TRIMERA (YA Fantasy)

Chapter I:

I can’t fully count to ten without another pair of taunting eyes peering back at me, scanning me for the animal Attribute that finely adorns the rest of the class. Even our instructor gazes at me in discontentment. They don’t know what to think of me. They don’t know how to judge me. Yet.

In the Hemisphere, functionality rides on predictability. Each and every person has to be aware of who they’re dealing with upon meeting. This is possible by the animal Attributes we obtain on our seventeenth birthdays — the physical trait that shows the world which animal we’re most like. Even now there’s a chart hanging outside on the door of the class emblemizing those of us who have Attributes. And that would be everyone. Everyone but me.

They call me the baby of the village here along the Crescent, our cozy little slum of the Hemisphere. I was born on the very last day of the year, the day of the Appraisals. The only sixteen-year-old left, I’m the only one without an Attribute. And it would appear I won’t be allowed to forget it.

The town’s bell tolls, and widened gazes scatter across the room. I wait. If it doesn’t toll again it would mean father and the other hunters have brought back a wagonload of fresh game for the marketplace.

But it does. At the sound of it, my classmates are already to their feet, ready to file into organized lines to walk to the bell tower and meet the town’s newest Dimera. Some unlucky fool was granted the displeasure of developing two Attributes, the poor bastard. With two Attributes, he’s unpredictable. He could be wise like an owl, or sneaky like a snake. Because of that, women won’t want to marry him, and men won’t want to do business with him. He’ll live his life as a pariah. This would make the third one in the Crescent. Must just be an unlucky year for us.

Then it rings again.

The class erupts into noises as students storm the hallway. There is one person left, our instructor. The wrinkles in her round face tighten as her large pupils stare straight ahead. Her hands are on the desk, but I don’t need her owl Attribute to hear them trembling against the wood. And she doesn’t need her Attribute to know she’s not hiding her fear too well.

I realize that her son also hasn’t attended class today and the pieces fall together perfectly in my mind. I could summon a guard, report her and have her killed — she’s just as guilty anyway. How could she expose herself and her monstrous son to the rest of us?

But instead I walk away. What we will witness will be punishment enough for her.

When I walk through the front doors of the school I blend into the masses of townsfolk making their way to the bell tower. Around us, women grab firm hold of their children and street merchants abandon their stands to follow the crowd. People are talking; fear is obvious on some of their faces. Our Crescent has become a symphony of excitement and terror. This will be the first time we see a Trimera.

When we reach the bell tower, the harbinger steps fourth on the gallows elevated above us.

“Ansem Trite,” he calls. The crowd gasps. We all know who he is. His father is a hunter alongside my father. And his mother is my instructor.

The guard brings forth a trembling, crying boy. It’s a few too many tears for a boy who was thought to become one of the Crescent’s next great hunters. He’s supposed to be brave, fearless like our fathers. But then again, this is as close to the gallows I’ve ever been, and there’s a chill in the eerie air that frightens me so much that I don’t want to be here.

The guard snatches his hand and raises it for us to see. Claws. And not the ones he was probably hoping for. These are each the length of his longest finger, and visible green veins thick with venom run through them. Viper Attribute.

Then the guard pulls Ansem’s lips apart to show us the fangs arming his mouth. Wolf. At least he got what he wanted. If it were only the two, he’d maybe get to live the life he wants. But when the guard pulls off Ansem’s hood, the crowd gasps. His hair is jet black now, and feathers are laced throughout the strands. A bird — a raven.

I’m suddenly on edge. What were we to think of him if he were allowed into our streets? He’s strong and fearless so says his wolf Attribute, but he’s also cunning and sneaky like a viper and a bad omen like a raven? It doesn’t make sense. It all contradicts. He could rob us — destroy the already too delicate equilibrium of the Crescent’s economy, or kill us. I don’t know what to think of him. I don’t know how to look at him. I don’t want him in our society.

Somewhere near, his mother screams his name in heartbreaking wails. He begins to bawl when he sees her in the crowd and cries for her right as he is dragged away. A noose is placed around his neck, and the crowd falls silent — all but his screaming mother.

The guard should state the crime, or explain the execution, but he doesn’t. Instead, he pulls a lever and sends the boy to his death. Gasps erupt from the crowd, and I hate that I’m so close to the gallows that I hear his neck snap.

It’s a harsh punishment, but he doesn’t belong in our society.

#

I sit at the table eating the wild boar caught in today’s hunt. It is a good, tough meat, something I can’t remember having in weeks, but I can’t eat pass a few bites. There is too much on my mind.

I look up and my mother’s hand is on mine. “You will be fine,” she assures me. But even she can’t make me feel any better about this. After tonight, who my parents are will no longer define who I am. My Attribute will.

“He’ll be just like his old man,” my father says, leaning back in his chair as he picks his teeth with a bone. Those teeth are what bring us our meals; they’re what keep us in a home.

“You will have a good job if you inherit your father’s Attribute,” my mother says with a smile. “But no matter what, we will always love you, Luca.”

