Chapter: One Chapter
Spoilers: None, but it helps to have read the first trilogy to understand the events.
Date Posted: January 2006
This story is about a human hermaphrodite in the early days of Wraeththu. I have used the location of Forever and the character of Zack to give some indication of time period and locale. The location names in the beginning of the story are U.S. and “real world.”
I was born the day the levy broke. My father awaited my birth pacing in the den, gulping fine bourbon and sucking down cigarettes. His eyes were glued to the television, watching his hometown drown under the awesome fury of Katrina. Mother pushed me out in the ballroom that had once hosted her debut, temporarily turned into a new age birthing room complete with water-birth tub, piped in Tibetan chants, and a small army of long haired, organically clothed Wiccans. We dwelled in the house that would become Forever, but that was a distant tremor in our future, unimaginable at the time. The race of beings that would overcome our world had surely begun, but had not yet made themselves known.
The midwife was a priestess, with a frail, bird like appearance and large, spacey blue eyes. As she pulled me out of the water and onto my mother’s panting breast she cried, “look at that hair!” – an exclamation I would hear like a greeting the rest of my life. My crowning glory, with black and glossy bottom layers and white and wavy ones at the top, was already four inches long when I emerged from the womb.
After the initial excitement of my arrival, the midwife took me to a warm little bath to clean and examine me. As her assistant helped my mother deliver the afterbirth, to be planted in the garden, Willow the midwife marveled at my perfectly formed, long limbs – more like a doll’s than a squishy newborns.
As she cleaned between my legs she emitted a little gasp. My mother, though she came from money, had eschewed the medical establishment for both of her births. She didn’t need the cold and sterile hospitals to do what her body was made to do. She had not had an ultrasound, had not even gone in for check-ups during pregnancy. With an androgynous name selected, she wanted to be surprised on my birth day.
As my mother was cleaned, dried, and wrapped in a robe, she looked at Willow expectantly. Willow carefully wrapped a blanket around me, leaving it looser around my bottom.
“It’s…beautiful,” Willow beamed, handing me into Mother’s waiting arms.
Terrance, my elder brother by five years, had spent the birth hiding under a chair. The sight of it ruined women for him thereafter. He ran out to retrieve my father shortly after I emerged. Glass of bourbon and two cigars in hand – one banded “it’s a boy” the other “it’s a girl,” my father stumbled in as my mother unwrapped me from my blanket. Ten fingers. Ten toes…One penis. One vagina.
“It’s a miracle!” she exclaimed.
My father’s glass crashed to the floor as he saw me over Mother’s trembling shoulder. With shaking hands he lifted both cigars to his mouth and lit them, inhaling the pungent smoke before leaving the room.
My father married above him. A charming Italian gambler from New Orleans, he knew how to dress and behave around the wealthy, snaking himself into their lives and beds for long enough to pay his gambling debts before slinking into the next one. My mother, vacationing during Mardi Gras on break from her all girl boarding school, didn’t stand a chance when they met.
Mother’s family lived in Savannah. They were of a dying breed of Southern Old Money, one of the few whose wealth hadn’t disappeared during Reconstruction. After his careful seduction, she agreed to marry my father, who perhaps felt genuine affection for her as well as her inheritance. With a host of ghosts in every closet, my father moved into my mother’s family home, Montclair, known as “the Big House” to the rest of the town.
Generations of incest had created a tradition of anomalies in my family tree. Sprinkled with the fruits of aristocracy, that my mother and brother represented – fine featured, fey beauties with the amoral ease of privilege in their eyes – were the freaks. The mad ones, the dwarves, pinheads, buried blobs of protoplasm, Siamese twins, and, finally, me.
Most people have a very limited knowledge of human gender. X and Y. Male and female. There are actually at least five known genders in the spectrum of human sexuality, and I was born in the middle. Fully formed in both of my aspects, I was a bit of a celebrity in the limited field of medical gender research. I was poked, prodded, photographed and studied by the best, the only known of my kind. In my heart I was sure there were more of me running around, maybe in the shanty towns of Appalachia, the ditches of India, the whorehouses of Thailand, and anywhere else people too far from society to follow it’s recommended rules of propagation dwelled. Of course, if anyone had told me in my formative years that armies of intersex youths would eventually take over the Earth, take over Montclair, even, I would have laughed and spat in their faces.
