Aurora's World

Becoming Human

Watching was the hardest part of being a tree. It could do nothing to change what was happening, because it didn’t speak the same language as the humans, and it wasn’t sure that they would even listen if it did. Over the years (it didn’t know exactly how old it was, but it could remember a time before human magic existed) it had watched the humans hunt those who were different to them. Or maybe hunt was the wrong word. Hunting was a natural process. What the humans did was unnatural.
The trees often talked about the humans, seeing them almost as pets, even though they couldn’t understand why they did what they did. First magic was seen as a good thing, and people with it were special, but then something happened to change that, so all the magic users were destroyed. That had been a strange time. It could remember the wave that swept across the land, from kingdom to kingdom, until all magic users were viewed as dangerous creatures who shouldn’t be permitted to live.
Slowly things were changing again. The tree heard from its neighbours, who had heard from their neighbours, about how some of the kingdoms were beginning to appreciate magic users once more. Other kingdoms weren’t. One of the kingdoms, the kingdom where magic had first been discovered, was dealing with two problems at the same time. People were dying, mostly the homeless, and no one knew why. No one but the trees, who couldn’t say anything to the humans. They watched as magic users who knew how to use their power stole power from people who didn’t know what they were.
If the tree could cry it would have done. Hearing about those poor humans was almost too much for it to cope with after witnessing the death of so many when magic was first outlawed. It wanted, more than anything it had ever wanted before, to help the humans, because they needed the trees. They didn’t know that they needed the trees. To them the trees were just trees – non-sentient things that just existed.
Maybe it was that want. The tree didn’t know. It would never know for certain what had happened, but it had a theory. Even though the humans weren’t using the magic the way they should it still existed and when the tree focused it’s entire being on helping the humans it had watched the magic worked on it. When it thought back to that time, which seemed like it was much longer ago that it probably was, it could remember dozing during the night, because that was what a tree did when there was no sunlight. No tree slept the way humans did. In the morning it found itself sleeping next to a tree.
Realising it was sleeping was the first thing that told the tree something had changed. At that moment, having just woken up and being rather disorientated, it didn’t know what. It wasn’t sure it wanted to know what, even though it needed to know what had happened to it. The other trees still spoke to it, which made him feel slightly more calm, and it opened it’s mind to them, to see if they knew what had happened. Fortunately they did.
‘You have become one of them,’ one of his many brother trees said, his voice sounding different to before. ‘The magic of our world has changed you and I am sure it has a reason, brother. I have never known it to do anything without having a reason.’
He looked down at himself. The first thing he noticed were his new hands, because they didn’t look the way he expected them to, and, as he glanced at his brother tree, he wondered why he had become such a pale human. Instead of being the same brown he’d been as a tree they were almost white. Each of his fingers were long and slender, his nails short, and, when he turned them over, he found himself staring at the lines on his palms and the whirls on his fingers.
They were the least of his worries, really, because when he finally dragged his attention away from them he realised he was naked. It shouldn’t have been a surprise, as he’d changed from one form to another, but the magic could at least have given him something to wear – if someone came across him as he was… he shuddered, as much from the chill as from his fear. Humans didn’t like those that were different and wandering around without any clothes on would definitely make him different. Plus he didn’t have any money to purchase anything.
Sighing, he lent back against his brother tree. “Why has this happened to me?”
‘I wish I had an answer to your question, but the magic does not talk to us. It simply does as it wishes and it wished for you to become a human creature. What I can do, brother, is help you with your problems. There is a hut not far from here that once housed one of the magicians, but he found himself in trouble long ago, so it is somewhere you may be able to find what you need if you are to become a member of society, and I believe that is what you have been changed to do.’ The wind sounded almost like a sigh as it swept through the tree’s branches. ‘You have seen more than any one of them and they must learn from their mistakes.’
“No… I am just one person. How am I meant to change them?”
‘Changing all of them would be impossible, brother, that I agree, but you can make a difference. You can help those who need it and we both know there are many magic users out there who could do with the guidance of a tree, especially one who has seen so much. We will help you in this endeavour if we can.’
