Ariel had a normal life. And really that was the problem. It was just an average, normal, everyday life. Day in and day out, she woke up, went to school, went to work, and then home where her mother and father would ask about her day and she would lie and say it was fine. It wasn’t though. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. It was plain, uninteresting. There was just something missing. Everything just felt, for lack of a better term, blah. There was no grand adventure, no doctor to whisk her away in his brilliant blue box. There were no new worlds tucked away in closets or hidden platforms at train stations. It was just life. Day in, day out life.
Even so, she enjoyed it as much as any teenage girl could. After all, bored or not, she still wanted to enjoy life as much as she could. The monotony was alleviated by those within her life. She had friends, crushes, and even the occasional enemy. The most prominent of the latter was a brutish thug by the name of Emily Arola, but was more commonly known as Scratch; due to the fact that she had a nasty habit of using a single-hole punch to cut the ends of her nails so that they became forked claws. It wasn’t uncommon for students, mostly girls, to be sent to the nurse with some pretty bad cuts. Sometimes even needing stitches.
Most days, any ending with ‘y,’ Ariel did her best to stay out of Scratch’s line of sight. There was an animosity between them that seemed to have sprouted from nowhere. The only thing she cold piece together was that Ariel was of a slighter frame than the broad shouldered girl and that she was ginger with prominent freckles; attributes that she did not receive from blonde mother and dark haired father. Ariel was perhaps more prim and proper than Scratch, prettier by more common concepts of beauty. In truth there could be a number of reasons that Scratch despised her but none of them were good. All she knew was that there was an impending fight on the horizon whether she liked it or not.
The only positive side of this was that if a fight did happen, Ariel would have back up, though some of the fighters would not be considered first drafts. First, there was Carter. He was feisty, overwhelmingly gay and proud; willing to step up to the mat to protect her with every ounce of scrappy energy he had. However, he was rail thin and mildly asthmatic. In truth Carter was perhaps less intimidating that she. This was a problem as his sassiness often slipped from his mouth as freely as a breath. He was a sweet guy but… that mouth touched more fists than lips.
The next in her line of defenders was Carol, her best friend since grade school. She was a good student, popular and in the same precarious position as her. Unlike Ariel, however, she was actually a fighter; in the literal sense. Carol had been training in marital arts since she was ten and was slipping in to mixed martial arts slowly, but efficiently. Even with this training however, there was no guarantee that landing a good hit would keep Scratch down or prevent her from clawing her eyes out. Scratch was solidly built and has proven in the past that a good hit won’t keep her down. Instead it often sent her into a rage.
The third and final member of her group was a fairly heavyset football player named Eddie, which was short for Eduardo. He was a large man, perfect for blocking, but even she wasn’t sure that he would be a match for Scratch. The way she fought, it was, as Carol would say, dishonorable. Ariel once saw Scratch latch onto some poor guy’s testicles with such force that she detached them and he had to have surgery to fix it. Since it was off school grounds the principal couldn’t do anything, and no one dared rat her out. After all snitches got stitches; in a very literal sense. Ariel never did learn what the kid told his folks but she did know that he transferred schools shortly after.
No one was a match for Scratch. At least, that was what Ariel thought. Life had a funny habit of shifting one’s perspective in such a quick and impossible way. Ariel’s boring and milk toast life was thrown into utter madness from the very moment she laid eyes on him; the man that would forever alter her reality.
Ariel was working at the coffee shop one lazy Saturday morning. She only worked part time to supplement the small allowance that her parents provided. It was a decent job, some days were better than others, and it was fairly easy work. She didn’t mind it, for the most part, and she enjoyed those she worked with. It was a normal Saturday, the day starting slow as there weren’t as many customers that morning as there normally were. This wasn’t too much of a surprise as there had been a massive rush shortly before she got because of a marathon happening not too far from them. And of course everyone competing needed their caffeine. After that initial sprint, the volume dropped and things got dull very quickly. It was because of this lull that she noticed him in the first place.
The only patrons there were a few regulars who tapped away on their keyboards or read their tablets, as well as Carter and Eddie who were chatting away about the latest internet video from some site called Rooster Bite or Chicken Teeth, something along those lines. She tuned out fairly quickly after they started talking about it. She didn’t really spend much time on the internet, save for Pinterest, Twitter and the like.
At the time, Ariel was wiping down one of the outside tables, allowing her mind to wander from their conversation. The weather was warm, leaning towards hot but it was fairly pleasant with the light breeze that slipped through the dining area. The spring was shifting to summer; the sun’s heat slowly being dialed up towards the upper double digits. Within a month or two, summer would be upon them and vacation would be here. Nearby she heard the light bleating of car horns and the low thudding of distant bass. People travelled back and forth, walking their dogs, pushing strollers as they talked on cell phones, or they dashed by at a light jog or fast sprint. All in all, it was a pretty nice day.
She was just tossing some empty cups into the trash. She was humming some nameless tune when she saw someone walking down the sidewalk nearby. If it were busier, she never would have seen or heard him, but by some fortuitous circumstance she both saw and heard this man. At first she considered him a man but only in the general sense as he was visually male. However as she looked at him longer she realized that he was younger than she first thought. Despite the thick five o’clock shadow on his face, he appeared to be around her age.
It was as she stared at him, Ariel immediately found herself deeply attracted to him. It wasn’t just that she found him very handsome, there was something else that drew her gaze. There was this air, this nature about him that just pulled her towards him; and it wasn’t just her. From the corner of her eye she could see several other employees stop what they were doing and watch as he passed. Even one woman, who was a very open about being a lesbian, just stared down this man with this look of utter desire. She glanced over at Carter who had stopped mid-conversation, mouth agape. Even Eddie, who she knew was straight, stared at the man.
Unlike her coworkers and friends, Ariel was closer to him and had the opportunity to hear this man who appeared to be talking to someone. There was no phone in hand so she assumed he was speaking through a Bluetooth earpiece that had to be on the other side of his head because she couldn’t see one from her currant angle.
“It’s not working… I know that… This was your idea. I didn’t even… yeah, not my fault. There was an unexpected gap… How am I supposed to know? Gaps happen. Their part of… I know… Alright, I’ll keep going but if I don’t find it, I’m going to have to try something else.”
As he spoke, his words slipped into her mind and sent a shiver through her body. The word ‘horny’ flicked through her thoughts and she knew that it was utterly inappropriate especially since she was at work but that’s what it was; in a most visceral way. It actually took her a great deal of self-control to keep from running over to him, ripping off his clothes and ravishing him; which in that moment she realized he was dressed a bit oddly. The day was warm, not hot if you’re dressed right, but this man was wearing loose fitting jeans, a red trench coat and grey t-shirt. It wasn’t hot but dressed like that, he had to be very uncomfortable. And yet he appeared as comfortable as ever, if not slightly annoyed, but she was certain it wasn’t from the weather.
Ariel found that the longer she watched this man, the more she wanted him, needed him in fact and by what she was seeing around her, everyone else thought the same way. And that was what appeared to mute that overwhelming desire. There were at least two dozen people watching him and she saw that everyone was lusting over this man. But how was that possible? She’s heard of ‘wow factor’ but this was inhuman; something supernatural.
She watched the man as he rounded the corner and the moment her line of sight was broken, that desire was gone. Like a light switch getting flipped, it was there and then gone. Ariel turned back to the window of the coffee shop and saw that same dazed expression on her fellow workers. The shook off whatever daze had struck them and then just returned back to work. Ariel turned to Eddie and Carter who were already continuing the conversation and Eddie’s laptop where another video was already playing. In less than five minutes, the world returned to its normal state. It was as if the man had never existed.
The rest of the day went by as normal, and that was the problem. No one speaking of what happened or even acknowledging it. No matter how many time she asked her coworkers they acted as though they had no idea of what she was talking about. Even Carter and Eddie weren’t acknowledging this man and the sudden attraction to him. When asked, Carter simply shrugged and said he didn’t know what she talked about but certainly was disappointed he missed out. Eddie just said no and apologized for not paying attention. He must have been too engrossed with the video. In the end she decided that either everyone was actively ignoring what happened or just didn’t want to talk about it; she wasn’t sure. Regardless, after ten minutes of failed attempts, she simply gave up and went about her day.
Ariel assumed this would be the last she saw of the man. After all she saw many people day after day. It was part of life. There were the regulars in her coffee shop but beyond that small group, she barely remembered faces, let alone names. People coming in and out of her life was the norm of both work and school. With a large 500-person student body, she knew maybe five percent; and that was a generous estimation. So if she never saw this man, she would have just accepted it and moved on.
But again, life had a way of shifting one’s perspective in a very, very big way.
The women’s bathroom was really the only place one didn’t get pestered. Sure she had heard, and once even seen, her fellow male classmates sneak in for one reason or another but for the most part it was somewhere she could go to relieve herself and simply to shut out the world. This was one of those instances. She had a major test coming up and had some last minute studying she wanted to do. She figured the bathroom was the last place she would ever get interrupted, save for the general sounds that came with it.
Ariel had just closed the stall door, when she heard the main one open. Now she wouldn’t have thought anything of it but as the door closed, she heard a voice that was not only familiar, but not female either. She paused from removing her notebook and peered through the persistent gap in the door and frame that all American bathrooms possessed from some reason.
“No idea.” A voice said, causing Ariel take pause. “Nope. Not doing it… No… you know what happened the other day. I was almost molested by like two dozen separate people not to mention all of the attention that was on me. There has to be another way… can you find something else please?”
The person crossed in front of her stall and immediately she recognized the man she saw the other day. He was still wearing his red trench coat but instead of his jeans, he was wearing shorts with tennis shoes as well as what appeared to be an A-shirt or what was more commonly referred to as a wife beater. He paused in front of the sink and turned to the mirror. From her angle she could see his face clearly now and while he was quite attractive that same overwhelming desire was absent. Yes, she found him handsome, but the need to ravage was missing from the equation.
