I am so excited. I have created my first challenge in Prose. It's a bit tough since the entries has to be long. It took me long even to describe the challenge. It is time-consuming. But, I hope it would be alright.
It's actuallly more of a prompt than a challenge. I hope it's a good prompt and that someone gets good ideas out of it. Too excited to read!
The Amazing Wannabe
My name is Harry, and I was born with a gift. A magical gift. It was nothing for me, even as a babe, to pull bunnies out of my bonnet, or to make fools disappear, much to my older sister’s dismay.
But my story truly begins when I am eleven years old. A strange boy, if handsome, I was teased at school, and bullied. It was a somewhat difficult time. My teacher, Ms. Eddy-Cate, called in my parents for a conference. She told them that the other children might quit picking at me if I would stop wearing the top hat and cape to school, even though she found the outfit rather cute and irresistible.
But that was impossible. Ms. Eddy-Cate could not have understood what she was asking. Would the leopard be asked to leave his spots at home, or the plumber his crack? No! It was too ludicrous to even imagine! The top hat and cape were part of me. How could I ever leave them behind, and me still be me. After all, I was Harry Houdini Wannabe, Jr., and I had a destiny to fulfill!
It was that very day of the parent-teacher conference that the world took note of my powers. While walking home from school that afternoon Little Susie McDoogood fell from the Lynhurst Road Bridge while showing-out by “walking the wall.” While the other children screamed with fright, I cooly pulled out my hankie... and I pulled, and I pulled, and I pulled out my hankie, until that endless hankie was over forty feet long. I fashioned the end of my hankie-rope into a lasso and tossed it to Little Susie, saving the day. It so happened that the biggest playground bully of them all, Dodger Ball, had videoed the rescue on his cellphone. Dodger took the video home to his mother, who also happened to be the weatherwoman on the local TV station. When the video played on “Krystal Ball’s 5′ O’Clock Forecast” that evening the people watching from home were astonished, not only that a ten year old boy had a forty foot chain of hankies up his sleeve, but that he was able to pull off the rescue with such panache, right up to him giving Little Susie a kiss after pulling her from the water only to have her swoon in his arms. You can’t make this stuff up, folks!
The next day at school I began to see firsthand the downside of fame. Kids showed up to class wearing capes of their own, and began following me through the hallways with decks of cards, begging me to “give them a trick,” any trick. Ms. Eddy-Cate wore a short, sparkly dress that day. I had never noticed before just how pretty she was, or how long her legs. She brought me to the front of the room for “Show and Tell,” so that I could saw her in half in front of the class while Dodger videotaped it all for his mother to show on her weather spot. Things were quickly getting out of hand, but I did the trick. What else could I do? She was the teacher, and a lowly student is bound to do whatever the teacher says, isn’t he?
The spot did air on TV that night. There was Ms. Eddy-Cate at precisely 5:10 pm, in her sparkly dress, climbing into the box. And there was I, gleaming teeth prominent, sawing, and sawing, and finally pulling the box apart. And there was a smiling, ever so happy Ms. Eddy-Cate with her fingers wiggling in this section of the box, while her toes wiggled in the other section. When I then helped a re-joined Ms. Eddy-Cate from the box our classroom audience was wild with excitement. As it was part of my act, I took Ms. Eddy-Cate in my arms and kissed her, so that she swooned just as Little Susie had. I discovered that the television audience loved my overly dramatic kisses... as did a dishevelled Ms. Eddy-Cate!
Things happen quickly in show business. The next day we were in Vegas, booked for six months at The Mirage Hotel and Casino. Upon arrival the Vegas billboards and taxi’s already advertised “Harry Wannabe and his Lovely Assistant” in their bright lights. My foolish parents stayed home, wary of the hazards of “Sin City,” giving Ms. Eddy-Cate guardianship for the entire run. The two of us lived high on the hog... penthouse suites, room-order ice cream sundaes, and pay-per-view movies... some of them quite edgy... but it was all too good to last.
It came crashing to an end when Little Susie McDoogood and her father, Reverend McDoogood flew out to see the show. It seems that the McDoogood’s watched more than the magic show. It seems that they spied on the unwary, happy magicians as the couple rode sky-rise roller coasters together, helicoptered over the Grand Canyon, and had no end of fun in a city with no end of fun for those fortunate enough to have found their fame and their fortunes... especially their fortunes.
But soon the McDogoods grew jealous, of course, Little Susie of her white knight, and her father “The Father” of a beautiful young teacher traipsing around in a short, sparkly dress, hand in hand with her dashing young magician. It seems that father and daughter saw the illusion of impropriety. It was not long until the police were called in to investigate the happy two-some. In the penthouse the cops found the single ice cream sundae dish with the two spoons, and the souvenier picture of the laughing couple on the roller coaster’s big drop. It all looked way too fun to be innocent, and it is the job of the authorities to end anything that appears to be more fun than they have ever been allowed to have.
As the police will do, they put two and two together, and came up with three. Ms. Eddy-Cate was sent to a maximum security prison (which in Vegas for someone with money was actually rather nice) and I was sent home to my parents, which wasn’t entirely bad either.
