Jenna: Hydrogenated Mjolnir Oil

A few months after her initial shocking surprise, Jenna had adapted quite a bit. Big rubber boots, big rubber gloves, and ample warnings to the people around her, and she was able to get by most of the time. She told people around her that she had a ‘bioelectrical disorder’ that made it unwise to touch her, and that mostly worked. At home, she wore her grounding wire (since moved from neck to ankle to prevent her husband Florence from getting too pervy with it) and was able to hug and kiss her son Ian and cuddle with her husband safely.

Furthermore, with her husband’s basic electrical understanding, they were able to work up a simple wire that connected Jenna to an electrical outlet, with two benefits. First, she was able to use her iPod and her TV remote again. Second, she was able to — and admittedly, she didn’t understand this, but they had already gotten the bill back and it totally worked — feed electricity back into the grid, and thus the DeLuce family got paid every month by the electric company instead of paying an electric bill.

Not bad.

The odd thing about the whole mess was that her involuntary electricity seemed to be increasing in power. When the National Enquirer had come to do a bit about her (which she had taken as a total joke), she could light a bulb with her hands if she ‘pushed’. Today, a month later, she could burn out that same bulb without any effort whatsoever. Fortunately, thus far, the wires Florence had mocked up had held up without any problems.

On this particular morning, Jenna was working with Ian on an 8o-piece puzzle of the United States, helping him read. “Del-a-ware,” she said gently.

“Del-a-war,” Ian insisted. He was quite stubborn, and refused the existence of the final silent E altogether.

Before the two of them could come to an agreement, there as a firm knock on the door.

“Mrs. DeLuce?” came a strident voice. “Mrs. Deluce, are you home?”

Jenna stood, carefully picking up her wire and lifting it over Ian on her way to the door. When she opened it, a pair of individuals that looked like they were straight out of Burn Notice (or maybe even Miami Vice) were on the other side. “Can I help you?” she asked.

One of the men held out identification. “Jenna DeLuce?  I’m Brian Draws from the United States Secret Service. Can we talk?”

Jenna blinked in surprise. “Um…sure?” She gestured the men inside. “Ian, can you please go play on the computer with your headphones on?”

Ian loved that idea. Within seconds, he had fired up YouTube and was watching the Phineas and Ferb remix of Gangnam Style. As he got distracted, Jenna turned to look at the two men. Both were tall, looked fairly athletic, were dressed in $800+ suits, and both had expressions on their faces that crossed seriousness with nervousness.  “What can I do for the Secret Service?” she asked.

Without preamble, Brian Draws of the US Secret Service looked her in the eye and said, “Was the National Enquirer report about you correct, Mrs. DeLuce?”

“Call me Jenna,” Jenna said, “And of course it wasn’t. I’m a magician, not a freak of nature.” she smiled coldly. She had been warned by the people at the Enquirer that this might happen — that the government might Come For Her — and while she hadn’t believed them at the time, she sure did now.

Brian looked confused. “And they fell for your trick?”

Jenna smiled. “It’s a very good trick. Would you like to see?” She could still manage to barely light a bulb even with her wire on, she was certain. But they weren’t interested.

“No, actually, that’s OK,” Brian said. “What we would like is for you to come with us.”

“Well, I have a four year old,” Jenna began.

“–and we have already asked his uncle Harry if he can watch your son for the afternoon. He agreed,” said Brian.

Jenna couldn’t help but have her lip curl in a flicker of contempt. “Harry? He’s a drug dealer!”

Brian blinked. “We have fairly firm evidence to the contrary, actually. Either way, he’s been deemed a safe place for Ian to go while we…take you for a short ride.”

Jenna shook her head. “That’s not going to happen.”

Brian closed his eyes and sucked in a huge breath. He hated this part. “Well, ma’am, you see, we have a direct order from the Executive Branch to have a specific conversation with you that can’t take place here.”

Jenna shook her head. “I’m not leaving. You can try to drag me out of here, but those shoes look leather to me,” she smirked, “and you won’t like what that means when you put your hands on me.”

The Secret Service guys glanced at one another. Neither one seemed willing to make a move, but finally, the other one — James Tanfeld, if it mattered — stood up and grasped Jenna firmly by the arm. Nothing happened.

Jenna looked surprised. “How are you doing that?”

James smiled. “Did you think we wouldn’t come prepared? You may be ‘just’ a stage magician, but we’re the Secret Service. We get paid to be paranoid.” James yanked hard on Jenna’s arm…and she didn’t budge.

