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Pegusi, chapter 1
Meet me why don’t cha?
“Get back in your room and stay there until you can apologize to Mr. and Mrs. Norman like a civilized person Rebecca! I’m so sorry about that, she doesn’t normally act this way.”
Ha! That’s a laugh, I never act any more civilized than I think I should. I’m the only sixteen year old at Rivendale Orphanage; nobody wants to adopt a teenager. That’s when you stop being cute and start being a no good, hoodlum, juvenile delinquent. At least that’s what the woman who runs this place says. The first question any couple asks me is, ‘why did you dye your hair like that?’ or ‘why do you wear color contacts?’ and ‘why are your ears pointed?’ and it really ticks me off. Why? It’s because I can’t do anything about it. My hair grows pitch black on the left and snow white on the right, my left eye is blue, and my right eye is bright green. My ears have been pointed my whole life. It’s been that way all the time and I leave it that way. They never ask, ‘why did you pierce your nose?’ or ‘why do you have a chain and two rings on one ear, two studs and a ring on the other?’ Why not maybe ‘why do you wear black eyeliner and paint skulls on your nails?’ Or how about ‘why do you wear black lace-up boots, black skinny jeans, a black t-shirt that says ‘bite me’ and a black faux leather jacket?’ They never ask that. They always ask about the things I can’t really change. That’s why it ticks me off.
Anyway, I went back into the little closet of a bedroom I sleep in and carved another tally mark into the wall with my swiss army knife that I found lying around at the park. That’s number one hundred and seventy nine. It’s still morning and it’s another three hours before lunch gruel. I’m not just saying that, it’s actual gruel. I guess I’ll go search the basement for rats or something; I love the sound of the mistress screaming. She hates rats, and mice, and hamsters, and rabbits, anything rodent actually.
Once I got down there, I flicked the light on... then off, then on, then off, then on. Aw crud, the bulb burned out again. Oh well, I have good night vision so I should be okay. I was sneaking around because if you don’t then you’ll surprise the rats. I guess my sneaking skills were a bit rusty because I didn’t see the big, covered piece of furniture that I crashed into. As I face-planted into the cement floor, I grabbed the fabric that was thrown over what I had crossed paths with. It looked really old, was this a painting? It had peach colored skies, white snow, and a bunch of pine trees. It all looked so real, and it vanished when I stood center face to it. There was a reflection of me instead. Just what the heck is going on here? I sat down confused and leaned back on the mirror/painting, and fell through.
My mouth was open, but nothing came out as I fell, tumbling head over heels in a void of nothing. I made a crash landing on my back in something soft and warm. I opened them, and peach colored skies met my disoriented eyes. I sat up in the soft warm thing I had landed in, wait a second... was this snow? Warm snow, and peach skies, I HAD to be dreaming.
It wasn’t over yet. A great big creature picked me up and hugged me so hard I think he bruised my ribs.
“Destiny! I knew you’d come back I just knew you would!” then he spun around fast enough to cause my back to crackle as it straightened. “I never gave up hope that you’d come back Destiny, I never stopped! Now you can-”
“Get off me you big lummox! I don’t know who this Destiny chick is, but don’t confuse her with me!”
“Huh?” he put me down and backed up. Now I could see what he was. He had the torso and arms of a man, but the head and rear of a horse. He was black all over except for a white blaze down his face and-… wait; were those wings? He was wearing a breechcloth and bronze bands on his wrists and ankles. He had bright blue eyes that looked at me up and down. While he was doing that, I turned to leave.
“Thanks for putting me down. See ya.”
He ran up to me and continued talking.
“Don’t you remember me Destiny? It’s me, Orben! We used to have so much fun when I was still a colt and you were still a little girl. I used to give you rides around Wing City and you’d sleep at my mother’s inn and-”
“I told you, I don’t know who Destiny is! I’ve never been here in my entire life and I have no idea who you are! So give me directions on how to get out of this place or stop following me!” Orben stomped ahead in front of me and stopped. “What are you doing? Get out of my way so I can get out of this crazy place.”
“You wanna get out of here? Fine! Destiny would never have wanted to leave Arici so badly!” he hoisted me up onto his back between the wings and leaped up into the air. It was all I could do to cling to him we were up so high.
“Where are you taking me?” I shouted over the wind in my face.
“Wing City! Where all Pegusi live!”
