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The Others: Chapter One
I suppose youYou, being a human, are most likely unfamiliar with most of what I have been telling you about. Explaining will be difficult. I think that the best way to help you understand is to take you back to before my second birth. That is, back to my first death. The difference makes a difference. And no, I’m not trying to be funny. Even if I had a sense of humor, I would not joke about this. Would you joke about your birth? Actually, , humans being what humans are, I probably shouldn’t find it surprising if you would.
My human life ended when I was 15 years old. I didn’t have a hard life; my parents were relatively well off money wise, I was popular and I excelled at school and sports. All in all, I was a perfect child. Except for one tiny detail. My closest friend didn’t exist. She wasn’t imaginary. She just didn’t exist in the “real” world.
My friend was Tessa. She visited my dreams almost every night. As much as I tried to convince myself that she was a figment of my imagination, a small part of me always knew that in some way she really was real. That was the first step in my transformation.
I first met Tessa in the middle of a dream about flying. Just when I was about to take off she appeared in front of me.
“Why are you doing that?”
“I asked you why you’re doing that.”
I had no idea what she was talking about. I ignored her. That was the first of many mistakes I would make while in her company.
“Whoa—did your eyes just flash red? I thought that was something that only happened in the moviesbooks!”
That was me, of course. Tessa would never make a comment like that.
“Great,” she sighed. “Another newbie. Time for you to learn how to answer perfectly understandable questions.”
“Grunting does not count as an answer. I ask you again: why are you running before you start to fly?”
I have to admit, she had me stumped there. I always ran before I jumped to take off. It was just something I did.
“I dunno. I don’t think I can fly without running first.”
“Have you ever tried? And please don’t use slang. I have trouble keeping up with the newest words. After a while it just gets to be too much of an effort.”
I was sidetracked from the flying problem.
“Slang? I didn’t use slang.”
“I consider ‘dunno’ to be a slang word. In this case I know what it means, but in the future you might use a word whose meaning escapes even my intellect. And no, I’m not being arrogant. It is a fact that even in human life my intelligence was high, and I’ve had years upon years to cultivate it.”
At that point my alarm rang and I awoke. I vaguely remembered my dream, but not enough to puzzle over it. The day passed normally, however as soon as my eyes closed at night Tessa returned and made up for the boring day.
“Well?” She demanded.
I was confused. What did she want? I had no recollection of last night’s dream, so I thought that she was just another made up character in the huge cast of my numerous dreams. She seemed to pick up on the confusion in my eyes.
“You don’t remember me.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Perfect. Now we have to start all over again. Not that we made much progress last night.”
I was starting to realize that she didn’t have a lot of patience with what to her would seem like a slow-witted mind. So I tried to understand what she was trying to tell me.
“I dreamed about you last night?”
All right, not as intellectual as she probably would have wanted, but I was dreaming. And I really did have no idea what she wanted or who she was.
“Obviously. Or not so obviously from your point of view. In any case, to refresh your memory: last night you were running before you flew. I asked you why you were running instead of immediately taking off.”
“Because I need the inertia?”
She rolled her eyes at me.
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
“A little of both,” I admitted.
“The answer to your question is no. You do not need the inertia. You are in a dream, after all. Anything can happen.”
I thought on that for a moment. Supposing I was in a dream—could anything happen? Even…
“Okay. Anything can happen. So I want to know who you are.”
Tessa (now I knew her name) looked surprised.
“You’re smarter than I gave you credit for. It takes most people at least four dreams to figure that one out. How much do you know?”
“Not much. Just you first name and the fact that you aren’t human. Although you look very human.”
“You are confusing homo sapiens with humanity. I am human, but I am not a member of the Homo sapiens family.”
“I don’t think I understand the difference.”
“Well, why don’t you use your ‘anything can happen’ power and start understanding?”
Impatiens mixed with amusement passed over her features before she cleared them. I doubtfully obeyed her, thinking to myself that even if it worked, judging by the amount of knowledge I received the first time, I still wouldn’t completely comprehend what she was trying to teach me. By now I had no doubt that she was teaching me. There was no way that all this was idle talk, especially in one of my dreams.
“Oh! I see! You’re human in that you still think and act the way our race defines the word human, but you are a different being. But…what are you? I keep thinking of you as an ‘other’, but that doesn’t explain anything.”
“I can’t explain that to you until you are ready. For most people, that takes about a year. However after your unusual display today, I imagine that you will be prepared in about half that time.”
“Fine. I’ll just ask to know.”
“That won’t work…”
I was too incensed to notice that she trailed off suggestively at the end of her sentence, probably her way of warning me. But I soon realized that her warning was all too real.
“OW! Hey! Stop that! What are you doing? That hurts!”
