SeaUrchin

Bite Me Once [Complete]

Sep 23rd, 2015
6,051
Never
Not a member of Pastebin yet? Sign Up, it unlocks many cool features!
  1. >”Oh, do go on!” the purple haired beauty says as she tries to hide her blush.
  2. >You grin and take a sip of wine.
  3. “Do I even need to? Perfect is about as clearly as I can describe something, Rarity.”
  4. >She smiles bashfully and turns away to the violinists across the room.
  5. >Sighing wistfully, your date leans forward and props herself up on the dinner table.
  6. >”Oh, Anonymous, I had no idea you had such connections. I mean really. How many people do you know that can get into Dorcea with one simple phone call?”
  7. “What can I say? I did some favors for them.”
  8. >”You must have moved Heaven and Earth.”
  9. >You laugh at that and wave for the check.
  10. “In a manner of speaking.”
  11. >Rarity takes another sip of her own drink, finishing the glass, and sets it down.
  12. >She reaches under the table and retrieves her purse.
  13. >After fuddling around with it, a wallet appears.
  14. >Setting your hand on hers and pushing it down back into the purse, you reassure her you’re more than capable of paying for the meal yourself.
  15. >”I couldn’t. This night must have cost an arm and a leg.”
  16. “An arm and a leg is nothing. Trust me.”
  17. >The waiter returns with your check.
  18. >After loading it with cash, you help Rarity up and escort her out of the restaurant.
  19. >It’d be pitch black out if not for the streetlights and cars. A harsh, bitterly cold breeze sends a chill down your spine to accent the night.
  20. >Rarity, who came in a thin, strapless red dress, seems to be unaffected by the air.
  21. >Even so, you remove your jacket and drape it over her shoulders.
  22. >You flag down a taxi. It takes a while, but eventually one slows down and stops at the curb for you.
  23. >”I had a lot of fun tonight,” she says and leans in for a hug.
  24. “So did I. You know, I’d really like to see you again, Rarity.”
  25. >The fashionista merely kisses your neck and retreats into her cab.
  26. >”I’d like that too. You know where to find me, Anonymous. Good night!”
  27. “Good night.”
  28. >With that, the car drives away and disappears into the great white-eyed red-tailed beast of traffic.
  29. >You groan internally at how light your pocket feels now, but it was worth it. Well worth it.
  30. >Tonight went swimmingly!
  31. >Smiling to yourself, you walk along the lit street for a quarter mile until reaching your truck.
  32. >It’s a run down old thing, really.
  33. >A beat up looking Dodge Ram, more than twenty years out of the factory, and with a grey paint job that started out as white, is your vehicle.
  34. >She’s a terrible old creature, but she’s strong and reliable. Not once have you needed her and she didn’t work.
  35. >You climb into the cab and start her up.
  36. >It roars to life like a monster awaking from hibernation.
  37. >As the engine warms, you undo your tie and swap your button-down for a plain tee and a hefty jacket.
  38. >Those clothes are very stuffy, and you like to be comfortable for long drives.
  39. >Speaking of long drives, you should get going.
  40. >Manehattan to Bahhston is a long way, and you have a baseball game to show up to tomorrow.
  41.  
  42. >After pulling an allnighter and trudging along the road all day, you arrive in Bahhston.
  43. >Speedy highways and the relaxing hum of your truck’s engine all too quickly make way for crowded streets and blaring horns.
  44. >Honestly, every driver in this city is psychotic.
  45. >Worse more, the traffic is something else.
  46. >You internally curse yourself for seeing Rarity last night.
  47. >It would have been better to take her out the night before and get a hotel here for a day. That way you might have made it in when there was less commotion.
  48. >Oh well. The past is the past; it’s not like you have any power to change it.
  49. >Admitting defeat to the road, you pull over to one of the only open parking spaces within a mile radius.
  50. >You put some money in the meter and hoof it to where you need to go.
  51. >The dark blue sky overhead tells of the coming night. Sadly for night, it has no effect in Bahhstonians.
  52. >Their streets are so lit up with this and that that it always seems like day when you’re an ant.
  53. >That’s not a bad thing, mind you.
  54. >You quite enjoy the daytime.
  55. >As you get closer to Feneigh Park, the number of street vendors increases.
  56. >Their products range from overpriced t-shirts to overpriced hot dogs.
  57. >You can’t count the number of times someone has tried to sell you a Feneigh Frank.
  58. >You can however, count all of the one times you came upon a vendor selling baseball memorabilia.
  59. >You scoff a baseball off the guy and get back on your way to the stadium.
  60. >With the ball safely in your pocket, you being to pick and scratch at it with your nails.
  61. >Gosh, you’re so excited.
  62. >You’ve got a feeling this is going to be a good night too.
  63.  
  64. >Enter Rainbow Dash, baseball star.
  65. >No, enter glory.
  66. >You are the star of the show.
  67. >You’re the star of every show.
  68. >Why should tonight be any different?
  69. >Tonight, the game was the Bahhston Rouge Stockings vs Detrot Lions.
  70. >It goes without saying you won. No, you didn’t just win. You absolutely crushed them.
  71. >Ten to three is pretty embarrassing.
  72. >It would have been more, but your team really drags you down sometimes.
  73. >If you were playing on your own, the Lions would have never been up to bat.
  74. >The worst part about being the best is putting up with all the lame-o’s who think they’re on your level.
  75. >Hey, your skills are all earned.
  76. >The abilities that back them up...well, it’s not like you’re juicing.
  77. >What’s wrong with using your abilities for self gain? Every athlete does it.
  78. >Every person loves it.
  79. >Not a single person in the stadium didn’t cheer when you caught that flyball over the Green Manticore.
  80. >Cheers are the best.
  81. >Being adored, praised, having your awesomeness acknowledged. The only thing better than any of that is a nice after-game snack.
  82. >While the rest of your team opted for pizza, you ditched them and took to the streets.
  83. >You did your hair up and threw on a wig, along with a hat for good measure.
  84. >A change of clothes later and you were all set.
  85. >You got further and further away from the dense crowds around Feneigh and into the seedier parts of the city.
  86. >Once the background noise of the people is gone, you’re able to hear perfectly.
  87. >Every footstep around you, crisp and clear, along with the unique scent of its accompanying human, flow into you.
  88. >It isn’t long before you realize someone is following you.
  89. >The same heavy footsteps. Thump, thump, thunk. Thump, thump, thunk.
  90. >The same smell of expensive pasta and cheap motor oil.
  91. >Well if this guy wants to follow you, then he can--
  92. >”Good, we’re away from the crowd.”
  93. >Oh yeah, he wants to go. Let’s go, cowboy.
  94. >You ball up your fists and prepare to jump him.
  95. >”I didn’t want to blow your cover back there. It would have ruined my chance to meet you.”
  96. >Wait, what?
  97. >”I mean, I hope that’s cover and you’re really who I think you are. Rainbow Dash, right?”
  98.  
  99. >You slowly turn to meet eyes with a rather tall man.
  100. >He’s in some nice pants in comparison to the more worn state of his shirt and jacket.
  101. “Who are you?”
  102. >”Oh jeez, sorry.”
  103. >He steps closer to you and holds out his hand.
  104. >”I’m Anonymous.”
  105. >You study his face.
  106. >He’s got a dumb smile on, and there’s no out of place twitching.
  107. >His breathing and pulse are normal too, so he’s clearly not worried about how this will go down.
  108. >Huh. And here you thought this lug was some kind of rapist.
  109. >Eventually his hand retreats to his side.
  110. >”Right. Anyway, look, sorry for following you.”
  111. >Oh right, he’s still a creep.
  112. “What do you want?”
  113. >”This is going to sound weird, but I’m your biggest fan. I have been since your first game when you scored all those home runs.”
  114. “Oh, a fan! Well why didn’t you just say so?”
  115. >You grin and take off your disguise.
  116. “The Dash always has time for her fans.”
  117. >He starts fumbling around in his pocket for something and takes out a baseball.
  118. “I caught this in your third game. It was the first ball I ever caught.”
  119. >He hands it to you, and you take a close look at it.
  120. >Scratched leather and torn stitching. Yep, definitely something you hit.
  121. >It even smells like a baseball stadium. He must have been taking good care of it.
  122. “So I was your first, huh?”
  123. >Blood rushes to his face in a blush.
  124. >”I-I mean, figuratively speaking I suppose maybe that could…”
  125. “Calm down, lug,” you say and elbow his side. “I’m just busting your chops.”
  126. >He laughs nervously and takes the ball back.
  127. >The two of you stand there awkwardly for a bit before he speaks up again.
  128. >”Look, I’m just some guy on the street and you’re this amazing, radical super star.”
  129. >Go on.
  130. >”I was just wondering though if there was some chance we could get some coffee some time?”
  131. >Wow. That took balls.
  132. >You raise an eyebrow at his question.
  133. >Most people are sweating when they even talk to you.
  134. >This guy just basically asked you out and his pulse hasn’t changed at all.
  135. >That must be one hell of a ticker he has in that chest.
  136. >You wonder what his blood would taste like.
  137. >Besides, if he’s this much of a kiss up all the time, your ego is going to grow three sizes that day.
  138. “Well, alright I guess. Just this once for a long time fan, got it?”
  139.  
  140. >”Wow, really? I mean, great! Thanks!” he stammers.
  141. >”So like, when would a good time be for you? I can do tomor--”
  142. “Right now.”
  143. >”I’m a ‘right now’ kind of guy anyway.”
  144. >You turn you back and start down the well illuminated street once more.
  145. >There’s a nice shop nearby you know.
  146. >It’s nestled between a low end comic book shop and an abandoned church, so the only people that hang out there are either too scared to do anything about a scream or too high to hear it.
  147. >The walk there is relatively silent word wise.
  148. >There was a rattle in an alleyway at one point--a cat from the sound of it--and you were delighted to hear nothing out of the norm from Anonymous’ heart.
  149. >The thought of that thing pumping what must be grade A blood through him turns you on.
  150. >Not enough to ruin a good game, just to make the reward all the better.
  151. >Before long, you two have arrived at Cuppa JoeJoe, Bahhston’s number thirty-sixth coffee joint.
  152. >The decor is old, reminiscent of the 70’s, and more worth a spot in the forty-second coffee shop.
  153. >The tone of the music and the few people sitting in belong in the upper echelons of coffeedom: the hipster joints.
  154. >God, you hate hipsters.
  155. >You still fail to see the connection between attitude and blood flavor, but they all taste awful.
  156. >”Hello, welcome to Cuppa JoeJoe. How can I help you tonight?” asks the cashier in a bored voice.
  157. “One large, extra light.”
  158. >”Black, please.”
  159.  
  160. >Two cups sporting different shades of caffeinated drink appear before you.
  161. >You lead Anonymous to the back of the shop.
  162. >A big and comfy booth sits there, marked only by your own indent, as most people don’t normally travel this far back.
  163. >Your companion slides in and makes himself comfy.
  164. “So, what made you want to get a cup?” you ask and take your own seat.
  165. >”Well that’s not a fair question, don’t you think?”
  166. “How now?”
  167. >”If Foal Ruth was walking down the street, wouldn’t you go and ask for some quality time?”
  168. >You grin and lean back in your seat.
  169. “I’m Foal Ruth now, am I?”
  170. >He shrugs and takes a sip.
  171. >”You’ve never called a shot, but you’ve hit it out of the park more times in one season than most other players do in their career.”
  172. >Yeah, you did.
  173. >”You’ve caught just as many--half of which would have been career-makers for some of those guys.”
  174. >You are pretty amazing.
  175. >Yeah, you really are kind of like Foal Ruth.
  176. >This Anonymous isn’t half bad.
  177. “Tell me, long time fan, are you here for me or for the city team?”
  178. >He scratches the back of his head and gives another relaxed shrug.
  179. >”A little of both. I’ve lived here all my life, so I was already in love with the team. You just made it better.”
  180. “You never thought about escaping?”
  181. >”It crossed my mind once. I wanted to move to Manehattan when I was in high school, but there’s just nothing up there for me.”
  182. “What happened in high school to make you want to move?”
  183. >He swallows hard at that question.
  184. >Have you found a nerve at last?
  185. >Anonymous stares at his coffee and stays quiet for a while.
  186. >You study his expressionless face for something, anything.
  187. >Just as you’re about to open your mouth to ask again, he returns to life and down the rest of his cup in one go.
  188. >”My parents died.”
  189.  
  190. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
  191. >”Hey, it’s not your fault. They said it was some freak animal attack.”
  192. >”I spent a lot of time looking for it. The...thing that took them. I never did. Nobody ever did. Eventually I just assumed it got lost in the woods and offed by a hunter.”
  193. >”No real reason for me to leave if it was gone, right?”
  194. >You nod your head.
  195. >”What about you? You’re not a native Bahhstonian, are you?”
  196. “Canterlot, born and raised.”
  197. >”Oh, really? That far out? Must have been quite the change of pace.”
  198. >Nice topic shift, Anonymous.
  199. “It was no biggie. I was ready for the busier city, and they seemed ready for my awesomeness.”
  200. >”Used to sports then, were you?”
  201. “You can bet I was. I was captain of every team,” you exclaim.
  202. >The man chuckles slightly.
  203. >He smiles warmly and looks at you like you just made his whole night worthwhile.
  204. >You have that effect on people.
  205. >Then he pulls up his jacket sleeve and takes a gander at his watch.
  206. >”Damn, I should have been paying better attention.”
  207. >The smile fades from his face and he gets up.
  208. >You raise an eyebrow as he stretches out.
  209. >”Look, Rainbow Dash, this has been great. Really, thank you. But I have a meeting first thing tomorrow and I can’t be late for it, so I need to be off.”
  210. >What? So soon?
  211. >And you were starting to really enjoy yourself…
  212. >Anonymous bids you goodbye and heads off.
  213. >You look at him go.
  214. >A part of you wants to jump him right now and drain him dry for walking out on The Dash, but the other part really admires how ballsy this guy is.
  215. >The other part wins, and you call out to him.
  216. “Yo, Anonymous, see you tomorrow?”
  217. >He turns back, grinning ear to ear, and nods.
  218. >Then he disappears out of the store.
  219.  
  220. >Enter Anonymous entering his pickup truck.
  221. >Tonight went very well.
  222. >Despite the biting cold outside, you still manage to feel warm.
  223. >A smile spreads across your face as you start up the truck and drive off.
  224. >Rainbow Dash is a very special girl. Why, you’ve only met five other girls like her your entire life.
  225. >Well, best be off. It actually is getting late, and you want to be rested for tomorrow.
  226. >Rarity will probably be expecting a call too, so you should definitely do that once the sun is up.
  227. >It’s not like she has anything to do during the day, so the time should be free.
  228. >By now, a few hours have passed since the game let out, so the roads are less congested.
  229. >Granted this by no means implies there is no traffic.
  230. >You’re still stuck at every light, cut off at every intersection, and almost run a few people off the road.
  231. >Damn Bahhstonians drive like there’s a killer in the back seat.
  232. >Almost across the other end of the city, you come across a rundown looking motel.
  233. >Its neon sign is burnt out and missing a few letters, but you can still read “Charlemane Motel” across the roof in paint.
  234. >You enter the shady shack and are met with a wave of heat.
  235. >At least you won’t be cold.
  236. >An old man who very much so looks like he doesn’t want to be there, flags you over to the check in desk.
  237. >”Hello, and welcome to the Charlemane Hotel,” he wheezes.
  238. >You raise an eyebrow and look around. “Hotel?”
  239. >”I get paid more for saying that. Look, do you want a room or not?”
  240. “Yes.”
  241. >”How long?”
  242. “It shouldn’t be more than a week or two.”
  243. >The man sighs and reaches under the desk.
  244. >You hear his fingers tap on metal a few times before he brings a book up.
  245. >You’re not sure what an eighty year old man thinks he can do with a shotgun big enough to fit under a desk, but whatever.
  246. >”If you’re staying longer than three days, I’ll need you to fill this forum out.”
  247. >He opens the book and tosses it at you.
  248. >Name, age, town of residence, and so on and so forth.
  249. >A bit invasive for a motel, but you’re not really in the mood to go search for a new place.
  250. >You fill it out and hand it, as well as enough money to pay for your stay, to the man in return for a key.
  251. >”Hoo-wee. What’s a Canterlot boy like you doing down here?”
  252. >You give him a smile and a wave before retreating to your room.
  253.  
  254. >It’s small and dirty.
  255. >The wallpaper is crawling up to the ceiling in some spots, revealing brown stains underneath.
  256. >There is one ratty little bed in the middle of the room, and a cracked mirror hung just above it.
  257. >You shrug and climb underneath the sheets.
  258. >Not like you haven’t been through worse.
  259. >There was this one time in Transylmaneia when you had to hide in a coffin for three days.
  260. >The worst part was you weren’t alone and the other guy wasn’t exactly the textbook definition of dead either.
  261. >Ah, good times.
  262. >You cozy up and close your eyes, ready to drift.
  263.  
  264. >Your eyes open and are assaulted with sunlight.
  265. >According to the clock on your phone, it’s five in the morning.
  266. >What’s this? You also have a new voice message.
  267. >Open...Voicemail...eight-two-six-seven...select...play.
  268. >At first, nothing but static blares from your speakers.
  269. >Once that calms down, you can make out panting and a scratchy voice.
  270. >”Hello? I heard to call this number if I have a pest problem. I have a pest problem. It’s very bad. Please, please come, whoever you are. My family is scared, I don’t know what to do.”
  271. >A pause.
  272. >”Please. You have to help us. We live at 66 End Road. My husband is away on a business trip, so if a male answers the door…”
  273. >There’s another pause, but this time you can hear some crying in the background.
  274. >”Please hurry.”
  275. >”End of new messages. If you would like to save this message, press pound.”
  276. >”Message will be saved for twenty one days.”
  277. >You sigh and set the phone down.
  278. >Damn it, you saved up your vacation days for this trip.
  279. >Fucking Jerry probably forgot to log it in when he left the office.
  280. >You hate Jerry.
  281. >Uptight prick who clearly doesn’t understand how important this time off was for you.
  282. >You sigh and search for wherever End Road is, and discover it’s also in Bahhston.
  283. >Lady Luck doesn’t hate you after all.
  284. >Alright, Anonymous. Gameplan time.
  285. >Visit End Road and clear out the pests.
  286. >After that, freshen up, and call Rarity in Manehattan.
  287. >You want to set up another date for Friday.
  288. >After that, you dick around until nightfall and then leave for Cuppa JoeJoe where you’ll meet Rainbow Dash.
  289. >Let’s do this.
  290.  
  291. >You hop in your truck and give a quick check to make sure you have everything you need.
  292. >It occurs to you you’re hilariously unprepared for whatever lies in End Road.
  293. >You’d only come packed for one breed of pest. End Road could have anything.
  294. >You’ll just have to hope it’s one of the simpler breeds and that it doesn’t need some complicated tool or an incantation.
  295. >Whatever, time to go.
  296. >The drive is quicker than your others since it’s so early.
  297. >End Road appears, and you track down house 66.
  298. >It’s a nice old thing with plenty of yard space and high fences.
  299. >One car sits in the driveway, but the faded tire marks on the pavement indicates there should be two there.
  300. >You grab your bag and go to the door, giving it a knock.
  301. >Nobody answers.
  302. >One, two, three more.
  303. >”I’m coming, hold on,” comes a deep voice.
  304. >After a while, the door opens and reveals a large man in a suit similar to the one you wore a few nights ago.
  305. >Classy.
  306. “Hi, my name is Inspector Anonymous. I’m with the town.”
  307. >You flash your wallet quickly and pull it away before he gets a chance to read your ID.
  308. “We’ve been getting some complaints of an eggy odor coming from the premises and believe it to be a gas leak. May I come in?”
  309. >As he opens his mouth to answer, you push the man aside and step in.
  310. >”Hey now, I didn’t say you could come in here.”
  311. “Sir, do you smell that?”
  312. >”Smell what?”
  313. “That’s the smell of disaster. There is definitely a leak in here. I’m going to need you to take me to wherever you keep your tanks.”
  314. >”Tanks? What tanks?”
  315. “The tanks, sir. I need to check for a leak.”
  316. >”What tanks? You’re not making any sense.”
  317. “Sir, I’m just trying to do my job and keep you and your family safe.”
  318. >”I don’t have a family. I’m divorced.”
  319. >You frown and walk up to the man, taking him into a hug.
  320. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to assume anything.”
  321. >”Let go of me.”
  322. “It’s ok, just let it out.”
  323. >While he’s distracted, you take a gander around the house.
  324. >There are many clear spots on the walls where dust couldn’t collect.
  325. >A fairly large clear spot next to the door tells you that along with the various smaller pictures, a large mirror was removed from the room.
  326. >Now why wouldn’t he want a mirror in here?
  327.  
  328. >You release the man and wipe a few crocodile tears from your eyes.
  329. “What was she like, if you don’t mind my asking?”
  330. >Your host is taken aback by your question.
  331. >He stutters and rubs his head, as if he’d never seen her before.
  332. >”Well,” he goes on. “She was a bitch. That’s why I divorced her.”
  333. >”Look, I don’t know what tanks you’re talking about. Can you just come back later?”
  334. “I’m afraid this is pressing. Why don’t I explain it to you over coffee? I’m a little tired anyway. Do you have a pot brewing?”
  335. >”I would really prefer it if--”
  336. “Look, article six section fifteen of Bahhston laws says I’m not allowed to leave until I’ve visually confirmed a leak and gotten you safely away.”
  337. >”That’s a load of bull. I know my rights.”
  338. “We’re all pawns of the law, my friend. Just get a pot.”
  339. >The man grumbles and pushes past you, making his way to the kitchen.
  340. >You follow in tow, examining the place as you go.
  341. >Scratch marks on the floors underneath the doors, and mostly washed away crayon marks on the bottoms of the walls, speak a whole story.
  342. >Turning your gaze to the man, you notice an odd sway when he steps, as if he wants to tumble forward and start walking on his hands.
  343. >You make it to the kitchen, leave your duffle bag on an oak table in the middle of the room, and head over to the counter where a coffee machine sits.
  344. >The pot is blackout metal and doesn’t allow you to see a reflection.
  345. >You curse internally and search for another way to get what you need.
  346. >”Do you like sugar?”
  347. “Hm?”
  348. >”Do you want sugar or anything?”
  349. “Oh, no thank you. I take it black.”
  350. >”Freak.”
  351. >Harsh.
  352. >He grabs a mug from the sink and, without washing it you notice, pours some coffee right from the pot.
  353. >From the feel of the ceramics after he gives it to you, this stuff is ice cold. It must have been sitting in the pot for a long time.
  354. “Thanks.”
  355. >He growls at you and turns away.
  356. >You smirk and open your hands, dropping the mug.
  357. >It shatters against the floor and coffee spills everywhere.
  358. >”Hey, what the fuck!”
  359. “Butter fingers.”
  360. >”You know, I’m really not liking this anymore. I want you out of my house.”
  361. “I didn’t catch that. Could you say it again?”
  362. >He whips around and gets right up in your face, shouting and filling your nose with what awful morning breath leaks from his maw.
  363. >”I said get out!”
  364. >In the puddle of coffee on the floor, you finally catch his reflection.
  365. >His skin is pale and slimy like a great slug.
  366. >His eyes are emptiness itself. They sit deep in his skull and seem to swallow your gaze as much as they do light.
  367. >A circular mouth sits plainly on his face. You can see it is absolutely covered with razor sharp teeth like some advanced, mutated version of a shark.
  368. >You smile and look back up at him, meeting his “eyes”.
  369. “Thank goodness. For a second, I was worried you might have actually been something dangerous.”
  370. >”The fuck are you going on about?”
  371. “You’re just a smallfry though. And given you’re on guard duty, probably low ranking in your own family.”
  372. >”W-what?”
  373. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of all of them once I’m done with you. I know changelings love their hives.”
  374.  
  375. >The monster before you lunges, but you step to the side, leaving him nothing to grab onto.
  376. >His foot slips in the puddle of coffee and he tumbles forward, smashing his head onto the granite countertop.
  377. >The stone cracks. You shutter, picturing that as your own head.
  378. >Mr. Changeling acts like it was nothing though, and is back on you again.
  379. >This time it grabs you by your shirt and hoists you into the air with seemingly no effort on its part.
  380. >You’re thrown like a ragdoll and crash into the oak table. It splinters in half underneath you. The remaining planks act like a surfboard and slide you out of the room.
  381. >Luckily your pants leg had gotten caught on the velcro of the strap, and your duffle bag was dragged along with you.
  382. >Hastily, you grab at the thing and rip through it, looking for your lighter and hairspray.
  383. >The changeling growls menacingly and inches towards you.
  384. >”I’m going to enjoy draining all those delicious emotions from you.”
  385. >Come on, come on.
  386. >How much shit did you put in here?
  387. >Cross, silver utensils, wicker doll, dehydrated fish livers, hairspra--oh, there it is.
  388. >Now you just have to find the lighter.
  389. >It has to be buried in here among all your other junk.
  390.  
  391. >Something grabs onto your foot. The changeling.
  392. >It lifts you from the floor and whips you around, throwing you into a wall.
  393. >The air, and maybe a rib, you don’t know, is knocked out of you.
  394. >You hit the floor with a thud, and the contents of your packets spill onto the floor.
  395. >Among those is a pack of cigarettes.
  396. >Looking up, you see the changeling is readying for a lunge.
  397. >Not today.
  398. >You kick off the baseboard just in time, skidding along the floor and right under the beast as it leaps.
  399. >It smashes itself into the wall, throwing plaster everywhere.
  400. >Snatching the cigarette pack off the ground, you open it and remove the lighter nestled tightly within.
  401. “I’m going to enjoy draining all these delicious aerosolized chemicals from this can.”
  402. >You flick on the lighter and unload the can, creating a torrent of flame that completely engulfs your shapeshifting adversary.
  403. >Its clothes and faux hair instantly catch, lighting it up brighter than the Bahhston Christmas tree.
  404. >A horrible wail blasts through the room and echoes deep in your mind.
  405. >The creature collapses onto the floor as its magical skin begins to melt away, revealing its true grey--though now charring black--form.
  406. >You sigh in relief and shakily get yourself back up.
  407. >You’re sore and will probably have some gnarly bruises, but luckily nothing is broken.
  408. >Fire crackles, enjoying its meal, as you take a pot and fill it up with some water to douse your charcoal friend.
  409. >Now let’s see. You only got one call, so the changelings should be isolated to this house.
  410. >You just have to find their mother and burn her.
  411. >Once the queen is gone, the entire hive dies.
  412. >It’s really fun to watch actually.
  413. >It’s sort of like when you’re in a room full of computers all plugged into one outlet and you turn it off.
  414. >They all go dark just like that.
  415. >Some sort of magical shenanigans. You’ll never fully understand it, but then, you don’t really need to.
  416. >Your job isn’t to learn and study; it’s to search and destroy.
  417. >Atomic Adam’s department does the learning and studying.
  418.  
  419. >After he’s taken care of, you head over to the door that had all those scratch marks underneath it.
  420. >It’s, of course, locked.
  421. >You smash your pot down on the handle and break it off, in turn unlocking the door.
  422. >If there’s one thing you learned in high school besides the difference between claw marks and bite marks, it’s that no door can stay locked without a handle.
  423. >The door creaks open slowly.
  424. “Hello? Any changelings down there I should know about?”
  425. >”Help! Help us!” calls out a feminine voice.
  426. >After her are some muffled, higher pitched squeals.
  427. >There’s no growling or hissing, or even any scuttering sounds.
  428. >Odd.
  429. >You descend the stairs with your can and lighter at the ready.
  430. >A family of three blue people enter your vision as you get off the last step and enter the basement.
  431. >”Help us, please! He’s upstairs. You have to get us out of here!”
  432. “He?”
  433. >”Yes, he! The man up there that tied us up!”
  434. >You raise an eyebrow and look around the basement, ignoring the screams of the family.
  435. “Was he the only one?”
  436. >”Of course he was!”
  437. >That’s...very odd.
  438. >Changelings never leave the hive. Never ever.
  439. >It’s like gravity in how faithful that rule is.
  440. >For one to be wandering alone, a soldier no less…
  441.  
  442. >You put your weapons away and untie the family.
  443. “Don’t worry about your guest. I took care of him.”
  444. >”Thank you!”
  445. >”Thanks for saving us, mister!”
  446. >Her kids assault you and grab onto your legs, burying their faces in your pants and crying their eyes out.
  447. “No, hey, don’t worry about it. Just doing my job.”
  448. >”I want to be just like you when I grow up,” spouts the little girl on your right.
  449. >You smile and get down on your knees, taking both the kids into a hug.
  450. >You squeeze them tight while their mother watches questioningly.
  451. >Once they’re done getting their steam out, you push them away slightly.
  452. “Trust me, you don’t. I don’t even like being me.”
  453. >The girl pulls away from you and retreats to her mother’s side.
  454. >She seems to have since regained her composure and comforts her daughter instead of continuing to cry like the mascara running down her face suggests she’s been doing.
  455. >”Thank you for coming by. I don’t know what would have happened if we were left here with him.”
  456. “How does your leg feel?”
  457. >”Stiff.”
  458. “Very?”
  459. >”No.”
  460. “What would have happened would be he’d spend about another month feeding on you until your body was drained of love. Other happiness-related emotions would follow suit until all you were was a bundle of negativity and self hate. Then you’d fall into a deep depression and kill yourself. Happens all the time.”
  461. >”A-all the time?”
  462. “Well think about it like this. There’s enough changelings around that they can be considered a race, just like vampires and most things that go bump in the night. That means they have to be feeding off enough humans to support their numbers.”
  463. >”What are you talking about? Vampires, werewolves...those are just stories.”
  464. >You pat her shoulder and shake your head.
  465. “Do you honestly believe that after what you and your family have been through? Besides, you called us. You knew then what was going on.”
  466. >She looks at your hand for a long while, letting your words sink in.
  467. >Finally, she holds out her hand and smiles as if completely ignoring your previous words.
  468. >”Thank you for coming to help us. I’m Trixie. What’s your name?”
  469. “Anonymous.”
  470. >”Can I offer you some coffee, Mr. Anonymous?”
  471. “No thanks, I think I’m coffee’d out for today.”
  472. >”Well maybe I could--”
  473. >You stop her by holding a card up in front of her face.
  474. “The number you called earlier was a front. It takes a few days for the calls to filter through to us. Quality control and all that.”
  475. >”What?”
  476. “You can reach my department directly here. Just call the number and you’ll be put through to one of our active hunters.”
  477.  
  478. >Enter Rarity.
  479. >You are currently singing that your rules guarantee quality.
  480. >Rather, you enjoy humming to yourself while you sew.
  481. >The rules of Rarity guarantee quality, this you can...
  482. >The whole activity is very relaxing.
  483. >Designing new clothes is a nice way to spend your day.
  484. >As a vampire, you no longer require sleep. That would be nice, except for the fact that you literally cannot go outside for a large portion of the day.
  485. >So, since you spend all day trapped inside your condo, you very much so like to get out at night.
  486. >That however, wouldn’t leave you any time to get your work done.
  487. >At least by designing during the day, you occupy your prison time as well as write new diddies.
  488. >It’s such a good thing the change came during your tail end of highschool, because this lifestyle would have been unsustainable.
  489. >This you can assure, for each and every dress, you vow to give finesse…
  490. >A sudden ringing booms in your eardrums that throws you off and causes you to miss a stitch with the needle.
  491. >The point rams against your skin and, unable to penetrate, bends out of the way.
  492. >You sigh and realize you forgot to turn the ringer down on your phone.
  493. >When it’s this quiet, a fly buzzing becomes as loud as an opera, let alone a ringing cellphone.
  494. >Best to see who is interrupting your alone time.
  495. >Tracking down your phone, you see Anon’s name flashing on the screen and quickly flip it open.
  496. >”Hello?”
  497. “Hello, darling.”
  498. >”Rarity! Glad I caught you,” he says with a pep in his voice.
  499. >He always sounds so happy talking to you. It’s wonderful.
  500. “Quite. So, what are you doing calling this early?”
  501. >”Early? It’s three in the afternoon by my count.”
  502. “Have you gone soft? You know the afternoon is like morning for us Manehattanites.”
  503. >There’s a chuckle from his end, and you can almost picture him shaking his head.
  504. >”Yeah, I guess I’m just a bit off kilter from this business trip. Can you believe they sent me out to Manetanna?”
  505. “It must be tragic.”
  506. >”I swear, this whole state is cows and fields. What reason is there to send a sales representative out this far?”
  507. “Your guess is as good as mine, darling. You will be back soon though, I trust?”
  508. >“Of course I will! I shouldn’t even be another day. Counting the trip back, I should be in the city by Friday.”
  509.  
  510. “I can’t wait.”
  511. >”Can’t wait for me to get back or for another trip to Dorcea’s?” he jests.
  512. >You giggle and twirl in your chair.
  513. >He really has you pegged, huh?
  514. >Well, you can show him.
  515. >You can be spontaneous and unpredictable if you want.
  516. “Actually, darling, I was thinking maybe you and I could set down the dinnerware for one night and simply take a stroll.”
  517. >There’s a bit of a pause on his end.
  518. >”A stroll?”
  519. >Ah ha, you’ve got him now.
  520. “Yes. You know, when two people take a leisurely walk through some area enjoying nothing but conversation and each other’s company.”
  521. >”And where were you thinking of enjoying my company?”
  522. >That’s a good question.
  523. >You didn’t think that far ahead.
  524. >What do the young couples think of as romantic these days?
  525. “What about the park?”
  526. >He doesn’t answer for a while.
  527. >It’s long enough you begin to worry he hung up the phone.
  528. >Taking it away, you see that his name is still on the screen and racking up minutes.
  529. “Darling?”
  530. >”Huh? Oh, yes. Excellent. Very nice. The park sounds like a great idea,” he blurts out.
  531. >Either he was caught off guard by your spontaneousness, or that was a bad idea.
  532. >”I can’t wait. Look, Rarity, the employees are throwing a riot out here. A stapler just hit my window. I’m going to need to go now.”
  533. “Save the day, darling.”
  534. >”You know I will. See you Friday.”
  535. “Bye.”
  536. >Almost as soon as you say that, the call ends.
  537. >You slump in your chair and twiddle the phone around in your fingers.
  538. >He didn’t seem too keen on the park idea.
  539. >Well, he’ll be happy with it by the end, you’re sure.
  540. >Enjoying each other’s company is the point, right?
  541. >If he enjoys you half as much as you enjoy him, the night should go swimmingly.
  542. >Goodness, look at you, Rarity.
  543. >Four dates and you’re already falling for him.
  544. >Your mother wouldn’t be proud.
  545.  
  546. >Enter Anon.
  547. >This bitch trying to kill you.
  548.  
  549. >You set the phone down slowly.
  550. >Letting go of it takes a conscious effort, and from the clattering it makes on the table, you realize your hands are shaking.
  551. >This is very much so not going as you had hoped.
  552. >You weren’t prepared for things to end up like this so quickly.
  553. >The other pieces still need to be put in play for your game to work.
  554. >Without everything in place, if it’s just plain old you fighting a vampire...
  555. >Well you certainly didn’t plan on dying this early on.
  556. >You’ll find a way. You have to.
  557. >Don’t dwell on this too long, Anon. You can’t be distracted for tonight.
  558. >Rarity may be deviating, but Dash is still stumbling around right into your hand.
  559. >”Sir?”
  560. “Huh?”
  561. >You look up at a barista or whatever they call themselves.
  562. >”Are you ok?” she asks. “You look pale.”
  563. >You nod and wave her off.
  564. “I’m fine, thank you. Just get me another coffee.”
  565. >”You’re going to have a heart attack if you keep drinking like this. This is your, what, fifth cup?”
  566. “It’s been a rough day.”
  567. >”You’ve spent half of it sitting in this booth.”
  568. “And I plan to spend the rest of it doing the same. Just get me another cup,” you say shortly.
  569. >She shrugs and refills the mug in front of you before walking back off to the front desk.
  570. >You breathe heavily and try to regain control of your hands.
  571. >Rainbow Dash better come through tonight.
  572. >If you spend all day in this run down shop of 70’s memorabilia for nothing, there will be Hell to pay.
  573.  
  574. >The sun sets on Bahhston and shrouds Cuppa JoeJoe in darkness until the streetlights click on.
  575. >A few minutes later, as if on cue, Rainbow Dash wanders into the store, still adorning her precious disguise.
  576. >She spots you and smiles as she walks over.
  577. >”Early. Just couldn’t wait to see me, huh?”
  578. “I like the atmosphere,” you joke and gesture for her to sit.
  579. >She does and takes off her glasses while doing so.
  580. >”Brave and spiritual. Tell me, Mr. Atmosphere, what’s so cool about this dump?”
  581. “Well they haven’t kicked me out yet, so there’s that.”
  582. >”You an annoying customer or something?”
  583. “Or something.”
  584. >She chuckles and flags down the coffee wench.
  585. >After ordering an absurdly complicated drink, and you another black, she resumes conversation.
  586. >”My parents were always annoying customers too. We almost got kicked out of a lot of places because my Dad was so loud.”
  587. “That explains a bit.”
  588. >The sports star almost chokes on her drink.
  589. >She slams the cup down and starts laughing at the top of her lungs.
  590. >You sit there while she has her fun. When she starts to calm down, you broach a question.
  591. “So what do--”
  592. >”And what about you? Are you like your parents?”
  593. >You stop dead in your tracks.
  594. >Are you like your parents?
  595. >What’s that supposed to mean?
  596. >”Well?”
  597. >Your parents were good people.
  598. >”Hello?” she drones on.
  599. >Your parents loved you. You were the center of their world.
  600. >”Earth to Anonymous.”
  601. >Until it all…
  602. “No,” you say simply.
  603. >”Why the silent treatment? Are they jerks or something?”
  604. >You stare at her.
  605. >A look of realization washes over her face.
  606. >”Oh, wait. I forgot they kind of died. Sorry about that.”
  607. >”Hey, you’re not upset about that, are you?”
  608. >”Look, I didn’t mean it. Things just slip my tongue.”
  609. >”It’s not my fault I forgot your folks kicked the bucket. You only told me once.”
  610. >There’s a slight pause.
  611. >Her eyes don’t meet yours. They travel around, studying your face.
  612. >”So how’d they die?” she asks, her frown curving up ever so slightly.
  613.  
  614. >There’s a sudden crack that rings through the air and jolts you out of your trance.
  615. >Suddenly your lap feels very hot, and you look down to find your bloodied hand holding hard onto pieces of a shattered mug.
  616. >Searing hot coffee leaks from it and spills onto the table, and from there into your lap.
  617. >You jump out of the booth and try to pat your legs cool, but the pain emanating from them doesn’t go away.
  618. >”Are you ok, sir?” the coffee wench asks as she approaches the booth.
  619. >Once her eyes hit your hand, she faints like all the other spineless millennials polluting the world.
  620. >”Dude, are you ok?” Dash pipes in afterwards.
  621. >She gets out of the booth with some napkins in hand and reaches down to pat you dry.
  622. >You slap her hand away and start off to the bathroom.
  623. >Slamming the door shut and locking it, you secure your privacy.
  624. >Well, at least visually. She can still hear and smell you out there.
  625. >You throw the sink on put your hand underneath the water.
  626. >It stings like Hell.
  627. >Once the blood is more or less washed away and all the bigger pieces of mug are gone, you focus on the ceramic splinters and smaller shards that buried themselves in your palm.
  628. >It’s difficult with your hands shaking like this. It’s not from the pain though.
  629. >Granted this hurts a lot. It’s probably in your top five worst pains.
  630. >You’re on edge from pure, unadulterated anger.
  631. >The only thing keeping you from screaming out right now is some breathtaking muscle control and a locked jaw.
  632. >Keep it cool, Anon.
  633. >Keep it cool.
  634. >Keep it cool.
  635. >Calm down, damn it!
  636. >You look away from your hand and into the mirror.
  637. >Your beet red face shakes.
  638. >Open your mouth. Slowly. Don’t yell.
  639. >Take a deep breath in.
  640. >Hold it...and let it out.
  641. >Breathe, Anon.
  642. >Take it easy.
  643. >You begin to feel in control of yourself again and weigh the risks of walking back out that door.
  644. >You really don’t want to be around her, bleeding like you are, but you also would have to do so to make it outside and to a pharmacy for some bandages.
  645. >But then, you can’t really leave, can you?
  646. >You haven’t hooked her yet, and if you leave now, you never will.
  647. >Come on, Anon. You can do this.
  648. >Just ball up and swallow your anger.
  649.  
  650. >Enter Rainbow Dash.
  651. >You found a nerve.
  652.  
  653. >”Hey, Anon,” you call innocently and knock on the bathroom door.
  654. >He doesn’t respond to you.
  655. >Not that he needs to. You have a pretty good sense of what’s going on in there.
  656. >From the running water and duller smell of blood, he’s cleaning his wound.
  657. >The heavy breathing and pounding heartbeat show he’s scared.
  658. >What you want to know though is why.
  659. >Is he scared of blood? Ironic, given what you’re going to do to him.
  660. >Perhaps the memory of his parents is scary.
  661. >Maybe he saw them getting mauled by that animal.
  662. >You grin as the thought of a forest hike with him flashes through your mind.
  663. >Oh man, that’d be so awesome.
  664. >You could hire some animal trainer to let a mountain lion loose or something.
  665. >Pretend to get mauled, scream for his help, all that stuff.
  666. >Then when he least expects it, you drain him dry.
  667. >Totally wicked.
  668. >As you giggle like a schoolgirl, the door to bathroom creaks open.
  669. >You shut up and recompose yourself.
  670. >Anon stands there, palm out and held away from himself.
  671. >He wears a simple smile and nods to you.
  672. >You raise an eyebrow as he walks past, leaving a trail of blood as he goes, and retrieves some napkins for his hand.
  673. >The sanguine liquid instantly soaks into them.
  674. >He sits back down in your side of the booth like nothing happened.
  675. >”Anon?”
  676. “Sorry about that whole ordeal. I don’t know what came over me.”
  677. >What is this guy on?
  678. >Not even a minute ago he was on the verge of tears.
  679. >You cautiously sit down next to him and place a hand on his back.
  680. ”You ok, dude?”
  681. >He nods again.
  682. >”Thanks for not freaking out.”
  683. “Hey, I’m used to blood.”
  684. >”Are you?”
  685. “Sports star. People always take a hit during practice. Half the smiles you see on the TV are dentures.”
  686. >”I never thought of it like that.”
  687.  
  688. >He seems like a different person right now.
  689. >He’s calmer, more serene.
  690. >”Hey, Dash, what’s your favorite color?” he says suddenly.
  691. >What?
  692. “What?”
  693. >”What’s your favorite color?”
  694. “Er, blue, I guess. Why?”
  695. >”I kind of like brown.”
  696. “What are you talking about?”
  697. >”Well I just figured you and I haven’t really talked today, and even last night was a little odd.”
  698. >He shrugs and changes napkins, leaving the heavy, blood-soaked one sitting on the table.
  699. >”I guess I just thought I’d get to know you better.”
  700. “Alright, weirdo. I’ll bite then. What’s your favorite animal?”
  701. >”I’m pretty fond of the hawk. And you?”
  702. “Bats.”
  703. >”Hawks eat bats.”
  704. “Bats turn into vampires.”
  705. >”Hawks make cool super heroes. Ever heard of Hawkman?”
  706. >Oh wow, what a dweeb.
  707. >You burst out laughing and fall onto the table.
  708. >He joins in soon after.
  709. >The two of you talk for a while. A long while, actually.
  710. >You didn’t even notice until Anon set down his tenth napkin and decided it was time for some stitches.
  711. >Checking his watch, he confirmed it was past midnight.
  712. >The man says his goodbyes and heads off.
  713. >Well, you’re surprised to say the least.
  714. >Who would have thought you’d actually start to enjoy yourself?
  715. >It’s been so long since somebody actually sat down and talked with you like a person.
  716. >Not a star to interview or some hot legs on an all-male team. Not a hero to glorify.
  717. >A person.
  718. >You take some money out and toss it on the table, noticing he left a small slip of paper with his number on it.
  719. >You smile and pocket that, as well as several of the bloody napkins for your own pleasure, and take your leave as well.
  720.  
  721. >Enter Anonymous.
  722. >It’s currently Thursday noon, twelve hours after your date with Dash.
  723. >Your hand is stitched up. Doctors orders are not to move it, but thanks to fucking Jerry not logging your vacation days, you’re probably going to get called out on more jobs.
  724. >You can only hope these things don’t tear.
  725. >You’re going to rip that forty year old virgin to pieces when you get back.
  726. >Grumbling, you trade your stained suit pants for some plain old blue jeans.
  727. >They’re definitely more comfortable than your last pair of pants, even if the denim is more susceptible to cold.
  728. >Oh man, you weren’t even thinking of the cold right now.
  729. >Suddenly a shiver runs up your spine.
  730. >You throw your bag into your truck and button up your jacket.
  731. >Sifting through the clutter on the passenger’s side which consists of your backpack, a few McDougal’s bags, and various car repair tools, you find your gloves.
  732. >The heavy, worn leather gloves slide onto your hands with ease and instantly they regain some feeling.
  733. >Next, the truck roars to life, and you’re off.
  734. >Say goodbye to the Charlemane, Anon.
  735. >You’re Manehattan bound.
  736.  
  737. >Right as you get on the highway, your phone begins to ring.
  738. >Where did you leave that thing?
  739. >In a bag? No, not there.
  740. >Crap, did it fall on the floor?
  741. >You bend over and toss around some loose clutter underneath the seats, looking for the elusive ringing device.
  742. >For the love of god...oh, pocket.
  743. >You get back up and accidentally jerk the wheel while doing so.
  744. >Your Ram veers out of the lane and almost smashes into a Mustang.
  745. >It honks and speeds up far ahead of you, and out of sight.
  746. >Once you’re done flipping him off, you fish your phone out of your pocket and read the caller ID.
  747. >Rainbow Dash.
  748. >Better answer that, Anon.
  749. “Hello?” you ask loudly to overpower the beastial growling of the engine.
  750. >”Yo, what’s up?”
  751. “Nothing much. Just surviving. You?”
  752. >”Same. Same. So look, I was just thinking that...are you going somewhere? What’s all that noise?”
  753. “Uh, yeah, actually. I’m going out of town for a few days. Business trip.”
  754. >”Well that blows. I was going to ask if you wanted to hang tonight or something.”
  755. ”Oh gosh, you know I’d really like to, but the boss has really been riding lately.”
  756. >“What’s his name? I’ll go knock his lights for you.”
  757. “Jerry. He’s afraid of heights and spiders, so work those in if you can.”
  758.  
  759. >Even though you’re only getting a faint whisper through the phone because of all the background noise around you, you can still make out her laughter.
  760. >”Alright, whatever, dude. Just, you know, call me whenever you get back,” she says.
  761. “Is this affection I’m detecting?”
  762. >”Is this hanging up I’m detecting?”
  763. “Well no, I was--”
  764. >The three beeps of ended calls buzz in your ear.
  765. >You smile. Your efforts yet bear fruit.
  766. >The rest of the ride is smooth, all things considered.
  767. >Because not many people travel between Manehattan and Bahhston on a Thursday in the middle of November, the highways are mostly clear.
  768. >It’s once you get near the city that things start to get crazy.
  769. >Not Bahhston crazy. Nobody is actively trying to kill you, at least.
  770. >The streets are even livelier than Bahhston here, though.
  771. >Even so late at night, they casually look like the roads and sidewalks of Bahhston during the busiest part of Rainbow Dash’s game.
  772. >Look at them all. Thousands of people moving about, all so innocently ignorant to the horrible world they live in.
  773. >Most of them will grow up never realizing there’s more to the night than a chill.
  774. >Good for them, you suppose.
  775. >They’ll suffer, of course. Everyone suffers.
  776. >But to them, it will all be normal. They’ll still be human in a human world.
  777. >They’ll never feel so helplessly small. So hilariously outclassed.
  778. >You’re spent, you decide, and stop outside the park.
  779. >It’s too much effort to find a motel at midnight, and quite frankly you don’t even care right now.
  780. >You flip off the engine and brush the junk off the passenger seat and onto the floor.
  781. >Before you nod off, you make sure to put some salt around the base of your doors and windows.
  782. >Can’t ever be too safe.
  783. >With that done, you remove an old and tarnished, but still sturdy silver cross from your bag.
  784. >That gets stuffed into the chest of your jacket, and at last you lay down to go to sleep.
  785. >Maybe you’ll have a nice dream.
  786.  
  787. >Rain.
  788. “Dad?”
  789. >”It’s some girl hitchhiking.”
  790. >The world turns upside down.
  791. >”Good job, son.”
  792. >”We’re so proud of you, honey.”
  793. >There’s a loud crash.
  794. >You’re wet. You’re in the rain.
  795. >”It’s some girl hitchhiking.”
  796. >”Oh god, what is that?”
  797. “Mom?”
  798. >Someone screams.
  799. >Everything goes red.
  800.  
  801. >You leap up from your seat, clutching the cross in your jacket.
  802. >The second your eyes shoot open, light invades them and stings like salt in an open wound.
  803. >You groan and try to rub them back to health.
  804. >Your arm is heavy. It weighs about three extra pounds from all the sweat.
  805. >Your whole body is drenched despite the bitter cold outside, noted by the frost forming on your window.
  806. >Well. That wasn’t a very nice dream at all.
  807.  
  808. >You blame Rainbow Dash.
  809. >You have half a day left before you have to meet Rarity at the park.
  810. >All things considered, you’d like to spend it relaxing.
  811. >Actually, you could really use a bite to eat.
  812. >When was the last time you did that?
  813. >Three...four days ago?
  814. >Your stomach growls at the thought of food, and loud enough you’re almost scared the windows will break.
  815. >A bite couldn’t hurt.
  816. >You’ll certainly need your energy, at least.
  817. >And with nothing to do for the next few hours, what’s to worry about?
  818. >You brush the salt off your windows and roll them down, hoping the icy air will dry you off a bit.
  819. >Starting up the truck, you head off to look for some fast food joint to gorge yourself in.
  820. >The sun is bright and hangs high above the concrete skyscrapers.
  821. >It’s nice, actually.
  822. >How long has it been since you really got a chance to enjoy this? Enjoy the sun?
  823. >You’re always off on a hunt or driving to your next hunt.
  824. >Even these vacation days you’ve racked up have been spent working on Rarity and collecting the other girls.
  825. >This? This is a leisure drive.
  826. >You hope to have more of these one day.
  827. >That...that would be nice.
  828. >When all's said and done, and you’ve finished this unholy game, you could finally rest.
  829.  
  830. >A nice, warm, sunny beach doesn’t sound too bad.
  831. >Something with crystal clear water, and quiet forests.
  832. >Some place you can exist knowing you’re the only thing existing there.
  833. >Some spot to feel safe in.
  834. >Somewhere to call home.
  835. >At this time, you know something awful is about to happen.
  836. >Things have been going your way for too long. Something is bound to mess up your day.
  837. >Wait for it…
  838. >Wait…
  839. >Huh, maybe you were wrong for on--
  840. >RING
  841. >RING
  842. >RING
  843. >No, you’re always right.
  844. >Seriously going over the decision to answer it or not, you begrudgingly decide to do so.
  845. >If it’s one of the girls, great.
  846. >If it’s a hunt, well, at least you get to kill something.
  847. “Hello?” you ask with as civil a tone as you can manage.
  848. >”Hello? Is this Paper Works Inc?”
  849. “That it is, sir.”
  850. >”I have a paper jam.”
  851. “Could you give me your location?”
  852. >”135 Lancaster Drive, Manehattan.”
  853. >Lancaster, Lancaster...oh, you know where that is.
  854. >Oh shit, here comes the turn.
  855. >You jerk the wheel and swerve over three lanes, cutting off a great number of people, and catch your right just in time.
  856. “Please find a safe place to hide. I’m on my way.”
  857. >”Thank you so much.”
  858.  
  859. >The drive there is quick.
  860. >By some miracle, you don’t attract the cops in your rampage.
  861. >By another miracle, you didn’t run anybody off the road.
  862. >All in all, it was pretty smooth.
  863. >You pull up to some rich house at least three stories tall, and maybe twice that wide.
  864. >This is the kind of house caviar is considered a typical dessert in.
  865. >You sigh and sling your bag around your shoulder, and get out of the truck.
  866. >The door to the house opens before you’re even halfway up the walk.
  867. >”Go away,” a large man tells you, his voice loud and dominating in its own sense.
  868. “Sorry I’m late, misters,” you shout back.
  869. >”Excuse me?”
  870. “I know I’m runs behind, but promise I’ll be better.”
  871. >”What are you going on about? I didn’t call anyone over.”
  872. “But misters, I am of being your landscaper. Brought my tools and things.”
  873. >As you approach, you size the guy up. He’s at least 6 feet tall and built like a tank.
  874. >Thick-rimmed glasses frame his intense eyes.
  875. >His tight plaid shirt hugs his muscular form, and as you follow the trail down his hairy arms, you spot a wedding ring.
  876. >”The fuck you lookin’ at me for? You some kind of fag?”
  877. “It’s 2015, man. You havings a problem with that?”
  878. >”Actually, I do.”
  879. “Well misters, the missus told me to come by today at precisely noon to fix up your yard.”
  880. >”My wife would do no such thing. She loves this yard.”
  881. “That’s not what I was of hearing on the phones, misters,” you shrug.
  882. >”Either way, you’re late. You better just leave and forget about it.”
  883. “Can’t I be of apologizing in person?”
