The Curse 2: The Cursening, Chapter 4: In Which Things End

This is it. The end of this tale. It's taken me longer than it should have (I hit a massive roadblock in the form of writer's block), but it's here now, it's the final end. It's also technically become longer than novella length, but I don't really consider this a novel. Also, this chapter contains cameos of characters from a different story that hasn't been posted here yet. That story is up on TG Storytime, if you want to read it before I start bringing it here, the title is Don't Fear the Reaper.

Also, I just added a scene I had forgotten to write originally. It's the very last scene.

1.

We stood there for a long time, just staring at one another. Lucian with that smile of his and me with a very concerned look on my face. Or, well, what I assumed was a concerned look on my face. I couldn’t really see it. Either way, the two of us were staring at one another and it was disturbingly like one of those cliffhanger endings from anime where the protagonist and antagonist stare at one another.

I decided to break the silence. “What do you want?” I asked.

He didn’t answer right away, instead he just took a step closer to me.

I backed away. I wasn’t incapable of fighting, but even as a guy, I’d sorta been more of a runner. “Stay back,” I said, “I’m not very good at it, but I do know how to do some spells.” It was a lie, but he couldn’t possibly know that. Then again, he knew I was a sorceress.

“Your spells are exactly why I followed you. I’ve seen you around school for awhile now, and when I finally saw you today, in all your beauty as opposed to the guy you used to be, I knew now was the time.”

For awhile now? This guy’s known about me being a sorceress since before I knew I was a sorceress? “Time for what?” I asked.

He took another step closer, but I couldn’t move this time. I didn’t know what was keeping me trapped there, but it was almost like my feet were made of cement. “I have a little family problem that I’d like you to help me deal with. You see, my father’s incarcerated, and I’d like him out.”

I laughed. “You want me to use magical power to break somebody out of jail? Can’t you just hire some people to do that?”

He shook his head. “Not this prison. Not ordinary people. No, it may not surprise you to learn that there are magic prisons, used for only the most dangerous of people. One of them is my father, and only someone as powerful as you can help me.”

“And why should I?”

He put a hand on my shoulder and suddenly I felt insanely cold, almost ice cold. “Do you know how this world would react, Kendra - Kenneth - if they found out about people like you or I? People of magic? People like Mikaela? You’ve seen movies, societies rise against people they’re afraid of.” He took his hand off me and I felt the warmth return to my body. “Consider the idea of society rising against you as incentive to consider my offer.” He walked past me. “Have a good day, dear Kendra. I’ll speak with you tomorrow.”

I could finally move again, but I didn’t for a moment. I still felt somewhat cold, and that feeling didn’t want to go away. What the fuck did I just get myself into?

2.

“What’s up, baby?” Mom asked as I walked in the door. “You and Gabby didn’t break up, did you?”

“What? No, Mom, we’re fine. What?” was the best I could get out. I was still too freaked out by Lucian and his ultimatum. I couldn’t think straight and I still felt freezing cold. I was beginning to regret shorts and a cami top as wardrobe choices. Then again, outside it was like almost a hundred degrees. I was only cold because of that bastard Lucian.

I walked down the hall into my room and locked the door. I wanted to be alone, so that I could think. I set my bookbag down on the floor beside my desk and crashed on my bed. So now I was being threatened with the whole world knowing who and what I am if I didn’t break this dickhead’s dad out of jail.

I wondered why he’d target me specifically. He was clearly magic, and knew exactly what he wanted, why have me do it? And why couldn’t he go for some other magic person out there who would be more than willing to jump at the chance to break into a jail? There had to be a criminal out there who happened to have magic power.

I sat up and pulled myself against the wall. I couldn't think now. I needed to do something, talk to someone. Locking myself in my room was the wrong idea. I didn't even know who to talk to.

I grabbed my phone and texted Amy, Is that sorceress of yours busy?

Five minutes later, I received a reply of, She's on her way.

3.

The place I was asked to meet at was a little coffee house with exterior tables. Ms. Malski was sitting at a table already sipping from a cup of coffee. Nobody else was with her, but I didn’t feel any sort of anxiety. Almost completely the opposite of the meeting with Lucian.

I sat down across from her at the table and was given a cup of black coffee as a server walked past. “I hope you don't mind, I ordered for you while I was waiting,” Ms. Malski said.

I shook my head. “No problem.” I took a drink. “What did Amy tell you?”

She pulled out a small book and slid it across the table to me. “I can't say I’ve come across many magical beings in my lifetime, but my mother did. She left me this book. I don't know if this Lucian you met will be in it, though.”

I opened the book and found dozens of pictures of people with newspaper clippings beside them. Some had notes scrawled on them, like one of Marilyn Monroe with “Succubus?” or Ronald Reagan with a pair of devil horns drawn on his head (that one may just have been a joke). I went through page after page and didn't find anyone resembling Lucian. I did find a picture of that guy at the lake party doing the poker game Mikaela lost her clothes at.

“I just saw that guy yesterday,” I said, pointing to his picture. The newspaper clipping was dated August 19th, 1938.

“Loki. One of the few I have had the pleasure of meeting. He's not so bad after you get past the tricks, but his brother is an absolute horndog.”

I looked up from the book. “Thor?! Like, the Norse God, Thor?”

She sighed. “He’s less a God and more an animal when his pants are down. Not one of my interesting boyfriends, that much I’ll say.” She took another sip. “Is he in there?”

I shook my head. “Not from what I can see.” I slid the book back across to her. “If I describe how he made me feel, will that narrow it down?”

She shook her head. “Not really. Most of my mother’s notes weren’t actually meeting the people, but more by reputation.” She slipped the book back into her purse. “What was his demand, exactly?”

I slumped down in my chair. “He wants me to free his father from a magic jail.”

“And that’s all he told you?”

I nodded. “That’s it. His father’s in some sort of magic jail that somehow he can’t free him from and he needs me to do it.” I took a sip from my cup. “And seeing as I don’t know how to do any actual spells that aren’t me creating an accidental persona, I don’t see that happening, and then I’m a very public sorceress.”

She tilted her cup toward me. “That you don’t have to worry about. I can put in a call to Loki and get him to fudge with reality a little. It’s not like it’s the first time he’s done it and ordinary people are none the wiser.”

That eased my mind a little, but if that guy knew about me, he had to know about somebody who could warp the fabric of reality. He probably had a contingency plan specifically for Norse Gods.

I pulled myself up and sat straight. “What about… Spells? That kind of thing? Shouldn’t I know some? Like maybe how to kick this guy’s ass the next time I see him?”

Ms. Malski nodded. “I knew that would come up, and took the liberty of having Dean deliver a sort of starter kit that I found among my mother’s things recently. Dean’s been progressing nicely herself, so I decided to hold onto it in case Amanda or Melanie developed any sort of prowess. It’ll be at your house when you return.”

“What exactly comes in it?”

“Spells, ingredients for potion mixing, honestly you can find a lot of information if you just read a Harry Potter book. JK Rowling must have been a sorceress herself.” She took a sip of her coffee. “It shouldn’t take you too long to acclimated to the process. I learned it on my own, since my mother died shortly after I was born, and I’ve been doing well. Dean’s come along quite well, though she’s not a sorceress.”

“Wait, she’s not? But you sent her to help me that day.”

She nodded. “I did. I should correct my statement, Dean’s not yet a sorceress.” She snapped her fingers and suddenly we were in a classroom, me behind a desk and her at the chalkboard. I was damned certain I wanted to practice this one first. She drew male and female restroom symbols and wrote Dean’s name down under both of them. “Much like you, Dean was born male but with a vast amount of sorceress power within her. It’s possible that something similar to you would have happened to her, but it’s also possible that her power would have simply remained within her body and never left the magical plane.”

“Magical plane?”

She drew four lines on the side of the board. “There are a few of them, and I don’t know all of them. One is dedicated solely to sorceresses and sorcerers.” She turned back to me. “And yes, there is a distinction between sorceress and sorcerer magic, that’s why you couldn’t just remain male and be a sorcerer.” She turned back to the board. “One is for succubi, and one is for magical girls.”

