TPW: Chapter 8

(Part Two)

Posting was delayed this week and last week due to travel! Here is part two to chapter eight.

In science, Mr. Carbon continued yesterday’s lesson. At the end of class he carved out a few minutes to talk about animal classification, and passed out notes and worksheets for homework.

“This is going to be your only homework for the rest of the year! And, well no, that came out wrong…I’m giving you homework only on your animal studies, so you’ll essentially be teaching this stuff to yourself. Knowing your animal facts really helps later along the line in Invocans class.”

Sophie was attentive in each following class. The words of her teachers and friends filled her entire consciousness. Her mind worked tirelessly to attack each statement in math, composition, and history.

Pointless, aimless thoughts were her most powerful tools; Sophie was running from the dark hole in the back of her head—the one that whispered terrible suspicions and horrifying alternate realities. It spoke in her mother’s voice and with Charlotte’s persistence; moved with Lily’s delicacy and commanded the same attention as her father. There was so much that the darkness wanted to say…

By lunchtime, Sophie was feeling exhausted. Although Mr. Hickks had been right—classes were a helpful distraction—Sophie was mentally weary of her plastic smile and the sheer clawing sensation of not knowing when she would see her family again.

By the end of lunchtime, Sophie was beginning to feel faint and quiet and ready to move to a new bedroom where she could be all by herself. And once she had decided that a new bedroom was what she needed to feel better, she did feel better—because she had a new distraction to occupy her mind. She resolved to mention the idea to Ms. Ver at the end of Invocans.

It had started to rain by the time Invocans rolled around, so Ms. Ver taught her class inside the ivy-covered shack. The floor of the shack was being invaded by nature; it was wet and mossy, and vines crept in from gaps in the walls. There was a ring of stumps inside the shack as well, but there was no table to face.

Picking up where she left off, today Ms. Ver brought up ‘inverse Invocans’.

“Yesterday, class ended before we could finish talking about the Heart and how it relates to Invocans. Remember that Mr. Hickks placed his powers into the Heart, which is how Invocans is made possible for the rest of us. And here’s why…

“Like I said before, there are H-sohs, C-sohs, and O-sohs. H- and C-sohs are the most common kinds of (Invocansers), while O-sohs are highly uncommon. Think about it. To be an O-soh means your personality is almost perfectly balanced between H-soh and C-soh. An O-soh is even on both sides, and can therefore Invocans both sides. Remember that Mr. Hickks’s first form was a coyote? Coyotes are omnivores. Because Mr. Hickks is an O-soh, his powers were perfectly balanced, and his H-soh and C-soh sides balanced each other out,” Ms. Ver cupped her hands, “and like a circle, they fuel each other.

“But, my power looks more like this.” Ms. Ver formed her cup into a triangle with a rounded bottom. “Incomplete—more herbivore than carnivore. Invocans is all about balance—in fact, the school motto is In Concordia, or in harmony. Since my balance is off center, I cannot Invocans without the Heart.”

“But why?” Aiden interrupted. Watson threw him an irritated glance.

“Like I said yesterday, there is a flip side to every coin. Every H-soh and C-soh has an opposite form. Having two sides to their power makes them a well-rounded (Invocanser). That way, when I Invocans into my deer form, there’s my wolf side to balance me out and help me turn back into a human. Your opposite form is like the other side of a lever that keeps you from getting stuck.”

“You can get stuck?” Ira asked, voice low. “Like, as an animal?”

“It’s possible. That’s why I’m teaching you how to Invocans safely. Now, O-sohs don’t really have opposite forms like that. They are already balanced, so they don’t need a ‘lever’ to keep them from getting stuck.

“Think about it. The Heart holds an O-soh’s power. A perfectly rounded source of Invocans. Those of us who lack the perfect balance that an O-soh has require a ‘spark’ or a push from the power in the Heart. It provides the leverage we initially need to access our powers.”

“I get it,” said Watson, “but how did he actually remove his power and put it in an inanimate object?”

“That’s a great question. Your powers are physically inside you, so they are tangible and can be manipulated.”

“But how did he do it?”

“I can’t go over that this year,” Ms. Ver informed him. “You’ll learn it in a future class.”

Watson was disappointed.