  884. >The man sighs heavily and pinches his brow.
  885. >”Whatever. Just say you’re sorry and get off my property. Charol, get down here! Now!”
  886. >”Coming, dearest,” returns a feminine voice.
  887. >The sound of heels clacking on wood echo through the hallway and flow out the door, getting louder and louder as “she” approaches.
  888. >”Yes, honey?” she asks sweetly, appearing in the door frame next to her supposed spouse.
  889. >She looks like someone tore her out of a 1920’s house party and slapped on some botox for good measure.
  890. >”This faggot wants to say sorry,” he huffs.
  891. >The woman gives a confused look and turns to you.
  892.  
  893. >”I’m sorry, who is this?”
  894. >You catch a glimpse of her reflection in her husband’s glasses.
  895. >Her skin appears as a dull grey, and where her bright, lively eyes should be, there are only black holes.
  896. >Her lips, pursed in confusion, are replaced by a circular maw of rows and rows of sharp triangle-shaped teeth.
  897. >Changelings.
  898. >More of these freaks? You’re getting a little tired of them.
  899. “Don’t you remembers? You were of calling me to come today. Here, I get address book and show.”
  900. >”That won’t be necessary,” the man says aggressively as you open your duffle bag and sift through its contents.
  901. >”I think it’d be better for everyone if you just left right now.”
  902. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. I can be a fire hazard sometimes.”
  903. >The look of shock on their faces when you pull out your can of hairspray and lighter is one for the books.
  904. >Without any hesitation, you light the couple up.
  905. >The woman catches like a dry wicker basket.
  906. >She wails and runs out onto the lawn, then drops and proceeds to roll; the man shouts and retreats into the house.
  907. >Her efforts work on a human, but fire has a special thing for changelings, and all her rolling proves useless.
  908. >Within seconds, she stops moving altogether.
  909. >You figure you should find something to douse the man with so he doesn’t light the house up, so you drag the woman up from the yard and into the house.
  910. >Now dead, the fire releases its magical grip on her, and you can easily pat the flames out, making her easy to transport.
  911. >As you shut the door behind you, you can hear...grunting.
  912. >The rest of the hive must have woken up.
  913. >You whip around, can and lighter at the ready, and are faced with the man from the door.
  914.  
  915. >That’s...impossible though.
  916. >You set him on fire. You saw the flames engulf his body.
  917. >He stands before you now more mad than anything else.
  918. >The charred remains of his shirt flake off his body, revealing massive, red, puffy burns.
  919. >The marks contort and begin to shrink as if his body was healing itself.
  920. >But changelings don’t heal! Not like that, and especially not from fire!
  921. >Unless...this isn’t a changeling at all.
  922. >He slaps the items from your hands and swipes at your neck, but you duck at the last second and roll away.
  923. >”You’ve done it now, you ugly son of a bitch.”
  924. “Look in a mirror lately?”
  925. >”Very funny.”
  926. >What the actual fuck is going on here?
  927. >If that’s not a changeling, then what could it be?
  928. >Let’s see, what monsters heal automatically?
  929. >”Come here!”
  930. >Wow! Focus, Anon!
  931. >You try to dodge a punch from him, but with your mind on other things, you misstep and trip.
  932. >Everything moves in slow motion from there.
  933. >He swings his arm down, grabbing onto your shoulder, and lifts you into the air.
  934. >Deja vu.
  935. >He throws you, but unlike your last joyride through the air, you don’t just hit the wall and land on the floor with a simple thud.
  936. >You crash right through that thing, soaring through the next room and land hard on some modern glass table.
  937. >It shatters underneath your weight and you hit the floor.
  938. >Everything hurts.
  939. >You groan and try to push yourself up, but you have no strength. A searing pain radiates through your chest and makes you want to vomit.
  940. >Something might actually be broken this time.
  941.  
  942. >Not like you have to get up anyway.
  943. >Your host strolls over and grabs you by the hair, lifting your aching form off the ground.
  944. >Whatever shards of glass were stuck to you fall and krinkle onto the floor like really big, super sharp snowflakes.
  945. >”You fucked up the plan. Now I need some new bitch to bunk up with.”
  946. >The plan? The bitch?
  947. >Is he talking about the changeling woman?
  948. >”I’m going to enjoy ripping your throat out,” he snarls and reveals a radical set of fangs that reach down past his bottom lip.
  949. >Ah ha! Your clue!
  950. >Only three sapient types of monsters have fangs.
  951. >Two of those have super strength.
  952. >Only one can heal without drinking blood.
  953. >You smirk and muster all your strength to reach into your jacket.
  954. >You pull out the silver cross you slept with and press it against the werewolf’s face.
  955. >His skin sizzles and smokes around the item.
  956. >You’re dropped to the floor as he retreats, clutching his face.
  957. >On the bottom of the cross is a cap. You twist it off, revealing a long spike.
  958. “Fido, catch!”
  959. >You throw it.
  960. >It finds a home deep within the wolf’s chest.
  961. >He bellows, his voice ripping through your ears and echoing throughout the house.
  962. >The skin around the cross bursts into blue flames.
  963. >They spread like a virus and blanket his entire body.
  964. >Much like the changeling, he’s dead in seconds.
  965. >The icy flames eat away at the wolf while you lay there, catching your breath.
  966. >Eventually there is nothing more for the fire to consume.
  967. >The wolf’s body collapses on itself, the ashes spreading across the floor, and your cross clacking against the hardwood.
  968.  
  969. “Good boy,” you groan and let your head fall onto the floor.
  970. >You lay there, limp, thinking over what just happened.
  971. >What conclusions you can draw from it.
  972. >Firstly, this day is fucked.
  973. >Secondly, you’re not near drunk enough to be thinking about anything like this right now.
  974. >Thirdly...the changelings are changing.
  975. >Their species is a very simple one. They’re probably the simplest after the smaller things like imps and goblins.
  976. >Changelings are ugly grey monsters that feed on positive emotions. Most of their power comes from love, which seems to be universally understood as the second most powerful emotion.
  977. >They exist in hives which are run by queens or mothers, depending on which century you did your hunting in. Nowadays, they’re referred to as queens, as it was discovered a few years ago that hives can actually have many mothers all following one queen.
  978. >In order to survive, a hive will infiltrate an area--typically homes and small neighborhoods farther away from society--and blend in with the community.
  979. >By utilizing their shapeshifting abilities, they absorb the positivity from everyone around them that thinks they’re in good company.
  980. >When an invasion is complete, the populace of wherever they were is usually bound somehow and used as cattle of sorts until they’re dry.
  981. >When they’re done, changelings move to the next location.
  982. >It’s a tried and true method. Not one single hive in all of recorded history has ever strayed from it.
  983. >So why now...why in the past seven days have you encountered not only a lone changeling, but another changeling working in tandem with a werewolf of all creatures?
  984. >Like, maybe you could understand a house goblin tolerating the changeling’s presence, but a werewolf? They’re proud creatures. Why would one ever stoop so low as to buddy up with a changeling?
  985. >Why are they only knocking over one-family houses?
  986.  
  987. >Questions for another time, Anon.
  988. >Right now, you have some rescuing to do.
  989. >Just as soon as you get up.
  990. >...Any minute now.
  991. >You’re totally going to get up in three...two...one…
  992. >Ok, false start. You weren’t ready.
  993. >This time for real.
  994. >Three...two…
  995. >Almost there.
  996. >One.
  997. >Almost...ok, yeah, there we go.
  998. >That’s it, arm. You can do it.
  999. >Slowly but surely, you push yourself up off the ground.
  1000. >The pain in your chest has thankfully dulled somewhat, likely from your complete lack of energy and ability to function let alone feel pain.
  1001. >God, you need to eat.
  1002. >Shakily, you make it to your feet and hobble over to the ashy corpse of the werewolf.
  1003. >After pocketing your cross, you begin to look around for wherever the captured family may be being kept.
  1004.  
  1005. >Enter Rarity.
  1006. >What should you wear for a walk in the park?
  1007. >You obviously want to look good, but you don’t want to look too overdone for a simple stroll.
  1008. >A dress is out of the question, especially considering how cold it’s been lately.
  1009. >While you may not feel the effects of weather anymore, others will still think it odd that you’re walking around in a strapless in 4 degree temperatures.
  1010. >You know, you haven’t had a chance to bring out the hiking line you whipped up for that expo in Switzerland last year.
  1011. >Maybe you could use that.
  1012. >No, that’s a terrible idea. You’re not going for a hike through the Alps. Besides, though warm, that’s far too excessive.
  1013. >You’ll look like a freak compared to him.
  1014. >Come on, Rarity. You can do this.
  1015. >Simple, yet elegant.
  1016. >Warm, but not over encumbering.
  1017. >You’ve got it!
  1018.  
  1019. >You pick out a pair of blue leggings and fuzzy white boots.
  1020. >Throwing on a purple skirt over that reminds you a bit of high school.
  1021. >Next you find a purple turtleneck sweater and put that on, followed by a blue scarf, and finish it up with a puffy white vest.
  1022. >You look absolutely divine, Rarity.
  1023. >He’ll be speechless when he sees you.
  1024. >If he sees you…
  1025. >You look down at your phone.
  1026. >It’s already nine o’clock and you haven’t gotten a single text from him, let alone phone call.
  1027. >Perhaps you scared him off.
  1028. >Were you too forward?
  1029. >Maybe you should call him.
  1030. >You don’t want to seem needy though.
  1031. >As you ponder, the scent of blood fills your room.
  1032. >A pounding heartbeat thumps just outside the door to your condo.
  1033. >You were so distracted you didn’t even hear this person approaching until they were knock knock knocking, rather gently as well.
  1034. >”Hello. It’s me.”
  1035. >Oh?
  1036. >Oh!
  1037. >Anonymous!
  1038. >You walk hastily to the door and pull it open for him.
  1039. >The green-skinned man stands before you, drastically dressed down from your previous dates.
  1040. >He’s in a dark blue pair of jeans and an untucked grey button down shirt.
  1041. >There’s also a very heavy duty and warm looking jacket that seems to have been put through a wash cycle with a piece of drywall.
  1042. >It certainly smells that way as well.
  1043. “Darling, I had no idea you’d come by my condominium. I haven’t had a chance to clean up.”
  1044. >”Looks like I just caught you in time though. You going out?”
  1045. >You raise an eyebrow at his question.
  1046. >”All your lights are off.”
  1047. >Oh. Sometimes even you forget those are off, since the night is just as bright as the day for you.
  1048.  
  1049. “Just a habit,” you assure him.
  1050. >He smiles and nods, though you’re not sure if he really understands.
  1051. >Wanting to change the subject, you hold out your hand to him.
  1052. “Shall we go?”
  1053. >”We shall,” he says, hooking his elbow around your hand.
  1054. >As he moves, again, your nose picks up the distinct scent of blood.
  1055. >He tries to walk, but you hold still and take his hand into your own.
  1056. >”Rarity?”
  1057. >Slowly, you remove the glove to see a bloodied bandage wrapped crudely around his hand.
  1058. >The wall of scent that hits you is so powerful you can almost taste it.
  1059. >His hand, his...delicious blood...has been stewing in that glove all day.
  1060. “Oh darling,” you push out, trying to keep yourself from drooling, “Whatever happened to your hand?”
  1061. >He laughs and puts the glove back on, killing the scent enough to bring you back to a rational state of mind.
  1062. >Following that, the two of you start your walk.
  1063. >”What, did you think I was joking about the riot?”
  1064. “I had my suspicions. What sort of savages start a riot in the workplace?”
  1065. >”It would have been worse if security hadn’t come in when they did. You should have seen it, Rarity. I mean, one of the guys broke a paper cutter and started swinging the blade around like they were the next King Arthur.”
  1066. >Oh heavens.
  1067. >”His name is Jerry. Real jerk. I’d like to get back at him, but I’m not that kind of guy.”
  1068. “I should hope not.”
  1069. >”I mean, who doesn’t log someone’s vacation days just because they spilled some coffee on him before a big date? Let me tell you: not me. Jerry, maybe.”
  1070. “Are you alright, darling? You seem a tad off tonight.”
  1071. >You’ve never heard his heart beat this loud before.
  1072. >The only time it ever came this close was when you gave him your first kiss. On the neck, of course. You don’t go for lips on the second date.
  1073. >”I’m fine. Just a little jittery.”
  1074. “You know you don’t have to be nervous around me, right?”
  1075.  
  1076. >On the way to the park, you pass by a beggar.
  1077. >You sigh and ready your wallet, but no currency was exchanged.
  1078. >One look from Anon and the man was running down the alley with his tail between his legs.
  1079. >”Hopefully he’s running off to find a job,” he says distastefully.
  1080. >It wouldn’t have been a problem to give the poor thing money. You have plenty, after all.
  1081. >Still, seeing that...aggressive side of Anon was exhilarating.
  1082. >It was like a firework. So bright, so hot, and over in an instant.
  1083. >The whole event was contained within his eyes alone and yet it seemed to affect the whole city in that second.
  1084. >He’s always been so gentle with you. To think that such a ruffian lay dormant within your stoic man like your very own Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
  1085. >How dreamy.
  1086. >”Sorry, I’m a little on edge tonight.”
  1087. “It’s no trouble, darling. Might I ask what’s bothering you?”
  1088. >He sighs and adjusts his arm, which has been nestled in his jacket for the last mile.
  1089. >”Have your parents ever had high expectations for you? Not the kind where they just expect it and leave you alone, but where they badger you constantly about it?”
  1090. “No, not really. They just wanted me to be happy.”
  1091. >”Well mine have been in my ear lately. Especially pops. They’ve been pestering me for a while to bring a girl over for our Thanksgiving party.”
  1092. >Oh?
  1093. “And do you want to?”
  1094. >”Of course I do. It’s just, you know, I’d rather do it on my own schedule and not theirs. Thanksgiving is so close, and I feel like if I rush things with this girl, I’ll ruin it.”
  1095. >Pause.
  1096. >This girl?
  1097. >He...you’re “you”, not “this girl”.
  1098. >”I don’t want to rush things with you,” is what he should have said.
  1099. >Who the devil is he talking about?
  1100. >”She’s smart, and pretty, and so talented. I don’t want to mess things up, you know?”
  1101. >You’re smart, and pretty, and talented! What does she have that you don’t?
  1102. >You stop dead in your tracks and stomp, cracking the concrete underneath your foot.
  1103. “I demand an explanation right this instant.”
  1104. >He leaps away from you and whips around.
  1105. >The arm stuffed in his jacket is tense. You can hear the muscles in his arm straining, ready to move at any second.
  1106. >His eyes have another new emotion you haven’t seen in him before.
  1107. >It’s desperation. Maybe a little fear.
  1108. >Sweat drips from his forehead despite the bone chilling breeze that rushes by you two.
  1109.  
  1110. >You’re dead.
  1111. >You’re so fucking dead it’s not even funny.
  1112. >You are Anonymous, and you just pissed off a vampire.
  1113. >Rarity’s hands are balled up in fists that could punch a hole straight through you.
  1114. >Her frown hides deadly fangs that, in less than the time it would take to blink your eye, could be buried deep in your neck.
  1115. >Somehow, all the bravery and hope in your body retreated to your hand which lay inside your jacket, clutching so tightly a sliver cross that it may well fuse to you.
  1116. >As for the rest of your body, you tremble in, and you’re not proud to admit this, fear.
  1117. >Harsh, icy wind rushes by you and bites angrily at your face, but even that can’t cool down your overheating body.
  1118. >A false look of realization comes to her eyes. She steps towards you.
  1119. >You step back.
  1120. >”Anonymous, I’m sorry. I went overboard there.”
  1121. >No way, you’re not falling for that.
  1122. >Bitch tryin’a kill you.
  1123. >”Please, I’m not usually like this.”
  1124. >She’s right. She’s actually taking time with you, cruelly and mockingly, like you’re so dumb you don’t understand her game.
  1125. >When you first saw her in action, she didn’t wait.
  1126. >She pounced on them.
  1127. >She ripped them to pieces.
  1128. >She…
  1129. >”It’s just, when I heard you talking about the other girl, I lost control of myself.”
  1130. >Other girl? What other girl?
  1131. >You’re almost tempted to ask, but your jaw is locked tight.
  1132. >”Please, tell me what’s going on.”
  1133. >This is a real shit trick, Rarity.
  1134. >You never mentioned another girl.
  1135. >This is--
  1136. >Ooooooooooh…
  1137. >You think you know what she’s talking about.
  1138. >What? You thought you were being playful.
  1139. >Play up some “other girl” and go “by the way, I’m talking about you” or something equally cheesy.
  1140. >You didn’t think she wouldn’t actually understand that shit.
  1141. >In every movie you’ve ever seen, and even the real life counterparts on the streets, the girl always knew what the guy was talking about.
  1142. >Rarity you vapid, ignorant, jealous little bitch.
  1143. >You breathe a sigh of relief and loosen up your arm.
  1144. >She’s not trying to kill you. She’s just stupid is all.
  1145.  
  1146.  
  1147. “Rares, I was talking about you. You’re the smart, pretty, talented girl.”
  1148. >Well, talented at least.
  1149. >Her eyes widen.
  1150. >”Oh my. I suppose that makes my little outburst quite uncalled for then.”
  1151. “I mean, you broke the sidewalks so…”
  1152. >”I did.”
  1153. >You slowly walk toward her, still a little uneasy but willing to test the waters, and hold out your hand.
  1154. “So will you go to Thanksgiving with me?”
  1155. >Her snow white face lights up red.
  1156. >With a smile, she jumps for you and wraps her arms around you.
  1157. >”Yes, of course I will.”
  1158. >Too close.
  1159. >Please go away.
  1160. >She’s not going away.
  1161. >This hug is lasting uncomfortably long.
  1162. >It’s going on a whole minute before she pulls away just slightly.
  1163. >She looks up into your eyes with her own dead, cold, lifeless ones that could fool anyone but yourself into thinking there was a real human behind them.
  1164. >Looking at her face like this, you resist the urge to retch.
  1165. >Right then, another awfully bitter gust of air rushes by the two of you, stinging your eyes.
  1166. >You’re forced to close them, and in that instant, she makes her move.
  1167. >You can feel something cold press against your lips.
  1168. >Her arms snake up from your lower back to hold your head in place as she smushes herself against you.
  1169. >She’s so close.
  1170. >She wouldn’t see it coming.
  1171. >You could pull the cross out right now and end her…
  1172. >But that’s not the plan.
  1173. >You’re supposed to be in love with her, remember?
  1174. >Play the part.
  1175. >You press forward, taking an active role in the kiss.
  1176. >It goes on for far too long before she pulls away and frees you from her grasp.
  1177. >”I think I might go now,” she says contentedly.
  1178. >Yeah, you should.
  1179. “Alright. I’ll call you tomorrow about it.”
  1180. >”Thank you for tonight, Anonymous. I had a wonderful time.”
  1181. “So did I.”
  1182. >”Goodbye.”
  1183. “Bye.”
  1184. >With that, she prances off.
  1185. >When her back is turned, you take the cross out of your jacket and hold it up high, followed by your middle finger.
  1186. >Fuck you too, you crazy psycho vampire bitch.
  1187.  
  1188. >Achingly, you head back to your truck and line the thing with salt again.
  1189. >Holy fuck you’re tired.
  1190. >And smelly.
  1191. >You should find a motel to rent.
  1192. >A shower would be nice.
  1193. >Eh, you’ll do it later.
  1194. >You have better things to do right now. Example one: catch up on sleep.
  1195. >You lay down across the seat and, much quicker than you’d expected to, fall asleep.
  1196.  
  1197. >It’s raining.
  1198. >”Good play, son.”
  1199. >”We’re so proud of you, honey.”
  1200. >”What’s that out there?”
  1201. >”It’s some girl hitchhiking.”
  1202. >There’s a crash.
  1203. >Every turns upside down.
  1204. >You’re flying through the air, then…
  1205. >It’s complete blackness.
  1206. >You can’t see anything except for a pair of piercing red eyes that bore themselves straight into your soul.
  1207. >”We’re so proud of you, honey.”
  1208. >”You’re getting that scholarship for sure.”
  1209. >Rainbows...you know that hair.
  1210. >”Oh god, someone help us!”
  1211. >You’re frozen. Why can’t you move?
  1212. >Why can’t you help them?
  1213. >Screams….their screams pound in your head.
  1214. >Be quiet.
  1215. >Be quiet, please!
  1216. >”ANON!”
  1217.  
  1218. >Your eyes shoot open.
  1219. >With a yell, you jump up from the seat and smash the cross against the window of your truck, cracking it.
  1220. >Your heart feels like it’s tearing a hole through your chest to escape.
  1221. >Your arm weighs a million pounds with all the sweat coating it.
  1222. >It trembles and weakens. It becomes so frail that your grip withers away and the cross falls from your hand, hitting the floor with a metallic thunk that echoes through the cab.
  1223. >Through the cracks in your window, you can see a few shocked pedestrians looking at you with eyes like dinner plates.
  1224. >You don’t even have the energy to mentally tell them off.
  1225. >You just turn on the truck and lay into the gas pedal.
  1226. >You have to get away from here.
  1227. >Have to escape from…
  1228. >Oh, who are you kidding?
  1229. >You could run your whole life, take on as many names as you want, change your face, change your clothes, become a whole new person...but you could never escape your memories.
  1230. >Those are going to follow you to the grave.
  1231. >After about a half hour of driving aimlessly, you happen across a relatively empty parking lot belonging to the Charlemane.
  1232. >Manehattan Branch is painted underneath the dimly glowing letters.
  1233. >Whatever, you’ll take it.
  1234. >You’re about to get out when the phone rings and scares you out of your own skin.
  1235. >Jesus, Anon. You need to calm down.
  1236. >You take the phone out of your pocket and check the caller ID.
  1237. >Your stomach sinks at the name.
  1238. “Oh my fucking god I’m going to hang him.”
  1239. >Didn’t fucking log your…
  1240. >You flip open the phone and press it to your ear.
  1241. >”Hello? Is this Paper Works Inc?”
  1242.  
  1243. >After a few minutes of angry driving in which you become the one running people off the road, you arrive on the scene.
  1244. >It’s a very large, very old Victorian style house.
  1245. >You can see the white paint, grey in some spots, peeling off the siding.
  1246. >Several wilting trees litter the dead yard. In their final moments, they drop leaves of golden yellow and fiery orange that add at least some color to the dull place.
  1247. >The whole thing looks it was pulled from a horror movie catalog.
  1248. >How fitting, you think, that you get called out to a place like this to kill a monster.
  1249. >Let’s see...gas leak?
  1250. >No, too obvious.
  1251. >They clearly don’t care about their yard enough to call a landscaper.
  1252. >You eyeball the house and note some holes in the rotted wood over the porch.
  1253. >Nosey neighbors complaining about the soffits. Perfect.
  1254. >You can’t very well pretend to be an inspector with a big duffle bag at your side.
  1255. >Better take the essentials.
  1256. >You pocket your handy dandy cross along with your lighter, a little wicker man, a bottle of holy water, and two hardboiled eggs.
  1257. >Pockets looking a bit bulky…
  1258. >Eh, fuck the eggs.
  1259. >Leaving those behind, you step out of your truck and walk up the broken concrete path to horror house.
  1260. >As you approach, the door opens.
  1261. >Out comes a tall fellow who quite frankly matches the house to a key.
  1262. >It’s so fucking perfect you’re almost tempted to walk away and leave them alone. Hell, you’re on vacation.
  1263. >The most dangerous job in the world can’t spare you the month of vacation time you’ve accumulated over the years?
  1264. “Hi there,” you shout to him.
  1265. >”Good afternoon, sir,” the man says in a heavy accent reminiscent of your typical spy movie villain.
  1266. “You from Bittain?”
  1267. >”It was the accent, wasn’t it?”
  1268. “Couldn’t miss it.”
  1269.  
  1270. >Now that you’re up the stairs and only a few feet away from him, you get a better feel for the gent.
  1271. >His skin is pale. Excessively so.
  1272. >”Let me guess. You’re here about the soffits.”
  1273. “How do you figure?”
  1274. >”I’ve had a few,” he pauses and lowers his eyes, sizing you up, “Inspectors come by before.”
  1275. “And they were all for the soffits?”
  1276. >”Nosey neighbors and all that.”
  1277. “Well, I think you’ll be pleased to know I’m not here about that.”
  1278. >”Oh?”
  1279. >His smile is throwing you off.
  1280. >It’s the kind of smile that’s not there, but at the same time it is.
  1281. >It’s just a slight curve at the sides of the lips that barely registers as emotion.
  1282. >There’s nothing there, yet it’s also carries an air of condescension.
  1283. >This is the kind of person who would beat you at poker once in high school and remind you about it on your deathbed.
  1284. “Actually, we’re redoing the water pipes for the entire street and need you to sign a few papers.”
  1285. >”I haven’t heard anything about that.”
  1286. “Well you are now. May I come inside?”
  1287. >”Funny. I’m usually the one asking that.”
  1288. >What’s so funny?
  1289. >Oh no, come inside? Did you find a gay monster?
  1290. >Those are the worst kind.
  1291. >The man steps aside, leaving the entryway open.
  1292. >You step in. The temperature suddenly drops several degrees from what it was outside.
  1293. >You reckon it’s close to 0 in here, but that’s not what sends a shiver down your spine.
  1294. >The entire place is...empty.
  1295. >Not one piece of furniture in the whole place.
  1296. >You look down every hall in sight, up the stairs, into the dining room down the way, and find absolutely nothing.
  1297. >There’s not even dust outlines that would imply there was ever furniture there to begin with.
  1298. >The door slams shut behind you, giving you a start.
  1299. >”Jumpy?”
  1300. >Alright, he’s starting to piss you off.
  1301.  
  1302. >The gent walks by you, his long brown coat dragging behind him on the floor.
  1303. “Not much for interior decorating, are you?”
  1304. >He’s not a house goblin. They’re hoarders.
  1305. >He also lacks the prideful aura of a werewolf.
  1306. >Besides, you’ve never met a gay werewolf.
  1307. >Could he be a changeling?
  1308. >No, he seems to smart for that.
  1309. >You’d have a much better idea if you could get his reflection.
  1310. >”I never really liked human furniture. Their houses, yes, but not the furniture.”
  1311. “Well, to each their ow--”
  1312. >You freeze in place.
  1313. >Oh fuck, he knows.
  1314. >”Ah, so you figured it out, did you?”
  1315. >What is this guy?
  1316. >Do you even have the right tools?
  1317. >He’s going to make his move any second now.
  1318. >If you could pull out your cross fast enough and get a glimpse of him in the reflection of the silver…
  1319. >Move for it slowly.
  1320. >”I’m afraid I haven’t been entirely forthcoming with you, Anonymous.”
  1321. >Did he just say your name?
  1322. >”But you haven’t been forthcoming with me, have you? It’s not very neighborly not to let someone know you intend on stabbing them in the heart.”
  1323. “How do you know who I am?”
  1324. >”I know much about you, young man. I suppose you might call me a bit of a fan. Oh, do you remember that town that was totally overrun with changelings a few years ago?”
  1325. “Fondly.”
  1326. >”I think you really came into your own back then, truly separating yourself from other Hunters. You know, not many would have been able to do what you did, especially the whole coming out alive part.”
  1327. “Who are you?”
  1328. >”My name is not important. What’s important is your mission.”
  1329. >Your mission?
  1330. >How enigmatic.
  1331. >You start moving for your cross again, very slowly and carefully as to not disturb what you can only assume are highly tuned ears.
  1332. >”Oh, you don’t have to bother with that. If you want to know what I am, you just have to ask.”
  1333. “Alright then. What are you?”
  1334. >”A vampire.”
  1335.  
  1336. >This isn’t how you planned on dying.
  1337. >”Oh goodness, listen to that heart go. Don’t worry, my boy. I’m not out to kill you.”
  1338. “Oh?”
  1339. >”Don’t get me wrong. I would certainly like to, young Anonymous. I can only imagine what your blood must taste like, spiced with hate and left to age in your tender body, growing more and more delectable by the day. The blood of happy folk is so sweet, like candy, but the kind of anger that fuels you has a much sharper, robust taste.”
  1340. “You know, hearing all of that really makes me doubt your earlier statement.”
  1341. >”My boy, if I wanted you dead, your heart would have stopped when you got out of your truck.”
  1342. >You feel your grip tighten on the cross.
  1343. >He could lunge at any second.
  1344. >Even on your best day, you doubt you could react fast enough to save your skin.
  1345. >Like this? There’s not a chance.
  1346. >All you can do is hope that a strategically placed cross will ward him off.
  1347. >”Now, I do believe I was in the process of mysteriously laying out clues to help you piece together a certain upcoming event.”
  1348. “Is it storytime? Because it really doesn’t feel like storytime without s’mores.”
  1349. >”Ah, how I do miss s’mores. Sorry to disappoint, my boy, but the only food I’ve got in this house are a few blood bags. Unless you’re particularly interested in branching out, I don’t think it would suit you.”
  1350. “Maybe another time.”
  1351. >”Maybe so. Right, as I was saying,” he says, gesturing to the floor.
  1352. >The man lowers himself down and rests his butt on the hardwood, crossing his legs like a kindergartener.
  1353. >Taking the hint, you also take a seat on the floor.
  1354. >During the motion, you bring the cross up to a midpoint between your chest and neck. You know, just to cover your bases.
  1355.  
  1356. >”I know you’re rather determined on dealing with those girls you’ve been chasing. What if I were to tell you I know someone who’s willing to do the dirty deed for you?”
  1357. “I’d ask where this person was so I could kill them.”
  1358. >He smiles and nods his head vigorously, shaking but not disturbing his thick, slicked back hair.
  1359. >”Just the answer I was hoping for. Yes, it wouldn’t be the same unless you did it, would it?”
  1360. “Get to the point.”
  1361. >”My point, Anonymous, is that you should keep your eyes open and pay very close attention to your surroundings, because that person I mentioned isn’t really a person.”
  1362. “They’re a monster.”
  1363. >”Not even that. Imagine a collective of monsters. A cult of sorts dedicated to the one singular goal of plunging the world into darkness.”
  1364. >You furrow your brow, unable to fully understand what’s going on here.
  1365. “First of all, why tell me? Isn’t darkness sort of your schtick?”
  1366. >”You humans are very dangerous prey. Never in the history of the world has the predator been so outclassed by its meal. That’s what I love about you all. The thrill of the hunt is what makes my unlife worthwhile.”
  1367. >He smiles and points to the cross in your sweaty grip.
  1368. >”The others aren’t quite so fond of it. You see, most of us don’t like the idea that our food could shove a piece of silver in our hearts.”
  1369. “You kind of deserve it though.”
  1370. >”Oh, most definitely, but that doesn’t change the point.”
  1371. >And what exactly is the point here?
  1372. >Furthermore, why tell you any of this?
  1373. >You’re just one human. One hunter.
  1374. >If this conspiracy is as large as he says, why not alert the whole organization?
  1375. >At least that way you could continue on with your own life.
  1376. >”As for why I’ve decided to talk to you in particular,” he starts again.
  1377. >How convenient.
  1378. >”Given the personal nature of your conflict, I believe that you alone will be entirely sufficient in thwarting their plans. After all, you can’t let someone else dispose of the girls when you still have to give them your peace of mind.”
  1379.  
  1380. >That doesn’t seem like a valid reason.
  1381. >You really should go to the organization with this.
  1382. >Although, if they find out, they’re going to send every hunter in to take care of it.
  1383. >If that happens, the chance that it’s you who kills the girls drops close to zero.
  1384. >That’s not a real issue though, is it?
  1385. >If things are as bad as he’s suggesting, the fate of humanity is more important than your grudge.
  1386. >You don’t tell them about this and you’re automatically the worst person on Earth.
  1387. >Right then, your phone begins to ring.
  1388. >The sudden noise shocks you out of your skin, but when the electric buzzing registers in your mind, you can calm down.
  1389. >Ha. Calm. In front of a vampire.
  1390. >You fish the device out of your pocket and look at the screen.
  1391. >From the extension, you know it’s work.
  1392. >This is your chance, Anon.
  1393. >”Aren’t you going to take that? It looks important.”
  1394. >Yeah, it does.
  1395. >After a few seconds of staring at the glowing numbers, you press the red X on the touchpad.
  1396. >Once silenced, you shove the phone back into your pocket.
  1397. “It’s rude to take calls in a meeting. Now tell me more about this conspiracy. Where can I find the monsters in charge?”
  1398. >The vampire grins ear to ear, showing off his thick and lengthy fangs.
  1399. >”Oh, I knew there was a reason I picked you.”
  1400. >For a split second, you can imagine them all at once in his place.
  1401. >Their eyes shine red just like on that night, only now the blood on their mouths is their own.
  1402. >Your stake is in their chests, piercing their hearts.
  1403. >When you blink, it’s all back to normal. The vampire, the same gentlemanly one that invited you in, sits there, smiling like a he just won the lottery.
  1404. >They’re yours. Yours and nobody else’s.
  1405.  
  1406. >”I can’t tell you too much right now, my boy, because even I have a schedule to keep. I’m afraid all I can let out is that you should be keeping an eye on the little guys.”
  1407. >The monster stands up and dusts his back off, throwing a cloud of dust into the air.
  1408. “That’s all I get?”
  1409. >”I will be in touch. Cheerio for now, young Anonymous.”
  1410. “Hey, wait. What’s your name?”
  1411. >His hands blacken and lose form, followed by the rest of him.
  1412. >The darkened parts become transparent, misty, and begin to float out of his clothes.
  1413. >The fabric drops to the floor anticlimactically as the cloud hovers towards you.
  1414. >It swirls around your head, getting nice and close to your ears.
  1415. >In a low voice, almost a whisper, you hear: “Call me ‘Proditor’.”
  1416. >Then it speeds off, finding a shut window and seeping out through the hairline cracks in the pane.
  1417. >It’s just you now, all alone in this big, empty house.
  1418. >Job well done?
  1419. >You hang your head and stand up, brushing yourself off much in the same way as “Proditor”.
  1420. >As if you didn’t have enough to think about, now all of this gets added onto your plate.
  1421. >The phone starts to ring again.
  1422. >Angrily, you whip it out and answer.
  1423. “What?”
  1424. >”Anonymous, I thought we talked about you declining my calls.”
  1425. “Get on with it,” you huff and start outside.
  1426. >”We have an emergency in Fillydelphia. You’re needed.”
  1427. “I’m busy.”
  1428. >”Not as busy as you would have to be to turn this down. Get moving now.”
  1429. “Listen here, Todd. I’m on vacation. Ask Jerry. Find someone else to clean up the mess. Got it?”
  1430. >”Watch your tone, young man.”
  1431. “Don’t call me again.”
  1432. >With that, you shut the phone and throw it onto the seat once your door is open.
  1433. >You climb into the truck and slam the door shut.
  1434. >As the engine roars to life, you lay your head against the steering wheel.
  1435. >This is just turning out wonderfully, isn’t it?
  1436.  
  1437. >Well, it looks like it’s up to you to stop a bunch of monsters from taking over the world.
  1438. >How many? How many races? How long do you have?
  1439. >All mysteries.
  1440. >What you do know is that, whatever it is, you’re sorely underpowered for it.
  1441. >You know right damn well the box in your bed is empty, and there’s just a few essentials for smallfrys in the duffle bag next to you.
  1442. >Maybe you should fix that.
  1443. >After all, a small cross isn’t going to stop a horde of night terrors from ripping your throat out.
  1444. >Although one can of hairspray and a lighter can dispose of an entire changeling hive.
  1445. >That’s kind of fun.
  1446. >You throw the old girl in drive and head down the street, making it back into the urbanized area soon enough.
  1447. >The traffic is god awful, but thankfully nobody remembers you as the one who ran three red lights and almost pushed a prius off the road.
  1448. >They deserved it though.
  1449. >You come up to a small chain of stores and end up parking in front of a curio shop aptly named “The Curio Shop”.
  1450. >Hopping out of your truck, you approach the door and bend down to examine the doorknob.
  1451. >It seems normal enough, but what about the underside?
  1452. >You grab it and turn, pulling the bottom of the brass piece into view.
  1453. >Engraved in it is a small set of horns popping out of what looks like a shoddily drawn wooden stake.
  1454. >It’s barely visible and you wouldn’t have seen it if you hadn’t been looking, but it’s good enough.
  1455. >Pushing in, the hefty oak door slides smoothly across the cold carpet of the store.
  1456. >You’re hit with a wall of must and dust as if somebody had opened up all the oldest books in a crypt.
  1457.  
  1458. >They certainly have the right atmosphere.
  1459. >You close the door behind you and walk towards the front counter, ignoring the shelves of tomes and tiny knick knacks.
  1460. >Some green haired joker standing behind the register smiles and waves.
  1461. >”Welcome to the Curio Shop,” he says happily. “What can I help you with?”
  1462. “I need some tools. Printer’s jammed.”
  1463. >He takes the black beanie off his head and strokes his hair before setting it down on the counter.
  1464. >”Are you looking for a quiet fix?”
  1465. “It’s heavy duty.”
  1466. >”Hey, sis, can you take this guy in the back?”
  1467. >”I got this,” shouts an overly excited woman.
  1468. >The purple skinned girl pops out from behind a door a few feet away, waving eagerly.
  1469. >You can’t help but scoff inwardly at how cheery these two are.
  1470. >As long as they have what you need though, you guess there’s nothing to be upset about.
  1471. >Tapping on the counter, you start toward that chick and enter the room with her.
  1472. >It’s much different than the lobby.
  1473. >Everything looks much sturdier, for example.
  1474. >Out there, the tables look like they’d fall apart if you leaned on them.
  1475. >The ones in this concrete box could probably take a blow from a manticore.
  1476. >She shuts the door and spends the next handful of seconds setting several locks lining the frame, sending metallic clicks throughout the nearly empty room.
  1477. >”What do you want to see today?”
  1478. “Show me the big stuff.”
  1479. >She goes to the wall across from the door and presses against one of the grey bricks, sending it a foot into the wall.
  1480. >A whole section of masonry follows it soon after and pulls away, letting some soothing baby blue light flood the room.
  1481. >A little table extends from the hole, revealing a wide array of weaponry.
  1482. >First one foot, then four, then eight feet.
  1483. >Finally, several sets of legs jut out from the bottom and prop the glass structure up.
  1484.  
  1485. >”As you can see, we have an extensive collection. I ask again, what are you looking for?”
  1486. >Your eyes pan over the collection.
  1487. >Most things look pretty futuristic, actually.
  1488. >You raise an eyebrow at the display and reach out for something that vaguely resembles a rifle.
  1489. >”Ah, the Tooter. You could hit a fly from a hundred yards with that. Not too strong though.”
  1490. “What is?”
  1491. >She takes the “Tooter” from you and sets it down gently.
  1492. >In its place, she gives you some big, burly, shimmering piece of machinery.
  1493. >”The Silver Buster is our strongest shotgun.”
  1494. “This is a shotgun?”
  1495. >”Modern design. She packs the biggest silver slugs you can fit in a gun without taking away the efficiency. Aim her at anything and it’s going down, even a high blood.”
  1496. >You grab the action and run it a few times.
  1497. >Smooth like glass.
  1498. ”How’s the aim?”
  1499. >”Well, I’ll put it this way. You want crowds.”
  1500. “And what if I’m down to individuals?”
  1501. >”What sort?”
  1502. “Any sort.”
  1503. >”I’m sorry, I’m going to need to see your assignment log.”
  1504. “Don’t have one.”
  1505. >”Sir, I’m sure you know hunters need assignments before they can purchase weapons outside of their specified prey. If you want weapons for multiple monsters, I need to know you’re verified.”
  1506. >You sigh and take out your wallet, remove the ID, and flip it to the back.
  1507. >It’s nearly identical to your federal license, but there are a few extra details that make bring a gasp out of her.
  1508. >”You’re kidding. A hunter special class? In our little store?”
  1509. >A slight smile forms on her round and freckled face.
  1510. >”Have you ever been to Balein? What about Chineigh?”
  1511.  
  1512. >You eye the table again and pick up a few small, sludge green spheres.
  1513. “What are these?”
  1514. >”Fire charges. Strike them on any surface and you’ll incinerate anything within five feet, severely burn within ten. How many races have you fought? My brother used to be a sub class for a while. He only got called in on a parasprite infestation.”
  1515. “I’ll take these too.”
  1516. >”How does someone even become a special class? Do you have to start as standard and work your way up or is there some other course you have to take?”
  1517. “Got any flashes?”
  1518. >The woman nods and picks up something that looks like a suped-up potato launcher.
  1519. >”We call him the Flash. This guy fires small silver shells set on a timer. When the clock its zero, solar charges inside explode and send out a burst of light brighter than your average stun grenade. So have you killed any changelings before? A hive moved into the Everfree a few years ago. It ended up shutting down the camp my brother and I ran. That’s why we opened this shop.”
  1520. >You scoop up the nicest pieces she showed you and put them on that steel table in the corner.
  1521. “I need something personal. Show me your blades.”
  1522. >She presses a little red button on the end of the table.
  1523. >There’s a beep, and all the legs rise up to their previous position as it slides back into the wall.
  1524. >As the bricks return into their places, the woman opens another secret door, and much like before, another table appears.
  1525. >Instead of guns, these are all close range weapons.
  1526. >Now these you recognize.
  1527. “Jeez, I thought swords went out of fashion years ago.”
  1528. >”They’re making a comeback. What’s it like having global jurisdiction? Is it fun knowing you’re not tied to a region or do you miss the connection?”
  1529. >It’s all pretty basic, but two things do catch your eyes. Three depending on how you count them.
  1530. >The first is a cross.
  1531. >Your first one kind of got eaten, so all you have is the silver one in your jacket.
  1532.  
  1533. >You snatch the metal totem up and toss it over to your pile of weapons on the table.
  1534. >It hits a fire charge, causing you to cringe, but nothing happens thankfully.
  1535. >Or unthankfully. Aren’t those supposed to explode when struck?
  1536. “Hey, uh, do those--”
  1537. >”They jam sometimes.”
  1538. “You’re kidding me.”
  1539. >”It’s 60-40 sort of deal.”
  1540. “You know that’s kind of fucking important to tell someone before they buy them, right?”
  1541. >”We would have told you at checkout.”
  1542. >Sure.
  1543. >You roll your eyes and grab the other things that caught your eye.
  1544. >They’re leather bracers, but there’s a blade on the outer side of each and what looks like a barrel on the top.
  1545. >”Nice choice. Those are some of our top sellers.”
  1546. >She picks the other up and slides it on over her dainty arm.
  1547. >After strapping it, she makes a quick jerking motion.
  1548. >The curved blade on the side extends a few inches out and juts past her fist.
  1549. >This blade was carved by high pressure holy water and tempered in the sun for three days.
  1550. “So it’s for the big two.”
  1551. >”The blades are. This,” she says, pointing to the barrel atop the bracers, “Is for smaller races. It fires single bolts of rose wood soaked in goblin blood. If you can’t kill it then, the infection will soon enough.”
  1552. “Diabolical. I’ll take it.”
  1553. >She smiles and returns the glowing blue blade to its resting position, then adds the bracers to your purchases.
  1554. >”Will there be anything else today, Mr. Special Class?”
  1555. “That’ll do it.”
  1556. >”And who should I order the payment from?”
  1557. >You approach the goods and load everything into a spare sac handy beside the table.
  1558. >The canvas stretches with the weight, but doesn’t break.
  1559. “Anonymous.”
  1560.  
  1561. >You throw it that bag, plus another she hands you later claiming it’s full of ammunition, over your shoulder.
  1562. >”What are you going to do when you retire?”
  1563. “Retire?” you chuckle.
  1564. >”I want to go somewhere warm.”
  1565. >You shake your head as she begins to unlock the door.
  1566. >At the final click, you grab the knob and open it up.
  1567. “Nobody becomes a hunter expecting to live a long life.”
  1568. >With that, you exit back into the stuffy curio lobby.
  1569. >The orange man stands the counter, still smiling.
  1570. >You thought there was something odd about his grin when you came in.
  1571. >It seemed too real to be so, as if he were putting more effort into smiling than any happy person would have to.
  1572. >Now it makes sense. You can only imagine what he saw at that camp.
  1573. >If it was bad enough to drive him to joining this mad world...
  1574. >Before you leave the store, you make a stop at the register.
  1575. >”Find what you needed?”
  1576. “Your sister was a big help.”
  1577. >”She always knows what to say.”
  1578. >You place your hand on his shoulder and squeeze.
  1579. “A lot of shitty things happen in this world, bud. If you keep smiling like you’re denying something, they’ll only win.”
  1580. >”What?”
  1581. “You know it never stops hurting. What you lost doesn’t come back. That’s nothing to smile over, is it?”
  1582. >His grin wavers for a second.
  1583. “Don’t lie to yourself. If you do, you let them win. Never back down. Got it?”
  1584. >”I don’t,” his voice trails off.
  1585. >His eyes dart around the room, refusing to meet yours.
  1586. >”What’s this about?”
  1587. “Have a good one,” you answer and take your leave.
  1588.  
  1589. >The door slides across the carpet and closes behind you as you make it back to the chilling sidewalks.
  1590. >You fumble with the keys in your pocket and find the one for the bed box.
  1591. >Hopping into the bed, you insert and turn in the padlocks, then open the steel container.
  1592. >Since it’s empty, there should be plenty of room for your new to--holy hell!
  1593. >”Gruhhh,” moans some poor, decaying chap covered in bandages.
  1594. “Oh shit, I forgot you were in there.”
  1595. >”Uuung…”
  1596. >Oh fuck. You were supposed to leave him in California.
  1597. >That’s why the West Office keeps calling you.
  1598. >You thought they just wanted their shrunken heads back.
  1599. >”Hunnn…”
  1600. >His cracked, green skin barely covers a half missing set of yellow teeth.
  1601. >The smell coming off of him turns your stomach.
  1602. >At least he’s not leaking.
  1603. >”Mhhuuuuh…”
  1604. “Shut up.”
  1605. >You take your new cross out of the canvas bag and toss it onto the sod’s chest.
  1606. >It sizzles, eliciting another groan from him.
  1607. >With that settled, you set your bags down in the clear spot of the box where his legs would be if he had any.
  1608. “I’ll take care of you later. Just sit tight for now.”
  1609. >”Nnuuuh…”
  1610. >Yeah, you’re done with this conversation.
  1611. >You shut the box and close the padlocks lining the top.
  1612. >Ah, soundproofed steel containers are the best.
  1613.  
  1614. >You climb into the cab and start up the engine, then head off for a gas station.
  1615. >While filling your truck up, you let your mind wander on various topics.
  1616. >You’re not sure what sort of cult is looking for your girls, you are sure that it’d be better to stay by them than to run off to some dark little corner of the world.
  1617. >If they die while you’re gone, this is all for nothing.
  1618. >Since you need to stay near them, you need to either find a way to bring Rainbow Dash to Manehattan or take Rarity down to Bahhston.
  1619. >Of course, that also raises a huge problem.
  1620. >How do you keep two names as large as theirs from interacting?
  1621. >World famous fashion designer visits Bahhston would be all over the papers, just like Hall of Famer heading to the Big Pear.
  1622. >Even if you could do it on the down low and keep that out of the headlines, a city is still a city.
  1623. >Things are going so well now because they’re so far apart.
  1624. >If you shorten that distance to a few measly streets, you run the risk of them finding each other.
  1625. >Then everything falls apart.
  1626. >The gas meter clicks and the injector jostles in the slot.
  1627. >You remove the tool, hang it back on the post, and insert a few loose bills into the machine.
  1628. >Fucking highway robbers. Five bucks a gallon in this shithole city. Your truck doesn’t sip; she guzzles.
  1629. >What if you took Rarity down to Bahhston and faked a few large scale disasters?
  1630. >The police presence would be enough to keep her indoors.
  1631. >Rainbow Dash would be impressed that her man was ballsy enough to sneak out while the cops are razing the city.
  1632. >But then you end up leaving Rarity alone in a strange city surrounded by police.
  1633. >That’s bound to tank your chances with her.
  1634. >God damn it.
  1635. >As if to put even more of a damper on your mood, your phone starts to ring.
  1636. >You whip it out and glare at the screen.
  1637. >That no chin motherfucker.
  1638. >Digging your thumb between the flats, you flip the phone open and press it to your ear.
  1639.  
  1640. >”Hello,” comes a voice that would sound fitting for a trembling leaf on the breeze.
  1641. “Howdy.”
  1642. >”Is this Paper Works Inc.?”
  1643. “It sure is. Printer jammed?”
  1644. >”Yeah. It’s bad.”
  1645. “Can you describe the nature of the issue?” you ask as you climb into the Ram and pull out of the gas station.
  1646. >She, the woman on the other end of the phone, goes on about how ink keeps spraying everywhere and the paper won’t feed in.
  1647. “Yeah, ok, just tell me where you are.”
  1648. >”I’m in the new high rise across from Celes Tower, apartment 8041.”
  1649. >Celes Tower? Aw shit, that’s where Rarity lives.
  1650. >Right then, something else clicks in your head.
  1651. “An apartment complex? Has the infestation spread?”
  1652. >”The ink is everywhere,” she stammers.
  1653. >So that’s what that means.
  1654. >And you said infestation over the phone. You’re going to be getting a management call soon.
  1655. “Sit tight. I’ll be there soon,” you groan and shut the phone.
  1656. >Fuck, you really don’t want to be that close to Rarity while hunting.
  1657. >Hopefully she’s either out in the city or is held up inside.
  1658. >You take the fastest route to her place and park in the garage down the block.
  1659. >Having found the perfect place to tuck your truck away, you feel comfortable in leaving it this close to her.
  1660. >It’s nestled between a prius and a shady looking box van, so the only people that should be coming by here will be too high off their asses to recognize you or, in the off chance they find the pseudo corpse, question it.
  1661. >You pop the box and hold up a finger to the gent’s mouth.
  1662. >He glares at you, but contains his moans.
  1663.  
  1664. >You peel open the bag of weapons and take out the little bracers along with two fire charges and a solar shell.
  1665. >Your friend seems to be getting restless, so as you load the barrels of your bracers with the correct bolts, you say, “I know you’re mad, but bear with me here. It’s just another mont--”
  1666. >”Mmhhhh…”
  1667. “It’s just another month and then I’ll take you to California.”
  1668. >All loaded up.
  1669. >There’s also your cross in your jacket, so that’s handy.
  1670. “Now sit tight. I’ll be back.”
  1671. >After closing and locking the bed box, you cover the bracers with your jacket sleeves and make off for the job.
  1672. >Depending on how one sets up their priorities, this should be worth ignoring. After all, it’s one apartment building compared to the fate of the world.
  1673. >You’re supposed to watch the little guy though, and vague as that is, you should keep your options open.
  1674. >Except for options that lead to Fillydelphia.
  1675. >When you make it out onto the street, you flip the collar of your jacket up to try and hide your face in case Rarity, from her top floor apartment, might be looking down at the streets.
  1676. >The Luno building is close now. Just another hundred yards or so.
  1677. >Get in there, clear the infestation, and get out.
  1678. >Looking at it now, it’s not too tall. Only about twenty stories.
  1679. >Let’s just say it takes you ten minutes for a floor. You shouldn’t be in there for more than a few hours.
  1680. >And hey, it’s not so bad, you guess.
  1681. >You can clear this building, head by the drug store down the street to freshen up, and then surprise Rarity. Maybe you could go for another walk or take her to dinner.
  1682. >As long as she doesn’t see you beforehand, you’re golden.
  1683.  
  1684. >”Anonymous, fancy meeting you!”
  1685. >Fuck.
  1686. >You put on a smile and turn around, spotting Rarity pushing through a large herd of disgruntled humans.
  1687. >When she approaches, her joyous expression vanishes and her nose wrinkles back into her skull.
  1688. >”Oh my,” she groans. “What brand is that? You smell positively sour.”
  1689. >Odeur du goblin.
  1690. “I know, I know. The trash team was out at work so I had to pick up the slack for them. I was actually on my way back home to wash up before I swung by. You’re game for something tonight, right?”
  1691. >The tiniest hint of a smile returns.
  1692. >Rarity plugs her nose before opening her mouth, and even that seems to pain her.
  1693. >”I would love to. Why don’t I just follow you and we can head right out once you’ve gotten,” she continues, gesturing to the entirety of you, “That taken care of.”
  1694. “My smell.”
  1695. >”The smell, yes.”
  1696. “Well, you know, I’d love to have you over, but I’m actually remodelling so there’s just plaster everywhere and paint and, gee, you don’t want to walk next to me smelling like this. I’ll be back.”
  1697. >”If you insist, darling.”
  1698. >Just when you thought you were home free, she takes a deep breath, puffing her cheeks out like a white chipmunk, and leans in to plant one on your lips.
  1699. >You lock up as her freezing flesh makes contact with you, and the urge to stab her increases.
  1700. >Before you have the chance to do anything though, she pulls back and starts across the street for her own home.
  1701. >”Ta ta for now!”
  1702. “Yeah, see you!”
  1703.  
  1704. >You wait until she’s safely inside, and then stand there for about five minutes more just to be sure she’s far and away from the door.
  1705. >Once the light is green, you begin your trek through the sea of pedestrians and make it up to the Luno building.
  1706. >You peek in through the glass pane door and note that it’s fucking dead in there.
  1707. >Ha. Get it?
  1708. >Well, there’s actually one person standing at the front desk.
  1709. >From the look on their face, they’re either dead inside or dead outside, but dead for sure.
  1710. >This isn’t another zombie crisis, is it?
  1711. >You hate zombies.
