or, enter your birth date.*
A scrape and a scuffle at the front door nudges Beli from her fitful sleep. "Unh?" Her watch reads one AM, but it feels like she's only just fallen asleep on Kyanna's couch. Awareness filters in: The apartment is still and silent - only shadows in the dark - and there's someone in the hallway.
Someone in the hallway trying to force open the door!
Beli launches up with a gasp and throws herself between Philip's crib and the door. A weapon! She can shelter Philip with her body, but she needs to put something between the stranger and herself!
Magazines on the coffee table are all her scrambling hands can find. By the time the intruder stumbles in through the door she's still helpless, so Beli seizes her smart phone and shines the torch on the invader and –
"What the –? Bels?" Her friend grimaces and holds up a hand to block the blinding light. Beli breathes a sigh of relief.
"Oh, Kyanna, I was so worried you were –"but never mind that. Beli flicks on the corner-side lamp to greet her friend's return, and ends up gasping at the gruesome sight revealed.
"Kyanna? Wh-what happened to you?"
The Latina is a mess. Her hair is in tangles, there's mascara running down her cheeks and a stain that looks like vomit crusted down the front of her leopard-print top. She's a nightmare come to life. Kyanna ignores the question, ignores Beli altogether.
"Where's Philly? My baby - I need to see my baby."
There's an edge of panic in her one-track mother's mind and Beli backs far away as Kyanna storms over to the corner-side crib to scan her child.
Relief – sweet relief. Even after her noisy entrance, Philip is asleep and at peace. The tension rolls off Kyanna's shoulders and, like a cat lowering its hackles, the mother seems to shrink several inches. With her adrenaline high cut, all that's left is a tired and ragged creature. Her forehead slumps to the upper bar of the crib.
"You're okay," she sobs. "Gracias a Dio, you're okay."
Beli approaches cautiously, worried that any sudden movement might set off Kyanna's maternal rage again, but when she touches her hand to Kyanna's shoulder, the Latina slowly turns and sinks against Beli's chest.
"I'm such an idiot, Bels. Such an idiot…"
Seeing Kyanna so defeated and weak makes her want to tremble, but for her friend's sake, Beli steels her nerves. She guides Kyanna to the kitchen - to keep her wracking sobs from waking Philip, and so she can soothe this distress with a cup of warm tea.
Kyanna has other beverages in mind. When Beli leaves her side to shut the bead curtains to the living room, the single mother reaches on tiptoes and snatches the tequila from to topmost cupboard.
Beli watches nervously as Kyanna tilts her head back in a deep swig.
"Kyanna, talk to me. What on Earth happened to you?"
"Oh, this?" the Latina scoffs as she gestures to the foul-smelling crust on her top. "Just a little going away gift from Aiko. Bitch was chasing after me in the parking lot, trying to apologize for everything and, well – the fresh air didn't do her gut any good."
Kyanna takes another self-medicating swig. Beli waits and listens.
"Aiko took me to the casino. It started off cool - they had a buffet and a live band playing. We had a couple drinks, we got up and danced, and I seriously convinced myself that this was going to be the perfect evening. That's when she puts her arms around my shoulders, leans up to my ear all nice 'n slow and whispers a naughty little idea: 'let's check out the tables.'"
A loathing grimace.
"Well fuck, we get onto the casino floor, and suddenly she's a totally different person. It's like she's one of those mall brats who can't put down their phones – the roulette wheels and the craps tables have her hypnotized, and I had to physically shake her so she'd snap outta it and stop laying down her money! And if that's not shitty enough, all the while she's still calling the servers for drinks! I had two, Bels – two, and I was already feeling tipsy, but Aiko keeps pounding them back like she thinks another rum and coke is going to win her the next jackpot! It was so embarrassing!"
Beli winces sympathetically. She's taken a mug from the cupboard, and now she puts it forward so Kyanna can pour her a drink. Not that she's planning to join Kyanna for a round; she just wants to limit the alcohol her friend can slosh into her own stomach.
"I should've walked away right there, Bels, but I was still telling myself I could salvage something from this night. So I pull my shirt down a bit; start giving her the baby-doll eyes and saying we should go somewhere quieter, and she seems to take the hint. So what does she do? Bels, she drags me into the women's washroom and tries to get all handsy with me! The place stinks to high-hell, her breath's reeking from all the booze, and she's pulling my hands up around her neck and begging me to choke her! 'Really make me feel it, mami!' And I'm like, holy fuck, this is some messed up shit!"
Kyanna drains the bottle and shudders. Beli bites her lip, knowing the worst is yet to come.
"So at that point I'm done. I push her off, give her the look and tell her it's time she takes me home. Oh, she liked that – it's like she gets high off of people pushing her around, but that's not the kicker. Bels, she's settling our tab for the buffet and her credit card is declined! She hasn't paid her frickin' bills in two months and her card's been cut off! I had to shell out of my own purse to pay for us both – including all of her god-damn drinks!
"I just wanted to go home, Bels. I was marching for the bus stop – I didn't want anything more to do with Aiko, but she's tripping over her heels trying to catch up and tell me how sorry she is, how she's gonna make it up next time. I spin around to give her a piece of my mind and suddenly she … well, you know."
Kyanna gestures to the crusted puke on her outfit. Beli can piece the rest together herself.
"So when you texted me, when you said you were going home with her -"
"Bels, she was moaning on the ground and sobbing like her stomach was about to burst. I didn't have the heart to just leave her there. So I carry her to her car, throw her in the back seat and drive her home. I lug her through the door – goddamn pig sty, by the way – find her a Tylenol and slam the door. That's when I remember she's on the other side of town, and I've got no wheels. Had to transfer three buses and walk twenty minutes in my heels just to get back here."
Kyanna tosses her arms out as if to say, 'here I am'. Messy, filthy, tired and humiliated, and it tears at Beli's heart to see her friend reduced to this.
"I had this coming, you know."
The Latina's eyes are downcast, a loathing edge cutting her voice.
"I just wanted to forget everything – my bills, my job, my baby – I just wanted to go crazy like the good old days, the way it was with Dario. Course, I forgot how much of a shithead he was: what a fantastic job he did handling our money, how fucked-up he got when he started drinking."
She looks up, gives a single laugh of utter defeat.
"You were right about everything, Beli. Aiko was a train wreck, and I had the shittiest night ever. I'm such a joke."
Beli doesn't hesitate a second. She throws her arms around Kyanna and pulls the younger woman against her in a tight and reassuring hug. She can't take back all the hurt, but she can stem the flow, be her tourniquet and hold her dearly.
"I'm so, so sorry, Kyanna. You don't deserve this. You don't ever deserve this."
