Chapter One: The Wonderful World of Hormones
Disclaimer: I do not own Animorphs.
My name is Tom Berenson and I did not think it was possible for my life to get any worse. I say 'did not' because I have since been proven wrong. My life could get worse and, for that matter, has. You never want to be proven wrong about this kind of thing.
Not that what I want matters a damn bit. It used to, but not anymore. Not since my infestation. Before, when I heard the word 'infestation', I thought of tapeworms or something – just a mild inconvenience. Now that's what I've been reduced to – a mild inconvenience. To a telepathic tapeworm. Oh, the irony. Coincidentally, I have since decided that I detest irony.
Now how, I suppose you'll want to know, does one go about getting infested with a telepathic tapeworm? Ah, the wonders of hormones. Her name was Taylor Patterson. She was the Homecoming Queen, the tennis champion, student-body president, and she was gorgeous. She was tall, thin, blonde, with blue-green eyes that lit up when she talked to you…What could I say? I was sixteen. She was just a year older than I was, and I, like most of the male population at my high school, had the biggest crush on her.
Then, one day, there was a rumor around school that there had been a fire, and that Taylor had been badly disfigured in it and had to be hospitalized. And this was straight from her best friend, Kylie Johansson – lead cheerleader, Prom Queen, and first in the class. No one could get in to see her after that. Apparently Kylie and the rest of the cheerleaders didn't react very well.
There was no word for about a month. Then, one day, she just showed up to school like nothing had happened. When Kylie and the others demanded details, she just laughed and told them she'd taken up yoga. Like that explained anything. No one pressed her, though, and she gracefully resumed her place as princess atop the social hierarchy.
One day, she stopped me in the hallway and asked, "Hey – Tom, right? You're on the basketball team, aren't you?"
I was so shocked that she even knew that I existed to do much more than nod slowly.
"I saw you at last night's game. You were amazing," she smiled that dazzling smile of hers.
"Thanks," I managed to say. She was watching me?
"Hey, have you ever heard of the Sharing?"
"I think so. That's that weird coed boy scout thing, right?"
She frowned slightly at me. "I wouldn't say it's weird. It's just different. It's like this whole new experience. You should come check it out."
Well, when you're personally invited somewhere by Taylor Patterson herself, it's not really an option. You just go. And so I did. It was a bit too touchy-feely for my tastes, but when Taylor saw me, she made a point to personally introduce me to all of the Sharing leaders. Everyone was so very interested in whether or not I'd be back. To be honest, it was a bit creepy. Flattering, granted, but creepy.
When I told Jake about it, he looked up at me and asked if I thought the wonderful world of hormones would make him join a cult, too.
My little brother Jake is four years younger than I am, so at twelve he hadn't quite hit puberty yet and was just teasing. Be that as it may, though, I'm glad he happened to take that stance. The Midget has got to be one of the most stubborn people I have ever encountered. Once he takes a stance, he sticks with it, regardless of the consequences.
Like once, when Mom and Dad went to one of those parenting classes that's sometimes offered and came back firmly resolved to ban TV watching Monday through Thursday during the school year so we would have more time to study or some other inane reason, I was ticked. 24's on Monday and if I couldn't watch it until Friday, I'd be perpetually behind everyone else. And every Tuesday morning, people would talk about the most recent episode in the hallway before school. Not to mention that I had waited three seasons to see Kim Bauer get eaten by a cougar!
While I was sulking Jake, who watched considerably less TV than I did, decided to take matters into his own hands. Every day after school, he plopped down on the couch for a good three hours and stared intently at the blank screen. This continued for the better part of a month before our parents caved and recanted.
So, as I said, though Jake's reasons for staying away from the Sharing were a tad immature, once he'd denounced it, there was no way he'd admit to being wrong.
Given my brother's reaction and my own discomfort, I resolved not to return. When I next saw Taylor, however, she made a point to chat with me about my weekend and express her ardent desire to see me at next Friday's meeting. Taylor wanted to see me? And the meeting hadn't really been that bad, though the Full Member's insistence that their lives had basically sucked before the Sharing and after they joined it life somehow magically all became rainbows and sunshine seemed to lend credence to Jake's cult theory, I figured it was harmless. Cults are tax deductable, after all.
While I was contemplating attending another meeting, dozens of kids from all facets of the social scene said hi to me in the hall and included me in whatever they happened to be doing. The only connection I had to any of them was through the Sharing. I went again, and Taylor was assigned my guide.
