The World Of Essence Saga

Book 1: The Fortress of Malistryfe

Chapter 1: Rise and Shine!

I woke up on the same building I had decided to fall asleep on last night; that was a good start. Usually I woke up 3 blocks from where I had gone to sleep. It was a pretty big roof-brick floor, a bit of outcropping from poor masonry-it was about a 10-story building. There was just one problem… "THE WORLD IS UPSIDE DOWN!" I exclaimed at the prospect of the world being flipped. As with every morning, after a bit of rustling around I realized that the world was not in fact upside down; I was just sleeping upside down. I was about to exclaim at my frustration when a wet newspaper smacked me in the face. My face was now dripping, but I didn't pay it too much mind; as I looked at the date, my stomach sank a little bit. You'd think I would be happier about my birthday but, no. I used to be a bright and chipper fellow on my birthday, but it meant I would have to visit there. I didn't hate it, but it always made me feel like a broken person. I walked over to the ledge of the building and looked out at the sun-touched skyline of the waking city. I could see the botanical gardens off in the distance, although they all looked like a bunch of green colored splotches. I then realized I didn't have my glasses. It is one of the hardest things to find glasses without glasses on: everything just looks so blurred, and you barely know where you're going. Especially when my ears were still hurting from the night on the cold bricks. I finally spotted the old brown glasses lying at the edge of the roof. They were fairly simple, nothing special other than the hatch work of scratches all over them. I brought them to my face and suddenly the world came into focus. I could make out the individual buildings of the distant city skyline. It was quite an incredible contrast to the impoverished hovels I was used to. I looked into the distance and saw the old bell tower. Oh, shit! It's almost time for her to get home, I need to work quick this morning, I thought to myself.

As I jumped between the buildings, I could feel the air rushing past my face; it felt incredible moving at these speeds. After a bit of building jumping, I reached the right one-38 Bakersfield Court. The building looked the same as all the others: an old, worn out, poorly built, apartment complex. I went over to the left side of the building where Ms. Higens' apartment was. She had one of the nicer apartments in the building; it had green walls with dark flower patterns all over them. There was a messy kitchenette with greasy pots and pans filling up the sink. The place smelled like cats, but that didn't bother me too much-it was a very welcoming smell. As soon as I came through the window, I was immediately greeted with a storm of orange and grey fur. Juniper and Comet, the two oldest cats, tackled me to the ground, almost knocking over a lamp in the process. Avien, you're here! squeaked Juniper. He was a very lanky cat (of course, so were all of them, but Juniper more so than the others); he had jet black fur that was constantly sticking out, making it look like he had been electrocuted. Comet was much different; being bright orange with a grey streak running along her back, she looked more like a tiger than anything. We've been waiting for you, ya lazy bum! she growled angrily. "I know guys, I'm sorry I'm late; I overslept." I don't know if cats can roll their eyes but, from the looks I got, I'm pretty sure they can. Can you just try to get here a little quicker? You are the only way we get food. I could tell Juniper wasn't mad, just concerned. After all, the two of them really looked out for the kittens who were too young to be able to get their own food. "I know, guys, it's just kinda hard to wake up without anything other than ear pain and sunlight." They knew I was sincere, but they were still, understandably, frustrated with me. I walked over to the fridge and looked inside. There were a few beers, some soda, a few lunch meats, and there, stashed away in the back, fish, not a lot, but enough for the cats. I walked back over, almost tripping over the vacuum cleaner on my way. I sat down next to the cats and gave each of them a little bit of fish. "How do you guys put up with her? Why don't you just leave?" I said in a very concerned tone. I really did worry about them and how they were treated-that woman was awful to them. I had only seen her once, and that hadn't been a pleasant encounter, I could still feel the sting on my back from the paddle. They just looked at me with a look of despair so, I dropped the topic. I poked my head out the window. I could smell the garbage wafting up from the alley. The time was almost ten now; I would have to finish up and leave soon, or they might get in trouble. Comet startled me as he spoke. It's getting close; you're gonna have to leave soon. I paused for a second, dumbfounded-had the cat just read my mind? "Yeah, I'd love to stay and hang for longer, but I gotta go." I got up and went to the window, looking back for a moment at the litter with sympathy. Juniper gave me a faint smile just before I hopped out of the window.

