“Killian...” I repeated absentmindedly.
I had never met anyone named Killian before. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was from a different division. Something flickered in his eyes as I said his name, and he was wary as he pulled away from me, shifting off my body so that I could sit up and face him.
“Where are you from?” I asked him curiously.
He pursed his lips and hesitated.
“You wouldn’t know it,” he finally answered.
He paused. “London.”
“Hm,” I said disappointedly. “I’ve never heard of it.”
I gave him a skeptical look, then said, “Well, where is it? What division is it in? Nou Vil, Priar, Saltsland, or Grim?”
“It does not exist here,” he replied simply. “It is not of this world.”
I was at a loss for words. What was he playing at? He couldn’t be serious, but then again he showed no signs of telling anything but the truth. It wasn’t impossible, considering Nou Vil had found evidence of other existing worlds outside of our own. They went as far as having real encounters with the aliens of those worlds, so what he was saying shouldn’t have been a shock to me.
“You’re…from Earth. Aren’t you?”
Killian furrowed his brows. “How did you know?”
“I’ve heard of it. I don’t know anything about it, though.” I paused before adding, “You’re part of that Exogène group, right?”
“I was,” he admitted. “Not anymore.”
When he made no signs of explaining any further, I said in disbelief, “Wow. Is that all you’re going to say about that?”
“For now, yes.”
“But…you’re an alien! You’re a real alien. Why are you here? What did you do that had you so desperate to go into hiding?”
“All in good time,” he said. “But first, I would like to know a little more about you before I continue.”
I was taken aback by his change of subject. I shrugged, fiddling with my hair in my lap as he stared at me with a weighted gaze. Other than what happened three years ago, my life was completely eventless. Even as I told him this, he insisted on asking what exactly had happened.
“It’s really nothing important,” I said, shaking my head. ” Exogène sounds more interesting.”
“Maybe not to you,” I grumbled, frowning at him. “Don’t be such an ass.”
He grabbed my wrist tight enough to leave bruises, and I responded by slapping him as hard as I could across the face. He recovered quickly, grabbing my hair close to the roots to hold me still as I flailed and kicked wildly. I gasped in pain when he twisted my arm into an uncomfortable position.
“Do not test me,” he said calmly, paying no mind to me as I pushed against his chest. “I am fully capable of breaking your arm in three different places, and I won’t hesitate to do it.”
“We have a deal,” I growled. “You said you wouldn’t hurt me.”
“Yes, and you said you would not lie, however that is the only thing you have been doing this entire time. You’re even lying to me now when you say what happened three years ago wasn’t important. I have held up my end, and I expect you to start doing the same by telling me everything.”
I winced at the sharp pain shooting through my arm. Killian really was a persistent son of a bitch, but as much as I hated to admit it, he was right. It was unfair of me to that to him. Although…
“Do you really blame me?” I laughed humorlessly. “Yes, it was very hypocritical of me, but don’t you think forcing someone to give you a place to stay is a little more serious a crime?”
“That doesn’t matter,” he snapped. “You’ve already agreed to the conditions, which means, at this point, it is no longer force, seeing as you were willing to consent so quickly. That is the past now. I am talking about the one thing that still stands between us—our deal. For every moment you break your promises, I have the right to break mine. Doesn’t that seem fair?”
Unfortunately, it was, but I wasn’t about to give in to him so easily this time. I still had some dignity left in me, even if I was dumb enough to have let him into my life. At this point, I had nothing left to do but tell him what really happened to me that day in the summer.
“Before I was a thief, I was a smuggler,” I began, successfully shoving him off of me. “Normally, the job’s not so bad—especially if you’re small like me. If you’re smuggling goods to Grim, though… Well, that’s a whole other story.”
I explained to him how Grim is the dirtiest, roughest, and most dangerous division on our planet. It was over-populated with mutant beings completely intent on wiping out my species for revenge purposes, but was willing to be “civil” when the trade came to drugs.
“We have two very different interpretations of that word ‘civil’,” I explained as I stared down at the fresh bruise on my wrist. “When you’re being civil with someone in Priar, New Time, or Saltsland, it doesn’t involve disconnecting heads from their bodies. In Grim, such is the case.
