Title: Lead the Dance
Chapter: 3 of 8
Other Info: Sequel to A Change of Grace
Excerpt: Keepers have eyes that glow. Did you know that? They glow. It’s probably one of the most unnerving things about them, other than that infuriating sense that they’re little Gods, that they give off. Spend enough time with them and you begin to ooze your own inferiority. You start reaching for that mood enhancer cocktail, you know a Keeper is bugging the piss outta you.
Keepers have eyes that glow. Did you know that? They glow. It’s probably one of the most unnerving things about them, other than that infuriating sense that they’re little Gods, that they give off. Spend enough time with them and you begin to ooze your own inferiority. You start reaching for that mood enhancer cocktail, you know a Keeper is bugging the piss outta you.
But anyway, yeah… their eyes glow. It’s how you know you’re dealing with an old, old Keeper. One who’s not even human anymore.
They deny it of course. They say that the glow is an illusion, that it’s just reflection, but hell… peoples’ eyes just don’t normally do that.
You know what it’s like when you look at your dog or cat, and the light hits their eyes just right?
That flat, inhuman, creepy luminescence?
Keeper glow is almost like that animal eyeshine, but there’s one big difference, and that difference is disconcerting as hell.
If you look at an animal just right, you see that luminosity just obliterating their eye. You can’t see the iris, you can’t see the pupil, all you can see is that featureless shine, layered over the top. So there’s not soul looking back out at you.
Keeper eyeshine is inside their eyes. Like a glass pane that lets you look through their eye to the energy behind it. You see a normal eye… with a red glow just pulsing and flaring away underneath it. All that energy, just flashing behind their eyes.
Scary as hell until you get used to it.
Of course most people don’t ever see it. If they see a Keeper at all, which is rare in and of itself, they don’t see the eyeshine. Their perceptions haven’t stepped up that extra notch that would let them be aware of it. It’s not their fault. Keepers are more or less invisible to them anyway, because their powers of comprehension are so limited. No insult intended to any of you humans reading this, ok? I mean, you are smart and all that, but you’re cursed with this inability to use your minds. God’s sense of humor working overtime, if you believe in God.
See, mortals can’t process anything that crosses outside their little bridge of what can be logically understood, and when something happens that steps off that bridge, they literally can’t think about it. Not won’t, can’t. can not. They don’t have the ability. But it’s there, and it registered, and so it sinks down into that horrible black pit of the subconscious, where it can fester and make all kinds of trouble, without ever really giving them anything.
They see through mud, mortals do. Only the very surface of everything. They miss so much. Which is why they don’t usually see the Keepers. An ethereal, almost invisible person with flashing red eyes definitely fits into the realm of the unthinkable, (unless it’s in New York City), and they just don’t realize they saw it.
Oh a few do… people who have something a little more or less than human in them, but they don’t understand what they saw. They usually only end up having nightmares about demons with glowing red eyes.
The Keepers aren’t demons, no. Not that with some of the things they do, and the frequency at which they piss us off, sometimes we don’t think they just might be.
No, what causes the shine isn’t supernatural or demonic… what it
really is, is that being a Keeper plays merry hell with their physiology.
You see, the Keepers… they work the strands. The strands are the physical manifestation of everything. Not just “time”, your concept, but everything that is, was, will be. Everything. Everywhen. Everybody.
The strands are what is. They’re the only thing that is, really. They contain, produce and eliminate the very essence of what existence is.
If the strands weren’t there, then nothing would be anywhere. We would have Void. Nothingness.
There are places that are Void. Little streams between things that are, that there are no strands for, that never had them or that had them and lost them. Places that really can’t even BE places, because they are so nothing. Even nothing can’t exist there.
So you see the strands have worth. They are not just a philosophy.
And like anything of worth, the strands are fragile. They need upkeep. They
need tending. Because without tending there would be Void.
The Keepers… they’re the ones who were chosen, because of their own worth, to tend the strands, and in so doing assume responsibility for existence on a cosmic level. They hold the fate not of the world, not of time, but of existence itself, in their hands. And they agree to do this. They agree to do this.
