I was drawn to Dagen for some unknown reason. I knew what I was doing was frowned upon; hell, it was tantamount to being illegal.
The Leanaí Scáth had been shunned since they first appeared on Earth a little over two hundred years ago. Nobody knows where the “Children of the Shadows” had appeared from, or where they had come from; one day they were not here, then the next day they were here. All that was known about them was that they did not appear to physically age and apparently, they are unable to have children of their own; this second assumption comes from the fact that their population numbers have never increased.
They are treated as badly as it is possible to treat someone who is different. They are not permitted to live in any of the towns or cities, they are not allowed to hold a job that pays more than the minimum wage, they are not permitted to attend school, and they are not, under any circumstances, permitted to be outside of their colonies after dark. The Scáth Dlíthe, the Shadow Laws, were compiled a few years after the Shads (God I hate that slur) arrived. The Shadow Laws are somewhat akin to the Jim Crow laws of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, except the Scáth Dlíthe are practically sanctioned by all of the world’s governments and even by the United Nations.
It was nearly midnight and I had snuck out of my bedroom. I walked to the small colony about a mile and a half outside the city. My rucksack weighed a ton, as in addition to a few snacks and a bottle of water, I had a pile of books with me; nothing fancy really, just a selection of Dr Seuss and a few history books.
Dagen’s colony was just inside a small forest and as I walked along, I heard an owl hoot and I’m sure I heard the flapping of a bat. I turned my torch on, so I could see where I was walking, and I felt something run over my foot. I let out a very girly shriek.
“Don’t worry Michael, it was only a raccoon.”
I turned and saw it was Karta, Dagen’s sister. I have no idea if she was a younger sister or an older sister, and since they do not celebrate their birthdays, they have no idea how old they are.
“Hi Karta. What are you doing out here? You know the law, if you’re caught out of your colony after dark, you’ll be arrested.”
“And what about you Michael? If you get caught helping us, get caught teaching us, what will happen to you? You are taking a far greater risk than I.”
“I’m doing what I believe is right. The Scáth Dlíthe are inhumane, and I can’t believe that in this day and age, such punitive laws are allowed to exist.”
Karta and I walked to the colony, and I was greeted warmly by the nineteen Leanaí Scáth who call this little shanty town home.
Dagen came over to me and hugged me. “Michael, I was beginning to worry that you had been caught, you are usually here before now.”
“I know. I had to dodge a few police patrols on my way out of the city.”
“Are you up for a moonlight swim Michael?”
“Sure, it’s not too chilly tonight.”
Karta handed me a swim suit, and I dove into the bushes to change. It was a little bit skimpy for my liking, but I’d never been made to feel uncomfortable by any of the Children of the Shadows.
We spent about an hour swimming around in the pond that sat in the middle of their colony. I can remember the first time I came out here nearly five years ago, when I was nine years old; none of them could swim, and they only used the pond to wash themselves and their clothes. The youngest children had struggled the most with learning to swim; no, not the youngest children, the smallest children. At the time, I had come here purely out of curiosity, but now I come out here every chance I get because it is right.
I always had to keep on reminding myself just how old these children were; after all, physically Dagen appeared no different than your average fourteen or fifteen year old. No different, except for the fact that he was gorgeous, and if it wasn’t oh so illegal, I’d sell my own mother to be his boyfriend. Physically, the rest of them ranged from probably six up to about thirteen; Dagen and his sister, Karta, seemed to be the oldest. Though as I said, I had no idea of their chronological age, they were all certainly at least two hundred and nineteen years old; yeah, I’ve always been attracted to older boys.
We got out of the pond and dried ourselves off. I ducked behind the bushes again to change back into my clothes. I dug into my rucksack and pulled out one of my favourite books from childhood, Dr Seuss’ ‘The Cat in the Hat’.
