Thanks for following DDsE!

The end is here. Was here. Has come upon us. Entry 412 was the last entry of the last book of the DDsE series.

I’m thrilled and grateful that people kept reading Ella’s diaries. If you enjoyed DDsE, please consider leaving a review at Amazon (where the diaries are compiled, 3-diaries-to-a-volume) or Smashwords (where each diary is published as a separate ebook).

As you’ll notice when you click over, I’ve been remiss in getting reviews. I’ve been focussed on finishing the series without too many breaks. (A post a day! Sheesh!)

I’ll soon have the complete series published and at that point I will remove this blog with its pre-publication versions.

Again, thanks for reading and for taking the DDsE ride with me. I had a great time and I hope you did too.

–– Sue

 

412.

Dear Diary,

DD. I haven’t needed to use that code for ages. Maybe I kept doing it to remind myself how things started. Hiding angry words from my foster parents. Tupac, so long ago!

Writing to you was how I got over so many bad feelings. How I figured things out. How I made my first connections with Grayfast.

This will be my last entry for a while. Maybe forever – I have to admit that possibility.

I’m mostly heading into normal life for a while. I don’t want to keep pulling away to keep you up to date.

Also, whatever I write won’t be private.

This morning we discovered that no one can read my diaries except me. Lourdes, Paul, Zed – I handed them diaries packed with words and they saw only blank pages.

“Guess we should call you Gala-Ella from now on,” Lourdes said.

“Ella-lena,” Paul suggested.

I said, “Gal-ella-lena. Say that even one time, fast.”

Underneath, we were serious. We knew what invisible diary pages mean. More bad guys to come. Changelings to try to stop them. Diaries from former changelings to help the next generation. My words will show up for future changelings when they are ready to read those words. Same as Galalena’s diary appeared for us.

I’m embarrassed that I’ve filled 9 diary books when Galalena only needed 1. But then, she only wrote about bad guys. My diary might help somebody understand about becoming a changeling, too.

“Should we celebrate?” Lourdes wondered. “Isn’t the war over?”

“It’s on pause. Some of Alcatur’s soldiers might decide to resume when they stop being in shock,” Paul said.

“Maybe we should wait and celebrate when Bruce is okay.” When, not if. I was in an optimistic mood.

I wasn’t in a celebration mood, though. And anyway, just about everyone had left the Trigg beach house. They took the buses back to Mono Lake. Everweer are taking Bruce where Aunt Axi and Franklin and maybe the sirene might help him recover from whatever Natalie did to him. Changelings are heading home. We’ll meet on changeling hill every month until it seems like something else should happen instead.

Typical Everweer contradictions. The beach house feels more crowded now, with only us here. Paul, Lourdes, the coyote kids plus our animals.

Paul is so in love with Sariah. I can stop feeling guilty because Grayfast is more important to me than Paul. Now Paul is in the same situation with Sariah versus me. Only another changeling could understand.

Grayfast is so protective of tiny Sariah. He shows up whenever a coyote starts sniffing around. Earlier, he groomed the owl like she was a kitten. Paul and Lourdes and I had so many aw-how-cutes that Grayfast swished his tail.

Tomorrow we’re all headed for Chicago. Of course Paul has to look for his parents. How could he not? Of course we’ll be with him, whatever happens.

I’d better stop here. Scatterlegs is chittering at me. I’m late, helping Lourdes choose books for our trip. We’re teaching the coyote kids how to read.

And so, dearest Diary, this is good bye. Thank you so much for existing. You kept me going when I wanted to stop.

love, Ella

+++ the end of Book 9. the end of Ella’s diaries. +++

411.

DD – I finally did fall asleep. Like I always do. What felt like 5 minutes later, someone shoved my shoulder around.

Looming overhead was Circe, back to normal. In other words, crabby and accusing. “Why do you hold us here? Thrice have I tried to depart and been forced to remain.”

Lourdes poked her head out from behind Circe. “What we said was would you mind waiting until Ella wakes up because she might want to talk with you.”

I sat up and closed my eyes so I couldn’t see the room spin. Definitely not enough sleep. “I’m glad you’re okay again. Thank you for what you did yesterday. If you hadn’t showed up at the ranch -“

Circe stomped her foot. “I do not believe in ranches. Certainly I have never seen one. As always you speak with little sense.”

“Do you even remember -” Lourdes began.