Jenna stared in disbelief as, over the next several minutes, she sat perfectly still and two very clearly strong and able young men did their absolute best to move her, failing utterly at every attempt. Finally, Brian turned to James and said “We don’t have clearance here, do we?”

He was referring to the level of clearance necessary to draw a weapon on a civilian without direct threat. James shook his head. “Nope.”

Brian turned back to Jenna, who just looked stunned and said, “I’ll be very honest, guys…I have no idea what’s going on here, either.” As she said it, she stood up — and Brian immediately tackled her.

Or rather, tried to. He bounced off of her like he had just tackled a statue, and commenced rolling around on the floor, clutching his shoulder. “OW SHhhh…” he trailed off, seeing Ian turn to stare at him.  He looked up at James, who shook his head in powerless disbelief.

“All right,” Brian said. “I guess…we’re done here.” He slowly and painfully got to his feet. “I don’t know what’s protecting you, lady, but it can’t keep it up forever.”

Jenna calmly picked up her phone and pressed a couple of buttons. “Mister Secret Service man, I’ve got really bad news for you.”

Brian blinked. “Huh?”

Jenna smiled and held up her phone. “I started this thing recording everything you’ve said here today the moment you came in, and I just sent the whole file to my lawyer, my husband, my mother, a reporter I knew from high school, and the White House email address. You get your mirrorshades and your attitudes the hell off of my property right <i>now</i>, or I’m going to turn your car into the world’s heaviest paperweight and there isn’t a court on the planet that would believe how I did it.”

They were gone less than a minute later. Once they were alone, Ian turned to his mom and said “They weren’t worthy.”

 

Jenna just nodded. “I know honey. I know.”

Story III: Isolde: High Fructose Porn Syrup

Isolde Cyrillen looked at the caricature of herself on her computer screen. It looked good: huge blond hair, huge blue eyes, big while smile. She was about to save it to her Deviant Art profile when her boyfriend Tommy looked over her shoulder.

“Not big enough.”

Isolde blinked. “The eyes?”

Tommy leered at her. “The boobs.”

Isolde rolled her eyes and clicked the button that would put her latest sketch out on the Internet for all to see and critique.  It had been a long time since she had done a self-portrait; mostly, she did political cartoons for low-end news sites.  The request had come from an anonymized email, which made her nervous, but she felt the urge to out herself as a girl anyway. The papers used her pseudonym (‘Darcy Teller’) and she was acutely aware of the confusion over her gender.

Sighing and stretching, Isolde turned around to Tommy, who was busily playing some stupid game on his computer (when he should have been working), and kissed him on the top of the head. “I need some air,” she said. “I’m going for a jog.”

Tommy didn’t know it, but ‘jog’ was Isolde’s code-word for ‘I’m going to walk down to the corner store, buy a cup of coffee and a crappy magazine, and relax without having you deal with you for a half-hour or so.’  And that’s exactly what she did.

Portland Woman Generates Electricity With Her Bare Hands! the title of the Enquirer read. There was even a picture of some woman in a horrible red sweatsuit holding a lightbulb in her hand, and it was shining. Isolde laughed as she picked it up and walked up to the register of the Lucky Z Food Mart. “Drip for you today,” Chuck the CSR asked, “Or are you living it up?”

Isolde laughed again, and said, “Drip, but…” she reached out and snagged a bag of Sour Tykes — cheap rip-off — and tossed them on the table. “These, too.”

Twenty minutes later, as she got up to leave, she waved at Chuck. “See you later,” she said.

“I love watching your ass as you walk away!” Chuck replied.

Isolde stopped cold. “Excuse me?” she stared at Chuck.

“I said, ‘watch yourself on the overpass — have a good day,'” Chuck blinked. “Why?”

Isolde paused, and then shook her head slightly. “Nothing. Thanks, Chuck!”

 

As Isolde walked home, a rather good-looking gentleman was jogging in the other direction. She nodded a silent greeting, and as he jogged past, he said, “Nine. I’d do her.”

Isolde stared at him as he kept going. He must have been talking on a Bluetooth or something, but what a thing to say in front of a woman. Pig.

 

When she arrived home, having sprinted the last block in order to build up a good ‘just done jogging’ look, Isolde walked up and kissed Tommy on the head again. He looked up at her. “Let’s have sex now,” he said without preamble.

