“Oh my fucking God, another me!”
So as I flew back, watching the swamp turn from a sticky and lush summer to a dry and dead autumn, I saw what looked like me stretch up to the ceiling. I pointed at this duplicate, not surprised at all that another me had appeared. I looked down to see Brooke, looking at me with a screwed up expression.
I flew down and the duplicate followed, resuming a normal shape.
“Okay, so I grew some new legs somehow. This brought me to the conclusion that my elastic water sprite body is a freaking starfish.” I said and crossed my arms.
“You grew some new legs?” The other me asked. “What are you talking about? If there are two of us and we’re also starfish, than aren’t you my legs?”
She threw her arms out and I backed up. She had arms, too many of them! I pointed at her.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Where did those come from? Are they real?”
The other me studied her six arms for a moment. I floated up to my duplicate and grabbed an ancillary arm. The stitching that I had crafted for the suit matched on all the new arms.
“Hey! Hey!” She yelled and pulled it away. “I swear, you must be one of Brooke’s ilk or something.”
I watched as the arms moved independently as my other self tried to figure out what to do with them.
“What is…? Those are yours, huh? Wait, what did you say?”
My other half pointed at Brooke with three of her hands and at me with the others. Brooke just stood there, watching us.
“You’re all touchy-feely! I get cut in half only to grow four more arms somehow and you spawn out of nowhere, probably to argue with me that you’re not my legs, or something.”
The other me reached down to feel her legs and see if they existed. She squeezed and they bulged out like squeezed water balloons in response.
“What are you talking about? I’m the severed torso! You’re my original legs having regrown into another me.”
“Explain my new arms then?” She said.
I threw my own two skyward. They hit the ceiling.
“How do I know that this isn’t a trick then? Fortune could have had a fourth clone from Brooke being you. A clone that can alter how they look from person to person. Somehow giving the illusion of these extra arms too!” She said. She grabbed her other wrists and shook them for emphasis.
“What?!” I shrieked.
“Brooke has clones too, what makes you think that her evil clones wouldn’t do this to me to throw me off?”
I spun around.
“Holy Hell, are you really that thick? Brooke is not behind the two of us and those arms, you are my lower half regenerated in a bizarre manner after getting cut off, and we are water sprite starfish things. I mean, come on! Think! Those notions are so ridiculous and stupid that they just don’t make sense. No wonder you’re not a good writer!”
…I didn’t mean that.
I saw it in her eyes, she started to shut down.
…I didn’t mean that at all.
“Oh crap, I’m sorry.” I said.
She looked away and pressed her lips together.
I glanced at Brooke. She gave me a motion to give a hug. I bit my lip and followed through. She pushed me away and I figured that that was deserved. Brooke walked up and I shrugged.
“I don’t know what to do now.” I said.
“There was a point where I wanted to get on your good side, Katie, but I found that the negativity was eating me up, and I knew that it was for you as well. That’s why I stopped trying and was my true perky self to you from then on out. I had a feeling that you would get better and smile with me when you got old enough.
You may not want your powers or anything else to not go your way, and you retaliate in any way you can, mostly on me because I choose not to worry for you, and I don’t for good reason. Her poopy-butt attitude is what you go through for living, but my cheer is what I do in hopes for a better sister.”
My duplicate made a rude noise.
“You can’t change someone by smiling at them all the time. Makes them wanna sock you.” She said.
“Depends on the person, I guess.” Brooke looked at me. “Although a lesson or two doesn’t hurt either.”
I sighed and looked at the dead grass. I hate it when I feel like a total bitch nugget.
“We need to think of a name for you.” I said to my other self. “Especially since I don’t think that reabsorbing is possible. Brooke is ultra-dense, physically anyway, and if we tried, and it worked, we may become ten feet tall while still being Hobbit proportioned.”
“Ahh, Alice and the Eat Me cakes.” Brooke said.
That got a laugh out of the both of us.
“Plus,” I said. “I don’t think I want six arms after all either.”
My other self scoffed.
“How do you think I feel?”
“Do you want to try?” Brooke asked. “I recall my own kinsfolks by touching and, well, acquiring. It just happens.”
The two of me shook our heads.
“This isn’t magic Brooke. Where would the mass go and not make us ultra-huge?” She asked.
“Maybe you’re right. Look, the mound that the blade was on is gone too.”
He both of us looked back at the mound. The blade was partially buried in some dirt, but the mounds size had diminished by maybe eighty percent.