I raised my hand like this was a real classroom. “Can I get some clarification on the succubi/magical girl thing? Apparently they nearly trashed my school last year.”

She shook her head. “All I know is from my mother’s book, and she only knew one magical girl. Now, there’s a difference between all this magic, one main difference is where the magic is stored.” She drew a circle around the female restroom symbol. “Though there is a magical plane dedicated to sorceresses, our power is stored in our bodies. This is what causes us to be infertile, because our bodies can handle the strain of the magic, but it still causes damage.”

“What happens to sorcerers?”

“Sorcerers suffer much the same fate, they become sterile.” She pointed to the magical girl line. “Magical girls don’t actually connect to their magic, and it’s far more limited than ours. Their magic is pretty much cemented on fighting the succubi.” She pointed to the succubi line. “That leads us to the succubi, who somewhat store their magic in their bodies, but as succubi have no physical bodies and need to take hosts, they suffer no ill effects. Their magic is also concentrated almost completely on sex.”

I stood up and walked over to the chalkboard. “Okay, so back to Dean, how is she a sorceress now when her body is still technically male?”

“I was just getting to that. It’s her magical aura.”

“Aura?”

“Yes. Every magical being has an aura. This aura is connected to our magic, and also to our gender. Someone with a male aura, for instance, can’t use sorceress or magical girl magic.” She drew a line going from Dean under the male symbol and Dean under the female symbol. “When Dean confronted herself about what she wanted, her aura changed to female, even though her body didn’t.”

“So the aura isn’t tied to the gender so much as it has its own and the magic is tied to that?”

“That’s a way of looking at it, yes.” She erased the board. “Now, did any of this help you figure out what this Lucian might be?”

I sighed. “I dunno. He doesn’t just seem to be a sorcerer, or like his aura is out of sync with his gender. He just makes me feel cold around him.”

Ms. Malski snapped her fingers and brought us back to the coffee house. “Well, hopefully that little crash course gets you closer to understanding how to use your own magic power when the time comes.”

I stood up. “Honestly, I’m hoping the time never comes.”

She nodded. “I understand, but if Lucian is serious about his threat, you may have to do something about him sooner rather than later.”

I took one last gulp of the (surprisingly) still hot coffee. “I know.”

4.

It was dark by the time I got home. I collapsed on the couch next to Mom for some crappy reality TV (The Voice or something, I wasn't paying attention). She microwaved a bowl of popcorn and we mowed down on that through another hour of something.

I finally got up and went to my room to sleep at 11:40, finding probably a dozen messages from Gabby on my phone. That magic starter kit Ms. Malski mentioned was sitting on my desk. It was a cardboard box with some spell books and a smaller box of potion ingredients inside it. I took out one of the spell books.

I flipped to a random page and picked out what looked like the easiest spell to pronounce. “Alakatha… Alakathabaventu…” Okay, easiest was the wrong thing to say. I closed the book and set it down on my desk only to turn around and find a blow up clown behind me. Something told me I was saying it all wrong.

I deflated the clown, stuffed it in my closet and changed into a nightie. I was barely awake and super distracted, I shouldn't be trying magic in this state.

I crawled into my bed, pulled the covers over me and felt the comforting embrace of sleep take hold of me. Hopefully I’d wake up tomorrow and find Lucian was just a bad dream.

5.

A hand pulled my blanket off of me. I nearly wet the bed when I saw Lucian standing over me. He pulled me out of bed and threw me at my desk. “Trying to get help, Kenneth?” he asked. “Wrong idea!”

Flames kicked up around him, burning the posters on my wall and going straight through to the wallpaper. The flames split my bed in two, and then came together into his hand, forming what looked like a fire whip. “Now, young lady, get ready for your lashes.”

“Get the fuck away from me!” I shouted.

“I warned you, Kenneth.” He flicked the whip against the wall, tearing a hole in the room. I didn't see the hallway outside, just a blinding white light. “I warned you, and now this is going to cost you.” He flicked the whip out again, this time wrapping it around my wrist. “You’ll learn and then you’ll do what I want.”

I spat at him. “Go fuck yourself.”

He was on me in a second, his hand around my neck. He… Was trying to kiss me?! He brought his lips to mine and pressed them against me. I kept my mouth shut so as not to accidentally invite his tongue inside, but he tried to force his way in anyway.

I tried to knee him anywhere, but I couldn't get a good angle. I tried to bring my free hand up and punch him, but he grabbed it and forced it down. What the hell was his aim here? Did he want to kill me or fuck me?!

I tried my hardest to concentrate, to push him off of me, but it wasn't working. I could barely move, could barely breathe thanks to the hand around my neck. I was starting to lose consciousness.

That was when I started to feel something. Something welling up inside me. I balled my hands into fists and felt the whip around my wrist start to melt away. He moved his hands away from me then backed away. I wanted to rip his face off now that my hands were free.

That was when I realized I didn't need to. I was pushing him away without touching him. His face was twisted in pain and his eyes were red as dried blood. He tried his best to snarl at me, but he couldn't. Instead, he just turned into some sort of winged creature and zipped out the window. I heard him screaming the whole time.

I let my arms drop to my sides and collapsed onto the floor. Whatever I’d just done exhausted me. I crawled along the floor and pulled myself back into my bed. At about that time, the room started to morph, to return to normal. I was back under my blanket and the world was right again.

Had that whole thing happened in my mind?

As if to prove it to me, Mom opened the door and said, “Sweetie, keep it down, I’ve got work in the morning.”

6.

I wanted to stay away from school. Lucian would be there and I wanted to avoid him in every way possible. Whatever that dream… Thing… Was, I didn’t want to experience it again. The only problem was that I couldn’t stay home. Mom would get a phone call at work if I wasn’t at school, and seeing as the principal knew I was magic, he wouldn’t take any kind excuse for tardiness, so despite my feelings on the matter, I needed to go to school.

Gabby was waiting for me outside the house. I was plenty pleased about her outfit, a bright orange top that clung to her like a second skin and a pair of shorts that looked painted on. Her eyes brightened up when I walked outside, which put me a little at ease. I gave her a kiss and a brief fondle before the bus arrived.

Luckily, Lucian wasn't on the bus, so hopefully he didn't live anywhere near us. I was hoping that my worry over him wouldn't overtake most of my day. The make-out session on the bus wasn’t making me as wet as I wanted it to thanks to that bastard.

“What's up?” Gabby asked, taking her hand out of my panties.

I sighed. “Just… A lot.”

“Hey, tell me. Is it something about yesterday?”

I nodded. “Yeah, this guy named Lucian. He knows… Everything, and he wants to out me as a sorceress if I don't do what he says. Amy’s sorceress friend said that was no big deal, reality warping could just fix that, but I’m still… Nervous, y’know?”

She had a look on her face that said I’d just spoken every one of those words at the same time. “Whoa,” she said. “I never knew dating a sorceress would be this cool.”

I rolled my eyes. “There was nothing cool about when he tried to come after me in a weird psychic dimension.”

“What did he try to do.”

“Kiss me. Force himself on me. Mind rape me, I guess.”

“Holy shit, you're going to point his guy out to me so that I can beat the shit out of him as soon as we get to school.”

I sighed. “Assuming that’ll even do anything.” I snuggled up against her. “It’s so sweet and dom of you to offer to protect lil’ ol’ me.”

She pressed her finger to my lips. “Shush. Just get in the mood.”

7.

Whenever I noticed Mikaela, she seemed kind of odd. I considered asking her what was up, but I also wanted to keep my guard up in case Lucian just appeared out of nowhere. If not for his ability to send me into a magic dimension, I’d consider myself safe, but even being in public wasn't a security mechanism.

I walked into class and sat down next to Terry, who was busy writing something. Probably some kind of love letter to Mikaela, or something corny like that. It was kinda funny how cliche a couple they seemed to be considering one was a guy possessed by a succubus.

“You look stressed,” he said. “Some sorta magic thing?”

I nodded. “Yeah.”

He laughed. “Sounds like a pain in the ass.”

“Does Mikaela havta deal with this sorta stuff?” I asked.

