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Between Light and Dark

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Until recently, the line between good and evil seemed a thick line to me. Strong. Secure. I was firm in my knowledge that I was a good person at heart, even despite the challenges of my youth. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned just how close I had come to becoming, well, evil. I had always thought that no matter what, I would have turned out as, well, one of the good guys. After what  I saw in hell, the thought of becoming evil was... Inconcievable, to me.


Thinking back, though, there’s a lot of things that could have happened to me while I was in hell. I’ve always known that, in a way. I knew I could have died, or gone truly insane- not just the kinda-out-of-whack that I was when Kel adopted me. I could have roamed the hellscape until I changed into a demon. I could even have failed to escape, and died as Nedran’s prisoner.


But. I didn’t. And so I thought I was lucky. I thought those were the only paths my story could have taken, and thus, I considered myself lucky to have been taken in by those around me, to have found love and family so easily. I was scared, and scarred, and not entirely good- but I wasn’t evil. And I thought that I couldn’t have become evil. The line seemed thick and solid, unwavering, unfading. I didn’t realize how wrong I was, what could have happened- and not just in hell, but on earth, as well. I didn’t realize that there were people who would twist others for their own desires.


A few years ago, I met another girl who had escaped from hell, several years younger then me, named Maria. She had the same hunched walk I used to have, the same burns and skittish demeanor- but she’d been out of hell for more than two years when I met her, whereas after that length of time for me, I was well on my way to becoming a happy, normal child. Still scared and skittish, sure, but I could somewhat talk, and even walk for a good ways, upright. Curious, I decided to find out more about her, about why she was so different.


It was surprisingly easy to find information on her. Like me, she had quite the detailed primus page, which I could read at my leisure. And, I did. While perhaps our circumstances may have ended up similar, the ways we ended up in them were... Different. I had been kidnapped, by a mace desperate to have his daughter back. But Maria? Maria’s own mother gave her away, apparently, for power- and fertility. The thought of a mother, giving her own child away, shocked me, and I understood a bit better why little Maria was like she was. I wanted to- needed to- talk to the child. I couldn’t imagine her being okay with just being... Being thrown away, so casually.


I followed her for a few days, intending to speak to her, perhaps offer her a home, as Kel once did for me, and before long, I had caught up to her, and I was unsurprised to be watching the child happily rip a man to shreds, revelling in the gore and bloodshed. What did surprise me, however, was to see her taking what the man had with him, and running over to a woman standing not far away, looking expectant. I watched, certain that the woman would scold her, as Kel had when I had killed, telling her that killing was wrong. But no. I watched in a horrified sort of shock as she praised the child, patting her on the head and telling her that she was a good girl. And that’s when I realized how lucky I had been.


Seeing that girl, and that woman- it shook my foundations. To see a child so similar to whom I had been, being groomed for evil purposes... That day, I realized that the line separating light from dark, good from evil, wasn’t solid. It was thin, and blurred. And it can be easy, so easy, to step over it, without ever realising you had. Without ever realising that the line was even there, in the first place. My belief, my security in that I was a good person- It was shaken, crumbling. And I didn’t know what to do about it, how to get it back- if I even could get it back.


I began to wonder- what, other than luck, made me any different from her? If I hadn’t met Kel, would I have turned evil over time, out of my fear, and desperation? Or would I have instead been taken in by someone, someone who would have used me, like Maria, for their own gain? I could have been found by a gang instead, used as a spy, a thief and assassin. I could have become someone’s plaything, a toy that did whatever she was told. And I would have, I know. I was so desperate for love and protection, I think I would have done pretty much anything. These thoughts festered in my mind, though I hid my worries from my friends and family, rather successfully, for weeks, terrified they’d shun me. I knew on a logical level that they wouldn’t, but most of me was just... Scared. And part of me wondered if maybe, just maybe, I really was evil.


It was Reenka, my roommate and best friend, who first realized something was wrong. I’d stopped talking, my vocabulary diminishing into one and two word answers, instead retreating into my old habit of when I was upset- drawing. Large drawings, small drawings- all detailed. All in grayscale. My fingertips were once again wrapped in bandages, where I’d chewed through the skin in my upset, and she would often find me curled up beneath my bed, craving the security of the small space. She didn’t know what was wrong yet, and I wasn’t inclined to tell her, to tell anyone, really. After all... Maybe they’d agree. Maybe I was right, and I was evil. And if I was, they’d make me leave, surely.


