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    Aela -- Year 216


    "So she smiles prettily and steals away when she can. Feels the brutal pounding of others around her with a savagery that she has never comprehended—their emotions so vast, their hearts so wicked. It warps her more than she was already warped. It presses a thumbprint of cruelty into her darkness, shaping her into a thing of shadow, a thing of longing, a thing carved from the darkness between every breath." --Baptiste, written by Laura

    [open]  any; this world will eat your heart out

    She is like a wound coil waiting to spring, always, but especially now.

    The echo of her mother’s voice has long since faded behind her and the banana fronds she brushed past have stilled.  She looks forward, instead, to the soft pinks and yellows of the tender blossoms spread across the gentle slope of the meadow.  She comes as she was born, a stormcloud-grey with a splay of black stripes down her length.  Her pale turquoise eyes crinkle at the edges when she thinks of all she could have been instead, anything but herself. 

    She moves in closer, just a girl.

    Just a girl.  Just this time.

    Night is creeping in around the edges, sending long shadows to sweep the ground when the tree branches sway.  Arrowe moves through these, moves like she is stalking prey even when she is not.  There is a tension that sits like another soul atop her shoulders that she cannot shake off.  She is always ready to move, to change, and to hunt.  She doesn’t like this about herself, but it is not something readily changed. 

    I will be different, she tells herself and straightens when she realizes her posture has dropped too low.  This isn’t the jungle.  There isn’t the buzzing undercurrent of ferocity that exists on the island born of necessity.  Being all alone in the middle of the sea breeds a stronger type, her mother had told her, because there is no one else to save them but themselves. Here, they are simple, like a careless flock assuming that there is safety in numbers.  Assuming that there is no threat among them.

    Arrowe moves in on one that has strayed towards the treeline on hooves that have become the paws of a panther.  The other’s back is towards her so she stalks almost silently closer, ever closer.  A warmth pools in her stomach, a nearly indescribable rush of anticipated success.  Fangs poke out of her mouth as she comes within a few yards, a few steps.  She reaches her neck out –

    - and says, “Boo.” 


    Photo by Mohamed Nohassi
    i'm torn from the truth that holds my soul
    i'm down in the grave where I belong --

    His mother was too difficult to keep up with.

    They were the same, but also not. He had armor like her, and that strange knife-tipped tail, but he knew he was not exactly like her, and he knew she could see it too. He could respond to her alien-like clicks and sounds, but he found his tongue always wanting to make different ones—trying to form into shapes to match the thoughts in his head, but he never could quite figure out how to do it. He was not as fast as her either, and Ripley did not seem entirely concerned with whether or not he was able to keep pace. He had learned at a young age that he couldn’t afford to fall behind, because she would not go looking for him, and while there isn’t any kind of love that he can decipher, there is a need, an instinct that tells him to keep close if he wanted to survive.

    She taught him what she could.
    He learned to hunt, learned to stalk prey, and learned that the brightest angel in Hyaline was off-limits. But he didn’t like to hunt nearly as much as his mother seemed to be implying he should, and he found that he preferred much smaller game, and only on occasion.

    But mostly, he knew he was different because he could not stop staring at the others.

    The ones his mother avoided, not because she was afraid but because she didn’t seem to care for them. They were prey just like everything else, and they only seemed to be spared if they lived in a protected kingdom, or if his mother was already full. He didn’t want to hunt them, though. He wanted to talk to them in that strange language they communicated in, the one that almost sounded similar to the thoughts inside of his head.

    It’s why when he fell behind on the last hunt—an especially laborious one—he did not try to catch back up. He stood in the middle of the forest and watched his mother disappear into the dark, and when something clenched inside of him (he did not yet know what sadness was) and he hated the way it felt he turned, and he ran.

    It was the first time he learned that he could not outrun that feeling in his chest, but replacing it with a new one—the physical tightening and sharp ache that came from running too far—was just as good.

    He has been in the meadow for a few days now, but no one seemed to pay any mind to the strange looking colt with the galaxy-tinted armor and leathery wings. He was tall in comparison to the others his age (almost a year old now), with the rapidly growing body of a predator designed to be able to fend for itself by this point. In the dark he looks hardly any different from the other oddities that roamed this land of magic and curses, but he is still surprised when he hears a voice behind him—one that seems to be speaking directly to him.

    He turns to find the cat staring at him, crouched in a familiar stance. He recognizes it, that look of a hunter in her eye, but it was unlikely she was expecting this armored creature to turn towards her, and she wouldn't like what she found if she sank her teeth into him. Reflexively, his knife-tipped tail snakes around the front of him, and he flicks it once in warning, his ears flattening back into the armor that covers his neck. “No,” is the only thing he says to her, the single word thick and cumbersome in his mouth, but he thinks she will understand.

    -- f r e t


    Hunting was her birthright.

    There was only so much one could do on their spit of land in the middle of the ocean.  There were only so many sunsets to watch, only so many inland pools to find and sink into.  She had learned to stalk the seabirds on the shoreline and to snag and pull the fish from the ponds instead.  She had grown up wild, free to roam and run and raise a ruckus.  She had been a child born into the Dark but raised in the light, safe from the evil that had once crept in the shadows.  Unlike the twins that preceded her and her own brother, her mother had let her wander, had let her experience her own adventures and misadventures both.  And she’d had plenty of each.  But despite tired feet and a fully belly after a hunt, she hardly ever felt sated.

    It’s why she’s here in the common grounds, she thinks.  Ischia grew too small much quicker than she left it, in fact, but some deeply rooted familial affection had held her back.  Now, with two years behind her, she thinks it might be two years more before she makes her way back to the island – perhaps more, even.

    There is so much to do here, so much to see, that it leaves her breathless. 

    She is speechless, too, when the younger boy turns to look back at her.  He is like nothing she has ever seen before.  And even as colorful and strange as the creatures back home can be, he is wholly different in a way she can’t quite articulate.  So she doesn’t try.  Her jaw slackens, further exposing the pointy predators’ teeth she wears.  Arrowe plops ungracefully on the ground and tilts her head.  His defiant noise is lost on her as she regards him in awe.  From the tips of his horns to the scythe-like tail waving in front of her, he looks like the ultimate predator. 

    “You’re….you’re amazing!”  Her turquoise eyes have remained, and they spark with wonder as she meets his gaze.  She realizes then the defensive posture he has assumed.  “Oh, come on.  I was just having a bit of fun.”  She lets go of the panther shape and slowly emerges as the striped girl she was born as.  A bright smile never leaves her face, even as the fangs retreat.  “Besides, I think you could take me looking like that.”  She wouldn’t mind finding out who would win, truth be told.  But she had promised her mother that she would be careful setting off on her own – at first, anyway.  At least until she knew what she was up against in this new world.  This boy is certainly a surprise. 

    Arrowe’s smile falters when the silence grows around them too long.  There is that same tingling feeling that she can’t place when she looks at him.  A feeling like when she regarded the parrots or dolphins back home, like how she’d tried to talk to them when she was a kid and been met with sounds she couldn’t understand.  She tries to ignore the feeling, because they have other things in common, more important things, she thinks.  “Do you hunt?”  And it seems silly to ask, really, the more she sees of him.  He is born for it in a way that she isn’t.  Even if she can change her body and wear the features of great predators, he needn’t change a single cell of his DNA to bring down whatever prey he desired. 

    She can’t imagine she would seem like a threat compared to him, but she doesn’t want to spook him either, so she moves forward one careful step at a time.  She goes until the blade of his tail is hovering just before her throat.  “I’m Arrowe.” 


    Photo by Mohamed Nohassi


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