I could feel my skin heating up and knew I had to suppress my natural instincts to let my subconscious take over. I closed my eyes and thought of my night time walks, of my father letting me ride on his back as he glided through the free fields, the rich, oxygen-producing ecosystem maintained at the highest level of the station. I remembered how I felt when my father punched one of the elders in the face for saying he was nothing but a glorified animal for letting me ride on his back. Luckily the council had grown fond of me and sided with my dad on the issue.
A feeling of control came over me. My color faded back to a pale red, my horns turned white again, and my eyes went back to their natural fiery orange. “Honey! Are you alright? What is the matter?!” My father exclaimed, relieved but still concerned for my fit. “I am fine dad. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to get you involved, but I guess it can no longer be avoided. I have seen that insignia before. Mom, hand me your multi-board.” She handed me the well-polished, pitrinium-reinforced glass board and I pressed the button on the side, lining my eyes up with the laser module.
……………recognized, please state your name for verification.
“Sha’ayr Ellehar. ID code 5172. Wilvarok.” …Voice Identification confirmed, welcome Sha’ayr.
I quickly linked the multi-board to my personal console and opened the image I had taken. “See? Right there. I received a message with that symbol ten rotes ago. That is why I have been so distant. That is what triggered all this anxiety. I don’t know who sent it or what they wanted, I just know they are Wilvarokan and dangerous.” My mother put all four hands to her mouth, letting in a fast, whimpering breath. “What did the message say sweetheart?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Honey, we are your parents. You can tell us, we want to help, we want to find out what this is about.” I glared at my mother and felt my eyes shifting. I could see my reflection in the steel cabinet behind her. My skin was red, horns black, and eyes solid white. “I am already in enough danger with this message. That is all you need to know. I am NOT going to endanger my family too, do you understand?” My mother flinched, backed into the corner, and sat down on her hind legs submissively. “I’m sorry dear. I won’t ask again, please just don’t look at me like that.”
It was a strange feeling. When I went into this state of metamorphose, I did so with complete intention and felt an all-encompassing sense of attunement. It wasn’t like when I attacked myself, I had control of my subconscious and it did not feel disengaged whatsoever. The world slowed down around me and I could see people’s emotional core. I could not translate, but I could sense their vulnerabilities, their fears, their weaknesses. It resembled an infrared viewer, but instead of heat signatures it was picking up emotional vulnerabilities. It was truly amazing.
Realizing the immediate ramifications of my actions, I quickly focused my energy on positive energy and returned to my normal state. Seeing my mother I immediately felt awful. “I am so sorry mom! I was just trying to get my point across, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Standing slowly, she approached the edge of the bed and resumed her position of the floor beside me, holding my hand. My father said nothing and just laid the letter down on the bed.
Last drop, final breath
Roots severed, new seeds can sprout
It’s our time to grow
I let in a quivering breath, bit my lip, and forced back my tears. “She certainly has an affinity for poetics.”
Mom looked at me puzzled, but knew not to ask any questions. “She said you would understand what it meant.” Suddenly I realized the true, horrific implications of the situation. My eyes opened wide, full of chaos and panic. “She said? You spoke to her? Who is she? What did she look like? Is she here to kill me? Oh stars! J’karn! How did she even get here?”
“She has her own ship, a very unique and mysterious vessel.” My father finally decided to join the conversation. “I have never seen anything like it. It had an altered drive core which manipulated space-time all around the vessel instead of just in front of it, making it impossible to get an accurate reading on its proximity or size until it comes into full view. Being that the ship is solid black, it was at the docking station before we realized it was even there! It moved so quietly, so smoothly. The ship itself looked like a saucer with a large sphere in the center and huge sails protruding up from the top, down from the bottom, and wings slanting back. It was massive! I am assuming the sails were used to manipulate space-time, either that or they are purely aesthetic, or maybe they help steer in conjunction with the wings and thrusters… I know not enough about ships to properly deduce their purpose and seeing as how this technology was unheard of before, how could I? Ha-ha, I mean seriously, the amount of power needed just to distort space-time in front of a vessel is astronomical, yet less to distort it all ar__”
“Oh enough about the j’karn ship!” My mother glared at him and reverted to the subjects at hand to subdue my concern. “We don’t know what she looked like. She wore a beautiful, extravagant shroud made entirely of prism silk. It must have been worth at least fifty thousand Feryhns, if not more. She has absolutely no interest in killing you and was very kind. She handed us this parchment and told us to give it to you. She said you would understand. She spoke eloquently and never showed her face, all you could see were her glowing eyes.”
