The cracked and torn wallpaper plastered clumsily over the walls around her echoed with years of sorrow and degradation, as her amber eyes looked down at the lifeless and unmoving form of the child at her feet.
An overwhelming sensation of nausea rumbled from the depths of her stomach and made its way up to her throat. Envy clenched her eyes shut; the only thing she could do to keep the vomit at bay.
Eternities of being a Sin has taught her the blessing and the curse it was to be cut away from what it meant to be human. It had been eons since she’d felt human emotions, as Envy could only stand there staring at her crime.
Her hands may not have reached for the pillow and laid it softly over the child’s face, and it may not have pressed down over the child’s mouth, but it might as well have. It also might have been her hands that suffocated the child and waited till she slowly went limp, before removing the pillow to stare down in satisfaction at the dark deed done that day.
Envy pried her eyes away from the child and scanned her surroundings. Furniture had been strewn across the already squalid apartment that was, mere hours before, home to this child and her mother.
She didn’t mean to do it, she kept telling herself. It wasn’t her fault, she persuaded her conscience. But with the crime already committed and by her coaxing the atrocity done, there was little she could say to convince herself otherwise.
“It was only a little touch, nothing more,” she whispered to herself.
Envy turned her small shoulders and walked the other way. As she did so, she grabbed a half-opened tin of baked beans sitting on the counter next to a little bowl with pictures of a smiling rainbow and dancing bears and hurled it at the mirror across the room. The sound of shattered glass only fueled the cocktail of emotions within her.
She quietly exited the front door of the apartment and walked down the graffiti covered stairwell. As she did so, Envy passed a young lady whose eyes were dark from exhaustion with patches of black and blue covering her arms while cigarette burns mapped a story of woe across her skin.
The lady entered the same door Envy had walked out from. Not two seconds later, a shrill scream came from within, with shouts of “My baby!” ringing continuously after. Envy walked on, her face a blank canvas; expressionless as she welcomed the darkness that slowly enveloped her.
The cool night’s air whipped her long turquoise locks all around her as she found herself standing atop the rooftop of a city skyscraper, looking down at the ants milling around below.
“So fragile, so naive,” she said to herself.
If only they knew how trivial and meaningless this life actually was, she thought. They wake up and perform the same chores they do day in and day out until one day they merely stop.
Just then, a feeling of bitterness and contempt welled up inside her, boiling from the depths of her stomach and increasing in size till it became too much to be contained.
“I used to perform miracles!” she suddenly shouted. “People prayed for salvation from me! They wrote books about my deeds!”
She paced left and right on the rooftop as these new emotions bubbled to the surface; a sudden overwhelming feeling of pride.
“They would clamor at my feet, grovel in my presence! They…!”
Noticing something amiss, Envy caught herself mid-sentence. She cut her words short and scanned the darkness around her.
“Stop it, brother!” she yelled after identifying the source behind the sudden change in her emotions.
From the shadows behind an air vent, a tall man with fine features, wearing a black duster coat over a crisp white shirt and dark blue jeans walked out, barefoot as his toes crunched the gravel-covered surface of the rooftop.
Pride smirked childishly as he walked closer to Envy, the sound of crunching accompanying him as his toes playfully dug themselves into the gravel.
“Hello, Evie,” he said as he inched closer.
“You shouldn’t do that,” Envy said, annoyed. Her furrowed brows relaxed, more ashamed than angry that Pride had used his abilities on her, making her reveal what was inside her heart of hearts.
“Oh, it was only a bit of fun, love. Besides, you’ve used that power of yours more than once on me remember?” he said smiling.
Envy turned away from her brother and looked back down to the humans below, still transfixed by their movements.
There was a time when she remembered the taste of salt on her tongue and the bitter cold on her skin. But that was years and years and years ago. All that’s left of her humanity had been overshadowed by her duties and sorrow-filled immortality.
At that moment, Envy felt spent, like a wet cloth wrung out for far too long and left to unfurl itself on its own accord, her skin burning from the blisters and the strain.
“You look so crestfallen, Evie. What’s eating you?” Pride asked sincerely, his face changing to mirror his tone.
“Do you think they deserve it, brother? For all the things we do to them, the sins we affect them with?” she asked.
Pride winced. He never did like that word, “Sins”. He never perceived themselves as a crime or the damnation so many people preached about these days. Pride preferred the term ‘human nature’, a natural attribute in these mortals.
“You know I don’t like that word, Evie,” he said drily, while unconsciously dropping his voice.
“Oh. Sorry,” was all Envy could offer in return. ”But do you think they deserve all of… us?” she asked.
“I believe that it’s not a matter of what they deserve but what will they do with what we have given them,” said Pride. “It’s in all of them. What we do is to merely facilitate when the need arises. These mortals — these, these humans — were given free will and it’s their decision whether to act on it.”
