Ash in Ashes by D.G.

Hello, I’m Ashton, and I’m thirteen years old. You can call me Ash. I was born in Miami, Florida to parents I never knew, and adopted by Charlotte Hushton and her partner Eleanor. Eleanor is a homicide detective for the Miami police department, and Charlotte is hopelessly jobles. due to her being treated for cancer. For the past eight years I have gone to school on the outskirts of town at Sebastian St. Clair middle school for carnivorous young.

In my world, we call ourselves ethomorphs or ethos, in that we all have a different ethomorphology mixed with our homo sapien DNA that defines our race. We aren’t human like you, we’re animalistic. Some more than others, but we are all what you might call ‘anthropomorphic’. When I was born, the doctors told my parents that I had Pheralia syndrome. This happens very rarely due to inter-species mating. Literally 1 in 1 million babies are born with it. Pheralia is a genetic disease that causes many varied symptoms including increased feral behavior, mild respiratory complications, violence, and amnesia. Basically, I’m mentally unstable. I didn’t know what was wrong with me for the longest time, because after they found out, my stupid parents dropped me from their lives like a sack of trash. In the end, I was picked up by Charlotte. She’s a doe, and I’m a red fox. Eleanor is an equine.

They tell me they always dreamed of raising a fox cub, but they didn’t anticipate the troubles that I would bring with me. See, They’re herbivores, and I’m a carnivore, but they raised me as a vegetarian. The only kinds of ‘meat’ are at school, and even then I avoid it out of respect. Most others don’t though. Eleanor says it’s offensive to eat meat, that those who do it might as well be murdering ethos. but I don’t understand what the big deal is. Most of us don’t eat other ethos, because that’s murder. We eat feral meat; meat produced from feral animals. I have to admit, it would be pretty awkward to have to farm, slaughter, and milk ferals that are the same morphology as you. Kind of creepy, no doubt. But we have to eat somehow.

I say most of us don’t eat ethos, and it’s true. Most. Not all. Last weekend there was a mass-predding slaughter in central L.A. Several famous people I don’t know were attacked and eaten alive by a pack of various anti-herbivore terrorists. One was a greying equine hasbeen from a crappy 90s sitcom, and two were publishers for a controversial anti-predding magazine. The interesting part is, it started a bunch of PETA rallies around town, along with the overall panic. They brought signs reading “Kill the mouth that eats us!” and “Ferals have rights too!”. They were picketing the dairy farm down the street, as well as a couple of meat processing plants owned by Krios Mange, a well-hated Draconic business man in these parts. He’s the owner of Aesop Meats Inc. Mange refused to back down to the hatred, insisting that the liberal protesters were a symptom of the terror induced earlier that weekend, and not of the meat industry’s practices. Charlotte says he’s an evil manipulator, but personally, I love his resolve.

 

“Breakfast is ready, Ash!” Charlotte was calling me from the kitchen, her voice pulling me out of my deep well of sleep. I sat up, and stared out my window at the sky. Bright blue, and beautiful. Not that it mattered. I never leave the house unless I have to. Too much time outside, and the sun burns my pelt. I never understood why people go out anyway, it’s too busy. Too hot, and too sticky.

I pushed myself out of bed, pulled on my shirt and trousers, and opened the door. I found my way out of my room and into the kitchen, where Charlotte was standing at the stove. She hadn’t put any makeup on, so I could see the spots on her nose. “Eggs again?” I asked, sitting down.

“You like eggs, don’t you?

“Not particularly. I wish I could have something else.”

“Like what?” she was looking at me funny. Whenever we talk about food she gets edgy with me. I think she worries I’ll go full-predator on them or something.

“I don’t know, but eggs get boring. Can’t we get something else?”

“I don’t know how to make you happy, Ash. You need protein, and this is the best way to give it to you. You won’t eat salads in the morning, soy is out of the question, and you know what my opinion on feral meat is.”

“Exactly. You choose to keep me from eating it.” My ears were twitching again, and Charlotte noticed.

“Ash, calm down. You know how it is, the meat industry is not something we support. They keep ferals trapped in cages their whole lives, and then dump their remains into the ocean. It’s bad enough for the environment, and even more immoral to eat.” She approached the table with two salads, and a bowl of scrambled eggs.

“Is Eleanor home today?” I asked, trying to ignore the food in front of me.

“Yes, she got back last night. She’s had a long week, but she should be out here soon.”

Sure enough, a couple minutes later, Eleanor joined us at the table.

