A Heartless. How had she not seen at the first second? His hair was unusual, as most Heartless had darker brown or black hair, and his was that soft, light blonde.
“Are you a Heartless?” The question seemed to startle the boy, Wanderer, did he say they called him?
“They say I am, how did you know?”
“Your blue eyes. Only the Heartless have eyes that blue.” That explained his missing piece. This boy, this Wanderer, had no emotions.
The Heartless were a race of people who had no feelings. They had all their internal organs intact, but the name “Heartless” had stuck none-the-less. They had come about through a defected human, a prince, who had been born with no emotions. He married for politics, since he could not love, and had three children, a boy and two girls, and his son and youngest daughter, like him, had no emotions. Thus the race spread, and they became feared outcasts, living together in small, run-down villages, marrying not for love but for money and situation.
Wanderer’s voice broke into Lyli’s thoughts. “I didn’t know my eyes were blue.” For the first time Wanderer looked away from her face and walked over to a little pool nearby, fed by a quiet little stream, to look at his reflection. “Yep, they’re blue.” He looked back at Lyli. “Your eyes are very pretty. They look like my wolf mother’s eyes.”
Lyli turned pink. She had never been given a compliment like that before, much less from a boy. She hadn’t really ever talked to any boys, but she was sure this one was very, very different.
“Thank you. Most people fear me because of my eyes, saying it’s unnatural.”
“It is unnatural, but that’s why I like it. I’m unnatural to they say, since I can’t do this thing they call loving, and they all can.”
“Who is they?”
“The island of course.” He gestured out over the land, as though trying to show her everything at once.
“Will you show me?” Lyli was eager to meet the creatures and plants of this place, it was so alien, yet somehow, so very close to home.
He nodded, and began walking. He explained everything he saw to her, and as her fingers brushed the leaves and the dew drops and the surface of the still lakes, she began to feel more at peace. She knew how to handle this.
Wanderer’s voice was unlike anything she had ever heard before. It was wild and wolfish, yet calming in some insane way. As he explained things, snarling and barking in his animal way, Lyli imagined what he would sound like if he spoke human. It would be beautiful, like the sound of the wind in the trees, like the sound of raindrops on a pond, like waves on the shore. He speaks like he is part of the forest. She though to herself. His voice cracked occasionally, proving that it wasn’t changed all the way. Lyli laughed to herself when she realized that his voice had probably been changing for a hundred years, but when Wanderer asked what she was doing, and she realized he had never heard laughter before, she sobered up.
He was explaining the odd rough-barked tree with the large green fruits. “It’s called a coconut tree. The bark is really easy to-“
Lyli’s thoughts kept getting distracted by little things like the beauty of the sun glinting off a birds red wing. I wonder what it feels like to fly.
“And once you get to the top you only have to-“
If I could fly I would want to look at the ocean from above. I bet that’s pretty
“…they come falling down, you have to make sure no one is underneath though—“
I bet he has a nice laugh.
“And then you split them open and—“
And thus it went on. Lyli did learn quite a bit though, and every bit of it was interesting.
The sun climbed higher and higher until it began dipping down again, and finally it burned its way right down into the ocean, leaving a blazing sunset behind it, and Lyli and Wanderer made their way up to the highest point on the island, where they could see out over the entire island and over miles and miles of ocean.
“Wow” Lyli breathed. The sunset was incredible, the reds and pinks and golds streaming out over the water, painting a picture of pure beauty.
Wanderer didn’t even glance at the sunset. It occurred to Lyli that maybe he could not appreciate it, maybe it took emotions to see beauty like that.
“What are you staring at?” Wanderer was watching her stare at the water.
“The sunset.” She watched him carefully out of the corners of her eyes, trying to see what he thought of the beauty. Nothing. His face was as unreadable and empty as ever.
“Where did you come from?”
Lyli looked back at Wanderer, a little surprised by his question. He had yet to ask her anything about herself, but she supposed it was beyond him to be curious.
“I came from Caamden. It’s three days sailing across the east sea.”
“What’s it like there?” his voice cracked.
“Well the part where I lived was all forest. There was a village not far away but I—“
“What’s a village?” he interrupted.
“A place where lots of humans live together in houses, those are like caves only people make them above ground and out of wood.”
“Oh.” His lack of curiosity was bizarre, he asked questions but it was almost like he didn’t care about the answer. Maybe he didn’t even care if he got an answer.
Lyli sat in silence, a few paces away from Wanderer, who was absent-mindedly weaving blades of grass together.
This boy didn’t deserve to be stuck here on an island, never to grow up, never to be a man. He was indifferent of course but still, it wasn’t right! He should be taught to speak like a human, taught to socialize, and besides, his voice should be allowed to change all the way.
She would ask him in the morning. For now, she needed to sleep.
Wanderer took her to the cave where he lived, tucked away in a pretty little corner of the island. The doorway was almost invisible since it was hung over with wisteria, but once the flowers were pulled aside, the cave inside was comfortable and spacious. There was a single bed of leaves in a corner, and Wanderer insisted that Lyli use it for the night.
The bed was surprisingly comfortable for being made of leaves, and Lyli slept well, and dreamed of home.
* * *
Lyli awoke to the sounds of a wolf barking. For a moment, she was sure that she was home, in her own forest, and that the mob, the boat, and Wanderer had all been part of some bizarre dream. But when she opened her eyes, it wasn’t a wolf, it was Wanderer, his light hair sticking up from his nights rest, and his blue eyes fixed on Lyli.
Lyli rubbed the sleep from her eyes, and sat up. “Yes, I can see that.” She thought about taking wanderer with her when she sailed away. Would he want to go with her? Well he couldn’t want to… but he couldn’t not want to either. Something about him had piqued Lyli’s interest and she wanted to be able to, someday, understand him.
But how could she ask something like that of him? She knew what I was like to be forced from your home, to be forced to leave the place you had known all your life.
“Your eyebrows are doing something funny, they’re pulling together… why?” Wanderer was watching her. Again.
“It’s something human’s do called frowning. We do it when we are upset, sad, or angry.”
What a terrible thing, to not even know what it was to be happy. “Wanderer, being happy is… it’s when, well, when something good happens, you feel…” he won’t know what ‘feel’ means either. “Okay, the difference between happy and sad is like the difference between touching a soft animal and getting cut. One is soft and warm and the other is, well, it hurts right?”
“So it’s pain versus no pain?”
“Um, not really. Sort of yes, but not really…” how could one ever even attempt to explain emotions to someone who had never felt them? “Never mind.”
“You know sometimes I wonder what it would be like to get off this Island, because I don’t know any other place. They can’t all be the same, and maybe I could learn something new.”
He was almost talking to himself, but it was obvious Lyli’s mentioning Caamden had set Wanderer to thinking.
Lyli saw the perfect opportunity and seized it. “I’m going away on a boat. I could take you if you like. We could go find some new place and learn everything there is to know. I can…” she hesitated, then plunged on, “I can even teach you to speak the tongue of the humans if you like.”
He looked at her, and spoke as though he had always known his answer. “I will go. If you are sure you will take me that is, and if you are certain you can teach me to speak in the language of the humans.”
Lyli was a bit surprised at his readiness, but her face broke into a smile and she clapper her hands. “Of course I can teach you! I’d be ha…” she stopped herself, “Yes, I will teach you if you will come.”
They shook hands on it, and the broad, blue-eyed boy and the fragile-looking golden-eyed girl prepared to set out on a journey that would change both their lives forever.