My mother didn’t see me as a freak, but as a miracle. She saw me as a living yin-yang symbol, an expression of cosmic balance. Her and my father fought constantly about my upbringing. I would not be a he or she, she decided. I would dress in unisex clothes. I would be me, and I wouldn’t conform, she would make sure of it. While my father would yell, “just have them cut it off!” my mother would shoot smoldering looks and bang doors around Montclair until he came begging for forgiveness. She, the frail and dark eyed witch of the house, would always prevail. In her quiet way, she never let my father forget exactly where he came from.
And where he came from was submerged, in that year of disasters. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes tore the land apart as nature fought back against the cars, the buildings, the feeble constructs of our society. My mother would watch the destruction with fire in her eyes, welcoming it. “The judgment is coming,” she would say, clutching me to her side. “One day the tide will come, wiping the atrocities of man off the streets.”
I’m glad she didn’t live long enough to see the real tide, the one that wiped man and woman off the streets. She was washed up in it herself, perhaps a willing sacrifice to the New Gods.
I grew up in isolation at Montclair. I was tutored at home, my fathers wish, and a rare one granted. If Mother wouldn’t make me choose a gender, I’d at least be saved from the inevitable scrutiny and cruelty of schoolchildren. Terrance, my misanthropic older brother, was the closest thing I had to a friend.
When I was seven years old a tutor presented himself at our door. He was a slight, wiry Asian of indeterminate age with long white hair bound in a bun on top of his head. He said he was a Taoist and was destined to teach me. An imposing creature, he was quickly given the run of the house, and I became his pupil.
He called himself Master Chang, an obviously fake name. He told me I was an embodiment of the Tao, the balance of light and dark, male and female. He said he was 177 years old, possessing ancient secrets of longevity that he would pass on to me. He taught me how to defend myself without a weapon, how to heal with my hands, how to focus my mind and second sight. All these skills would be of great use in the coming, transformed world, and I am still indebted to him for raising me on them.
Master Chang was far from affectionate, and he did not try to moralize to me, instead teaching me to view each situation in it’s relation to my own needs. No altruistic promoter of the golden rule was he, who tread the line between light and dark. These skills too would do me well in the New World.
When I reached puberty, even Master Chang began to get impatient with me. The volatile amounts of testosterone and estrogen coursing through me made me an explosion of emotions – unpredictable and unpleasant. Some days I was violent and angry, sharing my brother’s usual state of being. We got along best on those days. We would stalk around his room planning world domination, then go to the shooting range with his already impressive collection of firearms. Terrance was a ball of fire, his hatred for humanity consumed him – he felt the tide of the New Breed before I or even Master Chang did. On one of my angry days, scowling down at the beauty of a spring day from an attic window with Terrance, he predicted: “There’s going to be a culling. The powers that be, they will fall under the primal rage, and their buildings and war machines won’t protect them as their own sons tear their hearts from their chests. A rain of fire will tear across the land, bringing with it a new dawn. And I’m going to be a part of it.”
I listened half heartedly to his vitriolic rambling, having heard it all before. Little did I know how right he was, how gladly he would greet the invaders when they came. He put the knife to his own mother’s throat before offering his blood to a tribe of black hearted angels, clad in leather and drenched in blood. He had called to me that day, “they’re here, Robyn! Come with us!” but I wasn’t there. That’s another story, one I shouldn’t be at yet. For the moment we are still in the ghostly halls of Montclair before it became Forever, filled with even more hungry ghosts and shattered souls. Forever was a fitting name for the house that withstood the war between brothers, the Reconstruction, and the Invasion of the New Breed. We would all dwell in Forever eventually, ghosts in the halls of time.
When I wasn’t filled with rage, I was a sobbing wreck, bemoaning my loneliness, my inability to ever find love or take my pants off in front of anyone else. Everyone I saw turned me on at those times, and I was a wreak of fear and longing. I knew no matter what anyone I went to bed with was expecting, I wasn’t going to be it.
Terrance was always exasperated with me on these days. He would tell me I was perfect, that I was beautiful. He would hold me close and put his head on my shoulder, burying his face in my hair, telling me he loved me and to please stop crying, please. I hid in my room from him those times, not wanting to join in the family tradition of incest and not being able to look at him without wanting to. After all, Master Chang was the only other person around besides Mother and Father, and I was far too frightened of him to even fantasize he was anything other than the ageless and infinitely wise master he was.
