Home » The Crystal Hall » Fan Fiction » Spellsong, part one
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|Re: Spellsong, part one [message #54189 is a reply to message #54188 ]
||Thu, 23 February 2012 01:48
Registered: October 2011
I knew I shouldn't complain about being on a Mediterranean cruise, but I wasn't exactly having a great time. It wasn't the cruise itself, it was the people I had to spend time with. Mom was drinking too much but no one would say anything about it, Dad was criticizing the rest of the family about our attitudes and how lucky we were that he'd gotten such a great deal on a cruise trip, especially in this economy, and why couldn't we all show a little more enthusiasm about it, and my brother and sister were picking on me as usual.
It wasn't much different from home.
Still, it was a beautiful view, and it would have been nice to sit on the deck and read one of the books I'd brought, if Tiffany and Dan would quit bothering me, and Dad wouldn't lecture me about why I couldn't participate more instead of just staying in my own world, and how maybe I could go and talk to some of the other kids on the ship whose parents he'd befriended. He didn't understand that they weren't exactly friendly, and I'd already heard a couple of them making fun of my voice. Kids my age usually did that. I'd tried doing vocal exercises I'd found online to deepen my voice, but some guys just have naturally soft, high-pitched voices. I certainly didn't choose to sound that way, but some people acted as if I was doing it on purpose just to give them something to mock. It made me feel like sometimes it was better to be alone.
It was sunset, and we were getting close to the Amalfi coast of Italy, which was supposed to be a big tourist spot. Mom had perked up when she heard that the area was famous for making limoncello, as if she hadn't tried enough kinds of alcohol on this trip already. Talking to her about it did no good. I was just a kid, and she dismissed everything I said. Everyone did.
At least everyone was leaving me alone now. Maybe they were listening to the music that I had only now just noticed. It was very nice, though different from anything I had heard before. It seemed to be coming from someplace off the ship. At first it sounded like a single woman singing, high and wordless, then the voice seemed to split so it sounded like two or three people singing at once, then they merged back into a single voice as the notes rose and fell. It was almost hypnotic. The more I listened, the more it sounded like the song was sending a message without words, promising me a different life, where I was in control and free to make my own choices, where I would never have to fear anyone's cruelty. All I had to do was get closer...
My family had moved away from me, closer to some of the other tourists on deck. Their faces were turned away from me, so I couldn't tell if they were talking to other people or if they were just listening silently like I was. The only voice I heard was the singer or singers. All I wanted right now was to get closer to them.
I stepped closer to the railing. Why not jump? I'd always been a timid, cautious person, the type who sometimes got called a wimp. Why not do something bold for a change?
Screw it. I scrambled over the railing and jumped in, feet first. The water was warmer than I expected. Even when I sank under the water, I could still hear that mysterious song. I went on automatic and started doing the front crawl, like I was back in the local YMCA in our hometown doing laps in the lane. The waves seemed to push me forward, like they wanted to help me get there, like fate wanted me to go.
I kept going and going, but I was getting tired. I thought my arms and legs would give out soon and I would sink, but somehow I didn't care. I just wanted to get to the source of that song. A big wave lifted me up and sent me tumbling forward, towards a little rocky outcropping of islands.
The song was coming from that spot, but I couldn't see anyone who might be singing. As I got closer, it looked like there was a large bird perched on the rocks. My vision seemed to blur and it looked like the bird was really three or four birds, then the image resolved back into one. I got closer and and closer, and my arms reached out to it. The song was slowing, as if coming to a stop, but something told me that I was meant to get closer. The bird turned its head and I realized that this was not a normal bird.
On top of its dark-feathered body was a human head.
I don't remember exactly what happened after that. It seemed like the human-headed bird took wing and flew toward me, yet at the same time it stayed perched on that rock. A burst of song filled my ears, loud enough to overwhelm me, and when it stopped I looked up and the bird was gone. I treaded water for a few moments, looking around for it, than swam closer and pulled myself up onto a larger rock.
What was going on? Was any of this real? I hoped I was dreaming, otherwise it meant that I'd crazily jumped overboard and stranded myself on this little rocky island, too far from the ship to call for help. I thought I might actually be closer to the shore than to the ship by now. Would anyone hear me if I called for help?
I opened my mouth to cry out, but what came out instead was that same beautiful song I had heard, in the same voice. I closed my mouth, startled. I looked down, but I saw a human body and legs. I really hoped this was a dream.
I heard a cawing from above, and saw gulls soaring. Just ordinary gulls, not the weird bird-person that had been standing where I was now. I had an odd thought: If I could fly like them, I wouldn't have to worry at all. I could go anywhere, under my own power. Some strange instinct told me that if I willed it, I could leave the place I stood and join those gulls. Why not try? Taking risks had already gotten me further than I expected. As I thought of flying, I felt heat and tingling all over my body, and a feeling that my skin and muscles were pulling against my bones, as if trying to twist them into a new shape. Pinpricks appeared all over my skin and sprouted into long dark shapes as my bones realigned themselves, and suddenly I spread my arms and leaped upward. I didn't come back down.
Now this was amazing. My arms/wings felt strong, like it only took a few wingbeats every minute to keep rising. The wind was cool against my new feathers, and the moon was getting bigger. I looked down and it was like the view from an airplane, but more intense, more immediate. I flew towards the shore. I didn't want to go back to the ship just yet. I swooped down when I saw people on the beach. I felt hungry, but not for normal food. I wanted something else. I landed in the water where it was shallow enough to stand and felt my body stretch and tingle as it changed back. My vision was sharper than before, and the faint light of the setting sun was enough to let me see everything. There were some guys playing soccer barefoot on the beach. Very good-looking guys. Normally I would be all wary and embarrassed about looking at them, afraid that someone would notice me staring, but why worry about that now? Too many strange things had happened tonight for me to feel afraid of anything.
I started singing again, to the evening, to the moon, to the boys on the beach. Now that I was in control of the song, I could convey the meaning I wanted to send out. I didn't need words, not when I could put any feeling I wanted into my voice. I sang of beauty, desire, loneliness, of hunger unfulfilled. I sang out about how badly I wanted the hunger inside me to be satisfied. As I sang, the soccer players stopped moving. They all just stood as if in a trance. I waded closer, singing my wordless song, fixing my gaze on the best-looking of the guys. He was in his early twenties, muscular and fit, with short, curly black hair. I could see a gold chain on his neck and he was wearing nothing else except a rather skimpy Speedo. That's right, I remembered reading in magazines about European men being less inhibited and self-conscious. Something to be grateful for, right now. He turned and started running towards me. I kept singing and held out my arms. I let him grab me and pull me in. He was even handsomer up close. Chiseled features and big dark eyes, full lips that I really wanted to kiss. I slid my arms around his back and sang a little higher. He kissed me, firm but not too rough. I didn't have any experiences to compare it to, but it felt really good, and it seemed that he knew what he was doing. He ran his hands all over me while he kissed me, which made it feel even better, and I let my own hands roam over his muscles, all smooth and hard, with silky skin and a light sprinkling of hair. All the while, the song kept coming from my throat in a strong hum, even as my mouth was sealed to his.
Something was flowing out of him into me, something sweet and spicy at the same time, which gave my lips a pleasant mild burn. A word popped into my head: pneuma, which could mean "breath", but could also mean "spirit" or "soul." The essential spark of life that filled the body. Had I read that in a book somewhere? I was taking his life, and when it filled me up, it felt better than anything else I'd known. Even the joy of flight wasn't as great as this. But I also knew, somehow, that if I kept going, I would kill him. I had to stop, no matter how good it felt to continue. I forced myself to stop humming, to pull my mouth and hands off him. He was already sagging, like the life was mostly drained out of him. I pulled him back to shore and let him rest on the sand, then moved quickly back into the water. Now what? The other people on the beach still looked dazed, like the song's effects hadn't worn off. I sang again, this time thinking of warnings, of wake-up calls, of stirring to action. This song was different from the other one. It seemed to take on a life of its own and go up and down regularly, almost like a police siren, but more melodious. The other guys who'd been playing soccer seemed to snap out of their trance and look around, confused. They noticed their friend lying on the ground and immediately started trying to wake him up and calling out for help.
