Shimmer #12 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 12)


After an hour of searching we found free parking in the city. Tanya pulled to the curb and killed the engine.

“He really didn’t tell you anything?” she pressed.

Leaning back in the passenger seat I pulled my knees to my chest and sat my feet on the glove compartment; I was probably flashing beneath my skirt to passersby, but whatever. Just thinking about that creep sent a shiver up my spine.

“You don’t suppose,” Tanya thought, “he got the same weird firefly powers that you did. I mean, you were both in the same place, at the same time; you don’t really know what happened.”

I snapped. “Last thing I need to think about is that freak flying around with the power to shoot lasers out of his fingertips.”

She paused. “Sorry…”

Ugh, way to go, Kaira. “No, I’m sorry,” I sighed. “I keep thinking about all of this and… things like this don’t happen to people like me. One day I’m being pushed around, the next I can fly. Not only that but I’ve got some old freak obsessing about it, and me, and I don’t know what to do.”

Tanya grinned as she reached to the back seat. “I’ll tell you what you do. You forget about that guy because he’s boring and useless, and you do that thing we were talking about by using…” She stretched and ferreted around underneath the CDs, dirty clothes, textbooks, loose handouts and soda bottles, then returned with a black box; “this.”

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Shimmer #11 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 11)


When people think about Milestone City there are certain images that come to mind; like new glass skyscrapers that rose from streets as old as the first colonies. People still talk about the corporate sector like it’s a new thing, like it hadn’t been there since before I was born. They’re also quick to remind you that the problems of the ‘old world’ are still hanging like an old smell; you know, street crime and all that.

“It’s dangerous at night,” my mom always told me; not that I had reason to be there after dark. Technically I was still a kid, too young for clubs, too young to hang out with the college crowd; best there was for Tanya and I were the department stores, and even then we’d only go a few times a year.

“Parking costs a goddamn fortune,” she complained, “and screw taking the bus.” She had a lot of horror stories about taking the bus; so we stayed married to the suburbs, because it wasn’t like we had anything better to do.

Where my science teacher, Mr. Drew, was taking me was a whole different experience. It was one thing to know that your hometown had some of the finest technical facilities in the country, but it was another thing to see them up close. The hybrid cars by the road, the geometric architecture and fresh laid grass looked like a world just born.

“Welcome to InfiniTech R&D,” Mr. Drew hummed, the taste of sentimentality in his tone; “where the future comes alive or some such.”

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Shimmer #10 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 10)


You can probably imagine I was starting to freak. What else are you supposed to do when the universe turns you into a laser light show? The worst part was there being nobody I could talk to, except for Tanya.

Well, maybe one other person.

Putting the name “Randall Drew” into a search engine pulled up over ten million results, but only one of them lived on my side of Milestone City. Learning that my science teacher was a founding member of the Milestone Astronomical Society wasn’t a surprise, but finding out that he’d played Polonius in three community productions of Hamlet was something I had to see to believe.

The next thing I knew I was walking the street leading to his house. It seemed weird to think that he lived like other people; you know, in the suburbs and not in a broom closet where they’d lock him up until second period. Not that it was anything special; Mr. Drew’s place had a single level, a small yard, and panels with white flakes peeling off from exposure. Two cars sat in the driveway; one probably belonged to a girlfriend, or maybe a boyfriend. Who knows?

I knocked on the door, swallowed the lump in my throat and prayed to the gods it wouldn’t be weird. Last he’d seen me I was lifting my skirt and running for my life; my choice of t-shirt and slacks was purely in the hopes that he’d forget about it and talk about the other stuff.

A woman answered; girlfriend? Assuming I had the right house. She smiled and asked “can I help you?”

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Shimmer #09 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 9)


There’s a place on the edge of town where people go to not be found; mostly kids skipping school and smoking weed, but you get all types. You can find it under the Franklin Bridge; you just have to know the way.

First you sneak through the hole in the chain-link fence (by the third post after the housing estate), then you drop into the embankment and follow it to the end. Once you’ve made it that far you’ll come to a gravel path that leads right under the bridge. Nobody goes there who wants to be bothered, especially at night.

Maybe that’s why Tanya was so weirded out when I asked her to meet me there. It was at least an hour after sunset, and the place didn’t come with its own lights.

She pointed a flashlight into the darkness; it didn’t cover half the six lanes of road sitting above. “Hello?” she called, like she was calling to a pack of wolves.

“Hey, I’m in here!” I pointed my own flashlight back to her and waved that it was safe; well, safe as you could be.

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Shimmer #08 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 8)


Mom drove me home the next morning. The staffer had told her how I was dressed, so she brought a change of clothes; you know, guy clothes. Putting them on felt sick, but I was too tired to refuse them.

I wanted to explain why they found me in a skirt, but she was quick to excuse it away. “You’ve always been flamboyant, and that’s okay,” she’d said, smiling, as though I were a drag queen in the making. Was that really what she thought? Had she not been paying attention at all?

In the days that followed any time I tried to bring up the subject she’d rant about Adrian instead; about how the school was letting our family down and how thugs like that deserved more than suspension, but prison to boot. Even if I agreed with her I couldn’t bring myself to care; there were more important things than anger.

