Chapter 1: Chapter One

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 182

het

……

December 30th, 1966

Fell’s Haven, Oregon

Heron

I was busy having a conversation in the Bright Room, what we, the patients of Shepphard Hope Hospital, call the brightly lit, rubber-walled isolation chambers, when they came for me. 

My back itches between my shoulder blades, and I imagine that I can scratch at the scabby nubs of flesh that are my fledgling wings. Imagining is all I can do, unfortunately, as I am currently trussed up in just about the tightest goddamn straight-jacket on this side of the Wall. 

I grimace as I hear a solitary pair of approaching footsteps from the tiny, padded cell. Oh, this was bound to be cheerful. Shame, the voice of who I selfishly imagined to be my father only came to me when I was alone...

“Heron Huntson.”

A nurse’s dry, clipped tone interrupts my inner dialogue rudely, “You’re being transferred. C’mon. Let’s go.”

But this was to be expected. I had always known they’d catch on to me eventually. After the Bright Room, I’d no doubt be transferred to the Correction Center’s janitorial detail, like always, and serving out my punishment would be a piece of cake.

Most of the janitorial brigade were members of my own little gang. 

We called ourselves the Lost Boys. 

And, I was Pan. Or, at least, that’s what some of the boys called me. 

Others knew me as Het. A name I’d inherited from way back when I’d first been admitted into the general population of the boy’s ranks. I don’t know how old I was. I’d been held in the old Shepphard Hope dungeonesque solitary confinement cells, then. 

For years... 

I think. I don’t really know for sure. A lot of the time I’d been locked in restraints, though, so there hadn't been any viable way to keep track of the date. There hadn’t been a bright room, then…

Running drugs in the boy’s ranks of one of the country’s oldest Correction Centers for the past eleven years; you were bound to slip and get caught. Inevitably. It happened every day. Overdoses, ruled out as suicides occurred nightly here at Shepphard Hope. And, that wasn’t even the half of it.

What had been slightly out of the ordinary was the increase in stabbings, strangling, and bludgeoning this past year. A flux that was caused by the sudden emergence of a new little gang of miscreants and hoodlums that had threatened my territory. The Grievers. Led by Skiv Greaves; little brother to Johnathan--the Middle Finger of the Hand.

I was in here, in the Bright Room, again, because I’d done something honorable. Downright noble, even. I took the blame for something I didn’t do for one of my two best friends, Tooth. Again…

 I am the only one who can adequately flatter myself, so…

“Heron? Are you listening to me?” The flat voice of the as of yet, formless nurse reached me through a crack in the door.

I blinked my completely black, almond-shaped eyes. Tilted my head.

Why wasn’t she coming inside? She was hiding in the hallway, even as she spoke to me. 

“I can’t come to you.” I said with an exasperated roll of my eyes, jerking at my restraints, “I’m in a straight-jacket… And, they’ve got me collared to the floor.”

And, not by a very charitable length of heavy, clinking chain either. I might add.

“Oh.” came the somewhat squeaky response of the nurse from the other side of the rubber door, “I--I see.”

But, she didn’t do anything.

“Uh.” I drew in a deep breath, my lips thinning over my miniature fangs, “Is there a problem?” Then, “You have the keys, right? That’s why they sent you?”

The nurse’s voice sounded awfully young and shy when she replied.

“Right…”

There came a slow creak of the door opening slightly and I saw a flash of reflected light that simply added to the intense level of brightness in the tiny, bare room for a moment, blinding me. 

And, then I saw a tiny woman appear in a starchy, white nurse’s uniform and cap that was two sizes too big for her.Thick-framed glasses with the edges pointed upwards in an almost feline tilt. There was a tear in her panty-hose. She wore her mousey-brown hair tucked back in a French twist with pins, had pale, watery-looking blue eyes, a pert, little nose with nostrils that flared as she stepped close to me. And, a cleft chin.

Really, she was very sort of pretty. If you swung that way.

Which I did. Swing. In all sorts of directions, if I were being honest. Not that it was really anybody’s business…

She looked at me with a demure flutter of her pale lashes behind her lenses.

Strange, I’d never seen her around here before now. And, I’d been here so long that no one, not even the doctors or nurses themselves really knows when I was first admitted. I had been old enough to still have imaginary friends, I remember. So, I mean, I guess there’s always that.

So much for having a clear and easily relatable back-story. The mysteries of my origins, in fact any memories at all of any time I’d spent before Shepphard Hope were crucially absent…

Was she really still standing out there in the hallway?

