Disclaimer: I don't own Animorphs. Period. So don't sue.
Feelings are exactly that. Feelings. You have to feel them. Love, sorrow, fear. If you don't have control of your body, it's impossible to feel them.
My name is Constance Marie Browning. Unlike those war-heroes we always hear about, I can tell you my name. I can tell you every thing about me. During the war I lived in San Francisco, California. I went to Lee High School and was just a year from graduation when the war ended. I could tell you my address, my e-mail, and my social security number if I wanted and not fear that someone would kill me. Stalk me maybe, but not kill me. Because for a year and a half, I was a Controller.
No, not me. I wasn't a controller. I was controlled. His name was Arnashik 6324. I called him Arnie. Mostly because it pissed him off. He was funny, a bit cynical, and strangely kind. He was quick and intelligent and naïve all at the same time. I probably would have gone out with him if he'd been human. But he wasn't. And I hated him.
When I was 16 my friend introduced me to The Sharing. I must have seemed like the perfect candidate for a voluntary host. The awkward outsider who always wanted to be popular and loved. To be part of a bigger group. But then they discovered I wouldn't sell my freedom, even for the thing I wanted most.
My first contact with the Sharing was a bonfire at the Beach. It was fun. And I met Brian. He smiled at me. So I went the next week to the regular meeting and he talked to me. So I went the week after that and I talked to him. By the time we were having real conversations, I was so far into The Sharing I didn't want to leave.
When they started recruiting for 'special members' I was reluctant. The full time people had more responsibilities than other people and I was, at best, a very lazy person. But Brian eventually convinced me to go. At the meeting, our section's president explained about the Yeerks with a good bit of sugar-coating. Several people consented, including Brian, but the rest of us didn't and we were told that was okay and that we could leave. That should have been the first sign of trouble, but we wanted out of the room so badly that all six of us just bolted for the door. What took place out side the meeting the room was beyond description. Suffice it to say that five people were made Controllers and one die a free man.
"Good morning, Mom."
"Morning Connie." Mom bustled about the kitchen trying to make breakfast and get ready at the same time. "Get all your homework done last night?"
"Yeah, but I doubt it's all right. That history packet was brutal."
"Well, it wouldn't have been if you hadn't put it off till the last minuet."
Arnie gave my Mom a silly, innocent little grin, just like I used to do every time she teased me. Arnie did. I didn't do a thing. I didn't whine or yell or even make random death threats.
You're far too calm, Arnie informed me as we waited for Mom to finish breakfast.
Do I make you nervous?
No. Just observing.
So am I.
Arnie scoffed at me, but left me alone. He didn't seem to know what to do with me. His first two hosts whined and cried for days, then descended into madness. He didn't want me to know, but I'd seen it the first time he Controlled me and I liked to remind him of it as often as possible. That pissed him off too.
You do not 'piss me off.' In fact, you have no control over me whatsoever.
Again, he could think of no reply, so he went on reading the newspaper.
Go to the funnies. I want to read Rose is Rose.
And I want to read the front page.
Kinda hard to do when I'm bugging you.
Yes, it is.
So go to the funnies and then you can read the front page.
"I said do you want milk or orange juice to drink?"
"Oh, uh, milk's fine."
"You getting interested in current events finally?"
"No. Just wanted to read the funnies."
Arnie turned to the comics page and I tried very hard not to laugh at him.
Mom put down a bowl of oatmeal in front of us and Arnie shoved the paper over to one side. I started another argument.
Put honey in it.
I don't like honey.
Well I don't care what you like.
Okay. Put nothing in it. Make Mom suspicious.
He added honey.
I know what you're trying to do, human.
Of course you do. I'm trying to make you angry enough or distracted enough to slip up and give yourself away. But since that won't happen I'm going to try and make you mad anyway because I hate you and I'm bored.
And I know you know. Isn't funny how well we know each other?
And that's the only thing you can't make me do.
Arnie ate with my usual insane speed and dumped the dishes in the sink.
"Bye Mom," he called and bolted out the door.
"What?" He stopped on the porch and looked back at Mom, who was standing in the doorway.
"Make sure you're home for dinner tonight. You're father and I need to talk to you and Samantha."
"But Mom, I've got a Sharing meeting!"
"Well, you're going to have to miss it."
"No buts, Connie. You're going to be home for tonight and that's it. Now go to school."
We walked sullenly down the hallway at school, occasionally bumping into random people. Arnie hated to miss his Sharing meeting.
What do they want to tell us? he asked.
Hell if I know. Why'd you even bother asking?
Maybe I'm just trying to be polite.
My friend Jenni came up behind us and gave a quick hug.
