The Electrician

A light flicked on; a single lightbulb in a shaded lamp illuminated in a cone below it. The room outside the spotlight was so dark as to be featureless. A blue Zafara in drainpipe jeans was tied to a wooden chair in the center of the light, a black blindfold over his eyes.

He noticed from the fringes of his vision that the light had come on, and he looked around, as though moving their head with enough intention would reveal something. The sound of new shoes on dirty concrete was all that existed outside of the light. Someone stepped forward. A Kyrii in an expensive black and gold suit emerged from the darkness and stood at the edge of the light. His face was discolored and ragged, but held a calm, serene expression.

Hello again. he said, You’re looking quite uncomfortable.
The Zafara jerked and rocked the chair they were tied to, and grunted as they strained against the fabric. The chair tipped over too far sideways, swiveled back, and landed with a clatter on the floor.

Oh, no no. None of that. You’re not leaving here that way, and no one is going to hear you.
The Zafara panted and bore their teeth, as the Kyrii reached for something outside of the light. He pulled a large hook off of what sounded like a metal table, bent down, put the hook through a hole in the chair’s back and drug it —neopian and all— back into the light. He pulled the chair back upright and tested its stability by wiggling it a little. He appeared satisfied, nodded, and turned the chair back to the orientation that it was in before it had been knocked over.

He brushed the dust off his suit and adjusted its fit, then walked back to the front. What was that all about? That hurt a bit, didn’t it?
Fuck you.
I wouldn’t do that again. I may not be here to pick it back up next time. Are you thirsty? Tea, maybe?
The Zafara was silent for a moment. After swallowing, and taking a few deep breaths, they looked up to where they thought their captor was, What did you do to me.
Hm? What part?
My legs… I can’t move my legs… and I’m so tired….
Not tired enough, apparently! Mhmhm. the Kyrii smiled and chuckled, And about your legs…. They were inconvenient, and I was hungry, so well… I’ve crystallized them. Your tiredness is due to necromantic magic. You are less alive, right now.
The captive breathed heavier, What… wh… are you serious? Are you….
Of course. I don’t want to lose my wit, do I? You should be grateful, really. I take only what I need. Most of the time.
Fuck you. The police are gonna be swarming in here. Do you know who my dad is? My dad’s a fucking… deputy superintendent. He’s gonna kill you….
Oh my, oh dear. The village guards are coming. he smiled and chuckled, You have no idea where you are, right now. You are going to be left in an alley somewhere, safe and sound, but only after you tell me everything I need to know. Is this something you understand?
Fuck you.

Good, then… we may proceed. Now… the Kyrii put his hands behind his back as the Zafara spat at where they thought he was, and missed by several feet. He did not need to move, as he watched it fly off into the dark beside him. Now… he continued where he left off, I need to know as much information about your previous affiliations as I can get out of you.
What are you talking about?
The after school activities you participated in.
The… the paranormal club??
Who… who fucking cares, man?? Why do you care about that? Sure! Fine! Ask away!
I like to hear that. Unfortunately, as you were a previous member of said group… I consider you a danger to my existence.
Good! he bared his teeth, then looked confused, Wait, but why though?
They have recently… overstepped their bounds, as far as my employer is concerned. From what I understand, you were dismissed before they had taken said action, and thus, you have avoided any permanent consequences. Think of my actions here as a… de‑escalation.
This means, however, that my patience with you is limited. If you refuse to tell me anything… or I think that there’s something you’re not telling me… I will become less hospitable.
Fine, fine. What. What do you want? Why does something like that even matter to you?
I'm the one asking the questions. Why are you no longer a member?
He sighed and turned his head, The same reason a lot of people got kicked out. We uh… we pissed off somebody.
Mmhm. Go on.
We… well, it was Andy’s idea. But we… tried to summon something. I’m not even sure it was real or if it would even work. But uh, before we got the chance… Lucine caught us. God he was pissed. He was so pissed. He’s got some kind of hate‐boner for demons or something, he had everybody there kicked out. There’s like, fuckin, four members now or something.

The Kyrii sighed, Well, that was nothing I didn’t already know. You were previously the vice president, were you not?
No… no, that was somebody else. Some tool that wears like, metal. Metal all over his clothes like he’s some conspiracy nut. Grumpy asshole. Thinks he’s right about everything.
I see. So you were merely a regular student.
Hey! What’s that supposed to mean? You think I’m stupid?
Next question.

The Kyrii backed up, and put himself in half shadow once again. I need to know where they are. Now.
R… right now?
Where they meet. When they meet. I think you know.
I don’t. They didn’t tell anybody where they went.
The Zafara said nothing.
So you know… that they aren’t where they usually are.
That’s all I know, man. I swear. That’s it.
Mm. I must apologize… because I don’t believe you.

He stepped back into the shadow and grabbed something that made a noise like plastic rubbing against plastic.
Hey… what are you doing. the Zafara looked around.
He stepped back into the light. He wore a transparent plastic suit over his dress clothes, which he buttoned up with one hand. He rolled over a metal cart with the other.

Rei opened up her door, and stepped out onto the front porch. The dawn light shone through the dew and the trees in the distance, a soft yellow. Rei looked around as she held a cup of coffee. She let out a shiver as she sipped it.

Goodness. Colder than it was yesterday. Mmmf.
She opened her mailbox with one hand. It was one of those that had a door on both sides, one facing the house and one facing away, hanging out over the ledge from her second story apartment. A mail carrier that could fly didn’t need the mailbox to be on the ground, after all. Rei opened up the daily paper. Massive bolded headlines filled the front pages.

Annual Poogle Parade!
Meridel Bolsters Fleet While Criticised for Oversea Holdings
Cease‐Fire Ordered in Qasala
Union Officials Arrive for Bargaining
School Protests Violently Quelled, Yesterday

Rei shook her head and drank more coffee. She continued to skim the headlines, until she saw a blurry photo of a Kougra. Her heart leapt, then sank. In the far right corner of the front page, a tiny blurry photo and a headline.

