A World Beside Our Own

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Free Time

After Rose and her family leave, I really don’t know what else to do for the rest of the day. It’s too early for supper. I find my backpack and dig out some left over snacks I had, and munch on them.

I discover that there are only two-bedroom suites in this house: Luna’s and her mother’s. There are also only two computers, and I’m not about to ask either of them if I can use their personal PC. I’m not sure if it’s safe to ask to go out cycling, so I wander around the house a bit more. Just before the greenhouse, I discover stairs leading down. Lights turn on as I walk down into the basement.

First thing I notice is a huge sectional couch, facing a large screen TV mounted on the wall. I should have expected, with the lavish comfort of this house, that I should find a media room. I notice a game console with 4 controllers on a table beside the TV. There is a karaoke machine in one corner, and an old multi-game 4-person arcade machine in the other.

As I look around the room, I notice there are two doors along the wall with the stairs. Curious, I open one up and quickly close it again. Yes, a coffin, I should have expected to find one in a vampire’s home… I still wonder how safe it is staying in this house knowing that both Luna and her mother are vampires? They have shown me nothing but caring and compassion though, so I feel I can trust them - even though it could mean my life if I am wrong.

I find the remote to the TV and pick up one of the game controllers. Wonder what games they have on this…

I’m lost in a game of Genie’s Curse when suddenly Luna plops beside me with a controller. I hadn’t noticed her come down and pick it up.

“Want to switch over to a multi-player Nova Effect game?” Luna smiles.

“Sure!” I grin. “Are you any good?”

“I’m okay on my own, but I bet we can beat my high score working together.” She grins. I’m so used to her fanged smile that I don’t feel threatened anymore.

I switch games on the console, and she settles closer beside me. I queue a multi-player co-op, and we pop over to character selection.

“You’re choosing a female character.” Luna comments as I work through customizing my character’s appearance. She already has a saved avatar and is waiting for me.

“I haven’t played a male toon in over a year. Some of my online friends who’ve not met me in real life think I’m a girl.” I reply as I finalize the facial options and work towards body types.

Luna watches me sort out the character's build. “Well, you definitely are not like other boys when they play female toons. You’ve not over sexualized her at all.”

“I figure, this is what my body-build would be if I had been born female.” I say as I look for random name choices.

We soon get into the game, and we discuss the choices of missions we want to start off with. Luna is quick and accurate with her combat, I haven’t seen her miss a shot - or even get hit yet - as she seems to dodge everything coming her way. I play RPGs, not first-person shooter games, so I’m struggling to keep up with her, as she seems to know exactly where to go, and when the opponents will pop up - sometimes setting up a shot before the red dots show up on the radar hud.

“You’ve played this a fair bit.” I comment as I try to follow her motions.

“Bought it when it first came out.” Luna smiles as she lines up her shot.

“Ah, it was out for a good year before I could convince my parents to get me a copy as a holiday gift.” I comment, spotting an ambusher and taking my shot.

“What do you do on your free time?” she asks me.

“I cycle a lot, I don’t get to play the console much - as it’s in the living room. I can only play when my parents aren’t watching TV. Otherwise, I spend most of my time in my room. I convinced my parents to keep my PC in my room, but they have my Internet on a timer - so that I don’t just sit in front of my computer all day. I try to keep busy: art, clay modelling….”

“You’re an artist?” Luna says mildly surprised. “You said you love art... Have you ever painted?”

“In art class.” I shrug. “I don’t have paints of my own, so I do mostly pencil and charcoal sketching.”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Her tone is a mix of curiosity and flirting.

I chuckle nervously. “I wish! I have a few female friends in school and online, but I’ve not dated any of them.”

“You said you like girls, yet you’ve never dated one?” She queries.

“I… I’m way to shy. I wouldn’t know how.” I say blushing. “They’re my friends, how do you ask a friend out on a date?”

“You’ve asked none of them out?” she says mildly surprised. “For a boy you are fairly attractive.”

My face goes beet red. Is she hitting on me? “Well, I've thought of dating one. We’ll hang out after school, occasionally go to the movies together. But nothing that I would call a date… To be honest, a couple of them are queer, so they’d never want to date a boy to begin with.”

“Oh.” She merely responds. “That's a shame.”

“Why?” I’m now getting curious.

“You’re gentle, kind, and funny. I’m surprised no one’s asked you out before.” She smiles at me and goes back to the game.

I look at her for a moment, dumbfounded. This girl I barely know finds me attractive and relationship material… should I? The game breaks me from my thoughts as I’m forced to duck out of the way from getting shot. She giggles, her laugh is so adorable. Is she doing this on purpose?

