Kimber Draughon

The Odd Folk

“Sia Asella Madak.”

A girl stood solemnly as her name was called. Her dark hair swayed above her shoulders. She wore the plainest of dresses. Her face was crafted to perfection.

Sia approached the stand. She held her breath, holding her arm out to the hooded doctor. She barely flinched as a black needle was dragged across her brown skin, pinching her flesh, drawing blood. Her arm stung before going numb. She stared as the three letters became reanimated, flaring to life on her wrist.


This was the third occasion she had received her marking. Her initials, engraved into her skin to remind her, to distinguish her.

Sia strode back to her chair, folding her hands neatly in her lap, crossing her ankles. She watched intently as The Ceremony commenced, but the buzz of her initials was distracting.

“Paya Volka Mann.”

Another girl rose from her seat. Sia and Paya were perfectly identical ー short dusky hair, golden-brown skin, dim eyes, unblemished features.

 Paya marched emotionlessly towards the stand. The doctor drove the shining needle into her awaiting wrist. She momentarily ogled at the sight of the newly carved P-V-M on her skin before returning to her seat. Then the next girl was marked. And the next. Each one sharing uncanny resemblance, matched in their faces, physiques, and silence. Each one returned with a reminder on their wrist, a reminder of who they were.

As the last of the twenty young women returned to her seat, the young men assumed protocol.

They were no different. Sure, they had the masculine features of a sixteen-year-old boy and hair shorter than any girl’s, but their skin was just as golden, their eyes just as shallow.

“Peter Ronn Arynia.”


And so it went.

It went until all nineteen young men were seated and marked. Sia recalled the days when there had been twenty boys her age. When she was thirteen, one of them had disappeared, right after the second Marking Ceremony. She could not remember his name, but she knew he had been a little different. His differences were admirable in her eyes. He was outspoken, defiant.

Everyone else was quiet.

The masked doctors surveying the room came over to usher the girls in one direction, the boys in the other. Sia stepped in line behind Paya, wondering what was going on in her mind. Did her thoughts parallel Sia’s? Was she thinking anything at all?

As they marched out of the plain white edifice and through the symmetric streets of Town, Sia ran her thumb over the thin engraven initials on her wrist. A mere tattoo, the only thing to separate one girl from another. She scanned the reflective window of a building as they passed and she saw herself.

All she saw were the nineteen other faces that were her own.

Miss Dinnika clasped her hands together, pacing evenly across the room. She looked like the other twenty-three-year-olds, fit and beautiful. Her straight hair cascaded down to her elbows, as was required, but she wore a bright lavender ribbon interwoven with the locks. Sia had thought accessories were prohibited, but perhaps it was different for adults.

“As you all know, after The Before, Town realized how crucial a strong occupation system is to the wellbeing of mankind.”

Sia tensed. They had all heard of The Before, the horrible three thousand years of wars and death. How humanity had survived was a mystery.

“When you turn nineteen, you will each be given your Assignment. Each role is pivotal for maintaining the order of Town.” She gestured to a chart behind her, a detailed description of the various Assignments. “Teachers, like myself, educate the youth on topics of history and science. Scribes record daily information about the welfare of Town. There are smaller Assignments as well, but today we will discuss the role of doctors.”

“Doctors created the cure for human illness, a scientific advancement that has kept the past four generations alive. Today, you will all be issued a newer serum.” Miss Dinnika surveyed the room. “What medicine are you currently taking?”

Every student raised their hand.


A boy in the back row blinked. “Bedextrus Noymtius.”

“Precisely. Bedextrius Noymtius helped your brain develop properly. B-Noymtius also suppressed wicked emotions ー emotions that lead to wondering and curiosity.”

Sia rubbed her thumb over her initials. No one had ever told her that.

“Since you are older now, B-Noymtius has lost its effect. As your mind continues to mature, you will receive Monclavus Noymtius, crafted by doctors specifically for this generation. Above all else, M-Noymtius will help suppress unnecessary emotions and will keep stray thoughts away. We best not let wondering and curiosity get out of hand, or Town will become a replica of the chaos from The Before.”

Sia frowned. She wondered all the time, even if she just kept it to herself. She found it hard to believe such a harmless thing could be bad.

Miss Dinnika uniformly traced the rows of desks, setting a thin blue-filled syringe into each open hand. She waited until each student injected the serum before moving on, all the while continuing to lecture.

