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A New Leaf
By: Rebecca McQuarrie
“Where am I? How did I get here?”
“That’s easy,” replied a male voice from the doorway, “I created you.”
“You…what? How? Why?”
The owner of the voice moved into view. He appeared middle-aged, but there was an ancient feel that surrounded him. While he was neither handsome nor ugly, she felt repulsed, but strangely attracted to him at the same time.
“Why, you ask? Because I could. Because it’s time.” He moved closer, lifting a hand to stroke her ebon-red hair. She shrank away, still dazed and unsure of her surroundings. Seeing her flinch, his golden eyes hardened with controlled anger and a shadow of what she thought was sorrow. He turned away from her scrutiny and started checking the monitors that were quietly beeping next to the bed.
“I created you to right an age old wrong. We should have won the war. We should be ruling the population. They should be worshiping us. Faith, hope, and charity. Bah! Where is the room for greed, lust, and wrath? But you, you will change all that. You are Eve’s new apple. A siren of sin. Temptation herself. You will go out in the world and be all that people desire and they will follow you. And you will lead them here, to me, and they will be mine. And then you and I will rule over a planet devoid of good. They will worship us as we should be worshiped.”
He turned back to her, his eyes bright with zealous fervor. “So, my little Apple, are you ready to be a queen?”
Apple held back a whimper, and desperately tried to think of a way to stall. Something didn’t feel right and she needed time to sort it all out. Acting on instinct, she looked at him through lowered eyelids and asked in a husky voice, “What makes me, a humble servant, worthy of ruling at your side?”
“Worthy? My dear, you are perfect. I designed you to be everything I could ever want. You have ageless beauty, and ancient wisdom. I have given you grace, talent, wit, the gift of tongues, charm, and so much more. But more importantly, I gave you my power. Not all of it, mind you, but some. Enough dark energy so that you shall never fear for your life.”
“Fear for my life,” she asked, “Why would I do that? Why would someone want to hurt me?”
“I never said our journey would be easy, my sweet. There will be those that try to stop us, and those who will be jealous of you. There will be danger, but you have the strength and knowledge to overcome it. Now, stop worrying your pretty little head and get some rest, for tomorrow you shall meet the world.”
As he headed toward the door, he paused for a moment, as if he wanted add something more, then with a small shake of his head he left, flipping the light off and closing the door as he went.
Apple sat in the darkness knowing that sleep would be impossible, so she flipped on the nightstand lamp. Looking around the stark room she sighed. Everything seemed so clinical. There were no decorations of any kind and no clues as to who the man was. Spying a tray of what she hoped was food, she perked up a little, until she realized that she was still connected to the monitors and the tray was on the counter across the room. Figuring that this was as good a time as any, Apple decided to try out her powers. Focusing her attention on the tray she reached out a hand. Her intention, of course was to bring the tray to her, but when she released the energy, it shot out in a blast slamming the tray back against the wall and splattering its contents all over the place.
“Ugh,” she muttered, disgusted with herself as much as the mess. “This might be a little more difficult than I had hoped. Maybe I can summon something more helpful.” As it was of no other use, she targeted the tray again, this time trying to picture the energy forming into fingers and hands. Squinting with concentration, she didn’t immediately notice the black tentacles that emerged from the floor, wriggling and groping into the air. Seeming to find nothing of interest in the area, they shifted their focus to Apple’s side of the room. It was this movement that caught her attention. Stifling a scream, she frantically looked around the room for something within reach to throw at it. Not finding anything but the lamp, and not wanting to be left in the dark with the writhing mass, she did her best to become as small as possible in the far corner of the bed, never taking her eyes off of it. After a few minutes, she realized that not only was it not after her, she was the one who had summoned it. “Not quite what I had intended,” she said half to herself and half to the pile of tentacles. Waving her hand in the manner one does to brush away a pesky fly, she watched in awe as the squirming appendages melted back into the floor. “Really,” she wondered aloud, “It’s that easy?” Taking a deep breath, she cleared her mind and focused on the floor. Once again a mass of dark limbs emerged. Laughing out loud, she waved her hand again and they disappeared. This disappearing reappearing act kept her entertained for a while before she began to wonder what else she could summon. “I’m supposed to be a queen, right? So I suppose I’ll need a servant.” Doing her best to picture someone remotely butler-ish in her head, she focused her energy on the empty floor across the room. She held her breath as the dark pool of energy slowly coalesced into something vaguely human shaped. It was more of a bulbous pillar, with two glowing eyes peering out of the top lump of thickened essence. Throwing her hands in the air, Apple started to laugh and said to her new attendant, “I give up.”