As Master Chang began to recognize the timing of my hormonal fluctuations, he began to work with me on balancing them. By the time I was fifteen, I still felt the surges of rage and hysteria, but I knew how to pull them into functional balance. My body had changed dramatically over those few years, as I became fully developed in both aspects. There had been some speculation amongst my army of doctors as to whether one sex would become dominant upon puberty, but I surprised them again. My penis was quite healthy and functional, and my female organs were as well. I didn’t have much of a period, just light spotting once a month accompanied by burning cramps and the aforementioned mood swings. I had mammary glands, but my breasts were very small, looking more like well developed pectorals. I had a small waist and quite feminine curve of my torso, with narrow hips. I was tall, 6’1″, with long, straight arms and legs. Master Chang was most displeased with this development, feeling a tall, gangly creature would be too clumsy to adequately learn kung fu. This just made him push me harder, which I appreciated, as it took my mind off of my hormones.
Filled with the confidence of Master Chang’s kung-fu lessons and the recklessness of youth, I began to explore the town outside of Montclair. I would wear simple jeans and shirts with an army jacket, my long, two-toned hair tied in an androgynous low ponytail. I didn’t wear make-up, and could pass as either a boy or girl my own age. I walked the streets of town alone, observing the tapestry of humanity that existed all around me. I sometimes rode the bus to the last stop, then rode back, just to watch everyone, wandering together alone in their own baby universes, as insular and unique as my own.
On one of my excursions I stopped by a convenience store a few blocks from Montclair for a soda. As I walked towards home, a boy leaning against a tree in the empty lot behind the store caught my eye. He was smoking a cigarette, staring at me with dark almond eyes that smoldered under an unruly fringe of glossy black hair. He beckoned me with a twitch of his head. I looked around to make sure it was really me he was looking at before heading over.
“Hey,” he said casually, raking his eyes over me as he finished his cigarette.
“Hello,” I replied, putting a hand in my pocket, trying to appear casual and relaxed. He was a couple of inches shorter than me, with a lean build and sallow skin. Smelling of smoke and whisky, he radiated with unwholesome appeal. Irresistible.
“What’s your name?” he asked, crushing his cigarette with his foot before reaching for my soda.
“Robyn,” I answered, handing it to him.
“Hmmm,” he replied. He pushed the hair away from his eyes. His long bangs fell into them constantly, causing him to swing his head around often, peeping under them seductively. He handed my drink back to me after taking a long swig, full lips glistening and moist. I’m sure he noticed I was staring, but I didn’t care.
“Let’s walk,” he said, and turned the opposite direction from Montclair. I followed.
We stopped and sat in an abandoned car, and he began to role a joint. We didn’t speak much, except for random comments about the ugliness of the people in town and our surroundings. I didn’t even hold most of these opinions, but I was too wrapped up in the novelty of unsupervised social interaction to do anything but go along. I took my hair down and shook it out. It was long and full, my best feature.
He lit the joint and took a long drag before handing it to me. “My name’s Zack, by the way,” he said, and began to play with my hair. I closed my eyes and sighed; it felt delicious. I had never been touched like that before. Raised on the cold prods of doctors, the strained embrace of family, and the iron fist of Master Chang, Zack’s idle hands were a revelation.
We sat getting stoned, him playing with my hair and I spouting Taoist philosophy for an endless afternoon. I could tell he didn’t pay attention to much of what I said, but I didn’t care. He was beautiful.
“Are you a boy or a girl?” he asked randomly, while I was taking a breath between musings about the I-Ching. I slid my eyes over to his, much closer than I had realized, and just smiled. He smiled back, wicked and slow. He put a hand on the back of my neck, another pulled gently on my hair and he said, “I don’t care,” before he kissed me.
My head was already clouded by the smoke, and his kiss sent me into a stratosphere of lust. He pushed me down on the seat, laying on top of me, groping and biting with the feverish desperation unique to youth. My back arched and I clawed at him. pushing up against him through my clothes.
“A boy,” he decided, noticing my erection. He unbuttoned my jeans and put his hand in them. I can probably pull this off, I thought, he may not even notice…
“Wait a second,” he said. His hand had slid underneath my penis to the very wet, swollen labia below. His smile split his face, and curiosity trumped lust as he yanked down my jeans and ducked his head down to investigate.
