Roots (WIP)

Angela ran. She pumped her arms and legs until they carried her to the edge of town and beyond, through the tall grassy field and up the steep hill that shadowed the town like an imposing mountain. At the top of the hill began a forest, a deep and mysterious cluster of trees that for all she knew enveloped the whole rest of the world. No one ever went into the forest. In fact, most town’s folk made a point of avoiding it. Spirits and demons, they mumbled behind newspapers and mugs of coffee. Like her grandmother, who threatened if she should ever wander in a demon would eat her. But she should really be focusing on the task at hand.

 

Three boys chased after her, yelling familiar taunts. They chased her every day after school, and she always ran. She would try to take a different path every few days or so, just to keep things interesting for her. That day she had decided to take the sidewalk leading out of town. She didn’t bother looking over her shoulder, only focused on the swish of her pink cotton skirt and tall grass against her legs as she made her way up the hill. She wasn’t the most athletic kid in school, but she had become quite the decent long distance runner in recent times. Maybe she would try out of track next fall?

 

“Freak! Better keep running!”

 

As she neared the top of the hill and the forest she heard the boys and their voices fading into the distance. When she reached the top of the hill she skidded to a halt and looked over her shoulder. Sure enough the three boys were walking back down the hill, occasionally shoving one another in a playful manner. They were probably talking about what they were going to have for supper that night, pizza or chicken or whatever their parents made.

 

Putting her hands on her knees, Angela heaved a sigh of relief. She took off her backpack, pink and white with sparkles set into the plastic front cover. It was an image of the sky, full of stars she had never seen. Leaning against the nearest tree, she looked first at the setting sun in the west. Pretty pink and orange hues coated the sky like frosting. She looked up at the tree, thick green leaves waving down at her in the slight breeze. Everything was quiet, the sounds of her town minuscule even to an attentive ear. Truth be told, this was not her first time at the edge of the forest. Once or twice, or maybe even five times, she had found herself wandering up the grassy hill to examine the forest the town seemed to dislike so much. She had never gone past the tree line, but still found she didn’t mind the peace and quiet that came with being closer to a cluster of trees than a cluster of people, regardless of any old demon her grandmother threatened her with. Sighing, she slid down the tree trunk until her knees touched her chin and began tugging absentmindedly at her pig tails.

 

The sun continued to set, and Angela continued to stare off into the distance. She really should be on her way home, it was getting late. Her eyes squinted at the sun, almost gone now, as she folded her arms over her knees and let her cheek rest in the crook of her elbow. Her eye lids drooped down and closed. When she opened them all around her was cool darkness. Yawning, she unfolded herself from sleep and stretched until all the joints in her body felt taunt as a bow string. Sighing, she looked up at the sky and imagined the scolding she would get when she finally walked through the front door. A movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention, a patch of black moving against the grey.

 

She looked closer, and out of the shadows emerged a tall figure shrouded in a black cloak with the head of a fox’s skull. It stretched out a hand, skeletal like it’s head but human, to pick at a few small mushrooms it found growing near the tree line. It took a few steps, occasionally stooping, picking and planting mushrooms, pushing aside grass and digging in the dirt with its thin ivory fingers. Finally, only a few feet away, it noticed Angela in her bright pink converse shoes with glow in the dark laces. Seeming to give a little start the creature froze, staring at Angela as she stared back.

 

“Hello there.” The creature said. Its jaw did not move, but she knew the voice had come from it.

 

“Hello,” Angela said. “Are you going to eat me?”

 

“Eat… you?” The creature looked taken aback. “Of course not. I am strictly vegetarian.”

 

“Oh.” Angela nodded. “What are you doing?”

 

The creature continued to stand still, except to fidget with its hands the small bag it held. “I am picking and planting mushrooms. It is the season you know, and nighttime is the best time to do this sort of thing.” The creature seemed to look her up and down. “Who are you?”

 

Excitedly, Angela jumped to her feet and skipped up to the creature. “My name is Angela; I live in that town down the hill.” Holding out her hand, she looked up into the two black pit eyes of the creature expectedly. Looking down at her, the creature obliged and took her hand in its own, giving it a good shake.