Reenka had been looking for me, intending to confront me and find out what was wrong, when she found the drawing that tipped her off to what the problem was. On one side, I’d drawn me, as I was as a child- scarred, hunched, and afraid, my hand pressed against a glass wall of some sort. Next to me was Kel, his hand on my shoulder. On the other side, Maria crouched, covered in blood, her palm pressed the the glass over mine, the woman from before standing behind her. Reenka carefully put the picture back, looking around the room as she started to piece together the problem. But even Reenka, as smart as she was, knew she couldn’t hope to figure it out on her own. And so, she continued to look for me, eventually finding me out in the backyard, watching Kit play with his children.


“Lana?” I looked up, trying to pretend I was okay. “Hm? Oh, it’s my turn to cook, isn’t it? Alri-” Reenka interrupted me, glaring and tapping her foot as she looked at me. “Lana...” Shorter than me, with long black hair and playful yellow eyes, Reenka shouldn’t have been able to cut such an imposing figure. But then again, most people didn’t try to hide things from her. It never worked, Fencer had raised her to be far too observant. Reenka walked over, sitting by me and wrapping an arm around my shoulders. “Lana, tell me what’s wrong. Please.”


I sighed, bringing my knees up to my chest. “Am I evil?” Reenka blinked in confusion, looking at me. “No.” “But-” “Lana. No. You’re not.” I brought one of my fingers to my mouth. “I could have been. It... I was lucky. I might not have been.” Reenka reached over, pulling my hand away. “You could have been. But you’re not. Know how I know that?” I looked up, and she poked my nose. “An evil person wouldn’t sit out here, watching her talking cat play with his kittens. An evil person wouldn’t crawl into my bed after a nightmare, or let me crawl into hers during a storm.” I nodded, and she ran her fingers through my hair. “This is about Maria, isn’t it?” I nodded, and she sighed. “Will it make you feel better if I give mom a call in the morning, send her to ‘investigate’ and get her to someone who will actually take care of her?” I nodded again, resting my head against Reenka’s shoulder. “Alright, then. I’ll do that.” I smiled faintly, and for a long time, we sat there in silence.


“Lana...” Reenka broke the silence, running her fingers through my hair. “Mm?” I opened my eyes, turning my head to look at her. “Why didn’t you tell someone you were upset? We would have helped, you know.” I sighed, shutting my eyes once more, and I didn’t reply for a long moment. I knew the question was coming, but all the same, I didn’t really want to answer it. I didn’t know how, exactly. Still, I owed it to her to at least try. “...I was scared. I didn’t... I thought that maybe I really was evil, and that... I don’t know. That I’d managed to hide it, but that everyone would see it if I brought it up. I was scared I’d be alone again. That.. I dunno.” I sighed, unable to find the words to explain what I had felt- how could I, really, when I myself wasn’t exactly sure? Reenka sighed softly. “We wouldn’t have, Lana, you know that. We love you, all of us. You could have told us.” She hugged me close, and I just nodded, shutting my eyes.


Reenka hummed softly, rocking me gently. Her words, flowing and melodious. “Beyond the darkness waits the dawn... And after night the day... And whether you believe or not, it follows any-way. When hope is spent, and strength is gone, and choices none or few, there still are friends to turn to, to give you... Hope anew...” I let myself be lulled into a doze as she sang, curled up against her.


We straddled the border of light and dark, and sure, sometimes we fell off- but we were always there to lead the way back. And isn’t that what family’s about, after all? Being there for each other, and showing each other the way, to make sure we stay as people we can be proud of. People we can be happy to know.


I let myself fall asleep, a happy smile on my lips as I contemplated those thought, and Reenka smiled when she finished her song, shutting her eyes and laying back onto the grass, cuddling up against me as she too, drifted off to sleep, her grey skin a sharp contrast to my own pale, nearly white, skin. We were family, and we were happy.


That’s how Kit found us, later. Black and white hair intermingling, fast asleep as the sun set, fading gently into the dark. He didn’t say anything, just smiled, curling up on my chest with his kittens. It was a nice picture, a happy one.