A lot of people don’t know it, but most animals remember everything. Not just the best place to forage for berries or the best watering hole. Animals remember every second of their lives from birth. If you were to have a conversation with a squirrel, you could ask him the moment he first knew his instinct to bury nuts. He could tell you. Check asked a cat once why she liked to kill field mice so much. She told him the moment she first felt the desire to kill a field mouse. She told him a cat always needs to feel strong enough to hunt just in case she can’t find a meal for the night.
Every moment of time Check spent as a cat became permanently engrained in his mind forever.
Check’s parents owned a whole bunch of companies in Seattle. Admittedly, Check had been a mistake. Neither one of them really wanted children. Both his parents were pretty career driven, and children only got in the way of that stuff. Check despised them. It was their predatory instincts garnered from years of morphing into solitary hunting animals that made them what they were.
Check took it upon himself to read the Chimera handbook they kept locked up in a drawer. He hated them, and didn’t find much guilt in his sneaking around. Learning glyphs came second nature to him, but he never found any skill in the actual writing. Every glyph he wrote took time. He could write some complicated, powerful glyphs, but if he didn’t have a solid ten minutes, he couldn’t do it at all.
Aside from Check being almost twelve years old, nothing about the Thief’s appearance at Check’s home shocked him. The day he showed up, Check ran. Lee hadn’t saved him like he did the other three. Lee stumbled upon Check in the wild.
With his parents out somewhere, Check had been reading up on the Chimera handbook when the front of his home exploded into pieces. Check figured the Thief knew about his unique abilities, and needed a shocking arrival to instill some fear into him. For the past year or so, Check had seen the Thief watching him from afar everywhere he went, so his appearance didn’t surprise him, but exploding through the door did startle a bit.
Check threw a thick winter jacket on, tucked the Chimera handbook into an inside pocket, and stepped out into the front hallway to face his would-be captor. The Thief didn’t talk. He merely gazed at Check menacingly.
Luckily, Check had been working on the speed by which he wrote glyphs. He hadn’t bettered much of his writing, but his proficiency with the morph glyph had improved.
Before the Thief made a move, Check dropped to a knee, and scrawled the morph glyph into the hardwood floor. The intricate design flared to life. He stood up straight then, stared at the Thief with a grin, and stepped onto the glyph.
Check bounded out of his home as a massive black panther, shouldering the Thief to the ground with little effort. He avoided main roads until he a found a forest.
Lee stumbled upon Check about a month later.
Check knew why Lee hadn’t come for him. Lee knew less about the wish glyph than Ani. He knew less purposefully. He hated the wish glyph. Lee knew the horrors that befell his people when they misused the wish glyph and he didn’t want anyone ending up the same. The thing about Lee’s search for possible children with the wish glyph was he didn’t know that Chimera could have the wish glyph. Ani knew.
So Lee had no idea that the misplaced panther that began following him around was actually a glyph writing child. Check accompanied Lee as his partner for months. Lee was usually unsuccessful in saving the children, but he and Check fought Ani’s forces tooth and nail every time they had a chance to save someone.
In the first month of their partnership, Check and Lee attempted to save three children. But Ani always seemed to be a few steps ahead of them. The lucky ones were the ones that Lee got to early. He knew Alice, Josh, and Luna were special from a very young age, so he could watch over them. By the time Check joined Lee, Luna had been at the mansion for a year. Even though Lee didn’t seem to know that his panther friend was actually a boy, he still confided in the animal when they sat by a fire at night or hiding out in wait.
Lee felt so badly about Luna that he cried often. He wished he knew what to do, but the ability of one descendant of the elders did nothing to combat Ani’s relentless drive for power. Lee held no false hope for his cause. He believed he needed to stop Ani and rid the world of the wish glyph, but he also knew that he had nothing to work with. His sense about children that may know the wish glyph was all he could work from.
On Alice’s thirteenth birthday, Lee and Check teamed up to protect her family and get her to the safety of the mansion. Lee had instructed Alice’s family to get her through the door to the snow years ago. He had faith that they would comply. Lee asked Check to go to the farm and protect Alice’s family from Ani’s thugs.
