Chapter 5: The Ugly Truth about Beauty
The morning was quiet, as if waiting for what was to come. Most of the camp was still asleep and the sun was barely peeking above the horizon. It didn’t take me long to get ready. The couple who I had eaten with last night were still sleeping and it was better that way. I hadn’t told them what I was going to do next and they would probably have tried to stop me if they knew.
I pulled the Destiny Clock out of my pocket and flipped it open. I still didn’t know how to tell time with it, if indeed you could tell time with it, but just holding it reaffirmed what I was planning to do next. I tip toed toward the edge of camp trying not to wake Tina as I left. I just couldn’t take her with me, what I was planning to do was to dangerous for that and I didn’t even know if I had a chance of succeeding. However as I reached the edge of the camp,
“Where are you trying to go without me.” Came a familiar voice from behind me. I turned around to see Tina standing behind me smiling annoyingly. “Don’t think you can get away from me. If your going someplace then I’m coming with you.” She looked strangely serous this morning. I stared into her eyes and saw the same sort of determination that I felt. It made me wonder how much of last nights stories she had only pretended to sleep through.
Eventually I turned and started walking. “I guess I can’t stop you from following. At least I could use the company.” I tried to say if offhandedly. I didn’t want to show that I was glad that she would be coming with me. It was something that I couldn’t say though for the same reason that I didn’t try and wake her to come with me. It felt like something that you had to decide for yourself if you were going or not.
I could hear the birds waking up as we walked through the mushroom forest toward the empty town. Tina and I usually joke and make small talk when we are walking but today we talked in silence. Eventually the city began to appear before us and I could see the large castle above the walls. I stopped just as we reached the the gates and turned to Tina, “Tina, If someone told you what your destiny was what would you do?”
Tina looked at me and smiled, “You know me Ema, I would still just do what I wanted to do.” I returned Tina’s smile. That was exactly the feeling that I was having. I wasn’t here because it was what Zero said me destiny was, I was here because it was something I wanted to do, even if it was the most dangerous thing I have ever tried to do.
The city was still as empty and desolate as it was when I had left it but somehow my experiences had changed the way I looked at it. After the couple’s story I had a newfound appreciation for what went into the creation of this city. This place was built by the people we had met yesterday, it was a truly stunning achievement.
We passed through the city streets like ghost as we approached the castle. However when we were almost there I heard a voice call out to us, “Why did you come back here to this forsaken city?” It turned to see the silver-clothed boy, Arlan Fillmore, sitting at the steps of one of the houses. His silver clothes, once so neat, were now tattered. His sword was at his feet broken in two. To me it felt like his pride had been broken just like the sword. His gaze no longer seemed to hold the piercing look that it did the first time that we had meet.
I turned my noes up at him, “Is this what you have become. The once mighty swordsman, now broken by his own sister. If there was a story more shameful then I have yet to hear it.” Seeing him there had caused my anger to dull slightly, I didn’t think he could sink any lower then he already had which gave me some sense of revenge. But, it wasn’t the revenge that I had wanted against him. I wanted to show the strong Arlan that I could do better then him not gloat over this broken one.
“If that is all you can do for your sister then you don’t deserve to call her that.” I was puffing myself up a little, I didn’t know if I would have been able to do what he had for his sister. But I couldn’t just leave him like this, maybe if I mad him angry he would regain a little bit of his old self.
“What do you know.” He didn’t sound angry, only sad and regretful. “I looked everywhere for a cure to my sister’s madness but it doesn’t exist. There is nothing that I can do to save her, everything I have done in pointless.”
I looked down at him realize how much he really didn’t know, “Cure? Did you really thing that life was that easy? Did you really think that you could find something like that and solve all your problems?” I could also shake my head, I didn’t have the same strength that he had but I did know a few things more about people then he did. However it was only after the dream that I truly understood how I could save Jamel. “What your sister needs isn’t a magical cure, it is something else entirely. Your sword can not save her.”
He looked up at me. He looked so pitiful sitting there without hope. “Then what can save her, I have tried everything I could.”
“If you can’t figure it out for yourself then you will never be able to save her. Simply following instructions that I might give you won’t work.” What could I say to him? Should I say that he never should have left his sister, that his leaving only made his sister’s madness worse? I didn’t have the heart to tell him, he was already broken enough. Instead I could only give him a tiny sliver of hope, “I’m going up there to the castle to save your sister. Give up if you want but that will never solve anything.”
I turned my back on Arlan and with Tina following me continued up to the castle. I didn’t then know what effect my words had on him because I didn’t turn back as I walked into the castle to save a girl who had become a monster. It might not have been the sanest thing to do but most of us lost most of our sanity ten years ago so I didn’t worry to much about it.
