Problematic Providence

A/N: An excerpt from Dragonfly, but you may recognize these two from an earlier post about a scrappy 12-year-old with mention of her sullen, adopted brother. Flash forward seven years, they’re nowhere near model citizenship: key players in a guerrilla-style resistance movement, up against human weapons and an impending dictatorship, suddenly faced with a possibility that could just as easily spell their victory as their demise.

+++

“Derek, you’ve been brooding for two days,” Andrew sat down across from her brother, who silently picked at a bowl of cereal Tuesday morning. “What’s eating you?”

Derek didn’t move for several long moments. Finally, he tentatively lifted his gaze. “You know that screening we did the other day?”

“Yeah. I thought nothing came of it.”

Derek hesitated. “I’m Compatible.”

Andrew just stared at him. Her eyebrows lowered as the full meaning of Derek’s words sank in. “Compatible.”

Derek nodded. “And Livingston wants me to activate it as soon as possible.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Please tell me you told him to get over himself.”

“I told him I’d think about it.”

“You’re actually considering it.”

Derek shrugged.

“Derek.”

“Well I don’t really have a choice, do I?” He raked a hand through his black hair. “Having a Compatibility on our side could turn this battle in our favor.” He looked up. “There’s a chance I could rescue Mom.”

“And you’re willing to turn yourself into a monster like the ICoNs to do that,” Andrew said quietly, indecisively. “Assuming Mom is even still alive…”

“They’re not monsters—” Derek insisted, perhaps a little too quickly. His mind turned to what Orly had said about her son, Patrick.

“You realize you’ll be a weapon, right? No matter what Livingston says, he’s going to head that direction the moment you finish transforming. Especially if it’s something intense.” Andrew crossed her arms and leaned back. “And once you bring it out, you can’t go back. If you don’t like your Compatibility, or if something goes horribly wrong, no one will be able to help you.”

“I know.” Derek rested his elbows on the table.

“And you’re a wanted man. If you go to the hospital, it’ll all be over. Another one of our upper circle captured.”

“I know…”

“Don’t do it, Derek,” Andrew said softly, but Derek detected the threatening edge to her tone. “We can get everyone back on our own. No mad science involved.”

“But that’s what we’re up against,” Derek said, anxiety and desperation pulling at his throat. “And would it be so bad? To be a Compatible? I’d still be me, wouldn’t I?”

“That depends.”

“On what?”
She shrugged. “On your Compatibility. And it’s not just whether you’re yourself or not. How will your decision to go through with it align with the rest of the Conscience? Would loyalty falter if you and Livingston dabble in the government’s insanity?”

Derek stared dismally at the table. “I don’t know. It’s just…I have a responsibility. To you, to Mom, to this huge network we’ve created—to do whatever I can to set things right.” His eyes narrowed. “And I helped plan those failed missions—and I hate sitting here unable to do anything. If there’s even a shred of possibility that I could repair some of those mistakes…”

Andrew frowned. “We’re all doing the best we can…”

“But what if it isn’t enough?” Derek met her gaze. “What if it will never be enough? Too much is at stake, Andrew. If we fall, who will take our place before the government wreaks utter destruction on peace and order?” He turned his face aside and narrowed his eyes at the floor. “We’re on borrowed time as it is. The more I think about it, the more I think it would be better to take the precaution…” His expression softened. “…It would be a small price to pay. You have all given so much, and that means a lot. An awful lot. What kind of leader would I be if I weren’t willing to make a few sacrifices myself?”

Andrew stared at him, her jaw tense. Her eyes burned, but she didn’t say anything more.

Snakes and Rabbits

KennickA/N: High society is a much darker place than Kennick realized. And Ix has a lot to deal with, especially with her loud-mouthed apprentice learning more about the vulgarities of the world the hard way.

The boundaries of this story are still extremely unsolidified, so I’ve just been kind of going off the deep end. As you’ll no doubt find in the excerpt below. (Mages tend to be quite eccentric.)

+ + +

“Just send out a bunch more oranges. They reproduce like rabbits anyway.”

Kennick was lurching toward them before he realized it. “What the heck did you just say?”

A firm hand caught his shoulder, tugging him back.

“Let them talk,” Ix whispered warningly in his ear as she turned him around. “Doesn’t mean anything.”

Kennick tried to extricate himself from her. “Oh no, I think it does.”

That was him they were talking about. His mother, his sisters, his other family and friends. His father too, who had died on the battlefield fighting their war.

Is that what they thought about oranges? Is that what they thought about the sacrifice and loss and grief that had ravaged so many families?

He pulled against his master. He glanced back over his shoulder as Ix just short of dragged him from the room. He wished he had his snake tail instead of his socially appropriate legs. He wished he could wrap it around them and squeeze.

