Leo the Mer-Guy! Chapter Twelve: No Way

Leo froze, eyes wide.


The stone had moved like it had a life of its own.


That definitely wasn’t normal.


It didn’t make sense. He tried to think of some logical explanation, some rational reason why the fire would spit the stone into the lake. But he came up empty-handed.


“So, uh, I’ve never seen that before,” Ash spoke up. “I honestly have no idea what that means.”


Leo turned around to face them all, feeling kind of faint. “So… when you said magic…”


Tinashe snorted at the look on his face. “We didn’t mean making mud pies and wearing crystals,” she said. “We meant real, actual magic.”


“But magic isn’t real.”


“No offense, dude, but like, isn’t it obvious?” Ruby said. “Didn’t you just witness it yourself?”


“But it can’t be.”


“When I did my initiation, we got attacked by a bunch of pigeons,” Onyx murmured evenly. “They pooped on the ground in the shape of a perfect eye. That’s how I discovered my prophetic visions.”


“You can’t just say that like it’s something people say,” Leo said, feeling dizzy.


Ash came forward, laying a hand on Leo’s shoulder. “It’s okay, Leo,” they said. “Breathe.”


Leo took a breath. Then another, and another.


Ash smiled. “Do you feel better?”


Leo shook his head. “No.”


“Well, uh, don’t worry,” Ash said. “We’ll figure out what this means for you.”


“I can prove it,” Yasmin said. It was the first time Leo had heard her speak. At the look on his face, she added, “I can prove magic is real.”


“Yasmin…” Ash warned.


She held a hand up to Ash. Ash went quiet. She looked Leo in the eye. “So?”


Leo nodded, unable to find his words. He gestured for her to go ahead.


Yasmin smiled. The wind picked up, whipping her curly black hair around her face.


She held her hands together in front of her face. She lifted her hands up toward the sky, still clasped.


“Illuminate,” she whispered. Bright spears of white light escaped the spaces between her fingers, turning her skin an almost translucent orange with how bright the captured light was. She opened her hands, and a miniature moon floated out from between them, lighting up the glade in a soft light.


“Oh, my god,” Leo croaked. “Oh my god. It’s real.”


“Oh, thank god,” Juan said. “It took us two weeks to convince Tinashe.”


Tinashe hit Juan on the elbow. “Did not!”


“I know it’s a lot,” Juan said, ignoring Tinashe’s glare and fighting a grin, “but it’s awesome, I promise.”


Leo let himself smile. So, maybe his world had just been completely upended, and everything he knew about reality was now cast into doubt, but Juan was right.


It was pretty awesome.


Theo Poling is a Creative Writing and Arts double major at the University of Michigan. In their free time, Theo enjoys fostering cats, baking, and going on hikes. Theo is transgender, nonbinary, and bisexual, and is passionate about representing LGBTQ people in positive ways in genre fiction. Theo's series, We Exist! is a weekly serial that publishes short story chapters about empowered queer protagonists in science fiction and fantasy settings, where queer people have previously been excluded. Check out the newest installment of We Exist! every Thursday.

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