To my friend Noelle, who was my first fan, my biggest fan, the earliest fangirl for my writing. Without her this story would not be where it is today. Without her I would never have believed so strongly in these characters, and she helped me to make them alive for the both of us. Thank you for reading, actually truly reading the scrambled writings of my twelve year old self and for loving my fan arts. Thank you for believing in Sheeni and Talia. I wrote this story for you.
It all started with a missing Pegasus. Sheeni had been out in the courtyard, resting his sore wings in the grass. There was a soft silence, no indication whatsoever of what was to come. He sat up, staring at the palace in front of him. His mother was tending the roses nearby, which were still just as grey as the sky and the land below them. The plague of the land did not exempt their secret kingdom, a small community tucked away on the top of mountains. Here they were at peace.
His mother’s long, whispery white gown fluttered out behind her in silky transparent layers. Her enormous, delicate wings extended out in feathered arches. If the sun hit them just the right, they shimmered in the way that a pearl might shine when you move it around in your hand. She was the symbol of beauty, of what most of his kind could only aspire to be. It was only suited that she was the queen of the small mountain palace. Not that there were really many people there for her to rule, besides the residents of the castle. Most of the race had died off eons ago, and now she was leading the small family and family friends that were left there. The villages had fallen apart, the civilization farther up the mountain disappeared. They were only a small species in the vast world of Plaq’un.
Sheeni grew hungry, as any growing teenage boy would in the late afternoon. He lifted himself out of his relaxing position and stretched out his wings and his back. As he started to go inside, his mother called him over.
“I’ve been meaning to ask you, did you put Blair back in the stables after you rode her yesterday?” There was a hint of accusation in her soft voice. “I think so, why?”
“Well, she’s not there now,” she said, staring at the dusty grey petals.
“Maybe someone else took her out?”
She stroked the rose, her fingers running all along the center vein and the fragile sides. This was the passive aggressive nature of the lovely queen. She did not yell, she did not scold. She simply made you wait in guilt and expectation as she told you why she was upset at you. It was never cruel though. Sheeni seemed to inherit the calm, kind composure of his mother. He waited for her to respond, to say something and look away from the bush. He began tightening his shoulder blades, and then the slender bone protruding up from them into the wing. He often did this when there was nothing else to do, a nervous habit much like biting ones nails or scratching ones neck. He started at the stone of the courtyard, the tufts of colorless grass peeking through. This led him to notice the rip in his pant leg, and the grass stain on his knees.
“She’s your pegasus,” she finally broke the silence. “You, and only you are responsible for her. You are the only one who rides her.”
Transparent grey eyes were then focused on him, so kind yet so upset in that moment. He was absolutely sure he brought Blair back into the stable, leading her into the stall and closing the door behind him. He remembered it well because after that he was caught in his daydreams and failed to notice the colossal mass of soggy pegasus poop waiting for him in the straw. Pegasus poop was certainly the most unpleasant poop there was, and he had spent the next hour trying to get the smell out of his feet, and trying to keep anyone from discovering his little mishap. One of the maids had looked at him strangely when he wandered around outside barefoot, dumping barrels of water on his feet. She hadn’t stopped him though, and hopefully she never mentioned it to his mother. She would not hesitate to bring it up and force him to be more careful when handling Blair.
“I don’t know where she could’ve gone…” He muttered. His mother turned to go back inside, and as she did Sheeni noticed the form of a horse in the sky, hurtling towards them at great speed. “Hey, there she i-” he stopped. There was someone on her back. Could it have been a servant? Why would a servant take his horse? Squinting, he watched the pegasus and the rider draw closer, until he realized something odd.
“Mom…” He turned to see that she was already inside, probably going to question someone else about Blair’s whereabouts. The pegasus in the sky was undoubtedly his own, with her long black mane and white speckled torso. That was not the thing that worried him. It was the unknown, wingless rider that suddenly sent a tremor through his bones. The man was charging forth, ripping through the sky and landing powerfully while pulling on her mane. There was a saddle on her back that Sheeni did not recognize. It was lacking the usual engravings that his saddle had, and was an ugly blackish green. It was almost military like.
He watched, completely frozen as the muscular man jumped off the horse and pulled out a sword. Sheeni stepped back, because the atmosphere had just changed and he was afraid for his life. His throat suddenly grew dry and any words he attempted to say came out in pathetic gurgles.
The man was dressed to kill. He looked like an assassin, and the coldness in his eyes whispered that Sheeni could be his next target. He did not look like any man Sheeni had ever seen.
The two kept eye contact, neither one moving. How did he get his pegasus? How did a land person get his pegasus, to be more specific? He was angry, terrified…confused.
“Get on,” The man suddenly grunted. Sheeni blinked. “Wha-” “Get.On.” The man flashed his sword, and in what felt like less than a second he had lunged at Sheeni and grabbed him, holding the knife to his neck.
His heart was an exploding bomb in his chest. His screams were ugly and ragged as he was dragged towards his own steed. His captor was too large, too burly and powerful for him to fight off. So he bit him. He bit him, but found his arm was plated with metal that hurt his mouth and gave him a strong headache.
He screamed again, this time far louder. He beat his wings against the man, whacking him in the face until his grip loosened and he could take off. He flew up in the sky, soaring above the courtyard and the palace. He had to warn his mom, his family… the man was already heading for the door. He found a window and broke through it, rolling through the broken shards of glass and onto the carpet. There was no time to worry about the glass. He brushed as much of it out of his curls as he could manage before darting down the hallway.
“Mom! Mom!” He screamed. He saw a maid carrying a basket of clothes down the hall, humming a merry tune as her russet wings swayed behind her.
“Hey, Anastasia!” He called to her frantically. She turned around and smiled at him, before noticing the urgency in his eyes.
“There’s… A man,” he said in between breaths.
“Okay.” She huffed.
“No no you don’t understand! There’s a man who stole my pegasus and he doesn’t have wings and he tried to kidnap me!”
She looked like she didn’t believe him, and it made him want to scream. “Sheeni, if this is another one of your stupid little games or daydreams I don’t care. I have a lot of laundry to do and your mother asked me to help you study later. So unless you want dirty clothes and a stupid head, you’d better stop lying to me.”
He let out a pathetic cry of frustration, pulling tufts of hair out.
“I’m serious he’s coming in here and he’s going to kill is and I’m scared! He put a knife to my throat!”
She looked at him, deciding not to risk the chance that this wasn’t true. She dropped her basket and grabbed his hand, pulling him through the hall. They froze as a female scream echoed in from the other room. He had come inside and now he was threatening Sheeni’s mom. Anastasia grabbed a large decorative pot that was sitting against one of the pillars that extended out to up to the ceiling. “Stay here,” she whispered. He watched her charge off with the vase above her head. He heard sounds of a great struggle, and decided not to obey Anastasia’s orders. He rushed down the stairs and into the great center hall where the action was taking place.
There was his mother, thing and frail compared to the robust man who jumped at her. Anastasia had smashed the pot over his head, shards of white clay speckling his hair and neck like confetti. He still fought, unhinged.
He caught Anastasia by the wing and suddenly snapped the bone like a dry twig. Her cry was a wound in of itself. It hurt Sheeni to hear her hurt. He flamed with anger.
He flew and knelt down next to her while his mother attempted to fight off the beastly man. She was fast, having the advantage of flight. She loomed above him like a beautiful ghost, dodging everything he threw at her. She was screaming for the guards, but Sheeni noticed a dark smoke filling the castle. It was rising and getting darker in shade, causing him to gag as it reached his neck.
“Get out of the smoke!” His voice broke as he coughed. He was holding Anastasia in his arms, cradling her as she went through the shock of a broken bone. She was a tiny girl, only a few years older than him but still about his size. That was saying a lot, considering Sheeni was already petite for a boy and small boned, as most of their race was. It wasn’t too difficult for him to hold her midair, above the smoke. He took her upstairs and placed her in her bed. She was crying, shaking with wide watery eyes that screamed helplessness. She was in complete shock, paralyzed, yet still twitching.
“He’s going to kill us,” she sputtered.
“No. No…He’s one man. He may be from the land but he’s still only a man. And he’s wingless.”
“He… has us. He’s… one man who’s already managed to…to… overtake us.” She forced the words out as if she was about to vomit.
The dark smoke drifted upstairs and through the cracks in the door. She closed her eyes and sighed.
“Marissa is f-fighting him. If she dies… it’s over Sheeni. It’s over.”
“Well where are the guards and the servants and the cooks? Where are they all?” Sheeni screamed, punching the pillow. She flinched. “Sorry…” he took her hand. “I’m just scared.”
As the fog grew heavier, she seemed to fade into it as if her source of life was slowly being sucked from her skin. He panicked, realizing the drifting smoke was started to make him lightheaded. It gave him the feeling of sleeping. Sleeping and never, ever getting up.
“Please try to stay awake! We have to do something! I have to go fight!” He told her, fighting against the fatigue. He tried to prop her head up, shaking her. “The fog is trying to put you out. Stay up!”
She nodded grimly as he flew out, her eyelids droopy and red. “Thank you…”
The fog must have put everyone else to sleep. That was why none of the guards had come when his mother had called for them. He looked over the edge of the railing to the center hall. His mother was gone. It was empty, except for an odd device brewing smoke and the broken vase. The white shards splintered the marbled floor, a haunting reminder of the previous scene.
