"Year: 2110...Okay, first, let me just say that in spite of what I'm about to tell you, I am actually just an ordinary guy. I live in Mistford; a small town off the coast of Florida where practically nothing happens. Not to mention I don't live where everyone else does. My home is a treehouse surrounded by forestry. I'm bored almost everyday, but I've gotten so used to that monotony that I can't even complain anymore..."
A young man opened the door to his patio. The black cat followed at his feet, eager to greet his master. However, once the harsh sunlight shined in his face, the feline cringed and shuffled away, hiding behind the shadows of the bed in comfort.
The owner paid no mind and proceeded to step onto the wooden patio. His pale skin nearly glowed in the white light of the sun. He had a youthful face with a feminine jawline and sensitive lips. He brushed a lock of his raven black hair out of his icy blue monolid eyes as he looked up towards the sky. "I slept in again?" he pondered.
He then yawned quietly, rubbing some sleep out of his eye. "Well, it's not like I had anything to do today."
"...My name is Phoenix Magnolia Hall and this is my story..."
The streets were quiet and calm as Phoenix rolled down the street on his bicycle. The bright spring sun shined down upon the neighborhood. Calm, friendly colors stood out even more, matching the few inhabitants that walked by and socialized with one another. Occasionally, one of said inhabitants would catch sight of Phoenix and greet him. In response, the young man would give and friendly wave and a greeting as well.
"...I live just off the edge of the small part of Mistford. This section is full of family businesses and shops. We all know one another here. Everything is so close by that there aren't even roads or cars. Here, you just walk or, if you want to bypass it, take the road around it. We like to nickname it "The Mall" because this part of town essentially acts as an outdoor mall. There are even speakers lining the walkway that play music from radio stations and evenly spaced out palm trees lining the way. At night, the street lamps glow in various colors of the rainbow. It's a very calm atmosphere..."
Phoenix parked his bicycle on the bike rack outside of a cafe. As he casually walked inside, the bell on the door signaled his arrival with a chipper jingle. The interior was small with only three customers inside, a woman alone and a father with his child.
At the counter, a man with magenta hair and bronze skin chatted away with a fellow coworker, who seemed to be taking a short break from their activities. Once the man's forest green eyes settled on Phoenix, though, his attention was firmly set on him "Hey hey, Phoenix! I thought you'd never show up!"
The employee the magenta haired man had been speaking to went back to their duties once Phoenix walked up to the counter.
"Good morning to you, too, Harper," he said sarcastically.
The other man snorted, "Tch, "morning"? How long did you sleep in?"
Phoenix scratched his head pensively. "Hmm...I don't know. What time is it?"
Harper looked towards his Clove, which displayed the face of a digital clock. "Going on one, man."
Phoenix hissed as if he had been burned, cringing at the revelation.
"You'd better order something lunch appropriate," chuckled Harper.
As if to spite him, Phoenix grinned. "The usual, please."
Harper rolled his green eyes. "Fine…"
"...Growing up, I attended a private school with a very small classroom. Harper was the only friend I was able to make and keep all the way into adulthood. He's actually the owner of his own cafe here in Mistford called The Velvet Haven. The cafe's building practically acts as a divider between The Mall and the bigger part of the city..."
As Harper handed the bag to Phoenix, he rose a single brow in curiosity. "Is the blond bang a part of your new goth look?"
"The blond streak," repeated Harper, pointing at the corner of Phoenix's hair, causing the other to lean back in surprise.
Phoenix reached up to touch it, but realized that still didn't allow him to see what Harper was talking about. He kneeled down and looked at the glass case of donuts before him. In his reflection, his row of neatly cut bangs were still present. Among them was a single bright yellow one.
"It's highlighter yellow," commented Harper, "Kinda upbeat for you."
Phoenix stood up, still touching the new patch of hair. It was too much to be a slip of pigmentation and it was such an unnatural shade of yellow.
Harper snickered, "Did someone dye your hair in your sleep?"
Phoenix carefully took his hand away from his hair, chewing on the thought. "I-I don't know," he shuddered, "I really hope not."
The idea of someone slipping into his home just to do something like that sent shivers down his body. Suddenly, he felt rather invaded and unsafe.
"Why would someone do that?" he asked Harper, who just shrugged.
Phoenix huffed, giving his hair one last ruffle. "I've got to wash it out," he muttered, "I'm not a fan of sporting bright colors."
"Of course you're not, Black Swan," joked Harper as he casually leaned over the counter.
Phoenix was about to turn to leave, but was stopped by this remark. "I'm not goth just because I wear black." He was currently wearing a simplistic outfit of black jeans, a white button down shirt and a black denim jacket, giving him an overall monochrome appearance.