They’d see who the real rabbits were, then.

“Kennick,” Ix was saying. He kept pulling, trying to pry her off even as the door closed behind them, leaving them alone in the hallway. “Kennick.”

Kennick glanced aside to see an unoccupied electrical socket. He reached for it.

Ix slapped him hard across the face. “Kennick listen to me.”

Kennick stopped. He couldn’t meet her gaze.

Ix stared him down. Kennick stood very still, futility and anger and grief throbbing in time to each other in his stinging face. He felt the hate emanating from behind the closed door. The barrier of which he was supposed to pretend he was on the better side. If he let them talk they’d continue talking.

“Things do not have to stay the way they are,” Ix said steadily. “That’s why we’re here. To make sure they don’t. But it takes time.”

Kennick’s eyes narrowed, pain welling up in his throat. How could he stand there and pretend he was one of them? To let this go on for even one more second?

Ix sighed, resting a hand on his shoulder and gently guiding him toward the opposite door. “Come on. Let’s go home. I’m done here anyway.”

Kennick rubbed his eyes. “They have no right to say that. They’re stupid if they think—”

“Not here,” Ix said, her hand tightening.

“But how can they even think that?” Kennick persisted, at least attempting to lower his voice. “Was that all they were? All the people that died? Are we just rabbits to you?”

“No,” Ix said. “Not to me.”

Kennick regarded the burgundy skin of her arm. The false illusion of burgundy she had rendered his own. He felt sick.

“Let’s get you properly serpentine and with some hot chocolate in your possession,” Ix said, thinking. “We’ll plant ourselves in the lounge and talk it through, all right?”

Kennick nodded, dismal.

Talking about it in secret wouldn’t change anything. He expected it would just make him feel worse.

10 things I like about the United States

Everything that’s been happening lately in my country has been causing me a great deal of frustration, so I found myself uncertain of how to celebrate today. After staring off into space for a while, I decided I was better off spending today in gratitude for what we have in this country instead of mourning everything we may very well be losing.

The future is uncertain, but there is still a lot of good worth saving. There are plenty of other days in the year to fight for stuff, but today is meant to be a day of celebration.

So, for this Independence Day, I compiled a simple list off the top of my head of 10 of my favorite things about my home country:

#1   The United States is a beautiful country, with so many different, gorgeous landscapes and cities that are also very different from each other. There’s something to suit almost everyone.

#2   We’re very concerned with environmentalism and making the earth a healthier place to live.

#3   American English: my native language, which, in my almost 22 years of speaking it, have made it my own, studied and practiced its ebb and flow, how it works both written and spoken, when it sounds ugly, when it’s pleasing to the ears. The more I study other languages, the more I appreciate my own native tongue.

#4   Our country was founded on a burning desire to work for the greater good. As far as I can tell, that goal remains.

#5   The cultural values of working hard and making your own destiny, the romantic idea that dreams are always worth pursuing.

#6   Oregon. I love Oregon. It’s a pretty quiet state, the weather is conducive to sweaters most of the time, and it smells sweeter than anywhere else I’ve been.

#7   The friendly, direct manner of how Americans acquaint themselves with new people, but how being vague is polite, and how asking “How are you?” is a common component of even a passing greeting.

#8   American breakfast: pancakes, eggs, toast, sausage/bacon, biscuits and gravy…

#9   It’s fairly easy to be vegetarian here. I’m not vegetarian myself, but we’ve grown to a place where meat is not technically a necessary dietary component for our health and survival.

#10   That we are one from many, and continue to be so even today.

May God bless this nation. May He give us the hope, courage, grace, and wisdom we need to proceed.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Today I was surprised to wake up and find out about what happened in the United States Supreme Court this morning.

It seemed quiet to me, for such a big decision. But perhaps that’s just because I don’t live near any big cities.

But by now, the noise is beginning to grow. Much celebration, much dissent.

I am optimistic, and excited for my friends. Even though this came about perhaps a little more forcefully for comfort government-wise, and even though this sparks a variety of other questions and concerns for the future, I sincerely hope this is the beginning of something better.

I hope we will be able to treat each other with so much more grace than we have been. This won’t work well without it. In fact, not being able to love each other will kill our country far faster than redefining traditions ever will.

We don’t necessarily have to agree. With such a diversity of experiences, that’s just not possible. But let’s not demonize or silence each other. Let’s not hurt each other to make a point, or cheer on the ones that do. (Looking at both sides, here.)

Love wins. Christians believe that more fervently than anyone else I’ve ever met. Let’s have a little more faith in it.

Opinions aside, let’s make this a positive mark in the history books.

