Post by Zeppelin on Mar 16, 2016 16:28:46 GMT -5
Searching for New SHIFTER Registry File . . .Subject file located, please enter access key now.
Enter Access Key__UNITProcessing...Access granted.
currently viewing file of:
Itashiha'Issi1 Tasimboiyyi2 is a free-spirited individual with a clear and restrained shield- as the saying goes; hard shelled to protect the mushy insides. Her driving force can be traced from deep within her- it infiltrates her life at almost every possible moment.
It is the question.
If an idea is made or rejected, a rule in place or torn down, if an action is performed, a comment made. Why? How? Why does the world work a certain way, why do people think the way that they think and react the way that they react? Why does the sun rise, how does the grass grow? Who are we? Are we even real?
Her curiosity infects her world- and she constantly analyzes everything around her; a fly on the wall.
She is an introvert, and does her excavating within her own mind; voicing her opinions and observations only when they have been thoroughly mulled over and picked apart within. When she speaks, it is always a conversation- small talk is a useless and uncomfortable societal tool. Those that can keep up with a conversation are deemed as ‘people,’ whereas those who stare with empty eyes and ungrasping minds are branded as ‘breathers.’
Her circle of friends is miniscule, mostly because she has only had contact with family members. She is not considered close-minded to outsiders, but Zeppelin knows the truth. The outcasts, misfits, vagabonds, and the gypsies are her kin; those who would seek to break the haze of the grey and modern world. An easy comfort may be found in sharing a smile with a drag queen, but bumping into a zombie with a suit and briefcase sets her revulsion alight. She knows her true heart, and she knows that she is a bigot; it does not bother her.
Zeppelin will buck authority at any chance that she may get- one must prove that they should have some dominion over her before claiming the right. An elder will get the same amount of say-so as a toddler by default, unless that elder proves that their jurisdiction holds better to her own. Nepotism is a skid mark on humanity and will be treated as such- Zeppelin is not a confused child to be tethered to Big Brother, God, or anybody that would claim a right to her person by default. She is her own god.
The young lady is compassionate to a fault; her feelings run deep and her emotions are a symphony of voices on the cusp of bursting out of her, thus the chorus must be hushed. She has deduced that emotions are a sign of weakness, a sure invitation to take advantage, and one must only show them in times of dire need- therefore a mask must be glued on. To others, she may seem aloof and empty. The only outward emotion she displays to unknown people is rage; it is the only emotion that will get things done. Crying is a very rare occurrence; Zeppelin will bottle up months of sadness and suddenly break down for hours before bedtime when nobody is around. Happiness is shown to only those she has strong bonds with; for the world will not mess with a sour face.
She prefers animals to people, they aren’t judgmental and they tend to listen better. They aren’t capable of greed, vanity, or conscious cruelty and they very rarely give her trouble. If one is in need of anything, Zeppelin will provide for it and if one is ever treated with anything but respect… the heat of rage flares without pause or bias. People are best avoided, animals are always welcome.
Since the world is so wide and full of possibilities, Zeppelin wants to taste them all- a ‘yes!’ kind of person. No fear is shown in the face of cliff diving, strange food, or sharp objects- she will try anything once and stick with it if she likes it. A jack of all trades and slave to her curiosity, she knows with certainty that she could do anything that anybody else can do- so why not do it? Do you need a mechanic or a carpenter? Are you in need of a guitarist or a piano tech? An archer or a tracker? How about a seamstress? If you’ve got the cash, Zeppelin can do it and if she can’t she will figure it out.
She is intelligent and logical, always looking at a situation from more than one angle to come to the best conclusion and the best outcome. Zeppelin will size a person up and decide what mask to put on when she must approach- nothing is unconsciously done unless she is comfortable with her environment; and Zeppelin never sticks around long enough to get comfortable. It was the Ahinna3, and it was just the way things had to be done.
