Owen sat up in bed and looked at the bare, beige carpet in the center of his bedroom.
“YEEEEEESSS!” he cheered to himself and hopped out of bed. He ran to his kitchen to find the dining room chair he chopped up the previous night. He grew suspiciously hopeful that the day was resetting. He did not want to destroy anything irreplaceable; he chopped the legs off the chair and left the pile in his bedroom before going to sleep.
Two hours later Owen sat in his favorite coffee shop taking notes. He watched the locals while keeping an eye on social media for anything useful. After a while, he noticed a young woman with dark hair sneaking glances at him. She wore blue jeans and a simple black blouse. After an hour of watching him, without getting a drink, the young woman left.
“I’ll talk to her tomorrow,” Owen decided and threw himself back into his research of the day. He stayed in the coffee shop until they closed, then headed home. He was content with his research and had some ideas of how to make the best of the day; if he got it again. He took the time to destroy the chair again before bed; he wanted to have an immediate indicator of whether his day reset.
The next morning Owen was glad it was the same morning; the dismantled chair was in one piece again in his kitchen. He spent extra time getting ready. He wanted to feel fresh and confident when he struck up a conversation with the stranger today.
He walked into the coffee shop and glanced around. Everyone was there again except the woman he was looking for.
“Maybe she didn’t get here until later…,” Owen reasoned. He expected to chat her up a bit to get some information for the next time then move on to his plans. Without her there he sat down and decided to double check his info to kill time. Owen looked up every time the door opened but she did not walk in until after lunch. She wore a bright white blouse with navy blue slacks; not the blue jeans and black shirt from the previous day. “What the hell?” Owen realized she wasn’t just dressed differently; she seemed to be unaffected by time resetting. That day she came into the coffee shop hours after she left it the previous day.
Owen watched her accept her drink. Instead of the going to the same seat she sat in yesterday she walked straight to his table and sat down across from him.
“Hi!” she smiled. Her eyes sparkled with a glassy, bright pink color he’d never seen in someone’s eyes before.
“Hi,” Owen replied. “Uh.. can I help you?” He mentally kicked himself; he planned to be smoother when talking to her. She nodded.
“I think so. My name is Bijou,” she said and extended a hand across the table. Owen shook it.
“Owen,” he introduced himself.
“I need someone that can control time,” she said. She looked around the cafe with a suspicious eye then winked at Owen. He caught a glimpse of a tattoo on her eyelid but it disappeared again before he identified it. “Kind of like what you’ve been doing for a few days.”
“How did you know!?” Owen hissed across the table with a loud whisper. She winked again with the same eye, slower this time. Owen saw her tattoo clearly. The number 47 in black with a small golden crown atop the seven decorated her right eyelid.
The skittish mugger looked at his gun, then back at the lean, wispy man. It looked like his skin was pulled tight over his bones; his apparent malnutrition is what gave Linus the courage to victimize the man. He did not plan on firing a single shot, much less six. Now that he was approaching 50, Linus had learned that plans are made to be broken.
“Fate, huh? So can you change mine?” Linus asked. Fate cocked his head to the side and gave him a questioning look.
“You don’t need me for that,” he replied with a calming, even tone. Linus gave a half nod and hid his gun under his coat.
“Yeah, I suppose you wouldn’t seein’ I just tried mugging you,” he shook his head. “Sorry, and thanks for not killing me.”
“Why would I?” Fate asked. He seemed perpetually confused as far as Linus could tell from the short five-minute interaction they’ve had so far. Linus only meant to fire a warning shot to scare the man; he did not seem to understand he was being robbed.
“‘Cause I tried to take your money and kill you. It’s only fair you’d want revenge. Anyone that can take six shots in the chest without blinking can probably make short work of me.”
“Do you wish ill upon the breeze that caresses your face?” Fate asked. Linus shook his head in equal parts astonishment and offense.
“That’s all those bullets were to you? A stiff breeze?” Linus asked. Fate smiled at him.
“A gentle breeze. Do you want money?” Fate asked suddenly. Linus laughed. He had grown used to Fate’s quirks already. He was not surprised Fate did not know what a mugging was. Fate reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out a small, glassy rectangle about the size of a playing card. “I’ve been told this works as a credit card if you swipe it.” He tossed it at Linus. “She said it has no limit,” Fate shrugged. “I don’t know what that means, but I’m sure you do.”
“And you’re just giving this to me??”
“I don’t need it. You don’t either, but it seems like you need to learn that lesson for yourself.” Linus stared wide-eyed at the device. When he touched it, it lit up like a display and showed the current time with an infinity symbol next to it.
“Wait a minute. Who’s ‘she’ that you mentioned? Is this hers? Is she gonna come back for it?” Linus began to push the glass card back to Fate; but, the frail man shook his head.
“My queen, Bijou, gifted it to me to keep me entertained while I wait for her. She’ll be here soon. My wait is almost over.”
“Your Queen? Fate has a queen? How does that work?”
“How does what work?” Fate asked.
“I mean, you’re fate. You control and guide people’s lives. You decide people’s circumstances. I never thought you’d report to anyone.”
“Oh,” Fate chuckled. “You’re confused. I’m not…,” he used air quotes. “FATE. My name is Fate but I decide my own. Just like you.”
“But then what are you? I know I shot you point blank.”
“I’m a Unique Soul. #42, La Calavera.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Linus shook his head.
“It means I can make short work of you if I wanted to.”
