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Wyvern: Book 1: The Coin
Wyvern: Book 1: The Coin
Wyvern: Book 1: The Coin
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Wyvern: Book 1: The Coin

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Meet Quinn.

Quinn is twelve-year-old boy much like the other twelve-year-old boys he knows - except that he was born in the body of a girl.

Home on Earth, Quinn happens upon a coin in the dirt, and is transported from his own world to Aldia, a strange world where humans live alongside wonderful creatures called wyverns. In Quinn's quest to return home, he discovers that the wyverns are victims of a centuries old curse. Despite having wings, the wyverns cannot fly.

He learns that the coin that transported him to Aldia may be the key to breaking the wyverns' curse. Eager to be of help, Quinn postpones his search for a way home to join the wyverns in their effort to return to the skies. However, to succeed, Quinn must accept, without doubts, who he really is.

Can he do it?
Release dateOct 1, 2016
Wyvern: Book 1: The Coin
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    Wyvern - Kyle McGiverin


    The Duchess and the Vyekin

    I have never met a creature as strange as a wyvern.

    I remember the first time I met one. I remember what I thought, and what I saw. I remember being terrified, and curious, and in awe. I remember everything that went through my mind. I remember the first thing I said; I remember the first thing the wyvern said to me.

    It’s a long story, a story I haven’t told anyone…not yet.

    But it’s one I should tell – many stories, about the wyverns, and about me, and about people and places and things borne of a wild imagination.

    The wyverns themselves were creatures with no gender, no boy or girl, male or female. You didn’t call a wyvern he or she. You called a wyvern wy. Something that belonged to a wyvern wasn’t his or hers; it was wys. And when you spoke to a wyvern, you were not speaking to a him or a her. You were speaking to a wym.

    It took me a long time to understand what they were, and how to talk about them, but it didn’t take long for one of the wyverns to become my closest friend.

    As clichéd as it sounds, though, the story doesn’t start with me. It starts before I even existed, hundreds of years ago.

    And, funnily enough, it starts on a dark and stormy night. Go figure.

    *    *    *

    The rain, the story goes, had been falling for days.

    The downpour blotted out what little light the stars and the twin moons could provide. It cascaded upon the land called Tyrney, the smallest and most isolated nation of the Aldian Republic. From coast to tumultuous coast, the whipping winds and cold rain drove most of the citizens – human and wyvern alike – indoors, sheltering themselves from nature.

    A vast forest sprawled across the land near the southern coast of Tyrney. Its trees boasted thick, full leaves, greedily facing upward towards the storm, showering themselves in the rain before allowing it to drizzle to the thirsty roots. Beneath the canopy, sheltered from the howling winds, the forest was almost calm, the patter of raindrops and the calls of a few nocturnal birds the only sounds to be heard.

    The calm was broken as running footsteps raced through the brush. Two cloaked figures, their hoods raised against the rain, ran as fast as they could through the tangled leaves and branches. Their hands were scratched, their feet and legs sodden, their cloaks freezing against their panting bodies. But they did not stop. Even as one of the figures fell and tumbled several feet through the mud, she rose to her feet again and kept going.

    After many minutes, the first figure suddenly slowed to a stop, one hand raised in warning, one finger to her lips. Her companion stopped as well, breathing heavily, sweat mingling with the rain on her forehead. What is it? she asked. Ana, why are we…?


    The other did as she was told, eyes cast cautiously about. Both stood very still. A bird trilled nearby; water continued to wash its way down the leaves, branches and brush.

    Then, almost imperceptibly, came the faint sound of wing beats. Immediately Ana’s eyes darted upward toward a gap in the canopy. A few seconds later, a large shadow swooped overhead, heading south.

    Wyvern, said Bea.

    Ana nodded. Probably the same one we’re after. Come on!

    The two took off again in the same direction, pressing their way through the bulk of the bushes and leaves, trying to make as little sound as possible. The first kept her eyes peeled straight ahead; the second kept glancing back to ensure that they were not being followed.

    Another few minutes passed until Ana suddenly screeched to a halt. Bea crashed headlong into her, and together they tumbled through the foliage and out onto the border of a large clearing. Ana picked herself up and glanced about, eyes wide. Back! she hissed. Get back into the trees!

    They scrambled back into the brush, crouching low and looking out into the dark clearing. They peered through the falling rain towards a large pond, its waters steadily rising toward its banks. The air was suddenly very still.

    Bea pulled her hood down and pushed some of her sodden black hair off her forehead. Her dark skin and deep brown eyes were all but invisible in the gloom. What are we waiting for?

    Ana’s green eyes narrowed as she watched the clearing carefully, ignoring the stray locks of red hair that spilled from her own hood. This is the place, she replied.

    Here? I don’t sense anything.