Circe looked at Lourdes like she was a chair and said to me, “I left this beach to reclaim my tortoise but now he has returned to me on his own. I am done with this beach and I wish to leave this place where anyone can join a conversation.”

Lourdes made such a mature, grown-up face at Circe behind her back.

“You are free to go,” Paul said from the doorway. “You have a Trigg’s permission.”

Behind him, Fastidious scraped along the hall toward the front door.

Actually it was comforting that Circe was still a brat. And she must be okay, really, to have Fastidious as her animal.

She would never again be mean to the tortoise, was my guess. As she rode him up the dune, every time she stomped his shell, he tipped her off. After her third fall, her stomps became taps.

She jumped off Fastidious and stood at the top of the dune, waving to us. Just in time for the sun to pop out from behind clouds and set her hair on fire.

Lourdes asked, “She really doesn’t remember Natalie’s ranch?”

I said, “Probably just as well.”

Grayfast had been lounging across my feet. Now he perked up. Three white mice scampered onto the bed.

The triplets slipped into the room beside Paul. “You showed a photo of your parents during the tour of your home… We believe we have seen them.”

Lourdes said, “What the termite!”

Paul dropped onto the bed beside Grayfast like his legs had stopped working.

The triplets talked like the coyote kids, adding sentences to each other’s thoughts. “During the tour their photo looked familiar but we couldn’t say why… until last night when we saw the scene Bruce made, with the tall building by a river walkway… We recognized that. We had recently visited Chicago … There, a man and woman caught our attention. They were so – lost. They would step one way then another… It was too cold to be indecisive! We discovered they knew – nothing… Not where they were, nor where they had been … nor who they were… They did not seem drugged or deranged. It was as though both had amnesia… We tried to take them into that tall building for help and they panicked and … They ran from what we now know to be Alcatur’s headquarters… And so. Only a few months ago, over the holidays, your parents still lived.”

Paul fell back on the mattress and covered his face. “I’m afraid to hope.”

A tiny black and white owl flapped onto his belly. Sariah looked like a toy version of her former self.

“It’s okay to hope,” I told him.”Hope is valid.”

A year ago I couldn’t have said that. – sE

410.

DD – Sunrise was starting to glitter the ocean when our buses parked outside the Trigg beach house. The moon was still up and welcomed us to this safe place to rest. We’d stay here for a day and night, then head back to Mono Lake, to changeling hill, from which changelings could most easily return home.

Many changelings went to the beach and some had obviously never seen an ocean before. The rest of us shuffled around on the top of the dune. I was so tired, if I went down to the beach I might not have the energy to climb back up the dune.

Paul and Franklin and Lewis helped get Bruce and Circe off the bus and inside.

Eventually, Paul joined us and Aunt Axi gave him the world’s biggest, proudest hug. She called to the changelings on the beach and the dune in a formal but friendly voice, “My changeling nephew and I are honored to invite you inside our home.”

It wasn’t long before 100+ changelings and their animals had managed to fit into that tiny narrow house.

But the most magic moment came next. About a dozen of Alcatur’s soldiers had come here with us. The ones who had asked to join our war. They were packing supplies into backpacks, acting uncomfortable. Some of them were apologizing to Aunt Axi or Paul, for coming too far. See, when Everweer are your enemy – or ex-enemy – they aren’t supposed to know where you live. Even though they can’t come inside without an invite, the location of your home is secret private taboo information.

Paul whispered in Aunt Axi’s ear and she lifted one queenly hand to interrupt the apologies. “My allies,” she said to Alcatur’s ex-soldiers. “Would you do me the honor of joining me inside my home?”

One soldier fell over. Legitimately fell over.

They looked nervous but they followed Aunt Axi down the dune and into the house. One of them ducked at the door like expecting an ambush.

Those soldiers would be talking about her invitation for the rest of their lives. That the Triggs invited them, recent enemies. Well. To Everweer, trust is the greatest rarest gift in the world.

Paul hugged me from behind. “Let’s go inside.”

I squeezed his arms against me, then let go fast. I could sense people watching. Not enemies, but definitely an audience.

Tupac.

One of Alcatur’s soldiers met us at the door, smiling. “You are the ones who shared your private moment. You are not the only couple to suffer thus. It all depends on the mix of powers. My mate and I have learned to broadcast on a more intimate frequency. I can teach you.”

We made plans for a lesson right after breakfast. Which will happen sometime this afternoon.