“Doctors specialize in perfecting our genes,” Miss Dinnika explained. “They usually work in facilities along the northern outskirts of Town. The serums they develop have saved mankind. They are growing closer to perfecting the human race.”

As she neared Sia, her feet started to shake. Something about all of this felt wrong. The initials on her arm began to sting.

Miss Dinnika placed a small cerulean cylinder against her quivering fingers. They were taught how to properly inject serums before they learned to speak, but the prospect of doing so this time was different.

Something about this was wrong.

“Are you feeling ill, Sia?”

Sia forced herself to smile. “No, Miss Dinnika.”

Her teacher gave her a somewhat petulant look.

Sia brought the syringe needle to her forearm. It felt cold on her skin, foreign. How simple it would be to inject M-Noymtius into her bloodstream, to deal with the strangeness of it all, but something kept nagging at the back of her mind, a flicker of raw instinct, a warning.

Miss Dinnika stared Sia down with an intensity that brought tears to her eyes. It would be foolish to make a scene, but the warning in her mind seemed to grow, pressing against her defenses, begging and pleading.

She could not bring herself to inject Monclavus Noymtius.

She slid the needle into her skin, the liquid gradually seeping into her blood. But Miss Dinnika’s eyes were trained on Sia’s face.

Sia jerked her arm. The syringe tumbled to the ground. She muttered apologies, bending under her desk, picking up the mostly-full tube, her heart sputtering all the while. Before she stood, she eased the remaining liquid into her boot, the cold serum slithering down her ankle, a brutal current. She handed the empty syringe to her teacher. Miss Dinnika winked, so suddenly Sia swore it was her imagination.

Her classmates murmured indistinctly to their desk partners, their judging gazes drilling into her head. Again, Sia wondered. Were they even thinking at all? Had she been the only one to hesitate, to refuse?

Dread filled her stomach. She could practically hear the doctors scolding her, berating her for her impulsive decision. Why in Town had she refused?

Sia watched the last girl take the serum without hesitation. She vaguely noticed Miss Dinnika continue lecturing.

But all she heard were the disapproving remarks of doctors as M-Noymtius sloshed idly in her boot, like the waves of oceans from The Before.

Since everyone under twenty-five was required to have a companion at all times, Sia walked home with Paya.

“The Ceremony was remarkable,” Paya commented as they strode along the symmetrical path.

Sia gave her a strained smile. “Sure.”

“You’re acting strange.”

“I’m not acting any different than usual,” Sia said hastily. The unused serum in her boot rocked back and forth. She tried not to think about it.

Paya distanced herself from Sia. “I want to be a doctor when I turn nineteen.” She glanced over. “Do you?”

“I’m not sure.” Sia could practically hear the doctors whispering in her mind.

You should have taken the serum.

What happens when you get caught?

You are making a mistake.

Sia scratched at her stinging initials. “Does your wrist ache, too?”


“I wonder if–”

“Stop your wondering.”

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to–I…” Paya moved even farther away.

Sia held her tongue. All this time she had thought she and the other girls were the same.

She was starting to realize they were not.

Sia entered the white box house next to Paya’s. The square exterior was as unappealing as ever, ordinary and plain. The clear glass door opened when she approached and slid closed behind her.

The house was near empty. White tables and chairs were scattered across the open living room. Windows portrayed square houses across the street.

No family.

Her older brother was nineteen. He had received his line of work and was only home during the night. Her parents passed away three days after her birth, as all married adults did once their second child was born.

Sia walked to the far end of the corridor, turning into an open doorway. Her room was possibly more boring than the rest of the house, complete with a neat bed crammed into the corner, practical white carpet, an unreasonably large mirror and blinding electric lights.

She sighed. Home, sweet home.

She collapsed onto her bed, running her fingers across the lettering on her wrist. M-Noymtius threatened to leak out of her boot. She tugged off her shoe and stared at the peculiar substance, a chill bumping down her spine. She felt like she had in her classroom. It felt like someone was watching her, taking in her disobedience.

But no one was there.

One minute after six, Sia ventured to her doorstep to retrieve a small can waiting for her. Every day, once dusk had fallen, she was provided soup for dinner. Her brother was never home to eat with her.

After dinner, she contemplated disposing of M-Noymtius. She could wash away the evidence in the Streamway, but Paya would never come with her. She would wait for her brother, but Arkin tended to come home after sixteen-year-old curfew.

