Misha regains her consciousness in a small underground room after she fainted at the downtown café, which she was wheedled into visiting by a mysterious sparrow. Even as her abductor offers her a golden opportunity to escape, she finds compelled to stay put and listen to the secrets he has in store for her – secrets about her lineage and the powers that she has inherited as a result of it.
Misha felt another fainting spell subduing her but she resisted the temptation – partly because she wanted to cling to the last vestiges of her dignity, though mostly because the rug had finally been pulled out from under her feet and the disorientation had turned into an inexplicable pain. The woman in the photo was unmistakably her mom. After all, she had the same steely grey eyes and sharp cheekbones and the mole near her nose on her left cheek, and the boy beside her was none other than Misha’s kidnapper, who was standing right beside her.
“Your mother and I were friends; she was basically my big sister…”
Before he could finish, Misha found herself turning and running up the stairs and out of Kelly’s basement. While leaving in a frenzy, she glanced back at the freaking mansion behind her. Apparently Kelly lived under a huge castle. She didn’t want to unpack all of that right then and instead decided to sprint back home before her mind underwent any further collapses. The neighborhood was familiar; it was just a few blocks away from the café where she had fainted. She barely stopped anywhere to catch a breath, and ran all the way. By the time she jumped into her room through the window, her lungs were gasping for air like those of a reeled fish.
After making sure that her door was locked, she fell on the chair that stood beside her desk, with her head hanging all the way back. She decided it was best to just stare at the ceiling until she could make some sense out of the recent events, which had occurred at an almost breakneck speed. All this time, Misha had assumed that her life was as boring as everyone else’s and things like these only ever happened in movies and books, and then, the next thing she knew, she was in the middle of a caldron of old, outlandish family secrets about superpowers, bone trees and whatnot. Now she could understand why all those protagonists in her fantasy & sci-fi books kept warning against the magical events that surrounded them. What Misha won’t give to go back to her boring homework and her overbearing mother!
Oh God, her mother! What else has she kept from her aside from her immortal, shape-shifting friend? She couldn’t muster up the courage to ask her yet – she needed time to process, or at least to calm down her thumping heart, which was threatening to burst out of her ribs any second. She got up and lay down on her bed. It was just 6 o’clock; her mother must still be at aunt’s place and won’t come looking for her till it was dinner time. Saturdays were nice like that, with her mother away at Aunt Sunny’s to help with her boutique. That was the case until the disaster that her day had been.
With all the details of the day swirling in her mind, Misha’s psyche finally gave up and she drifted into sleep.
She dreamed that she was falling, but she was strangely okay with it. It felt peaceful, as if she were in control. She landed on a rocky terrain like a cat lands on her paws. The place seemed like it was made of smoke. Everything seemed wispy and intangible. The geography was extremely dissonant in that the place was a dense jungle but the ground below was rocky, and had veins of hot magma visible from above. The whole setting was replete with contrasting landscapes.
Misha found herself walking along a path among the dense foliage, marked by a thicker accumulation of the magma lines. She wasn’t sure if it had only been a few seconds or several years when she found herself standing in front of a grove of trees. They were slender and round, like sugarcane plants, but ten times thicker. They looked like they were made entirely out of chalk, as if your finger would come off white if you touched them. And, at some places on their trunks, small jet-black, berry-shaped flowers bloomed in bunches. Misha raised her fingers up to one of the trees’ bark to check, and it felt like porcelain to the touch, as if it were made of glass with almost imperceptible bumps along the way. The second she touched them, her hands started to prickle, just like they tend to when you sleep on them for too long. And slowly, from her fingertips, the color from the trees indeed started to spread down her hand. She jumped back, trying to shake off the color from her hands, but it was in vain. She tried to wipe it off with her other hand, but that too started turning white.
Slowly and steadily, the color reached her frightened irises as she frantically tried to save herself from the colorless hue. When the color finally reached the deepest part of her being, something clicked and Misha felt like she was burning all over. She fell on the rocky ground and writhed in pain, unable to see, think or hear anything. She could hear her bones cracking like no human should ever be able to hear; she could hear them rearranging themselves. She could feel her organs shifting beneath her skin, as if making space for something. As consciousness started evading her senses, her eyes opened and she could see that the grove was bristling and the black blossoms were withering down the branches enveloping her body. And before the blossoms could reach her eyes, she woke up with a start.
Her bed was drenched with sweat and something else. For a minute, she thought maybe she had wet her bed, or maybe her period had come a bit too early, but when she looked around, there was a circle of black on the covers all around her. Her eyebrows scrunched and when she looked at her fingers, she could see the last of the whiteness furtively fading away.
To be continued…
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