Plaid skirt blew into the cool winds. Summer nearing its end, leaves already drying and plummeting off their branches. Jennifer, who preferred Jenny, walked briskly home. Pulling a cotton jacket over her timid frame.
Jennifer now Jenny Green, the miraculous orphan girl who survived a fiery Airship accident and mass orphanage homicide. Bare feet covered in mud, strewn hair, blood in her skirt. A little, helpless girl with her head in her knees. Sitting outside the quiet orphanage gates. Rusty threshold agape, opening to the world a grisly crime. Anthony Dolittle had been the first officer at the scene. Appearing on road to the building, seeking an answer to the halt in letters from one of the orphan’s guardians. The cook, Martha Carol, simply stopped writing her concerns.
Normally she’d mention her grievances over the children. That a few, namely young teen girls being treated in less than parental ways. The Cardington Police never bat an eye at that. Even so, Dolittle requested to visit and expected to arrive at brunch time. Whistling his way, enjoying the morning silence. However his enjoyment dissolved away, seeing a disheveled girl child. She was sobbing, shaking, and most of all not in good health. Her nimble hands bruised and cut. Clothing slightly tattered, damp with mud.
Those were the last moments Jennifer wanted to recall. Pondering that moment when Dolittle escorted her away, to a new life. Months under another’s custody, a kind woman eventually adopted Jennifer. A week after the fact, the Orphanage was accounted for bodies. All orphans, excluding Jennifer, caretakers, and a pea farmer found their violent ends there.
She was thankful she’d never have to come back. Even so, all that was left a charred remainder of a building. The investigation lasted only a few weeks, with her words on the crime; the Police eventually took it for fact. After closing the investigation, it was possible some drunken teens came by and burned the building down. Maybe it was anxious mothers, religious men, or nature’s justice. Otherwise Jennifer forced herself to forget. Forced the insults, berating, and violence down. All through to her late teenage years.
Only wallowing to eventually accepting, solemnly remembering the trauma in the village park. Away from people and society the better. Spending her down time, most weekends, possibly late nights; to sit down on a bench to sleep, cry, or brood. Better than facing a therapist who wouldn’t understand. Jennifer swept a loose strand behind her ear, returning home from a cumbersome day at the park. Tapping leather shoes across the sidewalk onto cobblestone streets. Greeting elderly neighbors and vigorous children; doing a signature friendly wave at Dolittle doing his daily rounds.
Pulling a spare key under the rug, she pushed open the front door. A homely cottage neighboring her mother’s florist shop.
Sliding her jacket off, Jennifer called out.
“Mother, I’m home.” Her adopted mother, Eliza Green a stocky, aged character who loved and cared for Jennifer as much she did to her flowers. Ushered Jennifer in with a hug.
“Jenny!” A name Jennifer commonly went by, her own birth name felt bitter to say. Thanks to the likes of Wendy and her hierarchical clique.
Both 𝘑𝘦𝘯𝘯𝘺 and Eliza were as close as two peas in a pod. Respecting each other's boundaries as early when they first met. Back then Jennifer became a shut in mute, sitting idly near a windowsill. Looking onward towards Eliza’s flower garden; especially at the roses. During her first, successful conversation with Jennifer; Eliza learned roses held a peculiar spot in Jennifer’s mind. That status she still doesn’t know fully of, but it was progress. Conversations became more routine, passing a fact about oneself. Maybe over hobbies, favorites, soon Jennifer enjoyed Eliza’s presence. Outside to school, Jennifer relinquished her talkative side to be meek. Near girls and boys her age, remembering her horrid mistreatment. Not taking a chance to talk and even spare an intenful glance.
Now at the age of 20, no longer a child but not yet and adult, Jennifer upheld her daily schedule. Even at times of war, as it were now, it brought order to an otherwise confused clutter of her Country’s politics. By day Jennifer assisted in the floral shop, arranging flowers, tending to customers. Any empty time not towards the shop, she spent at the park. Such as a day like this.
Nighttime would soon come, by then Jennifer already settled in for sleep. Supper was small but adequate, crickets still sung or rather chirped. Eliza tuned on the radio, ten minutes the broadcaster droned on over politics; the war. Switching briefly to a local intermission
Stuffy voice pitched in, fumbling his first few words. His tone was confused, slightly on edge when he read the report.
“Reports of farmers sighting... destruction land and giant... claw markings?”
Jennifer curled deeply into her patchwork blanket. Ignoring the man’s voice, she lent her attention towards her bedroom window. Facing the garden, she heard deafening rumbles of a German Blitz, it sounded just like thunder. She shuffled comfortably to her side, and not a wink of fatigue allured her to sleep. Jennifer began diving into her thoughts once more. Crippled in her mind to even go into detail about the Orphan years, she dove deeper. Remembering her own parents felt impossible. Managing only to recall slightly of what they sounded, did, or better yet looked like.
Before the day, the accident she was strolling through the Airship’s narrow halls. Devoid of any other passengers or crewmen. Clad in only her nightdress, and a rose in hand given by her mother; she held closely, hands curled around the stem tightly. Stumbling across a wide glass window. The outside cloudy sky, miserably grey even at night. She remembered in youth, seeing bright red. Swirling slow with elegance and a narrow face cut through.
