Music girl 8
I clawed my way back to consciousness in my own bed, with my brother Ken sitting in a chair beside me, reading. My first reaction when memory returned was to be terminally pissed off at Harry for pulling my headphones off at the party, and if that ‘Dancing on the ceiling’ number had been on the list I gave him, Ken would be deep in the crapper as well. “Is mum home?” I asked.
“Yes, you’ve only been out for about an hour or so. I’ll go get her.” That was a relief, as I just did not want to talk to anyone else.
A short time later, my mum came in, and asked, “How do you feel?”
“Hoping it was you who put me to bed.” I almost cringed, waiting for the answer.
“I did.” Sigh of relief.
“Did you hear what happened?”
“Oh, yes. Harry was so upset….”
I forcefully interrupted, “He was upset? He should have been more than that, it was all his fault. He should be feeling guilt and remorse, and I don’t want to see him again anytime soon. Don’t forget it’s because of him that virtually all the seniors at school saw my panties.” Taking a deep breath, I pointedly added, “Including my brother.” I did not mention that I was also ashamed that they were granny ones. I had been making the point I didn’t want to seem sexy to Harry, but I didn’t want the whole school to know that.
Mum gave a chuckle. I thought she at least would be a bit more sympathetic, but she brushed it off. “You are still going to school on Monday.”
“Thanks for pointing that out.” It sucked that I would definitely run into him there. Way to cheer me up, mother mine.
Mum moved to tuck me in as if I was seven, not seventeen, and leaned in to give me a peck on the cheek. It felt right. “Get a good night’s sleep, and everything will make a lot more sense in the morning.”
It sounded reasonable, and I found I was still pretty exhausted. I had clearly used too much magic for one day. “Mum,” I asked, “Please tell Harry I don’t want to see him or talk to him if he calls, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t really want to be around Ken right now either. I feel like staying in bed until Monday morning.”
The next thing I knew it was morning, but only Saturday. My mum coming into the room had woken me. “Jani dear,” she said, as my fuzzy head made an attempt to focus, “it’s already past ten, and you have a visitor.”
That cleared my brain, and woke me up faster than a sniff of ammonia. “Not Harry,” I gulped.
“No, nobody like that,” she replied. “It’s a Mr. Henderson.”
Now I jumped out of bed. He was the guy whose life I saved yesterday with my vision, and had no doubt come to say something nice to me. “Tell him I’ll be down as soon as I can make myself presentable.” I deliberately did not say how long that might be, as I didn’t know how much time I would need until I looked into a mirror. When I did, I wished I hadn’t. Even just doing the basics took twenty minutes, but I absolutely had to look acceptable. After all, he was one of the most powerful shifters in the country, and now I was firmly part of the supernatural world, he was someone I most definitely didn’t want to disappoint.
As soon as I made it into the living room where he waited, I immediately blurted out, “Sorry I took so long, Mr. Henderson, but I was still asleep when you arrived.”
He immediately stood up from the easy chair mum had parked him in with a fluidity that surprised me. “Oh, Janice,” he said in a polite and almost deferential tone. “Think nothing of it, and don’t forget I came unexpectedly.”
That was true, I supposed, but taking stock of the man, I was struck by the fact that the feeling of power that had absolutely oozed off him the first time we had met was now much muted. This prompted me to ask, “Are you alright, sir?”
That brought a wide smile from him. “I’m fine, but I believe your surprise is because you perceive me as less powerful than the last time we met.
I really had no idea how to reply, so after more than a few silent seconds, he told me, “I guess that as you continue to use magic, you gain more power yourself, and what you notice is merely the difference in our strengths. I reckon you will become a lot stronger as you learn to handle your gift.”
Was that really what I wanted? Did I want to ooze power like Stefania? Did I just want to be a normal schoolgirl? I reckoned what I wanted didn’t matter anymore anyway. My nervous musings were brought down to earth when Mr. Henderson said, “I phoned your mother yesterday when you were, well… not awake, and since I didn’t want to disturb you, I asked her what you might like as a small, but appropriate token of thanks.”
“You didn’t need to, really,” I told him, mustering as sweet a smile as I could. “For me it was a good learning experience.” And one I would prefer to forget.
“Nevertheless, I already got the small token, and since it has been set up especially for you, I think you should accept it.”
He took a small gift-wrapped box from a pocket and handed it across to me. “I think you will at least appreciate it when you see what it is.” Seeing my reluctance to take it, he assured me, “When you remember it is for saving my life, I believe that it is a very small gesture of thanks.”
I suppose that did it, and I accepted it with a little nod. “Thank you,” I said, and proceeded to open it. It was an Ipod, and one of the pricier ones too. “This is very kind,” I told him, trying to sound sincere.
“The Ipod is not really the present, I got your brother to help, and we downloaded twenty ‘special’ songs onto it, the ones on your mother’s list.”
Suddenly my pricy gift had morphed into twenty disasters waiting to happen, as I neither knew which songs were on the list, and even less what their effect on me might be. Sure, some would probably be beneficial, but without careful experimentation under controlled conditions, any of them could kill me.
If, for instance, I heard ‘Dancing on the ceiling’ when I was outside, I would be heading feet first towards the stratosphere until the effect wore off, and then it would be head first back to earth. Still, I had been taught to be polite, so, putting on my best face, I said, “That was very thoughtful of you, sir.”
“I sense some reservations, Janice.”
