Short story: "Estranges" By Jaanvi Nayee



Breathe

Slowly

Just like Nurse Kathrine taught me

Ugh!

That stupid Nurse June wanted to give me another injection. I pretend I’m scared of needles, so the nurses think I don't know what that stuff really does. I remember when a new boy came to the orphanage. He seemed quite disturbed and every time he took the injection, he became so different. One night I remember seeing him in the infirmary. The boy was strapped into a chair, as nurses came closer with the green fluid. He screamed and thrashed as his eyes glowed furiously. He seemed to be changing somehow, growing but not normally. The nurses injected him until he became himself again, but his eyes were still gold. Despite that, the boy had an expression a new-born baby would, one of wonder. I realise now that he had forgotten who he was entirely. He then received one final injection before his eyes lost all light.

I didn’t see anymore because Nurse Kathrine saw me. She told me to never speak of what I had just seen and told me if I did, I would end up like that boy. From that day on Nurse Kathrine checked up on me more regularly, especially after my fits. She has never explained that night to me or what happened to the boy, but she has always been there to make sure I don’t become like him. The nurse took care of my injections telling the other nurses I had a fear of needles so they wouldn’t become suspicious. I knew if she didn’t inject me at all it would raise suspicion, so I let her use less of it. I just don’t understand how the other orphans don’t question everything. I suppose it’s the happy juice.

Today, the orphanage is having a picnic reward for good behaviour, but I don’t get to go because of Nurse June deciding that I am an ‘insufferable child’ since I wouldn’t allow her to give me a large dose of happy juice. As punishment, she gave me a variety of chores to do around the orphanage. Honestly, it isn’t awful being alone in here as it’s very large and the quiet is peaceful. The nurses would never leave me completely alone, so Nurse Kathrine volunteered to keep an eye on me. I didn’t mind that. She was the only person I liked there.

I decided to clean the attic first; no one had been up there in years. The room was dark and coated in dust with the only light source being a small window at the highest corner of the room. I started going through the boxes, putting items with little use to a side to dispose of later. By the time I was done with the boxes, it was almost dinner time. I began gathering the items to get rid of when a glint of silver caught my eye. On a smaller box there was a satin black pouch where the gleam was coming from. I picked it up and opened it. Inside was a smooth white stone in the shape of a moon hanging on a silver necklace. It looked familiar somehow, as if I had seen it before.

A vision came before my eyes. I was a little girl again. A man knelt before me, putting that same necklace in my hand. He was trying to tell me something that seemed important, but his words were inaudible. The vision changed. A young woman was holding my hand and leading me home. I don’t know how but I knew that she was my mother. I knew that the man in the first vision was my father. I remember that they loved me and were good people. A few memories came back, but not all. I remembered that something was different about us, but I didn’t know what. All I could think was that I needed answers. I needed to know where my parents were and who I am.

‘Nurse Kathrine!’, I yelled as I ran downstairs. As she looked up from her book her expression became worried. I must have appeared incredibly anxious because she put her hands on my shoulders in an attempt to calm me down the way she did when I had a fit.

‘Breathe Aliyah, that's it. Now tell me, what has gotten you all riled up?’.

‘I remember, I remember my parents and that something is different about me. I blurted out everything I could and showed her the necklace as Nurse Katherine’s expression grew more and more severe. When I was done, she didn’t say anything. With tears in her eyes she rushed around the orphanage grabbing clothes, food and water and put them in a black rucksack. I knew better than to question her but in frustration I exclaimed ‘what are you doing? Why won’t you say something?’. She turned around with fear in her eyes.

‘We need to leave. Now that your memory is coming back it won’t be long before the others catch on.

‘I don’t understand. What are we running from?’

‘We need to leave town. There isn’t much time to explain but everyone who is injected is being experimented on because they’re special. You’re different Aliyah. That’s why we need to leave’.

‘How am I different?’

‘You’ll remember soon enough, but right now there isn’t time. The others will be back from their picnic soon’.

I knew she was right. We set course to head toward a refugee camp where I might finally get some answers, having to remain discreet because soldiers were patrolling the entire town. We headed for the woods in silence and began the hike. Some time had passed, and our legs grew weary and tired. A snap of a twig shattered the quiet. I hoped that nobody had heard us, but loud gunshots echoed through the sky as bullets fell at our feet.

‘Run!’ screamed Nurse Kathrine as bullets rained down on us. We ran. Fast. But bullets were faster, barely missing us. We were so close to the camp. To safety. I quickly turned to check how far Nurse Kathrine was behind me when she stopped. A large red stain grew over her stomach as she fell to the ground. Time felt as though it had slowed down. Another vision. My parents lay in front of me bleeding just as Nurse Kathrine was. Only, this was my hometown torn to shreds by the government. I was a little girl again; terrified and angry.

I screamed. I remembered everything. At that moment I knew exactly who I was. A shape shifter, a wolf.

Breathe

Focus

I shut my eyes and turned.

I could feel the fur growing on my face. My bones adjusted as I growled. The soldiers were shooting but I didn’t care. I bared my teeth at them as they came closer and jumped.


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