Title: Random Happening
All Characters played by: LilJennie and Miki Yamuri
Kylie Trevors - 18yo college student
Nick Swanson - 20-year-old student at a different college in the same town
Tykerk - Centuries old Imp
Scene: An Imp, bored and wanting human attention hides in wait in a park
For centuries, Tykerk had been playing pranks and causing mischievous things to happen to humankind. It had been a while since he had made any attempt to interact with humans and was desperately wanting some kind of attention.
He had traversed the void of darkness and passed the veil to arrive at his current location. He made sure he was well hidden. He wanted this to be a complete surprise when he sprang his latest prank.
“Heyyy Tykerk, whatcha doin’?” came a voice as he hid behind a tree. The mortals walked up and down the paths of this … park, he supposed … as if they didn’t see anything. And he supposed they probably didn’t. Which was good luck, because of this irritating tagalong.
“Grrrr … oh, nothing, nothing at all, Quivitz,” Tykerk said, trying to act nonchalant. “Not up to anything interesting in any way.”
“Oh, really? Because you’re kinda hiding behind that tree like you’re tryin’ to surprise somebody … oo! Is it me? Are you doin’ a surprise for me?” Tykerk covered his face with the palm of his hand, trying to prevent himself from zapping the other imp to Gehenna. He’d come straight back, of course, so it would be completely useless.
“No, no, just trying to think of something to do. But you know what? I heard that Jiriak is about to pull the stunt of the century!”
“Jiriak? But he hasn’t done anything for … uh … a long time!”
“That’s why it’s gonna be so good! He’s been planning it for that long. You should go watch!”
“But what about you, don’t you wanna see it?”
“You know he doesn’t like me,” Tykerk said. “In fact, you shouldn’t even say I sent you, because if you do, he won’t let you watch.”
“Oh, OK … that sounds great! Well, bye, Tykerk … sorry you can’t come.” Quivitz vanished in a puff of yellow smoke.
“Thank goodness,” Tykerk said to himself. “Now I can think. Let’s see …”
“I can’t figure out my homework,” said a dark-haired human with a beard to his … telephone thing as he walked by the tree. Mortals had figured out how to make telephones they could carry around with them since the last time Tykerk had been here. That was new. Were they good for pranks? Anyway, the human was saying, “Of course, it doesn’t help that there’s this total babe who always sits in the front row. She’s so hot that I can barely pay any attention to old Professor Lucas at all. I think her name’s Suzanne. She’s blonde ...”
OK, yeah, enough of that. Lucky girl, getting lots of attention from her fellow humans. All the attention Tykerk got was from stupid Quivitz.
There was some brown-haired girl in the park too, also talking to her phone thing. Tykerk had noticed that it was the blonde ones that got a lot of attention, and sometimes the redheads, but the darker-haired ones often didn’t get as much. He felt kind of sorry for them, in a way. What was she talking about? “Tina gave her extra ticket to WHO? Brad? Oh, Jack’s gonna be so pissed … he thought he and Tina were an item, but I guess he was the only one who thought that. I sure didn’t. Where am I? Oh, just in the park. I had to get away from Rhonda for a while. She’s an OK roommate, but … yeah, exactly, all the video games, it’s like she’s there all the time but at the same time she isn’t. Besides, I know Zack sometimes walks in the park in the afternoons.”
So she had an unrequited object of affection too. Interesting, but … a quick name-divination spell told Tykerk that this Zack person wasn’t in the park right now. This girl was Kylie, and that guy was Nick, and there were people over there named Sue, Chad, Brett, Lisa … yeah, whatever.
Kylie was a very pretty girl with long brown hair tied in a single ponytail. She had on jeans and a cream colored smock top with an elastic shirred collar that showed off her shapely breasts. She only had thoughts of finding Zack and chatting to her best friend on her cell, not watching where she was going. On the flip side of that, Nick wasn’t watching where he was going either, but was involved with chatting on his cell about his homework.
An Impish grin crossed Tykerk’s face as an idea for some prankish fun crossed his mind. He watch the two of them as they approached and bumped into each other. He then jumped from behind the tree he was hiding behind and spoke his enchantment.
“Etherium, Chandaios, Gendum Surapious!” Tykerk entoned in one of those voices that brought chills to Humankind.
The two humans stopped and shivered visibly as their arms fell to their sides and their eyes grew large in surprise. Both were looking at Tykerk as he rolled on the ground, kicked his feet, and laughed maniacally for a few seconds before vanishing in a poof of greasy yellow smoke.
Nick looked down at his body … he wasn’t … himself any longer. Kylie looked down at herself .. she wasn’t herself either, but had become that handsome young man that had bumped into her just moments before that weird creature was having its fit.
Kylie had memories, and knew things about this man … Nick was his name. She had never met him, but she knew all about his life very intimately as if she had lived it. Though this was true, she was still Kylie … not Nick inside her spirit.
“What just --” Nick began, his voice coming out much higher than he expected, so he stopped. There was a voice on the phone he was carrying. “Sorry, Joe, I’m gonna have to call you back!” he said, realizing only after hanging up that Joe wasn’t on the other end of this phone, he didn’t know this Marlie that the phone said he’d been talking to, the phone was pink and had charms of little anime characters of some kind, and his nails were painted in different shades of white and pink.
“What was --” Kylie started to say at the same time, stopping in surprise at hearing her deep voice. “OK, wait,” she said, hanging up the phone, which said “Joe,” and she didn’t know anybody named Joe, nor did she recognize this black and silver phone. “What was that?” She turned to look at the person she’d bumped into … and it turned out that person was her. Well, kind of. It wasn’t like seeing herself in a mirror -- it was reversed. The little dimple on her cheek was on the other side. Also, she was talking to her.
“What the hell is going on?” Nick asked … himself. “What was that thing in the grass? Why do you look like me? Why … don’t I?” He looked at his hands, and did a doubletake as he looked at his body again.
“No. No. This can’t happen, this is not real, it’s impossible, Freaky Friday was a movie, not real,” said Kylie, trying not to panic.
“I’m, wait, what?” asked Nick. “Freaky Friday? You mean that one movie where … omigod. You’re not saying … we … somehow …”
“I’m you,” said Kylie. “You’re me. I mean, I, you’re Nick Swanson, right? I’ve got memories -- they’re like they happened to someone else, because they did, I guess, but I remember being me too, and that’s me standing right there, no no this isn’t real …”
“Um OK, you’re … Kylie Trevors,” said Nick, “and … yeah, I feel the same. I remember being me too. But … how? Was it that weird … thing? You saw that too, right?”
“I saw some kind of weird little … creature, that said weird words,” said Kylie. “And then … this happened, and it went away.”
“Did we just get cursed?” Nick wondered. “Like something out of the Twilight Zone or whatever?”
“The … what?” asked Kylie. “Oh, some old TV show about weird stuff. But … what did we do? We didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t even know each other!”
Nick felt so strange in his … her?? New body. He said, “How are we going to … explain this to everyone? I mean … OMG!!”
Kylie was totally in shock by this time as she replied, “I don’t know about you, but I want my life back, no offence.”
Nick replied quickly, “None taken.” as he began to rummage through the foliage beside the walk, his cute butt wiggling in the air.”
Kylie was taken by how cute she thought …. Then realized what she was thinking. OMG!! This can’t be happening. She too began to search through the thick brush next to the large tree they saw that weird creature jump from behind.
Right in front of them, another poof of greasy yellow smoke and another, but different creature appeared. It said, “Aww Tykerk, you old liar …” Then stopped as it realized the two young humans were looking directly at it.
It backed up slowly as it held its hands out infront of it, “Woah, now. Take it easy there. I no done nothing to ya.”
Kylie replied in an almost shriek in a male’s voice, “Turn us back! Swap us back to ourselves.”
Quivitz stopped for a minute with surprise on his face. Then he burst out laughing. He said between guffaws of laughter, “So, this is what Tykerk was up to. I must say, it’s funny. But as far as swapping you back. That would ordinarily be easy … except … it gotta be Tykerk who reverses his spell. It’s tha rules of magic ya know.”
“It is NOT funny!” said Nick, not sounding as imposing as he’d have liked, since his voice was now quite a bit higher. “Who’s Tykerk? Is he the … the one who was here before?”
“Um, probably?” the creature said. “I mean, he was here, but then I left, so I’m not sure.”
“Can you … get him … back?” asked Kylie. Nick appreciated how she was using his voice, really. It sounded like a slow burn of the sort that he himself wished he could accomplish but couldn’t quite pull off. Still, Kylie sounded like a guy who was five seconds away from ripping someone’s head off.
“Well, I mean, I can go to where he usually hangs out, and if he’s there, I can tell him someone wants to talk to him -- which I gotta say is pretty unusual, for Tykerk, you know.”
“Considering the jokes he plays I’m not surprised to hear that,” said Nick, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
“Er, yeah, um …”
“Go find him before I kick you to, um …” began Kylie.
“Queens!” suggested Nick.
“To Queens! Before I kick you to Queens!” Kylie shouted.
“Aaa! All right, all right already!” The creature vanished in a puff of sulfurous yellow smoke.
“‘Rules of magic,’ my butt,” said Kylie. “He better get back here.”
Nick had his hands on his hips as he realized full on, he was now a girl. There was no way he could carry on as Nick under these circumstances. He said slowly, “Umm, what are we going to do now? I mean .. I’m obviously … not me anymore.”
Kylie’s anger ebbed as that dawned on her as well. She put her hand to her mouth as she looked at ...herself. There was only two things she could think of.
Kylie said slowly in her new deep voice, “Well, until we can get that critter to change us back … we have to be … each other. I can’t go back to my dorm like this, and you I know can’t go back to yours like that.”
Nick looked down as he had thoughts of the guys he now had knowledge of and the thoughts and feelings for them. He knew beyond a shadow of doubt that Kylie had the same memories and feelings about the many girls he knew and had relations with.
Nick sighed as his shoulders slumped in surrender, “It would seem the only logical thing to do.”
Kylie had a weird emotion she was totally unfamiliar with rush through her. She saw Nick with different eyes for an instant and asked timidly, “Well, until we can hear back from that weirdo … ummm … Tykerk, how about I take you to that diner across the park and we have a cup of coffee or something?”
Nick felt a rush of insult that rapidly turned into something else he was totally unfamiliar with. He saw Kylie with different eyes suddenly and thought that might be a wonderful idea, “Ok, I’m game. Except I want a slice of strawberry pie and whipped cream too.”
Kylie laughed, “Sure, why not? It is my favorite after all.”
The two of them walked off side by side, chattering away about the new sensations rushing all through them all the way to the diner.
“No, no, they’re going away!” Tykerk cursed from his invisible perch high in the tree above where they’d bumped into each other. “You’ll be back!”
That night, Nick went back to Kylie’s room. Apparently she studied poly sci. She was trying to get into law school. Nick didn’t know any lawyers with pink/white multicolored nails, white sweatpants and pink crop tops, but then he guessed he didn’t know that many lawyers, really, and every one of them had been an undergrad in college at some point. But the problem was that Kylie had a test tomorrow, and he had to try to get her through it. Luckily he had her memories, but anything she hadn’t studied, he wouldn’t remember. So it was time to hit the books. But first …
He had to go to the bathroom. Luckily there was a shared bathroom between Kylie and Rhonda’s room and the adjoining room, and he could lock the doors. OK, this was weird. He’d had experiences with girls, but this went way beyond that. He guessed he’d have a new appreciation for the ladies in his life … assuming he ever got back into his own body! The fact, though, was that it wasn’t really all that different.
While he washed his hands … or Kylie’s hands, really … he looked in the mirror. He did not see his own face, and that was disconcerting. He closed one eye. The woman in the mirror did the same. He checked Kylie’s hair and makeup for her. It was a good thing she didn’t wear much, because Nick had no idea how to put it on or take it off. Anyway, time to hit the books.
Kylie sat at the desk in Nick’s room. She knew he had some major homework to get done, but really wasn’t interested. She hoped upon hope that Nick did well on the test tomorrow. It carried lots of weight with the Bar when it came time for the Bar Exam.
Kylie had to go to the bathroom. She walked into the small room and realized as she had undone her pants and pulled them and her undies down … she had new equipment. She looked down at it in amazement as she took it in her hands and did her business … standing up for the first time in her life. It felt … so different … but the same.
About that time, the door to the dorm room opened then slammed. Kylie heard something hit the wall with a loud thump as a male voice said angrily, “Cindy’s a real cunt. That bitch dumped me for Sam … that weirdo that looks like a hairy skinny monkey with thick glasses.”
