Chapter 1: Paris Is Burning
Kim stirred and untangled herself from her luxurious silk sheets. It was still dark out. She slid her hand over to the other side of the bed and found it cold. Still fuzzy with sleep she remembered that Kanye was away, traveling to gain inspiration for his fashion line. So what had awoken her?
She turned over and rearranged her pillows and tried to fall asleep. But no, something was wrong. She opened her eyes and saw Paris Hilton, towering over the bed. Her eyes were glowed red and she held her hands out, manipulating a hovering sphere of powerful dark energy that crackled with blue lightning.
Kim sat up. “You! How did you get in here?”
“With Kanye away I easily found a weakness in the defensive psychic perimeters of your mansion,” Paris said. “And now you shall pay for what you have done to me!”
“WTF are you even talking about,” Kim said. “It’s like zero o’clock in the morning.” She had to keep Paris talking. If she could just slide her hand under her pillow and reach her phone, she could use it to cast a defensive spell against Paris. It was her only chance.
“I’m talking about Willow Pape. The character in your game that everyone hates. Willow Pape was YOUR idea. You knew people would think it was me. Everyone hates me now that they’re playing your game. You are trying to destroy my brand, the brand I have fought so hard to create. You think you can defeat me so easily?”
“That’s not true! Willow Pape isn’t supposed to be you, it’s just a character in a game. If people guess it’s based on you maybe you need to manage your brand a little more carefully. Now put your power sphere away and let’s actually communicate about this, or at least loop Legal and PR in like civilized adults.” Just a few more inches and she would have her phone, her wand, in hand.
But Paris noticed what Kim was doing and a bolt of electricity shot from the sphere and stung the back of Kim’s hand. The pain raced up her arm and she pulled her hand back, away from her phone.
“More like KardashiCAN’T. You are pathetic. You try to destroy my brand and then lie about it to my face. Well, Kim, if you like your game so much, why don’t you play it...FOREVER.”
“What do mean?” Kim said “I actually do already play it every day. If you add me on GameCenter there’s a special limited edition dress coming out that I can send you. It costs like 150 K-Stars.”
“Stick your K-Stars up your ass, Kim, you’re going to need them. I’m sending you to live inside the world of your game. You’ll just be another anonymous E-list celebrity with no money and no brand, for all of eternity. Enjoy!”
“Wait, what? No!” Kim cried, as the sphere between Paris’s hands grew bigger. It shot towards her and buried itself in her chest, knocking her out. Everything went black and she felt herself falling, falling, the sound of Paris Hilton’s evil laughter getting farther and farther away.
Chapter 2: Exclamation Man
Kim awakes in a strange new world
Kim blinked and opened her eyes. She was in a shop. Hadn’t she just been somewhere else? How had she gotten here?
She couldn’t quite remember where she had just been but somehow she was now in a shop--a boutique? was the word that found itself on her tongue? for some reason?--surrounded by piles of crappily-folded clothes and a very angry man staring right at her and a bunch of bald and blank-faced yet voluptuous mannequins.
Wait back up.
There was a man staring at her, a black man in a newsboy cap, and he was staring right at her, but also through her, like he was not just mad at her, but mad at the entire world in her general direction. He had a very large exclamation point hovering near his lips.
“Hi,” Kim said She was not even sure what she was going to say next, but the man cut her off before she could get any farther.
“I’m late,” the man said. “I need you to lock up.”
“OK hi again,” Kim said. “Maybe you don’t know who I am? I’m Kim? I don’t lock things up, I have people for that.”
The man ignored her. “Before you leave, straighten that shirt on that mannequin. it’s too crooked for my liking.”
“EXCUSE ME, Exclamation Man,” Kim said. “Your liking? I don’t care for your tone? I’m about to snatch your punctuation down and beat you until your face is too crooked for your liking.”
The guy just stared at her for a second, then continued on like she hadn’t said anything. “Refold those shirts over there, then lock the register before you leave.”
Kim nodded. “Yeah OK fine let me just--” and she bolted for the door without bothering to finish her sentence. She slammed against it and pulled at the handle but it was locked. She banged on the glass but the shadowy people passing by outside just walked by, unwilling or uninterested in helping her.
She sighed. What was she even doing here? She turned back around but Exclamation Man was gone.
“HEY,” Kim yelled. “WHAT THE HELL.”
She looked all around the store but dude was seriously gone. Standing there, trying to figure out what to do next, she noticed that in fact the shirt on the mannequin was actually hella crooked, so she might as well fix it. She did and suddenly a pile of cash bounced and skidded across the floor, away from her.
“That’s new,” Kim said. She didn’t pick up the money because who chases around the room picking dirty money up off the floor. Peasants, maybe. Or The Help.
She wondered if this was all a test, if Exclamation Man was hiding somewhere in the shop, watching her. Maybe he gets off on giving random orders to women and then watching them run the store like successful young business owners?
Fine, whatever. Maybe if she did what he said he would get his sick kicks and let her out of the shop. So she folded the shirts (again with the bouncing money), and locked the register. And just as she did a giant bolt of lightning shot out of the register and up into her arm. It felt...amazing? Whatever it was? Like she hadn’t even realized she was feeling kind of low-energy but she was suddenly ready to fold some more clothes or something. She wanted more of that, whatever it was.
Then an even bigger wad of cash appeared on the floor. This one she did pick up, because what the hell, she might as well get something for her trouble.
She heard the door unlock and walked over to it.
“OK, creepy Exclamation Man!” she called out. “I hope I never see you again! You are terrible and your clothes are unfashionable! You also lack interpersonal skills! Like severely!”
No answer. Screw it.
She went outside and pulled the door shut behind her and just kind of stood there, wondering what she was going to do next, wondering if she was feeling kind of tired again? Could she get some more of that lightning stuff, maybe? It was kind of addicting?
And then a woman rushed up to her and was like “Is this your store? I could really use your help.”
“Nope, it’s definitely--” Kim started, and then she looked up and saw that the woman standing in front of her was her. It was Kim Kardashian. She was talking to herself. She was standing there, asking herself if this was her store.
Kim blinked. “Um, yeah. Sure. It’s my store.”
Chapter 3: Other Kim
Kim meets the Other Kim
Kim stood by the door, watching this woman, this Other Kim Kardashian, wander around So Chic, flipping quickly through the dress racks.
Kim was not 100% sure what emotions she was experiencing, exactly, but Completely Freaking Out was one of them. How could there be another Kim Kardashian? And why was Other Kim Kardashian acting like it wasn’t even weird that there were two of them?
“Thanks again for opening the store back up for me,” Other Kim said, looking up. “I need something cute and super quick.”
Kim didn’t respond. She was looking at Other Kim’s head. Kim’s head wasn’t really that big, relative to her body, was it? Because although this person wandering around the store, was very definitely Kim Kardashian, the longer Kim looked at her, the more creeped out she was. Other Kim looked...off, somehow. Not really real. And definitely too skinny? Kim glanced at herself in a nearby full-length mirror. Curvy and amazing. Like, SUPER amazing. She got caught up admiring herself and was startled when Other Kim cleared her throat to get her attention.
“So can you help me find something?” Other Kim asked, smiling.
Without even hesitating, Kim reached into the closest rack without looking and pulled out two random dresses--a silver one and a red one.
“How about one of these?” Kim asked. It was like she couldn’t help but obey the sound of her own honeyed voice. This Other Kim might be an idealized and slightly creepy version of herself, but she was still Kim Kardashian, and when Kim Kardashian wants something you stop whatever you are doing and get it for her. Even if you are also Kim Kardashian.
“Those are great!” Other Kim said. “Which one do you like?”
Kim couldn’t imagine how it could possible matter which dress she chose. She would look amazing no matter what. Wait, was she attracted to herself? She was incredibly hot, after all. Kim had to admit she’d fantasized, wait, never mind, she thought, shaking the image from her head.
“The silver one?” Kim guessed.
“YES, I love it,” Other Kim said. “It’s perfect and you’re amazing. How much do I owe you?”
Kim had no idea. “Nothing? Just take it.”
Other Kim laughed. “You are hilarious! I love you! We should hang out.”
“You want to hang out with me?” Kim asked.
“Definitely! I’m on my way to a photo shoot. You should come! Just wear something nicer.”
“Wait, you don’t like my outfit?” Kim asked. Why would Other Kim not like her outfit?
“Wear something nicer! Go home and look in your closet for a dress.”
“OK. Is this a joke?” Kim asked. “This is a joke, right? Someone’s trying to freak me out? Who are you really? Did Kourtney hire you to impersonate me or something?”
Other Kim smiled. “I’m Kim! Did I not introduce myself? I’m like crazed, I’m on my way to this photo shoot. You should come! Wear a dress!”
“You already said that.”
Other Kim just stood there, smiling.
“You need to tell me what’s going on,” Kim said, her voice starting to break. Her hands were shaking and the room was suddenly incredibly hot. “You need to tell me how there can be two of us. Who is doing this to me?”