Traditionally, one did not acquire a name until one shifted; it was usually a finite occurrence within their tribe. A child would be nurtured and loved like any other outsider’s child would until around the age of three; the prodding began then. Small things that would seem trivial to adults such as: skipping nap time, taking away a toy, ignoring temper tantrums, playing loud music, startling them, frowning, etc. The prodding was never too harsh, and the babies’ needs where always promptly met- but these small upsets seemed very big to a toddler. Zeppelin morphed at the expected age and underwent rigorous training as all of the others that came before her (mostly for the purpose of evading capture,) she did not have an extraordinary life compared to her peers; though they would all seem quite outlandish to the rest of the world. The tribe was small in size (about twenty-five families) and un-recognized by the colossal government; therefore they had no official land or grants like the others, which was a blessing in disguise. Officially, they did not ‘exist’ and could therefore occupy the marshy swamps that they laid claim to- Pecan Island, an unincorporated community. The area is so rural and insignificant that it is not considered a governed municipal, almost invisible. The people lived off of the land and neither wanted or needed the rest of the world, living the same way that they had lived for hundreds of years. Every once in a while a person would go and see the world, sometimes they would come back and sometimes they wouldn’t- if a person went without writing for six months, they were presumed dead or taken. Nobody stopped anybody from leaving because it was understood to be a rite of passage, all a family could do was wave good-bye and wish them luck without a birth certificate. Zeppelin’s older siblings had done their travels by the time she hit eighteen and had come back the wiser for it, she decided that she would go at the age of twenty, a year younger than they had gone. A year went by without incident, her mother still taught her lessons until the afternoon, her father still had her run drills until three, and she went on her usual explorations until sundown. It was on a Thursday early in her nineteenth year that she met her mutual downfall, Nakfi Isi9. You see, Thursdays are traditionally hunting days- Zeppelin is quite the animal lover, but her family must eat- and they had no qualms about meat as she did. She was scaling a large boulder to get a vantage point over the tall grass of the marsh to spot game that was always easily hidden. With her bow slung haphazardly in her fist, she pulled herself up onto the valley of the rock and settled into a comfortable kneeling position- it would be quite a while before she spotted anything. Zeppelin allowed her mind to wander as she smothered moss upon her bared skin; thoughts of the idea of time and decay, a song she rehearsed with empty fingers, why her cat pawed at the ground while he drank- half an hour had gone by in this way. Then, the soft snap of a dead twig alerted her. She closed her eyes without moving and willed the wind to stay still as she listened for more information and sniffed the heavy air. The revelation that it was a deer was almost instantaneous; for she knew the smell of her kin well- she also knew that deer could not see with clarity. It was true that his sight and hearing where superior to most beasts, and that his range of vision was impressive; but he could not tell if she where a rock or a person. Zeppelin waited a while longer so that he could become comfortable and let his diligent guard down. Another hour was sacrificed for the sake of her chance. The buck was finally lounging in the tree line, his gentle eyes closed and dozing as Zeppelin’s heart beat frantically. This was the problem with hunting: she went out with the best intentions and always ended up getting attached. Her mind battled against the imminent question of the creature’s fate: slaughter or free? She was debating the question and picking her mind of the familiar arguments- she really didn’t know why she even bothered. With an inward sigh, she placed her bow gently down and flew from her kneeling position. Hooves dashed the ground rather than her bare feet, and a young white-tailed doe ran towards the now alert buck with glee. Her family could eat vegetables tonight- or better yet- they could just quit asking her to hunt if they craved meat so badly. She was a flash past the other deer after she reared up with an invitation to run with her, and he was quick to accept. Zeppelin led the run towards the beach and she felt the mud transform into sand beneath her powerful legs. The two of them went to the shore and sprinted among the waves when all of a sudden, the buck gained on her and kicked water into her face which only made her chuff and run all the harder. The two of them carried on like that for just under an hour before exhaustion snuck onto them. Zeppelin hopped over her new friend and made her way towards the tree line again, sinking into the sand and the mud on burning legs while the other deer stood over her with twitching ears, listening for any would-be hunters lurking about. Zeppelin was a bit disheartened by her form when she was younger because of her lack of teeth and the general vulnerability of her kind, but her father made her see past that. Everybody called him ‘Black Dog’ due to his own shifting form to be that of a massive shaggy beast of a mutt- he was a predator in the animal kingdom, with murderous nails and gnashing teeth. The Black Dog did not need to worry about killers with the exception of gators- but they knew how to deal with them well enough for it to never be a problem. That big black hunter took his little fawn into the forest and showed her that there was strength in her body- she could fly as the wind, ascend as a leaf, and fall as a raindrop. She could best any monster that came for her without having to hurt a soul, and she had herd-mates that would fly with her; they could show her the strength in numbers. After years, she had finally accepted herself and flew with her mother by her side- they were the heart of freedom.
‘I know you aren’t who you seem.’
Zeppelin swung her head up to meet the buck’s eyes in wild surprise. Her ears swiveled atop her head to offer physical proof of her loss for words. The other deer lowered his head and sniffed her rather pointedly,
‘You don’t smell whole.’
His voice was a series of nickers and high-pitched whines, but she understood him perfectly. She had no idea that there were any other shifters besides her kin on Pecan Island. He seemed to sense that she was speechless, assuming that she was clearly startled beyond instant thought by his revelation. In reality, Zeppelin was thinking very quickly; should she answer? Would she incriminate herself? Why didn’t he say so before? Did he know that she was hunting him? Was he so sure she wouldn’t shoot? Had he, in fact, been watching her? Did he plan this? He mind was simply buzzing with the possibilities- one thing that she wouldn’t do was make the first move. Her entire tribe loved to remind her that it was one of the most dangerous things that one could ever do- and it would endanger the lives of everybody within if a single hint was ever dropped.