Quickly, Kylie pulled up her undies and pants, zipped them, then walked out into the room. She saw Larry, Nick’s untidy room mate, lying sprawled across his unmade bed.
Larry looked up and said, “Suzette said to tell you she’s willing to goto the movies and watch Cyborg if you want to. As long as it’s your treat. She said to pick her up in front of the bowling alley at 7pm Friday.” he rolls over and smiles, “You lucky dog. She’s gonna sink your battleship.” then he laughed.
Oh great. She did not feel interested in going on a date with a girl. Or did she? Her body certainly felt interesting tingles when she thought about Suzette -- mostly to remember who she was -- and that caused her to think about Suzanne, the girl in the front row of Nick’s physics class, about whom he had a lot of daydreams, apparently.
Kylie was having a hard time with the physics homework, but she consoled herself with the fact that apparently Nick didn’t exactly find it a walk in the park either -- the park! She reminded herself to go back out there tomorrow, to try to find that Tykerk or whatever it was. She’d exchanged phone numbers with Nick, so they’d have to make plans to both go looking for it at the same time.
Nick saw Kylie’s room mate as she bounced in, pulled off her top and threw it across the back of a chair, then wiggled out of her leggings and tossed them in the same place. She went over to the game console in just her panties and bra. Nick realized suddenly he was thinking how untidy she was and how distasteful the mess she made was, before he came back to his Nick mind and realized a very cute blonde girl was sitting at her computer almost nude.
He shook his head and turned away, then flopped on his bed. It smelled of honeysuckle and baby powder. He knew he was going to have a hard time of things. He seemed to act and think like Kylie automatically if he wasn’t extremely vigilant. Of course, if he didn’t act like Kylie, the other people in Kylie’s life might suspect something was wrong. But he didn’t want to think like Kylie; he wanted to think like himself.
Rhonda turned and said with a giggle, “Hey, girl. That hunk of a man, Zack came by earlier and left this for you.” She tossed a rather large box onto the bed beside Nick.
Unbidden, a really wonderful tingle of joy ran all through him as he sat up, said, “Zack? Left a present? For me?” and started opening the box. Nick stopped himself as he realized what happened. He knew who Zack was and really experienced all of Kylie’s intense emotions for him. Nick knew if he wasn’t very very careful, he could get into serious trouble really fast since he had little experience in ignoring this kind of thing. “OK, Kylie, get a hold of yourself,” he said, “he barely knows you exist -- wishful thinking’s only gonna get you hurt. This probably has to do with econ class.”
“Hey, girl, dream a little,” said Rhonda, who had turned back to her PC and was playing some kind of shooter game. Nick recognized it, because he’d played it, but Kylie’s only memory of it was seeing Rhonda play it.
“I’ve already dreamed too much, I think,” Nick said, getting the box open. “What’s this …?” He took out the books and software discs. “‘Business Starter Kit?’” he read. He looked in Kylie’s memory to find out what this was. “Oh. Yeah. Econ class. We were going to do a project where we started simulated businesses and then analyzed why we succeeded or failed at the end. But … oh! That’s right! I missed my class this evening! Jensen must have assigned … omigod. Zack is my partner! That’s why he brought the box over, he picked mine up when I wasn’t in class and ohhhhhh boy.” Now he’d have to work with Zack. And he already knew that Kylie felt some chemistry for him. Nick was going to kill that stupid … whatever Tykerk was.
“What? What’s wrong?” asked Rhonda without turning around. “I thought you liked Zack.”
“I … uh, do. It’s … look, I’m a complicated person with complicated feelings, OK?” Nick couldn’t deal with this. “I’m … I’ll be back.” He went to the bathroom.
Nick looked at his reflection in the mirror. The face that looked back was very pretty. Nick began removing his clothes. He drew a bath without thinking about it and filled the tub, then poured a cap full of pink bubble bath beads into the water. Nick relaxed in the water and really enjoyed soaking. Slowly, it dawned on him that Kylie loved to take hot bubble baths, and this particular one caused the skin to be soft and very smooth. It smelled wonderfully of strawberries.
Nick could hear the phone ringing. Then Rhonda stuck her head in the bathroom and said, “It’s Zack, he wants to know if you want to meet him at the coffee shop around the corner and discuss your project with him. Hey girl, you're in total luck. Now you can jump him when he’s at his weakest.”
First, a thrill ran all through Nick’s body, before he came back to his … mind. OMG!! He was really going to have to watch this. He also knew deep inside that he was going to more than likely act just Like Kylie, whether he liked it or not.
Kylie got out of the tub and dried off, taking great care to brush his hair with the brush exactly 100 strokes to insure it was tangle free and shone. The next thing Nick had to decide, was what she was going to wear. Of course Rhonda was extremely helpful in that regard, only choosing the most sexy attire Kylie owned. Nick finally chose a pair of white cotton bikini briefs, a pair of black leggings, a black pullover sport bra, and a rather nice pullover top with an elastic collar.
As Nick stepped into his flats, Rhonda said, “Go get him girl. Make sure you don’t let go. That one’s a keeper for sure.”
Nick said with a slight tone in his female voice, “Rhonda, I’m not like you. I think I would like to at least know him before I sleep with the guy.”
Rhonda snorts, “You’re no fun at all. Knowing someone too much makes it boring. I like the spontaneity of it.”
Nick shook his head as he walked out of the dorm, heading for his first date as a girl -- no! It’s for class, he thought. Look, Kylie, if you want a one-night stand with him, sure, treat everything like a date, but if you want a relationship, don’t act like one night is all you want. Trust me, I know guys. He sighed.
Meanwhile, Kylie had been trying to do Nick’s homework, but although she knew some of the math from her own classes, she didn’t know all of it. A differential equation was not something she had to deal with, even in statistics. And she knew her roommate Larry was a music major, so he wouldn’t know anything.
Well, if she and Nick could get back into their own bodies soon, it wouldn’t matter. She decided to see what was going on around the dorm. Nick’s memory was saying something about a friend … Joe? Joe was a psych major and might understand more about the physics homework ... though probably not.
It wasn’t as if she’d never been in a guys’ dorm before, but not, well, as a guy. Nobody was staring at her or realizing he was standing in the hallway in boxer shorts and quickly running into his room, like that guy there, who she realized was named Steve. It was kind of nice. She went upstairs a floor and down the hall and knocked on a door.
“Oh, hey, Nick,” said Joe. “Something happen at the park? You just kinda hung up on me.”
“I, well, ran into this girl,” he said.
“Ohhhhh, hey, now I get it,” Joe said.
“No, I mean, like … literally, neither one of us was watching where we were going … and before we knew it we were both on the sidewalk. We didn’t know what happened. It was kinda funny now that I think about it.” It wasn’t really, and Kylie still wanted to find that Tykerk whatever-it-was and …
“You don’t look like you think it was funny,” said Joe. “You look like you wanna kill something.”
“Oh -- sorry, no, I was … thinking about something else. This physics homework is kicking my butt. I’m going nuts. I need a break. Want to go to, uh …” She rummaged through Nick’s mind. “I don’t even care where. Maybe the Machine?”
“The Noise Machine? On a Wednesday? Actually … I’ve never been there on a Wednesday night. Maybe it’ll be, you know, less noisy. I don’t really like crowds.”
Kylie hadn’t realized it, but yes, the bar called the Noise Machine was a place Nick liked to go, but Joe didn’t like it there. Another faux pas. Uh … well, she’d already said it. “It doesn’t have to be there. It could be …”
“Sure, let’s try it. Let me turn off my TV.” He picked up his remote, pressed a button, checked his pockets, and said, “OK, ready to go.” Guys! Kylie would have had to check her hair, face, clothes, and before she knew it five minutes would’ve gone by -- but it would’ve been OK if she’d been going out with her girlfriends, because they’d all have done the same.
The Noise Machine was just a few blocks away from the campus, and obviously catered to the college crowd. Kylie, though, had never been here, because it wasn’t close to her college. The park where they’d met was quite a long way from her territory. The only reason she’d been there was because she knew Zack liked to go there.
The bar had lots of old-school video games and loud music, even on a Wednesday night, although there weren’t many people there. Why did Nick like this place again? Well, it did have a lot of flashing colored lights -- it was actually very 80s retro. She turned to Joe. “Yeah, it looks like they’re just as loud as any other night -- just less crowded. Wanna do something else?”
“No, hey, actually it was the crowds that always bothered me about this place,” said Joe. “I love those old video games. I wanna play Ms. Pac-Man.” He went over to the machine, put in a quarter, and started playing. Yeah, Kylie thought, so back in the 80s nobody thought twice about a guy running around a maze as a female character, even though she was basically a yellow circle with some mascara and a bow.
Kylie was wondering what to do, when suddenly a blonde girl walked over to her and said, “Hey, haven’t I seen you somewhere?” Kylie could feel Nick’s heart skip a beat, and she soon realized why: this was Suzanne, the girl who sat at the front of his physics class.
Kylie tried to keep it together, but Nick clearly had it bad for this girl. “I, yeah, I’m Nick, and aren’t you in my physics class?”
“Oh right!” she said. “I’m Suzanne. I guess I always sit in front, so I don’t always see everyone. But there are less distractions that way.”
“That’s probably true,” Kylie said. “Actually the homework is driving me nuts, so I came here to take a break.”
“Oh -- yeah,” Suzanne replied, “actually I’m here for the same reason -- it was giving me a headache, so I said, ‘Hey, why don’t I go to a place with loud music and flashing lights? That’ll fix my headache right up.’”
Kylie laughed. “Yeah, I’m not sure this place is any good for that, but you wouldn’t happen to want to work on the homework together sometime? Two heads, better than one, all that.”
“You know, that’s not a bad idea,” Suzanne said. “What’s your phone number? I’ll send you a text.” Kylie started to give her her phone number, then realized that it was Kylie’s own phone number, started over, and gave her Nick’s number instead. Soon she had a text from Suzanne with her number on her -- or Nick’s -- phone. Kylie was thinking to herself, hey Nick, look, I got her phone number for you. Am I awesome or what?
“I bet you don’t want to talk about homework right now,” Kylie said, “because that’s exactly why I’m not back in my room working on it. That’s my friend Joe over there. Maybe we can play a game or something. I think they have Gauntlet II.” Kylie didn’t know anything about games, but luckily Nick did, and he knew that was a game that up to four people could play at once.
Nick showed up at the Coffee House. She could feel the young men undressing him with their eyes as he walked in. Nick had several emotions run through him over this, several not so nice and several competing ones that were. When his eyes fell on Zack, however, Kylie’s persona took over almost completely as she walked over and slid sexily into the seat across from him.
Nick said in a soft sexy coo, “Hi there, whatsa girl have to do to get a soda?” then realized what he had been thinking and sat up. The expression of surprise on his pretty face was so adorable.
Zack’s eyes grew large as he stumbled for words, “Oh, ummm … hi Kylie … I mean … you look fantastic.” He stopped and shook his head, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Nick put his hand on top of Zack’s and said, “It’s ok, a girl likes to hear she’s pretty now and then. Makes us feel wanted … I mean … feel good.”
Now Nick’s face felt hot and he knew he was blushing.
Zack replied with a slight laugh, “I understand. Would you rather go somewhere for dinner, where it would be a bit more private? We can discuss our project better on a full stomach.”
Nick didn’t hesitate as he replied, “Sure, and where would you have in mind?”
Zack smiled as his eyes sparkled, he knew he was on to something with Kylie, “Well, how about the Running Fawn? I hear their steaks and salads are to die for.”
Kylie said, “Sure, let’s go.” And stood and had taken Zack by the hand before she thought about it.
Zack didn’t seem to notice as the two of them left the coffee shop and Zack hailed them a cab. The trip took a few minutes and Nick managed to keep the conversation centered on their upcoming project, and not the cute sexy things he could feel Kylie would have more than likely been doing as well.
They discussed and laid out their business plan, and even made several corporate proposals that sounded reasonable enough Zack tried them out on a funding venture with a local bank. It went off without a hitch until Zack finally managed to put the business loan manager off and hang up.
Kylie started getting ready for bed. It had been a good evening. Suzanne had actually started to feel like talking about the homework later, and she had some good ideas that Nick hadn’t had, so Kylie talked about the ideas that Nick had had, and there were a few that Suzanne hadn’t thought of, so putting their heads together did seem to have helped. What’s more, she seemed open to doing this more later. Yep, thought Kylie, Nick totally owes me.
