What was it like to step outside?
Omisha pressed her cheek against the cool window sill, just as she did for the past twenty-years when the clock struck twelve, staring through her faint yet pale reflection out into the black. Was it what they called the night? Where were the stars? The moon? Not that she ever saw them. She only ever read about them in a book. Air seeped through the gaps, cold and chilly as it caressed her tender flesh. Omisha pulled back the sleeves of her white dress, exposing the numerous scars all over her arm. From cuts to incisions to needle-holes as she liked to call them; some faded, others fresh like the slit across her wrists, open for all to see.
But who was there to see?
Only the walls but Omisha did not mind. She read once about a boy who was too shy to show his scar and so he wore a mask, whatever that was, to hide it and it worked though that still did not stop the other children from poking at him. “Stupid,” Omisha scoffed, murmuring under her breath. “Pointless.”
Omisha was not one to mind. In fact, she preferred it for she could pretend to have company in her little room and the walls were good company, her only company ever since the haze of childhood cleared from her mind, ever since she began to understand, to truly understand.
But was it enough for her?
“Like that matters.” Omisha pulled away but only a step, enough to let her hand rest on the smooth glass. She sighed, breath quivering as a chill crept up her spine, spreading through the nerves amidst her flesh. Omisha gazed at her reflection just as the freckles on her cheek gazed back from it, her long, straight hair hues of amber and gold. She closed her sunken eyes, inhaling through her nose and exhaling through her mouth.
In and out.
In and out.
In and out.
Second, after second, after second, she tried to calm herself. Maybe then she could actually sleep but it did not work. Nothing ever worked. Omisha opened her eyes, stifling a yawn alongside the fire that erupted in her veins as the purple bruise around her throat had yet to fade away. Gritting her teeth, she smacked the window, letting out a silent scream but the glass only vibrated in its place, causing her hand to throb.
Omisha cursed under her breath, biting her lips hard enough to bleed. “I just want to see outside. Is that so wrong?”
The pain did not even make her twitch. It had stopped doing so a very long time ago. Too long, almost another lifetime. Then again, it made no difference. All lives were the same for her; shackles tight around her legs. Cold, hard, and numbing but invisible as if they existed only in her mind.
But they were so real…
Once again, who would notice anyway?
Something shifted behind, followed by a soft yawn. Omisha gasped, darting around while her heart raced amidst the void beneath her chest, her eyes resting on the messy bed. The sheets shifted again and this time, she froze.
Like a film on a video reel, everything came back.
“You… you always notice, don't you?”
How could she have forgotten? How could she have been so selfish? Clasping her hands tight, Omisha inched forward, her vision blurred from the tears that welled up inside her eyes. Step after step after step she took, using up what little strength her trembling legs had, sucking them dry until they collapsed by the bedside, tears finally let loose but in silence. The last thing Omisha wanted was the little thing, all bundled up in a blanket, to wake up. His cheeks, so warm… so soft…so gentle…. A minute passed, then two, ten, and thirty but she refused to move her hand away from the baby, her baby.
“You know, don’t you?” Omisha whispered, ruffling the cap on his bald head. “You always have. You don’t say it, but that’s the truth, isn’t it? Oh silly me! Even if you wanted to, you can’t since you don’t know any words except… well… ‘Ma’.”
Being extremely careful, she made herself comfortable on the bed, nose against nose with her boy, her son, and her only friend; his odor, so sweet, his little snores, so soothing. Omisha sniffed, wiping her tears but could not resist giving him a kiss so she did not. “I think the books are wrong. They say children are too small to understand but… you’re the only one who ever understood me.”
Omisha wrapped her arms around him, kissing him again. With a deep breath, she closed her eyes. For how long? She neither knew nor cared for she wanted to hold onto this bliss a little longer. Just a bit more.
She counted his breaths, chest rising and falling beneath her palm.
Omisha chuckled. He was breathing really fast now, not giving her mind any rest though this restlessness was something she did not despise. “Why are you in such a hurry?” She whispered again, staring back at the window. “Are you like me? Do you want to see the outside as well? Is that your wish?”
Arm outstretched, she closed her fingers into a fist as if the wish was caught between them, struggling to wiggle out. If only it was that easy. If only it was that close. “The sun, the deep blue sky, the swirling clouds, fresh air… what are they like? I’ve read about them but I don’t know them. Not really. I mean, it’s always dark outside the window. Why is that? It’s not night all the time, is it, Elior?”
As if to reply, Elior, her son, squirmed in her embrace, eyes, beautiful eyes wide open; twirling blue pupils in shades of twinkling violet staring deep into her soul if it were even there. The books always said that death tore away the soul from the body.
