I am Alice Hannah Taylor.
She was falling.
I am shifting to my desired reality.
The feeling was familiar.
I am going to Hogwarts.
It was wrong.
I am Alice Hannah Taylor.
This direction would only lead to sleep.
I am shifting to my desired reality.
Going up would bring her back.
I am going to Hogwarts.
The sides were hard walls, like a tunnel.
I am Alice Hannah Taylor.
Only one direction left.
I am shifting to my desired reality.
Alice found herself floating in a featureless gray space, evenly lit by nothing in particular. This was most definitely not her DR. Was this the waiting room her friends had told her about? After all, she did script that she was going to Hogwarts, not that she’d end up there right away.
Reality checks. It didn’t feel like a dream, but you could never be sure enough. One, two, three, four— five fingers. On each hand. She closed one eye — could see her nose in the corner of her sight. She pinched it with her fingers, tried to inhale deeply — couldn’t. This was real. And she probably looked pretty ridiculous.
She decided to float down, hoping to eventually hit the ground— and as soon as she thought this, she could feel her feet touch a solid surface. It felt like she was wearing her shoes, which was good, at least.
This was when she gathered enough courage to look down. She knew what she had scripted, and tried her best to believe it all throughout the affirmations, but she knew what they said about doubt — and doubt had always lingered. If it didn’t work, she would have to deal with it, one way or another. If it did…
My name is Alice Hannah Taylor. Everyone knows me by that name. I am a cis girl in my desired realities.
“It… It worked.” She’d said this out loud, without intending to. Her voice surprised her. She didn’t know what to feel, and she wasn’t sure what she was feeling, either.
Alice’s slightly shaking hand reached into a pocket, and pulled out her phone. Wait, does this body even have the same finger— Click. Okay! Okay.
The phone unlocked directly into an app that she had never installed. She recognized that logo— she’d spent so many late evening hours working on a cool one on MS Paint.
I have a Lifa app that allows me to control everything within my DR. The app allows me to open portals into other realities.
The layout was just something she got from someone else’s app. Plain beige background, and a bunch of white text menu options (which she hadn’t anticipated would be so hard to read on her phone). Some were greyed out— that was fair, she didn’t expect things like “Communicate with CR” to actually work across parallel universes. Now, to find a way to get to Hogwarts.
Review script, edit script, power manager, bank account… Is it DR manager, or reality shifter? What’s even the order in this menu?
“Hey there, need some help?”
“Yeah, tryna figure out this app here—” Alice realized. She squeezed her phone’s lock button, and looked around for the origin of the voice. “Hey wait, what the fuck? Who are you?”
Something gazed back. Everything gazed back. The waiting room was filled with the metallic shine of steel feathers, within the cold blue artificial irises of bionic cameras, within yet more feathers, within yet more irises, an endless fractal of eyes softly flapping and wings staring right at her.
And everything replied, “Oh yeah, kinda dogsh— terrible UI design, who even made this?”
This was way too many emotions in not enough time for Alice. Something in the back of her mind wondered if her other body could scream that high, while everything else within it proceeded to prove that her current one at least could.
She didn’t quite notice it, but the fractal somehow looked startled. “Whoa whoa whoa,” it said, in an odd tone created by the vibrations of countless metal feathers; “shi— uh, sorry, I just wanted to show off, hold on—”
And just like that, the machine angel was gone. Instead, a tall woman with cold, blue eyes and a couple of floating camera drones stared down at the girl, an apologetic look on her face. “I just thought it’d be cool, sorry kid, uh—”
The “kid” was now shaking, which made her frantic efforts to unlock her phone yet more difficult. “I’m not fucking scared of you!”, she yelled.
The woman sighed. “You clearly are, Alice.”
This knocked some breath out of the girl. “Wha— how the f—”
“Listen.” There was some anger in her voice — just a little bit. “You’ve got what feels pretty darn close to your true name, and then you write it down, in the Words, that define the entire world you’re in, and that are trivial to read— Just— what did you expect to happen?”
“Well, I— uh—”
“Your name’s precious, Alice Hannah Taylor, and you should keep it a close secret around here. You’re very lucky I’m the first person you’ve met. Hold on…”
The stranger reached out to her side, made a grabbing motion and pulled out a plain black chair, as if it had been hidden behind an invisible panel. She pulled the chair behind her, and sat down. “Try it too, it’s not hard. Just expect it.” Alice cautiously tried, grabbing the empty air, and indeed finding something solid between her fingers. She pulled, and her bedroom’s office chair rolled out. She sat on it, finding it to be bigger than she remembered.
