Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 1

Inside her small flat, Echo Sorrel sat cross legged in the middle of the floor, eyes crossed, deep in her meditative state. Breathing slowly, she stretched out her arms, before lowering them again, to the rhythm of her breath. Now more than ever, she thought, was it important to keep herself grounded. She had only been living away from the Apsu Commune for a week, but had sill not found the right time and place to Become her other form for her first time away from the Community, so meditation and centring her other powers would have to do for the time being.

She had chosen to leave the Commune to immerse herself in Human (as the Lu called themselves) Life. Come away to live on her own, away from the Community, to study the ways and lives of the Lu, who had fascinated her for her entire life. Most of the Apsu in Echo’s Community, had little interest in the Lu. They know the basics; they were not entirely segregated as they were a Progressive Community, but it had never interested any of them to the extent it had Echo. The first of her Community to ever move away, the first to live as a Lu, but Echo was determined not to lose her nature in the process. So she would centre her powers every day until she could find a safe place to Become.

The week had been an interesting one. She had moved, not only from her family, her community, but from the countryside to the city. To London, in fact. Echo had never seen anywhere as busy, anywhere as big, before she had moved. She had just wanted to go somewhere different, to experience what she had never had the chance to before growing up in the tiny Apsu populatedvillageofStony Oaks.

In Stony Oaks lived maybe 12 families, around 60 people in total, all Apsu. They were in a remote part of Dorset, fairly far from any human residents, although they were not entirely secluded. The children of Stony Oaks went to ordinary schools, and although they mostly kept themselves to themselves, it was there that Echo’s fascination with the ways to the Lu, the ordinary people began. Unlike most of the children in Stony Oaks, who left school young to focus on their study of magic, Echo had stayed, before deciding, at the age of 19, to be the first from Stony Oaks to go to university.

To Echo’s father. Alder Sorrel, this decision was not without complication. Alder was the Zagmi (a sort of priest, or head shaman) of Stony Oaks, and prior to her decision he had been training Echo to become a Zagmi too, a great honour among the Apsu of Stony Oaks. Her mother, Fawn, had been more easily persuaded, as she was raised outside of a community, in the Lu world. The was because of Fawn that Echo and her siblings had been permitted to get a television, and, though more recently, access to computers and the internet, in complete contrast with their otherwise traditional home life. Now though, Echo had come not only so study the ways of the Lu with her Sociology degree, but to submerge herself in their way of life, to live exactly as one would do.

Slowly, she opened her eyes, re-emerging from her meditation, her breathing speeding to normal pace. She longed to Become, but it was never the same unless there was somewhere to run, to be free and explore, and those places had proved hard to come by in the city. She wondered what Apsu who lived places like this did, where they went to Become, and if there were likely to even be any of her kind living in such a place. She had always wondered how Apsu lived outside of the Communities. They were not many in number, she had heard statistics such as there being 1 Apsu for every 6000 Lu, but these sort of statistics could never be accurate as Apsu were not known about in general society, and so tended to stay hidden. Outside of the Communities, Echo imagined it would be hard for one Apsu to find another, even with their telepathy. Alder had told her of a small Community on the outskirts of London, that Stony Oaks had good relations with, so Echo had decided that if she could not find a place to become on her own soon, she would try to contact them.

Standing up, she glanced at the clock on her wall of her flat. It was large for a one bedroom flat in the city, but it was unbelievably small for Echo, confined to the inside, alone and not knowing her neighbours. She longed to start university, to meet people, and that would all come soon. It was steadily approaching 11pm, on the Sunday night before she was due to start. She had moved down early, advised by her mother to move in and to give herself a chance to settle, but Echo was anything but settled. She picked up her mobile phone on the table and scrolled through the numbers. Most of her friends at home did not have phones, Apsu, at least the ones at Stony Oaks, tended to communicate with telepathy when they are apart, sending and receiving messages to each other. Before Echo moved, she had not used her telepathy from such long distance, and while she could easily send messages at the distance, receiving them proved harder. Usually they came to her while meditating – she used it much like checking an answer-phone for messages – but she had had difficulty receiving any today. There was too much interference; she was too busy in her nervous excitement to finally be starting what she had moved for to be able to here anything. She landed on the landline for home and pressed the call button. Her mother answered.

