VIEWS: 2 PAGES: 9 POSTED ON: 5/24/2012
Down With Sparkles By topleka and Daviot “Mr. Weiss, are we clear?” Mrs. Price chided her student. The blue-eyed, blue- haired youth merely nodded. “How you’ve managed to pass all your classes so far…with mostly B’s and a C every now and then when you cut class at least once a week is beyond me.” The answer was actually simple. Raim Weiss was a very good test taker. “Well…school doesn’t really…interest me.” The sixteen-and-a-half year old had gotten top marks on that year’s standardized college tests, so it was fairly clear that he wasn’t stupid. It was simply the participation grades that killed him. The principal blinked and lowered her shoulders. “Raim, it doesn’t matter whether or not it interests you. It matters that you have at least the motivation to attend class.” “And that’s something I don’t really have,” Raim quietly thought to himself. “For instance, let’s take a look at your last chemistry lab.” The woman in a navy suit reached into a nearby manila folder with a short stack of lab papers. “Take at look at this. I’m told you filled out all the concept questions, including the ones that could have only been done alongside the titration. Yet, all the actual data is missing. Why?” Raim smiled politely at the rhetorical question. Price let out a short sigh and stuffed the paper back into the folder. “You have exactly two absences left for the whole of the semester, Weiss. I don’t want to see you using them for any less than a case of the plague, or…” the principal threw up her hands, “…projectile leprosy.” Raim chuckled. “Any more, and you’ll repeat the year. I doubt you or your parents want that. So, humor me. Force yourself to put on a uniform and come to school. That headband of yours is of course fine,” she gestured at the hemmed, forest green cloth headband that held back his dark blue bangs, “but frankly, I won’t care if you put your hair into a Mohawk if you simply participated the rest of this year.” “I understand, ma’am.” Mrs. Price smiled. The bell echoed through the halls. “Thank you. It’s Friday, so go home, enjoy yourself, and be ready for class Monday morning. That’s all.” The dark-stained wood door of the principal’s office shut on it its own as Raim stepped out of the office. He then promptly undid the top button on his shirt and sighed. Raim, at five foot, six inches and a touch over one-hundred twenty-five pounds, was not accustomed to having attention paid to him. Despite school days spent at one of the city of Elmhurst’s several parks or the video arcade, truancy officers paid him little heed. He didn’t wear a leather jacket, or carry himself like a class-cutting punk. While the truant part was quite accurate, he simply didn’t look threatening. To him, polite, average, and soft-spoken meant as good as invisible. Raim’s ideal vision of bettering oneself consisted of a good book or an issue of Popular Science combined with a park bench. No timed writing assignment, essays, lab reports, or just plain busy work to worry about. Grades were another thing…he just sort of ended up with what he got. If a class was weighted toward the occasional tests, he’d do fine. If it was daily homework, he was doomed. His parents had gone through a phase in middle school of pressuring him to do better with little results, before they discovered the elusive secret that was still hiding from the (what he considered incompetent) school counselors: he had nothing to aim for that mattered to him. Both his mother and his father were confident that once he found his niche…that one elusive thing that would become his passion in life, their son would excel. Until then, Raim passed his days half in leisure and half in coming up with some of the world’s most creative and yet most believable excuses. His favorite was of course, “Oh, I was off saving the world,” said with a calm tone and a slight smile. People simply didn’t know how to handle it. Of course, his slightly-shorter-than-average statute and laid back personality had another effect. Girls loved to talk to him. They would address him as a fellow, upstanding human being and consider him a reasonably secure confidant, and he had a few female acquaintances. The problem one…despite his best efforts, Raim had never had a girlfriend. It seemed that the fairer sex, while they considered him a decent person, never considered him a man. Still, some blame had to be given, one way or the other, to Tai. “Hey, what do you know? Raim, you’re at school. That never happens. Wait…is the world ending?” “No, it isn’t.” Tai Henderson threw his best friend a cocksure grin and a pair of almost sparkling brown eyes outside of