A continuation of Birth of the Arch-Enemy
Melanie was sitting on the sofa playing Angry Birds™ on her smartphone with her bare feet up on the coffee table. Generally, Mom disapproved of such behavior, but Mom was out of town at some fashion show and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Suddenly, the phone gave a chirp and a light-blue notification box appeared in the lower right corner of the screen. She had a text message in her inbox. Melanie tapped pause on the game, then expanded the note.
The text was from Melanie’s friend, Jessica. Privately, Melanie thought Jessica’s handle choice wasn’t particularly intelligent, a lot like having the name of a boyfriend tattooed anywhere on your body. You never knew if you’d feel the same after a year or two had passed, but it cost too much to change. After some consideration, Melanie began to text back, her thumbs flying across the phone’s built-in keypad.
MelZ1229: K. Cool. Y, tho?
JustNzgurl376: IDK rly.
MelZ1229: What did U tweet 2 her last?
JustNzgurl376: A link 2 my tumblr. GIFs from her last show. U think that’s y?
Melz1229: IDK. Maybe.
Melanie’s phone let out a soft pinging noise and a small grey rectangle popped up on the lower right corner of her screen. Proximity Alert, was the message. Melanie sighed. Apparently, Steve was making his move.
MelZ1229: G2G, Jess. I need 2 take care of sth.
JustNzgurl376: SOK. I have homework. TTYL.
Melanie’s phone chirped as Jessica’s handle went inactive. Then it pinged again, the alert rectangle popping up once more. This time, Melanie touched the rectangle with her fingers, expanding it. Immediately, the screen showed four boxes, each with a view of the area directly in front of Melanie’s bedroom door, where Steve was crouched doing something she could almost see. Each box related to a micro-camera hidden somewhere around Melanie’s door. Ever since Melanie had destroyed his silly little Lego device, she’d known Steve would work himself up to getting revenge on her sooner or later. Thankfully, she wasn’t nearly as stupid as she pretended to be.
Quickly, she tapped one of the boxes, the one relating to the micro-camera concealed in the flower arrangement Mom had placed on a pedestal in the hallway. Instantly, that box expanded to fill the screen, while the other three shrank and lined themselves up at the top of the screen. The other cameras were in good places, but this one had the best view. An array of red buttons beckoned from the bottom of the screen, offering security options. After a moment’s thought, Melanie selected the one marked Door Electrical System. Obligingly, it turned a bright green color and she settled back to watch the show.
From a bag lying on the floor of the hall, Steve removed a leather package which he unrolled to reveal a set of state of the art lockpicks. Melanie had to resist the urge to whistle. Instead, she grinned broadly, watching as he carefully selected one of the picks and reached for the lock to violate its virgin keyhole. The minute the pick touched the lock, however, there came a muffled yelp from the hallway. On the screen, Steve jumped backwards, leaving the pick sticking out of the lock. Melanie muffled a giggle. Her makeshift security system had electrified the lock, the doorknob and both hinges. She listened with a certain satisfaction while Steve swore with the baby curse words the middleschoolers used.
She remembered the day her parents had brought him home from the adoption place. She’d been seven then and he’d only been four, but in that instant she’d known they would never get along. She’d left him alone as long as he stayed clear of her friends and didn’t do anything dangerous. When she learned about his plan to kill power to all modern conveyances using a kill switch built out of Legos, she’d known she had to do something. Now, at least, he was concentrating on her rather than on conquering the world. Not for the first time, Melanie wondered who Steve’s real father had been.
Movement on her smartphone screen jerked her attention back to the matter at hand. Steve had pulled something long and flat from his bag and was beginning to insert it into the crack beneath the door. Oh, we can’t have that, Melanie thought, gleefully touching another button at the bottom of the screen. It quickly turned green as the first one had. On the screen, the long, flat whatever was blown out from under the door by a blast of air that included what looked like a cloud of talcum powder. Steve began to cough. Five seconds later, small pustules began to appear on every inch of Steve’s exposed skin. Melanie pumped her fist in victory. She’d purchased a packet of standard issue itching powder at the mall’s novelty shop and increased its efficacy using the chemistry set her father had given her when she turned twelve. She knew from painful personal experience that it wasn’t fun to inhale this stuff. Fortunately the internal effects were only temporary and couldn’t kill you, but they’d certainly make you wish they could.
Steve’s coughing quickly escalated to heaving, indicating that the powder was working. He’d also started scratching at the welts the powder had raised on his skin. With a muffled groan, Steve turned and ran for the bathroom. Smiling, Melanie, touched the two green buttons switching them back to red again, then tapped the X in the top right corner of the screen and returned to her game of Angry Birds™. Half an hour later, Steve emerged from the bathroom, his hair and shirt moist with perspiration. There were a number of places on his arms and neck that were bleeding sluggishly. He stopped and stared at her benignly.
“What’s the matter with you, dork?” she asked in the insulting tone that usually got Steve’s goat, “Did you forget you have to take your clothes off before you take a shower?”
Steve merely smiled, then turned and walked down the hallway. Melanie heard his bedroom door shut behind him. That’s it? she thought, blinking in confusion. Normally, Steve would come out and glare at her, at least. Obviously, this wasn’t over, so why was the little turd smiling?
With a frown, Melanie plucked her purse from the coffee table, dropped her phone into it and walked down the hall to leave it safely in her room. She did some of her best thinking while washing her hair, which was a lustrous, golden blonde. Locking the bathroom door, she quickly undressed and stepped into the shower. Humming her favorite tune from Taylor Swift, she turned the water on to just the right temperature, then flicked the switch that turned on the shower. Soon, her hair was wet and she was selecting her favorite shampoo from the caddy hanging over the shower head. Still humming, she lathered up, then rinsed. Next, she put on her conditioner, carefully combing it through.
Five minutes later, Melanie picked up her comb and started to rinse out the conditioner. There was a peculiar sensation as she pulled the comb through her hair. Looking down, she had to stifle a scream. Huge chunks of golden hair were stuck in the comb, not just the usual few strands like before.
She stumbled awkwardly from the shower to look at herself in the mirror. Already, Melanie looked like she’d been struck with mange. Chunks of hair were missing all over the her head. Suddenly, Melanie noticed her mother’s bottle of depilatory cream sitting on the countertop. She picked it up.
You little jerk, she thought angrily, crushing the bottle in her well-manicured fist, this means war.