“So I’ll see you at the photo shoot?” Other Ki replied, smiling. “You’ll look in your closet and find a dress?”
“No,” Kim said, her voice rising. “I’m not going to the photo shoot. I’m not wearing a dress. And I’m not letting you out of this shop until you tell me what’s going on. Why can’t I remember how I got here? And how can there be two of us? And why does everyone have exclamation points hanging from their mouths?”
“You should come to the photo shoot,” Other Kim said.
“I don’t care about your stupid photo shoot!” Kim yelled.
A storm cloud suddenly appeared over Other Kim’s head.
“Holy crap,” Kim said, stumbling backwards and knocking over a mannequin.
“I am going to a photo shoot,” Other Kim said, no longer smiling. “You should have come to the photo shoot. You should worn something nicer. You should have looked in your closet and found a dress. I will not hand hug you.” And then the storm cloud grew, and there was a flash of lightning, and Other Kim was gone.
Kim stared at the space where Other Kim had been standing. Her hands were still shaking. She couldn’t stop. She was crying and she couldn’t stop shaking.
She had to get out of this store.
She opened the door and tumbled out onto the sidewalk and fell against a fire hydrant. The second she touched it, a stack of money came flying out of it and skittered away into the street.
She just sat there on the ground, looking at the money. She was crazy. None of this was real. That was the only thing that made sense. Something terrible had happened and she had lost her mind. She was crazy. Any second someone would find her and take her home and give her the medications she needed and everything would be fine. She would just wait right here for someone to find her.
Kim knelt on the sidewalk and kept touching the fire hydrant to see if more money would come out. She kept pressing it and pressing it and pressing it. After a few minutes more money came out.
Chapter 4: Riding On The Metro
A few hours later, Kim felt like she had the energy to get up off the sidewalk and move around and use her brain and actually accomplish something.
No one had come to her rescue. As far as she could tell she could just sit there and poke fire hydrants until the end of time and none of the shadowly people passing by would ever stop or care or even notice.
Here is what she knew: she was alive; she hadn’t woken up, which at this point meant she probably wasn’t dreaming; and she was in Downtown L.A.
Although it wasn’t the Downtown L.A. she knew, exactly? It was only one block long, for one thing, and it only had like 3 shops in it, which, no way could that be right. She remembered the downtown area being slightly bigger.
So fine, maybe she had gone completely crazy, in which case the only way out was through. She was Kim Kardashian. Everything she had ever accomplished she had done herself. Why should this, whatever this was, be any different.
If this was Downtown L.A., that meant Beverly Hills was nearby, and she lived in Beverly Hills. Technically she had houses all over the world, but she definitely had at least one gracious mansion nearby in Beverly Hills. So she would go home, soak for a while, maybe bring a bottle of something into the tub with her, then change into a different outfit. Something more expensive and bespoke than whatever this was she was wearing. Self-care is an important healing ritual. She would worry about everything else later.
Kim looked around for a cab or a limo or a teleportation portal or something. There was none of those things. There was only The Metro, which looked an awful lot like a bus. She had never ridden a bus before, but at this point pretty much anything was possible.
The sign said that it would cost $4 to get from Downtown L.A. to Beverly Hills. This seemed...reasonable? Kim had very little idea how much things like
bus rides and plane tickets and automobiles actually cost, but she had some money from her shift at So Chic so she got on.
The bus was more crowded than she was expecting. It was very dimly lit and the seats were filled with shadowy people whose forms she could only barely make out. It was like looking at a crowd through a fog. She stared at their faces but it was as though their features kept sliding out from under her eyes. It was impossible to see what they actually looked like.
The shadow person seated across from Kim leaned forward. “Help me,” it said.
Kim blinked, and suddenly she was in Beverly Hills. As soon as she saw where she was she stopped thinking about the bus. She walked around and found the entrance to her mansion and felt hugely relieved. Here at last was something familiar.
She punched in the code at the gate. Nothing happened. She punched it in again, slowly this time, and still nothing happened.
Maybe one of her sisters had locked her out? To be funny?
Wait: she had sisters. Why hadn’t she thought of them at all until now? Probably this whole day was their doing, somehow. Like one of those games where you totally uproot a rich person’s life in order to make them feel emotions again. She would make them pay later. Now, she would call them and let them know she was outside. She took out her phone and opened it up and went to her contacts list and found...nothing. No one. There was no one listed in her phone.
She was Kim Kardashian. How did she not know anyone? Had someone wiped her phone, or stolen it and replaced it? How was she supposed to interact with people?
She tapped around on her phone in case she had missed something or was looking in the wrong place, and found her Goals List. She only had one goal listed. It said that she should go to her apartment in Downtown L.A.
Kim looked back through the locked gate at her Beverly Hills mansion. Since when did she live downtown? Downtown was terrible. But a goal was a goal and Kim was nothing if not incredibly goal-oriented, so she got back on the bus and found herself back downtown.
Her phone said she lived in the DuLuxe Lifestyle Apartments building. She found it and went inside. It was a small, practically barren apartment. There was a closet with a few dresses and some cheap-looking tops and almost no shoe selection. It was the most depressing place on Earth.
She looked at her phone again and it said she had No Goals. She had nothing to do, no direction in life, no one to talk to, no one who knew she was here. She sat on the floor of her empty apartment. She had never felt so lost and alone in all her life. She thought: I am going to die in this apartment and no one will ever know what happened to me.
Just then her phone rang. She answered it before it rang twice.
“Hey, it’s Kim!” the voice said.
“Hi Kim!,” Kim said. “It’s Kim!” She was elated to have someone to talk to, even if it was some AU version of herself.
“Are you coming to the photo shoot?” Other Kim asked “Will you change into a dress?”
Other Kim sounded completely normal and happy, like nothing weird had happened at So Chic. Kim was thrilled. As bizarre as it was, Other Kim was the only person she knew here, the closest thing she had to a friend at this moment. She couldn’t wait to see her again.
“Yes,” Kim said. “Thank you so much. Tell me where to be and I will be there. I will take the Metro.” And she ran to her closet to change into the nicest dress she could find. She wanted Other Kim to be impressed. She wanted Other Kim to be happy. She wanted Other Kim to like her. She wanted Other Kim to call her all the time.
Chapter 5: Hella Glamorous Enhancements
Kim found the Metropolitan Magazine building in Beverly Hills and went inside. She was wearing the nicest dress she had found in the closet, which frankly wasn’t all that nice, but she hoped it would be enough to please Other Kim. She was excited to see a familiar face. It would probably be a little weird sitting around watching her doppelgänger do a photo shoot, but it was better than getting suicidal in that barren hovel of an apartment.
Inside, Other Kim smiled and gave Kim a hand hug and introduced her to the photographer, Garrett St. Clair. Garrett was younger than Kim was expecting, but she liked his perfect John Stamos hair and extremely pegged jeans. He gave Kim a huge smile and complimented her dress and she couldn’t help but feel flattered.
“What’s your name?” Garrett asked.
“Kim,” Kim said, waiting for him to notice the similarity, but if he did it didn’t even register on his face.
“Great!” Garrett said. “Step in front of the backdrop and I’ll take some test shots.”
Kim looked at Other Kim like: What is going on here.
“Surprise!” Other Kim said. “I love your style and thought it would be fun for you to do the photo shoot.”
OK? Cool? Kim vaguely wondered who the photo shoot was for, and what she was supposed to be modeling, if she was just wearing a dress from her own closet, and was she even getting paid for this? but there wasn’t time to ask questions, Garrett was already clicking away. So Kim just did what Kim did best: be amazing in front of the camera. She posed and served fierce beauty and just did her thing.
She got a little tired part way through and had to rest for a few minutes, which was weird. Kim was extremely good at modeling, she’d been doing it forever. Why was she suddenly getting tired so frequently? But Garrett and Other Kim didn’t seem to mind, and then Kim felt better and kept going, and then suddenly the photo shoot was just over, right as Kim was in the middle of checking her makeup.
“Great job, you’re a natural!” Garrett said, as some money and lightning bolts bounced away behind him. Kim ran to grab them without even the slightest bit of self-consciousness. She loved how the lightning made her feel and wanted more. But this time she also noticed a giant piece of metal, sculpted into the shape of a star. She reached for it without even thinking--she didn’t know what it was but she had to have it. When her fingers touched it, waves of pure energy rolled through her body in waves. She felt something dark and powerful surging through her, from the tips of her fingers, up into her chest, and out through every hair on her head.
“Whoa,” Kim said. She steadied herself for a moment against the wardrobe rack. “What was that?” she asked, breathing heavily.
Garrett looked her up and down. “You leveled up!” he said.
“I did what, now?” Kim asked.
“Leveled up? You do stuff, and then you level up, and every time you go up a level your life gets better. You have access to more things--better clothes, shoes, accessories, and more powerful spells, glamours and enchantments.”
Umm. Kim looked at him. Had Garrett really just said what it sounded like he said?