Luna is right. By the time Ashanna calls down for supper, we’ve reached further in the story line than she has solo, and we record the new top score before heading up to eat.

Tonight’s supper is a rice stir fry, it is amazingly delicious. I notice that Luna’s and her mother’s plates have the addition of some blood fruit beside it. Luna brings up the latest season of Sea Venture - one of my favourite shows. The two of us excitedly get into what parts of the show we like, and who are our favourite characters. Ashanna is mostly quiet during the exchange, but adds in some interesting facts about the actors in the show. I’ve never had such an animated meal before. The women are interested in how I feel, what I think, and what my interests are. For the first time in longer than I can remember, supper involved conversations where how I thought and felt mean something.

Suppers with my parents are usually them asking me about school and what projects I’m working on - with my father criticizing me on topics I might struggle with. It didn’t matter what I thought of my favourite topics, what subjects were fun and interesting. When they weren’t analyzing my academic performance, we would just sit quietly and not talk at all... That is when we sat together for a meal, which wasn’t frequent.

I get curious about the exotic fruit. “What does the blood fruit do that other foods don’t?”

“The nature of the fruit is close to human plasma. It fills our thirst, we can use it to nourish our bodies, rather than feed off of living creatures.” Ashanna replies.

“So, what makes it so poisonous to humans?” I inquire. “I remember falling once and sucking on the wound till I could get it to stop bleeding.”

“Well, that would be due to it was your own blood.” Ashanna explains. “Drinking pure plasma is not something humans can or should do, which is why it is fed to you intravenously when your body requires it.” She looks thoughtful. “I suppose a small piece wouldn’t harm you too much, did you want to try some?”

My curiosity is higher than my sense of caution and I nod. So Ashanna takes a small thumb sized piece and puts it on my plate. The fruit bleeds a purplish red liquid. It smells metallic, like blood, but also smells like something else. I take the piece and put it on my tongue. It’s sweet, sour, and tastes a little ‘off’. Like someone took raw liver, peaches, broccoli, and something else, then mixed it together. I swallow it with a slight look of disgust on my face, washing the strange after-taste down with some juice. My mouth has that fuzzy feeling when I eat kiwi.

“I can see why you don’t encourage humans to eat this.” I say, trying to get the strange after-taste out of my mouth by scooping up the last of my stir-fry.

“How do you feel, Simon?” Luna asks as I suddenly feel a warm rush climb up my body from my abdomen.

“Strange…” I shake the feeling from my head and look at her.

“Simon’s eyes just glowed emenya. Is that common?” Luna asks, looking at my facial reactions.

“No.” Ashanna says, putting the back of her hand over my forehead. “Well, there’s no fever, or shakes…” she says thoughtfully.

“People react to plasma fruit that quickly?” I say in a worried tone.

“I gave you a larger portion than just a taste, so, yes, they can. We’ll see how the fruit works through your digestive track before you try more. If you experience cramps, pain or have and uncomfortable bowel movement, tell me.” She says in a motherly tone.

I nod to her as the sudden rush recedes, and I feel okay again.

After supper, Luna says she has some final schoolwork to take care of. We’re up in her room, as I look over the subjects she is studying. They don’t run the club on Sundays, so they won’t be going out tonight.

“You don’t run the club…” I say, picking up on the subtext. “You mean, your family owns the Temptations nightclub?” I say in mild surprise.

“Yes, my family owns the club. This extravagant house didn’t just pay for itself.” Luna teases me. “The exotic dance club on the main floor is for show. The adult nature of the club gives us a bit more anonymity than any other bar or dance club in town.” She explains. “The principal purpose of the locale is a paranormal gathering place. The second floor welcomes all creatures, so long as they abide to the non-violence rules. There are a few hidden rooms underground: libraries, vaults, and ritual rooms - but blood sacrifice is not allowed.”

“Wow.” Is all I can think of saying in return. “So, you basically hide in plain sight.”

“Yes, the premise is to blend in with society, the less we draw attention to ourselves, the better we are. We are not the only family to do such. There are magical orders scattered across the globe, paranormal gathering places like ours pepper large cities. The less obvious a location, the longer it stands unopposed.”

“Because someone is bound to find the strange patterns and those who fear your kind will hunt you down.” I’m looking over her history book, and there are chapters of history I never knew existed.

“Yes, humans deal with fear in one of three ways. They either brave past it, and valiantly will do the impossible to succeed. They will run from their fear and get as far away from it quick as possible.”