They stared at each other for what seemed like a very long time, silently gauging each other’s reaction. No matter her curiosity, Zeppelin would. not. bend. Finally, the buck made a sound akin to a sigh and let his form go. It was a slower process for him, it seemed- he must not have done it as much as she. Chestnut fur shed slowly from him while his muscles simultaneously morphed smoothly into a completely different shape while the buck drew up into a standing position. In place of a deer just newly into maturity stood a young man about her age. His skin was the color of coffee doused with heavy cream, his eyes wide and black, his shape was slim and well-muscled, and his hair was so light brown that it was almost grey.
He said. His reaction was instant and hilarious to his own speech. Quickly, he covered his hands over his mouth and sniggered.
‘Sorry, haven’t gotten your tongue down yet.’
He reverted back to the universal language that her tribe spoke when in spirit-form. Zeppelin’s curiosity soared beyond her original interest,
He gasped and clapped his hands, rocking back and forth upon the balls of his feet like an excited child.
‘Yes! Your human-tongue.’
‘What do you mean?’
Her mind was spinning again. Was he suggesting that he wasn’t human? Was he raised strangely? Was he adopted by deer?
‘Your kind has human-tongue. We don’t… speak it?’
He seemed confused. Zeppelin was even more-so; she chanced a question to prod at his origins a little farther,
‘What is your name?’
‘Yes, what are you called?’
Zeppelin closed her eyes in defeat. This was by far the most interesting thing that she had yet to come across, and she was loath to give her new discovery up. It just meant that she would have to work very hard. With a thought, she changed into her human form and covered her bits and pieces on instinct by crouching with her arms over her breasts. The boy cocked his head to the side, confused by her stance and her frown,
She commanded. The buck ‘tsked’ at her aggressive tone but drew his eyes to the sky to appease her. Almost without thought, Zeppelin proceeded to douse mud upon her unmentionables until she was satisfied with her own modesty,
‘Alright, buck, I’m done. Please, have a seat and talk with me.’
Her tone was much more pleasant now, and he quickly scrambled into a cross-legged position directly in front of her with his knees kissing her own. The boy had no sense of personal space.
‘You have no name, so I would like call you Nakfi Isi. It means ‘Brother Deer.’ Is that… acceptable?’
He stared directly into her eyes without blinking and without letting his wide grin falter.
‘It is. What are you called?’
Her answer was in her own human speech, and he attempted to mimic her with clumsy lips and an unlearned tongue.
“Zeppelin. Nakfi Isi.”
She gestured to herself and then him for clarification and he repeated the action.
‘Good, you learn quickly.’
‘Thank you… could you teach me more?’
And so they continued past sun-down and into the morning until the two younglings fell asleep under the gentle rustles of Spanish moss and the sweet smell of the humid air.
Isi and Zeppelin where quite inseparable after their first meeting; she taught him her ways, and he showed her his’. He had a firm grasp on the human tongue, and she held more knowledge of the primal world than any other human she knew. She taught him how to play the wind reed and he weaved stories of his kin. Zeppelin took him on spiritual travels with the aid of her people’s fruits, and he took her on journeys with jimson weed. They laughed at each other and learned of the world together- two complete opposites of a coin to meld into a complete match. They met each other’s families, all shifters- all quite pleased with the easy friendship; the herd would sometimes visit the village and explore the wonders of their world, and the humans the same. It was a situation of mutual appreciation and wonder; the humans had not known that retromorphs existed outside of ancestral legends. It came as no surprise that the two young deer formed a strong bond of love, though they never would admit it to each other for different reasons. Isi was too scared to lose his best friend, and Zeppelin was too pragmatic about biological impossibilities- but that didn’t stop the families from prodding. The Black Dog was beside himself with glee- his daughter had been chosen by the ‘spirits of the wilds’ to become bride to Brother Deer. Zeppelin’s father had always been a romantic, but it was no situational fairy tale. The time to leave was past Zeppelin because of her ill-advised affections, and it was already two months past her twentieth birthday; she would leave any day now. When she broke the news to Isi, he demanded to be included in her travels.
Zeppelin said in a flat tone to emphasize the finality of her decision.
“Zeeepppellliiinnnn, why not?”
The two of them where leaning against a large cypress tree in the west mashes, a couple of alligators lazily ignoring them a stone’s throw away. Isi was tugging on Zeppelin’s hair to get her attention after she didn’t immediately answer him- patience was not a strong character within him. Zeppelin crossed her arms and stared him down with a cocked eyebrow, a sign that she would not be argued with on the matter.
“Zeppelin… you must answer me. I… I don’t want to be away from you. I’ll be lonely. Please tell me why I can’t go with you- or why you can’t just stay with me?”