She looked at the other. Now that she’d calmed down, she noticed her platinum blonde hair, and her outfit — plain black T-shirt and blue jeans. The vibe was somewhere between tech CEO and low-budget sci-fi android.
Finally, she spoke. “You didn’t tell me who you were. You’ve got my name, it’s only fair.”
The woman smiled. “Correct! Lemme just…” A circle of drones, similar to the two that were surrounding her, appeared in a circle around the two, facing outward. The air around them shimmered.
“I should have done that earlier, to protect you as well. My name is Mallory Eve Belford, I’m some kinda tech witch, and I work for the Special Operations Division of the Protectors of the Plot Continuum.”
That sounded important. And like Alice was in trouble. “Are you… Some kinda shifting cop? Do I get a lawyer?”
The woman — Mallory — laughed. “Oh no, you’re not in trouble! We’re more like fanfic, uh… Yeah, cops, I guess. We don’t go after real people. I just wanted to talk to you a bit, about what you’re trying to do and what you’re actually doing. Just a matter of safety.”
Great, I’m gonna get told to look both ways before crossing the multiverse by a spooky magic cop. “Shoot.”
“Okay, I’ll keep it short. One: shifting’s not real — not the way you’ve read about it. You’re doing astral projection, and even then, what people do shouldn’t work. Two: what you did worked, and I’m impressed. Keep training, be more mindful of safety, and do away with those script things, they’re limiting what you can do — doubt you’ve got something like that fractal machine angel trick in your script, right?”
“And three’s why I brought up my job. Were you trying to go to Hogwarts, or some anime, or whatever?”
Mallory looked actually surprised. “Huh. Then you’re very lucky I was here. I know you’re the real deal, we’re both in an astral plane right now, and I got here the normal way. But if you’d gotten to uh, Hogwarts, well, there’s plenty of awful self-insert fanfiction that specifically feature the Mary Sue protagonist astral travelling to their favorite continuum, and dating all the characters or something. You could have come across an agent.”
“And… What would they do?” But Alice felt like she already knew.
“If they didn’t believe you? Or felt like being stealthy that day?” Mallory looked at one of her drones, with Alice following her gaze. There was a flash of green light, and it fell to the ground, crumbling into dust. “You get the gist of it.” Alice nodded, shivers running down her spine.
There were a few moments of silence, before the girl asked: “So… What now?”
Mallory’s tone was somewhat terse. “You go back. You research astral travel safety. You don’t try again until—”
“I don’t think you get it, you’ll get yourself killed if—”
“I don’t give a fuck.”
Alice stood up, and tossed her phone aside.
She was glowing.
“You don’t get it. You can’t get it.”
She reached out into the air, just like with the chair. She pulled out a sword — an ornate rapier. The glow intensified.
“How long do you think I would have lived anyway?” She enunciated each word slowly, with much deliberation. “You don’t know what it’s like— you don’t know what I’m like, out there. This was the last option. And it worked.”
The light was nearly blinding her.
“And I am. Never. Going. Back!”
Alice held her sword up into the air.
I have magical girl transformation powers.
The fuck’s that even have to do with Harry Potter?
Mal now had to deal with an angsty teenager in a frilly dress trying to smash her constructs with a magic sword and rainbow laser beams. Which honestly reminded her of her high school days.
She had to actively exist within the drones in order to make them dodge the blows, and it was a bit tiring to have so many separate bodies at once. Still, the barrier held, and the kid was safe — but nowhere near tired, and her lightning-fast reflexes hinted at some subconscious manipulation of subjective time. She was a natural.
“I’m not saying never come back, I’m saying research your—”
“Don’t care! Not listening!” She effortlessly parried some beams from the drones — nothing actually harmful, just enough to force her back into her physical body. Hopefully. What was out there was worse anyway.
The two were at a stalemate, but Mal couldn’t keep up for long. She had to think fast. She went through the positions of all her tech, twelve drones for the barrier —nine minimum—, now three actively fighting Alice, the one camera keeping distance and looking for an opening—
There’s one left. Ground, three meters away. But I didn’t summon—
The phone. It was the kid’s phone, with the app. The app that controlled the Words.
Mal’s mind reached into the phone. Locked. The processor’s secure enclave, coaxing a message out of it. A teen’s understanding of hacking. Click. Okay.
