My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Eleven–Home


We found Mom waiting patiently right outside the cottage. Turns out she had been tracking me from my cell phone, which had a GPS thing in it. I found this weirdly funny. She has the most rare magic known to Anoki, but she tracks me with a cell phone. We all have our quirks.

“Oh, you found Akana,” Mom said. “She’s your sister as well, but she wandered away when she was a toddler and landed in the Zepha tribe. You took care of her as you took care of all the children, and she eventually ended up with you, although you didn’t seem to recognize her then. I let her stay. She learned things from you.”

Akana smiled brightly. I guess she never really knew Mom either.

“Where do you live, exactly?” I asked Mom. She took us there.

Her house was nothing super fancy or weird like Katyen’s, but one of the bedrooms looked exactly like mine. It looked like the inside of a tree, with hardwood floors and a mossy green rug that came close to the color of the walls. But a lot more light came into this room than my room in the Zepha tribe. I wondered who would live in that house now. I had an idea.

I could definitely live here. It was becoming real.

I met my father. He had an odd personality, and would listen to a conversation for a while, then pipe up with a witty comment. He sounded a lot like me, but less chatty and less bold. And a heck of a lot calmer. But I knew where Kaye and Akana got their blonde hair.

I wanted to stay. Kaye had had a semi-normal life, but I wanted a break from fighting. I was happy. I wanted to stay.

I had to go back to the Zepha tribe for a little. I had unfinished business.

“Tony!” I called. He dropped out of a tree. What a surprise.


“Have I got a deal for you.”


I took him behind the house. “The plants like you, and I’m moving in with my mom, who I just discovered isn’t dead. I can’t fit all these plants in my room, so I want you to have the greenhouse and keep it. And if you ever want more magic lessons, it’s a short flight to the Skiea tribe.”

I took the mint plant in a basket and some of my seeds, but I left the rest for Tony. Which was a lot. I taught him to use the sprinkler system (dump water in tub. Watch planty things get water. You done now) and left him. I wasn’t sure what to do with the house, but I figured Tony might live there when he got older.

I was glad I didn’t bring many plants home, because I had a tree house full of them now. My parents had been ready, and my mom had obviously been up on my status.

I was overjoyed. This made the whole mission thing worth it. It was perfect. I didn’t have a reason to stay with the Zephans and definitely not with the Kliid, but I had every reason to stay with my own parents and sort of catch up. I decided I wanted to be a magic/weapons teacher right here in the Skiea tribe. I could live here.

I saw someone in the sky. Someone with hunter-green wings…


“My parents said that if I wanted to do Earth magic, then I was going to have to go to you for schooling, if you said yeah. It only took me a few minutes to fly.” He landed, looking windblown and cute (though I’d never say that to his face).

“Heck, yeah!” I said automatically, grinning wide. “I was just thinking of starting a school somewhere around here.”

“You’re acting normal,” he said, astonished.

“Which still counts as acting weird because I never do it,” I pointed out.

“Okay, that makes sense. I think,” he said. “Sort of. Maybe weird, perverted sense. I learned that word from you.” He grinned at me. I got this weird impulse to back away slowly, turn, and run the other direction at mach speed. He was creeping me out.

I was becoming normal, yes, but I felt after my life, I deserved it. Most people work the other way around, but I was so weird that, even when weird is normal for an adventure, I was on a whole different level of weird so that I was weirdly weird, and now I’m weirdly normal. Weird.

I still had some questions, though.

“What did I do?” I asked Mom. “You said you saw me make up spells, but I don’t know what I was doing.”

Kaye was sitting in the living room, talking excitedly with Dad. Akana was petting the humongous lump of fur that was vaguely feline (my mom called it a cat). His name was Cat-Flat, and it had nothing to do with lack of roundness, a trait Cat-Flat seemed to have in abundance. No, Cat-Flat was named for his… anomalies. Need I say more? Didn’t think so.

“Star magic enables you to do the elements Air, Water, Fire, Earth, Light, Darkness, Time, Storm, Dreams, and Star. You simply didn’t know that Star magic has an element of its own that no one else can do. It has very little to actually relate to the stars, and more to relate to whatever you use it for. Wardrobe catastrophes. House décor. Problems with child discipline. I once made up a spell that glued children to whatever they touched until they listened. The floor. Their toys. Each other. I did it once when the high school boys were slapping the doorframe to go into school. You should have seen their faces when their hands stuck there. Then I dropped them just before they dislocated their shoulders and watched them land in a heap. But I’m mean that way.” She grinned.

“You sound creepily like me.” I grinned.

“Kaye can do nine of the ten elements. She can’t do Star magic. She’s a Storm Anoki, like her father. Air and Storm magic for her. And Light. Anything in the sky. She couldn’t do Earth, though. That brings me to my other point. Do you know why that man got possessed by Star magic even though he did not undergo the Commitment Spell?”

