Today was just going to be another Friday, and then I experienced the first hours after work. As I walked down the empty and not so clean path home, I found someone right in front of my door at the end of the alley where I lived. No, this isn't one of those horror movies where the girl walking alone gets killed by some shadowy figure, but the person I looked at didn't seem like your average guy.
I couldn't tell much about the kid (I presume was in fact, a kid) considering how he sat on the ground with his arms wrapped around his knees and his face buried somewhere among them. But I see the child wore a large, black jacket with sleeves almost covering his hands, and had abnormally gray hair which probably would've hung almost down to his shoulders if he were standing.
Then again, I'm not your average person either. I stand at 200 cm, (6 feet 7 inches in some weird western country's system), have dark red hair going down to my legs, the parts of hair below my head look as if belong to some Japanese TV character, and my eyes are dark green. Believe me, in my country, there aren't people that have my traits, they're usually black haired, brown eyed, and if I remember correctly from school, everyone here's around 159 cm at most (5 feet 2 inches in that western country if needed). To top it off, I have a "bloody brown" colored tail like a cat or monkey's, making me look more like a cartoon if the rest of me didn't look like it already. Other than that, I'm wearing loose black pants and a very dark purple hooded jacket unzipped a little so you can tell my shirt was green. Seems like I looked intimidating compared to the kid with part of my head hiding under the hood and of course my size and all, however I have this obnoxiously quiet personality, so I didn't feel like going up to talk with anyone, yet I needed to open my door.
"Hi. Er, can I (uh) step here for a second? Um, I need to get in." Wow, I sounded like a five year old reading a sentence for the first time, bet that's what being like me does to you. The kid looked up at me showing me his black eyes, and backed over to a corner of the alley. He wore a bluish shirt and pants which looked exactly like mine, but smaller as far as I could tell once his head lifted up. Afterwards, he went back into his original position, but this time, just with his head raised enough that you could see part of his face looking down.
"Um, Thanks" I muttered trying to sound friendly but ended up sounding scared. I closed the door behind me and lay down inside. My "apartment" as most would call it wasn't really much of one. I crammed a desk and lamp, chair, washing machine, a small stove sometimes for drying stuff, a shelf for clothes, papers, water, and misc whatnot, a clock on the wall, and a bunch of blankets as a makeshift bed on the ground inside the main room. The only other part was the bathroom which in itself wasn't very big either.
I guess it's what I get for working as an assistant for a Japanese immigrant. Every day, I'd help him move stuff, write stuff, and since he's not from here, I had to translate everything. He speaks Japanese and some English, I understand Chinese and English, since English is both our second languages, trying to communicate is kind of slow. Anyways, doing menial tasks day after day takes the toll on your head after a while and believe me, it's not a very exciting job. I could just stay home, but I'm trying to pay bills and for college. I'm 19, a 2nd year in Beijing Tech, only able to stay in Beijing Tech by scoring high on tests. I've had people in my hometown pool money for me to get here. What do I hope to do? If I can, I'd like to be able to give back to the community and people that helped me get here, and hopefully, I can find my long lost brother who I haven't seen in years. Come to think of it, I don't really remember what he looked like beside he should have a tail like me, but I heard back from home that he's somewhere in Beijing as of now. But in the meantime, I should try to get used to this "room," I guess, which I will calling "home" for a while. I pushed those thoughts out of my head as I closed my eyes, assuming I wouldn't forget to do anything important. Well, I'm done with work this week, I finished class and homework during class (sometimes I don't, but this week was lucky, don't tell my teachers I do that though), and there's not much "house" keeping to do anyway, so I drifted off to sleep.
I woke up to the sound of rain and thunder outside. The clock read 9:00, so I've been asleep for half an hour since I got back. Looking outside the window, the sky looked pitch black with bits of grey here and there (clouds probably). If one stepped outside past my doorstep, he/she could take a shower there if the cold wasn't an issue, and then there came the occasional lightning flashes soon followed by thunderclaps. Since I probably can't fall back asleep, I decided I'd try to study a bit more, yet I couldn't concentrate with all the noise. Maybe what I needed was a walk; some water and fresh air wouldn't be so bad, and the possibility of the one in a million chance I'd run into my brother and we'd recognize each other as siblings would be a relief as well. I prayed every day that he'd be safe and we'd reunite somehow, no matter what situation it would be, but what do you know? Every day, I thought, "Today may be the day" and I guess that's what brought me outside the door, in the middle of a thunderstorm at a bit past 9 at night.
