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The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Nineteen – Part 1


The hospital staff were largely human, only a few of them had purple fur.

Miranda’s leg brace itched like crazy. The doctor said starfish cells in the wrapping were making her leg heal quicker.

She passed time writing down the ways the world was different. She’d started a timeline to track which change happened when.

Cindy kept Miranda supplied with pictures she snapped around town. Obviously the most important thing was to track what was true now. Since it didn’t seem like the world would be changing again.

The river was gone and they had an actual street again. It was made of long symmetrical slivers that fit together perfectly like scales. The scale streets ran the entire length of the town. Out by the highway the scales ended and the regular roads started. The wind made the edges of their scaly streets rippled a little by the curbs.

Cindy had found Miranda a copy of the latest school rules. They’d figured out together with Tom that the school’s grading system was based on the previous year’s grades. With all her missed classes, Miranda didn’t think she’d be able to go to college this year. She’d need to make a spreadsheet to figure out the new credit situation. It’d be easier if she could infiltrate the school records. Cindy had suggested a few ways they might go about breaking the new school security system.

Cindy’s dads got a loan to reopen the old bookstore on Perkins Street. They were renaming it Modern Fables.

Miranda put her book down. She was pretty sure she could roll with how the world was now.

The door creaked open and Cindy poked her head around it. “You up, lazy?”

Miranda grinned. “Dork.”

Today’s dress was green, the one Miranda thought of as Cindy’s “special occasion” dress.

Her toes were getting hot again, so Miranda dragged on the sheet to expose her leg brace. The plaster changed color when the light hit it. “The doctor says I can leave tonight.”

She reached out for Cindy’s hand. “Mom says your dads are making us dinner.”

Cindy took her hand, but put the other one on her hip. “I’m making dinner. My dads are helping.”

The pose reminded Miranda of Alice. A little pain ran across her chest. No one in town remembered Alice ever existed, except Mom and Cindy and her dads.

Miranda needed to finish the latest sketch of Alice. She wanted to try to make a perfect one while her memories were still fresh. She and Mom agreed that if people asked questions about the gravestone Mom was carving with a diamond-tip drill, they’d just tell the truth and let people think they were crazy. Cindy and her dads had all cried when Mom offered to make two more gravestones for Cindy’s missing dads.

Once she was out of the hospital, she, Mom, Cindy and her dads would do a private funeral. They’d set the gravestones out on a hill overlooking the north side of town. Mom said she was carving a secret compartment in the back of Alice’s stone. Miranda was busy writing down everything she remembered about Alice to hide inside.

Cindy handed her a tissue and Miranda blew her nose. “I’ll try to act surprised when you bring out the surprise cake.”

“You rat! How did you figure that out?”

Miranda tapped her nose. “I’m still the best investigator in the area.”

Cindy’s face fell. “You didn’t…”

“I didn’t change anything.” Miranda looked down at the schoolbook to give Cindy a moment to calm down. It would probably take a while for Cindy to feel totally safe again.

“I can’t see the strings anymore, I’m not sure I ever will again.” Miranda tapped the book. It felt reassuringly solid.

Outside, the pink water tower was still there, but now it just read AUGHT.

Some of the buildings in town were now built on stilts. It was random chance whether a building was ground level or in the sky. Folks didn’t seem to mind walking up the spiraling stairs, but the town council had started deliberations on installing elevators. No one could figure out why they’d never thought of using them before.

Mom’s voice came from outside Miranda’s door. ” …thanks, doctor.”

Miranda wasn’t sure why, but she let go of Cindy’s hand.

Mom came in loaded with papers and a bag. She was wearing a denim shirt over tan pants, her new working clothes. When she saw Cindy, she smiled. It had only taken a week for Mom to become comfortable with the Bauteils.

“Hey, you two.” She deposited the papers on the foot of the bed and the bag on the floor.

From the bag she pulled out a little branch of dogwood. It was stuck in a little clear glass. Its white blossoms were already in full bloom. “Something to cheer up the room.”

Miranda frowned. “Mom, I’m leaving in a few hours.”

Mom waved her hand. “You can bring it with you.” She sat on the edge of the bed. “I’ll be back in a few hours. I have my second video interview with the firm in California.”