He stormed through the large doors that led to the courtyard, scanning below him for any signs of life. There were no winged or wingless beings in sight, and even Blair was gone. The smoke was dark by now, and it was consuming the rocky mountain top. The shrubs and nearby plants were starting to wilt, and everything was disappearing before his eyes. Stone sculptures of women, swans and things of that nature were deteriorating in the ivy patch. They crumbled down into ash, destroyed. The smoke had started to consume things.
Sheeni was horrified, but his mind went back to Anastasia. He couldn’t let her be eaten up, but it could have already been too late. Had all the staff already gone? Would be be next?
He broke through another window, coughing and sputtering and ripping through to Anastasia’s room. Her wing’s had disappeared entirely. She lunged towards her and scooped her up, flying out the window and up into the sky.
The walls of the castle were crumbling to ash as if they were only a dream he was waking up from. He screamed as his skin started to tingle and the tip of his wing grew faint. Anastasia was slipping from his arms. Pumping his wings powerfully, he soared high above his province. The smoke was just a spectacle in the distance.
His home was falling in on itself before his very eyes. The entire mountain compressed itself and dissolved into dirt.
His people were gone. All that was left now was the surface world.
There was a pegasus flying off in the distance. He was too tired, too crushed to follow it. Instead he floated down towards the miles of grey prairie below him. Hovering, he realized he would have to land eventually. He had never touched the ground before.
He set Anastasia in the grass, before he collapsed beside her.
Talia had enough of Cindy. Every single day she blasted her horrible music, every single day she acted like the queen, a slutty hipster who just so happened to hate her. Talia never chose this foster home, she never chose where she got to stay. She’d been in many crappy situations before, but there was just something about living with the purple haired menace that topped them all.
She sat in her room, attempting to study for a test. Attempting. She had read the same paragraph at least forty times. Each time she was interrupted by the vibrations coming from Cindy’s bedroom. Her eye began to twitch. She wasn’t sure if the harassment was on purpose, or if Cindy was really that stupid. But the day she had arrived, all Cindy had done was criticize her sense of style and taste in music. She was passive aggressive sometimes, and then others times outright rude. That’s what she hated the most. Her bluntness. Her stupid attitude. The fact that she was abnormally beautiful and she knew it. Talia normally wouldn’t have minded Cindy’s expressive style, but just the fact that she flaunted it in her face made her despise it.
Talia tossed the textbook across the room. She had enough. Pulling herself up and walking next door to Cindy’s room, she opened the door.
“Mind turning that down, maybe like five notches?” She said, not trying to be nice, but not being outright rude either. Her tone and face stayed neutral, although she fought to keep it that way.
Cindy was straightening her long, purplish red bangs in the mirror. They cut straight across her eyes, long and straight.
“Is it really neccesary to listen to music while you do your hair? I mean, I’m just saying.”
Cindy rolled her eyes and started applying a thick lip color. She was watching herself in the mirror, ignoring Talia’s reflection in the corner.
Suddenly she tossed her head and turned around. “What do you want?”
“Music, down.” Talia raised her voice. Cindy shrugged and started touching her porcelain face.
“CINDY. MUSIC. DOWN. NOW.”
Cindy gave a haughty sigh and went over to her stereo, hardly changing the volume. Talia gave her a look. “Could you please turn it down a little more?” She asked loudly. The volume went down by what seemed like one decibel. This was extremely frustrating. Talia came into the room and unplugged it. The sudden silence caused Cindy to riot.
“What do you people expect from me! I can’t please everyone!” She shrieked.
“What are you even talking about?”
“You! You came here and now I have to do things I didn’t have to before!”
Talia scoffed. This girl was the most self centered person she’d ever met. Was really throwing a mini tantrum over the idea of turning down her earsplitting rubbage? Was she really being all that compromised? Talia was thrown from foster home to foster home throughout the years, never really having her own home or her own sense of sense. This girl was just too privileged and stupid.
“Oh I’m sorry, that now you have to maintain a healthy volume of sound in your room. I’m so sorry for how I’ve forever altered your way of life.”
“Just get out of my room!”
“UGH! Nevermind. I’m going to the library.”
That’s how it was nearly every day in the Cunning’s household. Her mother tried to stop it, and forced Cindy to be “nice” to her, but it didn’t really work out. Tensions were tight and suffocating, and once again Talia felt like a stranger. She stormed back into her room, grabbed her leather messenger bag and stuffed it with her textbook and notebooks. She left the house, walking quickly and muttering to herself, all unpleasant words. On the way over, she stepped in not one, but two puddles. It wasn’t enough that they were puddles, they had to be cold, muddy puddles. She continued down the street with brown stains on her shins and pessimism in her heart.
The city around her was beautiful, she had to admit. The houses were very old and adorable, but still urban at the same time. The trees lining every street corner added a bit of green to the world, although they were starting to brown as the late fall turned to winter. Eccentric people bustled about in their vintage clothes and tattoos. You could hear people playing drums in the nearby park, a steady beat that she could hear although she wasn’t actually in the park. She heard the faint sound of someone singing along with a reggae vibe to it. It was definitely an interesting place compared to the last few suburban homes she had stayed at.
The library was quiet, one because it was a library, two because most people didn’t use them anymore. She was going to the same school as Cindy now, which was less than enjoyable. She actually did her work though and stayed low, trying not to draw too much attention to herself. She’d probably be pulled out soon enough anyways when Mrs. Cunnings got tired of her. Talia hoped this would be soon.
After finishing off the chapter, she closed the textbook and rested her head on the table. The room smelled of old paper and dust jackets, and it was the most beautiful kind of quiet. It was a thoughtful, chosen quiet. Not a forced quiet, not a lonely quiet. It was lovely, and Talia found herself closing her eyes, and before she knew it the world blacked out and she was asleep.
The librarian had to wake her up around closing time, and she groggily wandered out and back into her “home”. It was dinner time, but the house was completely dead. She checked the kitchen for signs of Mrs. Cunnings or a possible meal in progression to no avail.
The world had always seemed grey, but in that moment it felt the greyest it ever had.
She tiptoed up the stairs and hid in her room, sitting by the windowsill. The curtains blew gently inwards at the slight breeze, and she stuck her head outside to feel it in her dark curls. The stars were starting to come out. Make that star. The city sky was light polluted, and you were lucky to see even three stars on any given night.
Talia remembered at the orphanage she used to stay at while waiting for foster families she used to always wish on the stars. All the other girls there always wished for families, or to be hot, or famous, or something typical for a teenage girl. She never told them her true wishes. Although all of those things were okay, she wanted an adventure. As ridiculous as it was, she wanted her own story. She wanted something more than a typical family, a typical job, a typical life chasing after nothing in particular. She wanted to be something, someone….anything. Most of the times she felt like nothing.
Tonight she wished on the single, faint star she saw. She wished for color. Not color in the sense of pigment, but color in the sense of color tearing through the black and white of her mind. She wished for hope. She wished for something more. Her tawny eyelids shut, squeezing tight as she forgot everything else besides that one wish. She could only imagine the ridicule she would face if Cindy found her there, closing her eyes in the dark. Cindy never came, and Talia realized she was probably at some party, or hanging out at some street corner or something. She didn’t really know, but it didn’t matter. As long as she could be alone.
It felt silly to wish, to dream. Something inside of her just longed, desired to be swept away from that dreary reality.
The next day she went to school, skipping breakfast and walking there ahead of time so she didn’t have to travel with Cindy.
She didn’t really talk to anyone, but she didn’t mind. She wasn’t all that interested in their little affairs. It was likely she’d leave this school with the next few months, so it wasn’t worth getting attached to.
Talia was smart. She did well wherever she went, and it wasn’t a problem for her. Cindy may have been smart, she didn’t know, but if she was she didn’t show it. She skipped class a lot, didn’t study, didn’t appear interested in any of the classes she actually went to. Talia sat behind her silky magenta head that always blocked her view during chemistry. Cindy wasn’t all that tall, but that head of hers took up so much space.
“Cindy. Move your head,” she whispered.
“I can’t just move my head. It’s comfortable like this.”
“Just move it to the right a little.”,
She did it, groaning loudly and receiving a glare from the teacher.
A couple kids smirked.
On her way home, she caught Cindy smoking on the corner by the trashy skate park. It didn’t particularly surprise or affect her. They were her lungs, she could do what she wanted with them. Cindy just solicited on the corner with a bunch of others that radiated that same sort of aura. Talia didn’t really have a word for it. Fake maybe? Trying too hard to be more than you are? She knew that Cindy wasn’t really what she appeared. Her mother had told her so the night she arrived at the Cunning household. The whole reason she brought Talia over was to try and get Cindy to be less selfish, to bond with someone like she had when she was young.
Looking back on that conversation, Talia grimaced. If that was the goal, she’d have to live in that house a thousand years before she’d even warm up to that girl.
She remembered Mrs. Cunnings saying something about how she used to be fun. She used to be crazy, just in a different way from now. A healthy, less vain sort of way. Talia would have to see it to believe it. As she walked home, she caught another glimpse of that porcelain face.
For a second, she saw a smear of emptiness. A fragment of longing. And then Cindy caught her gaze, huffed and looked away, puffing out smoke. And then it was gone. The moment of humanity, the glint of sadness in her eyes veiled by a rebellious teen attitude.
Talia loved walking home. She loved the feeling of just walking through the world, alone. No one to bother her, so much space between her and others.
When she arrived at the house, it was empty as usual. Assuming that Cindy wouldn’t be back for at least an hour, she had an evil thought. Being home alone, what was there to prevent her from looking around some old family photos? What about Cindy’s room?
