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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 - 7. Chapter 7 - Dozi's Family


Sunrise spread over Bluewood Village, and Dozi rose with its glow. Ilya, Tchama, and Lahari were all still asleep. The mystic and Theolan spent the night in the adjoining room with Ninyani, and there was no sound coming from the shared wall.

It was not like Dozi to be awake and alert so early, but she thought to herself that she was more excited about seeing her parents and brother than she expected. She lay in bed, quietly remembering her father’s smile, and wondering how much her little brother had grown in the year and a half since she left.

She wondered if during the day, her parents intended to go back out to aid in the search for the missing children again, or if they would be so surprised to see her that they would stay home. Dozi then felt guilty that she might be the cause of making the search party smaller.

The village of Bluewood sprawled into the forest that surrounded it, with lanes that led to cozy little dwellings, and Dozi’s parents lived among a patch of evergreens. She spent her childhood playing on a soft bed of pine needles that surrounded her family’s home, and she was looking forward to feeling them underfoot again. The tree’s scent was also something she missed, and she expected their aroma to be mingled with the smells of food being prepared.

Dozi’s mother was a very good cook and instilled in her daughter quite a lot of her skills. However, Dozi was very much looking forward to a home-cooked meal that she did not make herself.

In her mind, she ran through the plans for the upcoming day and wondered how much would change now that Ninyani was with them. Dozi knew that visiting with her parents and seeing her little brother was the most important thing on the agenda, so she intended to do that first.

Dozi would direct the rest of the group to visit the community market after eating breakfast. While she was with her family, the others could spend some time perusing the products that were made by the local crafters. She suspected that Theolan and the mystic would find some trinkets or small decorations to bring back to the city.

Dozi considered that Ilya and even Tchama might want to join the continued search for the missing children. She thought for a moment that she could not imagine what it would be like to lose a child.

Then Agrell entered her mind.

Losing her was like losing a sister.

Dozi shook herself and her mind returned to the day’s plans. The others could order food to be delivered to the room and have breakfast with Lahari. Dozi would eat with her family instead, and then meet up with the others afterward. While in town, Lahari needed to be completely bundled up, so Dozi thought that during the afternoon, she could take Lahari out of the village to the watering hole where she used to play in the summers as a child. The pool was certainly frozen at this point in the year, and the waterfall that fed it was always beautiful.

There were other spots that Dozi considered taking all of them. The cliff that overlooked the village was lovely. There were also ruins nearby, but they were even less impressive than Ilin.

Dozi looked forward to seeing whomever from her old crew that she could find. The memory of them made her smile.

The winter sunlight’s illumination slowly continued to increase.

Dozi was used to hearing the whispered voices of Ilya and Tchama first thing in the morning, but Lahari was the next to arise, and she yawned aloud. Dozi sat up, and the very unusual-looking woman gave her a sleepy wave.

“G’morning,” Lahari said to Dozi.

Tchama stretched and squeaked a quiet, “Hi.” She nudged Ilya, who groaned and pulled the blanket tight.

Before long, everyone was awake, and Dozi and Theolan headed downstairs. She smiled at him, as she stepped out the front of the inn and left him to order the group’s breakfast.

The temperature dropped in the night and there was a brisk chill in the air, but there was hardly a breeze. Dozi was warm in her bulky and layered clothing. A thick knit hat was snuggly on her head and her hands were in a pair of fuzzy mittens. She walked under a layer of gray clouds that hung low in the sky above her head.

The town square was quiet and empty, but before long, it would be filled with lively energy. Dozi did not remember it ever being so quiet, but she admitted to herself that she was rarely up that early. The lane leading to her childhood home was not far, and as she reached it, she felt giddier than she expected. There was a skip in her step, as she made her way along with trees on either side.

Then, there it was. The house in which she grew up looked exactly the way she remembered it. Smoke was curling up towards the gray sky from the chimney that was overgrown with ivy. Her father was never keen on pruning, and the foliage often grew bushy on that side of the house.

Through one of the frosty windows, Dozi caught a glimpse of her mother. She smiled to herself again and stepped up to the front of her old home.

A wreath of wrapped blinkwood boughs was hanging from the door. Its little glass-clear berries shimmered like they were made of ice. Several pinecones were attached to it and a tartan ribbon that was tied in a bow hung at the wreath’s center.

