There was skin all over the bathroom.

 The ash-gray figure in the tub behind the shower curtain was weeping shakily under his breath, a pair of bloodied scissors in hand. Animal fur had grown out from beneath his flesh every few seconds and each time he tried scraping them off with the tip of his blade, a fresh pattern of scales or feathers blossomed from the bloodied wounds.

Was this the fear that possessed Babette when she burned her house down years ago? Evangelo thought, through shaky breaths. A rotten beastly odor rose from the depths of the drain, triggering bile up his throat. Even then, a searing cold trickled through the crevice of his ribs as a patch of fur instantly emerged up his naval.

“Open up! Before I find out what devil’s work you’re up to!” shrieked the hoarse voice of the woman whose pounds rained upon the bathroom door. 

Where was Babette when he needed her? She always knew how to save herself.  

Evangelo staggered out of the tub, his world spinning as he slipped on the tiles and grasped onto the shower curtain for balance…ripping it open instead.

Mother burst through the door. Her eyes, hard as granite, scanned the scene of animal skins in the tub, the scissors and the scar-inflicted, metamorphosing body on the ground.

Faint, shimmering emerald veins spread over his forehands and a creeping despair threatened to paralyse every limb in him. He fumbled around weakly for the scissors but the veins seemed to be thickening into something akin to a shell. An instant defense.

“Mother,” he gasped out and clung to her, but the woman’s face was hard, devoid of the slightest speck of warmth. 

“You are not Evangelo… You are to be banished from this house!”

“I am your son!” cried Evangelo, blinded by his tears.

“The devil has seized this household!” Mother shrieked, brandishing Evangelo’s head roughly with the aspen charm-beads that never left her grasp. Mother sunk to her knees, despair churned in her hollowed eyes. “Oh, gods of the midnight sun, the witches of the District have cursed a hellion upon my house!!!”

A prickling sensation began to crawl over every nerve of his body. His attempts to reason a fruitless fight.

He gazed blankly at her face – creased with the many lines of toil and frustration – as the world enlarged around him.

Hopelessness prevailed in his heart as a new skin swallowed him like a flood.

Evangelo was shrinking, his face contorting like never before.

I’m sorry, he wanted to blurt, but his voice had now reduced to a thin hum.

He opened his eyes to the vast expanse of the floor. He knew he was alive.  His vision had faded to bluish tinted grains. Yet, in his mind, the images of his past remained a vivid myriad of colours.

Evangelo held out his hands but all he saw were wings, amethyst and dotted with black, fluttering like frail tissue. His tiny heart now thrummed in his chest. The adrenaline that came with fear no longer repulsed or overwhelmed him, he was feeding off it, like an insect yearning for escape.

 He jumped, wavering in the cavorting breeze, before vanishing out of the window.

Evangelo clambered unsteadily on the ridgepole of the roof, turning hurriedly to his behind where a crack of fur was growing out of him. At once, the smoky coal mines, grey heaths and tattered poor houses of the District flourished with color as a pair of new eyes transformed his vision. He saw the sloping valleys framing the horizon, drenched in the glowing folds of the sun’s gold dress.

He was a fugitive now, hunted for manifesting ‘hellion powers.’ With his senses blossoming back to normal, he could hear the roar of a flame alighting a torch, and the smell of acid being poured as they prepared to scald the next demon reincarnate.

  “There, there! That boy with the gazelle figure!”

Evangelo winced, biting down the pain of the wounds on his skin as he tumbled from the roof onto the ground, deafened by the thuds of his heart as he sprinted, feral and feverish.

Mother’s face was a ghost haunting his thoughts; Mother, who muttered spells warding off every fortitude of evil in the uncanny hours of night, who whipped thorns upon him and sunk deeper into an ocean of insanity each day without Father’s existence. However, the blinding glints of the arrows fired his way veered his mind off her.  

Mother never needed him.

For the first time, Evangelo speared deep into the abyss of the woods.

Yet, the men were still armed, in wild pursuit, others joining them. A stone catapulted. Too close. The full weight of its ricochet bore down his skull. His world lurched in a rush of dark red beneath his hooves. Evangelo tottered unsteadily, a metallic tang tainting his lips.

The swamp, gasped Evangelo and dove straight into the murkiness a meter ahead. His lungs screamed with the urge to cry out his despair as the faraway curses of the pursuers poisoned his ears. He breathed in, suppressing the burning sensation of his hairs morphing. He spread his arms, in its place were shimmer-white, muscled fins.  

When the scales on his body began to fall, Evangelo heaved himself onto the nearest shore, his human form materialising. Gazing unseeingly at the isolated wetlands ahead, he was utterly naked from his waist and frozen to the bone.

Evangelo sobbed. What sort of monster had he become? He knew manifestations of power happened among children of Glass District at random but never was there a sudden invasion of manifesting power like his. Now, it made him a fugitive.

“If I died…” resolved Evangelo, glaring fiercely at his fractured reflection in the waters. “I would be free.” The skies above were an endless canvas of reds and golds, ever so welcoming. He wondered where God was, or if there even was one at all. Roughly palming away the tears straying on his chin, Evangelo clawed out the dubious undergrowth of mushrooms beneath him and raised them to his lips…


He whirled around. Hidden in the shadow of a hood and coat was the familiar lithe figure. Ginger locks. Cerulean eyes. Sun-bronzed face. Heart-shaped freckles.

