Miranda didn’t stop running, just left Mom yelling behind her in the house. She got halfway across the lawn when Mom tackled her. They landed next to the juniper bushes. Miranda started swinging, not even sure who she was mad at. Mom clamped her arms around Miranda’s. Even as a woman, she was still way stronger than Miranda.
“Get off me!”
Mom whispered. “It’s okay. It’s okay. Just breathe.”
The rage ate at her. Was there a single thing about her that wasn’t a lie? Miranda kicked one more time and was still. Everything was her fault. She was just like the mad god.
Mom said, “Breathe.”
Miranda felt petulant. Just because Mom said to breathe, Miranda held her breath instead.
White dots danced in front of her eyes, she kicked her feet. Why did she have to breathe if she was the child of a god? Finally she let out a huff. Mom loosened her arms, a little. Miranda thought about running again. Where would she go?
The grass itched at Miranda’s face and she pushed up into a sitting position. Mom wouldn’t look at her for a long time. “I’ve suspected, long before Alice, that you had some of its power.”
It was like a flashbulb going off in Miranda’s head. “I made Alice!” She felt stupid and slow.
Mom looked away, but she nodded. “I didn’t realize at first. When I’m the focus of the magic, it changes me too. I knew something was wrong, but it took me years to figure out what. Then, when she … changed over time. I started to worry about you.” She let go of Miranda entirely and leaned back.
Miranda put her head in her hands. “It’s all my fault.” School, the town, everything.
“Absolutely not!” Mom took her shoulders. “This is entirely the mad god’s fault. You are my daughter and I love you.”
Mom looked blurry through Miranda’s tears. So blurry, Miranda could almost imagine her as Dad again.
Only a week ago her life had been … she was thinking simpler, but it had never been simple, it had never been easy or happy. Her life had been miserable. “How did I do this?”
And how could she fix it?
Mom sighed and tore at the grass. “You have some of the god’s abilities, it’s unconscious.” She threw the grass. “I’ve been trying to train your mind, trying to steep you in history and modern life. The more you know the world as it is, the less you’ll accidentally imagine something new into existence.” Mom interlaced her fingers. “You and the mad god are intertwined. You calming your mind keeps the god asleep.”
The street was now largely visible in the morning light. Miranda could just see Cindy’s house through the bushes. She wondered if the Bauteils were still awake too.
Mom wiped the tears off Miranda’s face. “I’m done lying to you. I was afraid of you. I hated you.” She rubbed her face. “I lost my husband. I lost my whole life ….”
A wind shook the juniper bushes and for a moment, Miranda saw Cindy’s entire house through them.
She put her hands to her mouth. “Cindy and her Dads.”
Mom nodded. “You didn’t have a mom, so Alice. You didn’t have a friend, so…”
Had she made Cindy, like a doll? Someone to play with?
She barely felt Mom take one of her hands and squeeze it. “Through the thoughtful collection and study of information we take control of our own lives.” Mom patted her hand. “With mental rigor and careful thinking, you can be a normal person.” She didn’t quite sound like she believed herself.
Miranda didn’t know what to believe anymore.
It struck them so suddenly that Miranda lost her breath. A giant wave of reality change washed over them with the force of a hurricane.
The street was now a stream, it lazily snaked between the houses. Instead of water, it was filled with red flowers that tumbled after one another, down the hill into town.
Each of the houses on the block was a slightly different shade of blue. Together they made a gradient that stretched off into the trees.
Miranda’s house hadn’t changed.
She could barely get out the words. “Did I do that?”
Mom’s voice was almost inaudible. “It’s waking up.”