    It’s here, Ana confirmed. Whatever it is Torno is doing, wy’s coming here to do it. I’m sure of it.

    They waited and watched in silence. The clouds parted, the rain finally began to ease, and moonlight spilled into the clearing. Ana and Bea drew back, hiding in the shadows, waiting and watching.

    Wing beats soon returned, louder. The shadow that had flown overhead now appeared above the clearing, growing larger, effortlessly drifting downward. In the moonlight, they could see a lithe body draped in an elegant violet robe, hood raised. The creature’s jaw protruded from the darkness of the hood, its large nostrils, lips, and clawed hands covered in black scales. So too was its tail, snaking from the bottom of the robe.

    It had no hind legs; there was a soft thud as it settled its hindquarter, the larger midsection of its tail, onto the wet grass. Its scales glistened black in the new moonlight, its broad, dragon-like wings resting snugly against its back.

    Torno. Bea breathed. You were right.

    Ana didn’t reply. She watched the wyvern carefully as wy glanced about wymself, and then looked back up into the sky. Ana followed wys gaze. There were several other wyverns circling in the night sky above the forest. Apparently Torno, the Vyekin of the Republic, hadn’t come alone tonight.

    Ana lowered her eyes to Torno wymself once again, who was rummaging in the folds of wys robe. When wys hand emerged again, it was holding a small, round coin. It glimmered a silvery blue in the moonlight.

    There it is, Ana muttered.

    The coin! hissed Bea, baring her teeth. How can wy hold it like that? What about the Verdict?

    Wy was the one who laid down the Verdict. I suppose that makes it harmless to wym. She turned, resting her hand on Bea’s shoulder. Did you enchant it? Did Niphtin tell you how to do it?

    Bea nodded. Yes. And I did, this morning. But I still don’t understand…

    If I’m right, Ana interrupted, you soon will.

    Bea fell silent as they continued to watch. Torno advanced to the bank of the pool. Wys scaly fingers gripped the coin tightly. Wy raised wys other hand and began to murmur to wymself, wys fingers making circular motions over the water of the pool. In response, the water began to shimmer, blue light emanating from its surface. Slowly, the water started to swirl, as if guided by a powerful current. The blue glow intensified, illuminating the clearing. The women ducked further down behind the brush.

    This magic looks familiar, Bea whispered. Niphtin’s told me about it before. Is wy doing what I think wy’s doing?

    I think so, Ana answered. but I was hoping I was wrong.

    We have to stop wym! said Bea, lifting her hood and beginning to rise. If wy finishes that ritual—

    Ana put a hand firmly on her shoulder and pulled her back down. No! Wy’d have us locked up for treason by tomorrow!

    Treason? If the Republic had any idea what wy was doing—

    Bea! Ana whispered forcefully, and her companion fell silent, her eyes looking up into her own. The Republic itself might be behind this.

    Tense, fearful, both turned back to the clearing, where the spell seemed to be nearing readiness. The water was now swirling so quickly the pond had become a whirlpool; blue sparks danced wildly through the air. Torno retained wys concentration, immobile. Wys robe whipped about wys body in the wind. Wys hood flopped back, revealing slender, slitted eyes and a shallow fin running across the middle of wys head and down into the folds of wys robe.

    Torno’s eyes snapped open. Wys body seemed to relax, the stiffness seeping away, and wy leaned over, panting. The victorious grin on wys face, however, told them that wy had completed wys task. A few more seconds passed; then wy stood, holding up the coin in wys claw.

    Ana… Bea said fearfully. "What if the Republic isn’t behind this? Shouldn’t we at least try to stop wym?"

    Ana shook her head. With my father imprisoned? No. Even if we could get the rest of Goldwyrm to believe us, the Republic never would. Not after what we’ve done.

    Then what do we do?

    Ana sighed heavily. We watch…and we wait.

    Torno had a look of immense satisfaction on wys long, reptilian face. Wy didn’t say anything, but wy didn’t have to.

    Bea tensed. Ana’s hand gripped her shoulder tightly.

    With one last brief smirk, Torno tossed the coin into the swirling vortex.

    Ana had to clasp her hand over her mouth to prevent herself from crying out. Beside her, Bea was wringing her hands. They were facing the end of their civilization as they had known it, and there was nothing they could do but watch, helpless, hidden in the brush.

    From up above the clearing, there came a call from another wyvern. Vyekin! A messenger is coming!

    Torno’s head whipped upward, and then back toward the vortex. Wy hesitated for a moment, pondering, and then leapt into the air. Wys powerful wing beats soon carried wym away to the rest of the wyverns, whose attention was directed to the northeast. The pond – and the spell within it – lay defenceless and vulnerable.

    Slowly, Ana rose from the shadows. The spell was losing its power; the light was beginning to dim. This is it, she whispered to Bea. This is our chance.

