“Hey, the pig’s following us.”
Dametria turns around at Jackie’s words and her eyes find me.
“Poor little guy is probably scared half to death. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the only one left up there. Everyone else and every other animal... they’re dead. All except for the Initi Tribe and whoever was saved by them because of Cressa-la and Damian’s deal.” Dametria glides forward somberly, and there’s something in my heart that warms as she kneels down and touches the top of my head. My pig instincts feel threatened and the animal inside of me wants to attack, but I want to stay here, in this warm feeling. For a moment, there’s a glimpse of Amawa-na in the midst of Dametria. “Hey, little guy, wanna come with us? We have some walking to do, but you can tag along.”
I snort, trying to show I will come, and she smiles.
It seems as if a little piece of me has shifted and changed... but I’m not sure what.
Stay focused, I remind myself. You have to get them to your destination to complete your mission.
I trot after them, trying to conjure up a plan as they speak, pushing all emotions aside.
“I’m going to let the animals out real quick,” Dametria says as she pours water over her head. She keeps a good amount in a small jug that hangs across her back like a quiver, hidden by her hair. It was a crude necessity when I needed to be above the water; she’s not allowed to leave my side more times than none. I don’t know how she was even able to slip away when she would, even if she did something right sometimes. “Damian caged a lot of them up because he knew how the planet would react to its sudden stillness.”
We make our way to the largest room under the surface, sounds of clanking coming from the other side of the door. She opens it and we slide inside. Dozens of animals in cages line the walls and are stacked up against one another, all my doing to protect the habitat once everyone else was gone. The smell of feces and various excretions waft towards us, and I squeal involuntarily. Dametria coos at me, telling me everything’s alright, and lets the herbivores out first, their bodies glowing bright green. They lift upward through the bars and through the rock above us, hollering the entire way. Once they’re safe and out of sight, Dametria staggers to her left, nearly falling over.
“Whoa,” Jackie bellows, reaching forward to support her if she falls. “Do you need help? I’m still learning how to use my powers, but I can help if you need me to. Just tell me what to do.”
“No, it’s okay,” Dametria says, shaking her head. “I’m just exhausted. But I can do this. Two more sets.”
“There are so many of them,” Jackie mutters in awe.
Dametria nods. “When the Flood came and it covered almost the entire earth, it’s like all the animals knew—or at least a lot of them—and they took shelter. Or, at least, that’s what we were taught. You, growing actually in a more advanced society, probably know if it’s the truth or not. It’s like a miracle all these animals adapted to habitats that are nothing like what they used to live in. It’s not evolution—that was ruled out long ago with its false truths and abundance of lies and whatever, but I don’t think all this happened on its own...” she trails off as she continues to unlock the omnivore’s cages, taking a different approach to these animals, for some reason. “But. Some find it controversial still, ruling out anything they can’t do with their own hands or see with their own eyes.”
The omnivores lift into the air and through the rocks.
Jackie clears her throat. “Um—are, uh… are you trying to sway me away from what I learned growing up?” Jackie asks as the animals rise into the air and disappear. “I—I mean, I know you don’t know me, but I know there are people that like to force their opinions on each other and make people doubt themselves, especially about things like the death of the human babies and whatnot...”
Dametria leans against a wall as she breathes heavily, clearly annoyed. She shakes her head, and I back away from the entrance slightly. Her head is in the clouds; I knew she couldn’t be left alone for one moment. Just a foolish girl with no sense of logic. Maybe tricking her into what I need her to do will be much simpler than I ever thought. But maybe the other girl, whose head is far too wide and empty to understand what the real world holds…
“No,” Dametria breathes, “no, that isn’t what I’m trying to freaking do.” A bit of irritation is present in her voice. “I’m just making conversation. Thinking out loud and trying to calm my nerves. Maybe I’m trying to be your friend. And perhaps I’m letting you see a side of me no one ever gets to, because one day I might explode and someone will have to listen to my opinions because no one will.”
Dametria takes a step back, sucking in a breath as she pushes the anger out of her system, turning back to the animals.
“Why would you try and be my friend, anyway?” Jackie asks, scrunching her nose. “You’re one of the bad guys.”
“People change,” Dametria says heavily, walking over to a pacing tiger. “Just like animals adapt. You might want to back up. These will be harder than the other two.”
Jackie nods, her brow furrowed, and she turns around to walk out. I back away from the entrance to let her through, when Dametria says something else. “And, by the way, if someone else’s opinion makes you question yours, perhaps they’re doing you a favor.”
The predators begin to glow and rise, bucking and clawing as they try to break free of Dametria’s hold on them.
Her legs are shaking.
“Maybe I should have done this—one at a time!”
The animals begin to drop to the ground. A black panther lunges forward toward her, and the rest fall to the ground. They move forward.
