Child of Confusion
A Whateley Academy Story
Child of Confusion
(Outcast Corner, Take Two)
By Joe Gunnarson
Fifty-thousand tears I've cried
Screaming, deceiving, and bleeding for you
And you still won't hear me
Don't want your hand this time, I'll save myself
Maybe I'll wake up for once
Not tormented...Daily defeated by you
Just when I thought I'd reached the bottom -Evanescence 'Going Under'
Monday, November 6th, Whitman Cottage...
The dream always starts the same, me running skyclad through a beautiful garden This place is heavenly, a vision of perfection drawn from my own mind and served to me on a platter. Everything safe, everything serene, save one tree. I knew it's forbidden to touch it, but I had my bouts of curiosity and would slide up under it's shady branches and look up at the bright yellow fruits hanging from the branches amidst the leaves. The snake was there, as always, slithering like a terrifying nightmare of scales and fangs, too long to be real, and as wide as my hips. Even though I know what will happen I can't stop it. Screw what everyone tells you about lucid dreams and being in control. You can realize you're dreaming and still have no say about the nightmares your subconscious mind flings at you when it really wants to.
The snake slithered low on the branches and began speaking, whispering honeyed words of secrets and defiance. After all, who would know if I only took a small taste? As always the fruit comes away easily, too easily, as if breathing a breathy sigh of freedom. I put the soft flesh of the fruit to my mouth and took a bite. The taste was so sweet I couldn't stop until I had devoured the whole thing. Tree of knowledge, hah. Only thing I learned in this particular dream was just how screwed I could get.
The snake struck, sinking it's fangs into my shoulder and slipping back into the branches, chuckling softly at my stupidity. I fell to the ground and tried to run, then stumble, and finally crawl away. I could feel my body shutting down as I lost all strength in my limbs. I lay there, on my belly for who knows how long when I felt something warm and soft sliding around my legs, drawing me in. I could feel the fangs inside the mouth, drawing me into the snake's gullet. All I could do was panic and whimper as the thing enveloped my feet, my knees, then my hips, and seemed to pause. Then the creeping sensation began anew, and I wanted to scream. You'd think I'd have woken up by this point, but no. I never get that particular easy out.
When I was able to move I stood, only to find myself balanced on a trunk of a powerful serpent, scales covering my body and fangs pressing into my gums. God stands before me in the image of a Baptist preacher with a bald spot and eyes going white with glaucoma. Every cell in my body screamed in denial every time that thing spoke to me.
"As the serpent in the Garden, so shall ye be cast out, and be unclean. Leave this place, you are no longer welcome here."
I can't really say anything, don't want to say anything. I also don't want to slither out into the crowd gathered beyond the gates, all bedecked in cowboy hats and shit-kicker boots, carrying shotguns. One of the boys was even kind enough to make me a necktie, the kind that has six very distinctive loops and is made out of rope. Somewhere in the background the Devil's laughter echoed out at a slow, steady rhythm.
"Goddammit Diamondback, shut your fucking alarm clock off!" The illusion shattered and I open my eyes to realize the devil's laughter actually belongs to the beeping of the most obnoxious alarm clock known to man, the voice to a girl I had come to know and loathe. Trisha never shuts up once she gets started. "Just because you have to run your scaly ass under the fucking shower for an hour and a half doesn't mean you have to wake me up every morning!"
"Fuck off Trisha, not all of us can be deer to the hart like you." My voice is snarly, and I'd long since passed my tolerance level with this bitch, letting my other side show up.
Trisha is another animalistic GSD case like me, only in her case covered in downy, tan fur, with a short tail and deer-like legs. Other than the fact that she didn't have any skin showing she could have passed for human. Most girls at Whitman are paired off one more or less normal-looking girl to each freak-out like me. Lucky me, instead of a girl who could pass for normal on a bad day I got stuck with Bambi's bitchy baby sister.
"Least I don't look like a goddamned snake-freak."
"Shut up and go back to sleep."
"Don't tell me to shut up you hopeless.."
I hissed at her, showing off those lovely fangs of mine that I hate so much. She jolted back against the wall on the far side of her bed as I uncoiled from mine. I got good and tangled up the night before, and spent a good two minutes in a bleary haze untangling myself, and letting my tail slide off the matress and onto the floor. As I wrapped a towel around myself and grabbed my various soaps and sundries I looked at Trisha, who was huddled in a ball, whimpering. I felt guilty, but that girl had made my life pure hell for the last couple months and I was finally sick of it. People who look like venison factories should not mouth off to obvious carnivore types. It's not a bright idea, and she's lucky I don't have Razorback's temper, Bloodwolf's love for violence, or Phobos and Deimos' penchant for terroristic behavior.
Ok let me go back a bit. Trisha is scared of snakes, and I mean deathly scared. Unfortunately she didn't bother to tell anyone, and Ms. Savage has this nasty habit of wanting students with problems to bring said problems to her themselves. I can understand the logic, but in this case I wish she'd make an exception when I ask her to move that little nightmare away from me. Or me away from her. Either way, I don't care. So she's afraid of snakes, and she has begun to deal with that fear by channeling it into hating me and making my life miserable. I tried to help her, tried to be understanding, tried to not feel the creeping horror pouring off her in waves, but by the end of our third week she'd already taken to doing her level best to make sure I felt less than human. It worked more often than I care to admit.
I have no idea why or how she has convinced Ms. Savage that she's fine when she's blatantly hostile and terrified of me. Maybe she's convinced out house mom that she's trying to get over her fear. Fine, but she can do that elsewhere. Just being around her makes me fucking miserable. But I hadn't needed to slam it into her face, just yet. Unfortunately not all of me agreed on that point, and it's kinda hard to argue with yourself.
You didn't need to do that, I whispered silently in my mind.
No, but it stopped the argument, and might give us some peace and quiet for a little while, Ryan's voice whispered back.
Remind me not to talk to you before we've had Jericho force coffee down us in the morning.
I agree, I'm feeling a bit pissy. I think we're going to have another shedding party soon. The boy's voice in the back of my mind receded as I felt Ryan go back to watching and listening. No matter wether we disagreed on the methods, we invariably came to the same conclusions, just mostly from weird angles from one another. I'd known that sooner or later it would come down to putting the fear into Trish, I just hadn't been eager to do it. Never mind my conscience was riding me something fierce. No, Ryan is not my conscience.
At five in the morning no one but me is up and awake. Ok, strike the awake part and replace with mobile. I'm really not capable of much beyond slithering when I first wake up, or apparently delivering wordless death-threats. The mirror showed a nightmare of hair and scales, so I started slithering to the bathroom with all my gear to try and make my appearance somewhat less freaky. This takes a lot of work.
I get up and five in the morning to shower and clean up because I and the other Whitman girls on my floor have a routine. I go to the bathroom bright and early, most of the others wait until Phobos or Deimos give the all-clear. It's not a pleasent thing, seeing how most kids, wether they admit it or not, are either creeped out or terrified by nineteen-foot-long anacondas, even if said anaconda has a human torso, arms and head instead of the traditional reptile version. So I stand about five foot eight off the ground when I'm upright, then I have a bit over thirteen feet of tail trailing behind. I don't have legs anymore and I'm starting to forget what they feel like, honestly. Not like slithering and having too much body has gotten normal-feeling though, it's still creepy weird when I actually think about it.
I got into the big shower and started scrubbing. This process is involved, and it takes a while to get my whole body cleaned up, but when I do the brilliant greens of my scales shine through, as well as the glossy black diamond patterns that give me my codename. I don't have a single patch of human skin left on my body. I'm completely covered in scales, of which the belly scales of a snakes, or scutes as the biology teacher said, began right below my breasts. Oh yeah, being half snake's a creep-out and a half.
Once I finally got done I begin working on my waist-length, thick mop of reddish-brown hair. This is the only part of my body that looks human, still, so I take care of it. Shampoo, conditioner, good god I still don't know how the other girls do it with long hair. It takes forever to clean, then dry. I do it, because I like long hair. I just don't like cleaning long hair, but I do it every day or so.
Then again, maybe I'd have noticed the loose patches of scales and skin that had gone ghost-white on my back and the underside of my breasts if I hadn't been so focused on getting my mop clean. It's not like shedding hadn't happened before, and I became a screaming bitch when it did. You think I'd have learned to watch for it better by now.
When I finished I spent the requisite half-hour blow-drying and brushing out the long mane and look at the mirror. My face has green scales creeping in from my hairline, that fade into an almost human color. My eyes are still Ice-blue like they were before, when I thought I was just another normal kid in texas, but they have reptilian slits instead of normal pupils. As always, morbid fascination makes me open my mouth and inspect the fangs. They're long enough to press into pockets in my lower jaw, and hollow, with channels for some pretty nasty neurotoxic venom, which I can pump straight into my mouth and spit a fair distance. My tongue is forked and smooth, again like a snake, but it's still pink. Whenever I stick it out and bring it back in I can smell everything, so I wind up cloising my mouth in rapid order. Bathrooms are NOT the place to get a bloodhound's scenting power, no matter HOW clean you think they are. It's enough to gag a maggot.
On my way back to my room I nodded to Deimos, a friend of mine who was waiting to sound the all clear. The panicky types didn't want to be around me, I didn't want to feel the creeping horror and disgust rolling off them in waves. Being an empathic reciever is NOT fun sometimes, and I only pick up strong emotions, so it's like wading in a pool of whatever someone is feeling, and it creeps into my moods as well. Physical contact is a whole nother ballgame, as if I'm touching your skin I can feel every emotion running through your skull. I really can't say it's not useful, but some days I could do without it.
