I'm starting to feel that this story is getting awfully lame, and too dependent on stuff most of you have never read. I'll try to do better.
The easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is from the Mall of Mâvarin section of the sidebar to the right of this posting. Synopses to Parts One through Six can be found at the top of Part Seven. Synopses to Parts Eight through Thirteen can be found at the top of Part Fourteen. Synopses to Parts Fourteen through Eighteen are at the top of Part Nineteen. The installments themselves can be read in order using the sidebar.
Part Nineteen: Li Ramet, Lee Ramirez and Joshua Wander go off to try to reverse the effects of Li's modified portal spell, which, along with the appearance of Josh's magic castle, apparently caused all the trouble. Meanwhile, Rani and Randy announce they have successfully returned their own minds and spirits to the right bodies. Rani sets out to try to help Carl and Carli do the same. Despite being only a bookish high school student in a strange and magical land, Randy Foster thinks he has acquired sufficient magic and knowledge to sort out Cathma and Cathy as well. They sit down together to let him try.
Part Twenty: Memories of Me
Cathma closed her eyes. After a moment she heard Randy’s voice in her mind. Cathma? Can you hear me?
“Yes,” she said.
Not that way. Just say the words in your head, as you do with Rani Lunder.
Cathma was a little surprised that Randy even knew about the other Rani. She was also a little embarrassed about having spoken aloud. Oh, right. I forgot, she said in her mind.
That’s because you’re not really Cathma. Are you ready to be yourself again?
Now, wait a minute, Cathma protested. Didn’t we all agree earlier that I’m mostly Cathma, and the person in my body is mostly Cathy? If this works, I’ll still be Cathma, but back in my own body.
That’s one way of looking at it. But Rani and I figured out that it’s not quite true.
What do you mean?
You’re really Cathy Salazar after all. Li’s spell just makes you feel and think otherwise, and feeds you just enough of Cathma’s memories to make it plausible. But it’s just a mindpush, a trick. Underneath the spell, you’re still the same person I had lunch with in school today.
But I barely remember that lunch. Are you sure?
Does Li know that’s what he did?
Probably not, but it makes sense. Rani told me all about Li’s ability to make people believe stuff that isn’t true. This weird spell of his fooled everyone, including Li.
Well, I guess it doesn’t matter how it works, as long as you can fix it.
It matters, because he’ll need to get his counterspell right to put everything back where it belongs, and get people feeling like themselves again. Rani and I can’t fix the fifty or sixty people affected by this spell, at least not quickly.
But you can fix me and Cathy—I mean Cathma. Right?
Yes. Just relax now, and let me show you who you are.
She tried to do just that as images appeared in her mind, memories of high school, of evenings spent doing homework on the computer while IMing with friends, of buying clothes and eating pizza at the mall, of going to see Batman Begins with Carl and Randy. At first it all looked strange to her, part of someone else’s life in a place full of incomprehensible technology. But as Randy gently prodded, more memories came. They all fit together, becoming more and more familiar as she re-experienced a good chunk of Cathy’s life—her life—in the space of a few minutes. Here was the memory of that one date with Danny from F-M, and there was the memory of 9-11, when…. Don’t, she told Randy. I don’t want to see that again.
I remember. I don’t need to see the wreckage of Flight 93 yet again to remember what happened to my parents.
So you know who you are now.
I think so, yes.
What do you remember of Cathma’s life?
Cathy probed for memories that had seemed so much her own just a short time before. I remember bits and pieces, she told Randy, but they don’t seem real to me any more.
They’re real for her, Randy replied. His mental voice sounded exhausted.
Are you going to help Cathma next?
Already done. Where do you think I got the memories to show you? I used you both to feed each other.
And you’re sure I’m really Cathy?
In a way Cathy was almost sorry about this. Cathma had a father who was still alive, and a fairly exciting life as the ruler of an exotic country. But her own life had its advantages, she realized.
“That’s good enough for me,” she said aloud.