 

“My name is Wald. Spelled with a W but pronounced with a V.”

 

Angela stared up at Wald, fascinated with every river bed crevice in its skull and worn thread in its coat. “How do you talk if your jaw doesn’t move?” She asked.

 

The creature again looked taken aback. “I… do not know. I have never thought about it.”

 

“Oooooooohhhh.” Angela cooed. Her eyes shined wide in the night light. “You’re so cool. Is the rest of your body a skeleton too? Why is your head a fox but your hands human? Do you have feet?” The young girl grabbed at the creature’s cloak only to have it gently but firmly yanked away.

 

“Why are you here? At this time of night?”  Wald asked. Just then a deep rumble came from Angela’s stomach. Gasping, she slapped her hands over her abdomen and looked up at the creature, slightly embarrassed. If Wald had eyebrows, she was sure it would have risen them. Sighing, it set down its sack of mushrooms and reached into its sleeve. Pulling out another sack, it motioned for Angela to sit back down against the tree she’d fallen asleep against. Obeying, she watched with wide eyes as Wald sat down next to her and opened the sack. A small spread of bread and cheese greeted her on the grass soon after.

 

Angela looked at Wald. “I was not expecting a fox to like bread and cheese.”

 

Wald chuckled. “I am not a fox.”

 

“What are you?” Angela asked, already stuffing bits of food into her mouth.

 

“I am the forest.” Wald explained. “I am the trees and the grass, the water in the creeks and the air that ruffles the leaves.”

 

“That’s cool.” Angela said, chewing thoughtfully. “How old are you?”

 

“As old as time.” Wald said. “Yet as young as the new leaves every spring.”

 

“I’m twelve.” She offered up.

 

“Angela,” Wald said. “Why are you here? No one goes into the forest, let alone at night.”

 

“Oh,” Angela said. “Some boys chased me up here this afternoon. It’s no big deal. I’ve been up here a few times by myself just to wonder around. I’ve never been into the forest though.”

 

“No one has been into the forest in quite some time.” Wald said.

 

“Everyone’s too scared to.” Angela continued talking in-between bites. “They think the forest is haunted by a demon. I think that’s supposed to be you.”

 

“Humans are strange.” Wald said, staring down at the small quiet town at the bottom of the hill. “When did that happen?”

 

“People have always been strange. Least for as long as I’ve been alive. You probably never noticed. Do you have more cheese?” Wald reached into its sleeve again and pulled out a branch of berries.

 

“Dessert.” It said.  “Why were those boys chasing you?”

 

Angela shrugged. “I don’t know. Just different I guess. Do you have any friends?”

 

“A few.” Wald said. “Do you?”

 

“No.” Angela smiled. “I’m a freak, and no one wants to be friends with a freak.”

 

Wald thought for a moment. “Why do you come up here? To wander?”

 

Angela shrugged. “It’s quiet. Who are your friends?”

 

Wald thought for a moment. “Not so much friends… From the deers to the birds and even the ants. I am connected to everything within my presence. I am their home, and they are my reason for being. I am never alone, and neither are they.”

 

“Sounds nice,” Angela said, biting into another berry.

 

Wald looked over at her. “You say you have no friends; do you like being alone?” Angela shrugged. “Do you feel alone?” Wald pressed.

 

“Not right now.” She smiled.

 

“Before this?” Angela looked down at her sneakers and shrugged. Wald tilted his head and sighed. “Young one, place you hand on the ground.” It demonstrated, straightening its bones so it’s hand lay flat against the ground. Angela followed suit, cool blades of grass poking through the space between her fingers. Wald looked at her. “What do you feel?”

 

Angela screwed up her eyes, concentrating. “The… Earth?”

 

“Do you think you are ever truly alone?” Wald asked. “We are all connected, all living things, to one another. Even this tree you are leaning against right now, it is a part of you just as you are a part of it. All living things are bound together. We breath the same air and walk under the same sky. True, there may be moments when you are physically alone, even emotionally alone. Sitting in your room at night perhaps. But there are bats flying to and fro, roots growing deeper, and other humans down the block playing cards. Every living thing is related in some way, through the heartbeat of the very planet we all call home. You might feel you are alone, but that could not be farther from the truth.”