He shook his head. “Not really. I mean, there's a succubi/magical girl war going down that she's gotta avoid, but that hasn't been a problem yet.”

I blinked. “Okay, one of these days, I’mma need to know what the fuck’s going on with succubi and magical girls.”

He smirked. “I’m sorta in the middle of it and I don’t know exactly what's going on there.”

The rest of the class filed into the classroom and took their seats. The teacher walked in but something… Strange, seemed to float around her. She didn’t go through her normal routine, she just walked in and got started with a lesson that didn’t seem to carry on from yesterday.

And then there was the fact that she was quite often focusing on me.

I knew something had to be wrong about that, but the only thing I could think of was Lucian possessing her, or shapeshifting, or something, and neither of those explanations seemed right. Ms. Bailey was clearly still Ms. Bailey, but there was something off about her.

I made up my mind right then and there: After class, I was going Lucian hunting.

8.

I couldn't find him at all. I talked to the people I’d seen him with yesterday, they hadn’t seen him. I talked to his first period teacher, he didn't know where the dick was. I even talked to a girl his friends said was stalking him, she said he hadn't left his house that morning at all. Apparently, simply hadn't come to school.

But I did get his home address.

I slipped a note in Gabby’s locker not to wait up for me after school, then snuck out between classes. Thanks to the principal transferring my grades over from Kenneth to Kendra, I was already doing well grade-wise, so I didn’t have to worry about anything there. Honestly, this was the first time I’d ever skipped school, and it was the second day of the school year.

The address was a good mile and a half away from the school. I recognized the area because it was where Amy and her family used to live before they moved upstate. It was a nice neighborhood, which didn't surprise me since Lucian didn't look like he lived in a dirthole neighborhood.

His house was dark red, which clashed with the plain blues, greens and whites of all the other houses nearby. His yard was full of shrubs and flower gardens. If not for having fought him magically, I’d assume he was the most normal person on the planet. Then again, maybe the yard was his mom’s domain. Assuming he had a mom.

I walked up onto the porch and knocked on the door, but no one opened it. I reached for the doorknob, turned it, giant sarcastic surprise that it was unlocked. I opened the door and walked inside.

The lights were all off. I was starting to wish I’d brought a flashlight. I felt my way from the door to what I thought might have been a countertop. There was nothing on the countertop, so I didn't knock anything down, thank God.

From the countertop, I felt my way to what I knew for certain was the stair railing. I managed to climb the stairs without incident and found myself on the slightly better lit second floor. There was light coming from a single open door, but it didn’t look like either a lamp or sunlight. I was worried I was actually about to find Lucian, now.

I walked over to that one open door and peered inside. Lucian was there, alright, sitting in a pentagram carved into the floor. He was sitting cross-legged, his hands held out, palm upward, his eyes closed. Meditating was the best way to describe it, honestly. His mouth was moving, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying.

Looking at him in front of me, I finally asked myself what the hell I’d even do now. I was alone in a room with a man who actually knew how to use magic, whereas I was powerful and didn’t know what the hell I was doing at all. What the fuck was wrong with me and why had I even done this?

And then Lucian smiled. “I’ve been expecting you.”

9.

He still didn't open his eyes. He didn't stand up. He didn't even shift his posture in any way. It was actually disturbing. I would have run, if not for that damned feeling of being stuck.

So I stood there, unmoving, completely scared out of my fucking mind. I was a damn moron for letting myself get into this situation, I should have just stayed at school. If I ended up dead, it would be because I was goddam stupid.

Finally, he opened his eyes. “Sorry about the mess downstairs. Haven't really spent time here since I was a kid.” He stood up. “My mom died when I was little, which was what drive me out of the house. Drove me to look for my dad.”

“Do I really need to know any of this?” I asked.

He nodded. “Full disclosure, a helpful part of any sort of deal, like the one we’re about to make where you say you’ll free my dad from his prison.”

“I won't. I don't know or care who your dad is, if he's in a magic prison, he's there for a reason.”

He smiled wider. “Dad didn't meet me until a couple years ago. My mom was a one night stand for him, but she knew who - and more importantly what - he was. When he did meet me, he was ashamed of me because I was half-breed scum to him. When I found out he was in prison, I made up my mind how exactly I’d prove myself to him.”

I laughed. “You mean all this is just an effort to get daddy to love you?” I would have doubled over if not for the You-Can’t-Move thing. “That’s pathetic.”

He grabbed my chin. “When your father is the King of Darkness, you do what you can to get him to love you.”

I managed to move for a second. His magic hold on me must have been based on concentration, and me insulting him broke it for just that little moment. Regardless, I asked, “Whaddya mean?”

He let go of me. “A little over six months ago, my dad was put in a prison by a girl much like you, much powerful magic. She wasn't a sorceress, in fact, I don't know what she was. Don’t know who she was, either, all I know is that she’s one of the only people who could do it, and you’re one of the only ones who can reverse it.” He grabbed my arm and squeezed. It wasn’t painful, it was sort of gentle, like he was actually considering asking me politely or something. “That’s why I need you.”

“Who is your dad?”

He let go of my arm. “Did ‘King of Darkness’ say nothing to you? My father is Satan himself.”

10.

He sat down on a chair I hadn't noticed earlier, but that didn't mean anything. He looked like he hadn’t just dropped a crazy bomb on my lap. How the hell had he just said that with a straight face?!

I still couldn't move, but that was the least of my worries. If what he was saying was true, then he wanted me to free the Devil from a magic prison that apparently some girl like me put him in. Whoever this girl was, I now had an immense amount of respect for her.

If Lucian thought that telling me his dad was Satan would make me want to help him more, he was a goddamn idiot.

“Y’see, magic prisons are unique,” he said, “one person is the lock, another is the key, and the key is chosen at random. It took me some time to figure out who they key was to my dad’s prison, but once you changed, it became clear as day.” He leaned forward in his chair. “And lucky us, we don’t need to know who the lock is.”

I shook my head. “I won’t help you. You reveal who I am, there’s a reality warper who can just erase that knowledge from people’s heads.”

He was still smiling, that bastard. “Reality warpers are so… Inefficient. Changes to reality always leave lingering memories, making it easier and easier to get people to believe each time they have to re-learn the information.” He snapped his fingers and the room changed completely from a chaotic mess with a pentagram on the floor to a clean room with a pristine floor. “Besides, I’ve got some experience with reality myself.”

Of course he did… “I won’t help you. If your dad really is Satan - assuming I even believe that - I’m not helping you let him out.”

He stood up and walked over to me. “I don't think you understand, sweetheart, there are no choices here. I will use you to free my father. You’re the key, and the key exists to be used.”

“Go fuck yourself!” Either he’d decided to let me move, or my shouting at him surprised him. Or, hell, maybe it was me, what with all that magic inside me and such. Either way, I could move and I was happy about it. “You won’t be using me for anything!

And then fire spat from my hand.

Judging by the look of sheer surprise on his face, I could tell that one came from me. I tried to create the stream of fire a second time, and surprisingly managed it, just by thinking fire. I wondered if most magic was this easy.

Just about when I was beginning to get the hang of controlling the fire stream, it ran out entirely, and I suddenly felt exhausted. I collapsed on the floor and crawled slowly away from the door. Maybe causing a fire wasn’t the best idea. Smoke started to spill into the hallway.

That belief increased two-fold when the fire spread out of Lucian’s bedroom into the hallway. I tried to get to my feet, but fell down again. I couldn’t see Lucian, and hopefully I never did again, but my first priority was getting the fuck out of that house. I couldn’t stand, so I crawled for the stairs. The room beside the bedroom burst into flame as well, I could tell from the gap under the door. The smoke was starting to get worse.

I managed to make it to the stairs, then rolled my way down them. Hitting every step on the way down wasn’t something I enjoyed, but it got me away from the smoke and the fire. I tried to stand again, but the weakness combined with the pain of falling down the stairs made that pretty much impossible. I needed to crawl again. The door was just across the room, straight ahead, I didn’t need to crawl far.

I finally realized what Lucian had meant about the mess. I hadn’t seen it when I came in, but there were shittons of toys all over the floor, like a kid had been playing there and just left everything. He’d also said that he hadn’t been here since he was little. Maybe these were his toys.