    Bea rose as well. What are you talking about? The coin is gone! It’s in another dimension by now. It’s lost to us!

    Not if I go in after it, Ana replied, squaring her jaw.

    "What?! You’re not serious!"

    It’s our only chance, Bea! Ana snapped, meeting her companion’s eyes again. Wy’ll be back any minute to seal the rift! I will not stand by and miss this opportunity!

    But…but… Bea stammered, unable to compose herself. But how will you get back? How do you know you’ll even find it?

    Your enchantment, my love! Ana replied, taking both of Bea’s hands in hers. If I find the coin, it’ll bring me back to Goldwyrm. Her voice softened. You’ll see me safely home yet.

    Bea opened her mouth to say more, and then closed it again, letting out a small, pained sigh. A tear formed in her eye. There’s nothing I can say to stop you, is there?

    Ana shook her head, glancing out at the pond. Nothing. There’s no time left. She looked into Bea’s eyes again, seeing her own pain reflected in them. I swear I will come back to you.

    Bea shut her eyes and gave a crisp, tight nod. Then she pulled Ana to her, clutching her for dear life as though trying to imprint the feeling of her hands and body forever into her memory. Finally, reluctantly, she let go and ducked back down behind the brush.

    After only a moment’s more hesitation, Ana darted out from the cover of the trees. She didn’t bother to glance upward at Torno and the other wyverns; she made a break straight for the nearest edge of the pond. She moved too fast to allow herself to feel her own terror. She streaked across the grass and dove into the pond, and, in a flash of blue light, she disappeared.

    Bea forced herself to keep silent, furiously wiping the tears from her eyes and watching, unconsciously fiddling with the golden ring on her left hand. Minutes seemed like hours, but Torno finally descended again, landing roughly on the grass near the bank of the pond. The look on wys face told Bea that wy knew something was amiss. Wys nostrils sniffed first at the air, then closer to the surface of the pond. Wys eyes strayed to the bank from which Ana had dived.

    Bea clutched her cloak as a grin formed on Torno’s jaw, and then wy turned wys scaled head toward the forest, and wys eyes met hers.

    She stifled a cry. Wy knew.

    Torno let out a small chuckle, and then turned wys head back to the pond. Wy raised an open hand out over the swirling water, and swiftly closed it tight. Instantly the pond calmed, the blue light vanished, and the vortex disappeared.

    "No!!" Bea cried before she could stop herself. Torno’s eyes met hers again, but this time she did not stay and hold wys gaze. She stumbled to her feet, turned, and ran.

    Almost immediately she could hear the rustling behind her. They were pursuing her. Torno and wys band of Republic wyverns. She could hear their wing beats, their voices as they called out to one another, directing each other. Trapping her.

    Run, she kept thinking. Run. Escape to safety. Get to Minstra. Though she did not know what good it would do to reach the little village, it was all she could think of.

    A stray root caught her foot and she tumbled to the ground, grunting and crying out in pain as she rolled over bushes and thorns and protruding branches. When she felt her body come to a rest she lay still, knowing that getting up again would serve no purpose. She could already hear the wing beats overhead.

    Rustling noises and two soft thud sounds in the thick foliage signalled that two of the wyverns had landed. Then a third, and Bea didn’t have to look up from where she lay to know that Torno now loomed over her. She heard wym chuckle. Apparently, wy said, the Tyrnean people never tire of the consequences that must follow their traitorous actions.

    Do what you want with me, Torno, you snake, Bea spat venomously, but you’re the one who’ll pay for what you’ve done out here tonight, mark my words.

    Strong words, too, for a criminal. If I were you, I’d hope they don’t turn out to be your last. Wy turned and slithered a few feet away, and Bea felt his pair of henchwyrms grasp her arms and heave her upward. She cried out; her shoulders too screamed in protest.

    You should enjoy this night air on the journey back to Atlantis City, Torno said, sounding casual, but with palpable disdain. It may be the last time you ever feel it.

    Wy took to the air, wys lackeys soon following suit, and Bea watched the canopy recede farther and farther below her as they ascended higher into the air. From above, she could see the clearing, and the little pond where her beloved had left this world, perhaps forever.

    Ana… she whispered, heartbroken, numb to the agony in her arms and the cold in her bones. Goodbye, Ana…

    They disappeared into the night sky as the rain once again began to fall.



    Hundreds of years later, in another world, in my school’s science classroom, I was staring at a picture of a snail.

    Eww, said Taylor under her breath.

    Eww, I agreed.

    I had long since tuned out the voice of my least favourite teacher, Mrs. W. We called her that for two reasons: first, because we couldn’t pronounce her last name, and second, because the letter W also stood for witch, and we thought that suited her. I tuned back in to what she was saying, because it was better than staring at a picture of a snail.

