The Wingèd: Those Things with Wings
You can't tell me you wouldn't do this if you ever got to do what a Ditto can.
Chapter One: Like the Memory of a Kiss
I flopped back on the bottom bunk of my bed with a book, and Eve (my pet Eevee) curled herself around my feet, getting comfortable once I'd settled down into the comforter. It was almost Spring now, about a month after Takeru had given me the golden necklace that I hid around my neck. I smiled faintly, absently playing with it as I re-skimmed the novel that he'd given me—The Screwtape Letters.
I was only killing time until it was near time for Toshi to get home from his tutoring sessions, but it was an appropriate choice, I suppose. Boredly flipping through pages, I thought hard on it. "Yes, I think I need a new name. Takeru started calling himself Takeru 'cause he's different from how he was—a 'Bamboo Dragon,' strong and fast-flourishing.... I'm different from how I was, so it only makes sense that I'd change my name, too. Hee, Wormwood. I like that. Has a ring to it. I wonder if it means anything...."
Seeing it was almost four o'clock, I got up and tossed the book on the bed, Eve roused from her short nap. She cooed and stretched, then jumped off the bed and got up in the window to sunbathe. I waltzed into the closet and shucked my clothes off, then grabbed some of my brother's and slipped them on. I smirked, looking at my reflection in the mirror on the closet door. The worn grey T-shirt and jeans didn't fit me in my current state, but I was determined to make them fit.
I concentrated on it really hard, and I began to feel like I'd melted inside, my bones becoming longer, shooting me up into the air to stand another eighteen inches taller or so; my body got more muscular, but not a lot. I tugged at my hair to make it grow longer; I ran my hands through it once it was about shoulder-length and turned it a brassy colour, then fiddled with how it looked. Rubbing my squinted-shut eyes turned them a really pale blue. Then I got to the actual details, making my face look like my brother's, too. I admired how it had turned out once I was done. I may not have had earrings like Toshi, but everything else about it was perfect. I put on a pair of his socks, then closed the closet shut again and jumped up on the top bunk, grabbing the novel again and getting comfy.
A few minutes later I heard the front door open and close, his bag hitting the floor; I snickered, excited. He got something out of the fridge, then tromped upstairs. I panicked, remembering I hadn't changed my voice, and quickly did so, toying with my throat. I hastily returned to reading my book again.
The bedroom door swung open, and an exasperated elder brother slumped through. He took a gulp out of his drink, then set the fresh-opened soda can on the desk. "Get off my bunk, Keiji," he muttered, not even looking at me as he went into the bathroom and closed the door.
I surpressed the urge to say anything. I wondered whether to do what he'd told me to, but decided against it. I reassured myself that it would ruin the illusion.
He came out after a minute, looking at my bunk to see if I'd complied, then looked up at his bunk again, irritated. But his irritation quickly fell off as I looked up from my book and returned his stare. "Ah—ahh—what the hell?!" His eye twitched, and he began backing away.
"Hey," I greeted, smiling slightly and closing the book. "What's up?"
"Quit screwing with me. It's not funny." He was purely frightened—I could tell.
"You... you aren't me. I'm me."
I giggled, sitting up, then got up and slipped off the top bunk and stood in front of him. Being so tall was hard though—I felt really clumsy! "Who're you to say who you are?"
"What—? What sort of question is *that*! I'm me!" He was getting frustrated now.
"I'm me, too. Nice to meet you."
"Did I, like, fall down the stairs and get a concussion or something?" He eyed me warily, starting to inspect me from head to toe. I circled him as he circled me, following his exact actions.
"I dunno. You tell me."
"Th—those are my clothes."
"Nuh-uh. They're mine."
"You dirty thief. Stop it right now and give me back my clothing! Give me back my body!"
"It issunn' your body anyway," I mused. "'Smine."
After a minute he stared at me in total horror. "K—Keiji...?"
"Nee, I lasted a few minutes before you figured it out," I smiled, giddy. "I worked really hard to be able to do it right. I still dunno how to get rid of my speech impediment."
"Issa secret," I grinned, making my voice go back.
He shuddered, closing his eyes tight in disapproval. "Don't do that."
"What? Dunn' do what?" I knew, but I wanted to annoy him and make him say it.
"Don't be me with your voice."
"Aww...." I turned back, the clothing baggy again. I didn't like how I wasn't eye-level with him anymore. "I did a good job being you, though, right?"
He didn't quite know how to reply to such a question. "....You didn't act like me at all...." He was completely dumbstricken at seeing I was wearing his clothing. "And you know I have earrings. Seriously, though. How did you do that?"
No problem in actually telling him, right? "Takeru made me like a Ditto when he came to see me a month ago."
He swooned. "You're a Ditto—!"
I nodded hyperly. "Issunn' it the coolest?"
"I... I guess."
I made a Ditto face and smiled big, gawking at him stupidly. "DIT-TOO."
He just stared. "Wha—what the hell?" He grabbed me and messed with my face with motion like he was trying to mess up my hair. "Don't do that. It's creepy." I looked up at him after he'd screwed my face up and he shuddered thoroughly. "I take it back. Do the Ditto face again."
I snickered. I was going to like this.
