July 21, Earth Time
Moonflower Opera House
On a different planet, in a different world, just as the clock struck 2 AM Pacific Time on Earth, Musa decided she'd had enough of dancing with suspicious strangers. She removed herself from several overly-friendly young bucks who seemed to think that they deserved something extra because she was female and almost fully grown. Then she made her way to the small bar which had been dragged out into the middle of the opera’s dance floor and collapsed onto one of the stools.
"Hey, Olly," she said to the bartender. "Give me something that'll rev me up." Dealing with those idiots had sapped her energy.
"Do I know you?" said Olly. Oh, right. I forgot that I memory-spelled him.
"Recanto," Musa whispered, concentrating her Winx, and Olly’s eyes focused and refocused as the memory spell lifted. He frowned at her. No doubt, he was remembering the last time she had come here, when she had cried and spilled her guts to him over an orange Dragonbomb.
“Hi, Miss Musa,” he said, backing away slightly. Probably because she was the girl who had been fooling around with his memories for over a month. It had worked up into a pattern now. She showed up, lifted the memory spell, vented, and then made him forget her again. She suspected that he would mind more if he wasn’t such a massive fan of her dad. He was more than willing to take a memory charm if it meant getting secrets from Hoboe’s daughter.
"Hello," said Musa, "Give me something to rev me up. And not too expensive, because standing room here is exorbitant. "
"How 'bout an Orange Dragonbomb?"
“You make that every time I come here, Olly.” Musa sighed, feeling impatient. “Screw it. Make one.” She watched him shake it up with a bit of annoyance. Everything felt too slow, including herself.
"Hey, when is dancetime over?" Musa asked. Olly heard her perfectly even over the raucous noises of the dance floor, of course, because of the super-hearing that every Melodian had either been born with or had surgically installed. He shrugged, still shaking up her cocktail."Dunno." He wasn’t asking questions tonight. Weird. Meanwhile, the audience gyrated on the dance floor.
Melodian dancetime was an institution that both baffled and annoyed visitors to the planet. It was, quite simply, sanctioned disruption of any musical show. If there was an audience consensus, then standing room patrons could have the music stopped at any time and dance. That was why standing room was so expensive here - and also why Musa was broke.
It made Melody one of the most popular and most reviled vacation spots in the magical dimension. It also made it the only place where you could twerk during a funeral and not be arrested.
And it had a penchant for causing... unfortunate events.
"Holy shit, is that the Secretary of Auditory Health and Safety?" She pointed at a man who was popping-and-locking in the middle of a sparkly entourage.
"Oh my god, I think it is.” They watched for a moment as the most important Health secretary on their planet did the splits and tore his trousers up the middle. A woman in a turquoise dress that screamed kept woman helped him up.
“I think I’d like that drink now,” Musa said.
"Don't-" Olly cried, reaching out just as she knocked it back, but it was too late. Musa turned her head, very, very, slowly to look at him. There was a strange tingling under her skin.
"Did you put any stimulants in this?" she almost shrieked. "I thought it was just sugar!"
"I thought you knew!"
The last thing she remembered normally after that was a feeling, the same one she'd had when she'd transformed the first time.
She was weightless.
The Eralistan Operatic Stomp Gang never got to finish its show. After the dancetime (which had already gone on too long) ended and Security managed to get things calmed down, the main mezzo, probably still nervous after almost witnessing a riot, hit a false note.
It rang out, dysphonic and atonal and unnatural, stunning even the drunkest people into silence, making Musa's stomach turn over as she listened from the place where she'd collapsed on the floor. She wasn’t even grateful that the silence had kept the crowd from trampling her and had probably saved her life. She wanted to curl up where she lay and die.
Instead, she struggled to her feet and started to back out of the crowd.
The Melodian crowd, ever mindful of the performer's right to finish, didn't react until the end. And then it got up and booed, screaming its rage into the silence after the note.
"You monster, you ruined the note-"
" Let me at her, I'm coming up there, you better run-"
Three audience members broke out of the crowd. One of them was a buxom woman whom Musa had assumed was a mistress of the Health Secretary, judging by the way she was dancing with him. They swarmed upon the protesting audience members, knocking them unconscious in seconds, and dragged them quietly away.
Plainclothes security had made its appearance.
All objections fell silent.
Meanwhile, the mezzo had stopped and was escaping the stage, yet the note rang on and on and on in the ears and the minds of the audience. It made sickness rise in the back of Musa’s throat. She ducked her head and clapped her hands over her ringing ears.
A scream of pure anarchic joy shattered the momentary peace, and the right side of the room rose up while the other side booed. Now half of the crowd was thrashing and moshing like it was a metal concert. A riff of heavily modulated tech drums and guitars went off, nearly blowing the speakers.
Musa let go of her ears and started to run blindly for the exit. The last thing she wanted was to be unarmed, alone, and disoriented in the middle of a riot. Then the ceiling seemed to break open as it erupted in strobe lights above her, and an announcer's voice declared it mosh pit time, and she let out a scream and covered her head, suddenly terrified for her life.