On a whim, she poured the serum into the carpet beneath her bed frame, knowing that anyone who looked close enough would see a burst of blue staining the white.

That night, Sia fell asleep with troubled thoughts.

Weeks passed.

Her brother woke her every morning. She walked with Paya to school and listened to Miss Dinnika’s lectures. She discovered the intrigue of Curiosity and the strangeness of the Odd Folk. Sia grew to like them; they were different people with the most incredible ideas. After every evening meal, she dumped M-Noymtius into the carpet under her bed. She felt tremendous guilt and would hear the disapproval of the doctors in her mind. But as time wore on, she began to appreciate her instincts.

One month after The Marking Ceremony, something finally changed.

It all started when she found herself in a dream.

Purple ribbons decorated her room. They hung down from the ceiling, stretching towards people with rich, flawless dark skin, darker than her own, and people with skin fairer than she had thought possible, the epitome of perfection.


These people felt right. People like the Odd Folk.

Knock, knock.

She was complete-


Sia jumped out of her sleep, shaking.

Her brother’s shadowy figure rested in the doorway. “You dreamt.”

Dreaming. Miss Dinnika had just given a lesson on dreams.

In the dark, Sia swore he smiled.

“I won’t be home tonight,” he told her, flicking on the light. The whiteness of her room popped into existence.

Sia rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What?”

“Doctor Caffrey promoted me.” His claim pushed all thoughts of her dream to the side. “I’m gonna help set up for the The Placing Ceremony.”

Sia frowned. “Why?”

“He needs a few extra hands.”

She narrowed her eyes.

He waved her suspicion to the side. “You look different.”


Arkin rolled his eyes. “Turn around.”

Sia peered back over her shoulder, her reflection stared back at her. Little brown dots dusted over her high cheekbones. Were her cheekbones more prominent than usual? Her eyes seemed deeper. And her skin was a little less golden, a little more brown.

Arkin swept a hand through his hair. “I’m here for you, y’know.” His gaze drifted to the carpet below her bed frame.

Sia cleared her throat, swinging her legs over the side of her bed to block his view. “I know.”

“Good.” Arkin gave her a tender smile. “See you tomorrow, okay?”

Sia nodded. As he left the room, she saw a flash of purple adjust in his grip.

The same lavender as Miss Dinnika’s ribbon.

The same color as the ribbons in her dream.

White-masked doctors crowded the classroom two days later. Each student stayed silent as Miss Dinnika taught, glued to their desks with trepidation. Sia tried not to stare at the doctors. Miss Dinnika was specifying facts about the first war against Town. She stressed the idea that it was not the Odd Folk who caused the war; she made it seem like violence was natural in The Before.

It sounded as if Miss Dinnika was defending them.

Midway through her lesson, one of the doctors cleared his throat. Sia realized it was Head Doctor Caffrey, distinguished by his aura of authority. “We will be administering your dose of M-Noymtius.” He adjusted his gloves. “Form two lines based on gender and last name.”

Sia had found her spot behind Paya when Miss Dinnika casually stepped in beside her. “Don’t be scared.”

“I’m not.” Sia desperately wished her voice would stop trembling.

“The doctors administering the serum are kind.”

Sia shifted her weight. “Okay.”

When it was Sia’s turn, her stomach churned. Would they know she had been refusing the serum? Would they know of the recurring dream she had experienced? Would she be in trouble? She brought a hand to her face. Would they see the dots?

Sia approached the door, gripping the handle until her knuckles turned white. Miss Dinnika caught her gaze, nodding firmly. She reluctantly slipped into the hall.

The doctor was unmasked, his face radiant with his smile. He looked to be around Miss Dinnika’s age.

He beamed. “My name is Thomas.” When he patted the floor next to him, Sia numbly sat. “Sia Madak, right?” She nodded. He retrieved a wiry tube from his bag and wound it around her wrist.

“You haven’t been taking M-Noymtius?”

Sia squeezed her eyes shut. This was what she had been afraid of.

“Smart girl.”

She peeked one eye open. Thomas was staring at her with a blunt curiosity.

“Why not take it?” He unwound the cord from her arm.

“I had a bad feeling.”

“That’s all?”

Sia’s lips quivered. She gave him a feeble nod.

“And Jenna- er, Miss Dinnika didn’t make you?”