“Alright, I’ll see what Mazar has to say about all of this.” Ariel heard the man say to his reflection. That was when she noticed something odd. There was no Bluetooth headset in his ear. She saw both left and right sides of his head and there was no ear bud, headphone, ear piece, nothing that would allow him to use his phone. It wasn’t on speaker because she couldn’t hear what the other side was saying. Then, as she watched this man stare at his reflection something strange occurred, perhaps the oddest thing she had ever seen in her life thus far.
The man raised his hand to the mirror and began tracing a design in the air and as he did this, a blue light left a lingering trail behind his fingers. It was as if he was drawing on the mirror but there was no pen, none that she could see anyway, and the ink was under its own power. She had seen glow sticks and invisible ink that glowed in blacklight but there were no blacklights and it was far too bright for glow sticks to work.
He traced the design, several triangles overlaying each other in a small circle. Then as he was presumably finished, the mirror began to ripple like pond water that had been disturbed by a small stone. As the ripples spread across the glass an image appeared in the center, first blurry but then clearer as the ripples started to settle. As the glass finally went still, Ariel was astounded by the fact that she was seeing the face of another man. This one looked older, his hair a stark white and slicked back like some seventies Bond villain.
“Axel, did you find the Clotry yet?” The man said.
“Not yet, Maze.” The man called Axel said. “Shora is checking with our father to see if he knows of any other way to catch the stupid thing because as much fun as bait is… it’s not.”
“I understand,” the man in the mirror, Maze, said. He started to laugh but his expression quickly soured. “How is Tor holding up?”
“It’s… it’s not good.” Axel said. Ariel noted a hint of sadness in his tone and though she could no longer see his reflection, she felt that he was upset. “Shora says he probably doesn’t have long and without the Clotry’s venom we’ll lose him within the next few days.”
“How much time would the Clorty’s venom provide?” Maze asked.
“Maybe a couple of months but it would be enough time to complete the ceremony. And get his affairs in order. We all knew this day was coming, it wasn’t a huge secret but… it’s still hard. You know?” Axel said.
“I know,” Mazer replied. That sharpness appeared to harden as his features turned sullen. “Your father was… is a good a man. He has done much good in his long life.”
“Thank you.” Axel said, “Honestly, without him I don’t know…” The sentence was cut short as Ariel’s notebook slipped from her hand and landed on the floor of the bathroom with a flutter. Axel spun around motioning his hand and the mirror returning to its original state. Once more he traced a few lines in the air, far more quickly this time; the color a bright yellow and far less intricate than before. With a few quick movements, he paused, clenched his hand around the design and cast it to the right as if discarding a piece of trash. At the same time the door of the stall compressed around the edges like some giant hand clutching it. Then as he moved his hand, it was ripped free from the hinges clattering against the floor near the windows.
Ariel gasped. As she stared at him, her heart a jackhammer in her chest. She gazed at Axel who didn’t appear angry but not pleased either. His expression was stern, his jaw set. As she studied this man, she saw a pendant around his neck with an inlay of some blue stone. With as much force as she could muster she managed, “Um… you do know you’re in the girl’s room don’t you?” Axel brought his hand up once more but paused as his expression tightened and then relaxed. He looked around, scanning the room left to right.
“Huh…” he uttered. “I guess I didn’t notice. Oh well.” He shrugged dismissively and began motioned in the air once more, tracing lines in front of him. This time they were purple and as he completed his gestures he thrust his hand into the center of the symbol. There was a sudden flash and rush of air slammed against her tossing her hair back, her blouse rippling slightly but that was it. Ariel looked at her hands, her arms, patting her chest and legs but felt no different.
“What did you?” She asked but this time it was Axel who appeared confused. He gestured again, tracing the same symbol and slammed it once more with the same result. Ariel inspected herself again, but there was no obvious difference. She assumed that he was trying to do something to her but she just couldn’t figure out what. “Why do you keep doing that?” She asked.
“Well that’s weird…” Axel muttered. He traced another symbol, smaller this time, only using his finger and when it was done, he flicked it. There was small puff of air, like a glaucoma test at the optometrist barely moving a stray hair.
“Can… can you please stop that?” Ariel asked.
“Why can’t I wipe your mind?” He wondered, the question more to himself than her. He reached into his pocket and removed a small metal ring with what appeared to be glass in the center. It was a monocle; downright Mr. Peanut-esque. He raised it to his face, his eye growing slightly larger as he stared at her, studying her. At the same time Ariel rose to her feet, picking up the notebook and backpack, and took a step further back into the stall to put some distance. He was yet to hurt her but he did manage rip the door off its hinges without touching it so she wasn’t safe by any stretch of the imagination.
“Can… can you please stop that?” She asked him.
“Well that makes no sense.” He said, completely ignoring her. “There’s no charm or spell protecting you. No seal or ward. Curious.” The sternness in his voice had completely subsided as he lowered the monocle. “What makes you so different?”
“I’m a red head?” She asked, “It’s not the most common trait nowadays.” Before she could try and slide out of the stall, Axel suddenly approached her, stepping inside the stall with her. Ariel gasped falling back slightly, slamming her back against the wall. She had a sudden though, laughter creeping up her throat at how two people could fit in a single stall with any sort of comfort. She had seen, heard, two people in a single bathroom stall fooling around during school and wondered how they could get anything done with such little space. She had to fight back her laughter, biting her lip to help her focus.
This notion slipped away as he quickly leaned in and for a moment she considered screaming for help, worried this stranger would attack her. He didn’t though. Instead he paused, mere inches from her. His eyes met with hers as he cocked his head curiously. She could only imagine what sort of things this man could do to her, how he could hurt her if he so desired. A horrifying thought of rape crossed her mind as her heart continued its rapid thudding as a light sweat broke out across her forehead. Then something peculiar happened. Rather than attack her, he leaned in only an inch more and sniffed.
“You’re…. not normal.” He said leaning back and stepping out of the stall, giving her room to move.
“You’re one to talk.” Ariel spat back but the veracity of her words lacked any strength.
“The Memory Charm didn’t work so you have telepathic resistance.” He said, again more to himself than her. He stepped further in to the bathroom allowing him room to pace about like a tiger in a cage. “However you don’t smell of Sulphur, perfume, dirt, must, or feces.”
“Ew gross.” She exclaimed but he ignored her.
“That means you’re most likely human, but no full blooded human has that sort of resistance, not from a Chinari Memory Charm. No, you… you are different. You don’t have the Outlands look, the red hair is a dead giveaway. That’s a human trait… no… no… no you’re from the Midrealm I have no doubt about that but why are you resistant? Cross breeding.” Axel said with a snap. He paused and suddenly rushed towards her again. Ariel yelped in surprise but once again paused mere inches as he took in a deep lungful of air. “Midrealm and the Outlands. I would put money on that. Yes. YES! You are a Cortan aren’t you?” Axel exclaimed. “Admit it!”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Ariel said slipping through a small gap between her and the stall as she started a slow retreat toward door. In the distance she heard the bell ring as homeroom was starting and if she wasn’t in her seat she would be considered late. Of course that paled in comparison to being in the bathroom with a mad man screaming nonsense at her.
“It’s okay, I’m not a Purifier. I don’t care. Hell, Midrealm girls. They’re pretty great. You know. Not that I’m like that. But I do know how to enjoy myself and you girls are great. I mean: You. Are. Great.” He said with a boyish laugh.
“That’s nice,” She told him with a nervous laugh. “But I have to get to class now. And...” Her words ceased as there was a sudden bang as the main door quickly swung in with a powerful slam against the wall. She gasped, clutching her bag tight as once more that sense of fear returned. Sanding in the bathroom, the door slowly closing behind her was Scratch. A moment passed between them as the gears, sluggish to turn, finally clicked into place and Scratch smiled.
“Well look at this.” She crowed with delight. She popped her knuckles as she took a step closer towards Ariel who quickly retreated back into the bathroom.
“Scr… um… Emily… hi.” Ariel said struggling to keep her fear at bay but the tremble of her voice was a dead giveaway.
“You and your boyfriend sneak in for a quickie?” She asked, taking another step towards her. It took Ariel a moment to realize that she was talking about Axel.
“Point of order,” He said from behind. Her stomach dropped as she realized this man had no idea what he was getting himself into. She was known to threaten student and teacher alike. How she had not been expelled was a mystery to everyone. And now this man was speaking, dismissing her. “Not a thing.” Axel gestured between them. “Not to say that we couldn’t be but that would be very presumptuous as we just met and speaking of things, what are you? A Giantess youngling or something?” Ariel’s stomach dropped as she snapped her head towards him; eyes wide.
“Stop talking!” Ariel hiss, glaring at him. He had the monocle up once more surveying Scratch with interest. She, on the other hand, was eyeing him, as a vein bulged from her forehead.
“What?” he asked, “I’ve made this mistake before. Giants do not like being mislabeled.”
“She’s not a giant!” Ariel cried.
“Are you sure?” Axel asked eyeing Scratch over, still peering through the monocle. “She looks very giantess-esque to me. She could be a Cortan, you don’t know.”
“Yes I do.” Ariel replied sharply. She hadn’t the slightest clue what a Cortan was, but Scratch was not one. That she was certain. “She may be a gigantic raging bitch but she is…”
Ariel caught herself and there was a dawning realization that she completely forgot that Scratch was still in the room with them. She slowly turned back to see Scratch’s eyes wide, face red as a grimace was etched deeply within frown lines. Her breath heaved in her chest like a bull ready to charge. If not for this man, Ariel wouldn’t have let such an insult slip. That was something that was reserved to text messages between her and her friends. At least it was.
“Oh you two are dead!” Scratch roared. Never before had Ariel been so afraid. She backed up further, trying to put more distance between them but Scratch closed the distance quickly. Her heart thudded, deafeningly in her chest, the lubb dubb masking the furious words of her attacker. Scratch clenched her fist so tightly that the sharp, forked nails cut into the calloused skin of her palm. Ariel’s breath came out in a guttering wheeze as a cold sweat broke over her body.
