Nasrin Mohsen knew people were having fun outside her window, but she didn’t care. She didn’t need their fun—nope. She was having her own fun sitting on her bed.
’Sides, she had an idea: she’d been thinking for a while now that since she was a loser, she might want to actually develop skills o’ some sort to a’least make up for said social failures.
You have no idea how excited Nasrin was when she was passing the library & spied a book with a crusty brown cover called The Complete Book o’ Socialist Spells with some bearded guy on the front. She immediately checked it out & immediately ’pon returning home dug in.
But her excitement waned when she saw some o’ the requirements o’ the spells…
¿Where would I get 2 pints o’ bourgeois blood?
But then she just shook these whines ’way.
You can’t just give up immediately like with everything else.
So she studied & practiced the rest o’ the book for the 3 weeks before the talent show. This was necessary, as she found that each try she made, she made some screw up, whether ’twas not sliding a foot the precise distance, being off key with her gurgling incantations, or not having the right blood type.
But her heart pounded faster than Grosset’s drumming on the last day before the show, when she thought she almost had it, only to stumble @ the last point, knocking o’er the glass o’ toad milk.
“O, shit: father’ll be annoyed by this,” she murmured as she bent down & harshly rubbed the purple stain on the carpet. “O well. As he knows, my only reason for existing is to make his life a misery.”
When she finally deduced that getting rid o’ the stain was impossible—as was almost everything else she tried—she stood ’gain to put the rag in the hamper.
“¿You said you wanted to join the… talent show? ¿Did I hear you right?” The coach craned her neck with eyes twisted in confusion.
Nasrin nodded. “Uh huh.”
“Um… ¿Since when have you had any talents?”
“Well, I read this book full o’ magic tricks.” Nasrin thought it’d probably be better to pull out said book & show it as evidence, only to realize she’d forgotten it @ home.
“¿‘Magic tricks’? ¿Did I hear you right?” The coach winced. “¿Don’t those require doing certain things @ certain times—& not doing other things—& having to have the thinking ability to do them right?”
Nasrin nodded. “Uh huh. I practiced quite a lot.”
“¿&, uh, did you e’er succeed in any o’ these practices?”
Nasrin blinked for a few seconds before saying, “Uh huh. Definitely. Got it down to the, uh… I got it down.”
“& that’s a good thing—the getting down aspect. ¿Did I hear you right?”
“& you’re not… you’re not going to pee yourself on-stage, ¿right?” asked the coach with a worried stare to her side. “’Cause last year there was a guy who did that, & the # o’ students who were truly enthralled was vastly surmounted by the # who were disgusted &/or maybe also peed themselves.”
“I can assure you that my bladder is excellent,” said Nasrin. Technically, this was also a lie: Nasrin actually wasn’t sure how well her bladder worked, since she’d ne’er tested. She didn’t e’en necessarily know the relative rankings o’ bladders & such; however, like with most job applications, she knew if she didn’t say that she wouldn’t get the job, anyway, so lying was as safe as not.
The coach sighed as she raised her clipboard & turned ’way from Nasrin to keep her from spying on her clipboard. ’Course, there was nothing actually on her clipboard,—’cept for the eponymous clip & board, ’course—but she still didn’t like any o’ these hussies ogling it, trying to seduce it. ’Twas her clipboard; nobody else could have it.
“Well, we’re short on people with low ’nough dignity, so I guess I could let you try. I guess it doesn’t matter, anyway. I’ll just have to drink myself to sleep tonight to forget your sudden reminder that my life revolves round such insignificances.”
Nasrin squeezed her hands together, thinking, ¡Yes!
As it turned out, Nasrin’s tricks went perfectly that night. She wasn’t sure how, since she couldn’t keep her limbs from shaking under the neon glare o’ the dozens o’ faces watching her, planning for the moment when she’d make the slightest wrong movement & conspire to think rude thoughts ’bout her or unleashing barking noises gainst her.
& yet, ’twas this very determination to spoil their plot to laugh that engendered her with greater focus & caused everything to go as sharp as scissors: her feet sliding was precise to the exact nanometer, her milk stirs were the precise # & were right on beat, & her stomps were the precise level o’ force.
The only thing that surprised her mo’ than her success was what this success caused.
For the 1st time since she started, her attention turned ’way from the audience & down @ the wooden planks below her, which she could swear were rumbling. Then she heard a sharp blast o’ breaking wood & saw something burst out from the floor, leaving a jagged black hole. Nasrin jumped back suddenly, only to stumble on landing & topple o’er.