Bili Pulaski ‐ Dead, Age 27

The telephone in Warren’s house rang. There was a pause, as the house went back to the near‐silence of cowboy reruns in the living room. Another bout of ringing split the silence again.

ANSWER THE PHONE! said a shrill, unseen voice from the living room. The sound of heavy footsteps pounded up from the basement.
I know, I know, I’m coming! Warren said, their voice muffled by the door. It flung open, and they sighed as they picked up the phone mid‐ring. They were fully clothed, as though they’d never even changed since the day before.

Who. Is it. Do you have any idea what time it is.
Wait. Rei? Is that you? What’s the matter?
Have you checked the newspaper today?
No, why?
He’s… Bili’s dead, man. even over the phone, they could tell she was trying not to cry.
Who? Which Billy?
The… the musician?
Y… yeah.
Ahh. Hey, hey, it’s okay. Does it… does it say what happened to ‘em?
It was yesterday, I… haven’t read the whole thing yet. He was only 27, man. That’s like… our age! That’s so messed up… that’s so fucked up, man….
I know, I know. I’m sorry. Warren pressed their fingers to their brow. Look, uh… look, let me uh… get dressed.
Check the mail.
Yeah, I will. I will. You want me to come over there?
…No. It can wait.
Are you sure?
Yeah. I’m okay. I’ll be okay.
Al… alright. You uh… you kinda scared the shit outta me, you know that? they chuckled, then sighed, You need anything else, I’ll uh… probably be on campus, alright? Just… try to look for some good news, okay?
Okay. I’ll uh… I’ll see you later today, at the meeting. You feel like going?
Yeah. I’ll be there.

Warren hung up the phone, and sighed.
WHO WAS THAT? the disembodied voice yelled.
It was a uh… a friend of mine, from the school. Don’t worry about it.

They turned and walked back into the stairwell to the basement and closed the door. There was a moment of quiet, except for the faint sound of metal bending. Warren opened the door back up, and they'd changed into a different outfit, with different shoes, and their hair was brushed at a different angle.
I’m going out. I’ll see you later.
They waited, but there was no response from the living room.
They shrugged, and let themselves out.

Kenji arranged his textbooks from the desk into his backpack. He watched the reflection of the sunrise on the building outside his dorm window. Vert stirred and looked up at him.

Mmgfh. she looked from him, to her alarm clock. It was 7:16. She looked back over at him, Morning.
Kenji nodded, Good morning.
Mm? he looked over at her.
How do you say good morning in Shenkuu? Shenkuu‐ish?
He chuckled We speak a lot of different languages. Many different people in the empire. But where I come from, Nibotsu, it’s ohayō gozaimas.
Ah, cool. Cool. Oh‧hi‧yo, guh‧zai‧mus.
He smiled, shook his head, and chuckled again as he looked back to his books.

So… I’m assuming you’re okay?
You never came back here, the uh, night before last.
Ahh. his smile faded, Yes. Something… ano, to do with the club.
Mmm. Figures.

They both said nothing for a while. Vert heaved herself out of bed, shook her head, and inhaled deep. She put on her white trilby, the white button‐up shirt that was draped over the headboard, and put on some fluffy slippers.
Well. she cleared her throat, I’m uh… I’m goin to the cafeteria. Gonna get some breakfast before they start serving lunch.
Mm. he nodded, Alright. I’ll see you… I think… around lunch also.
Are you not gonna get breakfast?
I’m fine. Classes are too early to bother.
Ahh… do you want me to save you anything?
From… the breakfast…?
Yeah, it won’t be a problem.
Will they let you take it out?
Yeah. I’m on the uh… buffet plan. It’s all in my tuition. My dad thinks I’m not gonna eat enough. she rolled her eyes.
I see. he smiled again, Not if it’s too much trouble.
I insist! You keep like… not sleeping or not eating. It’s kind of… disconcerting.
…Alright. Thank you.
No problem!
What do they have?
Oh, I’m not sure. It’s different nearly every day. What are you in the mood for?
Hmm. Rice and pickles. If they have that.
She looked at him with an incredulous expression, Rice and pickles? That’s uh… interesting.
If they don’t have those… maybe fish. Or a salad.
A salad for breakfast? That sounds more like a cry for help than a meal. But alright, heheh. I’ll put it in a to‑go box for ya, if they have that.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
No problem, no problem. I guess I’ll see you then. Sucks that your classes are so early.
Kenji nodded and smiled as he threw his backpack over a shoulder. See you.

Warren held up their arm against the sunrise as their eyes adjusted. The lawn hadn’t been mowed, nor the hedges trimmed, and they narrowed their eyes as the neighbor trimmed his own. The mustachioed red Ogrin waved at them. Warren grimaced, and moved their hand once in a half‐wave. They weren’t sure if they could imbue a physical gesture with sarcasm, but they did their best . The Ogrin didn’t notice either way. Warren took their neighbor's cheery nature, early rising, and work ethic as a passive‐agressive personal insult to them, regardless if that were the case.

Hey buddy! he raised his hedge‐clippers, G’mornin! Haven’t seen you out this early in a while!
Morning. Yeah, I uh… got a call.
Oh yeah? Everything good?
Yeah, yeah. Just uh… friend o’ mine got some bad news.
Aww. he frowned, That’s too bad. Not the best thing to wake up to, huh?

Warren tried to ignore him. They walked around the fence in front of their yard, and over to the mailbox. They fished around inside, and pulled everything out. The paper, and some envelopes. They snapped the rubber band around the paper, unrolled it, and looked at the front page, Mm. they read the section about Bili, No, that’s not good.

