|The Key to Paradise
Author: Adsini PM
Sen is an ordinary girl and she knows it. However her family and almost every person in town isn't particulary normal. They are all Mimics: humans capable of changing into animals. As a non-Mimic Sen is often frowned upon, she is different in a normal way. But when frightening rumors of strange disappearances reach her village being shunned becomes the least of her concernsRated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Romance - Chapters: 5 - Words: 18,159 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 09-15-12 - Published: 08-08-12 - id: 3048761
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter Two What can't be taught
If I were the kind of person to believe in prophetic dreams I fear I'll have grey hair before reaching the age of sixteen. Psychiatrists would fight to get their hands on such a basket case and a doctor's professional opinion might describe me as a medical wonder or slightly disturbed. At least once a month I drown, the occasional avalanche snaps my neck, I get caught in a fire and I swear once I nearly choked on a piece of apple.
Sometimes I wonder what the hell is going on in my subconscious, the things my brain cooks up with are to say the least a bit unsettling, and it's my brain for Pete's sake! If I'm not busy saving the world from some horrible disease called the Demonic Epidemic (turns out my brain is lame and has little to no imagination) I go to school realizing I'm stilling wearing my pajamas. Perhaps I had hit my head, and was in the midst of a hallucination, nonetheless I was having a very strange dream.
I was once again sitting in Mr. Hooper's store, perched on top of a barstool with a golden quill in my hand. Mr. Hooper was talking to me, while pacing back and forth. I opened my mouth to apologize for the shattered window and for stealing from him but was silenced when he slammed the large yellow phonebook on the table – I noticed I was sitting behind the counter of his store.
I turned my head and studied the small square of wooden floor I had occupied earlier. It had been a terrible hiding spot. A ridiculous amount of dust blinded me and I coughed. "What is your problem!" I said waving my hands, still coughing, apparently Mr. Hooper's teaching style was rather unorthodox. He had slammed the book shut right in front of my face to get my attention.
"Your punishment for your crimes will be lines!" he bellowed, "write me the first chapter of William Shakespeare's 'Tempest!"
I told him I didn't know 'The Tempest' by heart. This earned me a cuff on the head and an additional hundred lines. "Can't you read?" Mr. Hooper shouted and he gestured towards the yellow phonebook.
I watched the book with puzzlement, my temper and back of my head tingling.
The pages were filled with tiny numbers and names. "Come on Sen, it's easy, write me the basic principles of being a Mimic." A new, very familiar voice reached my ears and my eyes snapped up. Mr. Hooper had turned into my brothers.
I sighed, "It's easy for you two." I said pointing at my brothers with the golden quill in the way a teacher would point towards his students with a ruler. "I might as well try and learn this phonebook by heart before ever understanding what it means to be a Mimic!" I was whining and slightly overdramatic but the dream version of myself seemed to be equally frustrated, and a part of me felt the need to be open towards my brothers, since I would never say these things if I were awake.
"You are blowing this out of proportions. Let me see that." Said a rough voice beside me. A large pale hand with talons instead of nails reached out and took the book from my grasp.
I nearly fell from my stool. There sitting next to me on top of a second barstool as if it were a throne sat the magpie in his human form. His legs unlike my own didn't dangle a feet above the floor, I studied his angular face and realized my brain had decided to feature a near adult version of the Mimic in my dream. He had to be the same age as my brothers and would be allowed to enter our local pub. The smug bastard.
"The trick is," he instructed, "to not think too hard. Things tend to get rather…complicated when you do that." l looked over at him strangely, he made it sound so simple, had a way with words that made people do his bidding.
"Now where did I leave my quill." He muttered while patting the pockets of his strange black robes.
Not finding anything he reached up towards his head with a sigh, "I'll make do with one of my own then." Reaching towards his scalp he yanked out one single brown hair. He regarded the strand with an almost bored expression on his face. A quick shake of his hand and the hair was replaced by a long glossy black feather, it shone a very familiar green. My mouth hung open, I knew it did, but I didn't bother to close it.
"Was that magic?" I gasped leaning forward.
The magpie raised an eyebrow, "Call it what you want." He said before turning his attention back on the phonebook.
"Is that a yes or a no?" I inquired unable to hide the enthusiasm in my voice. Touching my own hair I wondered what it would look like if I were to turn it into feathers
"That won't work." He spoke softly eying the lock of hair I was holding between my thumb and index finger. The corner of his mouth twitched as if he wanted to begin a smile. A real one instead of the sardonic grin I was getting used to
I scoffed, "Off course it won't."