Now there was a problem. Kylie was looking in Nick’s dresser, in his closet, under his pillow even, and she couldn’t figure out what Nick wore to bed. Did he … oh wait, she could just look into his memory. Really? He just wore his underwear to bed? And an old T-shirt if he got cold? That didn’t sound comfy at all. I guess he could have a point, she thought; if his roommate Larry was the only person seeing him, what did it matter if he didn’t have a matching pajama set? But if he ever did get a girl in his room, she wasn’t going to be impressed. Then again, according to his memory, he had had girls in this room before. But not to sleep … ok those were memories she wasn’t sure she had wanted to see, but now she couldn’t unremember them.
“Are you OK?” asked Larry. “You’re staring into space.”
“Oh, sorry,” Kylie said. “I was just thinking. This old T-shirt is getting holes in it. I oughtta throw it out. Maybe use a different one. But then I started thinking about all the good times it reminds me of.”
“Haha, I know what you mean,” said Larry. “This shirt here was drawn and signed by one of my favorite online artists. Meeting her was my dream for a long time.” It was a white T-shirt with a pretty good drawing of what Kylie supposed was a sexy girl on it, done in different colors of permanent marker. “Now when I wear it, I remember the time I met her and all the other fun stuff I did at that convention.”
“Oh, it was a convention?” asked Kylie. “There are online artist conventions?”
“Well … sorta,” Larry said. “There are artists there.”
“Um, OK,” said Kylie. “I think I’m gonna get ready for bed.” How did Nick get ready for bed, anyway? Brushing his teeth? Washing his face?
Nick was given a kiss at the door of his dorm house. It was like nothing he had ever experienced before. He was just talking about the project when he turned suddenly and ‘SMOOCH!!
Nick’s mind went away as he experienced a total body rush of the most wonderful kind. Then next thing he knew, Zack had broken the kiss and smiled at Nick. All Zack saw, was the very beautiful Kylie standing in front of him.
Zack said softly in that oh so sexy voice, “If we keep that up, I’m gonna want you to come spend the night.”
Nick was so close to agreeing it scared him when he came back to his right mind with a start.
He couldn’t believe what he had been thinking as he replied, “Umm .. I’m so sorry .. I didn’t mean … Oh … are you alright with a kiss?”
Zack smiled, “Of course. As a matter of fact …”
The next thing Nick knew, he was held closely to Zack. He could feel the wonderful caress of his hinney and the hardness of Zack’s chest against his breasts. Not to mention … something else too.
More slowly than Nick would have liked but Kylie insisted, Nick broke the long lingering kiss. Zack said softly as he slowly allowed Nick’s hand to slip from his, “Goodnight pretty lady. I’ll see you in the morning. I’ll buy you breakfast at the Rob n Go breakfast shop. They serve wonderful steak and eggs.”
Nick watched as Zack walked slowly off. He couldn’t for the life of him believe the emotions and feelings that coursed through him and where they seemed to be manifesting.
Nick turned and walked into the dorm, only to find several of the girls awaiting him, all demanding to know the sordid details of this most recent man hunk she had been seen with. Getting dressed for bed was easy enough, all Nick had to do was watch the other girls as they wiggled and squirmed and flitted around.
Nick finally settled on a pair of white cotton panties and a shorty nightgown with an elastic shirred top. The other nities were a bit more girl than he thought he could bear right now.
Nick had very pleasant dreams, all female, all about the wonderful things he and Zack could be doing ... Right now.
Kylie woke up, went to Nick’s Thursday morning math class, understood only some of it, took notes, and swore that he’d better be trying to keep up similarly with her classes or so help her … she’d get him an embarrassing tattoo or something. After that, she called him. Well, she called her own phone, which had stayed with her body, which Nick had right now.
“Yeah, hi, er, Nick,” said Kylie’s own voice to her. “How’s it going?”
“I hate your classes, and you have terrible taste in clothes,” said Kylie. “I hope you went to my classes, because I went to yours.”
“Yeah, I went and sat through your poly sci class this morning,” Nick said. “Do you want to go back to the park and look for that … whatever it was?”
“Yeah, let’s do that,” Kylie agreed. “I don’t know why it would do something like this, but it sounds like it was a prank, and pranksters don’t just pull pranks -- they hang around and watch to see the fallout.”
“OK, well, I don’t have -- well I guess you know that I don’t have any classes to go to until this afternoon,” said Nick. “So I’ll meet you at that cafe on the north side of the park, OK?”
“Um, all right,” said Kylie, suddenly getting a vision of that cafe and where it was, because that’s where he’d met … Suzette? Oh yeah, Nick was going to a movie with her tomorrow night. Suzanne and Suzette. Sounded like a recipe for disaster. “I’ll be there.”
It was going to be about half an hour before Nick got there from her college, so Kylie did some Internet searching. She typed “small supernatural creature pranks disappear” into a search engine, and the very first thing that popped up was a page about … “Imp.”
Hmm, mischievous small goblins from Germanic folklore … wild and uncontrollable … loved to play pranks and mislead people … that sounded like what they were dealing with, all right. There was more, too, and lots of differing tales and opinions. If Imps were real, though, what else was real?
By the time Nick and Kylie met at the diner, Nick had already gotten into the habit of dressing like Kylie, and Kylie had started dressing like Nick. When the two of them met, there was some kind of something spark within them. It was actually inevitable -- they were each other, after all, or maybe even the same person in a way.
They managed to keep their minds on business at hand, finding the Imp. Kylie explained to Nick what she had discovered on the internet. It sounded exactly like what had happened to them, so odds were very good the critter was still there awaiting their inevitable return.
The two of them returned to the spot where the tree was surrounded by the thick hedges and began poking around looking for it. From one of the large branches above their heads, a small voice said, “Well, well. What do I see here? It’s the two who somehow got swapped.” He giggled and jumped to the ground, “I would even go so far as to say you make a good couple.” He nodded and lit a skull pipe he had been packing with some kind of black sticky mixture.
Nick almost screeched in her female voice, “Change us back you … you … imp! Do it now!”
It giggled, “Now, now, not so fast. Both of you have yet to qualify for a return ticket.”
“Qualify?” asked Kylie, her male voice almost cracking like an adolescent’s. “So what exactly would you say we’d have to do to … qualify?”
“I think … that you’d have to really find out what life’s like on the other side,” the creature cackled.
“And what exactly do you mean by that?” asked Nick exasperatedly. Nick hoped the imp didn’t mean what he thought it meant. He’d actually come pretty close to that already. He hoped Kylie didn’t know about that.
“For you … there’s a certain time of the month that you’ll have to experience before I’d consider switching you back,” said the creature to Nick. “And for you,” it said to Kylie, “you need to learn something too -- I’ve noticed that the males in this society don’t consider themselves men unless they’re, shall we say, having relations with women regularly. I’m not sure I’d consider switching you back until you’ve spent the same amount of time without doing the deed.”
“What?” asked Kylie. “But … my last period was just last week! That means it’s going to be almost three weeks … like this!”
“Three … weeks?” Nick asked incredulously. “You’re saying you MIGHT change us back after three weeks? You sadistic little --”
“Now, now, you’re going to have to treat me with more respect,” said the Imp. “After all, I’m the only one who can change you back.”
“... little adorable sweetheart, you,” said Nick through clenched teeth.
“That’s better. Kind of,” said the Imp.
Nick didn’t know what to think at this point. He knew that if he stayed a female for three weeks, he was going to do things he knew Kylie would do. He was unable to help it most of the time and he was sure Kylie was having the same problem.
The imp giggled as he took a deep draw off his pipe and exhaled the sweet aromatic smoke.
He winked at Kylie, then at Nick and said, “From where I’m standin … I might just let you stay this way. The two of you make an awfully adorable couple.”
The two of them looked at each other. For the first time, they saw each other with different eyes and could feel a tingle run all through them. Kylie managed to recover first.
She said after shaking her head to clear it, “I want my old self …. Back …” her voice trailed off uncertainly.
Nick was having problems with it too as he was becoming more Kylie like than he wanted to be … at least … he thought he wanted to be.
The Imp said, “Look you, why don’t the both of you go on a romantic date and check yourselves out? You might even find you want to stay this way.” with a shrieking peal of laughter, he once again vanished in a greasy poof of smoke.
“H-hey!” shouted Nick. “Come back here!”
“What a jerk,” commented Kylie.
“We can’t do that! … I mean … uh … I’m sure we’ve both got our own lives and friends and … people we have our eyes on …” Nick trailed off.
“Uh yeah,” said Kylie. She was trying to get Nick closer to Suzanne, and she felt oddly warm when she thought about the blonde girl, which was odd considering she hadn’t known Suzanne existed before she was able to access Nick’s memories -- wait. “Y-you know why I was at the park yesterday,” she said to Nick.
“Y … yeah,” said Nick. “Um, due to a huge coincidence, Zack is your partner for your econ class project.”
“Omigod!” Kylie said, and Nick found it odd seeing his bearded face wide-eyed in anxiety and his hands covering his mouth in surprise. Kylie was all girl in there right now for sure. “You -- you can’t -- you’ve got to be careful! I don’t want him to think -- he can’t know --”
“Yeah, you can’t act like you’re a guy in a girl’s body or otherwise make him think you’re not interested in him, but you don’t want to be TOO interested or he’ll think you just want a quickie,” said Nick. “I know how it goes. But listen … somehow part of you is still in here. I mean … I don’t think we just got each other’s bodies.”
“Oh … really?” Kylie said hesitantly. “Um, what do you mean?”
“You haven’t … noticed yourself reacting to anyone?”
“I, well, there’s this one girl, Suzanne --”
“Suzanne? Blonde, shoulder-length hair, dresses like a supermodel in mostly florals and solids, likes butterfly motifs?” asked Nick.
“Yes … and I know all of that too, you know,” said Kylie. “Anyway, you met her last night, or I did. We helped each other out with the physics homework, actually. She’s … very interesting …”
“What?” Nick said loudly. “You … how did you even get her to talk to you … me … whatever?”
“It was just random chance, really,” Kylie said. “Turns out she doesn’t know much about anyone in the class because she sits in front and doesn’t see anyone most of the time.”
“Oh. I guess that makes sense.” Nick paused. “Anyway, I had a point! It was that I think we got some of each other’s …”
“... sexuality?” Kylie completed. “Yes, probably, because some of it is probably hormonal and has nothing to do with the brain.”
“And somehow we’re in each other’s brain anyway,” Nick added. “Whatever woo-woo weirdness that Imp did didn’t take our brains out of our bodies and switch them … it put our personalities, identities, memories, whatever, into each other’s brains. So I’ve got your brain to contend with, meaning your likes, your dislikes, your habits. And you’ve probably got mine.”
“Yeah. Sorry I don’t have a manual,” said Kylie wryly. “So … did you meet with Zack yet?”
“I … um, yeah, he wanted to talk about the project,” Nick said. He didn’t want to go on.
“Did … anything else happen?” asked Kylie.
Nick hesitated. “Uhmmmm,” he began.
“I knew it!” Kylie said, exasperated. “Did you go all the way on the first date, or did you not totally make the man of my dreams think I’m a total slut?”
“It was soooo hard,” said Nick, “but no, ok, we did make out a little, but we did NOT do anything that required, well, birth control. I’ve had experience -- you probably know that already -- but not THIS kind of experience. It’s too weird. I do NOT want to go there.”
“Uh … well, at least you’re not going nuts with it,” said Kylie.
“And what about you?” Nick asked. “You didn’t … drive Suzanne off or anything, did you?”
“Noooo,” said Kylie, “though I can really tell you’ve totally got the hots for her. It’s hard to keep her out of your head. Joe and I went to a place and played retro video games.”
“Noise Machine?” Nick asked.
Kylie nodded. “But she was there, so she played games too, then we talked afterwards and gave each other ideas about the homework, I guess. I don’t know how well I’m going to do in your classes, Nick.”
“Considering our lives just turned into a Twilight Zone episode, assuming we get back into our own bodies, we’re ahead of the game if our GPAs dropping just a bit is the worst side effect,” Nick said. “I’m going to try to help you get into law school, because fair’s fair, but sometimes … it’s like I lose myself and the part of the brain that’s still you takes over.”
“Whoa,” said Kylie. “I didn’t know it was like that for you -- or for me. I hope that doesn’t happen to me. I mean, you can’t get anyone pregnant right now.”
“Oh jeez,” said Nick, “don’t even think about that.”
