Authors: Emily Thompson
“Invisible?” Twist asked, his mind shifting uncomfortably around Jonas's implications.
“That's what they told me it was for,” Jonas said with a tight smile. “If I'm honest, I always thought it was weird that your watch had a ward engraved on it. I know you're a sensible person.”
“I never knew...” Twist said, looking at his watch cautiously for the very first time in his life.
He'd never questioned where it had come from, or who had decided that it should be his. This watch had always been his. It was as much a part of him as his name. A shiver wafted gently up his spine at the unwelcome memory that "Twist" wasn't his intended name. It was simply the one he used. He had no idea what his mother would have wanted him to be called, or his father. Surely he hadn't sprung spontaneously into existence. Surely he'd had parents at some point. Twist felt his stomach clench as if against a sudden shift in gravity.
“You all right?” Jonas asked, reaching up to lay a gentle hand on Twist's back.
Twist took in a sharp breath as the touch grounded him suddenly. “Yes, fine, thank you,” he said, putting his watch and all its uncomfortable questions into his pocket.
Once everyone who needed medical attention had been seen to, Storm's Grandpa left the pen, closing and locking the door behind him. As the night grew more still and silent around them, Twist noticed that some of the villagers were beginning to disappear into their huts for the night. Soon, there might be only a few of them left awake.
Myra had fully engaged Storm in a sprightly conversation when he'd asked her to confirm some details of the adventures she'd had with Twist and Jonas. Watching the boy bask in her full attention—making her smile and laugh as he recounted daring moments he had seen in Jonas's dreams—Twist was surprised to feel a pang of jealousy deep within him. He nearly called out to them where they sat with Tasha and Niko, on the other side of the pen, but Kima caught his attention. She moved quietly but quickly closer to Twist and Jonas, while Storm didn't seem to notice.
“He looks better,” Jonas said once she was close. “Look, I'm sorry about teasing him—“ he began.
Kima put a finger to her lips, her eyes on her distracted son. “Please,” she said softly, crouching closer to where he and Twist sat. “I must speak with you both.”
Jonas fell quiet. He gave Twist a curious glance, but Twist had no explanation to give.
“My son speaks about you two all the time,” Kima said to them. “He says that you battle Cyphers, Rooks, and pirates.” Twist and Jonas gave vaguely assenting shrugs. “You know of things that most do not,” Kima went on. “Monsters, magic, and secrets.”
“My word,” Twist gasped, looking to Jonas. “We actually do, don't we?” Jonas gave him a light smile in response.
“And you,” Kima said to Jonas. “My son says that you understand the things you see, just by looking at them.”
“Sometimes, I can,” Jonas offered with a shrug.
Kima took a deep breath, as if steadying herself. “Then I must ask you something very important.”
“Just ask,” Jonas said, keeping his uncovered eyes clear of hers. “What's this all about?”
“When you look at my son,” Kima said, her voice dropping just a little lower, “what do you see?”
Twist reflexively glanced at the boy, who still seemed totally absorbed in his conversation with Myra and Tasha. Jonas frowned, appearing uncharacteristically concerned for an instant.
“What do you mean?” he asked her.
“When he was born,” Kima whispered sharply, “his eyes were not that color. And his hair was black.”
Jonas looked to Twist. “What color are his eyes?”
“Pink,” Twist answered. “A very bright, sweet pink. I was wondering about that,” he added to Kima. She nodded, tension beginning to show on her face now.
“He changed slowly,” she said. “His Sight is the same as it was, only stronger now. But when our village was attacked, and the children were taken by the white men, his eyes were lighter but still brown, and his hair was only white in patches. By the time I got him out of that school, he'd forgotten his language, his name, and he looked like he does now.” She glanced at him across the pen, her expression dark. “I know he's my son,” she said firmly to Twist. “He is the same boy I lost five years ago. But something is not right. You must know. He says you know all about these things. What has happened to him?”
“Kima,” Jonas said, his voice gentler than Twist expected to hear it, “why were your children taken? Who took them?”