“I kept it a secret.” The truth just kept tumbling out. Sia’s vision started to go bleary. She swept her hand across her eyes, smearing tears across her skin.

“Oh, Miss Dinnika knows everyone’s secrets.” He grinned. “Undoubtedly, she knows of yours.” He shook his head. “But you couldn’t be more obvious.”

Sia blinked at him dumbly.

Thomas sighed, pointing to her cheeks. “Your sun spots. I have something to cover them up. I take it you’ve been dreaming as well?”

Sia gaped at him. He pulled out a thin brush and dusted powder over the sun spots. She remembered a term Miss Dinnika had mentioned recently. The Odd Folk had used cosmetics.

“You aren’t giving me the serum?” She stared at her feet, forcing the tears back. “Are you going to tell Doctor Caffrey what I’ve been doing?”

“No.” Thomas offered her a hand, pulling her upright. “You should go.”

As she was heading toward the door, Thomas grabbed her wrist.

“Just be careful out there, okay?” He sighed. “Don’t do anything stupid or you’ll get caught. It’s happened before, and it can happen again.” She stared at the letters scrawled onto her skin. S-A-M. Something pricked her mind, but she could not grasp the memory.

He muttered something else that was unintelligible, tugging a purple handkerchief from his pocket. Sewed along the fringed edge was the repetition of a single phrase.

We will have freedom.

Thomas looked Sia dead in the eye. “Ihcumbo lin rahoti.” He balled the handkerchief and tucked it into her grasp. She began to tremble, slipping the crumpled cloth into her boot.

As she ambled out of the room, only one thought crossed her mind.

The handkerchief, Miss Dinnika’s ribbon, the flash of color she had seen when her brother left this morning, the ribbons in her dream…

They all meant something.

Miss Dinnika and Thomas both knew of her negligence to take Monclavus Noymtius, and her brother probably did, too. They knew, yet they allowed her to stand unrivaled.

When she was dismissed from class, she kept her handkerchief tucked away, walking home with Paya, speaking with her about unimportant things.

But the important things were still fresh in her mind.

Sia entered the classroom the next day, taking her assigned seat. Arkin had never returned home the night before, true to his word, and her walk with Paya had been quieter than usual. She had tried covering up her sun spots, but she only succeeded in wiping off some of the powder Thomas had applied. Her mind was muddled with countless thoughts.

When Miss Dinnika arrived, Sia tucked her purple handkerchief farther into her boot.

“Silence.” The nearly nonexistent chatter ceased. “My name is Miss Kelestia.”

Sia did a double-take. The only thing setting Miss Dinnika and Miss Kelestia apart was the fact that the woman before her was missing the familiar purple ribbon.

“Miss Dinnika reached twenty-four years along with the others her age,” the new teacher announced. “The Placing Ceremony is today. Line up against the back.”

The students immediately acted. They had been attending The Placing since they were old enough to comprehend the concept. Miss Kelestia led them out of the white building and across the sameness of Town until they arrived at the amphitheater, the location Marking Ceremonies also occurred.

Everything was white. Hundreds of seats with plain coverings, a sloped stage with flat carpet, dozens of doctors in hazmat suits guarding the edges of the auditorium. The closer Sia looked, the more she was starting to see soldiers. Sia scanned the nineteen-year-olds in the audience, but she could not find her brother amid the other boys.

Once everyone was settled, the Placed filed in.

The men came from the right, the women from the left. The ladies wore modest gray dresses and heeled boots. The men dressed in indistinguishable navy tuxedos, only their neckties differing.

One hooded doctor approached the stand in the middle of the stage. He cleared his throat. “Welcome to The Placing Ceremony.” He gestured to the men and women on either side of him. “These men and women have the honor of bringing forth two new children into Town.”

The audience clapped politely.

“Come forth and become one.” He glanced down at the stand. “Tiffanoa Hilla Vohn and Denson Lendon Soloe.”

The closest woman and man stepped forward and met together at the base of the stand. She took his right hand.

They did not smile.

“Join together in life,” the head doctor recited, “and may your numbered days be productive.”

Another doctor stepped forward and tied white ribbons around the wrists of their adjoined hands. They walked through the clear aisle surrounded by white chairs, and out the back door. Sia noticed a doctor leading the couple away before the door slid closed.

The process repeated a few more times before Sia perked up.

“Jenna Sera Dinnika and Thomas Parker Capria.”

