Once again, I don't own Witch and Wizard.
Tsunami Chapter Two: Accused
It starts with mom's painting. My mother, although she says she cannot draw to save her life, has a passion for works of art – just not her own.
I am upstairs in my room calmly listening to what my father thought of as "That Damned Electronical Music-Playing Device That You Don't Even Really Need", also known as my iPod while flipping through one of my magazines. The volume of my music isn't turned up that high; the sound filtering into my ears from my earplugs is as soft as backround music. I hear mom's lame little brass bell that she'd attached to the door while I was in fourth grade jingle as the door creaks open very loudly – we really need to get those squeaky joints fixed – from downstairs.
I pause, stopping my music and taking my earplugs out as I slide off my sitting position on my bed, leaving my iPod and my magazine on it. The sound of my bare feet is soft as I leave my bedroom and go down the grey-carpeted stairs to greet my mom and my brother coming back from that painting auction that had gone down at Garfunkel's.
"How was it?" I ask when I reach the door, pushing back a stray strand of blond hair that had somehow magically managed to escape my curly ponytail.
My elder brother, Byron, looks relieved to be home while my mother beams at me happily, clearly having had what she considered a good day.
"It was great!" she exclaims cheerily. "I managed to get something good."
My mother has curly hair like me, only it's brown like Byron's, and my blue eyes. And unlike my brother and I, she's always optimistic. She's the kind of mom who has her strange quirks but doesn't embarrass us in front of our friends to much, isn't a hippy, and is smiling. Always smiling. Well, almost. Lately, especially when my dad was home, both her and her white smile would disappear off the face of the earth, melting back into the shadows.
I eye the long, somewhat flat package she is cradling in her arms like a long, panting-shaped baby. It is covered in a clean white cloth. "Cool. Can I see it?"
Unlike my mom, art is one thing I'm actually good at, and like my mom, we both admire good art. The only reason I hadn't gone with her to the auction today is because mom had decided to take Byron out since she almost never took him out, and I couldn't go with them because my steadily-growing-paranoid dad had firmly stated more than once that under no circumstances is there to be less than one person in the house at all times. Or else.
Mom smiles again and lays it on the bland grey coffee table which stands in front of the bland grey house. (In the past year and a half, dad had grown obsessed with bland grey. No one else really likes it, especially my mother and I, but dad's temper is … scary.)
"I'll be upstairs, in my room," says Byron, very loudly and very clearly. He has absolutely no interest in what he considered "what the Swain girls did". Apparently "the Swain males" can not do anything the female part of our family could. I guessed they were going by the motto, if it's their thing, it's not our thing.
My brother is LAME. Although I love him for that.
"Yes, begone with you!" I say overdramatically to Byron, who scowls in my direction. "Get to your room, man, and read your geeky law books or something, anyways."
"Law is not geeky. I'll have you know that I will be part of the government someday and that law is a very respected area of work."
"Yeah, sure, whatever helps you sleep at night."
"At least I don't spend my time gossiping with my girlish little friends," shoots back Byron lamely. The child does not know how to make up good comebacks. I didn't even like gossiping.
I sneer at him. "Would you rather I be more like that redheaded girl you hate so much, Wisteria Allgood who lives five blocks away? If you really want me to I can start calling you Weasel."
Byron looks mad. Good. "Don't you dare, Shana! Everyone else at school calls me that already."
In that amazing, elderly, wise, and mature way I do things, I responsibly stick out my tongue at him.
"By, Shana, don't fight," says mom sharply, giving us both a look. "Byron, go upstairs if you wish. Shana, don't pick a fight with your brother."
"Okay, mom," I say, just a tad sulkily.
I'm not exactly famous for maturity.
Byron shoots me a dirty look before turning and stomping upstairs. I give him a playful smile in return.
My mom takes the cloth off the painting and my breathe catches slightly in my throat. She was right. This one is good.
