In These Moments, We: Part-time Allergy

Submitted into Contest #92 in response to: Write about a character who thinks they have a sun allergy.... view prompt

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Contemporary Fiction LGBTQ+

Danjune fixed her eyes on the word before her.

Allergy - intolerance of or adverse reaction to a specific substance, esp. a food.

Below that was an informal definition of:

An antipathy

To the side was a link to another website. The excerpt of the website listed a few symptoms like watery or itchy eyes or nose, sneezing, stuffy noses, shortness of breath, and swelling. And below that excerpt was a list of common allergies. Danjune scrolled through but didn’t find one that seemed to fit her situation.

After all, Kiusik wasn’t made out of latex, and she definitely wasn’t a shellfish or a dust mite.

Clicking further, she found a list of allergens with their symptoms. There were more, like itchy welts from the light and sun, thickening and shedding layers of skin from garlic, and nausea from penicillin. Not everything matched with Danjune’s condition, but some did. Maybe Danjune needed to think about her reactions again. Looking down at the tabletop, she went back through her interactions with Kiusik.

When they had met, Danjune felt like she couldn’t breathe. The gray-white ghosts wreathing out of Kiusik’s mouth melded with the air and slipped into Danjune’s throat, choking her. And if she couldn’t breathe, then she thought that the birds in the nest above them couldn’t either.

The next time they met, by chance after someone had pushed Danjune into the pile of autumn leaves she had been observing, Kiusuk made them go away before pulling out the white cylinder that summoned those same gray-white ghosts. Danjune felt like she couldn’t breathe again, and her eyes had started to sting and water. A tightness closed over her throat too. But the third time they met, after they discovered that they happened to have the same class, Kiusik asked if the ghosts bothered her. That was the last time Kiusik ever summoned the gray-white ghosts in front of Danjune. The smell would still cling to her clothes.

The eye-watering and throat-tightening came back though. When Kiusik approached her with the man’s knife that glinted like the red on her hands, Danjune had so much eye-watering that she couldn’t see, and she had to gasp and cough for air to fill her lungs. Yes, Kiusik looked much scarier than the that man who had been trying to pull Danjune off the street.

But when Kiusik wasn’t scary looking, Danjune also had other symptoms, like itchy and raised spots. Nowadays, whenever they brushed shoulders and hands as they walked, or whenever Kiusik said something that Danjune liked, or just smiled, Danjune couldn’t help but scratch at some part of her. Often times it was her face, sometimes her waist—oh, but never her arms or neck. That was for certain other occasions and only with her father.

Danjune felt her limbs tighten at the thought of her father. Tighten then immediately lose all their strength, pliant and complacent. It hurt less that way.

She looked back up and saw her computer screen again.

Allergy - intolerance of or adverse reaction to a specific substance, esp. a food. Informally, an antipathy.

Right. she wanted to figure out if the allergy condition matched her own with Kiusik. She needed to read more about the allergy list. She needed to use her hands to click on the more detailed article.

She couldn’t lift her arms, so she tried curling in her hands. They twitched at best and started to turn numb until the sensations of the plastic keyboard, fingerpads, and air melded like the gray-white ghosts had.

Her hands had entered the ‘void.’

Mr. Bae said that she could call it that when she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to. He said that a numbing feeling and freezing up was common in people who went through trauma. The other was panic. Danjune didn’t like those words, so she called the feeling the ‘void.’

Now that she couldn’t move, and she couldn’t stare at the table to think, Danjune stared at the same list of allergens and symptoms. One caught her eye—the sun one. The exposure of light caused red and itchy spots. Danjune would turn red around Kiusik too. She knew this because she had once pushed Kiusik under a park tree and escaped into the restroom when she pointed it out, and the mirror reflected back all the red that had developed at Danjune’s cheeks, nose, neck, and the tops of her shoulders.

Could Kiusik be a sun? A form of it shaped by human flesh but ultimately unable to contain all of the solar energy? She dazzled and gave off warmth and color. Had Danjune developed an allergy to only this certain form since she had no trouble with the usual sun, the one in the sky?

Danjune sat there, staring at sun urticaria until photogenic gold from the window glazed the skin over her hands into a shiny version of itself. Warmth buzzed along the gold, and Danjune sighed in contentment as the void started to dissipate and the plastic keyboard, her fingertips, and the air drifted back into their usual selves.

They were slightly sore when she could move her hands again, but they moved how she wanted them to so Danjune liked it. The time had reached evening, and she needed to meet up with Kiusik. She supposed that she could test her new theory soon and logged off, taking her backpack and leaving the building.

Walking to their meeting place near the fountain—the one with water—she spotted an extra and taller head in addition to the one she was expecting. Danjune’s steps sprung her forward as Kiusik’s sister waved.

“Danjune!”

“Huin!”

Kiusik’s sister let her take the extra fabric of the hoodie she wore and squeeze it, the way Danjune expressed her excitement to see someone.