He would survive, I knew. I couldn't explain how I knew, but the instincts and feelings that had been driving me this whole time told me that I hadn't taken all of his life, or energy, or whatever it was I had drained from him. The pneuma. That word again, that just came into my head out of nowhere. There was enough left in him that he could recover and grow strong again, with time. Even so, I felt guilty. He'd given me my first kiss, a really good one, and I did this to him in return? He'd been minding his own business, on the beach with his buddies, and I'd lured him close to death because I found him attractive. That undercurrent of instinct in my mind told me not to be silly, that it was in my nature to prey on mortals like him, and that he probably enjoyed it nearly as much as I did, that the song gave him bliss.
What had really happened to me, assuming that any of this was real and not a dream or hallucination? I wanted to go back, to wake up on ship, and hopefully it would all fade by morning, like most of my dreams. I raised my arms, felt my body change, and flew away from the shore. Now how would I land on the ship without freaking people out? Well, there was one solution that seemed so obvious to me, still driven as I was by those new instincts like someone else had taken over my body. I started singing as I got closer to the ship, thinking "It's all right, there's no need to worry about anything, nothing bad or unusual is happening" and trying to push that feeling into my song. My efforts made it pitch itself lower, becoming soft and soothing. I watched from above as everyone on deck seemed to fall into a trance, many with dreamy smiles on their faces. I landed and changed back to human form. I hoped that the ship hadn't gotten too far off course because of my singing. I sang a little again, hoping it would return everybody back to normal, and when they started to move and talk I grabbed my stuff from beside the deck chair where I'd left it and headed downstairs to change out of my damp clothes and go to bed. I knew my family would find me, even if they wondered why I'd gone to bed so early.
I had hoped that by the morning, my memories of the night would be dark and hazy, the way most of my dreams were after I'd woken up. They weren't. Everything was perfectly clear. Dan was asking me why I'd just wandered off like that, and when I turned to answer her, his eyes widened.
"Victor, what's happened to your eyes?" he asked.
"Nothing." If anything, my eyesight seemed better than it was before. My hearing seemed sharper, too. I could hear Dad and Tiffany talking in the hall outside the room Dan and I were sharing. They were talking about needing to watch Mom while we went ashore today, to make sure things stayed under control.
"Doesn't look like nothing. Come take a look in the mirror."
I followed him to the bathroom. My eyes are normally a light brown, but now they were a very bright blue-green, close to the color of the Aegean Sea. My nose looked a little smaller, and my skin looked slightly darker, but that could have just been a tan.
I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels, as well as nonfiction books about paranormal phenomena and mutants. I knew that one of the most common signs of mutation was when someone's eye color changed overnight. Given everything else that had happened, there was no denying that something very real and very weird was happening to me. I even had an idea of what kind of mutant I might be turning into, since I'd read a lot of classical mythology as well as information on different kinds of mutants.
"You know Dad's gonna freak out! I don't even know how Mom might act! Why would you do this now, when we're on vacation? Why do you have to spoil everything like this?"
"Hey!" I snapped. "I didn't choose this! I can't control it, so stop blaming me!" Was that true, though? I had jumped overboard when I heard that song, when I might have resisted it. I still wasn't sure if anyone else on board even remembered hearing it, or if they remembered hearing me sing when I returned.
"This is not good. Dad's already in a mood, and he'll get worse when he finds out about this."
"Dad's always in a mood." I didn't even know how to break this to him. He wasn't exactly fond of mutants, and criticized me for reading about them and taking an interest in superpowers. I really wanted Dan to stop making this even harder by creating such a fuss. Instinct took over again. I turned to him, feeling warmth in my throat, spreading upwards into my mouth.
"Dan," my voice sounded very different now. It was clear, strong, and deep, with silvery undertones like bells or wind chimes that made it sound strangely compelling even to me. "Dan, don't worry about this. It's really not a big deal. I'll talk to Mom and Dad about it on my own time. This is not something for you to be concerned about."
He blinked. "Yeah, you're right. Why did I think it was such a big deal?" He yawned. "Come on, they're all waiting for us and we're supposed to have breakfast in one of the local places on shore."
It took some experimentation, but I stopped my family from freaking out too much about my eyes. When I concentrated, I could speak in that new deep voice with those sweet bell-like undertones, and they would believe and obey me, but it kept wearing off after a few hours and I would have to speak in that voice again. I eventually realized that my voice's effects on people's minds were stronger and more permanent when I sang, so I started singing random notes once my family had gotten back on the ship, thinking of calmness and acceptance. My song sounded stronger to me than it had last night, and it only took a minute or two before my parents and siblings went into a sort of trance. After singing, I spoke to them in that new voice and told them not to worry about the color of my eyes, and not to be bothered by it if I turned out to be a mutant. After that, they stopped worrying about my eye color completely, and I never heard them mention it again. Maybe my voice seemed stronger because I had taken energy from someone. I hoped he was all right. I wondered if there was a way to check on him.
I asked one of the cruise ship guides if anyone had gotten hurt on the beach recently. He said that Amalfi's beaches were perfectly safe as long as you took basic precautions. I went to the little Internet cafe aboard the ship and tried looking up local news on the net about any recent accidents on the beach, but couldn't find anything. I also discovered new aspects of my powers. If I listened closely to what people were saying in a foreign language, the meaning would start to become clear to me within a few minutes and I could even form short sentences of my own even though I had never learned the language. It wouldn't work on writing, only on words spoken out loud. This was still useful because I could watch streaming video news and actually understand the Italian news reporters after a few minutes of close listening. It seemed to be easiest to understand song lyrics, like when I listened to online radio channels. When I heard a particularly catchy tune, I would listen closely, and when I'd heard enough of the song to recognize the chorus I let the instinctive urge to sing along take over until other people came into the cafe. I discovered I could easily imitate the singers, male and female, and even the instruments I heard.
I had Googled enough information about mutants to realize that I was probably a PK Siren, and I knew from reading the Odyssey that the mythical sirens who had given the mutant class its name were first depicted as part-human, part-bird, not as mermaids. I also learned that the Amalfi coast was close to the Sirenuse islands, which were rumored to be one of the Sirens' original homes. Once I found more information on the Avatar class of mutant, everything made sense. It seemed pretty obvious that I had absorbed the spirit of a mythical siren who'd turned me into a siren-class mutant, along with God knew what else. At least I didn't crave actual human flesh like the original sirens, but my spirit seemed to have made me want to drain human life force, especially from those I found attractive. I read online that in ancient times, certain cultures had believed that the soul was carried in the breath of the body. I looked up the word pneuma, which popped up in my mind whenever I thought about energy draining, and thought it must have either come from a book I'd read or from thoughts and memories of the spirit that had merged with me. That explained how I drained someone's energy through a kiss, by mingling breath. Unfortunately, I still had the urge to do it, and normal food didn't really satisfy my hunger. The urge got especially strong whenever I saw an attractive guy walk past me, and there were a lot of hot guys in Italy and Greece.
As the days wore on, it was all I could do not to start singing to lure someone else to me. I was feeling hungry again, and although I appreciated the taste of normal food (especially extra-rare steak), I kept dreaming about wanting to fly again, to search for human prey and take the energy that seemed to nourish both my body and spirit. My spirit didn't always communicate in words, but it would send me feelings and emotions that indicated it was getting impatient, and it saw no real problem with feeding on humans. It had always seen them as prey, and the main reason it had been willing to enter a human vessel was because it was the best way to gain energy and become stronger.
