The murmur of voices followed me through the school halls as I hurried to my next class. Keeping my head down, I ignored them. Glancing at the clock, I had three more hours to go. At exactly 3:12 pm, twelve minutes after school ended, I would turn 13 years old. I would receive my familiar.
At 13 everyone received a familiar or a specific animal that helps you learn and control your special abilities. Most teenagers looked forward to this step towards independence. Though a little excited, I tried to suppress it. My family was not known for very exciting familiars. I’m sure the other kids were expecting something equally dull for me.
Any animal could become a familiar. The type of animal indicated the strength and type of ability you have. Rats indicated science while cats indicated magic. Owls usually went to great scholars, while a horse might indicate an adventurer. Most animals indicated several paths a person could take.
Throughout the year, my parents and my “familiar” class had taught me about the different animals and indications. A smarter animal indicated a greater power or ability. Everyone had a specific familiar they wanted, but not everyone received the familiar they wanted.
Two more hours to go. I walk the hallways to the next class. My town is small and everyone knows everything about everyone. The other kids whisper and stare at me as I ignore them. I know they wonder what familiar I will get. I would bet most of them think I will get a rat or small owl, like my parents and older sister.
Sitting at my desk, I open my notebook. All week I had doodled different animals, a black cat for great magic, a dog for tracking. I would even prefer a turtle to an owl or rat.
Honestly, I wanted a dragon. A dragon indicated great power and responsibility. Someone with a dragon would be respected or feared, depending on what they did with that power. Dragons hadn’t been seen for over a century so I knew how unlikely it was for me or anyone to receive a dragon, but I could dream for one more hour.
My last class of the day was “What to expect with familiars.” It is a required class for all children turning 13 before the next school year. Today the teacher focused on me; talking directly to me about how, when and what to expect from my familiar. He had done this with every kid who had a birthday during the school day.
Ring! The final bell dismissed us from school. Usually, everyone stampeded out the door. Today, no one moved. They watched me stand up and walk to the door, before gathering their stuff and following me.
Slowly, I made my way outside the school to receive my familiar. At the exact moment of my birth, my familiar will arrive. My whole future waited on this one moment.
I stepped outside walking to the park next door, while almost all the students and teachers followed me, lining up on the sidewalk. Everyone jostled, trying to get a good view of me. Fearlessly, I held my back straight and waited.
“3:10!” I heard someone from the crowd call out. Looking around, I saw my parents and sisters standing to the side, smiling excitedly for me. My hands felt damp and my legs shook.
“3:11!” Another voice called.
The last 60 seconds took an eternity to pass as I turned from the crowd. Gasping I took a breath reminding myself to breathe.
“3:12!” the crowd shouted, then silently waited.
Another minute passed and nothing happened. Startled I looked at my family. My mother frowned, while my father’s brows drew down thinking. I had never heard of someone not receiving a familiar.
Another minute passed. The crowd around me began whispering. I knew they were wondering what it meant if no familiar showed. I know I wondered. Three minutes passed since my birth time, and still nothing.
Suddenly, a great wind ruffled my hair, pushing me back a step. I looked up to see something large circling down from the sky, pushing the air, creating the wind. Voices behind me grew louder the closer it came until silence reigned as it landed in front of me.
“Sorry, I’m late,” said the blue dragon, the size of a house. “I stopped to eat and forgot the time.”