 

Angela started up at Wald, a bit mystified. “I guess so.” She said, and looked back down the hill at the town.

 

Wald followed her line of sight. They sat in silence, listening to the cool night air. In the distance, a cricket chirped its opinion. “Those boys who chased you up here…” Wald said. “You are connected to them as well. It is important to remember that.”

 

“Yuck,” Angela scrunched up her face.

 

“All you can do,” Wald reached out and put his arm around Angela’s shoulders. “Is treat them like the family they are. That we all are.”

 

“Like brothers…” Angela suddenly stood up. Looking back at Wald a smile spread across her lips. “Can I ask you a favor?”

 

 

The next afternoon found Angela in a similar scenario; the same three boys chased her after school through the town. Taking the same route as the day before, Angela found herself jogging up the grassy hill that led to the forest. Normally outrunning the boys wasn’t an issue, but exhaustion weighed down her legs. She arrived home late the night before and spent most of her time once there lying in bed staring at the ceiling, thinking back to the conversation she had with Wald. She heard the boys grow closer and closer, and began to panic. What would they do if they caught her?

 

She heard a grand rustling noise and felt the ground shift beneath her. She turned around just in time to see a shadowy figure rise from the tall grass between her and her pursuers. The boys stopped short, staring wide eyed up at Wald, who loomed over them. “Listen carefully little boys,” it boomed. “Whoever trespass this hill is in my domain, and I do not take kindly to those who would bring disorder. This girl tells me you bully her every day. Enough! Do not bother her again or next time you will find yourselves between my jaws.” Wald had steadily moving closer and closer to the boys and was now standing directly in front of them. Bending down to their eye level, it paused for a moment before opening its jaws for the first time, letting out such a furious roar even Angela was impressed. The boys screamed and high tailed it back down the hill, stumbling and pushing each other along the way.

 

Wald turned towards Angela. “I am still not convinced that was the right thing to do.”

 

“Aww come on,” Angela said. “You said it yourself. We’re all family; and I for one think that was a very sisterly thing to do.”

 

“Ask me to scare those boys half to death?”

 

“Yup.” Wald and Angela stood side by side, watching as the last of the boys ran into town and disappeared behind a building. “Do you think anyone will believe them?”

 

“No.” Wald said. “The belief in a forest creature is an old folk tale at best. It is true no one comes up here anymore, out of fear or disinterest, but I do not think I should worry about fire and pitch forks any time soon because of a child’s overactive imagination.”

 

“That’s good.” Angela said. Turning on her heels she started to trek the rest of the way up to the forest. “That way you can help me with my math homework.”

 

Wald looked over its shoulder, surprised. “I am? Oh dear.”

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You Can’t Pick Your Family (Based On A True Story)

“Listen Alley,” Wendy tried to sound stern as she straightened her sister’s shirt collar. “Mom had to work really hard to get us into our new school, so don’t screw this up. I’m not changing schools again because you can’t control your attitude.”

“That teacher was asking for it.” Alley pouted.

“And what about the school before that? Do all teachers deserve black eyes?” Alley raised her eyebrows, wondering if an answer was really asked for.

Wendy struggled with life ─ which is to say she struggled with the people in her life. Namely her younger sister, who had a knack for finding trouble where none existed. Thirty detentions, five suspensions, two expulsions, and one assault charge (later dropped) tickled just the tip of the iceberg. “When you get in trouble I get in trouble.” Wendy said. “This is a private school, which means they have even stricter rules than public ones. Just try to behave, ok?”

“What for?”

“For sanity’s sake.” Wendy snapped. “If you last a week without fighting anyone I’ll give you my ice cream money.”

“Deal.” Alley nodded soundly. Shaking hands they departed their room for the kitchen in search of their mother for their ride to school. Unfortunately due to their mom’s infatuation with the “bonafied” garbage man, who always seemed to visit every week for an extended period of time, the sisters arrived late.

Rushing into the building their mom hustled them to the principal’s office. Formalities where quickly swept aside and Wendy waved down the hall as Alley was led in a different direction to a different class. She hoped and prayed for an uneventful first day.