  1712. >You push against the door to move in but end up smashing your face against the glass.
  1713. “A high rise apartment building locked up on a cozy Wednesday afternoon. Yeah, ok.”
  1714. >Knocking a few times gets the attention of the concierge.
  1715. >So slowly that you can almost hear the squeaks of his unused neck turning on the rusty hinges, he looks over at you.
  1716. >Just looks. No “hi”, no “one moment”.
  1717. >Fucking prick.
  1718. >You really don’t want to break this door down in broad daylight.
  1719. >Hey now, that’s an idea.
  1720. >You reach into your pocket and grab the solar shell.
  1721. >About where the hammer would strike it if you used the gun, there’s a small notch that you can move with your thumb nail.
  1722. >It clicks, and you can feel it vibrate with every tick as the clock starts.
  1723. >One...two...three...four…
  1724. >Got the frequency.
  1725. >You take it out and drop it on the ground, then kick it away to the middle of the sidewalk.
  1726. >You don’t know how many people step on it as the time melts away.
  1727. >Assuming the frequency was consistent, after nine ticks, there’s a huge flash of light that warms you right to your bones.
  1728. >The mass of people shout as the bright flash blinds everyone.
  1729. >In the short period of time you have, you take out your cross and smash it into the center of the pane, shattering it.
  1730.  
  1731. >At that point, you march right in.
  1732. >The concierge doesn’t react too poorly.
  1733. >His only sign of resistance is lifting an arm to point at you, but once that falls off his shoulder and slaps down on the desk, he seems to lose interest.
  1734. >You approach, pick up a pencil off the mahogany flat, and jam it right into his temple.
  1735. >The writing utensil sinks into his flesh and penetrates the bone without any effort at all, and he drops to the floor after pounding his forehead on the counter.
  1736. >It leaves behind some mush.
  1737. >Great, zombies.
  1738. >You sigh and start combing through the first floor, searching for any ne’er dowells.
  1739. >Nothing is out of place and you can’t smell rotting flesh.
  1740. >What you can smell is a spill in the janitor’s closet, which lands you with a pretty nifty broom handle.
  1741. >With that in hand, you climb the stairs to the next floor and start on the apartments.
  1742. >One by one, you check inside and skulk around each room.
  1743. >Nothing on the second floor either.
  1744. >Huh. You’d think with “ink everywhere”, there would be more monsters.
  1745. >Yeah, you’d think.
  1746. >Your grip on the handle tightens as you slowly step up the staircase to floor three.
  1747. >Be ready for anything, Anon.
  1748. >You make it to the top of the case and open up the corridor, peeking into the hallway.
  1749. >Jesus fuck.
  1750. >Yeah, you found the ink.
  1751. >Every inch of the hallway is covered in deceased human.
  1752. >The undead shuffle around, moaning at their predicament.
  1753.  
  1754. >Alright, that’s not so bad.
  1755. >Well, it is, but you’ve seen worse.
  1756. >There was that one time in Bitaly when some summoning circle went wrong and the caster accidentally brought a plague of six Hells upon some village.
  1757. >That day sucked.
  1758. >Might as well jump into things, right?
  1759. >You throw the door open fully, knocking over a corpse, and jump right in.
  1760. >Another zombie falls down from the quick movement and lands its head in just the right spot.
  1761. >You slam the door shut again, effectively killing the beast and sealing off the stairwell from any wanderers.
  1762. >From there, it’s just a bloodbath.
  1763. >A shit show through and through.
  1764. >The undead swarm you, but with your trusty broomstick, you keep them back.
  1765. >Heads crunch against the sturdy wood, turning brain to mush, right up until the thing snaps in half.
  1766. “You fucker,” you snarl and stomp on the hard head that destroyed your new favorite tool.
  1767. >The crack that resounds from the blow, mocking you, laughing at how you couldn’t squash the head completely, only angers you.
  1768. >You pull your leg back and let it rip, sending the foot flying for the skull.
  1769. >Your hard boot collides with the head, this time finishing the job and breaking right through the front of the sod’s face.
  1770. >Blood coating its blonde hair rubs off on your pants.
  1771. >With the two sharp half poles you have left, you spend the next few minutes jamming them through the eye sockets of your victims.
  1772. >Soon enough, the third floor is cleared.
  1773. >After doing one final walk around to make extra sure nothing was hiding, you arrive back at the corridor and lean against the wall to catch your breath.
  1774. >You try to wipe your forehead of sweat and just end up wiping blood all over your face.
  1775.  
  1776. >A quick examination of your form shows that you are just drenched in blood.
  1777. >Well that’s fucking dandy.
  1778. >Now you have to figure out a way to make it somewhere with a shower to wash all this shit off before Rarity smells you and makes a salad bar out of you.
  1779. >Well, onward and upward.
  1780. >You push through the door and make it up to floor four.
  1781. >Five, six, seven, eight, and nine, and ten, are all as empty as two was.
  1782. >While you’re not particularly complaining about not having to fight twenty floors of zombies, you can’t help but feel a little unsettled by the fact that out of this whole fucking building, the entire populations seem to be centralized on a few floors.
  1783. >You don’t have any time to think about that since right when you open the door to floor eleven, you’re slammed by a wall of flesh.
  1784. >Hordes of the undead rush at you, teeth bared and nails swinging.
  1785. >You hold them back the best you can, but it’s just too much.
  1786. >The weight of dozens of humans forces you back, pressing you up against the railing of the stairwell.
  1787. >You look down at the last ten stories and feel some sweat forming underneath the layer of blood on your face.
  1788. >Of all the ways you could die, it’s not going to be falling down the stairs.
  1789. >Not before you’ve completed your mission, at least.
  1790. >You pour all your strength into one arm and use that to hold back the zombies as their efforts begin to bend the railing behind you.
  1791. >With your free hand, you fish out a fire charge and press the button atop the sphere.
  1792. >Within seconds, it’s burning your hand and glowing like an ember.
  1793. >You toss it over the heads of your immediate attackers and into the crowd past the door.
  1794. >Before you can even count to three, an intense heat erupts from the hallway.
  1795.  
  1796. >There’s a short burst of fire and a shockwave that almost pushes you over the edge.
  1797. >When the flames are gone though, you note that so is a huge chunk of the problem.
  1798. >There’s nothing but a black, smoldering pile of ash where at least nine zombies once stood.
  1799. >The rest around that spot are spasming on the ground as small tongues of fire lick their decaying flesh.
  1800. >Now you can deal with the ginger bitch in front.
  1801. >You grunt and shove her away, knocking her back into the hallway and sending her onto the floor.
  1802. >One of the zombies that happened to survive that little fire blast nips at your ankle, but you’re able to move out of the way before anything nasty happens.
  1803. >Brandishing your two poles, you drop to your knees, using the force of your body to drive the sharp ends through the skulls of those two zombies.
  1804. >Right. You still have all these floors to go.
  1805. >It takes you another hour, but you’ve worked your way up to the twentieth floor.
  1806. >There was a short break there during fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, but holy shit, those last two floors were something else.
  1807. >You stop outside the door, panting heavily.
  1808. >Your whole body feels like the frailest form of lead.
  1809. >Heavy, yet weak enough the shatter from its own weight.
  1810. “Oh my fucking god,” you mutter, able to hear the voices coming from inside the hallway just beyond the steel door separating you from Hell’s unwanteds.
  1811. >It doesn’t end.
  1812. >Every single God damned day, no, every single second, there’s some monster somewhere causing trouble.
  1813. >These creatures--these walking tumors--think they own the damn planet.
  1814. >As you grind your teeth, you can feel your strength returning to you, even if just barely.
  1815. >It’s enough to spur you on.
  1816. >You stand back and kick the door open, then charge in with the broomsticks held high.
  1817.  
  1818. >”Afternoon!”
  1819. >Those aren’t zombies!
  1820. >You throw all your weight backwards to undo that lunge, but it’s too late.
  1821. >A huge, furry hand reaches out and grabs your shirt.
  1822. >The arm it’s attached to, rippling with muscle, leads to the thickest man you’ve ever laid eyes on, and you don’t mean fat.
  1823. >His piercing yellow eyes burn through the dark brown hair covering his deformed face.
  1824. >You’re picked up off your feet and waved around like a ragdoll until the buttons on your shirt give out and you go flying down the tight, ugly, pale blue passage of the Luno top floor.
  1825. >You hit the ground with a thud and skid along the carpet.
  1826. >There’s not even a second to think before another beast, this time grey, is upon you.
  1827. >You thrust your left arm out and jerk your wrist, activating the mechanism on the bracer and sending the blade out.
  1828. >The sharp metal rips through your sleeve, extends past your fist, and digs into the chest of the wolfman.
  1829. >A quick puff and gust of air tells you you caught a lung, but the heart remains intact.
  1830. >The wolfman howls and pulls back, clutching its wound.
  1831. >You scramble to your feet and kick off the ground, launching yourself for the injured animal.
  1832. >With your right arm now, you ready the blade and stab at its heart.
  1833. >Your weapon sinks into its muscle and pierces the heart.
  1834. >It lets out one final cry before going limp in your arms, resting its heavy head over your shoulder as you lean onto the wall.
  1835. >A period of silence washes over the hallway.
  1836. >Well, mostly quiet.
  1837. >You can still hear your heart in your ears.
  1838. >That was close. Way too close.
  1839.  
  1840. >When your senses come back to you, you evaluate that there are two extra wolfmen, one werewolf, and one humanoid monster left in the hallway.
  1841. >Jesus, Joseph, and Mary, what did you do to deserve this?
  1842. >On the bright side, wolfmen are just watered down werewolves.
  1843. >Although you guess that’s not really a downside since silver doesn’t really work either unless you nail them in the heart.
  1844. >How you can deal with this is a thought sitting way in the back of your head right now.
  1845. >What simmers in the forefront is “what are they all doing here?”
  1846. >This was supposed to be a zombie crisis, not a rave for all the creatures of the night.
  1847. >What’s a fucking werewolf doing up here?
  1848. >Speaking of, it takes one step forward, and that’s enough to send a chill running down your body.
  1849. >You tense up, tightening your hold on the dead wolfman in your arms.
  1850. >Your mind races as the time on your life ticks away.
  1851. >Think, Anon, think.
  1852. “There a party I didn’t hear about?”
  1853. >That’s not going to buy you any time, idiot.
  1854. >The wolfman closest to you, the brown one who greeted you at the door, smiles as best he can with his screwed jaw.
  1855. >Right.
  1856. >Carefully, so as to draw as little suspicion as you can, you start a cut in your victim’s stomach.
  1857. >It’s small at first, but soon it’s long enough that you can work around inside the abdomen.
  1858. >The only thing that worries you is all the blood dripping.
  1859. >You sincerely hope they’re dumb enough to think that’s from the initial wound.
  1860. “Is it the silent game then? I’ll warn you, I’m bad at this one.”
  1861. >”Shut up, jackass,” snarls the werewolf.
  1862.  
  1863. >From your pocket, you retrieve three fire charges and activate them all.
  1864. >The window you have to operate from their activation to when they blow is very small, so this all needs to work perfectly or else…
  1865. >Or else...
  1866. >Oh no. No no no no.
  1867. >They’re not turning on.
  1868. >Maybe the button is busted.
  1869. >Does that mean you have to strike them instead, or is it that if one part is busted, both are?
  1870. >60-40. Raw fucking deal.
  1871. >You drop the wolfman in such a way that his gash is still facing you.
  1872. >One of the fire charges rolls out and almost falls onto the floor, but it gets caught on a flap of skin and stays ends up staying put.
  1873. >Slowly, you back away from the scene.
  1874. “Hey now, I’m just looking for some answers. I mean, I come here looking to rock out with some undead buddies of mine, and instead I meet a couple of mutts. What’s the big idea?”
  1875. >”You don’t need to know. You need to die.”
  1876. “That is so cliche. Can’t you think of something else?”
  1877. >The farther back you move, the closer they come.
  1878. >”Our boss put a lot of effort into making sure this all went right. We’re not about to ruin it by telling you everything and leaving you an opening to kill us.”
  1879. “I guess that’s not a bad idea. You’re at least more efficient than other monsters. I’ll concede that you’re smarter than the average wolf.”
  1880. >Just a little closer, guys.
  1881. >You’re kind of betting everything on these charges, so, you know...fingers crossed.
  1882. >”We’re a special breed.”
  1883. >It does pain you to kill these stooges before you can learn their master plan not only because that’s like a big middle finger to you, but you’re also sure they’re part of this cult of darkness thing.
  1884. >That said, you’re also fond of not dying, and you’re not entirely sure that you can do both that and talk them out of their plan.
  1885.  
  1886. “I get that. Still, it is just one human against three wolves. Even I know those odds, which is why I’m going to take this time to beg for my life.”
  1887. >You raise your hands up at them, keeping your arms straight.
  1888. “Come on, I’m not such a bad guy once you get to know me. Just let this slide?”
  1889. >”No can do. Orders are orders.”
  1890. “What’d a guy like me do to get on your radar anyway?”
  1891. >”We already said no.”
  1892. >”Boss said no,” snaps the brown wolfman, taking quite a large step forward and biting at the air.
  1893. “Ok, ok,” you spit out.
  1894. >Yeah, it’s one or the other. You can’t do both.
  1895. “I can see where you’re coming from. Wolves are loyal creatures and you have your orders. Still though, it kind of sucks your last words are ‘boss said no,’ don’t you think?”
  1896. >”What?”
  1897. “I stand corrected.”
  1898. >You close your fist and wrench your wrist, activating the firing mechanism on the top of the bracer.
  1899. >From the barrel shoots a small dart coated in some red, foul smelling blood.
  1900. >The wolves can’t react to it in time for the bolt to strike a visible fire charge.
  1901. >Instantly, they all burst into flames.
  1902. >The force of the blast knocks you off your feet and sends you toppling onto your ass.
  1903. >You hold your arms up to protect from the heat as intense fire blazes through the hall, rolling up the walls and biting the ceiling.
  1904. >You stare at the scene, counting the number of corpses.
  1905. >Yep, that’s every wolf.
  1906. >The fire dies down and eventually puts itself out, leaving you with just the ashes, a few scattered limbs, and the cooked bottom half of a werewolf.
  1907. >And that’s one building clea--
  1908.  
  1909. >Not clear! Not clear!
  1910. >You roll away, pressing your back up against the side wall to make way for that humanoid monster from earlier.
  1911. >It speeds past you, down the hall, and takes a stellar leap out the window.
  1912. >Once in the air, it shifts its form and becomes just a cloud of mist that leaves your sight.
  1913. “Whatever,” you grumble and push yourself up onto your feet.
  1914. >Now the building is clear.
  1915. >Aw fuck, no it isn’t.
  1916. >Somebody called you in on this.
  1917. >That means there’s at least one person here.
  1918. >Or rather, at one point, there was.
  1919. >They might have ended up being part of the zombie horde, or maybe even that last monster, but you can’t exactly leave without making sure.
  1920. >You haven’t checked this floor yet anyway.
  1921. >Keeping your blades ready, you carefully inspect every room, taking your sweet time making it around corners.
  1922. >Nothing shows up until the very last one, in which you find a small purple woman with glasses, buck naked and covered in scratches.
  1923. >Her thighs, belly, and plump breasts are all covered in long, angry looking wounds.
  1924. >Her eyes land on your blood soaked form and almost pop out of her glasses.
  1925. >The small squeals she makes are muffled by the gag in her mouth in much the same way as her squirms are halted by the ropes tying her four limbs to the bedposts.
  1926. >You stand there, waiting, watching, with your breath caught in your throat.
  1927. >If those are werewolf scratches, with how long you’ve been on this floor since the first encounter, she could turn at any second.
  1928. >Even as the tears begin to fall from her eyes, you don’t budge.
  1929. >Cry all you want, girlie. This hunter isn’t taking a chance on it.
  1930.  
  1931. >For another minute, you watch her, waiting for a transformation, but it doesn’t come.
  1932. >You sigh in relief and lower your guard, then approach her.
  1933. >She screams again, unable to make much of the noise through her gag, as you reach for her.
  1934. >Grabbing her wrist, you pull it out and make the rope taut.
  1935. >Then in a quick motion, you slice right through it.
  1936. >Her arm, now freed, flies to her mouth and undoes the gag.
  1937. >A whole lot of thank you’s come your way as you undo her legs.
  1938. >She fixes the other arm herself and, once fully freed, leaps off the bed and grabs onto you.
  1939. >She presses herself against your jacket, coating her injured form in monster guts and blood, and cries into your shoulder.
  1940. >Why does every woman feel the need to do this?
  1941. >Even the vampires, apparently.
  1942. >You withhold an annoyed groan and instead go to pat her head, giving gentle strokes down the back.
  1943. “It’s ok,” you soothe her. “They’re gone.”
  1944. >”Thank you. Thank you for answering my call. Thank you, thank you, thank you, sir.”
  1945. “Yep. Ok, that’s good on the hugging.”
  1946. >Her grip tightens and she moves her head to nuzzle your neck.
  1947. >”I don’t know what would have happened to me if you hadn’t come. I can’t thank you enough.”
  1948. >You raise an eyebrow and scan her.
  1949. >Butt naked, tied to a bed, and covered in superficial wounds?
  1950. >She knows exactly what would have happened.
  1951. >Nobody’s that dumb.
  1952. “Is there anybody else around?”
  1953. >”No,” she replies. “Everyone is dead.”
  1954. “Almost everyone,” you say, giving her another pat.
  1955. >”Yeah, almost.”
  1956.  
  1957. >With some amount of effort, you part from her.
  1958. >Standing up, you turn your back to the purple woman and examine yourself.
  1959. >Jesus, you’re covered head to toe in blood and guts.
  1960. >Somehow, you have to manage to clean all this off yourself well enough that Rarity can’t smell anything on you later.
  1961. >You can explain a lot of things away, but you don’t even want to think about how to word out why you smell like eight hundred different blood bags.
  1962. “Hey, you got a shower in here?”
  1963. >”Huh? Yeah, of course.”
  1964. >Somebody in this building must have some clothes you could use.
  1965. >You pull off your jacket, heavy with blood, and let it flop onto the floor.
  1966. >Next, you grab the bottom of your shirt and yank it up over your head, smearing the liquids all over yourself.
  1967. >You throw that unceremoniously onto the floor as well and make it over to a mirror, just to look for shits and giggles.
  1968. >The room is plainly visible in the reflection, but the purple girl is nowhere to be found.
  1969. >Must have left.
  1970. >That’s probably for the best anyway.
  1971. >You chuckle, remembering all the times people caught looks at your scar riddled body.
  1972. >It’s usually the same look of shock or disgust.
  1973. >”My, your body sure does tell quite a story.”
  1974. >She’s ba--
  1975. >Your heart stops.
  1976. >Your breathing stops.
  1977. >That voice came from behind you.
  1978. >But the mirror…
  1979. >”Like I said. Everyone’s dead.”
  1980. >Before you can even turn, she grabs onto your shoulders and hoists you up off the ground.
  1981. >Like a ragdoll, you’re thrown across the room.
  1982. >As you soar through the air, you twist and spot her wicked smile, fangs on full display.
  1983. >”Ta ta, hunter.”
  1984. >Bitch!
  1985.  
  1986. >Your form shatters the window you collide with.
  1987. >Glass slices into your back, but that’s not even a concern right now.
  1988. >You’re airborne now, in every sense of the word.
  1989. >Twenty stories up and the whole world looks so tiny beneath you.
  1990. >Like a rock, you drop.
  1991. >The floors speed by you, becoming mere blurs in your speedy descent.
  1992. >You’ve taken some hits, but one like this would be the end.
  1993. >There’s nothing but concrete and people below you.
  1994. >Nothing to land on.
  1995. >No tools to use.
  1996. >Think, Anon!
  1997. >In a last ditch effort, you extend your hand and grab onto outstretched stone arm of a statue far too close to ground level.
  1998. >The shoulder of the structure creaks, and bits of rock fly into your face as your sudden weight fractures your grappling point.
  1999. >You swing, throwing yourself toward a window just three feet away.
  2000. >It’s a few inches open. Just enough for you to slide your fingers into and hold steady.
  2001. >You feel like someone just plugged a space heater into your chest.
  2002. >Everything is warm, especially your cheeks and bowels.
  2003. >You swallow hard and try to get a bearing on your situation.
  2004. >Not one thought enters your mind before all the alarms in your head start going off.
  2005. >Through the window you’re clinging to, you can see her enter the room.
  2006. >She closes the distance between you and the door in just a second.
  2007. >You shout and throw yourself back, not thinking too much about the consequences of that action until it’s too late to take it back.
  2008. >Your feet slip off the blue bricks and once more, you’re plummeting.
  2009. >This time, you don’t catch anything.
  2010. >Instead, you hit the plastic canopy covering the entrance area and bounce off it, flying up a couple feet before heading back for the ground.
  2011. >You slam onto the concrete, right on your bad side, and howl in pain as the shock of it rips through your chest.
  2012.  
  2013. >Groaning, you scrape yourself up off the ground and crawl over to the side of the building, laying your back against it to catch your breath.
  2014. >You clutch your ribs, trying hopelessly to hold the burning inside yourself.
  2015. >Thankfully, the bystanders continue walking without a care in the world, as if a shirtless man covered in blood falling from the sky was just an everyday occurrence.
  2016. >Granted, in some parts of the world, it is.
  2017. >Wait, no, you have to move.
  2018. >Get away from this building, jackass.
  2019. >Grabbing onto a nearby trash can, you use it to pull yourself up onto your feet.
  2020. >Your damp shoes squelch as weight returns to them, but it’s not the sound of your feet that chills your hot body.
  2021. >What sends a shiver down your spine is the sound of breaking glass a few yards behind you.
  2022. >Slowly, you turn your head.
  2023. >There she is.
  2024. >The purple vampire.
  2025. >Fuck, fuck, fuck.
  2026. >Find a stake.
  2027. >No, your bracers. Those will do.
  2028. >You wrench your wrist, bringing the holy blade forth past your fist.
  2029. >She doesn’t look at you though.
  2030. >The now fully clothed woman completely ignores you as she walks by, acting just as oblivious as any of the pedestrians surrounding you.
  2031. >Not even a yard away, she disappears into the huge crowd.
  2032. >Are...are you safe?
  2033. >Is this going to turn into an ambush?
  2034.  
  2035. >You blink and wipe your eyes, wincing as the pain of that reminds you that your hands are covered in blood and now trash as well.
  2036. >Forced now to squint, you scan the area, keeping an eye out for any colors that particularly stand out.
  2037. >Of all the candy-coated people, none of them are purple.
  2038. >You finally feel like you can calm down, but instead opt not to.
  2039. >Who knows? Once you’re calm, she might jump out.
  2040. >Just because you can’t see her doesn’t mean she’s not there.
  2041. >Ever watchful, you take a deep breath and start on the walk back to your truck.
  2042. >The bitter fall air bites at your skin even more now that you’re wet, and you fear your nipples might become sharper than your blades soon.
  2043. >When you reach your truck, the first thing you do is blast the heat.
  2044. >Eventually, you make it to the Charlemane Manehattan branch, and crawl out of your vehicle.
  2045. >You moan and grab your ribs again.
  2046. >After taking a few steps, you stop dead and pat down your pants, making sure your wallet hadn’t fallen out in the action.
  2047. >Nope, the leathery lump in your pocket is still present.
  2048. >Well at least one good thing happened today.
  2049. >The man at the front desk looks you over and sighs when you slap some money down on the counter.
  2050. “Extended stay.”
  2051. >”You gonna get mah rooms all mussed up?”
  2052. “Just the one.”
  2053. >”O’course.”
  2054. >His lazy eye eventually trails down to the pile of bloody bills you placed on the laminated wood.
  2055. >”That gets ya three nights.”
  2056. “Whatever.”
  2057. >You snatch the key from his hand and head into your assigned apartment to freshen up.
  2058. >Once you’re in, you make a beeline for the kitchen and use the provided salt to cover up all entrances to the room.
  2059.  
  2060. >After that, you spend a fair amount of time cleaning up.
  2061. >It takes an hour and a half of vigorous scrubbing until your skin was red, but you’re confident that the scent of blood has been replaced with lavender and aftershave.
  2062. >Unzipping your duffle bag, you pull out the only change of clothes you packed, those being jeans and white t-shirt, which you fully expect to be not white by the end of the week.
  2063. >Aw shit, you need a new jacket.
  2064. >A quick look outside shows that the sun has begun to set, so the clock is ticking as far as Rarity is concerned.
  2065. >You grab a few essentials and bail on the place, gunning for a clothing shop nearby.
  2066. >They provide you with a plain brown canvas jacket.
  2067. >All set with that, you finally head off for Rarity’s place.
  2068. >Being back in that area makes you weary, and you can already feel the sweat on your forehead.
  2069. >Calling out isn’t an option right now.
  2070. >Anything that could possibly hinder your relationship is an absolute negative.
  2071. >With a moment’s hesitation, you hop out of the truck and march across the black to Celes Tower.
  2072. >You cross your arms, keeping your right hand close to the silver cross inside your jacket.
  2073. >Anything jumps, and they get it.
  2074. >Nothing terribly bad happens on the way there.
  2075. >You greet the doorman and he doesn’t lunge for your neck.
  2076. >None of the bystanders in the lobby seem particularly interested in feasting on you.
  2077. >There’s also no purple people as far as you can tell.
  2078. >Everything is looking good so far.
  2079. >The elevator doors slide open, beckoning you to enter.
  2080. >You almost do, too, until the thought of you being stuck in a closed steel box with a psycho vampire flashes in your mind.
  2081. “Stairs.”
  2082.  
  2083. >It only takes six extra minutes, but you end up at the top floor.
  2084. >The gross yellow carpeting of the building is gone when you reach this point, replaced by bleach white.
  2085. >Everything.
  2086. >It’s all white.
  2087. >At least with all this blankness, any purple will just pop right out.
  2088. >You take a few deep breaths and count to ten as you approach the door to her suite.
  2089. >Have to calm down before you meet her. Hell, she can probably hear your heartbeat already.
  2090. >You were excited at the prospect of seeing her. Yeah, that’s what you can say if she asks.
  2091. >The stark whiteness of her door is almost blinding.
  2092. >It’s odd, really.
  2093. >This close to her, you almost feel safe.
  2094. >It’s not that you trust her, just that you trust her more than the other one.
  2095. >If anything were to happen, you have a vampire on your side.
  2096. >Well, “on your side” is strong phrasing.
  2097. >It’s hard to explain, but the point is that you feel safe enough to uncross your arms.
  2098. >Following that, you knock on the door a few times and wait.
  2099. >And wait.
  2100. >And wow, it’s already been ten seconds.
  2101. >She sure is taking her sweet time.
  2102. >Since you’ve known her, it never took more than five.
  2103. >”Coming,” comes the voice you’ve come to know so well.
  2104. >In another few moments, the lock clicks, the knob turns, and her alabaster door swings open.
  2105. >”My, don’t you look gruff,” she says with a smirk.
  2106. >She shakes her head, throwing the deep purple mane back over her shoulder.
  2107. >A few of the luscious curls part as well, showing off her soft, gentle eyes.
  2108. >What you’d give to jam a screwdriver in them.
  2109.  
  2110. “Shall we then?” you ask, extending an elbow.
  2111. >”Oh, not quite yet, darling!”
  2112. >The excited woman does grab your elbow, but she pulls you into her apartment and closes the door.
  2113. >”There’s someone I want you to meet.”
  2114. >You let out a little laugh and follow her into the main room where a few modern pieces of furniture si--
  2115. >Oh hell no.
  2116. >”So you’re Anonymous,” chirps a very familiar purple woman perched on Rarity’s sofa.
  2117. >”Anon, this is Twilight. We used to be close in high school.”
  2118. >”I recently moved into town and I wanted to visit an old friend. You don’t mind if I move in on your turf, do you, Anon?”
  2119. >Her smile tells two totally different stories depending on the perspective of the person looking at it.
  2120. >Twilight adjusts her thick framed glasses and leans back, resting on the couch.
  2121. >Suddenly, Rarity’s hand finds its way to your forehead.
  2122. >”Darling, are you quite alright? You’re pale as a ghost.”
  2123. >They were friends in high school?
  2124. >You sure as hell don’t remember a Twilight.
  2125. >It must have happened after you left.
  2126. >”Darling? Oh, do sit down.”
  2127. “What?”
  2128. >Your date drags you over to the couch and plots you down just two feet from Twilight.
  2129. >You can feel the blood in your veins coagulating as you sit in a vain attempt to solidify its place in your body as opposed to hers.
  2130. >”We might not be able to go out with you like this.”
  2131. “Wow now,” you interject, suddenly more aware of Rarity than earlier. “I’m good. The jacket’s just warm. I need air is all.”
  2132. >”Nonsense! I’m getting you some water. Twilight, do keep him company.”
  2133. >”Gotcha.”
  2134. >Rarity darts out of the room and into the kitchen to mess around with some glasses.
  2135.  
  2136. >”So, you two been dating long?”
  2137. >You stare at her, long and hard, in a mix of disbelief and...no, not fear. Not a mix.
  2138. >You’re not afraid.
  2139. >Don’t give her that power over you.
  2140. >Even so, that’s easier thought than done.
  2141. >You keep seeing yourself falling to the ground.
  2142. >How many seconds would it take her to throw you out the window?
  2143. >Two? Three?
  2144. >She wouldn’t do that though. No, not in front of Rarity.
  2145. >Right?
  2146. >”You ok, Anon?”
  2147. “Huh?”
  2148. >”I asked you a question. What, is there something else on your mind?”
  2149. >She sounds so concerned, but that damned smile kills it for you.
  2150. >Anybody with, say, super hearing might think it’s a caring friend.
  2151. >Anybody looking at her, at those long fangs, would get a very different vibe.
  2152. >She wiggles her eyebrows at you and makes a small biting gesture.
  2153. “What was the question?”
  2154. >”You two been dating long?”
  2155. “A while.”
  2156. >”A while, huh?”
  2157. “Yeah.”
  2158. >”That’s nice. How did you meet?”
  2159. “We bumped into each other.”
  2160. >”That’s all?”
  2161. >Remember, Anon. Rarity is listening.
  2162. “I bumped into her at the market. When I saw her,” you struggle to produce your words, having to look at Twilight strangling the air while suppressing a giggle. “I knew I’d found the most beautiful girl on Earth. I had to get to know her.”
  2163. >”Aw, how sweet.”
  2164. “Don’t tell her I said that though.”
  2165.  
  2166. >”Don’t worry, cowboy. Your secret is safe with me.”
  2167. “Is it?”
  2168. >”I won’t tell as long as you don’t.”
  2169. >You’re going to fucking stab her if she keeps smiling like that.
  2170. >”Back,” calls out Rarity, arriving with a tall, slim glass of crystal clear water.
  2171. >She hands it to you gently, as if too much force would break either it or you.
  2172. >You nod and bring it to your lips, taking a sip.
  2173. >As far as water goes, it’s not bad. Not the best you’ve ever had.
  2174. “Wow, this is great. Top shelf stuff, right here.”
  2175. >”It’s Brita,” she replies.
  2176. >You tip your head back and down the glass.
  2177. >”How’s your chest?” asks Twilight.
  2178. >You choke on the water and lean forward, trying to catch the spittle in the cup.
  2179. >Moving it away, you cough into your hand rather violently until all the water leaves your throat.
  2180. “It’s, uh, fine. Why do you ask?”
  2181. >”Well, given the symptoms you’re showing, the addition of chest pains might suggest a cold.
  2182. >She leans forward, reaching a hand out, and places two fingers right on your ribcage.
  2183. >With just the smallest movement, it feels like she gave you a mean right hook smack dab in the sore spot.
  2184. >You struggle to hold in a shout and manage to do so, only letting out a slight groan and a few tears.
  2185. >”Oh my, are you sick, darling?”
  2186. “Nope,” you wheeze. “Just...fell.”
  2187. >”Must have been a nasty fall,” adds the purple woman.
  2188. “I got pushed.”
  2189. >”That’s terrible! What ruffian would do that?”
  2190. “The same one who I’m going to teach a lesson to at the first opportunity.”
  2191. >”Oh? And how will you do that, Anon?”
  2192. “If I told you that, I’d have to kill you.”
  2193. >She covers her mouth to giggle.
  2194. >”Good one. Kill me. You’re a jokester, aren’t you, Anon?”
  2195.  
  2196. “Jokester I may be, but right now what I’m trying to be is the man taking our lovely friend out for the night. We really should be going, Rarity.”
  2197. >”No, out of the question,” states the woman.
  2198. “What?”
  2199. >”Not with you in your shape. We’re sitting right here at home.
  2200. >She maneuvers around the couch and sits down next to you, pushing you up against Twilight.
  2201. >You rub shoulders with her and scream internally at the contact.
  2202. >”We can, oh, what do the kids say these days? Netflix and chill.”
  2203. >Please don’t ever say that again.
  2204. >As Rarity searches for the remote, you can feel Twilight’s arm slink behind your back.
  2205. >You press against the couch, trying to limit her movement, but with the magic fueling her, it does little to stop the vampire.
  2206. >She finds a nice spot on the small of your back and begins to rub it.
  2207. >You arch, trying to escape her.
  2208. >Her fingers follow you though.
  2209. >Soon you realize there’s no point and just relax.
  2210. >It’s best not to make too much of a scene.
  2211. >Damn it too. Right as you think that, she brings some nails into it.
  2212. >Her stroking becomes scratching, and after a minute of this, you can’t take it anymore.
  2213. >Just as Rarity throws on a movie, you leap out of the couch.
  2214. “Rarity, where’s the restroom? Your apartment is so large, I don’t want to get lost.”
  2215. >”Down that hallway,” she says, pointing out of the living room. “Third door on the left.”
  2216. “I’ll be back.”
  2217. >You take your leave and retreat to some safe haven.
  2218. >This is going to be a long night.
  2219.  
  2220. >As fast as you can without making a scene, you make off to the bathroom.
  2221. >Once safely within--and you use that word loosely--the pristine white room, you pull up your shirt and inspect your back.
  2222. >There’s a spot of blood where her nails scraped enough of your flesh away to cause the damage.
  2223. >Every alarm in your head is going off.
  2224. >You’re stuck in a high rise apartment with two vampires while bleeding.
  2225. >No, that’s nothing to worry about.
  2226. >Twilight wouldn’t try anything with Rarity around.
  2227. >You’re not sure what her game is, but whatever it is, keeping her true identity a secret is clearly an important piece of it.
  2228. >As far as Rarity is concerned, she wouldn’t pounce and drain you on the couch, let alone with company.
  2229. >You’re not safe, but you’re not necessarily unsafe.
  2230. >Does that make sense?
  2231. >Gathering some toilet paper, you soak some of the blood off your wound and examine it more closely with one of the dozens of bedazzled hand mirrors in close range.
  2232. >It’s not too bad.
  2233. >You could dab it with some holy water to ward off Twilight, but the smell would probably alert Rarity too.
  2234. >What it really comes down to in this case is if you’re more trusting of Rarity’s self control or your ability to explain why you smell like holy water if the question ever came up.
  2235. >It’s a far off possibility, probably a thousand to one.
  2236. >Even so, it’s not a chance you want to take.
  2237. >Damn it, why did Twilight have to be a vampire too?
  2238. >If she were some other monster, you could find hundreds of ways to keep her away from you without tipping off Rarity.
  2239.  
  2240. >A bandaid is the eventual cure you settle on.
  2241. >Once it’s secured against your skin, you saunter off back into the room.
  2242. >Rarity and Twilight are still sat on the charcoal sofa, watching the pictures on her flatscreen.
  2243. >The purple woman smiles and pats the spot next to her.
  2244. >”We decided on Sedan Helsing, darling. Have you seen it before?”
  2245. >Oh, that’s rich.
  2246. “No. Sounds lame though. Hey, wait, is that Hue Jackedman?”
  2247. >”It is! Oh, you’ll love it. Come and sit.”
  2248. >You nod and approach them, taking a seat next to Rarity and as far away from Twilight as you can.
  2249. >You’d like to end this night without her pinching one of your discs out of your spinal column.
  2250. >It’s a real possibility, ok?
  2251. >The seamstress leans against you, resting her head in the crook of your neck.
  2252. >Over the course of the hour, her arm seems to have snaked over your body and pulled you two closer together.
  2253. >Colorful characters scream and run at each other on the screen, illuminating her darkened living room.
  2254. >In these bursts of electric light, you catch a little shine from Twilight’s glasses.
  2255. >She’s looking at you.
  2256. >You turn your eyes as much as you can, but can only spot a slight smile from her in the corner of your vision.
  2257. >God damn, this bitch is creepy.
  2258.  
  2259. >You eventually return Rarity’s affections and loop your arm over her shoulder, letting your hand fall over her chest.
  2260. >She gasps slightly, barely audible over the noise from the television.
  2261. >Her soft, luscious hair brushes against your cheek as she rearranges herself so as to look up at you.
  2262. >Tearing your gaze from both the tv and Twilight, you peer into her eyes and give the most genuine smile you can paint on your face.
  2263. >It does the trick, and she plants a little peck on your cheek.
  2264. >With your free hand, you cup her chin with a finger and pull it up, giving you the opening to press your lips together.
  2265. >Her cold, lifeless kiss feels like death on your skin.
  2266. >You almost want to vomit right into her mouth, but you contain your sickness and let her push into you.
  2267. >Her shining blue eyes close slightly, then completely, as she continues the embrace.
  2268. >Only stopping every few seconds for breath, you two begin to shift, so that you’re the one leaning over her.
  2269. >”Oh, wow,” shouts Twilight suddenly, shoving the whole sofa back a few inches and knocking the two of you over.
  2270. >She starts laughing and pointing at the screen, pretending to be oblivious the the deathly glare you’re shooting at her.
  2271. >”Look at all that blood! Man, this is some great action, don’t you two think?”
  2272. >”Um, yes, quite,” mumbles the vampiress underneath you.
  2273. >You groan and lift yourself off her.
  2274. >Well, there goes that moment.
  2275. >Rarity takes the time to wipe herself down and straighten out all of the two wrinkles that had formed in her baby blue sweater during your romp.
  2276.  
  2277. >After a full four hours, the monster hunter epic ends.
  2278. >The main character sheds his demonic form, screams after realizing he killed his costar with the big boobs, and the deformed dude becomes president or something.
  2279. >Honestly, it could have been two and a half hours.
  2280. >Anyway, when the screen cuts to black, Rarity claps her dainty hands twice and brings illuminates the room once again.
  2281. >”Well, I think that was a splendid movie.”
  2282. >”It was ok. Personally, I think the vampires should have won.”
  2283. >Oh, you would.
  2284. >”What about you, Anon?”
  2285. “I thought it was pretty entertaining. I could really see the vampire’s point of view. They just wanted to secure a safe world for their race, right?”
  2286. >The two of them tense up right then.
  2287. >”So, darling, what is your opinion of vampires in general?”
  2288. “Well, that’s pretty complicated.”
  2289. >They’re scum.
  2290. >They’re garbage covered in flesh.
  2291. >They are filth.
  2292. >No, lower than filth.
  2293. >Vampires are insects. They’re roaches.
  2294. >They deserve the same treatment an exterminator would give an infestation.
  2295. >They are living tumors, cursed to feed on the Earth for their entire miserable existence.
  2296. “Some stories don’t really know how to handle them, but on average, I think they’re pretty cool.”
  2297. >”Do you now?”
  2298. >”Well, Twilight,” interjects Rarity, “It sure has been lovely catching up with you. It is late however, and I have to be up early tomorrow. You understand, I’m sure.”
  2299. >The purple woman’s smile wavers for just a fraction of a second.
  2300.  
  2301. >”I get it,” she says after a long pause.
  2302. >She stands up from the couch and fixes her skirt.
  2303. >Not much to fix, considering how short it is.
  2304. >”Thanks for having me tonight, Rarity. It was fun catching up, even if our conversation did get cut short.”
  2305. >”Do come by again, darling, quite soon,”
  2306. >Or get impaled on the street.
  2307. >That one works too.
  2308. >The two give each other a tight hug before parting ways.
  2309. >You follow Twilight out, putting a hand on her back and giving her a little push.
  2310. >She growls, but makes no movements other than a controlled and polite walk.
  2311. >You grab the doorknob of the suite and pull on it, opening the hallway for Twilight.
  2312. “Have a good night. Remember, stay in the light. You never know what kind of psychos are waiting to grab you in the shadows. Predators…”
  2313. >She’s staring daggers at you.
  2314. “Hunters.”
  2315. >”I’ll watch my back.”
  2316. “So will I.”
  2317. >Neither of you move.
  2318. >You can hear your heart beating.
  2319. >So can she.
  2320. >How long do you stand like this?
  2321. >It could be as long as a minute.
  2322. >Finally, she gets a move on, disappearing into the elevator.
  2323. >You shut the door and sigh, letting go of the tension from that encounter.
  2324.  
  2325. >You turn around back into the room and are suddenly met with the suite’s owner.
  2326. >Rarity wraps her arms around your waist and pulls you, pressing you against her body.
  2327. >She stuffs her face into your chest and nuzzles it gently, keeping everything light around your bad spot.
  2328. “Rarity?”
  2329. >”Darling,” she huffs. “I know you ache. Please, won’t you stay the night?”
  2330. >You?
  2331. >Stay the night in a vampire’s apartment?
  2332. >While bleeding?
  2333. >You think not.
  2334. “Rarity, I have to go to work tomorrow. They need me in the west office for a few days. It’s a long drive and I have to be up super early.”
  2335. >”It’s already midnight,” she muses. “How long does it take you to get home? You’d get more sleep staying on my couch.”
  2336. >Damn it, you have to--
  2337. >Actually, yeah, you would have to go home.
  2338. >At night.
  2339. >With Twilight in the area.
  2340. >Ah, damn it all.
  2341. >Let’s think about this carefully, Anon.
  2342. >Really weigh your options here.
  2343. >Risk encountering Twilight on the way to a totally secure location, or avoid that trip and sleep in relative safety.
  2344. >You know, nothing even says you really have to sleep.
  2345. >If there’s one thing stranded in a remote desert town infested with sandmen taught you, it’s how to fake sleep.
  2346. “I guess that’s fair. Yeah, the couch doesn’t sound so bad.”
  2347. >The woman squeals and gives you another one on the lips.
  2348.  
  2349. “How did I get so lucky meeting you?”
  2350. >”Fate has funny ways of bringing people together.”
  2351. >Yeah, fate. That’s one way to explain it.
  2352. >Her eyes suddenly widen, and she separates from you to run to a closet.
  2353. >”Not that it’s fate that we met. I mean, it could be, but who really is to say what the universe intends to do with people?”
  2354. >After shuffling around in the small pocket room for a bit, she fishes out two large blue and white blankets.
  2355. >”Which do you prefer?”
  2356. “I’m partial to white.”
  2357. >She smirks and carefully places the darker quilt back in the closet before kicking the ivory colored door shut.
  2358. >The woman saunters over to the couch and throws the blanket out, unravelling the tightly folded fabric, and arranging it over the cushions.
  2359. >”Do you have a preference in pillows?”
  2360. “Did you make them?”
  2361. >”But of course.”
  2362. “They’ll do.”
  2363. >She steps away and holds her hands out, gesturing to it all.
  2364. >You take another look at the exit just to make sure everything is properly locked up.
  2365. >Not that it would really matter either way, but, you know. Habits.
  2366. >Everything seems to be in order there, so you approach the sofa and take a seat once again, sinking into the softness of it.
  2367. >”Oh, I do wish I could give you a tour of the place.”
  2368. “How about when I get back?”
  2369. >Yeah, get back.
  2370. >There’s still the issue of figuring out how to get Rarity and Rainbow Dash in the same place so you can keep an eye on them with that cult around.
  2371. >Hopefully Dash is still ok.
  2372.  
  2373. >”That sounds divine. Shall we make a night out of it?”
  2374. “Yeah, I like that. I can show you how to make an omelette the real way.”
  2375. >She smiles and backs up to the hallway.
  2376. >”Good night, darling.”
  2377. “Good night.”
  2378. >Rarity claps twice, and suddenly the room is dark.
  2379. >She walks off, and when you hear her bedroom door close, you can drop your smile.
  2380. >That fucking cunt.
  2381. >How can she act so sweet?
  2382. >You cross your arms and slam your back against the couch.
  2383. >Sleep.
  2384. >You won’t be doing any of that tonight.
  2385. >You’re going to be up and alert.
  2386. >Even if your eyelids begin to feel heavy, and a soft, gentle heat spreads throughout your core.
  2387. >Even if your limbs...suddenly become lead and...pull you down to a laying position.
  2388. >Even if…you…
  2389. >Even if...
  2390. >Even…
  2391.  
  2392. >The gentle hum of the car’s engine fills the cab.
  2393. >No man speaks over the radio.
  2394. >It had turned to static long ago.
  2395. >The street lights, far and few between now, barely illuminate the mountain road your father insisted on taking.
  2396. >”I just don’t think this was necessary.”
  2397. >”Look, I didn’t want to hit traffic on the way home.”
  2398. >”At nine o’clock the night before Thanksgiving? While it’s raining? Really, Incognito?”
  2399. >”You don’t know how the highway gets. She’s a beast.”
  2400. >Your parents have been sharing short arguments like that for the last half hour.
  2401. >”What do you say, son? Would you rather be stuck in traffic?”
  2402. “Honestly, I just want some sleep.”
  2403. >”Same. Thanks to your father though, we’ll be up all night. You didn’t even fill the tank before we left. What if we run out?”
  2404. >”We won’t.”
  2405. >”But what if we do?”
  2406. >”Don’t worry about it.”
  2407. “Can you two cut it out?”
  2408. >You laugh and lean your head against the window.
  2409. >Even with all the clouds blocking the view, the night sky looks so beautiful.
  2410. >Every few hundred feet, there’s a bump that knocks your head against the glass.
  2411. >”Hey, was that a girl?”
  2412. >”I don’t see anything in the mirrors.”
  2413. >”Anon, you saw that, right?”
  2414. “Huh? Yeah, whatever.”
  2415. >”Is your head still stuck on that last touchdown?”
  2416. >Your mother reaches into the back seat to squeeze your cheeks.
  2417. >”I’m so proud of you. Who’d have thought my little boy would grow up to be first string.”
  2418. “Mom, I’m not little.”
  2419. >”You want some sketties when we get home?”
  2420. >You don’t answer that.
  2421. >”I thought so.”
  2422.  
  2423. >”Leave the boy alone. He had a big night.”
  2424. >”You two are lucky I cooked before we left. All we have to do is nuke the stuff and voila.”
  2425. >That’s mom, always thinking ahead.
  2426. >Suddenly there’s a pretty big bump that gives you a solid smack on the window.
  2427. >You pull away and gasp, rubbing the new sore spot on your temple.
  2428. >”You can’t even see the road right now.”
  2429. >”I can see just fine. I’ll even put the highbeams on, ok?”
  2430. >You bend over and reach into the footwell for your gym bag.
  2431. >Inside it is all your equipment, including the helmet which saved you from many concussions this season.
  2432. >After donning it, you place your head back against the window and admire the scenery through the occasional street light’s help.
  2433. >”You mean they haven’t been?”
  2434. >”I never said that.”
  2435. >”Hey, there’s another girl.”
  2436. >”You’re seeing things, honey. There’s nothing in the mirror.”
  2437. >”Anon, look behind us and see if you can spot anyone.”
  2438. >You twist your neck and look in the direction of the back window, but see only the corner of your helmet.
  2439. “No dice.”
  2440. >”See?”
  2441. >”You keep your eyes on the road, mister.”
  2442. “You heard her.”
  2443. >”I’ll give you something to hear about,” he chuckles.
  2444. >How much longer now?
  2445. >Jeez, you wouldn’t think the ride back to Canterlot from Manehattan would take so long.
  2446. >Screw away games. Seriously.
  2447. >You unbuckle yourself and scooch into the middle of the back so as to have a better look through the windshield.
  2448. >”Hey, who said you could unbuckle yourself?”
  2449. “I’m a grown man, mom. I think I can make these decisions for myself.”
  2450. >”Not while in high school you can’t. When you graduate, you can take your seat belt off all you want.”
  2451.  
  2452. >The mountain road extends farther than you can see.
  2453. >Granted that isn’t very far at all.
  2454. >The headlights do little for vision in such heavy rain, and the streetlights are no help at this distance.
  2455. >Your mother sighs and cups your chin through the mouth guard.
  2456. >”You might think I baby you, but it’s because I want you to be safe.”
  2457. “I know.”
  2458. >”Being safe is all well and good, and it makes your mother very happy.”
  2459. >Your father looks away from the road and into your eyes.
  2460. >”But more than that, I want you to know I’m proud of the man you’ve beco--”
  2461. >”Incognito!”
  2462. >You brace yourself against the seats as best you can when the car’s tires start screeching, trying desperately to bring you to a stop.
  2463. >Looking forward, for just a second, you can see what looks like a teenage girl directly in front of the car.
  2464. >She grabs the hood and twists her body, lifting you all up and throwing it.
  2465. >The world comes to a stop.
  2466. >No, it doesn’t. It slows down.
  2467. >It slows down to the slowest of crawls.
  2468. >You can see your parents bodies begin to float, pressing against the seat belts.
  2469. >Then comes the road again, meeting with the vehicle.
  2470. >The passenger window shatters.
  2471. >Glass from it flies into the cab, and on the next roll, the driver’s window follows suit.
  2472. >Metal screams as it grinds on the wet cement.
  2473. >The car hops again, and this time you manage to fly right out the seat.
  2474. >Your helmet protects your head as you crash through the windshield and land on the road, crumpling against it and skidding along for several yards while the car, from one side to the other, smashes into the road again and again.
  2475.  
  2476. >The headlights have gone out.
  2477. >The horn is blaring.
  2478. >You begin to slip in and out of consciousness, barely able to register the pain you’re in.
  2479. >What you do find is that the car has landed right under a street light, so even from your dozen yards away, you can make everything out.
  2480. “Mom, dad,” you groan, your voice silent compared to the booming rain surrounding you.
  2481. >One second, the car is alone.
  2482. >The next, there are two figures there, standing outside.
  2483. >Did they get out?
  2484. >The question slips your mind as you black out again.
  2485. >When you next wake, there are four figures.
  2486. >Two teenagers, two adults.
  2487. >Rainbow hair.
  2488. >Out.
  2489. >In.
  2490. >Even from here, you can make out the screams of your mother until the booming thunder mutes her.
  2491. >Out.
  2492. >In.
  2493. >It’s your father next.
  2494. >He has a stick.
  2495. >Out.
  2496. >In.
  2497. >Where did his arms go?
  2498. >Out.
  2499. >In.
  2500. >What are they doing? No, don’t bite there.
  2501. >Out.
  2502. >In.
  2503. >The teenagers wipe their mouths and scamper off into the darkness.
  2504. >The horn, still blaring, fills your entire mind.
  2505. >It echoes inside, replacing every thought you once had.
  2506. >That horn, the rain, the everything.
  2507. >Out.
  2508.  
  2509. >You scream and jump up off of the couch, smashing your head into something fleshy.
  2510. >That puts you right back down.
  2511. >Gripping your forehead, you seethe and pant heavily, trying to catch your breath.
  2512. >”Darling, are you ok?”
  2513. >You peel your eyes open despite the stinging morning light.
  2514. >The soft sunlight wraps around Rarity, accentuating her curves and putting a certain shimmer in her hair.
  2515. >”I heard you moaning and thought something was wrong. Bad dream?”
  2516. >Bad dream?
  2517. >You get up again, pushing her out of the way this time, and lean over to rest your head in between your knees.
  2518. >God, you’re covered in sweat.
  2519. >”Darling?”
  2520. >Rarity touches your shoulder, and you jerk away.
  2521. “I’m fine,” you snap.
  2522. >As you try to curl up even tighter into the smallest ball you can, you rub your head.
  2523. >When will that fucking horn stop?
  2524. >It just keeps…
  2525. >Oh man, what have you done?
  2526. >You take a deep breath and unfurl yourself.
  2527. >Looking back, you see a very concerned Rarity seated on the couch.
  2528. >Her hands hover near you, but keep a safe few inches away.
  2529. >You readjust yourself to properly face her and grab one of them, holding it tightly.
  2530. >Anon, don’t ruin this.
  2531. >You know exactly why this relationship has to work.
  2532. “I’m sorry,” you say. “It was just a bad dream.”
  2533. >”A very bad one, clearly.”
  2534. “Yeah.”
  2535. >You bite your lip and hang your head, unable to meet her in the eyes.
  2536. “Don’t take it personally. I, well, you know,” you stammer. “It happens sometimes.”
  2537. >”Is there anything I can do to help?”
  2538. “You already are,” you say and bring her into a hug.
  2539. >If only you had the strength to snap her neck right now.
  2540.  
  2541. “Hey, Rarity,” you say, letting her name hang on your voice.
  2542. >”Darling?”
  2543. “What if you came to Bahhston with me?”
  2544. >She pushes away from you and raises an eyebrow in response.
  2545. >”What’s in Bahhston? I thought you had to go to work.”
  2546. “I do. Didn’t I tell you my company runs out of Europe? In fact, HQ is right in Haynau, Germineigh. As far as they’re concerned, Bahhston is the west.”
  2547. >”Haynau, you say? Some of my favorite designers are from there!”
  2548. >She brings a finger to her chin and rubs it contemplatively.
  2549. >”And I do have a friend down there I could meet up with as well.”
  2550. >Oh fuck.
  2551. “You two could totally get together then. It’s good to catch up with old friends.”
