Claire saw it as soon as she entered the kitchen. It sat on the middle of the counter, a familiar foil wrapping with a small tear on one side. Her face wrinkled as soon as she recognized what it was.
“She didn’t…” Claire started the thought aloud, but she wasn’t exactly sure where she was going. Didn’t what? Have a guy over? Even Alison wasn’t that dumb. She took a closer look at the wrapper, but stopped shy of picking it up. It was absolutely already opened.
Claire looked around for the necklace now, not seeing it in either the kitchen, the dining room or the den. She gritted her teeth when she returned to the kitchen, reaching out for the wrapper to throw the thing away.
It moved as soon as she tried.
“Hey!” She gasped. Now other thoughts raced into her mind. She looked around for a prank-playing Alison, but didn’t see her friend peering around any corners. “Al, are you fucking with me?”
Now Claire stared at the wrapper. She narrowed her eyes and darted for the wrapper this time. When it tried to slide out of the way, it chose the wrong direction and was clamped under her hand on the counter.
“Gotcha!” She cackled, apparently forgetting all the reasons she might not want to grab onto this particular enchanted item. When the package started squirming around under her fingertips, she let up just slightly to find the foil pouch bulging, “Jesus, Al, what the hell did you get into last night?” Claire clamped down on the animated prophylactic with both hands now, and her quiet asides became a shout. “Alison, where the hell is the necklace?”
Alison heard Claire shout. She was in Cassie’s bathroom in the basement, already wearing her outfit--and the necklace. Cassie’s makeup selection augmented her own travel kit, expertly painting her face as she watched in awe.
“Stop, hold it--” Alison said, waving everything back down to the sink and shelves. She shouted back up the stairs. “Claire?”
“What did you do, Alison? Get up here and make this thing stop!”
Alison glanced at herself in the mirror before jumping out of the bathroom and up the stairs, unclasping the necklace as she followed Claire’s voice in the kitchen. As soon as Alison spotted her, something shot out from under Claire’s hands and into the open room, hovering over their heads.
Both of them watched as the condom burst out of the package again, filling out to the same shape Alison had seen the night before. It bobbed defiantly in the air, eight inches of upturned invisible maleness menacing them from above.
“What did you do?” Claire shouted at Alison, pointing at the floating condom. “I told you not to get in over your head.” Alison grinned, trying not to laugh at the sight of it. Claire whapped her on the back hard enough to get her attention. “Are you kidding me? Take care of the thing, Alison--that’s gross!”
“Here,” Alison held the necklace out. “I’m sorry, Claire! It was just an impulse, and like--” Claire took it back, pointing up at the hovering condom.
“Seriously--explain it after you get that...thing down from there,” Claire said. She shook her head and got out of the way as Alison waved her hand at the condom.
It hovered over toward her, approaching slowly before slowing to a stop. Now the inflated form and its wrapper seemed to regard Alison, hovering there in space.
“Come on,” Alison said. “Go where I told you to go!” Instead of following her directions, the translucent phallus inflated to twice its size, wiggling in front of her. “What the fuck?!” She ducked out of the way as the latex form sailed past her like a rubber snake.
“Stop playing around, Alison! You brought it to life, didn’t you?” Claire clasped the necklace around her as the still-inflated form sailed through the hall toward the entryway.
“Close and lock!” Claire shouted. All at once, every door, window and lockable drawer in the house closed and locked in unison, and a strange echo of secured latches and bolts bounced through the rooms. The condom came back, drifting back toward Claire as she tried to silently command it.
It really wasn’t listening--and she even had the necklace on.
“Stop!” Claire shouted up at the form--a cartoonish dong 15-inches-long with a 5-inch diameter. The fact that it was out of her control scared her--even if it was less than a millimeter thick and silly-looking as a novelty balloon. “I said STOP! I command you to fall to the ground!”
