Eliza Jane Beard & Marie Tonks
Ethan and Xander
In the perspective of Ethan:
I smile up at my mom as we walk to the playground hand in hand. The sunlight catches the fly-aways from her bun, making her head glow like an angel. As we approach the playground she squeezes my hand, “Go play, Ethan,” she says with a smile. I let go of her hand and run straight for the monkey bars and swing myself across.
The interesting thing about this playground is that it’s right by the fence. An eight foot tall chain-link wall that divides the city in half. Half for the demons, and half for the humans. I don’t think it’s fair to cut a city in half like that. All the other second graders at school seem to disagree though.
I look out towards the Demon’s city. It looks just like ours. Tall office buildings, short houses and medium-sized trees in-between. The Demons don’t have a playground by the fence. They just have a walking path with aspen and cottonwood trees lining the sides. I turn my attention back to my playground. It isn’t really mine, but I like to think that it is. Sometimes it’s even my castle, or my restaurant or sometimes it’s just a playground. I run across the wobbly bridge and shoot down my favorite slide. At the bottom, I notice something. Right in front of me, behind the tall fence, is a Demon.
He looks at me calmly. Almost timidly. One eye is black and the other is white. His pupils are diamond-shaped and also black and white. Miss-matched to the color of his eyes. He has pale skin and white hair with thick and short black horns sticking out. He wears a black and white hoodie with white pants. There is very little color on him at all. Even the diamonds at the ends of his forked tail are black and white.
He blinks at me but doesn’t say anything. He isn’t even smiling. Maybe a normal kid would have been scared of him, but not me. We just stare at each other for a long time until my curiosity gets the better of me. I stand up and walk over to the fence. His pale little hands are gripping the chain-link. “Hi!” I say, trying to sound friendly. He looks a little startled and scared but when he sees that I’m nice, a shy smile creeps onto his face, “Hello.” he says. He sounds just like me. Just like a human. I notice his little tail starts to wag a bit. “I’m Ethan!” i say. His smile grows wider, “my name is Xander.”
Just then, my mom calls me, “Ethan! Time to go.” the smile disappears from Xander’s face. “I come to the park every day. Maybe I can see you again,” I say. his smile doesn’t return. He only nods, “bye Ethan.” I smile, “goodbye Xander.”
That night at dinner all I can think about is Xander. He’s the first Demon I’ve ever seen. Ever talked to. I poke some mac-and-cheese onto my fork, “so…” I start, “I made a friend at the park today.” my dad smiles. The ceiling light over the table reflecting off of his glasses and his bald head. “good for you Ethan,” he says. My mom smiles too. All warm and gentle, “that’s wonderful Honey.” the smile lines by her eyes wrinkling. My older sister doesn’t react. I chew my mac and cheese, swallow, and continue. “His name is Xander and he’s a Demon.” my sister chokes on her water. My father looks mad. My mother looks a bit scared, “WHAT?” they say in unison. My eyes go wide and start to sting, “I-thought… I thought you understood.” my mom softens, “Ethan, honey,” my sister cuts in, “you can’t be friends with a Demon.” I feel a tear roll down my cheek. “But, I don’t understand. I thought you guys knew… this isn’t fair!” my dad slams a fist onto the table, “go to your room Ethan.” he says. I’m openly crying now. But I don’t care. I stand up abruptly and run off to my room. I can hear my mother’s voice in hushed tones as I slam my door behind me.
I never understood racism before. Back in the renaissance times all the way up to the 1800s Demons would keep humans as slaves. We were lesser beings. We didn’t have wings or horns. We couldn’t fly. But we fought back. Over the course of years humans became independent. Free. but even at my young age, I could tell something was wrong. I have one green eye and one brown. The kids at school would make fun of me. Calling me a Demon and getting everyone to avoid me. I felt the pain of the Demons. Racism had flipped on its head. The tables were turned and now the Demons are treated as lesser.
Nine years later I am sixteen. And still friends with Xander. We kept meeting in secret at the playground. And eventually my parents warmed up to the idea. But no one else did. Whenever me and Xander would go anywhere he was looked at like a monster. But that’s okay. We have each other.
A knock comes from my door, “Ethan!” my mother calls, “your friend is here.” I stand up and grab my skateboard. She doesn’t have to specify which friend. Xander’s the only one I have. “Okay. I’m coming.”
Me And Xander hop the Fence discreetly between two leafy trees. Xander is the first to talk once on the other side. “I’m still so glad that your parents will actually let me into your house! It was so hard to meet up before…” he drifts off but i know what he means. Demons don’t have phones. The only electronic devices that are sold on that side of the fence are televisions. “Yeah,” I say, “I’m glad too. I just wish other Humans would understand you.”
Xander shakes his head, “It’s really fine. I honestly don’t mind.”