The sudden embrace leaves Kyanna's arms stiff at her sides, but gradually Beli feels the grip returned – trembling hands inching cautiously up her back with all the uncertainty of a kicked puppy. When Beli gives her a squeeze – a nod of assurance – Kyanna immediately clings to her shoulders, breathing deeply and huddling greedily to the offered warmth.
"It's over now, Kyanna. I've got you, and I'm here for you."
For Beli, it doesn't matter that the front of her sari is being dirtied in god-knows-what, or that Kyanna's tears are staining her shoulder. She's where she needs to be. She's by Kyanna's side.
It's only when Kyanna raises her head and looks at her with needy, tear-stained eyes that she realizes how close they stand. How warm Kyanna's body feels against her own. How fiercely the drumbeat of that Latin heart throbs against her breast.
"Um, Kyanna –"
"Shh. Don't talk, Bels. Just –"
Her words trail away, but Kyanna's trembling mouth remains open in an unspoken plea. The tequila is gone, but her lips are still dry and desperate for comfort.
A tear runs down Kyanna's closed eyelids as she leans forward.
Beli jerks her head back, breaking their embrace.
And the hurt splintering through Kyanna's eyes is a thousand times worse than any humiliation Aiko delivered that night.
"You must be so happy right about now," she glares, "to see me taken down a notch, to see me dragged through the mud."
"No! Kyanna, I –"
"Save it." Kyanna's words lash her into silence. "You need to leave."
"Kyanna, I'm not leaving yo-"
"Just stop." Kyanna turns away, her voice choking through a wretched sob. "Don't make me beg, Bels. I just want it to be over."
Beli does as she's told, and makes her way somberly down the stairwell of Kyanna's apartment. Her thoughts churn in a dull tempest.
She'd be lying if she said she wasn't breathing easier after hearing the story of Kyanna and Aiko's instantaneous falling apart. Seeing them flirt and laugh so naturally had sent a terrible ache through her chest. But how can I be happy with this? She'd prayed for some miraculous intervention to fling them apart, but she never intended the heavenly bolt to strike Kyanna as well.
I'm a terrible person. The thought haunts her over the weekend and into the new week.
Starting Monday, Kyanna doesn't show up for yoga classes. She hears from some of the students that the hairdresser's booked herself for extra hours at the salon.
Aiko is equally absent from her social scene. Over the phone, Jessie clucks her tongue and mentions something about the professor cashing in a long line of sick days. "Working off the mother of all hangovers," the adult actress explains.
That's fine. She's not terribly eager to see her Asian friend either.
All week her thumb hovers over her phone, searching for the will to call Kyanna's number. Every time Beli finds the courage to touch the screen, her mind fills with the memory of her friend's wounded eyes – of the hands that held her so desperately, and the lips that reached out for her comfort.
Every time, Beli startles and she pushes the phone away, reaching instead for another glass of wine to banish the haunting image.
I'm a coward, she reminds herself, and Kyanna doesn't need someone like me. A spectator on the sidelines of life, unfit and unworthy to even be a friend.
For half a week, Beli kicks herself over self-pitying sips of wine. Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night.
On Thursday morning, Beli wakes with a splitting headache, and as she throws her bedroom curtains open, a new memory pierces her mind with the sunlight, radiant and and agonizing in its clarity:
Kyanna, gazing fondly from across the room as her best friend plays her son, a look of trust and adoration towards the woman she's invited into her home, into her life.
And Beli knows right then that there's nothing she wouldn't do to see that smile again.
She pours the rest of her wine down the sink.
She showers herself clean, throws on fresh clothes and she thumbs through her phone contacts.
She has to make this right, and there's work to be done.
Beli forces her back to stand tall as she strides to the salon's front counter. With no customer to keep her busy, Kyanna sits cross-legged in her chair, face lowered into a magazine. A glance up, and her eyes startle and connect.
Her friend is alarmed for only a second before collecting herself into a terse neutral.
"Hey, Bels. Guess you're here for a haircut?"
"And to see you."
No reaction. "Well, have a seat."
Beli complies, purse folded in her lap. Wordlessly, Kyanna rotates the chair into position and swishes a plastic covering around Beli's shoulders. Her skin tingles nervously when Kyanna's fingers tighten the Velcro clasp around her neck.
"I want it shortened."
"You sure?" Kyanna frowns as she runs a hand through the locks draping down Beli's neck. "You've been growing this out real nice."
"I want it back." A restart, she thinks. Back to what it was when I first met you.
It's quiet work, only the steady snip of metal sheers and the spritz of Kyanna's spray bottle to fill the silence. The chatter of the other hairdressers fades into a dull and meaningless roar. In Beli's mind, it's only the two of them.
"You look tired, Kyanna."
"Extra shifts," her friend shrugs. She doesn't deny the dark bags hanging under her eyes, or the wilted ponytail drooping down her neck. There's not even a sparkle of golden earrings to cheer her face. "I'm good, though. I fill my hours, I pick up Philly from my mom's place; I go home and be a good mother."
"Carol at the gym's front desk says you cancelled your membership."
"Money's tight," Kyanna grunts, "and I can't keep thinking about myself all the time. It's how I keep getting into these messes, Bels."
They fall back into scissor-snip silence. Kyanna dries and styles her hair, the blanket is swept away, and then they're standing across the front counter while Kyanna rings up her bill.
It's now or never.
"Beli, I –"
They stop, and Beli realizes that Kyanna's been struggling just as hard to unload her own burdensome thoughts.
"Kyanna, I -"
"No, me first." Kyanna's always been the more assertive one, and Beli sees that she's determined to have the first say. The Latina closes her eyes and prepares herself with a deep breath.
"Bels, I'm so, so sorry. For what I said to you last week, for trying to -" she trails off, brushing a finger across her guilty lips. "- to take advantage of you like that. My head was in a shitty place, I was drunk, and I shouldn't have tried to drag you into my mess."
Beli's about to reply when Kyanna seizes her hands.
"You're a super best friend, and I'm lucky to just be able to hang with someone like you. But you're straight - and I get that, and I'm not gonna push anything. We're friends, we're good that way, and I don't want that to change. Can you forgive me?"
"O-of course!" Beli's just a little flustered from the rapid-fire apology, and the warmth of Kyanna's hands surrounding her own isn't helping. "Of course I forgive you."
Pardon granted, Kyanna breaths a deep, relieving sigh. "Thank you. Thank you so much, Bels."
Then Kyanna steps back and throws on an eager smile. "Okay, so that was my soapbox rant. What were you gonna say, bestie?"