Trisha's gone when I arrive, and for that I'm grateful. While I get ready for breakfast and class I poke around and check all the security measures Jericho helped me install. For the last couple days some smartass had been creeping into the dorms and stealing panties. Whitman had already been hit, and I think I was the only girl on campus besides Sylene who didn't have a couple pairs taken. Kinda hard to wear the things without legs.
My clothing consists of a bunch of skirts and tops, as well as my Whateley uniforms. I really can't afford much, especially since my monetary income consists of my job as a lab assistant in the Science department. Most of that goes to defray the cost of my tuition. Beyond that I'm pretty much on my own. One black halter top and black skirt later and I'm out the door with all my books and things for the day. I spend as little time as possible in my room, makes Trisha's presence that much easier to stomach, and gives me time to calm down after our normal runs of screaming matches. I gave her one of the antivenom syringes I carry around, just in case she does ever piss me off enough to bite her. I hate her guts, but I'm not willing to risk a loss of self-control.
Hopefully no one gets curious enough to inject one of the damned things. Unlike most antivenoms, unless my undiluted venom is in your system, wether I bite you or spit it in your eyes, it will kill you. We found this out when one of the stoner girls nicked it thinking it was a heroin needle primed and ready to go. Don't ask me why she thought that, but she did. I got called into the medical labs and actually had to use my venom to counteract the shit that was tearing her nervous system to ribbons slowly. She was on the brink, so I wound up having to bite her arm. Not a pleasent experience for either of us. Washing the taste of human blood out of your mouth is just not fun and, contrary to Bloodwolf, it does NOT taste happy and it takes hours to get rid of it.
Ahh, the sweet sweet November cold. Lucky for me I'm warm-blooded, unlike Razorback, and part of my exemplar package came with a resistance to temperature extremes. It'll take a while for me to cool off enough to really notice, but when I do it is a rough time getting warmed back up again, so no, I'm not immune to temperature extremes, just resistant. Fire is not something I like to play with any more than normal humans.
First thing I notice when I get outside is this pale blue glow under the snow. I really wasn't sure what the hell it was, but I'd been noticing them all over campus sporadically. It was driving me nuts trying to figure out what I was seeing. I can't just leave well enough alone, nooooooo. I always have to poke until I understand it. This is not always the brightest thing in the world. My friend Cait swears I'm going to get caught in a faerie ring or something like that one of these days because I can't just leave things alone.
So this glowy shit under the snow has had my curiosity for a while. I swept the snow away from the spot where it was with my tail, clearing a four-foot circle of indistinct blue shit on the ground. I got low and poked at it a bit, but didn't really affect it much. Extending my senses like they showed me in beginner's magery, AKA Magic Theory for Newbies, got a faint echo of some kind of warding magic, but it was indistinct, like an echo in the dark. I always got the impression that the glow had a shape, or at least had one at some point in the past. I tried rubbing away some dirt and ice, but nothing became clearer. So I scratched at it and the whole damned circle winked out of existence. For all I knew I just blew the seventh seal of the fucking apocalypse. Way to go me. I gave up and started slithering towards the cafeteria. I needed food and my stomach, which extends through about four feet of tail, began growling.
Most of the other students coming and going to the Crystal Hall, or returning from the night classes give me a wide berth. It's the same deal as with Trisha on a much smaller scale. You'd think that mutants who could plow through entire mobs of normal people without getting winded wouldn't be afraid of a goddamned snake, even if it is as big as I am, but noooooo. Fortunately I don't get physically harassed very often, and the verbal harassment is sporadic. Mostly I'm just a pariah, save for a small handful of people who actually like me.
Speaking of liking me, Phobos and Deimos caught up to me and walked beside me, giving me just enough room to slither between them. The two are identical twins, save Phobos has flame-red hair as long as mine, and Deimos' hair is jet black. Both of them have three eyes, all a pale green color, and four arms, one pair right below the normal two. They had a pair of three-foot long reptilian tails each, and their legs were digitigraded, with dainty cloven hooves at the ends instead of feet. No matter where they go a creeping feeling of unease follows them. When they start getting mad that feeling drives straight through to terror, as their aura kicks in hard. It takes a fairly strong will to keep from running scared when they get going. Both of the two are beautiful, if not a little disturbing and mildly creepy to look at. Jericho says the same about me, and it's his way of complimenting me, but I don't see it.
Me and the Fury twins walked quietly to the Crystal hall. We never really said much to one another, but all three of us were empathic, so none of us needed to say much. Long and short of it was we felt safe around one another. No violent urges from me, and no fear from them. Add to that we have some level of respect for each others' abilities and personalities and you don't really need much else. Oh yeah, they're called the Fury twins because they do this crazy conjoinment thing into a monster straight from a demon's nightmare, all arms and heads and pure-pissed-off-reality-shredding horror. They're called Fury collectively when they do the merging thing. There is nothing pretty about that monster, just terror and pain. Only a few people can square off against Phobos and Deimos much less Fury.
Me and Razorback are two of them.
When we get into the Crystal Hall, we wait in line to get our food, let the Alphas cut in line and I load up my requisite trays of meat and begin hauling them over to Outcast Corner, the name of my training squad, and what we call our little slice of space that no one wants to intrude on. Phobos and Deimos invariably go to their own places to eat, as they are a bit... messy when eating. And by messy, I mean I've seen coyotes ripping apart a carcass with less gusto.
Word to the wise with those two. Never, ever start a fight with them in the area. They will beg, they will plead, they will try to defuse the situation. They are desperately terrified of what happens when people make the violence around them. As empath recievers if people around them start getting mad, they get mad, if people around them get violent, they feel violent. After a point it overwhelms them and you have two snarling exemplar 4's whipping and bouncing around tearing the everliving shit out of anything that comes within reach. After a point they will invariably merge into Fury, and then the fun really begins. Me, Jericho and Razorback had to shut down one of their rages last week, after getting the wounded bystanders the hell away. It wasn't fun as Jericho had to drop Razor as well to keep him from killing everyone in the area.
Upshot? Razorback got downgraded as a threat on the Ultraviolent list, and doesn't have to carry an armband and tracker bug. Downshot? Both Phobos and Deimos were still feeling really guilty. Unlike Razorback, both of them could remember what happens after they flip out and go crazy. Never mind several students had to be rushed to the infirmary because Bannockburn and Hela just HAD to start a fight and suck the twins into it. The two idiots weren't injured, lucky for them, but several bystanders were, especially since Hela can't freaking aim her magic properly.
Per usual, Razor and Jericho are both there already, tearing apart their trays in typical guy fashion. Razor's like me, a complete carnivore, and he eats as much as I do. That's impressive since I have to eat about thirty pounds of meat each day to sustain my metabolism. If I were cold-blooded, that same amount would keep me going for a few weeks. HIS metabolism is just insane. I figure if he were warm-blooded his blood would be classified by octane, rather than by plasma type.
As I sit down and coil my tail around the chair I notice that they're both looking haggard and worn out, like they haven't gotten enough sleep. Wonderful, it was going to be one of those days...
It doesn't help that I felt like a complete bitch by exploiting Trisha's fears like that. Yes, unlike my two compatriots, I have a conscience. Hell even my other side, Ryan, feels guilty about that. I just sat there wishing my two best friends would talk to me rather than be half-zonked from playing their guitars until oh-dark-stupid in the morning, after we had a simulator run against the Masterminds last night. Don't ask me why but our team seems to get the heavy simulator load. We've been up on the schedule more times than anyone else. We have another one scheduled for tonight, against the Wild Pack. I am NOT looking forward to tussling with Stormwolf.
"WAKE UP YOU TWO!" I finally yelled at them, and both Jericho and Razorback jerked as if slapped.
"Dammit Sandra, we were up all..." Jericho began. I, of course was having none of it, and fully intended to blame my hormones for what was me just being sadistic.
"I know, Jericho, you guys had a long night. I can't imagine how hard it is playing guitar till THREE IN THE FUCKING MORNING!" I started so sweetly, but yeah, raise a couple decibels and every guy in three tables cringes.
Razorback started signing and I held my finger up to stop him. "Now boys, we all have our oddball weekend classes today, and then we have another simulator run, this time against the Wild Pack." Razor and Jericho's jaws dropped. They were getting just as sick of the rapid-fire sim drills as I was. "So, we need to be awake tonight, because I don't wanna be the one that gets caught by Stormwolf without backup!"
Both of them dropped their heads sullenly, and something rather similar to "yes mother." slipped from Jericho's mouth. We all were beginning to hate the sims. We won against most opponents, but we lost to the heavy-handed players, like the Grunts, the Wild Pack and the so-called New Olympians more often than not. We did, however, have a rep for driving our enemies insane trying to pin us down.
"So Sandra, why are you in such a good mood this morning?" Jericho growled out between bites. "Normally us being fragged wouldn't bug you."
I looked at him, he was right, I was taking this far much more seriously than I should, and I was about due for my monthly AND I was already overdue to start shedding, according to the docs. Yes friends, screw the double-whammy of misery, I had the triple-play. Add in Trisha and I was in a really foul mood that morning.
"Roommate problems," I said as evenly as I could, but sure enough the old Texas twang was showing in my voice. She must've pissed me off more than I thought.
