When I heard the knocking on my front door early on a Saturday morning, I flicked up the blinds and peered outside. There was a black sedan parked at the curb and across the street, both of Roz’s moms were looking on anxiously. Liz was crying and Cathy seemed to be consoling her.
I left my room and hung out at the top of stairs where I heard the two men that my mom had just invited in ask after Rosalind’s deadname. These guys didn’t look or sound like regular cops. Rosalind’s voice came up the stairwell after a few moments. And it didn’t take long to realize that the hammer had finally come down. The Bureau of Magical Investigation and Eradication was in my living room.
After a few moments of conversation, most of which I didn’t hear; I began to feel a tugging at me from downstairs. I could only guess that Rosalind was being administered the Test. I left my perch on the stairwell and went into my room, closing the door behind me. Something in me really wanted to fire off a bolt of electricity, mostly at the cops; but also because of the pull of whatever it was they were doing down there.
Now that I was convinced that things were finally coming to a head, I grabbed the go bag I had packed a couple weeks prior. When I opened the door again, the pull from before was gone but my ears pricked at the sound of my own name. A few things happened very quickly. First was the wail of utter despair coming from my mom, then a scuffling.
I ran down the stairs. People can be expected to behave rationally sometimes even under extreme circumstances, but seeing the agent restrain my mom was not one of those times for me. I moved so that my power would be in range of both men, my hands up as though I was surrendering myself.
Ever since I’d become empowered, I had focused not on huge lightning bolts or anything like that. I couldn’t really. There was too much to lose if anyone saw it and my range didn’t extend much beyond ten feet around me anyway. So, I had worked on finer and finer uses of my power. It wasn’t long after figuring out how to modulate a charge with a light enough touch to power electronics that I began to notice currents in places other than wall outlets and batteries.
The nervous system for example is one such, home to a small but not completely insignificant source of electricity. I had largely ignored it because the amount of charge I could get from it was so negligible.
When I saw that man’s arms around my flailing mother, and the other guy pointing a gun at my best friend I grabbed at the electricity currently occupied with the maintenance of their circulatory systems. Then I pulled that tiny charge out of their beating hearts. And both agents collapsed. I would like to think that this action was not premeditated, that in the heat of the moment; I acted out of self-defense of my loved ones. But I pushed away the implications of what I had just done and tried not to concern myself overmuch with the lifeless bodies on the floor.
“What did you do to those men? Where’s Teddy?” mom yelled at Rosalind.
Roz looked completely dumbstruck. “I don’t know. I can’t…” When she trailed off, she bent down and put two fingers to the neck of the agent nearest her.
Mom reached down to the other agent on the floor and took his gun, pointing it at Rosalind. “You are going to tell me what the hell is going on!”
“Mom, that’s Teddy. Put the gun down.” I put both of my hands out in a calming gesture.
“That is some strange girl, what are you talking about, Javi?”
“Can you do the thing? Just show her.” I asked Rosalind, who merely nodded before slowly beginning to reshape the features on her face.
“Magic! You brought magic into my house!” Mom was now screaming at Rosalind. If anything, I think the show was only making things worse. I knew that I could stop my mom if I wanted, but it was risky. I didn’t have a ton of experience with messing with the electricity in the human body. But when I saw her lip begin to tremble, I knew from experience that she had set herself on a course that left me no other choice. I stopped the electricity in her body from sending signals to and from her arm. She dropped the gun immediately and that arm hung limply at her side.
I reached down and grabbed the gun, placing it in my go bag. I gestured to Rosalind to grab the other agent’s gun. “Mom, I need you to calm down. We don’t have a lot of time now. Ros… Teddy and I have to go. There will probably be more of these guys.” I used my magic then, hoping that I was allowing her nervous system to return to working order in her arm.
“Javi, what do you mean? You don’t have to leave because of this person. We’ll just tell them that she… they forced you to help them.”
“Mom, I have magic too. I just made your arm stop working. That’s why you dropped the gun.”
“You did what?” Rosalind and my mom seemed to echo.
I explained to Rosalind “The electricity stuff works on the human body too. I hadn’t really wanted to risk testing it on anyone though, so I didn’t know for sure.”
“How could you be so stupid? I thought I raised you better than that.” Mom began to swat at me. “You put yourself at risk, you put me and your dad and your sister at risk, and for what? So that you can be a murderer. Look at this, Javi! I have dead police on my living room floor!” After this tirade she seemed to wear herself out. She sat down and all but deflated in her chair.
