Teamwork (Part 1): Phase Feathers
Who was this? Of course, Max had been expecting Ms. Pine. Every time Max had come over to the house – whether it be to feed Jebalix to a Slagorez, or empty the litter of a toxic cat – Ms. Pine had been there to greet him.
She usually left a cryptic note, and then greeted him at the door with a smile which let him know that whatever crazy thing that was about to ensue would be alright.
This boy, standing somewhat hunched in the doorway, did not smile, and he seemed to have no idea why Max was even there at all.
“I’m Max. I’m here to see Ms. Pine.”
“Trevor,” the boy replied. “Ms. Pine left a few hours ago. She said the normal guy flaked so I’m watching the cat for the weekend.” He tilted his head over his shoulder. “You’re welcome to come in and cool off for bit if you’d like. Looks hot out there.”
It had been a rather grueling ride over. He supposed Ms. Pine wouldn’t mind if he got himself a glass of water from the kitchen.
Max watched the boy. He didn’t seem to be doing much. He just sat playing video games. Perhaps Trevor needed help.
“Has Sphinxy had a canary this evening?” Max tried, hoping to prompt the boy to action.
“Ms. Pine gave him one before she left.”
“And she showed you how to change the litter? You have to – “
“I know what I’m doing.” Trevor said curtly. “I don’t need any help.”
Max continued to drink his water and twirl on his stool in the kitchen. Perhaps he should just ride back home. If Trevor, wasn’t going to let him help, then there was really nothing else he could do.
His eyes fell upon the stairwell leading from the living room to the second floor. It’s not that he had never noticed it before, he’d always just been so focused on the tasks Ms. Pine had provided for him that he never took the time to explore.
If she had a cat which required PPE to handle properly sitting in a plastic cube in her living room, just think of all the other strange things she might have hidden away on the second floor. It had never crossed his mind to head up those stairs, but now it seemed irresistible.
He didn’t consider it snooping. It was . . . professional development. He could take on more jobs if he knew more about the rarities in Ms. Pine’s house.It had nothing to do with being more valuable than Trevor.
Max gulped down the last swallow of his water and hopped off his stool. “Hey Trevor? I’m just gonna head upstairs for a bit. I’ll be back in a second.”
“Are you approved? Ms. Pine is very particular about where her employees go in the house.”
“Of course I’m approved.”
“Whatever.” Trevor said rolling his eyes. “But if anything is out of place when she comes back, I’m not covering for you.”
Max took the first couple stairs quickly and then slowed his pace once he was out of Trevor’s view. He wanted to take this in.
Unfortunately, it looked pretty much the same as the last level. It had the same stylish but muted wallpaper, and the wood laminate was tidy but not sparkling.
The sparkle lay at the end of the hall, a crystal door, slightly ajar. Max felt a cool blue intensity radiating from behind the clear gate. Entering the large room, he was stunned. It held hundreds of the same type of cube in which Shinxy lived, each containing some different creature which Max had never seen.
Some had fins, others tentacles, many had wings, and some had all! Nothing seemed to be where it should, but it all seemed natural for whatever creature he laid eyes on.
Finally, his eyes came to find an unusual looking bird tapping the plastic of its cube and looking quite forlorn. Its wings were red with one gold feather each, then three gold feathers clustered around its tail. It had arms too and sat on crow’s feet with a parrot’s beak. Compared with everything else, it was quite normal.
This would be a good place to start he reasoned.
Approaching the cube, he saw a small plaque identifying the creature as a Phasing Icarie. Looking closer at the bird itself, Max noticed that one of the golden feathers had been broken – snapped off – close to the skin. The animal seemed to be in pain and before Max realized what he was doing, he’d opened up the cube and plucked the broken feather from the bird.
The bird hopped away, and held up its wing to check the wound. There was only a speck of blood. Satisfied it was not a serious injury, the bird puffed up its chest in triumph and chirped its thanks.
Then it disappeared.
There was a fluttering sound and then a loud thunk as if something had hit the door. Max turned quickly to see the bird fluttering back from the door looking stunned. One of its golden feathers wafted to the floor beneath it. The creature disappeared again only to reappear at the opposite side of the room. It swooped low, in an effort to gain speed for the charge.
It would kill itself if it kept this up.
Max quickly moved in front of the exit and reached to intercept it. The bird disappeared again, just as his fingers were closing upon it. All that remained in his hand was a single golden feather.
The bird now clung to one of the other cubes, using its arms to help hold on, like a climber scaling a cliff. It swiveled its head like an owl to glare at Max with indignation. Max approached slowly, but as soon as he got close enough to reach the bird, it disappeared and flew into the door.
The bird limped back to the far side of the room, clinging to the cubes only this time too high for Max to reach. He’d be here all day if he didn’t find a way to keep it from disappearing. It was then that Max realized he noticed hardly any gold in the animal’s plumage. Indeed there was only one gold feather remaining on its tail. All the other feathers had fallen to floor. They looked withered and expired.
Max thought of the game Trevor had been playing downstairs. How Trevor only had a limited number of shots to kill his enemy. The bird’s golden feathers were like its shots. It only had one left.
Max opened the door hoping to coax it into making a move.
The bird let go of the cubes and swooped towards the open door. Max feinted as if he were going to try to grab the bird – it disappeared – and Max quickly turned and shut the door. The bird hit again, and while it was still dazed, Max grabbed it in both hands. It squawked and screeched, beating its wings to try and get away, but it did not disappear. Max held it fast and put it back into its cube.
He breathed a sigh of relief and turned to begin cleaning up the bird’s withered golden feathers. That’s when he noticed Trevor standing on the other side of the crystal door holding his cell phone. “Ms. Pine’s phone,” said the voice on the other end. “Who’s this?”
To be continued . . .
Hey again, I hope you enjoyed Teamwork Pt. 1: Phase Feathers. If you’re at all interested in reading more of my writing, or what goes into these stories, I’ve started a newsletter (which is hopefully released quarterly) so people can get a more “behind the scenes” look of what I’m doing and what’s going on in my world. Please consider subscribing. Just for signing up, I’ll email you the first story I ever wrote, about a Warlock Doctor. Fun times. Thanks again!
See you next time!