  2552. >”Indeed. Did you know she’s a--”
  2553. “Too bad we can’t go see the Rouge Stockings. I’d love to go see a game, but they’re away in Vanhoover for a few weeks.”
  2554. >”I didn’t know Caneighdians played baseball.”
  2555. “Wicked.”
  2556. >Rarity sighs and turns her head, staring wistfully out the window as it bleeds light into the hard room.
  2557. >”Oh well. I suppose it wasn’t meant to be.”
  2558. >Dodged a bullet there.
  2559. >Then her smile returns, and she rises from the couch.
  2560. >”I’d love to go with you. I just need to pack my bags.”
  2561. “Great! I’ll pick you up soon, then.”
  2562. >She disappears around a corner.
  2563. >You can hear a door click and what sounds like a mountain of fabric tumbling onto the hardwood floor.
  2564. >”Curses! Oh, uh, yes. I’ll see you soon, darling!”
  2565.  
  2566. >You open the door to her apartment and hesitantly stick your head outside.
  2567. >Any signs of you-know-who?
  2568. >No, it doesn’t look like it.
  2569. >Taking a tentative sniff in the air, you try to make out her perfume, or perhaps any strong odors of blood.
  2570. >It’s all clean.
  2571. >You try to push the woman out of your mind, but her and her cherry blossom scent cloud push right back into the forefront of your worry center.
  2572. >You reach into your jacket and take a firm grip on your cross, you make way into the long hallway.
  2573. >Once the door is closed firmly behind you, you take slow, controlled steps over to the elevator.
  2574. >The light above the machine travels from number to number, until hitting twenty four, the floor you’re on.
  2575. >It dings and sits for a few seconds before the aluminum doors slide apart, opening the bland, brown chamber in all its smooth jazz glory.
  2576. >You don’t enter it right away.
  2577. >Instead, you poke your hand in, hold it there for a second, and then slowly move to the control panel.
  2578. >After pushing the button for the bottom floor, you pull your limb out of the doorway and stand still until the metallic barrier starts to slide shut.
  2579. >At the last second, you jump in, letting the door close securely behind you.
  2580. >If anybody was in here, they would have gone right after your ha--
  2581. “Wow!”
  2582.  
  2583. >Something grabs onto your neck and lifts you off the ground.
  2584. >You find yourself flying through the air, but not very far as you slam into the particleboard wall just two feet away.
  2585. >Before your feet can touch the carpet, the force returns.
  2586. >With an iron grip, you’re thrown like a ragdoll and twisted, having your back slammed against the wall.
  2587. >Your chest and your mouth are both covered before you can even register what’s going on.
  2588. >Finally, they slow down just enough that you can make out the orange, manicured hand pressed against your lips.
  2589. >Trailing up the wrist, and the leather-covered arm, you reach a face you never thought you’d see again.
  2590. “Fmmh hemhy?”
  2591. >”What’s up, Anon? It’s been a while.”
  2592. >The blue haired prick shoots you a smile.
  2593. >It’s not to show his happiness, either.
  2594. >Your eyes are drawn to two very large fangs protruding from his upper jaw.
  2595. >You lock eyes with him and widen yours, then dart them around the room.
  2596. >In the corners of your vision, you can see his smile growing as he focuses on your scared little stare.
  2597. >That’s right, pretty boy, focus on the eyes.
  2598. >From your jacket, you pull out your cross and shove the silver tool against his shirt, right on the lightning bolt logo.
  2599. >He squeals and jumps away from you, hitting the elevator door right as it hits floor twenty two.
  2600. “What’s wrong, Flash? Band washed up and now you’re moon lightning as the main character of a discount love story?”
  2601. >”Real funny, kid, but not nearly as funny as the look on your face when I bring you to her.”
  2602. >Her?
  2603. >Wait a second, he and Sunset were pretty close back in high school. In fact, you think they dated for a semester.
  2604. >She couldn’t be involved in this too, could she?
  2605. >Damn, it looks like all your classmates are coming back to haunt you.
  2606.  
  2607. >Enter Rainbow Dash, the coolest girl and greatest player in Bahhston.
  2608. >The bright afternoon sun beats down on your hat as you maneuver through a few less crowded streets in the city.
  2609. >Through your tinted glasses, you stare down everyone that passes by.
  2610. >He’s got a thick neck.
  2611. >Ooh, but her jugular is just asking for it.
  2612. >No, no, that kid with the candybar probably has some sweet blood.
  2613. >Come to think of it, you felt kind of bloated this morning. Maybe you should lay off the sweets.
  2614. >Protein might be good.
  2615. >That’s when you spot a big guy for you.
  2616. >He looks gay on the outside, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
  2617. >Yeah, that’ll do.
  2618. “Lunch time.”
  2619. >You make a beeline for him, prepared to bump shoulders, until your phone starts to ring.
  2620. >He jerks his head to you and you turn right away, walking by the hulk.
  2621. >Damn. Who the fuck is calling you at noon?
  2622. >Ripping the phone out of your pocket, you take a look at the screen expecting to be very upset by the caller.
  2623. >Instead, your mouth begins to water.
  2624. >Lunch hasn’t been ruined after all.
  2625. >After a little swipe, you bring the phone up to your ear.
  2626. ”S’up.”
  2627. >”Hey, Dash. I’m in town for a few days. Want to get a coffee?”
  2628. >Bold. Straight and to the point.
  2629. >What is it about this guy that makes him think he can talk to the greatest athlete who ever lived like she was just another girl on the street?
  2630. >He should be stuttering and begging you.
  2631. >Cheeky little thing.
  2632. “Just a coffee?”
  2633. >”Let’s start there.”
  2634. >Oh, you’re going to enjoy draining him.
  2635.  
  2636. >A few minutes later, you arrive at the cafe where you two first drank.
  2637. >The place looks identical to the day you left, right down to the pile of dust in the corner.
  2638. >You can’t smell the coffee beans though.
  2639. >No, you’re hit with a wall of blood so strong you almost step back.
  2640. >It fills your nose, leaks into your mind, and wraps around it.
  2641. >Like a lasso, the heavenly scent draws you through the outdated room and to a familiar booth.
  2642. >In sits Anon, hunched over the table with a coffee cup held close to his chest.
  2643. >You lean in behind him and take a few light whiffs.
  2644. >That’s definitely coming from him.
  2645. >Further in you go, not even realizing you’re over his shoulder now and inhaling deeply.
  2646. >”Hey.”
  2647. “Oh, uh, hey,” you stammer, caught in the act.
  2648. >Think.
  2649. “The coffee smells good.”
  2650. >He raises an eyebrow and brings the cup to his nose.
  2651. >”Yeah, I guess it does.”
  2652. >You giggle and step around the table, taking the seat opposite him.
  2653. >He’s smiling at you, but it’s not genuine.
  2654. >Even you can tell that.
  2655. >In fact, it looks like he’s trying to hold something back.
  2656. >A closer examination with your super sharp eyes alerts you to all the makeup he’s wearing.
  2657. >The areas he’s applied the most seem to bulge out from his face slightly, especially on his lower right lip.
  2658. >No way, he didn’t.
  2659. >Not this guy.
  2660. >You close your eyes and take another sniff in the air, sucking in the blood around you.
  2661. >Yeah, he did.
  2662. >Anon, the smooth talking, bar fighting, paper company salaryman.
  2663.  
  2664. >He adjusts in his seat slightly, careful not to move his midsection.
  2665. “You alright?”
  2666. >”Yeah, I just slept funny. What about you? You’re acting like this is your first day with a nose.”
  2667. “I just really love the smell of coffee.”
  2668. >”Maybe I’ll bring some to your next game. Come by the bleachers and I’ll get you a cup.”
  2669. >Your next game?
  2670. >That’s in a week, and sorry to say, you’re not going to last that long, buddy.
  2671. >Hell, if he keeps bleeding like this, you might pounce before the day even ends.
  2672. >Know what? Fuck it. And fuck surprising him in the woods with some dead parents and a jaguar.
  2673. “You know what we should do today? Let’s throw the ole’ ball around.”
  2674. >”You haven’t even had any coffee yet. Didn’t you say you loved it?”
  2675. “I’m just eager to get out there is all.”
  2676. >”Have a cup of joe. We’ve got the day ahead of us, don’t we?”
  2677. >He didn’t just say no to you, did he?
  2678. >Where does this guy find his balls?
  2679. >It’d be almost hot if he weren’t a paper boy.
  2680. >The only thing that’s making you hot right now is all that blood in the air.
  2681. >You cross your legs and squeeze your thighs together as you take in another whiff.
  2682. >This might be the best blood you’ve ever smelled and he just fucking leaking it.
  2683. >You flag the waitress over and order some black as you inspect his shirt.
  2684. >There are no stains on it, so he probably just bandaged everything up.
  2685. >A few seconds later, the woman comes back with a small ceramic glass filled with caffeine.
  2686. >He tries to talk to you about something, and while you do nod and give affirmative grunts, you’re barely paying attention.
  2687. >All that runs through your mind are ways of getting into his neck.
  2688.  
  2689. >You could just rip his throat out and use his veins as a drinking straw.
  2690. >That would be fun, but there’s also the classic pose.
  2691. >Imagining him trying to push you off as you lock your arms around his back and bite into that thick, pulsating neck brings a blush to your face.
  2692. >”You ok?”
  2693. “Hm?”
  2694. >”Your cheeks are red.”
  2695. “Oh, I guess it’s just hot in here. We should go.”
  2696. >”Try taking off your jacket?”
  2697. >He gestures to your leather getup.
  2698. “And lose the fashion? I don’t think so. Besides, I need this for the disguise.”
  2699. >”Fair enough.”
  2700. >It’s at that moment that his phone starts to ring.
  2701. >He visibly tenses, and you can hear his heart start to thump faster.
  2702. >Oh? Who is on the line?
  2703. >Whoever they are, they’re stirring his blood up nice and good.
  2704. >You can practically see the veins on his neck pulse as blood rushes through them.
  2705. “Aren’t you going to answer that?”
  2706. >”Nope.”
  2707. “It might be important.”
  2708. >”And it might not be.”
  2709. “Don’t worry, I won’t mind. Go ahead and pick it up.”
  2710. >”It’s ok, really. You wanted to go play baseball, right? Let’s go.”
  2711. “Answer the phone first.”
  2712. >He stares at you for a long few seconds.
  2713. >For once, it seems like he doesn’t have anything to say.
  2714. >Ever so slowly, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out the ugliest little flip phone
  2715. >Wow, they still make those?
  2716. >He flips it open and raises it to his ear.
  2717. >”Yes. Can you describe the nature of the jam?”
  2718. >He keeps eye contact while the other person presumably talks.
  2719. >”A representative will be over shortly. Please find a safe place to store your paper while you wait.”
  2720.  
  2721. >Uh oh, paper boy got called out to fix a mean old printer?
  2722. >”I have to go fix a printer.”
  2723. >Ha!
  2724. >Wow, what a loser.
  2725. >Although, this isn’t too bad.
  2726. >You can just follow him there and bag two for the price of one.
  2727. >Draining someone in front of him might season his blood a little before you go in for the big score.
  2728. “That’s cool. I’ll meet you at the field later, ok? Just tell the guard Dash gave you the green.”
  2729. >”I feel like that’s something a lot of people say.”
  2730. >That’s because it is.
  2731. >Although they’re usually dinner guests, so to speak.
  2732. >You smile, and as your lips brush against your teeth, you feel a little prick.
  2733. >Oh shit, were those showing all along?
  2734. >You close your mouth and keep it to a grin, but that’s getting harder to maintain the more you imagine his blood pouring out over your tongue.
  2735. >Maybe you should bottle some of it and keep it on hand for before a game.
  2736. >Rainbow Dash, super sports star, scores homeruns by the dozens, all fueled by a vial of the good shit.
  2737. >You run your fingers through your hair and throw the cap back on.
  2738. “See you soon.”
  2739. >”See you soon.”
  2740. >He tips his head back to finish off the cup and slams it down after.
  2741. >His journey to get up out of the booth is drawn out, and he locks up for a split second in a twist.
  2742. >Man, you wish you saw that fight.
  2743. >The man waves as he leaves, and you head out not long after.
  2744. >You follow the scent of blood while he walks, and eventually he stops at some beat up pickup.
  2745. >Paper boy drives that thing? Not bad, actually.
  2746. >As he drives off, you make haste and keep up just enough to annoy the crowds on the sidewalks, but not enough that anyone driving should take their eyes off the traffic.
  2747.  
  2748. >It’s not terribly long before he makes it to the end of backstreet and parks on the wrong side of the road.
  2749. >You dart behind a lexus and watch carefully as he grabs a duffle bag out of the cab and walks up to the pink house he parked in front of.
  2750. >While he’s knocking, you speed across the street and find refuge behind his truck.
  2751. >You can hear the door creak open, and Anon starts to talk about printers.
  2752. >”Who the hell are you?”
  2753. >”Hi, I’m with the city’s Board of Central Water Care. Do you have a second to talk about the new bill?”
  2754. >Wait, what?
  2755. >”The board of what?”
  2756. >”Of Central Water Care, sir. May I come inside?”
  2757. >”I never heard of that.”
  2758. >”Have you ever checked your taxes?”
  2759. >”I, er, I do my taxes every year.”
  2760. >”I’m sure you do. Now, let’s get to this bill. You got any coffee?”
  2761. >This isn’t printer talk at all.
  2762. >Come to think of it, why’s the other guy sound surprised to see anyone?
  2763. >You’d think that if you called someone to fix a printer, you’d also expect someone to show up at your door.
  2764. >The door shuts, and you peek at it from under the truck.
  2765. >Nobody’s there.
  2766. >The coast is clear, so you make your way up to the front window and hide in a green bush just beside it.
  2767. >The door is a few feet in front of you, with an identical window and bush just past that.
  2768. >You press your ear against the house and try to make out what they’re saying.
  2769. >It’s all muffled just enough, but pretty soon their voices start raising.
  2770. >It’s quiet for a solid minute, but then they start yelling again.
  2771. >The smell of dog blasts through the window, and you can hear some nasty growling from in there.
  2772.  
  2773. >No way some dumb animal is killing Anon before you can!
  2774. >You get ready to jump inside, but then someone goes and fires a gun.
  2775. >You crouch down again, hiding as deep into the bush as you can while several more shots ring out.
  2776. >Suddenly, the window from across the door shatters.
  2777. >Anon goes flying through it and crashes into the lawn, bounces off the dirt, and rolls to a stop.
  2778. >Right out of that same hole in the house comes a...no way.
  2779. >Your eyes widen as a fully grown werewolf howls and bounds, running toward your prey.
  2780. >Anon claws his way across the grass and reaches his hand out for something shiny that landed away from him.
  2781. >He grabs it and twists at just the right second to plunge the apparently silver cross into the chest of the wolf.
  2782. >It snarls and collapses on top of him before bursting into flames bluer than you are.
  2783. >Anon shouts and pushes with all his might, throwing the flaming animal off himself.
  2784. >While the wolf cooks, Anon lays there, catching his breath.
  2785. >Once the body of fur has been reduced to a pile of ashes, the flames go out, and Anon is free to get his cross back.
  2786. >He sticks it in his jacket and picks himself up off the ground, groaning the whole way.
  2787. >The first step he takes looks like it almost brings him down, but he catches himself and limps the rest of the way to his truck.
  2788. >On the way, he takes out his phone and presses it to his ear.
  2789. >”Anon, hunter special class. Kill confirmed on End Street.”
  2790. >You can hear the buzzing of someone replying, but the man shuts the phone, seemingly uninterested in conversation.
  2791. >He throws open the door to the ram and pulls himself into it, then leans against the seat as if he’d run a marathon.
  2792. >He rests for a minute and, after wiping the blood off his mouth with a napkin, closes the truck door and dials another number on the flip phone.
  2793.  
  2794. >Suddenly your own starts ringing.
  2795. >You fear you’ve been caught, but you answer it instantly to keep from making noise.
  2796. >”Hey, Dash, I’m on the way.”
  2797. >Are you fucking kidding?
  2798. “How’d the,” you pause.
  2799. >This was a fever dream, right?
  2800. “How’d the fix go?”
  2801. >”It was fine. The guy just tried to put ink in the toner slot and he backed up the system. Nothing interesting, really.”
  2802. “Nothing interesting.”
  2803. >”Yeah. Anyway, I’ll see you in a few.”
  2804. “Right.”
  2805. >”Bye.”
  2806. “Bye.”
  2807. >The timer ticks on for a few seconds before he slaps the thing shut and drives off.
  2808. >You got high off the scent of his blood.
  2809. >That’s the only explanation here.
  2810. >Still though, that pile of ashes doesn’t look like a dream.
  2811. >In fact, as you approach it, it look more and more real.
  2812. >Running your fingers through it confirms this.
  2813. >It’s not possible.
  2814. >Him? The paper boy?
  2815. >A monster hunter?
  2816. >That shit’s only real in storybooks and movie.
  2817. >In real life? Someone that lame?
  2818. >No...not lame.
  2819. >Someone...totally fucking radical!
  2820. >Holy shit! A monster hunter!
  2821.  
  2822. >Exploding off the ground, you kick some of the wolf’s ashes into the wind.
  2823. >After landing, you turn on a heel and run right into its old house.
  2824. >The place is totally trashed.
  2825. “Wow, you two sure went at it,” you chuckle.
  2826. >With wide eyed and smiling, you take in the devastation those two brought to this modernist house.
  2827. >The once bleach white walls are smeared in streaks of blood, broken up by long scratches that rip through the paint and drywall.
  2828. >You also spot a few bullet holes, and upon investigating them, can smell the residue of silver.
  2829. >With that still fresh in your nose, you push through the ever present aura of blood and find the gun that produced the silver bullets.
  2830. >It looks like any old revolver, save for the weird markings on the grip.
  2831. >Reaching out, you merely brush your fingers against it and pull them away as fast as you’d offered them.
  2832. “Ow!”
  2833. >You scowl at the gun and lick your burned fingertips.
  2834. >Damn thing must be made of silver too, or at least coated with it.
  2835. >Across the way, into the kitchen, you grab a towel off the stove and use that to pick up the gun.
  2836. >With the protective layer of cloth, the silver’s power is dulled to a tolerable level.
  2837. >Now where the fuck is that bag?
  2838. >Maybe it’s in the dining room.
  2839. >You shrug and step through the broken gateway between rooms.
  2840. >The dining room is no more worse for wear than any other part of the house.
  2841. >What makes it look particularly bad is all the broken ceramic.
  2842. >Something in here suddenly catches your attention.
  2843. >Every muscle in your body freezes as you focus your hearing, pushing down the other senses.
  2844. >Breathing.
  2845.  
  2846. >”Mom?”
  2847. >”Shh.”
  2848. >Hello, Dolly!
  2849. >Your lips curl into a slight grin as you slowly approach the only door in the room.
  2850. >It’s on the left wall, protected by some undestroyed furniture, and practically untouched by the battle.
  2851. >Silently, you tiptoe your way there.
  2852. >”Can we go out yet?”
  2853. >”I don’t know.”
  2854. >Snatching the chair underneath the doorknob, you rip it away and throw it across the room, then open the door with similar speed.
  2855. >It reveals a tiny, cramped, grey room on the floor of which sits two people huddled together.
  2856. >One little boy with cheeks like a chipmunk, and a tired looking woman in way over her head.
  2857. >He has a growing wet spot over his groin, but the woman doesn’t seem to care even when some of the pale yellow liquid flows out from the leg of his shorts and onto her lap.
  2858. >You sniff, taking in their scents.
  2859. >It’s generally sweet, but you doubt that’s what they’ll taste like.
  2860. >No, with how scared they are, it’s probably got a much sharper tang.
  2861. >Your mouth starts to water at the thought of it.
  2862. >The two must spot your emerging fangs, because you can hear their hearts start to race even faster.
  2863. >They stare at you with eyes as large as dinner plates.
  2864. >Shivering in each other’s embrace, neither gather the nerve to speak.
  2865. “And here I thought I was going to miss lunch today.”
  2866. >But they do scream.
  2867.  
  2868. >A few minutes later, you’ve finished your search and take your leave of the house, sucking your fingers along the way.
  2869. >Anon must be at the field by now, so you break into a run.
  2870. >You’re moving a little too fast to stay on the main roads without running the risk of being caught, so you stick to the back streets as much as you can until coming to last stretch.
  2871. >By then, you have to slow down to a quick walk and keep your hat pulled down low.
  2872. >Nobody can make out your rainbow hair through the hoodie, so the rest of the walk to Feneigh Park is quiet.
  2873. >Well, as quiet as a Bahhston afternoon can be.
  2874. >”Hey, you cut me off!”
  2875. >”Get off the road, fucker!”
  2876. >”Say that to my face!”
  2877. >”Wicked pissah, ma. Those guys gonna fight?”
  2878. >”Don’t look at those assholes.”
  2879. >”Y’all holdin’ up traffic!”
  2880. >”Aw piss off, goatfucker!”
  2881. >”What’d you call me?!”
  2882. >”Holy shit, call the cops!”
  2883. >Yep, typical Bahhston day.
  2884. >You chuckle as a mob forms in the middle of the street, backing up traffic even more, while the two bozos become three, then four, and so on.
  2885. >While you’d love to stay and watch the rumble, you do have places to be and things and people to do.
  2886. >After entering the stadium and traversing your way through the maze of people, you arrive at the field.
  2887. >Or rather, the entrance to the field.
  2888. >It’s blocked by several suited men, one of whom who grabs your arm as you walk past.
  2889. >”Was getting caught part of your plan?”
  2890. “Calm down, big guy.”
  2891. >You turn to him and pull your hat up just a tad, enough to let your rainbow locks fall out over your eyes.
  2892. >”Oh, sorry, Ms. Dash. Please, go right in. Also, there’s a man here.”
  2893. “For me?”
  2894. >”For you.”
  2895.  
  2896. >Adjusting your arm, you drop the bag from your shoulder and let it thump onto the floor.
  2897. “Take this outside and find some beat up pickup truck. It should be white and have some major rust going on in the corners. Leave this in the bed and don’t look inside. You feel?”
  2898. >”Yes, Rainbow Dash.”
  2899. >You smirk and pat him on the cheek before waltzing past and entering the field.
  2900. >Once out of view of anybody, you strip yourself of the hoodie and hat, tossing them yards away.
  2901. >Anon who was sitting on the grass of the vast field until now, turns his head to you as you flip your hair.
  2902. >”Well, look who decided to show up. Didn’t you get a headstart on me too?”
  2903. “I had to use the bathroom, asshole.”
  2904. >”Is that what they call it now?”
  2905. >He leans forward and plants his hands firmly on the ground, then with a drawn out groan only you could hear from the great distance still separating you two, he forces his cracking joints to move and put himself into a standing position.
  2906. >”When I was a kid, we just said cold feet.”
  2907. “Cold?” you snicker, and jog up to meet him. “Most people usually call me hot.”
  2908. >”Well you’re a solid seven, I’ll give you that.”
  2909. >You know, before you found out about his real job, that probably would have pissed you off.
  2910. >Now? It only adds to some sort of rugged, primal charm.
  2911. >Does he quip with the monsters like that when he kills them?
  2912. >Oh fuck, you hope so.
  2913. >“So what are we doing here, Dash? Are we playing ball or standing around?”
  2914. >Your mind traces back to just after his fight.
  2915. “You sure you can run?”
  2916. >”What’s that supposed to mean?”
  2917. “I just don’t know if you’ve got enough coffee in your system to handle a game.”
  2918. >He pats his chest a few times and nods affirmatively.
  2919. >Then, in a cheery voice, he adds “Don’t worry about my ticker. She’s trucking along just fine.”
  2920. >Oh, you’re sure she is.
  2921. >With how much blood she’s pumping through whatever wounds lie beneath his jacket, she’s going along at full speed.
  2922.  
  2923. >Anon produces a ball from his jacket and takes a few steps back from you.
  2924. >To his credit, he’s doing an amazing job of masking the pain he must be in.
  2925. >The displeasure on his face is barely noticeable, and even then only when the particular limbs are in movement.
  2926. >If you weren’t so good at picking up on muscle movements, he might even pass for perfectly healthy to you.
  2927. >Well, that’s not entirely true.
  2928. >You’d still be able to smell the blood.
  2929. >That delectable, mouth watering blood.
  2930. >Paper boy sounded tasty. Monster hunter man?
  2931. >Now that’s delicious.
  2932. >Maybe, just maybe you won’t kill him.
  2933. >If you tie him up and leave him in your basement, you can get as much of that as you want.
  2934. >Hell, it could be your new morning coffee, so to speak.
  2935. >He twists his body, tossing the ball to you.
  2936. >You catch it and instinctively throw it right back, not even thinking of whether he’s wearing a glove or padding.
  2937. >His eyes widen and the ball collides with his ribs, producing a light squelching sound.
  2938. >Oops, looks like you nailed a sore spot.
  2939. >He crumples to the dirt and curls up into a ball, moaning intensely.
  2940. “Shit, sorry,” you shout and and take a few steps for him before he throws up his hand.
  2941. >”Nah, it’s my fault.”
  2942. >Anon takes a few heavy breaths and once again, forces himself to stand up, only this time it takes considerably longer.
  2943. >”I forgot I was playing with a pro. It’s probably ingrained in your head to just whip that thing by now, isn’t it?”
  2944. “Yeah, sort of. My bad.”
  2945. >”You know this means war, right?”
  2946. >You raise an eyebrow at his words.
  2947. >That...his tone. That didn’t sound like a quip.
  2948.  
  2949. >You wave for some attendants at the end of the field and have them bring over basic equipment.
  2950. >A bat, a glove, and some chest padding that Anon eagerly accepts.
  2951. >He has quite a bit of trouble securing it on, as his right side seems to be stiff, almost immobile at some points.
  2952. >Man, what grade of steel are this guy’s nuts?
  2953. >Back when you were a regular girl, twisting your ankle once took you off the field for a solid month.
  2954. >He’s got that and then some and is still willing to play a few rounds with the greatest baseball player in the world.
  2955. >Although, to be fair, he also doesn’t know you’re supernaturally gifted.
  2956. >If he knew that, he’d probably be keeping as much distance as he could between the two of you.
  2957. >That or trying to stake you.
  2958. >That’d be kind of hot, actually.
  2959. >You know, a last ditch effort to slay the beast before breaking his legs and tying his wrists together.
  2960. >Yeah, he’s definitely going in your basement.
  2961. >You lick your lips as he winds up again and throws.
  2962. >Reeling and swinging, you smash the bat into his ball and send it flying away at the speed of sound or something.
  2963. >It blazes through the air, passing by the aqua marine monster, over the seats, right past the outer wall, and disappearing into the cloudy sky.
  2964. >Anon stands with his hands on his hips, watching the whole thing go down.
  2965. “Aren’t you going to get that?”
  2966. >”We’ll call it a home run.”
  2967. “One point for the Dash, then.”
  2968. >He laughs and picks up another ball from the small pile next to his feet.
  2969. >”You know, games are a bit more fun when there’s something to lose.”
  2970. “You’re not seriously going to make a bet with me, are you? At my own sport?”
  2971. >”Are you afraid?”
  2972.  
  2973. “Rainbow Dash doesn’t fear anything.”
  2974. >”Maybe you just don’t know how to. I could arrange a lesson if you’d like.”
  2975. “Just get to the bet, hotshot.”
  2976. >He gives the baseball a light toss, letting it roll into the air and fall back into his hand.
  2977. >With that movement, another little bit of blood pulses out of the wound hidden under his jacket.
  2978. >The scent is almost intoxicating.
  2979. >How well seasoned is his blood?
  2980. >What are you even smelling on that?
  2981. >You’ve never caught such a well fermented mix of emotions before.
  2982. >Whatever it is, whatever this driving force is in his life, it’s been stewing inside him for years, maybe even a decade.
  2983. >”We play to ten points. If I win, you spend Thanksgiving with me.”
  2984. “And if I win?”
  2985. >”What if you win?”
  2986. >A devious smile crawls onto your face.
  2987. “I win and you act as my assistant for the day.”
  2988. >”I don’t know. You seem pretty high maintenance.”
  2989. “Who’s afraid now?”
  2990. >”First to ten.”
  2991. “First to ten.”
  2992.  
  2993. >The clock strikes eight.
  2994. >The scoreboard strikes ten.
  2995. >All you can do is gawk at the big, glowing numbers.
  2996. >Your chin brushes against the grass with how agape your mouth is.
  2997. >Rainbow Dash, nine; Anonymous, ten.
  2998. >How?
  2999. >It’s just not possible.
  3000. >You...you’re a fucking vampire.
  3001. >A vampire baseball star.
  3002. >How could he have possibly gotten the upper hand?
  3003. >Sure, you were feeling a little sluggish near the end there, but the sunlight alone shouldn’t have dulled your power enough to give a fucking human the advantage.
  3004. >Your blood boils as he raises a finger to point at the board.
  3005. >His hand shakes, trembling like a leaf on the wind.
  3006. >It matches the rest of his tremoring body, and even the ghostly pale face he tries to force a smile onto.
  3007. >”Guess I win. You a turkey kind of girl, or more of a ham fan?”
  3008. >Mother fucker.
  3009. >Fucking fuck fuckiddity piece of shit human beating you at your own game.
  3010. >You’ll show him. Him and his delicious, heavenly scented blood.
  3011. >Change of plans, Dash.
  3012. >You’ll wait for Thanksgiving to pounce.
  3013. >Yeah, that’ll be great.
  3014. >Just when he goes to carve the turkey, you’ll carve him.
  3015. >It’ll be a feast all for you.
  3016. >”Dash?”
  3017. “Turkey is fine with me. So are we going out or doing it at my place?”
  3018. >”Your place?”
  3019. “Mine it is.”
  3020. >”No, I mean--”
  3021.  
  3022. >You move swiftly, instantly closing the three foot gap between you two, and press your finger to his lips.
  3023. >After taking a nice, big whiff of his blood, you speak again.
  3024. “I expect you to have these details worked out by tomorrow when we get some lunch.”
  3025. >He nods.
  3026. >Ten points.
  3027. >That fucking blows.
  3028. >Nobody better have been recording that.
  3029. >Man, you’re going to hold that over his head forever once you get him properly restrained.
  3030. >Can’t score any ten points when you’re chained to the floor, buddy.
  3031. >You remove your finger and step away, making sure to get another few sniffs at the blood wafting off of him.
  3032. >”Sandwich Monarch cool?”
  3033. “Only if we’re getting Whoopers.”
  3034. >”I could go for one of those.”
  3035. “I’ll see you there, then.”
  3036. >”So that’s it? No goodbye hug?”
  3037. >You turn around, giving him your back, and bite your lip.
  3038. >If you hug him smelling like that, you might not be able to keep your teeth away from his neck.
  3039. “We’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
  3040. >”I guess so,” he mumbles and starts off, barely able to mask his limp at this point.
  3041. >He reaches the exit and nods to the guards before blending into the crowd.
  3042. >When he’s properly gone, you bend down and pick up the chest padding he’d dropped a while ago.
  3043. >After making sure that nobody is looking, you press the inside against your nose and inhale deeply, filling your mind with his essence.
  3044. >The leftovers of his blood invade your nostrils, penetrating your every thought.
  3045. >Stupid sexy monster hunter.
  3046.  
  3047. >Enter Anonymous.
  3048. >Enter hurt.
  3049. >Once you’re outside of the main building, you drop the whole facade and nearly fall over on the pavement.
  3050. >A lone lamppost is the only thing that saves you from eating asphalt.
  3051. >You put all your weight against it, finally taking the pressure off your leg.
  3052. >It burns. No, burn doesn’t fully describe it.
  3053. >You’d compare it to a bullet ant sting, but even the enhanced possessed versions you’ve run into don’t top this.
  3054. >Where the fuck is your truck?
  3055. >God damn you, you fucking idiot.
  3056. >Why did you park so far away?
  3057. >You should kill yourself for that.
  3058. >On the count of three, you push off the lamppost and rip your way through the crowd, hobbling for your ram parked down the road.
  3059. >Find the keys.
  3060. >Find the fucking keys.
  3061. >Your pocket, dumbass.
  3062. >You fish them out and throw the engine on, then speed right out of the cramped parking space.
  3063. >Your front scrapes against the car ahead, ripping the taillight out and bending the shitty plastic around it.
  3064. >Everyone in the lane behind you honks as you cut them off, but you don’t even have the energy to flip the bird.
  3065. >Instead, you lean on the gas and weave between cars, trying to find the shop.
  3066. >You remember it was a few streets down from Feneigh Park, and that it was a paper store nestled between two vietneighmese restaurants.
  3067. >Now, which street that is is beyond you.
  3068. >Is it down 1st street?
  3069. >You start to make the right turn, but it strikes you at that moment that it was 2nd street, so you pull a left and barge back into your lane, much to the dismay of anyone around you.
  3070. >As horns blare, you find the right street this time and turn down it, drive for about fifty feet, until coming upon the spot.
  3071.  
  3072. >There are no spots that you could comfortably fit in with a truck like yours, but, you know, there are no cameras here anyway.
  3073. >You find an empty spot between two BMWs and jam the truck in there, doing only minimal damage to the expensive rides.
  3074. >Mostly.
  3075. >Ok, so it’s sort of bad for the guy behind you, but that should buff right out.
  3076. >Probably.
  3077. >Know what? It’s a BMW. Whoever owns it deserves it.
  3078. >You open the door and practically fall out of the cab, landing on your knees.
  3079. >Using the truck as support, you pull yourself up and limp toward the paper store.
  3080. >Grabbing the doorknob, you turn and throw the door open so as to find the counter and collapse onto it.
  3081. >”Uh, hello?”
  3082. “Get me some fairy tears.”
  3083. >”Do you, uh, need a printer fixed?”
  3084. >You look up at the cashier, some green prick in an apron, and grab his shirt.
  3085. >Pulling him down to your eye level is easy, as he looks like a stiff wind would knock him and his undercut over.
  3086. “Fairy tears. Now.”
  3087. >You don’t think you could emphasize that last word enough to get the point really across, but he seems to understand well enough and makes his way into room behind the counter.
  3088. >You bang your head against the purple wood, knocking over a small spinning rack of ink cartridges.
  3089. >Mother fucker, it’s been ten seconds. Where are you?
  3090. >Finally, the fuckboy arrives with a small glass jar filled with a clear liquid.
  3091. >You snatch it from him, mumble something about your tab on the way out, and make it back to your truck.
  3092. >From there, it’s straight to the Charlemane’s.
  3093.  
  3094. >The old man at the counter doesn’t address you as you hobble in, using whatever furniture you can grab as support.
  3095. >You manage to make it to your room, and once the door is open, you collapse onto the red carpet floor.
  3096. >With all your strength, you dig your nails into the fabric and drag yourself in, kicking the door shut behind you, and flip onto your back.
  3097. >Like that, you lay for a solid few minutes until the pain, which had been coming in waves recently, slams into you like a freight train.
  3098. >Worming your way out of your jacket is no easy feat, but it does come off, leaving you in just your soaked, now red t-shirt.
  3099. >Taking that off too, you find your beautifully tendered ribcage, covered in enough blood to make you the appetizer and main course for any vampiric dinner.
  3100. >Although you doubt any of them would like that meal, given how much garlic you’ve rubbed into it as well.
  3101. >There’s enough powder and paste covering your wound that any vampire dumb enough to lick up the blood would be sick for a week.
  3102. >By that same measure, any one of them dumb enough to smell it would notice their powers dulling.
  3103. >Fucking dumb bitch.
  3104. >Using your tee, you wipe all that crap off, careful not to press too hard and anger the wound any more.
  3105. >Once it’s cleaned up, or at least as clean as you can get it, you remove the bottle of fairy tears from your pocket and pop the top.
  3106. >Pouring a liberal amount on your hand, you rub it into your various cuts and around the bruised areas.
  3107. >Some also goes on your leg and especially your ankle.
  3108. >You make it about halfway through the bottle before you start to feel the effects, and by then you figure it’s to just fuck off for the night.
  3109. >As one final measure, you take a quick sip from the bottle, cork it back up, and set it on the floor next to you.
  3110. >That’s where both it and you sit for the rest of the night, since now it’s time for you to close your fucking eyes.
  3111.  
  3112. >Where are you?
  3113. >What’s going on?
  3114. >Your bed. It’s hard.
  3115. >No, that’s not your bed.
  3116. >You can’t tell what it is though since your eyes won’t open.
  3117. >Your arm takes a second to respond. Or is it that you take a second to register where your arm is?
  3118. >Slowly, it scrapes along whatever you’re laying on as it twists and turns, letting your hand come to your face.
  3119. >Gently, you pull whatever crust has formed over your eyes away and rub them.
  3120. >Now you can open them, and spot what looks like dried blood flaking off of your fingertips.
  3121. >Are you bleeding?
  3122. >Spying past your hand, you see concrete, wet with water and blood.
  3123. >Why are you outside?
  3124. >Is that a cliff you see?
  3125. >And jeez, why are you wearing your helmet?
  3126. >After unclipping the strap, you slide it off and toss it away toward the standing guardrail separating the road from the fall.
  3127. >You groan in an attempt to sit up, but the strength just isn’t there.
  3128. >All you can do is push your chest off the ground and pivot your head to examine the scene.
  3129. >As you do so, it all comes flooding back to you.
  3130. >The rain.
  3131. “Oh no,” you wheeze.
  3132. >Your eyes have landed on them. On your parents.
  3133. >The car.
  3134. “Mom, dad…”
  3135.  
  3136. >Pressing your forearms into the ground, you pull yourself forward.
  3137. >Every movement is a trial in itself.
  3138. >The girls.
  3139. >You struggle to move, but force yourself along.
  3140. >Inch by inch, you make it closer and closer to the flipped, mangled car that rests on its roof.
  3141. >Your parents lay on their backs.
  3142. >The crash.
  3143. >Oh god, the crash.
  3144. >Please be ok.
  3145. >Finally, after passing by a bent bumper and a shattered side mirror, you arrive at your father.
  3146. >Your eyes almost pop out of your head at the sight of him.
  3147. >They burn intensely, and your vision blurs as tears start to stream down your face.
  3148. >Where...where are…
  3149. >What did they do?
  3150. >Dad, where are your arms?
  3151. >You can’t breathe.
  3152. >Your breath is trapped in your lungs, refusing to leave and meet the scene you can’t pull yourself away from.
  3153. >Grabbing his filthy, browned shirt, you nudge the man.
  3154. “Dad? Dad?”
  3155. >His head rolls, sounding a few cracks, and lands on its side.
  3156. >He won’t look at you.
  3157. >He can’t look at you.
  3158. >His eyes.
  3159. “Dad? Dad, come on.”
  3160. >Those eyes.
  3161. >They stare blankly, not at you, not even through you.
  3162. >He peers into the endless void with those hollow, grey eyes that find themselves buried in his skull.
  3163. “Oh god. Oh god, no.”
  3164.  
  3165. >With your other hand now, you lay it across his chest and grab his shoulder.
  3166. >Maybe if you shake him hard enough, he’ll wake up.
  3167. “Dad, come on. Wa-wake up. Wake up, Dad. Dad.”
  3168. >Please wake up.
  3169. >No.
  3170. >No, please.
  3171. >Don’t...don’t…
  3172. >You lower your head and rest it on the shoulder nearest to you, right next to several puncture marks near his neck.
  3173. >Not that you can see them very well anymore, as the tears flow powerfully enough to totally blind you.
  3174. >It’s not something you can avoid.
  3175. >There’s no denying it.
  3176. >There’s no hiding from it.
  3177. >There’s no escape.
  3178. >No going back.
  3179. >He’s dead.
  3180. >He’s dead and here you are, bawling like a baby.
  3181. >Why is it you?
  3182. >He’s the dad, he’s the strong one.
  3183. >Why did some shitty kid make it out alive?
  3184. >He could have done something.
  3185. >If it was him, if he was the one to fall out of the car, if he had survived, if he was the one watching, he could have…
  3186. >No, he wouldn’t have watched.
  3187. >He would have been a dad. He would have fought.
  3188. >He would have saved you all.
  3189. >He would have. He could have.
  3190. >And now he’s…
  3191. >You’re going to be sick.
  3192.  
  3193. >Images of him flash in your mind.
  3194. >All your birthdays, your first game of catch, your first big game.
  3195. >Everything he had done with you, for you, it all plays through right in front of your eyes.
  3196. >And all of it hurts.
  3197. >You wish to god that it would stop, and for once, he answers your prayer.
  3198. >Something breaks you from your memories.
  3199. >It’s a noise. A very faint noise, but enough.
  3200. >You jerk your head up, and suddenly your heart starts racing.
  3201. >Are they back?
  3202. >Are they here to finish the job?
  3203. >Like an animal, you desperately search the horizon for any signs of life.
  3204. >All you see is a vast forest past the mountain, the wrecked car, your dad, and--
  3205. “Mom!”
  3206. >She’s moving!
  3207. >Holy shit!
  3208. >You practically jump off your dad’s chest and spasm, speeding along the asphalt to her.
  3209. >She did it!
  3210. >She’s alive too!
  3211. >Oh, thank you, god!
  3212. >Thank you so much!
  3213. >You’re going to turn religious.
  3214. >For this gift, you owe him everything.
  3215. >Your mother lives.
  3216. >A smile breaks across your face as you make it to her.
  3217. >Her once pink shirt is covered in blood, including that which still pours from two small holes in her neck.
  3218. “Mom!”
  3219. >You grab her shirt and shake her.
  3220. >She responds with a twitch, and a jerk of her head.
  3221. >Her mouth opens, producing a long, low moan, almost like a growl.
  3222. >Oh no, she’s in pain.
  3223. >There was aspirin in the car.
  3224. >Maybe it’s still there.
  3225. >You let go of her for a second, but she grabs your wrist and locks you in place.
  3226. “Mom, I need to get you medicine,” you spit.
  3227. >She doesn’t answer, only continuing to moan.
  3228.  
  3229. >Her head jerks again, this time enough to put her eyes to you.
  3230. >You suddenly feel very cold.
  3231. “Mom?” you manage to ask after a long pause.
  3232. >She never had red eyes before.
  3233. >These ones look into you, into your heart.
  3234. >They’re hungry. You can feel the desire burning inside them.
  3235. “Mom, are you ok?”
  3236. >Her grip tightens.
  3237. >It tightens so much, in fact, that her nails cut through your skin and draw blood.
  3238. >You try to pull away, but she’s having none of that.
  3239. “You’re hurting me.”
  3240. >Her nose spreads as she takes in the air, and her eyes dart to your wrist.
  3241. >Suddenly she’s on you.
  3242. >Her teeth, somehow longer than ever before, sink right into your arm.
  3243. >You shout and reel back, trying to take your arm away from her.
  3244. >She follows you, and you the two of you squirm until you land on your back with her atop you.
  3245. >Her bite strengthens like she’s trying to take a chunk out of your arm.
  3246. >You shout and try to crawl away, but even with her destroyed legs, she manages to shuffle and keep up with you.
  3247. “Mom, stop!”
  3248. >Her eyes are focused on your arm.
  3249. >You can feel her tongue wildly lick at your flesh as blood pours out, coating your skin.
  3250. >In a mad search, you find a fist sized rock just a foot away.
  3251. “Mom, let go! Let go!”
  3252. >You reach out and take the stone into your hand.
  3253. >It’s big.
  3254. >It’s too big.
  3255. “Stop it! You’re hurting me!”
  3256. >She growls through her teeth, increasing the pressure both in her bite and her grip.
  3257. >She’s going to crush your arm at this rate.
  3258. “Mom!”
  3259. >Please stop.
  3260. “Don’t make me do it!”
  3261.  
  3262. >She’s not listening.
  3263. >She pulls her head back without letting go.
  3264. >Your arm lights up in a new form of pain as you watch the skin tear.
  3265. >In her teeth is a nice chunk of your muscle, and she’s very interested in separating it from you.
  3266. >You swing, slamming the rock into her temple.
  3267. >It cracks against your blow, indenting her skull in a similar shape to the stone.
  3268. >Your eyes widen as she falls, and you scramble back as fast as you can.
  3269. >Her mouth is covered in blood.
  3270. >In your blood.
  3271. “Mom! Oh god, I’m sorry!”
  3272. >You throw the disgusting weapon away, sending it down the cliff.
  3273. >Frantically, you crawl back over to her and try to help the woman.
  3274. >She jerks this way and that, making low gargling noises.
  3275. >What have you done? You fucking idiot.
  3276. >She was alive!
  3277. >She was alive and you hit her with a fucking rock!
  3278. >You god damned moron!
  3279. “Mom, come on!”
  3280. >With a few slaps to the cheek, you manage to wake her up.
  3281. >Her eyes move again.
  3282. >This time, the sanguine orbs lock onto your neck.
  3283. >Her mouth opens, putting those long fangs on display.
  3284. >Your heart sinks into your stomach as your arm pops into mind.
  3285. >You throw her away and kick, scooting yourself as far away from her as you can.
  3286. >She claws at the ground, pulling herself toward you.
  3287. >Now she’s really screaming.
  3288. “Mom, stop it!”
  3289. >Your hands dance along the pavement, searching for something, anything.
  3290. >Mom grabs onto your ankle and squeezes.
  3291. >A howl of pain escapes you.
  3292. >She uses that as an anchor and with another hand, this time grabbing onto your knee, she pulls herself up.
  3293. >Come on, find something!
  3294. >Every second she makes it closer.
  3295. >Now you’re pinned.
  3296. >Her hands have found your shoulders, and with her leaning over you, you can’t move away.
  3297.  
  3298. >Blood drips from her open maw, plopping onto your face.
  3299. >She stares at you with hungry, evil eyes.
  3300. >No, not at you.
  3301. >At your neck.
  3302. “Mom!”
  3303. >There!
  3304. >Your fist closes around a stick.
  3305. >She lunges with every intent to rip your throat out.
  3306. >Before she can bite down, you move the stick between the two of you.
  3307. >Its sharpened tip plunges through her shirt and into her chest.
  3308. >She stops just short of your jugular.
  3309. >Her mouth hangs open as she breaths.
  3310. >At first it’s ragged, but then gentle.
  3311. >Slowly, lightly, she inhales. In and out.
  3312. >You examine her face.
  3313. >The monster from just a few seconds ago is gone.
  3314. >Now she looks so tired, like she’d just gotten home from one of those runs she does every Sunday.
  3315. “Mom?” you stutter.
  3316. >After one last, deep, raspy breath, she collapses.
  3317. >Her weight all falls onto you at once, but there’s no motivation behind it, no bloodlust.
  3318. >In a fit of fear, you toss her off of you, throwing her onto her back, and scramble away.
  3319. >She’s going to jump again.
  3320. >She will.
  3321. >Any second now.
  3322. >The seconds tick away, and turn into minutes.
  3323. >Soon enough, the wound stops bleeding.
  3324. >She’s dead too.
  3325. >That’s what that means, right?
  3326. >You must have stabbed her in the heart.
  3327. >You, her son, you shoved a big piece of wood right in her heart.
  3328. >The tears start to flow again.
  3329. >You choke on the air you struggle to inhale.
  3330. >What have you done?
  3331. >The stick poking out of her chest stands like a flag, marking your victory.
  3332. >Victory?
  3333. >What...what kind of victory is this?
  3334. >You just killed your mother.
  3335.  
  3336. >Before you even know what’s going on, you’re upright and screaming.
  3337. >Your throat gives out just as you begin to register the world around you in all its peeling wallpaper glory.
  3338. >It’s the Charlemane.
  3339. >You swallow before continuing to pant, refilling your body’s oxygen from that screaming fit.
  3340. >Or maybe you went for a jog in your sleep, considering how much sweat you’re covered in and how hot your face feels.
  3341. >Slowly, your eyes travel from the door directly in front of you to your outstretched hand.
  3342. >In it, gripped so tightly that your fist shakes, is your silver cross.
  3343. >Its point juts out ahead, ready to stab whatever walks in through the cheap wooden defense the Charlemane has so graciously offered you.
  3344. >It remains in your focus for a few seconds before you gather the piece of mind to throw it across the room, landing it in the corner.
  3345. >You look at your hand again and grimace.
  3346. >Despite being bone dry, it still feels wet, warm, even, as if her blood was still covering it.
  3347. >Her face flashes in your mind again. Or rather, the face she wore.
  3348. >Those beady red eyes, alien to her serene face, pierce through your core and send a chill throughout your body.
  3349. >While shaking your head roughly, you jump to your feet.
  3350. “Eyes on the prize, Anon.”
  3351. >You stamp your once injured foot and twist at the ankle, moving it every which way to test the mobility.
  3352. >It’s a little stiff and cracks when you twist hard enough, but is otherwise fully functional.
  3353. >Of course, that’s not all that was battered up last night.
  3354. >Lifting your arm, you also take a peek at your ribs.
  3355. >There’s some light bruising, but the majority of the wounds have healed.
  3356. >That is, they’ve morphed from gaping cuts to long, white scars that match those covering other portions of your body.
  3357. >It doesn’t feel all that bad, but just to be sure, you give it a solid knock with your fist.
  3358. >Everything seems to be in working order.
  3359.  
  3360. >As you search for a new, not brown and crusty shirt to wear, you spot the bottle of fairy tears sitting on the floor a few inches away from your foot.
  3361. >You huff and kick it over, then roll it underneath the tiny, unstable coffee table a few feet away from where you’re standing..
  3362. >A sick feeling arises in your stomach as you grab a pristine white tee off the floor.
  3363. >This is the third time.
  3364. >You’ve been delivered to Death’s door three times and have needed fairy tears to get away.
  3365. >Three times you’ve turned to those monsters for help.
  3366. >After you pull the shirt down over your head, you maneuver your arms in and pull the tight fabric down, smoothing it over your skin.
  3367. >There won’t be a fourth time.
  3368. >That’s it, period.
  3369. >If things go south that way again, you’ll just figure out a way to finish it all before you kick the bucket.
  3370. >With that in mind, you throw on your jacket and fish your phone out of its pocket.
  3371. >The clock reads quarter of noon, so as you as get a move on out the door, you flip open the screen to go call Rarity.
  3372. >Of course, someone else calls you right that second and you end up answering.
  3373. “Fuck.”
  3374. >”Well, it’s not like you to pick up on the first time.”
  3375. “What do you want?”
  3376. >A low, breathy chuckle comes from the man on the other end of the line.
  3377. >”What I want is to speak. Is that so very bad, my boy?”
  3378. >With a grunt, you slam the door behind you and leave the Charlemane.
  3379. >Your truck beckons for you, and when you get close, you notice your duffle bag sitting in the bed.
  3380. >Huh.
  3381. >You open it up to make sure nothing was stolen overnight and promptly move it into the cab with you.
  3382.  
  3383. >”You never came to Fillydelphia.”
  3384. “I know.”
  3385. >”Why not?”
  3386. “I’m busy.”
  3387. >You throw the engine on and reverse out of the parking lot, making way back onto the totally safe and well planned out roads of Bahhston.
  3388. >”Well, of course you are. You always were our busiest bee, weren’t you? That doesn’t mean you get to ignore a global crisis.”
  3389. “If it’s global, it will get to me eventually.”
  3390. >”Lucky for you then!”
  3391. >Oh god damn it.
  3392. >”You don’t mind if I come by to visit you, right?”
  3393. “Actually, I very much would mind that.”
  3394. >”I’ll bring popcorn.”
  3395. >Your grip on the wheel tightens along with your chest.
  3396. >”We can take down this threat together. We’ll restore balance to the world and then you can get back on your quest.”
  3397. >And THEN get back on your quest?
  3398. >It’s too important. The clock is ticking.
  3399. >Every day brings you closer to Thanksgiving, and any day you waste on the Director’s crazy missions is another day down the drain.
  3400. >The real threat is here, and it’s one you have to monitor.
  3401. “I’m not doing it. End of the story.”
  3402. >”Balance, Anon. The world is nothing without it.”
  3403. “Director, you know what this means to me. I can help you out later.”
  3404. >”Ignore this problem any longer and there won’t be a later.”
  3405. “Allow me to rephrase. Don’t come to this city. Don’t get in my way.”
  3406. >”Or what, young man?”
  3407. >You jerk on the wheel suddenly as some asshole cuts you off eight feet before the stop light.
  3408. >It turns red right at that second, and like lemmings, the intersection before you floods with cars uncaring for the hulking vehicle right in the way.
  3409. >You weave between them, receiving only a few scratches and coming out on the other end safely.
  3410.  
  3411. “You know exactly what I’m capable of.”
  3412. >”Oh yes, I do. I am so very proud of what you’re capable of. However, I also know that you don’t of killing humans, so I suppose I have that going for me.”
  3413. “I’m open to reconsider.”
  3414. >”We’ll see. Ta ta for now, my boy.”
  3415. >The line cuts.
  3416. >Well fuck you then, right?
  3417. >Just fuck you and fuck everything you’re trying to do here.
  3418. >It’s not like this isn’t the most important thing you’ll ever do in your miserable life.
  3419. >He’s going to come to Bahhston and do everything in his power to ruin your plans.
  3420. >You know he will because that’s exactly the kind of person he is.
  3421. >Well tough luck, Director. It’s not going to work.
  3422. >You have two girls to watch and protect from some unholy conglomerate of monsters.
  3423. >He wants to put his global scale mission on top of that?
  3424. >No way.
  3425. >Not going to happen.
  3426. >You’re not going to MISS THAT TURN!
  3427. >You slam on the brakes and lean over, dragging the wheel as far to the right as you can, cutting across two lanes of angry traffic to make your turn.