I gave in again on the second-to-last day of the trip, when we went ashore on the Greek island of Santorini. I snuck off while the rest of the family was on the beach, letting them think I had just gone swimming. Two guys, one a handsome young Greek man in his twenties, the other a college kid from America on vacation who was cute in a boy-next-door way. My hunger for pneuma seemed to be connected to my libido, and I did feel intense pleasure when I fed, as well as a sense of satiation when that need was fulfilled. I was careful about feeding, and I took enough from both of them to make them feel tired, but not enough to lose consciousness, though my spirit grumbled about that. Afterward, I sang and convinced them to forget about the whole thing, that none of it happened. After I'd finished feeding off the second guy, some strange urge made me slip into the water, where I discovered that I could take on an aquatic form, similar to a mermaid, but with clawed hands and gills on the sides of my chest. My scales were the same color as my new eyes. I sank under the water, and it was beautiful. I could keep my eyes open underwater yet see perfectly, and for a while I explored the coral reefs, the caves of lava and the sunken ships without coming up for air. I could dive deeper and faster than the scuba divers, which made it easier to avoid getting noticed. It was as if my abilities got stronger and more versatile when I fed more. My spirit seemed to be surprised by this, as if it was developing new abilities while it was in a host body.
My hunger seemed to be satisfied for a while, and I could feel that my spirit was happier and more cooperative once it had fed. We had both enjoyed the underwater swimming as well. When we went home, I did more reading on sirens, and on mutants in general. My spirit gave me the sense that my powers fell into two main areas: power over sound and power connected to the elements, particularly the elements of air and water, though the shapeshifting seemed to be new even to it. When it rained, I felt a sense of exhilaration and power, as if drawing strength from the storm. Unfortunately, that wasn't a replacement for feeding. At least I had enough control not to kill, but how long could I keep doing that? My spirit protested that it wanted to feed more often, and take every last drop of energy from its prey. If I fed again, would I have to constantly fight its urge to drain victims to the point of death?
I was able to keep things going smoothly at home, even though I had to do a lot of unethical, manipulative things to maintain the status quo. I sang to my parents and older siblings to keep them from freaking out about the changes in me, spoke to them in that special voice and told them not to worry about what I was up to, that it was OK to let me come and go as I pleased, especially when I was walking to the library a lot over winter break to read about mutants and sirens. I knew that mutants with mind-influencing abilities could get in a lot of legal trouble if they were caught doing something wrong, and deep down I felt guilty about the way I just casually manipulated my family. However, I couldn't think of a better way to deal with them. Dad, in particular, had a problem with mutants, and I had read online that a lot of kids get disowned or kicked out of the house by their families when their mutations manifested. I had already been worrying about that since I realized my sexual orientation about a year ago, and being a mutant just increased that fear.
In addition to that, I didn't want to be evil. I was one of those kids that loved sci-fi and fantasy, who daydreamed about getting superpowers, but I had usually imagined myself as a hero, not a villain. I really believed in that whole Peter Parker thing about great power and great responsibility. I wanted to use my powers to help people, not just manipulate them for my own ends. I spoke to Mom in that special voice and suggested that she should at least think about whether her drinking was becoming a serious problem, and whether she should get help for it. I didn't try to force her to quit drinking completely, just to look at her life and think about what was going wrong. I wanted her to change on her own, to take control of her own life.
Later, I overheard her and Dad arguing about various things, not just her drinking, with Dad yelling and criticizing as usual, and Mom getting emotional and defensive about it. That's when I discovered that ordinary songs could have an effect on people's emotions as well, if I sang them with enough feeling. Instinct or intuition or whatever it was took over and from just outside my parents' room I started humming "At Last" by Etta James, and I could hear Mom's and Dad's voices lowering, becoming calmer. I don't know why I chose that song, maybe because that was the first song I could think of that was associated with a loving, happy marriage. I'd heard it being played at a wedding we'd gone to for one of my parents' friends. I started singing the words out loud, in a clear, perfectly on-key tenor voice with those sweet ringing undertones that emerged when I was speaking persuasively to someone. I'd learned I could imitate other voices and even instruments, but when I wanted to sing in an original voice, this was what came out naturally, and I liked it. I'd never been very musically gifted before. I heard them laughing, their voices turning low and affectionate in a way they hadn't sounded for years, as I sang and concentrated on how, deep down, they still did love each other and they needed to remember that. Instinct told me that when trying to affect people's emotions, words didn't matter as much as the intentions and feelings I put behind the song. They were calm and happy for the rest of the night, but they still argued every so often over the next few days and weeks, though the arguing sounded mild to me, not as bitter or angry as before.
Learning that I could influence emotions by singing ordinary popular songs was an interesting discovery for me. It reminded me of characters in some of Mercedes Lackey's books, who had a "Bardic Gift" that let them influence a crowd's emotions by singing just about anything. I wondered what other abilities I had that might be similar to characters in fiction. There was a particular book series by Toni Andrews that stuck in my mind, about a woman named Mercy Hollings who had the power to compel people to obey her, though the way it was described made it seem like it was connected more to telepathy and less to sound. When she was young, she couldn't control her power, and when she lost her temper, she commanded people to do things that hurt themselves, things that made her feel horribly guilty later on. When she was older, she decided to put her power to good use by becoming a professional hypnotherapist, helping people overcome addictions and traumas, things like that. I wondered how hard it would be for a mutant to get licensed as a hypnotherapist. Something to learn more about when I got older. Right now I didn't even know what colleges I would apply to or what my future would be like.
I still needed to figure out what to do with my life. I was getting hungry again, and regular food just wasn't what I needed. When the rest of my family was busy one night, I snuck into the kitchen and started scarfing down raw bacon. The sirens in myths ate raw meat, after all, and I'd read that pork was similar to human flesh. It actually tasted good, and my spirit was pleased, but the hunger was still there. I needed the pneuma.
School worried me. How would I cope around all those potential sources of energy? There were some kids who probably deserved to get the life drained out of them, but I'd never liked hurting people, even when they'd hurt me first. I needed to talk to someone, but who could I go to? My family wouldn't understand or accept me unless I sang to brainwash them into it. Was there some kind of hotline or website for young mutants? I should look for some in our area.
When school started, things were better than they used to be in some ways. I could just tell bullies "Go away and don't bother me anymore," and they wouldn't, at least for a while. Kids used to make fun of my voice, calling it effeminate, but I could change it now to sound any way I wanted. I'd practiced imitating different people, and I could talk like Barry White if I felt like it. When I spoke in public, I used a speaking voice just a bit deeper than my old one, deep enough that no one would mistake it for a girl's voice. Becoming a mutant didn't change me into a social butterfly, though. I was still the kind of person who'd rather read a book than going around talking to everyone at school. Besides, it was best that I didn't attract too much attention as a mutant. I did think about auditioning for the school choir, but my voice wasn't exactly a normal singer's voice, and not only might I expose myself as a mutant, I might lose control and end up messing with people's minds without meaning to. It was interesting to eavesdrop while the choir was practicing, though. I could now pick out each individual voice, and I could tell which choir members tended to go off-key and which ones were really talented, as good as anyone you'd hear on the radio.
My goals now were to learn to fully control my powers and hunger, to stay safe and avoid exposure, and to figure out what kind of future I might have once I got out of high school. I was only a sophomore, but all these big changes made me think about the future and how I really had no clue what might become of me in a few years. Mutants could go to college, right? Were there some schools that wouldn't accept you if you were a mutant?
I was sitting with my back against the wall in the hallway at lunch, finishing up some math homework. If I ate lunch, I would still feel hungry anyway, and I'd get even hungrier surrounded by all those people in the cafeteria. I was finishing up the last few problems when I heard a couple of girls walking past and talking about me.
"Hey, isn't that Victor? He looks different. He's actually kind of cute, now." It was Liz, a girl I remembered from middle school and a couple of classes last year, who was usually pretty nice to everyone. She was talking to Grace, who usually wasn't all that nice.
"Yeah, but what if his voice still hasn't changed? Remember how he used to sound like that one character on TV, you know, Stuart? From MadTV?"
A snicker from Liz. " That's mean! Kind of funny, but still mean."
Oh, no. Not that again. I'd overheard people making jokes about that before, and it always made me hugely angry. They had to know I could hear them. They were loud enough that if anyone else were in that hallway, they all would have heard it and probably other kids would have joined in.