And oh… the price they pay. They pay with their souls, their bodies, their lives… and their humanity.
See, it’s the strands that do it.
Not malevolently, no… although they’re sentient they are emotionless… they can bear no love or malice… but they take… and they give… and in that give and take they profoundly alter the people who are working with them.
When they work the strands they soak up that energy. Raw, vital, universal life energy, the energy of existence! And it affects them… Changes them.
Changes that from a linear perspective take hundreds of years to manifest.
If you see a Keeper with eyeshine you know you’re looking at a very old Keeper. One who’s no longer human. One who can no longer die.
That glow, the only really observable physical manifestation of exactly what those people gave up.
Yeah, gave up. Immortality at a price. It may not sound like a sacrifice, but imagine trading your humanity, your ability to feel, to love, to hate, to make love on a summer night, to eat chocolate, to touch silk… in exchange for the responsibility of keeping the universe afloat.
All reflected in that vibrant red flash beyond the eyes of something that used to be a person.
You’ll almost never see eyeshine in a young Keeper. They haven’t had enough “time”, or enough exposure. They’re still made of flesh, not of whatever the strands are made of.
And in a fledgling like Zac you never see it at all. It’s a virtual impossibility, because the energy has to accumulate.
Yeah yeah I can hear you now. “But Nick, if all time is now then they’ve already accumulated it all so they could shine.”
Sure. Remind me to tell you about paradox sometime too, haha.
There is no paradox, and although while time doesn’t move, time isn’t linear, people do tend to be, and Keepers, whatever else they may be, at least start out as human. They’re exempt from any law of reality anyway.
And whether logic can explain it or not, until a Keeper reaches the stage where he or she is no longer living, they can’t show eyeshine.
At least that’s the theory.
Because Zac, you see… Zac is a different story.
I knew when I saw the kid that I had to get him outta my shop. Not because he was crying, not because he was spouting Lovecraft with Jake and raving about the Mountains of madness, and not because we’d get bagged by the feds for having a minor in there. That didn’t mean shit, we paid out so much in taxes the following year that it really didn’t mean anything anyway. They could have fined us a billion dollars a minute for every minute he was in there, and we’d have been no broker than we already were.
No, I had to get him out because I didn’t want Jake and Susie to see his eyes.
Half crazy, sick with temporal shift reaction, and eyes that flashed just as red as a stoplight. There just wasn’t any way I could explain that. Oh I knew what it was, but I didn’t understand it, not in the slightest. I just knew I had to get him out of there.
He came along pretty willingly, of course he did. People usually do go willingly with their friends. See, that’s’ the temporal shift that threw him, and subsequently me, for such a loop.
He’d recognized me. And it was driving him bugshit because he knew (from his view) that he’d never met me, yet he remembered me clearly. And with every throb of that thought, those eyes of his would flash red under all that honey brown.
It scared the ever-loving be-Jesus outta me because I knew, knew that that couldn’t be!
Travelers, like me, we can always see the Keepers, we have that stepped up perceptive level that lets us see what’s really there. We see them, we see the eyeshine, we see that almost wraithlike lack of substance to them… but never in a new Keeper. Never. It’s a universal impossibility.
A universal impossibility that was staring me right in the eye and mutely begging me to tell it what was going on.
Kay had given me something beyond anyone’s knowledge or wildest dreams. The only explanation for him I could find then, was that he’d already been working the strands, and working them hard. But since he was fledgling, who’d never even SEEN the strands, I knew that wasn’t so.
I didn’t know what the hell was up, what to do, where to take him, or what to say to him, so I figured the best thing to do was to leave it up to him.
I drove him home. He never spoke the whole way, even though I was cussing my life away. I fucking hate to drive in this city. Hate it. Screaming tidal wave of homicidal maniacs on wheels is what it is.
But I drove him home, or back to his hotel, which he called home, gave him my number, and told him to call me when he felt like he could.
Then I went home and waited for him to call.
It turned out to be the longest day and night of my life.