In the middle of the night, I came awake with a fright. I had the image in my mind of specter, and I was sure I had just seen one… except I sensed nothing but Sam’s screaming fear. A second later, my friend let out a howling shriek. I threw my mind around the room, desperate to find the attacker, while fumbling for my scrying glass. Even when I managed to get hold of it with my tiny paws, I still couldn’t feel anything definite.
At last, I realized that the specter I had seen was in Sam’s mind.
She was having a terrible nightmare, like a memory replaying from that afternoon. I grabbed her arm and tried with all my strength to shaking, hoping to wake her. Mr. West then came bursting into the room and threw the light switch. At last, she came springing awake, with a jolt which sent me flying off the bed.
Zindavoor dreams aren’t the same thing as Human dreams. We have a hazy awareness of our mind sense, and use it to sort of snuggle up with other Zindavoor minds, if they’re close enough. We spend the sleeping time kind of trade sleepy, warm feelings. Mom tells me this is because we’re Sensitives, not because we’re aliens. In other species that have a resting process like sleep, the Sensitives do the same thing.
But we can do the same to non-Sensitives if we are right next to them, so I had snuggled up to Sam’s mind, and began feeling her dream. When it went bad, I was experiencing it along with her.
While I don’t have nightmares, I know what they are, of course. But this was the first time I ever encountered a Human nightmare up close. I was shivering from fright just like Sam.
I wasn’t injured, but when Sam realized what she had done to me, she pushed out of her father’s arms and went looking for me, all frantic and worried about me. Once she found me on the floor near her dresser, she scooped me up and put me back on the bed. I had to endure a body inspection until she had convinced herself I was okay. Finally, she got back into bed and curled up with me again, while a worried Mr. West kept watch over us.
The next morning after breakfast, my parents came inside for a discussion with Sam’s parents. They were both now wearing civilian clothes, in order to blend in outside during the day. Sam rested on the couch with me laying next to her, but I could hear our parents discussing Sam and me at the kitchen table.
They discussed the most obvious item first, to get it out of the way. We couldn’t go to school. Sam needed guards, and I… well that went without saying. Then I learned how long it would be until they could get a new mannequin for me.
My mom broke the bad news. “The change to a larger body for Tawny is every summer and winter vacation. An order is in progress, but Earth doesn’t have this sort of technology yet, so mannequins ship from a planet of one of the Allies, many light years away.”
In fact, that planet was very, very far away. It was impossible to get a message to them in time to hurry up the order before it would ship anyway. I wasn’t getting my new body any time before August. Until then, I would be ‘in a hospital in Houston’.
“And how much longer is your daughter going to stay at our house?” Mrs. West demanded. Even if my mother couldn’t see her feelings, she would have had no trouble telling how hostile Sam’s mother was about me.
“The watch must continue. The specters still circle,” Mom said in a flat voice. It was her calm way of saying, Hey, we’re busy fighting a battle here! but I don’t think Mrs. West understood.
Daddy was more helpful. “Until the reinforcements from other bases arrive or enemy no longer watch. Then she goes to visit Zindavoor enclave, to meet her family. She never met any except her parents and her uncle.”
I didn’t know what uncle he meant. I didn’t learn until later that that Rufus wasn’t just Daddy’s friend, he was Mom’s younger brother. I didn’t worry much about it though, because I was too busy worrying about meeting all kinds of people I didn’t know existed a minute ago. Up until that time, my parents had sort of allowed me to think they didn’t have any living relatives.
Daddy had to go back outside, because he was still on duty. Mom stayed for a only little bit longer after he left. She rubbed my head and smiled at me. “Tawny is okay?” she inquired, and I did a careful head nod. It’s funny how even something as simple as nodding is an unfamiliar action when you’re in a new body. She smiled again, and dug something out of her purse.
I stared at it with dismay. A collar?
It was a choker necklace, but collar was my first impression. I guess because I now had fur and stuff. But if Mom noticed my reaction, she didn’t mention it. She just took my glass and pulled it off the pendant chain.
The necklace was pretty, made from three parallel strings of pearls. After attaching my glass to a dangling chain, she fit the necklace around my neck. I had been afraid it was going to be tight, but it was comfortable. “It is common way to carry a glass outside mannequin. Human pendant chains do not work well with Zindavoor shoulders.”
I stared at the dangling glass, having some major doubts. If I sat up, it would hang halfway down. If I walked, it was long enough to drag around on the floor. It just didn’t look right at all… but while I was looking at it, Mom dug out a black band, which she slid onto my arm. The glass clipped to the armband, the chain looping from neck to arm. She sat back and appraised the work. She liked how I looked in it, although she stayed calm and practical about it on the outside.
“Good,” she judged. “Most would also wear a belt-pouch, but one small enough was not available. You will get one while you visit the family. Your grandfather makes these things for you.”
After she left, I fiddled with the glass for a while, experimenting with taking it out and putting it back. I was afraid at first it would get snagged when I needed it, but I managed okay.
Sam was asleep, so I curled up to take a nap too. It was only beginning to sink in, that school was over for me for the year. And that none of my other friends would know the real story about what happened to me. My parents had told me the higher-ups had come up with some story about the two of us being in a hit-and-run accident. Our injuries were so bad we had to go to a hospital in Houston. Our classmates would be hearing that story, at right about that moment.
I didn’t like the idea. I know I’ve kept being a guardian hidden, so I’m accustomed to secrecy, but this wasn’t secrecy. It was dishonesty, and I wondered how I would handle it, when I finally saw my friends again.