“I guess nothing’s changed at all,” I sighed, and took a bite of the most depressing egg salad sandwich I’d ever tasted (although it may not have been the sandwich that was depressed.)

As it turns out I was relieved to get back to school; recovery was boring, and knowing that Adrian was on suspension made the next ten days seem brighter. It didn’t matter that I was the subject of gossip, or that every second person had taken to calling me ‘princess’; there was nobody threatening to kick the crap out of me, and that was a step up.

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Shimmer #07 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 7)


I was laying in the void and letting myself be consumed. Even if I wanted to resist, how would I? There was nothing to see, not even the dark; darkness is the absence of light and somehow this was less than that. Even the numb of my body seemed insubstantial, like a memory wanting to take hold in the present.

Even though I couldn’t see and I couldn’t feel I knew that I was naked, and far more vulnerable than the mere removal of clothes could ever make me. It made me afraid at first, but somehow I was able to place the fear to one side like a mechanism piece on a shelf. I could reclaim it again when this, whatever it was, was done.

What was happening to me? Maybe it was a dream, or maybe I was high on some sort of drug; neither seemed to matter very much. Neither explained the force that was drawing me from myself like water clinging upward to the inside of a glass.

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Shimmer #06 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 6)


They say it’s a dog eat dog world out there, but they’re wrong; dogs don’t turn on each other the way that people do. They don’t hunt their own for the basest of reasons, like being small, like being different, like being a girl. The boys on my tail were chasing me like dogs, but they were so much worse.

I sprinted a block in the direction of the park and scaled the iron fence, throwing myself over the spikes and landing in the bush. Somewhere before that point I’d lost my shoes; a fact that only seemed to matter when twigs and prickles cut into the bottom of my feet.

From the darkness I could hear them laughing; laughing, like it was some kind of game. What kind of monster made other people afraid for fun? It wasn’t a point I could dwell on; they were closing in and fast. One of them was already searching for a way in.

There was no light where I was, and there were enough ditches and slopes I knew from the daylight hours to make fleeing dangerous, but what other choice did I have? Between falling down and whatever alternative Adrian and his friends had for me I’d rather take the trip.

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Shimmer #05 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 5)


She kept asking if I was okay; first while doing my make-up, twice again as we came downstairs, again between the front door and the car, another five times on the way, and finally when stood at the glass lined entrance. Every time I told her “yes,” but as we stepped inside I wasn’t so sure.

It wasn’t our first time at the Lovin’ Spoonful; Tanya had dragged me there every other day for the past year. Between what had probably been designed to look like crumbling plaster and old brick we could pretend that we weren’t still trapped in high school, like we were already college hipsters who knew it all.

The staff knew us by name. Gloria, the self-proclaimed Norse goddess of the bean, had exercised her power on us and guessed our orders the first time we met; an orange frappucino for Tanya, and a vanilla chai latte for me. With service like that it was easy to feel at home.

That night, however, was different.

I held the flyer in my hand, every so often unfolding it just to make sure. The message read the same as it had earlier; ‘Inside Out – a discussion and support group for Trans* Youth and Allies.’ The date and time were right, but the crowd wasn’t what I expected. (Honestly, I had no idea what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it.)

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Shimmer #04 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 4)


It was good to get away from school, and even better to be somewhere safe. Tanya’s home was one of those places. Her room was a haven through which no bigotry could bleed its way in lest it incur her wrath. In that space her will was absolute; not even her Mom was guaranteed safety if she crossed her there.

She knocked on the bathroom door. (Gods, she had her own bathroom.) “You going to be in there all day or what?” she pressed. “Some of us have… you know, personal business, to attend to.”

I looked down, lost in the void between my chest and the cup of my bra. Was I just going to keep staring? Shaking myself back to reason I took the loosely packed stocking from the counter and slid it down. The idea of stuffing my bra with packs of bird seed seemed crazy, but the internet recommended it and gods help me, it did bring out a nice shape.

“Don’t worry, I’m almost done,” I told her, though I really didn’t know if that was true.

My fingers pulled the tie from my hair and let it fall. I brushed it to one side and swept a fringe across my face. It seemed amazing how in a few strokes I couldn’t see myself the ‘boy’ in me anymore; I saw a human being, I saw myself, and I was smiling.

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Shimmer #03 – “Starlight, Star Bright…” (Part 3)


The bell for last period tolled like a death chime. Tanya ran a hand over my shoulder and didn’t part until the hall split our paths.

“See you after class,” she said.

“Assuming Adrian doesn’t get me first.”

“He won’t,” she added, “and if he does…” Her fist met her palm and cracked in her grip. The imagery brought a smile to her face.

I forced a grin, waved, and pulled myself away from her as easily as you’d pull a band aid. The idea of class without Tanya wound tight in my shoulders and pulled my jaw clenched. Even if the way she fought for my honor scared the crap out of me it was always better that she was there, just in case.

My eyes closed; most of the walk was automatic anyway, so I didn’t need to see. We’d taken our time and cut close to the second bell. We avoided a lot of trouble that way, even if it did mean risking a warning for being tardy.

The words of my therapist rolled through my mind; deep breaths, inhale and exhale to a slow five count, keeping my thoughts rooted in the present. The tile was hard beneath my feet, and I was safe, alone in an empty hall; or so I thought.

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