oh, Tu :'D haha
The rest of the day was spent trying to keep myself occupied so that I didn't dwell further on the thought of Averil as my apple in the garden of Eden. A lot of the time, I just played the gorgeous guitar Cougen had gave me. I had named the instrument Madison—since Averil had managed to convince me instruments played better when they had a name. I still needed to pay for it—and during lunch of the following day, I was finally able to.
Averil had laid out a large tray of meats, cheeses, and crackers—of which we all pecked at happily. It was nice to be in Cougen's company again. His smile and cheerful moods were always contagious, and he seemed to bring laughter with him, where ever he went. It was definitely welcome in the cozy living room of Av's home.
“And so this guy—he was hulking huge, man,” Coug told his stories with enthusiastic hand gestures and appropriate, almost theatrical facial expressions, “he walks into the store, and I swear to god—this guy must have been like a professional wrestler or something—he comes in and stares at me over the counter for a moment before asking, 'got any pan flutes?' Pan flutes!? Seriously? This guy looks like he takes down bears for fun, and he wants a pan flute. What's he going to do with it? Can you maim someone with a pan flute? I was almost afraid to ask.” Averil and I both shared a humored laugh with him before he calmed down slightly to mention, “You're looking a lot better, already Turu. How have you been feeling?”
“Better,” I confirmed, “not a hundred percent, but definitely better. I don't feel like I'm dying.” I offered him a light grin and he returned it.
“Good to hear, bro,” he replied and pointed a stern finger at me, “no relapsing.”
Averil rolled her eyes and gave him a nudge, “No hassling.”
I waved it off with a smile. It was a valid concern, really. It would have been ignorant of me to deny the possibility—I wasn't nearly out of the woods yet. I wondered if I'd ever be, entirely.
We all helped Averil clean up after lunch, and shared some more casual chit chat. None of us had any further plans for the day—so Cougen wasn't in a hurry to leave and we weren't in a hurry to get rid of him. It was nice—almost comforting—to be in the company of another mut. Cougen was the only one I really knew.
“It's kind of crazy how much things can change over a couple of years,” I began casually, “I mean—technically, it wasn't that long ago—I didn't even have the privilege of sight.”
“And then, you managed to get into all sorts of trouble once you got it,” Cougen shot back, “you're learning though. Averil's doing a good job of getting you on your feet for the first time in your life.”
I gave a small nod, “Lucky.”
“Bah, luck,” Cougen scoffed, “don't believe in luck, believe in yourself—and in your friends.”
The corners of my mouth twitched into a small smirk, “I'll believe in myself, my friends, and luck. A little superstition never hurts.”
We shared a moment of bemused silence before I asked, “do you have any other friends who are muts?”
Cougen furrowed his brow quizzically, “why?”
“You're the only mut I know. It's just weird to me—that I wouldn't know more. I've never really met any mut other than you.”
“Do you need to? I'm pretty much like—a ten in one kind of deal,” he snorted a laugh.
I grinned with him, “I don't doubt that. I guess I'm just a bit curious.”
Coug crossed his arms pensively, “Well, there is this place I used to volunteer for...” he pursed his lips in uncertainty, “I don't know, though. It might not be the best place to start.”
My face lit up at the mention of it, “what place?”
Cougen rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, “yeah, it's a little bleak... I mean—it's a shelter. The more I think about it, the more I think it's not really a good idea.”
I gave him a goading frown and he strummed his fingers on his chin hesitantly, “alright, not now, dude. You just got off drugs—and what you'd see there might have you strongly reconsidering them.”
I threw my arms up in protest, “oh, come on. It can't be that bad.”
“Alright, fine,” Cougen caved, “Later, before I leave—I'll take you over.”
Averil invited him to stay for dinner as well—and he was happy to oblige. It wasn't until six that evening when Cougen finally agreed that it was time to head out to the shelter. It was only a bus ride and a bit of a walk before we found ourselves at the entrance of the rather bland looking building. It roughly resembled the look of an elementary school—brick walls, with concrete foundation, and red painted steel doors with windows you can peer into.
I followed Cougen up the cement steps and he turned to me before opening the door, “If you've never been around a group of unblinded muts before, brace yourself. It's a bit of a shock at first and things might get a little weird if you're not ready for it.”
I simply shrugged, “Alright, then.”
He gave a humorless laughed and shook his head, “I can't believe I'm doing this to you—good experience, I guess.”
He pulled the doors open, and I followed him in. There was a moment of dquiet—but as soon as my eyes fell upon the population inside the building, I was suddenly hit by a wall of noise. It sounded like radio static, blasted at full volume. It was an intrusive, unpleasant noise and I flattened my ears down as far as I could to block it out—but to no avail.
Cougen continued walking ahead of me—and I tried my best to keep up with him, but the noise interfered with my vision and it was difficult to keep my mind on what I was supposed to be doing. One thing I was able to tell, was that no one, not a single person, was talking. No one was even stirring--just staring at me.
“What is this!?” I tried to ask—but I wasn't certain if I had actually said it out loud.