I looked up. They weren't looking at me now. They were walking past me, their backs facing me. Without thinking, I got up, walked a little closer to bitchy Grace, and sang a single high, piercing note that made both girls clutch their heads and stagger. I held the note, watching them scrunch their faces up in pain and sink to the ground. My spirit crooned in my head without words, though the meaning came across clearly: Take them. They are prey. Kill them if you want vengeance, or feed on them. There is no need to show mercy.
No! I didn't want to kill people, even the ones I hated, and Liz had usually been nice to me in the past when she wasn't around jerks like Grace. Besides, I was breaking my own rule about not attracting attention. I leaned down and spoke to both of them in persuasive tones: "It was just a car alarm going off in the parking lot. There are lots of older students who have permission to drive off campus for lunch. Somebody must have pressed the wrong button when they locked their car." It sounded lame to me, but it was the best cover-up explanation I could think of on short notice, and Mom did that a lot at home. I paused, and added, "Also, you shouldn't make fun of people for how they look or sound. They can't always help it." I turned and ran off before they could look up to see who'd spoken to them.
Now I knew my voice could be used directly as a weapon. That just made me worry even more that I would hurt someone. I really needed to find someone to talk to, maybe look for websites that offered help to young mutants.
On top of everything else, I was even hungrier now, and even though lunch was only halfway over, there was no point in going to the cafeteria. I could stuff myself with crappy cafeteria food, pay extra or persuade the lunch ladies into giving me second helpings, and I would still feel hungry unless I drained someone. Could I drain animals instead? Sometimes rabbits came into our backyard, and there were deer in the woods a few miles away. My siren spirit sent me feelings of distaste. Maybe I could feed on animals as a last resort, but it wouldn't really sustain me. Nothing could substitute for the spirit energy of sentient beings, which my spirit found even tastier than its memories of human flesh. That really made me feel both worried and grossed out. Had this spirit possessed other bodies before? Had it actually eaten people?
There were more kids coming out of the cafeteria now, even though lunch still wasn't over. Probably they were just going to stand around and talk to their friends. I was about to walk quickly past them when I nearly bumped into a couple of good-looking guys. I didn't remember their names, but I thought I recognized them vaguely as members of the football team. They were wearing thin T-shirts even though it was winter, probably to show off how much they worked out. One of them scratched his stomach as he talked to his friend, lifting the T-shirt up enough to show hard, well-developed abs. Without meaning to, I let out a moan of hunger and desire. The moan stretched out, turning into song.
I couldn't stop the song now. I was too overwhelmed with hunger, fear, and lust to think clearly, and singing came as easily and naturally as breathing nowadays. The song was full of breathy moans and sultry, half-whispered notes. My voice split into three voices again, then four, each singing a slightly different note at once, all sending a message of "want, need, desire" into the air. I understood by now that the music was a form of communication, a way of sending a message that was stronger than language.
All around me, people had started making out. I don't think some of the kissing couples even knew each other before I started singing. The guys I'd focused on were walking to me slowly, their eyes wide and their mouths open. They didn't seem to care that I was a boy, that normally they probably would have been disgusted by the idea of touching me that way. The one who'd exposed his stomach came closer. I threw my arms around his neck and breathed him him in, keeping my eyes open. He was dark-haired and tanned, and reminded me a little of some of the guys I preyed on during the cruise. His blond friend wasn't quite as good-looking, but he was still attractive, and I turned to him before I drained the dark one too thoroughly. The pneuma warmed my throat and stomach as it slid down, finally filling up the void inside me.
I forced myself to stop again. My spirit sang a shrill protest inside my head, but I didn't care. I started singing the way I had when I returned to the cruise ship on that first night, thinking, "It's all right, everything's okay, nothing bad has happened," letting my song soothe everyone around me. They moved apart from each other, shaking their heads as if they'd fallen asleep and had just been startled awake. I waited a few seconds to see if anybody was panicking, then walked on to class.
I kept silent as much as I could for the rest of the day. My hunger was satisfied for now, which made it easier to think and left my spirit more content. I did notice that my hearing had gotten sharper, and that if I listened closely to people's voices, I could tell what they were really feeling, when they said one thing but meant another. I heard the harsh wavery dissonance of a lie in computer class when one girl told another girl that her hair looked nice, and again when one guy was mentioning to some of his friends that he'd broken up with his girlfriend, but claimed that he'd moved on and had dates with other girls lined up already. I could hear the pain and regret in his voice that he was trying to hide. It wasn't as if I could read minds, it was more as if I was extra sensitive to changes in the tone of a voice. It seemed that I got more powerful and developed new abilities when I fed, and I had fed well today. My spirit hinted that there was still room for more growth, that it would be a long time before we reached our full potential.
Okay, I needed help. I didn't know how to handle my growing powers, and I still couldn't control my hunger. I'd done some really dangerous things today. I'd practically set off an orgy in the school hallway! As soon as I got out of school today, I was looking for some kind of counselor or mutant support group or something.
"Victor Stevermer, please come to the vice principal's office after class."
Oh God. Somebody found me out. How would they have known? Did my voice's effects wear off already? Did somebody report me? I had visions of being dragged away by black-suited MCO agents with guns and heavy-duty earplugs.
Should I make a run for it? Where would I go? I wasn't even sixteen yet. I could fly, but where to? Besides, I would eventually need to go back among humans to feed again. Maybe, if I was such a danger to other people, I should be locked up. The siren spirit didn't like that. It, or maybe she since sirens were usually depicted as female, wanted to flee or fight, not surrender like this. I told her within my head that this was what was best.
I trudged over to Mrs. Apolline's office after the last class ended. My parents wouldn't be home till later in the evening anyway. Mom had stopped working for a while to take care of us kids, but now she that she had cut down on the drinking, she was going back to work part-time at an accounting firm, and she seemed pretty cheerful about it. Dad was happier, too when he saw Mom's general state improving. Even cranky Tiffany and bossy Dan were nicer when the whole family situation was less tense. At least something good had come out of my powers.
I didn't know Mrs. Apolline very well. I was a quiet kid who stayed out of trouble as much as possible and usually did what I was told, at least until my mutation kicked in. I had no idea what they were calling me for or what evidence they might have. Then I glanced up at the wall as I passed through the door and thought: Ah, shit. Of course, the security cameras! I remembered hearing that they'd gotten an upgrade on those things while the school was closed for winter break. They must have caught me singing, either to those girls who made fun of me or to those guys I'd fed on and the other kids I'd affected along with them.
"Have a seat, Victor. Oh, don't look so scared! I just need to talk to you, that's all." She was in her early thirties, pretty, well-dressed, and kind of elegant-looking. She smiled as I sat down. Her tone rang with sincerity and concern. Maybe I should just tell her everything? Throw myself on her mercy?
"Now, I think you're already aware of why I called you here, but I want you to understand that you're not going to be hurt. You're not the first student at this school who underwent a sudden mutation and developed powers they couldn't control. There are a lot of resources to help kids in your situation. I'm going to try to keep this confidential, since you and I are both aware of the kind of public outcry that could result in a mutant being exposed."
"Are the other kids okay?"
"They will be. Grace and Liz have some mild headaches, but no serious side effects. Grace has already gotten in trouble in the past for bullying some other kids, so I think I can guess what happened. She provoked you, and things happened without your conscious direction. That's not a good thing, and it is a problem that needs to be dealt with, but there was no serious harm done there, and you did try to smooth things over with your siren ability to avoid causing panic. I can tell just from seeing you here in my office that you didn't want to hurt anyone, and you've been struggling to control your powers. Is that right?"
"Well, yes." Her tone sounded conspiratorial, like she was on my side. But why? I was a danger to other students, wasn't I?
"I'll let you in on a secret, Victor. I'm actually a mutant myself. A telepath."
"Really? That..that must be really handy when you have to keep a huge bunch of teenagers in line."
She chuckled. "Oh, it is. It also helps me identify the students who really need help but don't have anyone to reach out to. I'll tell you right now, Victor, it isn't safe for you to continue going to a regular school, especially if you really need help controlling your abilities and your spirit."