“But we prod them, no? Like cattle, egging them forward. Or like mice in a maze, tempting them with the cheese at the end of the tunnel, but instead of cheese, there’s only death,” Envy said, believing her actions nothing more than an accomplice to their crimes.
“Facilitators, Evie, nothing more,” her brother assured her. “You’ve been doing a good job at it so far,” he continued, egging Envy’s own pride on. “Your actions are historic.”
Envy knows which events Pride was referring to. She remembers all the deaths indirectly committed by her hand.
She was there when Cain murdered his brother Abel and when the townsfolk nailed that poor carpenter on that cross up on the hill. The books these humans read nowadays spoke of fear and pride, but it was Envy that fueled their actions that day. They envied the man’s eventual success and the following he would receive. That alone was enough to provoke hostility.
She was there when the man was carrying the large wooden cross on his back, managed to catch the man’s eyes when he dragged it through town. She was there when a soldier’s spear was thrust into the man’s side.
Envy suddenly remembered why she found it so hard to forgive these humans. It was their lack of control over their own gifts that she found atrocious.
She turned to her brother who for the longest time had been studying her expression.
“No more,” she said to Pride’s face. “I won’t stand there while another boyfriend murders his girlfriend’s child just because he was envious of a mother and daughter’s bond.” Envy’s face reflected the bitter contempt her tongue spat out.
“Was that what happened a while ago? Is that your breaking point, Evie?” he asked. “While the world festers and reeks with the stench of hypocrisy and bigotry and humans and death go hand in hand as it has always been for millenniums, was a toddlers death your breaking point?”
“No more, brother,” she said as she forced the tears she knows will not come. “It wasn’t just this little girl, Pride! It was the rationale of the man’s actions justifying his reason. How did he ever believe that murdering his lover’s child would justify the envy in his heart?”
Pride looked forlorn. He knew that logic and emotion can take no equal place in a human’s heart; it must be one or the other. While emotions takes precedence, logic and rationale are thrown aside.
“I can offer you no solace, sister, within this world we dwell in. But I can say this, Evie. Our actions and our duties are essential in preserving the survival of these humans. Without your sister and brothers and I, these humans you love so much would wither away.”
Envy looked into Pride’s twinkling eyes that mirrored the stars above; pitch black save for the flickers of light that dotted his irises. What the night’s sky shows, so too does his eyes reflect.
Before Pride could protest or offer any words to dissuade Envy from her current path, she disappeared, leaving a thin wisp of cloud that twirled in her place.
“It doesn’t always have to end in death, Evie,” Pride said to the darkness.
* * *
(Seven years later)
The pot of freshly brewed coffee sat steaming on the polished marble counter of the little train car diner at the corner of 7th Avenue.
Men and nurses who worked the graveyard shift that night slowly sidled up to the stools lining the counter.
“What can I get you?” asked a petite young lady with long turquoise hair and with more than a little pep.
Despite the energy, the young girl looked normal enough, save for the tinge of orange and red lining her irises. If someone were to look closely, they could see the soft hue of amber that twinkled under the fluorescent bulbs above.
“Coffee. Black, no sugar, non-decaf,” said the man in the orange overalls stained by tar; a road construction worker paving the road on Smith Avenue.
Just then, another patron’s order came; a steaming heap of everything on the menu. Pancakes with melted butter, bacon and hash browns, sauteed mushrooms and potatoes and scrambled eggs filled the plate to its brim as the patron looked on with satisfaction at what she would consume in a mere moment.
The man in the overalls just stared and turned away disinterested.
“Sure I can’t get you something else? Something like that?” the girl asked, pointing to the heaping mass of food.
“No. Why?’ the man in the overalls asked back, to which he then turned his gaze down to his hands clasped solemnly in front of him, quietly avoiding all conversations forthwith.
Envy sighed. She grabbed a cloth near the sink and wiped down the area in front of the man in the orange overalls and placed a mug in front of him. She paused for a second before pouring him his coffee, contemplating whether or not she should ask him anything else. She thought better of it and just poured the coffee.
It was a slow night like every other. Surprising since this diner was the only eatery open past 5 in the city. People had become increasingly uninterested in the world today. And if it wasn’t for Envy persuading the owner to let her keep the diner open till late, it would’ve closed at 5, like all the rest in this husk of a city.
Envy noticed that only two people were left; the man in the overalls and the lady with the huge plate of food.
She grabbed the remote and switched on the television, but all it revealed was static. The local TV stations, apathetic with viewership and late night audiences had cut their nighttime slots to focus more on the hours of 4 to 8 pm when they know people would be watching. The radio stations had ceased operations entirely as they found it useless to compete with the local television networks.
The last TV broadcast at 8 was news that the gross domestic products of several, if not all countries had dropped dramatically, only maintaining the production of enough goods and services to sustain its current population financially for the next 10 years.
