A comet exploded through the clouds. In its wake a long tail of red and orange disturbed the soft white of the upper stratosphere, leaving a bright puncture wound in the sky. Standing by the ancient tree that his father planted the boy looked up. He was alone, except for the tree, with no one to share this magnificent sight. The comet fell from the sky with such fury that it burned brighter than the sun, falling, shooting right for the boy. He didn’t move and accepted his fate, letting go of the tree that his parents were buried next to. In an explosion of red, orange, and white the comet struck the tree and engulfed the area in a ball of light.
Shortly thereafter the crater started to fizzle with blue lightning, and out of the lightning came a figure pulsing with electricity, taller than the boy, with tough, sinewy muscle. The boy was transformed by the alien comet and by the alien tech inside, becoming the hero that would save Earth from the impending doom, the Thundershadow.
“Hmm.” Ryder swiped his finger on the tablet, turning the page of the comic. A splash screen appeared showing Thundershadow standing up from the crater, muscles rippling, sparks shooting out of the skin-tight blue suit. The superhero’s name appeared on the top of the page.
The art style was cool but the writing was too typical and cliche. Totally not worth the five bucks his mom spent to buy it. But he continued reading anyways after pushing his glasses up. He’d finish it in three minutes anyways. When he pressed and swiped to the next page the screen jumped a little. That was weird. The tablet was pretty old. Ryder would ask his parents for a newer model when they got home. He looked at his smartwatch. Only a few more hours till they’d get home, then he’d ask them. The two large living rooms behind him were empty and quiet, except for the grand piano by the staircase. The piano reminded him of the tree from the comic, except both his parents were still alive.
After reading through and glancing at some of the pages he became tired of the trite language, the old school style of broadcasting the character’s thoughts through text bubbles. It was much more interesting to try and figure out what the character was thinking, rather than reading it flat-out. It was like reading minds.
The tablet started to shutter, this time the comic panels popped in out of each other’s frames, the images distorting and tearing. Ryder shook the tablet, hoping that would fix it. And it did, at least momentarily. The text on the page twitched. He continued reading, squinting through the distorted text. Thundershadow was fighting the villain Silver Lion. Ryder became immersed in the fight on the page, with the colorful lightning and the heatwave blasts. He read a single word and his chest tightened. He had to go back and re-read the word several times. It didn’t make sense, it couldn’t be.
The speech bubble read: “Where am I…? What is this? Ryder? Can you hear me?”
He dropped the tablet, the panels were still popping into each other, like a graphical bug. He read the name, his name, on the screen a few times before he picked up the tablet again. Tonya, this had to be Tonya. But he hadn’t talked to her in a few days. He missed the times he spent with her and the others, Cody and Kumar. When they played near the creek in Tonya’s backyard, or in the woods in Cody’s backyard, or around the train tracks near Kumar’s place. He picked up the tablet and spoke into the mic, “Hey Tonya.”
The text started to distort even further, colors started to mix, black and green scanlines blurred the images. Ryder rolled his eyes. He looked at his smartwatch which also started to freak out, causing the screen to flash with random colors. “Damn it, Tonya! Stop!”
No answer came from the two devices. He would often chat with Tonya and Kumar on his watch and Cody was notorious for being behind on technology, so it couldn’t have been him. Why would any of them want to mess with him though? He was always so nice and they knew how he felt about the bullying and being picked on.
He crossed his arms and started pacing around the living room, feeling suddenly alone, even more alone, since neither device was working. He thought about getting in the pool in the back but he would just be floating back there, staring at the sky, waiting for his friends to come over or waiting for something, anything to happen.
When Ryder passed in front of the workout mirror, he thought he saw a glimmer. The “smart gym” mirror displayed workout routines while at the same time showing how sweaty and gross the user can get while working out, if his parents ever decided to use it.
His own scrawny, pale reflection, one filled with insecure timidness, started to distort with scanlines. Someone was pranking him and he didn’t like it. The image shifted, changing from his own face to a plethora of colors and oblong shapes. Ryder’s mouth was open when a series of cloudy colors began forming a solid shape, a tall figure. A skinny blue face with pointy ears appeared out of the colorful mist, a male face. His body appeared next, clad in thin, tight leather armor, embroidered with serpents, runic symbols, a lightning symbol on his chest, and blue lining around his slender muscles.
“Wow…” Ryder’s eyes became wide. “How did you do that?”