She noticed a look quickly pass from Other Kim to Garrett. Garrett suddenly busied himself inspecting his camera lens.
“Yes!” Other Kim said, eagerly jumping into the conversation. “Hella glamorous enhancements. Like really cool bracelets, leggings, really fantastic bags and earrings, sunglasses, that kind of thing!”
Kim looked back at Garrett. Had he said ‘spells, glamours, and enchantments’ or ‘hella glamorous enhancements’? No one on the planet said hella anymore, right?
“So you’ve never done this before?” Garrett asked. “You’re good! You should keep modeling! This should be your career!” he said excitedly, in what felt like the most obvious attempt to change the subject ever in the history of human conversation. What was he even talking about? Of course she had modeled before, she was Kim Kardashian. Why did no one seem to understand this?
“We’re having a party at The Brew Palms later,” Garrett continued. “You should come! Kim will be there!”
Kim turned to Other Kim, who was still just kind of staring at Garrett. Kind of weird Other Kim hadn’t invited her to the party herself, right? But Other
Kim smiled and said “Yes, come to The Brew Palms tonight. We should set you up with a manager. My friend Simon Orsik will be there, he’ll want to meet you.”
OK. This was all happening very fast and Kim had about a million questions. Not just about the spells and glamours thing, but this whole leveling up situation. It hurt Kim’s brain to even think about but it felt like there was something there she should dig into a little deeper--like why on Earth would she, of all people, need to level up?
But Garrett and Other Kim were standing there, staring at her, so she took that as her cue that this scene was over. Kim thanked them both and promised to meet them at The Brew Palms later. She walked out, knowing 100% that they were going to talk about her the second she was out of sight.
Chapter 6: The Dark Witch Willow Pape
Kim arrived at the Brew Palms wearing a new black dress, new shoes, and new white earrings. The earrings were not her favorite but they were all she could afford after she made the terrible mistake of buying some furniture for her apartment. She thought a table or some artwork would make the room feel less depressing but instead it had just made her MORE depressed. Now she had a stupid coffee table in the middle of the room that she didn’t even care about. Her mental health would have been much better served by buying more clothes and accessories, but now it was too late and she couldn’t even sell it back, which seemed deeply bogus.
Still, she liked her new clothes, and had spent about an hour fussing with different hairstyles, and trying to coordinate her lips and fingernails and eye shadow colors just perfectly. She wasn’t even sure she had enough money to make it back home after the party, but mentally she felt better than she had in a while, so it was worth it. If worst came to worst she would just find a bird to slap around for a couple of hours.
Also, Kim had to say: as weird as this world was, she was loving the whole closet shopping interface thing. She just stood there, trying on different separates, mixing and matching to style different looks, and then she purchased them and they immediately appeared. The future was amazing. She was very into this technology. It seemed born of an especially potent and dark magick.
The Brew Palms turned out to be a hipster bar, every available surface covered in finished wood. She had thought “brew” might mean it was a coffee shop, but judging from the beanie on the bartender, this was definitely a hipster bar, and douchie bros were definitely going to want to talk to her about their home-brewing setup all night. Awesome.
Kim found Other Kim standing right in the center of the room, smiling and waiting for her. After a quick hand hug Other Kim explained that Simon, the manager she wanted Kim to meet, had had to leave early, but they would meet at his office tomorrow morning. “Hang out! Have fun!” Other Kim said.
“We’ll see!” Kim replied. Honestly all she wanted to do was run back home and mess around with hairstyles for another hour, but she decided to give it a shot and hang around for a bit so Other Kim wouldn’t get angry.
Kim didn’t even have enough money for a drink so she wandered around and interacted with people. The only people who wanted to talk to her were dudes, and they were all terrible. One guy only wanted to talk about his cat. Another just kind of stood there, like Kim was supposed to immediately decide whether she wanted to network or fall in love with him. She opted for Zero of the Above.
It was incredibly frustrating, all these men thinking it was acceptable to talk to her. She was Kim Kardashian, and she had standards, and it was not OK for any random guy to just assume he had a shot with her. Was it a level thing? She hadn’t thought about it since the photo shoot earlier but maybe this thing about leveling up would allow her to create a protective barrier against horrible men.
Kim turned around to do one last loop and found herself cornered by some white dude in an extremely tight vest. He started talking to her but honestly she was too distracted by his overly swooshy hair to pay much attention to what he was saying. He had a bunch of questions about how she knew Other
Kim, and was making dumb small talk about trying to make it in Hollywood, and suggested they exchange numbers. Kim agreed just to get out of the conversation. While he was distracted looking at his phone she bumped against him and grabbed the cash that bounced out of him so she’d have enough money to get home.
Then she looked around the bar and saw that Other Kim had already peaced out, so there was 100% no reason for her to stay any longer. Kim pushed her way out through the doors and inhaled the cool air of Hollywood freedom.
Suddenly the shriekiest voice Kim had ever heard knifed its way into her ears. “OMG! Who the eff do you think you are?”
Kim turned and saw...Paris? Paris Hilton? And suddenly she remembered: Paris in her bedroom that night, threatening her, casting a banishment spell against her. The memories were fuzzy but coming through in waves, faster than her mind could even track them.
But wait, this wasn’t Paris, was it? It looked like Paris but it didn’t. Kim’s heart was racing and she could hardly breathe. What was happening?
“Who are you?” Kim asked.
“There’s NO WAY you just asked me that,” the blonde screeched. “I’m Willow Pape, duh. What did you think you were doing? You were clearly hitting on my boyfriend in there.”
Kim couldn’t even begin to imagine which of the stalky douchebros she’d met had the pleasure of being this bitch’s boyfriend. And she had never heard of this person in her life. She was so confused and just wanted to get home and lie down.
“Umm, no I wasn’t hitting on me,” Kim said.
A storm cloud immediately appeared above Willow’s head, casting an evil glow across her face. “I’m much too famous to deal with you, gutter trash hashtag ratchet,” Willow said.
Why was she speaking in hashtags? Was it a spell of some kind? Kim felt dizzy, swaying on the sidewalk with Willow glaring over her, while in her head she saw Paris standing over her bed, threatening her. She was in two places at once. Something terrible was happening and she needed to end it, now.
Kim launched herself at Willow, meaning to tear the blonde’s face off with her perfect fingernails. But Willow easily dodged the attack, and a bolt of lightning from her storm cloud shot out and sent Kim flying back against the Brew Palms. Stunned from the blow she fell to the sidewalk, her energy completely drained.
“You think you can defeat me so easily?” Willow snarled. “Pathetic E-lister. Buh-bye!” and she turned and walked away.
Kim laid on the sidewalk, trying to breathe, trying to calm her heart, trying to make some sense and order out of the images in her head. She had no energy left, and knew it would be hours before she would be able to move or perform any actions at all.
But she had learned some important things.
She had learned that this was not her home, that in fact she had been imprisoned in this world by Paris Hilton.
She had learned how crucially important one’s level was in this world.
And she had learned that she needed to kill Willow Pape.
Chapter 7: Men Are Terrible
The next morning Kim changed into a different dress and went to the CTM Management offices in Hollywood. Inside she found an old man sitting behind a desk.
“You must be Kim, pleasure to meet you,” the man said. “I’m Simon Orsik. Kim’s told me a lot about you. I was of course interested in anyone she recommends.”
He paused, clearly waiting for Kim to say something. There was a very comfortable-looking chair right in front of the desk and Kim was fixated on the fact that he had not offered her the opportunity to sit down. He just kept her standing there in front of him, which Kim found humiliating and rude.
“Hi,” she said.
“Let’s take a look at your head shots and comp card,” Simon said.
“What?” Kim asked. He hadn’t even offered her a glass of rosé or sparkling water or anything. This was unreal.
“No head shots?” Simon continued. “You’ll need to get those taken. A friend of mine at Pop Glam owes me a favor. Head over there right now and get those done. I can’t have my client not have head shots!”
He gave Kim an impossibly smug smile, obviously wanting her to notice what he’d said about her being his client now. Was she supposed to bow and scrape and thank him profusely? He probably expected terrifying sexual favors. He was a doddering old fool and she would kick him out the window as soon as touch him.
Now he was saying something about his teenage daughter. God, who cared about anything this man had to say, ever.
Kim said bye and went to leave.
“One more thing,” Simon called after her. “Put on some new clothes to impress photographers and the media.”
She looked down at her outfit, which was perfectly serviceable, lovely in fact. It was the pink version of the black dress she’d worn the previous night.
The fact that she had even bothered putting on a dress for this pathetic, decrepit man, when she had desperately wanted to just wear jeans and a hoodie, only for him to criticize her?
She felt a wicked fire burning deep within her heart, a fire that longed to explode from her and engulf this horrible man until he was nothing but bones and ash. But instead she simply ignored him and walked out, having made up her mind about what kind of man Simon Orsik was.
She needed to stay focused. She needed to play along for now, and level up as quickly as she could in order to build her powers. It was clear that Willow Pape and Paris Hilton were connected on some deep, mystical level. Just as Paris was the reason she had been trapped here, Willow would be the key to her escape. Killing Willow Pape would cause the forces trapping her here to dissipate.
