“Ha!” Astrid landed on her feet this time. The scrawny girl looked around at her new surroundings. Moments ago she stood next to a wide, deep chasm; then, Ballisea sent her somewhere else. Astrid landed at the edge of a filled parking lot; a sea of colorful cars stood between her and a lively strip mall. She shrugged to herself and started walking toward the crowd.
As Astrid drew closer she spotted dozens of “Sale” signs. The storefronts promised heavy discounts on everything inside while throngs of shoppers swarmed in and out of each shop. They carried a rainbow of bags, colorful boxes, and bags of boxes. Astrid reached the main walkway.
“Excuse me,” she asked the first person that crossed her path. A burly man with both hands full glanced down at Astrid, then walked around her without a word. “Rude,” she sighed then tried again with the next person. The good thing about a busy strip mall is there were plenty more people to ask.
After four strangers buzzed past her without giving her more than a half-glance, Astrid decided to change her tactics. She stared more intently at the flow of strangers around her. Then, she found what she was looking for; someone without packages that didn’t seem to be in a hurry. A young girl in a blood-red hoodie exited a furniture store and seemed to be strolling along. Her pace was significantly slower than the shoppers around her. Astrid headed straight for her but slowed down when the girl walked into a pizza shop.
“Crap,” Astrid sighed, then she giggled when she put more thought into the situation. “Actually, I am hungry. Great.” She decided to continue into the restaurant. It occurred to her that even if she didn’t get to talk to the girl, her waiter had to talk to her. She resumed walking toward the pizza shop. The girl in the red hoodie walked out as Astrid was about to enter. She glanced at Astrid, then smiled broadly.
“Hola, Luna,” she said. Astrid froze. Her eyes widened and her smile touched her ears.
“Mundo!?” she asked excitedly. It made sense to her; a Mundo would be able to tell what she was at a glance, but the girl shook her head.
“I’m Cherry. An Estrella,” she said but did not offer a handshake.
“Even better!” Astrid chirped.
“Walk if you wanna talk, I’ve got people waiting on me,” Cherry said. She turned and started walking. Astrid eagerly followed. This was Astrid’s first meeting with an Estrella, and she wanted to stay on her good side.
“Two things, first, can I touch you?” she asked. Cherry stopped walking.
“Why?” she asked.
“Star Sight is one the abilities I’m saving room for,” Astrid said. Golden stars glowed in Cherry’s eyes as she stared at Astrid.
“One of the ones you’re saving room for?” she asked with a smirk, then started walking forward again. “You’ve already got the strength of a Calavera and the flight of a Pajaro, what other ones do you want?” Astrid kept pace next to Cherry as they walked through the crowd.
“I didn’t even want flight; but, my mom’s a Pajaro, so I didn’t have a choice. Along with Star Sight, I want the Borracho’s luck, Soldado’s regeneration, and el Mano, just because it’s handy.”
“You’ve really planned it out, huh?” Cherry asked as she slowed down in front of a fried chicken restaurant. Astrid nodded.
“I met a Mundo who explained how I work,” she said. “Speaking of which, that’s the second thing,” Astrid said.
“Wait here a second,” Cherry said, then disappeared into the restaurant. A few minutes later she walked back out. “So what’s the second thing?”
“A ride. Usually, I look for a Mundo to get me a taxi, but since you’re an Estrella, I could just ask you.” Cherry smiled and offered Astrid her hand.
“Go ahead,” she said. “I’ll let you copy my Sight.”
“Thanks!” Astrid wasted no time in grabbing the girl’s hand. She immediately felt a tingle in her soul and in her eyes. She squeezed her eyes shut to let the sensation pass, then she opened them, and gasped. “Oh my god, it’s beautiful!” Astrid saw dozens if not hundreds of tiny, twinkling, floating stars around Cherry. They swirled around her like a lazy, gentle tornado. A brilliant golden cloth with a star insignia hung from Cherry’s shoulders like a cloak. Astrid blinked the vision away and Cherry returned to a normal girl in a red hoodie.
“You’re welcome,” Cherry smiled. “But, I can’t help you with your second request,” Cherry said. “You’ve already got a ride.”
“What are yo-,” Astrid did not get to finish her question. A black hole opened under her feet and swallowed her up.