Four days, four long days on the road to Toronto. I hated every second of it, but it was made bearable thanks to some music I had in the hot and stuffy PTV. Donít get me wrong, I really wanted to go and get out of the small, dry town I had previously called home.
"How much longer?" I moaned. I had asked the question numerous times on our travel, scratching down the ticks on the back of a notepad. One hundred and forty six now in my count.
My mother sighed and looked back to give me a peeved glare. "I told you ten minutes ago!" she said, waving an arm to add emphasis.
I shrugged. "I forgot."
A foam stress ball collided with my head from beside me. "Forty five minutes," said my older sister. My mother smiled softly and turned back.
"And again, it shall feel like eternity!" I announced dramatically. I knew my parents regretted me taking drama class last year.
My name is Oliver Netherland, just an eighteen year-old human boy living a droll life here on Earth. As you could probably tell from when I said, "previously called home", I meant that my family and I were moving, or as my father called it, "migrating", closer to our relatives in the city.
My sister, Jasmine, was nineteen, and just finished school and was looking at a university degree in astrophysics and engineering. I never really saw her as the one to get her hands dirty in such things as repairing engines and machines, but she wanted to join Star Fleet with at least some usable credentials.
Everyone in the family thought so highly of her. Then they looked at me and said "OhÖ YouÖ" I prided myself in the arts, like drama and music, and I could play some instruments really well. I had always said, "Iím going to be get famous," but really, thatís all a matter of chance and insane luck. If anything, Iíll end up washing dishes at a fancy diner.
"Look! There it is!" my mother said and pointed far ahead of the car. The city was now in sight, and I was getting excited. I pulled myself forward and stuck myself between my parentís seats. ĎWhoa," I muttered.
"Sit down, Oliver!" my father said, and swatted me upside the head as he always did when I stepped out of line.
I sat back and crossed my arms. Jasmine giggled and I stared at her. "Shut up, Jas."
I was rewarded with a foam ball being pelted in between my eyes. "Iím not the annoying one," she retorted.
Seriously, werenít parents supposed to get involved in sibling conflicts and end them peacefully? If so, then my parents were not doing their jobs right.
"Just a few more blocks, then weíre there!" my father announced.
"About time!" I moaned. "Now can I ask whatís for dinner?"
My mother sighed. "Canít you just wait? You had lunch only two hours ago, and you already ask for supper?"
I shrugged in my seat. "Iím growing," I retorted.
Okay, to be honest, this meaningless conversation lasts for some time, right until we get to our street, before my father interrupts.
"Here we are folks! Our new home!" He parked the car and stopped the engine.
I was the first to open the door of the vehicle to get out and look. All I could say about it at the time was that it was big and old-fashioned. It was nice. "I call first dibs on my bedroom!" I called and ran to the door.
I wasnít quite surprised to find it open at all, as the moving company had already arrived with most of our things. I was a bit too excited to notice their old van in the driveway.
I went about the house in record speed, looking to lay claim to my room. I settled with the bedroom in the basement, right next to the rec-room (Because when I canít sleep, I might as well watch some late night shows.), and jumped on the cot that lay conveniently in the corner of the room. It was pretty roomy, and had a nice window going all the way across a wall with a good ledge to place some junk I collected.
I could hear my parents moving about upstairs, shuffling through boxes to get everything in their rightful places. I eventually went back up to help out, if you mean that in the way of getting my box, and only my box, of possessions. After picking it up, I went back downstairs to sort it.
Nothing more than a single box of dusty, seldom-used crap. I never really had the impulse to buy anything more than the odd CD, a few posters, a camera, and some accessories like a pair of shades, a necklace, a wallet, and some other stuff. I have no need for a lot of things.
I was in the middle of placing what little I had on to the window shelf when I heard my dad call. "Oliver! Come up here and meet the neighbours!"
"Just grand," I groaned to myself. Based on shows on the television Iíve seen, this was going to be the moment that decides my fate here. In which I mean first impressions. Oh, how do I hate them?
I walked up the stairs casually to go and greet them. Every step felt like murder in my mind. Upon seeing them at the front door, I instinctively grinned.
"And this hereís our son, Oliver." My father introduced me to the Squirrel-morph couple. "Oliver, say hello to our new next-door neighbours, the Harlands."
