2.2: Feeling Something Totally New

Nuria awakens, feeling no less perturbed by the restroom situation. She and the girls tie a ribbon- provided by Tyra- to the restroom to the left of their abode. The ribbon was made of the same material as all of Tyra’s clothes, even her pajamas. The young man in their class sees them doing so, nods his agreement, then goes off to prepare for the day as they do.

     “Who’s the professor, anyway?” Nuria asks, finally aware she never got the chance to meet them.

     “Oh, our house is actually twice as awesome as the others. We have two professors,” Carnya elucidates, then frowns. “Well, one professor and one housemaster. They didn’t really say what the difference was.”

     Nuria tightens her cotton ribbon around the end of her braid, keeping it in position. “Was this an omission by the headmaster or the professors themselves?”

     “Our two professors, specifically. When you and that other boy got hauled off by the headmaster, and we all broke into groups, they gave us the barest of instructions, then left.”

     “What were those, by the way?” Nuria presses.

     “The trash thing I told you before,” Tyra reminds her. “They said that classes begin tomorrow at 9 am and that they’d come and collect us to discuss the schedule in full detail.”

     “Oh,” Carnya states, “don’t forget they said we had to visit the library to find copies of the school rules and regs. Said it would be in our best interest to not get on the school security’s bad side.”

     “Okay, but what makes you think our professors were the only ones to withhold information?”

     “We saw the other professors hand out rulebooks.”

     “So, Vanusi house got the short end of the stick in terms of faculty?”

     “Hard to think otherwise,” Carnya agrees.

     Nuria hums in thought. “When classes start we’ll learn one of two things: our teachers suck, or we do.”


     “I see you’ve chosen to join our house,” a cultured yet gruff voice calls down from above the main foyer. The girls raise their heads as three pairs of feet amble down the spiraling staircase. The two in front are the professors, a young man trailing behind.

     Nuria takes the measure of the men. The one in the forefront is dressed in all black, his clothing immaculately ironed and smooth. His sleeves are rolled back, exposing bald forearms. She meets his eyes only briefly before sensing too great a challenge within them.

     The man’s colleague is also dressed in pristine clothing. He has on a pair of grey slacks, a striped white shirt, and a beige vest buttoned down the middle. He’s much bigger and taller than the lead man, and with no small amount of muscle as a large hammer hangs at his waist without forcing him to breathe any harder than Nuria is while studying him.

     She sweeps her gaze over the young man quickly, absorbing the details of his white sweatshirt, black jeans, sneakers, the pencil behind his left ear and sketchbook in his hands.

     Having put those details in her mind, she finally finds the time to form a response to the lead man. “I’ve chosen to become comfortable in this element of myself.” She beams, proud to find a warm gust of air swell in her chest after stating the words. She called her mother last night to give her the details- omitting the target debacle- and she seemed concerned but supportive. Nuria agreed to call her within the week with an update.

     The lead man snorts mockingly. “No doubt the words of the old man.”

     The larger man jabs him with his elbow and shoots him a look.

     “I jest, Marmagar,” he says. “Since I did not have the pleasure yesterday, allow me to introduce myself. I am Professor Zathony. My colleague here is Professor Marmagar. He is mute as you’ll soon discover. Yes, it is because of the scar on his throat. And no, you may not ask how he got it.”

     Nuria lowers her hand.

     “Now, my dear, what is it that we may call you?” Zathony asks.


     “Nice to meet you,” he says dryly. “I assume you all have had the time to meet each other by now. If not, you will do so on your own time. Before we begin class for today, here is a general breakdown of the immediate rules you must know.

     “You are not allowed to enter the dorms of other classes without permission of all professors and housemasters of your own house and the house you wish to visit. Fighting and vandalism are but two of the academy’s zero tolerance grounds for expulsion. You can find out the others in the rulebooks waiting for you in the library. Library hours are always. No interfering with other classes while in session. Treat all facilities and persons on these premises with respect. Understood?”

     Nuria is still stuck on the second rule, but she nods numbly anyway.

     “Are there any questions?”

     Nuria raises her hand.

