I had just left Sarah Maurer (a girl I walk home with) at her house, and was sketching out plots for Star Trek fanfics in the air, while simultaneously trying not to faint from the heat and the weight of my backpack. We had been having a heat wave, and the school doesn’t have air conditioning.
Then this little cat streaked past me, chased by the neighborhood Idiots. (That’s my nickname for Nick Cialanciolo and his brothers, and Elton Kesto and his brothers. They’re juvenile delinquents, the scourge of Rolling Oaks.) Normally, I wouldn’t have done anything; it was too hot to even think about it.
As Nick passed me, he yelled, “Hey Liceball, what’s up?” I hate when he calls me that. Just because I have curly hair, he thinks that I have little bugs crawling around in my hair. So, naturally, I started bashing him with my backpack.
The Idiots, being total cowards, ran off, leaving me with the cat, who was washing itself. I wondered momentarily what to do, then put my backpack down and cautiously approached it.
This cat had really weird coloring. It was purple with a blue head, and had red front legs and yellow hind legs. It also had a lilac tail, and turquoise ears.
“Okay,” I said, squatting down and trying to see if it had a collar on, “let’s see who you belong to.”
At this, the cat stopped licking her paws and stared at me. I backed away. “Um. Okay. Don’t scratch me.”
“I’m not going to scratch you,” said the cat.
I blinked. “Did you say that, or am I going crazy?”
The cat sighed, or as near a cat can get to sighing. “You’re not crazy. My name is Selene. And you are Sailor Thoth.”
“Um, no, actually my name’s Theresa,” I said.
“No, no, not your name,” explained Selene. “You see, I come from the moon. I used to live in Crystal Tokyo, until the Negaverse demons destroyed it. Now, I’m trying to protect the Earth from getting destroyed too. The Sailor Scouts are helping. Exactly how much sense am I making here?”
“None at all,” I said with a laugh. “Let’s go up to Forest playground; it’s a lot cooler there.”
Forest is the elementary school in our subdivision. The only good thing about it is the playground, which is huge. They have this set of swings under these really tall, old oak trees, which is where I always go.
“So,” I said to Selene, once we were settled in the swings, “tell me about the Sailor Scouts.”
Selene told me about the Sailor Scouts, and about Crystal Tokyo (which I kind of resent, by the way. If Tokyo can have a crystal doppelganger, why can’t Detroit?) and about the Negaverse, and some other stuff that made no sense whatsoever. It sounded like Noah Goodman’s book report on Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time series. (It was pretty funny, actually. He said that the Meg going into the mitochondria meant that she had the Force. He also said that IT was a metaphor for Bill Clinton. I don’t think he read the books all the way through.)
“So,” I said to Selene when she was done, “you’re telling me that I’m a Sailor Scout?”
“Yes,” said Selene.
“And I’m Sailor Thoth?” I said.
At this point I should probably explain something. For those of you living under rocks, a few days ago, scientists discovered a new planet orbiting around Vega. They called it Thoth, which made me lose a bet with Lannon. (The bet was that I thought they would name it either Persephone or Rupert. Lannon, who has never read Mostly Harmless, thought they would name it after one of the ancient gods. I lost five dollars and an evil Japanese Charmeleon card with a really sweet picture. Apparently, no one at the research center is a Douglas Adams fan, either.)
“Exactly,” said Selene, nodding.
“Great.” I shrugged. “So, when do I get the staff and outfit and tiara?” That’s the only thing I really knew about “Sailor Moon,” and then that was only because Leah gave me one of her fan art drawings that she messed up on.
“Ah, well, that’s sort of a subject it would be best not to get started on.” Selene shifted in her seat. “You see, you don’t get the tiara and everything. You’re not exactly a straightforward, kick-the-bad-guy’s-butt type of person, are you.”
“So?” I twisted around in the swing.
“That’s the kind of Sailor Scout you’re going to be. It mirrors your personality. Your staff will be a fountain pen. You won’t wear a tiara. And you don’t have to wear the outfit.”