“I guess you have to leave now, and I’ll never see you again, and the cops will probably put me in jail because of your thoughtless actions. So go.” And she shooed me away with a gesture.
Rosalind grabbed the IDs of the two officers and a little case with some kind of tripod thing in it and waited for me at the door. “Mom, I’m sorry. I didn’t think this would happen. I don’t know how they even found out; we were so careful.” She didn’t have much to say to that, so I bent down and hugged her. “I love you, mom.”
She looked up at me then and reached down below the end table where she kept her purse. She pulled out a small wad of bills. “I love you too, baby. Even if you are a fucking idiot. Now, you go and you figure this out. You make it right. That goes for you too, Teddy.”
Rosalind still looked only half done. She’d partially transformed back into her old shape, but had stopped when my mom dropped the gun. “I’m sorry Ms. Perez” she said.
“I see you soon, Mom.” I told my mom even though I knew it to almost certainly be a lie. Rosalind and I walked out the front door where we both noticed the Cole mothers waiting in the street.
“Did you do this?” Rosalind was yelling at her mom’s and pointing the gun she’d taken off the agent at them.
“It was for your own good… Teddy? What is wrong with your face?” Cathy asked, having just noticed the half-formed version of her kid as she approached her.
“How was it for my own good? Two men are dead because of you! Was your little vendetta worth that?” Roz was yelling now, and I could see blinds and curtains opening in the houses of neighbors on either side of the street.
“Dead? What? They were just supposed to scare you. Are you actually a witch?” Cathy seemed to have not seriously considered this possibility.
“What were we supposed to do? You can’t just leave us!” Liz now pleaded with Rosalind “We thought we’d just call in to the hotline and then Benny and Xochi would kick you out for bringing authorities into their house.”
“Well, now I have to leave and so does Javi. You’ve ruined our lives!” I didn’t know if I should try to stop Rosalind from shooting her moms or not. She’d probably regret it in the long run, but I wasn’t fully convinced that she was going to do it.
“Where are you going to go? You have to turn yourself in.” Liz didn’t seem to fully grasp the weight of what was going on here.
I noticed Cathy look Rosalind over and while Roz had changed her face back to some degree, she hadn’t gotten anything below that. Cathy was fixated on her chest and looking angrier by the second.
“Take these fucking things off, you pervert.” Cathy rushed Roz and grabbed for her chest. Rosalind, to her credit didn’t shoot her but pushed her away. Undeterred, she came back again, seemingly having lost all reason. Cathy scratched Rosalind’s arms that she had held up in self-defense and that’s when I couldn’t deal with it anymore and got close enough to use my powers. I cut off the signals to both of her arms and they fell limp at her side.
“What have you done to me?” she screamed.
Liz held her wife and seemed to be shooing away Rosalind. “Just fucking leave then. We’re done with you. You’re no son of ours!” She said without realizing the full truth of the statement.
Rosalind seemed as angry as I’d ever seen her. I could tell that she wanted to retaliate, but doing so would prove in their minds that they had been right all along. With fists clenched, Rosalind turned on her heels and stalked off. I allowed Cathy the use of her arms again and headed off with Roz to find her truck.
We piled into the cab of the truck and I could already hear sirens in the distance. “Roz we gotta go. We have to get Vera.” I told her and after taking a second to compose herself, she nodded and started the truck. I noticed that she changed back to her girl form completely as we drove in silence. I saw scratch marks on her arms where Cathy had torn at her. I couldn’t believe things had fallen apart so quickly. It had been less than an hour ago when I had thought I was waking up to another boring day and now I’d murdered two people and was on the run.
“Javi, snap out of it. Call Vera. She needs to be ready when I get there.” Rosalind said.
“Right” I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed Vera, praying for her to pick up. When she did, I started in immediately “Roz’s moms called the cops on us for magic, we’re totally burned. You need to get everything you need and get ready. We’ll be at your house in a few minutes to get you.”
“Get me? What?” Vera sounded like she was still half-asleep herself.
“We have to leave now. Get your things.” I ended the call and with only a moment’s hesitation, opened the passenger side window and threw my phone out of it. “Where’s your phone?” I asked Roz
“I left it at your house.” After a few more minutes of silence while Roz and I stewed in thoughts about our predicament, we arrived at the Brooks household and Vera came running out to the truck, a backpack around a shoulder and a rolling suitcase behind her as though we were picking her up for a vacation.
“Pack enough crap?” I asked
“I have Rosalind’s stuff in here too, chill. How did you two get busted?” Vera asked tossing the luggage into the back of Roz’s truck. She seemed almost nonchalant about the whole thing.
