Episode 2: “The Weekly Bizarre”
Episode 2: “The Weekly Bizarre”
Written and created by Ingrid Díaz
Naia pounded her fists against the computer screen monitor. “Work, damn you!” Frustrated, and more than a little pissed off, she checked all of the cables again for what felt like the millionth time—but was probably only the thousandth.
She’d been at this for days to no avail. Her surveillance system was state of the art; everything had been tested and re-tested right in front of her. There were no flaws with her equipment. “You must be connecting it wrong,” they’d told her. But she’d connected everything exactly how they’d instructed her to.
“I don’t get it,” she mumbled, sitting back in her chair, defeated. Unless, she thought suddenly, there’s some kind of supernatural block. Why hadn’t she thought of that before? Her excitement turned to confusion. But, why should ghosts be camera shy? Wouldn’t they want to be exposed? Wouldn’t they want to be recognized, set free?
Brown eyes scanned the room and narrowed. What were they hiding? And then her gaze came to rest on the clock, and she jumped. “Crap!” She was late for class. Stupid Friday class from hell, as she preferred to call it. Led by Dr. Satan Myars.
Naia grabbed a pen from her desk and dug out a notebook from the pile of junk on the floor. Flipping through the pages to make sure there were blank sheets left, she made her way down the hallway.
Four years at Merfolk College and it had never occurred to her to get an off-campus apartment. She loved the dorms, loved Kings Hall, with its winding hallways and abandoned basement. She’d slept down there many times, in the company of strange sounds and even stranger sensations. There was something down there, even if she’d never seen it. Sometimes it wasn’t what was seen, but rather, what was felt.
People thought her insane, but to her, they were the crazy ones. The world was filled with hidden truths and unsolvable mysteries, and yet people went on with their lives, turning their backs on what might lie behind the shadows. Well, Naia would rather die than ignore everything she had grown up believing; everything she had grown up knowing. And if there were mysteries in Merfolk, she would be the one to solve them.
She hurried across the freshly mowed lawns of the Merfolk campus. The town could use some rain, Naia noted, as her boots crunched down on the patches of dead grass. She looked up at the clear blue sky. No chance of that any time soon. If she’d been religious, Naia would’ve prayed for rain at that moment. She would have prayed for her equipment to work, for her newspaper to do well, and for the professor to start class late.
But Naia didn’t believe in a higher power. There were things even too unbelievable for her.
Azure stared at the Rosary in her palm. She’d been clutching it so tightly that the cross left an imprint on her skin. With a sigh, she closed her fingers around it and looked up.
She’d been sitting at the steps of the dining hall for twenty minutes, waiting for Aeryn to appear. She’d risen from bed to find a note on her door: “Thank you for letting me spend the night. Want to meet me for lunch at 11:30?” Azure had meant to ignore the invitation, but there were still so many things she wanted to ask. How had her wound disappeared, for example? She rubbed at the skin that not twelve hours prior had been red and broken.
Think of me as a mystical bodyguard, Aeryn had said. But what in the world did that mean?
“I’m late, aren’t I?” and Azure realized that Aeryn was now standing in front of her, looking apologetic. “I forgot I didn’t have a watch or a clock or a sundial or anything to tell time by. I’m sorry to keep you waiting.”
Azure stared into light green eyes and wondered why she hadn’t opted for ignorance after all. “What happened to my arm?”
Aeryn hesitated a moment before responding. “I said I could treat it for you.”
“Normally, that involves a band-aid or gauze,” Azure replied, her eyes fixed on Aeryn’s.
Aeryn lowered her head for a moment, and as she did so, her long, silk-brown hair fell across her face, covering her features. She pushed some strands behind her ear and her gaze rose to meet Azure’s. “I just didn’t want you to be in pain.”
Azure stared, unsure how to reply.
“Especially on account of me,” Aeryn added after a moment.