“Hey, buddy. How’s it going?” She gave me a kind look, her ears cocked forward and genuinely concerned.

“I’m fine.” I said coldly, stabbing my fork angrily into my bowl. “I don’t want to go to school today. I hate it.”

“You sure don’t sound fine. What’s going on at school?”

I looked at her for a second before shamefully staring back at my bowl. “This wolverine named Charlie keeps kicking me down in the hall. His friends just laugh at me.” I didn’t want to admit it, but Eleanor has a way of digging up information. My loss, I guess. Nobody lies around her. She knows.

“You need to show that kid who’s boss, hon. He’ll only come after you harder if you let him go with it.”

“Don’t give him any ideas.” shouted Charlotte from the kitchen. “Ash is a good kid.”

“Sure you are!” Eleanor said smiling, then whispered “But that doesn’t mean you need to be a fur rug for that asshole.”

“El, I can hear you.” Charlotte rounded the bar, and sat back down at the table. “Ash, have you talked to your teacher about this? They’re there to help you.”

Rolling my eyes, I stood up. “The teachers take pride in bullying. they love It. makes a better citizen, so they say.” I stomped into my room, and started getting ready for school.

 

Ten minutes later, Charlotte bustled me out the door with my backpack weighing me down like usual. On the drive to school, we talked some more. I told her about the time Charlie ate a live rat during recess. She told me I should stay away from kids like him. She doesn’t have to tell me twice. She dropped me at school early, allowing me time to run by my locker before class. My locker happens to be right next to that of a girl named Penny. She’s a leopard, and the only almost-friend I have at school. She usually waits for me in front of our lockers in the morning to say hi. Probably the highlight of my day, I guess. Today she had a bright red bow on her head, but it kept one of her ears scrunched over. As I approached her, she smiled, and handed me a cookie from a box in her arms.

“Hey.” she said.

“Hi.” I replied, and opened my locker, dropping my bag into the bottom.

“Did you see? Mr. Keller’s out for the rest of the year. They say his mother passed, and he won’t be returning to work.” Her eyes were lit up, excited by the news. I was just relieved. Keller is our Anatomy teacher, and I always found his obsession with how everyone works inside to be very creepy. He’s even had us pose for dental pictures and x-rays to study in class.

“Good riddance,” I said, coldly. “He’s crazy. Remember he kept ignoring me when Charlie was chucking those carrot chunks at me?”

“I know, and he was about to have us dissect a cat. Jeremy kept joking that he would rather eat it.” Her face curled in disgust at the idea. “Don’t they even consider race sensitivity anymore?”

“I always figured it was just the way things work. Ferals aren’t civilized like us. We don’t even know if they have emotions.” I thought I was helping, but she just growled, rolling her eyes, and walked away, leaving me to head to class alone.

My schedule this year has been a bombshell. All the worst classes. First I have Geometry, then Anatomy Lv. 1, Mating Ed., Lunch, Language Arts, Social Studies, and spanish. Mating Ed. is the worst, because nobody takes anything seriously. They laugh at all the diagrams and pictures, talk over the teacher, and I have to sit right in front of Charlie. The whole period today he spent his time poking me in the back of the neck with a broken paperclip. I couldn’t focus, and messed up embarrassingly when the teacher asked me how many eggs the average Homo Equus produces in her life. Then, at the end of class, he leaned up next to me and whispered,

“Too bad your dirt-eating mothers didn’t learn any of this. You know what they say, queer parents raise queer cubs.”

I was outraged. I’m one of few students at my school who are vegetarian, so I’m pretty much an outlier. He already knew that. ‘dirt eater’ would be the racist way of naming it, as he was so kind to do. But my mothers? Charlie wasn’t supposed to know who my parents were. How had he found out?  Only Penny knows about that… Right?

The cafeteria caters decently well to vegetarians like me, but none of the meals are completely meat free. I know some in other schools who are completely vegan, no feral animal products whatsoever. Like I said, I guess they find it creepy or something. There is rarely a meal they serve here that doesn’t have some form of meat in it, because it’s what most students here want. I on the other hand do my best to avoid it. If Charlotte smelled it on my breath, she would flip. The smell sticks. it makes any herbivore nauseous. It triggers something deep in their systems that shouldn’t be there anymore, and isn’t safe to their health.

For lunch today, the primary options were steak, ribs, or the salad bar. As usual, I bypassed the meat entirely, and stuck with fruit and a mixed salad. The problem was, it seemed luck had it in for me today, and Charlie and his friends sat down right around me at the table.

