Negation By Nostril
I get up at 7:30, determined to not be late to school. A quick shower, and some clothes, and I get up on the upper plane. A noise draws me to the kitchen– where Hermann is in full Lumberjack-Mode. Stack of pancakes. Toast everywhere. He has even opened a package of bacon.
“Are you trying to feed an army?” “Some would say that feeding a fifteen-year old boy and an army is pretty much the same.” I look at all the food. “Hermann, I can’t eat all this.” “Oh really? If you can manage to eat all of this food– I promise to buy you that set of the series you wanted. All seven of them. Extended versions.”
He is refering to the ‘Seven Hallowed Seasons’ of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my quest to collect them. I have managed find them on Internet- but Amazon won’t ship to Fallowfell, I have tried taping them whenever they’re aired on television, but I never got the full seven.
I look at the food, and smile at Hermann. “Consider it done, Sir.” Four minutes later of the kind of eating that probably belongs on a tv-program about severe overweight, and I glance down on my plate. I have an odd feeling in my stomach. I am not quite full, but I am not quite hungry.
“I recognize that feeling”, Hermann says with remembrance thick in his voice. “You’re not certain whether you should eat more, or less.” “Why is that?” “It’s the magic in you. There is a lot of things we don’t know about it, even today. But one thing we do know is that magic burns energy. Lots of it.”
“But I have never seen you gorge yourself like a pig.” He chuckles. “I eat alot of smaller meals here and there. A practice I suggest you pick up.” The gentle tick of a clock reminds me that school is starting. I put my plate in the dishwasher and get out the house.
The hardest thing I’ve found with these newly enhanced senses is to be outside. Inside, inside you have music on, or you’re watching a movie, or doing your homework. It also helps that you are surrounded by four walls. But outside? I hear the wind rustling the leaves. The smell of something canine leaving its dropping on the pavement. The various scents of the people who have walked across the street.
I focus on one sense, my hearing, and start my travel down to Ochre. As I make my way through the various streets and roads reality catches up with me. Elena! She is still probably mad at me. With everything that have happened, it feels pretty good to focus on something so utterly mundane as a friend being mad at you. I will apologize to her, I decide.
Crossing the Crimson Bridge I hear something. At first I think it’s the sound of water flowing beneath the bridge. There is a whispery, soft quality to the sound. I put my bike against the railing and look down. I listen more closely to the sound. It’s taken on a deeper frequence, closer to static than a whisper now. I dial up my hearing even further, and I hear the sound of little girls laughing.
I open my nose to scent the bridge, and I feel it in an instant. Like mint-cookies. A sharp acrid scent, that stops in your airways, just like Greyscale described. Magic. Magic, and the smell of copper. I shake my head. With a neighbour as a dragon, and a godfather like something else, I shouldn’t be so surprised. I get up on my bicycle. Besides, there all those rumors surrounding Ochre and Esaia Eldridge, rumors whose credibility seem much stronger in lieu of what I know now.
I arrive at the school around the same time as most of the other freshmen, and I look around for a certain girl. I spot her between two pillars. I stable my bicycle and lock it quickly. “Elena!” She doesn’t hear me. “Elena!”, I shake her shoulder. She breaks my grip in a liquid move, puts one foot behind my left leg and she throws me. Hard. I lie on the ground, a bit miffed.
I guess enhanced senses means nothing if you’re taken unaware. Elena takes out the plugs and gives me a hand. It’s easy to dismiss Elena Havenius with her blond hair, her prim-proper clothes and her air of being a fresh debutante, because that’s in part the image she tries to convey. Then there is the other part of Elena. Elena the Shark, as I used to call her when we were little. Elena who was kidnapped as a little girl, and who is a few degrees short of a brown belt.
“I am sorry..”
“I am sorry..” We both say it at the same time. I decide to apologize first. “You know what? I can’t remember what I said that irritated you, but whatever it was, I take it back.” Elena looks at me. “No, I should be the one who to apologize. Tregaro was a fucking rapist, but you don’t cut someone up like that, you just don’t.” I hold out my pinky. “Pinky-swear?”
Elena looks at me and laugh. That doesn’t however stop her from pinky-swearing.
We walk to the first class of the day, which with Indra’s sickness isn’t History, but my favorite subject; Social Studies, not. Dammit, Indra better get healthy soon. It’s been four freaking days. The moment I walk into the classroom people ask me if I am fine, regarding the whole Bathroom-Incident. I tell them that I am fine, which is mostly truth. I feel a pang of something in my chest. It feels… weird to have people caring about me. It’s not that I have been lonely, or well I have been lonely, but I’ve always had Herman, or Alexandra or Elena to talk to. And of course my parents. But who actually talks to their parents?
I stop, abruptly. During the previous week we’ve all picked places where we sit, nothing official mind you, but in the way people tend to stake out their territories, our seats have become official. And my seat, which is always the third seat next to the window, there sits a girl, happily typing away on her phone. On.My.Seat.
I guess she answers the question as to the mystery of the fifteenth person in our class. But why does she have to sit in my spot? Sapphire eyes sverve and look at me. The left side of her head is shaved in a sidecut. I realize that I have been standing in front of her for a minute or two, close enough to break one of those unwritten social rules that nobody tells you about. “Yes?”, she asks me. I clear my throat. “It’s… just that you’re sitting in my seat.” She glances around with meaningful intent before resuming to type whatever she is typing about. There are two seats in front of her, and two behind her. ” Could you please move?”
She looks up, irritated. “Could you please shut up and sit?” In the periphery I can see people watching me. Great, I am making a scene. So I sit down, at the fifth seat next to one of the windows, the seat furthest away from the girl while at the same time being next to a window.