A creature only found in dreams, in myth. Swimming it’s obsidian colored vines toward the ship, towards her. And arose in front for Jennifer to see, chirping a cacophony before disappearing.
She jolted awake, heart beating haphazardly. Jennifer stiffly got up, sitting upright on her bed. Pulled on the chain of her lamp, retaining a stoic composure Jennifer turned her head to the window. A slight rumble reverberated in the ground...
Today was Yu’s lucky day, the library closed early and it was sunny. Past week had been raining with cold, cold winds. She’d left her umbrella at the Takano house, finding the umbrella with a ripped whole after Chinatsu left her cat out; a black kitten who still had their claws.
A full three years since the pharmaceutical lab had since burned down. Surviving zombies and containment of the cerebral toxin had been since destroyed, never to see the light of day. Hitoshi and Yu kept contact through those 3 years, however it may be he simply didn’t answer her calls or write back anymore. A relatively recent reality she had to face, chalking it up to him being busy. He was a detective by profession; one who dealt with illegal experimentation and lived in another city altogether. Sure it might have taken a few minutes to wait on the phone, but he was punctual. Making up that lateness with long calls, how they were doing, etc.
The passing of her father, Takashi, and other relatives had left unstable ground to live in. Bates wasn’t much help, in fact he never came up that often now that she thought of it. It was better that way, she never left her amulet either just in case.
Due to her wallflower personality, landing a job at the library. A nice, quiet place and everyone was quaint. Haven for an introvert like Yu, it even paid well enough for her to get on her own feet.
Aunt Yayoi was generous to house Yu for year or two. A year she stayed under the Takano Residence until Yu finished high school. After graduating she moved out into her own apartment, much to the dismay of Chinatsu. The day she moved, Yu promised to her only living relatives to visit often.
Now, Yu did indeed keep that promise. She had a relaxed smile, her once short hair grew out touching her shoulders. Yu wore a lilac sundress, covering her arms in light green jacket.
Chinatsu skipped by her older cousin’s side. Donning a girl’s school uniform, long pigtails and an infectious smile. Being that Yu hadn’t a day of work, she offered to bring Chinatsu home whom was delighted. The girls walked from school to home, hand in hand; swinging back and forth. Enjoying the cityscape, Yu was abruptly interrupted in her quiet mirth. Chinatsu, springing up and down to get Yu’s attention.
“Can we get ice scream?”
“Hm... I see why not. Don’t tell your mother though.” She winked at Chinatsu who nodded.
Buying and savoring the ice scream on a spring day was a great decision. Yu put to Chinatsu’s credit, both continued but taking a longer route. Strolling into a scenic park. Flowers bloomed, trees outstretched. Puddles still inhabited the cement grounds.
Taking a brief walkthrough, Yu already finished her frozen treat, simply awaiting Chinatsu to finish her’s and they’d be off again. The little girl wiped melted excess off her chin, letting out a grunt of annoyance. Yu giggled at the ten year old’s little antics. Licking her thumb to wipe a missed spot on Chinatsu’s forehead that somehow got there.
“Ready?” Yu said, Chinatsu nodded and grabbed her hand.
Strutting back to Urban Osaka, Yu grasped her mini satchel. Fingers feeling the cracks in the thin leather, a faint outline of a rectangular object; her mikoshi amulet. Every once in a while Yu felt a flare of anxiety through her being. Constricting her breathing, Yu’s heart beating loud as drums.
It was happening now, but the assurance of her amulet being present didn’t help subside.
“Y-Yu my hand!” Chinatsu stuttered out.
She was lagging behind Yu’s skirt, unable to catch up to her brisk pace. Yu gasped, quickly letting go of Chinatsu’s little arm. Her grip at least wasn’t tight enough to cause bruising, something Bates would do.
“Oh Chinatsu, I’m sorry...”
The little girl looked up, shrugging lightly with a grin. She was easy to forgive.
“It’s alright.” Chinatsu said.
Yu smiled and ruffled her hair. Walking slowly, Chinatsu skipped ahead and babbled on her school. Yu listened intently, her heart still kept beating.
A quick flash of a person passed by her view. A man who was working a stand they’d pass by a minute prior. Other people, workers and walkers passed or rather sprinted. Yelling ensued, shouters screaming “a large monster.” Another yelled something of an ash cloud destroying buildings and debris flying.
Yu yanked Chinatsu out of the stampeding civilians, into the safety of an empty road. They were on a four way interchange on the central highway now, following beside the crowd. Office buildings surrounded the highway roads, recently abandoned cars infested everywhere. Chinatsu whined to slow down but the shouting crowds drowned out her pleas. Yu abruptly tugged at her cousin once more. Standing in an empty spot at the interchange, posed between a few cars. Yu looked up to see the anomaly causing this havoc.
She pulled Chinatsu into her arms protectively, a blast of cold air violently shoved them. Those who were running tripped or fell, doomed to get trampled on.