All the memories crashed onto the shore of his mind. The wild chases in the heath, the evenings dancing idly by the constellations, the alluring curl of mouth belonging to the girl that broke him when she vanished into the woods…

 The lethal toadstools slipped from his fingers. Evangelo was engulfed in the embrace of Babette, the heat of utter joy incinerating through him. “I missed you,” choked Babette. “Who knew you were Gifted as well?”

When Evangelo looked up, he saw pools in the clear blue orbs. He never thought he would see Babette, dauntless as she had been, cry.

 “How did you find me?” murmured Evangelo, fingers smoothing through her hair, “I never forgot you. I visited the old house-”

“Every day… when the crickets began to call,” whispered Babette, her countenance soft. “I heard. I have been hiding with other Gifted these two years. We are a secret community of children who manifested…I sensed your manifestations with my powers. I’m a telepath, Evan, and a pyrokinetic…”

“You could have searched for me,” croaked Evangelo, who had gone increasingly ashen by the second.

“I couldn’t.” Babette sighed. “It was too much of a risk to expose the rest of them. I thought you would understand.”

Evangelo fell silent, vainly searching for the impulsive spirit…but all he saw was a shadow of a woman, sobered by maturity.

His ears perked. He had heard the shrill voices in wisps. Now, they were crystal clear. The men in pursuit had found him.

“We have to go,” hissed Evangelo, grasping at Babette’s hand, the men’s bellows flooding his hearing, tingling every fine nerve within him. How did they find him?

Babette winced, pressing her palm to her temples. “They consulted the old traitorous witch, Elder Crow to find us.” Her eyes flashed a tint of gold. By her sleight of hand, a hood concealed her and they made a run into the woods.

Time did not spare them.

  A man emerged swiftly from behind a tree, his fists whitened with the vigor of his clench as he thundered Babette onto the ground.

All the crimson lights ignited in Evangelo’s head, a prickling rush electrifying his skin once more.

Babette coughed, blood snaking down her temple. The man tugged at her hood, revealing her elfin face that now glowered, her jaw tightened fiercely. With a sneer, she struck the man across the face. He staggered back.

“Look here… the shapeshifter and the little runaway! You can’t even throw a damned punch,” he spat. Even so, Evangelo smelt the fear oozing out of every pore of his skin beneath the contemptuous countenance.

A troupe of six other men swarmed in, torches in hand as they surrounded the children. Evangelo felt Babette’s heated breaths and the hushed whimper escaping from her throat as she tried to start a spark on her quivering fingers. Fear was stopping her from tapping into her power.

  Everything cleared in Evangelo’s mind. He was unafraid.

The emerald scales emerged out of his flesh like daggers now, his body lengthening as fibers of muscle thickened through him. Evangelo roared, hearing a guttural noise tremoring the air around him, resembling some sort of crocodile. The men backed off cursing wildly. Their torches fell onto the ground, the dry leaves of the forest instantly catching the flames.

“Run!” shrieked a priest as fire roared up the barks of the surrounding hedges. Evangelo pounced into their paths, his tail sweeping their lank bodies into the fire. He bared his fangs, dodging swiftly past the rocks flung his way. The last that Evangelo heard of his accusers were their howls, their gaping jaw and wrinkles of trepidation melting into the heat of the flames.

Evangelo charged on with his furious torment, blinded by the euphoria that wired through his being. No one could touch Babette.

He sunk his teeth into the flesh of another man, feeling the clean snap of ribs and breath becoming air. He lashed out at the next attacker, tearing the velvety, raw limbs, tasting the acidity of his bodily fluids on his tongue and pounding the decapitated skull that crunched as it hit the ground… Before he realised what he had done.

He looked at Babette dazedly but she was erect, her fears vanquished. He saw the old Babette now, rising above the fire, her hands radiant and eyes starry against the smoke black as she deflected the tongues of flame.

The rest of the men were ashes in the fire she created. All Evangelo could see were bodies in evaporation, their hatred echoing up to the heavens.

Evangelo felt himself morphing back. When he had, his hand, hardened with the residue of a priest, clasped Babette’s. He had killed someone… everything seemed to whirl uncontrollably before him…

  “What do we do…” spoke Evangelo, his voice hoarse. “We can’t…we—”

“Can’t go back,” whispered Babette, shakily.

“It wasn’t my fault,” breathed Evangelo, his eyes darkening. “They could’ve killed you.”

 “We have to join the rest of the Gifted now.” Babette words were resolute. She threaded her fingers through his. “They’ll know what to do… trust me.”

Evangelo looked behind at the forest that was  collapsing to embers a few feet away. Never had he felt so much power in his despair; he was in charge of his fate now, no longer bound by the chains of fear or by anyone. 

Far ahead, he glimpsed at the obscure ghost of a promised land calling out from the expanse of trees, beckoning him from the mystical hills that hid secrets he thirsted to know. A voice sung in the winds for him to go towards it with faith. 

With determination like liquid flames through his blood, Evangelo spread his arms. 

His feathered wings fluttering tentatively, as did his heartbeat, as the winds caught under him. Babette held on, her whisper of “fear not” everything he needed.

Then, they ascended into the sun.

Lauren Chian was a Literary Arts student from 2016 to 2019. As a budding writer, those years strengthened her life-long love of creating stories and imagining worlds. Writing remains a purposeful medium for her to articulate the complexities of humanity.