She pointed at me with two right arms.
“So, if you’re right and we’re starfish, than I ate that mound and became all of my arms, torso and head.”
“Looks like it.”
She crossed all of her arms and tucked her knees up.
“Seems fitting since I am being treated like dirt anyway.”
“Oh come on!” I said and pointed back where I had flown in from. “If it makes you feel better, than my legs are a part of a wall over there.”
Brooke got in between us.
“Let’s go back to names. You got a name, Pip?” Brooke asked.
I looked at her.
“Are you going to call me Pip again? I thought you stopped after a couple of years.”
Brooke spun and smiled at me.
“Wow, I wasn’t even talking to you, Katie, and I did. The six armed one. Philippa Greeley.”
I sighed and looked at her.
“Sure, unfortunately. I’m Pip now.”
Brooke smiled and put a hand on Pips shoulder.
“I think that it’s funny that you absorbed the mound and entered our world from your legs and thighs.” Brooke laughed and looked at me. “You gave birth to yourself, Katie.”
“The child born with six arms is a sign of the oncoming apocalypse.” Pip said.
I turned to her.
“You knock it off! I know better than anyone that new superpowers suck, but on their own they aren’t that bad. Especially when we learned that I’m regenerative and you came out of it with six arms.”
Pip screwed her face up.
“Have you thought about seclusion? The fact that regardless of whether the costume is out all the time that these six arms all cannot be hidden? Plus, with the contagious powers that Phil and that waitress was given…” Pip gasped. “Holy shit, Phil!”
“What about him?” I asked.
“Who gets him?” She asked.
“Polygamy!” Brooke said in her chipper tone.
I shook my head and ignored my older sister.
“I do. No big deal.”
Pip flew into my face.
I floated backwards to make space.
“We’re both me, physically and mentally, but, I’m the top half, symbolically the heart and the brain, even if they might not physically be there anymore. You’re the reproductive, and Phil and I were unwilling to have sex yesterday.”
“What’s your point?” Pip asked.
“You call a vagina a reproductive? A noun?” Brooke asked.
“In spite of physical no longer mattering,” I said, “the symbolism is there. The brain and the heart drive relationships in bloom and the reproductive is for long afterward. This relationship is early and thus my head and heart rule and Phil goes to me.
I know that the logic is stupid, but there are physical slices that come into play too. This is also what makes me the original Katie Greeley too. You, I assume, had to come into consciousness.”
“This is stupid though.” Pip said.
“I said that it was, but it makes sense.”
“What do you mean come into consciousness? We share memories.” Pip asked.
“It’s worth noting,” Brooke said, “that I saw Katie and her legless self fly away in angst as Pip was a floating butt and pair of legs like a mauled scarecrow. Although, I thought that Katie was a floating corpse in two pieces, but that is beside the point. Pip was very, very frazzled when she came to be.”
“Huh.” Pip said.
“What do you remember between the time the blade cut and meeting me?” I asked.
Pip curled her lip and shrugged.
“Infinity, or something. White expanse then black and a weeping Brooke.”
“Sounds like a rebirth of some kind.” Brooke said.
I pointed at my older sister.
“There you go. Rebirth, separate person. Brooke sounds correct, I still get Phil.”
Pip wrinkled her nose.
“Sounds like an interpretation.” She said.
“Do you want to argue semantics all day?” I snapped.
Pip shrugged, a strange motion.
“This is Phil we’re talking about. I still think that I should get him.”
I hung my head with a sharp sigh.
“I explained all this! We’re equal, literally mentally and almost physically, but I was here first as a person.”
Pip held her three right index fingers up at me.
“Temporal availability does not mean entitlement.”
I shook my head.
“What? No, that’s how opportunities are met. Getting there first gets the prize.”
Brooke squeezed between us again and I saw the streak of green next to the blue.
“You guys are so frustrated with each other, jeez! I mean, in spite of being the same person, you two clash so hard that a wandering psychiatrist would get too giddy and confused that he have to take an antacid and lay down. Did you not forget that we even got here at all? How are we getting home? I can’t fly nor can any of us teleport away. My clones are back home, I can’t spawn a teleporter, or something.”
“This is Phil.” I said.
“Yeah, you’ve been in love like this before, right?” Pip continued with emphasis on snidely reminding Brooke.
Brooke crossed her arms.
“Well, yeah, I have an ex-husband, guys, remember? I won his apartment in the settlement. Anyway, if I’m right that Phil got your powers to a T, than I’m sure that you could starfish him out into an octopus too.” Brooke said.