The sun is shining brightly now. It must be a weekend because the beach has got lots of voices. Crammed inside this house are hundreds of noses and snouts, snoring, snorting, breathing softly.

They’re all asleep. Not me, of course.

Here comes Grayfast, strolling with his tail in the air. Guess he sensed his baby bird needs company. – sE

409.

DD – I called a meeting and got reports from the various teams who had explored the house and the barn. This was a formality. We knew what we’d found in the ranch buildings. As soon as we regained energy, we’d get on the buses and get the Tupac out of here.

Most of the changelings milled around or flopped in the meadow. The triplets walked around Bruce’s scene, with their identical white mice running up and down their arms while they studied it. They acted like they recognized the scene. I’d have to ask them about that. After we were out of here.

I found Aunt Axi, who was stopping to talk with every changeling. “Should we burn the buildings? I don’t want to just leave them.”

“I doubt these structures will accept fire and I agree that we don’t want to turn our backs on them. Let’s talk with Franklin about our options.”

I followed her toward the bus. Until I crashed onto my knees and clutched my ears. Immediately, Aunt Axi and Paul were helping me stand again. My knees stung. I’d hit the dirt with enough force to rip my jeans and the skin underneath. I was glad for the pain, it made the sound less intense.

No one else seemed to hear what I was hearing. Dozens of animals in their dozens of voices, squawking roaring barking chirping yowling in a single tone, over and over. Like they were chanting.

Somebody pointed toward the barn. Somebody else pointed toward the house.

Each building was surrounded by changeling animals. Grayfast stood at the front of one group, Sariah at the front of the other. The animals were chanting at the buildings.

The straight lines of the buildings began to waver and buckle. Every board, every shingle, every piece fell into itself and began to throb, with pulses of bright light as white as tonight’s moon. The buildings shrunk, smaller and more distorted, until finally the shapes were gone and only the throbbing light blazed. If snow could burn, that’s what it would look like.

The animals’ mouths went wider, their bodies stiffer, like they were yelling as loud as they could. A rumble built and the remaining hills sent their boulders into the pond. Water spread in two long fingers that flooded the places where the buildings had been. The throbbing lights went out.

The animals closed their mouths and went to their changelings.

Sariah cast a huge shadow as she rose and flapped our way.

“Noooo!” I cried. Sariah’s shadow was flapping this way and that. She couldn’t control her flying. Her wings were distorting in the moonlight, shrinking and throbbing with snowy light. Natalie had done something to that owl. Something that had now been reversed. Was Sariah being destroyed like the buildings?!?!

The owl’s light went out and a speck of an ember fell out of the sky. With total calm, Paul reached out and caught the speck.

The ember. Her. Sariah. Same owl, same markings, same head tilted to one shoulder. But now she was small enough to fit in one of Paul’s hands.

Whispers of amazement from all directions. Changelings and their animals made way for Grayfast, who galloped across the meadow to us.

Paul whispered like he was praying, “This is Sariah’s real size. She feared she’d never get back to normal again.” He set her on the ground in front of Grayfast. The tiny owl flapped her miniature wings a dozen times to fly to Paul’s shoulder. Before she was majestic. Now she was cute.

Paul froze like you would if a butterfly landed on you. “What’s she doing? I don’t want to startle her,” he murmured.

“Dude,” Lourdes figured it out about the same time I did. “Move all you want. She won’t leave. She’s your animal now.”

“You understand what this means?” I told Paul. “You knew what Sariah was thinking. You’re not an Everweer. You’re a changeling who started as an Everweer.”

And just like that the night went from horrible to wonderful, watching my beloved Paul’s face change. A dream too great to be imagined had just come true. – sE

408.

DD – Only the changelings who started as hunters could bear to complete the search of Natalie’s house, and even the sirene was sobbing when she and Lewis returned to the meadow. No one could talk about what they had seen inside, except for the key point that nothing in there was alive. No soldiers. No threats to us.

Which left the barn.

“One more building and we are out of here,” Paul growled and led the way to the barn. Lewis jogged to keep up with him. They pulled open the wide tall doors and we could see the whole interior without stepping inside.

But we went inside anyway. Whatever evil was done in the barn got cleaned up afterwards. Full of tools and equipment, the barn had the feeling of a workshop or lab. If we hadn’t just seen the inside of the house, we wouldn’t have seen anything ominous about the empty chairs on various small platforms. Now, of course, these looked like torture seats.

