Duet by MarkHirst ()
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We made a strange pair when Sylenia and I finally ventured into the daytime world.
I stood tall in my new clothes and sharp haircut, while she walked ahead of me in a cloak, a clean but dishevelled fabric wrapped close around her body and head. At once she was both strong and frightened as she moved through the bustling city, arrogant and superior in her inherent strength and enhanced abilities, yet fearful her white hair and true nature might be discovered. When we were out of earshot, she would talk openly and directly to me with her musical and entrancing voice, but in the dank and dusty crowds of the downtown markets, she stood close and spoke in barely a whisper.
My instinct was to extend a supporting hand like I used to do with my kid brother, an unspoken gesture of support that might provide reassurance, but I have learned my lesson with bruises lasting days, so I'm forced to stand with her alone.
We are on a scouting mission, standing across the road from the Shallows District Projects waiting for the traffic signal to cross. These days, you just as likely to see a cow pulling a cart as a car, so the usual taint of fuel is often masked by the odours of the countryside, a heady mix of heat and smells that taxes even the most hardened city rat. Sylenia bumps against me, jostled by impatient workers filling the pavement who eagerly shift in anticipation of the changing traffic signal. She re-adjusts the cloak around her head and glances up at me, her face pleading to escape this noisy melee of sound and bodies. I look into those slate grey eyes and see the glaze of claustrophobia.
In an instant she is gone, swept away by a human tide released as the light changed. I blunder into the head of an indignant donkey that begins to heehaw loudly. Ahead of me is a sea of dirty grey faces, eyes down and shoulders set against each other, a shambling mass of bodies moving with one purpose, to reach the other side.
Carelessly ignoring the dangers, I shout out her name and begin pushing my way through the oblivious crowds. As I reach the centre of the road, the tone of the crossing signal changes again. Soon the road way will be filled with cars and animals, but I still cannot see her. I look back to where we stood, shouting like a madman. Tired faces look up at me with a mixture of amusement and indifference, too wrapped in their own troubles to be interested in mine. My gut begins to tighten as an old feeling takes hold, the cold apprehension when I realised years ago that my parents were dead; the helplessness I felt when my brother was murdered.
Four weeks ago I was ready to leave Sylenia, in the hope that my life would become less interesting. For some reason I stayed, and in that time we have destroyed two gangs and connected their drug supply to the Projects. Now my life feels good, now it has purpose. Cold and aloof, Sylenia is changing my life in a way that my father, brother and orphanage pastor never could. I never realised it before, but she has become the most precious thing in my life.
Eventually I find her huddled in a dirty doorway, watching the passing crowd with fierce intensity and shivering slightly despite the heat. She leans against me and says nothing for a moment, making no attempt to stop me pushing a lock of white hair back under her hood.
I wait awhile as Sylenia collects her thoughts, while the crowds move past us with complete disinterest. It has been a moment of weakness for her, and Sylenia does not bear it well. She tells me there are only a few million Lazloi left, and they are spread across many worlds. It means she has never been amongst so many people in one place before, never experienced the teeming millions crammed into Candor City. It is only later that she is ready to continue, and we begin our search for Dust in the Projects.
Until now, I thought she was the strong one, but now I realise she needs me as much as I need her.
-- Joshua Isuza, Shallows District, Candor City.
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