When Sunny opened the door to her apartment, she was clad in a yellow satin robe. Her hair was wrapped.
“Did I...wake you?” Alison joked.
“It’s my day off,” Sunny smiled. “Whatcha got?” She retreated into the kitchen as Alison followed. “I’m drinking coffee. You want any?”
“Sure,” Alison said. “So--Claire had this thing…” She wrinkled her nose, wondering how much she really needed to say. “You know what? Let’s chill at the table, and I’ll show you.”
“So...Claire has something to do with this.” Sunny’s eyes wandered.
“Sort of, but--forget her for right now.” Alison said.
“O-kay…” Sunny went to the fridge. “Cream?”
“Black,” Alison said.
“That’s new.” Sunny grabbed the freshly filled mug and put it in front of Alison on her kitchen table. “So come on. You’re killing me.”
“This is going to sound melodramatic, but you should sit down before I say any more,” Alison said, smirking.
“So we sit.” Sunny grabbed her own coffee mug and pulled a chair out, sitting and crossing her legs. Alison did the same on the other end of the table, looking into her raw, dark coffee. “You’re smirking--so you’re not friend-dumping me.”
“It’s not anything like that,” Alison took a deep breath, looking giddy. “Sunny--I’m going to pretty much break reality for you.”
Sunny’s eyes narrowed. What the hell was this weirdo up to?
“You’re into the whole witch thing and stuff, right?” Alison asked, staring at her coffee. Sunny wanted to laugh. She slapped her hand on the table.
“I GOT IT. You’re coming out as Wiccan!”
“No…” Alison’s response was railroaded by Sunny leaping from her chair and hugging her.
“Honnney...that’s great!” Sunny grabbed her shoulders and pulled back. “You know I’m not wiccan though, right? I just have a kinda...witchy aesthetic.” Alison frowned.
“Can I get this mind-blowing, world-changing thing I want to share across to you, or are you going to keep fucking with me?” Sunny let her go, laughing.
“I’m sorry, dude...but ‘melodrama’ is you drawing it out like this.” Sunny sat back in her chair. “Spit already.”
“Sugar and cream,” She said, thinking of their locations on the counter and in the fridge.
Sunny was about to give her annoyed response at Alison’s changed mind, but just as she started to stand up, her eyes caught the motion of the sugar bowl and spoon hovering over to the table, near Alison’s coffee. Sunny’s lips were trembling.
“You got it now, right? I wasn’t shitting you about breaking reality?” Alison tried not to be too smug about it. Sunny’s eyes followed the sugar bowl until the fridge popped open and the hovering creamer unscrewed and upturned itself for a second. “Thanks,” Alison said, letting the spoon do the stirring itself. She kept her eyes on Sunny until her friend was staring back at her again.
“H--how?” A hand went up to Sunny’s face, and she started nervously laughing. “Are--are you a real witch?” As she tried to process what she just saw, Alison’s broken preface came back to her. “Show me again,” Sunny said. “I mean--there’s no way you could have rigged what I just saw, but show me again--with something else.”
Alison thought about the red vinyl dress she saw Sunny in the previous Friday. The clothes were a pretty undeniable example of the necklace’s powers...Alison had really experienced the rush when she saw Claire’s stuff moving on it’s own--dynamically, as if an invisible Claire were marching in them.
“Watch the doorway,” Alison said. She couldn’t see it, but she knew it was happening--Sunny’s dress was somewhere behind one or two walls, responding to her whim. She didn’t know exactly where it was hanging, or whether she needed to open the closet door. She didn’t need to...like she and Claire experienced the day before--the things simply listened to will and found a path to manifest it.
Even knowing it was coming, Alison jumped when Sunny did. Both hands went up to her mouth now, and her head turned from a slightly smug Alison to her dress. When it started to approach, Sunny kicked back with her legs, pushing her chair away from the table.
“Relax, it’s totally safe.” Alison stood up, doing a half-circle around to the back of the dress. “I think that’s your shape inside it--did you notice?”
Sunny’s face went through a few disbelieving contortions before she reached down and pinched own forearm. Hard.
“Ow…” Sunny rubbed the spot. “That’s supposed to wake me up, right?” She stared at Alison. The smugness was gone now--the empathy of trying to sort this impossible situation was all she saw now.
“Claire got something in the mail, Sunny. Something that like...lets us do stuff like this.” Alison shrugged. “We have no idea how it works, but it’s...I mean, look at this.” Alison grabbed the dress from behind, pulling on the front of one of its shoulder straps. She pulled it to make the dress turn to its side, and slapped the vinyl ass with the other hand, making a resounding SMACK echo through the apartment.