“Fair enough,” Linus nodded. “But what ab-” he stopped talking. His mouth dropped open and he stared at something behind Fate. A pitch black portal, somehow darker than the dark alley, opened in the air. A short dark-haired woman walked out. Though she stood in shadows, Linus clearly saw bright pink crystalline eyes staring at him. Once she walked up to Fate Linus got the impression that she stared at him just to ignore him. She looked at Fate.
“Yes my Queen,” Fate said with a deliberate nod of his head. Then he turned around and walked through the portal. Bijou followed and the portal closed behind them.
“What’s your name?” Bijou asked Agent Mundo. The two women sat in a red and gold booth in a Chinese restaurant. After placing their orders, Bijou decided to start the questioning. The federal agent promised her answers.
“It’s Mundo,” she said. “Agent is just a title.”
“But what’s your first name? Or is it Mundo?” Mundo gave a half shrug.
“I was born Olive Brooks, but I changed my name to Mundo when I was ‘Awakened’.” Bijou nodded. She didn’t know exactly what ‘awakened’ meant, but she knew she’d get the answer soon. Her mind latched on to a more immediate question.
“Do I have to change my name too? To Corona or whatever you said I was?” Bijou loved her name too much to change it. Luckily Mundo shook her head at the question.
“No, it’s mostly a Mundo thing. Not all Mundos do it, but it makes things easier for everyone.”
“Okay, you’re starting to lose me,” Bijou said. “How many Mundos are there? You said we were called Unique Souls, but it doesn’t seem very unique if there’s more of you, and you all change your name to Mundo.”
“Most Earths produce a Mundo at some point,” Mundo said.
“That! That’s what I want to know. You said, ‘This Earth hates unicorns.’ Are alternate Earths really real?” Bijou asked. Her crystalline pink eyes sparkled with hope. If alternate Earths were real she knew she could find the right one to make her dream come true. Mundo nodded.
“Yeah. Real and easily accessible for Uniques.” Bijou grinned broadly.
“Can we go??” Bijou imagined Mundo giving her a tour of her favorite Earths.
“You can,” Mundo said. “I can’t leave my Earth.” Bijou’s smile dimmed slightly.
“It’ll help if I explain how Uniques work in general,” Mundo said. She sat up straighter and smiled at Bijou. There’re 54 different types of Uniques broken down into six tiers.”
“Oh, those are the numbers you told me, right? You said you you’re #37 and I’m #47. Does that mean I’m stronger than you?” Mundo shook her head.
“Nope. The numbers themselves don’t mean much other than identifying the Unique. You probably are stronger than me, but technically you’re on a lower tier. The ranking isn’t about how strong you are, it’s about what you can do.” Mundo pointed at Bijou.
“You are La Corona, so you’re in the Conqueror tier. Everyone in that tier is powerful enough to conquer the Earth they’re born on.”
“Oh yeah! You said I was born to be one of the most fearful things on Earth,” Bijou said. “That’s to help me conquer the Earth?” Mundo nodded.
“Yeah. Each one goes about it a different way. Coronas are the strongest conquerors and they’re born in the form of whatever the humans fear at the time. I guess when you were born people were really scared of unicorns for some reason.”
“What tier are you? What do you do?”
“I’m in the tier above you, called Celestials. Celestials can open portals to travel between universes. Conquerors can easily conquer their Earth, celestials can easily conquer several.”
“But you said you can’t leave?” Bijou asked.
“Right. That’s specific to Mundos, and one of the lower tiers. My ability is knowledge. When I got my tattoo it flooded my mind with information on Uniques and the multi-verse. It’s weird to doubt and generally not think about other universes one day; then, to know for a fact that they’re real the next. Mundos help teach Uniques about themselves and their abilities.”
“Wow, it’s a great thing I ran into you!” Bijou smiled. Mundo nodded.
“It would have happened eventually. Uniques are drawn to each other, it actually makes my job easier. When I heard about the unicorn attack at the university, I assumed there was a Unique involved. All I had to do was show up, and there you were.”
“So you can’t leave this Earth.. but have you met travelers from other Earths?”
“Oh yeah, quite a few. I’ve got some friends that come by regularly.”
“Wow, what are their universes like?”
“Their particular universes are kind of boring, but there’s a lot of awesome stuff out there. If you can imagine something, there’s probably an Earth like that.”
“Oh! What about aliens?” Bijou asked. Her sole reason for attending college was to become an astronomer, but even that was a means to an end. More than anything she dreamed about meeting alien life. Now that she had access to other universes she could just find one with aliens in it and meet them. Unfortunately, Mundo shook her head.
“Sorry, no aliens.”
“You’re kidding me! Out of all the travelers you met, not one of them came from an Earth that’s met alien life?” Mundo nodded.
“Pretend this Earth is an apartment in a very trusting building,” Mundo said. Bijou nodded. “There’s only one key to open the main door, and all the apartments are unlocked. Once a Unique has been to your apartment, it gets a key and can come back any time to any of the apartments. Not only that, but Uniques share the key with everyone they meet.” Bijou’s eyes narrowed with confusion.
“Aliens?” she asked to get Mundo back on topic.
“Yeah. No one that has come into this apartment building of ours has met any aliens, nor met anyone that has met any aliens yet.”
“You can’t know that for sure, right?” Alternate Earths were great, but Bijou wanted to see the universe, not just more Earths.
“Once aliens have the key to our building we’ll have the key to theirs. Then we’ll be able to enter all kinds of new Earths that have met aliens.” Mundo shrugged. “There’re infinite universes out there. Sure we can travel between a few, but it’s still only a small corner of infinity.”
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.