She was in damage-control mode now, trying to think of a way to stop the thing. Claire’s eyes narrowed, and she looked at her knife-block before quickly reconsidering. Wandering thought had gotten them into this mess. She had to be more careful.
Claire shot her hand out toward a cup full of writing instruments. The cup held still as all the utensils bounced out of it, flying like missiles toward the out-of-control condom. The clear cylinder was backed into the corner of the hall, and Claire held up a hand.
“Wait.” She watched the condom deflate again, returning to the realistic proportions it exhibited earlier. The pens and pencils surrounded the thing but held their ground. “Why won’t you listen to us?”
The thing wiggled in response, flopping like a noodle before puffing up to rigidity again, moving in and out in a crude emulation. Claire turned around and looked at Alison.
“Tell me what you d--AIIIE!!!” One of Cassie’s sheets swept over Claire like a wave. She started fighting the sheet, trying to get a grip on it--but every handful was fought off by the sheet puffing up and slipping out of her fingers. “Alison, stop this shit right NOW!”
The latex cylinder remained pinned down by the writing instruments pointed at them--their wills frozen to the thing despite Claire’s distraction. Alison ran over to the sheet, grabbing an edge and pulling it back over Claire’s head.
“Claire, I didn’t--” The sheet flopped backward, wrapping around Alison instead. “What the fuck?!" Claire watched as the sheet tightened around her. “Claire, get it off!” LIke the condom, the sheet wasn’t listening to her commands.
Claire gritted her teeth, unsure of what to do. She started toward the sheet, but it swept Alison backward. Something struck Claire when she looked back at the instruments holding back the renegade condom--still doing their duty. With the sheet so close to Alison, she couldn’t make anything help her pry it off safely, but what if they’d overlooked some part of how the necklace functioned?
Claire watched Alison finally slip an arm out of the sheet. She pried back the hem enough to pull the other out, but now the corners of the sheet stood on end, lifting her up.
“CLAIRE!” Alison looked down at the ground. The bedsheet effortlessly carried her body, cradling her inside itself as it walked her backward on its hem.
“Hold out your hands and catch this damn thing! You brought that stuff to life--maybe you can stop it!” Alison nodded, reaching her hands out. Claire tossed it underhand, and it connected perfectly with Alison’s hands. She clasped it in front of her and gritted her teeth, grabbing the sheet.
“DROP ME!” As she commanded, the sheet let her slipped loose, dropping her to the ground as it flapped around the room and whorled around Claire, sweeping over her face.
“More specific!” Claire said, slightly muffled by the thin sheet. “Hurry!”
“Drape-lifeless,” Alison said, focusing on the sheet through an imaginary gunsight. The constricting, winding fabric went slack, and Claire chuckled.
“Holy shit, you did it.”
“You did it,” Alison said. “How did you--”
“I fucking didn’t!” Claire said. “I didn’t know anything! How could I have? I came downstairs to a phantom willie dancing in my face, Alison. Which--take care of THAT now, and tell the thing to flush itself down the toilet.” Claire pointed to the corner of the room.
Alison saw the condom, curled like a scorpion tail and bobbing near the ceiling as a collection of sharp, pointy writing instruments seemed to menace it.
“I dunno what you did to these things, Claire--but am I okay to tell that thing to leave, or will they come after me?” Alison looked at the letter opener especially closely.
“Tell your buddy there to curl up,” Claire said, making a face.
“Curl up,” Alison said to the hovering condom. It did as it was told. “So they only listen when we have the necklace on?”
“Not true.” Claire walked to the corner, staring at the cloud. One by one they danced back into the cup they came from, and Alison watched as a dry-erase marker hovered over to the fridge and wrote.
THEY LISTENED TO ME
Alison couldn’t help but look guilty. She looked at the gold wrapper on the floor and nodded at it. The rolled up condom slid itself back in the foil.
“Fall lifeless,” Alison said, letting the thing fall into her hand.
“What, are you going to keep it?” Claire tried hard not to laugh. She needed to take this seriously, and needed to be sure Alison understood why.
