Saturday, February 10, 2018

Episode 4: The Visitor

This is Episode 4 of the first season of Twinstinct.
Thank you for reading!

“Chicago Xenokiller Party Declares Victory; Cleveland Falls.” Vanessa read, looking over the Saturday morning newspaper nervously, “Friday night following Chicago’s fall to the Xenokillers, Mayor Janine Blackman of Cleveland, Ohio was ousted by a group of radical protesters lead by self-proclaimed “anti-Xeno” Leander Lucas. Lucas has been notorious for starting mall riots in the past, but has risen to the top of the Xenokiller movement in recent years.”

Vanessa looked up and turned to her brother. “We have to do something.” she decided, “We can’t just let these guys treat us like this!”
“Well, how do you suppose we do that?” Vander asked, sitting on the couch, “We have no control over our Twinstinct - there is no way we can take down an army on our own.”

Vanessa set down the paper and sat in the chair closer to the television. Her brother was right. They couldn’t take down how ever many thousands of Xenokillers there were; they’d just have to lay low as usual, only fighting if the Xenokillers were to come for them. She wished that they had gone with the man who visited them when they had the chance.

It was September 23, 2020. When the man walked through the door, it was as if time froze. Everyone at the funeral, Cassie’s funeral, felt the energy he radiated. While all others despaired, he shed not a single tear.
“Do I know you?” Susan asked him as he walked by. She had wiped away her tears in the bathroom earlier, but the mere sight of the coffin made her breakdown. She stood between the visitor and her daughter’s body.
“No, you don’t.” he asserted bluntly, “You are Mrs. Susan Smith, I presume?”
Susan nodded, the man continuing, “My condolences, ma’am.”

After a pause, he began again. “I am here to warn you about the safety of your twins. I do apologize, but the matter is life or death.” he briefed, “You know as well as I of their power. They will be very strong one day if you let me help.”

Susan raised her brows at the suspicious man, who not only interrupted her daughter’s funeral but now appeared to be threatening her children. “Who are you?” Susan demanded to know, “What exactly are you getting at?”

“Who I am is of no concern to you, Susan.” the man snapped, “What matters most is the safety of your two remaining children. I am the only one who can help save them if you allow it.”

“What is going on here?” James interrogated, butting into the conversation, “Save who?”

“This man says Vander and Vanessa are in danger.” Susan stated, “But he has yet to explain any details that convince me he is telling the truth.”

The man rolled his eyes. “There is a darkness that stirs in this Realm, and it endangers the life of every magical being here. This includes Vander and Vanessa. The darkness will kill them unless you let me take them away.”

James took out his gun, pointing it at the man. “You are not taking my children anywhere!” he yelled, catching the attention of all those around him, “Tell me your name!”

Smiling, the man held up his hand, brandishing James’s gun for all to see. “If you must know, I am Loki, the Norse god of Mischief.” he introduced, turning the gun into stone and dropping it to the ground, “I am here to take Vander and Vanessa Smith with me to Asgard, where they will be protected from the coming Storm.”

“Loki?” Vander gulped, walking over beside his mother with Vanessa close behind, “That’s a silly name.”

Loki took a breath and squatted down to meet the twins on eye level. He had dark brown eyes, a large nose, and short black hair. He wore a grey trench coat, with shiny black dress shoes. “Hello there, little ones.” he greeted, “How old are you two?”
“Eight, I think.” Vander replied, “How old are you?”

“12,501.” the god answered, “If I remember correctly.”

“Wow, you’re old!” Vander laughed, “You only look 50.”

“Thank you, Vander.” Loki laughed, amused, “Please excuse me, I must speak with your parents. Alone.”

Standing up, Loki, waved his hand in the air, summoning a cloud of putrid grey smoke that seeped out from the walls and swirled around the room. Within seconds, Susan and James found themselves in some kind of dimly lit basement. Loki sat before them in a recliner that was covered in dust.
“I do not have long, Mr. and Mrs. Smith.” Loki told them plainly, “In seven years, the Storm will begin, and your twins will only be saved if they are with me.”
“I can’t lose my children.” Susan responded, her tears returning at the thought of failing another child, “Whatever this Storm is, the Smiths will weather it as a family.”

“Family!” Loki jeered, throwing his head back with a loud laugh, “If you truly want to save your family, you would heed my warning. Asgard will be the only Realm left for those with magic when the Storm is over. All other Realms will become void of the supernatural and extraordinary!”

“My children will be fine without their power.” Susan assured, looking at her husband, “I’d rather see my babies each day than let them go to save their powers - the same powers that Cassie became too reliant on.”
“I agree.” James chimed in, “You have no business here, Loki.”

“You are missing the point.” Loki huffed, “It is not just magic that will be destroyed, but all things supernatural. Your twins will die just like your daughter did, unless they come with me.”

Susan sat down her two eight-year-olds and debated how to tell them they were going on a trip.

“Do you remember the man from Cassie’s funeral?” Susan asked, Vander nodding as Vanessa started tearing up, “Well, he gave us a warning that you two are in danger, and though it kills me to do this, I love you both too much to risk losing you for good.”