Kima shook her head, as if the memory didn't fit comfortably in her head. “Americans. They attacked our village while the hunters were away. They killed the men, took the women as slaves, and put the children in a school to teach them to forget us. They only left the old and sick behind. I was with the hunting party,” she added with a ring of guilt to her voice. She cleared it away with a stern expression. “Our friends helped us to restore our families, and brought us to the sky. Now we are free.”
Intrigued, Twist nearly asked the identity of these powerful friends, but Jonas spoke first. “That's terrible,” he said, his voice hollow. Kima shifted uncomfortably. Jonas seemed to respond, changing his tone to mirror her cool, stable facade. “So, you're certain that he started to look different before he was taken?” Jonas asked.
“Yes, but I never expected him to change so much,” she added glancing at Storm.
“Well,” Jonas said, frowning in thought. “Vampires' eyes change color over time, but I'm sure you'd have noticed if he couldn't bear daylight. I've heard of warlocks taking on physical mutations as they gain skill in their magic, but he's far too young for that. I can't think of anything else that might make him look different over time.”
“He could be a changeling,” Twist muttered with a shrug.
Jonas looked to Twist sharply. “You believe in those? You're worrying me, Twist.”
“I don't know if I believe in them,” Twist said. “I've never met one, if that's what you’re asking.”
“What is a changeling?” Kima asked him eagerly.
“A monster that supposedly trades placed with a human child,” Twist answered. “The story I heard says that the monsters enjoy being cared for, so they disguise themselves to look like children, and toss the original children back into their own world. But it's just a story, I'm sure,” he added quickly as Kima's eyes betrayed her horror.
“Yeah, I've never met one either,” Jonas added. “Only I heard they were fairies.” Twist looked to him sharply. “But while I've met monsters, I don't believe in fairies,” he said, looking at Twist but clearly speaking to Kima. “Some people even say that our Sights come from them, you know. It's all nonsense. I've met vampires, and djinn, and other things, but never a single fairy.”
“Exactly,” Twist added. “Don't know why I mentioned it. I'm terrible at conversation.” He offered Kima a smile, though she didn't seem very encouraged by it.
“What about Cyphers?” Kima asked, seeming to have calmed again.
“Cyphers?” Jonas asked. Twist felt a tightness in the buzz at his neck at the sound of the word, in unison with the unease he felt himself.
“They use magic,” Kima said. “Or, they use things that look like magic. Could they do something to him that would make him look like a changeling?”
“I suppose,” Jonas toned, thoughtfully. “But why would they? They don't usually sneak around. They like to show off their power. You'd have seen them.”
Kima looked at Jonas silently, while he glanced at Twist.
“Your friends,” Twist said carefully, “the ones who brought you to the clouds, as you said, were they Cyphers?”
“They have helped us,” Kima said instantly. “Cyphers made us strong again. We have lost our land, but we took back the sky.”
“So, it was you who knocked our airship out of the sky?” Jonas asked, his tone still calm.
“We defend our airspace against every American ship,” Kima said proudly. “And we give the Sighted survivors to the Cyphers in return for their help.” Twist looked at her with newfound alarm. “Of course you are different,” she said quickly. “My son would be devastated if I let you be harmed. My father and I will explain things to the village. Most of you aren't even American, so it should be fine. No Cyphers are supposed to come for another few days.”
“Thanks for that,” Jonas said on a long, calming breath. “But you think they might be doing something to Storm?'
“They need people with Sights,” she explained. “Sometimes they take him into their ship for a long time. None of the un-Sighted villagers are allowed aboard. No one will tell me what they do, only that they need his Sight. But when he comes back, he's...” She shook her head again. “He won't tell me, but I know he doesn't like it. I don't think it's good for him.”
“Then don't let them take him,” Twist said, confused.
“It's not that easy,” she said sorrowfully to him. “I need to get him away from here. I want my son to be happy, and normal again.” A faint sliver of a gasp broke through her stern facade, and she covered it with a hand, snapping her eyes shut as her emotions battled for freedom.