“I think we have to think about it,” Kylie said, “to keep it from happening. We have to think very carefully and not stop thinking. That Tykerk imp thing … who knows if he’ll even keep his word and turn things back to normal in three weeks?”
“What are you saying?” asked Nick. “He might run off and stick us like this?”
“No, I mean, he seems to like the attention he gets from this,” Kylie theorized. “What if we keep coming back and he likes it, so he makes us keep coming back?”
“Well, what else can we do? If we just accept it and live each other’s lives from now on, we’ll never get turned back.”
“I don’t know,” Kylie said. “Maybe there’s another way. But we’ve got to walk a fine line -- giving him just enough attention but not too much.”
In one of the branches of the large oak, Tykerk lay along a branch, hidden from their view. It thrilled him to hear he was the topic of conversation.
He thought to himself, “So, you think just thought is going to keep you from being who you have become do you?’”
He intoned another small but powerful incantation. Nick and Kylie both shivered as it took effect. Nick found he was not thinking like himself anymore, but more like Kylie’s memories said she should, with his own something like a memory or something. Nick too discovered the same thing happened.
Tykerk rocked back and forth as he grabbed his feet and laughed. This was not only fun. It was interesting. He also knew that Kylie and Nick were perfect matches for each other. “Let’s us see how long you can resist each other my pretties. And keep coming back to me and whining … I love it.”
Nick and Kylie held hands as they slowly walked off towards the diner on the other side of the park.
Nick said softly, “What if … I can’t help myself? Zack is a very handsome man, you know.”
Kylie nodded, “Suzanne is a very … special female too. Oh yea, and we have a date already set for tomorrow. I’m to meet with one of your flings for some fun … aren’t I?”
Nick puts his face in his palm and shakes his head. “Yes, it’s true. And she’s supposed to do everything in her power …”
Kylie giggled, “... to sink your ship?”
The two of them looked at each other. Their eyes locked. A wonderful thrill coursed through them both as they realized for the first time they were holding hands.
Nick attempted to let go, Kylie gently tightened her grip a bit to let Nick know she didn’t want him to let go. Nick only struggled a couple of times before he got the message. Kylie opened the door to the diner for Nick.
She said softly in the deep sexy voice, “Let’s us discuss our problems over some coffee and cake, strawberry cream cake if they have it.”
Nick replied back, “They do, it’s their specialty cake.”
The two of them sat at the table and ordered as they continued to hold hands …. And look deeply into each other's eyes.
They barely noticed when the waitress brought over their cake, but finally Nick said, “You know … that smells delicious.”
“You’re right … let’s try it,” said Kylie.
“You first,” said Nick, holding up a forkful of cake for Kylie, who took it sensually into her mouth … well, technically it was Nick’s mouth, but that’s not what they were thinking about at the moment.
“Mmm … delicious … here, have some too,” and she fed Nick a morsel of the strawberry cream cake, which was drizzled with some kind of sweet sauce.
“Oh, that is so good,” Nick said.
“But I know what would be better -- wait, what are we doing?” Kylie asked.
“We’re having dessert -- you’re right! What’s going on?” Nick wondered. It was as if some kind of spell had been lifted. “It felt like … like I was a teenager in love for the first time -- only it just suddenly stopped! What?”
“You know who I suspect,” Kylie said, looking around.
“I’m not going to give him the satisfaction of talking about him,” said Nick. “But I do want to know something.” He signaled the waitress and asked, “Excuse me, but what is in this cake? And this exquisite fruit sauce that’s drizzled over it? It’s delicious!”
“Thanks! Well, I can’t give away the recipe,” said the waitress, “but the chef likes to brag about how the key to the sauce is a splash of rosemary extract.”
“That’s amazing,” said Nick, “I wouldn’t have thought, thank you!” To Kylie he said, “If any of this magic stuff is real, maybe rosemary has some kind of … I don’t know, special powers? Herbs are supposed to have effects in old stories, aren’t they? Like magic potions or something?”
“I guess,” Kylie said. “I suppose we can look it up.”
“If it’s for real, maybe other things work too,” Nick said.
Nick took out Kylie’s phone and began making inquiries. “Let’s see … some 16th-century Latin grimoires … undeciphered Sanskrit tomes …” he said. “The famous Voynich Manuscript, full of drawings but written in a completely unknown and untranslated script. Here’s the oldest book of magic, said to have been written by Solomon, containing descriptions of how his temple was built, but not actually fully written down until 1000 years after he died.”
Kylie was looking on Nick’s phone too. “Here’s ‘A Witch's Guide to Magical Plants and Herbs.’ It’s got hundreds of herbs and plants … that supposedly have wondrous effects. It says that rosemary is good for spiritual purification.”
“Like maybe undoing a magic spell?” asked Nick.
“I don’t know, maybe?” Kylie said, shrugging.
“It didn’t undo the switcheroo whammy thing.”
“No, it didn’t,” Kylie said sadly.
“Looks like what happened to us might be called Spiritual Transposition,” said Nick. “The swapping of a living spirit from one body to another. But that’s just a story. There’s nothing about how to undo it. In the story it could only be undone by the enchanter who originally did it.”
Kylie said, “There are several mentions of concoctions and spices with magical properties that could temporarily reverse … the eventual and total transitions of thought and actions, whatever that means, but nothing that can stop or reverse it totally. Oh, I don’t like this ... it says the person transferred becomes the individual whose body they occupy over the course of time.”
“OK, this is creeping me out,” said Nick. “All these spells and incantations here are about invoking dark and evil spirits from beyond the void. They all involve making a bargain, selling your soul to darkness in one form or another.”
“Yeah, that’s not happening,” said Kylie. “I’m not finding any kind of spell that could cause mischief to an Imp. If the Imp were already bound by a binding spell, whoever bound it could manipulate it. But … that doesn’t matter. It’s not bound by anyone.”
“Yeah, there are supposedly spells that are about summoning and binding spirits,” said Nick, “but even if they’re real, I don’t think they apply anyway. We didn’t summon it. I think you have to be the one who summoned it to bind it.”
“Still,” said Kylie, “there are warding herbs that can keep spells and evil spirits away. It couldn’t hurt to try those. The worst thing they can do is smell bad. And some of these actually smell pretty good.”
Over the course of their research, the two of them had become rather fond of each other. More so than either was willing to admit. If it got too bad, they would take another bite of the wonderful cake. The rosemary spice did aid in reducing the effects of the new spell cast on them by Tykerk, but didn’t totally stop it -- probably because the rosemary had been cooked. All the websites said it was best fresh.
“Well, luckily, we live in a big city where people bring in fresh herbs to sell every day,” said Kylie. “I’ll go visit some of the bodegas near my school -- or -- wait, you go visit them. I’m staying down here. But around here are some of the wackiest witchy-type stores in town. If you need crystals or incense, you can get it around here.”
“OK,” said Nick, “sounds like we’ve got an idea of what to do next. Let’s get out of here -- no offense, but that spell is very distracting.”
“Yeah …” said Kylie, a bit reluctantly. “Let’s … talk about where to meet in email. Just in case.” The two of them looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, then at the same time closed their eyes and looked away.
From a nearby street side tree, Tykerk watched them leave the cafe and go in opposite directions. “Not even holding hands?” he said to himself. “They’re a real challenge! Hey, get your own branch!” He waved a tiny arm at a pigeon that was trying to land near him, forgetting that he was currently invisible. The bird cooed in confusion.
Kylie was looking through a tiny market on northern Amsterdam Avenue whose signs were mostly in Spanish. They had bins of “hierbas frescas,” sealed to preserve freshness, and she found the one labeled “romero.” She weighed out a good quarter pound of the stuff. When she took it to the front counter, though, the old woman said something unintelligibly fast at her, probably in Spanish.
“I’m sorry?” Kylie replied.
“Ah. Ingles. The rosemary, you cooking? Or use for love potion?” chuckled the woman.
“Ha … ha,” Kylie laughed without much mirth. “Love potions are the last thing I need right now,” she said.
“Big young man no need potion? Or … got other problem? Make tea, clear mind, study good. Or burn, breathe smoke, send away bad energy.”
“Yeah, that’s it, getting rid of bad energy,” Kylie said. “Lots of bad energy.”
“Bad energy?” asked the old woman. “Or evil spirit? Evil spirit, take blackberry branch, ivy, rowan, make wreath. Evil spirit stay away.”
“Wait, wait, please,” said Kylie, fumbling for her phone and making notes. “Blackberry, ivy, and … rowan? I don’t even know what a rowan looks like …”
“Hm,” said the old woman. “You buy rosemary, I write down number. You call, talk to Miss Marlena. She tell you right.”
“OK,” said Kylie, opening her wallet, “Miss Marlena, you say …”
“Yeah, whaddya want,” asked the pale-skinned, dark-haired girl at the counter with the excessive mascara. She was mostly focused on touching up her black nail polish.
“Excuse me,” Nick said, “but I was wondering if you knew anything about … warding off evil.”
“Incense and herb salt’s in the herb aisle,” said the counter girl, again without looking up.
“That would work?” Nick asked. “I thought apotropaic magic was more complicated than that.”
The girl looked up. “What kind of evil are you talking about warding against?” she asked. “Are we talking bad luck, nightmares, what?”
“You are not going to believe me,” Nick said. “I’m just stating a fact. You’re not.”
“OK, wait, what? Ghosts? You think somebody’s what, possessed? Evil spirits?”
“I think you’re getting closer to the mark,” said Nick. “It’s, well …”
“Are you talking about something that can talk?” the girl asked.
“Then it can also listen. Stand there.” She pointed to a colorfully-panted hexagonal symbol on the floor, about two feet across. Nick stepped into it. “Thanks. I don’t know what’s following you, but we don’t want it in here, and now it can’t find you. Now wait a minute, I need to ask someone a question.” She took out a cell phone and dialed, speaking quietly into it.
Nick didn’t move. Finally the girl hung up her phone and said, “OK, I’m gonna give you two things -- well, really, I’m gonna sell you one thing and give you a different thing.” She went back into the store’s shelves and came back with some kind of pendant or locket. “You should buy this,” she said, putting the pendant around Nick’s neck. The charm on the end looked like the face of a woman with a mouth full of fangs and hair made of snakes. “Strongest thing the ancient Greeks had against evil -- symbol of the Gorgon. Later on the Christians started making gargoyles to ward off evil, but it started with good ol’ Medusa. Oh, and you can step off the hex sign now. Old European protection circles.”
“Um, thanks,” Nick said, getting out Kylie’s credit card. “And the other …?”
“The other is this,” she said, writing a number on a sticky note. “Call my Aunt Cassie. Only don’t call her that. Call her Cassandra Gray. She’s expecting you. Don’t take that necklace off until you see her.”
“Um, OK, thanks,” said Nick. “You’re really …?”
“Well, my family thinks so,” said the girl. “I’m not sure. But I know my mom and Aunt Cassie take it seriously -- way seriously. Not like most people who come in here. But … I don’t know, I get a feeling about you, like there’s something wrong. Like … some kind of curse or something.”
“I … suppose you might say something like that,” said Nick.
“Oh, great,” the girl said. “Well, Aunt Cassie either knows what to do, or knows someone who does.”
Up a very narrow staircase and down a very narrow hall went Kylie. “Miss Marlena” lived in a very run-down building in a very poor part of town. One would think that someone who knew something about magic or sorcery would be living better, but Kylie didn’t want to argue at this point. She went to the door at the end of the hallway, which had on it only a brass number 7, and lifted her hand to knock …
The door opened. “Come in,” said a voice that sounded like that of an old woman with a foreign accent. Kylie stepped inside, and she did indeed see an old lady with a wrinkled face, wearing a red, green and gold head scarf and a flowing dress of the same colors, along with many necklaces and several earrings in each ear. She closed the door after Kylie entered and ushered her into a sitting room and into an old but soft chair. “Welcome, welcome, have some tea,” she said.
“I … err … I like tea,” said Kylie; she herself did, but Nick did not, and she had to pause to remember which one she was.
“Good, good,” said Miss Marlena, pouring steaming water into a cup with leaves at the bottom. “We let it steep while we talk.” Kylie looked around and realized that this sitting room, let alone this apartment, was wider than the building had looked from the outside.
“OK, so the lady at the bodega gave me your number,” Kylie began.
“When you said you had problem with evil spirit,” Miss Marlena said. “Need to know kind of spirit, and how evil.”
“We think it’s an Imp,” Kylie said.
“Oh! You see him? About this big, orange skin, pointy ears, big nose?”
“Yes!” Kylie exclaimed, sitting up. “You know about those?”
