Bonus Story: The Reptilian Complex

on May 11, 2008 in Other Tales

Here’s some Hissy for you all…

The woman known to the fifth floor of Harlowe as “Hissy” woke up on her stomach in an unfamiliar bed, with itchy sheets full of unfamiliar scents. She was confused by the square room with the solid walls and even, artificial light, and then she thought for a confusing moment she was in a room at the mission school.

Finally, it came to her: Magisterius University… but not any room in any building that she was familiar with.

She swished her tail around to clear the covers and then slid her legs over the edge, getting to her feet. Her knees bent backwards under her weight and she had to catch herself.

She blew out hard through her nostrils to clear them, then sucked in air to inflate the vocal sacs in her throat. She tried holding it in for the count of five before exhaling, but it was too painful. Everything felt stiff, dry.

She looked around the room for water and didn’t see any.

The door opened. Simultaneously, she felt the entrance of another mind into the immediate area… a presence which should have registered sooner.

“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” said the human woman who’d just entered the room.

Water/thirst, she projected, knowing that she’d never make herself understood verbally.

“Certainly. I’ll be right back,” the human said. “But please, you’re too weak to be out of bed.”

The lizardwoman clicked her agreement and climbed back onto the bed, arranging herself on her side so that her tail could hang over the side.

The human left. Though she left the door open, the trace of her mind disappeared from the lizardwoman’s consciousness as soon as she was out of line of sight… evidently the walls and door were shielded.

She returned with a pitcher of water and a large glass. The lizardwoman sat up and reached for the pitcher. After a moment’s hesitation, the human handed it to her.

She opened her mouth wide and poured some of the water down her throat, filling her throat sacs and “gargling” briefly before swallowing it. She repeated this several times, then drank the rest of the water.

“Thank you, I am grateful,” she said once she’d finished.

“You’re welcome, Miss… uh, is it Eve or Goldapple?” the human asked. “Some of the forms say one and some say the other, or both.”

“It is neither,” the lizardwoman replied. “Eve Goldapple is what they called me at the mission school.”

“What is your name, then?”

“They call me Hissy here.”

“I’d call you your proper name, if I knew it,” the human said.

After warming up with the slow, cumbersome human speech, it was a pleasure for the lizardwoman to produce her own name in her own language, even as she knew that the series of hisses, rattles, and clicks would be impossible for the human to reproduce.

“Um, does it have a meaning in Pax?” the human asked.

“What is your name, and what does it mean in Pax?”

“Teddi,” the human said. “Theadora Lundegard. ‘Theadora’ means ‘gift of the goddess’, and Lundegard means, um, ‘of the Lundegard family.'”

“Do you think you would answer if somebody called you ‘Lundegard’s Goddess’s Gift?'”

“Actually, I’d probably look at them funny.”

“My name approximates to 7-Leaf/3-Bell Gold/Apple, but 7-Leaf/3-Bell Gold/Apple is not my name.”

“Gold Stroke Apple?” Teddi repeated, confused.

“To say it properly, you have to say them both at the same time,” the lizardwoman replied. “But they are actually the same word. Our name for the color comes from the fruit.”

“That’s a bit odd,” Teddi said. “When I think of apples, I think of red.”

“When I think of apples, I think of gold,” the lizardwoman said. “I don’t mind being called Hissy. A nickname grates less than having my proper name mangled.”

“Very well, then, Hissy,” Teddi said. “Do you know why you’re here?”

“I do not know where I am,” Hissy said. “And I have even less idea why.”

“You’re in the mental healing annex of the student healing center,” Teddi said. “You were brought in yesterday…”

“What day is it?” Hissy asked urgently. “I apologize for the interruption.”

“It’s Sunday,” Teddi said. “Astera 27th.”

“The match,” Hissy said. “The skirmish match. Against Blackwater Province. Was I injured? Is that why I’m here?”

“You didn’t make the match, I’m afraid,” Teddi said. “Sometime in the late afternoon, you made mind contact with an infernal.”

Hissy made a rattle in her throat and projected an impression of negation.

“I have no memory of that,” she said.

“You wouldn’t,” Teddi said. “We had to remove a whole section of your memory in order to stop it from destroying your mind. Other portions of your memory which were infected may be fragmented or suppressed. Some of that will heal on its own over time. Some of it, we’ll have to work on recovering. What’s the most recent thing you remember?”

“Swimming in the fen,” Hissy said. “I had just caught a large fish and… that’s not right.” She rattled. “I’ve not been swimming like that since before the mission school.”

“Things might be a bit jumbled for a while,” Teddi said. “Your mind will put your older memories back in their proper order eventually. For now, you’ll probably have to focus on context. Remember, yesterday was Saturday, the weekend after your second full week of classes. Look inward, search for a memory which fits with that… and if you find something which feels dangerous, or hurts or disturbs you, look away.”