The blue fantasy character stood there and looked down at him, nervousness in his eyes. “N-nice to meet you. You are Ryder, yes? I’ve been sent here on a mission to save both our worlds from an impending doom. Your friends need your help.”
The man had a frailness to his voice. This was a fully immersive prank…He decided to play along. “That’s a nifty suit. I don’t know how much help I can be.” How could he help? They never needed his help before.
The blue man touched his armor softly. “M-my name is Tempest, from the Paralaya realm. Native to…. hmm I guess I never had a home. I’m afraid I didn’t think I could be of much help either. Until Illyion entrusted her transformative spells to me. She doesn’t trust anyone with them, even her friends, which means things have become very dire”
Ryder tapped his watch again. “Is there a supervillain involved?”
“Hmm, that’s a scary term. Yes, I suppose there is.” Tempest looked down. “If only we could have stopped him during the Plague Wars. W-we haven’t much time. Illyion tells me Cody is in grave–“
“Cody?” So he was the one playing the prank. “He’s better at math and stuff than me. He’s even in a younger grade than me. My friends usually only want something from me when it involves money. Which my parents give me.”
“I’m…” Tempest scratched his head. “Sometimes parents can be difficult. I wasn’t what they were expecting I suppose.” The man twirled his long ear.
Ryder could still see his own reflection in the glass. He came to the man’s chest. “What kind of game is this? What’s the objective?”
“Prevent our two worlds from colliding, save your species, stop this…super villain. Easy really…perhaps. But we have to save your friend first. Phaeton has laid siege to Cody’s abode. Cody is tethered there by the evil wizard. From my own experience Phaeton will stop at nothing to subjugate your race, put them in chains, and march them to their deaths. If only to make them suffer for being different.” He rubbed his wrists. “Regardless, Phaeton has entered your world and I will do anything for a chance to stop him, including letting you use my body to do so. Temporarily of course…I hope.”
The man, this Tempest character, appeared to have the physique of a lightweight wrestler but the glowing blue lines around his armor suggested he had powers. “Seems legit…” Ryder said with a monotone sarcasm. He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out the hard rubber ball that he carried with him everywhere. The ball had teeth marks in it, German Shepherd teeth marks. He remembered when his parents took the dog to the vet and never brought him home. They never told him what happened, only telling him that Terry “went on a long vacation.” It would have been better if they told him the truth, the truth that they always try to hide from him, the truth that his close friend was gone and would never return. He should have gone with Terry to the vet. He should have stayed at his side, stayed until the end.
“I’m in, whatever this is, I’m in.” Ryder held the ball to his chest and put it back in his pocket. “What do I need to do and what are your abilities?”
Tempest’s eyes grew wide as if he had been waiting for the question for a long time. “I believe if we make contact through this reflective surface it might allow me to use the dimensional alchemy spell to break through, allowing you to take control of my body.” He put his hands on the mirror and looked into Ryder’s eyes with a heavy expression. “As my name suggests I am a lightning mage and…”
Ryder quickly put his hands on the mirrored glass, matching his hands to the mage’s. “Oh, hell yeah, let’s do this.” He didn’t know what to expect next as he stood there staring into the face of a perplexed magical being.
“O-okay. I assumed it would be harder to compel you.”
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for my entire life.” Even though he hadn’t lived much of a life so far…
A bright, glowing light appeared behind Tempest as his eyes closed and his face contorted as if in pain but also reverence, as if he were praying hard, trying to conjure invisible elements with his energy. Ryder felt the energy in his hands, the soft vibrations in his fingers, and became blinded by increasingly vibrant light. Before he realized it there was a force of energy pushing him back. How…was this possible? There wasn’t a fan in this thing, was there? He pressed hard against the mirror until his hands became numb, pushing forward, until his hands curled. The flat surface was gone and he was no longer pushing, but moving slowly forward against the repelling energy. Was he moving into the mirror…? No, he was moving out of it, stepping forward and down onto the living room floor. The brilliant light and pulsing energy faded and he was alone in the room. But, as he looked around, he could see more detail, and further away. He was taller…and his hands…were blue. The tight armor around his chest, thighs, and legs was more comfortable than he would have thought. That’s when he reached up and felt the long, gremlin-like ears.
Ryder sensed a new kind of warm energy beating in his chest and heard a different tone in his voice, as he finally said, “Oh…my god.”
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