It made sense to me, in a metaphorical sort of way. Writers don’t have to wear business suits and ties when they go to work. And they don’t have secretaries or coworkers as a general rule. They don’t have anything to denote their rank in any business except for the awards they win.
“Sounds cool,” I said. I didn’t really want the whole staff-and-tiara deal anyway. The outfit would probably look really bad on me, and I’d lose the tiara. The only thing I was disappointed about was the staff. I had a pretty cool staff at home though, a tall wooden one with a bronze dragon curled around a crystal at the top. I had gotten it at the Ann Arbor Art Fair.
“Just one thing,” I added. “A fountain pen?”
Selene bobbed her head. “A fountain pen. With a gold nib, and a silver barrel. It’s in your desk, at home, in the drawer you always keep locked.”
I shrugged. “Makes as much sense as anything. So is that about it?”
“Yup, that’s it,” said Selene, jumping off the swing. “I’ll be around if you need anything.”
“Where will you be?” I asked. “You can’t exactly stay at my house, my mom’s allergic to cats.”
Selene thought. “Do you have sort of a special place you like to go, when you’re stressed?”
“Yeah,” I said, “here. and a cul-de-sac off of Oak Valley Road.”
“Well, I’ll be around there,” said Selene. “See ya.”
“See ya,” I said, getting up. Suddenly, I remembered something I had heard Leah Thomas saying.
“Does all this Sailor Scout stuff mean I’m from the moon?” I called to Selene.
Selene turned. “Actually, you’re from Thoth,” she yelled, verifying one of my strangest daydreams.
I got home and threw my backpack on the couch, not realizing that Brian (my little brother) was sitting right where I had thrown it.
“Theresa!” squawked Brian. “I’m telling!”
“Oh, sorry Brian,” I apologized, removing my backpack.
Brian made an overly injured face and kept reading. I dumped my backpack by the couch and raced upstairs, took the key to the drawer from under my lamp, and unlocked the drawer. I paused, wondering if I should open the drawer with the proper reverence and all for what would probably be one of the most important things in my life, but decided to heck with it. I yanked open the drawer.
Sitting there, crosswise on top of the note I got from a certain amazingly cute boy whose name shall go unmentioned (Antoine Lebovic), was a fountain pen. A silver one, with a gold nib. I held it up and looked it over.
There were dragons coiled around it, and UFOs on it, and rockets, and unicorns, and all these fantastical drawings in the tiniest, tiniest detail. I fell in love with it immediately. I sat down heavily on my bed and studied it. The drawings kept changing. I could see a rocket blasting off from some planet with two rings set at different angles around it, and the dragon was breathing fire at a wizard. As I watched, the wizard raised his staff and yelled at the dragon, which stopped breathing fire and fell dead on the ground. The rocket landed on the remains of the dragon and three men stepped out. One of them raised his hand in greeting, and was snapped up by another dragon, presumably the dead dragon’s mate.
“THERESA!” yelled Brian.
“What?” I called, after throwing the pen back into my drawer and slamming it shut.
“Lannon’s on the phone for you!” explained Brian loudly.
I flew down the stairs and snatched the phone from Brian. “Lannon?”
“Theresa, I forgot to—”
“That’s okay, I totally forgot all about it too,” I said quickly. “Something really huge and really weird just happened to me, and if it just turns out to be my imagination, it’s going to make one mother of all fanfics. I’ll tell you on Monday because my brother’s listening. If I don’t see you before class—” I lowered my voice so Brian couldn’t hear and blackmail me “—meet me at the Taco Bell next to Warner.”
“Hold on a sec,” said Lannon. “You said it’s gonna be the mother of all fanfics. What happened? Did Janeway beam down and ask for directions to the Alpha Quadrant? Did Xena show up and cut someone’s head off? Maybe Buffy just killed Nick Cialanciolo ’cause he’s a demon? Or did the Joker just take your brother hostage?”
“Neither,” I said, giggling. “I’ll tell you about it Monday.”