“We are sending you to Asgard.” James said, “Loki will watch over you until the Storm passes. When it does, you will come back and we’ll get ice cream.”

“I don’t want to leave you.” Vanessa pouted, “Please don’t send us away!”
“Yeah!” Vander chimed in, “Loki is kinda scary too.”

“We’ve packed your bags.” Susan went on, “Loki will be here shortly to pick you up. I promise we are doing this for your own good.”

“Yes, little ones, and while you are in Asgard, I’ve arranged for you to attend Nortminch Acadamy to teach you to use your powers to their fullest extent.” Loki’s smile made Vander queasy. It made Vanessa want to kick him.

“I’m not going.” Vanessa announced, “I’m staying here.” Sitting down, the eight-year-old stubbornly crossed her arms and hmmfed.

“You will go, for your safety.” Loki cooed, “Fear not, there will be plenty for you to do.”

Vanessa shook her head and Vander sat next to her, their arms bumping against each other for only a moment, sending a blast of energy into Loki’s chest and throwing him against the far wall. He quickly stood up, brushed himself off, and took a deep breath. “You two will not do that again.” he chastised, “I will not stand for your antics!”

“Please don’t send us!” Vander cried, “I don’t like him! He’s old, and scary, and ugly!”

“Too bad!” Loki roared, snapping his fingers and opening a pulsating purple portal to his home Realm, “We are leaving now!”

Susan looked at her twins, and then the angry god before her. “I’m sorry, I can’t let this happen.” she whispered, “Vander! Vanessa! You are going nowhere. I’d never forgive myself if I went through with this!”
“You can’t back out now!” Loki hissed, grabbing Vander’s wrist and pulling him towards the portal, “Your twins are now in my care!” “Mommy!” Vander screamed as Loki tugged him away, “Help!”

Their mother raced into action, taking Vander into her arms and flinging the boy to her husband. “Don’t ever grab my kid like that!” she snarled in the god’s face, “I don’t care who you are - when it comes to my children, you do not stand a chance against me.” Drawing her arm back, Susan swung her fist at Loki, punching him in the face and sending him tumbling backward. Her wedding ring sliced his cheek as he stumbled away, and blood dripped from the wound as he fell back into the portal to Asgard.  

Vanessa looked at the spot where she had last seen the Norse god and wondered if the Xenokillers were the Storm he had warned them about. If so, maybe they should have gone to Asgard with him. Maybe they’d have been safer. Maybe they’d have learned enough about their Twinstinct to beat the Xenokillers. Sighing, Vanessa got up out of her chair and walked to her room. Once inside, she took out her phone and started texting Olivia.

Across the city, NYC mayor Alexandra Maria Cruz prepared for her speech. She ordered her index cards and ran through her major points. She was responding to the Xenokiller Takeovers in Chicago and Cleveland and was ready for the worst. Wearing a black skirt and red jacket, the mayor quickly made her way to the press room, where cameras were waiting.

“There is no room for bigotry of any kind in this country!” Mayor Cruz began, “The Xenokillers in Chicago and Cleveland, to them I say one thing: We don’t want you!”

As the mayor spoke, a slight breeze blew through the room. The lights flickered. And then, a cloud of smoke spiraled up beside the mayor’s podium. People began to scream, and one voice rose to the top of the rest, “It’s a Xeno!”

Then, a woman appeared, dressed in black and her hands ablaze. The mayor was horrified, defenseless as the fire rained down upon her. The smoke cleared quickly, revealing to the cameras the mayor’s lifeless charred body slumped over her podium. The “Xeno” assassin was gone.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Episode 3: Rise of the Xenokillers

This is Episode 3 of the first season of Twinstinct.
Episode 1   Episode 2
Thank you for reading!

Vanessa slammed her bedroom door and flipped the lock. Tears ran down her cheeks and fell to the floor, the girl running over to her bed and burying her face in the pillows. She didn’t want to think, she didn’t want to feel. She just wanted all the emotions to stop. Her sister had been gone for years, yet she could still burst into tears when she thought about her.

The girl glanced over at the door, hearing the knocking from the other side. “Go away!” she yelled. “Please, sweetie. I didn’t mean for it to come out that way.” Susan said, speaking through her daughter’s bedroom door, “Vanessa, I miss her too. And I don’t want to lose you too. That is the only reason I am so strict. I don’t want to fail another child.”

Looking up from her pillow, Vanessa opened her mouth to speak but stopped herself. “Can I please come in?” Susan asked, “I have a confession.”

Outside, Susan waited for a response. Nothing.

Then, the door lock clicked. “Come in.” Vanessa’s voice was faint and distant. Susan turned the knob and walked inside.

“When your sister died, I was heartbroken.” Susan began, sitting next to her daughter on her bed, “I remembered her as a little baby, and when she was your age. And when we had her funeral, I asked myself what I could have done differently, if anything, so that she’d still be with us. And I feared that if I didn’t change something that you or your brother would be next.” Susan took a breath and wiped away a tear that had trailed down the side of her face. “So, I blamed the only thing that the parenting books never mentioned: magic. I thought she had become too dependent on her powers because I didn’t restrict her. I thought that if I restricted your and your brother’s power, then you’d be able to lead a normal life if you were to lose them. That was why I originally asked you to keep your powers secret.”