I brought myself just outside enough so I wouldn't hit the rain yet when I found a clump of shadows to my lower left. It turned towards me and revealed itself to be the same kid I found over an hour earlier. What was he doing at this hour?
"Hi," was all that came out. I wasn't the type of person who had many, if any friends at all. I stood out (way) too much among the Chinese people and I'd understand why people would be scared of a 200 cm monster that lives at the end of that one dark and dirty alleyway. Come to think of it, back home, I usually ended up playing with more animals than actual people. Yet with this kid, I just had the feeling I had to say something. Instead of replying, I saw him take out a piece of paper and a pencil, wrote something, and handed it to me. I took his note and read.
"Sorry, I'm pretty much mute, I can only say things by writing or if your ear was really close to my mouth." Poor kid. Here I am worrying about my stuttering, and this kid doesn't even have the blessing of being able to talk, on top of looking (quite frankly) like a freak to the average person (Ever see those cartoons?). Come to think of it, I recognize most of the people I come across the street every day, but I never saw this kid before.
"I'm sorry to hear that" I replied, "Do you, well, feel lonely here?" What are you saying, Captain Obvious? He's probably been sitting for the better part of the afternoon.
"You're the first one who's talked to me today. Thanks, I guess" he wrote again. Now I'm feeling bad for him, and about myself.
"Do you have someplace to stay tonight?" He shook his head. D@~n! I at least have a job and somewhere to go, but this kid may be homeless, is more than likely worse off than the common beggar, who at least sees people and gets money occasionally. Who knows how long he's been like this? It's a wonder I can tell he's a kid. This time, I felt the urge to overcome my reclusive self, this kid here needs, no, deserves more than this.
"Want me to, maybe, keep you company?" I didn't get an answer, so I curled up on the other corner in front of him. I put my arms around my legs and rested my head on my knees to that I was looking at him going back into the position I found him.
"Want to come inside?" It was probably a few minutes before that came out and I could barely hear myself say it that time. Surprisingly, he looked up at me, telling me he heard it over the rain and thunder.
"I won't keep you in if you don't want to. It's just if you're cold or something. I have lights and more paper so you can, eh, write better." I got up and opened my door halfway while I told him that.
"I'll uh, be right here." And I left the door open a bit so he could at least see some light after I turned on my lamp. Few moments later, I saw a head peeking through the gap from the mess of covers I slept in.
"Want to come in?" He didn't move. "I'm not trying to scare you. I just want to talk if you want to." I sounded choked up at that last part, probably not because I was about to cry, which I don't do like most girls such as myself, but probably out of nervousness, since this is the first time someone stepped this close to me. "Oh, I have some more pencils and paper if you want. You, um, must be running out." At that notion, he slowly crept past the threshold of my door and stopped before he reached out like a scared child trying to hand feed an animal for the first time, so I handed the stuff to him (and now I can see he was no taller than my shoulders, hope I didn't scare him.)
"You can write here," motioning over to the desk, I pulled my chair over to him. "I only have one, you can use it; I don't think you'll stay too long." He looked at me for a few seconds. "I don't mind standing tonight." And he sat down after that. "Do you feel cold or anything? I can let you in my blankets if you want." He looked at me again. "I don't mind either, um, I don't have to use them if you want to keep warm with them." He looked back at the sheet of paper. Hey, I tried to be nice. I don't know beforehand when I'll creep someone out, excuse me for being socially awkward. "Can I write my words as well? I don't want to be the only one talking." He nodded. "So, how long have you been here?" I started on the paper.
"A week" he wrote.
"Have you seen much of the city?"
"I wandered around a lot for the first six days. No one really talks to me, sometimes, I touch cats and dogs, sometimes I watch birds fly, sometimes they can come to me. Today, I just picked your alley to rest." Sounds like a peaceful start.
