Amara walked to the mirror on her wall. She was the same girl-- violet headphones, messy blue hair, a white-with-salmon-stripes men’s t-shirt that she was wearing as a tunic with jeggings, high-tops on her feet. The only sign of the adventure was the green symbol on the underside of her wrist-- a longsword, or some kind of fantasy-looking sword drawn in a few minimalist lines.
Amara sighed and ran her fingers through her hair.
She knew that if she told her mom, she would think she was crazy and take her to a doctor.
If she told the government about supernaturals they wouldn’t believe her.
It was just her and Sarah.
Amara slid her headphones over her ears. The whoosh of her breath and the beating of her heart were calming to her.
“Did you take my lipstick?”
Ashwin’s voice came through the thin, white door.
“NO! Why would I want your lipstick? It isn’t green!”
“You want… green lipstick?”
Amara didn’t really want that.
“Well, fine. Let me know if you see it.”
Ashwin opened the door, gave a teenage glare, and slammed it.
Ashwin was seventeen and had dressed only in black lace tank tops since her boyfriend broke up with her. She had long, brown hair, unlike Amara’s fluffy blue. Her eyes were an icy color, and her lips were dyed red from lipstick. She watched anime in her room all day, snacking, but always worried about her weight. Ashwin was weird.
Amara looked at her reflection for so long without breathing or blinking that her vision grew blurry and her head began to spin.
Amara fell backwards, banging her head on the footboard of her bed. The pain in her head from the bump made the room blur out of her eyes with tears, and she slumped to the floor, a green haze floating around her face…
Oh, yay, I’m a Celestial again, she thought before blacking out.
“Amara?” Ashwin asked, a thump sounding from her sister’s room. “Did you fall down or something?” She pushed the door open and screamed.
A rainbow, marbled hole stretched through the wall, and Amara was lying on the ground, unconscious, a green aura floating around her. A glowing shape was on her left wrist, and her hair turned from blue to green; her skin took on a mint hue. From the hole came what looked like an anime character, glowing pink, with long rose-colored hair. An aura floated around her body. She yelped and snapped her fingers.
The door slammed shut, an indigo glow circling its white frame. The soft, beige rug below Ashwin’s bare feet felt as soft as a cloud.
The anime girl stepped out of the rainbow hole like she was exiting a pool. She called something in another language, chittering and chirping, waving at someone in the hole who hadn't yet crossed into Amara’s room.
“Carri chi-chen nall Luke! Ahan chi Amara che sa!”
She said Amara. And she called for someone named Luke, Ashwin thought.
She banged on the door, trying to open it, but the indigo seal locked it tighter than any lock could.
“Help!” Ashwin shrieked as she banged on the door. No one came.
Two figures emerged from the hole-- one with a deep blue aura, dark blue hair, and eyes like the sea, one, a silver-eyed teen with a long, lilac cloak covering his body and a deep hood covering his face.
The silver-eyed one said something like “Chi ral hek, Thunder?” and the blue-aura’d girl hissed “kals dal-len raeka sarr-suum.”
“Ka-ri, du ka mer chilc teha,” the pink-anime girl said. They all looked pretty anime, though, especially the blue-aura’d girl.
“AAAGH! OPEN UP! OPEN UP! COME ON!” Ashwin shouted, uselessly hitting the door.
The blue-aura’d girl spun what looked like specks of light between her fingers until it had the consistency of slime.
She pulled it back like it was a slingshot and let it fly from between her fingers. It launched at Ashwin, who whipped around, not sure what to do, the sticky stuff warping into what looked like a long ribbon of light. It wrapped around Ashwin’s chest and arms, pinning them to her sides.
“Hey!” she shouted. Let me go!”
They went from warm and kind of stretchy to silk-soft and cool.
Ashwin yelped and tried to run away toward the door, not sure how she’d escape, when the the blue-aura’d girl tugged the cord so hard she fell over, flat on her face.
“Ta ras ki samm,” the blue aura’d girl said. She gave the string a yank, pulling Ashwin backwards across the floor.
“Stop! I have a date tonight and I can’t miss it because some glowing people tied me up and pulled me through their portal!”
Ashwin kept yelling. But either Mom couldn’t hear her, or the seal on the door was soundproof, because no help came.
Ashwin lashed out with her legs, but he blue aura’d girl threw another warm, stretchy ribbon of light at her, tying them together as they cooled. She was pulled back towards the hole, the other two figures vanishing into the wall with Amara.
“Oh, you do not walk off with MY sister and get away with it!” Ashwin yelled.
“Ara ko!” the blue aura’d girl shouted into the hol.e a young male voice replied “Kli tsi ra se-che-cla,” and the girl yanked her strings pulling Ashwin to her knees, her back to her.
The girl pulled the strings again, and Ashwin was dragged to the food of the portal-- yes, it was no hole, but a portal leading to another world, probably.
Darkness closed Ashwin’s eyes, starting off warm and kind of sticky-stretchy, then becoming cool and silky.
The blue-aura’d girl had thrown her ribbons around Ashwin’s eyes and mouth, pulling her into the portal. Ashwin didn’t struggle any more.