Isolde backed away. What on Earth was going on?

Tommy’s head tilted. “Isolde? You OK?”

Isolde shook her head. “You don’t say things like that.”

“Like what?”

“That thing…you just said.”

“‘You OK’?”

“No…about having sex,” Isolde was bewildered.

“Ummm…I didn’t say anything about sex.” Tommy looked nervously away. “But if you turn around and pull your pants down, I’d be happy to.”

Isolde’s eyes widened, and she backed out of the room. Tommy stood up to follow, but by the time he reached the doorway, she was gone.

 

Isolde made her way out of her house and to a nearby park. Children were playing on the playground, she sun was shining, and birds chirped happily…none of which she noticed. A woman looked at her from across the street, and quite clearly quipped ‘Wanna trade fake boobs, honey? Mine are hard as rocks.’  At least three of the fathers on the playground made audible, lewd comments suggesting that they were interested in an escapade. It was like the entire world has suddenly turned into the opening scene of a really crappy porn flick.

Then, she heard something different. Something scary.

“And now I’m picking up my son with a corpse in my trunk and no idea what to do with it,” a woman said as she got out of her car and made her way to the playground, where she picked up a kid and kissed him hello.

Isolde began to panic. The woman paid someone — probably a babysitter — and as she walked back to her car, she said “No, hon, Daddy’s not ever going to be at dinner again.”

Isolde pulled out her phone and took a picture of the car’s license plate as it pulled away. Not sure what else to do, she texted the picture to the cops along with a description of what she had just witnessed. As she did, she heard Tommy.

“I knew you’d be here,” he began, “But I don’t know why.” His lips stopped moving, but he kept talking. “I’m scared that you’ve figured out that I’m cheating on you and you’re leaving me.”

Isolde shook her head. “No, Tommy, I’ve known about the slut for a month now.”

Tommy’s eyes got really big, really quickly. “WHAT!?!”

Isolde nodded and said, “The thing is, I’ve bigger problems right now, and I need you to shut up and go away.”

Tommy backed away, hands up. After several seconds, he said, “Screw this,” and left.

 

Isolde walked toward the playground, keeping her eyes locked on one of the lewd-comment fathers. He glanced up at her and met her eyes. She watched his mouth very carefully, and it didn’t move at all when he said, “I’ve got a forty and a condom. Let’s take a ride.”

She turned her gaze to one of the children, and stared at her. It took her a while to look back, but the moment she did, she said, “I flushed my brother’s new goldfish down the toilet.” Again, no mouth moving.

Isolde began to understand. She wasn’t sure exactly what she was going to do about it, but at least she understood. Whatever people least wanted her to know they were thinking, she somehow knew.

She was sure about two things, now. One, men really were absolutely disgusting, all the way to the core. Two, she had to figure out a way to get this to stop, or she was going to go completely insane.

 

Story II: Charlie O’Conner: BHA, BHT, and BARD

Charlie O’Conner was not, in fact, Irish. Or anything even vaguely like it — he was, in fact, Korean.  But his family had been the O’Conners ever since his grandmother — ‘Ethel’ — had come to America on the boat.

Charlie O’Conner was on a boat, himself, at the moment: the Washington State Ferry Klickatat, on it’s way from Bremerton to Seattle. He was quite nervous, because it was to be the first time that he played — alto saxaphone, thank you — in front of an audience bigger than his high school talent show.

It’s not that he wasn’t good; he was probably the best alto sax on the Olympic Peninsula — at least for his age — but that was a pretty small pond compared to the greater Seattle area. One mistake, and he could count on spending the rest of his life playing the sax as a hobby while he held down a full-time job at Frank’s Hobbies and Guns.

Pacing back and forth across the prow of the ferry wasn’t doing him any good. Neither was sitting. He really wanted to run. Running made him feel good; like he was in control of his body, which was constantly brimming with energy. Nervous energy, at the moment.

Finally, the ferry landed, and Charlie hopped on a bus out to the University District. As he disembarked, he stopped at a hole-in-the-wall ‘food mart’ gas station to relieve himself and fill up his water bottle. At the register, he impulsively grabbed a bag of nondescript candy. Maybe if he couldn’t calm down, he reasoned, he would ramp up.

