|Fri, 11 Aug 2000
[Mystique] Origins: Blue Fingernails
Origins: Blue Fingernails By Meridian
Rating: PG-13 (Some mention of murder, suicide, general mayhem, sexual indiscretions, none too graphic)
Summary: One mutant looks back and her powers' emergence when she was fourteen.
Disclaimer: Everyone you recognize here once belonged to a God...er, guy named Stan Lee. Marvel owns 'em now, thought technically I'm borrowing them from the movie, so that means that 20th Century Fox has a hand in there... Okay, my head hurts. Basically, anyone you recognize or may possibly have heard of doesn't belong to me, nor can or will I be paid for using them without permission of aforementioned parties.
Hey this is a one-parter that came to me a night or two ago. Muses...yes, they help write fics, but they won't let me sleep! Do try and enjoy, please?
Origins: Blue Fingernails
Blue fingernails. It started with blue fingernails. Granted, no one thought anything of it, though Kate (I guess you could call her my best friend at that point) wanted to borrow the shade I had used to paint them. Blue was not too unusual for me. I had the entire rainbow in nail polish, save for yellow, though that was because of a lack of options rather than a lack of desire to own that particular shade. One of my favorite polishes was a midnight blue that had a metallic sheen to it; I wore it religiously, so, no, blue was not out of the ordinary.
Except that I had not painted my fingernails. If I had to describe the color, anything other than "blue" or maybe "electric metallic blue" would be, well, wrong. There are so many names for every other shade of blue: cerulean, midnight, navy, sky, powder, and ice blue. That does not even cover the many blue- greens and blue-purples and whatever other blue- somethings have you.
I'm digressing. One of my psychiatrists told me that tendency was as a result of a serious personality disorder, or disorders, more likely. Specifically, he meant multiple personality disorder. Anyway, if I wander again, that might explain it.
Where was I? Oh, yes, blue fingernails. For a week, I endured Kate's jealousy, the admiration of several other bubbleheads, my mother's raised eyebrows, and polish that would not come off...period. I left my fingertips soaking in nail polish remover for an hour. Nothing. After a week, the color was still glossy, perfectly applied without so much as a chip. What was really weird was that the paint looked salon-applied. My hands tended to shake when I apply nail polish myself, especially when I used my left hand. I had no splotches of color anywhere on my cuticle, only on the nails themselves. Not even a glossy spill over from the clear topcoat. In short, perfect blue nails.
Just one week and that was all that happened. No kidding, exactly one week. So one week later, fingernails were still blue, but my phantom manicurist had messed up that second week. All around the nails, the skin was blue, too. I tried to pick it off but succeeded only in pinching myself rather severely. The blue was almost the same shade on my skin that it was on my nails, but not exact. I cannot explain with any more detail; if my nails were painted, my skin looked...tattooed. The color was more lustrous, but that is the best description I can manage.
Of course, Kate just thought I had gotten sloppy when reapplying that highly enviable nail color. Her comment was the first to draw my attention to my now painted fingertips. When she asked me what color it was, I had no answer. I had and still have never seen anything even close in a store. Hell, I still have trouble describing the color period. The name eludes me as it eluded me then. Kate just wanted a brand name and the stupid label they gave it. Appropriately, I told her it was called "Mystique." I could never have thought of a name that so rightly described the color with no name.
We made light of my confusion, mocking the name as well, even as I started to grow fond of it. I teased Kate for being jealous of my good taste; she retorted by saying that my messy manicure was an attempt to rein in popularity by using up the new, and sure to be popular, shade before she could borrow it and not return it to me.
Sniveling lemming that I was, I made nice-nice with her about the whole thing; I had to appear "normal" and unconcerned even as I raked my fingers under the table trying to scrape the color off of them. I dug into my cuticles and fingertips with those awful blue nails, all to no avail.
God, there are times when I wish it had ended there. For sure, I would not be who I am today if it had, but still, the grass is clearly greener along that alternate past. However scared I was, nothing prepared me for the blueness to be simply gone the next day, as if wishing it away were all it took for it do so.
