My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter One: Amanda


I ran from the village that day. I knew they would be looking for me. I knew I was in danger–my yarn ring almost slipped off my finger. I knew I would encounter a lot, but it would keep me from making the worst decision of my life.

As I stopped in the forest, huffing and puffing, I wondered if I’d just made a major mistake. But since I couldn’t stay in the village and let them do that to me, I had no choice. I’d always been the one who knew too much of what she wanted.

Okay, here’s the deal: Today I was supposed to be at school. Since I was now thirteen, I was supposed to have magic done on me so that I would be “committed” to my personal magical element–Earth–and would be able to do the best of the Earth magic and get a job using it to heal other Anoki. I didn’t want this, because if that happened, I would be “committed” and wouldn’t be able to do any of the other types of magic. And I wasn’t sure I wanted Earth.

My parents had seen that I had an affinity for Earth magic while I was still young. So that was what they trained me in. All my friends had a stronger element, like Fire or Water. Even the others with Light could do things that I couldn’t. Of course, I was the only one who could heal, but that just meant that I got a bunch of little kids lining up with their cuts (and that I never got a sick day). I was not able to do anything without a crowd of them following me. I wouldn’t mind healing people if they’d just leave me alone on weekends.

Although I had wings, I was never able to fly. That’s the other reason I didn’t want Earth: only the Air Anoki can fly. My parents never trained me in Air magic, and neither did the school.  It wasn’t until after my parents died in a war with a different tribe that I was old enough to speak my mind about my magic, and the school ignored me and went by my parents’ previous orders, which were to only train me in Earth magic.

Other than Earth, I was able to do some of the most basic Light and Water spells, taught to me by friends. I had tried to teach them Earth spells. It didn’t work. And it didn’t work when other friends tried to teach me Darkness, Fire or Time spells either. (The Time girls were never late to class. I was jealous.) And nobody had Air as their element. It was the rarest and the most powerful as well as the only one with flight abilities.

I was pretty much stuck with Earth in my village. So to avoid being stuck with it the rest of my life, I was running away to another village until I learned to fly and could prove that I was good for something other than patching up some kid’s stupid cat scratch. Because I was–I knew I was.

Quick recap: I am an Anoki. You have never heard of us because we’re much more secretive than any of those foolish SMC: the fairies, pixies, Shapees (shapeshifters), dragons and mermaids. The only SMC (which stands for Supposedly Mythical Creature) that are halfway respectable are the Chikik, little forest elves that actually bother to keep away from people. But I’m getting off track.

My name is Amanda. I’m thirteen. I have auburn hair cut short, I’m tall, and I have wings that I can’t fly with. I can shoot a bow. And I know, all too well, what I want.

I grew up surrounded by war. My tribe has an enemy—the Zephans, my village, and the Kliid tribe have been fighting for years. I honed my healing magic early, reviving warriors and protecting children before I was four feet tall. At first, people objected to a seven-year-old on the battlefield, but I’d saved too many lives for anyone to tell me off, at least not successfully and not without being yelled at by someone else to leave me alone. But I hadn’t saved the two lives that had counted. I had been too young, maybe just four years old, to save my own parents, and even now nobody really could tell me a lot of details about that battle except that they’d found bodies.

I became protective of everyone; it was as if I was obligated to save everyone else after I’d failed to save the people who’d mattered. I started learning to shoot the bow when I was seven, from a warrior called Mel who I’d saved once. Mel told me that I would need something to defend myself eventually, and she taught me to make my own bows, thicker or thinner depending on how strong I thought I was getting. I picked it up pretty quickly. I liked wooden things, and if I used the bow while it was still green once or twice, some of my Earth magic seemed to rub off on it, and made the arrows head toward whatever I wanted them to. I learned to climb trees, fast, and the “children are so darling at that age” comments dissipated when a certain nine-year-old stood on the most ancient, wide branch of the oldest tree drew the arrows from her quiver and fired them at the speakers. Yes, you can see me, but you don’t pay any attention to surprise attacks. I could probably fire my bow faster and more accurately than anyone else in the village, let alone the other army.

