The Fabulously Underwhelming Life of Aistyn Messand
Waking up with a headache was bad enough. Falling off the bed only made it worse.
Calico the – duh – calico cat leapt down from the mahogany bedside table, padded over to Aistyn, and then meowed seven times. Yeah, other people had cuckoos for alarm clocks, she had a cat.
Ugh, I am sooo going be late, thought Aistyn. Again.
She scratched Calico’s chin and then stood up. She got herself ready for school so fast that it seemed she had been possessed by a demon. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder and yelling “Bye, Cali!” over the other, Aistyn then rushed out of the house, tripping over some loose stones all the while, and finally heading to school. She could’ve just teleported instead, as it would have been way faster, but she hadn’t quite mastered the skill yet. Unlike her schoolmates, there was a big chance that Aistyn would have simply ended up lost in the middle of nowhere.
Aistyn stopped at the school’s entrance, heaving like a fish. She looked up at the giant golden plaques right by the gates, and admired the way the sun’s rays reflected off the imposing, beautifully polished metal. The plaques have always caught her eye – never ceased to amaze her. They read:
“What else are you waiting for, Miss? You’re already running late as it is,” said a sinewy guard, gently stroking the green fur of some sort of a cat with leathery wings and webbed feet. The cat-slash-dragon-slash-duck glanced at Aistyn and puffed out a thin stream of white-hot flame. “See, even Mr. Ezra Snuffles agrees with me,” the guard added, the skin at the corner of his eyes crinkling as he spoke with a grin.
“I– I , uh,” stammered Aistyn, startled. The guard grinned again and simply let Aistyn make her way past him.
Aistyn hurried off to class, very well aware that she was at least ten minutes late after a brief look at her watch. She ran towards the Science building, biting back something vulgar – less of an effort at decency, and more of an attempt to catch her breath. Why did the school have to be so large anyway? It’s not like they’re having trouble with accommodating the kids.
As Aistyn approached the lab with the green door – she was not going to make that mistake again (long story) – she heard a FWOOOOOM as if a large flame was suddenly going up. She walked hurriedly through the otherwise silent hallway and opened the lab door to a bunch of kids coughing and covered in ash, Prof. Regan – sans eyebrows – looking bewildered, and thick smoke pouring out through the windows.
“Glad you could join us, Miss Messand,” greeted the professor curtly. “Now, can anyone explain to me how this capsule of compressed bewitched gas ended up in this laboratory?”
Aistyn stared, jaw to the floor. A few kids were busy dusting themselves off, while the others simply shook their heads.
“Where is Matthew when you need him?” Prof. Regan said, annoyed. He looked at students assembled, and, unable to find his quarry, started creating a small tornado of ash on one of fiberglass tables. “Everyone,” he announced, “please vacate the premises as I sweep up this mess.” He then continued muttering on about fire safety and silly pranks.
After clearing up the mess Prof. Regan called the students back inside. He questioned them about the incident earlier, and promptly decided to start his lecture, as his inquiries were only met with shrugs and tepid denials. Aistyn tried to listen, but she was still thinking about the capsule, puzzling over who had put it in the lab.
The conch sounded, signaling the end of the period. Aistyn was jolted out of her daze. She briefly shook her head to clear it as she and her fellow students exited the lab.
They had a ten-minute break, and in that short amount of time, Aistyn managed to have a crazy-turned-serious conversation with her friend, Kelly, the telepathic girl who lived just a few dragon lengths (obviously much larger than Mr. Ezra Snuffles’ diminutive stature) away from Aistyn’s house at Fehan’s Ave.
Kelly had approached Aistyn asking about the practical exam they were going to take later. “Hey, you ready?”
Course she wasn’t. She even had a headache when she woke up – a result of her pyrokinetics practice, but she didn’t have to tell Kelly that. Kelly was, after all, telepathic.
“Okay, okay, stop!” she yelled, backing up a step.
Aistyn grinned at her. “I’m so ready, right?” she joked. Kelly’s grimace soon melted off in a chuckle, and the two were laughing their heads off, not even sure why they were laughing in the first place.
“You’re mad!” Kelly exclaimed.
“So are you.”
“I agree. And that’s great, but I think you – we – are driving everyone crazy.”
“You’re saying I should change?”
“Well…” Kelly hesitated, “maybe you do, maybe you don’t.”
“Yeah, you don’t,” said Kelly, her smile again slowly coloring her features.
“There’s just no way I’m changing for anyone’s sanity, especially when I have doubts about my own,” Aistyn half muttered to herself.
The conch sounded again. Break over. The students returned to their seats. Professor Clemens entered, and he announced that he’d be testing them, testing them where they were most skilled at.
Aistyn felt like melting into a puddle of goo. What was she most skilled at? Nothing. She was not Trish, the Charmspeaker, nor was she Zia, master of all things military. She didn’t have Jamie’s Gift of Tongues, or Anna’s Touch of Life. Jenna could make illusions, Maureen could turn invisible. What was she going to do?
Aistyn searched herself. What was she? Nothing. Who was she? Nobody. Just a crazy girl who’d been overawed and overjoyed to receive an invitation to attend Chaete’s Academy. A crazy girl who always felt crushed by the pressure, the expectations.
She didn’t have anything. They all had something, she had nothing. They were blessed. She wasn’t. Life’s not fair.
You’re crazy, a voice whispered in her mind, which she identified as Kelly’s. You really think you’re not special?
What? That’s my gift? Craziness? Aistyn asked coolly, which Kelly, in turn, identified as sarcasm.
Oh, such a sputid girl! Your level of sputidupity could never fail to surprise me. We would never have been friends if you weren’t crazy, would we? DIG DEEPER!
Eh?Digging a grave? Aistyn joked. But yeah, thanks.
And then her turn was up. Prof. Clemens was beckoning to her.
“Show me what you can do,” he said.
She did. She showed him what she’d learned, what she’d been taught. But no matter how well she did, she knew it wasn’t enough.
“Now, show me your talent.”
Aistyn started to panic. She didn’t have a talent. Or at least she didn’t know what it was.
Prof. Clemens was waiting, smiling, encouraging her. What could she do?
For some reason, she remembered Calico – how the cat had been a nuisance to their neighbors, before Aistyn tamed him. No one could even get near him, and she tamed him! Is that related to her talent?
You can be anything you want.
That was what they always said.
And then, thinking of Calico the calico cat – and suppressing a laugh – she did.
She thought that that line was only something they said to encourage children, but now, she realized, for her and many others, it was literal.
She rolled on the floor, laughing – or would have done so, if she could. Instead, she just rolled, and then stood up on four legs – yes, four!
She searched the audience for Kelly and grinned at her. Rather, she showed her sharp teeth, because how else could a tiger grin?