Disappointed, Envy leaned back against the wall observing her customers as they ate.
As Envy was staring at the man in the overalls, he jolted straight from his hunched and silent position and looked at Envy with surprise. He then turned to the lady sitting behind him. At that point, the lady was already standing up and was staring in his direction, chest heaving and ears red.
The man stood and started unbuckling his pants while the lady dropped to her knees, right hand already under her skirt moving it about voraciously and all the while moaning.
Envy stood there surprised and confused, wondering what the hell was going on. As the two slid to the floor, Envy leaned over the counter to take a better look and to figure out what could she do to stop these two from their current activity.
Envy’s interest in her two customers was cut short by a voice near her ear.
“Enjoying what you’re seeing?” she said.
Envy jumped back at the sound of the voice.
Her sister, Lust was medium height with a small frame similar to Envy’s. However, what curves Envy showed off, Lust hid under all her clothes. Envy was proportionately female while Lust was unquestionably androgynous.
“Don’t do that!” Envy squealed and rushed forward to hug her sister. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”
Lust smiled and shrugged as she pulled out of their hug. She pulled back the hood she wore to reveal short ruffled hair and multiple stud earrings on both ears.
“Thought I would surprise you,” she said curtly. “Since you’ve been out of the game, we hardly ever see you and vice versa.”
“It’s a bit hard to see the Sins now that I’m not one of them,” Envy said. “But it’s good to see you here now.”
“So,” she started. “What can I do for you? Pecan pie? Breakfast set?” Envy asked as her eyes lingered on both the man and the woman who had gone fully naked and had taken to positioning themselves on one of the diner’s tables, moving rhythmically with every moan.
“By the way, can you stop that, please?” Envy pleaded, getting ever more uncomfortable with each thrust of theirs.
“Let them finish, Evie,” Lust said with a smirk. “The only time he gets it is at the local brothel on the weekends and she’s incapable of getting an orgasm.”
“So it’ll never end?” Envy shouted.
“Never underestimate an overload of endorphins, Evie. Anything is possible,” Lust winked.
Envy scrunched up her nose and shifted uncomfortably in her spot wondering how she and her sister are supposed to have a conversation over high-pitched exclamations of a higher power and profanities coming from her previously unacquainted customers.
“You’re here to persuade me to come back, aren’t you?” she said, avoiding small talk.
Lust looked into her sister’s eyes. The colour, once shimmering red and orange, now faded to reveal a stark comparison between pupil and iris; a trait manifested only by humans. She feared what their brother Pride said was true, that Envy was slowly turning human.
“I’m not here to persuade you, Envy,” said Lust, quick to turn the conversation away from a confrontation. “But I want to ask you how better off the world of mortals is without Envy.”
Envy had suspected it all along, but she refused to acknowledge the fact and had avoided questioning it entirely.
It had started immediately after she had renounced her duties as a sin. The world felt different, almost forsaken. Slowly, people became lethargic and overly contented. They became complacent to the point of slothliness, but she always thought that it was her brother that took the opportunity to instill it twicefold in her absence.
Shops closed down, the economy crumbled little by little, and things as simple as a child purchasing sweets became rarer and rarer.
“Different, isn’t it?” asked Lust. “Your brother Gluttony is trying his hardest to maintain the balance, but there is only so much he can do. Eating something your friend has because it looks delicious is not the same as trying to achieve a goal because your neighbor just bought a new car.”
Envy stared off into space and slowly looked towards the television screen to see only static. She nearly didn’t notice the artificial stillness in the air despite the continued movements and moaning of her two customers.
“The world is crumbling around you while you serve pie, Envy,” Lust said almost pleadingly.
“But the deaths…”
“… will happen regardless,” Lust finished.
“I heard what happened that night on the rooftops seven years ago,” she continued. “Pride, as you would know, is somewhat dramatic. Or didn’t you realise that already from when he was friends with Richard the Lionheart? Only someone with Pride in his heart would call themselves “Lionheart”, bah!”
“It wasn’t because of him I stopped. It was all the deaths perpetrated by my hand,” Envy said.
“We all have our breaking points,” Lust assured her. “Pride’s was during the George W. Bush term while mine was Woodstock in ’79. Pride took it the hardest though. Poor guy.”
“That was harsh,” Envy agreed. “Nobody expected a war and Pride had so much faith in Bush during the elections. ‘Murica!’ he would scream every now and then. And he’d go walking around with a picture of a bald eagle wearing a green beret. Gosh, that was an awkward period,” she laughed.
Envy stared at the counter top, observing the blemished surface and noticing how many imperfections it reflected back at her.
She looked up into her sister’s eyes and saw only emptiness. Lust’s eyes reflected the heart of the person she talks to, and at that point, Envy understood that the emotions she was getting wasn’t her own — it was empathy for the people around her, for the victims of those instilled with Envy.