Startled, Twist looked to Jonas. Jonas reached out to lay a gentle hand on Kima's shoulder, but said nothing as she began to relax back into the safety of her rigid demeanor. Twist looked at his friend in naked amazement. Jonas's touch could calm anyone. With the added effect of his own Sight, there was no wonder that Jonas's touch had such a soothing effect on Twist. After a small moment Kima took a deep breath, regaining full possession of herself again, and Jonas took his hand back.
“Listen, Kima,” Jonas said softly, his eyes low. “If you help us to escape, we can try to take you and Storm with us.” Kima and Twist both looked to him in surprise. Jonas kept his eyes away. “I might not know what's happening to him, but I know others who would. And we know magpies as well. If you just run on your own, and the Cyphers are intent on keeping Storm where they can get him, then you'll be found out no matter where you go. The magpies aren't a lot better, but if anyone can keep you two out of Cypher hands, it's them.”
“Magpies?” Kima asked slowly. “You mean, Rooks?” Jonas gave a sigh and a nod. “Would they really help us?”
“They'd do anything to annoy the Cyphers, believe me. Hiding two little people wouldn't be any trouble at all to them.”
“That's a wonderful solution,” Twist muttered, smiling as he thought it through.
Suddenly, Myra appeared at Jonas's side and knelt down to wrap him in her arm. Jonas gave a startled tone and froze, his eyes wide in surprise. Twist turned to find that Storm was now approaching, with Tasha and Niko as well. Kima stood, as if severing their conversation with the action, and gave Twist a silent but weighted look. He smiled slightly before turning away.
“You're a lovely man, Mr. Davis,” Myra said sweetly, giving him a squeeze.
“What? No, I'm not!” Jonas grumbled. “What have I done?”
“Storm explained everything to me!” Myra said, her voice bright and pleased as she released him. “He said that you really do like me. You like to hear me sing, and you think I'm very pretty,” she added, giving his shoulder a playful shove.
“He said what?” Jonas growled, his anger flashing through the buzz in Twist's neck like fire. “Who the hell told you you could explain anything to anyone?” he demanded of the boy.
Storm's bright smile fell instantly. “But, it's true,” he muttered weakly.
“Oh, don't be so dramatic,” Myra said, smiling at Jonas. “I'm glad he told me!”
“I'm not!” Jonas snapped. “If I want to compliment you, I'll do it myself. I don't want someone else running around handing out my private thoughts willy-nilly!”
“I'm sorry...” Storm said sorrowfully. Twist watched him, worried.
“Has anyone else noticed,” Tasha asked coolly, “that he has yet to deny anything that the boy said?”
“Shut up,” Jonas grumbled, crossing his arms. “Stop noticing things, Tasha.”
She gave a quiet laugh, holding up a hand to cover it. Storm's apprehension began to ease slowly.
“Well, I don't care what you say, you big meany,” Myra said, still grinning at him. “I rather like you, too.”
“Twist, tell your lady friend to stop calling me a meany.”
Twist laughed. “Why? She's not wrong.”
“You traitorous cur!” Jonas growled at him in apparent rage. Twist smiled back at him, feeling nothing of true anger in the buzz at his neck.
Storm tugged on Tasha's sleeve. “What did Twist say?” he asked her. Tasha cupped a hand to his ear, whispering.
“I'm honor-bound to take my lady's side,” Twist said to Jonas with a long-suffering sigh. Myra giggled with delight. Twist took her hand, catching the tail of her heady, sparkling emotions as he bent to lay a kiss on her copper fingers. Clearly pleased, Myra returned his kiss, giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
“Well I'm not going to kiss you, that's for sure,” Jonas grumbled.
Slightly giddy from the effect of Myra's delight on his Sight, Twist laughed at Jonas's comment. The others followed suit, erasing the last shadows of the heavy conversation with Kima. Jonas relented, shaking his head as he clearly fought to hide his smile. Twist reveled in this lighter atmosphere after so many questions and uncomfortable implications.
Saying that it would be best to help Twist and his friends leave tomorrow, when things could be properly explained to the rest of the village, Kima suggested they all try to rest until sunrise. She and Storm brought blankets to their guests, but asked that they remain inside the pen until the village agreed to let them out. Kima assured Steve and Ted that their skepticism was unneeded, and that it would be a simple matter to get the village's consent in the morning.