Thunder Egg

A/N: I had this dream about a week ago, with a kid with a rude mouth and someone very angrily trying to drown him in a fountain–and light and explosions and magicky type things. As soon as I woke up, I pulled out my notebook and started writing. The images changed shape very quickly off that first impression, and I found myself tasked with the mystery of who this kid is and where his story could possibly fit in the current book in recreational development (titled Diliken). Or what his story even is.

I’m beginning to figure it out, I think.

[This scene isn’t that scene, as that scene would be a massive spoiler for things I still haven’t a clue about. Have this considerably more snap-shot-esque one instead.]

+++

The heavy curtains were drawn, but Kennick could feel the static. Crawling along his skin, making his hair stand on end, crackling through his nerves and whispering through his head. It forced itself in, thousands of imperceptible pieces trickling into a snapping, urging swarm.

A shaft of lightning burst from behind the curtains and Kennick shoved his face into his pillow, clutching the sides of it in his tight, shaking hands. Thunder cracked to follow its light and he flinched. The roar of rain smothered the outside world but he could always feel the lightning.

“Go away.” He squirmed under his blankets, gritting his teeth as another flash split the roiling sky. “Stop it.” His shoulders tensed, his voice shuddering. “Please just stop.” He just wanted to sleep, not to hurt and boil so much inside.

He could supposedly transform reality someday, but for now, it never listened to him.

The doorknob clicked as it turned. Kennick jerked his sweat-covered face from the pillow to see who entered.

He saw the rumors of a tall white nightgown in the darkness, poking out from a dark robe. The hair and face of his master had to be in it somewhere, but she blended in well with the nearly nonexistent lighting.

“May I come in, Kennick?” she asked softly.

Kennick pushed himself up. “Yeah.”

Ix stepped forward, pulling her robe closer around herself as she glanced toward the window. “Lovely storm, isn’t it.”

Kennick sat up, pressing a hand to the sharp, pulling pain in his jaw. “No. No it’s not.”

Ix sat down beside him.

A hand found its way to his shoulder.

“I know,” she said with a sigh, her hand tightening. They contemplated the turbulent dark for a few moments. “I feel it too.”

“Really?”

She nodded. The hand lifted, and she traced a finger along the underside of her jaw line. “Right here is where it hurts. The rest is just…distracting, to say the least.”

He nodded, watching his master. She understood. Nobody had ever believed him before. About thunderstorms, fire, excessive noise. Everything that made him feel strange and jittery and overwhelmed had to do with what he could do. Ix understood that.

And not only that. She had lived with it for many more years than he had. She knew what to do with it. How to make it work.

Another surge of energy from the storm outside assailed him and he ducked forward with a whimper. He felt Ix’s hand on his back, slowly rubbing up and down his spine, dispersing the particles.

Their buzzing began to fade, and he realized she must have been taking it from him. After a few minutes, she stood up and ventured to the window. “I’ll plant something to help you sleep better.”

Kennick straightened up and twisted around to see. Ix clenched her hands together tightly. She muttered a single word, and a burst of light swept the stray hairs hanging in front of her face like a gust of wind. Carefully, she opened her hands to betray a glowing sphere about the size of a billiard ball.

She ran her fingers over its surface, identifying its boundaries, and drew a line to the ground, which she flicked under the curtains, under the terrace doors.

And gradually, Kennick began to feel less staticky.

She turned, rubbing her hands on her robe. “There. That should do it. Is that too bright?”

“No,” Kennick said quietly. “What is it?”

“A thunder egg,” she said with a wan smile. “A decoy. This should capture the majority of energy filtering in from the storm.” She passed the bed. “And keep it from reaching you.”

Kennick smiled, relieved. “Thank you.”

She nodded and continued to the door.

“Master?”

She glanced back. “Yes?”
“Any chance we’ll be learning that tomorrow?”

She smiled. “It’s a little advanced for tomorrow’s lesson. I’ll take care of things like this for now.” She took the doorknob. “Don’t touch it. I’ll dismantle it in the morning.”

“All right.” Kennick pulled his legs back up under the covers. “I won’t touch it.” With the amount of energy it would have absorbed by morning, he wouldn’t dare.

“Good night, Kennick.”

With that, she shut the door. Kennick glanced at the soft glow of the thunder egg by the window. He blinked, a faltering smile finding its way onto his face.

He lay down, slipping into sleep as soon as his eyes closed.

Camisoles, Transgenderism, and Intangible Misalignment

When I was sixteen, I bought my first two camisoles from Aeropostle. Most of the girls at school wore them under shirts and, being a gymnast, I thought it looked like a fantastic idea. I liked to feel contained, supported, closed in. I was most comfortable when I felt most packaged. Like in a leotard, for example.

