She was artificially beautiful. Modifying a photograph to remove the flaws of the subject was a practice as old as photography itself, but did ‘artificial’ mean ‘fake?’ Art itself is the creation of human hands, and it is, in many ways, the process by which civilization comes to define beauty. But there was no work of beautiful work of art that ignored its medium. And if her face could be considered part of the picture’s medium, would the image manipulation be ignoring it?
Regardless, Kayleigh had spent far too long staring at the poster. Her friends had wandered off somewhere, probably because they had gotten bored of her staring. Sweeping a short lock of brown hair over her ear, Kayleigh turned to find them, and was nearly knocked over.
Stumbling backward, Kayleigh looked at the other person. The girl was pale, making her long black hair and dark red lips all the more striking. She took her shades off her sweeping nose, revealing eyes nearly the same color as her mouth.
“Sorry about that,” the girl said, “I just bought new sunglasses, and I guess I was a bit to eager to try them out. I’m Jessica, by the way.”
“Ah, Kayleigh.” The short-haired girl offered her hand. As they shook, Kayleigh looked over Jessica’s clothes. The light blue blouse and midnight skirt was something Kayleigh had seen around town. “You’re from Darkwood?”
“Ah, yeah,” said Jessica. “I was to lazy to actually change after class, but at least I ditched the tie and jacket.”
“Oh, no worries,” Kayleigh said, waving it off. “I get it, I get it. It’s just that you people usually keep to yourselves. I mean, I’ve lived here my entire life and this is the first I’ve ever talked to one of you.”
“Well,” said Jessica, coming in close to whisper into Kayleigh’s ear, “The truth is, we don’t talk to each other that much, either. The hallways between class almost sound like a library.”
“Really?” said Kayleigh. “That sounds really creepy. And lonely.” This is awkward, I need to get moving. “Well, I should be looking for my friends, but if you want someone to talk to, I guess we could walk together.”
“Really? Thank you.” With that, the girls wandered out into the crowd. They walked through the mall, reaching the area just behind the food court, seeing the fountain in the middle of it,with a large triangular rock in the middle of the basin. As people, teenagers and families, swirled about them, Jessica turned to Kayleigh and asked, “You’re a student at the public school, then?”
“Yeah, what about it?.”
“Tell me about it.” Jessica dodged around a passing knot of people. “I’ve already told you something weird about my school.”
“It’s a school,” said Kayleigh. “There isn’t anything weird or interesting about it. You ever been to a public school?” True, the girls family was obviously loaded, what with the private school tuition and all, but it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
“Up until last year, actually,” said the pale girl, “but that was middle school, so that’s an entirely different world, yeah?”
“Oh, so you’re a freshman, too. There’s something we have in common.” Kayleigh paused for a moment. “Why’d you’re parents send you to boarding school, anyway?”
Jessica glanced away. “Public school, just, wasn’t working out for me. I don’t really want to talk about it, but it’s not like it wasn’t my choice.”
“And all the more fool of you for it.” These words came from somewhere to the side. A girl manning one of the food court’s counters, with strange, color-shifting eyes and short blonde hair under her hat spoke them. She was drawing something in a notebook in front of her, black and red sleeves covering her arms.
“Uh, what?” said Jessica.
“Oh, nothing much, Surfacer,” said the blonde, “just that you made a horrible decision to come to a dumping ground like ours.”
Jessica’s eyes tightened, and she said with a polite smile, “I thank you for your advice, but I think I can judge my decisions for myself.”
The blonde leaned back and admired her work. “If you get to close to a picture, you can’t see all of the details, you know?” she said. For the first time she actually looked at Jessica, with eyes that were enjoying her suffering. “You might want to ask someone farther away. Your roommate, perhaps?”
Jessica’s eyes widened, and she turned and left. Kayleigh ran after her. “Hey, hey! Who was that girl, and what was that about your roommate?”
Jessica ran through a beam of sunlight, and winced. “I don’t know who she is,” the girl said, turning back toward Kayleigh. “I’ve seen her around school, but this is the first time I’ve ever talked to her.”
“So she’s shitting on you for no reason? I guess your school’s more normal than it seems.”
“Guess so. But, my roommate? I don’t like how that girl talked about her.”
“And I want to find her- huh?” A beam of light was shining is Jessica’s eyes. Both Jessica and Kayleigh turned to look at the source, and they saw the blonde girl holding up her notebook, showing a picture. And then the world disappeared.
It was replaced by an empty version of the mall, save for Kayleigh, Jessica, and the blonde girl. “Ah, so I got the normal girl, too? Oh well,” said the blonde.
Kayleigh stepped forward, and shouted, “Hey, who the hell are you, and where did everybody go?”
“Ah, how rude of me.” The blonde made this awful, condescending bow. “Angelica, at your service. And everybody else is should be right were they were, considering that I didn’t invite them into my domain, like I did you.”
“Okay, so Angelica,” said Jessica, jumping out in front of her companion, “You’ve, ah, you’ve got me over the barrel here, so to speak. I’m not sure what you’ve got in mind, now, but maybe you could start with what happened to Emily?”
“You mean your roommate?” Angelica asked. “Well, she should be around here somewhere, and for what I want you to do, oh, give it a few minutes here.”
“Don’t fuck with me!” screamed Jessica, lunging the blonde. Angelica moved out of the way, seemingly unconcerned with the damage she had taken. “Ah, ah, ah,” Angelica said. “If you hurt me to much, you might not be able to leave, you know?”
Kayleigh stared. Angelica noticed, and said, “What’s gotten into you- ah, crap.” Angelica had followed Kayleigh’s gaze, and finally noticed that her arm was no longer attached to her body. Looking around, she found the arm some distance away from her, and she calmly walked over and shoved it back onto her bloodless stump.
