Scene 15 – October 31st
Interior Townhouse, Late Morning
I accidentally slept in too late on Halloween morning and had to rush to get into my costume, which I had finished late the previous night. It was rough, but when combined with the wig and the right mannerisms, I felt that I had more than a passing resemblance to Anima. And whether or not I won the costume contest for the fourth year running, I had certainly done enough to not embarrass myself.
I took a few moments to set up how my impression would go – I cocked one hip to the side, put my hands on my hips, and twisted my upper body slightly to accentuate what few curves I had. I was happy with the slim, androgynous build that I had, but it was very different from Anima’s generous curves. Maybe I should have added some padding?
No, it wasn’t all looks, I reminded myself. “Quinn, right? I’m Anima. It’s…” I trailed off, frowning. The voice wasn’t quite right. I had gotten it yesterday, how had I done it? I pitched up slightly and tried again. “Quinn, right? I’m Anima.” No, not quite right either. What was I missing?
Oh yeah. I quirked the corners of my mouth enough to put a smile in my voice. “Quinn, right? I’m Anima. It’s nice to meet you properly.” Yes, there it was!
The costume and the impression weren’t the only things I had figured out yesterday, either. After a lot of thought, I had made up my mind about registering as a hero.
I wasn’t going to do it.
I had gotten a lot of advice about it. Devon had suggested taking it slowly and asking those who already had the job about it. Hypnos said that I shouldn’t join, as I had no need of what it offered me – Holly said that I should join, because it was fun. Canaveral had said that I should only join if I wanted to do it, and Anima had said it was the right thing to do – at least for her, since she had healing powers.
Ultimately, though, it was Professor Marigold’s lecture in the fabric store that had helped me make up my mind. I had come to agree with her that Tonare and Abelard were both wrong – as was Sterling, but that was obvious. As she had said, there was no reason I should use my powers if I didn’t want to.
I didn’t intend to set my powers aside, they were too useful in everyday life for that – even as I was musing, I had called my backpack and a water bottle to me – but I didn’t think I was going to use them in my career. I couldn’t be a superhero. Whatever anyone thought, I knew that I would never be as good as real heroes like Canaveral, Anima, or even my new friend Loki. But I believed that I could be a good doctor, and that, I thought, would be enough.
Besides, my father would support me no matter what I chose, and that’s all that really mattered to me.
Scene 16 – October 31st
Interior Classroom, Early Afternoon
I slipped into the Metahuman History classroom a few minutes early, as usual, and pulled out my notebook. I had been too busy making my costume to do much art lately, but with it finished it was time to start something new. I leaned back in my chair, considering what to draw, and after a moment I began sketching out the rough shape of a mountain range.
“Hey, nice costume!” I glanced up and saw that Todd Brickler was dressed up as well, in a white bodysuit and red cape. He wore no cowl – the college didn’t allow masks on campus – but he was still identifiable as Canaveral.
“Same to you,” I politely said as he sat next to me. “I considered Canaveral myself, but…” I gestured to my skin, many shades too light.
He chuckled. “It was tough to decide between Canaveral and Vulcan, but I didn’t think I could pull off the shirtless look as well as he does.”
“Definitely not. Uh, no offense,” I assured him. “I just don’t think anyone could pull it off as well as Vulcan. Man’s ripped as hell.”
“Well, you’re certainly pulling off your own costume pretty well,” he said, eyes flicking up and down my body. “You’re going to Phi Beta’s party tonight, right?”
“Same as the last three years, yeah,” I confirmed. I had a bad feeling about where this conversation was going.
“Wait, you’re the girl who won the last three costume contests!” He said, recognition flaring in his eyes. “I didn’t realize!”
“Not a girl, Todd,” I reminded him, annoyed – I had been openly nonbinary for years, and he had no excuse not to know that – hell, I had reminded him just a few weeks ago! “But yes, I’m the reigning champion, and I don’t plan on losing my streak.”
“Whatever. Listen, do you have a date to the party? Because I’m just going stag right now, and Canaveral and Anima sounds like a real power couple, if you know what I mean.”
“No for many reasons, Todd. I already have plans to go with friends,” I informed him as icily as I could manage. “And besides, I’m pretty sure Canaveral has something going on with Zookeeper. Not to mention that I’ve turned you down before-”
He sneered. “Whatever, slut.” He rose, grabbing his stuff and moving to another seat.
I let out a sigh of relief. Insults aside, at least he stopped when he heard a ‘no’.
“Good afternoon, everyone,” Professor Marigold said as she entered, dropping her shoulder bag on an unoccupied desk and finishing her soda – blue today.
“Good afternoon, professor.” Today I joined in with the three or four others who responded, and class began.
Scene 17 – October 31st
Interior Townhouse, Afternoon
“Nice costume, Quinn!” Susan said as I stepped into the study group’s usual meeting place. She gave me a wink, adding, “You look good as a redhead!”
I smiled at her. “Thank you! And thanks again for letting me borrow your wig, it really makes the outfit.”