She sat up ’gain & rubbed her bruised arm as she looked up @ the thing. ’Pon closer inspection, it appeared to be a metal pick ax twirling upward, but with some softer red protrusion.
After thinking, ¡Holy fuck! ¿What’s that thing? ¿Where’d that come from? she thought, ’Course my otherwise perfect performance would be ruined by a demon monster…
The monster stopped on some rafters ’bove. With its 1 bulbous eye, it stared down @ everyone, its bulky tongue—the red protrusion—bouncing left & right.
Nasrin swung her head ’tween the monster & the audience, the latter o’ whom were gazing up @ the monster with frozen eyes. Nasrin’s own eyes dilated.
It’s going to attack them & utterly destroy my performance.
Augh, this is what happens when I try to do stuff. Fuck…
She searched ’long the top o’ the stage till she noticed the nearness o’ the compacted left half o’ the curtain & the rafters.
She sighed. It’s not as if I have a choice…
So she rushed o’er to the curtain & began climbing, hoping that ’twas sturdy ’nough not to tear.
From the top she reached a leg out toward the rafter & an arm toward the hand rail & pulled the rest o’ her on. As she hung from the other side o’ the rail, she watched the monster closely, expecting it to dash toward her, knocking her off.
But it didn’t seem to notice her, keeping all o’ its attention on the rest o’ the crowd. See, I knew being unlikeable would be useful.
Once she climbed o’er the rail, she slowly paced toward the monster.
“Easy, li’l guy,” she said, her mouth twisting uneasily. “I’m not going to hurt you. Just be still & good…”
The monster turned to her @ the sound o’ her voice & its pupil began to spin rapidly. Nasrin stood back & gripped the handrails tightly.
With a cracking voice, Nasrin said, “N-now be easy, guy… Sorry I don’t know you’re name. I’m not going to hurt you—& if you promise not to hurt me, I promise to share my Fear Factory albums1with you.” Nasrin winced for a second. “Maybe just the late-90s ones.”
The pick ax monster’s pupil slowed till it finally stop. Then, in 1 moment, it swung @ Nasrin, who barely had time to stumble back & shout, “¡Ack!”
She raised a hand & said, “¡No! I’m too…” She looked down & tried to think o’ a good reason why the monster shouldn’t kill her.
While she did that, the pick ax monster swung ’gain, causing her to both stumble out o’ her distraction & literally stumble backward to avoid having her face ripped off like a mask, but with mo’ blood. She looked ’hind her & realized with a frown how close the end o’ the rafter was & how impossible it’d probably be to stumble through solid wall, no matter how nice it’d be.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised that the laws o’ physics would screw me o’er ’gain. She sighed. Well, I guess I should be glad I got to be ’live & all that for as long as I was able.
After dodging ’nother swipe & panting in exhaustion from all o’ the endurance this rude monster was making her go through, she looked down to see how safe it’d be to hop o’er the edge.
¿Why are those stupid audience members just standing there staring like stupid audience members? This is their chance to run ’way.
& you can bet that when they get their own faces stabbed off like kebab meat, I’m going to be the one who has to handle the blame while also having to handle the stress o’ having no face.
O well. I’ve had worse days, I guess…
She thought, Fuck it , & swung her legs o’er the rail, only to get caught on it, somehow—don’t ask her how—causing her to fall side-1st, slamming onto her right arm. Though she s’posed it’d hurt—& she was sure it would’ve hurt worse in other circumstances—she was too distracted by her dizziness from such a sudden warp in location &, mo’ importantly, her sickness @ having heard the squishy crunch that happened under her. In fact, this was when she noticed that the hole where the pain should’ve been was probably the numbness spreading all o’er her arm.
She looked up & saw that the pick ax was still floating ’bove the rafter, waggling its tongue e’en farther left & right as it stared directly @ her.
Wow, what a dick. I’m definitely not letting it borrow my Fear Factory; @ this rate it’ll be lucky if I lend it St. Anger.
Still, she wasn’t sure when the monster might get sick o’ mocking her & actually start attacking, e’en if she’d voiced her threat ’loud, so she hopped to her feet—all right, she slowly lumbered to her feet, then—&… well, she stared @ it mo’. She tried moving her right arm, but the only evidence she had that it still existed was the sight o’ it & the feeling o’ its bulk in her other hand.
She turned back to see the audience still gaping in silent stillness as before, though some were admittedly twisting brows & scratching heads.
“Um, ¿are you going to do anything?” she asked, cringing as she realized her pitch rising & her voice dissipating.