I sighed and assumed the position and mind set of my life thus far. A side-show I was born and would stay. As Zack poked around I looked up at the torn cloth on the roof of the car, mind wandering idly. I was snapped back into the present, however, when the prying hands were replaced by a tongue, and the touching became less clinical and more stimulating. My body arched and I couldn’t suppress a cry as he expertly brought both halves of me to life. Twisting as if I were electrocuted, I grabbed at him half blind, a little worried he might not be enjoying himself as much as I was, a sentiment shared by all virgins. After it was all over, I would wonder where he learned to do all of that and what kind of people just had sex with each other in the back of an abandoned car after barely meeting, but I was too filled with satisfaction and shock to register such doubts.
We arranged our clothes and he rolled another joint. “That was something else,” he finally said. That was an understatement, I thought.
We began to see each other regularly. We were filled with blind lust, and were thrilled with the danger of getting caught. He had me in public restrooms, abandoned buildings, empty construction sites, up against trees, in alleyways, and even at Montclair. This proved to be the most dangerous of all, since it was the place we finally were found out.
We were in the attic, looking through old family relics and drinking my father’s bourbon. Zack was taking me flung belly down over a cedar trunk when Terrance walked in.
“Jesus fucking Christ!” he exclaimed, covering his eyes and turning his back, but not leaving. “I was wondering what all that racket was!”
Zack and I laughed as we pulled our clothes on. For all his tough attitude, my brother was a prude.
“I’ll see you later,” Zack said to me, leaving. Terrance kicked him hard on the shin when he walked past.
“Fuck off,” Zack replied, shrugging him off. Terrance glared at him as he left.
“You know,” I said to Terrance, “you could have just quietly walked away un-noticed.”
Terrance turned to me sharply, his eyes burning with rage. “You need to be more careful,” he spat out. “He’s trouble. How long has this been going on?”
I shrugged. “About a month.” I crossed my arms and tossed my hair back defiantly. “Why?”
Terrance shook his head. “You should have told me, Robyn. Zack’s a fucking psychopath. I didn’t even know he was out of juvie.”
“Zack was in juvenile detention?” I asked, laughing. “What did he do?” We were walking down to Terrance’s room, arms linked. He never stayed mad at me.
“He and some other idiot were dropping concrete blocks off a freeway overpass. One hit a car that went skidding into another. Two people died.”
“Geez,” I replied. “I thought you were going to say it was some drug thing.”
“Nope,” Terrance said. “The other kid got most of the rap for it. Zack was only thirteen or so, and the other guy was sixteen or seventeen. Zack said he was forced to do it, that the guy raped him… all lies.”
Terrance sat on his bed, looking thoughtful. “It’s not even so bad that he did it,” he said, “but that he screwed his friend over. That’s why you should stay away from him. He can’t be trusted.”
I laughed and slapped Terrance on the back before going to my own room. The fact was, he could have told me Zack had slit his own mother’s throat (which, incidentally, Terrance would do in the near future). I was still going to see him.
As my hand grasped the doorknob to my bedroom, Terrance called, “if you keep seeing him, I’ll tell Master Chang.”
My head snapped up and I met Terrance’s eyes. A real threat. After a five second stare-down he gave in. “I won’t,” he conceded. “But please be careful.”
The only thing worse than an overprotective brother is an overprotective brother who is right.
The day my romance ended was hot. It was the middle of summer, school had been out for the other kids in town for just long enough for them to be getting restless. I was not a part of their world, unaffected by the tides of the school year and their meanings. I was sprawled out on the white marble steps of Montclair in my cotton workout clothes, after a vicious sparring session with Master Chang. My hair was pulled tightly on top of my head, feet bare, as I drank a bottle of water. Replaying some of my mistakes during the lesson in my head, I didn’t hear them approach.
Zack had arrived with four other boys. He looked closed off, uncomfortable. His arms were crossed and he couldn’t meet my eyes, pulling back from the group.
The other boys were of the same type as him; pretty, dangerous, a little dirty and rough. I would have found them attractive if they hadn’t been looking at me like I was their next meal.
“Hello,” I said, expressionless, not getting up.
The ambush was fast and silent. Two held down my arms, while the other two yanked down my loose pants and held down my legs.
“Holy shit,” said the obvious ringleader, a dishwater blonde with smudged eyeliner. He poked between my legs with a dirty finger. This has gone far enough, I decided.
I may appear, to the untrained eye, a bit frail, since my skin is like a china doll’s and my limbs thin as pencils. That assessment would be a foolish one, however, since beneath the snow white skin is twisted steel, and beneath the steel, the rage of a frustrated man and a violated woman, writhing and waiting for just the right moment to strike.