This wasn’t the type of thing she usually did, but she didn’t feel bad after the past few weeks. She was curious, and this was a perfectly satisfying fix to her wonder.
She walked upstairs quietly, kicking her shoes off by her bedroom door. She walked in her socks on the plush hallway carpet, creaking Cindy’s door open. She had been in that room before, but this was so different. This time she felt like she was doing something wrong. The room was messy, but messy in a disorganized teenage girl sort of way. There were posters for different obscure bands she’d never heard of and actors she wasn’t all that interested with.
She started with the closet, because she assumed that was where the darkest secrets of her soul were kept. Well, not actually. But it was a big closet she could walk into and that made her excited for no reason.
The closet had clothes, obviously. Lots of vintage and pastel goth things. She liked a lot of it, though it wasn’t really her style. There was a full length mirror standing up against the back wall, and seeing her face caused her to cringe, so she quickly flipped the mirror around the other way.
Cindy was not the most organized person in the world, to say the least. Talia had to fight the urge to just organize everything. She was a neat freak, and as she came across a messy pile of pastel peter pan collared sweaters she almost reached out to fold them. They were covering a weathered stack of old books. The top book was the first book in the Harry Potter series, though the cover was torn off the the pages slightly wrinkled. Underneath it was some independant graphic novel about ghosts or something. She flipped through it, but it wasn’t all that interesting and a bit gory for her liking.
There were some things by Neil Gaiman and Stephen King, along with Brandon Sanderson. Talia wanted to think up some convoluted theory about Cindy based on the books but she just couldn’t. She seemed to be a fan of paranormal and fantasy though.
There were shelves above the lines of hangers, cluttered with old junk. It all carried the scent of dust.
She felt like she was stepping into a chamber of the past, a past that didn’t belong to her and she had no business in. Though feeling stabs of guilt, she ignored them and instead listened to her whispers of intrigue. The shelves held an assortment of things, fuzzy stuffed animals that had been put into to washing machine one to many times; old notebooks covered in stickers, dolls and jars of change. There was a spiral bound notebook that called to her. She pulled it out, revealing the sparkly smiley face stickers plastered on the cover. When she opened it, she realized immediately that it was a journal, and that it was dated about three years ago. She stared at the text, but she didn’t read it. This book held thirteen year old Cindy’s innermost thoughts. How could she live with herself? She couldn’t read this! As much as a darker part of her coaxed, her conscience was too strong. She slid it back on the shelf and stepped out of the closet, taking a deep breath.
There wasn’t anything particularly special in the room. There was makeup and clothes and posters and things but it didn’t really tell her anything she didn’t already know. What exactly did she want to know anyway? It wasn’t like she wanted to find some big secret to blackmail her with. It wasn’t like she wanted to find nude photos or something. She grimaced at that thought. Definitely not. Why the heck was she doing this?
She was bored, lonely, hopeful. She wanted to find a scrap of human in Cindy. She wasn’t sure why, but she had this odd sense they might help each other one day. Maybe deep down, she was still hoping they could be friends. But of course that would never happen. They were just too different.
Talia left the room, making sure to close the door behind her. She laid in bed, staring at the crappy paint job on her ceiling. It was uneven and almost bumpy and dribbly in certain places. Maybe that was just the texture. Her body sunk into the cloud of sheets as she blinked steadily.
At her last foster family, they had given her a broken cot in the attic. This bed was much nicer. Her last family really wasn’t all that bad. They were mediocre, in her opinion. They weren’t especially cruel to her, but they weren’t especially wonderful either. They were just kind of there, like most things in her life. She mostly just stayed up in the attic and read. Now that she thought about it, all the could remember from that house was how often she read.
There was a big bookshelf in the attic with a large supply of books. There had to be at least a solid inch of dust building up on top of that old thing, until she arrived there. She read almost everything in it. Some of the stories were very old, some only sort of old. Some not quite old, but not quite new. She read through all of Sherlock Holmes, Great Expectations and mostly everything by Charles Dickens. She read plays and poems and old journals that she wasn’t sure who they belonged to.
Here there weren’t tons of books, and no attic to escape to.
There was the library. She could always go there. Somehow she always fell asleep in them though, just like she did earlier that day.
Breathing in and out, Sheeni woke up to a crowd of clones. They surrounded him in their horrid grey jumpsuits and metal packs that attached to the spine through thin needles.
He didn’t know much about Plaq’un aside from the mountain he lived in. He rode over Clone factories and things on Blair, but they were so far below him he never really got to see what they were like. Here he was, closed in by the people who once lived as ordinary citizens.
His mother told him that something really bad had happened a long time ago, that their world used to be different. The winged people used to interact with the land people, and the land used to have color. There used to be houses and villages on the prairie, and a majestic kingdom that ruled it all. But that was decades ago. Sheeni hardly believed any of this ever existed in the grim field.
He glanced beside him, looking for Anastasia. Her wings had disappeared completely, and suddenly he saw her. Her eyes were cold and droopy, her fingers dangling stiffly at her side. She had a large metal pack attached to her back, showing through her maid uniform.
She was a clone.
He had no idea what to do. They had him, unless he could find way to fly away. They were too fast for him, pushing him down into the ground and paralyzing his limbs. As he struggled and fought, the same man from before came through the crowd and stood in front of him.
“There’s the little blond boy, I assumed he died earlier. Either way, you still don’t have a say in the matter.” He looked down at Sheeni cruelly, then motioned for one of the clones to bring him over. There was a large carriage like things pulled by two gigantic black horses with velvet fur. The clones threw him in the back, where there was a wide open space sort of like a truck. They tied him down and put heavy rocks on his wings so he was pinned in place.
“Where’s my mom?” He choked out. It was taking everything inside of him not to cry, not to explode on the spot. It was just tragedy after tragedy, misfortune after misfortune. All because of stupid Blair, who had somehow led this man to his kingdom. The man turned his head and stared.
“My mom! Did you kill her?”
This received a hearty laugh.
“Of course not. She was a gift.”
This sent chills through his entire being. “A gift?”
“Frocal is tired of his old wife. So she was a gift.”
Frocal… that name. It sounded familiar. “Who is that?” The man sighed in exasperation and told one of the clones to gag him with a cloth.
“You try and offend him boy? You try and question what is already known? Enjoy your silence. Enjoy the image of your precious mother living with the creator of all our factories, the ruler of this land for the rest of her miserable life!” He screamed. He hopped in the front of the carriage, the clones running behind it as he drove on.
Sheeni was bumping up and down in the back of the carriage, his wings twisted up against the splintered wood. He knew who Frocal was. He was the dictator, the twisted leader of this strange land. And now apparently he had his mother in captivity. For the rest of the ride he cried silent tears, watching the bleary sky above him.
When he arrived at the clone factory, he was shoved inside where they would most likely attach the metal control pack to his back. He assumed the reason they hadn’t already was because of the wing bones. They’d have to make a specially shaped one for him.
The building was what could be expected in that world-large, bulky, black and metallic. It just looked like a factory, spouting smoke. The inside was not much better. A long assembly line of clone packs came down from the ceiling, being packed and stored away. Clones all stood in a straight line on the back wall, awaiting orders. The man (who Sheeni still had no name for) came through and ordered them to go to their quarters. They all went down in a line one by one, descending into another chamber of the factory. Sheeni shook as the clones shoved him against a machine. His wings were pried apart, and he felt the needles in his back. It was a startling procedure, but quick.
He expected to be knocked out, or to lose all consciousness. He wiggled his fingers. He was still in control of his body. His pale brows furrowed. Did this mean it didn’t work?
The clones pulled him back into a chamber and threw him in a cell for the night. It was small, dark and cold just like everything else down there.
He could still feel everything. Was he not a clone? Why were they doing this to him… ?The idea that anyone responsible for any of the cruelty in that world had anything to do with his mother made him livid.
He let his wings fold down to the side and slouched against the wall. The sounds of the factory were muffled inside the cell, but he still couldn’t escape the reality of where he was. His eyes were still swollen from crying, but he felt like crying was useless in this situation. If he was thought to be a clone, he’d use it to his advantage. He could follow orders and learn until he found a way to escape. Somehow he’d have to find Anastasia and get her out as well.
In the morning he was taken from the cell and marched around the fields of Plaq’un with all the other clones. The others actually looked under the influence of the control pack. Sheeni was not a good actor, but he knew he’d have to become one of he wanted to survive.
The training he went through was strange. All of the clones were required to bulk up despite being little more than mindless drones. It was probably so they were more than just weak, flabby zombies. The other clones couldn’t feel their muscles like he could.
One of the commanding men in charge of the factory made them all bend down and do an extended plank in the grass. They were supposed to hold it for three minutes. He felt like collapsing after the first one, his arms and legs were about to buckle beneath him. The clones beside him stayed stiff and strong. They didn’t so much as wobble or even breath out heavily.
He was trying to keep his back straight, breathing even and unnoticeable to the circling drill sergeant. He walked around the rows and rows of planking clones, inspecting their form. Some of them looked weaker and slouched in the back and looked close to falling down. He kicked them in the back, making their arms fall out in front of them and sending their heads into the grass.
Almost instantly, they shot back up in correct form, and he nodded in approval.
The smell of dirt was heavy in Sheeni’s nostrils. His hands pressed into the dry earth and his wings struggled to stick out in long curves by his sides.
They were feeling so heavy, and in that moment he thought of flying away. It was tempting, but he was so weak and the clones would probably just drag him back down again. Maybe the next day, or the next, when he knew what to expect and how to flee from it.