"Okay, "O Wicked One"," said Harper, pressing his hands together in a mock prayer as he bowed.
Phoenix rolled his eyes and walked out of the cafe, but not without a slight smile.
"...At the time, there wasn't much for me to do. I was a twenty-three year old man with your basic college degrees, but no real ambition. I was a temp worker and went through the motions of whatever job came to me. My father was the only family I had, yet I hardly got to see him because of his career. I lived alone save for my house cat, Midnight. Because of that, my life was pretty tame and uneventful. However, after that one day, that one particular day, I was never able to say that about my life again..."
Phoenix began to walk up the stairs that led to his house. His nerves prickled on the back of his neck as he meditated on his recent conversation.
"If Harper is right, who could have gotten into my house?" he wondered, his blue eyes darting across his castle of a treehouse for any evidence of intrusion, "Everyone in Mistford knows each other and we'd be damned if we'd let a shady character move in. Besides, the only person who ever comes to this house is--"
Phoenix paused halfway up the stairs when the familiar hum of the mail truck reached his ears. He turned and watched as the tiny white truck drove down the dirt road. Phoenix stood there, waiting for the truck to approach his house.
His thin black brows furrowed in suspicion as the truck passed his house and went around the back.
Phoenix bounded back down the stairs to try to catch up with the mail truck. "Wait, Mathias! Hey! Mathias!"
"...There's (what I assumed was) a Buddhist temple near my treehouse that makes my home look like a cardboard box. Because it's on my property and nobody else owns it, it technically belongs to me. I've never been able to enjoy that privilege, though, because it's been locked away and no one is able to get inside. It was strange seeing the mailman take the package over to the temple. No one lives there and he's never made this mistake before. When I confronted him about it, he apologized and explained to me that the address led him specifically to the temple and not my house. He said he was still aware that no one lived inside and that it was my property, but he thought I requested to have it sent to the temple for personal reasons. I suppose that means the temple really did act as a house to someone before..."
The package was large, forcing Phoenix to carry it with both hands. However, he was surprised to find it light in weight.
He set it down on the porch floorboards beside him before he put his Clove's screen to the door to unlock it. He was able to just gently push the box inside with his foot and reset the door's lock with his Clove behind him.
"Who would have sent me a package?" Phoenix thought, setting it beside his coat rack, "Harper would have said something if he sent me anything."
He kneeled down to begin opening the box, but before his fingertips could even graze the cardboard, his Clove beeped.
Phoenix stood up and answered it with his attention still partially focused on the box.
"Hey, Phoenix. How're you?"
The young man's ears perked up. "Dad?" he said near to a gasp.
The other man's speech occasionally being interrupted by his laughter and a second voice in the background. "I just wanted to tell you that I'm on my way."
Before the young man could question his father, he remembered, "Oh yeah, Dad is coming back from the tour." He glanced down at the box. "Maybe he's the one who sent me the package."
Phoenix smiled. "Sounds like you're having fun over there."
The father, trying to contain his laughter, said, "Can you tell? Your godfather is back here joking around."
"That's kinda your job," laughed Phoenix, "So Dad, when do you think you're going to be here?"
He heard rustling accompanied by, "Well, I'm on the ninety-fifth right now. So maybe half an hour, give or take."
"Oh, I'll see you soon then," the young man man, his crystal blue eyes roaming towards the box again.
He was just barely able to catch his father's departing words before he muttered his own, "Love you, too. Bye," and ended the call.
A brief thought from Phoenix's conscious said, "Maybe I'm too eager," before he attacked the box and quickly forgot the words. He absolutely loved when his father came back home. One of the many perks were the gifts he'd often bring back.
Halfway through attempting to cut the tape and failing, Phoenix murmured to himself, "Why didn't he just bring this with him instead of mailing it?"
"...People are always surprised when I tell them Terry Hall is my father. He's been a comedian for as long as I can remember, and before that, he hosted a talk show called The Gift of Gab. Because of that, it's pretty rare that he's home. He's usually on tour, traveling, or performing out of town. I can't really say that I miss him that often since he calls me at least three times a day. He says he trusts me enough to live out here alone, but I can tell that it still partially gets under his skin that he can't actually be here with me…"
The front door creaked open with a beep and a great sigh of relief.
"Finally," said Terry, "It's good to be home!"
The tall male dropped his duffle bag and suitcases at the door, still speaking, "I swear, I'll never get used to you living in a treehouse. I couldn't believe you when you said-Phoenix?"
Terry had noticed that he wasn't getting a response from his son. Rather, the younger man was sitting in the center of the foyer, preoccupied by the cardboard box before him. The smaller man made tiny grunts as he struggled to pull off more bits of cardboard and tape, revealing a block of styrofoam.
