1: New Life
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Darkness and soft, comforting warmth gently surrounds a naked young boy. His head that’s adorned with soft fluffy white hair is resting on his knees, his furry ears flicking drowsily.  His arms and long tail wrapped loosely around his feet.

‘I can’t move’ a stray thought drifts by, most would be panicked by this but the boy just accepts it as normal.   It’s been years since he was stuck in the hospital unable to move.

‘Wait, hospital?’ the boy struggles to grasp the thought as it drifts out of reach, but the gentle warmth and the loving, soft whispers make the effort fruitless.  A cotton cloud sensation that surrounds him, so different from the usual starched hospital sheets and constant agony, the sheer relief makes thinking difficult. 

The soft whispers grow more persistent. There are no words, rather emotions and sensations; the playful breeze rejoicing in spring, the restful peace of fresh fallen snow at dawn.  The boy soaks in the sensations that come in waves, unable to catch the meaning as they flood his mind again and again. Like relaxing at the edge of the ocean as wave after wave gently rocks him back and forth surrounding then trickling away, unable to be caught.  With each warm wave expressing joy and wonder. 

Just as he’s revelling in these feelings the whispers start to drift away, ‘no don’t go!’ Unable to bear parting, fearing the pain will return, he attempts to catch the ephemeral feelings. Straining to move his hands, he finds himself tightly bound, only able to shift in place.  The whispers pause, surprised and delighted they call back. The comfortable warmth grows and starts to suffocate. Straining to move in the binding webs and darkness, panic rises as he finds himself trapped in a silken orb. Hot air parches his lungs with every breath. Terror seizes his mind but those soft whispers comfort and soothe, suggesting a solution.  With every limb pressed to the silken walls he strains outwards and upwards. With muscles straining to the encouraging whispers, his lungs scorched by every hot breath, something gives way. The suffocating darkness is pierced by a blinding light striking the boys eyes and the silken cocoon breaks and blossoms.  

Losing support, the boy topples over, raggedly dragging the cool air into his lungs. Squinting from the sharp light the boy peers through the tears.  Layers of giant petals slowly finish unfolding until they spread out onto the ground like a luxuriant white carpet revealing the dazed youth. He’s sprawled naked in the middle of a giant flower, draped in thread-like fibres.

‘Wha…flow..r…?’  Just as a thousand questions assail his mind exhaustion drags him into darkness away from the answers.

. . . . . .

As his eyes flutter open, the first thing he sees is the enlarged face of a middle aged man wearing a white and grey feather headdress. Tears hanging at the edge of his age-lined eyes that are clouded with worry.  Noticing the boy is awake, the man’s feathers flutter and rise as a loving smile breaks past the worry.

“You’re awake! Luca darling how do you feel, is there any pain, headache, nausea, dizziness? Oh wait, you probably don’t understand!” Worry again clouds over the middle aged man and his feathers droop back down.

‘…Is that headdress battery operated? No, wait, who wears a feather headdress to a hospital?!’ Luca wondered indignantly.

“Excuse me, could I get some help? My baby woke up,” As the feathered man turns to an open door Luca couldn’t restrain his curiosity, he reached for the feathers and tugged.  “Ouch, Luca baby don’t pull Daddie’s hair, it hurts,” the man gently untwined Luca’s fingers and smiled.

‘It’s real!! Wait, what did he say? You’re not my dad! Wait, my hand…’ Numerous thoughts raced round Luca’s head until shock froze his body, ‘it doesn’t hurt?!’  Accustomed to the years of excruciating pain and dystrophy lacing every muscle, the joy of easy movement overwhelmed all other thoughts.

Frozen in astonishment, staring at his hand, Luca barely noticed the new arrival.  Adorned in a simple green priest’s robe, a man with droopy, brown dog ears shuffled into the room.  However, even with his brain suffering a minor meltdown, Luca couldn’t miss the glowing white light coming off of the man’s clawed hands as they gently pressed on his head and chest.  ‘…Magic!?’

