It had been a week since I had turned eighteen, and I still didn’t have an animal companion. My parents were concerned, my friends were supportive, and my classmates were convinced something massive and rare was on its way. One of the art majors had waited days for her companion, which had turned out to be a mythical creature – a unicorn, in fact. A recently aired story claimed that one boy had bonded with a sea serpent. My classmates spent their free time taking guesses at my animal companion.
“What if it’s a chupacabra?” Jason asked.
“The chupacabra isn’t a real creature,” I replied.
“That’s what you said about unicorns,” Sky said with a light laugh. The sun conure on her shoulder chattered along with her.
I shrugged, and went back to revising my chemistry notes. They enjoyed teasing me because they already knew my answer. I didn’t want an animal companion. Pets were pointless creatures, meant to make you feel less lonely and unloved. I preferred being alone, and loved myself plenty. Animal companions were more than pets. Once they found their humans, their bodies underwent a chemical change. Their immune systems bolstered to mimic their human’s, and their lifespans increased; companions lived as long as their humans. For a creature with a short life expectancy like a butterfly or mouse, this was a scientific anomaly.
That made me very uncomfortable.
Ever since I learned about companions, I was determined to study them so that humans could overcome them. My parents had incredibly ordinary companions – my mother a calico cat, and my father a German Shepherd dog. They acted just like any other animals of their species – they slept, they ate, they slept some more. But their link to my parents didn’t just affect their lives. Companions could die – in accidents, from neglect, or by murder. When humans died, their companions died with them. But when companions died, humans lived on. At least physically. Mentally … something changed. A man whose companion died in a car accident last year was still said to be suffering severe mental illness.
I was sure that having a companion was more harm to the human body than anything. And I was determined to discover a way to separate humans from companions. I’d do my own research, if no one else would. This was far too important for science to overlook.
“Where are you going?” Sky asked as I stood up from me seat. I started packing up my notebooks.
“Home,” I replied, sounding audibly snippy. “I have work to do.”
“What about dinner? Everyone’s going out to eat today, to celebrate Melody’s companion.” She frowned at me. That was right. A chameleon found Melody sometime yesterday.
“I don’t celebrate companions,” I said. Wasn’t it obvious? Pushing my chair back, I slung my bag over my shoulder.
“I’ll tell her that you had something else to do,” Sky called out after me.
“Don’t tell her anything,” I replied, walking out the door. What was the point?
I was relieved to find my room a familiar place – books piled on the floor, papers stacked neatly on top of my desk. With a sigh, I dropped my backpack on my bed and fished out my notes from earlier. Not having an animal companion could be more common than people thought. I didn’t see any scientists keeping track of people all over the world. How did they know that every single eighteen-year-old had an animal companion? People like me could be the key to separating humans from their links to animal companions. I opened my laptop pushed the power button. If I could just find a story of another person without an animal companion …
A cool breeze blew through the room. Looking over my shoulder, I noticed the window. I must have left it open this morning. With a shrug, I stood up. At least it didn’t rain today. As I walked over with the intention of closing it, when when a small dark shape rushed in. With a yelp, I pawed at my shoulders, my stomach a mixture of disgust and panic.
“Get off, get out!” I declared. I felt the thing attach itself to my right hand, and a shiver ran down my spine. What was it, a stinkbug? I flung my arm out in front of me, and froze. Clutching onto my fingers was the smallest bat I had ever seen. It was dark grey in color, and no bigger than … a bumblebee. This was a bumblebee bat. It didn’t belong here. My stomach somersaulted, and I realized what was going on.
“Oh no you don’t,” I said aloud, glaring at the animal. It looked back up at me, tilting its head. “You can’t,” I protested. “You’re not.”
The bat said nothing, and didn’t let go.
“This doesn’t change anything,” I said. “I still plan on finding a way to separate animal companions from humans. I’ll only be taking care of you so I don’t lose my mind.”
The bat did nothing. Of course it didn’t. It was just an animal. Just an animal …