Thanks so much for playing along. Here's the (scary, weird, imbued with your individuality and creativity) story:
Afterglow dimmed Nan's vision as she emerged from the stellar cartography lab. Blue ink had seeped into her fingertips and so she rubbed them on the hem of her woolly charcoal sweater while peering at the time on the clock. Cursing her own tardiness, she sped off toward the quad where he waited.
Dark and handsome in his navy blue Bath superfine topcoat, her heart twisted in her chest. Even after the horizontal gymnastics with Jake back in the lab, Nan found herself drawn to the stranger. Forgotten was her promise not to do this again; not to give in to that stupid voice in the back of her head whispering lies over her.
"Go find her!" the stranger said.
"How ever will I do that? I need to feed my hippopotamus before 7:00!"
Impatiently, she brushed the thought aside knowing it was simply another lie one of the voices continued to whisper. Just as Nan was about to investigate, she snapped out of her daydream, her mom's voice calling her in for dinner.
Kitchen smelled like feet again, Nan thought.
Laughter echoed through the house and Nan, not expecting company, stepped into the kitchen only to find herself face to face with the stranger from her daydream.
More please, she thought staring at his hotness, unable to look away.
Nothing could keep her from thinking about him, except the unearthly purple device ticking in his hand.
"Obviously you aren't here for the coffee," she blurted.
"Perhaps not," he replied with a smile that made her knees turn to water.
"Quit waving that thing around," she said, "you'll scare the hippo."
Rising from a quick bow of apology, he shoved the device out of sight, deep into his front coat pocket. "Show me your palm, miss. I suspect your life lies eons away from these maps," he said, pulling Nan's left hand towards himself
Thankfully he didn't grab her right hand, for if he had the space time continuum would've been altered forever.
"Uh..." she mused. "Want to join me for pottery class? Starts in ten!"
Very carefully, Nan checked her pockets for the snuff-box of spells she'd created in the lab that morning, and the new galactic map. Without a second thought, she folded the map and stuffed it in her pocket.
"X-rays alone could see through to your bones, but I have a feeling that even then I couldn't see through your disguise," Nan said to the handsome man.
"You choose your heart's desires!" he said, reaching out for a stray lock on her forehead, "But the clay I have to offer comes from a realm you can stay in forever!"
"Zounds!" cried the stranger. "Can I hire you to map some maps for me? You're one amazing mapper!"
"Anyway, what's that crazy tattoo on your neck--like, snakes or something?"
"Butterflies, actually," said the stranger, blushing as he went on: "Listen, I was wondering if you and your pottery and hippo mapping skills would like to help me find a magical star."
"'Course I would!" Nan exclaimed, knowing that her time had finally come.
Drool covered Nan's chin as she woke up, not in a brave new world with a hot guy, but in Mr. Mann's fourth period Civics class's.
"EVERY time!" she exclaimed to herself, referring to the fact that this happened almost daily, and always in boring old Civics.
"Fellow Olympians," she said, let us stop pretending to be mere mortals."
"Good grief," her Civics teacher said, staring at her as if she'd just grown monkey ears, "what did you just say?"
"HONOR OVER ALL!" she yelled, ignoring her teacher, before jumping over a desk and running to the bus stop where she had a sneaking suspicion that a handsome man would be waiting.
Indeed, he was here: the ultimate bad boy, Hades.
"Just when I thought leaving wasn't worth detention, I see you," Nan boldly said gazing into Hade's green eyes.
"Keep bad-mouthing the lord of the underworld, because THAT'S a great idea," Hades said sarcastically.
"Lip-locking with you is not how I intend to spend my day," she said. "I have responsibilities. I have a civics exam to study for."
Making a terrible face, Hades disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Not what I imagined, a blood pool marked where he once stood. Only it wasn't normal blood; It was green!
"Pixie dust and pepper mills!" Nan exclaimed with disgust. "Can this day get any more weird?"
"Quidditch isn't weird," said a haggard old woman, "if you're looking for normalcy, why don't you try out for the team?"
