Changeling Wars: Misummeria

The year is the 2030, and mankind has never faced a greater war. Your own children may be the enemy. Your own parents may not be all they seem. And you are the weapon, if you didn't know.

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3. Parade

I peep through the window and watch the townspeople in secret. Their blaring voices - each a single note in an acapella chorus of shouts - are soon died down by the figure standing on his make do platform of what looks like a gigantic, grand soapbox. Its rectangular base is a plush purple, and makes the dirty scuffs of footwear the speaker is wearing look even more plain as they shuffle awkwardly, wondering how to grab the dazed attention span of the mob. I recognize the uncertain face as it comes into view almost immediately. It’s my father, an occasional leader when it comes to anti-faerie campaigns. His stance reflects the power he's been handed momentarily, and we look as though we don't share a single gene. Except our hair color once perhaps, but stress has wilted the copper from his own until at last it's silver and thin. Will he be the one to condemn me? I wonder with baited breath.  What would they say about Henderson’s kid, a secret faery all along?

I gulp as the final mutters of the people become a deafening silence for my father to build his speech on.

“Quiet, quiet now thanks.” His voice is firm but his face less so - surely he’d look sadder at sending me away with an almost guarantee I won’t return. Maybe inside he's breaking, and puts on a brave face in order to scavenge whatever pride he can minutes before his son is caught. I can't blame him; or a Tamlin civilian his life is surprising idealistic. It's pleasant to think some people can build houses upon war sites and travesties, and find a quiet happiness. "Happiness is an illusion, Liam." I remember his heavy words on a cold Sunday morning. "But the best illusion there is in life. You know the best thing about that? You can pretend you're happy, and you'll be happy. Now, wipe the frown off your face." He'd misplace my hair and go about his daily business, leaving me to take in his words like decoding a language I didn't understand. Only now, I can't brush those words off and question his sanity. I'll have to take them in my stride, and pray he's right. 

By his upbeat tone, I convince myself I'm safe. Surely they would have broken down the door by now, and pulled me out to be thrown into the wrath of Tamlin's people. The lavender scented, welcoming, kindly smiles in the street would be the ones to spit in my face as I departed. I’m careful to hide my wings as I look below, as the playful idea that it isn’t over yet makes me feel what happiness must have felt like. I gulp as he goes on:

“I am happy to announce that thanks to our trusted friend, and I don’t think he’d mind if we used the term hero either, has just captured another Faery." I search the crowd for the familiar mop of sleek black hair and find him without trouble." Peter, where are you?” My father smiles as he locks eyes with the man, who glides to the front and bares his perfect teeth to the swooning audience. The crowd erupts for a moment, and a crazed woman's screech drowns them all out until she is escorted away to calm down. The people buzz with a new hope - because for them Peter is hope - and cheer as his long hands outstretched as he reaches the podium. My heart sinks as I think he can see me, but he shrugs off my shadow and instead greets his adorers. They all silence as he opens his mouth, eating every syllable as though it was the absolute truth.

"Thank you, thank you." He shushes them gently and I can feel the envy bouncing off every girl in the group towards the microphone he holds confidently between his palm. His aura is electric, the deadly mix of charisma and wit that both comforts and intrigues his audience. He's an infatuation; the local celebrity and heartbreaker all rolled into one package; complete with the fans who tattoo his face into their arms and thrust their limbs proudly as they try to catch his attention. They don't care about what he does, only how he looks. That's why Peter's different from the celebrities that occasionally flutter in through rare magazines. Because despite his fans we all fall head over heels for his profession. He's a faery hunter. 

I feel sick as I realize it will be Peter, or a carbon-copy of his charming but terrifying self, that will encase me if my father doesn't.

Peter has a gaze so perfected every person believes he is looking directly at him. His eyes are a dark brown, so abyssal it feels as though he stares straight into the onlooker's soul. I remember meeting him at school one day back when he was starting out in his business, but was causing a great scene with every turn of his finger. Already the local newspaper was printing ten stories about him a day.  "What do you want to be, son?" He's only about ten years older than me, but as he boasted masculinity and I was still stuck looking far younger than I was, he assumed I was just as childish as I was imaginative. "A faery hunter, like you." That dream was always short lived  as soon I neither wanted or neither had the option to become hunter, but now it was impossible. How could you become a killer of your own people? Peter was caught up in his brisk waves and smiles, before he cleared his throat and feeling his rugged chin readying the many pairs of willing ears.

“As you all know," He began, his voice irresistibly rich. "There is many responsibilities of my job. We are the closest a solider of this war can achieve to the front line. But today, I had the privilege of fulfilling the task you all expect of me and my partner. Vince, are you there?" He nods to the body standing a good few feet from everyone else as he strains his eyes. The sunglasses glint in the sunlight as the man nods and proves he's there. Vince is obviously the muscle of the team, while Peter is slim Vince is bulky but strong. Vince stands besides a covered square with a sly grin slowly emerging from his thin lips. Peter claps his hands in delight. "Fantastic! Now as I was saying.. Today Vince and I caught another of our enemy." This is where Peter becomes slightly wicked, and the crowd know it. The transformation is immediate  slowly he slips out from his warm skin and into one that beats a heart with cold blood. That's another thing people adore about Peter. When it comes to faeries, he is ice cold and unwavering to send them away. Like everyone, he has reasons, but unlike everyone he has the chance to avenge his losses to another level. He gives Vince a signal and Tamlin's applauses become snarls as Vince rips off the sheet, revealing someone far too much like me to fathom. But she is entirely different, too.