“I did advise you that it wouldn’t be prudent to do that. I hope that in the future you will be more disposed to listen to me.”
I glared at her, holding my body as stiff as possible. I wasn’t going to forgive her for that. My muscles throbbed, proof of the reprimand that seconds before had coursed through my frame. The closest I can come to describing it is an electrical shock, although it felt more personal than that. As if the shock itself was alive, and wanted to punish me for even thinking about discovering whatever I would discover when I was ‘ready’.
“Oh, look at the time. You are going to wake up soon, and we can’t have a repeat of today. I am going to write down some of the main points of our conversation today. Hold out your arm.”
I grudgingly gave her my hand. She produced a pen from behind her ear and scribbled something on my hand. When she finished, she handed me the pen.
“See you tomorrow! Don’t forget to remember!”
How helpful. As if I meant to forget. I turned over and suddenly realized—I was in bed. Time for school. I groaned. Then gasped. There was writing on my hand! I couldn’t decipher the first few words, but written in large letters was penned:
“In a dream anything can happen”
That triggered my memory, as Tessa knew it would. I shivered as I became conscious that if I actually had writing on my hand, then somehow my dream was fact. That it was reality, and not just a figment of my imagination. Did that mean that what I thought was reality was, in fact, a dream? Or was I just going crazy? I thought about the school day ahead of me and sighed. It was just going to be one of those days…
I sat at the lunch table, surrounded by strangers. Another name for them could be friends. I had never given much thought to how little I knew about my friends. For me, it was enough that I could hang out with them and be accepted into the popular group. It wasn’t like I knew absolutely nothing about them, I just didn’t know the real them. Just like nobody knew the real me.
In fact, Tessa knew me better than most of the people sitting near me. It was true that she didn’t know what clothes I liked to wear, or what my favorite subject was, but I had been more at ease with her than with anyone since…but that was too painful to remember.
But how could I possibly be thinking these thoughts about someone in my dream? It wasn’t as if she was real, or even my friend. Even though the writing on my hand was proof that something had happened last night. For the rest of the day I was uneasy and jumpy. As soon as school ended I ran rushed home and took some sleeping pillswent to bed, under the pretense of not feeling well. Apparently I looked sick enough for my mother to believe me, because she didn’t treat me to her usual ‘no taking superfluous medicationno napping in the middle of the day’ lecture.
As soon as I fell asleep Tessa was there. She had a worried look in her eyes that instantly put me on guard. If Tessa was nervous about something, I thought that I should be too. She was staring off in the distance, sniffing the air as if she was trying to catch a scent on the breeze. I lifted my nose as well; attempting to recognize whatever odor she was apparently smelling.
“You won’t be able to smell it.”
She looked at me from the corner of her eyes, her concentration still on the mystery aroma.
“You mean that acrid burning smell?” I asked smugly.
That caught her attention. She whirled around to stare at me.
“But you shouldn’t be able to sense that until you are one of us!”
And then, half to herself,
“They must be closer than we thought. This isn’t good.”
Feeling as if I had to reassure her, I told her the truth.
“I don’t actually smell it…I just asked what you were trying to smell.”
If anything, she looked more frightened than before.
“If you were allowed that question, we must be desperate. You must awaken! I need to consult—I mean, I have to talk someone,” she covered her slip hastily.
“Alright…but you will tell me what’s going on eventually?”
“I can’t promise anything. Now go!”
Somehow Tessa’s command did wake me. My eyes snapped open to my dark bedroom. The clock on my bedside table read 3:00 a.m., however I was awake enough that I had half expected it to be noon. I tried to go back to sleep, to rejoin Tessa wherever my dreams took place, but I failed miserably. I spent the rest of the night; or rather, morning, thinking up plans to ensure that Tessa would tell me what was going on. I didn’t do too well in that, either.
However, by the time the rest of the house woke up, I had come to several important decisions. Number one: I would not obsess over silly, unrealistic and (most importantly) fictional dreams. Number two: If I couldn’t stop, I should get professional help. And number three: I wasn’t going to tell anyone. I didn’t notice until later that two and three were contradictory.
The next few weeks passed in turmoil. During the day, despite my resolution, I couldn’t concentrate about anything except my dreams. However, as soon as I climbed into bed at night and fell asleep, I couldn’t talk to Tessa. It was as if there was a wall between us. Tessa seemed to think I had made the wall on purpose. She would plead with me, even beg, to listen to her. I turned my back time after time, unable to bear the guilt of having built this block…yet I had no idea how, or if, I had done it.
By the end of the month, I was a nervous mess. My grades were slipping, my ‘friends’ avoided me and I still couldn’t stop thinking about those dreams. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I gave up resolution number one, not that I had been doing a very good job of keeping it. Somehow, numbers two and three slipped my mind…and I was back to where I had started.