She knew about my spirit? Oh, right, telepath. "So what do I do?"
"I was just getting to that. There is actually a high school specifically for kids with powers...and yes, I know, it sounds like X-Men, spare me the jokes please, I've heard them all and I don't even need to be psychic to see them coming. It's a boarding school in New Hampshire called Whateley Academy, and it offers a very fine education and a lot of scholarships to help pay for tuition. I graduated from there myself, a long time ago, and I recommend it to every young new mutant I meet. There are lots of kids in situations like yours or worse who find that Whateley Academy is the best thing that ever happened to them. I prepared some brochures and application forms for you to take home to your parents. The tuition fees are daunting, I'll admit, but there are multiple ways to defray the cost. Lots of scholarships and work-study programs are available there. Now, your parents, especially your father, may be reluctant to send you to an expensive boarding school in another state, but I'm sure you can talk them into it if you try."
She actually winked at me. Was she really encouraging me to manipulate my parents? She was a telepath, so she probably knew everything that was going on, including the things I'd done to my family. This was not what I expected at all.
"So, Victor, you already understand how important it is to gain control over your powers. I'm glad you understand the ethical concerns with your particular abilities, and it makes me very happy that you're so willing to seek the help you need. I just have a few more questions to ask, mostly about the second incident today. The security footage was a little confusing... and, well, everyone who viewed it experienced a strong emotional reaction to your voice that was a little disconcerting, though the recordings didn't affect viewers as strongly as it affected the kids who heard it directly. Now, when most people find out that I'm a telepath, they think that I must know everything without needing to be told, but that isn't true. Human minds are very complicated things to read, and also, Whateley graduates with psychic powers are taught a very strong code of ethics ingrained into them that keeps them from rummaging around in people's minds. That'll be important for you to learn too, Victor, since your voice already exerts a very strong influence on others. Would you mind clearing up exactly what happened then?"
Embarrassed, I explained to her about my spirit, and the hungers we felt. She nodded every so often, probably picking up more information than I was actually telling her.
"Well, from what I'm gathering, you were trying to control your needs, but you couldn't ignore them forever. Just to let you know, all of those kids are fine, including the two that you fed on. Those boys were tired, but not in need of medical attention. They don't remember what happened, or that you were involved, so you were very lucky. There's no need to worry about a negative reaction from those students or their families, and you already seem to have enough control to avoid causing serious harm. Still, it is very risky to have a mutant in this school who has a physical need to feed on humans, and next time you might not be so lucky, so I'm going to try to help you get transferred to Whateley as quickly as possible. When it comes to 'persuading' your parents to send you there, well...it's better if we keep that between the two of us. Don't get me wrong, I believe, as you seem to, that it's important to use your powers ethically and responsibly, but I think you've already seen that there are times when when you need to bend the rules in order to prevent worse things from happening. Also, if normal food and even live animals are not enough to satisfy your spirit, I would advise you to keep feeding regularly, but not on school grounds, and not from people you know or see every day. From what I see, you and your spirit are much calmer and more in control of yourselves now that you've fed. By trying to refrain from feeding, I think you actually made it harder to control yourself. Just be discreet, and exercise caution. I think that's all for now, just let me know when you've completed the necessary paperwork and I'll try calling people I know from Whateley to expedite the process. We can have a meeting with your parents, too, but if you've already been having "talks" with them, it might make things easier if you just continued to do that, within reason. There is a facility I'm going to refer you to that provides testing and counseling for new mutants, and I'll have them call your home to set up an appointment. All right?"
"Um... okay." This still seemed a little odd to me. She didn't even want to talk to my parents, if she didn't have to? I was still technically a minor. She was telling me to go ahead and feed on people as long as I didn't do it at school?
"Oh, so you're wondering about why I'm doing things this way? That's all right. As I said before, you're not the first young mutant in this school who came into their powers very suddenly. You aren't even the first mutant I met who needed to feed on humans. Just be glad you didn't become a vampire! You'll learn more about BITs and how the subconscious mind can influence the development of a progressing mutation at Whateley, but personally, I blame those Twilight books and movies." Her voice took on a note of amusement. "I wouldn't be surprised at all if the next new mutant I see starts sparkling in the sun! As for your parents, well," her voice changed to a more somber tone then," I regret to say that I'm familiar with quite a few cases where parents have turned their own children in to the custody of the MCO or even the local chapter of Humanity First without hesitation, even when the particular mutations of those children posed no threat to themselves or others. I never like seeing that happen to any child. I get the impression that you've been worried for a very long time about your parents not accepting who you are. I won't pry into that, but I would advise you to fill out as much information on the application by yourself as you can, particularly when it comes to personal details. My impression of you is that you are capable of learning to handle these big changes in your life in a responsible, mature way. You already seem be trying to exert control over your powers, which is a good sign. My gut feeling is that things will work out for you, eventually."
"Well, thank you very much, Mrs. Apolline. This really went a lot better than I hoped!"
"Good. And don't worry, most students find Whateley to be an amazing school. I don't think you'll have any regrets about going."
I had a lot to think about as I walked home. The vice principal had made it sound like I needed to be more ruthless if I wanted to survive at all. My dad wasn't an actual member of Humanity First, but I'd heard him make negative comments about mutants, and there was no question about how he felt toward gays and lesbians. I did feel calmer now that the hunger wasn't eating away at me, and the siren spirit seemed to be at peace too. It was a relief to know that there was a school out there that had been made for kids like me, and I had the information I needed now to get in. Now I had some kind of plan for the future. I just needed to figure out the smaller details.
The door was locked, and I searched my pockets and backpack for the housekey. Damn it! I must have left it inside the house this morning! I hardly ever forgot it. My spirit stirred, and communicated to me in words rather than its usual stream of feelings. There is a song to charm locked doors into opening. Sing it, and you will need no key.
A charm? Like an actual spell to make doors open?
In ancient times, music itself was considered a form of magic. I can teach you to channel magic through your voice and sing all sorts of spells. We have grown much stronger and we should have the spare essence needed now. The spirit seemed to be in a good mood now that it had fed.
Now that got me excited. I would love to learn to do magic.
Words and a melody flowed into my mind, and I repeated them right after I heard them. I caught glimpses of meaning here and there, especially during the chorus. Xekleidono, eleytherono. Unlock, unbind, release. I sang a little louder and the doorknob shook. I put even more force into the song and the door fell open. I could hear thudding sounds from all over the house as I stepped in. The windows had opened too, as had the back door by the kitchen. Even the doors for the oven and microwave had fallen open. I could hear a rumbling from the side of the house as the garage door raised up.
Control. That was what I really needed to learn. I hoped the school taught me about that.
I went around closing every door, window, and drawer in the house, then sat at the little desk in my room. I finished what was left of my homework, and filled out the parts of the application to Whateley that didn't require my parents' signatures. When I saw the questionnaire asking about sexual orientation, Mrs. Apolline's warnings about filling it out myself made more sense.
Once I filled out as much as I could, I thought about going out for a while. My siren spirit was telling me that we should go, that we truly belonged in the air or under the water, not stuck on the ground all the time. It was getting dark outside, and I thought, why not? It's pretty dark already, dark enough that a large, odd-looking bird-thing won't attract too much attention. I already knew that my bird form could see well at night. Besides, if I needed to hunt and feed outside of school grounds, I would need to have some way to get around, and I couldn't drive on my own yet with just a learner's permit. It was a good idea to practice using my powers, since more experience would probably lead to better control. I locked my door, opened my bedroom window, transformed and flew out.
It was warmer than I expected, and all the snow was gone. It had been unseasonably warm in Michigan these past few months, and though I'd been on the cruise with my family over winter break, I'd heard we'd had a green Christmas in this area. Blame global warming. My eyes and ears were sharp enough to let me navigate through the night, and I flew toward a small nearby lake, where I was hoping I could try that aquatic form again. I liked swimming, but when I had gone to the YMCA, the pool wasn't as fun when I stayed in human form, and it was too public to transform.