“Know, yes. Deal with them, no. Not been any around here for long time.”
“I think it put a spell on me and … someone else,” Kylie said.
“No, well, not then,” Kylie answered. “He wasn’t someone I’d ever met, until it happened.”
“Ah, time to drink tea,” said Miss Marlena. She picked up her own cup and held it up, looking from Kylie to her cup on the table until Kylie picked hers up.
Kylie sipped. “Oh, this is delicious,” she said. “But really hot!”
“Hot is better. Drink up.”
She kept sipping, trying not to burn her mouth, until the cup was empty, except the leaves at the bottom.
Miss Marlena was already done and was looking askance into her cup. “Here, give me cup, need to see.” Kylie handed her the empty teacup, and the old woman looked down into it. “Joke, spell, attention, man, woman. Your friend, woman?”
“Well … sort of.”
“Man, woman, back, forth, trade … oh … you are woman, in friend body. Your friend, man, he in your body.”
“You … see a lot,” Kylie said. Her heart leapt with a sudden pulse of hope. If she knew what had happened and believed her … could she fix it?
“Imp, make mischief, cause problem, love it when human scurry around trying to handle,” said the old woman. “But Imp, they weak. Have power, can’t kill, can’t break, can’t harm. Where friend?”
“Oh, he’s asking about warding magic,” Kylie said.
Miss Marlena nodded. “Can’t make plan with Imp listen,” she said. “He just ruin. One way to deal with Imp. Summon, catch, never let go, not till he promise to fix. Make Imp swear on Styx. Can’t break that oath.”
“How … do we summon and catch it?” Kylie asked.
“You must do,” said the woman, “you and your friend. You his target. I help summon, I become target too. I tell you what you must do.”
“So, because of this Imp, you’re a man in a girl’s body?” asked Cassandra Gray, who wore a white dress printed with abstract patterns and lived in a nondescript two-story brownstone.
“Pretty much,” said Nick. “And I’m starting to lose track of where my mind ends and hers begins.”
“Can’t say I’ve ever had that experience,” Cassandra said, “but you say your friend’s off inquiring about how to keep him from casting more spells on you?”
“Yeah,” Nick said, “he cast another spell while we were together -- I think he was trying to make us fall in love.”
“Playing with mortals’ lives is the only pleasure some creatures have,” said Cassandra. “But it’s good you’re here. He can’t hear you here.”
“What should I do?” Nick asked.
“Let’s talk about that,” Cassandra said, “and ask the cards what they can show us.” She opened a small box and took out a deck of Tarot cards.
“Where are they?” Tykerk said to himself, vanishing from one tree to another in small puffs of green smoke. “I can’t find them at all!” Not even magic was showing him where they were, which was odd, though not extremely odd. In a city this old, there were many forgotten places where magic spells had been cast in decades or centuries past, and it wasn’t too unusual for someone the Imp was following to stray into one and interfere with divination magic. But for both of his targets to be in warded spots -- at the same time -- for more than an hour? That was unlikely to be a coincidence. “So, playing games, are we? I love games!”
He teleported himself to a spot atop the city’s oldest cathedral. Humans believed that religion could keep his kind away, but their rituals and words had no power unless they had the power of a truly spiritually attuned soul behind them, and most humans had forgotten about such things. However, consecrated places like this cathedral were built on power foci, which would amplify his magic -- any magic, really. He began to chant and gesture. Even if someone looked up at the spire right now, they wouldn’t see the Imp, but they would see the gathering and darkening clouds around him. He cast a spell calling his targets to him -- bending fate so that their paths would inevitably cross again within the next day. They could hide from him all they wanted, but they couldn’t hide from fate.
Cassandra turned suddenly as a bright light flashed from another room. Nick saw the look on her face as she left her sitting and went into the room.
Cassandra returned and said, “It appears someone is tampering with the threads of reality on the loom of the fates.”
Nick raised his eyebrows in surprise as he asked, “What does that mean?”
Cassandra took a black scarf with long stringy fringes on it and placed it over her head. She opened a narrow box that was lined with black velvet and removed a highly polished stick. On one end it was delicately wrapped with some kind of leather and had several gemstones incorporated in the weave. It was about the size of Nick’s little finger on one end, and tapered to a rounded point at the other. It was about 13 inches long and had light and dark spirals all along it.
Cassandra said softly as she laid a huge, very old, and very heavy book in Nick’s lap, “Within these pages are the instructions on how to summon the Imp. Once this is done, it also tells how it should be bound so you have the ability to make it do as you command. I cannot be part of the ritual or I too become part of the weave.”
Nick opened the huge book. It was bound in the thick hide of some kind of creature. Its pages were made of something other than paper. On close examination, Nick realized the pages were some kind of worked scale from some large reptile. The writing was in a language he had no inkling of.
Nick said, “How am I …”
He never got to finish the question as Cassandra waved the wand gracefully over the book, pages flipped as if a breeze went by, then on a particular page, several paragraphs began to glow brightly. It was as if fire entered Nick’s brain as the words seemed to burn their way into his consciousness. A dark and ethereal voice spoke words not to Nick’s conscious thoughts, but to his very essence.
Cassandra said in a voice that seemed to boom out and echo across time, “From within the Dragon’s Book of Knowledge has mankind learned all they know, and from the book shall you too learn how it is done.”
“I … I see it …” Nick said, disoriented. “It’s … in my head … no … it’s part of my soul now … and I can feel the difference now …”
“Yes, so has it been for all of my tradition,” said Cassandra, “one that you may follow if you choose. For once the hidden world has touched you, you are never quite the same again.”
“I … hear it,” said Nick. “But … I have to think about Kylie too. Our fates are intertwined. It wouldn’t be right to do this without her. But I also see that it wouldn’t be possible to do this without her.”
“Interesting that you think of what is right first,” Cassandra commented. “It speaks to your integrity. You’re showing no signs of following the dark path yet.”
“Dark path? Like the Dark Side?” Nick asked.
“Something like that. Now, I saw in the cards that Kylie has spoken with another … expert. That’s good. She’ll get protection. But you have to work together. I’d like to talk to the person she spoke with to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
“Do you have a spell to do that too?” asked Nick.
“No, something just as good,” said Cassandra, taking out her cell phone.
“I wish I could take my classes by drinking tea,” said Kylie.
“Not tea,” said Miss Marlena. “Is draught of vision. Opens your eyes. Just a moment. Phone call.” There was a sound of many tiny bells, and the old woman took a cell phone from a pocket somewhere in her flowing dress. “Ah. Knew you would call,” she said. “Yes. He is here. She. Stupid English language … yes. They do it like that, it will work, I agree. Will talk to you more soon. OK.”
“Was that …?” Kylie started to ask.
“Your friend, he find help somewhere else,” said Miss Marlena. “He learn too, different path. You summon, he bind. Is best way. But I be nearby … just in case.”
“I’d feel better -- just with the support, you know?” said Kylie.
“I understand. Remember the time when I had to do my first … important task. Very scared. Got to stand up and just do it.”
“Where should we … summon it?” Kylie asked.
“Choose a place and time where you will feel strong,” said the old woman. “Where does not matter. We will make sure you will not be disturbed.”
Kylie left the woman’s apartment. As she walked out the building, she turned and looked it over. She was positive the place she was just in was larger than the building she was looking at now.
This made her feel more confident. If the woman was able to perform magic like that, then the rest had to be even more simple. She popped open Nick’s phone and pushed the auto dial for her number that now was in the call list.
It chimed several times and Kylie heard her voice answer, “Hello? Kylie? I have some news. We have to meet and discuss this.”
Kylie replied, “Meet me at the Nexus Grill. They have a room we can rent cheap so we can do things and have privacy from … Impish ears.”
Nick pushed the end button and the phone’s screen went back to desktop. He felt a tingle of joy run all through him that he was soon going to meet up with … wait … Oh no!! Nick knew they had to solve this problem fast. He was losing touch with his male self and becoming more and more female as time passed.
The trip to the Nexus was fast. Kylie had already rented out the room for the evening and was awaiting his arrival. When he entered, she quickly shut the door, got down on her hands and knees, and began drawing a pentagram on the floor in multi-colored sands and chalks.
Nick watched and was amazed. In his head he knew there was a way he’d been taught to do this by the magical book, but this wasn’t it -- yet he could also tell that this would work. Cassandra had told him that Kylie should do the summoning and Nick should do the binding, though, so he ran through how to do it in his head, mentally preparing. It would take an effort of will, but it wasn’t fraught with lots of magical incantations and symbols -- not as much as the summoning was, at least. He knew he shouldn’t disturb Kylie, though, because everything had to be right, or the summoning would either not do anything or summon the wrong being.
Kylie finished her careful summoning circle and stepped back. Nick drew four different-colored candles from Kylie’s pink backpack. Setting them up on stands at directions he knew to be true north, south, east, and west somehow, he carefully spoke words he’d learned as he lit each one with a different match. After he’d lit the fourth one, he stepped back and Kylie again stepped forward.
Kylie lit an incense stick and intoned some words of her own. “From faraway places we call to thee. From there to here we bid thee come.” She repeated this three times, then she said the only name they knew for the Imp. “Tykerk! Tykerk! Tykerk!”
There was a puff of green smoke in the center of the pentagram, and there Tykerk stood. “Ah, I knew you couldn’t ignore me forever -- wait. What’s going on?” He tried to take a step but found that it didn’t carry him anywhere. There was another puff of green smoke, but Tykerk didn’t disappear. “Heyyyyy, what’s the big idea?”
“You’re working for us now, Tykerk,” said Nick. “Thou art bound to us and must do our bidding. Ere thy release thou must swear to perform the task for which we have summoned thee. Upon thy release thou shalt perform it, or to us shalt thou be forever bound.”
“Me? Work for you? No way,” said Tykerk, and struggled against the pentagram, but it and Nick’s will held strong. “Nggggh, I thought humans forgot how to do this stuff! Inconvenient, that’s what it is … grrrrrrrrf!”
“Swear,” said Nick.
“By the Styx,” said Kylie.
“Heh!” Tykerk half-laughed. “I’ve had worse. I’m gonna wear you two down. You have to sleep sometime --”
“Aquus,” said Nick, and the space within the pentagram filled with water, seemingly pouring torrentially down upon the Imp, who shouted and complained.
When the water stopped, Tykerk panted and caught his breath. “Pfft! Guh! Ha! A little water never hurt any --”
“Aurus,” said Nick, and there was a blustering whirlwind within the pentagram now, spinning the Imp head over heels, and he complained and shouted more.
The wind stopped, and Tykerk picked himself up. “Ugh … quit spinning around, will ya … that was kinda fun …”
“Terrus,” said Nick. Rocks and boulders started to fall from above within the pentagram, and Tykerk screamed and tried to dodge them, but he could not move. He was struck many times before they stopped.
“Ow! For the love of Pete! Somebody know first aid …?”
“Ign --” Nick began, knowing fire was next.
“OK! OK!” screamed Tykerk. “That’s enough! Look, what do you want? I’ll do it!”
“Do you swear by the Styx to immediately, as soon as we release you, undo all spells you have ever cast upon either Kylie or myself?” asked Nick.
“I … uh …” Tykerk stalled.
“I can keep going,” said Nick.
“Say it,” Nick prodded.
“All of it.”
“OK! I swear by the Styx to immediately undo all spells I have ever cast on you.”
“On either of us,” Nick prodded again.
“I swear by the Styx to immediately, as soon as you release me, undo all spells I have ever cast upon either Nick or Kylie! Or both of them together! Sheesh!”
“Remember, Tykerk, not even the gods can break an oath sworn on the Styx,” said Kylie.
“I know, I know!” the Imp said, seeming impatient -- not too surprising considering Nick’s torment, which he seemed ready to resume at the slightest provocation. Kylie knew, of course, that Nick really didn’t like causing pain to the Imp, but Miss Marlena and Cassandra had told both of them that as supernatural creatures, Imps were nearly immune to physical damage. Not to pain, though. Nick could hurt Tykerk with his manipulation of the space within the circle, but not harm him. But their mentors had also told them that they could show no weakness, no mercy, until Tykerk had given them what they wanted.
But had it been too easy? Kylie wondered as she looked at Nick and they dropped the binding spell, freeing the Imp.
Tykerk went through the gyrations and mystical incantation. Kylie and Nick felt the tingling rush all through their beings … and then they realized nothing happened.
Tykerk gasped out, “Wha?? Is this some kind of trick?”