I nodded. "Hey."
They both nodded as well in reply. "Hello, nice to meet you. Iím Lindsay." Mrs. Harland spoke first.
"I am Michelle." Mr. Harland spoke in a slight French accent. He extended his hand to shake, which I was obligated to in the presence of an elder figure. He spoke up again. "I íope you folks íave a very good time here."
Correction, he spoke in a very thick accent.
"There are very good people here et bon ècoles." He continued. "I apologize that ze others were not able to greet you as well, but they will be by shortly."
"Oh, itís alright, Mr. Harland. No need to apologize at all!" my mother said.
"We all planned for you come by for dinner and get to know everyone better." Mrs. Harland tilted her head. "I hope you would be able to come."
"We will, thank you for the invitation!" Mom replied.
"Then it is settled!" Mr. Harland spoke up. "Drop by around six, non?
Dad shook his hand and they departed. I let out a small sigh and went back downstairs to get my things out of the box.
It wasnít long enough until the next pair came to the door, but now I was at least ready. My father had finally set up the television in the living-room, which had a good window view of the front yard. I merely turned my head an inch and I saw two Chakats coming up. They must have spotted me in the window, as they waved as they passed.
Of course, they rang the doorbell. I got up from my seat, walked about five steps, and opened the door with a bright smile. I quickly took noticed that one was holding a tin pan.
The duo smiled as well. "Hello there, young man," the black, silver-striped Chakat spoke first. "My name is Moonpaw, and this is my mate." She gestured to the tan, spotted Chakat to hir left.
"Silverstep, nice to meet you," shi picked up, fumbling a bit to grip the pan in hir hands better. "You must be one of the new neighbours living here?"
"Iím Oliver," I replied and extended my hand. Moonpaw gladly took it and shook hands. It was difficult for Silverstep, as her hands were full, so shi just nodded. "My parents are in the back yard." I moved aside to let them into the house. "Just go on through."
"Thank you very much, Oliver," Silverstep said and went on in, followed by Moonpaw, who patted my head as shi walked by.
Now, to my understanding, some people arenít too comfortable at first around Chakats. I donít quite know why, as I grew up in a small town that had maybe four of them running about. I had learned a great deal about them in my biology class when we were studying taur anatomy, with them being the most prominently used diagram to discuss the inner workings, simply because they nearly had everything in them.
I went to go open the back door and announce the presence. "Hey, mom, dad!" I called. They were working on cleaning the yard of dead foliage, as well as checking out the garden which I labeled ĎDeath Valleyí in my mind as soon as I saw it there. "More guests!"
I moved aside to let the two Chakats pass.
My parents stopped what they were doing and walked on over to greet them. Mom spoke first. "The Harlands told us you would be coming by."
"Yes, sorry. We were busy making you a little welcoming treat, courtesy of the street of course," Silverstep replied and held out the pan shi had been holding for some time. "We hope you like brownies; it was the first thing that came to mind when we were thinking."
Dad took the pan. "Thank you very much," he said gratefully. "I assume you would be going to the dinner the Harlands are having?"
"Oh, yes, definitely! Even if we didnít want to go, which we really do, mind you, our children would still drag us there." Moonpaw giggled a bit from a thought. Shi turned to me. "Which reminds me, I do believe our eldest is about your ageÖ How old are you, Oliver?"
"Iím eighteen," I replied. A toothy smile spread across hir maw.
"Thatís great! Iím sure youíll get along just well with our daughter!" shi said and patted my head again, messing my hair. "Well, weíll see you all at dinner then!"
"Wait!" my mom spoke up. "I donít believe youíve met our daughter yet, have you? I think she went out to look around the street. Sheíll be back in a while."
"Oh! I think weíve already met with her. We passed her on the way here," Silverstep replied. "Very nice girl, and I can see the resemblance to you."
""Why thank you very much! Iíll tell her you said that," Mom graciously said.
The Chakat duo left for the time being, and I went back inside to watch some TV. Nothing much was on, so I simply let my mind wander as it pleased. I became curious about whom I would meet at this dinner and if there would be anyone I could communicate with around my age.
I donít know how long I sat there with a blank face, but a violent shove from behind brought me out of it.
