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Dude how long does it take 2 put a pair of shorts on? put ur makeup down and get ur *ss out here lol😂💅
sry slept thru my alarm. b down in a sec. 4 the record im not putting on makeup😒
Mara arrived outside of Smith House, the junior boys dorm, where she texted her best friend, Drew Jackson. Every day, at 7am sharp, the two would go for a morning jog to start their day. They’d been doing it since freshman year. Mara was always early. She couldn’t wait to get out of Anderson House, the junior girls dorm. The hallways were pungent with Victoria’s Secret perfume, and not the good kind. Her room was hot and sticky from the overpowering heater that wakes her up at 3am every morning with it’s earth shattering cries. Drew soon emerged, wearing the same thing as always: Gray adidas shorts with a long sleeve school lacrosse shirt.
“K, let’s go.” Mara motioned for them to start running. As they ran, Mara felt the cold wind slice across her face. She liked that feeling. Her wet hair was becoming bitter in the cold. Drew started breathing heavily, but Mara never ran out of steam. She’d been running cross country and track since sixth grade. As they jogged by the woods, Drew noticed something strange. He stopped, and backed up.
“You tired already?” Mara mocked.
“Ha ha. I mean, yeah. But I saw something. Look.” Mara backed up to where Drew was.
“What the h*ll?”
“What is that?” In the woods, there was a stone wall circled by dead vines. A large black ring was set in the middle of the wall. In the ring was a glowing purple swarm of light. It appeared to be a portal.
“If I wanted to go to Hogwarts, I would’ve applied. I didn’t apply.” Mara remarked.
“Yeah, like you would have gotten in, you filthy mudblood.” Drew mocked. Mara stepped towards the portal, examining it. Drew pulled her back.
“What the h*ll are you doing? You don’t know what that is!”
“You think I’ve never seen a sci-fi before? This is a portal, Drew. A pooorrrtaaalll.” Drew closed his eyes.
“I know I slept through my alarm, but are you sure I actually woke up?” Suddenly, a figure appeared in the portal, and manifested outside. It was a woman. She was pale, with a blonde pixie cut. She appeared to be in her late twenties or early thirties. She wore flowy pants with psychedelic patterns, paired with a really ugly red sweater. On the sweater was a small name tag reading 117. She had insanely large thin-rimmed glasses. Her eyes were the same deep blue as Drew’s. Actually, she looked a lot like Drew. The kids stepped back in alarm.
“Aunt Jess?” Drew’s eyes widened to the size of golf balls. The woman smiled and walked over to Drew.
“Hey, kiddo! What’s poppin?”
“Wha-did you just-holy f*cking jesus chri-”
“Woah, woah. Calm down. I know this is a lot to take in right now.” Mara’s mouth hung open.
“A lot to take in? What the f*ck just happened?!” Aunt Jess pouted her lips to the side.
“Oh my god, Drew! Is this your girlfriend? She’s so pretty! Oh, honey, Drew has told me all about you.” Drew looked confused.
“Uh, she’s not my girlfriend, and no I haven’t.”
“Oh, I know, but saying that makes me feel better about your father keeping me away from you for all these years because he thought I was insane, which is kind of true, but that’s only because I’m not allowed to tell anyone about what I do. Not like anyone would believe me, either.” Mara was confused.
“I’m sorry, explain?”
“You should sit down.” She motioned for the kids to sit on the cold ground.
“Okay. Where to begin? Hi, I’m Jessica Jackson. This kid here is my nephew because his mom was my big sister.” Mara slapped her face.
“The portal, Jess. What about the frickin portal?” Jess raised her eyebrows.
“Yes! The portal! Okay, so that,” she motioned to the purple swirl, “is a portal. It takes you to parallel universes. I actually just came from-”
“PARALLEL UNIVERSES?!” Mara and Drew yelled simultaneously.
“Well, yes. That is what I said. Anyway, let me cut to the chase. I need to steal you two for a bit so you can fix the outcomes of these other universes and ultimately save the future. Good? Good. Let’s go.” Jess stood up and walked over to the portal, but paused when she realized that the kids hadn’t moved. Drew spoke first.
“You expect us to just follow you into a mysterious glowing ‘portal’ and go to other universes? Man, I knew you were a little crazy but this sh*t’s WHACK.” Jess looked surprised.
“What? C’mon, you guys are teenagers. You’re always running off and doing stupid things that you don’t know the outcome of!”
“This isn’t the nineties, Jess.” Mara remarked. Jess looked offended.
“Actually, not-Drew’s-girlfriend, I was a teen in the early 2000s. So, yeah. Y’know, Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton-” Drew looked like he was about to pee his pants.
“Uh, guys. That’s not really important right now! We still don’t know what the h*ll we’re doing!”
“I feel VERY violated right now! You did NOT have my consent to do that!” Mara screamed.
“Oh, calm your panties. I’m not a child predator, I’m an aunt.” Soon, the swirling stopped and the three of them were thrown onto a soft patch of grass. Drew moaned.
“Ugh, where are we?” Jess smiled.
“We, my friends, are at our first destination.” Mara looked at Jess with horror.
“Wh-wh-why do you look like that? Who are you?” Jess laughed.
“Calm down, this is a parallel universe, is it not? This is what we Parallelers like to call, The Genderbend Universe. Sounds fun, right?” Drew looked down at himself in shock.
“I have boobs. Guys, look. I have boobs.” He pointed to his now very round chest.
“I don’t.” Mara remarked.
“Aw, I think you two look great. Now, remember. You aren’t yourselves here. Well, you are, but different. Drew, your name is Violet. Mara, you’re Charlie.” Mara smirked.
“Where’s the Chocolate Factory?” Drew laughed.
“Yeah, are you Willy Wonka?” Jess frowned.
“Um, no. M-my name is Paul.”
“Oh.” Mara and Drew exchanged a disappointed glance.
“Well, come on! We don’t have much time.” Jess hurried them along.
“To do what?” Asked Drew, AKA Violet. Jess looked annoyed.
“To save the universe, of course!”
“Now, let me give you some background. Violet is the ‘main character’ of this universe. Her parents are super strict, and they expect nothing less from her than Harvard University. Little do they know that while Violet gets decent grades, she’s actually a rebel and is not at all fit for Harvard. Charlie is Violet’s twin brother. He’s kind of a nerd. But he’s really nice and cares a lot about his sister. His job is to help Violet bring her grades and act up so she can get into Harvard. Got it?”
“Uh, no. But let’s do this!” Mara was pretty excited. She has always wanted to go on some crazy adventure. This wasn’t exactly what she had in mind, but hey. An adventure is an adventure, right? Jess took the kids to their new house. They were welcomed by a man that looked like Mara’s cousin, and a woman that looked like Drew’s godmother. The parents were delighted to see Mara, but didn’t pay much attention to Drew. As they sat down to dinner, the parents only talked to Mara. It was as if Drew didn’t even exist. Drew felt terrible for whoever Violet really was. She must have a really sucky life. After dinner, the kids went upstairs to their shared bedroom. They stared at the ceiling in silence.
“This is so crazy, Drew.” Mara was first to break the silence. Drew didn’t respond. Mara looked over at him.
“Don’t you think it’s weird that we didn’t have a choice to do this? It’s like destiny.” Mara was atheist, but she believed in the universe and fate. She continued.
“It is weird, but it’s exciting too. Our lives have been so boring until now. I mean, we’re not super popular or anything, so we’re not going to crazy parties every night. But even if we were, I think this would be more exciting.”
“It’s exciting now, but what if we fail? What if Violet doesn’t get into Harvard? It’ll throw off the past, present, and future of all universes!” Drew was nervous.
“We won’t fail. It’ll be okay. Just get some sleep, okay? We’ll start studying in the morning.” Mara assured.