Sunny could only laugh. It was the strangest thing she’d ever seen--real or imagined. Her own invisible shape did seem to be filling out the dress, if she tried to imagine it that way. It was like she was watching Al smack Sunny’s own invisible ass.
“That’s...I don’t even know where to start.” Sunny slowly got up, approaching the hovering dress. “So there’s kind of something in it?”
“Watch,” Alison said, putting her arm all the way through both shoulder straps. “And check this out.” She slid her fingertips down the inside of the front strap, into the cup of the breast. When she pushed against it, the vinyl cup deformed on the outside, as if she was pushing it away from its invisible form. When she pulled away again, the shiny red material went smooth and near spherical once more.
Sunny was standing in front of the empty dress now, tentatively putting her hands up. “So is it okay if I…”
“Yeah! Totally.” Alison was loving every second of watching Sunny come to terms with this. Claire was her sensible friend--the responsible role model type--always more adult than her. Sunny, though? Sunny was crazy--always more cool than her.
She didn’t need to have anything on her friends, necessarily, but this was the first time Alison felt like she was leading the way. The necklace came to Claire, but Alison was the one who opened up to it--and now its power remained in her.
Claire still didn’t know that, though she might have suspected...but now Alison was here, bringing Sunny into the fold. She wouldn’t tell Sunny everything--it seemed reasonable to keep her seemingly permanent power under wraps for now.
“I just told it to come out here,” Alison explained. “You can do whatever you want to it.”
Sunny’s hands went up to the straps. One of her fingers slid under the strap, held aloft by an intangible shoulder. She shuddered a little as her fingers slid up under it, as if she was stroking a wild animal that could leap at any time.
“It’s...so weird.” She pushed down on the opposite strap with her other hand, and found that even when she shoved and poked hard, the thing didn’t give much. It was almost as if she could feel the collarbone in the invisible form--but only from the outside. “Okay. I’m sorry, but I have to do this…” Sunny giggled a little as she thrust both her hands against the shiny round chest of the dress. “Huh!” She chittered laughter, kneading the chest a bit. “It’s--it’s like…”
“I know. Like there’s someone really in there. Claire and I found that out yesterday.”
“So--how are you doing this stuff?” Sunny asked. “I mean--are you being specific about how...this behaves or anything?”
Alison shook her head. “Like I said, all I did is ask it to come out here.”
“Ask it.” Sunny stared.
“Think about it with...like, clear intention. Apparently I only had to know the dress was here.”
“Right, and I wore this when we went out last Friday.” Sunny’s hands ran down the sides, over the wide hips, and down to the mid-thigh hem. She hiked it up in the front, pulling it tight over the back and smacking it like Alison had. It didn’t so much as budge.
“Uncanny, right?” Alison said. “Hit it as hard as you can--you won’t move it.” Sunny furrowed her brow and grinned, pulling back and delivering a blow to the vinyl backside. The dress held its place, and Sunny shook her hand out.
“Damn, you weren’t kidding!” Sunny said. She thought about the strength of something like that--devoid of a human form inside. She also wondered what would happen if she was wearing it. “Al...is this like--sapping your strength or something? How many things can you make do this at once?”
Alison looked away, wondering just how much she should show off.
“I mean...I had one of the rooms in Claire’s house kind of clean itself. There was a bunch of stuff happening at once, but it...wasn’t like I had to focus on any of it. I just give the command, and it happens.”
“And this something Claire got it the mail...you don’t suppose she’d let me borrow it?” Sunny smirked. “I’m surprised she didn’t swear you to secrecy.” Alison realized she must have visibly gulped when Sunny said it, because her expression changed immediately. “You sneak! She did swear you to secrecy.”
“She agreed that we needed to find out more about it...but...you know Claire. She’s pretty cautious about things, and this seems...important. I don’t know. I wanted to get your opinion because--she’s kind of freaked. So am I.” Alison leaned over the dress. “You’re kind of tougher, you know?”
“I guess I can take that as a compliment,” Sunny grinned. “Really, though, if she did swear you to secrecy about this thing, you should keep it that way with her. I can keep my mouth shut...for now.” Alison glared at her. “Seriously--you were obviously ready to burst...this is superhero level shit!”
“Well, about borrowing it…” Alison opened her purse and lifted from the chain, ending with an attention-demanding pendant-cut ruby.
“No fucking way,” Sunny said. “Someone sent that to Claire?” Sunny held out her hands as Alison extended the necklace to her. When its weight fell into her palm, she swore she could almost feel it humming power. “Ah...Al--”
“You can feel it, right?” Alison smiled. “I noticed that too. It wasn’t quite as strong yesterday.”
