I remember the Chrome Girl.
She was a Gift-Giver and I was a Quester. She had magic and I wanted it, no matter the price.
It was the Summer between my Freshman and Sophomore year of college and the Magic Plague was still new. People were changing as fast as the times. Magic was everywhere. There weren’t any laws to limit it yet, so anyone who had any magic threw it around pretty carelessly. But, it was something that mankind had dreamed for for centuries, so we embraced the changes with out thinking of the dangers.
I was no different. I grew up reading comic books. When I was in the lower grades, having super powers was all I thought about. I always wanted to fly. Wings, no wings. It didn’t matter. I just wanted to fly like a superhero.
No one can remember when the first sorcerer showed up, but I can remember the first time I saw magic in person. It wasn’t the Chrome Girl. She came later. The first was a guy juggling fire on the library quad at college. He didn’t even move his hands. Just held them there and the balls of fire danced around in a circle.
I was hooked.
By that time, everyone knew how you got the magic. It was like the Clap or herpes. I guess you’d call it a down-side, but it didn’t seem that way to a college kid. Magic as an STD? Hey, that was just a bonus. Get lucky one night and you might walk away with the power to read minds.
Of course, no one talked about the guy who was always on fire. Or, Mister Midas who, like his mythological namesake, turned everything to gold. His heirs didn’t even end up with much, since it wasn’t even real gold. Just pyrite. Fool’s gold.
In the end, I guess that’s all it was for any of us.
But, I was young and stupid, so I started hanging around with some of the Changed. I got to know some, but none that wanted to share the Gift. They tolerated me, though, as long as I bought more than my share of the drinks. Then, the Chrome Girl showed up. She didn’t seem to mind that I was just a Quester. That’s what they called guys like me back then. Those fools who chased magic thinking we understood the risks. Hell, back then, no one understood the risks.
But, the Chrome Girl didn’t care. She was willing to share the Gift. We had sex three times before I caught it and started to change. She didn’t even mind that I wasn’t very good in bed. After I caught the Plague, she told me about her life before she changed. She even showed me a picture of herself taken at her prom the night before she caught it. Her date had blue fire instead of hair and his eyes were silver. She was sort of plain, though. Just another mousy brunette. Nothing all that outstanding about her. Not bad looking or homely or anything, but not spectacular, either.
“My God, if that’s how she started out then what’s going to happen to me?” That’s the last thing I remember thinking before the pain started.
Three hours later, I was in a coma that lasted a week. When I woke up the first clue I had that I was “different” was the forced smile on the nurse’s face. Underneath her smile, I could see the fear. Hell, I could smell it. Literally. I tried to reach up and touch my face, but my arms were in restraints. My hands had changed into claws. I had paws like some kind of demonic monkey.
Once the nurse understood that I was still human, she tried to talk to me. It was hard for me to talk, at first, but I got used to the extra teeth and the jutting jaw pretty quick. It took me a few minutes to get her to understand that I wanted to see my face. She hesitated, so I knew it had to be bad, but she got me a mirror anyway.
While she was away, I found that my back hurt. Like there were too many muscles knotted up under my shoulders. I started to panic a little wondering how horrible I really looked. Was I going to be like the Elephant Man? What had I done to myself? What she showed me in the mirror was better than that. And, worse, too.
I was a demon. At least, that’s how I looked. Horns on my forehead. Sharp teeth forcing themselves out of my mouth. The whole thing. It was pretty bad. Then, I saw the wings.
Well, I got my wish. I can fly now. Of course, I usually only fly at night, thanks to the fundamentalists. They use my picture all the time. The horrors of the Magic Plague, they say. They point to me as the Anti-Christ. Idiots. My lawyers are always busy suing one group of them or another. Defamation of character, slander, or whatever else they can make stick.
So, I take my little night flights and I remember the Chrome Girl who made me what I am today. You know, she joined one of those fundie churches. Every so often they show her screaming for my blood. I try not to be bitter, but it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? She gave me the Gift, but now she calls me evil.