But, as is always the case with any good magician, I continued my tricks to the delight of all I encountered. As fame is fleeting, so too is the memory of the just, so I practiced with my magic wand on Little Suzy, and on any other young girl with the desire to be amazed, while I awaited the inevitable release of my favorite assistant, Ms. Eddy-Cate... so that together she and I might then continue my real, and magical, education.
The Disappearing Act
He was supposed to be the one in charge here.
He'd had years of training in the Marines, the Navy, special ops, four blackbelts...and yet, he'd stood there dumbfounded as the teenager had saved his ass.
He'd woken up to said teenager standing over him, holding a cup of Starbucks and giving him a look of disdain he would never have had the guts to give his own father.
"Yo." The teen nodded. "You alright?"
"Uh..." He hesitated. "Sure?"
The Starbucks cup waved in front of his face. "Here."
"Thank you," he muttered, still feeling utterly unequipped to deal. "Where are we?"
The teenager pulled out a cellphone and showed it to him, Google mapped to an address. "Apparently Denver."
"Wait -- what? How long have I been asleep??"
"Four hours. It takes some getting used to. I slept for about one." The teenager crouched, leaning in until he could see a glint of anger shining off a silver nosering. "I took your gun, your badge, and your phone. You'll get them back after I'm gone. Meantime, tell your people to leave me the fuck alone."
He nursed the coffee. "We were in Jacksonville."
"That's not four hours away from Denver."
The teenager stood and shrugged, their hoodie slumping over their shoulders. "I don't pick the destination. I just GPS it when I get there."
"Who's house is this?"
"Dunno. When I Googled it, it popped up on AirBNB. You're lucky, man. I don't usually land somewhere this convenient."
"What do you mean land? How did we get here?" His voice cracked and he unconciously took a sip of the black brain juice in his hand. Control, he had to reassert control.
The teenager sank into a chair across from where he sat on the floor. "You still don't know, even though you've been following me since I appeared in that confidential military thingy?" A smirk floated across a face hidden under a hoodie.
Years of reviewing government secrets meant gears clicked a bit faster as he processed this information. "You're a teleporter."
"Kinda. Can't pick where I go though. Otherwise trust me - your base would not have been my choice." The smirk faded into a frown. "That's ruined my life more than they have."
"Who's 'they'?" The caffeine did little to dull the throbbing ache that suddenly started pounding his skull. He wasn't sure if this was a side effect of magically appearing on the other side of the country, or grappling mentally with the fact that he had found someone who could.
"The Houdini's." The teen answered softly, an undercurrent of muddled anger with fear hissing out of a deflated figure.
The events of the previous day flashed in front of his eyes and he rubbed his throat. "That person...choked me like Darth Vader."
"The Drowner. He controls breath." The teen explained. "Houdini trick number one."
"The Lockpick - he can unlock anything by touching it." The teen took another sip of coffee. "The Regurgitator - don't think I need to explain that one, it's kinda gross." The agent thought of the bullets that had sunk into flesh, only to pop back out. "Then there's The Wall - able to withstand any blow - and finally The Swapper, who's kinda like me but can only swap places with something in her line of sight." The teen stopped and watched him, waiting for his disbelief.
However, he was laying on the floor of a one-bedroom granny unit in Denver right now. The moment for disbelief had ended. "They're trying to recruit you?"
"Yeah. I said no, several times, but - they don't like that answer."
"What's their end goal?"
"General mischief, or thievery. Most of Houdini's tricks lend themselves well to heists it seems." The teen shifted uncomfortably. "I can't say I haven't 'borrowed' things before, but I never asked for this life and I'm just trying to get by. I'm not setting myself up like some magical mafia boss."
The agent croaked, "You saved my life."
The teen shrugged again. "Didn't know if it would work. I've never disappeared with someone before. Laptops, backpacks, yeah. Not whole bodies." The teen rubbed their temples, and the agent thought of his own headache.
"How often can you do it?"
"It takes me at least eight hours to recover, normally. Used to be three days. This time? I dunno."
The agent stood finally, surveying the area. "No wonder we couldn't track you. You had no premeditated movements, and we couldn't figure out how you traveled so quickly."
The teenager barked out a short laugh. "Lot of good that's done me."
"Let me bring you in. We can protect you."
"You can use me, you mean." The teenager shook their head. "I don't feel like living as an experiment any more than I feel like joining the Dark Side."
"Your power's not that helpful. Hate to break it to you, kid. I don't think even the government could figure out much use for it."
"That wouldn't stop them from trying, though, would it?" Tired eyes, much older than the face that framed them, stared into his soul. "Look - can we just call it even and you walk away for now? I need to lay low, recharge, then move on."
"You're going to spend your entire life on the run?"
"Not much choice here."
Thinking, the agent reached into his tactical vest under his shirt and pulled out a mundane piece of paper. "Here. That's my contact card, it goes to an untapped personal phone that will only record voice mail. Keep it, and if I can ever really repay the favor give me a call."
The teen paused, then accepted it. "Alright, mister. But I still need at least 24 hours to reset here. Then you can call in to whoever and let them know where you are."