He kept flying and flying until we reached what I assumed was Wing City. All the buildings were four floors or more, and made into what looked like pueblos with flat roofs. Others that looked like Orben, except in different colors, were jumping in and out of them over streets from the top floors. Some who looked like children with smaller wings were running around on the brick streets. Orben landed on a roof and let me down, he didn’t speak to me again, but he did motion for me to climb down the stairs into the top floor. Once inside, I saw another Pegusi. She was dapple gray and had a long white mane and tail but her wings were an ashy gray; she was cleaning the tables inside. She wore much of the same things Orben did, except she wore a type of shirt to cover her human chest. She stopped cleaning for a second when Orben cleared his throat.
“Oh! I didn’t see you Orben, your brother is out doing chores; it’s nice to see you again. Who’s your friend?” I was mostly standing behind Orben.
“She is not my friend mother, she somehow came through the portal, and now she wants to go home.”
“So soon? That portal hasn’t been used in almost ten years. I remember that you used to wait every day at the portal exit for Destiny to come back from Earth and play with you every day since you turned three. I remember her clearly; Destiny had black and white hair, one blue eye, and one green eye, and pointed ears. Nobody can forget someone like that. Not even after ten years.”
“So THAT’S why you bear hugged me after I fell through the mirror!” I jumped out from behind Orben and put my fists on my hips. There was a quick succession of iron horseshoes and hooves on stone then Orben’s mother turned me around and looked me in the face.
“You look just like her, before she left. You look just like Destiny.” I brushed her hands off my shoulders.
“Yeah, I get that a lot lately.”
“What’s your name?” she said, her hands shaking.
“I- I’m sorry. It’s just that she and her family were close friends of ours and Orben has been hoping ever since he turned six ten years ago that she would come back.”
“Great, now that you know my name and I know your life’s story, can I know your name?”
“I’m Rakisha; it’s so nice to meet you Rebecca.”
“Good, now can you please tell me how to-”
I was interrupted by the sounding of a horn and an eruption of voices echoing through the huge city.
“Oh no, not here. Not so soon.” Rakisha whispered so quietly that I almost didn’t hear what she said. Orben began running down the stairs. Rakisha reached after him over a table. “No Orben! The others can take care of this!”
“I am going to fight when the fight comes to me! I am going to protect what is left of our country, even if that means to the death!”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” She said as tears ran down the sides of her face. “He’s so d*** much like his father.”
“Rakisha, what’s going on?”
“We’re at war with the Dracoljo nation. They are fierce fighters, and their warriors thirst for blood.” She wiped the streaks off her face. “They are winged like we are, but they have wings of hide rather than feathers. They resemble lizards and men all in one, and their breath ignites when they scream. I never thought that they would attack our stronghold here.” Rakisha covered her eyes with her hands, I looked out the window. Even I’m not that heartless to stand by and let people, even if weird to me, get killed in the one place they think is safe.
“I’m going now.”
I was already racing out the door after Orben. But since he’s part horse I never caught up to him, I just kept running down the stairs. When I reached the ground, I ran between the buildings in the darkened roads. The streets that not ten seconds ago were filled with kids were completely empty.
I followed my ears to the fight, where several bloody carcasses lay strewn all over the battlefield. There were the Pegusi that wore some armor on their torso and faces; they were still clutching swords, battle-axes and war hammers. There were also several Dracoljo lying around, also carrying swords and axes. They had naginata and tridents too. From behind, the Dracoljo look exactly like dragons. Although, their faces are a combination of human and reptile.
An exceptionally loud clang of weapon on weapon caught my attention, it was Orben! I yanked a naginata out of a dead Pegusi body and hacked off the hand of a Dracoljo that was going to stab Orben in the back. The Dracoljo screamed and Orben kicked him in the face.
I have the best grades in P.E. of anyone in my entire school because I can do almost anything. I can jump four feet straight up off the ground, I can jump ten feet in any direction besides up. I can run for a half hour at 15mph and can turn 180 degrees on a dime; I can throw a baseball across a lake, and I can bench press 100lbs ten times. But the thing is, I can’t run and jump at the same time, and if you hit me at full speed I’ll go flying like a rag doll.
That is exactly what happened. A Dracoljo slammed into my side and I went spiraling over the Pegusi army and into the center of the Dracoljo army. I righted myself in mid-air and came down in a flurry of speeding metal on the enemy. I didn’t actually kill anybody; I’m too much of a wuss to do that. But I was able to protect myself and any Pegusi nearby. Many lost arms and ripped wings resulted from the wild motion of my naginata.
The Dracoljo began to retreat after a long battle and many lost and injured soldiers. Orben came and found me; I was standing on my knees in the center of the battlefield. Blood was gushing like a red waterfall down my neck and chest out of a cut on my face. How was the sky still the same? Why weren’t there any stars in this place? Where were the sun, the clouds, and the wind? How was there snow when it never snowed? How can snow be warm?
