Monday, September 1, 2014


I decided to post a short story I wrote when I was taking a creative writing class. This all started with a simple prompt I found in one of the readings we were assigned and it turned into this. I titled it "Trapped". Hope you enjoy.

Queen Dione drew the blue silk curtains aside. Her hand trembled ever so slightly, but not enough that her enemy standing behind her could see. It had been three months since Lord Drake had trapped her in her own castle and she was finally ready to try another escape. The first one had not gone so well. She and her maid had successfully switched places and the Queen had snuck out of the tower and into the village unseen. Having grown up here she knew exactly where to go and hide and made it to the edge of the forest where she knew she could be safe. But then the Shrieking Widow’s cry pierced the night and alerted her escape. She had to admit they were effective, following her every move and continuing that high-pitched shriek that sent shivers through her body. Lord Drake was smart to put them at the edge of the village, alerting him of anyone trying to leave. She had never seen anything like them before and knew that some kind of dark magic had made them the old, shriveled, ghost-hags they were now. Unnatural.
Perhaps that was why the Lord Drake wanted to marry her; she could see magic and, occasionally, touch it. She had been caught and immediately dragged back to the tower and as a punishment for her crime her once long, beautiful hair had been cut short. It had been her favorite feature and he had cut it off as a reminder that she was not in control. But the tall, cruel man standing behind now her didn’t know his prisoner very well. She heard stories of Lord Drake even before he’d shown up at her castle and killed all her guards. He was well known in the east for his reputation as a tyrannical ruler, but he’d always kept to his own kingdom. Until three months ago.
“Have you thought about my proposal?” His scratchy deep voice came from close behind her.
She forced herself to keep breathing evenly, not from intimidation but from fear he would see what she was holding in her hand. She had stumbled upon him while on one of her supervised walks through the garden. Resting on a white Lilly was the most beautiful dragonfly she had ever seen! He was not an ordinary dragonfly that much was clear to her immediately, but she could hardly believe her eyes when she saw the black and silver pattern on his body that was clearly the mark of Ienter. No one else would be able to see that mark but her father had taught her before he died all about the magic of the dragons.
“They can disguise themselves as ordinary animals and insects,” he had told her.
“How will I know when I see one?”
“You’ll know sweet pea. You have a special gift. Just look for the glimmer and light of the magic.” That had been one of the last memories she had of her father. Desperate for help she’d put her hand out slowly toward the creature. He could easily transform and swallow her whole, and she was surprised when he’d climbed into her outstretched hand. She quickly hid him until she got back to her room in the tower. Now, sitting in a tiny flask she held close to her, he sat watching her with unnerving stillness. Waiting.
“I have. My answer has not changed since the last time you asked me,” she responded in a steady voice. It was now or never. Letting the curtain fall back in place she quietly slipped the top off the flask and tipped it until the tiny dragonfly fell out onto the sill. She watched in horror as he continued to stare up at her, completely unchanged. She silently tried to plead with him to transform and help her. As if understanding the desperation in her eyes he starting pulling in breath after breath, slowly growing in size with each intake of air.
“That’s disappointing, but I have a feeling you’re going to change your mind soon e---”
A surprised shout from behind was her queue to get out of the room.  Pushing a distracted guard into Lord Drake, she darted toward the door. Another guard quickly stepped in front of her as the rest of them ran past to help their fallen Lord or try unsuccessfully to pierce the thick dragon’s skin with their swords. The Queen wasn’t a fighter so she didn’t try anything fancy. She simply ran at him and pushed with all of her weight. It didn’t do much, however the roar of the dragon behind them startled him just enough that she was able to slip out of his reach and scurry down the stairs of the tower. She knew her once lustrous castle would be in flames in minutes but no one should be forced to marry that disgusting man.