The picture is of a ship sailing over a sea with a sea serpent trailing it from underneath it. The waves are green and blue and the sunlight is bright from where it shines through the water, and the water is darker where the serpent and the ship cast shadows from it. The painting is set from an angle from underneath the serpent. I can see the pale yellow belly of the emerald-green snake and the ridges of the bottom of the ship, which is large and majestic in the same way trees are majestic, only as a ship. The sea snake is long and well-muscled, with waving fins and sharp teeth that can slightly be seen protruding from the thin mouth. A hazy image of the ship's insignia – the Sea Cutter – as well as hatches, rounded windows, and life savers can be seen along the side of the boat. The colours the painter used for the sea are so perfectly blended that I cannot see where one colour stars and where the other ends. The light is so perfect it is nearly dazzling and it is so finely detailed that I can almost see the scales of the serpent. I can barely believe that a simple hand created this.
I hesitantly ran my fingers ever-so-lightly across the outline of the sea serpent. "It's beautiful."
"Isn't it?" agrees mom, looking at it dreamily. "Oh and by the way, it's yours."
I look up in surprise. "Mine?"
"Yes. We can hang it in your room," says mom, her eyes sparkling as she looks at me. "It would go nicely with your blue walls and turquoise ceiling."
I let out a very un-me-like, high-pitched squeal and launch myself at mom, enveloping her in a hug. "Thank you, thank you, thank you, I love it! You never have to buy me a birthday present or a Christmas present or anything for the rest of my life! Thank you, thank you!"
I turn away from her and with careful hands pick up the painting delicately before turning to go up the stairs to my room.
"You're welcome," said mom, sounding faintly surprised and overwhelmed at my fierce hug.
~ line, line, line ~
I know exactly where the painting can go, and I put it there: above my bed, so when I wake up and turn around I can look at it in the mornings.
The walls of my room were a sea of paintings, photographs, sketches, drawings, and posters. The painting had taken up one of the last spaces I had left on my walls. I know this is dumb, but the space above my bed had only stayed empty for that long because I had been waiting for something really good to put there.
I am such a geek.
I am on my made bed, on my knees, admiring the painting, my iPod and magazine on my windowsill. I had taken my ponytail out and my pale yellow curls were falling about my face. My blue eyes are so big as I try to absorb all the colour that I bet that if anyone were to walk into my room right then, they'd see the painting reflected in them.
Mom was right; the painting does match the ocean colours of my room. I smile wistfully and raised my hand to the painting as if to stroke the serpent again.
And the serpent moves.
I freeze, my hand and fingers pausing, and it returns to normal. I stare at it for a long time. It had moved. It had moved. Hadn't it? I could've sworn I'd seen the body ripple as if shivering, or propelling itself forward on its fins. Or had I imagined the whole thing?
I move my fingers again. And the serpent moves again. And this time – the water ripples with it.
Excitement begins to build up within me. I tilt my fingers upwards, and the sea snake rears back its head, its fins flapping and its tail lashing out slightly as it swims. I tilt my fingers downward, and the sea snake swims down, following my fingers all the way to the bottom of the picture.
I continue to stare, adrenaline starting to pump through my veins. I curl my fingers into a fist, and the serpent does a summer sault before curling up in a fetal position. I lower my hand and it swims up one more, resuming its first pose. The water stops rippling and waving. All is still again.
I lash out with my hand as if to claw at the painting, my eyes bright with excitement. The image roars to life like a wave washing over a rocky shore. The waves grow bigger before growing small again. The snake spins through the water like a torpedo before stopping, trailing bubbles. The ship dips upwards slightly before coming down again, the white waves coming from the sides of it actually moving before freezing as a picture.
THIS IS FREAKING AMAZING.
"BYRON!" I scream. "COME QUICK!"
There was a pause, and then my brother grumpily replies, "What the hell do you want, Shana?"
It's hard to believe he's a year older than me, I know.
"Come here, B!" I yell. "Now! I have something to show you! It's really, really important! Please, Byron!"
There was another pause before I heard the shuffle of feet and mumbling. Since Byron's room is right next to mine, it takes about five seconds for him to reach my door.
"This better be work it," he says as he enters, looking thoroughly irritated.
"Come here, I have something amazing to show you!" I said excitedly, waving him over. He sighs and then comes over to me, his arms crossed.
"What do you want, Shan?"
"Watch," I whisper as I turn back to the picture and thrust my hand at it.