I walked into the hut that passed as our classroom. Most of the stuff I had been teaching them over the past couple of years had been done verbally, since they had never been permitted to learn to read or write English. As they have learned more and more over the past couple of years, they eventually expressed the desire to learn how to read, so that they would not be quite so dependent upon me for their learning experience. I was actually amazed at how quickly they had picked up the basics of reading, and so I figured I would see how they did with a little Dr Seuss.
As the children piled into the classroom, Karta brought me a cup of coffee.
“It’ll help to warm you.”
“Thanks Karta.” I sipped at the hot, brown liquid. “Okay, so you are all doing really well with learning how to read. I’ve brought a few books by a children’s author from three hundred years ago called Dr Seuss. This one is called ‘The Cat in the Hat’. Karta would you like to try and read the first page.” I handed the book to Karta.
I spent over an hour reading with the Leanaí Scáth, and then began packing everything away. I had decided that I would sleep here in the colony tonight. I had already left a note attached to the fridge in my kitchen back home that I knew my mum would find in the morning. I’d simply said that I had woken up early and had gone out, and I would be home in time for dinner.
We sat outside Dagen’s hut talking.
“Michael, may I ask you something? It is a little personal, so please feel free to say no.”
“Dagen, you may ask me anything.”
“I have noticed the way you look at me sometimes. Are you attracted to me?”
I blushed; I had no idea I had been that obvious. “Yeah, I am Dagen.”
“And you have said nothing to me, because you fear the repercussions of us being together?”
“God, no Dagen! Please don’t think that. I never said anything to you, because I didn’t know if you . . . if you are . . . I don’t know how to phrase this.”
“Are you asking if I am sexually attracted to males?”
I coughed. “I suppose; but it’s more than that. There is more than simply being attracted to boys. You are at least two hundred years older than I am. How will that look to the others here? How do you feel about that?”
“So many questions Michael. First off, yes, I am attracted to boys. Well, that is not strictly true; we are all attracted to both males and females; we are what you humans call bisexual. The fact I am older than you, would only matter if we were subject to your laws in that matter. The Scáth Dlíthe have made it clear, that when it comes to things like sex, marriage and having children we are not subject to your laws. The only law we would be breaking is the one which prohibits a human and a Shad from being together.”
“Dagen, please don’t use that word. I hate it.”
“Michael, I cannot change what I am.”
“And I would never dream of asking you. All that I ask is that you do not denigrate yourself, purely because of human stupidity.”
“How our possible relationship would look to the others here is nothing I, nor you, should be concerned of. You have always treated us with kindness and respect. Everybody here likes you. As for how I would feel? The age difference would not bother me. As you know, we do not celebrate our birthdays, and none of us knows our chronological age; so, there have undoubtedly been vast age differences in other relationships among my people.”
“So, you are saying that there is nothing to stop me from asking you to be my boyfriend?”
“Absolutely nothing at all, my friend.”
“Dagen, would you do me the privilege of being my boyfriend?”
“Of course I will.” He pulled me close to him and kissed me on the lips. “Wait here, and I will prepare your bed.”
Dagen went into his hut, and I was joined by Karta.
“I saw the kiss, Michael. Congratulations.”
“Thanks, Karta. I wasn’t sure how you would react.”
“I am happy for you both. In fact, I was the one who suggested to Dagen that it was time for him to discuss matters with you. True, Dagen will be the first of our kind to attempt a relationship with a human, but I am glad that human is you. I wish you both happiness and long life.” Karta kissed me on the cheek and walked off.
“Your bed is ready,” Dagen said, reappearing.
We walked into his bedroom, and he had set up a bed next to his. On my bed, there were two black roses.
“It is custom among my people, that when one of us begins a new relationship, to offer our new partner a black rose.” He picked up the roses and handed one to me. “I keep one and you keep the other. It is a symbol that reminds us, that even though, like the stem, our time together may have thorns, our lives will also, like the flower, be filled with beauty.”
“A lovely custom, Dagen.”
We kissed goodnight and fell asleep.
Use the following words in a story: pile of books, swim suit, raccoon, cup of coffee, and black roses
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