Tykerk once again, with more emphasis, went through the incantation. Kylie and Nick felt an intense electrical surge burn through their soul, and once again … nothing. They hadn’t changed back.
Tykerk stomped his foot in frustration. With major action and massive ethereal release of energies, he once again went through the spell. Kylie and Nick screamed out in sheer agony as they were slammed to their very living essence, all to no avail.
Tykerk shouted, “Is this some kind of trap? Are you going to force me into servitude now? This is … totally impossible. Anybody can cancel their own spells. It’s a breeze. Only an archmage using a Fundamental Counterspell, or a greater demon or something like that, could possibly stop me from undoing my own spell. And why would they bother?”
Nick slowly stretched her arms to get the soreness from her joints as she stood back up. Kylie rolled over and groaned pitifully as every joint ached.
“I don’t care,” said Nick. “I want my body back! You have to undo the spell you cast.”
“Yeah,” said Kylie, “I don’t want this guy ruining my life.”
“You don’t understand!” said Tykerk. “Someone is interfering with my dismissal of my own spells. You want the spell undone, you have to stop them.”
“I think you’re making this up to keep playing with us,” said Kylie.
Tykerk waved his hands and shook his head. “No, no no no,” he said. “You guys are fun to mess with, but I’m so ready to move on. Just my luck I had to pick two people who were naturals at magic -- and in this day and age on Earth to boot. That’s like getting struck by lightning 20 times in a row.”
“Can we … block out whoever’s interfering somehow?” asked Nick. “Put a circle around ourselves so nobody can interfere?”
“I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” said Cassandra, walking into the room.
“Not you!” shouted Tykerk. “I’ve heard of you! Don’t zap me to Tartarus!”
“You’re not worth it,” Cassandra commented. “But Nick and Kylie, blocking out outside interference was exactly what Miss Marlena and I have been doing this whole time. There’s no possible way anyone could have gotten a spell in from outside without our noticing.”
“That means …” said Nick.
“... the only people who could have done it were those inside your blocking spell,” Kylie finished. “Is someone in the restaurant an archmage or demon or something?”
“There are no archmages anymore,” Cassandra said. “So much lore has been lost to the ages that no one has that kind of power. No human, anyway. And the dark powers of the nether realms have such a distinctive signature -- especially a spell with enough power to do what you’re suggesting -- that there’s no way they could do it without calling attention to themselves.”
“So … what are you saying?” Nick asked.
“I think … you might be doing this to yourselves,” Cassandra suggested.
“What?” Kylie asked, outraged. “Why on Earth would I want that? I want my body back! I want my life back! I was just about to meet Zack when this happened -- looks like it would’ve happened even if Nick hadn’t been in my body!”
“Yeah,” said Nick, “and it sounds like Kylie’s finally managed to get Suzanne’s attention somehow. And I haven’t even gotten to say a word to her myself!”
Cassandra paused in thought. “Are you hearing this, Miss Marlena?”
“Think about that day,” said Miss Marlena’s voice as she walked into the room too. “Right before this happen -- what you both were thinking?”
“I was on my phone … talking about how hard it was to concentrate in class with Suzanne right there …” Nick mused.
Kylie added, “And I was on my phone too, talking about Zack and wondering if he was going to be in the park that day.”
“Wait wait wait,” said Tykerk. “Are you saying that when this whole thing started, they summoned me … without even meaning to?”
“More like … attracted your attention,” said Cassandra. “Nick and Kylie, you two are far more powerful than you know. You brought this about by arranging the circumstances that would cause your desires to play out in the world around you -- without consciously planning or even thinking about it. The problem is, well, you know what it is. There were complications to what happened, because you didn’t know what you were doing -- you didn’t even know you were doing it.”
“So how do we UNdo it?” asked Kylie. “I didn’t mean for this to happen! I mean sure, I wished I could get closer to Zack, but I didn’t do any magic spells or anything.”
“Is problem,” said Miss Marlena. “One Imp cast spell, that Imp undo. Easy. Two people cast spell together, is harder. Have to work together to pull it apart like knitting. But two people cast spell and get Imp involved … is like twisted knot. Braided rope.”
Nodding, Cassandra added, “But the good thing is, once it’s unraveled enough, it will come apart the rest of the way quickly. It will take all three of you -- all three -- to do it.” She looked especially intensely at Tykerk.
“Kylie -- Nick -- your power just awakening,” said Miss Marlena. “Not your fault. Maybe fault of the people of the art, they not see it happen. Sometimes is who you least expect. Is hard for magic to tell -- interferes without meaning to. All of you work -- you get it right. You too, Imp. Am watching you.” She narrowed her eyes at Tykerk.
“Why me?” Tykerk asked. “Everybody’s picking on me today!”
Cassandra said with a snap, “Because you are probably the one who provided the binding spell required to keep them the way they are, and it will be you who have the hardest spell to undo.”
Tykerk made a loud humph noise, “Another thing, they sorta want to stay thatta way, even though they think they don’t.”
Nick and Kylie began to fuss at the same time. Marlena raised her hand. Both of them were unable to make another sound as something silenced their protests.
Marlena said softly, “Tell me what you haven’t been saying, Imp. Time for jokes is over. I will cast you to the dark side of Elysium if you try anything funny.”
Tykere cringed as he put his arm over his face, “P please … don’t do that. It would take me forever to get out of there.”
Then speak what it is you haven’t said or so help me …” Marlena raised her hand swiftly, within its grasp was a very ornate wand whose tip had a small, but bright glowing light around it.
Tykerk backed up and fell to his knees. He said in a pitiful whimpering voice, “They … they are the perfect couple. Both of them. They … would make the perfect swap. And and … they sorta like being this way. Even though they fuss so.” then he covered his head with his arms and put his head to the floor.
Marlena hesitated for an instant, then lowered her arm. The bright light went quickly out. She turned to Nick and said softly, “I’m going to take a … look at you. Please don’t be afraid. I promise not to reveal anything except what is pertinent to undoing this spell.”
Nick didn’t have time to protest as Marlena cast some sort of spell on him … or her. Nick felt it as it washed all through him. His mind drifted off into a wonderful place he was sure he had never been before. When his mind cleared, Marlena and Cassandra were shaking their heads slowly.
Cassandra said softly, “This … complicate things … a bunch.”
Tykerk stood and said, “See? I told you.” he pointed at Kylie, “And she’s actually in love with him, though she doesn't realize it yet. And he, “Tykerk pointed to Nick, “Is super attracted in return. You should have seen em at the diner. Like two teenagers on their first date.” he giggled.
“Hey, you cast that spell on us,” said Nick, who was blushing brightly.
“I barely had to do anything!” Tykerk said.
“Wait,” Kylie broke in, “are you saying that Nick … wants to be a girl? And doesn’t want to give up my body?”
“Not consciously,” Miss Marlena said. “On primal level. Subconscious. Does not realize. Usually would wait until admitted it to himself. But now, is more depending on it.”
“But … but Nick loves that girl!” Kylie protested.
“Has nothing to do with it. Through time, girl has loved girl, boy has loved boy. This day and age, can finally admit. Is only difference. And you?”
“You secretly boy inside. You wear so much the pink, look like little princess, you hiding from yourself, is why. Denial. The magic show the way.”
“But I -- but we --” spluttered Nick. “I -- don’t --”
“It’s OK, Nick,” said Cassandra. “Don’t worry, this isn’t your only chance to experience being the opposite sex in body. There are plenty of shapeshifting and transformation spells.”
“Wait, there are?” Kylie asked.
“Oh, yes,” Cassandra went on. “Difficult, but for someone of your potential with the amount of drive you have to make yourselves learn it … you’ll be switching to your alternate forms as if it were second nature within a year, without a doubt.”
Nick hadn’t thought that was an option. “You mean I could learn to --”
“Shift to the female version of you, how you would have looked if you’d been born a girl?” Cassandra nodded. “And more. It’s not binary, you know. You can take on whatever form you like. Many do. I just happen to be happy as I am -- but Miss Marlena and I are actually in the minority.”
“If I’m not mistaken, that’ll make things easier,” said Tykerk. “They used to think they were being asked to give up their dreams. Now they know they can come true another way. They’re still the perfect couple, though.”
“Shut up!” Nick and Kylie both said to the Imp at the same time.
Tykerk crossed his arms and poked out his bottom lip in a pout. He was basically powerless to do anything … even leave, because he had yet to undo the spell. He was bound to the two humans due to his oath on the Styx until such time a way could be found to reverse the life force swap.
Miss Marlena said, “Blossoming magicians need instruction. Power must be restrained. Or can cause much worse things to happen without meaning to.”
Kylie replied, “What kind of restraining?”
Cassandra said softly, “I don’t mean to upset either of you, but from what we saw when we observed the both of you, you must be taught how to channel it on a conscious level and not on a subconscious level. You need to be trained to cast only when you mean to, or you can cause great harm. Your potentials are so powerful that, if you survive, you might even become this world’s next -- and only existing -- archmages. But I won’t lie -- if you don’t learn restraint, you can easily destroy yourselves.”
Tykerk stomped his foot and shouted, “That doesn’t help me get out of this mess I managed to get into. How could I ever know they were two budding archmages?”
Cassandra laughed, “Perhaps they arranged to have you bound to them. You know, sort of as an assistant with the darker side of things.”
Nick said in an almost shriek, “I want my body back. I don’t give a hoot n holler about mages or … whatever. How do I reverse this?”
Miss Marlena said with reassurance in her tone, “Can’t -- until you learn. Got to restrain subconscious use of magic. Imp tries to undo spell, you both counterspell him. Until that stop happening … you stay where you are.” She waved her hand at the very pretty Nick.
“OK, how do we do that?” Nick asked. “I … guess it might be possible that I might really want to be a girl. But if you say we can change our forms … I can be a girl without hijacking Kylie’s body once I learn how. And … the other way round, I guess.” He gestured at Kylie.
“Training,” said Cassandra. “I can’t do it for you, Nick. You must do it yourself. But I’ll do everything I can to help. I’ll give you some starter books and some assignments, the same ones my mentor gave me when I was just starting out, and then you’ll learn it the way every other practitioner of true magic does: with practice.”
“Same with you, Kylie,” Miss Marlena said. “I get you started, then you do rest. Is like exercise. Use muscles, they get strong. Muscles you no use get weak.”
“But first let’s get the restaurant back to normal so nobody notices what happened,” said Cassandra. “Nick, Kylie, you just have to cancel out the binding and summoning rituals and clean up the candles and marks. Then we’ll cancel the spell that’s keeping bystanders from seeing or hearing anything.” And a short time later, all five of them were leaving the restaurant like any other customers. No one paid attention to Tykerk -- Nick was wondering about that -- possibly because he was still invisible, possibly because he was using some kind of illusion, or possibly because people just assumed he was a small child in some kind of costume, because of his height.
“OK, Kylie, come with me back to my house,” said Miss Marlena. “I give you some books. In English if I can find.”
“OK, Miss Marlena,” Kylie said. “Nick, Cassandra, I’ll see you later.” She turned and took a few steps away.
“Aaaaaaa ow ow ow ow!” Tykerk screamed. Everyone stopped and stared at him. “Dammit, you’re killing me here!”
“What’s going on?” Nick asked, taking a step away from Kylie.
“OWWWWW that hurts, cut it out!”
“Oh,” said Cassandra. “You’re bound to both of them, aren’t you?”
“Bound by a Styx oath! Unbreakable until it’s fulfilled!”
“So … we can’t get away from him? Until this is over?” Kylie asked, unbelieving.
“Oh, great,” Nick said.
“Mmm,” said Miss Marlena. “OK then. You have someplace near here where they can work?” she asked Cassandra.
“Yes, they can work in my spare room.”
“Good. You take them there. I get books. Then I come.”
“Are you sure? You’re older --”
“Am stronger than I look. Go. I be right there.”
“As you wish,” Cassandra said. The older woman left, presumably to hail a cab, but Kylie wasn’t sure she wasn’t just going to disappear.
“So how do we go to the bathroom?” Nick asked as they walked together to Cassandra’s home.
“It looks like you have a good 10 or 15 feet before Tykerk starts to feel it,” Cassandra said. “I don’t think walls matter for that, so you should be fine.”
“I’m going to miss a lot of classes, aren’t I?” Kylie asked. “I mean -- both of me.”
“I’m afraid so, until we get this straightened out.”
“So wait, I’m supposed to somehow enter my own mind?” Nick asked, as he read one of the books Cassandra had given him. He and Kylie were seated at a large oval table in Cassandra’s spare room, the lights dimmed and moonlight shining in through the windows.