    The picture in your textbook is a regular garden snail, she was saying, somehow miraculously interested in her topic. That snail isn’t like most species. We humans, for example, come as boys or girls. One of the two, not both. Right?

    Duh, Taylor muttered. I kept quiet but stifled a laugh.

    "Well, the garden snail – most snails, actually – are very different. They don’t have a male or female as we do. They are both male and female at the same time. And, in fact, some snails can have babies completely by themselves!"

    Eww! Taylor and I chorused, audibly this time, looking dubiously at the snail in the picture.

    Quinn! Taylor! Mrs. W. was looking directly at us. Again. There’s no need to be so rude. Sit up and pay attention.

    Taylor sighed and sat up straight, brushing her thick black hair out of her face and staring up at Mrs. W.’s wide-rimmed spectacles. When I stayed still, she turned them toward me. "Now, young lady!"

    I gritted my teeth, but sat up and leaned forward on my elbows. That was enough for Mrs. W., so she continued her lecture about snails, but I was no longer listening. "I hate it when she calls me that," I muttered to Taylor.

    She patted my arm sympathetically. I know, I know. Just ten more minutes, just ten more minutes…

    I let out a breath and ran a hand through my red hair. It fell to just below my ears, just a little shaggy, the way I liked it. My hand moved back over to rub at my right eye, and passed down my cheek and over my freckles before returning to the desk. The baggy black hoodie I was wearing was a little too comfortable, I decided. It made me want to lay my head down on my arms and sleep.

    Or maybe that was the Mrs. W. effect. I nodded to myself. Probably.

    I’m not sure how I survived the next ten minutes, but the lunch bell found me wandering my way out of the classroom and through the halls of my middle school, heading for the gym. Our school was too small to have a cafeteria, so we ate lunch every day on the gym floor. It suited me fine; Taylor and I always tucked ourselves away into our favourite corner, and that was that.

    I hated it on days like today, though. Feeling frustrated and stressed out made the thought of going into that gym a nightmare. All those voices, laughs, jokes and the same old dumb stories made me cringe.

    I collected my lunch bag from my locker and turned to head for the gym to meet Taylor. I was looking inside the bag as I walked and as a result, slammed headlong into Mr. Singh.

    Oooph! I wheezed as my lunch bag fell to the floor, contents spilling out everywhere. I quickly stooped to gather them up. Sorry, Mr. Singh, I said.

    He was my favourite teacher, although he was never actually my teacher. He was half-guidance counsellor and half-drama teacher, and all-awesome, as far as I was concerned. His glasses were even fatter than Mrs. W.’s, but he somehow managed to make them look cool as they sat atop the bridge of his chocolate-skinned nose. He was spear bald, having shaved off the last fringes of his hair, and wore the most boring clothing of any of the staff, but he was fun and full of energy just the same.

    He found the plastic baggie with my sandwich and brought it back over to me. In a hurry then, Quinn?

    Nah, just… I sighed. One of those days, I guess.

    I can tell. He stooped to one knee and leaned on the other, a sympathetic smile on his face. Anything you want to talk about?

    I shook my head, but he looked at me over his glasses. Are you sure?

    I zipped up my lunch bag and bit my lip. Well…maybe.

    That’s what I thought. Come on, he said, standing up and brushing off his beige slacks. I was just heading back to my office anyway.

    I stood as well and walked alongside him. Taylor would wonder where I was, but she’d understand.

    So, spill, Mr. Singh said. What’s on your mind?

    I shrugged. Just Mrs. W., I guess.


    I shrugged again. She called me young lady again today.

    Ahhh. He nodded. That explains a lot. Why did she say that?

    Because she’s a boring old hag, I thought but didn’t say. Instead, I said, because I wasn’t listening.

    He nodded again. I see. Some things never change, I guess.

    I scowled. It’s not my fault she’s a—

    Please, he held up his hands, interrupting me. I’d rather not hear that sort of thing, if it’s all the same to you.

    Well, she is.

    We rounded the corner of the hallway and stepped through the open door of his office. That was one of the things I liked about Mr. Singh: his door was literally always open. He sat down behind his desk and I took a seat on the other side, taking my sandwich out of my lunch bag. I knew he wouldn’t mind; this wasn’t the first time I’d eaten lunch in his office.

    As I ate, I looked around the familiar little place. It was disorganized, but comfortable. His desk was covered with various piles of paper, notes, binders, folders, all sorts of things. But the walls were what I really liked. He’d put up all kinds of posters – mostly travel destinations, with one inspirational Garfield poster thrown in for good measure. His shelves held pictures of his family, little statues and other ornaments he’d collected from places he’d gone around the world.

    He lounged back in his chair. So, how are things at home?

    Okay, I said, but my mouth was full of sandwich so it sounded like Okhrg.