Then the lights went crazy and she was fighting not to get trampled, caught smack in the middle of a battle between the operatic fans, who were trying to hear the rest of the show, and the moshers, who seemed bent on a night of destruction. A fight between music fans? On any other planet, it would be ridiculous, but here, it was dead serious.
She found herself subjected to pummeling from both sides, each of which thought she was fighting for the other. She fought blindly, as well, because her cocktail had kicked in and she really couldn’t see far in front of her face. She managed to almost make it to the bar, where she saw Olly shouting and reaching out to her, but then someone who looked like the Prime Minister came out of nowhere and shouted, "Eat this, scum!" and she had to duck the bottle being flung at her head.
Then she was pulled back into the maelstrom, and she struggled for what felt like hours, dizzy and tripping, until she lost consciousness right at the moment that every piece of glass in the entire opera shattered. By the time the police arrived, she had regained her senses. She transformed as the crowd rushed for the exit and flew through the private opera box, escaping through an upper level window that she found at the end of the hall.
And this was how the middle of the Melodian night found her: sweaty and bruised, but alive, sitting on the curb of Matlin Avenue, the famous street named for her mother.
"Aw," she said, noticing that she'd ruined her favorite retro high-tops in the chaos. "I thought it was just a sugary drink."
And that is why you're an idiot,her brain told her.He double-crossed you, or he was confused. But isn’t that what you get, using memory charms with no understanding of how they affect the victims?
"That's right," she said. She needed a greater understanding of magic. She needed some kind of school where she could hone her fairy knowledge. A place far away that could also double as a haven where she could make music without her dad checking up on her. A place like…
"Ow!" she said, clutching her head. Apparently her battered brain, already unused to planning on a normal day, found it too much of a task right now to even consider, so she made a note to continue the thought another time. She had to be home soon, anyway.
Getting home was easy. She went on autopilot, walking to the nearest fram (flying tram) station and paying her fare with her last bit of cash. Both flying and teleporting were faster, but she didn't have enough Winx left to transform and she didn't want to risk using the famously crappy and dangerous Melodian teleportation network.
Hence, the fram.
Even if it was so old that Zenith was the only other planet that used it, Musa liked the fram.
It helped her relax as she slowly came down from the effects of the cocktail. The in-flight music played softly as it zipped past the different musical districts of Eralista, Melody's capital city. As they left the Classical district, the buildings grew less fancy, but not necessarily less fashionable. They passed through the Jazz Annex and entered Triple-H, where all the rappers lived. She looked down at its most famous avenue, Zakalwe Street, and its best recording studio, the Didomar building, which looked like a stack of boom boxes. Just as Didomar's boom boxes faded out of her sight, the fram entered her neighborhood.
It stopped on the outskirts of her area. She got out next to the sign for her neighborhood, which said, WELCOME TO THE TRAP in large letters.
The tenement where she and her father lived was a series of three tall, grey, graffiti-covered obelisks. She went in and took the lift up to the seventh floor and found their apartment empty.
She was already in bed with snacks and a page of blank sheet music, writing a song about her experiences (yeah, a song about drinking and fighting, so original, but it wasn't like she would try to record it) when she heard her father open the door. She sat up straight and magically banished the music to the box under her bed and grabbed a book to read from her bedside table.
She listened to her father come down the hall. His footsteps sounded slow, his breathing labored, but at least that meant that she had ample time to open her book, to turn the pages, a sound which he would hear from down the hall.
"Hi, sweetie," he said, standing in the open doorway, and she let him come in and give her a hug. He probably needed it - from his voice, she could tell that his night had been about as bad as hers. "What did you do?" he asked. She shrugged.
“I went to Didomar Bar,” she said, giving him the name of a club near their house.
Her father nodded. He wasn't crazy with his rules: she was allowed to listen to music as long as it wasn't her mother's or her father's, and she wasn't allowed to create it. Cutting off a Melodian from their music was like cutting off a limb. Even her dad had his own secret record collection somewhere.
"What happened?" Hoboe asked, seeing her bruises. Musa shrugged again, trying to look nonchalant. "Some people showed up from the thrash district and started moshing in the dance pit...things got a little crazy."
"Those goddamn moshers are a public menace," he said. "Especially since nowadays you can't even tell by their clothing who they are."
"Dad," she said awkwardly. Curses were funny coming from teachers. From her very straight-laced and pop-music dad, they were just disturbing.
Though her dad apologized, this only served to convince her further. She needed a change now. She needed an escape, somewhere safe, she thought, as he hugged her good night and went to bed. She needed somewhere where she could work on music under the pretense of doing something else, so that she could finish her set in peace. Then she could play for her father...reignite his love for music...make him happy again.
As she drifted off to sleep, a half-addled smile on her face, the name came to her. How perfect. How utterly obvious.