"Oh, I was just - I mean, I was going to ask -"
"C'mon, Bels!" Kyanna gives her shoulder a friendly squeeze and the close contact is so not helping. "We're best friends; you can ask me anything!"
"I wanted – that is, I was wondering –"
"C'mon, girl! Just … shout it out!"
"Kyanna, will you go out with me tomorrow evening?"
After a half-minute of terrified eye-clenching, Beli peeks open a single lid. Kyanna's eyes are wide and dumbfound. The other hairdressers and their clients are equally stunned; she's pretty sure one of them just dropped her scissors, and Beli's cowardly little bunny rabbit heart races a mile a minute when she realizes that yes, she did in fact shout that out.
But before she can curl up into a miserable little bundle of nerves, Kyanna's hand is around her wrist and she's whisked away to the employee locker room in the back.
"You wanna run that by me again?"
"Kyanna, I know we're just friends, and I still want to be friends, but ... when I watched you walk out that door with Aiko, it felt like I was losing you forever. That scared me. I don't want to feel that way again, Kyanna. So I want to go out with you."
The Latina rubs her head and mutters something in exasperated Spanish. "Bels, you don't have to do this just to make me feel better, okay?"
"Well, I'm not keen on being another straight girl's lesbian experiment."
"I'm – I'm not experimenting. And besides, you need a night out to have fun, and … I want to be there with you, so doesn't it make sense if we go out together?"
Beli stops herself. Not like this, she scolds herself. Strong words, just like I practiced.
"Kyanna, I want you to go out with me tomorrow." Her words come from the heart, but Kyanna still shakes her head.
"Bels, you're a sweetheart. You really are, but even if I said 'yes', there's no way I can snag a sitter in time to -"
"It's taken care of."
Kyanna raises an eyebrow. "Come again?"
"I mean, a sitter. I've taken care of that. That girl from campus, Tiffany? I … saw her phone number on your fridge and I booked her in advance this morning. She's coming to your apartment tomorrow night. She had to cancel a cheerleading practice, but I promised I'd pay extra if she could make it, so really, you have to come out."
Kyanna plants her hands on her hips and looks her over, eyes glinting with that overprotective, momma bear ferocity.
"You booked a sitter behind my back? You invited someone to go up to my apartment – up to my son - and barge in without telling me?"
Beli winces and gives a downcast nod. The whole date idea looks to be over before it even began.
Then Kyanna grins slyly.
"Beli Lapran, when did you get to be such a pushy bitch?"
"Well I never met anyone who wanted a date so bad they offered to pay for my sitter. Not gonna take no for an answer, huh?"
"I – just thought I should plan ahead. I'm sorry."
"Pff! Don't be. I kinda like this new, bossy Beli. Makes me wanna see what else she's got hidden up her sari."
As if that isn't innuendo enough, Kyanna saunters up so close that Beli can count the lashes on those violet eyes and traces a teasing finger up and down the exposed skin of her arm. The touch sends Beli's heart working overtime.
"So, boss? Where you gonna take me for a good time tomorrow?"
Kyanna's mesmerizing smile makes it so tempting to spill everything, but Beli shakes the butterflies from her head.
"I-it's a surprise."
"Aw boo, that's no fun! You've at least got to give me a dress code. Otherwise, I might meet you at the door in my swimsuit."
"A swi-? Why would you wear that?"
"I dunno. Maybe 'cause I think you'd like it."
Kyanna flashes a hungry smile, and Beli's sure that her ears are steaming.
"Oh, it's not like that. I mean, dress nice, but nothing super fancy. Oh, and no heels. We'll be walking."
"Ooh, an evening stroll under the moonlight?"
"S-sort of. Oh, and dinner too, so don't fill up before."
"Buying me food? Oh Bels, you're checking off all the boxes now."
Beli has to cup her cheeks to hide the rosy, red glow. This is flirting, right? Kyanna's flirting with me. A strange sensation is spiraling up inside her chest, and it's one she wouldn't mind getting used to.
"So, I'll pick you up around six?"
"What if I want you sooner?" Again, Kyanna's intense stare sends Beli squirming and blushing, and she needs a moment to steady herself.
"Well... You'll just have to wait, missy."
"Mm, there's that spicy calzone again. Okay, I'll wait until six, Miss Lapran, but I'm expecting you to dazzle me, got that?"
Beli nods firmly. "I'll be worth the wait."
"Oh I know you are." Kyanna smiles again, and a shiver runs up Beli's spine as she leans over her ear and whispers, "te veo mañana, belleza."
Kyanna flashes her a parting wink, and then Beli's toddling off out the front entrance in a drunken wobble, still unable to process what just happened: Kyanna's forgiven her, they're friends again, and for the first time in her life, she's asked someone out on a date! Not just any someone but another woman! A scandalous thrill rushes up her spine as she imagines the awed looks of her gym friends and yoga students. Miss Lapran, how daring!
I can do this, she thinks. It can't be that different from dating a guy, and she's had lots of successful relationsh-
No, wait. She hasn't.
This isn't going to be some anonymous match made by a well-meaning friend, or a stranger foisted upon her by her nosy mother. This is a date with Kyanna, her most treasured and irreplaceable friend.
If she does anything the slightest bit awkward or off-putting, there's no slate to wipe clean, no easy phone number to block from her contacts. If this doesn't work out, there's no going back.
Dizzy beyond belief, Beli catches herself on the nearest wall as the weight of her decision bears down on her.
What have I gotten myself into?
or, enter your birth date.*
Audrey notched it up as much overdue karma that the park still looked normal for a Friday afternoon. The usual try-hard joggers, the old farts feeding pigeons, but no one was transforming into a freaky crab person or stalking shadow.
First stop was her go-to snack vendor, the one who sold cheap poutine when she needed an infusion of post-binging grease to fight off a hangover. Audrey bought a plate of the gravy-soaked fries, glanced at Momo's watering mouth, and then bought another.
"Take it. I am not picking hairballs out of my food."
"Thank you, Master! Momo's so happy to be with you!"
Momo this, Momo that. The kid was a regular chatterbox, spouting enough facts for ten online dating profiles once she had Audrey's ear. Momo's favorite colour was gold - "the gleamy kind", she emphasized - and she loved napping in the sun.
"Momo likes the spring time, an' running in the park, an' playing with her toysies. Do you have a favorite toy, Master?"
Audrey smirked, thinking of a very private drawer in her nightstand and the Not-Safe-For-Children places she could take this conversation, but decided the question was better ignored. She's so young it's creepy.
Creepier still were her animal mannerisms. Momo insisted on walking everywhere on all fours, padding about on her palms and toes. It looked awkward as fuck, but she was surprisingly nimble. When they sat down at a park bench to eat, Momo squatted cat-style with her knees tucked up at her shoulders and knuckles folded in between her legs.