     “As for classes, your schedules are outlined in my syllabus,” he continues without even a pause as Marmagar hands each of the freshmen a stapled packet. “Each day of the week will revolve around a single subject, from math to history. You will have three one-hour classes before lunch, with another three after, each one focused on a different branch of that subject. As an example, your math classes will go, as outlined in your syllabi, general mathematics, economy, and geometry.”

     Nuria keeps her hand raised, shaking it about to get his attention.

     “You’ll also see a slot at the bottom of your daily schedules marked with the letter “V”. That same slot also consumes the entirety of Didaska. During those sessions, we will be going over the many aspects of Vanusi life, including some of the culture, the theories surrounding our kind, and the practical applications of our talents. More often than not the latter will be our focus. No better way to learn than by–”

     “How long does lunch last?” Nuria blurts out, her voice heavy with frustration.

     Zathony addresses her coolly, “An hour. Same as all class periods.” Without wasting a breath he continues on with his speech. “No better way to learn than by doing. That is how I teach and expect you to learn. There is no hand holding here. If you wish to speak, do not raise your hand. Simply speak and I will respond.”

     Zathony delivers a pointed look to Nuria. After a moment, she shakes her head in negation.

     “The classroom numbers are detailed on the syllabus. Go and fetch your rulebooks, then meet Marmagar and I for your first math class.”

     Zathony and Marmagar turn and depart without another word. The girls and the young man all stand around in an awkward hush.

     Finally, the young man speaks, “Does this count as our time?”

     The girls all shrug.

     “I’m Syl,” the boy says on a gamble.

     The girls follow his lead.


     After collecting their rulebooks, and some needed supplies from a small concession area beyond the checkout desk, Nuria and peers find their way to room 577. To their collective dismay, Zathony already has a series of equations on the board, in the middle of an explanation. Marmagar chuckles mirthfully in a chair beside the front desk.

     “–outside, inside, last. You’ll solve the equation by multiplying the binomials in those positions. With the pairs of equations of two-x minus four and four-x plus two, what would the solution come out to be?” Zathony asks though he continues writing on the board regardless.

     Nuria hastily scrambles to copy down the notes on the board, very thankful that her homeschooled life was as generous as it was. With fast fingers and solid hand-eye coordination, she manages to shorten the distance between her notes and Zathony’s explaining. She works through his previous problem and says, “The answer is eight-x squared minus twelve-x plus eight.”


     Nuria beams and silently follows his lead in the mathematics hour. She soon learns that he attempts to stomp her and her peers each time they answer a question correctly. She goes the longest without a wrong answer, but when he abruptly throws a trigonometry problem on the board, she falters. Marmagar jabs him with another elbow then, following it up with a wink in Nuria’s direction.

     However, she fares far less admirably in the faces of economics and geometry. However, Tyra and Syl take the reins, giving their professor a slight challenge, Tyra in economics and Syl in geometry. With Syl’s detailed sketches as evidence, he’s well above their class level in that subject.

     Zathony dismisses them after geometry ends, telling them to return to room 577 after lunch. Marmagar points two fingers at his eyes while twisting his wrist outfitted with a watch. He smirks as none of the students appear to catch his meaning.

     “I’m beginning to think our professors will be as much of an assignment as anything else,” Carnya whines.

     “What if that’s the point?” Nuria asks. “They’ve done nothing but dole out challenges for us since we’ve arrived. The restrooms and dorms, the rulebooks, and they didn’t even wait for us to arrive to start class.”

     “Sounds like they just don’t care to me,” Syl adds. “Not once in these first three hours did they congratulate us on correct answers, just said if we were or not.”

     “It could be that they have ulterior motives.”

     “Like what?”

     Nuria makes a quick mental tally then shrugs. “I was homeschooled, so one way my mother made lessons interesting was to make it more of a personal challenge. Made me want to get the answers right. Each time we did here today, Professor Zathony stepped up his game. It’s a game to him.”

     “So, what, we embrace the game?” Syl asks.

     “Exactly,” Nuria cheers.

     Carnya stomach rumbles deeply. “After lunch, sure.”


     After a lunch period that seemed much too fast, especially for Nuria and Carnya- the latter of whom was still hungry while the former had no chance to locate her brother in the mass of students- they resume their game. Nuria and Carnya ace the mathematics review while Tyra and Syl repeat their earlier performances with the same aplomb. When the day of math classes comes to an end, the smile of appreciation they seek is instead a scowl.