The whole 'guide' thing seemed kind of lame, but it meant I'd get to spend more time with Taylor. Who I had a mad crush on. Who could have chosen to pair up with any potential member but had picked me. Though I still thought the whole thing was a bit stupid and, to venture slightly into the realm of misogyny, 'girly', I felt compelled to play along.
Time passed, and I became the main scorer on the basketball team. And it was then that Taylor asked me to Turnabout.
Needless to say, I was thrilled. I was also slightly uncertain; Taylor had every guy at school falling all over himself for her, and yet she chose me. Was Taylor going to cheat?
Now, I realize that trust is the basis for any healthy relationship, but Taylor was the most popular girl in school, and the conclusion of my 'trial period' was fast approaching. I either committed myself to it and its clichéd wholesomeness or I risked losing Taylor.
I had to be certain. Every meeting, the 'Full Members' went off by themselves, Taylor included. Brett Rogers, star quarterback, went with her. If she'd cheat with anybody there, it'd be him.
I told myself I was being silly, but I followed her anyway. I opened the door, trying to come up with an excuse for being back there. As it turns out, when you are graced by the good Visser's presence, it doesn't matter if you're there to find a cure for cancer or assassinate the president: the question of your membership is decided for you.
As it also turns out, Jake was right (shocking, I know, but it was bound to happen sooner or later); the Sharing really was a cult, albeit an alien-run one, complete with its own satanic rituals, which I was about to partake in.
Looking back on it all now, it seems kind of juvenile, but I was sixteen. I should have been able to be a hormone-ridden teen in peace. Which I would have been had the good Visser had half a brain. I mean, really. What kind of IDIOT goes and demorphs in a room filled with Controllers in a building full of non-Controllers who were being conditioned to become voluntary Controllers, but only if they didn't barge in on something like that without even bothering to lock the door? I mean, really. Even if he had only recently arrived and thus knew little of human customs – although he's since been here a year and has gone out his way to ensure he doesn't accidentally learn anything about Earth – surely one of the human Controllers must have thought 'Hm…Humans tend to barge right into places, we'd better lock the door.' But no. Apparently they couldn't be bothered. Lucky me.
Painful as it is to admit this, I think barging in there was perhaps not as bad as it seemed. I mean, granted, that was how I went about getting infested with a telepathic tapeworm, but there is every chance that I would have gotten infested anyway. Once Taylor put my fears about Brett to rest, I would have had no reason not to join.
So I may be a Controller, but at least I'm not voluntary. Taylor is, and I hate her for it. She wanted to be pretty again, and apparently the idea of getting plastic surgery without the accompanying Yeerk slug didn't occur to her.
Try as I may, I can never bring myself to hate Mr. Chapman, though. He's the assistant principal at Jake's school. They say the Yeerks wanted him so they could recruit more actively among the middle schoolers. His wife had already been taken…no, not taken exactly, she was a voluntary one. Regardless, the Yeerks had her and they approached him and threatened to take his twelve-year-old daughter Melissa if he didn't cooperate with them. Knowing that if he didn't, Melissa's life would be ruined and he'd probably still be infested, he had no choice but to agree. Even now, Melissa's future isn't secure. Yeerks make deals to gain hosts; once they have us there is no incentive to keep their empty promises.
Yeerk. The name makes it sound like something really gross and rightly so. A lot of people are too afraid to even say the word 'Yeerk', but not me. It's just a word; saying it or not won't change things. There is still going to be an egomaniacal escargot in my head, reading my every thought, controlling my every movement, dating Taylor, teasing Jake, quitting the basketball team…all the while mocking me as I lay helpless, trapped inside myself. It's not going anywhere regardless of whether or not I say 'Yeerk.'
Yeerks are aliens. And not of the ET or the 'Take me to your leader' variety either – not that they'd object to being taken to him, of course. They look like your common variety garden slug. Last time I checked, though, garden slugs don't have the power to crawl into your head through the ear canal and seize control of your brain. Not that I'd know for sure, though – I've never actually seen a reason to stick a garden slug in my ear. Jake and his best friend, Marco, however, are perpetually doing stupid things like that, and so could probably tell you.
