❯ Hope with Blind Eyes – Chapter One ( Chapter 1 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Chapter One

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

Do you want to live?

That’s what he asked me…

Yes… yes…!

Though you might wonder why, when you looked at what life had offered me so far. School had gone well enough – I had been a bright student – until the voices. They had pained me so much – I had never known that my fellow students, my friends, were capable of so much secret hatred – and I had just wanted it to stop, which was how they found out. It was a day that I will never forget, a day that I can barely remember because I spent most of it sedated, sedate the `dangerous’ I-child for transportation to the Labs…

Afterwards, I would be left with nothing but a blur of lights and sounds to assure me that the next years had even happened – but I’m grateful, because I know that many of those sounds are my own screams.

So why, you wonder, would I wish to continue living? My life had not been completely without respite, but obviously I had known more pain than peace. My reason, of course, was `hope’ – a hope all my own, a hope that brought the shining aura of the kindest creature I’d ever seen smack into the middle of my darkest hour – a hope with blind eyes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

“You’re awake?”

The ceiling above me was white, but rather dusty. I was sure I’d never seen a ceiling like that before. Ceilings were white and clean, as were walls and floors and sheets and clothes… I stared at this impossible ceiling for a few moments before turning my head – aching, pounding, pulsing light, moving so painfully slow, but I turned my head – to face the speaker. The voice had been cool and soft and kind, a sweet whisper, and at first I was certain that I’d also never heard a voice like that before.

But then again – Do you want to live?

For several seconds, all I could do was stare in awe – that long dark hair, I remembered that, unless it had been a dream…? I tried to open my mouth to speak – though I have no idea what I would’ve said – only to be overcome by vertigo. When I could see again, I was surprised to find the man smiling tenderly at me. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen an expression like that directed at me even once in my entire life.

“Don’t speak,” he said – still in that beautiful, compassionate tone. “You need to drink something – here.” A cup of water was raised to my lips; I swallowed it all desperately. “You’re in better shape than I thought,” the man commented, sounding amused. “Are you up to eating, you think? Please, just shake or nod your head.”

The water had lit a fire in my stomach, and I nodded. His movement away from me and into the next room drew my eyes to my surroundings, and I was stunned. So many shapes, so many colors – dark wood, wine red fabric, green plants… The light was all wrong, too; it came streaming in through a large window in golden beams, and I could see more plants outside and hear birdsong and distant laughter – I wondered how I even knew the names of these things. It all seemed so totally foreign.

The man reappeared, a bowl of steaming soup in hand. “I just warmed up my leftovers from lunch; I hope you don’t mind,” he babbled pleasantly, as if everything was perfectly normal. I was so busy watching the bowl as he set it on the bedside table that I was caught off guard when he took hold of my shoulders to prop me up, but any surprised exclamation died in my throat when I finally got a good look at his face. His eyes…

“I’m not always the greatest cook,” he continued obliviously, “but I’ll make you something fresh next time. I know you’re still tired, so I just wanted to get something in you before you fall asleep again.” He offered a spoonful of the soup to me, and I wondered how in the world he handled it so easily. His eyes – this man was blind.

“Who are you?” I rasped. I narrowed my own eyes suspiciously at him. “And – and how did you know I’d nodded?” He chuckled, and shoved the spoon into my face so that I had no choice but to accept it warily.

“I told you that you shouldn’t talk. Telling you who I am will lead to far too in-depth a conversation for your present condition, I’m afraid.” He beamed cheerfully, and again I felt frozen in place in wonder. “Though I do look forward to conversing with you eventually; you seem to be rather quick. I could hear the way your head moved on the pillow.”