I sigh slightly to myself, feeling a bizarre urge to laugh miserably as I suddenly put two and two together and realize; she’s scared of me.

And, so the resident hospital ghost meets the naive, hopefully impressionable nurse aide. This could actually be a good thing, now that I think about it…

“Well,” I huffed, feeling more than a little irritated at her somnambulance, “Are you just going to sit there all day? Unlock me.” And, again, fruitlessly, pointlessly, I strain against my bonds. Gritting my tiny fangs. Struggling till long, inky strands of my overgrown hair musses and falls into my hot and sweating face.

Her name is Amanda. Amanda Babe.

The familiar voice of my old, old imaginary friend from early childhood, Puck, spoke to me abruptly. 

Now?

When he hadn’t spoken to me at all in years?

Flitting flashes of memory spiraled back and forth hazily before my light-stunned eyes. Almost like the dance of a flickering flame in the eye of a deer or some quiet but tameless beast. Corporeal but unknowable. I shook my head, and I was gasping for air.

This straight-jacket was so fucking tight!

“Un.” I whimpered without meaning to when the nurse materialized beside me suddenly and laid the soft, warm press of her palm against the top of my head gently. It felt like I couldn’t breathe.

“Hold still.” She said in that clipped, hurried tone again. She moved her hands to my neck and I flinched. Struggling for air. The utter brightness of the tiny, off-white room was obliterating any rational thought I had left in my mind.

I’d been in here this time for hours.

Maybe even a day. It was hard to tell. They only let me out for bathroom breaks every once and awhile. Usually.

“Will you just get me out of here, already?!” There was a discernible note of panic in my voice. I hated this. I hated this so much, being held still, held down, unable to move of my own volition, against my will--But, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a familiar feeling.

I’d grown up like this.

Finally, she had unfastened the collar around my neck and the buckles of the straightjacket. I shucked it off me and onto the stone floor with a grunt. It landed with a wet flap of coarse, sweat-sodden material. Gross.

“Thanks Amelia.” I said without thinking, rubbing the back of my bruising neck with my naturally black fingernails. Immediately, I winced.

Oops.

Rule number one to living amongst humans:

Don’t let them know you hear voices. And, definitely don’t let them know that you listen to them. 

“Wait a second,” The small statured nurse went frigid beside me as we passed into the dimly lit hallway, her mini-heels clipping to a stop in the entrance, “Did you just call me by my dead grandmother’s name?”

I kept walking as smoothly as I could, slipping my olive-toned hands into the side-pockets of my oversized, zip-up, grey jumpsuit. Shrugged whilst carefully avoiding direct eye contact. She followed in step behind me, blinking owlishly behind her cat-eyed glasses. Hesitantly, now.

 “Maybe…” I muttered. Not knowing what to think. 

I didn’t know where we were going, officially. I’d assumed I was getting off easy with some more janitorial hours, so I’d been heading straight for their office. My plans were interrupted by her reaching out for me with one questing, inquisitive hand.

I hissed slightly, my black, forked tongue swiping over my upper lip as I snarled and pulled my wrist away from the nurse when she tried, thoughtlessly, to reach for me. My frayed, all-black, high-top sneakers scuffed to a halt on the stone floor. I pivoted on my heel, back around to face her, and crossed my arms. Tilting my head.

“Why are you trying to touch me?” I ask her, plainly. Genuinely curious.

Maybe it was something about only being partly human and partly fae. People touched me without asking a lot. Whether it was a friendly or malicious touch, well, now that was a different story.

Most people I met found me either irresistibly alluring or outright revolting. Only my true friends knew it was, in actuality, closer to some sordid mixture between the two. For that’s how I viewed myself. 

With hatred and with longing. Longing for one, just one other creature who was of mixed descent like me. Someone who could understand my loneliness… But, time and time after again, finding only myself.

“I wasn’t, I didn’t think I was, I mean!” She fretted in a darling fashion for a moment before regaining her professionalism, “My apologies. It’s just—You’re going the wrong way.”

“What?” I frowned at her.

We’d been passing closed wooden doors with no windows on each side, but I’d assumed those were other Bright Rooms. The young nurse aide with the mousey-brown French twist in her hair gestured with one tiny hand back to a door we’d just passed on the left. She nodded when I looked at her questioningly, then smiled. Her teeth were very clean and very straight.