It was cold inside, as if the heat had fled in free of what lived below the castle. What courage drove me to the depths. Maybe it was the feeling of Destiny but I don’t think it was that, I still tremble when faced with great fears. I don’t really trust Destiny so I doubt it would allay my fears. It was probably my memories of the dream that cause me to brave each step down into the basement. The thought of her being alone in the small room was terrifying but even more then that fear I felt that if I was stuck in that room then I would want someone to brave each step down into the basement. Is that feeling so hard to understand? I still didn’t know if I would be able to save her, but not even trying would be far worse then what I would face down in the basement.
Tina followed behind me keeping quiet, which was unusual for Tina. I couldn’t tell what she was thinking, but it might have been the same things I was thinking. I wondered what had made Tina make up her mind, maybe she had a strange dream last night too but if she did she never said anything about it and I didn’t question her. It didn’t really matter why she had decided to following me, just that she did.
The bottom of the stairs were dark, lit only by small electric lights, and I wasn’t able to make out much. I wasn’t able to locate Jamel in the darkness by sight however I could hear her breathing. Did she know we were here, I didn’t know. However if she didn’t then it wouldn’t be to long before she did because I strode out into the middle of the room and said in my loudest bravest voice, “Jamel Fillmore, we are here to save you.”
I heard that ice cold laughter that seemed to freeze the breath in my lungs and the blood in my veins. Jamel moved out of the darkness and I gasped despite having seen her before. Her strange web-like legs, rubbery arms, and liquid ice hair were still one of the creepiest sights I have ever seen. Yet her human face gave me hope.
You see after Zero had told me something about the Destiny Clock I had wondered something. Why was Jamel, the Abandoned One, the Red Hand of Beauty. It seemed strange and illogical that someone who looked so hideous would be the Hand of Beauty. However staring at her a second time made me finally realize why it was. The entire point was that a hideous creature was the Hand of Beauty. It clearly put into relief what really mattered. It wasn’t beauty that really mattered, the real beauty was in those deep eyes of Jamel’s. Deep inside those eyes was a lonely girl who didn’t know how to deal with the world. It was then I finally started to believe that my crazy plan to save Jamel was really going to work.
Yet Jamel still laughed that cold laugh, “SAVE ME. I DONT NEED SAVING, YOU ARE THE ONE THAT WILL NEED SAVING.” The drew perilously close to me, slinking up until I could feel her cold breath on my face.
I stared deep into Jamel’s eyes. “Jamel, You can’t hide. Your eyes, they reveal the truth that you are trying so hard to hide. You drive people away before you are too afraid to let them get close. Yet, I won’t let you force me away. I am going to break into you cold dark room and save you.”
“YOU’LL WHAT?” She sounded confused and I heard a hint of worry in her voice. But more importantly I heard a shred of desperate hope. Yet I know that the battle was not yet over. “YOU WILL SAVE A MONSTER, WHAT RIDICULOUSNESS. A MONSTER CANN’T AND DOES NOT WANT TO BE SAVED. YOU ARE THE ONE HIDING FROM YOURSELF, YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A MONSTER TOO.”
I grinned slightly, there was a crack in her armor that side didn’t yet realize was there. “I’m a monster?” She pressed closer to me sensing a victory, “If I’m a monster then we are the same aren’t we?” I raised out my hand toward her, “If we are both monsters why don’t we be friends.”
She reeled back socked, I wasn’t trying to deny that she was a monster. With my raised hand I was saying that it didn’t matter. I had stolen her hiding place, the key to her locked room. She could no longer hide behind the word monster, she had called me a monster and I had accepted it. We were standing face to face and she had nowhere to run. I stood there, may hand extended waiting.
“NOOO!” She screamed. “MONSTERS CANN’T HAVE FRIENDS!” I could hear desperation, now was the crucial moment. The moment where I wasn’t sure what Jamel was going to do. Then it a moment everything became horribly dangerous, Jamel raised one of her long clawed arms and brought it down toward me. I couldn’t think, it was over, I had failed.
Then I heard another yell and felt force press against my shoulder. “Ema, Watch Out!” It was Tina who pushed me out of the way at the last second. The claws came down on Tina’s back and I heard her scream. I saw blood seep through her clothing as she collapsed to the floor.
“SEE, THIS IS WHAT A MONSTER IS. MONSTERS HAVE NO FRIENDS.” I could hear resolve flow back into her voice. She was closing the cracks I had made in her mental armor. After all, who could still accept her after what she had just done. Tina writhed on the grounded and I wanted desperately to help her but I knew that I couldn’t. If I did that our resolve would have been for nothing.
Instead I stood back up and walked right up to Jamel.This time it was me who move too close to her. She would probably feel my warm breath. She seemed smaller then before and I was less afraid. I raised my hand again and said once again, “Won’t you be my friend.”
