Tess looked at her hands and then looked at the charred bits of the wall, as parts of the wood paneling hung by splinters from the ceiling and gold embers cooled on the floor below.
“What the hell was that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” whispered Max from where he stood, luckily out of the line of fire. “You got mad and then these sparks started flying out of your fingertips. Are you PMS-ing or something?”
“Oh, shut up, Max. Of course not,” she grumbled, but stared at her hands again. “I don’t know what’s happening to me!”
She didn’t say anything to him, but took off at a run barreling out of the room, leaving Max in her wake. There was no direction to her running, no eventual goal. She ran harder than she’d ever run before, running from something she couldn’t explain and something that terrified her. Of course, once she glanced at her hands, she realized the unfailing truth: You can’t run from yourself.
The grass was achingly green under her feet, the sky – the truest blue, above her. She climbed a grassy hill and collapsed at its zenith. She looked over her town by the seashore and sighed. Her hands shook where they rested in her lap, and her body ached as if an electric current had shot through her body. Which is exactly what happened, if she really thought about it. A crazed laugh burst out of her suddenly, edging on hysterics. She was going crazy.
“What’re you running from?” a decidedly Bronx-accented voice asked from behind.
Tess was immediately on her feet, whirling around to see who had spoken. From the edge of a shadow under the nearby trees, she found a white horse watching her. She looked around. There wasn’t a man there, only the horse.
“Great,” she mumbled, sinking to the ground, “now I’m hearing things.” She tore her fingers through her hair in frustration.
“You’re not hearing things,” the voice retorted, this time with a hacking cough as punctuation.
“Where are you?” she called, standing again and edging closer to the trees.
“I’m right here,” said the voice; he was getting irritated with her.
“Ahem!” the horse said, stepping out into the sunlight to reveal a crooked and tarnished horn sitting askew on his forehead. “I’m right here, toots.”
“Ah!” Tess screamed, right before she fell on her rear.
“I sincerely hope your mother didn’t name you Grace. Talk about a cosmic joke,” the unicorn hacked.
“Who are you? What are you doing…? I’m going crazy.”
“Nah,” replied the unicorn, “You’re just tapin’ into the magic that’s been around you your whole life. Kind of a shock, isn’t it?”
“Magic?” she asked.
“Yeah, what do you think? No idiot human can see me, just magical people, such as yourself.”
“Yeah, right.” Tess looked at him incredulously and hauled herself back up onto her feet. “What’s your name?” she asked.
“I didn’t stutter.”
“Sorry. It just doesn’t sound like a magical name. And, what, you’re out here just waiting for some ‘magical’ person to traipse along and find you?” she asked, forming quotation marks in the air.
“No, that’s stupid. I’m on my smoke break,” he hacked.
The breeze changed directions and Tess caught a whiff of the strongest cigarettes she’d ever smelled. A thin curl of smoke danced next to Carl’s face.
“So, what are you running from?” Carl asked again.
“I almost blew up my friend, Max.”
“Make a pass at you?”
“That’s me,” he replied with a shrug. “In all seriousness, how did you almost blow him up?”
“These bolts of lightning shot out of my fingertips.”
“Ah!” Carl exclaimed with as much of a smile as a unicorn could muster. “What color was it?”
“The electricity? I don’t know, like yellowish white?”
Carl chuckled. “A White Sorceress – we haven’t had one of you in a while.”
“A White Sorceress? What the hell does that mean?”
“Oh, it’s got nothing to do with hell, honey. It’s got to do with battling black magic, and you’ve got it.”
“Fantastic,” Tess replied sarcastically, not really understanding if he meant.
“Oh, cheer up sweetie,” he spat his cigarette on the ground before stomping it out with his hoof. “It’ll be great. Come on, I’ll take you to the City.”
“But the town’s down there,” she retorted, gesturing down the hill.
“Not the town,” Carl replied with an exasperated sigh. “The Enchanted City.”
“That sounds like The Wizard of Oz.”
“Doesn’t it?” he agreed. “Now come on, toots. Hop on; I’ll give you a ride.” He wiggled his horsey eyebrows at her suggestively.
“You’re disgusting,” Tess replied, but inched forward nonetheless.
“Maybe, but you’ll come to like me.”
“Don’t bet on it,” she replied under her breath, but walked up to the unicorn’s side anyway. If she was crazy, she might as well indulge in the illusion to its fullest.
“Here,” he said, sticking a leg out. “Up you go!”
She scrambled up onto his back, despite his profanity and complaints. She grabbed two fistfuls of his tangled mane.
“Now what?” Tess asked.
“Now toots; now begins the start of a beautiful friendship.” He turned around and headed for the trees.
“Are you going to do that a lot?” she asked.
“Butcher movie lines?”
“Eh,” he replied. Tess could feel the shrug of his shoulders under her legs. “It’s my thing.”
“Like coffee and cigarettes?”
“Bingo bango, baby,” he replied and sauntered off, taking Tess away from the real world and into the land of her destiny.