Previously on Angeions…
I felt her consciousness flow into mine, as if our minds had connected. From one moment to the next, I could feel her emotions and hear her thoughts. It was the sweetest feeling in the world; all the loneliness I never knew I had had been lifted off in an instant.
But then without warning, all the euphoria in me came crashing down as the contents of her head processed through my mind. In an instant, the giddy lamb in me had become a raging bull.
I thought she had no memories! She had told me she didn’t remember!
“You lied to me!” I barked within the corners of my mind.
“I’m sorry,” she apologised almost instantly, her voice revberating within my cognition. The fact that I could hear her thoughts wasn’t sufficient to dispel my rage. I could feel sincere remorse in her emotions, though, and that made me want to forgive her. But I wasn’t about to give that concession and so I closed my mind to her. It was more of trial and error really; I lacked any experience in mindreading or whatever this was. It still worked, anyway.
“You lied to me! You said you couldn’t remember anything! How is it that I saw the memories of your family in your head? Don’t lie to me anymore, Aella! That’s your name, isn’t it?” I flung all the accusations at her.
“Yes,” she answered contritely, all the merry draining out of her like water from a squeezed sponge. “It’s not like that… I can explain!”
I felt my anger abate. I knew I had little right to be angry. After all, I was the one who had offered her a place to stay. She was never obligated to tell me anything. Yet the feeling of betrayal still stung, and that made me wonder why.
“Please do, then,” I replied exhaustedly.
A cricket chirped in the vicinity as the cooling breeze of the Mombasa night whistled past my ears, making me aware of the elapsing time. I had not noticed the darkness fully take over the earth. I glanced at my watch momentarily.
“On second thought, you’ll explain when we get to my place. It’s already late,” I declared, starting off before she could respond. Aella followed quietly behind me. From the Old gate, we made our way through the compound where the cottages stood. The clearing was our school’s parking lot and assembly ground. There was a large neem tree right at the centre of the compound and a small circular garden that surrounded its base. The whole compound was lit by one bright fluorescent lamp affixed to a steel post. I had walked a few minutes when I stopped at the garden and turned around. Guilt was gnawing at my conscience for reacting so inconsiderately hostile. She caught up with me in a second.
“Aella,” I began with the sound of her name on my tongue as familiar as my own. “I’m sorry I was angry at you.” Aella approached me, perhaps closer than I wanted. Her blue eyes locked onto mine and I yielded, opening my mind to hers.
“I too am sorry,” her soft speech was clear in my head, “I should have trusted you and told you everything. I will when we get to your house, I promise.”
“Okay,” I answered. Verbally, Aella’s voice was almost musical. In my thoughts, it was more. It was hypnotic. I shied away from the idea of losing my willpower to her and so I resolved to train my mind to keep its calm. Turning round quickly, I began walking away before I could lose myself to the sea of blue that was Aella’s eyes.
“You have to worry about this, though,” she called out. I turned back to her pointing at her nightgown. The contriving smile on her face was enchanting.
“Surely you wouldn’t make me walk through town in this?” Aella whirled in a circle as if she was on some fashion show stage.
“Oh,” I mumbled unintelligibly, taken captive by her beautiful wildness. I wondered if she knew how striking she looked under the moonlight with the wind brushing through her soft black curls. I wondered if she knew how strange she was making me feel…
“Hey!” Aella called out with feigned reproach. “You shouldn’t be thinking such thoughts about me when I can hear them. I’ve told you already, you are going to make me blush.”
Now that had me flushed.
“I’m sorry,” I answered, genuinely ashamed. I had forgotten that my thoughts had become not so personal. I had also forgotten all about my rage. “I’m sure that our school’s caretaker has some female clothes about your size,” I said, recovering my dignity. “I’ll go and ask him to lend you some.”
I was back five minutes later with an over-sized blue dress with white flowers printed all over it.
“This is all he has,” I announced when I reached her. Aella was sitting on a rock beside the perimeter of the circular garden, with her chin in her hands. She rose as soon as she saw me, staring wide-eyed with disbelief at the fashion disaster I bore in my hands.
“Wow, that? You must be getting back at me for something to sentence me to such hideousness. You’re wicked,” she said, clutching the dress, “you really are.”
“It was all he had!” I quickly denied, desperately trying to resist flashing an impish smile as I recollected how Rizgala had first offered me the pair of blue jeans and the polka dot blouse. They weren’t flashy but at least they were fitting and from this century. Aella threw me an expression of daggers then she slipped the dress over her nightgown.
“You don’t look bad at all,” I lied, barely suppressing a devilish grin. It looked like a maternity dress. I had paid her fair and square, I thought, finally remembering my rage.
“I’m amazed at how fast you forget that we can read each other’s minds,” she whispered calmly into my thoughts.
“Darn,” I cursed under my breath.
“You know what,” she started, closing in on the distance between us until she was only a breath away from me, “I actually don’t mind your silly little revenge.” She straightened her face, staring at me with her sky blue eyes. “In fact,” she continued, changing her expression to a sly grin, “you’ve endowed me with a challenge. And I just love challenges.”