My feet hit the ground, and I was splashed by the large puddle of water I had landed in. It was 10:10 now; I would be heading there soon. I heard my stomach grumbling, as did most of the neighborhood, I'm sure. How did I forget to get something for myself to eat, I thought to myself as I trudged out of the alley, my face dripping with water. I was only a few blocks away from Zanzibar's Bakery. Jerry usually had some daily special sitting out on display waiting to be snatched up by any one fast enough. As I walked down the street it seemed as though everyone was staring at me. This wasn't completely unusual though; people usually saw the two bumps on my head and thought it was strange, but these people seemed different-they seemed scared. They were all looking at my head and pointing to my… oh my god! I forgot to cover up my ears! I quickly ducked into an alley. I pressed myself up against the cold brick wall as the absolutely mortifying embarrassment and dread set in. I reached into the top pocket of my jacket and, as I thought, the gauze was still in there. I quickly plastered down my ears and then pulled some hair over them to cover them up more thoroughly. I could feel my face getting hot from the embarrassment. I hated having to do this, I always had. I hated having to pretend to be normal so that I could "fit in" and not be labeled a freak. I jumped back out of the alley and continued my way back down to the bakery. I kept my head down the entire rest of the way-I didn't want to draw any more attention or know if I did. As I rounded the corner, the smell from the bakery hit me like a car. A potent mix of bread, cookies, cakes, and all manner of delicious goodies. As I neared, it was like a sensory overload; I thought my nose would explode. Then I smelled it…lemon cookies. Of course, today of all days had to be lemon cookies; I hate lemon cookies: the smell, the taste, the texture. But my stomach interrupted me with a loud growl; I knew I still had to eat. I walked up to the counter; Jorge was working today, that was good-he always got way too wrapped up in baking to notice me getting my morning fill. "Hey Jorge! How's it going today?" I needed to get him a bit distracted if I wanted to snag those vile cookies. "Oh hey Avien, what're you doing here?" He barely looked up from his dough; it seemed like he was making a fresh batch of bread. "Nothing much, just taking a stroll through the neighborhood." I began reaching for some cookies. "Oh, that's great; do you mind strolling somewhere else?" Before he had even finished, I had already run off with a hand full of cookies. I heard him yelling behind me to get back, but I was long gone by then. I quickly ducked back into another alley and marveled at my spoils of the hunt. I sat down in some water and got my pants soaked, but I didn't really care-I was hungry. After I had finished mutilating the cookies, I got up, brushed myself off, and started walking towards the laundromat.

While I was walking down the street, I couldn't help but think of how poor and sad the place looked. It looked like exactly what you would think a poor neighborhood would look like. The sidewalks were riddled with cracks and holes, the buildings were old and run down; they looked sad, like they were just waiting for their inevitable collapse. There were homeless people everywhere holding up ragged cardboard signs, asking for anything you'd be willing to give. You could feel the despair wafting off their sunken faces. The best part of the entire place was the shops: quaint little market stalls, the people who ran them seemed to bring as much hope as they possibly could to downtrodden people of the cracked brick hell they were living in. They were like a ray of sunshine in the dark desolation of poverty. It was actually somewhat the way I saw myself: I was in a neighborhood full of dirty browns and blacks. I, on the other hand, was a bright green beacon shining amongst them. It was always a very odd feeling to experience. I finally came up on the laundromat; it was a bit rundown (It had definitely seen better days). The building had light green walls with a bit of tear covered by the machines. I fumbled through my pockets looking for some quarters. In the mess of lint and garbage, I found a few silver pieces of money. I had to look around awkwardly as I stripped down to nothing but my briefs. Red-hot embarrassment shot through me as I felt the people standing around staring at me. I climbed on top of the machines. As I waited, I accidentally drifted into the realm of sleep.