"Hey, Randel, where did you get your glasses--Edna's attic?"
Fenno's voice was grating and incessant. I hunched my shoulders but kept my eyes staring at the tall red Gelert.
"No," I said. Once I perfected my experiment, I would claim my super powers, and vanquish them all. I shut my locker door and gripped my heavy armful of books hard.
Glenna, a tall, pretty blue Gelert with flowing hair, pounced up beside Fenno, her eyes dancing with mirth.
"Oh, look, it's the little scientist!" Her giggle was high-pitched and tinny, as fake as her long bright pink nails. "I love the haircut--it's so indescribably stupid!" Her voice was poisonously positive through the insult, and she reached out a paw to ruffle my flyabout spiky black hair.
"Stop it." My voice was pitifully weak; even I knew it. Glenna threw her head back and laughed heartily, resting her paw on Fenno's arm as if she would fall over from mirth if she didn't.
Perhaps I will leave my experiment as it is now and make piles of soot of them, as the machine has been doing lately, I thought, with grim satisfaction. I would do Fenno first--Fenno with the arrogant walk and the slicked-back black hair, who thought he was everything in the world.
"You can't do this," I blurted out in a moment of weakness. Now I was really in for it.
"Welcome to Junior Neoschool, pal," said Fenno. He exchanged a glance with Glenna and then ran a paw through his over-gelled dark hair. "While we're on the topic... how do you like the lockers here?"
Oh, I was a fool back then.
"I think you'll be spending a morning in one."
"And you know we have to get out the yearbook."
Glenara accompanied the sentence with her signature laugh, much more soft and graceful now than the piercing giggle of her junior neoschool years was.
"I have it right here." Fenno pulled out the volume, a once pure-white book faded to a rather unglamorous yellow from twelve years spent being tossed from shelf to basement, basement to attic.
"Okay, us first."
But they both hesitated a moment before opening the book. Glenara knew that when she closed her eyes and thought of junior neoschool, a wave of unpleasant memories washed over her. Her smarmy clique, dubbed "The Bedazzlers", and their long, flowing ringlets of hair held back by identical polka-dotted headbands; the hallways, with their squeaky, dingy floor, lined with dull blue lockers; attending yooyuball games and cheering with handmade, over-glittery pom-poms. Mistakes washed around her like a polluted river. She shivered slightly, then opened the book. There had been good things, too, hadn't there? And wasn't that what this get-together with Fenno was about--remembering the good things?"
"Here we go--eighth-grade me," said Fenno with a humorous grimace.
The blue Gelert looked so young and so immature, Glenara thought ruefully. Back then, she'd thought that picture of Fenno was really the best one of the whole yearbook--besides hers--but now she looked at his bell-bottom jeans and artfully-ripped jean jacket and found the whole picture the opposite of cool. But oh, the funniest thing was--
"The hair, the hair!" she exclaimed, shouting laughter up to the ceiling. "I want to tell eighth-grade you to get rid of all those products in it! Ha! How many times you combed it in one day!" she recalled, automatically reaching a paw up to her own hair, which was now short and stylish in a sleek bob.
Fenno's hair was much better now, she thought--short and natural, it's normal dark-brown-almost-black color, much friendlier than the slick, shiny greased look in the picture. And he was painted ghost--such a pretty, luminous color. She herself was silver now, and growing tired of it.
"Hey, it's Tibbi Barnon--she was one of the Bedazzlers, right?" He pointed at a tall white Kacheek with the signature long, flowing ringlets in her red-brown hair.
"Tibbi!" Glenara examined the picture. "Why, I haven't thought of Tibbi in years! Oh." She paused suddenly, remembering the dramatic rejection of Tibbi from their clique.
"Never mind. Let's go back and find me!"
As they flipped eagerly through the pages, they went too far back, landing on a random collection of seventh graders. Glenara's eyes landed on one in particular--a young, skinny yellow Scorchio, wearing a too-loose brown jacket, zipped all the way up his neck. His hair was black and very wild, sticking out at odd places here and there. He wore big, square glasses, and he was not smiling--his expression was blank, with a trace of sadness in it.
"Why, it's Randel Waters," said Glenara in a suddenly hushed voice.