"Where do you usually sleep?"
"In dark alleys. One time in an old building." I feel worse for him now.
"If you'd like, you can sleep inside." He looked at me again. "Sorry if I scared you."
"Thanks for asking." He scribbled.
"So, what are you here for? Where are you from?"
"I'm from ZhangJiaJie (张家界), it was attacked not too long ago, and I believe I may be one of the few that got away. The people pooled their money for me before the army and some others burned the place down. I got here a week ago so I can study at Beijing High #4, that's what they told me to use the money for besides finding a home. The country may be trying to finish the survivors; it's a good thing I learned to fight well before the attack. I can maybe fight off some soldiers if they try to get us. Also, I think they told me I have some family here, so I'm looking for them." Oh no. ZhangJiaJie (张家界) was my home too! Why wasn't I told of this? The citizens there did the same thing for me to get me to college! I can't ever repay them now. I tried hard to keep myself from crying at the thought.
"That was my home too, I'm sorry. I'm going through the same thing, I know how it must feel." That's all I could say.
"Tell me how you got here and your story, I'd like to know from another survivor if you feel like it," he wrote.
If I felt like it. No one ever talked to me beyond directions and "sorry for running into you," of course I'd be happy to tell someone. So I did. I told him everything I could recall; I started from when my hometown's people pooled money for me to attend school here, my many hitchhiking trips from one side of the country to another, the time where I found this place was the only place I could afford, the boring job I got to pay for it, how everyone seems scared of me, everything I could write down, and eventually, to this point in time.
"We have a lot in common, don't we?" he replied.
"I guess so."
"I think you're the first one who talked to me this long. Usually, people seem scared and just stare, then the go away after a few words."
"I'm sorry to hear that." He pities ME? "I shouldn't bother you too much. I'll be going soon."
"Are you sure you don't want to stay?" I didn't want just for me to keep him company, I wanted someone to stay next to me. But then again, sleeping in a stranger's house is not the best idea anyway.
"I best get going." I didn't chase him.
"That's OK." And with that, he walked towards the door, but I had one last thing to find out.
"Oh, um, what's your name?" It felt awkward having that being the first thing said in a while. He came back and left his name on the paper and turned around after a weak waving goodbye. I looked at it and looked at him one last time. Something was unusual about the back of his jacket. I looked back at the name, which read, "们, 啊美死" (Oriental Asians put their family name first before their given) Then it hit me, it wasn't by chance his jacket deformed like that, he hid a tail under that. "Is this your real name?" He nodded. "Can you, come back a minute?" This time the choking in my voice was real. I guess he could tell by the way he looked at me when he walked back a few steps. Just to confirm, I looked one last time. Sure enough, it still read, "们, 啊美死." 们 was also my family name. Out of nowhere, once he was close enough, I kneeled down and squeezed him. He flinched out of shock and I felt something wet on his face. Did I squeeze too hard and bring tears from him? Then I realized the tears were mine. "Armisa (啊美死)" was all I could say as my choked voice turned into sobs. I took the pencil again and wrote so he could see, and because I couldn't talk in this state. "I'm your sister you were looking for, and you're the brother I've prayed for. I'm so happy I found you."
"How?" My whole body held tighter upon hearing his voice for the first time; a small whisper into my ear.
"You have a tail just like I do, your name is '们' just like mine, we have almost the same personality, and you're exactly like the brother I described. There's no way you're not. I'm your sister, Eltana (们, 噩塔娜)" would be the last thing I wrote that night.
We stayed there for a few minutes before he asked, "Can I stay here?" I nodded on his shoulder. I couldn't have been happier that night. We took off our jackets, went to my pile of blankets, and wrapped ourselves in them. Once we settled down, I couldn't help but go back closer to him and squeeze harder and let the tears go down my face.
"Welcome home," was all I could whisper, and he gently hugged me back. From there, I guess we both fell into a deep slumber warm in the blankets on a stormy night and warm from holding each other.
Oh yeah, my name is Eltana, and after all that time, both our prayers were answered