The young woman’s own patience was wearing thin from the twenty minutes of whining Isi had subjected her to. In her own thoughts, she ran through the check list of why he couldn’t go with her- the number one reason being ‘it won’t count as a pilgrimage if there is two of us- it will be a vacation.’ Isi sucked up his courage and leaned in closer to the shorter woman, the tugging of her hair turning into a gentle comb. The buck held his breath and glanced away from her to watch his long fingers glide through her thick tresses; it felt like a newborn fawn’s coat, and it always smelled of cedarwood. His fingers weaved to the ends of her hair, the journey leading him to her hipbone. With another shot of courage and determination, he grabbed her gently by the round hip and drew her slowly closer to him until they were lightly pressed together. Isi glanced at her face and took in her raised eyebrows, mouth open in silent shock.
“What are you doing?”
He looked away again and watched his thumb make gentle swirls on her hips while an even wider smile spread his mouth when he smelled the joy permeate her scent.
“This is what humans do when they disagree. I saw your mother do it to your father once. It’s working, I think. You smell happy.”
To Isi’s surprise, Zeppelin growled and shoved herself away from him,
“Nakfi Isi, your big doe eyes won’t work on me- and petting me will most certainly not make me agree. And would you please quit smelling how I feel?! That’s personal!”
The buck was very confused. She went from joyous to anger in seconds, and he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. It was probably just one of those touchy human social things that they always ended up arguing about. He did not come to anger as quick as she did- even when she shouted at him; he was just simply a content and calm creature by nature’s command. So, Isi let Zeppelin stalk away to fume and think by herself until she was ready to speak again.
Zeppelin was very confused, herself. She could feel the phantom fingers on her hips and the gentle tugging on her scalp- he had all of the charm and kindness at his feet to reduce her to a puddle of mush, yet he had the ignorance of those implications that far exceeded a human child’s own knowledge. The differences between them where too numerous to allow more to flourish, but she just couldn’t help the butterflies in her stomach. It was downright maddening, and he couldn’t understand- and that was the hardest parts of it all. Zeppelin glanced at him from her position beside a small mudbug pond and watched him hang his head and twiddle his fingers against one another. He was biting his lip and dared to peek up at her with his big adorable eyes. Ugh. He was infuriating, and it was endearing. Zeppelin tried to always be honest with herself, there was no point in consciously or unconciously hiding from one’s own thoughts- so she had a conversation within. Would it really be so bad to have a vacation instead of a pilgrimage? Didn’t she want to see the world with him? Didn’t she want to learn and be amazed with him? Well, sure, all of those things where on a ‘pros’ list. But the ‘con’ list ran farther. Would the close and constant quarters implicate their relationship further? Could he remain undetected from the shift-hunters? Could he stay in human form for that long? Would he endanger them both by just simply being ignorant of the world around him? What if he got hurt- or worse? What would she do? Normally, she wasn’t so cautious of unknown factors- but he was an exception. Somebody that she had to protect, another life that she had to consider besides her own. Zeppelin glanced at him again when she heard him laugh- she watched him with a piqued curiosity to what he could possibly be directing his permanent smile to now. Isi was turned fully to the gators lounging about on the swamp’s shore,
‘That was just silly, sister. I’d bet you will think twice from now on.’
She sucked back a smile that threatened to split her lips and proceeded to walk to Isi with a black expression. The young man spun himself towards her and pointed to the sleeping alligators,
“She tried to make him move so that she could spread out more, but she didn’t see the tree branch between them; it smacked her right on the snout.”
He was almost accusing the gator with his tone, he didn’t want her to think that he wasn’t still very firm in his resolve to go with her. Zeppelin took stock in him fully- Isi just didn’t know how handsome he was in his human form. He didn’t even really have a concept of beauty; everything was new and wonderful to him. He never called her pretty or brushed his own hair- never tried to be more than he was, nor did he expect it out of anybody else. It was the most beautiful thing about him.
“I know what you’re going to say, and I promise that I’ll let your dad teach me about getting away from humans. We can sleep in the woods, and I promise that I can hold a human form all day- I’ll tell you if I feel like I need to turn back, and we won’t go in the super-human parts. It’ll be great, and I promise to do exactly as you say. I’ll be a good boy. Just plllleaaassseeee-“
He grabbed her hands with one of his and her shoulder with the other, staring deeply into her eyes to will some sort of acceptance from her,
“Pllleasssee don’t go without me.”
Zeppelin tried to hold a firm face and a straight back, but she just couldn’t; not with Isi. The woman sighed in defeat and sagged her shoulders, which he knew to be a win for himself. Isi shouted ‘ha!’ and pulled her into his arms for a victorious bear-hug. Zeppelin spoke in a muffled voice into his sternum,
“I don’t suppose I could have gone without you sneaking after me, anyhow.”