     “I see I have some rather gifted mathematicians this year,” he grounds out. “There’s still science, history, and literature.”

     Nuria smirks. So, it is a game.

     “Before then, however, we still have one last class session to get out of the way. Today’s class will be short but will force us to become familiar with each other by the end of the week. On Didaska, I ask that each of you demonstrate to me your Vanusi states. A partial transformation is all I require for the assignment.”

     Wait, what? Nuria thinks in a panic.

     “You are dismissed for today.”

     Despite the dismissal, it is Professors Zathony and Marmagar that vacate the room first. After, the students all turn in their chairs toward each other in a tight diamond pattern. Nuria perks her ears up for clues from the others.

     “So much for difficulty,” Carnya boasts. “Transforming’s easy stuff.”

     Syl says. “You guys really gonna just…you know?”

     Tyra mimics his reticence. “I wasn’t intending on it, to be honest, but it’s an assignment. I’ll respect his lesson plan.”

     Carnya raises a brow. “You guys don’t spend a lot of time in your transformed states, do you?”

     “I do,” Tyra reluctantly admits. “It’s just, I’ve never done so around people I just met. It’s a personal thing.”

     “I just never had any reason to,” Syl replies with a shrug.

     “You guys’ll get used to it. I transform every time I go swimming. Speaking of which, I think the school has a pool. If we find it, I could show you guys mine early.”

     Perhaps seeing the transformation will help me learn a trick or two, Nuria theorizes. “I’m in.”

     They all rise in unanimous fashion, following Carnya around campus in a directionless manner. Syl records the buildings with swift sketches everywhere they go until finally, they locate a recreational building on the western border of campus.

     Inside they find the first floor leads directly to the pool. A few groupings of students in uniforms rise from the level below and exit past them. Nuria takes note of the stencil art claws on the lime green uniforms. She nearly walks right into the pool while pondering the designs until Carnya yanks her back.

     “Hold on, girl. I’m the one taking a dip. Unless you wanna walk around in soaking wet clothes.”

     Nuria grins. “I wouldn’t if I did, but are you?”

     “Oh, no. I always wear a swimsuit underneath my clothes. Never know when I’ll come across a body of water.” She proves her statement true, removing her blouse and jeans to reveal a two-piece white bathing suit. “You guys will learn that being in your transformed state is unlike anything else when you find your happy place. For me…” she trails off and faces the pool.

     A sparkle awakens deep in her eyes as she gives in to her desire and races for the edge. With one beautifully arced dive, she splashes into the pool. Some of the other patrons give her applause, even whistle.

     Nuria watches her twist in the water, deep enough for three of her to still stay submerged on each other’s shoulders. She marvels as Carnya moves her mouth underwater, as if speaking with water-filled lungs doesn’t even bother her. It is then that Nuria’s mouth forms around a silent “O”.

     Carnya’s irises glow a vibrant shade of blue that shines through the waves and ripples on the surface. The shape of her arms morphs from rigid flesh to something more…squishy. Underneath her now squishy appendages, little spherical pockets sprout into existence. Luminous cobalt rings flash in regular intervals all over her arms-turned-tentacles.

     Carnya rises and pokes her head out of the water. “I think I’m gonna have to end show and tell here. I’m suddenly in the mood for a good swim sesh. Catch ya guys at dinner? On second thought, eat without me. No clue how long I’m staying in here.” She submerges once again without even taking a breath.


     Shortly after Carnya’s incredible demonstration, which Nuria believes will be repeated flawlessly on Didaska, the fifth of the six weekdays, the remainder of the group disbanded. With no discernible triggers she could identify besides the water, Nuria feels incredibly lost as to how to proceed with her own transformation.

     Forget transformation. I don’t even know what I am. Carnya does. Tyra and Syl probably do, too. Maybe that’s the key to figuring out my transformation- learning what creature I am. Maybe the blood test can tell me?

     Nuria leans over and digs between her mattress and bedspring, yanking a folder from between them. She searches the page of the blood results for any information she didn’t analyze correctly before. She crosses her fingers in hopes of finding a species name.

     She finds none.

     Nuria leans back, heaving an exasperated sigh. Carnya looked so…right. Will I look like that when I transform?