The snake dips down as if cutting through the water. The ocean seems to flow as if actually moving. And even as I watch, other marine animals start to flow from the border. Grey-blue Dolphins appear from the edge of the painting, their tails waving quickly before they launch themselves above the water and disappear from the screen before coming down gracefully again, water parting at their touch. I can almost hear the splash. A school of bright neon-yellow fish flit by so fast they look almost like lightning going sideways underwater. And for a moment, I think I see a flit of a sea lion's tail. The waves splash against the side of the ship realistically.
The painting obeys my every will. With a twitch of the tip of my finger I can make currents run through the snake and all the others animals. With a sweep of my hand I can get the ship to swim back and forth, zigzagging through the water. With a dip of my wrist I can make the dolphins swim up and down according to my wish.
It's really, really weird and strange and more than slightly messed up.
I love it. Everything I do, everything the painting does, makes it even more amazing and beautiful than it was originally. I have to ask mom who painted this.
I lower my arm and turn back to Byron, eyes shining as the picture settles back. I expect him to be as amazed and exhilarated as I am. Despite our constant and daily truck-amount of quarrels, we are close, almost like twins, only we're not. I trust him. I would trust him with my life.
But when I look at him, he's anything but happy. My adrenaline slowly ebbs away as I see the look on his face. His face is white. Milk-white. Like he's seen a ghost, or like he's had a nightmare and has woken up only to find out it's in his waking life and real. His brown eyes are huge. He's both frozen and still as well as trembling slightly. His features show nothing but horror, complete and utter horror.
"By?" I say, confused. "What's wrong?"
Byron opens his mouth before closing it. Then he opens it again and manages to choke out, "Shana – don't. Tell. Anyone."
"Don't tell anyo – Byron, what's going on? What's happening? What's wrong?"
"Shana," says my brother intensely, turning and looking at me, his eye suddenly narrowing fiercely. I can't help but flinch back a bit. "Don't tell anyone about what just happened. Anyone. Do you hear me? No one. I will deal with this."
"It's just a painting," I said defensively.
"No," says Byron, looking at me dead in the eye. "It's not just a painting."
~ line, line, line ~
I trust my brother with my life. So I listen to him. I don't tell mom and I don't tell dad when he comes back from work. We do not speak of it again for the rest of the day.
I trust him with my life. Byron must know what he's doing. Something must be wrong with the painting. Listening to him will eventually profit for me in the end. If I do what he says, nothing will go wrong. Because I trust him despite my teasing. I trust him. Everything will be fine.
~ line, line, line ~
That night my dreams were … not neurotically stimulating.
I'm running away from a giant Chihuahua in a dark hedge-maze and turn the corner, only to find the Chihuahua suddenly in front of me. I turn to run again but suddenly I'm at the edge of this cliff. I turn back, and suddenly the Chihuahua turns into Byron. A rock behind him turns into our dad.
Then the cliff is gone and dad, Byron, and I are in our living room. It is strangely bright, like lights are flashing everywhere. I turn and turn. Byron and dad are yelling at me the weirdest thing in this weirdest, adult-male voice that belongs to neither of them at the same time.
"WITCH, PUT YOUR HANDS UP IN THE AIR. DO NOT RESIST. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE. WAKE UP, WITCH! WAKE UP NOW!"
With a shriek I bolt up right in bed, my eyes jerking open only to snap shut again. I wince at the bright, flashing lights and shake my head furiously as if to clear it. I open my eyes again.
It didn't help. The flashing lights are still there. I flinch and squint, throwing up one arm to shield myself from the lights. Dark shadowy figures flinch away from me, hissing like they'd expect me to hit them with my arm to something.
I blink and let my eyes focus. There are … people in my room. People – no, soldiers – who look like they work for the government, with their black tech suits and their belts and helmets and with all their equipment and their flashlights shining on me. Flashlights! The flashing lights were flashlights.
The flashing lights were also extremely irritating. I scowled fiercely.
I became aware of a voice shouting at me. "WITCH, PUT YOUR HANDS UP IN THE AIR AND COME WITH US. DO NOT RESIST. RESISTANCE WILL BE FUTILE. GET UP, VERMIN! WE DON'T HAVE ALL DAY, STUPID MAGICAL CITIZEN, PLAGUE TO OUR NEW ORDER."
And yes, one of the soldiers was pointing a megaphone at me and yelling.