“What color were her eyes?”
“Well. It’s hard to say. The shroud made it hard to tell for sure, it was prism silk after all”
“What else did she say?”
“Nothing. Just to give you the parchment.” I paused for a moment, took a few deep breaths and looked at my mother unconvinced. “You seem to be taking this rather well. Do you not find it the least bit strange that out of nowhere a Wilvarok with an undetectable ship made of unheard of technology, a priceless shroud, no identity, and a parchment WRITTEN IN BLOOD shows up out of the black to deliver a parchment to me, a basha…errr…orphan, on a small space station patrolling the forbidden planets? How can she fly without government tags on her ship, without shipID software? Why would she even be allowed to dock? How are you guys NOT freaking out about this? What are you not telling me?”
“Honey, we are telling you everything. She was given permission because she gave the council a peace offering. Given the quality of her shroud, I am guessing it was a large amount of prism silk. They would be fools not to let her board. Just get some rest, you have had a long rotation and there is a lot you need to think about I am sure. Just lie down, get some sleep, and if you want to talk more later we can.”
“How do you know she doesn’t want to kill me? No parent would dismiss such a claim without absolute assurance. If she didn’t say anything else to you, how could you possibly discern that she really does not want me dead?” My mother looked frustrated but was thinking about other things to cloud her mind so I couldn’t pick up on anything significant. “She…I just do. Get some rest.”
I don’t remember falling asleep, but I must have drifted off while trying to process everything I had heard. I kept thinking about the last line in this stranger’s haiku. It’s our time to grow. Who was she? Did she mean her and me when she said “our” or did she mean an entire group of people I don’t know about? And what is this growth she spoke of? It seems too convenient that she sent these messages during the process of me achieving my clairvoyance. All that was clear is that she knew something about me and about my past that I needed to know.
I leaned up and sat at the edge of the hospital gurney, my legs dangling far from the edge of the T-shaped bed. My body could only take up a small portion of the large beds, designed to accommodate an adult Tilverhan. They didn’t really have much to cater to a Wilvarok in the hospital. It was intriguing to see all of the medical instruments used on Tilverhans. I had never really thought about just how accepting Fortitude had been allowing me to grow up here. They always made me feel so welcome that it never occurred to me, but looking around this room I saw the numerous T-shaped gurneys, beds with eight tie down straps, and instruments I could not even comprehend using.
I decided I wanted to go home and called for the doctor. “Sha’ayr, is everything alright? You look more lively than yesterote, your complexion has returned to normal. Let me check your vitals……okay, good. You seem to be much, much better.” I squeezed my arms around the doctor’s neck and smiled. “Thank you so much for everything. Your patience, your kindness, and your help. You have my gratitude.” He chuckled and patted me on the back. “Well, it is my job. Speaking of which, I have agreed to waive all charges for your treatment on one condition that your parents said I would have to discuss with you.” I let go of his neck and looked at him disgustedly. “What. Condition.” He laughed robustly and patted my back playfully, though a bit harder than I think he meant. “No, no nothing like that girl. Goodness, I am not THAT depraved! After seeing that beautiful prism silk shroud worn by the mysterious Wilvarok that came by your room I decided I knew just what to get my wife for our anniversary. I could never afford a garment of such intricacy, but perhaps you could make my wife a bandana to hold her hair back of prism silk? There is no pressure if that is an unreasonable request though, just a thought! It isn’t…offensive to ask a Wilvarok for garments made of their silk is it?”
I put my hands on the edge of the bed and sprung myself forward chirpily and patted the doctor on his side. “I would be honored to present you with a garment for your wife. How long have you been married and what is her name?”
“Oh, thank you Sha’ayr, her name is Lyvonne and in two cycles we will have been together for ten full turns.”
“Alright, I will use my plain silks for the embroidery and prism silk for the bandana. How about this:
For my dear Lyvonne.