“My friend, Hyler—” I paused to swallow the lump in my throat. “No, I shouldn’t say that. He was more than that. He was there when I woke up for the first time, and he was there until his very last breath. For that, I think he deserves a title much more significant than that. Hyler was my life. He was the air I breathed, the pain I felt, the rising and setting of every sun. A person everyone deserves to have at least once in their lifetime.” I had to stop again to rub away the sting of tears in my eyes before I could continue. “Hyler was the one who got me in to the smuggling business. His boss allowed me to work there so long as I kept quiet and did as I was told. It was a simple thing to do for a six-year-old who never spoke and hardly knew right from wrong. So, I agreed to it. As children, Hyler and I would do simple smuggling jobs that weren’t necessarily crucial to the business, but it paid good money. As we got older, though, it went from smuggling money to food, then to animals, then precious jewels, and finally, the drugs. Not many people were asking for them back then, so when Grim contacted us, we couldn’t refuse. I remember Hyler going on about how bad the pay was for such a risky job, saying we could’ve gotten more if we had stolen the stuff ourselves. We went with it anyway, not really thinking much of it. That is, until we reached the Grimian shore.
“They were waiting for us. With their twisted bodies and colossal size, they were horrifying enough to make us squirm. It didn’t help that there was only a small group of them there to greet us and not the typical laughter and chatter we were used to in places like Nou Vil or Saltsland. The scene was so eerie. I had had a bad feeling about it from the very beginning. Had I known what I know now, I would’ve listened to my gut. I would’ve turned the boat around and sailed away, no matter how hard Hyler fought me. If I had done so, he would still be here today and I wouldn’t be hiding in this dump to forget about my dishonorable name.” I stopped to take a deep, trembling breath. “Then it happened. Something was wrong—a mix up with the order or a missing number of boxes—I don’t know. All I remember is that horrid sound.”
My voice broke off halfway, and I quickly wiped away the tears that dared to escape.
“There was so much blood...” I whispered hoarsely. “I was too horrified—too devastated—to do anything but watch as—” I couldn’t bring myself to say it, so I took a moment to collect myself before continuing. “I would do anything to bring him back.”
I saw Killian shift out of the corner of my eye, and I looked up at him, slightly shocked to see him looking at me so closely. I had almost forgotten he was listening. Again, I wiped my face so that I could finish my story.
“I left him there. I left his body in a foreign place to rot among monsters. When I came back to Priar and told them what had happened, they went after me. It was against the code to leave a partner behind in any way, shape, or form, and it was punishable by death. That’s why I had to leave to start a new life here. I never forgot what Hyler said, though. He always believed thieving was a better way to support oneself in this division. For the past three years, I’ve been taking his word as if my life depended on it. Which, in some ways, it did. I haven’t had any problems so far, so I think it’s safe to say I’ll be okay. He would’ve wanted that.”
It was odd how I felt after spilling my guts out to a stranger like that. I hadn’t exactly expected to feel as good or relieved as I did now. For a second, I almost hated Killian for the feelings I had after describing such an horrible thing. When I thought about it, though, I couldn’t help but think that it was probably good to tell someone about it. All the pain and guilt I had felt for the past three years was still there, but it felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. Suddenly it wasn’t as hard to bear as it was before. What was the word for it?
“Confession,” I answered myself softly. “It’s my confession. My testimony. Isn’t that what it’s called?”
“More or less,” Killian replied softly.
I felt something brush against my upper arm. It was Killian, I realized, as I turned to face him. His fingertips traced the dark, coin-sized circles on my shoulders that gradually got smaller as they trailed down to the crook of my elbow.
“It’s strange how your sun changes your skin like this,” he murmured.
I cringed away from him, still unaccustomed to his touch. He curled his fingers into a fist, pulling away from me. For a moment, there was an awkward silence. I broke it with a long sigh.
“I suppose I should confess, too,” he said, eyes still fixed on the spots on my arms. “You said you wanted to know why I was here.”
I frowned, and said, “I was only saying that to keep you from knowing the truth. I couldn’t care less about what you have to say.”
Killian’s mouth parted as his brows set in a hard line, but he didn’t say anything.
“At least I’m telling the truth,” I mocked.
The funny thing was that I was actually half-lying when I said I was telling the truth. At some point, I did want to know why I was helping him, but I was feeling too emotionally exhausted to listen to him. It hadn’t even been a whole day and Killian was already becoming a nuisance. His story would have to wait another day. I slid off the bed and padded over to my corner again, plopping down with finality.
“Good night,” I said to him, resting my forehead on my knees as I held them to my chest.
He didn’t reply. Instead, I heard him turn over under the sheets without another word. Thus, leaving me to ponder on the events of today until I eventually drifted off to sleep.