When the planking was done, his entire being felt as if all the life had been suctioned out. There was still more to do. He began what felt like an infinite number of squats. This was the hardest of all, because he had what most people would call chicken legs. Straight, bony legs lacking much shape or definition. His calf muscles were nonexistent.
His face flushed as he started to sweat, despite the harsh air. His body started to press down slower and slower with less strength, to the point where he visibly stood out.
Calves, hamstrings, thighs…they all throbbed with an intense fire he’d never experiences. Panting, he stopped for a few seconds to catch his breath. A cool breeze swept through the prairie, cooling the sweat on the back of his neck. Right as he felt this change in body heat, the drill sergeant turned and stared straight at him. He squatted down as soon as his reflexes would let him. The sergeant narrowed his hawk eyes.
“WINGY. Keep your posture!” He shouted.
Sheeni tried to pull straight up like the other clone had when he was pushed down. Pain is temporary. It’s a situation I can push through, he kept thinking over and over again.
His thighs just wanted to sleep. They felt numb like two dead, frozen fish.
The squatting finally stopped, and they all had to run in a straight line. Running was certainly not effortless, but it was much easier for him to manage because of his light, twiggy frame. He was built for agility.
They did other things that came easy to him, dealing with flexibility. He found the strength exercises deteriorating. By the end of it all, they marched back into the factory single file and returned to their cells. He saw Anastasia enter through the side door with the group of women. At least she couldn’t feel any of the soreness he would probably have for the next week.
It was so relieving to collapse in the cell, even with the cement serving as his only cushion. His body relaxed, his muscles aching but now sinking into the floor in a comfortable “at rest” sort of way. His wings flopped down at his sides. They were streaked with dirt and grass stain.
Back home everything was so pristine. So pearly white. Here everything was the color of soot.
He looked down at his small, childlike hands that also held that smeary color. He wiped them off with his jumpsuit, getting rid of the chalky texture. A little dirt wouldn’t kill him anyways. If anything, it would help him blend in. Blend in as much as a winged boy could in a sea of wingless clones.
Cindy burst through the door on an unusually sunny Saturday morning.
“Did you go in my room?”
Talia pretended to be asleep, keeping her head turned over on her pillow and her lids squeezed tight. It was hard, as she could feel Cindy’s agitation biting into her back.
“Did you go in my room yesterday?” She repeated. Her tone wasn’t harsh, but there was an edge to it, like if she received the wrong answer it would quickly raise in tone. Talia huddled in her blankets, trying to be a better sleep actor. It didn’t to work. She could feel Cindy roll her eyes.
“Whatever. It’s not like it’s my room or anything, it’s not like I have a right to know when someone is snooping around like a freaking criminal.” She walked out, but Talia waited a good five minutes before sitting up in bed. She looked next to her. The clock read nine o clock. She jumped back into bed, moving around and trying to achieve the same comfort as before. She couldn’t. She had already been disturbed.
How did she even know? Talia hadn’t touched anything! Except maybe the books and the sweaters, but she was sure she had put them back. Hadn’t she? She was so sure she had.
There was a weird ache running up the sides of her body, from along her thighs to the edges of her fingers. It was the strangest sensation. She tried to shake it off as she finally emerged from her cocoon. She felt groggy and cold. She yawned like a little cat, scratching the tumbleweed of dark hairs circling her head like the rings of a planet.
As she clamored down the stairs, it dawned on her that she had flipped the mirror around in the closet. Had she turned it back? She thought she did, but then again she hadn’t thought twice about it. Why was she so stupid? Now she probably looked even more pathetic than before. She truly was an intruder in the Cunnings home.
The aroma of butter and flour drifted up the staircase. It smelled like a beautiful meal in progress.
When she entered the kitchen, she saw Cindy sitting at the table idly, scrolling through her phone with a dull expression. Mrs. Cunnings stood with her back facing them, mixing a big bowl of blueberry pancake batter. It smelled heavenly. Talia hesitantly sat down across from Cindy, looking around the kitchen.
“Good morning Talia!’ Mrs. Cunnings chirped.
She had a splash of batter painting the roots of her bronze hair a blue speckled cream. Cindy kept her eyes downcast, waiting for her pancakes without addressing either of them. It was visible that she was not in the highest of moods. Her dark blue metallic fingernails flew across the screen, pulling her farther from reality and deeper into her own world. She was probably still mad about the mirror. If Talia just lied, would she forget about it and assume she had done it herself?
Most people would lie, but Talia felt a moral obligation. It was almost like she was born to do good, as peculiar as that was for an American teenager. Although her circumstances weren’t always good, she was determined to remain a strong, dependable person. If Cindy asked again, it would be difficult to lie. She hated having such a conscience. It almost behaved selectively. Where had it been when she was snooping the afternoon before?
Mrs. Cunnings poured and flipped pancakes, humming to herself as they turned to a golden brown. She flipped them on a plate and set out a big jug of lite syrup and fake “healthy” butter. She put the big plate in the center of the table.
“You girls can go ahead and eat, I’ll add more as they’re done.”
Talia nodded, Cindy only looked up. She took a paper plate and grabbed a few pancakes. She only dabbed a bit of butter on top, and a very small smear of lite syrup. Talia looked down at her plate, four small pancakes smothered in syrup and frowned. Whatever. Stupid Cindy was not about to make her feel fat.
“Thank you,” she said. “These are amazing!”
Mrs. Cunnings whole face brightened at the compliment. “Why, thank you!” She looked so pleased with herself, dripping with batter and powdered with flour.
Cindy chewed, not making eye contact. “It’s so nice of you to make us breakfast,” Talia said. Mrs. Cunnings beamed, then gave Cindy a look. “Well at least someone appreciates my cooking!”
“Well, you didn’t have to make us anything, but you did. So yeah I’m going to appreciate it.”
Cindy gave a tiny huff at this comment, acknowledging her mother’s judging eyes.
“You’re very welcome though. I’m glad to have you in this house,” her mother said, patting Talia on the back after wiping off her hands. This sent a gentle ache through her body. This startled her, but she quickly relaxed.
She smiled, almost feeling loved. She caught Cindy looking at her strangely, as if she was trying to read her thoughts. Was she still upset about the stupid mirror? Talia concentrated on eating, dropping her gaze. The sweetness of the syrup calmed her down. It couldn’t make her feel at home, but it was something.
She left the table throwing her sticky plate in the trash. Her fingers throbbed for a split second, but she ignored it and went back upstairs. She brushed her hair and put on a sports bra.
Running used to be her form of escape, before books. It always seemed to change. Two foster families ago she stayed with a couple that were completely obsessed with fitness. Although she had never really been athletic, and her figure was small and wispy, they encouraged her to go running with them. The only problem was they usually got up around five o’clock and ran before school or work started. It was difficult for Talia to wake up and exercise that early, but she pushed herself to try. After the first couple of times, she learned to love it. She found she wasn’t truly herself without a nice jog. It had been over a year since then, but going running gave her something to do and an excuse to get away from Cindy. She threw on an oversized t-shirt and some leggings, looping her hair up into a bun. As she walked out, she collided with a pair of vivid green eyes.
“Oh, sorry,” she mumbled.
Cindy seemed distracted. Talia watched her go into her room and slam the door. She listened for a few moments, hearing no loud music. This seemed a bit out of character, but she shrugged it off and went out for her run.
It was difficult at first, since she hadn’t been out in so long. She still felt the abnormal aching all along the outer edge of her being. It felt deep, like some kind of ripple of static. It was uncomfortable, compressing her insides and moving around like some unpredictable energy force. Her legs cramped up as she ran, so she clenched her teeth and slowed down even more.
She never felt this last year. She had just been weak. Now it felt like something was building up inside of her, slowing her down.
Was she really that out of shape? Her chest heaved in exhausted breaths. This didn’t feel the same. There was something almost eerie about it, like there was something severely wrong with her body. She dropped from the run and just walked quickly, hoping the sensation would ease. It didn’t. In fact, now she felt it even more. It was in the sides of her face, her ears, her neck, her arms, her waist, her thighs, hers calves, her ankles, her feet….every part of her was failing, burning, screaming…
It was agonizing, but there was nothing she could do about it. She was out in public on a city block, attempting to jog. What was she supposed to do? Just walk home and lay in bed? She didn’t particularly want to go back to bed. The house was boring, lonely, grey. She was trying to create some color, but now she couldn’t even use her body. She attempted to trot over to the library, but it was too much for her body to handle. In the end she conceded and went back to the house. The strangeness of her pain was what alarmed her. Did she have a terminal illness? Was it simply cramps? She never got them that intense. And not all around the edges of her body.
It was weird, but she decided not to tell Mrs. Cunnings about it. It would probably pass by the next day. She hoped it would pass within the next hour.
She laid in bed, throbbing.
She just couldn’t understand it. Maybe the pancakes were poisoned. That was why Cindy ate so few! She didn’t want them to affect her so strongly. She was trying to quietly kick her out of the house!
That was a ridiculous idea. She sighed, feeling a little delirious. She held her stomach and pressed down on it. There literally seemed to be something flowing under her skin. It was like a volcano ready to erupt, the lava floating under the surface quietly until it gushes out.
With a giant moan, she spent the rest of the morning trying to calm the ache.
During this time she observed a lot. Cindy was pacing through the halls on her phone, and though she was trying to keep her voice low Talia could make out some of what she was saying.
“I don’t understand. I can stop.”
Talia was suddenly curious again, infected by the same bug that caused her to snoop the other day.