"Oh." Fenno's voice also sounded solemn now. "I guess we weren't so nice to that kid, Glenna."
Glenara didn't even correct his shortening of her name. She was too busy staring at the picture.
"No," she said finally, "no, we weren't so nice to him, at all. I remember he was in my science class, and once we had a project together. Why, he must have been the smartest kid and the school... and we pushed him around and called him 'the scientist' like it was a bad thing."
Fenno stared at the ground for a moment.
"Well, he must have gone on to better things," he said. "I wonder what he's doing now..."
* * * *
"Next, next, come in!"
"B-but, I don't want to be Halloween!" The young Zafara, with her perky bright brown braids, was on the brink of tears.
"You can't say I didn't warn you," said the scientist, a little less roughly than usually. "Now hurry up! You must leave now, go, away from here!"
The Zafara clutched her mother's hand and left the room. The mad scientist, as he was generally known, pressed a few buttons on the control panel to his ray, and then pressed the button that opened the formidable metal doors.
"So, you've found your way to my lab, then?" said the Scorchio, loosely following the script he'd been using for years now.
A tall white Ruki walked in, looking rather uncertain of himself. Knowing he would have been required to register at the desk, the scientist began preparing the ray.
"I'm working on a lengthy experiment, a ray that will give any pet superpowers and great strength." Someday it would be done, and he, Randel Niko Waters, would be powerful--wealthy--and happy. Not that he wasn't two of those things already. "Of course, it isn't finished yet, but if you should like to take the risk, you may try it out."
He pushed the waiver, the final piece of paperwork the Ruki had to sign, over to him.
"Sign here and here."
The Ruki signed.
"Now! Have a seat on the metal chair."
The scientist indicated the pathway through all the machinery, finally showing the Ruki the center of it all, where the large ray pointed at a small, unassuming metal chair. The Ruki gulped and sat down.
"Relax," said the scientist. As the Ruki tried to, he pulled a lever and metal handcuffs bolted the Ruki's arms to the armrest, legs to the seat. "When you have been under the ray many more times, you will be allowed to go without the handcuffs," said Randel.
The Ruki shivered slightly. Randel darted to and fro, pressing buttons and pulling levers and scribbling things down in a large black book, for of course, every zap was an experiment.
"Steady, now. This is going to hurt." The scientist grabbed hold of two levers and pushed them forward, slowly but surely. And suddenly, there was a brilliant red zap, flooding the room with red light.
"Now, what happened to you?" asked the scientist, crossing over to the Ruki, who was panting slightly after the shock.
"I--I think I went up a level," said the Ruki.
"Interesting, interesting. You may go now."
The Ruki left the room, trembling slightly.
"I'm glad you're coming with me--I'm so nervous to try the lab ray."
Glenara couldn't help giggling--it always came out when she was nervous, her high-pitched, tinny laugh. She hated it.
"Why are you trying it again?" asked Fenno.
She took a deep breath and then let it out quickly, puffing up her new bangs.
"I need a change," she explained. "And I think it will be an adventure." She put on a brave face and smiled.
"You weren't much of one for adventures in junior neoschool," he said.
"Please, Fenno--we may be friends because of junior neoschool, but I do not enjoy talking about it." Then Glenara laughed again, to show him she wasn't too upset.
It was a fair day with a slight breeze, and the two Gelerts were paddling a canoe over the clear blue waters around Mystery Island.
"It's not far from here," said Fenno, glancing at the map that laid between them.
The Gelerts began to row harder, and finally they came upon a very small island. Tying their boats on a rocky shore, they climbed out and, following the map, headed for a small metal hatch.
After descending a sturdy metal ladder, they found themselves in exactly the opposite of what they'd been expecting--a spacious, gleaming metal room. It was clean, but not exactly pretty. At the other side of it, there was a desk, also made of metal, which a young green Kyrii sat behind. She was pretty, but her face was strangely blank and devoid of emotion.
"You're new here, aren't you?" she said coolly.
Forty-five minutes later, having filled out paperwork and waited in a quickly-moving line, the two pets arrived at the door of the lab, exchanging nervous glances. As the metallic door slid open, Fenno turned to his friend.
"Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this, Glenna--I mean, Glenara?"