Pip studied her arms.
“Octopus? I’m an octopus? What happened to starfish?” she asked.
I turned away from the two, wondering if Pip and I would need to split up, not literally, of course. To this day, I’ve yet to get along with Pip. I instead studied the swamp and how quickly it changed after Fortune got reabsorbed. So easily at that too. Where trees stood like a Celtic forest, now more resembled the trees of a Halloween movie sound stage with all the lights on. The humidity had dried up and where I thought it was quiet before, now it seemed… eerie and unnatural.
I looked back at Brooke and Pip arguing, the signs of Brooke’s age and frustration were beginning to show, and wondered if they had noticed or cared about the condition of the area. It gave me an idea, but I felt like I was grasping at straws. If all of our powers are passed on, shared or combined…
“I kinda wanna pitch this as a British urban fantasy about a person split up into two like this with the starfish and octopus theme. They work as suppliers for a supernatural restaurant in London taking in orders.”
I floated up to them.
“Brooke, stop.” I said.
Brooke waved her hands at me.
“No, no. We could call it… Sea Food: The Tales of the Deadliest Catches.” She said with a smile.
“Brooklyn! Cease! Look at all this.”
I waved my lengthening arm through the dead glen.
“I know, autumn came early.”
“Not the point. Look, you absorbed Fortune and Sasha like a video game power up, right?” I asked.
“Good Lord, it is dead.” Pip said.
Brooke knocked on her chest.
“I have their powers, personalities and experiences, but not their memories, odd. I don’t like Fortune at all.”
I reached out to the two colored streaks.
“And wisps of their hair color too. That does not happen with your normal clones or your hair would be every color and material, blonde, red, made of water, made of slime, everything needed for Medusa’s bad hair day.”
Brooke grabbed for her tufts and studied them.
“What are you getting at?” Pip asked.
I took both of their shoulders and gave them a light shake.
“I have a hunch that Fortune and Sasha are filed away and sorted differently. If they are, than Brooke must either have their abilities too,” Brooke started to light up, “or they may come back.” Brooke deflated a little.
Brooke bit her lip.
“That last one ties into what you said the day after you got your powers too.”
“Yup. Bad guys aplenty.”
“You said that it was a hunch though.” Brooke said.
Pip and I snorted.
“Brooke, it has been proven that literally anything could happen. I’m not saying that the two will pop out but I think that caution should be taken.” I said.
Brooke crouched on her haunches with concern. She still wore her costume much like I did and with it, the pop-can five inch wedge boots. They looked like they were killing her ankles. I cringed a little.
“Okay, I’m going through the blue one, Sasha, and here’s a great nugget. She had an ability that she had discovered a bit down the way. Her gimmick was that she could pull water from the air and spray it from her body like a sprinkler, which she often did in her pod over there.” She said with a laugh.
Brooke placed her gloved palm on the winter brown grass.
“Dammit, how did Fortune do it? Anyway, Sasha sort of became the water when inhabiting it. She was still human, but she could transform, kind of like that sand that dries instantly when taken out of water. The kicker was that she could do it with other people and things too. Whoa, shit!”
Brooke fell on her butt as a fully growing sun flower on fast-forward sprouted from the ground. Pip and I glared at the flower, then to each other. The flower bowed to Brooke. Brooke gave a nervous laugh and twinkled her fingers.
He flower twinkled its petals and made Brooke give a genuine chuckle. She stood up.
“So I can use their powers. Awesome-possum!” Brooke moved around the flower, looking at it. “Fortune had a deep, deep love for plants. It pissed her off to the point of plotting a mass extermination for humans to save them, which is why she used envy to get rid of her enemies. Make them destroy themselves.” Brooke cupped the flower in her hands and looked into it with a deep gaze.
That one worried me. Pip offered a hand and I took it. We squeezed.
“Brooke…?” We both said.
She glanced at us.
“Hmm? Oh.” Brooke punched the flower and it shrunk away as quickly as it had come.
“Fortune is a nut that wouldn’t eat lettuce. I like my forests and willows too, but not to the point where I would even think of killing people to save them. They aren’t even conscious in here.” Brooke knocked her head.
Pip and I exchanged glances with thin lips. I could tell that we both did not buy it.
“Anyway,” Brooke said. “Sasha was a human that could transform her and other bits of mater into water.”