“Originally?” Vanessa picked out, looking at her mother, “What do you mean?”

“That is my confession.” she sighed in reply, “Vanessa, the world is a dark, evil place and there are many people who are prejudiced against those different from themselves. Some of who would go out of their way to hurt those they don’t like.”

“I know.” Vanessa nodded, “We learn about all this is history.”

“But you know as well as I that hatred and bigotry are not just in your textbooks.” Susan asserted, “Last year, there was an article published about a new group that calls themselves the Xenokillers. They are against anyone they deem to be a ‘Xeno,’ those with magical powers being their main focus. I didn’t want to worry you two, so I threw away the issue and tightened my rules on keeping your magic secret.”
“Vanessa, there are towns in the South and Midwest that, in the past year, have come under Xenokiller control. I’ve tried so hard to hide it from you, but the major news outlets are getting interested in this whole ordeal. Just last week, Salem, Massachusetts elected a new mayor. As it turns out, she is a loyal Xenokiller. People just aren’t accepting of things they don’t understand, and in a world of technology, magic is scary.”

“I’m sorry.” Vanessa apologized, “I didn’t know.”

“Because I didn’t let you know.” Susan cut in, “You have nothing to be sorry for. You may not have told me your magic was acting up, but my secret was far greater. I should be the one apologizing. I just want to do everything in my power to keep you happy, healthy, and alive.”

Vanessa took a breath, then got out her cell phone and searched for information about the Xenokillers her mother told her about. Instantly, the page filled with results from independent reporters and small-town newspapers. “A new movement?” Vanessa read aloud, “Protect our future from the Xenos? Mom, this is awful!”
Susan nodded. “This is why it is so important that you are honest with me and follow the rules.” she breathed, “My heart can’t handle the death of another child, Vanessa, I do not know what I would do if I lost you.” Vanessa’s mother turned away and lowered her head. “I’m sorry I hid it from you.”

Sleep was impossible for Vanessa that night, the girl staring blankly at her alarm clock as it clicked to 12:00. It was officially her birthday now, but she was far from being the ray of sunshine her brother had been the previous morning. She was busy thinking about her conversation with her mom. Xenokillers. How could Vanessa miss something that important? Rolling over, Vanessa pulled her blanket up over her head. Why was she afraid? It was her and her brother with the advantage - the Xenokillers had no magic whatsoever. With their Twinstinct-
Their Twinstinct! Vanessa completely forgot about the issue with their powers. Vander and Vanessa were no match for even a New York City hot dog vendor without their powers! Vanessa was barely 110 lbs. and calling her 5’6” was certainly pushing it. Her brother was probably thirty pounds and three inches more than she, and even he was a ragdoll when it came to physical strength.
The worst part of it all had to be all the years she rolled her eyes at their mother’s rules. Every single time she convinced Vander to “just make an exception this one time”, all those hours of groans and moans when she wasn’t allowed to study the spellbook Cassie had given her, the time she tried separating her powers from her brother’s so they could work on their own. Vanessa shook her head; she had been putting both herself and her brother in enormous danger! Instead of listening to the warnings her mother gave her, Vanessa did whatever aligned with her own motives. She was a terrible person, an awful daughter, and an even worse sister.

Vander grabbed his cell phone off his nightstand and checked the time. It was past midnight, meaning it was no longer his birthday and the spotlight would be turned towards his sister. The boy allowed himself a deep breath and rolled onto his back. After she had run out and their mom had gone to talk with her, Vander was left with their dad for a similar conversation.

“Your mother and I agreed to keep this from you and your sister.” James Smith had told him, “We didn’t want you to stress out about something that may never be a problem.” Vander had nodded, all he had done during the whole ordeal was nod, and switched his glance from his dad to the floor and back again several times.He wanted to let it sink in slowly. Xenokillers. It reminded one of the many stories Cassie told Vanessa when they were younger - but it was less distant now. This was about Vander and Vanessa Smith. They were the stars of this TV show.
He rolled onto his side, lifting his back off from his bed for a moment to adjust his pajama shirt, and stretched out. His hair flopped over the front of his face, forcing him to comb it back with his hand. With the hair out of the way, Vander’s vision focused on the The Phantom of the Opera poster hanging on his wall - the poster was a gift from his parents after he starred as Phantom when his school put on the musical his eighth-grade year. The musical was a trainwreck, but the poster made up for his failure.
Vander considered the Phantom his kindred spirit. Vander was by no means as hideous as a phantom, the boy knew his good-looks were above average, but he still connected with the outcast. Maybe because they both had a mask - the Phantom to conceal his scars while Vander used his to give the look of a normal boy. Vander’s mask protected him from the Xenokillers.