It was as she watched this growing expression of rage that Ariel realized she was humming a Lady Gaga tune she couldn’t sing but remembered how the tune went. It was a nervous habit of hers, the need to fill silence with some sort of music. Often she was teased by her friends telling her to stop but they often enjoyed it, finding it oddly comforting. Most of the time she hummed, it was from nervousness, such as being in a room with a raging psycho who was about to unleash hell.
Before Scratch could lash out though, there was a sudden gust of wind that blasted Ariel from behind. Her fiery locks were thrown over her shoulders causing her to freeze her retreat but at the same time Scratch stopped moving entirely. The moment the wind struck her, she stiffened and her eyes went unfocused. The rage that was boiled at the surface quickly faded as the flush drained away and her fingers slowly uncurled.
“That’s how we do!” Axel cried from behind her. Ariel shrieked, spinning around to see him doing what she could only define as a small happy dance.
“What… what did you do?” Ariel gasped. She turned back to Scratch who remained rooted to the floor, her eyes staring at nothing. Carefully she leaned in close, but the girl didn’t respond. There wasn’t any clear indication that she could even see Ariel. Scratch simply existed.
“The Memory Charm always works like…” He crowed and looked to Ariel with a wide Cheshire smile. “Works like…” He repeated but Ariel said nothing, terrified by a man who she witnessed talk to a mirror, ripp off the door of the stall and hypnotize a rampaging bull. This man was insane and dangerous. “Works liiiiiike…” He said once more, clearly wanting her to finish but she was done with all of this. She wanted out of that room and away from this madman.
Before he could speak another word, Ariel bolted for the door, just missing a collision with Scratch who still continued to stare into nothingness. She yanked the door open, and bolted down the hallway passing several students who were on their way to class, notes in hand. They cast curious glances as she passed but she paid them no mind. Her thoughts were solely on getting away from the man that attacked her and Scratch. She didn’t care who she spoke to, who helped her as long as they were an adult. Making a sharp right Ariel ran to the first classroom she came upon. The students were in their seats the teacher, Mr. Schaeffer, taking role, as she burst in, gasping and out of breath.
“There’s a man in the bathroom, he’s… he’s… crazy! He ripped the door off the stall and kept sniffing me…” She screamed as her words ran together into a near incoherent stream of sounds. Eyes frantic, voice erratic, everyone stared at her in disbelief. Right away students were taking up their phones to capture the scene but Ariel didn’t care. She was away from the man.
“Easy!” Mr. Schaeffer cried, jumping to his feet, “Take it easy. Take a deep breath.” Ariel complied, taking in a lungful of air. The rapid beating of her heart was that much more apparent as she held her breath. The thudding drowned out much of the noise around, the gossip that would no doubt spread as the day went on. There was a growing pressure in her head as the seconds ticked past and it wasn’t until Mr. Schaeffer reminded her to exhale that she did. “Now, please tell me what happened?” He said as he motioned for her to take a seat in his chair.
“There’s a man in the bathroom. He…” Ariel started as she collapsed into his chair bu as she began to relay everything that happened she paused. She couldn’t tell them what she saw; at least not all of it. A man by the name of Axel spoke to another man in the mirror, drew pictures in the air, ripped the bathroom door off its hinges and paralyzed/hypnotized Scratch while speaking complete nonsense. There was so much that happened in that short time but so little she could tell them without sounding insane herself. So, in lieu of telling the whole truth, she simply said, “The man… he was spying on me.”
This sprung Mr. Schaeffer in action. He told her to stay put while he went to investigate. While he did another student was sent to the office to collect the principal and one of the security guards. The students all watched from the doorway, everyone immediately springing to their feet the moment he left, despite his order to remain seated. They watched in awe as the faculty and security stepped into the bathroom to investigate.
Ariel didn’t want to know what was happening and moved away from the door, desiring to be as far away from it as possible. Instead she sought solace out the windows looking down onto the football field. The day was bright, the sun shining down upon the lush green grass. The white lines were faded requiring a much needed touch up the long winter and previous football season. She wondered just how many times those lines had been pained and repainted since the school first opened. The building was reaching it’s centennial so perhaps it the lines, the field could have been that old as well. The stadium was vacant, not to be touched until summer when the football team started training for the forthcoming fall season. This thought helped ease her mind as it provided a sense of normality, grounding her thoughts in reality. There was no psycho ranting and dancing around, sniffing random strangers. This was the real world. She was in the real world.
Ariel’s phone vibrated in her pocket and removed it, seeing that at text had appeared on the screen. It was the from the group chat that she shared with Carter, Edward, and Carol. It seemed that word was already spreading across the school, no doubt due to the wonderful internet connection that they had at their school. The story passed from one student to another and before the end of the day, everyone would know what happened. Or what she told them what happened.
Carol: OMG! You okay, gurl?
Eddie: You alright? You need me to kick some asses.
Carter: You alright? And was he cute?
Carter: What? I’ve heard stories like this?
Carter: Alright porn but you never know.
The conversation was already making her feel better as she knew her friends were right there with her. Even rooms, floors away, they could still make her laugh.
Ariel: I’m fine. Just a look shaken.
Eddie: Offer still stands.
Ariel: We’ll see what the cops say.
Carter: Seriously though. Are you sure you’re alright?
It was then she caught sight of sudden movement on the football stadium. Looking up, she saw strolling across the field a bright red form. She gasped as Axel walked across the field, walking along as if nothing had happened. She spun around to see if the teacher had returned but there were only her fellow students peering through the door out into the hallway. She supposed the faculty and security were still investigating the incident.
Seeing him on the field, she struggled to figure out how he managed to slip out without anyone noticing? The bathroom didn’t have windows that opened up very wide and if he did there was no way he could squeeze out of one before everyone arrived. She turned back expecting to see him near the edge of the fences that led to the street but saw only grass and those same faded white lines that awaited the much needed tending by the groundskeeper. Axel had vanished.
Ariel sat in the car, staring out at the buildings as her parents drove back home. After Ariel’s scare at school with Axel, her parents were called and once they spoke with the principal, they insisted they take her home. Ariel protested, albeit very meekly, but her parents wouldn’t hear it. Someone had attacked, the word attack in large quotes, and they felt more comfortable with taking her home. This was after they screamed at the principal about how their security force managed to let a dangerous pervert like Axel, though they didn’t know his name, into their school. It was after that, the principal insisted they take Ariel home where they would be safe.
As they drove home she overheard them discussing going to the police, installing cameras, even putting a GPS tracker in her shoe. Both shoes, in case one happened to fall off. She told them that everyone was overreacting but her opinion went unheard. Their concern was getting her home and away from the world that threatened her safety. While she thought all of this was becoming a bit of an overblown, she did feel safe being with them. Even so Axel never expressed any desire to harm her in any way. He just seemed curious about her in that same way she was curious about him. he was odd, unique and different from anyone she had ever met.
On the way home, she had engaged in a lively correspondence with her friends via their group text. What was happening at school was already disseminating through the student body, and filling in the gaps of Ariel’s knowledge. It seemed that even though Axel and she were gone, the oddities were continuing to mount.
Carol: And she was just super chill. She was just washing her hands and smiling.
Ariel: That sounds horrific.
Carter: I’m sure it was.
Carol: And she was being super nice to EVERYONE!
Eddie: I still don’t believe it. She’s a psychopath.
Carter: I think she’s high on something. Maybe she ran out of testosterone.
Ariel: So she was just washing her hands when they found her? Was she alone?
Eddie: From what I heard yeah.
Carter: Andy told me that they even checked the windows and all of them were locked.
Carol: That doesn’t mean anything.
Ariel: It does when you can’t lock them after you leave.
Eddie: Don’t be a bitch, Carter.
Ariel: Then how’d he get out? I saw him on the football field.
Eddie: Well it’s not impossible to do it. It only takes about a minute at a good sprint.
Carter: And how do you know that?
Carol: I think we’re getting off topic. Ariel are you alright?
Ariel: Yeah my parents are going all lockdown. I don’t think I’ll ever see day again.
Eddie: It was nice knowing you.
Carter: RIP, betch.
Carol: Ignore them. We’re here if you need us.
Carter: I didn’t volunteer for that.
Eddie: Shut it Dancing Queen.
Ariel: Well anyway. Thanks
When Ariel got home, she told her parents she wanted to be in her room and just decompress. They told her it was fine and as it would give them a chance to discuss the matter with her uncle who was a police officer. They were already texting him to come by while they were driving home. Again, she knew they were overreacting but there was no talking them out if it. They were going to do whatever they thought necessary to keep her safe. She appreciated it, but still thought it a bit drastic.
Without another word she retreated to her room, closing the door and practically collapsing on her bed. She was already exhausted and it was barely 10 in the morning. For over an hour the principal and a detective, a prim but strong female detective, asked her about the man that had approached her. The detective was careful not to use the word ‘attack.’ Ariel could see the doubt in her eyes that this man had done anything to her, and truthfully she was right to be dubious. Even so, she took her notes and Ariel overhead asking about seeing the security footage from the cameras.
Lying on her bed, as tired as she was, Ariel couldn’t help but be both terrified and enticed. Axel’s appearance into her life was completely random, but he somehow managed to pop up twice in two days. Of course she wasn’t really complaining as he certainly was attractive; cute enough to make even the high standard Carter’s nose bleed. The problem was that Axel was out of his mind. Not to mention what he was capable of doing. This then posed new questions of how any of it was it possible? How could he create glowing symbols in the air or rip off bathroom stall doors without so much as touching one? What about Scratch? What did he do to her?
As she lay in her bed, the minutes ticking away her mind slowly began to wander, slipping into the ether of unconsciousness until final she was out.
“Hello?” A voice called through the layers of her sleep. The dog in her dreams, an enormous Labrador who was sipping from a tea cup had paused its conversation to say, ‘Hello?’ It was odd since they had been discussing the industrial revolution for the past hour and there was no need for further pleasantries. The dog, Lexa, paused only a moment to collect his thoughts before he began a tale of how he found the world’s largest bone and claimed it as his own. He then interrupted his own story once more, this time saying ‘wakey wakey’ as he suddenly leaned in and tapped her forehead with one of his paws.
