Penguin-Eye View

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One, two, one, two… Derreck counted to himself as he ran, hockey tryouts were only a week a way. And even though he’d been first pick for the last ten years, Derreck wasn’t about to take any chances. He needed to be in top condition in order to make sure of that.

It was just after dawn, six a.m., and Derreck had been running for over half an hour. The last fleeting traces of cool night air had been helpful, but now, with the first rays of daylight illuminating the lonely street, a trickle of sweat was streaking down his brow. He’d have to turn back soon and get ready for school, but for now he’d go a little farther, at least to the end of the block. He should have thought about it a little harder before continuing on.

 

“Oh! Derreck,” a surprised yet familiar voice called from the direction Derreck was jogging. He looked up and wasn’t surprised at all to see Dr. Cook emptying a trash bag into his trash can. “I see you’re already up and hard at work.”

“Only a week till hockey tryouts,” Derreck panted as he began jogging in place, Dr. Cook always had something to say. “I gotta stay in shape.”

“Well, as long as you make sure to take care of yourself, the team’ll be out of luck if you get hurt.”

“Well, I don’t plan on doing that.”

“Good boy, good boy…” Dr. Cook mumbled as he finished emptying the bag of vials, rotten vegetables, and empty flour bags. “Say, would you like to try a little something I just finished concocting, I think it’ll put a little pep in your step for the day.”

“Is it legal?” Once or twice police had been seen “extracting” a few questionable items and ingredients from his house.

Cook shrugged, “As far as I can tell.”

 

Derreck sat at the table in Dr. Cook’s kitchen, a strange but not unpleasant smell filled the room, it was sweet and sour and not like anything Derreck had ever smelled before. Whatever the doctor had come up with, Derreck couldn’t wait to see what it was.

“Here we are,” Cook beamed as he slid a plate of muffins in front of Derreck. “I hope you enjoy these, I think I’ve got something special here.”

“Muffins?” Derreck asked skeptically, “Your big break though is…a muffin?”

“What? You don’t like muffins?” he asked defensively.

“No…I like muffins, it’s just that they don’t seem very special besides their smell.”

“Well, they might look normal, but that’s just one sense, and since your nose has balanced the odds with their smell, let your tongue be the deciding judge.” Derreck hated when the doc got in this artistic babble of his.

But, putting the odd man’s choice of words aside, Derreck slowly reached for the closest muffin. It was soft, like a ball of fluff, almost as if it would fall apart if he held it too tightly. Slowly Derreck’s hand lifted the muffin towards his mouth, and slowly his lips parted, letting the still-warm bread come part of the way into his mouth, then he bit down. He felt the bread roll over his tongue and was amazed by what he tasted. The muffin’s taste, like its smell was unlike anything he’d ever come across before; every spice and flavor imaginable was both present and at the same time not, there was no uniform texture, one bite was soft and the next was chewy, and all the while Dr. Cook looked on with extreme interest.

“It’s interesting…” Derreck mumbled as the darkness consumed his sight.

 

When Derreck next opened his eyes he was not in any kitchen, not any house. Ow…my head… Derreck thought as he tried to get up, it seemed harder then normal, but not because he was woozy or anything, it just seemed like he wasn’t used to his body, which after seventeen years of life he should have been able to do

He was in an alley, which he discovered with some disdain after his eyes had adjusted; there was litter and overturned trashcans on the ground and graffiti on the walls, it was not the ideal place for one to wake up in. Derreck waddled forward, curious as to why his legs felt shorter then normal but not too curious, until he was about halfway to the street which lay ahead, then he saw someone that could help.

Colin! Derreck called, or rather thought as the friend he’d had for the last fourteen years walked slowly past the alley. He was on his cell, probably talking to Lisah, who he seemed to talk to a lot more recently, or Kat, who’d been really depressed ever since Devon had disappeared. Colin! He thought again, not realizing that he still wasn’t actually talking; only thinking what he wanted to say. And then he noticed something different about Colin. Colin who’d always had something of an ominous aura about him, now seemed to have something actually ominous looming over his shoulder.

Like some sort of phantom it floated there, almost like a person but made out of a ying-yang and with just one glowing red spiral eye. The left side of its head and right side of its body were white, while the other half was jet black. Gravity seemed to have no hold over it and neither Colin nor the people passing across the street seemed to notice it. Derreck didn’t want to look at it, but he almost couldn’t help it.

Colin stopped when he noticed something out of the corner of his eye, that something was Derreck. Colin slowly turned to Derreck and looked at him, and Derreck looked back at Colin, Colin had always been taller then Derreck, but now he seemed to loom over him like some sort of giant. Colin cocked his head, kneeled down on his hunches (still he appeared to be over a foot taller then Derreck), and said:

“There’s something you don’t see everyday.”