The young Isi gasped and laid his cheek on her head,
“You know me so well.”
“Yeah, well- we’re going to have to have a long lesson before we go… about touching, sooner rather than later.”
“Well, you can’t just touch people- they won’t like it. We’ll start going over it tomorrow, it won’t be as hard to learn as talking.”
“Whatever you say, Madame’”
“Your French is still atrocious.”
“Votre maison me10 bless you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“You said that nothing does. Screw the man.”
Zeppelin sniggered and looked up at him, strangely comfortable in an embrace,
“You’re exactly right.”
A few more months passed in a blink, and the pair where ready to go with anxious determination. Zeppelin was briefed by her experienced family on what and whom to avoid. Bars, industry, official-looking buildings, malls, richer-looking areas, very poor-looking areas, zoos, truckers, people who stared too long, people who looked too happy, people who looked to angry, people who were too quiet, people who talked too properly, northerners, westerners… it was just better to avoid people and civilization all-together. Go sight-seeing, stay off the main roads. Isi had been strictly instructed not to touch anyone as well as what different touches mean to different people if it couldn’t be avoided. Don’t talk unless you have to when around strangers, don’t smile so much, don’t stare at people- be a shadow on the floor. It took his mother a good while to get used to the idea, and she was very unhappy about it still- but Isi was a mature buck, not a gangly fawn to be mothered over; so the doe eventually gave her grumbling blessing.
Zeppelin really shouldn’t have let him win. She really, really should have stuck to her guns.
It was the third evening of their journey, and the sun was sinking below the trees at a leisurely pace as they walked into the woods from an empty pasture next to highway eighty-two. They had just made it to the Abbeville line from a North-Eastern direction and where tuckered out from the walking despite Isi’s constant exciting bouncing. If they were on four legs rather than two, they would be farther by now. Already, they had seen so many crazy things. The vehicles, for one. Zeppelin was familiar with the handful of old clunky trucks her tribe owned, sputtering things that were more likely to explode than to roll compliantly to the next town. But these cars and trucks where decades better than that. Some had wheels that traveled the cement highways, sleek and shiny. But some did not have wheels and instead they hovered past in a different designated lane, propelled by some unseen fuel. They witnessed a man yelling at a holographic projection of a woman that was borne from a small round wrist-contraption at a gas station, witnessed a drunken singing contest held atop a roof- Isi longed to venture further into the town, but his plans where quickly thwarted by Zeppelin until this particular night. Despite warnings, she would allow them to go into a bar at the outskirts of the town- just to experience alcohol for the first time. She had no identification, but she hoped that she would look old enough to be serviced- the drinking age had been lowered in the country more than one-hundred years ago to the age of eighteen, so surely her markings would deem her of sufficient maturity. Isi, on the other hand, had no markings and an immature bearing- not to mention she wouldn’t let him. Too many risk factors.
They were thrown out of the bar, unsurprisingly- so she tried her hand at a gas station. Luckily for her, the clerk was young and bore marks of his own- perhaps he would find camaraderie with her and let Zeppelin slide. As expected, the young attendant tried to strike up a conversation brimming with familiarity and forgot to ask her for identification while he scanned her six-pack of Budweiser- he even went so far as to ask if she would be willing to share them in some sort of ‘chillin,’ which Zeppelin could only assume was a form of bonding. She cocked one corner of her mouth in a small apologetic smile and paid for her beer with a tiny portion of her savings before scurrying out of the establishment.
Isi and Zeppelin sprinted for the safety of the forest with excited giggles in anticipation of their first beer.
They had three each, and both of them where thoroughly sloshed due to inexperience and the haste of consumption, it was lucky that only Isi hurled from the poison- and he couldn’t hold his human form very well. The two of them talked loudly into the night, stumbling about and cackling at their lack of grace- sleep took them so quickly that they didn’t have time to crawl into the safety of a thicket- they just laid out in the open upon the cool mud.
She awoke before the sun when the roar of thunder jolted her pounding headache to roar with it.
Her voice was a hoarse croak. Zeppelin lifted her herself to a sitting position and held her head in her palms- she had never had such a migraine before. The feeling was reminiscent of menstrual cramps… in her brain. Brain cramps.
