A Winds of Change story
By Doug Linger
Mano’s dad drove me home, since my bike was still at school. The journey home was done almost completely in silence. The day had just been too long and tiring—physically and emotionally—to bother with idle chatter, and neither of us wanted to get into anything deeper than that.
I paused for almost a minute after I saw the Jeep’s taillights disappear around that last corner. I knew what came next would be unpleasant.
Finally, I took a deep breath, gathered my nerve, and walked into my house.
My parents were both in the family room. My mom was watching tv, and my dad was doing some work in the corner, his black wings unconsiously spread over the desk as if to shield it from any disturbance.
"Hi guys," I said as I entered the room. I generally try to go into trouble spots with an air of nonchalance until things hit the fan. I don’t always manage it, but I think I did this time.
"Michael!" my mother exclaimed, and stood. "I’m so glad you’re back."
"Mom told me about Todd," my father said. He put down his pen and turned the chair around, his wings resuming a more relaxed position. "You guys find him?"
"Yeah, we found him." Both of them exhaled in relief. "His leg got broken, though." I gave them the brief version of the search, skipping over certain parts.
"Poor Todd," my mother said sympathetically. "We’ll have to get him something. A book or something for while he’s recovering."
I rolled my eyes. My mother always seemed to think of books first when it came to gifts. Probably came of being an English teacher. "Yeah, I guess so. I’ll be in my room. I’m beat."
I almost made it. I was one step from leaving the room when I heard my father say, "A moment, Michael."
Here it is... I thought, and turned. "Yes?" I prompted as casually as I could.
"You skipped class today," my mom said. "You skipped half a day, in fact."
"Damn straight I did. That was Todd out there! And I’m the one who let him go! You think I was going to just sit in class?"
"From everything I’ve heard, it was not your fault. And Mr. Niles gave you the walkie-talkie to keep track of the search after specifically telling you to go to class. And to top it all off, you missed a test."
Whups! I’d forgotten about the test. The problem—one of several, actually—with having my mother work at the school I attend is that there’s little chance of hiding school events or of twisting what really happened in my favor. She likely got the information straight from my teachers.
"I was looking for Todd, for Chissakes!" I shouted involuntarily.
"We know. But you need to attend class, Michael!" my mother sounded frustrated. "You have to look at the larger picture. That’s your future you’re building there!"
"The future is a hell of a lot less important than what’s happening in the present!" I shouted back, outraged. "Fuck the ‘big picture’! You two are so busy looking at the forest you don’t look at the trees!"
"School is too important to—" my father started.
"So are friends!" I interrupted.
"Shouting at us will not make us change our minds, Michael."
"It’s needed to get it through your skulls, though!" Whups! That’s not the thing you say out loud in a situation like this, no matter how justified.
"You, young man, are gounded!"
"You can’t do that!" I knew I’d made a mistake, but there was no way I was going to admit it. Certainly not to them.
"We do not appreciate being called idiots," my mother said icily. "Now go to your room and think it over."
Going to my room was hardly a big deal, since there was a computer and tons of books in there. Being grounded, though, sucked. That it was my own fault didn’t help my mood much.
"Shit," I sighed once I was upstairs. I hate when I do something stupid like that. Might was well get something done, though... I started in on my homework, depressed.
The rest of the week was a regular roller coaster ride of highs and lows—unusual, since there were only two days left in the week. The major downer was that those two days were spent in detention. Mr. Niles didn’t like me disobeying him any more than my parents did. It was no less than I’d expected, though, so I took it pretty well.
On the upside, I was allowed to retake the test in Poikilothermal Properties. Despite my mother’s feelings over it, I would have been surprised if I hadn’t been; the reason why I skipped class was a good one, and it was hardly unverified.
It was other news that really made my day, though. It seems that Nate and Glenn were both suspended for four days. It might have been expulsion if Nate hadn’t clung to his story that his inducing Todd into his norm form was the first use of that Power. Even with Powers tests, such things are common enough that Mr. Niles had to accept his story.
This was the last day of my imprisonment, and the whole ordeal had been boring. Especially the weekend. Yesterday had been Saturday, which usually would have meant marching band for a football game, but it had been rained out. Today I’d have gone to the Aldens’ for Stripes’ band—which we still have yet to find a good name for—but, of course, I couldn’t this week. I wondered how they were doing with two members of the band missing. I’d spent the time I would have been playing my drum finishing up my model of the F-117. It had been too easy, with all those flat, straight parts, and now there was nothing to do again.
Todd’s surgery had been three days ago, and he was "recovering well" according to the doctors. He may even be back in school late this week, just in time for the school’s Halloween dance this Friday. Although he’s going to need at least crutches for a while and the physical therapy after school will put a crimp in the regular gang doing anything together.
I sighed, thinking about that Wednesday. It had been surprisingly hectic, to be sure. But it had been surprising in another fact as well: every one of my friends had something Change-related happen to them. But I hadn’t.
I was past being annoyed, I was getting worried. It had been over two weeks since I had had my First Sign, and not others had appeared. Surely this wouldn’t be the extent of my Change! Even though I had Changed, I still looked fully human, and that would make me almost freakish in these days after the Change had hit.
Hell, I still don’t know what I am. Well, except cold-blooded.
Right then I decided to end the dual torture of boredom and not knowing what I’m becoming. I was going to try to norm-shift.