It was Derreck’s turn to cock his head in confusion, and he did just that. What are you talking about? “Bhyee?” In his confusion Derreck had forgotten about the scaly thing hovering on his friend’s shoulder. And in his confusion, Derreck didn’t hear the sound he made when he though he was talking.

“That’s a funny way for a penguin to look,” Colin smirked.

Penguin? Derreck queried. “Bhyee?” You think I’m a penguin? I was the one who woke up in an alley but you’re the one who must have been smoking something harsh “Bhyee? Bhyee bhyee bhyee.”

Look to your right the ying-yang creature floating behind Colin suggested apathetically with a mouth that went up the center of his whole face, causing Derreck to really question what Doc Cook had put in that muffin. But he followed the creature’s directions and looked right, where his eyes fell on a broken mirror. What he saw in that mirror nearly knocked him out cold. Staring back at him from the fractured remains of the discarded mirror was not the boyish face that had won him his girlfriend or the curly hair that never seemed to dampen no matter how wet the rest of the world got. No, what Derreck saw looking back at him was exactly what Colin had told him he was; a penguin.

But I’m not a penguin, I’m a man! “Bhyeeeeeee!” Derreck yelled, distraught and perplexed and ready to faint. Why’d this happen to me!? “Bhyee, bhyee?”

“You okay little guy?” Colin asked with the utmost calmness; as if a penguin screaming at a mirror was something he did in fact see everyday.

No I’m not alright you idiot, I’m a penguin! I’ve known you since kindergarten and you don’t care that I’ve turned into a penguin!? What’s with that!? “Bhyee, bhyee! Bhyee bhyee bhyee bhyee!? Bhyee!?”

He can’t understand you the creature said as it peered at Derreck with its one eye.

“Bhyee?” Why not?

When was the last time you understood what any animal was really saying?

“Bhyee…” Never…

Exactly. Humans, unlike other lesser creatures, can barely interpret other languages in their own species. How do you expect this one to understand you?

But I’m not a penguin… Derreck pleaded, more with the circumstances he’d been plunged into rather the semi-transparent demon.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea little guy,” Colin said, slapping his fist into his open palm. “Why don’t I go get you a fish to chow on?”

For some reason, this idea of getting a fish filled Derreck who’d never been too fond of fish before with a great deal of joy and excitement, a fact that he let Colin perceive by nodding with great exaggeration. “Good, now why don’t you just follow me I’ll go get you a fish or two.”

 

What’s that old human adage? The creature mused as Colin led Derreck out of the alley and in the direction he claimed fish could be found. If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, and –

But I don’t think like a duck, err…penguin! Derreck shouted, he had, without realizing it, stopped making his little bhyee sounds and was now conversing with this thing on a purely mental level.

Let me fill you in on something bird brain the floating beast said mockingly, every sentient being in every facet of reality thinks exactly the same way. They just think they think differently.

This shut Derreck up for a while. Right up to the point they passed a street vendor and, as promised, Colin procured a fish for Derreck. While Derreck gulped down the fish that he was both appalled and overjoyed to have, Colin whipped out his cell again and dialed a new number, if Derreck hadn’t been so busy chowing down a dead tuna he might have noticed that Colin only hit three numbers when he dialed.

So what are you? Derreck asked the creature after the fish was safely tucked away in his belly.

Me? The creature asked, as if he’d never really thought about it before. I’m something of a hitchhiker I suppose. I can’t be more until your buddy here notices me. If you’re still a penguin once he does, I think I’ll eat you.

Well…Derreck wasn’t quite sure how to react to such a proclamation I don’t plan on being a penguin for long.

Did you ever plan on being a penguin in the first place?

“Hey little guy,” Colin said, turning to Derreck. “This is where we part ways.”

“Bhyee?” Derreck queried.

It wasn’t Colin who answered him; it was the two people in jumpsuits who dropped the net over him. “Got’cha!” one of them screamed as they grabbed him.

Hey what’s going on!? Colin help me don’t let them – “Bhyee!? Bhyee bhyee!”

“Be quite you!” one of the them shouted as they struggled to carry the struggling bird towards a nearby van. It was then, as Derreck’s petite penguin body fought against the two grown men, that he noticed the emblem on both of their vests; it was the city zoo logo.

Colin you bastard, I’m gonna kill you when I get out of this! But Colin stood unfazed by all of this, all he heard were more of the bird’s strange squawks. And the hitchhiking ghost lizard, he just snickered as Derreck was thrown into a cage in the van, a van that was much bigger then he originally guessed, if Derreck hadn’t been so distressed over what was happening to him, he might have wondered why they needed such a large van for one small penguin.

 

I wonder how many people noticed I had a penguin following me Colin thought to himself after the van the penguin had been thrown into drove off. But then he shrugged, “Not that it really matters, everyone already thinks I’m crazy.”

And the hitchhiker? Well with no more delusional penguins to talk to he went back to waiting for his host to notice him, which was okay, he had enough patience for a little longer yet.