“I--I mean, if I throw it out again, what if there’s other stuff we don’t know?” Alison didn’t meet Claire’s eyes.
“We obviously have to talk about this,” Claire said. “I mean, I don’t need to know like vivid detail, but…”
“I played with it,” Alison said. “Obviously I did.”
Claire was sure her own face was red. “And the sheet. The condom and the sheet wouldn’t listen unless YOU had the necklace.” But the writing utensils I just had helping me--I bet the clothes from last night, too--they’d listen right now.
“Well, let’s try this.” Alison took the necklace back off and thought about Cassie’s room downstairs. When the vacuum topped the staircase and landed on the kitchen floor, rolling smoothly toward them, Alison nodded. “Everything we connected to with the necklace on,” Alison said. It’s all still behaving. So…” She turned away, trying not to laugh. It was a little odd, a little gross...but something about it made sense. “Um...the two things I...came on...didn’t listen to my commands without the necklace.”
“And now?” Claire asked.
“They seem to be okay, right?” Alison said, looking at the sheet on the floor.
“We don’t know that,” Claire said. “And we don’t know anything about that,” she pointed to the necklace.
“So what do we do?” Alison asked.
“Keep this under our hats and get to work,” Claire said.
“Wait--really? This thing is--”
“Trouble, so far,” Claire said, “And extremely powerful. Please, please tell me you’re at least a little freaked out by being able to command things to get up and dance. I mean, really think about what something like that would mean if it were on all the time. Would it even be safe?” Alison wouldn’t meet Claire’s eyes. “Al?”
“I...liked it,” Alison said. “Like, I’m sorry those things got out of hand, but it was just something we needed to figure out, right?” She watched Claire’s face go from worried to chiding. “Listen, I agree--we need to hold back and learn more about this thing, but we do need to learn more about it. This thing is amazing, Claire. Whatever you want to do to limit it, I’m game.”
Claire had three criteria. They’d only wear the necklace at Claire’s, where they were on home turf. They would each only wear the necklace and use the power with the consent of the other, and they wouldn’t do anything stupid that would reveal its power to the outside world.
“For now,” Claire said. “Until we figure out more.”
“Deal.” The girls shook on it and headed to work.
Once they were both ready for work, Alison noticed Claire took the necklace in her bag.
“You’re bringing it?” Alison asked. Claire nodded.
“We don’t know anything about it--and it came to me at work. Maybe by accident. I don’t it more than 10 feet from me. I’ll lock it up in the back room in my personal in case there’s an issue. And...I want an appraisal.” Alison’s eyes lit up.
“You’re not going to sell it?!”
“Of course not, silly--but I want to know what a jeweler sees. We know it’s not a normal necklace. Is it the stone, or something else?” Claire shrugged. “I won’t leave it with anyone, but something of this size? Someone will look at it and tell me a few things right on the spot. I’m sure of it.”
- - -
Work wasn’t as easy as Claire wanted it to be. The jewel in her locker was burning a hole in her mind, and she kept coming back to the packaging. It was addressed to her. To her. It wasn’t a normal shipper’s box.
And it had power that equated to a bad science fiction movie. It was a miracle that she and Alison weren’t at home commanding things around, thinking of ways to capitalize on their new fortune. But the chilling effect in Claire had come the moment one of the flying objects wasn’t listening...to anyone. Even if it was a goofy, cartoony latex condom she could have shredded with a kitchen knife--what if she did? Would the pieces have retaliated by leaping down her throat?
The point was, if it wasn’t listening to anyone, what was it doing? Did it have motivations? If it did, where the hell does a hovering condom get motivations? Where did they come from?
Claire couldn’t avoid the image in her mind--Alison was in bed last night with the necklace on, and she must have, Claire guessed, used her own emergency onesie as an experimental toy. Some part of her rolled her eyes and called it childish, but another part couldn’t help but feel prudish for not at least entertaining the possibility. The clothes were pretty playful about their motions, and it wasn’t like Claire didn’t have her own to--
“Claire?” It was Robyn, the other associate working the open with them.