A blink of the eye to love
Ten turns gone too fast
“Perfect! Well, you are free to go whenever you please. Oh, by the way, it is night time. I stayed to make sure someone was here when you woke up. Would you like a ride back home?” I looked down at my feet and fanned my toes back and forth for a few seconds smiling impishly, then looked up at the doctor with my eyes, still facing the floor. “No thanks doc, I appreciate the offer, but I really need a walk after these few rotations.” He laughed, shook his head, smiled, and bid me farewell.
As soon as I felt sure I was out of the doctor’s line of sight, I spread my toes and pressed my webs into the floor firmly. It felt wonderful to be walking again. I looked up toward the free fields, let my eyes shut, and walked serenely through the halls. I honestly felt at peace with everything that had happened, even the strange haikus. I know my parents were keeping something from me, and it was still disconcerting, but I decided it best not to dwell on it. Whatever is happening, whatever is going to play out, I can sleep easily knowing it will reveal itself to me in due time. There is nothing I can do to stop it and nothing I can do to change it, I just have to be patient and my health cannot endure me being anxious about what the future has in store for me. I will just have to wait and see.
The hospital was about an hour and a half walk from our chambers, so I had plenty of time to enjoy myself. I felt my happiness returning, the weight of all these problems being lifted. I couldn’t explain it. It was all too serious to just let go, but my subconscious decided otherwise. I started dancing through the halls, carelessly running my toes softly across the pitrinium floors in half circle sweeps, bounding, pirouetting, and humming a tune quietly.
“Hey nice moves!” I heard a familiar voice exclaim. Startled and embarrassed I stumbled to walk forward again, nearly falling backwards. “Brindel! What are you doing out here.” He swooped down from one of the upper levels and landed in front of me. “Oh you know, this and that. You know, since I saved your life ‘n’ all I think that earns me, like, three wishes or something right?” I rolled my eyes and smiled. “I’m a Wilvarok Brindel, not a genie. Since when are you so playful anyways? Last I saw you, you were all stone-faced and stiff scaled. What happened to that?”
“I was nervous and worried about you and rightly freaked out all at the same time! You were reading my mind! That kind of stuff isn’t okay. Your parents talked to me while you were asleep and explained the whole Wilvarok clairvoyance thing. That is a pretty neat j’karn trick! Shame it is so limited though, you can’t even blow stuff up with your mind.” I just laughed, unable to decide what to even say to this knight in jester’s armor.
“So yeah, about those three wishes. That is fair right?” I put my hands behind my back and leaned against the wall beside me. I had never really had any of the boys in my classes flirt back with me. I mean, I always figured to most Tilverhans I wasn’t particularly attractive, being an entirely different species and all. I had tried to flirt on more than one occasion in the past, but gave up on it a few turns ago when it was obviously not going anywhere. It was nice to be getting some attention for once, and from someone so smarmily charming. I loved a good sense of humor.
“Tell yah what, oh brave knight. Since I am not a genie, I cannot grant you ANY wishes, but I will grant you three questions instead. Anything you want to know about me, I will answer with utmost honesty. The only condition is you have to use all three questions right now.” He put two hands on his hips, stroked his chin with one, and scratched his head with the last. I was a little taken back by his pensive stance. I assumed he would just ask three silly questions and be done with his little joke, but he was really putting a lot of thought into this. I stood quietly for about a minute.
“Okay. I got it.” He clapped his top two hands together in front of him. “First question: What is it like to sleep on your back?” I raised one eyelid and looked at him inquisitively. “You have free range to ask me any three questions and want to know what it is like to sleep on my back?”
“Well yeah! Tilverhans can’t exactly sleep on our backs, yah know. Our middle vertebrae doesn’t allow for us to bend in a way where we can actually lay on our backs. It is either left side or right side when we go to bed. I mean, we COULD lay on our stomachs, but that isn’t really comfortable, and when you were laying on that hospital bed I had my serious concerned face on because I was worried, but in the back of my head I was just saying ‘that is SO COOL! I wonder what it would be like to sleep on your back?!”
“You know Brindel, I had never really thought about that. I guess that is something you never get to experience. Well, I don’t really know how to describe what it is like, but my favorite thing about it is probably that both my ears are off my pillow, so I can hear music and sounds easily. Makes it easier to be alert. Also, it is nice to be able to sit up without having to get out of bed. It also gives me this sense of balance I can’t achieve laying on my side. Pressure is equally distributed across my entire body symmetrically, and it just feels nice. You know, I had never really put that much thought into it before you asked.”