What was the news?
Warren looked up. Hm? Oh, the uh… bad news?
Oh… her uh… favorite musician just died.
Oh no! his face changed its expression to a reasonable, polite amount of concern. But not too much.
The Ogrin reminded Warren of a supermarket manager, or worse, their boss. They just looked at him as he continued to talk.
I’m sorry about that. Is she alright?
Mm. Yeah. Probably. he looked back down to the paper, She’ll be in the dumps for a while.
Well, tell her I said hi! Hope she feels better soon!
Sure. he lied.

They draped the paper over their mailbox, and flipped through the letters he’d gotten. Junk, junk, a bill or two. And a letter from… Rose? they thought to themselves, as their look changed to confusion. They put the other mail aside, stacked on top of the paper. They opened it.

Internal office stationary. Do not use for public fliers or personal letters. Do not photocopy, fax, transport and/or realay via magic ritual. Please report stolen or misused supplies to Administration.
Date Stationary Printed: Gathering's 17th
Gavin & Grant Stationary Company

Brightvale University of Magic

This is a notice from
Rose Blau
Senior Instructor
Club President
to the recipient
Warren Grey
Club Vice‐President 
Please read upon your earliest convenience.

r. Grey. I realize that it’s against protocol to use this official stationery for personal letters {and that we are not on good terms, socially}, but I’ll have you know, that this is very important. Something suspicious happened and I think you ought to know about it. Earlier today {or yesterday, depending on when you read this}, I’d found a strange person looking for you and your club in the administrative building, in the room your club used to occupy. He’d brought a sword with him, and was dressed very strangely. I pretended to be interested in conversation with him, and made it sound as though I didn’t know anything {I am an Actor, after all}. He seemed polite, but I could tell something was off with him. I tried to talk to you in person, but I could not, so I’m sending this to you as a letter, knowing you will read it eventually.

I haven't heard from young Lucine in several weeks. This is beginning to bother me greatly. I'm worried about him, especially with this most recent visit by the aforementioned strange fellow.

A lot of strange things have been happening recently. Please be safe out there Mr. Grey.
ose itzgerald lau 🏵︎

Internal office stationary. Do not use for public fliers or personal letters. Do not photocopy, fax, transport and/or realay via magic ritual. Please report stolen or misused supplies to Administration.
Date Stationary Printed: Gathering's 17th
Gavin & Grant Stationary Company

The Westminster chimes rang out over the school, and the echoing sound signified to everyone that it was mid‐day. People, most of them young adults, walked out from brick buildings and onto sidewalks. A large crowd gathered, and with some impatient difficulty, filtered into the eatery, the Cannady Memorial Cafeteria.

It was a large, open building, with big windows all along the walls. It was so bright outside that the interior lights didn’t need to be turned on to see properly, at least at the edges of the building. The interior was divided by wooden pillars, counters, and small panels instead of walls, and you could hear the sound of several of conversations as they echoed against the polished andesite floor. It was designed to be utilitarian, industrial, and minimal at some long gone time. After years of use, redecoration, and the wear & tear of hundreds of people, the student cafeteria now had the feel of a local diner, or a bowling alley.

Kenji sat at a table, in a booth with its back to one of the wood dividers. Vert walked up to the table from the side, with a plastic bag. She flopped into the wooden chair, and set the bag down. There were two to‑go boxes inside, and she took the top one out and handed it to him.

Here ya go.
He nodded. His eyes were heavy, and he wobbled a little bit as he opened the package that contained the utensils. Vert opened her own box. It was a fried egg on top of two pieces of toast, with two breakfast sausages and some burnt bacon slices next to it.

Kenji opened his own box and looked and down at it, without expression. It was white, bleached rice, with some burnt speckles here and there, far more dry than he’d assumed it would be. Three dill pickle spears were off to one side. One of them was far older than the others, wrinkles and dark splotches on one side of it. Vert peered down into his box, and looked offended on his behalf.

Oh, what?? Is that really what they gave you? Uhg, I’m so sorry, man. she sighed, They said this was, like, the closest thing that they had. No soup, no salad either.
He looked back up, It’s fine. It’s fine, thank you. Don’t worry. he nodded at her. He picked up one of the pickles and took an experimental bite out of the end. It wasn’t good, but he could handle it. He shrugged, then took another bite, and swallowed. The satisfied feeling of something in his stomach was short‐lived, as an unexpected sensation of nausea and vertigo washed over him. He grabbed the table to steady himself. He was hungrier than he realized. He tried to remember when the last time he ate was. One slice of cake, and ice cream he remembered. The only substantial thing I had to eat yesterday was a bowl of tea‐flavored ice cream. He took a deep breath and looked back up to Vert.

You uh… she’d had her eyebrows raised, you alright? Is it bad? she gestured at the food.
Oh, no no, it’s aah, it’s fine. I just…. Don’t worry, I’m fine.
Alright. she chuckled, I mean, you say that, a lot, but you looked like you were about to barf over there. I can get you something else if you want, it’s no problem.
Hahhah, noo, no, it’s okay. It’s not… that it’s bad, it’s just….
I’m sorry. I really wish I’d’ve looked at it before I gave it to you.
He chuckled, Really, it’s fine. My stomach is just…. he put a hand to his mouth, It was just really empty.
Ohh, I see. Yeah, yeah, I understand. My mom gets that way when she doesn’t eat for a while.
Kenji nodded.
Do you want me to get you something from the lunch buffet instead?
Hmmm… maybe. If it’s not a problem.
Yeah, yeah, no, it’s not a big deal. I was gonna get something anyway before they closed for the uh, dinner prep.
Mmm. Kenji nodded, When is that?
Oh, at about 13, or so. We've got plenty of time to eat.
He nodded again. He didn’t eat at the public cafeteria often, as most of his food was snacks he bought at the grocery store, or worse, the gas station next to the strip mall on the edge of campus. It was often too crowded and loud in the cafeteria for him to be comfortable eating, and today was the same as usual.