Ariel’s eyes opened, a yawn in her mouth but as it began to emerge she gasped as Axel leaned over her. She gasped while at the same time he motioned quickly, already mostly through the gestures before she could scream out for her father. When she finally did she did there was a flash and her voice immediately sounded different.
“Dad!” She screamed but the word possessed an odd hollowness, as if she were speaking into a cup. “What… what is this, what’s happening?”
“It’s called ‘hush’. I use it when I have to have a private conversation.” Axel said.
This confusion lasted only a moment before she once more realized that Axel was not only in her house but in her room as well. She scrambled away from him, falling off her bed as she did so. Grabbing the first thing she could reach, a hair brush, she launched it at his head. He ducked quickly, the brush sailing over him and hitting the wall. Like her voice, the sound was different. She grabbed another object, a shoe and threw it at him. Axel pivoted and it stuck her wall, putting a divot in the paint but again this sound made her pause. Ariel grabbed a book, preparing to launch it as Axel prepared for another assault. However the book never left her hand. Instead Ariel tapped it against her desk and it produced the same hollow thud. The word ‘hush’ flashed through her mind. Again her curiosity overpowered her fear and she simply looked at him with awe as she set the book down and stare at him intently.
“What are you?” She asked, “What is all of this waving and glowing lines business? It’s like you are your own sort of walking rave.” With that Axel immediately started laughing as he clapped excitedly.
“You can see my aura!” He said, pointing his finger at her pistoning his index fingers at her, “I knew you were special!”
“Aura? What…what are you talking about? What is all of this? Who are you? How did you get in my room? I know my parents would let you in. So how did you break in?” Ariel asked, both anger and fear rising. She looked to her window but it was still locked from the inside. Axel simply dismissed the questions with a wave.
“Please.” He scoffed, “A simple tracking and teleportation spell. Child’s play. I learned to do that when I was still in diapers.”
“You’re insane.” Ariel told him.
“I’ve been called worse.” He said with a gleaming smile. Axel then bowed and with a wide sweeping gesture announced, “The name, my dear Cortan, is Axel Tornoa, son of Tor Shino and Noa Drowsin of the Tornoa Royal Family within the Gowdrian Realm on the planet of Sionodo in Continent of Nodan. And I am a Spellweaver.”
“A… spell…weaver…” She said, playing with the words. She considered it and then erupted with laughter. She didn’t mean to laugh as he seemed so proud of this title but couldn’t help it. There was a whole host of information that he spouted, all of it nonsense, and he acted as if this was common knowledge. The only thing that actually made sense was the word spellweaver and it was because those were actual English words.
“You’re unimpressed.” Axel said, annoyed.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t meant to laugh,” She managed, tears streaming down her cheeks, “It’s just that…” And she proceeded to laugh even harder.
“You know, Spellweavers are a big deal.” Axel shouted, his voice echoing around them but it was muted not by the spell but by her laughter. “God… you… you Midrealmers.” He sighed, “So… cloudy. You’re all so cloudy!”
“Cloudy?” Ariel asked, wiping tears from her eyes.
“Yes, cloudy.” He said, “You’re minds…. You only focus on what you can see and touch and feel. You can’t see the worlds that are right in front of you.” As he spoke he approached her, closing the distance quickly but she didn’t react. Despite this strange man who was in her room without obvious signs of entry, Ariel didn’t feel threatened. His body language didn’t suggest that he would hurt her. He was emphatic, but not aggressive. “If I touch you, what do you feel?” He asked as he touched her arm. Immediately she slapped his hand, a reflex she didn’t even anticipate. Axel pulled it back with a pained hiss.
“I feel like smacking you.” She noted, the laughter fading but the humor still quite high.. Axel shook his hand a moment, grimacing slightly.
“Well that was unnecessary.” He moaned.
“Well don’t touch girls without their permission?” Ariel corrected. “What if I touched you without asking?” Before she had even finished the sentence, a wide smile stretched across his face. “Ew, gross.”
“Don’t ask questions you don’t want answers to.” Axel told her. “Anyway, this was fun but we should probably get going…”
“Wait, what?” Ariel interjected. “I’m not going anywhere. Especially not with you.”
“What?” He asked, “Why?”
“Do you really need a laundry list of reasons why I shouldn’t go with a complete stranger who guilty of B&E?”
“I don’t care for laundry.” He said, appearing to have ignored the other parts of her question, “Its boring. I don’t like boring things.”
“You don’t like boring things?” Ariel repeated.
“You must have been a treat in school. Were you one of those kids who were constantly getting in trouble?” Ariel asked.
“That’s beside the point.” Axel said, “Besides I didn’t to school. I had a private tutor growing up.”
“Home schooled. That explains a lot.”
“There’s nothing wrong with home schooling. I learned enough to get accepted to Rosewood Academy. The most prestigious school there is for Weavers.”
“Alright, you need to stop speaking I like know what you’re talking about. Because when you do, it just keeps reminding me that you are insane.” Ariel told him. “Besides, you said you were royalty. I bet you could have still gotten in without good grades.”
“How dare you?” Axel exclaimed, gasping. “My parents would never user their influence like that. You take that back.”
“No.” Ariel shouted defiantly, “You don’t have any right to order me around, you’re not my prince or my king. You’re a mad man in my bedroom.”
“I’m not mad!” Axel shouted. He then paused considering this, and then spoke once more, “Well not mad like you think but I am mad that you are talking poorly about my parents.”
“Well I don’t like people breaking into my room, so I guess we both don’t get what we want.” Ariel returned.
A silence fell between them as they stared at one another, uncertain of what to say. Axel was unlike anyone she had ever met. How she didn’t run out of her room or call the police the second she saw him was puzzling. While he scared her, he also mesmerizing. What he appeared capable of was unlike anything she had ever seen; at least in reality. Sure, television and movies crafted a pretty convincing fiction but this man who claims he from another planet, another world, what he could do made the Hollywood effects feel like card tricks.
“Look I’m sorry.” Ariel finally said, breaking the silence between them. “I didn’t mean to say anything or imply anything bad. I’m just… you are a stranger who broke into my house. I have a right to be… temperamental.” Axel’s expression appeared to soften, though the smile was yet to return; something that Ariel could tell was not a common occurrence. He was, as one famous TV character once said, like Santa Claus at Disney World, getting laid. The word positive simply didn’t cover it.
“I guess…” Axel stared, “I could have actually knocked on the door… at least the closet door.”
“Yeah, that’s wouldn’t have been much better.” Ariel noted.
“Okay. Let’s start over. My name is Axel Tornoa.” He said, holding his hand out. Ariel considered this, feeling only the slightest hint of suspicion. However the smile had returned, handsome and beaming.
“Ariel Schuler.” She replied accepting his hand.
“It is a pleasure, my dear Co… my dear Ariel.” Axel leaned bend down and kissed her hand. A wave of excitement rushed through his arm into her chest that spread like fire. She felt her face flush with heat. Instantly she had the urge to text Carter to rub his face in the fact that a rather handsome prince just kissed her hand.
“So… um… what… what are you doing here… not in my room, though that is a good question, but you say you’re from another… world.” Ariel heard herself say this and immediately felt ridiculous. What he was saying was impossible but she decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“Looking for something…” he started but paused as his smile grew wider as a was struck with a thought. Do you want to do something exciting? Something that’s not boring or mundane?” Axel asked, excitedly. “Do you want to see something that should not exist in this microverse? To see something dangerous, something potentially terrifying, something known as a Clotry?”
“alright, first off, I don’t know what that is. And secondly, no actually still firstly, what the hell are you talking about?” Ariel said. What was a Clotry? She had no idea but it was an interesting word that could be associated with an interesting thing. Also he said that it was not a part of this world, rather this microverse? What was a microverse?
Ariel wanted to say no, to simply continue on with her life but despite her best efforts to ignore this man, there was something about him. It wasn’t that unusual attraction she had towards him the other day but more of who he was and how he acted. It was almost like he truly was an alien in her world, someone who had not spent a single full day on Earth. He was both like a child and an adventurer, which could be a very volatile combination.
“I… don’t think so… no.” Ariel said but in spite of her declination he still continued to smile.
“Really?” he asked, prodding that curious part of her mind. “You are willing to give up this once in a lifetime opportunity. I mean the Clotry are from the Schism Realm, a Microverse that rarely ever connects with yours naturally. You are not willing to take on this grand adventure, to be a part of something new and exciting?”
“N… no.” She repeated but that part of her that craved adventure was screaming a resounding yes. It was the Id, the child that never grew up. It desired a world of dragons and magic, new worlds and distant lands. It wanted to know more about this creature and this man who with each passing minute grew more interesting. Her Superego was screaming no, knowing that he was illogical, nonsensical, insane. She had to stay grounded so she could go to a good school, get a good paying job, put down roots and start a life. The Ego was moderating the two, attempting to determine which one to listen to.
“But don’t you want to?” Axel asked. He leaned in close to, whispering as one who shared a secret. “Clotry are dangerous, feral birds with a wingspan of a grown man with a sharp stinger on a prehensile tail. It’s been known to consume an entire Kaya in less than a day. And Kaya are very, very big.” He looked at her and she knew that he was waiting for some expression of wonder or awe but instead she stared at him trying to look as dumfounded as she could. “You don’t know what a Kaya is?”
“No.” Ariel whispered back.
“It’s like a cow in your world.”
“You mean the real world?” She said, teasing. Ariel thought that if not for how they met or how crazy this man was, they could have been friends, perhaps even more. She found his aloofness adorable and he was very attractive but being so out of touch with reality there was no way she would ever cross that line. Even friendship may be a stretch.
“No I mean, your world.” Axel corrected, placing special emphasis on the first word. It appeared that he was unwilling to give up his delusion which she had to admit was admirable.
“And your world is different than mine?” Ariel inquired. Axel’s smile widened.
