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13. Goth Alley

12. The Trip to the Nurse

11. Athena's Vision

10. The Silent Benefactor

9. Back With the Triplets

8. Changing Standards

7. Every Gibson Loses the Stone

6. Becoming Triplets

5. Jon Becomes a Girl

4. Karyn is Different

3. What do you mean?!?!

2. The next day at school

1. You Are What You Wish

The McMillan Triplets: Goth Alley

avatar on 2024-03-08 06:57:22

643 hits, 108 views, 10 upvotes.

Aware Magic Unaware

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Kyla didn't know Athena all that well, but she did have a pretty good guess at where she could find her.

Everyone at VLHS did, really; that particular spot had gained about as much infamy as it was possible to have in a prestigious little public school like this. It was a little outdoor alley, nestled between the cafeteria's kitchen and the school's gymnastic wing, leading on one end to the cafeteria proper and on the other to a breezeway between the school's parking lot and its courtyard. At one point (or so the urban legends went) it had just been a nondescript space, useless and near-empty aside from a few dumpsters and exposed utilities for rare and lonely use by lunch ladies and technicians, but that was before the school had its big crackdown on bullying and drugs other such naughtiness that made it look bad to investors and government agents and so forth. Some years ago, they'd made a big show of putting in expensive security cameras, designating hall monitors, enforcing strict zero-tolerance policies on all those problem behaviors and children that made them look so bad and so on, and as a result, that little alley was now covered in graffiti and constantly smelled like weed, because of course they forgot to put in the single camera they'd need to watch over that secluded little corner of the campus. Nobody knew for sure just how quickly the Goths and the other delinquents had figured out that they weren't watching that little alley, or that if some teacher or hall monitor showed up on one end there were plenty of escape paths to run through on the other end; but once they knew, everyone knew, and within maybe a month of their big "crackdown" that little alley had become a popular hangout spot for students who wanted to get high and pick fights. And hey, so long as that sort of delinquency stayed out of sight, it stayed out of mind, at least insofar as the school's admins were concerned.

Truth be told, Kyla actually kinda hated that little criminal alley, and when it occurred to her that, after Chemistry, that was probably where she'd find Athena or some of her closer Goth friends, it gave her pause. Athena's crazy anyway, she thought, what am I really expecting to get out of her, at any rate? Aside from some reassurance that I myself might just have gone a bit crazy too. Frankly, it had been kinda hard to focus after her little episode in Lab today, and poor Lily Vanderfield ended up having to do most of what was supposed to be their shared group work, to Kyla's own shame. I'm no four eyes! she thought. My contacts work just fine, thank you very much! They're prettier, they don't get in the way working out, and I can wear them under my swimming goggles just fine! Why would I have been a four-eyes this morning!? That's nonsense! Athena's just gone nuts! She seethed. What happened, at Lunch today, I just imagined it, yeah. People can imagine things! I'm fit, beautiful, and popular, and the Swim Team's Captain, not some mousy little geek! Everyone agrees! Why am I even worrying so much about it? All the empirical evidence is on MY side, not Athena's!

By the time the bell rang, Kyla had just about talked herself out of it. She didn't need to go see some crazy witch out in the wild west to confirm that this was how things were supposed to be, she had thought... until Jamie swooped in, just before class ended, and damn near melted her.

"If you don't want to talk to me about it, honey, you don't have to," Jamie told her, doing her best not to sound disappointed or hurt, "but I know something's really, really bothering you, and it's starting to bother me too. Are you sure you're alright?"

"I-It's nothing! Really!" Kyla stammered, feeling for all the world like that hopeless nerd again and trying desperately to think of something to say that wouldn't hurt her new lover's sensitive feelings. Jay wouldn't have even noticed, came an unbidden thought. And he definitely wouldn't believe me if I told him, either. "I-it's just, y'know, what happened with Athena today? It was kinda disturbing, y'know, being right next to it? I just, uh, wanna know if she's alright, that's all."

The look on Jamie's face said she wasn't buying it, but she didn't challenge it. "I think you have enough time between classes to ask around and figure that out for yourself," she advised. "Maybe you can go do that, and then we can talk about it later, okay?"

"Okay!" Kyla agreed hurriedly. "I'll do that, and I promise, I'll make it up to you then, okay!?" Crap. I hope I don't regret this later, she thought.