“So--you’re...really letting me do this?” What do I do with it?” Sunny held both ends of the chain up, admiring the jewel.
“You’re going to put it on,” Alison said, “but I’m going to explain some things first.”
“Keep it a secret until I can gracefully get you in with Claire. You guys have known each other a while, so it shouldn’t be too hard,” Alison shrugged. “She’s already kind of freaked out about the things we can do, but I feel like if there’s a few of us practicing together, it’ll keep us grounded.”
“She’s worried,” Sunny said.
“She’s sane to be a little worried,” Alison said. “Someone sent this to her. So--there might be people that can already do this kind of stuff,” Alison motioned to the dress. “There might be people who are really good with it, and if there are, we don’t know anything about them.”
Sunny took a close look at the jewel, feeling the same acoustic hum--but stronger now.
“You wear the necklace, and then you manifest will into things. Clothes, furniture, kitchen utensils...whatever. You just focus on them--ask them to do something harmless.”
“Well, when you take the necklace back off, you’re still like….connected to the stuff you commanded around. So I can hang out here for a little while, we can play with some of your stuff...and then when I have to get this back to Claire’s house, you’ll have a nice little collection of things to practice this power with until I can get Claire to agree to let you in on it ‘officially’.”
“That’s…” Sunny looked down at the filled-out dress, and the possibilities spiraled through her mind. She was about to get a superpower as gift from her friend--and she had no idea what the limitations of this situation were. One thing was for sure--the red dress was a ghostly, powerful sight, and it led Sunny’s mind to other places. Catsuits. Uniforms. An invisible dominatrix. “That’s crazy. You’re just going to let me play with power like this?”
“Ha,” Alison smirked. “You think this is just altruism?” She motioned to the necklace. “Go ahead, put it on. You’ll feel the weight of responsibility in no time.”
“Ha,” Sunny said. “You hope.”
The drive back home started quietly enough.
Claire’s negotiation with the academic panel saved Cassie’s return to college in the fall, but she was to forfeit the rest of the spring semester and pay a couple different forms of restitution for being involved in an attempt to cheat.
They could afford the lost semester easily, but Claire didn’t really want Cassie to know that. Since the death of their parents, she seemed to be the only thing pushing her sister forward.
“Guessing you want me to get a job until September,” Cassie finally said.
“I mean--it’s probably a good idea, don’t you think?” Claire looked over and saw Cassie’s shrug. “Do whatever you’re comfortable with, Cassie. Volunteer if you want. You know we’re set up to get you through college without any hassle, but you have six months now. Use them for something.
“If you don’t want me around we could always just send me to Italy for a few months or something.”
Claire just stared forward. This was a trap.
“I want you to get through college,” Claire said. “For right now, get a job. Do anything structured. Then--get through next year without a hassle, and Italy over the summer is a good bet.”
“Or I could just wait two more years and have my own money to do it. And then four more...and I get the rest of it.”
“Cassie, I wish you’d take this seriously. That money isn’t going to last your whole life.” Claire shook I just want you to get through college and find a career you’re going to be happy with. You know?”
“So not retail management,” Cassie shot back. Claire was done keeping stoic.
“You really think I’m just trying to cockblock you from your inheritance?” Claire asked. “Yes, I can give you FIVE GRAND to go to Italy next week. Yes, I know you know that.” She took a deep breath. “I know I’m not mom and dad, Cassie, so don’t repeat it again.”
“Claire, I’m sorry...I just--”
“I’m not your enemy. Okay? It’s not fair. I know that. It’s not fair this happened to us--but it happened. And we don’t have them to boot us in the ass and kick us forward.” She looked over and could tell Cassie felt bad. She eased back. “I don’t want to try to fill that gap, but I want both of us to be happy.”
Cassie nodded, her eyes a little glassy now.
“They worked hard to make sure we had everything we needed, Cass. They didn’t expect it to turn out this way just like we didn’t--but because of what happened...we have everything we need to live the lives we want.”
“I know,” Cassie sniffed.
“We can’t waste that.”
“I know, I know.” She was broke now. Crying a little.
Claire didn’t really want that, but something about it was relieving. Cassie still cared about them--still cared about their expectations somewhere. She just fucked up.
“You don’t have to tell me what really happened, but--don’t let it happen again.”
Cassie nodded again, and a couple silent minutes went by. When Cassie recovered, she spilled it.
“A key. We found a key. We copied it. Handed it out,” Cassie said.
“Professors still use answer keys?” Claire asked.
“This idiot did.” Cassie shrugged. “Same one for a decade.”
