Peter crossed his arms and stared at the Bite Mobile. “I don’t get it. Is it supposed to talk, or…”
After leaving the Bloom, they’d raced to his house. If Bitefighter manifested, Peter wanted to make sure it happened in his bedroom, where he could (hopefully) keep any craziness contained to the house. They’d been scrutinizing the unicycle for fifteen minutes, but so far…nothing.
“Maybe he was lying,” Kora ventured. “For his own amusement, perhaps.”
Peter shook his head. “Not his style.”
“He mentioned mushrooms…” Eun said hesitantly. “Think they could help?”
“Couldn’t hurt to try.” Peter gulped some shrooms, then gave his friends a handful of zen zaps. After they ate them Peter snapped his fingers, sending their perception a few notches Slideways. Drifting fractals popped into existence, filling the room with colored haze.
[Look!] Eun pointed at the unicycle.
Due to Peter’s careless chomping, zen zap fragments were floating downward, settling onto various spots across the Bite Mobile. Luminous veins rippled out from the contacts.
Eun snatched the shroom-bag away from Peter. [If we feed it zen zaps, maybe it’ll—]
[Wait.] He halted her with an outstretched hand.
[What?] Eun asked, puzzled.
[Bitefighter was…what if he comes back and he doesn’t forgive me for…for…] Deep pain radiated out from his psyche.
Kora took hold of Peter’s shoulders, forcing him to look her square in the eye. [Do not falter. Embrace your future, lest you become mired in the past.]
Peter fell silent. Then: [You’re right.] He turned to Eun. [Do it.]
[If you need time, then—]
[It’s been years.] he projected. [I’m ready.]
She sprinkled some crumpled shrooms onto the Bite Mobile. Patterned lightning—each bolt was limned with henna-esque designs—passed around and through the wheel and the frame.
[Whoa.] Peter whispered.
[Indeed.] Kora emoted. She’d seen magic throughout her life, but this was something else. The patterns…they were…
She’d meant to keep the thought to herself, but inadvertently sent it to Peter and Eun. They nodded distractedly and continued staring at the radiant unicycle. A second later, it began to transform. Different components snapped and popped, linking together in a clockwork sequence.
[What’s happening?] Eun squeaked. [Peter?]
[I don’t know!] He stepped back. [I’ve never—]
Rods telescoped and locked into place. The wheel split and gave birth to a duplicate. Near the front, a crosspiece of metal sectioned outward, settling into an unmistakable “T.”
Peter’s unicycle had just become a bicycle.
Peter reached out with a tentative hand. A fritz of lightning jumped toward him. He jerked his fingers back.
[Peter.] Eun whispered. [Look.] She pointed at the handlebars.
A pad of soft-glowing green had emerged between the grips. Letters and numbers were flitting across it.
[Should we touch it?] Peter asked.
Kora stared at it. Then: [Stand back. You do not possess my durability.] Peter and Eun were happy to comply.
Kora touched the pad, and a soft boo-BOOP sounded from its surface. A six-inch figure formed above it. At first it was staticky and broken—like Leia’s hologram in the first Star Wars—but then it resolved into a cartoonish creature with a cute potbelly, a spindly pair of arms, and an oversized head. Its mouth was charmingly wide and filled with fangs. It looked like the rabbit-creature Max from Peter’s favorite comic, Sam and Max, but it didn’t have ears. Instead, its head was topped by a small mohawk made of short, bristly hairs. From a distance, it could have easily been mistaken for a solid black stripe.
[Is that…is that…] Peter trailed off.
[Bitefighter.] Kora projected reverently. [His true form.]
Peter wanted to argue—Bitefighter was a dog, not a deviant-looking Animaniac—but a surge of surety bloomed in his mind. This was his long-dead friend, no doubt about it.
[What do we do?] he asked. [Feed it more shrooms?]
Bitefighter traced a square with his index finger, leaving four silver lines hanging in the air. Color flooded the center of the square, turning it into a white, fuzzy slat. He wrote on its surface with the same finger, then held up the slat so the three could read it.
NOT YET. STILL ASSIMILATING.
[Bitefighter.] Peter’s lower lip trembled. [I let you down. I shouldn’t have—]
He scribbled out another message. ALL PART OF THE GRAND DESIGN, it read. His grin widened. NO WORRIES.
Eun clasped her hands, trying not to wring them. She wasn’t sure of how to address a cartoonish entity that looked like its sole purpose was to chomp and bite [Uh…so do you need anything, or—]
Bitefighter dropped to his knees and began scribbling on his whiteboard. When he held it up, it read: SLEEP NOW. TALK LATER. He set it down and laid on his side. He pressed his hands together, rested his oversized head on them, and curled his legs up to his chest. His potbelly rose and fell as his eyes drooped closed.
[Unbelievable.] Peter turned to his friends. [Who would have thought that my ten-pound terrier was an immortal warrior? Not only that—he’s reincarnated as a hyper-intelligent bicycle that eats magic fucking mushrooms.]
[I always knew he was special.] Kora projected. [I’d tell him what I wanted, and oftentimes, he’d do it better than I first imagined. Sometimes, he would simply ignore me, if I was being foolish.] Her eyes grew distant. [I could trust him to chock me.] She focused on Eun. [Is that the word? ‘Chock?’]
[Check.] Eun corrected. [You could trust him to check you.]
[Check.] Kora nodded. [Yes. He was good at that.]
Peter examined the bike. [Guys…do you think he’ll keep transforming?]
The three of them studied the Bite Mobile in silence, contemplating his question. A consensus grew between them, reinforced by their Slideways telepathy:
He would continue to change. He had to.
[What will he become?] Kora mused.
A faint smile from Eun Yin.