"...Okay. Take care of yourself, alright, honey?" Jamie asked, and then the bell rang. "Looks like we have to go our separate ways for now. Love you!"

"Love you too," Kyla reassured, and then go went to find Athena in exactly the manner she told herself she wouldn't a moment ago.

As it turned out, Athena wasn't actually in the infamous Goth Alley when Kyla made it there. It took a moment to actually fully confirm she wasn't there, though, since apparently a whole squadron of other students had had the same idea to catch her there during the chaos of passing period, or else to pigeonhole the second most important Goth at the scene: Zoe Gibson, around whom a small crowd had formed.

"I mean, there's no pictures or videos or anything, but dude, people have posted about it like everywhere already!" said Zelda Whitefield, a blue-haired nose-ringed cybergoth hacker currently scrolling through her phone even while talking apparently with Zoe. "Jenni McMillan already has like a whole-ass novel of a post typed up about it!"

"Jenni McMillan needs to mind her own fucking business," Zoe grumbled. "It's not like she doesn't have her own little universe to hog the center of already!"

"I just don't see why ya gotta be so tight-lipped about it," shrugged one Stephanie Wright, a boyish sandy-haired girl in a ratty old denim jacket and torn jeans. "Why not share some tea with your old chums?"

"It's not some big fucking secret that your girlfriend's got her head way up in the clouds neither," Sabrina, the spike-collared punk with the leather jacket and half-shaved head jeered between puffs of a cigarette she'd bummed off Trevor Blake beside her. "It doesn't matter."

"Nothing really matters," chimed in Derek, from his usual spot on the ground, in his usual I-really-wish-I-hadn't-woken-up-today tone.

"Man, fuck you, Sabrina," Zoe retorted with an eyeroll, delivering the expletive as casually as anyone else delivering a good morning or how are you? "Athena's business is her business, y'know? Prophecy isn't the sort of thing you can just put up on a big-ass billboard, and besides, it's nothing haven't seen before, if you've ever tangled with a Ouija board or tarot or anything."

"Or Entheogens." Trevor puffed out a smoke ring for emphasis.

"Well, Mr. Bond, if you won't talk, we'll just have to find someone who will." Zelda's cyan-dyed bangs bobbed a little as she jerked a head in Kyla's direction. "And it seems we have another witness to the crime here."

The conversation stopped dead in its tracks. Every single head in that alley turned to face the figure that was apparently not one actually getting to class, and Kyla felt very painfully on-the-spot, like the outlaw in all the spaghetti westerns making his first dramatic entrance to the saloon. It was actually severely intimidating, watching all these outcasts and punks suddenly sizing her up. That marked the second time in less than 15 minutes that Kyla had felt like the anxious, borderline-mute geek again; maybe I hadn't imagined it after all, Kyla thought as she shook.

"Well?" Sabrina barked at her, eventually. "The fuck do you want?" With her hands on her hips and that scowl on her face, it seemed like a challenge.

"I-I just wanted to know where Athena is?" Swim Captain Kyla eventually found her voice again in much the same way Little Nerd Kyla wouldn't have. "After what happened earlier?"

"I took her to the nurse and the nurse sent me away. Haven't seen her since." Zoe raised an eyebrow. "What's it to you?"

"I just wanted to talk to her," Kyla riposted defensively. Finding her confidence, she continued "She seemed pretty bad back when."

"I TOLD you, she's FINE!" Zoe rolled her eyes and scoffed. "She got better before we even made it to the nurse, as a matter of fact. Clear as a crystal!"

Kyla sighed. Looks like this was a mistake, as I thought. "Yeah, well, she said some weird things to me while she was like that, and I just wanted to ask her about it. Do me a favor and ask her to come talk to me when you see her next, okay? Or actually, do you have her phone number? I can just text Athena about it directly, if that's easier."

"Text me about what?" Athena asked. Kyla whirled around, and the witch du jour was just behind her, making her way to her old hangout with a bundle of dark blue twigs in hand, probably from that odd tree in the courtyard.

"Oh, Goddess, ATHENA!" Kyla's existence abruptly vanished from all other minds present as the swarm buzzed around the witch, none of whom more excitingly than Zoe. In stark contrast to Kyla's reception, the Goths immediately started bombarding her with questions, without even waiting for a response.

