Virga: Act 6D

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A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT

ACT 6d: OF MELISSA AND JAMES

“Fine, fine,” Trixie said, seemingly not picking up on Melissa’s mood. She reached out to grab me by the arm. “Come on, James, you get to be my first guinea pig.”

I hesitated, largely because I wasn’t sure about Trixie’s state of mind. “Uhm, you know my magick experience is really limited, right?”

Trixie’s smirk was back. “It’s fine. You don’t need any inherent magick for Mixi to see what’s going on in your head.”

“Ah. And you don’t want to eat first? Or shower?”

“Nope. But you can picture me in the shower, if you think that’ll help get your neurons firing, James.” She wiggled her eyebrows, and then her hips.

“Trixie…” Melissa said warningly, though it was almost resigned amusement at this point.

I somehow found my gaze back at Trixie’s chest again. I don’t know how she does it. “Trixie, look, you’re not going to be pulling fetishes out of my head, are you?”

Trixie giggled madly. “Not on a test run, but OOH you’re giving me so much ammunition to potentially tease you with. It’s almost criminal, to take advantage of your naivete this way.”

“Yeah, um, so maybe don’t do that?”

Trixie rolled her eyes. “Yes, fine, look, listen. I’m doing an impossible thing that no one’s ever done before. Humour me NOW, before I crash and need to sleep for a day straight.”

I resigned myself to my fate. “Be gentle?”

Trixie laughed once more and dragged me into her room to affix medical patches to my temples. All I really have to say about the process is that it was somewhat long, though not the three hours she’d deemed for the final run. It was also completely painless, and seemed to satisfy Trixie that she’d done what she’d set out to do.

Almost immediately after, the redhead passed out, face down on the floor.

When I finally left Trixie’s room, Melissa was gone. She’d left a sheet of paper on the desk saying she needed some air, and some candles. I toyed with the ring in my pocket for a moment, then went to prepare dinner.

***

That night, I realized that Melissa seemed to be withdrawing from me. Whether it was a conscious decision on her part or not, I didn’t know, but we remained on opposite sides of the bed.

MELISSA VIRGA
Commission from Shirley

The next day, early on, she set up what she needed for her spell in our room. Namely some orbs, candles, and I think the rib of a small animal. She then requested absolute silence for when the technology spell actually took place.

Trixie was still asleep (apparently she hadn’t been kidding about sleeping for a day), while I took the opportunity to go to the main room and look out the window. To see if I could catch the flash when Earth’s entire technology grid was flipped off, then almost immediately back on again.

I’m not going to tell you when this happened. There’s a slim chance that making it public would get Annie in trouble, as I could still say here that her information was a bit off, and Melissa calculated the difference.

I mean, okay, I’ve been changing everyone’s names, so I suppose I could change the time of the event and give you that in the narrative. But it seems rather pointless.

I will tell you that the magick involved ensured that nothing would need to power cycle back up, so maybe it was that moment when your radio cut out, or when your computer seemed to freeze up, or when that light in the hall seemed to flicker as you were preparing for bed.

Two seconds, maybe less. I fancy I saw it, but only because I knew exactly when to look for it.

There were no complications.

By that I mean there was nothing reported in the news related to this. There were complications as far as Melissa was concerned. The most immediate consequence being her emerging from the room looking rather pale.

I quickly got her a glass of water and asked if there was anything I could do to help her out. She shook her head. “It was an eye opening experience, that’s all.”

I paused, then led Melissa out into the hallway, away from any surveillance. I then crouched a bit to look her in the eyes, and made sure she was looking at me before speaking again.

“Mel, this is me you’re talking to. I can tell something has upset you. What’s wrong?”

Her lips grew tight. “It’s that there are cracks,” she said after a moment. “In the fabric of space-time. Which is why other realities knew about me, they caught a hint of the spell I just performed. I also got a sense of…” She shook her head. “I can’t describe it.”

“You mean Merlin?”

Melissa shook her head. “James, please don’t press me on this.”

I nodded. “Okay then. You’re sure there’s nothing more I can do?”

Melissa stared past me for a moment, then refocussed. “I need to see Alicia. I’m suddenly scared that there’s not enough time left to do what I need to do. I swear I’ll tell you if there’s anything you can do to help me with it though, okay?”

She smiled at me then, and leaned in to kiss me. For a moment she sank into it, and into my arms, and seemed to me like things were normal enough.

But when she drew back I saw there was still something lurking behind her gaze. With a quick apology, she was immediately running down the stairs, off to Alicia Wing’s store. I think she would have done so regardless of whether the store was actually open at the moment.

To this day, I’m still not sure what Melissa had really caught sight of during her spell.

There’s a well-known quote by Friedrich Nietzsche that comes to my mind: “Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

I hoped Melissa would be all right. Again, I found myself fiddling with the ring inside my pocket.

***

Two days later, meaning one day short of the big day, I was sure that Trixie knew something too. I called her on it while Melissa was out.

