Aster was glad she had taken Holly up on the offer for a walk. It was a good way to take her mind off of everything else and focus on the interesting things Holly had to say. They had sketched out some plans for a little more experimentation in the future, but quickly wound up off track. In a good way.
"So, what do you think is behind all of this superpowers nonsense?"
"Oh. I have no idea."
"Really? Nothing at all?"
"Really. I mean, how could I? There's no evidence for a question like that. We still don't even really understand how preternatural phenomena works, given that it happens. We're getting there, but... Four years isn't that long."
"Ah. So you're confident this has only been going on for the last four years?"
Aster couldn't help but tilt her head. Everybody knew preternatural phenomena had started occurring in 2014. Something like that couldn't be dated precisely, but... She started actually voicing her thoughts.
"There's some room for it to have started before we noticed, but not all that much. We would have noticed. Maybe there was some precursor phenomena, like how permanent effects were almost everything at the start, while now the 'superpowers' are much more common. But then that paradigm shift from something we never observed to something we have is exactly what we're trying to explain in the first place."
"Sure. But who says we never observed it before then?"
"You've lost me."
"Hahah, oops. Okay, bear with me. I'm not saying we were observing it in 2013 or the recent past. And not really 'us', for that matter. I mean the all-of-humanity 'we'. If you look back in history far enough, you hear stories about stuff. Magic, witchcraft, miracle-working, divine gifts..."
"Right. But those weren't real, we know that."
Holly looked at Aster with raised eyebrows and a smirk. Aster didn't know how she managed to look so smug and excited at the same time.
"Do we really know that? Think about it. The whole reason we had to toss it out is that we know reality doesn't work that way. We know magic doesn't exist, people can't experience things outside of the time and place they are, and things don't just happen for no normal reason. Just with the teensy, eensy little problem that none of that is true in the last few years. So why be so confident that it was all true before then, either? How can we possibly know that with confidence, much less certainty?"
"I suppose you have a point. But, I don't know, I'm not convinced. It was all perfectly explicable without preternatural phenomena, so I don't think it's evidence for those phenomena being older than we think. There are a lot of things we can't know for certain but can comfortably rule out as unlikely."
"Yeah. Still, I don't know. It's one thing to go 'Oh, we don't know every species that's out there, so maybe there's a Bigfoot and we just haven't found it yet'. But that's not what I mean. I mean, since our basic understanding of, well, everything got conclusively proven wrong... shouldn't we reanalyze everything? If that doesn't call for reevaluating our basic worldviews, what ever possibly could?"
"Okay, I see what you're saying. And I am open to reconsidering this! That is only scientific, after all. But I don't think we should throw out that everything still makes sense. Really, we can't. I know that's not what you're saying, but... There has to be some kind of reason and explanation behind preternatural phenomena. Once we learn more about it, we can better look back into the past and see if there were previous periods, or precursor phenomena."
"Fair enough! Okay, putting aside the science hat, what's your best guess as to where, ahem, preternatural phenomena come from?"
Aster rolled her eyes at the way Holly said that phrase, but gave the actual question some thought. She really tried, chewing at her lower lip for a second before putting her shoulders up in a shrug.
"Sorry, I really can't think of anything."
"Yeah, me either."
"Huh. I would have thought you would have some elaborate idea."
Now it was Holly's turn to shrug. They came up to an intersection and stopped at the crosswalk. At the other end, jogging in place, there was September. She was wearing the same dark blue tracksuit as before. Aster stuck her hand out to wave. It took September a moment to notice, but then she smiled and waved back. Holly looked over and offered a little wave of her own.
"Another friend of yours?"
"Just an acquaintance. We've only met once."
The walk light turned on, and a look both ways showed there wasn't anybody about to run a red light, so Aster started to cross. September didn't cross, waiting at the other end for them.
"Hello September. Out on a jog?"
"That's right. Exercise is important for my development."
September canted her head to one side, for some reason. She was looking at Holly with a little smile.
"And hello to you too. I'm Takwin. September Takwin. Are you a friend of Aster's?"
"Well, that's the plan, at least. I'm Holly. Holly Saitō, if we're being fancy and full-nameing. Are you new in town?"
"Yes. I recently moved. I'm being homeschooled, so I won't be attending the school. If you were curious."
"Oh, alright. We aren't interrupting your exercise, are we?"
"You are. Oh, but that's alright. I can always jog more, but I would like to make friends."
"Oh, fun. We were just taking a walk. Want to come along?"
"Yeah, it would be nice to have you along."
"I'll gladly walk with you two, then. What were you talking about before?"
"Oh. Well, we were wondering about the cause of preternatural phenomena, actually. But we could definitely talk about something else."
"I see. Well, it's my belief that these effects are only manifesting the will of a higher power into the world."
"Oh. Like... God?"
"Like that, perhaps. But I didn't mean God, or anything religious. That's not something I believe in."
"Huh. What kind of higher power did you mean, then?"
"That is a good question. I'm not entirely certain how to put it. My father could explain it much better. But he has told me there is something wondrous to be glimpsed beyond the boundary of the world. And he is certain that preternatural phenomena, as you put them, are simply others glimpsing this thing and doing its work. In a sense."
"Well, it's an interesting thought! I'll be honest, it still sounds religious to me. Not that I'm saying you're wrong to say it isn't."
"Yeah, I can't entirely understand it, either."
"That's fine. It is only what I believe, after all. What do you two think?"
"Well, it's a little underwhelming after that..."
"Neither of us actually had a guess."
That made September giggle, and she nodded her head.
"Sorry, I shouldn't laugh. It is perfectly reasonable to admit you do not know. I simply wasn't expecting it."
"Oh, that's nothing to apologize for."
"Yeah, no worries. Honestly, I'd probably have laughed too."
"That is good to know. I appreciate that you both listened to my idea on the matter. It was nice to share it with a new audience for once. Oh. This may not be the proper time, but. Aster, Holly, would you like to be friends with me?"
Aster looked over at Holly, who was grinning. Then she looked back to September, who was smiling, but looked almost nervous. Aster knew that wasn't exactly how you made friends, but... Well she supposed she didn't know for sure that it wasn't. She was hardly an expert in the subject, although was anyone, really? Friends felt like something she had stumbled into making.
"Well, I'm hardly going to say no. Let's be friends, September."
"I suppose today is a good day for befriending acquaintances, for me. Sure."
"I'm really glad. Thank you both. Now... Where are we walking?"