First of all, allow me to say that it’s somewhat unbelievable how far this story has come from its humble beginnings as a forgotten passage in a lost folder on my hard drive. Every chapter is a revelation for me as well as for you, and every suggestion I get from my readers is incredibly helpful in hashing out or developing the plot line further. I feel as though with the last few chapters, I’ve been dipping my toes into the water, hesitant and cautious. With this chapter, I’m diving in head first. Every word I write is a thrill, and I’m incredibly thankful to those of you who have been reading and sharing the story from the beginning. Now, onwards. For those of you just joining me, this is the fifth chapter in my reader-driven serial called POROUS.
I grab my books out of my locker and drop them into my backpack without looking at them. Chemistry, geometry, Spanish – I tick them off in my head, making sure I have everything, trying to move as quickly as possible. I finish packing, slam my locker shut and turn around – and jump a foot into the air when I see Lissy hovering behind me.
“Oh my god,” I say, the words tumbling out. “What are you, a ninja? You scared me.”
“Not a ninja,” she whispers, her eyes wide and her voice low and eerie. “A ghost from your pa—aa—st.”
I laugh, and she breaks out into a grin. Her red hair falls into her face and she brushes it back, revealing freckles and emerald green eyes.
“Come over and help me do my chemistry homework,” she pleads. “And my mom’s making lasagna.”
I roll my eyes, almost salivating.
“God, I want to. But, I can’t. Sorry.”
She pouts at me.
“Why not? I didn’t get to see you at all this weekend. And Kalifa’s coming. We’re working on our history project together.”
“I know, but—” I cast about, trying to think of an excuse. “I have to take Ada to her dance lesson tonight.” That’s true enough, I think. I already feel guilty about not spending any time with my friends. I don’t need to add lying to them to the weight of the guilt on my shoulders.
I glance down at my watch, checking the time. Classes ended ten minutes ago. Has Silas already left?
“Okay,” she concedes. “But you’re coming over on Friday, no excuses.”
She grins at me and lowers her voice.
“We’re having a little party for Kalifa’s birthday. It’ll be fun.”
I nod and smile back at her. What does she mean when she says “a little party”?
“Okay, sure. Who else is coming?”
“Oh, I don’t know yet. Kalifa, obviously. You, Jen, Kim, and a few of the boys from across town. It’s not going to be a big thing.” She waves her hand dismissively. “Not like those parties the football players throw.” She sticks her tongue out in disgust. “I don’t want anyone puking in my basement. It’ll just be fun and relaxed.”
I shoot her a sly smile as we dodge through the halls.
“You invited Basi, didn’t you?”
She scoffs, as if to say no! But I know better. Of course she did. She’s been madly in love with him for months. Her new next-door neighbor from England, a tennis player like her, Lissy fell for Basi the moment she set eyes on him. For a month she wouldn’t talk about anything but him – what kind of tennis racket he used, where he came from, why he moved here, where his family is from originally. It seems like he’s into her, too, but they’re both too shy to do anything about it, and they’ve been at a stalemate since February.
“Admit it, Lis. I already know you did.”
“Fine, I invited him.”
“I knew it! I’m definitely coming now. I can’t wait to meet him.”
Basi goes to one of the schools across town, so none of us have actually met him before. We’ve just been listening to Lissy talk about him incessantly until finally Kalifa begged her to stop until we at least had a face to put to the name.
Suddenly, I catch sight of Silas’ cropped black hair and olive skin, right before he disappears around a corner. My heart thuds to a stop and my breath catches in my throat. I feel a shiver run up my spine. I have to talk to him.
“I have to go. Have fun with Kalifa tonight!” I call, as I break into an awkward jog through the corridors.
“The parking lot is the other way!” she shouts after me, confusion in her voice.
I ignore her. I dash through the now-empty halls, my backpack flapping from side to side as I run. I round the corner after him and recognize him about a hundred feet down the hall, his hands stuffed into his pockets just like they were on top of the mountain.
“Silas!” I call. He turns, slowly, as I run up to him. He stares at me, unblinking, as if trying to place my face. I worry for a fleeting second that he doesn’t recognize me.
“Hey, Noomi,” he says. His eyes are cold and unreadable, that dull mossy green. He stands almost as still as a statue as he watches me.
“What did you mean, the other day, on the mountain, when you said that I didn’t need your help in this world?”
“You thanked me for helping you. But you don’t need my help. You think you do, but you don’t.”
“I don’t understand.”
He stares at me for a second, and I think I get a flash of those myriad colors dancing through his irises, that rainbow of blues, yellows, oranges and greens, before they fade back to normal.
“What haunts you, Noomi?” he asks. I hesitate a second, the usual pause before I dare to tell anyone about the shadows. But his eyes remind me that he is different. I remember the whiteness in them, summoning me back from the precipice of emptiness. The whiteness that dissolved into a hundred thousand colors. Silas isn’t like everyone else. I can tell him. I can trust him.
“Blackness. Darkness. Emptiness.”
He nods, but he doesn’t say anything. He’s looking at me like he’s waiting for me to say something more. The silence grows so long it feels uncomfortable, but he looks perfectly at ease, his whole body still, watching me.
“Why were your eyes the color of rainbows when you pulled me out of the shadows?” I ask, finally.
“That’s just what happens.”
“But why? When does that happen?”
“When you open a door between worlds.”
Chills run up and down my spine.
“You can do that?”
“You can too, Noomi. You just don’t know it yet.”
“Is that what happens when…the shadows…?”
“Yes,” he responds. “They’re using you. Your eyes were black as pitch when I pulled you out of the portal.”
My voice comes out at a whisper.
“How do I fight back?”
His eyes dissolve into wet, oily colors again and I feel as though gravity has changed its direction. Instead of being pulled to the ground, I am pulled into his eyes. I totter a little on my feet, unsteady. Trying to catch my balance.
“I can teach you. But I have to show you something first.”
I nod. I’m willing. I’m ready for anything.
“Close your eyes.”
I do, and blackness envelops me. But then, slowly, the colors and shapes I see against my eyelids, like the static on an old television screen, grow brighter, more distinct, stronger. The colors seem to grow and blossom into explosions of light, flowers of a hundred thousand colors, rainbows solid enough to walk on. They whirl around me like the stars in the night sky, like I am being thrown into them, falling, falling through the endless spectrum that finally bursts open in a brilliant white light that blinds and stuns me.
I fall back, and my feet find solid ground. I catch and steady myself.
I open my eyes.
So! You see what I mean, now? How this chapter was a headfirst dive into the story, whereas the previous ones have been hesitant by comparison? I have a vivid idea of what the next chapter is going to be like, and the overall story arc is tentatively starting to shape up in front of me. I finally feel like I’m starting to understand where this story can go, and what it can be. But I still want to hear your thoughts!
How do you envision the world Noomi sees when she opens her eyes? What is Silas going to teach her about crossing new worlds? Who is Silas, really? Where does he come from? And it sounds like something dramatic is going to happen in a few chapters at this classic high school party at Lissy’s house on Friday – I have a vision for that scene based on a dream I had a few years back, but I’m not sure I’m going to take it in that direction, so I’m totally open to suggestions. But even so, that’s a few weeks away, so we’ve still got time to work that part out!
Thank you for reading, and please leave your thoughts in the comments, if you so please!