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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Many chapters contain brutal violence.

The Mantis Equilibrium - Book Two - 28. Chapter 28 - Tchama, Part Zero

Tchama's backstory.

On the night of the solstice that previous summer, Tchama stayed up drinking as the late evening sun slowly set. She drank too much, then went wandering through the Teshon City streets. Her wobbly steps caused her to stumble down an alleyway, and her jacket got snagged on an old fan cage. She tugged at it drunkenly, but then she paused and noticed a low entrance that led somewhere unseen.

The pavement sunk down underneath a portion of wall that stuck out and kept the opening almost entirely hidden. Tchama yanked her jacket and it ripped away from the cage. She ignored her torn garment and dropped to her knees. Her inebriated clumsiness caused her to slip below the wall onto the lower level of pavement, and she found herself right in front of what turned out to be a large secret door.

Tchama’s eyes would barely focus, and she pushed herself up against it.

The door opened.

She stuck her head inside and slurred words into the dark basement. “S’aneeeebody therrrre?!

Tchama received no reply and shuffled down the stairs. Her feet slipped out from under her on the last step and she fell hard on her backside.

“Ooof! Schtuuupid schtairs,” she mumbled. Tchama stood and rubbed her sore prat. “S’there any boozzzze down’ere?” she asked to no one.

Suddenly, she heard voices from above, and she ducked by the side of a bed.

Two young women descend. They were laughing and in mid-conversation. One of them lit several candles, and the other stopped talking right in the middle of her thought.

“Erm… there’s a girl hiding behind the bed,” she said. She was tall and muscular.

The other one turned like a flash and locked her eyes on Tchama. “Who are you?” she snapped. She was dressed in far too much clothing for summer. “How did you find this place? Where’d you come from?”

“I’mmm not tellin’ you nuffin’bout anyfing!” Tchama declared almost incoherently.

“I think she’s drunk,” the taller one said.

“Don’t get sick on our stuff,” the shorted one added.

“I’mmm not drunk! Youuuu are!” Tchama retorted. “I’m not gonna be sick!” Then a surprised look came to her face. “Oh,” she squeaked, “but I’mmm’parently pissin’ my pants.”

“What?!” squawked the overdressed one.

“Schorry,” Tchama said with a shrug. She let out a contented sigh of relief.


“I’ll get a towel,” the tall one said. “Here, give me those clothes.” She reached for Tchama.

For some reason, Tchama lashed out at her. Balling her fist, she punched the woman in her shoulder. Tchama’s hand felt like it hurt from the impact, but her booze-bleary mind would not focus.

“What the fuck?” barked the short one.

Tchama repeated herself. “Schorry,” she slurred. “Dunno why I did that.” She gave her knuckles a suspicious glance. “Never done that before.”

The tall woman looked at the shorter one with a smirk. “I’m fine,” she said.

Then she turned back to Tchama. “I’m Ilya. That’s Dozi. This is our house.”

“Well, I’mmm not telling youuu nuffin’ at all!”

Dozi rolled her eyes.

“Calm down,” Ilya said to Tchama. “We’re not gonna hurt you. You need to lay down, but let’s get you clean before we put you to bed.”

“She’s not sleeping in my bed,” Dozi declared.

“She can sleep in mine,” Ilya replied, “and I’ll sleep next to you.”

“Great,” Dozi said in a tone thick with sarcasm.

“Oh, cheer up,” Ilya urged. “She’s just a kid and she’s wasted.”

“I’mmm notta kid! I’mmm turning eighteee…” but her voice trailed off.

“80?” Dozi said with an incredulous expression.

“No, no, no,” mumbled Tchama, “nex’ week I turrrn 18!”

Dozi tutted. “Well, you’re a mess, and you look like a child,” she replied.

Yer a mess!” Tchama snapped.

Ilya snorted a laugh. “Get her some clothes,” she requested of Dozi. “Look,” she said, turning back to Tchama, “since you won’t tell us your name, can I just call you Flower for the time being? When I was a little girl, and first came to the city, I didn’t tell anyone my name either, and a kindly old lady took me in who called me Flower. Can I just call you that, so I don’t have to say hey you to you?”

Tchama was struggling with how to respond to the kindness that Ilya was showing her. She was not used to kindness. Life in Techon City was hard.

Tchama was born to the south in the fishing village of Brokenpointe. Her mother did not speak about her father; the man was long gone before Tchama could remember him. She grew up playing with the other children of the town, but in her 11th year, the blood corruption developed in her mother. She was dead soon after.

An aunt who Tchama had never met took her in, and she moved with the woman to the big city. She lived to the south of the Messiah Tower, close to the water, and it became young Tchama’s daily task to catch their food from the Grey Shallows.

