My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Three: Escape… Again…


We took to the skies, and my wings changed back to their speckled periwinkle. It was night before I was satisfied with our distance from the village. We set up camp quickly. The fire flickered as we all gathered around it for warmth, a contrast from the windy chill that loomed above us.

I didn’t like what was happening. I had a feeling that we shared similarities other than being able to fly. I didn’t know Li well enough to judge her on this, but Kaye, Akana and I definitely had something in common that I couldn’t quite place.

I wasn’t sure what I was thinking. I wasn’t worried, exactly, except that I knew that wherever we went, we would have to run away. I wanted to land, to be closer to the forest. Even in the sky, I dropped a little to be a few feet closer. I felt better, sort of more concealed, even though it was in fact the opposite.

I didn’t want to be here. I was tired, and I wanted to lie down on the ground and sleep there. I didn’t want to be in the sky any more.

“We should land,” Kaye said. “There’s a storm coming.”

“How do you know that?” Li said.

“I just know,” Kaye said. “We really ought to land.”

“Yeah, guys,” I said. “We should go.”

We landed. Li needed some help to avoid ending up on her face, since it had started to rain already, and she was the last one down. The rain didn’t work well with her magic, and she was getting rather cranky. Through sopping wet black hair, she muttered a few words.

Kaye found, under a tree that gave good shelter, dry wood. She set it up with a bunch of rocks around it, and Li lit it. She looked like she felt a little better. I mean, wouldn’t setting stuff on fire make anyone feel better?

Everyone huddled up around the fire. It really was warm, though that wasn’t saying I absolutely loved it. I wouldn’t be happy until I had the tent up and was out of the rain. I sent a spell to make the temperature warmer, at least.

Kaye sat on her legs, making herself look taller. Her normally wispy blonde hair sat limp over her face. She wasn’t too happy.

It looked like a recipe for poetry, but I was kind of too tired to care. Fire-flicker, pouring sky, snoring Anoki… uh.

I wanted to set up the tent and sleep there. But I didn’t want to do it in the rain. I thought I might have to, but I got a better idea.

“Let’s go above the storm,” I said. “It’ll be clear skies there.”

“Good idea,” Kaye said. “I would never have thought of that.”

I hoped that the storm was low. I wasn’t sure how high we could go. But we all went.

“Fly as fast as you can,” I said grimly, dripping. The rain felt like hail. The fire went out.

And I did: I was flying maybe eighty miles an hour, straight up. There was mist around, and my wings automatically blended with it. Before I knew it, I was in the cloud. It was wet, and freezing, and I wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. So I did. It took a while, even for me, but the sky was clear as glass above the clouds. I waited for Kaye, but she took a while. I went higher still, not knowing how much further I could go before I got short of breath. I went for a long time before hearing this serene music played by an instrument I couldn’t quite recognize. Maybe several instruments.

I know this sounds odd now, but I was whisked into the music without knowing it. I danced as if I weren’t even in the air, as if the sky was as familiar to me as the ground always had been. There was a lot of magic here, but it wasn’t mine. And then – it was. It was mine, and it made me feel different, less tense, happier. A voice joined the music, and I knew the words. I caught myself singing it as well, the way you catch yourself singing the sour cream commercial jingle. Even when the other voice grew fainter, mine didn’t. I’d never realized I was that good at singing, simply because I’d never tried. I wondered who the other voice was. I knew that I could stop singing anytime, but I didn’t want to. The sky was where I belonged.

I was thousands of feet in the air, singing a song I didn’t know I knew, feeling like I belonged there. I wasn’t short of breath. I must have been fifteen thousand feet in the air. And even such a simple reality check seemed sort of fictional, as if those rules applied only to other people.

There were no nagging doubts about the others. I knew they wouldn’t be here for a while. Kaye couldn’t fly quite as fast as I could, and I had left her miles behind. I still can’t quite see her as a Star Anoki. She seemed a lot more like an Air Anoki. I wasn’t even sure I was more Star than Earth. But I couldn’t see myself just able to do Earth magic. Ever. I needed to be able to fly, needed to be in the air. It was the only thing that worked for me, that clicked, other than my herbs and healing.

I wasn’t flying; I was suspended. I didn’t need to work at it. I was just there. I never got tired while flying. It was like… it was as if it were a magical exercise and I could do it so well that it didn’t wear me out, like walking was a physical exercise. For Kaye, Akana and Li, flying was physical. But not for me. And I was so good at magic in general that this seemed small in comparison to the other magic I was able to do.

I realized that Li’s orange wings weren’t far below now, but she wasn’t coming any higher. She was shouting at me, so I flew down and met her. It didn’t take me too long, because she was about a mile below me. The air was so thin that I could see her and hear her.

“Why didn’t you just come up to meet me?” I asked.

“Uh,” Kaye said, joining her, “because we don’t want to suffocate?”

“You’ve tried?”

“Yes,” Kaye said. “Silly. Don’t you think we’d try if we didn’t know?”

“We’re above everything now,” Akana said, and it took me a while to realize she was talking about the storm.

“It seems so much prettier from above,” Li said. She still looked, literally, out of her element up here. And let’s just say sky blue was not her color, especially for an Oriental-bred girl with dark hair and olive skin. Fire fit her, but periwinkle was out of the question.

It was pretty. The clouds were so much fuller, it seemed, from up here. It was gray, but you could see it clearly because you didn’t have the raindrops in the way, hopping and bouncing off the ground like crickets.

