Back in my room, mom and I were just looking at each other, me with tears streaming down my freckled face and sparks, now more or less out of my control, glowing and buzzing around my newly blue noggin. Mom looked at me with empathy and some reservation—the kind of reservation where she loves me but she’s scared to get too close because she’s not entirely sure I won’t shoot flamethrowers out of my face and kill her. That’s not something magical girls can actually do, but we didn’t know that at the time.
“But, I was supposed to graduate and go to junior high next year mom! I won’t ever see any of my friends again!” I protested behind tears.
“I’m…I’m sure you will make new friends Ellery! You’ll make magical girl friends just like you! And you’ll become an idol performing for so many people, and wearing pretty outfits just like in all of the magical girl anime you used to love as a child, and, and…”
Mom stopped as she watched the river pouring from my eyes. She really knew as little about what this would do to me as I did. We just looked at each other in silence and finally embraced, taking the risk in hopes I wouldn’t suddenly suck us into a dimensional rift portal or anything. Dad had come in and watched in a comforting, if not confident silence. There was little more to be said.
Mom and dad alerted my school like the broadcast said; the next day I came in to collect my things and then it was right off to the Magical Girl training facility to register and be dropped off, my new home away from my family for the next several years of my life. Sister Nagai got my things between classes for me, my parents and the nun in agreement that it was probably for the better if the other kids didn’t see me as a magical girl. And with that, my parents were off to half-consentingly trade off their daughter so as to not be fined 500-thousand dollars. (500-thousand dollars yearly.) I don’t blame my parents for sending me over; it would have ruined us financially. The agencies and the government engineered it together specifically to ruin families financially. I could still feel my anxiety growing as we moved closer and closer to the Asphalt Castle. I felt so weird, so helpless, so…exceptional.
That’s all I can really remember about that first transformation as a magical girl. Well, I suppose there is one more thing worth including. That night, I kept the handheld I was playing still on, still paused. I remember not wanting to unpause it as an emblem that this would all just be some hallucination. I was consciously thinking, in some weird logic, that as long as I didn’t unpause the game there’d still be some chance that it was all a mistake, that my hair would suddenly go back to brown and I would get to live a normal life.
Tiffany was still on the line as I kept on looking at the stupid frilly magical girl uniform hanging in the back of my closet. I remembered the fear and anxiety I felt on that night a decade ago. I was now reminded that girls would be facing that same anxiety, that same sense of helplessness in just a matter of hours, and I was offered a chance to help. A chance to help and a chance to be connected with a record deal for my music, no less.
“So, what do they say about the magical girl and her frilly outfit?” Tiffany buzzed.
“…That we didn’t choose the blue hair or the frilly outfit, the hair and the outfit chose us.” I responded, pausing and almost vomiting from the sentimentality of that maxim, one of the many informal maxims girls learn at the Asphalt Castle.
“Exactly! So, are you in?” She inquired with finality.
“…I’ll see you at the Castle on Monday.”
“Oh, oh wow Ellery!! I knew you’d help! Try to come for about 9 AM and come in through the industry lane, ok? I’ll let them know you’ll be there, we’re all so thrilled to have you!”
“Welcome back, magical girl!”
That last line pierced me right as she hung up. I kept on looking at the stupid uniform in silence. I didn’t know how to feel about it at 13, and now I didn’t know how to feel about it at 23. But I felt an emotion…something, which I hadn’t for a long, long time.
Pretty soon I was gonna be feeling a lot of things.