Monday finally came and Lannon was full of apprehension. “So, tell me what happened already,” she said, when I slid into my seat at the Taco Bell.
“Okay,” I said, taking a bite of my seven-layer burrito. “Do you ever watch Sailor Moon?”
Lannon frowned. “The one about the girl who’s supposed to have superpowers, but every time a bad guy shows up she runs away screaming?”
“Something like that,” I said. “I take it you don’t watch it much.”
“One episode,” said Lannon, munching on her taco. “So, what does an anime show have to do with all this?”
“Well,” I said, “you know how in Sailor Moon they’re all named after planets?”
“Yeah,” said Lannon.
“Well,” I said, “did you ever wonder who the Sailor for planet Thoth was?”
“Let me guess,” said Lannon, putting down her taco. “Leah Thomas called you and told you she was Sailor Thoth, and asked you to write a story about it.”
“Nope,” I said.
Lannon sighed. “Then tell me.”
I cleared my throat. “I,” I said, “am Sailor Thoth.”
“No,” said Lannon, “I mean really.”
“I am,” I said. “Really.”
Lannon stared at me. “Theresa, let me give you the number of a good shrink…”
I took out the pen from my backpack. “Here, look at this.” I gave her the pen.
Lannon took it and stared at it. While she’s staring at it, I should tell you what we both look like. (I apologize for doing this so late in the story, but until now I didn’t have time to catch my breath.)
Lannon is fairly tall and large. She has the build of a boy, and has been mistaken for one. Lannon has straight blonde hair that is the color of extremely fake gold and is cut like a boy’s hair, full lips, blue eyes, and glasses. She usually wears dangly earrings that serve mostly to announce she is not actually a boy. However, when you have been around her as long as I have you wonder how anyone could mistake her for a guy.
I, on the other hand, do not look anything at all like a guy but not that much like a girl, either. I look, in my opinion, rather like a human that has been raised on Mars for most of her life and just now came to Earth. (I am referring to Mike Smith from Stranger in a Strange Land, for those of you who don’t know.)
I have large doe eyes that are misty hazel, and brown, extremely curly hair that I keep fairly short. I have a very straight Roman nose. I usually wear dangly earrings that look very good on me, and I have (according to my mom) “an extremely womanly build.” (Don’t you dare laugh.)
Lannon finally broke her gaze and handed it back to me. “Wow,” she said.
“Exactly,” I said.
“So,” said Lannon, returning to her taco, “exactly what do you have to do?”
I shrugged. “Oh, you know. The usual. Fight the bad guys and try to keep my parents from finding out.” I took a large bite of my burrito.
“You know,” said Lannon through her taco, “I never could understand that last part. Why can’t you tell anyone?”
“I suppose because your parents might be the bad guys. Like in Animorphs, they can’t tell their parents because their parents might be Controllers. Stuff like that.” I took a sip of my Dr. Pepper.
“Ah,” said Lannon. “Aren’t the Negaverse monsters…it is the Negaverse, right?”
“I think,” I said.
“Aren’t they either people with glowing eyes that look anorexic and have shapes on their foreheads, or things that look like evil versions of people from Ursula Le Guin stories?” Lannon asked.
“Umm…I think they’re sort of like succubim, only they dress like Goths and have weird superpowers. And in the episode I saw, they had a deck of cards that they made monsters come out of.” I took a large drink of pop. “And then there’s this little cat that’s on Sailor Moon’s daughter’s side, but her daughter is evil, but she used to be good.”
“Isn’t Sailor Moon like, fourteen years old?” asked Lannon. “And isn’t that too young to have a daughter?”
I shrugged. “It’s Japanese animation. And besides, I think they’re older than that. I don’t know anything about it, really.”
“LANNON! THERESA!” yelled Jay at the counter. (Jay works at the Taco Bell. He’s sort of a friend of ours.) “The lunch bell just rang at Warner!”
“Oh, shi…shoot,” said Lannon. “I’m gonna be late for gym.” She grabbed her taco and crammed it in her mouth, then picked up the wrapper and pushed it into the trash bin.