I bucked my body up, kneeing the two at my feet in their chins, then kicking the other two in the head. I quickly pulled my pants back on before running a few steps up to a superior position.
Master Chang had devised a special style of kung fu for me that would, in his mind, encompass the unique balance of my self. It was the Coyote-Crane. It combined the dirty street fighting of the west with the graceful countering and blocking of the east. Light and dark. Men box, women claw. Even men like the ones before me had a certain fighting code of conduct, but women, by nature, fight dirty. They spot weakness and pounce.
I don’t remember all of the fight, not until I came to the one I had termed the Violator. He, I decided, would pay.
I stomped on his instep, kneed him in the groin, uppercut to his gut, and then, while he was bent over, I pressed my thumbs into his eye sockets. I felt a re-assuring pop as they plunged into the viscous fluid, his screams piercing the air as birds shrieked and fled their homes in our trees.
The other three backed away, horrified. I let them take their friend, blinded for life. Zack was standing still, in shock, as I pierced him with my gray eyes. I had always let him dominate me sexually because I liked the way it felt, craved surrendering my body and mind. He had never seen the black half of me, the Wolf. I smiled a wicked smile and felt his blood turn to ice as he ran away. Terrance had joined me on the steps with a knife, disappointed to have missed the fight.
“I told you so,” he said, shaking his head. “Do you want me to kill him?” he added.
“No,” I replied, laughing softly. “A boy like that – living like he does – he won’t need any help getting himself killed.”
Not long after that Zack moved out west, where coyotes roam, eating housecats left out in the night. Someday someone you trust will throw you to the dogs, Zack, I sent out as a curse to him – but you won’t be able to defend yourself as well as I can.
I didn’t have long to mourn my loss; a wildfire of youth gang violence had come burning over the country, and we watched from afar at Montclair with mixed feelings. Mother and Terrance welcomed it, she seeing a bright new age, he a victorious apocalypse. Father just longed for release and would gladly accept either kind masters or an end to his misery. Master Chang kept his own council, but knew something he wouldn’t tell, for he was gone three weeks before the fire reached Montclair. Terrance ran to meet it, and was quickly accepted and rose to prominence within the Varrs, the tribe that took Montclair. Mother and Father were sacrificed, dying quickly, throats slit by the son they never knew. “We have to find Robyn,” he pleaded with his new tribe, but they persuaded him to forget human ties.
And where was I anyway, when the Varrs flooded our town? Why wasn’t I in line with my brother to take the New World in hand?
I was at a medical conference out west, where the Wraiths had not made contact yet and were just a scary side note to the seemingly greater threat of earthquakes. As I was being examined and discussed, naked and cold under the detached gazes of specialists, my brother was going through a process called Altheia, where he would become a little more like me in some ways, but infinitely different in others.
The conference was cut short when one of the doctors from the north called home to find his wife and daughters were dead and his sons were calling themselves “Uigenna.” One of them gave him the news before ripping the phone off the wall. I tried to call home myself, but the line was dead. In my hotel room, I meditated, using a method master Chang had taught me to open my second sight. I saw the end of life as I had known it and sighed. I packed a backpack, then stole all the cash I could from the shocked doctors in my hall at knife point. None of them came after me – perhaps they knew they owed it to me, after all the humiliation they had put me through all those years.
I left the hotel and headed towards home, not really sure if I wanted to get there but having no other direction in mind. I watched, disinterested, as the fragile bindings of society snapped. How quickly we become animals again, I thought. How fragile civilization is.
I saw a taxi at the side of the road, the driver stunned and feckless. I pulled him out and took the car. I drove East, past the screaming city and the dazed suburbs. Weren’t these people going about their lives only yesterday? When did they begin to lose control, or had they ever had it to begin with?
As I drove, I saw a young man stumbling down the road. He ran with a desperate, limping gait, occasionally pausing to clutch his head and scream. I pulled up beside him.
“Get in,” I said. He complied wordlessly.
“Where to?” I asked him.
“Go!” he shouted, pointing forward. “Go now! Hurry!”
He desperately directed me to his destination, which was calling him so loudly he had to scream to hear himself. I did not hear his call. I saw others like him, I could tell they, too, were hearing a call. It drove them in all directions, it drove them mad. They pushed all aside, they abandoned all before them, to answer the call.