Violet woke before her alarm. She got up early because she took pride in the way she looked. Her alternative makeup and style took time to prepare. Turning on her favorite song, All Die Young by Smith Western, she opened her closet. She likes to listen to music as she got ready because it made her feel like she was in an early 2000s movie. she pulled out distressed black tights and a black miniskirt. On top, she wore a black and white striped turtleneck with a black AC/DC tee. As usual, she paired this outfit with white Doc Martens. Her twin brother, Charlie, woke up while she put on heavy eyeliner. Charlie didn’t take long to get ready, considering he had no sense of style, and wore pretty much the same thing everyday: tan khakis, light blue tee, red hoodie, adidas sneakers. As they went downstairs, Charlie grabbed a banana. Violet didn’t believe in breakfast. But she did believe in horoscopes, and the Scorpio horoscope of the day told her to watch out for a big event. She already knew what that event was: The SAT. Today would determine whether or not she is a disappointment to her family. Thankfully, her genius brother has helped her study for the past few weeks, but she was still nervous.
Everyone stared as she walked into the testing room. She was used to it. Her brother wished her good luck, then drove away. She took a deep breath of the stale air. It smelled of pencil shavings and alcohol wipes. She sat in the very back, but was then instructed to move to the front. Great. She loved the front. That’s exactly why she sat in the back. Once everyone arrived, the proctor went over instructions for about half an hour. Violet struggled to stay awake. The proctor then handed out thick booklets. The tests. She was instructed to begin.
Violet walked out of the testing site ten times as nervous as she was when she entered.
Drew went to the mailbox. There were two letters. He cautiously opened the first one:
Applicant: Violet Chang.
Test Date: 05/13/20
Testing Site: Niantic School
Internally screaming with excitement, he opened the second letter:
Miss Violet Chang,
Congratulations! We are very pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into Harvard University. We look forward to seeing you in the fall.
Director of Admissions
Suddenly, there was a loud ding. He did it. He got Violet into Harvard! They succeeded! They could go home now!
“Good job, guys! You did it! Not too shabby for a couple of newbies.” Jess brought the kids back to the portal entrance. Drew smiled.
“So we can go home now?” Jess’s face dropped.
“Um, not exactly.” Mara reacted now.
“I’m sorry, what?” Jess sighed.
“There are five more universes we need to fix.”
“FIVE?!” Drew and Mara said simultaneously.
“Yes, that is what I said. Next, we go to the past, then the Purge universe, then Medieval Times, then the Fantasy World, and finally, the future.” Mara lightened the situation.
“The past can’t be so bad. I mean, we’ve already lived through it, right?” Jess smiled.
“Yes, Mara. Very good. We ought to be going now, come on.” With that, they stepped back into the portal to fix their pasts.”
Mara touched her forehead.
“Oh, h*ll, no.”
“Drew, we’re in fifth grade. I have BANGS. And BRACES. And my shirt has a HORSE on it.” Drew grimaced.
“Yikes, I haven’t even hit puberty yet. I’m like 4’10.” Jess, however, looked great. Her blonde hair was long and wavy. She wore makeup, which was unusual. She had changed a lot in the past six years.
“Wait,” Drew started, “so what do we have to fix in our pasts?”
“Mara has to make up with her best friend, and Drew has to stand up for himself.” Mara held up her hands.
“No. Nope. Nada. Not gonna happen. Casey was, is, and always will be a b*tch. She always talked crap about me behind my back.” Mara was set on her decision. Drew was confused as well.
“How am I supposed to stand up for myself when I’m literally 58 inches tall, and I’m pretty sure Mikey Donovan started taking HGH when he was like eight.” Jess countered.
“That may be true, especially about the steroids, but remember, you have the intelligence of an eleventh grader, and you’re up against fifth graders. That’s a pretty big advantage. Now go get ‘em!” And with that, the kids hopped on the smelly, crowded school bus.
“Omigosh, hey Mar Mar! I love your shirt. That horse looks soooo um, cute!” Mara was already about to give up.
“Uh, thanks girl! Your skirt is super cute, too! Pink is totally your color!” Casey flipped her pin-straight blond hair.
“I know, right? You’ve probably never watched Mean Girls because it’s for older kids, but today is Wednesday, so, hahaha!”
“Oh, yeah, haha. Actually, I have watched Mean Girls. Who’s your favorite character?” Casey’s eyebrows went up.
“Oh, y’know, um, the main one, obvi.”
“Regina George? She’s so mean!”
“Oh, yeah! I know, I was just joking. So, anyway, um, did you hear? Cooper told Bea that he likes her! They’re going to sit together in the cafeteria tomorrow! Romantic, right?” Mara laughed internally.
“Oh, yeah. So romantic. I wish I could sit with my crush in the cafeteria.” Casey flipped out.
“YOU HAVE A CRUSH AND YOU DIDN’T TELL ME WHO IT IS?! How could you?” Mara stepped back.
“Sorry! I just realized that I liked him.”
“Well, who is it?” Mara looked around, trying to find a boy that she wouldn’t get made fun of for liking. She chose the boy that everyone liked, David Henderson. Mara never actually liked him, because she knew he was a jerk, but he was pretty cute, y’know, for an eleven year old.
“Don’t tell anyone, but I like David.” Casey laughed.
“David? Really? I don’t know if he’s really right for you.” Mara was kind of offended.
“Well, I mean he’s super popular and literally everyone likes him. I think you’d be good with, let’s see, um, oh! What about Liam?” Liam Zetler was actually really nice, but he never talked to anyone. He was super smart, and got made fun of for it. What Casey was trying to say is that Mara was too ugly and awkward for David, which was true, but you’d have to be a real b*tch to say that to your ‘best’ friend. Then, the bell rang. School was over.
“Mar Mar, you should come over after school! How about four?”
“Yeah, sure. Sounds great!” Mara left school that day feeling like she got nowhere. Why did she need to make up with Casey? Her life has been fine without her. But then she wondered if Casey’s life was affected by their breakup.
“You look happy.” Commented Drew as a beaming Cooper Wood strolled towards him.
“I told Bea that I like her, and she likes me back!” Bea Zetler was one of the prettiest girls in the grade. Her twin brother, Liam, didn’t really get the same genes. Not only was Bea pretty, but she was super sweet and smart, too. Every boy had a crush on her at some point, but it was rare for her to reciprocate the feelings. Cooper really got lucky.
“Nice, man!” Drew high-fived his friend.
“Thanks! I was kinda nervous, but I mean, c’mon, we’re in fifth grade, it’s not like we’re getting married, y’know?” Drew thought about that. Cooper was pretty smart. He understood that life doesn’t really start until high school. But Drew understood better, considering he was currently a seventeen year old in an eleven year old’s body. Then, Drew needed to get focused. He turned to go look for Mikey, but Cooper spoke.
“Hey, Drew. Now it’s your turn. You should tell Mara.”
Mara had nothing to do until four, so she decided to go to Casey’s house early. It was hard for her to forget how to get there, since it was the biggest house on the block. Each story of pristine white wood was adorned with Columbia blue shutters, and large windows. The cherry wood door had real brass handles and a small keystone arch above it. The backyard was full of lush, ornate gardens, consisting of cherry blossoms, towering sunflowers, peach trees, and basically every other flower and fruit you could imagine. A gazebo stood in the center of the gardens. It was a gorgeous estate. But everyone knew that Casey’s family hadn’t earned it. Casey’s father was a financial broker on Wall Street. Mara didn’t know this, but he would later be thrown in jail for tax fraud. Casey’s mother was a psychic. She told people fake futures for a high price. But that’s just the way the world works. Some people score big, and others don’t. Casey always told Mara not to knock, so she just walked in. What she saw broke her heart.
Drew’s stomach dropped. He had completely forgotten that he had a crush on Mara in elementary school. It was funny because they never really talked until seventh grade, when they later became best friends. Drew laughed.
“You know that’s not gonna happen.” As if on cue, Mikey Donovan strutted up behind Drew, his shadow turning the world dark. He cackled.
