Hemley lowered the hood of his black cloak so his forehead disappeared, the sign of respect demanded by law when in public. His hands tucked out of sight and his beautiful face blurred out in darkness like the hundreds around him. One could no longer tell whether passing another Man, Woman, Zaikai, Anjel or any other amazing soul that lived in these lands. All were subdued under the black veil of anonymity, wandering in a sea of hoods moving in waves like the old oceans used to. The Mackeyes were always watching even if they couldn’t be seen. Some would still tell the old tales in secret. Legends told how they used to be strong but gentle giants whose size and strength built and protected the cities of old. They even had a warped sense of humour and often laughed. Now they were terrifying giants used by The One to enforce his ways on the populous. They were a misery to behold and every being dreaded the idea of ever being held in those powerful hands.
Hemley subtly increased his speed and skillfully negotiated the crowds before entering a narrow alley. He stopped by the old wooden door of a poorly maintained residence. He slowly turned around as he was taught and inconspicuously checked for any obvious signs of being followed. The alley was still crowded which was not surprising given the high density living in this town. It was almost dark so the hooded multitudes began to look like nothing more than moving shadows. He carefully opened his palm under his cloak to check the crystal. It was green, small and easily concealed in his palm. It was lifeless so he knocked quickly as instructed continuing to watch his surroundings. The door opened just a little, he slipped inside and shut the door quickly.
He leaned up against it, removed his hood and the black mask covering his nose and mouth. He closed his eyes and took a deep, slow breath. It was quiet in here, not that the streets were noisy, talking in public was forbidden but the sound of thousands of hurried footsteps was surprisingly loud. Hemley opened his eyes just as a Terrier holding a dull lantern turned away from him. He uttered something in the Terriern language. Hemley didn’t understand it but the tone indicated to come, quickly. Terrier’s were a unique race, so few of them now. They were strange, like a cocooned bug or worm and not that wonderful to behold. He’d been told it was a consequence of the concealed lives they had to live. Past generations living in freedom would transform when their time had come into a new and beautiful creature that could fly. Hemley wasn’t so sure as he’d never seen such a thing but liked the idea. The Terrier gracefully fell to the floor and slithered to the corner of the back room. He used his tiny scaly arms to remove a dusty rug. His smooth black eye peeked into the darkness of a tiny hole in the timber floor. Hemley heard a low hum and then a clicking noise. A small hidden door opened up in the floor and the Terrier motioned for him to go down.
Hemley moved in large strides, there was no time to be wasted. His black boots announcing his arrival to any below the floor. He looked into the square hole, nothing but darkness. He turned to the Terrier who was holding the lantern close to his face. The flickering light reflected in his oversized pupils highlighting his facial features, the fine hair, the green skin, the kindness in the eyes. Hemley nodded. Immediately the black pupils lit up like two white spotlights almost blinding Hemley. The Terrier turned his eyes into the newly opened hatch in the floor and lit up the small ladder for Hemley to climb down. The Terrier said something again, its mouth hardly moving, the unique sound both piercing but beautiful to his ears. Hemley knew the risk this Terrier was taking as they all were. He removed the black glove from his hand and held it out, palm up. The Terrier seemed surprised, emotional even before gently lowering its head to his palm. It stuck out a small, rough tongue and gently licked his palm. It was coarse, warm and wet but the ultimate sign of humility from this species. Hemley nodded again before rushing down the now well-lit ladder to what they all hoped would be a new future for everyone.
