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Chapter Seven: Please Phrase Your Question in the Form of an Answer
Ace looked at the bathroom. It was spotlessly clean and all of the plumbing seemed to have small pumps attached. There was a small buzzing sound and a trio of metal hemispheres slid out from behind the commode.
"What the heck are those?"
Cody walked in behind Ace and looked at the machines.
"They look like Scrubbing Bubbles. See if you can pick one up, maybe they have tiny floor buffers on the bottom."
Ace reached out and picked one up, then turned it over. The bottom flat surface was covered by a set of brushes in concentric rings. On instinct, he held it up to his ear.
"...I must have been gone a while. Everything here needs rewinding, one way or another."
Ace took out a screwdriver from his pocket and tightened the prominent screw on the very top of the dome. When placed back on the ground, the machine moved with much more speed and energy.
"There we go. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take a shower."
"...that means get out."
"Oh. Right. Sorry."
After getting rid of the stench of blood and who knew what else along with the dirt, Ace dried himself off and headed towards his bedroom. With any luck he wouldn't have to wind up the washer and dryer before he could get into some clean clothes-
The sound of the apartment door slamming open and slamming closed just as hard threw an unexpected curve into his plans. He doubled back, towel around his waist, and peered around the corner to the kitchenette/den.
Drew was sitting in the corner... wearing what looked like a skirt and blouse. All of it ripped and a bit bloody. Ace's mind backtracked a bit, comparing Drew's facial features to the clothing he had been wearing earlier. The overall youthful structure actually seemed more in-line with the female atire. Except for the blood. Blood didn't really go with any outfit. Except maybe a halloween costume.
Oh yes, Drew was also crying. That was probably also significant in some way.
Before he'd fully realized it, Cody had walked past Ace and right into the den. The wolf stopped for a second, taking the sights and sounds in.
Drew looked up in apprehension, and Cody trotted over to sit by him.
"So you lost on America's Funniest Home Videos too, huh? Don't even get me started on that. Ever since Bob Sagat stopped hosting it, things just snowballed."
It had been a fairly uneventful few minutes, so Ace had gone off to his bedroom to get dressed. Cody seemed to be doing what dogs had done since time immemorial; standing by humanity and giving them a shoulder to lean on. Assuming dogs had shoulders, that is. Ace was still not sure if stepping out into view was smart.
Without knowing how he knew, Ace was still very aware of the mind's intricate machinery. It was far too easy for grit to get between the tiny gears and throw systems out of whack.
His musings were interrupted when the door was forced open -- again -- this time by John. John saw him immediately, and Ace quickly put one finger over his mouth and pointed the other at Drew. John's eyes followed, and he stepped forward. Drew noticed him, then looked away one more time.
"Okay, I'm guessing that Mitch's training program struck a penny on the rails and stacked up train cars for a mile."
"He gave me a call, said he was worried about you. He thought you'd come h-"
"This is HIS FAULT!" Drew yelled. Cody flinched and tried to pull his ears away from the mouth. "I told him I couldn't do this in public! I told him it was going to go wrong! I told him! He didn't care! He never cares!"
John slowly and carefully sat down in a chair and turned it so he could look straight at Drew. "That's probably a pretty accurate view of the situation. Did I ever tell you about when we first met? I mean, I told you about the running and the fighting and Mac and Doc and the ghostly goings on. I don't think I told you about the actual magickal training process."
"I... see, I explained magick, all magick I knew of, in terms of four laws. The Law of Belief, the Law of Mutual Contradiction, the Law of Effort, and the Law of Personality. And each one, I intended to explain them in the order that would be least palatable to Mitch. I don't know if I was succesful or not. I started off sounding New Age-like, and then I put increasing limits and drawbacks in his way."
"Why did you do that?"
"Well... that requires some background. You know I killed my father, right?"
"Mitch said something about that."
John nodded. "Most people grow up with one parent they love and one they hate. That's because when you're really young, it's a serious stretch of your brainpower to imagine that the same person can do both good and bad things. So we always think mom was the good one because she made us cookies, and dad the bad one because he said we couldn't have dessert until our rooms were picked up. Or the other way around."