His phone lit up as a text message buzzed in. Vander quickly responded to the birthday greeting with a sassy “Little late.” and wink emoticon. Smiling, Vander put the device back and closed his eyes. The text had been from some kid at school rumored to have a crush on Vander, and they seemed nice, but Vander wasn’t looking to date, anyone. His lovesick sister may fawn over any boy she might like, but he would prefer to cuddle up with a good book to get his mind off the Xenokillers. Fortunately, NYC was definitely more accepting than other places; the mayor was a former equal rights activist who has gotten so much legislation done in the past few years that the city was now the paradigm of progressiveness. With a leader as loved and accepting as she was, there was no way the Xenokillers would take New York.

The next morning brought with it terrifying headlines and news coverage. Riots had broken out in the early hours of the morning, and by 7 A.M. the mayor of Chicago was trapped in city hall by protestors.
“Camden Schepp, DDN News Network, live here in Chicago as tensions mount.” the television reporter announced into his microphone, “A Xenokiller Convention from downtown erupted into chaos this morning as participants moved into the streets and began marching to city hall. Mayor Hernandez is now locked inside his office and refuses to acknowledge the demonstrators.” The reporter walked down the street, his camera panning across the crowd’s myriad of angry faces. Signs bobbed up and down in the midst of the chaos, reading anything from “Down with Xenos” to “”Kill the Witches.”
“This just in!” the reporter huffed, a cheer spreading through the crowd, “The Xenokillers have forced their way into City Hall. Mayor Hernandez and his staffers have been thrown out, and the Xenokillers are declaring victory. Chicago, Illinois has fallen under Xenokiller control!”

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Episode 2: Secrets

This is episode 2 of the first season of Twinstinct.

Episode 1
Thank you for reading!

"Can magic be backed up?" Vanessa read as her brother typed into the search bar, "Van, I doubt the internet is going to have any answers for this." Vander shrugged his shoulders and hit the 'enter' button,  the page loading their results. The first page was full of advertisements and websites about software companies. On the next page, though, was where they found a blog called City Witches. It was a guest post by a woman named Alexandra Kay.

"Magic is like a highway, it always flows." Vander read aloud, "On occasion, however, a single traffic incident can cause hours, or even days, of delays. Things like failed spells and illness can cause the clotting of a witch's magical powers for upwards of seven months."
"Seven months?!" Vanessa yelped, "I can't go without magic for seven months! There has to be something we can do. Let me see." Vanessa took the laptop from her brother and scrolled to the bottom of the page to the "About the Author" section. At the end of the bio was a link that read, "Click here for an instant response."
"Alexandra Kay at your service!" a woman announced as soon as Vanessa clicked the mouse pad, "How may I be of a-witch-tance?"
Vander and Vanessa whirled around, dropping the laptop, and looked up at the woman who had just appeared in their living room. She was about the height of their mom, her skin pulled tight over her face, and half of her head was shaved bald. A smile spread across her thick lips as she put her hands on her hips. "I don't have all day, chil'un. What do you want?"

"Our magic is acting up." Vanessa blurted, "How can we fix it?"

"I'm gonna need a lil' more info than that, sweetie." Alexandra huffed, "First tell me about your powers, then e-lab-orate on what you mean by 'acting up.' Magic ain't no animal, honey."

"We call it our Twinstinct." Vanessa explained, "We usually have complete control, but this time, our hands burned when we touched." The twins held up their hands as evidence, and Alexandra hummed.

"Interesting." she sighed, "So, you two share your powers?"
Vander nodded, "It only works when we are together."
"Well, it sure is a unique situation." Alexandra replied, thinking it over as she made her way to the window, "Tell me, how old are you?"
"Fifteen!" Vander chirped, "Vanessa's still fourteen though."

"Seems a little late for puberty to be the culprit." Alexandra thought aloud, "My advice is to avoid
touching for a week or two and go from there. I'd love to help, but I am leaving this Realm before things fall apart. Good luck, chil'un!" Saluting to the twins, the woman vanished in a flash of light, leaving Vander and Vanessa even more confused than they had been.

"I'm fifteen, V." Vander spoke up, "I am done with puberty."

Vanessa rolled her eyes. "TMI, Van." she groaned, "Just, focus on the issue at hand. We can't touch each other, otherwise who knows what may happen. Plus, if Mom finds out - we are both in for it."

"Don't touch, and don't tell Mom." Vander repeated, "Got it."

"Don't tell Mom what?" It was Susan, who just walked in the front door. She set down her bags on the table and crossed her arms, ready to deal out punishment.

Vanessa took the lead. "If we told you, it would ruin the surprise." she lied, "I know how much you love surprises." "I hate surprises." their mom fired back, "They are unplanned and unrequited and I can't deal with not knowing. Now spill it."

"We are working on your birthday present." Vander replied, "Can we leave it at that?" Susan squinted, as if reading their minds, and uncrossed her arms. "I don't know what you are trying to
keep a secret, but just know that all secrets are uncovered eventually." Susan warned, "Anyway, Vander. Did you decide where you want to go for your birthday dinner?"

