November 28, 2012 by Lyn
Every 13th week will be a skip week, with guest stories from wonderful authors I know and love set in the same year/time/setting. This story, Kay and Lily, is by Clare K.R. Miller, author of Chatoyant College. Come back tomorrow for a second guest story, too!
Kayros’s new school is fucking weird.
She would have thought, before, that that was okay. She can deal with weird. After moving around almost every year during her childhood, and the fact that she looks nothing like either of her parents (she’s always known she was adopted), she’s built up quite a shell.
But she doesn’t have a shell against this.
Wings? Horns? Magic? No, this is not what she was expecting. Her parents didn’t warn her about this—which isn’t really odd, since they seemed awfully cagey about this place, but normally they tell her everything. She’s going to be pissed at them once she gets over this headache.
And this… pain in her feet.
She stands up and stumbles, falling to the ground and then yelping with pain. She wants to be embarrassed—she’s tough, dammit—but the pain is too distracting. Actually, the pain is the worst thing. It feels like something is stabbing into her forehead in two places and something is squeezing her feet.
She cries out again, grabbing for the chair to pull herself up, but she can’t reach it. There are people all around and no one is helping her. Dammit, why is no one helping her? Part of her knows that only seconds has passed, but the agony makes each second stretch into hours.
“Hey, you’re okay,” comes a voice at last. A woman’s voice, but deep. She looks up through squinted eyes to see an upperclassman who’d caught her eye earlier, looking as tough as Kay would like to imagine herself—muscular arms, a buzz cut, and worn boy’s clothing. Her hands reach under Kay’s shoulders and pull her upright. “I’ve got you.”
Kay groans. At least the rest of the crowd seems to be moving away, leaving. The older girl speaks low and quickly. “I can help you. I can get you to the doctor, but you need to do something for me.”
“Okay,” Kay mumbles. At least it doesn’t hurt to talk. She’s not sure what the other girl wants but she’ll agree to anything if it means her skull is going to go back to normal.
“I’ve got her, Luke,” the older girl calls, then returns to her quiet voice in Kay’s ear. “I need you to say you’re mine.”
“You’re mine. Just say it.” Her voice is kind. It’s a strange request, but it sounds like she wants to help.
“I’m yours,” Kay groans. Something twists.
“Good girl,” says the upperclassman, and Kay feels a wave of pleasantness that almost—but not quite—masks the pain. The other girl shifts, lifting Kay with an arm under her shoulders and one under her knees.
“You got there fast,” says an amused, deep voice. The gym teacher. Luke. He’s shading them with those huge bat wings, and it helps, because actually Kay’s eyes hurt a lot too. They’re pretty awesome wings.
The upperclassman chuckles. “That is one of the few benefits of being me.” She’s walking now, and every step jars Kay’s bones. She whimpers slightly and clutches the older girl’s arm, which helps.
“I could carry her,” offers Luke.
“I lift heavier crap than her every day, Luke.”
“Yeah, but they’re not in pain. I walk more smoothly.”
“Shit.” They stop. “Yeah, that’s a good idea. I don’t want her hurt. That is why I wasn’t running.”
Kay feels herself being transferred from one set of arms to a longer, higher one, and then the movement starts again. It is a little less jarring this time, though she feels somehow bereft. Then a hand takes hers and squeezes gently, and she feels better.
“Hi, Doc,” the older girl says cheerfully. Kay still has her eyes shut. She’s okay with that. “We’ve got an early Change here.”
“I see that,” says a pleasant woman’s voice. “All right, get her into room one… here’s a pill for her. Thank you, Luke.” Kayros is laid down on a table or bed of some sort, then feels a finger on her lips. “Open up, sweetheart.”
At first it doesn’t seem like a good idea, but then the other girl says, “Open your mouth,” and Kay does. Something small drops into her mouth and she swallows.
The relief is almost instantaneous. The pain falls away and she manages to open her eyes. It’s not gone completely—she can still feel the strange pressures—but she feels a lot better.
She recognizes the doctor. Luke has apparently left. And there’s the upperclassman who helped her, who now has red hair and red eyes—like Ariel and demons, not like Irish and pot smoking. It’s honestly kind of cool.
The doctor is handing the older girl a bottle of blue pills. “One every four hours, less if she doesn’t need them. Take good care of her.”
“I will,” says the older girl, pocketing the pills. “Don’t worry. I know what to do.”
The doctor walks away, leaving them alone. The older girl leans her elbow on the bed Kay is in and grins. “Hi. Didn’t exactly have time to introduce myself. I’m Lily.”
Kay swallows. “Kayros. People call me Kay.”
“I like that.” Lily pats Kay’s shoulder. “I’m going to be taking care of you.”
Kay shakes her head, slowly, not wanting to jar her brain. “I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”
“Yeah, actually, you probably do. But don’t worry. I’ll help you take care of yourself as much as possible.” She touches one of the painful spots on Kay’s forehead. “Looks like you’re growing a pair of horns there. Pretty sweet. Must be part Daeva.”
“I’m growing… what?”
“Horns. It’s cool, a lot of people here have them. Like Luke’s wings. Or my hair and eyes. I think your eyes are Changing too.”
“They hurt,” Kay whispers. “Not as much now.”
“I know. That’s what the pills are for. I don’t think you should walk for a while, but I can carry you again.”
Kay takes a deep breath. Her mind seems to be clearing. “Why shouldn’t I walk?”
“Well, if your eyes don’t hurt too much to look, you should see for yourself.” Lily helps her sit up, and she looks down at her feet.
Her shoes have fallen off. She didn’t notice that, but it’s probably because her feet still hurt. They’re shrunken—it reminds her of pictures she’s seen of Chinese foot-binding, except that her toes have disappeared too.
“Probably going to be hooves,” says Lily. “I’ve got a hooved friend. He can help you learn to walk on them. But until they’re done, I don’t want you trying to balance.”
Kay nods shakily. She can’t argue with that.
Lily scoops her up again and carries her down the hall. A few people they pass grin at them, and Lily nods, but she’s walking quickly and doesn’t stop to talk. Kay doesn’t mind—it’s embarrassing enough to be carried like this.
Finally they reach a room. Lily kicks the door open and sets Kay down on the wide bed. Other than the bed and a neat desk, the room is stark and neat. Lily sighs and stretches, then looks back down at Kay. “Where’s your room?”
“It’s, um, down the hall across from—”
“Just tell me the pod and room number,” Lily interrupts. “I probably know how to get there better than you do.”
“Right,” says Kay, and gives her the numbers.
Lily nods. “I’ll get your stuff. Get some sleep if you can. Once you’re awake, I’ll answer all your questions to the best of my ability, I promise.”
Kay wants to ask why Lily is getting her stuff, and what that weird air pop was after Lily finished speaking, but her eyes are already drifting shut. Before the door has even closed, she’s asleep.