Also, let’s face it, I was unpopular and a small, foolish part of me hoped I’d feel a little better about myself if I clothed myself like the girls everyone else wanted to be friends with. Especially since I’d had the unfortunate experience of being labeled a “fashion reject” when I was 12, and the sting had never really subsided.

So finally, I had decided to try the camisole my peers had fallen in love with.

And the stretchy tanktops were beautiful. I felt contained in the best way. Accounted for, secure. I could do handstands without the risk of my baggier t-shirt baring my midriff. It was reminiscent of a leotard, except something I could wear in everyday life. It made me comfortable. Very comfortable.

But when I got to school, I realized nothing had changed. And that small part of me that thought something material would calm the dysphoria was let down.

It’s a small anecdote, but it taught me something that has never left me.

Intangible pain cannot truly be treated by tangible remedies.

Tangible might numb it, might give us something to look forward to. The “If only I could be’s” or the “If only I had’s” that promise so much but in the end offer so little. The goals that, once achieved, leave us feeling empty and desperate.

Throughout high school, like many kids my age, I worried about being considered overweight. Fortunately, I was in competitive gymnastics for three of those years, training intensely—which afforded me the consolation that my body was as good as it was going to get. Still, I frequently checked my belly fat, hoping it wasn’t too much.

After high school, when the stress of college kicked in and my perfectionism and self-insecurities went into overdrive, I stopped liking my personality. I thought it was stressful and high maintenance and, if anything, I just wished for a vacation from it before I really broke. I was still insecure about my body, but the dysphoria toward my identity went far deeper.

But God was working behind the scenes, making imperceptible changes, listening, keeping me going. At some point He had to be frank with me and tell me I needed to buckle down and start believing what I knew in my head to be true: that the disappointment and insecurity and self-dislike was a deeply ingrained lie and I was worth so much more than that and it was practically my duty to stand up to it.

That year, I took Him up on it. I put my foot down and pushed into what I knew to be true. I’m human, so I still have insecurities even as I write this. But they hold no power over me.

This is what I want for other people. If they have not found God, that they find Him. Not the looming, angry God. Not the God of white picket fences and normalcy and superiority and false smiling faces. The God who humbled Himself, who broke, who died and rose again. The Father God. The God of everything-is-self-destructing-but-somehow-we’ll-make-it-through-together. The God of second and third and fourth chances. The God who understands, who hears, who intervenes, who answers in both loud and quiet ways.

He is our greatest source of peace, of hope, healing, and restoration.

In the face of all the backlash against transgenderism and sex alignment surgery that’s been flooding my Facebook feed of late, this is all I can think about. I heard a statistic that many people who have had the surgery still commit suicide, and I wonder if it’s out of desperation. Maybe they thought it would fix them completely, that maybe they would finally feel comfortable in their own skin, maybe they would finally love themselves for who they are. But having made such a crucial step and still feeling the same after all is said and done…I can’t imagine how desperate a person might feel then. When the intangible remains misaligned when everything was supposed to be fixed.

I know I can’t fully understand what that would be like, because I feel I was born into the right body. But I can understand what it’s like to feel broken, hopeless, and irreversible. I’m still misaligned in some intangible ways—lifelong projects I’d be hopeless trying to sort out alone. But God has shown me that He is stronger than dysphoria. It’s a nasty, complex trap, but He knows the way through, and He fully intends to help anyone who will take His hand.

In such a pivotal time of change and redefinition in our culture, it’s hard to know what’s what. What traditions, roles, and ideologies need to be upheld, and which are only hurting us. Who we are and what that means and what we’re supposed to do about it.

Maybe for some, sex alignment surgery is a crucial step in finding who they are, and maybe others are meant to tough it out in the body in which they were born.

But ultimately, I pray that we would all recognize in the most crucial of moments that the peace we are hurting for is God’s.

We will never be at peace without Him, and even then we aren’t fully at peace. For me, the constant, dull undirected homesickness is very hard to bear. To be alive hurts like crazy, and I feel like without God’s steadying hand, living might drive us to insanity by the end.

We each have been given a physical body. What we do with it is our choice, for better or for worse. I’ve chosen to keep mine as is (+ a few piercings and attempted teeth alignment), but everyone’s different—so who am I to say my experience is to be the enforced norm? Norms change, and they should change because we are a highly dynamic species. To resist change is to resist life.

I would argue that God cares much more about (intangible) hearts than genitals, secondary sex characteristics, and gender norms. God doesn’t always make sense, but actions speak loudly and everything He’s done in my life has pointed to the fact that He loves people more than people can ever understand, and that He’s always present and eager to help, even when it feels like He’s distant and silent. And that everything He does has a purpose, with our best interests at the forefront.