“Oooooooooh, someone’s in love. You want me to tell her for you? I’d be honored.”
“Shut up, Mikey.” Cooper talked back.
“It’s okay, Coop. I got this.” Cooper looked concerned, but backed away. Older Drew would have punched Mikey in the face, but in this body, Drew had to be smart.
“Hey, you good man?” Mikey laughed.
“Uh, yea. But I’m not so sure about you in five seconds.” Drew laughed because that made no sense.
“No, seriously. It’s none of my business, but is everything good at home? Your big brother beating you up or something?”
“Who do you think you are, my therapist? Shut up before I bruise your vocal chords.” Drew laughed again.
“One, that’s not possible. Two, I didn’t know you had a therapist.” Drew was onto something, and both boys knew it.
“I-I don’t. Shut up.” Mikey Crossed his arms. Drew put his hand on his shoulder, but Mikey shrugged it off.
“Hey, I know we’re not best friends, but you can talk to me, alright?” Suddenly, Mikey broke down crying.
Casey was sitting on the floor, frantically crawling away from her mother, who held a wooden spoon in her hand. Her mother, Michelle, was screaming.
“How DARE you watch that disgusting show? It is completely inappropriate, and I am disgusted with you! You are GROUNDED for a week!” And with that, Michelle whacked her daughter on the temple with the spoon. Casey cried out and clutched her ear. As soon as Michelle left the room, Mara ran into the living room and threw her arms around Casey, consoling her. Casey didn’t even care that Mara had startled her. She simply cried into her neck.
“Mara, I’m so sorry!”
“Casey, please! You don’t have to apologize for anything! It’s not your fault!”
“No, I’m sorry for being a brat to you! I thought that if I pretended I was better than you, then it would make me feel better, but it didn’t, and now you probably hate me!” Tears formed in Mara’s eyes.
“I don’t hate you! If anything, I love you even more now that you told me this.” Ding. Mara didn’t even hear the sound of her success, she was too busy helping her friend.
“My mom died when I was six. My dad couldn’t handle her loss so he left. My brother and I grew up in an orphanage. He took out his anger on me.” Drew felt really bad.
“My mom died too. During my birth. Never met her.” Mikey didn’t look at Drew.
“Nah, it’s alright.”
“You’re not as much of a p*ssy as I thought.”
“Uh, thanks I guess.” Ding. That was weird. Drew didn’t stand up for himself, he befriended the bully. If anything, he did the exact opposite of what he was supposed to do. But then again, he wasn’t going to argue. Everything started to fade, and the kids were back at the portal, greeted by a young, smiling Jess.
“I’m impressed. I thought it would take a lot longer. And you both made a new friend! Oh, how sweet!” Mara and Drew both smiled.
“Yea, we did.”
“Well, I’m glad you enjoyed that because the next universe won’t be as fun. We’re going to the Purge.”
“Watch out!” Mara jumped in front of Drew just in time to block a knife with her newly discovered brass gloves.”
“Ooh, nice one!” Jess clapped.
“ARE YOU KIDDING ME I ALMOST DIED!” Drew yelled.
“What’d you expect? I said we were going to the Purge.” Mara looked down at herself.
“Honestly, I’m not complaining. These fits lo-key slap.” Mara was right. The fits did slap. Mara wore chunky black boots with distressed tights and jean shorts. Her black shirt was sheer and showed her bra underneath. She also had a leather jacket and a black beanie with a mulberry gaiter. On her chest was a black skull tattoo. She looked like a bad*ss and wasn’t complaining. Drew also looked pretty cool. He had a green camo hoodie with a black jean jacket. His gray jeans were studded with chains and patches. Jess, however, looked the most prepared. Her leggings had straps filled with knives, and her jacket had more weapons strapped to it. Before they could admire their outfits any longer, a bullet whizzed past Mara’s ear, grazing her hair.
“We’ve got to go,” Jess said instinctively. As they ran, Drew asked what they needed to do for this universe. Jess smirked.
“Kill all the killers.”
Jess was gone. The kids were alone, in the middle of a bloody anarchy. What they saw in front of them was worse than any horror movie the two had ever seen. Drew doubled over, trying not to puke. Mara, however, had a stronger stomach and leaned down to inspect the body, hoping to find a clue as to where the killer went, so they could get a head start on their many executions. A knife stuck out of one eye, which was rimmed with fresh blood. The head seemed to be connected to the body only by muscle and skin, if that. As Mara inspected further, she found the killing wound. The woman’s shirt was saturated with blood. Lifting it up, Mara saw a gash the size of a softball. Now it was her turn to vomit. She stood up, her head light. Closing her eyes, she removed the bloody knife from the woman’s eye. There was a gross sloshing sound. Mara wiped off the blood with the woman’s shirt, then stuck the knife in her belt. She didn’t even remove her hand from the holder when she felt hot, stale breath on her neck, sending shivers down her spine. Without turning around, she closed her eyes and shoved the knife behind her. There was a grunt, then a thud. She slowly turned around to see that she had impaled a teenage boy in the shoulder. He had blood all over him, signaling that he had already killed. Feeling like he hadn’t done anything useful, Drew stepped in and kicked the boy’s jaw upwards, his bones snapping like twigs. His head rolled to the side. He was dead. They killed a killer. Mara and Drew looked at each other, their eyes doubled in size.
“Well, that. Happened.” Drew sighed.
“It sure did,” Mara replied.
“God, I need some water.” Drew rubbed his eyes, trying to unsee what had just happened.
“Maybe there’s a store nearby.” The kids walked around the empty streets, looking for a store. They soon found a raided drugstore. Drew scanned the aisles for water. When he found some, he opened the cap and guzzled the whole bottle. Wiping his mouth with his sleeve, he heard footsteps.
“Yea, I’m here.”
“Oh, good. I thought there was someone else-” BAM BAM! Two gunshots fired. Mara ran over to Drew and they ducked behind a shelf. BAM BAM BAM! Three more shots.
“Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t.” Drew breathed heavily. Mara held a finger to her lips, signaling for Drew to shut up. Mara reached into her back pocket and pulled out a shotgun.
“You had a gun this whole time? Why didn’t I get anything cool?” Drew was disappointed.
“Would you shut the f*ck up?”
“Sorry,” Drew whispered. Mara checked to see if the gun was loaded. It was. She pulled her gaiter over her mouth, and stood into a low squat.
“What are you doing?!” Drew whispered.
“What we have to.” Mara moved to the end of the shelf, silently poking her head out to the side. She saw four people. Unidentifiable. Two had guns, one had a knife, and the last one a broken wine bottle, covered in blood.
“Did you see them?”
“Yeah, we don’t stand a chance. And with that, Mara rushed out of the shelf and started shooting.
Mara had been ashamed of her gymnast/ballerina childhood, until now. Everything happened in slow motion. The trigger of the first guy’s gun clicked. Mara went into an aggressive backbend. She did a kick-over, her foot slamming into the face of someone behind her. While standing on her hands for a split second, she fired her gun, the bullet piercing a hole in the stomach of the knife guy. He doubled over, vomiting. One down, three to go. The guy she kicked in the face had a dislodged nose, but he still had a gun. She round-kicked the gun out of his hands, then kneed him in the crotch. While he was down, she took out her knife and slit his throat, blood spewing onto the dirty floor. Drew stayed behind the shelf, getting a front row seat to the action movie. There was still the guy with the bottle, and with the gun. The bottle guy came at Mara first, screaming and running at full speed. His mistake. Mara side-stepped at the last second and the guy slammed into the shelf, the items spilling off, hitting Drew in the head. Mara didn’t have to do anything, the impact against his head killed him. Now it was just her and the last guy with a gun. She had only lost her focus for a second when she looked up and didn’t see him. Her eyes went wide as she felt cold metal pressed against her temple. Sh*t.
