And by 'last 500 words' I obviously meant the last words needed to reach 50k. There's another chapter or two to go. ;)
Chapter Six - Strange Days
"And that's about where you came in," said Chris, finishing her story. I could see in her eyes that she was ashamed of everything that had happened, all because of her.
I put a hand over hers, and gave it a squeeze. "Hey, it's not your fault," I reassured her. "If anyone is to blame, it's the good Doctor. You didn't do anything but be in the wrong place, at the wrong time."
She forced a smile, and squeezed my hand back. "Kind of the opposite of you, huh?"
I gave a nod, and looked back at the laptop. I could see the spurious sorcerer supreme in some of the shots with Chris, before the flash blocked him from view.
"You're taking all this awfully well, Martin."
"Well, magic is real, your best friend is a pretty redhead, people are dying. Guns pointed at you, all that sort of stuff."
"Ah," I nodded. "That stuff. What can I say? Once you've been chased by zombies, finding my best friend turned into a girl, while definitely up there on the weird scale? It rather pales in comparrison. Honestly, I've not even had a chance to even process any of this stuff yet, just moving from one crisis to the next. Find me tonight when I have a moment to breathe, and I'll be freaking out, I'm sure."
"And what about spending your day with a pretty redhead?"
"Well, that is nice. You would have gotten my attention with that costume, that's for sure. And now, well," I paused, looking up at her. "Still running on shock, really. I'll be alternating between freaked out fetal position in the corner and drooling over you. Happy?"
Chris seemed to consider my words for a moment, looking off into the distance and rubbing her chin. "Hmm, no, I can't say that particularly thrills me."
"Strange was right, you are a tease."
I had not even finished the sentence before the back of my head met her open palm with a loud fwap. "Quiet, you."
"Ok, I deserved that." I rubbed the sore spot on my head, and shut down the laptop. "Speaking of taking this well, you're not doing to bad in that department yourself."
She brushed her hand through her red mane of hair. "I guess I am. When half your brain feels like it's taken over by the person whose body you're wearing, it makes things a little easier. Part of me, or part of her, thinks this all feels pretty natural, so it helps. I don't know, really. Do you have any ideas about why I seem to be, well, me? And others aren't?"
I clambored up onto my bed, moving the laptop out of the way, turning to face Chris. "I have an idea or two in that department, yeah."
Silence hung over the room, or as much silence as one was able to find here.
After a few minutes, Chris looked at me, her eyes begging for answers. "And do you feel like sharing with the rest of the class?"
I considered the situation for a bit longer, before speaking. "It could just be you're strong willed, and have a benevolent personality sharing your body space at the moment. Babs is far more likely to do what's necessary for the cause of justice. As opposed to say, someone with Lex Luthor, or Joker inside their head." She gave a visible shudder at the mention of the Joker. "Also, you don't have the hunger of a zombie gnawing inside you. Meggan put up a fight earlier, but Ms. Marvel is used to having her mind tampered with, so gave more of a struggle. A few others managed to break through here and there. Strength of mind, and nature of the new self are definitely factors."
Chris nodded along with my theories, and I moved on, "However, in your case, I think it's more than that. You were the focus of this spell. He wanted you to suffer, to know what had been done. He may have left you with a little extra sense of self, rather than being entirely rewritten by Babs."
"Yeah, that sounds about right for the way this day has gone. Babs seems to agree too. Which is weird enough to say, let alone actually have happening in my head."
The light outside the window had begun to dim, as night drew closer on the end of the first day of the convention. Chris got up and looked out over the small galaxy of stars forming along the city streets.
"It's strange, looking down there and thinking it's so much like Gotham, but not at the same time. And knowing that Gotham City isn't even real. There's still people to help, though. Do you have any plans to fix this?"
I had been thinking of a few ideas since I saw my first zombie, and had narrowed them down now that I knew what happened. "Well, we could try and find Doctor Strange again, and get him to reverse what he did, but I doubt he'll comply. Not without a serious beating first."
Chris kept his back to me, looking out the window, but I could see her smiling in the reflection of her in the glass. "I'm pretty much ok with that plan."
"Yeah, well, let's leave that one off the table for now. It's a bit on the extreme side, and it might not even work."
"I'd still get to hurt him," I could just catch her mumbling into the window.
I pretended not to hear, and continued on. "What we need is someone with the powers to rewrite reality. Did you see the guy dressed up as Thanos again this year?"
She finally turned back to me, and shook her head. I could see she was thinking of her own ideas now that I'd gotten the ball rolling. "Oh well, it's just as well, I suppose. If we did find a Thanos, he'd probably be less likely to help us than the sorcerer who did this. He'd probably want to take you as a consort before even considering to help."
Chris couldn't tell if I was joking or not, and the idea of being some godlike monster's plaything made him nervous. Once she saw my smile, and knew that I was kidding, she calmed.
"So, that leaves us with my personal favourite option." I could see on Chris' face that she already had an inkling of what was going to come out of my mouth.
"We need to find a Phoenix."
Chris threw her arms up in the air. "I should have known. You spend all day with a redhead, whose your best friend, and saved your life, and you still are not happy unless there's a Phoenix!"
"And this surprises you?"
"Not much, no. What about a Scarlet Witch? She can rewrite reality."
I considered the suggestion, then discarded it. "Nah. Too hard to find. There's always a Phoenix or twelve at these things. I'm sure we can at least find one without too much trouble. And Scarlet Witch has this tendency to be a little crazy."
"Hello? Dark Phoenix?"
"Again, easy to find a Phoenix. At least, I hope so."
Chris sighed, resigned to not swaying me from my quest. "It's too bad this didn't happen at Dragon*Con, and it was Saturday. At least there would've been sixty some odd people dressed up as Dawn. We could use a good five dozen goddesses right now."
"I'll keep that in mind for when this happens the next time we're at Dragon*Con."
The redhead glared at me. "If this happens at another convention, I am giving these things up. And I'm not wearing a costume next time. Or ever again. I'm going to enjoy being my old self again once your beloved Phoenix fixes everything."
"Aww, don't be hurt," I reassured her teasingly. "If you could do more than swing around on a piece of rope, I'd be more than happy to have you fix everything!"
Chris continued to glare at me, and threw a pillow sitting on the orange chair beside her, and it hit me square in the face. She had inherited the unerring aim of a Batperson, that was for sure.
"I'll show you just how much I can do. Come on, let's go see if we can find your Phoenix. Have you considered what to do if she can't do anything, and this isn't reversible?"
"I thought I'd ask her out, actually. Or would that be too awkward?"
Chris stormed by and grabbed my shoulder, dragging me along behind her, and straight for the door. I stumbled at first, almost unable to stay on my feet, but I managed to not faceplant into the hotel floor.
"Is that a yes? Ok, what if I just asked her out to coffee? I mean, as friends? That wouldn't be weird if she can't save the city, right?" I was trying not to laugh, and Chris was too, but she failed much quicker than I did, letting go of my arm. She doubled over the balcony with laughter, and wiped at her eyes, doing her best not to mess up her makeup, I noticed.
"You and your redheads. Never change, Martin."
"Same to you, Chris."
I grinned and joined in the laughter, leaning over the balcony edge, looking down into the lobbies far below. I couldn't tell anything of what was going on down there, but somewhere in that mess, was the answer. We just had to find her.