"Holy fuck, girl, you okay?" asked Sabrina. "I heard you had a Vision!" chirped Zelda. "What'd you see?" asked Stephanie. "What are the twigs for?" came from Trevor. "Where have you been? I need to talk to you!" Zoe repeated.

Athena chuckled pleasantly at all the attention, and did her best to answer all the questions. "Okay, so 1: I'm okay, 2: Yes I had a Vision, 3: No I don't know what it means yet, 4: The twigs are for a ritual, I'm gonna burn 'em for incense, and 5: I was getting those twigs before coming to find you, Zoe. But first, Kyla? Didn't you have a question?"

"It was just about what you said to me earlier, but honestly, I should probably just get to class," Kyla sighed. "You're probably gonna be busy here a while and the bell's gonna ring soon."

"Wait, what'd I say to you?" Athena asked, abruptly moving to stop Kyla from leaving. "Pardon me, but I don't exactly remember things well from then."

"Just something about me being a four-eyed frog this morning, and transforming with a Jay bird." Kyla shook her head. "I know, it sounds stupid, I just wondered what you meant."

Athena thought about it. "Well... what do you think it meant?"

That gave Kyla some pause, but before she could answer, Zoe interrupted, apparently anxious for more time with her friend. "We don't have time for this. Ath, y'know we still need to, y'know, do the Thing, right?"

"This could be about the Thing!" Athena rebuked sharply. Zoe was taken aback, but fell quiet. "Anyway, Kyla? You were saying?"

Kyla bit her lip. "It's... probably nothing. I really do need to get to class." Again, Kyla tried to escape the weirdo's den, but this time, Athena physically grabbed her by a strap on her backpack to keep her from leaving.

"Whatever it was," Athena began with some gravitas, spinning Kyla around by pulling on the backpack to make her face her, "it was important enough that you had to come seek me out about it. You felt it was important, so it can't be nothing! Kyla, what, did you think, my vision, meant to you?"

Now all eyes in the alley were on Kyla again. Again, she should (and would that morning) have felt very small; except for the fact that Athena was actually a few inches shorter, and had to look up, pleadingly. She took a deep breath. No escape now, I guess. "I just... had... a weird dream," she finally spit out. "At lunch today. I thought I was some dork; had glasses, wore braces, the whole nine yards. Then someone, I dunno, cast a spell on me and made me... well, this," she gestured to herself. "It was more like waking up, really. Could you imagine me as some loser like that? It was just a stupid dream, and I dunno, the four-eyes thing made me think of the glasses, being made fun of for them and so on. It was probably just a coincidence after all."

Athena gave her a serious look. Zoe gave her a serious look. Zoe and Athena exchanged a serious look. Then they both gave Kyla a serious look. Finally, Athena asked "Hey... you mind if I talked to you alone, for a little bit? I have to go the bathroom anyway." And then, without a pause to hear her answer, Athena started dragging her back the backpack towards one of the doors in Goth Alley, one with a Female Bathroom symbol on it.

"Wait, aren't those the back doors to the Cafeteria Bathrooms?" Kyla asked in confusion. "I thought the back doors to the bathrooms were always-..."

Zoe pulled a few pins from her hair, raked them through the keyhole a little bit, and got the door open, leading the way for Kyla and Athena behind her.

"...locked," Kyla finished. Maybe I've REALLY made a mistake coming to this crowd, was the last thing she thought before Athena pulled her in, and closed the door behind them.

Zelda shook her head as they went. "Athena, Athena, Athena. Always gotta be the mysterious one, huh?" The cybergoth shrugged, then looked over to the breezeway, where the stream of the more honest students scurrying to their next class had started to thin out. Then she checked her phone. "Only a minute until next period starts, and I can't actually skip that class." She had started to stand up and was starting to put her phone away. "See you all la-"


"... You can't be serious," Kyla said, looking back and forth between Athena and Zoe, who looked completely serious. "You're telling me, that your grandpa, just over the break, gave you a magic rock, capable of granting any wish, and you immediately lost said magic rock!?"

"Trust me, I've been beating myself up all fucking day about it," Zoe groaned.

"I know it sounds unbelievable, but we actually did test the Stone to make sure it works," Athena tried to reassure, showing Kyla the dark blue twigs she'd collected. "We turned this wood blue, for example."

