I first met Jasmine back in kindergarten. I entered kindergarten already knowing how to read and write because my parents felt that if I was going to be “the scum of society,” I might as well be “educated scum.” Teaching me how to read is probably the only good thing my parents have ever done for me. They gave me a way of escape from my tormented life, even if I always had to return to it in the end.
The parents were supposed to accompany their children into the kindergarten classroom so that the teacher could tell them all about kindergarten, show them the “Early Bird” (which started at 8:00 AM but ended at 12PM) and “Late Bird” (which started at 12PM but ended at 4PM) schedules, and basically help them help their children with this “giant leap into independence.” Of course my parents didn’t come; they didn’t want to be seen with me, after all.
I had no idea about my curse and the prejudice directed toward “my kind” at the time; I’d always figured that every kid had been treated the way I had been. So I was quite surprised when, as soon as I sat down at a round table, one of the parents would ask, “What’s your name, sweetie?” in a really nice way, but as soon as I said my name, the parent would stare at me, revolted, and shoo me away, saying that “my child can’t be corrupted by dirt like you!” After multiple repeats of this incident, I gave up, dejected and confused, and sat on the floor next to the back wall of the classroom. I looked down at the floor, wanting to cry but conditioned not to by my parents repeated smacks. The kindergarten teacher, Miss Krystal (kindergarteners were allowed to call their teachers by their first names), walked up to a shivering me and asked, “What is the matter?” I told her about all the hatred I had felt that day and let a tear slide down my cheek. I quickly covered the tear, worried that Miss Krystal would see it and would hit me, like my parents so often did. Instead, she crooned, “Oh, you poor girl. You can cry it all out…” And then, the dam broke, and the next thing I knew, I was sobbing on Miss Krystal’s lap. “I don’t…understand why every…everybody ha-hates me a-and why nobody wants…wants to sit next to me!” I said, between sniffs.
“Well, you see, people don’t like some people with certain names because they think those people are bad. Now, some of those people with those names actually are bad, but the other people, like you, are not bad at all. But people don’t know that, and they won’t believe people like you when they try to tell them that they are actually good,” explained Miss Krystal.
“So, there are other people that they hate? It’s not just me?”
“No, of course not! I was also hated back when I was a child.” Miss Krystal’s name had originally been Mina, which, as I later learned in theology classes, was a derivative of Jazmeeneoheima’s, the goddess of sickness, viruses, parasites, and the like, Chosen Mortal Name, Jasmine. “I’m hiding my real name from everybody because otherwise, no one would let me teach,” concluded Miss Krystal. She also added that I would learn more about the significance of certain names later. “But now, we’ll have to find you a seat,” she remarked. She led me to a round table next to a girl with short brown hair. She, like me, was without a parent. “Jasmine, is it okay if Anita sits next to you?” asked Miss Krystal. Jasmine looked up at me and grinned excitedly. “Yay! Someone is going to sit with me!” Miss Krystal smiled and walked back up to the front of the class.
“So, your mommy and daddy didn’t come either?” I asked.
“Nope!” said Jasmine. “They said that they didn’t want to be with me or something. Ooh, look! Miss Krystal has crayons!” Indeed she did, and she passed out paper and crayons to all the students, asking them to draw a picture of their desk and their neighbors. “Do you want to draw me first?” asked Jasmine. “Or should I draw you first?”
“You can draw me first,” I said. “But use purple for the shirt. My purple shirt is my favoritest, but my mommy said that I can’t wear it today.”
“You like purple?” said Jasmine. “I like purple, too! Want to be friends?” I nodded, and grinned. I was glad to have a friend.
Our friendship fleshed out enough to not be solely based on our favorite color. We often hung out at the park, had conversations that could last for hours, and played board games (which Jasmine was always remarkably good at). But, most importantly, when we came to know of our curses through theology class, we helped each other withstand the daily barrage of insults and, in Jasmine’s case, physical violence.
“Hey, Anita,” said Jasmine one day in fifth grade. “Let’s make a promise.”
