September was her least favorite month. Without fail, every year, it brought nothing but bitter winds and endless gray landscapes. It seemed to suck all the magic out of the world. Somehow, it always seemed disturbingly appropriate that her birthday was in September.
Nissa parted the dingy curtains and peered into the early morning mist. The world seemed still, shades of black and gray wearing a thick skirt of white fog. It figures, she thought bitterly, not even a single ray of sunshine on my 16th birthday. Having woken at dawn for some inexplicable reason, Nissa decided to make the most of the day and made to get dressed. Hearing a faint noise, she faltered, dropping her t-shirt and looking up and out of the window. At first glance, she saw nothing. Then, two tiny, yellow pinpricks of light appeared out of the mist, steadily growing bigger.
Who would be coming here at this time? Nissa thought, letting the curtain fall back into place. Moving as quietly as possible, she shuffled out of the room and down the stairs. It was dark in the house, all the lights were off and curtains drawn. It was an old Victorian house, with three imposing stories and an attic. The outside looked old and worn with cheerless white paint peeling away in most places. The inside was just as old and worn but made cozy and homey from the years of orphaned children who have come and gone. The caretaker, Miss Anna, had endeavored to create a happy, loving home for every child in need.
Nissa walked to the front door and peered through the peephole. The vehicle was closer, though still about a half-mile away. Their house, known to the locals simply as “Miss Anna’s”, was the only one at the end of a long and bumpy road, filled with potholes and skirting a steep cliff. Between the forty-foot drop-off to the sea and the rough terrain, Miss Anna’s was not a house often visited.
It was never in her nature to resist curiosity, and she didn’t deign to do so now. She sat down on the bench in the foyer, usually reserved for removing muddy shoes, determined to wait for this mystery visitor. She had only just sat down when she heard soft footsteps descending the stairs. Her heart began to race, though she wondered why – she hadn’t been doing anything wrong, and it was her birthday after all! Still, she quickly scanned the room for a place to hide and found it in the coat-closet beneath the stairwell. She moved quickly in her stockinged feet and froze when she found a weak spot. The loud – CreeEEAaak – could be heard all throughout the big, quiet house. Whoever’s upstairs has to have heard that! Nissa thought as she pulled the closet door nearly closed, yet leaving a small gap wide enough to provide an adequate view of the front door.
As the footsteps descended, dust fell from the stairwell and onto Nissa’s hair and shoulders. Wonderful, she thought despondently, rolling her eyes. By the time she’d finished brushing herself off, she had to wait for her eyes to readjust to the light before making out the figure who was now at the front door. She’d assumed it would be Miss Anna – perhaps to welcome some new kids. But she was taken aback at the sight of a young girl, still in her nightgown, instead. Sabreena? What in the… Before she could complete the thought, the girl opened the door and walked out onto the front porch.
Unwilling to let her ‘adopted’ little sister out of her sight, Nissa followed as quietly as possible. As she crept closer to the door she thought, What the heck is going on? ‘Breena’s been strange since I first met her. She hardly even talks and when she does she says weird stuff. Now, this?! She shook her head in hopes of clearing her thoughts. A crunch of gravel brought her back to reality.
The vehicle had arrived. Nissa crept to the door, surveying the scene intently as ‘Breena descended the steps. Tiptoeing outside, she stood in the shadows on the front porch, keeping a watchful eye. A large gust of wind accompanied the lean woman exiting the vehicle, carrying to Nissa the scent of spiced magnolias. The smell seemed to pacify her qualms a bit, and, when Sabreena ran to the woman and wrapped her in a tight embrace, Nissa’s shock was somewhat less than it should have been.
Garbed in thin, fluttering robes of forest green, and with rippling auburn hair, the woman was a stunning sight. She had about her a regal air which was overtly noticeable, even from Nissa’s hiding spot on the porch.
Sabreena greeted the woman, her words, though quiet, rode the wind to Nissa’s ears so that she heard every syllable. “Hello, Orla. What brings you? Is anything amiss?” Nissa’s jaw dropped. She forgot herself momentarily, as she stood gaping at her little “sister”. Not only did ‘Breena speak to this stranger, but her speech was eloquent and articulate.
Where did that come from? Nissa wondered. Sabreena seemed to be a completely different person – commanding and resplendent; wholly opposite from the occasional whispered mumbles she offered others.
The woman, Orla, spoke nervously, “I have traveled three worlds and five continents to find you, Aeos Chamon.” A sense of urgency accompanied her words, “The news is not good, I’m afraid. Every day, we are losing more of our kind. Soon, I fear, there will be no one left but us. Those who haven’t been imprisoned have either run off or been destroyed. Aeos Chamon, your people need you. Now, more than ever. You must return with me, at once!”
Throughout this speech, Sabreena’s expression never faltered. “Very well,” she said, calmly, “I will not leave my people in their hour of need.”
A relieved expression briefly crossed Orla’s face, then quickly disappeared. “There is another matter yet to discuss before we embark on our journey home.” Turning toward the house, she seemed to look directly through the shadows and straight into Nissa’s eyes.
“Ah, yes, of course. Nissa!” Breena called out, “It’s alright. Come out here,”
Nervously, Nissa shuffled across the shaded porch and down the worn steps, until she was standing about a yard away from the curious duo. She glanced around and noticed, almost subconsciously, the car had no driver, before finally meeting Sabreena’s gaze. As she did, she felt her mounting anxiety finally begin to dissipate.
