After twenty minutes, Raven forced herself out of bed. She headed to the door Micah had pointed out earlier. She figured it was a bathroom. Opening it, sure enough, it was a bathroom. Stepping inside, the automatic lights came on and she looked around. She had secretly hoped for a shower, but there wasn’t one. She sighed and took a look at the mirror. She cringed.
There was no way around it. She looked terrible. Her hair was fried and danced across her shoulder like a halo of blue fluff. Her purple eyes looked murky, the usual bright magenta flecks were almost nonexistent. She had smudges of ash on her face, though it looked like someone had attempted to clean her up. Did Micah flirt with her looking like this? Maybe it was a pity flirt since his Dad almost killed her. She sighed deeply and looked around.
A basin with soap and towels sat on the back of the toilet. This would have to do. Quickly stripping, Raven gave herself a ten-minute scrub down. She didn’t have the luxury of shampoo to wash her hair, so instead she attempted to contort her body enough to rinse her hair in the sink. She needed to get the smell of smoke out and attempt to relax her natural curls. She’d pay for not doing something better with her hair later, but it was the best she could do on short notice.
After finishing up, she turned to the door where her new clothes hung and balked. Hanging from the door was a beautiful white sundress. Blue butterflies danced around the hem. It was simple and pretty and so not her style. She liked dresses, but she rarely wore them. She hated having to worry about how she was supposed to sit and move in them.
“Oh well, better than being naked,” she mumbled and grabbed the dress. She pulled it on and looked around her. “Shoes would be good.”
She didn’t see any. Frowning, she stepped out of the bathroom and looked around. After some searching, she found her tennis shoes, a little singed, but wearable and socks. Putting them on, she laughed to herself. Not exactly the greatest fashion statement, but it would do.
She plopped down on the bed and glanced at the clock. Another five minutes before Micah showed up. She glanced around her, wondering where they put her stuff. Besides her socks and shoes, she hadn’t seen a sign of any of her things. She knew her clothes were goners, but where were her phone and wallet? She started to get up, grabbing the edge of the bed when she stopped. There was a weird indention in the metal bed frame.
Taking a closer look, Raven’s eyes widened at the bent metal. There was the barest imprint of fingers. Swallowing, Raven slid her hand into the grooves. It matched her fingers perfectly.
I did this? How? When?
She remembered grabbing the edge of the bed when she first saw Dr. Kesson. She had been furious to see him and…was that what caused the indentions?
A knock sounded on the door. Raven hurried and threw the blankets over the edge of the bed, before standing up. “Come in.”
Micah opened the door. “Raven…” He stared at her.
Raven shifted nervously. Micah continued to stare at her with an intense expression.
“You’re staring,” she blurted out.
He blinked as if coming back to himself. He put his hand behind his head and looked to the side. “Yes, I was. Sorry. Are you ready?”
She nodded, wondering what that had been about. She picked up her new badge and stabilizer ring and walked to Micah’s side. “Lead on.”
He nodded and led out of the room and down the hall. They walked in silence. Raven felt uncomfortable and wasn’t sure if she might have done something wrong. Micah seemed more distant than before. “Do you know where they put my things?”
Micah didn’t look at her. “Unfortunately, your phone was destroyed. My dad is going to replace it. Sorry about that. The rest of your things are in a locker. You can pick them up after the Core Awakening.”
“Oh,” she said. “That sort of sucks.” She couldn’t even remember the last time she backed up her data. Her shoulders drooped a little.
They continued their walk in silence. Raven feeling more down than before. It wasn’t just her phone. Micah wasn’t saying a word to her. Did something happen?
They reached two double doors and she could hear the sound of people laughing and talking inside. She took a step forward.
Micah grabbed her arm. “Wait,” he said.
She paused, looking up at him questioningly.
“You look nice,” he said.
This time it was Raven’s turn to stare. “Thank you.”
Micah smiled at her as if her response encouraged him. He reached up and rubbed the back of his head. “Tomorrow… would you like to go shopping for that new phone together?”
Joy and hope shot through Raven. “Yeah, that would be fun,” Raven said, grinning.
Micah nodded and his smile grew wider. “Great. I should go, but good luck.”