The lake was actually a few miles outside of our town, but I flew fast, avoiding well-lit areas. I hoped that the lake wasn't frozen. I just wanted to see what it looked like from underwater. The seniors and juniors from our school got to go on a field trip every year just before summer vacation, and it looked like I wouldn't be joining them. I wasn't sure if I would miss much when I left, but I wanted to have my own memories of fun by that lake, and my spirit was eager to go into the water.
I flew closer, and the water rippled gently with movement in the moonlight. Good, it wasn't frozen. I landed by the shore, changed to human form, slid out of my clothes, and eased myself in. It was cold, but really not much worse than a swimming pool when you first jump in. When I shifted, I barely felt the cold at all. I wondered why I was able to shift into this form, since from what I'd read sirens were first portrayed as the birdlike creature I'd first encountered, and weren't confused with the myths of mermaids till much later. Was my subconscious mind affecting the way my mutation developed, changing me into my idea of what a siren should be? When I was alone in my room, I had tried willing myself to shift into other things, like a cat or a wolf, but nothing happened. I really hoped this super-school would help me understand what was going on with me.
There wasn't much to see in that lake, not like the reefs near the Greek islands. A few fish, some rocks and what looked like metal or garbage at the bottom of the lake, but the water seemed clean enough. Still, it was fun to dart and somersault through the water, then leap upward, dolphin-like, propelled by my tail, to dive back in.
"What the hell was that!" a male voice shouted, almost stopping my heart.
I stayed under the water and swam over to the opposite side of the lake, hoping that whoever it was wouldn't follow me. I swam closer to a bush by the shore and let my head surface just enough for my eyes and ears to be exposed.
"Somebody in there?" the same voice asked. I could hear footsteps, and now other male voices, at least two, somewhat slurred. They were probably drunk. Who came here at this time of night?
"There's clothes and shit over here." That made me panic. I'd left my clothes on the same side they were on. I tried to remember whether I'd left my wallet in my pants pocket. They came into view now. Three tall guys wearing those varsity letter jackets or whatever they were called, two of them holding beer bottles. One of them knelt down and poked at the pile of clothes I'd left.
"Who would go skinny-dipping now? It's too fucking cold!"
Why had I been so stupid? Why had I come here at all? Just because I felt restless and wanted to test my powers? Well, now I really was going to have them tested. I didn't see many options other than singing. I tried a message of peace, a soothing lullaby. One of them let a beer bottle fall to the ground and shatter, his face suddenly going slack. I sang louder. Two of them went to their knees, yawning. The third still stood, watching the lake, even though he was looking stunned. I tried projecting sleepiness at him through my song, but he wasn't going down. I sang a high, piercing note like the one I'd aimed at those girls earlier today, and that at least made him flinch. I crawled out of the water, changing back to human form. I was ready to change into bird form and just divebomb him, knock him down ,grab the clothes and fly away. Why had I even taken them off? When I changed, what I was wearing went with me, even if my clothes had been soaking wet the last time I took the aquatic form while still wearing them. I should have kept them on, I might have gotten out of here by now. All this mess because I wanted to avoid damp clothes!
I took bird form and waited. When he turned to check on his friends, I flew upward and across the lake. I dove down to grab my clothes just in time to see him turn, move, and rush at me. He was unbelievably fast. How did he move that quickly? When he grabbed me, I slashed with my talons, but they just slid off him. I tried to fly away, but he pulled at my legs, so I changed back and landed on him. He gasped and lay there with me on top of him.
"Whoa...that was nuts. Wait, are you a mutant?" A faint shimmering I hadn't seen from far away enveloped his face. I moved away from him and pulled my shirt on. He reached for me and I backed even further away.
"No, it's okay. Look, I'm a mutant too, see?" That transparent shimmering thing got thicker. Some kind of forcefield? "Look," he said again, "I'm sorry I grabbed you, but you gotta help me. I think both my friends passed out. I don't know, maybe we need to call an ambulance?"
"No," I said, and sang again, a call of awakening. Both his friends stirred, slowly. His eyes widened.
"Shit! What kind of mutant are you! How did you.." He reached out to me, his forcefield fading. I sang again, and for some reason, this time it worked on all three of them. The guy who'd grabbed me, whatever kind of mutant he was, still visibly fought my song, blinking and shaking his head, but it was affecting him this time. I sang, not putting in any emotion except the desperate desire to have them obey. That mutant guy was the one to watch out for. If I could just take him down so he wouldn't follow me, the other two would be easy to deal with. I had an idea. If I could just keep him under my influence for a little longer...
I changed the song to a song of desire, a luring song. I faced him and focused my intent primarily on him. He walked forward and put his hands on my shoulders.
"What are you doing to me?" he whispered. He was very good-looking, now that I had a good view and time to notice, with large, long-lashed chocolate-brown eyes. I kissed him, and felt the pneuma flow into me. Oh, what a rush! There was so much of it, more than any human I'd ever fed from. Was it because he was a mutant that his energy was so strong? I could take as much as I wanted and it probably wouldn't hurt him. I drank in as much as I could take, then let him go. He stumbled backwards and sat on the ground. I sang to him and his two friends, trying to suggest that none of this was real, that it was all a dream they would forget by morning. I put the rest of my clothes on as fast as I could, changed back, and flew out of there. When I landed in my bedroom I was so emotionally frazzled that all I wanted to do was lie down. I got into bed and fell asleep within a few minutes.
In my dreams, I heard music. The music of the earth, the sky, rocks, trees, people. Everything had its own song. In my dreams my siren spirit appeared, tall and beautiful, with long dark hair and eyes like the sea. "We are getting stronger,my sister,"she crooned to me in a voice that was smooth, sweet, and melodious even when speaking. "Every day, we grow closer to what we are meant to be."
When I woke up, I could still hear music. The sun sounded loud and brassy, the trees whispered softly and the wind whistled through my open window like a flute. The music gently faded as I got out of bed. I padded into the bathroom and the mirror showed a very pretty stranger. My hair, normally short and mousy brown, was jet black, wavy, and long enough to reach my shoulders. My skin had already been slightly darker than it once was, but now it was an even light-olive color all over with no tan lines. My eyes were larger, but still bright blue-green, my cheekbones were higher, my lips fuller, my chin rounder, my nose narrower, and I could see small breasts pushing through the front of my t-shirt. My hips seemed to have gotten wider, and there was a strange feeling at my groin. I pulled down my sleep shorts and underwear, half-expecting, half-dreading what I would find.
That was when I learned I could shatter glass by screaming.
|Re: Spellsong, part one [message #54190 is a reply to message #54188 ]
||Thu, 23 February 2012 01:50
Registered: October 2011
My screams caused the mirror to crack into several large fragments that slid downwards and hit the sink with tinkling and thuds. Mom was banging on the door and asking if I was okay, and behind her I could hear concerned murmurs from the rest of the family.
I couldn't explain this to them. It was bad enough that I had to manipulate them to stop worrying about the changes in my eye color. How would I deal with this, other than by using my powers? I started singing again, to make them calm and accepting, then opened the door. My whole family was standing there, with Mom at the front. I spoke to them in that persuasive voice, "It was just an accident. The mirror cracked and fell. Also, I look different now, but that's okay. I am going through some changes, but you all feel perfectly able to accept them." I sang again to make the mental effects more permanent, guided by my spirit who believed that soothing them them was necessary for our survival, conveying acceptance, persuading them to believe what I said, to take it to heart completely. My voice expanded to sound like three or four voices, then a dozen, then a choir of countless unearthly wails, as if its power had become greater and more all-encompassing overnight.
Dad lectured me a little about needing to pay attention and be more careful, but without much anger in his voice, as if this was something minor that happened all the time, and Dan helped me clean up, warning me not to touch the glass with my bare hands in case I got cut. I almost laughed out of hysteria. Like that was the worst thing I needed to worry about. Mom and Tiffany took a closer look at me, but instead of freaking out at what I'd turned into, exclaimed that I was definitely going through a growth spurt and offered to take me shopping, since it was Saturday and we were all free. It was too much. I asked them if we could do it later and they agreed without hesitation. Was this how it was going to be from now on? Having bizarre things happen to me, and being forced to manipulate my family's minds to avoid panic or persecution? Where would it end? How could I use my powers in a responsible way if I had to keep dealing with things like this?
