Chapter 29: Fame, and What It Costs

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The next morning Kim was lying on her couch, trying to figure out which emoji, if any, could be used to cure a hangover. She was furiously hacking buttons to no avail, as her brain threatened to pound its way out of her skull. 

Mary leaned closer to look at Kim’s screen. “Stop. Do Bell With Cancellation Stroke + Low Brightness symbol. Works like a charm.”

“It IS a charm,” Kate yelled hoarsely from under a blanket on the chair across the room.

Kim tried it and instantly felt better.

“I like to do Bell With Cancellation + Low Brightness + Pills,” Ash said. She was lying in a nest of blankets on the floor, with Callum Woof perched on top of her chest. “It just puts a nice hue on everything, you know?”

“You add Pills to every spell,” Mary said. 

Ash shrugged, uninterested or unable to deny it.

Sisters Mary, Kate, and Ash had ostensibly hung around to help Kim clean up after the party, but they were all too tired and lazy to use their actual bodies. Ash had spent a few minutes using the Tractor emoji to float some trash around the apartment, but in the end she’d made more of a mess than she’d alleviated, so they’d all just given up and gone back to looking at their screens. 

“Well,” Kim said, after a while, “If you all aren’t going to help me clean, then can we get stared on telling me about Fame?”

“Fame is complicated,” Kate’s voice said from under the blankets.

“Fame is different from the other corners,” Mary said. “It’s about perspective. You’ll kind of know it when you see it.”

“No but like how do I call the 4th Corner?” Kim asked. “How do I invoke Fame? Send me on some dumb little mission so I can learn and grow as a celebrity witch.”

Ash shook her head. “Fame don’t work like that.” 

“You can’t really call Fame until Fame calls you,” Kate explained.

“Umm, that’s bogus,” Kim said. “I’m supposed to be learning to call the Four Corners here. Three down, one to go? Nothing can stop me now? Etc?”

“Yeah nope you can’t invoke Fame,” Ash said. “And definitely not from the B-list.”

“So... what do I do?” Kim asked.

“Think of the magic of the world as a quilt,” Mary said. “You’re like a conductor, invoking the various corners of Money, Friendship, and Power. You weave them together into a symphony, and the music it produces is Fame.”

“That was so beautiful, Mary,” Ash said, wiping away a fake tear. “The way you completely mix up the metaphors of conductor and quilter.”

Mary waved the remark away. “You get the idea.”

“Fame is incredibly difficult and almost wholly outside of your control,” Kate said, pulling the blanket down from her face. “In some ways it’s less about you and more about the satellites in your orbit. The closer you get to Fame, the louder, more numerous, and more powerful your Haters will grow. You will be challenged, beyond anything you’ve experience so far. How you navigate the path to A-List will determine your ascension to Fame. If you can use your powers wisely and rise above the Haters, you will have built a strong, lasting Fame. Then you’ll be so powerful nothing can stop you.”

“Okay yeah but like, so what do I DO,” Kim asked. 

“Just do your thing,” Ash said.

“Be you,” Kate said.

“Get to the A-list,” Mary said. “Invoke the corners judiciously. Cultivate relationships, define your personal brand, and increase your profile. And continue to work on your control and manipulation of the emoji. These are powerful glyphs, with meaning far beyond their appearance. It takes a great deal of study to intuit their true and deepest meanings.” 

“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” Kate said. “Fame will call you. And then once it does you can bend it to your will, learn to use it, control it.”

“But you know,” Ash said. “You have a good life. This is a pretty sweet situation.” As if to confirm this Callum Woof rolled over on his side to encourage Ash to scratch his tummy. “Things could just stay like this forever and they wouldn’t be so bad, would they? I mean you have a lot of Power, and more Money and Friendships than you’ll ever know what to do with.”

“It’s not enough,” Kim said. “I still don’t know how to get home. And it’s probably only a matter of time before Willow Pape pulls some dumb stunt to send me back down to the E-list. I need to be ready.” 

“Maybe,” Mary said. “Just, be careful. Fame is the most dangerous corner, and it has ruined more lives than it has saved. “Be sure it’s what you really want. It usually comes at a terrible price.”

“What are you talking about?” Kim said. “What did Fame do to you?”

An uncomfortable silence passed in the space between the sisters.

“What?” Kim asked, getting worried. “What is it?”

“I mean we’re heavily glamoured right now,” Mary said. She looked to her sisters to see if they had anything to add. “Fine,” Mary said, rolling her eyes. “I’ll show her.”

Mary swiped a finger across her phone and instantly her appearance changed. Kim gasped--it was as though Mary had aged 100 years in half a second. Her dewy skin was now mottled and craggy. Her eyelids were heavy, drooping and uneven. Her hands had become gnarled and veiny. Her hair, once blonde and perfect and fine, was now brittle and split and frizzled beyond repair.

Kim stared at her, unsure what to say. 

“Sometimes this industry forces you to grow up really fast,” Mary said. And then she threw her head back and began cackling, her sisters joining her, their wild and shrieking laughter echoing throughout the apartment. 

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