Kuku by Chris Bedell

Specs of blood splashed onto the ground when I got a papercut as the wind roared in my backyard.

I looked down at the paper, scoffing.

Great. Another twenty gold piece reward poster was just what I needed. NOT. It was bad enough Lisa was being kept in one of the empty upstairs bedrooms in my house. But I didn’t need another reminder of Prosporia’s degradation. Although being mad at Lisa was unfair since people without magical abilities didn’t deserve persecution.

I twirled a strand of my curly blonde hair while the trees jerked even faster in the wind, making cold air bite my face.

There wasn’t even anything for me to do outside. But being inside was boring too since Mom would have made me keep Lisa company. Sure. The idea wasn’t bad. There was just something claustrophobic about being stuck in a dingy curtain closed bedroom. Not that it was Lisa’s fault. It was just the way things had to be because people couldn’t know we were harboring an “undesired.”

A bug buzzed in front of me, and I blew a plume of fire at it. A sea of red, orange, and yellow swallowed the bug before the small cloud of smoke cleared.

“Come inside, Desiree!” called out a voice.

I spun around, realizing Mom was by the front door.

“But I don’t want to,” I said, gritting my teeth.

Her gaze narrowed at me. “I’m serious. You know I worry about you.”

Stomping my foot was necessary no matter how childish it was since Mom never realized she got on my nerves. “But I’m seventeen.”

Mom put her hands on her hips. “I’m your mother, and you still have to do what I say.”

“Fine,” I said, rolling my eyes.

Going inside was best even if I was right because learning what battles to pick was necessary.

Shuffling after Mom meant following her into the kitchen because spending time with Lisa still wasn’t appealing. At least not yet.

“And another thing. I’m very disappointed with you. Lisa was my best friend’s daughter and it’s my job to keep her hidden. And yet you treat her like dirt.” Mom grabbed a ladybug pattern teakettle, filling it with water before putting it down on the stove and flicking the switch on.

“It’s not like I agree with Manpu. I just want to be a normal teenager.”

She wagged a finger. “That doesn’t matter. Silence only makes things worse. You don’t seriously think people without magic deserve to die, do you?”

Yeah. Mom’s comment wasn’t wrong despite how concerning myself with Prosporia current events was uninteresting. But whether I admitted the truth or not, Manpu wasn’t only a dumb ruler. He was dangerous since there were constant reports of non-magical people being whisked away never to be seen again or being shot in their backyards.

Mom sighed. “Imagine how lonely you would feel if you were Lisa. She’s been reduced to being an animal.”

“I know, I know.”

“Could it be that you’re jealous? Because I apologize if I’m not giving you enough attention. You’re my daughter and I value you.” Mom grabbed the teakettle after its howling grew louder once steam seeped out of the spout, and she poured the water into the mug. She then put the teakettle back on the stove and dunked a teabag into the mug several times.

“Wow. You aren’t as dumb as I thought you were.”

Mom lifted her gaze off the mug. “I’m serious, Desiree. You need to change your attitude.”

“Fine. I’ll think about.”

“I just don’t understand how this even happened in the first place,” Mom said, shaking her head.

“Of course you do. But you don’t want to believe it.”

She furrowed an eyebrow. “And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Prosporia became economically crippled after fighting and barely winning the Goblin War and Manpu played off people’s fear by blaming non-magical people.” I pushed a lock of my hair out of the way.

Mom sipped her tea. “You pay attention when Lisa talks to you?”

“Sometimes. It depends how generous I’m feeling.”

“You and Lisa used to be such good friends when you were younger,” Mom said, clutching her pearl necklace.

Snorting at Mom’s comment was necessary no matter how pig-like doing so might have seemed since I couldn’t ignore how she was hypocritical. “You and Dad are members of the Kuku party…”

Mom’s jaw twitched. “We did it so he could get work. And you should know better than to say something like that. Besides, taking down the enemy from the inside is sometimes necessary.”

“I guess you have a point. Although Manpu’s orange hair is kind of creepy.”

“And it’s not like non-magical people did anything wrong. They can’t help being born without magic,” Mom said.