"Yes!" Vander exclaimed, "I want to go to Hailey's Pitchy Place!"

"The place where the waitresses sing in your face?" Vanessa groaned, "Can't we just get fast food?"

"I want to try their Broadway Rice Pudding." Vander answered, "I hear it is the best thing ever! Plus, you know I absolutely love live music - especially show tunes!" Susan smiled. "Sounds wonderful, Vander." she assured, "There’s no shame in trying something new. Maybe Vanessa should think about a new birthday dinner location as well.”

“No way!” Vanessa shrieked, “If there is one thing that I love about my birthday, it is that you and Dad let me spend $56.99 on lobster at Chef Luke’s Seafood Lounge. That stuff is the paradigm of elegance and class!”

“Fine, sweetheart.” Susan huffed, “I guess I’ll fill up tonight so I don’t go broke tomorrow.”

Vanessa grinned and hurried up to her room. When their sister moved out, Vander and Vanessa flipped a coin for who got to move into her room. Vanessa won and has taken advantage of every part of her new space since. Against the far wall was her easel, and to the right was her bed. She also had a desk that was pushed in front of the window, which overlooked their small backyard. It was there she had sat when she talked to her sister on the phone. Before Cassie died, she had told Vanessa stories of her adventures as “the most powerful being in Reality.” Some of them Vanessa joined her on, but most of those memories have long faded away. What little she knew now was from conversations with her sister.

Every single night, without fail, Cassie would call. She’d talk to their Mom, talk to their Dad. She’d tease Vander, and then tell Vanessa a story. Cassie was Vanessa’s sole role model, but then she died.

A tear ran down Vanessa’s cheek as she thought of the day she heard the news. Of all the ways for a hero to die, it was a car crash that took Cassie’s life. She was driving back to campus with her boyfriend when another vehicle drove them off the road, down the side of a mountain, and into the Atlantic Ocean.

They were visited by the Maine State Police after the bodies were identified, and Vanessa refused to believe it was true. She had waited for Cassie to call and say everything was okay, but it never came. The twins were only eight years old. Cassie was 21.

Vanessa opened her sketchbook and looked at her drawing of her sister. It had been seven years but that didn’t erase the pain. No matter what people said, time doesn’t heal all wounds. Some wounds fester for months, years, until the day they finally take you down. Vanessa sighed. She loved Cassie so much - it was cruel how a bond like theirs could so easily be torn.

Sitting at her desk, Vanessa worked on her drawing some more. It would never be good enough for her, something would always be wrong and need to be fixed. She sketched a background in - she had no idea what the place was, simply drawing what found its way onto the paper. She continued working in complete silence until her mom’s voice called from downstairs, “Vanessa! Your dad’s here! Are you ready to head out?”

Susan waited for a reply, turning to Vander. “Coming!” Vanessa called, running downstairs, “Sorry, I was doodling.” “Okay, shall we head out then?” Susan smiled, Vander nodding excitedly, “Good! Let’s go!”

The Smiths got their coats and went outside. It was a brisk 28 degrees, and the wind made it feel even colder. They loaded into the car and James Smith started the ignition. “Where are we going, Vander?” he asked, “Happy birthday, by the way!”

“Thanks, Dad.” Vander replied, “And I wanna go to Hailey’s Pitchy Place.” James smiled at his son in the rear-view mirror and backed out onto the street. “Hailey’s here we come!” he announced, steering the car onto the main road to downtown NYC. Soon, the houses of their
neighborhood were replaced with the towering skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. It was about thirty minutes after rush hour, but the roads were still laced with vehicles.  

Vander looked out his window at a boy walking down the street alone. He was wearing black sneakers, a t-shirt, and shorts. In the winter? Vander shook his head. There were some crazy people in New York.

James pulled into a parking garage and parked the car on the third floor. Hailey’s Pitchy Place was across the street, its exterior plastered with neon lights. Vander grinned, letting out a small giggle of excitement.

Vanessa sighed. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be as bad as she was expecting.

“This is awesome.” Vander smiled as he walked down the steps into the main dining area. As they got settled, a waiter was singing a rendition of “Popular” from Vander’s all-time favorite musical, Wicked. “Okay, could be worse.” Vanessa reasoned, sitting across from Vander.

“Oh, we’re switching things up tonight?” Susan observed, surprised that the twins weren’t sharing a booth as usual, “Variety is good.”

Vanessa let out a nervous laugh as her mom took the seat next to her. She would have sat next to her brother, but they needed to be absolutely sure that they did not accidentally bump into each other - especially in public.

“May I take your order?” a rather good-looking waiter asked Vanessa. “Oh,” she fumbled, “I’ll just take a salad. Uh, chicken caesar salad. Please.”

The waiter smiled and turned to Vander. “Broadway Rice Pudding, por favor!” he chirped, the waiter chuckling. “I’ll take a caesar chicken salad as well.” Susan ordered, “James, I think you should too. After your last doctor’s visit-”

“Can we not discuss my health in public?” James cut her off, “But yeah, I will also take a salad. Thank you.”