“What do you mean? I don’t want to throw this away. I know I’ve been weird, hell we’ve both been weird. When aren’t we? But I-” she cut off. Talia listened, but it was a minute or two before she heard anything else.
“I thought you loved me? Okay? I believed you. I guess I know its true what they say. What do they say? Of course you would be oblivious. All men are liars.”
So was this a breakup, or a lovers quarrel? She didn’t even know Cindy was seeing anybody. It didn’t really surprise her though. She imagined that this person would be around her a lot, Cindy seemed to be the type of person to want to shove her PDA up everyone’s faces. Then again, Talia really wasn’t around her except at home. They pretty much ignored each other at school.
“I know, I don’t feel comfortable with that yet. I’m sorry. I don’t know what you want from me.”
This was just getting more and more interesting.
“What is it then? I told you I don’t really smoke. I’m not even that into it yet. Oh ok, is that what you want? A nice respectable girl? Since when have you ever wanted that? And how am I not respectable? Have I ever been trashy? Have I ever crossed the line? You are insulting and infuriating. You knew who I was when you kissed me! You knew who I was and now you know who I am and suddenly it’s just not what you want? Suddenly you just can’t? Grow some balls!” Her shriek echoed through the hall, and Talia could feel her rage from behind the door. She was fuming, she was so livid Talia could see it in the air.
“I hate you! Love is a very thin line you never had a problem erasing with your disgusting feet. Go trample on your own heart. See how much I care.”
That escalated quickly. Talia felt bad, though she still sort of believed Cindy had brought it on herself. It sounded sort of cliché. She certainly sounded angry, so why would she fake that? Talia listened for more, but all she heard was the slam of a door and then an eerie silence.
If there was a jerky boyfriend, she wanted to know what he was like. She was curious as to what kind of person would go out with Cindy just to use her. This made her feel bad again, almost like a paparazzi swooping in on a private relationship issue. Though she would never tell a soul, and she most definitely did not want Cindy to know she had heard. She could just pretend she had been sleeping.
The quietness from Cindy’s room felt off. She couldn’t explain it but it she almost felt concerned.
After laying around for a while trying to pretend to sleep or actually sleep or something, she decided she was hungry. She teetered downstairs, clutching her stomach and moaning. She felt like a sick old woman.
She found a nice fat can of vegetable soup in the pantry. The label was dirty and halfway torn off but she assumed the contents were still good. While she was heating it up on the stove, an odd flash of light went across her fingers. It had a slight glimmer to it. As soon as her head jerked down to inspect it, it was gone. The sensation was still there, so she wondered if she had been hallucinating. Wiggling her fingers up and down, she examined them carefully. As she squinted, what appeared to be little bands of color resurfaced on her tawny skin. Little rings of translucent white. As her eyes opened again in shock they disappeared. The only word for it was strange. She was going insane!
She moved her fingers back and forth again. While all this was happening, she forgot about the soup boiling on the stove. It was gurgling and sputtering, obviously over cooking. She was so drawn into the bizarre twinkle on her skin that she forgot it.
“Talia! Your thing.” Cindy stood in the doorway.
“Your thing. It’s like bubbling. Don’t’ think it’s supposed to do that.”
Talia spun around and cranked down the heat, flushing. She scraped it out of the pot and into a bowl, grimacing as it oozed with a burnt thickness to it. Cindy still stood in the doorframe, not saying anything. She still wore her pajamas, an oversized t-shirt that served as a sort of nightgown and pastel colored socks. She still reminded Talia of a doll, and at the moment her eyes were glassy making her even more doll like.
Talia sat down and spun her spoon around in the chunky liquid. She frowned, catching some in her spoon but not daring to let it touch her lips.
Cindy went over to the pantry and took out a jar of nutella.
“This is better,” she said nonchalantly.
As Talia stared at her blankly, she peeled off the lid and stuck a spoon inside, pulling out a creamy wad.
“I always eat this on my period,” She said.
“Oh.” Cindy thought she was on her period. It did kind of seem like it. Wait, was this outright kindness? Was this an act of friendship? Talia blinked, studying her expression. She kind of looked like a little girl. It was odd.
“Thanks,” she said hesitantly, taking the jar. She took out a little from the lid on her finger and licked it off. She felt a sudden burst of happiness as her blood sugar was increased. She smiled as Cindy sat down.
“So were you in my room?”
She stopped eating. Cindy was staring right at her, seriously. She took a breath.
“Why would I want to go in your room? I have my own.” This was a weak response, but not exactly a lie. Cindy stared at her. “I don’t know. But I know someone went in my room, don’t lie to me.” The nutella must have been an excuse to calm her down and make her willing to confess.
“I have no reason to lie to you Cindy. Could your mom have gone in? How do you know someone went in at all? It was probably just you.”
Cindy sighed. “I guess.” She grabbed the jar of nutella and began licking the spoon. This was very different from the Cindy this morning who had been so hesitant to eat pancakes. She was really going at it, lacking the concern she had before. It was awkward, sitting there as Cindy gorged with no care in the world. What was she playing at? Was this some kind of intimidation act or was this the real Cindy?
“It helps,” she repeated softly.
The two girls sat in silence, eating nutella until they made themselves sick. They laid on the table, groaning. Cindy put the jar away.
“Do you feel better now?” Talia asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You said it makes you feel better.”
Cindy thought this over for a moment. “It just makes me feel like a pig. But I’m glad I did it.” She laid her head back down and sighed. Was she behaving this way because of what happened on the phone? That was the only logical explanation. Why else would she be talking to her? She had to be lonely. Whatever the reason, it was refreshing. It cut back on her usual feeling of isolation. She still fidgeted and sighed from the weird tingling under her skin. Both girls moaned and groaned.
“Cramps?” Talia asked. Cindy nodded. “You?” Talia shrugged. She didn’t know what this was.
“There’s this concert tonight. I was supposed to go with somebody but now I don’t feel like it,” Cindy said.
“Why don’t you just give your ticket to someone else?”
“Yeah, I guess so. I’m gonna go watch Netflix instead. It’s whatever.”
She left the room, and Talia was left with a bowl of burnt soup and a feeling of an almost truce with the purple haired drama queen.
It was hard to sleep at night, but he was getting used to that. He just kind of sat against the wall with his eyes closed in a dreamlike state. It was between conscious and not, floating through his tiredness and searching for a hint of rest.
There was still fear, but it was lessening with each day that went by. There was more sadness than fear.
Sadness, anger, depression, loneliness. It all swirled around him, making it easier to keep his body blank. He felt numb, with no positive emotions to leak through his body language.
He missed home. That’s what kept him up at night. The desperate nostalgia he suddenly clung to with clammy, broken hands. He was forced to grow up now. He was forced to feel pain and remain sane. He went out to train like he did everyday, shivering in the icy air. His wings always made him more noticeable to the sergeant, so he was forced to keep his head up.
But he was so weak. There was no place for weakness.
As he planked once again, he wondered what the rest of this world was like. It was so barren, but there had to be more people somewhere. And of course there was the palace, the great estate that ruled the whole place. His mother had been taken there. He would get her back. He would get out, and they’d run away. He didn’t know how, but the idea gave him some comfort.
During the burpees, he thought he saw a blip of color moving across the field. He was down on his hands and knees before he could get a good look, but as he jumped up again he saw a person streaking across his line of vision. The sergeant was so absorbed with the other clothes, he didn’t notice it at all.
Sheeni became excited. Something new. Something that wasn’t grey. Someone good? Just the thought of it brought a smile to his face, which he struggled to contain.
Panting, he jumped up again and strained his eyes to quickly scan the area. There was a figure alright, and he thought he saw a ponytail flap out behind it. A girl? Or a boy with long hair?
He had stayed up too long.
“Aye!” The sergeant struck him down with a blow to the side. He wasn’t prepared so he fell backward on an older clone. This was like a domino effect, bumping other clones down, and within half a minute the entire field was a big pile of stumbling clones all trying to get out from under each other.
Sheeni didn’t know whether to laugh or cower in fear. He was on top, so of course he pulled himself up and went back into a burpee.
The sergeant was bewildered. He just kept blinking rapidly and staring in awe, his mouth hanging out as he coughed out a command.
“On your feet!? He screamed, and they rolled off each other messily like a bandaid coming off a hairy wound. Slow and excruciating. “Get up!”
When they all got up, the sergeant yanked Sheeni from the group and kicked him, cursing him and screaming new commands about the proper way to follow orders or something. “Clones,” he muttered under his breath. He left Sheeni on the ground, sore and startled. He panted, eyes watering up. He wouldn’t let the tears fall. Continuing to catch his breath, he saw the figure again. This time it wasn’t just one shape, but a whole group of people, stealthy and transparent in the fog. This gave him the hope he needed to go on.
Today the clones were taken inside after working out to assemble control packs. He couldn’t stop wondering about the people. He knew they weren’t clones, they looked so free…they didn’t have the posture of a clone master or sergeant. There was something so loose about them. He could feel it. The sleek, mechanical parts came down the assembly line and he jumped to put the right pieces together so they wouldn’t pile up. He did not want another beating.
He didn’t think the clones could feel pain, so what use would beating them do? Maybe it just alerted some part of the brain not to make the same mistake again. Still, he felt like somehow the sergeant knew he wasn’t actually controlled by the pack. Maybe that was why he felt singled out.
It was terrifying. He was timid and easily startled, and here he was.
He watched the other clones. Boys and girls and men and women that used to populate this land. All robotic, assembling devices that turned other into the monsters that had become. He knew now that there were other people. The only problem was he knew nothing about them and no way to find out.