“Uh, sure,” I said. “But what promise?”
“Let’s promise that we won’t become evil until we’re twenty. We’ll prove to everybody that, even though our fate is determined by the gods, we can have some control over when we become evil. In fact,” her face lit up, “let’s be so nice to prove that we can be nice, no matter what our names are! Pinky promise?”
“Pinky promise,” I said, intertwining my pinky with hers and sealing the deal.
So from that day onward, we tried our very hardest to be nice as much as possible. Of course, if one of us was being bullied, that was a different story.
Later in fifth grade, as my class was being let out for recess, I searched for Jasmine. Where did she disappear off to? I searched in the playground, by the swing set, and even by the lunch tables. Finally, I sat on the table (as opposed to the seat) of an orange lunch table. Something felt sticky. I lifted my rear up and realized that I had sat in some cafeteria goop that hadn’t been cleaned off. I jumped off the table and wiped my pants, frantically trying to get the junk off. As I did so, I saw Jasmine behind the fence that separated the playground from the lunch tables yelling at two other boys, a tall brown-haired boy and a shorter black-haired boy, who were yelling back at her. I raced to the fence and jumped over (the fence wasn’t that high, anyhow). “Hey! Leave her alone!” I yelled.
“Why should we listen to lowly dirt like you?” sneered one of the boys. “’Cuz if you’re friends with people like her,” he pointed a finger at Jasmine, “you’re dirt, too!”
“Yeah!” said the shorter boy. “What he said!”
“Just go away!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, just go away! We don’t want you here!” said Jasmine. Suddenly, the taller boy kicked her. “Dirty scum! You belong on the dirt, just like my daddy always says!” I tensed, ready to attack him. I wished I didn’t have to resort to violence, but what choice did I have? But then the boy said something that threw me off track completely.
“People like you shouldn’t even be called people! You have no conscience; you can’t tell right from wrong! You’re no better than…than animals!”
I was shocked. How could he say something like that? Being called scum and dirt and a corruption to society were what I was used to, but questioning our humanity? I did have a conscience, and so did Jasmine. Why, those boys were acting no better than the “animals” they claimed we were!
I trembled with fury. What nerve! How dare they insult us like this?! Suddenly, I felt a tingling and my eyes felt hotter than the gods’ auras when they were burning with rage. The world soon faded into darkness. I had just discovered my power to hypnotize.
All people with the CMNs of gods and goddesses have some of their powers. Mind you, these powers aren’t overly awesome, and how effective they are depends on how close a person’s name is to the CMN of their patron god. Jasmine, for instance, can give people diseases (as she has the CMN of the goddess of illness) easily no matter where they are. My kindergarten teacher, Miss Krystal, however, can only give people illnesses if she really concentrates, and she is often too exhausted to do anything else, if she is still conscious.
Because my name is similar to the CMN of Anilokalmosia, who is the Goddess of Hypnotism, Deceit, and Seduction, I can hypnotize people. However, I always faint afterward, so, if I want to get people to do stuff for me, I have say what I want them to do quickly, or else all I do is leave them in a trance. You’d think the gods would have a little sympathy for the “cursed,” or would want to bless the “blessed” more with better and more epic powers, but that’s just not the way things work.
I had no idea about my power of hypnotism because my parents would never talk about my curse and my theology classes only focused on the powers of the “blessed children.” Because of that, I had always assumed that only the “blessed” got special powers.
When I finally came to, I was still on the asphalt with a concerned Jasmine standing over me. “What happened?” asked Jasmine. “You were just defending me, and then the tall boy said something about us being animals…and then you were mad and your eyes glowed and then you collapsed!”
“I don’t know—wait, glowed?” I asked.
“Yeah, really bright red! Did you…go under the Influence or something?”
“I don’t know…” I really wanted to change the subject. I had learned that a faint red glow in someone’s eyes indicated that they were under the Influence, and I wasn’t sure if that was what happened to me. I hoped not; I didn’t want to be evil, not now, when I was only ten. “So, what happened while I was out?”