I seeth. This day is ruined. Everything is ruined. I shake my head. Everything is not ruined, just because some girl took my seat. But it sure feels like it. I hear a small groan of wood, and look down. I am clutching the wooden table with so much force that it’s warping. I let go, and check the helix in my mind. It’s still a single strand, but broader. I calm myself, and lessen the drain on power from Verde.
Lena, our Social Studies teacher walks in. She looks at New Girl, as if expecting her. ” Before I start today’s lesson I thought I’d introduce the final member of your class, who as I understand it has been on a vacation in Norrland.” Norrland? That’s like 500 kilometers to the north. What the hell was she doing up there?
New Girl walks up next to Lena and turns with military precision. She surveys the class and not-quite glare at me. “My name is Amanda Skog. I didn’t get my admission papers before the previous Saturday, hence me missing a week. Although I don’t think that will stop me before making friends…” I tune her out. Stupid girl. Stealing other people’s seats. Yes I have a grudge, and yes, I intend to carry it til the day I stop breathing. Stop breathing…. That derails me. Greyscale and Hermann hasn’t explicitly told me how old they are, but I am not stupid. Yesterday Hermann told me an anecdote which took place during The Thirty Years’ War. And that was in 1618. What does that mean for me? How long will I live?
Amanda sits down. I take Greyscale’s advice and I smell her( yes I know, that sounded much better in my head). She smells like girl, perfume, some kind of blueberry-lilac scented shampoo… and something else. Something that isn’t human. I can’t tell you what. Something with fur, something canine. Hmm if she isn’t human, then who else isn’t…..
I slowly look at each person in the classroom. Kai gives me a warm, human smile, friendly, but his scent lies; he smells like dried blood and magic. Elena, thank god, is 100% garden-variety-human. Stella, who sits next to me is chewing bubblegum and walking the dog with a jojo, for all intents and purposes your average freshman in high school, but in reality she has the scent of something with long strands of hair, and which crawls on leaves.
Arrogant Sara is apparently a bitch, an asshole, a smoker, but for all her faults a normal human. Shy Shirin, who is jotting down notes and listening to Gränby’s lecture on constitutional monarchies is something with feathers, and she gives of the scent of prey. Marika, who styles herself a self-proclaimed ‘Clumsy’ is what she looks like; a normal girl trying to fight her boredom.
Amina of the thick eye-brows, and whose hobbies include breaking people’s ribs has a sharp odour; that of girl– and something else, something magical, a being that has to do with gunpowder, pestle. Amina reaches out and thugs on Linnea’s brown pony-tail, Linnea who has a voice like glass and who smells like seduction and saltwater.
Pontus frown at something Lena says. He raises a hand and asks a question. But there is no question as to what he is; he is human. The girl next to him pins her long straight hair in a bun with two pins. Sawamura’s scent remind me of a trip to a farm, filled with cows, and that bovine scent combined with clover. Signe’s piercing glint in the light. She returns my look; two humans, one former-human, looking at each other.
Duchamps sneeze and I look at her.”Gesuntheit”, I mouth, and she smiles, the smile of a innocent girl. But she isn’t just a girl, nor is she innocent, as her forest-clearing-in-the-middle-of-a-sunny-day scent attest.
And last, but definitely not least in the class. Nevena- Rude Girl, who gives me butterflies in the stomach when I think of her. Nevena, who smells like woodsmoke, oak and something ephemeral, like ash.
I start to hyperventilate. Two thirds of my class aren’t human. They’re aren’t human! I get up and and leave the classroom. I hear somebody shouting, but I ignore it. I enter one of the bathrooms for men and stare into the mirror. I see the inverted me– the one with a emerald eye, skin and hair in tones of gray stare back. I blink, and then the normal me looks back.
Pontus walks in. “Hey, are you alright?” I turn and smile at him. “Yeah– why not? Why wouldn’t I be fine?” “Because you left class without a word, and people are worrying? Especially after… after what happened last Friday.” I realize that I am standing in the same bathroom as Tregaro died in. “Tell ’em I’ll be right back.” I put a hand on my stomach.”I am just a bit queasy.” “Right, champ. But be back in ten.”
I pace back and forth. They’re not human. The line repeats itself, like one of those songs you can’t get out your head.Not.Human.
I decide to strangle what I am feeling and enter the classroom, where everbody is looking at me with various expressions ranging from disgust to pity. I make it through the lesson, if barerly.
Our next lesson is supposed to be religion with Indra, but Lena is standing in for him, and she decides that we’re going to present our history-presentations– in a religion class, no less! I present my presentation on Epicurus while on auto-pilot. Looking out at the fourteen faces staring back at me, I can’t help but wonder what they hide beneath their veneers of humanity.
It’s lunch eventually, and we all sit down to eat. Midmeal I stop and stare at the people around me. Kai and Pontus are discussing something that causes Pontus to draw eights in the air with his fork. Stella is poking Hanna in the ribs with an elbow and an unmistakeable leer. Elena is trying to suck in Shirin in a conversation, something Shirin avoids with the skill of an true introvert. Sara looks haughty. Amanda is wolfing down enough food to put the hockey-team to shame. Chiyo is picking through her food, carefully removing any meat. Amina is using her teeth to strip a chicken leg of flesh.
I realize, looking at them, that it doesn’t matter if some of them are human and some not. They’re human in the spirit of the word, if not the letter. And who am I to judge? Whatever I am, berserker, possessed, I sure as hell ain’t no normal human anymore.
I turn to Kai.
“So, what’s the plan for tomorrow….”