“So we’re water now?” Pip asked.
Broke held her hand out.
“Nope, only if you’re in contact with Sasha.”
“What is your point?” I asked.
Brooke looked right at me.
“Sasha used the water in the air to teleport us.”
Pip and I scoffed.
“As if this day couldn’t get any weirder.” I said.
“Totally.” Pip said. “Why is the water in air transport a thing? Hell, why did I have a defect and got six arms?”
I held my head.
“Please, enough with the arms.” I said.
Pip scoffed again. “I would have liked fairy wings or even a mermaid tail instead of becoming a spider. Eight legs and all.”
“Octopus.” Brooke said.
I pointed at Brooke.
“You stop the seafood…”
I looked down at my own regenerated legs, pretty much exactly how I expected them to look. I thought of having a mermaid tail after regeneration and got super pissed that it didn’t happen. I’m not sure how it could have been influenced. I can’t fuse parts of my body together like miscellaneous goo, which will keep Pip from hiding her new limbs, so I missed my opportunity. Having a tail instead of legs might actually turn my whole thoughts on my powers around.
Brooke snapped me out of my thought process.
“Listen. You guys are letting this all get to you way harder than it should, even from an analytical point of view. You need to embrace the nightmare and break it in to serve you. I mean, what can the two of you do together with eight arms between you?”
Pip and I exchanged glances.
“Graduate from self-insert fan-fic to erotic fan-fic?”
Pip frowned at me. Brooke rolled her eyes and tutted.
“So, anyway, if you won’t cooperate, there is no conventional exit in here. Like, none. There are three chambers; Sashas, Fortunes, and then Jazz, the bitch that tried to burn the store down. She’s in there.” Brooke pointed up the steady incline to the edge of the wall. “She’s also waiting for us and I assume has no idea what happened to her sisters. We were strategically brought here now because we were vulnerable and had too many things piling up. Defeat us at our worst and stuff, although Fortune was the only one who wanted to kill because she had her own agenda.
Instead of death on Fortunes end, I got two Katie’s, almost similar to how you got two of me through Llewellyn. When Fortune said limitless invulnerability with you, she meant it. She stole the blade and intended to get your powers and all. Turns out that that blade is the only thing that can cut you… two. If I were in your place for that blade… then I would be dead.” Brooke said.
“I think that the name Llewellyn would have worked better for you.” I said to Pip. She nodded and looked at the blade.
“What is that thing made of?” Pip asked.
Brooke shook her head.
“I have no idea. But… well…”
“What would you guys have trouble swallowing?”
“Pretty much nothing at this point. What about you?” I pointed toward Pip. She sighed.
“I think that we believe anything at this point if it’s comprehensible by a human. Dream logic and… these arms go straight over the edge.”
“Do you want to know?” Brooke asked.
“It would help. It’s not like it’s… damn, I don’t know, the Scythe of Quall or something.”
Brooke’s grimace deepened and she bounced on her feet like she had to pee. My heart sunk and I could see that Pip’s did too.
“Brooklyn. Tell us what is going on.”
“The northern god, Quall awoke a few years before Mom was born. Fortune stole the first of his blades crafted from his fabled Water from God.”
My brain shut down for a good moment and then rebooted, trying to comprehend this.
Nope, no dice.
I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I’m a pretty reasonable person. I hate my powers, but I took them in stride to try and shun them away to keep my life in check. Accept them, but never use them, sort of. This worked as long as I had my power set and Brooke had hers, plus a Llewellyn hanging out. Life could be okay that way. That’s doable, however unbelievable; unbelievable being the keyword here.
Although in the last twelve hours, I discovered that Phil had somehow gotten my powers, he had infiltrated a random woman by transferring his essence into her and leaving my powers as a gift, I met two of the three people, who happened to be, why not, I have no idea, alternate reality clones of Brooke, one of which can somehow teleport people by using water molecules in the air. On top of that, I now have a six armed clone of myself. But now the answer being that this was all the fault of a centuries old king who is told to maybe have had this kind of magical power? And now I’m directly involved and deep in the thick of it?
All in all, today was the absolute strangest day of my life up to that point, even topping the day I discovered my powers and Llewellyn showing up. The strangeness converted itself into frustration for me, which converted directly to anger. I expected that Sasha was water based, Fortune was plant and the last one, Jazz, was obviously fire. They were elements, it made sense. I’m a water sprite, it was made sense. Brooke has total control over her doubles, it makes sense.
