Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fae In The City, Ch. 9

Diana wondered how she had ever gotten through life without magic. She passed the binoculars to Erin as they watched through the window across the quad from Chelsea's room; which was currently filled with approximately one hundred and fifty frogs. A frog was trying to climb the inside of Chelsea's window, which was unobstructed by the curtains they'd hid under her bed so they could watch the mayhem.

The giant 3-story U-shaped dorm complex around the quad was eerily quiet, as if even the birds waited with bated breath for what was about to happen. Diana and Erin's spot in an unoccupied room on the second floor of the east wing lined up perfectly with Chelsea's room on the west wing. Diana twisted a strand of her dark hair, the strange calm making her nervous.

Erin smiled behind the binoculars. “I can't believe they just had a box of frogs in the biology lab! You must be the luckiest person on the planet.”

You just don't have faith in Fairy Godmother magic.”

Erin laughed, but stopped abruptly. “Chelsea's opening the door!”

Diana squinted without the benefit of the binoculars. “She's trying the light switch?”

Yep. Good thinking, taking out the bulb on the overhead. She's walking in... going for the bedside lamp...”

Diana closed her eyes and thought about the door to Chelsea's room, and focused her magic. Close. See it closed, and stuck shut... She opened her eyes to see the door close just as the light on the nightstand came on.

Chelsea's scream echoed through her closed window.

Diana focused her thoughts on the frogs, and imagined them all attacking. Then she patted Erin on the shoulder. “Our work here is done.”

Erin's eyes didn't leave the binoculars. “I want to savor this moment. I want to watch her fall. Maybe she'll have a heart attack and die?”

As Diana imagined it, the screaming stopped; and Diana's mind screamed No! I didn't mean it!

Before Diana knew what she was doing, she was up and running through the halls towards Chelsea's room. As she ran, she imagined the frogs gone and the door unstuck. She imagined Chelsea's heart beating normally. She imagined everything being alright.

Please let it be alright.

She nearly slipped going around the first corner, where the dorm buildings intersected at the southeast. The freshly waxed tile squeaked under her Mary Janes. She could hear running and loud chatter. Her heart pounded in her chest as she ran towards the west wing. She slowed as she came to the southwest corner. She tried to catch her breath. Chelsea's dorm room was only a few doors from the corner. She rounded the corner and paused.

Chattering girls filled the hall, crowding around Chelsea's door. Diana pushed her way through, reaching the door to look in. Chelsea was on the floor of her room, lying flat on her back. One of the faculty was doing CPR while another was on the phone.

The frogs were gone.

Diana swallowed back the bile that rose in her throat.

Heather pushed her way to the door and stood beside Diana, surveying the scene. The witch grabbed Diana's arm, pulling her back away from the others. She dragged Diana several doors away so they wouldn't be overheard. She stared into Diana's face. Her whisper was urgent. “What did you do?”

They paused as the elevator door beside them opened, and a pair of paramedics pushed a gurney past them.

Diana moved them to the far end of the hall, next to a stairwell. She whispered, “Erin and I were having a little revenge at Chelsea's expense. We filled her room with frogs to scare her because of her stupid phobia. But then Erin said something about hoping Chelsea had a heart attack.”

You gave her a heart attack?” Heather hissed.

Diana's face twisted in anguish. “I don't know! I tried to make everything right, but they're still doing CPR-”

And the frogs?”

Conjured for Erin's benefit.”

Oh Diana.”

Well, what do you want, Heather? Fae are supposed to be wicked. Maybe that's who I am now.”

Is that who you think you are?”

Diana gritted her teeth. “That's just it, Heather. I don't know who I am anymore.”

Heather stared into Diana's eyes, then poked her in the sternum. “That's not true. You spent your whole life being you. You just didn't know what you're capable of. Pull yourself together.”

They looked back at the crowd of girls, dispersing under the faculty's watchful direction. The paramedics loaded Chelsea onto the gurney and rolled her down the hall, an oxygen mask over her mouth. They weren't doing chest compressions.

Diana hoped that Chelsea was still alive. Believe she'll survive. Believe!

They watched the elevator doors shut.

Diana swallowed. “I still don't know what I'm capable of.”

For the next few days, Diana avoided Erin, and tried to think happy thoughts about Chelsea. Even if Chelsea was heartless and cruel to Erin, or for that matter most of the less popular girls, Chelsea didn't deserve to die.

The gossip around school was that Chelsea had undergone emergency surgery, and she was in ICU. Nobody could reach her by phone or text or anything.