I pray that we all find Him, and feel His touch when we need it most—in all the ways it might manifest. And for all the ways we hate ourselves, I pray that God would heal and guide us to recovery, to courage, to hope.

Costa Rica part III: Tonteras, Shiro, y Choque de Cultura

The final installment of comments, much more brief than the other two posts:

+++

The last two weeks of my time in Costa Rica passed quietly. I finished my excursion with A.

I was talking with A about how I am embarrassed to take photos because I don’t want people to think I’m the kind of tourist that is just there to see things and be served in luxury. A said if you want to see the intentions of a foreigner, you listen to them. If they are speaking the language, or at least trying to, then you can tell that they’re here to learn.

I guess here many people put Americans on a pedestal. And I worry that people will think that I think I’m better. But what A said made me a little less ashamed/afraid of my skin color and my blue eyes and American Spanish. I’m here to learn and to make friends. That means something.

I finally found a Costa Rican food that I do not like: Tamarind. I hear it’s kind of an acquired taste, or that it’s not uncommon for people to all out dislike it. I tried to entertain thoughts of drinking the entire glass of tamarind fresco, but I couldn’t do it.

G and his brother C are ridiculous. I walked to the panadería (bakery) with them and it was tonteras (silliness) the entire way.

One day we went to hang out with E and I, G and R’s youngest son and wife. They live near a lot of family, so R took me to go meet everyone. It was awkward for me, but it meant a lot.

G adopted a little white, spotted Chihuahua puppy. We were thinking of something along the lines of white. We considered “Blanquito.” G asked me what snow is in English, but that word’s kind of tough to pronounce for a name. Offhand, I mentioned that white in Japanese is “shiro.” The next day, G was talking to his granddaughter and mentioning how “Shiro” sounded like a good name for the dog. It officially became the puppy’s name, though it’s pronounced more like “cheer-oh” by most people. R kept pronouncing it “chirop.” She doesn’t like dogs, but I think she’s warming up little by little to Shiro.

On June 1, we went grocery shopping and I strolled after my adopted family taking it all in. I remembered my first time, and I was kind of terrified. I was super comfortable that day, and it was nice.

R took me with her, her sister-in-law, and a neighbor to a country club to go swimming. I felt a bit like a hillbilly, since the place was so fancy, but it was fun.

I tended to have long talks with G in the evenings after R went to bed, but on one particular night, we all sat up talking. I let off steam about my anxieties of the impending travel day.

Shiro destroyed my headphones.

I watched an old horror movie with G, and I thought i could handle it, but it was quite sickening. G likes horror movies. He’s better at making himself dwell on positive things, I think, so maybe movies like that don’t get stuck in his mind as much they do in mine.

The first time I left G and R, I cried. I had never experienced anything like what they did for me, and I didn’t know if we would ever see each other again. This time, I didn’t feel so broken, because I know we’ll see each other again. I’m also, admittedly, more accustomed to goodbyes.

I still almost cried leaving them, though.

The travel day was exhausting. We landed after midnight, and I got home around 1:30am. The next couple of days I spent in a state of unmotivation, sleeping off headaches. Today I am feeling better, though I’m still culture shocked coming back.

I need to start getting everything in order to move to California in August, and I’m not yet ready to face the adult world. I don’t want to have to rush so quickly to the next thing as has been my habit for the last few years. I just want to sit for a while.

But I do have some time to do that.

I will be human.

A/N: Hey look! Fiction! Now that I’m editing two books and I have a lot more time on my hands (being between schools an all), I’ve begun flirting with other story ideas. As things are going, I’m playing with old and new concepts. Right now, it’s just scenes and doodles here and there (below is one of the former), since I should avoid hardcore book-writing mode for a while. At least until The Bioroboticist and Dragonfly are ready for submission.

This emerging story’s of a different genre. How different remains yet to be decided. So much more worldbuilding than my first two. So much possibility. I’m excited to see what it becomes.

(My fascination with biology continues.)

+ + +

Something was in the palace that had never been there before. Something potent. Something that had no business being there.

Stacea wasn’t sure how she knew, but it left a bad taste in her mouth, and made her heart beat a little too fast.

She didn’t know what, exactly, it was until she saw him. Walking along with visiting nobles, dressed simply but expensively.

And his head turned, meeting her gaze, surprised.

Stacea stiffened and retreated. Cold dread pressed against her forehead and her heart hammered hard against her chest as she just short of ran down the hallway.

She understood now. What he was. What that thing was.

He was one of her. A Perthaeam. A shapeshifter. A demon.