“Do you think things will ever change?”

She inhaled a deep breath. “Only if people do something about it. Because silence never accomplishes anything. Although I think it’s kind of despicable how people are turning against their own neighbors and reporting non-magical people.”

I tugged at the sides of my jacket. “Are you worried about Mrs. Fairley?”

She was our neighbor that always bombarded people with glorious praise about Manpu and the Kuku Party. Although figuring out how hateful she was remained impossible. Because she was one of the people that believed in Manpu and the Kuku Party but didn’t mention killing non-magical people.

Whatever.

Better things existed than letting Mrs. Fairley occupy my thoughts because she took up enough time as it was. And no. Exaggerating had nothing to do with the issue since Mom and I always ran into Mrs. Fairley. And averting our gaze, giving an excuse to leave, or snickering wasn’t an option. Because being reported to the Kuku party and taken away by the secret police was the last thing our family needed.

Sure.

A minor infraction wasn’t synonymous with death. However, keeping Lisa hidden was already anxiety inducing enough.

***

I entered the bedroom sometime later after taking Mom’s suggestion and deciding to be nice to Lisa.

Smiling wasn’t even forced because Mom was right. Lisa and I used to be friends, and it wasn’t like I had any friends at school. “How are you doing today, Lisa?”

“Fine,” she said, not even looking up from her book.

My pulse rang in my ears after seeing the book she was reading since I would have recognized it anywhere. Lisa read it four times already. Not that she should have been blamed. Sure. My family wasn’t poor. But we weren’t rich either and couldn’t be running off to buy books all the time.

Having a dusty cobweb masked bookcase in the room was depressing enough since a bookshelf was meant to be filled with books. Although she could have wiped away the dust and cobwebs despite how chores were tedious. At least for me. I hated chores.

I pouted at her. “I’m trying to be nice.””

She shoved her book to the side. “And why would you do that?”

“It’s the right thing to do.”

A lump lingered in her throat. “I just wish I could practice magic once to see what it’s all about…”

“Yeah. Life can be unfair sometimes.”

Having empathy was easy. After all, my family disowned my brother after he joined the underground resistance party. Although he had to be alive. At least I assumed he was…

The bedroom door jerked opened, revealing Mom. “You have to take her, Desiree.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

Mom’s jaw trembled. “The secret police arrived. They just appeared in the driveway on their magic carpets.”

Lisa gasped. “But how?”

I looked at Mom. “Do you think it was Mrs. Fairley?”

“That doesn’t matter,” Mom said. “You know where to vaporize to. The cottage in the Lulu Forest.”

The doorbell rang.

Mom expelled a scream. “Hurry, Desiree!”

I grabbed Lisa’s hand and we disappeared into a funnel of smoke before making a thump on the floor.

“I never thought I would see you again,” said a voice.

Grinning was inevitable since I hadn’t seen him in ages. “Good to see you, brother.”

Jerome winked. “Ready to join the revolution?”

“Yeah, I am,” I said.

Jerome glanced at Desiree. “I’m sorry you had to flee again.”

“Don’t worry about it,” said Desiree.

“Mom told you about her?” I asked.

Jerome nodded. “Yeah. She sent me a secret message ages ago.”

Reuniting with Jerome was nice, but Mom had to survive talking to the secret police.

Joining a revolution was pointless if Mom and even possibly Dad died since they deserved the Prosporia they used to know before I was born. Besides, I was a better person now since I cared about something besides myself.

So game on. This was war.


Chris Bedell’s previous publishing credits include essays on the online magazine Thought Catalog, short stories on the online literary magazines: Crab Fat Literary Magazine, Quail Bell Magazine, Pidgeonholes Magazine, Abbreviate Journal, and Short-Story.me while his creative nonfiction personal essays have appeared on Inklette Magazine, Sprout Magazine, and Entropy Magazine. The writing podcast-The Drunken Odyssey featured one of his hybrid creative nonfiction personal essays/book reviews. More recently, he became a blog writer for the online literary magazine Moledro Magazine. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University this past May and is pursuing my MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at William Paterson University.