Once the waiter left, Vander smiled at Vanessa. “You totally like him.” he accused, making Susan glance at Vanessa. “He’s like 20, Vanessa!” she exclaimed, her daughter blushing. “I didn’t say anything.” Vanessa replied meekly, “I’m just sitting here. Waiting for my salad.”

“Mhmm.” Vander taunted, earning a kick under the table from his sister.

“Ow!” Vander yelped as Vanessa’s shoe hit his shin. Instantly, the lights above their booth exploded, shooting shards of glass in every direction. The blast traveled across the ceiling in all directions, glass and sparks raining down from the lights above to the diners below. Vander shot Vanessa a distressed look, while all around them customers scattered.

“Vander and Vanessa Smith.” Susan scowled, looking straight ahead at her husband, “We are going home. Now.”

The car ride was absolutely silent. Vander and Vanessa knew better than to explain themselves, they hadn’t seen their mom this angry in a very long time. James pulled into their driveway, and Susan broke the silence. “When we get inside, I want both of you to sit on the couch until I say otherwise. Understood?”

The twins nodded, and got out of the vehicle, following their parents to the front door. Inside, they did exactly as they were told and waited for instructions.

“I do not like to holler.” Susan said, walking into the living room and standing in front of them, James tagging along and standing next to her, “So, I am going to let you explain yourselves. One at a time. I want to know what happened, and why. Vanessa, you first.”

“It wasn’t our fault.” Vanessa started, “We found out our powers were acting up and decided to not touch each other until we knew what is going on. But, I got mad and kicked Vander, so our Twinstinct did a thing.”

“Is this true?” Susan turned to her son. “Yes.” Vander gulped.

Susan nodded. “ You know how I feel about secrets, especially when it comes to magic.” she chastised. “Yet you make us hide our magic.” Vanessa huffed, “Hypocrite.”

“Vanessa Smith!” James yelled, “You do not call your mother a hypocrite!”

“Everything I do, and all my rules, are to keep you two safe!” Susan asserted, “You two can’t rely on your magic to get you through life - you never know when it will be gone forever, and if that happens you need to be able to handle life or death situations properly! If you are used to snapping your fingers to save yourself, and you get ran off the road by an idiot, you will die just like your sister!”

“I hate you!” Vanessa shouted in tears, storming off to her room, “I wish you were the one who got in that accident!”

Susan looked at James, then at Vander. “I-” she stuttered, “I messed up.”

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Episode 1: Twinstinct

“A tear of joy produced two twins, whose powers were good. Born from evil, changed by happiness, and transformed into two, the powers work only when the twins are in contact with one another. Vanessa and Vander Smith are all powerful, for they are the Twins of a Tear of Joy, and are capable of greatness.”

That happened so long ago. Twelve years later, Susan Smith shook away the thought and called to her two teens. "Vander! Vanessa!" she shouted, "We need to get moving if we're going to get you to school on time!" It was Thursday, February 22, 2027, and the Smith household was running late. Not the ideal way for Vander to begin his birthday, but never the less.

"I'm coming!" blue-eyed Vanessa Smith hollered back, running into the kitchen as she brushed her long brown hair, "You know, if you let me use my magic to get ready, we'd be at school by now!" Setting the brush onto the table, the girl took her seat and waited for her brother. He may have beaten her out of the womb, but she has beaten him everywhere else since.

"I don't want to hear it." Susan snipped, handing her daughter a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage, "I refuse to raise another child to become dependent on magic!" Vanessa lowered her head. "Sorry, mom." she sighed, taking a bite of her breakfast as Vander entered the scene.

"Happy birthday to me!" the other young blue-eyed brunette announced, flinging his arms through the air and hopping into his chair, "What's for breakfast on this special day?!"

"I made scrambled eggs because they are quick and easy." his mother replied, giving him a plate, "We'll all go out for dinner after school and you can get whatever you want then. Eat up."

Vander looked at the plate and shrugged. The boy was never too picky when it came to food, so scrambled eggs were just as good a breakfast as anything else. "You know what I want?" he said after a bit of chewing, "Rice pudding."
"Why rice pudding?" Vanessa questioned, "You've never even had it!"
"I don't know." he shrugged, "I just saw this picture on Insta of it and it looked really good."

"Well, figure out for sure and let me know when you get home." Susan ordered, grabbing the keys to her electric scooter and walking to the door, "I'm heading out; have a nice day!"

"See ya at school!" Vander yelped as she left. Susan Smith was the principal of Gilbert Hoffman High School, not that it made things any easier. Their mom had always insisted they keep their powers secret, which was hard enough without the constant urge to blast some of their fellow classmates in the face every now and again.

The twins scarfed down the rest of their food in a hurry, tossing their dishes into the sink unrinsed and heading outside with their bags. It was a fifteen-minute walk to school, which started in ten. They were definitely going to be late - unless, they used a little magic.

"You know what mom says!" Vander scolded when his sister brought up the idea, "If we rely too much on our powers, we won't know what it is like not to have them!"