She even eats like a cat, Audrey grimaced: shoving her face directly into the plate without a thought of using fingers. When Audrey held up her shot glass to watch, Momo looked like a perfectly ordinary tabby cat – leaning over her plate and nibbling away at her fries with dainty kitten bites.
Zooming into human mode revealed a far more disgusting, gravy-smeared sight. Appetite wrecked, Audrey quickly pushed her plate aside.
It hurt to look at the kid eating. Literally – that headache from the other night flamed up like a wildfire whenever she focused on the cat-girl, like her brain was overclocking itself trying to process her existence.
"So how come I can see and talk to you, but everyone else just sees a cat?"
"Momo dunno," the cat-girl shrugged as her tongue cleaned the gravy from Audrey's now-empty plate. "Maybe it's because you’re special, Master!"
"No shit, Sherlock. But what about these other monsters; I mean, you see 'em too, right?" Audrey pointed to a flock of pigeons pecking at an old lady's bread crumb offerings. Through her shot glass, they all registered as birds, but without her lens, two of them shifted into the hook-nosed gremlins she'd seen at Lusties nightclub. The duo cackled and exchanged high-fives over the free handouts.
"Momo sees 'em," the cat-girl confirmed. "They're there. They've always been there, but people just don't pay good attention. Not like you, Master. You're smart and see lotsa stuff, just like Momo!"
Yeah, the whole 'just like me' pep talk was so not cheering her up.
"But those two aren't birdsies," Momo went on, "They're griblins. Griblins like eating trash an’ making poopies on people."
Momo had further corrections to offer: The flying snakes she thought were dragonflies? No, those were draydids. They liked 'sleepy smoke' and people who relaxed a lot. The bouncing radishes were bib-bobbers, and seeing happy people made them wanna jump and sing. The stilt-legged crows were cawglers, and they liked chasing after people who were stressed out and worried.
"What about that?"
Audrey pointed to the elephant in the room – the cherry red Chinese dragon trailing leisurely loop-de-loops in the sky.
"Oh, that's Bessie." Momo's voice went quiet, like she was tip-toeing around the topic of a disabled relative. "Bessie's nice. Not very smarty, but nice. Bessie like tummy rubs an' eating meat."
"Meat. Lovely, I am so sleeping with the windows shut tonight. Thanks a bunch."
Under Audrey's glass lens, 'Bessie' had no normal equivalent, and vanished entirely. Some of these weirdos showed up as animals; others, like the vegetable bib-bobbers were fully cloaked and undetectable.
At least with the pigeons and the crows you could shit-kick those away, she reasoned. How did you protect yourself from a giant, invisible dragon that decided to make you her lunch? Which brought up the other point of awkwardness:
"What the fuck was that shadow?"
Momo shifted uncomfortably. Just mentioning that dark abomination chilled the air around them.
"Momo's never seen one of those before. They smell like something Momo remembers but –" sifting through her cat brain for memories just made Momo shudder. "Nyaa… Master, that thing gives Momo the shakies. You should stay super far from it, okay?"
"S'not like I'm looking to pick a fight! That thing came after me!"
It was weird – all the draydids and bib-bobbers and whatsa-woodles seemed to just watch people passively, or take advantage of their animal disguises to score free food. Scratch that, they pretty much were just animals. Ducklings, Audrey thought. Ugly ducklings that started hanging around the pond and completely forgot they were swans.
But last night and today, that shadow had directly targeted her. "C'mon, kid – you've gotta give me something to work with."
"Sorry, Master, but that's all Momo knows."
Audrey sighed. "Well wasn't this just the biggest waste of time."
"It wasn't a waste! Momo had lotsa fun talking with you, Master, and those Frenchy Fries were super nummy!" The cat-girl's eyes drifted off nostalgically. "Momo hasn't eaten food that yummy in a long time…"
"And that's why …”
A warning light tripped in Audrey's brain. She did not like the look this creature was giving her - the way she meekly bit her lip, how her ears flattened pathetically; the telltale signs of a little girl gathering the courage to bear her soul.
“That's why Momo wants to stay with you!"
"There is no way in hell you are staying with me."
Momo's eyes melted into watery desperation.
"B-but … Momo promises she'll be the bestest kitty ever! She knows all about catchin' miceys, an' – an' she knows how to use the little kitty's room! We can play t'gether, go for walkies t'gether, an' Momo can teach you all about kitties!"
Hell no, Audrey grimaced, but the kid was already clapping her hands in excitement, the deal a done thing in her cat brain.
"Let's start right now, okay? Momo's gonna give you a Kitty Quiz! Number one: what's a kitty's favouritest food in the whole wide world?"
Well, if playing this stupid game shut her up… "Umm, fish?"
"Huh?" Momo was aghast. "NO, MASTER, fishies are our friends! They're not for tasting! The real answer is 'kitties like tuna'!"
"But tuna's just –"
Audrey stopped herself. She may have given zero fucks, but this was treading into 'Santa Claus isn't real' territory.
"Okay, number two! Where do kitties like getting scratchies best of all?"
Momo leaned forward and batted her eyelashes expectantly. There was something very self-serving about all these 'quizzes', Audrey decided. "I dunno. Your ass?"
"Huh? No, behind our earsies!" A sliver of doubt darkened Momo's expression. "Master, you're not very good at Kitty Quizzes. Next, you'll be telling Momo you don't even know what a group of kitties is called!"
Desperate for reassurance, Momo pressed in close for the answer. Audrey just shrugged her arms.
"A clowder! Kitties live in – they live in …"
Weary and dazed, Momo plopped back on her haunches. "Misato knew that one right away…"
"Misa- who?" but the cat-girl was already shaking her head clear.
"This is super bad, Master. How're you gonna take care of Momo if you don't know anything about kitties?"
"Whoa, time out! I never said I was taking care of anybody! I mean –" Shit, this was so messed up.
"Look, you really don't want to be hanging out with me. I'm ... not age appropriate, let's put it that way. But I've got this friend – Tiffany – and she's a real fur-fag when it comes to cats. Got 'em on her phone, sticks big posters of them up at her place. She's the one you aughta be cozying up to, not me. See?"
Momo followed her pointing finger to one of the park's community message boards, and the university admissions poster stapled to the corkboard. The blonde, blue-eyed girl smiling back at them seemed like an odd choice for an ad campaign - homely and plain in her beauty; just a girl-next-door to sweep away into the crowd - but there was something undeniably honest and genuine about her smile; a kindness and a warmth that made you stop and admire her. She was dressed in a doctor's white coat and stethoscope, even though her actual degree was nursing.