At that moment, the door opened and the man, whom she had begun calling Kaysar in her mind, entered. Glancing at the nebulous being in the middle of the room, he turned to Apple with a raised eyebrow. “My, my. We have learned quickly haven’t we? I could feel the draw of power all the way from my office.” Looking back over at her creation, he dismissively waved his hand in an almost exact mimic of her earlier movements. She noted the startled look on his face when the being just stared back at him, unmoving and unblinking. Not wanting to cause a bigger scene she said, “Serge, it’s ok, you can go.” The dense fog bowed to her in a most human-like manner and then promptly evaporated.
“Serge? You’ve named it? Do you know what you have just done,” asked Kaysar, trying to control his anger.
“No, I don’t,” she replied. “It’s not my fault that you brought me to life and then left me to my own devices. You created a thousand facets to my personality. Did you not expect that I could, or would, mix knowledge with courage and determination and venture out on my own? Did you really think I would sit here, even for an hour, mooning over you, wondering when I would get to serve you?”
“You will serve me! I created you to be what I wanted,” he panted, now barely containing his temper. “I made you to be what every human desires. Beautiful, smart, alluring...”
“Yes, and for that I thank you. But you also made me exactly that…human. You gave me free will, which means I am free, and the only person I care to serve is myself. Serge,” she called as she snapped her fingers, “we’re leaving.” Before he could bat an eye, Apple and her servant disappeared.
“No,” he screamed at the empty room. “You can’t do this!”
“Where are we now?” Apple asked, not really expecting a reply from her silent companion. By the looks of things, she had teleported to a back alley somewhere. Not wanting to be conspicuous, she absent mindedly waved her hand, and Serge vanished. Rounding the corner, she ran into the back of a local hoodlum. “I’m sorry…” she started, before she realized that there were more than just him, and that they had a poor woman held against her will. Knowing what that felt like, she instantly became angry. Without a second thought she turned to the closest thug and, picturing him as a lunch tray, a surge of energy flew towards him knocking him unconscious. Quickly getting over her surprise, she dispatched his cohorts. The lady slowly emerged from behind the dumpster where she had taken refuge. “Thank you so much. You must be a hero. I know there are a lot of them around, but I’ve never had need of one before.”
“A hero? No, you must be mistaken. I just arrived here.”
“Oh, well, then maybe it’s something you should think about. You seem to be pretty good at it. Thanks again,” she called as she headed up the street.
“A hero,” she muttered to herself. Shrugging, she decided to check it out. While she wasn’t entirely fond of the idea, if felt more comfortable then the thought of going back to Kaysar.
Following the main flow of traffic, she made her way towards the center of the city. After stopping to speak with a few people, and asking for directions, she found herself at City Hall in front of the Hero registration desk.
“Hello,” said a grandmotherly looking woman, “How can I help you?”
“I’d like to register as a hero,” Apple answered hesitantly.
“Ok, let’s start with your origin.”
“My origin? Umm…I was created?”
“The best of us were my dear. Were you created by scientific or magical means?
“Magical I guess. I was created by a man who wanted to rule a world of evil. But I’ve met evil and I don’t really like him. So I’d like to start over, as someone not evil.”
With a chuckle, the woman said, “Then you’ve come to the right place. There are a lot of good people out there who started out in your shoes. Now then, what’s your name?”
“I don’t know. Apple, I guess. It’s the only name I’ve ever known.”
“I sorry Hun,” replied the clerk, “That name is already registered. So is ‘Poison Apple,’ ‘Candy Apple’, ‘Apple Pie’. Perhaps you’d consider ‘Appel’ or ‘Apple237’?”
“Wait,” interrupted Apple, “you mean I can pick whatever name I want?”
“Yup. Since you’re turning over a new leaf, perhaps it’s time for a new name to go with it.”
“A new leaf? I guess your right. In that case ‘Pavalli’. I’ve always loved the sound of Sanskrit.”
“Pavalli it is. Sign here and congratulations, you are now an official hero.”