Happy Friday everyone!
I have a couple of other posts to do next week, so I thought I’d post part 3 of the story for you today. Enjoy!
Afraid to move, McKenna remained motionless with her eyes closed, gasping with sudden exhaustion and the adrenaline crashing around her body.
Sounds of fluttering wings beat against her skin, as though her entire body registered the noise, especially her legs. Vibrations traveled the length of them, giving her a sense of direction where the sound originated—directly in front of her. Trembling under the strange sensations, she couldn’t make herself look to see if an angel had come to claim her, or Lucifer himself.
“After your father’s stories of you, it doesn’t surprise me your Shyll form is that of a dragonfly,” the stranger said, his voice a comfort in chaos of her mind.
Shyll? What did he mean about a dragonfly?
“He loved to wonder what you’d become, McKenna.” The man padded nearer. “Please don’t be afraid. You’re safe here.”
Curiosity forced one of her eyes open a slit. A striking man stood before her with wind-tousled blond hair, eyes like summer night skies filled with twinkling stars. He wore nothing but a bit of black cloth wrapped around his narrow hips. His pale hand, decorated with gray splotches up to his shoulder, extended toward her.
Beyond him, the greenhouse and everything in it had grown to gigantic proportions. Either that or she’d…shrunk?
When she opened her mouth to launch a scream, nothing happened. McKenna tried to lift her hand to her throat, but she found a spindly black leg where her arm should have been. Something moved against her back. A twist of her head—farther than it should have been able to move—revealed a set of paper-thin wings with veins of silver running through them. Another set protruded from her other side. Terror ripped through her with crippling force. She thrashed and tried to run, but her legs, all six of them, didn’t work the way she remembered, and piles of fabric on the floor impeded her progress.
“Whoa.” The man’s hands folded her wings back and held her against the floor with his weight. “It’s unnerving the first time, I forget sometimes. Just relax and think about your true form. Concentrate, and you’ll shift back.”
Shift back? What do you mean? The words rattled around in her head but found no exit. His touch and calming words helped her to do as he said. McKenna imagined her reflection in the mirror that morning, her stormy gray eyes, her shoulder-length auburn hair. A splitting sound came with a few pops as her body contracted and pulsed, but no pain came along with it, just pressure. Her skin grew tight until it fit her properly again.
Whimpers fell from her lips as she raised her shaking hands to look at them, uttering a gasp of relief that her fingers had returned.
“That’s better.” The man crouched beside her, wearing a bright smile. “I’m Kendu.”
McKenna tore her stare from the odd gray markings all over Kendu’s body to look at his face. “What are you? What happened to me?” She scrambled to her feet and discovered the material on the floor was her clothes. With her new size, she could have fit into the pocket of her capris. “I’m still small!” Her voice rose to a shriek, and her hands attempted to cover her nudity.
“There are things you must see before I explain everything. Put this on.” Kendu tossed a few strips of fabric to her like the one he wore, while averting his eyes.
After struggling to wrap the material and tie the ends so it would stay on, McKenna stared at Kendu. “I’m dead, aren’t I? I hit my head, and I died.”
“No, you’re not dead.” His eyes shimmered with a touch of humor before turning serious again. “The artifact is designed to breech the skin of a new owner. By mixing your blood with our soil, you’ve become our new guardian.” Kendu’s smile appeared a little sad but none the less warming. “Please let me take you to the village, and I’ll explain everything.”
“Guardian?” McKenna slid fingers into her hair. “Is that what my dad was? You’re the ‘them’ he was talking about in the note.”
Kendu nodded. “The very best we’ve ever had, and yes, he spoke of us. We miss him terribly.”
Tension sang through her body. “So…you’ll tell me why I had wings, and what happened with my dad, if I go with you?” She didn’t know whether to run screaming, or to jump for joy that maybe Dad hadn’t been off his rocker. “And then you’ll put me back to normal size?”
“Anything you want to know. Once you see the village, I’ll tell you how to return to normal.”
McKenna blew out a breath as if she’d been holding it all her life. “Okay.”
“I’m going to shift, so don’t be afraid.”
Her eyes widened as Kendu dropped to his hands and knees, and the skin along his back opened. He never made a sound as giant gray wings with blue eye-like spots unfolded from either side of his spine just under his shoulder blades. The rest of him contracted into an oblong, furry moth body with two antennae protruding from his head. When he spread his wings, McKenna backed up a step, never having seen such a large insect.
Kendu edged closer to her and flattened his wings, like a horse waiting for his mount. She scanned the area for any witnesses to her acid trip, before climbing onto the moth and gripping a handful of the course hairs that covered him.
With her nose pressed into Kendu’s warm, fuzzy back, McKenna inhaled his clover-fresh scent while his wings beat against the air, carrying them up to the third shelf of plants that had seemed miles away from the ground to her smaller eyes.
When he landed, she climbed off and stared at what looked like a dirt road winding down the center of the containers. Overhanging foliage gave it the appearance of a shady path through a lush countryside, each leaf moving independently as if individual minds controlled them. Every flowerpot had at least one doorway and two windows, and some had more that looked like they would open to a second story. Some of the pots sported dots or stripes, some had hand-painted tulips and daisies, and some were plain ceramic in various shades.
Did Kendu and his people live in the flowers?
Kendu grunted as he changed back, and then wrapped his cloth around himself again. McKenna hadn’t noticed where he’d stashed it during the flight, and she didn’t ask.
“Welcome to Shyllandra,” Kendu said from behind her. “Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Screwed up eight ways from Sunday, something out of Alice in Wonderland that had stolen her dad from her, but she supposed it was beautiful if she could get past all of that. Without turning to look at Kendu, she said, “I don’t understand any of this. You’re a moth. My blood dripped onto your magic dirt, and…are you saying I turned into a dragonfly?”
“We’re shape-shifters that predate any the human legends cover. We were born with the earth itself, though we never needed a guardian until the humans began destroying our safe havens to build their parking lots and high towers. One of my ancestors developed a way to alter a human so they could be part of our world and understand who we are. Your form happens to be a dragonfly. Your father was a grasshopper. Normally we’d never recruit someone with a family, but we were desperate after our last home was destroyed. The seeds your father planted are the last we have, and once they’re gone….” Kendu rounded McKenna and stared down at her with shadows swirling in the depths of his eyes. “I’m so sorry we took him from you. He talked of you oft—”
“Save it.” McKenna strode down the road, trying to outrun a lifetime of hurt. “This is all ridiculous. If he thought so highly of me, he wouldn’t have spent all his time with a bunch of freak bug shifters who live in flowerpots. Why didn’t he just tell me?”
Kendu’s feet pounded the dirt until he caught up, and then kept pace beside her. “It’s forbidden for a guardian to reveal us to anyone, a rule put in place when one of our original guardians tried to sell us to a circus. Even if they choose to, it’s physically impossible. I know your father tried.”
“Isn’t that convenient.” She uttered a low groan and walked faster. “Just show me whatever you need to so I can get back to my life.”