"Really...like anyone would want a 4' 6" girl with tendrils for arms on their team - Quidditch or not."
"Suit yourself," said the old woman as she reached down into her massive woven bag and pulled out a ticking, pulsing, purple device that Nan recognized at once.
Twin threats could mean only one thing. Underworld Mayhem! Variable stars were undermining the barrier between sequential universes, and folding the map had been a big mistake.
With a jolt, Nan found herself in a grassy field as snarling cannibals screeched all around her. Xavier University, freshman year all over again, Nan thought, as she pulled a whistle from her pocket and blew, hoping her trusty hippo wasn't far.
"You are my only friend, Snuggles." Nan hugged her stuffed hippo and prepared to fend off the voracious Kindergarteners.
Zoology had taught her a lot about hippos, unfortunately it had not taught her a lot about magical maps that folded space and time. And that left Nan in quite a pickle, since she had to get her hippo back to the magical land of Noz. But she couldn't get to Noz without her magical groovy slippers, the ones she received for having the highest grade on her civics final. Curse those kindergartners for stealing them from her backpack while they distracted her with that phony fund-raiser. Didn't they understand that it was only with the magical groovy slippers that she could possibly hope to save her twin sister's life?
"For crying out loud, I thought you were dead!" Nan said.
"Gotcha!" said the man in the black suit, sunglasses, and impossibly skinny black tie.
"How did you find me?" Nan asked, sidling up beside him and reaching her hand into his pocket to grab his identification badge.
"I set the chrono on my watch to your coordinates."
Just them, they were interrupted by the horrific crash of a UFO. Known enemies of the state, little orange men emerged. The leader spoke. "Take me to your hippo."
"Looks like you've messed with the wrong Superhero." Nan assumed a fighting stance.
Many other orange men poured out of the UFO and surrounded her, all pointing plasma guns at her. Nan plunged her hand into her pocket and drew out the snuff-box of spells. Opening the box, Nan sifted through the fortune cookie sized strips of paper to find the spell she desired.
Practically speaking, there's really only one spell to use when surrounded by little men of this particular hue: Abra-Nothing-Rhymes-With-Orange-Cadabra. Quietly she placed the spell back into her pocket, shook it up, spun around, and poof...the little orange men turned into tiny ladybugs. Reaching hither thither with her toes, she began stomping at them, all the while plotting to find the unicorn thief.
Stomp, stomp she went, and never mind the man in the black suit who appeared once again and withdrew the throbbing purple ticking thingamagig out of his...terrifying titillating tentacle trap which, Nan thought, would be extremely unhelpful in this situation.
"Un-un-un-helpful?" asked a quivering voice that sounded as if it came from the tentacle trap.
"Vermicious Knid!" Nan yelped in surprise. "I didn't know any of you had escaped the Planet Vermes!"
"Whoa there," said the hippo, who just at that moment decided he was very very hungry for some Vermicious Knid, which are, as everyone knows, the best kind of Knid.
"Xanthian Knid--" (a subcategory of Vermicious Knid) "--are my absolute FAVORITE!" exclaimed the hippo, as he set about nomming on the Knid like each one was the last cheesy nacho Dorito in the bag.
"You stop there," said a voice that gave the hippo no option but to freeze.
Zap! Fabio Magico rode up on his gas-guzzling crotch rocket, shooting the giant hippo with a stun gun, and shooting a dazzling smile at Nan.
"Armadillo," Zeke said. "It was an armadillo that kidnapped me. No thanks to you."
But Nan was furious Fabio used his stun gun on her hippo right when Zeke appeared, so she shot him between the eyes with her arrow. "Can't you just keep that temper in line?"
"Dear," her mother said, interrupting her thoughts, "Stop daydreaming and finish your supper before it gets cold."
"Every time," Nan mumbled bitterly, "I get close to figuring it all out, my mother has to go and remind me to eat. As if food were more important than hungry hippos, long-lost twins, and sexy strangers!"
"Families do have to come first, though," Nan said to herself. "Even when they are a ghost and disturbing the children's sleep at night."