Orben took my arm and led me back to his mom’s place. Rakisha freaked out when we got back.
“What happened to Rebecca?! Dear, are you alright?”
“She joined the war mother. Stupid girl, let’s get her home before she really gets hurt.”
Rakisha nodded and treated the cut on my face with some kind of herbal pulp that left no scar. Orben brought out another mirror that looked exactly like the one in the Rivendale orphanage basement. Orben pushed me through the glass and I crashed into some old boxes near the stairs in the basement. I went up the stairs and looked at the clock.
“Oh cr*p! I’m gonna be late for school!” I went upstairs, changed out of the bloody clothes and into something else, grabbed my backpack and a donut from the adoption office, and ran to the bus stop just before it left without me. My seat was almost taken. I have a whole bus seat that I get all to myself because everyone is afraid to be near me. In my school, Nightshade high, you’re either a bully or a victim. This is not an alternative school; it’s a normal school… to an extent. Even the teachers are either bullies or victims. I’m the only one in the weird third group, a defender. I protect the victims by beating up the bullies; the principal is a victim so he’s never said anything bad about me. But the victims are afraid to talk to me, because I bully the bullies. If I can get rid of them, then being near me would be certain death for a victim. That’s what they think anyway.
I have to get off the bus first so everyone else can leave, ‘cause like I said they’re all afraid of me. So once I got off the bus, I saw a new kid. He looked like the star football player the coach wants to put in the game but will cause critical injuries to anyone, even his own team. He was holding one of the freshmen by the shirt, Timmy Wilson. Timmy is one of those kids who look like they’re from the 1950’s; he never stands up for himself. In fact, he’s the one who made me start this whole ‘defender’ business in the first place. The new kid was getting ready to permanently fix Timmy’s glasses into the bridge of his nose when I grabbed his fist.
“Put Timmy down, jerk.”
“Yeah? What if I say n- AAAAAAAAAAAUGH!!!” I was crushing his softball-sized fist in my left hand, he let go of Timmy’s shirt and Timmy scrambled away from the fight as fast as his skinny toothpick legs could go. The new kid fell to his knees clutching his badly bruised hand to his stomach and gritting his teeth. This is basically what I do all day. I am called out of class to get into a fight at least once every day to settle a dispute in another class. It usually ends in a lot of bruising and black eyes, sometimes broken fingers.
Before I even sat down for first period, the principal called me into another classroom to settle a fight. It was that new kid again, doesn’t he get that I beat down anyone who stirs up a fight? Anyway, I walked in to the room and everyone who knew who I was dove under the desks. A few of them hid in the empty supply closet. The only ones who remained were that new kid and another freshman named Phil Johnson. Phil wasn’t quite as mousey as Timmy was, but he was just as wimpy.
“Well jerk, aren’t we busy today? You’re a pain in the a**, you know that?”
“Didn’t you learn anything from the first time we met? Are you forgetful or are you just stupid?”
“What did you call me?!”
“Put the twerp down, jerk.”
He released Phil and took a shot at me with his fist. I sidestepped and let him fall; he got up off the floor and tried again and again to hit me. The only time he even touched me was when I got bored and grabbed his fist again. I tightened my grip like before. Kneeling, he whimpered as tears of pain ran down his face as my hand crushed his.
“You irritate me; most other idiots like you have at least learned to stay away. But you, you’re a real headache. I hate mud sucking scum like you.” I squeezed his fist even harder. “You know what I hate most about you? It’s that I have to waste my time to put you out. Time out of my day, to deal with a grubby snit like you.” He screamed even louder than before as the crack of splintering bones filled the room.
“YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” I relaxed my vise-like grip on his hand and he collapsed into a blubbering fetal position. I walked up to the teacher who peeked out from behind the desk at the front of the room.
“What’s the name of the b****rd whose hand I just broke?”
“Ch- Chad Pevencey.”
“Thanks.” I grinned sadistically at the idiot on the floor. As I left, there were such comments from the formerly silent students as,
“She asked for his name! He’s really dead now.”
“That’s a 160 pound dude! And she just broke his hand!”
“I’m glad I’M not on her hit list.”
I went back to my class into my little island desk. There’s an empty ring around me in every class I have, been that way since day one.
There were no more interruptions until lunch, when Chad decided to confront me about his now splinted broken hand. His new friends, other bullies, were warning him not to go near my empty table.
“Dude, you’re asking for a beating if you go over there.”
“Sit down man! You’re dead if you offend her a third time!”
He didn’t listen to the smarter ones, he was mad and everyone within ten feet of him moved away. I was just sitting there eating my peanut butter and honey sandwich that I snuck into the mistress’ secret stash to make. His shadow writhed over the empty table.