By lunch Wendy had a favorite everything picked out. Her favorite teacher, her favorite subject, her favorite kid she sat next to. She looked around the lunch room and allowed her usual a-little-too-manic-mature self a sigh of relief. Maybe she’d finally found a place she could settle and grow some roots.

A ruckus over her shoulder drew her attention. There it was. The principal she’d only met that morning and who she judged to be a relative stand-up guy clutched her sister’s shirt as she struggled to run away and pummel anyone within arm’s reach at the same time.

He yelled, she yelled back. Wendy sat too dejected to move as the students around her rushed to the scene. She was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of her sister swinging around and socking the principle right between the eyes, knocking his glasses clean off his nose, before heads blocked her view. Calmly, fighting tears of frustration, Wendy stood and threw her lunch away before heading to the office. Goodbye favorite everything.

By the time their mother was on speaker phone Alley had calmed down and the principal had on a spare pair of glasses. “Miss, I’m sorry, but we cannot have someone with your daughter’s behavior at our school. With her record it was a miracle we even let her in,” he trailed off, glaring across the desk at the young girl. Alley stuck her tongue out. The conversation went on a bit longer but the outcome was unavoidable.         

Their mom made them walk home as punishment. “I am never giving you money for ice cream. Ever.” Wendy cursed her luck for having a sister such as Alley.

“Could be worse,” she argued. “Mom could always marry that garbage man she’s in love with.”

Wendy had to agree. Thank god that would never happen. (The official dating between Mother and the garbage man began about a month later. Marriage followed shortly after.)

Grandpa

Another family story. My grandpa died when I was very young but from the way my mom talked I always imagined him to be a strong man who carried responsibilities well. So when my grandma told me this story I was floored because not only did it undo what I thought of him but also because I had to face the fact I was related to that sort of tomfoolery. We all like to think our parents and grandparents were always grownup and mature, but it’s quite obvious to me now that’s just not the case; which in the long run is alright because it gives me an endless resource of the quirky things people do. Enjoy!

 

Donald ate supper quietly with his grandparents, their home his home. “Going out tonight?” His grandmother asked out of habitual need for small-talk.

“No, I worked really hard today. I’ll probably hit the sack early.” Donald said, compliantly eating the fourth plate of meatloaf and vegetable soup served that week.

“Hmm, I agree. An early night sounds good.” She said, glancing for a moment to her husband to see him nose-deep in the newspaper of the day, read five times through since the morning. Dinner concluded easily and the three bade each other a good night.

An hour later Donald heard a tap on his bedroom window. Rising from his bed, still fully dressed, he crept over and pushed the glass pane up. Looking out into the backyard he saw two slim figures, ushering him to join them. No further provocation needed Donald slipped through the window, dropping to the ground with a soft thud. Jogging to the edge of the yard he smiled at his two best friends, already heading around towards the front of the house. Like a well-oiled machine the operation clicked along; approaching his grandfather’s truck, his much beloved truck, he opened the driver’s door and climbed in. Shifting the gear to neutral Donald motioned to the others. They pushing, he steering, they moved the truck down the driveway and up the road. A safe distance away from his grandfather’s ever primed ears Donald started the truck and motioned to the others to hop in.

Driving down one country road after another the boys rowdily chatted and listened to the radio. “Hey, let’s go tipping.” One friend suggested.

“Yeah,” Donald immediately agreed, turning down another road.

“Didn’t Leona learn about your bad habits?” The other friend piped up, snickering. “She wouldn’t like it.”

“Eh, don’t worry about her. She’s my girlfriend, not yours, remember?”

Living in the country there were only so many things to keep a teenage boy entertained. Stealing onto private property to tip over outhouses was Donald’s favorite. The boys would chose at random, taking opportunities when opportune, but above all else stood on man in particular. An older bachelor, Mr. Road lived at the end of one particularly long stretched of land, far away from any other houses. It might of been his unyielding orneriness towards everything moving or their inability to let sleeping dogs lie, but for whatever reason the boys always paid him a visit when looking for trouble.