"The wood is blue because someone painted that whole tree blue a couple years ago for their senior prank!" Kyla rebutted. "It's NOT because of magic or anything!"

"I... didn't know that's why everyone else thought the branch was blue," Zoe conceded, taken off guard. "But anyway, the Stone does rewrite reality so that everyone who wasn't in earshot thinks it's always been that way. It makes sense you wouldn't see it as magical."

"Well, golly, isn't that convenient?" Kyla threw back skeptically.

"We can release some of the magic energy stored in these twigs by burning them," Athena stated matter-of-factly. "And I had an idea to do just that later, which might show you for sure. Frankly though, I think that may not be necessary now." Athena put the twigs away. "Kyla, who was it that cast that spell on you?"

Kyla thought a moment. "... I don't know."

"How the fuck can you NOT know!?" Zoe burst out angrily. "You were looking right at them, weren't you!?"

"I don't know her name," Kyla protested. "I got a good look at her face, but I'm pretty sure I've never shared any classes with her, neither before nor after 'The Wish.' I could maybe pick her out of a crowd... in fact, isn't there a pep rally being held later this afternoon? I could try to point her out to you then."

"I... have a bad feeling about that." Athena shuddered for no obvious reason.

"What? Why?" Kyla asked.

"I can't say for sure... but... well, I'd guess, based on what happened to you and intuition just in general, the Wisher probably wants to see the results of their wishes, right? They want to be there, and apparently they haven't thought of just wishing up a crystal ball or anything yet. And, well, what's the one event the entire school has to be present for?"

"Oh, I get you," Zoe chimed in. "I always knew pep rallies were actually evil, anyway."

"...Athena, no offense, but that sounds like an awful lot of guesswork," Kyla replied, much more skeptically.

"It's Guided Guesswork, also known as Intuition," Athena countered. "And besides, if the Wisher sees you pointing her out to us, she might make some protective Wishes to keep us from ever getting the Stone back. It is a she, right?"

Kyla nodded. "It is a she. She's also white, about average height and weight, brunette, and was in the crowd around the McMillan's table at lunch."

"...Well, that just narrows it down a ton, doesn't it?" Zoe grumbled.

"Hey, you asked for my help, and that there was my help!" Kyla finally snapped at Zoe. "Honestly, I'm not sure I should even be listening to this madness; don't you two know how crazy you sound!?"

"We are NOT fucking crazy!" Zoe snapped back defensively, more for Athena's sake than hers.

"Oh yeah? Didn't you just say you have to be within earshot of a wish to get to see the effects?" Kyla challenged. "I wasn't anywhere close enough to hear anything the Wisher was saying, but apparently I can perceive what happened to me just fine! How do you figure that works, detective?"

"...Actually, I've been thinking about that," Athena cut in. "The thing is, well, 'earshot' isn't exactly a well-defined radius, is it? I mean... it gets shorter if you can't hear so well, or if you're in a noisy room, or if there's a wall or something blocking the sound. It also matters if the speaker is shouting, or whispering, or if they're speaking the same language as you... Both parties, speaker and listener, have a tangible effect on that 'range', yeah?"

"You think it works based on perception, then," Kyla summarized. "If you perceive the wish being made, then you perceive what the wish does."

"Exactly!" Athena nodded with a grin that said Eureka! "And, I wonder... Can you read lips, Kyla?"

"... Actually, yeah," Kyla was forced to concede, definitely not anticipating that they could've known that about her. "Before the Wish, I, uh, wasn't so good with eye contact. So, I made an effort to try learning to read lips, just because, y'know, you have to really look at a person to do it. And besides, it's kinda cool, right? I'm not exactly good at Lip Reading, but I did catch a little of what the Wisher said then."

"BINGO!" Athena clapped her hands at the revelation. "Maybe not all of it, but enough to loop you into seeing the changes, yeah! THAT's how we do it!"

Zoe stroked her chin. "Well, I guess that makes sense, but uh... does that help us any? I mean, if we're there to perceive a wish when it happens, we probably have the Stone already, don't we?"

"Oh, but there IS a way to perceive a wish AFTER it happens!" Athena's eyes were shining brilliantly now. "And we have JUST the hacker friend to do it!"

Zoe didn't seem to comprehend. "We do?" she asked after a time.