"Fine. I need to recharge myself." He lifted up the coffee. "Thanks for this."
"Not a problem. You need any Advil?"
The agent suddenly noticed the plastic bag on the dresser, filled with various drugstore items including a large bottle of generic pain killers. "Nah, I'm good. It'll pass."
The teen nodded, then stood up and collected the bag. "Alright. Well, this is me leaving again. Your stuff's in a lockbox down at the post office four blocks west from here, key's in the toilet tank."
"Take care, spy guy."
"I like spy guy better." The teen smiled and Taylor questioned whether he'd jumped to conclusions assuming his target was male. Then the smile faded and the hoodie and bag quickly exited, closing the door softly behind them.
And there goes the Disappearing Act. Taylor continued to sit for a few minutes, finishing his coffee and contemplating how to explain this one to his superiors.
One thing was certain - his target had changed. There were now others out there, far more dangerous than this kid, that needed to be taken in or taken down. He shuddered again at the memory of being choked out, thrashing helplessly until everything had turned black.
The Houdini's...how long would it take to bring them down?
Or could they ever be contained at all?
Weapons of Self
James walked out of the library, whistling casually to himself. The streets of Mumbai were well crowded today, and it was not until a few moments later that he noticed people staring at him. They were not Indians, no, but Englishmen. That much could be discerned from their clothing alone. James glanced sideways at a man walking down the side of the street across from him, at the same pace, staring at him.
Another man at the end of the corner of that street was staring at him over a newspaper…An English newspaper that was not printed in Mumbai. “These people clearly cannot do this well,” James thought. He looked into the glass window of a shoppe as he passed by, and behind him, about ten or twenty meters away, was another man. All of them were well-dressed, and there were probably more of them, as the streets were quite crowded. James began to feel tense.
“You are James Peterson,” a woman asked as she walked next to him. James hadn’t even seen her approach. She was not wearing a dress, but brown dress pants and a brown coat. She was trying to make it look as if she were not talking to him, as she was looking down into open book as if she were reading it. James did not answer her. “This is the part where you say, ‘that depends,’” the woman stated.
“That would give it away,” James replied without looking at her.
“You just gave it away,” the woman replied. “Look at the book.” James glanced down at the book. It read: “act calm.” James felt as if his collar were choking him. “Curious that the treasurer of England should suddenly disappear, and then be seen in India. Especially the case when he had witnessed a child nearly hit by an automobile, an automobile that disobeyed the laws of physics by turning sharply away with no driver.”
“How do I know that I can trust you?”
“In here,” the woman stated, and and walked into a shoppe. There were many shelves of everything from clothing to kitchen supplies and so forth. They walked into a corner of the room, and James watched as the men following them stood casually outside the store, waiting for them to come out. “Listen to me,” the woman began sternly. “My name is Mary Chillingsworth, and there is nothing I can tell you that will make you trust me, you will just have to make up your mind: who do you trust, me, or the gentlemen outside who are following you?”
“All right, I assume they are after me because of my abilities?” James clarified.
“Yes,” Mary replied. James could see now that she was a young woman with long brown hair and grey eyes. “The gentlemen chasing you are members of the British government, they want to recruit you for service. I try to save people like you before those men can reach you.”
“You assume I don’t want to join them?”
“If you did, then why did you leave Britain,” Mary inquired rhetorically. “Also, the men outside don’t take no for an answer, so we need to make our escape. There is a ship waiting in the nearest harbor, leaving for Taiwan in fifteen minutes or less. There’s a safe house there, but we need to get on that ship before it leaves. What are your powers?”
“I can manipulate mechanical objects telepathically. You?”
“I can do two things,” Mary began. “I can make people more or less susceptable to sound for a short time, and I can live for hundreds of years, at least. Now follow me.” She ran upstairs before James could ask anything further.
“When were you born?” He shot after her up the stairs.
“1351, England,” she replied. James grunted in acknowledgement. She looked young enough to be in her twenties or thirties. They made it to the top floor of the building, where Mary had stopped.
“Take off your hat,” she demanded.
“It says: ‘I’m English,’” she replied. “Take it off, any chance that they will not see us is one worth taking.” James took off his black top hat and set it on the ground. “Come on.” They crawled through a hatch in the ceiling and climbed onto the roof. By the time James had made the ascent, Mary had already jumped to the roof of the building across from them.
“Oh, bloody-“ James followed her, heaving as he jumped over the alleyway. They jumped to one more rooftop before there was no other place to go. James looked behind him, and two men - one with black hair in a brown suit and one with blonde hair in a grey suit - were jumping across as well.
“Jump,” he shouted to Mary.
“Trust me!” She jumped, and James concentrated and watched as the automobile he had summoned drove down the street just as she landed atop it. He jumped onto the roof as well, and he made it move forward. They raced down the streets, civilians jumping out of the way in order to avoid being hit with the shiny black automobile.
“Oh, great,” Mary moaned as she looked into the sky. The man in the brown suit was jumping from building to building beside them, in bounds that did not seem humanly possible. Mary took a pistol from her coat and fired a few shots at the man, not hitting him, but she sure scared some civilians.