“Oh wow, that is amazing! Such an awesome answer too. J’karn I am jealous, I want to sleep on MY back. Maybe if I fell asleep on like, a pyramid or something!” I burst out laughing. I couldn’t help it, just the image of this huge, muscular Tilverhan sprawled out on top of a pyramid with his arms flopped around in all directions and his legs sticking straight in the air. “Do you have any idea how ridiculous you would look Brindel? Come on, be serious now!”
“Hahaha, yeah I guess I would look kinda silly.”
“Yeah maybe a little. One down, two to go.” He looked at me and smiled menacingly. “So, you said you had to answer with utmost honesty right?” I returned his gaze of mischief. “Yep. Two down, one to go.”
“Oh, come ON Sha’ayr, that isn’t fair! No way, that doesn’t count. J’karn!”
“It sure does. Last question Brindel.” He huffed and crossed all four arms in front of him. “Fine, fine. You got me on that one. Last question then. Do you think I am cute?” I turned my head away, blushing. “Oh come on Sha’ayr, don’t go getting all white-faced on me, you can be honest you won’t hurt my feelings.”
“I…I.” I couldn’t even say anything. I had never actually told anyone I was interested in them. I didn’t want them to think I was weird. I mean, I had heard stories of Wilvaroks and Tilverhans falling in love and dating and whatnot, but that was during pre-migration. This is a different time with actual walls between the species, not just arbitrary divides. Truth was though, I did think he was cute. Really cute, actually. I had never seen a Tilverhan with such a dark shade of green. Also, I do believe he is the only Tilverhan I have seen with a brindle pattern on his skin. The beautiful mix of light and dark purple really draws the eye. I couldn’t resist.
“Very much so,” I finally said under my breath. He grinned at me showing all his knife-like teeth. “Well, I think you are pretty sweet too. If you would be so kind as to indulge me, I would like to propose a compromise.” Curiously, I looked deep into his eyes for a few moments then nodded. “Well, you kind of tricked me out of a question, so I will give you a ride home in exchange for my question back. But you have to let me wait until you get home for me to ask. Deal?” I pushed myself off the wall slowly, walked up to him, and shook one of his hands with a smile. “Deal.”
He spread his wings slightly so I could climb them and sit on his back. He then folded them back in around my legs to hold me in place and began galloping down the hall. The breeze felt nice after being stuck in that bed for the past few rotations and even now it still amazed me just how fast Tilverhans can run. I wrapped my arms around his upper torso and laid my head against his upper back and leaned my body off to one side to see the world in front of me, flying by so quickly.
He ran for what seemed to only be a minute and came to a slow trot, then stopped in front of my chambers. “Well this is your stop. Thanks for talking to me, I had a lot of fun Sha’ayr.” He unfolded his wings and I used one as a slide to reach the floor. “Me too Brindel. I needed some fun in my life this cycle. Thanks for keeping my mind off everything that has been going on.” He lay down on the ground so he could hug me. Even still he had to hold his bottom hands out for me to stand on just so I could wrap my arms around his neck. I held him a bit too long for it to come across as just a friendly hug. It wasn’t intentional, it just felt nice to be held for once. As he loosened his grip, I kissed him on the cheek before he lowered me back to the ground. I looked into his eyes for a moment, smiled, and turned to walk inside.
“So, uh, Sha’ayr. About that question.” I kept walking without turning around. “You can pick me up here tomorrow night, two hours before the synthesized light-rotation ends. You can pick where we go.” He laughed and galloped away gleefully.