After hours of driving, with the cab running on fumes, we arrived at a shambling little town in the desert. Getting out of the car I took one whiff and choked.
“Are you coming?” he asked breathlessly, jogging around a little as he waited for my answer, desperate to go wherever it was he was headed.
“You go ahead,” I answered, breathing the noxious fumes again. “I think I’ll take my chances.” I knew I could never get used to that smell.
He gave me a doubtful glance before running for the settlement. It appeared someone was there to greet him. I crept around until I found their stable and stole a horse. It was easy to do because I was invisible to them – I wasn’t them, I wasn’t what they sought. I quietly slipped away before galloping into the desert, aimless and free.
I traveled, invisible, through the shattered West. When had this happened, I thought, looking at the fresh ruins. Was I asleep all this time?
Master Chang had taught me to shield myself psychically, so I avoided trouble from the New Breed, intent on killing or changing humans. I stalked the perimeters of their tribes, trying to find out who they were, what they were, why they were here.
They were called Wraeththu. They were intersex, but they weren’t like me. They used to be men, but blood transfusions transformed them, making them more – making them whole. They became powerful in every sense, immediately gaining psychic abilities I had trained for years to hone.
I wanted to join, of course, but I balked at just walking in. I noticed boys were called to them. I also saw female ones, which the males did not see. They were haunted, and would always leave newly demolished settlements, following a different call. They were rare, but they didn’t notice me either.
I noticed that Wraeththu clustered in tribes, and to be without a tribe was deadly. I saw no tribe I cared for, which was another reason I avoided capture. Their roles were still too defined for my taste, and they called themselves “he.” I had always and continue to avoid calling myself “he” or “she.” I am. I refuse to choose.
I saw an attempt to incept a woman once. It was in an abandoned house, where the attractive boys were all rounded up for inception. One refused to give up his girlfriend, and the tribe agreed to attempt inception. They had heard it was dangerous, but had never tried it. She was tough; she held her arm out, defiant and ready. What did she have to lose? She would die anyway if she remained human.
Clinging to the shadows, I watched as the blood scalded her veins like acid, turning her slowly and painfully into a lifeless husk, but not before corroding her insides. The screams could be heard for miles, not just her screams, but the screams of all who saw. I backed away from the scene and ran into the wilderness. I was as much woman as man. What would that blood do to me?
The memory of that poor girl haunted me as I stalked the wild areas of the West. I kept to the underbelly of society, stealing what I needed and avoiding any close contact with the Wraeththu. Considering the great tides of strangeness in the world, I suppose what happened next was inevitable.
Walking along the back ally of a nasty little strip of bars, looking for something useful in the trash, I came upon a bloody heap of flesh next to a wall. He was still breathing. It was nighttime, but the moon was high. Sighing, I crouched next to the creature, seeing from his aura he was Wraeththu. He had been beaten and slashed with a knife. I gently rolled his shuddering weight onto my lap and pushed his bloodied black hair off of his almost unrecognizable face. Almost.
“Zack.” I said, and he whimpered in reply.
I flung him over my shoulder and carried him to an inn where I paid for a room for the night. I could tell the caliber of the clientele by the fact that the proprietor didn’t raise an eyebrow at the appearance of my companion.
In a stale smelling room, I gently lay Zack on the bed. I had learned effective energy healing methods from Master Chang, but had never had the opportunity to use them. Here’s my chance, I thought, as I held my hands above Zack’s wounds.
I concentrated my energy into my hands, feeling the black tar of his aura and the red slashes of pain underneath. Silently I worked, pulling him back together and filling the holes with healing light. He’d need a lot more than that to heal him, but he would survive. I went to the bathroom to get towels to clean up the blood. I had a first aid kit in my bag as well.
He looked at me through guarded eyes as I tended to his wounds.
“Are you…?” he asked softly through split lips, spitting out blood.
I shook my head a little. “Can’t you tell?” was all I gave.
He closed his eyes, breathing out through his nose, more blood running out. “What you did just then,” he said, “humans can’t do that.”
I laughed aloud. “It’s a good thing no one told me that before,” I replied.
He kept his eyes closed, letting me take care of him. After I finished with the physical aid, I directed more healing energy to him. He would be scarred for life, but recognizable.
“Why are you helping me?” he asked, sounding annoyed that I’d bothered.
“I have my reasons,” I answered, before leaving the room.