Stopping at driveway of said man Donald parked the truck and turned it off, staring down the long dark pathway. Without a word the boys jumped from their seats and crept along the fence, keeping as quiet as possible. Reaching the backyard they found what they sought; knowing it was always more fun to tip an outhouse when it was occupied the boys hid behind a cluster of bushes and waited.

A few minutes later they heard the back screen door to the house swing open and closed. Watching the dark figure of Mr. Road sleepily stumble his way to the small structure the boys waited until he firmly shut himself in before they joyfully skipped their way across the yard. Silently mouthing a countdown three pairs of hands pushed with all their might. Jumping back to see their handy-work the boys were dismayed when the house sprung right back into place, failing to tip over. Donald looked closer and saw thin bungee cords anchoring the outhouse to a nearby tree. So the old fart was learning, he thought in an awed sort of way. A moment later the outhouse door swung open and out stepped Mr. Road, shotgun in hand.               

A sound like thunder echoed over the many surrounding fields as he shot a warning into the air. Donald and his gang ducked to the ground; the sound of Mr. Road’s anger all too familiar and close. “Schomberg!” Mr. Road’s voice rang out. “You little bastard, come on out!” Turning, he spotted the three boys on the ground and raised his gun.

Taking off in a scattered line the boys ran through the yard and jumped the fence, chased by another gunshot and loud curses. Kicking up dirt the boys pealed down the gravel driveway until reaching the truck, sitting patiently where they left it. Jumping into the cab Donald fumbled with the keys while the two others kindly encouraged him. The truck roared to life and the young men drove away, limbs and life intact.

The boys leaned against the cool glass windows to catch their breaths as they drove back to Donald’s grandparents’ house. Stopping the agreed distance away from the property they turned the engine off and once again pushed it down the driveway into the yard, careful to leave it right where the ground was worn from the wear of tires.

“Same time next week?” Donald looked at his cronies. They agreed, having already forgotten the fear of buckshot. Slipping back into the house through his window Donald collapsed into bed and fell straight asleep, content with life and all it held.

The Five Trials of Peru: Trail 5 Part 1

Looking at the house down the street the prince bolstered himself. From a young boy he now stood as a grown man, humble and courteous in all ways; he would be brave in the face of all he ever wanted. Knocking at the door, his men at his back, such and such transpired until Peru sat in the parlor, an impressive room dressed with the finest furniture. Clothed in extravagant silks and jewels the mistress walked into the room with an air of superiority. Looking the prince over she found him satisfying to the eye in all ways.

Pleased with her visitor she ordered slaves to bring meats and dried fruits. “Welcome to my home,” she sat opposite Peru in an overly plush chair. “Eat and drink as much as you like, but please do tell me about yourself all the while.” All too happily Peru recounted his story much to the amusement, horror, and sympathy of the mistress. “You have come a long way to see my daughter; I am honored she would inspire a man so,” she commented.

“Is it too much to hope your daughter is still unwed?” The prince asked, on the edge of his seat with nerves.   

“You are in luck; men from all over the world have come seeking her hand, but all I have turned away in sore disappointment. But you I like for her.”

“How soon can we meet?” Peru looked eagerly around knowing Florette was somewhere in the house he now sat in.

“All in due time,” the mistress put off. “First let us make arrangements for the ceremony.”

The prince’s heart swelled at the notion of a wedding. While the two continued chatting a slave girl entered the room carrying a flask of wine. Leaning down to first pour for Peru he heard the ring of bells, small but catching. Observing her he felt himself struck with the same feelings of adoration he felt all those years ago. Before him stood the image brought to life. It was her, Florette, but more stunning in life than he could have hoped. With tears pouring from his eyes Peru threw himself at her feet, kissing the hem of her dress in ecstasy at finally hearing the bells he dreamt of all those years.

Hastily the mistress jumped to her feet and bade Peru stand from his unattractive position on the ground. “My dear Peru, what has come over you? Are you so seasick you fall at the feet of slaves mistaking them for royalty?” Pushing him back into his seat she shooed the startled slave out of the room.

“That is Florette.” Peru said. “Why has she left?”

