Denial is not, contrary to popular belief, just a river in a distant, ancient nation. It is also the active refusal to believe in reality and all of the bad news that comes along with it. I was swimming in denial, drowning in it. I refused to believe my eyes, my ears, or the panicked whispers of the two people that cowered behind me. I squinted up at my doppelganger and barked out harsh laughter.
“You’re killing me here,” I sputtered. “Except, you can’t kill me, because I’m already dead.” Seeing the blank looks on everyone’s faces, I noted that my reference to the comic books of my childhood had gone over their heads, and made an effort to reign in my horrendous attempts at humor. I gave the Other Myself the once over and snorted. “Mind telling me what this is all about?”
I looked at me, confusing the crap out of myself with all the extra personal pronouns, and grinned. “I am the vanguard,” I –she– hissed, “come to pave the way through this spell of-”
I held up a hand. “Okay, you know what? This isn’t working for me. What are you, where did you come from, and why did you spew out of my mouth? That was disgusting!” I shuddered, then pulled myself to a sitting position. My legs felt too weak to hold my weight, so I didn’t bother trying to stand. Choosing to ignore, for the moment, the unspeakable atrocity in front of me, I turned my head to speak to the people behind me.
Wiping away the last traces of gunk from my mouth, I shouted, “Yo, Kenzie! Did you bring everything you need? Tell your landlord where you were going?”
Kenzie blinked owlishly at me. “Um…yeah. I still have to work after school three days a week, though. But I’ve got all of my stuff.”
I nodded approvingly. “Good, good. Sami? Take the kid to the guestroom.”
Sami blinked, confused. “Buh?” She glanced from me, to the Other Myself, then Kenzie, and finally back to me. “Oh. Right.” She motioned to Kenzie. “Yeah, um…yeah. You’ll share a bathroom with me; hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all.”
“If you have any hy…um, fem…er…Say, kid, are you a boy or a girl?”
Kenzie’s eyebrows shot up. “Does it matter?”
“No? Yeah?” Sami scratched her head. “Whatever. Room’s this way. Come on.”
Bags in hand, the kid pointed at my liquidy clone. “Is stuff like this the normal thing around here?”
Sami twitched. “It is now. Though it’s usually my fault, but I’ll tell you about that later.”
Kenzie’s head bobbed up and down. “Cool.”
I watched them until they were out of sight, and hopefully, out of earshot, then glared at the thing before me. “Okay, you. Start talking.”
“O ye of little faith,” the thing crooned to me in Book’s voice. “Are you seriously putting the lives of them before the welfare of yourself?”
“It’s not like I can die,” I sniffed.
“But you can be destroyed.” Other Myself came and sat down next to me, mimicking my pout and slumped posture. “Every generation has struggled to obtain and understand the spells contained within me,” it said, thumping itself on the chest. “You, however…you are the first of your line to elicit such a response from me.”
“So you planned this?”
Book/Other Myself scoffed. “Don’t be ridiculous. I am merely a collection of words, a storehouse of knowledge. I can neither make plans nor execute them.” I winced at the casual usage of “execute”, but Book didn’t seem to notice, and continued. “Nevertheless, it is my responsibility to ensure that you are properly trained in the art of spellcraft.”
“I’m a Master Spellcrafter! Who…just…vomited up a book that happens to wear my face. I’m doomed, aren’t I? Wait. Sami was reading you. What’s this about generations and my line? What line? My bloodline?” I leaned away from Book and studied it. “This is somehow Atlantia’s fault.”
“Indeed, you mother sent me after ‘making the deal’ with Samilla,” Book admitted with apparent distaste, “but your apprentice does not have the requisite genetic markers to complete any of the spells contained within me. She can, however, read the theory.”
I sat quietly, mulling over everything. It struck me, then, that I knew less about the world that I’d thought, and that was terrible. Had I really been wandering around, crafting and creating and just fumbling in the dark? “Vanguard of what?” I demanded.
Pale eyebrows rose. “Pardon?”
“You said you’re the vanguard. What’s coming after you? The end of the world as we know it?”
“That is a possibility,” Book agreed, “and perhaps not very far off the mark. For lack of a better phrase, I am the word made flesh, the vanguard that comes before the dawn of the new era.”
“Which is…?” I prompted, rolling my hand in the air.
“You. Or someone like you; it is too soon to be sure which.”
“In small town on the coast of a land far from here, there was a tavern. And in that tavern, there was a serving woman named Blue. A man, some say, a devil or a spirit, say others, visited one night, and asked Blue for her company. He asked two times, and each time, she refused. On his third ask, she agreed, but for a price. She wanted the power to free herself from her servant status, and the power to share this power with the people of her choosing. The man agreed to her terms, and they set off.”
“Seriously?” I asked around my clenched jaw. “This is one of those stories?” I huffed. “I’ve heard enough,” I spat, and rose to my feet.
Book continued, undeterred. “Blue did not report to work the next morning, nor the next. She had taken ill, you see. Strange lights were reported from her sleeping hut, but no one was able to get close to it to find the source. On the fourth day, she rose from her pallet, walked to the sea, and disappeared under the water. She reappeared, adorned with a crown of shells, and wearing a fine gown that moved like water. She spoke thus, ‘when the word is made flesh, the dawn will rise. When the dawn has risen, the shadows shall flee, When the shadows have fled, I will return to claim my due.’ The tavern owner, completely shaken, denounced her as a witch, and called for her capture. She smiled, and vanished underneath the waves.”
“What a load of bull-”
“Over the years, people have sighted her. Often, she rises from the waters, leaves behind a child, usually a girl, but occasionally a boy, and disappears. A society was formed to protect these children from harm. They called themselves-”
“The Blue Sea Circle,” I finished before her. “I saw that coming a mile away. So, what? I’m supposed to be some descendant or reincarnation of Blue?”
“Ordinarily, I would say yes, but there is one small problem with that conclusion.”
“That I’m dead?”
“That,” Book said, “and that your newest apprentice bears a similar power signature to both yourself and Samilla.”