She waved and turned and opened the door to the auditorium. Had that entire awkward walk been him building up the courage to ask her out? Was this a date? She couldn’t stop smiling. The sound of her name woke her from her daydreaming. She turned to see Penny waving her over. Raven hurried over to her friend and sat down in the seat Penny saved for her.
“So it’s true,” Penny said, her eyes glinting.
“What’s true?” Raven asked, confused.
“Something went down in your Illusion test,” Penny said leaning closer.
Raven pushed her face away. “How did you even know that?”
“I have my sources, besides why else for the wardrobe change?” Penny looked pointedly at the dress she was wearing before her gaze settled on her tennis shoes. “Are those scorch marks?”
Raven held out her badge and new stabilizer ring. Penny snatched them. “For real? Do you even know what this means?”
“I passed,” Raven said, satisfied.
“You didn’t just pass, you’re the only person to have ever passed on the first try.”
“Seriously,” Raven said.
“Wait! You’re a level two! What happened back there?” Penny said sounding a little stunned.
“Attention students,” a woman’s voice boomed across the room.
Raven leaned over. “I’ll explain later.”
Penny didn’t seem happy with that answer but turned to the front of the room as a slim blond woman in a pencil skirt spoke.
“Before we begin the Core Awakenings we will hear a few words from the MDE Director of Research, Dr. Kesson.”
There was a round of applause and some sounds of awe. Dr. Kesson was well known. He and his partner, Dr. Briton, had been the ones to make the most development into understanding magic. Without them, it would have been decades before society managed to get this far in controlling magic. Dr. Kesson’s department made constant movements into understanding magic and researching its usage. Under other circumstances, she would have been in awe too.
Dr. Kesson stepped in front of the microphone. “Welcome to your Awakening!” He flashed a smile. “I’m sure you’re excited, honestly, so am I. I can’t wait to see what your awakenings will bring. But before that, I hope you don’t mind if I yammer at you all.”
Some students laughed while others groaned.
“Hey. I’ll try to keep it interesting. So let’s start with a little special something.” He twirled his finger in the air. The room morphed into an elaborate forest. Fairies danced in the air and rabbits and deer walked through the grass. A gasp went around the room as everyone turned around in wonder.
“As you know Illusion magic isn’t about Illusion unless you’re like me.” Dr. Kesson grinned. “So why do we call it Illusion magic?”
He reached out and caught a fairy in his hand. “The reason we call it Illusion magic is because it’s a fragile magic based on a limited perception of ourselves.”
He leaned forward and blew. A whirlwind spilled from his lips, tearing away the forest. Raven flinched. When she looked around her, they were once again in the Access Facility auditorium.
“Since our perception of ourselves is always changing so does our Illusion magic. Not only that, but Illusion magic is affected by our emotions and confidence. It’s hard to control and extremely unreliable, but it has its own appeal.” He opened his hands and the fairy flew out, leaving a trail of sparkling dust before disappearing.
“Once controlled, it can be useful. But controlling it can take years of training and even then intense situations can cause it to go haywire. This is why we use stabilizers.”
He walked across the stage. “Of course stabilizers are replaced with suppressors after Core Awakening. Why is this?”
Several students raised their hand. Dr. Kesson pointed to a boy with white dreads. “Isn’t it because we don’t need it?”
“I suppose you’re right,” Dr. Kesson said with a smile. “Once your Core magic is awakened there is no need for the more unreliable and potentially dangerous Illusion magic. The only reason Illusion magic is not suppressed right away is because the body needs to have a magic outlet. Without the Core awakened, Illusion magic is the only way to release it.” He looked pensive as he said that, before dismissing whatever thoughts he had with a wave of his hand.
“So what makes Core magic stable?” Dr. Kesson asked, looking around.
Raven frowned. She had never thought about what made Core magic stable, she just knew that it was. Looking around, she noticed that the rest of her classmates looked as confused as she was.
“Well, that’s the secret about awakenings,” Dr. Kesson said in a stage whisper. “Core magic is stronger and more stable because Core magic is who you are deep inside. And who we are at our core never changes. It develops into a stronger and firmer aspect of ourselves. So today, everyone, you get to find out who you are deep down in your core. Good luck!”
And with that, Dr. Kesson walked off the stage.