Relief has a funny way of making you blind to even the most drastic changes around you. When my fingers, though not the nails, returned to their normal color, I was engulfed in pleasant relief. I should have known better; you can never get anything for free. Something else had changed in the one night it took for those fingers to go back to peach. Perhaps I should have stopped and checked for myself when my mother stopped me and ordered me to turn around that next morning before I left for school. She blinked stupidly at me then shrugged and claimed that she had completely forgotten what it was she wanted to say. I should have known something was wrong.
"Oh my God! I absolutely hate you!" That is a rather auspicious way to greet a mutant, is it not? Still, that is how Kate addressed me, though she was smiling at the time, not really casting any mean thoughts my way. I assumed it was not a sincere remark, merely one made of some unknown jealousy. Asking me about my new color contacts and about my mother's reaction was not the line I had expected at all. I bolted like a coward for the nearest bathroom mirror. If I was confused about my blue nails, I was terrified at what else could have been done to alter my appearance without either my knowledge or consent.
I could not open my eyes when I did finally reach the bathroom. What would I see? I prayed that nothing too unexplainable had happened as I hesitantly opened my eyes. Two hazel irises stared right back from the mirror-me. All the doubts disappeared as I gazed at those all too familiar hazels to which I had grown accustomed over the length of my life...up to that point.
Sticking out like a brunette in California was my worst fear until those weeks of my change. Social awkwardness might as well have been death. Kate's apparent prank did nothing to assuage my fears. Her inquiries about where I had stashed the contacts, and more importantly, where I had gotten them in the first place, met with glares and silence until I realized she was serious. Full-eye contacts were not possible with the technology of that age, so why she thought I had them and no one else did is beyond me. Nevertheless, Kate's assumption about my different eyes was that they were full-eye-covering contacts.
They were not simply different; they were yellow. Kate's opinion was severe, and she proceeded to rail me about having selected yellow lenses. Everyone knew blue was her color, so she let me know that if the choice had been hers, those lenses would have been blue. If she liked blue so much, I wonder why she stopped liking me as soon as my change was completed. I was bluer than she had probably ever thought possible. Still am, though now I say it with pride and none of that callous fear of my younger self.
But I am jumping ahead of my story again. Two days into the second week, and already I had to contend with odd colorations of living tissue. Basically, my mind was not on whatever class I happened to take that day. All I could feel was this chaffing, as if my clothing was irritating my skin. I was sure paranoia was responsible for that discomfort. I would have answered the question asked of me had I heard it the first three times the teacher asked, but that does not change the fact that I did not hear it. When he came over to rap on my desk, he startled me, but not as badly as I think I surprised him when I looked up. My "contacts" were obviously back, and they earned me a slip for the principal's office.
Principle Dieter actually turned out to be a sympathizer, especially when he saw nothing unusual at all about either my appearance or behavior that would warrant the slip. He even joked about my teacher being the one in need of contacts as there was clearly nothing wrong with me.
"Besides, yellow?" The coloration stated on my slip was ridicule in and of itself. Oh yes, Dieter and I had a good little laugh about it. The itch was still there; a tingling along my skin that felt like a light brush was tickling every inch of my body. I could wait only five minutes after coming home before I stripped down to see how my body had betrayed me once more. The good news was that I had not gotten any bluer. Whether or not developing scales is normal is a philosophical nightmare.
I had, and still have, these growths, for lack of a better word, these scales. A great deal of that itching disappeared when the wool sweater I had been wearing was no longer catching on them. They stretched out all over, on my legs, my arms, my back, my butt, my breasts, my chest, my shoulders, my arms, and most eerie of all, my face. Standing nude before my full-length mirror, I had the singular joy of watching the ridges rise on my cheeks and forehead, framing my hairline with a thousand flesh-colored bumps.
I screamed like a little girl. I was a little girl. Why do bad things happen to fourteen-year-olds? At that age, puberty has really taken hold of a child's body and warped it severely enough. No child that age is fully capable of dealing with the emotional trauma of such maturity which nature foists upon him or her. I was a late bloomer, too, which explained why my mutation surfaced at the exact wrong moment in my life. At that tender age, my mind still clung to the juvenile clique mentality; I was in no way ready to be different. I am digressing again, so, back to the scream.