Drew saw everything. He felt helpless. He had no idea how Mara was so good at this. He was a bit scared to know, though. After Mara saw the third guy run into the shelf, the fourth guy crept up behind her. He tried to call out to her, but found that he was unable to speak, his words choked back with fear and anguish. But Drew had an advantage. No one knew he was there. Drew’s outfit didn’t come with any weapons, but as he looked around the room, he had a memory. When he was nine, his dad taught him how to use a can opener. During the process, he remembered his dad telling him to be careful because the lid was sharp. About two feet in front of him was an open soup can, the lid hanging on by a thread. He grabbed it. Drew had to make a decision. If he did nothing, he would shoot her. If he attacked, he would shoot her. But if Drew killed the man, they would be closer to completing their tasks. He made his move. Drew jumped up from behind the shelf and sliced the lid through the neck of the man, blood gushing from the wound, splattering into Drew’s eyes. The man pulled the trigger. Mara grabbed the gun and ducked. But the bullet didn’t miss. Half of Mara’s ear was blown off. She collapsed and curled into a ball, shivering with trauma and fear.
Drew cradled Mara’s bloody head in his arms.
“Shhhhh, it’s okay, they’re gone.” Drew repeated these words until Mara stopped shaking. Tears ran down his cheeks, washing away the blood from his eyes. Just then, Jess burst through the door, and looked around.
“Wowzer! You guys are professionals! I don’t know if even I could’ve taken all these guys on by myself!” Drew ran over to Jess with a knife in his hand.
“HOW COULD YOU? How the h*ll could you take two kids and put them in this situation? You are a heartless, cold, insane woman and I am so glad my father hid me from you! You shouldn’t even be allowed near children. I don’t know who you are, but you ARE NOT related to me. Now get the f*ck out before I change my mind.” Jess stepped back, extremely offended.
“I SAID GET OUT!” Drew threw his knife at the door and it stuck in the wood. Jess ran out. Drew sat back down next to Mara, who sat up.
“Is there something you want to tell me?” Drew was angrily curious with Mara’s skills.
“What do you mean?” Mara asked groggily while rubbing her head. Drew scoffed.
“You just f*cking murdered three grown men. That’s what I mean.” Mara looked away.
“I-I was a gymnast and a ballerina?”
“Don’t play f*cking games with me, Mara.” Mara put her head down and sighed.
“My mom’s a detective. One day, she came home and I noticed blood on her shirt. She knew I would never let it go, so she explained to me what had happened. She killed someone to protect the lives of thousands more. After that, she started giving me self defense lessons. She said that as a woman in America, I needed to learn how to protect myself. That’s how I know what I know. I just didn’t think I would ever need to use those skills.” Drew looked at Mara in the eyes, which were filled with tears. After a few silent seconds, he aggressively grabbed her face and pressed his lips against hers, passionately kissing her, fear, anguish, and pure madness flowing out of every pore in his body.
Mara was startled at first, but accepted. Her body pushed up against his, her arms wrapped around his neck. When they finally parted, their foreheads pressed together, and they stayed like that for what seemed like forever. For those few minutes, they felt like they were completely alone and safe. There was no one outside trying to kill others, and there were no parallel universes. Just one. Theirs. A newfound strength surged through their bodies. Drew’s watch started beeping. He was given something useful. He looked at the watch. On it, were red dots on what appeared to be a map of the town. Killers. There were seven dots. Two were on Main Street, three were on Evans Avenue, one was on Cherry Drive, and the last one was on Graff Circle. Mara twirled her knife in his fingers, and stood up with Drew. Then, they were off, running towards their first destination.
Two on two. Moderately challenging. Mara tossed Drew her gun, since he didn’t have any weapons. A knife in each hand, she somersaulted and sliced like she was playing Fruit Ninja, except the fruits were heads and limbs. Before long, both killers were dead, Mara and Drew left without a scratch. They did the same with the next three on Evans, then the one on Cherry. Finally, they got to Graff Circle, where the last killer was. He was nowhere to be seen. Drew checked his watch. Sure enough, there was a large red dot a few millimeters from where they were standing. It got closer. And closer. Then, Drew felt a sickly warm, wet pressure near his ribs. He could feel a cool breeze in that area. His stomach started to feel ticklish, as if a spider was crawling down. His mind became foggy, his eyes clouded. He vaguely saw Mara attacking the man, then saw him arch backwards and fall to the ground, his screams gurgled and choked with the blood clogging his windpipe. Ding. Then, everything went black and Drew collapsed. The last thing he saw was Mara running towards him.
“Come on, come on, no, come on, man. F*ck. Come on, DJ. Don’t leave me hanging.” Mara laughed nervously as she dabbed Drew’s wound with her shirt. It kept bleeding. She sighed.
“I’m going to have to do something. It’s gonna hurt like absolute h*ll.” Mara walked away, and came back with a stick and a lighter. She took out one of her knives and cleaned it. She placed the stick in Drew’s mouth.
“Bite down. Hard.” He did as he was told, not knowing what she was about to do, until she started heating the knife with the lighter. He backed away, But Mara grabbed his hand, reassuring him. Mara lifted Drew’s shirt delicately, trying to pull the fabric off the sticky wound. She tied a flannel sleeve around his head and pulled it over her eyes so he couldn’t see. Drew smirked.
“Kinky.” Drew laughed painfully. Mara blushed, but her smile quickly faded.
“One, two, three.” Mara pushed the flat side of the knife onto the wound. Drew cried out immediately. His scream was so painful it brought tears to Mara’s eyes. She wiped them away and pressed the knife down again, cauterizing the wound. Drew yelled again.
“Please, stop!” Drew screamed. Mara choked back tears.
“I’m sorry, it’s almost done.” Drew grimaced. Mara pressed the knife down one final time, leaving it there. Drew’s flesh sizzled audibly, Mara looked away. She threw the knife, and hugged Drew.
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered in his ear. He responded by gently grabbing her hand and stroking her thumb with his. Then, Jess appeared.
“I know you don’t want to talk to me, so let’s just go. Jess and Mara carried Drew to the portal, and they stepped in.
For the first time, the three travelers were not together when they arrived in the Medieval Universe. Their tasks must have been kick-started and placed them where they needed to be. Mara appeared in a beautiful large room that smelled of fresh oak and lavender. There was a Victorian style canopy bed with intricate carved designs in the oak wood. The spread was a lovely cornflower blue, with soft, fluffy white pillows that looked like clouds. The draped canopy was sheer, and the light from the large window filtered through it, creating diamond designs that danced on the sheets. The ends of the canopy were tied to the bed posts with thick gold rope with flouncy tassels on the ends. A tall, oak wood dresser stood on curved feet next to the bed. Then there was the wardrobe, which was a separate room entirely. Mara walked in slowly, trying to take it all in at once. There were at least fifty gowns. Each one more detailed and beautiful than the last. They were a gorgeous assortment of pastel and jewel tones. Each dress was so thick and heavy, they required two hangers each. On a long shelf was dozens of glittering tiaras. Rows of silver and gold, each tiara contained sparkling jewels. Emeralds, rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and ambers. The shoes were almost as ornate as the tiaras, each crystal base containing treasures worth more than the human body. Outside the wardrobe, there was a french white vanity desk, with an ornate mirror that had depictions of nativity scenes. But what Mara saw in the mirror made the room look like a backyard shed. Princess Isabella. Her beauty was so radiant it should’ve been illegal. She resembled Mara in her skin tone and hair color. They had the same golden skin shade, rich caramel hair, and sharp grey eyes. Their face shape was also the same, but Isabella contained something else that made everyone fall madly in love with her at one glance. Mara couldn’t quite identify what it was, but she knew it was there. Half of her hair was pulled up with a satin blue ribbon, the rest cascading down in perfect tight curls. On top was a stunning silver crown, adorned with ambers and sapphires encrusted in small diamonds. Her dress was the same shade of blue as the hair ribbon. The sleeves were silky and weightless, with delicate lace cuffs. The low square neckline was extremely flattering, with the perfect amount of cleavage. Her cream white corset was tight, but somehow comfortable, like it was made specifically for her body, which it was. The skirt of the dress belted out the perfect amount. Layers or shiny blue fabric were folded and tied in semi-circle pleats, each fastened with a thin gold plated button. There was a knock on her door. It opened to reveal a girl that looked like Mara’s sister, Helene.