“Or they destroy everything that they don’t believe in - in order to erase its existence from history.” I finish for her as I read a passage of the Inquisition of medieval times. I look up from the book. “As a transgender person, I know what people do to people like me when they fear the unknown. They murder thousands of gender variant people each year because of fear, hatred and misunderstanding.”

“Then, we face a common foe.” Luna says sadly.

“How is it you move around people and no one seems to notice you’re different?” I say curiously. “I mean, your skin an ash grey, your eyes have no white or iris…”

“That is what you see?” She asks and I nod. “With this charm.” She shows a silver necklace with a large black pearl hidden under her shirt. “Others see me differently.”

Luna slides off the bed and reaches out her hand. I take it and follow her. She leads me to the bathroom’s full-length mirror. When she steps in front of it, her reflexion looks different. It actually surprises me to see a reflexion at all. Beside me is a girl with dark skin, brown eyes and black hair. Her hairstyle is the same as what I can see, her eyes look ‘normal’ and her ears are rounded, like a normal Human.

“See, to everyond else, I’m just a black girl like any other.” She smiles.

“Except for your punk hairstyle” I tease her, gently flicking her neon tips, making her giggle. “You didn’t hide your true form from me when we met.” I say thoughtfully.

“I’ve been meaning to ask emenya why the charm doesn’t work on you.” She says thoughtfully. “The illusion should work on all those who do not have arcane or true sight.”

“So I’m not like other mundane people?” I say with a frown.

“Well, should your last name hold to your heritage, you hold Elven blood in your genetic makeup.” Luna says, recalling what her mother said this morning. “It would explain your tall, lean physique.” Her expression changes. “And your reaction to the blood fruit.”

“Because I’m not entirely human?” I chuckle. “Yeah, my parents would never believe that malarkey.”

“Humanity over all fears magic. It’s a wonder how your race continues keeping the arcane traditions alive.” Luna says in amazement.

“The only magic I’ve ever seen is from charismatic con-artists that use sleight of hand to fool or distract you. Until we flew together and you started teleporting us places, I didn’t believe it was real.” I correct myself in the end. There’s no denying what Luna has showed me so far is the real deal.

Luna looks thoughtful. “I wonder just how much of your Elven bloodline you hold.”

“What do you have in mind?” I quirk an eyebrow.

“Let me try a cantrip, to see if it works.” Luna says. “Laurë” she says, and this golden flicker of light shows up in her palm.

“Neat!” I exclaim.

“Now you try.” Luna says, dismissing the small ball of light.

“Me? I don’t even know what you did.” I say hesitantly.

“When you first learn magic, you need to focus.” She says. “Close your eyes, she whispers. Now, focus on your palm, think of a soft golden light, like a firefly, dancing in your palm.”

I close my eyes, and take a deep breath, relaxing, getting the image in my mind. “Now what?”

“Repeat after me: Laurë,” she says.

I clumsily say the word and nothing happens.

“Enunciation is important.” She says softly, I can feel her move behind me. She’s almost whispering in my ear. “Again, Laurë.” Her warm breath on my neck is raising an emotion in me I’ve never felt before. She whispers the word again.

Laurë.” I say perfectly this time, and I can feel energy flow down my arm, and a warmth in my palm. I open my eyes, and there it is. A small flickering light, like a firefly. I feel Luna’s hands on my shoulders as I move my hand up and down, and watch the little ball move with my hand. It’s amazing!

Ashanna comes into the room wondering what we are up to, as we’ve been quiet for a moment. She sees the look of wonder on my face, as I control my little flicker of light.

“Did you just get Simon to cast a light cantrip?” She asks watching us.

I turn to Ashanna, and my little firefly dissipates. I look at my hand and back at her. “Did you see that?!” I say excitedly.

She leans against the doorjamb and smiles. “I did. It seems the plasma fruit did more than I expected.” She says looking me up and down. “You aura is stronger than it was last night. Still not to the degree of an arcane potential, but for you to cast a cantrip… no mundane mortal can do what you just did, dear.”

“What does that mean?” I say confused.

“You hold in your bloodline more potential than others. And it gives us more options if we can awaken the magic within you.”

“What would that do?” I say now confused.

“Simon, elves and drow are related. If you do indeed hold an elven bloodline, as I suspect, there is a ritual, from your dream, that can awaken your true self.” She says thoughtfully.

“What good will being a male elf give me?” I say, frowning.

“Oh, but there is much more that I can do with an elven bloodline. If you possess the ritual, I believe in that dream, then you won’t have to go through medicines or surgeries. We could perform a ritual to turn you into the form you desire.”

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