  3428. >”You fuckin’ son of a bitch, you get outta that cah so’s I can put my foot up yoa ass!”
  3429. >Your middle finger is all that gentleman gets as a response.
  3430. >Lucky for you, or unlucky for him, traffic has moved too far ahead for anyone to let him come follow you.
  3431. >Now, where is that Sandwich Monarch?
  3432. >Last time you were hunting in Bahhston, the target swung by this joint.
  3433. >It should down the end of the street.
  3434. >You ease up on the gas and examine each building as you go by.
  3435. >You pass by a few thai places, a tie place, a smaller tie place, two furniture stores named most assuredly to combat each other, four coffee shops, and a skateboard repair store called “The Board”.
  3436. “Creative,” you grumble.
  3437. >Where the fuck can you park?
  3438. >There are no good spots here, except for one right in front of the actual restaurant.
  3439. >Well fuck.
  3440. >After finding a nice spot four streets down, you lock everything up and jog back to the Sandwich Monarch.
  3441.  
  3442. >You arrive at the garishly blue burger joint and peek in through the huge pane windows they so graciously offer you.
  3443. >It’s packed full, but you do spot an all too familiar head of rainbow hair sitting in a booth in the back corner.
  3444. >Wow, that’s brave of her.
  3445. >Wait a second, is that what you think it is?
  3446. >Dash is in a booth in the back left corner of the store, facing away from you.
  3447. >Past that is a big poof of pink.
  3448. >It can’t be, can it?
  3449. >You lean against the glass and squint.
  3450. >The color is spot on. The shape is similar too.
  3451. >Her skin matches what you remember.
  3452. >Suddenly her head jerks back as she erupts into laughter.
  3453. >Even from across the busy restaurant, separated by a thick layer of glass, and with you out on the busy sidewalk, you can make out that laugh.
  3454. >It’s the same laugh she used when you tried to explain what happened on that road.
  3455. >The same shrill, invasive laugh that only somebody with not a single care in the world would have the gall to use.
  3456. >Your cheeks begin to heat up as memories start flooding back to you.
  3457. >Those thoughts are all washed away when a new idea forms in your mind.
  3458. >Rarity said Twilight was an old high school friend.
  3459. >She’s a vampire.
  3460. >Flash met you in an elevator.
  3461. >He was a vampire.
  3462. >Now Pinkie Pie, one of the most popular girls in school, shows up coincidentally in the same town as Rainbow Dash and meets her for lunch.
  3463. >That sounds a little too perfect, doesn’t it?
  3464.  
  3465. >You walk away from the glass and open the door, then peek your head just inside.
  3466. >Now, while you’re not much of a betting man, you have been around long enough to know a sure thing when you see one.
  3467. >Twilight, Flash, and Pinkie? That’s a sure thing.
  3468. >Given that, it’s also likely enough that Pinkie and Flash report to Sunset.
  3469. >Grabbing your adam’s apple, you push it down low enough to deepen your voice that Rainbow shouldn’t be able to recognize you.
  3470. “Pinkie, change of plans. She wants us to pull out for now. Regroup outside.”
  3471. >Both the girls stop for a hot second.
  3472. >Rainbow’s face is still hidden from your view, but the way Pinkie’s eyes shift tell you everything you need to know.
  3473. >You pull away from the door and mix yourself back into the crowd, waiting for her to leave.
  3474. >It looks like they begin to share their goodbyes, choosing to end with a hug.
  3475. >You glare at the two of them, but your stare stays on Pinkie as she moves through the shop and arrives outside, leaving behind the pristine white tiles for the dirty, piss-scented streets.
  3476. >Sorry, Dash. You’re going to be a little late for lunch.
  3477. >From your jacket, you produce your trusty cross.
  3478. >Pinkie starts walking around, keeping her head high and scanning the crowd with her shining blue eyes.
  3479. >They land on everybody but you, but that’s quite alright.
  3480. >She doesn’t have to see you.
  3481. “Hey there, Pinks. Long time no see,” you whisper, pressing your silver trinket into the small of her back.
  3482. >It’s hidden well enough, smothered between your jacket and her own bright pink coat.
  3483. >It’s thick and fuzzy, almost like wool.
  3484. >It also reaches down to her shins, so at least she learned some modesty in the last ten years.
  3485. >”Hey, wait just a darn second. I know that voice!”
  3486. >She whips around and beams at you with a huge smile, putting her teeth on full display.
  3487. >No fangs.
  3488. >Yet.
  3489.  
  3490. >”Nonny! Gosh, it’s been ages!”
  3491. >She opens her arms for a hug, but you press the cross into her chest and push her away.
  3492. “Keep it down.”
  3493. >Once her eyes land on your tool, her ear-to-ear smile disappears.
  3494. >A sly look grows on her face, and she turns her stare up to meet your eyes.
  3495. >”I never took you for a hunter. Standard class?”
  3496. “Special.”
  3497. >”Good for you. I should throw you a party.”
  3498. “I’ve had just about enough of your parties. Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing in Bahhston instead?”
  3499. >”Oh, Nonny, if you didn’t already know, you wouldn’t be threatening me right now.”
  3500. “Then let me rephrase. What does Sunset want with Dash?”
  3501. >Pinkie’s smile returns, and despite your cross, she wraps her arms around you and pulls you in close, smushing the holy object between your chests.
  3502. >So she’s not a vampire. That’s good.
  3503. >Wait, no it’s not.
  3504. >”Age suits you. You’ve grown up into such a strong man. Can you imagine how much protein is in these muscles?”
  3505. >A sharp squeeze on your shoulder accentuates that remark.
  3506. >”I could eat for days.”
  3507. >You can feel her breath on your neck, hot and wet, marking her nearing mouth.
  3508. >Just as her lips brush against your skin, you also feel a row of razor sharp teeth.
  3509. >Yeah, that’s about all you need to know.
  3510. >In as smooth of a motion as you can, you rip open her jacket and jam the silver piece against her midriff.
  3511. >She howls and leaps back, letting go of you completely.
  3512. “You always did like to show off that belly of yours.”
  3513. >She snarls and rubs the steaming chunk of burned flesh where her belly button should be.
  3514. >The skin turns in on itself as a new layer of flesh forms over the dead.
  3515. >”I’m throwing you a party one way or another, Nonny, whether it’s for your return or for your funeral.”
  3516. “If you were a vampire, I might be a little afraid of that remark. You’re just a werewolf. Judging by how bad that burn is, you’re not even a full breed.”
  3517. >The wound is totally gone now.
  3518. >She crouches, baring her newly sharpened teeth at you, along with her claws.
  3519. >The curves of her poof become more jagged and wild as pink hair seems to spread down from the hairline, framing her face.
  3520. >”You know what my favorite party drink is?”
  3521. >She steps forward and sends a balled up fist right for your sternum.
  3522. >”Punch!”
  3523.  
  3524. >Her fist rockets for you.
  3525. >You can see every individual hair snaking down her arm, covering the outside face of it, waving in the wind.
  3526. >It even whistles, as if that weren’t enough.
  3527. >The speed and power is admirable.
  3528. >Earlier, back when your chest lit on fire with every slight movement, and your leg was stiff, acting more like an anchor than a limb, it might have even struck some fear in you.
  3529. >Now, though?
  3530. >You sidestep and flip the cross around in your hand.
  3531. >With the arms facing down, you hook it around Pinkie’s wrist and yank her fist out of its path of destruction.
  3532. >With her own momentum against her now, she tips in the direction of your nudge.
  3533. >The wolf woman is wide open, and you take the opportunity to slam your knuckles right into her cheekbone.
  3534. >It feels like punching a brick wall and is about as useful as the general act would be too.
  3535. >Damn if it wasn’t worth it though.
  3536. >As you shake the pain out of your hand, you laugh at the blood spilling from a nasty cut right under her eye before that very wound closes.
  3537. >She rubs her cheek gently.
  3538. >When the wound is completely gone, she lets out a light giggle.
  3539. >”Oh, Nonny, thank you! I was worried today would be boring.”
  3540. “You’re certainly livening up the days of these bystanders. I don’t think it’s very often they get to see a hairy lady with teeth as big as yours.”
  3541. >Her head turns slightly as she takes in the crowd made up of some watchers, but vastly more people walking along like nothing was happening.
  3542. >”We’re rehearsing for an indie film.”
  3543. >At those words, the Bahhstonians who stood watching roll their eyes and move along.
  3544. >She shrugs at your surprise.
  3545. >”Nobody likes indie.”
  3546.  
  3547. >She lunges for you with her claws outstretched.
  3548. >You step back, easily dodging the first swipe.
  3549. >The second, third, fourth, and fifth are all just as predictable and you evade them without much effort.
  3550. >With another twirl, you move the cross and grab onto its tip, then unsheath the blade within the base.
  3551. >”Nonny, what did I tell you about defacing holy artifacts?”
  3552. “Nothing,” you grumble and use the cross to bat away an incoming punch.
  3553. >That was just a distraction though, as you soon find out.
  3554. >Her foot finds purchase in your gut.
  3555. >As soon as you realize that fact, you’re airborne and crash through the window of The Board.
  3556. >Huge shards of glass fall, shattering on the hardwood floor that you too land on and slide across.
  3557. >Your head slams against the main counter.
  3558. >Pinkie laughs and replies, ”Oh, right. That must have been Twilight.”
  3559. >Twilight?
  3560. >You get your feet under you and scramble back, using the counter behind you as support.
  3561. >”Oh shit! Norman, grab the weed,” shouts some scrawny punk as he runs away from the register and to the back room.
  3562. >Pinkie steps over the wall and the broken glass keeping you two separated.
  3563. >Her thick, baby blue boot crushes the glass it steps on.
  3564. >Slowly, you step to the right, nearing closer to the cash register sitting alone on the counter.
  3565. >”Come on, Nonny. Just put the cross down and let’s talk.”
  3566. “I’d be happy to talk about Twilight. How does she fit into your plans?”
  3567. >”Put down the cross and you’ll find out.”
  3568. “Promise?”
  3569. >”Cross my heart and hope to fly!”
  3570. “Stick a cupcake in my eye.”
  3571.  
  3572. >You smirk and move, still cautious of her speed, and sheath the blade on your cross.
  3573. >As you move it to your pocket, she holds up a finger, stopping you.
  3574. >Pinkie points to the far corner of the store, behind her, and waggles her eyebrows.
  3575. >Obeying, you bend, set your silver slayer down, and stand again.
  3576. >Once risen, you set your foot on the cross and kick, sliding it across the floor.
  3577. >It whizzes harmlessly by her before the fallen glass blocks its path and brings it to a halt.
  3578. >Even accounting for that, it’s still as close to the corner that the girl smiles.
  3579. >”What do you want to know about Twilight?”
  3580. “Who is she?”
  3581. >”Oh, that’s a good one. I’ll tell you all about it.”
  3582. >She lowers herself, crouching like a dog, as a low growl escapes her lips.
  3583. >”Right after I put a little wolf in your system.”
  3584. >Pinkie bursts forward.
  3585. >Her mouth opens, revealing all her pointed teeth still slick with saliva.
  3586. >You put your arm between the two of you, letting her bite into it.
  3587. >She clamps down on your forearm and begins to laugh, but that stops soon when she realizes her teeth never met your flesh.
  3588. >With one hand on the cash register, you grab it and lean, using all of your weight to help move it.
  3589. >The hefty piece of machinery lifts off the counter and crashes into Pinkie’s skull, sending her down onto the floor with a thud.
  3590. >She groans and tries to pick herself back up, but you lift the register over your head and then throw it down right onto hers before that can happen.
  3591. >There’s a loud crack and a squilch as her head splits open, covering the floor in front of her with blood and brain.
  3592. >You wipe the sweat off your forehead and sigh.
  3593. >A few people stare in through the broken window of the little store, wide eyed and in awe.
  3594. “Special effects these days, right?”
  3595. >All the wonder leaves their faces then and they wave you off before walking away.
  3596.  
  3597. >Looking around on the counter, you find a little skateboard magazine and grab it, then sit down and peel the pages open.
  3598. >There’s an entirely uninteresting article on slick wheels and what polymer of screws to use on specifically “radical balsa” boards.
  3599. >Apparently the wood is so delicate that you’re actually supposed to--
  3600. >”Ung, my head,” moans Pinkie.
  3601. >You part from the block of text and look beneath you at the bloodied girl.
  3602. >Her hair is sticky with the stuff and clumps together.
  3603. >You can just make out a little scar trailing down the center of her scalp before it totally disappears, having healed up quite nicely.
  3604. >”That wasn’t cool, Nonny.”
  3605. “Neither was breaking a Pinkie promise.”
  3606. >”But I didn’t break it,” she grumbles.
  3607. >Pinkie sits up and wipes some spare brain off her face.
  3608. >”I’m still going to tell you everything you want to know. I just planned on doing it after I turned you. I’m not breaking any promises.”
  3609. “You’d make a great lawyer, you know that?”
  3610. >She glares at your arm and rubs her mouth.
  3611. >”Why didn’t it go through?”
  3612. “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”
  3613. >You roll up the magazine and throw it over your shoulder, then hop off the counter.
  3614. “Now are you going to talk to me about Twilight, or am I going to have to tell you why your teeth didn’t go through?”
  3615. >”You party pooper.”
  3616.  
  3617. “I have been amazing patient with you, all things considered.”
  3618. >You grab a chunk of her pink and red hair, pull her up off the ground, and slam her face down on the counter.
  3619. >With a jerk of your wrist, a large, curved blade juts out of your jacket sleeve, making way through the open seam so as not to tear anything.
  3620. >Gently, you press it against the nape of her neck.
  3621. >Her skin sizzles and smokes, eliciting a squeal from the woman.
  3622. “I’m getting real tired of it too. Talk now, or never talk again.”
  3623. >”Alright, alright! Jeez, lay off, Nonny. I don’t remember you ever being this rough with girls.”
  3624. “You’re not a girl,” you hiss, pulling the blade off her. “You’re a monster.”
  3625. >”I’m the monster? Let’s compare kill counts.”
  3626. “Who is Twilight Sparkle and how do you know her?”
  3627. >”We went to highschool together.”
  3628. >You twist your hand, pulling her hair tighter.
  3629. “Answer the question.”
  3630. >”She’s just a girl we met in the Friendship Games! It was three years after you left!”
  3631. “And how does she relate to whatever you’re doing now?”
  3632. >”What do you mean?”
  3633. “Don’t play games. You know exactly what I mean.”
  3634. >”I don’t, honest! Cross my heart and hope to fly!”
  3635. >She doesn’t really think you’re going to take a Pinkie promise after that stunt, right?
  3636. >”Nonny, come on. I wouldn’t lie to you. You know me.”
  3637. >You snarl and bring the blade back, cutting it into her skin so that the blade cooks, burning her flesh against it.
  3638. “Yeah, I do.”
  3639. >She cries and kicks, but having spent so much energy healing that blow to her head, she can’t do much to shake you off.
  3640. >”Anon? Pinkie?”
  3641.  
  3642. >Your heart stops right then and there.
  3643. >”Oh, hey, Dashie,” cries Pinkie. “We’re just rehearsing for a movie!”
  3644. >You pry the blade out of the pink woman’s neck and jerk your wrist, sheathing it back into your sleeve and tucked against your bracer.
  3645. “It’s, uh, it’s indie.”
  3646. >Forcing yourself to look back, you see Rainbow Dash, standing just outside the store with her hand on the broken window.
  3647. >”You sure about that? Because I know Norman and he would never agree to let an indie film be shot in his store.”
  3648. >”We’re not supposed to be here?”
  3649. >You fucked it now.
  3650. >There’s not a lie in the world that could save your ass.
  3651. >You look her right in her magenta eyes.
  3652. “Dash.”
  3653. >”Anon.”
  3654. “I think we need to talk.”
  3655. >”Yeah, I think so.”
  3656. >”Can I go now?”
  3657. >As much as you’d love to kill Pinkie, you don’t think that Rainbow would much enjoy seeing you take a life right in front of her.
  3658. >Given how deep of a grave you’re digging for yourself right now, it’s best not to push things.
  3659. “Yeah, go on. Get out of here, you scamp.”
  3660. >You let go of Pinkie and pat her on the head.
  3661. >The girl rubs her neck and stands.
  3662. >Suddenly she wraps her arms around you and pulls you in close for a hug.
  3663. >Hidden from Rainbow Dash is her tongue, which snakes up along your neck until reaching your ear.
  3664. >She bites down on it, but not hard enough to break the skin and infect you.
  3665. >”Have fun you two,” cheers the girl as she skips away without seemingly a care in the world, despite looking like she just took a bath with a bloody slab of steak.
  3666. >People gawk at her as she moves, as well as Rainbow Dash, yourself, and the store.
  3667. >Well, this isn't exactly what one could consider stealthy.
  3668. >The Director is going to be pissed.
  3669.  
  3670. >Well, he’s a bridge to cross later.
  3671. >Right now you have to figure out a way to tell Rainbow Dash why she found in the middle of a trashed skateboard shop trying to murder somebody.
  3672. >You could just be up front about it and tell her that you’re a monster hunter and Pinkie is a werewolf.
  3673. >After all, she’s already a vampire. She probably knows about other monsters.
  3674. “Are burgers still on the table?”
  3675. >”Blood,” she mutters with a glassy sort of look in her eyes.
  3676. “Huh?”
  3677. >Rainbow snaps back to reality, looking to you and the floor with big eyes.
  3678. >”That’s, uh, that’s a lot of blood.”
  3679. “Well, none of it’s mine.”
  3680. >“I know.”
  3681. >She sounds almost disappointed.
  3682. “So burgers?”
  3683. >”Oh, yeah.”
  3684. >You take a step forward and end up going right over a little piece of brain.
  3685. >Your entire being cringes into itself, transcending the boundaries of the physical realm, as the little squish sounds throughout the room.
  3686. >”What’s that?”
  3687. “Memory foam. They’re starting to use it in new balsa boards to increase stability during long rides. It’s all in that magazine over there.”
  3688. >”Really?”
  3689. >Shut the fuck up. Stop asking so many fucking questions. Holy shit.
  3690. >This is easily the eleventh worst day of your life.
  3691. >Before she can open her mouth again, you turn the eight feet between you into eight inches and extend your hand.
  3692. “Shall we?”
  3693.  
  3694. >She smirks and slaps your palm away.
  3695. >”Whatever, weirdo.”
  3696. >Side by side, you exit the scene and walk down the street back to Sandwich Monarch.
  3697. >As you enter, you’re met by a an overly perky woman in a tight, baby blue uniform.
  3698. >”Hi there, and welcome to Sandwich Monarch. How can I help you?”
  3699. >The dimples on her pale cheeks compliment her.
  3700. >”A booth, doll,” answers Dash.
  3701. >”Booth it is! Right this way, please.”
  3702. >The woman leads you two away.
  3703. >Funny enough, the spot she sits you in is the same spot Rainbow had before.
  3704. >The baseball star even takes the same seat with her back to the door.
  3705. >It’s for the best, really.
  3706. >This way you can keep an eye on the door.
  3707. >Once settled, the waitress hands you both a small menu with their item listings.
  3708. >”You’re pretty pale,” mentions Dash, not even looking at the sheet. “I wonder what your cheeks would look like with some blood in them.”
  3709. >”Gosh, I don’t know. I guess I coul--”
  3710. “I’ll have a double half pounder. Same for you, Dash? Rare, I would assume.”
  3711. >The way Rainbow looks at you, like you just ruined her lunch, is made even worse by the hint of fang you see popping out from behind her lips.
  3712. >That little tooth sinks back into her jaw, and her demeanor shifts as she addresses the waitress again.
  3713. >”What he said.”
  3714. >”Any drinks?”
  3715. “Coffee.”
  3716. >”Something red.”
  3717.  
  3718. >The woman smiles and takes the menus from you.
  3719. >After a slight curtsy, she waltz off and disappears into the kitchen.
  3720. >You and Dash sit in silence for a short while, only looking at each other.
  3721. “Tense?” you ask, trying to break the ice.
  3722. >”I guess I’m just wondering why you tried to ax my friend back there.”
  3723. “She was your friend?” you laugh. “Wow, you must be a poor judge of character. Do you know what she did? What she’s capable of?”
  3724. >Rainbow raises an eyebrow.
  3725. >You swallow hard and lean forward, propping your elbows up on the table and burying your head in your hands.
  3726. >After a heavy sigh, you turn slightly to look at the blank, white tiled wall to your right.
  3727. ”I should start with what I do for a living, huh? I’m sure you can guess I don’t fix printers.”
  3728. >”What do you do then?”
  3729. “I’m a bounty hunter.”
  3730. >”What, like you find people who don’t show up for court and take them in?”
  3731. “No, a real bounty hunter. I find people who the system wants to make go away, and I take care of it. It’s really quite lucrative.”
  3732. >”You’re being awful open about this, aren’t you?”
  3733. “Well what lie can I tell you at this point? I don’t have a choice but to come clean.”
  3734. >”Is that what you’re doing?”
  3735. >A large amount of yelling breaks your concentration.
  3736. >Your attention is pulled from the wall and to the kitchen.
  3737. >The door swings open and produces several burly men with their arms wrapped around your waitress.
  3738. >She’s kicking, screaming, and crying about something not meant to be heard by decent people.
  3739. >The group is followed by a red man in a suit, waving his spatula like a spider who just caught something in its web.
  3740. >”I told you ta stay outta the kitchen! You don’t even wohk hea!”
  3741. >Her guards open the front door to the store and toss her outside like gutter trash.
  3742. >She vanishes into the sea of people, still screaming, but you’re not able to hear it anymore when those same doors close.
  3743.  
  3744. >Wait, are you still going to get your food?
  3745. >”So, you were saying?”
  3746. “Huh? Oh, right. Well, I used to be part of a group. I had this friend. A big guy, really. A nice guy. Best man I’ve ever known. His name was Bulk.”
  3747. >”Bulk Biceps?”
  3748. “You met him?”
  3749. >”I went to highschool with him.”
  3750. “No shit? Huh, small world. Anyway, we were on a case one day, following a lead on some chick who threw a few too many parties in the wrong places. That chick? She was the pink girl.”
  3751. >Rainbow’s stare is unwavering.
  3752. “She killed him, Dash. She took a knife and she put it right in his back. I’ve been looking for her ever since.”
  3753. >”Wait, wait, hold on,” she interjects, waving her hands.
  3754. >She points at you accusingly.
  3755. >”You’re telling me Pinkie Pie killed someone?”
  3756. >Somebody doesn’t believe you about a death.
  3757. >Wow, what shocking turn of events.
  3758. “I know what I saw.”
  3759. >The disbelief in her face grows.
  3760. >”How’d she do it?”
  3761. “I already told you, she put a knife in his back. There was some loud bang, like a cannon or something. Suddenly there was confetti everywhere and Bulk was down.”
  3762. >Her eyes widen, and in a hollow tone, she mutters: “The party cannon.”
  3763. “The what?”
  3764. >”The party cannon. It was her favorite toy back in school.”
  3765. “A maniac even back then?”
  3766. >She looks down at the table, at her hands, and replies.
  3767. >”Well, yeah, she was a little out there, but a killer?”
  3768. “Sometimes those closest to us can be the worst of them all.”
  3769. >You move forward just an inch, adding “Anybody in this room could be out for head, huh?”
  3770. >”Yeah, I guess so. That’s fucked up.”
  3771. >Then she meets your eyes again.
  3772. >”So why didn’t you kill her in there?”
  3773. “Because I didn’t want you to see that side of me.”
  3774.  
  3775. >”That side of you?”
  3776. “The side that does my job.”
  3777. >”The side of you that kills people.”
  3778. “People,” you repeat.
  3779. >”Do you look them in the eyes when you do it?”
  3780. “I’m sorry?”
  3781. >”When you kill someone. Do you look them in the eyes?”
  3782. >Despite still clearly being in shock over the “development” regarding Pinkie, she seems to be fully invested in your answer.
  3783. “If you can’t look someone in the eyes when you take their life, do they really deserve to die?”
  3784. >A small smile grows on her lips.
  3785. >She knows that too.
  3786. >Dash changes position and snakes her hand across the tabletop.
  3787. >After prying your arms loose, she loops her fingers around yours and holds your hand tight.
  3788. >”I think I’d like to see that side of you.”
  3789. “Wow, what?”
  3790. >You lean away, pressing your back against the seat cushioning.
  3791. >”You heard me. When is your next case?”
  3792. “I, um, I don’t,” you trail off.
  3793. >That’s out of left field.
  3794. “I don’t get it. You want to see me, you know, do it?”
  3795. >”I’ve seen a lot of things, Anon. I want to see more. You’ll show me, won’t you?”
  3796. >What a fucking freak.
  3797. >You knew there was a lot wrong with her, but come on.
  3798. >And furthermore, it’s not bad enough she has to be a sadistic vampire cunt, but now she has to drag you into it too?
  3799. >Fucked up bitch.
  3800.  
  3801. “I don’t know when the next case will be.”
  3802. >”You get calls.”
  3803. “How did yo--”
  3804. >The coffee shop.
  3805. >Your mind immediately starts to comb through all your interactions with Rainbow so far too search for any other clues you might have accidentally left behind.
  3806. >What else can she use to piece together your goals?
  3807. >Nothing stands out, but neither did the coffee shop until she mentioned it.
  3808. >Yesterday evening is sort of a blur of pain. Did you leak anything important?
  3809. >You did hint at how important Thanksgiving was to you.
  3810. >She won’t use that against you though, will she?
  3811. >She can’t.
  3812. >As far as she knows, it’s just another holiday.
  3813. >At worst, she might think you’re a desperate fanboy looking for a hot and steamy Thanksgiving.
  3814. >It’s not the best impression you want her having of you, but it’s not code red either.
  3815. >You’re going to have to be even more careful around this one.
  3816. >Despite what you remember of her from school, she’s clearly smarter than she lets on.
  3817. >”So will you?”
  3818. “I don’t know. That’s kind of weird.”
  3819. >”I like weird.”
  3820. >Is this actually bringing you two closer together?
  3821. >She really wants to see you kill someone.
  3822. >The only problem is, your “someone” tends to be an unholy abomination, not a regular guy walking home from his double.
  3823. >It’s drawing her in though. That’s what you want. It’s what you need.
  3824. >Maybe you can fake something.
  3825. >Yeah, you could manage that.
  3826. >You’ll have to anyway, it looks like.
  3827. >You’ve seen plenty of her games from the sidelines.
  3828. >When she gets that look in her eyes, there’s no stopping her.
  3829. “Alright, the next call I get,” you start, “I’ll let you tag along.”
  3830.  
  3831. >”Score!”
  3832. >That was pretty loud.
  3833. >Too loud, in fact.
  3834. >It gets the attention of those who were busy enjoying their peaceful, overpriced meals.
  3835. >As heads turn, eyes start to widen.
  3836. >”Is that Rainbow Dash?”
  3837. >”Shit,” she mutters.
  3838. “To be honest, I’m just surprised it took this long.”
  3839. >A few people ease out of their seats, looking like they’re about to come over.
  3840. >Before they can, the waiter--or at least someone who you assume is the waiter this time--arrive with your meals.
  3841. >He drops the trays off with a receipt and walks away, not even bothering to look up, lest it distract him from his tired mumbling.
  3842. >With your meatshield gone, bystanders, all thinking their time has come, begin to muster.
  3843. “You ever dine and dash before?”
  3844. >”A few times. Why?”
  3845. “I feel like living on the edge today.”
  3846. >You snatch your burger up from the tray, down the coffee as fast as you can without burning your throat, and head off.
  3847. “Coming?”
  3848. >She’s shocked at first, but the baseball star takes the hint and does the same, following you out.
  3849. >The two of you run down the streets, giggling like school kids.
  3850. >At some point, Rainbow swipes the hat off some jerk on one of those new segways without the handles.
  3851. >Hoverboards, you think they’re called.
  3852. >Those asshats haven’t seen a hoverboard until they’ve walked in on an angry djinn trying to kidnap the sultan’s daughter.
  3853. >Anyway, she tucks her hair up under the hat and pulls it down, covering most of her distinctive rainbow locks.
  3854.  
  3855. >You two eventually make it to a nice park with naught but a few kids and disinterested parents around.
  3856. >You linger a little too long, taking in the separated families, which prompts Dash to grab your arm and pull you away.
  3857. >Suddenly the image of that girl, with her rainbow hair shining in the dim streetlight, ripping your father’s arms off flashes in your mind.
  3858. >A little gasp escapes you and you reel back, yanking away from her powerful grip.
  3859. >”Anon?”
  3860. >Judging by her face, she’s not concerned with your outburst.
  3861. >More annoyed by it, or slightly perturbed.
  3862. “Sorry. I think there’s a pebble in my shoe.”
  3863. >She rolls her eyes.
  3864. >In the process, they land on those same families you’d been gawking at like an idiot.
  3865. >Her lips curl slightly in the corners.
  3866. >”Your parents ever take you to a park?”
  3867. >There’s a nice stick on the ground you could impale her with.
  3868. “Come on, let’s go eat under that tree. You like shade?”
  3869. >”I guess I’m pretty fond of it.”
  3870. >You nestle down under a tall, thick, sturdy oak a few dozen yards away from anybody else.
  3871. >It’s pretty nice, actually.
  3872. >Or at least it would be if you weren’t next to Rainbow fucking Dash.
  3873. >To her credit, she doesn’t try to play any games this time.
  3874. >You’re able to eat and shoot the shit without much worry about tiptoeing around any clever questions.
  3875. >Every once in awhile, you end up peeking back toward the playground area and watching the laughing kids run around whilst their parents sit on the benches all too far away, reading their books or looking at each other’s nails.
  3876. >”Any cuties over there?”
  3877. “Cuties?” you answer with a laugh.
  3878. >You shake your head and take another bite of your sandwich.
  3879. “The only cutie here,” you pause to swallow, “Is the one I’m next to.”
  3880. >After punching your shoulder, Dash replies with a simple “Shut up.”
  3881. >If only she knew how little you wanted to talk to her.
  3882.  
  3883. >It’s another little while, maybe about an hour, until you’ve had your fill of each other.
  3884. >As the conversation went, you’re both going to meet at your house in Canterlot for some Thanksgiving turkey.
  3885. >She’ll tell her parents she’s going out of town for a special training camp since she, as she put it, can’t let them know she’s going to be with a boy.
  3886. >You’re not entirely sure the context of that comment, but whatever.
  3887. >You’re just glad you didn’t have to convince her to come alone.
  3888. >No, she was all set to head out without telling anybody else, but of course her parents would worry where their sweet little Dashie was on Thanksgiving.
  3889. >You can’t help but feel sorry for her parents.
  3890. >After all, you’d feel just awful knowing you raised such a cold, heartless monster.
  3891. >They should count themselves lucky that you’re willing to take care of the beast.
  3892. >You smile at that thought, as you move to part with Rainbow.
  3893. >Before you go too far though, she grabs your wrist and pulls you close, wrapping you in a hug.
  3894. >It lasts only an instant, and before you can next blink, she pushes you away and turns to leave herself.
  3895. >Progress.
  3896. >It’s still a few minutes before you feel safely enough out of vampiric earshot to call anybody.
  3897. >When you do, it’s the top number on your contacts list.
  3898. >You press your flip phone to your ear and wait for an entire three seconds for the phone to ring before it’s picked up.
  3899. >”Hello?”
  3900. “Hey, Rare.”
  3901. >”And a good day to you, Darling.”
  3902. “Yeah, so I--”
  3903. >”You didn’t call me last night.”
  3904. “What?”
  3905. >”Nothing. You were saying?”
  3906.  
  3907. >Wow, Dad was right after all.
  3908. “I was just calling to see if you wanted to do something tonight. It’s a new town, so why not break it in?”
  3909. >”That sounds like a fantastic idea.”
  3910. “Cool, I’ll get us some seats then. You like french, right?”
  3911. >You can practically hear her frantic nodding on the other end of the line.
  3912. >For a brief time, you wonder what she’s wearing.
  3913. >Probably something stained in the blood of a child.
  3914. >Or maybe the guts she ripped out of a dog.
  3915. >Who knows what twisted shit that vampire bitch is into?
  3916. >”That sounds divine. What time should I expect you, darling?”
  3917. “Oh, I’d say to be ready around seven.”
  3918. >”Seven o’clock it is then. Now please do excuse me, I have something on hand right now and it’s sort of time sensitive.”
  3919. “Sure, sure. Bye, then.”
  3920. >”Goodbye.”
  3921. >The call ends, and right after that, you make another.
  3922. >”Jardin de Paris, my name is Fleur. How may I help you?” asks the soft woman over the phone.
  3923. “I need a reservation tonight at seven-thirty for two.”
  3924. >”I’m sorry, sir, but we are booked for the next month. I will not be able to put you in for tonight,” she answers in a holier-than-thou tone.
  3925. >Well, if she wants to play hardball.
  3926. “It’s Anon.”
  3927. >”Would you like a booth or an outdoor seat?”
  3928. >Yeah, that sure changed her tone.
  3929. “Booth is fine.”
  3930. >”I’ll put you in for seven-thirty.”
  3931. “Thank you.”
  3932. >”No, thank you. There have been no printer jams in months.”
  3933.  
  3934. >You’ve never been a fan of house goblins anyway, so killing them was fun in itself.
  3935. >The benefit of the name drop is just icing on the cake, you guess.
  3936. >”Shall I have anything special done fo--”
  3937. >And that conversation is over.
  3938. >You shut the phone before she can finish whatever she was about to drone on about.
  3939. >There are better things to do in the, oh, four free hours you have before dinner.
  3940. >You could get a bite, catch a movie, or maybe go read.
  3941. >Or, and this is a fun one, you could go back to The Board and track down Pinkie Pie to whatever hole she crawled back into.
  3942. >The bright sun beats down on your exposed face, but it doesn’t make you sweat.
  3943. >In fact, the extra warmth is welcome to fight off the invading chill of the wind ripping through the crowd around you.
  3944. >Everybody, yourself included, pull their jackets tighter.
  3945. >As you do so, you notice a distinct lack of metal pressing against you.
  3946. >Oh fuck.
  3947. >Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
  3948. >You pick up the pace, soon jogging down the sidewalks and pushing past people.
  3949. >How could you have left it there?
  3950. >Well, it’s not like you could have picked up a silver cross right in front of Rainbow Dash, but still.
  3951. >Soon enough, you make it back to The Board and peek inside.
  3952. >The cleanup crew has come, and they look none too pleased about the mess they’ve stumbled into.
  3953. >”I can’t believe I do this for free,” grumbles the old, mustached man.
  3954. “Hey,” you call to him.”
  3955. >The pile of glass from the window is gone.
  3956. >”Huh? What do you want, kid?”
  3957. “Where’d you put all the crap that was right here?”
  3958. >”Under the rug.”
  3959. “There’s no rug in here.”
  3960. >”Next door, dumbass.”
  3961. >Fair enough.
  3962.  
  3963. >You pop back into the Sandwich Monarch and pull up the floormat in front of the door.
  3964. >Lo and behold, all the broken glass as well as your handy silver cross are nestled happily underneath the coarse fabric.
  3965. >After you reacquire your tool, you make it back out to in front of The Board.
  3966. >Pinkie, the little dickens, ended up leaving a nice trail of bloody footprints for you to follow.
  3967. >It’s not like there was any way she couldn’t, considering the puddle of blood she was lying and walking in.
  3968. >You track them down three blocks before heading down an alley.
  3969. >Shady.
  3970. >Hugging the brick building to the right of that dark passage, you scan the crowd around you.
  3971. >Everybody is moving along just fine except for some homeless man across the street and some soon to be homeless teenagers puffing the magic dragon just another block down.
  3972. >Oh wait, they’re homeless too.
  3973. >Easy mistake.
  3974. >Well, the important thing is that nobody seems to be waiting for you to walk down the dark, secluded, easily trapped alley.
  3975. >Shame too, since that would actually be a really good spot to ambush you.
  3976. >You turn and head in, keeping a tight grip on your cross as you do so.
  3977. >The light is gone almost instantly.
  3978. >The gentle scent of rotting food and piss wafts into your nose, resulting in a gag.
  3979. “Eugh.”
  3980. >No matter how many corpses and almost-corpses you find yourself surrounded by, the smell of a dumpster will always get you.
  3981. >Your boots tap lightly on the cracked pavement as you ease through.
  3982. >Step by step, you follow the trail of blood.
  3983. >The footprints end up leading you to behind a dumpster, and the closer you get, the more disappointed you are.
  3984. >She’s not here.
  3985. >If she were, she’d have smelled you and jumped out by now.
  3986. >Even over this trash, her nose would be too good.
  3987. >You huff and pocket your cross, then step around the dumpster.
  3988. >See? What did you say?
  3989. >There, right fucking there on the ground, is a pair of high, baby blue boots.
  3990. >Blood coats the bottom of them.
  3991.  
  3992. >Grunting, you bend over and pick up one of them.
  3993. >Man, you probably missed her by a mi--
  3994. >Hold on.
  3995. >You turn it over and slowly poke your hand inside.
  3996. >Your palm descends into the slightly damp darkness and begins to sweat itself.
  3997. >You sweat because the boot is still warm.
  3998. >Throwing it down, you reach for your cross and whip it out.
  3999. >Ears open, Anon.
  4000. >You twist on a heel, throwing yourself against the wall to remove the chance of any sneak attacks.
  4001. >Alright, you fur covered bitch, where are you hiding?
  4002. >Slow down your breaths, Anon.
  4003. >As the clock ticks on, you can’t help but think about how it’s been two hours since you last saw her.
  4004. >The walk from The Board to here was only ten minutes.
  4005. >Depending on how fast she was moving, it could have taken her five to fifteen minutes.
  4006. >Even if you were being super generous and gave her half an hour, that still leaves an hour and a half.
  4007. >If she scrapped the boots then, they should be cold.
  4008. >That means she was sitting here, right?
  4009. >But why?
  4010. >Waiting for you?
  4011. >You were just joking earlier about there being an ambush. There’s no way she could have known you were going to track her down.
  4012. >And if she did, why choose now to bail on the plan?
  4013. >She could have waited an hour and a half here for you and decide just a few minutes ago to ditch the boots and scram?
  4014. >No, none of this is adding up.
  4015. >It’s time to go.
  4016. >You scooch along the wall, slowly making your way out of whatever bat shit is going on in this alley.
  4017. >”Well hey, Anon! Fancy meeting you here!”
  4018. >That voice.
  4019. >Oh god damn it.
  4020.  
  4021. “Twilight,” you reply.
  4022. >You keep your head forward and your ears open, trying desperately to locate the source of her voice.
  4023. “It’s been so long.”
  4024. >”I know. Two days, right?”
  4025. “In the neighborhood of.”
  4026. >”What have you been up to?”
  4027. >It’s like it’s coming from everywhere at once.
  4028. >Although that’s entirely possible if she’s in her mist form.
  4029. >If she is, that’s not really such a bad thing.
  4030. >Considering how draining that skill is, if she keeps it up, she’ll be too tired to draw out a fight.
  4031. >A shiver runs up your spine and you leap away from the wall.
  4032. >Frantically, you spin around with your cross extended.
  4033. >It enters a thick, black cloud.
  4034. >That very same cloud shifts, condenses, and spirals around your hand.
  4035. >There’s a certain pressure on your arm as the one body of mist branches out, forming limbs that smooth over, gain color, and eventually become the full Twilight Sparkle.
  4036. >Her hand clutches your wrist, and with a sadistic smile, she increases the force.
  4037. >You wince from the pain and end up dropping your cross on the ground.
  4038. >Twilight simply kicks it away, sliding it underneath the dumpster you found Pinkie’s boots next to.
  4039. >Well, there goes the quick fight.
  4040. >”I do believe I asked you a question.”
  4041. “What’d you do with the wolfgirl?”
  4042. >”You mean Pinkie?”
  4043. “So you know her too.”
  4044. >”Of course I do. We were best friends in high school. Didn’t you know that?”
  4045. >She laughs and slaps her forehead with her free hand.
  4046. >”Oh, silly me. I forgot you don’t know what a friend is.”
  4047. >No cross, and your hands are in a bind.
  4048. >If you move the right way though, you might be able to free a blade from one of your bracers.
  4049. >She can’t possibly know you have those on, not unless she was watching during your fight with Pinkie.
  4050. >Of course, given what’s going on right now, you can’t rule that out.
  4051.  
  4052. >No, wait, yes you can.
  4053. >If she was watching your fight with Pinkie, she should have been on her tail.
  4054. >That means if she was right there, she would have taken Pinkie early on and her boots would be cold.
  4055. >She has to have been a recent addition to the alley.
  4056. >That makes sense, right?
  4057. >Even if it does, it’s not enough for you to confidently stake your life on.
  4058. >”So, what are you up to?”
  4059. “You know, same old. Serial murder depending on your definition of the word.”
  4060. >”Ooh, fun. And what, pray tell, is your definition?”
  4061. “I don’t want to say. You might get mad at me.”
  4062. >”That’s fair,” she chuckles.
  4063. >Her grip tightens on your wrist.
  4064. >You groan as the nails begin to dig into your flesh.
  4065. >There’s a glass bottle of garlic powder in your left jacket pocket.
  4066. >It wouldn’t matter even if she was watching your fight with Pinkie since you didn’t use it.
  4067. >You need to make that fall out somehow and break.
  4068. >That will be your window.
  4069. ”What are you doing in Bahhston?”
  4070. >”Stalking your girlfriend.”
  4071. “Straightforward, I like it. Can you keep that up and tell me what you and Sunset have to do with said girlfriend?”
  4072. >”You’ve seen Sunset?” she snaps, suddenly squeezing so hard you begin to worry your bones will snap.
  4073. >You let out a howl of pain, prompting her to ease up.
  4074. >That’s the closest thing to an answer you’ve gotten out of anybody so far.
  4075. >”Oops, sorry about that.”
  4076. >She releases you now.
  4077.  
  4078. >On instinct, you twist your wrist and unsheath the blade.
  4079. >It emerges again through the seam in your jacket sleeve.
  4080. >Without thinking, you swipe at Twilight.
  4081. >You actually manage to catch her off guard and put a nice, deep cut right in her arm.
  4082. >The skin sizzles as your steel rips through her.
  4083. >She reels back, staring at the smoking wound.
  4084. >Go!
  4085. >With your other blade free now, you go for her legs.
  4086. >One cut makes it into her thigh, and when she collapses, you go right for the throat.
  4087. >Her good arm, that being her left, rises to stop you before you can make the cut.
  4088. >Shit.
  4089. >She growls and bares her fangs.
  4090. >Her hand finds its way to your chest, and with just a shove, you’re pushed across the alley and slam into the dumpster hard enough to put an indent of your body in its face.
  4091. >You cough and crumple onto the wet concrete, curling into a ball.
  4092. >”I show you enough kindness to let you go and this is how you repay me?”
  4093. >You plant your hands firmly on the ground and shakily lift yourself up.
  4094. >Oh damn, that’s some loud ringing in your ears.
  4095. >”You ungrateful little punk.”
  4096. “Aren’t I older than you?”
  4097. >Though your vision is somewhat blurry, you can see her walking toward you.
  4098. >Reaching under the dumpster, you pat around for your cross.
  4099. >Your fingers brush against it and you grab for the piece, but Twilight has other plans.
  4100. >She latches onto your jacket and hoists you up to your feet a little too fast for your head to handle.
  4101. >You groan and shut your eyes for a few seconds to gather your bearings.
  4102. >”I was going to just let you go on that little date of yours, but now I have two big holes that I need to close up.”
  4103. >When you open your eyes again, you see that Twilight’s lavender eyes have been replaced with beady, piercing red ones.
  4104. >Her fangs are also fully extended, ready to draw blood.
  4105. >”You’ll help me fix this, won’t you?”
  4106.  
  4107. >She cups your cheek with her palm, rubs it gently, and gives a few pats.
  4108. >”Such rosy cheeks. I bet your blood is just aching to get out. The only question is,” she pauses to lick her lips. “Do I just take a sip or do I have some fun turning you?”
  4109. >Your face heats up as your heart beats faster and faster, a million miles a minute, trying to get out of your chest and escape.
  4110. >It’s dark in this alley.
  4111. >It’s very dark.
  4112. >You stare into her sanguine eyes as your own widen.
  4113. >In them, you can see that night.
  4114. >Beneath the black sky, through the powerful rain, they stand over him.
  4115. >She stands over you.
  4116. >It’s happening again.
  4117. >Your begin to pant, unable to control your breath.
  4118. >”What’s wrong? It’ll be fun, honest. For me, at least. Hey, look at the bright side. I can teach you all about friendship.”
  4119. >She opens her mouth and inches forward, bringing her fangs closer and closer to your neck.
  4120. >You put your fist in the way, pouring every ounce of strength you have into a flurry of punches.
  4121. >The skin on your knuckles tear and you begin to bleed as you wail on her.
  4122. >No matter what, your punches do nothing to phase her.
  4123. >Her cheek, her chin, her eyebrow, they are all unmarked.
  4124. >The only sign of your assault is your own blood being smeared across her face.
  4125. >You kick too, pushing as hard as you can with your knees to get her away.
  4126. >Twilight’s only response is a little laugh at your efforts.
  4127. >When your grip begins to give and your knuckles crack against her face, you resort to slapping, scratching, and yes, even spitting.
  4128.  
  4129. >You do land one spray of saliva right in her eye.
  4130. >It turns her green and she shuts her eyes, turning away for just a second.
  4131. >It’s the only second you need.
  4132. >You contort yourself, slipping your hand into your left pocket, and grab the bottle of garlic powder.
  4133. >Swinging it at full force, you smash the glass right against her left cheek.
  4134. >It cracks and shatters, stabbing both of you.
  4135. >The powder explodes into a cloud of orange colored dust.
  4136. >It invades your nose and your eyes, but more importantly, it invades hers.
  4137. >Twilight shrieks in pain and lets go of you, dropping you onto the ground.
  4138. >She stumbles back, scratching at her eyes in sad attempts to clear them.
  4139. >You hand darts underneath the dumpster and latches onto your cross.
  4140. >With it now in your possession, you have a chance.
  4141. >Twilight shudders, shaking her head back and forth as bloody tears spill from her red and puffy eyes.
  4142. >You lung, shoving the cross into her chest.
  4143. >Her skin boils and melts around the silver as the holy power of the symbol works its magic.
  4144. >She swipes at you, narrowly missing your head with those outstretched fingers of hers.
  4145. >Pulling your cross away is a nasty task, as chunks of her liquified flesh cling to it, peeling away and leaving a purple trail connecting you to her.
  4146. >With a flick, the strands of flesh splatter away, and you unsheath the blade of the cross.
  4147. “Lights out,” you grunt and thrust, putting all your weight behind the movement.
  4148. >Your blade rockets for her heart, ready to impale it.
  4149. >The melting skin gives way enough that you can see her muscle, and just beneath that, the beating heart.
  4150. >There, Anon!
  4151. >With your weapon an inch from her heart, she throws her eyes open and spots you lunging.
  4152. >Despite the blood and water clouding her vision, she’s still able to grab your arms and step out of the way.
  4153. >Using her waning power and your own momentum, she takes you off your feet and throws you into the brick wall just five feet behind her.
  4154.  
  4155. >You slam into it hard enough for you to drop your cross again.
  4156. >Landing on your head doesn’t help either, but it doesn’t really slow you down with how much adrenaline is pumping through your veins.
  4157. >As soon as you hit the ground, you grab your cross and claw your way away from her to dodge a kick.
  4158. >Her foot sinks into wall and, as it travels up, rips the brick and mortar out of it.
  4159. >A few of the stones fall on your back, but they’re not overly heavy and don’t hurt.
  4160. >You push off the ground and flip over onto your butt, then raise your arm.
  4161. >With the barrel of your bracer aimed at her head, right between the eyes, you jerk your wrist.
  4162. >It clicks, but does nothing else.
  4163. >Oh fuck, you forgot to reload the bolts.
  4164. >Dumbass! You wasted too much time on that move!
  4165. >She lunges for you, but you scramble back in time for her to hit the concrete.
  4166. >Without another moment spared, you turn and get up, then run out into the crowded sidewalk.
  4167. >You look back briefly to see her still rolling around on the ground, groaning and scraping her injured areas.
  4168. >Keep running, Anon.
  4169. >She’s a crazy, murderous bitch.
  4170. >Most of all, she hates you.
  4171. >You’ll see her again--that much you can be sure of.
  4172. >Running away for now is fine.
  4173. >Another chance to kill her will come.
  4174. >People moan and gripe as you shove them aside while running.
  4175. >Your legs continue to carry you on despite the growing tiredness.
  4176. >They take you all the way through twelve blocks until you eventually make it back to your truck.
  4177. >With your lungs burning, you collapse against the metal monster and use it to hold yourself up.
  4178. >You grimace and spit out the hot, sticky fluid gunking up the corners of your mouth.
  4179. >After wiping the sweat away from your forehead, you look down at your hand.
  4180. >It’s shaking, but whether that’s from the running or damage done is beyond you.
  4181. >The skin on your right knuckles, if it’s even there, isn’t visible through the blood pouring out of them.
  4182.  
  4183. >You sigh and pull open the door of your truck.
  4184. >Pulling the seat forward reveals a small plastic bin with some basic first aid supplies that you extract and open.
  4185. >There’s a bottle of water too that you use to clean the wound.
  4186. >Following that, you grab some gauze and wrap it a few times around, tight, and clip the bandage in place.
  4187. >Rarity is going to wonder why you keep injuring yourself if she sees that bandage.
  4188. >You can’t wear those thick leather gloves again, at least not in a fancy resturaunt.
  4189. >That means dinner gloves, and if you don’t want to look like a total prick with those, you’re going to need a suit.
  4190. >Fuck suits though.
  4191. >Climbing into the truck, you bang your head against the steering wheel and start her up.
  4192. >Where’s the damn tailor in this god forsaken city?
  4193. >Right as you step on the gas, your stomach begins to growl something fierce.
  4194. >Loudly enough that if you weren’t sure this truck was purified, you’d be in the presence of a monster.
  4195. “What, the burger wasn’t enough for you?”
  4196. >On the floor of the passenger side is a small plastic bag that you lean over to open up.
  4197. >It’s full of empty wrappers and crumbs, but at the very bottom of the mess is one candy bar.
  4198. >Oh, nevermind.
  4199. >It was just a wrapper that looked like it was still intact.
  4200. >Your stomach protests again, angry that you teased it like that.
  4201. “Shut up. We’re eating tonight,” you groan and press on, keeping an eagle eye out for a tailor somewhere.
  4202. >Nothing pops out right away, but about nine blocks from The Board headed south, you do find a little Vietneighmese store.
  4203. >”Good Crothes,” it’s called.
  4204. >You really hope that’s just them trying to be self aware.
  4205.  
  4206. >Several hours have passed since then, and in that time the sun has set, lending Bahhston into darkness.
  4207. >The biting night air sends a shiver through you as you walk through the somewhat quieter streets.
  4208. >This suit you’ve gotten all dressed up in does little to fight the cold.
  4209. >The short, yellow man who measured you offered to also throw in a long, wool jacket for only a hundred dollars more.
  4210. >While that would have been nice, you like to not have an extra yard’s worth of cloth waving around in the wind as you’re fighting monsters.
  4211. >It’s half an hour to showtime now, and all you need to do is show up to Rarity’s place in something a little prettier than a rusty old pickup with as many scars as yourself.
  4212. >You’ve made your way to a small car dealership and take a look around the parking lot.
  4213. >It’s all smooth and shiny, that’s for sure.
  4214. >Yet, despite your need for something just like that, you can’t bring yourself to set foot in a honda.
  4215. >It’s not that there’s anything particularly wrong with them. It’s just, you know.
  4216. >You have a dick.
  4217. >A small, subdued chunk of plastic doesn’t do it for you.
  4218. >That goes for almost everything they have here.
  4219. >As you ponder your choices, one of which briefly being leaving, someone suddenly puts their hand on your shoulder.
  4220. >Your own dives into your suit jacket and latches onto your revolver.
  4221. >Jerking around, you find it’s only a woman.
  4222. >Your eyes quickly dart to the window of a car nearby.
  4223. >In that, you see both your reflections.
  4224. >Her face is a normal, pale beige.
  4225. >No fangs, no cookie cutter mouth, no antenna, no nothing.
  4226. >Just a normal adult woman dressed like a well-to-do schoolgirl.
  4227. >You breathe a sigh of relief and turn to smile at her.
  4228. “You gave me a start.”
  4229. >”Sorry about that,” she giggles and holds out her hand.
  4230. >Upon grabbing it, you’re quite shocked at how firm her grip is.
  4231. >”Name’s Indigo. I run this place. Is there anything you have your eye on tonight?”
  4232.  
  4233. >She walks away and waves her arm over the lot.
  4234. >”We have plenty of new and used. You into hybrids, sir?”
  4235. “I like the idea behind them, but I don’t think I’m quite ready to make that jump.”
  4236. >”Afraid of commitment, eh?”
  4237. “You could say that.”
  4238. >”Then boy, have I got the car for you.”
  4239. >She gestures for you to follow, which you do.
  4240. >She leads you to what amounts to a pile of rust.
  4241. >There’s not one bit of paint left on the damn thing and you’re pretty sure the doors are being held on by duct tape since there’s no way something as bent out of shape as that can fit back into locking position.
  4242. >”Guaranteed to break down in a week. No commitment at all!”
  4243. “You sound entirely too proud of that.”
  4244. >”This baby took me to prom seven years ago. She’s lived a long life. Anybody who buys her should count themselves lucky.”
