("Magical Project S," its characters and situations are copyright of their respective owners. Story copyright 2011 by George Pollock, Jr. All rights reserved.)
George Pollock, Jr.
"Who's Pixy Misa?"
The dark-haired girl looked at the female counselor who had spoken, then scanned the office. It was soft and sunny and cozy and comfortable. The sun came in through large windows with blinds behind the girl, backlighting her hair. The carpet was beige, like sand. On the soothing off-white walls hung images of seashells. Green plants were everywhere – on bookcases, on an end table, on the counselor's desk. And two potted palms were in opposite corners. It all added to a strange, subtle feeling of being at a tiny beach.
There was a sofa opposite the desk, but the girl sat in one of two armchairs near the desk. It seemed embracing and secure. Yet, she fidgeted nervously with the hem of her sailor-fuku school uniform, then with its kerchief. Her blue eyes remained averted from the woman. She said nothing.
The counselor, sitting in a swivel chair, had full black hair, dark eyes and a full figure in a blue dress. "Misao, do you know who Pixy Misa is?" she asked.
The girl finally looked at her. "No," she said.
"You told people you didn't remember hurting your friend Sasami on the athletic field after school. But people saw you. When they were pulling you away from her, you said you were someone named Pixy Misa. Do you remember that?"
"I remember being on the field. Then I remember people pulling me away. That's it." She glanced down toward her lap. "I don't remember hurting Sasami …," she added quietly. "Honest."
"They saw you beating her with a stick. Do you remember that at all?"
"No. When they pulled me away, I had a stick, but I don't know why."
The counselor shifted in her chair. "Would you ever want to hurt Sasami?"
The child lifted her eyes. "No," she answered. "But …"
The girl squirmed. "Sometimes … I hear people … telling me to fight her."
"In my mind."
The woman's eyes narrowed. "You hear voices in your mind?"
"OK … What else do they say, other than to fight Sasami?"
"That I have to defeat her."
"Do you hear them a lot?"
"What do you do when you hear them?"
The girl thought. "It's like … I go to sleep. Then I wake up later."
"Like when the people pulled you away from Sasami?"
The woman crossed her legs, covered her knees with her dress and folded her arms. "Do the voices ever say who they are?"
"One's Ramia. She a girl."
"How many others are there?"
"Just another. He's called Rumiya. He's a green-and-white bird with long feathers."
"You've seen him?"
"Right after I fall asleep those times."
"Have you ever seen Ramia?"
"No. Just Rumiya. But I hear Ramia a lot. She tells him what to tell me. I don't know why she won't talk to me." The child thought again. "But Rumiya's a pretty bird."
The counselor nodded. "Does Ramia – or Rumiya – ever say why you have to fight Sasami?"
"No. I fall asleep before then. And I forget to ask. But … sometimes … I like to forget things."
"Because … I'm lonely ... and I like to forget that. But it's hard to."
"Why do you feel lonely?"
"Because … my dad's a composer, and he's away on concerts. And my mom works late at her office. So I'm … lonely. I like to forget that …"
"Have you ever told them that?"
"I can't. They're never home."
"But they both brought you here today," the woman observed. "They did that because they care for you. They want you to be well."
The girl said nothing.
"OK … when you forget how lonely you are, what do you feel?"
"Like … I'm someone else …"
"Yeah. Just before I fall asleep those times, I always think I'm someone else. Not me. Then I fall asleep. And then I wake up later, and I'm me again."
"Whom do you think you become?"
"Do you think you become the same person every time? Or do you become different people?"
The girl considered. "The same one. It seems. That's what I feel. But I don't remember anything after that."
The woman leaned a little toward her. "Could that person be …'Pixy Misa'?"
No immediate answer. A long moment later, a shrug. "Dunno."
The counselor spun in the chair toward the desk, opened the center drawer and withdrew a clear multifaceted crystal on a silver strand. She then held it out before the girl by the strand.
"I got your parents' permission to do something," she said. "I'm going to hypnotize you with this crystal. Do you know what that means?"
"Making me … go to sleep?"
"Sort of. This might help us go deeper into your mind."
The girl squinted in confusion at the crystal. "Don't you need a watch? They always use a watch in cartoons."
"This isn't a cartoon," the woman noted. "Just about any shiny object will do."
The counselor moved the crystal closer to the girl's face. It started catching the sunlight coming in from behind the child. The bauble instantly exploded in sparkles, and the counselor began to twist the strand slowly. The crystal twirled. Flashes of light winked on and off inside it.
"OK …," the woman said softly, "I want you to focus only on the crystal. On the crystal … the sparkles ... the light ..." For herself, she made sure to focus on the girl's face, not the crystal. It wouldn't help for her to hypnotize herself.