Claire laughed. She couldn’t help it. Cassie fucked up, but at least she was sitting next to the real Cassie right now--not a concrete wall or an angry swirling fire.
“See, you’d have done the same thing,” Cassie smirked a little.
“No, I wouldn’t--but he is an idiot.”
They were laughing together. Big and little sister--like before the accident. Claire was happy to have this little patch. She hoped Cassie would follow through on their talk--not just for Cassie’s sake.
She had a giddy Alison and a supernatural jewel at home she had to manage.
Sunny had a floaty feeling going through her as she watched her kitchen straighten itself up. There was only a cereal bowl and the coffee pot to clean up, but even so--she wasn’t lifting a finger. She barely had to think about it.
“So...when I take the necklace off…”
“Anything your focus ‘touched’ will still respond to you.”
Sunny thought about everything she could in a short period of time. She didn’t want Alison to think she was abusing this present, so she openly animated things like Alison suggested--a couple outfits, some kitchen utensils, some of her makeup…
But if she could really still make things happen by thinking about them after the necklace was gone, she knew it was to her benefit to try and grasp everything she could. She kept thinking of individual items of clothing...she tried to think of almost everything in her bathroom. Her sheets. Her mattress. Her bedframe. Why not?
“What are you laughing about?” Alison asked, watching a dustmop sail over the kitchen.
“This better be permanent,” Sunny said. “I’m gonna have withdrawals if this suddenly doesn’t work anymore.”
“Well...it’s only going to work in here for the time being,” Alison warned, “because you’re so very grateful to me for showing this to you without Claire’s permission. Right?”
“I promise. No one but you will see this stuff.” As Sunny kept cataloging things, telling them each to “lift” or “drop” or “fall on the bed”. Suddenly, she had an idea.
I want all my clothes to inflate like this, but otherwise stay where they’re at.
Alison and Sunny both heard a fwoomp accompanied by some crashing and a slamming door.
“The hell was that?” Alison asked, heading to the short hall. Sunny sucked a breath between gritted teeth.
“I, uh…kinda tried to do a whole bunch of things at once. Here...” Sunny got ahead of Alison in the hall and tried to open the door. It moved a little, but she couldn’t get past the jamb. “Whoa.”
“What?” Alison asked.
“Well, what you did with the dress, and then what I did with the jeans and the tube top? I kinda tried to do that to my whole closet--only I told them to not walk or move anywhere. Watch.” Sunny took control of the door with the necklace, and as she forced it open, some inflated clothes were bumped out the door, standing on their own. Both of the girls broke out laughing as a bunch of Sunny’s outfits stood together at the threshold of her room. Now they could see between empty straps and collars, and between spaces in the clothes--Sunny had FILLED her room with clothes.
“That was a single command?” Alison asked. Sunny nodded proudly.
“Maybe it helps that it’s my stuff?” Sunny asked. “I just told everything to fill out.”
Alison kept a mental note on that one. If Sunny could issue such a broad command and have everything in her closet and drawers comply, what exactly were the limits?
“Maybe hold off on the unspecific commands like that for now,” Alison laughed. “I think you’re lucky they didn’t bust out the windows.” Whole groups of objects, defined by some common characteristic. In this case, they were all Sunny’s. Alison hadn’t even thought of issuing a command like that. Alison pushed past some of the clothes, looking into Sunny’s room.
There were bra and stocking and sock bubbles over by the dresser, all of the drawers of which had come out and landed on the floor. Pantyhose stood thigh to thigh, and a cloud of anything from clubwear to a couple skirt suits were all pushing each other out of the closet, competing for space with jeans, shorts, and pajamas.
“I really did it, didn’t I? It’s everything.” Sunny was looking over Alison’s shoulder. “I kinda wanna try something.” Sunny bit her lip, and all at once, the items near the door started to walk toward the kitchen.
Alison watched as the mess started to sort itself. Stockings and hose went under skirts and dresses. Shoes marched out and slipped themselves over translucent feet. Socks paired up with pants, leggings and shorts. Shirts seemed to find outfits that complimented their colors and styles.
Sunny clasped her hands together, squealing a little.
“I can’t believe how easily it understands something like ‘make matching outfits’,” Sunny said. “How the hell do they know?” Her eyes were wider and softer than Alison had ever seen them. Cynical, sardonic Sunny was like a little kid holding a kite for the first time.
“It just happens,” Alison said. “It’s also why we’ve gotta be careful.”
“Or why everyone else should,” Sunny smiled. “Left, right, left.”
One by one, outfits started marching out of her bedroom and filling her 750 square foot apartment. Alison watched Sunny’s eyes flash as she made her wardrobe march into formation, and it made her last response a little worrying.