“Late for gym class? I’m going to be late for computer class. That’s much worse than being late for gym class.” I threw my garbage into the bin and shot out the door.
“Theresa,” whispered Leah Thomas to me.
“Leah, not now,” I hissed back.
“Theresa, where’s that pen I lent you?” persisted Leah.
“Leah…” I groaned. “Look, I need to work on this web page. I don’t have time for…this…” I suddenly realized that the pen Leah Thomas had lent me had turned into the pen Selene had given me. It was really too bad; it had been Leah’s favorite pen, after all.
“Something wrong here?” asked Ms. Wallace, the computer teacher. Ms. Wallace is sort of an odd teacher. She has a very high, squeaky voice, and never stops smiling. She is the only person I know (besides Bill Gates) who uses terms like “interfacing with the keyboard.”
“Theresa borrowed my Sailor Moon pen and she won’t give it back,” said Leah.
Ms. Wallace folded her hands. “Theresa, did you borrow Leah’s pen?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I…have it at home. I’ll give it back tomorrow.” I made a mental note to find a store that sold Sailor Moon pens.
Ms. Wallace nodded. “Okay, great.” She then disappeared into the CAD lab, where Omar and a bunch of his buddies were trying to draw pictures of naked people on the computer.
Leah twisted around in her seat to face me. “Did you know that they’re making a new version of Sailor Moon? It’s called Sailor Moon Beyond. It’s like Dragon Ball Z as opposed to just Dragon Ball, or Batman Beyond. It’s going to have Chibi, and it’s also going to have Queen Beryl’s daughter, who’s going to be named Nocturna, and the cats are named Diana and Astra.”
“Cool,” I said, my eyes locked on the computer screen. “Did you know I’m Sailor Thoth?”
Leah sat bolt upright in her seat. “You’re kidding.”
“Nope,” I said. “I really am Sailor Thoth.”
“Omygaw,” said Karen Roekle, who is also an anime freak and sits right behind me, “you’re Sailor Thoth?”
I grinned and twisted my chair around to face her. “Yup. I am the representative of the planet Thoth in the Sailor Scouts.”
“Cool,” said Leah. “Do you have a staff? What are your powers? Where’s your tiara?”
“I have no staff, no tiara, nothing but a magic fountain pen,” I said. “It’s yours, actually, because the pen you lent me turned into it.”
Leah shrugged. “Keep it, it’s yours. Oh my gawd, this is so cool. Who else is there?”
“No one yet,” I said. Then the bell rang, so I couldn’t answer the questions that Karen started firing at me.
“YO! RACHEL!” Lannon ran at me, waving her backpack over her head.
“Lannon?” I stopped short. “Oh, that’s right. You were coming over today.”
“Yeah,” said Lannon. “So which bus is it?”
I surveyed the long line of buses. “Um…it’s that one. No wait, that’s not it…Just look for Route 57.”
“It’s right in front of you,” Lannon pointed out.
“Oh,” I said.
Pushing through the crowd of annoying seventh graders, we eventually got onto the bus. Almost all the seats were taken, except the one by the bus driver.
“Hey!” yelled Jacob Taylor, an annoying little sixth grader. “You can’t sit there!”
Leslie Sutton, another sixth grader, rolled her eyes and poked Jacob in the back. “Jake, they’re eighth graders,” she whispered in a piercing hiss.
“Oh.” Jake sat back contritely. “Hey, why aren’t you sitting in the back with the rest of the eighth graders?”
“‘Cause they’re all jerks,” I replied. That seemed to satisfy Jacob. He sat back in his seat and continued a heated discussion with another sixth grader of the relative merits of Digimon versus Dragon Ball Z.
Lannon sighed. “Great. So, what’s up?”
“Nothing in particular, besides what I told you at lunch,” I said.
Lannon turned to face me, her elbow digging into the arm of a particularly volatile seventh-grade girl, Shayna Farber, who was sitting behind us. I started to warn her, but it was too late.
“HEY!” yelled Shayna. “Yo’ don’t hit me like that!”