It was her empathy for the mother that came home to see her child cold and lifeless on the floor.
“But how can I stop death from happening where I walk?” Envy asked.
“You can’t,” said Lust. “Don’t you think Death deserves to perform his duties as well?”
Lust continued, “You claim to be so righteous as to feel saddened by the deaths around you, yet so selfish as to focus on your own self-righteousness.”
Envy continued to stare at the counter top, suddenly intrigued by nothing in particular but hearing everything her sister had to say.
“What I’m trying to say..” said Lust, drawing a deep breath.
“… is that death is inevitable, but us Sins are necessary,” Envy finished. “I understand.”
“We’re not the bad guys, y’know,” Lust smiled warmly.
“I know. We’re facilitators,” said Envy, returning the smile. “But it doesn’t stop us from feeling outright terrible.”
“Well, whenever you do, just do what Gluttony does,” Lust said much to Envy’s curiosity. “He walks into a train car diner on the corner of 7th and grabs a pumpkin pie. And each time he goes in there, a little waitress with long blue hair always asks him how his day was to which he always replies…”
“Envious of my sister’s,” said a gruff voice from the far end of the train car, cutting Lust off.
“And she always smiles and makes my day no matter the outcome,” said Gluttony, finishing his sentence.
It was then that Envy felt a familiar moisture on her face, running down her cheeks. Unbeknownst to her, the tears she was waiting for had finally come.
She sprang over the counter, skipped past the exhausted man and woman lying on the floor and sank herself deep into her big brother’s arms, sobbing uncontrollably into his chest.
Gluttony hushed his baby sister and stroked her hair.
“Didn’t notice why all your customers suddenly had a hankering for pie, did you?” he said with a booming laugh.
Envy shook her head as she looked up to stare into her brother’s face with playful annoyance.
Gluttony’s dark blue eyes depicted the rolling waves of the oceans. Tonight, Gluttony chose his eyes to mirror the Aegean Sea, Envy’s favorite. They were dark and ominous tonight, but in the morning, Envy knew, they would be crystal blue and shimmering like pearl and silver under the scintillating rays of the Mediterranean sun.
“And my hair is turquoise,” said Envy turning to her sister. “Not blue.”
“So, will you come back to us then?” asked Gluttony, hopeful of his sister’s change of heart.
Envy merely nodded.
“Lets go home then,” she said to them both.
(Two years later)
The little boy, not more than nine years old, balled his fists and took a step back. His face was speckled with dirt and droplets of blood.
Before he knew what to expect, strong hands shoved him from the back forcing him to the ground while little fists took turns punching him.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a foot came and connected squarely with his stomach leaving him a coughing fit on the hard dirt ground.
“C’mon,” a voice said in a direction he couldn’t see. “He’s not gonna cry. Let’s just go.”
With his eyes shut tight, the little boy could hear the pattering of feet that drifted further away followed by bicycle chains being turned.
It took the boy a little while to open his eyes, but little by little, he peeked to look at his surroundings. The boys who prior to this were beating on him were already long gone, but he knew they’d be back.
The little boy picked himself up off the ground and dusted himself off. He slowly made his way to the drinking fountain and splashed water over his face.
He continued his walk through the park from school like he always does, before he was accosted by the older boys, like he always was.
However, unbeknownst to him, a girl who was invisible to the world with bright amber eyes and long turquoise hair was walking behind him.
I’ll grow up and get muscles and then I’ll beat up people, the little boy thought to himself. If I was as big as them, I could beat up kids too.
Although the little boy couldn’t hear it, but the lady with amber eyes walking behind him was talking to him.
“No, no, Samuel. Not that. Forget that,” she said.
The little boy immediately felt bad for thinking such awful things.
Suddenly, he stopped and looked across the street to a child younger than him. She was running up to a lady, (Maybe her mother, he thought), and sprang up into her arms, hugging her tightly.
Envy moved closer to the boy and placed her hands on his shoulder. Although he couldn’t feel the touch, the boy felt something hot well up inside of him.
Looking at the child and his mother, Samuel, sprinted back home with the image of his own mother in mind.
Envy stood under the shade of a tree outside the little boy’s house and watched as the child ran into the arms of his waiting mother. He sprang up just like the little girl did and hugged his mother tightly.
He stood there with his arms wrapped around her for just a few seconds longer than the little girl had.
A smile etched itself across Envy’s face, a good day’s work she thought. Seconds later, only a thin wisp of cloud twirled where she had been.
Image is ‘Yankee Diner‘ by Muffet on Flickr.
Reporter by day and shishaa connoisseur by night. Haziq is currently trying to make amends with the universe, seeing as how he got screwed by it during the entire month of November. “Well fuck, Lucy. Not everyone can just get down on their knees and blow it”