Or that was her idea, anyway. If it didn’t work, well, at the very least a dead Willow Pape was the only sufferable Willow Pape.
Kim turned this plan over in her mind as she made her way Downtown.
At Pop Glam, the photographer turned out to be that Garrett St. Clair guy from the other day, although if he recognized Kim he gave no indication of it.
Profile Shot, Check Makeup, Grab a Drink, Check Negatives and boom, the photo shoot was done. Kim grabbed her money and leveled-up, pocketing the K-Star on the first bounce. She walked out without saying goodbye or thank you to Garrett the photographer.
She stood on the sidewalk outside Pop Glam, feeling a little better, having leveled up, but not much. According to her phone she had some new clothes to choose from in her closet, which was exciting. But still. She’d had to deal with a lot of men today and it was incredibly tiresome.
She hadn’t bothered to change her dress before starting the photo shoot but Garrett hadn’t even mentioned it. It was as though Simon just needed to control her. A man for a manager, who controls what you do. A man for a photographer, who controls how you look and move. Men trying to control access to everything she wanted and needed.
What a terrible way to live. In her own world, men had long been made irrelevant. She wished to be back there, more desperately than ever.
She saw a stray cat nearby and stopped to pet it. It curled itself around her leg and purred. The cat had a sign that said Kim could adopt it, if she had more K-Stars than she could currently imagine ever having. But adopt it from whom? Who abandons a cat on the sidewalk and then prevents you from taking it home unless you pay some exorbitant, unobtainable fee?
Probably a man.
Chapter 8: Slide Out Of My Mentions
Kim’s phone buzzed and she saw that it was Other Kim. She answered it immediately.
“Hey, I heard the good news about Simon signing you,” Other Kim said. “You’ll like working with him. We worked together in the past and it was great.”
In the past? Kim wondered what that meant. Why had Other Kim stopped working with him? She realized she had been silent for too long. She was not holding up her end of the conversation. It was so weird how people actually used their phones for talking in this world.
“Yes, thank you, I am feeling excitement,” Kim said, to have something to say.
“I can take you out to lunch to celebrate,” Other Kim said. “Why don’t you drop by my place first, and then we’ll go to Panino in Beverly Hills?”
This sounded excellent to Kim and she said so into her phone.
Kim took the Metro to Beverly Hills. As soon as she exited she was confronted by a grim, balding skeleton of a man with a camera.
“Hey you!” the man shouted at her.
How dare this gross man shout at her on the street? Was she some commoner?
“Who are you,” Kim demanded.
“Lon Garerra,” the man said. “But that’s not important. I wanna know who you are. I saw you at the Brew Palms. You apparently know Kim Kardashian and I saw you arguing with Willow Pape.”
Yet another man, shouting at her, making demands of her. Answer the phone, change your outfit, take a break, check the negatives. She would burn this entire world to the ground if it was the last thing she ever did.
She wanted to ignore him and simply walk away. She could see Kim’s mansion not two doors away, in between the sandwich shop and the invisible wall that kept her from traveling any further.
But Lon kept talking to her. “Willow seemed pretty upset last night. I guess you two aren’t on the best of terms?”
“Your questions do not interest me,” Kim said.
“That’s weird because she’s going off about you and Kim on social media. Anyways bye I’m on to more important people.”
Kim tried to quell the terrible rage that rose up inside her. Why had this man slid into her mentions with this conversation. Just to make her day worse?
Kim already knew Willow Pape was a bitch, why did this pathetic male think she needed reminding? He could have just had his opinion and kept it to himself, but no, he had to share it and make it her problem.
Adding Lon Garerra to her mental list of people she would maim and torture once she leveled up and attained more powers, Kim continued on to Other Kim’s gracious mansion
“WHO IS WILLOW PAPE,” Other Kim demanded the moment Kim walked through the door. “Is that the crazy girl that yelled at you the other night? Oh my god. Have you seen what she’s been saying about you and me? It’s DISRESPECTFUL.”
“Um,” Kim said. This was interesting. Why would Other Kim care about Willow Pape? Surely she had experienced haters in life before? Willow Pape was Kim’s arch nemesis, and her problem. She accepted and understood this. But Other Kim, with her status and level, should have bigger problems to worry about than some ordinary D-list blonde. Somehow this confirmed Kim’s sense that Willow Pape was the central demon of this entire world, and killing her would solve a lot of problems for everyone .
“We need to do something,” Other Kim said.
“I completely agree,” Kim said. “We need to steal something very personal of hers. A lock of hair if we can get it, but even her lipstick might work. Then we’ll need some sage and purslane and vinegar so we can cast a binding spell.”
“You need a publicist,” Other Kim said.
“Um no I need five black candles and some tourmaline,” Kim said. Is there an herbiary or a sacred supplies shop you can point me to? I haven't found one yet in my travels here.”
Other Kim nodded. “Simon can help you find a publicist,” she continued. “Having someone to handle that stuff will be useful. You have his number, right?”
Kim took out her phone and held it up to Other Kim. It was buzzing, Simon’s face filling up the screen.
Other Kim curled her lip.
“That’s the third time he’s called DURING THIS CONVERSATION,” Kim said.
Other Kim sighed heavily and shook her head. “Ugh, I know.”
“Like, I can’t,” Kim said.
“I know,” Other Kim said.
“Like I just can’t,” Kim said.
“I know,” Other Kim said.
Chapter 9: Maria Holmes, Eldritch Publicist
After a photo shoot at Pop Glam and an interminable hour spent folding sweaters at So Chic under Luther’s watchful eye, Kim finally got a call from Simon about meeting with a publicist.
“I know just the person,” Simon said. “Maria Holmes. She has violent mood swings but she knows every trick in the book.”
She sounded absolutely perfect.
Maria worked out of the same building as Simon, so he suggested Kim come by for an introduction. Kim agreed and then quickly changed her outfit. She wasn’t sure it would matter for this meeting, but sometimes people complimented her outfit unexpectedly and she was glad she’d spent the time picking out something new.
At the CTM Management building in Hollywood, Simon walked Kim over to Maria’s office.
“Allow me to introduce Ms Maria Holmes,” he said grandly.
“Hi,” Kim said.
Maria looked up from her desk. As her eyes met Kim’s she gasped. Something flitted across Maria’s face--a mixture of panic and confusion.
“Kim?” Maria said, her voice betraying a note of disbelief.
Was Maria actually seeing her? “Yes!” Kim said. “You recognize me? You see me?”
“Gracious, you gals already know each other?” Simon asked.
Simon’s tedious voice seemed to break whatever spell hung in the air. Maria blinked and the look of recognition vanished from her face.
“No,” Maria said. “You are just as Simon described. Welcome, Kim.”
Maria was hiding something. Even in this world, with her powers diminished, Kim could tell that Maria was more than she appeared to be. The air around her almost crackled with energy. And the earrings Maria was wearing looked an awful lot like selenite to Kim, a crystal well-known for not only enhancing business decisions, but warding off negative energy. Simon had described Maria as knowing every trick in the book. Had he meant that literally?
Kim snapped back to reality, where Maria was rolling her eyes as Simon made a horribly pornographic joke with “selfies” as the punchline.
“Simon, leave us,” Maria said. His smile quickly faded. He nodded curtly and left, closing the door behind him.
“I can only take him in very small doses,” Maria said.
“All of the men here are terrible,” Kim said. “They just talk and talk at you, they seem to say whatever is on their minds, and act as though we are supposed to care, or be interested, when nothing they do or say is of any consequence whatsoever. In my world things are much different. Men do not have these rights.”
Maria looked Kim up and down, quietly regarding her. “The men here have rights,” she said simply. “Now,” she continued. “You are here because of Willow Pape. She is angry with you for what, exactly? You hit on her ex?”
“She seems to think so,” Kim said.
“It sounds like she’s jealous,” Maria said.
“I think it’s more than that,” Kim said.
Maria raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Have you ever heard of Paris Hilton?” Kim asked.
“I am not familiar with it,” Maria said.
“Not it, she,” Kim said. “She is a powerful witch. A rival of sorts, where I am from. She banished me here, and I believe Willow Pape is her avatar in this world. It is not simple jealousy that pits her against me, but an enmity much deeper.”
“My my,” Maria. “You have quite an opinion about yourself, for someone on the E-list.”
“My powers are greatly diminished here.”
Maria rolled her eyes. “You keep making references to another world. Do you undersand how that makes you sound? You claim to know so much and yet you know so little. You made out with some boy at a bar and a D-list starlet took exception to it. This is nothing, and yet you describe it as a life or death battle?”
Kim was quiet, unsure what do say.
“You wish for money? Power? Fame?” Maria asked.
“Mostly just power,” Kim said.
“Well power is earned, and you have a very long, long way to go.”