    That’s good. Any more trouble with your brother?

    I swallowed and thought about it. Meh. Same old.

    I’m sorry to hear that.

    I shrugged. Whatever.

    He folded his hands. And what else is new?

    Well…track tryouts are coming up.

    That’s good.

    I looked down at my lunch. Suddenly I wasn’t all too hungry anymore. I zipped it closed. Yeah, I guess so.

    He raised his eyebrow. Don’t you want to try out? You’ve been talking about it all winter.

    I shrugged again. I asked Mr. Long like you said. He said there’s no mixed team this year, just the boys’ and girls’ teams.

    Oh. And you’d have to try out for the girls’ team.


    He leaned forward on his elbows. So, that brings us back to today, I suppose. Let’s talk about Mrs. W. Tell me what it is about the term young lady you hate so much.

    I frowned. "You know what I hate about it."

    Just say it out loud.

    I sighed. I hate it because… I hesitated. …because I don’t feel like a lady. I don’t want to be a lady. It feels…it doesn’t feel right.

    Even though it’s technically true. I shot him a withering look, and he put up his hands. "I know, I know. But as far as Mrs. W. knows, it is true. You were born a girl, you’re in our records as a girl."

    "But I don’t want to be a girl, I said angrily, slouching back and crossing my arms. I’m not. Sometimes I just want to yell it at her stupid…at her face."

    I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that, he said kindly. But we’ve talked about this, Quinn, over and over again. You can’t take this up with her until you talk to your parents.

    I snorted. Yeah, like they’d understand.

    They might, if you gave them the chance.

    I looked down at my crossed arms. The idea of trying to have this conversation with my folks made me feel nauseous. I looked back up at Mr. Singh, who was watching me patiently. "Why don’t you tell them?"

    He chuckled and shook his head. "Because that isn’t my job, Quinn. I’m just a guidance counsellor. I can guide you and support you and help you, but if you want people like Mrs. W. to treat you like the young man you know you are, that has to come from you."

    I looked away again, wrapping my arms around myself. I don’t know if I can.

    His smile softened. Quinn, you don’t have to do it alone. I can be there and help you. But only if you’re willing to take that big step.

    I bit my lip again. Mr. Singh and Taylor knew all this, and they understood, but I was sure nobody else would. My parents, my brother, the rest of my friends, my teachers, none of them would get it. I was sure of it. But all the same…

    I’ll think about it, I said to him without looking.

    From the corner of my eye, I could see him nod his head. You do that.

    *    *    *

    Are you crazy? asked Taylor.

    I shrugged, kicking a stone as I walked. I never said I was going to do it for sure.

    Yeah, but you’re thinking about it. She hefted her backpack back up onto her shoulder as she walked. Aside from her bangs, her hair was cropped short with a streak of blue through it. Winter wasn’t quite yet over and there was still a chill in the air, but she seemed comfortable in only her thin sweater. The baggy t-shirt underneath had a picture from a video game I didn’t know. Some box with a heart on it.

    Taylor was my closest friend for lots of reasons, but it helped that she was the school’s biggest tomboy. She wasn’t like me; she liked being a girl, but she didn’t like things that were girly. She told me her mom’s dream had been to be a supermodel or something, so she always tried to make Taylor do and wear super girly things. I once saw a picture where she had to wear makeup, and I couldn’t recognize her at all.

    I never let her live that one down.

    We were heading home from school, but we’d gone the long way so we could talk about my earlier conversation with Mr. Singh. She clearly didn’t think much of his advice.

    Look, trust me, she continued, "they wouldn’t get it. Adults never do. Look at my mom. If she had her way I’d be on television in some stupid dress with a basket of fruit on my head."

    I gave her a look. Basket of fruit?

    Or something stupid like that. You know what I mean.

    I sighed. Yeah, but I can’t keep hiding it forever. Maybe I should just get it over with.

    Your funeral, pal.

    I know… I shook my head, wanting to change the subject. So how was lunch?

    She shrugged. It was lunch. I ate food. Ms. Crown came up to me and told me I should think about cheerleading.

    I snorted with laughter. "Cheerleading? You? That’d be a train wreck."

    I know. I laughed in her face. And then one of the snobby girls in the other class said I’d never be any good. She’s such a snot, I hate her guts.

    I just said the same thing.

    "Yeah, but that’s different. I actually like you. Besides, you’re one of the guys."

    I smiled. It wasn’t the first time she’d told me that, but it always felt good.

    The route we were taking took us out to the edge of the suburbs and alongside a creek. There was a short chain fence that followed the bank, and new leaves were growing quickly on the trees on the other side. Spring was late this year, but it was on its way, which I was happy about. It was also warmer, which I wasn’t happy about; already the hoodie was getting to be a bit warm inside the school.