“There,” James pointed as they raced down a hill. “The harbor!”
“Lookout,” Mary shouted, and pointed to a man, an Englishman, in a black suit who stood in the middle of the road. They frantically tried to wave him out of the way, but he just stood there, expressionless. There was no way to swerve around him, and the little car crashed into him, but it did not run him over, it stopped. The man was somehow strong or heavy enough to stop the car. They flew off the roof of the thing and onto the street.
James and Mary shot to their feet, and Mary pointed her pistol at the imposing gentlemen who were now cornering them as the civilians fled the marketplace.
“We don’t want to hurt you,” the man who had stopped the automobile said calmly and even with a smile as he walked slowly toward them. He had brown hair and a moustache, and was evidently the one in charge of the group.
“I know,” James stated. “You want to recruit me to fight for the British Empire, again, and I don’t accept.” He turned to punch the man next to him, who also wore a black suit, but that man held out his hand and James flew through the glass window of the building behind him. He could hear Mary fighting with some of the other people.
James shot back to his feet, and he raised his fists as he confronted the blond-haired man in the grey suit. The man, rather than fighting, just stood there, and then his body began change shape, and he shrank, and it was really quite disgusting. James watched as his clothes fell to the ground, and a large grey wolf emerged from them. It snared its teeth and then lunged at James, knocking him to the ground. It was all he could to to keep the wolf off of his throat. A wooden beam came out of nowhere and slammed the wolf in the side of the head, rendering it unconscious. James looked up to see Marry holding it.
“Fancy to wrestle later?” She said as she tossed the beam aside. It was then that James saw the man in the brown suit charging them, so he grabbed Mary’s gun from the ground and pointed it at the man, but Mary pushed his arm up just as it discharged, and then she punched the man as he ran up with incredible force.
“Whose side are you on, I was going to kill him?” James exclaimed.
“We’re not killing anybody,” Mary protested. “They may not be the good guys, but they’re not the bad guys either.”
“Sorry,” James replied as they ran off. “I fought in the Second Afghan War, ok? That was 1879. I’ve seen my fare share of death.” They ran down the streets, and the finally made it to the pier, but three of the men had somehow gotten there already. These were the man with the black suit and the moustache, the man with the blonde hair (who was only dressed in his grey pants and a partly-buttoned shirt. Evidently, to get completely dressed would have taken too long), and the fast man in the brown suit. They were all unarmed, but it took an observant one to know that they did not necessarily require weapons to kill.
“Yes, I know,” the man in the black suit smiled. “‘How did we get here so fast?’ Well, teleportation comes in handy.”
“Where are the others,” Mary asked.
“Still unconscious,” he replied. “Listen, both of you. We want to recruit you for field intelligence, not the military,” the man smiled. “We are on the same side, Peterson. We only want to protect king and country.”
“Really?” James scoffed. “Because last I checked, I’m not the treasurer anymore.”
“There’s no getting out of this, James,” the man stated as he raised his fists. The man in the brown suit positioned his legs as if he were going to charge them, and the man in the grey suit transformed into a large, green python or anaconda or something, reared and ready to strike. James just stood there, staring at the refinery next to them, staring at the smokestacks, concentrating. By the time the others realized what he was doing, it was too late, as the smokestacks billowed large plumes of jet-black ash, rendering visibility poor. By some miracle, James and Mary made it onto the ship, just as the ash cleared.
The other men were still on the pier, and as the ship left the docks, Mary seemed to concentrate. As the ship’s horn sounded, signaling departure, the men on the pier covered their ears and fell to their knees, trying to block out the noise that Mary had somehow amplified.
“Right then,” Mary looked at him as she clasped her hands together. “So, Taiwan?”
The Town of the Magicals
Everything happened too fast. It was only a blur where she didn’t have time to comprehend what was happening. They were pulling her out of her bed, forcing her down the stairs. Her feet dragged across the floor, the heels burning when bumping over every step as she tried to stop them. There was something on her mouth. She couldn’t scream. She couldn’t alarm anyone at home of the intruders. No, this wasn’t supposed to happen tonight. She thought. They told her she had an entire day, twenty four hours, to think. They barely even gave her seven hours. She was supposed to run away before they came to take her. She wasn’t supposed to go with them, that’s what her family spent all their lives trying to prevent.
They were already in the van, and it was driving away. To where her life wouldn’t be hers anymore. She had never felt this scared in her life before. Her heart was drumming against her ribcage. She could feel each beat resonating in her chest. Her eyes flitted from one face to another in fear, an escape plan working its way in her mind. She couldn’t let them take her. The van slowed down at a sharp turn and she knew this was her only chance so she gathered all the force she could to push her body out of their hold and at the door. She opened the door, threw herself outside. And started running.
She ran and ran and she never stopped. Into the woods and the unknown behind it. Into the gloomy night, dark, and eerie. All she could see were the silhouettes of the large trees looming over their town resembling a shadowy monster. All she wanted to do was go back home. But home wasn’t safe anymore. And she remembered her mother’s voice from a few hours ago. Leave, run away, Millie. But she thought she still had time to figure it out.
