Sora’s mind jerked out of sleep as a sharp pain erupted in her brain. She couldn’t think or move. Her bones felt like jelly as her muscles writhed beneath her burning skin, razors dicing her nerves with prejudice.
Her eyes snapped open, and she jolted up as a piercing sting reverberated along the entire length of her spine, but she was unable to scream. Her eyes were on fire as dazzling patterns of randomized images flashed in and out, tears dripping down her cheeks. Fingers shaking, her blood boiled as it surged through her veins. Her jaw wouldn’t open; it was clamped shut, her teeth ached with a pulsating spur. Her tongue drove against the roof of her mouth in anguish as another sharp spike to her spine sent her shooting back down.
The harassing incursions didn’t cease so abruptly this time as her head felt like it was splitting from the inside out. It seemed to last days, a cancerous miasma that slowly corroded her body and mind. Then, suddenly, the invasive torture abruptly eased without warning. Wide awake, she’d lost all track of time. Her body was numb, her hearing blurred, and her sense of smell was dead.
Sliding to the edge of her bed with effort, she looked down at her quivering hands. She didn’t feel any pain, but her body continued to quake. Calming herself, she stammered a sigh and placed her feet on the floor. Trying to stand, she toppled to the ground, unable to feel her tongue or legs.
Lying on the granite floor, Sora stared up at the ceiling with dulled eyes. What’s happening to me?
She glanced at her clock, slowly making out the hazy numbers: two A.M. My body’s numb … hearing shot … I can’t smell anything … What happened to all my sharp senses yesterday? Why am I having all this pain at night?
She winced as a dim pounding sound reverberated through her mind, she strained her ears as best she could, trying to center on it. It increased its pace, volume rising. The louder it got, the more her senses returned. She could smell odd fragrances and taste leftover rabbit, spice, and toothpaste residue in her mouth.
Sora was first curious, but soon became distraught as the pounding in her ears began escalating, louder, louder, and louder still. Darting up, she clapped her hands over her ears to no avail. Standing, she ran to the front room, stumbling down the last few stairs. Scrambling to her feet, she fell several times. The pace and level of the beating picked up with every breath.
She threw open the patio doors and darted to the spa. The noise had turned into a cacophony of thunderous resonations that reverberated around her skull. She dunked her head in the warm water, the sound instantly dampening.
Sighing in relief, she choked and pulled her head out of the water. With sharpness, the harsh pulsating sounds returned at a racing velocity. Sputtering and spitting, she inhaled and submerged her head again. Shifting position to lay on her back, she lifted her nose out of the water. Breathing deeply, she sighed in relief, body quivering. A whimper bubbled through her throat—the noise leaving a thumping migraine.
Letting her hair lift up to freely float across the water, she sank down, resting against the granite tiles in an attempt to collect herself. She lifted her head enough to breathe through her mouth and groaned. Taking a deep breath, she turned and pushed herself into the water, the liquid soaking into her nightwear. Twisting to face up, she floated to the surface and let part of her face break past the water, the cool night breeze stinging her skin with crisp clarity.
She moved to the lying area of the spa and fitted her head into the cushioned headrest underwater. The slow current dragged her hair down toward the edge, making strands stick to her neck and cheeks. Her migraine had become bearable since she’d submerged her head in the water. Closing her eyes, she focused on her hearing and found that she could concentrate on specific noises; the motor, bubbles rising, water motion, and tubes’ suction.
Depressed, she opened her eyes to stare up at the ceiling overhead. I don’t want to live my life with my head half submerged.
She focused on the pounding and drew the conclusion that it was her heartbeat. Obviously, this pain comes from sounds, like my heartbeat, but it’s all too sharp … too loud.
Swallowing nervously, she lifted her head and winced as the noise resumed. Ducking back under, she sighed. Maybe it’s a temporary thing, like last night. At least I hope it is.
Letting the warm water marinate her skin, she breathed a heavy sigh and noticed a strange scent that carried along the ocean breeze. She shifted her eyes to the right, finding the same black two-tailed cat sitting on her balcony railing.
I’m on the forty-eighth floor! How did it get up here?
The cat cocked its head and then leaped backward, plummeting down.
She sprung up, head spinning as the noise returned with ear-splitting resonance. Spots dotted across her vision, and she fell forward into the water. Regaining her senses, she kicked down and broke the surface again, gasping for air. Another dazing blast struck her mind, and she staggered backward, falling into the water.
Half submerged, she laid in the water in paralyzed bewilderment as her brain tried to recover. Why—fell—drowned like this!
In taking a breath, she calmly eased it out. Fact … I can’t get out of the water without losing my mind completely. Fact … I have a freaking horrible migraine! Fact … I’m an alien … It’s the only explanation.
Giggling to herself, she smothered it with a growl, yelling, “Why do I keep doing that? Laughing instead of crying in misery!”