No fooling him, obviously. I chose my words carefully. “Sir, it is indeed a fine present, and one that you clearly spent some time considering, and it is something that I shall appreciate very much – eventually. You see, I’m not sure what effect these will have on me, and it’s rather like being given twenty unexploded bombs.”
At least he had the good manners to laugh. “I see what you mean. Anyway I’m happy that it will help when you get yourself sorted out.” He sat down in the chair nearest mine, and leant forward in my direction. “There is another reason I wanted to see you.” He appeared to be serious, so I mirrored his position and hoped it was good. It wasn’t.
“Both Stefania and I felt you needed to know how we perceived yesterday’s events, as you have become embroiled in supernatural affairs, and they may well affect you.” So far, so mystery. What was the problem, because there seemed to be a big one? “We are fairly certain,” he went on, “that some group or faction is trying to destabilize the status quo as regards us supernaturals. We think that the idea behind the attempt on my life was to set the Shifters and the Vampires at each other’s throats. You see, the power of persuasion is, or at least was, thought to be a trait exclusive to Vampires. If they had succeeded, then it would appear that the Vamps were attacking the Shifters, and that might have led to an all out war.” His expression became very sad. “We have had a couple in the past, which nobody won, but they were a long time ago. One now would be disastrous for both sides, as the humans would be frightened to death.”
“But, Mr. Henderson,” I asked, “why would they think it was the Vampires?”
“Because my pilot would have been programmed to behave like he was under persuasion just before he crashed the plane. A few zombie like words to the air traffic controllers would have been enough.”
This was a bit much, and I didn’t even want to consider the idea that zombies actually existed, so I asked him, “But, why do it at all, and who would gain from killing you and starting a war?”
“We don’t know ‘who’ exactly, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out what sort of people.”
“I’m not a genius, sir, so you had better explain.”
“Janice, stop me if you lose the thread. You see the Shifters and the Vamps have been around a long time, and we have managed to maintain as low a profile as is possible, because we don’t want the humans becoming too antagonistic. When we do figure in the news, it tends to be positive PR. Lately, with the number of witches surging, there is a concern amongst many of us that the rather delicate balance we have will inevitably be disrupted. There are some who have always resented something about us, it could be our long lives, or our abilities, but mostly it is our power.” Since I looked at him in a way that told him he had lost me, he said, “The attempt on my life was undoubtedly made by a clique of rich and powerful people who see the emergence of another supernatural group as a threat – and an opportunity. To help us blend in, we have friends in high places, some of whom are supernaturals, and some of who are humans.”
“Humans are friendly to you?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied. “I’m not talking about groupies or anything like that, I mean those who appreciate the uses that can be made of our abilities, and understand the very dangerous downside that might result if there were to be an open confrontation between us and them.”
“Why are we a threat?” I was still trying to process everything.
“While you witches were in an obvious decline, you could be ignored as you were so few. At the rate your numbers are now increasing, you should be able to get some of the legal privileges that we enjoy very soon. It’s simple, witches are going to become another significant power bloc, and every new power that emerges means that the others will be diminished.” That was when he said the thing that really worried me, “I expect that if their gambit had turned out the way they wanted, some way would have been found to discredit the witches too.”
I didn’t know what to say for a couple of minutes, but as he could no doubt see the wheels of my mind cranking over, he didn’t interrupt. Eventually I asked, “So what you are really saying is that there is an anonymous group of very rich and powerful humans out there who have a grudge against all supernatural beings, and aren’t above killing however many of us they need to, so they can achieve their objective?”
“I couldn’t have put it better myself.” Well, shit, that was good to know. He moved to put a reassuring pat on my arm. “Janice, you shouldn’t worry, their targets will definitely be the more powerful and well-known of us. You are neither, so relax.”
Having told me that I was getting more powerful all the time, his kindly intended words didn’t help much, if fact they gave me good reason to get upset. “What if they find out I’m the clairvoyant who can see their intended moves, then what?”
This took him aback, as I could see an odd expression flit momentarily across his face. In a measured tone, meant clearly to calm me down, he said, “Then we’ll have to ensure that nobody ever finds out.”
I sat twiddling the Ipod between my fingers for a long while once he left. I figured that if there was a chance I might become a target, then I should work on being able to defend myself. Against my better judgment, I brought up the list of songs on my new Ipod, hoping that there would be at least one that would be not only useful, but unlikely to kill me. The first one was ‘Fire’ by The Pointer Sisters. With my luck I would probably set fire to myself, so I scrolled to the next one. It was ‘I’m alright’ by Kenny Loggins, but as I had no idea about that one, I went on to the next, ‘Freeze Frame’ by the J Geils Band. That one had potential to help me defend myself, so I went out into our yard as I didn’t want any accidents like freezing my mum to happen.
I guessed I should be able to stop things moving, at least if all went well, so I cast around for something moving. My eyes stopped on the wind chime by the porch as it tinkled. Crossing my fingers, I turned the Ipod on. When I didn’t flake out with the music, I concentrated on the wind chime, and said, “Freeze”. It froze, all askew, so I whooped loudly at my success, and mum came running out to see what was happening. “Mum, I froze the wind chime!” I told her.
She wasn’t focused on the wind chime, but on the pathway to the door. “You froze Harry too.”
There Harry stood, completely immobile with his mouth open. That was it. Bastard. I turned to my mother and said, “Good, when he thaws out, tell him to get lost.”