“That sounds … hard,” Kylie said.
“I hope you can fit through the door -- it’s probably pretty tiny,” said Tykerk.
“Oh, a comedian now,” said Nick. “Don’t quit your day job.”
“I already have,” said the Imp. “Impin’ ain’t easy. Especially when you’re stuck with a couple of dead weights.”
“Wait -- you can still cast other spells, right?” Kylie asked.
“Probably,” Tykerk said. “I’m not messing with you guys, though. Anything I do’s probably something your subconscious magic brains manipulated me into doing.”
“Can you cast spells to make it easier for us to learn?” Kylie continued.
“I’m betting that’s not gonna work out well.”
There was a knock at the door. Kylie answered, and Miss Marlena walked in. “Studying. Good. I bring books.” She set her largish fabric purse on the table and took out book after book, setting them next to it, until it was obvious that they could not have all fit inside.
“That’s … pretty impressive,” said Kylie.
“Study,” said Miss Marlena. “You learn to do too. Suggest you read this first.” She held up a book with a dark bluish-gray cover, with the title Journal of Mabinogius Grimalkin on the spine in gold printing. “Forgot I had that. Is diary of beginning magician. Read how he learn.”
“Did he go on to become a great wizard?” asked Kylie.
“No, he try to conjure mountain of gold.”
“It didn’t work?”
“Worked perfect. Gold appear, crush him flat. That not in book. Read.”
“Uh, OK,” said Kylie, taking the book and sitting down with it.
Meanwhile, Nick was meditating, breathing deeply with his eyes closed. Suddenly there was a golden glow from a spot in the middle of his forehead -- not that Nick noticed, with his eyes closed. “Ah,” said Miss Marlena. “Nick finding third eye. Two sometimes not enough. Find way to look within, can train mind to focus, to cast spell only when decide to. Discipline and control.”
Kylie looked surprised. “Grimalkin’s master started him off on conjuring?” she asked. “Isn’t that … dangerous? You told me how he died.”
“Is why control is important,” said Miss Marlena. “His master was great conjuror. He teach what he knew. Not what student good at. I am good at herbs and potions. Some other things. But can tell that is not your way. Is why I teach you how to learn. How to teach yourself. And not die in process is good too.”
“I … appreciate that, thank you,” Kylie said, continuing to read.
Nick gasped and opened his eyes. “That was … interesting,” he said. “I could see clearly which parts of my mind were me, and which parts were just you -- the parts that came along with your body and brain. And I think I saw where my subconscious was. It was … connected to something else. I think it might have been, well, your subconscious.”
“Oh great, our subconsciouses are besties,” said Kylie. “We’re best brain buds.”
“Gotta read more,” Nick said, picking up the book again.
Time slowly passed as it has a habit of doing as the two of them studied and practiced the mystical arts.
There were, of course, many miscasts that ended in hilariously funny results. Like when Kylie accidently created a huge glob of whipped cream that managed to fall right on top of Tykerk. There were also the not so funny ones like when Nick accidently caused a massive lightning strike that destroyed one of the several hundred year old trees outside. The resulting fire destroyed a very expensive gazebo and several artifacts that would prove to be difficult to replace.
Tykerk was more than amazed at the two of them and their abilities as they began to cast more and more effectively. With each spell, their power grew in leaps and bounds until Miss Marlena came in one day with a large box.
She placed it on the floor and wrestled the lid off. Within, were two very finely woven Mage gowns, Tavistaffs, and several smaller black boxes that were about fourteen inches long and three inches wide.
Miss Marlena said softly as she set up 5 candle stand each containing a different colored candle, “It has been many centuries since a mortal has become a Master Mage. It still falls upon those of us whose meager prowess guards the way to test you. If the both of you would be so kind as to dress appropriately. Nick, I’m sorry, but you will have to dress as a woman, and Kylie, you as the man. It’s how it is under the circumstances.”
“I, well, I am a woman, at least at the moment,” Nick said.
“It’s how it’s gotta be,” said Kylie.
“No one can make you a master,” said Cassandra. “It’s something you can only make yourself. What it means is that you’re foregoing the step of being a journeyman and focusing on the mastery of the craft. In order to truly be a master you must pursue all its branches, but it’s fine if there are some you’re better at than others, as long as you seek balance.”
“No such thing as one master,” said Miss Marlena as the two young students put on the gowns. “Have to be two or more, or none. Because only a master can test a master.”
“Test?” asked Kylie.
“That’s right,” Cassandra said. “You now have to test each other.”
“What? How?” asked Nick.
“You must each make sure that the other is worthy to be called Master,” Cassandra went on, “and in doing so prove that you yourself are worthy.”
“Whatever happens,” Miss Marlena said, “should be a good story.”
“Um, OK,” said Nick, picking up one of the staffs. “Test. Hmm. OK. Find me.” Nick concentrated and … disappeared.
Picking up the other staff, Kylie said, “Hey! Wait! How come you get to start?”
“Someone had to,” said Miss Marlena. “Your turn next, if you find him.”
“Can’t have gone far,” said Tykerk. “I’m not screaming in pain. For which I am very grateful, by the way, and I in no way suggest you do anything to cause the aforementioned screaming in pain.”
“Is he … downstairs?” asked Kylie, vanishing and reappearing in Cassandra’s kitchen, directly below the spare room. Nick was not there. “On the roof?” He wasn’t there. “In the back? In the bedroom? In the bathroom?” She tried every adjacent space within about ten feet. She didn’t see Nick anywhere. “All right … let’s try something else.” Kylie reached out with her mind. She’d gotten to know how each of them felt, enough that she could sense their presence without looking up, but … she could still sense Nick nearby. “Are you invisible? You goofball.” She swung her staff around at the empty spaces, but it didn’t touch anything but air.
“What he do?” asked Miss Marlena.
“I think I know,” Cassandra said, “but we’ll see whether I’m right.”
“You’re … still in this room, aren’t you?” said Kylie with her eyes closed. “I can feel it. But I can’t see you … yet you’re not invisible -- not in the see-through way, anyway.” Kylie reached out more strongly with another sense she only suspected was possible. “I’m feeling … transformation magic,” she said. “You … changed your shape, didn’t you? But into what?” She opened her eyes again and looked around. “Wait. If you could change shape, our problems would pretty much be over, right? Your subconscious mind would have basically no reason to keep resisting Tykerk’s cancellations. You didn’t change shape. You … changed size, didn’t you?” She cast a spell of acute vision upon her eyes and found herself with sharper vision than a hawk. “There you are!”
“Good job,” said Nick, relaxing on the button of one of the couch cushions, about a quarter of an inch tall. He returned to normal size, saying, “Took you long enough.”
“Hm! But I found you.”
“Well reasoned out,” said Cassandra. “And yes, that was my guess.”
Kylie made a face for an instant, then in a flash of light had also vanished. Tykerk screamed out loudly as he doubled over and fell prone on the floor. Slowly, he recovered his composure and sat up.
Tykerk said with a disgusted tone, “So, she knows how to teleport. Too bad I gave it all away.”
Nick slowly turned as he cast several discerning spells, “Yes, but you are not in pain now, so that means she’s here.”
Nick searched high and low and couldn’t find Kylie. Suddenly, Nick noticed an object that was in a place where no object had been earlier.
Nick walked over and patted the small statuette and said, “Well, now, that’s as good a hiding place as any.”
From one of the walls behind it, a shadowy figure emerged, “Maybe, but that’s not where I was.”
Nick’s eyes got large in surprise. The statuette was perfectly in the right spot, but wasn’t her. She had dematerialized into the crevices of the wall behind and around it and made it appear the statuette was her. A very good ploy.
The contest continued on into the early hours of dawn. The eastern sky was turning purples and pinks with the coming of the sun when Miss Marlena raised her staff and slammed it to the floor in a shower of pyrotechnics, “Enough! It is now time to see how well you have learned herbology and potions.”
Cassandra had already conjured the mixing table and two small mortars and pestles. She motioned them both over to a large rack containing many containers of multi colored liquids and powders.
Crissandra placed a large tome on the table and randomly opened the pages. She pointed to one and said, “This, you have one hour.”
“I thought we had to challenge each other,” said Nick, then looked at the book. “Speed potion?”
Kylie laughed. “Perfect!” she said. “Make the potion, drink the potion, race! First one to … Rizzo’s Diner on 25th Street, pick up one of their takeout menus, and get back here, wins! That’s your challenge!”
“No fair, you’ve got my body with longer legs,” said Nick, but started looking at the recipe.
It was not just a matter of grinding dried leaves and carefully measuring ingredients. Nick took shortcuts by having his cauldron stir itself and the pestle crush the dried euphorbia petals on its own while he carefully measured the liquids drop by drop. Kylie, however, seemed in a trance as she instinctively felt the right amount of ingredients to use and the right temperature to heat the mixture at. Nick was done first, drinking the potion and vanishing out the door in a flash. “HeyAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” screamed Tykerk, but then Kylie grabbed her flask and ran out the door before drinking it.
“IT BURNS IT BURNS CATCH HIM AAAAAGH!” Tykerk implored Kylie, running after her, but finally she downed her flask after leaving the door to Cassandra’s brownstone. She then started running, blazing up the street. “HELP MEEEEEE” shouted Tykerk as he tried to get close to both her and Nick, but to no avail; they were both going about the same speed. There was a moment when they ran past Nick going the other way. “Hurry up she’s in the lead!” Tykerk yelled, but Kylie seemed to be going the same speed. “OWWWWWWW!” he cried again as Nick ran out of range.
It looked as if Nick was going to win with his head start, but about two blocks away from Cassandra’s home, Kylie whizzed right by him as if he were standing still -- which he almost was, as his potion had worn off. Kylie, who had waited until she’d left the building to drink it, had a crucial few seconds left and made it to the door again before hers wore off. Still breathing heavily, she ran up the stairs and set her menu on the table.
A few minutes later, Nick came puffing in the door. “No fair,” he said. “We made … exactly the same potion … but you just … used it differently …” He dropped his copy of the menu on the table and collapsed on the sofa.
“Hmm,” said Miss Marlena. “Sometimes how you use same magic is what make all the difference, no?”
“Ohhhh my aching everything,” said Tykerk, collapsing in a heap on the floor.
Miss Marlena brought out a rather large leather bag that was cinched closed. She place it on the conjuring table with a loud clunk. As she opened the bag and removed several large lumps of greyish metal, she said, “This, is lead. Alchemist have insisted for many centuries they could transmogrify it to another substance. Lets us see if the two of you can challenge yourselves with nondescript lumps of lead.”
Kylie and Nick looked at each other. Neither of them had been able to get to the large tome of Alchemy. It was one of the larger and more boring of the books they had been given and had put it off.
Nick picked up a lump and smiled. He placed it next to his mortar, then began to peruse the many reagents on the large shelf. He chose several, then began mixing them slowly in the small kettle sitting over a special candle. The small kettle sat in a ring on a tripod above a black candle that burned with a purple flame.
Kylie watched for a few minutes before she smiled and began to rub some sort of silvery gel she had taken from one of the small jars in the rack onto the surface of her chunk of lead.
Crissandra leaned over and said softly to Miss Marlena, “Dearie, I think we have the makings of not only Master Mages, but Meta-Mages.”
Miss Marlena replied softly, “This is why it is imperative we give them the very best pointers we can. They are the very first in many centuries to emerge spontaneously … or any other way for that matter.”
Tykerk snorted as he grumbled, “It would figure. Of all the humans … I had to choose the last two Meta’s in existence. And they don’t even know what that is.”
The two seasoned witches watched as Nick and Kylie performed their magic. Nick poured his mixture over the lead lump. A large flash, a very acrid puff of billowing smoke, and the lead had transformed into something that appeared to be a cross between gold and platinum. It sparkled silver in places, and had the typical yellow in others.
Kylie, on the other hand, waved the ornate wand the two witches had given her over her greasy lump. A bright flash of light, a puff of greenish smoke, and something that appeared to be diamond remained after the smoke cleared.
Miss Marlena and Cassandra nodded in approval. Kylie and Nick had just accomplished something only a very few Alchemist had ever done. They were truly impressed.
“Kylie came up with the last challenge,” said Nick. “My challenge is: can you explain what you just did?”
“Interesting,” said Cassandra to Miss Marlena.
