Between two nameless mountains, located at a river delta in Southwestern Alaska, lay a small village by the name of Elpetquik. A fairly unknown village, not many strangers venture there for reasons other than the fishing season during the summer. The community consists mostly of Alaska Natives, the majority of them being Yupik, and the population is about 600 people. In a village that small, abnormalities and aberrant behavior is easily noticed, and therefore unaccepted in the community.
At the aforementioned river delta, a man with rich copper skin and long black hair in a low ponytail stood along the coast, looking around as if searching for something or someone. His dark brown eyes peered along the murky water. A ripple on the surface made him scoff softly. With his fists on his hips, he called out.
“I know you’re there, Yuli. No point in hiding from me.” He said sternly.
A moment passed, and a brown otter emerged from the deep, only its ears and cognac colored eyes visible, leering at the man. Its small ears were twitching slightly in what appeared to be annoyance. Noticing this, the man chuckled and crossed his arms, the movement wrinkling his parka.
“Come on, get over here, it’s time to go home.” He told the creature.
The small animal begrudgingly swam to the shore as slow as possible. The man on the mud and sand shore kept beckoning the otter, pointing at it and then pointing his finger to his feet, and then making a ‘hurry up’ motion with both his hands. The animal snorted, water spouting along its face, as if it was laughing.
When the small creature finally arrived at the man’s feet, a high-pitched squeak came from its mouth, trying to make conversation. The man held up his hand to silence the animal.
“I don’t want to hear it. Grab your clothes.”
With a huff, the creature disappeared behind some bushes along the shoreline. The man continued to glare at the bush, impatiently listening to the ruffling of clothes. A few moments later, a young girl with a slightly lighter skin than him emerged from the greenery. Her long dark brown, almost black hair was in two long braid along her head, meeting at the base of her neck, with the rest of her wavy hair loose. Her cognac eyes peered at the man in front of her.
“Hey Dad.” She muttered apprehensively, averting her eyes to the water.
The man, her father, walked over to his daughter and pinched her cheeks directly under her eyes. An easy feat, as her cheekbones were very wide. He smiled, his cheekbones the same as hers, giving him a buddha like appearance.
“I thought we had an agreement on going to the river.” He said, turning serious again. The girl shifted under his gaze, fiddling with the strings of her hoodie.
“Don’t go alone, and not so close to town.” She parroted from memory while pouting. “But dad, I wasn’t even that close to town!”
“But you were alone, and I can’t help you if any of the villagers see you use your Quirk!”
His stern voice made the young girl flinch, her pout deepening and her gaze went to her boots in shame. She had disappointed her father, just for a few minutes of freedom.
Her father sighed, and put his hand on her head, petting it affectionately.
“I only want you to be safe, you know that. Don’t give the other villagers more reason to be scared.” He explained in a morose tone.
“They wouldn’t have to be so scared if they didn’t believe in stupid superstition.”
The Yupik man cast his eyes down, silently agreeing with his daughter. At this point however, there wasn’t much they could do about it. He grabbed her shoulder with one hand and pulled her towards him.
“Let’s go home, Urayuli. I’ll make you some gumbo.”
After a quiet dinner with her father, Urayuli Yaraqpik felt it was time to isolate herself in her room. Giving her dad a kiss on the cheek, she hurried up the stairs of their home. She entered her small bedroom, a single bed on the right wall and a desk with laptop on top next to it, facing the only window in her room. Her father had offered to make his old office her room, but she liked the small space. It was comfortable, like her own little bubble. She didn’t need much else.
On her walls a few posters of artists she used to listen to but never had the energy to remove, and above her bed a Yupik shaman mask she had made herself with help from her grandfather when she turned ten years old.
Dropping herself on the bed, she groaned loudly. Despite loving her father and this house, it oftentimes felt like a prison. She was only allowed outside if she was chaperoned by her father and she couldn’t just use her Quirk. The villagers were very troublesome when it came to that. She had watched the developments in Japan over the years. Quirks were accepted as a way of life, as 80% of the population had some quirk or another. It made her want to run from this place she called home.
She got up and sat at her desk, opening her laptop to search for videos on so-called “hero’s” in Japan. The videos she watched were all in Japanese, but that never was an issue. Her father Kvichak was the head of the largest fishing company in Elpetquik, as well as the only fishing company in Elpetquik. That said, many foreigners from all around the world, especially Japan, came around during the summer months for the fishing season. Catching Alaskan salmon can earn you a lot of money if you do it right. Because of that, Urayuli was forced to learn Japanese to communicate with the Japanese fishermen when she would help her father at his company, which was every summer.
After binging hero videos for half an hour, and clicking “next video” after every link, she came across the hero All Might. She had seen videos of him before. A beast of a man with blond hair and a huge smile, laughing as he saved people, always with the phrase “All is fine, now. Why? Because I’m here.”
The overconfidence he displayed would have been seen as annoying and overall douchey behavior in the states, but it was anything but to Urayuli. All Might was the top hero in Japan, saving people left and right. He had every reason to be overconfident. They can use their Quirks when they want, where they want. Why am I the one stuck in here?