Years of very secret meetings, testing and research had brought the group to this historic moment. The dimly lit and small cavernous room dug out deep below the old building above was filled with hope. Hemley stood in the middle of them all, most he did not know, many species he’d never even seen uncloaked before. A kaleidoscope of eyes focused on him now, this mixed-species team of hopeful male and females were looking to him to finish the dangerous mission. No words were spoken, they weren’t necessary. They’d all spent a lifetime learning how to communicate precisely without them. An elderly man with white hair nodded to Hemley. Hemley took a moment again to look at the man. It was so rare to ever see a man’s hair especially this colour. Hemley walked over to the elderly man and gave him the green crystal he’d been concealing and nodded back. The elderly man pulled a lever beside him. Everyone in the room took a step back as a gush of hot air began blowing on them and a swirl of coloured light appeared in the opposite rock wall. Hemley took a deep breath and walked into the light without hesitation. His shadowed form disappeared as he walked in, unnatural sounds coming from his steps. After a moment, the elderly man lifted the lever again and the light disappeared. Suddenly the room erupted in horrified gasps as the room filled with green light. The elderly man looked down at his left hand. The green crystal was shining bright.
Hemley, a changed man now full of hope waited. He didn’t want to leave this amazing place, the people, the friends he’d made. He turned around one last time to take in the view. The new wrinkles under his eyes, the silver hair bordering his smiling face. He embraced the green trees, the bright blue sky and the deep ocean filling the horizon. The sound of the opening portal did not distract him, the coloured lights reflecting in his cheeks, he simply whispered, “Thank you.” Finally, he turned and walked into the light. He had much to tell his people.
Hemley stepped out of the light, his silhouette taking on his form as the glow behind him diminished. He squinted as his eyes adjusted to the dark once again and bent over to catch his breath. The portal was an amazing thing but it took one’s breath away. He began to make out the shapes of those waiting for him. Wait a minute, who is that? As quickly as Hemley regained his breath it was squeezed out of him again. He yelped as he was lifted high above the ground. His eyes widened in horror when gazing into the fiery judgmental eyes of a Mackeye, its grip suffocating, its hand cupped around his entire body.
Hemley was on his knees, his hands and ankles chained behind him. He looked up turning his head from side to side to face his accusers. The thirteen judges of The One towered over him in stature and power. All wearing black except their exposed hardened faces glaring at him in disdain.
“You’re lack of humility towards us is reprehensible! You stand before us guilty of a most heinous treachery yet bare no shame by daring to raise your face!” One of them from the left said.
“I mean no disrespect but I am no longer ashamed of who I am.”
The judges murmured amongst themselves. Another responded, “You know the punishment for your crimes?”
“Make your statement,” from another judge.
“Sirs, please hear me. I admit I have travelled via the forbidden ways to another world. It is called Earth.”
The judges did not respond, clearly aware of this fact. Another judge prompted, “Did you learn anything from their scientists?”
“Yes I did, amazing knowledge I will willingly share but it was the men of faith who taught me real truth and wisdom.”
The judges murmured loudly, arguing amongst themselves until the head judge silenced them. “You realise you are adding to your sentence with these words?”
“Yes, but I must speak them to you. These men know of a truth they do not yet fully understand and one we have forgotten, but its power is undeniable. Our worlds are being consumed by the same darkness, theirs not yet as fully.”
“Lies! All our enemies have been destroyed. Your illegal journey may well have exposed us to a new threat,” yet another judge said.
Hemley lowered his head and spoke something softly. This was not permitted and another judge laid down the law immediately. Hemley looked up as they all began murmuring loudly once again pointing fingers at him and one another. He saw a black fog around each of their heads. As he spoke, his words dissipated the fog and they each fell silent. “No, this is an ancient enemy that plagues all worlds, yet he is a defeated foe. We must remind him of that.” They all stared at Hemley, their eyes were bright and intrigued as he finished, “We have an opportunity.”
As Hemley watched, it seemed as if time had briefly stopped and each judge was rendered mute. Then the fog returned hovering around each judge. To some, it attached itself once again and their eyes glazed over. Anger returned to their demeanour and they spat their accusations again. The others were silent, contemplating. Another judge called for the vote.
This short story was inspired by a prompt provided by Reedsy.com. If you're interested in participating or would like to read other short stories, you can find the Reedsy Weekly Writing Prompts by clicking here.
Prompt Used: Write a story about an ordinary person speaking truth to power.