Sunday, December 16, 2012

First Snow

Our first snow started falling right before dawn. I know because I awoke shivering. They gave out wool blankets, but mine has holes. I won’t tell Captain. It’s dumb, really. The boys forget I can transfer to a coat of fur if I want. I’m probably the warmest here. Last night I was too tired to think of transforming. I shivered awake, hearing the breeze run like blades through the air, cutting through any crevice in the wall. It whistled through the pines, announcing the storm’s presence.

I crept to the window. When I wiped the fog from the glass, I could see the white snow sticking, glowing white against the black night. I found myself giggle. It never fails. No matter how old I get, I still feel like when I was four. We had a really hard storm that year. But, when everything settled and fluff carpeted the land, my dad took me out back. I whined the entire hike into the valley. But then, he took me to a large hill. I remember it towering high above me, although I don’t think it was very tall. At the top, he laid down a wooden board with a metal handle at the front. I remember staring at him, sure he had finally lost his senses. Other kids talked about their parents losing their minds in the winter.

But then he sat down, ordered me on his lap, and pushed off. The ice nipped at my cheeks as the air rushed past us. My hair flew in his face, but he just laughed as we slid down the hill. My stomach dipped inside my chest, sending a rush through my veins. I forgot about the cold. I forgot about how wet the hike made my boots. I just lived in the movement. We came to an easy stop and, for a second, I could still feel the air against my cheeks, the excitement in my veins. When it subsided, I turned to him and asked if we could go again. And again. It was such fun.

This snowfall didn’t turn into fun. Captain insisted we keep to the schedule. I was fine with the routine, except the wind was not festive. It was brutal, cutting at me, chilling my bones. I was sure my nose or fingers would snap off if hit. And, of course, snow balls would fly from nowhere and smack me in the neck. I wasn’t the only victim of the assault. When the captain saw the culprit, he would send them on laps around the practice filed, but he didn’t see everyone. Then, Clieto showed mercy and sent a blizzard. Captain finally gave up and let us back inside.

I curled under the blanket, my body radiating heat against my fur. I sat and remembered the sleigh ride.  If I closed my eyes hard enough, I could see myself there. I could feel the wind against my cheeks and remember the freedom of the ride.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

No one, Nowhere

I spent the day in a cage. Captain seemed to differ in opinion, calling it a punishment zone, but it had bars and a lock at the gate. When he asked what I was thinking, I just stared at the brown straps of his sandals and shrugged. I don’t know what happened. I guess it started two nights ago. I was sitting behind the cafeteria with Xeno. He had saved a piece of bread the kitchen staff had made that morning. It was so sweet, melting on the tongue. I smeared butter and blackberry jelly on the top and savored the riches. He brought the subject of how stupid the boys’ macho behavior was. All I did was agree with him. I mentioned how they thought they were the best soldiers ever and how I could beat them all. He said I was just like them. Me! Just like them? I told him no way. We argued, then he grabbed the bread and ground it into the dirt. The jelly muddied, oozing all over the ground, so I called him a son of Cerberus and shoved him into the mess.

The next day I fell on the obstacle courses’ wall. I’d climbed it countless times, but this time my foot slipped, slamming my shoulder against the wood. I lost my grip, skid down the face, and landed on my back, the ground shoving all air out of my chest. The boys laughed and snickered at me for the rest of the day. I just wanted to escape for only a few minutes. But I just kept walking. Helios traveled close to the horizon when the trees parted. There, in front of me stood the ocean. The white capped waves crashed onto rock and sand, misting the air. The water stretched into the horizon, like it never ended. I wanted to jump in, to swim as far as I could.

Instead, I transformed. I let the sand brush in-between my nails, caressing the pads of my paws. I let the breeze brush over the sea, caressing my muzzle as it traveled inland. I sat, watching Helios set the ocean surface on fire in its descent, listening to the birds soaring above me. It was like another world. I closed my eyes and no longer felt Atlantis. I no longer felt a curse, whether that be some part of me, whose actions I pay for every day. I felt detached from the world. I felt alive.

I swear I would have returned. Really, I would have. I didn’t have the chance to leave. Apparently they have a guard who patrols the coastline. He strapped a rope around my neck. I can still feel the twine digging into my neck, pulling my hair, as he dragged me into the wagon. I returned to the camp in a wagon, just the way I had entered. But, for a brief moment, I was no one nowhere. The cage is worth remembering that feeling.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Camping to Survive

We went on a camping trip. Well, Captain called it a survival expedition, which is dramatic. Maybe if he had waited until it snowed. I can smell the flakes in the breeze. He would only have to wait a week at most, I think. Anyway, he said we had to learn what it meant to survive outside in the elements, with limited rations. He said that would best prepare us for war when rations run low. We grouped into teams of five. I think my team had planned all along to ditch me. They’re stupid. I’m part wolf. When they maneuvered too quick, got me distracted, and I lost sight of them, I’d just stand tall, nose in the air. I closed my eyes and sifted through the breeze. Chipmunks dominate the air with their nutty dust stink. The pines add crisp sweetness. But I do prefer the chipmunks to some of the bigger game that roamed the mountains back at home. I remember there was one day I couldn’t distinguish the scent, just that it was an animal. It had an iron scent, blood, to the dust and sweat. But there was also a fishy mix to it all; like it rolled on top of fish bodies and then went swimming. When I found the black bear, face to face, I froze. Anyway, he must have just eaten because he just looked at me, snorted, and then sauntered over the hill.