 

Before he got to the recital, he was popping the multicolored jawbreakers like…well, like candy. Crunch, crunch, crunch — another one would disappear in seconds. By the time he was backstage, he realized his mistake. His throat was drying up under the influence of all that sugar. He wished desperately for a lemon, or a glass of lemonade, but it was too late. He was being called on stage in front of nearly a thousand of his peers, and the only thing he had between him and certain doom (seriously? certain doom? calm down, man!) was his sax.

He walked out on stage, waved and smiled, hoping his nerves weren’t showing…and lifted the brass to his lips.

The first notes came out so smoothly, Charlie almost didn’t notice that he had started playing. He was used to losing himself in the music after a few bars, but this time, he felt his fingers moving without even knowing what song he was playing.

What song had he decided to play? He forgot. But it didn’t matter — the music came to him. No…it came through him. From some entirely other place, it seemed. Now that he could hear the notes clearly, he was certain that the song wasn’t one he had ever played before…and that he should probably stop. The judges were expecting Lantier, not whatever this was.

But he couldn’t stop — and more importantly, he couldn’t actually bring himself to worry about it. He knew it was ‘wrong’, and yet something about the notes stroked his soul. They said, ‘it’s going to be fine…it’s all going to be fine.’

 

Charlie was scheduled to play for seven and a half minutes. Forty-two minutes later, the song that had sprung from his soul finally ended in a dramatic fashion, and when Charlie looked up, he saw that the entire room was in tears. Silent, meditative tears.

He knew what each of them was thinking, because he was thinking it, too. The song had led them all on a journey — a hero’s journey, exploring the most painful part of each of their lives. Exposing to the light of examination truths that had been consciously or unconsciously hidden away.

Mothers wondered about the choices they made with their children. Boys hated themselves for the way they had treated girls. Girls hated themselves for the way they had treated other girls. Internet-bound shut-ins dreamed of the times they had turned away offers of meatspace gatherings in favor of online dungeon raids. Students asked themselves what they expected to get from their schools. Everyone — absolutely everyone — worried about how weird their bodies, their sex lives, and their secrets were.

But in the end, the music had led each of them to the same conclusion: ‘it’s going to be fine…it’s all going to be fine.’

 

When Charlie lowered his saxophone, the room was filled with the silence of thousands of people all undergoing a profound catharsis. A cleansing of the soul. And watching them, Charlie was suddenly filled with the intution that none of them was going to be quite the same when they left the room.

He also knew that he wasn’t going to get the spot he wanted in the school he wanted.

He also knew that he didn’t want that spot anymore. He had a mission — a greater mission.  He wasn’t going to go back to Frank’s Hobbies and Guns, or even back to the Olympic Peninsula at all. He had a Destiny.

He and his sax were going to change the world, one audience at a time.

PROLOGUE

The body of the deceased godling plummeted through hundreds of dimensions, gathering speed and collecting shards of somethings in its wake. It fell without regard to time or space, traversing at right angles to reality in ways that no mortal mind could comprehend. It fell through real worlds, imaginary worlds, unborn worlds, and finally, untold moment-eons later, it landed.

In a candy factory. Right here, on Earth. Portland, actually. Not the one in Maine.

It wasn’t a particularly important candy factory. It didn’t make high-end, brand-name candy. It didn’t make run-of-the-mill, populist candy. It made the kind of candy you see next to the register at the bargain-basement stores. The kind whose name sounds Japanese but is probably actually Swedish. Or perhaps the other way around.

So what happens when a deceased godling from thousands of dimensions away, slain by the combined might of hundreds of storybook heroes both legendary and unheard of, lands on the most mundane, magically-backward of worlds? When its millions of millennia worth of knowledge, power, and talent are released in a cataclysmic — but still only a few hundred feet wide — metastorm of probability and possibility and unrestrained godhood?

As you may expect, the vast majority of all of that chaos happens in the fourth through infinity-eth dimensions, and doesn’t affect the world we comprehend at all.

Of what’s left, the vast majority dissipates relatively harmlessly into the walls, and the air. (Mercifully, it landed at night, when the factory was empty and unused.)

Of what’s left, the vast majority seeps into the machinery, imbuing it with oddness that will have the floor manager calling for massive overhauls within the month.

Of what’s left — a minute fraction of a tiny bit of an itsy-bitsy part of a miniscule remnant of a once-god — the vast majority ends up sinking sulkily into the sugar bins.

(The very last bit spontaneously turns the mice that live under the factory into an advanced civilization of rodentia that will one day attempt to overthrow British Columbia. But that’s another story entirely.)