She’d already given two weeks notice at the grocery store. It only took her the previous week to teach herself two modern computer languages. If she got the job, she was going to buy Mr. Murphy’s high-stilted storefront and use it as a telecommuting office. Mr. Murphy said he was glad to finally get the opportunity to retire. He wasn’t going to miss all those stairs.

“I have to talk to Mr. Bradley before tonight’s dinner too.” Mom scooped up the papers. If she got the job, she was going to have the real-estate agent make an offer on the house next door to Cindy’s. Moving across the street would be a snap, but they’d need to buy furniture and house stuff.

The nurse came in. “We need to fit your walking cast.” She handed Mom a piece of paper and smiled at Cindy. “You’ll see her in a few hours.” She smoothed down the fur around her collar. Clothing styles hadn’t quite caught up with the furred people.

“Okay.” Mom leaned over and kissed Miranda’s forehead. “See you in a bit.”

As she followed the nurse out she said, “You know, your fur makes your eyes really pop.”

The nurse giggled. “Why, thank you.”

Cindy watched Miranda’s leg wrappings change color. They both seemed to be getting better about not needing to fill every moment with talking. Cindy looked at her watch. “I should go cook.”

Miranda squeezed Cindy’s hand one more time. “See you tonight?”

“Of course!” Cindy got up and smoothed her skirt. She ran after Mom. “Ms. Smith, can I get a ride?”

Miranda sat in silence for a second. She sighed. She’d needed the downtime, but she’d be glad to be getting back to school. Hospitals were boring.

The wind blew a piece of paper past her window. It danced in a loop, once, twice.

Miranda felt a brief stab of fear. For a moment she imagined it dancing up to her window. A new note from the god.

But the breeze fell away and the paper drifted harmlessly to the ground. It was going to take a little while for her to get used to feeling totally safe too.

She set the book on the side table and stretched down to get her spyglass. Mom had dropped it off earlier in the week to help Miranda fight the boredom.

The adapter she was designing would need to fit both the camera lens and the spyglass’ eyepiece, but it would need a support so they wouldn’t fall apart.

She sketched a few ideas in her notebook.

Cindy and she had plans to build a tree house out in the woods. If Miranda built a mount for the spyglass she bet they’d get some amazing pictures of stars.




The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Eighteen – Part 2

She was in space.

Of course her mind spit out the thousand ways she should be dead. Hypothermia. Explosive decompression. Boiling blood. The air around her felt pleasantly cool, about the same as at home. She was breathing.


Space was made of black strings and bright strings. If she pulled any, would the air around her pop like a balloon?


In that moment, Miranda would have pulled a string that would have destroyed this whole universe and the god and her with it.


She still contemplated pulling strings.

Then the strings were gone, all of them.

NEXT LEVEL POWER! IT’S ME ALL THE WAY DOWN!” Stars in the distance formed into a grin.

The strings must still be there, just hidden from her. So the god couldn’t do everything.


She went limp. She was powerless, even while it was sleeping. She couldn’t imagine how powerful the god would be if it was awake.


She was done. Exhausted, and lost, she thought about Mom and Cindy and even Bill, Tom and John. It made her smile to imagine their faces. Mom would say, “It’s okay. You did your best.”


Miranda’s breath hitched. “Me too.” Mom must be so scared.

The thought dawned on her slowly and without shock. She looked up and realized a light bulb had appeared above her head. The old fashioned incandescent kind.

She swatted the bulb it till it disappeared. “Want to play another game?”

She could feel the god pause to think.

Miranda floated in the nothingness. The longer she waited, the more alone she felt.

Minutes passed. So many that she realized there was no way to tell time.

She started to panic. What if it left her out here forever?


She grit her teeth. “What kind of god takes that long to think?”


Mom’s exercises came automatically. She felt herself calm down a little. She felt the first glimmer of hope that she’d felt in … she didn’t know how long. As her breath slowed down, strings started to appear around her.

Lightly, she held strings to hold her thoughts close.

One of the stars below her expanded into the cluster of holes. Each one was a universe.

“I made up another game.”


She took a breath and hid her thoughts. She couldn’t trap the god.

But she could hide.