One thing I do not appreciate is being waken up in the middle of the night by annoying, rude men who think they're better then me. Still, I jumped to my feet and said in my mature, mild-mannered way, "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN MY FREAKING BEDROOM? IT'S WHAT, TWO O'CLOCK ON THE MORNING? INVASION OF PRIVACY, INVASION OF HOME! I COULD SUE YOU FOR THAT! GET OUT, GET OUT, GET OUT NOW! CAN'T YOU SEE I'M TRYING TO GET SOME SLEEP HERE? AND IT'S NOT NICE TO CALL SOMEONE A WITCH, OR STUPID. WOULD YOU LIKE IT IF I CALLED YOU THAT? HUH? HUH? HUH? NO, I DIDN'T THINK SO. SO TURN OFF YOUR STUPID FLASHLIGHTS AND GET THE HELL OUT OF MY ROOM BEFORE I PERSONALLY BLOW YOU ALL UP INTO ITTY-BITTY UGLY BLOODY SOLDIER-PIECES, AND USE YOUR ORGANS AS FUEL FOR FIREWORKS!"
The soldiers continue on, unfazed by my ranting. Huh. That's a first. Either they're stupider than I'd assumed, or they're absolutely confident in themselves. I think it's both.
"Come with us, witch scum," spits the leader, lowering his microphone. Well, at least it's progress. "Downstairs in the living room, now!"
"Get out of my house, retard."
"She's resisting!" the leader screams, pointing at me. I blink and before I have time to scream four of the seven cramped-looking soldiers in the room grab me by the arms, dragging me off my bed and marching me out of my room and down the grey carpeted stairs.
Kicking and flailing, I open my mouth and let out such a long and inventive string of creatively profanities, insults, and foul language that it would've made Byron's not-friend Wisty Allgood, one of the most badass badass chicks at our school, look like a goody-goody two shoes complete with a bow and a collection of dictionaries.
Disappointedly however, the soldiers take no notice of this and dump me in the bland living room by the coffee table. There are even more guards there.
"Shana!" Mom, in her grey-and-pink pajamas, comes running towards me form the other side of the room, but is blocked by two guards, who stand in between her and I, gripping her shoulders and keeping her from reaching me.
"Mom!" I cry, scrambling quickly to my feet. I had a move as if to go towards her, and in a second about fifteen various weapons including guns, electric spears, and tazers are being pointed at me. I freeze instantly, my heart thudding cold with fear.
"Let me go, you – " begins my mom. Then she calls the soldiers even worse names than I had. All I know is that if it were me, she would wash out my mouth with stinging soap.
"Ma'am, I advise you to stay back," says the leader primly who had rudely shoved a microphone in my face and had woken me from my Chihuahua dream. "I regret to inform you that your daughter is a highly dangerous criminal possessing dangerous abilities that you would be wise to stay away from, pray."
"Criminal!" shrieks my mom and I.
"You're insane!" I yell. "The most terrible things I've ever done was say bad stuff and burn homework in the backyard – and I haven't done that since I was in grade six, and that was on a dare!"
"My daughter is not a criminal!" screams mom, struggling in the grip of the guards. "Let me go to her!"
"You must stay away for your own safety, ma'am," says the leader firmly.
"My own safety?" Mom squawks. "She's my daughter!"
"What have I ever done to you?" I scream.
Then a ripple seemed to pass through the soldiers, and they parted slightly for two others to come forth – my beefy father, and Byron.
But while my mom calls for them, I don't. There is something wrong. Neither Byron or dad are being restrained. Then I realize that if the soldiers respect them, then maybe they can help.
"Dad, Byron!" I scream desperately. "Help me! They're calling me a witch, a criminal! Call these guys off or something! They're insane, crazy! Make them stop!" Great. Now I sound like a nine-year-old.
But when Dad looks up at me, his brown eyes are cold. Chillingly cold.
"Dad?" I whisper.
Byron, on the other hand, ignores everything I say. He produces a rolled-up, official-looking sheet of white paper and scrolls it down like a messenger announcing a newsflash in medieval times.
What is he doing?