She was past the front doors, racing through the small creek leading away from her castle when she heard a loud noise, like stone on stone. She turned around just in time to see the top of the tower explode and the now monstrous black and silver dragon spread its wings wide. He looked around at the village and her heart dropped at the thought that she may have just brought the destruction of not only her castle but her people as well. The dragon’s sharp eyes continued to scan the area until they finally landed on her. Her blood turned to ice as he leapt from the tower and soared toward her. She didn’t hesitate; she turned around and ran for the forest as fast as she was physically able. She knew if she could just reach the cover of the thick trees the large beast wouldn’t be able to get her in there.
She was just at the edge forests when she felt strong, sharp claws encircle her arms and lift her into the air. She had only been a few feet from the safety of the trees and she almost hung her head in defeat. But she was the Queen and refused to cower no matter what situation she found herself in. She watched the land below go by quicker than she would have imagined possible and the feeling of flying was almost thrilling enough she could have smiled. She would have had she not been on her way to die somewhere, far from where she lived all her life.
Finally the dragon’s decent brought her close enough to the ground that she could see their shadows rolling over the land below. She saw a large black castle that shimmered in the sunlight and had the most beautiful lake surrounding it. The dragon set her down just outside the castle grounds and she immediately darted for the trees. But the dragon was fast and had cut her off before she got more than a few steps. He bared his teeth at her and she backed away slowly, looking for some other way of escape. She was just about to run again when she heard a powerful, booming voice.
“Stop.” She froze and looked around for the owner. A shimmering light caught her attention and one moment she was looking up at the large dragon and the next she watched him shrink and change until a man stood before her. She took a couple steps back in disbelief.
“Don’t run.” The same deep voice commanded. She didn’t think she had the strength to even try. Her mind was reeling at what she had just seen, but she finally stumbled out the words, “But you were a dragon. And a dragonfly before that!” The man smiled.
“One of my avatars,” he replied.
“One of them? I thought dragons only had one?”
“Someone has taught you well. Most dragons only have one, if they are even powerful enough to accomplish that. I am not like most dragons and I have two.” He didn’t sound boastful; he was simply answering her question. She was so surprised at the response that it took her a moment to remember that she was talking to a deadly creature no matter what form he appeared in. She had seen him in action and he had carried her very far away from her home for a reason.
“What do you want with me?” she asked, raising her chin. He titled his head to the side as he regarded her with open curiosity. She had to admit he was very handsome with dark hair and green eyes that were intense as they watched and assessed her every move. She felt like a small animal standing in front of a hungry wolf just before he snapped his sharp teeth and ended her life.
“I find you fascinating,” he said.
“Me? What’s fascinating about me?” she asked him.
“The fact that you can understand me is a very unusual trait for a human.”
“You’re speaking the language of Hiana, same as I am.”
“I have learned many languages in my travels, your Highness, but Hiana is not one of them. You’re speaking in the native tongue of dragons.” The Queen felt the carefully neutral mask she always wore slip out of place as shock and confusion won the battle over her emotions.
“You can also see things other people can’t see. Not many people would be able to recognize the sacred mark upon my back, but I could tell you did. That’s why I went with you.”
“Are you a descendant of Ienter then?” She found her curiosity overruling her fear.
“No,” he responded carefully. “I am Ienter.”
“The king of the dragons,” she whispered in awe. He smiled once more and came slowly toward her. Every feature on him looked human, but there was an eerie litheness about him that reminded her of the way he moved in dragon form. He was extremely dangerous, that wasn’t to be forgotten, but he hadn’t killed her thus far and she was hopeful there was a reason he let her live.
“What do you want with me?” she repeated.
“I’ve decided to keep you. I want to learn more about you and your abilities,” he said stopping in front of her.
“Keep me? Am I to be your prisoner now?” She crossed her arms over her chest as she’d been taught to do when trying to intimidate someone. She very much doubted it would work on the king of the dragons, but she couldn’t help herself.
“If you choose to see it that way, yes. I won’t keep you in a tower though, you’re free to roam the castle grounds, but if you try to leave I will retrieve you and bring you back.” She thought about trying to run again right now, but she knew he was probably right.
“What about my people?”
“They will remain where they are and choose a new ruler.”
“A new ruler! I was born to be their Queen; they can’t just choose another one!”