Even though the scent is stronger in wolf form, all I really need is two seconds with someone to pick up their distinct smell. Humans have a signature behind their glands more than any other. Some are sweater, one smelled almost like cinnamon apples behind their sweat. These boys were no different. One boy kind of smells like bark. I would swear his father was an oak tree if I still believed in fairy tales. I found them within seconds, even without having to transform. After about four times of this, they stopped trying to ditch me.
After twelve hours they found a use for me. I made the mistake of bringing a chipmunk to them. They asked me if there was anything bigger. So I found a rabbit. Hunting is always weird. The wolf voice speaks to me, narrows my view until all I see is the prey. Even the chase pumps through my veins, thrilling me. But my human voice never goes away. It rationalizes with me. It tells me this is weird behavior for a ten year old girl. But they boys really enjoyed it. So, for the four days we were out, I had hunting duty while they split the other chores. When we arrived back at camp, we looked refreshed and satisfied compared to the others. They headed straight for the cafeteria, looking like they had lost five pounds. 
I liked camping. I know tomorrow they boys will go back to ignoring me. But at least for a few days I felt wanted.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Harvest Supper

We had grand feasts back home. I lose track of the days here, but the weather feels about right. About this time every year the farmers would make their harvest in Amphitrite. Bundles upon bundles of food were collected. The city would save food for the winter. And then there was the ration sent across the prairies to Government Island. But after all was divided, there was always extra for a feast.

Atlas was good at nothing else, no special trade or reason to boast. But they knew how to celebrate. I remember that. The Harvest Supper was the one event my father would take me to. I would walk in between them, one hand clasped with my dad and one with my mom. There was a bounce to their steps. I remember the laughter. People wouldn’t look at me funny. They wouldn’t whisper. One year, a young man gave me a cloth bunny he had won at some armature archery competition. It was stuffed with feathers, buttons for eyes. I held it tight, grinning the entire night.

Torches lined the sidewalks, lighting the streets. The townspeople gathered so many tables, lining them down the street. One big table, multicolored with tablecloths pulled from storage, saved for this gathering. The women scattered fall leaves across the surface and the best plates were dug out of boxes. The men had spent the previous weekend hunting game. Then, all day, the women gathered and cooked. My mom would always help them make the side dishes and bread. I knead some dough, too. They said I was a good kitchen helper. The men swapped stories from the year. The children played hide-and-go-seek. On the windy years, they flew kites.

Then, as Helios began to set, the food sat steaming on the tabletops. Everyone stood around, hand in hand, thanking Clieto for her good graces on that year’s harvest. Then we ate and ate and ate. I used to think I had to eat the most on that night, like it would help hold me in the dead of winter when rations were small. I have since learned the stupidity of such a thought. I loved those days, when rivalries were forgotten and the people gathered.

We didn’t go last year. My father said something about the town requesting our absence. I think he meant my absence. He tried to recreate the gathering at our house, making a small meal for us. But it wasn’t the same. He tried, but it just didn’t feel right. They died four months later…in a fire. The town didn’t set it, but they might as well have. We should have gone to the dinner. We shouldn’t have let them exclude us, made us exiles. We should have remained a part of the city. Things might have been different then.

Captain served a game turkey for dinner tonight. I remembered the harvest. I remembered when my family was alive. And then I left for my room and cried.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall Soups and Fireplaces

I can feel fall in the air. It’s different here. Back home, fall came with a crisp shift in the wind. It wound down the cliffs, bringing with it thoughts of the arctic. I still remember the cold needles that pricked my skin when it came. On many levels, it felt like jumping into ice water. Breaks in the breeze brought the warmth of Helios’ rays, reminding me that winter had not yet arrived. Then the wind returned, bringing a thinner air. With it, came the sound of rustling leaves. We mainly had pines, but somehow the trees spoke more in the winter. Fireplaces were lit, burning wood perfuming the valley. It was death before the brightness of snow.

It’s different here. I can hear the waves crashing more, promising to bring winter storms shortly. I can still hear the rustling of leaves. I hear that more on this island. The wind brings with it a spritzing of water. It settles on my pores, chilling me in a new way. I still smell the burning of wood in fireplaces, but it’s not sweet like pines. It’s deeper, darker, reminding me that this is not where I belong.

My winter coat has begun to grow. With my clothes as ratty as they are, I find myself welcoming the opportunity to transform. It protects me from the wind, blocking any gust from reaching my skin. Layers upon layers sheltering me. I love the feel, like a fuzzy blanket covering my body, but allowing me still to move freely. I love my coat. Pure white. It’s harder at camp to keep it clean. Many nights, I return with a greyish coat instead. But it is still mine. Do I stand out? Probably. But it doesn’t matter. They see me for only a second before I attack. It’s a challenge, but I would not give it up. White is pure. I have a coat that reflects purity. I like that.

