Where I Live (Part 16)

August 16, 2011
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My dreams that night were disturbing. At first, it started out as a memory. I remembered when Kyla had been only a few months old. Kadin had only been four or five years old and I had been seven. We had been playing in the park. Dad had wanted to give Mom the day off and had been sitting on a bench under the trees with little baby Kyla.

Kadin smiled and laughed as I pushed him on the swing, kicking his feet happily.
He laughed shrilly and held on tight. “Too high! Too high!”
“Oops, sorry,” I grabbed the chains as he came back towards me and was lifted up in the air for a few seconds before my feet slammed back into the tanbark and we ground to stop. “Come on, Kadin! Let’s go play on the jungle gym!”
He hopped off the swing and I grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the monkey bars. He almost fell, clumsy kid that he was, but I grabbed his arm and kept him up, throwing a smile at Dad to show him I could take care of my little brother. He smiled back and fixed Kyla’s little bonnet when one of her tiny brown ears started to poke out. It was a risky thing to be out in public with all of the other human kids, but Dad liked to give us a little treat every now and then.
I climbed up to stand on top of the monkey bars and then sat down to help Kadin up. Once he was sitting next to me, I stood up again and waved to Dad.
“Be careful!” He called to us just loud enough to be heard.
I gave him a thumbs up and turned to look at the playground, keeping one hand near Kadin in case he fell.
“Whoa,” I heard a voice say from below. “That must have been hard.”
I looked down to see a boy a year or so older than me looking up at us from the platform. “Not really.” I said, trying to be modest like Dad had taught me to. “I do this all the time.”
He smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. Shaking his head, he climbed up to stand a single bar away from us. “I meant getting him up here.” He pointed at Kadin.
I looked down at my little brother, a feeling of worry starting to build in the pit of my stomach. “We should probably go. . . Dad’s waiting.”
Kadin nodded and stood up with my help.
“Hey,” The boy inched a little closer, his tone making me feel uneasy. “That’s a cool hat, kid. . . Can I see it?”
The boy reached out, an evil grin on his face, and Kadin tried to knock his hand away, but the older boy was faster than Kadin’s underdeveloped reflexes. With one little swipe, Kadin’s hat was knocked off his head and started drifting to the ground. It was the hat Dad had given him on his birthday and he didn’t want it getting dirty or messed up.
He chased after it.
Kadin reached out for the falling hat, but as his little hands swiped at it, he missed by less than an inch. He didn’t realize his mistake and fell after his hat. Afraid for my brother, I didn’t hesitate as I jumped off after him. Spinning completely around, I locked my knees around the thick outside bar and grabbed onto his ankles. As I caught his full weight, my ankles slammed against the smaller, crossing bars, but I kept my mouth shut as I nearly snapped both of my tibias.
Kadin’s breath hitched like he was about to cry and he reached desperately for his hat, which had already settled in the dirt, but he couldn’t reach. Carefully supporting his weight with one hand, I used the other to grab onto the monkey bars and unlocked my legs from their painful position. Then, I swung my feet onto the platform and slowly lowered my little brother to the ground.
I got down next to him and picked up his hat, brushing it off and setting it on his head. “There, there,” I said as comfortingly as possible, pulling him into my arms. “It’s all right. It didn’t even land in the dirt, just on the tanbark. We can clean it right up.”
He sniffed and wiped his eyes on his sleeve as he pulled away.
“I knew it!” The older boy said as he hopped down next to us. “These kids are Jungle Cats!”
I put Kadin behind me.
“You’re not human; you’re just little freaks with tails.”
His unpleasant smile faded and died as Dad walked up beside us, Kyla still held gently in his arms. “Come, Kryn, Kadin, we should be going.”
Fortunately, the boy’s voice had only been loud enough for a couple other kids to hear. As Dad ushered us away, I turned and looked at the boy.
“You know,” I whispered, “When you mess with a cat . . . you’re bound to get clawed.”
Giving him an unpleasant smile of my own, I turned and followed after my family.

The images shifted. There was no longer a park in front of me and I was no longer a little girl. There was a Bird of Prey sitting on what looked like water, but the water was black and there was no reflection. The Bird was sitting with his wings wrapped around him, hiding everything but his feet, white feathers seeming to shine against the black background.
I looked down at myself, saw a white dress and my feet. I looked back up again at the Bird in front of me, just a few yards away.
“Rise . . .” I commanded slowly, quietly.
The wings twitched, shifted . . . and he gradually began to stand. As his wings started to part, I walked slowly closer, the water making a barely audible sound beneath my feet.
“Are you prepared?” I asked slowly.
His wings were fully opened now, bent about a third of the way down and hanging at his sides. A few feathers had fallen and landed lightly, a striking contrast to the black liquid beneath us. I could see his face, but somehow, I had already known it would be Ethan.
I was standing only a few inches from him now and he looked down at me, eyes seeming distant. “I am.” He said quietly.
“Are going to give me . . .” One of my hands drifted up to his cheek of its own accord and he closed his eyes, leaning against it slightly, “What I need?”
In answer, he slowly moved his head, turning it away from me, exposing his neck. Instead of taking the offering as I had fully expected myself to, I inhaled his scent deeply and turned my head a little to the right.
I bit down on his shoulder.

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