"I guess a physician sounded more impressive," Tiffany had shrugged at the time.
It was all part of the university's new "You of-" recruitment campaign. The posters were all over town, and each in the series featured a different U of G star student - their football quarterback, their student union president - and a slogan speaking to their particular talent. 'U of Athletics', 'U of Leadership', 'U of Arts' and all that crap. High schoolers were supposed to fawn over the posters and think 'ooh, I can be like 'U' too! Sign me up!'
What garbage, Audrey scowled.
But her cynicism ended whenever she glanced at one of Tiffany's posters. Cheerleading captain, first-class honours student and volunteer extraordinaire, her friend's slogan read 'U of Excellence', and Audrey would personally bitch-slap the first troll who argued otherwise.
"Y'see? That's the girl you should be hanging around with."
"But… only you can see me, Master."
Fucking hell, how did this kid manage to make her eyes so big and sad at the same time? Audrey tore at her hair, trying to shield herself from those cuteness-beams.
"All right, here's the deal: until I figure what the hell's wrong with me, you can stick around. You're my attack cat, okay?" In twenty-two years, she'd never before been accosted by a shadow monster. It stood to reason that if she could 'switch off' this weirdo-vision they'd leave her alone again, right?
She'd delivered the news as bluntly as possible, but it still made the cat-girl beam like she was about to shit rainbows. Audrey gagged as the walking hairball dive-tackled her lap.
"Yaay! Oh thank you, thank you, thank you! Momo's gonna be the bestest kitty ever, you'll see!"
Audrey promptly pushed her off. "Ugh, paws off the dress, hairball! Now follow me!"
"Nyaa? Where're we going now, Master?"
"To get some answers, duh! But first I've gotta fix my make-up."
Unlike the common plebs, Audrey actually knew an expert on all things bizarre and otherworldly, someone who would definitely know what was up with her and this cat-girl. And if my luck finally balances out, I'll catch her all alone.
The thought both thrilled and terrified her.
Nikki's apartment wasn't too far from campus and the coffee shop, but the tension in Audrey's chest made the walk over feel like an eternity. She kept pausing to double-check her hair in passing windows, or to make sure her dress was smooth. God, If only she could smooth away the butterflies crowding her stomach. There could be no room for imperfections, not with the person she'd be visiting.
At the front lobby, Audrey buzzed the intercom the same way she'd rip off a bandage - quickly and with eyes shut. A minute passed, and she jabbed the button again. C'mon, pick up already! The butterflies swirling through her stomach were unbearable. Finally, the line clicked.
"Mmrrr….? Ta cho chuwan?"
It was four in the afternoon, but the groggy speaker groaned like it was four in the morning. Audrey cleared her throat and forced her voice to blaze with swagger.
"Hey bitch, it's Audrey. Gonna let me up?"
"Ohh-dree? Ta cho –" The sleepy voice paused and flipped to a mangled English. "Ah mean, whaat yu wan?"
"I need to talk, is that okay?"
"Taalk? … Mmh, yes. Okay. Wan meenute."
Audrey rolled her eyes. "And will you put on that translator collar? I no speaky space-talk, remember?"
A dainty giggle, and now the smooth, feminine voice was a language savant. "My apologies. Please come up right away."
The door lock clicked, and Audrey let herself in.
Her red eyes surveyed Nikki's little hovel, dimly lit and humming with the din of air conditioners. A row of black towers against the far wall piped in a constant stream of cold air and prickled her skin with goosebumps. Like walking into a fridge, Audrey grimaced. Even Momo shivered over the temperature drop.
She tried flicking the light switch but the bulbs were already burning purple energy. Right, Nikki had replaced most of her fluorescent tubes with black lights, the better to keep the décor dark and cozy for her nocturnal roommate. Said host announced herself with a muffled yawn.
"Pardon my appearance. I am still unused to your species' waking cycles."
The bedroom door creaked open, and Audrey stifled a sharp inhale. Celeste Luvendass was baggy-eyed, sporting crumpled bed head, and she was practically naked.
Celeste's sleep-deprived hands fumbled with the sash of her night robe - a gently glowing white satin, its hem barely brushed her thighs, and its thin fabric did nothing to hide the wicked curves of her body. After a moment's struggle, Celeste gave up and stretched in a long yawn, letting the robe flop open. Only a tight, cream-coloured thong preserved her modesty, while a low-cut camisole with spaghetti straps struggled to cup her heavy breasts.
"Umm, naw, it's cool," Audrey shrugged, while her heart rammed against her chest in a totally uncool fashion. You don’t even try and you look amazing!
Like a shy preschooler, Momo peered from behind the safety of Audrey's legs. "Master, why's her skin blue?"
"Because she's an alien, dumbass. Get with the program!"
Audrey breathed in Celeste's weirdness like an exotic perfume: blue-skinned and silver-haired, with legs that clopped about on cloven hooves and ears that sprouted curly goat horns. A Norai from the planet Tendricide, an intergalactic bounty hunter from beyond the stars, and holy shit, she was standing right there in the laciest underwear ever!
Celeste seemed too exhausted to register Audrey's naked admiration. "How can I be of assistance, Audrey?"
"Huh? Oh, I need you to tell me what the hell this thing is." The alien's puzzlement grew as Audrey nudged the timid cat-girl out from behind her legs.
"This is one of your domesticated species, yes? A cat?"
It was the weirdest thing ever, watching Celeste pick up Momo. When Audrey snuck a glance through her shot glass, the alien hunter looked perfectly normal scooping up a squirming kitten for inspection. Without the lens, Celeste was holding up a full-sized human girl under the shoulders, and Momo was giggling like this was a game. So even an alien can't see her.
"She's not a cat, that's just what she looks like. It's a disguise or something. Look, ever since last night I've been seeing weird shit that shouldn't be there: dragons, monsters – this fucker."
"Hallucinations?" Celeste offered.
"I'm not going crazy! Look, don't you have some space gadget that can tell me what she really is?"
Celeste sighed as she deposited Momo on the hardwood floor for a chin scratching. "I do possess some rudimentary medical scanners, but they are not equipped to diagnose Earth physiology. Your species, your planet has never been studied by the greater galaxy."
"That's what I'm trying to tell you: she's not normal, and there's no way in hell she can't be from this planet! I swear to God you'll find some E.T. shit inside her. So can you please just shove a probe up her ass or something?"
The cat-girl's ears stiffened, and Momo was suddenly very eager to wriggle out of Celeste's grasp.
Celeste rubbed at her eyes, probably wondering if this was a mad dream she'd woken into, but she didn't refuse. "Very well. I am in your debt for all you did to assist me in rescuing Nicole."