She dashed through the thick trees hurriedly, her movement never ceasing for a second. The wooden twigs cut viciously through her bare feet. She didn’t stop. Terrifying thoughts ran through her mind, and all the while thinking, what the hell she was going to do. She looked over her shoulder, into the darkness, but she saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. It filled her with terror and pushed her to run faster. She had to keep going. She didn’t know where she was going, nor had she any place in mind. All she was thinking about was to get as far away from these men as possible.
What has she done for her life to take this turn? Saved a boy? A child. Should she have just let him die? She started to question everything she ever knew. She started to question if a selfless act was worth the terrible consequences.
She tripped over her feet, not being able to bear her body weight on her tired feet anymore. Hold on, you’re almost there. She told herself. You can’t stop now. She got herself to believe that she had a destination in mind. The engine of the van was fading away. And then stopping. It wasn’t going to be long before they caught up to her.
“Get up.” She heard her own voice, yelling into the darkness with no one to hear but herself. Slowly, she placed her fists in the mudded grass, pushed up as she breathed heavily and got to her feet. And just like she hadn’t been able to do seconds before, she kept on running.
The sound of crushing of the fallen autumn leaves travelled to her ears from behind. She panicked, but urged her feet to move forward, and faster. She repeated in her mind that she was just imagining the sound.
But she heard it again. The crushing of leaves beneath heavy footsteps. And this time, the sound of the leaves was accompanied by violent breaths. She didn’t look back. She told herself she was being paranoid. She was imagining the noise.
She knew it, though. She wasn’t alone anymore. She knew someone was behind her.
It happened so quickly. A strong arm sneaked around from behind her, tightly engulfed her body and sprang to the side. She let out a piercing screech that she was sure echoed all around their town. And then she felt light headed. She wanted to fall to the ground. But the same arm that pulled her was there to stop her from falling. She looked up, a guy. Not one of those who took her from her home. Her heart raced faster, she was scared to take a breath. She was scared to look away.
“Why did you run this way, why didn’t you go back into town?” Her holder said in an angry whisper. She was surprised. She took a breath. Did it just sound like he was… helping her?
“Who... who are you?” She croaked. Her heart was beating rapidly and she just wished she was in a nightmare and she would wake up any moment, safe in her bed and her secret still a secret. Maybe she should’ve let the boy die. No one would’ve blamed her. No one would’ve known she was able to help.
Her vision started to get blurry. The face of the guy was starting to fade away. Everything was fading away. Her head felt heavy every time she tried to pull herself up and away from the man holding her.
“What’s happening to me? What have you done?” Her voice was as frantic as it could get. He said something, but she couldn’t concentrate on the words, everything was getting harder to comprehend.
She could fathom only a few of his words. Not me. They shot at you. Helping you. And they were enough to make more tears fall from her eyes in fear. She tried to speak. She tried to push the guy away. She tried to get up. But she couldn’t even move a finger. He was looking sideways, still speaking words that didn’t reach her ears. He looked paranoid. She didn’t know for sure. Her eyes had started to fall completely shut. She couldn’t resist any longer, the adrenaline that rushed through her body was diminishing. She surrendered to the darkness.
People were staring at her. No, not just staring. Their eyes were wide. Their hands covered their mouths. Parents were pulling their children against them in protection. They were scared of her. And she stood there, arms still extended, hands pointed to the little boy’s body hung up in the air. She didn’t know what she was doing until she was already running towards him with arms trying to reach him, like she was going to catch him before he fell. And maybe she thought she was going to catch him. But she hadn’t imagined what would happen when she ran and tried to save the boy. The only thing she could think about was the kid falling off a roof of a very high building. She hadn’t used her powers in so long. She kept them concealed, she sometimes forgot she even had them, even believed she was normal. And now everyone knew she wasn’t. And no one was thinking of her as the girl who saved a little kid. A child. But they were thinking, this is the freak who somehow made the child’s body flow up in the air just a few feet above the ground.
Breaks of light came to her vision when her eyes fluttered. She couldn’t have let him die. Even if it meant exposing herself.
Her body was aching from all the running. Her hands were heavy. Her knees almost let out when she tried to stand. She was positioned behind a trunk of a tree, a water bottle placed next to her. She leaned down to grab it and drank almost half the bottle, then looked for the source of light. It came from the man who saved her. She wasn’t sure if he did save her, but she knew she was still alive. He was waving around a flashlight in the distance, a walkie in his hand. She heard the voice coming from the other end. She heard the voice giving an order to all patrols out there, orders to find her. Do not kill when captured. Kill. The word sprang up a deep feeling of dread.
He walked over to where she stood. She backed away. “You’re with them.”
His lips parted and he took a cautious step closer. She was sceptical. And scared of him. Maybe she would have to use her powers again. “I’m not with them. Well, they don’t know that I’m not with them. But that’s an advantage for you.”
“Say I believe you, which I don’t, when they find out you’re missing, wouldn’t that put us both in danger? That wouldn’t make sense if you’re trying to help me as you said.”
She was still backing away, preparing herself for a second run if he attacked her. But he only stood there, a good distance away from her. He knew she didn’t trust him and he didn’t want her to run away.
