My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Thirteen

If there was one thing that Zoë knew, it was that school was easy and pointless. That was this Friday. But at least a magic school persisted in being amusingly unique.

Zoë wasn’t sure why she was sitting in first period, attempting to learn French. The period schedule also confused her—she was used to sitting around in one class. Jen had explained that different teachers taught different subjects in different rooms that you went to, and how it was easy to be late if you got lost. Zoë had a pretty good idea of the school’s layout, so she was pretty sure she wouldn’t. But it was still confusing in the mass of kids, whose ages differed from five years old to teenage. She made sure not to trip over the younger kids, and had to watch out so she wasn’t trampled by the older ones. It was much more difficult to navigate while trying not to bump into people. Most of the halls were wide, but they weren’t all that way. Nevertheless, Zoë had managed to find her first class.

The French teacher, Mrs. Sansen, was a cheerful blonde lady in her mid-forties. She began to teach the students how to conjugate être and use it to describe themselves. She played a video, but in the middle part the tape refused to work. Mrs. Sansen whacked the VCR with her wand, and of course, it started working again.

Later, Zoë found out that the English teacher had a box of chalk pieces which she’d all named, and she would delegate things to be written on the board by them. The handwriting was good, but each piece seemed to have a different style. Zoë couldn’t even venture a guess how they did that.

Her Math class was depressing. Her teacher kept attempting to teach her how to do basic calculations with magic, but she knew that if she started randomly singing, the teacher would think she wasn’t paying attention.

The Science class was taught by a Fire Anoki. It wasn’t exactly so much science as it was…

“Now, class. Formulate a hypothesis. What will happen when I put a canary here and a box of oatmeal here and perform the Vocal Dysfunction spell?”

She enjoyed Geography, which involved quite a few magical “field trips,” and Art, in which everyone was humming songs, so it went completely unnoticed when she tried five or six times to clean up a paint spill and eventually got a few drops back into the container before she gave up and mopped the paint up with a paper towel. But she found out that you couldn’t slack off in Gym, since the teacher had apparently set up a spell to let him go wherever he needed in an instant. Zoë, who could do little magic intentionally, was more annoyed than impressed by these demonstrations. From the viewpoint of a frustrated nine-year-old, it seemed kind of cliché.

When she went back to the dorm, Jen had left a note on the table.

Amuse yourself. And don’t go anywhere, or I’ll know. I have an appointment a meeting a thing I’m going to. I won’t be back until late tonight. And: Put. Yourself. To. Sleep. On. Time. Or else.

— Jen

Zoë took one look at the crossed-out phrases and thought: Yeah, right. She’s on a date with Arthur. Duh.

Outside, it started to rain. And Zoë went to her world.

She wandered through her forest. It was her universe, no doubt, in the back of her mind… and yet, it seemed more real than imaginary. Maybe just a really realistic daydream.

She came to the edge of the forest. One edge was a cliff, a cliff overlooking a dense jungle below and gigantic mountains above. The sky was impossibly blue, with wispy cirrus clouds. It had to be a daydream.

In which case, Zoë couldn’t get hurt. So with a flying leap and a song, she was off the cliff and in the air.

“It’s amazing how well my magic works around here, in my dreams,” Zoë said to herself. She found that she had to sing everything she said, or she lost altitude.

“Ha, yeah,” a voice said, beside her. A pixie, Zoë recognized, by the dragonfly wings her mother had told her about. She certainly looked like a pixie, weighted down with charm bracelets, pendants, and other jewelry, not to mention the hair and makeup. Pixies were always girly—even the guys were flirtatious. It was a cultural thing.

“How did you get here?” Zoë asked.

The pixie shrugged. “I go wherever I want to. It’s a knack. How did you get here?”

“It’s my world,” Zoë said, feeling that she shouldn’t have to point this out.

“Really? All this? You must be one strong wielder.”

“I don’t know. I can barely do magic anyway.”

The pixie looked startled. “Of course you can. How else could you make a place like this?”

“I don’t know,” Zoë said, honestly. “I guess I need a place to relax.”

“Yes, I can see that. You’re too uptight. Chill out! You’re nine, Zoë.”

Zoë stared at her, still vocalizing in an effort to stay in the air.

“I said chill out. As in relax. You don’t have to act older than you are.”

Zoë started to guess, in her mind, as to how the pixie knew her age and name, but the pixie shook her. “Forget logic for now. Come on! You can fly!

The pixie zipped off. Zoë followed, in a futile attempt to catch her for interrogation, but gave up and just started flying. The pixie came back, to Zoë’s surprise.

“That’s better. Now you’ll hear what I’ll say.”

“What’s that?”

“Do you really think… never mind. You’re off in serious-land again.”

“Hey!” Zoë said. But the pixie had left. She decided to go back to land and return to reality. She flew a while and landed on the cliff again.

Oddly, there was a mark on one of the trees. It was a triangle. Zoë decided to ignore it and go back to the dorm.

She tried to open her eyes—her real eyes—but couldn’t find them. She was stuck.

“Stuck?” the pixie asked, materializing beside Zoë.

“Yes,” Zoë said, questions on the tip of her tongue.

“Use magic,” the pixie said, and was gone again once Zoë looked away. Slightly annoyed that she didn’t think of that first, Zoë tried a wakeup spell. It didn’t work, so she tried teleporting to the dormitory, which did work. She found herself lying in bed, eyes open, like she’d been when she started daydreaming.

“Now how did I do that?” she muttered.

“I dunno,” the pixie said, materializing behind her. “You all right? Odd place here,” she said, looking around.

“I’m fine,” Zoë said. “And it’s a magic school—I can’t explain the décor.”

“Gives me the creeps.”

“Do you have a purpose here?” Zoë asked.

“It’s interesting to follow you around. You get into some pretty weird stuff.”

Zoë thought about thinking, I have a pixie stalker… but stopped herself. The pixie didn’t seem to notice.

“I bet you really want to go after that monster,” the pixie said.

“Yeah. How did you know that?”

“Uh, mind reader!

Zoë sighed. “I wish I knew why I wanted to, though.”

“Are you trying to rationalize this?” the pixie said, bursting into a grin. “That’s funny. Yeah, I want to see a nine-year-old psychologist. This could get entertaining.”

“Guess I’ll never lose you now,” Zoë said.

“Hey,” the pixie said. “I can be pretty useful as far as magic goes. I’m used to dealing with odd magic. I look for it.”

“And what does your mom think about this?” Zoë asked jokingly. “If mine knew what I was up to, she’d have a heart attack or something.”

“She’s an adventurist,” the pixie said, her eyes gleaming. “She does all sorts of cool stuff. She explores the parallel dimensions. She doesn’t just go there—she climbs the mountains and takes ships around the oceans. My dad goes with her. Meanwhile, I’ve got free run of the other dimensions. My dad has a spell on my ring. If I can’t do magic, it lets him know so that he can come and get me out of whatever stupid situation I got myself into.”

Zoë thought the pixie’s parents were crazy, but she was, secretly, very jealous.

“I’m Naelie, by the way,” the pixie said. “I’m eleven. I have to admit, you are one cool nine-year-old, even if you act like a thirty-seven-year-old mad scientist.”

“I’m…” Zoë started, but stopped. The pixie started laughing, and so did Zoë. Zoë finally felt like she’d made a real friend. Naelie didn’t leave until ten o’clock, and then Zoë went to bed.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 at 11:55 am 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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