Toshi snickered. "Jus' do it. She's going to find out either way."
I nodded hyperly, turning back into him. "'Kay."
It took him a minute to get used to the idea, even though the plan had been his to begin with, but he ended up chuckling about it again and leading the way back downstairs, picking up his soda again. I stood at the top of the stairs, waiting for his cue. I watched him toy with her, and realised he was going to enjoy this just as much as I would. I smiled. I'd forgotten just how well my brother and I got along.
He tossed the soda can in the kitchen trash after finishing it off. He started rummaging in the fridge, and pulled out another one. "Hey Mom, what's for dinner?" He closed the fridge door, popped the soda open, and took a drink.
"I'm not sure, dear," she called back from the living room. "Go ask Keiji what he thinks."
I could tell Toshi cringed at refraining from correcting her—it upset him just how stupid it was for her to continue denying it continually, even after he knew. I hoped that this might open her eyes that I was hardly what she was trying to make me.
He came back upstairs and I followed him in the bedroom, then got up on his bunk. He grabbed my book and looked it over. "This is a really old book, Keiji. Where'd you get it?"
"Takeru gave it to me," I smiled, using my own voice. "It's a really good book, but it had me worried about him for the longest. I think I understand what he meant by it now, though...."
"Hm?" He started reading it, now interested that Takeru had meant something in giving it to me.
"Well, I had thought he'd meant—"
"...'Kay." I made a face and fixed my voice, then continued where I was. "I had thought he'd meant that he was only corrupting me to make me taste better when he ate me. But now that I know him more, I see that he was trying to tell me that I would fall apart and be perfectly damnable if I continued how I was." I snorted. "I'd thought that he'd meant *I* was Wormwood, but I was the tempted human." I looked at him and pulled the book down so he'd return the glance. "I think I am a lot like Wormwood now, though. Dunn' you agree? I'm harmless now, but cann' you imagine it when I get to be Takeru's age?" I beamed, excited.
He just stared at me, again horrified to remember that Takeru and I were kind of the same person. "J—just go do what you're going to do...."
I chuckled, walking off. As I walked out the bedroom door, he piped up. "You know what wormwood actually is, don't you?"
I shook my head.
"It's a bitter drug. It's sort of like adrenaline." He smiled, amused. "You didn't know what it was, but it's a perfect name for you. You did that earlier just to scare the crap out of me."
I smiled. "It's just the impishness in me, I suppose."
Skittering downstairs, I began rummaging through the kitchen.
"Well?" Mom asked.
"Well what?" I pulled a soda out and opened it.
"Did you ask Keiji what he wants for dinner?" She made a face. "That's your third soda since you've been home, and you've been home for less than half an hour."
"Uhh, naw, Mom. This is my first one."
"Then what's that in the trash?"
I looked, humoring her. "Uh, a Coke can?"
"Don't lie about something like that. Just put it back. You can have it with dinner." I caught myself rolling my eyes at her, but did what she'd said. "Did you ask Keiji or not?"
"Go ask him," she ground, irritated.
I grumbled, going back upstairs. Once I got back to the bedroom I snickered lightly. "She's really mad."
"Hm? Fun." He looked up from the book, then got down and put a bookmark in it. He was about to go back downstairs, but turned back and grabbed his soda. He grinned. I snorted, following him to the top of the stairs to watch.
He took a big swig of soda as he walked downstairs again, then shuffled into the living room and flopped down in the armchair. He snagged the remote control from Mom and turned the volume up a little, then sat back and got comfy.
She glared at him, then flinched. "I thought I told you to put that soda back," she ground. "Wait—you changed clothes. Why are you wearing those clothes again?"
He arched an eyebrow, but didn't stop watching TV. "Uh, no I didn't." He got bored with what was on and changed the channel.
".... Well, did you ask him?"
"Oh, uh, no. I forgot."
I stifled laughter at this.
"Well if you two can't make your mind up, I'll just cook whatever I feel like."
My stomach knotted at hearing this, so I decided now was as good a time as any to put a punchline to this running joke. I rushed downstairs and sat down next to Mom on the couch, grabbing the remote and putting the TV back where it had been. I sat back and sighed, relieved.
She shrieked, practically leaping out of her skin when she realised there were two of us.
"Ah, you're downstairs now, and Mom just reminded me why I went back upstairs. What *do* you want for dinner?"
I snickered slightly. "Oh, I dunno," I replied nonchalantly. "I could go for whatever, but pasta sounds pretty good right now. How 'bout you?"
"Sounds good," he continued smoothly, taking another drink of his Coke.
"B—b—b-b—" She couldn't form a coherent reaction to the situation and simply collapsed in the loveseat.
After a minute, she still hadn't calmed down, and I remarked, "I think it might have been a bit much for her...."
"Gee, what makes you think that?" he muttered, dripping with sarcasm. "Mom, are you okay?"
She'd been looking frantically between us since I'd come downstairs, as though she couldn't figure out which of us really was Toshi. I turned back and she spasmed once, all over, now staring solely at me. I laughed half-heartedly. "Mom?"
"N—n—you.... How di—how did you do that...!"
I giggled. "I guess I'm just growing up too fast, arrenn' I?"