According to Jasmine, while I was out cold, Jasmine had been able to clobber the taller boy because he was in a trance, and the shorter boy had run away, yelling something about an apocalypse and evil winning. He wasn’t really understandable because he was yelling that while crying.
From that day on, violence wasn’t my last resort; it was my second-to-last resort. My ultimate last resort was hypnotism. I don’t exactly enjoy fainting. Not only does it make me feel vulnerable, but it also makes me feel disoriented afterward.
Jasmine discovered her power to give people illnesses that same week. We made sure to keep our discoveries secret because we figured we’d be treated worst now that we were “dangerous.” We managed to get through the next two years without turning to evil, and it didn’t look like anything could get in the way of fulfilling our promises.
School had just ended for the week, and I had a weekend to look forward to. I really didn’t like weekends because they forced me to spend more time with my parents. I was waiting on the grass right in front of our school. My parents had “forgotten” to pick me up, as usual.
All of a sudden, I saw Jasmine with tearstains on her face. I got up, concerned. “Hey Jaz, what’s wro—?”
“I hate people!” she yelled. “Everyone’s so damn mean!”
“Well, plenty of people aren’t angels. That’s expected. You know that,” I replied.
“They keep thinking we’re menaces to society and evil and blah blah blah, which I find really weird because they’re the ones bullying us. But of course it doesn’t matter if we get bullied ‘cuz we’re cursed! We’re not even people! We’re just liabilities, blots! If we die, no one would come to our funerals! ‘Cuz we’re cursed!”
I was getting concerned. Jasmine didn’t usually rant like this. She would usually just remark that people were annoying and stop there.
Jasmine continued ranting. “I don’t understand it at all! It’s like they want us to be evil or something! They want to see how long it takes us to break!
“And you know what, Anita? They’ve won! Since they think I’m a menace to society, I’ll be a menace to society! What’s the point in trying to prove them wrong? They’ll never believe us scum! Yeah, that’s it, I’ll succumb! I’ll become evil, and I JUST HOPE THEY’RE SATISFIED!”
“Wh-what?! You can’t succumb to the Influence! In fact, we should be trying to show people that they can’t break us!” I said.
“It’s no use. Is there even a point in trying to fight?” said Jasmine, forlornly. “Do you know Jennifer?”
“Yeah,” I said, “but what does she have to do with anything?” Jennifer was another person cursed with the CMN of an evil goddess, Jenisifydincneiwa.
“She’s lucky. She was raised evil, so no one bothers her! It’s because she has done what society wants her to do.” That was true. Jennifer’s parents were truly evil, so evil, it’s rumored, that they rejoiced upon hearing that their daughter was to be cursed. They made it a point to ensure that she would have not even an ounce of goodness.
“That’s not why people don’t bother her. It’s because they’re scared of her!” I argued. Right after uttering those words, I realized what a horrible argument that was.
“Exactly! See? At least we’ll be able to intimidate people. I’m tired of fighting. And, hey, we can be evil together, right?”
“No! Not at all because I’m not going to succumb! I’m keeping my promise. I’m going to prove to people and the gods that I’m in charge of when my ‘destiny’ happens, that I have principles and want to stick to them! And I just don’t want to be evil. I really don’t. Please don’t give in, Jaz. Please don’t!”
Jasmine sighed. “Look, your decision is your decision, and my decision is mine. If you decide to be good, that’s okay with me. It’s not my place to tell you otherwise. But I figure that if I’m going to be evil anyway, what’s the point of delaying it? So, that’s that. I’m killing the next person who tries to harass me, and I’ll steal and rob, whatever it takes to go under the Influence. I’m tired of waiting!” And that was the last time I saw her as my friend. The next week, she was completely foreign to me. She lived on the evil side of town, in special apartments reserved for people under the evil Influence of their patron gods. She hung out with all the evil people at school and derided me for being a “goody-two-shoes.” Strangely enough, she was the only evil person who taunted me. All the others just left me alone.