Feeling unsure he looked at the spot where he was certain he once stood. “I’ll need a name.”
‘Itsuki. The word means tree in the language of another world. With it you will carry what you once were, even though you are now one of them, and any of us you come across will know you by it.’
All trees in the great multiverse were connected and Itsuki knew of the name too, although he never would have given it to himself, especially as it was going to be considered unusual. It did make sense though, especially as he knew he was going to need the help of the other trees if he was to be the saviour of the magic users. He couldn’t imagine how he was going to do it, but he had a feeling his new self was a magic user, and that seemed to him to mean he should use his abilities to help others like himself. First, though, he needed clothes and, if he was lucky, some money, to be able to get some food. Hunger was a strange thing, something he had never felt before, something he couldn’t help wishing he had never felt at all.
Wrapping his arms around himself Itsuki began walking in the direction he half remembered the hut being in. Until his brother tree had mentioned it the very existence of it had slipped him mind and he was beginning to think that he was always going to have difficulties with the memories from his time as a tree. Things that didn’t matter to him in his new form would fade away, but he would never lose the memories of what he had seen happening to other magic users, because that was what he needed, even though he couldn’t really believe that the magic had chosen him to help them.
‘Brother, we will all do our best to help you in the future,’ another of the trees murmured. ‘We never realised one of our own would be chosen to help guide the magic users of the human race, but we are glad it has happened.’
‘Truly we are, brother, and we will watch closely over you, and any that you love, to make certain that you are safe. You may not have the same form as us, but you will always be one of us, no matter what happens in the future.’
‘Our hope is that you will love one of them. Brother, make yourself a new life, but never forget what you once were. There is a chance you may now be mortal, we are not certain, we just hope that if that is the case you accept the changes that had happened to you. We know that it cannot be easy to be something other…’
‘Even though we cannot truly understand what has happened to you we can empathise with you. We can feel your confusion, your fear, your worries that you will not be good enough, and we are here if you ever need to talk to us. Sadly I think your ability to hear us may fade if you do manage to accept what you are now, but we will always be able to hear you.’
The trees always listened. It was one of the things they had always done and he remembered doing it himself, listening to a girl in her late teens talk about her worries. She didn’t want to bloom, no one ever did, but it was something that they couldn’t stop, and she believed she was going to bloom because both her parents had. He wished he could have talked to her then, to tell her that no one knew why people bloomed, that it wasn’t unusual for someone with two parents who’d bloomed to lead an entirely magic free life, but he’d had no voice then. No matter how much he wanted to there was no way for him to tell her what she needed to know.
Hopefully things would be different with his transformation. Itsuki looked down at himself once more. Being human wasn’t something he could ever have imagined and yet here he was, walking through the woods, naked, towards a hut that might have fallen down. The one problem with the memories of trees was that sometimes little things were forgotten, like how old the hut was and whether it was still standing or if time had turned it into timbers. Even if it had he should still be able to find the clothes he desperately needed, but he wanted shelter, because he could see the colour of the clouds.
Clothes wouldn’t be enough to keep him dry if the rain fell the way he thought it was going to. There was definitely rain in the air – Itsuki could smell it. He shivered, wrapping his arms tighter around himself, and attempted to walk faster. Legs were something he couldn’t quite get used to, although he did know how they worked, thanks to spending so much of his time watching humans wandering in his woods. Some did that to search for things they could use in their spells while others just wanted a chance to think. None of them knew that the trees surrounding them were watching them sadly, wishing the world could be different.
Fortunately it didn’t take Itsuki much longer to find the hut and when he did he breathed a sigh of relief. It was standing, there were four walls and a roof, and he had the shelter he probably needed more than clothes, but right at that moment all he could think about was the clothes he hoped were in there. He was cold, freezing cold, shivering so much he was making his muscles hurt, even though he been walking through the woods, and he knew it due to him not being used to what had happened to him. On another day, not that he would, he might easily have been able to walk though the woods naked.