So… Vert spoke as she looked down into her lunch, hey. Can I ask you a question?
Hai. I mean, sure. Yeah.
Why… why did you join the paranormal club?
Oh, haha. he chuckled, but didn’t smile, A few reasons. Selfish, embarrassing, maybe.
What do you mean?
I…. he paused, looked to the side again, and spoke after he took a drink from his water, It’s complicated.
She chuckled, Yeah. I think you’ve said that much before.
He nodded again.
It’s just… your friends there are kinda… intense. Too much, for me.
What do you mean?
Like… she lowered her voice, they were all just… okay with straight up attacking somebody. Like, they basically killed somebody.
Kenji held his hands up, and lowered his voice too, Hey, I… I wasn’t there. I don’t, ano, didn’t know they would do that. I wasn’t there.
Oh, yeah, I know, I wasn’t blaming you or anything. It’s just…. she looked away and sighed, Like, the first thought that what’s‐his‐name, Warren had was straight‐up kidnapping, and then, like, it escalated to killing somebody? she looked back at him, Almost immediately? Like, holy shit, dude.
He looked back at her, In their defense, he was dead already. A ghoul, remember.
Well, yeah, okay, sure, but like… still. she put her left hand up to the side of her face
Kenji could tell from her expression that she had a hard time finding the right words.
That’s like, movie stuff. Like TV show adventure kinda malarkey. I can’t imagine something like that in real life. Even though he tried to hurt us… I can’t not see it as, like, ganging up on some old guy in a back alley or something and…. she shook her head and looked overwhelmed, I can’t do that, even if he was evil or gonna kill us all or whatever. Call me old fashioned or whatever.
No, no, I understand, I do. My thoughts are… I… don’t know what to think yet. I feel… as though I’m along for the ride. I think that’s how you say that.
Mmhm, yeah. Alright. I can’t, I can’t handle that though. she shook her head.
I understand.
Sorry, sorry. she leaned back in her chair, I didn’t mean to like… talk about this kinda thing, and if I uh… if I didn't make much sense. I'm… not good with words when I'm stressed out, or worked up, or whatever. I didn’t mean to get worked up about it this morning, I swear. I just kinda… had to get it out of my system.
It's okay, I know what you mean.

Kenji took his spoon and scooped up some of the rice. It didn’t taste like much, and he didn’t think it was supposed to be crunchy on purpose. He kept eating it anyway. He had to expend an unexpected amount of force to get it down his throat, and he took another drink afterwards. He inhaled, then went back to the original topic of conversation, As for the club, why I joined… it’s a few things. he poked around his rice with the plastic spoon.
Oh, yeah? Sorry for like… kinda changing the subject, right after I brought it up.
It’s fine, it’s fine. he smiled, It was dreams, at first.
Mm. Dreams interested me. I did work on that for a while.
Cool, that’s cool.
But the second thing, it was… he looked down, I wanted to… no, I ah… I need to… he shook his head, then looked back up to her, speak to the dead. I need to know what happens to them.
Oh, wow. she raised her eyebrows, That’s… quite a tall order! Well, outside of like, a religion or something. Why?
I prefer not to say. Usually. he said, as he looked out the window, …I need to talk to someone. In particular. he looked back over to her, That is all I can say, for now.
I see. she nodded, and it was her turn to look away. She had a feeling about what he meant, but decided not to give in to her curiosity. She’d noticed the number of times he’d avoided looking at her, And the club, they uh, they can help you with that?
Maybe. We aren’t sure. Warren, and two other people who aren’t in the club anymore, they set up a… kōrei… a… thing.
The… thing, around a table.
Oh, a séance?
I think so. They tried, for me. Helped me find out if I can. If it's possible.
Alright. That’s cool. That's uh… nice of ‘em, I guess. Were those the only reasons?
He chuckled, and smiled again, There is another reason, but, it’s a secret. I've… found out… things about myself, after coming here.
Oh? You can't tell me? she smiled too.
More that… I don't think… you would believe me. Something special, that I can do. Not very impressive, but still.
Aww now I’m really curious! Well, you don’t have to tell me, if you don’t want to.
Kenji nodded, smiled, and looked down to pick at his food.

Mmm. Well, okay. So… why did you come to Brightvale? If you don’t mind me asking. You can’t research that kind of stuff in Shenkuu?
Not sure. But, he shook his head, not safely, not these days. Besides, I didn’t go to Brightvale for the club.
No, I had to leave. It’s… complicated to explain.
Okay. A lot of things in your life are complicated, apparently!
He chuckled again, Hah… yes, unfortunately. Can you tell that complicated was one of the first words from here I learned? I spent a long time getting the… pronunciation on that one right. …I’m not a very lucky person, I don’t think.
I’m sorry.
It’s okay. he shook his head, but still smiled.
…So if it wasn’t the supernatural stuff, why here?
The school, the teachers. he said, To study a certain thing. I want to be a neuro‐surgeon, so I came to this school. That’s also when I found the Paranormal Club. It was a coincidence.
Oh, wow! I wasn’t sure that’s what you were going to school for, that’s pretty neat. Also… sounds pretty hard.
Yeah. It will take… a long time. I‘ll try my hardest.
She smiled again, Cool, cool. I hope it all works out! Even the whole, uh, talking to the dead… thing.
Thank you. And ah, thank you… for getting me out of there. The library, I mean. I just realized that I never thanked you for that. I’m sure that a lot of people would have just run away.
Of course! It’s… it’s no problem, it’s uh… it was really scary, but like… I had to, you know? I couldn’t live with myself if I’d just left you there. I wouldn’t want to let anyone down like that.
I understand. Kenji nodded again, I understand completely.