I’d have to be careful, in several ways. People who were undergoing their Change were supposed to test their Powers, even such a mundane one as this, under more controlled circumstances. Otherwise, if someone in norm were to lose control to their instincts, it could make for a Situation. A raccoon like Todd is bad enough; imagine how easily a mouse could be lost, or how much damage an elephant could do before they regain their senses.
The other way I’d have to be careful was more mundane: if my parents found out I took such a risk, they’d kill me.
When I plan something out, I plan it out right. I took all the precautions I could against leaving clues behind or worse, getting caught red-handed. Or green-clawed, as was more likely. I double checked that my parents were indeed gone, probably to look at wallpaper for the master bath; they’d wanted that redone ever since we moved in. I closed the door to my bedroom, to prevent myself from leaving if my instincts overwhelmed me. I wasn’t worried about breaking down the door; most things large enough to do so were warm-blooded. Lastly, I stripped and put my clothes on the bed; getting them shredded would be a pretty big clue that something had happened that shouldn’t have.
Naked, I stood in the middle of my bedroom. I tried to picture the mental barrier that was the standard metaphor for the difference between the morph and norm forms. It wasn’t long—less than a minute, surely—before one came to me. A wall, like those in any ordinary house. There was a doorway in it, no door in sight. There we go. Not much of a barrier, is it? I took a deep breath, and walked my mental self through.
I hissed in surprise as I was nearly blinded by a bright flash.
Well, I’d always wondered if they could see their own flash as they shifted. Guess that’s answered...
I didn’t have time to dwell on it, though, before I began having to cope with my new form. Which was hardly easy. The shift was disorienting enough due to the flash, but the shift in perspective was hard to get used to. I’d been told countless times about having to adjust to the view from having eyes on either side of my head, and the idea of viewing things to either side instead of straight ahead. There was some of that to be sure, but nobody ever mentioned viewing behind me at the same time as viewing in front of me. And both views kept shifting almost randomly; it took me several seconds to realize that my eyes were moving independently.
Ack! Hey, stop! Stop! Ack... I thought at my eyes. I sat there for several minutes, merely trying to get the damned things under consious control. I never did manage it, they looked where they looked, and that was that. But by the time I gave up on that project my mind had somewhat acclimated to my eyes’ antics, and I could make sense of the perpeptually shifting image. Images, rather.
I took a quick look around my room; everything looked different. I was definitely smaller; no alligator, I. This I gathered by how my bed and dresser and, well, pretty much every other piece of furniture loomed far above me. Then I concentrated on my own body as it flicked in and out of my sights.
My color vision was pretty much gone like this, and I spared a thought to hope that I would keep it in morph, at least. I had a tail that looked to be at least as long as the rest of my body. My fingers and toes had become long and tipped with short claws, and I had the stereotypical saw-shaped crest along my back. The most surprising features of my anatomy were the three horns protruding forward from my face, two at eye level and one from the tip of my snout.
And I’d seen all that without turning my head once.
Only then did I realize I hadn’t planned this as well as I’d thought; there was no mirror in my room. Not that I’d really needed one, with these eyes... but it was something I was used to. I began concentrate on envisioning the wall and doorway again, preparing to change back. I would do this again in the bathroom.
Before I could, though, a roach scurried in front of me. My instincts, until then largely vacant, suddenly manifested. For the first time, my vision stopped shifting as both eyes locked onto the insect. My mouth opened, my tongue...
Oh shit, my tongue. Before I could override myself my tongue shot from my mouth like a catapult. The tip hit the roach dead center, and in another second I was chewing the thing.
I had no trouble changing back to morph after that. I dressed as quickly as I could—no clothing would be as bad as shredded clothing. About halfway done, what just happened finally hit: I had eaten a bug. A bug!
I was heaving into the toilet before I realized it. I was rather surprised that anything came up; it had been four days since my last meal. But there were chewed-up insect bits, significantly larger than an insect would normally have been, along with plain, unidentifiable mush. Seeing it there did nothing for my constitution, and I quickly bent over the bowl again.
"You look a bit green, Michael," my mother said. She and my father had gotten home not long after I got out of the bathroom; I’d spent more time looking at myself in my bedroom than I’d thought.
"Maybe it’s another surge," I replied, trying to sound hopeful.
She snorted. "Green as in ill, I mean."
I smiled weakly at her. "I know. I have been feeling nauseous for the last hour or two."
"You probably just caught a bug."
I started. It’s just an expression... "That reminds me, we have roaches. I saw one in my room today." And ate it... I had to stop that thought before I got nauseous again. "I’m gonna go up there and rest now."
In my room, I booted up the computer and cot connected to the ‘net. I started to look for pictures of various small reptiles, looking for a match. It took a while, much longer than I’d expected. It was hard to match the photographs to what I’d seen earlier, due to the difference in points of view.
Eventually I found some that I thought matched reasonably well, though. Apparently I was going to be some sort of chameleon. Just which type was difficult to tell; I knew I had horns, which narrowed it down, but past that it was impossible to say. I guess I’ll need someone else to tell me exactly which chameleon I’ll be, I mused. I couldn’t wait to tell the gang at school tomorrow.
I started to download information on chameleons off the web. I wonder
if this means I won’t have to get a Halloween costume? I laughed softly
to myself, echoing the chuckles of the disk drive.
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