I groan quietly, “You should though! You should care. It really bothers me.” Xander chuckles a little, “okay Ethan. I can try to be more offended if it makes you feel better.” I playfully thwack him on the shoulder, “you know what I mean. What are we doing today?” I ask curiously. Xander smiles and rocks back on his heels, “we’re taking my little sister to a ballet!” I groan louder, “Ballet? Really Xander?” he slumps a little, “well, I don’t really have a choice in the matter. It’s closing night and I promised to take my sister.” Xander’s always been the softer friend. “Shouldn’t ballet be boring to a five-year-old?” I ask. Xander immediately shakes his head, “no no no, not for Akari. You do know she dances, right?” I nod, “yeah, I know but I thought she did Jazz not ballet.” Xander shrugs, “ballet is the heart of dance. It’s difficult and artistic. All dance is based on it.” I shake my head, “no, what about breakdancing?” Xander smacks his forehead, “bro, you know what I mean. Akari is not into breakdancing!” i laugh, “yes, but you said “All Dance.” so…” Xander laughs and looks at his feet. Fiddling with a loose strand of thread on his half-black half-white hoodie. His aesthetic hasn’t changed much in the past nine years.
All the way to his house to pick up Akari the other Demons look at me weird, but not the way the Humans look at Xander. They look at him in disgust while the Demons look at me with fear. The demon’s side of the Fence is a lot like mine. But the demons don’t have as many luxuries. No cars or lawn mowers. No phones, computers or tablets, which means no things like door-dash or even Email. The whole city seems to run on the postal service.
We approach Xander’s home and Akari bursts through the door, “XANDIE!!!” she shouts, slamming into him with a hug. He stiffens at her touch but smiles and pats her head, “You all ready to go?” She pulls away from him and nods enthusiastically. Bouncing up and down. Xander smiles, “okay then!” Xander and Akari go and get their bikes and I slap down my skateboard. It’s Dark green with a white racing stripe down the middle. I’ve had it since the fifth grade. Xander and Akari return and Akari clasps her pink sparkly helmet to her head menacingly, “you ready to race Ethan?” I nod, placing a foot on my skateboard, “you know it! And this time, I’ll win!” Akari puts on her sassiest girl-boss face, “no, I don’t think you will.” she sticks out her tongue and bursts ahead. She’s got a lot of attitude for a five year old. “Akari! Wait up!” Xander shouts, trying to clasp his helmet as quickly as he can, “stop! I need to watch you”
I kick off my skateboard, “It’s okay, I’ve got it.” After I turn the corner I have Akari in view and before she disappears behind another corner Xander has caught up and we can all relax. Akari’s full-speed is about as fast as a relaxed ride for me and Xander.
After a long ride and a lot of complaining from Akari we make it to the performance center. I pull my oversized green hoodie’s hood over my head to hide the fact that I don’t have horns or large pointed ears. It’s not illegal to go to the other side of the Fence but sometimes you won’t get let into things. It’s better safe than sorry. If you really paid attention, you would notice that my hood is too smooth to have large ears under it but my multi-colored eyes are distracting and Demon-y enough that my cover never gets blown.
We step into the large building and Xander pays for two adult and one kid tickets. It only comes to a total of five dollars. Things are cheaper on this side of The Fence. Akari is worn out from the bike ride over but she is still excited. Xander looks pretty excited too but I still don’t see the appeal.
We find our seats in the audience and sit down. Akari is bouncing, Xander is fiddling with that loose thread on his hoodie again and I am slouching in my seat. I should be more optimistic about this. I don’t know. I’m still being supportive though. I am here. Sitting on a seat in an auditorium full of demons in a city full of demons. I’m not supposed to go to the other side. My parents don’t like the idea. But Xander coming to the human side was… well, I just prefer this.
The house lights go down and the curtain goes up. Akari squeals Xander taps his fingers on his arm rest. I try to look interested.
A lone dancer glides onto stage with what are in my opinion, the most painful looking shoes in the world. Then she flails around like a feather falling from a bird’s wing. It’s graceful I guess but I really don’t see why someone would devote their life to this. But as the show goes on, I find myself getting more involved with the story. A girl who is betrothed to the richest prince alive. But she thinks he’s a jerk. She likes this other dude who gets framed and imprisoned by the prince. The girl is sad and finds out that the prince plans to execute the other guy the next morning. It sounds like a pretty normal storyline except that the prince turns out to be a Dragon, which I did not expect. Xander leans over during the final scene (the wedding, obviously) and whispers, “did you notice that one back up dancer? She’s really good.” I have no idea who he’s talking about, “um… no, who?” Xander points just a little bit, “the one who’s hair is half pink, back there, on the left.” I watch the girl he mentioned. He’s right… Her Dancing and emotion seem to be just as good as the lead, if not better. Not to say the lead wasn’t amazing, she and the other guy were doing some absolutely bonkers partner-moves and spins. The lead guy has wings which they used to their advantage. Big white feathered ones like an angel’s.