But it still didn’t explain how her arm had been healed, or who Aeryn was. Azure remembered the Rosary she held and, almost without thought, placed the cross against Aeryn’s hand. She wasn’t sure what she expected to happen; perhaps that Aeryn’s skin would sizzle and burn, that Aeryn would recoil in shame.
Instead, Aeryn glanced down with a confused expression, and then with a smile of amusement. “I’m not a vampire,” she said.
Embarrassed, Azure pulled back. “Then what are you?”
Aeryn sighed and sat down on the step next to Azure. She glanced straight ahead, at the students passing by, or at the campus buildings, or at the sky—Azure couldn’t be certain. Then, she looked at Azure and said, “I’m a mage.”
“A … mage,” Azure repeated, sounding out the word in order to emphasize how ridiculous it sounded. The Devil’s work, her father’s voice spoke inside Azure’s mind and she swallowed. She glanced briefly at the healed wound on her arm, or rather, at the absence of a wound. “Are you saying you’re … a witch?”
Aeryn stared at Azure curiously before shaking her head. She grinned while staring at the ground. “Something like that.” She bit her lip for a second. “Only … different. Slightly more … powerful.”
Azure breathed evenly for a long moment. “Right.” She didn’t have any more words than that. She didn’t even know where to begin comprehending. She’d had thought the girl insane if not for all the evidence to the contrary. Not unless they were both crazy, which, at the moment, seemed like the most reasonable answer.
“I know this is a lot to take in.” Aeryn watched a group of students pass by and disappear inside the dining hall. “I mean … magick in your world is …” She shrugged, and for a moment, Azure thought she saw a hint of bitterness in her eyes. But the look subsided. “I don’t blame you for not believing me; or rather, for not wanting to believe me.” Aeryn glanced up, stared into Azure’s eyes. “I know that you have seen many things others have never wanted to believe.”
Azure looked away. She couldn’t bear the intensity of Aeryn’s gaze. “I’m not sure I even believe what I’ve seen.”
“You saw Kalen.”
“My spirit guide. You saw him speaking to me, in front of the café.”
Azure recalled the ghost standing beside Aeryn. “Do you see him too?”
“No, I only hear him,” Aeryn answered.
Azure looked at Aeryn’s profile, and forgot for a second what it was they were talking about. It was confusing and troubling, to be filled with so many conflicting emotions about the same person. It was disturbing, really. “So if you’re such a powerful mage, or whatever … how come your only mode of defense last night was to kiss me?” And the words seemed so strange coming from her lips that for a second she wondered if she’d dreamed the entire ordeal.
Aeryn looked at Azure. “It wasn’t my only mode of defense, but it was the best one under the circumstances. The woman made no attempt to attack or harm us, and I am bound by my laws not to use magick unless necessary. Against someone, I mean,” she added, as if remembering Azure’s arm. “Plus,” Aeryn said and smiled, “you’re kind of cute.”
Azure felt the blood rush to her cheeks and she looked away. “Don’t say things like that, okay?” she pleaded. “I’m not … I don’t … want …”
Aeryn laughed and stood up. “No kissing and no complimenting.” She offered her hand to help Azure up. “Anything else?”
Azure looked at the hand and back up at Aeryn. “No touching.”
Aeryn pulled her hand away and shook her head. “You’ve got issues.” She laughed good-naturedly and started climbing the rest of the steps to the dining hall beyond. “You’ll have to type me up a rule book.”
Azure watched Aeryn for a moment and shook her head before following after her.
Larken paced nervously behind her desk. Something was wrong. She could feel it, but couldn’t place it; and that fact troubled her most of all.
Faedyn cleared her throat. “Larken…”
The High Priestess stopped, recalling that she was not alone. “I don’t know,” she said finally.
“What don’t you know, Larken?”
“I don’t know what it is that I don’t know,” Larken replied, frustrated. “I feel it. But I can’t see it.” She looked up. “Do you pick up anything?”
“Now why should I pick up on something you can’t?”
Larken ignored the trace of bitterness that accompanied the words. “And the girl?”
“Still nothing,” replied the Elder. “I ran all the tests I could think of.”
