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Copper Chapter 3

By: Bryan Tan

I woke up at two in the morning, glancing around in confoundment. What woke me up? It was then that I heard someone heading up the stairs and a hustle of footsteps stomping on my roof and attic.

I hopped out of bed, shuddering, drawing out the sashes, peering out the window. The thudding on the roof stopped as if the darkness of the night was holding its breath for something.

Suddenly, a dark figure dropped in front of me, hanging from the gutter, peering at me in a purple mask on the other side of the window. Stumbling backward, I bonked my head against the bedpost.

A knife shattered the window and embedded itself on the ground where I was only moments before.

I heard the metallic shing of knives being taken out of their sheathes and dodged left, as a knife whizzed past my right eye, penetrating a pillow behind me.

A small whoosh of air whispered at my cheek, warning me as I dodged right, barely missing another knife.

Everything felt like it was at seventy miles per hour, and I had just managed to pull myself off the ground when a shadowy figure materialized behind me.

I felt the tip of the knife piercing into the skin on the back of my neck, sending shivers down my spine, drawing a bead of blood.

But then, all of a sudden, it was over as the vivid scenery melted away like a burning piece of paper. A rough hand pulled away the headphones covering my ears, and bright fluorescent lights pierced my closed eyelids. It was all too short to be true, as reality sunk in.

“Alright, you’ve got some improving to do,” a gruff voice sounded. My eyes started to adapt to the bright light and I saw my trainer, Zander Shankroff.

Zander was a short, chubby man. His voice was a deep bass, and he always sounded sort of robotic. His voice never cracked, never revealed much emotion, and was just monotone all the time. His posture was slumped over, and his eyebrows were thick enough to have strands covering his eyes, resembling a wooly bear caterpillar.

He and I shared one thing in common, and it was that we both lost one of our common senses.

Me? My eyesight.

Him? His smell.


I was born with one good and functioning eye. My first memory of anything was in the orphanage, where people were laughing at me, clutching their stomachs as if they were in pain.

“Steven Bauer? Ha! More like Steven Baller. He got one eyeball!”

A few giggles. Then someone pointed out, “He’s half blind! I bet you he doesn’t have the coordination to dodge this!”

I was trying to ignore their silly insults, but then a pebble grazed my ear. My tiny hands balled into fists. I remained standing against a wall, my back turned towards my tormentors. Another pebble hit me on the cheek. Then another small rock knocked me in the eye. My only good eye. It was followed by banana peels, water bottles, and whatever they could find. When I was hit so many times that I was hugging my head, and rolling on the ground, an orphanage caretaker walked by.

“Steven Baller? What are you doing on the ground like that!” She wasn’t really asking, but rather telling me to get up.

Giggles sounded across the hall. I knew that the good-hearted lady was trying her best to pronounce my name, but she still butchered it. When I got up, my tears gushed down my cheeks. I turned away from the wall, my eyes lifting to the lady, a hazy silhouette from my watery vision.

She now noticed I was crying, and said, “Oh, there, there. Don’t cry, I know it’s tough not knowing your past, or your parents, but we’re here for you.” She then turned, waving at my tormentors. “See, they're all here for you. They’ve gotten you some food!”

I peered at them. They were all holding half-eaten apples, banana peels, and whatnot. The few still holding rocks dropped them immediately, nodding their heads. Too eagerly.

The caretaker gently patted my head, getting up from her stooped position.

“You’ll be fine.” She then walked away.

As soon as she was gone, the children resumed their initial intentions. The last thing I remembered was a big rock hitting my good eye too hard to leave it functional, and everything went dark.

I sighed. I was glad to be gone from that orphanage, where people with any sort of disability were attacked by the other children. Later, I was lucky enough to have a doctor who healed at least some of my damaged eyesight.


“Hey,” a faint voice called, getting louder and louder until I realized it was Zander. “Are you all right?”