Ignoring my last statement the magpie started writing at a fast rate. The words were somewhat narrow but very neat. Feeling very much like a cheating student I read over his shoulder and frowned. He had already reached the second chapter from 'The Tempest'.
Starting a new page he carefully wrote 'The basics of being a Mimic', my heart skipped a beat when I followed the course of his hand. It flitted across the paper feverishly as if he were afraid to forget something if he wasted any more time. I moved closer, suddenly desperate to read the words that might teach me, to grab the key capable of unlocking all my questions. My hand touched the phonebook, a stinging pain in my fingers. Someone had closed the book with my hand caught inside.
Mr. Hooper stood in front of me, his face the color of an overripe tomato. "NO CHEATING!" He yelled nearly spraying me with spit.
I was caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
"I guess you can consider that a no little bird."
Evil grin back where it belonged the magpie thrummed his finger on top of the phonebook's cover.
The book he had used to nearly break my fingers.
"You bipolar bastard!" I growled before earning myself yet another hit on the head from Mr. Hooper.
The guy was on a roll, maybe being treated like this in my dream would make us even in reality.
The force of the blow made me topple head first into a pile of snow.
I heard the characteristic sound of crunching snow beneath feet, something warm stuck to my cheek, it moved at regular intervals in timing with the sound of footsteps. My legs felt like lead, snowflakes stuck to my lashes and made it hard to blink. A hug maw came into my line of view, long whiskers tickled my face and a cold nose pressed against my cheek, the animal's warm breath was performing a small miracle.
"Had a good sleep?" The snow leopard asked in Joshua's voice. It was impossible to read any expression on his feline face, masked behind his animal persona Joshua might be livid with anger without me noticing.
"Yes and an elephant fell asleep right on top of me." I groaned burying my face in the fur of which I knew it belonged to Jeremy.
"More like a pile of snow the size of an elephant." Joshua scoffed. Jeremy laughed and a deep rumble spread through his body.
"We're bringing you home. Stay calm okay and don't wiggle around to much. You are getting too big for this."
"You have some explaining to do kiddo."
"I'm cold." I croaked trying to keep Joshua's face into focus and failing miserably. His black spots mingled with the red and white dots that were dancing in front of my eyes. The result made me feel sick to my stomach.
"Yeah you look kinda blue." Joshua replied slashing his long tail through the air as he trotted up the mountain path which led towards our house. The town behind us was getting gradually smaller and the air cooled down.
"Crap." I cursed, "B-Blue isn't my color." My teeth were chattering and I could feel my muscles tightening. Darkness was starting to fall, and with the setting of the sun the temperature dropped at an alarming rate. A thick mist crept along the narrow path, I watched as small clouds erased Jeremy's huge paws from view. Fresh snow had started to fall, the forest grew quiet and the world seemed shrouded in a blanket of silence. Somewhere a bird screeched, its cry sounded muffled, oddly out of place, there came no answer. I was about to ask my brothers if we had gotten lost or if our house had grown legs and had run off when we came to a sudden halt. Our house was small but tidy and at the moment it looked like a palace to me. A gentle light was shining from the windows, welcoming us inside. It was home.
The house was constructed to withstand heavy snowfall and harsh northern winds. Large pine trees stood close by like unmoving guards. Their glossy needles cast spidery shadows on the ground.
Some were heavily marked with inch deep gashes compliments to Jeremy and Joshua and on rare occasions even my dad. Sharpening and tending to your claws was a very feline thing to do after all.
My favorite part of the house wasn't visible from this angle, a large porch facing west overlooking a vast lake. During summer the water was filled to the brim with fish, two years ago dad had clumsily learned me how to swim. Having to learn one of his kids how to swim had been new to him.
Most Mimics could swim without lessons, as a toddler Jeremy had fallen into the lake once, he had hated the feeling of cold water and sand ("It gets everywhere!") but instinct proved to be a better teacher than practice. As a feline my father detested water but he was smart enough to realize I might need the ability to swim some day and he had resigned himself to teaching me the basics. I had learned fairly quickly how to float and hold my breath, two skills crucial when swimming with my brothers.
The whole town was waiting eagerly for the lake to freeze over, it marked the peak of winter which was celebrated with the Festival of Lights. On this particular night the whole village would assemble on the lake, weeks in advance the most tough Mimic's are sent to the lake to test the ice. To honor the arrival of the sun hundreds of floating lanterns are cast into the air holding the hope for a good summer. It is considered a good omen if a particular beautiful Aurora is visible that night.
