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A Trickster's Tail - Part 8

Copyright (c) 1997 Phaedrus; All rights reserved

This is either pretty darn good, or it sucks. I'm not at all sure which.

(November 3)


Keith groggily rolled over, blinked, called out "Give me a minute, okay?" Then he realized that he hadn't done any of those things.

"I'll be back in about an hour, okay?"

"Thanks; you're a doll," Kickaha called. He rubbed his eyes. Something was wrong with his hearing. He put a paw to his right ear; it came away dark, sticky. He tasted it.


He blinked, looked down at the pillow. He saw the green wrapper, the brown stain.

{{Oh. That's what that was.}} He shrugged, and licked his paw clean. Then he started on the pillow.

{Eeeeewwwwwwww. Kickaha, that's gross...}

{{It's pretty good, actually. Does the maid have any more?}}

{I imagine so. And I imagine she's going to be having words with the person or persons who got chocolate and coyote spit on her pillow.}

{{What? I think you're hallucinating.}} As if on cue, the stain on the pillow disappeared... and the hairs on the sheets along with it.

{Ummmm-hmmm. Speaking of hallucinating, didn't we have rather a lot to drink last night?}

{{I seem to recall so, yes.}}

{So how is it that I can still think?}

{{Hangovers aren't very fun, are they?}}

{Can't argue with that. You know, we should probably be careful about drinking that much. Things might happen.}

{{Things always happen. Some of them are just funnier when you're drunk.}}

{Maybe so. But as the voice of reason in this relationship, I just have to point that out.}

{{So you're taking the job?}}

{Kickaha, it still has to be a two-way street. You have to try to be a little responsible too.}

{{Oh, I promise to try. Really. I just want you to know up front that it never works.}}

{Well, then, if I want out of this in one piece, I don't have a lot of choice, do I?}

{{Great, Trust me; once you resign yourself to your fate, things get a lot more fun. So, are you ready for your first lesson?}}

{Let's go to the bathroom first, okay? I still have this nagging feeling that all this is a dream, and I'm going to come to my senses in the shower and laugh at all this.}

{{So I either get to crush your last hope or kill myself. Cool.}}

The Olympic Peninsula, on the western coast of Washington, is home to some of the most beautiful forests in the nation. By car or boat, it can be a day trip from Seattle. By air, things get substantially faster.

And so it was just before noon when Keith stood, in the middle of nowhere, with the pouring rain dripping off his snout, breathing in the incredible scents and wondering what on Earth had possessed him not to go out here before.

When asked why a park wouldn't do, Kickaha had said that introducing someone to magic was a major event... difficult to hide, even for him. So a quiet area seemed prudent. Keith was no longer in a mood to argue.

{So, this is where you teach me how to Sing?}

{{Nope. This is the one part I can't teach you. This is the part the world just teaches you. Or it doesn't. If it doesn't, I guess we come up with a new plan. But it should. I mean, it took me, so its standards can't exactly be very high...}}

{What are you getting at?}

{{You'll find out in about thirty seconds. But first, do you have any reservations about this?}}

{Well, yes!}

{{Very smart man. Just pay attention. And remember, I'm vouching for you here. Don't make me look bad.}}

Keith was so flustered he couldn't even come up with a comeback for that.

And then Kickaha Sang.

The beginning, the greeting, was largely the same as always. He reached out to the world; and, after a few moments, he felt the contact, the questioning. He closed his eyes as the rush of sensation hit him, the exhiliration of acceptance. He briefly joined the Song, not rushing, not trying, just being.

Then, as the warmth of the power started to flow into him, he smoothly altered his Song a bit, smoothly transitioning into the Introduction. He couldn't recall ever using it before--certainly not in this situation. The rhythm of the Song seemed to falter, and there was a deep sense of questioning. Kickaha made his reassurances, but to no reply. Even in the peace of the Song, Kickaha began to worry; perhaps this world had decided not to take newcomers at all. Then, finally, he felt acceptance. The Song resumed its rhythm, and its tempo seemed to slow in waiting.

And Kickaha pushed Keith into the Song.

Keith had caught none of the nuances of what was happening; he only felt Kickaha begin whatever it was he did, saw his eyes shut, felt the warmth start, then stop.

Suddenly, the world reached up and swallowed him.

He felt the rain beat down on the grass...

saw a flicker of prey from the ground below...

heard the rustling of the eagle's feathers as he scrambled for cover...

the warmth of the sun on his leaves...

the rumble of a car from the road overhead as he tunneled...

the shriek of a rival male from the tree...

the smell of blood trickling from the kill...

the pain of a tick burrowing under his skin...

the water flowing through his gills...

He saw the world through a thousand sets of eyes, heard and felt and smelt it from a thousand directions. It was all too much. He tried to block it out, tried to close his eyes and ears and noses, but he could not. He could feel himself slipping away. Where am I? Why am I here? Who are you?

Who are you?

It took him what seemed like forever to realize that he was being asked a question.

Who are you?

He tried to remember, tried to picture himself; he could not. He was a blur of eyes and wings and wood and fur. Nothing seemed right.

Who are you?

He felt hopelessness, loss, anger, desperation. And finally, a flash of understanding.

He was trying to answer the wrong question; the answer wasn't a picture, wasn't a form.

Who are you?

I am me.



Then, everything went black.

And suddenly, his eyes were open, and he was seeing the world through his own two--two!--eyes, gasping for breath. He toppled over backwards, felt the ground at his back, clenched at it with his claws to satisfy himself that it was there, that it was where it should be, that it was only in one place.

{{You're all right. You're all right. You made it. It's over. You passed.}} Kickaha sounded almost panicked. {{You're all right. I'm sorry. What happened? I couldn't tell. What scared you? I didn't think it was supposed to be scary. Mine was pretty fun. Oops... I mean...}}

{Kickaha... I'm fine. Really. I think.}

{{Then, um, can we get up now?}}

Keith picked himself up. He had gotten pretty well used to his new legs before, but suddenly they felt... normal. He didn't need to try running; he knew he could.

{Um, Kickaha... if you don't mind, I really think I'd like to be in a city for a few hours right now.}

{{Sounds like a plan. Wanna fly?}}

{Why don't you do it, okay? I'm still feeling... a little weird. And I don't think I need the practice anymore.}

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