The child studied the object. Her blue eyes soon became fixed on the flashes.
"On the crystal …," the counselor repeated, "the sparkles ... the light ...
"The crystal … the sparkles ... the light ...
"The crystal …
"The sparkles ...
"The light ..."
"Is Pixy Misa there? Can I speak with her?"
The girl looked up slowly, deliberately. Her face was powerfully strong, deeply certain. And – the counselor noticed this – her eyes had changed. They were incredibly confident and ambitious. They burned with complete self-assurance. And their color had changed to some shade of gold.
Trick of the light, the counselor concluded. Just as the child's hair now appeared to be at least a medium to light blond. That, of course, was impossible. It was early evening, and the sunlight was coming in more horizontally through the blinds on the window behind the girl. More direct light, under the circumstances. The backlight on the girl's hair just made it seem brighter.
Trick of the light, the woman concluded.
The child glanced around. Her expression suggested that the counselor's office suddenly seemed unfamiliar. As if the youth in the armchair didn't know where she was – or why. She finally faced the counselor with a cool, wary, suspicious glare.
"Pixy Misa?" the adult asked.
An up-and-down glance assessed the woman. "Who the hell are you?" The question was confident and combative.
"My name's Deanna. I'm a counselor helping Misao. Do you know her?"
A disdainful snort. "A counselor? Figures. Misao's a wuss."
"Are you Pixy Misa?"
A chuckle. "Yeah, yeah." Another scan of the room. "This your office?"
"Nice place. Who does your decorating? Thrift store?"
"Pawnshop," the woman answered dryly. "Can we talk?"
"Sure. But make it fast. Ramia doesn't like me lollygagging on her coin."
"OK. Let's start like this: Who's Ramia?"
The child rolled her eyes. "What planet are you from, lady?"
"That where we are?"
One more survey of the office. "Pawnshop, huh …?"
"We were starting to talk about Ramia."
"Yeah. Well, to start, you've apparently never heard of Juraihelm, right?"
"No. I haven't."
"It's where Ramia lives."
"OK. But who is she? What does she do there?"
Now the incredulity became overt. "Who's Ramia?" the girl sneered. "Damn! Do you people have TV? Radio? Newspapers? Internet? Smoke signals?"
The counselor was nonplussed. "We have all of those. Tell me about Ramia."
An impatient sigh. "Ramia," the child began in the tone of an imperious teacher, "is trying to become queen of Juraihelm."
"Well, it sure isn't here. It's more high-rent, Rumiya says."
"That's the bird, right?"
"You heard of him?"
"Misao told me."
"Is Juraihelm a nation? A kingdom?"
"No. A planet."
"Where?" the woman asked.
"I DON'T KNOW!" the child yelled angrily. "What is this? Twenty questions? They didn't tell me! I don't know!"
"But they tell you it's better than Earth?"
"Anything is better than this place," the girl growled. "At least Ramia and Rumiya take me seriously. No one on this rock does. They ignore me. Like that Sasami."
The counselor saw an opening. "What about Sasami?"
"She's working for Tsunami. But Sasami thinks I'm a joke. Doesn't take me seriously that I'm working for Ramia."
The girl rolled her eyes broadly. "Oh, for Ramia's sake … She's the other woman who wants to be queen! You sure this place has smoke signals?"
"Swear. How do you two 'work' for these … women?"
"You know, you ask a lot of questions for someone from Earth."
"I'm a curious type."
"Got that right."
"Why do you two battle?"
The youth relented and sighed. "OK … Gonna explain this once: Ramia and Tsunami both want to be queen of Juraihelm. But they can't fight each other directly. And the fight can't be on Juraihelm. Kind of a hallowed-ground thing. So they have to pick champions to fight for them elsewhere. That's me and Sasami."
"Why fight on Earth, specifically?"
A shrug. "Guess it's because we can't mess up this place worse than you people have already."
The counselor nodded. "True. Sad to say."
"Never mind. How do you know who's won the fight?"
"There's a pointer on a graph. Ramia and Tsunami are at opposite ends. When Sasami gets someone to do a good deed, the pointer moves a little more toward Tsunami. When I get someone to do a bad deed, it moves a little more toward Ramia."
"Are you proud of that?"
Another shrug. "It's a living. Anyway, when the pointer points fully to one of them, she wins. She's the new queen."
The woman considered it. "It sounds simple enough. Strangely."
The child wrinkled her nose. "They're not the ones doing the fighting."
Time to shift gears, the counselor thought. "Do you like fighting Sasami?"
"She's a pain."
"She's a goody-goody. Makes me sick."
"Because …," the girl started in a low tone, "… she ignores me. And I'm better than her. I'm a better fighter." Her tone started getting louder – and angrier. "People should notice that. People should notice me! I deserve that! People treat me like I'm NOT THERE!"