When they are outside your brain, they're easily squashible. Not like they ever give you that chance. Not only are you a slave when they are inside of you, but when every three days comes and the Yeerks have to absorb Kandrona Rays from the Yeerk Pool and you are temporarily free, they feel the need to throw you in cages.
Not everyone is thrown into cages. The voluntary hosts all hang out in some remote corner of the Pool having a goddamned Pool Party and laughing their heads off at old Full House reruns, which I can't understand for two reasons. One, Full House isn't even funny. They have a laugh track, so I know what is supposed to be funny, but it's not. Maybe it's a generational thing. I was really little when it aired, after all. Two, how can human being sit there and hear the gut-wrenching screams of the Yeerk Pool week in and week out and learn to ignore it and enjoy themselves? I don't really think of them as humans. They're traitors.
Taylor says I'm melodramatic. I say she's schizophrenic. And a bitch. Daniel, who isn't certifiable and used to be on the basketball team with me, says that not all Yeerks are like the Visser. Some, he insists, just want peace.
Really? Conquering the galaxy sure is a strange way of going about that goal. Daniel says not all Yeerks torture you. Some are actually civil. Really? Some slave masters actually tolerate your existence? How thoughtful!
It's all well and good for Daniel to be like that. He has one of the so-called 'civil' ones. Me? I don't. I get the feeling that Temrash 252, the Yeerks, would like nothing better than if I broke. Sure, he'd lose a convenient way to relieve his boredom, but he'd also not have to deal with an annoying host.
I don't…I don't blame Daniel. I can't. He used to be like me. He had damn near given up. He got lucky, though. Right as he was reaching his breaking point, his Yeerk got promoted. And since being imported nearly always results in a change of hosts, his body was reassigned to a Yeerk that…I don't know, is nice to him? It's controlling his every movement and is privy to his every thought. How is that being nice? Granted, it doesn't torture him, but…It's like, just because your slave master treats you better than other slave masters treat their slaves doesn't change the fact that you're a slave and they have all the power.
Daniel…he doesn't get it. Doesn't see that depressingly inevitable, crushing truth. I wonder sometimes if he's lucky for it. Naivety is generally preferable to disillusionment and the icy sting that slowly but steadily gives way to a dull throbbing pain that rings in your ears along with the Yeerk's mocking laughter.
The Andalites. I've never met one, but they're our only hope. I mean, yeah, I've seen Visser Three's host, Alloran. Who hasn't? Seeing him was what led to my forcible induction into an alien-run cult. Not that I'm bitter.
Andalites have blue fur and four eyes: two main ones located where ours are and two eyes perched as stalks atop their heads. They have slits for noses, kind of like Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies (which may not be the best thing to compare one's only hope to, but the resemblance is uncanny) and no mouth. So, like Yeerks, they are telepathic. Although if I ever mentioned that to one, they'd probably decapitate me on the spot. Andalites have a human-esque upper body and they have four hooves, which kind of makes them resemble a horse or deer or something. They also, strangely enough, look like scorpions, although that's probably just the tail. It's incredibly fast and, with the scythe-like blade, incredibly deadly.
The Andalites are fighting the Yeerks. They are the only Class Four species, the only ones the Yeerks fear, the only ones they perceive to be a threat. The invasion isn't covert because the Yeerks are afraid of humanity and their squishing powers of doom. They're not. But open warfare would cause millions, maybe billions, of deaths. Not that the Yeerks'd care, but for that they cannot infest corpses. Not for lack of trying. No, to the Yeerks, we're no threat. It's a bit insulting, but true as far as I can see. When has a human caused any real damage to the Yeerks?
That's why, every day for a year now, I've been waiting, hoping, praying for the Andalites to come. Come and free us or kill us or whatever so long as the stupid slugs are gone from our heads.
The Andalites came. They saw. They were conquered. They put up a fair fight, but apparently didn't account for the good Visser's blade ship. When that emerged from the moon crater it was hiding in, I knew it was over. The Andalites were slaughtered.
Elfangor, the one the Visser's obsessed with, crash landed in the construction site behind the mall and so the Visser, some Taxxons, some Hork-Bajir, and a whole bunch of us human-Controllers headed over there, too. It's really risky, but the Visser doesn't care. He never does and Elfangor is far too great a prize not to do this. Still, though, it's the mall on a Friday; people cut through here all the time. I know Jake does whenever he feels his 'manly pride' has been threatened.
I hope to God he stays the hell away from here tonight.