This had trouble adding up for me even when the answer was thrown into my face. This was ludicrous.
“What?!” I shrieked to Brooke.
Pip felt the same exact way that I did about this new information, except I imagine that with her additional arms and the fact that she was a double of me made her snap and break down.
Pip begun to sob explosively and I just stared at my older sister. Brooke grimaced as she watched Pip bawl like an infant and partially covered her mouth.
In hindsight, this should have clicked right there instead of later, but Phil was the mythological buff, I was more into Scarlett Victoria and the Pursuit of Scientific Advancements in Steam Powered Technology.
At the time, I knew that Quall was an actual historical figure from somewhere in Scandinavia during the Viking Age who is best known for a story that may or may not be fictitious. He was a generous king who went exploring the heights of science for the time and place. On one expedition, he saw a meteor crash to the snow and found some strange goop in it. It gave him powers that were suggestion based, sounding familiar, and he called his gift the Water from God.
Over time, Quall started to go a little crazy from his constant double-dipping of his Water from God and fashioned dark colored robes to bound his naysayers and render them powerless until death. Something about that cloth, called poshitkan, caused Quall to create a blade, and then a scythe made of the same material, but I had trouble remembering what happened. There were only two of those blades made in history, and one was sitting just a few feet away.
What clicked to me right there was that the awesome Quall became corrupt by some weird alien brew, and now I was experiencing the same power surge that Quall was, except instead of double dipping and going crazy, I am staying sane and sharing the wealth.
Brooke nodded to the both of us. Pip continued to sob and showed no signs of stopping.
Epiphany washed over me.
“This… wasn’t you.” I said to Brooke.
Brooke nodded with a grin.
“Yet I’m still a key somehow. It messes me up too, Katie-bug, it really does. Quall is a crazy-crazy and my clone ability somehow got intermingled. That means that we have a big bad who is behind all this who actually sold you that poshitkan based fabric.”
“Brooke, I know that it’s poshitkan, I just…” My mind clicked. I was thinking that it was still the designer stuff, not the literal power drain until death stuff of myth.
I grabbed my tummy and stretched it in two different directions.
“This isn’t poshitkan designer at all, it’s the actual thing! We all got our power source from a mystic artifact meant to cause misery in the first place!”
“This is what I meant by the superhero stuff!” Brooke said.
I felt my anger bubble up and I pointed at Brooke.
“Oh God, not again! Brooke, no!” I yelled.
Brooke held her finger up.
“This isn’t unexplained direct magic here, Katie, no matter how much I wish it were. You were chosen to be Quall’s victim because you happened to pass by his rouse to help set up for Halloween. A big bad guy did not show up because of your powers manifesting like you had thought. A big bad guy showed up to deliver unto you the source of your powers.”
“Your point?” I asked.
Brooke shook her fists.
“You have an accidental arch nemesis, Quall the Scandinavian Mad God, and you need to stop him from, well, umm,” Brooke scratched her head, “I don’t know, doing similar things to other people. I mean, you were scared of bad guys popping up, but you can put a cork in the foundry by stopping Quall.”
I couldn’t believe this! Brooke was still on the same kick and apparently never learned that I just did not want to submit to superhero bullshit. I rolled my head and my eyes over to Pip, expecting the same exasperated look back.
Pip sniffed and tucked her knees up to her chin.
“I don’t care about the superhero stuff. Can we just go home, Brooke? Please?” Pip said, voice wavering. Her tears collected on her cheeks.
I deflated. I watched Brooke take gracious steps up to Pip to give her a hug. I just bit my lip. Have I said that I hate feeling like a total bitch-nugget yet?
I looked back at the blade that was responsible for Pip and stretched out to heave it up. It was pretty much a slab with all rounded corners except for the main blade. I grounded my feet, picked it up and skip-walked to Pip.
“Here, given what this blade can do and how literally nothing else works, I think that we both need to use it to get our hair out of our eyes.” I said.
Pip turned her head toward me, face puffy and red, and looked at the blade, frowning at it. I shook my head.
“I hate the idea too.” I said. “Our hair won’t grow back since it hasn't grown any more since this all started, so let’s do something cute to have for the rest of our lives, I guess. Pixie cut for some water sprites?”
“Water sprite? How fun!”
Pip shook her head.
“We have crazy psycho in the other room.” She said.
“Well, crazy psycho got bored!”
All three of us focused on the newcomer, Brooke’s final otherworldly clone, Jazz.