About halfway between the stairs and the door I crawled up to… A boot. And beside that was another boot. I reached up and found pant legs. I could barely see, thanks to the smoke spilling downstairs, but I could tell there was someone in front of me. With my luck, it’d be Lucian.

Then the lights came on and I saw a guy in his 30s wearing a red shirt and black pants with suspenders. His hands were in his pockets and he looked very bored. His hair was parted on the left, and his eyes were almost pure steel.

“Well,” he said, “what have we here?”

He reached down and lifted me to my feet, patted the dust and ash off of me, then moved me to the side. He kicked toys out of his way and walked upstairs like a man on a mission. He reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of who.

The smoke in the house began to… Move backwards, almost sucking itself back upstairs to the second floor. It didn’t take long for the light from the fire to die down, too. What the hell? I almost wanted to go up there and find out what the hell was happening, but then I realized that Lucian might still be up there, so I stayed where I was.

About five minutes and a lot of doors being kicked in later, the guy in the red shirt came back down the stairs, and he didn’t look happy at all. “Where’s Lucian?”

“I… Um…”

“Don’t get any ideas here,” he said as he walked closer, “now, I’m gonna ask you again, and I’d like a straight answer. Where… Is… Lucian?”

“Idon’tknow,” I said, compounding all three words into one somehow. I didn’t know I could even talk that fast.

He rubbed the bridge of his nose and then sat down on the stairs. “You don’t know. At all?” I shook my head. “Well then. I reckon that puts him at a pretty good advantage, and me at a right nice disadvantage.”

I rubbed at my arm. “Ooooooooooooookay…”

He stood up. “What was your business here, anyway?”

I looked down at the floor. “He was threatening me, so I came to stop him.”

“Threatening? Are you his father’s key?”

I nodded. “That’s what he said.”

He looked like he was about to punch the wall. “That just isn’t good. I’ll have to tell the Boss about this.” He walked over to me and grabbed me by the arm. “You need to come with me, little lady.”

“Uh… Why?”

“What? Did you just ask me ‘why’?”

I nodded.

“Do you even understand what’s going on here? You know who Lucian is, right?”

I nodded again.

“Then ‘why’ shouldn’t even be a question, you need to be kept safe.” He pulled me out of the house, where a small crowd was starting to gather. And a fire truck was rolling up. “Well, that was unexpected.” He pulled me back inside and shut the door. “I guess we’ll just go upstairs from here.”

“Um… Upstairs?”

He closed his eyes. “Get ready, little lady, you’re about to see somethin’ lotsa people don’t get to see until the end.”

Now I was starting to get confused. “What?”

He smiled, and then all I saw was white.

11.

When I could finally see again, the house we’d been standing in was replaced by something that looked insanely like an office building. People were coming to and fro, carrying papers or answering phones, all of them dressed… Well, a lot of them were wearing robes, some of them street clothes. There was a really, really weird mix of styles.

The guy that brought me here walked over to what looked like a reception desk and talk to a woman sitting there. I just stood exactly where I was and took the whole thing in. I was “upstairs”, whatever that meant. Nothing about this seemed to make any sort of sense. I never felt the need to go home more than I did now.

A British voice asked, “What the bloody hell are you doing here, human?” I spun around and saw somebody who looked somewhere between one and five years older than me, wearing a robe, arms folded over his chest. He didn’t look happy in any way.

“Um…” I stammered out, “hu-he… Brought me here…” I pointed to the guy in the red shirt.

The Brit rolled his eyes. “That sod’s always bringing humans up here.” He came closer to me and poked me between my breasts. “Don’t go where you’re not allowed, and for the love of the Boss, don’t cause any problems.”

“Hadraniel!” a woman’s voice called from somewhere. I looked in the direction he looked and saw a freakishly tall woman with horns poking out of her head. She was smiling and waving him over. “She’s here!”

The Brit sighed. “Of fucking course.” He took a flask out from under his robe and took a long gulp of whatever was in it. “Whatever Jubril brought you here for, it had better be something important.” After that, he walked over to the horned woman, then they left.

If I understood what had just happened, I might not have been so freaked out.

Red Shirt walked back over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. “Alright, little lady, since you came into contact with Lucian, you’ve gotta meet the Boss.”

“The boss?”

He shook his head. “Big ‘B’, darlin’.”

12.

The man known as “the Boss” was a tall, bald man with a single earring who would likely be mistaken for Mr. Clean anywhere he went. He was sitting behind a very large, ornate desk with a bobblehead bulldog on one corner and a mug that read “World’s Best God” just to the side of it. He was going through a good deal of papers.

“Gabe, you know much about that new Pestilence we’re swearing in later?” he asked as Red Shirt and I walked into the room.

Red Shirt shut the door behind us. “More to worry ‘bout, Boss. Lucian’s got his sights set on his daddy.”

Mr. the Boss Clean looked up from the papers. “Lucian… Who?”

“Lu…” Red Shirt looked annoyed and surprised at the same time. “Your nephew, Satan’s bastard kid.”

The Boss let his pen drop from his hand. “Oh! Him. Which one was he again?”

“The one who actually has power.”

The wheels seemed to finally turn in the Boss’s mind. “I remember him, now. The short one. How’d he find out?”

Red Shirt shook his head. “I dunno. Don’t much make sense, since Satan’s locked up in Mobil Avenue next to the reaper’s office.”

The Boss pointed to me. “And what’s this sorceress doing here?”

Red Shirt answered before I could open my mouth. “She’s Satan’s key.”

The Boss sighed. “Dammit.” He slumped in his chair. “Tell me, young lady, did he explain any of this to you?”

I gulped. Time to talk, I guess. “He, um, told me all about him being Satan’s son, and me being the key and all that, but I’d just like to know why me? I only just learned I was a sorceress a few days ago, I didn't even know magic existed until a week ago, why is all of this revolving around me?!” Almost every word of that came out at the same time. I was clearly still nervous as fuck.

The Boss’s eyes flicked over to Red Shirt for a second, then back at me. “How did he find you?”

I shook my head. “I dunno.”

He sighed, then sat straight. “Great.” He turned to Red Shirt. “This isn’t an annoyance.” He turned back to me. “So, miss… Kendra Brewster… How much magic do you actually know?”

“Really none. I’ve kinda just made reactions happen so far.”

He opened a drawer on his desk and pulled something out, then tossed it to Red Shirt. “You were given a starter kit?”

I nodded.

“Good. You probably need a translation guide, otherwise all that book amounts to is gibberish until you’ve taught yourself enough.”

I stepped forward and was handed the book. “Wait,” I said, “can't I just hang out here until somebody stops him?”

Red Shirt shook his head. “Lucian was born magic, but his power isn’t demonic. The fact that he can use you to unlock his father’s cell means he can travel to and from Heaven at any time.”

“Um… Heaven?”

The Boss looked at Red Shirt. “You didn’t tell her where she was?”

Red Shirt shrugged. “Didn’t get much chance.”

The Boss leaned forward in his chair. “Miss Brewster, you’re in Heaven right now. Gabe, here, and Hadraniel, the young man you met in the lobby, are angels.”

“Suh… Suh… So you’re…”

He leaned back in his seat and propped his feet up on the desk. “As a matter of fact, yes.”

13.

I stood outside my house and sighed. No cops, no Lucian, no nothing except a very peaceful neighborhood. Maybe after I set fire to his house, Lucian had run off and skipped town. Maybe he wouldn’t be back to try and use me to free his father, the goddamned Devil, from his magical jail cell.

Maybe pigs would spontaneously grow gills, nest in trees and sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” every time somebody walked past.

Red Shirt - Jubril, apparently his name was; I wasn’t sure how God got “Gabe” out of that - patted me on the back. “If he’s lurkin’ ‘round here, I’ll know. I can't hide from him, but he can't from me, either.”

I nodded. “Right. Do safe.”

He shook his head. “I didn't say that. He's the Boss’s nephew, he's stronger than any angel.”

I scratched my neck. “So, my cousin’s friend explained the magic hierarchy as far as sorceresses, succubi and magical girls, so where do angels and whatever the hell Lucian is fit in?”