I rubbed my shoulder and turned around to my sister. "What the hell was that for?" I complained.
"You were looking like an idiot and itís six now."
"Time to go already? I was looking forward to this show that was about to come on." I whined a bit, but didnít mean it. I got up from the chair and cracked a few joints.
"Youíre going to be one sore old man when you grow up," Jasmine commented. I gave her a sideward glance and walked in the direction of the front door.
"Better than the burly ape youíre gonna be!" I admit, that retort was a little weak. But really, I did believe she was going to have quite a bit of muscle from the career she actively chased.
I was rewarded with a heavy smack in the back of the head. It only stung for a second, so it was no big deal. I simply ignored her, because sheíll shut up the minute sheís in the company of other people.
Mom and dad told us to go on ahead and tell the Harlands that they will only be a minute or two behind. Of course, mom was putting on some make-up to look good, and dad just stayed to wait up.
When Jas and I made it to the door, we were greeted before we had the chance to even knock.
"Ah! Jasmine et Oliver!" Mr. Harland smiled and led us in to his home. "I assume your parents are not far behind, so please, make yourselves comfortable. Everyone is already here, aní they would very much like to speak with vous!"
Not even five steps into the house, and a yellow blur flashed in front of me, nearly making me fall before Michelle grabbed my arm.
"Watch your step, that un is a little wire," he warned.
"What was that?" I asked, regaining my posture.
"Shiís un of Moonpaw and Silverstepís Ė Sunspot, I do believe."
The cub made another round, and this time I was prepared and stepped back, just short of having my legs taken out from underneath me.
Michelle shepherded us further into the home, all the way into the living room. I heard voices rise in a roar of greetings, far more than my mind could process.
"Everyone, I would like you to say bonjour to Jasmine et Oliver!" Mr. Harland said to the small crowd of humans, morphs, and taurs. "Jasmine et Oliver, I would like you to say bonjour to ze neighborhood."
Various greetings filled the room. Jas and I waved shyly.
The doorbell rang and Michelle quickly went to go get it. "Aní here is the rest of Ďem!" The squirrel rushed them into the room and the exact same thing happened to them.
Conversations and nosy chit-chat filled the room after we were seated. Introductions were made, while I just smiled pleasantly and replied "Nice to meet you."
Mr. Harland walked up to me with whom I supposed was his son in tow. "Oliver, I would like you to meet my oldest lad boy, Johnny."
I smiled and waved. "Hey there, Johnny."
He smirked, no doubt trying to play cool for the new kid. "Hey."
We shook hands and stood there awkwardly. I assumed Mr. Harland wanted us to talk, so I just shot up a subject. "So, nice place you got here."
He shrugged. "I guess." He picked up a plastic cup and took a sip out of it. "Hey, everyoneís downstairs, come on."
Mr. Harland patted both of our shoulders. "There you go. You kids go hang out and do whatever. I know how boring it is up here."
"Uh, ya." I said and gestured with my hands. Johnny began to walk off to the stairs and I followed.
He moved quickly down the stairs and darted around a corner. I was halfway down when I heard him talking above some other voices. "Okay, everybody! Shut it. The new guyís here."
I heard the slamming of a pool table and a cuss before a new eruption of greetings.
The five other people in the room was around my age, and 3 younger ones here and there, lounging about either on soft cushions in front of a massive television, or by the pool table I had heard.
I raised a hand and meekly said "Hi", before everyone went back to what they were doing. I was slightly nervous. As I said, I hate introductions. I quickly found a seat in the mound of cushions and looked at the TV screen. A movie was playing, but I couldnít recognize it.
I turned to my right and came eye-to-eye with a chakat, the fourth one of the evening. Shi was of a tan fur colour, contrasted by dusty-red hair, and again by a pine-green halter-top.
"Hey," shi replied.
"So, um, whatís playing?" I asked.
Shi shrugged. "It was playing when I got here, so I donít know what itís called." Shi turned around behind hir and shouted. "Johnny! Whatís on?"
He turned from the refreshment table that was hidden by a bookcase. "Itís called Red Summer. It came out a few years ago. Itís an action movie."
A moment after he said that, I turned to see one of the characters being torn to pieces in some sort of deathtrap. "Some action," I chuckled nervously, my eyes widened by the sight of the gore. Everyone else that was watching backed up in their seats; one even cursed loudly.