the principal’s office. “Good, because I would have hated dying a virgin, and I doubt the school would loan their facilities for ‘fixing’ such a problem.” Tai finished his air quotes and ran his right hand through his seemingly purposefully messy emerald hair before he poked Raim with an elbow. For better or worse, Raim’s best friend was simultaneously famous and infamous as the biggest playboy in all of Joseph R. Kenner High School. Tai had had several short flings with the ladies, but nothing serious or otherwise lasting. And Raim was still not quite sure how Tai had ended up following him instead of the other way around. “I just got pulled in by Mrs. Price to be told that I’m totally out of absences. So, it’s either I show up for every class from hereon out, or I face…” Tai nodded and finished the sentence for him with an overdramatic flair. “…a fate worse than death. Harsh. Well, at least you won’t suffer alone.” Raim nodded, and began dialing the combination on his locker. “Thanks.” Tai looped his schoolbag over one shoulder and shut his locker. “Hey, if you’re feeling down…it’s Friday…we can go pick up chicks at the college. Say…crash a sorority party or something. Heck, you look older than you really are, you could probably pass for twenty one easy.” Raim shut his locker. “Tai, is there ever a thought running through your head that’s free of perversion?” Tai grinned and gave his best vocal impression of a Victorian British gentleman. “If there is, Fulton, my dear chap, it’s because I’m either sick in bed or have been abducted by little green men.” Raim nodded skeptically. “Right.” Tai continued his counterfeit accent. “Would, I, the Great Jeremy, ever lie to a dear comrade?” Raim raised an eyebrow. “You know, the voices and the middle names aren’t doing much for me.” Tai coughed. “Oh, sorry. So, anyway, have any plans for this afternoon and the weekend?” “Oh, nothing much, provided it’s someplace away from you, ‘dear chap’.” Tai laughed. “That’s pretty harsh.” Raim chuckled and walked through the front entrance. “Take care, Tai. Try not to get arrested this weekend.” “I don’t quite think I can guarantee that.” In a nearby apple tree (planted commemoratively after the town’s founder, but that’s a different story) a traveler frowned at her map. “Hmm…” Then she promptly rotated it upside-down and continuing frowning at it as she sat on the branch. Part of the problem was while the map was intricately detailed with the socio-political details of the city of Elmhurst and printed onto a sturdy silk weave, it was also the size of a handkerchief. And considering its reader was all of half a foot tall…that made it rather unwieldy. “Oh, that’s it!” She crumpled the map (well, as much as silk can be crumpled) and it promptly vanished from existence. She then proceeded to mumble to herself…rather loudly. “I still haven’t found the right person yet. I mean…come on. There’s got to be a tomboy who’s an ace at P.E. but dreads math and science, or a girly girl who also happens to be world’s most sincere klutz. But no~! I don’t even think the school so much as has a rhythmic gymnastics team! Augh!!” The traveler prodded herself in the forehead. “Think, Eka, think…it shouldn’t be this hard…aw, screw it! I swear, I’m just gonna take the next person who walks by.” She looked up to see one of Kenner High’s front glass doors opening, and proceeded to grin with glee. Raim gave a pensive but otherwise useless sigh as he opened the front door to his family’s corner of suburbia (although, technically, Elmhurst couldn’t be called a suburb because although a city of roughly 100,000, there just wasn’t a larger metropolis anywhere remotely nearby). He was promptly greeted by Laura Weiss, his mother. “Welcome home.” “Hi mom.” She frowned as he walked past her. “Raim, your principal called me.” Raim stopped and cringed. “She said she would explain what she told me pretty much word-for-word with you. So, are you clear on her attendance policy?” Raim turned around and nodded, glumly. “Yes ma’am. I’m not going to miss any school.” Mrs. Weiss, a moderately graceful and short-haired woman somewhere vaguely in her 40’s nodded, eying her progeny, who had seemingly received only his hair and eye color from her. “Well, I trust you, honey. You may be a slacker, certainly, but you’re also trustworthy.” Raim gave a half-hearted “thanks” in reply. “So, dear, what are your plans before you resume your ‘educational captivity’?” Raim scratched the back of his head. “Um…well, first I’m going to change out of this uniform. That’s a given. Then, I think I’ll relax…maybe hit the arcade later.” Laura nodded. “That’s fine, just remember, dinner