Rachel set the last cardboard box on her dorm room bed; taking a deep breath, she sat down, sullenly looking over at Cloe’s side of the room, her roommate. It was bright and colorful, reflecting her bubbly personality; they’d talked online earlier that week. Cloe’s previous roommate dropped out of Miami University, leaving an opening for her.
Taking out her cellphone, she unlocked it and opened her voicemail app. She listened to her father’s message in Korean:
“Sung, it has become difficult for you and your sister-in-law to see eye to eye; therefore, it is necessary that you distance yourself from the family. For the business’ best interest. If you keep your grades as A’s, then we will provide half of your tuition and pay for your housing; we require a weekly picture of your grades. We expect you to not disgrace our family name and your brother’s reputation at school. The study of martial arts is admirable, but do not let your extra-curricular activities diminish your...” She turned it off as her roommate walked through the door.
Her roommate’s green eyes lit up. “Rachel! Oh, wait, should I call you Rachel or—Park-Sung-Hyo?” She asked, butchering her Korean name as she read from a small piece of paper.
“Rachel is fine. It’s hard for most Americans to pronounce Korean names. It’s okay. It’s nice to meet you face to face, Cloe.”
Cloe nodded with a beaming smile. “Thanks! So, umm, I just popped in to grab my laptop charger. I got all the way to English ten-ten before realizing I forgot it! Umm, by the way, you’re pretty tall compared to most Asian girls I’ve met—oh, that was so rude of me! I’m so sorry.” She muttered. “I’m just a little nervous.”
Laughing, Rachel shook her head. “It’s fine. There aren’t many five foot nine Asians; I’ve heard it most my life.”
“I see,” Cloe’s eyes shifting to her bedside desk. “Alright, I gotta head to class. Mind if we chat later?”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Great!” Grabbing her charger, she stuffed it in her backpack and dashed out into the hallway, slamming the door behind her.
Sighing again, Rachel leaned back. I can’t believe I got kicked out because Alexa hates martial arts ... every time I get home from the gym, she’s making a scene. I guess it was only a matter of time; since her dad’s a vital contractor for the business, dad would prioritize that over me.
Her nose twisted. I’ve done everything right, though! Grades, partial scholarship, despite the decrease to my average, because I’m Asian. How can schools even do that? Lower my average because of my race ... isn’t that racist? I almost didn’t qualify this year because of that.
Puffing out a long breath of air, Rachel looked at her phone. Eleven A.M. At least I have today off. She glared at her boxes. I might as well get everything set up. I do need to finish some math before heading to the gym.
She massaged her neck before getting to work unpacking. There wasn’t a lot, clothes, a few household goods, and making her bed. She didn’t have the money to buy frivolous things since she needed to support herself.
Finished making her bed, she sat down at her desk to do homework, yawning. She rubbed her eyes, opening her old laptop. Accessing the school network, she finished her homework quickly; looking at the clock, she smiled. Four-twenty. I can spend a good amount of time at the gym today.
She donned shorts, a sports bra, and tank-top before grabbing her gym bag. Walking out of the dorm building, she made her way through the massive crowds of Miami. Arriving at the Muay Thai gym, she dropped her bag off at a locker and wrapped her hands. She began her warm-up before conditioning and training with Brock, her coach.
After training for three hours, she finally hit the showers, breathing heavily with sweat running down her body. She stretched out, letting the cool water slide down her smooth skin.
She began training in Muay Thai in eighth grade to release the stress she felt at home; her parents were semi-traditional second-generation immigrants from Korea. Her mother and father were a part of a conceptually arranged marriage that did have its struggles; they loved each other, but business played a role.
Drying off before dressing in the t-shirt and shorts she’d brought in her bag, she left the gym to move along the busy sidewalk. How much more do I need to do to make them proud? I work, I go to school, I train in martial arts ... if only Nam hadn’t married that stupid snowflake.
She thinks she’s so much better than me because her dad gives her whatever she wants—Americans ... look at me; I’m amazing because I’m a Vegan ... martial arts is violent; therefore, I’m a violent woman ... I’m taller than most Asians. I’m so odd—well, sorry, princess, I didn’t ask to be born taller than you.
Fuming, Rachel took a deep breath. Whatever, it’s not like mom likes her anyway. She’s just a business deal since she likes Nam, and it would benefit the company.
Massaging the back of her neck with both hands, she stopped at a light as it turned green, shifting the bag on her shoulder.
Once I finish school and get a law degree, then what can she say? She’s worthless; all she has is her rich dad while I’ll be working for a big firm. Maybe I could be the business’ lawyer if I get successful enough, then they’ll have to acknowledge me.
She jogged to a local diner and ordered her usual, spiced salmon and vegetables. She ate quietly before leaving and grabbing a superfood smoothie at a local shop. She walked the rest of the way back to her dorm to find Cloe lying in bed with her laptop.