“Sha’ayr! I am so glad you made it home. Did I hear you talking to someone outside? Oh. Ohhh wow, you are absolutely glowing and your eyes are flashing blue, it was a boy wasn’t it?” I smiled at my mom and hugged her. “You know, what’s the fun of being clairvoyant if you can just look at my eyes and do the same thing to me? Anyways, I agreed to your ‘arrangement’ with the doctor.” My mom sat me down on my chair and raised her eyes at me. “Ahh yes, the bandana. Nice evasion, but I do believe I asked about a certain boy that obviously has caught your fancy. So, who was it? Anyone I know? And what the stars are they doing out so late?!” I swayed back and forth in my chair a little, looking toward my mother but vacantly passed her, recollecting the thoughts of the night. “Brindel was out playing again, I think he likes to glide around the top levels and can’t do so with all the hustle and bustle during the light-rotation. We talked for a bit and he gave me a ride home.” She smiled at me debasingly and brushed the back of her hand across my face. “Oh honey, please don’t get your hopes up too much. Tilverhans don’t date Wilvaroks anymore. I know that is hard for you, but remember how hurt you were when Raschall turned you down a few turns ago? I remember. I also remember having to explain to his parents why I broke four of his fingers.”
“I STILL think you overreacted. All he did was call me a_”
“I know what he called you, and he may call you that behind your back, but I will clip his j’karn wings if he ever calls you that again to my face. Anyway, I just don’t want to see you get your hopes up and get hurt again.” I jumped up out of my chair, and looked to the ground, pretending to be disheartened. “Oh, honey, I am sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel bad.” I sniffled a little for show. “Oh, I know mother, I just… I just wish I could live a normal life. You know? Of course n_” I couldn’t contain myself anymore and started laughing. My mother looked at me, confused and bewildered. “We are going out tomorrow night!”
The rest of the night I finally got to have the girl time boy talk with mom I had always wanted to have. She told me lavishly inappropriate stories of her when she was my age, of times her heart was broken, of her ridiculous infatuation with the “love of her life” who she now barely remembers what he looks like, and about meeting my father twenty turns ago. After a few hours of talking she began yawning and her eyelids were beginning to close. “I need to go to bed honey, I am so happy for you. Such a sexy boy too with that brindle skin. I have never seen that in a Tilverhan either! You should get some sleep too you know.” I casually shook my head. “No thanks, I pretty much just woke up and am still in hormone overdrive. The edges of my irises are STILL blue.” I looked at mom and we smiled at one another, then our smiles faded into worry simultaneously. “Hey mom, can I ask you a question before you go to bed?”
“One more question honey, then I have to go. I haven’t slept since you went to the hospital.”
“The Wilvarok that came. Why didn’t you tell me she came to the hospital? I don’t think the doctor meant to say anything, but when he asked me to make his bandana he said ‘After seeing that beautiful prism silk shroud worn by the mysterious Wilvarok that came by your room’. Why did she come to see me in the hospital?” My mom took a deep breath and swallowed hard, but a few tears still escaped her eyes. She stood quietly for a moment, exhaled a long sigh, and reluctantly replied, “I promise we can talk about it in the morning, but I am far too tired to discuss this tonight. Try to sleep if you can. I know you aren’t tired but you have had a bit of a hectic cycle.” She walked in her room and shut the door.
I went to my room and lay down on my back. My mind was erratic. Between all the good things happening, all the strange events, and all the ominous messages and implications, I really didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. My brain was stressed. I was happy in general, but still worried and could not shake whatever it was that made mom cry. What could it be that is so hard for her to talk to me about? I don’t understand. Hopefully tomorrow it would be made clear though.
I didn’t sleep all night, I just thought about everything going on. When I heard stirring in the living quarters, I went to see if it was mom. “Hey honey, your mom will be out in a bit. I am heading off to work. She said she needed to talk to you about stuff. Hop a ride up to the pipes if you need me.” Dad patted my shoulder gently and left.
A few moments later mom came out of the bedroom and lay down on the mat facing my chair. I sat down and looked at her. We both had the same solemn, distressed look on our faces. “Her name is Vea’ayr. She has been looking for you for quite some time. She came to make sure you were alive and doing well, that is how I know she isn’t going to hurt you in any way. She loves you.” I was floored. “So is she my birth mother? Is that what the ayr in my name is, a last name in Wilvarokan?”
“Not exactly…” Her face soured and she hesitated to utter her next sentence. “It means ‘ill-born’ in the old languages. Sha means first and Vea means second. It’s… It is a way of naming unnamed children.” I could feel my eyes shifting to white and quickly pushed back my urge to undergo metamorphosis. I had suspected that I was never wanted, but to think that the entirety of my existence I have been living without even having a name. I could feel a pit hardening in my stomach. “How can I have no name? Everyone has a name, every Wilvarok and Tilverhan that has lived. Was I really less than nothing to the Wilvaroks? Why?”