Sechson turned off his security system, and unlocked the door. Warren and Rei walked in from the outside, as the sun began to dip below the horizon. They both took the time to take off their shoes, though Warren looked uncomfortable doing it. Rei’s face was blank. She had a white dress on, instead of her normal orange, and round black sunglasses that he couldn’t see through. She had no expression on her face, and she didn’t take the glasses off as she entered.

Hey Warren, happy Poogle day!
It's uh… the Poogle Parade is happening today. You're a Poogle, so…
Oh. Yeah, I guess I am. Nah I don't… they shook their head, pay attention to that kinda stuff. Thanks anyway.
Sechson nodded, then turned to Rei, Hey! You look different today!
Mmmmhm. she walked over to the wooden table, sat in one of the chairs, then she leaned back with one arm on the table.
Sechson could tell something was wrong just by the way she moved, and the tone of her voice, Are… are you alright? Is everything okay?
His expression changed to worry, and he looked at Warren.
Warren stared back, Whaddya lookin at me for?
W— he raised his shoulders, I’m— I mean, I’m just curious. he swallowed and put his left hand onto the back of his neck, I w— just wanna make sure everything’s okay. I thought I might’ve done something wrong. Was it uh, did I say something…?
Rei spoke, but didn’t change her expression, You’re fine. You didn’t do anything. I’m not mad at you.
O— oh. Okay.

Kenji walked in with his gaze on the ground. He took off his shoes and left them at the stone step, then looked up. He saw Rei. She wore her sunglasses indoors, her white outfit, and a cold expression. He raised his eyebrows, then looked away. Sechson could hear him mumble Yokunai to himself, as he fast‐walked around Warren, and to the other side of the table.

Okay… I— I have to know. Sechson shook his head, What happened? I mean, if that’s uh, okay to talk about. I’m sorry.
Somebody I like died.
Oh… oh my God, I’m so sorry! I thought you were angry, are you okay?
I am angry. she paused, then turned her head towards him, I’m only sad for a little while. After I’m done being sad, I get pissed. she turned her head back to look out the window to the front lawn
Ahh. he nodded and shuffled a bit, and slunk away to sit in the chair next to her.

Well. Warren sighed, Fantastic. they looked around at everyone, Yeah, no. I’m skipping the whole welcome to the paranormal club intro, it’s starting to annoy me.
I like hearing it. Rei spoke in a flat tone.
Too bad, it blows. Besides, it’s not like everyone hasn’t heard it already.

Rei turned her head to look at them without any ambiguity. For a moment, they stared back, then rolled their eyes enough that their whole face followed along. They sighed, again.

Fine, alright. Warren pulled out the laminated sheet from their jacket, and inhaled: We now open this meeting of the Paranormal Club. Lucid dreams, tulpas, ghouls, super powers, and psychic phenomena. Things the wider world of Neopia dismisses as fantasy. But we know better, that these things are real, ordinary, even. This is where us students of Brightvale University of Magic come to talk, learn, and experiment with the unknown. Warren put the sheet back into their jacket, then sat down at the closest chair, That reminds me… Kenji.

He looked up. Kenji had one of the library books open as Warren had read the club’s introduction speech, Oh, yes?
Yeah. I completely forgot to ask you this yesterday, but uh… how long do we have these books for?
Uhm…. Kenji looked down, reached into his backpack, and pulled out a thick piece of paper only a little larger than his hand. The stationary on the back was of a yellow & green color scheme, and emblazoned with the solar crest of Brightvale, It expires in… one week. From now, next Saturday… ano, the 26th.
Okay. That works. Warren looked over at Sechson, Well there ya go. Better get to readin. Sorry to boss you around, but you’ve got homework to do.
Sechson nodded, Yes, I understand. I’ve actually finished one already.
Which one?
Sechson lifted up a book, titled Odontomancy & Tooth Magic Throughout the Ages.
Hmm. Tooth magic? Didn’t think you’d be interested in that kind of thing. Well, that’s something at least. Warren turned to Rei again, What about you?
She looked back over at him, Hm? What about me?
Your homework.
Oh. she looked away again, That. That’s not happening.
Sechson tried to put on a friendly tone as he spoke to her, Warren gave you homework too?
No, no. she said, Not for the club. College. I was supposed to practice my destruction magic homework today.
Your paper and demonstration. Warren reminded her.
She turned to Warren, Yeah, I know. then to Sechson, New spell. Fire and light magic combined into a big fuck‐off explosion. I mentioned it yesterday I think. Maybe. I don’t remember.
Oh, wow. That sounds pretty cool.
Thanks. But uh… she shook her head, I’m way too pissed off to be workin on somethin like that right now, I’ll prolly kill somebody on accident.
Warren crossed their arms, Sure, maybe. Just make sure you get it in on time. It’s really important to your grade.
Yeah. Thanks for the reminder, dad.
Warren scrunched up their face in annoyance.
The corner of her mouth tilted up into the smallest smile she could manage.

There was a sound of metal, a slide into place with a click, like a lock being turned somewhere. Kenji’s ears perked up, and he looked around. No one else had heard it. He shook his head, and he assumed that he’d just imagined it.

Well. Warren brought up a silver suitcase from under the table.
Sechson blinked and shook his head, as he was sure that there wasn’t a case under his table before, and Warren didn’t have it with him when he came in.
I don’t really have an assignment, or anything, for y’all to do next. Lucine hasn’t contacted me yet with any new information, so all this in here is still the same as last time.
Sechson pushed aside the book in front of him, and leaned closer to the suitcase full of ghoul sightings, Oh, wow, we’re bringing this out already?
Yeah. I feel like we’ve dropped the pretense of this being a normal club for a while now. Plus, the mood in here is friggin dreadful. he turned to Rei again, I don’t suppose you’re in the mood for poker?
Well, alright th—

There was a knock at the door.