It was pointless.
Amara groaned, waking up. A green aura clung to her hands when she looked at them. She was back with the Celestials.
She wondered if there were any mirrors in wherever she was-- it wasn’t a tent like before, but a huge royal bedroom, like something a king or queen would sleep in. The walls were marbled with warm colors, pink and red and gold, swirled with blue. Amara was lying in a giant, pure-white bed, a green chandelier above it. The light was really bright though…
The walls dimmed to black streaked with purple and blue, and the chandelier dimmed, making it look like she was in space.
It was like the room knew what she needed.
A mirror, Amara thought, closing her eyes.
When she looked up, the wall across from her was reflective. She stepped out of the bed, not held down with starstring this time, and approached it.
Her face had taken on a greenish color, as had her hair, but not in a creepy way; she looked like an elf from Dreamfate: War of the Halfbloods, the video game she spent most of her time playing. Her jaw was pointier, but not too pointy, and she blushed the color of grass. Her hair was less messy-and-wild, and more messy-on-purpose, like the character in her favorite show.
Her eyes were wider and elfin, and blue, and her aura was green and gold-flecked, like the shiny golden freckles on her cheeks.
Her ears were pointed, like an elf's, and she had an outline like Chihiro and Olive and the others. Her eyes weren’t only wide, but outlined and looked like they’d been drawn by an artist who could bring things to life. Her aura was behind her, and it wasn’t clinging to her eyelashes the way it had the day before.
She was dressed in a silken sort of pajama top in a shade of mint, with a white collar and a white skirt. It looked like something you’d wear while playing tennis.
“Amara, we have a… situation,” a small, quavering voice said. Amara turned her head, and saw a small, orange-aura’d girl of some kind, with red hair and… horns?
“Do you know Ashwin? She appeared to have tried to… interfere with your traveling through the portal, and she’s all-human, so…” the girl shook her head.
“Nevermind, we’ll show you.”
Amara followed her out of the room, the walls shifting to white as she left.
They walked through corridors made of some sleek stone that shifted in color as they moved. When they got outside, they walked across a dusty, lilac surface of a different world. The other one was flat with a rainbow, shiny ground, but this one looked more like a weird earth. It was day, so sunlight poured down, making the desertlike ground shine white.
Strange purple pods, like bubbles on the surface of water, studded the surface of the world, scattered 200 feet apart.
“I’m Emilinda,” the horn-girl said, smiling. Her smile faded as she walked across the dusty surface of the world and over to a bubble 200 feet away.
There was another, smaller dome inside the big bubble, only kneehigh and about four feet wide.
Oh no, did they make Ashwin tiny? Amara thought.
Emilinda tapped the bubble twice, and the violet color faded, revealing a pane of clear glass.
When Amara looked down into it, she gasped.
It was way deeper than four feet, and was the top of a large orb-shaped cell, completely round, with Ashwin sitting in the bottom, leaning against the curved wall, tied up with starstring.
She looked up, snarling at them silently.
There was no sound in the bubble.
“Humans can’t witness a supernatural come out of a portal, or go to any other world with any magic at all, and… we have to make some modifications to them afterward, if they do.”
“So you’ll change her memory?”
“No, I’m afraid that’s impossible. Instead, we make some... edits,” she sighed. “We let them leave their old lives behind. They become a new person. Their appearance changes, their temperament, their memories…”
Ashwin continued to silently screech at them, as if they were weird strangers who hated her even though they never met her.
She doesn’t recognize me, Amara thought.
“The lightbringer will be here soon."
“Lightbringer. The one who will help her change.”
“Help? Like, you don’t force her to?”
“It’s a traumatic experience. She wants to get rid of it. And lots of people want to start over.”
“But--but Ashwin is my sister! She drives me crazy, but loves me!”
“I guess so, but… she might blame you for this.”
“I don’t care! I want Ashwin, not some non-sister starting over again!”
Amara stormed away, back to the palace on the horizon.
Ashwin stopped trying to escape, and something miraculous happened: the cords vanished!
Ashwin jumped, trying to reach the top of the ten-foot-ball she was in. No luck. People with auras or horns had come to stare at her, for some reason, and she wondered if she was in some kind of zoo for otherworldly races.
The top of the ball disappeared, and she stared up at it. What was going on?
“Hello, Ashwin,” a calm, silvery voice said.
“How do you know my name?” she asked angrily.
“I was told,” the voice said. A ladder came down, and she cautiously climbed it.
The figure outside may have been a man or may have been a woman, tall and thin and wearing a white hood. They showed no trace of aura, and their white hair fell in fluffy bangs. They did have that outline of all the people who she’d seen here, like they were drawn into this world with a ballpoint pen.
“Who are you?” Ashwin asked.
“I am the lightbringer.”
“Why are you here?”
“To help you change.”
“Do I need to change?”
“Do you like who you are?”
But the heartaches of life spiraled into Ashwin, and she didn’t want to go back.
“Then come. You don’t have to change if you change your mind, but you can.”