“So, let’s talk a little more about those opposite forms! Once you’ve found your first form, you’ll move up to advanced Invocans, where you’ll practice inverse Invocans and try to find your opposite form. Depending on who you are, you might have anywhere from one to three inverse forms. Until you’ve found your first opposite form, you shouldn’t spend too much time as an animal, because you could get stuck.”

Ira slammed a fist down to pause Ms. Ver. “Wait. You mean that whatever your first form is, that’s your ‘soh’ or whatever. But you can’t Invocans anything that’s the opposite of that?”

“You’ll have up to a few opposite forms, but a C-soh can’t become any kind of herbivore, and vice versa.”

Ira’s brow knitted and she fell silent for a second.

“Does that makes sense?” Ms. Ver wondered.

“No. Can a carnivore become any kind of carnivore?”

“Yes, with practice.”

“And you’re talking about all this like it’s…fine.”

At this point, Ms. Ver was perplexed. “Yes…because that’s just the way Invocans works. Why wouldn’t it be okay?”

“What if you can’t Invocans any opposite form?” Ira proposed.

It was apparent by Ms. Ver’s expression that this question was extremely volatile. “That…is a very special circumstance. If your power is at such a point where it is almost one hundred percent carnivore or herbivore—essentially the opposite of an O-soh—then you would have no opposite form. This is an extremely rare scenario. We call these kinds of (Invocansers) Wraths.”

“Like having broken power.” Ira was intrigued.

“Are they evil??” Aiden exclaimed.

Ms. Ver chuckled. “They’re called Wraths only to honor the wishes of the first Wrath. They aren’t evil—just very abnormal. Essentially pure herbivores and carnivores, Wraths exhibit the most intense Invocans abilities, like extreme intuition, and almost animal instincts. These powers are strongest in animal form. Since Wraths lack an opposite form, however, they face the risk of getting ‘stuck’ in their animal form. They’re very…complicated individuals. I’ll go over them in a little more detail when we come to that lesson, but excellent question, Ira.”

Ira blinked. “Why thank you.” But her voice dripped with sarcasm.

The bell rang, class was dismissed, and Sophie was finally able to speak personally with Ms. Ver.

“Ms. Ver, I was wondering if I could change to a new bedroom?” she asked timidly.

Just as she had done the previous day, Ms. Ver came to sit by Sophie. “Sure. Are you bunking with anyone right now?”

Sophie nodded. “Uh, Sarah Stuart.”

Realization dawned in the teacher’s eyes. “Ah. Right. Is she not…Is she the reason you want to switch?”

Sophie shrugged. “I just…I just would rather bunk alone,” she confessed.

Ms. Ver nodded slowly. “I do understand. The reason we put you with her in the first place is because Sarah had the opposite wish last year, but…still ended up alone…” She gritted her teeth. “You probably get what I mean.”

Sophie suddenly felt a wash of pity for Sarah, because it was true: Sarah was obviously—painfully—on her own.

“Of course, with what you’ve been through, I’d be happy to move you to a new room. Do you have any p—”

“Nevermind.” Remorse clouded Sophie’s eyes. Inflicting her own pain upon poor lonely Sarah would only make her feel worse. “I’ll think about it a little longer.”

Ms. Ver quieted. “Okay. Sure thing.”

The in-between of classes is always a dreamlike time of day. Students mill about like haze, neither here nor there; their minds are not on lessons, but neither are they on anything of importance, because the time that is both before and after the bell is always enough to start but never finish anything.

Sophie’s conversation with Ms. Ver was cut off abruptly with the arrival of Leah’s class. Just when she had begun to open her thoughts to someone, she was forced to close them back up, but thankfully, Ms. Ver assured Sophie that they would talk again later.

Sophie then realized she would be late for Latin, and she tore off to the building as fast as her legs could carry her.

Latin class was taught by a man named Caesar. He was bald with an orange mustache; he wore a whistle that he never used; he appeared stronger Mr. Ver but identified himself as a connoisseur of the arts. He was a strange man whose appearance and mannerisms were a stark contrast.

The classroom itself was stocked with bookshelves and indecipherable works. The walls were decorated with paper pillars and posters about Latin roots, while each table had an olive tree bonsai centerpiece.

