Magic Words

Something was different. Bijou blinked her crystal pink eyes several times, then she looked around her dorm. Golden sunlight poured in through the windows and highlighted her mess. A mix of clean and dirty clothes covered most of the floor, the computer chair, desk, and foot of her bed. Everything seemed to have a faint ethereal glow around it. A realization struck her as she surveyed the room. Bijou paused, thought for a moment, then violently shook her head.

“No hangover?” Normally her head would be pounding the next morning. “Awesome.” The short, dark-haired woman hopped out bed overflowing with energy. “I wonder what the hell I drank last night,” she mused. Her phone rang as she stared at the pile of clothes trying to guess what was clean. She grabbed the phone displaying her mom’s picture and answered it.

“Hey, mom, what’s up?”

“Oh thank god you’re okay!” her mom let loose an audible sigh of relief. “I was so worried.”

“Worried? About what?” Bijou sat on her bed to listen. Her mom’s stories tended to drag on, especially if she was worried.

“It’s all over the news, there was a unicorn attack at the university last night,” her mom sighed again. “I shouldn’t have worried the rhyme will keep you safe. You should teach it to your friends,” she said. Bijou realized she forgot the previous night, but knew there would be nothing gained by telling her mom that.

“Oh wow, I better go check on them. Thanks, mom. Call you later, I love you.” She saw a way out of the conversation and took it. Bijou did not actually have any friends she was worried about, but her mom didn’t know that. She was friendly enough and enjoyed nights out, but she only kept social friends. She had yet to meet someone she’d consider a real friend, and she was happy with that.

“Crazy,” Bijou shook her head. “It can’t be a coincidence…,” she said. She stood and walked to the bathroom. “I gotta find out what happened.” She checked her clothes and hair in the mirror, then decided she looked presentable. As she stepped out of the girl’s hall she noticed several news crews packing up. They walked away from a line of yellow police tape that surrounded a red spot on the green lawn. Two officers by the police tape were talking to a woman in a black suit. The woman happened to be facing towards Bijou. Once she noticed the student, the woman left the two officers to approach her. Bijou panicked for a split second, but then she realized she’d done nothing wrong.

“‘Morning,” the woman smiled and extended her hand. “I’m Agent Mundo.”

“Bijou,” she gave her own name and accepted the handshake.

“It looks like there was a unicorn rampage last night,” Mundo said. She cocked her head back toward the police tape. “Did you see anything?” Bijou shook her head.

“Sorry. I was out drunk last night.” Agent Mundo’s left eyebrow raised slightly. She looked Bijou up and down, then gave her a friendly smile.

“No hangover, huh? You’re super lucky,” she said.

“Oh, believe me, I know,” Bijou said. She felt comfortable with Mundo enough to chat. “It’s actually kind of odd for me. Usually, I’m in bed for the whole next day.” Mundo’s left eyebrow edged upward again, this time a bit higher.

“Really? What’s your secret?” she asked. Bijou shrugged.

“I don’t know, but I hope it’s permanent,” she replied. Agent Mundo took a step towards a nearby bench.

“Well, you can’t just hope. Think about your day yesterday. Did you do anything different last night that you didn’t do all the other times?” Mundo walked two more steps to the bench and sat down. Bijou sat on the bench to chat more before she realized it. In the back of her mind, she vaguely registered that she was very comfortable around Mundo. She wanted to keep the conversation going and decided to tell Mundo about the rhyme.

“It’s silly,” Bijou said.

“If it keeps me from getting hangovers, I don’t care how silly it is,” Mundo smiled.

“It’s not something I did. It’s something I didn’t do, so it probably won’t help you.” Despite deciding to share the rhyme, she did not know the best way to dress it up to sound less ridiculous.

“Hell, I’ll start just to stop. Out with it,” Mundo patted Bijou on the shoulder. Bijou took a deep breath.

“My mom taught me this nursery rhyme and she said it’ll keep me safe from unicorns,” Bijou said. The moment the word ‘unicorn’ came out of her mouth she remembered the whole reason Mundo was there. She was enjoying the woman’s company so much that it slipped her mind. Mundo’s raised her eyebrow again.

“How does it go?” she asked.

“In brightest day, in blackest night, no unicorn shall enter my sight, let those who worship evil’s might, beware my glower… Bijou’s soul light.”

“That’s adorable!” Mundo said. Bijou blushed slightly and nodded.

“I think so.”

“What’s on your agenda today?” Mundo asked suddenly.

“Don’t have one. I expected to be hungover all day, so I cleared my schedule.”

“Wanna grab some lunch?”

“A-are you asking me out?” Bijou asked. She wanted to say yes, but she also did not want to make a fool of herself by assuming it was a date.

“No, my first dates are always dinner,” Mundo shrugged. “Right now, lunch sounds good and I’ve got a lot to tell you.”