Her eyes widened, “NOO, NOO! STAY AWAY! DON’T GET CLOSE TO ME! A MONSTER LIKE ME DOESN’T DESERVE FRIENDS! GO AWAY!” She raised her arm again to strike me, but I knew I had won. Her arm wavered. “NOOOOO!” She brought down her arm but it stopped only a breath away from my face. She trembled again. I moved my arm and grabbed her clawed hand with my own.
“There, we’re friends now.” I smiled at her.
“WHY... WHy... Why... why...” Her voice, the icy one that froze bones was warming. She didn’t have anywhere to escape. I had unlocked the door to her room and flung open the door. She could no longer hide in the darkness alone. I wouldn’t let her.
It was then that every changed, I heard a ringing in my ears. Jamel as if completely giving up collapsed into my arms. I couldn’t support the weight of her large body and began to collapse as well. The ringing in my ears grew louder and louder but just before I fainted I heard a crystal clear whisper from Jamel, “thank you.”
I regained consciousness slowly. The first thing I realized was that it was bright, the second thing that I realized was that it was the sun that was shining on my face. I blicked a few times as I began to sort out what just happened. Then I shot up and looked around, Tina, Jamel, where were they.
“Your a hero, you know that.” My attention immediately turned on the speaker. It Arlan, his clothes were still ripped and torn but the look on his face had changed since I had seen it last. Arlan was smiling, it was the first time I had seen him smile. It suited him.
When I managed to sort through my thoughts I managed to ask, “Is Tina alright? What about Jamel?” I was desperately worried about Tina and all I could do was hope that she was alright. I also wanted to know what had happened to Jamel. It seemed that I was laying on a bench outside a house with Arlan sitting nearby but I couldn’t see either Tina or Jamel.
“Your friend will be fine. She is inside sleeping. The cuts weren’t very deep so there won’t be any lasting harm, though she will probably sport the scars for years. Jamel...” He paused for a second, “My Sister, I don’t really know what you did but she has returned to normal. I had lost hope but your words to me... They made me wonder. So I decided to find out what happened to you. I can’t express my surprise when I found all three of you unconscious and my sister returned to normal. I don’t know how to express my thanks.”
“I don’t need your thanks. I didn’t do it to help you, I did it to help her.” I responded coldly. Even after what happened it seems like he still didn’t understand.
“I don’t care about your reason, I’m just happy my sister is normal.” It was that word again, “How did you do it? Can you tell me what I did wrong? How did you save her from herself” I felt like beating his head against a wall, I really did hate this dense moron.
So I decided to tell him the truth, because nothing is more painful that that. “I didn’t save her from herself. I saved her from you.” His look of confusion was priceless. “It is your fault. You are the one who locked her alone in the dark room with words. You then stood guard at the door to make sure nobody ever entered. Then you sealed the door completely when you left in search of a ‘cure’. She cared about you more then anyone else but you were the one who abandoned her. Everything is your fault.”
He began to look angry, I could tell I was pushing his buttons but he needed to hear what I was telling him. Even all these years he didn’t understand his sister at all. “What are you saying? I would never abandon my sister. I didn’t care what kind of monster she became. I loved her despite that. I just wanted her to be normal again.”
“That... That is exactly why she became like that. Those words are so annoying. You can keep your delusions. The truth that you will never accept is that your sister IS a monster.” His face seemed to crack before turning red with rage.
“My Sister is not a monster, how can you say that. You were the own to save her, to turned her back to normal....” He didn’t continue because I had slapped him across the face.
“Normal, normal, normal, is that all you ever case about. I’m disgusted with you. I’m not surprised your sister was angry with you. I’M angry with you.” I stood up and walked over to the door and flung it open. I turned back to Arlan, “You don’t understand your sister at all, maybe you should think about what you did to her. Then maybe you’ll understand better.” I slammed the door behind me. Arlan didn’t follow me.
It wasn’t hard to find Tina and Jamel, they were sleeping on a pair of nearby couches. Arlan was right at one point, Jamel had changed. She was much smaller now, where once she was several feet larger then me she was now slightly shorter. Her legs were more normal, they almost looked like legs now. The claws on her fingers were now nothing more then long nails, though her arms still had the rubbery bendy look. Her hair looked less frozen causing it to look like the couch she was sleeping on was covered in water.
Sleeping there she looked beautiful, though her beauty wasn’t despite her monstrous look, it was because of her monstrous look. That is was Arlan didn’t understand. It was probably the hardest thing in the world for her to hear the words ‘You are not a monster’ from her own brother. It must have been like trying to deny part of who she was, no wonder she went crazy. That was the true meaning of the Red Hand of Beauty.