“Sorry, I was wandering,” Claire said. “What’s up?”
Robyn repeated her question about the new lingerie stock.
On the sales floor, Alison was distracted too, but for other reasons. She had been righting displays and refolding clothes, jumping around the store and feeling especially energetic. When she started hanging up bras, something set her off. As she got to the bottom of a case, the extra effort to dip lower to take more was eerily missing, as if the next three or four were always ready for her to grab them.
When she slowed down and paid attention, she freaked. She brought her hand close to the small lingerie hangers and watched as they stacked against each other and moved toward her hand, where she felt a slightly magnetic energetic pulse.
“No way.” She looked around after she muttered the words, wondering what she should do next. Robyn had just come back out into the sales floor, and now that they were an hour into the shift, Taylor was there too. Alison could leave the floor to them. She walked toward the back room so that she could test a theory.”
“Robyn, can you cover the floor for 10?”
“Sure, for ten,” Robyn said. “Are you getting coffee?”
“Uh-uh,” Alison said. “Be right back. Tell Taylor?” Robyn nodded.
When she got into the backroom, Claire was staring at her locker.
“You can’t stop thinking about it, can you?” Alison said.
“Can you blame me?” Claire shrugged. “I’m going on lunch. To get it appraised. Wanna come?” Alison nodded. She wondered if she should tell Claire about the weird feeling and the magnetic impulse, but held back. “What’cha doing back here?”
“Wall display stuff,” Alison pointed to the shelves in back. “Hanging bras.” Claire nodded and headed back to the floor. Alison kept walking to the wall display hardware until the door shut, when she headed back to the lockers.
She got close to Claire’s locker and swore she could feel the necklace. She trembled a little at the thought of last night’s orgasm and licked her lips as she tried something a little more advanced than making something slide toward her. The latch on Claire’s locker rattled as Alison tried everything--picturing the right combination on the lock, picturing the latch moving...but only when she calmed and thought the intention clearly did she see the way.
The inner workings of the locker slid about, and the door carefully wobbled open. Claire’s purse sat inside, along with the necklace.
“That’s...that’s nuts,” Alison said, looking down at her own hands. Her gaze went back to the locker, and the door shut itself with a light metal-on-metal clang. The combination dial spun a half turn, and Alison smirked, realizing each action with less effort than the last.
I’m going to have to tell her soon, right? She sighed. It’ll come up. It’s gonna have to. Alison laughed to herself. When it did come up, she wondered how quickly Claire would jump at getting herself off with the necklace on...if just to keep pace. And I mean--she’s gonna have to, too…
Later in the day, Claire found Alison in the re-sort racks at the dressing room, having nothing to do.
“You put all those away?” Claire asked.
“Oh yeah. Super easy. Documented the damages, too.” Alison shrugged. “How’s your day going?”
“Okay,” Claire said, “But I’m kind of anxious to go to this appraisal. I told Taylor we’d take lunch.”
“You got it, boss. Lead the way.” Alison followed Claire to the front and out the door.
“You did ALL the re-sort?” Claire asked again. Alison just smiled, nodding. “That’s a lot of work in a morning, Al.” Claire looked in her purse to see the jewel glistening back at her.
“There was a lot, but it was all grouped together,” Alison said.
“I thought maybe you had help.” Alison could have admitted the necklace’s extended effects right there and then, but still thought better of it. “I’m going to these guys on the corner,” Claire continued, pointing at the jeweler next to the anchor store.
She had a long, silly story planned for the jeweler. She claimed her mother ranted and raved about her grandmother’s necklace, but she always thought it was too big to be of value and had to be costume glass.
The guy at the counter was young, and didn’t seem like much of an expert. But when he showed it to his boss, Claire watched the older man look at it closely--then with a loupe. He shined a laser light into the stone, and had the young guy point out Alison and Claire to him. A short discussion happened between the two, and the boss came back.