“Maybe even a little more if you’re able to bring in a few coins,” father laughs. I barely ever see the humor in his jokes.

Mother shoots him a glare. “What is wrong with you, Eidon? Can’t you see he is nervous enough?”

“He’s fine,” Father mutters.

I stare at my slice of boar. What happens tonight will determine if I learned all the right things in school. It will decide my friends, my job. I stand at a closed door and the uncertainty of the world beyond it is a terror that churns my stomach and makes me want to purge the boar all over the table.

So no, I’m not fine.

“Honestly, of all the days to execute a Trimera!” Mother scoffs. “Not only are the townsfolk talking, but now the children are rattled the day before the Appraisals. Couldn’t this have happened sooner?”

“Ansem’s birthday was today,” father says. “If you ask me it happened right on time. Who knows what would have happened if Gehm didn’t report the third Attribute.”

Mother is to her feet, and she slams her hands down onto the table. “Gehm Trite reported his own son?!” she nearly screams, but her ginger voice can only be so loud.

Father looks up at her, a laughing smile on his face — at mother’s reaction, no doubt. He doesn’t deserve her. “As he should have.”

She looks disgusted. She doesn’t love him. She doesn’t even like him. But he puts a roof over her head and keeps her in hobby. Because of who he is, because of his Attribute he is able to provide her with the nice things she deserves. She’s the prettiest in the Crescent, and he’s the strongest. He’s allowed to have her; he’s privileged.

“Honey?” Mother calls when I stand from the table. She looks worried, so I twist my face to force a smile.

“I’m just going for a walk,” I tell her. Just as I step foot out the door, Father’s voice shoots at me. Judging by the tone and the laugh in it, it’s nothing helpful — probably just an unnecessarily rude remark — so I ignore it.

I look at the large emblems on our front door. Beside the empty square, there are fangs and a feather. I want so badly to be either of them. People respect wolf Attributes, but judging by what I’ve seen, those fangs up there don’t mean brave or strong. They mean asshole.

I walk under the dark sky through narrow streets, weaving my way through homes until I find the wide stone road that stretches through the Crescent. I follow it, hands in my pockets, as I try to escape thinking about tonight. When I trek pass the bell tower, I find myself in the woods where father and the other wolf Attributes hunt.

It’s a mess here. Their half-eaten lunch is still scattered all about, being picked at by squirrels and raccoons. Someone’s shoes are just sitting there. As I walk pass, trying to ignore the filth, I find a deer carcass lying in the grass. It can’t even bleed anymore — all its blood has already escaped through the wounds on its neck and stomach probably by noon today. It looks like the hunters had a little snack here — I guess they make full use of their easy digestion. But there are families here along the Crescent who aren’t able to eat every day. There are the less fortunate, whose parents don’t have a wolf Attribute to hunt, or a snake Attribute to talk down merchant prices, who would have made this deer last at least a week. And our beloved hunters just had it for a snack and threw it away. But it’s still salvageable. I could bring this to the town kitchen.

When the bushes rustle behind me, I spin around. There is something behind them, treading on the plants, making its way toward me. I’m not that big, I barely stand at five feet seven so maybe it doesn’t notice me. It could be a deer, or maybe just someone else out for a stroll.

But it’s not. When it walks through the bushes, it sees me and a growl rumbles in its throat. It’s a bear, and it doesn’t look pleased with me.

Instinctively, I crouch and the bear whiffs the air and smells what I believe is the deer. It wants it, and I’m standing between it and its dinner.

It takes a step towards me and I don’t move. It growls, obviously pissed that I won’t back away, and something in me has me snarling at it.

There is an axe just a few feet from where I stand. I want to reach for it, but I know the movement would displease the bear.

And yet, I still do it.

The bear charges, and my hand is too far from the axe to grab it in time. The bear is just a foot away when I jolt up and snap my two fingers at its neck. It chokes and falls to the ground where it writhes, then stills.

I should be happy. I’ve just shown the makings of a great would-be hunter. I just claimed my prize of deer. But I’m not happy, I’m shocked and afraid. This is not how wolf Attributes fight. This is not what hunters do. My movements, the way I killed the bear, resembles an animal whose Attribute is frowned upon in the Crescent. And that’s not the life I want.

#

When I lie down for bed, I’m even more nervous, and now downright anxious. My mother looms over me with a smile on her face. This smile is her way of telling me, for the hundredth time, that no matter what Attribute I develop she will always love me. But she didn’t see what I did.

“Whenever I look at you I’m reminded of your father. You have his long brown locks and soft chestnut eyes,” she says. “But after tonight I will see you, and I know, without a doubt, that I will love it and think of it even after I fall into the eternal sleep.”

Just looking at her — that soft, pale face, those wide blue eyes, and that head of white hair and feathers. I can understand why the Crescent adores her.

“I will see you in the morning, and then,” she pulls in her lips. “I will see you off. My little boy is about to become a man.”

I roll my eyes. “Mother, please.”

She laughs. “Goodnight, Luca. And since I will be asleep at midnight, I will say it now. Happy birthday.”

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