As promised, the first post of (hopefully) many for a serial story I’ve been working on! It’ll be a little slow for the first few weeks, but I hope y’all will bear with me. 🙂
We started to come together in the summer of 2070. Most of us had been on our own before that, not knowing that others existed. Things were hard, but not as hard as the next few years would be. Some people hated us, some loved us. But we were just living what our normal was. I don’t know why I’ve started to write this now, holed up in this smelly bunker and most likely about to die with the dawn. Maybe I need a reminder of where we all came from and the friends we’ve lost and won. Some people accuse us of having divided loyalties but they don’t know us. We are the children of two worlds. And this is our story.
Cassie paused in the barn doorway and took in a deep breath, allowing the sweet scents of hay and musty animals fill her nostrils. She loved the smell. It comforted her. It made her feel safe because she knew the animals didn’t judge her because of what she was. Her boots tapped the concrete breezeway. She’d better get started with Emerald City. The mare’s high falutin owners were coming to visit in the afternoon and the horse had to look perfect.
Frank, the manager of the racing stables, called after her on the way to the mare’s stall.
“Hey, Cas, make sure you change into your polo before they get here!”
She waved in response. It was a ridiculous rule that the employees had to wear polos and one that Frank didn’t usually enforce except when owners came around. She reached under her dirty t-shirt and adjusted the wrap around her chest and shoulders. It was still snug but she might have to check it to make sure no one could see it under her polo. Frank was a good guy. He had taken her in and given her the job when she was penniless and starving two years ago, but even he might turn her away if he found out her secret.
Cassie blew a heavy sigh before entering Emerald City’s stall. The mare and she didn’t usually get along. The one thing the horse loved more than running was tormenting stable hands but she seemed to tolerate Cassie more than others. Of course, the mare had taken advantage of her turnout that morning and her coat was covered in dirt and bits of grass. Cas sighed again and reached for the grooming kit.
Emerald City, or as Cassie preferred to call her, Her Royal Highness, seemed in a more condescending mood and allowed Cassie to put her in cross ties without a fuss. The mare leaned into the curry comb and swished her tail lazily. Cassie smiled a little. If the mare continued to behave, she might get a chance to braid its tail.
Heavier footsteps stopped outside the stall.
“I’m working as fast as I can, Frank,” Cassie didn’t dare take her eyes from Her Highness. Who knew when this stroke of luck would wear out?
“I can see that,” someone who was not Frank chuckled. Cassie looked up with a start. A young man was leaning on the door. He had a worn ball cap pulled over bright red hair. He looked to have 2-3 years on her 18.
“Hi! Sorry, I thought you were someone else,” Cassie apologized. She wondered who he was. She’d never seen him before. He looked nice, but something seemed off about him. She missed Emerald’s ears flatten warningly.
“Are you Cassie?” he asked disarmingly.
“Yeah. Who’s asking?” an uncomfortable urge to flee rippled through her and the back of her shoulders began to itch. He smiled again.
“A friend. I heard you were pretty good with the animals. I’m thinking about stabling here and wanted to get a feel for the hands,” stranger danger said.
“Frank’s the one you really should be talking to,” Cassie hoped he would leave. She didn’t like the energy he was putting out. And she needed to finish with the mare. Energy? Emerald City seemed to pick up on it too and she began to shift her hind feet.
“Actually, I really need to talk to you instead.” Cassie swore that his eyes flickered orange for a moment. Emerald City rumbled warningly.
“I’m going to need you to step back. She’s not really a people person,” Cassie gestured at the mare. Her shoulders itched even more and she prayed the wraps would hold.
“That’s a surprise, seeing as how you’re not really a person, are you?” he smiled smugly and his eyes really did flare brilliant orange. The hair stood up on Cassie’s arms and she took a step back. He was exuding some sort of energy. The air was practically crackling with it. Was he like her? Emerald City neighed loudly and pulled against the cross ties. She seemed to be trying to get between them.
The man’s face turned ugly at the ruckus the mare was creating.
“What’s going on down there, Cas?” Frank shouted. The man leaned in close.
“Next time I ask, you’d better come nicely or you’ll get worse,” he snarled.
“Worse than what?” Cassie was confused. He raised his hand.
“This!” a bolt of lightning leapt from his hand and into Cassie’s body. She flew against the wall with a scream and that’s when Emerald City went berserk. She reared and lunged, trying to get at the stranger. Cassie’s secret pushed and writhed against the bindings in a desperate attempt to get free and help her away from her danger.
“No!” she screamed again in weak protest of her curse before she blacked out.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this first installment! If you liked it, help me spread the word!