Maybe he could get out, and join them somehow. Yeah! They had to live somewhere safe if they were roaming around free. Maybe there really was something else out there.
He assembled parts with a new energy. It was energy, but energy burns out after used for long periods of time.
Life in the factory could be so horrifying yet boring all at the same time. Parts of it were so dull, while others kept you on your feet.
He actually enjoyed being shut up in the cell at the end of the day. It was like…a break. A cold, dirty, concrete break.
He saw Anastasia again, they were taking her down to the supply room. Sometimes they had to organize or put away supplies and weapons that were coming off of another assembly line.
There were multiple assembly lines in the factory, each for different things. There was a whole separate line for clone uniforms.
He still wondered if she was truly mind controlled, and why he was not. Was it him, or just a defective control pack? This thought gave him an idea. If he scrambled up the parts a bit, perhaps that would stop the others from being taken over. He managed to misplace a few pieces and put together wrong combinations before everyone was taken down for the daily meal.
Although not conscious of their decisions, they needed fuel. And after all the were forced to do, they needed a lot. The food was just as bland as everything else, but he was happy to have something to fill his stomach with. They all sat down a metallic black tables, each place set with a large tray consisting of a chunky bowl of soup, a small bowl of not particularly ripe fruit and what looked like a giant vat of rice pudding. It didn’t taste all that great, but it calmed his screaming stomach so he gulped it down like everyone else.
Clones didn’t talk. They followed commands. When told to eat, they ate. There was no socializing during that time. It was incredibly odd and boring. He sat between two men, one young and one old. It was awkward and he felt suffocated. He missed having dinners in the palace. He even missed the long evenings when his mom forced him to eat broccoli and spinach and he refused. He’d do anything just to go back to that world, even if he was forced to eat nothing but broccoli and spinach for the rest of his life.
He would gladly suffer first world problems back at home without end. He would travel back in time and live in the most horrible moments of his childhood over and over again if it meant he could be back home.
The horrible things they were forced to do here brought on inklings of past days. They were surreal, like dreams you weren’t sure actually happened or not.
While he was eating, he noticed one of the commanding officers looking at him strangely. He tried to look away, but the sense of danger had already clicked in his head. He already knew that this wasn’t good. He had to act natural.
He followed all the other clones, the robotic movements they used to scoop the soup into their mouths. His stomach gurgled and he had to fight the urge to slurp up the entire thing in one gulp.
After the meal was more packaging, assembling weapons and putting them away. It felt endless.
The clones were only given two to three bathroom breaks a day. Sheeni would just have to hold it until one of those designated times. They didn’t give them all that much water so it wasn’t a huge issue. He hated being told when to eat and when to pee and what he had to do. It’s not like he could even remotely talk back or argue like he could back home.
If he could just fly away, fly far enough that no one could wrestle him down…
Perhaps during the night he could sneak out.
While he was putting the weapons together he saw something odd. There was someone sneaking around behind the crates of parts. Someone from the outside. He felt a jolt of excitement. Attempting to keep an eye on his work, he kept the figure in the very corner of his eyesight.
The person was stealthy, fast and unseen. The were taking supplies and weapons out of the boxes with such silence and precision.
A rebel? The idea of a rebellion seemed like nothing but a mere dream. Could this actually be real? Or was it one lone rebel, stupid enough to try and beat Frocal’s entire nation on their own?
He lost sight of the figure, but he had this sense that it was still in the building. Maybe there were more than one.
Soon he was taken back to the cell. He brushed by Anastasia on his way there, and her eyes registered a hint of emotion. Had he seen that right? Was she conscious? Or perhaps he was just so desperate that he imagined it.
As he sat against the concrete wall with his wings sprawled out, he imagined a whole squad of rebels blowing up the whole factory. He fell asleep with the image of smoke in his head.
It was four in the morning. Talia had burst up in a heated panic, dizzy and hyperventilating.
The dream. It had come to her out of nowhere, seizing her thoughts and ripping through her entire being.
She still shook. Her forehead was ice, yet it was dripping with sweat. She felt feverish and insane.
The world had toppled over in her mind. Those images… she saw people, a couple to be exact. There was a young couple with a little girl who looked surprisingly like her. Same dark coloring, same long lashes. There she was in their arms, in a dungeon. And then a wicked man came and wrenched the child from their hands, as soon as the woman had given birth. There was screaming that echoed into the very marrow of Talia’s bones. The woman had been so helpless, the baby snatched like a doll from a misbehaving child.
The man had yelled, gripping the bars of the cruel cell that held him.
The evil man, the horrid kidnapper had set the baby out in a throne room. It was a huge room with a floor that resembled a chess board. In the center of the room was a cage that held a tiger.
A great winged woman stood by the throne, her youthful face stoic. She looked like a beautifully carved statue, except that she was alive. The sight of the child, the baby who represented herself being thrown out before a tiger sent jitters into every cell of Talia’s body. The man looked pleased with himself, like he was ridding the world of some great pest.
“Please, Frocal, listen to me. There are other ways!” The winged woman yelled. She dashed down from her throne and grabbed the child in her arms. The tiger growled from inside the cage. The man smirked.
“Marissa, my darling, this way is the one I prefer. Now stand back.”
She cringed as he said “My darling”.
“I won’t! Look, if you raise her as your own, if you keep her here, she can’t grow up to defeat you. I’ll raise her!”
“But you already have a young child to raise. And you know about the prophecy.”
“I’ll shield her from the world, I’ll-”
“No. I’ve already decided.”
“YOU ARE BARBARIC!’
He slapped her across the face, ripping the child from her hands.
He opened the cage, letting the tiger prowl free. Marissa screamed and earsplitting scream, and then Talia awoke with the terrible fright.
It had been so vivid, she could’ve reached out and touched it. That world played in her mind as clear as any film would play on a movie screen. It touched her and twisted her deeper than any movie had.
There was no escaping that feeling. It was so haunting.
Her parents were dead, as far as she knew. She’d never had dark nightmares about them though…Where had this come from? It had been a while since she really wondered about her parents. Throughout the years she learned to not dwell on where she came from and who she should have been, because that would only hold her back. Life went on whether she was caught up in her past or not. Either way, it had been difficult to truly accept that she was an orphan. She thought she was past that.
The curtains to her window fluttered in the dark, and she realized the window wasn’t shut all the way. She crept out of bed, pushing it down so the air couldn’t get in. Her wrists were weak but she managed to shove it down.
It was dark, and she almost tripped over her bookbag going back to bed. She threw her blankets over her head like a tent, huddling into the warmth and attempting to fall back asleep. She shut her eyes, but the images kept coming back to her. The feeling of the dream was fresh in her mind. Why was she thinking about her own death? She was almost positive the child had been her. Sometimes you just know things in dreams, and this was one of those times.
She flipped around in her sheets, swimming endlessly in the insomniac sea.
Who was she?
She had never really known. Always the practical little outsider, the princess of making things work. She never questioned, she never fought. What was arising in her? She did not feel at all like herself. There was a bubbling in her blood, a spastic energy inside of her that hadn’t been there before. Was this how it felt to be on drugs? It was close to how she imagined it.
She felt strong, but so out of control. She mostly felt fear and confusion. Her head throbbed up and down. Was this a period thing? Ugh. Periods were weird. She never heard of them giving you nightmares before.
She laid there for several hours, questioning the meaning of her life and her origins. She thought about her parents, and why she was orphaned. She wondered what really happened.
There was the most peculiar sense of familiarity in the dream. Sort of like Deja Vu, she felt like she had experienced it before. Like she was looking at pieces of a past life, scraps of what once was. The fear in the child felt so deep, so familiar to her. She felt what the baby felt, she felt it to her very core.
It was disturbing and it kept her up for the rest of that night.
The morning came too soon, and she was hollow eyed and not herself.
She had to get up for school which was difficult under the circumstances. She threw on a green sweater and tied up her hair. She did not have time to get ready. Checking the clock, she saw she only had ten minutes. She grabbed a frozen waffle and ran out the door.
She rushed down the block, and ended up making it to school thirty seconds before the bell. She absolutely despised being late. The thought of it just gave her anxiety.
She fell asleep during Chemistry and got yelled at by the teacher. She wouldn’t normally sleep in class, but she was just so out of it.
Cindy didn’t really pay much attention to her. She was less snarky and irritating, and much more neutral. She wasn’t exactly nice but she didn’t do anything to bother her. She seemed kind of off herself. Talia noticed her sitting alone at lunch that day, which was odd for her. Usually she had a pack of girls around her, but they seemed to have fled.
She looked kind of…sad.
The nice part of Talia told her to go over and sit with her, but then the rational part told her she’d only get annoyed. It’s not like they were friends or anything, just because she’d been a little less rude. It didn’t mean anything at all. Still, she watched Cindy out of the corner of her eye, eating her sushi and vegan whatever it was quietly, her dark magenta bangs hiding her eyes. A boy walked over and said something to her, a smirk on his face. She slapped him, frowning. He laughed and walked away. Talia wasn’t sure what he had said, but it must’ve gotten to her. The boy went over to his friend group, who were all watching Cindy and looked amused.
Probably the friend’s of the guy who dumped her. Or whatever even happened between them.
Cindy tried to ignore them, eating quieter than ever and checking her phone.
Maybe something else had happened? Talia wasn’t sure why everyone was treating her so weird, but it made her feel bad. It almost made her forget how obnoxious she had been when she first arrived at the house.
Maybe because the feeling Cindy felt in that moment was a feeling she had felt all her life. Orphaned. Cast off. Unwanted.