Miss Dinnika stepped forward before he did. Her hair was no different than usual. Her purple ribbon was casually pinned to one side. She wore a radiant smile. Sia could not remember the last time she had seen Miss Dinnika smile. Thomas seemed solemn. His tie was a deep lavender.

Sia sucked in a breath. A purple tie.

Of course, that had to be a coincidence. They could never have planned such a thing. No one knew who they would be Placed with until The Ceremony. Sia was suddenly conscious of her handkerchief’s pressure against her ankle. Her initials began to ache.

Thomas joined Miss Dinnika at the stand, taking her hand. Sia could feel the energy in the room shift. She recalled the instinct she had to decline M-Noymtius. The feeling was similar, but magnified, stronger. The energy was not just coming from her.

“Join together in life,” the doctor recited, “and may your-”

Ihcumbo lin rahoti!” Miss Dinnika’s interruption was so unexpected, the doctor took a few steps back. Sia froze in her chair. Ihcumbo lin rahoti.

Thomas raised their joined hands in the air. “Ihcumbo lin rahoti!”

Miss Dinnika pulled a long object out from the side of her boot. A silver blade. A purple stone rested in the handle center, glimmering in the white light of the room. She brought the sharp edge to her hair just below her ear. With one slice, her dark locks went tumbling to the floor. Her ribbon floated down with incredible slowness.

There was a moment of utter disbelief. Every member of the audience held their breath. The doctors stood dumbfounded. Others were shaking with fright. The energy was buzzing, straining to be released, begging to escape.

Then that moment shattered.

Doctors swarmed Miss Dinnika and Thomas, tearing them apart and barking harsh orders. Younger kids clung together in confusion. Sia stood with the older children in shock. Some adults seemed bewildered, some looked furious, some were excited.

But despite the chaos, Sia’s insides churned with exhilaration.

More doctors filed into the noisy room. Sia scrambled to find Paya, to find her brother, to find anyone. She was pushed and shoved as citizens bustled out the door, fighting to exit the building. Officials continued ordering and sending out instructions. Through the chaos, Sia spotted Miss Dinnika, wielding her sharp weapon. The doctors surrounded her but did not approach. Thomas was nowhere to be seen.

Somehow, Sia ended up outside. Her outfit was ruffled and her mind was reeling. The initials on her wrist throbbed. A dot of blood leaked out from the end of the M.

She stumbled for a while until she happened upon her home, falling through the sliding doorway. Her entire body shook. One phrase kept repeating in her mind, crumbling any shred of knowledge she had.

Ihcumbo lin rahoti.

We will have freedom.

Sia waited in her room for hours. She stared at the reflective window and ran her fingers over her changing face. Her sun spots were more numerous. Her face had gained a more significant heart-shape. Her eyes were darker, her skin browner.

Thomas had been right. It was noticeable.

What had refusing the serum done to her? She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. Had no one noticed besides Thomas? Besides her brother? Miss Dinnika had probably realized. What about her classmates? The other doctors?

Sia left her room and walked to her brother’s. The door slid open, revealing a vacant, unlit bedroom. His sheets were thrown hastily across the length of his bed. A bright ribbon dangled from his bedpost. His boots were lazily resting against the wall.


Sia walked over to the bed, fingers hooking around the lavender ribbon. The same ribbon as Miss Dinnika’s. Matching the color of Thomas’ tie. She fished the old handkerchief from her boot.

A flash of color in a sea of white.

As she brought his ribbon closer, she trained her eyes on the fine embroidery. She could make out one word. Rahoti.

Chills overtook her limbs. What was her teacher a part of? What was her brother a part of? What was Thomas a part of?

She stared at her handkerchief. What was she a part of?

“Some Ceremony, huh?”

Sia could feel eyes focusing on the back of her head. She whirled, mouth set in a firm line.

There was a boy. He should have looked like everyone else but he simply did not. His eyes were almost green. His skin was closer to tree bark than golden brown. Even his hair was different, curly, unruly.

Sia clutched her brother’s ribbon and her own cloth. She opened her mouth. She would yell. She would scream.

“I don’t mean any harm,” he promised.

Sia wavered.

The boy took a step forward, hands up in defense. “My name is Samuel.”

Sia tried to steady her breathing. “Samuel Kelton,” she remembered. “The missing boy.”

He laughed bitterly. “That’s what they told you?”