“Hey—” she heard his voice at the end of the hallway. Panicked, she dodged into a different corridor, headed straight for the servant passage that cut across the palace floorplan.

She reached for the doorknob but then he was in front of her. Heat and smoke burned in her throat as she swung back away from him.

“Are you all right—?” the fully-fledged Perthaeam said.

Stacea just stared at him for a moment, stunned, cornered. His scent made her bristle and itch to either bite him or hide from him. He’d chased her to ask about her well-being? Even on the outside, a noble toward a servant.

Nothing about this made sense.

He hesitated before venturing a step forward. “Do you speak the common tongue?”

Stacea nodded, retreating another step.

“What are you doing in a place like this, as ill as you are?”

“I’m not sick.” Stacea shook her head and backed up further along the wall. She looked at the doorknob, too far away now.

His eyes were green, like the sea. What Stacea had seen of it in the paintings along palace corridors, at least.

“Then what is it?” he said. “Something smells off.”

“Don’t smell me—”

He lifted his hands in a peacemaking gesture. “I’m not doing it deliberately or anything. It’s just—It’s hard to ignore. Can I help?”

“No.” Stacea shrunk away from him. His words scared her. She was not only a Perthaeam. She was apparently a blatantly ill one. “Please, just go about your human business. I don’t want any of this.”

“What do you mean?”

“I will beat this,” Stacea said, with as much resolution as she could muster. “I’m going to be human.”

His eyes narrowed. “What?”

“I can’t be overtaken by the other side,” she said. “I can’t lose myself.”

He stared at her a long moment, mouth hanging open in bewilderment. His teeth were human, his eyes, his ears. His façade was seamless. Only his scent gave him away, but Stacea doubted other humans could smell it. “But…we aren’t…” he recovered himself. “Who told you that?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Sure as heck wasn’t a Perthaeam, that’s clear…What have you been told?”

Stacea shifted. She knew she sounded crazy. To fight this evil fate was futile, ludicrous. No, she couldn’t think that. That’s how it would beat her, by wearing her down until she didn’t care. “That the dragon side is dangerous, evil…”

He stared at her again. “Evil?” Then he began to laugh, a soft, sandpapery sound. “Evil? There are no sides. It’s all you. It’s only evil if you are evil. It won’t take you over because it is you.”

Stacea shook her head. “But…the mood swings, uncontrollable shifting episodes, strange urges…it’s trying to destroy everything. I can’t…I don’t want it.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “Are you still fledging?”

She nodded. So that’s what it was called.

“How old are you?”

“18.”

His brow furrowed. “18?”

“Yes.”

He blinked. “You’re at least a year late—how did that happen? That never happens naturally—” He cut himself off. His demeanor grew earnest. “Listen, whatever you’re doing to yourself to try to curb this, you need to stop. It isn’t healthy. Fledging can be a confusing, frustrating process, but you’re making it so much worse by fighting it. And you might permanently compromise your health. We’re an extremely resilient species, but there is a limit.”

Panic tightened around Stacea’s throat. Anger, futility. “But—I can’t be a—” She hated to even say it. “—a dragon. I can’t go through this here.”

“Well as long as you stay here, it’s going to happen here,” he said, kindly but gravely. “I’d recommend finding someone you trust who also understands, who will support you. They don’t have to be Perthaeam. Also, find a safe place, secluded, easily accessible, with ample room. Enough to fly in.” He sized her up. “Your upright form is pretty small, I would assume your anguine is on the small side as well?”

“It’s huge…” she said, timorously, assuming he meant the dragon side. “I don’t know how huge yet.”

He shrugged. “Dragons are big. It’s a matter of perspective.”

“How—” she faltered. “How big is…”

“My other form?” he glanced around the corridor. “This hallway would be a tight fit, but I could probably cram myself in here.”

Stacea took a look around as well, knots twisting her insides. That was huge. “And how do you line up on the—the spectrum?”

“I consider myself pretty average in size, though I haven’t met many other Perthaeam,” he said. “My mother says females tend to be bigger.”

Stacea’s heart sank like a stone.

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Costa Rica Part II: Quepos, Cartago, y muchos pensamientos andando en bús

More freewriting from my phone. I can’t believe I only have 11 days left here. I’m anxious to get back to the United States and start working more hardcore on preparing to move to California, but I will also be really sad to leave.

I find myself in a predicament now. I miss my home country, but as soon as I go back, I’ll miss Costa Rica. I still can’t quite believe that I’m here. That I made it and have already spent almost three weeks abroad completely of my own volition, to spend time with loved ones, make new friends, and see new places. It’s been wonderful.

Already, we talk of the next time. I hope that time comes soon.

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Day 7

It’s raining super hard.

