She couldn’t tell if her eyes were open or not.
The place where she lay was devoid of light, its silence the only sound she could hear and its darkness the only thing she could see. She cursed the icy chill that bit through her clothes and into her skin as she shivered, trying to warm herself by curling up into a ball on the floor- or whatever it was. The empty blackness continued even below her.
For a moment, she thought she was dead.
There was a ringing in her ears and a pulsing ache in her head as she reached out to grab hold of something- anything- to find that her hands touched nothing. At last she managed to shakily pull herself to her feet, filling her lungs with air. No. I can’t be dead, she decided, taking a step backward.
Her heart fluttered like the wings of a startled bird when her back immediately made contact with something, its iciness making her skin crawl.
A wall. It had to be a wall.
Or was it a wall? It was almost fluid- but yet solid at the same time. She could feel it pulsing underneath its surface and flinched away from it. What if it’s alive?
Maybe a ravenous creature was circling her in the shadows, waiting for the right moment to pounce on her, relishing in the idea that she wouldn’t even see it coming.
If there was one, it would find it all the more simple to ambush her when she stood still.
She set her left foot in front of her, and then her right, feeling only a buoyancy beneath her shoes. It felt as though she was walking, weightless across water, despite there being none to speak of.
She broke into a confident stride. The space could only be so big. If there was a barrier on one side, there had to be another.
Before long, she walked right into something cold. She could feel its internal pulsing beneath her fingers. This time, she didn’t flinch away from the wall as she had the first.
Except, it probably isn’t one. There was something inexplicably fluid about the surface. She didn’t know what was confining her.
But it wasn’t a wall.
She began to walk the length of the room again, bracing herself for it to end, her heart pounding like the beating of a distant drum.
Which it did. But this time, she heard the pulsing before she could feel it against her skin.
She narrowed her eyes, and held out an uncertain hand to touch it.
If it was fluid, then she should be able to go through it.
Something inside her caused her to withdraw her hand the moment her fingers came into contact with the surface.
Hesitating, she reached for it again, only to gasp and step back as intense, freezing pain rippled through her fingers. It left as swiftly as it had come, leaving her hand numb and trembling. What the hell?
Whatever the barrier was, it had been placed there to ensure she wouldn’t leave. No matter how many times she tried to push through it, gritting her teeth at the pain that sparked a fire in her veins, something within herself stopped her and forced her to step back.
Every. Single. Damn. Time.
She stepped back and, wincing as the throbbing pain ebbed away, released an exhale in frustration.
It was no use to endeavor to fight it.
Then how am I supposed to get out? She thought as she sank to the ground. How did I get in here in the first place?
For a terrifying moment, she realized she couldn’t come up with her own identity.
Everything was blurred and incomprehensible, swimming around in her head too nimbly for her to grasp onto, flitting just past her reach.
The voice that whispered her name into her mind wasn’t her own.
She sighed in relief as things began flooding back to her, seeping in as though sewn in stitch by stitch.
Anj Ki. But my given name is Liên.
She began to quiz herself on her personal identity.
Age? Fourteen. Ethnicity? Half Korean, half Vietnamese. Normality: Mezmire. Ability: Manipulation of Vision.
But Anj still couldn’t recall a single thing about how she had arrived here.
She knew that she hadn’t been here her entire life. She could recall her friends and family- her mother, her father, all five of her siblings, her best friends from school, both mezmires and normalems. She could imagine them; she could see their faces in her mind. Anj could recall heading out the door to go to school earlier that day, but not how she had arrived here.
What went wrong?
Anj winced, holding a hand to her head that had begun to throb again, as though a sharp blow had been dealt to her temples. She closed her eyes, hoping it would help her ignore the pain and concentrate.
She was reminded of what her mother had told her countless times in all of her fourteen years, mostly as light-hearted advice when she tried to persuade her to meditate- ‘solutions will always present themselves when you keep your mind clear and focused’.
Anj thought back to the last memory she ever had of being out of this space.
She slowly held a hand out, and opened her eyes as suddenly before her, an image of herself walking to school among her best friends began to play, conjured in the middle of the blackness by unravelling tendrils of blinding emerald light.
Yet it did nothing to illuminate her surroundings. It was an image, not a light source, which would have been convenient. Anj waited, channelling her memories with her Ability, welcoming the warm sensation that kindled at her fingertips.
There she was, walking at the left hand side of the group, her shoulder-length black hair swinging across the back of her sweater. Anj was watching herself. All in a row beside her walked her friends. Lucas, Chai, Skye, Jasper, Ethan, and Nia. She smiled to herself as she heard the distant echoes of their laughter which mingled with her own.
The illusion shifted, and morphed. They were now pushing through a set of clear doors amongst a vast crowd of other teenagers.
They had arrived at school, Anj realized. Right, she thought to herself, the words whispering themselves in her head. I remember going.
The moment she set foot inside, the sound of her shoe hitting the linoleum floor reverberating throughout the illusion and her mind, the image shifted again, speeding up. Blurred images of each class whirled by, hitting Anj with a wave of nausea that almost caused her to turn away.
She had never been this weak and pathetic in her life. Not whilst using her own Ability.
Anj could hear the scratches of pencil against paper, the ticking of the clock in the background, and the chatter of other students. She could see the faces of students and teachers around her, carrying on with their day as usual. Kids her age were laughing, whispering, and pushing each other in the halls.
Nothing was out of place.
Anj winced and struggled to maintain her concentration as her head began to throb yet again, when the flow of the illusions began to slow.
The school bell rang in Anj’s ears. She was walking down the halls of tightly crammed lockers, slinging her backpack over her shoulder and carrying her most recent completed artwork under her arm.
She was walking alongside Skye- tall, strawberry-blonde, with a blue streak in her hair, and a nose lightly dusted with freckles- and Lucas- shorter, dark-haired, with gentle eyes that surveyed his surroundings with caution.
“Come on,” they were calling to her, their voices bouncing across the walls of her manipulation.
But the self that Anj was watching through her own illusions did not follow. Instead, she turned away from them, walking hurriedly down the hall.
Anj listened to her own voice echo throughout the walls of her mind.“You guys go ahead! I’ll be right back...”
Suddenly, the tendrils of light that Anj had conjured went blank, showing nothing. She stared at the empty illusion, and let it tighten into a glowing emerald knot before it disintegrated into the confining blackness.
There were no more memories of that day left for her to channel.
Anj forced herself to think. Why had she turned away?
I...wanted to talk to one of the teachers. I don’t know about what anymore, but...
Anj inhaled sharply at the sound of a cold, metallic voice that came from nowhere.
“You must be very confused.”
Anj leapt to her feet, whirling around and searching for the source of the voice. She had heard the owner of it speak to her before. She had hoped she would never hear that voice again.
But she had forgotten how, when, or why.
“What are you going to do to me?” Anj called out, unable to keep the slight tremor out of her voice.
Before her, the darkness was split apart by an opening, from which light that was much too brilliant to be sunlight shined into the space, just tall and wide enough for her to slip through.
Anj took a step back.
A tall, shapeless figure stood in the chamber outside of the lightless prison, their hands folded behind their back.
“I don’t believe that I’m in the position to be giving answers to questions. But, Anj, I assure you that yours will be answered soon, very soon, whether you like it or not.”
Anj stared back, unable to tear her gaze away as she stood there frozen.
She was no longer terrified of them.
Her heart pounded against her chest at the memory of what she had done.
Start writing here…