“How did you get in here?”

He smirked. “I walked through the front door.”

“I need you to get out of my house,” she warned, “or I’ll call for the doctors.”

“What will they do? Kill me?”

Sia swallowed thickly. “What are you talking about?”

“Town is dangerous.” Sam crossed his arms.

“Town is my home. Nothing’s wrong with it.”

“What about M-Noymtius? What about the fact that you look exactly the same as the person next to you?”

Sia glared. “We may look similar, but that doesn’t mean-”

“How have they not found you? They picked me out and I blended in perfectly!” Sia realized Sam was talking to himself. “I took every precaution and they still found me! But then you come along, an open book, and they don’t see anything.”

Tears pooled in her eyes. “Get out-”

A strong voice cut through her words. “Sia!” She backed into the bed behind her, quaking as her brother appeared at the doorway.

He looked as he was supposed to.

“Could you have scared her any more, Sam?” Arkin sneered. “She knows nothing.

Sam snorted. “Obviously.”

“Arkin.” Sia stood.

Her brother turned to her. “Stay out of this.”

“Stay out this? Stay out of what?!” Sia shoved the ribbon into his hands. “Tell me, Arkin. What’s happening to Town? Where is Thomas? Where is Miss Dinnika? And why is he in our house?!”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Calm down.”

“Calm down?!” Sia clenched her fists. “The Placing Ceremony went wrong. Everything is going wrong!”

Sam looked at Arkin expectantly. “She needs to keep her voice down,”

“And you need to leave!” Sia stormed past the two boys, heading towards the front door. This was too much. She had to tell someone, anyone. She needed to inject the serum. She needed to look like Paya, like her other classmates.

How had the Odd Folk lasted so long? How did they ever live in such diversity?

A calloused hand grabbed her by the shoulder. “Sia, stop.”

“Let go!”

Arkin jogged into the room. “Don’t let her leave.”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Sam grumbled.

Sia struggled against his grip until her eyes landed on his wrist. Three puffy letters popped out against his skin. Her body went completely rigid. “Your initials.”

Sam frowned. “What?”

“How…?” Her voice caught.

They both returned their gaze to his arm. His wrist was swollen, the letters nearly entirely covered by skin. But what it said was undeniable.


Arkin leaned over Sam’s shoulder. “Show him, Sia.”

She just stared.

Arkin turned her wrist, revealing the initials printed against her skin.

Sam backed up in disbelief.

In faint letters was a name.

The three letters that had bothered Sia since they were first engraved all those years ago. The three letters that had marked her identity for almost her entire life. The three letters that suddenly made no sense at all.


There was no explanation, no reasoning, no rationale. But this was not a coincidence, this was not a chance.

And this was different.

The night was cold and dreary, biting at their skin as they crept through the gloomy streets of Town. Doctors patrolled in the darkness, wary from the unpredicted turn of events.

Sia did her best to stay quiet, allowing Arkin and Sam to lead her along a complicated route. The two boys conversed a few feet ahead of Sia, blocking her out.

Sia tried to block out her thoughts, tried to pretend everything was normal.

But how could she? She was sneaking around past curfew. The Placing Ceremony had gone terribly wrong. The missing boy was no longer missing.

Eventually, their pace slowed. They neared the end of the last street. A massive white wall extended up past the last house, encircling Town. Arkin took Sia’s hand and led her to the corner house, standing at the entrance.

Ihcumbo lin rahoti,” Arkin murmured. The door slid open. Sia followed Sam inside.

Hundreds of purple ribbons dangled from the ceiling. For every three, someone stood beneath, unfamiliar faces and complexions. Some had white skin while others had honey-colored limbs. More looked as she did, with minor differences in their faces or their heights. Miss Dinnika was settled into the crowd, several gashes along her arms and face. She recognized a few of Arkin’s acquaintances from work.

No matter who they were, no matter their appearance, no matter their age, and no matter their history, everyone was smiling.

The setting was like her dream ー strange, different, full. And Sia found it beautiful.

All attention was trained on her. She fingered with her handkerchief, staring at the promising words. We will have freedom. Arkin gave her hand a squeeze before letting go.

A dark-skinned woman greeted them and turned to Sia. With her dainty fingers, she plucked a ribbon from the ceiling and tied it around Sia’s wrist.

“Welcome, Miss Madek.” The woman smiled. “We are the Odd Folk.”

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