By the time my mother vaulted up the stairs to investigate, to play "good parent," I had curled up with my arms wrapped around my knees, my clothes carelessly strewn about. I had predicted every possible tact and course for her to take except the one that she did. She sighed, almost as if pleased and pulled me into a hug. For one golden instant, I thought that I might not be alone, that she might understand what I did not and be able to help me.
"Oh honey! You're a woman today!" What the hell did being "a woman" have to do with the trauma I had just endured? For that matter, since when did the passage to womanhood include blue fingernails, yellow eyes, and weird scales all over your body? Two minutes later, and I understood. Five minutes of listening to her explain how to use and discard sanitary napkins, and I was absolutely certain that she had no idea what had really happened to me. When she left, I checked my reflection once more.
No bumps, no scales, no ridges, no yellow eyes, not even a single pimple. Then it was official: I was insane. The theory held until I recalled that Kate had genuinely believed in the yellow eye nonsense. Unless we were both hallucinating the same deformity, I was not crazy. My mother was proud; Kate was jealous; I was lost in a sea of confusion and steadily sinking into murkier waters.
Nothing changed for five, six, then seven and even eight hours. I tried to concentrate, but I had no idea what to hope to accomplish. For what did I strive? To be normal, given the fact that I remained so, was probably my dearest wish. No dinner, no homework, no pampering, but lots of me being normal. It was worth it.
That was the last time my face existed. I may have duplicated the look afterwards, but never to my complete satisfaction. That night was the last time I can say with some certainty that my original face was my own. Since it disappeared, I have never called it back perfectly. I eventually forgot how I used to look. There are no picture records either; I have seen to that.
Sleep did wonders for my mind that night. It also made me weak. The blessed release of tension that I enjoyed was the final break that my new shape needed to install itself as the new me. Maybe I only lost my tension for an hour, or a few. Ten seconds or ten million, it matters not. I ceded my old form without knowing what I had done. Even today, I am still unsure as to how my shift could have been completed so rapidly after beginning so slowly with those damned blue nails.
That was the last night I had of deep, restful sleep for over five years. And that rest was not enough to offer me an alert mind the next morning. Perhaps if I had spared less time to challenging my scales to return in front of the mirror, I might have had more sleep and might have been more alert.
Regardless of how, I managed to overlook my complete metamorphosis. My eyes were clogged with sleep as I fumbled for baggier clothes to avoid the itching of the day before. Stress had wiped me out; I was not used to worrying about anything more important than clothes or make-up, so mutations were out of my league. Late for school, I had little time to dawdle.
I barely heard my mother's protest as I charged out the front door. Maybe she saw just a stream of my blood-red hair and wondered what had happened to her platinum-blonde teenager. My father was already in the car, his fingers tapping nervously. He was upset I was late, and he did not hesitate to tell me so.
"Step on it, girl!" That comment is particularly memorable for me. He never even looked at me once or else he might not have been so hasty to drop me at school. Seeing as I later crushed his windpipe with my foot, I think I followed through on dear old dad's instructions rather precisely, do you not agree? All he cared about was being on time for his job. Car rides to school were arranged so that we hardly ever spoke to one another. My father spent most of his time yelling at other drivers or the radio announcers, depending on which one pissed him off more. If we did talk, he always steered the conversation so that he ended up talking about work. That was when I would tune out. To this day, I have no idea what his piddling little career was, nor do I care.
Deer freeze when they see headlights approach, then they scatter. Everyone froze when I strode into the building. Their stares tore holes in my crumbling ego. Stares are the popular way to communicate social awkwardness, my nemesis. But an audience of stunned and silent peers meant the sentence of social death.
And then they scattered. "What the?" "My God!" "What is that?" There were more comments to that effect, but I had little time or strength to sort through the individual comments being hurtled at me. Whatever they were astounded by, I had little reason and far too much sense to believe that is was my total lack of make-up or my baggy clothes.
Between the dominating forces of confusion and horror, I knew my first real taste of rage. How dare they? For every one that stared, I hated them a little more. Every human since that has gawked, whether at my true form or some lusty adapted version, has added to this hatred.
I saw the real me, the finished version, in the bathroom mirror that morning. My first glimpse of the result of my maturation was discovered in a smelly bathroom that hundreds had passed through and summarily forgotten. How...boring a locale for such a revelation.