Every child who grew up without their parents knew it. They were always feeling this lack of identity, scrambling to find someone to look to for what to be. How to speak, how to dress, how to look at the world. These little things children may find in their parents or older siblings were things she always had to manage on her own. She had always taken pride in being independent, self sufficient. Deep down, she was unsure. Alone and confused in herself.
Seeing another girl feel something similar really set her off. It just wasn’t right. Maybe she was still sensitive about the nightmare, or maybe she was hormonally off but she decided to go sit with Cindy.
Lifting her bookbag off the chair, she pulled over a chair next to the green eyed girl. Cindy looked up when she came over, but her lips stayed shut and her fingers still scrolled down her phone screen. The boys noticed, and now that Talia was closer she could hear some of what they were saying. They were talking about Cindy, calling her a whore. Cindy kept herself guarded, not showing signs of annoyance, hurt, or bitterness. She stayed cool.
The silence was uncomfortable. She tried to think of a way to break it, to sooth the tense air. She kept thinking of things she could say, none of which were appropriate for the situation. She didn’t necessarily want to bring anything up from last week, and she wouldn’t dare mention the phone call. They were nowhere near close to enough for Talia to share her dream and open up about her latest worries. So they sat, they stared, they waited until the bell rang.
She scurried off to her next class, Cindy going in the opposite direction with the same bland expression.
The rest of the day was the same. Talia felt tired, achy and out of touch. Cindy looked the same. Neither girl acknowledged each other, and when they got home both doors were shut.
She had to sleep. She practically pounced into bed, once again pulling herself into the only cave of comfort she truly had.
The soft petals of her eyelids drooped down, and with a few hazy blinks she had dozed off.
She awoke in a field. Grayness, like a black and white movie except worse. She laid in the grass, a dreary sky above her like a giant umbrella of doom.
She blinked slowly. I was like the contents of her soul had been transfigured into the very world before her. It was like she was in the physical realm of her soul.
She blinked again.
The winds were strong and overpowering, carrying her hair in a tornado above her neck. Suddenly a girl ran of out nowhere and grabbed her. Startled, Talia jumped back. This girl looked no older than twenty, with cropped brunette hair streaked with pink. Her skin was a pasty white.
“We have to go under.”
Talia was confused. “What do you mean? Under… Under what?”
“Underground.” The brunette girl pursed her lips impatiently. “Talia, look down at your arms.”
Slowly, her gaze dropped down to her arms. And then she gasped. Stripes of shining, burning, living light wrapped around in her ring like bands. They were like ethereal tattoos. Suddenly Talia found herself shoved on the ground. “What was that-”
Someone had thrown a rock at her. She whipped around, seeing a group of robotic looking figures dressed in grey running towards her.
“What are you? What is this?”
The girl pulled out a knife.
“You’re needed here. Time is important, don’t use up too much of it.”
Talia looked at the approaching army and then the girl. She was so overwhelmed.
“You need to come with me. I know you’re confused, and I’m a stranger. I need you to trust me. There’s a reason you’ve never known how to be human. There’s a reason you haven’t figured it out. Now you need to. You need to find your past.”
The clones were closer, still throwing rocks. Talia felt one hit her in the shin. She breathed in deeply. “How the heck am I supposed to do that?”
“You need to go back to the place you were first.”
The girl suddenly gave out a large, sonic shriek that ripped through the army and sent them all on their knees. The bands on Talia’s arms shone, right before she found herself back in bed.
She woke up perplexed. What an odd dream. The girl’s words stayed in her head. You have to go back to the place you were first. What did that mean? She had no idea where she was born, or where her parents were at the time if that was what it meant. Why was she thinking about these things? What was wrong with her head?
She stopped thinking rationally. What if she was seeing pieces of a past life? Or perhaps a future one, that she belonged in instead of this one. Is that what the girl meant?
She heard a knock at the door.
“Yeah?” She murmured.
“It’s me.” It was Cindy. She creaked open the door slowly, peeking in through the crack.
Talia scratched her head. “I did? I don’t think I did. I just woke up.”
“Really loud.” Cindy added.
“Are you concerned for me or something?”
Cindy scowled. “Why would you think that? And I meant last night. You woke me up at four in the morning with your screaming and practically gave me a freaking heart attack!”
“So I didn’t scream just now?”
“No, but you were talking to yourself and it was darn creepy.”
Talia looked at her in a weird way. “So you’re eavesdropping on me now?”
“Ugh, no! I told you it was so loud it made my heart stop! What made you scream like that?”
Talia looked down. “Must have been dreaming.”
“Don’t remember. Why do you care?”
Cindy shrugged. “I don’t know. I was just wondering.”
Did she actually care, or was she just being a snoop? She really did not feel like talking about this. She tried to let her annoyance slip through her tone, but Cindy still lingered there. What did she want?
“I used to have a lot of nightmares. The best way to stop them is to stop thinking so much about the thing that disturbs you. Don’t even let it linger in the back of your consciousness. Just push it out.”
“I don’t think that will work in my case. But thanks anyways. Don’t you have music to listen to or something?”
Cindy’s face turned slightly sour at this comment. “Well, sure. If that’s what you want me to do now, because it was such an issue the other day.”
“Because I was studying. And I never said I wanted you to go listen to music, I was saying that’s what I thought you should be doing because that’s what you do. It’s kind of weird for you to be in my room.”
“Fine, but you were the one who disturbed me twice in a row! But whatever!” She left the room, and Talia wondered why she had just been so snarky. Cindy was trying to help, but she just wasn’t in the mood to hear it. She sighed. Everything was so complicated.
She rolled out of bed and stared down at her arms. They had glowed in her dream. She gingerly felt at her wrists and around her arm for any indication of the glowing bands, and strangely enough she felt something. Her skin was smooth, but there were definitely bands of energy or magnetism or something. She could feel pulses of something unnatural pushing at her fingers.
Was it possible that she was still dreaming? She didn’t have that swimming feeling she had when she was dreaming. This felt too dull, too quiet, too cold. She couldn’t truly feel when she dreamed. Unfortunately, this was real.
Her mind went back to those words…You have to go back to the place you were first. How was she supposed to do that? It’s not like she could go back into her mother’s womb, or even the hospital or house she was born in. She obviously had no recollection of her life before she was five, which she had always considered normal but now she wasn’t so sure. Could that be why she had always felt so off? Was that why she was going through these weird visions and physical pains? Was she drugged as a child, and she was now reaching the full effects? She held her head in her hands. She didn’t know anything, and she couldn’t ask anyone about it.
Where was she first? What was the first thing she could remember?
Lot’s of foster homes, but those weren’t the first places. The orphanage. Could that be it? Surely that was not the first place she had ever been. It was all she could remember at that moment.
Maybe they’d have some records of her there. They had to have a file or something about where they found her, or how she came there. They had to know something about her past.
She had worked so hard to not care about this stuff, to accept that she was alone. Suddenly she was stirring up the dust again, awaking the skeletons in the closet.
She had to know. She had to go back there. Talia devised a plan to take public transportation to her get back to her old orphanage. She’d have to transfer a few times, and she’d probably end up getting home really late. She could probably find a reasonable excuse for that, Mrs. Cunnings already thought she was a “delightful young woman”. She would believe anything she said at that point.
She didn’t tell anyone what was she doing. Who would she tell, anyways? This was something she needed to do for herself, to put her mind at rest once and for all. She made a promise to herself that whatever she found there, she wouldn’t obsess over it. She would go home and try and be at peace with the universe.
She didn’t even know if they would let her in, or if they would let her see the files at all. She had a backup plan. She remembered there has been a broken back window that the kids often left hanging wide open. She could always sneak in that way if worse came to worse. Then she would have to find someway to break in and steal the files.
She quickly told herself things wouldn’t come to that. She wasn’t sure she had that in her.
She felt anxious and jittery during school, and every little movement ticked her off. Cindy sat in front of her in Chemistry playing with her hair to the point where it was a bit unnecessary. Talia’s legs jittered up and down in her desk. She was ready to smack her right across the room.
A kid was whistling to her right. If there was anything Talia loathed, it was whistling. The horrible, screechy sound with those annoying puckered up lips drove her off a cliff. She glared at him, but he didn’t seem to notice because she never looked at him.
Her plan was making her insane. How was she going to pull it off? She knew what she had to do, but she was afraid to do it. She was afraid she had become insane and by doing this she was plunging herself into the climax of her sick mind.
Something inside of her knew that she had to. She had to find out, and she had to take a risk. So she did.
The bus ride was long. The person sitting next to Talia smelled like poop and there were some obnoxious middle schoolers cursing about nothing in particular. She clutched her backpack on her lap and stared out the window. The city went by, and people got on and off the bus without experiencing anything close to her supernatural dilemma.
She was actually doing this. She was actually following on her whim and trying to discover the truth.
She felt like the protagonist of a failed young adult novel.
As her destination came closer, she realized something weird. It looked like a hooded figure sitting behind her, a person with their hoodie pulled down over their face. She turned back around and wondered about this.
She saw the old orphanage approaching and with every stop leading up to it she thought about turning back. There was no time for that now. She had to go on.
As she stepped down onto the concrete, she felt a pinch of nostalgia. A small pinch turned into a giant squeeze when she finally stood in front of the building. She had been in and out of this place for most of her life. She wondered if she’d ever return after that day. Could she just walk in? Was she going to have to break the law? Why was she so stupid? She cursed under her breath. People would stare. She couldn’t solicit forever. She had to make a move. She went up the stone steps and pulled on the door handle. It wasn’t locked. She couldn’t remember if it was normally supposed to be, so she just went inside. She walked in, seeing the main office and the lobby. Her heart dropped. Someone was going to recognize her. Reckless. Reckless bimbo. She insulted herself in her head.