Flailing around for a minute, she breathed heavily as waves cascaded over her body and noise rolled around her skull. Yup … an alien or maybe a mutant freak. X-men? No … not that cool.
Giggling again, she let it work around her stomach and escalate into a full laugh. “I’m so bizarre!” Smiling broadly, she winked at the ceiling, “No reason to fight it.”
Her body suddenly felt heavy, and her mind told her to close her eyes. Pushing herself to the spa’s dozing spot, she rested her head on the incurved cushion and fell asleep.
* * *
Awakening, Sora stretched, feeling smooth water bubble across her skin. Opening her eyes, she found the sun rising. She felt extremely thirsty. Lifting her fingers, she found them wrinkled and sensitively soft.
Standing up in the spa, she stiffened, waiting for the sound. Hesitantly, she eased her muscles and strained her ears. She found a multitude of noise resounding through her mind, but she could filter them all out to a lone source or just a normal radial area, controlling the volume. Laughing, she said, “See! What did I tell you, Sora, just a little fritz.”
Walking into the kitchen, she felt a strong ocean breeze tickle her head. Reaching up, she scratched her scalp. Her body locked and she felt a heavenly tingle run from her spine to her toes and then back up to her head. Realizing her breath had caught, she released it and looked up, subconsciously trying to look at the top of her head. Pursing her lips, she walked to the guest bathroom and flipped on the light as water trailed behind her.
Blinking a few times, she stared at her reflection in the mirror. It took her a few seconds to fully realize what she was looking at, before letting out a light scream. Leaning closer, she frowned and brought her hands up to tap what she could only describe as animal ears. Touching the top edge, she felt another jolt shoot down her spine.
Stunned, she brought up both hands and pressed them down. “Ears?” she whispered in disbelief. She could feel her hands pressing them down as if she was pressing on her nose, the sensation rippling back to her brain. Shoulders drooping, she released the pressure and grabbed the end of her new left ear, pulling up.
Wincing and tittering with pain, she released it. Pulling back her hair, she’d lost her human ears. My ears are gone … changed?
Legs spreading into partial splits, she dropped to the countertop, holding herself up with folded arms. “Spectacular, now I’m an animal alien.” Snickering at her words, she didn’t feel scared in the least. “That’s right Sora! Take it with a positive perspective! I mean—how many other girls would love to have—cat ears—dog ears?”
Pursing her lips into a pout, she straightened and moved closer to examine her newly acquired ears. It was the same color as her hair, though the reddish sheen got darker near the tips and the inside was quite light-colored, with black deeper in. Studying them closer still, she found a thick bunch of hair around the entire inside of the ears, thinning near the openings.
Sliding up to her feet, she stepped back and studied the size in relation to her head. They were fairly large, six inches, she judged, and their base started a few inches above where her normal ears had been.
Tilting her head back and forth, she watched the ears stay stiff as her wet hair weaved around them. “Hmm, they’re more like fox ears,” she mused.
That confirms all of Kari’s comments about foxes … even Jin. She paused at the thought. Have I always been a fox girl?
She rubbed them from the base to the tips. The sensation was blissful and sent tingles throughout her entire body; it felt as damp as her hair. Flipping to the inside, she lightly scratched it with a fingernail. A strange purr escaped her throat; it was unlike any sound she’d heard.
Hands darting up, she clamped her palms down on both ears. “No! No! NO! This is not rational! What’s happening to me? Am I some human fox?” Growling in frustration, she stomped around the bathroom for a minute before looking back at the mirror in desperation.
What will Wendy, the staff, Jin, and Eyia say … What will Kari and Lori do to me?
To her surprise, her ears had pulled back, making her look extremely vulnerable, yet at the same time super cute. Unable to help a smile, she laughed silently.
“Wait! I can pull back my … fox ears?” She closed her eyes and tried imagining her ears moving back and forth. Opening one eye, she found them alternating with her thoughts. Shaking her head, she let her hair fling wildly. She approached her reflection and stared into her bright green eyes with a grimace, noticing her pupils had elongated like a cat. “Sora … you are too weird. I’d pick on me!”
Turning off the light and closing the door, she let a half-smile light her right cheek. The room slowly came into vision, not quite as good as daylight, but only slightly. She studied the counter, her eyes widened as colors started to shift and she saw various purplish and green highlighted colors all over the place. She could see fingerprints and other odd impressions, she didn’t even want to look at her toilet.
With the feeling of wanting it off, the colors shifted back to a more clear vision than she was accustomed to. She leaned close to the mirror to examine her eyes and found her pupil had expanded greatly in the dark space. Shifting to study the bathroom overall, she frowned.
Note to self … call the cleaning crew!
Walking to her room, she yelped as she caught sight of her digital clock; it was ten-thirty A.M. The most alarming thing was the day; Thursday, not Wednesday. “I slept through an entire day!”