“Hey, Char, can you help me?” Mara heard a voice call. The girl responded.
“Just a sec, Eddie! I’m talking to Izzy!” Charlotte. That was the girl’s name. She assumed the boy, Eddie, was her brother. Charlotte sat down, uninvited, on Mara’s bed.
“So, are you excited?” Mara raised her eyebrow.
“Ugh, you’re so empty-headed. You’re wedding? With Soren?” Mara’s eyes went wide. This is gonna be a really weird universe.
“Um, yeah! Totally!” Charlotte looked confused.
“Tote-allie? Whatever does that mean? Ugh, of course. You must be picking up slang from hanging out with the sorceress’s dirty peasant son, James. I don’t know what ever you see in him, Soren is so much more handsome. And strong. And brave.” She went on about this Soren guy. James. That’s probably Drew. There was another knock on the door. It appeared to be a servant. She was carrying a large zippered bag. She curtseyed and handed Mara the bag.
“Your dress, Princess.” Mara took the bag, her arms sagging under the unanticipated weight. She placed the bag on her bed, motioning for Charlotte to move over. She opened the bag, and it exploded with layers of stark white tulle and satin.
“Ohhhhh! Try it on, Izzy!” Charlotte clapped her hands. Mara pulled out the rest of the dress, and went into the wardrobe to change. The dress was surprisingly easy to put on. Isabella must have a similar style to Mara, because the dress was simple, yet elegant. It wasn’t too flashy, but was still absolutely stunning. The base of the dress was a simple white satin skirt and bodice. It went down to the floor, but wasn’t long enough to trip over. The top went into a deep V, the empty space filled in with lace up to Mara’s neck. The lace was sheer and had floral designs. The sleeves were gorgeous. They were made of the same lace as the top. They were tight, then flared out at the cuffs. It was a perfect dress. Mara emerged from the wardrobe, a small smirk on her face as she lifted the skirt so she could walk better. The servant wiped a tear from her eyes. Charlotte smiled.
“Ugh, why are you so pretty?” Both girls laughed.
“You look absolutely breathtaking, Princess.” The servant smiled, then held up her finger.
“Oh! I almost forgot.” She pulled a beautiful veil out of her apron. Like the dress, it was simple. The floor-length veil covered Mara’s face. It was hemmed with small diamonds and ambers. Just then, Drew (James), climbed into the window, unaware that there were others in the room. When he saw Charlotte and the servant, he quickly retreated, but stopped. He looked back at Mara, mouth wide open. He stopped breathing for awhile because his whole existence needed to be focused on Mara in order to comprehend her beauty. After a while, he simply smiled, and retreated through the window, the servant rushing after him.
“James, please! You’re going to get us all in trouble!” She yelled down to him. He yelled back.
“Sorry, Anne!” Anne sighed.
“One of these days, that boy is going to make me lose my job.”
Drew walked back to the place where he had first appeared. It was a medium-sized tower next to the castle. The mossy stones were laced with vines, and glowing lanterns hung in the air around the tower. Magic. Drew thought. He trudged up what seemed to be thousands of stairs, and almost fell down them when he saw who was at the top. Jess. She wore a navy blue gown with long bell sleeves. The inner skirt appeared to have captured all the stars in the night sky. It glittered and gleamed every time she moved. In her hands was a crooked wand. She was mixing smoky substances in a copper cauldron. When she heard Drew’s footsteps, she turned, showing her sparkling violet eyes.
“Drew,” she started.
“No,” He replied. She nodded.
“I understand your frustration, but please let me explain.” Jess had tears in her eyes. Drew pitied her slightly. He nodded. Jess sat down slowly and took a deep breath, but it was broken. She leaned back and rubbed her shoulder. Looking out the window, she started.
“Drew, your mother didn’t die giving birth to you. She died during a Task.” Drew raised an eyebrow.
“This is my job, Drew. Jumping from universe to universe, trying to fix each one so that reality won’t collapse in on itself. Your mother did this too. Before me, actually. And she was good at it, way better than I am. You see, like every job, there’s a boss. Our boss is called Zero. They oversee all the universes in existence, and assign their employees to fix any problems they see. Seventeen years ago, your mother was assigned a very difficult task. She had to fix the future. No one in the organization has ever done this before, but your mother was the best Paralleler in history, maybe even better than Zero. I tried to convince her not to go, because even though she was good, no one has returned from a future task, and I couldn’t lose my sister. But she insisted, saying it was for the good of the world. She left, and I wasn’t allowed to see her tracked progress. Days passed. Weeks. Months. Then, one day, alarms went off in the Tracking room. People started scrambling, pushing buttons, calling others, and talking really fast. I didn’t have to guess what happened; it was obvious; my sister was dead.” Drew didn’t know what to say. He went over to Jess and hugged her. She cried into his shirt.
“I’m so sorry I couldn’t save her.”
“No! It’s not your fault, please, Jess. I’m sorry for getting mad, I didn’t realize.”
“You had a right to be mad. It’s just that I need you two so I can avenge Amy’s death and fix the future.” Drew’s eyes went wide.
“Don’t worry, not yet. We still have one more after this one until we get to the future.” Drew didn’t feel any better.
“We have to fix this universe, now. We don’t have any more time to waste.” Jess was frantic now.
“But you haven’t told me what I need to do.”
“That’s because the solution to this universe is interpreted. I don’t know the solution. But you will when you do it.” Drew was confused and annoyed, but he left the tower with a new motivation: to avenge his mother.
It was the morning of the wedding. Mara awoke and decided to go for a walk. “Hello, my ravishing bride-to-be.” A tall, handsome man strutted over to Mara with a gorgeous bouquet of white roses. He had fair skin and shiny copper hair that waved in the wind. He had gleaming silver armor with ruby red chest plates. His eyes were kind, but strong. He pretended to bow as he handed the bouquet to Mara, then laughed when he came up. He adjusted the collar of his armor, and spoke, his voice deep and romantic.
“I am a bit nervous, I must admit. But also very excited. Oh, Isabella, how I love you with every bone in my body!” He was sweet, Mara had to admit. A real gentleman, which she knew was rare in these times. Yet there was something about him that made Mara want to sock him in the nose. He was too perfect. But, Mara wasn’t concerned since she didn’t have to marry him in her universe, just this one. Or so she thought. But that made her wonder what their task was here. She didn’t have any more time to ponder before her waist was pulled in by strong hands. Soren fondled his fingers into hers and raised his arm, moving his face dangerously close to hers. His breath smelled of fresh grass, in a somehow really attractive way. Mara placed her hand gently on his chest, and they danced. She was twirled, sipped, and swung around like a doll. As much as Mara hated dancing, this was exhilarating. She could see why Charlotte liked Soren so much.
“Soren! Grab your sword and get over here!” A middle-aged man wearing solid gold armor motioned for Soren to return to training. Soren bowed to Mara, and ran over to him. Meanwhile, Drew was trying to figure out what he needed to do here. But he kept getting distracted by the image of Mara in that dress. She really was beautiful. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it sooner. Maybe fifth grade Drew was onto something. Drew remembered the intimate moments they shared in the Purge. How their kiss was so full of passion and feeling. How it felt as though no one else existed. He shook the feeling, trying to focus on his task, but then he had a thought: what if that was the task? Drew stood up quickly and sprinted up the tower stairs to change.