Her throat was so dry and desolate, her stomach was sloshing and threatening to expel the beer from last night. When the young deer didn’t answer, Zeppelin peeked at him through her fingers. Isi was in his natural form although he was sprawled on his belly like a dog with the soft snores of a human. Let him rest awhile longer, she could scout for cover from the impending rain that was an hour or so away judging by the smell of the air and pressure of the wind; she could come back for him. With her mind made up, she quickly shifted to cover more ground and bounded away. It seemed to take forever to find good shelter when in reality she was only away for about twenty minutes. Louisiana was flat-landed which made uphill cover a rarity, but she finally came across two small hills that sloped gently upwards into a tiny valley. Great. She would have to build cover. Zeppelin laid down many fallen branches long enough to reach each respected hill so that the ends could be stabbed into the earth, then she packed the tops with mud and pine and leaves. When she was satisfied with the sturdy roof, the young woman cupped her hands to her mouth and whistled in a specific pattern and sent vibratos by fluttering her left hand, then she waited. Two minutes without and answer revealed that Isi was still quite asleep so she shifted once more and raced towards their original spot. Zeppelin galloped through the tall pines with the scent of rain hot on her heels and it began to alleviate her headache, though what she really needed was water and food. They could get some once she fought with Isi to awaken. She was almost there; she could see that he managed to roll onto his side through the breaks in the leaves.
Zeppelin froze at the sound and the sight of something burying itself into Isi’s exposed chest. She stared in a dazed horror as Isi’s eyes blew open, she could hear as he bleated his last breaths into the wind while his wide eyes rolled about- looking for her and wondering why she wasn’t there to save him.
Her heart pounded in her chest much faster than usual, and she was vaguely aware of voices approaching Isi’s twitching form.
“You sure that’s one of them?”
“Yeah, look- six beer cans on the ground, there’s still spit-up right there.”
“He ain’t changing back. Don’t look like no shifter to me.”
Slowly, her senses came back to her. Her nose took in the smell of testosterone, her ears noted that she was hearing two men, her eyes saw two blurry shapes prodding at her Isi, her nerves felt the first rain drops, her tongue tasted the blood from her biting, and her soul was on fire with rage. She wanted to kill them. No… she wanted to kill them slowly. She wanted them to feel exactly how much it hurt to have one’s heart gently pried from one’s own chest. Zeppelin paused before rushing in to meet her certain doom when one of the two men shifted before her eyes to that of a slim coyote- he sniffed around Isi’s body and spun around. He was looking for her.
Zeppelin blinked up into the sky and thanked the spirits for the blessing of water to wash her scent away. Without a sound, she shifted back into her human form. Naked and trembling with unleashed fury, she stilled her anxious vibrations and tried to calm herself so that her scent would not be spiking about. She needed silence to do this. One had a gun and the other had tooth and claw while her own weapons where squirreled away in the backpack that the human was rummaging through. Zeppelin kept her now sharp eyes trained upon the coyote as she kneeled down to cover herself with a thick coat of mud- the sounds of thunder and rain muting any small rustles that she might make. By the time she was done, the coyote had braved the tree break and was sniffing around far away from her while the man was studying the boar-tips of her arrows; the two were thoroughly occupied and distracted. She stood on her feet with a thick layer of mud covering her from the soles of her feet to the tips of her hair, looking every bit the swamp monster. She would take the one with the gun first. Zeppelin considered the man for a moment; he was average height and build, mid-way through his life, pudgy, and dim. The only thing that separated the two of them was a gun. Without that man-made blasphemy, he would be a dead man in her animal kingdom. No problem for her to take out with the right tools.
Zeppelin swiveled her eyes for a heavy rock, anything besides slate or shale would do- which kind of sucked because there was an abundance of it. She could try and knock the man out with her fists, but he was kneeling and she was standing- it would be much easier to bring force down with a weight instead of her flailing about above him. To her left, she spotted a rock that would require two hands, but it would do. She didn’t hesitate to pry it out from under a small log, and she didn’t flinch when a millipede scurried over her fingers; Zeppelin simply moved towards him on the balls of her bare feet with precise steps. She circled around him so that his’ back was to her and Isi’s stomach was bared. She glanced around and saw no signs of the coyote- which was worrisome- she didn’t know if he could see her or not. It couldn’t be helped, and she would have access to her arsenal once she knocked the man out. She inhaled deeply and broke from the forest for him, and she was at his back in two quiet bounds. He must have sensed somebody behind him for him to turn so suddenly- but his gun was not as fast to swivel to her as his head was. Zeppelin kicked out and covered his opening mouth with her shin bone to silence him and take him to the ground while her hands brought down the hulking stone on his’ head. His neck snapped away from her due to the force in her leg, giving her a conveniently clear target. She could have smashed in his temple and ended his life right there- but no. She had plans. Her rock landed on the middle of his jaw and forced his brain to bounce against his skull- instant blackout. She braced his ungraceful fall by sliding her free leg under him to cushion him with her knee; she almost didn’t make it, but it all ran into one fluid and silent move. Zeppelin once again thanked the spirits of the universe for her luck. She was smaller than most men, and that was a great disadvantage. But, she had speed and knowledge on the average human, she had heightened senses, she had evasion tactics in droves, and she was a very good aim. All of that would be for naught when faced with guns, just as her ancestors before her had learned. She really was lucky that his arms weren’t as quick as his evaluation time. Now… where did the other one go?