Everyone’s attention went to it, and no one said anything for a few seconds. The sun had gone down past the horizon, by now, and there was nothing but purple tinted darkness outside.
Warren pulled the briefcase back under the table. They broke the silence, and glanced at Sechson, …You expecting somebody?
No… he shook his head and looked just as concerned, no I’m not. Sechson scooted back in his chair, stood up, and walked to the door.
Did anyone invite anyone? Warren looked around, Anybody?
Kenji shook his head.
Rei turned to Warren I didn’t see anyone walk up.
Warren gestured at Sechson, who’d already gotten to the door, So we’re just gonna open the door for any asshole that walks up here?
I mean… yes? I just wanna know who’s out there.
Fine, whatever. they threw their hands upward and looked away, It’s not my house.

Sechson turned and opened the door. On the other side was a Kyrii, tall, with speckled white hair. He wore a suit that even Sechson thought was expensive, black covered with small accents of gold. The stranger bowed his head.

Evening, he looked around the room, all of you.
Uhm. Sechson put his weight onto the back foot, and looked the stranger up and down, Hello, sir. May I help you with something?
Mm. Possibly. he stared back at Sechson, then looked over everyone else. His eyes met Warren’s, then Warren’s clothes, then their hands. He did this for every one of them, over the course of six seconds, looking over them the way a chess player would scan the opponent’s side of the board. Warren’s gaze went downward, as the Kyrii’s attention went back to Sechson. The stranger had a sword on his belt.

This wouldn’t happen to be the Paranormal Club, would it? Am I in the correct place?
Before Sechson could answer, Warren spoke up, and gripped the table with one hand in panic: Close the door.
Hm? Sechson turned, What?
The Kyrii leaned his head in to get a better look inside. His eyes drifted over to the empty fireplace. Above the mantle, the shoddy banner that proclaimed Welcome to the Paranormal Club still hung there.

Mm. he began to take off his jacket, So it is.
The tone of Warren’s voice rose, and so did they, out of the chair, Sechson, close the door. Close the door now.
The stranger had folded his jacket, and tossed it aside onto the bench by the door. Warren watched it flop down on it through the window, illuminated by the inside lights. Sechson saw the fear in Warren’s eyes, and turned back around. Under the jacket was a transparent plastic suit, and under that, a striped white dress shirt. He raised a scarred and wrinkled hand above the Bori’s head, digits positioned to snap, and pointed them towards the overhead light.

Oh, hell. Warren mumbled to themselves, as they gripped both hands to the table. Run! Scatter! they yelled, Everybody get the hell out of here! as they flipped the table onto its side, using it to shield Kenji and Rei from whatever was about to happen.

Tariq snapped his fingers, and magical lightning lept from it. The bulb in the fixture exploded, and there was a flash of light. Power surged through the copper in the walls, and the wires singed the wallpaper with black & brown lines. Lights throughout the entire house blew, electrical outlets snapped and crackled, and for a few moments, it sounded like they were all inside a bag of microwave popcorn.

Warren seized up and shouted in pain, as magic had leapt from the wires in the wall to their body. They fell with a heavy thud, like a statue hitting the ground. There was a muffled sound of glass shattering, and of things falling out of their vest pockets and onto the floor. It went from flashes of light, to darkness, as all the lights inside were broken.

Sechson had obeyed Warren’s command without a thought, and ran out of the living room, through the door opposite to the kitchen. On the other side of the threshold was a nook where the landline telephone sat. He picked up the phone and started to mash on the buttons to call the police. There was no dial tone. He pulled it away from his ear, and he realized that it was warmer than it ought to be. His eyes began to adjust to the dark, and as light shone in from a streetlamp outside, he saw black stains on the speakers.

He turned his head over to the door. Tariq closed it behind him. Sechson bolted away, and a moment later, electricity shot against the table he had been leaning against.

What’s going on?? Who are you? Why are you doing this? Sechson shouted.
A cyan streak of magical lightning exploded from Tariq’s hand, and hit the wall, Mmmm. he grunted after he realized that he’d missed. He began to walk deeper into the house after Sechson, Very simple. he spoke into the dark, You have made it your mission to kill ghouls, so I am told. I happen to be one of those. Therefore, I have come to kill every single one of you, before you can do the same to my associates.

The stranger had walked down the hall, followed Sechson, and fired magic into the dark. Everyone’s eyes were beginning to adjust to the darkness, as light from streetlamps came in through the windows. Warren shook and began to pull themselves up, still next to the upturned table. They looked over, and saw Kenji and Rei still hid behind it. Kenji and Rei looked back at them. In this low level of light, the two of them could see what looked like a icy blue reflection, shine, or maybe a glow, deep in the pupils of Warren’s eyes.
Hey. they whispered at the others, What are you two still doing here?
Kenji shook his head, We won’t abandon you.
Don’t give me that cartoon hero shit, that’s not what I told you to do. I appreciate it, but I’m gonna be fine, you need to get out of here.
You didn’t sound fine. Rei frowned back at them, as she took off her sunglasses, You sounded like someone cut your arm off.
It doesn’t matter what it sounds like. If I tell you to run, you run. You’re lucky they didn’t check here first. Warren wobbled to their feet, I’m going after them. Do not follow me.
Electricity. Rei stared at them.
Warren looked back, What? Yeah? What about it?
That hurts you doesn’t it?
They scoffed, What gave you that impression? It’s not gonna kill me, it just hurts like hell. they pointed at them, I’m gonna be fine. I need everybody but me out of this house, they jabbed their finger towards the door, I’m taking care of this.
Absolutely not!
Absolutely yes! Get out of here!

The thump clack sound of Sechson’s feet came from down the other hall, and Warren looked over. They hadn’t been deep enough into Sechson’s house on their own to realize that the hallways on opposite sides of the house were connected. The Bori came in, and skidded to a halt on the smooth hard wood when he saw everyone.