Hissy focused, probing her own memories, ignoring her impressions of chronology. There were some memories of her parents which seemed distressingly fresh. Doubtlessly, Teddi had meant something else when she talked about painful and disturbing memories, but she pushed them to the back of her mind all the same.

Eventually, she found what seemed to be a truly recent one, though it carried with it the impression of a lengthy passage of time.

“Rocky—Raquel—wanted to talk to the Blaise girl,” Hissy said. “I said it was a bad idea but she’s the lieutenant, and she said it was a squad matter.”

“That would be Miss Mackenzie?” Teddi asked.

Hissy clicked, then nodded.

“Did you try to touch her mind?”

“I do not remember,” Hissy said. “But I think that was the idea.”

“We thought so, but Miss Ra… uh, Ms. Peters wouldn’t say anything and we couldn’t safely examine your memory of the incident,” Teddi said. “Didn’t you know what would happen?”

“She seemed so… innocuous?” Hissy said. “Like a small kitten.”

“Cute?”

“Helpless,” Hissy said. “Edible.”

“Uh, right,” Teddi said. “Well, any mind of extraplanar descent is generally too alien to make unprotected contact with. It’s a bit like looking directly at a bright light and a little bit like me trying to imitate your language. The minds just don’t mesh. An infernal mind is even more dangerous, because it wants to actively destroy whatever it can.”

“I did not know,” Hissy said. “I suppose I’ve learned that lesson now.”

“Did you have any formal training with your gifts before coming here?”

“Only from the village teacher/shaman/witch,” Hissy said, using the sounds of her own language as there was no direct translation. “Those who ran the mission school would have rather we did not develop such abilities, and the only thing they told us of demons was they were to be avoided, though that seemed to be a human concern.”

“Well, it was good advice, in this case,” Teddi said. “Can you tell me anything about your confrontation with Miss Mackenzie?”

“I cannot,” Hissy said. “I have no memory of it.”

“But do you remember any plans? Intentions?”

“To talk,” Hissy said.

“Do you have an impression of any hostility from Miss Mackenzie?”

“I do not have any impression whatsoever, relating to the event.”

“I see,” Teddi said. “Well… we’re going to need to keep an eye on you for the next few days, in case of secondary effects.”

“What sort of effects?”

“Mindless aggression, bloodlust, that sort of thing,” Teddi said. “It sometimes comes through after direct contact with an infernal mind. You might find yourself craving raw meat.”

“I do that, anyway.”

“Well, it’s best if you try to avoid crowds of humans for a while, in any event,” Teddi said. “Assuming you’re not showing any signs, we can release you for classes, but we’ll want you to return here at night, as sleep is when you’ll be most likely to turn.”

“This bed is not comfortable for me.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t normally put patients on their faces, but we didn’t know how else to manage with the, uh, tail,” Teddi said.

“In my room in Harlowe, I make a nest of blankets on the floor,” Hissy said. “What time is it? Have I missed the temple services?”

“You’re… you’re Khersian?”

“That’s what they told me at the mission school. I didn’t have any particular objection.”

“Well, there’s still the afternoon service, but it’s probably not a great idea,” Teddi said. “It’s too soon to tell if you’ve been affected, and the sight of holy symbols and icons could trigger something.”

“It’s not a great loss,” Hissy said. “Did we lose the skirmish match?”

“I’m sorry, but yes, you did,” Teddi said. “The seventh squad kind of fell apart on the field, and BPC rushed in through the hole and cut our army in half.”

“It’s not a great loss,” Hissy said. “Do you have more blankets? If there isn’t anything more you need to do with me, I’d like to go dormant for a while.”

“Yes, of course,” Teddi said. “Just, you know, call out or something if you start to feel any strange urges.”

“What about skirmish practice?” Hissy said. “Can I attend squad drills?”

“I think it’s a good idea to avoid anything that might involve aggressive impulses for the time being,” Teddi said. “We’ll give you an excuse form for any combat classes, as well. I’m sorry.”

“It’s no great loss,” Hissy said. “They told me I should try out for the team and I did. They told me that I needed a weapons class so I took one.”

“Right, then,” Teddi said. “Well, I’ll go get your blankets.”

“Thank you, Lundegard’s Goddess’s Gift,” Hissy said.

Teddi smiled.

“Is that what you consider a ‘funny look’?” Hissy asked. “I’ve always thought so but I didn’t realize humans agreed.”

“I’ll go get your blankets, smartass.”

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3 Responses to “Bonus Story: The Reptilian Complex”

  1. pedestrian says:

    I love the depth of character the author gives her characters.

    Current score: 6
  2. Anthony says:

    Wow, she’s surprisingly laid back, and a little on the passive side even…

    Current score: 4
  3. MentalBlank says:

    Perhaps she simply has other priorities that we are not yet privy to.

    Current score: 5