"What's the whole school wired up with, Zoe? What's the one thing Goth Alley doesn't have? What's Zelda helped us hack into before!?"

Zoe was now giving Athena a very curious look. "You mean, like, Zelda, from the video game?" she asked curiously.

"What? No, Zelda Whitefield, our friend?" Now Athena was confused too. "We just saw her?"

"Whitefield's a hacker? She's not really our friend, either..."

Athena's brain was starting to short circuit. Eventually, she turned back to the door, opened it up, and gasped.

Makeout Alley, being one of the few places the school admins didn't keep a close eye on, was a haven for all the lovebirds of VLHS: the romantics, the nymphos, the degenerates and the sluts, all in their time found a need for the soft, secluded grass underfoot in that little corridor, littered with old condoms on the ground and spray-paint pornography on the walls. Zelda Whitefield was there: her bright pink dyed hair and garish jewelry was pressed up against the wall she was forced to lean on by Steve Farber's firm hand, and her pants were down, just like his. Besides them, the ribbons in Sabrina's long luscious hair and the frills in her delicate lacy dress bounced under Trevor's power, as that suave gentleman had her held up off the ground, her back against the wall, her legs wrapped around his hips. Stephanie Wright just didn't seem to be there anymore, and Derek Lettman... when one of the Voices called her Delia Lettman, Athena had to shut the door and stagger backwards, hyperventilating on uneasy legs.

"Woah, woah, WOAH!" Zoe caught her almost immediately. Before Athena even knew what was happening, the pendant was in her hand, clasped together with Zoe's, and she was casting the Ward together with her best friend again, to keep safe in her embrace. "It's okay, it's okay. I'm still here, Ath. I've got you."

Athena still looked shell-shocked, pale and shaking and afraid. "We were just there..." she mumbled. "That could've been us a split second later... And our friends, that was... all our friends, and Zelda she... was... Oh, I'm gonna be sick!" Moments later, she was. Zoe held her hair back as she puked into one of the Cafeteria Bathroom's toilets. It felt terrible; Athena's dilated eyes were watery, and she might have cried, bawled her eyes right out of her sockets if that awful Vision had lasted any longer. When she stood up on her own two feet again, Athena and Zoe were, as far as anyone could tell, the only two Goths in all of VLHS, and each other's only real friend in that whole school.

Kyla inhaled deeply. "Hoooookay," was uttered on the exhale. "Well, that was an... interesting thing to witness, but uh, we're all super late to class by now. I think I'ma go n-"

"NO WAIT!" Athena sobered up, as best she could right then, to confront Kyla yet again. "The Cameras! Are you good with computers!? We can hack into the school's security cameras and get footage from the last two days, anywhere in the school! We can find footage of when the Wisher changed you and you can point her out to us! Then we'll perceive the wish, and see you for who you really are, too! And, and we could show you the blue branch experiment, and-"

"Look, I'd like to think I am pretty good with Computers, but I'm not a 'hacker.' That doesn't work like it does in the movies, y'know. You can't just break into anywhere from whatever computer."

"It's not that complicated, promise!" Athena countered. "You just need to... what was it... remotely log into the school's security network, somehow? Once on that, we can just pull up the camera feed and all their recordings."

"Yeah, and how do we login to a secure network like that?" Kyla was by now, utterly exasperated. "You need a valid username, and a password, and girl, I do NOT have the computational resources to crack that."

"Oh yeah. I have those memorized." Athena produced a pad of paper and a pen, and jotted down the username and the password Kyla would need as if it were nothing.

Kyla was shocked. "Where'd you get these!?"

"From Zelda," Athena replied simply.

"Zelda Whitefield? Steve Farber's current arm candy? She got you these credentials?" Kyla asked incredulously.

"In a manner of speaking," Athena nodded.

Kyla hesitated. She seemed tempted, but torn.

"Look, we're all gonna be getting tardies here anyway. The bell rang ages ago and the halls are probably empty. We can just head to the computer lab, test our little perception theory, catch the Wisher, and then start looking to see what else she's done. If it doesn't work, we're just a little tardier to class than normal. But I think you know it's gonna work, my four-eyed froggy friend."

Kyla stared daggers at Athena. "You and Zoe really are the only two Goths in the school, aren't you, you little rogues?" She sighed. "I'll give it a try."

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