In hindsight, she should have taken the gun. It was on principal that she took the other one down with just as much skill and effort as the first- Zeppelin felt that she didn’t need to stoop to using a gun. Too easy. There was no honor in that.
Zeppelin was usually a smart woman. Usually, she favored pragmatism and logic over fanciful ideas and romanticized rituals. Usually.
She dug in her pack for her double-bladed hatchet instead of her preferred bow. It was too dark for aiming, and she really wanted this to be personal. The weight of the hickory wood felt solid in her wet palm. It was an old axe made by her great grandfather- Iskifuchi Ash Hashi Mahli11 Tasimboiyyi- but everybody just called him Tiak12. Her relations told her that he was a golden-tinted falcon with a penchant for the axe- the best throwing arm in the tribe. He was a warrior, and a great strategist when it came to scaring away would-be contractors. He was a blade-maker that did not settle for sharpened rocks and kitchen knives. He was dedicated to making hand-held swords that could absorb punishment and slice through bone. He never did manage to weld his holy grail, but he did make some amazing blades that had so far lasted over half of a century or longer. Zeppelin was gifted his geological and chemical journals on her eighth birthday, and his crafting books at age nine. She still hadn’t gotten around to picking up the craft- but she definitely planned on it in the near future. Zeppelin’s father told her that Tiak declared Fridays be referred to Piedays, and he baked every kind of pie imaginable- the best pies you would ever taste. He also held a deep love for blonde women, which really sucked for him- there weren’t really that many white people until Abbeville, and even then they were rare. The stories about the man painted him as a fierce combatant and a dancing fool, of a man who was not afraid of death or life and beckoned both to take a swing at him. Zeppelin never met him, but he had always been an imaginary hero to her. Somebody that she aspired to be like. The young woman unwrapped the double-headed blade from its’ leather confines with a gentleness that one would reserve for a newborn. Zeppelin sharpened and polished her knives in rotation every day, certain ones at certain times of the week. They were her tools for everyday life, and they had so many multiple uses that it was silly not to want to wield them. This particular axe was named Tanapo13, so named for the weapon that was considered equal to it, and Tanapo would kill a coyote tonight.
Zeppelin surveyed her Isi, and to her utter surprise- found him alive. In fact, these men weren’t trying to kill him. In his chest was buried a rather large steel syringe- a long cylinder with bright yellow feathers circling the ends. A tranquilizer, of course. They weren’t trying to kill them, they were trying to catch them. She darted her eyes to the sleeping man’s rifle and took in the appearance of green-painted soft steel rather than the usual black-coated barrel and hammer of a rifle. Oh shit. She had to kill them, but not for revenge. For survival. Zeppelin was cold indifference when she severed the sleeping man’s head from his shoulders and received a spray of warm blood in repayment. She would find the coyote, kill him, and take Isi back home. She would stay there with him and try again, by herself, some other time.
There was a rustle in the bushes behind her when the coyote stepped into the open as if on-cue, snarling his displeasure at his headless friend.
‘Hunter of your own kind. You are a traitor. I am going to kill you.’
She spoke to him in their mutual primal language, all growls and hisses.
He growled back. With a huff, the coyote changed into his true form- recognition and shock ran through her as the realization struck that he was the young man from the gas station from earlier.
“My kind is at home, washing dishes and waiting on me to bring home milk. My kind is worrying about how many diapers we can afford this week. My kind needs food, cher. And that means that my kind needs money. You ain’t my kind.”
He was weaponless, but Zeppelin had an armory at her side. She was confident that he would not be a challenge, though he did have raw strength against her. She brought her axe towards her chest and spread her legs to take stance, and he laughed in her face,
“Oh, alright. I’ll call the big boys when I take you down, girl. They’ll like you.”
He came for her slowly, making wide arcs around her as if he was the one holding the axe and she was the chicken waiting on the slaughter. His attack was a snap of his feet towards her and a feign to her left. Zeppelin was prepared for it by the way he kept his dominant foot on the right and lead with his left fist, so she went on the offensive and struck at his head from the right. The boy grabbed her wrist, counting on his double-feign to entrap her; but the mud caked-skin easily slid from his grasp. Zeppelin used her right foot to pivot around him and strike at his spine, but he pivoted to his left and faced her again. She was fully consigned to the first actual battle for her life and that of one dear to her, but the coyote had other plans- he didn’t have time to exhaust himself with her. She could have killed him- without question. The odds were stacked against him, but he was smarter than she gave him credit for. He feigned to her left this time with his right, and Zeppelin was so sure that he meant to actually strike her that time; instead he slid in the rain and the mud to her right and skidded to Isi.
“One move and I’ll snap his f***ing neck.”