“Why are you here?”

“Sis picked me up from English tutoring.”

Kiusik put up a hand in greeting, and Danjune narrowed her eyes at it. It looked like how it usually did, steady and strong, but no symptoms were appearing.

“Why’re you staring at Sis’s hand?”

Danjune looked up. Huin had told her before that Kiusik would watch her but not ask, but Huin would watch and ask. She saw it now as Huin leaned in closer, and Kiusik gave her sister an eyebrow instead. Danjune could ask now, but she also didn’t want to worry Huin if her sister really was a human-shaped form of sun—or worse, that Kiusik was trying to keep it a secret to the point that even Huin didn’t know out of her safety. Just thinking of all the things that the government would do to her if they found a different form of sun—she shuddered.

“I don’t like it.”

Kiusik’s eyebrows met up again near her forehead, and Huin pulled back, covering her mouth and looking between them.

“Sis, did you do something to Danjune with that hand?”

“What? No. Unless I did?” She turned her head to Danjune, her eyes narrowing too. “Did I do something to make you uncomfortable?”

Danjune couldn’t breathe. Did Kiusik figure it out? Did she know that she figured out that she was a special form of sun that she happened to be allergic to? Could she see her symptoms acting up right now? Her breath shortened, and she automatically reached to rub at the spot below her temple, her cheek, and her ear.

“Danjune, are you okay? You’re turning red.”

She smacked her hands to her face, whipped around, and fled. She ran across the campus, as far and fast as she could before her whole body melted into the void again. All the symptoms were acting up right in front of Kiusik and Huin, which was horrible! she couldn’t be the one to expose Kiusik’s secret to Huin/the government!

Something yanked her backwards by her backpack, slinging her off balance. The ground pathed itself from small bricks, so she wondered if she had entered the void when she didn’t feel the impact punch her bones.

But the void never had warmth. Or a breath in her ear.

“Geez, June, if it’s that bad, then you have to tell me. What did I do?”

“Are you a sun?”

In the instant that her furrowed eyebrows straightened, Danjune realized that worry had been in her eyes, but when Danjune wanted to see the relief more, Kiusik let out a groan instead and leaned backwards into the bricks. Ah, they were lying down, and she was sitting on a Kiusik cushion.

“If you follow up with a new pick-up line from Huin, I will throw something. Probably Huin.”

“Are you? I didn’t want to accidentally expose you in front of her.”

For a moment, she didn’t reply, just panted, and Danjune felt each of her breaths against her own torso. She scooted off so that she could breathe easier.

“No, I am not a sun.”

A sigh of relief breathed out of Danjune next, and she clapped her hands in happiness. “That means no government will go after you. Yay!”

Kiusik, who had gotten up to her elbows, collapsed back down again.

“Danjune.”

“Yeah?”

“Were you afraid that I was a special kind of sun that the government would want to do experiments on? That’s why you said you didn’t like it?”

She thought back to the conversation and realized that she forgot to say the government part out loud and just potentially said that she didn’t like Kiusik’s hand. She always did that, forgot to say parts of her thinking, but Kiusik’s never seemed to be angry when she found out about the disconnect. Even now, she sounded amused, but Danjune didn’t want her to think that she disliked the hands that had treated her so kindly. Pulling them from Kiusik’s sides, Danjune clutched them to her chest.

“I do like your hands!”

A patter in the air, huffs of a voice, escaped from Kiusik, and Danjune felt the need to scratch at her face again. She rarely laughed, and Danjune wanted to listen closer, but she also didn’t want to let go of Kiusik’s hands and lose her balance yet.

“Well, that’s a relief.” She hiked himself up to her elbows again. “What made you think I was a sun?”

“Allergy symptoms.”

“Guys! Ugh, please stop proving how out of shape I am.”

Trudging up to them, Huin groaned and sank to the floor next to them. Well, next to Danjune, on top of Kiusik.

“Sis, I should exercise more. You can be my yoga mat.”

“Urgh, Huin, get off.”

With a giggle, she sat up and helped her older sister up.

“Did you apologize, Sis?”

“No, Danjune forgot to tell us the first part of her thinking.”

Huin burst into a laugh, clapping her hands. She reached over as if to playfully tap on Danjune’s shoulder but pulled back and instead stretched at the last second.

“Well, as long as it’s solved. Let’s hurry and go home. I want to eat your cooking, Sis.”

Gathering themselves from the ground, the three of them walked down the pathway to where Kiusik had her car parked. On the way there, Danjune listened to Huin’s explanation of why she thought that the minor character in her book had a hidden fear of microchips (because of their futuristic society that punished people who removed or tampered with their birthchip) when a buzz interrupted the story. Danjune pouted a little that she stopped explaining, but that soft smile reserved for one person brightened Huin’s face. She danced a few steps ahead of them and made a greeting into her phone.

