The sirocco shot warm sand into Nuria’s face through the backseat window and dusted her clothing. She withdrew and scowled, the look aimed at her brother. He smiled mischievously back as he removed his fingers from the window down button. He lost it when Auriel reached across the gear shift to pinch his neck.
She wiped her clothes off hastily, noticing the concert arena coming into view. She used all her allowance money to have her The Four Feathermen t-shirt delivered to a P.O. Box in Sakela. The acronym is written across it in a downwardly diagonal direction, the monochromatic letters streaming from right to left. They picked it up a couple of hours ago on their way to Sakela Falls.
Though they live in a desert region, Sakela Falls houses a series of naturally occurring oases. The largest of them careens off a cliff side as a narrow waterfall, hence the name of the district. Anything worth buying tickets for happens in Sakela Falls.
They passed through the metropolis slowly, thanks to the heavy traffic. The neon lights flashing on the adjacent buildings were dizzying and hypnotic, drawing in droves of customers. The brighter the sign, the more people it attracts. The mall encompassing two whole city blocks had the practice down to a science with its numerous street entrances.
Auriel parked inside a parking structure a block or two away from the concert venue. The moment her door clicked unlocked, Nuria raced away. Auriel and Rum gave their best effort to keep visual, but the excitement feeding her muscles made the task impossible. Nuria didn’t dare be late, and her family knew that. She knew they trusted her to arrive on time and safely.
Nuria did, however, use the lack of supervision to her advantage. She bumped past other enthused TFF fans, sometimes pushed them aside or cut in front of them. She thought her small size would make them excuse her, and they did. She was by far the youngest guest in attendance. TFF drew more mature audiences with their style of music. Nuria was the one in a million irregularity amongst their fans.
She found herself somehow at the front of the line, bouncing from foot to foot with expert tirelessness. The bouncer gave her a wide, toothless grin as he pressed a finger to his ear, listening. He drew back the large doors and allowed access inside. Nuria blasted into the dark arena without hesitation.
The vacuity returns early, interrupting Nuria’s ebullience. She seethes and darts straight forward through the empty space, determined to blast the wall to pieces.
Instead of striking a barrier, she falls forward with unexpected velocity, as a door opens from the other side. Instead of falling toward nothing but black, she sees a forest floor incoming. Air rushes past her forcefully, blurring the sounds of the forest as they try to reach her ears. Her eyesight doesn’t appear affected by the breeze. In fact, she sees the details of the forest floor very clearly.
There’s a patch of mushrooms gathered around the trees to the east. Just north of them is a field of yellow flowers. The field is hemmed in by a wooden fence. She turns her face up to examine the flowers more when a flash of red startles her.
Nuria leaps back while cross-legged, falling backward onto her bed. She takes a moment to recover, catching her breath and wiping sweat from her brow. She performs a mental self-examination and comes away with one clear result, and it makes her smile.
Gotta tell Tyra!
A plate of red potatoes, creamed corn, and buffalo style chicken nuggets sit ignored, cooling to room temperature. The steam rising from the nuggets protests weakly. Tyra instead places her attention on the journal before her. The white “D” reflects in her baby blues until she blinks and huffs.
My mother always said it was an important task for our kind to follow the edicts of the predecessor’s journal until ready to start their own. My mother said she was given her journal when she was ten. Yet and still, she’s never even bothered to ask me anything of hers, nor proffered one of my own to me.
Tyra absentmindedly flips through the journal, stopping and reciting several passages in a whisper, each page only containing one.
“One is never to manipulate the laws of this world for selfish gain. One must tend to the needs of others before their own whenever their needs are greater. One is not to bastardize these edicts for reasons that lead to the self-destruction of one’s soul, i.e. murder, revenge, etc.”
I’ve read these passages hundreds of times. Never once have I read one that said I need to wait to be given my journal. Then again, what would my first rule even be?
“What are those? Poems?” a voice asks over her shoulder.