Jericho shook his head, "Why don't you talk to Ms. Savage about her? Jesus Diamond, this is getting bad. You after dealing with Trisha's worse than you with PMS jonesing to bite someone."
"I've tried! I've begged, I've pleaded, I've explained until I was blue in the fucking face! The only way I'm getting free of her is if I somehow develop a sudden need to be housed in Hawthorne, or learn to shift to a more human look and get moved to Dickinson or Poe or something!" I was exasperated, yeah anyone listening could tell by the southern-girl accent coming out like a tide, but this had been going on since school started.
-Why would you want to live in Poe? All the head-cases live there. You wanna live with Hippolyta, or the Kimba freakazoids?- Razor, always putting the bright spin on things, per usual.
"If it's for head-cases why isn't Joe in there," I gave Jericho a pointed look as I invoked his real name, "and you're the one with the poster of the pointy-eared redhead from the kimbas, you great crazy iguana! Don't be calling people freaks who yer fantasizing about dating."
"She's got you there, Razor." Jericho put in mildly. I don't know why, but him agreeing with me was more infuriating than anything else.
It dawned on me right then when I felt a splitting sensation on my back, and the joyous feling of raw, unhardened scales rubbing against linen that my mood was due to the fact that I was about to start shedding after all. I stood up, looked at them, and took a deep breath.
"Guys I'm shedding, just started. I'm gonna go see the docs and hide for a couple days." I didn't point out that I was suddenly mad enough to spit on the spot, or on them. They hadn't done anything to earn my anger, and they certainly didn't deserve to have to put up with me in pain being a bitch.
When they nodded solemnly I slithered out of the Crystal Hall, and towards the Infirmary. I actually had to spit a mouthful of my somewhat famed neurotoxin into the grass when my jaw clenched. I'd gotten the lovely feeling of skin tearing across my breasts, and wanted to scream. Instead I clenched my jaws and flooded my mouth with poison. Mental note: Do not kiss anyone for the next three hours. Not like I'm in any danger of THAT.
Friday, November 10th, Outside of Crystal Hall...
Four days, one period and a supersized bottle of midol later, I came out of my room willingly. Please don't make me describe in detail what it feels like to shed your entire skin. It's gross, it's messy and it hurts like hell, especially when combined with PMS like this episode was. I left the old skin in Trisha's bed by accident and went to the bathroom. It was just the tail part which had come off like an organic body stocking. Apparently she was not amused. Ok so it wasn't an accident, she'd been threatening to skin me on and off, so I thought I'd just give it to her. Ms. Savage wasn't amused either.
I'd spent the entire time huddled in my bed, trying not to move, breathe or think too much for fear of the splitting sensation and the feel of raw, unhardened scales rubbing on everything. I managed to avoid killing Trisha because she caught sight of me peeling away a good chunk of skin on my arm and whimpering. I'd almost swear I felt a twinge of sympathy coming off her, but I chalk it up to hallucinating. In any case she left me alone and didn't talk to me or bitch at me the whole time.
Good old Whateley. I was actually in a good mood since the new scales were just hard enough not to be bloody raw to the touch, and I now had a coloration akin to a neon sign that would last for another week before I settled back to my normal coloration. Upshot? I looked fresh as a daisy. Downshot? That was the two days of misery that I was over with at this point. Not much of a downshot once you sneak past that bit of stupidity.
So yeah, the Crystal Hall. I'll admit it's impressive, one of the Senior class legacies of another year at Whateley Academy. Every class likes to make it's mark, and tradition demands that each class build something lasting for the school. The Crystal Hall is one such Legacy, as is Arena 99, and the tunnels running to the three freak dorms.
Oh don't get pissy about me calling them the Freak Dorms, I live there too. It's not like most of us Whitman girls are gonna win the goddamned Miss America pageant any time soon. Hell, look at me, I'll be lucky if I can go out in public without small children screaming and running away from the monster. Never mind the adult reactions, which seem to be a more mature version of the kiddie emotional response.
Oh, the brawl with the Wild Pack in the simulators went about as expected, but without me. With the mood I was in the docs doped me up on antidepressants and painkillers and excused me from the Simulator exercise. Probably for the best, since I came within an asshair of biting or constricting a few people over those four days. That would not be happy, proving my folks right after all.
Oh yeah, I never told you about my folks. Painful subject so I'll try to keep most of the hatred from creeping into my voice. My folks are a pair of whitebread hicks from Kilgore, Texas who love the President, no matter how much a dingbat the president at the time may be, and attend Humans First! chapter meetings. Yeah, I was born to the H1 movement, lucky me.
My twin brother, Matthew, and I were identical twins until I got sick after one of Pastor Ferris' Hellfire and Damnation sermons about mutants. It was his favorite one, about how mutants are evil akin to the snake in the Garden of Eden. He's also a woman-hating Cheauvanist, so Eve got pretty well thrashed as evil rather than merely naive. Needless to say I got to hear this sermon a lot, to the point where I can recite it in my sleep. Jericho and his family heard it twice before they ceased going to church. Jericho going blind and developing weird science powers probably added to this.
Me and Matt were always tight, and did all the weird twin things you hear about on TV and in books, finishing each others' sentences, disguising ourselves as each other, the whole nine yards. Yes I am well aware of the fact that Twins cannot be identical when one is male and one is female. Weren't you listening to Jericho's story earlier? Why do you think Me, Jericho and Razor got tapped to break you in, our stunning good looks and record for golden-boy behavior? No, we got tapped because like you we're of the sexually dysfunctional crew just like you all are. Well, I'm pretty sure Jericho's dysfunctional after seeing his halloween costume. A friend of ours suggested it to Carson a while back so we could get ourselves some support and not be all alone. She'd be here, but she's riding herd on a thornie who's in the same boat and has problems only she and a few others can deal with easily.
So back to me and Matt. The two of us were a pair of lanky boys with reddish-brown hair and a love for pranks, moreso than Jericho there. Yeah, I got a bit subdued when I changed. Matt saw me first, saw my skin crawling and warping, saw my eyes go slitted. He screamed. I don't blame him, but I'll never forget the look of abject terror in his eyes when he saw what was happening to me. Mom and Dad heard him and came roaring up the stairs like God on a bad day. They screamed too.
I wound up running like I was a death row escapee that day. Mom, Dad and the Pastor rounded up a posse to find the demon masquerading as their son. It wasn't easy getting away, considering that three of the local deputies were in said posse. I wound up finding out just how flexible I was, and how strong I was becoming in rapid order. I'm not proud of it, but I left three grown men in the hospital, one is still in a coma.
Jericho found me running in terror from a group, and about crapped his drawers when I got caught by a guy and proceeded to throw him into the trailer of a passing Semi truck, through the walls. I'm still not sure what happened to him. Needless to say I bolted to Jericho's with him while he pelted me with questions, the answer to which was always "I don't know!" It took his parents about thirty seconds of watching my body shift to decide that letting the Churchies find me was about the same as signing my Death Warrant.
I spent a month in the basement, eating, sleeping and hiding. I changed from normal human boy to Snakewoman inside a month and a half, and the Turners were nice, but my appetite went from normal boy, which is bad, to about fifteen times my daily food intake almost overnight. They couldn't afford to feed me, especially after my body went fully carnivore. I tell you to this day green food makes me ill if I hold it too close to my face. I found out what happens when I actually DO eat it the hard way.
I found out from Jericho that Matthew was doing well, and feeling guilty as hell about outing me to the 'rents. Me and him went Wiccan three years before and never looked back. He thought I was going to die and it was all his fault. The Turners have promised to keep an eye out for him for me. They're also keeping an eye on Zach, Jericho's baby bro. Word on the street is when one kid goes mutant in the family it's a good bet you need to keep a close eye on the others. There is no doubt in my mind that Matthew will be a mutant. I can only pray he doesn't wind up like me.
Where was I before I got sidetracked? Oh yes, getting food, take one bilion and three. I slithered into the Crystal Hall late, as I'd stayed to do some extra credit in Mrs. Chulkris' class. Come to think of it, I'm usually the last one to Outcast Corner at any given time. Today it's probably just as well. One thing I noticed as I slithered into the Hall, Chief Delarose was there, with a girl with spiky blue hair that defied gravity, looking at the screens for a moment. I looked at the big announcement screens right on cue as they all clicked on at once, and Mrs. Carson's face appeared on the whole deal. Everyone got really quiet all at once.
"“Your attention please! Due to a recent altercation a student was nearly killed on Wednesday. Thanks to the quick intervention of some talented students this situation ended on a better note than we’d normally expect and the student in question has recovered from their injuries. It was ONLY the fast actions of the students there that saved the injured students life. Our investigations have shown it was due to a misunderstanding and a regrettable accident. In order to prevent any further accidents and the likely fatalities and serious injuries that would follow we are activating Section 33 of the Whateley Charter and declaring that ANY student or member of the Faculty attacking or engaging the student known as Tennyo in any but a properly supervised combat event or in provable self defense will be expelled and or prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law permissible. This applies to everyone!”
A picture of Tennyo appeared on the screens. After a few moments Mrs. Carson’s face reappeared.
“This action is not taken lightly. I have only done so after careful consultation with the other teachers and Supervisors. This is a serious situation and you will be expected to abide by this ruling. I repeat. If you attack or threaten this student you can and will be expelled from this school along with anyone else associated with the conflict. That means anyone encouraging someone who is ignorant or suggestible enough to be encouraged to do so. We are serious. This is no joke. Now go back to your dinner and good luck with your classes.”