will be at the standard seven o’clock.” Despite having what he considered laid back parents, the family dinner was the household iron rule. Raim’s schoolbag was unceremoniously tossed into the corner beside his twin- sized bed. He slid open the railed closet door to the section of shirt hangers and swapped the uniform jacket for a grey heather t-shirt. Likewise, the slacks were traded for a comfortable yet still intact pair of jeans. Raim then unceremoniously tossed himself onto the bed and started to follow the paint swirls on his white ceiling, pondering the possibilities. He’d already beaten the video games he had at home, read all the books in his two bookshelves, and perused through all four of that month’s magazines, including his father’s National Geographic. And his allowance wasn’t until Sunday. “I do have a bunch of pocket change, though. Enough to run through the Kaleidoscope and still have some left over.” Raim glanced at the radio on his desk. There was still time for a catnap before he left. He yawned and shut his eyes. “Hiya!” A perky voiced chimed in just as Raim was fading to half-consciousness. “Egh-gah!” He bolted up and was met with the smiling face with short, wavy, reddish hair and the occasional freckle. The face, however, was minute and connected to the body of what Raim could only rationalize as a fairy. “Congratulations! You’ve proven to be the most…available…candidate for saving this beleaguered world.” Raim shook his head. “Listen, it’s Friday afternoon. I’m not really in the mood for crazy statements made by people three inches high.” The fairy flailed her arms in high-strung frustration. “Excuse me? Three inches? I’ll have you know; I am a full five inches, just like the rest of my family.” The Weiss boy nodded slowly. “Okay…who and what exactly are you and what are you doing…” Raim glanced at the fairy’s position, “hovering in my room?” The fairy beamed. “Oh! Sorry, I knew I forgot something. Well…I followed you home. The name’s Eka. I’m what you humans would consider a fairy.” Raim glanced at Eka. Few of the fey creatures he could remember reading in fantasy could be found wearing Capri pants and a pastel tank top that featured a peace sign in front of a printed pair of bird wings. Speaking of wings, Eka had two, of the butterfly-esque persuasion one would expect to find; only her right one was curiously bent. “Are those wings even real?” Eka blasted back, “of course they are!” She then quietly turned her head and attempted to unbend the wing. “So, I’m here because this world needs a hero.” Raim blinked. Eka smiled a half-warm and half-crazed grin. “So, kid, I don’t think I caught your name.” “Raim. Raim Weiss.” He extended a hand, doing his best to humor her, and Eka did her best to shake his right index finger in ritual greeting. “Hmm…not a bad name at all…haven’t heard it before.” Between the strange image and the exuberance of the fairy, her best attempt at seriousness looked to Raim to be something not entirely unlike impatience. “So, what does a fairy have to do with a human who prefers an easy, magic-free lifestyle?” “Well…like I said, the city…err…world is in dire need of a hero, and you’ve been chosen because you were the…um…best?” The tone of voice was not encouraging. “And what if I don’t want to be some ‘great chosen one’?” Eka flat out ignored her appointed charge. “But, really, don’t worry, I’ve thought the whole thing through and there’s nothing to worry about.” Raim got up from sitting on his bed and proceeded to lean back against the opposite wall. He was not terribly amused. “So, what kind of hero?” Eka smiled. “A magical girl, of course.” Eka floated forward (her fake wings not bothering even to flutter along) and with her right index finger, tapped Raim on the nose. She quickly added her own sound effect. “Toink!” It was then that Raim Fulton Weiss was hit with the fifth-dimensional magical equivalent of a steamroller. • • • Calling the sensation that Raim felt a steamroller is a bit misleading. While it would be considered incredibly blunt by fairy standards, the wave of magic that hit Raim was actually a very focused and directed set of steamrollers. Fairy magic, if were to be analyzed by human minds, would be described as a non-material force that directly manipulates reality…in this case, it was weaving a newly created permanent form of magic into a human soul that had absolutely no experience with magic. In other words, there was a round peg (named Raim) and a square hole. So, naturally, the peg was being shoved until it fit. From Raim’s respective, he was hit with a wave of phosphenes in his eyes as they glittered with grey sparkles