“Never mistake a lowly slave for my daughter.” The mistresses snapped. “That girl is vermin scraped from the gutters of the city. My daughter is the only one you seek.”   

“Let me see her then,” Peru persisted.

“This cannot be. It is custom in our country for the groom to see the bride’s face only after they are wed.” Turning from the prince she reasoned, “You are tired after your journey and need rest. Your case of mistaken identity is understandable in such a state. Your men have already retired for the night to rooms I have generously provided. Follow their suit and we shall begin preparations tomorrow. You will be married to my daughter within the week.”

That night Peru lay awake deep in thought, reasoning in his mind why the servant girl he had seen could not have been Florette. It had been many years since the portrait of the noble’s daughter was distorted by the sea, and the finer details of the image were forgotten. But he remembered Florette dressed in fine gowns and head pieces in her drawing; why now would she dress in the simple clothing of a servant and pour wine? Surely the custom of wearing bells in the ears was customary for women of the foreign country. Reminding himself of all the Jinn king told him Peru took ease knowing reality was unfolding just as he said it would. Thinking nothing more of the girl he fell asleep, content after so long a wait he would soon meet the woman he loved. Florette was a lady, a woman of high birth. How could a slave ever compare?

Steven (part 4 of 4)

Sara looked at Steven with sadness. How dull must his life be? Her parents long ago moved on to new and exciting projects and only saw Steven everyday because his tank had yet to be moved from the main room of their facility; and while she was out and about experiencing the world first hand he’d never seen the light of day save through a TV screen.

“Don’t you want more space to spread out? The ocean has tons of that, literally.” Sara commented over supper sandwiches she’d prepared for two.

Steven smiled. “You are so smart and yet think so little.”

“Bite your tongue,” she said, offended. “I only want what’s best for you. Keeping you lock up in here is self-righteous paranoia at best. My parents think if they let you outside other people will take you away and perform experiments,”

“They would.” He interjected.

“They are like children unwilling to share a toy. Do you want that?” She turned to him in flustered anger.

He touched her arm calmly. “Your parents are intelligent, but not perfect. True, my quality of life is probably lacking in certain areas. All I know of life is this tank and what I have learned from books and movies. But it is my fate; the limitations set down by my very existence. You think I belong in the ocean, but I am just as unnatural to that ecosystem as you are. A “fish out of water” one could say,”

“Why are you jokes so lame?” She cringed as he nudged her playfully.

He continued, “I don’t know how to hunt, find shelter, or protect myself from predators. And what’s more, the most important thing, I would be alone. Your family is my family and I would not trade that for all the space in the world. Just stay by my side and I’ll surely be the happiest Steven there ever was.”

Deflated Sara looked into Steven’s eyes, the deepest eyes she’d ever seen. “I love you Steven.”

“I love you too.”        

Steven (part 3 of 4)

After much negotiation and pleading Sara’s parents agreed to enroll her in a local public school rather than continuing to study abroad. After all, what good is a life companion if you never see him? Steven would learn best to live with their daughter by growing up with her, not apart.              

Far below her IQ level Sara came to reign in her mind and soon found joy in the ease of her school work. It allowed for more free time, which she spent in the lab. Watching her parents run tests on Steven filled her with wonder, not in awe of the science involved but for the life show working and thriving.

The following years were spent in constant learning for both. While Sara attended school Steven spent his time enthralled in documentaries and literature, absorbing everything put before him. When Sara visited after school she laid out her homework on the platform next to the tank and they worked out the problems together. 

Before long Sara grew into a somewhat normal teenager. Normal in the sense she disliked her parents on principle and stayed up too late most nights. Somewhat in the sense she still had an above average IQ for someone twice her age and her closest companion was a bioengineered humanoid sea creature. None of that bothered her and she lived life in stable happiness.