  4245. “How about something with a little more muscle?”
  4246. >A wry smile snakes onto her face.
  4247. >She adjusts her already loosened tie and grabs your hand.
  4248. >You’re forced to run with her as you pass by all the new and fancy cars that one day will become water bottles.
  4249. >Eventually, you end up in a very dark, lonely part of the yard.
  4250. >”Wait for it,” she says enthusiastically, leaving you alone.
  4251. >You find yourself, again, grabbing your gun and waiting.
  4252. >Her footsteps get quieter as the distance between you increases.
  4253. >She’s far enough away now that you can’t hear her anymore.
  4254.  
  4255. >Suddenly, the whole area is awashed in light.
  4256. >You squint as your eyes adjust, and when they do, oh boy.
  4257. >Your mouth drops at the sight.
  4258. >Indigo stands next to a lamppost, the very one shining its bright, yellow light down.
  4259. >That’s not what has you awestruck though.
  4260. >It’s the thick, pitch black Challenger with two white stripes snaking down the sides.
  4261. >You approach, soon meeting the saleswoman next to the vehicle.
  4262. >”Three years old with only ten thousand on her. You ever hear a V8 hum?”
  4263. “Once or twice,” you reply.
  4264. >Now that’s a car.
  4265. >”She’s not easy on the gas, but it’s sure worth it if you ever find yourself on a lonely highway. Is that enough muscle for you?”
  4266. “Tires inflated?”
  4267. >”To factory pressure.”
  4268. “Brakes work?”
  4269. >”Just fixed them yesterday.”
  4270. “Lights function?”
  4271. >”As well as they’re supposed to.”
  4272. “And it has gas?”
  4273. >”We don’t sell anything with less than a full tank. Any more questions?”
  4274. “Just one. Do you have the keys?”
  4275. >”Well,” she starts. “Most keys are kept in the office, but for her? I keep the keys on me all the time. Anybody can break into an office, but with all my training, next to me is the safest place in the lo--”
  4276. >You grab the back of her head and shove it into the door of the car.
  4277. >After the heavy bang, her body goes limp as a noodle and she falls onto the concrete.
  4278. >Leaning down, you pat around her jacket and locate the keys needed.
  4279. >They end up being in her right pocket, so after swiping them, you drag the unconscious woman away and lay her on top of some subaru.
  4280.  
  4281. >Making your way back to the challenger, you pop the locks and slide right inside.
  4282. >Oh man, it’s nice.
  4283. >It’s too nice.
  4284. >If you weren’t so fond of your truck, you might consider moving your bed box into the backseat.
  4285. >You pull the white cotton glove off your hand and rub the steering wheel.
  4286. >It’s icy, but even so, the leather of it feels just right.
  4287. >Slowly, you insert the key in the ignition and twist.
  4288. >The lights, then the radio turn on.
  4289. >Lastly, after one more turn, the engine gives a guttural roar as it comes to life.
  4290. >It’s just like the truck, but smaller and, as you can imagine, faster.
  4291. >Not bad, Indigo. Not bad at all.
  4292. >Throwing the girl in drive, you lay into the pedal and head off, squished into your seat by the force of the vehicle.
  4293. >The streets now are a whole different animal.
  4294. >This car is so low to the ground that even going the same speed as in your truck, you feel like you’re going faster.
  4295. >Which makes you want to go faster.
  4296. >Which means you do.
  4297. >Your foot is almost touching the floor as you weave in and out of lanes, scorching through the city streets until you come upon an upscale building.
  4298. >It’s one of the few buildings in this whole city that doesn’t smell like piss, and that probably has something to do with the armed security beating up some homeless looking man in an alley just a street down.
  4299. >The tall, white brick building extends far into the sky, taking with it the golden accent bricks that make unnecessary patterns all along the way.
  4300. >This place just screams “Rarity”, doesn’t it?
  4301. >You pull into a parking lot across the street and leave the car there, unwilling to let some valet drive your stolen property to some cameraed parking garage.
  4302.  
  4303. >At the front door, you’re greeted by a very tall, muscular looking white man with eyes red enough that you’d think he were a vampire if you didn’t already know him as Bulk Biceps.
  4304. >You never talked with him in school though, so he has no reason to recognize you as you walk past.
  4305. >”Welcome to the Revolutionary Hotel. Thank you for your stay,” he barks, refusing to budge one inch from his position.
  4306. >Also, you make a mental note to keep Rainbow Dash as far away from this district as possible.
  4307. >Not only is there Rarity to worry about, but if she sees Bulk walking around like nothing ever happened, your whole story falls apart.
  4308. >Anyway, you enter the elevator and order the attendant to take you to the top floor.
  4309. >According to the text Rarity left you, she should be in room 1804.
  4310. >On floor 18, you exit the elevator and give yourself a quick pat down to make sure that your tools are, while accessible, not poking out or too obtrusive for anybody to spot.
  4311. >Everything seems to be in working order.
  4312. >As you approach her room, you take a deep breath, fix your posture, and slick back your hair.
  4313. >You also spray your finger with some breath spray, then wipe around your teeth and gums with it.
  4314. >With smell as keen as hers, Rarity might be turned off by a full spritz of the harsh mint scent.
  4315. >Everything is all set.
  4316. >Show time, Anon.
  4317. >You bang your left knuckles on the door a few times, anxious not to disturb the healing on your right hand.
  4318. >Rarity opens the door not even five seconds later, almost throwing it open.
  4319. >Her smile stretches from ear to ear, making the makeup she’s thrown on very obvious.
  4320. >The funny thing about her getup is the slim, sleeveless black dress she’s wearing.
  4321. >Of all the nights for her to wear black, it’s the one that you finally wear a suit on.
  4322. >She couldn’t have known you two would match tonight, right?
  4323. “Wow,” you say and open your arms for a hug.
  4324. >She accepts, pulling herself close to you.
  4325. “I wish I’d known how beautiful you were going to look tonight. I’d have put on a better suit.”
  4326. >She pulls her head back and looks at you with her eyes as soft as her grin.
  4327. >”You look very dapper tonight, darling.”
  4328. >With that, she gives you a quick peck on the lips.
  4329.  
  4330. >You extend your elbow, which she snakes her arm through.
  4331. >As you both turn away, you take a quick peek in her suite before the door can close.
  4332. >There’s a tall glass of deep red liquid sitting on the living room table, and you doubt it’s wine.
  4333. >A little ball of disgust forms in your stomach, but you can’t give much thought to it as your date--and it does pain you to call it that--presses herself up against you.
  4334. >”We must be going somewhere quite nice for you to get all suited up for me.”
  4335. >Rarity rests her head on your arm, about as close to your shoulder as she can make it without standing on her tippy toes.
  4336. >”Although I’ve gotten used to those ruffian clothes you’ve been wearing recently, I won’t deny I do prefer my man in a crisp suit.”
  4337. “Well, it’s a nice return to form, I think.”
  4338. >After the two of you enter the elevator and order for the ground floor, you lean your head down and brush it against her hair.
  4339. “How do you keep this thing so soft?”
  4340. >”Only the best shampoo and conditioner, darling. As a designer, I must stay fabulous.”
  4341. >Oh? Conditioner?
  4342. >That’s neat.
  4343. >You would have figured it was all the blood she drinks, what with being a soldier of darkness and all that.
  4344. >How many kids has she eaten?
  4345. >The world may never know.
  4346. >You don’t want to know either.
  4347. >You do know one thing you want, though.
  4348. >The two of you leave the elevator, leave the hotel, and walk across the street.
  4349. >”Now, which one is your car, darling?”
  4350. >Leading her over to the challenger, you briefly consider blowing her brains out now before she can sully the seats by sitting her disgusting self down in them.
  4351. >”Oh my,” she gasps.
  4352. “Isn’t she a beaut? Only three years old.”
  4353. >”How many miles?”
  4354. “Oh, close to a hundred, but they’re mostly highway miles.”
  4355. >”Ah, right. You and your travelling job.”
  4356. “It’s tough sometimes, but it does pay.”
  4357. >”Clearly,” she says, rubbing her fingers against the door ever so gently as if pressing to hard would turn it to dust.
  4358.  
  4359. >You take hold of her shoulder and escort her to the passenger side.
  4360. >Rarity motions to open the door, but you hold your hand up to pause her.
  4361. >She stops, giving you opportunity to open it yourself.
  4362. >”Such a gentleman,” she coos and slips into the finely crafted, burgundy leather seats.
  4363. >Before she can get another word out, you close the door.
  4364. >Once in the driver’s seat and having turned the ignition, you can’t help but smile.
  4365. >The way that engine roars to life is something else.
  4366. >”How robust,” claims Rarity.
  4367. “You think that’s neat? You should hear her on the highway. Now that’s some vocal work.”
  4368. >”Why wait for the highway?”
  4369. >You look at her with incredulity.
  4370. “Well well, is my honey a bad girl?”
  4371. >”Come now. Surely one of us is able to foot a ticket.”
  4372. “I’m shocked.”
  4373. >The transmission clicks into drive.
  4374. “And pleased.”
  4375. >She smirks at you, but that little look disappears, replaced by wild excitement as you rip out of the parking lot and make way for the street.
  4376. >The tires screech as each one pulls you along the streets of Bahhston.
  4377. >”Goodness me,” she shrieks.
  4378. >There it is.
  4379. >You spy her in the corner of your eye, her face illuminated by the streetlights you’re zooming by.
  4380. >That look right there is what you want to see on her.
  4381. >Joy, happiness, excitement, and a little bit of fear.
  4382. >The perfect storm of emotions that lead to the type of love she has to have for you.
  4383. >If you weren’t nearing it before, you’re making real progress now.
  4384.  
  4385. >Coming up to an intersection, you jerk the wheel to the right and spin the car out.
  4386. >Just by a hair, you miss some other driver making a left, waving right by the nose of his car.
  4387. >Rarity shouts again as you straighten out, finding your path back on the appropriate side of the street.
  4388. >Rarity’s hand shoots for your leg.
  4389. >She grips it, but not as strong as you know she could.
  4390. >If it were anyone else, it wouldn’t be uncomfortable.
  4391. >Just knowing who the hand belongs to though is enough to churn your stomach, so make another sharp turn down a side street to throw her off you.
  4392. >It works. She even giggles as she’s tossed around in the seat.
  4393. >You slam on the brakes and turn, whipping around on that same street and turning back around so you can make it out onto the main road once again.
  4394. >”Whatever was that for, darling,” she asks, still trying to contain her laughter.
  4395. “Thought about a scenic route, but that’d be slower.”
  4396. >After many running many red lights and cutting off more people than you think even live in this piss pot of a city, you eventually arrive at Jardin de Paris.
  4397. >It’s also only a quarter after seven.
  4398. >You might have been speeding a bit.
  4399. >Just a smidge.
  4400. >”I don’t think I’ve ever gone that fast in my life.”
  4401. “Like I said, just wait until you see her on the highway.”
  4402. >You pull up to the main parking lot, ignoring the valet, and proceed to help Rarity out.
  4403. >”I’d like that. Oh, maybe I could show you my home town sometime.”
  4404. >She takes hold of your outstretched hand and uses it to pull herself up out of the low sitting car.
  4405. >“There’s a fair stretch of road heading out to Canterlot. Although I imagine we’d have to slow down on the mountain pass.”
  4406. >You slam the door shut a little harder than you intended to.
  4407. >”Careful for the car, darling.”
  4408. “Saw a spider,” you mutter.
  4409. >After locking it up, you snatch Rarity and walk ahead, almost pulling her until she picks up the pace and take a spot by your side.
  4410.  
  4411. >Black pavement soon gives way to a yellow, almost golden cobble pattern with emerald green grass growing between the stones.
  4412. >It’s all very well lit.
  4413. >The fine stonework is visible everywhere, especially the walls where the aged look of the blocks used to build the outside is on full display.
  4414. >A few vines which you’re sure are wires painted and artfully hidden from direct line of sight trace along the lower portion of it.
  4415. >When you reach the stained glass doors, a fellow in a dark red suit with a few too many pimples that give away his age pulls them open for you.
  4416. >The two of you enter the building.
  4417. >You’re floored by the scent of the place.
  4418. >It’s just like the first time, only with less sulfur and goblin dew.
  4419. >Rarity, you’re sure, is overwhelmed by it all.
  4420. >She’s putting on a fairly strong face, but with this many scents being this powerful, it must be awful for her nose.
  4421. >”How divine. You can make out every dish they’re preparing back there.”
  4422. “Got something on the nose you want to eat?”
  4423. >Before she can answer, a very tall and very thin woman with the palest pink hair you’ve ever seen approaches you.
  4424. >”Welcome to Jardin de Paris. My name is Fleur. How may I--”
  4425. >Her eyes meet yours.
  4426. >”Oh my, Anonymous! You’re early. Let me take you straight to your seats.”
  4427. >She ushers the both of you to follow her as she almost trips over her own white gown to make it through the joint.
  4428. >”It’s wonderful to have you back, sir. Anything you want tonight, we’ll have our best man on it.”
  4429. >Fleur takes you to the back left corner of the restaurant.
  4430. >Therein sits your booth, shiny and red with some green velvet lining the sides.
  4431.  
  4432. >The woman sits you both down, produced two menus seemingly out of thin air, takes your drink orders, and hurries off to do whatever it is someone in her position should be doing.
  4433. >Now alone, or about as alone as you can get in a restaurant this crowded, you go back to making smalltalk.
  4434. >Or rather, Rarity does.
  4435. >She leans across the table and gently motions her head toward where Fleur walked off.
  4436. >”She seems rather excited about your being here. I’ll assume you did them a favor too.”
  4437. “In a manner of speaking, yes.”
  4438. >”Just how many people have you helped, darling?”
  4439. “Well, it’s always nice to have a fancy restaurant that owes you one.”
  4440. >”I suppose so,” she smiles.
  4441. >Fleur returns with your drinks right then.
  4442. >A fine, dark red wine for Rarity.
  4443. >Coffee for you.
  4444. >”This one is from the top shelf, Miss. It was made from only the finest grapes in our privately owned vineyard about eighty years ago. Normally we’d expect a generous sum of money for a glass, but for a friend of Anonymous? We’ll call it on the house.”
  4445. >”Oh my, thank you, darling. I’m sure the work you’ve all put into it will reflect in the taste,” utters the purple haired woman as she takes a sip.
  4446. >”I’ll leave you two to think about what you want to eat.”
  4447. >With that, she leaves.
  4448. >Rarity, behind her glass of wine, gives you a wry smile.
  4449. “It was a big favor.”
  4450. >”I can see that.”
  4451.  
  4452. >When you order, it’s not overly complicated.
  4453. >In fact, as far as the cook should be concerned, fairly simple.
  4454. >You both wanted the steak.
  4455. >Yours was well done with a side of the mashies and “gently sauteed green beans drizzled in a light burgundy sauce,” as she put it.
  4456. >Rarity wanted the same, only for hers to be rare and with mashed carrots.
  4457. >Gross, but whatever.
  4458. >Your stomach was at least thankful for the food.
  4459. >The pain subsided once it was full of the steak and about three cups of black Joe.
  4460. >Rarity questioned how much coffee you planned on drinking, saying that it would keep you up all night.
  4461. “Sleep and I find each other quite well,” you replied to that.
  4462. >That, of course, was another lie.
  4463. >If your body was able, you’d go the rest of your life without sleep.
  4464. >With that in mind, you downed the rest of that cup and asked for another before digging back into the meal.
  4465. >”I don’t know if I entirely believe that, darling. I’ve seen some bad dreams before, but I haven’t ever seen someone wake up with a start like you did.”
  4466. “Oh, that was nothing. You know how it goes with dreams. Every once in awhile, they go sour.”
  4467. >”You’re sure there’s nothing you’d like to talk about with me?”
  4468. >No, not yet.
  4469. “Actually, there is. I’m a little curious, so do forgive me if this sounds like prodding, but what are you planning to do for the big Manehattan fashion show? Isn’t that coming up in December?”
  4470. >She slams down her glass and goes into a speech about all the new designs she’s trying out, this time basing them off the model specifically instead of finding some chick to wear whatever she makes.
  4471. >Rarity smiles the whole time, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world as she drones on.
  4472. >Wow, it’s like she’s got this whole thing mapped out.
  4473. >On that note, you wonder how many of those models she plans on eating.
  4474.  
  4475. >One? Two?
  4476. >Or maybe she’ll go for the whole lot.
  4477. >No, that would be too hard to explain.
  4478. >Suddenly all the models of one designer go missing soon after the biggest show of the year?
  4479. >It would make headlines in a day and she’d be out on the street.
  4480. >No, Rarity is smarter than that.
  4481. >She knows how to hide what she’s done.
  4482. >She’s learned a lot since her first trip out, hasn’t she?
  4483. >They didn’t put very much effort at all into covering up what they did.
  4484. >In their defense, they couldn’t have known somebody was watching the whole time as they ripped their victims apart.
  4485. >Of course they were too busy tearing the limbs off your father to even think about the fact that his son might be bleeding out just a few yards away.
  4486. >You exhale and, with a shaky hand, take another sip of coffee.
  4487. >Rarity seems concerned suddenly, and it hits you that your heart rate must be going up.
  4488. >Stop thinking about this, Anon.
  4489. >After a few seconds of steady breath and concentration, you get your pulse back under control.
  4490. “Wow, they sure load the caffeine into this. Maybe I should stop.”
  4491. >”Yes, let’s.”
  4492. >She extends her hand across the table.
  4493. >You take hold of it, gently rubbing the back of her soft, pale skin with your own gloved thumb.
  4494. >”Darling,” she says, meeting your eyes. “I know of a few sleep aides. If you wanted to spend the night again, I could show you some.”
  4495.  
  4496. >She’s not saying what you think she’s saying, right?
  4497. >This is just you overthinking things.
  4498. >She couldn’t possibly mean she wants you to “spend the night” how you think that half lidded stare means.
  4499. >The image flashes into your mind.
  4500. >Her pale, curvaceous form bare for you to see, burns like a hot iron in your brain.
  4501. >Quickly, you push the thought away, lest you run the risk of throwing up right there.
  4502. >You and this monster?
  4503. >Unthinkable.
  4504. >Your parents would roll over in their graves.
  4505. >Hell, you might just kill yourself and roll over with them.
  4506. >Imagine the nerve of this woman.
  4507. >Where does she get off asking you something like that?
  4508. >You have half a mind to bite her fucking head off.
  4509. “I can’t,” you say, gently shaking your head.
  4510. >Her dreamy look shatters, but it’s a subtle break.
  4511. “I have a big meeting in the morning, and Rarity, I know if I spent the night with you, I’d never want to leave.”
  4512. >You squeeze her hand for emphasis, even bringing it up to give it a little kiss.
  4513. >A slight look of relief washes over her face.
  4514. >She sighs wistfully and pulls her hand away, preferring to pick up her glass.
  4515. >”Another time, then.”
  4516. “Definitely,” you assure her.
  4517. >Yeah, not if you have anything to say about it.
  4518. >She tilts her head back, downing the rest of her wine.
  4519. >Watching her guzzle it down makes you want another cup of coffee, but that would break character now, wouldn’t it?
  4520. >After flagging Fleur down, you get a glass of water off her.
  4521. >”Sparkling, sir?”
  4522. “Tap is fine.”
  4523. >Faster than two shakes of a manticore’s tail, she’s back with a tall glass of nature’s finest.
  4524.  
  4525. >The night goes on, and soon enough it ends up hitting nine.
  4526. >You’ve both been done for about ten minutes now.
  4527. >On Fleur’s insistence, you order dessert.
  4528. >On your insistence, it’s one brownie shake with two straws.
  4529. >Yeah, you’re pulling out the big guns.
  4530. >When it arrives, both you and Rarity lean in to take a sip.
  4531. >”How taboo,” she’s probably thinking.
  4532. >That shake disappears pretty quickly too.
  4533. >Well, compared to meals, anyway.
  4534. >It takes you to nine-fifteen.
  4535. >When your hostess brings over the check, Rarity reaches out.
  4536. >You stop her again and snatch the book away, then slide a hundred down the sleeve.
  4537. >”I’m not an invalid, Anonymous. I know how to pay a bill.”
  4538. “I know you know, and you know I’m not going to let you.”
  4539. >”And they say chivalry is dead.”
  4540. “A lot of things are dead these days,” you answer.
  4541. >She gives a short chuckle and brushes a purple hair out of her face.
  4542. >Think she got the hint?
  4543. >Closing the book shut, you slide it back to the middle of the table and stand up, offering your white gloved hand to the vampiress.
  4544. “Shall we, dear?”
  4545. >”We shall.”
  4546. >Rarity takes hold of you and pulls herself up, making sure to take her purse and black fur jacket with her.
  4547. >The walking stick hurries over and grabs the bill, sputtering about how she’ll be right back with your change.
  4548. “Keep it,” you assure her and take your leave.
  4549.  
  4550. >After making it back out to your car, and then across the city to her hotel, you escort your date up to her room.
  4551. >The door to her apartment swings open, giving you another glimpse inside.
  4552. >Nothing has changed, not even the glass of blood on the table.
  4553. >Now, you’re no Twilight expert, but you think you know her well enough to say that she’d do something much more obvious if she were around.
  4554. >She would want you to know what was going on if only to rub your face in it.
  4555. >With a glass of blood untouched, she’s nowhere to be found.
  4556. >Besides, Rarity would know too, and her demeanor hasn’t changed from the second you got out of your car.
  4557. >Not that she would tell you, but you’d at least be able to see some kind of shock or worry on her face.
  4558. >Instead, it’s just that hideous smile that she always wears.
  4559. >”I had a wonderful night, darling. Thank you.”
  4560. “What can I say? You’re good company.”
  4561. >”Perhaps we’ll share it again soon?”
  4562. “Yeah,” you mutter, taking a look at your watch. “I might be open tomorrow depending on how that meeting goes.”
  4563. >”Call me when you know,” she says, giving you a little kiss on the cheek.
  4564. >Following that, she steps back and closes the door, leaving you alone in the hallway.
  4565. >Thank fuck.
  4566. >At long last, you can loosen your tie.
  4567. >Grabbing the top of the pitch black knot, you yank it halfway down your chest.
  4568. >The collar of your shirt flops open and spreads even wider as you undo another button.
  4569. >Even the harsh night air doesn’t discourage you as you walk back into the challenger.
  4570. >Once there, you hop in and take off.
  4571.  
  4572. >After ten minutes, you’ve arrived back at the little dealership.
  4573. >The parking lot is barren, but you see plenty of evidence of police presence.
  4574. >And hey, that’s pretty fair.
  4575. >You did sort of assault her and commit grand theft auto.
  4576. >You manage to backtrack your exit route and park the challenger back under that main lamp post.
  4577. >When you get out, you head over to the small office in the center of the lot and spot her sitting.
  4578. >Well, sitting and lying down. Half and half.
  4579. >She has her head planted firmly on the desk.
  4580. >Between that, her closed eyes, and the steady rise and fall of her back, you can assume she’s asleep.
  4581. >Asleep in a lit, unlocked room in downtown Bahhston.
  4582. >Not the best idea, Indigo.
  4583. >You open up the door, careful not to ring the bell, and leave the keys to the car in the palm of her turned over hand.
  4584. >Before you leave, you catch a good look at her face.
  4585. >She’s got a fairly big bandage across her nose, the bottom of which is stained red.
  4586. >Her forehead also has quite a nasty bruise on it, spreading from temple to temple.
  4587. >It certainly doesn’t match the soft beige of her skin.
  4588. >Maybe you hit her a little too hard.
  4589. >Suddenly she stirs awake, curling her fingers around the keys.
  4590. >She grumbles softly and runs her thumb over the metal.
  4591. >Her eyes shoot open and her fist clenches around them.
  4592. >Indigo picks her head up off the desk and glares at the keys, then up at you.
  4593. >”You…”
  4594. “You should start carrying,” you whisper, then take your leave.
  4595. >She doesn’t follow you as you head down the parking lot, nor do you hear any police sirens while you traverse the streets back to your truck.
  4596. >All’s quiet on the western front when you start the old girl up and head back to the Charlemane.
  4597.  
  4598. >You park out front again, lock everything up, and then head inside.
  4599. >The geezer at the desk doesn’t bother to greet you.
  4600. >In fact, he looks to be asleep despite standing up straight and keeping his eyes wide open.
  4601. >They don’t look right though.
  4602. >Out of curiosity, you step a little closer to his desk and lean in, taking a good look at his face.
  4603. >The son of a bitch actually has little eyes painted over his eyelids.
  4604. >Now that’s dedication.
  4605. >You let a little yawn too.
  4606. >Between all the acrobatics you did today and the food you shoveled into yourself, you’re just about ready to doze off.
  4607. >Besides, what better time to sleep than night time?
  4608. >Another yawn escapes you as you push open the door to your room.
  4609. “Aw jeez,” you mutter, suddenly faced with the bloodbath you left in here.
  4610. >”Is it really that time of the month already?”
  4611. >Your head jerks up from the floor.
  4612. >Quickly, you track down the source of the voice.
  4613. >Across the room, on the cheap, orange couch set up against the wall, is him.
  4614. “Are you fucking serious?”
  4615. >”Have you read the news today?”
  4616. >You told him. You fucking told him.
  4617. “Get out.”
  4618. >The Director is in your goddamn room and he’s playing with a phone like it’s some sunny Tuesday afternoon in an internet cafe.
  4619. >His old, prune-like fingers squish against the flat screen of the phone as the display page changes.
  4620. >”Can you believe how lucky we are to be in the presence of such innovative filmmakers? Wow, special effects have come such a long way from when I was a lad.”
  4621. >He tosses the smartphone at you.
  4622. >You don’t bother catching it, instead letting it hit your chest and fall onto the floor.
  4623. >”You know I’m still paying for that, right?”
  4624. >You glance down at the screen.
  4625. >On it is a big picture of the scene from The Board, complete with blood and brain.
  4626.  
  4627. “I’m guessing this is how you found me.”
  4628. >”That’s right, my boy! I did find you, and quite easily, in fact. So easily that I had to divert valuable organization resources to finding every picture of you at that scene and having it purged. Do you have any idea how hard it is to wipe an image from the vast memory of the internet?”
  4629. >He runs his fingers through his slick, greasy hair.
  4630. >The black on top settles in, but the grey hairs lining the sides of his head still fall freely over his ears.
  4631. >”We wouldn’t want any of your past business associates finding out you’re moonlighting as an indie film director in Bahhston, now would we?”
  4632. >You glare into his yellowed eyes.
  4633. >Stepping aside, you open the door of the room.
  4634. “Get out. Go home.”
  4635. >”When there’s so much to talk about? I think not. Come now, my boy,” he says gleefully, patting the stained cushion next to him. “Come sit down so we can talk. You do like to talk, don’t you? I certainly hear you talking quite a bit over the phone. You don’t much like to use the codes anymore, do you?”
  4636. >The Director pouts, leaving that overgrown tooth sticking out of his mouth.
  4637. >You lift your foot and slam your heel down over his phone, shattering the screen.
  4638. >Then you kick it across the frayed carpeting back to him, knocking it against his feet.
  4639. >”That’s no good, my boy. You know as well as I that keeping our little business under wraps is absolutely paramount t--”
  4640. “To maintaining balance in the world. I get it.”
  4641. >”Now, I know you’re saying that, but I don’t feel like you really mean it.”
  4642. “No, I mean it. I understand exactly why we do it and how necessary it is that I follow your rules. Here’s the thing though,” you snap, finally approaching him.
  4643. >Once you’re standing in front of him and his patchwork suit, you lean over and point a finger in his face.
  4644. “I don’t care nearly enough about you or whatever mission you’re about to throw on my plate right now. I told you exactly what I planned on doing and come Hell or high water, I’m doing it. So take your fucking codes and your balance and fuck off.”
  4645. >He grabs your finger and moves it down, using it instead to scratch his beard until you yank your hand away.
  4646.  
  4647. >”What was it we agreed on those ten years ago?”
  4648. “That you’d be an annoying prick and never know when to leave me alone?”
  4649. >”No, the other one.”
  4650. “I’m not laughing.”
  4651. >”Neither am I. Here I am trying to get you to help me save the world from the first ever conglomerate of monsters working together and all you want to do is make fun of my senility.”
  4652. “Wait, what?”
  4653. >”It’s not my fault I can’t pee anymore. Or wait, is that incontinence? What’s senility then?”
  4654. “No, go back.”
  4655. >”Our agreement. Yes, about that, I--”
  4656. “Conglomerate.”
  4657. >”Death to the Terran scum!”
  4658. “Focus!”
  4659. >”Alright, alright, goodness. Yes, reports from our centers around the world have picked up mysterious activity spotted by hunters. Many races of monster that were once believed to be enemies have been teaming up and making our lives quite hard. Just for example, let’s say a werewolf and a changeling.”
  4660. >He rests his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, then bats his eyelashes at you.
  4661. >”You haven’t seen anything like that, have you? I’m sure you would have reported something like that.”
  4662. >A certain vampire from Bittain’s words seem to be coming to mind right now.
  4663. >”So? Are you going to help me save the world or are you going to piss and moan like an impudent child about how much trouble you’re wooing two celebrities?”
  4664. >Could it really be the case that what you’re dealing with and what he’s on about are the same?
  4665. >If it is, it might not hurt to have a hand, at least as far as keeping other monsters off your trail.
  4666. >This wouldn’t be the first time the Director has used word games just to play with you.
  4667. >But if it’s true, and Proditor’s warning lines up with the Director’s mission, shouldn’t you take him up on it?
  4668.  
  4669. >”Well? I don’t have all year. No, really. I don’t. Want to see my doctor’s note?”
  4670. “Will you shut up?”
  4671. >”I have cancer in the everywhere.”
  4672. >But if it’s not the same, you’re getting yourself roped into some mission that will take you don’t know how long.
  4673. >”They say it’s a miracle I’m still walking, actually. I don’t know. I guess I feel a little heavier and all, but I don’t feel much different than usual.”
  4674. >He’s badgering you enough now.
  4675. >If you agree to this mission and find out later it’s not what you should be focusing on, he’s not going to let you out.
  4676. >You’d have to kill the man to get away.
  4677. >”I’m just kidding with you,” he laughs, waving his hand happily. “I don’t really have cancer. My organs are shutting down is all. Got you going though, didn’t I?”
  4678. >But werewolf and changeling? You’ve directly encountered that.
  4679. >Moreover, he know that. The Director wouldn’t have just brought it up like that without knowing it would dig at you.
  4680. >”Yep. Apparently spending fifty years exposing yourself to raw magical artifacts and monster guts really messes you up.”
  4681. >That’s right, he knows. So is he playing you?
  4682. >”It really puts everything into perspective, doesn’t it? You know, being told you have less than a year to live and all. Not that you would know anything about that, anyway. You’re young and, if I do say so myself, far too stubborn to die from something as little as mass organ failure.”
  4683. “Alright,” you snap.
  4684. >”Alright what?”
  4685. “I accept. I’ll help you.”
  4686. >He smiles and leans back in the couch, then slicks his hair back again.
  4687. >”I knew you would. You haven’t let me down yet, and I know you never will. Will you?”
  4688. “I don’t know. There’s a first time for everything.”
  4689. >”How right you are. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pee for the next few hours. I’ll be next door if you need anything. Just mind the door if there’s a sock tied to it.”
  4690. >You walk away from him and open your door.
  4691.  
  4692. “Good, now get out.”
  4693. >The Director makes a big show of getting up.
  4694. >He groans the whole way, accenting the clicks and cracks of his bones as he moves.
  4695. >Once he’s off the couch, he oh so slowly motions to stand up straight.
  4696. >After some stretching and heavy breathing, he daintily skips out the door.
  4697. >”Ta ta, Anon! I’ll see you in the morning! We’ve got leads to follow!”
  4698. “I’m doing something in the morning!”
  4699. >”Yes, following leads with your old pal!”
  4700. >God damn it.
  4701. “Director,” you call, heading out into the hallway.
  4702. >He’s already at his door, about twenty feet from you.
  4703. >”Did you think I was kidding when I said I couldn’t control my pee anymore?”
  4704. “I’m going to be busy tomorrow morning.”
  4705. >”Yes, I know.”
  4706. “Not with you.”
  4707. >”We’ll see about that tomorro--”
  4708. >His eyes widen.
  4709. >You stare at him, and he stares through you.
  4710. >Time passes.
  4711. >The mold on the wall continues to grow down the tearing orange wallpaper.
  4712. “Hello?”
  4713. >”Yep, there it is.”
  4714. “There’s what?”
  4715. >”I’ll uh, I’ll see you later. I need some new pants.”
  4716. “You’re kidding.”
  4717. >”Goodnight, my boy,” he groans, entering his room.
  4718. >The door closes quietly, and once more, you’re alone.
  4719.  
  4720. >With a huff, you slam your door and make way over to the couch.
  4721. >No stains.
  4722. >Er, no wet spots, that is.
  4723. >You turn on a heel and fall back, landing yourself square on the cushions.
  4724. >Well obviously you’re going to have to meet Rainbow in the afternoon.
  4725. >That would make the night pretty tight with Rarity considering you still have to go Pinkie hunting.
  4726. >You’d like to grab Twilight’s skull too, but she’s more likely to find you later than you are by looking for her.
  4727. >Maybe you’ll lay off Rarity for a day.
  4728. >Yeah, send her a text, say you’re sorry you can’t meet, and then let it sit for a day.
  4729. >Absence makes the heart grow fonder, after all.
  4730. >Or something like that.
  4731. >That’ll work.
  4732. >She should be even more excited to see you the next day that way.
  4733. >At some point during your pondering, you let out a yawn that ends about halfway through and leaves you feeling even more tired than you originally thought you were.
  4734. >What time is it anyway?
  4735. >Doesn’t matter.
  4736. >You motion to take the jacket off, trying so hard to be careful, but the damn thing hugs your arms so tightly you just have to pull.
  4737. >There’s the signature sound of tearing fabric which you imagine to be coming from either the elbow or down the back.
  4738. “Cheap ass fabric.”
  4739. >Well, no sense in half assing it now.
  4740.  
  4741. >With a small bit of effort, you bring your arms out in front of you, then lean forward.
  4742. >The jacket completely tears through the back and the pits, coming apart into sections that hang off your form.
  4743. >Grabbing the strands of pitch black cloth, you finish the tearing job and toss the ruined garment onto the floor beside you.
  4744. >Next you unbutton the shirt and, even more carefully than the jacket, take that off.
  4745. >It slides out of your pants easily enough and you can’t hear any tearing, though there is one point where you feel it comes dangerously close.
  4746. >However, without incident, the white shirt comes off.
  4747. >After folding it in half a few times, you lay it on the arm of the couch.
  4748. >Heading into the bathroom, you get to the main portions of night time fun, that being brushing your teeth and taking a good night shit.
  4749. >The brush scrapes against your teeth, in and out, back and forth, sudsing up everything.
  4750. >When that’s done and you spit out the mint-flavored foam, you look up in the mirror.
  4751. >There’s a crack down the middle of it, splitting the reflected world in half, but you can still make your own face out perfectly.
  4752. >Your eyes are heavy, and underneath them are powerful bags almost as purple as Rarity’s hair.
  4753. “Need some sleep,” you mutter, letting your gaze travel down to your chest.
  4754. >Across it are huge white gashes mixed in with smaller, more skin-toned scars.
  4755. >There’s more on your shoulders too, snaking along the curve of the muscle.
  4756. >There are scars on your biceps, your forearms, your ribs, your gut, and even a small one on your collarbone that travels part way up your neck.
  4757. >Every wound tells a different story, but the thread connecting them all is your own weakness.
  4758. >Most of these didn’t heal on their own.
  4759. >You cheated.
  4760. >You used those fairy tears.
  4761. >You took help from those fucking monsters.
  4762. >How could you do it, Anon? How could you betray them like that?
  4763. >You’re their legacy, and yet here you stand, an insult to them.
  4764.  
  4765. >Using potions never sat right with you, but you went and did it anyway.
  4766. >It was life or death, wasn’t it?
  4767. >Yeah, it’s real easy to say that in the moment.
  4768. >Do it now, redeem yourself later.
  4769. >That’s always how it goes, and yet those girls, those vampires, those...those fucking tumors.
  4770. >They’re still alive.
  4771. >Where’s your redemption?
  4772. >Where’s the justice?
  4773. “Look at you. You’re such a disappointment.”
  4774. >Your fists ball up against the plastic sink covering.
  4775. “Ten years and you can’t even kill a vampire. What would they saw if they saw you now?”
  4776. >You shout and bring your fist up, slamming it into the mirror.
  4777. >The glass shatters and falls.
  4778. >Some of it lands in the sink, but most goes onto the floor.
  4779. >No cuts on your hand, thankfully, but it does throb from connecting with the solid wood backdrop of the mirror.
  4780. “Don’t worry, I’ll get them,” you seethe. “You’ll see. I’ll get them.”
  4781. >You’re not going to get anything without sleep, dumbass.
  4782. >You rinse your mouth, take the shit, and saunter back off to the couch.
  4783. >Without a second thought, you throw yourself onto it.
  4784. >Your head lands on the arm, with that shirt as a pillow.
  4785. >A certain canvas jacket lays discarded on the floor just barely out of reach of the couch.
  4786. >With some fine maneuvering, you manage to drag it over with your toes, then grab it between them and lift it up.
  4787. >After fanning it out, you lay it across your chest and tuck your arms in, then roll onto your side.
  4788. >In the darkness of the living room, you let out one final, hot breath before closing your eyes.
  4789.  
  4790. >The road.
  4791. >The rain.
  4792. >The girls.
  4793. >The flip.
  4794. >The crash.
  4795. >The feast.
  4796. >The morning.
  4797. >The crawl.
  4798. >The sight.
  4799. >The scream.
  4800. >The woman.
  4801. >The monster.
  4802. >The fight.
  4803. >The murder.
  4804.  
  4805. >You shout, flailing about, suddenly feeling airborne.
  4806. >In another second, you smash into something and scramble to your feet.
  4807. >Where the…
  4808. >While you pant, your eyes adjust to the sudden harsh light of the morning.
  4809. >It’s the Charlemane.
  4810. >You’re standing in the middle of your room, drenched in sweat.
  4811. >At your feet is your jacket, similarly wet, but not nearly as bad as the couch.
  4812. >What’s most remarkable about this all is your hand.
  4813. >You stare at it. Or, not quite it, but what’s in it.
  4814. >Somehow, during the night, you managed to grab your cross.
  4815. >Funny, you thought you left that in the suit jacket.
  4816. >The muscles in your arm strain, and it suddenly becomes apparent to you how tightly you’re clutching the piece of silver.
  4817. >You loosen up enough to drop it, letting it clunk onto the floor dangerously close to your toe.
  4818. >Swallowing the lava forming in your mouth isn’t an option, so you make way to the bathroom once again and spit it out into the sink.
  4819. >Well, while you’re in here, might as well get morning maintenence out of the way.
  4820. >Brush your teeth, take a good morning shit, shower, and get dressed.
  4821. >It feels good to be out of that monkey suit.
  4822. >Once more, you find yourself in some jeans and a plain white shirt you cover with your jacket.
  4823. >Digging through the pocket of your dress pants, you find your phone.
  4824. >The screen reads that it’s ten in the morning, round about, and that you do in fact have one text.
  4825. >Flipping the screen open, you bring up the menu and search through your contacts.
  4826. >Oh, it’s from Dash.
  4827. >”yo u got ny jobs yet? hmu”
  4828. >Wow, she’s a poet.
  4829. >And she sent it at four am, too.
  4830. >It’s almost like she’s a creature of the night and doesn’t have to sleep like a normal human.
  4831. >You do have something with Discord probably in the next three to thirty minutes depending on how long it takes him to get ready and brush the cobwebs off himself, but you’re not about to let those two meet.
  4832. “Not yet,” you reply. “I’ll call you when there’s something up. Might be later.”
  4833. >And send.
  4834.  
  4835. >With that done, there’s nothing much else to do except get ready for the day’s extraneous activities.
  4836. >Your cross, which sits on the floor not too far in front of the couch, soon finds a home in your jacket pocket.
  4837. >So does your revolver once you make sure it’s loaded.
  4838. >Next, you strap on the bracers.
  4839. >This time you remember to load the bolts, but quickly remove them anyway.
  4840. >They’d certainly be effective, but goblin blood does have a very powerful scent.
  4841. >If you should find yourself around Dash or Rarity today, or even sneaking up on any other monsters, you don’t want that to give you away.
  4842. >Making your way into the bathroom, you grab some cheap hand soap provided by the gracious Charlemane.
  4843. >Scrubbing hard underneath the water, you do everything in your power to get the blood off of and out of the small bolts without snapping the delicate wood.
  4844. >For some extra cleaning power, you use the torn sleeve of your suit jacket and really pull the shit off.
  4845. >It takes you five minutes, but you think you’ve got everything off.
  4846. >Or, you know, as off as you can get it.
  4847. >They’re clean and dry. That’s the main takeaway here.
  4848. >You load the bolts into your bracers, make a few final adjustments on the straps, and pull your sleeves down over them.
  4849. >Everything fits just right.
  4850. >Alright, you’re as ready as you’ll ever be.
  4851. >After reapplying the salt barriers, you slap the lights off and head for your door.
  4852.  
  4853. >You pull it open and are immediately faced with the Director.
  4854. >He’s got the dumbest fucking grin on his stupid face, making all the various wrinkles really pop out.
  4855. >”Good morning, my boy!”
  4856. “What are you so happy about?”
  4857. >”I get to spend the whole morning with my best pal. Why wouldn’t I be happy?”
  4858. “The morning is only about an hour and a half longer. Let’s get this over with.”
  4859. >You look him over again and note that he’s not wearing his suit.
  4860. >In fact, despite the dressiness of his current outfit, that being finely creased pants and a matching, smooth brown vest, he’s ready to do some moving.
  4861. >Or at least he thinks he is.
  4862. >You’ve only seen him wear that outfit three times before.
  4863. >The first was your training, and the next two were during deep expeditions into dehallowed territories.
  4864. >Those were not good days.
  4865. >There’s also something else you notice about him.
  4866. “Your moustache,” you state, pointing to the hair over his lip.
  4867. >He raises an eyebrow and wipes at it, then examines his finger.
  4868. >On it is a small red blotch the same color as what’s dripping from his nose.
  4869. >”Oh, how uncouth.”
  4870. >The man digs around in his pocket and pulls out a purple handkerchief.
  4871. >He presses it against his nostrils and blows, then wipes around the area.
  4872. >When he pulls the fabric away, it’s covered in a thin layer of blood.
  4873. >”How distasteful of me. Terribly sorry, my boy. It won’t happen again. Probably. Actually, I’m fairly sure it will. Would you be a lamb and let me know if I start hemorrhaging again?”
  4874. “You’re really sick, aren’t you?”
  4875. >”You spend the greater part of your life around magically radiating artifacts and creatures and see how well your organs hold up, buster boy. Now, let’s head off. I think we’ll hit the bar first and see where the night takes us.”
  4876. “We’re going to the bar at ten-thirty in the morning?”
  4877. >”Booze waits for no man!”
  4878.  
  4879. >He heads off, almost running, and you have to make a quick jog to catch up before slowing down.
  4880. >”Later, Ed,” he waves to the concierge.
  4881. >”Name’s not Ed.”
  4882. “Uh, bye.”
  4883. >”Mmh hm.”
  4884. >You take off into the morning light.
  4885. >As you pass by your truck, you get the Director to stop long enough so you can hop in the cab and grab your duffle bag.
  4886. >Unzipping it, you search through the hefty sac and pocket a few fire charges as well as another bottle of garlic powder.
  4887. >Well, while you’re at it, may as well grab the hairspray.
  4888. >Actually, there’s not enough room in your pockets at this point for a can like that.
  4889. >You settle for a travel size bottle of cologne and stuff it in your pocket, then zip the bag, lock the door, and close up the truck.
  4890. “All set.”
  4891. >”Then let’s go! We’re burning daylight!”
  4892. >Once more, you’re off, wading through the bitter morning air of Bahhston.
  4893. >You know, at least it’s cold out.
  4894. >You dread to imagine what this awful place would smell like in the summer.
  4895. >The thought of a warm breeze carrying some vagrant’s piss right into your nose is enough to keep you up at night.
  4896. >Anyway, after about half an hour of walking and talking, or more accurately, listening to the Director talk, you arrive at a tiny bar in east bumfuk.
  4897. >”O’Malley’s Pub o’ Liquer n’ Gold,” says the Director, in awe of the worn wooden sign hanging by a single chain over the doorway.
  4898. “They spelled liquor wrong.”
  4899. >”That’s how the Heylics spell it.”
  4900. >You wasted thirty minutes walking, listening to this dinosaur babble on about fucking nonsense, to get a mug of warm beer in a rundown bar in fucking Bahhston.
  4901.  
  4902. >No, Anon, don’t think like that.
  4903. >He’s insane, but he has a reason for everything.
  4904. >You have to believe that there is a purpose you’re here.
  4905. >You know, a real purpose, not that whatever he’s sick with has finally just eaten his brain and robbed him of his processing abilities.
  4906. >The Director steps forward and pulls the knob latch down, then pushes the door open.
  4907. >The unfitted wood scrapes against the floor as you’re hit with a wall of warm, almost sticky air.
  4908. >You sigh and enter in behind him, making sure to close the door too.
  4909. >It clicks shut, and every asshole in the room turns their head to glare at you.
  4910. >They’re big enough that any one of them could give you a good punch if they got close.
  4911. >With that, you mind the spacing between you and each of them, and how many of these old, red tiles they could probably run over in a few seconds.
  4912. >It’s not like you’re expecting a fight, but with the Director around?
  4913. >You’re not going to not expect one, if that makes sense.
  4914. >”Howdy, boys,” he shouts, nonchalantly walking up to the main counter.
  4915. >He leans forward, putting his arm around the shoulder of some tank of a man in a torn blue button flannel.
  4916. >”Give me a pint, old chum. And one for the big guy here, too. My, you are a big guy.”
  4917. >”For you,” growls the man, shoving the Director away.
  4918. >He stumbles back and falls into a stool.
  4919. >”A pint o’ what,” asks the bartender.
  4920. >”A pint of water. What do you think, old boy? I mean beer. You know, God’s golden drink. The poor man’s wine. Give me something to make these old bones ache a little less. I want to get, as the kids say these days, all kinds of ‘fucked up’.”
  4921. >”You’re going to get fucked up if you keep talkin’, old man,” snarls another patron.
  4922.  
  4923. >That one is forty tiles away from the Director.
  4924. >He looks slow, though.
  4925. >If you’re fast, you should be able to intercept him if he tries something.
  4926. >Thankfully, he seems content for now to just sip on whatever sludge is filling his cup.
  4927. >Your eyes drift across the room again, taking into consideration everybody available.
  4928. >There are twelve people in total, four of which are girls.
  4929. >The men are overly large and probably on a few cycles of test.
  4930. >Two of the women look the same.
  4931. >The other two are dantier for sure, but still have an almost feral look to them.
  4932. >The person who worries you most in this whole joint is the one right next to the Director.
  4933. >His is the only face you can’t see, that you can’t judge.
  4934. >What gaze lies in his eyes?
  4935. >Are they soft? Are they the eyes of a killer?
  4936. >If you could get a better read on him, you’d be fine.
  4937. >As it is, the most you can get from his posture is some sense of a “holier than thou” attitude.
  4938. >Man, it sure does suck in here.
  4939. >”Your son plan on drinking?” asks the bartender as he hands the Director a tall mug of brew.
  4940. “I’m not his son,” you snap.
  4941. >”Ixnay the onsay,” whispers the Director, trying and failing to be sneaky.
  4942. >”Watch your tone, kid.”
  4943. >You turn your gaze to some dickhead sitting at a table with three other guys.
  4944. >His beard reaches down to his nipples, both of which are poking through his white tank.
  4945. >”You don’t talk to the ‘tender like that.”
  4946. “How about you keep your fucking mouth shut before I kick your windpipe in and shut it for you?”
  4947. >”What’d you say, punk?”
  4948. “You heard me the first time, inbred.”
  4949.  
  4950. >”Alright, I’m wastin’ him.”
  4951. >”Fellas, fellas,” calls the Director after taking a sip of beer. “Let’s not go playing ‘who can kill who the best’, shall we? We’re all civilized people here. Well, mostly. I’m looking at you, young missy. A girl your age shouldn’t be dressing like that.”
  4952. >”Hey!”
  4953. >”Anyway, I think we would all benefit from having something to drink and not bludgeoning each other.”
  4954. >”You sit your ass down, old man.”
  4955. >”Next round is on me?”
  4956. >”Never mind, I like this guy.”
  4957. >The bartender groans and begins to pour several new mugs of beer, each one taking long enough that the customer it’s destined for gets antsy waiting.
  4958. >Yeah, make sure all the foam is gone, buddy.
  4959. >You’re a real master of your craft, aren’t you?
  4960. >Everybody eventually gets their mugs.
  4961. >The bartender looks at you and holds up an empty glass.
  4962. “Got any coffee?”
  4963. >”Ain’t brewed yet.”
  4964. “I’m fine then.”
  4965. >”Suit yourself.”
  4966. >The crowd seems to calm down once they’ve got some alcohol in their systems.
  4967. >Well, the men do, at least.
  4968. >While they relax, the girls get a little friskier.
  4969. >In fact, one of those little animals walks saunters over to you with a certain look in her eye.
  4970. >You shoot her a glare and she turns right around.
  4971. >When she returns to her friends, she leans in and whispers something into the biggest man’s ear.
  4972.  
  4973. >He turns his head, looks you in the eye, and curls his lips back to reveal his teeth.
  4974. “What?”
  4975. >”You bein’ rude?”
  4976. “I didn’t do anything.”
  4977. >He growls in response.
  4978. >No, he actually growls.
  4979. >Like a fucking dog.
  4980. >You squint at him.
  4981. >As the two of you continue to stare, the Director opens his mouth again.
  4982. >”So, now that we’re all drunk and happy, I was wondering if I could ask you all a few questions. Don’t worry, I’m not with the police. If I can help it, I’d like to stay as far away from them as possible, actually. I had a nasty run in with a school officer a few years back, you know. The young punk, well...ok, that’s not entirely relevant to my questions, so let’s move on.”
  4983. >He takes another big gulp of beer.
  4984. >About a quarter of his mug is gone now and it doesn’t even show on him.
  4985. >”What kind of questions are you talking about?”
  4986. >”Oh, nothing too big. I just want some names, some places. You know, standard stuff. I promise it won’t take too long. I’ll even spot another round if you’ll let me.”
  4987. >There’s a light grumbling from the crowd, but after they collectively mull it over, the group nods in agreement.
  4988. >Hey, wait a minute.
  4989. >You reach your hand into your jacket, grabbing hold of your gun.
  4990. >They couldn’t be, could they?
  4991. >”So, how many of you good folks can tell me what Sunset’s plan is?”
  4992. >”What’d you just fucking say?”
  4993. >Several men stand, their muscles flexing.
  4994.  
  4995. >”Sunset. Yes, Sunset Shimmer. I’d like to know what her plan is. If you can’t tell me that, I’d be happy to settle for a location I might find her in. Or, you know what? I’ll settle for Chrysalis too. Does anybody know where she is?”
  4996. >Who the fuck is Chrysalis?
  4997. >Doesn’t matter.
  4998. >With the rapidly growing hair of many of the patrons, your suspicions are confirmed.
  4999. >You pull out your gun and fire off four shots, nailing every bullet dead in the center of the most dangerous looking wolves’ heads.
  5000. >They fall down, slamming onto their respective tables across the bar and coat them in blood.
  5001. >”Hey!”
  5002. >”Jesus fuck!”
  5003. >”They got Rich!”
  5004. >”Calm down, friends! I come in peace. My boy here? He happens to not like your kind. All I want is some information and I’ll gladly drag him out of here.”
  5005. “The hell you are.”
  5006. >You jerk your wrist, bringing forth the blade on your left arm.
  5007. >With the gun held firmly in your right, you take aim at another man’s head and pull the trigger.
  5008. >The gun fires and, before he can react, puts a large hole between his eyes.
  5009. “A whole bar full of dogs. Who’da thunk?”
  5010. >The Director thunk it.
  5011. >He planned it, the bastard.
  5012. >Did he also plan to use you as a bargaining chip?
  5013. >”Get the kid!”
  5014. >Four more take their full transformations.
  5015. >There’s a full breed werewolf, a half breed, and two wolfmen.
  5016. >Each one glares at you like you just killed their friends.
  5017. >Because, well, you did.
  5018. >”Anon, you are ruining my ingenious plan here. Stop killing the informants.”
  5019. >You reach into your jacket next to where the gun was stationed and grab a few silver rounds.
  5020. >”Really, guys, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get him out of here if we stay much longer. Just tell me what I need to know now and I’ll see what I can do,” pleads the Director.
  5021.  
  5022. >The half breed charges at you, leaping across the tables like they’re stones in a river.
  5023. >You raise your arm and fire the last round.
  5024. >The beast dodges, but you still nail it in the shoulder.
  5025. >It falters on the landing, giving you the second you need to pop the cylinder open on your revolver and dump the spent casings, then load in one round.
  5026. >You snap it shut and shoot again.
  5027. >The wolf runs away, but not unscathed.
  5028. >This time you get its ankle.
  5029. >At this point, packmates have arrived.
  5030. >One of the wolfmen grabs your arm and yanks you off your feet.
  5031. >The other raises its claws to cut you, intending either to gut you or infect you.
  5032. >You grunt and kick it square in the jaw, sending it back a foot.