Mara stood in a T as five servants swarmed her. Her outfit was the same, but there were some added accessories. There was a diamond necklace with small ambers to match the ones on the veil. Large amber earrings were encrusted with the same diamond pattern. Her dainty heels were simple and functional, as they would be covered by the dainty train of the veil. Finally, a crown was placed on top of her perfect curls. With a glistening solid diamond base, the crown held what seemed to be thousands of ambers that swirled together, forming intricate patterns within the framework. Rich plum eyeshadow and matching lipstick were patted gently onto her face. Her father walked into the room smiling, and offered his hand. She slowly walked over to him and gently placed her fingers on his palm. She sighed heavily, not realizing she had been holding her breath. Holding up the material of her dress with one hand, she made her way to the garden doors, where the ceremony would be held. As her father opened the large wooden doors, Mara was overwhelmed with a wave of fresh smells. Flowers, peaches, and honey wafted into her nose and made her dizzy. As she walked down an aisle lined with intricately designed white benches, she looked side to side at all of the people. Wealthy men and women smiled at her as she passed. She noticed Drew standing in the back with his head down. At the end of the aisle was Soren, dressed in elegant royal robes. He was extremely handsome, but Mara couldn’t wait to get this wedding over with so she could figure out how to get out of this place. Her father stepped aside, and Soren took Mara’s hands and smiled.
“You look dashing,” he whispered intimately. Mara blushed. He was charming, she’d give him that.
“We are gathered here today to witness the bonding between two young souls, and two families. Very soon, a new prince will show himself, and a future king and queen as well.” Soren smiled when the marriage officiant said king. Of course. That’s what he wanted. He seemed to really like Mara, but he was obviously in it for the title.
“Do you, Sir Soren Ward, take Princess Isabella to be your lawfully wedded wife and queen?” Soren looked into Mara’s eyes.
“And do you, Princess Isabella, take Sir Soren Ward to be your lawfully wedded husband and king?” As Mara opened her mouth, a figure stood up in the crowd. It was Drew.
“NO!” Drew stood up so fast he felt dizzy from iron deficiency.
“Mara, please! I want to be with you!” The crowd murmured. Drew ran up to the podium and took Mara’s hands. Soren was flustered.
“Who’s Mara? Oh, it doesn’t matter. Come on, please don’t ruin this. She doesn’t want to be with you. You’re a peasant.” Mara looked down, hurt by Soren’s words to Drew. Drew lifted Mara’s chin to meet his eyes.
“I figured out what we have to do, Mara. Jess said I would know, and I know that I love you, and I can’t let this marriage correlate to our universe. Me and you, and you and me, no matter how they toss the dice, it had to be. Remember? Happy Together? It’s one of your favorite songs? Please, Mara. Remember The Purge? Remember what we felt?” Mara didn’t know what to say. She was overwhelmed. Tears filled her eyes and she ran. And ran. And ran. She found herself under a tree in a field. After a while, Soren came. He sat down next to her.
“I’m sorry about what I said. That’s not me. My father got me so wrapped up in the idea of being King, I forgot what really mattered: you.” Mara smiled.
“That’s really sweet, Soren. But I’m just really confused.
“I know. I see you spend a lot of time with James. I just want to let you know that if you love him, you should be with him. I want you to be happy, and if that means giving up my chance at being King, then that’s okay. Being a knight is pretty rewarding, and I don’t want to have to tell people what to do.” He laughed. Mara looked at him for a while, then leaned over and kissed his cheek. She smiled.
“I know you’ll find a nice girl someday. You have such a good heart, Soren. It just wasn’t made for mine.” Soren smiled.
“Go get him, Izzy.” Soren stood up and helped Mara up. With a big smile, Mara turned and sprinted back to the castle to find Drew.
Drew laid in the empty aisle, tears in his eyes. Sh*t, Drew. You really f*cked it up this time. He remembered the short moment he shared with Mara in The Purge, and he choked. He sat up and turned around to the direction where Mara ran off to. She was probably making out with that ginger *sshole by now. He closed his eyes. He heard soft footsteps. They came closer. And closer. When he opened his eyes, he was attacked by Mara, who wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his. Her legs wrapped around his waist, and he held her on the small of her back, scrunching the fabric of her dress with his hands. When they parted, Mara slid her hands onto Drew’s wet cheeks.
“I want to be with you, too.” Ding.
But we won’t last. Mara thought.
Mara and Drew woke up groggily with their limbs entangled. Jess loomed over them, snickering.
“You guys had fun during the trip? I mean, it was only a few seconds, but I guess a lot can happen.” Mara rubbed her head, feeling a floral headdress.
“What’s on my head?” Drew looked at Mara to answer her question, but was astonished by her beautiful costume. Her rose gold flowing hair was covered with a dainty headdress with a leafy green base. It had magenta flowers encircling a crystal headband. A small, front-covering leafy top was placed over a triangular magenta strapless corset. Her skirt was low-waisted and floor length, showing off her curves. A green vine spiraled around her arm. On her wrist was a small butterfly design. Delicate transparent-green wings sprouted from her open back.
“What?” Mara asked blushing, questioning Drew’s stare, as she knew exactly ‘what’.
“You look beautiful.” Drew took Mara’s chin, brought it close to his, and gently kissed her.
“You don’t look too bad yourself, Peter Pan.” It was true. Drew did resemble Peter Pan in a sense. His headdress and hair were similar to Mara’s. He wore a cropped leafy vest with the same flowers. His capri pants were the same shade of green as the vest, and were cuffed with vines, which also circled his arm. He had an intricate tribal rose pattern tattoo on his shoulder, and his shoes were woven from leaves. He also had the same set of dragonfly-esque wings.
Suddenly, there was a rumbling in the forest. The trees shuddered and shook in their roots, their leaves ripping off of their branches. Clanky footsteps grew louder as an army of decorated men and women careened into the forest, brandishing glistening swords, knives, and canons. Behind Drew and Mara, another rumbling grew. This one was followed by ethereal white unicorns carrying elves and nymphs, each holding a sparkling staff with a glowing orb. Right before their eyes, dozens of people were slaughtered, magical acidic rain pouring down onto the blood-saturated ground. The dirt was littered with peg-legs and clipped wings and elven ears. Mara clutched onto Drew’s tattooed shoulder, squeezing her eyes shut.
“Help us, warriors!” A tall, female water nymph with a thick accent called out to Mara and Drew. They stood up, not knowing what to do, picked up a staff from the ground, and began attacking the pirates with streaks of blazing light.
“Mystise! Harmonia! Over here! Come quick!” Mara and Drew bolted across the forest, back and forth, trying to take on as many pirates as possible, but they were gravely outnumbered. It also didn’t help that the pirates had modern weapons, and the elves and nymphs had weird orbs that only worked half the time, and required ten times as much energy as a sword. Realizing this, Mara traded her staff for a bloodied sword and charged. Soon, there were hundreds of dead bodies on the ground. The water nymph ordered the troops to retreat, and both sides backed down. The battle was over, and the nymphs had clearly lost.
“Syrinx! No, please!” A sun-elf named Polydora was crouched over the body of Syrinx, her brother. Her tears caught fire as they streamed down her bronzed cheeks, singing the dead grass as they fell. She laid her head on his motionless chest and closed her eyes. Mara huddled against Drew and put her head on his shoulder as she looked at the sad sight. He put his arm around her and nuzzled his chin in her hair. The water nymph came over to the body and moved her hands over Syrinx’s still chest. Strings of water swirled around his wounds, cleaning them and sealing them. The dirt was lifted from his handsome face, and he seemed peaceful. Polydora bowed to the water nymph.
“Thank you, Naida.” Naida. That was her name. She must have been the leader. She was beautiful. Despite her age her pale blue skin was seamless and flawless. The fabric of her dress appeared to be made of a waterfall, the layers of tulle flowing down into a cloudy white hem. Her shiny hair cascaded down endlessly, wrapping around her neck and shoulders like a gorgeous sleek shawl. Her eyes threw Mara off. They were different from the rest of her appearance. The graceful, gentle aesthetic of her clothes was contrasted by the stark power and pain held in Naida’s eyes. They were storm grey, and deeper than the depths of the Mediterranean. They held trauma and memories from past lives. Her irises flickered with raw power and courage. She was an inspiration. She turned to Mara and Drew.