Diana wanted to pretend the incident with the frogs hadn't happened, but she was afraid of what pretending might do. Could her denial be strong enough to change reality? Then what? She lost her appetite, and stopped eating, fear coiling her stomach in knots.

She didn't want to think about anything, for fear it would materialize. She had flashbacks to the scene with Chelsea on the floor, and prayed they wouldn't come true just from remembering them. Just have to make it to Thursday night, she thought. Heather's aunt and grandmother had wanted to meet then. Maybe an older witch could help.

Diana felt so alone.

She walked the halls in a daze, barely aware of her three old friends and their repeated attempts to engage her in their banter or gossip.

Brit of the Unruly Red Hair, Carmen the Sultry Spanish Seductress, and Tanya the Token Blond gave it their all. They even threatened to eject her from the Fierce Four and find someone else.

They wouldn't understand. They couldn't. They weren't Fae.

By the time Thursday came around, Diana felt like fate's rag doll, run through the laundry a hundred times. As she and Heather boarded the bus into town, she stared at Heather with bloodshot eyes. Heather didn't seem to notice the dark rings under them from lack of sleep, or she was just being nice by not pointing them out.

Did you remember the item from your parents?” Heather asked.

Diana cursed under her breath as the bus jostled them in their seats. She knew she'd forgotten something. The tartan she'd been wrapped in as a baby was hanging in her closet. Frustration boiled in her, and she clenched her fists.

She focused her mind on the tartan, and felt the soft material in her hands. She held it up with a weak smile. “Got it right here!”

Diana stepped from the bus and closed her eyes as it roared away, glad to be free from the steel cage on wheels.

You coming?” Heather asked.

Diana opened her eyes again and nodded. “Seems like I'm getting more sensitive to iron every day.”

They walked by tiny manicured lawns and topiary decorations, which dotted the fronts of the tightly-packed townhouses on the street. Diana lost herself in the pleasant feelings that their old Victorian styling evoked. Lace curtains in one reminded her of an old dollhouse she'd had growing up.

Heather turned toward one and stopped at the door. She knocked a strange pattern of knocks, and an answering knock came from the door. She paused a moment, and turned the knob.

The door swung open, but in its place stood a shimmering phantom door. Heather walked through it, calling “Aunt Jean! Grams! We're here!”

Diana walked up to the phantom door and stared. Was this magic? She reached out with a finger, testing. She poked it, but felt nothing. She tried again, holding her finger against it for a second. Was that a tingle?

She pressed her finger through the phantom door, and watched in amazement as her fingernail grew into a claw. That claw. She pulled it back and stared at it. It was back to a normal-looking nail.

What are you doing?”

It took Diana a second to realize that Heather had spoken. She looked up and fought back the fear that Heather might have seen the claw. She searched the young witch's face, but saw only bewilderment.

Heather waved her forward. “Come on in.”

Um...” Diana gestured like a mime at the phantom door. “What's this shimmering phantom door?”

Heather gave her a confused look before her eyes widened. “You see the ward?”

Diana shrugged. “Does it look like a phantom door?”

Heather laughed. “Witches can't see magic; we just feel it.”

A middle-aged woman with blond hair walked up behind Heather, bearing a distinct family resemblance. She wiped her hands on a dish towel and smiled at Diana. “Hello Diana! I'm Heather's aunt Jean. You're welcome to come in. We won't bite.”

Diana stared at the woman through the shimmering magic.

Heather shook her head and turned to her aunt. “Aunt Jean, she can see the ward. It looks like a phantom door.”

Aunt Jean smiled at Diana. “Well, if we hadn't known you were Fae before, that certainly would have confirmed it.”

Diana frowned. “Can you get rid of the ward?”

We could, but rebuilding it would take several hours. Is there a door knob?”

Diana looked and nodded.

Aunt Jean waved Diana on. “Try it.”

Diana reached out, touching the phantom knob. She kept a light touch, but her claws extended nonetheless. She turned her hand and felt a vibration before the phantom door swung open. She stared at it a minute, then looked at her hand. Back to normal.

That's the weirdest thing I've ever seen,” Diana said, stepping over the threshold.

Fascinating,” Aunt Jean said. “You found a doorway where we had not intended one. I would appreciate if you could shut the ward behind you.”

Diana did as the woman had asked, feeling a deepening sense of claustrophobia as the door and the ward closed.

(Continue to Chapter 10)