“Well, I …” Kylie began. After a pause, she continued. “The mercury-zinc amalgam was just a conduit. I could feel it channeling power. I thought that if I could evenly spread it across the surface of the lead, I could then evenly direct power throughout the metal, and the mercury’s essence just felt like it opposed the lead’s and canceled out, leaving something clear and strong … I think what I have might be diamond. But I have to admit I’m not sure. But you have to do it too! You have to explain what you did.”
“I can,” said Nick. “I know the only difference between lead and gold is a few protons. Science can change lead into gold in atom smashers, actually. But they can only do it a few atoms at a time, and I had to do it on a huge scale. So I simply picked these powders of lighter metals and focused my will on averaging out the sizes of the nuclei. With more practice I could probably make it purer gold. I might have gotten some platinum, iridium and osmium in there too. Still, those are also pretty valuable metals.”
“Wait,” said Tykerk, “you guys just transmuted one element into another. I’ve seen you change sizes and even densities. Can you turn yourselves into, well, other humans?”
“It’s only been a few days,” said Nick, “but I suppose I could try to transform into a guy again.” Nick concentrated.
“Wait,” said Kylie, “we’re supposed to challenge each other. I challenge you to transform into … what you would have looked like if you’d been born a girl! That means I have to transform into what I’d have looked like if I’d been born a boy, I suppose.”
“OK,” Nick said, “let’s try it. Of course, I’m in your body, so I’m really transforming your body, and the other way round for you, but …”
“Whatever,” Kylie said. “Can you do it? That’s my challenge.”
Nick focused his will, while Kylie seemed to be doing some kind of yoga or Tai Chi. Nick’s hair transformed into a longer, straighter, darker style, and his body changed, becoming a bit huskier and sturdier than Kylie’s, only slightly taller but with wider hips. Meanwhile, Kylie seemed to stretch Nick’s frame without getting taller somehow, ending up thinner and blond, with no beard.
They opened their eyes and looked at each other. “Oh my …” said Kylie.
“We just did it,” said Nick.
“Yoink!” said Tykerk. “Ha! I got my spell pulled!”
Suddenly for Nick and Kylie the world spun. Both of them began to collapse to the floor, but Miss Marlena and Cassandra caught them and maneuvered Nick onto the sofa and Kylie into a chair.
When they finally opened their eyes again, almost at the same time, they looked down at themselves … and realized that they were in their own familiar bodies again. Their transformation spells had worn off when they’d lost consciousness. “I’m … back to normal,” Nick said, with a strong tone of disappointment in his deep voice, which only now did he realize didn’t feel right at all.
“Yeah,” Kylie said, “I guess that’s … good?”
“Hey, you could just do the same spell again,” said Tykerk.
“Why you still here, Imp?” asked Miss Marlena. “Thought you would be long gone, now you fulfill oath.”
“Hey, you guys are interesting,” the Imp said. “I’ll hang around for a while and leave when I feel like it.”
Nick lay back and concentrated again, changing once more into the curvy brunette he imagined he’d have been. And Kylie stood up and flexed her body into the tall, somewhat lanky blond guy she’d imagined before.
Nick was looking at his … or her hands and feeling the rest of her body with them. “I guess I can’t really go around being ‘Nick’ when I’m looking like this … how about Nicki?”
“Works for me,” Kylie said. “In fact … you can have my letter ‘I’, because that way you can be Nicki and I can be Kyle.”
“It’s a deal,” giggled Nicki.
“Clever,” said Cassandra. “I guess I still have a girl apprentice.”
“I still have boy herbalist and potion apprentice,” said Miss Marlena. “Very rare. Is usually woman who has this talent. Only sometimes man.”
“So,” asked Nicki, “what was this thing you were calling us -- ‘meta-mages?’”
“Well, you know that a mage is a master of one of the arts of magic, or more than one,” said Cassandra, “and an archmage is a master of them all, though they may have specialties. But the books all say that thousands of years ago, there were always multiple archmages in the world at once -- just as there are many multiple PhDs, or … masters of multiple martial arts, or masters of multiple crafts. They’re pretty uncommon, but there are several of them, if you count the entire world. But for a few hundred years there haven’t been any archmages at all.”
“Right, but what’s a meta-mage?” asked Kyle.
“Meta-mage make own art,” said Miss Marlena. “Only a few ever known to exist. They say last one was Merlin Ambrosius. Before him … could be Circe, sorceress from myth. Can mix arts to make new. Or make whole new art that never exist before.”
“And you think we’re both …?” Nicki asked.
“It’s possible,” said Cassandra. “Signs are very good. I thought it would take you a year to learn enough to shake the trap you’d put yourselves in. It only took a bit under a week.”
Nick said, “I think that since we have discovered this … talent., and have seen how much trouble it can cause … perhaps the both of us should explore it a bit further.”
Kylie moved closer to Nick and took the now her hand in the now his softly and looked into her eyes, “I think it might be nice for us to … go to dinner and a long walk in the park?”
Tykerk squealed about that time. Everyone looked at him. He had his bottom lip poked out in a huge pout, his arms were crossed and he tapped one of his feet.
Cassandra said, “And just what is your problem, pray tell Imp? You have been set free and can come and go as you please.”
Tykerk said pitifully, “Maybe so, but … I was sorta liking being around a Meta again. It has been a century since I knew of one in the world, much less two. And, and, it’s so lonely off on the far side of the void. I can do stuff … go fetch and even show you some tricks that work really well and are simple.” his eyes brightened along with his expectant tone.
Cassandra and Marelena laughed as Kylie and Nick looked at them.
Kylie said, “And just what is so funny?”
Miss Marlena said between her guffaws, “It has been many years since I have seen an Imp who was released from bondage beg to be rebound.”
Cassandra and Miss Marlena burst out laughing again.
Tykerk replied in a huff, “I am not asking to be rebound. All I’m asking is if they will give me … a job, so to speak.”
Miss Marlena said with a snicker, “As house boy? Or keeper of the cat maybe?”
Nicki said as she held her hand up, “Wait. If the Imp can keep his practical jokes to a dull roar. He might be great to have around for parties and Halloween.”
Everyone burst out laughing again, including Tykerk. He replied, “Ok, Ok, I accept. I also make a solemn vow to aid the Meta Mages in all their endeavors … as long as they keep me as a friend and not a slave.”
All laughter stopped as Miss Marlena and Cassandra stared at the Imp. This was the first time either had ever heard of a free Imp making such a request.
“In the old days,” said Cassandra, “the Imps were the servants of greater beings.”
“Yeah, yeah, the mightier Barons of the Vortex, or the Pilots of the Maelstrom, or any of a hundred other kinds,” Tykerk said. “Those whom the humans called demons, angels, genies, whatever. They’re all pretty rare now, too. Nobody knows where they’ve all been disappearing to. There’s just a few odd creatures out there in the Nearer Realms now. Maybe they all went out into the Great Deep to explore. Maybe they got into trouble. There’s lots of stories. What’s the truth? Don’t ask me.” Tykerk shrugged.
“Maybe we’ll find out,” said Kyle.
“Yeah, there’s gotta be a reason two meta-mages showed up at the same time,” Nicki said.
“Well, for now,” said Cassandra, “it looks like you’ve got a friend.”
“What will you do, with your college and friends and families?” asked Miss Marlena.
“I don’t know, I just told everybody I’d gotten sick while I was visiting friends,” Nicki said.
“My mom lives on the West Coast,” said Kyle. “I call her once every couple weeks. As for my friends, I’ve been texting them, saying I was burned out and kinda taking a break … y’know, somehow that Zack guy doesn’t seem that hot anymore.”
“Now it seems so weird that I was so focused on girls named Suzette and Suzanne,” said Nicki. “Suddenly life is … different. In so many ways.”
“What should we do?” asked Kyle.
“Dude,” said Joe, “ever since you got back from being sick, you’ve been … different. You moved out of the dorms, you’re studying so much, acing all your classes, and where did you meet that Kyle guy?”
“I learned there were other things besides chasing girls and getting drunk,” said Nicki, currently masquerading as Nick as she did whenever she had to be on campus for class. “And I learned this new studying technique. It’s from medieval Europe. I didn’t have anything to do while I was sick but read.”
“But I never see you anymore except for class,” Joe said. “I’m not a huge party guy anyway, but we should hang out, play some games or something.”
“Well, maybe,” said Nicki. “Everyone needs a break now and then. But for right now I’ve got to go study. I’ll call you tonight.”
“OK, just don’t overdo it,” said Joe. “See you later.”
Nicki walked down the street and down the stairs into a subway station, or that’s what everyone else saw.
“You’re … moving out?” asked Rhonda. “But … you’re like the perfect roommate! You’re like never here!”
Kyle laughed. He was pretending to be Kylie until he finished college, then he’d decide what to do with his mundane life. But meanwhile he didn’t need a dorm room anymore. “I know, and I can be an even better roommate if I’m not here at all!”
“Yeah, but I’m not allowed to have a double room to myself -- they’ll put some rando girl in here.”
“Or you could move out and find your own apartment like I did,” said Kyle. “You’d like it.”
“If I can afford it. Hey, how’s Zack?”
“Zack who?” Kyle laughed again. “I’m over him. I think … I’m going to focus on my studies.” Both college and magical, Kyle thought to himself.
“Well I guess, but …”
“I gotta go. I’m getting my new place set up.” She picked up a box of her belongings. “I’ll come by to get the rest later. But I need my shoes.”
“OK, well, have a nice life, I guess,” Rhonda said. “Can I help carry anything?”
“Nah, it’s OK. Good luck!” said Kyle and actually hugged his roommate. Then he took the box, went out the door, pressed the button, waited for the elevator, and all anyone else saw was a girl going into an elevator who wasn’t there when its doors opened again.
Nicki was just putting the finishing touches on her studying room when Kyle came in. She tried white walls, then black, then purple, then settled on a nice rich burgundy with dark mahogany trim. “Oh hi Kyle!” she said, running over to him. “Cassandra said this is something like an old spell called the Palace of a Thousand Doors, but nobody’s been able to cast it for centuries, of course.”
“And we thought we’d made it up,” said Kyle, sighing. “Still, a mansion with essentially infinite space that’s basically outside the universe … how crazy is that? Need another room -- make one!”
The doorbell rang. “It’s Tykerk,” said Nicki. “Come in!”
The Imp popped into Nicki’s study in his usual puff of green smoke. “Hey guys,” he said. “Say, this place is really shaping up. Got a guest room for Imps?”
“I made one the other day, actually,” said Kyle. “Wanna see it and tell me what you think? I can change it around.”
Kylie escorted Tykerk down what seemed like an endless hall to the very end. The door opened silently by magic. Kylie motioned for Tykerk to enter. He looked at her for a second, then walked through the door … into a fantasy garden complete with a small sparkling waterfall, a huge meadow with many types of magical herbs, plants and flowers, and some of the rarest of rare magical moths, butterflies, and other creatures all seemingly going about their daily chores as if this were normal, and a complete magical forest.
Tykerk said with awe in his voice, no mortal has been able to conjure this kind of magic in many centuries. I would expect to see a Unicorn come to the pool to drink.”
Tykerk jumped when something sharp touched his arm and caused a wonderful tingling sensation to rush all through his body. He felt wonderful suddenly.
Kylie laughed, “That, is Pinky. I think she likes you, she just took 2000 years off your physical age.”
Tykerk knew it was true. He had become young … relatively speaking for an Imp of course. The Unicorn stood and bobbed it head up and down as it shook its white mane tipped with strawberry pink. Tykerk reached out his hand and petted the unicorn between its eyes, just below its magical horn. Pinky showed great pleasure in being scratched in a Unicorn’s most favorite ich spot.
Tykerk said softly, “This … I never expected … I mean.”
Kylie hugged the startled Imp, “Don’t worry Tykerk. So long as you keep your promises to me and Nicki, there are many wonderful surprises in store for you.”
Tykerk said as he waved his hand, “This … is my home. You managed to recreate it … here some how.”
A small female voice suddenly called Tykerk’s name. He turned with major shock on his face. A very beautiful Sprite all dressed in sparkling white light flitted from the edge of the small pool. It landed in a shower of light, then resolved into a very beautiful young woman in a gossamer gown made of purest light.
Tykerk gasped out, “Keneeri?? Is … is that you? How? I saw the Orks …”
She placed one of her delicate hands over the startled Imp’s mouth, “It appears you have very powerful friends who know some very powerful friends. I have returned to be with you.”
Kylie smiled as she backed from the room and slowly shut the door. The last thing she saw was a beautiful white light glowing brightly around the two of them as they kissed.
~~ A Beautiful Beginning ~~