“Enough. I’ve decided to keep you here and here you shall stay.” Something in his tone told the Queen not to keep arguing. She would settle with being a prisoner and staying alive for now, knowing she would roam the grounds at every chance in search of a way to escape. She would bide her time and keep trying until she succeeded.

*Copyright Jayne L. Bowden*

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Animas- Part Two

Here's Part Two of my short work: Animas. If you missed Part One, you can read it here: (Sorry, I really tried to make it a  nice looking hyperlink, but I'm not as savvy as I pretend to be.) Enjoy the story.

I stare at her now, my eyes growing bigger than ever before. She knows about Sy-Nu. If I’m a Corda and the Animas want more Corda bodies to inhabit, and they put me and Charlyt together to have babies, then that must mean Charlyt is a Corda. She’s an alien.

I scramble away from her. “What’s your alien name? Are you human or not?” Had I been married to an alien this whole time? The woman I love, is she nothing more than a manipulative Anima trying to use me to make more Corda babies for Animas to control?

“Her name is Mai-Li. Roa, I’m still me. She and Sy-Nu made a pact before they took over our bodies. They would let us live our lives. The Anima doesn’t have any part of my personality, just like Sy-Nu doesn’t make you who you are. We are still individuals. Very few of us left in the city can say that.”

She comes toward me. I’m numb. I don’t know what to say or do. She has an alien inside of her. But I can’t really hold it against her. I have one living in my brain too.

“Roa, I’ve known about Mai-Li for a few months now. She told me about Sy-Nu and about what’s going on with the Corda and Animas.”

“How? How did you find out? Why didn’t you tell me?”

A ghostly look comes over her features. I’ve seen that look before. It is the same look she wore for nearly two years. We tried everything to have kids. Charlyt felt like a failure, like it was all her fault. I didn’t know what to do or say. We were married when she reached puberty at fifteen. I was older, nineteen. Men aren’t selected for marriage until they reach certain physical measurements and achievements. I had the physical characteristics and genetic code the city leaders wanted for Corda children. Charlyt was the top of her class. She had the intelligence and genes that made her an ideal candidate for marriage. People only marry for one reason: to have Corda children.

We went through all of the same intrusive tests we had before we were put in the marriage pool. They came back exactly the same as before—we are physically capable and compatible. We should have four kids by now. Instead, we have none.

“After the last round of fertility testing, I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I wasn’t good enough for you. I made plans to leave you, let you marry someone who could give you all the children you deserve. The night I packed my bag before you came home, I heard a voice. It was Mai-Li. She told me not to leave you. It was her fault that I hadn’t been able to have children. She prevented all my pregnancies.” She laughs without humor. “So not only did I learn an alien had been living inside my body since I was born, but all of the depression and heartache and feelings of failure I’d been struggling with for years were all because of this Anima.”

I know when she needs me and this is one of those times. I pull her into my arms. She clings to me, just like she did then. Knowing that the alien that lived inside her brought her so much misery made the blood rush to my head. If there was a way I could strangle that Anima, I would until she was dead. I watched Charlyt sink deeper and deeper into depression. I knew she was ready to do something drastic. The light in her eyes had gone out. I hardly left the house, then. I had to keep her safe from herself and the demons inside her. Now we know a real demon did live inside her.

One day, everything changed. Charlyt was back to herself. She smiled and laughed and shone like she had before the infertility nearly extinguished her.

She talks into my shoulder. “I didn’t know what to do about Mai-Li. I thought I would go to the city leaders and turn myself in. If they didn’t believe me, I would be too crazy to be with you and at least you would be free to marry someone who could give you children, someone who wasn’t living with an alien in her body.

“That’s when she told me about Sy-Nu.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you keep it a secret?” I’m not upset. I think I know the answer anyway.

She looks up at me, strong and sure of herself again. “Mai-Li and Sy-Nu can communicate with each other. As long as you and I are in the same area of each other, they can talk together. Mai-Li talked to Sy-Nu and asked what we should do. He told me to wait. He wanted to talk to you when the time was right.”

“The time was right today.” Sy-Nu speaks up. It’s disturbing to know he hears and experiences everything I do.

