Faith taught many lessons.
They were void, those whispers of knowledge and salvation. The sun had gone dark, the sky a blazing barrier forever denying him paradise. Would God forsake him, cast him away for the sin that was his tainted, unholy obsession? Eros felt his throat catch at that thought. To be denied for something he could barely control…
‘No,’ Eros shoved a student out of his way, almost blind. His eyes burned, his heart thundering in his chest as he raced down the hall. His mouth was dry. He felt warmer than normal, his skin a blanket of unnatural heat. He couldn’t shake the sensation of being watched, of countless eyes judging him. ‘Stop thinking about it. Hide. Find someplace to hide.’
He turned into an empty hallway. He sagged against the wall, knees weak as a distant voice called out his name. Eros’s eyes widened, his blood running cold. He shot a quick glance at his surroundings, eyed the overhead sign bearing only a picture of a flight of stairs. Sanctuary, that small sign suggested.
Eros shouldered his way through the door into the unused stairwell. He dropped to the ground in the shadows, the stairs looming over the top of him as he pressed his palms flat against the floor. He drew in sharp breaths, his body trembling as his lungs burned and his vision blurred.
Eros pressed his forehead to his knees, clamped his mouth shut, and dragged a breath through his nose. He forced himself to hold his breath for a count of six, then released it. When he drew in another breath, his heart wasn’t beating as frantically as before. He exhaled slowly, focusing on the feeling of stone beneath his hands and the way his clothing caressed his skin.
Above him, the stairs became a shelter that wrapped him in its shadows. The darkness of safety fell over him, a comforting presence that didn’t whisper hurtful things. A tear dribbled out from under closed eyes. A broken, fragmented laugh escaped from between pale lips as he sank fully into the ground.
Eros had fallen, his wings torn and black. He pressed his forehead to the ground, breathed in the chill rising from the concrete into his body. He didn’t know how long he rested there kneeling, his forehead against the ground. His body relaxed, the muscles loose as he sat up. He blinked, eyes adjusting to the dark.
He didn’t know how long he rested there kneeling, his forehead against the ground. His body relaxed, the muscles loose as he sat up. What time was it? Eros didn’t know, the world devoid of color as his head tilted back. He blinked, eyes adjusting slowly to the dark and the shadows of his haven.
He left the stairwell to find the school dark and empty, the doors closed and lights off.
Eros stood there, silent and not quite sure what was going on. Surely he hadn’t hidden in the stairwell the entire day. Or had he? Eros wasn’t sure. He made his way down the hall after a moment of hesitation. He eyed the darkness glaring back at him from the other side of a window, his heart skipping a beat.
“I am so late.”
Eros found the stairs leading downstairs, the open space daunting compared to the abandoned inner stairwell. He took the stairs two at a time, gaze flickering back to the dark windows and looming darkness.
He slowed. Eros stilled in the middle of the second-floor hallway, brow furrowed. There, a sound! He turned, listening for the faint whisper of sound.
It came again, a low metallic hiss that teased his senses. There was a distant echo, like pipes knocking together. Eros eased backward, a need to get out of the school lighting a fire in his veins. Again the sound came, a low hiss closer than before.
Eros fled, feet carrying him to the first floor. A single light burned, a beacon that called silently. As he neared, he realized the overhead light belonged to the school bulletin board. It was empty of flyers and club invites, devoid of all but one long, off-white poster.
‘A lifestyle is a tool for survival,’ the sign read. Eros stared at the bold letters, certain it hadn’t said as such that morning. Stepping away, gaze lingering for but a moment, the teen shook his head.
As he turned away, he couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. He felt exposed.
Eros didn’t look back as he left, the school a looming presence that shadowed his retreat.