Chapter One (Maya):
One, two, one, and two. Step, step, step, I told myself, pounding around the track like a pack of wolves were on my heels. The key is balance and rhythm, not speed or strength.
Despite my internal couching, I was still at the middle of the group. Genesis Crown, my former-nemesis, was closing the gap between us, her black hair bouncing. Keep going, my brain urged me. Just don’t trip on-AAAAHHHHH!!! I stumbled over a rock on the track, sailing head over heels and smashing into the dirt. Genesis passed me with a smirk, followed by Nimbus, who was carrying a green lap flag. He’s on his second lap already??!
Somehow, I managed to get up and continue the next few laps, passing the finish line in eighth place. Coach raised his eyebrows at me as I stumbled past him towards Nimbus. Who was in first, as always.
“Nice run, Maya. I like that you’re focusing on rhythm and pace, not pure speed,” he grinned. “You’ll do better next time. If you keep up your pace and don’t trip over any rocks next time, you might get third or fourth place!”
“Yeah, right,” I half-grumped, wrapping a damp towel around my neck. “You can’t get any worse than eighth place.” Nimbus arched his eyebrows and pointed to the track as Rorry Sońg burst past in ninth place, puffing and panting over to us.
“Better luck next time, Rorry,” Nimbus smiled, and Rorry returned the grin half-heartedly. I followed him over to his pack, where he grabbed a Boston Crème donut.
“You’ve been carrying that in your pack the whole time?” I asked, scrutinizing the treat.
“Don’t expect me to eat while I run,” he joked, biting into it. I raised my eyebrows.
“I wouldn’t put it past you,” I retorted with a teasing smile. Rorry laughed, his crystal, cobalt-blue eyes sparkling, and quickly finished off the donut in one fell swoop. “By the way…we don’t have much homework to do. Want to come over after school?” His answer was interrupted by a shriek. I wheeled around, and stifled a scream of my own.
Nimbus was standing on the track, staring at two furry tails that had uncurled from his jeans. They were a dark-amber/golden hue, with black tips. The track team gathered around him, staring at the tails.
“Someone get Coach!” Caspian Firefoxx called.
“He’s in the bathroom,” Genesis answered, absently picking at her jacket. Nimbus was still rooted to the spot, swaying back and forth. “Nimbus, what-I just don’t get it. Did these just appear?”
“I-I was just thinking about how much I love track-and how I wished that I could take speed to the next level…then I felt this burning pain a-and these appeared,” he shakily answered. Creepy, I thought.
“Well maybe we could get you to a doctor…” Rorry started.
“No! They might cut them off, or send me to a lab, or the circus…” Nimbus rushed. “What if I’m just some experiment?” Rorry put a hand on Nimbus’ shoulder.
“Calm down. You can come with us to Maya’s house if you want. It’s nice and quiet there. We’ll sit in the garden and talk.” Nimbus nodded slowly. “We’ll leave a note for the principal. We don’t have to tell anything. But we should get you away from Coach quickly. Which means we leave now.”
My mother sat with us in the back garden, a strange expression on her face. Nimbus attempted to tuck his tails into his pants, but they were too big. Genesis flopped on her back and whipped out her phone. Rorry just sat there, a butterfly on his nose. He crossed his eyes and stared at it, as did I. Caspian was locked in a debate with himself over some random topic. All of us were trying to avoid the obvious, except for my mom.
“Well, this is nothing new, but I’ll explain everything,” she started, her snowy white curls bouncing on her back as she sat down. I gaped. Nothing new?? I thought. She’s seen human-tails before?! Or is she just kidding with us? “We-when I say we, I mean all of you, including me, are not human. I’ll put it bluntly first.” Rorry jolted forward in a cross between horror and curiosity, scaring his butterfly away. My mother continued, “We are called Slydogs, and we have grown up alongside humans, in disguise, for many years. This explains the tails, Nimbus. We have the ability to transform into a human to fool others, but…we’re foxes. Bear with me here. This is not some creepy joke. All of us are very special. We are decscended directly from the great Slydog’s children, Lightningfoot, Blazeear, Ivynose, and Ivorytail. There are lots of precautions we’ll have to take now, but no one has to cut their tail-or tails-off. Are you still with me?”
Caspian fainted. Rorry looked like he was going to vomit. Genesis had stopped texting and was looking at her hands as if she was expecting fur to sprout from her skin. Nimbus closed his eyes and began to take deep breaths. As for me? I wasn’t sure how I felt. Confused, angry, and scared, to name a few. I searched my mother’s face, looking for the telltale smile. Nothing. Is this true? I wondered.
“P-prove it. That we’re not ps-psycho mutants,” Genesis stuttered. “W-why should we believe you?”
There was a sudden flash of blinding light. When it died down, I screamed. My mom had disappeared. In her place was a small, lithe fox with bristly, light-grey fur and three, poofy tails. No-no-no-no-no, this isn’t happening!! My mind shrieked. Rorry jumped back, startled. Nimbus choked.
“You mean, we can do that? Transform, I mean,” Rorry asked. The fox nodded, and transformed back into my mom.
“Are y-you still my mom?” I asked nervously. My mother smiled.
“Of course, Maya!” She hugged me tightly. “Now you all try it. Close your eyes, and envision a wish of another life…”
I want everything to turn out all right, I thought. Suddenly, there was a flash of light, and my world went spinning.
Then I blacked out.
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✵ 4/24/17 ✵
we cry, like animals
These are the tears of things, and our mortality cuts to the heart.