Anoki aren’t like any other magical creature in the world. We don’t rely on staffs or wands like human magic wielders, and we’re more organized than SMC. We just have these yarn rings. The first magic that Anoki do is creating a ring. They never have knots, like they would if created by humans or without magic. Most of the time, the color represents our element. My ring is sort of a misty, grayish green, speckled with deep blue where it hits my hand. It’s kind of hard to tell that I do Earth magic.

Now that I’d run away, I needed to find a village that would accept me and that will be willing to teach me Air magic.

As I settled down from the shock of running away, I realized that I heard a surreal whirring behind me: the village elders had realized that I had left and had decided to try and kill me. They’d set the Dark and Fire Anoki after me, knowing that I could not block their attacks.

I pulled out my bow (yes, I had a bow strapped to my back). I’d strung it already, so I was completely ready to shoot these guys to defend myself.

Then I realized that the ones that those evil dictator elders had set after me were my own friends. They knew I wouldn’t kill them.

I put my arrow back, but I sent a rosebush circle four feet high to wall them in. I set the magic to release when I was far enough away, but only in the direction of the village. I hoped that they would take this as a sign to leave me alone. Kiera sent a flame towards me (probably so she could say she did something) and my foot got burnt. I shut my eyes and whispered, “Physician, heal thyself,” and it stopped hurting. The burn vanished, and I ran on. Then I realized that one of the Time girls had fast-forwarded her pursuit and was following me closer now. I knew, though, that she would be much too magically tired to do more. Magically tired is different from physically tired. If you’re magically tired, then you can still run, for instance; you just can’t do magic. Magic is like a second body. Even if you’re physically exhausted, you can do magic. At least, Anoki work that way. But this girl was a fast runner. Well, so was I.

So I ran. I ran like my life depended on it, because it did. She sped up again, but not as much. I was surprised that she could put on any more speed, but that only made me run faster. She was catching up; I stuck a seed in the ground and make it grow as fast as I could. I jumped on it once it could hold my weight and grew it to full size. Shifting branches to an older tree, I made my escape as the Anoki climbed up the first one–literally barking up the wrong tree. I ran on, knowing that I wouldn’t see other Anoki for a long time.

*                      *          *

He-lo. Me live off rabbit for three months.

Not really. If I tried to do that, I’d starve. Rabbit’s lean meat. Yeah, I hear all you tree huggers out there going, “Ohhhh…. Amanda!” But to survive, hey.

Anyway. I’d actually been eating pretty well: duck, venison, rabbit, squirrel, etc. The forest is thick with them, and it’s not hard to kill stuff when you have a bow. I am so glad that I spotted that human camping site; otherwise I would be living without Pepsi, and I would fall into a deep depression.

I haven’t actually been out here three months. It’s a week. Every day I get up and walk out of my lean-to. Every day I try out my wings. Every day it doesn’t work.

Except yesterday. I got an inch off the ground. I think. There’s hope yet.

I still don’t entirely regret leaving; the more I think about it, the more I realize how most people in the village were using me for the powers they didn’t have. Would I go back? I didn’t know. But another rising doubt struck me: I don’t want to be “committed” to Air either–I couldn’t give up my healing talent.

Anyway. Today I was just sitting around and trying to cook a piece of deer I shot. I know, I know… Bambi and Thumper for dinner. But anyway, I had to set my cooking aside to investigate something. Someone. I wasn’t miles and miles from the village – a good fifteen, maybe, but not 50 or anything crazy. I heard the twang of magic – and felt it, too. I drew an arrow and readied my bow…

I heard the sound of a spark being lit by magic–but it wasn’t Fire magic; it was Light magic and a magnifying glass. I was safe. I went through the bushes.