Closing her laptop, she peered out the window, gazing at the river that flowed not too far away from her house. I want to go out there, she thought to herself. As quietly as she could she opened her bedroom door and tiptoed downstairs. Her father had finished cleaning up the kitchen and he was sleeping on the couch, the tv on some news channel. She tiptoed back up the stairs and closed her door again.
I’ll go to the river and swim with the otters, I’ll be back home in half an hour. He won’t even notice I’m gone. She opened her window and promptly jumped out, rolling her body when her feet made contact with the ground. She worried not about getting back into her room, as strong vines were interconnected and raised to her bedroom window. I can easily climb back up when I get back. Taking a deep breath, she took off, running as fast as her feet could take her. Laughing to herself, she threw herself into bushes and tumbled along the trees. Freedom feels good.
Finally arriving at the river, she found some brushes where she could leave her clothes. Stripping out of them, she didn’t bother folding them in her hurry. Being naked in the wilderness of Alaska, the chilly October air didn’t bother her in the slightest. A child born on the tundra need not be afraid of it.
Getting on all fours, she prepared herself for the transformation. She stretched her spine, and she could feel every bone in her body changing. Shapeshifting hurt, just a little bit, because her whole body transformed into something not wasn’t exactly hers, but still felt like a part of her. This, however, didn’t matter to her, as her preferred form was worth it. Bones popping and disappearing, fur covering her whole body, her hands transforming into paws, she let out a sound that wasn’t her own, yet hers altogether. Squeaking from her new vocal chords, she relished in the feeling it.
The transformation was complete, and it was time. With crazy speed, Urayuli launched herself into the water, her otter form allowing her to quickly traverse the water. Even though it was murky and difficult to see through the opaque water, her animal nose lets her smell better and her whiskers allowed her to feel everything moving around her.
Nearing a sandbank, she heard the telltale chirps of other otters. Breaching the surface, Urayuli made her way to the small creatures congregating on the sandbar. Normally the animals she would turn into would not recognize her as their own. She could mimic them, sure, but she could not communicate with them, nor could she understand them. However, these otters have become familiar with her over the years and have somewhat warmed up to her existence. As she came closer, the creatures took turns sniffing her as a way of welcoming her. It filled her with fuzzy feelings.
After playing with the small animals, she decided begrudgingly that it was time to leave again. The few moments of freedom she enjoyed had lifted her spirits. She chirped her goodbye to the otters and started swimming back, noticing a moment later that a few of the beasts had followed her. They must have wanted to play with her a little while longer. Smiling inwardly, she chirped to them her thanks, despite them not being able to understand her.
Her clothes lay undisturbed when she got back. Turning back into her original form, she casually shrugged on her clothes with the otters trotting near her feet.
Something hit her head and caused her to flinch from the unwelcome sensation. A rock had bounced against her temple, the commotion scaring her small aquatic friends back into the water. Swiftly looking around, the ones responsible for the pain stood a few feet away from the girl. They were kids from Urayuli’s class, and one or two siblings from said classmates. Come to taunt the mutant, have you? She thought to herself wryly. She grew up with these kids, but after the discovery of her quirk, the parents had played a hand in how they treated her.
“Why are you all alone? Where’s your daddy, freak?” One of the children named Phillip jeered at her, holding another, bigger rock in his hand.
“If it’s a brawl you want, Phillip, you can just ask. Put the rock down and we’ll settle this like men. No weapons or quirks.” Urayuli scoffed, putting her hands up and in fists, arranging her body in a fighting position. She silently thanked her grandfather for giving her self-defense lessons when she was much younger.
Much to her annoyance, the children started laughing.
“Fighting like men? You’re not even a real person!” A girl named Anouk yelled.
“My grandmother told my auntie Jessica on the phone that freaks like you spirit people away, and my grandmother never lies.” Mary-Jo stated matter-of-factly, arms crossed.
“Then maybe your grandmother isn’t a liar, but she sure as hell is a dumbass.” Urayuli sneered back.
“Don’t talk about my grandmother like that, outcast!”
Urayuli bit her lip, anger bubbling in her chest. What gives them the right to speak to me like that?
“Hey, didn’t our old principle disappear and die a while back? Maybe it was her doing!” Joshua nudged Phillip, snickering to themselves.
What?! “B-but she was attacked by wolves!” Urayuli stuttered, disbelieving the overall callousness the boy spoke with.
“Well, who’s to say you weren’t one of the wolves ripping her to shreds? Got any proof you weren’t? Huh? Skinwalker?! ” Phillip leered at her.
The girl stood, staring slack-jawed at the accusations. The principle Joshua mentioned had been attacked by a pack of wolves, which is not unheard of in Alaska, but Urayuli wasn’t able to shift in animals that size. The only bigger animal she could shift into was a beluga, and that took out most of her energy. Shifting into a wolf was a whole ‘nother ballgame. Aside from that, why would she attack people? She had never done anything like that!