“No dang clue.” I liked how she always asked whether I knew something before explaining it. I hate it when people start telling me stuff I know already because they assume I don’t and I can’t tell them to shut up already like I want.

“Simply because this is the nature of Star magic. You have to be a certain kind of person to wield it properly. You have to be good, yes, morally and in magic, but there’s a little more than that. You were grounded in Earth magic. You’re an Earth Anoki before you are a Star Anoki, and you didn’t let it go to your head. You’re strong enough in yourself, and you don’t pretend to be someone you’re not or wish you were something else. You wanted to fly, yes, but you got that already from Akana. Since you were occupying every part of yourself evenly, it didn’t have a place to take over that didn’t have you and your Earth magic leashing it. Magic is weird.

“Your Earth magic was dominant, and it was also the reason you couldn’t take the village through mutiny or brute force.  People notice hurricanes, tornadoes, and people notice forest fires and volcano eruptions and floods and winds that blow things over. But people can sleep through earthquakes that may cover a certain poisonous plant that would normally kill someone, or a certain rock falls on a certain head. Someone up there makes sure that the right people get killed and the right people stay alive.”

I was thinking. “If there is someone ‘up there’ who supervises, then why do bad people tend to live so long?”

“Just because we’re watched doesn’t mean that the world is perfect. It’s a cursed place. All we can do is make it as good as possible, but people will always be slightly evil. No matter what. But it does mean that 99% of human worries are needless. They think the earth is going to dissolve into nothingness if cows are around.”


“Cows. I heard. Something about farting.”

I shook my head. “You’re nuts.”

“Don’t blame me! The humans came up with it!”

“Do you know how Anoki get magical talents, anyway?” I asked, changing the subject. “It seems like they just show up sometimes.”

“Usually it’s because they run into a loose patch of magic, or someone puts too much power into a spell and that extra power becomes ambient magic. Then when someone finds it, it’s like walking into a cloud of gnats, and if the magic acknowledges the person because they’re the right personality, the right type to carry that magic, then it’s theirs. You ran into the Star magic that I used from the sky to disguise the bodies. I did it there so that it would be unlikely for people to run into it and use it badly. But you could fly, and you were the first to find it. I’m surprised Kaye didn’t, but I’m glad. She would have been possessed. Magic is dangerous. And the Kliid leader you dealt with had run into either your Star magic, or had found Akana’s spell and run into mine while flying.”

“Did Akana make that spell up?” I asked.

“I don’t know. It feels like Light magic, but she seemed to make it up. Her talents are strangely limited, though, to the natural elements and Light. She can’t do other Star magic or make up other spells. I call it Moon magic, just in case she’s discovered a new element. When you did it, it felt to me like Star magic, but Light Anoki can do it—I asked one. And it feels like Light magic when she does it.”

“I don’t know what to make of that kid,” I said. I didn’t.

“And if you don’t accept the magic when you run into it, it doesn’t take. You couldn’t do Darkness magic well, even though it came with the Star magic, because you’d only half accepted it, just enough to get the Star magic. I have to agree with you—I like night, because night is natural, but darkness is created. Night isn’t really dark. There are stars, each the same as the sun, across the sky with you. The moon reminds you that the sun is only on the other side of the world and still exists. Night is real. Darkness is when you are shut inside a building and someone doesn’t want light there. You can’t see a thing, and sometimes there’s a reason for that.”

“Uh, bad.” I crossed my eyes.

Mom grinned impishly. I don’t know how many moms are as naughty as mine, or if they’re just mainly mischievous. “I remember hearing that one time, on an airline that had older people running it, the pilot said to the passengers, ‘The lights are dimmed to improve your experience if you get tired and to enhance the appearance of the wait staff.’”

“Are you sure?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

If she’d approached us with lemon cookies and a huge white smile, I’d have run away fast in the other direction and nicknamed her CreepyGirl. But she hadn’t. She approached us with biscotti and a snigger at our expressions when we’d learned the too-obvious way why her cat was named Cat-Flat. I hadn’t flinched.

I went outside. What was I going to do now? Mel had the Zephans, and Kaye had the Kliid now. And I would be the Unconventional Schoolteacher. But I needed a building… or did I? I took flight and looked at the forest below until I found a clearing. I landed, went home, and mapped it out on paper. Then I used the photocopier, stolen from humans by a Water Anoki with an invisibility spell (and a camera—he took a picture of their faces), to copy it like a million times. I folded them up and stuck them in a bag. I wrote out:

Magic School—All Elements, 9:00-6:00

Schedule: Stay as long as you like throughout the long school day and come as you like. Hiring and registering! Taught by Star Anoki Amanda Unger.

All ages, all elements. 5$ per student per day. Outside, rain or shine, in mapped clearing. Contact me at for more info.

I decided that I might have to make a new email for the school. I erased and went to the email site. Yes, Anoki have their own email site. We could have used the humans’, but that would have prevented us from building a website housing a reputation as superstition geeks by making email themes with blurry pictures of Anoki. I know why they’re blurry, too; it’s because the person holding the camera is laughing so hard when they take the picture.