Her dog, Mr. Hippo, barked at Nan's feet. She reached down to pet him, muttering, "Sometimes, I wish you were a real Hippo."
"I wouldn't wish that if I were you," came a strange whisper in her ear.
"Just eat, or you will soon be a ghost!!"
Keeping her back to the strange presence behind her, Nan reached for the fork to her left; her only weapon against the intruder.
"Listening to the family ghost's advice isn't going to get me anywhere but dead," she snapped as her fingers closed around the fork--but instead of flatware, she found herself holding a certain familiar pernicious, purple, pulsing device.
"Maybe, I'll... I'll just teach you all not to mess with me." She closed her eyes and squeezed.
"Never forget what I did to those ladybugs," Nan smirked, lifting a shoe and exposing the smudges of red and black.
"Ouch!" yelled her mother, as she pulled the fork from her bleeding palm.
"Please don't send me back to the sanitarium!" Nan pleaded.
"Quiet!" her mother commanded. "Did you hear that?"
Rain was the only thing Nan heard, dripping in an unsteady patter over the roof.
Shaking with fear, her mother brandished the fork Nan had just used to stab her. "The sanitarium may be just the place for you, my darlin' girl, if you're going to start stabbing people again," her mother snarled.
Ululating in protest, Nan rushed her mother. Very soon she would have her chance to exact revenge; if only she could have held out for a better target.
When a cop in a purple unicorn costume burst into her house, Nan's "mother" grabbed Nan and held the fork to Nan's throat.
"Y'all just stop it now," Nan pleaded. "This costume party's getting out of hand. I'm going back to the lab for a nap. When I get back, this place better be picked up."
"Zesty tricks just make the party more fun," brayed the zebra.
Another trick, or another trap? Nan eyed the distance to the door. Backing up with a quick jerk, Nan took advantage of her mother's surprise and bolted out into the freezing night. Could she make out the yard? Could she survive below 0 degrees temperature with just her pj's on?
Dang-nab-it, she had no choice - she'd have to find out. Even if she was sporting her birthday suit, nothing was going to stop her from getting away from that crazy bunch.
"Geronimo!" Nan yelled, calling out the nickname for her favorite front screen door rather than the historic Bedonkohe Apache leader--or the talking mouse.
"Have you lost your frigin' mind," hollered Nan's next door neighbor, William, the hottest guy in her school.
"I saw a strange creature in the yard, come see."
Just then, a zebra ran by, chasing a purple unicorn.
Kinda feels like I belong in the sanitarium, Nan thought, rubbing her eyes and looking again. She regretted skipping her meds at breakfast.
"Look over there, Will, and tell me what YOU see."
Millions of sparkling lights shine out of the forest, followed by sinister and disembodied whispers. Noisy footsteps followed as narcissist neon-colored elves revealed themselves, armed with a gun in one hand and a mirror in the other.
"Odd," said Will, squinting hard, "I think that elf is reading Catcher in the Rye - freaking pretentious, yo."
"Pottery!" Nan yelled and threw her fork to the floor. "I totally missed my pottery class."
"Quit whining," Will said. "It could be so much worse than just missing a pottery class."
"Run!!!!", Nan yelled as the neon-colored elves closed-in on them.
Slipping on the wet leaves, Nan shrieked and scrambled behind a nearby tree. Trembling, Will lay down beside her.
"Useless twit," said Nan, "get out there and do something heroic."
"Vermin!" Will pointed shakily to the large poisonous bat fluttering down from the trees above them.
"What on earth on you doing?" cried Nan's mother, who was standing in the open doorway.
"Xenoglossophobia, Mom! We need to see if these elves and poisonous bat are afraid of foreign languages so everyone say something not English."
"You know, that's not such a bad idea," Nan's mom said, and, to the elves. "Porra, pá, desapareçam mas é daqui que eu tenho a panela ao lume!"
And the winner of the free 3-page edit is KATE LARKINDALE. Congratulations, Kate! Please email me at authoress.edits(at)gmail.com for submission instructions.