The children continued taunting her, accusing her left and right, but she couldn’t hear them, a monotone beep in her ears. It felt like she was underwater, the sounds around her distorted and ugly. Unshed tears pricking behind her eyes, until one of the children made an unsightly hand gesture towards her. Phillip’s hand was under his chin, pointing to his neck with his fingers, and flicking his hand out towards her. Eyes flashing, she moved with great speed towards the boy, and grabbed his wrist with all of her strength.
“You want to know what I actually do with people? Keep taunting the skinwalker and see what happens.” She hissed with as much venom as she could muster.
She wasn’t sure who started screaming, but as soon as she heard them, the other kids began screeching as well, running away in a panic. Phillip wrenched his hand away, face sweating bullets and staring at her as if she had broken his wrist. The children scurried away frantically, shouting obscenities at Urayuli.
“I’m telling my mom and dad how dangerous you are! Crazy bitch!” One of them yelled at her from afar.
Urayuli in the moment cared not. Most of the other villagers were afraid enough of her as it was, but a bunch of dumb kids fearing her was not something that she worried about. Breathing deeply to calm herself, she gathered her shoes in her hands, and started the barefoot trek back to her home. Small pebbles dug into the soles of her feet, making her wince every once in a while. The last of the dying mosquitos that would swarm in clouds during the summer desperately flying near her for a final drink before their inevitable demise. Along the way she encountered some lingonberries that she would nibble on.
It was dusk when she got home, and the lights were on in the garage. That meant dad was most likely awake and had been searching the house for her. Dread filled Urayuli’s chest at the possibly inevitable lecture she was going to get. She swallowed the spit that had gathered in her mouth because of her nerves and walked up to the house. Peeking into the garage, her suspicions on her father’s whereabouts were proven right, as he sat on the stool next to his workbench with his arms crossed, looking straight at her. So much for sneaking in.
Her father said nothing. He just looked at her, his dark brown eyes stern and hard, his lips in a tight line. Urayuli matched his gaze for about two seconds before looking away in shame.
“Dad, I can expla- “
“Do you have any idea how worried I was? How frantically I searched the house, afraid you were out there somewhere? Where I couldn’t help you?” He spoke softly, but his voice had an edge to it.
“I had everything under con- “
Kvichak angrily slammed his fist on the workbench.
“We had just talked about it, Urayuli! You don’t go outside alone, and you sure as hell don’t go to the river! What were you thinking?!” He boomed, making his daughter flinch for a moment.
“I… just wanted to be free for a moment.” She muttered under her breath.
“Was scaring me or scaring the other children really worth that little bit of freedom? I got a call from Jane, and she told me you attacked her boy!”
“I did not attack him! They were calling me names, calling me a freak, and skinwalker, and accused me of mauling Principle Farley! I just kinda… grabbed his wrist and threatened him a little.”
Her father pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration while groaning a little. He got up from his stool, and walked over to the girl, putting his hands on her shoulders.
“Why don’t you ever listen to me, Urayuli? You understand your safety is on the line here, right?” Then, in a softer voice, he added, “I can’t lose you too.”
This, however, did not pacify Urayuli. It only made her angry, as in her 15-year-old mind, her father only ever talked about her mother when they were at each other’s throats like this. To her it felt like her father was guilting her.
“Mom has nothing to do with this. Why can’t I just have a life on my own?! I’m being held prisoner in my own home!” She yelled in her father’s face, her anger getting the better of her.
“Calm yourself! You shouldn’t let what other people say about you to get to you! Your mother never let it bother her, and neither should you!” Her father’s words only further fueled her anger.
“Shut up! I’m sick and tired of everybody telling me how to feel and who I am or who I should be! I never asked for this! You have no idea how I feel because you’re normal! No one fears you for who you are!” She finished, tears running down her cheeks.
She wrenched herself out of her father’s grasp, leaving the older man in the garage as she ran through the door to the kitchen and ran up the stairs. When she got to her room, she angrily and tearfully slammed the door shut with all her strength, almost knocking it off its hinges. The ground shook from the force, and she could swear she heard a picture frame falling on the floor outside her room. Urayuli dropped on her bed and buried her face in her pillow. Her cries and screams were muffled by the pillow she was ferociously grabbing onto, her nails almost ripping the material apart.
For a while the only thing she could do was cry and scream her frustrations. Hearing her father come up the stairs, she quickly grabbed her chair and blocked the doorknob with it, preventing him from entering. Kvichak knocked a couple times, only for Urayuli to angrily growl at him to leave her alone.
“Go away!” She wailed. “I don’t want to talk, especially not to you!”
“But sweetheart- “
“NO! I WANT YOU TO LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!” She shrieked, her emotions swirling in her stomach and chest, and kicked against her door.
A few semi silent moments passed, the only sound to be heard were Urayuli’s angry sobs. She heard her father sigh in defeat, and his footsteps leaving her bedroom door.
Falling face first on her bed again, she started sobbing again, feelings of guilt for lashing out at her father and the anger at his words still cutting deep. Slowly but surely her body got fatigued from all the crying and screaming, and when she finally did fall asleep, her pillow was almost soaking wet, and her face was screwed up in a soundless sob.