Over the next weeks, that sugar gets made into candy. And completely innocent families — the kind with normal everyday lives that would have them purchasing generic candies at bargain-basement shops — eat those candies.

Then Things — Strange and Unusual Things — Begin to Happen.

 

Jenna: Hydrogenated Mjolnir Oil

Jenna DeLuce looked down at her child with a hint of pride. Four years old, and the kid was already reading.

“Br..oh..ss..oh..ll..ee!”

“It’s ‘Broccoli,’ hon,” she said. Scooping up little Ian, she set him in her grocery cart and continued shopping. When they got up to the register, she looked at her boy.

“Hey, Ian. Hey. Hey, IAN!” Her son finally stopped trying to put his shoe on his head and smiled at her.

“If you can read this bag, I’ll give you some of the candy,” she smiled.

Ian screwed up his face and stared at the bag. “It says…umm…G…uh…mm..eee. Gummy! Wuh…wuh…oh..rr..mm..s. Gummy worms!”

Jenna hugged her son, and tossed the gummy worms onto the conveyor. Fifteen minutes later, half way home, her son had passed out in his child seat, the bag of gummy worms only half-consumed. Jenna figured she could sneak just one away from him, and ended up with three in her fingers.

One of them felt oddly warm. “Gummy warm,” she said to herself, and snorked at her own joke as she popped the candy into her mouth.

That night, Jenna was having horrible luck with her electronics. No matter how long she spent charging her iPod, the moment it was unplugged, it claimed the battery was dead and shut down. Her TV remote’s batteries were dead, and the pair she tried to replace them with were dead, too. Even her computer wavered as she tried to use it, as though the house were having a brownout.

Finally, her husband, the unfortunately-named Florence DeLuce, got home from his job at the city docks. Late. Again. By two hours, this time.

“What the hell did the boss keep you away for this time?” Jenna snapped, irritable at her luck.

“Well, hello to you, too,” her husband said.

“Sorry, Flor,” Jenna stood up and walked over toward her husband. As she did, the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. As he reached for her, a sudden SNAP of static electricity made both of them jump.

“Wow, hon. You need some rubber-soled slippers in here,” he said as he held his arms out again.

SNAP!

Jenna looked nervous and confused. What the hell was going on? She tentatively reached out just a single finger toward her husband, who did the same back.

SNAP!

“Florence, what is going on?” Jenna asked, starting to panic.

“I…I have no idea, Jen. Maybe you should try touching something metal.”

Jen looked around, and with three steps into the kitchen, touched the metal faceplate of the refrigerator, which quite promptly began to make an unusual noise. She moved her hand to the stove, which was entirely off, and nothing seemed to happen.

Florence approached her cautiously, and held out his finger again, wincing in expectation…but nothing happened. He smiled and wrapped his arms around her. She moved her hand off of the stove in order to return his embrace, and the two were instantly thrown apart with a noise like a whip cracking.

“WHAT THE HELL?!?” Florence yelled, dropping all pretense of calm. “Jen, you’d better tell me what you did today, and don’t leave anything out.”

In tears — partly because of the pain, but also because she was starting to become genuinely afraid that she might never be able to enjoy touching her husband or child ever again, Jen explained her entire day. Watching the boy. Selling stuff on eBay. Tutoring the neighbors kids after school. Quick shopping trip. Having problems with her iPod and the TV.

Quickly, Florence recognized the connection between the electronics and the static, and asked Jenna if anything had happened while she was out shopping…but nothing had, that either could tell. It was as if some strange switch had been thrown between the time she put Ian in bed for his nap and the time that Florence had gotten home.

Florence wasn’t a stupid man — he had an Associates Degree in Civil Engineering, dammit — and he knew how to solve this problem, at least temporarily.

By the time Ian came out of his room with his Power Rangers G-Force Official Action Figure Multizord Power Missile Command Attack Zord, completely assembled for only the second time ever, he scratched his head as he walked up to his mommy. “Um…why are you wearing a leash?” he asked.

Jenna did her best not to look scared as she told her son, “Hon, Mommy has a strange problem right now and I have to wear this until we figure out how to make it stop.”

But by the time she got to bed that night, she was still wearing it — the hundred feet of insulated copper that connected her to the ground outside the kitchen window. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, and she was still terrified that whatever had happened was permanent — but she had a doctor’s appointment in the morning and a husband she could still cuddle up to tonight.

It was enough to help her sleep…eventually.