"C'mon, Vander!" Vanessa argued, "Just this once? Do it as a birthday present for yourself!"

"We both know you just want to be able to meet Matt Thomas before class." Vander retorted, silencing his sister, "You wait on him hand and foot and he still hasn't caught on! He probably isn't even interested, Van!"

"He is too interested!" she asserted, "He's just shy."
"The class president is shy?" Vander scoffed, "It makes perfect sense that the kid who received the National Award for Public Speaking is shy. Ha!"

Vanessa rolled her eyes and looked ahead. "Shut up." she grumbled.

They somehow managed to get to school at exactly eight o'clock, and hurried to their lockers. As Vander shut his locker door, the bell rang. "Dang it!" he cursed, hurrying to his first period, "Miss Clatch is gonna have it in for me!"

Miss Eliza Clatch was a really nice woman when one got to know her personally, but in the classroom, the authority got to her head. She was extremely strict, threatening to put students in the corner if they misbehave. High school students being put in the corner was a terrifying thought in its own right, but it did not end there.
In the front of the room was a bulletin board with every one of her student's names on it. If they misbehaved, she would move their name from the 'Nice' side to the 'Naughty' side in a ceremonious show of embarrassment. If more than 15% of her students were on the 'Naughty' side by the end of the class period, the entire class would be issued a three-page essay on the day's lesson. Needless to say, her classes never misbehaved.

Vander took a breath before entering the classroom. All eyes immediately flashed upon him. "Vander Smith, you are late." Miss Clatch stated sternly, "Another student thinking they can get away with anything on their birthday. Go sit in the corner!"
The boy sighed, complying with the woman's demands. Explaining was no use, for it would be labeled as disrespecting authority and earn him even more corner-time.

"Now that everyone is here." she began as Vander took his seat, "Let us begin with today's lesson."

Vanessa missed her meet-up with Matt and went straight to class. Her first period was Art, and it was great. Sure, she wasn't the most talented artist in the school, but having art class first period was a blessing. Vanessa could start off every day with forty minutes of doodling for a grade! Appleyard, the "creative department teacher" as the district called her, said she was very talented but the idea of entering competitions with doodles made Vanessa cringe. What she did was not art. It was just scribbles on a page.

"Sorry I'm late, Appleyard." Vanessa apologized upon entry, "We lost power last night and so no one's alarm went off."
Appleyard returned with a smile. "No worries, Vanessa!" she assured, "If I had a nickel for every time I was late, I definitely wouldn't be here teaching for a living." Vanessa let out a quick chuckle and sat in her seat, glancing over at her best friend's work. It was amazing as usual.

"Please tell me you are entering that in a contest." Vanessa complimented, "That is awesome, Olivia!"

Olivia Barnes smiled as she blew the eraser bits off from her work. She signed 'thank you, maybe' and continued working. The girl had blond hair and beautiful hazel eyes that spoke for her. Anyone who wasn't fluent in ASL could gauge the just of what she was saying with the look in her eyes alone. She was unaware of the twins' magic, but Vanessa knew she'd keep it secret if she decided to tell her.

"You better!" Vanessa replied, "I mean if I had the money, I'd even buy it!" Olivia smirked and then nodded. Still admiring her friend's work, Vanessa reached into her desk and took out her class sketchbook. It was about five inches tall and three wide, and was filled with hundreds of Vanessa's doodles. She flipped open to her latest, a powerful girl with blond hair and green eyes, and started shading in the nose. Appleyard looked over her shoulder to comment but stopped herself. She knew better than to say anything about it.

After class let out, Vanessa and Olivia met up with Vander at his locker. 'Happy Birthday' Olivia signed to Vander as he shut his locker. "Thanks!" Vander chirped, "You are actually the first to wish me that." Shooting his sister a look, Vander continued, "Miss Clatch put me in the corner by the way. Not fun."
"Forget that witch, Van!" Vanessa huffed, "I bet she also goes home and kills puppies too; don't let her ruin your day."
'Yes, forget her' Olivia added in, fiercely supporting her friend's brother on his birthday.

"Don't worry about it," Vander assured as the group walked down the hall to their next class, "we all know I'm like the biggest optimist in the world!" The boy always saw the rainbow waiting to glow after the storm, and his birthday did not change that. If anything, it increased his optimism that much more.

"Good morning Vanessa and Olivia." Miss Henry greeted when they entered, "And happy birthday, Vander!" Miss Henry was the most-liked teacher in school. She had short blue hair that bounced with every step and always wore at least five large gawky rings, sometimes more. Standing about 5'8", the teacher was always in a good mood and never let anyone bring her down.

"Thanks, Miss Henry!" Vander smirked, taking his seat as the bell rang, "What're we learning today?"

Miss Henry sashayed over to her desk, her blue dress swishing this way and that as she went. "We will be covering some basic trigonometric functions." she replied, picking up her lesson plans and flipping through, "Looks like sine, cosine, and tangent today, then cosecant, secant, and cotangent tomorrow. Oh boy, that seems like a lot - we better get started."