And then an explosion. The child's face twisted in almost-rage, and she balled her fists and started slamming them on the armrests of the chair.
"I HATE BEING IGNORED! I HATE BEING ALONE! I HATE IT! I'M HERE! DON'T IGNORE ME! I'M HERE!"
She gasped for breath for a moment, then finally, slowly, she lowered her head all the way.
"I'm … here …," she repeated, like a plea for help.
A long silence. Then a sniffle. Then a tear.
And the counselor realized that the way had been made clear.
"Pixy Misa …," she said softly, "where does all this come from …?"
No direct answer right away. Only another sniffle. And then more tears down the girl's face. And more silence. A tear finally fell onto her skirt.
At last, she raised a loose fist slowly to her chest. She tapped the middle softly. "Here …," she whispered.
"Pixy Misa," the adult repeated, "where do you come from?"
Again, the child tapped her chest. "From … inside …"
And another whisper: "Her …"
"You mean Misao?"
The woman waited for confirmation. The girl said nothing.
Finally, the counselor nodded gently. "OK … Now, I need to know something. It's very important. Please listen to me: Is there … anyone else where you are? Someone different?" She considered carefully. "Anyone else with … another personality?"
The girl shook her head, still looking down. After a sniffle, the answer: "No … Just me … It's always … just me …"
The woman leaned over. She reached out and slowly embraced the girl. "Thank you, Pixy Misa," she said after a moment. "That's what I need to know …"
The youth looked up at last and brushed some hair and tears from her face. And said nothing.
The counselor released her and picked up the crystal off her desk. "Now, I'm going to have to say goodbye. But I hope you and I can talk again sometime. And that you and Misao will understand each other better someday."
"I'd … like that …," the girl said quietly.
"Goodbye, Pixy Misa."
"Goodbye … Deanna …"
The woman held up the crystal by the silver strand and started twirling it. "OK …," she said gently, "I want you to focus only on the crystal. On the crystal … the sparkles ... the light ...
"The crystal … the sparkles ... the light ...
"The crystal …
"The sparkles ...
"The light ..."
"No," the counselor said, "not multiple personalities. Just the one – Pixy Misa."
The man and the woman on the sofa nodded. "I see …," the man said, reserved but worried.
"What can we do? Is she going to be all right?" the woman asked.
"That depends," the counselor said. "Pixy Misa seems to manifest herself when Misao is overwhelmed by loneliness. Pixy Misa makes her feel important – powerful, even. But if Misao gets more attention, Pixy Misa might be less necessary."
"I've been busy at work …," the woman tried to explain to no one in particular.
"I've been on the road a lot …," the man said, as if he were confessing a sin.
The counselor thought. "Then you might have to make time for Misao. It'll strengthen her self-image. And let her know that she's important to you. Don't overdo it, though. Kids know when you're going overboard."
Something occurred as an afterthought. "And tell her you love her. And mean it."
The couple looked as if they had been caught committing a crime. Have to soften that blow, the counselor thought. "Does she have many friends? You could encourage her to make new ones and also spend more time with the ones she already has. That would help make her less introverted."
The man and woman glanced at each other, concerned. "Well …," the woman started tentatively, "the only friend we know of is … Sasami …"
"The girl she beat with a stick?" the counselor asked. She already knew the answer.
"That's going to be a problem. I think you see that."
The couple nodded.
"Misao fractured Sasami's skull. I know they told you that. And I'll be giving my professional assessment of Misao to the court soon. You have to be there for that."
"We know …," the man said.
"And there's the possibility that Sasami might have suffered brain damage. I want to stress 'might.' "
The woman's hand sought the man's desperately and clutched it. Their knuckles whitened in the fearful clasp.
"I've been in contact with the counselor assigned to Sasami. It seems that Sasami is suffering deep delusions of Ramia and Tsunami and Juraihelm – the game they seemed to be playing at the time. Sasami apparently now believes that's all solid reality, that they – and Pixy Misa – are real people waiting for her. So we could be talking about long-term mental harm, as well as possible physical damage."
"Oh, God …," the woman whispered.
"The court is going to be told that," the counselor advised. "It's going to be considered in determining Misao's future. I have to tell you that. You have to be ready for it."
She sighed. "I don't even know whether Pixy Misa can ever be completely exorcised from your daughter. That's as much your job as mine."
The couple had no reactions left.
The counselor crossed her arms. "And I'll give you my personal observation, for what it's worth," she said. "I don't know where they got this Juraihelm stuff. How they came up with all this fighting-for-a-queen-candidate-on-another-planet idea. But I'll tell you:
"It seems to be one hell of a serious game …"