All Demons can fly, but wings just make it easier or something, Xander explained it to me once. But the girl with the half-pink hair… She just dances differently. Her movements are more graceful. Smooth but crisp at the same time. Then the ballet ends. The curtains close, the house lights go back up. I find myself a little sad that it is over. Not as sad as Akari, who is crying and looks on the verge of a fit. Xander picks her up onto his back and carries her as we leave the audience seats and walk into the lobby. I walk through the crowd of demons and dancers, but then I realize that Xander isn’t behind me. I turn around scanning the crowd. The Dancer with the half-pink hair walks towards me bare-foot. Holding her pointe shoes in her hand, “you’re with the short black-and-white demon, right?” my head snaps up, “um, yeah, if we’re talking about the same Demon. He’s also not that short. You’re just tall.” she waves a hand in the air, “whatever. I’m only six two. Follow me. He’s standing in a corner.” I want to protest that six foot two is pretty tall, especially for a girl, but now I’m mostly worried about Xander. I follow her through the mass of people and find Xander standing next to a drinking fountain and the wall. Hands bunched into fists. Akari is standing in front of him, tugging on the sleeve of his hoodie. “This is your friend, right?” the girl asks. I nod, “yeah. Come on Xander. It’s quieter outside.” I say, taking his hand and leading him through the crowd. The girl and Akari follow us.
Once outside and away from the buzzing, constant noise Xander begins to relax. We sit on a bench while Akari talks to the girl like she’s famous. The girl laughs and grabs a marker. Signing Akari’s sparkly helmet that she had kept on the whole show. Akari’s eyes go wide and she runs over to Xander, “LOOK! Xandie! Stacy signed my helmet!” Stacy. So that was her name. Xander looks a bit confused, “um… Stacy? Where did you even get that marker from?” he asks quietly. Stacy caps it and tucks it back into her bodice, “I always Dance with this marker. Then, after a show, I sign something. Anything! The first thing I signed was my first pair of pointe shoes. I think I signed that bench you’re sitting on, too.” Akari peers all around the bench and spots the signature after a while, “here! On the bottom!” she shouts. I raise an eyebrow, “um… isn’t that vandalism?” I ask. Stancy places a hand on her chest dramatically, “I find that very offensive!” Xander smiles, “he’s right.” Stacy rolls her eyes, “yes, your Human friend is right. But I’m still offended.” she says, crossing her arms.
My eyes widen, “you can tell I’m a human?”
Stacy laughs, “um, that hood isn’t a very convincing disguise.” I fold my arms as well, “okay, now I’m offended.”
Xander speaks up, “um, Stacy? I noticed that you’re a really good Dancer. Why were you not any of the leads?” his voice is just above a whisper. As it usually is with new people. Stacy sighs, “I wanted to be the Leading lady. I still have her dance memorized. But my coach said that my Hair was too distracting.” Xander looks shocked, “that is so unfair! You were really good.” Stacy smiles, “Thank you. It is unfair. You really shouldn’t keep someone from doing something just because of how they look.” Akari twirls around, “I Like your pink hair!” Stacy blushes a little, “Thank you Akari.” Her Hair is a very bright, distracting Pink but she makes a good point. A point that I’ve wanted more people to make since the second grade.
In the perspective of Xander:
The other side of the fence is a lot brighter. And louder.
I tuck my ears down as far as they can go, tightening my hoodie further around my face.
Ethan doesn’t know I’m here, and, frankly, I don’t really either.
Crossing the fence is easy enough, there aren’t any guards. No one in their right minds would pass anyways. I guess that means me and Ethan aren’t in their right minds.
I don’t really think that of course. In my opinion, we’re the only ones who make sense in any way.
When I was little, my grandpa would tell me stories about the Shok War. that’s only what the Demons call it though. The Humans call it the Victory War.
My grandpa told me that Shok meant “Mourning” in Hindi, and that that was what the Demon King had spoken back then. Most of the Demons called it the Shok War because they were losing their servants and had lost their dominance over the Humans. But my grandpa, and a few others, called it that because of the large amount of deaths that had occurred during it. Grandpa had said it was too many to count. Mostly on the Demon side.
He had even lost his wife, Akari, who is my little sister’s name sake.
When the war ended, the wall was built, using Demon slaves. I guess we kind of deserved it from all the pain and suffering we had caused the Humans. They don’t keep us as slaves any more though. We scare them too much.
It starts to rain and I pull my sleeves over my hands.
As I pass the playground I smile, it is the same playground where I met Ethan all those years ago. It’s too small to really do anything now, but occasionally we will sit on the swings and talk about when we were little.