Omisha smiled regardless, “Aww…. I woke you, didn’t I? I’m sorry. Let me fix my mistake, put you to sleep.”
But… a part of her did not want to. A part of her was glad that he woke up, glad that someone, other than the walls, listened. Maybe it was wrong of her to think as such. It was too late for him and sleep was very important for a baby and yet, even so, she let it be. Omisha sat upright, rubbing his chest, though lightly. She feared that even a slight push could break his ribs though such a possibility did not sit right given the blood that flowed through his veins, her blood. Maybe it did not transfer over to him.
“And is that such a bad thing?” She muttered.
Little Elior stared at her, frowning. He probably thought she was mad. Did babies even think? Well, if they did, then these thoughts, like his frown, disappeared as rumbling shook their bed followed by a loud clap of thunder nearly rupturing her ear-drum. Though Omisha, once again, did not twitch. She had seen this too many times before but not Elior. This was his first time.
Dimples sunken deep, eyes watering up, he opened his mouth to let out the shocks, too loud to digest but Omisha, to her surprise even, was quick to react. She scooped him up, cuddling tight against her breast, rocking back and forth. “There, there. I’m right here.”
Her gut twisted, throat tightened as she struggled to swallow down a still-beating heart. To see him cry, Omisha had to force the heart down, gulping it with a bitter taste in her mouth, more bitter than even acid. Nevertheless, she took a deep breath, bringing him closer to her face, “This reminds me, do you know what rain is?”
Elior suddenly stopped as if curious for an answer. Omisha, wiping his eyes, decided not to disappoint. “I read that it comes after the loud bang just now. The author called it thunder and then, drop after drop after drop of water, not in glass like I drink in but… free.”
She paused, gazing up at the ceiling, imagining grey clouds swirling above her head, droplets falling on her bare skin, their touch sending chills but of the kind that did not make her hair crawl. “Well, to be honest, I don’t know what rain is either. Truly. I want to though… I want to, so very much.”
Elior yawned, eyelids drooping.
“Oh!” Omisha squeaked, covering his mouth. “Am I boring you? I guess that shouldn’t be surprising. I mean… you’re the first person I’ve ever talked to, like really talked to so… thank you.”
When she hugged him, the whole world stood still, watching as the two melted into one. It was a little world, yes, confined to the box that was their room but the only world she cared about was right in her arms, where she wanted him to be. Now and always. “Thank you for coming into my eyes,” tears streamed down her cheeks. “Thank you so, so much for coming into my life, for always listening to my boring rambling, and for becoming my companion. Thank you!”
One more time, Omisha looked up at the window ahead, a window that glimmered back in the dim light of her room. She remembered the deafening silence that always crept into her ear, month after month after month. She remembered the sound of her beating heart, the wheeze of the air entering into her lungs, and the sobs deafened by the pillow on her face. She remembered the emptiness of it all or rather, nothing at all. Her dreams were nothing but dreams and her wish… was nothing but a young girl’s fantasy.
“But then, you will never leave this room,” Omisha cried in this silence. “You will never see the outside. You will never see what rain is like, you will never see the sun, and you will never make… friends.”
“You will be just like me.”
She shook her head, putting down a sleeping Elior to her side. “No. You are meant to be so much more.”
From the side-table to her left, hidden in a locked drawer, away from Elior’s reach as a necessary precaution, Omisha revealed a knife. Clutching its hilt beneath her sweaty palm, she brought the knife closer, blade dull from the dried blood indicating the times it had been used before. Omisha had lost count, not that it mattered to her anymore. If the edges were sharp enough for one more time tonight, then that was enough.
Omisha pointed the blade between her breasts, hands quivering as the metal tip pressed against her flesh through the cloth of her dress. Screams echoed in her ears. Were they hers? Yes. A distant memory. A memory she did not want to relive. Omisha panted, once, twice, thrice, trying to find the courage until, at last, she embraced the truth.
Pain and sickness, fear and cold, something warm flowing down her skin. Her chest burned as if someone had lit it on fire, sweat trickling down her forehead. Vision blurred, Omisha tried to breathe in but her lungs refused to obey, suffocating her from within. Paler and paler she grew as bit by bit the little warmth in her started to fade away. She bit through her lips, clutched the bedsheet beneath, its shades of white slowly turning into red. The small world around her started to spin, disappearing into the abyss as the metallic taste of blood filled her mouth, suffocating her even more. Everything else was deaf to her ears, blind to her mind except him, except her little baby boy.
“So you called me at last.”
The voice echoed in her head, ringing inside. It made her skin crawl, her body shiver or maybe it was the knife sucking life out of her. It was hard to tell. Omisha placed her hand on top of Elior, glaring up as a bony arm stretched from a shadow ahead.