“Go away Chad, I’m eating.” I took another bite from my sandwich.
“Get up; we have a score to settle.” He said, fuming.
“No, I’m done talking to you.” I took another bite from the sandwich.
“Get up!” I ignored him. “I said get up!” I continued to ignore him; Chad snatched my sandwich, crumpled it up into a little ball, and pitched it in a garbage can across the room. I sat there stunned for a moment. Then I began quaking in anger, lunch is the only time I can get any peace during the day, the only time I can get half-decent food, the only time I can sit back and do something for myself, and then this fool comes in and ruins it. A nerve snapped. I turned and faced him with a grin of madness stretching from ear to ear. The other bullies of the few people who remained in the cafeteria at this point were encouraging Chad to leave before it was too late; he wasn’t listening.
“You’ve made me angry Chad; I’m going to break your legs so you can’t come back here.” I said in a voice dripping with insanity thick like the blood that turned my eyes red when I’m mad. Now Chad was worried, if I could break his hand with just my fingers, then what would a kick do to him? Well, he should have considered the consequences before trying to fight me a third time today.
“N-n-no! Wait! I didn’t mean it!”
“Too late scumbag!”
“I’m sorry! I swear!”
I was beyond listening to reason, I backhanded him hard enough to make two ribs on the right crack and slide him eight feet or so to the left. I leapt out of my chair and kicked him in the stomach so he doubled up and fell to the floor on his back. I slammed my hand down on his chest and stared poison into his unbelievably panicked brown eyes. He struggled to get up, but his efforts were in vain. If I wanted someone to stay on the floor, they stayed there.
“Want to beg for mercy now?”
“Yes, I would like to beg for every grain of mercy you have left.”
“Too bad! You threw it away like my sandwich!”
“I wonder what note you can reach if I break it fast enough.”
I stood and raised my leg above my head and my boot heel came smashing down on his femur. You could barely hear the crack over his screaming. I raised my leg up again and it came hurling down on his other femur, and again on his tibias. When I left, each of his leg bones was broken in at least one place. With hot tears of pain running down his face, he screamed at me from the floor.
“I’m calling the police! You can’t get away with this! This qualifies as assault and battery!”
“Go ahead, call the police. I guarantee that they’ll hang up on you.
“They’re afraid of me.”
I was telling the truth, I have no police record because I was able to fling one of their best cop’s guns hard enough to knock him out and shatter his nose. That cop hasn’t come within a hundred feet of me since. With that thought hanging around in the air, I left. I stood outside the door and listened to Chad call the police on his cell.
“Hello? I want to report an assault and battery.”
-By who? Can you describe the culprit?-
“Yes, she has pointed ears, black and white hair, blue and green eyes that turn red, and a lot of jewelry on her face.”
“Hello? Hello? D*** it!”
His new friends went back into the deserted cafeteria and talked to him.
“Dude, just call an ambulance.”
“No! I want justice!”
One of his friends punched him in the face.
“Stop talking like a crazy man! That chick is cursed and you should just stay away from her!”
Cursed, that’s a new one. Never been cursed before. The bell for fifth period rang as the ambulance siren pulled up outside. Now there was a ring twice as wide around my desk, should’ve expected as much. It was like this for the rest of the day.
When the final bell rang, I decided to walk back to the orphanage. Seeing, as it’s about two miles away, it took me a couple of hours to get back. The mistress was not happy that I came back later than usual. She never hears about fights that I have, people are afraid to talk about me. The little kids dare each other to run up, touch my arm or something stupid like that, and wait for their hand to melt off or whatever. The only time I cared was when one pulled on my ears to see of they were fake. I hung him by his shirt from the monkey bars after that. That kid hasn’t been within twenty feet of me for six years.
The only person on this planet meaner than me is the orphanage mistress, I remember when I missed the first day of first grade, and she gave me a thorough spanking before driving me to school the next day. The thing was; SHE forgot it was the first day of school and she just took it out on me. Actually, I can’t remember anything before then. It’s all a huge blank space.
Anyway, she sent me to my room without dinner. I missed it, and I bought pizza at the nearest Seven Eleven anyway, so there was no point in that punishment. I just sat there on my bed, stabbing the wall with my knife until it got dark. I decided that maybe my luck with rats would be better today so I went back down into the basement.
I slipped on the top step from a stray Hot Wheels car and slid all the way down the steps on my tailbone. There NEEDS to be a handrail down here. I put my spine back in place and started sneaking around when I heard footsteps, oh cr*p! This is not good this is not good this is not good! I had to hide, but there was no place I could hide where I didn’t have to move something around. There was that mirror… it’s worth a shot.