I had a notion as I screeched and reeled for the security of a locked stall. With my wail, I was positive that the entire school knew. There could be no turning back now that I had been seen. And when that cry rang out, they knew too that the blue girl with those creepy yellow eyes had realized just how different she had become.
By the time the janitors arrived to unhinge the door for the principal, my self-pitying moans had ended. It was not true. It was not possible! I prayed for normal, for everything to go away as it had in front of the mirror on the medicine cabinet at home the night before. My body seemed to cave into this desperation, and I could feel it reluctantly relinquish its new exotic look for a variation of the old me. The hair color stayed blood red, and my eyes turned tan, not hazel. Other than that, the rest was almost perfect. "Almost perfect" turned out to mean that everyone who stared recognized me enough to put a name to the face of the freak. The principal escorted me out; I cannot say if he truly knew or simply suspected.
I am able to say what was the end result of that last trip to his office. My old self faded in favor of the blue skin with scales; my hair had no change to undergo since it stubbornly refused to change at all, but my eyes went from normal to eerie. All of this as I marched behind the principal to his office. As I walked, shame-faced and scared, I felt more stares and heard the whispers...whispers of recognition. They knew. They knew who now, too. My life with them, with humans, was over.
My world ended with a whisper. With plenty of whispers, truth be told. Always so many rumors to spread about the blue girl who could have been one of the most popular sycophants in the school. I would have been that shallow whore if nothing had changed. Being popular and well liked, those were the things that mattered. I love to exploit the idiots who still cling to those tenets of popularity, especially since I now know how hollow and empty they are. Compared to the depth and intensity of my rage, bubble-headed popularity is nothing.
What do you do when your child is blue? Why, cheer her up! Aha-ha ha. Yes, I have become bitter. Coming into one's mutant abilities to the rallying cries of "freak," "monster," and "creature," does have a way of making one bitter. Seriously, what do you do with a blue daughter who does not fit into your perfect home? Lock her away like an animal, of course. There she cannot embarrass her parents, nor can she shame them for being the mutation, the non- human she is.
And I still had no idea what my precise gift was. A week of isolation changed that. By accident, by chance, in a random thought, my mind settled comfortably on the image of my mother's sister, my Aunt Grette. Grette was a nervous woman who had also been banished from my mother's life as a result of those anxious ticks that rendered her deficient and not worthy of my mother's perfection. Grette was not allowed to visit anymore. Mother always out-talked her anyway, which always made Grette's hands shake more. I had not seen Grette for half my life at that point, but I felt an odd kinship to her, a sadness born and shared only by the outcasts.
Some mutants feel an odd pressure when they use their powers, or at least they are conscious of the activation of them. I am, too, now, but then I relied on my external senses to alert me when I began to shift into something else, a third party. The feeling of my hair creeping up my back told me something was very different. I waited out the tingling of my hair and then dashed toward my mirror.
Grette. I was Grette. From the graying hair to the varicose veins in her twitching hands, I had duplicated my aunt's image. The finished product felt stable, nothing like the insecure grasp I had on the image I used unsuccessfully in school. I have since noticed a strain to mold myself into new images, but once there, I still experience that sensation of settling into a face and a body.
At last, I knew what I was. No, I knew what I could do. "Mutant" was not a term that meant anything to me at the time. I soon learned better. Some mutants hear the word "mutant" and flinch as if it were a curse or a slur. Others hear it and shrug; they have accepted it as who they are and as if the word itself was no more special an adjective than "tall" or "ugly." The only way I ever heard it while still trapped in my hometown was as a motto for bigotry.
My parents would never have lived down having a mutant daughter who was also a runaway. They made up a story about me going to live with my grandmother. I ruined their immaculate, normal lives, so they saw to it that I ran away. It was not a traditional runaway story, either. They showed up their lie so fantastically that they actually put me on a damn bus and sent me off at random. Whatever bus would take me the farthest from them when they wanted to dump me was my bus to "grandma." Anyone who cared to check would have known all my grandparents were dead. No one, obviously, did care enough to check. Soon, they were back to attending their black-tie balls and fund-raisers. They were happy.