“Get some rest, Harmonia. That was some very courageous fighting. You as well, Mystise.” She bowed and walked away. Mara’s stomach fluttered, having a thought. She turned to Drew and grabbed his chin with her thumb and index finger, pulling his face close. She whispered in his ear.
“Let’s go get some rest, Mystise.” Drew’s eyes went wide and he smirked. Hand in hand, they walked into the most ethereal village they had ever seen. Mara felt like she was in a Tinker Bell movie. Each small cottage floated a few feet off the ground, suspended by thick branches. Each house was the same, entangled in vines and flowers. In the center was the biggest tree in existence. Huge branches sprouted to hold each house, as well as small stores, alchemist shops, and eateries. Lanterns floated in mid-air, casting a romantic dim light into the crisp dusk air. A small pink elf flew over to Mara and Drew, looking excited.
“Mystise! Harmonia! You’re back! Come see your new cottage!” The pink elf gave them a tour. There was a small kitchen with an adorable round wooden table. The bedroom was small and cozy, the bed being suspended with thick vines. It rocked gently, swinging back and forth in the warm musty air. On the ceiling of the bedroom was a window with a glass cap. Perfect for seeing the stars at night. The only other thing in the house was a small bathroom. The elf, Floria, waved goodbye and flew back to her house. Once she was gone, Drew turned to Mara and looked at her curiously. He then smiled and wrapped his hands around her face, passionately gliding them to the back of her neck as he kissed her. Mara parted from him and smirked.
“You’ve waited since fifth grade for this, haven't you, you little perv?”
Mara unstrung her skirt to reveal a leaf-woven undergarment enlaced with small peonies. Her top fell, and her magenta corset stood in its place. She placed her headdress on the nightstand and tackled Drew onto the rocking mattress. He shrugged off his leafy vest and grabbed Mara by the waist, laughing as they pulled themselves close. Mara weaved her hands through Drew’s hair, undoing his rose manbun, his waves twirling down to frame his chiseled face. Drew continued to kiss Mara, each kiss warming her heart even more than the last. He moved down her neck and onto her collarbone, where Mara then picked up his chin and brought his lips back to hers. As the night grew darker, Mara sat herself up between Drew’s legs and leaned back onto his warm chest. She placed her head on his neck and turned to kiss him.
“Close your eyes.” Drew whispered. Mara obeyed. While she wasn’t looking, Drew pulled down the beaded string that opened the roof cap. It creaked open and a cool breeze wafted into the room. Drew gently kissed Mara’s eyes, and she opened them, smiling.
“It’s amazing.” Drew wrapped his arms around Mara and nuzzled his face into her hair. She laughed and kept looking at the stars.
“Drew, I need to tell you something.” Drew looked over.
“Hold on. Look! A shooting star!”
“Yeah, cool. But really, I need to-” Drew kissed Mara again.
“Don’t talk.” Disappointed, Mara’s eyes grew tired, and she fell asleep, protected by Drew’s arms. Once he knew she was asleep, Drew whispered.
“I love you.” Mara heard him, and a tear rolled down her cheek.
The two awoke to the sound of screaming and metal clanging. Floria ran into the house, her wings damaged. She sobbed.
“Mystise! Harmonia! Help! We’re under attack!” Mara and Drew ran outside, not even bothering to get dressed. What they saw was worse than anything they had ever witnessed in any universe. Every single cottage was ablaze with angry orange flames. Blood was splattered on the shudders of several. Mara turned around to find the source of the scorching heat on her back. The tree was engulfed in flames, each branch sickly black, the leaves all disintegrated into ash. The cottages began to shudder and fall off the branches, the people inside not getting out in time. Mara grabbed Drew’s hand.
“Come on! We have to help!” Mara grabbed her skirt and shoes, as well as the sword she had collected the day before. Drew grabbed his staff and pulled his hair back. There had to be at least a thousand pirates, each one more bloodthirsty than the last. For the first time, Drew went first, aiming his staff and a group of pirates, a blue streak erupting from the orb, sending the pirates flying into debris, their backs shattering on impact. A few slid down a broken wall, leaving a trail of blood. Mara charged after another group, her sword slashing through layers of armor and steel. She backflipped to uppercut a pirate who thought he could make a surprise attack on her. Mara and Drew stood back to back, taking on dozens of pirates at a time. They felt invincible and infinite. Everything they’ve been doing, they finally understood why. They were bigger than one universe. Too good for their own, they had to bring their attributes to other universes. More and more pirates came to challenge them, and more and more left bloody and battered. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! Three canons fired. The pirates were done messing around. Fifty canons lined the perimeter of the village. The nymphs and elves had no escape. They were burnt out of magic, and Mara was the only one with a useful weapon at this point. Seeing this, she turned to Drew.
“I love you, too.” She kissed him and ran into the line of fire. Drew reached out to her.
“Mara Elizabeth Hudson successfully destroyed eleven canons, killed seventeen pirates, saved eight people, and broke a heart before she died courageously on that fateful day. She was a hero. To the nymphs, elves, and to Mystise.” Jess looked over at Drew through the portal that she had made invisible. She wanted Drew to see the funeral Jess had arranged in the Fantasy world, so her accomplishments could be properly celebrated. He slowly stood up and pulled his paper out of his pocket. He looked at the audience. He saw Mara’s parents and her sister, Helene. Casey Scott was also there along with Bea and Liam Zetler and Cooper Wood. Even Mikey Donovan was there to pay his respects. Drew’s dad was in the crowd, but he appeared to be doing work on his phone. It was a very small funeral, as the people whose lives Mara had really impacted were in different universes. Violet, Charlie, Soren, Naidia, and so many more. Drew crumpled his paper. He tried his best to describe Mara’s life without mentioning the interdimensional travel aspect. Mara’s mom whispered to her dad.
“They said she had three more.” Drew didn’t know what that meant.
“Mara has been my best friend since seventh grade. I actually met her in kindergarten, but we didn’t really hang out all that much, which I regret. When we both got into Somerset, we were so excited. I got to wake up and see this girl for four more years.” Drew chuckled, then sighed.
“Mara is the best human being I have ever met. She’s kind, smart, funny, and just a good person to be around. She always cared about me. She was always there for me. Even when I wasn’t there for her.” Drew began to tear up, but swallowed the lump in his throat. He remembered the story he and Jess had come up with to explain Mara’s death.
“During the shooting, I felt helpless. There was nothing I could do. Mara stayed strong and brave until the very end. She never shed a tear or let out a cry of pain. She was invincible and infinite.” Remembering the scene where he had shared these emotions with Mara, Drew cracked. He exhaled, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He wiped his eyes and sat back down.
“You did great, hon.” Jess comforted Drew. He didn’t respond. When it was time for the burial, Drew was the last one to walk up to Mara’s coffin. Even in death, she was still stunning. Her skin was paler, but everything else was the same. Her light brown hair framed her face perfectly. Drew longed to look into her stormy eyes one last time. He pulled an object out of his pocket: Harmonia’s headdress. He gently placed it on Mara’s head, and kissed her forehead. Drew didn’t stay for the actual burial. He had no interests in seeing the love of his life being locked in a box six feet underground. Mara had told Drew that she wanted to be cremated when she died, but she had only told Drew, and he was too broken to tell anyone else about her request. Jess appeared next to him out of thin air.
“Sorry, Drew!” Drew sighed.
“It’s fine. How was the Fantasy funeral?”
“Good, good. Polydora gave the eulogy. Floria and Naida spoke as well. All great things-”
“That’s good. I’m glad they appreciate her.” Jess nodded frantically as if she had to go to the bathroom.