“When they find out, we will both be safe.”
She didn’t believe him. How could she? But did she have any other option? “What’s your name?”
“Rob.” He replied almost instantly. “And you’re Millicent. Millicent Grey.”
She stared at him, blinking away the shock. “How did you know my name?”
“I heard it.” He lifted up his hand with the walkie. “They’re looking for you. They have orders not to kill you, but trust me when I say it would be better than getting captured. They’ll even try to convince you they’re helping you. That you’re helping the population.”
She trusted him a little bit. She knew what he said was true. “What happened earlier?”
“They were shooting at you. You passed out after I pulled you away from their sight.”
She studied him for a second. Then decided she had no choice but to go with him. The only other option was be on her own and that would likely end up in her being captured. So she followed when he started moving.
It took him ten minutes to ask her. “So, what’s your dark side? I know your thing, the gravity thing. I saw what you did with the boy. But you have a dark side, you must have.”
She stopped moving. The little bit of trust she had for him disappeared. He knew too much about her. About her kind. Her eyes narrowed when she looked at him. “Why do I have to?”
“You all have it. A darker power. One you can use against people.”
“Who is the ‘you’ you’re referring to?”
“You, magical people, Magicals, or whatever.”
She didn’t answer. He knew too much. He knew she wasn’t normal. And he knew what she did with gravity back in town. He knew she had a darker side to her powers. That they all did. She didn’t even know there were that many of them.
“Do you also heal people?”
She stopped again. “What?”
“Do you heal people?”
“Why would you ask about healing specifically?”
He faced her and sighed. “I know who you are, Millicent. I recognised your name when I heard it. I know about your grandmother.”
Her chest ached at the mention of her grandmother. The only person she knew that was like her. The person she loved the most after her parents. Her grandmother that had the power of healing.
“I saw her doing it. I was only seven and I was at the hospital. A man was brought in and the doctors said there was nothing they could do. But when no one was looking, she put her hand over his heart. And I was looking. I saw it happening, his heart started beating and he came back to consciousness. I’ve never been awed by anything else like I was by your grandmother healing that man.”
Tears had formed again in her eyes. She felt the lump in her throat. She managed to whisper. “That man was my father.”
The words brought a look of surprise on his face. “I didn’t know that. But I know she was a great woman. When they talked about her at our headquarters, they said she betrayed them, they say she refused to help them. But I only know she refused to let them run tests over her like she was a lab rat. I knew what she really was. A selfless woman who only cared about those around her.”
She didn’t have anything to add. He said it all, a selfless woman who only cared about those around her. She managed to have a bit of respect for him after what he just said about her grandmother. So when he moved again, she walked next to him. She thought about his question that still didn’t have an answer, and she decided that he deserved a small piece of information for the sake of her grandmother.
“I don’t know if I can heal anyone.” She began. “My grandmother told me she believes I can, but I tried once and I couldn’t do it.”
She looked at him after she finished talking. His eyes were already fixated over her, and they looked thoughtful. “If she believed you can then you eventually will be able to do it.”
Millie didn’t like this man, Rob, already. She was confused, should she trust him? Should she believe him? Or was he just too good at deceiving people? She didn’t know if she was supposed to say something, so she didn’t.
But he couldn’t stay quiet. “If you’re like your grandmother, I know your dark power. She could manipulate fear into people’s minds. She could even-”
“Drive someone crazy from fear.” Millie finished for him. She didn’t like that he knew too much about her.
“Have you used it before?”
With a roll of her eyes, she stopped walking and turned to face him. “Yes, once. In middle school, there was this kid who used to bully me. I got so mad one time and I played with his mind, it wasn’t a big deal, just a small fraction of fear that made him pee his pants and he never bothered me again. And no more questions.”
She faced away from him again and started walking, but not before catching the glint of amusement on his face. “Do you know where we’re going?”
“I thought there was no more questions.”
“Not for you.” She shrugged. And then too many questions filled her head, fear gripped her heart, all possible explanations making more sense in her mind. She stopped again. His hand was on her arm, urging her to keep moving. But she fixed her feet to the ground and refused to move. She started to panic. “Where are we going? And how do you know your way around the forest? No one enters the forest for what’s known to be lurking around. And why do you know so much? Why did you track me so easily but said you’ve escaped headquarters? Something isn’t right. You’re lying.”
This time she wasn’t backing away. She was right in his face, ready to retaliate if he thought of attacking her. She was powerful and she believed she could take him. But he wasn’t doing anything. He ran a hand through his unkempt hair. He regarded the area around them with his eyes. He shifted from one foot to the other. How could he explain everything to her to make her trust him and still make it in time before they were caught?
“There’s no time to explain everything to you, Millicent. I’ve been working in the military headquarters for a few years now. I’ve watched them bring in people like you claiming they would benefit from them in their wars. They ran all kinds of tests on them, drained their minds with too many activities, tracking their brain activity. Some of them went crazy, some couldn’t take all the tests and died, and sometimes they had a risky test done on an individual without caring about the outcome. I’ve tried to help them before. I tried to help anyone. But they have very tight security and I couldn’t do anything. I only ever saved one other kid. I’m trying to do something good here. I don’t want anyone to go through what… through this again.”
