Chapter 16: Recognition
"I'm the only one who won't pretend that you leaving didn't kill us." Marin yelled at me before running into the night.
For a moment I was consumed by my own tears, then I followed her. I would catch up to her and give her a hug. I would apologise and tell her that I loved her, no matter how far I was.
I heard a scream just as I was coming out of the house. The door banged behind me. One man held Marin from behind, the other quieted her by pressing a white cloth to her mouth.
And the third man, the only one whose Somaer mask was made of gold, looked directly at me.
Marin's body went limp.
Without taking his eyes off of me, he removed his mask. His face, masked or unmaksed, was familiar. I was too stunned and frightened to scream. Within seconds, three spectres appeared, surrounding Marin and her captors in a circle.
"Marin!" I finally found my voice. What was happening? I ran towards them, without knowing what I would do.
There was light, even though my eyes were closed. Underneath my body was the bed, and I could feel the warm presence of someone pushing down my wrists. A searing blaze inside my head was clawing to get out of me. But I held it fast, even though the holding hurt.
My body convulsed, I gasped for air. Someone was speaking to me.
"It's over now," repeated Emil, the turner. "You can look."
I sat up, panting. He helped me take off the blindfold. It was still daytime. The curtain was drawn shut over the window, but the sun glowed through the green fabric.
The other source of light came from where I sat on the bed, from me.
Emil was beside me, his arms still on me. He wouldn't let me go until this was over.
Around us, illuminated by the light shining from my body, hovered the spectres, moving in a lazy circle. Tendrils of mist swirled at their feet as their long, silken hair swayed in time with their movements. Their faces had no more expression than a mask, and this was emphasised by grey shadows around their eyes. When they moved, the air whispered.
This was the very sight I had seen on the night Marin was taken.
No one had seen what I had seen. What happened that night should have been impossible. They had vanished, and I didn't doubt that they appeared again somewhere else.
"Is this real?" I asked.
"How is this happening?" They were so close, I could have touched them. Six in total, each one was different, but all so beautiful. "Why are they here?"
"They're here because of you," he said. "This is happening, because of you. Do you understand?"
"I don't understand."
He shifted next to me, and I tore my gaze off the circling spectres to look into his dark eyes. I was curious about him, not because it would benefit me somehow, but because he saw me like no one ever had.
That wasn't true—Pyren had seen me, when he taught me the things he knew. He hadn't spoken to the others, I don't think he did. I was the only one who had taken his interest. But that had been different.
Perhaps it was his gentleness, or his serum-induced beauty, but something about Emil moved by heart.
"The maidens are drawn to what human life projects," said Emil, holding my gaze without fail. "Serum enhances it. When you remove your mask, the signal is like a beacon. Some can control the projection and go unmasked without the spectres ever touching them."
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WATTYS 2018 SHORTLIST "Every person is a book, Yael. You just need to find the right way to read them." In the land of Vynam, all must wear masquerade masks to ward off the deathly touch of the spectres. Eighteen-year-old Yael was a talented mask-m...