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Prepared for Battle

(You can listen to this piece on S2E40 of the podcast)

A twinkling silver halo of stars covered her body. Monae lifted her head higher, feeling a surge of energy that swept her mind from the day’s troubles. She waved her hands in front of her face, marveling at how her walnut-colored skin shone metallic halfway between bronze and gold.

A sickly green beam of light just barely missed her face, pommeling into the rocky ground to her left. The seismic quake sent her summersaulting to the left. The star halo hovering above her skin buzzed like honey bees in a lavender field. Monae recovered from the fall, hopping onto her espadrilles-clad feet. She was powerful. She was a goddess. No one could stop her. Not even this woman across this barren valley wielding a charcoal-colored, sword-like weapon menacingly in her direction.

Monae smacked her hands together and the energy surge between her palms ignited. Here in this world, she wasn’t afraid. Senses sharpened. Always on high alert. Jumpy? Maybe. But fearless. The way she wanted to remain forever. The woman across the valley charged towards Monae fast, eyes a whirlpool of green light ready to release into the air directed at Monae’s chest. Monae stepped into a praying mantis pose, unleashing the fire ball now formed between her palms.

“You’re lame you know,” said a voice just behind her ear.

“Shut up Dion!” Monae cried, spreading her hands wide and releasing the fireball into her opponent’s chest.

Just then, the VR set slid up over her face, leaving her exposed in her family’s living room in front of the gaming system. Monae’s older sister stood in front of her. Hand over her hips, lips twisted in a look conveying disapproval.

“At some point you have to actually deal with your bully, you know that right.”

“I’m just playing a game—” Monae began.

“A losing game,” Dion said pointedly, VR headset still dangling from her hands. “If you want to learn how to fight that girl Monica in real life, I can teach you how to handle her.”

Monae hung her head low, embarrassed. “I’m… I… I just want to play my game.”

Dion thrusted the headset into Monae’s chest, leaving the room unceremoniously. Monae sighed deeply. She was being bullied in school. She’d been bullied by her classmate Monica for months now. And somehow Monae’s much older, much cooler sister had come out of her high school bubble of ‘stay away from me you dork’ to bear witness to her humiliation.

But Monae wasn’t confident and razor-tongued and tough like her older sister. She was sensitive. A quiet girl. Easy target. Monae allowed herself the fantasy of standing up to Monica, but slipped on the headset instead. She wasn’t a fighter in any other world but this one.

Monae reentered the game, waving her hands in the air to harness the fireball energy between her palms once more as her attacker zeroed in on her. All of a sudden, Monae felt a tingle in her nose and she sniffled, pulling the headset back over her face as the tears began to fall. She turned around.

“You ready to be brave for real?” Dion asked, a smirk on her face, clearly anticipating her little sister’s change of heart.

“Yeah,” Monae said, wiping her tears. “I think I am.”

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