He caught her gaze and fixed it with his as he spoke. He just needed her to believe him. And he knew something that could make her trust him, but it’s something he hasn’t done in a very long time. She still stared at him, still tried to believe him. He broke their gaze, looked away into the distance. His eyes moved around, looking for something. Until he pulled on her arm and pointed at something. “Do you see that building over there?”
She had to concentrate to see a building that looked abandoned, it was visible in between the tree branches. She nodded.
“That’s where we’re going. That’s how I know my way around the forest.”
His eyes met hers again and he smiled. “A community.”
“Yes. A community with every person with magical abilities, anyone with superhuman abilities. Anyone who can do something is there. They call the place The Grove, I’ve been in contact with them for months now.”
Millie froze in her spot that she couldn’t even move her feet when Rob started walking again. A community of people like her? An entire community that weren’t normal. She could be normal there. She could be safe. A newfound sense of hope filled her and she decided to trust Rob.
“You can call me Millie, by the way.” She said when she was next to him. “I hate Millicent, anyway.”
He smiled and she knew she was right to believe him. There was no way that smile could be harmful. So they walked, and walked, the building closing up more and more. Getting bigger and bigger. Until it was only a cluster of trees intertwined together separating them from their safe haven. Once Rob pushed through the trees with Millie right behind him, it all became visible.
Millie heard herself gasp. The building itself might have looked abandoned, but the surroundings… it was breathtaking. A perfectly circular pond took up half the space in front of the building, the water was clear and shimmering. Large trees towered over a clearing that had all kinds of colourful flowers. Trees that she had never seen before. The soft sunlight of the rising sun broke through the branches of the trees casting all shades of orange and red and golden over the clearing, and reflected over the clear blue water. By the look on Rob’s face, she could tell he hadn’t been there before. Because he was staring with the same admiration that she felt.
“This place is…”
She couldn’t even find a word to describe it. He looked down at her and smiled. “Magical?”
Why do they pursue? Why did they come out?
I saved a child; the whole WORLD knows.
Could they be saving ... ME?
My parents disinherited,
my public's disenchanted.
My future's dim, I must admit.
Who knows how I've been slanted?
IF I join forces, it will not be fickle nor benign.
(We'd have the capability to elevate, to shine!)
A Necrodancer’s Neverending Nightmare
In my world, there are two types of Magick: Pretty and Untouchable.
We all love Pretty Magicians: the wand-wielders, elementals, all those flashy hat-and-rabbit folks.
Then there's my kind. We're the horror movie villains, the Satan-worshippers, the freak shows. If you're looking specifically at my mixed heritage, you might call me a Voodoo queen or plain witch.
My parents had known that I would be born with their same abilities, and tried their best to hide them. I avoided hanging around graveyards and abandoned buildings, ignored roadkill and weakening souls, and concealed the rusty nails and ragdolls. Whenever I did use my powers, I made sure I was alone or, if anything, around small children. Kids tend to tolerate us Uglies better than adults do.
That brings us to my personalized news headline, the thing that got me running from both the feds and feuding family: Teenage Girl, Class-A Necromancer, Saves Drowned Boy.
To be fair, I didn't save the kid. Oh no, he was long gone by the time I went rushing to the riverbank. His parents were attempting CPR on his little frame, but all they had succeeded in was breaking two of his ribs and making things worse. I don't usually trust anyone with keeping my secret, but that day, I was feeling heroic and made the mistake of showing them my power.
If you ask me, I'm more of a Necrodancer than a mancer. It caused quite the scene when I, some punk high schooler, did a little jig around a dead boy's body, pouring salt and gold dust along the way into the shallow stream. I had taken my shoes off to sense the pulse of the earth beneath me, but probably should have taken the freezing water into account. After forming a vaguely-shaped circle around him, I stuck a razor in one palm and clapped my hands together, letting a little of my blood drop onto his paled forehead. I'm not religious, but from the view of the crowd, it must have looked like I was praying.
At this point, someone had taken out their phone and a bystander who I had thought to be an ordinary police officer was approaching. Luckily, the kid was already beginning to move. I opened my eyes to find his also fluttering, and soon enough, he was crouched over, coughing up water.
I had stepped back to let his mom and dad take over when I bumped into someone. That someone had a pair of handcuffs on my wrists in no time, and sure enough, it was the special government agent I had mistaken for a cop.
Let's skip over the ride in the backseat and awkward conversation with my parents, to my meeting at the Pentagon. The nameless generals I had to talk to described "Project Second Chance", an initiative involving me and other scouted Necros reviving fallen soldiers on the battlefield to make drafting new people become obsalete. Each word that came from their dry mouths was a poke at my Magically-exhausted brain, and it became very clear that this plan would just make me another expendable, sold soul for them to exploit.
I kept my right to remain silent until the very end. I didn't want them to pry me for details regarding my Magick, and I really didn't want them prying for information about my family. I stayed quiet as they assumed that I would love dancing around shot-up, mangled corpses. That it would also be nice for me to "reconnect" with a culture they despised. That I wouldn't question the ethics or safety of any of this.