before his vision went black. This was quickly followed by the sensation of being on a medieval stretching rack, with the minor addition of extreme pain in the form of pins-and-needles and burning that ran rampant through his nervous system, and enough nausea to gag the nearest carrion feeder. The disorienting and painful effects seemed to last for several minutes. In actuality, they lasted for nine and a half seconds, but due to the reality-warping nature of the magic used, as a physical artifact, Raim’s mind experienced it…as actually lasting for several minutes. When he came to, (Raim was actually half-conscious for most of the experience, so it might be more accurate to say “when the numbness subsided”) Raim found himself lying facedown on the plush carpeting of his second-story bedroom. Eka giggled and yelled, “it worked! It actually worked. Wow…okay then.” Raim, on the other hand, was much less exuberant…he felt funny in all possible permutations of word, including a few that wouldn’t be invented for several years to come. He lifted himself off the floor and stood up, where his first thought consisted of, “Why are my hands gloved?” Raim glanced at his hands, the long hair on the back of his head lagging momentarily behind. The hands (which he could swear seemed a bit narrower and elongated than he was used to) were sheathed in long, perfectly-white gloves that extended from his fingertips to the bottom of his elbows. His brain, hurrying to catch up, then suggested another thought to add to the list. “Wait. I don’t have long hair.” And then, against what fragments of cognizance remained in his blendered mind, he decided to crane his neck to the right to peer at the large vertical mirror that occupied the majority of his right closet door. A person, still with Raim’s blue eyes and blue hair and even Raim’s five feet and six inches of height, stared back at him, although the blue eyes gave a bit harsher and more intense expression that what Raim’s face usually carried. The problem was that the reflection in question was unmistakably female. The young woman had long, straight dark blue hair that extended to her mid-back. Across her forehead and under her hair was a forest green headband, though slightly different than Raim’s; it seemed a bit more…upscale. The big problem consisted of the moderately-frilly, pure white, short- skirted dress the girl was wearing and the bust that matched it, of which Raim had no doubt of it being real. In the center of the dress was a single decorative but otherwise purposeless oval-shaped gem from which several semi-transparent and prismatic ribbons extended. A simple gold-colored belt was at the girl’s waist, while the previously noticed gloves adorned both hands, and a pair of white, knee-length Go-Go Boots completed the ensemble. The girl turned towards the fairy. “What the hell is wrong with you?” Raim then subconsciously pressed her gloved right hand over her mouth, not quite used to the sudden two-octave jump in pitch. Eka rested her head on her hand and went into a pose that would certainly be considering sitting, had she actually been sitting on something. “Hmm…I’m not sure I know the answer to that question.” She chuckled. The magical girl in front of her became several notches more severe. “I told you I didn’t want any part of this!” Eka grinned. “Oh, really? Well, you see, I…err…fate decided upon your destiny, and you don’t mess around with fate.” She quickly added, “…or me.” Raim threw down her hands. “Okay…so if you needed a hero, why couldn’t you have at least kept some of my chromosomes and made me a magical boy?” Eka broke out into giddy laughter. “Please, please…magical boys? Most of the time, they have an okay costume, but since they’re essentially sidekicks and love interests, they turn out to be totally useless. Or if they really have magical powers, they turn out to be the reincarnation of the ultimate evil. And, in the rare event they’re the main character, they don’t do a lot more than be bishie and steal random, precious works of art. So, really. Magical boys…not heroic at all. That’s why you’re a magical girl, Raim.” Eka lifted her head from her hand. “Wait…I can’t call you Raim for the time being, can I? So, a new name for your alter-ego, hmm? Man, I really shoulda thought of a good one ahead of time. Let’s see…” Raim paid the fairy little heed, and decided to go to her desk, pushing back her armless desk chair and sitting down backwards in it, resting her gloved arms on the top of its back. “…it needs to be cute, first of all…fairly different than your normal name, but still kinda close…something with an R. Raine, Raina, Rhona, Rhone, Rin, Ran, Ranma…Riku.” Eka’s