My name is Callum McDonald, and I don’t know who I am.
I get flashes sometimes, pictures that dance through my mind, but as soon as I reach for them they vanish into a whisper. It’s been happening for almost a week now. I have to guess, because the only way to track time anymore is the rising and falling of the sun, and my almost-memories have kept me preoccupied. They demand my attention, forming faces and shapes that tease; their way of tormenting me for forgetting them. I try to put them into words, to speak them back into existence, but each time I reach for the right description, they disappear, no more than an empty wisp.
Their eternal eluding is almost enough to make me go mad. I imagine I would have, except, each time they vanish, they leave behind the image of a girl. A constant for me to hold on to. She is dark and mysterious, shrouded in a curtain of silky black hair that cascades down her back in waves. My subconscious tells me she’s lovely, but her features are marred, hidden by the blurring edges of my broken memory. Like a captivating piece of art viewed in a gallery that you experienced firsthand. Exquisite, but left behind, it becomes a shade, it’s full beauty lost in translation. That’s what she is to me. My shadowed muse.
But I remember her eyes. And they way I felt when I thought that she was looking at me. Like she saw me.
It’s the first time I’ve felt alive since I awoke.
I clutch at the image of her dark gaze, trying to sear it into my brain so it never fades. I walk like that for a while, with the beginnings of a song building in my mind. The melody is haunting but beautiful, lilting on the breeze. Lyrics haven’t formed, but the words flit around my thoughts, just waiting for me to grab them.
Shadow… fractured… haunted… muse…
Golem’s silent shambling gives me time to weave the words into a poem. It isn’t perfect, but I’m pleased to be able to make sense of some of the chaos running rampant in my head. I hum the tune a few times to perfect the pacing with the new lyrics.
I’ve found my dark angel,
I’ve made her my shadowed muse.
My fractured mind may ever wander,
But her haunted gaze I’ll never lose.
I sing it a few more times to cement it in, and I’m thankful that my new memories have remained mostly intact. They may not be beautiful, but they’re there; providing something to keep me together. After several run-throughs, I take it from the top, working to put a verse to my freshly constructed chorus.
Before I can finish the first stanza, a sharp noise pulls my attention to Golem. He’s prowling; hunting something it looks like he’s cornered against a rock wall. A dog is barking, but its yips soon turn to snarls and growls as Golem advances on it.
I come closer, drawn by the sound. As I approach I see the animal, body tense as it huddles away from Golem, its blue eyes flashing furiously as it guards the ward behind him.
A wave of nausea rolls through me as I look into the eyes that have haunted my mind since I first saw them. They are wide in panic as they stare at the Fallen figure in front of her. My fallen figure.
Instinctively, I dig my heels against the ground, hoping to slow Golem’s attack. But my feet sink into the ground and I slide forward as smoothly as if I were standing on an icy pond. Being transparent tends to have that effect on you.
Golem advances, unaware of my desperate attempts to slow him down. The girl stands frozen, pressed back against the rock face, hugging her dog around his neck to keep him from attacking. Golem snarls and presses in, he’ll reach her soon if I can’t find a way to stop him.
I scream at the top of my lungs, an angry cry that makes my throat ache and leaves me feeling lightheaded. Still nothing. Golem is only a few steps away.
He lets out a guttural cry and raises his arm to strike when the dog lunges forward, breaking free from the girl’s grip. “Kee, no!” She cries for him to stop at the same time Golem roars in pain.
Kee has latched himself on Golems outstretched hand and shakes violently, causing my body to shudder like a rag doll. It only slows him for a moment before he flings his arm sideways with unnatural strength, sending the dog flying high through the air until he hits the ground with a high pitched whine.
“Kee!” My muse screams again, this time taking an involuntary step towards her pet, inching her closer to Golem.
“No!” I surge forward, frantically looking around for something, anything I can do to help. Above the girl’s head, there is a small indent in the craggy rocks. If she could reach it, she could use it to pull herself up and out of Golem’s grasp. The problem is, it’s high, and with her focus on Golem, she hasn’t seen it.
Golem lets out an excited groan and I can feel his hunger intensifying. He raises his arms again, ready to strike. I look at the girl. Cornered against the wall, she looks small and fragile. Her lovely bronze skin pales as she watches the monster in front of her, but her eyes are still the same entrancing shade of midnight. She may not know I exist, but I can’t bear the thought of losing her.
I cry out, cursing fate for the hand she’s dealt me. For stealing my family, my friends, and even myself away from me. The sound is raw and ragged as I think how particularly cruel she is. To put an angel in my path only to have her ripped away too. It’s too much to take.
“There! Look there!” My voice breaks as my yell turns into a plea. I know it’s pointless, but I’m unable to abandon hope. The divot is only a few inches above her shoulder, if she could just find it…
Suddenly, the girl’s head whips in my direction and stops on my face. Her eyes widen, and her lower lip trembles, but in a motion that seems to last forever, she focuses her attention to where I’m pointing. Her head turns back to me for a millisecond before Golem shrieks again and she jumps into action. With a graceful twist and an impressive leap, she reaches the handhold.
Using strength hidden by her delicate features, she hoists herself into the crags of the rocks, and scrambles up out of Golem’s reach. His swipes angrily at her feet and claws against the rocks, but his impaired motor skills won’t allow him to climb after her.
The girl pulls herself a few feet higher until she reaches a small landing. She scurries back to press herself firmly against the wall and brings her knees to her chin, securing her position. She watches Golem warily beneath her as he gnashes his teeth and continues to reach for her. Her chests rises and falls heavily as she stares down at him, her brows furrowed in a mixture of anger and disgust. Eventually, her breaths slow and her gaze tears from Golem back to where I stand.
Again, her eyes stop exactly where my body would be if it was still my body. She fixes her stare intently at me and her expression softens and twists to incredible sadness. Her brows knit together and she tilts her head, like she’s trying to solve a puzzle. Another angry cry from Golem pulls her attention from my direction and back to my grotesque form. Her sight lingers on his snarling face a minute longer, then with another seamless motion, she’s up and gone, bounding into the hidden crevices of the mountain.
It takes Golem some time to register she has left. He struggles against the rock a few moments longer before his arms slowly droop to his side and he backs away. The fervor in his body has been replaced with sluggishness once again, but I can still feel the hunger that gnaws at him. It twists my stomach in a way that is almost painful.
But I don’t care.
She got away. My muse is safe and out of harm’s reach. For now, at least.
But bigger than all that, now that the danger has gone and my racing thoughts have slowed, a revelation has begun to form in my mind. It’s big, and incredible, and impossible. It can’t be, but my spirit soars at the thought of what it would mean if it was. This I will speak out loud. My voice refuses to come out any louder than a whisper, but I can only hope to make it true. I lick my lips and feel my breath hitch as the thought catches in my throat. I swallow, and push myself to say the words. The crazy, wonderful, terrifying words.
“She saw me.”