Caesar introduced himself to Sophie and gave her yesterday’s notes. After that, he launched into a far more grandiose introduction about the Latin language and its origins.

His monologue was loud and spittly and full of spirited intensity. Caesar went on for at least ten minutes, and while Sophie couldn’t remember any of his specific words (a lot of them had been in Latin), she never forgot the thrilling sensation he managed to instill inside her.

Who knew that learning a language could be so exciting—so powerful—so unique and inspiring? Caesar, that’s who.

“And now, Sophie,” he finished, “I beg you this: Will you venture with us into the transformative journey that is the Latin language? Latin may be dead, but it is not forgotten! It is our duty to explore its depths and learn its darkest secrets! Together, we shall become expert scholars of this wonderful language—this way of life! Will you join me?”

Sophie glanced around uncomfortably and noticed her classmates’ faces red with the pressure of keeping their laughter contained.

“Yes,” Sophie finally blurted. Or do I need to say it formally?! “I—I shall join you!”

Ira was the first to crack, and she exploded in screams of unstoppable laughter.

Caesar stared at her quizzically. “Are you all right?” he demanded, as if he couldn’t comprehend Ira’s mirth.

“Yes,” Ira gasped. “Just—I’m just fine, that’s all. Thank you.” She wiped a tear from underneath her eye. Caesar suddenly seemed to understand, and he broke out in a knowing grin.

“I see! You have been wholly grasped by the poetic beauty of Latin. Now, see, class, this is a truly intuitive student!”

At this, Ira fell to pieces, and was still giggling by the time school let out.

That afternoon, as Leah helped Sophie and the Novuses with their homework (Leah was happy to boast all her knowledge, whether the Novuses wanted her there or not), a shadow came over the group.

“Well hello there.” Sarah plopped down on the couch between Sophie and Leah.

“Sarah!” Leah yelped. “Get off, you’re sitting on my pens!”

Sarah crossed one leg over the other and shoved her foot in Leah’s face. “Oh, my bad, I didn’t see you there. Don’t mind me, I’m just here to see Sophie.”

“Who are you?” Ira asked dryly.

“Who are YOU, that’s the question,” Sarah retorted. Then she turned to Sophie and ignored everyone else. “So I’m actually here to extend a very important invitation. Sophie, you’re officially invited to be an honorary member of the Cat Club!”

Leah’s scowl deepened. “Sarah, I’m sure Sophie has no interest in that, so please—”

Sarah didn’t bat an eyelash.

“W-what’s the Cat Club?” Sophie wondered.

“Well—,” Sarah began, but Leah interrupted.

“Get off my pens, Sarah.”

“SHUSH, Leah, I’m trying to TALK here!”

Ira and Kate watched the skirmish with wide eyes. Sophie tried to intervene, but nobody heard her comments.

Leah shoved Sarah, who pushed back even harder. Sophie gave them a wide berth, highly disturbed by the conflict. Leah was fighting mad, a state that Sophie had never imagined her capable of. Did Leah lose her temper like this with everyone? Surely not—this had to be more than a spat over pens.

A dangerous energy seemed to gather up in the room, churning Sophie’s insides.It only faded just as Sarah left in an angry flurry, and Leah was able to gather her pens and calm down.

Later that night, when they were both in their bedroom, Sarah timidly revisited the topic of the Cat Club with Sophie. She explained that it was a small group of C-sohs whose first forms were cats. All they did was meet and chat.

At first Sophie declined, but when Sarah insisted it was okay even though Sophie hadn’t found her first form yet, Sophie caved and accepted, feeling guilty from the earlier exchange.

A few minutes afterwards, Sarah curled up in bed and fell asleep, at peace.

Sophie stared at the ceiling for a long time in the darkness, reliving her conversation with Ms. Ver. The teacher had followed up with her earlier that afternoon. They’d had a very nice heart to heart, and Sophie was now beginning to trust Ms. Ver. The head of the girls’ quarters really did know how to make Sophie feel at home.

Sophie had wondered when she could talk to Mr. Hickks again—as though that would help the search for her family go faster. Ms. Ver didn’t give a clear response, insisting he was busy.

“I’ll check in with him and bring you the news,” she had said.

Sophie closed her eyes.

The news. Do I even want to know?

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