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The Polyglot

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The first thing he learns is that he is different.

Everyone can walk freely in the forest, but they make him stay in the shadows. He doesn't want them to, he doesn't understand why he can't go and chase after the other kids. Once, when they are not looking close enough, he escapes, and threads through unfamiliar territory.

He stays in the sun on purpose. It's warm - so, so warm. It's already too warm in the forest, but he doesn't mind overheating; he savors his victory, sits down on a sunny spot, closes his eyes, and feels how the warmth shifts on his face as the wind shakes the trees, covering and uncovering his face with their shadows.

He doesn't know how much time passes. It must be very long, because the ground beneath him cools, the sun vanishes. He stands up and rubs on his cold limbs, then looks for the way back.

Except he can't find it.

The realization fills him with fear, and he can't move. Where should he go? Left- no, right. Straight ahead? He is going in circles around himself, heart pounding painfully, but he can't find the way. Nothing is familiar.

Something changes, and he is surrounded by light. His feet don't touch the ground anymore - the wind caresses his skin. But then it starts to poke, and eventually turns into spikes piercing his skin, and he realizes he is moving in the air.

He is scared, but there is nothing he can do to stop it. He shuts his eyes and begs to be at home again.

How his wish comes true, he doesn't know - but next thing he knows, it's morning again, and he is in his bed.

Someone is next to him. It's his mother. When she notices he is awake, she stands up and gets something from the other side of their shelter.

He notices now that he is hurt. His arms feel sore, his face burns, everything hurts, he can't move.

His mother approaches him, she has flowers in her hand. They are yellow, their shape oval. She squeezes them, lifts his face by the chin, and covers him in the liquid. It stinks, but it relieves the pain a little, so he allows it. 

When she is done, she tells him not to do this again. He nods, although he doesn't completely understand.

He spends the day in bed, healing, tossing and turning.

At night, he hears strange sounds. They sound like screams. There are pops and wet sounds.

He looks out his shelter, and sees chaos. People are on the ground, but they are not moving. Others are running around, weapons in their hands.

A pair of feet stop in front of him, and he looks up. It’s his mother, and something is wrong.

She falls to her knees and screams. It’s loud, and he flinches, covering his ears.

He can’t tear his gaze away as her body twists and turns and doubles in size, until it doesn’t resemble her body anymore, but different shapes he has only seen in animals – stripes, fangs, claws.

He doesn’t know what is happening, but his heart is thumping in his chest and he shuts his eyes and crawls back to his bed. He still hears the screams in the background, sounds of their bodies transforming, bones splitting, skin tearing, blood splashing on the ground.

He pretends they aren’t there. His hands cover his ears so hard that it hurts, his hands hurt, his ears hurt, his chest hurts, everything hurts, but he is so scared that he can’t move.

At some point, the screams die down, and he falls asleep.

Starting the next day, something is different. No – something is wrong.

There are blood splashes on the ground, but no one seems to notice it. In fact, everyone is acting strangely.

From then on, they separate him, and they present seeds in their palms, and ask him to make it grow. He points at the seeds and does what they ask, but he is confused. Why don't they do it?

It looks they are trying to prove something to him, but he doesn’t understand any of it. He knows they expect something from him, but they don’t tell him what it is, and whenever he fails, they mutter something about memories.

This goes on for so long that he forgets about the time when things weren't like this.