The girl jumped, and I jumped as well. I didn’t know her, but it looked like she came from my village. She had the normal clothes, and her hair clip had been the latest fad when I left. But I knew everyone in the village, since everyone had repeatedly come to me for healing of some sort. I didn’t know her. So, either she wasn’t from the village or she had some immune system. And this blonde, blue-eyed girl did not fit in with village genetics; everyone back home was brown or red-haired.

“Please don’t kill me,” she said.

I stared. I was trying to think things through, but my mind had gone blank. “Uh, no. I mean, I won’t kill you. I just thought, you know, someone was chasing me.” I realized how paranoid that sounded, then realized that it wasn’t paranoid because someone was.

“I thought so, too,” she said. “I ran away from the Zepha tribe three days ago.”

I fell awkwardly silent. Then my brain shifted into normal gear, and I realized that this kid must have been eleven years old. “I ran away a week ago. You must have covered a lot of ground. Tell you what… I’m going to protect you. Come with me, I won’t hurt you.” I put my arrow back but kept my bow in hand. “Who are you?”

“I’m a girl with magic powers. My name is Akana.”

I saw her bruises, her scratches, including one large wound on her shoulder that looked like a scratch of some sort, times ten. It looked almost like a bear had stepped on her. Akana reported that she didn’t know how she got it, just woke up with it once. She thought her magic must have chased away the animal.

“Give me your hand. The one attached to your shoulder.”

“Both are attached to my shoulder,” she said, confused.

“The one that’s almost not attached to your shoulder,” I said.

She did. “Are you a healer?”

“Mm-hmm,” I murmured, magic taking over. “Look away,” I said.

As she did, her shoulder healed. It wasn’t very pretty, but it looked normal afterwards.

“Can you move your arm?” I asked. She could.

“You are a healer.” Akana sounded amazed.

“Yes.” I frowned for no reason. I found the homemade spear I left the meat on still upright and undisturbed. That meant no animals had come near and it had not fallen into poisonous mushrooms or anything.

Akana’s eyes got huge at the prospect of meat. I bet she hadn’t eaten anything. I gave her all of what I cooked (about ten ounces) and cooked myself half a rabbit. Then I shot a duck for her and didn’t remove any of the fat when I cooked it. She scarfed it down as well. I set her up with the extra blanket and she was asleep for the rest of the day and all through the night. When she woke the next morning, she wasn’t nearly as hungry; we split a nice-sized squirrel. It was a far cry from yesterday. Akana said that she’d never eaten that much meat in one sitting before.

I think now that she had eaten well and was keeping a steady diet of lettuce I grew and stuff we hunted (she didn’t have a weapon, but she chased rabbits and stuff toward me), we were ready to try and find another village.

I sighed. “I wish I could just fly up above the tree line and see one of the villages nearby.”

Akana’s eyes brightened. “I can fly!” Then she frowned. “You can’t?”

I stared. “You can fly?”

“Yes,” she said earnestly. She whipped out these enormous, beautiful, bright-yellow wings and leaped into the air–and stayed there. “Try and follow me!” she said.

I tried. I got about an inch off the ground, as usual.

Akana landed. “No. Relax, like this. It isn’t impossible. Try.”

I tried to relax: I cleared my mind, took deep breaths, etc. Then I tried to fly. It didn’t work. I got two inches off the ground.

“No,” Akana said. “Relax.” She looked at me critically. “Maybe you can’t. Hold still.” Then she did magic on me, advanced Light magic. I did not feel relaxed. I felt serene. She’d healed me in a way that I could never heal myself. And now I took flight easily, something I’d always wanted.

“Wow,” I said. “You can do that.”

“Yes.” Akana sounded firm, the way I was when I’d figured out that healing powers were unusual and was both surprised that nobody else had them and puzzled about why I, of all Anoki, did.

Which reminded me. “Hey, let’s see if you can do healing magic.”

“I can’t.”

“I’ll teach you.” I landed, and she followed reluctantly.

It wasn’t until I tried to teach Akana healing that I realized how complicated it actually was, how I never really thought about it. It had always been easy for me.

Focus on the wound. Make it like you could almost touch it, feel it from the air. Now whisper your spell.”