“Haven’t I told you, Heron?” she said, “My name is Amelia Baye and I am your new personal nurse aide! And, today is your Graduation Day! You’re graduating into the men’s ranks of Shepphard Hope!Yay! Hurray! Isn’t that exciting?!” she chirped at me in a somewhat nasally talking-to-little-kids voice while I gaped back at her, horrified.

Was she actually clapping? Oh, hell no.

“Stop.” I cut her celebration off, “No. No dancing. I’m not happy. You haven’t done your job. Clearly.” I shut the door with the flat of my palm when she moved to open it. 

“Woah, Heron!” she reeled back from me in half-submerged alarm, “Don’t scare me like that! I’m just trying to show you to the stairs. We need to get you to the showers and then we can take you through the gate to the next Tower, after a quick screening.”

I looked down at her from my very intimidating height of five foot nine inches and scowled through the feathery slant of my bangs. Sickled the thickly lashed seam of my pitch-black eyes. Stared at her with all the fierceness I could muster. 

“I don’t think you understand… I’m transgender.” I said, coldly. 

Nurse Amelia Babe--Baye gasped, her watery blue eyes growing wide behind her thick frames. She fanned at her chest and looked around us worriedly in the hallway, in case someone might have been passing and overheard us. She reached to grab my wrist again.

I moved away with my inhumanly quick reflexes before she could touch me. Instinctively.

“Nonsense! Stop playing around, we have a schedule to keep to!” she cried and then giggled, looking somewhat guilty for laughing, and she tried to open the door to the stairs again.

I stopped her with one hand. Again. Rounded up on her now, sliding my chilly hands into the pockets of my sweaty, grey jumpsuit. Sighed.

“Look, Amelia,” I said, already feeling exhausted by the con I was about to pull, “I know what you’re thinking. I must be joking, I can’t be serious, right? But, see--That’s just what’s so funny about it--I’m telling the truth… Honest to god. Swear to my mother, if I ever had one, I will die if I graduate into the men’s ranks.”

Okay, so that part was true.

Nurse Baye frowned, her pale eyebrows pinching slightly. Her glistening blue eyes roamed over the contours of my abstractly freckled face for a moment, apparently trying to read the truth from my looks. 

Typical human… I tamped down a smile, letting the corners of my bowed lips turn wry. And, I shrugged, looking down a little helplessly. 

“You’re saying that you’ll actually die?” Amelia Baye asked me outright then, “Living in the men’s ranks is going to kill you?”

Close.

There was a man named Johnathan Greaves, Skiv’s older brother, who was waiting for me--had been waiting for me--to graduate, every year for the past three years…

Ever since Tooth had taken out Skiv’s eye--and I had confessed to it--three summers ago.

I’d lied and covered for Tooth because Tooth was already being threatened with a prefrontal lobotomy, which Shepphard Hope still practiced somehow. I had a special relationship with one of the doctors, several nurses, a few security guards, and even a few lab tech aides. This made me pretty much untouchable. 

Except, if I were to graduate right into Johnathan Greaves--The fucking Middle Finger of the mother fucking Hand itself--that would be far from the case. I couldn’t afford to risk my life. 

Everything came down now to this moment. This vast and untraceable shard of a chance. That I might somehow survive…

Pretending to be a trans woman was better than being a dead person. 

I knew it wasn’t right. But, I was willing to say or do anything just to keep on breathing.

I reached out for her little pale hand now, and, surprising myself somewhat, I cradled her palm to the pit of my chest and let her feel my heartbeat as I spoke my next words.

“I, Heron Huntson--Call me Het, though, by the way-- hereby, promise with everything that I am, that I am not lying to you now… Please. Please, Amelia, listen to me. It’s not safe for me in the men’s ranks. I’m a transgender woman and there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there about that… It’s not something I can help. Trust me, I wouldn’t have chosen this. But I need you to understand--I need you to help me--”

And, I broke off suddenly, having allowed my normally heavy-lidded eyes to remain open wide and imploring long enough to gather a faint sheen of unshed tears. So, she could see that I was desperate. I felt her squeeze her fingers against the front of my jumpsuit. Flexing them against my sternum then curling them in again. I froze, startled by the intimacy of the touch.

“But what is it that you’re saying?” she asked me with a childishly obtuse look on her face, as if I were speaking a foreign language, “That you want me to--to introduce you to the women’s ranks instead?”

I smiled with relief, being extra careful not to show the small fangs where my incisors should be. Nodded happily.

“Yes.” I said, “Why, that would be it, exactly. Thanks.”

After a quick and frigidly cold shower in the boy’s ranks bathroom on the first floor of Tower I, I redressed in my faded grey and formless jumpsuit.