He adjusted his sleeves. “It’s a mite complicated, but after I go through your house, I’ll give ya a rundown.” He took a step forward, then turned to face me again. “Probably best you go in first, tell your mom what’s goin’ on.”

I rolled my eyes. He wasn’t wrong, but just the idea that he hadn’t considered that when he was a fucking angel was a little silly. From what I’d seen, angels weren’t that much different from humans. They didn’t even seem to have wings.

I walked into the house ahead of Jubril and found mom lounging on the couch like everything was normal. Then again, I was home two hours before school let out, so for her, everything was normal until I walked into the house. She looked up from her iPad. “Hey, baby, what’s the matter? How come you’re home early?”

I took a deep breath. “Mom, somebody has to check the house.”

She set her iPad down on the coffee table. “What’s going on?”

I was ready to cringe. “If I told you I’m a magic key to unlock a prison containing Satan and an angel needs to look the house over to make sure Satan’s bastard son isn’t here, would you believe me?”

She sighed. “If you’d said that last week, no. Now, it seems like this is par for the course.”

I couldn't deny that. One visit from my cousin and suddenly I wasn't just crossdressing anymore and now fucking angels were involved. Upside down didn't seem to begin to explain how my life had been turned.

A minute or so later, Jubril walked into the room and looked around at everything. “Well, he ain’t here,” he said, almost as if he wasn’t sure what to tell us. “Nice place, though. Homey feel to it.”

I sighed. “Mom, this is Jubril, he’s… He’s the angel I was talking about.”

She looked him over, focusing on his relatively muscular chest, I noticed. “Not what I expected from an angel.”

He smiled. “I get that a lot, ma’am. I hope ya don’t mind me staying the night to make sure your little girl’s safe.”

Mom shook her head. “Of course not. But first, I want to know how serious this is.”

He took a step toward her and put his hand on her shoulder. “Ma’am, I can't promise anything. This boy that's after your daughter is immensely powerful, has magic that’s difficult to counter and will stop at nothing to use your daughter in a misguided attempt at gaining his daddy’s love. If he ain't the most powerful magic user in town, I’m Little Bo Peep.”

Well, if that didn’t freak the fuck out of me, nothing did. “Is there a good outcome to this?”

He shrugged. “Don’t much know, little lady.”

I audibly gulped. I couldn't believe my life had gone this way.

14.

I lied on my bed and held both the starter kit book and the translation guide in my hands, my eyes flicking back and forth between them. Luckily, the translation guide was arranged by spell, so I didn't need to go back and forth between pages to figure out one spell. The pronunciations were the hardest part, but I had quickly figured out that I didn't need to actually say a spell, I could think it and still achieve the same effect. It was easier to pronounce something in my head than it was with my mouth.

Regardless, I was still trying. “Duh… Deh… Delens…” I said. My eyes couldn't believe themselves when my ceiling evaporated right before me. “Shit!” I squealed. I sat upright and flipped through the books to find some kind of undo spell or something.

“Solve Fasciculos,” Jubril said, and the ceiling suddenly returned to normal. He was standing in the doorway, arms folded across his chest. “Not bad, though. Most people I’ve seen accidentally use that end up making mountains disappear.” He laughed. “You probably didn't know there was a mountain range between the US and Mexico.”

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.” I fell back on my bed. “Hey,” I said as I sat back up again, “is there any way to... Like... change who the key is?”

Jubril shrugged. “If you kicked the bucket, the key would pick another random person.” He walked over to me and squeezed my shoulder. “I think your mom would be a little salty 'bout that.” With that, he left my room and I was once again alone.

I sighed and laid flat on my back again. I poked through the books, looking for spells I thought might help for when Lucian showed up again. There wasn't anything directly offensive from what I could see, but at least I could probably manage to hurt him with something. Better that than nothing, or relying on those weird feedback attacks I’d done so far.

I found one that looked… Interesting. I couldn't quite pronounce it, but it looked… A lot like ‘quiet’. Maybe it was as simple as that? I tried to pronounce it in my mind, but I didn’t exactly get anywhere. This damn spell thing was harder than I thought it should be.

I flipped through the pages and ended up on something that looked like it could be fun for knocking down that bitch Casey a peg or six. A spell to make someone act the exact opposite of what they are. Whatever ‘exact opposite’ was for Casey, I figured it would at least be entertaining to screw with her. Maybe she’d either be just nicer or a thousand percent butch.

“What are you doing?” Gabby asked. I hadn't even heard her walk in. “And how come you disappeared at school?”

I sat up again. “Had to deal with that Lucian guy. It… Didn't go in my favor so much.”

She sat down beside me and put her arms around me. “You okay?”

I nodded. “I’m better than I was earlier.”

She kissed me on the cheek. “Good. Now let's have a little fun before dinner.”

I rolled my eyes. “You’re a horrible influence on me.”

15.

“Mr. Jubril, are you sure you don't want any?” Mom asked as she set down the pot of spaghetti on the table. Mom seemed to be getting awfully interested in Jubril. Then again, Dad had been a while ago, so I guess maybe she did want some companionship. The fact that it was an angel that she was semi-flirting with was kinda odd.

He shook his head. “I’m fine, ma’am. Not much I need.”

Gabby leaned close to me. “Who’s he again?” she whispered, jerking her thumb toward him.

“I’m not joking, he’s an angel.”

She looked like she was about to burst into laughter. “What?”

“Legitimate angel. Granted, I haven’t seen the wings yet, but I went to Heaven.”

She let a giggle slip through. “If you’re gonna tell me you met God, I’m gonna call you crazy.”

I would have said something about that, but Mom stuffed a breadstick in my mouth and told me to shut up, thus leading to a very normal dinner for the Brewster household plus my girlfriend. The conversation was pleasant, the food was good, and I had to do the dishes.

Everything seemed normal for the first time in awhile.

16.

“Housul chirosant,” I said, reading from the book. Instead of accidentally destroying my ceiling, I caught a target that Jubril had set up for me on fire. He was busy chewing on an apple that I hadn't seen him grab from anywhere, let alone inside my house, where we haven't had apples since I'd finished eating them the other day. (And still hadn't told Mom about them... Ooops.) He pointed at it and the fire dissipated and the target refreshed itself. I sighed. This was the fifteenth spell I'd tried, and all I seemed to be able to do was burn or disintegrate the targets.

I fell on my ass on the grass and groaned loudly. “Why isn't this working?” I almost shouted.

Jubril sat down beside me. “Well. Two things. One, you're inexperienced. Magic takes years to learn with things like that guide book, and you don't even want to try and learn it on your own. How that sorceress you know did it, I'll never understand. Woman's a damn natural, or something. Second, you're looking for all the wrong spells. People have specialties, things they're talented at specifically. That sorceress you know is probably mostly gifted in transformations. You're clearly not gifted in...” He took out a checklist. “Automotive repair, seed planting, fireworks or artificially creating a sun on the other side of the planet.”

I put my head in my hands and groaned again. “Stop reminding me. What's next?”

He picked up the book from where I'd dropped it and slipped it into his pocket. “Nothing. Your girl's been waiting on you in your room this whole time.”

I sighed. “Yeah.” I turned to him. “Thanks for helping, thanks for watching over us.”

He took a bite out of the apple. “It's my job. The Boss relies on me to do that job as best I can, so that he doesn't have to worry about anything but his job.” He took another bite. “Not that I don't resent it, sometimes. I've got two kids of my own I don't get much time to see.”

“Angels can have kids?”

He nodded. “All the time.”

I turned back to the target. “I think I should try at least one more.”

He shook his head. “Nope. Get in there and get to romancin'.”

I stood up. “You sure?”

“I'll see Lucian a mile away, he ain't here, he ain't in town. We'll be fine. Even if I nod off and sleep, I'll wake up as soon as he's close.”

I scratched at my arm. “Can you... If he shows up, can you actually stop Lucian?”

He took yet another bite. “We're gonna see.”

17.