“Ah, it’s nothing,” she said, playing with a lock of hair from today’s wig – it was shoulder-length and blonde, matching the Thor costume she wore. “Planning on winning the costume contest again this year?”
I put on my Anima voice and shifted my posture as I responded, “I wouldn’t be sad if it happened, but I just want everyone to enjoy themselves!”
She laughed. “That’s uncanny, honestly.”
“I might have some competition this year though,” I said, nodding to her own costume. “Your Thor looks great!”
She blushed slightly. “It’s nothing special. Half of it is storebought.”
“The wig. And this.” She hefted a foam Mjolnir.
“So you made everything else? That’s amazing, Sue!”
“Well, Orgo is my most time-consuming class, so I had the time. I don’t know how you did it!”
I shrugged. “I bought the base bodysuit, all I needed to do was the gloves, boots, jacket, and mask.”
“How long did it take?”
“About a day and a half? It’s rough, I know…”
“Quinn, that’s… incredible fast,” she said, awed.
Thanks to my telekinesis I hadn’t needed to pin the fabric, being able to hold it all together. And I had barely needed to measure, either, thanks to ESP. But I decided not to mention that, instead saying, “I didn’t really stop working from the moment I bought the fabric on the 29th until I went to sleep last night. All-nighters make the impossible possible. Including seeing things when you’re tired enough, I do not recommend it,” I joked.
She chuckled. “Are you going with anyone?”
“A friend I met recently never went to the party, even though she’s also a senior, so we’re going together. What about you?”
Susan hesitated before saying, “I think I was just going to be going with my sorority sisters. I’m single at the moment, so…”
“Well, I’m sure some lucky guy or gal will snap you up before long,” I told her.
She seemed a little downcast for some reason, but nodded in agreement. “Maybe I’ll even find someone at the party!”
“That’s the spirit!”
“Hey, stop flirting, you two,” Chris said in a mock-stern voice as he and Peter finally entered. “I know it’s Halloween and we’re all excited, but we still have homework to do!”
I raised an eyebrow at the two of them – Chris was wearing vampire teeth and a black suit jacket with no shirt underneath, while Peter wore a toga that left much of his own chest showing and somehow clung close to his butt as well. “Are you sure you aren’t just annoyed that Sue and I get to see you two in slutty costumes but we didn’t return the favor?”
“I just thought we had all agreed to show off our assets,” Peter said, deadpan as usual.
It took a while for the laughter to die down so we could get down to work.
Scene 18 – October 31st
Exterior Mansion, Early Evening
“Holy shit, Holly!” I said in amazement as I stared at her home. “You never mentioned you lived in a mansion!”
She shrugged, seeming a little uncomfortable. “It, uh, never came up?”
The world twisted next to us and Simone appeared from nothingness. “Hey dude, what’s up?” Chris and Peter would have been quite pleased by her costume – assuming they liked women who could bench press them – she was dressed as Lara Croft, a tight cropped tank-top and rather abbreviated shorts plus a pair of Nerf pistols strapped to her thighs.
“I invited Simone along too,” Holly said nervously. “I hope you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” I assured her, even though a pang of sadness shot through me – I had hoped that this was meant to be a date, but it seemed not. I offered a hand to Simone. “It’s been a while! Good to see you again.”
She clasped it and pulled me in to a hug. “Yeah, they managed to arrange a week-long cross-country trip for me, to recharge my batteries. Bossman told me rather strictly not to let them get so low again.”
“It was a little bit of an oversight,” Holly admitted. “And your costume is, um…”
“Don’t like it?”
“No on, it’s just… you don’t usually wear anything quite so revealing.”
Simone shrugged. “It’s not my usual style, no, but Halloween is all about being someone you’re not, right?”
“I guess so.”
“Where’s your costume, Holly?” I asked.
She raised a perfectly-sculpted eyebrow. “You’re asking an illusionist where her costume is?”
“I thought it wasn’t actually illusions?”
A shrug – my eyes darted down to her collarbones for a moment, exposed by the off-the-shoulder sweater she was wearing tonight, then back up to her face. “It isn’t, but I do understand that there’s not much difference for colloquial purposes. And ‘illusion’ is shorter to say than ‘light- and sound-interacting construct’, which is what they actually are.”
“That reminds me – how is it that they can interact with sound and not physically with anything else? I mean, sound energy is kinetic, ultimately, so…”
“Well, from a magical perspective -”
“Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh!” Simone cried, laying a finger on both of our mouths to silence us. “No nerdy magic talk tonight. Halloween is a day to go to a party, flirt with hot girls, and show off a little. Put your costume on, Holly!”
She rolled her eyes, but nodded as she stepped back from Simone’s finger. There was a brief shimmer, and she was suddenly an elaborate clockwork robot, her face appearing to be a porcelain mask and plates of something that might be ceramic and might be painted cardboard. I couldn’t help but be amazed by her artistic sensibility.
“Alright you two,” said Simone, grabbing us both together again. “Time for a selfie!”