Kaye didn’t know what I’d been doing, and neither did Li or Akana. I’d been too high, and too transparent. How did I know? Kaye’s expression. But I’d known what I’d been doing, and it had been real. Realer than most things I did. I mean, walking was real. I was on the ground. But stuff like knitting, or typing (we hacked into the fairies’ Internet too)… that wasn’t quite as real to me, not quite as close to my nature. Getting dressed in the morning wasn’t as real, though that wasn’t to say I was going to forgo it.

“What are we going to do?” Akana asked, brushing hair out of her face. The wind was amazing up here. It was fast, and strong. I think Kaye was enjoying it thoroughly.

“Well,” Kaye said, “first, I think we ought to have a leader. Someone in charge who halfway knows what she’s doing.”

“Maybe you should,” I said.

“I was thinking more of you,” Kaye said. “You’re the best at magic, and you even have your own weapon.”

“You’re the oldest,” I said.

“Does it matter?” she said. “You’re a lot stronger than I am, physically and magically.”

“You’ve never had to be strong. I had to chase off invaders in the war. They found my house. I attacked them with Mom’s chef’s cleaver. But it got wedged in someone, so I had to use the bread knife.” After that, I decided to teach myself to use a bow. I’d made my bow myself, with an inherited knife from the kitchen – one without blood on it. For the record, I washed those knives multiple times very carefully.

Kaye stared at me for a little bit. “I flew away. But that’s kind of why you should be leader.”

Okay, so my past has been a little odd, but it wasn’t that bad. I mean, I had a reason. The tribes were warring constantly. And even a six-year-old kid, when backed into a corner by a bunch of killing “meanies,” as I later called them, will attack with a chef’s cleaver or, possibly, a bread knife if the cleaver gets stuck in someone’s skull. At least I had good aim. The only complaint I had afterward was that they knocked over the jar of sugar and I had to clean it up. I didn’t really care what had just happened, but I was hoping I’d get candy for it. The fact that there had been three people invading the house was an irrelevant detail. The person who’d come to take the dead bodies away found me in the living room, playing video games and looking much too innocent.

“Which is the chef’s cleaver?” Kaye said, bringing me back to reality.

“That’s the big, heavy, square one with a hole in the top since it can’t be stored any other way than hung up.” Let’s just say that I wasn’t the kind of kid who had trouble with kidnappers, or got beat up (kind of hard, since I had Earth magic), or got squashed trying to lift something too heavy. Ever. I wasn’t mean–just defensive–and lots of other kids found it beneficial to be friends with me. Not because I’d beat them up if they weren’t, but simply because nobody else would.

“I vote for Amanda,” Akana said. “She did save me.”

“You’re a nine-year-old,” I said. “I couldn’t just leave you, and that wound might have bled you to death if I hadn’t healed you. Besides, you look after yourself well.”

“Cough,” Li said, and I realized what I’d just said. That was a rather counterproductive argument on my part. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be leader, it was that I didn’t know how to. I wasn’t sure what I was doing, though Kaye did. I thought I was more the protector, more the bodyguard, not really the one in charge. I wouldn’t know what to do, anyway.

“I wouldn’t know what to do, anyway,” Kaye said.

“Do any of us?” Akana said. There went my excuse.

“Come on, Amanda…” Li said.

“All right,” I gave in. I was losing the argument. “But don’t expect brilliance.”

“What do we do now?” Kaye asked.

“What do you mean?” I said.

“We can’t just stay here forever,” she said.

“Right,” I muttered under my breath. I sure felt like I could stay here for a while. Louder, I said, “Well, I have a crazy idea. It’s dangerous, stupid, and will save a bunch of people from barbaric death.”

“Sounds like my kind of idea,” Li said.

“What is it?” Kaye asked. “Will it stop the wars?”

“Yes,” I said. “Basically, we kill all the elders of the Zepha tribe and take it over. Us. And since we’re Kliid allies, the Kliid tribe won’t attack us like they do to the Zephans. And we won’t kill anyone but the dictator and his advisors. The villagers won’t attack us. We’ll set up a democracy like the Kliid have, minus the plotting leaders. With our power, that’ll be easy. I hope.”

“Bring the cleaver,” Kaye muttered.

                                                *          *          *

Now it was my responsibility to keep everyone safe and happy. Safe, I could manage, but apart from Akana, I’d never taken care of anyone, and “happy” sounded foreign. I’d never had a little brother or sister; Kaye was the only living relative I knew of. I was generally a catlike loner in school, someone dependable but never cool, and never with very many friends, exactly, but just people who depended on me to protect them and heal them. The whole village depended on me. I’d protected village kids in wars several times, hiding them on roofs of buildings and shooting anyone who came near with my homemade bow. I figured out quickly that arrows were exceedingly hard to make, and if they didn’t corkscrew right, exceedingly ineffective. So I made them with Earth magic, finding that they became easy to mass produce, and my quiver was never really empty.

That reminded me: I had to get a better quiver. Mine was in pitiful shape and fell apart routinely, being made from three buckets, two of which had the bottoms hack-sawed off and were Super-Glued to the other buckets, making a tube-like canister that held the arrows just enough that I was able to pull them out without dislocating my shoulder. Ask me how I know.

I felt a surge of adrenaline. I had power now, and I would use it. But that didn’t mean I wanted all of it.

            “Kaye, I appoint you official mom.”


            “I will protect us, but while I’m fighting, you have to stay out of the way, and you need a bodyguard with good magic to lead you while I’m not there. Kaye is a Star Anoki too.”

            “Do we have to do anything?” Li asked. Akana nodded.

            “If two ride on a horse, one must ride behind,” I quoted primly, though I wasn’t sure where the saying came from.

            “And I’m going to kill someone,” I growled. “No more death, especially that which leaves children alone.” Hmm, was I referring to someone?

This entry was posted on Friday, July 23rd, 2010 at 4:01 pm 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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