I knew I wasn’t an ordinary teenage girl. “Lives in her own head,” everyone said.
I have a strange birthmark on my right arm. It’s extremely weird. It’s in the shape an S beside an O, M and I, all cursive and fancy, like S.O.M.I.
I like to think of it as my birth tattoo. Maybe my real parents were aliens from far off galaxies, or so I like to think at times when I find their lectures long. But I still love my parents, aliens or not.
My name is Zoya and this is my story, which started one night when my mother yelled out, “Zoya! Take out the trash!”
I conveniently ignored her and kept reading my favourite book, Frostheart in my bedroom. I was so engrossed in the part where Ash met Lunah that I did not notice my birth tattoo glow. It was only when I felt incredibly hot, searing pain that I dropped the book.
It was agonizing! I pulled up the sleeve of my nightshirt and saw my birthmark glowing fiery.
And that was it. Blackout.
My mind swirled with images of flying bicycles, backpacks, spirits and swirls. I tossed and turned till a voice jolted me awake. The pain on my arm seemed like a distant dream, so I didn’t bother to dwell on it, especially since my birth tattoo wasn’t glowing.
It did not seem what had happened was real and felt like a figment of my imagination.
I looked around my bedroom and noticed a book lay open to a poem by a famous poet from my country. The wind must have knocked it down. Picking up the book I read,
“The good in the world, only those are,
Ready to be useful to others who are!”
I shook my head and closed the book.
Again I heard a voice which made me uneasy.
“Follow me!” it hissed, insistently. It was coming from outside.
I am not sure what made me follow the voice, but it felt like the most natural thing to do. If this was a horror story, you could say it was the dumbest thing to do and, well, everyone knows how that would end!
But something pulled at me and so I followed the voice, which took me deeper into the park nearby that housed a junkyard of scraps beyond its edge.
It felt like a maze.
Once I was in the heart of the park, it hissed, “Look behind you!”
There, behind me, was a teal bicycle with a purple seat.
“This is it? I followed you into this deserted park to find a bicycle?” I nearly shouted at the voice which was basically shouting to myself, because a voice has no physical appearance at all!
Just as I was about to really think I was insane, it hissed, “Observe…”
The bike was quite sparkly. Both sides had stickers of white, fluffy wings. At the back were exhausts which puzzled me.
But what surprised me the most was that written across the side, in my favourite colour, emerald green, was my name, “Zoya”.
“Go for a spin,” The voice said.
I sat on the bike’s purple seat and put my feet on the pedals. Nothing happened.
That’s when a noticed a blue post-it note on the bikes handle. I pulled the note and read it.
“Teal bike, purple seat,
I really want to meet,
Please take me there
This item in my care”
Hesitantly I chanted; I might have rolled my eyes too, but we can skip that part.
The bike steadily rose from the ground into the sky.
All of a sudden an ear-piercing whistle broke out. The bike turned and sped straight towards the junkyard at the edge which suddenly had a huge purple hole glowing in the centre.
Before I could react we had shot through it and departed to the other side.
A creaky, dilapidated building with shattered windows and a grubby roof greeted me. The place looked deserted.
I quickly glanced around to find a splintered door with some symbols on it. They looked like my birth tattoo so I brought my arm closer to them. It felt warm.
“Access Granted!” said an eerie, mechanical voice.
All of a sudden, the old building turned into an opulent palace!
I stood in a grand hall, in awe as the creaky, dirty structure changed into a magnificent, glistening space. The broken glass turned into a pale blue frosted mirror. The dusty roof became a pretty sun roof and the splintered door became warm yellow.
“What is this place?” I wondered.
A girl with sapphire hair entered the hall.
Noticing my bewildered expression, she explained to me that this was S.O.M.I (Society of Magical Items) – a high school where each year new admissions came to learn to control and understand their otherlys, the objects linked to them since birth. I learnt that my Cycle was my very own otherly item!
“My name is Grace and I am Australian! You?” she asked, eagerly.
I’d never seen anyone like her, with her shocking blue hair, bright eyes and larger than life persona.
“I’m Zoya, from Pakistan.” I introduced myself.
We went further inside the palace and I noticed that everyone seemed to have a different nationality. My eye caught a boy standing by himself.
“That’s Farhan! He’s Indian, also new!” Grace announced proudly.
Farhan smiled at me. It felt familiar and warm like I knew him.
She introduced me to her Scottish friends, Sophie and Alastair, who hadn’t graduated last year, like Grace herself. Then, Grace introduced me to two others she had given tours to previously. Misty, and Elenora, who nearly bit off my head!
I learnt that while we studied in this world, our real lives were frozen in time. Nothing changed back home for us, yet we became so much more here and were going to take all that back when we crossed over the portal into our old lives again!