I was not. Beyond the recognition of my genetic destiny, I had nothing with which to survive. All I knew was that sometimes I could change my form. Any façade could be exposed with a lapse in concentration or a lot of stress. A fourteen year-old "runaway" with blue skin and no street-sense? Nope, not a bit of stress there.
It took me two years to learn the calm and control of my gift, and those two years were my most awful, most bitter ones. No one should be subjected to abandonment at such a young age, but I knew better than to wallow in self-pity. It was a culture shock to be on the streets, fighting to live not simply fighting to be popular. In fact, being popular was something to avoid. Attracting miscreants was only useful if you were the bigger wolf in the pack.
I was the wolf in two years. No one can fight what he or she cannot pin down. After a short stint of scared hiding, I concealed my skin only when I had to sleep. Clothing that covered up my unusual coloration was even more of a problem. No matter how soft or tightly woven the thread, all fabric was chaffed my skin. My beautiful skin. Clothes felt so heavy, too, and I could just as easy mimic the fabric as I could the face. Clothes were bulky; they got in the way of my perfection.
Those two years taught me control. I learned to overcome the strain, which only fought me in the shifting to a new face, rarely once I was finished and never on the way back to my own self. Voice control was dependent on hearing others speak. Once I had enough of their intonation to practice, I had their voice and their face at my disposal. Those years taught me to be hard, to kill. Not to like killing, but to use death and destruction of others to ensure my survival. Darwin and I have come to that agreement together: survival of the fittest.
And not necessarily the strongest. Many tramps and other various street low-lifes are strong curs. When I stopped using my gift solely to steal the faces and identities of others, I picked up by twisting my own flesh into weapons. Though no harder than bone, I could form my hands into pointed daggers and rip through any in my way. I never developed a taste or a distinct liking for cold-blooded murder, but you had best believe I would kill when I had to, and I decided when I had to and when I did not.
Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. No one remembered me back home, and I had had my two years to build myself up, to go from weepy child to teenage terror. Two years, and a happy sixteenth birthday to me. For my sweet sixteenth, I decided no present would be sweeter than the pain and suffering of others. And living just to survive taught me every method of giving and receiving pain that there is.
To my schoolmates, I brought the pain of imperfection through my portrayal of an angel. Claudia Stone attended my high school for only three months, and everyone thought she was God. Everyone thought that this raven-haired beauty was heaven-sent; she had to have been. No one questioned anything that Claudia told him or her not to question. By the end of Queen Claudia's "reign," I had convinced my former best friend, Kate, to commit suicide, in addition to the suicides of three other influential teens who had assumed my place in my downfall. Three major fights started over Ms. Stone's honor, with all involved suspended for impossibly long sessions.
The principal might have brought it all to an end if I had not ended him first. Claudia Stone's records were "missing," so I, as Claudia went to sort it all out. The nice old secretary patted my shoulder and everything as she left me for the day. The principal intended to expose me as a vagrant and to report me to the police for my connections in the recent...troubles in his school. To him, I brought the pain of exposure. Trust me when I tell you that nothing assures disgrace more assuredly than catching a public figure, particularly one in a place of trust, fooling around with little boys. No one ever did see that little redheaded, freckled tyke again after the pictures of him being raped surfaced.
Lastly, to my parents, I brought the pain more divine than the pain of mere imperfection. They believed money was their God, and perfection their religion. I took both away from them. My father died with the blood of my mother on his hands. Of course, could you blame him? My "mother" did attack him with a meat cleaver shortly before he blew her head off with his emergency .22. He was weak; his neck snapped like dried kindling beneath my foot. The next day, dear daddy was at the bank, selling his house for whatever he could get and closing his accounts there. Parents are really terrible about keeping kids from attaining their private codes. I had it easy. I left within a week, half a million dollars richer and a billion times happier than when I had left.
Am I bitter? No, not any more. Humans are pathetic, always will be. I have little hope that mutants will be too much better. I am unique, though. I live up to the title of homo superior. A team of mutants failed to destroy me. The incarceration of a man I whose dream I shared bothered me only slightly. I turned the tide on a vote that would have threatened my security as a mutant.
I am homo superior.
I am Mystique.