"Wait, what happened to your parents?" Black Magic says, causing me to freeze. I've gotten so comfortable with Black Magic, i totally forgot that she doesn't know who i really am—i've even kept my mask on this entire time.
"I…" i start, searching my brain for an answer, "don't like talking about it."
"Oh, all right," Black Magic says, trying to seem unaffected.
"This has been…nice," Black Magic starts. "Ever since I became a celebrity, it's been really hard to find people to trust. Everyone seems to want something from me, instead of just wanting me…."
I just smile at Black Magic, afraid i might say the wrong thing.
"By the way, I've been wanting to ask you this," i say, rolling on to my side. "Hopefully I'm not prying, but…"
"Why do you look so much like Beyonce?"
"Oh, you don't want to hear about that," Black Magic says, sitting up.
My eyes drop—clearly she doesn't want to tell me about this.
"But hey," Black Magic says, able to read me perfectly, "how would you like to know what my first name is?"
"Really? You'd tell me that?"
"Only if you tell me yours, that way neither of us can go tattling the other," Black Magic says, holding out her pinky.
"Deal," i say, extending my own pinky for a swear. "On the count of three again?"
"Fine. One, two…" Black Magic starts.
Think fast: Do i trust Black Magic with my real name?
"Stephen," i say, just as Black Magic says, "Lucia."
"That's really pretty," i say, "Lucia. I like it."
"Oh, I almost forgot!" Black Magic says, changing the subject quickly. "I've been meaning to tell you this, but it kept slipping my mind. You have to thank your friend for me, the one who wears that kevlar bodysuit."
"What?" I ask, freezing.
"She wouldn't tell me her name, but she's the one who approached me and told me to come looking for you on the Static case. Obviously that worked out very well…."
I stand up, beginning to pace. "Why didn't you tell me that sooner?"
"I told you, it slipped my mind," Black Magic says, defensive. "Why? Who is she?"
"Some nut named Prodigal, she's the one who destroyed The Gravitas. I thought she might have a thing for me—this definitely confirms it."
"Wait, what?" Black Magic says. "She seemed like she was a friend of yours, like she knew you really well. I didn't even think to question her."
"I just…I need a second," i say, walking toward the bathroom before Black Magic can say anything else.
This is…impossible. Why did Prodigal send Black Magic looking for me to help with the Static case, especially after destroying The Gravitas? Maybe she isn't after me—maybe she's just using me to take down The Splice Circle? If not, what is she playing at, pulling all these strings?
I throw water on my face and force myself to snap out of it—am not going to let Prodigal ruin this night for me. No, i can sort this all out later with Jenny. Right now, am going to enjoy my time with Black Magic.
I reach for a towel blindly, water still dripping from my face. My hand gropes against the wall and, to my surprise, i feel something click under my fingers. With a soft whoosh, a door appears in the center of the wall, swinging slightly ajar.
"What the-" i start to say, dripping water all over the floor as i stare at the opening in the wall. What could be inside? Black Magic clearly wanted to keep it hidden….
My curiosity got the best of me as I proceeded to pushed the door open.
Black Magic was still laying on the bed wondering what was taking him too long.
She finally decided to go on and see what he was doing.
"Hey, what's taking you so lo–" at that moment she saw what he was about to do...
But it was too late I had already opened the door only to be frozen in place, my legs failing me.
Inside the room was different separate beds of unresponsive people who look dead, about twenty of them lay down there unconscious in Black Magic's enormous room.
"Can you explain?"
Black Magic takes a deep breath and walks over to the nearest bed, parting the girl's hair and causing her to coo.
"They're given the best care here. I visit them every day," Black Magic says, looking at the girl instead of me. "They're as happy here as they would be anywhere else."
"Who are these people? Why are you…keeping them here?" I ask, still bewildered.
"They're all supposed to be dead, at least their families think so—not that they'd care enough to think otherwise. These people were unwanted, left for dead. I'm always careful when I choose-"
"Lucia, you can tell me anything." I reassured her.
For several moments, the only sound comes from the faint pumping of the strange, slimy vat in the center of the room. I try to breathe through my mouth since the room smells stale and…sick.
Black Magic finally looks at me.
"I need-" she starts, trying to find the right words. "My Powers let me do anything. I don't know if magic really exists but I think my Powers are what magic would feel like if it did. What my Powers really let me do is play with the laws of the universe, somehow. They allow me to harness life force itself, it seems…"
As Black Magic speaks, i start to piece things together. "Oh no…"
"But I can't create that force, I can only manipulate it. And my own life force is so little—it isn't enough. It keeps my abilities too limited. If I was ever going to make it to the big leagues, I needed to do more. I needed more Power. So-"
"So you keep these people here, against their will, and drain their life forces to fuel your Power?" I finish.
"It's not like that!" Black Magic shouts. "They're in comas or worse—they can't move or think, they're not alive, not like you and me. I give their lives value! I'd never use their life forces for anything other than good! I wouldn't!"
Black Magic's shrieks echo against the walls, causing one of the twins to cry. Black Magic tries to calm herself, stroking the girl's hair.
"I never take enough to hurt them." She speaks in barely a whisper. "I could take from anyone, but I don't. Do you know how tempting it is to lose control? To draw the life force out of everyone around me? To take all that Power and make the world how I want it? But I don't do that. I won't, ever. This…this is the only alternative."
I stare at Black Magic, who has now started to tremble.
"Please. Stephen, you have to understand," Black Magic begs, "I had no choice…."
I continue to stare at Black Magic but all i can see is my own desire for success reflected back at me. Is this how i look to others, on my mad climb to become a Legend? If it came down to it, what would i be willing to do to succeed? Would i do what Black Magic did? I honestly don't know for sure, but I do recall me swearing to myself to do anything and everything just to get to the top. So I think I understand, it might be outright illegal but it was worth it. Or am I thinking selfish right now.
"You do," she replied with a rather shaking voice.
"Yes I do, though I might not understand your powers as much as you but I understand that desire we both share, to be the best by any means so long it all comes down to good.
So I won't criticize you for this.
"Thanks Stephen i..."
I still am not sure exactly how i feel about all of this, but i can at least understand why Black Magic has done it. And am not willing to burn my bridges with her just yet, no matter what she has done.
"No one knows?" I ask, cutting her off and not sure of what else to say.
"No one. And if they did…I'd be ruined."
Suddenly, it makes sense why Black Magic's origins remain so shrouded in mystery—she doesn't want anyone finding out about the secret source of her Powers….
Finally breaking, Black Magic begins to sob, clutching the bed-ridden girl tightly.
The sight sends a shiver through my spine.
"I have to go," i say, the smell of the room was already causing me to feel queasy….
Without another word, i move toward the teleportation door.
Black Magic doesn't stop me.....