Audrey winced. Like she needed reminders of the night Nikki had been space-napped by an alien dinosaur and she'd played emergency chauffer for Celeste. It was awkward enough watching the alien woman's hand drift over her injuries: the waxy blaster scar ripped across her cheek, the off-white plastic of her prosthetic ear, and the blackened stump of her once-proud horn.
All these months and it still hadn't grown back. Audrey wasn't bold enough to ask if it ever would.
Audrey ordered Momo to stay put, while Celeste pulled out some equipment that looked like a tablet and two ping pong racquets. The Norai waved her scanning instruments around the cat-girl's trembling body, who discovered she was needlessly clamping her hands over her bottom. Celeste's tech was one-hundred percent non-invasive.
"I'm transmitting the data to my ship's cognition. There will be a slight delay."
While Celeste strapped on a pair of space-gloves and summoned holographic screens into the air, Audrey's eyes drifted skyward. She frowned.
"Hey, you two redecorate the ceiling?"
"No. Why do you ask?"
"No reason," Audrey coughed. Just that you've got a carpet of bugs crawling over your heads.
Nikki's ceiling was alive and rippling with the flicker of thin wings and the pitter-patter of tiny insect legs. Butterflies – Audrey didn't know what else to call the delicate little creepers, part insect, part flower; white and delicate as milk chocolate and clinging upside-down to the stucco ceiling. Their papery wings were bubble-gum pink and folded down into points, so that each one appeared to be carrying a rosebud on its back.
"Flutterflies!" Momo gasped as though she beheld a rainbow. "Master, Momo's never seen so many all t'gether! Misses-Lady-Celeste must have somebody she really-really likes! Flutterflies only come around people who have special somebodies!"
Special somebody, huh? Audrey didn't really get it, but even the invisible monster world was rooting for Team Nikki. Lovely.
While Celeste tapped away at her holographic keypads, Momo scampered off to explore, leaving Audrey totally alone with the alien woman in her skimpy lingerie. Her throat grew dry. Fuck, why can't my English prof assign me an essay on how awesome you are? She'd hit the ten-thousand word requirement and then some!
Celeste was stacked – perfectly round, perfectly perky tits; the widest, most hypnotic ass ever; not to mention arms and legs firm with muscle and scar tissue. A perfect ratio of ‘sexy’ and ‘badass’, she could be greasy from repairing her ship’s engine and still look fabulous; she could shoot down a charging animal without breaking a sweat. Best of all, she was a trained soldier who could effortlessly kick the ass of any guy who so much as looked at her funny.
And now she and Audrey were finally alone. A nervous shiver ran across the human girl's spine. This is my chance.
"So, um … super cool that you could come clubbing the other night."
"You departed quite suddenly," Celeste noted. "Nicole and I were concerned."
Celeste had been worried for her? Audrey beamed as she chalked up a point for herself. "Jeez, don't get your panties in a bunch! Look, I ran into this hot-ass Italian guy and went back to his place for the night. Not to brag or anything, but this guy's dick was massive. Once he bent me over and got going, I must've cum five times in a row. Shit, I could barely stand this morning!"
Audrey paused for her high-fives, but where Miss Yumi would have been squealing for details, Celeste merely nodded. "I see. Nicole and I also mated last night. It was a most enjoyable evening."
Audrey's nails stabbed at her palms.
"Ugh, what the fuck, Celeste? You think I really need to picture Nik and her saggy ass flopping around in bed? Not supposed to talk about that shit here on Earth, okay?"
Celeste's sleep deprived brain seemed genuinely puzzled. "Oh. I apologize. You've repeatedly described each of your coital encounters, so I assumed - Well, no matter."
While Celeste returned to her holo-typing, Audrey cursed her clumsiness. What was it Miss Yumi said? Get her to teach me something?
"Hey, Celeste, when you're in space, how do you tell someone they're a real shithead?"
"Kaba." The Norai didn't even look away from her screens. "For extreme dislike, the 'S' prefix is attached. S'kaba."
"Mmm." Audrey sauntered closer, and bent over into Celeste's ear. "S'kaaaaaba," she whispered in her sexiest voice.
"Correct, although you need not draw out the vowel sound."
Again, glued to her screens! Shit, this wasn't working. Audrey scrambled her brain for another topic, but her eyes kept drifting to Celeste and her long, blue, bare –
"Hey, how do you shave your legs in outer space, anyway?" That earned her an odd glance. "I mean, just wondering. They're nice. Your legs, I mean."
"I utilize a hand-held sonic laser calibrated for removing hair follicles."
"A laser? No shit! Me, I just use a straight razor. Does the trick just as good, I'll bet."
Dammit, take a hint already! Audrey swallowed and stepped it up a notch.
"Betcha mine are nicer than yours." While Celeste immersed herself in typing, Audrey pulled up a chair and sat across from the alien woman. She pointed her bare legs towards the Norai, wiggling her toes so that one after the other her shoes slipped off her heels. She let them dangle suggestively before flicking one to the floor. A quick kick sent its partner shoe clattering, leaving her naked from her toes to her thighs.
"You do seem very fashion conscious," Celeste idly agreed.
Audrey's nails dug white lines across her thighs as she gathered her courage.
"Wanna feel mine?"
Celeste's fingers slipped. Red error messages blanketed her holograms.
"My legs. C'mon, give 'em a feel." Her heart was pounding in her ears, but she had Celeste's attention. She couldn't stop now. "What? Earth girls compare bods all the time."
Celeste just frowned at her, a puzzled expression screwed into her narrowed eyes. Audrey could sense that alien brain clocking overtime in an attempt to decipher the appropriateness of this Earthling ritual. She just gave a small smile and poked Celeste's knee with her toes, urging her on.
Rolling her eyes, Celeste gave her shin a cursory rub, like she was sampling a rug in a shop. "Yes, quite nice." It was all business to the alien, but to Audrey, the touch was pure bliss. She snatched Celeste's wrist and held it to her skin.
"You can feel some more, y'know." Grinning softly, she guided Celeste's hand up her calf, trying to stoke the warmth ignited by Nikki's girlfriend.
Audrey jerked back quickly, cheeks aflame. "Or not. Whatever."
Celeste gave her another hazy stare, then resumed her work. "They are remarkably smooth," she observed. It was a small relief she failed to observe the horror racing through Audrey's brain.
Fuck, what am I doing? This was Nikki's girlfriend! Celeste meant the world to her friend.
And yet …
"Hey, next time you shave I should show you how Earth girls do it."
That earned her a chuckle. "Appreciative; however, I groom my body hair as I shower."
Now that garnered her a full-on look. Audrey flashed her most inviting eyes.