Over the months Check had spent as a panther, he’d honed his predatory skills. His big cat muscles were strong and toned. His eyes were sharp, his breathing steady. The day of Alice’s birthday, Check lithely crept through the peach field on her farm, staying low to the ground. He’d picked up the scent of the Thief easily, and stalked the hideous man across the farm grounds.
Keeping his keen eyes glued to the front door of the home, Check stayed perfectly still, even as Alice and her family crashed out into the daylight. The Thief followed not far behind. The family fled into the peach fields, running for their lives. Check could hear their screams. They were so afraid. A deep, feral growl escaped Check’s throat as he prepared to strike.
Of the children Lee and Check tried to save, the Thief had had no qualms about harming the families even after he had the children in his possession. Check he even saw him do it.
As the Thief bore down on Alice’s family, Check’s trained muscles launched him into a bounding sprint. His heart raced as he shot across the peach field like a bullet. He growled again, realizing that he’d waited too long to move. The Thief reached the family, mercilessly attacking Alice’s father. But Check redoubled his effort, nearly flying toward the group.
The Thief had Alice’s father on the ground, and stood over him as if to finish the man off. Check raced towards them and leapt into the air. The force of a hundred-thirty pound panther coaxed a grunt out of the Thief. They rolled across the ground in a heap until the Thief got free and to his feet.
“You again,” he groaned.
Check only growled. He tensed his muscles to pounce and the Thief flinched fearfully. A coward at heart, the Thief finally broke away, retreating through the field. Check turned to Alice’s family. He nuzzled them and purred, letting them know that he would protect them, and then he bounded away.
Check looked up from his books to see Luna and Josh sitting together on the opposite couch in the library. He never lied about his nature. But he certainly never told his friends about it. Check suspected that Luna might know about the Chimera. If she did know, then she would be able to see Check’s true nature. He hadn’t changed form since he arrived at the mansion as a boy, so maybe the magic didn’t have any traces on him. Still, he didn’t keep much hope that his secret stayed with him.
Glyph writers seemed to have a connection with each other. Both Alice and Check knew Luna’s secret even though she hadn’t ever actually come out and told them about it.
Check shook his head as he thought back to that day he met Lee. It had been two years ago. Lee had been gone so long now the despair that had grown within him had hardened into an unbreakable heart of negativity. Nothing went Check’s way. Alice had taught the group of them how to write glyphs with a single slap of the hand, but he just couldn’t grasp the idea. He failed at it. Much like he failed at being someone his parents could love, he failed at being as skilled as his companions.
Josh found Check in the arcade one day. Check grimaced at the curious face Josh had on as he approached. It wasn’t that Check didn’t like Josh. He just liked being left alone.
“What’s up,” Check asked, leaving the pinball machine to sit on a couch.
“I want to talk to you about something,” Josh said in his usual manner of taking the widest path to his point. Josh didn’t like stirring things up. He constantly wanted the four of them to be best friends. Check didn’t want friends. Deep down inside, he’d probably be happiest traveling with Lee, being free to transform and fly, or gallop, or frolic. He knew, though, that cooperation was the key to getting through this fight with Ani.
“What would you like to know,” Check said in his most diplomatic tone.
“I was hoping you could tell me about the Chimera,” he said.
Check shook his head. “I don’t think I’ve read any books about that,” he replied. “What is it?”
Josh looked down at his feet and then he sat down on the couch across from Check. “Luna told me she thinks she knows where we can find aid in our fight against Ani. Obviously, we won’t be able to beat him by ourselves. He’s too powerful. We need help. Luna already told me about the Dimensioneers. I think they’ll be a big help once we figure out how to find them. And if you are a Chimera, obviously that’ll help too.”
Check shook his head again and sighed.
“Check, come on. Did you even use your special glyph when Ani invaded the mansion?”
He threw a sharp, narrow-eyed glare at Josh. “Yeah, of course I did. But it’s none of your business.”
“Why not? We’re all in this together, all four of us. What makes you so different? You’ve been totally distant since I showed up here. And I’ve tried to get you to be friendly. Dude, if you can turn into a bear or something, think about how helpful you would be to our cause.”
“Our cause? What is our cause? Destroy Ani? I don’t have anything to fight for. I don’t have a family or anything.”
“Are you sure?”