Who could I go to for help? Mrs. Apolline would be best, but it was Saturday. I ran to my room and looked through the papers she'd given me for the number and address of that mutant testing place. I went to Mom and Dad and asked them to take me. Still calm and cooperative, they agreed. We called the testing center together, and it turned out they were free without need for a scheduled appointment today, but the place was about an hour and a half away, in a research hospital in Ann Arbor affiliated with U of M. At this point, I didn't care. I needed help, and I needed it now before I turned purple and sprouted horns, or something else I couldn't even imagine happened to me.
Dad was a surgeon, and had a few cases to do in the hospital later that day, so Mom, Tiffany, and I all went together. Dan had things to do with his friends, but wished me good luck, as if I were going to a job interview or something. I wondered how much my song still affected all of them. While we were in the car, Tiffany was being nicer to me than normal. She had never been super-mean, like certain kids at school, but had always been a little abrasive to me, as if she didn't have the patience to deal with a younger brother she thought of as kind of odd, who'd never fit in with other kids. She actually complimented me on how pretty I looked now, how she really wanted to take me shopping, teach me to dress and put on makeup. I shuddered. Had my song affected my family that deeply? Did they just automatically think of me as a girl, now? What about the next time we saw other members of the family, like my grandparents, my aunts and uncles? Would I have to sing to all of them to make them accept me? I didn't even want to think about school. I didn't want to keep brainwashing people. It didn't feel right, but right now I couldn't see any other options.
When we finally got there, I asked to talk to the main person running the tests in private. Dr. Tillman was a kindly-looking older man with glasses, who was apparently an accredited mage, psychic, and according to the degrees on his office wall, a Ph.D specializing in child and adolescent psychology, of all things. I guess magic wasn't enough to pay the bills, and even wizards needed day jobs. He didn't look anything like I'd expect a wizard to look, if anything he reminded me of the pediatrician I'd gone to when I was younger. He'd recognized my school and Mrs. Apolline's name when I mentioned that she was the one who'd referred me to this facility.
"Yes, Marie Apolline's referred a few kids to us before. She's very good at spotting new mutants and helping them find the resources they need. Now, you seem to be in an awful lot of distress. why don't you tell me a little more about what's going on, and why you wanted to talk to me without your family around?"
I explained everything, from the time I'd first encountered my spirit and realized I was a mutant, up to this morning. He listened to all of it without saying anything until I'd finished, and he paused, seeming to take a few moments to process it all.
"Well, it sounds like you've been through a lot in a very short time. All these changes would be enough to shake anybody up. Also, I'm glad that you understand already that your abilities bring up a lot of ethical considerations, and that you're concerned about misusing your ability to influence others. Mrs. Apolline was right, there are cases of young kids who get turned in by their parents to organizations that do not have their best interests at heart, and given the particular issues you had to deal with, your powers definitely made things easier for you in some ways, especially when it comes to dealing with your family.
However, I agree with Mrs. Apolline that it's a good idea for you to transfer to Whateley as soon as possible. For one thing, there are instructors there who can teach you more about the ethical uses of mind-altering abilities, who can you find ways to cope with tough situations and integrate with normal society without resorting to your vocal coercion powers all the time. In addition to that, there are other young people there who have also changed genders as part of their mutation. It's rare, but from what I've heard, there have been more recorded cases cropping up in the past few years. Also, this need you have to feed on the life essence of others also brings up a lot of ethical struggles for you, I would imagine. From what I remember of classical mythology, sirens were originally described as carnivores who lured humans with their song in order to eat them, although siphoning life energy sounds more like the act of a succubus, or other spiritual predators. I'd like to try a ritual that lets me talk to your spirit directly, to interview it as well."
"My spirit seems to refer to what we're taking from humans as pneuma. I read somewhere that it's an old Greek word that means soul or breath."
He raised his eyebrows. "Does it call it that? Your spirit actually used that word? Well, that's interesting. I'd definitely like to communicate with it directly, if that's all right with you once we've finished other forms of testing."
After that we spent several exhausting hours going through all kinds of physical and mental tests, some of which interested me and others that were just tedious. Some of it just involved me standing there while he waved mystical-looking items over me. It turned out that I was stronger and faster than I used to be, and my memory and math skills seemed to have improved, too, though I didn't have a photographic memory and I wasn't a living calculator like some mutants Dr. Tillman described. My physical and mental abilities were what he called Exemplar-level, but not superhuman. It was nice to know that I seemed to have gotten a little smarter and stronger. I couldn't read minds, but I could get a lot of information about a person from tone of voice, like emotions and attempts to lie, and the ability to understand any spoken language and quickly learn to speak it was apparently a specialized psychic ability, what he called an Esper knack. When asked to demonstrate shapeshifting, I discovered that I could now change from human, to a large human-headed bird, to a full-fledged bird that was similar to a large hawk or osprey, which Dr. Tillman saw as a sign my powers were growing. I could also change just my hands to form talons that were sharp enough to shred a sheet of tin. I could change into the mermaid form on dry land if I wanted to, though it was much slower and harder than when I was in the water. Dr. Tillman explained that immersion in water probably acted as a stimulus to accelerate the change into that form, and that I was absorbing my clothes into my flesh as I changed. This was only a theory, since they didn't have a water tank for me to try out.
When practicing my vocal abilities in a soundproof room, I was able to break ordinary glass easily enough, though the glass Dr. Tillman told me was bulletproof only showed fine cracks running inwards from the edges without actually shattering. He got very interested when I told him about singing doors open with what my spirit told me was a musical spell, and asked me if I could access my spirit's knowledge to cast other spells. My spirit gave me a short song in Greek about praising the four winds which resulted in a breeze inside the room that was strong enough to blow a clipboard off the table onto the floor. I think the magic was what got him really excited, and he told me he would definitely put a note in my records recommending that I should be enrolled in the Mystic Arts program at Whateley, since I could already channel magic through my voice and had access to specialized magical knowledge through my spirit. I was able to sense magic when enchanted objects were present, and if I concentrated, I could hear different melodies in the presence of different spells that reminded me of what I had been hearing in dreams recently.
Lastly, he wanted to speak to my spirit directly. He said that it was best to use magic to summon it forward, because with avatars the thoughts of the host and spirit often mixed together so you couldn't tell where one mind stopped and the other began. He could clarify what the spirit really intended by using a spell that temporarily disentangled the two of us without breaking our bond. He assured me it was completely safe and would only work if I consented to it. I agreed, since I was eager to see more magic. He had me stand in a circle on the floor and chalked strange symbols around me, then chanted words that set off an entire orchestra in my head. Then it seemed like I was standing outside myself, watching my own body as it spoke to Dr. Tillman without me. He seemed to be conversing with it in different languages, sometimes switching to English, but outside of my body I didn't have that speech-translating power, so I couldn't follow all of it, though I heard a few snippets of conversation.
"Spirit, I ask that you name yourself, that you reveal to me your true nature. I ask this only for greater understanding in order to help you and the person whose body you share, that you may live in harmony with each other."
"I am Siren. You know what I am. So does my vessel." Its-no, her voice, I could tell she was definitely female now, was a beautiful sweet soprano with those chiming undertones I heard when I was using my persuasive voice on someone.
"But do you have a name, spirit? The stories tell of many sirens, all sisters who lived on the same islands and sang together."
"I am not merely a siren but the Siren. I am Ligeia and Leucosia and Teles. I am Molpe and Parthenope and Raidne. I am Thelxiepia and Aglaope, Peisinoë and Himerope. After Orpheus drowned out our voices with lyre and verse, when we discovered there were those that sang more beautifully than we and could pass our islands unenchanted, we despaired and threw ourselves into the sea. Our bodies sank and rotted away, and our spirits huddled together for solace, eventually merging into one."
