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Coyote in Worm
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"I feel surprisingly okay!" All her wounds and little scrapes are gone. She wonders if Panacea visited her in the hospital. What a thing to forget.

"I'm just... not sure about some things? Um. Like coming home yesterday, and anything that happened after that. And reading that book. And there's some stuff that maybe I already told you about but then maybe I forgot about that so if you let me know I won't have to tell you again!" Deep breath. "And also maybe you just want to talk, about last week?"


He still seems very unsure! Still, he'll hesitantly nod. "I don't think too much has happened..." he says, though he sounds a bit dubious. " - Let's talk over breakfast?"


"Good idea." If she starts a heavy conversation now, whatever he's making might burn. An excellent reason to delay! "Call me when it's ready?"

Once he's gone back to the kitchen, Taylor investigates her own room for Clues. Maybe she left herself a note when she came home.

The calendar confirms the date. It's Sunday; she went to school on Thursday. She lost three days, except for a few hours in between. The Panacea theory is looking stronger: there's no way all her scratches (or the IV entry point) healed without a mark in just a couple of days.

The IV pole is worrying her. Are there needles somewhere so she can use it if she has to? Did her father spend the last two days learning to insert needles? (A scary thought. She'd rather have a nurse who is a stranger, but she's not sure why, and not understanding her feelings after a memory loss is frightening.)

If she leaves it standing by the bed, it might fall again. She carefully moves it into the corner behind the closet, and hangs the bag the way it's probably supposed to go... she hangs it from the pole, anyway. Her father presumably knows what to do with it.

The coyote is still there. She can ignore it, but what if it starts talking again, and makes it harder for her to listen to real people? What if it blocks her from seeing something? In the hospital she took it in her arms and it felt real. 

She grabs her blanket and throws it over the hallucination. Can she convince her brain that it's not really there?


The blanket settles like she just threw it over a canine of Coyote's approximate height and build, and it laughs then tosses its head, causing the blanket to fall back around its shoulders - and then its neck grows and twists so it can look properly at Taylor.

"I'm as real as you are, Scarab Girl," it says with a grin. 


"What, just because we both live in my head?" she retorts before she can stop herself. No! Bad Taylor! Don't let your brain talk to the hallucination!


"Hah! Now you're thinking like Coyote! But perhaps we both live in my head. How do you know that I'm not imagining you, after all?"


"Maybe you're imagining me", she says, "that doesn't mean I'm not imagining you imagining me. And I want to stop." And she wants not to admit being wrong to her own hallucination.


"I wouldn't suggest wishing that unless you're very sure," it says with a dangerous smile. "I just might grant it."


"I'm very sure I only want to see things that really exist and not hallucinate anymore! Are you threatening me?!" Why is she hallucinating something that feels dangerous? Not physically dangerous, but - dangerous to talk to, maybe? Dangerous like a person, not like a gun - oh.


This is a hallucination. It's caused by - brain damage, stress, maybe even those hospital drugs - but her brain doesn't know that. Brains learn by association. Ring a bell, give a dog a treat, it salivates. Ring a bell, kick the dog, it learns to fear the bell. The dog being her, of course, and the bell being - what, talking to people? 

She has been bullied for months and months, and she's definitely been hit sometimes but that was never the worst of it. She doesn't spend her time really afraid of having her bones broken or being cut with a knife. It would leave evidence that couldn't be brushed away as easily, and that thought had given her some comfort.

And then she was shoved in the locker, panicked, thinking she might really die in there, but even at the end her thoughts were about people, about how no-one was going to help her, everyone either ignored her torment or they enjoyed it -

- and her brain took all her feelings and her trauma and balled it up and what she got was - something that talked at her. 

Of fucking course her brain did not make up a friendly Tigger or, or some happy bunny. Those kinds of things don't live in her head. Even when she's alone she's never just uncomplicatedly happy.


The coyote had called her a scarab beetle and now she realizes it was an insult. An insect, a bug, pushing a ball of shit. Her brain is imagining someone talking to her and the way people talk to her is by calling her ugly names. 

Taylor is surprised to discover that she is furious. This is not an emotion she is used to; sadness and fear and pain usually take up all the space in her head, leaving no room for anger, and the rest of the time she tries not to think of the things that make her angry.

But now this - this illusion - is trying to claim the rest of her life. Her time alone, in her bedroom, the one place where she is safest. It's talking back to her while living in her own brain and that is the worst of it, the coyote has left her nowhere to run.

"I don't care what you are", she says unsteadily, "but I have to take that shit at school, and I have to pretend everything's fine to my Dad, and I'm not. Putting. Up. With. THAT. IN MY OWN HEAD!"

She's panting slightly, and has her fists raised. This is completely unlike her and right now she doesn't care. She doesn't think she can intimidate the coyote - she is the least physically intimidating person she knows, and her brain knows that - but she's so angry, she has never attacked anyone, and taking all that anger out on a figment of her imagination would be very cathartic. If she wins the fight, anyway.


It laughs - and moves, letting the blanket fall to the floor in a different place that where she threw it - 

"I like you, Scarab Girl! I like your fire." Grin. "Unfortunately, I'm not just in your head."

"After all, could a figment of your imagination have granted your wish, and given you a different life to live?"


"The life of a crazy person?" she says, and her voice catches. The blanket moved. It's not where she put it down. Is she imagining that? Did she throw it off the bed while thinking she was covering up the coyote? Can she even trust what she's seeing?