"We're both girls here. No big deal, right?"
Celeste said nothing. She didn't have to say anything; Audrey heard the low, trilling purr bubble from the Norai's throat. Celeste coughed quickly to cover it up, but it was there: her species' version of a happy little shiver.
She … she wants it?
So of course the damn cat had to scamper into the room and wreck the moment.
"At the door! Momo hears somebody!" Along the ceiling, the flutterflies mirrored her excitement: skittering and repositioning as the lock clicked, the door creaked and -
"Kos-kan, Celeste! Ashi- Audrey? What're you doing here?"
Thanks to her cat-girl early warning system, Audrey had shuffled back a safe distance from Celeste, but the fact remained that she was alone and uninvited, while Nikki's lover paraded around in alien lingerie. Only practiced reflex allowed Audrey to fasten on her calm, 'don't give a shit' face.
"S'up, Nik. I needed to talk to Smurfette."
She could see Nikki gearing up to give her an earful, but Celeste defused the entire showdown. She was on her hooves in a heartbeat, drawn to her human lover as though by magnetic lines. Nikki wobbled as she was pulled into Celeste's full-throated kiss.
A collective poof exploded from the ceiling - the flutterflies unfurling their rosebud wings towards the kissing pair. A moment ago, they'd been skittering in overdrive, jostling for front-row positions like crazed fanboys at a rock concert. Now, they were still and reverently silent, a field of upside-down flowers angling their petals to capture the warmth radiating from the lover's embrace.
Momo aww-ed at the spectacle, but Audrey only clenched a fist as Nikki and Celeste's love made a thousand pale-pink roses blossom on command.
"Kos kan, Chiletto. You've returned ahead of schedule this cycle."
"Manager let me off early," the bluenette stuttered, still punch-drunk from the deep kiss. She had no such warmth to spare Audrey. "You could've texted me, let me know you were coming."
"Oops, must've slipped my mind. Sucks when your friends keep you out of the loop, doesn't it? Gonna tell me what the hell happened to Tiff?"
Nikki rolled her eyes. "Don't get bitchy with me, okay? It's none of your business."
"Out with it, Ann-Marie!"
Audrey's outburst sent the flutterflies quivering. The quickest managed to shut their roses in time, but those closest to her fury dropped to the floor, dead from shock. The sight of tumbling rose petals stunned Audrey and Momo alike.
"Master... they don't like angry people."
Across the room, Nikki grumbled to herself, but Celeste urged her to share.
"Look, I was visiting with Miss Jessie Tuesday night, helping with her computer when Tiffany called up her mom. I wasn't trying to snoop or anything, but her voice was so loud, I … kinda overheard."
"I dunno. It sounded like she'd been babysitting, and I guess there'd been some sort of accident. I think the kid she was looking after got hurt or something, and Tiffany was taking it pretty badly. 'I fucked up, mom.' Her words exactly."
Audrey's stomach grew cold. Squeaky-clean Tiff cringed at using 'hell' or 'damn'; what nightmare had unfolded that she descended straight to the mother-trucking F-word?
"Your companion was quite upset," Celeste remarked. "When she discovered that her conversation had been overheard, she pleaded with Nicole not to repeat the information."
"So you went home and told your fuck buddy? Real nice, Nik."
The bluenette gave a rose-wilting glare of her own that showered Audrey in dead bugs.
"Don't. Just don't go there. Besides, that wasn't what Tiffany asked me. It was one thing, and she made me promise."
"Don't tell Audrey."
Cold. No black shadow creature stood in the room, but Audrey's bones felt every bit as cold and forsaken.
"Liar!" she snapped. "Why'd Tiff be keeping shit from me?"
"I dunno, maybe because she thought you'd go blabbing to everyone?"
"Like hell I would." Audrey paced about restlessly. It was all she could do to keep up her fiery masquerade. We made a promise that night, she thought. No secrets, no bullshit. Why was her friend turning her back on her?
"Look, Tiffany's taking some time off to sort herself out, or something. When she's ready, she'll call us, so let's just give her some space, okay?"
"Whatever! Let the baby cry in the corner."
Why're you giving up on me, Tiffany Maye?
As if sensing her inner turmoil, Nikki coughed and changed topics. "What's with the cat?"
"Audrey believes it to be an extraterrestrial lifeform capable of concealing its true presence." Celeste's explanation seemed to trigger a silent alarm within her lover. In the blink of an eye, Nikki broke down into all all-out nerd-girl paranoia.
"Extraterrest - Does it smell like sugar?" Her panicky voice jumped an octave. "Oh shit, Celeste - did you touch it with the iron filings to see if it burns? Omigod, did you put it in a ring of salt to see if it can get out? Pa na isho, don't tell me it smells like sugar!"
"Mugunon, Chiletto." Celeste rubbed the bluenette's shoulder and whispered assurances in her space language. "Choshi dan azen."
What happened next nearly broke Audrey's brain: Nikki replied in Celeste's same language.
"Prip-pri," Nikki hyperventilated apologetically. She sucked in her breath and added, "Ashi … te shopan dendan."
"Na cupidaemons don asaroizu ashi kara cho," Celeste assured her.
"Ashi washi," Nikki nodded back quietly, breathing a sigh of relief. A wicked smirk licked her lips as she stood on tiptoe and whispered, "Ashi yoku cho rokobi t'ashi sezara."
Audrey could only assume that last bit had been something X-rated, because Celeste's eyebrow cocked and her throat started purring like a motorboat. Nikki grinned viciously as she was swept into another hungry embrace, lips smacking in quick, wanton kisses. Momo giggled and "eww"-ed at the grown up display, while on the ceiling, hundreds of rosebud wings snapped open-shut over and over – a rousing applause to the star-crossed lovers.
Bile rose in Audrey's throat.
"God, you're a pervert, Nik. Hey Celeste, I still need some help here!" She was ready to throw a shoe at the show-offs, but Celeste disentangled herself in time.
"Ah yes. The scan report is complete. My equipment has detected no abnormalities in your animal companion. It matches no known species within the Galactic Confederacy. A mere Earth feline, nothing more."
Nikki scoffed. "I told you that shit makes you hallucinate."
"However," Celeste continued, "your described experience of seeing unseen or distorted creatures caused me to recall a certain piece of galactic folklore."
"What, like an alien fairy tale?"
Nikki whispered a translation and Celeste nodded affirmative. "The story relates to an ancient civilization on the Shen'to homeworld. They are what you would call … 'bird people', Audrey. According to legend, there once existed a Shen'to religious order – a ministry of priestesses who were said to possess a 'second sight' that allowed them to observe the existence of korubai."