Gabby and I were on my bed, the TV playing some movie the two of us weren't paying attention to. Neither of us were wearing clothes, but for the most part, all we were doing was cuddling and kissing. In fact, neither of us had even attempted to fondle or play with the other one, but enjoying one another's company was all we seemed like doing right now. I wasn't complaining, I was just embracing and savoring the taste of her lipstick as our lips touched.

She licked at mouth. “Why did I have to wait for a guy to become a girl before I could get a date?” she asked.

I almost laughed. “That would be the stupidest thing you could say, if not for the fact that it's absolutely true.”

“You can't really judge, y'know. You didn't get a girlfriend until you turned into a girl, either.”

I hugged her tighter. “Just shut up and grind against me.”

Her tongue flicked between my lips and my nose. “Your wish is my command.”

18.

Before we could actually get into something hot and sweaty, literally everything faded away. I wasn't laying in bed anymore, I was floating in a void that reminded me of the one I met the other Kendra in. I was still naked, which worried me, but I was more worried about what the fuck was going on.

I considered moving, but I was standing in a void, “moving” was a relative concept that may not actually mean anything. I threw away the idea of moving and stayed where I was, naked, standing in a nothingness. To say that I didn't understand what was going on was a major understatement.

“It's been a little while since you burned my house down,” Lucian's voice said, surprising and concerning me. I quickly moved my hands to cover myself, because reasons, honestly. With this guy's power, I wouldn't be surprised if he's seen me naked more than I actually care to think about. “Also, I see Jubril is hanging around.”

I looked around. I still couldn't see anything other than the void, but I could somehow feel that he was close. I wanted to run, but I had nowhere to go. I wanted to fight, but I had nothing to fight. Wherever the hell he'd brought me, it was effective as hell in getting me scared.

“Look, asshole, I'm not helping you!” I shouted.

He sighed. “I'm not surprised. People don't usually go running to Heaven if they want to help you.”

I rolled my eyes. “I didn't go running to Heaven. Jubril showed up and took me there.”

“Regardless.” He appeared now, almost as if he were emerging from deep shadow. “So, how are you?”

I glared at him. “I hate you. With all of my hate.”

He smiled. “I know.” He patted me on the back. “So, long story short, I'm just about ready to free my father and I'll give you exactly one last chance to do this willingly.”

“Wait, you don't need to be near your dad to do this?!”

He smiled. “Kenny, Kenny, Kenny... We are near my dad.” He snapped his fingers and suddenly I was looking at You didn't think I needed you physically present to open his cell, did you?” He let out a chuckle that sickened me. “It's just easier to perform the spell if you're willing, that's all. Regardless, I can get this under way and then my father will reward me for what I've done for him.”

I dropped my arms to my side. “No.”

He lost the smile. “You're not fucking getting it, are you? You don't have a choice, Brewster. My father will be free, because I'm going to suck the lifeforce from you and open the cage he was unjustly thrown into.”

Suck the lifeforce from me?! “The hell you are!”

He was suddenly right beside me, his hand on my throat. “Too bad you're not gonna be alive long enough to understand how this whole magic key thing works.”

Through gritted teeth, I spat, “No!”

I didn't say any of the spells I'd been learning from the book, I didn't feel any surge of power spit out of me like back at his house, there was just suddenly a bubble surrounding me, him on the other side of it, and a look on his face that almost screamed surprise and fear. Something told me he was expecting this whole thing to go exactly how he planned it and no other way.

This at least seemed like we were on somewhat even terms. I didn't expect to do that, either.

I don't know what he thought he could accomplish, but Lucian ran toward me and tried to punch the barrier I'd somehow created. He shouted spells that I could barely understand, but nothing seemed to happen. If I kept being that lucky, I wouldn't have to do anything until Jubril noticed this was happening.

But, of course, I wasn't that lucky. On his fifteenth punch, the barrier disappeared, and I fell backward, landing awfully painfully on my ass against whatever passed for a floor in this place. I scrambled to get to my feet, but his hand was suddenly on my throat, and I was being pulled up and against a wall. Where the wall came from, I'll never know, but I didn't honestly care, either. Struggling against the creepy bastard holding me against a wall was a bit more important.

“That wasn't very nice,” he said, like some perverted child. I tried to knee him, but I couldn't reach him. I couldn't even punch him. He was holding me against the “wall” with more than just his hand against my throat, he was clearly using magic. “Enough foreplay, it's time to get this over with.”

His eyes rolled back in their sockets and he started whispering something I could just barely hear. It sounded like one of the spells Jubril had tried to get me to do, but some of the syllables were dragged out or cut short. Briefly, I wondered how he’d learned how to use such complicated magic, but that thought was quickly overridden by a desire to stop him.

The room around us suddenly changed. The walls were black, almost as if made out of obsidian or some other kind of mineral like it. The ceiling gained two strips of white, almost like fluorescent lights. The floor because pure stone, but it was cracked with an hellish orange glow peeking through.

In the center was a cage with a shadow standing inside.

Lucian let go of me and walked over to the cage. The shadow’s eyes followed him the entire way. How I could tell that it had eyes was beyond me, but that wasn’t important. Lucian looked as though he was in shock.

“It’s been awhile, Dad,” he said as he got closer to the cage.

The shadow glared at him.

“I know you don’t… I-I know you hate me. But I’ve come to you with the key to your prison,” he waved his hand toward me, “and I hope that you’ll… That you’ll at least accept me.”

The shadow continued to glare.

“All I want is your acceptance. Please, it’s… It’s the only thing I need to keep going.”

The shadow still wasn’t speaking.

That was really pissing Lucian off. He grabbed the bars of the cage. “You can’t even say anything?! I learned all of this to free you! To earn your respect!”

The shadow blinked. For whatever reason, I found that amusing, but the second I let out a laugh, Lucian turned to me and growled. Which I also found amusing. “Aww… Daddy doesn’t love you yet?” I said in a mocking tone.

“Shut your mouth!” He turned back to the shadow. “Do I get nothing for my efforts?”

The shadow finally spoke: “You have done nothing. I am still in this cage, and she is still alive. Perform your tricks and release me from this prison and I shall consider awarding you with respect.”

Lucian let out an angered sigh. “Fine.” He swiftly walked back over to me and held his hand over my forehead. He closed his eyes and began to chant. “Dona mihi obvius,” he said. I felt something inside me, something welling up. “Aperi ianuam.” There was a tingling, now, spreading throughout my body. “Fiat ut solutam.” Light appeared beneath me. I started to lose feeling.

And yet, somehow, I was feeling calm about this. Why was I feeling calm about this?!

“Aperta,” he said, “Aperta. Aperi nunc.”

The light enveloped me, then a buzzing noise filled my ears, drowning out Lucian’s words. His mouth kept moving, so I assumed he was just repeating the mantra he’d been spouting. I had completely lost feeling at this point. The light blocked everything out, now, including Lucian, though I knew he was still there.

And then everything was back to what it had been before the chanting. Lucian was still pinning me up against the wall, the shadow was still in its cage, and I was still buck naked in front of two monsters.

(And for some reason, this was the first moment I realized I was naked in front of Satan... I can be stupid at times.)

Lucian’s eyes were filled with half confusion and half pure rage. The need to get away from the crazy holding me against the wall was strong, so I endeavoured to hit him again. Luckily, when I tried to knee him away this time, I managed it. I underestimated the force I used, and he went flying back against the shadow’s cage.

The shadow laughed, a deep, guttural, horrifying thing that made me want to shit my pants if I was wearing pants. After almost a full minute of laughing, the shadow spoke: “You claim to have brought me the key, and yet you bring me nothing. Explain to me why you deserve my acceptance, half-breed.”

Lucian didn’t look like he was paying attention to his dad, though. He was staring at me, and the half confusion in his eyes from before was gone and all that remained was rage. He rushed at me and grabbed me by the neck again, slamming me against the wall so hard that it cracked (how that didn’t kill me, I’ll never know and really don’t want to). He squeezed, hard.

His mouth curling into a snarl was the last clear thing I saw as my vision began to double. Then I noticed the shadow sitting down on something, which was strange, because I could have sworn its cell was empty. Finally, just as I blacked out, that snarl looked like it was morphing into a smile. Hopefully, I was wrong about that.