"I'm sure. I mean, Fenno--what's the worst that could happen? I want to do something new, something exciting."
They stepped into the room.
Fenno. Glenara Randel caught the words from the opening door and his head began to spin. It couldn't be them... could it be? They weren't common names... He hurried over to the corner and pressed the intercom button that allowed him to communicate with his secretary.
"I need names on the two Gelerts that are new today," he hissed urgently. Out of the corner of the eyes he saw the two pets walk in, but they couldn't see him from their angle. "Quickly!"
"The two Gelerts... Glenara Doxwell and Fenno Banes."
Randel sucked in his breath.
"Thank you." He released the button, his jaw rigid, and walked out into the center of the room.
"So," he said, his eyes closely studying the two Gelerts. Oh, it was them alright. They looked different in many ways--for one thing, they were both painted different colors, and for another, both of their hairstyles had changed drastically--but it was clearly them.
"So, you have found your way to my laboratory." He folded his hands behind his back. "I'm working on a new experiment... a ray that will give you superpowers, and great strength."
This zap would not be an experiment, it would be deliberate. Randel began turning buttons and pulling levers as he spoke.
"Of course, it is not finished yet... but if you are willing to take the risk, then you may try it."
Glenara leaned over to Fenno.
"I feel odd... there's something... discomforting about this," she muttered.
She had a strange feeling, like when you're trying to remember a word and it's on the tip of your tongue. The mad scientist produced his usual waiver with an extra flourish.
"Sign here, and there," he said.
"Now go to the metal chair," he instructed.
Glenara went over and sat down--and then she remembered a name. Randel Waters. Oh, dear, oh, dear--Randel Waters! The yellow Scorchio with the spiky black hair! Why--why--no, it couldn't be. But.... he had looked very much like this crazy scientist. Sure, his hair had been black, and his eyes not quite so crazed, but everything else--
"Randel!" she said loudly. The name seemed to fall out of her without her instruction. Why did she sound so scared--why was she so scared? "Fenno--it's Randel!"
Then she felt handcuffs close in on her arms and her legs, and she cried out and automatically tried to jerk away. Then she realized why she was so frightened. All those times they had made fun of Randel, all those times they had made his life a living volcano--he knew her as nothing but a horribly mean, spiteful girl. And now she was entirely in his power.
"Randel--we went to school together," she said, her eyes wide.
"So we did." He did not meet her eyes, bending over his control panel. "Nice to see you again, Glenna." His voice was deadly calm.
"I'm sorry, for what we did, Randel--I've been sorry for years."
Fenno ran to her side, realizing the danger she was in.
"Move away, unless you also want to get zapped," snapped Randel.
Fenno opened his mouth.
"Just go, Fenno--there's no use making it happen to both of us." What "it" was, Glenara wasn't sure, but it surely wouldn't be something good.
Fenno gritted his teeth and slowly walked away.
"Good. Now let's start this, with no more distractions." The scientist began pushing the levers forward.
"Please, Randel, please--it was thirteen years ago--"
The room was filled with bright red light and Glenara's words turned into a shriek, mingled with the ominous zapping sound of the ray.
She opened her eyes, ever so slowly. She felt like her whole body had been pricked with tiny needles. But other than that, strangely, she felt okay.
"Oh," she breathed out, looking down at her fur.
It had been transformed--transformed into a beautiful, shimmering color, all the beautiful shades of the night sky. She was Eventide now.
"Oh," she repeated. "Wow. Wait... did you do this on purpose?" She looked up at the scientist.
He burst out laughing with a laugh fit for an evil overlord.
"You thought I would hurt you?" He snorted. "I keep up the persona of an evil, mad scientist--why, sometimes I even think like one. But I am not evil, though I might be a little mad. Glenna, Fenno--my life is good now. This lab ray has made me rich. I am happy--I am doing work that I love. And maybe I resent that you pushed me around in Junior High, but surprisingly, I have found that I am not the type to hold grudges."
The handcuffs on Glenara's chair were released.
"Th-thank you," she said, standing up. A smile broke over her face. "Thank you, Randel. I'm so glad that you're happy. And it's Glenara now--I grew out of Junior High."
"Well then, nice to meet you again, Glenara and Fenno. I hope our paths cross again."
"I'm sure they will."