“You do? Like what?” Mundo smiled and leaned closer.

“You’re the unicorn,” she whispered in Bijou’s ear.

“What? Bijou stared at Mundo with confusion. “How in the hell did you come to that conclusion? Are you even a real Agent? Agent of what?” She stood to leave, but Mundo rested a hand on her shoulder to keep her seated.

“You’ll have a ton of questions and I’ll elaborate over some Chinese food, but here’s the quick version. You’re Unique #47, La Corona. You’re born to be one of the most fearful things on Earth,” she shrugged.

“This Earth hates unicorns for some reason. Anyway, you grew up thinking your rhyme would keep the unicorns away, so it did. And then when you forgot the Unicorn came out to play. To be specific you’re a were-unicorn, but that’s neither here nor there. If you get a tattoo with the number 47 on it, you’ll get control over your abilities. We can do that after lunch, I know a great artist.”

“You’re making that up. All of it. I don’t even know what you said,” Bijou said. Despite her words, Bijou did understand some of it, and she believed it.

“Things were different for you this morning, weren’t they? You see things just a little different now. Like everything is alive. Like it has a soul,” Mundo said confidently. Bijou knew she never mentioned that to Mundo. She nodded softly.

“But you didn’t look into a mirror, did you?”

“Yeah, I did,” Bijou said. Mundo shook her head and reached into her pocket. She grabbed her cellphone and turned the selfie camera on.

“You didn’t look into the mirror,” she held the phone up in front of Bijou’s face. Bijou noticed her eyes for the first time. Bright pink irises surrounded bright, crystalline pupils.

“What happened to my eyes?”

“They’re magical now, just like you,” Mundo said. “Do you believe me yet? At least enough to listen over lunch?” Bijou nodded.

“Good. We should do dinner too.”

Royal Verdict

I bet you didn’t expect me to have powers too, did you?” Mundo felt the strange thought in his head. The source of the smug statement, a scraggly-bearded man in an orange jump-suit, grinned at Mundo. The man massaged his wrists once the bailiff removed his cuffs.

It’s interesting that you ask…,” Mundo replied telepathically. The suited lawyer held up a golden pen to draw the killer’s attention. Once the scraggly man set his eyes on the pen Mundo dropped it. It fell half a foot then stopped as if it got stuck in the air.

“What the hell?!” the killer said aloud. He pointed at the pen frozen in the air and tried to get someone to look at it, but no one else was moving. Time stopped for them.

“…if you understood your powers better…” Mundo stepped around the frozen bailiff and approached the killer with a pair of onyx handcuffs. “…you’d know that I very much expected you to have powers. The funny part is:…” Mundo cuffed a very confused prisoner. “…we couldn’t do anything until you proved it to me.”

“I’m a free man,” The man faced the bench. “Hey judge, what about my rights?” he asked for help but the judge remained fixed in time. He stared forward at nothing. Mundo nodded.

“You do have rights,” the lawyer faced the back of the small courtroom. “Your honor?” he asked. A black-haired woman stood to separate herself from the time-locked crowd. She wore a black flowing dress that resembled a judge’s robe.

“Lucas Espinoza, #39 – El Nopal. The woman locked eyes with the prisoner. “The Royal Court of Uniques finds you guilty of unsanctioned Zero-slaughter. You are sentenced to The Courtyard prison server for five years.”

“WHAT?! What the hell are you talking about?” Lucas yelled. “Wake up!” He threw his weight against the Bailiff, but the chubby man fell over like a statue. Lucas noticed a gun holstered at the man’s hip. He scrambled to grab it with his cuffed hands; then, he pointed it at the woman and fired. A bullet exited the barrel then stopped. The empty air caught it the same way it caught the golden pen.

“Verdict is rendered. Owen, send me home, then assist Mundo with sentencing,” the woman said. A thin man with short blond hair sitting in front of the woman nodded. Lucas was surprised to see him move. He watched the group intently after the woman stood to pick out any movement, but did not see any. The blond man stood from his seat at the same time a black portal opened in the air in front of the woman. When the portal disappeared she was gone and Owen smiled.

“What’s going on?” Lucas asked Mundo. What’s the Courtyard? Who was that?” The greying man stepped to Mundo’s side to put the lawyer between Owen and himself.

“The Courtyard is the lightest sentence you can get. You pretty much got house arrest in a mansion,’ Mundo said, then he shrugged. “Well, a virtual mansion, I guess.”

“Virtual?” Lucas asked. Then he blinked.

“Yes,” Owen said. Lucas jumped and took a step back, he did not expect Owen to be so close. As he moved back he checked behind him to avoid tripping over the bailiff’s body, but it was gone. He looked around expecting to see the courtroom but he stood in the middle of a soil pit in a small prison cell. His orange jumpsuit was replaced with a white bodysuit. Lucas sighed.