“Oh so different.” He replied, “It would blow your mind. The Kourvian Mountain range just outside of our kingdom is encrusted with diamonds… DIAMONDS! And when the sun hits them just right there is an aurora of rainbow lights that dance in the sky. And the Tinotan plains where the Kaya and Morths roam free is amazing.”
“It sounds… lovely.” Ariel said and really it did. Though she had no idea what he was talking about, save for the cow creatures, his admiration of his ‘home’ made her really want it all to be true. She would have loved to see this land to experience it.
It was as Axel was reminiscing about this place he called home, Ariel’s cell phone rang. She picked it up, not thinking about what was happening. Even the echo from whatever Axel had done to her room had moved out of her conscious mind. She answered the phone not thinking anything of it. On the caller ID she saw the name Carol, as well a photo that was loaded with her contact information; a wide, toothy grin image of her friend. The call was a FaceTime request and the moment she answered Ariel was met with alive feed from her friend.
“Hey Carol.” Ariel said turning away from Axel as he was still seemingly off in his own world.
“Hey girl.” Carol replied.
“Hey now’s…” Ariel started but Carol cut her off.
“Who. Is. That?” Carol suddenly asked. Ariel froze, her eyes drifting from the larger image of her friend to the small window in the corner where she was located. Behind Ariel, she could see Axel in the corner of the window.
“Oh… um…” Ariel started but Carol couldn’t get a word out before the a new face appeared in the camera: Carter.
“Let me… oh… wow.” He said, his eyes growing wide. “Betch where have you been keeping him?”
“It’s not like that.” Ariel said turning back towards Axel who’s attention appeared to be returning to her. His eyes met hers, head cocking slightly.
“Are these your friends?” Axel asked, approaching. He brought his face closer into view, practically pressing it against hers. “Hello friends of Ariel.”
“And who are you?” Carter asked.
“Yeah I’m curious too.” Carol added.
“I am Axel Tornoa from…” Axel began but Ariel cut him off.
“Let’s not do that now.” She interjected. Axel glanced hat her curiously. In hushed tones, she added, “Cloudy.” This he understood and smiled once more winking. Never before had a wink made her heart beat so hard.
“Axel?” Carter asked, “Never met an Axel I’ve never liked before.” As he spoke he purposely muddled the word causing both Carol and Ariel to groan.
“Ew.” Carol cried shooting him a distasteful look. Carter only laughed, but never took his eyes off of the prince.
“Alright I have to go now.” Ariel said.
“Wait, wait!” Carter exclaimed.
“What?” Ariel replied.
“Just a quick question.”
“Is Axel gay and single?” Carter asked, but with that Ariel ended the call.
"They seemed nice.” Axel noted.
“Well you certainly grabbed their attention. Now I have to explain who you are and how we met… which by the way reminds me. What did you do to Scratch?” Ariel asked. Axel raised a curious eyebrow, “The girl in the bathroom with me.”
“Oh right.” He replied, “The giantess.”
“She’s not a giantess.”
“Her yeah… well… the Memory Charm allows me to wipe the short term memory of whomever it is cast upon. It also puts them in a suggestive state for a short period of time.” Axel told her.
“How suggestive?” Ariel asked, not comfortable with the power of such a thing; if it were indeed real. Even though she didn’t really believe in magic, hypnosis was a very real thing. There were drugs out there, Scopolamine being the most notable that completely shut off ones ability to act of their own accord or even remember what happened. It was very possible that was what happened, after all it did require the powder being blown into a person’s face. Perhaps that was what the gusts were. Maybe he just had staggering lung capacity.
“Oh nothing salacious.” Axel told her, “I couldn’t make her do anything that would go against her subconscious sensibilities. It just leaves the mind an ability to… overwrite information, for lack of a better word.”
“What did you overwrite?” Ariel asked. She wasn’t afraid but instead worried that this man had altered the mind of an already unstable person.
“Well she clearly has some anger issues, as evidence by just the brief picture that I saw, and so I just recommend that she relax. It’s a subtle suggestion, nothing like: give me your money or kill yourself. This is something that would slip into her mind and take root at a deep level, and potential cool whatever fire might be in there.” Axel explained.
This made her think back to what Carol had told her. The complacent version of Scratch that was speaking to the police and faculty was remarkably different than the girl that had terrorized the school for over three years. And if what Axel said was true, the suggestion would worm its way into who she was and Emily would become a normal, perhaps even happy, person. In that instant she didn’t know whether to kiss him or fear him. She was leaning towards that latter as he had tried the same thing on her.
“What about me?” She asked him.
“Oh don’t worry, I wasn’t going to anything like that to you.” Axel told her. “I just wanted to make you forget all about me, but I guess I left a lasting impression on you.” He said with a growing smile.
“Don’t flatter yourself.” Ariel scoffed, though a light blush broke through. Her mind couldn’t help but fall back to coffee shop where she once desired to rip his clothes off. Of course that same drive wasn’t there, she still felt something for this man, insane or not.
“Suit yourself.” Axel said. Raising his arm, he glanced at a watch. “Ah I better get going. Its nearing midday and the Clotry tend to feed around this time.”
“So you’re still planning on going after a poisonous bird that’s as big as a man and can eat an entire cow in a day? Do you really think that’s a good idea?” She asked him. She decided to play along with his fantasies, as it was clear there was no talking him out it. It would have been adorable if not for how old he was.
“Of course!” He cried, “How can you just say no to an adventure like that?”
“Like this,” She said, “No.”
“So you don’t want to come?” Axel asked. Ariel shook her head. “Are you sure?” Again she shook her head. “Oh come on. It’s a Clotry. If not partaking in a rare hunt like this, what are you going to do with your day?”
“Well since someone decided to break into my school and I was sent home early to cope with that trauma, my schedule has kind of cleared up. So I thought maybe I would do… anything else but go on a crazy hunt.” Ariel told him.
“So you don’t want to come with me?” Axel asked.
“So you’re just going to watch TV and play on your internets and phones and paint your nails and pluck your eye brows and whatever you Midrealmers do.” He asked. There was a hint of condescension in his tone that didn’t sit well with her.
“Oh I’m sorry. Forgive for being unwilling to run around with a complete stranger trying to kill monster bird that can eat a COW.” Ariel shot back. While meant to be a biting tone, it only seemed to encourage this man.
“And that doesn’t excite you?” He practically cried.
“No, it doesn’t because I’m not crazy.” She told him.
“Yes, you are!” He shouted, “You have to be crazy not to want to be a part of the hunt!”
“See, its saying stuff that like that is crazy.” Ariel said, “No reasonable person says that.”
“Whoever said I was reasonable?” Axel shouted and before she could respond she paused. It was only for a moment as she considered this question before she started laughing. He made a very good point. At no time did he say that he wasn’t crazy, that he was sensible, or had any common sense whatsoever. In this regard, he won. He was a madman and perfectly happy with that. He was maddeningly charming and that was the problem.
“You’re insane.” She managed through her laughter.
“Come on. It’ll be fun. I promise that I won’t let anything happen to you. Cross my heart.” Axel told her as he made an X over his heart. Again she couldn’t argue. Throughout all of this insanity, part of her was curious. Axel was offering her an opportunity to experience something new, something that wasn’t part of her daily life. Even if all of this was some delusion, it would still be a great story to tell her friends. Axel had an amazing imagination, far livelier than hers even as a child. Growing up her interests were in fairies, dragons, and knights in shining armor. As she grew up, the notion became less as she learned of responsibility and reality. Everything she was taught told her that she had to get good grades, so she could go to a good school and get a good job. She didn’t have time to chase magic birds. And yet, that was exactly what she wanted to do.
“I can’t…” She started but it took a great deal of effort to keep from admitting it. “I can’t…”
“Why?” He asked.
“Because…” She started
“Because…” He parroted.
“Because …” Ariel tried once more but her face flushed a hot red, slowly matching her hair. The freckles on her cheeks vanished as the blush grew brighter and hotter.
“Because …” he continued to repeat. Ariel paused, her gaze never wavering from his as she fought her own instinct and allowed impulse to take control. Her Id was having a field day.
“Alright fine. I may find some of your insanity interesting.” She finally admitted. “But it’s not because I believe you. It’s more of an interest in how far this delusion of yours can go.”
“I’ll take it!” he shouted. “Let’s go!” Suddenly he wrapped his arm around her waist, eliciting a sharp squeak of surprise.
Before she could lash out, Axel traced a new symbol in the air. Ariel noted that the symbol was a continuous series of shapes, the line never breaking. The color was again different, red this time but it too continued to glow by some light source that she still couldn’t explain. At this range, being so close, she could see the tips of his fingers glowing that same bright red. Like a painter who dipped his fingers into his medium, he drew on an invisible canvas, the color defying gravity.
The moment he appeared finished, the glow vanished from his fingers. However, she could barely register this as he suddenly tightened his grip around her waist. Ariel intended to scream at him, for various reasons as the list grew longer by the second, but didn’t have a chance before she was suddenly pulled forward as Axel lunged sweeping her off her feet.
Like stepping through a thin layer of ice, she was struck with a chill that made every hair stand on end. The world around her quickly shifted from the painted blue walls of her bedroom to what appeared to something far different. The cold was immediately replaced by a blast of heat. While inexplicable this was not what struck her as odd. It was the fact that she was no longer in her room but instead standing on the boardwalk that overlooked the beach, the roar of ocean replacing the silence that once existed. Ariel was so stunned that she failed to realize that he already let her go. She turned to him, to the dock and then to the water before back to him.
“How…” She managed, but the question failed as she ran for the edge of the dock that looked out toward the ocean. She had this body of water almost every day, been to the pier every weekend, if not more often, but being in that place after only a moment ago standing in her bedroom made the scene that much more breathtaking. “I’m at the Boardwalk.”
“But… how?” She asked. In the distance she could see a tour boat navigating the choppy waves as the wind began to pick up. There was a call for storms later that day and by the rolling clouds mother nature saw fit to speed up the deadline. Already the scent of rain mixed with the salt air as it blew inland washing over her. There was something about that air that was different. It smelled richer, the salt practically tangible as she inhaled deeply.
