Welcome to Spirit Hunger, a weekly supernatural romance story.
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The comforting rumble of students’ conversations and occasional laughter wrapped around Honi like warm, richly-patterned fabric. He sat in his usual place in the small coffee place on campus, preparing questions for a meeting with his world mythology tutor.
Honi didn’t particularly like coffee but was very fond of the Triple Chocolate Frappe they offered here. He moaned as he savored the thick sweet milkshake. There was coffee in it, sure, but it didn’t taste bitter. It was more of a dessert than a caffeinated drink.
He wistfully rubbed his belly. This was his third frappe of the week. Pretty soon the sugar and fat would catch up with him, and even his tight training schedule wouldn’t stop the expansion of his midriff. Every male member of his family softened over the years. He sighed and mentally cursed genetics.
From the chubby little kid that was teased in school, he had grown into a tall lean Mekui’te warrior that turned girls’ heads wherever he went. And a Mekui’te warrior should not indulge in more than one cup of Triple Chocolate Frappe, no matter how good it tasted, he thought and took another sip. Too damn good. As if he knew that Honi’s resolution wavered already, his spirit wolf growled at him.
Honi smiled and shook his head minutely. I know, I know, he thought at the animal he was named after. Their eyes met and amusement radiated from the animal’s sapphire-blue gaze. Honi was used to it mostly but he still got a kick out of seeing his black wolf amongst all these people. Man, they would freak if they could see him. He smiled wider as he finally got up and made his way towards the glass door.
Honi threw his cup into the garbage on his way out. He swung his grey canvas messenger bag over his left shoulder, taking care not to catch his long black hair. A pretty blond girl that he recognized from class stepped aside and let him pass. He didn’t miss her eyes sweeping him up and down and lingering on his wide shoulders and narrow hips. He grinned at her and moved on before she had a chance to say anything. He wasn’t here to have fun. He was here to study and make his people proud when he gave them a stronger voice. He still enjoyed the attention though. Nothing wrong with that.
Outside, light-green clouds of new spring buds emerged all over the campus. He loved this time of year. Winter was on its way out and some days, the sun warmed up the earth enough that mist curled out of the damp cold ground. It seemed to beckon bulbs that were planted by the horticulture club last fall and while the tide of white snowdrops already receded, the next wave of red, yellow and pink tulips gently invaded the bare banks all over the college grounds.
Honi inhaled deeply without slowing his long-legged march to the red-bricked building that was now coming within view. Everywhere he looked, students were moving from class to class or chatting with others. He felt a little wistful because even after three years, he had no close friends. Sure he knew a lot of people, but between traveling back to the reservation to see his family and his studies, he didn’t have much time to socialize.
The trill of a bird calling to its mate distracted him from his maudlin thoughts and he soon smiled again, following the birds’ flight against the clear blue sky. This day was too damn beautiful to feel down for any length of time.
When he arrived at his destination, he pulled open the front door and entered a different world. Where it had been bright and loud outside, inside the building it was dark, quiet and smelled of plastic and laminate. The sharp unpleasant odor invaded his nostrils and made him sneeze. Honi bent over and the hall echoed with the sudden eruption of noise. His nose was still itchy. He pinched his nostrils and walked towards his teacher’s office, only to see him talking to another student in the hallway. Honi was about to open his mouth to greet Diepger when something made him stop and look closer.
The professor leaned into a student’s personal space. Honi knew the girl. He had seen her in his mythology class and knew that she was very bright, but also strident and a little bit aggressive. She seemed to have a chip on her shoulder and had to be right all the time. He didn’t like the teacher’s body language. It was threatening and the girl seemed to shrink under his attention.
Honi tried to think of her name, Ali, Anni, no – Adi. That was it. Unusual but then so was his name. Adi looked very shaken up and Diepger was obviously furious. Then Honi noticed the teacher’s spirit animal. He reared back a little. Oh crap, he’d never seen it before in class and he was sure he would have noticed.
The animal was gross, monkey-shaped and twisted. In Honi’s experience, spirit animals represented the character of their owners so that would explain why Diepger always seemed to be such an asshole in class. The animal hissed at Adi and Honi’s eyes widened when Adi flinched back. What the hell? Had she just reacted to the monkey?
Honi had seen spirit animals since he was fourteen. He had never met anybody else who had the gift. Then he shook his head. It was probably something the teacher had said to her. She seemed fearful and cringed away while Diepger whispered something to her and Honi’s eyebrows drew together.
He hadn’t forgotten when he was bullied and he didn’t like seeing a teacher do that to a student. He was just about to walk over and interrupt, Diepger pulled back and walked towards his office. His spirit animal dug its claws into his forehead and the teacher winced. It was rare that a spirit animal attacked its owner but it happened.
He watched as Adi looked at her shaking hands. She still looked scared, her auburn hair falling over her brown luminous eyes. Was she crying? His throat felt dry and he swallowed sharply. She was cute in an unassuming way and he felt like he should do something, say something to make her feel better. Just as he opened his mouth, she turned around and nearly ran into him.
“Oh,” she gasped, her pale face looking up at him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there”. He had grabbed both her upper arms to prevent her from bouncing off his chest. She was such a small thing under his hands, he felt strangely protective of her.
“Not your fault, I should have announced myself,” he smiled.
“Yes, you should have”. Her eyes narrowed and her usual cockiness covered the glimpse of vulnerability he had witnessed.
He tried again, “I saw you arguing with Diepger. I know he can be a total ass so I just wanted to make sure you’re okay.”
“I’m fine,” she replied quickly. Too quickly. Then she raised her head and looked right at him. “Did you see anything weird when you saw us? A pet maybe? On his shoulder?”
So she had seen the monkey. Wow. But apparently she didn’t know WHAT she’d seen.
“I saw something,” he replied slowly. “What do you think it was?”
“There was a monkey on Diepger’s shoulder. It was hideous and aggressive. Do you think we should inform admin? Surely he can’t keep a dangerous animal in his office?”
Honi thought quickly. She had no idea what she’d seen. Maybe it would be better to let her believe it was just a pet. But why was she able to see it at all? He needed to find out. Only Native Americans could see spirit animals and even among them, the gift was rare.
There was not a single person in the reservation that could do it and most of the younger Mekui’te didn’t believe it was even possible. Honi had become the butt of jokes when he came back from his vision quest and told everyone he met what his spirit animal looked like. He’d quickly learned to not talk about what he saw every day. Honi found the girl’s eyes and when he looked into their brown liquid depth, he found himself saying, “Hey, let’s have coffee and talk about it.”