The countless dead who fell in those tidal flats during the forgotten confrontations of the great Oselian Empire had provided food for a host of marine life. Those old corpses were long-devoured, but colonies of crustaceans and schools of fishes still lived in those shallows, and they provided an abundance to the residents of Teshon City.

Tchama would catch harbor crabs and quite a few different fish species that were decent for eating. She often came across sea urchins and oysters in the tidal pools, and she constructed a makeshift trap that was able to catch and hold a few shrimp at a time. She became quite a skilled little fisherwoman, because she hated her time in her new home.

The city itself did not bother her, but her aunt was not a pleasant woman to be around. She drank heavily, and would occasionally slap young Tchama over trivial offenses.

Tchama learned to stay away, and she made acquaintance with a number of other folks who also fished for their meals. There was a big man that everyone called Papa J, who loved to tell stories. Tchama enjoyed setting up nearby. She liked listening to him ramble about his past and his recitation of whatever fairytales he remembered from his childhood. Papa J’s beard was long, and he wore a bow in it at all times. He owned quite a few of them, and he alternated the ribbons every day. There were other regular fisherfolk who Tchama grew accustomed to, and she spent longer hours with her them than the woman to whom she was related.

Life with her aunt lasted a tedious six years, until one day near the start of summer when Tchama returned home with their dinner. It was immediately clear to her, the blood corruption that killed her mother was developing in her aunt, and it was already starting to debilitate the woman. There was only a matter of time before she would be gone. Tchama watched her deteriorate over the following several days, and when she knew death was close, she asked Papa J what to do with her aunt’s body.

“Dump her in them there Grey Shallows,” the man instructed. “That patch of ocean is made for the dead.”

When the time came, Papa J assisted Tchama in moving her aunt’s corpse to the cove. She spoke no words over the body as it began to sink, and after thanking Papa J, she returned to the empty house.

Despite the unpleasant life she lived with the woman, on the first night alone without her aunt, Tchama sobbed herself to sleep. The next day, she realized there were several bottles of alcohol that her aunt did not finish before becoming ill, and Tchama tapped into them herself.

Over the next several days, she took to drinking herself into a stupor, and on the eighth night of her inebriation, she decided to go stumbling through the city streets. That was when her jacket became hooked on the old fan cage, and she stumbled upon Dozi and Ilya’s basement home.

In the flickering candlelight, Tchama stopped struggling and allowed Ilya to help her out of her damp trousers. She wiped herself down, and Ilya helped her dress in the clothes that Dozi provided.

Then Ilya put Tchama in her own bed, and she was unconscious as soon as she was on her back.

“She’s a fucking disaster,” Dozi declared.

“Yes, she is,” Ilya agreed with a concerned expression on her face. “Seems like she could use some friends.”

The next morning, Dozi and Ilya were awake much earlier than Tchama. When she eventually did rise, she was hungover.

“Where am I,” she groaned.

“Hi,” Ilya said, “good morning, remember us? I’m Ilya and this is Dozi. Do you want some food? Are you hungry?”

“Ugh, no,” Tchama replied, “food sounds terrible.” She squeezed her eyes shut and rubbed her temples. “Do you have any alcohol?”

Dozi scoffed.

Ilya frowned and said, “That one thing you don’t need any more of, but how about coffee? Or even just water?”

“But the alcohol will kill my hangover,” Tchama whined.

Dozi ignored her. “Will you at least be telling us your name, this morning?” she asked.

“Nope,” Tchama huffed.

Dozi tutted and rolled her eyes.

“Where are you living?” Ilya asked.

Tchama looked around the basement. “Where am I?”

“This is my home,” Dozi replied. She stepped up beside Ilya. “We live here together, and you are not supposed to know where it is.”

“I don’t know where it is,” Tchama retorted in a bratty tone. “You haven’t told me where we are.”

“Sassy,” Ilya said, “I like her.”

Dozi rolled her eyes again.

Ilya sat on her bed near Tchama’s feet. “Why don’t you tell us where you live? That way we can be friends. You don’t need to spend your nights drunk.”

Tchama felt judged. “I can get drunk if I wanna get fucking drunk,” she snapped. “Who are you to tell me what to do? I don’t know you, and I don’t owe you a thing.”

“You could thank Ilya for letting you sleep in her bed last night,” Dozi said with a scowl.

“Just let me get the fuck out of here.”

Ilya chuckled to herself. “She swears as much as you do, Dozi.”

“Do you want your pissy clothes?” Dozi asked in a snotty tone, as Tchama clambered out of the bed and started to shuffle towards the bottom step.