“That is so very odd,” said Larken thoughtfully. “I think I would like to test her myself.”
“Of course you would.”
Larken stared evenly at her sister. “I’m in no mood for your petty jealousies, Fae. After all of these years—“
“Yes,” interrupted the angry voice, “after all of these years of standing by while they rained rose petals at your feet; while they worshiped your every word, your every sigh … all of those years of knowing the truth and standing at the sidelines, watching them adore you.” Faedyn’s eyes narrowed in anger. “If they only knew that it was you that nearly brought an end to all of this. If they only knew that—“
“Enough!” Larken cried. “I know what I have done. I have spent the past twenty years of my life trying to make right by my mistakes.”
“Have you?” Faedyn wondered. “Or have you merely gotten lost in the glory of your reign?”
Larken’s eyes darkened.
“Don’t look so surprised to hear me allude to it, Larken,” Faedyn replied. “They might not know what you did, but I do.”
“Is that a threat?”
“Now why would I want to threaten you?” Faedyn smiled thinly. “When it’s you that’s the threat?” She gave Larken a long, hard look before retreating from the room.
Larken watched the door slam close but didn’t flinch at the sound. She shook her head, silver-white tresses falling across her face. “She thinks she knows everything,” she murmured softly.
The spirits, which had remained silent during the confrontation, spoke up now.
She’ll know when the time is right.
They all will.
Larken walked to the window. Outside, Lare was bathed in darkness. She could hear the ocean and the wind and the murmur of voices near and far. Her gaze lingered on the island below before turning back to the spirits. “The girl that Aeryn brought here,” she said. “Who is she?”
In time, Larken. Everything will be revealed, in time.
Azure stared at the pen in her hand and then at the attempted lyrics on her notebook. She read over her words and crossed them all out.
The ghost by the door stared at her.
Azure ignored the intruder. She picked up her Biology textbook and pretended to read. Her thoughts, however, kept drifting.
She had spent the past seven years of her life trying to unlearn all of the things the first eleven had shown her. She had spent her childhood listening to the ghosts—like the one standing by her bed now—tell her stories upon stories. They told her she was special. They told her to be strong. They told her never … ever … to change. At night, she would fall asleep to their whispers, to their stories of Heaven and God.
“Ghosts!” her mother had cried when Azure had told her. And foolishly, Azure had insisted. Until, finally, there came the first of many trips to the basement, the first of many scars; the first of many nights she wished she would die.
Azure traced her fingers along her arm, at the place another wound should be. She thought of the visions she’d had upon touching Aeryn the first time. The most disturbing of which, she’d been recalling frequently. But she had pushed the others away, had nearly forgotten them: the black cape with the strange symbol of fire upon it, the man with piercing green eyes…
“His name is Jael,” spoke the ghost.
Azure flinched at the words, but didn’t look up. “I don’t want to hear this,” she whispered.
The ghost was silent for a long time. So long that Azure was certain it would never speak again. But then, it said, “Why do you insist on trusting the words of those who hurt you most deeply?”
“Honor thy Father and thy Mother,” Azure replied bitterly.
“Do you find cruelty an honorable thing?”
Azure did look at the ghost, then. Miserably, she said, “Must you torture me further?”
It seemed to sigh. And then it vanished.
“Light refractions,” Naia said in disgust, deleting another email. “Damn these people and their so-called ‘orbs’! Don’t they know there’s a difference?” She went on, “And what’s with these idiots trying to capture orbs with digital cameras? Don’t they know digital cameras are unreliable for this kind of thing?”
Ry mumbled something from the bed. To Naia’s ears, it sounded like, “Why do you let bee people wet the panties and the lisp.”
“What?” Naia turned around. “What bee people?”
Ry looked up from a copy of The Advocate. “I said, why do you let these people get your panties in a twist? At least they send you things. If I were you, I’d print those pictures and paste them to the first page of The Weekly. I’d even pursue the ‘bee people’ at this point ‘cause, honey, you’re running out of time.”