lips curled around the word as she dragged the word out across her tongue. She gave a catlike grin. “Riku?” “What? I’m a fan of Yukiru Sugisaki, thank you very much.” “That name means absolutely nothing to me.” “It’s settled. For the time being, you’re Riku.” Riku nodded, wholly unimpressed. “What exactly do you mean by ‘for the time being’? And what if I decide not to help you?” Eka smiled an oddly pleasant smile. “Haven’t you watched any anime? Everyone knows the heroine can’t change back until the danger is defeated. And in your case, I made sure it was quite literal.” Riku shook her head in her gloved hand. “So, I don’t seem to remember the world being in any horrible danger. What exactly am I supposed to save the world from?” Eka perked up. “Well, turn around and look out that window.” Riku pivoted on her chair, and peered at the large, unscreened window that was to the left of her desk. Eka snapped her fingers (though she really didn’t have to for the magic to trigger) and waited. Riku watched as roughly six blocks away, a bright flash came from a familiar building on the shopping district. A few moments later, a cloud of debris shot up from the building, the sound following a few seconds later. Riku’s mouth dropped open and one of her eyes began to twitch of its own accord. The building partially demolished was next door to Raim’s favorite building of all time: the arcade. “That, for starters.” “So, why the hell would you do something like that!? They have the only Waltz Waltz Insurrection machine in the whole town!!” Eka blinked. “Who with the dancing…err…what now?” A voice came from downstairs. “Raim, dear, did you invite someone over? I didn’t hear the door.” Laura’s voice was followed by footsteps on the wood-paneled stairs. The apprentice magical girl and the fairy almost instinctively turned their agape mouths towards the room’s window, just behind and next to the desk. Thankfully, it was large, opened sideways, and lacked a screen. Riku turned around, and lowered herself down before dropping from the second story roof. The drop seemed oddly soft. “Gravity must be taking a holiday.” Raim’s mother gave an exceedingly uninspired “hmm” before she noticed the window was open, and promptly closed. “I guess he’s already left.” Riku’s gaze dropped from the window to the fairy floating next to her. “So, what now?” “Well, you silly, we get over there and stop the monster-of-the-week. Oh, and you’ll need your focus.” Riku blinked. “My what?” There was a brief flash, and she found herself clutching a cylinder in her right hand. The thin rod was a bit over two feet long, in a mildly shiny metallic silver with a faceted, transparent blue gem mounted in a fixture at one end, while the other end had three ribbon streamers coming from the tip in a suspiciously familiar shade of green. “That works.” Eka beamed. “You like it? I sure do.” Riku gave it a practice twirl between the fingers of her hand, spinning it like a baton. This struck her as slightly odd, because as Raim she hadn’t even been able to twirl a pencil without dropping it. “Okay…so how I get over to the Kaleidoscope? It’s broad daylight, and I don’t want to be caught looking like some…some…” Eka scowled. Riku dropped the topic. “Never mind.” The fairy smiled. “That’s easy. Try running…or jumping. Even better…roof hopping!” “Roof hopping?” “Uh huh. Roof hopping.” About twenty seconds later, Riku found herself at the apex of a forty-foot vertical jump that ended on the apex of the tiled house roof across the street. The landing would have made parachutists green with envy. Riku smirked. “You know, I’m pretty sure my Physics teacher wouldn’t like this at all.” “Yes…but has your Physics teacher seen Saint Tail?” “Probably not.” “There ya go!” The front of the storefront to the Kaleidoscope arcade was intact. Actually, there a chunk out of the left wall and quite a bit of debris from the storefront next door had blown in, but it was otherwise mostly intact, which is to say that the Waltz Waltz Insurrection machine was still there, and that was all Riku cared about. Standing in front of the store was what worried the newly appointed defender of something-or-other. It was a large wolf…provided that one’s definition of the word “wolf” included leeway for things that stood six feet tall at the shoulder, had spikes running along the spine, and had the attitude of a wolverine with a bad facial migraine. The beast ripped its fur and growled a rather unnerving sort of wail while its eyes watched the young woman who was leaning on the front façade sign of the storefront across the street. “So, I take out this