  5033. >Next you slash at your captor’s arm with the bracer.
  5034. >Your silver blade cuts deep and melts the flesh it touches.
  5035. >The wolfman howls and drops you.
  5036. >You scramble away and load another round into your gun.
  5037. >Using the wolfman as leverage, you kick off his leg and slide on the tiled floor.
  5038. >Quickly taking aim, you put a bullet in the second one’s head.
  5039. >The first leans against the wall of the bar, caressing the wound on its arm.
  5040. >You’ve stayed on the floor too long.
  5041. >As you get back on your feet, you swap out the casing for another new round in the gun.
  5042. >Actually, it looks like you have time to put two in.
  5043. >The exact same moment you finish that, the full breed is on you.
  5044. >You duck and dodge a cut, then press the barrel of your gun against its stomach and fire.
  5045. >The black wolf cries and reels back, clutching the new hole in its stomach.
  5046. >You raise the gun another few inches and pull the trigger again, putting the next bullet in its throat.
  5047. >The wolf falls down, cracking the tile upon landing, and gargles as blood begins to fill its lungs.
  5048.  
  5049. >You turn your gaze to the last two.
  5050. >They’ve grouped up and are using each other for support.
  5051. >The half breed looks pretty bad, and the cut on the wolfman’s arm has burned away enough tissue that it’s now a gaping wound.
  5052. >When they notice you’ve seen them, they almost start to cry.
  5053. >How adorable.
  5054. >You pop the casings out of the gun and load another two in, depleting the supply in your hand.
  5055. “Any last words?” you ask, raising the gun to the wolfman.
  5056. >”Wait, I--”
  5057. >Bang.
  5058. “Bad choice. Personally, I would have picked something more impactful.”
  5059. >The half breed shrieks and tries to run away, but it doesn’t make it far after you put a chunk of silver in its brain.
  5060. >The final beast falls, crumpling onto the floor like a toppled house of cards.
  5061. >You sigh and reach into your pocket, looking for more rounds.
  5062. >Sadly, you’ve used them all.
  5063. >Huh. You didn’t think you scooped them all out earlier.
  5064. >Whatever.
  5065. >Turning to face the last three--four if you count the bartender--wolves, you pocket your gun and twist that wrist to free your other blade.
  5066. “I can do old fashioned too.”
  5067. >”Wait,” shouts one of the girls.
  5068. >They hug each other as they slink away.
  5069. >You follow them on their journey to the bar, keeping your arms up in front of you.
  5070. >”We’re not wolves! We’re human!”
  5071. >You stop in your tracks.
  5072. “Yeah?”
  5073. >”Honest!”
  5074.  
  5075. >They’re crying now.
  5076. >Same for the bartender, actually.
  5077. >He’s pressed up against the wall like he’s trying to phase through it and get away from here.
  5078. >Shrugging, you take out your cross and throw it at them.
  5079. >The shortest of the girls screams as it hits her and falls into her hands.
  5080. >There it sits.
  5081. >It doesn’t sizzle and she doesn’t seem to be melting.
  5082. “Let’s see the other girls now.”
  5083. >They look at you with wide, red eyes.
  5084. “I said let’s see.”
  5085. >Getting the message, they pass it along to each other.
  5086. >Each girl holds the cross long enough for you to deem them human, followed by the bartender.
  5087. >When he’s done, you hold your hand up, gesturing for a toss.
  5088. >He throws it, but with a hand as shaky as his, it’s a pretty shit throw.
  5089. >Your cross hits a table probably ten feet away and slides onto the floor.
  5090. “Really?”
  5091. >”Sorry,” he stutters. “Please don’t kill me.”
  5092. >You wave him off and go to pick up your piece.
  5093. >With that secured, you stuff it in your jacket and reholster the blades too.
  5094. “All yours, Director.”
  5095. >The old man is sitting in his seat, glued to it with his iron grip.
  5096. >Plastered on his face is the biggest shit eating grin.
  5097. >Suddenly it disappears, and he paints a more sad, concerned look on his face.
  5098. >Turning to the survivors, he sighs.
  5099. >”You see? I told you I didn’t know if I could contain him. Are you going to help me now, or do I have to sic him on you all again?”
  5100.  
  5101. >The Director gets up out of his seat and places a hand on the countertop.
  5102. >He squats down, grunting along the way, and then jump up, leaping over the counter.
  5103. >He lands none too gracefully and ends up slipping on something you can’t see.
  5104. >There’s a loud clang as several items from under the counter, including what you imagine to be some more mugs, crash on the floor.
  5105. >The man suddenly pops up and brushes some dust off his vest.
  5106. >”I meant to do that.”
  5107. >He then steps toward the bartender, stopping just a few feet away.
  5108. >”Well? Come on, bucko. I just want a little piece of information.”
  5109. >”I don’t know anything about Sunset,” he squeals.
  5110. >The Director looks over to girls.
  5111. >Each nods frantically in agreement.
  5112. >”Those guys just talked, they didn’t tell me anything specific. Honest!”
  5113. >”Then talk to me. What did they say, old boy? Come on, surely you remember something.”
  5114. >The bartender is silent.
  5115. >He only shivers, shaking his head.
  5116. >”I think,” sutters out one of the half naked girls pressed up against the wall, “They said something about the queen of changing being in town.”
  5117. >Queen of changing?
  5118. >Could she mean the queen of changelings?
  5119. “Queen of changing or queen of THE changing?”
  5120. >”The? I think?”
  5121. >Your eyes widen.
  5122. >You’ve only heard legends about her.
  5123. >For such a creature to be real.
  5124. >It makes sense, you guess, but even so.
  5125. >The Queen of THE Changelings.
  5126. >Ruler of an entire race.
  5127.  
  5128. >”Any mention of where?”
  5129. >”No, nothing like that. Just that she was around. We never asked too much about it.”
  5130. >”Smart girls,” states the Director. “They might have killed you otherwise.”
  5131. >He sighs and looks back to the bartender, eliciting a squeal from the man.
  5132. >”There’s really nothing else you can tell me?”
  5133. >”They talked a lot about the docks. That’s all, I swear!”
  5134. >”The docks? Are we talking about by the sea or their tail docks? Or maybe you kept hearing ‘duck’ and just mixed it up in your head? These are very important distinctions.”
  5135. >”Docks by the sea.”
  5136. >The bartender is full on crying now.
  5137. >He’s got his head turned as far away from the Director as he can without tearing the ligaments in his neck.
  5138. >”Well, I suppose that will do. Thank you for your time.”
  5139. >The Director picks up a half full mug of warm beer off the counter.
  5140. >He brings it to his face, giving it a light whiff.
  5141. >”Not a bad scent. What’s the brand?”
  5142. “Family recipe.”
  5143. >He cups the edge with his lips and tilts his head back.
  5144. >The golden liquid floods his mouth as he guzzles it down, totally draining the mug.
  5145. >When done, he pulls it away and licks his lips.
  5146. >”Wow,” he says, almost impressed. “Not a bad legacy.”
  5147. >Oh fuck!
  5148. >You break into a run for the man right as he smashes the top of the mug down over the counter.
  5149.  
  5150. >It shatters, leaving him with the jagged bottom section.
  5151. >The Director grabs the bartender by the collar and raises his weapon, then thrusts it at the man’s neck.
  5152. >You make it over just in time and manage to grab his wrist before he can make impact.
  5153. >With a grunt, you twist your body and pull him off his feet.
  5154. >He’s probably about half your weight, so throwing him is pretty easy, and you do exactly that.
  5155. >The Director lands on his feet, using the counter for support.
  5156. “Enough,” you shout.
  5157. >The Director tries to stand up straight, but he doesn’t make it up much farther than a crouch before he has to lean back down and turn away.
  5158. >He starts coughing. They’re thick, wet rakes at his throat that make your skin crawl.
  5159. >When he’s done, he wipes his mouth and looks at you.
  5160. >You ignore his gaze at first, preferring to examine the sudden layer of red on the bar counter.
  5161. >”What happened to minding your elders?”
  5162. “Get going.”
  5163. >”They’re witnesses, Anon.”
  5164. “I said move.”
  5165. >You march over and grab him by the collar, then lift him over to the other side of the counter.
  5166. “We have what we need. It’s time to go.”
  5167. >”You’re no fun,” he sighs.
  5168. >The man leans over, peeking past you and at the small group of survivors. “He’s no fun, is he?”
  5169. >With your hand on his back, you push, sending him stumbling forward a few feet.
  5170. >He grumbles the whole way, but he eventually exits the bar.
  5171. >On your way out, you make eye contact with the bartender.
  5172. “Let me be clear. If you tell anybody about what you saw here today, I’ll make you wish I let him kill you.”
  5173. >They stare at you like scared cats.
  5174. “Got it?”
  5175. >”Yes, sir,” replies one of the girls.
  5176. “Everyone else?”
  5177. >They nod in unison, much like the small pack of wolves that once sat here.
  5178.  
  5179. >That’s good enough for you.
  5180. >You head out of the bar and start to look for the Director.
  5181. >Suddenly though, once you’re outside, something latches onto you.
  5182. >You pull away, ready to kill, but then the oddest thing happens.
  5183. >Whoever it is, instead of biting or hitting you, reaches into your pocket and takes out…
  5184. >It’s the Director.
  5185. >The fire charges!
  5186. >He tosses three into the bar, rolling them across the floor and up to the gang.
  5187. “Get down,” you shout, running in after them.
  5188. >Before you can make it even halfway there, the charges go off.
  5189. >The force of the explosion knocks you off your feet and throws you back outside the door and sliding along the sidewalk until your head is poking into the street.
  5190. >The radiating heat burns your hands when you hold them up to protect your face.
  5191. >With a shriek, you turn over, turning your back to the blaze.
  5192. >Your hands are pink and throb with pain, but it doesn’t seem like there’s any major damage.
  5193. >That’s covered.
  5194. >You rush to your feet and face the bar again.
  5195. >Your mouth drops at the sight of it.
  5196. >It’s all fire.
  5197. >Not an inch of that place is untouched by the hungry flames.
  5198. >They lick up the walls, devouring the paint and paintings.
  5199. >The floors, now glowing, crack and splinter from the heat.
  5200. >”Holy moly, those are strong. I wasn’t even really sure three would be enough.”
  5201. >Slowly, you pivot your head to look at him.
  5202. >He’s smiling.
  5203. >Well, he is until he notices your stare.
  5204. >”What? It’s not like you killed them. They were awful close to those wolves, Anon. What’s our guarantee that they wouldn’t have run to their boss and told them all about an old man and his young punk killing a whole pack of their soldiers?”
  5205.  
  5206. >He places his hands on his hips.
  5207. >”Then they send their goons after every old man and young punk in this city. Suddenly half the population is gone and the monsters are overrunning everything. Where’s the balance then?”
  5208. “Balance?!”
  5209. >You run up to him and wrap your hands around his neck.
  5210. >In one motion, you lift him up off the ground and slam his back against the heated wall of the bar.
  5211. “You think this is about balance? Those were humans in there, you idiot! Humans!”
  5212. >”You hate humans anyway,” he chokes out, trying to pry your hands off of him.
  5213. “If we go around killing people, what makes us better than monsters? Huh? What’s your balance matter then?”
  5214. >You increase the force, bringing your fingers together on the other side of his neck.
  5215. >You can feel his windpipe bending against your thumbs as they press into his throat.
  5216. >”You’re,” he wheezes, barely audible, “Missing the bigger picture.”
  5217. >The man’s eyes roll back, and a long string of drool spills onto your hand.
  5218. >You snarl and pull back, unhanding the man.
  5219. >He falls onto his ass and gasps for air like it’d been an eternity since he breathed.
  5220. >After his breathing has settled, he lets out a halfhearted chuckle.
  5221. >”Jeez, if I didn’t know you as well as I do, I’d have been afraid for a second there.”
  5222. “Let’s get something straight, Discord.”
  5223. >You bend down and get close enough that you can feel his breath on your face.
  5224. “We don’t kill humans. End of story.”
  5225. >He breaks into mad laughter.
  5226. >It’s such powerful mirth that he rolls onto his side and cups his head in his hands.
  5227. “What’s so funny?”
  5228. >”Oh boy, I guess I really did it, didn’t I?”
  5229. “Killed people? Yeah, you did.”
  5230. >”No, I really rustled your jimmies.”
  5231. >He regains enough control of himself to wipe a stray tear from his yellowed eye.
  5232. >”That’s the first time you’ve ever used my name.”
  5233.  
  5234. >You scowl and stand up, taking a few steps back just to get yourself away from him.
  5235. >The man keeps laughing, so you end up walking away, leaving the bar and him for the police that zoom by you.
  5236. >A few cops give you a glance, but they’re too busy with the explosion to stop and talk to you.
  5237. >They’ll probably find the Director there, so he’s going to have his hands full talking his way out of a jail cell.
  5238. >You’re on your own for now, Anon.
  5239. >About fucking time.
  5240. >Now, how are you going to handle the docks?
  5241. >If Chrysalis really is there, and she really is the queen of the changelings, you can assume that she’s going to be heavily guarded.
  5242. >The Director’s little stunt left you with only one fire charge left, and considering your only other pyrotechnics are a cologne bottle and a lighter, you don’t think you could take more than ten changelings.
  5243. >Of course, that’s also assuming there are changelings there at all.
  5244. >There might be other monsters.
  5245. >With everything popping into your head, it’s looking like you’re going to have to do an initial stakeout to plan for your raid.
  5246. >It’s not necessarily uncommon, but it always makes your skin crawl knowing where monsters are and not being able to kill them on the spot.
  5247. >You almost hope it’s a large scale infestation just so you have a few more targets to make up for the lost time.
  5248. >Oh, what if it’s city scale?
  5249. >Changelings sure know how to pack it in tight.
  5250. >Now that’s a thought.
  5251. >With your hands stuffed deep in your pockets, you continue on your walk.
  5252.  
  5253. >On your stroll, your mind traces back to the events of four years ago.
  5254. >It was one cloudy spring day that you were called into Crystalsberg, just east of the Scarlet River up in Mane.
  5255. >Everything seemed good at first.
  5256. >The townsfolk were kind, and despite the construction blocking off most roads, you actually didn’t have much traffic to worry about.
  5257. >Out of the entire town, there might have been ten people driving.
  5258. >Weird, right? But for some reason, that didn’t tip you off.
  5259. >It wasn’t until the rain started coming down that you saw the first reflection in a puddle.
  5260. >Changelings, you knew, and you thought you were close.
  5261. >As you walked, you kept your eyes down, peeking into every puddle you passed.
  5262. >Your heart began to race as you went on.
  5263. >It wasn’t one changeling in one house.
  5264. >It wasn’t two, or three.
  5265. >Every face you saw, every sole being living there, every man, woman, and child.
  5266. >They were all changelings.
  5267. >You began to keep a vigilant eye over your shoulder.
  5268. >Eventually, you got near the main nest in town hall.
  5269. >The concentration of changelings there was immense, and with one misspoken word, you had alerted them all to your intentions.
  5270. >You never would have imagined you’d have to fight an entire town of changelings in the rain.
  5271. >To this day, it is still the worst job you’ve ever had to take, and that’s really saying something.
  5272. >The only one that even comes close is that one time in the Roam when you--oh, hey, it’s the docks.
  5273.  
  5274. >After forty minutes, you’ve finally arrived.
  5275. >The scent of piss hanging on the air is gone, replaced by the powerful aroma of saltwater and fish.
  5276. >It’s not unpleasant overall.
  5277. >The hardened chunks of dirt littering the cracked pavement crunch under your feet.
  5278. >Picking your head up, you take in the full view of it all.
  5279. >It’s not unbusy, but given this city’s history, it’s not nearly as packed as you’d have thought it would be.
  5280. >Although, if you follow the trail of huge, dilapidated dock houses, you do come to a fairly congested portion of land.
  5281. >People walk to and fro, not really seeming to be doing anything.
  5282. >Oh, but they certainly do try to look busy, don’t they?
  5283. >In front of the enormous corrugated metal doors of the rotting building stand two men.
  5284. >They ignore everybody passing around them, preferring to look straight ahead at the main dock.
  5285. >You approach the place, waving happily to the small clusters of people moving their mouths like they’re talking even though no sound is coming out.
  5286. >Boy, they must have been born yesterday.
  5287. >This week at least.
  5288. >That is highly unsettling though.
  5289. >There must be at least a hundred people walking around out here doing the same thing, and if they were all born so recently, that either means there’s more than one queen or Chrysalis is the most productive woman you’ll ever encounter.
  5290. >You really hope it’s not the latter.
  5291. >Now, you’ve never actually seen a queen give birth before, and if you’re being honest with yourself, you’d never like to.
  5292.  
  5293. >You make your way up to the two guards.
  5294. >They give you the dirtiest look they can muster, the little shits.
  5295. >Well, little is the wrong word.
  5296. >One of them is massive. The man must be at least six feet tall and weigh twice as much as you.
  5297. >That’s not in fat either.
  5298. >The black suit he’s in does little to hide his musculature, and in fact the buttons on the verge of popping out only compliment him.
  5299. >The other man isn’t very small either, but at least he’s not as big as his friend on your right.
  5300. >He might be a bit bigger than you, all things considered.
  5301. >Other than their physiques, they are entirely unimpressive.
  5302. >From the plain hair to their flat faces, everything is about as interesting as drying paint.
  5303. “Morning, gentleman. How’s the water today?”
  5304. >”What do you want?” asks the man on the right in a low, gruff voice.
  5305. “Well, if you must ask, I’m here with the city’s insurance distributer to make sure your building is still up to structural code that we can feasibly cover. I just finished the last three down there,” you add, pointing behind you to the other empty houses. “One didn’t make the cut, but from the outside here, I have a feeling you’ll do fine. Can I come inside?”
  5306. >”Insurance? I didn’t hear anything about that.”
  5307. “What do you mean you didn’t hear anything? You, or whoever runs this place, should have gotten a call about it yesterday. It’s routine.”
  5308. >”Ain’t heard nothing,” squeaks the man on the left.
  5309. >You feign concern and scratch your head.
  5310. “Are either of you in close contact with the owner?”
  5311. >”Yeah, and she hadn’t said nothin’ today.”
  5312. “Oh jeez, hold on for a minute, will you?”
  5313. >You reach into your pocket and pull out your phone.
  5314. >In the hot second you have the screen in the sun, you turn it to get the two guards’ reflections.
  5315. >The one on the left ends up being a changeling, but the one on the right seems normal.
  5316. >Well, of course not normal, but not mirrorphobic.
  5317.  
  5318. >Flipping it open, you pull the keypad out of their sight and mash a few buttons.
  5319. >Just in case your mystery man has good hearing, you step away from them before you begin to speak to the dialtone.
  5320. “Hello? Yeah, it’s me. I’m here at Dock 4 in precinct 9 and they’re telling me they didn’t get any calls about an inspection. What’s that all about?”
  5321. >Pause for a few seconds.
  5322. “Well what do you mean he’s on vacation?”
  5323. >And again.
  5324. “I don’t care if he’s in Vanhoover, I have a job to do. What, you couldn’t call in yourself?”
  5325. >Now cue the offended gasp.
  5326. >Make sure you flare your arm out for emphasis.
  5327. “It’s not my job to call the people, it’s my job to inspect. You’re the one in the office, buddy.”
  5328. >You turn around to face the guards and point at your phone like this guy is the biggest asshole.
  5329. >And he would be too if you were talking to Jerry.
  5330. “Well I don’t get paid for that. I--Don’t interrupt me. I said--Hey. Tom, stop. Don’t interrupt me. Call the owner and get the consent forms. Call the owner. What do you mean? Well I can’t fucking go in without permission, Tom.”
  5331. >You widen your eyes while turning your shocked expression into one of anger.
  5332. “I can’t go in! That’s not my fault! You can’t report me for that! Oh, don’t bring Hector into this. You know what? I’ll be back soon and we can go see him together about this. How’s that, big boy? No smartass comments?”
  5333. >You sigh again and pull the phone away from your ear to close it.
  5334. “He hung up on me.”
  5335. >”Sounds like a fun job,” huffs the big bull.
  5336. “It really isn’t. I’m going to get reamed for not finishing today’s inspections too, so there goes my time off for next month.”
  5337.  
  5338. >Lowering your head, you run your fingers through your hair.
  5339. >Then, after a few seconds of hanging there, you look up at them again with a sorry, half-hopeful look.
  5340. “Hey, I’m sorry about this. I wouldn’t be asking if I absolutely didn’t have to, but this is my job on the line. Think you could slide me in?”
  5341. >”I can’t do th--”
  5342. “It’ll be five minutes, I swear. I just need to take a picture of a few support beams, make sure the walls aren’t rotting out, and I’ll be on my way. Hell, I’ll even ignore any sketchy bits for you.”
  5343. >”I can’t. Sorry, but you’ll just have to deal with the paperwork later.”
  5344. “Man, come on. I can’t go in empty handed. Just do me this one solid, please? I’ll put in a good word for you. Honestly, I was being sort of generous when I said you might pass. From the looks of things, this building is about ready to kick it in. I can make sure you stay covered for the next year. Just help a man out, will you?”
  5345. >They look at each other for a few seconds before scooting closer and whispering.
  5346. >What they say is and will remain a mystery to you, but the general topic is one you know quite well, and their conversation takes all the right steps to the same destination it always does.
  5347. >After a little bit of conversing, they look to you.
  5348. >The bigger one scans you from head to toe, probably looking for anything special.
  5349. >The only bulge that might exist is your fire charge, but before he makes it to your midsection, you stuff your phone in that same pocket to justify the protrusion.
  5350. >When he gets to your shoes, he picks his head back up and gestures for you to step forward.
  5351. >”You’ve got five minutes. Take your pictures and get out.”
  5352. “My man, you are a lifesaver. Thank you,” you say, grabbing and shaking his hand. “Thank you so much. My boss would have been pissed.”
  5353. >”Yeah, yeah. Just get going.”
  5354. >He grabs the metal door and pulls it open.
  5355.  
  5356. >The metal creaks on its old hinges as the massive barriers slowly give way to the inside of the dock house.
  5357. >The scent of mildew and sulfur tempts you to plug your nose, but for the sake of the role, you have to remain nonchalant.
  5358. >”Come on, I’ll show you around.”
  5359. >The bigger fellow waves for you to follow as he enters.
  5360. >Nodding gently, you keep on his heels as the two of you make way into the building.
  5361. >It’s dark right at the door, but once you’re past that point, you can fully make out the inside.
  5362. >Or at least you can see the inside.
  5363. >It looks somewhat like a maze since there are crates everywhere, some stacked several people high, forming walls and hallways with the aid of long, thick curtains that drape down from the ceiling and block your view of the back.
  5364. >Even with your vision somewhat blocked, your ears still function perfectly.
  5365. >You can make out the sounds of huge crowds of people.
  5366. >Monsters, of course.
  5367. >You can’t make out all the breeds, but there are definitely changelings and wolves among them.
  5368. >Given the scuttering you can barely make out, they also have either some goblins or an insectoid among them.
  5369. >Your nose hasn’t fallen off yet, so if it is an insectoid, it’s at the very least not an ankheg.
  5370. >That would not be good.
  5371. >Hell, you might even prefer a vampire over an ankheg, all things considered.
  5372. >As the man leads you around the corner of a few crates in the makeshift hallway, you note that there is nobody around.
  5373. “Hey, so I know your reflection was pretty normal in phone. You wouldn’t happen to be a werewolf, would you?”
  5374. >”What?!”
  5375. >Before he can react, you unsheath the blade on your cross and bring your arms around his neck.
  5376. >One hand goes over his mouth.
  5377. >The other plunges the blade into his throat.
  5378.  
  5379. >Two things become distinct about him in this process.
  5380. >First, he has very thick blood.
  5381. >When it spurts out of his mouth, it almost squeezes through the gaps in your fingers.
  5382. >That makes it slippery, but you just tighten your grip on his face and keep the mouth shut, limiting his noise making to desperate wheezing.
  5383. >Secondly, he is a werewolf.
  5384. >You can feel his skin burning away as the silver works its magic on him.
  5385. >Soon enough, the man dies either from blood filling his lungs or the silver melting his brain stem.
  5386. >Whichever comes first.
  5387. >Now without any support or struggle from him, you can feel to fullness of his weight.
  5388. “You’re a big one, aren’t you?”
  5389. >Hm.
  5390. “You are. Were? Sorry, I forgot my manners.”
  5391. >Carefully, you set him down on the cold, flat floor of the building.
  5392. >You could plunge him in the heart to burn the body and make sure no evidence gets left behind, but then you’d also have to worry about someone seeing or smelling the smoke, and that’s just as bad as them stumbling upon the corpse.
  5393. >It doesn’t much matter if they find the body since you’re going to be long gone by the time that happens, but you’d rather not have anyone stumble upon you you’re in the middle of skulking around their base without a chaperone because they were all drawn to the fire within the building.
  5394. >Well, Anon, let’s get moving.
  5395.  
  5396. >Keeping your head low, you traverse through the makeshift hallways, always being sure to have your phone on hand.
  5397. >Every corner you meet, you lead with your phone.
  5398. >It’s not too often that you run into any groups, but when you do, you turn tail right away.
  5399. >Oddly enough, you make a note that the walls are typically more barren than the center of the building, that being where you’ve met at least eighty or ninety percent of the herds.
  5400. >That made your escape plan nice and easy, at least.
  5401. >With that in mind, you remove the last fire charge from your pocket and leave it up against the wall.
  5402. >Then, you walk about to the middle of this particular hallway, and jump up, grabbing onto the edge of the top crate eight feet off the ground.
  5403. >You pull yourself on top of it and take a good look over the horizon.
  5404. >It’s…
  5405. >Wow.
  5406. >That’s all you can really say.
  5407. >Wow.
  5408. >Despite the curtains still hanging here and there, you can make out enough of the base to have your breath taken away by it.
  5409. >About halfway into the dock house, this maze of crates disappears, and other than a few large cardboard boxes half full with glowing, pulsating eggs, the only thing in sight is changelings.
  5410. >There must be at least five hundred of them crammed in there, moving about with barely a few inches between each other.
  5411. >None of them bother with their human disguises either.
  5412. >Their circular mouths lined with razor sharp teeth hang open, sucking in air as they breathe whatever humid musk looms over such a horde.
  5413. >Atop the mass of changelings, as if their heads came together to form a neat little floor, scuttle about what looks like from this distance to be about five or six goblins.
  5414. >Their sickly green, leathery skin flaps as they run, soon disappearing beneath the crowd, only to emerge with some tool in their hands.
  5415.  
  5416. >There’s also a fair number of insects, but thankfully no ankhegs.
  5417. >No, these are much more manageable.
  5418. >Adam Eaters, they’re called, are small little creatures with thick, brown armor about as tough as a sheet of iron.
  5419. >Despite the large pincers on their faces, they are pretty much harmless unless you harbor darkness within your heart.
  5420. >Then they eat you.
  5421. >A lot of churches and other holy temples out in the across the ocean employ their use to weed out sinners and traitors from joining their orders.
  5422. >It’s pretty fucked up, but they’re not too hard to kill as long as you have something to punch through those fucking shells.
  5423. >They also have a soft underbelly, so if you can manage to flip over one of the fifty pound little shits, there’s a nice target for whatever Stab Me tool you might have on hand.
  5424. >Speaking of tools, now you know everything you’ll need for this.
  5425. >You can’t quite spot the queen, but fuck, you don’t need to to know she’s in here.
  5426. >All those monsters and eggs are proof enough.
  5427. >”Hey, look up there,” shrieks one of the changelings in the horde.
  5428. >At that very moment, every single head you can see perks up.
  5429. >Their deep, black eyes lock onto you, and from their mouths comes an ear piercing screech.
  5430. >The mass moves like a wave as it breaks, sending changeling after changeling running through the halls, up and over the crates, and some even climbing the walls.
  5431. >Sorry guys, but you’re not sticking around to fight right now.
  5432. >You raise your fist and aim it at the fire charge next to the wall just forty feet away.
  5433. >Steady now.
  5434. >Steady...and…
  5435. >You jerk your wrist and launch the rosewood bolt.
  5436. >It soars through the air and strikes the charge dead in its center.
  5437. >The little ball bounces from the impact and lands unceremoniously on the floor, rolling around until it settles on the bolt lodged within it as a support.
  5438.  
  5439. >It’s not going to...you know.
  5440. >Explode?
  5441. >No fire?
  5442. >That pink bitch’s words ring in your head like a siren.
  5443. >”It’s 60-40 sort of deal.”
  5444. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”
  5445. >Alright, now might be a good time to get worried.
  5446. >One of the changelings taking a direct route to you hops onto your crate and swipes at your legs.
  5447. >You leap down just in time to miss the hit and land hard on the floor.
  5448. “Fucking knees,” you groan as the shock travels up your legs.
  5449. >You take out your cross, unsheathing the blade again.
  5450. >Your eyes are glued to the wall dead ahead.
  5451. >Well, you guess the wood looks rotten anyway.
  5452. >Without another moment of hesitation, you break into a run.
  5453. >Your narrow hallway soon begins to fill as changelings jump over the top of the crates, landing in front of you.
  5454. >You choose not look behind, but from the sound of it, you’ve got quite a following too.
  5455. >Left and right, you weave between monsters, using the crate walls as posts to push off of.
  5456. >A few get too close.
  5457. >One little shit latches onto you, picking you up off the floor.
  5458. >You bring the cross down, jamming the blade into its skull through the ear.
  5459. >Its strength leaves and you fall down on top of it.
  5460. >Another changeling uses the opportunity to grab you, pulling you out of its friend.
  5461. >The very same second your blade leaves its skull, the first monster heals and is back on its feet.
  5462. >God damn, you really wish you had some fire with you right now!
  5463. “Hands off,” you grunt, pushing the monster away.
  5464. >Two more join in, grabbing at your ankles.
  5465. >Another wraps its arms around your chest and lays its mouth down on your shoulder.
  5466.  
  5467. >The teeth begin to move, spiraling around in its hole of a mouth.
  5468. >They slice through your jacket and bite into your flesh where it anchors itself down.
  5469. >You grimace as blood spills from the wound, soaking your jacket.
  5470. >Soon enough, they have hold of your arms.
  5471. >The monsters pull on them, stretching each limb out to your sides.
  5472. >More and more changelings surround you.
  5473. >One of them, the one directly in front of you, raises ir hands.
  5474. >Light shines on the long, white claws that slowly extend out of its grubby black fingertips.
  5475. >With a hiss, it rakes them across your chest, ripping right through your shirt and tearing the skin underneath to ribbons.
  5476. >You howl in pain and try to break free, but the monster on your shoulder has a grip on you tighter than a drug addict on their last pill.
  5477. >Again, the beast before you cuts into your skin.
  5478. >You shout again and jerk in your captor’s hold.
  5479. >One more fucking time, you glossy skinned fuck.
  5480. >One more god damned time.
  5481. >Following your orders to the letter, the changeling attacks again.
  5482. >It stabs its claws right into your chest and pulls down, slicing the muscle open.
  5483. >Your shirt is now drenched in blood, along with the monster’s hands.
  5484. >It brings its disgusting fingers to its mouth.
  5485. >From the pit of teeth comes a long, fat, pink tongue that wiggles and slaps around the appendages.
  5486. >You hope it likes how you taste, because that’s its last meal.
  5487. >You meet the changeling’s eyes, letting out a low, throaty growl of your own.
  5488. >Your burning glare sets it on edge, forcing it to take a step back.
  5489. >With a flick of your wrist, the blade on your right bracer comes free.
  5490. >It slices through the fingers of the changeling holding you, freeing that arm.
  5491.  
  5492. >The monster cries and falls back, waiting for its hands to heal.
  5493. >With that opportunity, you wrench your body to the left, ripping your shoulder out of the changeling’s mouth.
  5494. >Your skin stays with the monster though, a small sheet of it hanging dumbly off its teeth.
  5495. >You swipe your arm, keeping the monster in front of you at bay long enough for that continued motion to take your arm straight to the changeling holding your left side captive.
  5496. >Jamming the blade in through its eye stops brain function, allowing you to free your arm and the bracer blade on that side as well.
  5497. >Next you turn your attention to the one in front of you.
  5498. >You grab its shoulders and, using it as an anchor, pull yourself forward with all your might.
  5499. >Your chest and legs slips free of the monsters holding you.
  5500. >Using the momentum of that, you ram your head hard into the changeling’s chin.
  5501. >Then, just because it really pissed you off, you jam your blades into its chest as well.
  5502. >You must land one in the heart because the monster shouts out in pain as it falls back, landing on the floor.
  5503. >You have a window now.
  5504. >Scrambling back to your feet, you break into a run again, this time keeping your body low.
  5505. >Monsters try to reach out for you, but you ram right through them, knocking them off their feet or into the crates.
  5506. >The wall is so close now.
  5507. >Just a little further.
  5508. >Twenty feet.
  5509. >“Get him!”
  5510. >Ten feet.
  5511. >”Get the human!”
  5512. >Five feet.
  5513. >”Don’t let him get away!”
  5514. >Blue forty two, motherfuckers.
  5515.  
  5516. >There’s a changeling dead in front of the wall.
  5517. >It lunges at you, leaping into the air.
  5518. >You duck down, ball yourself up, and then explode off the ground.
  5519. >Your legs propel you into the air and you grab onto the changeling, keeping yourself right underneath its chest.
  5520. >With your battering ram in hand, you smash it into the wall.
  5521. >The wet, sloppy wood squelches as the force of your impact expunges water from its decaying form.
  5522. >The planks give way, ripping apart from each other as you and your changeling buddy fall out of the dock house.
  5523. >Once outside, you push away from the changeling, sending you both on different collision courses with the ground.
  5524. >When you land, you roll for a few feet before slowing down enough that you can scramble back up and run off.
  5525. >The chases you, pouring out of the dock house like a broken faucet.
  5526. >That is, up until you get close enough to town.
  5527. >When you begin to see other humans, the crowd of black skinned monsters vanishes.
  5528. >Just to be sure none of them are still on your tail, you keep on running until you’re safely back in the pissy streets of the bustling city.
  5529. >With humans on every street corner, filling the roads with their cars, and funneling in and out of shops, no changeling would risk attacking you here.
  5530. >You pant and lean against a sturdy looking brick wall, even making the special exception to ignore the black stains running down the sides of it.
  5531. >With the adrenaline wearing off, the full damage you took begins to register to you.
  5532. >Gently, you put your hand against your chest and wince.
  5533. >Ow.
  5534. “Alright, Anon, let’s plan this out,” you state softly.
  5535. >Hide the bracers, button up the coat.
  5536. >All this arm movement fucking sucks since it’s a constant pull on your chest.
  5537. “Go to the store, get the tools you need, go home, and run some repairs. Simple enough, right?”
  5538. >You let out a shaky breath and close your eyes for a second as another wave of sickly hot pain radiates through your upper body.
  5539. “Maybe we’ll do the repairs first.”
  5540.  
  5541. >After getting some directions from a group of students, or at least people who you hope were students, you make off to a little bait and tackle shop just a few blocks away.
  5542. >How nice of them to put this fishing shit so close to the docks.
  5543. >You enter, feeling more and more light headed as time goes on.
  5544. >It’s not from blood loss. You’re certainly used to that.
  5545. >That damn changeling just sucked your strength right out of you is all.
  5546. >Back when you had your veins filled with the stuff of action, that wasn’t an issue.
  5547. >Now? Calm?
  5548. >You’re definitely feeling the lag here.
  5549. >As quickly as you can, you collect your items and make way to the counter and are happily greeted by the happiest looking motherfucker with a tooth gap you’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing.
  5550. >”Afternoon, sir. Do you have a Super Fishy Rewards Card?”
  5551. >Oh god, is this one of those stores?
  5552. “No.”
  5553. >”Would you like to sign up? I just need your phone number, email address, billing address, the last four numbers of your soc’, and your first born son’s name.”
  5554. >You sigh and wipe some sweat from your forehead with a shaky hand.
  5555. “I’m good.”
  5556. >”Are you sure? You’ll save thirty percent off any purchase of fifty dollars or more and a lifetime supply of high quality worms.”
  5557. “I said no.”
  5558. >”I’ll also say it’s totally free. For the first month. Are you sure you don’t want to sign up?”
  5559. >You lean over the counter, using the register for support, and press your nose against the cashier’s.
  5560. “Ask me one more question that isn’t cash or credit and I’m going to sew your fucking mouth shut with this line,” you say, pushing the box of wire across the plastic tabletop to him, “And this hook,” also adding the small four-pack of metal prongs.
  5561. >”Absolutely. I understand. Thank you for your consideration.”
  5562. >There’s no further trouble from the gentleman behind the counter.
  5563.  
  5564. >As you exit the store, you idly rub your chest and debate going back to the motel to fix this up.
  5565. >You’re already here, so the real question is do you want to go back out after you already sat down?
  5566. >The answer is no.
  5567. >Whatever, it’s not much shopping anyway.
  5568. >You just have to go to a hardware store, a toy store, and a specialty store.
  5569. >That’s not much.
  5570. >And that’s a lie.
  5571. >You hang your head and move again, not wanting to stand still for too long.
  5572. >After half an hour of walking and shopping and groaning, you’ve finally made it to the specialty shop.
  5573. >Or rather, to the curio shop.
  5574. >It’s a small wooden building with that stupid quarter-inch brick sheeting that businesses use to cheat the cost of real brick.
  5575. >It doesn’t fool you, and it doesn’t make the store look any older.
  5576. >At least the doors are still analog.
  5577. >You reach out for the handle and press the lock down.
  5578. >It clicks open and you step forward, scraping the weather-stripped door across the floor.
  5579. >It looks shockingly like the shop back in Manehattan, and yet somehow they’ve made it more homey.
  5580. >Well, not homey, but it’s more personal. Yeah, that’s the right word.
  5581. >Manehattan had this professional “everything must be right” feel as far as mom-and-pop shops go, but this store looks like it had some real love put into it.
  5582. “How sweet,” you scoff.
  5583. >After having reached the counter, you set your bags of goodies down on the hardwood floor and ring the bell provided.
  5584. >”Coming,” exclaims a surfer.
  5585.  
  5586. >A few seconds later, a man whiter than snow with hair as blue as the ocean comes running out.
  5587. >His face is clean, his hair well kept, and his clothing immaculate.
  5588. >”Welcome to the Royal Rarities Shop. How can I help you today?”
  5589. >Oh, it’s surfer man.
  5590. “You know your face and your voice don’t match, right?”
  5591. >”I get that a lot. The name’s Shining Armor. You?”
  5592. “I need some tools.”
  5593. >”No, I mean--”
  5594. >You take out your wallet and flip the ID around to the proper side.
  5595. “So do you show me the gallery or is there somebody else I have to meet?”
  5596. >”One moment, dude.”
  5597. >He turns away from you and cups his mouth, then bellows out into the middle of the store.
  5598. >”Honey, the repairman is here. Can you show him our printer?”
  5599. >”One moment, Shiny Dearest!”
  5600. >Shiny Dearest looks at you, waggling his eyebrows.
  5601. >”She’s my wife.”
  5602. “Thanks for sharing. I don’t know how I could have figured out you two were in a relationship if you didn’t tell me.”
  5603. >”Yeah, I guess I’m just the luckiest guy on Earth.”
  5604. “Yep.”
  5605. >”She’s really great, you know. I think you’ll like her.”
  5606. “Ok, bye.”
  5607. >Without another moment of hesitation, you begin to walk around the front end of the store, perusing the wares.
  5608. >One little item catches your attention, actually.
  5609. >It’s a bottle of glass dust.
  5610. >What an odd item to be selling.
  5611. >An idea happens to pop into your head as you examine the thing.
  5612. >A terrible, horrible idea.
  5613. >Yeah, you’ll buy this.
  5614.  
  5615. >Eventually, his sweet, loving, darling, love of his life, so caring and wonderful wife comes to meet you and holy shit is she pink.
  5616. >”Nice to meet you! I’m Cadence. You’d like to see our printer, correct?”
  5617. “Sure thing.”
  5618. >”Right this way, then.”
  5619. >Her smile, stretching the wrinkles across her face, never wavers as she escorts you to the back room, clearly marked as such with all the big warning signs and door handle stickers.
  5620. “Expertly hidden, I see.”
  5621. >”Plain sight is often the best place. People overlook some crazy things when they’re not paying attention to what’s right in front of them.”
  5622. “I can’t help but feel like all these warning signs are encouraging theft, though.”
  5623. >”Oh, that’s quite ok. It’s not like anything bad would ever happen with Shiny around.”
  5624. >Cadence takes you to through the back, into the break room, and then pulls a large set of keys out of her pocket.
  5625. >You look again at her pants, acknowledging just how tight they are. They leave very little to the imagination.
  5626. >Where the fuck did she hide those keys?
  5627. >She inserts the largest of the set into the lock on the closet door, followed by deadbolt just above it.
  5628. >Everything clicks into place and she turns the handle, opening the world to a room, again, very similar to what you saw in Manehattan.
  5629. >The main difference here is that there are little heart stickers all over the walls.
  5630. >These people aren’t normal.
  5631. >They need help.
  5632. >Cadence ushers you in and closes the door behind you.
  5633. >”So, what can I interest you in today?”
  5634. “I need a bag of fire charges, a bag of flashes, and a case of ammo for a Deliverance model forty two,” you say, pulling the empty revolver out of your jacket.
  5635. >The woman eyes you curiously.
  5636. >”Can I see your assignment papers?”
  5637. “Oh my god. Every fucking time.”
  5638. >You grumble and pull your wallet out again and flip the ID over.
  5639.  
  5640. >She leans close to your leather package and scans the plastic card sealed within.
  5641. >”Special class, huh? Not bad.”
  5642. “Yeah, it’s such an accomplishment. Now are you going to give me the gear or not?”
  5643. >”Who peed in your cheerios this morning?”
  5644. “Look,” you sigh and pocket the wallet. “I’m really irritated right now I just want to sit down.”
  5645. >”Well we have some soft chairs in the brea--”
  5646. “At home. And the sooner I get this done, the sooner that can happen.”
  5647. >Cadence rests her hand on your shoulder and gives it the gentlest, and yet also the firmest squeeze she can.
  5648. >You can almost feel the love pouring off of her candy pink hand.
  5649. >”Do you want to talk?”
  5650. >You stare at it, then her, back to the hand, and then her again.
  5651. “Get your fucking hand off my shoulder right now.”
  5652. >”Alright, now that’s just rude.”
  5653. >The woman yanks her hand away and turns abruptly, giving you her back.
  5654. >She seems distressed though, and when she looks at her hand, you can see her visibly tense up.
  5655. >”Oh my gosh,” she whispers.
  5656. “It’s just a flesh wound.”
  5657. >You readjust the sleeve on your shoulder, moving the spot she had pressed into the bloody wound.
  5658. >”Well, I guess I see why you’re irritated.”
  5659. “Partly, at least. But yes, now you see. Can we move this along now?”
  5660. >Cadence presses one of the little red hearts in on the wall.
  5661. >Following that, a large grouping of bricks sink into the structure, disappear, and are replaced with several large drawers.
  5662. >There are ten in total with five columns of the black box steel making up the pattern.
  5663. >She reaches out for the fourth handle and pulls the drawer out about three feet.
  5664.  
  5665. >She rises up on her tippy toes and hides her head within the drawer, along with an arm.
  5666. >After some rustling and sorting, she speaks again.
  5667. >”You’re in luck. It looks like I have a case for that gun. As for the other items,” she lets her voice trail off.
  5668. >The next two minutes she spends looking in six different drawers and filling two separate bags handful by handful with the specified weapons.
  5669. >After not too long, she drops the hefty canvas bags onto the floor and takes another bit of time to tie up the tops, perfectly concealing your highly dangerous, explosive items in the totally inconspicuous, bulging sacs.
  5670. >”Well, that’s everything you asked for. Are you sure I can’t get you anything else?”
  5671. “I also pocketed one of those bottles of powdered glass. Add that on my tab?”
  5672. >”And whose tab is that?”
  5673. “Anonymous.”
  5674. >Cadence squints as she picks up your items and hands them to you.
  5675. >Arms are getting kind of full here, honey.
  5676. >”That name sounds familiar. Did you used to go to Crystal Prep?”
  5677. “Nope. Always hated that school.”
  5678. >Her smile returns. It’s warm, almost soothing.
  5679. >”A Canterlot High boy, huh? Maybe we met at one of the Friendship Games.”
  5680. >Shit, guess the cat’s out of the bag, huh?
  5681. >You groan as you adjust the bags, trying to leverage them around your body so the weight counters itself and takes as much of the strain off your chest as you can.
  5682. >”My sister-in-law actually transferred to CHS, you know. You might have met her.”
  5683. “Depends. How long ago?”
  5684. >”Oh gosh, that was so long ago. Seven years ago, I think. Does Twilight ring a bell?”
  5685. >Your heart might as well stop right there.
  5686. >The waves of pain crashing through your chest settle into the back of your mind.
  5687. “Twilight Sparkle?”
  5688. >”Yeah,” she shouts excitedly.
  5689. “I might have run into her once or twice. Refresh my memory on her, will you?”
  5690.  
  5691. >”Oh, she was just the nicest girl. She had so many friends.”
  5692. >Is that how worth is measured these days?
  5693. >Figures the world is going to shit.
  5694. >Boy, her MyStable must have been real popular, huh?
  5695. “Nice, huh?”
  5696. >You crack a smile at that.
  5697. >A little laugh escapes you, but the pain that brings instantly kills it.
  5698. >”What?”
  5699. “Sorry, I just find that a little hard to believe.”
  5700. >Cadence’s smile flattens out at first, and soon the corners of her mouth pull down.
  5701. >”You met her recently, then.”
  5702. “Like I said.”
  5703. >”I,” she starts, putting her hands on her chest. “Please, Anon.”
  5704. >When did you say she could call you Anon?
  5705. >”Don’t hold it against Twilight.”
  5706. “You’re asking a lot out of me, you know that?”
  5707. >”It’s not her fault. Twilight, she...she, well…”
  5708. “Is a homicidal vampiress?”
  5709. >”No!”
  5710. >You’re taken aback by that.
  5711. >Such a fierce voice shouldn’t come out of someone so pink.
  5712. >And soft.
  5713. >”No, it’s not Twilight.”
  5714. “Purple girl with glasses? About yeigh high?”
  5715. >”It’s not Twilight.”
  5716. “Really? Because--”
  5717. >”Twilight died.”
  5718. “Well yeah, that sort of comes with the territory, doesn’t it?”
  5719. >”You don’t understand.”
  5720. “Oh, sorry. I guess I just suck at my job, huh?”
  5721. >The woman’s face is growing both angrier and sadder the longer you continue this conversation.
  5722. >As much as you want to pull out, you’d like to learn a bit more about the big toothed cunt with a murderboner for you.
  5723. >Maybe getting another angle on her will help you to better understand why she wants your girls.
  5724.  
  5725. >”Before Twilight transferred to CHS, there was another Friendship Games. Something happened that day, something the world had never seen before, even as messed up as it is.”
  5726. >Oh?
  5727. >”I saw a side of her then that I didn’t know existed. It was something else. We thought it was gone, but over the years, it,” she stops again.
  5728. “It what?”
  5729. >”It came back, only this time it didn’t leave. That thing walking around out there, it’s not Twilight. I swear to you, she’s was a good girl. Please, don’t blame her for what that monster is doing.”
  5730. >Yeah, ok.
  5731. >Sure.
  5732. >You’re going to just give her a pass.
  5733. >Mental illness is a totally understandable reason to fucking slaughter people.
  5734. >You scoff and turn to leave.
  5735. >”Anon, is that all for her?”
  5736. “No, it’s not,” you reply.
  5737. >”Thank yo--”
  5738. “Not all of it.”
  5739. >She doesn’t answer back.
  5740. >She can’t.
  5741. >What would she even say?
  5742. >Well, you’d better head out before she thinks of anything.
  5743. >You didn’t learn as much about Twilight as you’d hoped to, but it doesn’t matter anyway.
  5744. >You don’t need to know anything to kill her.
  5745. >Whatever she was before, she’s a monster now.
  5746. >Worst of all, she’s in your way.
  5747.  
  5748. >It’s early afternoon by the time you make it back to the Charlemane.
  5749. >Your truck sits right out in the front parking lot, keeping guard for you.
  5750. >Good girl.
  5751. >Oh shit, is that mummy still in the bed box?
  5752. >You’ve really got to do something about him.
  5753. >You were supposed to take him to the west office to be properly relieved of his mortal coils, but you know, that’s pretty far away.
  5754. >It might just be easier to light the damn thing up and be done with it.
  5755. >Oh well, questions for another time.
  5756. >You shamble through the small parking lot and push your way in through the door.
  5757. >The gentleman inside stands, like always, hunched over and just aching to use the shotgun under the counter.
  5758. >Know what else he’s probably got under that counter?
  5759. “Hey, you got any hard shit?”
  5760. >He stares at you, long and hard, letting his eyes even drift down to your chest before grumbling to himself.
  5761. >A quick examination of yourself shows that you’ve started to bleed through your coat too.
  5762. >Shit. Now you need another fucking jacket.
  5763. >The bearded man shuffles ever so slightly, dodging his hand underneath the cheap particle board countertop.
  5764. >For a hair of a second, you think he might be reaching for that gun.
  5765. >Your worries are quelled when he produces a deep brown bottle of whiskey.
  5766. >After adjusting your bags, you reach out for the bottle, but he yanks it away at the last second.
  5767. >”What’s the other guy look like?”
  5768. “Dead.”
  5769. >The concierge nods and once again extends his invitation.
  5770. >”Respectable.”
  5771. >This time you grab it before he can take it away from you again.
  5772. >The two of you share a parting glare as you make way down the short hallway to your room.
  5773.  
  5774. >You throw open the door to your room and toss all the shopping bags down.
  5775. >The sudden relief that brings you is almost orgasmic.
  5776. >Almost, of course, being the operative word.
  5777. >But hey, maybe whatever is in this bottle will do the trick.
  5778. >Popping the top off with your thumb is easy enough.
  5779. >As you maneuver out of your jacket, you bring the bottle to your lips and tilt it back.
  5780. >The contents spill forth, burn your mouth, ignite your breath, and settle in your stomach with a nondescript splash.
  5781. >Once your jacket is off, the shirt comes next.
  5782. >Considering it’s in tatters, it’s far easier to just finish the ripping and peel the damp cloth off than it is to try and worm your way out of the tight, sticky fabric.
  5783. >The shirt, heavy with your blood, flops onto the floor behind your feet.
  5784. >You step back just a few inches to snake your toes under the ex-clothing and then kick it over to the pile of other unwanteds you’ve yet to bag up and throw away.
  5785. >It’ll happen eventually.
  5786. >Oh, would you look at that?
  5787. >It’s time for another shot.
  5788. >You guzzle down another few mouthfuls from the bottle before bending over to pick up the fishing store bag.
  5789. >Now, as much as you love coffee, you don’t really want caffeine in your system for this next part.
  5790. >In fact, you’d really rather be asleep for it, but considering your history with hospitals and doctors and healthcare officials,not to mention a few other aspects of healthcare, this is something you kind of have to do yourself.
  5791. >There’s not much that could send you through the door of a clinic.
  5792. >Off the top of your head, you’d actually go as far as to say nothing. But then again, you’ve never had your legs blown off in a freak pressure cooker accident, so there’s that to consider too.
  5793.  
  5794. >Gently, you make way for the bathroom.
  5795. >After another swig of the whiskey, you set it down on the edge of the sink.
  5796. >Oh wait, there’s no flat part there.
  5797. >The bottle tips on the curved plastic covering of the sink and falls into the basin, pouring out probably half a cup’s worth of alcohol before there’s not enough to make it to the lip.
  5798. >Eyeballing it, you’d say there’s still enough to make a mick very happy.
  5799. >Well, that’s sure good enough for you.
  5800. >Turning your attention to more important things, you fish out the line and hooks from the thin filmed bag.
  5801. >Get it? Fish?
  5802. “Looks like the drink is doing its job.”
  5803. >The fish hooks are stuck on a cardboard sheet and covered with a think protective layer of plastic.
  5804. >You push the cardboard down, freeing the stuck corner of the plastic top, and pull the two apart.
  5805. >Good, now you ca--
  5806. “Oh god damn it.”
  5807. >There’s still a hair thin, white, fuzzy layer of cardboard that stayed with the plastic instead of separating with the rest of the package.
  5808. >You try to dig your finger into it, but the damn thing is tougher than it looks.
  5809. >Finally say enough is enough and whack it against the sink, bending the package and tearing the remains of the cardboard backing.
  5810. >In a small fit of victory-induced anger, you tear at the package and release the hook.
  5811. >Its curved metal tip isn’t suited for what you need, so you stab it into the plastic on the sink.
  5812. >Once anchored, a steady pull opposite the curve straightens out your tool, giving you the closest thing to a sewing needle you’re going to get right now.
  5813.  
  5814. >Ten minutes pass by.
  5815. >The bathroom towel once hung up on the wall just a few feet away has now found a home on your lap.
  5816. >At one point it was pink, or maybe some aqua marine.
  5817. >It’s mostly red right now though and, quite honestly, you’re a bit too drunk and tired to try and remember what it used to look like.
  5818. >Half of the wounds on your chest have been closed.
  5819. >That is to say, your left pec isn’t leaking anymore.
  5820. >Gently, ever so gently, you tap on the flesh with the towel, soaking up another tiny bit of blood.
  5821. >Now for the right pec.
  5822. >Not before another sip of booze though.