 

Derreck’s eyes had to adjust yet again, a fact that in no way helped the current situation. When he could see to some limited degree he found, just as he had expected, that he was locked in a cage. There were other cages alongside his, but they all looked empty, but there was definitely something else in here, Derreck could here the deep, rugged breathing of something in one of the bigger cages and he was glad those cages were nowhere near his own.

And then he took notice of two glowing eyes looking straight at him. Needless to say that when his eyes did what eyes do and finished adjusting to the darkness, Derreck was not happy to find the owner of those eyes to be an oversized lion. Its gaze was frightening and Derreck knew right away that he meant to get out of his cage and partake of penguin for dinner.

“How did your freedom taste?” he asked in a deep, growling voice, just the type of voice Derreck would have expected a lion might to have. “Well, how was it?” he asked again after a moment of silence in which Derreck only trembled in fear.

 

“Oh no,” the driver of the van groaned as the group of protesters came into view. Their picket signs and banners waving with slogans like “Animals have rights too!” and “Fur is murder!” although the latter didn’t make since these animals were going back to the zoo, not a coat factory.

“What is it?” the other zoo employee asked as she struggled to wake up, it had been a tough day of animal recapturing and she wanted some sleep, not more trouble.

“It’s those damn animal rights activists, probably the same ones who let the animals out in the first place,” the driver replied.

“Just honk the horn and keep driving,” the groggy woman said as she repositioned her hat over her eyes and started to go back to sleep.

The driver would have done just that had a bullet from one of the protesters guns not blown out one of the tires and sent their truck rolling off the side of the road.

 

Derreck heard the gun shot and shattering glass, heard one of the men who’d thrown him in here start cursing and screaming simultaneously, felt the van start to swerve to the right, and then almost lost his tuna as the van started tumbling down a hill. The cages, even the lion’s, started spinning around the interior and van and Derreck started screaming along with the man in the van’s cab. The only occupant of the van who wasn’t screaming(besides the dead man) was the lion, and that was most likely because he was still figuring out how he was going to eat the flightless bird that had joined him for this ride.

When the van finally stopped it was on its side and the second man wasn’t screaming anymore, he was either dead or passed out. But he served his purpose in this story so he doesn’t really matter anymore. What does matter is the condition Derreck found himself in when the roller coaster ride from hell was over. He was bruised and battered all over, and he just wanted this day to be over no matter what that might entail. And then he smelled something familiar, at first he thought it might be gasoline from the engine but it was too strange a smell to be gasoline, it smelled almost like… But, then after a few moments of staggered attempts to stand did he notice that he wasn’t actually in his cage anymore, and if he wasn’t in his cage did that mean–

“Finally out of that cage,” the lion’s deep voice sighed in relief as he crawled out from beneath a pile of overturned cages. “Where do you think you’re going?” he asked amusedly as Derreck tried to push open the van’s trunk door.

“Nowhere…” Derreck stammered as he watched the lion approach, with each step the beast took that strange odor grew more and more pungent, filling his small penguin nostrils to the brim.

“Good boy,” the lion growled. “Now, before you’re not able to talk anymore, I want you to answer my question. How did it taste?”

 

“Derreck?” Cook queried. It had been a few minutes since the boy had bitten into the muffin and he wasn’t quite sure what he should do if Derreck remained in this catatonic state, so he ignored the problem. “How’d it taste Derreck?”

“Huh?” Derreck mumbled. He looked surprised to find that he was still in the kitchen, a fact that didn’t fill the doctor with much hope as to how the boy felt about his concocted muffin.

“How’d the muffin taste?”

“Oh,” Derreck said as he slowly grasped the situation. “It was…interesting…”

“Maybe you should go home Derreck, you look a little bit under the weather.”

“O…kay…” Derreck slowly agreed as he pushed himself away from the table and started towards the door.

“Take it easy!” Dr. Cook called while throwing the leftover muffins away.

 

Derreck slowly made his way back towards the house. He was in such a daze that he didn’t even realize how many people he bumped into on the way there, mostly students at his school but some adults and one guy in a black cloak too. But none of that mattered to him, he just wanted to get back into bed and never think about muffins or penguins again.

When he walked into his house he could hear the news coming from the den, but didn’t bother going towards the sound, the word den made him think of lions and that was another thing he wanted to forget about.

“Derreck, is that you?” his mom called from the den.

“Yeah…” he tiresomely called back from the stairs to his room.

“Did you see any animals while you were out running?”

The question stuck Derreck in gut like a hard punch and he almost didn’t answer it. “Why do you ask?”

“I saw on the news that some protestors let animal out of the zoo last night, supposedly they even caused an animal transport van to go off the road.”

Derreck didn’t reply to this, he just continued upstairs, fell into his bed, and tried not to think about anything with feathers or fur.