“Rengmo called her,” Danjune smiled at Kiusik, who squinted her eyes. “I think she’s happy.”

“She is. That jock of a friend of yours better watch how he treats my Huin.”

“He’s a good friend now. Before, mean people were swaying him.”

Kiusik shrugged and cleared her throat, looking away.

“So what made you think that I was some kind of sun?”

Danjune giggled. Kiusik was getting shy for some reason, something that almost never happened.

“I saw that people could have sun allergies, and their symptoms matched my most prominent symptom with you. But since you’re not a sun, I don’t know why I have these reactions to you.”

“What kind of reactions?”

“Sometimes my eyes water and my throat feels tight. Other times, I can’t breathe when I’m with you. Usually though, I get red and raised spots, and I want to rub at them, especially on my face.”

Kiusik stopped walking, so Danjune stopped too. She had her usual expression on, the one that Huin described as ‘apathetic to living,’ but her mouth had parted the slightest bit.

“Do you hate it? Does it make you uncomfortable?”

Danjune thought for a moment. Ah, right—the definition of allergy had ‘intolerance or adverse reaction’ in it. The reactions were different and sometimes made her a little scared, but Kiusik always made the situation less scary in the end, tolerable and calm again. Plus, she trusted her.

“No, you make it better afterwards.”

She clenched her jaw and her eyes turned conflicted, but the slightest of red painted her cheeks. For a split moment, Danjune worried that Kiusik was allergic too, but then Huin popped into her vision.

“Don’t worry, June. That’s my sister’s ‘I should explain the concept to you, but I don’t want to put words in your head, but if I don’t then you might misinterpret the concept again, so I have no idea what to do’ face. She’s also a bit embarrassed.”

“Shut up, Huin.”

Huin laughed and turned back to Rengmo on the phone, and Danjune made sure to commit the expression with the meaning to her memory. Now she wanted to know which ‘concept’ she was getting wrong, but Kiusik wouldn’t say anymore about it, only looked off into the distance if they had stopped at a redlight.

She dropped Danjune off first like usual, but when she hopped out of the car, Kiusik followed, not like usual.

“Danjune.”

“Yeah?”

She looked away again and even ran a hand through her hair—shy and that something else Danjune could never pinpoint.

“The ‘symptoms’ you were feeling, those weren’t from allergies. If it was an allergic reaction, they would happen every time you were with me, not just sometimes.”

That made sense but then—

“Why does my body react that way only sometimes with you then?”

She took a deep breath.

“I’m not going to tell you that. That’s something you should figure out on your own.”

Danjune pouted a little at the unfulfilled answer but plucked up. If Kiusik said that she should figure it out on her own, then that must have been her best judgement. Danjune trusted that.

“Okay, then if I come up with an answer, will you tell me if it’s wrong?”

“I’ll tell you what I think.”

A little joy bounced in Danjune’s heels, but it flattened when she saw Kiusik run a hand through her hair again. She had seen this motion before on her but never could discern its meaning.

“I’ll give you a hint though. I get those reactions too, sometimes. And they only happen with you too. Also, I’m not allergic to anything.” Kiusik turned back into her car. “See you tomorrow.”

Danjune waved to them through the car windows, Huin waving back, and watched them drive away. Walking up the path to her house, she thought of the way Kiusik kept running that hand through her hair and the way her hand movements extremified in their motions. They vibrated, shot forward to grab the car handle, pulled without regard to gentle strength.

With her own hand landing on the front doorknob, she tested the different motions to open the door for about ten minutes, trying to get the same angles and power of movements that Kiusik had made. Danjune couldn’t get the combination right, but as she gave up, walked in, and looked at the small stand they kept near the door, she suddenly remembered the way Rengmo had opened and closed the door when she had invited him to her house again, when he was still uncertain of how to act after apologizing to her and distancing himself from the mean people.

“Sorry, I don’t know how to act with you now, so I’m awkward…”

“Awkward is okay.”

“Yeah, but… Well, I’m nervous too, because I still feel like I need to prove to you that I do value our friendship.”

There had been no recent event that would have made either Danjune or Kiusik question their friendship.

But Danjune didn’t think that the Kiusik that she knew, the person who radiated the aura that openly rejected people’s mean behaviors, the person who carried herself with confidence, could be nervous.

Could she?

May 08, 2021 02:55

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2 comments

Jaquelyn Castano
02:00 May 18, 2021

I thought this was a really good story but kind of hard to understand. I got lost with the characters since they were never properly introduced which made it difficult to follow the story.

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Kees Chan
04:19 May 19, 2021

Thanks for the feedback! I introduced all the characters in brevity on purpose because this is chronologically in the middle of the plotline for "In These Moments, We." I'm just writing whatever scene best matches the contest prompts that come up and my vision for this series. But I also know that I've been known to write a little too abstract and confusing ^^;; Thanks for giving this a chance! (´▽ `)

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