“You hold your child as if you have the power to protect him. Humans truly are foolishly arrogant.”
“But…” Omisha coughed, pulling out the knife with a grunt. “But… that… works for you, doesn’t it, Lady Diana?”
“Omisha Ulric,” the Lady emerged from the shadows, clad in a black veil, her mouth unmoving. “The girl who cannot die.”
“And you,” Omisha spat, “Goddess of Life and Death… who could never get hold of me despite all her divinity, who is now bound to me by an oath, who cannot even touch me.”
“Because it is out of mercy!” Lady Diana hissed. “Because I do not break promises. When a mortal offers his heart to me, I respond. That is the way.”
Omisha grinned, cleaning the blood around her mouth, “But I’m no mortal am I?”
“Divine Law is so much more than your mind can comprehend,” Lady Diana circled the bed. It was difficult to tell what her eyes were on. “But no matter, you called and I answered. Unlike you, I do not break the Law.”
Omisha raised an eyebrow, “Because you cannot.”
Lady Diana shook her head, “I thought solitude would humble you but it only made you more arrogant. Now tell me, what do you wish for?”
Omisha paused, staring at Elior, totally oblivious to what was happening around him. Apparently, this was how children were. They only cared about things that mattered to them and that was alright.
“Oh, I see,” Lady Diana jumped up and down for whatever reason there was, inching closer and closer. “So have you forgotten your dream? Let it go? Understood how fruitless it is? Given up?”
Omisha scoffed, unflinching as the Lady’s bony finger traced across her collar bone and around her neckline. A small nudge was all it took to pierce the soft flesh beneath its touch. “You don’t understand a thing.”
“Is that so, human?”
“I still want to step outside, to see the world with my own eyes, to meet other people, make other people or maybe even find a man who loves me. Though,” Omisha sighed, coughing up blood again, “I… I… don’t think the last part is really necessary. After all, I have been blessed with a son.”
Lady Diana cocked her head.
Omisha, the immortal mother, continued, “But I have not forgotten my dream, Dianna. Never.”
Lady Diana held her face, lifting it up by the chin, “Then is this dream of yours why you called me here? To offer your child for the sake of your freedom? You knew that it was an offer I could never reject. After all, it is why I planted his seed inside you. Your blood runs strong in his veins. I am impressed”
“No,” Omisha replied flatly, swatting the Lady’s hands away.
“Why?” Lady Diana cocked her head, her veil withering and healing, withering and healing, again and again as if it had a mind of its own.
Letting out a soft smile, Omisha caressed her baby boy’s cheeks. The screams returned again, echoing in her mind and amusing the divine Lady Diana. This time, however, they could not pierce into her soul like before. This time, they failed miserably for she remembered what came after. She remembered the cries, the little cries of a baby. She remembered a soft, warm thing cuddled in her arms for the first time, sucking at her breast.
“Elior,” she had whispered into his ear, as he grew still at the sound of her voice. “My Elior.”
This was the name she chose because he was her light and light was never meant to be constrained.
It was meant to flow.
“Because, unlike you, I have a heart.”
Lady Dianna rested her bony hands on her chest as if mocking, “That you have now given to me.”
Omisha picked up her boy in her bloodied arms, taking great care as to not sully his skin. She wanted him clean. “True. In a way, I am giving it up but like I said just now, I will never forget.”
“So you know what you are going to pay me?” the Lady chuckled, twisting her head as if the very idea excited her. “Very well! Very well! Make your wish then!”
Omisha took a deep breath, and with trembling arms, held out her son, held him for the last time. “O Lady of Light and Dark, use my soul as a vessel and grant thy wish! Take my son, Elior Omisha. Take this child and let him live!”
“And what do you offer in return?”
Once Omisha would have hesitated. Thought it through again and again and again. The risks, the benefits, the loss. Everything. But now… now, none of that mattered anymore. “I offer you my dream.”
“Then I shall take it!” Diana shouted, holding out her arms as she snapped her fingers, disappearing right after as if she never existed.
The first moment, nothing happened.
The next, Omisha’s heart stopped, twisting inside her chest.
After that, she felt her arms grow light, the warmth leaving bit by bit, not even glancing back. As darkness began its descent onto her mind, she saw Elior, saw him fade amidst the blankets. She saw his smile, his sweet smile that eased her shoulders as if a burden, once present, had been lifted at last. She saw him leave, leave to another world, a world she always wanted to see.
But she did not mind.
“Go, my sweet,” Omisha called after him as the darkness engulfed her whole, never to leave again. “Go and be free.”
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