“I didn’t hit you,” replied Lannon calmly.
“Yes yo’ did,” screeched Shayna. “Y’all hit me with yo’ elbow. Y’all see?” She pointed to her elbow. “There’s a bruise!” There wasn’t one.
Lannon cast a questioning look at me. I leaned over and whispered, “I’ll take care of this.”
I sighed and tried to reason with Shayna, which proved to be a mistake. “Shayna, will you just shut up?”
“NO!” shrieked Shayna, so loudly the entire bus turned to look. In the back, Jason Colquitt, the resident headphone freak, actually cringed. “SHE HIT ME!”
I jumped out of my seat. “Don’t you dare scream at me like that.”
“Oh yeah?” Shayna was incensed. “Well, you just take yo’ mouth and shove it up yo’ ass, because…” She went on like that for a few minutes. After about five minutes, I calmly and deliberately opened my backpack, took out some cheesy sword-and-sorcery novel I had checked out of the library, and started reading it.
“What?” Shayna stopped in mid-rant. “Look girl, y’all don’t ignore me while I’m talking to yo’.”
I put down the book and replied, “After a few minutes, your rant ceases to hold my attention. If you want to argue, you can reason with me like an actual human being and not some half-deranged animal.” There was a chorus of “Oooh”s and “She dissed you”s from the rest of the bus.
Shayna made what she apparently thought was a threatening face. “Hey girl, yo’ want to take this outside?” Everybody started chanting, “Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”
“Later, Shayna,” I said, then returned to my book, wondering how you could take something on a bus “outside.”
After getting off the bus and walking the incredible distance to my house (three whole blocks) we settled down in the basement for a snack. Lannon kicked off her ratty old sandals and stretched out on the couch with a Sprite. “Aahh, the luxury of air conditioning.” She took a huge swig of her pop and let out a huge burp. I applauded.
Lannon put her Sprite down on the table. “This is great. Is there any chocolate in the house?”
“My mom keeps some in the fridge down here in case of emergencies,” I replied. “I think she bought M&Ms.”
“Great,” said Lannon, swinging off the couch. She went over and rummaged through the refrigerator. “Hmm, ice cream. What kind do you have…ooh. Unmerciful Chocolate Destruction. That sounds good. Oh, here they are.” She hauled out a jumbo bag of crispy M&Ms and tossed it to me. I ripped off the top and stuffed some in my mouth, then held out the bag to Lannon.
Lannon took a handful and tossed one in her mouth. “Theresa,” she began. “I have something really important to tell you.”
“You’re moving to England,” I guessed. “Your grandma died. Your mom’s pregnant. You just found out your dad’s an alien. Your little brother was kidnapped by zombies. You’re coming out of the closet.”
Lannon threw her bottle cap at me on that last suggestion. “I may have a mind that’s oozing with gutter scum, but I ain’t gay,” she said. “Nope. None of those.”
I sighed. “All right. What happened?”
Lannon curled up on the couch. “I,” she said, “am Sailor Qo’noS.”
I gaped at her. “What? You’re kidding. No way. Qo’noS isn’t a real place. Who told you this?”
Lannon grinned. “First things first. I am Sailor Qo’noS. I’m not kidding. It’s true. Qo’noS is a real place in the Star Trek ficton; you were right about that parallel universe thing. And Libby told me this.”
Okay, time for another long-winded explanation. Qo’noS, in case you don’t know, is the planet that Klingons come from. Lannon believes that she is a Klingon, or at least has the mind of one. She was referring to a theory I created a while back, after I read Robert Heinlein’s Number of the Beast. The theory was that every universe that you read about actually exists, but it’s sort of a higher version of a parallel universe. Libby, by the way, is her cat. She’s a calico cat.
“Libby,” I said, “told you this.”
“Yup,” said Lannon. “She tried to explain to me about the whole Sailor Moon thing, but Gabe interrupted.” Gabe is Lannon’s little brother. He’s six years old and so cute.
“Great,” I said. “So tell me about it.” I sat down next to Lannon.