His eyes glanced at his father before he quickly panted, "Dad, how on Earth do you get this thing open?!"
Terry furrowed his brows and waltzed over to the scene, several questions bubbling in his mind with every step.
He kneeled down beside his son and asked "What's this? Something from Harper?" he added that last question when he glanced at the torn up stamp near his foot.
Phoenix stared at his father in bewilderment. "It's the package you sent me!"
The hefty man only squinted in deeper confusion. "I didn't send you anything," he said, "What made you think that?"
Phoenix picked up a discarded sheet of cardboard. "Well, there's no return address, for one thing..." he said.
Terry took the flimsy material in his hand and looked at it for verification. Sure enough, there was no return address. He set it aside. "Well…" he said, "I was gonna suggest we watch Netflix, but you seem pretty invested in this package." He then placed his hand on the cube of white styrofoam that was left when the cardboard was removed. "So I'll help you out," he said, shrugging.
"...Perhaps it was a symptom of having such a simplistic lifestyle, but I always had a burning curiosity. Sure, I knew when to back away from an unsafe situation, but that package was anything but dangerous. I felt bad for making my dad help me open it after he just came back from an exhausting tour. At least it was an opportunity for him to tell me what he had experienced while on the road. And he had a lot of time to tell me because we didn't get that package open until that dark hours of the evening. The box, itself, started out about the size of a nightstand, but there were so many layers of tough styrofoam that took hours to break down. Both Dad and I had to run back and forth from the kitchen to get better, stronger knives. We kept asking things like, "What could they be trying to mail me?!" and "Is this even real styrofoam or cement?" We even started to believe that it was a prank or that maybe there was a packaging error. But we did reach the end at some point. In a tiny case no bigger than a Clove case, we found…"
"Whoop-dee-doo, three rings," Terry joked, his distaste very evident.
Inside the tiny square box, three golden rings sat on a pillow of cotton. All three were flower shaped, the bud being a gem that held a fleur symbol inside. One gem was pink, the second orange, and the third midnight blue.
Phoenix was speechless. He could only stare at the tiny box in his hands. Around him on the hardwood floors was a mess of cardboard, tape and styrofoam. The sounds of night creatures outside scuttling about teased and reminded him of how many hours he had wasted. "Unhappy" couldn't even surmise Phoenix's emotion right now.
Sighing through his nose, Terry sympathized with Phoenix's disappointment and devastation. "Uh, let's order take out and call it a night. Okay, Phoenix?"
Phoenix nodded in defeat, "'kay."
"...To say the least, I was more dumbfounded than disappointed. Nothing seemed to add up; a package was sent to the Buddhist temple on my property with no return address and way too much styrofoam surrounding nothing but three little rings. Regardless, I felt the need to hang on to them until I got a proper explanation. We did as Dad planned and ordered Chinese food before turning in for the night. I went to bed with the box in my hands. While Dad peacefully slept the night away in his room, I sat in the dark, studying and toying with the rings. I kept telling myself that I should put them back in the box before I fall asleep to prevent losing them. But again, my burning curiosity got the better of me and I ended up analyzing the rings until I put myself to sleep..."
Terry brushed his black fringe from his face as he roamed towards the foyer, happy to finally get a good night's rest in. He had been awake for a while now and was wondering when his son would wake up. Terry decided to cut the young man some slack and clean up the mess of cardboard and styrofoam they had made the other night. He could only imagine the look of pure guilt and dissatisfaction Phoenix would show if he came downstairs to find the reminder of the previous night's failure.
When Terry finished throwing away the items, he looked back up at the staircase that led to Phoenix's open room. He noticed that something was off. The shape in Phoenix's bed was oddly lumpy and didn't resemble a human figure no matter how Terry tried to adjust his eyes.
Terry pursed his lips, wondering if it was just his imagination trying to deceive him or if his eyes were correct.
"It can't hurt to check," he thought, taking a step towards the staircase that led to the room.
The hefty man nearly jumped backwards when Midnight suddenly darted down the staircase. "Goddamn…" he whispered to himself as he felt his heartbeat spike. He shook his head at how ridiculous it was for him to not only be scared by his son's house cat, but then resume to curse it.
The father took one more step before he halted and nearly cried out in shock.
"...I don't know what I was expecting when I was studying those rings. But it definitely wasn't to wake up to three women sleeping in my bed...or my dad having a minute panic attack for that matter…"
Phoenix opened up the refrigerator, humming a soft tune as he licked his lips. His blue eyes scoped across the brightly lit shelves until a frown settled on his features.
"Bianca!" he scolded, closing the refrigerator door for emphasis, "Bianca, get over here!"
