"Golden Eyes"

Alberto McKelligan Hernández

Something was different that morning, perhaps the light streaming in through the town's windows was quieter, and colder, the grass growing in the patches paler, and the wind was carrying gentler words across the water with a hush and perhaps... perhaps a sigh, and I had no choice but to stand still and to listen to all its longings and faint memories. From afar? Or maybe mine?

Yet I had no time to dwell on empty thoughts as I walked through the cobblestone streets of Figaro. I had a job to do. Concentration, that's all it takes, or so they said... I had people to look for... an empire to serve, and yes, I did swore my allegiance to the Emperor, he is my leader, I will take the flag and risk my life for it sir, will always do as you say sir, yes sir, is there anything I can do sir, why did I take this job sir? I am a killer for the Empire, and my job is to stop any insurrection, yes sir, I will do so sir, I will find and kill the sorceress, yes sir, I am aware, the devil sir, killed so many soldiers brothers soldiers she must pay sir yes sir she must.

Sitting there, by the docks, bargaining down the townspeople, I smiled at the thought that I look like any of them in their everyday lives in such a town, never knowing that the all mighty Empire would one day tear away the land and create something oh, so much better. All I had do know was to find that girl, and to destroy her. "By any means necessary" was the command, and I would have to follow it. Then I would rest... and rest.

By the time I had bought the dagger in the weapons shop, and settled down in the inn, I had more time to spend by the clear blue waters... And then, for some reason, my mind hurried to my loneliness, and a strange feeling of dread. And I thought it was nervousness, for this girl was actually dangerous. For the first time I doubted if the empire was not asking too much of me... fear, of dying... and then I wondered were such a feeling would come from.

I had never felt anything but allegiance to the empire... from the moment I joined their secret army division... they were strict, but fair. And it seemed to me that all they asked was hard work and that... was easy. From dawn, to dusk, working for the empire, never thinking, only serving.

Three whole days had gone by, and I had not seen the girl with the so-called golden green locks. Most of the time I walked through the night. I like the quiet, and the stars. And I must accept I had a hunch that the girl would show herself at night, trying to escape from house to house, thinking herself clever enough to dodge the empire. I viewed the scene with perfect ease; there she was, darting from corner to corner, trying to get enough supplies to dash out of town the next morning. She would now meet her match.

Two hours past midnight, I settled down in the pub. I ordered the town's specialty drink, and thought of retiring for the night as I lifted the frothy glass and watched it blaze through the candles in the bar windows. And then I saw her, the back of her head, the golden green locks beating against her back, back and forth, back and forth. I threw the gil unto bar, and slowly walked towards the window, reviewing the situation.

It was definitely the girl, walking slowly through the streets, gazing from time to time to the moon. Alone, with no weapons or armor of any kind, I smiled then at her foolishness... until I remembered the stories. Fire hands they called it back at Vector, and I squinted trying to view those so called tools of murder, and saw nothing. She turned the corner, and I left the bar.

Just then, as I closed the door behind me and I scurried through the walkways, hearing her steps, darting, moving, keeping perfect silence, I felt the same uneasiness sweep over me. Loneliness? Regrets? I did not know. My hand felt for the dagger, and I pressed myself until the wall. How fitting for this girl to die in the main street, I thought to myself. It will fit her reputation; definitely not one to die in a back alley. So I had heard in Vector, yes sir, I did hear you sir... hands of fire... killed so many... witch.

She was turning the corner, and then I would kill her, to avenge the death of so many. Three, two, one... the clouds parted, and the moon shone on her face as I lunged. It was then that she did the most remarkable thing... nothing. She didn't raise her hands, didn't scream, didn't act, didn't breathe... just waited. I dropped the knife and scurried away, feeling the shame burn through my blood.

* * * * *

She had done nothing but shine her golden eyes upon me, and stare deep inside. And in her eyes, I saw the pain. I saw slavery, and regret... at the hands of the empire. I saw her thoughts being ripped out and strewn across the sand. I saw her soul burn and rebel, trying to survive, I saw her self trying to be, trying to feel, to touch the tender walls of her heart and recognize what had once been, but had been burned. I saw her tears running through her mind, racing, trying desperately to know her, to understand her, to love her. I saw the years of loneliness and silence, of hushed memories, and cherished dreams. I saw myself running in her eyes. And being free.