How Do You Do, Fellow Chosen Ones?
By Jennifer Lee Rossman
Jennifer Lee Rossman is a queer, disabled, and autistic author and editor from the land of carousels and Rod Serling. Find more of their work on their website http://jenniferleerossman.
After months spent traveling the world in search of ancient spellbooks once thought to have been lost to time, after weeks learning dead languages from that app with the irritating owl mascot, it all came down to this, to one shot. And she bloody missed.
Well, she supposed, if you wanted to get technical about it, she didn’t really miss. He moved out of the way at the last moment, causing her lightning bolt to zip by his head instead of striking him and imbuing him with the mantle of the chosen one.
Yes, it was all his fault if the world was destroyed. Elizabeth suddenly felt much better about this whole fiasco, at least until she remembered that the lightning bolt had probably hit something ridiculous like an elm tree or a ferret. As if a pre-teen boy wasn’t a ridiculous choice for a chosen one to begin with…
“Now I have to mentor a ferret,” she grumbled to herself. “Cute little buggers, but useless against the forces of evil.”
Elizabeth had no way of knowing (for which is fortuitous that I am an omniscient narrator, or this next part would make absolutely no sense), but she had cast the spell in a most curious location and direction. You see, quite by chance and chaos and all that good stuff, at the moment she threw the lightning bolt and missed the child, there was absolutely nothing behind him. No elm trees, no ferrets, no mountains or houses or even spiderwebs.
So the lightning bolt just kept going. Through the countryside, across the ocean, down busy city streets miraculously missing every speeding car. It kept going, all the way around the world, and maybe you see where this is going, but Elizabeth didn’t because she was still looking the other way when it hit her in the back of the head.
The questing party was expecting a boy, not a middle-aged sorceress from Chiswick. The prophecy quite clearly stated that a schoolboy would be the one to finally defeat the dark sorcerer Larry. Had his picture and birthday and everything, etched into the ancient stone.
Without a boy, without that boy in particular, it was hopeless.
So Elizabeth, at a loss for what to do and, if we’re being honest, just a tiny bit drunk, decided to give them a boy.
The party stared at their chosen one, nobody quite sure what to say or do. They exchanged baffled glances. Was this some sort of joke?
“Greetings, dudes and lady dudes,” said the chosen one, pointing finger guns at the others before turning his baseball cap around like the youths are wont to do. “What say we go and yeet this evil dude?”
“No,” said Kimiko the bard. Not as an answer to his question so much as an answer to the entire situation.
The chosen one stepped off his skateboard. “What do you mean, no? Haven’t you all been training for this for years, just waiting for me to come along and be totally awesome?”
The knight, Clara, lifted the visor of her helmet, the better to convey her disbelief. “No.”
“Man,” the chosen one said, crossing his arms over his rather ample bosom and T-shirt advertising some generic music band. “I thought the hardest part of this quest would be defeating Larry, but I guess I was wrong. You all are as rude as the bullies in my school, where I go on weekdays and learn long division with the other children.”
Armando, the healer of the party, covered his face with his hands and made a noise that was somewhere between crying and laughing. “Elizabeth, we know it’s you.”
The chosen one froze. “Elizabeth? Who… who is this Elizabeth you speak of? She sounds hot, and because I have just started puberty, I am interested in hot people.”
“You are very clearly a middle-aged woman dressed up like what you think boys dress like,” Clara said. And she was correct, but imagine her embarrassment if she hadn’t been.
“Specifically the witch we hired to activate the chosen one and whom we have met several times in the past year,” Kimiko added.
Armando just continued soblaughing. He was a fantastic nurse, but not much for stressful social situations.
Elizabeth began wondering if, just possibly, her disguise was less convincing than she initially thought. Where had she gone wrong? She had cut her hair, added supposedly stylish rips to her jeggings, and even skipped the deodorant to give herself that distinctive “boy who hasn’t realized his changing hormones means he really should shower every day” aroma.