"What was that?" Vander gulped, looking to Vanessa as they headed out of Miss Henry's classroom, "Those graphs were terrifying!" Olivia smiled as she turned to her locker and the twins kept going. "You gotta help me." Vander whispered to his sister.

"Oh, so now you are willing to disobey mom's orders." Vanessa sassed, "I see how it is."

"C'mon, V!" he whimpered, "Please just say you'll help." His sister rolled her eyes and smirked, "I guess I could, but you'll owe me."

"Yes, fine, whatever!" Vander assured, not caring what his sister's motives were, "Thank you, sis! You are the bomb!" "I know." she chirped, turning to enter her next class, "We'll do it after school."

Later that day, Vander descended the stairwell and pushed aside a pile of boxes, snatching the hidden key from beneath and inserting it into the door before him. School had just gotten out and the boy was anxious to get his and his sister's plan done and over with.

"There you are!" Vanessa exclaimed as Vander walked into the large storage room of Gilbert Hoffman High School that served as the twins' secret base, "We've been waiting forever!"

"Hey!" Vander greeted the blond boy his sister stood by, "What are you doing here, Matt?"

"Vanessa said you were selling custom t-shirts." the boy replied frankly, "I'd like a red tee that says 'Speak to Me' across the front. How much?"

"Just a second, I need to speak with my sister." Vander exhaled, snatching Vanessa's wrist and pulling her out of earshot, "Why did you bring him here?" "You owe me." she answered smugly, "I want you to place a love spell on Matt with me. Then, I'll share my smarts with you."

"Isn't that against the rules?" Vander pressed. "Isn't magic of any kind against mom's rules?" Vanessa countered, "Forget the rules and let's do this thing!"

Reluctantly, Vander held up his pinkie and Vanessa eagerly latched on. Matt turned around as a flash of light exploded from their hands. When it went dark, Matt was standing still. "Did it work?" Vanessa questioned, walking over to her blue-eyed crush, "Hey, Matt?"

"Vanessa?" he gulped, "What just happened?"

"She wanted to cast a love spell on you!" Vander blurted, "It wasn't my idea, I'm sorry!"

Matt blinked. "Spell?" he clarified, "Like magic? Do you two have magic?!" "Would you date me if we did?" Vanessa inquired. "I wouldn't date you either way." he answered, "I don't date."

"Oh." Vanessa sighed, "Well, this is awkward."

Vander and Vanessa walked home quietly that day. After several minutes, Vanessa spoke up. "See, Vander?" she began, "Nothing bad happened."
"We used magic twice and neither time was what I wanted to use it for!" Vander exploded, remembering they were in public before lowering his voice, "If you hadn't tried making Matt fall in love with you, we wouldn't have needed to wipe his memories, and I would have gotten the help I asked for!"

"Don't blame me for all this!" Vanessa argued, "You probably sabotaged our spell and that's why it didn't work!" "Actually, I let you do it." Vander replied, "You probably messed it up."

"Whatever." Vanessa grumbled, waving her hand in the air, "I'll help you when we get home. Mom doesn't get home till five, so we have lots of time for a quick spell."

"If you do it right." Vander added as they walked up their driveway and unlocked the door. They hurried inside and tossed their bags aside. "Here." Vanessa offered, holding up her hand for her brother.

Vander touched Vanessa's hand and everything around them began to glow. The floor cracked and the walls shook on their foundation. The twins tried pulling apart to no avail, and in a flash of light, Vander and Vanessa were on opposite ends of the room, laying on the floor in pain.

"What was that?!" Vander groaned, rolling onto his stomach to try getting up, "It definitely wasn't the Knowledge Transfer Spell I was hoping for!"

"I don't know, Van." Vanessa replied hesitantly, "I think, we may be losing control of our Twinstinct."

Vander looked down at his hand, the places where he had touched his sister's hand were charred and black. "Well, as long as we don't use it, that won't be a problem." he said after awhile, "I mean, we can't tell Mom about this; she'll find out we broke one of her biggest rules!"

"True." Vanessa agreed, walking over to her brother and holding out her hand, "No more magic then?" Vander nodded, grabbing his sister's hand to seal the deal. On contact, a sharp pain shot through Vander's palm and up his wrist. "Yowch!" he yelled, pulling his hand away, "Did you feel that?!"
Vanessa nodded, rubbing her stinging hand, and gulped, "Yeah."

This was the first time the twins ever had problems controlling their magic that they could remember. Something must have happened.

"The Love Spell!" Vanessa cursed, remembering her attempt at snagging her dream-boy earlier in the day, "It didn't work, but what if the energy is still hanging around?" "Like loitering?" Vander questioned."No," Vanessa replied quickly, "like, what if that spell backed up our magic and now it is trying to restabilize but can't?"
"Is that even a thing?" Vander countered, "Cassie would've known."

Immediately, Vanessa turned away. It had been a while since she heard anyone mention her sister. Eight years had passed since the incident, but that still didn't erase the pain. Their sister knew so much about magic; she'd know exactly what to do and how to do it. Vander was right. They needed help, but it wouldn't be coming from their dead older sister.