It's not mutation.
Even though it's in the family, it's not a mutation.
Denial? No, not really.
It's not in the double-helix, in the strands of DNA.
It's not a thing of power, passed on to us.
I... I don't know.
I don't know what it is.
Muses do manifest powers, abilities. We are fictives...
This isn't the X-Men. Abilities come with the role. They're part of the role.
Something normal, something I thought was perfectly normal for a Muse.
Would you believe I first manifested after I first saw Sailor Moon?
No, not a reincarnation. Or one of the Senshi.
I'll let you think on that.
I thought it was perfectly normal. So did the rest of my family. Or I thought they did.
Certainly helped with keeping an eye on the brat from Hades, though. Heh.
So... and I go on, and it's a knack, a little magic of my own. My thing, among all the Muses out there. A party trick. A quirk.
'Course, being a Sailor Moon otaku and karaoke freak... these days, that's far more likely to get you noticed 'round our way. When some of you are tiny blue sheep, or the Kool-Aid guy, it's not what you look like, it's what you do.
Under, out of the radar. Never got involved in the Subreality big things - I'm not old enough for the Muse War, and as for the Subreality War, the battle with the Things...
Another student Muse, muddling her way through life. Karaoke bars with Yokki, beach trips with the brat, pouring sand down her swim costume, friends, lectures...
...Kid videos I said I'd never watch, ice creams you'd never catch me eating...
Out of the radar. Not so far as to end up in Shantytown, never that far.
A baby. A girl. A child Muse - Muse-born, going to the Collegium one day - a little girl, living in a place where nothing stays the same from day to day. Nothing but the people around her.
Then Xeffy entered it.
My baby - my younger, sorry - sister.
Not Muse-born. Not a Muse. Not a fictive, either, not really.
There's a word, an idea. Child of a Muse, or a fictive, but neither. Not an unformed, or uncreated, or an unfinished. Not one of the generic, either. Or an archetype.
Subreality's children, born outside fiction.
They're... not demigods. Or demimuses, or anything like that.
They're the subreal. Those who were born, who lived, who died, in the confines of Subreality. Maybe mortal, maybe immortal. Imaginary, like the rest of us - but with enough reality in them that they don't need to be imagined. Don't need to fear fading away.
And don't need to be part of a story.
But they can die.
Ever wonder how a Muse could die in the Muse War?
Now you know.
If you're subreal, you're vulnerable - you can be killed. Or injured, or hurt, or traumatised...
It happens. Never forget that. Even if it's retconned by a well-meaning Writer, it still happens. Is still remembered. Still hurts.
So, since Xeffy was one of our family... well, Granny Sophie lived over three thousand years, before she faded out. Lifespan won't be an issue... I'm not going to wake up one morning and realise she's five hundred years dead.
Not of old age, anyway.
My younger sister. Wailing her head off as Mum gave her to me. Pretty much set the stage for the next twelve years...
My baby sister. Irritating as hell.
My baby sister. Mine.
The teen queen.
Ordinary family, ordinary life - ordinary by Subreal standards, at any rate. Like I said, below the radar, never part of the big things.
Never were, never really wanted to be.
Then I met my Writer... and he dragged me into the big things, somehow. Weird, for a guy that withdrawn - his avatar seems to come out of himself. Still introspective... but the bit more active he always wishes he was.
Anyway, he dragged me in. Gave me a couple of cameos in his series - as myself, his Muse, and believe me, dealing with pissed off Doctor Who characters... yeow.
Then dragged me into something that threatened This Time Round, the pub outside continuity, a plan to break down the barriers between Reality and Imagination...
...which was where I got this look. The 'Sailor Muse' idea's a bit overused, I know... still, it feels right for me.
Yes, I'm not a Senshi. An otaku, yeah, but not a Senshi. 'Sides, no-one's complained.
He gave me a couple of tricks with his headspace - narrative overview, merging together, that kind of thing. Access to his memory, too - lot of stuff gets lost down the cracks in there... In keeping with the style. Mind stuff, really.
Anyway. So we, the This Time Round Muses, basically... well, started to get something going. Something of our own, really. Just a friend thing.
Then we went up against the Story Eaters.
Went through a lot of hell in that one.
Part of me got ripped out from under me, got given a body and identity of her own. Got trapped, elsewhere, elsewhen. Deity-level power at work.
Sort of Xander, back in 'The Replacement', thing. Or that bit where Kirk got split in two.
And I - we - were left without her, without the part of myself she represented, the part I denied. My Shadow.
And I never noticed.