Maybe it was the voice. No, she had practiced for several minutes and absolutely sounded exactly like Keanu Reeves, just like every 12-year-old English boy.
She sat down in defeat, watching the people enjoying the park where she and her party had met up. Families feeding ducks, young couples having picnics and ignoring each other in favor of their phones, people walking ridiculously poofy little dogs. And none of them knew that the dark sorcerer Larry had woken from his thousand year slumber. Presumably, anyway. Elizabeth supposed some of them might have been on the Arcana Apocalypse mailing list, but the newsletters usually went to spam so they probably hadn’t seen it anyway.
“So I suppose…” Clara gestured at Elizabeth. “This means you didn’t find him?”
“Do we get a refund?” Armando asked. Kimiko slapped him on the arm.
“No, I found him,” Elizabeth said. “Real easy, social media and all that, you know? I just… well, you see, it’s all his fault really, but I sort of… hit myself.”
Everyone was quiet for a long moment.
“Better me than a tree or a ferret. Ever tried dressing up a ferret like a chosen one? I may have fooled you for a few minutes—”
“No, you really didn’t,” Kimiko pointed out.
“—but you would have realized it was a ferret instantly.”
“Wait,” Armando said. “If you hit yourself, does that mean you have the powers of the chosen one?”
Elizabeth supposed she did, although the prophecy didn’t go into detail about how the chosen one was to defeat the dark sorcerer Larry. As the lower portion of the stone had been damaged by time (and a bulldozer), everything after finding and anointing the chosen one was more or less a mystery. Indeed, damage obscured even the dark sorcerer’s name; somebody had called him Larry one day and it just sort of stuck.
“I must have the powers,” she said finally. “But damned if I know what they are. Why?”
She didn’t much care for the way the others were looking at her.
The party set off that evening. Oh, none of them truly believed they had a sugar cube’s chance in a thunderstorm of actually succeeding without the boy from the prophecy, but maybe, just maybe. And anyway, aside from Elizabeth, they had been training for this for years. They couldn’t just throw that away and sit at home waiting for the world to end.
They left the city behind in favor of sweeping countrysides and forests and all that generic English landscape you see in too many high fantasy adventures. Elizabeth quickly abandoned her skateboard when the terrain became uneven.
“Why are you still pretending to be a boy?” Kimiko asked finally.
“Who’s pretending, dude? I am a boy. I’ve even got a Y chromosome, not that that means anything what with gender and sex not being the same thing, but I’ve got one. And it’s very manly.” After checking that they weren’t being followed, Elizabeth whispered, “Everyone who knows what’s coming, they’re expecting a boy chosen one. If you show up with a lady instead, no one will believe we are the ones who are prophesied to stop him.”
That logic hinged on Elizabeth’s absolutely nonexistent ability to fool people into believing she was a boy child, but nobody pointed that out. They all chose to believe it would work.
The dark sorcerer Larry opened his eyes and glared at the two-headed rooster, wishing omens of the apocalypse had a snooze button. Just a few more decades of sleep, that sounded lovely.
But alas, the rooster had crowed, and with both heads. A pity, really. He had been having such a delightful dream about this delectable Egyptian goddess of destruction…
With a groan that rumbled the very earth, the dark sorcerer Larry rose from his slumber.
It all happened very fast.
First, the world lost all colors except for a very specific shade of orange, but nobody present was wearing that shade of orange so effectively, the world lost all colors. Just grays and blacks, all dreary and ominous and spooky.
Immediately after that, the moon caught fire. Curiously enough, the flames were that very specific shade of orange so the effect was rather spectacular, if terrifying.
Finally, the monsters came.
Hideous things, more limbs than body, clawing out of the ground and cartwheeling down from the hills, screeching and chattering their teeth all the way. The assembled crowd—subscribers to the Arcana Apocalypse newsletter who remembered to check their spam folder—frantically cast spells as they were grabbed up and devoured by the beasts.