The string to her world felt familiar in her hand. The controlling strings to the god felt like electric wires. She didn’t let herself think of what she doing, she just yanked at the burning string. She didn’t have the power to close a universe, but maybe she had the power to nudge the god to do it for her.

The string to her world practically pulled her arm out of its socket. It dragged her like a jet stream. The cluster of worlds raced at her. The earth’s portal expanded just enough to pull her through. The air practically slammed into her as. Her first thought was how much she’d missed the smell of her town.


The god’s string vibrated in her hand, hot like a wire, stretched like bowstring. She yanked the earth string and the portal shrank down to a black round window. She looked down.
Mom, Cindy, and Cindy’s dads were thirty feet below.

She let go of the god’s string. It snapped through the portal, back to the god. As it passed through, a wave of power hit her like a sonic boom. Her world ripped free from the god.


The portal fell in on itself.


The window popped out of existence. All the strings around her disappeared. Gravity tugged her down.

The god was gone.

Her universe still existed. She pumped her fist and let out a joyous scream.

Her body slammed into the street so hard, she bounced.

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Eighteen – Part 1

The air whipped by so fast her eyes hurt. The landscape raced below as if she were a rocket. It felt proper to put her hands out front like superman, but that didn’t help her steer.

“You don’t scare me.” She kept herself from yelling. If she woke the god up, everything would truly be over.

Everything. Literally.

She arced up to the cluster of holes. One was clearly filled with luminescent sky. A fluffy pink cloud drifted by.

As she flew through, she yanked the string and world folded out around itself until the sky was everywhere and the black land became a single dot, just an island below her. She scanned the sky strings, cloud strings, island strings.

Far below was the collection of holes, each one an entire universe.

What if she led the mad god into one and shut the door? Was there was a string to lock the god away?

I AM THE UNIVERSES! YOU CAN’T LOCK ME IN ME.” The mad god’s voice was everywhere.

Ugh, she’d forgotten to block her thoughts.

The sky flooded with portals to universes, a huge panorama of billions of worlds.


There were strings everywhere, strings making the pattern, strings holding the doors open. Some felt so massive, she didn’t think she’d be able to budge them if she tried.

I MAKE UNIVERSES LIKE YOU MADE CINDY.” There was a long pause. The sky darkened almost like it was frowning. “I DON’T REMEMBER HOW RIGHT NOW.

One of the portals centered itself in front of Miranda. “BUT I CAN CLOSE THEM.

Miranda felt overwhelming amounts of power drag and press on the portal. It shimmered and bloated.

With a pop, it was gone.

She tried to feel for it, but the strings were gone. She couldn’t tell if the god had destroyed it, or just sent it away.


She reached at the void, but other portals filled the space where it had been. “Can you bring it back?”

Another portal engulfed her and she hung in the sky above endless ocean. “NEW GAME!

Her flying powers were gone. She fell with a surprised yelp.

Part of her brain tabulated strings. The ground rushed up on her. She couldn’t think.

A island appeared below her and grew as she fell at it. She shook her head. The reality strings that connected her to the ground popped into view. One string was gravity. One was falling. One was her.

She didn’t think, just grabbed two strings and adjusted them, just a little.

The falling stopped so suddenly, her teeth clicked together.

Once she caught her breath, she lowered herself slowly toward the ground. Could she die in here?


She’d forgot to block her thoughts.

Her descent stopped. She wasn’t sure if she had done that or the god. She just needed a second to clear her head. “Am I immortal?”


She didn’t know how to wrap her head around that. She decided to not think about it.


She looked for the reality string to lower herself again.

Clouds reformed into two eyes and a mouth. It grinned. “NOW, JUST WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH YOU?

Miranda screamed.

The cloud face puffed out in pleasure. It giggled.

Miranda was clean out of fear. At this point she was just angry.

Hundreds of strings made up the clouds. She yanked and the clouds dissipated.

The god laughed and she fell again. The ground rushed at her and she grabbed another string. She fell faster.

She’d find out if she was immortal or not.

The air thickened around her. First she was falling through clouds, then rain, then she was surrounded by water.

Water went down her throat and she gagged. She reflexively yanked at strings and water exploded away from her. She coughed out water, distantly aware that she was falling again.

