Nanowrimo 2011: Of Places I Don’t Know – Chapter 4

Dressed in a slim fit back skirt, translucent grey tights, and a purple flowing top with flat patent black pumps, Echo was ready for the evening. She had spent some time obsessing over what to wear, over what would make her look the most normal, and this was what she had finally settled on, mostly in exasperation at herself for having become so image conscious after such a short time here, put partly because she felt the outfit was right for the occasion. She sat in The U, sipping her glass of red wine, listening to the conversations of those around her.

 

So far, as well as Sophia, she had met Dan and Janie, flatmates of Sophia. Dan was studying design, and was tall with his dark hair in a long and flicky style the Echo had determined must be fashionable. Janie was American, and studying Classical Civilizations. When asked where she was from, Janie had replied withMaine, taking Echo back at hearing the word not in reference to her other form of cat. She had replied by stating that it was like the giant cat, which Janie laughed at.  

 

A few other friends of Sophia and her flatmates were there too, all of which had been introduced to Echo, before continuing their conversations with those they already knew. Bar the short conversation with Janie, Echo mostly spoke to Sophia, trying to get to know her better. Sophia said that her final flatmate, Aiden from Echo’s course, was on his way. So far, about Sophia, Echo had found out who her favourite band were (one of their songs had come on, Echo had never heard it before), that she liked Topshop (having asked if Echo’s shoes were from there – they were) and that she worked in a café two roads over from where Echo lived, called The Coffee House. Echo had said she would stop by there.

 

About 20 minutes of this small talk passed, and the exchanging of shot and witty anecdotes had begun. Everyone seemed to have so many stories that began with “Oh, and this one time….” Whereas Echo remained silent, trying to think of a story that was both witty and like the others, and didn’t involve turning into a cat to miss a gym class or something equally inappropriate, but she laughed in the right places of the stories and was enjoying listening to the others. It was during this conversation that the group was interrupted by a voice from behind Echo saying hello, she spun around, seeing the Green-eyed Boy.

 

“Aiden!” Sophia exclaimed, “About bloody time!”

 

“Yeah, sorry, I got held up,” Aiden said, taking a seat next to Echo, he turned to her, “Hey, you’re on my course aren’t you? Sociology?” Echo nodded, “I’m Aiden,” he said, holding out his hand, “Nice to meet you”.

 

“You too, I’m Echo.” She said, taking his hand to shake. He was wearing a long sleeved grey t-shirt, with some sort of band logo on the front, and dark slim-cut jeans. If he was the voice she had heard, she was going to have trouble seeing if he had The Mark of the Apsu in that outfit, she thought.

 

Having taken off his coat, Aiden got up to go to the bar. He asked if anyone would like another drink; Echo responded by asking if he could get her another glass of wine, getting out her purse to give him the £2.40 that her glass had cost her.

 

“Yeah, sure, red right?” He asked, Echo nodded, still looking for her change, “Oh, do worry about that, I’ll get it.” Aiden said, seeing what she was looking for and walking of in the direction of the bar. Echo felt herself blushing, although she did not really know why.

 

Aiden returned a few minutes later, with Echo’s glass of wine in one hand and his pint of beer in the other. He placed them down on the table before sitting down.

 

“So how are you finding the course so far?” He asked her.

 

“It’s okay,” She nodded, “Though we haven’t really down much yet, have we?”

 

“Yeah, it’ll be good to start properly next week.” He replied.

 

Echo nodded in agreement. These first couple of day, however exciting they had been in theory, the lectures and introductions, in actuality, were fairly mundane. They continued to talk about the course, before moving onto the general introductory questions, where they were from, where they were living this year and so on. To Echo, the conversation seemed to flow smoothly, and it was the first one she had had here that did so. She liked talking to him. She liked listening to melodic tonality and clarity of his voice. She liked having a reason to look at those striking green eyes.  She liked the way the corners of his mouth crinkled when he laughed. She liked that fact that he was laughing. She liked that he seemed to have the time for her.

 

Sophia noticed this; she was, after all, sitting the other side of Echo. She could see Echo blushing when looked at Aiden, and she could see how relaxed she seemed to be becoming with him, compared to how awkward she had seemed earlier in the day with her. Every time Echo’s head glanced round, she would try and make some sort of eye contact, a subtle nod to let her know she could tell how she felt about him, but Echo didn’t seem to notice. This was not the only thing she was not noticing, as she could barely even tell what it was that Sophia found so plain to see.

 

As the evening went on, gradually people started to leave, giving their reasons, mostly being early starts the next day. Aiden, Echo, Sophia and Dan remained. For Echo, the evening had been going remarkably well, she seemed to have finally made some friends in the city. As they all drank more, the conversation began to shift from small talk and anecdotes, to conceptual conversation about ideologies of society and life and the universe, the sort of conversation four people who hadn’t known each other for particularly long, and didn’t have a particularly comprehensive grasp on philosophy could only ever have while inebriated. Echo stayed quite quiet, partly because over the course of the evening she had not drunk nearly as much as the others, but also, partly, because she knew that what she would say would not fit in this discussion. Her talk of energy and power would probably not be accepted here, she though.

 

Next to her, listening to Dan talk about particles that have never left the universe, but how the simply change the form that they are in over time, Aiden leaned in closer, nodding in thought. When Dan had finished his sentence, Aiden continued it.

 

“Yeah man, it’s like how energy doesn’t go anywhere either, it’s just here, waiting in some form or another, changing its shape and form like everything else does.” He said, his eyes squinted in his seriousness. He pushed up his sleeves and raised his left arm, ready to continue to make his point.