She stretched her hands to my waist, her fingers working my belt. My heart began to race. I could feel the warmth of her breath on my face. She craned her head to my ear, burying my face in her black curls.
“You’ve given me something to work with,” she hissed lightly, straight into my brain. I thought I felt my heart burst.
“Whip!” Aella yanked my belt from my waist.
“Hey!” I protested right about as soon as her hypnosis had worn out of my system. But she only chuckled victoriously.
“Give it back,” I declared with false calm. If Aella had heard me then she didn’t act like it. She stepped a few feet from where I stood and whirled merrily in a circle like a little child.
“Calm down, calm down,” I whispered to myself and I felt my smouldering rage fizzle. I turned around and started walking away. I had made but a few steps before Aella called out in a teasing tone.
“Hey, Nik!” Now she was really going to get a piece of my mind, I thought. I swirled, mouth open with words of fiery anger ready to pour out from it like lava from an overactive volcano.
“A-A,” I mumbled as my jaw dropped in free-fall. Words of ‘fiery anger’ evaporated from my mind leaving only an image: an image of the untamed beauty that Aella was. The maternity gown had ceased to exist, transformed into a Victorian dress. My belt, now a corset, complemented Aella’s astounding figure and the garden flowers she had kept in her hair could only enhance her unearthly beauty.
“You didn’t think I would walk in public looking like an old lady, did you? I wouldn’t, just so you know, not even in pitch darkness.”
“My my! You are so unbelievable,” I sighed in my mind.
“You have no idea,” Aella replied, laughing tunefully. In my mind, I anticipated all the impending drama that was bound to happen between where we were and my home. It was going to be a very long ride…
The minibus sped off as soon as we alighted. I was certain it was going to be pitch dark for most of the way from the station to my house-this part of my neighbourhood hardly had any street lights. We were lucky, though; the moon had come up brilliantly in the starry sky and was splashing the earth with its silvery light. The sound of our feet on the tarmac echoed in the silent night air as we moved a safe distance off the road. The roadside was occupied by a long row of small shops typical of an African suburb. We made our way between two such instalments, emerging into a narrow and familiar sidewalk.
“This way,” I gestured to Aella who was walking beside me. We cut across a broken pavement to the other side of the street. The night was quiet. Likoni was barely a conventional town and the people here were not the normal night-crawlers city people were. Everyone was probably behind closed doors at this time.
“I don’t like it, Nik. It’s too quiet,” Aella commented in a restrained tone. I was not sure what scared me the most; the fact that she had spoken just this once from the time we were on the road or the sense of wariness that had come over her. On our ride home, Aella was chirping like a cricket but now her lips were all but sewed together.
“Don’t worry, the people here are early sleepers,” I reassured her, casting a brief glance at her face. Aella didn’t look convinced; I couldn’t sway myself either. A thousand times or more, I had walked through this same way. Yet something seemed out of place today, eerie even.
We cleared the street and got to the entrance of a local soccer pitch. We had to cross the field to reach my immediate home area. The entrance to the compound was an old rusty gate affixed in between walls that were shorter than any reasonable fencing. The gate was hardly ever locked since the field also served as a shortcut to other parts of Likoni. I heaved it open and the metallic barrier creaked noisily as it turned about its rusty hinges. Then I beckoned Aella to go through. Following the action with a classic cliché and a broad smile, I muttered, “Ladies first.” Aella smiled back at me ever so lightly before obliging. I followed her in, walking closely by.
Inside the pitch, the unrestricted air was blowing over us, creating a cold atmosphere. The induced coldness did not go well with fear. And fear was certainly what was building up inside our hearts-or in mine at least. When it came to Aella, I really couldn’t discern. She looked almost deadly with those narrowed eyes carefully calculating her gaze around the vicinity. It was hard to reconcile her present image with her recent past. I let my prying eyes drift away from her face and the world blurred back to relevance. Frequent treading of people across the field had carved a path of bare ground well distinguished from the cover of brown grass that was the floor of rest of the expanse. We started across the field, walking in quickened steps. Aella was right in front of me and I couldn’t keep myself from being spellbound by her new-found grace. Was this the real Aella? I just couldn’t tell.
The sky was still clear and the moon brilliant. Some grey clouds were amassing in the south, though; darkness was not a pleasant possibility. Aella began hurrying her steps, walking with such subtlety she could have as well been floating on air. I rushed to keep up with her. We had traversed half the field in seconds and surprisingly, the clouds had too. The moon was barely suppressing invasion and its impending defeat was evident.
The night was now very dark. In front of me, the soft beating of Aella’s feet on the bare ground increased. I soon realised that she was almost running. The numbing at my fingers told me that the night’s temperature had also gone down, way down. A brief breach in the cover of the clouds let through some moonlight and the night was lit but for a second. I saw Aella dash forward with amazing speed. She leapt from the ground, flying what seemed like five metres straight into the air. My eyes were still pasted on her as she hang motionless in the sky but for a fleeting moment, and then…
Aella burst into flames.