One of the things he had worried about was what magic might have been used on the door. It wasn’t unusual for magic users to make certain that no one else could enter somewhere they lived and Itsuki touched the handle tentatively. When it didn’t throw him backwards or turn him into something else he pushed the handle down, even though he didn’t remember it being that type of handle when he first saw it. Maybe he hadn’t got lucky. Maybe it was the magic that had changed him that had fixed the hut so he’d have somewhere to live while he got used to being human.
Being human. Sighing, Itsuki stepped into the hut, not sure what to expect of a little wooden building in the middle of nowhere, but he really should have known better. The magician who had lived in the hut had been a thief, one who had gathered unusual powers, as long as they came from people in the middle of a failed bloom. It was unusual and something Itsuki couldn’t imagine doing himself – it just made the magician nicer than the average thief because he was speeding up what would often be a very slow death. All of that magic meant that the hut was more than just a hut.
The first thing Itsuki noticed was what looked to be something white on one of the tables. He bit his lip, suddenly realising he had lips as well as hands, and stepped towards it, because it felt as though it was calling to him. Magic was strange, something he didn’t know anywhere near enough about, which meant the other thing he needed to do in the near future was research it, even though he knew that wasn’t going to be as easy as he wanted it to be. People had a very bad habit of burning any books about magic. Slowly he made his way over to the white thing, unable to stop himself from thinking it might be a letter… a letter from a dead, possibly dead, magician.
When he picked it up he realised that was exactly what it was and the magician had been a seer. ‘Itsuki,’ he wrote, his handwriting much better than Itsuki could ever imagine his being.
‘You have been on my mind for the last three hours and the only way I could think of to stop myself from going to your tree once more, to see if it had finally happened, was to write you a letter. Now, if you’re reading this then you are human and you’ve found the home I created for you as soon as I realised what I was actually seeing, because I wanted to be able to help you, even if I wasn’t alive when it finally happened. I have no idea how long this letter might have been sitting on the table waiting for you.
‘It’s been a while since I had someone to talk to, so I might ramble a little, but I think it’s important that you have someone to help you. Your brothers, even though they’re understanding, have no idea what it’s like to be one of us and when I say one of us I mean someone who was once something else before becoming human. That is something that happened to me, a long time ago now, so I know exactly what it’s like to wake up and find that you suddenly have a body. Unfortunately I didn’t have anyone to guide me through the process, because something like this had never happened before, and sadly I found myself with the thieves when they realised what I was.
‘Hopefully that is something I’ll be able to talk with you about in the future. I want to meet you, but the thieves are hunting for me now and if they find me… well, we both know what will happen, and I knew from the moment I walked away that they would come after me. Being free was worth it though. My plan was to leave the kingdom, because they won’t cross borders, until I saw you. That was when I made the decision to stay. It might lead to my death, but at least you’ll have more of a chance than I did.
‘You see, Itsuki, changing into a human in the easy part. I know it doesn’t feel like that right now. Having hands and feet and hair… I can remember the day I woke up human like it was yesterday and when I looked at myself it took me a long time to come to terms with what I looked like. There is a full length mirror in the bedroom if you wish to see what your human form is like. The first time I saw mine was long after I got taken to the thieves hideaway, because they don’t have mirrors, and it wasn’t until I’d been with them for over a year that I found my first mirror. When I did I wished I hadn’t. Even though I’d spent that long around others like myself I still hadn’t accepted what had happened to me.
‘All I wanted was to be my old self again. That wasn’t possible though, so I bought the mirror and I made myself stare in it for a little while each day in order to get used to what I had become. It took me another year to accept the body I had been given by whatever magic it was that decided I should be human, but there did come a time when I was glad that I had been transformed. However that didn’t come until much later and that’s another story for a different time.
‘There are too many stories I’m worried I may never be able to tell you. I want you to know what it’s like to be a human, because otherwise things are going to be as hard for you as they were for me and that’s not what I want. Writing to you is a way of being there for you even if I’m dead, but if I’m dead I won’t be able to tell you everything I feel you need to know, as another transformed human.’