I stopped and stared at the spiky haired girl and just wondered what could make her so dangerous that an announcement like that would come down from on high. Sure, she looked odd, and attractive, but nothing gave away some big super danger vibe. I could feel her creeping unease at being the sudden center of attention, but none of the markers that would pin an Ultraviolent personality on her. Whatever it was, I decided pushing and investigating might not be the brightest maneuver, so I followed her discretely until she sat down with her friends.
Ah yes, the Kimbas. A pack of hot girls and one cute guy who looked vastly out of place at the table. Color me petty, but I think they got off easy and can't help but feel a stab of jealousy whenever I see them. At least they could fit in with normal people for the most part. Their appearances wouldn't set small children off, screaming. Ah well, want in one hand, shit in the other, which one fills up first? I'm not going to waste time and effort hating people for getting genetically lucky. Never mind that's a level of petty that I'm really not capable of reaching. Jealousy, yes. Hatred, no.
I slithered over with my trays of meatstuff to the Outcast table to find Jericho and Razor in full gear, chortling and speculating on why Tennyo was on the no-fight list. I swear, once those two get going, there's no slowing them down.
"So I figure it's the fact that the docs are finally on to her secret diet of beans and Habenero peppers. One punch and she explodes, nuking and gassing the school." Of course, Jericho WOULD come up with that one, disgusting bastard that he is.
Razorback gave that oddball barking laugh of his and commenced the sign language. The remains of yet another of his vodors was sitting crushed into unrecognizable bits next to his tray.
"Break another one Razor?" I asked mildly as I coiled my lower body around the bottom of my seat so random passers-by and not so random assholes wouldn't stomp my tailtip.
-I hate those goddamned things. I broke it and suddenly I felt so much better.- Trust Razorback to come up with a post-destruction justification for his actions.
"We were just discussing the possible reasons for the Kimba kid getting on the short list today." Jericho smirked around a mouthful of food. I could feel the waves of self-satisfaction rolling off him like a bad tide.
"Out with it Jericho," I smirked, "you can fool Razor but you can't fool me. I can feel it, you're too smug. You know why."
Jericho snorted. "No I don't. All I know is Hippolyta was run into the Infirmary like she was gonna die Wednesday night. That redhead over at the Kimba table and Chaka right next to her did some woodgy mystic shit that pulled her ass out of the 'gonna die horribly and in great pain' closet. I got to help stabilize her, lucky me." He rubbed his left ribs lightly.
"Just a couple cracked ribs. I managed to twist outta the way at the last second. Tennyo did her a bad one there, and from what I got out of the grapevine, the only believable explanation's been accidental. I saw Tennyo's face when they hustled her off to Hawthorne. She looked like she killed someone and felt guilty." Jericho pulled his hand away from his ribs. "I dunno what the hell happened but it wasn't pretty."
-You said that the ribs got injured at work, not picking one with Hippo.- Razorback's signing was sharp and jerky, a sure sign he wasn't happy.
"Razor I work in medical on my off-time. Besides, she didn't do it on purpose. Shit happens around here."
"So why you two making cracks about Tennyo?" I was actually curious.
"Keeps my mind off the ribs, and besides, what am I supposed to do, share dark speculation that Tennyo's homicidal? I don't buy it. Dangerous, maybe, but not homicidal."
I didn't question him more about it. When Jericho makes these judgement calls about people I seldom argue. He was usually right, and when he's not smarting off at God and all creation he's actually pretty insightful.
I WAS, however, irate that he hadn't told me about the ribs. I'm a novice mage, but I can heal cracked ribs in a couple of hours of channeling, instead of him living with the pain for a few weeks. The longer I'm a girl, the less I understand the boys. But this time he was gonna sit his ass down and let me fix him. I fully intended to make him suffer since he'd sat on the damned injury for two days, however.
I don't know why I came to Thuban's little meeting room he was setting up for his Faction Three group that he was pushing that night. I'd already had enough problems with the house mythologicals. The kids who looked like they were fantasy art rejects, and called themselves The Freakshow like it was just a big gag. I can't stand being around the lot of them for long. One at a time, yeah, but not all at once.
After classes were over and done with I slithered into the room quietly as you please and looked at the motley group gathered within. I recognized Jana and Sted on sight from Whitman, Skinner from Twain, Montana, and a few others. Thuban was there already, organizing the movie night, of course, and he positively reeked of satisfaction and anticipation. Of what I have no idea, nor am I sure I wanna find out. Both Razor and Jericho are leery of him for good reason, or so they say.
"Ah, Diamondback, ssso happy you could join us." Thuban was a smooth talker, even with a simple sentence like that. His entire body was covered in golden scales with eyes that were somewhere between mine and Razorback's on the reptilian scale. The oriental robe reminded me of nothing more than a Jedi's robes from Star Wars. In case you are wondering, yes, I think Jar-Jar needed to die, badly.
"Hello Thuban." I was more than willing to be polite to him while I tried to filter out the low undercurrent of fear from a few of the others in the room. My snakelike appearance does not go over well with most people, as I've mentioned. Most people really have to work through their gut fear of snakes.
Thuban walked over to me and smiled in that conniving way I've come to recognize over time. "So can we expect to see your friends tonight?"
I shook my head. "I'm here alone, Thuban. Jericho's working in the infirmary tonight and Razorback's just not really interested." There was a sigh of relief from a few of the Twain kids, including Montana. I like Razorback, I really do. He's a great guy. Most of the other students do not share my opinion of him. Then again most of them think I'm crazy for talking to Phobos and Deimos too.
Thuban's carefully neutral expression was undone by the sharp flash of disappointment and irritation. He WANTED Jericho and Razor here for some reason. Most folks would rather see them leave.
"No matter. Perhaps when they have time they'll come around." All I could do was nod to dragon-man and join the others.
I shuddered, and a feeling of creeping unease flowed over me like a cold wave. This part of the tunnels always gave me the willies before, but this time it was almost tangible, like a creeping feeling that something was shifting below, waiting for the right time to kill and eat you. Never mind I catch sight of some sickening green glowing flickers of light and a serious DO NOT TOUCH ME vibe in areas here and I really do not like the location Thuban picked. As they say in real estate, location, location, location. Ah well, any port in a storm. I decided after a few minutes standing silently that I should probably go and at least make an effort to pretend I was feeling social.
I wandered about for a bit, said hi to Jana and Sted, both of whom were wearing their Centaur forms at the time. I swear those two were thick as thieves some days. Jana was dark haired and Sted was blonde. Neither would be competing for the Whateley top 10 beauty queens, but then again, neither would I.
The TV in the corner was playing a video, old one at that. Some B-Grade horror movie with a monster, Yawn. Unfortunately that about sums up my first impression of Faction Three.
A couple of the boys I recognize looked at me with that odd mix of hope and fear that you get when they're debating asking someone out. I'm still not sure how to take that. Skinner didn't even bother with hopeful, and his emotions hit my shields like a battering ram. Skinner was miserable, with a capital M. His skin had gone completely transparent, leaving muscles and guts visually exposed for the world to see. Not pleasent by any stretch, and I just can't describe the intensity of how he felt. As soon as I felt his emotions hit mine, my mood took a turn for the worse.
My usual disquiet came to the forefront of my mind, and I suddenly realized that besides Skinner I was the top runner for the most creepy mutation in the house. I suddenly wanted to run and hide, and not come out until my skin became normal, my legs came back. If there had been a mirror in the room it would have been destroyed the second I laid eyes on it. As it stood, the eyes of the Faction Three kids seemed to reflect their emotions as it all crashed down on me.
Fear, Self-Loathing, Boredom, Disgust, anger, contempt all roared through my mind, drowning me, except for one, peace. I slammed my shields out, hard and focused on the feelings of peace and came to a boy about my age. I grabbed his outstretched hand and the emotions of the others slammed away, as if locked into an impenetrable vault. Yay for being an empathic reciever. Yay...Me. Now you know why I don't hang out with the GSD Hate-the-world-cliques. It can get pretty bad.
"You ok?" His voice seemed worried, after all I'd been reeling across the room. Fortunately physical contact drowns out the background noise and sort of locks me into one person's emotional fix.
"Yeah, I'll be ok," I managed to keep my voice from being too shaky. Yay me.
"You feel it too?" For a kid who'd been invited to a Faction Three meeting, he looked almost normal. The only things that set his pimply face apart from the norm were the thin spines that lay pressed against his face. Blonde hair was done in a spiky look that seemed almost impish when saddled with the rest of his face.
I nodded, what the hell am I supposed to do? Lie to the guy who's emotional state I'm using as a lightning rod to drown out the rest of the crowd? "Name's Diamondback. Thanks."
The boy smiled a bit, and didn't try to remove my hand from his. "I'm Frag. I just came to check out Thuban's little party. Gotta say, so far I'm not horribly impressed. Nothing different here than hiding under the local rocks if you ask me."
"Yeah, that's what Jericho and Razor said about it." I semi-smirked, looking around again. The other kids were kinda milling about, not saying much. Jana and Sted were talking to each other of course, but there was something missing. It was like there was nothing to help break the ice between the other kids so they sort of milled about, looked at each other, pretended to have a good time and were quiet.
"Jericho? The crazy Devisor who actually scammed a spot in the Sophmore floor at Twain?" Frag was looking somewhat stunned.
"Yeah, we been friends since we were like, in diapers."