Akana tried, but a butterfly landed on her nose and distracted her. You can’t really see what you’re doing if there are huge blue wings in your way.

I giggled nevertheless. “It thinks you’re a butterfly, too.”

“Am I?” She smiled.

“No,” I said. Akana looked sort of surprised – she didn’t know. “You’re an Anoki, like me.”

She frowned, and I realized she must not know what an Anoki is. “Sort of like a faerie, but we have powers relating to a certain element or category. The main categories are the four elements–Water, Earth, Fire and Air–and we also have Light, Darkness, Time, Storm, and Dreams. There’s another one, but I forgot what it is. But it wasn’t one of the main ones, so it doesn’t matter.”

“And which am I?”

“You’re most obviously Light. But you might have a few other talents. Only the Air Anoki can fly. You must have some Air talent. And I guess I do, too.” I surprised myself when I said this. I’d wished, hoped, dreamed, pretended–but now it had been confirmed: I had Air talent. And now it felt weird not to hang onto those hopes, dreams and wishes. I didn’t have to pretend.

As we took to the skies once again, Akana asked me what element I was. “Earth,” I responded. I wondered why she knew so little about the Anoki. Maybe she’d grown up with humans.

“That makes sense,” Akana said. “You look like a tree that got too tall.”

I looked down. My clothes looked almost Chikian–all green and brown–and so did my wings, huge and leafy. She was right. “You look like a sunbeam,” I said. Akana looked even younger when she was flying. “How old are you?”

“Nine,” she said. “Why?”

I shook my head. “There’s the village. If I recognize anyone, then we’ll need to fly away, so be ready. We need to find a village that will teach us Air magic.”

“Why?” Akana asked.

“Because we both have talent, and we need to improve every type of magic that we can possibly do. And you need to find a village where… hold on. Why did you run away?”

“They found out that I could fly and wanted to use me to fight other villages. So I flew away, and nobody tried to chase me. I don’t know why they didn’t if they wanted me so much.”

“Look,” I explained again. “You can’t fly unless you have Air magic, and none of the people in my village do. It’s one of the rarest. There’s only a couple that are rarer.”

“Like what?”

“Oh…” I said, trying to think of the one I’d forgotten. “Dream magic is pretty rare, and so is Storm. Time isn’t, though. And Darkness magic is uncommon, but not that uncommon. You have to be a certain kind of person to handle it. There’s another one, though, that’s the rarest. I can’t think of it. But only a few Anoki are lucky enough to have Air magic.”

I watched Akana’s face as she unraveled my sentence. Then she seemed to halfway understand. “Oh.”

I sighed. “And we have to find a village now that has another Air Anoki. They’re one in a hundred.”

“And we’re two,” said Akana. “So we have to search three hundred villages?”

“I don’t know,” I said, running my fingers through my hair. This was sounding harder by the minute. “I just don’t know. But there’s a way to find out.” I bolted for the village, and Akana bolted after me. This feeling, this amazing feeling, flying down at seventy miles an hour… I just wanted to do it forever. My arrows did not fall out of the quiver. My bow did not slip off my back. My wings were beating erratically despite the load in the way. And we hadn’t left much behind; the fire was fenced in by a sturdy wall made of stones and was away from trees, and the other things we’d left were the makeshift tent and the blankets. I didn’t even have any Pepsi cans lying around; they were all in my backpack, which I had with me. I didn’t even feel the weight as I cut across the sky.

Then I shot through the trees and into the village, and had to brake fast from my mach-speed adrenaline high. Each villager turned in unison and gaped, as if wondering what the heck just happened. Fortunately, I didn’t recognize any of them. Akana was not right behind me, so I flew above the tree line and saw her as a speck or bright yellow against the blue of the sky. She didn’t see me; I probably blended in with the trees. So I shot up to meet her.

As I met up with her, I saw that she was panting. She said only one thing: “You fly fast.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 22nd, 2010 at 11:30 am and is filed under Star. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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