A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
|Previously: "Of Two Minds"
Yeah, this new toy the book has given you would let you become someone else. Anyone else! Someone far, far away from anything involved with Dane, Chen, hardcore drug dealers, any of it! You could become some other person, and then—
You blink at the reflection in the mirror. The reflection of your best friend, Caleb Johansson.
I could become Caleb, you think. He hasn't got anything to do with Dane or Chen or anything like that. I'd be safe if I was him.
But then he'd have to become Dane, because where else would he go?
And then Chen would be after him. He'd be the one in danger, not me.
Well, better him than me! another part of you thinks. It's a very selfish part of you, but also a very small part, easy to overwhelm. You couldn't do that to Caleb.
But if couldn't do that to Caleb, could you do it to anyone else?
Better them than me! that selfish part of you squeaks again. But its voice is dwindling.
"I'm just gonna stay here for the night," you tell Caleb. "I can't go back to Dane's."
"You can't stay here forever," he replies. "People are gonna come looking for Dane if he doesn't show up after a few days."
"People like Chen," you repeat.
"You could always let Dane out," Caleb says. "Let him go back to being himself. Then you could go back to being Gordon."
Then you break off, and blink a couple of times. An idea is forming, but it hasn't come into focus yet. Not entirely.
"What?" Caleb asks in a guarded tone.
"What what?" you ask. You look at his reflection in the mirror—the face and form that is identical to the one you have borrowed from him.
"I know the look you just got on your face," he says. "I get it myself when—"
"Look, don't you have to get home?" You spin on him. "I know you do!"
Caleb makes a face, and snaps his fingers in the face you've borrowed.
"Then gimme my gear," he says. "Face and everything else. Last thing I want is for you taking them out and fucking something up for me."
Serve you right if I did, you snarl to yourself.
But you hurl yourself onto the dusty conference table and grapple with your face. Caleb pulls your hands away, though, and pulls the things off for you.
He's gone when you awake.
* * * * *
Maybe it was one of Caleb's ideas you got while you were wearing that doohickey that copied his brain. But whether it was his idea or one of your own, you remember it, and you mull it over as you wait for night to fall outside the basement.
You can let Dane go back to being himself, Caleb suggested. And you can go back to being Gordon.
Except I don't know how to be Gordon, you started to retort. That's how come you and Caleb both got out of Gordon's mask shortly after putting it on. You couldn't handle a basketball, and you couldn't handle his life.
But if you used one of those thingummies to copy Gordon's brain, and paired it with the mask, then you could impersonate the captain of the basketball team—and Chelsea Cooper's boyfriend—exactly.
That would still leave the real Gordon Black stuck impersonating you, of course, and you can imagine what Caleb would have to say to that: If you can turn Dane back into himself, you can turn Gordon back into himself too. Putting everybody back would be the simplest solution to this mess.
Except if you did that, you'd be putting Dane in harm's way—something you just decided you couldn't do to anyone. Particularly Dane. Silly goofball that he is, he doesn't deserve to have Chen or his scary-ass cousin on his case, particularly for something that you fucked up for him.
But what if you left Dane where he is—as Gordon—and you resumed your old identity, while sticking Gordon in for Dane? The objection—Gordon doesn't deserve it—doesn't have nearly same weight. After all, Gordon more or less tried to kill you; so maybe in a karmic sense he totally deserves to have someone trying to kill him.
Besides, he's mean enough that, even in Dane's body, he could probably do a fair job of defending himself from Chen.
Maybe they'd wind up killing each other.
The thought makes you wince. That's not funny, even as a joke, you reprimand yourself.
* * * * *
Anyway, these are the thoughts that you entertain yourself with as you kill the balance of the afternoon. You also work diligently at carving runes into the metal strips that Caleb made, and when you've done two of them you turn to the grimoire and the next spell. Caleb had already set out the supplies for it, and by the dim light of his laptop you check them against the translation of the ingredients.
It turns out not to be a hard spell, and it uses many of the same liquids and powders you'd gathered for the other spells, and after about twenty minutes you're able to set a bowl of the slurry-like liquid onto the sigil in the book. As directed by the instructions, you run your finger three times around the circle and set a flame to it. It flashes into a brief fire, then goes out. The page beneath turns when you lift the bowl.
There is only a short paragraph on he other side, and the on-line Latin translator gives a straight-forward interpretation: It's a glue that lets you attach one of those metal strips to the inner surface of a mask.
Well, that's convenient, you think. You'd be able to put the strip and the mask onto someone at the same time instead of in two separate steps, and onto yourself in one step as well.
So it looks like the book is finally giving you some new tools that you can do to undo the mess you got yourself into with the first batch of things. You look ahead to the next spell, but put it aside when you see that it requires a lot of new stuff.
Besides, you've got enough to think about for now.
* * * * *
Caleb's got coffee for you the next morning when he shows up, which helps you wake up after an uncomfortable night of sleep. He's also got a question for you: "Did you figure it out?"
"Figure what out?" You grimace as you scald your throat with the bitter coffee.
"Whatever you were thinking about when you threw me out of here."
"I didn't throw you out of here, cocksucker. You left me while I was—"
"Yeah yeah." He waves an airy hand at you. "But I could tell you didn't want me around."
You make a face at him.
"Today's the day that Dane should show up," Caleb continues, "if his mom's not going to start worrying about him. And if you're going to skip going to school tomorrow—"
"Dane can have his life back," you interrupt.
Caleb looks startled. "Whaddaya mean?" he asks. "You mean you're thinking about taking him out of— And putting him back in for himself?"
"You've only been pestering me about it forever."
"And you've only been telling me to go fuck myself when I tell you that's what you should do. So what changed your mind?"
But have you changed your mind? You mumble something about I just finally figured you were right while slurping thoughtfully at the hot coffee.
I could still throw Gordon in for Dane, you think, and go back to being myself. Or move everyone back to where they were. Or put Dane back and take over for Gordon.
The latter is the most inviting, frankly. Gordon's the top dog at school, and you'd have Chelsea Cooper slurping at your cock.
But that would put Dane back in harm's way. You try telling yourself he'll be okay. He's Dane Matthias, and no one can stay mad at him. He could talk his way out of the trouble you got him into.
Then a radical thought occurs to you.If I used one of the thingies to copy Dane's brain, I could talk my way out of this festering shit pile I've made of Dane's life. Then everything would be back to normal when we gave Dane his life back!
It would also be a way of taking responsibility for what you've done.
Next: "Dane's Doom"