“I liked it better when you were quiet all the time,” I say outloud.

Charlyt laughs. “You only have to think for them to hear you.”

Her laugh is contagious. “How have you been doing it all this time? How have you stayed sane? I’m ready to pound my head in just to get rid of him.”

“I figure she’s been there all my life so I could just go on like I always have. I kind of like her.” She quickly responds to my scowl. “If I have to have an Anima in my body, I’m glad it’s her.”

“Aren’t you mad at her for keeping us from having kids?”

A somber look crosses her face. It’s the look she has when she wants to say exactly what she’s thinking. “I was at first, but now that I understand what our kids would be used for, I’m glad she stopped us.”

We both want kids. Our marriage is immensely happy, but we feel like there’s even more happiness we could share if we could have kids.

“Roa, if we help them, everything will be different. We won’t have to give up our kids to the Corda facilities. They won’t be used as anchor bodies for aliens to inhabit and control. They can grow up with us, in our home. We can teach them and love them like we would never be able to the way the city is run now. This is our chance to change everything so we can have more than we ever thought possible.”

I hadn’t thought that far ahead. Even if we had kids, we would only get to keep them for a year. Then they would be weaned and sent off to the Corda facilities to be trained in protecting our city. No, that’s a lie. They would have been filled with an alien essence and never have a life. Yes, it is better that we haven’t had kids. It’s still a little hard to not harbor negative feelings towards Mai-Li though.

“So will you help us?” A female voice echoes in my head.

I look at Charlyt in alarm.

She laughs again. “She can talk to you if we’re close enough together. And yes, I’ve talked with Sy-Nu before,” she says before I can ask the question.

I sit down hard. She kneels next to me and pushes a strand of hair from my forehead. “You have the most precious pout I’ve ever seen.” She has a certain smile when she’s teasing me.

I grab her hand and rest my face against it. “I feel like I’m the last one to the party and I’m two steps behind everyone else.”

“She’s right. Your pout is really funny.” It’s Mai-Li again. Now she’s insulting me. “Whenever she’s depressed, Charlyt imagines your pout and it brightens her mood.”

“Can you hear what Mai-Li is saying when she talks to me?”

“I can hear what she lets me hear.”

“What was the last thing you heard?”

“She said your pout is really funny.”

Mai-Li didn’t let her hear the last bit. I like that she shared that secret with me. I smile. “Okay, What’s the plan? How do we get rid of these Animas and have some real privacy?”

She climbs into my lap and kisses me hard. “Who needs privacy? They’ve seen everything at this point. What do we have to hide?” She kisses me again with more passion.

I respond because I can’t resist. I love this girl with everything I have.

Moments later and breathless, she rests her head against mine and whispers in the voice that sends shivers down my spine, “I love you, Roa.”

“I love you too, Char.”

“Sorry to interrupt things, but it sounds like everyone is on board with the plan of freeing the humans from the Animas, right?”

“Ugh. Why would you break in right now? It makes you seem like a pervert,” I say to Sy-Nu.

“Like Charlyt said, we’ve been here all along. You can’t do anything to shock me anymore.”

Red burns on Charlyt’s cheeks. I feel my own embarrassment rise.

“Your relationship is beautiful. It is what finally pushed us to want to give your species its freedom.” Mai-Li tries to make us feel comfortable again. It doesn’t help much. Charlyt slides off my lap and sits beside me. I wrap my arm around her.

“What do we have to do?” The sooner I can get these things out of us, the sooner Charlyt and I can have the life we’ve always dreamed of together, a life with more than we dreamed—a life with children that we get to teach and love and watch grow all of their lives. Whatever Sy-Nu and Mai-Li need us to do, I’ll do it.

“Have you ever heard of the virus Hepatitis B?” Sy-Nu asks.

I haven’t. Charlyt is the brains. She also works in the Disease Control Office so if anyone knows what Sy-Nu is talking about, it’s Charlyt. “It used to be a world disease until vaccination efforts eradicated it. After a century or more without a reported case, doctors stopped vaccinating against it because it was no longer a threat,” she explains.