“A rift spell.” Axel said, joining her at the edge of the pier, “It’s how I got to your world in the first place.”
“You can teleport?” She asked.
“It’s not as simple as that.” He told her, “What I can do is open small doorways that allow me and others to pass through to other microverses. Once through the door closes and the macroverses are separated once more.”
“Microverse?” She asked, “I think that’s the second time you’ve mentioned that. What is that?”
“It’s the existence in which we all exist.” Axel said. “Look at the ocean.” He said pointing out towards the sea. “Imagine balls.”
“Balls?” Ariel asked, stifling laughter. Axel grinned, but ignored the obvious humor.
“Snow Globes. How’s that?” He said.
“Imagine thousands and thousands of snow globes in this ocean separated by a vast expanse. Each snow globe has their own world within it. The globes are separated by a shell that keeps the separate no matter how close the worlds may come. That expanse is known as the macroverse. Within each snow globe is a microverse, a self-sustaining, self-contained universe that may seem endless but is contained within that microverse.” Axel explained.
“And you are from a different microverse?” Ariel asked doubtful of the validity of his story but still found it interesting.
“I’m from the Gowdrian Microvese. It’s a realm that is closely tied with the astral realm, a source of energy that can be harnessed for various purposes.” Axel said and as he spoke he traced a small design in the air, the lines a brilliant white in front of them. “People from my realm who can use this energy are called Spellweavers. We can harness this power through sigils and runes, spells and incantations allowing us to utilize the astral energy to reshape aspects of reality.” Ariel reached out to touch it but before, she could Axel dismissed it with a wave of his hand.
“Can everyone do this?” She asked.
“Many can. Some are naturals, others are taught. I was both. I can use it naturally but schooling let me control my power with more precision.” Axel said.
“And my re… world. You keep calling me a Midrealmer. Is that what you call humans?” She asked him.
“Human is a broad term stretching across every realm. I’m human to, just from a different world. I call you Midrealmer because your realm is one of the few static microverses. Most just float around the macroverse. The ebb and flow of the celestial sea move the realms close and far. You can travel from one to the next through rifts but your world remains still. It’s an anchor in the macroverse. Sometimes travelers can’t move directly to where they intend on going so they use this world as a mid point. They will then leap frog from one world to the next using yours as lay over point.” He explained.
The story Axel crafted was impressive, that she had to admit. There was such vividness and passion to what he said, that for an instant she thought that perhaps it was real. This world was merely one of thousands, millions floating out in space and the next universe was just out of reach by someone like her. But not him. He could touch it. If he desired he could travel anywhere; take her anywhere. And with this thought she felt herself blush once more.
“That sounds… amazing.” She said and genuinely meant it. Axel waved the comment away.
“But all of that is unimportant.” He said, offering a playful smile. “After all, we are on the hunt.” He practically leapt away from the fence and moved down the boardwalk at a brisk pace.
“Hey wait!” Ariel cried rushing to join him. “Where are you going?”
“Hunting the Clotry.” He reminded and for a moment she had forgotten all about it. Of course this brought forth a new question.
“And how are you going to do that? I don’t suppose you have a giant net?”
“Don’t be silly.” He cried, “I have magic.”
“Of course.” Ariel sighed. She quickly caught up with him as he appeared deep in thought.
“The Pheromones didn’t work so I’m gonna have to try something else.” He said.
“Wait, what?” She asked.
“Pheromones.” He repeated, “They’re an…”
“I know what they are.” Ariel told him but at the same time she was struck with a sudden understanding. The feelings she felt, the drive and urges she experienced during that brief encounter last weekend. It was his doing. “That…” She started but immediately slapped her hand over her mouth with a comedic smack.
“What?” He asked.
“Nothing.” She told him but the bright red flush returned, betraying her words. Axel thought nothing of this as he removed a book from an interior pocket of his coat. It was a small, leather bound journal that looked well-worn and was well loved. Flipping it open, Ariel only caught brief glimpses the pages; images and symbols sketched on them with small notations that she couldn’t make out.
“What are you looking at?” She asked.
“My sister said to try a different spell and I’m trying to find it.”
“What? You don’t know it?” Ariel asked, teasing him. “I mean that’s what you do?”
“Do you know every word in the English language?” He asked her, without even looking up.
“No, of course not.” She replied.
“Then shut it.” He told her as she felt the immediate urge to slap him.
“Well what is this spell supposed to do?” She asked, choosing to ignore his snarky comment and accept that his rudeness may as a result of some inter-worldly societal differences.
“Well there are two things that draws the attention of a Clotry: powerful pheromones, which didn’t work, and the smell of decay from carrion.” He explained.
“Lovely.” She said, “So are you going to conjure some dead animals or something?”
“Nope.” He told her, “I prefer something a bit more subtle.”
“Liar.” Ariel said but this time he smiled.
“Clotry are skittish. There could be tons of carrion but if it was surrounded by people, it won’t take the bait. So I have a better idea. There’s a spell called Prestidigitation. I can weave it and focus it so that if it’s in the area, it will smell the rot while anyone else around us will only detect their favorite smell.”
“Seriously?” She asked.
“Yes. I don’t use it often; hence the book.” Axel said as he closed it and slipped it back into his coat. Then once again he began to trace his fingers in the air, the color a subtle pink as he drew on his invisible canvas.
While he worked, Ariel looked around the boardwalk, seeing parent and child, husband and wife, friends and lovers. They moved about the pier without consideration or concern, each living their own lives and paying them no mind. One person looked up, a young woman, older than she, perhaps college aged. She offered Axel a curious glance but it appeared more out of appeal and curiosity than concern, which Ariel found odd as there was a glowing symbol floating in the air.
“Why isn’t anyone else looking at us?” She asked. The woman looked at Axel a moment longer, then to Ariel before returning to the shop window. She was almost disinterested in what was happening but Ariel knew that if she saw someone tracing colorful lines in the air, she would be enamored; just as she had been. It was an extraordinary sight, trick or no, but everyone ignored them entirely.
“Most Midrealmers can’t see it. You are the exception because you’re a Cortan.” Axel told her.
“That’s the second time you’ve called me that today,” Ariel said, “What does that even mean?”
“It’s a term for half-blood.” He replied as his motions ceased. The symbol floated before him, the pale pink glowing brighter as he stepped away.
“Half-blood?” Ariel exclaimed. “What do you mean half blood?”
“You do realize you’re not fully human right?” Axel asked. Her mouth fell agape as the symbol pulsed, glowing brighter and then dimming every few seconds.
“What… what…” She started but her words fell away as the was struck with an odd scent. At first it was faint but as the scent persisted, she could detect a hint of cologne. Taking in a deep breath, the smell grew stronger and she suddenly realized what it was. At school there was a senior who she had a crush since sophomore year but was always too afraid to approach him. For the past few years they always shared at least one class and somehow they always wound up next to one another. And every day he wore the same cologne. It was always faint, never overpowering but it was persistent and she absolutely loved the smell. Whenever she came across that scent, she thought of him.
“What’s that smell.” Ariel started, “It’s…”
“Not what you think.” Axel corrected. Ariel looked at him, puzzled.
“What are you talking about?” She asked.
“Prestidigitation allows me to create sights, sounds, smells.” He explained, “In this case it’s smell. Whoever picks up the scent will detect their favorite smell. It could be a fresh cut grass, perfume, so on and so forth.”
“That’s…” Ariel started but Axel stole her thought.
“Awesome?” He asked, “Damn right it is.” He motioned for her to follow him and for a moment she didn’t move. The cologne she smelled was overwhelming. It elicited such a positive emotion within her that it pushed away what he told her moments before. It took her several moments to shake off the feeling and followed.
“So, what are you smelling?” He asked as they approached a nearby bench.
“It’s nothing.” She told him but Axel made a sound of disapproval.
“Liar.” He said. Ariel sighed, a flush of heat emanating from her cheeks. Never before had she blushed so much in one day.
“It’s… it smells like a cologne that a guy I like wears.” Ariel told him but as she spoke she refused to make eye contact. She could feel her skin grow hot as her blush flared hotter. Never before had she blushed so much in a single day.
“Lover?” Axel asked casually.
“What? No!” Ariel practically shouted. “He barely knows I exist, let alone…” Her words trailed off as the very thought made her skin grow even hotter.
“Oh don’t be such a prude.” Axel teased, “I swear, how you lot have managed to survive this long is beyond me.”
“It’s not prudeness, it’s… decorum.” Ariel corrected.
“Oh I suppose that everyone back where you’re from is just banging in the streets?” Ariel asked him.
“No, but it’s common to be open about one’s sexuality. More so than here. I swear, say the word sex and everyone freaks out one way or another.” Axel said. Ariel couldn’t argue because she knew he was right. Regardless, she refused to continue this line of conversation.
“Well at least while you’re here, can you not be so… loud about it?” She asked him.
“Fine, fine. Anyway, what is this person to you?”
“He’s just a guy I like.” Ariel told him.
“Whoa, whoa easy, you’re talking my ear off!” Axel cried, throwing his hands up in a stop gesture.
“Shut up.” She said but this only made him smile.
“Well clearly you have some sort of feelings for him, so what is it about him that makes you all red? Well… more red than normal anyway.” Axel inquired.
“Well he’s smart and handsome and nice…”
“Is he a jerk?” Axel interjected.
“What? No!” She replied, insulted on behalf of her crush.
“Then why not just talk to him.” Axel said matter-of-factly. It was a notion that seemed alien, almost as alien as him. She couldn’t just go up to him. What if he laughed in her face, made fun of her, said that she was some ugly ginger? Axel just didn’t understand what it was like to do something so ridiculous as…
She paused and the pieces of a puzzle she wasn’t even aware of fell into place. It was so obvious that she completely overlooked it. Axel was trying to make a point. If he was so great, then why not just talk to him and he was right. She was so worried about what he may or may not say that she never even considered the fact that if he was everything she thought he was, he wouldn’t behave to the contrary. Ariel looked at Axel who was staring at the floating symbol as it pulsed to its own beat.