     Nuria shakes her head hard as if expelling her distressed emotions and negative comments about her abilities. She hops off her bed and flexes her muscles, absorbing how they move and shift. Carnya’s arms became an entirely different kind of muscle. Perhaps the underlying structure of mine is key. Or, she recalls the claw art from the uniforms, maybe I have claws of my own?

     Nuria crouches and swipes at the air with her hands as if she indeed has claws. She pretends to tear her bed sheets to pieces.

     Maybe a tail?

     She climbs back onto the bed and wags her butt from side to side, attempting to will a tail to sprout. When that fails, she turns her gaze to the floor beyond her bed.


     She propels herself forward with her legs, horizontally scaling over the floor. She flaps her arms like wings, only to again fail, and falls on her chin as a result. She avoids biting her tongue by choking down a yelp.

     Gentle laughter floats around the room before Nuria can fully rise, busy checking her chin for blood. Once she determines her chin is intact, she whirls to see Tyra biting down on her fingernails to keep from laughing harder.

     “I did not look that funny,” Nuria protests, but she knows were the shoes on the other foot, she would be laughing too.

     Tyra apologizes with a nod and composes herself. “What are you doing, anyway?”

     “Can you keep a secret?”

     Tyra crosses her arms and shoots Nuria a soothing grin. “It’s not really a secret, Nuria. You don’t know what your creature is.”

     “Oh,” Nuria says with a flush.

     “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Sudita is not something that every Avinian experiences. Hundreds of thousands of people never gain access to their abilities. And even if they do, it’s no guarantee they’ll learn the significance of it. My mother and I are the same creature, which is why I know what I am. It took my former babysitter more than two years after Sudita to learn what his creature form was.”

     “Yeah, but my grades are going to be affected by this,” Nuria says. “And I can’t allow 40% of my overall grade to amount to nothing.”

     Tyra rubs the back of her head, feeling sympathetic to her peer’s plight, when something catches her eye, two things in fact. She focuses solely on Nuria’s white eyes, viewing them as a puzzle piece outside the ensemble.

     “Perhaps I might be of help to you,” Tyra says.

     “What do you mean?” Nuria asks to cover up her rising insecurities.

     “I don’t know how effective it will be, but I remember my mother giving advice to my babysitter once after his Sudita. She said that one way to learn your creature form is by remembering things beyond your earliest memories to catch a glimpse of that primal space in your mind.”

     “Primal space?”

     “Think of it as a vision. You know how Carnya was different in the pool?”

     Nuria nods.

     “Underwater is probably her primal space.”

     “You mean I’ll witness a habitat?”

     “I’m not certain,” Tyra admits after a long pause. “I never had to try it, being born into my Sudita. I think you just have to sit still and go backwards through your memories. At some point, when you get close to nothing, a vision should take shape. That’s all I know.”

     Nuria counts off with her fingers as she says, “Memories. Nothing. Vision. Okay, let’s give it a shot.” She gets into a cross-legged position, straightening her back, shutting her eyes. With a shallow inhale, the memories come.

     Nuria was on her front porch swiping at the nighttime fireflies. Each time they flashed their bulbous butts at her, she moved to cup them in her hands. She was careful not to squish them, enjoying their game. She would steal a peek at them while they were immobile in her palms, then release them back into the atmosphere. The one time she accidentally swiped too hard, her hands flared to life with auburn flames as briefly as the fireflies flashed their posteriors. She marveled at the sudden flames, aware of what had just happened to her. She smiled and began a new game with the fireflies, joining them in their regularly timed flares.

     She smiles.

     Nuria blew out the seven candles on her birthday cake with one tremendous breath, positing no modicum of saliva over the frosting. She, Rum, and Auriel ate the cake together, followed by Nuria enthusiastically ripping open her gifts. The one she loved the most was a microphone that doubled as a recording device.

     In her head, she starts to recite the first song she sang into it. When she finishes the entire song and her memories have come to an end, she feels herself slam against a solid barrier that makes her head ring.

     All Nuria can perceive is a vastly dark vacuity. No sights, no sounds.

     She opens her eyes.

     “What’d you see?” Tyra asks anxiously.

     “It’s not what I saw. It’s what I felt,” Nuria says in a near whisper.

    “What’d you feel?”.


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