When the young man didn't get a response, he sighed and began to turn around to search for the woman, but jumped back when said woman appeared before him on the kitchen counter.
"What're you yelling for?" she asked, spinning a silver spoon between her fingers, "I'm right here, silly."
A thickly-built young woman was seated on Phoenix's counter with her legs crossed over one another. Her auburn hair fell on her shoulders in luscious waves and was parted down the middle. One of the bangs framing her round face was a fiery orange. Her copper eyes, full of mischief and pride, accented the smirk on her pink, plump lips; and umber freckles dusted over her tawny brown cheeks. Her curvy figure adorned a form-fitting outfit of an orange T-shirt with pink hearts stretched over her heavy bust and khaki capris that hugged her thick legs. To match her hair, her feet were clad in a pair of bright orange sneakers and a faint orange fleur symbol crowned her forehead, partially hidden by her orange hair bang.
Phoenix scowled. "You ate the entire parfait," he said plainly.
After taking a final lick of the spoon, Bianca feigned a shocked expression. "Who? Me?" She then casually tossed the spoon into the sink. "How rude of you to accuse me!" she joked, imitating a posh Southern Belle.
"Fleurs don't even have to eat!" chided Phoenix, ignoring Bianca's statement.
"Calypso tempted me and asked me to split it," Bianca sighed, "Apparently her definition of "split" is to take three quarters of it."
"Bianca, I was saving that for this morning," whined Phoenix.
"Relax, Phoenix. Stop being so melodramatic," waved off Bianca, "You can get another."
The young man grabbed Bianca's hand. "And you're gonna help me," he said, "Since I bought it out of my own pocket."
The brunette woman went along with Phoenix's motions as they approached the door. "Fine by me. I'm pretty bored of just sitting around."
"...Fleurs are an all-female race that used to inhabit Earth before us humans. Even though they have human forms that mirror everything down to our ethnicities, they're apparently formed from this special flower also called a "fleur" that is the very center of their being. They're somewhat like magical girls because they have special powers. They don't have to eat, drink, or rest, but they're not immortal. They age differently than humans, letting them live longer, but not forever. Bianca is one of them and, oddly enough, my new housemate…"
Phoenix used his own car to drive down the road to cut around The Mall. In the passenger seat, Bianca looked out of the window, intrigued by the many shops that passed her view.
"I should have asked you to teleport us there," said Phoenix.
"I already told you that Fleurs don't teleport. Some just have the ability to move fast, but only a short distance," explained Bianca, "It takes a lot of energy, so-oh, hold up, there's Aurora and Calypso!"
Phoenix slowed down as he noticed two figures in the distance, glad that Bianca said something before he could pass them. He was able to come to a perfect halt right beside the females.
Aurora and Calypso stopped as Phoenix rolled down the windows. "Hi guys. Do you need a ride?" he asked.
"More like directions," said Aurora. She was a slender woman with sepia brown skin. Her black hair rested in an afro puff atop her head, catching dark blue undertones in the sunlight. She wore a loose black tank top with a blue star logo. Because her shirttail was tied around her waist, the blue fleur symbol around her navel was visible. Her long legs adorned a pair of blue jeans, and the tips of black converse sneakers poked out from the bottom of her pants legs.
"Directions?" questioned Phoenix, "Where are you trying to go?"
"Back home, actually," answered Calypso, "We wanted to take a walk and explore the city, but then we got lost." Calypso was the shorter woman, which was very evident standing next to Aurora. She had raven black hair held by a hair clip with side bangs framing her olive-toned face. Her dark, narrow eyes with perfectly applied eyeliner were framed by a pair of red-rimmed glasses. Although petite, there were defined muscles on her body. Her pink sleeveless turtleneck exposed her fit arms and her black yoga pants emphasized her shapely legs. She also had red stilettos, which seemed to match not only her hair clip but the rouge fleur symbols on the backs of her hands.
Phoenix unlocked the door. "I hope you don't mind stopping by the grocery store, first," he said.
Aurora stepped in, saying, "I don't have a problem with that."
"A spring salad sounds great right about now," Calypso added as she slid in and closed the door.
"You said Fleurs don't even get hungry," complained Phoenix, "And besides, this is just supposed to replace the food Bianca and Calypso ate."
Aurora crossed her arms and uttered, "Something tells me most of that blame falls on Calypso."
The shorter woman innocently chewed on her manicured thumbnail.
"...Aurora and Calypso are the other two Fleurs I now live with. The three girls, altogether, had been encased in those rings for years, but someone was able to mail them to me. Because the Fleurs were stuck in the rings, they were unable to see who it was that sent them. Of course I asked "Why send them to me? What do I have to do with them?" but then I realized that it might have to do with the yellow fleur symbol that's been growing on my chest these past few days."