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The Wishing Map
Chapter Twenty-Four: The Long Night (continued)
Previously: Entangled in the Questing Beast’s tentacles, Gina cried out for help.
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The needles and suction retracted. But the golden helmet disappeared, as well. Gina fell backward. There before her was the Beast in its native form. But its encephalous medusa-head kept turning to the side. Someone was attacking it!
It was Zack. He was hurling every rock and stick he could find, dancing in and out of range, kicking the monster as hard as he could, but without any real weapon he was in constant peril. Just as he dashed forward to bash it with a branch, one of its tentacles succeeded in snaking itself around his wrist. The barbs cut like fish hooks as the tentacles reeled him in; the Beast opened its fleshy flaps, baring its glass shard teeth.
“Hey, you!” screamed Gina. “Smelly boy!”
The creature whirled around, releasing Zack, and flung all of its “arms” at Gina. She limboed backward just as half a dozen eelish appendages whizzed by her face, then cocked her right arm and swung the sword at the Beast’s head, lopping off two of its tentacles! Its wheeze turned into a shriek as pus gushed from its severed extensions.
But then she made the mistake of looking between the creature’s eyes. All of my dreams, she suddenly realized, my destiny. If I die, I’ll never fulfill my… “No!” She smacked her face with her free hand, and raised the sword.
But the Beast had already begun to change again. Its pus-oozing platelets were growing together, turning soft and pliable like human skin. It was morphing into something smaller, thinner, lighter. It finally settled on a definite form: it was human, only a few inches taller than Gina, and quite beautiful. She suddenly realized it was…
Only this version of herself was older, more stately, and had the ability to make you feel that, unless you looked like her, you were less than you should be. Did she even see the younger, shorter, inferior version of herself? Perhaps, but that wasn’t the point; she was here to be looked at. She was more than merely Beautiful Gina, she was Regal Gina! Divine Gina!
“Gina! No!” a voice called from somewhere far away.
At the same time, Gina felt a painful pricking and sucking at her skin. The sword was thrashing wildly in her hand, straining to pull her arm into strike position. It seemed even more bent on killing Divine Gina than it had the Beast! Gina heard punching and flailing sounds, and something like whips beating the air.
“Gina!” the voice called again.
Why won’t that silly voice stop bothering me? And then Divine Gina smiled at her!
“But she’s smiling at me!”
“Gina, use the sword!”
Stinging needles…sucking…pain growing worse by the second.
“Gina! It’s not real! Use the sword. Now!”
“What? I can’t kill myself!” OK, so it’s not exactly me, it’s my future self. But what’ll happen if I kill it? I’ll become non-tall, non-beautiful, non-Divine Gina. I’ll become “Frumpy Office Worker Gina” or “Dowdy Housewife Gina” or “Middle-Aged Spinster Teacher Gina” like in my dream!
“Gina, you have to kill it now!”
The horrible stinging and tugging felt like it was about to tear her non-perfect skin off. But that’s good, right? Then Divine Gina skin will grow in its place! “I can’t kill it! It’s my future!”
“No! It’s a lie!”
Thoughts: Our greatest enemy lives in the mirror.
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