The barn was clean, tidy, and empty. Or so we thought until Grayfast stared at a platform under an empty chair. Just stared at the wood planks. My head blasted with a headache and suddenly I was looking through his eyes at a darker shadow behind the wood planks. Sharp smells of life filled my nose. Sweat and TMI smells.

“We need to look under that platform,” I said.

So heavy. It took ten of us to tilt it up and swivel it away. It probably made a huge thud when we dropped it to the side, but by then everyone was gasping and yelling.

Bruce was laying in the cavity left by the platform. His breath was raggedy like he was trying to breathe inside a plastic bag. He stared around. He showed no sign that he recognized me, or Franklin, or his family.

Franklin poked and prodded Bruce like a doctor would, checking for injuries.

Aunt Axi cupped Bruce’s face between her hands to make sure he was looking at her, and began to ask questions in a quiet soothing voice.

Bruce gave no response to any of this.

“The other platforms,” Lourdes said.

Basically we pulled the barn apart, looking for other hiding places.

Bruce was the only living being we found in the barn. Franklin and Paul got him standing and walked him around until he could stand on his own. His fingers started flexing and when he got to the meadow, he started ripping up plants and running back and forth to spread the pieces into a giant version of scene he had been sculpting for a long time. The river walk outside Alcatur’s headquarters in Chicago.

He dropped to his knees and gasped.

“Can you undo whatever she did to him?” I asked Aunt Axi. I tried to keep the begging out of my voice.

“There is always hope,” she replied.

Bruce allowed Paul and Franklin to lead him onto the bus. Franklin stayed with him inside, Paul came to flop beside me. We must have looked quite a sight, more than a hundred people basking in moonlight and shivering. – sE

407.

DD – Various changelings had powers that could make light or fire, so we could see to search through the night. We posted guards in circles around the buildings while we searched the grounds.

“Watch for disturbed or mounded earth which could indicate graves,” Aunt Axi advised.

The meadow had no disturbed ground except from us, today. The uncollapsed hills had no caves or hiding places and they were incredibly sturdy. The hunters tried to cause more landslides to remove any other booby-traps, but they couldn’t get even a pebble to move.

The pond water was so clear that we could shine our lights to see the bottom. The piles of submerged boulders were thick and solid. They formed new hills under the water and fish were already flitting around them. The boulders showed no cracks or gaps where Natalie or Alcatur might escape, if they somehow survived being buried underwater.

A bright comforting moon shone on us as we huddled outside the buses, getting water and snacks and hearing reports from each search group.

Okay. Nothing in the outdoor areas. Nothing but beautiful quiet nature to report.

I finished my snack and stood. “Let’s add a second line of protectors around the barn. Everybody else, we’re searching the house next.”

Paul, Lourdes, Zed sent me sighs of relief. They were the only ones who knew what Galalena had written. About the rumor of evils in the barn.

Lewis led the way inside the house, the sirene’s voice giving orders to other hunters. Throughout the search process, a few warriors stayed with every clump of changelings. The only exception was back at the bus, where Sariah and Fastidious alone protected Circe.

That house. Natalie’s house.

Every room had corpses and remains. She was very creative about how she displayed them. She had mummies, and bodies in huge airtight jars. Her shelves had neat stacks of urns with labels: name, date of death, cause of death, “duration of passing”. Some made “art” – canvases with glued ashes and bone fragments. Skeletons were piled in corners and arranged in scenes. Walls were covered in sketches made with a dusty “charcoal” from ashes.

The sketches were of faces. The kind of realistic cartoons someone would draw for $20 at a park. I had to assume these were the faces of victims, drawn with their own ashes. Under each face was neat printing with the same info as on the urns.

When I saw one sketch I couldn’t help it, I barfed. Which made the air puff with ashes. That face was Barracuda, my social worker. Who had been with Natalie at the accident scene. Who had died in her car near Franklin’s cabins. Whose corpse and car had disappeared.

The dining room walls were painted in color. People I didn’t recognize and people I knew very well. People who were still alive. Including me. Paul. Aunt Axi. Franklin. I guess this was her wish list of upcoming victims.

“If you need out of here, just go.” I demonstrated by fleeing to the meadow. About half the changelings joined me, while the others and the animals continued the gruesome searching through the house.

I closed my eyes and bathed my face in moonlight and let everyone see their leader’s tears. – sE