I was really scared back then, what with my parents just getting divorced and all, and I had run from an especially large fight without realizing where I was going. When I ended up at the fence, I heard laughing and stepped closer.
I didn’t expect for Ethan to see me and come over, but I’m very glad he did. Even on Demon terms my family isn’t very popular. I’m not verry popular.
I cross the street, careful to look both ways, even though it’s two o’ clock at night and no one is out.
A particularly loud song coming from a party nearby makes me wince and walk farther away.
I take a deep breath to calm myself down and stand still for a moment, listening to the rain and focusing on my senses.
The rain is soothing, as usual, and I’m able to make my way past the house and towards my destination.
We don’t have any back in Volataun, so my only chance is to cross the fence and see if I can find anything at the Human library.
The door is locked, unsurprisingly, but Human locks aren’t made to avoid Demon tails, so I get in pretty quickly.
I pull off my hood and shake the water out of my hair, blowing my bangs off of my face.
The W section is in the back, and it’s quite dark. I pick my way through the shelves until I find the book I’m looking for.
The Victory War and The Conquering of the Demons.
It has a grisly image of a Human stabbing a Demon through the heart on the cover and I grimace, opening the book.
It’s mostly gloating about how amazing Humans are and how they defeated the Demon army with only half their forces unchained. I shiver at the mention of Adelram Lee, the human who led the revolt, and the reason my family is hated so much.
My grandfather had taken in a few ‘slaves’ who he treated as part of the family so they wouldn’t have to suffer. One of those was Adelram. Grandfather’s favorite. He didn’t know that during the night he was meeting with other Humans and plotting their revenge. He also didn’t know that one day Adelram would take a knife to Akari’s back and leave her to bleed out on the kitchen floor for my grandfather to find.
I flip farther through the book and find the pages I’m looking for, titled: “The End of the War and The Destruction of Raaja”
Raaja was the Demon king. The last one before him and his family were murdered, leaving no one to take his place.
Unfortunately there isn’t much about who actually ended the war and how it happened. The Humans say that Raaja surrendered as long as they wouldn’t kill his family, but they did that anyways, so I’m not sure, especially since after their murders the rest of the Demons wouldn’t just back down. We aren’t like that.
But before I can finish, I hear the door open.
“We know you’re in there, Demon scum!” A drunken voice calls.
Rain pours in through the now open door, and over the man standing in it. He looks a little tipsy, and I’m not used to seeing drunk Humans. We’re not allowed alcohol in Volataun, and it’s a rare thing for any Demons to see one like this.
It makes it easier for you to avoid them though, and I’m glad for that as I race through the aisles, trying not to let the now five Humans notice me as I slip through the books.
I’m nearly to the door when one of them grabs me by the arm. His grip is hard and rough and it makes me squeal. I turn around and bite him to make him let go.
He screams and shouts that I’m feral, yelling various other expletives as I thrash, trying to get out of his grip. He didn’t let go even though I bit him, and now the others are beginning to circle around me.
I shrink back into myself, my ears and tail tucking close to me. One of the humans yanks my tail and I scream again, tears spilling down my cheeks. “Let me go!”
The human with my tail laughs and yanks harder. “So it speaks!”
I thrash my tail, trying to get the human to let go, and it hits the human’s arm, making it bleed slightly. The human roars as if his arm has been cut off and he yanks again, eliciting another scream from me.
The human pulls me closer and I see a knife in his hand. He leans close into my face and I can smell the alcohol on his breath.
“You should have never come here, ugly. You should have known someone would find you and make you pay.”
He presses the knife against my cheek, delicately running it down my face.
I don’t dare move.
He suddenly smiles widely and digs the edge into my cheek.
My screech is so loud all of the humans flinch and cover their ears, the human holding me dropping his knife and stepping back, terrified.
I grab my cheek and dash out of the library before they can catch me again, crying hard and flying as fast as I can.
I hear them yelling behind me, but I don’t stop to look back.
I can’t go home now, not since my face is like this. Mom would never forgive me again and I would never be let out.
Instead I run to the first place I can think of: Ethan’s home. I only pray that he’s there.
His house is warm, much warmer than the cold, wet outside, and from the window I crept in from, it’s very cozy.
I’ve only ever seen the main entryway of Ethan’s house, I’ve never even asked to be let in. I don’t think Ethan’s mom would approve of me coming anyway. But I don’t have a choice now.
I land and creep up to where I know Ethan’s room is and I knock on the door quietly.
Surprisingly, I hear shuffling footsteps coming from inside. Ethan wasn’t asleep.
I hear him come to the door and yawn loudly.
“I’m coming, I’m coming. Sorry Mom, I didn’t know you would still be awake. I was just waiting for Dad.”
He opens the door and I see his eyes widen. Before he can say anything, or even scream, I clamp my hands over his mouth.
To be continued