This conversation was a disaster. Kim was sure Maria recognized her, or could at least sense something powerful about her, but she seemed determined not to believe it. Kim still needed this woman’s help though, if she was ever going to defeat Willow Pape.
“Can you help me?” Kim pleaded.
“Oh I can,” Maria said, “But will I, is the question? You must do something for me, if I am to take you on as a client.”
“Anything,” Kim said.
“Go a date,” Maria said.
“Excuse me? A date?”
Maria nodded, smiling. “You are bitter and alone. You think you are superior to everyone that you meet. Even me. Even Kim Kardashian.”
Kim tried to protest but Maria silenced her with a look before she could get a word out. “Don’t deny it. But prove to me that you can interact with people on your level. Go on one date and I will help you. You shouldn’t have any difficulty finding someone, the city is filled with lonely and desperate people just like you.”
Maria sat back, awaiting Kim’s reaction.
“I don’t know anyone here,” Kim said at last, the words like broken glass in her mouth. “I don’t know anyone who would date me. I only know my boss at work, and Simon and Kim. I have no friends. I barely have any money. I have nothing.”
“Friendship. Money. Fame. Power,” Maria said. “These things are all connected. Without one, the others will not follow. Go on one date, and we will see if you are worthy. Ask Simon for help.”
Maria turned back to her computer, the conversation over. Kim bowed, then turned and left the room. She felt a dark pit of despair and self-loathing widening deep inside her as she walked back to Simon’s office, preparing herself to ask him for help.
Chapter 10: The Date With Michelle
Simon told Kim to go talk to Other Kim for dating advice. Other Kim was only too thrilled to help.
“Are you looking for a hot date? I’m great at setting people up! I’ll find someone amazing!”
“Yay awesome,” Kim said, trying to muster even the smallest iota of enthusiasm for this plan.
“Are you interested in men or women?” Other Kim asked.
Kim blinked, not even believing this was a real question. She thought back on all the men she had met in this world. They were each of them hideous, loathsome trolls, with mustaches and ridiculous hair and shorts, and personalities like a dead rat in a used diaper.
“The only men even worthy of dating consideration are Kanye West, Idris Elba, and Zayn Malik,” Kim said. “And I haven’t seen any indication that any of them even exist in this world.”
Other Kim shifted her weight and kept smiling. “Women, then! Do you like sporty girls, or are you more into the artistic kind?”
Kim actually thought about this for a moment. Probably artistic, right? She didn’t want to end up having to attend sporting events.
“Artistic,” Kim guessed.
“Got it,” Other Kim said. “I have someone in mind. Her name’s Michelle and she’s a writer. You’ll love her!”
“I completely doubt it but okay!” Kim said.
“Oh my god I’m so excited for you. Why don’t you two meet at Panino right now? You already look great anyway.”
“Like, right now right now?” Kim asked. She looked down at her outfit. She was wearing a scoop-top T and jeggings and the black shoes with all the strappy things that she was really sick of. She longed for more shoe options. Why did her closet have 20 different baggy tops that she would never wear, and only like 2 pairs of shoes that didn’t completely suck? It made no sense.
“Fine, let’s just get this over with,” Kim said. If she changed her look before her date it would be like admitting she cared.
Kim walked over to Panino and saw a woman standing outside, looking expectantly at her. She had very pale skin, long, curly black hair, and an overly floppy hat. Thinking it might be Michelle (but secretly hoping it wasn’t because she hated that hat) Kim stopped to chat.
“Hey, I’m a stylist, I love your outfit!” the woman said. Okay so she was apparently not Michelle the Writer. She was also apparently not a very good stylist if she was actually thought this was a decent outfit.
The woman was standing there and Kim wasn’t sure if she was supposed to network with her? Or flirt? Like what even is the difference, at the end of the day. She decided she better save her flirting energy for her date, so she tried to network with this woman. She was A-list, and had plenty of money, judging from her outfit and accessories. Probably not a bad person to know.
“Guess my name!” the woman said.
“Um I just met you,” Kim said. “Your name could literally be anything. It could be Potato Chlamydia for all I care.”
“It’s either Jennifer Williams or Alexis Cassiopeia,” the woman said.
“Are...you...not sure?” Kim asked. This was the most pointless game. But fine whatever. “Alexis Cassiopeia,” Kim guessed, thinking a clueless stylist probably had a weird name.
The woman was elated. “Yes! Here’s my number, let’s stay in touch!”
Kim scooped up the money the woman dropped, rolled her eyes and pushed past her into Panino.
There were three dudes in the restaurant, all eyeing her like puppy dogs, like Please please talk to me. As if. She ignored all of them and walked straight over to a lone woman standing in the back.
“Hi, Kim? I’m Michelle Murphy. Kim told me all about you.”
Kim said something flirty back, who even knows what.
“Why don’t we go on a date right now?” Michelle suggested.
“Leggo,” Kim said, throwing her bag on the table.
They began the date by ordering the Chef’s Special and some Fancy Wine. Kim attempted like five Romantic Glances in a row and Michelle seemed super into it.
The date was going on for a while and Kim was trying to remain interested but she was also getting a little tired. She excused herself to find the bathroom and used it as an opportunity to wander around the restaurant and kill some time. She noticed a woman standing over by the door, staring at her. This woman had olive skin, red hair pulled back in a bun, and a 3/4 sleeve tattoo. Kind of hot, actually.
What the hell, Kim figured, and went over to talk to her.
“Hi,” Kim said, shockingly eager for another round of the name-guessing game. But as soon as the woman opened her mouth Kim realized something was wrong.
“Hi,” Alexis Cassiopeia said. “Great to see you again!”
“Alexis?” Kim said. Was this the same Potato Chlamydia woman she’d met outside the restaurant? She looked completely different. How had she changed her look so utterly, so quickly? Was Kim just remembering her wrong? This was super awkward. Kim smiled and backed away and hurried back over to Michelle.
“Everything okay?” Michelle asked.
“Everything’s great!” Kim said, and did some Flirting. “Should we get Dessert?” Kim asked and from the way Michelle’s eyes lit up she was clearly on board. This date was apparently going super great.
After a while Kim looked back over to where Alexis had stood. There was a different woman standing there now. With light skin and a blond pixie cut and a bag with a kitten in it.
Michelle noticed Kim staring at the woman.
“Do you know her?” Michelle asked.
“Kind of?” Kim said. “I mean not really. I met her outside. But she looked different. And then I saw her in here and she looked different again. And now...” Kim looked at the picture of Alexis Cassiopeia on her phone. It was actually super handy that her phone was constantly updated with real-time pictures of what everyone she knew looked like. Very handy when she needed some outfit inspo.
But now she looked from her phone, to the woman across the restaurant, and back. It was Alexis, but she had changed again. Now she was black, with a blonde bob, and she was dressed like she just got back from the beach.
“It’s like every time I look at her she looks completely different? That’s weird, right? Am I going crazy?”
Michelle stared at Kim for a minute than finished her wine in one huge gulp. She shook her head. “Nope you’re not crazy.”
“What, what’s going on with her?” Kim asked, quickly ordering more Fancy Wine.
“She’s one of The Hacked,” Michelle whispered. “We don’t talk about them.”
“The HACKED?” Kim said, too loudly.
“Shh!” Michelle said, looking around to make sure no one had heard.
“The HACKED?” Kim stage-whispered. “Who are they? Why don’t we talk about them?”
Michelle looked away. She seemed afraid to say anything else.
Kim tried some Romantic Glances but Michelle refused to meet Kim’s eyes. Kim risked it and went in for a Kiss. She felt Michelle’s body relax. They did another Kiss.
“It’s okay. You can tell me,” Kim said. “Please.”
Michelle breathed in and out for a moment, then spoke. “Okay. So, Friendship, Money, Fame, and Power. These things are all connected, right?”
“Right,” Kim said, remembering Maria having said something similar. “Without one the others won’t follow.”
Michelle nodded. “Right, but it’s more than that. Friendship, Money, Fame, and Power are the Four Corners. They’re the Circle of Balance. They all exist in elemental harmony with each other.”
“I’m with you so far,” Kim said.
“The Hacked are people who have found a way to disturb that relationship. They wield a very dark, very dangerous magick. It gives them Money and Power beyond their wildest dreams.”
“Wait, so they have tons of money, but don’t have to deal with photo shoots and fashion shows?” Kim said. “That sounds amazing.”
Michelle reached out and clutched Kim’s hand. “No,” she says. “It changes them irrevocably. They become...different from the rest of us. Their Money and Power come at the cost of their Fame and Friendship. They relinquish control of their appearance. They are unable to form real relationships because no one can see what they truly look like. And without real Friendships they can’t have Fame. No one can buy them any Gifts. No one will give them any interesting projects to work on. They might as well be living in a parallel universe. It’s horrible.”
“But what if you don’t care about Fame?” Kim asked. “Maybe then it’s okay.”
“No!” Michelle shouted, a little too loudly. “The elements need to remain in balance. The Hacked look normal but they are hollow inside. Their lives are not real. They are just avatars, floating through this world as mere representations of who they might have been.”
