Stare

When I was nineteen I went to Italy with a bunch of friends and nearly got my dumb ass killed. This is the closest I’ll probably get to giving a moral lesson in my lifetime. This was back in the early nineties, so it’s been a while, but I remember the important details.

How I pissed off these guys is a little fuzzy, I’ll admit. I was teetering on the edge of black out drunk, I think I mouthed off to this bad ass kinda guy, and he didn’t like my attitude.

So when I left the bar he followed me and knocked me out, judging by the goose egg I had blooming on the backside of my head when I woke up.

I was in a basement, handcuffed and feeling sick as hell. I’m surprised I didn’t barf. Like an idiot I woke up my captors by hollering for help, in which two really pissed off guys came down and smacked me about again. I probably looked like I got stung by a swarm of wasps by how swollen my face was.

Then they dragged me into the hidden room to die.

This place was disguised by a fake wall and inside was my doom. I had this enormous feeling of dread as I was taken in there, the guys snickered and one of them said something along the lines of “Look out, she’s an ugly bitch” before throwing me in.

My headache was not helped by my head smashing against the stone floor. The door slammed behind me and I remained perfectly still. Maybe whoever was in here would think I was dead and would leave me alone as I thought of a way to escape. Not many were coming, mind you, but I was terrified.

Then I heard a quiet voice.

“… Are you okay?”

The voice was quiet, feminine. Italian accent. My initial instinct was to look up but she hissed and I heard her scuffle back.

“Do not look at me! Please, for your own sake!”

I set my head back down on the ground. “Did they lock you in here too?” I groaned, making myself familiar with the cracked patterns on the stone floor.

“Yes. Long ago,” Her voice was filled with pain and I was again attempting to look up, “Please! Do not look at me!”

She sounded my age.

I heard her slowly approach, I caught sight of her bare, pale feet before she slipped out of sight again. I heard tearing and a scrap of ragged white cloth landed in front of me.

“Tie that around your eyes. Then you can look upon me.”

With clumsy fingers, I did manage to tie on the blindfold before I finally sat up and looked in her general direction. The room was dark, save for a small light in the corner. Through the thin cloth I could make out a silhouette. She sighed with relief.

“What did you do that angered my captors?” She said with an awkward laugh.

I groaned and managed to scoot my back to the wall- I really wasn’t feeling grand. “I made a fool of myself mocking this one guy… he waited until I left the bar before he jumped me. My head really hurts…”

The girl remained still for a moment before skipping over to the corner, picking something up and holding it up to the corner. “It’s not good water, but it’s not sewage, at least. The men up there don’t really care for my needs very well,” She laughed before she approached me. A chipped plastic cup met my lips and lukewarm water dripped past my lips. I almost backed off but her quiet voice said, “Drink.”

The water had a silty texture to it, but I drunk it all down. Her fingers grazed my face, her dagger like fingernails lightly scraping my cheek. “What is your name?” She asked.

“Alex.” I swallowed, my fingers itched to take off the blindfold. “What’s yours?”

“Demetra.” Her hands gently pulled my head into her lap, and she started to stroke my hair. “I can tell bad men, do you know that?”

Demetra’s hands were so soothing, I could’ve fallen asleep there. “Can you? Are the men outside bad?” I asked.

“They weren’t… once. They only shoved in bad people to be with me.”

I turned my head toward her voice, instinctively she shied away. “… But I don’t think they care anymore. They… they took me from my home.” Her voice trembled. “I had so many sisters, my mother… I miss them so much. But I think they’re gone now. Once our home was destroyed, they had to leave. I understand, but this means I’ll never find them again.”

“I’m so sorry.” This poor girl had been abducted and hadn’t had someone look upon her face in probably years. “How long ago was that?”

“… I couldn’t tell you. I’ve not left this room since that day, and I haven’t had a friend since. Some… some I try to befriend. But they take off the blindfolds I give them. It spells their doom.”

Their doom? I almost asked about it but she placed a finger on my lips.

“Rest, please. And whatever you do, do not look upon my face. I promise you, the only thing more hideous than me is Medusa herself.”

I drifted off after that, hearing Demetra hum lulling me back to a comfortable sleep. I’m not sure how long I was asleep, only that when I woke up it was to someone yelling at Demetra through the slat in the door.

The light was turned off, Demetra quietly crying in the corner as the man yelled at her in I believe Italian. I only know so many words but he was pissed as hell, that’s translatable to any language. Demetra snapped something back, a deadly hiss to her otherwise gentle voice.

I learned later what she said was ‘I refuse to be your slave. You cannot force me to kill!’

The door opened and the big guy stormed in, coming towards me. I think his fingers brushed the blindfold before Demetra tackled him.

Demetra wasn’t big, but all she wanted to do was knock something off his face. I heard a clatter on the ground and then I heard the man scream.

And then he was quiet.

Demetra pushed something into my hands. “… If you choose to look upon me, then do it with these, but prepare yourself for what you’ll see,” She said.

I didn’t hesitate. Off went the blindfold, and on went the sunglasses.

Demetra was… is, the most beautiful thing I have seen in this entire world. A perfectly round face, gone pale with lack of sunlight. Eyes bright as summer grass, the pupils diamond slits.

And her head was covered in squirming, dark green snakes.

I have to admit, I was scared of snakes before then. But as I reached forward and let one of them wrap around my little finger, I wasn’t scared anymore.

Not when it was her.

Demetra’s bottom lip quivered. “You… You aren’t afraid?” She whispered.

“No.” I took her hand. “Let’s get out of here. You’re never going to be alone again.”

And I’ve kept my word. Demetra now lives with me in America, it was a hassle to smuggle her over but I’d do it all again. She loves playing in the garden with my dog, animals are immune to her petrifying gaze. She’s gotten quite tan and my mother is her best friend. They regularly have tea together. I can never look upon her without the sunglasses, and as I age she stays the same, but I cannot imagine life without her.

Unfortunately, her kind isn’t prone to the kind of things humans can get.

My cancer diagnosis is fatal, I have months to live. But I know how I want to go out, when the pain is just too much.

Looking into the eyes of my true love for the first time, with no sunglasses or blindfold to keep us apart.

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