“That’s quite a piece you have,” he told her, bringing back the necklace. He handed her a card that read NEAL LITTLE - JEWELER. “I’m Neal. At a glance, what I’m looking at is real, Miss…”
“Roland. Claire Roland.”
“And you say this was your Mother’s necklace?”
“I’m actually not sure,” Claire said. “It could have been in the family much earlier--it was part of the estate. Both of my parents died a couple years ago--so I really don’t know the whole story.” Lie wrapped in truth--and enough to let this guy continue his pitch.
“I’d like to analyze this piece with a few more tests, if you’ll let me.” Claire looked at Alison. “I would need to unset and reset the stone in the pendant. The chain would be untouched--it’s pure silver, I can see that straightaway. I’ll warn you, though--if the stone is fake, some of the tests might damage it.”
“What do you think?” Claire asked Alison.
“It’s real,” Alison shrugged. She looked back at the jeweler. “You can’t just drag the tip over some glass?”
“One of a few tests,” the jeweler said. “If you’d like an appraisal, though--I need to be more rigorous.” Claire pondered over it, taking a deep breath.
“How long will it take?” Claire asked.
“Ninety minutes,” Neal said, his eyes lighting up. “I can take a piece this interesting right away.” Claire nodded.
“Go for it,” Claire said. “How much for the appraisal?”
“Nothing,” He said. “I’d like to know more myself.” He took a couple polaroid photos of the necklace on the counter, handing one to Claire. “Sign this, please?” Claire did as he requested, and he handed her a half-sheet of paper with pre-printed fields. “And fill this one out--this is our record and your claim.”
Claire and Alison ate a quick and nervous lunch before returning to work. Even if it was just a couple spaces away, having the thing in someone else’s hands made Claire nervous. What if the guy tried it on? It was all she could do to keep wandering to the front of the store, looking out for Neal to see if he’d disappeared from the jewelry store.
But in about two hours--the call came. She went to the back room to take it.
“Hello, Miss Roland. I have some...rather spectacular news.” He took a deep breath. “What I’m holding is a natural 12-carat stone.”
“It is indeed, Miss Roland. It is also an unregistered stone--there are no trade issues or known past owners for this stone, which generally means that it is not a recent acquisition for...your estate.”
“That’s…” Claire realized she needed to keep her cool. “That’s...very much as I suspected, Mr. Little. Something like this should have been insured by my parents a long time ago, but that’s why we’re here. Can you tell me how much it would be worth?”
“I have two questions, Miss Roland. First, are you sitting down?” Claire rolled her eyes.
“I’ll be fine. What’s the other question?”
“Did you take the proper precautions leaving your house with this?”
When Alison saw Claire across the sales floor, her face was pale. Alison finished up with the customer she was helping and approached her.
“That’s a weird expression,” Alison said. “Did you find out about the necklace?”
“Real,” Claire said, flat. “Natural Ruby. Red Corundum. 12 Carats. Something about Asterism.”
“That’s exciting! So not only does it do...things--it’s a legit gem!” Alison said.
“Keep it down,” Claire told her, getting close to her ear. “Four hundred thousand dollars--at an extremely conservative estimate.” Alison grabbed Claire’s shoulder, grinning.
“The guy asked if I had security detail getting it here--and getting it home.”
“You had me,” Alison joked. “We’ll be fine. All one of us has to do is wear the damn thing.”
“Really, Al--don’t you think this is getting pretty serious?” Claire asked. “Who sent this to me?" Alison could tell that Claire was scared. She was going to have to tell her everything she’d learned about the necklace after her adventures last night, but not this moment. Not until they got back to Claire’s for the night.
“We’ll work it out, dude.” Alison clasped her shoulders. “Until then, we have the necklace. If you’re worried, then we need to learn more about it. We need to use it.”