“What?” Jess bit the inside of her cheek and clasped her hands together.
“Well, um. There may be one more universe to fix. There were only five, but since Mara died, you need to fix the future.” And with that, she snapped, and Drew was gone.
“No, no no no. Please no! Jess! No! I don’t want to do this! Please!” Drew sank down against a brick wall and cried into his hands. He had no intention of seeing his future because he knew Mara wasn’t in it. He walked along the empty street, his hands in his pockets. His head was down, and his feet dragged on the cracked pavement. Where the h*ll am I? He arrived at a large building, and immediately recognized it. Niantic Hospital. That was where Drew was born. He later learned that Mara was also born there. He wished that she had died there, old and peaceful. No explosions, no pain, and no sacrifice. Drew opened the door.
“Good morning, Dr. Jackson.” A short woman greeted him as he strolled to the front desk. Doctor? That must be Drew’s future occupation. It was a bit disappointing, because Drew had always wanted to be a professional lacrosse coach at NYU. Not that it would have mattered, considering Mara was still dead.
“Good morning, uh-” Drew looked at the woman’s name tag. “Dolores.” He smiled and walked down the hallway. There was a door with his name on it, and he went in. Hanging on a hook were light blue scrubs and a lab coat. He put them on and sat down. A man walked in.
“Drew, come on. You’re going to be late for the surgery!” Surgery? Oh, h*ll, naw.
Drew walked into the operating room, a child on the bed, waiting to be opened up and rearranged. She whimpered, and Dolores comforted her.
“Shh, it’s okay. It’ll all be over soon and you’ll be good as new!” The girl was getting a lung transplant. She had been suffering from Cystic Fibrosis since she was six. Her whole life had been a struggle, and she had been waiting for this transplant for many years, but her family hasn’t been able to afford the surgery.
“The mask, Doctor.” Dolores motioned for Drew to pick up the anesthetic mask. He did, and fondled it for a few seconds, having no idea how to use it. Seeing his struggles, the other man chuckled.
“Lost your memory, Jackson?” He snatched the mask and turned on the machine. It whirred and sputtered. Drew took back the mask and placed the straps around the girl’s head, consoling her as he did so.
“It’s okay. Just relax.” She did, and soon she was asleep. Drew swallowed hard and picked up a scalpel with his shaky hand. He looked at the man, Richard, and he raised an eyebrow.
“Are you okay, Jackson?” Drew nodded.
“Just feeling a little sick, that’s all.”
“Ha, you never had a problem with this, but it’s alright. You want me to do it?” Richard grabbed the scalpel as Drew nodded again.
“Thanks.” Richard pressed the scalpel onto the girl’s chest, the skin pushing in before giving way to the knife and splitting into two halves.
“We’ll go one at a time, so she can still breathe. Grab me one, will you?” Drew’s eyes went wide as he looked at the large cooler on the table. He cautiously opened it and tried not to gag. Inside were two faded pink globs of tissue. He picked one up. It was cold and soft. He handed it to Richard, who had already removed the first lung. It sat stringy and bloody on a towel. Drew closed his eyes and pinched the space between his eyes, trying to unsee it.
“Next.” Drew handed Richard the next lung, and soon enough, there were two bad lungs on the table, and two inside the girl.
“Can you sew her up while I get rid of these bad boys?” Richard held up the two old lungs as if they were toys. Drew pretended to laugh.
“Uh, sure.” Drew had seen Jess sew before, so it couldn’t be that hard. He picked up the needle and stitches. The needle didn’t look like Jess’s. It was curved, and the stitches were paper thin. It took him many tries to thread it, but when he did, he gently slid the needle through one half of the cut flesh. It smelled of alcohol, and Drew’s eyes watered. Again, he threaded, and threaded, until he had closed the entire hole. He cut the thread and sat down, rubbing his eyes. Richard came back and injected the girl with painkillers, but that didn’t seem to do much. She awoke, and started to cry.
“Why does it hurt? Shouldn’t I feel better? Is something wrong?” She was panicking, which was very bad for her new lungs.
“Shhh, no. It’s supposed to hurt, your body is healing.” She nodded. Drew spotted a small gift bag on the table. He grabbed it and handed it to the girl. He kneeled down and awkwardly patted her on the head.
“Here you go. You did really well.” The girl took the bag and unwrapped a lollipop.
“Thank you.” She smiled at Drew. Dolores came into the room smiling.
“Kate! Oh, you’re so strong!” She hugged her, then carried her to a wheelchair, where she was rolled into the waiting room to see her parents. Drew followed out of curiosity. Her mother and father were very close together, the mother crying. When they saw Kate, their faces lit up, and they ran to their little girl, gently wrapping their arms around her. The mother sobbed. Drew hadn’t even realized that he was crying. But when he did, he retreated to his office. Richard entered after him and handed him a file.
“Here, file this, won’t you?”
“Sure.” Drew took the file and opened the filing cabinet marked G, H, I. Katie Idell. He sifted through the files to find the right spot. He passed through Greenes, Goldbergs, Hall, Henderson, Hudson, Ibbs. Wait. Hudson. Mara Hudson.
“Mara?” Drew asked aloud. He ripped the file from the cabinet and opened it to find dozens of papers. Drew read the first paper. It was Mara's health records, and it was a lot more extensive than Drew would’ve thought...
Niantic Hospital: Salt Lake City, Utah
Patient Name: Mara Elizabeth Hudson
Ht: 5ft. 6in.
Symptom Check: 07/23/06
Second Symptom Check: 11/03/08
Third Symptom Check: 04/20/11
Temporary Dispatch: 07/02/11
Permanent Dispatch: 04/30/13
Diagnosis: Cardiomyopathy (04/21/11)3
Mara was diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy at age eight. After the third symptom check, her diagnosis was confirmed and she was admitted into multiple surgeries and operations in an attempt to fix her heart. All surgeries were unsuccessful, as Mara’s case is uncommonly severe for a child. Because of this, it has been determined (as of 12/05/19) that Mara’s heart would continue to work for about three more years before it fails. -Jennifer Welsh, DPM
Drew simply stared at the paper with a blank expression. He didn’t realize how long he’d been staring at the space between the lines of text until he felt a cold tear slide down his cheek. He put down the paper and put his head in his hands. His breathing increased rapidly as thoughts and memories raided his mind:
“Drew, I need to tell you something.”
“Yeah, cool. But really, I need to-”
“They said she had three more.”
“Mara’s heart would continue to work for about three more years before it fails.”
Before it fails. Drew replayed Mara’s death in his mind. Running. Canon. Fire. Explosion. The cannonball ripped through Mara’s body. Right? No. The cannonball hadn’t hit Mara at all. Mara’s heart stopped as right before she said goodbye to Drew, knowing she had to do something worthy before she was taken. Not only did she destroy eleven canons, kill seventeen pirates, and save eight people, but she did all of it without a heart. She had died of oxygen depletion right before the canon fired, and the cannonball tore through her body, ripping a wide hole in place of her useless heart. Mara flew backwards, soaring through the flames like an angel. Drew remembered what Jess had said about no one surviving a Future Task. He understood why. It wasn’t the physical toll, it was emotional. Drew wanted to end his life, right then and there. He could do it. Easily. He went into the closet and pulled out a scalpel. Standing up to look in the mirror, he held it at his neck. He began to push, but he was stopped by fear. Everything he did was stopped by fear. Fear wouldn’t have stopped Mara. She wasn’t afraid. She had never feared the inevitable, for to do that, she would’ve had to fear destiny. And she didn’t. The only thing Mara feared was herself. Drew feared himself as well. He feared what he would do without Mara in this future. He would live everyday miserably. Unlike Mara, Drew believed in Heaven and God. He believed that if he died, he would be reunited with Mara in Heaven. He weighed his options: die and be with Mara, or live and be miserable and lonely.
Subjects 367 and 368 have successfully been terminated. Next is Subject 117.