Itsuki stared at the letter. There had been someone else who was transformed into a human, someone who had written to him, and it seemed impossible. Of course becoming human had also seemed impossible, but that had actually happened. If he hadn’t been standing in the cottage of some magician he’d never met before, that just happened to be in the middle of the woods, naked, having been a tree the night before, he would never have believed what he was ready. He still wasn’t sure that he did. Getting a letter from someone who had been transformed into a human by the magic of their world was too much of a good thing.
Yet he couldn’t help thinking it was real. Who would make up something like that? Itsuki bit his lip once more, hoping that it wasn’t going to become a habit, and tried to work out whether he believed the magician who was writing it or not. There was more of it to read, but until he came to some conclusion he wasn’t going any further. One thing the magician hadn’t mentioned was what he had been before and that was something that might make Itsuki more likely to believe him. Unless he’d been a rock or something. Rocks, as far as Itsuki knew, weren’t sentient.
Although… he shook his head. Trees talked to each other or they stood in silence, watching, but they never spoke to anything else. Not even the humans they watched so closely, because they spoke different languages, and no one had taught the humans how to speak to trees, which was sad. If humans could speak to trees there was a chance that everything would be different, there wouldn’t be hunters out there attempting to kill all the magic users they found or thieves stealing the magic of others so they could become stronger. He shook his head again, knowing that his image of the world could never be real, because there would still be those who would be scared of anyone different.
Like the others the tree speakers would be killed due to their skills. Itsuki blinked back tears, wondering where they’d come from, and sighed, wishing that he lived somewhere else. No world, he knew, was perfect, but he hated living on a world where people killed each other for no real reason whatsoever, and if he’d had a choice he’d have been somewhere else. Somewhere he hopefully wouldn’t have been turned into a human. Glancing down at himself once more, at the body he’d been gifted, he decided before he read the rest of the letter he was going to see what he looked like.
Breathing deeply, almost too scared of what he’d become to go through with it, Itsuki made his way to the bedroom where the magician had said the mirror was located. With one hand on the door handle he asked himself if he was really ready to see his new body, but he knew if he didn’t do it while he had the courage he never would, and he thought it best to know what other people would see when they looked at him, no matter how hard it was. For a long time he stared down at his hand. His hand. He still couldn’t quite get his head around that, and he didn’t know if he ever would. Feeling less certain of himself than he’d ever done before he opened the door. It did make sense that he felt less certain of himself. He didn’t know who he was any longer. Being a tree had been easy. Being a human, he knew, wasn’t going to be.
It wasn’t until he was looking in the mirror that he remembered he was still naked. Hopefully the man who’d been there before him would have left him some clothes, because Itsuki knew he wouldn’t be able to go anywhere without them. As he stared at himself, at the pale white body he’d been gifted, he tried to come to terms with what he had become. He still didn’t understand why he was so pale. The humans he’d seen before never seemed to be as pale as he was, but then maybe there was a reason for that. Until he was human for longer he didn’t think he was going to be able to understand. Was he good looking? Physically fit? Not knowing exactly what he was supposed to be looking at really didn’t help, and he definitely hadn’t seen a naked man before, so he had no way of knowing whether the dangly bits between his legs were meant to be there. Hopefully the magic of their world hadn’t given him something other human men had.
His focus before had been on getting somewhere. Itsuki hadn’t thought all that much about the sensation of having those things between his legs. It was tempting, for a moment, to poke them, to find out how they felt, but he stopped himself. The time would come when he’d understand why they were there… he hoped. Poking at them wasn’t going to help him until he had more understanding of what he was. ‘Itsuki?’ One of his brothers was calling him. ‘There is someone coming towards the hut. You may want to prepare yourself for that.’
Sensations flooded through him. Itsuki had no idea what they were. All he knew was that they weren’t helpful. What he needed to do was find something to wear, quickly, ready to deal with his visitor. He opened the wardrobe and stared in at things he didn’t understand. Feeling even more uncertain than he had done before he pulled out something that looked very much like a robe. That was going to have to do. He didn’t have time to learn how to put the other things on. Biting on his lip he wrapped the robe around him, making sure it wasn’t going to come undone, before making his way to the room he’d been in before. As the door opened inward the only thing he knew was that he wasn’t ready for what was coming next. All he could do was hope it was magic user who’d called the hut home.