"Shana Marie Swain, fourteen years old," he says, and everything falls silent – my protests, the guards' trying to keep me and mom in line, my mom's screams, everything. All you can hear is the crackle of electricity from the electric spears and my brother's voice, clear over the quiet. "You, daughter of Bam and Eleanor Swain, are hereby accused of having dark powers most foul, accused of being learned in the black arts, accused of being a witch. You will be removed to a high-security prison and knowledge of your existence will be obliterated. To your fellow classmates at school and your family, it will be as if you were never born. Having sold your soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge of the dark arts, you will be tested in a magic-draining facility with other witches and wizards of your generation, undergoing necessarily strict conditions until the day you turn eighteen."
My mouth is suddenly so dry, my lips so papery. I open my mouth and move my lips but no sound comes out as I stare at Byron in horror. My mother says, her voice half a whisper, "What happens … when she turns eighteen?"
"On the day she ages eighteen autumns, the accused will be taken out in public and executed most rightfully in a stadium in front of all the press. She will be killed by the hand of the One Who is the One for her practice and dabbling in foul magic," recites Byron. "This is the way the imprint of her impurity of her breath staining this world's air will be obliterated."
… Undergoing strict conditions until the day … on the day she ages eighteen autumns … taken out in public … executed most rightfully … killed by the hand of the One Who is the One … practice and dabbling in foul magic …
I suddenly feel very faint and hazy. This isn't happening. This cannot be happening. This is all a dream – it must be.
"No," says my mom. "No!" She turns wildly to dad, who stares calmly back. "Do something!"
Dad blinks once, slowly. "I cannot, Eleanor," he says coldly. "Your daughter is a witch and has broken the law of the New Order. None can help her but the One now."
The New Order … I remember watching about it on TV. The parliament that was winning all the elections, the one that was spreading across the countries like the plague. The anti-imaginative society, the one lead by a man called the One Who is the One.
And I remember … dad talking to mom about it, about how he was joining. Dad taking Byron out a lot more than he used to, to have some "father-son" talks. A pretty girl at my school, Celia, who had gone missing shortly after the New Order's influence had spread to our town.
I'm not dreaming. This is all real.
I hate my life.
"She's your daughter too!" Mom screams. To my alarm, she's crying. Tears are running down her cheeks as she glares at Dad. "She's your daughter too."
Dad pauses and then turns to look at me with chilling indifference. "That witch," he says, "is no daughter of mind."
My mind seems to go numb, shortly followed by the rest of my body. I can't move, I can't think, I can barely breathe. I just stand there, gazing on in shock, my breath catching in my throat.
Mom is shouting, screaming, fighting against the soldiers, her wrath and fury directed at Dad. It's so rare, her being this angry, but when she's mad, she's dangerous. Byron is trying his best to look calm, and the soldiers are jostling and muttering to each other. But it all seems to be happening form a great distance.
And then I'm mad, suddenly and sharply mad. I'm so angry that it hurts. I turn on the guards, my eyes blazing like fire, and thrust out my hand violently as if to push the one nearest to me.
I never even had to make contact. The moment I did the movement, the guard went flying into the air, smashing against the other wall before collapsing at the foot of it, groaning.
Concussion, probably. Perfect.
While everyone else looks too stunned to do anything or haven't even comprehended what just happened yet, I waste no time. I spin around and punch in the direction of the leader with the irritating microphone; he meets the same fate as his colleague.
After that it's a frenzy of blows and kicks and punches. I'm unstoppable. Energy surges towards me and it's not just my fists that are making people fly. A breeze is making dust is swirling around me, stirring my hair. A hideous vase dad got from work lifts into the air and smashed into the head of one. He slides to the floor, motionless, and soon four more are beside him. Everything in the room comes to life and attacks – a deck of cards lying on the coffee table, the remote control for the TV, the cushions on the couch. Even the pictures my mom so cherishes fly off their walls.
But just when I think I can destroy these soldiers and get them out of my house finally, the ground shakes so fiercely that my adrenaline fades with surprise and everything in the air falls to the floor. I wobble before falling onto my knees, unable to keep my balance as the vase crashes to the ground as well as everything else I'd lifted up into the air.
The earth seems to split open right down the middle, and out from it rises a tall man dressed entirely in jet-black robes. His head is entirely bald except for his eyebrows and eyelashes, and there is a certain haughtiness in his icy gaze that makes me shiver. His features are lined as if he's seen much, but also as if he's suffered little.