One thing I enjoy about the change of seasons here…Cook has begun making more soups. The boys complain it’s not as filling, that the only reason they make soups is to save costs. I find the soups and stews comforting. They warm me from the core outside, providing a furnace inside against the chill. It is the one comfort that doesn’t remind me of home. Not to mention I’ve made friends with the kitchen hand. He’s a boy about my age; charcoal black hair with striking blue eyes. Xenophanes is his name, but I call him Xeno. He thinks my wolf form is neat. So, if I’m careful, I can sneak to the kitchen just before curfew and he’ll give me an extra ration. He’ll tell me about the drama in the kitchen and I find myself laughing. Hopefully the change in the weather has brought a new change to my existence here. If so, I can see myself liking camp…well, maybe I shouldn’t go that far. But I can tolerate it, at least.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Dream...or Memory?

I had a dream last night. It was so vivid, so real. It has me afraid to fall asleep tonight. I don’t want to revisit it. I don’t want to think about it. But it haunts me. I’m going to tell you, okay. I’m going to write it down and hope it goes away.

I was in a field. It looked like the ones back home. Pine trees towered above me, blocking the sky. Through patches, I could see the blue, but clouds were starting to cover. I could feel the chill against my skin. A storm was coming. I could smell it, the fresh smell of water that hovered in the air, threatening to drop the temperature. I had been walking a long time. I had been daydreaming. I was miles from home. I had to get back.

I don’t remember what happened after that. The next thing, I was standing, soaked. The rain trickled down on me, kissing my face, dripping from my chin. The woods surrounded me. I normally felt safe in them, not today. They confined me. I was overcome by bark and pine. It threatened to tell. It threatened to fall away and reveal me. But not just me. My hands shook as I looked at the body lying before me. Dead. I have seen dead bodies before. My dad never knew that. He thought I was a kid. He thought I was sheltered from such things in the world. But I wasn’t. My first time seeing a body, I snuck up to the doctor’s office with a friend, but I still can’t picture who. We peered inside. The man was naked on the operating table, chest spread open for the autopsy. I remember the eyes, vacant, clouded. These eyes were not the same. Vacant, yes, but still held the fear.

The rain had dampened the boy’s hair, glistened his button nose. I counted myself lucky. The rain had cleaned what must have been a mess. The scratches and tears in his skin were washed clean, leaving behind raw wounds. I looked down at my trembling hands. I trembled from the cold…it had to be from the cold. I had done nothing wrong. I had just found him. But there was something in my stomach. I could still feel it. The summersaults, the twists. I knew something about this scene. Somehow. I searched all day, but couldn’t remember the gap in my dream. I didn’t do that to him. It looked like teeth marks, but they weren’t mine. It couldn’t be mine. But maybe. The boy was my age. So young.

Why did I dream this? Maybe because I know I’ll have to kill on the battlefield. But it felt so real…like it was real. Like it was a memory. But I’ve never killed anyone. I don’t remember killing anyone. But his eyes stay in my vision. Their terror, their stare. I don’t think I can forget them. What did it all mean?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I am Immortal

It’s been two weeks. I’m still at camp. There were days when I had convinced myself they were just organizing my release. That was until today. I watched Zeno leave camp today. The general called him to the battlefield. He would have graduated in six months, but they needed soldiers, some mission. I don’t get it. The general barely paid attention to him.

I guess he is good. I try to remember that he is human. It’s funny to think that way. I’ve been labeled. I’m Immortal. Therefore I am not human? I feel human. I think human. Sometimes I wonder if they label us so they can justify treating us different. After all, if I were “human” I would not be here at such a young age. If I were “human,” they would never try to label me as the curse of the country. Then again, if I were “human” I would not hold an ability that justifies such a claim. If I were human, I couldn’t run under a four minute mile. If I were human, I couldn’t knock a grown man off his feet. If I were human, I couldn’t transform into a wolf. I like not being human. I like showing off at camp. I can propel myself up the exercise walls without increasing my heart rate. I can laugh at the boys I pass as they struggle not to vomit during our ten mile run once a week. I like feeling stronger than them.

Zeno really was the only one who was any match for me. He’s seven years older than I am, but our strength was becoming almost evenly matched. I hate him. But he challenged me. He was my drive to improve. My stupid war with him kept my mind off the obvious. I am here, training to enter into a war. I am here, training to be a killing machine. I feel sick every time I think of it. I hate him, but what am I without him? He was the only one who could see me for what I am. He didn’t see the wolf. He didn’t see the little girl whose family was murdered. He saw me for who I am and he hated me. But I hated him, too.

I can’t say I was too sad to see him go. Who knows? Maybe camp will be better with him gone. He was grinning as he rode toward the port. But I don’t think he will be grinning on the battlefield. Maybe he will be. He seems more of a natural killer than I will ever be. Maybe he should be their killing machine. I’ll stay here. It’ll be different. I can prove my worth here. But I won’t stay forever. If the general can’t get me out, then I can just get myself out. I am Immortal after all. I am above the human race. I can do it. It’s just going to take some time…and no more distractions.