Walking up to the front desk, she pretended to be confident. The lady was on the phone, mumbling something about a lack of medication.
Talia waited patiently. When the woman was done, she slammed down the phone. “Yes?”
Talia took a deep breath before speaking. “My name is Talia. I’m here to collect some paperwork for my foster parent.”
The woman stared at her questionably. “What kind of paperwork?”
She stopped. “Um, she wants to know if I have any available birth certificates or just information about my place of birth. She’s trying to sign me up for some…. healthcare programs.”
That was painful. She hated lying, and she was horrible at it. Somehow the words formed into reality before she had time to rethink them.
“I’m looking it up now. Do you have any ID or authentication? I can’t give this out to just anyone.”
The woman watched her, waiting for the response. Talia had no idea what to say. She just wanted to know how she ended up in that orphanage. She just wanted a clue as to where she began. Her arms still throbbed and her whole being felt off. She was wrong to come here. This was a train wreck and she was too impulsive to see.
“I don’t have my ID with me now,” She muttered. The woman raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not in the position to give you this information. Why don’t you come back later with Mrs. Cunnings? I’m also not able to give things out to children.”
Talia frowned at the way she said that word. Did she really look like a child?
She took a walk of shame out of the building and waited at the bus stop. Checking her phone, she realized it was six O’clock. How did she let it get so late? What would it look like to Mrs. Cunnings?
She was a good girl. Nothing would happen. She was free to do as she wished, and Cindy would assume she was studying. They would never find out where she went, unless the orphanage decided to call Mrs. Cunnings. Why would they do that? They wouldn’t. They couldn’t. She took a deep breath.
Where was the bus? It should have been there by now. She tapped her foot on the concrete and looked at the fading fall city. It was rush hour, and many people hustled to get home after a long day at work.
They had the right idea. She wanted to get home, or whatever that place was, because it was most certainly not home. Where was home? The orphanage?
She felt a raindrop on her nose. She looked up at the grey sky, and then back across the street again. This time she jumped up. There was a hooded figure standing in front of her. The same hooded figure from the bus. She glanced away awkwardly, but the person stood in her line of vision. How odd.
“Can I… help you with something?”
“AH HA!” The figure exclaimed. Oh no. Anyone but her.
Tiny, white doll fingers clawed at the hood, revealing a familiar face.
“I knew you were up to something!”
Talia stepped back, head pounding with shock.
“What the- what are you doing here? Did you follow me? You did, didn’t you?”
Cindy pursed her lips.
“No. I was… meeting someone, but then I got suspicious.”
“So you basically stalked me.”
“I wouldn’t call it stalking, I was in the neighborhood, heading in your general direction. But you looked like you were doing something bad, so I wanted to join in.”
“Sure you did.”
Talia rolled her eyes. She honestly didn’t even know how to deal with this girl. Meeting someone? This far away from home? As if. Maybe to buy drugs or something.
“Well I’m going home,” She huffed, turning away from Cindy and facing the street again. She wished the bus would just hurry up and come already.
“C’mon. Please, let’s go do something.”
Why did she suddenly want to spend time with her? What was this? There had to be more. Though she had been a little less annoying than usual, this seemed out of character. Cindy was desperate to do something, desperate to stay away from home… why could that be? The Cunnings household was not a toxic environment. Although there was no father figure, things were relatively good. Cindy was fairly privileged. Why did she want to stay away? At least she had a real home… at least she could feel like her home was a permanent home. Talia never knew how long she would be able to stay in one place, and if her next home would be safe.
“Why are you even here? Aren’t you going to get in trouble?”
Cindy shook her head. Talia didn’t buy it. She had lived with Mrs. Cunnings long enough to know that she was a no nonsense kind of woman, although she did let Cindy get away with certain shenanigans. Like blasting music and smoking at the park. Actually, she probably didn’t know about the whole smoking thing.
“Why would I get in trouble? I’m with you.”
Oh yeah, so that made it all okay. That was her excuse. Talia rolled her eyes. “Alright, whatever. But I’m not going to lie.”
“Alright then why don’t you tell me what you were doing in that weird building.”
“I wasn’t doing anything. I needed… a birth certificate.”
Talia huffed. “I just do, okay?”
The bus was coming down the street. She breathed out in relief, getting ready to step up.
“Hey, what’s that on your hands?”
Cindy was pointing at her fingers, gaping. Talia turned her palms face down and glanced at the backs of her knuckles. White bands encircled each joint in her finger, glowing. She quickly pulled her sleeves down over them, glaring. Cindy was not giving up so easily.
“What are you?”
The bus pulled up in front of them and made that releasing sound buses made when they stopped. It sounded like a mechanical fart.
Cindy followed her on the bus, sitting next to her. It was crowded but they managed to grab the seats before anyone else could sit down. For a second Talia thought she saw the girl from her dream. Her mouth opened and then closed. The girl was gone, and in her place was an older Hispanic woman.
“So, what are you?”
Talia glared at her. She hated that question. She hated trying to answer that question, because she didn’t know herself. She crossed her arms over her chest and stared out the window, attempting to ignore the snoopy girl. This proved impossible.
“I know you aren’t who you say you are. You come here, screaming every night, sneaking out to a weird building, not talking to anyone except my mom…”
Talia scoffed. She didn’t scream every night. “Well excuse me if I have nightmares, and maybe I don’t like anyone else here. You don’t have to get into my business.”
“We do live together, unfortunately. So I have the right to know. You still need to tell me why you came all the way out here anyways.”
“Does that mean that I have the right to ask about your little breakup?”
She regretted it as soon as she said it. Rage filled colorless cheeks with color.
“That’s completely different! UGH!”
She looked like she was about to say something back, or worse, do something, but she stopped. Her eyes stopped on Talia’s cheeks and wouldn’t leave them. It was awkward, so Talia turned her head. She really didn’t like this girl. So annoying.
For a second Talia thought this was some kind of joke, Cindy making fun of her appearance. Her fingers traced the sides of her face and she felt intense heat… intense energy. They fell away quickly as if she had just stuck her hands in a boiling pot of water by accident.
“What’s wrong with it?” Talia asked.
“It’s all… white.”
“Hilarious,” Talia said, rolling her eyes. She was obviously not white.
“No, I mean like your hands.”
Cindy pulled Talia’s hands out from under her sleeves, pointing to the marks. Talia snatched them away, trying to stay cool. She honestly didn’t know what to think. She came here for answers, to find out who she was and now… she felt even worse. And now Cindy knew about all this. She wanted to scream, suffocated in the crowded bus as her body flashed symbols she didn’t understand.
“Look, I’m sorry Cindy, I really don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know who I am.”
“Maybe you’re an alien.”
Talia laughed bitterly. “That would make a whole lot of sense.”
“I mean, I don’t know, isn’t this kind of cool? I thought you were weird before, but maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe you aren’t actually human, and that’s why you don’t have parents!”
“Well thanks. And how do you know I don’t have parents? They could be out there, somewhere.”
Cindy seemed really excited about this. Didn’t they hate each other a little while ago? And now Cindy was practically treating her like she was a character from her favorite sci fi movie.
The whole ride home was weird and awkward. Talia still had trouble comprehending why Cindy would follow her to the orphanage, and why she suddenly seemed interested in being around her. Maybe she was starting to be nice? Why the sudden change?
As each stop passed by, more and more people got off the bus making it less crowded. Soon it was just Cindy and Talia sitting there, not saying anything.
Strange images were starting to take shape in her mind. She blinked as her head started to throb. She saw grey fields, scattered debris.
She let out a sigh, rubbing her temples. It was all too much to process.
They got off at the last stop, walked a few blocks home and then snuck into the house. Cindy’s mom was waiting for them at the door.
“It’s late. Why didn’t you call me?”
Talia waited for Cindy to say something, before she realized that question was directed at her. Worried, stern eyes stared down at her. She had not mentally prepared herself for this.
“I-I needed to study for a big test, I’m sorry I lost track of time,” She muttered.
This was a believable lie, but something about the situation made it sound fishy. She said she wasn’t going to lie, and here she was lying.
“Oh really? You were both out studying?”
She was studying Cindy strangely. “You told me you were meeting up with Phillis.”
“She got sick. I decided to study with Talia.”
Cindy smiled innocently, suddenly looking like a little girl. Her mother narrowed her eyes at her.
“Is that true?” She asked.
Talia nodded, gulping. “Yeah. What do you think we were doing?”
Mrs. Cunnings thought this over for a moment, looking Talia up and down. She sighed a sigh of relief, waving them inside. “It doesn’t matter. You should come inside, dinner is in the fridge.”
The girls went inside to heat up lasagna in the microwave. Talia sat down to eat,exhaling. She felt emotionally and physically exhausted.
Cindy opened the fridge and stared inside, squinting. She shut it and repeated this a few times, mumbling about the food choices. In the end she resolved to a bottle of iced tea and a frozen waffle. Talia didn’t ask.
“You’re going to tell me what’s going on,” She said as she sat down in front of her. “What’s really going on. “
Story still in progress, I should be updating this frequently! This is (another attempt at) a rewrite of a very old (but very dear) story of mine, so I apologize if any of it seems a bit cheesy/silly considering I did write the first draft when I was 12-15.
This is my summer writing project! *_*