I replaced with I figured that would be enough. Scrabbling around for something to shove the maps in, I found an empty Ziploc bag and stapled it to the poster I’d written out. I shoved the maps in the bag and flew (literally) to the grocery store bulletin board. The Skiea tribe was much smaller than the Zepha tribe and lacked the huge money-making megamall, but it did have a pretty big population anyway, and a lot of kids. In case you haven’t caught on, I have a thing for kids. Yeah, I was definitely here.

I went home. I read my book for about an hour, then, on a whim, went to check my email. There were three new messages:

Do you teach Water magic? –

count me in 🙂 –

hey Mrs. Unger im gonna join ur school  –

I responded to each of them.

I teach all elements, mycrazypuffycat. –Amanda Unger

Okay, leafyjaniegirl, just show up with a five at the clearing and you’re in. –Amanda Unger

Imnotschizo, when I email teachers, I don’t usually use chat speak. And, um… I’m not married. Otherwise, good! No papers, just show up with a five every day and stay however long you want.

I left for the clearing. I didn’t know if they’d be there already or not—I hadn’t specified a time—but if they were over there, I didn’t want to miss them.

Good thing I did, because five kids had already showed up. Word had traveled of what I’d done in the Zepha and Kliid tribes. Kind of creepy, really. People watched.

But anyway, it was twenty-five bucks. I spent the day dodging fireballs and saying shield spells so fast that the words became a blur. Probably the reason humans thought that all spells had to be some gibberish in a secret language. Sheesh.

I was exhausted when I went home. Completely and utterly exhausted. I was also sick of seeing wet sneakers from failed Water spells, sick of seeing people stomping out embers and patting scorched clothes from Fire spells, sick of those little green-and-purple spots blinding me periodically from Light spells, sick of watching someone crack the same stupid joke again and again from Time spells that went wrong (or just because the kid keeps doing it, which is worse because I can reverse Time spells), and sick of having kids get caught up in their own Air tornadoes, getting dizzy, sick, and throwing up, and then having to pull leaves over it and making ginger extract. And I wanted to do it for weeks on end.

The next day I had fifteen kids. Apparently the Skiea tribe was more magically diverse, or maybe just a hideout for the more weirdly talented Anoki. Or they’d all got caught up in my mom’s magic and were doing the magical equivalent of sitting in radioactive waste. Yeah, that sounded more like my life.

“Kiera! You cannot set your brother on fire! Now sit down, or I’ll really teach you how to fly.”

Kiera sat down quickly, grinning broadly. I turned to another kid, who was intentionally making someone throw up. Sheesh. I grabbed his shirt and pretended to Super-Glue him to the forest floor. I wasn’t mean enough yet to try my mom’s spell, but I was getting close.

“Hey guys, how about a talent show?” I called. “Everybody sit down.”

Everybody… ignored me.

“EVERYBODY SIT DOWN,” I said, and everybody sat down. Immediately.

“Show me what you can do. Up here. Let’s see, who to pick on first?” I scanned the squirming kids, most of them around Tony’s age. “Lina, how about you?”

Lina got up. “I can make a level four hurricane,” she offered.

“Maybe something a little less dangerous that won’t cause us to drown?” I suggested. Lina was an adorable blonde girl, yes, but she was also the Water version of a pyromaniac.

“I’ll make tea from poison, then. Safe tea.” She pulled out a jug from her backpack. “This is the most dangerous stuff a kid can find anywhere. Assassins use it all the time. It’s tasteless, fast, and deadly.”

I was really questioning this kid’s parental supervision.

She poured some into a Dixie cup. We’d used them for juice. The poison was a nondescript brown color. Lena flexed her fingers, muttered some spells I couldn’t hear (uh oh), and the poison turned clear. Not that that meant squat. Lena set some branches on the ground, lit them by magic (YIKES), and set the Dixie cup in the flames without burning herself or the glass. Its contents bubbled. Lena grew some plants, picked some leaves, and dropped them in the (water?).  She was really starting to scare me. A minute later, she had some tea, which she fed to a rabbit that did not fall over, dead. We’d waited five minutes in horror.

“It would have died by now, guys!”

None of us questioned how she knew this. Then she fed the actual poison to the rabbit, and it fell over after thirty seconds.

“Okay, guys! Let’s give her a hand and everyone remind me to make my own tea!” I made a mental note never to do Star magic around Lena. She’s creepy without making up spells—as is.

“Make your own tea!” several voices chorused.

I laughed at them. This was definitely not normal school. It was much more controlled… and better air conditioned. Not that I was using cooling spells. I smiled. I could definitely do this for a while. Maybe a long while. And if not… I can find my own entertainment. Insert evil grin here.

I don’t know what else to tell you, but if you want to know more about magic…

…meet me in the clearing.

The End

This entry was posted on Friday, August 6th, 2010 at 2:56 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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