Dozi knocked on the door twice and then turned the handle.

“It’s me!”

“Hello?” came her mother’s startled voice. “Who’s there?”

“It’s me,” Dozi repeated. “I’m here for a visit and I brought some friends.”

Her mother looked very surprised.

“But don’t worry,” Dozi added quickly, “they aren’t with me right now. Didn’t want to bombard you with a group of strangers.”

“Well, that, I very much appreciate,” her mother responded, trying to gain her composure. “Now, get in here and close that door. Give me a hug,” she demanded, and she wrapped her daughter in her arms. The two women embraced, as clomping footsteps came down the stairs.

“It’s not possible,” Dozi heard her father’s voice say. “My daughter has returned?” He sounded delighted.

Dozi pulled away from her mother and squeezed her father in a tight hug.

She then asked loudly, “Where is my little goblin?” She hoped that her brother would come running, but Dozi’s mother replied.

“He’s still asleep. He’s so stubborn about waking up in the mornings.”

Her father chuckled. “Just like someone else we know.”

“Come, sit, eat!” her mother implored. “I was just preparing breakfast.”

“I can’t believe you’re here,” her father added.

Dozi shrugged. “There isn’t really an easy way to let you know ahead of time, so when a few friends wanted to make the trip, I decided that it seemed like a wonderful idea. We did get rained on for a little bit of the journey, but it wasn’t bad. They’re all staying at the inn. I’ve made some amazing friends, and I can’t wait for you to meet them!”

“Well, tell us all about them over an egg and sausage pie.” Her mother placed the steaming breakfast in front of Dozi, and she plated up two more.

“I’ve done pretty well with food,” Dozi replied, taking a large bite and continuing with her mouth full. “I cook for myself and my roommates in the city, but I was ready for one of your meals.”

Her father and her mother sat down across from her with their own pies.

“You’ve got roommates?” her father asked. “Well, you’ve never struggled making friends. I’m glad you’ve built a community around yourself.”

“It’s been amazing,” Dozi said thickly through a mouth full of food. Each bite was perfection. She felt like it was revitalizing her soul to eat her mother’s cooking again, and she appreciated having someone else cook for a change. Ilya and Tchama helped Dozi with a lot of the food preparation, but Dozi cooked everything they ate. Her mother’s food in that moment was like magic.

“Last year,” Dozi went on, “I made friends with a runaway Messiah, who turned out to be a real hero, also a Bio-Shift, if you can believe that, and one of my roommates is actually a Shift herself!”

Dozi regretted her words the moment they left her lips. Not only did she speak secrets that were not hers to share, but her father’s reaction took her completely by surprise.

“You what?!” he suddenly yelled, interrupting his daughter’s excited speech. “That’s disgusting! We raised you better! Don’t you know better? No child of mine is going to live with one of those fucking freaks! What the fuck is wrong with you, girl?”

Dozi was speechless.

“You are a disgrace! I can’t think of a worse betrayal,” her father continued. He turned his scowl from Dozi and looked to his wife for support of his reaction.

Dozi’s mother looked appalled, but not towards her husband.

“Who do you think you are?” the woman barked at her daughter. “That freak is here with you, isn’t she? You brought her to our town!”

Dozi did not know what to say. She regretted the trip, regretted returning to the backwoods village, regretted bringing her friends, and regretted even more that she divulged their secrets.

“But there are Shift people who live here in Bluewood,” Dozi murmured in disbelief.

Her parents looked horrified.

“We don’t associate with them!” snapped her mother.

“As far as I’m concerned,” her father raged on, “those freaks don’t belong in Bluewood!”

“I thought you always wanted to be a Demifae,” her brother added in a quiet voice. He awoke at the shouting, and the boy was standing at the door to his bedroom.

Dozi felt a wave of guilt wash over her about the dreams of her earlier life. She learned and had grown so much in her short time living in Teshon City.

“You know how it is,” the boy continued. “You know how it works.” He was speaking in a calming tone of voice, one he learned to use when Dozi argued with her parents. Over the years, Dozi argued with her parents a lot. “Only a single Shift needs to die,” Dozi’s brother quietly reminded her, “for you to be just one in a whole group of new Demifae.”