He had let the topic drop altogether as they looked out towards the boardwalk as the steady stream of people and animals walked up and down the pier. As they moved within range of the symbol there was always a noticeable pause as they caught the scent of whatever they most enjoyed. There was no knowing what they experienced as none of them ever spoke about it but by the expressions, Ariel knew it was a very pleasant one. Even several dogs and cats moved into the vicinity, sniffed and strutted around the area. They never lingered long as they either lost interest or were shoed away from the area by people walking by.
“So, how do you know that cloister thing will be here?” Ariel asked, breaking the silence between them. It wasn’t uncomfortable and for the first time since meeting him she saw a certain stoicism within him that didn’t seem possible.
“It’s called a Clotry and I don’t.” He finally replied. “But I know that Clotry live by the ocean, mostly subsisting off the carcasses of large fish or sea mammals; sometimes moving inland during times of heavy storms where they then feed off of dead livestock. So I figured start here and work my way down the coast line.”
“So how do you know so much about this thing?” Ariel asked him. “You said it lives in a realm different from yours.”
“One of my focuses of study in university. Other Realm Lifeforms. There are trillions and trillions of life forms and I know quite a bit of them. I have a really good memory.” Axel said, proudly.
“I thought you hated boring things?” Ariel teased.
“The class wasn’t boring so I remember it.” Axel corrected.
“Now you said this thing was big, but if it’s as big as you think wouldn’t…” Ariel started but Axel shot up a hand, silencing her as he gasped light. He slowly rose to his feet, careful not to move too quickly. Ariel paused and looked back to the symbol where she saw a pigeon strutting along the boardwalk, heading bobbing back and forth as it moved. “What is it?” She tried but he raised a hand once, shushing her. He reached into his pocket, removed the monocle and gasped.
“Don’t make any sudden movement.” He said, his voice a low whisper as he slid the monocle back into his coat.
“Is it here? Do you see it?” Ariel asked as a rush of excitement surged through her. She looked around franticly in hopes of seeing this monstrous creature. The world he painted seemed to marvelous, so vivid that she started to believe that maybe such a world existed. There was such passion in his words that he true believed it was real and so she truly wanted it to be. To see other worlds, to be a part of the macroverse that formed all of existence was amazing. However as she looked around she saw no giant bird soaring overhead. Instead the only bird she saw was that pigeon who probably smelled garbage or birdseed.
“It’s right there.” He pointed and Ariel felt her heart sink as he pointed at the pigeon. Immediately she was struck with a grim realization: he was insane. All of this had to be some sort of prank or con or some delusion that he not only lived in but was now convincing her to believe in. How could she be so foolish to believe in such things. Magic didn’t exist. Monsters didn’t exist. All of this was a fabulous waste of time. She couldn’t explain how he managed to take her to the pier, how he was painting glowing lines in the air. It could have been some hypnosis or magic trick but it was now becoming staggeringly clear how wrong she was about this man. He wasn’t some alien from another world, he was just crazy. And that thought broke her heart. Her hope of some grand adventure had been shattered and reality came back with torrential force.
“Seriously?” She shouted. Axel waved a hand at her to quiet her but she wouldn’t be silenced. “You have got to be kidding me? I can’t believe I was listening to all of this crap.”
“Will you keep your voice down?” He whispered, his voice a harsh hiss.
“No I will not!” Ariel shrieked. Her shouts drew attention to them, people looking on in wonder. “You… are such a liar! I can’t believe I actually believed you. All of this macro/micro bullshit! It’s clear that you are just insane! And what’s worse is that you almost made me… made me believe in all of it!”
“You have to stop or else the Clotry…” Axel started but Ariel cut him off.
“It’s not a magic bird you psycho! It’s a pigeon!” She shouted. “It’s a stupid rat with wings! Clotry are not real! None of this is real!” Ariel snatched up a nearby empty can of soda and with surprisingly deft aim, threw the can, striking the pigeon in the head. It paused cocking its head slightly but seemingly unaffected by the strike. Seeing this, Axel tensed up, his movement ceasing entirely. She could see his lips tighten into a rictus as he looked at her from the corners of his eye.
“What did you do?” He asked her.
“I hit a stupid bird in its stupid bird head.” Ariel said defiantly, “You’re lucky I didn’t throw something at you. God, I can’t believe I listened to you.”
“Ariel…” Axel said but she cut him off.
“All of your magic this and realm that. It’s fake. It’s all fake.” She screamed.
“Ariel…” He continued but she would not be denied her rant.
“I am done with this. I am done with you! I am going home and going to forget all…”
“ARIEL!” Axel finally screamed, the outburst halting her train of thought.
“What?” She shouted back, her voice matching his own.
“CLOTRY!” Axel pointed at the pigeon. The bird was spasming, it’s body shivering and shuddering. The light crash of waves against the dock were over powered by light, but audible, cracking sounds as this small birds wings suddenly sprouted outward from its body growing an inch a second, the feathers turning a dark blue. It grew three feet in height as its tiny bird legs quickly swelled and elongated turning thick and branch-like with sharp talons at the end of the forked toes. Its body and head grew, swelling like a balloon filled with muscle and bone, growing to the size of a large dog as its head grew narrow, its beak becoming long like a toucan’s but sharp. A thin, prehensile barbed tail whipped out from its tail feathers and slapped into the pier gouging holes into the wood. As it reached its full size, truly the size of a man, it flapped its massive wings and unleashed an ear piercing screech.
“Axel…” Ariel whimpered as she stared at the pigeon that mutated into the creature referred to as a Clotry.
“This is gonna be fun.” Axel said and once more that wild grin returned, that same excitement she saw when she first met him.
He gestured, drawing a new symbol in the air, this one a burning orange. He traced it quickly and the moment it was complete, he slammed his palm against it. There was a loud boom like someone pounding on the bottom of a barrel as a fire ball erupted from the symbol. The ball cut through the air with astounding speed but the Clotry was faster. It shot into the sky, a burst of wind almost knocking Ariel over. The fireball struck the far end of pier with a loud explosion ripping a large hole in the wood and igniting the area around it.
“Damn it!” Axel shouted and began to trace a new spell. The Clotry wasn’t about to wait for another attack however. It dove towards them, with a ballistic trajectory. Axel barely had enough time to finish his spell and with another slam of his palm, shards of ice erupted from the symbol. The Clotry pivoted quickly, moving with a stunning grace, dodging but as it whipped away, its tail swiped at him. Axel dove out to the ground, the sharp barbs just missing. The tail struck the bench, shattering the wood and sending splinters into the grass nearby.
The Clotry rose into the air once more, beating its heavy wings as it moved. Ariel was in awe, both terrified and thrilled by what she was witnessing. The monster was real, everything he said was real. She watched as Axel jumped to his feet and began tracing another symbol. This time he traced with both hands, moving them independent of one other, one tracing blue, the other orange. The symbols weaved in and out of one another as he crafted them. As he worked, Ariel looked around them, the fight garnering the attention of those nearby. Men and woman all watched as this monstrous bird made another pass overhead. Some had their cell phones out, others just watched. There was another salvo of magic, this time of both fire and ice. They were launched at the Clotry but it dipped and dove again, the offensive magic missing once more.
“Wiley little brat!” Axel cried. He traced a new symbol this one a brilliant yellow. The edges were sharp, jagged and as he completed the spell a bolt of electricity crackled and boomed as white light erupted from the symbol, striking the Clotry. It shrieked and spasmed, dropping toward the pier but the creature managed to catch itself as the spell wore off and rather than drop, it moved into a dive. It swooped down and made another pass at Axel. It’s tail whipped out as it passed just missing his head as he ducked. There was a gasp from the crowd as the tail barely missed its target.
“Axel!” Ariel screamed. As he righted himself he smiled, their eyes meeting. He was having the time of his life. She would have found it charming if the creature wasn’t so frightening.
It was as Axel unleashed another salvo, an odd pulse that he shot from his hand like a sonic boom, Ariel realized that she was humming. Her nervous habit was surfacing once more as she watched the battle. Normally it was barely audible, mostly only for her to hear and perhaps those nearby. However that day she couldn’t help but not only hum loudly but sing as well. It was a silly song from her childhood, a tune from an old cartoon movie called An American Tale, an allegory about the Jews fleeing to the U.S. to escape persecution. There was a tune that always stuck with her, ‘Somewhere Out There.’ With everything that was happening, she just found herself singing this song.
“Somewhere, out there, beneath the pale moon light…” She sang. The tune drew attention away from the monster in the sky and the person flinging magic spells hither and yon. As she sang the world around her drifted away, the screeching of the Clotry growing dull and the booms and explosions from Axel fading into the distance. All she could hear was her own song, her own voice filling the world.
Ariel watched the Clotry dodged another fireball but she noticed something odd. The bird that had otherwise been soaring through the air with amazing ease start to slow. Its wings moved unevenly as it was almost struggling to keep in the air. Looking around her, she was stunned as those who had been watching the fight, to the point that she almost stopped singing. The on lookers were either falling asleep or had completely passed out. She looked to Axel who was regarding her for a moment before turning his attention back to the Clotry. He created one more sigil, the ice spell, and cast ice outward but this time striking the bird. The shards slipped through its body cleanly, exiting with that same ease but this time they were dark with blood. The Clotry flapped only once more before dropping to the pier, never to move again.
Ariel’s voice drifted away, her singing fading to a hummed tune before stopping altogether. Axel turned to her then to those around them who had been watching the fight. When their eyes met, there was something in them that both calmed and put her on edge. He approached her, running, and as he drew near she could see him sniffing as he had before in the bathroom back at school. He leaned in close, taking in deep lungfuls.
“You…” he said, stepping back. He wagged a finger at her as he considered his words carefully. “That’s what that smell was.” He said, his smile growing wider.
“What?” She asked.
“Oh this is awesome!” he practically shouted. “I should have known, but I haven’t smelled that in such a long time.”