After a little bit of wandering and asking around the hotel, I came back to the room with a syringe. I cleaned it carefully before pulling a chair up to the bed and tying his arm off.
“Well Zack,” I said, tapping a vein, “it’s time to give something back.” He groaned as the syringe filled with his blood. I flopped on the bed beside him and injected myself with it.
“I’m not of a high enough caste for that,” he whined.
“Bullshit,” I answered, throwing off my clothes and getting under the covers, strength fading fast.
“It could kill you,” he added.
“So I’ve heard,” I mumbled.
“You know what has to be done when your through changing, don’t you?” he continued.
“I’ll try to bear it,” I answered.
He sighed, resigned. “I could just leave you here,” he mumbled, finally.
“But you won’t,” I replied. “Looking like you do right now…it could be the last you’ll ever get,” I added.
He sneered in return, and we both went into haunted sleep.
The blood did not kill me, though there were times, in the next three days, I wished it had. Other times I thought it had and I was in hell. Zack, who was morally bankrupt at the best of times and a homicidal psychopath at the worst, was little help during the process. Used to rough treatment from Master Chang to the point of craving it, I was inadvertently better served by this indoctrination into Wraeththu than a more pampered har would have been.
At the end of three days, the process was complete. I didn’t have as far to go as a lot of first generation hara, already containing both male and female aspects and psychic abilities. What inception did was complete me. I felt, as I admired myself in the mirror, like I had fulfilled the promise of my potential.
Zack leaned against the door frame, arms crossed, watching me look at myself.
“It’s not over, you know,” he said.
I smiled at him. I remembered the way he was looking at me, and the memories were fond. I focused on his eyes and hair, ignoring his rapidly healing wounds, and we shared breath.
There are many who would say I made an ill choice in Zack for inception. I disagree. As I breathed his essence I was filled with the black heart of Wraeththu as well as it’s silver promise. We took Aruna together, and it was with vicious bliss. I was careful not to re-open any of his wounds, instead laying my palms flat against them and directing the intense energy I felt into them. He was dominant as before, I a hungry writhing receptacle. Aruna was beyond physical, and it made me realize how little I had ever known him. We could have spent years together, and I would never have known him as human. He was an open wound, with an infection that longed to burn and be burned in return. He was tired, he was angry, and he was broken. Underneath all of that, he was strong. Stronger than I had known, and a heart full to bursting with love and hate.
After resting, I was Ouana, the type of role I had never played or desired to. I let out a dormant part of myself, and a thrusting column of yang energy flowed through me and into him. He clawed and bit me like a cat, hissing and spitting, and I laughed, delighted.
Later, lying in bed, I touched his face.
“It looks better now,” I said.
He nodded. “Aruna heals,” he answered.
We snuck out of the hotel through the window and headed back towards my old home. He had taken to wearing a gauzy black scarf wrapped around his head and black clothes. It hid his scars and also gave him a look of exotic mystery. He told me his history as har, about the Uigenna, Saltrock, and Cal.
“I’ll have to thank Cal if I see him,” I said to Zack.
“Why’s that?” he asked harshly.
“If it weren’t for him,” I said, cupping his chin in my hand, “I may never have seen you again.”
Zack smiled under his scarf, pushing my hand away and walking ahead a ways. I laughed as I walked behind him, enjoying my new life. I can not describe adequately in words the power I felt, the joy in every cell of my body.
I loved the desert, hot, dry and wild. Zack grumbled about everything, the lack of food and water, money, transportation, you name it. We managed to scrounge whatever we needed from abandoned human settlements or random hara willing to trade. There was no end or destination in sight, and this bothered Zack. He was tired of running and wanted to be part of a tribe again.
We were leaving a former suburb, well rested after staying under a roof and eating some food left in a weed choked garden. I was walking ahead of him, whistling and daydreaming, when I heard hoof beats. Zack carried a gun, but I traveled with only daggers, confidant in my wits and hands, not feeling firepower was necessary. I knew all about the brutality of some of the tribes, but I was so high on my new abilities and regular aruna, I still couldn’t bring myself to be scared.
The hoof beats were coming very near, and I had not looked up, staring at a barrel cactus in bloom, marveling at the colors. The hoof beats stopped and I looked up. Twenty savage looking hara on tawny horses formed a semi-circle around me. I raised my hands up in surrender and looked back for Zack. What I saw made me laugh hysterically. How did he manage to get away so fast?