"Stop this nonsense," he says sharply. The man gives the leader with the microphone a contemptuous look. "You cannot even handle a young witch barely born into her powers? You will suffer for your inept."
The leader trembles and says nothing.
"Hmm," says the bald man, who is obviously the head of whatever's-going-on from the way the soldiers are looking at him both reverently and frightenedly. He turns to me, on the floor, tired and fearful. "As for you – your information appears to be correct." He's looking at Byron and Dad now. "She's a witch. A powerful one at that, although I daresay the facility will drain any resistance from her."
I grit my teeth.
"Your daughter is defiant," notes the man with a tinge of dislike.
"Not my daughter," says Dad jerkily. "I disown that witch." His voice cuts through me like a knife. Dad and I had never gotten along but I'd never imagine he would hate me. Aren't adults supposed to love their kids? And as for Byron ….
"Hers, then?" The man points at Mom, who stares up at him rebelliously, breathing hard slightly from her struggles.
"A witch as well," says the man. "Take her away, lock her up. We will deal with her shortly."
My mother suggests to the man to do something anatomically unlikely with himself. One of the soldiers kicks her in the stomach with his boot, knocking the breath right out of her while the bald man and my father watch indifferently.
"Don't you dare!" I lunge forward but then the man is standing in front of me.
"Do you know who I am, child?" His voice is soft now, not soft-nice, but as in soft-curious. "Do you know who I am?"
Once again I am calling someone rather unforgiving names that deserve to be censored.
He ignores this and says, "I am the One Who is the One, leader of the New Order, your lord, and the one who will bring proper justice to the world." Justice my butt. "By the rightful law you are to be taken into a high-security prison and executed on the day you turn eighteen … but I am feeling merciful towards such a young and naïve girl, if not very much, so I will offer you an offer and if you refuse I will not offer it again." He pauses, his eyes narrowing. "You can either spend the rest six years of your life in prison … or you can renounce your old ways, your mother, and your old life and start fresh anew on my side."
I don't reply for a long moment. Then I turned my head aside in his direction, and spit.
"Shut the hell up," I say venomously. "You break into my house, you turn my dad and my brother against me, you want to kill me, you're locking up my mom, you're accusing me of being a witch, and now you have the nerve to ask me to join you? So clearly you are a delusionist as well as a psychopath."
The One looks at me for a moment and coldly turns away. "Bring me the offensive painting," he says to one soldier.
Offensive painting? What was this, Wonderland? Had I somehow ended up in the court of the Queen of Hearts?
The soldier nods, leaves, and comes back carrying – oh god, the beautiful ocean painting with the serpent mom had just bought some hours earlier at the auction.
Byron says, "This is the painting woven with magic that the accused manipulated and enchanted with her own magic earlier, thus being further proof of the accused's guilt."
You are KIDDING me.
My traitor brother continues, "On the day the accused is to be executed, the painting will be burned on stage as she is righteously killed by the great One. Until then the painting will be removed to …."
I do not listen anymore than that.
Because I am going to die in six years.
And apparently, there's no helping it.
"Byron," I interrupt, my voice a hoarse whisper. "I trusted you …."
Byron pauses and looked up with enough chill to freeze blood.
"This is for the greater good," he says as if this makes sense.
"By," whispers Mom.
The One looks irritated. "I am getting bored of this." He flicks his wrist in my direction. "Take her away."
The guards grab my arms and begin to drag me out the door. I kick, flail, and scream like a banshee the whole way, but none of it helps, to my dismay. One of them pinches me, hard enough that I know immediately a painful bruise will form on my shoulder where the pinch had been delivered. I almost spit in that one guy's face.
As I am dragged out the door, I lock eyes with Byron. Looking at him in this moment makes me feel as if someone is draining me of all my energy – no, my life force; I forget everything, I loose sense of everything. The orders of the One and my mom's screaming in the backround fades to nothing.
"I trusted you," I whisper, and then one of the soldiers drags me out and slams close the door between us.
I don't realize that until after my death, it is the last time I would ever see my brother in person again.
Cliqued ending, DISGUSTING. And it went a bit too fast but I'm okay with it.
I don't actually know Byron's father's real first name so I purposely gave him a really stupid name (no offense to anyone out there who has his name).