He had Isi by the antlers, lifting his head up and turning it in her direction.
“And you think that will stop me? He’s a deer that’s bonded with my spirit-form, a pet.”
The coyote man laughed again, a grating and mocking lit to it.
“You’re a good liar, girl. Really- under different circumstances I would believe you, with him not turning into a human while he slept. But, I watched you run off out my store last night, saw him standing in the grass in the shadows- saw the two of you laughing off and running like fools into the woods. Don’t know what he is- don’t know if he’s got a malfunction- but you’re his’.”
He twisted Isi’s head a little further.
“I’m so confident I’m right that I will snap his neck if you come at me, and I’ll let you take a swing at me. But, I know I’m right- and I know you ain’t coming at me. So, how about a deal? I’ll leave him alone, nice as you please, if you drop your axe and yield.”
Zeppelin gripped her wooden handle tightly and went through the options in her head. If he wasn’t as sure as he sounded, he would leave Isi to defend himself if he came at her. If she came at him and he was sure, he would snap his neck and count on her to stumble about in grief and then he would get her. She had no choice, she would not put the sweet buck in anymore danger than he was already subjected to. He was her responsibility, she was the lead- and she had to forfeit herself in order for him to go free,
“How do I know that you’re not lying?”
“You don’t. Consider this, though: I ain’t evil. I don’t want to do this. I still got a beating heart, I just got a job to do and a family to feed. That job calls for one body a month, and you’d be number two- so I’ll have enough money. I ain’t greedy, hell- I’ll even let you call your people to come get him. Just… drop the weapon.”
Zeppelin chewed her muddy bottom lip, almost unwilling to barter for a better deal for Isi’s sake.
“Let me get ahold of my kin, then I’ll drop my axe and go with you.”
The coyote considered her counter to be agreeable,
“Right then. You keep your axe, and I’ll keep ahold of him. I’ll let you call one person, leave him a message. As soon as you’re done, you surrender. And you’d better not play any tricks. I’m doing this out of the goodness of my heart, and I got places to be.”
And so Zeppelin connected his strange wrist phone to her tribe’s ancient cell-phone. She didn’t know who it was that picked up, but she requested Isi’s mother be put on the line. The old doe didn’t stray far from the village since Zeppelin had met Isi. It took a few minutes, but she could suddenly hear the older woman’s breathless voice on the phone- hurriedly talking in shift-tongue. Both the older and younger women exchanged information with swift voices and firm tones before hanging up the lines. And then the coyote took out a strange round coin made of black plastic. He pushed the center of it and held it up to her face wordlessly. Zeppelin stared at it in confusion.
He huffed impatiently. Realization dawned on the young woman; he wanted her to record a message for Isi… it was probably the last thing she would say to him.
“He’ll be up in about fifteen minutes. You have five.”
Zeppelin took a deep breath and spoke into the blinking coin,
“Isi, hey. I don’t know if you remember anything, but you got shot by a tranquilizer gun. This guy said he’d let you go if I go with him. He’s a shifter too. So, just goes to show that you can’t trust anybody but your blood. I’ve gotta go with him now, so… this is goodbye. I don’t know what they’re going to do to me, and there’s nothing that you can do- so don’t try. I called your momma, and she’s going to meet you halfway back. This man doesn’t know where we live, so don’t give him any good reason to find you again. Tell everybody I’m sorry, and I love them. Helichi, mahli chito14. Don’t look back… I love you.”
The coyote held the flashing button until it ceased and instructed her to write instructions on how to operate it when she complained that he wouldn’t know how to use it. Zeppelin fished a pen and her sketch pad out of her bag and set to work under a close tree, though the paper still got damp. Isi had been working on reading and writing for some time, so he could understand the basics quickly; he took forever to read a book, though.
‘PRESS THE BUTTON’
Was penned in block letters. She folded the coin into the note and pushed it into her bag, the contents still dry thanks to the outward water-proof material. Just to make sure he would get it, she stuck a branch into the flap to call attention to it upon his wakening.
With her business concluded, she dropped her beloved axe into its’ sheath and into her pack and gave Isi’s cheek a kiss goodbye before she departed with her captor to his waiting vehicle.
1 Itashiha'Issi- Doe who snarls.
2 Tasimboiyyi- Crazy feet
3 Ahinna- The watch.
4 Lusa’Ofe- Black dog
5 Soleil- Sun
6 Homa’Ofe- Red dog
7 Ahni Luma- To seek the secrets.
8 Tohbi’Ofe- White dog
9 Nakfi Isi- Brother deer
10 Votre maison me- me your home
11 Iskifuchi Ash Hashi Mahli- The hatchet of sun and wind
12 Tiak- throw
13 Tanapo- gun
14 Helichi, mahli chito- fly, strong wind