No. She won't admit defeat. Won't admit to being crazy. This may be denial but Taylor is suddenly discovering that denial can be very attractive indeed if the alternative is horror.

"Prove you're real", she says. "Tell me something I couldn't know, that I can check. Or admit you're a hallucination, and go away."


It twists, growing larger and curling so that its paws are cupping something bright - an image, odd and distorted by a sort of lens effect - and the image is moving, and there's sound - 

Looks like a university campus, maybe? That or some kind of government area. Multistory buildings that are very much doing a Traditional Architecture organized in stately shapes around large green lawns, without the pattern of roads she'd expect from a fancy residential area. Though there's smoke rising above it, and as she watches something in front of one of the more distinctive buildings explodes with a bright, showy flare of light. 


She doesn't recognize the buildings. The miniature explosions look better than any movie. The coyote is cool, she finds herself thinking, when it's showing her movies or telling stories. If she could only control when she sees it, she might actually choose to turn it on some of the time.

"It's a new Die Hard?" she hazards.


"It's something that should be making the news right about... Now." There's an awful lot of flashing lights building up as emergency response teams are activated.


"Turn that down", Taylor hisses instinctively at sirens that presumably no-one else can hear. 

Ugh. Fine. She goes down to the living room, turns on the TV, flips to the news channel. 

The image behind the presenter looks remarkably familiar. A building is on fire, people are panicking. TV news is not up to the standards of imaginary 3D cinema, but after some squinting she is forced to admit that the image does match what she saw in her bedroom.

The ticker says: CORNELL U BOMBING FOLLOWS THREAT. The newscaster earnestly promises that they will of course share more images and casualty numbers as they are received.

Her father comes in, balancing a stack of pancakes. "Good, you're here already", he says. "What's that?"

Taylor turns off the TV. "Just a bombing, dad. Not great for breakfast." But her thoughts are racing.


Taylor chews mechanically. The pancakes are delicious and she is in entirely the wrong headspace to appreciate them.

"You were going to tell me about last week", she prompts between bites.


He does, with some wistfulness - it sounds like they've been making an active effort to repair their relationship, and he's realized with some chagrin that he'd missed some of her growing up. He's been trying to get back into things like cooking, too - he used to really enjoy it, in hazy memories from her childhood it was him helping her with school bake sales and the like, while her mom could usually consistently not mess up pouring cereal out of a box - so they've been eating more meals together like this. He hasn't gotten a lot of gossip from her side, though he mentions entirely offhandedly that Emma and her family moved across the country over winter break due to her mom's work (he expects her to know this). She complained about a tough pop quiz in English over their winter break reading assignment? And she's mentioned having a lot of homework? 

Honestly sounds like a pretty uneventful week, except for how it's so much better than the week she remembers having. 


This is bizarre and she finds herself nodding along, and once she starts doing that she can't stop.

Her father wouldn't lie to her, it would be cruel and also very, very unusual. She almost blames the memory loss before she catches on. He's saying there was no hospital. No locker. No hallucinations.

No Emma.

"I've given you a different life to live", the coyote said. During the break she'd wished, oh, how she wished for Emma to be gone and the bullying to stop, and the coyote just delivered the best Christmas gift of her life.


Colorful coyotes do not normally appear in a girl's hospital room to retroactively grant her wish by rewriting reality. 

Did she get superpowers? Seeing and hearing things. Learning something she couldn't possibly have known. There's a name for such powers, she knows. Seer? Knower? Something like that, anyway.

Replacing the last week's events? Yeah, no. Taylor is humble enough (and sane enough) to know that kind of thing does not happen. Even Eidolon probably can't... anyone but Eidolon surely can't do such a thing. And if Eidolon could do it he would undo Endbringer attacks. Unless he has and this is secret - anyway, Taylor is wiling to bet that she personally cannot rewrite history in week-sized chunks.

Also, she's missing most of a week's memories, and that seems - unnecessary, if the last week was simply replaced.

The other possibility: she gained powers, lost her memory, and then hallucinated (dreamed?) that scene in the hospital. She already knows she can hallucinate things. This is much simpler.

Except it makes no sense. Do powers make up stories? Also, what about that IV pole?

Maybe Coyote knows. She hasn't tried asking questions, not really, but if it's really her power, and can give tell her things, she should start by asking. She hopes she can trust it. A Knower power that lies to you is worse than no power at all.

She thanks her father for the talk. Reassures him she's fine, really, yes she mysteriously lost a few hours and she'll tell him immediately if it gets worse, no she feels great, she'll go on a walk later...

And she goes back into her bedroom (the coyote is still there), locks the door behind her, and says:

"Tell me about yourself."


"I am Coyote, and I've told you many stories about myself already," the coyote says. "I'm the most clever and handsome and powerful of all - and I can grant your wishes."


"Are you my power? Am I a hero... er, a parahuman? What wishes can I make? I mean, is it three wishes, like some stories?" She hasn't missed that he said can and not will.

Three wishes ever doesn't sound like any power she ever heard of, she only said that because of the stories, but maybe people will only three wishes just don't make the news.


"Not just three! And you can wish for anything - but I'll only grant each sort of wish once, and not too many a day."


"What counts as sort of a wish - sorry, a sort of wish - and how many is too many? What's the biggest thing I could wish for?" Life, liberty, freedom and justice for all - she's mixing metaphors a bit - world peace and apple pie - an end to oppression and bullying -


"Depends on the day and the wish! And I could pluck the moon from the sky if you wished." That featured in one of the stories it told her. 

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