I was still full to bursting with more questions, but after that I shyly kept quiet and allowed him to spoon-feed me. He was very careful, and didn’t misjudge the location of my face once. Even the soup was better than anything I’d ever had, and I was just thinking that I ought to at least tell him that, and thank him, when I felt my already-feeble hold on consciousness slip away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ~

The next time I woke, it was to the same dusty-white ceiling, but I thought that it looked different. It looked almost yellow, somehow… Then I realized that the difference was merely a change in the lighting; it was being illuminated for me by an electric light instead of outside light – an incandescent light bulb, too, rather a harsh fluorescent light bulb like they’d always had in the Labs, I noted. I looked to the side, and found the man from before, seated in the same chair by the bed and running his fingers with practiced ease over the Enochian characters of a book for the blind. He wore a small and peaceful smile as he read, and for some reason I felt compelled to smile, too.

“What’s the light for?” I whispered. His eyebrows shot up, and his smile developed a humorous quirk.

“Awake again? Ah… The light was for just such a situation. The sun went down about an hour ago, and I thought it might have bothered you to wake up in the dark with someone moving around next to you.” I couldn’t help it – I really did smile this time.

“Thank you… for everything.” I shook my head incredulously. “Why are you doing so much? Who are you?”

He laughed as he snapped his book shut and set it aside. “I suppose I should have known you’d be inquisitive,” he mused. “You see, as for why I’m doing this, I… told you before that I was in charge of the government’s rather pathetic excuse for an attempt to regulate the white labs,” he said, and the sudden bitterness in his voice startled me. He shook his head sadly. “Out of all the angels who’d been in there any significant amount of time, you were the only one who was able to answer my question.”

I took a moment to absorb this. How many others? I wondered… I jumped in surprise when he suddenly clapped his hands together. “But that’s not something you should be worrying about right now,” he declared. “It’s not too late yet; would you like to take a bath?”

I shook my head slightly, forgetting that he couldn’t see. “No, thank you… I think I’m still too tired; I’d probably just hurt myself.”

He laughed again. “Oh, of course. I meant I would help you.”

I found myself blushing slightly in spite of myself. “Oh – I – but, I don’t want to inconvenience you; you are bli-” I froze, and blushed ten times worse; luckily, he didn’t seem to be offended.

“Not a problem, I assure you,” he said, waving it off. “You have my word that I have near-perfect coordination – I bathe myself, after all.”

I sighed, gnawing on my lower lip absentmindedly. “Well…”

“But more importantly, since you were unconscious for several days, I’ve actually already had to bathe you once,” he added, producing a fan from nowhere as I sweat-dropped.

“Fine,” I grumbled, willing the last remnants of my blush to go away. That didn’t go so well, as after allowing me to try to struggling into a sitting position for a few moments, the man scooped me up in his arms without warning. He was obviously quite strong, and normally that would have frightened me, but he merely smiled down at me…

As I got used to being carried, I tried to take the opportunity to get a look at the rest of the rooms in this place (however dimly lit it was at the moment). “Where is this?” I asked softly – the home was obviously very fine, full of books, paintings, and expensive-looking furniture.

“It’s merely my chambers,” he said off-handedly. “In the central palace of High Heaven.”

I choked. “A-All this is yours? The central palace – who are you?”

We achieved the bathroom as I was asking this, and he remembered to turn on the light for my benefit and set me down next to the counter so that I would have something to lean against. “I suppose it’s only fair,” he said mock-thoughtfully, helping me unbutton my shirt as he spoke. “I know that you are Raziel, once a cadet student. My name is Zaphikel, the Great Thrones.”

I yelped and jumped away. “WHAT?-!” I’d gotten a bit carried away, though, and swayed with dizziness; he reached out to hold my shoulder with one hand while making a waving gesture with his other.

“Please don’t worry about it,” he implored. “To be honest, this is why I hesitated to tell you…” I took a few deep breaths, trying to pull myself together for his sake.

“I’m sorry, sir, but please, I can’t let you do this-”

He scoffed. “Oh, trust me, you can, it’s easy. Now, are you going to take off your pants, or shall I do it for you?” Something about the diabolical way that he smirked made me shimmy out of them as quickly as I could without another thought.

I flushed the worst yet as he calmly started the bath water running. “But – but – the Great Thrones shouldn’t have to do something like this-”

He laughed again, music to my ears mixing with the running water. “Now, what about me that you’ve seen so far has led you to believe that I’m the type of person to care about that? Would I have suggested it if I had minded?”