“Are there at lot of them? The Hacked?”
“They are everywhere,” Michelle said. “Kim, look, I like you. I know this is our first date but you seem really great. Please do not go down that dark path. I knew someone who joined The Hacked and then regretted it. They had to completely erase her mind. It was like she was starting her whole life over from the beginning. It was horrible.”
Kim nodded, not even really listening anymore. This was amazing. This was exactly what she needed. A shortcut. A way to get the Power she needed without having to do all the boring work of traveling back and forth between Downtown and Beverly Hills at Simon’s whim. This was everything. If she could figure this out she could defeat Willow Pape and be back in her own world before Simon’s next phone call.
“Thank you. I’m really glad I came on this date,” Kim said, stroking Michelle’s fingers and doing one last Romantic Glance.
“Me too,” Michelle said.
Kim leaned forward and Kissed her. She felt nothing but she kept Kissing Michelle until the date was over.
Chapter 11: The Two Paths
Kim was in her apartment Downtown, trying out new hairstyles and kind of hating them all, when Maria called.
“I heard your date went well. Stop by my office.”
Kim hung up her phone and opened up her closet. She took her time choosing a new outfit. There was no need to hurry to Maria’s. Now that she had learned about The Hack, the path before her was clear.
She took off her sleeveless tank with a flying skull on it and exchanged it for a sleek black dress with 3/4 sleeves. She felt extremely powerful in it.
While she was once again lamenting her lack of shoe options Maria called again.
“Stop by my office when you get a chance. Nothing sinister.”
Okay so it was definitely something sinister.
Kim put the boring strappy black shoes on again, gave up on her hair, and made her way over to Hollywood and Maria’s office.
“Well!” Maria said as Kim entered. “You can follow directions pretty well, that is something. Good for you. Now, I have something else for you.”
“And what might that be?” Kim asked sweetly.
“Well,” Maria said. “I know Kim would never ask, but she's looking for someone to oversee the Kardash Miami store. Doing the buying and so forth. And before you say it: No, it’s not a photo shoot or an acting gig, but it’s better than folding socks at So Whatever, and you could get some good networking opportunities if you can get it in as a buyer for the store. Miami is pleasant. You will enjoy being there. Aside from the store there is also a club, and an empty house.”
Kim was silent.
“What,” Maria said. “I’m offering you an opportunity here. I have taken you on as a client. I am literally expanding your horizons. Now is the part where you do as I suggest and we both live out our lives in mutually advantageous benefit.”
“I am not interested in this plan,” Kim said.
“What? What do you mean, you’re not interested. Miami is a great opportunity.”
“I don’t care about Miami,” Kim said. “I want to know about The Hack.”
Maria stared at Kim for a moment. “Oh crap,” she said.
“I learned about it on my date,” Kim said. Thank you so much for setting me on that path, by the way. I have learned quite a lot about this world. It turns out there are people all around us wielding unlimited Power. And they don’t have to fold clothes, or manage stores, or ride the Metro in endless circles like a peasant.”
“The Hack is not your concern,” Maria said. “I want you to forget you ever heard about it.”
“You want to send me to Miami so I can run a shop. You want to distract me and keep me busy with inconsequential little errands when what I want--what I need--has been right within my grasp all along.”
“The Hack is a corruption of nature,” Maria said. “Money and Power, without proper Fame and Friendship--”
“--I’m not here to make friends,” Kim said. “I am here to defeat Willow Pape and return home.”
“And I will help you do that, in time, the right way.”
“Your way takes too long,” Kim said.
“The Hack is a temporary solution to a temporary problem,” Maria said. “It leads to nothing but negativity and darkness.”
“Flying to Miami to beg for a job in a shop does not free me from negativity, it enslaves me to it.”
Maria rose and swept everything off her desk in one swift, violent motion. A terrible grey thundercloud appeared over her head, crackling with lightning that threatened to unleash itself in every direction. Maria’s eyes were wild and black.
“Ungrateful creature, I am trying to help you and you throw my assistance back in my face. Do you know who you are dealing with? I am Maria, Eldritch Publicist and Keeper of the Keys.”
“And I am Kim of House Kardashian, Daughter of the Hunter’s Moon and Destroyer of Men. The limits of this world are meaningless to me, as are your decrees.”
Kim stared Maria down, unsure of what she might do next. Maria was clearly a powerful witch, she would handily defeat Kim in her own office. But one way or another she would not be dissuaded.
After a long moment in which Kim was sure Maria was working a powerful enchantment against her, the storm cloud quickly dissipated, swirling in on itself and disappearing.
“Kim,” Maria said. Her voice softer now, her eyes wet. “Please do not do this. The Hack is a drug, a disease upon this world. It makes ghosts of our most talented young celebrities. You have so much promise, so much purpose in this world. The Hack will make you forget who you are. You will lose sight of your battle with Willow Pape. All that matters most to you will be lost.”
“You have betrayed yourself Maria,” Kim said. “Has the idea of my achieving this Power frightened you so much? It is clearly the only path before me.”
“It is not,” Maria pleaded. “There is another path, please let me help you.”
“I had had quite enough of your help,” Kim said. “I am done here.”
“You are too good for this, Kim.”
“You don’t know me at all, Maria. I’m not too good for anything.”
Kim turned to walk out, but stopped at the door. “I would curse you, but you already share an office with Simon, so I guess someone beat me to it. BYE.”
Kim left, not enough bothering to slam the door behind her. Let Maria get up from behind her desk for once.
She kept going, walked right next door to the Brew Palms and sat down at a table by herself. She took out her phone and scrolled through until she found Alexis in her contacts.
“Alexis Cassiopeia,” Kim said. “I summon you. Come forward and let’s be on a date.”
Chapter 12: The Hack
Kim hopped off the Metro at LAX, wearing jeans and a zebra-striped sweater thing.
She turned back and watched as Alexis appeared behind her. Alexis had been a blonde in an asymmetrical black dress on the Metro, but now she was wearing cutoffs over tights, and her bright red hair flowed out from under a white beanie.
Kim tried very hard not to be put off by Alexis’s ever-shifting appearance. In order to mitigate the weirdness Kim found that she either had to stay looking at Alexis and basically never blink ever, or just not look at her at all, keep her eyes trained elsewhere, landing anywhere but Alexis. These were the only ways for her to be reassured that she was still talking and sitting next to the same person. It was kind of not that fun.
But still. Alexis had been very eager to help Kim learn The Hack, and that meant a great deal to her.
“Where to?” Kim asked.
Alexis pointed to a sketchy-looking building at the end of the street. “The Championship Business Center.”
“Ugh, I hate that building,” Kim said. “It’s filled with randos.”
“Exactly,” Alexis said. “Come on.”
Kim followed Alexis into the building. Inside it was like a rat maze of boring offices, hallways that twisted and turned in every direction and seemed to stretch on forever, every path lined with rooms that all looked exactly alike. Alexis seemed sure of the way, turning left and then suddenly right and then left again. Kim was amazed that anyone could ever find their way in or out of this building. It all felt incredibly corporate.
Kim paused outside a few of the offices to peak through the windows.
“Every single one of these offices has someone inside.”
“Yes,” Alexis said.
“They’re just, like, standing in the center of the room, staring at nothing.”
“For you. Or someone like you.”
A chill went up Kim’s spine and she hurried to catch up to Alexis.
As they walked deeper into the building, down a flight of stairs, around a corner and down another hallway, Kim’s phone buzzed. It was a text from Michelle.
Hey I had a really great time on our date the other day, can we hang out again later?
Kim declined. She felt terrible about it but there was more important stuff going on right now, like major life stuff. She didn’t have time for a relationship and all the headaches it would inevitably cause.
After a few more minutes of tracing through the building, Kim wondering if they were ever actually going to arrive anywhere, Alexis stopped abruptly in front of a door that looked exactly the same as all the others.
She turned and looked at Kim. She was brunette and wearing the flying skull sleeveless T now. Kim was relieved she hadn’t worn the same thing.
“We’re here,” Alexis said.
Kim looked through the window of the door. “This one’s empty.”
“All is not as it seems,” Alexis said. She held the door open for Kim to pass through, then closed and locked it behind them.
“You will need to complete three actions inside this room in order to become one of The Hacked,” Alexis said. “I can guide you and show you the way, but you will need to complete the steps by yourself.”
“Okay,” Kim said. Her hands were shaking. “I’m ready.”
“The first step is over on that side of the room.”
Kim walked over until a glowing blue sign shimmered into view in front of her.
REJECT FAME, it said.
Kim paused, suddenly having second thoughts.
Alexis sensed her hesitation. “You can do this. Focus on the Money and Power The Hack will bring you. Fame is a fake idea. Fame is not a permanent state, it is fleeting and temporary. Reject the falsity of Fame as an end goal in order to transcend this reality.”
Kim closed her eyes and breathed. She rejected Fame. It cost her 6 energy.
