression of sadness on his face. “We have much to catch up on in the mortal world.” He whispered to me. I nodded in agreement. “We do.”

Sam grazed my cheekbone with his knuckle.

“Where are Paul and Les?” I looked away from Sam.

Nobody spoke. The room fell silent. “I am not sure.” Adonis said, his tone even. That didn’t seem like an answer to me. Again, I was reminded of the strangeness of the whole dynamic. “I think I saw them with some of the other men of the tribe.” Hunter spoke up. His brown eyes met mine. They told me to leave this topic for later discussion.

“They know what time we depart. All is done.” Adonis said, the conversation ending with finality. As other conversations resumed, I looked at Sam. He just shook his head slightly, his hand closing over mine.

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