No cockroaches for a while.

I finished a notebook. :)

Fun fact, cockroaches undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They don’t have a grub stage. Which I appreciate. I hate grubs, and cockroaches are gross enough.

I injured something I thought was a cockroach but was actually something probably harmless. I think it eats ants and stuff. I let it live. I knew it was probably in pain because I smashed it, but I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. It slowly wandered around for a while. I found it dead under my bed the next morning. It looked like some kind of isopod (same family as saw bugs and roly-polies. A cute little bug. I feel bad for hurting it. :’((

Day 8

I couldn’t sleep until like 4am. So I woke up late.

I spent a long time working up the nerve to bestow G and R’s grandkids’ birthday presents. I was afraid it would be kind of lame of me to give them something I would enjoy…since I’m obsessed with writing.and K was excited about the quality of notebooks. He looked at it for a long time and showed people. It made me happy.

Day 9

We’re goin’ to the beach! Quepos in the Puntarenas province.

In San Rafael, the buildings are close together, the roads narrow and uneven and often dirty, there are gates everywhere on everything and a lot of signs have been bleached by the sun. Where I come from, this betrays a poor, often dangerous area, and I think that freaked me out the first time I was here.

But it’s not that way. There are different rules, different ways of thinking and different societal priorities and availability of resources. Perhaps that’s why I thought Costa Rica looked eerily like the United States. It’s very westernized in some ways, but it’s very much its own country and things looked similar, but perhaps more in a convergent evolution kind of deal.

I keep randomly thinking that I hope I get into the AAU illustration program, but then I remember that I already have.

The beach in Quepos is so hot and humid omg.

There’s a show here called “Caso Cerrado.” (Case Closed). It’s super dramatic. Like Judge Judy except probably more dramatic. Latin American TV is interesting. It has vibes of Japanese variety shows.

Somebody just buzzed by on one of those things you see in the mall or airport.

I fell asleep in a hammock and woke up and the sun had already set. Dang.

G offered me a pastilla de miel (honey pill). It tastes like a cough drop.

I have gathered that “chuncha” means “thing.” I’m probably wrong.

G y R have still been telling people about my robot brain, about how es como máchina and they’ve been trying to find ways to quitar la máchina. I fell asleep in the hammock and I think they counted that as a victory.

Day 10

We slept outside because it was so hot. I slept in spurts. It started thundering in the middle of the night, but it never all out rained, though I was concerned. There were a bunch of black ants freaking out over a dead avejón (kind of like a junebug), and some made it onto my inflatable mattress. Something bit my hand a few times in the night. Bugs don’t leave me alone. R says, “Sara es tan dulce por los bichos.”

It’s 6am and I am awake. Not sure what to think of this.

We were about to enter the beach when they asked me if I had brought my passport. Apparently, I need it? Maybe I wasn’t paying attention earlier? I guess the park needs my passport so they can charge me more for being a foreigner.

R’s brother asks for directions for everything.

Saw a big red dragonfly. :)

Went to Manuel Antonio Parque Nacional. Saw sloths and capuchins and crabs and hermit crabs and iguanas, sat in the sea and got a little sunburnt.

Eating on the beach was prohibited, of which I was informed the moment someone deposited a bunch of chips into my hands. I ate them as quickly as I could. I’m a foreigner, I should behave myself.

G likes to take pictures of me sleeping. He’s a huge perpetual tease. He should make a collage or something…

Missed the sunset again because I was sleeping in the hammock. For like three hours…but at least I wasn’t the only one sleepin. Three of the others hung out and napped. It was pretty fun. Though, without fail, G got a gross sleeping picture of me.

I burnt my shoulders on the beach. I’m not sure why I thought bringing SPF 50 was a good idea. It’s like plastic. So intense it doesn’t absorb and it rubs off like weak silly putty. Luckily, my face didn’t burn. It gets pink enough because it looks practically transparent here. And my face skin gets really sad for a long time when it burns.

I’m in Costa Rica with my adopted Costa Rican family talking Spanish in the background, listening to Japanese music, and writing/editing in English. What is my life? Besides colorful and confused?

I think it’s silly little wall lizards that make kissy chirpy sounds at night in the walls. In the house in Heredia, I thought it was a neighbor’s late-night parrot or something, but there are lots of lizards here in Quepos, and I’m always hearing the chirping from near where they are hiding.

This evening, I’m extremely tired and I’m unnerved because I don’t think I should be this exhausted. Perhaps it’s just the last few days I’ve spent without much of a chance to stop socializing and retreat unashamed into my head.

Day 11

A weird night got even weirder. R fell ill and had to go to the hospital. I was moved inside, while everyone else prepared the house to leave in the morning. Nobody slept all night, except me. I slept for a few hours.