"Invisible monsters," Nikki translated. "They're the ones who could see the love fairies too, right?"
"Correct, Nicole. It is said that this order used their supernatural abilities to combat these unseen monstrosities, and to purge them from existence. In exchange for offerings to their temple, naturally."
Lovely, alien exorcists for hire. "Umm, okay, but what's that got to do with me? And what's so god-damn funny, Nicole?" Nikki was in stitches, trying to hold back her sudden sniggering.
"Nothing," the watery-eyed nerd gasped. "It's just … Celeste told me this story before, and … those priestesses with the second sight? They were all vibara. It means pure maidens."
When Audrey only gave her the stink-eye, the nerdette sighed and spelled it out clearly.
"They were virgins."
Audrey's stomach dropped. Nikki laughed again, and even Celeste couldn't keep a small giggle from smirking past her lips.
"Master?" Momo nudged at her leg, sensing a disturbance.
A disturbance, Audrey laughed from a small corner of her mind, a part that wasn't consumed by ruinous screaming. She preferred the term traitorous back-stabbing. Celeste, perfect Celeste, had just laughed at her – the untouched loser. Suddenly Tiffany's plan of retreating from the world didn't seem so ludicrous. She was ruined.
But like any worthy prima donna, Audrey knew the show had to go on.
"Oh ha-ha, laugh it up, you fags! Like you're ones to talk – all that licking and fingering you do doesn't count for shit, y'know! I've … I've been with plenty of guys! Maybe I've just never taken it up the vag! Y'ever think about that, huh?"
Nikki was in an all-out laugh riot, but Celeste was doing her best to contain herself. "Audrey, it is –"
"Oh, shut up!" She spun on the alien, shooting a finger at Momo as she spoke. "So if I pop my cherry, she 'pops' out of my sight, is that it? Fine then. Just watch me – I'll be sending you both dick pics of all the fuckable guys I find tonight! I'll have dicks lining up the block to nail me, you'll see! Momo – we're leaving!"
She slammed the door on her way out and made a show of stomping down the hallway as loud as she could. Halfway down the hall, Momo puzzled as Audrey stopped, slipped out of her heels and tiptoed back.
"Shh! Shut the fuck up."
Ever so carefully, Audrey pressed her ear to Nikki's door and listened.
"-shouldn't antagonize her like that, Nicole. She's likely to do something reckless now."
"Reckless? Like, I dunno, letting a possible love fairy spy waltz right into our apartment and see you? What if she's right, and that cat is something weird? What if she's working for that goddess? What if she knows that you're here and–"
A muffled sob choked through the door. The quiet clop of hooves and the rustle of arms embracing quieted Nikki's crying.
"I don't wanna lose you, Celeste."
"Shh. I am here, Chiletto. I will always be here."
Audrey listened onward, but only the gentle stroking of hands emerged. She imagined Nikki, enveloped in Celeste's arms, cheek pressed close to the Norai's breast as the taller woman rubbed soothing circles along her back.
A sudden yawn broke the moment. Celeste cleared her throat. "I apologize, Chiletto. Audrey's visitation woke me far too early."
"No, it's cool. You should go back to bed. I just -" Nikki took three or four steadying breaths. "Can I sleep with you? I just … wanna hold you a bit more, if that's okay?"
Another eager purr rumbled from Celeste's throat. "Not with those clothes on."
Nikki's breath hitched, and Audrey had to squeeze her cheek against the door to make out what followed: the rustle of a thin robe slipping to the floor. The daring whisper of hands on fabric. Nikki's nervous giggle as buttons were snapped and zippers tugged open.
"Mmm, I thought my Valkyrie was all tired out."
A smack of lips. A heavy growl.
"You always have a way of arousing me, Chiletto."
"Ashi iko cho, Celeste."
"I love you so much, my precious Nicole."
A bulky sweater thumping against the floor. The flick of elastic straps from shoulders. A shudder of breath accompanied by the staccato rhythm of lips pecking lips, growing every second in tempo and intensity. Audrey listened to the intimate duet – two people holding each another, exploring each other; adorning one another's bodies with the tenderest of kisses.
She reared back and kicked the door hard. Momo was on her heels as she ran down the hall.
She'd show them. She'd show them all! She was going to stamp out this nightmarish hallucination world all by herself!
Virgin priestesses, huh? Well say goodbye V-card, and goodbye Momo! By the end of tonight she'd fuck five – no, ten different guys, and just before each of those throbbing, foot-long dicks made her cum, she'd dial Nikki so the little brat could listen to the filthy, screaming ecstasy that she and her alien dyke were missing out on!
Audrey nodded, arching her back and stomping her feet so that Momo would see her firm commitment.
Only her traitorous hands betrayed a nervous tremble.
Hello, and thank you for stopping by!
This profile will host, "Redemption's Fall", the written adaptation of my Pokemon Emerald Nuzlocke.
The story can be enjoyed on its own merits, but for those of you who follow Nuzlocke Challenges, below is the modified ruleset governing my challenge:
1. Catch only the first non-ghost Pokemon encountered on each route, town or cave.
a. Excluding ghosts, you may own only one (1) Pokemon of each type.
b. Nrm/Fly = Flying Type. Otherwise, Pokemon are categorized by their Type 1.
c. The "first non-ghost Pokemon" encountered on a route is defined as "first of a type you do not yet own". If a pokemon whose type you already own appears, you must ignore it and catch the next permitted pokemon.
2. Nickname all Pokemon.
3. Create four storage boxes titled as follows: Earth, Purgatory, The Inferno and Paradise.
4. If a Pokemon faints then its mortal life has ended and its soul must await judgement. Perma-box it in "Purgatory".
5. For each soul in Purgatory you may catch one (1) ghost Pokemon. The gender and nickname of this ghost must correspond to one of the souls lost in limbo.
6. Ghost Pokemon are creatures from beyond this world. Consequently, they are unaffected by Earthly tokens. Ghosts may be healed at Pokemon centers but they cannot hold, use or benefit from any items in or out of battle.
7. If a Ghost Pokemon faints then its connection to this mortal world is severed. Perma-box it - along with its mortal equivalent - in "The Inferno", where it will live out an eternity of torment.
8. It is said that the energies of a Legendary Pokemon are capable of cleansing the sins of any lost soul. In exchange for condemning a Regi, Kyogre, Groudon, Rayquaza or Lati_s to the Inferno (i.e. catch it and box it in Hell), you may transfer one lost Pokemon from "Purgatory" to "Earth".
a. If the rescued Pokemon had a Ghost equivalent then release that ghost, as its body and soul have been reconnected.
b. Mark all resurrected Pokemon. If it faints a second time, Perma-box it in "The Inferno".