I never even noticed.
Someone's cut off your arm, you'd notice that, right? Same sort of thing. Part of me got ripped away... and I never noticed it. Noticed her.
Not until she came back.
My Shadow. My twin. My ezact double. Everything I denied - and I was everything she'd shown to the world. Two sides of the same coin. One person, two perspectives.
And then... then...
Then, we got fused back together. Were merged back together.
But something of her still survived. A phantasm.
We shared the same soul. She won't die until I die - and vice versa.
She's my other sister, Sandra.
Out of my shadow, at long last.
High-level playing. The sort of thing that happens in megacrossovers - crap comes down the pike, and you're left to pick up the pieces afterwards.
My baby sister's a siren.
Repeat that again.
My baby sister is a siren. A girl with a voice that can call or captivate anyone who can hear. An entrancing voice. A siren's voice.
None of the sound effects you get from Banshee, no. A voice that can call - and /trap/ - anyone who can hear it. Like the original sirens.
My baby sister - Xeffy, the brat from Hades, who's been there the best part of my life, the pain in my backside - my baby sister is a siren.
And she doesn't know how.
She doesn't know how.
And I can't tell her, because I don't know, either. I don't know why this happened, how she ended up like this.
I don't know how I ended up like this.
That thing I said, my knack?
Turns out it wasn't normal.
I have Proteus' gift. The gift of shapeshifting.
I'm a shapeshifter. A Muse with one of those 'Mary-Sue' talents.
Able to shapeshift into a silver cat.
Probably into anything - that was Proteus' gift, after all, the ability to turn into anything. But I started with a silver cat - it came first.
First time I tried, ended up with a crescent moon mark on my forehead - I'd been watching "Sailor Moon", so naturally, yours truly ends up as Luna.
Took me a while to tweak it into something a bit more customised, that I was a bit happier with - and you don't want to know how many girls woke up thinking they were the Moon Princess while I tried getting it right, trust me. It might get back to Calliope.
So I'm a shapeshifter. Xeffy's a siren.
And what do I know about it? Zip. Zero.
Just... Just one of those things, right? One of those Muse things.
Then it turns out it's not a Muse thing, it's not a genetic thing, and I don't know what the Hades it is, or what I'm dealing with.
It's a family thing. Something in the family
Runs in the family.
Granny Sophie did something, something bad. Don't know what kind of bad. Survived it, survived whatever it was she'd brought down...
...and Mum kept blaming herself for it. Blaming herself for something Grandma did.
And because of what Grandma did, Xeffy and me... Xeffy and me, we ended up like this.
She did something to the family - to herself, Mum, us - she did something to us, and I don't know what she did, or why she did it, or what she thought she was doing, but she did it. Left us with her mark.
Brought it down on us. What did she do? What did she do to us?
Mum blamed herself, blamed herself, for whatever it was, blamed herself all her life, 'cause of something her mum did.
What was so bad? What did she do? What was so important?
I'm left with a talent that normally comes with a 'wow' factor, a 'hey, look at this!'. Xeffy, too.
And we're left wondering, not because of anything we did with it, or anyone else's prejudice, but because of where it came from, what Grandma did to give it to us.
Didn't have it in mind, no way did she have this in mind. She survived something, came through out the other side. Trying for something else - and left us with this.
Yeah, yeah. Angst away. Ubercool power, and you're going to angst about how you got it.
That's what I keep coming back to. Something so bad, Mum blamed herself for it all her life - something Grandma never convinced her otherwise, either because she couldn't or didn't.
Something that means that Xeffy's not who she thought she was. She's a teenager - identity crises are part of the template, why does she have to have this one, too? That I'm not the sister she thought I was.
I still am. I'm still her sister, and I don't care how different it makes me. I'm still her big sister, and I would die before something hurt her.
But something has, and there's nothing I can do about it.
It hurt my mother, it hurt my sister.
It hurt me.
And I can't ask her. I can't ask Grandma, she faded out. I can't ask Mum, either... she's ...she's gone.
Fadeout. Death by fadeout.
Would she have told us? Would we ever have found out?
Why didn't she tell us? She must have guessed what my turning into a cat meant, why I could do it... why didn't she tell me?
Did she tell Dad? Does he know? Would he ever have told us?
....most of us, most Muses, they know their family secrets.
I don't know.
Pieces of a puzzle, trying to make them fit... but I've got huge gaps, massive chunks of pieces missing, and I don't know where to look, who to ask, what happened...
I just don't know.
Not any more.
