15 | A Game of Chess

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"Evie, aren't you coming down for dinner?"

Evanna sighed wearily and tightened her hold on Debu-chan. "Later, Aunt Jan."

"Mary's made carbonara. She's tried to make some for you with potatoes and soy milk," Janet's voice said just outside the door. "It's kind of...well, come and eat."

When she made no response, the door opened with a clink.

"Evie, what's wrong?" Janet asked. "Are you sick?"

"No." Her voice came out muffled as she buried her head in her pillow. "I'll come down later, okay?"

The door closed, and Janet's footsteps receded into silence.

Minutes ticked by, and Evanna's ears tuned in to the low ambient noise of crickets, frogs and the occasional owl. It was a cloudy night that obscured the stars outside her window, while the stars stuck to her ceiling glowed with a dull phosphorescent sheen. Darkness blanketed the room, and the night lamp on her bedside table barely held it at bay.

Her headache had subsided, but a chaotic jumble of thoughts orbited her mind in never-ending circles. This is an anomaly, Ev. It'not a bloody superpower. You're manipulating the environment without exerting a force. At least, not in a way that's understood. Maybe this is happening at the quantum level—some weird phenomenon like quantum tunneling. She recalled the bizarre behavior of subatomic particles that seemed to tunnel through insurmountable barriers.

Then she wondered if there was something different about her brain. For a moment, she dwelled on how insular fields of science were interconnected like a seamless fabric. It was the world of cells and biology, until you zoom in far enough, and then you enter the realm of physics, where it was a game of chess between fundamental particles and forces. Maybe I should go to a doc. Some neurologist. Figure out how I did that...or maybe a neuroscientist. Are you insane, Ev? You'd end up being a guinea pig in some lab. Or a freak show hounded by media.

The scuffle with the girls sprang up in her mind in full clarity. She had only taken a few steps out of the alleyway when the rush of adrenaline wore off, leaving her teetering with vertigo. Her limbs had turned to lead, accompanied by the onset of a splitting headache. After getting a plaster for Marilda's bleeding cheek, she had booked an Alico to head home.

Coming to from her unsettling memory, Evanna stared at the pile of dirtied clothes she hadn't yet bothered to deal with.

All of a sudden, the haunting melody of Lacrymosa broke the silence—its startling abruptness jarring her out of her thoughts. It was her current ringtone.

She groped around her bed until her hand closed over the phone. Even the simple motion caused a dull ache to gnaw at her shoulder, which was turning an aberrant blue.

"Mari-chan?" she murmured, bringing the phone to her ear.

"Evie, how are you now?" Marilda asked, her voice inflected with an uncharacteristic seriousness.

"I'm good. How's your cheek?"

"It stings a little now and then—but fine otherwise."

"Good."

There was a pause, and the other girl asked, "Evie, what happened to you exactly? Was it the fall? You hit your head?"

"Um..." Evanna kneaded her temples. "Probably."

"Shouldn't you get it seen? I think you should."

"I'm alright now." She ran a hand on Debu-chan's soft fur, which had a calming effect on her. "Really."

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