"If you agree to be recruited, the handcuffs can come off." Yet another old white dude talking to me. "We would greatly appreciate your abilities on our team."
"No." One word and an awkward silence. I narrowed my eyes at his graying hair.
"Take her away-"
"No!" The same word, louder.
And with the fall of my chair and the pull of a door, I was out of there.
Wondering what happened to the handcuffs? I rarely rely on them, but that day I had seeked help from a spirit; specifically, a random Russian spy who had been killed in that same interrogation room.
I knew that my parents knew what was going on through even Facebook's news sources, so I didn't go home. I didn't even text anyone from school, not wanting to deal with their impressions of my Magick from, say, The Skeleton Key or The Serpent and the Rainbow. I already don't have many acquaintances here, having just moved to DC from what was current destination, Austin. There, my childhood best friend Jackie was waiting, and I knew she would be the only one to understand everything.
Why? Because when my powers were outed back there and we were forced to move out to escape the ignorant, Pretty Wizard locals, she was the only one who didn't insult or threaten me at school.
Longer story short: What began as a simple runaway became a national manhunt, and after hitchhiking with some Warlocks (another type of Untouchable), I was found on the Louisiana border.
But not by the feds or local sheriffs.
They call themselves Les Filles de (Marie) Laveau, and I knew they were legit Voodoo practitioners because their leader is my older cousin, Zelie Alarie.
"Brigitte, is that you? It is! Yes, we've heard what happened, and are glad you've come back here to continue the family business!"
The 'family business' referred to Les Filles's hold on the city of New Orleans, their questionable methods of giving special offerings to the spirits that controlled the land.
Of course, I didn't want to join them either. I didn't want to raise an army of the undead, but I also didn't want to gurantee eternal suffering to oblivious tourists. Zelie and my Southern side of the family are the ones I avoid at family reunions because of how they claim that the other side has "tainted" my Necromancer blood, and this case was no different.
They're all powerful Magicians, but they weren't able to make a doll or drag me into a salt circle, because I could run faster than them. I was across the street before they could unroll the thick sleeves of their black cloaks and grab my hair or take out gold vials.
What? Dancing means stamina and flexibility, and my traumatic years of ballet and PE have prepared me for these kinds of situations.
"Wait, Brig! Please!" Zelie nearly tripped on her cloak a few times as she chased after me. "It's not safe for you out there!"
I should have just stayed with the demon sugar babies, I thought back to the college-aged Warlock couple, Will and Wyatt. They were really nice and willing to keep quiet about me but, as usual, I made a point that I didn't want to bother them for long.
"It's not safe here eith-" I started to yell back, but suddenly, something was constricting my throat.
Since my eyes need to adjust to see them, I had completely forgotten about the fifty ghosts all around us near the square. It felt like forever before I could breathe in the night air again, when my cousin caught up and gestured for the tormented soul to stop.
"That's enough, Jimmy."
The translucent spirit, a man with sad eyes and a glowing gash down his neck, stepped back.
I only heard Zelie's heels click in a crescendo on the cracked pavement, my back turned on her. "Look at me, Brigitte," she said.
Growing up around other Magicians has made me aware of their tricks. This one, which required eye contact between the Mage and victim, I dubbed "Medusa". For Necromancers, it could mean the stop of a hearbeat or possession from a nearby spirit.
I heard her sigh and the other Filles mumble to themselves. Then, a thin hand reaching out to move my hair behind my ear. Trick #2, Sample Collection. Hair can be used for Voodoo, Alchemy, and a number of other DNA-based Magicks. With the swipe of my head, I ducked out from under her arm and kept my eyes on her sleeves.
"I know you do not trust us," Zelie's voice became calm, almost hypnotic. I made sure to watch out for Trick #3, Mind Control. "but you have to recognize that we are the lesser of the two evils here. Do you think the leaders of this country care about us, want anything to do with our 'taboo' Magick? We are connected by our blood, while they only lust for it. You have no one else to go to, so now is the time to come back to your roots."
I dared to glance up again, instead meeting the eyes of the other Filles. Most looked like us: coily black hair, dark skin, brown eyes that could turn from warm and welcoming to cold obsidian in seconds. And whether we liked it or not, we could all squint and see our own kaleidoscope souls and monochrome ghosts filling the air around us.
"Fine." I finally nodded to her. "I'll spend the night, but you can't make me stay her forever. This is where I'm from, but it isn't where I belong."
But where do I really belong? Back home in DC with mom and dad, or back in Austin with Jackie and her own family? Maybe things won't be that bad here...
I'm still figuring out how to deal with my identity and how my powers are now known to both of my worlds, but at the moment, I have something I'm sure of:
My cousin/cult leader just winked at the lights illuminating the street, and they all winked back at her.
"What?" She saw my widened eyes. "This city comes alive at night. Come on, let's go before it gets hungry again."
Oh yeah, I almost forgot that they enchanted all of New Orleans and gave it a taste for human flesh. I guess it could be worse though. Right?