“Hey Ash, whatcha got there?” Charlie started in, flicking at a carrot on my tray. “You know us preds don’t eat bunny food like that. It’s garbage.”

“Shove off.” I swatted his hand away, trying to act as tough as I could.

“Oof. Not too friendly today, are we?” Charlie sneered at me, baring his jagged teeth. his breath smelling of rotten meat. “What do you think we have these for, hmmm? Gonna use those canines to chew lettuce like a wittle bunny? or like that horse and doe you call parents?”

“Shut up!” I yelled, standing up. The table jerked, and sent the milk on my tray flying into his face. Charlie’s friends growled, as he wiped his face off. He glared at me outright murderously, taking in the situation. “Sorry…” I choked out the apology, barely managing louder than a whisper.

“Get him!” he yelled, and two of his friends jumped up, pushing me up against the wall. he came at me, his fur on end, and put his snarling face up to mine, drowning me in the foul stench of his breath.

“You little shit eating faggot! I’m gonna put your teeth out so you never get the chance to eat again!” he sank his fist into my stomach, making me double up in pain, then brought his foot up into my face. I felt the crunch of a couple of my teeth breaking. As they let go of me, I fell to my knees, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

“Hey!” Mr. Tallow, one of the teachers, had been rousted by the commotion. seeing the blood, helped me up to my feet. “What happened?” he asked angrily, handing me a paper towel for the blood seeping from my mouth.

“He attacked me!” yelled Charlie.

“No I didn’t! He-” I started to retort, but was interrupted.

“Shut up, both of you!” the teacher turned to one of Charlie’s friends, seeming not to know him. “What happened here?” he asked him.

“Charlie’s telling the truth, sir.” said the boy. I felt my face burn with anger.

“You-” I wanted to scream at them for lying, they were cowards. It was unfair.

“Ash!” Mr. Tallow grabbed my shoulder. “That’s enough. Go to the nurse and get cleaned up, then meet me in Principal Royal’s office. You’re on thin ice, pal.”

I started to turn and go with him, but froze. Penny was staring at me from across the cafeteria, her pawed hands over her mouth, and her ears flat back.

Seeing her scared sent a knife of anger through my chest. Here I was, giving up again. Charlie was going to continue giving me hell unless I did something about it. That thought stopped me dead in my tracks. I stopped walking, and my vision narrowed. I suddenly couldn’t hear anything but the blood pounding in my head.

I turned on Charlie, who was taken by surprise as I threw myself on him. I clawed at his eyes, hearing him scream in agony, as someone yelled “Get him off!” I got excited, suddenly feeling his life in my hands, and bit down on his neck. The taste of blood filled my mouth, sending adrenaline through my body. Before I knew it, I was on my back, and all I could hear was others screaming. Or was it me?

All I remember after that was being dragged out of the cafeteria, away from Charlie’s dying body, and left to sit on the couch in the office. I knew I was being watched by security. I sat for what felt like an hour, feeling fear, anger, and euphoria spiraling through my brain like a whirlpool. All I could really do was stare at the wall, digging my claws into my arm. My mouth was matted with blood, but I couldn’t be bothered to clean myself. An administrator showed up eventually to lead me out into the parking lot, Where police cars and a big van were parked outside. the worst was seeing Charlotte leaning against her truck, a look of fear plastered like a mask over her eyes. I climbed in, doing my best to avoid looking at her. We took off towards home in cold silence, and every second of it made me feel worse.

“They say he’s not going to make it. His throat is crushed.” She finally whispered, barely holding her composure.

I sat still, feeling an icy cold settling in my stomach. “Mom, I’m sorry.” I didn’t know what else to say.

“Ash…” Charlotte was crying, I could tell. “Why did you do it?”

Tears had finally started boiling in my eyes as well. “I knew the teachers weren’t going to stop him, so I did it for them.”

“Ash, We could be in huge trouble for this! You’ve been expelled! if his parents press charges, we’ll lose everything! Maybe even you…” she paused, gasping for breath. “Son, you don’t have the right to take someone’s life, That’s not how the world works!”

I looked out the window to watch the trees fly by, feeling the hole where my missing teeth had been, and the well of fear and anger in my stomach. That’s unfair. He hurt me. He hurt Penny. I stopped him for good, and now I get in trouble? “I think If that’s the case, then our world is broken.”