“Smelled what? What are you talking about?” Ariel asked him but he was far too giddy to pay her any mind. He just kept pointing at her, wiggling his finger and laughing.
“I knew I knew you! Well knewish you. But I knew! I knew what you were special!” He laughed, “My little Cortan, I knew it!”
“Knew what? Will you just tell me?” Ariel shouted. She was actually getting angry with him which she suspected would not be a foreign feeling. He just became so engrossed with whatever was in his head that he couldn’t help but ignore the rest of the world.
“SIREN!” He cried throwing his hands up in the air triumphantly. “You my little Cortan are a Siren… well… part but yes you are! Oh it makes so much sense! Sirens always used the Midrealm, stopping for long periods of time. They love your planet! How could I be so stupid!”
“What are you talking about?” Ariel screamed at him. Axel paused from his dance but as he did his gaze shifted from her and then down to the bird. As if having forgotten the entire purpose of his trip, he laughed.
“Oh so much we have to discuss but not now.” Axel told her. He turned and ran for the Clotry. He gestured, tracing another spell. This she vaguely remembered as the rift spell he used to bring her to the pier. “But first I have work to do. So little time. But I’ll be back. I promise!” And with that he grabbed the wing of the Clotry and jumped through the rift, the bird practically sucked into the wavering air. The rift rippled as he passed through but quickly steadied and before she knew it, he and Clotry were gone. Ariel was left alone.
There were many questions left after Axel vanished and but the most pressing was: would she see him again? This man had stolen her from her home and threw her into this world of mystery and then vanished just as quickly? How could she just live her life knowing what she did? She couldn’t just forget it. She was part of this grand universe, this macroverse. How do you let that go?
She returned home to her very concerned, and very angry, parents who promptly lectured her about going out on her own especially when there was a dangerous pervert running around the city. He uncle was already looking for her, sending out patrols to find her; though she doubted that was true, she didn’t speak otherwise. When they asked her about how she got out without them noticing, she lied and said she went through her window. This was accepted but they all knew this was impossible as it was a twenty foot fall straight down. In the end they were happy she was safe and left it at that. Of course an epic lecture about safety and responsibility was on the horizon.
Before that happened though, Ariel brought up a topic that was sensitive but necessary. She knew her parent’s didn’t like to discuss. She suspected that it made it feel as if she was forgetting about them or moving on without them. That was far from the truth. She loved her parents and would never abandon them. However she found out years ago that she had been adopted and with what with Axel told her, she had to know more. If her father or mother were a Siren, she needed to know the truth.
“Mom, dad. Can you tell me about… about my birth parents?” Ariel asked. She looked down at her fingers, the nails chipped and broken. She could already sense an uneasy grow within her as she started humming a nameless tune. Right away she felt guilt boiling to the surface. Ariel glanced up and saw her mother grimace slightly. It was only for a moment, but Arial already felt horrible bringing up the subject.
“Um, sure.” She said, “But we don’t know much since it was a closed adoption.”
“They really couldn’t tell us much.” Her father added.
“What do you know?”
“Well,” Her father started with that same hesitance, “You were born somewhere around Europe, Ireland if that doesn’t surprise you. There was no birth certificate so I don’t think you were born in a hospital. And that they put you up for adoption. They weren’t involved in the adoption directly so we don’t know anything else.”
“I’m sorry sweetie.” Her mother told her, touching her arm. Ariel smiled back, ceasing the tune.
“I see.” Ariel sighed, disappointed.
“Did they leave anything?” Ariel asked but her parents said no. It appeared that there was nothing left from her birth parents. She was simply left with an adoption agency and that was that. She was a mystery, even to herself.
Axel didn’t return that day or even the day after that. And she found that she actually missed him. He was someone she just met, barely knew, but in that brief moment she was shown a world beyond what she understood. Each time she turned around she expected to see him standing there, with that childish, boyish grin but he was never there.
News from what happened at the pier spread quickly, but there never was a clear explanation regarding what happened. Some claimed it was a terror attack, others said some biological side effect from the ocean that produced a hallucinogen. This was perhaps the most logical for those who experienced it but it still didn’t explain the damage the Clotry, or Axel, caused. In the end the police said they would investigate and that was that. The only person who knew the truth wasn’t talking. The last thing Ariel wanted was for everyone to think that she was insane. That was Axel’s territory, not hers.
The following day she returned to school and the first thing she did was approach her crush, a young man by the name of Cory. He was at his locker loading up for homeroom and wearing his Letterman jacket, his hair swept to the side as he always wore it. There was a light speckle of acne that was attempting to break through but it did little to mar his perfection. As she came up to him, his cologne kissing her senses and she felt emboldened. Axel’s words returned to her, encouraging her to speak without fear. It was as if he was with her and again if she turned around she thought that he would be there behind her.
“Hi.” She said, the word coming out with a with a steadiness she never expected and to her credit, she maintained her composure well.
“Hi,” Cory replied, a smile widening as his eyes met hers. “Ariel right? Like the…”
“Like the mermaid, right.” She laughed, a joke that she had heard since childhood. The joke was less enjoyable as she thought of the word ‘siren’ and everything that was associated with it. She fought back a lump that was attempting to crawl up her throat and managed to keep it at bay.
“So what’s up?” he asked.
“Well, I was wondering if you were doing anything this Saturday?” The question met with no resistance as Ariel asked. This was a level of confidence she had never experienced. Cory laughed and shrugged.
“Nothing that I know of?” he replied.
“I was wondering if you’d like to maybe go out to a movie or dinner or both?” She said. It was then she noticed that Cory was blushing. This simple reaction made him that much more endearing and she felt her heart skip lightly in her chest.
“Um… yeah sure.” He said. And with that he gave her his phone number so they could text later and iron out the details.
Ariel was very careful to walk to the bathroom without breaking her composure. She suspected he was still watching her but didn’t want to appear presumptuous. Even so, she was thrilled. Never before had she ever asked a boy out but she felt confident and she assumed he liked that or else why would he have said yes?
She made sure she was well out of sight, hiding in the girl’s bathroom before breaking into dance. She was in the middle to walking like an Egyptian when she heard a familiar voice, one that froze her in her tracks. Ariel turned and saw Scratch stepping out of a stall. She had been so excited that she didn’t even check the rest of the bathroom before breaking into dance. The girl that always elicited fear upon sight, was different. Her hair was down and well combed, her nails trimmed to short, rounded curves, but what stood out the most was her face. She was smiling. It wasn’t that evil, knowing grin. It was a genuine, warm smile.
“You must be having a good day?” Scratch said with a laugh. “Not many people dance in public bathrooms.”
“Maybe you just haven’t been to the right one?” Ariel said and immediately felt her stomach drop slightly. That was something Axel would have said, not her. But there was no retaliation. Instead Scratch just laughed.
“Maybe.” She said, moving to the sink to wash her hands. Ariel simply watched in stunned silence until Scratch added as she pulled several paper towels. “Well I’ll see you around.”
Before she could get far Ariel blurted out, “Sc… Emily?” Scratch paused and turned to her. The glazed expression from the previous day was gone so the girl she was speaking with should have been that same evil monster that prowled the school grounds but it wasn’t. She wasn’t Scratch. She was Emily now.
“Yeah?” She asked curiously.
“You… you look good. I like your shirt.” Ariel said. Scratch looked down and smiled.
“Thanks.” And with that Emily left. There was barely a second after the door closed that she suddenly heard another voice.
“She seems better.” Ariel quickly spun around to see Axel standing near a stall. He still wore his red trench coat but that day he had a yellow t-shirt and blue jeans.
“You came back.” She managed and without thinking she ran to him, wrapping her arms around his neck. It was the first time she realized he was wearing some sort of fragrance. It was light, barely detectable but pleasant; remarkably pleasant. Axel laughed hugging her back for a moment before gently pushing her back.
“I told you would. Just took a bit longer to harvest the venom than I thought.” He told her. “Plus I had to sneak away from the sister to come back to the Midrealm. She doesn’t like it when I come here, says I bring too much attention.”
“You mean like shooting fire balls at a magic bird?” Ariel asked with a large smile.
“Something like that.” Axel replied.
“So not that I’m complaining but why are you here? You caught your bird so why come back?” Ariel asked him. Axel smiled and while it lacked that mad enthusiasm there was still a genuineness to it. It was the smile of a man who was happy and she found that he was that much more attractive. Once again her heart fluttered, perhaps even harder than with Cory.
“I promised I would.” Axel said, “And I always keep my promises.”
“So what now? Off on another grand adventure in search of new life and new civilizations?” Ariel teased, humming the tune to Star Trek the Next Generation, one of her father’s favorite shows.
“There is this one Realm I’ve been wanting to visit again. It’s been a while. It’s in the Korgo realm on the outskirts of the macroverse. There’s a planet that is inhabited by Dragons. Real dragons.” Axel said as he drummed his fingers on the bathroom stall nonchalantly.
“Dragons?” Ariel asked eyes wide. A smile attempted to curl upwards but she fought it back, pursing her lips instead.
“I would ask if you wanted to come but you have your school and your job and your… date?” Axel asked with a raised eyebrow. Ariel looked away, her blush telling him everything. “And so I’m sure you can’t.
“I… I would love to but I… I can’t.” Ariel relented. “My parents are still pissed that I left yesterday and that someone, you, might kidnap me or something.”
“I understand,” Axel sighed, “I’ll just…”
“Wait…” She cried cutting him off, “How long would we be gone for? Just out of curiosity.”
“Well if we play our cards right… minutes… if that?” Axel said.
“What do you mean?”
“Did you know that there something called Time Magic?” Axel asked her, “In theory someone, maybe us, could travel all over the Macroverse and return the moment we left. Not that I’m implying anything but just noting it.”
“So it wouldn’t like I’d be gone at all?” Ariel asked curiously.
“In theory… no.” Axel said. He looked up at her, catching her gaze and no doubt the wonder in her eyes. “So what do you say? Do you want to see the universe?”
Ariel simply smiled.