The obvious leader, radiating power from his heart all the way out to the flying tips of his tawny mane, got off his horse and approached me. He grabbed me by the hair, which was worn loose and long, and shook me by it as he growled “what are you laughing at?”
This only made me laugh harder, which was not what he wanted to hear. He pistol whipped me and I hit the ground, unconscious.
The next thing I remembered I was on the floor of a rawhide teepee surrounded by five hara looking down at me with contemptuous hunger. They were wild and beautiful, streaked with war paint and clothed in hides. A tawny har with a golden mohawk bent down, cocking his head to the side. “What tribe are you from?” he barked, loud, rough voice incongruous with his fine, boyish features.
“No tribe,” I said, before being kicked in the side by one of the others.
“What is your name?” he asked next.
“Ronin,” I answered. It was a word I knew from Master Chang’s stories of the Samurai. Disgraced and doomed without a pack – a lone wolf, who’s living on borrowed time.
In the next moment the one who spoke was on top of me. He pulled me up by the hair to take my breath. It wasn’t sharing, it was taking.
The only human or har I had been with before that night (day? I don’t even know, I couldn’t tell in there) was Zack. He was never gentle, but there was a rough ecstasy, a shared brutality that left us satisfied rather than damaged. These hara, however, were intent on doing damage.
The name “Uigenna” is synonymous with “Pelki.” “Pelki” is what hara call rape, or at least that is the closest human term that can describe it. I think it is actually quite different from human rape, as every aspect of our sexuality is different from humanity’s. What I experienced with those beautiful brutes was an initiation – a ritual dance of dominance and power. If I tried to please them, they mocked me. If I tried to fight back, they were furious. It was impossible for me to manipulate the situation, to figure out what I needed to do to get on their good side. By the third round, I had turned my brain off and became a part of the brutality. Maybe it was because Zack had Uigenna blood, or maybe I was more like these hara than I care to admit, but once I stopped thinking in human terms, once I stopped thinking about myself and my position, the atmosphere changed. I became a participant instead of a victim. I felt like a lioness must when being tackled and mounted by a lion. Primal. Rape was something humans did to hurt each other. Pelki was a test, an initiation, it put a har in their place.
It ended as it had begun, with the speaker har on top of me. Bruised and bleeding, I took his vicious and beautiful face in my hands. The other hara were sprawled asleep around the tent. He was no longer inside me, but his aura dominated me. His arms were a taut cage around me and his eyes were green fire. I pulled his mouth to mine and we shared breath. Opened like a crushed flower I tasted blood and steel and a pounding savage heart that never did let go of that human part that needed love. He sank into my arms and fell asleep with his head cradled on my shoulder, my hair wrapped in his fingers. For a brief moment, I felt my own power again.
The next morning I was shaken awake by the shoulder. I cracked a swollen eye open to the hara from the night before in a circle around me again. Oh hell, I thought, don’t they ever get tired?
But they didn’t have the same look about them this time.
“We accept you,” the one I had shared breath with said, and held his hand out to me to help me stand up.
There was a war whoop around the tent, and all the hara began to push me around joyfully. I felt like I had joined the fraternity of the damned, but found myself swept into the thrill of acceptance all the same. I had passed through the fire. Now I belonged. It wouldn’t be long until I, too, would be putting some har through the fire, and I looked forward to it as only a former victim can.
The har I shared breath with was called Loki. He threw some clothes at me – buckskin and leather, with a little beadwork and feathers – and let me keep my daggers. He painted my face in red cheek bone stripes and tied feathers in my hair with leather thongs. After I was suited up in the tribal costume, he pulled me to him and we shared breath. I was shocked at how affectionate he became when no one else was around. The more I shared breath with him, the less violence I tasted. He began to taste like longing, a poignant taste that was almost more brutal then the taste of mindless savagery he had at the start. There was a bleeding gash in his heart, and as he clung to me, I knew he thought I could heal it. I had no interest in healing, however. The experience the night before had activated the Uigenna blood I had been incepted with, and my desire was to run wild, razing the cities of man to make way for us noble savages, rising up like a Phoenix to take back the land and cover it in wilderness once again. I was young and strong and bloodthirsty. Master Chang would tell me I had let the yang dragon grow too large if he were there, but I felt more in balance than ever. We were beyond male and female, beyond good and evil. We were a force of nature, like the hurricanes and earthquakes that swept over the land before us, heralds of our immanence.