“God damnit guys, can someone tell me what’s going on?” Lucas asked.

“You wanna know what’s going on?” Mundo asked.

“Yeah!” Lucas nodded. “First of all who was that lady and what kind of position does she have that lets her do…,” Lucas held up his cuffs. “…this to me.”

“That lady was Queen,-” Owen began to explain; then, Lucas blinked. Lucas opened his eyes to a violet sky with amber grain stems swaying over him.

“That time-stopping son of a bitch!” Lucas grumbled out loud when he realized what happened. “Hey, what happened to the prison?” Lucas stood up and looked around. An endless sea of golden waves swayed in the breeze as far as he could see. He turned in place several times to survey the land, but the field extended to the horizon in all directions.

“Welcome to the AlterNet!” a woman’s voice said behind him. He jumped and spun around. A white, featureless mannequin floated above the grain. “To enter general population you must first create a character. Recommended classes for #39 El Nopal include,-”

“What’s that!?” Lucas blurted out. “What am I?” He remembered the Queen had also used that phrase to describe him. The mannequin descended slightly and drew closer to Lucas.

“You don’t know what you are?” Lucas shook his head.

“No.” The mannequin nodded. It landed on the ground. Immediately a large radius of wheat around them disappeared, then a round, wooden table appeared in the center in front of Lucas. A chair formed by Lucas and several fast food boxes materialized on Lucas’ side of the table. A red and white bucket of fried chicken sat next to a plate of Chinese food, and both sat on top of a pizza box. On the other side of the table, a variety of drinks appeared.

“This will take some time to explain.”

First Gear

“Huh.” Greg stared at the watch parts scattered on the concrete sidewalk. He looked at the stopped cars in the street; they were driving by at full-speed moments ago. Greg wanted to cross, but did not want to wait for the light. He reached into his pocket for the watch. He squeezed the button too hard and the small pocket watch flew out of his hand. After time stopped.

“Well, at least I have time to think,” he said aloud. The ominous silence of stopped time left always him uneasy. Greg shrugged to himself and crossed the street as he originally planned. He was on his lunch break and decided to eat while he figured out what to do next. As he approached the entrance of his favorite burger spot a tall black hold appeared in the air in front of the door. Greg stopped walking. A pale, tall young man wearing black jeans stepped out of the hole followed by a young woman.

“They can move?” Greg stayed still. “They don’t know I can move,” he planned to stay still and see what happened. The pair seemed to notice time was not moving. They looked at the stopped cars, and peeked inside the restaurant, then they talked to each other. The woman seemed excited, then the pale man turned and looked at Greg. “Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move,” he reminded himself. “It’s just coincidence.” The couple began walking towards Greg. He fought to keep still. Once they were close enough the woman locked eyes with Greg.

“You’re right! I can see the difference!” She said with a large smile, then she waved at Greg. “Hi. Did you stop time?” Greg stared at an imaginary dot behind the red-headed woman. He did not so much as blink. The woman turned her attention to the pale young man.

“Well he doesn’t want to fix it,” she shrugged. “It doesn’t look like there’s anything else to do here, let’s move on.”

“You can fix it!?” Greg grabbed the woman’s hand.

“Maybe. It depends on a few things. First I have to know, did you do it?” She slid her hand out of Greg’s grip. He nodded.

“Yes. It was an accident!” She gave Greg an appraising look, then she looked back to her pale friend.

“He’s a Zero.. right?”  He nodded and she turned back to Greg.

“How did you stop time?”

“Uh, I had a watch,” Greg turned to point at the sidewalk across the street. “It stops time when I press the button, but I dropped it.”

“A watch?” She asked her friend. He nodded and started crossing the street. The woman followed him, and Greg followed her.

“Some Uniques can imbue items with their magic,” the man explained to his partner, and Greg also heard. Though he did not understand the explanation beyond “magic”. The trio reached the clockwork mess and the strange man knelt to poke at the bits and pieces. “Ha!” He grabbed a piece off the concrete then stood and smiled at the woman. He held out his palm to show her a small golden gear that glowed with faint golden light. “Definitely a Muerte. Take it, it’ll make your magic stronger.”

The woman touched the gear then she immediately began to glow with golden light. The gear dimmed until its light disappeared completely. After several seconds the glow around the woman dimmed and she smiled.

“That was awesome! There was tons of magic in there,” she rubbed her hands together. “I feel great!”

“Cool,” the pale man nodded. “Ready then?” He waved a hand at the air and another black portal opened up.

“Wait!” Greg spoke up. “You said you were gonna fix it.”  He asked the woman. The tall man stepped into the black portal and disappeared, but the woman nodded and smiled.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” she snapped her fingers as she stepped into the hole in the air. Time roared to life before she disappeared.