Sabreena considered her for a moment, then began, “Nissa, I know you must be confused. You were not supposed to find out this way, but our circumstances have changed.”
Locating her voice, Nissa blurted out, “Find out what? What’s going on, ‘Breena? You’re twelve years old! Why are you acting so grown and… and wise?”
Leaving Orla by the driverless car, Sabreena approached Nissa and clasped her hands in her own. “I have been your “little sister,” she said, “for many years now. Surely you have noticed, I am not like other children. I am different. I am different because my soul is not of this world. This physical body you have become accustomed to is but a manifestation of preselected human expressions and body language, formed to create a human figure you deemed visually acceptable.” Letting go of Nissa’s hands, Sabreena continued, “I know this is a shock.” Nissa nodded, not trusting herself to formulate a coherent response. Sabreena reached for a thin, silver chain around her neck that Nissa had never noticed before. “Let me show you what I mean.”
As Sabreena removed the necklace, Nissa noticed a strange, green triangle hanging from it. Then, she noticed Sabreena. She was no longer the sweet, gangly twelve-year-old little girl she knew and loved. ‘Breena was now about twelve-feet tall with long, impossibly bright, blonde hair. Her skin was the color of brown ochre, and she was wearing some kind of armored gown, inscribed with foreign languages and symbols. In a lilting voice akin to an ethereal chorus, her words erupted in a melodic symphony, “This is my true form. It is Orla’s true form, and the true form of all of our kind.” Looking intently at Nissa, she continued, “And it is your true form, as well – sister.”
Returning the necklace to its rightful place upon her bosom, Sabreena became her pre-teen, human self once again. Nissa’s mind was reeling. She had always known Sabreena was a little different, of course – it was part of her charm. Being around ‘Breena made her feel less insecure about her own quirks and character flaws. Nissa had never fit in; not with her parents, obviously, as she had been left on the side of the road as a newborn and deposited into the nearest foster care facility. All her life, she had been surrounded by other children. She watched them being adopted from one orphanage after another and knew, deep down, she was different. I just never thought I was that different, she thought. The memory of how she’d first met Sabreena flashed through her mind.
She’d just been transferred from yet another joyless orphanage to Miss Anna’s Home for Lost Children. That day, Miss Anna had introduced her and one other child – Sabreena. At the time, Nissa was a quirky ten-year-old and ‘Breena was five; she would barely raise her voice above a whisper – when she spoke at all. Nissa had been intrigued with the socially awkward child, and they had struck up an odd, quiet sort of friendship. They soon became quite inseparable, seeming to anticipate the other’s thoughts and needs with little to no words. They had shared a unique bond for years. And, now, Nissa knew why.
Sabreena had been quiet, allowing Nissa a moment to gather her thoughts. Orla walked over to them and whispered, “Aeos Chamon, I am afraid we can delay no longer. We must leave. Now.” Turning to Orla, ‘Breena stated, “Leave, we shall. She is ready.”
“Wait!” exclaimed Nissa in a panic, “I am not ready!” Taking a shaky breath, Nissa tried to calm her nerves. She was definitely rattled. “How do you expect me to learn all of this and immediately afterward be ready to leave for who-even-knows-where with you and some woman I’ve never even seen before?! What about Miss Anna? She’ll be worried sick! Where are we supposed to be going anyway; and…” She wanted to ask, ‘What am I?’, but somehow didn’t have the courage. She wasn’t sure she even wanted to know the answer, anyway. Letting her words trail off in exasperation, Nissa squinted expectantly at Sabreena and Orla, attempting to analyze the situation.
Sabreena closed the small distance between them, wrapping Nissa in a warm embrace and giving her a loving squeeze. Pulling back, she grabbed Nissa’s hands and looked directly into her eyes. “Your hesitation is valid, Nissa,” she said. “You are still trapped in your human form. Once you transcend to your true state, you will be able to more clearly understand who you are.” Stealing a quick, sideways glance at Orla, Sabreena continued, “For now, I can tell you that Miss Anna will be fine; no one will notice our absence. I will explain how on the way if you like. As for where we are going – it has many names, but we refer to it as Silim, which, coincidently, means ‘Peace’ in this world. Pausing, she released Nissa’s hands and continued in a more serious tone, “I know you’re wondering what and who you really are.” She frowned, “I will tell you, but, for now, we must go. Every second we delay puts us – and you – closer to danger.”
Nissa had been listening intently, noting Orla’s discomfort and impatience. She looked with mixed emotions at the big, old house where she and Sabreena had spent so many years. Slowly, she turned back to ‘Breena. “Alright,” she acquiesced, “I’ll go with you.” Nissa looked from one relieved face to the other. “But, I want answers; and I have many more questions to ask.”
“Of course!” replied Sabreena, offering a reassuring smile. Orla hurried to open their doors, Nissa noting her odd, deferential demeanor. Then, they left; just like that, the three of them – a beautiful red-haired stranger and two orphans, still in their pajamas – took off in a driverless car. As the thick fog closed in around them, blocking the house from sight, Nissa felt the beginnings of excitement… and apprehension… stirring from deep within.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this story of mine. It was too fun *not to write! For more free-to-read shorts, visit AshlieHarris.Wordpress.com/Shorts-Excerpts!
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