 

It was then that Echo saw it. She had almost forgotten, what with the wine and the excitement of seeing people that evening, but upon half a glance she knew exactly what she was looking at. The outline of a dog, right there, clear as day, on Aiden’s left forearm. Blotchy enough to pass for a birthmark, but so clear, so very, very clear to Echo the second it came into her vision. The Mark of the Apsu. She practically reached out to touch it the moment she saw it, but remembered to restrain from doing so.

 

She knew she had heard him! There was no way that it could have been anyone else, she thought, upon reflection. But why was his inner voice so frail, when he seemed so confidant here? Had no one taught him what to do? How was that even possible? The Apsu gene was hereditary through the mothers’ side, so there was no way he could have been born to a Human mother and not learned, even if he had been raised in the outer world and not within a Community.

 

She tried to connect with him again through their telepathy, by this point having almost entirely lost track of the conversation. Maybe sitting right next to him it would work. Her powers had been centred earlier that day, although no doubt thrown somewhat off kilter by 3 and a half glasses of wine. She inhaled deeply, and kept her eyes open to avoid drawing attention to herself. She just had to focus.

“Aiden, I know it’s you. I know what you are. It’s okay, I am like you.” She sent, trying as hard as she could. It would not normally be hard for her to send a message at short distance if she knew exactly where it was going, but Aiden did not seem to know either how to collect messages, which seemed unlikely as they tended to just go straight in, or else he did not know what to do to respond to them. She looked at him as she was sending it, and after, waiting for some sort of facial clue that he had heard her.

 

She saw Aiden furrow his brow and look down at his Birthmark. He seemed to be hearing her, or at least understanding what she was referencing as far as she could tell by him looking to his arm. The faint hum she had heard in class came through again. Was this his response? Was this all he had to say in return.

 

“Is this real?” She heard, after some time, “But you can’t tell me if this is real, can you? Because then how do I know that is real?”

 

“It’s real.” Echo said, slightly too loudly.

 

“Exactly! You get what I mean!” Dan exclaimed, thinking she was speaking in response to his latest conspiracy theory.

 

Echo looked over at Aiden, hoping he knew what she meant. By the look on his face, he had. His skin was drained of colour, and his hands had begun shaking.

 

“I’m going to, um, go for a cigarette.” Aiden announced.

 

“I’ll come with you, if you like?” Echo said, despite the fact she did not smoke. She just wanted to be able to talk to him again, to really talk to him this time. Aiden just nodded, looking at the ground.

 

She put on her jacket and picked up her handbag, and walked over to the doo following Aiden. Outside, he leaned against the wall of the building, taking the silver and slightly crumpled box out of his jeans pocket. He took a cigarette out and offered Echo one, which she declined, before lighting his own and inhaling deeply.

 

“How did you know?” He asked her quietly, after a few moments of silence.

 

“How did I know? You were sending messages in class the other day? That hum? And you’ve got The Mark of the Apsu, of course.” Echo replied, as if it were as obvious to him as it was to her.

 

“The Mark of the what now?” Aiden replied, clearly confused.

 

“Apsu,” Said Echo, slowly, “What you, what we, are. Were you not.. I mean, what did you think?”

 

“I knew that there were others, I’ve just never met one. I didn’t know, I mean, I don’t know about any of this. I didn’t know there was anything to know, really.” He explained, furrowing his brow in thought.

 

“But, weren’t you taught? Weren’t you told? Surely you’re mother must be Apsu?” Echo questioned.

 

“My mother, my birth mother, is dead. Has been my whole life.” He said plainly, breathing in from the cigarette in his hand. Echo nodded. She paused, not knowing what to say.

 

“I can teach you, if you like?” She said finally.

 

“Teach me what?”

 

“The ways of the Apsu, how we do things, out history, how to use and to centre your power, how to use telepathy properly and how to make charms and spells.” She replied.

 

“I can do all that?” Aiden asked, taken aback, “I thought I could just turn into aLabradorwhenever I wanted and occasionally hear what people thought.” He continued, as if these were perfectly normal occurrences for anyone.

 

“We should go for a walk.” Echo said, “We should Become – transform – and explore! Come on, I’ve been going mad not having anyone to explore with!” She finished, suddenly realising the possibilities that could occur from this.

 

Aiden looked doubtful, “I’ve never transformed with anyone before.” He said.

 

Echo smiled, “Oh come on, it’ll be fun.” She said, taking his arm to walk of back to her house, to the shed where she transformed last time.

 

They walked back, mostly in silence, Echo out of excitement and Aiden out of hesitation for what he was about to do. It was strange for him, to think of this being something he could share with other, but as they got closer and closer, and nearer to the time, the idea to strike him as one that was not altogether as scary or bad as he had anticipated. After fifteen minutes of thought, they approached the flat. Echo lead Aiden round the back, to the unlocked shed. She gestured towards it.

 

“Do you want to change first or should I?” She asked. Aiden shrugged, “Okay, I will then.” She smiled.

 

She stepped into the shed and pulled the door to. As before, she put her bags and her keys in the corner, and piled her clothes on top of it, breathing deeply, before nudging the door open with her nose and emerging on all fours.

 

Aiden stared, wide eyed as she emerged, before he, without thinking, bent down to stroke her newly aquired fur. Echo backed away as he did, and he realised what he was doing. She sat down, staring at the shed and waiting.

 

“Come on, your turn now.” 

 

Aiden stepped inside, and a few moments later, emerged as a jet blackLabrador, the bright green of his eyes still shining through. He towered over Echo, despite her cat’s relatively large size. She purred as he emerged.

 

“Come on, lets go!” She sent, before bounding off out of the back yard.

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