“Thanks,” Naia replied. Bitch, she added, turning back to her desk. She was about to go back to her mail, when she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye. She blinked in surprise at the monitor screen. “It’s working!”
Ry appeared at her side a moment later. “Yeah, wow,” he said. “I see now. An empty hallway will surely make all the difference.”
Naia rolled her eyes. She was used to his cynicism … but it was still annoying. “Go back to your little magazine, Bartholomew.”
“Actually, I’m due at work soon. I should get ready.” He kissed the top of Naia’s head and started toward the door.
“Are you closing the Gay and Proud tonight?”
“Unfortunately.” At the doorway, he asked, “You’ll watch me rehearse later?”
Shaking his head, Ry left the room.
Zora leaned against the doorway of the game room and waited for Jael to take his shot.
He stood by the pool table staring down at the constellation of balls. He frowned only slightly and then, with a wave of his hand, the white ball rolled suddenly against a striped one, and sunk it into the pocket. He crossed his arms and smiled. Without looking up, he said, “Care for a game?”
“No thank you,” she answered and stepped closer. “Is this what you do all day?”
He looked at her, smile still in place. “Just enjoying the fruits of my labor.” He glanced down at the table again and his smile began to fade, replaced instead, by a frown of concentration. “How did it go?”
Zora hesitated only a moment before saying, “I didn’t find anything. Like you said, it was probably some novice delving into the occult.”
Jael nodded distractedly. “It’s a shame that they’re delving into the white magicks, don’t you think?” He waved his hand again, and again the white ball flew across the table, hitting the blue striped one. It fell into the pocket easily. “There are so fewer restrictions in our world.”
Zora offered a brief smile.
Jael sighed and looked up. “Did you know the Pope apologized for the Inquisition?” At her surprise, he added. “Oh yes. It was in the papers.” He shook his head. “Meanwhile, ten stories spring up at the same time about how there were fewer deaths caused by the witch-hunts than had been previously theorized. As if any number would have been justified!” He waved his hand again, and the balls flew in all directions at once. It sounded like thunder.
Jael paced alongside the table, and continued: “So really what the apology was intended for was to shut the pagan community up, and at the same time belittle their reactions. ‘The Church is very sorry that we burned your people and tortured them, rather needlessly, but it was imperative for the progression of our beliefs. And really, it was such a small number anyway … can you really be that mad, after all of these years?’”
Zora didn’t reply.
Jael looked at her. “Tell me, Zora, doesn’t it just make you seethe?”
Perhaps years ago, when she began with the Guardians. Perhaps, then, she would have joined in Jael’s rage. But now, she was left with a feeling akin to emptiness. “Wouldn’t you consider it, at least, some progress?”
Jael laughed and seemed genuinely amused. “Do you think he feels truly sorry?” He smiled thoughtfully. “Perhaps we should find out. A trip to the Vatican should do it. We’ll invite the dear Akashans as well. We’ll all sit down to a pleasant meal to discuss sports and the weather. ‘Why, yes, I did just make it rain in Connecticut,’ I would say to him. And he, of course, would laugh good-naturedly, and reply, ‘Oh, Jaely – for we’d be on pet names by then, naturally – aim for Arizona next time, will you? And if you would be so kind as to slip me the lottery numbers, that would be rather grand. Pip. Pip.”
Zora placed the ball back on the table and smiled. “I don’t think they say ‘pip pip’ in Italy.”
“Well, they should. It’s a lovely expression. Whatever it means…” Jael shrugged, and started to move away from the table. “Let me show you something marvelous.”
She followed him out of the game room and into his office, careful, as always, to remove her shoes before treading on the snow-white carpet. Jael was rather meticulous about his things. Her gaze lingered on the surveillance system. Every inch of the estate was viewable from the sixteen television screens Jael had in his office. He took great care to ensure the protection of the Guardians in his care.
“We have located six of them,” he announced proudly.