thing, right?” “Right! Now first, let’s go over your magic. First, you’ve got…um…Riku?” Eka raised an eyebrow and gave a flustered sigh. Her charge had made a leisurely fourteen foot hop down to the street and was currently staring the wolf with eyes almost as intense. The beast lunged forward and found its nubile young prey gone. Riku had instinctually performed a ground slide without noticeably moving her legs. The wolf turned around, and was met with a rod to the face. It shrugged it off as it received a faceted blue gem to the left eye. The monster recoiled back and shook off the pain. It sidled in small steps, every wary of its just as vigilant quarry. It leaped forward; Riku went vertical. The wolf stopped its charge, and spun around, its tail taking a large chunk of drywall from the right wall. It slunk forward and batted a large, dark paw with ivory claws. The magical girl leaned impossibly backwards past the swipe, rolled backwards, got up, and ran forward, converting a large portion of the forward momentum into a high-flying spinning kick. The blow caught the wolf creature in the jawbone, the force of the impact sending it flying backwards. Its face caught the front end of an Indy car racing simulator before barreling in a straight line that ended several games later, with a smashed UFO catcher. Riku winced. “How about some magic, first of all, silly?” “What did you have in mind?” “First, twirl the rod in your hand, think of fiery things, and say ‘Burning Azure Flame’ in that firm-almost-yelling sort of tone while pointing it at whatever. And poof!” Riku gave the fairy a rather incredulous glance. “Do I have to say that?” Eka folded her arms and nodded vigorously. “Um-hum!” “Right…” The wolf, having shaken off its injuries, (although with a bleeding eye and what appeared to be several broken ribs) spit the severed controller to a light gun game out of its mouth and sauntered forward. It arched backwards and leapt into the air. “Burning Azure Flame!” After a single revolution, Riku pressed the tip of the rod into the beast’s underside. The attack, as advertised, released a silent but aesthetically pleasing jet of deep, ethereal blue flame that pierced through the monster like a railgun to an overly ripe watermelon. The force of the effect blew the wolf backwards. Its form crackled, and it was half-dissolved by the time it touched the ground. The particles dissipated and the monster was no more. The manager of the Kaleidoscope, the only person present, stood behind the counter of his mostly ruined establishment. With a half pensive and half confused look on his face, the man gave a few silent golf claps for reasons he was not entirely sure of. The magical girl surveyed the damage. Two-thirds of the arcade had been ripped to shreds, and there was a distinctive, wolf-shaped half-pipe bored out of the concrete and carpet. At least, in the front and center entrance area, a proud, lone second-generation dancing simulation machine stood standing. At least until the neon sign over the front façade gave way and sliced the Waltz Waltz Insurrection machine asunder. Riku let out a defeatist whimper. This, in turn, was answered with the Doppler shift of a city of Elmhurst police siren. Riku’s face took a half-worried grin. “What do you say we um…get the heck away from here?” Eka nodded. “Works for me!” “So, once the danger is defeated, you can change back into your Raimy self at will. That’s so you can get out of dodge before undoing the transformation and all that. But for this once, I’ll pull it manually. Ready?” Riku looked at her would-be mentor. “Not real-ly…!” The feeling was much more subtle than the initial steamrollering, and much faster. There was a cool, noticeable tingle through Riku’s body. Her clothing glowed momentarily bright white with multicolored and formless sparkles. And in less than half a second, the light was gone, Riku was Raim, clothed in jeans and shirt, and the ground was coming up very quickly to meet him. Raim recovered from the shock of the fall as he sat facedown in the grass front lawn of his own home. Once his get-out-of-gravity-free magical girl pass had expired, the landing had been rather…hard, since gravity is a rather harsh mistress. “Raim? What are you doing on the lawn?” The young man pushed himself off the Bermuda grass, wiped his eyes clean, and stared at his mother. “I tripped, actually.” “Well, your father’s home. Come inside.” Raim got up and then noticed that his mother had missed the overly exuberant fey creature now sitting on his head. True, to her, there was much work to be done, but it was certainly a start.
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