W— what?? What’s everybody still doing in here? I led him in a circle!
They’re being morons, that’s what’s happening.
Rei stood up from behind the table, Can it, Warren, we’re taking them out.
No! You’re not listening to me! Just get out of the house! I will handle this!
What, the same way you handled that other guy?
Yes, actually. Now get out of here.
Uhh… Sechson began to whisper too, after he heard everyone else do so, that might be a problem.
What? Warren looked exhausted, Why? What now?
When I was leading them around… I checked a bunch of the windows, and the back door. It’s locked. Everything is locked. I can’t get any of the windows open.
When the hell did they do that??
I don’t know. he shook his head, Maybe long before they even knocked.
Shit. Shhhit.
Looks like we gotta fight back, then. Rei said.
We are doing jack shit, everybody hides, and I take care of it. You, Sechson, you go off and make shitloads of noise so I can sneak up on them.

The Bori ran past, mumbled Highest protect us and ran back into the same doorway next to the broken telephone. As he ran, he stomped on the ground, and hit the walls, in an attempt to draw the intruder away from everyone else.

See? Does what he’s fucking told. Not that difficult. Warren gestured over at where Sechson had run off, One perk of him being in a cult, I guess.
Warren, shut the hell up. Were doing this together.
No, we are not! Next, you, the two of you—

Lightning shot out from the kitchen, and through Warren. They yelped as they were thrown off their feet.

Too much cooperation. Tariq shook his head. As he walked out of the kitchen, his hand went into the left pocket of his black slacks, and pulled something out. It was a small orb, only a little larger than a pea, and black as the night sky outside. He lifted it above his head, and crushed it between his thumb and his fingers.

A sphere of darkness spread out from his hand, and wiped away all the light in the room. Rei readied a spell of light magic.
It pains me to waste such an expensive item on this, but… clearly, it is not dark enough in here. the intruder said to himself, loud enough for them to hear.
She couldn’t see the light from the spell against the floor or table, as its light didn’t hit anything but her own arms and hands. She released it where she thought the ghoul was. Nothing happened. Missed.

She felt lightning magic hit her. The electric shock pushed her back, painful at first, then replaced with a disorienting numbness. Rei hid back behind the table, which she could only feel, no longer see. She blinked in confusion, as she looked at her hands. They were lit just the same as before. She looked around, but there was nothing but pure darkness, except for herself. Kenji could only see himself as well, and could hear Rei as she shuffled behind the table. He tried to follow, but tripped over a table leg in the process.

Hmhmhm. From the way the Bori spoke, you’d think you were all hapless bystanders. I know otherwise.
Warren lifted their head up, and pointed it at the sound of Tariq’s voice. What the hell do you think you know?
I know enough. You all have taken it upon yourselves to interfere with something very important to my employer. You are the warriors who have slain Alder.
…What? I’m sorry, who?
The scholar. Worshipper of Adzrameiuch. And an employee of the same master I work for.
Scholar… you mean…? Warren’s mind went back to the first ghoul they’d fought, Oh. That one. I… we didn’t get very many details.
You killed him before you even knew who he was? Who he was looking for? Mhmhmhm. Idiots. Knuckle‐dragging brutes. Well, it doesn’t matter.
Oh yeah?
Mmhm. I’m going to find what Alder was looking for first, and the lot of you are not going to get in my way.
What was he looking for?
If you don’t already know about it, why do you expect me to tell you? Hell, why do I even bother talking? I don’t have to explain myself to peons.
Rei fumed from behind the table. Did he just call me a peon?
Warren didn’t reply, and struggled to stand back up.
You, though. Tariq pointed at Warren, I heard what you said. You were going to face me alone.
Warren looked up. You’re still talkin to me?
I am. You’re the vice president, aren’t you? The one I was told wears metal in his clothes? Didn’t work out too well against lightning magic.
Warren smiled, and let out a breath, half laugh, and half wheeze, Yeah. Sure. That’s what it is. I’m him alright.
Well, that’s why I bothered talking. I assumed you would be smarter than the rest of them. If you’re planning on fighting me, then, unfortunately… I’m just going to have to kill you first.

Warren had no time to react, as magic leapt from the ghoul’s hand. They writhed in pain and shouted, and fell again as electricity crackled across them. The air itself trembled as the spell finished, and another spell already began to be charged. Warren’s hand slipped on something. Some kind of powder. Their eyes widened. They bent down and began to gather up as much as they could, forced to rely on the texture of it alone. Another volley of lightning charged through them, and they clenched, putting their muzzle into their elbow to muffle their own pained shout.

Kenji. Fuck. Kenji I can’t see. Rei turned to where she thought he was, Can you see?
Damnit. That was… that had to be…. Rei’s train of thought was interrupted by more of Warren’s yelps. She cringed and shuddered from the empathic pain, That was a magical item. A stored blindness spell….
Magic. Kenji said, and nodded out of habit, even though he knew she couldn’t see him.
That’s right. Illusion magic. You know what that means?

Sechson held a busted electric lamp in his hands, and smashed it over Tariq’s head. He stumbled, and turned. Sechson too was blinded, but had followed the source of the electrical sounds from behind. The ghoul put his hand onto Sechson’s face, and shoved him to the side, where he stumbled over a chair and into the wall with a loud crash. He turned back and began to electrocute Warren again.

Hmm. You’re still moving. Why? Tariq asked him, his voice flat and without compassion.
Warren panted and continued to pull themselves back up, Because I’m not dead yet. Dumbass. They had scrounged up something off the floor, black dust that used to be in now‐broken glass vials, pulled it towards themselves, and up against something else in their right hand that they kept hidden. There was a sound of metal twisting and bending.