“Yeah,” I responded, suddenly coming back to the reality I was drifting from. “I just got lost in my thoughts.”

“Well, quit doodling off.” Zander sighed, “it’s only your first day training, and you’re already bugging me.” He took a loud slurp from his morning coffee. “When I was your age, I already had mastered hearing.”

Zander was born without a connection between his nose and his brain. In other words, he was unable to pick up any scents. To compensate, he became a master at the other four senses. Now Zander was trying to train me to master my senses.

I like to think of him as Yoda, and myself as Luke Skywalker. Although Darth Vader would still be in question.

I didn’t ask for this. All I know was that the orphanage sent me here and that Zander provides me with better food than the orphanage.

Hoot. Hoot.

“Here. How about I teach you to hear even the smallest things? Alright, now, to let me know how good you already are, tell me the faintest thing you can hear.”

“Uh, well, there’s a really loud rain crow outside, which means it’s about to rain soon.”

Zander’s eyebrows creased, which looked eccentric as they completely covered his eyes. In deep concentration, he strained to hear anything. After a few moments of silence, he remarked, “Okay, let’s not hear things from our imagination. Tell me something you hear.”

Hoot. Hoot.

“Well, there’s another different rain crow on a nearby tree that’s also being obnoxiously loud.”

I pointed towards a tree out the window, and Zander saw the two rain crows darting off into the distance just as a flash of lightning blazed through the sky and a clap of thunder shook the cheap walls of the building.


Then it started to pour. Zander shrugged, unconvinced, although a look of surprise was etched into his face.

I thought he could hear super well. Well, maybe I can hear even better without any training!

“Ah, I think it’s time for breakfast. We’ll discuss hearing tactics and strategies at the table.”

* * *

After lesson time, which I learned was from five in the morning to three in the afternoon, I got to do whatever I wanted. Zander called this nonsense time but still said it was necessary to fully master my four senses. Walking out of the apartment, I glanced back.

A morose-looking brick wall, covered with so many green vines that only hints of brown showed through, stared back at me. The old, rusted door that I just passed through was the exception, the only part where massive vines did not overtake the architecture. The strangling vines had been roughly chopped off to allow the door to open.

I had just been sent to live with Zander a couple of days ago, and when I had first laid eyes upon this infrastructure, I was not pleased with the sight. It seemed as if the building had not been maintained in a millennium. That was why I felt so relieved as the warm air greeted me when I first opened the doors. The outside was not exactly a pretty sight, but the inside sure was.

The trees rustled, and a flurry of rain droplets still lodged in the tree splattered on the ground.

Something strange caught my keen attention. It was a bird. Its striking red plumage stood out in the foliage. Its predator claws were sharp and shiny, resembling steel.

Frightened, it flew away as the talons glinted acutely in the glaring sun.

What a sight.

I just couldn’t place a finger on what I thought was strange. Soon, the bird was flying away.

“Hey, kid! You forgot your notebook!” Zander called after me.

Right. I was supposed to bring a notebook to take notes about what I noticed outside. It was one of those obsequious ideas only for disabled kids.

I hated how other people would try to be extra nice to me. It was unnatural. I just want people to treat me normally, not with extra patience or whatever. Those dumb signs hanging around the orphanage were supposed to teach kids how to be friends with someone disabled. All it did for me was make me feel different and treated like a toddler.

I’m capable of doing things. That is what they don’t realize.

After grabbing the notebook and rushing out the door, slamming the door behind me, I observed the skies. The bird wasn’t there, but when I saw the tree, the peculiar bird was perching on it.

“Huh, you came back.” I told the bird.

Looking at the bird, I drew a diagram and took notes on it in my handy dandy notebook. Sharp and shiny talons, brownish red feathers, yellow beak, and strangely blank eyes. After many minutes of observation and careful sketching, I was about ready to go visit the nearby park.

Then something unexpected happened: the bird started speaking.

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