I stopped to hold down my ears and shake my head in hopes to get rid of the loud sound that buzzed incessantly. It didn't work. I found myself wishing to leave, but I lost sense of direction completely, and couldn't remember which way was out. Rather, I couldn't focus enough to figure it out.
I was ready to drop to my knees and bury my head into my arms—I didn't know what was happening, or why. So suddenly, I had become very, very lost.
And then—silence. It was so sudden, my ears rang under the impact. There was nothing, not even a breath. I looked down to see a lady roughly my age, crouching on the ground with a hand on the leg of my pants. She was looking up at me with wide, curious eyes. Her skin was chocolate colored with a pale, almost cream colored spot around her right eye—and a patch beneath her collarbone that continued down under her shirt.
She was trying to tell me something, but her mouth didn't move.
I knelt down to meet her eye level. I needed to hear her out, and I was pulled in closer to her.
I know you. It was my own thoughts—not something she said. Yet for some reason, I could have sworn it came from her. I know you—but what–doing—a place—this? Lost.
It didn't quite make sense. I needed to get closer, to hear her. I needed to hear her.
I'm lost too. Stay with me.
I felt a strong grasp grip the back of my shirt and and I was yanked up suddenly. The feeling was akin to being jolted awake from a bucket of cold water to the face. Mild panic and anger washed over me for a fleeting moment and the loud noise of static returned to assault me.
“Alright, Romeo, I gotta get you out of here. You're really not dealing very well.” The voice was Cougen's.
In a daze, I couldn't respond to him, and he had to pull me by the arm to drag me out of the building. My eyes stayed locked mindlessly on the dark skinned mut until my view of her was blocked abruptly by the steel doors.
I stared there for a moment longer before turning to Cougen with confusion, “What—just happened?”
Cougen had already left the concrete steps and shrugged as I caught up with him, “I kinda lost you there, I think.” He looked at me with a wide grin, trying to fight off laughter, “What in the world—had you locking lips with that woman?”
What ever composure I had left--fell, “What!?”
“You were pretty into it, dude. I didn't know you were the kind of person to mack on strangers like that.” He jousted.
I wasn't certain if he was serious, or just joking around with me, “I'm not—I wasn't!”
“You were,” he replied in all seriousness, “So why? What was that all about?”
“I—I don't know, Seriously?” I blanched.
“Well, explain what you think happened then,” he replied coolly.
I scratched my jaw nervously, “Well, there was all this loud static—and then she made it really, really quiet. She was trying to say something, and I was just trying to get closer so that I could hear it.”
Listening to my own explanation made me realize how...ridiculous it was.
“You were confused,” Coug confirmed.
I shot him a cynical look, “No, really? What was all the noise?”
Cougen drew in a long breath, “well, muts—we all kind of have a sound. You know? Kinda like how people all have a distinct smell.” He looked at me, “You, for example—you sound like light rain. And I—apparently sound like some kind of a chime.”
“I didn't notice that,” I cut in, “You sound like a chime?”
He shrugged, “You've never heard the sound of a chime around me?”
“Only when in your shop.” I replied.
He smirked, “well, my shop has no chime. So there you go.”
I frowned, “Huh.”
“Anyways,” Cougen continued, “Those muts—are all there because most of them escaped some kind of abusive lifestyle—and need a safe haven to stay until they get their stuff together enough to go out on their own. They're all pretty traumatized—they all feel out of control to some degree. I guess, their 'sound' sort of reflects that—and when you have that many distressed muts in such a small area, you get that 'static' you were talking about. If you're not expecting it, it's pretty hard to shut it out. It's not a real sound—normal human beings can't hear it. It's in your head—so it probably messes with your mind pretty well when it's that intrusive. And that accounts for all the confusion you had back there.”
“Weird.” I replied flatly, “But what about the sudden silence and that lady?”
Cougen shrugged, “maybe silence is her sound. So when you focused on her, that's all you heard.”
“Well, there was a ringing, too,” I recalled.
“There you go.” Cougen replied curtly, “I keep thinking it was a bad idea to bring you there—but maybe not. It's a good experience for you.”
I wasn't entirely on the same page as him with this situation, “This wasn't my first time with a large group of muts,” I argued, “I spent the majority of my life with a group of them—and I've never experienced anything like that.”
“You were all blindfolded, weren't you?” Cougen asked.
I nodded and he replied, “then that's why. Turns out, if you can see each other, you can't 'hear' each other. It's one of those weird things—people are looking into with hopes to get more information. Did you finish reading that book I gave you?”
“Oh—” I shook my head, “Not yet, no.”
Cougen smirked, “Bernard explains it as some kind of low level telepathy. I think I told you about it before.”
I snorted, “Right.”
“You didn't believe me,” he nudged.
I tilted my head side to side skeptically, “Still not sure I do.”
“Stubborn ass,” Coug shot back with a smirk, “oh well, make up your own reasons for it then.”
It was an almost nightmarish experience—but I had already decided that I would return again... Be it curiosity, or foolishness, I felt like I needed to go back and figure out why things played out the way they did.
It was just—bizarre.