"Did he always dress like that? Or did he suddenly lose his mind?" Frag's tone was light and joking.
Meh, I could be nice, but I decided to be a bit pissy. "No. He went blind when his devisor schtick kicked in."
"Ouch, so that's why he carries the cane?"
"Among other things." I looked over at Skinner again. He was staring at us talking away from everyone. I didn't need to be an empath to see the hurt there. I'd only been here for a few minutes, and because I couldn't handle the emotional backwash, all I wanted was to leave.
Frag looked around. "Hey, I'm headed to the Library. Care to tag along? This place... Nice idea, but I think it'll need some work before it's really a good place to hang."
I looked at him and nodded, reluctantly sliding my hand away from his as I did my best to shore up my mental shields. The emotional outpouring was pretty bad, but I was expecting it this time. Kinda pisses me off still that I couldn't muster the gumption to go talk to them, and maybe help them get their spirits up. There's nothing really wrong with the Faction three kids themselves besides being dealt a bad hand by genetics. Unfortunately, I don't think I could handle much more of the negative emotions. I really hoped Thuban could make this work, but he could count me out.
Frag and I left quietly, neither of us were particularly interested in sticking around for the rest of the meeting, and I found myself slithering along next to a boy who was lanky as hell with blonde hair and a few zits. All in all he wasn't bad looking if you discounted the little spines all over his face.
The library was quiet enough, with about ten people wandering about, looking through the books all told. Frag dropped his pack on a table and sat down. I coiled up around a chair and settled in while he watched. I didn't know why at the time, but every time I come into the reading area I can hear what sounds like dozens of voices reading, some excerpts from books, others whispering poetry, and all forming a maddening cacaphony that always goes silent when I feel about ready to scream. No I really don't want to get into why right now, it's bloody complicated.
"So what brought you to the Faction Three meeting?" Frag asked cheerfully.
"I don't know. I got the invite and decided to come and have a look. A couple friends of mine helped set up but they think it's a bad idea the way Thuban's setting it up. I wanted to see for myself."
"So, what do you think?"
I thought carefully for a moment and sighed. "I think it's going to fail if something isn't done. It's like there's too much nervousness and not enough..." I paused for a minute. "It's like a refugee camp in there, not a gathering of kids, ya know?"
Frag nodded and smirked. "Too much shit in one place, not nearly enough positive things to balance it out."
I don't know what..." I stopped for a moment when the whispering began again. The library seemed colder, darker somehow as I looked around. I felt anger directed at me and it seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. I looked over at Frag and saw that his eyes were seeming to fade into dark pools and his skin began cracking and flaking away, leaving something visible beneath, and what I was seeing made me want to scream.
"Dammit, looks like the meddlers caught on early. Gotta do this the hard way."
I snapped away as the spined, dissolving boy lunged forward towards me, flipping the chair I had been using across the library's reading area. The thing that tore away from the false skin wasn't human, wasn't mutant and was definitely not something that belonged at Whateley Academy. It looked humanish with black orb eyes and claws. It's mouth and nose were something akin to a Lamprey and it STANK.
It lunged again, trying to hook it's claws into my arm, and I freaked. I did NOT want that bastard touching me for anything so I swung wide and clocked it with a backhand that caused a good portion of it's ribcage to collapse with a gasping wheeze. It didn't even slow the bastard down. The claws came almost too fast for me to dodge away from, and where they struck it left some kind of sick, blackened energy residue. I didn't stop to discover what that residue was, seeing how I was rather intent on not being disembowelled.
I could regale you with a story of an epic battle or something like that but it was short, brutal and left me more confused than anything. I hit the thing with my tail and wrapped it, squeezing hard and the thing just... popped. One minute it was there, shrieking and thrashing like something being electrocuted, the next I got sprayed by this clear, foul-smelling transluscent goo that seemed to boil away on contact with air. I was dry after a moment.
When I looked around it was like the whole library had changed for a brief instant, with glowing blue spots that for a brief second coalesced into some kind of rune working i didn't recognize, and everything seemed somewhat alive. As it faded I saw the lamprey-thing flow back into existence as this creepy vision faded. It was looking at me with absolute and utter hatred when the Valkyrie crashed into it, spear blazing and shrieking a war cry. Then all of this faded to the normal library to which I had become accustomed over the last few months. The wood of the reading table where the thing's claws had scored looked weathered and aged, like they were hundreds of years older than what they should be, and still rotting as the black crud seeped into the wood.
As I looked around at everything sitting in the normality of the room I could only ask what the hell was going on. And I couldn't see any answers to those questions.
Valkyrie slammed her spear into the Caliban Skin-Walker, finally discorporating it into the aether. The bastards were always nearly impossible to ferret out at Whateley, since when they materialized their deformities helped them fit right in with the GSD crowd, and when they weren't they were remarkably adept at hiding, and weakening ward-barriers to the point where they could come and go as they pleased. The damned things were subtle until they had what they wanted, and usually erupted in an orgy of violence to attain whatever it was they wanted. The devil-things were definitely not high on her list of favorites when it came to the supernatural nasties of the Astral. Unfortunately, where there was one, you could usually find three more, and they fed on fear and hatred, which they were remarkably adept at instilling in their victims.
She recognized the girl the Caliban had been with, and was a bit stunned. Diamondback was usually one of the most cautious and reserved kids on campus, much less among the GSD crowd, even though she hung out with known Ultraviolent types like Razorback and the Fury twins. For a minute there, she would have sworn that Diamond was projecting, but she had faded out to where she was much like any other exemplar on campus, and her aura was blazing with a mix of fear and confusion, giving no sign that she was aware of the Astral guardian's presence.
Valkyrie had come into the library, tracking the thing's trail from the Faction Three meeting area just in time to see it attack Diamond and get it's physical manifestation ripped apart by the snake-girl. She had walked with the thing willingly, and if she called it, there was trouble because if she'd had to rip it apart then she had no control over the things. If she wasn't the one who called it, then it had been interested in her, which could be just as bad. Valkyrie needed to find out why.
"Diamondback!" She was irritated to see the girl gave no indicator that she heard or saw Valkyrie.
A few minutes of trying to get the girl's attention as she blithely slithered out of the library only garnered the Astral Squal member a lot of frustration. She'd seen Diamond looking right AT her when she attacked the devil that had glommed onto her. She had stared right AT the thing after it's physical form when she'd torn it up. Now she was ignoring Valkyrie, and it was frustrating as hell.
It was stupid impulse and frustration that caused Valkyrie to lash out. She never expected anything to come of it, and was shocked that it actually did anything, and she regretted giving into the impulse as soon as she did. It was unwarranted and unprofessional. The punch rocked Diamondback forward and threw her off-balance. Valkyrie stared in shock that she had actually affected the girl. She was equally shocked by the response, and how quickly the girl recovered.
Valkyrie picked herself back up off the astral ground, dazed and shocked. She'd never seen ANYTHING recover and move that fast in place. Diamond had whipped about so hard and fast, both fists and tail whipping through the seemingly empty space behind her. Valkyrie had caught a glancing hit from the girl's tail and been knocked a few feet away. When she recovered, Diamondback was cautiously scanning the area around her for her assailant, seeming to rock back and forth weirdly as her gaze passed right over Valkyrie three times before it registered.
Diamondback couldn't see her, and she was interacting directly with the Shadow World reflection of the physical world. This wasn't good. They already had their hands full keeping an eye on that newbie Heyoka, who was a class-A troublemaker, and now they had an exemplar gliding about while interacting with both sides at once, and likely not aware of it. It was kind of like wearing a giant "Kick Me" sign for every spiritual parasite, predator and opportunistic thing under the sun. She turned and sprinted towards Melville, looking for A.D. He might have some idea of what to do about this.
I was only about five hundred feet away from the when I felt someone clock me in the back of the head and pitched forward. It didn't really hurt, but DAMN it startled the hell out of me. I spun and lashed out with everything I had, feeling an impact with something before I realized that there was no one around for me to see. I figured it was one of the invisibrat types having fun with the GSD kid. I hoped I knocked them stupid. I kept looking for a few minutes, seeking the telltale signs of an invisible person. You know, sudden movement of plants, odd dust bits, footprints coming out of nowhere. Nada. It was like looking at a great big picture of nothing except normality.
After a few minutes I started slithering towards the tunnel access to Hawthorne. I knew Jericho and Razorback would be down there, as usual, jamming on their guitars at full volume, as usual.
I was right, and the two had a small audience of the usual suspects. Sue and Rhianne of the Underdogs were both there, cheerfully dancing with Nate. Jimmy Trauger was there with Chimera, just chilling and snogging a bit out of sight, per usual since Halloween was over. At least something good had come of that nightmare. Slab was standing watch, looking all disapproving of the two Outcast boys as they rocked out on their guitars never realizing his head was bobbing up and down in time with the music and he was actually enjoying it. Olympia of all people was banging on a wall in an unsteady rhythm, which she must have thought brilliant, but Jericho and Razor played on oblivious to her "help."
Razorback was wearing another of his savaged Pantera T-shirts and shorts, and he was ripping the riffs out at a fast pace that always threatened to snap the strings of his guitar like cut twine with his claws. Jericho was wearing a kilt...again... Only this kilt was a hideous mix of blue and green. Combat boots and a Hawaii Palm tree T-shirt finished off his latest protest against the fashion word. At least he wasn't in drag again. THAT had been fucking painful. I STILL hear people talking about the horror of the pink wrap and orange bloomers.