Mai-Li starts. “Charlyt has been working with some of the few remaining samples of the virus that have been preserved. Through her eyes, I’ve seen something the Animas leaders have overlooked. Hepatitis B is, in most cases, a non-lethal virus. However, it’s a retrovirus, which means it rewrites the DNA code of the infected person. With those changes to the DNA sequence, our ability as Animas to adhere to the human body vanishes.”

Charlyt’s eyes go wide. She stares at a point beyond me, calculating. Then her focus snaps to me. “It means the Animas can’t use our bodies!”

“But we’ll all be living with a virus? Isn’t that bad, somehow?”
“Some people, those few who have severe reactions to the virus, may die. This is the best solution we can come up with though. There won’t be a war. There won’t be murders. There may be some deaths, but considering other options, this is the least offensive.” Sy-Nu tries to convince me.

“How have the Animas not seen this before?” Charlyt asks.

“That’s the reason we’re going through all of the diseases. You’re the first person to do research on Hepatitis B since we arrived. If I was in control of you like other Animas, I would have immediately reported its danger to the authorities and they would have destroyed every last vial of the stuff. Since I’m not like other Animas, I haven’t reported this to anyone,” Mai-Li says.

I don’t know why I’m the only one picking up on the dangers of a virus infecting everyone. “Isn’t there a reason why people were vaccinated against this? There’s got to be some reason why it was eradicated from the earth.”

“We’re open to other suggestions,” Sy-Nu says. “We don’t have much time though. The final phase of colonization is set to take place in one week.”

“What’s the final phase?” I don’t want to know because it is probably worse than releasing a virus to the whole city and eventually the world.

“There are enough human bodies making more Corda children for Animas to live in. Still, some people remain without an Anima in their body. The final phase of colonization is the elimination of those who aren’t useful to us.”

“What are you going to do?” Charlyt asks.

“I’m not going to take part in it, but if you’re asking what the Animas are going to do, well they’re going to release a virus of their own. Unless an Anima controls the body that’s been infected, that body will die.”

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Legions of Fate - Book 2

This month I decided I would like to share the opening scene of my 2nd book in my Legions of Fate series. The first book in this series, The Highlander's Curse, has been one of my favorite projects and though I've been going through a writer's rut, the characters in this book have been talking to me over the last few days. Enjoy!