“Why are you doing this?” asked Jessica.
“I guess you just caught me in a bad mood,” said Angelica, “something cutting off my arm didn’t help with.”
Jessica scowled. “You think your in a bad mood now? Well, it’s going to get worse now that I know to avoid your limbs.”
Kayleigh wasn’t sure what happened next. She felt like Angelica had reached out to grab her from ten feet away, and then she was flying through the air and crashing into a store window. She didn’t feel pain, she didn’t feel much of anything. She was looking at her shoulder, and saw that shards of glass was poking through it. Red blood was going to stain her jacket, and she realized that her concussion was messing with her mind, and Jessica had come over to her, and there was the taste of blood in her mouth…
Suddenly, feeling returned to Kayleigh’s body. Starting at the base of her head and and running through out her body, it was accompanied by the world exploding into a riot of color, blacks and reds and yellows, with a magenta haze surrounding Jessica.
Then, the pain stopped. And the colors stopped, and Jessica checked Kayleigh’s eyes. “Are you alright? You’re not going to flip out and attack anyone, are you? No craving for more blood?”
Kayleigh was entranced by the sparkles in Jessica’s pupils. “You’re…really pretty.”
“Oh, um, thank you,” said Jessica. “Do you feel good enough to try moving around? I honestly have no idea what effect my blood will have on you.”
Kayleigh tried to sit up, and then to stand up. That done, she tried to do some stretches, only slightly bothered by the damage on her jacket’s shoulder. “So, uh, that was your blood I tasted?”
“Uh, yeah, blood’s potent stuff, especially my blood, of course yours smells absolutely delicious…”
Both stopped as they realized what Jessica had just said. “Are, are you a vampire?” asked Kayleigh.
Jessica smiled, showing of unusually long eyeteeth that she didn’t have a minute ago. “I’m…Occulted. That what we usually call ourselves, anyway. Look, all you really need to know is that magic exists, and the people that can use it tend to resemble monsters from pop culture and folklore.”
“Seriously? That’s awesome. I’m going to…” Kayleigh’s eyes widened as she realized something very important. “I’m not going to tell anyone about this. Why am I not going to tell anyone about this?”
Jessica shrugged. “That’s just the way magic is. It’s a secret, and even people that don’t know about it are keeping it.”
Jessica turned back to the middle of the empty mall. “Anyways, we need to– OW!” Jessica stumbled backward, into Kayleigh. An angry red stripe, like a sunburn, crossed her face. “Sunnava bitch. That felt like the sun.”
Kayleigh looked around Jessica, and saw nothing of note. “What was it?”
Jessica looked over her shoulder. “It was that giant bird. Can’t you see it?”
“No, all I see is the fountain. Maybe it’s some magic thing that normal people can’t see?”
Jessica drew her eyebrows together. “Well, maybe? I mean, the only thing I know of that works like that is aura, but I guess that there could be other things…”
“Uh, Jessie?” said Kayleigh, “aren’t you supposed to be the one that knows about these things?”
The black haired girl grimaced. “So I’m still learning. But, if somebody actually caused this, that should mean that they understand the rules behind it. All we have to do is figure them out.”
“So, how do we do that?”
“My roommates probably near the core of all of this. Look for something that’s out of place, or at least different from the real world.”
“You mean like how that rock in the middle of the fountain is smooth now?”
Jessica stopped to look at the rock. Apparently, the difference wasn’t as obvious to someone that had seen that rock for years.
“Yeah, that probably important. We should probably go over there and– OH SHIT!”
Jessica was picked up and carried off by an invisible force. Kayleigh watched as she was picked up and thrown to another part of the mall. Realizing that there wasn’t much she could do for the vampire, Kayleigh ran to the fountain with the smooth rock. As she waded into the knee deep water, she looked down, and saw someone chained their.
That person had black hair and patchy, multicolored skin. There were tubes going up her nose, and needles stuck in her arms. She grabbed a hold of Kayleigh, and barely pulling herself above the surface of the water, uttered, “Break…the…center.”
Before anything else could be said, Kayleigh felt herself being pulled away by something. That thing didn’t hold her for long, letting her go and dropping her to the floor. She managed to roll, avoiding most of the pain, and only righted herself to see Jessica brandishing a counter like a weapon.
It seemed to be helping. She seemed to be knocking away whatever it was that was attacking her, but when Kayleigh tried to go to her, she felt herself being pushed back by an invisible something. She felt like it was something that needed to chase her to grab her, somehow. It was a long shot, but that jacket was ruined anyway, so she took it off, revealing her bare shoulders, and threw it into the whatever’s range. It worked, Kayleigh got much farther this time, close enough that she could try to calling out to Jessica.
“THE STONE! BREAK THAT SMOOTH STONE!”
Jessica heard her. The counter sailed through the air, crashing into the rock and breaking it to pieces. Suddenly, Kayleigh was surrounded by people. The world had returned to normal, and it was like Kayleigh hadn’t just been sucked into a parallel where she had almost died.
“Yo, Kay!” cried Milly. She and Ziggy were running up to her, while Linda looked over at something, worried. “Where’d you go?”
“Ah,” said Kayleigh, “just lost in my own thoughts.” Kayleigh would be amazed if they bought it. But she was more concerned with that magic existing, and the fact that she wasn’t going to tell anyone about it.
Barely finished this one in time. It already needs to be rewritten, but that’s what happens when I deal with character’s that haven’t fermented in my brain for years. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do for next week, but I think I’m going to need a lot of thought for this.