She woke with a start. Her eyes took in her ruined and abandoned surroundings before she had a chance to think. Urg. Where am I… oh, right. She sat upright and wrapped her arms around her knees, wings splayed to either side. The late afternoon light beamed in through the windows as she groggily tried to piece together what had happened last night. I was trying to get out of the rain. Right. I came in here. I fell asleep. I can remember that much. Just that, but I can remember something now. She glanced at her scaled hands and took a deep breath. I’m some weird monster thing. I remember that.
Sleep had neither returned her memory, nor revealed that she was in some sort of horrible, twisted dream. She could still hear nearly everything going on around her, all swirling together in a cacophony of noises. Ignore it. Just… ignore it. I’m breathing. I can hear that. Focus on that. Her tail thrashed nervously behind her. Oh, right. I have a tail, but no name. Maybe this isn’t real. Maybe. I hope. She took in another shaky breath.
She felt like breaking into tears again. No, no, not helpful. Stop it. She forced herself to stand and fold her wings behind her, using the wall for support as she balanced on her clawed feet. The claw she had in place of a heel on each foot kept her from standing flat footed. Maybe I should just… um… stand on my toes? The more weight she put on the balls of her feet, the more balanced she felt. She removed her hand from the wall and took a couple steps forward. OK. That’s better. I can do that. Now what?
She took a few more hesitant steps. Her tail, dragging along on the ground, kicked up dust along the way. Everything just smells like this dust. She sneezed. I should look around. Should I look around? What if there are other people? But I can’t just stay here, there’s nothing here. I haven’t seen anyone else so far. I guess a little exploring can’t hurt.
She half walked, half stumbled to a door nearby. Within was a staircase, with a few tiny windows along one wall to let in light. Darn it. More dust. She walked in and promptly smacked her head on the top of the door frame. Darn it. She eyed the door, then ducked her head down and walked through again. Her wings caught on the door frame. The sudden pull on her back caught her off balance, making her stagger back, trying to stay on her feet.
I just want to go through the door. Crouching down and twisting her wings finally did the trick. Her claws dug into the steps as she climbed. One story up, she opened another door to a long hallway, lined with numbered doors. She went in and twisted the doorknob of the nearest one. It opened without resistance. Um… OK. Is that weird?
She poked her head into the apartment. Anyone here? The occasional object randomly scattered about, along with the ever present coating of dust, gave it the same impression as the lobby downstairs: dilapidated and abandoned. She spotted some old furniture in the other rooms as she moved further in. I don’t think there’s anyone here. It doesn’t really smell like it. Maybe there’s food!
She found and searched the kitchen, but came up empty handed. No food in the cupboards, no water came when she tested the faucet. She sighed. Where else would have water? She looked around as she returned to the living room. Oh, another sink in that bathroom.
Her nose tingled a bit as it picked up a faint chemical odor in the new room. Other than that, the bathroom she found was the same as everywhere else. She leaned in front of the mirror and twirled the faucet handle. Nothing. Of course. She sighed again to herself in the mirror. Wait, hang on. What? She examined her mouth. Oh come on. Rather than normal human teeth, her mouth was lined entirely with sharp, pointy, triangular teeth, with a forked tongue to round it off. One deep breath. A second deep breath. Why?
This isn’t helping. Maybe this isn’t weird. Just… I just need to figure out what’s going on. I can’t figure that out in front of a mirror like this. She tore herself away from the mirror and returned to the living room.
An old overturned couch in surprisingly reasonable condition sat in what she took to be the living room. It doesn’t even smell too bad. The residual soreness in her neck and back made her wish she had slept on that couch instead of the floor. Alright, maybe I’ll sleep on that. It looks more comfy than the floor.
She caught sight of the room’s light switch. Doesn’t hurt to check. She flicked it. Nothing. Oh well. It’s not even that dark right now. What other rooms are there?
In the closet of the large bedroom she found blankets and sheets which must have been overlooked when the building was abandoned. She spread the blankets out on the couch.
She held a portion of sheet in front of her. She still sorely lacked clothing and couldn’t think of anything else that might work. OK. Should I just wrap this around myself? It’s big. Maybe fold it in half first? The claw of her middle finger caught in the fabric as she wrestled with the sheet.
What? No. Stupid sharp claws. She reflexively jerked her hand away, widening the tear even more, the sheet still wrapped around her hand. She dropped the sheet to avoid completely ruining it. Stupid, stupid… and this isn’t going to go away, is it? I look like a freak. People are just going to run screaming in terror the second they see me.