“Wonderful,” Alexis said. “Next--”
“--Do I have to reject Friendship too?” Kim asked.
“What?” Alexis was taken aback. “Of course not. Kim, Maria and the others have been feeding you lies. We’re friends, aren’t we?”
Kim looked at Alexis, who had mermaid hair and a formal gown now.
“Yes, I think so.”
“Of course we are. The Hack requires help. How can it destroy Friendship when it can’t be completed without help from others? The Hack must be shared between friends in order to exist. All that stuff about The Hacked rejecting Friendship is just lies propagated by people who are afraid of the truth and want to keep you in check, who want to prevent you from becoming as powerful as you truly are.”
“OK,” Kim said, slightly relieved. This all made sense to her. And she wasn’t sure she’d really be able to reject Friendship, if it came down to it.
“You’ll find the next step over on the other side of the room,” Alexis said gently.
Kim walked over until a sign appeared. it read WIPE YOUR PHONE.
“Wait, what?” Kim said. “Like erase everything on it?”
“Yes. In order for The Hack to work your phone needs to achieve a state of purity.”
“But it’s my phone. It has my stuff on it. I thought this was going to be like a spiritual thing.”
“Oh it is,” Alexis said. “Your phone is an extension of your self. But that phone, in your hand, has been locked, hobbled. Phones can do so much more, but the powers that be don’t want you to know about it.”
This stirred a memory deep in Kim’s brain. She remembered something about phones from before her time here. There was truth to Alexis’s words.
Alexis smiled and nodded her head toward the WIPE YOUR PHONE sign.
Kim turned and Wiped Her Phone before she lost her nerve. It cost 4 energy. She stared at it as its screen went black in her hand. She was starting to feel tired.
“Masterfully done, Kim. I could swear you’ve done this before. Now the final step. It’s in the center of the room.”
Kim walked to the center of the room. The sign that appeared before her said DISAVOW KIM.
“Wait,” Kim said, stepping back. “I don’t know if I can do this one.”
“Of course you can. You’ve come so far. You’re almost there. Just one more step.”
“But wouldn’t this be like disavowing myself?”
Alexis looked curiously at Kim. “Of course not. You and Kim are two totally different people. The lies you have been told, the myth of the Four Corners, they’ve made it seem as though Kim Kardashian is so important, somehow central to everything here. Nothing could be further from the truth. Disavow her and we can complete The Hack and you will comprehend reality, as I and so many others have.”
Kim stared at the sign. “Oh come on, this one costs energy AND money.”
The sign said this would cost 8 energy and $1000.
“That’s all my energy, and all my money. THat’s everything I have.”
“Yes. A sacrifice must be made for The Hack to work. You must leave your energy and money behind or your will would naturally resist the transformation. And the money and energy you pay are nothing compared to what will be returned to you by The Hack.”
“I’m not sure,” Kim said. “I don’t think I can do it.”
“Think of it this way,” Alexis said. “How can you take hold of your new reality if your hands aren’t empty?”
Kim steeled herself and then quickly, before she had another moment to doubt herself, she Disavowed Kim. It felt wrong, and it wasn’t like before, where the energy simply left her body. Now she could feel the energy being ripped out of her, torn from her very muscle and bone.
At the end she collapsed to the ground, her body empty, aching.
“Great job,” Alexis said, rushing to Kim’s side, pulling a stray wisp of hair back from her forehead. “You did it.”
“I did? Am I one of The Hacked now?”
“Oh no,” Alexis said. “You just proved your worthiness.”
“Worthiness for what?” Kim said, feeling kind of betrayed that there were still more steps to go.
“Now you get to meet The Lady,” Alexis said.
“The Lady,” Alexis said simply.
“Fine okay but how are we going to meet her,” Kim asked. “I don’t have any money left for the Metro you’ll recall.”
“Oh we’re not going that way,” Alexis said. She took out her phone and held it up to the far wall, which flickered and then disappeared altogether. Where there should have been another office there was now a pathway to an immense and beautiful city, glittering and electric.
Chapter 13: Welcome to Ambition
Kim followed Alexis through the wall and into the city. They were on a sidewalk, as though they’d just come out from an alley.
The city was dark, electric, alive, pulsating all around her. At first Kim thought it was the neon blinking lights that seemed to cover all the buildings, but as she went deeper into the city and saw the buildings up close, she realized there weren’t any lights at all--it was the buildings themselves that were blinking.
It was as though very building was imbued with that aspect of The Hack that made it impossible to ascertain a person’s true appearance. Buildings cycled through different styles with each glance of her eyes. A storefront became an apartment building became a restaurant. Some of the buildings she recognized from her travels in Los Angeles and Beverly Hills, but some seemed to belong to a different part of the world altogether, architecture that would be perfectly suited to Paris, London, Sydney.
Every time she shifted her eyes her entire landscape, her entire reality, seemed to shift with it. She was everywhere and nowhere, all at once.
“So, hey,” Kim said, struggling to keep up with Alexis. “Where are we? What is this place?”
“This is Ambition,” said Alexis. “Isn’t it cool?”
Kim wasn’t sure what was particularly cool about it. How were you even supposed to find your way around with everything switching its appearance all the time? And the streets were filled with other people, but no one was looking at anyone else; there were no conversations, debates, laughter, arguments. Kim had the distinct feeling that people were staring at her, behind her back? from the shadows? but every time she turned around everyone was pointedly not looking at her.
Kim was starting to feel uneasy, surrounded by all these freaked-out buildings and people. She had a sudden, intense desire to be back in her quiet apartment, standing in front of her tiny closet. So okay maybe her clothing options were severely limited, still, there was something fun about the challenge of styling cool outfits when your options were constrained.
“Come on,” Alexis called, over her shoulder. “We’re almost to The Lady. She’ll be so happy that I brought you here. And be careful where you step, it’s easy to fall out of the world here.”
Um what? Kind of a crappy city if true. Kim rushed to catch up, thinking Hello? Can we walk together like civilized people? Alexis didn’t seem to care if Kim was even following her. Rude.
Around a corner and down a ways Alexis stopped in front of a building set apart from the others. It shifted rapidly in-between looking a lot like Kim’s mansion and the Championship Business Center. But every time it changed Kim swore that just for a second she could see through the skin of the building, and inside it looked like it was made of bones.
If Alexis noticed she didn’t say anything about it.
“Come,” Alexis said.
Wow bossy, Kim thought to herself.
They entered the skeleton building and inside it was just a simple room with a long table and a fireplace. There was a woman—incredibly well-dressed, K-Stars for days--seated at the table. Another woman was leaning over and whispering something into the seated woman’s ear, but she was dismissed, sent scurrying out as soon as Alexis and Kim entered.
The woman rose. She was a shifter just like all the others, her appearance changing wildly every time Kim looked at her, but there remained something about her that was older than anyone else she had seen here yet. Her face was slightly stretched, plastic, devoid of warmth and emotion. She performed a series of non-touching air kisses with Alexis. Kim had never cared for that type of greeting. Hand hugs all the way.
“My Lady,” Alexis said.
“And who’s that girl?” The Lady said, looking over at Kim.
“This is Kim. She is my friend,” Alexis said, the word friend like a rock in her mouth as she tried to smile around it.
Kim attempted a small curtsy, she wasn’t sure exactly what the protocol was here.
“Hi I’m Kim Kardashian,” she said.
The Lady raised one eyebrow. “Were you compelled to come here, Kim Kardashian? Or do you come of your own free will? Express yourself.”
The Lady had a very weird accent--British, but inconsistently so, like she was forgetting to use it half the time.
“I--” Kim looked at Alexis, unsure if there was a correct answer. Had she had a choice? “The free will one,” she guessed.
The Lady closed her eyes and nodded, then turned to Alexis. “Thank you Alexis, you may leave us. I believe Kim and I will get along famously.”
Alexis looked uncomfortably from The Lady to Kim and back.
“Kim is the eighth person I’ve brought you, my Lady," Alexis said.
“So it is,” The Lady said, and she opened her hand and a torrent of dark black heart emojis swept out from her upturned palm, bouncing and skittering across the floor. Alexis turned and scrambled after them, chasing them right out the door.
So, that was weird. And Kim couldn’t believe Alexis just took off, without a look back, or a Hey see you later, or even a fake-y air kiss in her general direction? That chick is definitely not my friend and this is 100% bad news, Kim thought.
“Let’s dress you up,” The Lady said. “Let’s get you hacked."
Chapter 14: Escape From Ambition
“Kim. Come,” The Lady said. “Look in the mirror and tell me what you think.”
The Lady motioned to Kim’s side. Kim looked and saw a mirror where there definitely had not been a mirror a moment ago.
Kim walked over and looked at herself in the mirror. In the mirror she was wearing an intensely glamorous dress that hit all her curves in all the right places. An Alaïa, Kim guessed. She turned and looked back at it, like Haaaay.
“I hesitate to even mention how many K-Stars that dress costs up in Hollywood, but you can well imagine,” The Lady said. “In Ambition we don’t believe in inhibiting one’s creativity. See?”