And I look in the mirror, and it's Mum's eyes I see looking back at me from my face - large, grey, quiet eyes.
That's what I remember most, you know? How quiet her eyes were. Not pained, or sad, or grieving... but quiet.
With Xeffy, it's more Dad's eyes - you can see the blue in them, twinkling when she knows she's scored another for her side.
But I have Mum's eyes.
And I keep wondering what she might have told us, if she'd had the time, or the wish, or... or what?
Not bigger than her, not much... we're short like that, in the family.
Small mouth and nose... like hers, again. Oval face, like Dad's...
Like an anime character. Not well-built enough for one, though - dress size definitely small.
Skirt size, actually.
Never went like this, though... blouse and trousers, that's what the photos say, twenty years ago, that's the style she had, even in the nineties. Informal, understated and informal, that was what she went for.
Fadeout... I remember it as death by fadeout, but it wasn't, not really. I remember her, Dad remembers her...
She faded out. Faded away. Slowly lost her hold on existence.
One way or another, the effect was the same.
I visited Shantytown after she died.
I already knew it.
I saw it in her.
And the web continued.
Secrets, and secrets, and secrets...
You know, I always wanted to ask Dad why it took them so long to have kids.
Yeah, me being nosy. What'd you expect?
I think maybe now I know.
But they had us. Had both me and Xeffy - and now he's got Sandra around, that's going to be hard to explain. Then again, with the Summerses around...
They had us.
Dad looks... he looks, well, released in the photos. Like something was lifted off of him.
Not scared - he's a history Muse, one of Clio's... I used to think that'd mean he'd be scared of the present. ..
Not Dad. Took it in stride.
Went on leave to have us. Pulled a lot of strings, but they managed it. Wanted to spend time with me - well, us. Their first child.
Would we have had any baby brothers, sisters?
Does... does he want any more children?
Looking after Xeffy's got to take it out of him.
He cried. I remember that. I remember that so well, too well...
Went to Mum's funeral.
And it's just things left unsaid, unspoken...
He said I'd been a miracle. That we'd both been miracles, Xeffy and me. More than they asked for, than they'd ever asked.
There's a place in him that's sad, I know that, but he hasn't let it stop him. Looking after a teenage girl - and when Xeffy brings her first 'friend' home, I so want to be there.
Looking after the house.
Studious. That's what Dad's like. No matter what he's doing, whether he's cooking or doing the plumbing, he's studious. Careful. Making sure nothing's missed, that an interpretation didn't get left out. Not so wrapped up he misses things...
I think he said one time Mum broke him of that. I'm pretty sure he was smiling while he said it, though.
Well, pretty sure...
My Writer, on the other hand... well, he gets niggly about this sort of thing, reads back up before he gets to work again. Messes up, then decides he needs to be that bit more niggly, so he avoids it this time...
Doesn't stop him making mistakes, but there's something way wrong with his sense of self-correction...
I think I'm affecting him. Not quite sure how, though...
Affected and affecting. Two way processes.
Baby girl in a changing world.
Changer girl in a changing world.
Wanting more answers, more solutions. Wanting things to be comfortable, normal. Wanting - fighting - for things to be safe.
Helping him set down the questions - and maybe a few answers. For me and him.
Found a place... Changing along with the chaos, but still staying the same. An anchor in a changing world.
Found somewhere, found something. But once I found it... I found my past'd come loose behind me.
Answers. Answers. So many things we weren't told - things maybe we needed to learn, needed to find out. Even if it did hurt.
Things that're still open, left unrecorded.
...I pick this up from Dad, don't I? That need to study, have an answer - or know why there are no answers. Making a kind of sense of the changing world.
If that makes sense.
But it hasn't changed. What I knew - that changed, but it hasn't.
I've changed. My world's changed. Into a shape I never expected. Done that before, but...
But now I've got to find a way to understand this. Questions, answers...
Want to make it stop hurting me. Want to make it stop hurting Xeffy.
Want to help her work it out... find out whether we can solve this mystery.
Whether the answers are still there to find.
Not forgetting the answers we've already found, that is...
Or my Writer. Or Sandra. Or... well, anything, actually.
Who said you needed a mutation to angst?
Disclaimer: Sailor Moon stuff belongs to Naoko Takeuchi, 'Doctor Who' to the BBC, Subreality to Kielle, Calliope and Clio to themselves (with thanks to Yasmin). Subreality's Kielle's, Yokki is Gordon Dempster's, and most everything else (Allie, Xeffy, Sandra, and their family) is theirs, I'm setting it down.
Copyright 2001 Imran Inayat