Razor and Jericho were doing a rendition of a song called "Let's go all the way," and were showing no signs of losing steam, so I found myself a seat, coiled up and just listened to the music and waited for the crowd to wander away so I could talk to the two of them. My day had been fucking weird and I needed to talk, badly.
It was about an hour and ten songs later when everyone finally cleared out. Razorback took the liberty of escorting the two Underdogs back to Melville. None of the Underdogs could really stand up to many people on campus on their own, so they tended to glom onto some of the other kids who had nasty opinions of bullies. Razor was one of those, and one or two of the Grunts did the same, as well as a couple of the Capes and most of the Wild Pack. They tended to be a bit antsy about just me, but any port in a storm. Besides, I hated bullies too.
"This has got to be the weirdest day I have had here yet, outside of that clusterfuck on Halloween." Ryan's voice echoed in the back of my brain.
"No shit" I murmered, "And I'll thank you not to bring back those fun memories when I'm trying to talk to Jericho."
"Oh quit whining. It's not like we have to go through THAT again any time soon, but damned if that Frag thing doesn't remind me of something."
Ryan had a point. There WAS something familiar about that Frag-thing, although I'm not so sure what. It's like one of those things you see once out of the corner of your eye or something. Seemed familiar, but escaped definition. My mental conversation was stopped short when Jericho came over.
"Sup Sandra? You been looking like something tried to chew on your tail again." Jericho must have seen my expression, because he wasn't trying to smartass his way into conversation.
I just started talking. I told him about the weird feelings, the Faction Three meeting, the blue glowing shit I keep seeing around campus, frag, and getting attacked by an invisible opponent outside the library.
"Damn, Sandra, I don't know what to say about all that. About the best I can do is hit the grapevine and see if anyone's been running prankster games and causing hallucinations and shit."
I looked at Jericho. "Yeah, well whatever is causing it, I'd like to stop now. I got enough problems with Trisha and her ever-present pain in my ass."
Jericho nodded. "Tell you what. Go get some sleep. I'll fill Razor in on what's up and put my ear to the ground for ya. If we figure out who's screwing with you I'll put the prank master act on them, and if that don't get 'em we can arrange some quality time with Razor and Jimmy or Phobos and Deimos."
I nodded, never really wanting to think about turning my Ultraviolent buddies loose on the unsuspecting, but at this point I was more than willing. I slithered into my room and passed out, ending yet another fun-filled day at Whateley. I pine for the days when something normal happens around here sometimes.
The two Calibans looked at the sleeping forms of the two girls and smiled. Each one slid their astral claws into the mind of the doe-like girl and began gleefully filling her mind and dreams with images of killer anacondas and of things without limbs eating her alive. They smiled as the girl's defiant nature twisted that fear into out and out hatred, and they gleefully replaced the anacondas with her roomate, and let things progress naturally from there. This was almost too easy, setting this one against the snake-girl, who would be their next target when they'd worn out this one.
Trisha screamed in her mind while the dream of the giant naga thing that was Diamondback picked her up and dropped her into it's mouth, swallowing her whole...
Saturday, November 11th
I guess the screaming the day after the whole Frag incident got everyone's attention. Perhaps it was me flying into the hallway upside-down to hit the wall just outside my room. I tell you now, I hate living with a telekinetic some days. I woke up to Trisha screaming and panicked, for a moment thinking we were under attack. Silly me. No sooner than I was up I found myself flying out through the doorway. Lucky for me Ms. Savage was already there to investigate the source of the screaming. Not so lucky for me in that I didn't have the nice door to slow my impact with the reinforced concrete wall.
I was dazed and confused, Ryan was pissed off and I was rapidly getting there myself, and I wound up fast-sliding back into my room screaming invective at the top of my lungs. Scared or not, confused or not, the TK toss was the last straw! I will admit, not my brightest maneuver, charging back to pummel my roomate while Ms. Savage was watching. Also not a bright idea to try to get close enough to pummel a telekinetic into the ground. I found myself blasted out of the room again, and the cries of "BRICK FIGHT!!!!" shot up and down the hall. Some kids were running for cover, some were coming to watch.
I was dimly aware of Ms. Savage yelling something, but my ears were ringing and my head was hurting. Oh, did I mention my lovely little roomate can lift upwards of three or so tons with her mind? And that a telekinetic jolt from her was only slightly LESS aggravating than getting hit by Lancer? Oh yeah, Lancer, you'll see him around sooner or later. He's hard to miss.
So back to getting nowhere, I finally snapped and started hissing out a long string of syllables I had learned to use to focus my will in magic lab, and a bright sphere of yellow light began pooling in my hand, bursting into flames and growing from the size of a pea to something roughly the size of my head over the next ten seconds or so. I managed to shrug off two more blasts and keep my concentration until Phobos and Deimos, the two lovely little maniacs tackled me and began dragging my thrashing, screaming ass away from the burgeoning firefight. Unfortunately they also broke my concentration, causing the head-size ball of fire to explode in a shower of four-inch tall pirate-things that screamed "Arrrrr!" and darted down the hallway, attempting to loot and plunder the young women gathered around the room. I heard Trisha scream again.
Did I mention the little pirates looked a lot like Jericho, and instead of cutlasses they were swinging around blind-man canes? Yes, it actually was as ludicrous as it sounds.
Phobos and Deimos, the two maniacal little angels dragged me away and were working on calming me down quietly. The pair of them had gotten the bright idea that letting me burn Trisha alive probably wouldn't be the grandest idea in the world, even if she RICHLY deserved it. I love my friends, I really do.
Ms. Savage had taken my absence as an opportunity to rush into the room and start calming my erstwhile roomate down. I take it she was fairly successful as the woman with eyes in the back of her head did not take a ballistic path into the wall where yours truly had hit. So I got to start yet another day of screaming, violence, wailing and gnashing of teeth with a bang. Yup. It must be Saturday.
When I got my temper reined in I stood up, balancing on my tail and waited. Phobos and Deimos put themselves between me and everyone else as a precaution. They don't like violence, but god forbid you went after their friends. Some days I really miss Phobos. She was a good friend, even if she was fucking terrifying as hell. Deimos is still around, and we hang out a lot, but she's still stressed.
Ms. Savage came trucking out of the room, shaking her head quietly and came over to see me. It was going to be one of those days. I could tell.
"Sandra are you ok?" At least Savage actually CARES wether or not you're hurt, or if you were in the wrong.
"Yeah, fine. Just a bit dazed. What the hell was that all about? One minute I'm asleep, the next minute I wake up to Trisha screaming like a banshee. I thought we were under attack, so I got up and suddenly the secrets of flight were revealed to me till my head hit the wall." Yeah, I was disgruntled and cranky.
"Apparently your roomate had some night terrors that hit her pretty hard. When she woke up she was panicked and hadn't realized the dream was over yet."
Deimos coughed in the background. I'd almost swear her cough sounded like "bullshit!"
Savage looked over at Deimos and then back at me. "It would probably be for the best if you gave her some space."
"Ok, can I get a new room and new roomate?" I asked for perhaps the trillionth time.
Savage sighed. "Sorry. We're still having problems getting the other rooms fixed. The whole third floor is shot to hell, and we don't have the space to shuffle anyone around."
"Please? I'll take a room with bullet holes in it! Anything! Just get me out of that room!" Oh yeah. some of the more opportunistic attackers on Halloween invaded Whitman on the sly. They blew the hell out of the third floor when they found the female Ultraviolents, including my two dear friends, skipping the party in favor of relaxing and listening to music and pounding the crap out of each other for giggles. They found the attackers to be highly entertaining. I still don't have the guts to ask Deimos what the hell they DID to those sons of bitches.
"No Sandra. You're just going to have to deal with things until everything gets fixed up. Quite frankly I can't understand why you two can't get along."
"Maybe because Trisha's a self-absorbed, egotistical little bint who's got less brainpower than your average rabbit?" Me and Ms. Savage both looked over at the twins. Phobos sat there with a beatific smile on her face, and Deimos added to the pile.
"Come on, I dunno what the hell's up but Trisha's been on Diamond's case since day one. And I don't mean in the friendly rivalry way she keeps telling you. I know what I feel and it's hatred and fear."
"No shit, why do you think we won't come over to this wing when we know both of them are here at the same time? " Phobos asked. "Every time we do the tension's so thick you could cut it with a knife, and we start imprinting homicidal fantasies because of the two of them. This is bullshit."
"Phobos! Deimos! That's enough out of you two! Go to your room and stay there until this is sorted out, or better yet, go to the Crystal Hall. Take Diamondback with you." I don't fucking know why oh why Ms. Savage always ignored us. It made no damned sense whatsoever.
I was getting mad, the Fury twins were getting mad, and we were beginning to feed off each other's rage. The whole three-way empathic reciever bit was a sreaming bitch to deal with some days.
The three of us left without another word. I was only wearing a nightgown and a bathrobe, but fuck it. If I went back into the room and saw Trisha I was going to bite her. In fact the idea was feeling more and more happy by the minute. Me and the twins did the right thing in the end, all three of us leaving Whitman in our bathrobes to go to Crystal Hall.
We got a few stares and antsy looks. When GSD girls blithely walk into the cafeteria sans clothing except their bathrobes it's a universal sign that all is not well in Whitman Cottage. The three of us collected our respective trays of dead animal product and went over to my team's little slice of space, dubbed Outcast Corner. Jericho and Razorback probably wouldn't wake up until right before lunch, so Phobos and Deimos sat with me.