She took a couple steps away from the dropped sheet and hung her head. Her feet had torn up the carpeting wherever she’d walked; little tufts of brown sticking out of the floor. What’s the point? I could tear it to pieces, but that doesn’t help at all. But people wear clothes. I’m just running around naked right now. She took a deep breath.
Just take it slowly this time. Having to work around wings and a tail put a damper on her inner fashion designer, but she eventually cobbled the sheet into a toga-esque looking thing with minimal catastrophic tearing. It’s better than nothing, I guess.
Unfortunately, her discovery of the sheet and sofa was the limit on helpful things. There were other apartments, maybe they have other stuff. She went back and poked her head out into the hallway. Still no one. Searching a couple of other nearby apartments turned up situation much the same as her original one. Lots of dust and not much else besides broken furniture. The last one she’d checked was completely bare of everything, even carpeting.
She returned to her original apartment. The glare of the sun through a hole in the opaque plastic window covering caught her eye. Are there people around? Maybe I’m not so weird. She closed her eyes for a moment and concentrated. Distant talking, she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Something large went by, faster than she could have ran. Well, I guess that means there are people outside right now.
She tore aside the taped up plastic sheet from the window. A few people walked outside below her. She heard movement, and a car drove by. OK, that’s what a car sounds like. But… no one has any wings. They’re all normal. Now what am I supposed to do?
She retreated from the window and crashed sideways on the couch. This twisted her wing inward, and the back of the couch bent her tail near her spine. Her own surprised flails threw her off the couch. She shot back to her feet and uncurled her claws as she whirled around on the sofa. It did not react. Of course.
She relaxed and sat on at the edge of the couch with enough room between her back and the back of the couch for her to curl her tail around. She relaxed her wings to either side of her, having kept them tightly folded against her back since she’d gotten up. Oh! That feels so much better. She stretched them out fully, each nearly as long as the couch itself. Wow. Those are… big.
Her stomach grumbled, catching her attention. She remember she needed to figure out where and how she was going to get food and water. She paused when she remembered her teeth.
Sharp teeth. That means… um… that means something. Meat? Something to do with that? That does sound good. But I’m really hungry right now, anything sounds good. And there are a bunch of people around. This is a city, I can smell so many people all around.
I just don’t know where to get food from. She noticed she had been clacking the claws of her thumb and index fingers together. They’re so sharp. And I’m really hungry. And… am I thinking about eating other people? No, no, no. Not doing that. I’ll… I’ll figure something out.
She leaned her head back, stretching her neck. Who am I kidding? I’m just some weird monster thing. No one else really looked like me. Or… maybe there are other people like me out there. Maybe I just didn’t see them. I only really saw about five or six people. But what if there’s no one else? I think I’m weird, other people will too. They’ll probably just throw me in a zoo or something.
Her stomach grumbled again. I still need food. The sun was setting, and it didn’t smell like rain again. Real clothing wouldn’t hurt, either. Maybe I can find out if something is going on. There’s not much information in here. Maybe I’ll go outside when the sun is down. It’ll be better than just sitting here.
Several hours later, she found herself back at the ground floor of the building, facing the dented metal door from last night. Open it. Just open it. I need food. Her hands did not comply. It doesn’t have to take long. I won’t go far enough to get lost. I can hear really well. I’ll hear someone coming. Just open it.
She took a deep breath, opened the door, and took a few paces outside. No hordes of angry people arrived to jeer at her, which she took as a positive sign. See? There we go. Just keep moving now. The dumpster still smelled awful, but other than that, the air smelled just like a city would smell. A great stew of indistinct scents, many of which weren’t that great to smell.
She set off in a random direction, staying well away from the main streets and what looked like residential areas. Once or twice, she ducked into an alley or behind a dumpster to avoid being seen by homeless people, but besides them, the streets and city seemed almost deserted. She could always hear cars moving around, but none ever approached where she was sneaking. She could always hear a siren in the distance, though they never approached.
She rustled her wings a bit. Flying would be cool. I don’t know how, but it would be cool. Food and water need to come first, though. She came upon a strip mall; the Rocky Mountain Shopping Center according to the large sign in the parking lot out front. Among the fast food restaurants, gas station, and other sundry stores was a drug store. Out back, a man unloaded crates of water bottles from the back of a truck. Water!
She sniffed. No one else here, I don’t think. And that donut shop smells good. But do I just ask for some water? What if he says no? Or just runs away? How else do I get some water, though? Just take it? What if I get caught. I’d rather not steal, but I’d rather not die of dehydration, too.
She waited until she was certain there was only the one man working. It wasn’t all that hard to see, even with the sun gone, and she swore her eyes would almost zoom in on distant objects. I don’t see anyone. I guess he’s the only one out here.