Ashwin followed the strange figure away.
Sitting on the bed in the big room, Amara was messing around with the room, turning it different colors.
“Ashwin can choose for herself whether she wants to change… but she’s gonna want to change, so she’s not going to be my sister anymore… I mean, biologically, she will, but she won’t be the Ashwin I know best.”
Amara sighed and opened the door. She’d been given free reign of the palace, however, she wasn’t feeling up to doing anything, not even trying to fly like the other Celestials seemed to be able to do. Amara left the palace and saw something weird: a big, black bubble floating a few feet off the ground, as big as her house, about 300 feet away. She walked towards it, wondering what it possibly could be.
As she got close, a hole opened up in the side and sucked Amara in.
Inside, it looked like the character customization room in most video games: not many surfaces, bars with labels on them like “hair” and “colors” and “sword”, and a big glass wall separating the blue, featureless room from the white, circular platform where the character stood.
The character was Ashwin.
She swiped at something invisible, looked at something Amara couldn’t see, and then tapped the air.
Her hair became wavier, and then, as she ran her finger down something else invisible, it went from brown to copper-red.
“I like it,” she said. “How do I get longer bangs?”
“You tap the selection for ‘bangs’ and then choose what you want,” a silvery voice said from somewhere else Amara couldn’t see. This was getting annoying!
“Okay.” Ashwin gaver herself long, copper bangs that fell just above her eyes, then darkened her skin slightly, like she had given herself a tan, and then rounded her face slightly. She gave herself freckles and bright-blue eyes, then changed her lips from red to pink. She hardly looked like the same person.
Ashwin made herself a little less stick-thin, so she was taller and curvy, then she changed her black tank into a blue-and-white tunic shirt with puffy sleeves. She changed her black jeggings into a pair of super-short-shorts, then put on pink sneakers.
“I like this,” she said.
“Select ‘yes’ and it will stay,” the voice said.
The glass lifted away, and she stepped out, meeting a tall, thin person who might be a man and might be a woman, dressed in a white cloak and hood.
“Are you ready?” they asked her.
Ashwin stammered for a second.
“But can I keep my name? I like it.”
“You can keep whatever you love dearly about yourself.”
“I love my name, it makes me feel strong.”
“Do you like feeling strong?”
“Then you shall keep it.”
They walked away, down a hallway in the bubble. As they left, their backs to Amara, the lightbringer, if that was who they were, turned their head and stared into Amara’s eyes.
“You may not want to see this, Amara,” they said.
Then she sat down on the floor and cried electric-green tears.
Ashwin came back out of the bubble; she looked happier, somehow. Like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
She smiled at Amara.
“Hello,” she said in a cheery voice. It sounded like Ashwin, but happier.
“Hi, Ashwin,” Amara said.
“Are you the heroine Amara?”
Amara saw the blue of her sister’s eyes. It wasn't just brighter than her original coloring...
Her eyes looked like they belonged to an anime character, or a supernatural. She had an outline.
She wasn’t human.
She was Ashwin, the supernatural.
Olive entered the room.
“Hi,” Amara said.
“I know what it feels like,” Olive breathed.
“I changed, too.” Olive said.
“I used to be human, but I followed Celeste into a portal-- she used to sneak away into other worlds-- and I kept my younger memories, became a Mage, and… I was darker from my changing. I didn’t like it. So I did horrible things. I became an assassin. But after the war, when peace came to the Celestials… I became Celeste’s bodyguard. I go back to Earth sometimes, to play videogames.”
Amara looked at the rough Mage.
She’d been a human before.
“Please,” Amara gasped, tears coming to her eyes. “keep Ashwin safe. Tell her about me, even though she doesn’t really know me as anyone other than the heroine. Just… be sure that you keep her safe for me!”
Amara ran from the bubble, wiping away her tears. She crouched by a boulder and sobbed.
“I will,” Olive said, standing beside Amara. She sat on the ground as well, and the two looked at the starry sky.
“Hi, Amara,” Ashwin said, looking at her sister. She’d been human before, but now she was a supernatural. It was confusing. She remembered her favorite animes and foods, and that Amara was her sister. But she had trouble with remembering her ex-boyfriend, her sorrows, and everything else.
“Ashwin?” Amara muttered, asleep by that flower-mage-girl that was the princess’s bodyguard.
“It’s me! I can’t go back to earth with you, but, for the first time in so long, I feel happy.”
Amara opened her eyes.
When she saw her sister, she smiled.
Ashwin looked different, and didn’t seem to remember her old life, but...
Ashwin hadn’t smiled in years.
And she was beaming.
The two sisters hugged, and Olive watched them approvingly.
“What do I tell Mom?” Amara asked.
“That I’m at a friend’s house. There’s a difference in space-time,s o I can be gone for a while and Mom won’t know!”
Ashwin jumped for joy.
For so long, Ashwin was grumpy and self-obsessed, an angry older sister. But now, Amara saw that even though she was different, the lightbringer had shown Ashwin happiness.
Amara hugged her sister, happy gold tears coming to her eyes.