I eyed the heaping piles of eggs that the cafeteria was always foisting on me. Turns out four dozen eggs costs less than a twenty-pound slab of ham. Screw them. I took the slab, too. I glanced up at my compatriots, who were already angrily shoveling food into their faces. Unlike me the two of them CAN eat vegetable matter. I miss the taste of simple things like apples and oranges, I tell you what.
"God I can't BELIEVE that bitch!" I let loose and it felt good. "I dunno what the fuck is wrong with her but goddammit I'm so sick and fucking tired of putting up with her I could spit!"
"Don't do that. You'd have to eat whatever you killed by accident." Deimos quipped with a sly smirk.
I just looked at her. "Ha...Ha..."
Phobos grinned. "Careful Diamond, your inner Texan's showing."
I began grumbling something about obnoxious friends making fun of me.
"Hey, it could have been worse, D. At least you don't have to go reporting to Delarose every four or so days."
Phobos had a point. Ultraviolents don't get much slack at Whateley. Hell, I got three living examples of why you shouldn't try to get into too many fights among my friends. Hell, most of my friends are more violent than I am. Phobos and Deimos weren't anywhere near the top of the UV list like Razor was, but they were still on the blotter.
"Yeah, Adrienne, I know, but I still wish someone would fucking listen to me once. It's like someone's interfering to make me as miserable as possible." Oh yeah, Phobos' name was Adrienne. Deimos is Janine. They hardly ever used their real names at school though.
Deimos finished shredding her tray first. Watching the two of them eat is not exactly pleasent, but then, Razorback's just as bad. At least Phobos and Deimos can chew with their mouths closed.
"So Diamond, what's going on? You've been on edge for the past day or so, and you're not shedding anymore."
I stopped. "Shit I don't know Jan. Just been having a rough time of it." As I began telling them about the weird blue glowy shit, and Faction Three and the weird-ass Frag thing I realized that Phobos was right. My inner Texan WAS showing. My southern-belle accent kicks in whenever I get really aggravated, and it only got worse during the telling.
"Damn, Sandra that's fucked up." Deimos nodded as her sister talked. I had just finished telling them about everything when we all heard Peeper's voice live, loud and in stereo.
The three of us turned in unison and Greasy's camera went off rapidly, catching good pictures of us sitting there, slack-jawwed and stunned. None of us even had the presence of mind to pull the tops of our bathrobes tighter so the two little pervs couldn't get shots of our cleavage. As we sat there, Peeper smiled. We should have known better than to go to chow in our bathrobes.
"All right Greasy, pack it up. I think we have what we came for."
Greasy saw eight eyes narrow at once first, then the three of us stood in unison. He began backing away rapidly.
"Oh hell no." The words just slipped from my lips in a cold fashion that could only be later described as murderous.
"We're going to kill them." Phobos and Deimos were speaking in perfect unison.
I suppose I should thank Peeper and Greasy someday. They gave me and my two friends something to vent our anger on. About an hour of chasing, catching, and chasing some more I felt much better. Security found Peeper and Greasy, minus their camera equipment stuffed into a recycle bin about three hours later. Somehow each one was wearing a form-fitting sheath of metal that forensics determined had been a metal trash can before they were jammed inside in the fetal position and the cans crushed around them and crimped off to keep them from moving. I heard the screaming and whining was of epic proportions. And I will deny all knowledge of how those two dipshits came to this fate. I will say though, Greasy's a good photographer on the fly. Those pics were goooood. Too bad we're not letting them go. Ever.
When I slithered back into Whitman, I looked around and saw Stunner coming out.
"Hey Stunner, is Ms. Savage in right now?"
"Na she went out to go to the House moms meeting. Why, do you need something, Diamond?"
I smiled without flashing my fangs somehow. "Nah, just wondering. Thought I'd just talk to her a bit more about this morning. Get some things off my chest."
I slithered in to my room, opened the door and went inside. Trisha was there, of course, sitting at her desk, doing her homework like the good little princess that she is.
I can't believe you're actually going to do this, Ryan whispered in the back of my mind.
Gonna try to talk me out of it?
Oh hell no. Been waiting for this for MONTHS.
I let the bathrobe slip off and got dressed in my white skirt and matching halter. Trisha made a very big point of ignoring me. Ah well, her mistake.
Trisha may be a telekinetic and a powerful one at that, but she's not nearly as strong as I am, or as fast, in close quarters. I just reached over and grabbed her by her uniform, hoisted her out of her chair and flicked her onto her bed. I was on top of her before she could even figure out what was going on, much less what to do about it. I pressed an illusion of a skinning knife that I conjured up to her throat and hissed at her, letting my tongue flick out and tap her nose. Her eyes went from incredulous to absolute, paralyzed panic in two seconds flat.
"Now listen up, roomie and listen good," I was barely speaking above a whisper. "You're a fucking bitch. I can handle that, even though I have no fucking clue what your problem with me is. However, if you EVER attack me again I will cut you, string you up and gut you like roadkill in hunting season. You get me, venison? This is your final fucking notice. Do it again and you are food."
I didn't HAVE to lick her cheek with my forked tongue like I was tasting her. She was already panicked and whimpering, and when I did that she froze, solid. I let the knife fade away and slithered out the door quietly. When I got to the cottage front door, Trisha had composed herself enough to cut loose an ear-shattering shriek of pure terror. Meanwhile, I was slipping off to the bushes next to the cottage to puke my guts out.
I hate bullies, I really do, and what I did, felt like nothing but being one, never mind the look in her eyes when I told her I'd eat her if she pushed me again. By the goddess, she actually believed I'd do it. No doubt in her mind, whatsoever. To her it was as real as if I were ripping her arm off and stuffing it in my mouth, and the thought actually made me ill, hence the barfing. She actually believed I intended to kill her and eat her. The terror bleeding off her had been that primal.
A hand tapped me on the shoulder, and I spun, a little too fast, feeling woozy.
"Woah, woah, kid, calm down." The young man standing next to me wasn't exactly handsome, but he wasn't bad either, with dark hair and grey eyes. "I ain't here to start shit."
I nodded and went back to my bush and barfed up yet another load of meat and bile before my stomach was blissfully empty once again.
"Rough day I take it?"
All I could do is nod.
"Well I hope it gets better. I'm A.D. I'm with the senior class. You're Diamondback, right?"
"Yeah, I have that distinct misfortune." I slithered away from the stinking mess and wiped my mouth off. "What can I do for you?"
"Just came by to ask you about what happened in the library." A.D. saw me tense up and held his hands out disarmingly. "Look, you ain't in trouble and I'm not here to lecture you. I'm just trying to puzzle out what happened and why you got attacked. If it makes you feel better, FUBAR asked me to come talk to you, one of the psychic teachers if you haven't met him."
I stood there for a moment and for the second time, spilled my guts about the weird sights, sounds and the freak kid attacking me in the library after I met Faction Three. A.D. had that patronizing "I'm a senior" look down pat, but he didn't interrupt, listened intently and asked small questions every now and again.
"So you see and hear weird things all the time?" He asked, "Or is it really sporadic?"
"I dunno, seems to come and go. Just over the last couple days the weird-o-meter is spiking through the roof. But it's not all the time or even all the senses at once. It's just weird. I don't understand what it is."
A.D. looked thoughtful. "Well, I can't say for sure, but one or two of the teacher types are worried that you're starting to pull spirit attention somehow. I imagine it's true and they're fucking with you. I'd go talk to your magic teacher and find out some quick spells and warding bits to give the boot when you get a weird spike."
I nodded, it sounded reasonable. "All right, thanks for the advice. I'll go do that."
"No problem, Diamond, stay safe."
I'd actually found Earth Mother in the cafeteria about twenty minutes later. She was more than happy to provide me with a few books on spirit protection spells and other bits. Apparently she thought I'd be able to pick up on the advanced concepts pretty fast given my performance in her class, which while not stellar, was pretty well-grounded. I had an easier time than most getting the concepts dowen and the magic right even though I couldn't muster a lot of power except in certain spots around campus. Now if only Arena 99, range 5 to the gun monkey teachers, was one of those spots during the sim drills me and the boys were always being jacked through.
When I got back to Whitman I found myself slithering to my room and I heard crying. As I got closer I realized it was coming from my room. This couldn't be good. The door was cracked open and I heard Trish practically bawling and Ms. Savage's voice came through, unconcerned and calm as ever. She always used that tone with me, but never with anyone else I was aware of.
"Now Trisha I'm sure Diamondback would never do anything like that." I froze solid, remembering the little terroristic stunt I'd pulled earlier.
"But Ms. Savage, please! I can't stay with her anymore." From the sounds of it, Trisha was well beyond tears at this point. "I can't sleep, the nightmares are getting worse, and Diamond's fucking scary. Please can I get another roomate or another room?"
Was I feeling guilty? Oh hell yes. Was I going to go into the room while this was going on? Oh hell no. I was, however, going to sit in and listen quietly. I didn't know the little brat was having nightmares, I thought that her attacking me that morning had been just her being a little bitch and trying to cover her own ass.
"I'm sorry, Trisha, we can't move anyone around and until the third floor is fixed we're not going to be able to do anything about this."
I dunno about Trisha, but I was beginning to smell bullshit. This whole deal was beginning to taste sour and when I thought about it, there had been quite a few roomate shuffles in the time when me and Trish started fighting in our room.