He couldn’t believe he was actually looking at her. After all this time, Laura Bennett was less than a foot away from him. And not just any Laura Bennett…Laura Madison Bennett. A woman who’d proved difficult to not only pinpoint from genealogical reports, but also to find in real life. It was bad enough that she’d gone off the grid for the last year, but the fact that it was his fault made his life with the Legions a living hell for the last 364 days, give or take. But, as he’d expected, she’d come out of whatever hole she’d stashed herself in and had finally deigned to join the land of the living.
Not that she looked all that lively at the moment. She was downing, what, her eighth drink already? She had already drawn snickers and whispered comments from the Applebee’s waiters and waitresses, who currently had a bet going on what time she’d hurl all over their floor.
Jared shifted in his bar stool, glancing at Laura from the corner of his eye as she huddled over her plate, sniffling at the picture she gripped tightly between her thumb and forefinger.
“Laura,” her dad berated quietly, awkwardly trying to avoid more attention. “I know its tough, but you’ve got to get a hold of yourself. You’ve already had too much to drink tonight, and that’s no way to work through your grief.”
“What do you know?” She drew the back of her hand across her face, wiping away her tears. “I tried, you know. I really tried. I just don’t think I can do this anymore.” Her forehead dropped onto her crossed arms, her hair barely missing the mashed potatoes and gravy. Laura peered up at her dad again, wiping her tears away again. “You still have Mom, and you still have me. You don’t know how this feels.”
Jared winced at the pure torment in her voice and in her very demeanor. He’d seen the pictures of the car when it had been pulled from Forestport Reservoir. The car had not only driven off the bridge into the water, but the reservoir’s bed had done insurmountable damage during the crash.
“Besides,” Laura continued with a shrug, “it’s worked pretty well for me for the last twelve months.”
“Is that what you’ve been doing at the cabin all this time?” her father gawked. “Drinking yourself into a stupor? What happened to running? You love to run.”
The cabin? Jared thought. That’s where she’s been? He didn’t even know her family owned a cabin. Had he and the Legions known, he could have reached her months ago instead of wallowing in his own failed attempt; watching other Legions shake their heads at him in mock sympathy. Those who’d never lost a charge.
He was no idiot. Even now there were others nearby, watching and waiting for him to screw up again. Waiting for him to miss his chance at sending Laura back in time.
Just then, waiters and waitresses shuffled from the kitchen doorway, the leading waitress balancing a plate with a slice of cake on her palm. The employees following her had already started clapping as they made their way through the bar and around the corner to a large table of customers, who had started clapping in rhythm as a birthday song was sung.
Laura’s father excused himself then as he made his way toward the bathroom. The poor guy had tried probably a million times to get Laura out of the restaurant; out of view of other people as she experienced a complete meltdown. And yet, all Jared could think was: Here it was. The best chance he had.
He nudged the pocket watch on the bar toward her as he leaned in, offering her a smile. “Sounds like you could use another drink. Mind if I buy you one?”
Laura’s eyes bugged momentarily as she looked in Jared’s direction, almost as though she’d been surprised there was someone there. “I’ll take one if you’re offering,” she said before sipping on the last of her drink. “Just know it’s not going to lead to anything. I’m sure you’re a nice guy and all, but—”
Jared lifted a hand and shook his head. “It’s not like that. I can just tell you’re in need of another one.” He looked at the bartender. “Another one of whatever she’s having, and can I get my bill?”
“You got it,” the man said, immediately grabbing a new glass and pouring Laura’s drink. After setting it on a coaster, he shuffled off to the computer to print off his bill.
She wasted no time in bringing the glass to her lips. “Thanks.”
“No problem.” Jared threw some cash down on the bar after seeing his total due. Standing up, he slid his bar stool back under the counter. “Don’t worry ma’am. I have a feeling things will be looking up for you soon.” He gave her a smile and strode away.
“It can’t get any worse,” she muttered, almost imperceptibly.
He reached the first set of doors and walked through as the hostess held one open for him. Please pick it up, please pick it up.
“Hey!” Laura yelled.
Jared rushed through the other door and turned left as he reached the sidewalk.
Laura’s voice called out from behind him. “Hey, uh…sir. You forgot this.”
He turned, meeting her eyes as she more or less stumbled toward him. She might have caught up to him easily under normal circumstances. Then again, under normal circumstances her mind would have already picked up on the fact that something was wrong.
Laura’s progress slowed and her brows furrowed as she peered down at her hand.
Come on, come on…hurry. There was no one on the sidewalk that could see anything; but that didn’t mean a million things couldn’t go wrong: a diner could look out the window, or Laura’s dad could waltz out of the door, a driver passing by on the street, or for the love of god, a customer could head toward the restaurant seeking a bite to eat—any of which could witness the inexplicable phenomenon of someone disappearing into thin air. None of it mattered to him at the moment; it was a chance he had to take. Not that he had any choice now.

“Hey…wha…ow! What the hell!” She tried to fling the watch from her hand, but it had already latched onto her skin. Her eyes rolled back in her head and she began to crumple to the ground. Just before her body hit the ground in this time, she completely disappeared. He knew she still fell though, just way, way, way in the past.

Copyright © 2014 Katalyn Sage

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Animas-Part One

This is a three part short story. Here's the first section. I hope you like it. 

My footsteps echo in the abandoned lot that borders the city walls. This is my fourth workout this week. I thought these grueling sessions would end once I got married. It was why I trained so hard once I was old enough to begin Physical Training. Puberty helped with my height and build. It was just a matter of fitness after that. I got what I wanted. I got married. Yet, five years into it, I’m still out here running in circles.

Being matched with Charlyt made the exercises worthwhile. Hell, I’d run every day if that’s what it took to be with her. The Matching Office really knew what was doing.