“Hey, I’m serious.” Alison’s tone brought Sunny’s gaze to hers. “You can’t mess around with this.”
“I’m just messing around,” Sunny said. “I promise you, again, I will not show this stuff off in public.”
“To anyone. Until Claire brings you in,” Alison said.
“Promise,” Sunny said. “But can I ask why that’s so important to you?”
“Well, I promised her--and that thing was sent to her in the first place.” Alison held out her hand. “Speaking of which…”
“Oh, sure.” Sunny unclasped the necklace and dropped it into Alison’s hand.
Alison pulled her hand out from under the jewel, and the chain ends wrapped around her neck and clasped. When she watched Alison do it, Sunny thought about her dress and the cream and sugar.
“So wait,” Sunny said. “You didn’t have the necklace on when you came in. How the hell did you make the creamer, sugar, and my dress move without it?”
Alison was positive her poker face sucked again.
“You’re gonna tell me,” Sunny said. Alison raised an eyebrow and shook her head.
“Not yet,” Alison said. “Play with this, and we’ll go from there.” Alison held her hand out to Sunny. “And promise me one more time--that you will not use this anywhere or show anyone until you talk to Claire and I.”
“I promise, Alison. One more time.” Sunny shook her hand. “And, seriously--thanks for including me. I mean it.” Sunny’s eyes narrowed. “What if you don’t convince Claire to let me in on this?”
“I will,” Alison said. “But first, I gotta beat Claire back to her house.” Alison held her hand out, and her purse sailed up to hook it. “The little Roland might be in tow too.”
“How’s she doing?”
“She fucked up at school, I think. Claire had to go down there.”
“Hope it’s nothing serious,” Sunny said. “I always liked Cassie.”
“You and Claire should get over your shit,” Alison said. “It’s been a while now, and neither of you are even with him.”
“I guess that starts with you,” Sunny chuckled. “Good luck making a case for me.”
“This is weird,” Alison said, holding up the pendant. “It’s like the weirdest thing ever. It’s amazing, but it’s also kinda scary.” She sighed. “I think Claire knows we need people we can trust.”
“We’ll see,” Sunny said.
When Claire and Cassie got to the house, everything was sparkling. Claire suspected that everything got the works as Alison practiced, and she was happy to see everything in its place before they walked in.
“Sure, AOK.” Alison looked up at Cassie. “Hey, Cass.” Cassie smiled and waved at Alison, heading straight for the basement door.
“I’m gonna take a nap. I’ll be around later,” She said. Alison looked at Claire, who shrugged.
“We talked. She’ll be okay.” Once Cassie had completely descended the stairs, Claire was back on task. “Where’s the necklace?”
Alison smiled and hooked a finger toward her purse, which hovered off the dining room table and sailed over to her.
“Hey--watch that shit when she’s here,” Claire added, motioning to the basement door.
“I know, I know.” Alison pulled the necklace out of the bag and handed it to Claire.
Before long, Claire let loose, talking about Cassie’s situation, the implications of the necklace, its origin, and what they should do next. Alison encouraged her to wear the necklace again and use it on more things--to feel it out more broadly. Seeing Sunny pick it up so quickly made her want to rebalance the fulcrum.
With a little encouragement, Claire was juggling things from the pantry, stacking chairs and utensils...they were playing around a little in the kitchen, and Claire watched a butterknife spread jam on her toast as she brought it up again.
“I worry most about where this came from--and whether it’s supposed to be in my hands or not,” Claire said, holding the pendant.
“It was addressed to you,” Alison said.
Alison could only shrug.
“Thanks for weathering all this weirdness with me,” Claire said. “I wouldn’t have known what to do, Al.” Alison nodded, smiling at her. When she saw the gratitude in Claire’s eyes, she realized this was her in.
“Speaking of which, what do you think about sharing the burden a little more and letting someone else in on this?” Claire’s brow furrowed at Alison’s question.’
“Like who?” Claire asked.
“Someone we both know?” Alison said, “Someone who already knows our personal stuff and our dark secrets?” Alison watched Claire’s gaze drop when she said it.
“You mean Sunny,” Claire said, sounding flustered.
Downstairs, Cassie’s door was locked. She was taking small, hideable drags from a pipe, scrolling through her phone. Eventually, she stood from her bed and walked up to her dresser.
She opened a drawer, then another, finding exactly what she was looking for. She thought about where she’d left it and realized it had been a couple of weeks. She couldn’t remember.
All she knew is that she didn’t want to be bothered--and she wanted to take her mind off of wasting half an academic year. She put the vibrator on the bedstand and crawled under her sheets..