“Don’t keep being an idiot, James,” she retorted. “Your girlfriend wouldn’t tell me anything that she wouldn’t also tell you.”

Something in her tone had me reading between the lines. “Might she have told you something BEFORE telling me though?”

The redhead flinched at that, even looking a bit guilty. “No?”

“Trixie, tell me what you know,” I said, becoming a bit scared. I’m not sure why that had been my first reflex. Can men have intuition too?

“Nothing!” Trixie insisted, only to amend, “I’m sure it’s nothing. Just, I have some messages to give to Melissa’s parents after tomorrow.”

“After her Decision Day.”

“Right.”

“Related to the fact that she’s refused to respond to their messages? The ones insisting that the spell worked, and that she can stop worrying about everything?”

I really hadn’t been sure what to make of those. Had Merlin been re-energized? Had he not been, but false flags had been thrown up to make the casters think the spell had worked? Did Melissa need to do something to help him out? Or were Melissa’s parents simply outright lying to her, so that she wouldn’t do anything rash?

Trixie had no answers. “I dunno,” she said, shrugging. “Melissa sealed the content into envelopes.”

I stared at Trixie. She wouldn’t meet my gaze. That was definitely new. “Then do you think the spell her parents were doing worked?”

Trixie sighed. “Damn it, James, I don’t–” She cut herself off. “Look. All I know is Melissa thinks her task is actually greater than ever. She even asked me to try and cut down on the three hour window for her virtual self. Don’t ask me to explain why. I’m tech-girl, she’s the supernatural balance expert.”

“And there’s no problem with Mixi and the neural net?”

Trixie’s expression morphed into something that said to me ‘There bloody well better not be after all the effort I put in’. Her lips merely said, “Nothing I’m aware of.”

I dropped the subject.

In retrospect, I must have been preoccupied. I didn’t pick up on the fact that not once did Trixie call her cousin ‘Missy’ on that day.

Melissa didn’t come to bed that night.

When I saw her the next morning in the kitchen, it didn’t seem like she’d actually slept. On the one hand, this wasn’t unusual, since she never did have a good sense for time of day. On the other hand, shortly after I entered, she headed out of the apartment again. So she had to be avoiding me.

I can’t be certain, but I think that was the night when Melissa wrote the message for me.

***

Melissa was back by noon, in order to undergo the process of putting her engrams onto Trixie’s neural net. It only occurred to me then that I wasn’t entirely sure how the decision-making process was going to occur.

Somehow I’d visualized Melissa casting a spell, with an image of Merlin appearing and asking for her final answer… and that wasn’t it. Of course, I’m not sure Melissa herself had known until three days prior, as I suspect she would have said something to me otherwise. As it was, she merely said we’d be headed to the roof of the building in a little while.

The roof door was normally kept locked. Obviously not a problem in our case.

Melissa walked out first, holding Mixi. I followed after her, and Trixie hung back behind us. My girlfriend walked all the way to the edge of the building and looked out, through the protective chain link fence that someone had erected. She then turned and let out a long breath.

“Okay James, you deserve this explanation from me in person,” she began. “The choice I’m faced with here is the chaos that would come from magick becoming common, and being wielded against those without consent, versus the strict regimen of magick casting backlash and a severing of ties with other realms.”

I nodded. “I sort of assume you’re looking at the strict regimen though,” I said. “Given how you’ve got Mixi there to implement it.”

She licked her lips. “Yes and no. Thing is, while the latter system might have worked 1500 years ago, I’ve been forced to conclude that it needs updating. All systems must change to adapt to the changing times, I know that now. And Merlin, if we still refer to the originator of the system that way, was aware of this possibility. In fact, the more recent shifting in the supernatural balance hasn’t been due to corruption, or lack of energy. It’s come from two other things.”

“Powerful things, I presume,” Trixie said from behind me. “Given how that chain link fence seems to be morphing into cheddar cheese or something before our eyes.”

Melissa glanced back over her shoulder only briefly. “That’s blowback from what’s about to happen. In retrospect, the proximity of me and other Chosen might have been a catalyst for a couple of the more curious incidents. Like Amy’s lamp. As to the two things being powerful, I suppose that depends on your point of view.”

“These are the things you saw during that fraction of a second when we didn’t have technology, isn’t it,” I divined.

Melissa nodded. “Correct. The first thing is the fact that there are now several billion more people on Earth than there once were. It makes tracking the flow of magick more difficult. The second thing, even more problematic, is how the original system doesn’t understand how to adjust for all our scientific advancements. It seemed immensely relieved for that one second when it didn’t have to.”

“So the Internet really is a problem.”

Melissa ran her fingers back through her hair. “Not a problem. An additional variable. That’s what I really didn’t understand until a couple of days ago. How much the system needs to be updated.”

I exchanged a glance with Trixie.

“Fine, I’ll ask her for you,” Trixie said, reading something in my expression. She stepped up next to me. “Melissa, if you’ve known for a couple days, why only tell us all the details now?”

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