Tariq assumed they held a dagger, and stepped backwards a few paces. You should be dead, vice president. Flesh would have melted from bone, by now. You’re not normal, are you?
Warren said nothing.
Tariq shrugged, and raised his hand at Warren. Another blast of lightning came from it, and Warren screamed again. The magic stopped, and the ghoul sighed in irritation. He unsheathed his sword, a curved black blade with cyan engravings in the shape of stylized lightning. This is getting stupid. You’re wasting my magic. Whatever you are, I doubt you’ll survive a beheading.

You think you can do it? Rei whispered to Kenji.
I… I think so. It ought to count as an illusion.
Fyora's name, it’d fuckin better. Make us some room to breathe.

Kenji shaped his paw flat, all his fingers straight together into the shape of a hand‐sword, pointing downward at an angle. He stood up, and aimed his arm in the direction of Tariq’s voice, over the table. Kenji’s hand bent upward, in a motion reminiscent of a light switch being flicked on. Without a sound, and with a small spark of blue‐colored light, the illusory darkness parted, split into two perfect halves that moved away from each other and vanished into the edges of his vision.

Tariq stood and watched Kenji do this. He flinched when Kenji had moved. To him, nothing seemed to have happened.
…What was that? What did you do?
Kenji said nothing, and stared at him from the other side of the table.
Tariq narrowed his eyes. Warren shifted beneath him. He looked down. Warren stared back at him as well. Just as Tariq realized that they all could see again, Warren pulled a small silver gun out from their vest.

Warren fired three shots into him, and he lurched backward with each impact. Everyone covered their ears in pain except Warren who was only able to cover one ear. Their hand loosened on the inexplicable firearm, and it fell to the floor, twisted and bent as though it couldn’t handle the mechanical stress of being fired. Everyone’s ears were ringing too much to be able to hear the gun squelch instead of clatter, and it melted into a puddle of silver‐colored liquid and spent gunpowder on the floor.

Oh, fuck!! That’s what you were hiding from me! Gods, it stings! What is this made out of? Where did you get…? How did…? the ghoul looked down at himself. Black stained holes dotted his shirt and punched through his transparent coat, Silver… silver bullets! Unbelievable! You… you…. he looked back up at Warren with wild eyes, Do you have any idea how much this dress shirt cost?? You piece of shit! Tariq yelled as he kicked Warren in the head, the force enough to heave them off of their hands & knees and into the floor.

Rei put her hand on the Kyrii’s right shoulder. He jumped reflexively from surprise. His head turned to look at her, slow and deliberate. She wore the dark glasses she had on when he entered. His face twisted up in bewilderment. He looked down to her hand, as light began to pour out of it. His eyes widened, and he realized why she’d put her sunglasses back on.

Mm. I’ve underestimated all of you. he moved to back away from her, I’m not going to be making that mistake twice.

There was an explosion of yellow light. The force of it made the windows shatter outward, and flung the door open. A bright yellow flame engulfed the living room, fire and light magic combined into a singular force. Even with sunglasses on, Rei couldn’t see anything but magical fire, as she threw the full force of her destruction magic at the ghoul. The roar of flames and the reverberations of light magic pounded against the walls, as Kenji grabbed the unconscious Sechson. He couldn’t see anything, for the opposite reason as before. As he stumbled to where he assumed the door was, he noticed that he was uncomfortably hot, but not in any pain. He shook his head, and didn’t stick around to see if it would stay that way. They both tumbled out the door, and almost fell onto the stone porch. The yard in front of them was illuminated like the daytime sun. Sechson woke up as Kenji carried him out to the grass, dropped him, and turned around to go back into the house.

Kenji? Kenji!! What the…? Sechson watched on as the living room, the entire front of his house, was in flames. He stood up, and continued to stare into the inferno. Kenji was visible again, and drug Warren behind him by an arm. He struggled and heaved, not even past the doorway, like he was trying to pull an anvil across a beach. Sechson ran forward and bent down to grab another arm, and they both pulled. Warren was just as heavy as Kenji had made them look, and the two of them strained to lift and pull them from the fire.

Good God what does this guy eat? Is he smuggling weights under his shirt or something?? Sechson panted as they managed to drag them over to the threshold. The Poogle under them lifted their head. They looked around, fear in their eyes, then up at the two of them.
F… fuck. Fuck! Get off of me, go! I’ll be fine! I’m good! Just…. Warren pulled themselves to their feet.
Sechson looked confused.
Just go! I mean it! they stood up.
Kenji nodded and backed off, and Sechson looked into the flames. Rei stood there as light poured from her hands.

Hey. Hey! Warren called out to Rei, as Kenji and Sechson backed out of the house, and into the grass. Are you good?
Rei turned her head.
Are you good? Warren shouted over the flames.
Rei nodded once, then closed her hand into a fist. The light that poured from it ceased, and the fire’s light lost some of its intensity. Warren turned away, stumbled, then leaned against the threshold to steady himself. They stopped just outside the doorway, and turned to look at the bench beside the door, beneath the window. It was empty. They furrowed their brow, and looked around into the night. They shook their head, and kept moving.

Kenji and Sechson watched Warren plod out of the house and onto the porch. Rei followed, then turned around as she exited the door, and made a dismissive motion with her hands. The fire looked like it sunk into the floor, a large portion of it snuffed out. Parts of the fire continued to burn, and she paused, then made the same motion with more force, pushing down and to the sides with her hands in the air. There were still spouts of unnatural yellow flame. She made an even greater effort, but it made less of a difference than last time. She stumbled backward a step, shook her head, and turned around. She stepped off the porch and onto the grass with everyone else. She took off her sunglasses, hung them on the neck of her shirt, dangled at the center by one folded arm, and sighed, looking up at Sechson.

I’m… I’m sorry… that was the last of my magic… we’re… someone’s gonna have to call the fire department….

She stumbled down into the grass, and Sechson caught her before she could hit the ground. They all watched as the fire snuffed itself out as she lost consciousness.