"So you are a sort of archetypal spirit, then. The embodiment of the Siren myth. What can you tell me that can help your host adjust to your partnership? In particular, this hunger for the life essence of humans. Your host does not want to harm anyone."
She laughed. Even her laugh sounded musical, somehow. Would I sound like that, in my changed body?
"Once, we lived on flowery islands in the sea and sang to handsome sailors. When they came to us, we loved them and then devoured them. Their bodies were sweet to us, but in this new body I have learned that their pneuma, their life essence as you call it, is even sweeter and more potent. This child makes a strong vessel, and our abilities have expanded while sharing a body. We may grow stronger yet if we take in more power. This child may have been born a boy, but the soul was more like a woman than a man. She and I are well suited to one another. I feel her hunger every time we encounter strong, handsome young men." If I'd been in a physical body, I would have blushed with embarrassment.
The Siren continued, "Her hungers are not so different from mine. She feels as much pleasure as I do in taking what we need, and she will learn in time to revel in our true nature. She was a powerless, voiceless child before, but together we can wield a voice of such power as to shake the heavens and earth, stunning all with its beauty. She is fearful and timid now, but she will shed fear and embrace our true self in all its glory. In this modern world there are greater consequences to killing than before, but she will learn that there is no shame in merely satisfying one's needs."
She actually thought I would learn to enjoy draining a person's life away? Yes, it felt good on a physical level, but hadn't she learned anything from my memories about how I wanted to be one of the good guys, not a villain or a parasite? And did she really have to talk about my sex drive to an adult I'd just met?
Dr. Tillman and the spirit continued like that for a while, in different languages. Then he chanted again, and I was suddenly back in my body. He erased the circle and markings around it, then motioned for me to step out of it. We went back to his office to wrap things up.
"Victoria, please. Since you said that most gender-changing mutants don't ever change back, I might as well start getting used to a new identity now."
He smiled. "Victoria, then. You're definitely an Avatar, and your spirit is what I call archetypal, the embodiment of a class of beings. She is an archetypal Siren, though from what I've heard, there may be a few individual spirits of the original siren sisters who didn't merge with the others and are still somewhere out in the world. For now, I'm tentatively labeling you as AV-2, though I suspect you may actually be higher-level than that. Sometimes when a spirit enters a very strong host, its abilities expand and evolve, which already seems to be happening with you. You have the physical and mental abilities of an Exemplar-2, along with some Esper talents related to sound, like translating spoken languages. You've demonstrated most of the classic abilities of a PK Siren, but your ability to influence the emotions of a large group of people may actually be due to a form of projective empathy that combines with your vocal abilities when you sing with the intention of affecting others, though the Whateley testers may reach different conclusions when they do further workups. I'm also putting you down as a Shifter-5tpnwe, don't worry about the letters, it just means you have a set number of forms to shift to, you can do partial shifts from your human body to another form as we saw with your hands, you can trigger your shifts at will, though your mermaid form comes more easily with the added stimulus of water, and you can change your clothes along with your body. You're at least a Wiz-2, with a strong affinity for musical magic and a weaker affinity for magic related to the elements of air and water, but that may change along with your other powers.
Keep in mind that the powers of strong avatars can keep evolving beyond the limits of their original host spirit, especially in your case, where your spirit drives you to take in life essence both for physical nourishment and spiritual strengthening. I think that the Siren's hunger for human flesh was subconsciously modified by your own reluctance toward cannibalism, and your spirit adapted by learning to feed on life essence instead. I can't say where the end limit is for you, though Whateley's staff will probably want to test you repeatedly over the entire time you attend."
"Okay, so all of that's very interesting, but what do I do about anticipating new changes. Also, how do I control instincts that drive me to do things like feed on people?"
He sighed. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but that's a long, difficult process which will require a lot of training. You might never be able to overcome your hunger for essence completely. I've tried talking to your spirit, and she seems to think that you just need time to adjust, that you'll eventually shed all inhibitions about feeding. She's used to seeing humans as prey, and doesn't really understand why you wouldn't want to feed off people. She's sentient and possesses at least human-level intelligence, but she's also strongly driven by instinct. Many Avatars have to keep a close watch on their spirit to make sure the spirit's instincts and urges don't get out of hand. I'll be honest here, controlling your spirit's urges might be a lifelong struggle for you, but I think it may get easier with time and practice. You already seem to have enough control to take life essence from humans without draining them to the point of death or serious harm, so that's a good sign. Your spirit wasn't happy about that, but she seems willing to cooperate with you in that respect."
Great. It sounded like I would probably have to keep draining people's energy for the rest of my life, but at least my spirit understood that it's hard to get away with murder in the age of CSI. That was a plus, right?
Dr. Tillman offered to help me register for a preliminary codename and MID. Apparently U of M's mutant research lab had access to an online database of registered codenames so we could find out which ones were in use already. Siren had been taken for years, as had Lorelei and even Ligeia. Apparently there was a PK siren who'd named herself after the myth. Some of the other sirens' name were taken too, and the ones left were too long and hard to pronounce. I wanted something simpler. I wondered, not too seriously,if I could sue for copyright infringement if I could prove I had the spirit of the original Siren. Undine, Nix, Mermaid, and Naiad were also taken. We tried a few more names, and Spellsong was still available, so I took that. I came up with it by remembering a couple of book series I'd read a while back, one by L.E. Modesitt and one by Alan Dean Foster, both about people from Earth who'd been transported to alternate universes where they could cast spells through music. Dr. Tillman sent my information to the MCO, after taking a digital photo of me, and told me that I would probably receive an MID in the mail soon. In order to keep being allowed to work with mutants, the university was required to communicate regularly with the MCO and send them registration information on all new mutants, but Dr. Tillman made his feelings on it quite clear. He and Mrs. Apolline both knew of quite a few kids who had been taken into MCO custody and were never seen again, and even sadder stories about kids who'd been thrown to the wolves of Humanity First by their own parents. He told me to be very careful from now on about how much I told people about myself, especially when it came to my hunger for life essence and the extent of my ability to control people. If the wrong person saw me as dangerous, I could be locked up or worse.
He talked to my mom briefly after that, and she seemed to accept everything. I still felt guilty when I saw how she just blithely took in things that would have normally been hard for her to deal with.
A few days later, I was on the train to Whateley. I had stopped by Mrs. Apolline's office the Monday after my changes to fill her in on what had happened. She was startled, but sympathetic. We could have driven or flown to New Hampshire, but I wanted to take the train, as I'd heard that it was common for Whateley students to take the train, and Mrs. Apolline said that her connections at Whateley indicated that their winter break had started and ended later than ours did, so it was possible to transfer and start at the beginning of a new semester. She had also hinted that there might be at least one other kid from my school who had also recently manifested as a mutant, who she'd recommended to Whateley. There were confidentiality issues that kept her from revealing names, but it was possible we might meet either on the train or at Whateley. I thought it might be a good idea to meet other kids who were in similar situations.
There were only a couple of other young people that I could see on the train with me. I thought they might be other Whateley kids, but I felt hesitant about just going up to them and asking them. I wasn't good at just spontaneously introducing myself to people, especially now that I looked like a different person with a different gender. Maybe I should have just flown with my family after all, if I still felt too inhibited to introduce myself to other kids. I still didn't feel totally comfortable in my own skin. I'd gotten some advice from Mom and Tiffany about clothes, though I still preferred to wear jeans and sweatshirts, just in different sizes now. I'd also gotten advice on how to handle certain embarrassing things, like periods, but fortunately I hadn't had to deal with that whole situation yet. I was physically female, as far as I could tell, but still growing, still changing. I
There was one guy who seemed about my age, who I thought might be a Whateley student. He'd boarded at the same station I had, but I hadn't gotten more than a glimpse of him. He was talking to someone next to him, an older person. He was tall, broad-shouldered, well-built, probably an Exemplar. He seemed to sense that someone was watching him, and he turned to look at me. His eyes widened. Large brown eyes with very long lashes, that had gazed into mine up close as I'd drained his pneuma at the lake.
Current Time: Sat May 25 23:24:59 EDT 2013
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