She reached out for other strings, but nothing caught in her fingers.

Random strings slid past her hands. The sky turned green. The continents swirled below her. Confetti blew around her in a cloud. Still the ground rushed at her.

YOU’RE THE BEST DAUGHTER EVER. SO MUCH FUN.” The mad god let out an explosive laugh. A new hole expanded around her and she fell into a new universe.

She was in space.

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Seventeen – Part 3

“Cindy!” Miranda was stuck hanging, completely weightless as Cindy tumbled away.

Miranda’s mind raced. She blinked and the reality strings popped back. Strings down to the giant eye and the purple landscape, strings that represented air and strings that represented weight. She yanked a string and gravity clicked on for her. She fell.

A few more string pulls and she wasn’t falling, she was flying down at Cindy like a jet. The reality strings spread out like wings extending from her fingers. She grabbed a string connected to Cindy and Cindy slowed. Miranda swooped in, grabbing her around the waist.

Cindy just kept screaming.

With a last tug, they stopped midair. Miranda squeezed her harder. “It’s all right, we’re okay.” She didn’t feel like anything was going to be okay, but she didn’t know what else to say.

Cindy stopped screaming, but kept her eyes squeezed shut. Her breath came out in fast huffs, like a horse after a run. She was hyperventilating.

“Try to breathe through your nose.” She brought Cindy’s face against her shirt.


Miranda yelled over Cindy’s shoulder. “Stop!”

Something rotated them until Miranda faced the giant eye again. “SO MUCH YELLING.

She swallowed. “Sorry.”

Miles below, another hole expanded and the ground was replaced with a uniform matte black landscape.

“Do you think we could come down to the surface?”

The giant eye looked up and down, then back to Miranda. “OK.

They plummeted.

Air rushed by so fast that Miranda’s face vibrated. If Cindy was screaming, Miranda couldn’t hear her.

Strings interlaced everything. She took one that connected them to the ground, with a gentle tug, she folded it upon itself.

Suddenly they were on the ground. A ripple of black dust radiated out from where they stood.

She let out a huge breath. Cindy slumped against her.

A flurry of butterflies swirled up from the ground. “HERE!

Miranda leaned down and set Cindy on the ground. It was so spongy Cindy sank into it like a soft bed. It took Miranda a second, but she realized the ground was literally made of sponge, soft and full of perfectly symmetrical holes. The trees looked fake too. The entire world was a model.

She didn’t have time to think about that. She moved hair out of Cindy’s face. Cindy’s eyes fluttered.

“WHY NOT HAVE YOUR FAMILY HERE?” The god’s voice sounded strangely young, confused. The more time Miranda spent with the god, the more she became convinced it wasn’t smart in a normal way, just very very powerful. She turned to the swirl of butterflies. She was tired and cold and sick of this already. “We should be in our own world.”


She put her hands on her hips, just like Alice used to. “It matters to us.”

The butterflies spun faster in a tighter cylinder. Its voice sounded petulant. “FAMILY, FAMILY, FAMILY. I COULD MAKE YOU A NEW FAMILY.

The butterflies formed into a man’s shape, her dad’s shape. The writhing fluttering face of Dad shouted, “I COULD YELL LIKE A FATHER!

The butterflies formed into Alice. “I CAN SMILE AND COOK AND–” Alice’s shape had a knife in its hand.

“Stop it! Stop torturing her!”

Miranda turned.

Cindy sat up, jabbed a finger at the form. “You should be ashamed!”

Miranda shook her hand at Cindy. “Don’t make it mad.”


Cindy pushed herself up. “I don’t care, I’m sick of this.”

The swirl of butterflies formed into a square, then a sphere. “I SHOULD JUST WAKE UP.” Something like a face turned to Miranda. “SHOULD I JUST WAKE UP?

Miranda blinked to see reality strings. The landscape, the trees, everything ran strings to the god. She started to notice that the strings were subtly different colors. Certain strings were brighter and more solid looking.

There was one string in particular that ran up and off way up the curve of space to the cluster of holes. One hole in particular beamed bright. It expanded and a cloud floated by.

Miranda knew what she’d do next. She cleared her head before the thought could fully form.