“Oh, Rachel! Did you go workout? Do you do that often?” She sat a little straighter.
Setting her bag down, Rachel nodded. “I practice Muay Thai in my free time.”
“Really? That’s so awesome!” She set her laptop beside her, scooting to the edge of her bed. “You look really fit. I was thinking about doing something like that, since I’ve been gaining a little weight recently.” She grumbled.
Smiling, Rachel pulled out her desk chair to sit. “You could just...” She paused as a scream sounded down the hall, and a reverberation pulsed through her body. It rebounded within her for several seconds before everything changed.
In a split second, it felt like the room had expanded; she could see everything with crystal clarity within a two-hundred and ten-degree angle. Her hearing opened as she felt something similar to her arms atop her head; she could distinguish between millions of sounds around her and conversations that she somehow knew were hundreds of meters away. She could sense a small appendage near her butt bunch against her shorts. A new strength rose within her, something that made her movements light and easy.
Cloe’s face turned ashen as she stared at her. “What was that—what’s happening to you?” She gasped.
Frowning, Rachel looked down, her hair had changed. “I have white hair—it’s so long? What—how—what happened to my black hair?”
Cloe shook her head, pointing at the mirror. Turning, Rachel saw her reflection before she fully faced the mirror, causing her mouth to drop open. On closer inspection, her hair was white with a slight pink hue that glowed in the colorful lights coming from the window; it had grown, falling to her butt and was much thicker than before, causing her hair tie to bulge.
Her once brown irises had enlarged and turned a light red with faint pink petals surrounding her changed pupil; the black of her pupil had turned maroon red and was almost entirely eclipsed by a pink light in the center, and a radiant white halo surrounding the outer ring of the pupil, separating it from the scarlet glow of her irises.
However, the most significant change was the two long, furry bunny ears attached to her skull. She pulled back her thick pink-hued white hair, searching for her ears, but she couldn’t find them; the only thing that met her fingers was skin and a lot of hair, completely hiding the fact that her human ears had vanished.
Swallowing reflexively, she realized she could feel them like her own fingers. They twitched, shifting with the same unconscious desire as her arms. Feeling the slight discomfort at her butt, she turned around to see a bulge in her gym shorts. Pulling it back, she stared at the puffy white rabbit tail attached between her hip and waistline.
“What’s—going on?” She muttered. Her bunny ears tensed as she heard multiple conversations around them.
“Did you feel that?”
“What was that feeling?”
“I’m on fire!”
“I have a cat tail?”
“What are you?”
She flinched as she heard gunshots in the distance; more gunfire followed. Sirens started blaring everywhere. Rachel ran to the window and looked up into the sky; there were massive rifts in space all across the atmosphere; uncountable cracks that opened and closed as the heavens rippled, each one a different hue. It looked like the sky was fracturing and repairing itself hundreds of times in the span of a few seconds as lights radiated through the fissures.
“I don’t understand,” Cloe said, looking at her with fright. “You’re changing like—you’re going from normal to bunny-like—like a dozen times. Now you—it’s not changing anymore.”
Rachel shook her head, lips dry. “I don’t know what’s happening either. The sky—it’s not changing anymore.” Only seconds after she saw it, the event passed, leaving the black sky completely normal as the reverberations within her ceased. “The sky—it was breaking. There were bright colors all over the cracks...”
Cloe turned back to her laptop as she heard the screams, sirens, and shouts around her, and pulled up a local news podcast; the announcer sounded frantic on the other end.
“We are getting multiple reports of people changing into monsters and displaying supernatural powers all over the city—police are in a panic, some of their own members changing before their eyes. There seems to be anarchy breaking out within some neighborhoods—we urge people to stay indoors...”
Her phone vibrated, and the podcast cut out; opening it she saw:
Stay calm—stay indoors and proceed to a safe location. Martial Law has been instated. The Military, National Guard, and Center for Disease Control are being mobilized. Again, stay calm and proceed to a safe location.
The reporter came back over the air. “An IPAWS message was just sent nationwide; stay indoors, and if you are out, please proceed to a safe location. We are getting further information that the President will be making a public statement soon; the CDC, U.S. Military, and National Guard are also being mobilized. We will keep you aware of the situation as it unfolds. I repeat, stay indoors and proceed to a safe location.”
Rachel’s face matched her hair. “The CDC? Is this a terrorist attack ... a virus?”
Cloe jumped to her feet, took one look at Rachel with wide eyes before running out of the room. “I’m sorry!”
Rachel collapsed against her bed as she listened to the chaos around her. She could hear cars crashing, guns firing, people shouting, sirens blaring, and explosions, all miles around her. How is this happening?
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