“There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong, has he spoken yet?” the droopy eared priest glanced at Luca’s dad. 

“No, I don’t think he understands me,” the feathers seem to wilt even further as he bit his lip.

Taking in the dog ears, feathers and glowing hands a sense of calm enveloped Luca ‘Ok, that settles it, the nurses have obviously messed with my medication,’ he felt much better wrapped snugly in his delusion.

“It’s rare for a baby,” The priest pauses and re-assess Luca “...ah, child, to hatch without basic language skills. Try calling him again, he’s probably just confused.” the priest glances at Luca uncertainly.  Luca tightly shuts his eyes ‘how long is this hallucination going to persist? Not that I’m complaining the no pain thing is great…kind of hope the nurses give me this again,’

“Luca baby can you understand me?”  Persistently ignoring his dad delusion Luca snuggles into the bed.  ‘These sheets are way more comfortable than hospital issue.’

“Maybe he doesn’t know how to talk?” the priest sighed “He could be deficient, it’s rare for a child to hatch so late, he didn’t have anything physically wrong, but I can’t check his mind,” a heavy silence followed the priest’s words.

Luca’s fluffy ears twitched in surprise as a gentle hand caressed his head “Luca, you don’t have to speak just nod your head if you understand,” his dad’s voice trembled and warm drops fell on Lucas cheek, a twinge of guilt shaking his snug delusion, ‘he sounds so sad’ opening his eyes he looked again at the crying, feathery, middle aged man and reluctantly, nodded his head. 

The priest’s eyes widened with surprise and Luca was suddenly hugged “That’s good son, well done.” The warm tears were soaking Luca’s shoulder and the arms that wrapped around him trembled.  A comforting scent that felt like home surrounded Luca. ‘Well even if I am hallucinating, there’s no reason I can’t enjoy it,’ armed with this new mentality Luca lifted his arm to pat the man’s back and was promptly dropped back onto the soft bed. A faint hope flickered in the bird man’s eyes “Luca?” 

“He’s probably just imitating you, don’t expect too much,” the priest consolingly patted Luca’s father.  ‘Hey, don’t just write me off!’ Luca cursed out the imaginary priest in his heart. Spurred on by the priest’s negativity, Luca uttered his first word “dad,” the slightly raspy but tender young voice made the feathers flutter and a brilliant smile illuminated the man’s face. “Luca,” joy, relief and boundless loved merged in a single name. 

Luca was blinded by the radiant smile and was momentarily lost for words again, `When was the last time any of my family called my name without stress or worry?’  Tears began to gather in the corners of his eyes.

“What’s wrong Luca, where’s it hurting?”  The gentle hand stroking his head just made it harder for Luca to hold back the tears.  Luca surreptitiously wiped his eyes then gave a genuine smile, something he hadn’t managed in a long time. “nothing’s wrong, there’s no pain, I’m just happy.” He scrubbed his eyes again, ‘there’s no pain. Right here, right now, I’m not sick and there’s no grieving family.’

“Well seems he’s fine after all, let me be the first to congratulate you Mr. Basst on the hatching of your bab…ahem boy,” catching himself at the last moment, the priest’s eye twitched as he again took in Luca’s size.

“Thank you Priest Rain, and please thank Methorma for us,” Luca’s dad bowed his head and clasped his hands in prayer.

The priest nodded sagely. “The goddess has seen your devotion and granted your family this miracle, may the blessings of Methorma be with you both.” When the priest placed his hands on both of their heads Luca felt a warm current pass through his body. Just on the edge of hearing a soft whisper brushed past. ‘Wait, is that real? Is this Methorma character a real god?! No, no, no think clearly, it could just be some trick with magic. I mean, the guy’s hands were glowing before, or there might really be gods here…STOP IT Luca Basst! This is just a drug-induced hallucination. Don’t fall for it! Luca Basst…why, did I call myself that? It’s not my name. I’m…my name’s…!’ Lucas brain promptly suffered it’s second meltdown upon realising he’d forgotten his own name.