Sunday, September 04, 2005

Mall of Mâvarin, Part Twenty-Five

I'm in the middle of a very busy weekend, so my online presence will be minimal for the next few days. But well, I told you I was obsessive about this journal! So here's a minimal installment of Mall of Mâvarin to tide us over until next weekend.

The easiest way to catch up on past installments of this serial is here on Messages from Mâvarin. 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 on Blogspot 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: In mindtouch with Randy, the girl who thinks of herself as Cathma is told that she is really Cathy after all. According to Randy, Li's spell is more an accidental "mindpush" (magical brainwashing) than an actual transfer mind and spirit. Randy takes Cathy on a whirlwind tour through the memories of her own life, until she feels like herself again rather than the Queen of Mâvarin. At the same time, Randy helps the real Queen Cathma to reclaim her own identity. The process leaves Randy exhausted—and there are still dozens of people from Dewitt and Mâvarin who need similar help.

Part Twenty-One: Since Rani and Randy are too tired to do mind magic with anyone else for the moment, Cathy suggests going back to "Plan A"--seeing that Li, Lee and Josh successfully reverse Li's spell, getting everyone home both mentally and physically. Although leaving the castle once again floods Cathy's mind with Cathma's memories, this time it does not overwhelm her sense of who she is. Shoppingtown Mall now looks intact again, albeit in Mâvarin instead of Dewitt. Li and Lee are proud of this accomplisment, Josh less so. Cathy points out that the point is to get the mall and the people back where they belong, not to reassemble the building in the wrong world.

Part Twenty-Two: Li and Lee propose to leave Shoppingtown in Mâvarin, at least temporarily, until the people are restored. When Cathy and Cathma press them on how that part of the problem is coming along, they say that the people who actually traveled with the mall (as opposed to safely in the castle) are "feeling much better now." They have mindpushed these people from a state of emotional shock to one of relative normalcy. The mall employees have even started selling their goods and services to customers--including curious Mâvarinû, who have started coming in from outside.

Part Twenty-Three: Li and his counterpart have convinced the mall personnel to accept Mâvarin coins, on the theory that they will be valuable in the other world for their gold and silver content and as collectible rarities. They've even worked outan exchange rate with the J.C. Penney manager: Ruthie Foster, Randy's mom. Randy rushes off to see her. Joshua Wander and Fayubi (who still doesn't know he's really Fabian Stockwell) both express an interest in going shopping at the mall,on the theory that they may never have another opportunity to buy 21st century goods from a high-tech society. Before they go off to do that, however, Rani announces that all these stranded people, aside from the two sets or twins, aren't who they think they are.

Part Twenty-Four: Rani explains to the others that despite all previous suppositions to the contrary, nobody is in anyone else's body after all. Although the Mâvarinû remember bits of the Americans' lives, and even identify with them, they remain themselves in reality, body, mind, and spirit. He offers to help Li and Lee to feel like themselves again, promising that while in Mâvarin, Lee will still be able to do magic. Afterward, they will need to solve the problem of getting the Americans--and Shoppington Mall--back to DeWitt, New York. Meanwhile, the others decide to go shopping anyway.

Part Twenty-Five: Shop 'Til You Drop

Art by Sherlock.Fabian Stockwell shook his head. “You know, this is still very strange for me. I feel sure that I should know who Tommy Hilfiger is, but I really don’t. Does he work in this marketplace?”

Fayubi chuckled. “No, he doesn’t. And it’s called a mall, remember?”

“Oh. Right. So if this Tommy person isn’t in the mall, then why did you ask how I felt about him?”

“Not him,” Carl said. “It. Or them, maybe.”

Fabian turned his puzzled frown on Carl, and then on Fayubi. Then he turned to Cathy. “Can you tell me what they’re talking about?”

“Tommy is a brand name,” Cathy explained.

“Okay. What’s a brand name?”

Hmm. This wasn’t going to be easy to explain. Under normal circumstances Fabian Stockwell would have known as much about branding as she did, and probably more. He’d even talked about brand consciousness in his psych class. But for now, with Fayubi’s memories overshadowing his own, he seemed completely unfamiliar with the concept. “Look, let’s just go into the Bon Ton, and I’ll show you what they’re talking about,” she said.

So that’s what they did. “A brand name,” Fayubi explained, sounding very much like Mr. Stockwell on a normal school day, “is a means of labeling or identifying a particular piece of merchandise, or more likely a series of related products, using a particular name that the potential buyer is expected to remember when making purchasing decisions. Once a consumer associates that name with positive expectations about the related merchandise, brand loyalty is established.”

“Right,” Cathy said. “Imagine that you’re really good at making pants.”

“Or shirts,” Carl put in. “Really nice shirts that everyone likes.”

Art by SherlockThey had arrived at Bon Ton. Carl led the way in. Cathy and the others followed. Fabian stared at the shirts as they went by—Ralph Lauren, mostly. “Okay, shirts, then,” Cathy said. “And you put your name on all your shirts, just inside the collar. After a while, people who like your shirts will look for shirts with your name on this, and choose them over other shirts.”

“Over here. Look,” Carl said. He led the way for a rack of Tommy sports shirts. “See? There’s the Tommy label.”

“So this Tommy person makes shirts?” Fabian asked. He picked up a long-sleeved shirt with red and blue stripes, and stared at it dubiously.

“He designs the shirts,” Fayubi said, “and his company makes them. What do you think? Will I enjoy having something like this when I’m fully myself again?”

“Well, it’s certainly a curiosity,” Fabian said. “Maybe we can get just one shirt, as a tangible reminder of this day.”

Three shirts (two for Fayubi, one for Jami), a jacket, four pairs of jeans (one each for Jami and Carli, two for Fayubi), and two necklaces (identical ones for Cathma and Cathy) later, the four twins and their mentors had pushed together several tables and were eating pizza together. The Americans-turned-Mâvarinû all seemed to enjoy this at first, but before they finished their slices, Jamie and Fabian started behaving as if they were suddenly very nervous. Their movements became quick and jerky, and they blinked rapidly as they downed the last of their mushrooms and pepperoni. Cathy glanced at Jami and Fayubi, and was alarmed to discover that they were behaving the same way.

Art by Sherlock“Are you four all right?” King Carli asked.

“Fine, fine,” said Jami and Jamie together.

“No, we’re not,” said Fayubi.

“Something’s happening,” said Fabian.

“I think…” Fayubi began, but he never finished the sentence. He slumped over suddenly, apparently unconscious. So did Fabian, Jami and Jamie. Carli and Carl followed suit a moment later. Cathy and Cathma were left staring at each other, across a double table full of sleeping men.

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