Majestic Life

“Awww, nuts,” Linus opened his eyes and sighed when he recognized the office. He was seated in a comfortable rolling chair in front of a small particle-board desk. A beige monitor took up more than half of the desk. A transparent phone with glowing pink and blue neon lights rested on the other end of the desk. The high-back leather chair behind the desk was empty. He settled in his seat, focused his attention on the phone, then waited.

A door opened behind him and he whirled around to see who it was. A fat man in a red t-shirt and blue jeans walked in with a smile; he wore a navy blue business coat on his shoulders like a cape. His golden hair was as stringy as a bird’s nest and almost as organized.

“Linus!” he grinned and patted Linus on the back heartily as he walked past. “Great to meet you man, congratulations!”

“Chase?” Linus asked. Despite visiting the office several hundreds of times he’d never met his caseworker. Chase always conducted phone interviews. The fat man nodded; his pale, chubby cheeks wobbled with the motion.

“No more phone interviews,” Chase said. He glanced at the neon phone with a bit of sadness. “Some bull crap about…,” he changed his tone to a mocking authoritative voice. “professional appearance and professional standards.” Chase shook his head. “Anyway, you did it! You’re the last you in,” Chase opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a manila folder. He opened it on the desk and began looking over the forms within.

“How many?” Linus asked.

“We got you down to five,” Chase flipped a sheet over and continued reading. “It looks like you’re the tie-breaker.” Linus nodded.

“Can I go again?” Linus asked. “I mean, to get more points?” He felt disappointed when Chase shook his head.

“Theoretically, yes,” Chase said. “But, you’re already outvoted on that. The other ‘yous’ want to cash out. Luckily they agree on pretty much everything; there’re only a few decisions you have to make.”

“Oh,” Linus sighed. “Fine, what’s my last life like?” he asked. Chase tapped the skull tattoo on his forehead.

“You earned enough to become a Calavera with an extra perk.” Linus sat up with a smile.

“Extra perk?” he asked. “Like what?” Chase flipped another form over and looked at the next sheet.

“Your latest couple of lives…,” Chase made a gesture at Linus. “…this last one in particular, you got pretty environmental.” Linus nodded.

“Yeah, I thought I could extend the path and go all the way to Mundo.” Chase returned the nod.

“You could’ve if you weren’t outvoted. But,” Chase smiled. “You managed to get enough points in ‘Environmentalist’ to get you an elemental power. You get to choose which.” Linus smiled to himself.

“Whoa… a Calavera with elemental powers? I like the sound of that,” he chuckled. “So I’ll be able to control one of the four ele-“

“Six,” Chase corrected.

“Six?”

“Earth, fire, wind, water…,” Chase said. “…sun, and void.”

“Earth,” Linus said. “I mean, that’s my choice.” Chase nodded and grabbed a pen to scribble something on the form. 

“Any preference about what kind of Earth you’re born on?”

“No…,” Linus said. He started out strong, but the ‘o’ stretched out as he thought. “…but, I don’t want to be the only Unique. Is that possible? I’d like to meet a Unique as soon as possible.” Chase smiled as he continued adding notes to the form.

“Our control of your circumstances isn’t quite that exact, but I’ll add a note and we’ll see what happens.” He chuckled. “The universe works in mysterious ways. Gender?”

“I..  I can choose that too?” Linus asked. Chase shrugged.

“Technically, no. But I know what’s it’s like to have decisions taken out of your hands,” he said with a friendly sigh. “You wanted to keep going but you can’t. It sucks, and I don’t want you to start your last life on a sour note. We…,” Chase tapped the navy blue coat on his shoulders. “…are supposed to choose for you. Mix up your lives a bit, you know? But, what the hell. You made it this far, I’ll let you pick. Linus shrugged.

“Thanks! I appreciate the gesture, but I really don’t care. Surprise me.” Chase nodded.

“Name?”

“Whoa, that too!?”

“Yes, when you become a Unique,” Chase said. Linus shrugged.

“You pick for me, a favor from one Calavera to another.” Linus was not ready for the questions but he trusted Chase enough to let him answer. 

“Cool, I can do that,” Chase said. Looks like we’re all set, you’ll be born in a bit,” he closed the folder. “Any guidelines for the name? Anything you don’t want?” Linus smiled and shook his head.

“Nah, I trust you. Just make sure it’s something…,” Linus’ head wavered as he considered several words he wanted to use. Then, he settled on one. “…something majestic.”

Majestic Smackdown

A blue bolt of lightning came out of the twilight sky and struck the sidewalk in front of Majesty’s table. The diners screamed and scattered from their tables; some ran back inside the coffee shop. Some hopped the small fence and fled. All traffic in the area stopped, people abandoned their cars. Everyone recognized LightningStrike’s entrance.

Majesty recognized the villain’s customary arrival, but she did not flee. The purple-haired woman remained seated playing a game on her node. A tall, lean man in a blue too-tight body suit appeared after the flash of light. He looked down at the seated Majesty through his blue-opaque face shield. It was molded to look like a face without any defining features. Two indentations represented the eyes, and a small protrusion on the middle resembled a nose.