"Hi Jenni. What's up?"
"Nothing much. You do the history packet last night?"
Arnie sighed dramatically. "It took forever! I was up to, like, three in the morning!"
Actually, Arnie had the whole thing done four days ago and it only took him about an hour. A rather uncharacteristic thing for me to do. Poor thing had to work at my 'sub-standard' level and lie about when things got done. I almost felt sorry for him. And by 'almost' I mean 'not at all.'
"So what are you doing tonight?" Jenni asked.
"Well, I was going to a Sharing meeting, but Mom's insisting that I eat at home tonight."
"Hell if I know."
You took my line! I scoffed in mock indignation.
Yeah. That's my job.
"That's weird," Jenni continued, unaware of the side-conversation. "Your Mom's usually pretty cool about your Sharing stuff."
"Yeah. So when are you going to come to a meeting?"
"Oh, don't even start, Connie."
You'll never get her. She's too busy.
You don't have to sound so smug about that.
Yes I do. That's my job.
"Hey, Connie, you okay?" Jenni waved a hand in front of my face. "You're spacing out on me, girl."
"Hm. Oh, sorry. I'm doing that a lot lately."
"Maybe you should back off with the Sharing thing a bit. Are you sleeping enough?"
Arnie sighed. I was beginning to wonder why I sighed so much. "I'm fine, mother. Come one, we're gonna be late for class."
Look it up.
I will not look it up.
Come on. Look it up. I don't think your right.
It's right. Now leave me alone.
No, it's not. You're going to ruin my grade in this class.
It's just English.
It's not just English! It's my best subject! And you can't ruin my perfect grade here! Look up that answer and make sure it's right.
It's right, okay! Leave me alone.
No. Look it up.
How you ever got an A in this class is beyond me.
Because I look up my answers. Now look it up.
"Miss Browning, is there a problem?"
"Um, no Mrs. Waters."
"Good. Then would you please answer the question?"
I also don't try to do homework in the middle of class.
Arnie hid the homework packet he'd been working on and glanced around in confusion. "Um, could you repeat the question?"
"Are you feeling well Miss Browning?"
"Yes. I'm fine. Just got a lot on my mind."
Mrs. Waters repeated the question and Arnie asked me for the answer, which I gave him. Mrs. Waters then moved on to the next poor soul.
Why do you do that? I asked once she was relatively gone.
I thought that was your whole goal here, to get me distracted.
No, I mean, why do you always ask me for answers instead of just take them. Cause you could.
I know I'm completely capable of doing that.
I waited a few moments.
You didn't answer my question.
No, I didn't.
I gave him the mental equivalent of a middle finger and let the subject drop.
"Mom! I'm home!"
Mom walked into the living room and glared at us as Arnie took off our shoes. "Connie, where have you been? It's almost 5 o'clock."
"I stayed late at school."
Actually he'd gone to make excuses to his boss. Talking to them was one of the few times I didn't bug Arnie. Pissing off his boss meant losing my head, which wouldn't help me much.
Mom continued to glare at us, obviously not satisfied with this answer.
"What? You just said be home for dinner."
"Oh for heavens sake. Leave the girl alone," Dad called from the kitchen. "She's old enough to take care of herself."
"She's not-" Mom cut off her argument mid-sentence and stormed away.
She does that a lot, Arnie observed.
She didn't used to. And then, I suddenly had a horrible thought. I tried to hide it from Arnie, but that was like trying to shovel sand with a sieve.
Nothing. Leave me alone.
Arnie looked and found out anyways.
They wouldn't. Would they?
Arnie more or less left me alone as everyone sat down to dinner and I tried my best not to think of anything.
When one dreads something, there's a curious sensation somewhere near the stomach. A twisty, turny, fluttery feeling, like something's trying to get out. Palms sweat and heart rate increases. And somehow, the whole hormonal process drives away all ability to think. However, when one is not in control of one's own body, one can't fell these things and it's incredibly easy to think. Clear-headed and rational even.
So the not thinking bit took quite a bit of effort, actually.
Even Samantha, my five-year-old sister, knew something was wrong. She was quiet throughout dinner and hardly touched her food.
Afterward, Arnie tried to take our dishes to the kitchen when Mom stopped him.
"No, Connie, just leave them for now."
Mom sighed. "Let's...let's go to the living room."
Samantha grabbed my hand as we walked and Arnie set her in my lap after reaching the couch. Mom and Dad sat stiffly in arm chairs on opposite sides of the room. They both looked uneasy.
I think you might be right, Arnie told me.
Don't say that.
