In a catastrophic rush we ran through the building. She didn’t need to pull me anymore but she had a firm grip on me. But I wasn’t going to run away. I was by her side and was going to protect her from the sprites! Somehow, in the chaotic rush of the moment, I thought that I was going to prove that I could take care of her by… whacking sprites over the head? Yeah. Brilliant.
We crashed out the double front doors into the yard. It was full chaos. There was students in all shapes, everywhere, grabbing at sprites and battling them in the most (to my unmagical lens) epic of ways. Sparks were flying! Magic simmered through the air like ribbons!
Aaliyah let go of me, running towards the debris around the trees. “Grab a stick!” she called to me, doing so herself. Then, seeing as I wasn’t getting there fast enough she threw a stick at me, snapped one off a branch for herself, and whirled around to face…everything.
Because the grounds were huge. The grounds sprawled in all directions with preened green slopes, a little stream gurgling down among them, and trimmed trees here and there dotting the landscape. But the battle was all concentrated here, where the sprites were trying to destroy our sacred trees. We were smack in the thick of it.
“Get as many as you can!” ordered Aaliyah before sprinting into the chaos. I wanted to yell at her to wait for me- but that would have sounded wimpy. I was brave! Rawwwr!
So I stood there and tried not to quiver with my stupid stick in hand. Damnit! Why?!
As they say, spirits and the bloomed ones that are so inclined can smell fear. Within seconds a sprite was flashing towards me, elements in hand and teeth gnashing.
If you’ve never seen a sprite up close, their sparkling cloud doesn’t hide their shape very well. Beneath it, they sort of look like floating ghosts with evil hands and onion-shaped heads. This one had green lights sparkling around its hands and the nastiest pointy teeth I’d ever seen.
“Snack- snack,” it seemed to say, clacking its teeth together as it floated before me.
I gripped my stick with both hands. Think of Aaliyah, I told myself. Think of school. You’re never going anywhere unless you bash this thing’s brains in-
Aaaand, just as I was thinking that, it zoomed in on me. I swung the stick with a yell, a sound that was mercifully drowned away by all the sounds of a battlefield around us. My stick whizzed above the sprite’s head and I lost my balance. The sprite leaped forward. Its fangs buried into my right forearm, its elemental spell sending electric shocks into me.
Okay, now I yelled.
And then something happened.
I felt a change come over me. Something rushed through my system like hot soda bubbling in my veins. I thrashed, the electric sparks suddenly seeming faint.
I’m fucking dying, I remember thinking. Good lords, this was stupid!
As the rush continued I found myself moving – and suddenly came to with my hand closed over the sprite. Both hands.
Beneath my skin I felt the sprite pulsing. I felt the three parts of its soul throbbing with life. I heard it hissing and scrawling in a language I suddenly understood.
“Let me go!” it shrieked in that tiny, hissing, voice. “You’re not one of them! Let me go! What are you? Let me go!”
Shocked, I moved my hands. Tentatively, I pulled on what I felt and the three soul parts began coming apart. The sprite shrieked – and burst one of its own parts. It killed itself.
I gaped as the body went limp in my hands. The two other parts throbbed with life still – and it smelt. It smelt delicious, a strange aroma of death and untimely consumption and decay that called to me like a corrupt song. Suddenly I knew what an addiction must feel like. What it must be like to crave the casinos, the drugs, the things you knew you shouldn’t do.
Because I knew I shouldn’t eat the sprite.
I mean, yes, everyone eats sprites. But I wanted the soul.
Hesitant, I looked around. Maybe I was searching for a reality check. But the world felt woozy. It didn’t seem real. And somehow I just knew that no one was paying me a shred of attention, too busy searching out their own glory strikes.
So I gave in. I was lifting the sprite’s remaining two souls to my lips. Somewhere within me my rational self was wondering what was happening. I mean, can stomachs even digest souls?
But it never reached my lips. Instead, the two sprite souls sort of infused up my arms, dissolving into me, merging up through my skin.
I gasped, dropping the now thoroughly dead body. I wanted to scream as I realized that the souls were now in me. Did I digest them through my hands? Was the sprite now part of me? Did I now have five soul-parts? What was going on?
Completely freaking I fell backwards onto my ass. With a scramble I tried to get away from the inanimate body. Impulsively I wanted to flee.
That must have been the trick because suddenly I was scrambling, launching myself up, up, and flapping into the sky. It was when I was about five to six feet up, pumping my wing/arms like mad that I realized – wait a minute.
I looked down at the chaotic battlefield. I looked downer and saw my legs- now two stubby black bird legs. With a hoarse shriek I realized that I wasn’t me any longer.
With a jolt I realized I’d bloomed. Somehow. With another jolt I realized I was about to fall straight down if I didn’t do something about it.
I cawed for help. I shrieked. I flapped and flapped and wiggled my butt in the hopes of getting those feathers to do their job. Ingloriously, it made me think of pilates. Clench the buttcheeks! Wave the arms! Automatically, my legs paddled the air as well, and I must have looked like an idiot trying to run through the air.
Careening through the air, climbing up with no hopes of getting down, I found myself looping towards a tower.
Now, I want to take a minute to say that this tower wasn’t painted in brilliant orange with ‘forbidden fucking tower’ scrawled over it. It just – no one went there is all.
It also just so happened to have a gridded balcony, sort of like a safety ramp, all around the top. I aimed for that, figuring I could sit up here until I got help.
With a zoom I careened towards the tower. A side draft of wind nearly bashed me into the tower, and I didn’t so much land as I flew to the floor and stuck my legs out and began to walk and folded my arms. Skittering to a stop, I slammed sideways against the tower’s wall.
Okay, I told myself. Okay. Fuck.