The next morning I waited around for a long time. There are a bunch of magpies outside flirting and feeding their babies, and chirping lizards in the walls.

An iguana has come to hang out. I want to give it food, but I’m being plagued by bugs as it is. I don’t need other animals wanting food from me.

I’m going to R’s brother’s house in Heredia because R and G are at the hospital. I was really stuck in my head today, unable to understand or speak much. For a long time, I was too timid to ask how R was doing. I felt like a little kid, or like I had regressed to the first time I was here. It was extremely frustrating.

I stayed at their house for an hour or so, after which R and G’s son picked me up and brought me home. G was sleeping. R was still at the hospital, but doing better. I talked with people for a while. When G woke up, we talked for a long time, which was much needed. I finally got out of my head talking to him and his daughter-in-law.

Day 12

I slept in so much longer than I wanted. Now there are lots of people here and it’s 11:30am and I just sat up. R’s already back home, which was a surprise to me. She’s still not 100%, but she seems to be herself again. She’s sleeping right now.

I should just get my computer because I’m internetting up a storm on my phone…but I don’t want to.

I started drawing and next thing I knew, one of the grandkids was sitting, drawing next to me. We drew pictures together for a long time.

Day 13

I’m leaving for Cartago today, on invitation by A, one of the students renting space in G and R’s home. I’m going to return on Monday. I think it will be better for R to relax if I’m not around.

I’m feeling more confident now around the house, after G and I talked for a long time, that I was like family, so I could go ahead and do whatever, make myself at home without worrying about stepping on toes. So far it’s been good.

G is listening to 70’s love songs. He likes romantic music.

The roads are narrow and bumpy and filled with cars, yet buses go with little trouble.

Sitting on the bus, I’m kind of aware of the fact that I’m white. Sharp nose, light hair, light, rosey skin tone, blue eyes. People don’t stare or anything, but I’m aware I’m tall and of a different color palette, and definitely not invisible on the street.

Nobody wants to practice English. They all say better for me to keep practicing Spanish. *sigh* You’re missing your chance, guyz.

It takes a very chill kind of person to just go and travel and feel at home anywhere. I am not such a person. I like things to make sense, I like things to be familiar, I like to be able to communicate with ease. I don’t like to feel small and afraid and lost and dependent and stuck in my own mind.

Yet I travel, I study, I work. Because I want to learn. I want to grow. And I refuse to grow stagnant.

And as I learn new things, I become comfortable in them, in being with new people, in speaking a different language, in learning about different places. The process of large-scale exploring, even, I’m becoming more familiar with.

And as I lay here in an unfamiliar bed in a bedroom in a place I have never been before. I find I feel safe.

Day 14

I lay in bed for a long time. Not really tired, just not really ready. I’m going to be here for two more days and two more nights. I’m just generally tired. I kind of wish this was a little later after getting back from Quepos. But I suppose I’m traveling, so I should travel as much as possible. Though I dislike being away from G and R. I have only 2 weeks left in Costa Rica, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to return. That makes me sad. :(

Sitting in the living room, I casually survey the foot sizes. My feet are huge…and they look bigger in chuck taylor’s.

I’ve noticed I don’t see a lot of homeless people here. There are setups of places where people have squatted, sort of shantytown-esque, but you don’t see a lot of people just laying around on the side of the road. There’s probably more of that in the big cities like the capitol. I saw one person in Heredia. But maybe people are generally more resourceful, or having a more collectivistic culture, they help each other out more.

It’s interesting how you can see a culture’s beauty standards reflected in manakins.

Driving here in Costa Rica, you have to be quick, aggressive, and resourceful. The roads are insane. Lines are suggestions more than anything else.

Andamos en muchos buses. Practice for San Francisco.

Just passed a house with toy dinosaurs hanging all over the bars of their patio, like hanging on by themselves. It was cute. :)

There are lots of schools in Cartago.

In Costa Rica, cemeteries are very white, with tombs of white tile and flowers.

Going to Costa Rica the first time, I never would have thought I’d find family, and that 2 years later, I’d be back for another month, with intentions of coming back again and again. This time around, I can say I really do like Costa Rica.

A, T (her roommate), and I went to the lookout in Orosi this afternoon. It was really pretty.

There are yellow lines on the side of the road that mark bus stops. It makes so much sense now…

I met for the second time A’s sister and husband, and we talked for a long time. They’re language professors and are absolutely hilarious.

A’s mom is from an indigenous ancestry. A cares a lot about what happened to the indigenous peoples at the hands of Spain, and she wants to help pull their cultures and languages to the forefront of the social and lingual consciousness of Costa Rica.