John shifted in his seat. "My dad didn't fit into that category. He was too crazy and too drunk and too religious. Like all religious people in the industrialized world, he picked certain verses out of Ye Olde Holye Texte and ignored everything else. And the verses he picked all had to do with violence. If thy child prevent thee from enterring the Kingdom of Heaven, kick his ass. And my mom, well... long suffering, short sighted biddy that she was, she didn't do anything."
Abruptly, John crossed his legs and leaned back. "Drew, do you want to know why women will stick with abusive men, and kids refuse to testify against parents who thrash them? It's because of something I call the one-in-seven rule. One woman said that she was willing to put up with her husband throwing kitchenware at her six days out of the week, because of the chance that on that seventh day, he'll be kind and civilized. You gotta take what you can get."
Drew nodded and scratched Cody behind the ears. "I know exactly what you mean."
"More's the pity. In any event, my dad just kept hitting and hitting and hitting... and one day when I'm a teenager, pattern recognition kicks in and I realize that no matter what I do, he's never going to stop. Ever. And that was all I needed at that point to take matters into my own hands. I started training my body and mind, and soon I could make myself a lot stronger just by willing it to be so. And I just let him have it. Fists and feet and more fists and an end table and more feet. Finally he was lying on the floor, weezing, and begging me not to kill him. I made two mistakees here, Drew."
John leaned forward again. "My first was thinking he meant it when he said he was sorry. He tried to take my head off with a chair leg. Needless to say, he failed. My second mistake was, after I threw him out the window, to assume that the entire world was going to be like that. Lying out their noses at me, so that only mystic violence was the solution."
John stopped talking, walked over to the kitchenette fridge, and took out a soda. Using a hand signal out of Drew's line of sight, he instructed Ace to stay hidden.
"See, while I was bouncing around the underground as occult muscle for hire, I met a bookworm, a book mage guy, named Stanley Butters. More dangerous than me, Mac, and Mitch put together. Now the thing about book mages, obviously, is they love their books. And like all mages, Stan loved his magick."
"Isn't that the whole point? Mitch keeps going on aout how it has to be so much a part of us that it's hard to tell where the magick ends and personality starts."
"Yes, that's true, but what he has already forgotten is that that can't be the entire personality. Stan thought that books and magick were everything. The whole world was a story. He thought and spoke entirely in third persona narrative style. THEN, one day, he's reading a new dictionary and he rips the page. All of his power goes zip. Now what he could have done is curse himself, get some masking tape, and start all over again. What he actually did is go completely stark raving loony. He thought the tear he made in the dictionary was going to run the entire world through a shredder. Language would be scrambled, time would not flow in one direction... not that it does anyway, but... oh, well, you know what I mean. The world in his head no longer had the slightest thing in common with the world we all see. He was locked up and his books were seized and sold to pay for the bills. I don't know exactly what happened to him."
"So what does that have to do with Mitch and me?"
"Mitch was willing to do almost anything for power. His personality built around that. But the key point is almost. He's not evil, not sociopathic, doesn't think his needs come before all others. But he is very, very focussed. That's why he's come so far so fast."
"But that doesn't mean he has to push me like that."
"Perhaps not. Magick is a whole lot, but it is NEVER enough on its own. I probably should remind him of that. In any case, though, that's just half the equation. After he first introduced us, I had a feeling that something about you was unusual, so I took the liberty of taking a look at your medical files at the hospital. They are not terribly bright over there. So I think I know why you cross-dress. What I'm worried about is, do you?"
Drew looked down at Cody. "All I know is I hate my parents, I hate doctors, and when I'm dressed one way I want to be dressed the other way. There is no solution. I was stupid for ever trying to find one."
"I must disagree. According to your files, there were some rather invasive surgical procedures that required parental consent and several hours in the operating theater. Plus a transfusion. Your blood type is A- by the way."
"I knew that."
"Well, based on the way they described it without actually describing it, plus your physical appearance, I was able to figure it out. You were born a hermaphrodite of some kind. Probably both sets of gear, if your attitude is any explaination."