19.

areyouokay

I heard the voice, but it sounded like it was a million miles away. It also sounded like it was right beside me, so something was wrong. I couldn’t see anything yet, so whoever or whatever it was talking to me was not yet a real concern, I simply wanted to open my eyes or actually see. For all I knew, it could have been a cherub trying to talk to me.

That made me wonder if cherubs were real. After all, sorceresses, succubi, magical girls, angels, demons, Satan and God were real, so cherubs were probably only par for the course, I guess.

are you okay ken

That voice again. It was a little closer, and no longer right beside me. At least the words sounded separate, now. I needed to find a way to open my eyes. The good thing was that I could feel the ground underneath me. It was like a marble floor. I reached for my face and tried to force my eyes open. Nothing happened, so that wasn’t a good thing.

Since I couldn’t find a way to get my eyes open, I instead tried to get to my feet. I heard something that sounded like footsteps. After spending a good thirty seconds of sliding around on the floor, I managed to find a wall, and dragged myself against it. So, I couldn’t open my eyes, and I couldn’t stand up. This would be worrying if it weren’t so fucking terrifying.

Ken, answer the question, are you okay?

I coughed. I wondered if that was because I’d been choked. “Idunno,” I said. Great. My words were blending together. Sonuvabitch.

Someone put their hands on my shoulders. Someone with slender, feminine fingers. If I was lucky, it was Gabby. I could use a kiss from her right now. The person brushed my face off. I must have been dirty, or something. I didn’t care.

“Kenny? Kenny, can you hear me?”

I nodded, then tried to speak, but all that came out was a mumble.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” The voice was starting to sound familiar. It wasn’t Gabby’s, but I knew it from somewhere. There went my opportunity for a kiss.

“I can’tsee your fingers…” I said

“Well, that’s not a good thing. Look, it’s Kendra, okay? Can you tell?”

That explained why the voice was familiar. Somehow, I’d retreated inside myself to where Kendra was still somehow alive. I wondered if I’d died somehow and was just going to exist alongside the other me. “Help me up,” I managed a string of words that were clear and capable of being understood. Huzzah.

“Okay, that’s another problem, you’re already standing up.”

“Oh, yippie,” I coughed out. Guess my sensations were a little bit more screwed up than I thought. “What am I doing here?”

I heard her sigh. “I don’t know. I think it has something to do with Creepy McFuckface.”

“He tried to use me as a key to unlock his dad’s prison.”

“Like, a magic key?”

“Yeah.”

My eyes finally started to focus, apparently already open. Something seemed different about Kendra, like she was… Well… Different. The last time I saw her, she looked exactly the same as I did, but now, she was… Brighter?

“What?” she asked.

“Did you do something with your hair?”

She rolled her eyes. “If I were a dyke, that might be cute, but it was stupid. Also, if we weren’t, like, the same person.”

“Why do you look different?”

“I don’t understand.”

I wished I could actually understand it myself. There was nothing physically different about her, she was just different in some way. “Just take my word for it.” I rubbed at my eyes. “Why did I come here?”

She shrugged. “I dunno. Creepy McFuckface was choking you, and suddenly you were here.”

I rubbed at the back of my neck. “How do I get out of here?”

She shrugged again. “That’s probably something you have to figure out.”

I sighed. “Of course.”

“So, this is how you did it…” Lucian’s voice said. My eyes went wide as he materialized in front of us, his hands clasped behind his back. “This is how you betrayed me.”

I pushed past Kendra. “I can’t betray someone I hate passionately.”

He chuckled as he started walking toward us. “Two Kendras. Of course. The one the real world sees, and the one the magic chose.” He raised one hand and motioned for me to move, and, unfortunately, I had to comply because he pretty much used the damn Force on me and shoved me out of the way telekinetically. “Good thing I followed you here, then.”

Kendra stood her ground. “Back off, asshole.”

“I don’t really have time to get to know you, so just be a good girl and let me use you to help my father break out of jail.”

I got back to my feet and tackled Lucian to the ground as hard as I could. He pushed me off and elbowed me in the face, somehow drawing blood, despite this being in my head, essentially. I wondered if my physical body was bleeding now. About two seconds after thinking that, I put the thought out of my mind and kicked. My foot didn’t connect with his face like I’d intended, but I at least kept him from getting up.

If he wasn’t pissed off before, though, he was outright furious now. He used magic to lift me up and hurl me a good sixty feet away. I landed hard against the floor, enough to break something internally, I could tell. I struggled to get up, but managed it. Blood was getting in my eyes.

Lucian was standing, as well. He had his hands around Kendra’s throat and looked to be about to start his chanting. I tried to concentrate, to use one of the spells I’d learned that could blow stuff up, but nothing happened. It was difficult to focus on words.

So instead, I shouted. “Lucian!

He turned toward me and, surprisingly, let go of Kendra. He growled, a sound almost like his dad’s disturbing laugh. “What’sa matter? You afraid I’ll cheat on you?”

Jesus Christ, this guy was fucking annoying. I tried to focus again, tried to think of all the spells I’d learned today.

And then I remembered just the one. Jubril had even complimented me on it earlier. “Perdere!” I shouted at him. His eyes widened as his body started disintegrating from his feet upward.

“You’re not killing me, Kendra! I’m still out there!” were his last words before his head disappeared into nothingness.

I ran over to Kendra, grasping at her neck. “What the hell was he going after me for?!” she screeched, through coughing fits.

And just like that, the pieces all fit together. “You’re the key.”

“What?”

I cursed myself. Of course that’s how it worked. Lucian couldn’t find the key until my aura changed and my aura didn’t change until I accidentally created Kendra after awakening my sorceress power. The key was never me, it was always her. The me inside me. How was it God himself didn’t know this?!

“Oh, wow…” Kendra said. Duh, we were the same-ish person, she could tell what I was thinking. “Whuh… What do we do now? He can just keep coming in here and we can’t stop him.”

“I don’t know! I… I don’t know how to stop you from being the key. I don’t know how to fix any of this!”

And then a new voice spoke: “Yes you do.”

Kendra and I both turned to look at the source of the voice. A bald-headed man with a single earring who would very likely be mistaken for Mr. Clean everywhere he went. God himself was in my head now.

Holy shit, this was a literal deus ex machina.

He smiled. “Of a sort, yes.” He walked over to us and helped the both of us to our feet. “Gabe told you how to end this, he told you at my insistence.”

“What?”

“Who’s Gabe?” Kendra asked.

God turned to Kendra. “My dear, don’t worry about what’s about to happen. You won’t feel a thing and you’ll only be gone for a few seconds before you reawaken.”

My turn for another question, “What are you talking about?”

God turned back to me. “The spell you just used. The spell Gabe complimented you on. The spell that destroyed Lucian in your mind.” He patted Kendra on the back. “You need to use it on Kendra.”

“What?!” the two of us screamed in unison.

God smiled, but it was a warm, caring smile. “I’ve already set aside a vessel for Kendra, she’ll be even be able to visit you at times.”

Kendra didn’t look too happy at whatever that meant, and I just didn’t want to do it. Kendra was a part of me, I didn’t want to hurt her. Even if it didn’t hurt her, I didn’t want to lose her as a part of me!

“Why?” I asked. “Why do I need to do that? What would it help at all?!

God looked as though he could tell I was apprehensive. “I understand that you’re concerned, but please, I’m not God for no reason. I simply can’t influence Kendra’s existence since I didn’t create her, that leaves it up to you.” He turned back to her. “You won’t die. You won’t be trapped here, and you’ll have a life of your own. Ken won’t be out of your life, and you will still exist. The only thing lost here is Lucian’s chance at freeing his father.”

I just didn’t want to hear that. “There has to be another way.”

It wasn’t God who responded, though, it was Kendra: “Ken…” she said, through tears, “it’ll be okay.”

“What are you saying?!”

“I don’t want this! But if it stops Creepy McFuckface from letting Satan loose, then we need to do it…”

God smiled. “You’re funny things, humans. I wish my other creations had even a tenth of the strength you had.”

Kendra put her hand on my shoulder. “Please… I promise I’ll find you as soon as I can.”