Kim turned around and the simple room they’d been standing in was now a high-end retail shop, with racks of tops and dresses and accessories in rows that stretched as far back as she could see.
“A woman as breath-taking as you should not be bowing and scraping for clothes, running pointless errands in hopes that it’s part of some mysterious, unknowable plan. These clothes look magnificent on you, what else should you have to prove to anyone?”
Kim found it difficult to look away from herself in the mirror. Part of her wanted to go tearing through the aisles, trying on every single thing in sight, but part of her wanted to just linger here at the mirror.
“Right?” she found herself replying to the woman. She shook her head clear when she heard the sound of her own voice. “I mean yeah. Yes, you’re right. But I’m actually not actually super concerned with clothes.”
Something glinted in The Lady’s eyes, a look of deep understanding and recognition. “Deeper and deeper we go,” she said.
The Lady pressed her hands together and Kim blinked and now the clothes were gone and they were no longer in a shop but somewhere darker, a cave? No: a library. It was dimly lit and it felt like they were deep underground, but they were surrounded on all sides by imposing stacks of books, ancient and dusty and brittle, piled high and falling over each other in every direction. Kim noticed obscures runes running along their spines.
“What is this,” Kim said, her heart rising.
“My collection,” The Lady said. “Some tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. This is knowledge, my dear. And what is knowledge?”
“Power,” Kim whispered.
“Good girl,” The Lady said. “Every spell, every enchantment, every glamour known. It has taken me a lifetime to gather together, but there is no limit to what one might accomplish with access to this library. I can already tell that you are special. You could easily become one of the most powerful celebrities here.”
“Awesome, totally,” Kim said. “That sounds great but actually this is all kind of temporary for me. I really just need one spell, basically. Well, maybe two.”
The Lady turned her head curiously. “Which spells might those be?”
“So, killing Willow Pape is kind of my whole thing, or it has been. Do you know her? She’s hateful. Anyway. I was thinking I needed to kill her so I could get back home, but actually maybe there’s a spell here that can just get me home without having to bother killing her? As much as I want her dead and would enjoy watching her suffer, I actually do not care about her, like at all. So if I could just peace this world out entirely than who cares. Willow Pape can ess an effing dee imo.”
“You wish to move between worlds?” The Lady asked. “But that’s easy. With our powers we can travel back and forth between Ambition and Hollywood with no trouble at all. Complete The Hack and this can be the first thing I teach you.”
“No,” Kim said. “Not Hollywood. Home. Like home, home. My home beyond Hollywood? Where I originally come from? If that makes sense? I’m not sure how to explain it.”
The Lady was silent.
“I’ll be able to do that, right? Get home?”
The Lady hesitated a moment too long. “Totally!” she said, in the least convincing voice possible.
Kim took a step back.
The Lady took a step forward.
“You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you,” Kim said. “Your unlimited power is limited to these worlds.”
The Lady leaned into Kim. “I am the most powerful enchantress in this world or any other, and you would do well to mind your tone, Kim. Now,” The Lady straightened up, smiling, resetting the conversation. “Let’s just finish up your Hack and then unlimited money and power will be yours, to do with as you will. Let’s hurry dear, that particular outfit you have on isn’t very flattering at all.”
“Umm,” Kim said. She paused, then she turned and ran, as fast as she could, away from The Lady.
She ran through the stacks, past rows and rows of books, until she came to a door. It was locked. She pulled and pulled and was finally able to Open The Door with 4 Energy.
She ran through the door and found herself outside? on a yacht? But she kept running, as fast as her strappy heels could take her. She crossed to the other side of the yacht and then found herself in a crowded night club, with repetitive electronica blaring everywhere around her.
She pushed through the crowd of bouncing gray bodies, heading towards the back of the club, desperately searching for an exit. At last she found a door, but it was blocked by dudes in baseball caps, all trying to get her number using the dumbest lines ever.
Kim used her last 6 energy to Ruin The Men’s Confidence and clear them out of the way. She went through the door and found herself now in her own apartment, in Downtown L.A. Except it was nicer than she’d left it, completely furnished.
She saw The Lady seated on the couch, petting the adoptable cat.
“There’s nowhere for you to run, Kim. You’re being terribly immature. Just complete The Hack and let’s get back to trying on clothes.”
“What do you want from me?” Kim yelled. She was crying, her mascara starting to smudge, but she barely even cared.
“I want your heart, of course,” The Lady said.
“What? Why do you need my heart?”
“So we can be friends. So we can hang out and try on clothes and do spells together all the time forever.”
“You don’t want to be my friend,” Kim said. “You just want me to Like you. All you care about is having as many Followers as possible. But I am Kim Kardashian. I am not some mindless Follower.”
“There’s only one Kim Kardashian, dear, and you are not her.”
“That’s not true!” Kim screamed.
She tried to run again but with the tiniest flick of her wrist, The Lady unleashed a force wave that crashed into Kim, flinging her back against the wall.
The Lady leaned over Kim. “Open your heart, Kim. It belongs to me now.”
“No! You are awful! Get away!” Kim screamed. She was completely out of energy. There was nothing she could do. This majorly sucked. Everything was terrible.
The Lady reached out toward Kim. She was going to pull Kim’s heart right out of her chest.
All at once the room was filled with a bright, impenetrable light. Kim heard a man’s voice, guttural and low, casting a curse of some kind. Then a wave of giant Moyai emojis swept past her, knocking The Lady back across the floor.
Kim looked up and saw a man towering over her. His arms were covered in tribal tattoos and his newsboy hat was pulled down low over his eyes.
“Luther?” Kim said.
“Come on,” Luther said, reaching down to pull Kim up. “Maria can’t hold the portal open for long. And you’re late for your shift.”
Chapter 15: The Emotional Rescue
Luther pulled Kim to her feet in one swift motion, then hustled her out through the swirling hole in the wall. Out on the other side she saw that they were no longer in the city, in Ambition, but back in Hollywood, by LAX.
They ran, Luther’s hand gripped firmly around Kim’s. Kim looked back just in time to see the portal closing up behind her on the side of the Championship Business Center. Just before it sealed up completely Kim saw The Lady standing on the other side, her eyes fixed pointedly on Kim’s. It was very creepy.
“In here, get in,” Luther said. He opened the back door of a black Escalade that was idling by the curb and pushed her inside. He jumped in after her, slammed the door and yelled “Go!”.
The car immediately launched out into the road, sending Kim caroming around the back seat, banging her head against the window.
“Owwwww wtf,” she said, struggling to right herself in the rocket car. “I’ve had a hard day, you know.” She pulled a strand of hair out from across her eyes so she could see who was driving.
Michelle’s eyes smiled back at her from the rear view mirror.
“Michelle???” Kim said.
“Kim. Hi,” Michelle said. “Look, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. About us.” Michelle spoke in a calm, kind voice, mostly ignoring the road and to look in the mirror back at Kim, while the car wove in and out of traffic at impossibly high speeds. Kim was certain they were all going to die in a fiery wreck.
“I had a really great time on our date. You seem really great. But you wouldn’t return my calls, so I just feel like maybe we’re in different places right now, you know? I think it’s best if we just break up.”
Michelle’s eyes waited in the mirror to gauge Kim’s reaction. She jerked the wheel, sending them out into the left lane and in between two buses, missing them both by microns, before swerving back into the right lane.
“Umm,” Kim slumped back into her seat. A smiled came to her lips, out of nowhere. “You rescued me from The Lady so you could break up with me?”
“Yes. Don’t be mad but we can’t see each other anymore.”
“You haven’t shown up at So Chic in days,” Luther said, glaring at Kim. “I”m tired of folding those damn outfits by myself. What even is the point of running a store if you have to do all the work yourself? You’re doing a 12-hour shift when you get back, and don’t even try to get out of it.”
“OK,” Kim said, actually kind of looking forward to it. Kim had this weird, warm, kind of electric feeling buzzing around inside her. She had an idea what it was but was almost afraid to name it.
“You guys rescued me,” she said, almost to herself. “My friends rescued me.”
“I’m not your friend, I’m your boss,” Luther said.
“I guess I’d like to call you a friend,” Michelle said. “But you’ll need to restore my trust, return the occasional phone call, maybe buy me a gift or two, that wouldn’t exactly hurt.”
“And Maria’s going to kill you anyway,” Luther said. “So it’s not like anything matters.”
Kim didn’t care where they were going or what was going to happen to her. Here, right now, she was happy. “I want to make out with both of you,” she said.
“20 K-Stars,” Michelle said immediately.
“Uhh infinity times infinity K-Stars, because no way, ever. And I’m making that a 24-hour shift now, you’re welcome.” Luther said.
He looked away but Kim thought maybe he was almost smiling.
Kim looked out the window at the city streaming by. “My friends saved me,” she said.
“Ugh, shut up,” Michelle and Luther said together.
Kim didn’t even care. She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. These extremely crabby and weird people were her friends.