“You’re a brave one,” he said. His voice sounded loud, low and gravelly. The mask did not muffle his words at all, it seemed to come from his entire being. He approached the table. Majesty did not look up. “That kind of bravery only comes from confidence…,” he said. He took slow, menacing steps toward Majesty. “…confidence that you’re not in danger. Confidence that you’ll be saved by your…,”  Majesty’s node rang. The colorful game on her screen was replaced by a picture of her next to a handsome blonde man. “…heroic husband,” LightningStrike finished.

“Hello?” Majesty said. She answered the node while still ignored LightningStrike. The villain stopped in his tracks when she looked up at him finally. Her eyes were translucent purple; reminiscent of amethyst. “Yeah, he’s here,” she said. She gave an exaggerated shrug into the transparent, glassy rectangle. “That depends on him. I’m just having some coffee,” she said.

“I WILL NOT BE IGNOoooow. ow. ow. ow.”  LightningStrike bellowed as he reached for her node. His outburst was silenced by pain. The hand he used to take her node was very close to being crushed by Majesty’s right hand. She switched hands with the node and still had time to catch his attack.

“I can’t promise anything. Hurry up, babe. Love you,” she added, then set the node on the table. She released LightningStrike’s hand and he yanked it back to cradle it by his chest. “He’s out of your stupid little trap or whatever and on his way,” Majesty said. She waved a hand at him dismissively. “Go wreak havoc if you want to kill time.”

“What I want to kill…,” LightningStrike said as he wiggled his fingers to get feeling back in them again. “…is YOU!” he pointed both hands at Majesty and blue electricity flowed out of his hands and struck her square on the chest.

LightningStrike held the arcing bolt for several seconds. Majesty seemed to be growing annoyed, but otherwise remained seated. He gave up. Most people could not even handle his full voltage for a second. When he stopped he noticed her chest was protected by a layer of brown-purple stone. It melted back into her fair skin once the current ceased.

“You’re tougher than you look,” LightningStrike said. “So, I’ll skip to my final move.” He lifted his arms high, and a thunderclap sounded directly above them. “STORM OF Li-“

LightningStrike was interrupted by a sudden mouthful of dirt. He did not see what happened, he was looking up. He felt cool, confining earth squeezing him like a stress ball.  A giant hand made of dirt and rocks held him gripped like a sword hilt. In front of him, he saw Majesty holding her hand the same way.

“The only reason I haven’t killed you yet is my husband has fun playing hero. You should stick to playing with him and leave me alone,” she said. She raised her hand up by an inch and LightningStrike felt the earthen hand lift him too. She locked eyes and did it again to make it clear. The soil surged upward again. “Got it?” she asked. LightningStrike nodded quickly. “Good. Don’t forget it,” she said. He had just enough time to see her cock her hand back before he was flung out over the city like a baseball.

Freshly Minted

“Well? What’s wrong?” Corina asked her husband. She rocked her swaddled, new daughter in her arms. She kissed the baby’s wispy strands of purple hair. Her husband gawked at the child with wide, nervous eyes. “You weren’t expecting anything other than ‘1’, were you?” she asked.

“One thousand and three,” he said. His normally smooth voice sounded dry and raspy.

“One thousand and three what?” she asked. She knew the answer; it would explain the cracks in his voice. Justin’s mouth always went dry when he was nervous. She held out hope that he was not freaking out about their daughter’s power level.

When Justin first explained his power he told Corina ‘6’ was the highest number he’d seen. It was the world heavyweight boxing champion in his prime. Corina did not believe him at first but he convinced her over time. It wasn’t something that he got to use often, but it had come in handy on a few occasions.

“Majesty,” he said their daughter’s name. Somehow that small, deliberate action helped Corina relax slightly. “Her level is 1003.” A sudden knock at the door interrupted their thoughts. They turned to see a greying nurse walk in without waiting for a response. She wore dark green scrubs with a white apron; a sprig of mint leaves was pinned to the apron. The woman smiled at them with sparkling eyes.

“Hello! I’m Nurse Mundo. I came to see if there was anything you needed or maybe answer any questions you might have?”

“No!” Corina and Justin both answered her at the same time. “I mean, we’re fine,” Justin added. Nurse Mundo raised her left eyebrow.

“Is that so?” she asked. Both parents nodded vigorously. “So you know why your daughter is strong enough to break the Earth and all that? Good, good,” she said.

“You can the number?!” Justin asked. “What does it mean?”

“Is it a 42?” the nurse asked and offered her hand to the father. He was unsure but accepted the hand and shook it; a faint green glow passed between their hands. It happened so fast Justin was not sure it happened at all.

“It’s 1003,” he said. She nodded.

