My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Seven

“In here?” Zoë queried.

“Of course. The kitchen’s the best place to do something like this. Linoleum’s a lifesaver, isn’t it?”

“I guess.” Zoë was still wary about Jen’s offer to cut her hair, but didn’t know how to back out.

“You’ll like it,” she promised. There are a few things in the world that wake a person up enough to realize that one is painfully aware that one is alive, and about to stay that way regardless of whether one wants to. The “you’ll like it” that comes right before an impending haircut is one of them. It can be a more or less comfortable situation depending on the trust one has in the person doing the hairstyling, but trust suddenly doesn’t matter if the stylist’s own hair is streaked with colors that really belong solely inside a box of Trix cereal.

Actually, Jen was very good with hair, possibly because—Zoë noticed—she was slipping in a bit of magic here and there. She didn’t go overboard with color, either, but Zoë noticed very quickly that her now light-and-fluffy layered hair had a solid streak of dark green near her face.

“I could have done it in blue,” Jen said, standing back and eyeing her work. “But that would have looked off with your skin tone.”

After Wyrnen’s eyes, Zoë was sort of glad Jen hadn’t.

Slowly, flipping the green out of her face, Zoë asked, “How… did you afford all this? Do you have a job?”

Flipping her own hair, Jen replied, “I work at a Starbucks in the summertime. Good coffee there, but I can make it better.”

Zoë knew that Jen wasn’t paying for this with twelve weeks of coffee-shop work. Jen must have seen that she wasn’t buying it, so she admitted, “Well, that, and I’m an expert thief.”

“That’s illegal,” Zoë said sternly, wishing for a moment that she didn’t look like a pouty teenager.

“You’ll find that the American government doesn’t have jurisdiction over Anoki, seeing as they don’t know we exist,” Jen said with a glint in her eyes. “Anyway, most Anoki steal a lot of things from humans. That’s where all the socks go, you know. The missing ones that you can’t find the mate to until long after you’ve thrown the first out or shoved a Chihuahua into it.”

“Couldn’t you bother to steal the whole pair?” Zoë asked, deciding not to remark on the Chihuahua comment.

“We can no more find a full pair of socks than you can,” said Jen, indignantly.

“But I thought you said that was caused by–” and here Jen’s phone rang. She drew it out of her pocket like a gunslinger with his gun, snapped the slide-top open, and pressed it to her ear in no more than a breath’s time. She exited the room, leaving Zoë feeling abandoned.

Five minutes later, she returned, slipping her phone back into her pocket as smoothly as it had come out. “We’re going to have to do Friday’s shopping early,” she said with a wink Zoë decided not to interpret. “I have another engagement.”

Which might end in an engagement, Zoë thought, against her will. Zoë was visibly not laughing, which could only mean that she was trying not to laugh. Jen blushed, but only for a second.

“Please tell me that this is a date and not related to the problem,” Zoë said, on an impulse.

Jen sighed. “I guess you’re not going to rest the subject until you get an answer,” she said in defeat.

“No,” Zoë confirmed. Her brown eyes were boring into Jen expectantly.

“It has nothing to do with your confusions here,” Jen said, deciding to give out a little information at a time and see how little she could get by with.

“That’s not an answer,” Zoë said, her eyes still hot with defiance.

Jen decided that Zoë would make an excellent interrogator for the FBI, but decided not to voice it. She should have known that Zoë was far from meek and wasn’t going to settle for anything less than a full, detailed explanation. But she continued her technique, carefully tiptoeing around the subject until she finally gave in.

“It’s just something Daniel and Sophie are here to fix. They deal with this stuff all the time; it’s no new news for them.”

“Well, they’re here about some critter hanging around the area. Probably take them about an hour to defeat it, it’s the tracking that’s the thing.”

“Nobody’s worried much”—and this was a lie—“because it might even go away on its own, or die of old age.”

It’s like trying to gradually snap Silly Putty! Zoë thought.

“Okay, fine. It’s a big chameleon that can blend with anything, and it wrecks buildings at night accidentally. Daniel and Sophie are going to transport it to a different dimension so that it doesn’t bother anyone.”

Zoë contemplated this, and just when Jen thought she’d won, pointed out that she hadn’t seen any wrecked buildings around, and there weren’t any news announcements complaining about it. And if it was as simple as that, why were Daniel and Sophie specifically needed? Anyway, wouldn’t someone have walked into it eventually and said, “Whoa—there’s a giant lizard thing here!”

Jen faltered. “Okay, fine,” she said again. “I mean… fine. There is a creature around, but it’s not a chameleon. I think Daniel said that it sounds like something he’s run up against before, which is beyond me, but even he doesn’t know what the thing is because no magic wielder has seen it and come back to tell us about it and no normal person will admit that they saw it for fear of being pinned as insane and put into a straightjacket in some old Podunk town on the edge of the country.”

“Well, what does this have to do with me?”

“Nothing!” Jen insisted. “Which is why you should stay out of it. You can’t even control your magic, but the point is that you have it. That’s the worst position to be in right now.”

“You said I could kill myself… or someone else.”

“Do you want to experiment?” Jen said, with icy eyes of her own. “Notice that it doesn’t attack people with no magic?”

“How do you know that if none of them will admit that they saw the creature?”

“The fortunetellers, silly! What do you think Dream Anoki do for a job? You can make a neat sum reading people’s minds. The past is often more than enough to tell the most likely future, though since that’s not always what the people want to hear, it’s not always voiced.”

Zoë was silent. Now that she had the information she wanted, she wasn’t sure what she planned to do with it. In fact, she didn’t even remember why she’d felt such a burning need to know in the first place.

“Well?” Jen said, scowling. “Are you happy now?”

Zoë muttered something. She wasn’t. Zoë went to bed that night thinking about her predicament. Her parents weren’t here, replaced by a seventeen-year-old girl with wings, a rocker style, a huge appetite, and, Zoë was guessing, a crush on her classmate. Nevertheless, she couldn’t predict anything that could go wrong with this arrangement.

This proves that Zoë has no future as a fortuneteller, or at least, not as a legitimate one.

This entry was posted on Saturday, April 9th, 2011 at 7:18 pm and is filed under Zoe. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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