Since I have to train, I like to do it early in the morning. No one is here in the yard. The heat of the day hasn’t started to scorch the dry ground. It’s just me and the morning mist.

This morning though, a sound I’ve never heard is ringing off the surrounding buildings. It’s a muffled pounding that comes in spurts of frenzied activity and then nothing. I checked the perimeter, scanned every blown out window that overlooks the exercise yard and I still don’t know where the sound is coming from. The unease I feel with the noise in the yard spikes the readings on the monitor strapped to my chest. I don’t want my body stats going back to the Office of Male Fitness for Race Preservation to show anything unusual. I try to ignore the sound and push through the last of my workout.

The monitor beeps to end my session. I slow to a stop and lean against the wall. Another episode of pounding begins, louder than before, and I feel the wall tremble at my back. I step away just in time to avoid the shards of brick from pummeling my body as a pick axe breaks through the wall.

I switch off the monitor. Charlyt always reminds me not to give the government more than I have to.

A small body shoots through the settling dust, running right into my chest. It’s a boy, barely old enough to start Physical Training. He’s scrawny and covered in grime. He latches onto my waist. “Don’t let them take me. I’d rather die than have one of them take over my mind.”

“Whoa bud. What are you talking about?”

“The Animas. They’re putting Animas in the Corda kids. They don’t send us out there to fight the Animas and protect our city. They send us out there to be anchor bodies for the aliens.”

“The Animas aren’t in our city. The Corda are protecting us.” I argue because I don’t know what else to do. There’s so much panic in his voice. I don’t know how to handle something like that.

He looks up at me. If he could reach, he would probably shake me by the shoulders. “I am a Corda. I just escaped one of the facilities. I know what I’m talking about. They take Cordas and fill our brains with Animas. They’re not going to kill us. They’re going to take over our bodies. They want to become us.”

A siren blares in the distance. Police have been alerted to the breach in the wall. They’re coming for the boy.

“Please help me.”

I pull his arms from my waist and step away from him. There’s no way I want to draw the attention of the police. Infertility brings plenty of its own attention. I don’t need criminal attention either.

The boy looks at me with tears streaking through the dust that has settled on his cheeks.

I turn on my heels and run. I can’t have anything to do with that lunatic. Any run in with the police could jeopardize my marriage. The city leaders could take away what they gave to me. Besides, the aliens that have been taking over Earth, the Animas, have one goal: to destroy the human race. From the city monitors scattered around the streets, the images of the surrounding cities are all the same. They are completely obliterated. That’s what the Animas do to humans, not take over their bodies or whatever that boy was talking about. Why would I risk my marriage with Charlyt for some deranged kid who just tunneled his way through the city walls? Everything he said was a lie.

“No it wasn’t. He told you the truth.”

I stumble over my own feet and fall. From the ground, I scan the alley I’m in. There’s no one here but me.

“I thought you were a better person than that, Roa. You are supposed to have compassion and empathy. That’s what sets you humans apart from us Anima.”

I scramble to my feet and run faster than I’ve ever run before. After sprinting two city blocks, I feel my body slow itself down, but I’m not tired. I can keep going. I bear down and push my body to pick it up. My body stops completely. I’m not controlling my muscles or my brain anymore. Something else is. I turn down another alley and sit on the ground. No matter what I tell my body to do, it ignores me. I panic.

“Calm down, Roa.”

I don’t actually hear the voice. It feels more like a thought coming directly to my mind. My body is calm, but my brain, whatever makes me, me, is going berserk.

“Listen, Roa. That boy told you the truth. The Animas are putting their essence into Cordas. Corda children have bodies that are uniquely compatible with our essence. Your city leaders aren’t humans anymore. Well, their bodies are human, but what controls them, the way I controlled you, is completely alien.”

“How did you control me? How are you talking to me? Who are you?” I don’t speak the words because I can’t get my body to respond to my commands.

“My name is Sy-Nu. I’m the Anima that was assigned to your body.”

“What does that mean?”

“My essence is in here with you. I’ve been here since you were three. You’re a Corda. You were taken to the facilities and the Anima assigned me to you.”