Check bit his lip as anger swelled up inside of him. He assumed then that Luna had divulged every possible detail she knew about him to Josh. That would include the way he protected Alice’s family. If she had told Alice about that, Check decided there would be a fight. He couldn’t explain his need to protect Alice’s family. But it was there, and it was strong. And now Josh was using it as leverage to get Check to open up.
Check sneered. “You think you can use your girlfriend’s freaky abilities against me?”
Josh’s eyebrows shot up. “Whoa, calm down now. She’s not my girlfriend. She’s a very important piece of our fight against Ani. Don’t you think we should be concentrating on what we can do to help ourselves instead of wallowing like you do every day?”
As if slapped by a hand of reality, Check sat back against the couch and sighed. He ran his tongue over his teeth in frustrated thought. “Fine. I’ll go along with it. But it’s not like any of you can use the Morph Glyph. I’m the only Chimera here.”
Josh’s eyes grew large with anticipation. “Will you show me?” he breathed.
Check gave in. There wasn’t really any good reason for him to not cooperate. He knew the key to saving Lee and everyone else would be through teamwork. So he kneeled on the floor and deftly scribed the Morph Glyph on the hardwood.
“I could duplicate it,” Josh said scientifically. “But it wouldn’t work for me? I tried to use the Rift Glyph too.”
Check nodded. “You have to have the blood of the Chimera line. It only responds to Chimera.”
Josh took a deep breath and nodded. “Okay. What are you going to turn into?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. It has nothing to do with the glyph. It’s all in my mind.”
“Really? So you don’t have to alter the glyph. That’s useful. So can you turn into anything? Like, imagined or real?”
Check’s brow furrowed as he thought about that. “I’ve never tried to become something that isn’t real. But the handbook says if you can’t find something in nature that you’ve become, than you can severely mess up the ecosystem. It’s too dangerous I think.”
Josh nodded. “Understandable.”
“Okay, then. Here we go.” Check placed his hand on the glowing glyph and he shimmered into a hummingbird. His lightning wings fluttering rapidly, he hovered in the air, looking at Josh’s astonished face. He let the form hold for a minute before releasing his thoughts back to human form.
“Oh…my…god,” Josh muttered. “That was freaking crazy.”
Check plopped on the couch, breathing heavily. “Flying is really hard.”
“I see. Wow. So, are there any forms you favor?”
Check looked at Josh for a moment as he tried to figure out if Luna told his entire story. Keeping his distance still remained important to him. “Yeah. I’ve spent a lot of time as a panther. It’s my favorite form. But some situation might require different forms that I don’t have a problem turning into. A rhino could break down a door. A bear could fight a man. A rat could go through a hole in the wall.”
“So you are very versatile.”
“Of course.” He shook his head. “You do realize, Josh, that the four of us are here because we’re the most powerful. We’re the only ones capable of stopping Ani.”
“Well, sure, but…”
“No, Josh.” He paused. “Did Luna tell you my story?”
Josh looked away contritely. “I didn’t want to bring it up.”
“Whatever. The point is, I traveled with Lee for almost a year. Ani tracked every child he knew of until they were thirteen. But Lee did it differently. He tracked the children he could use. Granted, if he couldn’t use someone, Lee didn’t turn them into Luna the way Ani did. But if Lee saved every kid he could, we’d have a hundred roommates. He saved the four of us because we have what it takes to stop Ani.”
“What are you trying to say?”
“I’m saying, stop walking around here like you’ve assembled the new Avengers. You’re not Nick Fury. You haven’t done anything. You’re really smart and you know the wish glyph. That’s all. I agree that we need to work together; I’ll give you that. But Lee is the one who put us together. Stop giving yourself so much credit.”
Josh stood up. “You’re a jerk. What is your problem? I’m just trying to keep everyone happy and learning. Lee knew the best course for us was to learn as much as possible. I’m not giving myself any credit for anything. You need to stop being so antisocial and start working with us.” With that, Josh stormed out of the arcade.
Check stood up from the couch feeling bad about his outburst. The thought occurred to him that it might be time to change his perspective. He could stand to be nicer and more cooperative.
“I guess I’ll start by eating dinner with them tonight,” he said out loud before settling down on the couch once more and opening a book.