"Attitude? What's wrong with my attitude?"
John drained the last of the soda, crumpled it up into a tiny sphere of aluminum, and threw it back towards the kitchen. "The thing about doctors is that they can take off your leg, but they can't make your brain forget that you once had a leg there. Your brain grew and gestated around the principle that you would be man and woman both, but they took away the ovaries and miscellaneous organs. Personally, that strikes me as foolhardy and dangerously invasive. The penis and scrotum are on the outside of the body. It would be safer to remove them. Your parents must have had some influence."
"What does it matter. Even if they raised me as a girl I'd still want to wrestle with the guys and play football. You can't have both worlds."
"BZZZT! Wrong! You CAN have both worlds. If not at the same time, then by alternation. That probably wasn't what Mitch was after, but it was in line with the idea, right?"
"No, no it wasn't! That's what I keep trying to tell everyone! Mitch knows that I don't want to cross dress in public, because it can go wrong! Just like today! He sees the whole transgender/transexual thing as just a big damn risk!"
"Oh. Oh, well that makes sense too. Like I said, his magick is way too central to his personality for safety. He sees everything in terms of risks. Even breakfast."
Cody rolled over on his back. "Considering the milk in this place, I'm starting to think like that too."
"Haha. Hush, puppy. Look, you notice how Mitch tends to have the same bizarre way of talking every day that I do? That's just randomness applied to social interaction. It's not the same reason I do it. I do it as a form of psychological jiu jitsu. If all else fails, I can remind him that magick sometimes must take a tangent to be learned. Just don't give up on it quite yet, Drew. It's not the only way to live, but it is the most interesting."
Drew ran a hand threw Cody's fur. "I don't want to be interesting. I want to be me. Not who mom and dad and Dr. Taylor and everyone else tried to make me. I want to be me."
John nodded and rested his head on his hands. Ace could sense an almost suffocating depression descending on the room, when Cody's leg started kicking.
"Whoa! Whoa-whoa-whoa! Hey! Wow. Hey, scratch that spot again. Cody likes."
For the third time, the door crashed open and somebody came into the apartment. If Drew was a mess, then Mitch was a disaster area. Every article of clothing he was wearing had been ripped in at least two spots, blood was pouring out of his nose like a faucet, and one eye was swollen shut. In one hand was an aluminum baseball bat bent in two spots.
"Woo! That's the last of 'em. You know, you never realize how hard-headed Neo-Nazis really are until you try to give them a concussion."
John stood up. "Wait, you took Drew to that Aryan something or other rally? In the park today? THAT'S how she got so messed up?"
"I didn't know about the rally when we headed to the park! I expected kids playing, dogs catching frisbees, old folks feeding squirrels. Or getting eaten by them. I didn't expect a stage and a police line with ginormous gaps! Nothing would have gone wrong if that skinhead guy with the eyepatch hadn't made a pass at her. Him. Her. It. In any event, he started yelling, and some other people started yelling, and I'm not sure what the hell the cops were doing, so I broke out the pepper spray. Drew took off running and I reasoned, hey, anyone fighting me is not elsewhere chasing other people, so you can imagine what happened next. It was impure luck that some kids had been playing softball earlier."
"Mitch! You went off and started expressing intolerance for intolerant people and you didn't invite ME?!"
"I'm sorry man. Tell you what, they're sure to try and retaliate or protest against my totally kicking their asses tomorrow or something. You can show up with my face and throw them around like Mr. T did on the A-Team."
"Nah, that takes all the fun out of it."
Ace's head began to hurt from the conversation, so he stepped into the room. Drew and Mitch noticed him, while he tried to look like he was examining the blood on their clothes. Which was pretty easy.
"If you two get blood on my upholstery, we're going to have words. Loud ones."
That's great! Keep posting?
Lurid | profile | Nov 16, 06 | 5:55 am
Midwest United States. My English is a bastard hybrid of all accents, dialects, and regional spellings that I've ever heard or read, so it tends to be unusual.
Great, we'll be waiting!
Lurid | profile | Nov 17, 06 | 6:48 am