High pitches scream sliced into the blaring winds. Yu opened her eyes to see plumes of dust and business papers wavered in the winds. Anybody in the stampede disappeared to safety. Her heart, Yu couldn’t feel a beat... Chinatsu screamed.
Tapping her nails against a plastic clipboard. Eyeing down transaction documents; questions on identity. Common sight for Fiona, with all her atypical medical issues flaring up again. Awaiting further treatment, which at grave shift would’ve taken a good hour. People speeding at night in a city that never sleeps.
She sighed in boredom, at least after this unexpected checkup she could dive into bed. Art school finals in the current quarter didn’t terrify her; she finished projects faster than thunder. Keeping her essays and art pieces strapped in thick binders by alphabetical listing. Reading or rather skimming books over renaissance architecture as the professors took in her work. Relaxed and normal, just the way she wanted it in daily classes.
She didn’t entirely lack friends, otherwise Fiona wouldn’t be here. Sienna, a close friend Fiona met before the whole... accident.
In studies, Siemens, whereas Fiona studied illustrative and architectural design. Sienna preferred photography, photojournalism, anything that was her behind a camera. Merit wise, Sienna cared even listened to Fiona’s bizarre retelling of the accident. She never questioned, disbelieved or anything. She hummed, listened and offered any comfort.
Going far as to accommodate Fiona’s transport, since Sienna could drive. Fiona got a free, preferably safer mode of coming to their shared apartment to school. Earlier today Fiona, by her greatest luck got a flare in her knee. She knew since childhood arthritis and anemia plagued her joints, but flaring up severely was rather atypical. Maybe like her homunculus of a father, these joint diseases would worsen by age. Of course she probably wouldn’t say it the rheumatologist.
How her paternal side of the family are artificial beings, living resultant of an egomaniac alchemist searching for the “great truth.” She simply wrote on the documents arthritis was hereditary and let everything else slide.
9:25, the nurse fetched the papers nearly half an hour ago. Sienna dropped her off nigh 20 minutes earlier than that, yet no doctor had shown up. Shifting uncomfortably in the waiting chair, the exam room luckily had a window. Fiona gazed out into the dark sky, good chance it was going to storm at midnight. She’d rather end this meeting before that. Before... another car accident.
Fiona didn’t know if she was being paranoid. Driving forced her heart to beat in literal terror, the mere idea of being behind the wheel and at night. She just couldn’t stomach it. Her hands felt shaky, a good distraction from the aching in her right knee.
Fiona placed her backpack right against the left side of the chair. Rummaging through and pulling out a small, sequined coin purse. A little gift from her late parents during a Christmas many, many moons ago.
Fondling the intricate, swirling patterns of orange and green beads. A vague pattern resembling a flourishing sun, petals and vines spiraling around it.
Opening the gilded clasp, her nimble fingers reached in. She smiled at a grainy photo, corners crumbled in. A slightly monochromatic photo Sienna took, a smiling Fiona and Hewie. Sitting atop a former boulder piece in the middle of a hiking trail in late Summer. Taken maybe a year and half ago, months after Fiona came back overseas. A happy moment in lingering despair, comforting Fiona even now.
Savoring the intimate moment a strange flash of lightning strikes by? No, too big and too vast an aura. Fiona turned, just the usual city outline and park glades. Nothing out the ordinary as she retreated her attention back to her photo. Happened again, this time on instinct Fiona focused her eyes on the flash. Like a wave of dawning sunset, golden dust floated in earthy twilight and she sat there amazed.
A creature... no an almost angelic being flew out there. The unpleasantness of this brightness didn’t bother her, it was comforting.
Beyond, in the great opaqueness of night. Lying far from the artificial lights blared from dawn to dusk. Hiding it’s mysterious being. Many of this likeness wandered vast, untamed forest. Not in a manner of unpredictability, conducting their drifting in a way of a search. Sauntering forward only stopping to raise their mighty snouts, or what resembled one.
Writhing body of vines and thorn. Gaunt appendages carried the vine’s body, silvery spine connected all. Finally the head, a narrow, beak face. Eyes round black containing golden pupils. Around this taper head, holding a crimson mane consisting of momentous petals. Formerly entwined together in dormancy, now flaring openly making this creature feel large. In dark these petals waved in air like a red cloud.
It growled shoveling foliage away. For a brief moment it’s hunched state jostled itself. For a moment, excitement warranted the creature to move. A scent of seasoned brick. A building that had faced many winters with a tiled roof. Rusted gates to molded, and rotting wood. The adrenal in young adolescence caught the creature’s attention. For whatever it might have been in search; perhaps it was close.
But, beset induced to rage. The building that was nothing more than ash, no children’s scent lingered here. For only those fragrances thrived in a past long forgotten. Now another clue to find.
However it was tricky to catch small specificities, especially in odor. Rummaging large claws that easily destroyed still standing walls, it hissed. Premonitions geared to the past painted a canvas of abuse. Though but a being similar to an animalistic plant. It understood these malignant acts, acts that hurt it’s chosen.
A flicker of hope came to, a metallic, dirty evocation. Immediately it knew where to go now, a village miles down the road. Home of their chosen.