“Keep them!”

“Sweet kid,” Dozi commented to Ilya as Tchama climbed the stairs and slipped out of the hidden door. “How do we know she’s not gonna come back?”

“That has to have been embarrassing for her,” Ilya replied. “I suspect we won’t be seeing her again, and the basement is hard to find; she was drunk out of her mind when she stumbled upon it.”

“I don’t fucking trust her,” Dozi stated.

Ilya laughed. “You don’t trust anyone to begin with!”

The day passed uneventfully, but late that night, Tchama snuck back to Dozi and Ilya’s home. She counted on them again being out, and when she saw that there was no light in the cellar, she entered.

Dozi awoke to shuffling noises and sat up in the darkness.

Ilya’s silhouette was also upright in her bed.

Dozi pointed towards the sound and nodded. She jumped from her bed and lit a candle, as Ilya activated her powers of flight, and she slammed Tchama into the wall.

Dozi stepped over with the faint light from one of her candles.

“Oh, it’s you, again,” Ilya said above Tchama’s dazed form. “Well, sorry about that. I guess I’ve more than made up for the punch last night.”

Dozi snatched Tchama’s bag and pulled her belonging from it. “What the fuck is wrong with you?” she snapped.

“Easy,” Ilya interjected, and she looked at Tchama, “you came back because you felt safe with us, didn’t you, Flower? What were your plans for,” and she looked over at Dozi’s hands, “two chipped teacups, a watch that needs a replacement battery, and a figurine of death?” Ilya looked up at Dozi. “What is that statue? I’ve been meaning to ask you about it.”

“It’s just a representation that people in my village make of the grim reaper. You probably saw similar ones at the market in town.” She scowled at Tchama and repeated Ilya. “What were your plans with all my stuff?”

Ilya ignored Dozi and knelt down by Tchama. “What do you need, Flower?” she asked. “Do you need help? A place to stay? Food?”

“Whoa, whoa, what’s all this about a place to stay?” Dozi retorted.

Ilya gave her a reproachful look and then turned back to Tchama. “Are you alone?” she asked.

Tchama’s hard facade cracked, and she burst into tears.

Dozi also softened, and she mumbled to herself, “Ugh, fine.” She squatted down beside Ilya and put her hand on Tchama’s shoulder.

“You’ve gotta lay off the booze,” Ilya recommended.

“Do you want something to eat?” Dozi offered, but Tchama just sobbed.

“It’ll be okay, Flower,” Ilya comforted.

Tchama was not used to such kindness.

When she was calm, they fed her and learned her name. Tchama told Dozi and Ilya about her life and shared with them her brokenness. That was her first night staying with them. The following morning, Dozi and Ilya went with Tchama to her empty house and collected the few things that were essential to her.

Tchama soon came to learn that she gained much more than simply two friends; she was now part of a family, a real family. She was introduced to the mystic and his husband, Theolan, and Tchama was given ample warning and time to prepare before meeting Lahari. When she did, Tchama was fascinated with the unique Biological Shift woman. They quickly became fast friends, developing a connection that surprised Lahari in particular.

Tchama was happy for the first time in a long time.

A mere six months later, Messiahs attacked Gate Town, and Tchama was lying in the street. Ilya was holding her broken body.

Tchama was missing an arm.

Dozi was kneeling beside the two women, recounting the story of their meeting, and trying to help keep Tchama conscious.

Her wounds were severe and death was fast-approaching


Copyright © 2023 Adam Andrews Johnson; All Rights Reserved.
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Thank you for sticking with my crazy story!

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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  • Site Moderator

Why do they always attack Ilya? Ilya's compassion seems boundless.

I hope Tchama can be saved.


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Thank you for helping us to see Tchama as a real person with depth and struggles and friendship. Unless a powerful healer can be found soon, I hope she can pass on without much more pain. She will be mourned.

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3 hours ago, scrubber6620 said:

Thank you for helping us to see Tchama as a real person with depth and struggles and friendship. Unless a powerful healer can be found soon, I hope she can pass on without much more pain. She will be mourned.

Wow, thank you for saying this 💖 I adore the character who I created in Tchama, and I was really hoping that this point of the story would be where readers connected to her

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Hope those assholes that started to kill the Messiah's with no thought to what their actions would lead to suffer as much as Tchama is.  Her backstory makes her seem stronger than I thought she was.  

Hope that someone killed the Messiah that hurt Tchama.  Why try and kill a human?

So sad....

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So frigging senseless, like others, I'm hoping against hope and that Ninyani somehow comes to the rescue with Aunt Peg and the Mystic!

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