“I don’t know the answers to that, but that doesn’t matter. You are everything to your father and me. As for the name given, it was given to you for a reason. Most of the time they just abandon unwanted children and shun them, leaving them to die or find a way to survive on their own; no name at all, no existence, just abandonment. You were named because you were feared. You are an anomaly. Your parents didn’t die, your parent died. A Wilvarok scientist—your birth mother—found a way to self-replicate and create a child with each horn. To do so, she had to kill herself. Before doing so she had genetically enhanced her blood with every living creature she could find. The theory was that your strengths would be amplified drastically and from what we have seen it worked, at least in a sense. That is why your attack on yourself was so bad and why I cowered when you morphed at the hospital. Your mental abilities are apparently well above that of any average Wilvarok. That is what Vea’ayr was checking when she was here. She told us to protect you and thanked us for keeping you safe. We told her she was welcome to come visit anytime, but she said she had to be alone for now.”
I began sobbing and continued for quite some time. My mother approached me and tried to console me, but to little avail. I pushed her away and she returned to her mat knowing I needed my space. This was just too much. Everything else I could handle, but now to find out how horrible the Wilvaroks actually are? Abandoning children at birth because they are unwanted? How could that possibly be allowed be the Galactic Enforcement Council? I could not even fathom a justification for such an act! Wilvaroks are dangerous, sick, and obviously pure evil. Never before had I been ashamed of what I was, but never before had I truly understood.
After about twenty minutes I quit crying enough to stutter a question. “M-mom. H-how can I find Vea’ayr? I need t-to see her and talk to her. I need answers.” She wrapped her arms around me and rubbed my back, resting my head on her shoulder. “She said it will be soon, don’t worry. She said ‘tell her that on the eighteenth turn a decision must be made. I will explain then.’ I smiled a little. “Is that all she said? Be honest this time mom.”
“No, she also wanted me to give you this letter after I explained everything. She sealed it and wrote it on her own silks. She said ‘make sure she opens it alone, I have been wanting to give this to her for the past five turns, when I found out the truth about us. Tell her she can read it when she is ready, just be sure it is before her eighteenth turnrote.’ It is enhanced with some form of technology where the letters will only appear when a drop of your blood is applied to the seal.”
I took the letter, put it in my pocket, and looked at mom with disappointment. “If all this was so important to tell me, why did you lie to me about it? Why didn’t you just tell me upfront about everything going on? I deserve that.” She looked down, ashamed, then held my hands between the four of hers and looked me in the eyes. Her eyes misted up as she spoke. “I just don’t want to lose you Sha’ayr.” She hugged me tight and I could feel her tears on my back. “You won’t lose me, mom don’t worry.”
She hugged me tighter, but I pushed her away forcibly. I realized my look of shock before she saw it and quickly put on an ashamed face. “What is wrong dear?” she said in a calming voice. “I just need to process all this, that’s all. It is still just too much for me. I really need my space mom, sorry.” She leaned forward to pat me on the shoulder and I flinched and pulled away so she stopped mid movement and walked to the door. “I will be back later, get some rest.”
As she left, I immediately went to my room and locked the door. Vea’ayr needed to come sooner. She needed to answer these questions and let me know what was going on with my mind. When I was walking inside after my ride home, Brindel was thinking “Would you go on a date with me?” which I heard airily spoken in my mind. After answering, in an even more resonant voice, I heard him think “I have been watching your walks for many cycles, trying to find my courage. You won’t be like her, right?” Somehow my brain was able to process subconscious and conscious thought during times when I am experiencing severe emotional turmoil or bliss. That must be part of what Vea’ayr spoke of, part of this enhanced strength.
I thought back to that final moment before mom left and tears filled my fearful eyes. I sat up on the bed with my knees against my chest and my arms wrapped snugly around them, staring mortified at the door as that final thought ran through my head, still barely able to believe it. After she had said she didn’t want to lose me and I told her she wouldn’t, I heard her subconscious voice, ethereal and sinister:
“I wouldn’t be so sure, you filthy bashakai.”
Thorns by Kevin Copenhaver is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.