    Still, for the moment, it was nice to be out in the air. After being stuck in my own head all day, at least out here there was nothing else to bother me.

    I saw a red plastic cigarette lighter on the ground and stooped to pick it up, flicking it a few times. I knew better than to smoke, but I’d always liked playing with lighters. This one worked. I flicked it a few times.

    Taylor raised an eyebrow. What’re you gonna do with that? Set fire to the witch’s hair?

    I chuckled. No – I’m going to make it… I held up my empty hand. Disappear!

    She snorted. Oh yeah? So where is it now? Wait, let me guess…it’s in my ear! She made a big show of trying to knock it out from the other side.

    That’s stupid. Of course not. It’s obviously in your shirt. I reached up behind her neck and slipped it back into my hand, wiggling it in the air between my fingers.

    Taylor rolled her eyes, but grinned. You’re getting pretty good at that, eh?

    I shrugged. Mr. Singh had started teaching me sleight-of-hand tricks, mostly to avoid the sleight-of-mouth to my teachers. It was sort of working, except now I was getting in trouble for having cards and quarters in class.

    I practiced a few more times with the lighter, flicking it deftly in and out of my sleeve, making it disappear a few more times, before I put it back in my pocket.

    Then Taylor muttered, Oh boy.

    I looked at her, then ahead, and groaned. A pair of guys I had grown to loathe from my school were hanging out on a bench near the next bus shelter. Jay Isaac and Doug Chang – not really that popular, but not really that un-popular either. The type of guys who did stupid stuff because they thought it impressed people. Which it usually did.

    Oh hey, look! said Jay as he saw us. The Tomboy Twins. I almost didn’t recognize you without the beards. Doug laughed and fist-bumped him.

    They didn’t like us much either.

    Not in the mood, boys, Taylor said while I determinedly avoided making eye contact. No matter how hard I tried, they always got to me. I didn’t want that today.

    Aw, what’s wrong, wannabe? Doug said, flashing a nasty grin. "Don’t want to spend some time with real guys?"

    My pocketed hands clenched into fists.

    "I am a girl, you brainless twit, Taylor shot back as we passed by them. It’s not my fault you wouldn’t know one if she walked up and slapped you in the face."

    Yeah, right, Jay said. Tell that to your freakish friend, unless she’s too busy dreaming she’ll someday be a real boy.

    I stopped walking. My fists were clenched even tighter, and my breath was coming in short, rapid bursts. Taylor put a hand on my arm. Quinn…come on. Let’s go. These jerks aren’t worth it.

    Yeah, go on, Pinocchio, said Doug. Go back to your toy shop and get Geppetto to give you a—

    My right fist interrupted his sentence. He fell, then sprawled on the sidewalk, clutching his jaw.

    Hey! yelled Jay, vaulting over the bench to kneel next to Doug. He turned furious eyes up toward me. What’s your problem, freak?!

    Get bent, Jay! Taylor shouted back. I was silent. My knuckles hurt, but I barely noticed. I was standing over him, breathing hard, wanting to scream but not knowing what words to say.

    As Jay and Taylor continued shouting at one another, Doug was starting to sit up, his hand on his face. He looked at me with an expression of…I couldn’t tell what. Anger. Fear. Humiliation. And – something else.

    All of a sudden, I couldn’t handle it anymore. The gravity of what I’d done lit something in my brain, and I found myself turning, then breaking into a run. Quinn! I heard Taylor calling. Quinn, wait! Where are you going?! I didn’t stop. I didn’t know where I was going or what I would do when I got there, but I couldn’t stop.

    I ran around the corner. I followed the line of the fence, tears stinging my eyes, blinding me. The fence and the creek on the other side were my guides. I wiped furiously at my eyes as I ran. I wouldn’t cry. Boys don’t cry.

    All too soon, I ran out of road. The fence angled sharply into a dead end that would send me back the way I’d come. But I didn’t want to turn back. I couldn’t. I needed to get further away, away from the hurt, the anger and the pain. I leapt desperately at the fence, gripping the chain link. The fingers on my right hand were sore, but I climbed anyway, pulling myself up and over the fence. I tumbled across and landed roughly on my side, and for a minute I couldn’t pick myself up. Bruised, winded, and desperate, I somehow found my feet and kept going, stumbling blindly forward into the trees.

    Without warning, the ground angled sharply downward, and I lost my footing. I fell forward, tumbling down over branches, bushes and rocks. I couldn’t tell which way was up. I was dizzy. My head struck something hard, and for a minute I saw stars.

    I felt the shocking cold of the water, and then suddenly I wasn’t rolling anymore. I wasn’t moving at all. I lay flat on my back in the middle of the creek, staring up at the sky. Every part of me hurt. I felt a throbbing pain in my head, in my back, arms, legs, and hips. I couldn’t lift my head to look at myself, but I was sure I must have torn my clothes and stained them in places. My hair was a matted mess, even as the water ran through it and soaked away some of the mud.