Arnie hugged Samantha a bit tighter. He didn't have to. It didn't do him any good. But I felt better, knowing that my body held and comforted my little sister and feeling her warmth on my lap. Or rather, I didn't feel better, since I didn't feel at all, but it was comforting none the less.
"Your father and I have something to tell you," Mom began, looking nervously at the floor.
"I'm moving out on Wednesday."
Mom glared at Dad and he threw up his hands.
"What? There's no point in beating around the bush about it."
"So you're getting a divorce?" Arnie asked.
"Well, not yet, but it looks like that, yes."
You were right.
I didn't want Arnie talking to me. I didn't want to talk to Arnie. I wanted to stop and think by myself and try to work out what exactly was going on. My mind knew what was going on. My mind knew that if they got divorced, my life would change. That I'd have many sad days and sleepless nights. That Samantha... it would be hardest on Samantha. My mind knew all this because my mind was the only thing I had. But I didn't feel...afraid. I was mostly
"Connie, are you okay?"
What do I do?
Arnie was asking me, his host, what to do.
Samantha started crying. She didn't know what was going on, but she picked up on the tension in the room.
Dishes, I told him finally.
Dishes. Go do the dishes. I need to get out of here.
"I'm going to go do the dishes," Arnie said suddenly. He stood and picked up Samantha and carried her into the kitchen.
What's going on? Arnie asked.
What do you mean 'what's going on?' My parents are getting divorced!
How can I calm down if I'm not even riled up? It's rather had to be angry when I can't even feel mad.
You are mad. You sound mad.
I don't feel mad.
And that makes you madder.
Shut up. Go do the dishes.
Arnie did the dishes, fended off my parents, and comforted my little sister. I didn't say much. I didn't think much. Normally shock would have done that, but instead I simply had too much on my mind to think of anything at all. Arnie was in shock, through my body. He kept his thoughts hidden from me. I wondered why he would be so shaken up about my parents divorce. It would affect him, sure, but that still didn't explain his reaction. I couldn't think about it. I couldn't think about anything. So I just sat quietly in a small corner of my mind and let Arnie take over.
My parents avoided us for most of the evening. Arnie got Samantha ready for bed and tucked her in. Mom tried to talk to us, but I was still unresponsive, so Arnie turned her away. Later we heard sounds of my parents fighting briefly, then the house went quiet. And throughout it all, I said nothing.
What's wrong with you? Arnie asked, sounding angry.
I couldn't think. Leave me alone. I didn't want to think.
Arnie did my homework, got ready for bed, and turned out all the lights.
Are you sure you won't talk about it?
I don't want to talk. And especially not to you.
And then, the strangest thing happened. I slowly started to regain control of my body. The sensation was...indescribable. Not at all like when Arnie went to feed, which hurt. It was...tingly. Like a foot that went to sleep.
What are you doing?
If you scream or run or even leave the room, I'm taking over again.
Arnie! What are you doing!
He didn't answer. I'm not sure he even heard me.
So I sat on my bed and I thought. My parents were getting divorced. Dad would leave and I wouldn't have him around to make jokes with or to play soccer with or to do homework with. He'd be gone. Samantha would cry. Mom would too. And I felt...sad. Like a hole had opened up somewhere inside me and I was teetering on the brink, half wanting to fall in and half wanting to stay up. My throat constricted painfully and my eyes filled with tears. I grabbed a pillow, buried my face, and screamed as loud as I could. Arnie didn't do anything. So I threw the pillow against the opposite wall, grabbed another pillow and sobbed into it.
I didn't want them to divorce. I shouldn't have been so worried about it. I had an alien living in my head. That surely trumped a divorce any day of the week. But with such a crisis to deal with, I didn't want to have to deal with anything else. My sense of normalcy was being destroyed. My family. My life. I'd lost my freedom, now everything I missed was being taken away.
Not everything, some rational part of my brain told me. But I didn't want to listen to that part. I cried and sobbed until I couldn't any more and I thought surely someone had heard me and Arnie didn't stop me.
Arnie. He was nervous. He'd have to tell his boss. They wouldn't like that.
A cold block of ice filled the void and I felt nauseous. They wouldn't like that. They'd make my parents into controllers. Suddenly and forcefully. Before things got so far that they'd have to deal with a divorce. No wonder Arnie hid his thoughts from me.
Bastard. I hated him. I hated him for Controlling me. I hated him for being nice to me. I hated him and everything about him. The bastard gave me some small measure of respect and freedom and I hated him all the more for it. If he hadn't, if he'd been as cruel as the others were, if he'd just acted like a parasite should, I could understand. And it would all make sense. But he didn't. And I hated him.
I fell asleep crying and hating. In the morning, Arnie was in control again. We never talked about that night, but we both knew.