“Shifts are people!” Dozi implored.

How dare you?!” her father shrieked. “I won’t stand for those kind of lies to be spread in my house! Do you hear me, girl?” He stood and loomed over his daughter. “Shifts are not humans, and I am shocked, shocked that you would speak such a terrible lie!”

Things were already bad for Dozi, but they were about to get worse.

“Daddy,” she said in a pleading voice, “why are you saying these things? I mean, I know that Bluewood is just a podunk village, but…”

Dozi did not get to finish speaking her thought, because her father’s palm suddenly impacted with the side of her face. The crack of the slap rang out in their little home.

“Not another word, girl,” he said in a threatening tone.

Dozi’s hands slowly moved to her face. Her eyes were wide and her jaw dropped. They always fought verbally; this was the first time he hit her.

“They’re people,” she whispered.

“Not another word,” he repeated through his teeth.

Dozi took a breath and screamed, “They’re people!

“That’s it!” her father bellowed. “You’re not going back to that corrupt city! No child of mine is going to live with freaks! You’re staying here, where you belong,” he finished.

Dozi then unleashed what was inside her and roared, “I knew that coming back here was a bad idea! I left this village and you backwoods people’s fear of change! You have a lot to learn. Ugh!”

She pushed past her father and he grabbed her arm.

“Oh, no you don’t!” he shouted.

“Get the fuck off of me,” Dozi growled, and she tried to pull herself free.

“You’re not going back to that city!”

“Oh, yeah, and how are you going to stop me?” she snarled.

He reared back to slap her again, and Dozi set her jaw. She glared at him, daring him to show his true colors again.

She then said in a voice of forced calm, “I’m… leaving…”

Dozi could tell that her father wanted to say something else, but when he did not speak nor hit her again, she ripped her arm from his grip. Her mother and brother looked shocked, but both remained silent. Dozi grabbed her coat, hat, and gloves and left them without another word. She exited the house and slammed the door.

Ugh!” she roared at the sky, and she stomped back down the path into the village.

Dozi saw Theolan, Ilya, Tchama, and bundled-up Lahari walking through the town square towards the community market. The mystic and Ninyani were not with them. Dozi stayed where she was until they passed, and then she stormed up to their rented rooms at the inn.

Tears were beginning to leak at the corners of her eyes when she entered.

“What’s wrong?” the mystic asked in surprise.

“Fuck this place. I’m done here,” she snapped at him.

“What do you mean?” he asked in a gentle voice.

Dozi sighed and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry,” she said. “We need to leave. My parents are livid that I am living with a Shift, and they can’t believe that I brought her here. I know, I know,” Dozi said before he could respond. “I’m kicking myself for outing her. I didn’t mean to. We were having such a nice conversation, and it just slipped out, but the reaction was much worse than I ever would have imagined. I don’t want to stay here a moment longer,” she added.

“I’m so sorry, Dozi,” the mystic replied. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No, I just want to leave.” She dropped her head.

“The others went to the market. I don’t know how long they’ll be gone. Do you want to go get them?”

Dozi rolled her eyes at herself. “Now that I’ve let it slip that there’s a Shift in the village, even though I don’t think anyone’s going to try anything, I don’t want to bring attention to Ilya or Lahari. My parents know there’s a Shift here with me, so I don’t want anyone to see me with any of our people. I just want to leave Bluewood as soon as possible. I’m going to pack.”

Time to leave...

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

So much for an idyllic reunion with her family and friends. She had no clue how bigoted they were. It's unfortunate and sad. At least Dozi didn't bring her friends to her former home.

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Wow--Dozi has grown and become a better, tolerant person. The change was significant. She found out visiting her patents that they have remained hateful, bigoted persons who hate shifts and her dad is violent. Dozi is shocked. She has to leave the village, Her parents will speak out against her friends if they see them together.  Will others follow her soon? Will others be attack them and fight back?

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Her parents will remain that way until her brother goes missing like the other children...then they will need her help...

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Well, that reunion did not go as planned.  The ignorance of some just can't be overcome.  This behavior may have damned the whole village.  When this group leaves, are their going to be many that could stand up to those taking the children?  

Just sad...

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