My musings were interrupted by Joshua transforming back into a human and carrying me towards the house. The entryway opened into a cozy sitting room filled with a large sofa, several squashy armchairs and a cleanly scrubbed wooden table. A warm fire flickered invitingly in the fireplace, the warmth washed over me and soothed my aching limbs. A large painting of a tree covered the wall directly above.
I involuntary glanced at the piece of art, my mother had made it. Painted it directly on the rough wall, stubbornly refusing to paint on canvas. According to my dad she had said the house needed to own a part of us if it were to be a true home, and buying an expensive canvas set inside a beautiful frame only made her feel pressured to deliver something equally elaborate. "Besides there is no harm in turning something which is already ugly into something even uglier. Tampering with beauty, now that's a shame!" she had said.
"Hi mom." I whispered eying the autumn colored tree through half lidded eyes. Someone gently stroked my hair, the gesture was oddly comforting. I frowned and shot Joshua an incredulous look. His hand stilled,
"I'll return to being an ass tomorrow." He said. I closed my eyes, "That would be nice."
They carried me to my small bedroom and the moment my head hit the pillow I was asleep. My brain must have been feeling as numb as I was because that night no dreams disturbed my sleep.
The following morning I awoke to voices in the hallway. A narrow piece of sky was visible between the curtains, a light shade of grey almost to bright to watch, large clouds drifted by, most likely filled to the brim with snowflakes.
I frowned, it wasn't like me to wake on my own. My dad had to shout at least four to five times for me to wake up, on particular good days it took him seven tries. Lightning had struck one of the pine trees right next to our house once and I had slept through it.
"I DEMAND PAYMENT FOR THE DAMAGE SHE CAUSED!"
"Ah raised voices." I muttered too drowsy to realize Mr. Hooper had honored my dad with a personal visit.
Looking up towards the wooden ceiling I studied a peculiar shaped pattern. It reminded me of the pocket watch and its owner.
The door to my room opened twice as two large felines made their way over to my bed. My mattress protested loudly against the combined weight of a twelve year old and two large animals.
"He should shout a bit louder, they might not have heard him in the neighboring towns." Joshua said dryly, resting his large head on top of my knees. I had to stifle a giggle, he was acting awfully doglike.
"How long has he been –"
The sound of a fist hitting the table cut me off. All three of us winced and tuned in on the rather loud conversation between my father and Mr. Hooper.
After a few seconds, a bunch of insults and a lot of cursing Jeremy turned his attention on more important matters, "About half an hour and counting." He sighed rolling his large grey eyes.
"Has it been only thirty minutes?"
"Yes Joshua, but the grown up term is half an hour."
"Feels like half a day to me."
Burrowing into thick fur I indulged myself and took some time enjoying my feline heat source. I had caught them exchanging meaningful glances, and I knew from experience that that was never a good sign.
When I reached up to scratch Jeremy's ear pain shot through my arm.
"Owww." I complained only just noticing my carefully bandaged upper arm.
"Yeah you might feel sore for a little while longer." Joshua said his voice casual but curling his lip to flash a row of glittering fangs, "We did dig up half a store window out of your arm."
Closing my eyes I shifted into a more comfortable position. "OK, let's get his over with, or should we wait after dad has finished shouting himself hoarse, I'm not too keen on telling this twice."
Two pairs of grey eyes bored into mine and stared at me for a very long moment. Fidgeting with the wrapping on my arm I took a deep breath and plunged into my story. I told them everything, how I had shattered the window – I went as far a showing them the rock, the magpie and his proposition, sneaking into Mr. Hooper's store, the stuff I saw in there and of course my spectacular exit. When I came to the part where I touched the pocket watch and heard voices inside my head I hesitated, "When I touched that watch something strange happened, I heard, -must've been my imagination getting the best of me, or just me being absurd – but I heard a voice."
"Probably old Hooper yelling his head off. The old coot loves to lecture"
"Go on Sen." Jeremy replied, a strange edge to his otherwise calm voice
"Well it wasn't just a single voice, there had to be at least…" I did a quick headcount, the woman, the owner of the childlike voice, a gruff male voice and… a fourth… there had been a fourth, the one about to say the magpie's name. "Four." I decided with a certain nod. My brothers both stiffened.
Joshua whistled softly, "That's a dangerous guy." He murmured and Jeremy nodded his agreement.
"A Mimic with four different persona's… no wonder you said the guy was bipolar. I nearly died from a heart attack when I first heard a voice in my head. Tried to blame it on something I ate that day. Imagine hearing not one but four different people chatting about in your skull!" A shiver ran visibly through his large body and beside me Jeremy's fur stood on end.