I can’t believe what I’m hearing. This whole conversation is going on inside my head. I must be crazy. That boy must have spread some disease to me, a disease that will send me right to the loony bin.

“You’re not crazy.”

“Can’t I have a private moment?!” Apparently it can read my thoughts.

“Of course I can read your thoughts. That’s how we’re communicating now.”

My marriage is over. There’s no way they’re going to let me stay with Charlyt, not when I’m crazy.

“You’re not going to lose Charlyt. You and I are going to work together to stop the Anima.”

“Really, stop listening to my thoughts. They’re mine, not yours.”

“What’s yours is mine. Look, I have been here all of your life. Just because I let you know I’m here doesn’t change who you are or what you’ve done. I haven’t controlled you or used you. I wanted to observe you, to see how a real human lives. Every experience, thought, and action you’ve taken in your life has been your own. By letting your conscious develop and grow, I have been violating the laws of the Animas. I was supposed to squash your conscious right from the beginning so that your body could be mine.”

“Why didn’t you? Why did you let me live my life? How is that going to help you take over the human race?”

“I don’t want to take over the human race. Before I got your body, I felt like the humans were different from other species we’ve conquered. By not taking over your consciousness, I got to observe you. I was right. You are different. Destroying your people would be an ugly scar on the Animas. Your lives are beautiful. The relationship between you and Charlyt is something the universe needs.”

A sick feeling crept into my stomach. “You were there when I was with Charlyt? The whole time?”

“I’m always…”

“Stop. I don’t want to hear. I just want you out of me. I want to live my life without you here. I want private moments with my wife to be private. Leave me alone. And don’t ever talk about Charlyt, you alien scum.”

“I’m sorry, Roa. But you should realize that I’m the reason you were chosen to marry. Without me, you would never have passed your Physical Examinations. Don’t you remember feeling like you performed better than you ever had, that you did things you didn’t even think you were capable of? I helped you. I wanted you to be with Charlyt. She is your match. I knew it long before you even knew her. I made that happen.”

I did remember the Exam. I remembered doing things I had never even thought possible. I thought I was just so passionate about being selected for marriage that I found some secret store of strength and ability. Knowing it was because an Anima controlled me changed my perception of myself. How did this Sy-Nu even know about Charlyt? I didn’t know about her until the city leaders married us and gave us a key to our apartment.

“Charlyt is a special human, just like you. I’ve been tracking her ever since I was put into your body.”

I put my head in my hands. Control over my body has returned. “This is going to ruin our marriage. I can’t hide you from her. So while you want me to thank you for getting us matched, it’s you who will tear us apart.” It is still be better to have loved Charlyt than to live without ever having her in my life.

“You won’t lose her. Go home and talk to her.”

I stand up. “What am I going to say? ‘Hey Char, I found out today that I have an alien living inside my body. He’s always been there, even when we thought we were alone. So cheers and how was your day?’”

“That might work.”

Ugh. I start walking home because I want to see her one more time before she’s too disgusted to even look at me anymore. If the city leaders don’t end our marriage and kill me, Charlyt will end things.

“Trust me. She loves you. Things will work out.”

Sy-Nu doesn’t say anything else and we…or I…or whatever…push open the door. Charlyt stands up from the kitchen table and comes to hug me, just like she does every time I come home. I hold her tight, breathing her in. We stay that way for a long time.

Finally, I let her go.

She looks up at me. “What’s wrong?”

Here it goes. “I was at the training yard, resting after my workout, when a boy broke a hole in the city wall. He was crazy, saying that the Animas were putting their essence into the Corda children. He said our city was already under their control.”

She slowly sits down.

I stare at the floor, wringing my hands. “I didn’t want another incident with the police so I ran.”

She reaches for my hand and pulls me down next to her. Lifting my chin, she brings my eyes up to hers. “Then what happened?”

I look down again. I can’t bring myself to say it. This will crush her.

She nudges my chin again, searching for my eyes. “You finally learned about him, didn’t you? You finally talked with Sy-Nu.”