She crept up as close as she could to the truck. The worker stomped away with another load, grumbling something about his lazy ass partner. No cars. Go. She ran as fast as she could to the truck. Her feet skidded as her claws found traction. Don’t trip. Please don’t trip. She grabbed a crate. It was far lighter than she thought it would be, but she saw the water within and wasn’t about to complain.
She bolted, getting out of sight before the worker returned to the truck. She returned to her apartment to drop off the water, drinking an entire bottle when she arrived. One of the plastic bottles had a large hole in it from a claw, but otherwise nothing had gone wrong. She then returned to the streets, heading in the opposite direction from the strip mall. I didn’t really see anything else there, and I think I have enough water now.
Soon, she stumbled upon a newspaper vending machine thing for a paper called the Westward City Times. In its window was the front page, dated Saturday, April 13, 2013. Is that the name of this city? Or is this city just west of something? The front page story of the newspaper didn’t make any particular sense to her. A man in front of a burning building stood with fire shooting out of his hands. What? Why would he light a building on fire? That can’t be real, can it?
Just below the headline, she caught sight of the line ‘by Olivia Parker’. She caught a couple more names skimming the article itself. People have names. I need one, right? I don’t have one, I don’t think. Could I just come up with one? What are some names? She looked back at the newspaper. Olivia sounds like a nice name. Is it weird that I’m taking it from someone else, though? She looked around at the empty streets. Well, no one else is around to call me weird. I guess… I’m Olivia.
Olivia heard a car draw closer from behind her. She didn’t know if it would turn down the street she was on, but darted down an alleyway just in case. Right, I’m looking for food. Her heavy, awkward stomps had a bit more bounce to them as she left. I have a name now. Olivia. I like it.
After an hour of fruitless searching and hiding, Olivia finally found something else worthwhile: several garbage bags piled on the sidewalk. From the smell, and the sleeve sticking out of the top of one, they were full of clothes. The sign on the bags said something about a pick up for a homeless shelter. Real clothes. But… I can’t just steal these. I won’t die without them. These are for other people. Homeless people, too. But I guess I don’t really have a home. I can just take a couple things, and put the rest back. That makes it better, right? Half of them will probably be men’s clothes, anyways.
Grabbing two bags, Olivia returned to the apartment once more. The clothes were old, but mercifully clean. After a set of underwear, she choose a pair of jeans. As she attempted to put them on, her heel claw caught on the first pant leg. Oh no! She jumped slightly, her front toes extended a bit, and the last eight inches of the jeans were shredded beyond repair. Oops. Um, maybe something not so tight. She dug up two pairs of large, baggy cargo pants and put them on successfully.
Tops were a bit trickier. The hem of the shirt caught on her wings as she pulled it down. Well that’s uncomfortable. Um… She held a hand to the base of her wings, the bones were about two inches in diameter there. OK, I just need to cut some holes in the back of the shirt. Is there a knife, or scissors around? She remembered her claws right as she began to head towards the kitchen. Right.
She ran the claw on her index finger through the back of the shirt, then ran into the exact same problem as before. The tops of her wings, where they folded, were much bulkier than at their base, especially with the leathery membrane stretched between the bones. After cutting bigger and bigger holes in the back, she eventually just cut two long slits all the way down a t shirt, starting a couple inches under the collar. It wasn’t perfect, but far more dignified than being wrapped in a bed sheet. She tailored several shirts accordingly, then stuffed the rest of the clothes back into the bags to return later.
OK, I’m making progress. That’s good.
Olivia spent the rest of the night dodging people, with success, and looking for food, with no success. She wasn’t desperate enough to dumpster dive quite yet, but she had witnessed perfectly good food being thrown out behind a fast food joint. She kept that in mind as a last resort. But those dumpsters smell so awful.
There were few people out, even for the time of night. There was the occasional yell or scream in the night, but there were few cars and fewer pedestrians. Olivia could always hear a siren through the cool air though, sometimes very close by. Why are those always on? Should I do something?
She returned back to her apartment as the sun started to rise again. I’m getting really hungry now. Those dumpsters had food…
She lay face first on the couch, her feet sticking off the side. Laying on her back just pushed her wings and tail into her back. Look at me. I’m thinking of dumpster diving. What’s the point? I’m just deluding myself. I’ll never fit into society. I have no one to talk to, no friends or family. People would probably run screaming from me the moment I show up anywhere. I won’t be able to get a job or money, or anything that money buys, like food.
Olivia cried herself to sleep again that night.