Our term went by fast. We learnt how to control our otherlys to best work for us. We woke up at five for breakfast with lights out at nine.
We went out for coffee just like normal kids, only we weren’t.
Farhan and I had become best friends. We had an easy way of talking and seemed to know exactly what the other was thinking. His otherly was a fascinating backpack that seemed to produce a small book of information about whatever we wanted to know.
It was a day before our finals, also the day before we crossed back into our old lives, and the five of were studying together. While we were going over basics, a loud siren distracted us. Panicked, we ran outside and saw a black vortex, sucking everything in!
Farhan sprinted inside to get a teacher. All of them came out within a minute, but Farhan didn’t. None of us had dreamed we would actually get to use our otherlys and that too in a fight against something unknown! No amount of studying could ever prepare us for this day.
Misty was enormous help; growing larger with the power of her otherly boots, standing in front of the vortex, making sure nothing else went inside it. It was the bravest thing I had seen.
Suddenly, Misty turned white and crumpled to the floor. We saw that an arrow had struck her leg. I found the source of that arrow. Something pale with white hair. They floated, just long robed spirits.
Sophie and Alastair took their otherly notepad scribbling a tornado and a monochromatic dragon from their imagination! The tornado cleared away half the spirits while the dragon did its best to attack. The arrows hit the dragon who turned against us, going instead for its creators. Arrows with portalmagic!
Sophie ran, while Alastair drew a bear. The dragon was stronger and took out the bear and, to everyone’s dismay, also attacked Alastair.
“No!” yelled Sophie.
With many down already, the teachers doing their best to ward off the spirits, it looked like a scene out of a movie.
I learnt in my classes that Cycle could shoot any element of nature from its exhausts if I said the Urdu word for each element.
“Hawa!” I shouted. I thought clean “air” would wash away the spirits, but it made them stronger as they twirled and whirled in my created windstorm.
“Aag!” I tried again, hoping something would happen. Fire shot out of Cycle’s exhausts, but the spirits angrily spat towards me.
“Poday!!!” I screamed at the top of my voice as the spirits turned their attention to me. They twined and moved towards me like the plants I had shot out.
I was fast losing confidence.
Rapidly I thought of more elements and tried “Pani,”as a last resort, closing my eyes and praying.
Suddenly there was a gush of water, much like a geyser. It splashed towards the spirits, dissolving them. It had worked!
Grace’s otherly ring transformed her into a werewolf. She roared and fought hard.
Watching the scenes, I realized Elenora was unaware of all this and I could not see Farhan either so I ran in to warn them.
They were not in any of the classrooms or dorm. I dashed towards our common room. There, frozen, stood Farhan!
“What happened to you?!” I cried.
Farhan replied, weakly, “Don’t come near me. I need to tell you something. I found a book that held a Legend; about a girl, lives in her head, who has a hidden power. It’s NOT linked to her otherly. No one has found that person before.”
I stared, hooked onto his words.
“Except…now!” he coughed out of breath. He pointed to me strangely. “It’s you….Zoya. You….showing signs. Kindness… No…questions! Elenora….vortex. Go…power…within!”
I was too scared to move but his words motivated me.
I found Elenora going into the portal so I pounced onto her.
She struggled but I hung on.
“The final step of my plan!!!! I was just about to...” suddenly she stopped as if revealing too much.
Locked together I noticed a locket in her pocket. I snatched and opened it. Inside, was a picture of a beautiful lady. I knew Elenora had no sisters, so maybe it was her mother.
Time to see if this is true. Farhan, I really hope you’re right about this!
The locket was shaped like a broken heart. Maybe Elenora had opened the portal to see her mother, as the portal unleashed spirits of those gone. Her mother had probably passed away.
“Why?? When you knew spirits could destroy the time circle and we would NEVER go back to our old lives? Everything would have perished!” I asked shocked.
Elenora was baffled by my deduction.
“You wouldn’t know!” she sobbed. “You have parents who love you! I only had my mother! Without her, what life do I go back to?”
I remembered the poem I found in my bedroom the day I crossed the portal and felt a wave of sadness so I forcefully embraced Elenora.
“Humdardi” I whispered with my eyes closed.
Empathy was the hidden power within me.
“What spells are you mumbling?” she muffled.
All at once she floated into the sky, and back down, her eyes wide with shock!
“Mama!! I saw…her…! She told me she is always there!” stuttered Elenora tearily.
Everyone had gathered to witness this.
There was smoke and rubble everywhere. Farhan stood there too. Smiling.
A lady in a pink tuxedo with flaming red hair announced,
“Well, that should serve as a final exam don’t you all agree?”
There was a deafening applause.
Suddenly I was jolted awake.
“Zoya! Did you take out the trash yet? There’s someone I want you to meet!” mom cried out.
And you’ll never guess who it was!
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