 “Hello? Echo? Is that you?” The fragmented voice of her mother came through into Echo’s ear.

 Yes, it’s me, mum. What’s wrong?”

 “We’ve just been trying to contact you all day, I’ve been leaving you messages for hours, have you not gotten them?” Fawn explained, more relaxed now, “Nothing’s wrong, you just sounded so distant last time we heard you.”

 “You’ve been trying to contact me all day, and you didn’t think of using the phone?” Echo asked, frustrated by the Communities refusal to accept Lu technologies as part of their everyday life. “I mean, I’d have thought you of everyone would have at least thought of that.”   

 “Well, yes, I had, of course I had, but your father thinks you need to practice your long distance telepathy, he thinks you’re getting too caught up in living like one of them you’ll lose who you are, and I’m inclined to agree with him. When I was young, before I came here, I could barely send or receive thoughts at all, but it’s just a matter of practice.” Fawn said, torn between wanting to talk to her daughter and wanting Echo to use her magic.

 “I know, I know,” Said Echo, “But I just wanted to say hello without any interference. I couldn’t concentrate today, it’s just so exciting for tomorrow, I just wish I could Become and go for a walk to clear my head, but I still haven’t found anywhere.”

 “But Echo my darling, need I remind you that your other form is a cat, and cats live in the city. It’s not like when I was young, it’s not like you have to find a remote park or patch of countryside at night to Become a deer!” Her mother laughed.

 Echo nodded in thought at the idea, “But it’s never the same when there are Lu around, having to become the animal you Become rather than just being yourself.”

 “I know,” Fawn replied, “But maybe just to Become, even if only for a short while, is all you need. Just be careful, don’t lock yourself out, and don’t let anyone see you!” She warned.

 Echo smiled, having come round to the idea. Her mother was right, it was exactly what she needed before starting tomorrow. “I won’t, I’ll be careful, there’s a shed round the back of the building that I can Become in, and I’ll just leave my keys in there. I won’t go far or anything.”

 “Okay, well good luck, and good luck tomorrow, my darling. I’ll hear from you soon?” This wasn’t so much a question as to weather they would speak soon, but how they would speak soon, through telepathy or the phone.

 “Yes, you will, thanks mum.” Echo said, “Goodnight.”

 “Goodnight, I love you.” Her mothers response came.

 “Love you too.” Echo replied, before disconnecting the call.

 Alone again, the silence resonated in Echo’s ears, much like the phenomenon of her namesake. She got up and walked towards the door, taking her keys with her. She put the door onto the latch just in case of a problem, knowing that the door to the building would be locked at least. She walked outside, the air was cool, but not a cold as she had expected for the Autumn night. She made her way round the back of the building, and fumbled with her keys for the one to the shed. It was a shared shed, belonging to the 12 flats in the block, but Echo suspected no one would be using it so late at night. She unlocked it, looking around suspiciously, before opening the door, stepping inside, and pulling it to. Within the shed were 2 bicycles, a lawnmower (although they had no garden), and numerous watering cans. Then she waited.

 She waited for five minutes or so, to make sure it was safe and that no one had followed her. Then she began to undress, fast, making sure to pile her clothes in the far corner over her keys where they would not be seen. Standing in the shed, naked, Echo took a deep breath and kneeled down, before transforming, before Becoming.

 Had anyone been watching that night, they would have then seen a very fluffy, very large, grey and white cat, slowly pushing the door open with its nose. The Maine Coon cat purred softly as she slowly padded out of the shed, turning round to push the door back after she left, making sure her nose could still fit under it to get back inside later on. Echo looked around, calm in her mind and body, the world always looked so different through the other eyes. Sharper, faster, drained of colour but so much stronger in all other senses. Her red pointed ears twitched as they acclimatised themselves to the city sounds. A gust of wind swept past, and, caught in the moment, Echo took off, bounding down the street, jumping fences as only a cat, or, for that matter, an Apsu, could. 

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