“Roz’s moms. They wanted to scare her straight.”
“As if.” Vera said with a smirk and then climbed into the cab squishing me between her and Rosalind. Once she was settled in, she asked “So, where are we going?”
“We’re going to the park.” Rosalind stated like it was the most obvious solution in the world.
“Why would we do that?” I asked.
“Because we can’t keep the truck, it’s too easy to trace. And we need to change some things. Vera, you don’t still have your phone, do you?”
“Duh, of course not. Left it at home.”
We came to a stop in the lot for Reid Park. “Vera, I need you to possess someone and get their car keys. Try to find someone that you won’t mind looking like for a while, but don’t take too long. Get their ID too.”
Vera for all her cool demeanor seemed to balk at this. “What? We’re stealing a car and committing identity theft?!”
“Yes, we are dead if we are caught and I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. We can make it if we’re smart, our abilities are actually very useful for this kind of thing, but we can’t be afraid to use them.” Rosalind looked between Vera and I, emphasizing just how important this was.
“What are you going to do while I’m stealing a car?” Vera asked.
“I’m taking Javi to the bathroom.” Rosalind piled out of the car and gestured for me to come with.
“Thank god, I’ve had to go since I woke up.”
Rosalind rolled her eyes at me. “You need to change. You can’t keep looking like that.” And then I understood what she was saying. I would need to look completely different. I hadn’t thought about that.
“Right, I’ll wait outside the bathroom then, and do my thing.” Vera said. The three of us made our way towards the public toilets and Roz dragged me inside.
“Okay, Javi. Which gender do you want? You don’t have to keep it. It’s just for today.”
“Being a lady seems kinda fun, I guess I wouldn’t mind that.” I said hesitantly.
“Alright, but I don’t have the time or the inclination to change umm… plumbing at the moment, but I can do the surface stuff.” She and I backed our way into a stall and someone else exited another stall looking back at us with wide eyes. We’d forgotten to check the stalls, so stupid.
As if giving truth to the stranger’s assumptions, Rosalind’s hands were suddenly all over me. An outside observer might think we were doing something pornographic but I could feel my flesh moving around, weight going from familiar places to new ones in much more drastic ways than the little alterations I’d had done before.
“There. How’s that?” Roz asked and moved aside so that I could inspect myself. It wasn’t bad. I didn’t look remotely the same and my tits were huge, but I didn’t seem as fat in the belly either. I gestured at the rack and looked at Roz confused.
“What? We’ll need every advantage we can get if we get pulled over or something. You don’t like them?”
“I don’t know. My clothes definitely don’t fit at all though, so that’s another problem.” I said, my voice still the deep, sonorous timbre that I was accustomed to.
When we exited the bathroom, we saw a jogger handing Vera her keys. The park was full of people jogging the scenic trail this time of day. While this transaction was taking place between Vera’s shadow-possessed body and her true one, Roz said to me “We’ll need to call you something else, so think up a different name.”
Vera’s victim ran off in the direction she’d come after she left her keys. Vera herself said “Give me a minute. I have to get her back to where she was so she won’t suspect anything until she gets to where she expects her car to be.”
Roz and I sat down on the park bench while we waited. “My voice kinda sucks. Can you fix that too?”
“I don’t know. Let me try.” She placed a hand on my throat and seemed to be thinking hard. “How about that?”
“Okay, hmm… I don’t think this will work.” I said sounding inhumanly shrill. I don’t think any person alive or dead had ever spoken with such a high voice. You could barely make out the words as I said them.
“Whoa. That was interesting. I’ll try again.”
“Did you get it right this time?” My voice was a little deep now, but enough in the feminine range that it wouldn’t seem out of place coming out of this body.
“Okay, you ready, Rosalind?” And Roz got up and left with Vera to go to the bathroom.
I hadn’t had a second yet to myself since this whole thing had started, and it was odd to be left to my own thoughts while seated on a bright early spring day in the park. And doing so while in the body of a lady who also appeared to be a few years older than me. I knew when we started this whole thing with the shard that there was always a chance that we’d end up on the run, but I never took it seriously. I just thought it would be like a secret I’d carry throughout my life, sharing it only with my wife and maybe my children, and now the likelihood that I’ve have any of those was drastically reduced.
How were we supposed to continue after this? Even if we managed to skirt the law for a time, we’d always have to sleep with one eye open. I’d never get to spend another Christmas with my family. I’d probably not go to college. With the weight of all this bearing down on me, I quietly let myself weep on that sunny park bench until Roz and Vera came back out of the bathroom.