“This means you don’t know what you are either, right?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You and your daughter…,” she paused and looked at Corina, then she turned back to Justin. “…not your wife, are what’s known as Unique Souls. You’re #51, La Palma, and your daughter is #42, La Calavera. You can see some aspect of a person represented as a statistic and your daughter will be strong enough to crack the Earth in two.” Corina and Justin looked at their sleeping child, then at each other. Nurse Mundo had watched that silent conversation happen dozens of times between parents, not all of them Unique children. They were ready to welcome a child to their home, not a walking atom bomb. Neither of them wanted to admit that neither of them felt comfortable. The nurse let the parents stay silent until she felt one of them was close to saying something.

“I do know someone,” she said quickly. The statement was vague enough that Corina and Justin each thought she was answering their unasked question. “As parents, you have to make hard decisions. Do you raise the child as best you can knowing it’s not good enough, or do have someone that knows what they’re doing give her a safer life than you ever could? Your daughter can literally, accidentally destroy the Earth. A Calavera’s terrible-twos are quite apocalyptic.” 

“What? Are we just supposed to give her over to you?” Corina asked; her decision already made. Nurse Mundo shook her head then pointed at the far corner of the hospital room.  A tall, lean man with neatly parted white hair and a full, groomed white beard smiled at Corina and Justin. He held a black briefcase in one hand and a bundle of blankets was cradled in the other. The new stranger wore an elegant forest-green suit with a white vest and white bow-tie. A ’37’ was tattooed on his cheek directly under his right eye. Instead of an eyeball, he had a glass eye painted like the Earth. It spun slowly in its socket. Neither of the parents had an idea where he came from. There were no doors near that corner.

“Of course not,” the stranger said and stepped forward. “It’s a trade. Majesty for a more manageable baby girl and a briefcase full of cash. Deal?”

Deer John

“So,” John sat up straighter in his seat and turned to face the young woman to confirm he was talking to her. “You like the number 42 huh?” he asked. He nodded at the skull tattoo on her right arm; it was a pink and yellow sugar skull with the number 42 in gold numbers on its forehead.

“Enough to get it tattooed on me,” she replied plainly, then refocused her attention in another direction. John immediately felt like an idiot. It was an unexpected feeling after the day he’d had.

Up until that moment, he did not think he could feel any dumber. That morning John woke up late and felt dumb for not double-checking his alarm the night before. While rushing through his shower he did not close the curtain all the way and felt dumb for soaking his only clean suit. Because he was running late already he did not have time to dry it and instead wore his ‘nicest’ jeans with a white Polo shirt.

Once John arrived at work, he felt dumb for forgetting about why he planned to wear a suit on casual Friday. He needed to deliver an important presentation in front of the company’s owner. He also felt like it was a mistake to prepare the night before; the USB drive with the presentation on it was in the pocket of the coat he didn’t wear.

Now, John was riding the bus home mid-day. He was fired and going home to his small, lonely apartment that he could not afford to keep next month. The only open seat on the bus was next to the most beautiful woman John had ever seen. She had shoulder-length curly violet hair and wore a golden tank-top with purple jeans. He noticed her tattoo as he sat down and his mind latched onto the number.

It’s probably her favorite number,” he thought. It seemed like an easy enough conversation starter. When he got on the bus he felt like he had nothing to live for. As he imagined the countless ways she could rebuff him he realized none of them could make his day worse; but, his day did have a chance of improving. He wanted conversation about the number to lead to more conversation. In his mind, he assumed the best way to do that was to ask her a question about it. When he opened his mouth all she heard was a stupid question about whether she was fond of the number she allowed to be imprinted on her skin permanently.

“Is it your favorite?” he asked as a last-ditch effort. “45’s my favorite number,” he added. She half nodded as a response to the first question as she was standing up to get off at the next stop. When John added his own favorite number she stopped and looked at him. Her eyes looked like flawless amethysts and they sparkled when she smiled suddenly.

“Really?” she asked. “You got that on a tattoo?” John shook his head vigorously. He did not want to discuss his fear of needles in such a public space.

“On or off?!” The bus driver yelled.

“Off!” the woman yelled back at him, then she reached forward and grabbed John’s hand. “C’mon.” John thought about hesitating but the woman was much stronger than she looked. She practically dragged him down the aisle and off the bus. She continued pulling him along down the sidewalk, but she turned to talk to him.

“I hope you didn’t have any other plans, you’re getting a tattoo today,” she said. John stopped walking; he planted his feet and stood firm. She pulled him forward anyway as if she hadn’t noticed he was trying to stop.

“No plans,” John said. “No job. No money for a home, much less a tattoo,” he said. She stopped pulling him and turned to look at him through softer eyes.

“Really?” she asked. John nodded, and her smile grew broader. She stepped back while still holding his hand and moved their hands up and down like a handshake. “I’m Majesty, what’s your name?”

“John,” he said. Majesty smiled.

“Don’t worry about a thing, John. Around here, Uniques take care of each other. Mundo will do the tattoo for free, then we’ll get you set up comfortably.” She started walking again without pulling him along; he followed her willingly.  “It’s a really good thing you were on that bus,” she said.