Well, that shut me up. I fidgeted, miserable with contained politeness, until he judged the tub – an elaborate marble affair complete with silver spigots – to be full enough, and helped me in. I hissed through my teeth at the hot water’s first contact with my stiff joints, bringing to my attention a variety of fading bruises, and half-healed cuts and puncture wounds. I looked down at my body incredulously. I was really a mess… I froze as I felt Zaphikel’s long fingers brush the top of my bandaged head, and deftly search out the cut end of the cloth.

“Wait – I -”

“Hmm?” he murmured.

“What if -” I stopped as I realized abruptly that I had no idea what I was talking about. What was I afraid of? That my head would fall off? I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, relaxed. “Sorry.”

He arched one eyebrow delicately. “You have nothing to apologize for,” he informed me in clipped tones, and I noticed for the first time the thin, angry line of his lips as he unwound the gauze, ’round and ’round… The long strip finally fell away, and I watched apprehensively as he reached out a questing hand. At the same time, he hissed and jerked back, and I fell away with a startled yelp and a splash.

“What…?” I raised a hand to my head, and my eyes widened. “What…?” I repeated, almost whining in horror, and scrambled to my feet to see into the mirror.

“Raziel…?” Zaphikel hazarded, fingertips brushing my leg. I didn’t even notice.

Stitches. Arching up in half-circles on either side of my shaven head. I was vaguely aware of tears. “What did they do to me?” I muttered, dazed, too suddenly tired to scream.

“I doubt they did anything damaging, if that’s what has you worried,” the black-haired man said soothingly. “We would’ve noticed by now. And you still have your gift, don’t you?”

I looked away from my reflection in surprise, meeting his sightless eyes. “My-”

isheokayisheokaypleasestaycalm

“…You know?” I sunk back into the water; his eyes followed me.

He chuckled good-naturedly. “I did take you from the Lab. Rest assured, your tracks have been thoroughly covered. Once you are well, you will be free to begin a new life, complete with a freshly minted record of uninterrupted academic excellence.” He smiled dazzlingly, with just a touch of wickedness. “Now, shall we attend to the task at hand?”

I was too stunned to do more than utter a small, wordless noise of assent. Zaphikel plucked a bar of soft, herb-scented soap from a rack on the wall, and got to work. The gentle circular motions starting at my left shoulder eased my tense muscles – he carefully examined every inch of my skin for wounds with his free hand ahead of the hand with the soap to avoid causing me any undue pain – and his whispered words of comfort eased my mind. I wondered about these wounds… evidence of repeated intravenous injections on the back of my neck as well of the insides of my elbows; a long, jagged line of stitched-up skin right between where my wings came out… why couldn’t I remember any of it? It was like a nightmare after waking – a mostly forgotten shadow. Those ghouls in the back of my mind were the only thing to distract from how warm and safe I felt just now…

“Where…” I mumble, somewhat without meaning to. Zaphikel `hmm’ed again, and swept a hand over my side, prodding gently for broken ribs. It tickled, but I held back the laughter, biting my lip. “Well… Where should I go? Once I’m better, I mean. What should I do?”

He shrugged, smiled. He moved the soap over my stomach, tickling me even more and making my squirm involuntary. “You could do anything, go anywhere – be anyone… What do you want to do, any idea?”

His hands moved up, tracing over my chest, and I blushed at the reminder of my nakedness – even if he was blind – if not for the distraction, I might have realized then and there. “W-Well, I don’t know… I guess I should… go back to school…?”

He laughed outright at that; I glowered, deciding that I must’ve missed the joke. “You’re cute, kid,” he informed me, and for some reason it really startled me. “But you’ve got time to think about it-” one finger tapped the smooth top of my head, indicating, “-you can stay here until this grows out a bit.”

I sighed, relaxing into his touch again – I hadn’t even realized I’d tensed up. “Thank you…”

TBC

Hope with Blind Eyes – Chapter 2