And Zora looked down to see a map of the world, and the pentagram symbol over several locations. “The Order?”
“Only seven to go,” he answered brightly. He looked as if he wanted to add something, but instead sighed softly and rolled the map back up. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to find any trace of their secret lair. Their Queen must be exterminated first, of course.”
Zora arched a brow. “How would we defeat her if we don’t know where she is?”
“We’ll just have to force her out,” Jael answered. “I expect it won’t be long now before she grows restless in her cage.”
“Do you know who she is?”
“I have a fairly good idea,” Jael answered somewhat bitterly.
Zora caught a flash of something sinister in his ice blue eyes and she chose not to ask any more questions.
“What is life?” Professor Clark asked the class, her voice reverberating through the small lecture hall. “What is death? Can we define one without the other?” On the board, she wrote “Life” and next to it “Death,” before turning back to the students. “The way we perceive death can sometimes influence the way we live life. ‘Live each day as if you will die tomorrow.’ Why is that such a popular motivational motto?” The professor stared at the class for a second. “Anyone?”
Azure shifted in her seat, waiting for someone to raise their hands and say something. In her notebook she wrote, “The way we perceive death can sometimes influence the way we live life.” She wondered if that was true, but only briefly. A voice—not the teacher’s—broke through the otherwise silent classroom.
“If we thought we might die tomorrow we might be motivated to do something more meaningful today,” a girl said from somewhere in the front row.
Professor Clark smiled. “So, in essence, dying tomorrow would rob us of the ability to procrastinate.”
There was a small wave of chuckling from the class.
“Everyone has their own ideas of what happens after we die. But what do these beliefs mean in terms of our daily existence? Should the knowledge of our impending eradication from the life we know be the catalyst for our actions? Why is the idea of death such a powerful reminder to live fully, to live meaningfully?
“We spend most of our days trying to escape life. We watch television, we read books, we play games. We live outside of ourselves for a greater part of our existence. Why, then, is the idea of no longer being here so profoundly terrifying? If you knew you would not be here tomorrow, what would you do differently today?”
“Well I wouldn’t come to class!” a student called.
The professor laughed. “Touché.” She smiled. “For Tuesday, I want you to write me two-to-four pages, double-spaced, on your beliefs about life. Tell me how you would like to live your life. The sky’s the limit.” She paused. “That’s it. Have a good weekend.”
There was an eruption of noise as everyone started moving at once: the seats of chairs folding noisily against the backs as students rushed to leave, the sound of zippers and books slamming shut.
Azure watched the stampede of students nearly trample each other on their way out of the doors. She shook her head. Idiots. She took her time packing up and as she stood, she saw a familiar form sitting a few rows away. Damn, she’s everywhere. Azure hung back for a moment, hoping Aeryn would leave without seeing her.
But Aeryn caught her gaze a second later and smiled. She picked up her book bag and headed over. “Fancy meeting you here,” she said when she was close enough.
“I didn’t know you were interested in Life and the Afterlife.” Azure glanced around, trying to do anything but look at Aeryn.
“It sounded like an interesting class. Are you done for the day?”
“Are you hungry? Want to join me at the dining hall?”
Azure hesitated. She couldn’t figure out at what point her plan to keep away from Aeryn had become completely obsolete. “Okay. I just have to drop off my books at the dorm first. I hate carrying stuff around.”
“I’ll go with you. Oh, did I mention we’re neighbors now?”
Azure glanced at Aeryn in surprise. “What?”
“Yeah I just moved in this morning. Order’s order.” She laughed. “Oh, and I’m sorry for calling you a Seer. Turns out I was wrong about that.”
Azure didn’t know what to say to that. There was a part of her that was certain Aeryn was insane, and another that found her completely intriguing. “Um, okay.”
She did look at Aeryn, then, and the first thing she noticed was that Aeryn’s hair was in a ponytail with several strands hanging over her face. She was dressed in a black tank top with a blue half moon in the center and black baggy cargo pants. Azure’s gaze drifted to the black choker around Aeryn’s neck. From it hung a silver pendant.