"Holy crap!" said a human boy with a thin beard growing on his face. He grabbed at the remote quickly in front of him and paused it when the gore was off camera. "There are freakiní kids here!"
Johnny shrugged. "Fine, weíll watch another movie." He turned to the bookcase and found a movie in amongst the novels. "Just about soiled yourself is what you did," he muttered loudly, for us all to hear.
The boy didnít start an argument and turned the TV to a sports channel. "All you have is horror movies and lame documentaries, and none of us here really want to fall asleep before twelve."
"Really? You seemed to like passing out by eleven last time you were here," John replied. He grinned as a cracker was thrown at him, connecting with his side.
They started to argue, but kept their voices down to a minimal.
"Forget about John and Keith, they do this often, but it never gets violent. Give them a few minutes and theyíll go completely off-topic," the chakat said and looked at me. "My nameís Kinstreak, whatís yours?"
"Uh, Iím Oliver." I was hesitant to speak, again, because Iím around new company.
"Well, let me be the first one here to welcome you, Oliver." Shi leaned towards me and gave me a hug.
"Um, thanks," I said when shi let go.
"So how are you liking it so far here?" shi asked.
"Um, good. Got a nice room."
"Thatís nice," shi nodded. "Well, do you know anyone here already?"
I shook my head. "Just Johnny, and Keith now, and you."
Shi pointed to a female wolf morph. "Sheís Kate. She lives further down the street." Shi then pointed to a sleeping skunk morph. A look at his face showed a moustache and glasses of cream cheese. "Heís Jeff. He fell asleep earlier, and well, thatís what you get when you pass out around John and Keith."
I chuckled a bit at the poor skunk. "Iíll make sure that wonít happen."
Sunspot dashed down the stairs and around the room.
"Thatís my little sister."
"I know, shi tried to take me out at the door."
"Yeah, Sunny has a habit of doing that. Too much energy if there is such a thing." Kinstreak grabbed a glass that was on the floor in front of hir and took a sip. "I have two more sisters. Thereís Snow, shiís only a month younger than me, and this hereís little Star." Shi leaned forward to show a black and white-spotted ball of fur curled up on hir lower back.
It was there that I made sense of Kinstreakís name. A red stripe went all the way down from her shoulders to the base of her tail, where it faded into the tan colour of hir body, as well as hir younger family member laying on it. It only made sense that shi was called Kinstreak.
"The rest are Johnís brothers and sisters. Thereís so many, that I canít keep track of them. Some are older, some are little."
I looked around for the other chakat that was mentioned, but didnít see any more in the room. "So, whereís Snow?" I asked.
"Shi wanted to spend the night with hir date, so shiís somewhere around town." The chakat shrugged.
I nodded. There wasnít really much I wanted to say after that. Introductions were made and that was good enough for me. I turned my attention to the TV. A hockey game was playing, I wasnít really interested, but I watched anyways. Occasionally, I would catch Kinstreak staring at me, quickly turning to the television as if shi wasnít. It felt odd, but it prompted me to say a little bit more.
"My friends call me Olly," I said.
"Everyone calls me Kin for short," shi replied. "Do you know what school youíll be going to yet?"
"I think my parents said I was going to West Leigh."
Hir eyes brightened and John and Keith stopped their bickering. "Looks like weíll be seeing you around quite a bit," John called out, having a death-grip on a bowl of marshmallows.
Keith was being held at armsí length from John, by his forehead. "New face at the table, means I donít pay for Fridayís fries anymore!"
"We all go there too," Kin added in.
"Thatís awesome!" I said. Immediately, I was bombarded by various warnings about the school. What to do, what not to do, whom to avoid, who was the best teacher, all of that. A few stories about classes of later years were told, at least until Jeff woke up.
"WhaÖ Who are you? Why does my face feel funny and smell cheeseÖ" He mumbled before quickly falling back into sleep once more. We all laughed.
I knew if I hung out with this group, school might drop the S and the H for me to a degree. I was about to see, as I was going to register for my classes the very next day.
To be continued.
Copyright © 2010 ArcticKiba
Chakats and the Chakat Universe are the creation of Bernard Doove and are used with his permission.
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