As if she’d broken their spell, a few o’ the audience members turned curious looks @ her, causing her to fidget to the point that she wasn’t sure if she’d wished they’d stayed frozen or not.
The thought clogged her mind: ¿What if they’re on its side? ¿What if they plan to cooperate with the monster just long ’nough for me to be destroyed & then afterward decide to fight it?
1 o’ the students turned to ’nother & whispered in his ear.
¡I knew it!
Well, screw these assholes. I’m done with their stupid talent show.
She stormed o’er to her backpack, pulled out her book o’ spells, & flipped through it, only to be distracted by shouts to her side. She turned to see audience members rushing ’way from the swinging ax monster.
“Yeah, now they do something—just had to break my arm, 1st, before they’d do it,” muttered Nasrin.
She stopped on the page just after the one with the summon instructions & hastily carried out these new instructions, only to keep flubbing.
¡Damn it, idiot, do it right for once!
Just glanced to her side to see that everyone else was gone—& the ax monster was swing right for her.
She tried to lift the book to swing @ the bastard, but ’twas too heavy for her 1 operable hand, causing it to fall to the ground with a ¡Whump! leaving aches to shoot through her wrist.
This is your only chance… You have time for 1 mo’ try, & then, ¡sllllllll! Nasrin gulped, tightening the muscles in her neck. This ought to be the inspiration you need.
So she ran through the steps quickly but carefully, pressing as much forehead sweat into each stage. She raised her perfectly aligned hands just 5 centimeters ’bove her nose, swished the toad milk in her mouth 8 times, & spit it in a fountain while tapping a foot every quarter second.
She must’ve done well, for the monster backed ’way with a warbling cry.
As the final step, she stepped forward with a finger pointing out @ it & gargled, “Ghha ghhi ghho ghhu.”
The monster cried e’en mo’, & shriveled till it melted into molten metal that burned straight through the floor, leaving just ’nother dark hole & wafts o’ smoke.
Nasrin watched it for a few seconds just to ensure ’twas truly gone before allowing herself to slump o’er & pant, wiping sweat from her forehead with her still-able hand.
I guess my performance wasn’t too bad, after all.
Nasrin sat in the short, rickety fold-up chair, the tip in the center o’ her back bumping painfully gainst the chair’s metal back. While her broken arm still sagged to her side, her gaze aimed @ the mottled ground.
“¿So this was the book you whence you practiced your ‘tricks,’ Madame Mohmen?” Principal Redwood’s moustache twiddled as he spoke. “¿‘Spells o’ Socialism’? ¿Marxist literature?” He bent o’er, peering closely @ her. “¿Truly? I don’t see any black beatnik or Team Rocket spandex on you.”
“But, Sir, don’t we have a standardized unif—”
“Don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking, Madame; it hurts my feelings.
“As I was saying, I don’t see you wearing a denim jacket & beating the pudding out o’ jukeboxes. I don’t see any pretentious hat.” Redwood stood straight ’gain, hands gripping his sides stiffly. “¿How do you expect me to tolerate you indulging in Marxism without wearing the properly radical appearance? I mean, ¡look @ you!” Redwood spread a hand toward Nasrin. “You look like you belong in Li’l Women , not Chop Your Cocks Off2. You couldn’t e’en smash a Monopoly board.”
Nasrin looked up @ him, but didn’t dare raise her expression ’bove a pouty frown.
“T-that’s not true. I can be pretty bad. I mean, I listen to songs that say ‘fuck’ in them sometimes… & sometimes I masturbate when my father’s not home.”
Redwood raised a brow. “¿To authentic porn or just some cleanly sexy spiky haired boy from some schlocky manga?”
Nasrin wanted to stand & rebuke that Bleach was not shlocky &, in fact, contained numerous serious themes ’bout friendship that she didn’t truly care that much ’bout, but ’stead sufficed with darting her eyes ’way swiftly.
“That’s what I thought,” Redwood said huffily. “We can’t have goodie-goodie students indulging in Marxism. I’m ’fraid I’m going to have to put this on your permanent record. You’re now barred from any & all colleges—university, technical, or community—& ¡Against Me! Concerts.”
@ the latter Nasrin’s face tilted lower, her features melting in misery.
Then Redwood pointed toward his door & said, “Now, get out o’ that chair & stop making all o’ those squeaking sounds. I can’t take you radical kids’ heavy blues jazz.”
Nasrin might’ve been curious ’bout how dangerous the magic dwelling within her book—& many others that anyone else might have—but the ordeal left her so tired & humiliated that she elected to do what she usually did in the face o’ adversity: drown it all out o’ her head with Powerman 5000.