A few minutes more of whining and cajoling, and Ms. Savage assuring her that nothing was wrong left me feeling a bit pissed. Something was starting to stink in Freak House Femme and me and my roomie seemed to be at the center of it. Wonderful. Now I was really starting to regret having threatened her with imminent death.
When Ms. Savage came out I had to shake my head to clear the image from my brain. For a second she looked like her eyes and ears were covered by some kind of gauzy substance, like a blindfold of some kind. When I blinked a few times everything was as it should be. She simply smiled at me and wandered on by.
When I slid into the room, Trisha saw me and froze. She had the same deer in headligfhts expression she had when I tossed her and my guts twisted into a knot when I saw it. I hadn't exactly meant to do her quite this bad. Bad, yeah, but only enough to make her leave me alone, not paralyze her. The raw terror bleeding off her was painful to feel.
"Trisha, turn, face the wall, take five deep breaths and count backwards from twenty." I spoke quietly, in as neutral a tone as I could manage. Thank god she could do that much. When she had taken some time, rather than being rigid and petrified she was shaking like there was an earthquake and sobbing.
"Can I turn around now?" Her voice was painful.
"I wouldn't just yet." I slid onto my bed and looked at her. "How long have you been asking Ms. Savage to get you into a new room?"
She didn't answer for a moment, stiffening up a bit. "Just answer Trisha. I'm not going to hurt you, been asking her to split us up myself since about the second week of school."
Trisha looked back at me, startled. "But she said you told her that there were no problems." Her voice was about as surprised as you can get.
"Told me the same about you, actually. I don't know what you think, but I'm empathic. Feeling you hate and fear me all the damned time hurts like hell and it isn't exactly fun. I want a new roomate. I been half-tempted to go bunk with the Fury Twins."
"But if you want to leave, and I want to, why is Ms. Savage not listening to us?"
I paused a second. "No idea, but it's really getting me pissed off. Something hinky's going on and I'm really not liking it."
"So what do we do?"
"Until we can get someone to listen we're stuck gutting things out. So may I suggest that we just try not to interact? You don't get snarky with me, I won't act like some kinda vicious bitch." Ok I still think she was the vicious bitch, but in this case I'm more than willing to compromise to get some peace.
"You're not gonna..."
"What, eat you? God, you fucking kidding me? One, that's still cannibalism, and two, eww. Once again, for good measure: Eww."
"That's about all I can hope for, Trisha, go get some food or something. I need to study, and I don't need to have Jericho and Razor heckling my books while I do."
"Shouldn't they be getting ready to meet their folks?"
"What do you mean meeting their folks?"
I heard Trisha's low-voiced disbelief as she put two and two together. "Jesus Christ Diamond you forgot today is PARENT'S DAY???"
My jaw hit the floor and I think something akin to a whimper escaped from me for a moment.
The Caliban smiled as it reset the mask on the adult in the building. So long as it could maintain the gauzy film on the woman she'd be blind to it's activities with the snake and deer girls. It finished and reset the illusion to mask the power from the damned Astral meddlers on campus and began backtracking, picking up it's own trail in the building and cleaning up the mess. Wouldn't do to have the meddlers find the nest...
No, thankfully my folks didn't show up for Parent's Day. Jericho's did, as did Razorback's family. It was like our own twisted little reunion with mayhem. I gotta say that Razorback's baby brother was adorable, always harping at him to get a Dinosaur Ride. Jericho being mothered relentlessly by Mrs. Turner was a crack up and a half. But that's another story for another day. For now, I'm done, even though I leave more questions than answers, and believe me, there were no easy answers. Cleaning that mess up took a while, but I did get it cleaned up with some help.
Some people say we're the children of God, or Gaia, or the spirits. For me things never seem cut and dried and every question answered begets another question. making sense of everything is an unholy bitch, so I guess that makes me the Child of Confusion. That about described my mental state for a very long time.
Wednesday, November 15th
Several days later A.D. looked ridiculous standing in the room at Whitman in his astral bathrobe. He and Weaver looked down at the two sleeping girls, who were both thrashing fitfully. The snake girl's body seemed to shift and shimmer, fading into and out of seeming solidity while she moved and thrashed. Her aura was a pale mirror of her roomate who reeked of fear, in the throes of a nightmare, and the aural emotions seemed to be bleeding over.
"Hate to ask you to do this, Weaver." A.D. sipped his coffee.
The dark-skinned girl looked at him distastefully. "You sure this is the best way to do this, A.D.? This feels wrong, no matter how you cut it."
"I know, but this one's too unstable. She can't control it and I'm willing to bet that she couldn't stop anything on this side from hurting her except by accident. Besides, we've tried everything else and talking to her about this might get a bad response, and we gotta contend with her in the physical then. Not my idea of a happy day."
"So locking her out of the Astral's going to help?"
"It might. Valkyrie says this kid's smart as hell, cautious as all get out, and would be a good add if she could pull it together. As it stands she is more likely to get herself hurt."
Weaver sighed. "So when can we let her out?"
"That's just it. The way she's going we're looking at a Astral Exemplar who's active in both worlds at once. She may learn to control it, or she might wind up like Synergy. I hope she doesn't wind up like that, but you can't tell."
"If she does, then me binding her might not mean shit in a couple months. She'll just shred the bindings by herself. They're strong, but they can't hold someone with her kinda strength."
"The idea is to keep her protected from this side and protect this side from her until she stabilizes. We're probably going to have to keep a watch on her to repair the webs that tear." A.D. took a sip from an ever-full mug of coffee. "Never seen an astral exemplar who wasn't tampered with, or at least seriously fucked up."
"Wonderful. As if I don't have enough headaches watching over Heyoka."
"If you want, have Heyoka keep an eye out for her. Be a good task to keep that one occupied and out of trouble."
"Maybe. I'd like to get Heyoka figured out a bit more before I set him on anything like this. There's still too much about that kid I don't understand."
"Yeah, well, we been here too long. Let's get this done with."
"Wait, A.D. I think we should show this to Heyoka. He needs to see this."
A.D. paused and pondered for a few moments. "Agreed. I'll go get him, and FUBAR. I need to let Loius know what's going on." Without another word, A.D. flickered and vanished, a trick he said all the Astral Team would figure out sooner or later. Distance in the Shadow World was meaningless, according to him and Fuub.
A few tense minutes later, Heyoka entered, along with Louis and A.D. at a more "normal" pace.
"Oh Damn, and I thought I was screwed up," Heyoka looked down at the terminally GSD kid in front of him. Feathers were mixed into his dark hair, and he was the picture of surprised when he saw Diamondback's form twitching, coiling and uncoiling, becoming more real to the senses and fading out, sometimes in patches. The whole process was uneven and unnatural, though it resembled what happened when he slipped halfway through occasionally.
"Louis, A.D. thinks we need to bind her." Weaver looked a bit disgusted at the thought.
Fubar nodded solemnly. "From what I see here it's probably for the best. Be careful here. There's a lot more to this girl than what we're seeing, and I'm seeing something that looks odd. I need to talk to Lodgeman. I'm going to suggest that you keep an eye on her, see how she's developing. Be cautious, this girl's riding a storm, almost like she's dreaming two dreams at once that come together and mesh."
When FUBAR flickered and left, Heyoka looked up. "Binding?"
Weaver nodded while A.D. watched impassively, sipping at his coffee mug. "This is Diamondback. It looks like she's changing somehow, or maybe starting to wake up. She can see the astral and interact with it while awake, and moving. Unfortunately she's unstable, and she drifts in and out like the tide, only randomly. If we let her go as is she might kill herself, or get worse done to her before she can be stable."
"So you're binding her." Heyoka nodded. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
"I'll explain." A.D. let his mug fade and he walked to Weaver and nodded.
Weaver went silent, seeming to be a statue, as hundreds of tiny spiders seemed to swarm all over the unconscious snake-girl on the bed. Each one began producing tiny strands of silvery silk, and began wrapping the girl. Where the silk touched, she seemed to fade, with the silken cords, becoming less real, and more a phantasm in the shadows. Even as A.D. talked, Heyoka was mesmerized and a bit horrified as the reality sank in as the girl slowly became a shadow wrapped in a translucent coccoon.
"Every now and again we have to deal with someone who's powers place them in too much danger here, and can't be taught, Diamondback is one of them. She's too intermittant. And every now and again, we find someone who is too dangerous, or won't follow the rules that keep this place safe. Weaver binds them with her spiders, keeping them unable to see the Astral plane on any level. No looking across, no talking to the spirits, no projecting. Mind and spirit become locked to the flesh. It's how we deal with people who are too dangerous to themselves and others to be allowed to run unchecked." A.D. looked very pointedly at Heyoka.
Heyoka stared at A.D., a look of fear and horror in his eyes as he realized what, exactly the point of this demonstration was, beyond having him see the effects of the binding on someone who could be hurt or killed by accident. "It isn't permanent, isn't it?"
"Not for her," Weaver said, looking upset as she sealed the girl's fate, "If her spirit catches up to her flesh we are going to have a wild one here. The bindings are strong, but they can't take the kind of force an Exemplar brick like her can lay down. She'll tear loose and there won't be a damned thing we can do to keep her out. But for others, yes, it can be permanent, though we usually undo it after a time." She looked at Heyoka pleadingly. "I hate doing this. Please don't be the next one Heyoka."
Jamie tried to talk, and failed, ending up nodding solemnly, and watching with creeping unease as the heavily GSD girl slipped and faded from sight almost entirely.