The god was now a cylinder, somehow looking like it was studying Cindy, like she was a particularly interesting bug. The cylinder’s top tilted, like a dog would tilt its head.

Miranda wasn’t just the daughter of a god. She was the daughter of Alistair McGee–or Jane Smith, whatever Mom decided her name was. Miranda didn’t just have the mad god’s powers.

She had mom’s too.

The mad god tilted its head at her. Miranda cleared her head.

A couple backwards steps on the spongy ground and she was backed up next to Cindy. She didn’t even have to look to see the strings behind her, she could feel the ones to Cindy.

The god said, “I’LL JUST MAKE A NEW FAMILY. WE’LL GET RID OF YOUR OLD ONE.” It puffed out into spikes.

Miranda pulled a string that stopped the god. Whatever magic it had planned evaporated into smoke.

It seemed shocked. “WOW.

Miranda shifted so she was between the god and Cindy. The strings weren’t just physical things. She could pull a string that would change the ground’s color. There were strings for thoughts and ideas.

The cylinder winked and the ground was neon green.

The message was clear. Whatever Miranda could do, the god could do better.

Mom got it wrong. Tricking the god, would never last. Making it go asleep wouldn’t last. The god had workarounds for everything.


Cindy touched Miranda’s back. Miranda reached behind her and Cindy took her hand.

She’d let Cindy down. She’d let them all down. Miranda wished she could just crawl into her hiding place in the bushes.

She barely had the thought when she yanked a string that stopped the god from hearing it.

That was interesting. She could hide her thoughts.

The spikes swirled like a tornado. “ARE YOU THINKING?

She thought about the hiding place in her drawer for her poison testing kit. She yanked another string and that thought stayed in her head.


There were strings that made her think clearer. There were strings that made her smarter. She yanked a string learned how to use her powers better. It was almost too easy.

“I’m your daughter, right?”

The top of the spikes cocked again. “YES? TRUE.”

Miranda said, “I have power too.”


She turned to Cindy. “I realized something.”

It took a second for Cindy to take her eyes off the god. “What?” She looked almost too afraid to think.

Miranda squeezed her shoulder. “I made you, but one second later you changed. You grew.” She touched the top of Cindy’s head. “You make your own decisions. You are you.”

Miranda pulled a string and a door opened under Cindy. She suspended there for a second, like gravity couldn’t decide which way to go.

Which made sense since Cindy’s driveway extended underneath her at a ninety degree angle.


Mom and Cindy’s dads stood just off to the side of the portal. Their legs were barely visible. Cindy’s garage door looked like a ledge, ten feet below her.

Cindy fell.

The second she passed into the other world, gravity caught and she rolled on the concrete. Bill ran to her. Cindy looked up and reached out to Miranda.

For half a second Miranda considered following her.

She flicked the door shut.

The mad god swirled with excitement.

Miranda rolled her neck until the synovial fluid in her joints made a satisfying pop.

“Let’s see what else I can do.”

The Curious Investigations of Miranda McGee – Chapter Seventeen – Part 2


The surface stretched miles below in every direction. One of the holes expanded until it filled the entire surface, crowding all the other holes around its edges. It expanded out until it covered most of the sky, a world painted onto the inside of a beach ball the size of a planet. Coast lines and mountains and oceans and clouds, all following the inside arc of this inside-out world. The collection of other holes was collected together up above her head.

Or down below. She was still disoriented.

Looking into the cluster of holes, it struck her; each hole was a portal. Each hole led to a new universe.

“Hello?” Miranda tried to regulate her breathing, but the constant vertigo was wearing on her nerves. “I’d like to talk to you!”

She’d been yelling. A scared, small part of her brain whispered that when you yelled, it woke people up. She resigned to speak quieter.

Lights on the surface way below flickered on and off, like entire cities gaining and losing power. Her brain translated the flickers into:


She held her breath.

It could read her mind.

Flicker. Flicker. Flicker.


She wiped her face and realized she was crying. Then she realized she was still … human. That had to mean something. She was still wearing her clothes. She stuck her hand in her pocket. She still had her keys. She clutched them like a totem.

She took a deep breath. “Can we talk, please.”

Flicker. Flicker.


The flicker language wasn’t very nuanced. She didn’t know if it meant “What is talking?” or “What do you think we’re doing now?”