My long hair dark and dripping on the floor, I squeezed it dry with my long, nimble fingers, and wrapped it up into a coiled bun. Tying it in place with a knot of the long, wispy layers so that the baby hairs fell in a suspended, pitch-black nimbus about my head. I nodded to my dark-eyed and staring reflection in the sink mirrors.

Then I had to look away quickly. Something inside me searing like it’d been burnt. It hurt to look at myself full on.

Insect.

The word flitted through my mind like a stone thrown in the center of a still and murkily deep pond.

And, it was hard to tell who had thrown it first.

It was just one of the many names that I’d been called repeatedly when I was still a mute, little wide-eyed child who’d been victim to the merciless and cruel hands of the Shepphard Hope boy’s ranks bullies.

Before I’d met Tooth and his twin brother Nail, who, over the years, had grown to become something closer to my generals and my war counsel rather than anything so soft and childish as friends. I had still been friendless then. Without memories. Substanceless.

Easy pickings.

Brushing aside the sudden and unwelcome reminder that I would never fit in anywhere anyway, I zipped up the high collar of my jumpsuit to the top. Sighed. And, ambled out of the bathroom--only to see Nurse Babe standing across the hall, where it looked like my sudden reappearance had interrupted her pacing. 

She was holding a clipboard and a closed manilla folder with both hands before her, anxiously. It seemed that I had intruded on her own mental conversation. She looked up and stopped walking when she saw me. A faint, pinkish tinge began to color her cheeks and neck. Her small, pale lips were parted as if she’d paused speaking mid-syllable. Cute.

“Well, then!” she declared awkwardly, trying to pat my shoulder and failing immediately offhand, “I see you’ve had your shower, Het. That’s great. You look, um, really clean. Good job.”

I eyed her quizzically.

“I’m an adult?” I said uncertainly, “I know how to shower?... Thanks?”

“Oh.” she said, and she waved a tiny hand in the air between us like she was batting a fly, “I didn’t mean any offense! I just meant that we have some patients who uh, need some help in the hygiene department. If you know what I mean…”

“Ah. Oka-ay, then.” I blinked my eyes at her, moderately impressed by this fact of her daily life.

“Nevermind!” Nurse Babe huffed, looking a little embarrassed by her own effusiveness, “Forget I said anything. Just, come with me, now. We’re already running late for morning meeting in the women’s ranks! If we are to go forwards with this, I mean…”

She cast a somewhat dubious glance at me, as if she were second-guessing herself, then. I quickly rushed to reassure her, smiling happily back at her and nodding pleasantly. Sometimes it was best not to use words.

“Alrighty then, right this way, Het!” the tiny nurse aide clapped her clipboard with my file to her side and practically clicked her small, black low-rise heels together. And, she hurriedly walked away from me down the narrow, stone hallway. I followed after her, making special effort not to notice the sashaying sway of her hips in that little, white-smock of a nurse’s uniform.

 

Amelia Baye

“After you.” I said, politely holding the door open for Het as we came upon the empty storage-room I had made my office. Nurses weren’t really supposed to have offices, but nobody had said anything so far about my having pocketed the key from one of the janitor’s rings when nobody was looking. So, I figured we would be safe.

Het padded into the small, dimly lit room without trepidation. Stood by the rosy stained-glass, barred window quietly. Appearing to ignore the small desk and chair and medical cot I’d set up cozily in the corner, he—well, I guess it was going to be she, now—she stared out the thick glass and peered inscrutably outside into the icy, lashing rain.

It had been storming for weeks now it seemed.

I closed the office door snugly behind my back and saw Het flinch ever so slightly. I coughed, and clicked over to sit at the metal fold-up chair I’d set up behind the plastic table I’d used as my desk. Crossed my legs neatly and, tidying up the papers in my very first patient’s file, I glanced at Het over the rim of my glasses.

“It’s time to begin our screening procedure, if you don’t mind.” I said, keeping my tone as professional as I could manage while Het was still avoiding looking at me, “You can begin by taking off your shoes and socks. Put everything you’re wearing in a pile on the cot and we can begin the check.”

Het nodded. Still staring out through the thick, pinkish-red glass with those dark and fathomless eyes. Her silence was starting to get to me.

...

*Hi yes, sorry if you're reading this I'm still writing this as I post oh geez heck one sec! i gotchu fam!!*


Submitted: January 06, 2021

© Copyright 2021 feybellina. All rights reserved.

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