Tyra gently shuts the journal as Nuria takes a seat beside her. “Something like that.”
“Is that part of the “rest” you mentioned before?” Nuria asks.
“No. Just something I read from time to time,” Tyra says plainly. She exchanges the position of her journal and food when she lifts her head, finally observing the wide grin on her peer’s face. “Wait, did you–”
“Sort of,” Nuria hedges. “I thought I had to blow my way through the wall, but it came down of its own volition.”
“And you were right, by the way. A vision did take shape.”
Tyra chuckles. “How much longer are you going to drag this out?”
“At first I was falling,” Nuria says with a snicker as Tyra rolls her eyes. “Then I was seeing this vision of a forest, though I got the impression it was some kind of park instead because I saw this field of flowers protected by a fence.”
“Any connection to parks like that?”
“Me? Not really. No deep ones, anyway. Actually, I’ve never been to one before. Huh.”
“What happened when you saw the flowers?” Tyra says to fix the course of the conversation.
“Oh, that’s the best part. I had wings! Big, red ones! When I looked past my shoulder at them the sun blinded me. I panicked then and the vision was over. Think if I do it again, I’ll be ready for it this time?”
“Not entirely sure myself. I get the feeling it’s one of those one-and-done type of experiences.”
“Oh,” Nuria says, her mood souring.
“But hey,” Tyra snaps, “you have something to base your research on now. Big red wings. Can’t imagine a lot of birds with those.”
“Still, I doubt it’ll do much. Tomorrow’s the big day and I haven’t time to research and learn how to transform. Might have to throw in the towel.” She slams her fists against the table. Tyra clutches the sides of her tray to keep her food from spilling. “This means Zathony wins the first round.”
“Pardon?” Tyra asks, puzzled.
Nuria pinches the bridge of her nose. “I’ll have to go to him for information. Directly. The books I tried to read are terrible. Conflicting details, poorly written indexes, and glossaries missing chunks of vocabulary vital to make sense of what seemed to be correct.”
“You’re lying,” Tyra says defensively.
“Check for yourself. I’m going to the man himself. As a matter of fact, I might as well do that now. I’ll see ya later.”
Tyra watches in a stupor as Nuria dashes away, only to double back immediately.
“Thanks for the tip by the way. Never would’ve gotten this far without your help.”
Nuria extends a hand for a high-five to which Tyra numbly reciprocates. As she watches Nuria run off, a smile seizes the lower half of her face. To her surprise, it doesn’t vanish when she gazes back down to her journal.
The library might have journals for sale.
Nuria races straight for the Vanusi dormitory, skipping around clusters of other students. She counts herself lucky when she notices her professors exiting the dorm. She hops in front of them and holds up a hand.
“I need to ask you something.”
“What is my rule about questions?” he shoots at her while stepping around her. Professor Marmagar follows silently.
“I need you to point me in the right direction. The guides I read so far are awful. I suspect you know where I can find real answers.”
Professor Zathony pauses now, looking at Nuria with a deeply penetrating gaze as if trying to ferret secrets from her eyes. “And you know this how?”
“It seems like the kind of thing you’d do,” she replies confidently, arms folded.
Marmagar clicks his tongue and points at Zathony, ending the gesture by lifting two fingers. To that, Zathony flares his nostrils.
“So, can you? I think I know what my creature may be now. It’s a bird with red wings. I need the ISBN number for catalogs if there are any.”
Zathony works a muscle in his jaw. “I always instruct the new library temps to purposefully misdirect any Vanusi students. I do indeed know where you can find answers.”
Nuria recites the ISBN numbers in her head as he says them aloud. She thanks them both promptly before racing away in the opposite direction, back to the center of campus. She yanks open the next door she comes across and bangs against the door frame in her haste. She recovers her balance swiftly.
She recounts the ISBN numbers for the library temp on duty. He leads her down to the aisle where they reside. She nods and locates the books on a lower shelf, bending down to read the bindings. They say: