Writers (in order): David Trujillo, Smileflower, Aritra Nag, Hadia Sadiq, Eman Hussain, Keiss Chan, Crystal Tse, Alfred Estell, Sophia H, Sherlyn M.B., Dhaenielle Cambel, Sofia Rodriguez, anikak, Mei Knutson, E.G.S, Xinyi Chi, Maureen Tañada, Beau Rehm, Joey Davenport, Esosa Zuwa, Sofia Levorchick, Nathan Duran

Editor: Irene Tsen

Today was one of the good days.

The lake was calm, its surface undisturbed as scales rippled beneath—a reminder of the mutated fish that defied comprehension.

Filtered light cut through the smog, casting an unnatural yellow tint over the surroundings.

A warm wind filtered in through the window. Not burning like most days. Bearable.

Her candle shivered. The wax slowly dripped onto the table.

In her hand she twirled the kingfisher feather. It grew bright against the pale background. Each strand of the feather shimmered a different color. Silver and gold and burning aquamarine were all imprinted onto her retina.

She knew what her next move had to be, but she hesitated, unsure if she was ready to relinquish her humanity just yet.

She knew that time was running out, and the candlelight flickered, as if mocking her. Once its warm light faded, she would no longer be protected from the creatures outside. Only the shimmering feather in her hand could change her fate.

Images played through her mind of the day the scientists released their chimeric creations into the wild. They beckoned humanity with their siren calls, but their viciousness devoured everyone who came too close. She remembered the day that her whole community came to see these creatures, to touch them and rejuvenate themselves by this touch. Instead of being rebirthed, every single one of them, except she and her brother, died.

The influx of humans into the creatures’ lake caused them to proliferate, and they soon escaped and began to devour anything and everything in their path, creating an iridescent wave of destruction. Turning the world into a soap-bubble globe that shimmered, both watery and prismatic.

One afternoon, her brother turned to her in the cell they were hiding out in and handed her the rumpled feather clutched in his fist, asking her to promise him that she’d never let go of it. Telling her to go, because they’ve caught him, and no, he can’t be saved but she can, looking at her for the last time—and she saw that his eyes had turned into oozing soap-suds, glittering like jewels. And then his head exploded. With blood and brains all over her face like rain and fragments of his skull thundering on the iron cell walls like hail. Her eyes broadened, and it felt as though time’s fabric had been torn and the sky had given her a piece of what was left of it. Photographs of her brother’s flesh littered in her mind like a scatter of debris.

Eventually, the only person left was her. She had managed to survive by hiding under the ground for years and years, the only relic of all that used to be, of the world above, of the world before. Every second of that time, she knew the creatures would eventually get her. Her only choice would be to become them, or lose her being.

The girl decided to eat the feather, ready to begin her transformation. This was it. Her potent yearning for survival would end when her flesh would be remade.

Her skin changed from being soot-black to being iridescent blue and golden, like the other creatures. Her voice changed from being deep to being light and golden, a maiden’s voice. And she dipped beneath the waters, going to her new abode below the lake.

She swam down deeper and deeper, with a sudden burst of energy that came with her transformation. She felt more awake than she had ever felt. The girl swam rapidly, flipping and spinning in through the water, exploring just what her new form could do. She rushed to a stop when she saw a turtle gliding toward the shore. She realized that this was the first living thing she had seen in the lake yet. She wondered where the other fish and animals were. And where exactly were the creatures?

She pushed that thought aside as she saw sunken remnants of her past life before the creatures had gotten to them. A little tricycle with peeling red paint from the little boy down the street. What was his name again? the girl wondered, struggling to conjure up images of her life before. It doesn’t matter anyways, I’m never going to see them again. With that thought came a pang of despair, but as she pushed further down into the lake, the action forced any tainted recollections to scatter among the shimmering water. She realized long ago that grieving her old way of living, her home, her family wouldn’t save her, and it wouldn’t change her fate. Her brother’s remains flashed through her mind, then quickly dissipated, stolen out of her memories. She kept paddling. Her train of thought floated off. The only thing she craved was to continue swimming.

A small school of fish swam by and before she even noticed, she instinctively snatched them up with her now webbed hands. Webbed hands, she thought, When did that happen and how did I not notice? But her new insatiable hunger far outweighed her curiosity about the thin layer of skin between each finger, and she sunk her sharp teeth into the fish, quickly finishing them off.

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