Azure took a step back at the sight of the symbol. She remembered it vividly from her vision. A star encircled in a ring of fire; the man the ghost called Jael standing at its center. “I just remembered I have other plans,” she said suddenly. “I have to go.” She didn’t wait for Aeryn’s reply before heading toward the nearest exit.
Hours later, Azure was so hungry she couldn’t sit still any longer. She abandoned the half-finished lyrics and the protective shield of her guitar and headed out. The hall was empty, the dorm quiet and still, and Azure felt like the sole survivor of a nuclear war, emerging from a bomb shelter.
The weekends were lonely for those without a home to run to.
And Azure thought inevitably of her mother, alone now in that house with memory-stained walls, the color of spilt blood. Her mother, undoubtedly sitting at the old maple desk, hovered over the Bible, reciting Scripture quotes to the lingering ghosts.
Azure shook away the vision of her mother and started down the hall, not meaning to glance into the room with the open door, not meaning to halt in her steps. And her gaze inadvertently fixed itself upon the sleeping figure on the bed, whose body lay buried beneath the shadows. The room was dark, save for three candles burning away on the nightstand and the blue fluorescent lighting seeping in from the doorway.
Azure recognized Aeryn despite the near-darkness and was dismayed to learn that the girl now lived only three doors down from her. She felt a tinge of fear at the corner of her senses, fear mixing inevitably with an alien sense of exaltation.
“You are right to fear her, but not for the reasons you think,” said the voice beside her, and Azure turned to face the ghost from earlier. The ghost, looking almost as real as anybody else, stared at her with a kind of motherly disapproval.
“What do you want from me?” Azure asked in a whisper, hoping that her voice would not wake Aeryn.
A hint of a frown passed across the ghost’s dark features. “Must someone always want something from you?” she asked. The ghost paused, and then she, too, whispered: “You’re the only one that can stop her.”
“Stop who?” and here Azure’s voice rose because she forgot that she was standing in the middle of the hallway talking to thin air; forgot that Aeryn was sleeping a few feet away.
“Rayne,” the ghost said simply before it vanished.
“Rain?” Azure whispered to herself, more confused than ever.
“Am I interrupting something?”
And Azure turned to find Aeryn staring at her curiously from the doorway, her hair messy and her eyes squinting under the light of the hallway. She was clad in boxers and a tank top and it was all Azure could do not to stare.
She blushed instead, knew that if she spoke she’d stutter, and decided to keep her mouth shut for as long as possible.
Aeryn said, “Guess I fell asleep with the door open.”
And all Azure could come up with was: “You know candles aren’t allowed in the dooms; fire hazard.”
Out of reflex, or perhaps sleepy-confusion, Aeryn turned and glanced back into the room. “Oh.” She offered a smile. “Guess I’ll have to keep my door closed when I light them then.” She blinked a few times, her eyes getting more used to the light now. “Are you going to run off on me again?”
The bluntness of the question caught Azure off-guard. “I was actually going to get food,” and that came out easily, because it was true.
“Am I allowed to come with you?”
“Well how about I walk about ten steps behind you, would that be okay?”
Uneasily, Azure glanced at the charm still hanging from Aeryn’s neck.
Aeryn touched the silver pendant with one hand as if remembering that it was there. “Contrary to popular belief, the pentagram is not the devil’s symbol,” Aeryn said lightly. “I wear it for protection. But if this is all that’s keeping you from saying I can go eat with you, I’ll take it off.”
Azure didn’t know how to explain her vision. “Didn’t you have dinner already?” she asked, because she was stalling. Because she didn’t know how to say yes to Aeryn’s question or even how to say no. She didn’t know how to ease the anxiousness she felt when in Aeryn’s presence; didn’t know how to sort through all of the mixed emotions long enough to find consistency in her reactions.
Aeryn had disappeared inside the room, which was now bathed in the soft white light of hanging Christmas lights. Azure stepped up to the doorway and glanced into the room. The walls were bare but the floor was covered in a blue/black rug.