I quickly scrambled over to the mirror and dove in just as the stairs began to creak under the weight of the mistress.
I made another crash landing on the warm snow, under peach colored skies. I think that Orben called this place Arici. He also said that his mother ran an inn, and I needed a place to crash that wasn’t bare metal springs. Most nights I slept on the floor.
Upon reaching the gates, the guards recognized me as Destiny and let me in right away. I didn’t argue with them, I‘d take a free pass even if it’s not for me any day. After being lost for about fifteen minutes, I reached the building I recognized as Rakisha’s inn. I was out of breath by the time I climbed to the top where Rakisha was cleaning tables like the last time I was in Arici. The mirror was still there, looks like they hadn’t moved it yet.
“Oh! Rebecca! I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Out with his little brother Goulo, getting groceries.”
“I see; Rakisha?”
“If I help out around the inn tomorrow, can I stay here tonight? I need a place to sleep.”
“What about your bed at home?”
“You can hardly call it a bed, more like sleeping on granite. I usually sleep on the floor.”
“What kind of parent makes her daughter sleep on a bed like that?”
“The lady who runs the orphanage where I live.”
“Then you can stay for free, dear.”
“Wha-? No! I have no problem taking from others, but I have a problem with taking from you for some reason. If I take from you, I’ll feel like I did something wrong. You’re just, different from everyone.”
“Don’t worry about me dear, it’s alright.” She led me to my room where a bed and mirror waited. “The bathroom is two floors downstairs on the ground floor, and we serve breakfast early. Rebecca, are you alright?”
She was referring to the tears that were silently streaming down my cheeks. Physically I was fine; emotionally I was fighting myself like an angel and a demon. I couldn’t hear anything that Rakisha was saying to me; the words in my head were too loud.
“Go ahead, take the room. She’s giving it to you.”
“No! This is wrong! She has showed you nothing but kindness since you met her! At least help out some!”
“Shut up you! This is an easy shot at a cheap place to stay! Don’t miss this!”
“It’s immoral to take advantage of good people!”
“Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Get out of my head and let me think for myself!” I collapsed to my knees, clutching my head that had become a moral battlefield. Rakisha squatted beside me and tried to calm me down.
“Rebecca! It’s all right! Ohh, Destiny had this problem too.”
The voices in my head were growing louder.
“Don’t take it!”
“Don’t take it!”
“Don’t take it!”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” I fell on my side, screaming in moral agony. Rakisha went into another room and came back with a glass.
“Here, drink this. It will calm your mind.” I sat up and took the glass from her and once the weirdly chocolate tasting beverage met my tongue, the voices stopped. “Good, Dead Berserker works on you too.”
“Wh- what just happened to me?”
“I’m afraid you have something that Destiny’s parents called ‘split sanity’; it’s a condition that Destiny had that caused her mind to think good and evil consciously at the same time. Her parents were from two different types of elf that lives in the forest. The two tribes signed a treaty after a long war amongst both of their peoples who, in truth, were not that different. However, they were different enough to give Destiny split sanity. It’s treated using Dead Berserker to quiet thoughts. The reason Destiny may have disappeared is that Earth seems to have the same effect. She wandered through one of the mirror portals, that were formed suddenly after the treaty was complete, during one of her fits and once on the other side she couldn’t hear the voices. So, I think she just stayed and forgot about us.”
“That’s not true! Destiny would have to be completely dense to forget about you! Little kid or not, that’s a selfish thing to do! Her parents are on this side aren’t they?”
“Yes, they have been waiting as long as Orben has. They refuse to cross over.”
“They would know if I were Destiny or not, wouldn’t they?”
“They interpret essences and auras to make completely sure that who they’re looking at is truly who they think they are. However, they are extremely difficult to locate. Those woods have a strange magic about them that drives away those who have not been inside before.” Rakisha said as she glanced out the tiny window. “It’s late; you should get some rest Rebecca.”
“Huh?” I said, confused at the abrupt subject change.
“Good night!” she said as she closed the door. I was left sitting there on the floor, wondering how late it could be for a place where the sun never sets. This place is crazy, why did I ever come back here? Oh, right. It was because the mistress was about to clobber me for being in the basement at night. Or for being in the basement at all. This was my safe place, but this wasn’t everyone’s safe place. I knew that there was a huge war going on in this place and I was now involved. I decided that it would be a better idea to get some sleep rather than worry myself about it. I went to the bed that was incredibly soft for what it looked like. This was the best place that I could be, even if it was completely crazy.