I felt a tear slide down my cheek. I gulped. I almost physically couldn’t do this, but she was right, and it was pretty obvious that God was right, and Jubril had told me that if I died, the key would become someone else. Though, if my magic “luck” held out, that’d probably be me. Hopefully God had a hand in choosing who the next key would be.

“We’d better find each other after this,” I told Kendra.

She smiled. “We’ll be as close as twins. Y’know, like, fraternal twins. I’m cuter, and you’re a lesbian, so we can’t be identical twins.”

I laughed, then took a deep breath. “Perdere,” I whispered, and then I closed my eyes. I couldn’t look at what I’d just done, even if it was the right thing to do. I felt more tears, and tried to squeeze my eyes shut and stop them.

The last thing I heard her say was, “I promise.”

20.

When I finally opened my eyes, I wasn’t in my head anymore, and I wasn’t naked anymore (thank God! Probably literally, too). I was back in the shadow’s cell, and Lucian was standing on the opposite side of the room from me. God was there, too, standing beside me. He helped me to my feet and patted my shoulders.

“I understand how hard that must have been.”

“She’s got a new body, right?” I asked.

He nodded. “Gabe is with her, and helping your mother get adjusted to the idea.” He chuckled. “Gabe and your mother are getting quite attached, I have noticed.”

Though not clashing with his overall obvious kindness, God seemed a little different. So did the shadow, I noticed. I wondered if it had something to do with the two of them standing in the same room.

Lucian growled. “Well, now that little miss sorceress has had her beauty sleep, how about the two of you get the fuck out of my way and let me get this over with?”

God turned to him. “Do you not know who I am, Lucian?”

“Annoying me.”

“You should show your uncle some respect, boy.”

Lucian’s eyes grew wider. “No. You’re… No…”

“I am. And I believe it is time you spent a few centuries in a cage just like your father’s.”

The shadow spoke, and I never thought I’d want to agree with Satan himself, but this I agreed with: “Keep him away from me. It disgusts me to look at him.”

The look on Lucian’s face was priceless.

21.

Jubril was still eating an apple as he walked into God’s office. “Lucian’s all cozy in his cage, and Satan’s cell is hidden away in the magic fabric again. I dunno what happened to Michael, but him being gone was how Lucian found out where his dad’s cage was.” He took a huge bite out of the apple. “Kendra’s mom’s all squared away, and... “ He pulled out a smartphone and looked at it. “Kristana Brewster,” he said, sounding like he wasn’t sure what he was saying, “has been added to reality.”

God was also eating an apple now. “Good. How’s everything else?”

“Well, like I said, Michael’s gone missing, don’t know where he’s out to. Other than, everything’s shiny.”

I raised my eyebrow.

“It’s just something I say.” He took another apple bite. “I’ve got Zadkiel watchin’ over the fabric now, hopefully he won’t up and disappear.”

God nodded. “Good. Now this whole Lucian thing doesn’t seem like a giant clusterfuck that we could have handled ahead of time.”

“Well, if we’d kept a good eye on Michael...”

“Shush.” He turned to me. “Kendra, I’m so sorry for all of this. If I’d known my nephew lived in your hometown before this entire situation, I would have made sure to remove the key from his sight long ago.”

I hugged my knees to my chest. “Nobody’s perfect.” The irony I’d said that to God was not lost on me. “Can I go home now?”

God nodded. “That’s next on the docket. You go home with your mom, your sister and your girlfriend. Gabe goes to visit his kids before he goes on vacation.”

Jubril looked confused. “What?” he asked.

“The lazy one’s down in filing, the trusty one’s out working. You’ve got twenty minutes to visit them before I force you to take a vacation.”

Why did I get the weirdest feeling I was soon going to have an angel as a step-father?

As I stood up, God said, "Just a moment, Kendra. Remember contrarium."

"Huh?"

"It's a spell. Remember it," he said with a shit-eating grin on his face.

22.

When I got home (finally!), I gave Mom a hug, I gave “Kristana” a hug (I also told her I was sorry she had to go by a new name, but she said she was fine with it because she got to pick it out) and then I walked straight into my room and crashed on my bed. It had only been two hours in real world time, but I felt like it had been days. Or, hell, even a month. I just wanted to sleep the rest of the day away and then wake up the following morning and go to school.

I was lying there a good thirty seconds before a pair of soft hands slid under my shirt and started fondling my boobs. I was too tired to stop her, and even if I wasn’t, I’d still be letting her do it. I’d stopped the devil’s son from freeing him and impressed God, this was probably the greatest win somebody could have, and I wanted to celebrate it by letting my girlfriend satisfy me.

“Slip one in my panties, will ya?”

Gabby whispered in my ear, “No problem, babe.”

I moaned a little. “I like it when you call me that.”

She rolled me around, and I saw her very beautiful, smiling face. “But before we get into anything orgasm-inducing, please tell me when you got a twin sister.”

I groaned. “If I promise to write the whole thing as a story, can I get at least one orgasm? I’m gettin’ really wet here.”

She smiled wider. “One and that’s it.”

Coda.

Casey was chatting it up with several of her friends at their private lunch table. They were talking about this, that, probably who they assumed were sluts and who they wanted to fuck badly. Really it was just Casey deciding who was who and her friends going along with it, because they were probably the equivalent of robot slaves for her. Regardless, that's what they were doing.

The table Gabby and Kristana were sitting at was on the opposite side of the cafeteria, but I purposefully walked past Casey's table. As I approached, I caught a little of their conversation.

"Omigawd, who was that creepy drunk guy that was hanging around here earlier? He was cute, but he was... ugh!" Casey exclaimed.

"I know!" Brittney added.

"Totally disgusting," Emily agreed.

"What was he even here for?" Brittney asked.

"To talk to that Mikaela girl," Casey answered. "Probably took her into the bathroom and bent her over a sink. Bet we could hear the screaming if we went out there and checked."

"Uh, no way," Emily said, gagging.

Just hearing that conversation made me curious how this was gonna go, but I took a deep breath, let it out, and whispered, "Contrarium," as I walked past.

And almost immediately, it took effect. Casey's eyes widened, and she stared down at her fingernails. "For fuck's sake!" she almost screamed. Nearly everyone turned to look at her. "What god awful fairy would wear pink nail polish?" She then seemed to realize that she'd styled her hair so that her bangs hung in front of her face. "And why do I have such long hair? What the fuck is going on here?"

"Uh... Casey?" Brittney asked, looking a little confused. The exact same look was mirrored on Emily's face, further making me think they're just robots in people suits. "You okay?"

"No, I'm not okay! Jesus Christ, am I wearing a skirt? What the hell is wrong with me?"

Emily answered, "You always wear your cheerleader uniform on practice day."

"What? I'm not some doofy cheerleader! Ugh, I need to change into something less... Girly... I look like a damn fruit!" She almost angrily stomped out of the cafeteria, looking completely angered by her outfit and her hair.

I walked over to my table and sat next to Gabby, who gave me a peck on the cheek. Kristana asked, "What did you do and how can I do it?"

"Spell God gave me."

Gabby asked, "Wait, you can do magic, too?"

Kristana sighed. "Sadly, no. Ken and I were the same person, now we're different people."

I shoved a handful of french fries in my mouth. "Just wait till she comes back."

"What's gonna happen?" Gabby asked.

"I have no idea, and that makes me giddy."

There was confusion all around the cafeteria, but some of it was barely concealed laughter or giggling. It turned into full-bore laughter when Casey walked back into the cafeteria. In the span of ten minutes, probably raiding some people's lockers, she was decked out in a black half-vest, torn jeans and a pair of combat boots. She'd shaved her head completely, and washed off all of her makeup.

And she was pissed that everybody was laughing at her.

When I took my tray back up after I was done eating, I made sure to go past where she was sitting again, but this time, Brittney and Emily had left. Once again, I whispered, "Contrarium," and once again her eyes went wide as saucers as her original personality took over and realized what it was she'd done to herself.

Her horrified screaming just caused more people to laugh.

I wasn't gonna lie, I didn't feel great about myself for doing that to her, but damn was it satisfying.



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