“Protection spells always wear me out,” Aeryn replied now standing by the closet. “I guess that’s why I passed out. I’m starving now.” She held out a pair of jeans and stepped into them.
Azure averted her eyes, despite the fact that Aeryn hadn’t taken off the boxer shorts.
“Is the act of me putting on more clothes embarrassing to you?” Aeryn teased. “You are so strange.” But she laughed. “Hey, can I show you something?”
And Azure didn’t answer, but allowed her silence to be interpreted as a yes.
“Here, come in and close the door.”
Azure complied and Aeryn turned off the Christmas lights, leaving only the candles. She then blew them off one by one.
Before Azure had a chance to panic, Aeryn turned on a black light, its purple rays revealing glow-in-the-dark stars scattered all over the walls and ceiling.
“It took me all day, but I managed to recreate a few of the constellations,” and Aeryn sounded so proud that Azure had to smile. “What do you think?”
But Azure couldn’t think of a single thing to say regarding the stars. She was too busy being conscious of Aeryn’s presence near her. Because if she was honest, all she could really think was that Aeryn was beautiful. And that the pattern of stars, however impressive, dimmed in comparison to what she felt when Aeryn was near.
You are right to fear her, but not for the reasons you think, the ghost had said. But Azure couldn’t think of a better reason to be afraid.
“I love them,” she said finally because she could no longer put off answering. “They’re beautiful.”
And the Christmas lights returned, drowning the stars. “Thanks,” Aeryn said. “I’ve always wanted to make love beneath fake plastic stars.”
And Azure felt the blood rush to her face, her heart skipping far too many beats for her to still be breathing.
“Whoa, I didn’t mean with you,” and Aeryn laughed. “I’ll keep my comments PG from now on, okay?” She opened the door. “Ready?”
Azure merely managed a nod before stepping out into the comfort of the hall.
Feet propped up on the desk, Naia leaned back on her chair and stretched. She sighed as she straightened up. Failure was not something she was used to, neither was resignation or defeat. But all of it stared back at her now, reflected upon the blank template of what would’ve been The Weekly Bizarre’s first issue. The cursor blinked expectantly, drumming out the seconds of wasted words and lost opportunity.
Shaking her head she leaned back again. Movement on one of her monitors caught her attention and she focused her semi-disinterested gaze on the screen. She idly watched a girl she didn’t know exit one dorm room and head down the hall. As Naia was about to turn back to the computer, the girl on the screen flinched, jumped as if startled and turned toward nothing. Naia leaned forward in her chair, eyebrows narrowed and interest piqued. “What the …?”
The girl on the screen spoke to the air, her facial expressions illustrating a mixture an annoyance and confusion. She paused, as if listening, and then spoke again.
Naia stared, perplexed and fascinated.
But the moment ended. The girl turned around and faced somebody that was there. Naia regretted not installing speakers on the system.
The moment the girl disappeared inside the other girl’s room, Naia hit rewind on the tape. She played it over and over, watching the same scene replay, coming to the same conclusion every time.
“She can see them,” Naia whispered, almost disbelieving. Her face broke into a smile. “The Weekly Bizarre lives.”
Jael finished reading Zora’s report on her mission to Merfolk and sat back thoughtfully in his chair. Something was amiss, he knew. Zora was either lying or withholding information, and neither option pleased him. How dare she lie to him after all he had done for her? It pained him, for many reasons, to think that Zora might have betrayed his confidence. It pained him, but it did not surprise him. She had betrayed him once before, and he had forgiven her. He had absolved her of all of her actions, gained her confidence, and freed her from the memories of her past misdeeds.
“What are you hiding from me, Zora?” Jael wondered aloud. “What could you have seen in that little town that would make you go so far as to lie to me?”
He stared at the two names on the report, Aeryn and Azure. “Who are you?” He smiled to himself, reclining in his chair. “I guess we’ll find out.”
Continued in Episode 3