    I don’t know how long I lay there like that, but eventually I pushed myself up, slowly. The pain in my head redoubled, and I winced, clutching at my forehead. I looked back in the direction I had come, and I saw the long, steep hill I had tumbled down, strewn with branches, bushes and debris. I couldn’t see the fence from here. Somehow, I suspected I was lucky to be conscious. Maybe lucky to be alive.

    I looked down at my legs, immersed in the freezing water. I somehow couldn’t understand how I had gotten here, how I had gone from being almost content to being so miserable, how Jay and Doug had so easily made me feel so angry, so strange and so…worthless.

    All at once, the reality of what I had done to Doug – and to myself – sank in, a terrible gulf opening wide in the pit of my stomach. I tried to hold the tears back, but they forced their way through, and the next thing I knew I was sobbing, my breaths going in and out in ragged gulps, the tears tracing a path in the dirt on my cheeks.

    I somehow found the strength to pull myself up and out of the water, climbing onto the steep bank and settling my rear into the dirt and mud. I sat there for a long time. I don’t know how long. I stared at the water, and the tears just kept flowing. Stop crying, I told myself. Girls cry. Boys don’t cry.

    But Jay and Doug’s words kept coming back to me, stinging me. Wannabe. Pinocchio. Not a real boy. Relentlessly, they struck me again and again, reminding me of what I could never have, telling me I was a failure, a failure at being who I wanted to be…and here I was, crying my eyes out on the bank of the creek, failing again. Proving them right.

    After what seemed like hours, the tears began to fade and my breathing grew more even. I stayed where I was, staring numbly at the water. I started thinking that maybe I should just accept defeat. I wasn’t born a boy. It wasn’t something I could change. So maybe I should just give up, accept that I was a girl and I always would be. Maybe then I wouldn’t be so different. Maybe then I wouldn’t be a freak.

    But it all felt so wrong. I knew how I felt. I knew I was different. I probably always would be.

    "Why is being different so hard?" I whispered aloud.

    A bird twittered somewhere in a tree nearby. I glanced over my right shoulder, hoping to catch a glimpse, but I didn’t see it. I sighed as I lowered my eyes. For a second, it almost seemed like it was answering my question.

    I leaned back, feeling in my pocket for the lighter I’d found. I pulled it out and absently flicked it a few times. The flame danced in the slight breeze. To distract myself, I slipped it in and out of my hand, and from one hand to the other. Red plastic in my palm one second, and gone the next. Magic. I snorted. It’d be nice if I could just disappear like that, I thought.

    I stared at the lighter for a while before I finally let it go out. I knew I was just killing time. I’d have to climb back up eventually and face the music. So much for magic.

    The bird twittered again as I put the lighter back in my pocket, and I turned around. This time I saw it: a little robin, in a tree not too far away. Despite myself, I couldn’t help grinning a little. It lifted from its perch and flew off into the trees, and my smile faded. What I would give, I thought, to be that free.

    Then the gleam of something metal caught my eye. I blinked, but when my eyes reopened, I couldn’t see it anymore. I angled my head, thinking maybe it had been my imagination. But then the sunlight caught it again, and there it was, just a sliver of silver sticking out of the dirt bankside.

    My troubles momentarily forgotten, I began to climb along the bank toward it, ignoring the pain in my legs and arms. It was probably just a pop can or something, but I was grateful for the distraction, and I was curious. I moved slowly up the slick slope toward it. As I grew closer, I noticed that it was an odd colour – not completely silver, but rather, slightly blue, a very pale blue. It didn’t look like any colour I’d seen before. I kept climbing.

    I finally came close enough to see it more clearly. The protruding edge looked like a metal disc – a coin, I thought, but bigger than any coin I’d ever seen. It was easily three times the size of a regular quarter, with that strange blue tinge. I started to dig away at the dirt, attempting to free it.

    Suddenly, it shook, dislodging some of the dirt, and I jerked my hand back. I stayed motionless for a second, staring at it. Was I imagining things? No, the coin had definitely moved.

    Again, I reached out my hand. It vibrated again, more sharply this time, the air around it growing warmer as I came closer.

    I shook my head in disbelief. I was seeing things and feeling things. None of this made sense – I’d just hit my head a little too hard on my way down the slope. I nervously tried to shake the uneasy feeling. It was a neat little trinket, that was all. I reached out tentatively and touched the coin.

    The second I did, it shook so strongly that I could hear its vibration, and it grew very hot. Ow! I yelped, The coin slipped from my grasp, fell, and tumbled back down the slope.

