That first night at the Institute I had a most peculiar dream, even by my standards:
I found myself at my stepdad's house, for a homemade gourmet dinner of all things. This was odd for two reasons, the first being the fact that I wasn't on particularly good terms with my mother's second husband, and the second being the other fact that my stepdad has issues boiling water, let alone making a fancy French dinner. Anyways, we were sitting there, and he mumbled something about my brother Roger.
"He wants you t'take a look at a horse," he growled. "R'somethin' like that..."
I thought about how odd this sounded, then glanced at my hands: my left hand had about seven fingers, and my right fluxuated between three and twelve. Even though I recognized I was dreaming, disregarding the fact I know didly-squat about horses, I decided to nod and see how this dream would play out.
Soon after this Roger slipped in almost silently, another thing that struck me as peculiar, seeing as the front door usually squeaked like nobody's business. "C'mon Connor," he urged, pulling on my sleeve.
"Alright, I'm comin', I'm comin'..." Just as I stood up he stuck something over my head. I wrestled with it a moment, finally managing to set it so I could see. "Horse wants us to wear these?" I asked nonchalantly, like it was a normal question to ask in this situation.
"Yup. It'll keep us under the radar, you'll see."
I made a final adjustment to the thing Roger stuck on my head, which was a bit like a funny-smelling habit, and followed him outside.
"So where's the horse?" I asked my older brother, but no sooner was the question out of my mouth when a long tongue shot out of nowhere and jabbed me in the eye. I blinked and stared with my good eye in utter shock as I beheld a bullfrog that came up to about my chest.
Roger grinned proudly. "Beauty, in'nit? Newer breed, good at long-distance jumping."
"No surprise there!" I squawked. "The thing's a bullfrog!"
He gave me an amused look. "What'cha talkin' about, lil' bro? It's not the most beautiful thing on four legs, but it's a fine equine, to be sure."
"You mean it's amphibious, to be even surer." I looked over the frog in front of me, which had a brownish coloring and, strangely enough, grey eyes. It examined me straight back, running its bored, cold eyes critically over me.
I turned back to Roger, who cocked his head at me. "I don't know what you're talking about, Connor. That creature in front of you's definitely a horse."
"I swear, it's a bullfrog!" I cried desperately. Couldn't he see it, it was plainer than day!
But all he did was shake his head sympathetically, clicking his tongue and muttering, "Poor kid..."
"What?!" I shouted indignantly, bolting upright. It took a minute to remember where I was, but the reality came back to me. My eyes bounced around the room, verifying my location and that it was, indeed, morning. Sunlight filtered pitifully through the grimy, barred window I failed to notice last night, and I heard the faint, somber squawk of a nearby murder of crows. I couldn't help but smiling a bit. "Not much different than home," I mused aloud, "waking up to a sunrise and a birdsong... except, I'd have to say I prefer sparrows and chickadee to crows."
I quickly swung myself upright, but immediately wished I didn't: my head inexplicably swam a little, and I jostled a dozing bit of an ache behind my left eye. It felt a bit like I'd poked it in the night or something.
Stretching, I glanced around the room again. It was amazing how much a little sunshine and a decent amount of sleep can improve the appearance of a bleak white box. My eyes came to rest on a digital clock perched next to the bed. I hadn't noticed this either last night, but it wasn't much of a surprise, I tend to miss things when I'm nervous.
Six-oh-five, the cool red digital display announced apathetically. I nodded to it in thanks anyway and took a deep breath. It registered in my mind that this room smelled a bit different than the few other places I've been in here. Taking another low breath I tried to put my finger on what it might've been... A bit of that new-room scent, but with a musty touch of age... I must've been the first occupant, but I guess I was a long time coming... But there was something else... anticipation, and an uncomfortable ecstasy.
But what could it all mean?