School resumed. Peter and Eun sent in their college applications. They were both accepted by their first picks. He complained they were simply enrolling in a debt-driven construct, a socioeconomic trap formed from the impetus of competitive evolution, but Eun took it all in stride.
“We have plenty of options, Peter. You’ve got more money in your offshore accounts than Bill Gates and El Chapo combined.”
Instead of acknowledging her, he launched into a heated diatribe. The masses were hypnotized, and it wouldn’t be long before they broke free of their chains and woke the hell up. Who the fuck wanted to bust their ass for a goddamn degree, just so they could work forty hours a week for forty fucking years in a neon-lit office, only to cash out on a measly-ass 401k when they were too old to enjoy it?
“So why’d you apply, then, if you hate it so much?” Eun asked. She was sitting on his bed, letting her feet dangle.
He blew a frustrated sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t…fuck. I mean there’s good things too, right? Orgies, drugs…”
She gave him a skeptical look. “If you don’t want to go, then don’t go. How are things with you and Holly?”
He crossed his arms. Scuffed the floor with his toe. “Mutual breakup. I think part of her remembers everything she did.” He chuckled ruefully. “At least it was amiable. She’s not trying to kill me or eviscerate me or whatever the fuck she was planning before she switched bodies.”
“Holly Dent and Peter Lee—enemies no more, but friendly exes. Who would have thought?”
“I know, right?” He shook his head. “And who would’ve thought I’d ever go to college? If you asked me a week ago whether I was going to pursue quote unquote ‘higher education,’ I’d have laughed in your face.”
Eun rolled her eyes. “If you’re that conflicted about it…”
“No, it’s ok.” He walked to a window, braced his forearms against it, and looked outside. “I’m sure it’ll lead to new opportunities. I have faith.”
“Faith.” Eun grinned. “That’s a new one. I like it, though. I heard you, by the way, when you were fighting Dissona. I felt what you were thinking.”
“I know.” His gaze drifted across the placid horizon. “I sensed your presence.”
A second’s pause, then they both said: “ ‘Belief is a weapon.’ ”
They both laughed.
“A weapon…” He trailed off. “It’s more than that, though. It uh…” He scratched his head. Eun waited. He’d come a long way since they’d first met. He was fully capable of forming his own conclusions.
His expression firmed. “It forms reality. It is reality.”
Eun smiled. Said nothing.
Then he muttered, “Orgies…drugs…doesn’t sound bad.” He laughed self-consciously. “Holly’s going to the same school as I am. She’s studying other stuff, of course—business, politics, alla that power and influence bullshit—but maybe we could get back together. Anything’s possible, you know?” He gave Eun a hopeful look.
“Always is, always was.”
“Even anal. HEH heh heh!” He shadowboxed the air and pumped his fist:
Her face twisted in clear disgust. “Gross.”
He sat at his desk and folded his hands behind his head. His eyes ticked back and forth as he studied the ceiling. “You ready to be a respectable citizen? Never thought it’d happen to us.”
Before she could reply, their perception went Slideways, blurring the room and hazing the air. They were both surprised at how familiar it felt. And if they were being completely honest, the tinge of relief that underscored it…
[Peter! Eun!] Kor’Thank’s voice was loud and clear. [I need your help!]
Peter bolted up in his seat. [Holy fucksticks! You’re not stuck in another dimension, are you? Dude, let me prime the Bite Mobile and—]
[Calm down.] Kor’Thank was irritated and amused. [I’m not in danger.]
[What’s going on?] Eun asked. She got up from the bed and rotated her trunk, stretching her spine like she was about to work out.
[Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Civil unrest, societal turbulence, sinister parties making shadowy moves…what do you say—wanna lend a hand?]
Eun and Peter exchanged a look.
[You’re fucking A right we do.] Peter faced forward, a cheese-eating smile widening his lips. [College can wait. We need some adventure, goddamit.]
Kor’Thank grinned into both their minds. [Awesome.]
[Great.] Eun rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. [Possible death, destruction and woe…]
[And glory. Don’t forget glory.] Peter turned and presented a fist. Eun bumped knuckles with him. [Let’s do it.] he projected. [Portal us.]
[Wodec!] Kor’Thank reached out, bringing the High Mage into their psychic coterie. [Build me a bridge.]
[As you wish.] Wodec replied. A flare of light leapt into being, burning so damn bright that it brought Peter and Eun’s bones into visible relief. It bounced outward into a spitting, crackling globe, surrounded by spinning rings of quick-changing symbols. Otherworldly calculus flickered and shone, reflecting different colors off Peter and Eun’s pupils.
The two teens exchanged a glance.
Then they faced forward and started walking.
Fuck yeah. Peter stepped into the blazing gateway. This ain’t no horror movie.
Without intending to, he expressed an unrepentant, heartfelt grin.
It’s an adventure, motherfucker.