    N-no! Get back here! I called out as it rolled, and I slipped and slid my way down after it. It plopped into the water, but I kept my eyes glued to it as I inched my way closer. When I reached the bank, I peered through the water at the design on the coin. Etched into its surface was some sort of creature. With its wings and long snout it looked almost like a dragon, but it had no back legs, and its tail was long and winding.

    I crept closer. The water shimmered with the same pale blue colour. Maybe my eyes were playing tricks on me, I thought, but I hadn’t been wrong about the vibration, or about the heat. This was no ordinary coin, but…what was it?

    I hesitated for a moment, trying to decide whether I should try to take it with me. What if it was dangerous? I didn’t know what it was, or where it had come from.

    On the other hand…

    My curiosity won out, and I reached my hand toward the water to pick up the coin.


    I glanced back over my shoulder. That was Taylor’s voice, all right. She was some distance away, maybe at the top of the slope, near the fence. I sighed, the memories of what had happened slowly working their way again to the front of my mind. For a moment, I debated whether or not I would answer.

    Quinn? Are you here?

    I shook my head. I’d have to face the music sometime. Yeah, I’m here, I called back.

    Where are you?

    Down by the creek. I found… What? A coin? Not just a coin. But what? I found something weird.

    She called out a reply I couldn’t hear. Whatever; she wouldn’t take long. She’d be as curious about this thing as I was.

    I had another moment of hesitation. Maybe it would be better to wait for her, and tell her what I’d already seen. Maybe she’d know more about it than me.

    Then I shrugged. What the heck, I said out loud, and dipped my hand into the water, wrapping it tightly around the coin.

    Instantly, blue light flooded the area. It was bright, and I had to shut my eyes against it. I tried to let go of the coin, found that I couldn’t. My fingers were locked tight around it and would not come loose. The coin was shaking again, much more strongly this time, sending vibrations right up my arm and into the rest of my body. It grew very hot, and I winced at the pain. Still, I could not let go.

    Aaagh! I cried out from between clenched teeth. Taylor! Help me!!

    There was a rushing sound, and a sudden wind picked up, swirling around me and tossing my hair about my head. I tried opening my eyes, but the light was still too bright and I had to look away.

    Then I felt a strange pulling sensation, as if something had grabbed my stomach and was trying to lift me up or pull me away. I fought it as hard as I could, trying to wrench my body free of its grasp, to no avail. I looked around frantically, trying to find a way out, anything I could hold onto.

    I saw Taylor. She was frozen in mid-step on the slope. Taylor!! I called out, reaching my left hand out for her, but the roaring wind drowned out my voice. She started to run, tripping and sliding and nearly falling, trying to get to me. She was yelling something, but I couldn’t hear her. I couldn’t hear anything but the wind, and my entire body was convulsing.

    She came closer. The light grew brighter. I saw her stretch her hand out toward mine.

    And then, as if I’d entered a pitch black tunnel, everything in front of my eyes flew away, far away, until the creek, the sunlight and my best friend were nothing more than a pinprick in the darkness.


    First Impression, Second Start

    I woke up to a terrible pain in my head.

    Ugh… I groaned, bringing my left hand up to my face, tenderly feeling my forehead, and then reaching around to the side and then the back. I winced as I felt a lump toward the back of my skull. How did that happen? I wondered. Then I noticed the pain in my arms and legs, my hips, my abdomen too, and let out another groan.

    I realized I was lying flat on my back, and on something hard and cold. I fought the pain in my head, forcing myself to sit up, but I couldn’t yet bring myself to open my eyes. I sat there for a moment, fighting away the nausea and the dizziness. My head felt heavy, and the coin in my hand was—

    The coin. My eyes snapped open and I looked down at my right hand. The coin!

    In a flash, everything came back to me: the blue light, the vibration, the heat, the rushing wind, all by the creek, and Taylor running to try and reach me, and then shooting away, far away into the darkness, and coming to rest…


    Except, where was here?

    I looked around. It was dark. There was a little sunlight filtering in through holes in the…the what? The ceiling? As I looked around again, I saw that I was sitting on some sort of stone bricks, and that I could see cracked walls around me, with moss, vines and creepers growing along them, dust particles in beams of sunlight.

    So, it was a ceiling. A very high ceiling, at least ten metres above me. The ceiling of someplace. A room?

    My heart rate began to quicken. I realized I’d forgotten to breathe, took a gulp of air, trying to stay calm. I looked up at the ceiling again. There were holes; that’s where the sunlight was coming from. Okay. So I must have fallen through a hole in the ceiling. Maybe this place, whatever it was, was under the creek the whole time.

    I started to relax. Of course. That made sense. That meant Taylor would be up there now, looking for me. Taylor!! I called out. Anyone! I’m down here!

    My voice echoed in the large chamber. It was unsettling. There was no response.

    Okay… I said to myself aloud. She must have gone for help. So…I’m stuck for now. Down here.


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