“We’ll talk about that. Until then…” Claire’s cell rang again. It was Cassie. Claire shrugged and silenced it. “Until then, we’ll quietly get it back to my house after--” A buzz distracted her now. It was a text from Cassie.
PLEASE PICK UP
“Oh, shit.” Claire looked up at Alison. “It’s Cassie. I’ll be right back.” Claire went back to the stockroom as the ring came again.
“I’m at work, Cass. What’s up?”
“They want to kick me out of school.” Claire held her finger over the phone for a second, whispering ‘fuck’ over and over.
“Say that again.”
“School. I’m going to get kicked out.” Claire could hear voices in the background. “I’m going to get kicked out unless you talk to them.” Claire bit her lip. Cassie had been a little trouble since going off to college, but Claire swore their last heart-to-heart actually went somewhere.
“What did you do?” Claire asked, trying to sound as calm as possible.
“I didn’t do anything,” Cassie said. “It’s bullshit.” Voices again in the background, and this time Cassie answered back with a “Then kick me out already!”
“Cassie, calm down,” Claire said. “What do you need?”
“Please come down here,” Cassie said, more distraught. “Come down and talk to them.” Claire thought about the 90 minute drive to Cassie’s campus, then the necklace.
“Tomorrow,” Claire said. “I’ll come down tomorrow.”
“Today,” Cassie pleaded. “They’re doing the hearing today.” Claire held the phone away and stomped again. Whether she’d bail Cassie out remained to be seen, but she was going to her campus. She knew that already.
“I’ll be there in an hour in a half,” Claire said, trying to stay flat.
“Cassie--what did they say you did?”
“They’re saying I cheated.”
Claire explained the situation to Taylor and got the rest of her shift off--apparently no big deal, since the shift was nearly over anyway. Alison was done in the stock room and back on the floor too.
As for Alison’s responsibilities--Claire had to trust her. She had to rush to Cassie’s campus, and the necklace could be dangerous in anyone else’s hands. If anyone were watching, they’d follow Claire--and she wouldn’t even have the necklace on her.
“No way!” Alison asked. “You think they’re going to let me pick up a half-million-dollar stone for you?”
“Third of a million. But I already picked it up--and I’m leaving it with you.” Claire pulled out the necklace, holding it in front of Alison. “Put it in your locker--take it to my house until I get back.” Alison hid her excitement, trying to mirror the weight Claire seemed to be carrying with Cassie’s developing situation. “Also, you and I could give a shit about the money--you know what the necklace does.”
“Okay...I can do that,” Alison said. “And I left my car here last night, so I’ll take that to your place--but gimme your house key?”
“You won’t need a key,” Claire smiled a little, holding up the necklace. “185510 on the security pad inside the front door. And you should magically type that in before you issue any magic commands to the door.” Alison grabbed the necklace and unlocked her locker, carefully wrapping the jewel in a spare shirt.
“So I’m allowed to use it,” Alison said.
“Yeah. You’re right--we need to know how it works,” Claire said. “But keep it to a minimum until I’m back. Anything you can quickly clean up. I might have Cassie in tow, and she can’t know anything about it. Not right now.”
“You got it,” Alison said. “185510.”
“When’ll you be back?” Alison asked.
“Four, five hours? Maybe a little more,” Claire said.
Necklace or not, Alison wasn’t so sure she wanted to hang out at Claire’s house alone any more than Claire did. She had another idea.
“Give me a heads up of like a half-hour,” Alison said. “You let me know when you’re 30 out and I’ll have plenty of time to resettle anything I get into.”
“But no…” Claire didn’t want to finish.
“No doing that. I know.” Alison blushed a little. “Until we figure it out.” Claire scowled at her exception. “No, really. I get it.”
Claire thanked Alison for handling things and headed out to State, where Cassie’s academic fate had yet to be determined.
Alison had another hour of her shift, and three or four more before Claire came back. She looked up a contact in her phone and sent a text.
U free in like an hr? Wanna show u something
Sunny texted back, almost immediately.