Those who escaped managed to slowly whittle down the creatures’ numbers, leaving only a few as Elizabeth and her party arrived in the valley.
“Oh Lord,” Elizabeth whispered. “We have to do something.”
Armando took a step sideways, away from a disembodied arm. “Yeah, about that. They don’t really train healing magic as good as they used to, now that we have doctors and medicine.”
“We’re here because the prophecy said we would be here with the chosen one,” Clara said. “My sword is foam. I do live action role-play.”
“Would have been nice to know before starting the quest,” Elizabeth muttered. She looked to Kimiko. “And you? Is bard magic even a thing?”
The other woman shook her head. “But I did make a kickass playlist for the final confrontation.”
A person in the crowd noticed the party, and maybe it was the lack of color in the world or maybe the shadowy figure of the dark sorcerer Larry appearing on the horizon distracted him. Whatever the reason, he pointed at Elizabeth and he cried out, “He’s here! The chosen one is here!”
Elizabeth slung her backpack over one shoulder, defiantly holding the strap as she walked toward the dark sorcerer Larry. She had never imagined she would die dressed as a preteen boy, but life is funny like that. Not funny like ha ha, but funny like terrifying and depressing.
“Yo, dude,” she said, hoping he would mistake the shaking in her voice for puberty even though puberty, to her knowledge, did not tend to make one sound like a menopausal woman trying very hard not to burst into tears.
The dark sorcerer Larry just stared at her. “I’m… I’m sorry, what is this, what am I looking at? Why aren’t you running and screaming?”
Elizabeth put her hands on her hips and looked over her sunglasses at him. “I’m the chosen one, dude. Sorry I’m late. I had homework and pizza. Pizza bagels to be precise, and they were really frozen in the middle because my mom knows how long to cook them but she was out buying shoes with her friend Marge.”
He continued to stare, the wispy shadows that made up his body swirling in slow confusion. “I… I’m very confused right now. I have no problem killing you with all the rest of the human scourge infesting my planet, but I was expecting a boy with tremendous powers, not a witch so past her prime that her innate magic is hardly even noticeable. I was expecting a challenge.”
Rage surged through Elizabeth’s body. “You listen here, young man,” she scolded the dark sorcerer Larry. “I may be an absolutely crap witch who accidentally became the chosen one and has made a series of bad decisions since then, and I may not have a lot of magic in me, but I am the chosen one and that means people believe in me. And more importantly, I believe in them.”
She pointed behind her. “Clara, I believe your sword is sharp and pointy! Armando, I believe you can reattach those disembodied limbs! Kimiko, I believe that bard magic exists so please, play that kickass playlist I was promised!”
Now, at this point you may be thinking that this was the power of the chosen one all along: the power to make people believe in the impossible, and to make it reality.
If Elizabeth hadn’t been so preoccupied pretending to be the chosen one, she might have realized that her own magical powers had been amplified approximately ten thousand fold and that, if she tried hard enough, she could, in fact, shoot fireballs out of her eyes. It was explained very clearly in the damaged portion of the prophecy: a couple quick fireballs, and the dark sorcerer Larry would be defeated.
And so the sword remained foam, the limbs could not be reattached, and the Deep Blue Something song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” did absolutely nothing except prompt a sing-along among those who knew the lyrics.
But none of that mattered, because Elizabeth believed in herself with such conviction that the dark sorcerer Larry also believed in her. Feared her.
Rather than let himself be destroyed by a woman dressed like some kid probably named Brandon, he sank back into the ground to go back to sleep. Which, if you remember, was what he really wanted all along.
It wasn’t over. The dark sorcerer Larry would wake again, though not for quite some time. With any luck, someone would have restored the damaged part of the prophecy by then and figured out how to properly use the chosen one powers.
And extinguish the moon, of course, but nobody really went there anymore so it was not a priority.
No, it wasn’t over, but the monsters were gone and the colors returned. It was over for now, and sometimes that’s all a person can hope for.