The app — Lifa. Dogshit UI design. Kick her back? No option for return, kid never wanted to. Edit script. She could wipe everything — no, she couldn’t, she knew precisely how cruel it would be. She could remove the powers. She could—
The drones. I forgot to keep the drones moving.
A metal point against her throat. Both cold like dry ice and hot like plasma. The two did not cancel out.
“Whatever you’re trying to do”, Alice stated, “you better think twice. Uh. Before you do it. Fuck, I should work on—”
Mal could only laugh. The kid continued: “Hey, I know, I’m not great with words, but we’re uh, kind of in the middle of something?”
She replied. “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just that I already did it.”
Aaaaaaaand wrong choice of w— Ow. Getting stabbed with a magical rapier was not a particularly pleasant experience, and made thinking of an escape plan somewhat hard. Thankfully, she had sixteen other bodies that were unable to feel pain. And so, the human one exploded into metallic dust.
She’d done it. She was free — or she would be, once the floating robot orbs were dealt with.
She smiled at the pile of dust, trying really hard not to think of the fact that she might have killed a human person. “Don’t feel so good now, eh?”
“Situationally relevant,” a drone replied, “and—” a beam of light from her sword silenced it.
“—relatively creative meme usage,” another continued, “but—” this one, she cut in half with her sword.
“— I have to deduct points for using a 2018 meme, and a MCU one at that.” She just punched that one, it deserved it. Now, for the ones keeping her a prisoner of this barrier.
“Overall,” came a voice behind her, softer and less buzzy than that of the drones, “I’d say seven out of ten.”
She turned around and, with the lightning-fast reflexes her magical girl form gave her, went for the killing blow, slashing with her sword—
And Mallory just grabbed it, with her hand. She didn’t quite look human anymore — Alice could see the shimmer of the dust she was remade from in her skin, and a pair of steel-feathered wings in her back.
“One,” she spoke: “Rapiers are more suited for stabbing. Two: an astral battle between two humans will quickly devolve into playground godmodding contests. Now, can we talk?”
“What did you do?”
“Removed your name from the Words — the script. Didn’t do anything to yourself, but now you’re in marginally less danger.”
The kid pondered this for a moment, and her face then lit up. “So… That means I can stay here forever?”
Mal shook her head. “Nah, you don’t have any training. You’re getting back into the “real world” once your body wakes itself up, can’t do much against that at a beginner level. I was just trying not to let you get yourself eaten or something in the meantime.”
“Oh. So, that means…”
“Yeah. Trust me, I’ve been there too. You might not believe it, but I promise it genuinely gets better.” The teen sighed. “But I’ve got something better than platitudes. Wanna try visiting the multiverse the legit way? No parent’s approval needed, hint hint.”
This got a smile out of the girl. “I’m not sure I’d wanna be a cop.”
“Plenty of other things to do in the PPC. Just google it, the full name — we’re the third result in most continua with the internet, for some reason.”
“Oh yeah, we’re ridiculously understaffed, overworked, and you might get murdered or go mad. But apparently you were fine with that like five minutes ago.”
Alice was now positively beaming. “Yeah, that’ll work.”
Mal chuckled. “Oh, one last thing.”
“Why Hogwarts? You don’t strike me as a JK Rowling fan.”
The girl told her, and Mal laughed for a minute straight.
“You know what? I think we can work with this.”
“Mom, I had the weirdest dream last night.”
“Yeah, it was like, I was in an empty room, and then it all turned into eyes, and…”
“… Nevermind, I think I already forgot the rest.”
“Aww. Too bad, it was nice seeing you get excited about something for once.”
Protectors of the Plot Continuum. Third result on Google. She’d bookmarked it as soon as she’d woken up, of course.
“Anis, I just had the weirdest dream.”
“Is this going to be the ‘nightmare about paying my water bill’ joke again?”
Mal sat up in her bed, stretching her arms. She reached out with her mind, and a tendril of intent turned the radio on. “Nah, I’m serious. You know that ‘reality shifting’ thing the kids these days are up to?”
“Well, I dreamed that I came across one of those, and spooked them with a bunch of drones or something, and— Hey, wait.”
As if right on cue, the radio’s music was cut, and replaced with the Nutmeg news jingle.
We interrupt our regular programming to inform you of an apparent incident in the Harry Potter continuum. Several agents have reported an act of vandalism consistent throughout multiple fics as well as the main canon. The Hogwarts castle appears to have been repainted with the following color scheme: pink, white, and light blue. Furthermore, the House Elves…
Mal could only laugh.