Her wings are diamonds that glimmer from her back in shades as pale as her  serene and crystallized eyes only a swatch of color from what I remember of Cas'. Her pupils are more narrow than ours and unnoticeably so at a glance, and her face is lined with a grin that almost reaches from one of her slightly pointed ears to another. Apart from her wings, she could be us. Only her features have shaped a degree sharper like her jawline. Her skin is a untainted canvas that looks soft to touch, and her essence begins to pull at my heart strings without condoning me. I know the key in survival when it comes to faeries to fight against your own heart, because it is their easiest path to controlling the mind, but I don't want to. I want her to drag me to her world, and she knows to because her eyes look up to mine for a heartbeat. I hide but to my surprise she says nothing, and simply laughs a steel laugh as people hurl insults at her. She must have a name, a family... but they don't care. I don't care, really. It's her aura that is trying to force the compassion on me, but I am as heartless as my fellow townspeople. All we care about is spilling that mythical blood that had shed so much of ours. All we want is for them to hurt to. She doesn't give Vince the satisfaction as he verbally abuses her to stand up. She simply crosses her legs and pouts, like a toddler and not a weapon. He reaches into the cage she's been backed into and pulls on her hair that must be the height of my mother, and is adorned in flowers of the wilderness all clipped into place my her long, dark locks. That forces her up, and her head hits the roof as she is fully extended. 

Everyone has rushed towards her now, until they can almost reach into the cage themselves to torture her for their own retribution. "Where is she?!" No one is watching Peter except me as I pull my eyes away from her and I watch Peter roll his eyes at the latest plea for information. It's the infamous Nixon father, but who else would it be? By now everyone's forgotten his first name, or at least never says it, and simply refers to him as his only will in the world anymore. He's the Nixon father, without his beloved daughter. He always calls when a faery is paraded, but is never answered. His child that was never replaced by someone like me is the gaping wound in his heart he refuses to heal. 

"The Nixon child? Hah!" Suddenly a voice so desirable but evil snaps from her mouth as she wraps her fingers around the bars and watches him. "Oh don't worry, we've taken good care of her..."

"You-" He's caught off as he runs towards her by the other men who take him away screaming and crying for his daughter. It's a weekly occurrence now, the swapping. Only no matter how normal it becomes, it doesn't make it fair. Peter taps the Nixon father's back as he is dragged past him. The faery's smile has extended for the heartbreak she seems to find pleasure in. 

"Faerie scum!" Peter spits, and I realize this won't ever be safe. I'll be an invalid breaking from the inside. She only seems to be spurred on by the blind hatred, and gracefully accepts their insults as though they could be throwing roses; but all they seem to scatter in their words are thorns. As Vince begins the task of shipping her around, we are all painfully aware what will happen to her, but we do nothing to stop it. Why would we? It's people like her that caused our heartbreak, and continue to starve our families, wreck our homes. Faeries are as close as we can reach to a personification of everything that hurts us, and she is our prime example. She who only urges us to be meaner, who shows no remorse and still manages to be beautiful while doing so. 

Beautiful, but cruel. Isn't that always the case? I've dealt with girls like that my whole life, the unintentionally cruel absence of Cas, the extremely intentional girls at school who blossomed at the age of four and still maintain their beauty queen status. No matter the famine and unfortunate circumstances Tamlin so often fell in, these girls managed to maintain glossy manes and desirable figures like it was easy. 

As she moves, and crowd moves with her. They'll walk and chant and roar and end the final stage of her life in flames. Faeries like her don't stand a chance, even the humble don't have a hope. Capture is death, or that's what they say. I know I shouldn't watch because the fear they'll catch me is beginning to expand my wings but it's impossible not to stare. She captivates her audience. Peter and Vince may be the only ones not interested, and gaze around the surroundings as though they haven't see it a thousand times. Tamlin is caught between a quaint little village and the battlegrounds of a war. Rubble is commonplace among the sidewalks and the windows of shops are heavy with dust there's no point in cleaning. Still we remain optimistic, and wave as we pretend it's not a danger to be here.

I suppose I'm not the only one living in denial, at least. Tamlin is the great pretender, and I'm only playing the part of a civilian. The voices soon die down until at last they are only whispers I can block out with the palm of my hands. Suddenly, the door cracks open and I hear the mutters of my parents. Finally I can manage to move and clean my wounds and my wings cool down to a normal size.

"Liam?" My father asks the hallway, and all the tension seizes all my muscles. "Come on, Lee. If we want to make it to the Claustrum, we'll have to get going now." Still and startled, I can't seem to find the words that piece together recently. Because we all know what happens at the Claustrum, and its fate for hiding faeries is never good.

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