She spoke softly. She probably didn’t even need to do that. “Can you come out so we can talk?

The air crystallized around her. The crystals read like words to her.


The crystal melted into water. The wave patterns were words.


The water boiled away. In its place was a cartoon dragon. Its body itself was a word, like with a pictorial language.


The dragon popped and she was back to looking at the surface miles below her.

Mountains broke apart, an enormous crack broke along the surface. The scale was so huge that the air around her vibrated. Whole forests disappeared into the destruction. The crack formed a giant arc. It opened like an eye.

An eye the size of a continent. Inside, it swirled like sunlight in water. Wave fronts of dust storms and wreckage radiated out from it.

The eye considered her.

A voice like an avalanche broke the sky. “DAUGHTER.

Miranda felt cold down in her bones. “You’re awake.”

“I AM NOT.” A horrible fissure broke beneath the eye, cracking open into a giant smile, simple like a smiley face. More waves of vibrating air radiated from the destruction.

“But you’re speaking to me.”

THIS IS THE BAREST SLIVER OF MY CONSCIOUSNESS.” The upper lid receded over the eye. Now it looked sleepy. The smile grew a little.

Miranda couldn’t plan in her head. It would just hear her.

The god waited.

Miranda said, “I came because …” To distract it? To get it to stop? She wasn’t even sure. “I was hoping we could talk.”

The giant eye, looked left and right. Like it was about to tell her a secret. “YOU’RE FUN.”

She didn’t know how to respond to that. “Thank you?”


It was talking about destroying the world.

Miranda forced herself to stay calm, even though she wanted to scream. She spoke very carefully. “Mom said you’d rather be asleep right now.”

OH! YOUR MOTHERFATHERMOTHERFATHER. I MISS HIMHERHIMHER!” The collection of holes migrated down to the side of the giant eye. One of them opened and bright blue light streamed out.

Miranda put her hands out, like she was calming a puppy. “Hey, we were talking about you going back to sleep, right?”

The ground shook like it was laughing. “YOU’VE DONE SUCH FUN THINGS. YOU MAKE PEOPLE. I MAKE PEOPLE TOO!

The thing was so enthusiastic, she felt like she was talking to Cindy.


“No!” She was terrified what would happen if the god focused on anything but her. “I mean, I also made Alice.”


Everything she said was like stepping on a mine. “She didn’t mean to, she was confused.” Miranda couldn’t believe she was defending Alice stabbing Dad. But she was gone now anyway.

“No, don’t!” Miranda put her hands out.

The god paused again. The giant eye looked left, then right, like it was about to tell her a secret. “ACTUALLY, I MADE ALICE STAB HIMHERHIMHER.” The huge grin looked proud.

Miranda was suddenly so furious her forehead hurt. She barely kept herself from yelling. At least Mom wasn’t hurt anymore.


Her fists hurt from her clutching them so hard. She felt helpless. It wouldn’t do to anger the god.


The collection of holes expanded. Miranda caught another brief glimpse of earth, then another hold expanded and quickly took up the entire landscape. The seas and clouds disappeared until the gods eye sat in the center of a huge dome of purple mountains.

It could do anything.

That gave her pause. A little hope lit inside her. “Could you bring back Alice?” Could she undo what she’d done?

The eye seemed to frown. However that was possible with one eye. “ALICE IS GONE.

“I know. Can you bring her back?”

I CAN MAKE ANOTHER ONE LOOK JUST LIKE HER.” A purple boulder flew up from the ground, so fast it glowed red from friction with the air. It spun and chunks flew from it. When it stopped, it was a perfectly smooth statue of Alice, complete with house dress and apron. Miranda’s heart hurt.

BAD!” The statue exploded to dust.

Miranda screamed, “Stop it!”

???????” The god actually thought question marks into her head.

Miranda held out her hands, like she was pleading. “It’s okay. You don’t need to punish Alice. Even a fake Alice.” What if the god decided to punish Mom, or Cindy?


Miranda didn’t even get a chance to speak. Cindy popped into existence.

It took Cindy a moment to realize where she was. Her face filled with recognition. She looked below her and screamed.

Then gravity took her and she fell.