I was having a hard time with following the conversation, and a large amount of emotions pulled me in several directions. Relief that my brother didn't think I had lost my mind, and apprehension for their own mental state of mind were the most prominent.
"When you first heard a voice in your head?" I repeated raising my brows in disbelief, "Bare with me for a bit but you sound as if hearing voices in your head is a daily occurrence. Have you been eating wild mushrooms again? Because you're the one who taught me which one's I should be avoiding and I would appreciate the heads up."
"Are you implying that I'm high or something?"
"High. No. Mental? Yes."
Joshua snorted and turned his head towards the small round window in my room, "I think I'm hurt."
"She doesn't understand brother." Jeremy spoke while waving a paw in the direction of the stairs.
Joshua obliged at once, he left my bed with a graceful leap and closed the door by bumping his head against the wood. The sound of the lock falling into place only added to the secretive air my brothers were putting up. If this was part of a big joke they would pay dearly for it.
"The thing is,' whispered Jeremy softly and I involuntarily scooted closer, 'you hearing a Mimic's inner voice is considered taboo."
"I can't really help hearing stuff now can I?" I said, a little defensively, "And if one of us was being rude back then it wasn't me!"
Joshua looked rather amused by my lack of understanding. Jeremy, however, released an annoyed kind of growl, nearly trust his face into mine and ran a huge rough tongue over the side of my cheek
I nearly dropped out of my bed in surprise, "Jeremy…What the hell? That's just gross." I cried mopping my face with a corner of my blankets, "And you're not even sorry!"
"So you considered that to be rude right?"
"Invading my personal space like that? Yeah, I consider that pretty rude…My brother just kissed or licked me or whatever, I got kissed by a huge ball of fur."
Joshua seeing my forlorn expression let out a loud snort, "Now take the outrage you are feeling right this very moment, - which if I may say so is very valid, I'm the handsome brother after all – and imagine the one doing the 'kissing' isn't your dearest big brother but a random dude you just met on the street. What would you do?"
"Kick him where it hurts." I replied, not missing a beat and Joshua roared with laughter.
"But how can you compare what he did," I said with a nod towards my brother, who sat there eying me innocently "to what I did? Somehow hearing a voice in my head seems less rude."
Jeremy grimaced, or at least I think he did it was hard to tell, "Don't take this the wrong way but you have to be a Mimic to understand. The animal part of ourselves is almost sacred, even we seldom get to speak with our second personality, when we feel threatened our instincts kick in and that's the moment we are in sync with our most primitive nature. You weren't born yet but dad might've told you about the time I fell into the lake." He suppressed a shudder as the memory resurfaced, "Something snapped inside of me that day, I would've drowned if it weren't for her, she saved me that day."
"She?" I enquired sharply and when he nodded I shot Joshua a pointed look, "Mine's male," He replied with a one shouldered shrug, "doesn't mean anything, it happens randomly. Mom also had a female Mimic ."
"So you transformed and swam to the surface?" I asked returning to the story.
"No she did. I was unconscious and she took over. Have you ever noticed the scar on dad's leg?"
I nodded not liking where the conversation was leading to, the five pale scratch marks had always been a mystery to me. Asking questions about how he had gotten it often ended with an: "I'll tell you when you are older."
"She…" he corrected himself, "We did that. Dad grabbed me when I struggled to reach land, he thought it was me, got quite a surprise in return."
"Does she have a name?"
Jeremy's eyes were suddenly twinkling brightly, he had not expected such a question.
"Uncia." He said and for a second his round pupils contracted until they were mere slits.
"Next time she decides to speak to you tell her I think she's quite awesome."
There was a pause and I used it to come to terms with the things I had learned. The idea of owning not one but four different personalities filled me with a sudden awe, if speaking to a Mimic's animal persona was considered a taboo owning not one but four had to be an even bigger one. When I asked my brothers about this feat something close to fear flickered in their feline eyes, thundering growls filled my room and fur bristled.
"Twins are often known to share their Mimic's, it's quite a rare talent. But I'm afraid that the voices you heard back then didn't belong to that guy."
Shock shot through me with the same heat of the pocket watch. A horrible sinking feeling nestled itself in the pit of my stomach. The odd feeling of something brushing against my consciousness returned stronger and more persistent than before.
I might've stolen something after all. I thought ashamed and terrified in equal measure.
Special thanks to KyaraLight for reviewing not once but twice, I really really appreciate it so thanks a lot! I hope you enjoyed this chapter.
To all of my readers (it's a small number though -cries-) you can read this story on my author name is Foxtrotblog, I might update sooner there and I would be so happy if I managed to reach a bigger crowd. So guys, spread the word!