One fall day her class took a field trip to the zoo. Sara had never visited a zoo so excitement granted her a restless car ride across town to the brightly colored entrance. Once inside Sara hung back from the cluttered group of peers to observe with her usual studious nature, quietly examining each exhibit and reading every descriptive plaque. The last stop on the tour was the aquarium; blue lights filled Sara’s vision as she gazed up at a tank, the biggest with all the bells and whistles, the zoo’s pride and joy. Filled with all manner of sea creature Sara looked at one fish in particular; strange because this fish wasn’t particularly big, wasn’t particularly colorful, and wasn’t particularly lively. In fact he was small, of a brownish grey hue, and lingered near the bottom without much enthusiasm. When it was time to leave Sara drug herself away with a heavy heart. That night she went straight from school to home, refusing to stop by the lab on the way. She had much thinking to do.                 

Steven (part 1 of 4)

The only child of two prominent biological scientists Sara grew up wanting little. Recognized for her brains early on in life she felt herself carried place to place by boat, by plane, and by car to experience the life her parents saw fit. By five she stepped foot on all major continents and by eight achieved great scholastic achievements in more schools than she had fingers. Everyone marveled at her many gifts – none of which were sociability.

Distant since birth only when laying alone in her crib did she not fuss or whine. As she aged she learned to cope but still regarded physical and emotional attachment with mild annoyance. Her parents, although socially awkward themselves, recognized what an issue it could become. The love in their hearts propelled them to test the desire in their minds in the creation of a solution.   

“Now darling,” Sara’s mother cooed, leading her down the hall by hand. “Mommy and Daddy are very excited about this.” A few months ago Sara noticed a change come over her parents. Never ones to be considered home-bodies they’d begun spending even more and more time at work until simply moving there full time, toothbrushes and all, leaving the house to her and the maids. Of course Sara was a little curious as to what new life-stage brought about such change, but kept well enough to herself and bothered with it little. But when her mother gathered her from afternoon studies, on a rare week of vacation at home and not abroad, Sarah let herself feel a little excited.   

Entering her parent’s laboratory and current home, a large high-ceilinged room far underground. Her father straightened from his cluttered desk and stood. “Darling,” he greeted, unable to hide his enthusiasm. Sara knew her parents were diligent in their work, devoting all their time and energy in whatever they set their minds to, but she felt they could have spared a moment to at least take out the trash. It was piling in the corner… “Come here,” her father held her at arm’s length, admiring how she’d grown since last he saw her. “We have something wonderful to show you.” Without further ado Sarah’s hands, held by her parents, led her to the center of the room where a giant circular tank posed, a story high and several yards wide.

Stopping a few feet away she gazed into the clear water. The exhibit left no space for hiding, so there he was. He remained still but she never doubted for a second he was alive. “What is it?” She asked.

“Not what, sweetheart, who.”

“Where did you get him from?”

“Nowhere sweetie.”

“You had to have gotten him from somewhere.”

“Well darling, humanoid sea creatures don’t actually exist in real life.” Her mother explained. “They just don’t. Odd, I know. We don’t really know why. So we thought: why not make one?”

“We know because of your travels and studies you don’t have time to make friends, so we made one for you. We thought, maybe if you’re interested, he could be a sort of play companion for you. Like a brother. You always wanted a brother…” Her mother clasped her hands fondly.

“Of course he can never leave this room.” Her father interjected. “He can’t leave the water for extended periods of time and even if he could, people would become jealous of you and steal him away. So don’t tell anyone about your new sibling, alright Sara?”

“Can he talk?” She asked.

“No, not yet.” Her father frowned. “He was created a blank slate and we have slowly been introducing him to different subjects. Maybe someday he’ll be as smart as you.”

Sara slowly approached the tank and, peering inside, touched her nose to the glass. She watched as the long-bodied creature, “Steven V” a plaque above her head numbered him, opened his eyes. Slowly he rose up and swam closer. She gauged him part mermaid, part dog.

Swimming up to the glass he examined her, sizing her up. Never had she seen such deep eyes. She heard her parents hold breaths in the background. Nothing was certain. Would they like each other? Would they bond as hoped? Would she appreciate him or continue to show little interest in any sort of interaction? Would he fulfill his purpose in life or would the fifth installment backfire at the most crucial moment?

After agonizing moments Steven touched his nose to the glass as well. In the mind of a child, even one as intellectually inclined as Sara’s, with that simple act and the knowledge he was hers there was no question. “Certainly,” she said. “Like a brother.”