Dametria has fallen to the ground and she lifts her arms up over her head as she screams. I start to run forward to protect her, forgetting for a moment that I, myself, will become the center of attention in a moment of time without any hesitations from the other animals, and I will be eaten.
“Dametria!” Jackie howls from behind us, just as the panther sinks his jaws into my soulmate’s arm. She cries out as my head connects with the animal’s body.
I’m thrown to the side as a tiger swipes at me.
Just before her jaws sink into my skin, all the attacking animals are thrown back against the far wall. I scramble up, a purple barrier separating them from us as it shimmers and moves like electrified placid water. A leopard stands on the same side as us, staring us down. Its fur is soaked to the skin, an orange glow hovering just beyond the shafts of hair. Dametria and Jackie gape at the animal, hesitant as their anxiety grows. But I know exactly what this animal is. Who the animal is controlled by.
The girls draw in a breath.
“Damian was telling the truth.”
She doubted me. I grimaced, glaring at the girl who wrecked my life.
I snorted, but the leopard’s eyes didn’t move from Dametria’s.
“Who are you?” Jackie choked out, frozen to her spot just outside the doorway.
I am the one you need to find to finish the quest chosen for you.
“What... what quest?”
The leopard smiles and a glint of purple shimmers across its eyes as it snaps them over to me. The one that pig will lead you to. Follow it, and you will get what you most desire, Amawa-na.
Her eyes flick to mine as the predators, who pace impatiently behind the barrier, begin to glow a deep purple. They lift into the air and through the ground as well, the leopard following.
And you too will get what you most desire, pig.
With that, the animal is gone, leaving the room, and the two girls, silent as my pig sounds take over the airways.
Now I can get what I want with little to no effort exerted from my body or mind.
I trot to the door and past Jackie, waiting for them to follow, but I don’t hear them behind me. They hesitate, still in the spots I’d left them in, watching me.
“Should we follow him?” Jackie asks. I can see in her eyes she isn’t certain of what she wants to do herself.
Dametria stares at me for a long time.
“Let’s get out of here and up to the surface. And then... and then we can decide.”
We walk in silence for about five minutes, me in front.
“Was the leopard talking to you?” Jackie speaks abruptly, and Dametria nods.
“Amawa-na was my name before... Damian. I changed it to show my devotion to him.”
I feel a sense of pride well up in me. She may have betrayed me, but I can hear the guilt in her voice from doing so. It’s a good thing her guilt and shame is bigger than her brain. She can be such an idiot sometimes.
“Why? Amawa-na is a pretty name. And if a guy asks you to change your name for them, it shouldn’t be your first.”
“Well, we only had one name up here, but... I needed him to know that I’d always be at his side and I’d always...” she stops talking and I hear her sniffle, but I don’t dare turn around. I’d lose myself if I do.
“What is it you most desire, anyway?”
“Who, me?” Dametria stutters, startled by the sudden subject change. This, I was curious to hear, although I knew exactly what it was: me. She wanted me to see her as equal, as someone to love. But she’s proven unworthy of my love. She’s bowed underneath my force one too many times and is breaking, her sanity barely holding on by a thread. It would take a miracle for her to be loved by me any time soon.
I snorted as we neared the exit, knowing what she’d say next. But she doesn’t say it.
“I don’t want to say it out loud. It’s like when you make a wish on a star. You can’t tell anyone or it won’t come true.”
“So your desire is more like a wish?”
“Yeah, like a wish,” Dametria breathes. “More like a fantasy no one in this world can have, not even the best of people.”
I snort in disapproval.
“People like my brother too, I guess,” Jackie says softly.
“Brother...” Dametria huffs, and I can almost hear her racking her brain. “Tamir. You’re Tamir-in’s sister.” She nearly trips over herself. “I don’t know how I forgot… I mean, you said you were just a while ago, but… There’s just so much going on right now, I…”
“You were the shark that bit me, weren’t you?”
“What?” Dametria backtracks. “Uh... um, yes. Sorry about that, I guess… When I get around Damian, I’ve learned I go a little crazy.”
“It’s okay—it just freaking hurt. But that’s okay too, I guess. So... the history. Between you and Tamir. What is it?”
Dametria shakes her head. “I’m not ready to talk about it.”
“I thought you were trying to make friends with me,” Jackie countered snidely.
“I am,” Dametria snaps. “No one pours out their heart that quickly.”
“My brother tends to. That’s what happened with him and Cressa.”
I look back at the two of them, pain lacing itself across Dametria’s face. She closes her eyes and sniffles, clenching her fists. It takes her a moment to collect herself, her brows pinched until she’s relaxed, and her face hardens.
She turns and strides past me, crawling out of the entrance. I squeal, an attempt at a bitter laugh from my part.
I have found her weakness.