Deep Red, Chapter Fifteen

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March 21, 1849: Since our kind first began procreating, the elders have noticed that a forced change occurs at the full moon once a changeling child reaches puberty. Usually, the change creates no more than a tired and aching adolescent after the three nights of agonizing changes, and then the adolescent learns full control by his or her guardians. In rare cases, however, changelings will harm their siblings or their parents during changes, often killing household pets, and sometimes neighbors. I have also found recordings of cases where changelings have refused to change. The worst case occurred during the Ming Dynasty. The Residents attribute these suppressed changes to large earthquakes, but the notes I am translating say differently. This is why our work at Haven is so important. Victoria will help to create a safer world. Perhaps once the Residents see that we have no wish to harm them, and that we, in fact, wish to protect them, they will cease these wars, and we will all be able to go back to living as we once were (which is only a dream I have heard tell of. There is no real evidence that we ever lived peacefully, but for a few years) … January 14, 1850: I have been charged with translating all of the historical volumes brought from the Otherworld, and also the historical records of kindred and changelings in this reality from their arrival. I wonder at some kind of deterrence on the part of other Counsel members, especially my older sister, Meg. I also find that, perhaps, my talents are useful nowhere else. Our mother taught me the Otherworld language, and–other than Jonah Shinab–I am the only one here who can (or is willing to) read and translate Otherworld script. Jack claims to have forgotten, and Victoria says she is too busy. Both are probably true … January 3, 1851: I found three more cases of earthquakes caused by suppressed changes. These are different from the religious context of the case in China. Those who observed the three changelings in question all stated that these people claimed to be something other than changeling. They never exhibited signs of being volemic or kindred, or claimed any knowledge of the hybrid, but, in these cases, the question was not of conscious denial of the change or stubborn resistance. It was a matter of the very fundamentals of identity….

excerpts from The Diary of Caroline Cayce, 1849-1851, ed. by Bobbi Cayce

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Chapter Fifteen

Blood Detonation

“This is astounding,” Victoria said, leaning over the pages of results that Zoe had placed on light boards all over the room.

“It is conclusive,” Zoe said.

“So, she will most certainly change in the next few days,” Victoria said.

Zoe shook her head. “She should have changed at the proper time, twelve to fourteen years ago. Her original blood tests show dormant cells that no doctor at the time would have known to look for. Her current tests indicate that the change awakened the dormant cells, causing them to bind and mutate with her kindred cells. But her blood is as it ever was. So, the question is: why now?” Victoria looked at Zoe impatiently. “Her kindred DNA,” Zoe continued, “Reacted to a physical threat by activating the changeling DNA. It could have just as easily reacted to her change in hormones during puberty. Why didn’t it?”

“What are you saying?” Victoria asked.

“I am hypothesizing that Marlo’s denial of what she is, what she could be, runs so deep that it became physiological.”

Victoria seemed to drink in her words. The briefest of flashes crossed her face. Remorse. “And if she continues the denial, now that her cells have mutated?”

“She could build up enough power inside herself to destroy the world.”

Victoria rolled her eyes. “I never took you for hyperbolic, Zoe.”

“The energy created from continuously suppressing a change has only manifested itself once, and that was in a normal changeling. One monk convinced himself that he could deny his changes, and it was enough to demolish five hundred and twenty square miles and kill over eight hundred thousand people. With Marlo’s kindred DNA involved, between the initial implosion and the aftershocks, the results could create a wasteland in this reality.”

“I’m still waiting for a solution, Zoe.”

“We have to find some way for her two minds to integrate, to accept one another.”

Victoria closed her eyes, and Zoe waited for the typical response, but it did not come. “You are a scientist, Zoe. What makes you think that esotericism is the solution here.”

“You are also a scientist, Victoria, and you know how vital the mind is to the function of the body. She has two minds operating at the moment. Each one will pull her and her body in different directions. If I had some kind of biological cure, I would use it, but I don’t.” Victoria frowned and Zoe braced herself once more. After the moment passed, Zoe grew bolder. “There were four of you who led the crossing, yes? A scientist, a leader, a fighter and a philosopher. But none of those are spiritual. It was the dragon that drew you all together when you arrived here. She taught you what your souls could accomplish.”

“And some of us still think that drivel is what caused so much regression in our species. This is why we need a second crossing, to bring forth the true-minded.”

“Whatever you and I think about metaphysics, they might be called for now. Q can get inside her mind, or minds, as it were. I expect that he would help her to realize her true nature.”

“You’ve been talking to Q?” Victoria’s tone became dangerous.

“W-we’re 3 of 3,” Zoe said. “We all talk. We all protect each other. It’s what you taught us to do.”

“I’m fairly certain it wasn’t me who encouraged you all to emote behind my back. Perhaps it was a mistake to let Katrina come back. Emotions make us weak, Zoe.”

“They are a distraction, I agree, but never a weakness.”

Again, Zoe waited for impact, but Victoria merely tapped a long fingernail on the glowing white table. “Let’s wait a day. If she hasn’t changed by the middle moon, we’ll send Q in. First, I want her to spend some time with Jack.”

“You’re so convinced he’s the solution?” Zoe meant to think these words rather than mutter them.

“I let you run your mouth long enough to see where it was going, for the sake of this conversation,” Victoria said, “but do not think you can question my intentions.”

Zoe’s skin began to expand and her head pounded as Victoria created a containment field inside of her. When the field reached its limit, Zoe was on her hands and knees. Blood filled her eyes, blurring her vision. Its warmth pulsed out of her ears and ran from her nose as she coughed out even more onto the floor. When the field began to ebb, Zoe collapsed.

Victoria clicked her fingernail one more time. “Keep looking at these results. There might be something you missed. I’ll be back tomorrow.”

Zoe took off her lab coat and wiped her mouth and the floor until every drop was gone. She carefully folded the coat and took it to the incinerator in the cellar. After she threw it inside the stove, she walked back to her lab.

I pushed her, Zoe said to herself, and Zoe knew the consequences of pushing. Her stubbornness and curiosity brought on one of these bouts at least once a year. She would feed, and then get back to work. No one would know.

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