  5823. >You fumble around in the sink, looking for the bottle.
  5824. >It’s not there. Why is it not there?
  5825. >Oh, that’s because you moved to the floor after sewing the first cut shut.
  5826. >The glass slips out of your bloodied hand on your first attempt to lift it.
  5827. >On the second try, you tighten your grip until your forearm shakes from the strain.
  5828. >There, that should do it.
  5829. >You lift the bottle up and meet it with your mouth again.
  5830. >When you throw your head back, you find that it’s empty save for a few drops that fall from the round lip and drop onto your tongue.
  5831. “Oh.”
  5832. >Wait, that was a lot of whiskey. How much of it actually made it inside you?
  5833. >You know you drank a lot, but there was also a few droppings here and there.
  5834. >And then that episode where you thought a spider was a house goblin in surprise and you tried to drown it.
  5835. >Sorry, by the way, little spider.
  5836.  
  5837. >You drop the bottle and lean back, knocking your head against the yellowed tile on the wall.
  5838. >Jesus, fuck this.
  5839. >You peer down, catching a short glimpse of your wounds.
  5840. >There are two nasty gashes traveling down the muscle itself that bleed profusely.
  5841. >Across them are smaller cuts that aren’t quite as deep and don’t bleed all that much, but they do sting like a bitch.
  5842. >You close your eyes now, preferring to just breathe than to continue looking at the mess.
  5843. >Your chest rises and falls with each breath.
  5844. >In and out.
  5845. >Your arms, feeling more like lead than arms by now, slide off your slick lap and drop to your sides, dangling freely.
  5846. >Every few seconds, you can hear another drop of your blood hit the floor as it bails from your fingertips.
  5847. >You lose track of how many times you hear that sound.
  5848. >Suddenly, you feel a pressure on your chest, followed by a sharp, acute pain.
  5849. >It’s like you’re being stabbed.
  5850. >Whatever it is punches through your skin.
  5851. >The next sensation is something being dragged through the new hole in your chest.
  5852. >A few seconds later, it starts again, shockingly close to that first point and on the other side of your main gash.
  5853. >It looks like you’ve decided to finish stitching yourself together.
  5854. >Funny though, considering you’re not looking and you can also still feel your arms at your sides.
  5855. >But hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  5856. >You try to relax a little, but the pains every few seconds keep you from falling asleep.
  5857. >At some point, you decide to look and see what your hands are doing without your consent.
  5858. >Much to your surprise, they’re doing nothing. They’re nowhere near your chest.
  5859. >What is though, is a set of white gloved hands that are attached to the long, thin arms of a familiar man.
  5860. >His sleeves, rolled up to the elbows, have a few splotches of blood on them, along with his cheeks.
  5861. “Director,” you rasp.
  5862.  
  5863. >The Director is currently kneeling before you, working intently with your tools.
  5864. >Your eyes shift down to your chest.
  5865. >Your right pec is almost all stitched up now and boy, does it look prettier than your left.
  5866. >”Hush now, my boy. You’ve got to save your strength, you know.”
  5867. “How did you get in my room?”
  5868. >”I may have copied your key during our walk this morning. May have. I’m not going to confirm it.”
  5869. >He moves to tie off the fishing line on your last cut, then leans forward and bites it, cutting the extra length free.
  5870. >The Director rubs your freshly closed chest with about as much force as a fly would use when landing on a blade of grass.
  5871. >”There we go. You’re all set.”
  5872. >He smiles and uses his hand to slick back his hair, pulling along the few strands that had fallen in front of his face.
  5873. >Just as quickly as it appeared, his smirk is gone.
  5874. >Slowly, the man moves his hand back in front of his face and glares at it, focusing mostly on the blood.
  5875. >”Well, I suppose it was time I shampooed this mess anyway.”
  5876. “Director,” you start, trying to sit up in the process. “I had it covered. Why bother helping me?”
  5877. >”Because you obviously didn’t have it covered. Besides, I can’t have my best boy bleeding out on the toilet, right?”
  5878. >He chuckles and rubs your nose with his thumb.
  5879. >”I’d be a bit of a failure if I let that happen, wouldn’t I?”
  5880. >His boy.
  5881. >He’s always been fond of that terminology.
  5882. >Of all the hunters you’ve seen him interact with, you’re the only one he takes such a casual tone with.
  5883. >It’s one of his many quirks that really piss you off.
  5884. >But hell, it’s better than what he tried to call you first.
  5885.  
  5886. >Be it the alcohol or the blood loss, your mind becomes foggy.
  5887. >You can feel yourself slipping through time, and suddenly the hard toilet seat underneath your ass is a soft, leather-covered cushion.
  5888. >The bathroom is transformed.
  5889. >No longer is it the moldy, disease ridden shithouse. Instead, it’s a stretched limousine.
  5890. >The only constants here are the Director and yourself, albeit ten years younger on both sides.
  5891. >You look curiously at the walls of the luxury vehicle.
  5892. >It doesn’t feel much like a paddy wagon.
  5893. >This geezer doesn’t look much like a doctor either.
  5894. >In fact, he resembles more a patient.
  5895. “So, you an escapee?”
  5896. >”Oh no, not at all. I don’t affiliate myself with hospitals. Too many legal issues, you know.”
  5897. “If you’re not with the hospital, then who are you?”
  5898. >You lean across the seat and look out the window.
  5899. >The scenery of Canterlot whirs by, but not for long as you actually just passed the Leaving Canterlot sign at the city limit.
  5900. >”A concerned body. Your file says you’re a deeply troubled boy. A mad killer, as they put it, shouting about monsters and boogeymen. That’s not very scholarly, is it?”
  5901. “I thought my patient file was confidential.”
  5902. >”Well, it technically is. I may have copied it this morning during your little walk with the orderlies. May have. I’m not going to confirm it.”
  5903. “So you’re a thief on top of a childnapper.”
  5904. >”Oh please, you’re almost eighteen. I’d hardly call you a child. Besides, I haven’t met yet a child who was as good a killer as your file says you are.”
  5905. >He looks at you dead in the eye.
  5906. >That red, piercing gaze tears through you.
  5907. “I didn’t do it,” your words spill from your mouth like a burning acid.
  5908. >”Isn’t that what they all say?”
  5909. “It wasn’t me!”
  5910. >You lunge forward a few inches, but the seatbelt anchors you down and stops any further movement.
  5911. “I saw them! I saw those monsters! I saw them! You hear me? I saw them!”
  5912. >”Oh, you saw them! Well I suppose that changes everything, doesn’t it?”
  5913. “I did! I saw them! They’re real, I tell you! I saw them! I saw them all! I saw them! I saw them!”
  5914. >Those girls.
  5915. >That rainbow hair still burns in when you think about it.
  5916. >The other’s purple locks shining in the lightning wrap around your mind, strangling it.
  5917.  
  5918. >You lean back into the seat and ease up on the shouting.
  5919. >With your head pointed down at the floor, you continue.
  5920. “I saw them,” you repeat. “I saw them. I saw them.”
  5921. >”I know you did.”
  5922. “I saw them. I...I saw…”
  5923. >That didn’t sound right.
  5924. >You quiet down and look up.
  5925. >The old man wears a little smirk.
  5926. >It’s not insulting though.
  5927. >It’s not a caring smile, but more knowing than anything else.
  5928. “You know?”
  5929. >”I’ve lived a long life, son.”
  5930. >Your hair stands on end at that word.
  5931. >”I’ve seen a lot of things. Things that would keep you up at night. But hey, I’m sure you already have a good idea of what I’m talking about.”
  5932. “So you believe me?”
  5933. >”Believe you? Oh, not at all. You’re entirely incorrect when you say it was the boogeyman or some demon that took your parents away from you.”
  5934. “Then why--”
  5935. >”It was vampires.”
  5936. “Those monsters were vampires?”
  5937. >”Unless you know of anything else that drains the blood from a body and leaves small puncture wounds in the neck.”
  5938. >Vampires.
  5939. >It was vampires.
  5940. >He knows. He believes you.
  5941. >No, that can’t be true.
  5942. >He’s lying.
  5943. >He has to be.
  5944. >Nobody believes you.
  5945. >How could they when they’re too busy laughing?
  5946.  
  5947. >He must notice your tenseness.
  5948. >”Easy there. I’m not trying to make fun of you. I’m trying to offer you a deal.”
  5949. >A deal?
  5950. >”There’s more to this world than meets the eye. Unfortunately, you had to learn that the hard way. It’s frightening, isn’t it? To know there are creatures out there that so hilariously outgun us.”
  5951. >Yeah.
  5952. >”But no matter how strong something is, you have to keep in mind one thing.”
  5953. >He taps his chest with one of his fingers.
  5954. >”If it has a heart, it can die.”
  5955. >It can die.
  5956. “Does that mean you…”
  5957. >”You and I are much alike, sonny. We’re both killers.”
  5958. >Your cheeks warm up as he talks.
  5959. >Not a killer. No, not you.
  5960. >You’re a murderer.
  5961. >But it wasn’t your fault!
  5962. >It wasn’t you!
  5963. >They did it.
  5964. >They made you.
  5965. >They did something to her.
  5966. >You had to, didn’t you?
  5967. >She would have wanted you to, wouldn’t she?
  5968. >”There are more monsters out in the world than you could ever imagine, and son, they’re all eager to do to other innocent people what they did to you. Isn’t that just awful?”
  5969.  
  5970. >There’s more of them?
  5971. >Of course there is. Why wouldn’t there be?
  5972. >Cancers spread, after all.
  5973. >”Now, here’s my deal. I’m prepared to train you. I’ll take you back home with me, welcome you into my little business, and we’ll get you on track to keeping others safe and out of our unsavory world.”
  5974. >Did you hear that right?
  5975. >He wants to train you?
  5976. >He wants to train you.
  5977. “To kill monsters.”
  5978. >”Yes, and keep people safe. You know, maintain balance and all that.”
  5979. >You swallow as their images come to mind again.
  5980. >Those girls that night. You could kill them.
  5981. >”All the weapons, tools, and money you could ever need will be at your disposal. All you have to do is exactly what I say, go where I tell you to go, and kill what I tell you to kill. Do this without question or hesitation. Sound fair, son?”
  5982. >Sign off your humanity for the opportunity to kill monsters.
  5983. >There’s only really one option, isn’t there?
  5984. >You steel your gaze and find his suddenly weakening.
  5985. “Never call me son again,” you start, “And you’ve got yourself a deal.”
  5986.  
  5987. >You blink, suddenly sending the world into darkness.
  5988. >The sound of the engine stops, along with the wheels scraping on along the pavement.
  5989. >The car doesn’t bounce anymore.
  5990. >In fact, it doesn’t even feel like a seat now. More like a bed.
  5991. >When you open your eyes next, you’re facing the brown, dirty ceiling of the Charlemane.
  5992. >You motion to sit up and discover that you’re not on a bed, but in fact the couch.
  5993. >What are you doing on the couch? You have to stitch your chest shut.
  5994. >You look down at it to see how much work still needs to be done.
  5995. >None apparently.
  5996. >How odd, you think, that it’s bandaged neatly with gauze even running up to your shoulder, holding in place a bandage over the wound that other changeling gave you.
  5997. >Now that you think about it, it doesn’t hurt as much either.
  5998. >That’s not to say that it doesn’t hurt. It does, of course, but it’s not the same stinging, radiating pain it was before.
  5999. >Now it’s more of a dull, ever present ache.
  6000. >That must be due to the open bottle of aspirin on the floor beside you.
  6001. >You cover your eyes with your palm and try to sort through what happened while you were taking a stroll down memory road.
  6002. >There was the bathroom, the alcohol, the fishing line, the towel, the spider…
  6003. >And the Director.
  6004. >Oh, right.
  6005. >Now it’s all coming together.
  6006.  
  6007. >Is he in here?
  6008. >A quick cursory scan of the room tells you no.
  6009. >The rundown little room is devoid of life save for yourself and, well, not the spider. That’s dead.
  6010. >Good. He’d only distract you anyway.
  6011. >He’s always been a big distraction despite all the use he’s been.
  6012. >As you maneuver about the room, gathering supplies for your work, you ruffle through memories of your training with the Director.
  6013. >”You have to be quicker than that, boy. Some monsters can run faster than you can even see. If you can’ kill them quickly, you’re as good as dead,” he once said during your shooting training.
  6014. “I know, you old fuck! Let me practice,” you snapped.
  6015. >That was when he took the pistol from you and beat you into bed rest for three days.
  6016. >Do as he says, go where he says to go, kill what he says to kill. Simple enough, right?
  6017. >Combat training was something else entirely.
  6018. >As you settle down in the middle of the floor with your charges, ammunition, and weaponry, you begin the long and so very delicate process of swapping out the silver in the Silver Duster shells for charge cores.
  6019. “Teach me to fight,” you’d demand of him. “Fight for real.”
  6020. >”Oh yeah, what are you going to punch? An ogre? In our line of work, fighting dirty is how it’s done. If they don’t like silver, you become a whitesmith. If they don’t like garlic, you become an italian chef. These creatures don’t have equals, Anonymous, so don’t fight as one. Become their weaknesses.”
  6021. >While you never learned the kung fu you thought you would, you did get pretty good at using weapons in close quarters.
  6022. >Your thought process halts as your hand slips and drops a charge core onto the floor.
  6023. >You stare at it, looking for glowing or smoke--anything that would indicate a coming explosion.
  6024. >Luckily it doesn’t go off.
  6025. >You pick it back up, insert it into an empty shell, and seal the refurbished ammunition.
  6026.  
  6027. >In as little as 2 hours, you’ve swapped out all of the silver in the shells for charge cores, giving you eight magazines of twelve shells.
  6028. >But Anon, you’re only allowed to have three shells in a magazine at a time! That’s the law!
  6029. >What’s the worst that could happen? You wander over to a busy warehouse and start shooting people in the face?
  6030. >Oh, wait a minute.
  6031. >You have yourself a little chuckle and get dressed in the usual tee and jacket.
  6032. >The magazines go into any pocket they’ll fit in.
  6033. >You also have thirteen extra fire charges left, six of which go in your left hip pocket.
  6034. >Of course you can’t forget your revolver.
  6035. >All loaded up, you check your phone one last time for messages.
  6036. >As of nine in the morning, nothing new.
  6037. >Good to go.
  6038. >The clerk doesn’t even bother looking at you as you walk by, which may not be a bad thing considering you’re carrying a shotgun and your jacket is bulging with what one could correctly assume is ammunition.
  6039. >Another half hour passes, bringing you to the docks.
  6040. >You don’t even need to remember which warehouse you were at yesterday.
  6041. >The front is absolutely swarming with people.
  6042. >And by people, you of course mean walking garbage.
  6043. >Man, they’re not even trying to be subtle about it.
  6044. >They’re transformed into as many different types of people as they can think of ranging from construction workers to lawyers.
  6045. >You do manage to spot a few actual fisherman and assorted dock workers in the crowd though, so props to them for that you guess.
  6046.  
  6047. >You kill the engine to your truck and slide out of the seat.
  6048. >The frosty shore air nips at your face as you enter the outside world.
  6049. >”You know, boy, some monsters like the cold. If you want to hunt them wherever they go, you have to be able to put up with it too.”
  6050. >And despite the weeks of shivering shirtless in the snow, you’ve only ever hunted two frost trolls and a winter wraith in the last ten years.
  6051. >Where were you again? Oh, right.
  6052. >Massacre.
  6053. >You saunter up to the massive crowd of changelings and wave merrily to them.
  6054. “Howdy! Nice morning, huh?”
  6055. >Instantly, all the hundreds of eyes clustered there lock onto you.
  6056. >”Intruder!”
  6057. >”Kill!”
  6058. >”For the queen!”
  6059. >Uh huh.
  6060. >You remove four fire charges from your pocket and throw them into different sections of the crowd.
  6061. >They blow, engulfing the closeby changelings in spheres of flame.
  6062. >There. That’s...what, a quarter of them?
  6063. >Not as many as you’d have liked, but it’s doable.
  6064. >You draw your trusty lighter and can of hairspray.
  6065. >”Kill!”
  6066. >”Kill for the queen!”
  6067. >”Kill for Chrysalis!”
  6068. >You flick the lighter on and begin spraying.
  6069. >A torrent of fire bursts forth from the can, turning to ash any changeling that steps in front of you.
  6070. >They try to swarm around you, but all you’ve got to do on this beautiful, sunny, freezing morning is turn a little left or right and poof, problem gone.
  6071. >You walk casually forward, exhausting the outdoor troops of the changelings until coming to the main entrance.
  6072. >It’s heavily guarded, and you reckon you’re running on half a can by now.
  6073.  
  6074. >Throwing the can toward the door guards, you quickly draw your revolver and put a round in the hairspray, turning the solid aluminum can into an incendiary.
  6075. >All of the changelings in view turn to ash on the spot, leaving the door clear for you.
  6076. >Time for the hard part, you guess.
  6077. >You unsling the shotgun from your back and charge inside, weapon ready.
  6078. >The brightness of the world outside dies out, giving way to a certain dingy darkness that your eyes take a second to adjust to.
  6079. >When they do, you see an ocean of flesh.
  6080. >The monsters have totally dropped their disguises now.
  6081. >Their pie hole mouths gape, ready to slice into your flesh.
  6082. >One of the slimy grey fuckers jumps into the corner of your vision.
  6083. >You twist in time, letting him jump right into the barrel of the gun.
  6084. “Know the best part about you guys? I don’t even have to aim half the time. You do the work for me!”
  6085. >Bang.
  6086. >Instead of a silver slug, a ball of fire blasts out from the barrel, burning a hole right through the center of the changeling’s chest and promptly turning it to ash.
  6087. >One, two, three, four.
  6088. >All you’re doing is turning and shooting, barely taking steps along the way.
  6089. >Changeling after changeling dies before you right up until number twelve.
  6090. >You grab a magazine from your pocket while ejecting the current one and load before it can hit the ground.
  6091. >Pump it, good to go.
  6092. >The tide continues.
  6093. >In less than two minutes, you’ve burned through six magazines.
  6094. >Alright, you uh, you may have not been entirely prepared for this.
  6095. >Jesus fuck, did she lay a whole extra army over the night?
  6096. >You’re not seeing an end to their forces.
  6097.  
  6098. >At this point, you jump, bounding off their heads and reaching the top of a shipping crate to get a better vantage point.
  6099. >You can see it all now.
  6100. >Judging from the masses left, you’ve incinerated about three quarters of their numbers, and the remaining quarter doesn’t look all that tough.
  6101. >While you were thinking, one of the little shits jumped onto the crate with you.
  6102. >It grabs your sleeve and pulls, knocking you off balance.
  6103. >You grunt and pull back, tearing the jacket but freeing yourself.
  6104. “Another one! Mother fucker!”
  6105. >You lunge, slamming the tip of the barrel into the monster’s sternum, and fire.
  6106. “God damn it, I’m getting tired of buying these jackets!”
  6107. >Bang, bang, bang.
  6108. >You pull one more fire charge from your pocket and throw it into a particularly congested area, lighting the motherfuckers up.
  6109. >Ten mags in.
  6110. >At a rough estimate, you think you’ll be able to do it.
  6111. >One by one, with changeling after changeling jumping at you with their claws ready to slice into you, you cut down their ranks.
  6112. >One good thing about the changelings is that they’re a very simple race. They don’t think too much, so there are no real battle plans you have to worry about.
  6113. >Just rushers.
  6114. >Speaking of.
  6115. >One latches onto your back.
  6116. >This is going to suck super fucking hard.
  6117. >You turn the shotgun around, aiming it behind you, and stuff the tip into the mouth of the monster before it can bite into your neck.
  6118. >Well, it was nice having a sense of hearing while it lasted.
  6119. >You pull the trigger.
  6120. >The back of the changeling’s head explodes out in a mix of pink mist and fire.
  6121. >The resounding bang bounces your brain around in your skull, knocking you off balance.
  6122. >You teeter onto your ass and grab your now ringing ear.
  6123. >One of the monsters seizes this opportunity and dives, following you down.
  6124. >You pick up the gun, do your best to aim with the one free hand, and fire again.
  6125. >Your new assailant turns to ashes on the dark concrete in front of you.
  6126.  
  6127. >You pull your hand away from your ear and inspect the blood now covering it.
  6128. >Is that going to be an issue later?
  6129. >Potentially, but for now, you have more important things to worry about.
  6130. >You scramble to your feet and unload another four shells into closeby changelings before running fry on that mag.
  6131. >Reloading brings you to your twelfth and final magazine.
  6132. >Luckily, that’s how many changelings are left.
  6133. >You take confident steps forward now, blasting them into oblivion.
  6134. >One, two, three, four.
  6135. >You’re approaching a corner, but judging from the size of the building outside and how much you’ve cleared going through, there’s not much room for many more troops to hide behind that corner.
  6136. >By your best bet, that’s the queen’s spot.
  6137. “And that makes you,” you say, aiming at the last changeling, “An only child.”
  6138. >You pull the trigger.
  6139. >Click.
  6140. “Um.”
  6141. >The changeling rushes, grabbing your shoulders.
  6142. >You can’t put up any kind of fight as it pushes you back, slamming you against one of the flimsy wooden walls of the warehouse.
  6143. >The soggy planks creak as you’re pressed into them.
  6144. >”Kill! Kill! Kill!”
  6145. “Exactly!”
  6146. >You put the weapon up between the two of you and spin it, slamming the barrel and buttstock into the beast’s arms, forcing them in opposite directions.
  6147. >It lets go of you, making sure to tear ribbons down your arm in the process.
  6148. >You shriek in pain, but don’t take the time to worry about it.
  6149. >Instead, you smack the changeling with the buttstock several times, knocking it a few feet back and giving you a second of breathing room.
  6150. >Frantically, you grab the pump and yank it back, ejecting the shell.
  6151. >It flitters through the air and lands right in the changeling’s open maw.
  6152. >You throw the shotgun down and draw your pistol faster than you think you ever have before, and without a spare instant, put a bullet in the same spot.
  6153. >The shell explodes in the creature’s mouth, turning it too into nothing but a pile of ash.
  6154.  
  6155. >You can breathe now.
  6156. >You can breathe now, right?
  6157. >You scan the area for something, anything. Anything that might want to make you not be alive anymore.
  6158. >Just to be safe, you keep your revolver raised and ready.
  6159. >Four rounds left in the weapon itself, and six in your pocket.
  6160. >That’s a potential nine enemies.
  6161. >The tenth is special.
  6162. >With your own breath so heavy that it drowns out the surrounding noises, you cautiously step forward, rounding the corner.
  6163. >What you’re met with is something eerie in a new sense of the word.
  6164. >There’s a light coming from...somewhere. Some sickly green light that barely illuminates the dinge of the warehouse.
  6165. >The area is small in length but runs the width of the warehouse.
  6166. >You take the time to scan down each wing, making sure there’s nothing there.
  6167. >No, the only thing here now is a black throne smack dab in the center of the new area--made of stone you’re sure, but seeming to have the texture of wood--and the being sitting inside it.
  6168. >She’s unlike any changeling you’ve ever seen.
  6169. >Most of their kind is dark grey, slimy, and craterous.
  6170. >She, on the other hand, this woman sitting so calmly in her throne that she looks like she could fall asleep from boredom, is deathly pale.
  6171. >Her skin is perfect by every standard. You’re not even sure if there’s a single pore on her whole body, one hair, one freckle or blemish, one anything.
  6172. >The only hair there, apart from her long eyelashes, is her aquamarine hair which cascades down, covering half her face and draping messily over her shoulders and tattered black gown.
  6173. >Now, you never knew hair could have holes in it, but hers looks kind of like swiss cheese, as if all the other holes that are usually on a changeling just up and moved into her hair.
  6174. >She motions with her hand and wipes the excess hair from her face, revealing two emerald eyes that meet your own.
  6175. “So you’re it, huh?”
  6176.  
  6177. >”It? As in the last changeling of this hive? Yes, I am. Congratulations, you’ve killed all my children.”
  6178. “You don’t seem too broken up about it.”
  6179. >”I’m furious,” she says lazily, “But I had a feeling it would happen eventually.”
  6180. >Chrysalis shifts her weight to lean on an arm of the throne.
  6181. >She stretches her legs out, freeing one of them from the loose gown that gently clings to her lithe form.
  6182. “Knew that they’d die or that I specifically would kill them?”
  6183. >”The latter,” she replies while examining your body.
  6184. “I have a feeling you know why I’m here.”
  6185. >”I knew getting involved with her would bite me in the end, but the promise was too great to turn down. A world where my children could run freely, no longer having to hide in the shadows, no longer worrying about what table scraps their fill-in-queen could find for them. A world where all my children could feed how and when they wanted. It would have been perfect.”
  6186. “Sounds real shitty if you ask me. But hey, I might be a little biased here.”
  6187. >You reach into your pocket and pull out the last fire charge.
  6188. >Gently, you set it on the ground and roll it over to her.
  6189. >The small crimson sphere inches over, tapping against the foot of her throne and settling.
  6190. >”No explosion.”
  6191. “Not yet,” you say, taking aim at it with the revolver. “And there won’t be either, as long as you just tell me what I want to know.”
  6192. >”And that would be?”
  6193. “What is Midnight planning? How does she plan to do it? What do the girls have to do with any of this?”
  6194.  
  6195. >”What’s my guarantee you won’t just kill me anyway?”
  6196. “Because killing one queen kills her hive. Killing you? The queen of the entire race? Why, that would mean every single changeling on Earth bites it right there. I don’t really feel like committing genocide today, so unless you do something stupid like waste my god damned time, we won’t have to worry about that. You’re not going to waste my time, are you? You’re going to oblige my very simple request and tell me about Midnight.”
  6197. >She smirks.
  6198. “What’s funny?”
  6199. >”I don’t know what’s going on between you and Midnight, but I can taste the anger spilling off of you the more you talk about her.”
  6200. “She’s not my favorite person.”
  6201. >”And what’s this? Oh, I like that. It’s sharp and cold, like fresh mint. Do you know what emotion that is?”
  6202. >You shift your aim an inch to the right and fire the gun.
  6203. >Chrysalis jumps as the silver round collides with the battered concrete and ricochets past her head.
  6204. “Stop fucking around.”
  6205. >She chuckles.
  6206. >”I only get to taste this every once in a while. Sometimes it will be a cheating husband, maybe a drug addict. Veterans are good meals. You though? It’s almost as strong as your anger--this guilt.”
  6207. >Her eyes begin to glow.
  6208. >”You’ve done something terrible, haven’t you? And it is eating you alive inside.”
  6209. >She’s right.
  6210. >You did do something terrible, something truly and absolutely horrid.
  6211. >That’s why you need to get to these girls first. But if Twilight fucking Midnight whoever the fuck she is keeps getting in the way, conspiring with the fucking armies of darkness, you’re going to miss your shot.
  6212.  
  6213. >”So tell me, what did you do? What’s got the little hunter up in knots?”
  6214. “I guess I just suddenly feel bad about always having to slaughter your kids. Maybe I’m trying to make up for it somehow.”
  6215. >Before she can respond, you aim the weapon up and fire, putting a chunk of hot silver right in her brain.
  6216. >Her head cracks back against the throne as her body goes limp and dangles lazily over the edge.
  6217. >Anxiously, you tap your foot against the ground, waiting for her to do her thing.
  6218. >After a few seconds, the river of blood pouring from her head begins to slow down.
  6219. >Between the strands of hair, you can see her skull begin to grow back and get covered by new layers of flesh.
  6220. >She makes an overly exaggerated gasping noise and jumps up, almost coming out of her seat before she sees you.
  6221. “And now I’m over it.”
  6222. >”Don’t do that.”
  6223. “You know that’s what dying is like, right? A sudden dreamless sleep. The difference here is that you woke up.”
  6224. >Slowly, keeping eye contact with her the whole while, you lower the gun back down, locking onto the fire charge at her bare feet.
  6225. “I’m done with the games. The next time you piss me off, you won’t be waking up. You and every last one of your kids dies on the spot. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Are you and I clear, or are you wasting my time?”
  6226. >You box the trigger and pull back on it, adding all but one of the required pounds of pressure.
  6227. >This thing is ready to blow, and she seems to understand that well enough.
  6228. >Her confident look is gone, replaced by a disamused scowl.
  6229. >The queen eases back into her chair and crosses her legs.
  6230.  
  6231. >”Shooting a woman and threatening her kids. Obviously your mother never taught you any manners. If she did, maybe yo--”
  6232. >She stops the sentence short.
  6233. >Once more, she gives you that snide little smile.
  6234. >”I do absolutely love men like you. You’re my favorite type. Your emotions are so simple and pure. So what was the key in that little burst of guilt? Mother?”
  6235. >You hate changelings.
  6236. >”That’s the one, then. What’s wrong with mother, little one? Did she not hug you enough as a child?”
  6237. >The queen’s eyes flash green as emerald flames, appearing from nowhere, swirl around her.
  6238. >The cold fire covers every inch of her, then as quickly as it appeared, it disperses into the air.
  6239. >Sitting there now is a woman, as thin as before and only slightly less pale everywhere but the cheeks, which hold a constant and obvious blush.
  6240. >Her hair is brown now and much shorter than earlier. The lively curls hang just above her narrow shoulders.
  6241. >The gown she’s wearing has also changed drastically. No longer is it the long, ugly black sheet that barely covered her. Now it’s a preppy little white dress covered in polka dots. It hugs tight to her body, accentuating the few curves she has to offer.
  6242. >”Come here,” she beckons, extending her arms out to you.
  6243. >There’s an aura of kindness surrounding her.
  6244. >Despite the paleness of her skin, she looks to be the softest, warmest woman alive at the moment.
  6245. >You have a feeling that accepting her offer would be one of the most pleasurable experiences of a man’s life in purest, simplest form.
  6246.  
  6247. >Despite her calming presence, you feel a distinct heat rising up inside you, burning your face and making your hands tremble.
  6248. >”Come on now, no need to be afraid. I’m here for you. Let mommy give you all the hugs you could ever want.”
  6249. “Now you’ve gone and made a mistake.”
  6250. >Your eyes burn as you glare at the woman.
  6251. >”Oh? Go ahead, tell mommy everything. I’m here to help,” she snickers, almost breaking character.
  6252. “I’m not the best guy for mothers to be around. I seem to have a bad habit of killing them.”
  6253. >You add the last pound of pressure required for the trigger to pull.
  6254. >The hammer slams forward, sending another round out the barrel of the revolver.
  6255. >This one soars right for the fire charge and hits it dead center.
  6256. >The sphere bounces slightly before glowing intensely and bursting into fire.
  6257. >The heat radiating from the blast burns your forward fingers holding the gun.
  6258. >You lower the weapon, content now to simply look at the blaze.
  6259. >In about fifteen seconds, the fire dies down, leaving one changeling over easy sitting in a soon to be empty throne.
  6260. >Her body, starting at the feet and traveling up, begins to blacken.
  6261. >Those dark chunks of her crack and crumble away, turning to ash on the floor.
  6262. >”You really don’t have a place interrogating anybody, Anonymous,” she rasps, using up whatever lifeforce she has left.
  6263.  
  6264. >You lower your arm now, letting the full weight of your wounds pull down on the bloodied appendage.
  6265. >”A victim has no reason to speak if they know they’re going to die anyway. Your reputation precedes you far too well.”
  6266. “You planned on dying all along then?”
  6267. >”I didn’t plan on it, but over time, you come to accept these things.”
  6268. >The charring reaches her abdominal area now.
  6269. >As the lower sections of her stomach crumble away, she falls down and begins using the arm of the chair as support.
  6270. >”When you walked through those doors, I knew it was all over. I probably should have refused her that day, but her promise was too great. I’m paying the price for my mistake now.”
  6271. >Her chest disintegrates next, along with her left arm.
  6272. >”My one solace is knowing that you’re next. You can’t stop her, Anonymous. Nobody can. She’s on an entirely different level from you and I--from anything. You’re far too stubborn to know when to quit, so you’ll look for her, you’ll find her, and when you do,” she wheezes, “She’s going to rip you to shreds.”
  6273. >When the charring reaches her right shoulder, the limb pops off her body and crashes into the ground, turning into a cloud of dust on impact.
  6274. >Nothing more than a head now, the queen laughs.
  6275. >”See you in hell, Anonymous.”
  6276. >Her mouth disappears, followed by her nose, eyes, and the little crown that sat atop her head.
  6277. >Her carbonized remains spill off the edge of the throne, piling up on the floor.
  6278. “Yeah, be seeing you,” you reply to the empty air.
  6279. >Chrysalis, queen of the changelings, is no more.
  6280. >By that metric, so are all the changelings.
  6281. >Well at least today wasn’t a total waste of time.
  6282. >You may not have learned anything new about Twilight--Midnight, whatever--but you got one big pain in the ass out of the way.
  6283.  
  6284. >You stick the gun back in your jacket and turn to leave.
  6285. >There’s nothing here for you but infections waiting to happen.
  6286. >As you move through the barren warehouse, you examine the cuts on your arm.
  6287. >Not too deep thankfully. You won’t need stitches for it, but some heavy bandaging is definitely on the to do list.
  6288. >Once you make it back to the Charlemane, you shower and do exactly that.
  6289. >While you’re applying the gauze to yourself, you look your body over in the mirror.
  6290. >Boy, how the mighty have fallen, eh, Anon?
  6291. >Half of your upper body is covered in bandages right now and the other half is scar tissue.
  6292. >You can’t even remember where most of them came from.
  6293. >There are three large claw marks on your shoulder. That could have come from a manticore, but you’re not sure.
  6294. >The burns on your upper chest could have come from a magma snake, but then again you also may have just gotten caught in some fire while fighting changelings.
  6295. >The three bullet holes in your upper bicep are from a house goblin that got ahold of a gun. Fuck, that’s a fight you could never forget.
  6296. “Put the gun down,” you chuckle as the scene replays in your head.
  6297. >”Hobson stay! You go!”
  6298. “Put the fucking gun dow--ow! Fuck!”
  6299. >”Hobson make bang bang! Bad man go!”
  6300. “Come here, you little shit!”
  6301.  
  6302. >With personal repairs done, you go over to your laundry bag and search for anything decent to wear.
  6303. >It’s only eleven right now, so you can definitely squeeze Rainbow Dash in before Rarity tonight. That means casual.
  6304. >You pull out the usual wares and throw them on.
  6305. >Among the uniform is your phone.
  6306. >Time to call.
  6307. >You flip the old device open and search through your contacts for the blue bitch.
  6308. >”Hello?” answers the sports star disinterestedly after she picks up.
  6309. “Dash.”
  6310. >”Oh shit, what’s up dude?”
  6311. >That perks her up.
  6312. >”Got any hits yet?”
  6313. “No, not yet. It’s a slow business, you know? Despite what the media would have you believe, not everybody needs somebody killed all the time. That’s why I get paid so much when a contract goes through.”
  6314. >”Oh.”
  6315. “Not what I called about though.”
  6316. >”What, did you want lunch again?” she asks with decreasing interest.
  6317. “No, of course not. I can only eat so much. I was thinking that instead of waiting for a contract, we go find one.”
  6318. >This is so fucking dumb.
  6319. >Where are you going to find a monster like that in time?
  6320. >Something human enough that it can pass for a normal person and is entirely willing to let you kill it without showing off any fancy powers?
  6321. >Not to mention the death can’t be overly dramatic.
  6322. >Werewolves catch fire, spirit feeders explode, thunder maidens burst into balls of lightning, and elves turn into fucking leaves. Not like you know where to find an elf in the middle of Bahhston anyway.
  6323. >The only monster that fits your bill is a vampire, but…
  6324. >Hey, wait a minute.
  6325.  
  6326. >”What do you mean find one?”
  6327. “Look, just meet me at town square in two hours. We’ll have a good time.”
  6328. >”Sounds good. See you the--”
  6329. >You hang up.
  6330. >What are the chances he’s still at the house?
  6331. >Good or bad, there’s at least a chance.
  6332. >You dart out of the motel and hop back into your truck, destination Sera St.
  6333. >After ten minutes, you come to the familiar road and turn onto it, slowly rolling up to a dirty, run down victorian style house.
  6334. “Hey, you in there?” you shout.
  6335. >Many seconds pass by as you stare at the dilapidated structure.
  6336. “Proditor,” you shout again.
  6337. >On the second floor, one of the blinds pulls aside, revealing a tall, darkened figure.
  6338. “I’m coming in.”
  6339. >You throw the truck door open and shimmy out, taking care of your injuries as you do so.
  6340. >No quick jerks today, no no sir.
  6341. >As you approach the front door, you find yourself still amazed at how run down this damn place looks.
  6342. >Like, somebody had to have put effort into not putting in effort on this house.
  6343. >That’s beside the point though.
  6344. >You make it to the front door and extend your hand for the knob, but it turns on its own and opens up for you.
  6345. >In the doorway stands the traitorous monster.
  6346. >Yep, still looks like a tool.
  6347.  
  6348. >”To what do I owe the pleasure, Anonymous? I figured you’d be busy killing things.”
  6349. “Well actually, that’s what I came to talk to you about. I kind of have to kill you.”
  6350. >”Oh. That’s troubling.”
  6351. >You push past him into the empty house and find a nice wall to lean up against.
  6352. >It feels nice to take some weight off yourself.
  6353. >Your chest is in a constant state of soreness with your arm trailing not far behind. Damn changelings.
  6354. >”You don’t look to be much in a shape to do that. Are you terribly sure this is a good idea?”
  6355. “Relax,” you sigh, rubbing your shoulder.
  6356. “I’m not going to put a stake in your chest. You see, I have to impress a girl so I kind of need to shoot you because she thinks I’m a mercenary.”
  6357. >”Ah, young love,” he coos while closing the door.
  6358. >You shoot him a deadly glare.
  6359. >He gives a light chuckle and nods.
  6360. >”I think I understand. So, which one is it? Rarity? No, she’s far too demure and sophisticated to want anything to do with a vicious killer like you. It’s Rainbow Dash then, yes?”
  6361. “Bingo.”
  6362. >”And how is it going with her, by the way?”
  6363. “Just fine.”
  6364. >”Midnight hasn’t made her move yet?”
  6365. >You raise an eyebrow.
  6366. >”What? You know who Midnight is, don’t you?”
  6367. “Yeah, I do. But apparently so do you.”
  6368. >”Of course I do, lad. I work for her. I mean that in the lightest sense of the word, though.”
  6369. “You work for her? You mother fucker! You could have filled me in on a few things before sending me out into the world, you know! Here I am scouring the city for leads on her plan and how to stop her while a full fledged employee not trying to kill me was just a couple streets away!”
  6370. >Proditor holds up his hands defensively.
  6371. >”Now hold your horses for a minute there. I happened to be quite low on time that day. Honestly, squeezing you in even for as short of a time slot as I did was the best that could happen.”
  6372. “Are you busy now?”
  6373. >”Well--”
  6374. “The correct answer is no. Now spill.”
  6375.  
  6376. >He lets out a long moan and slicks his hair back.
  6377. >”You humans really are so pushy.”
  6378. “Proditor, I don’t mean to be a spoil sport here, but I’ve kind of been really on edge lately. Considering I just commited genocide this morning, you don’t want to go wasting my time.”
  6379. >”Genocide?”
  6380. “Have fun never seeing another changeling again.”
  6381. >His eyes widen.
  6382. >”You mean you actually did it? You wiped them all out? Every last changeling?”
  6383. “Yes.”
  6384. >”And you’re sure of this? Absolutely so?”
  6385. “Absolute.”
  6386. >The corners of his mouth lift up into a smile.
  6387. >Those fangs on display make your hair stand on end.
  6388. >Out of pure instinct, you reach into your jacket for your weapon, but halfway through the motion you retake control of the limb and force it down.
  6389. >”Anonymous, do you have any idea what you’ve done? The changelings were an integral part of her plan. That’s more than half of her army gone right there!”
  6390. >See? You knew the morning wasn’t a waste of time.
  6391. >”Oh my. I knew I made the right choice contacting you, young man. You’re everything I hoped for and more!”
  6392. >Huh. That sounds familiar.
  6393. >You can still see the Director’s jovial look as he walked in on your first house clearing.
  6394. >”Look at this, boy! I knew I made the right choice in picking you. You’re everything I’ve ever hoped for and more!”
  6395.  
  6396. >Back to the present, Proditor grabs your hand from your side and shakes it furiously.
  6397. >”My young man, you’ve possibly set her back months.”
  6398. >Really?
  6399. >Now ain’t that neat.
  6400. >Not too shabby, Anon. Not too...shabby…
  6401. >Hey, wait a minute.
  6402. >What if halving her forces only makes her angrier? Desperate?
  6403. “What were the time tables before?”
  6404. >”Armageddon was set for Christmas Eve, funnily enough.”
  6405. “Tell me about Midnight. Is she all there in the head?”
  6406. >”Not in the slightest.”
  6407. “Quick to act when angry? Doesn’t think things through all the way?”
  6408. >”Most definitely.”
  6409. “If you were in her spot and you just lost half your army, what would you do?”
  6410. >”Well, the intelligent thing to do would be to pull back, secure my assets, and bide time while I rebuild my army. Losing half of my forces puts me in a very vulnerable position both militarily and politically. What would my surviving armies think?”
  6411. >You need to kill this bitch like yesterday.
  6412. >Thanksgiving is in ten days.
  6413. >If she makes her move before then, before you have the girls...this is all for nothing.
  6414. >You free yourself from Proditor’s grip and walk for the door.
  6415. “I’ll be back in about two hours. Put up a light fight, nothing supernatural. When I shoot you, stay down for a while.”
  6416. >”I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that.”
  6417. “Doesn’t matter. And hey, I’m going to expect more out of you later, so you better get ready to give a brief on all of this.”
  6418. >You pass through the heavy wooden door and close it behind you without sharing another word.
  6419. >Midnight is going to move her time tables up. She’s going to attack soon.
  6420. >You can feel it.
  6421. >All you can do now though is stick tight to the girls and hopefully be there when she shows up.
  6422.  
  6423. >Once back home, or rather, your current excuse of a home, you load up on essential weaponry to include your revolver, cross, bracers, and two fire charges.
  6424. >Again, you come to the dilemma of bringing the eggs or not, but eventually decide not too.
  6425. >What are the odds of you running into a storm harpy in Bahhston anyway?
  6426. >Still, if you ever did come across one, some hard boiled eggs would make your life a lot easier.
  6427. >No, no. Don’t be stupid. You don’t need them.
  6428. >More or less satisfied with your loadout, you burn the last hour of your freetime texting Rarity and setting up dinner tonight.
  6429. >That’s the nice thing about Rarity. She’s so fucking simple.
  6430. >You could probably just spend a night sitting on the couch with her and she’d be happy. No fancy games, no sneaking around, no murders.
  6431. >Weird, you think. When you first started out, you’d have thought that Dash would be the low maintenance target, what with being a tomboy and all. You know, a burger and all that jazz.
  6432. >Rarity? She was supposed to be uptight, always demanding expensive dinners, fashion shows, and red carpet shit.
  6433. >Shows how much you know about women, eh?
  6434. >That’s fair, though.
  6435. >Other than the two girlfriends you had in high school, you haven’t really had much experience with women.
  6436. >They suddenly dropped to the very bottom of your priorities list ten years ago.
  6437. >Women in general, that is. Not just specifically your girlfriends.
  6438. >But, you know, them too.
  6439. >It’s kind of funny how they swore up and down they loved you and that they wanted to spend their lives with you, but then the second things went south and you needed help, when you needed a shoulder to cry on, when you needed someone--anyone to believe you, to be there for you, they were nowhere to be found.
  6440. >Nobody was.
  6441.  
  6442. >Well, on with the day.
  6443. >You pat yourself down, make sure everything is there, and head out.
  6444. >When you pull open the door to your room, you’re met with a certain fossil of a man wearing a grin far too large for this early in the day.
  6445. >”Good morning, my boy!”
  6446. “Move.”
  6447. >You set your hand on his shoulder and push him aside.
  6448. >”Well goodness, is that any way to speak to your boss?” he asks, slapping his hands against both of his replaced hips.
  6449. >The Director looks at you sternly. That is, as sternly as someone like him can.
  6450. “What do you want? I’m busy.”
  6451. >”Will you be busy tonight?”
  6452. “Yes.”
  6453. >”Oooh,” he sounds and leaps close to you.
  6454. >The Directors grasps your arm and squeezes it against himself.
  6455. >”Which one is it? I’m quite fond of Rarity, you know. She’s so nice and quiet compared to the blue one. What was her name again? Slash? No, wait, he was a drummer.”
  6456. “Guitarist, and no.”
  6457. >”No to the name or no you’re not going on a date?”
  6458. “Goodbye, Director.”
  6459. >You pry your arm free from him without much effort.
  6460. >He’s much weaker now than he was ten years ago. Man, back then he could really wallop you.
  6461. >Considering how big you used to be, that’s a feat.
  6462. >Anyway, you turn and take your leave, making extra sure to ignore his calls as you go.
  6463.  
  6464. >You make your way to town square with about ten minutes to spare.
  6465. >Not that you’d need them, considering you can see Rainbow Dash waiting for you.
  6466. >She may have the town fooled with that disguise she’s wearing, but it’s going to take more than a hoodie and some sunglasses to hide her from you.
  6467. >From about 150 yards away, you kill the engine of your truck and hop out.
  6468. >Casually, you approach the megastar.
  6469. >She picks up on your footsteps soon enough and pretends not to notice you until you’re close enough that a normal human could reasonably detect someone.
  6470. >”’Sup.”
  6471. “‘Sup?”
  6472. >”It’s slang. It means like, you know, what’s good. How’s it hanging?”
  6473. “I know what it means. I just didn’t expect to hear it from you.”
  6474. >”And why’s that?” she asks defensively.
  6475. “I don’t know. I guess you just always struck me as more ‘radical’ and less ‘hip’, if that makes sense.”
  6476. >Dash smiles at that.
  6477. >”Well,” she starts, holding her hand against her hilariously small chest, “I am pretty radical.”
  6478. >Radically stupid, sure.
  6479. >”Well? Come on, let’s grab a cab.”
  6480. “Hold on, I thought we were finding a hit.”
  6481. >”We are. Hold your horses. Jeez.”
  6482. >You don’t like where this is going already.
  6483. >She’s coming up with her own plans.
  6484. >Dangerous territory.
  6485.  
  6486. >Dash gets close to the curb and holds her hand out, hailing a small yellow tax which, according to the lavender writing on the door, belongs to “The Caravan”.
  6487. >Didn’t you read something about mob connections to that company?
  6488. >The back doors swing open.
  6489. >”Ehhh yes, you get in taxi now. We go go Bahhston, anywhere want, yes,” rambles the driver inside.
  6490. “Is it sanitary in there?”
  6491. >”Come on,” snickers the woman as she grabs your bandaged arm. “Don’t tell me you of all people are afraid of a little dirt.”
  6492. “No, but I’m afraid of AIDS.”
  6493. >”A little blood borne disease never killed anybody.”
  6494. “I don’t think there’s any way that you could be more wrong than that.”
  6495. >Don’t get in.
  6496. >Don’t get in.
  6497. >Don’t get in.
  6498. “Where are we off to?” you ask while getting in.
  6499. >Dash jumps into the seat next to you, getting far too close for your comfort, and closes the door.
  6500. >”Hey, you know where the pier is?”
  6501. >”Ehhhh yes, boat boat water, yes?”
  6502. >”Sure, whatever. Just take us there.”
  6503. “What’s at the pier?”
  6504. >Other than a warehouse filled with ash and an empty throne, there’s nothing interesting to speak of at the pier.
  6505. >”You’ll see.”
  6506.  
  6507. >The cab speeds down the road, ignoring what must be the entire book of traffic laws.
  6508. >Three pedestrians almost eat it as the man zooms through a red light.
  6509. >Not to mention yourself.
  6510. >Dash would survive a crash easy, but you’re a bit...softer.
  6511. >She shifts her weight again, leaning into you more.
  6512. >Thankfully she doesn’t aggravate your arm all that much.
  6513. >”Well, Mr. Driver, who’s your boss?”
  6514. >“Ehhhh, my boss, yes. Ehhhh Twibright Darkle, yes.”
  6515. >”What?”
  6516. “What?”
  6517. >Rainbow scratches her head in confusion.
  6518. >”Twilight? Do you mean Twilight Sparkle?”
  6519. >Midnight owns a taxi service?
  6520. >”Ehhhh no, not Twilight. Twibright. Purple, yes? Glasses.”
  6521. >”Yeah, Twilight.”
  6522. >”Ehhhh, very strong, yes. Big woman, yes. Ehhh, break watermelon with thighs, yes.”
  6523. >”Oh, can’t be Twilight then. She’s a damn twig.”
  6524. >You don’t know. Super strength sounds a lot like Midnight.
  6525. >She looks thin despite it though, so maybe this Twibright really is someone else.
  6526. >That’s a long fucking shot though.
  6527. >”Well, anyway, what’s your boss like?”
  6528. “What’s it matter?”
  6529. >”It’s important, Anon,” she replies.
  6530. >”Ehhhh, she very nice, yes. Except when mad, yes. Ehhhh, very not nice mad.”
  6531.  
  6532. “Sounds like most bosses.”
  6533. >”Not really. My boss is pretty chill when I don’t know up for practice.”
  6534. “That’s because you’re a super mega athlete and don’t need practice.”
  6535. >”You’re damn right I am,” she boasts.
  6536. >The buildings are blurs as you speed by them.
  6537. >Much sooner than you would if you were going the speed limit, you spot the pier.
  6538. >Man, it’s only been, what, nine minutes?
  6539. >This guy could break through time if he were in a delorean.
  6540. >He takes his hand off the wheel to stroke his chocolate beard.
  6541. >”Ehhhh, pier close, yes? You get money now.”
  6542. >”Sure thing,” chimes Dash, shuffling to reach into her pocket.
  6543. >She makes extra effort to rub herself against you. That much is obvious.
  6544. >As subtle as a freight train, eh, rainbow hair?
  6545. >The man looks back.
  6546. >His old, tired eyes land on the oversized wallet she pulls out.
  6547. >”Ehhhh, very wallet, yes. Too big. You good stay with big man,” he says, pointing at you. “Keep safe, yes.”
  6548. >If you understood that correctly…
  6549. “Don’t worry, bud. Next to me is just about the safest place in the world for her.”
  6550. >For another ten days, that is. Then? Well, all bets are off.
  6551. >You wrap your arm around her far shoulder and bring the blue woman in tight.
  6552. >”Holy shit, you’re so cheesy,” she chuckles.
  6553. >Dash smirks, but it’s not some gentle happiness like you would see in Rarity.
  6554. >”You get that from your father?”
  6555. >This is a sadistic, vindictive smile.
  6556. >”Oops, sorry,” she sputters, feigning sympathy.
  6557. “No, don’t worry. Easy mistake.”
  6558. >Yeah, about as easy as it would be to kick your teeth into the back of your fucking throat and hold your mouth shut while you choke on them.
  6559. >Keep talking, rainbow cunt. Keep digging this grave.
  6560. >You’ve had ten years to do it, why stop now?
  6561.  
  6562. >The yellowed man in the driver seat shouts and jerks.
  6563. >His foot must have suddenly slammed on the brake with all its might because the cab comes to a screeching halt right there.
  6564. >You can smell the melting rubber as the stopped wheels paint the street black while you skid to a stop.
  6565. >You brace yourself against the back of his seat, keeping a tight grip on Dash.
  6566. >She seems otherwise unphased from the ordeal, but your heart does pump a little faster for it.
  6567. >You uh...you don’t like quick stops.
  6568. >When all is said and done, and you’re able to process just how tightly and close you’re holding onto this vampiress, you let her go.
  6569. >”Ehhhh almost miss pier, yes,” he says while wiping some sweat off of his fat face. “Very not good, yes.”
  6570. “Well, we made it,” you state and pry the door open. “That’s the important part, I guess. Come on, Dash.”
  6571. >She follows you outside of the taxi and stretches.
  6572. >It’s not a bad looking spot, actually.
  6573. >The pavement makes a harsh stop as the ground turns into soggy, decaying wooden planks that stretch out a couple dozen yards.
  6574. >At that point, it’s all ocean.
  6575. >You can just barely make out the silhouette of a ship on the horizon, but that’s the only thing that breaks the dull grey sky.
  6576. >Through her tight purple leggings, you can see some of her more prominent muscles shift.
  6577. >Jesus, this bitch doesn’t even need super strength to be super strong. You reckon she could deal a nasty kick with legs like those.
  6578. >”Ehhhh, you pay me now, yes.”
  6579. >”Of course. Where are my manners?”
  6580. >Dash turns to the man in the driver seat and holds her fat wallet up.
  6581. >A few of the bills have slipped loose and flap in the wind, barely held in by pure surface tension of the wallet.
  6582. >They’re Benjamins by the look of it.
  6583.  
  6584. >”Well? Come get it. There’s a tip in here for you too since you took us so fast.”
  6585. >Wow, what a cunt.
  6586. >You stick your hands in your pockets while she does whatever this is.
  6587. >The man looks like he’s about to protest, but then he too spots the bills, and suddenly his tune changes.
  6588. >”Ehhhh ok, I come get, yes.”
  6589. >After unbuckling himself, he steps outside and approaches Rainbow Dash with an outstretched hand.
  6590. >He gets within a foot of her, and then, almost too fast for you to see, she grabs his wrist.
  6591. >He hollars in pain as she shifts behind him, dragging his arm and pinning it against his back.
  6592. >Dash kicks the back of his knee in, knocking him onto the pavement.
  6593. >All of his weight comes down on those knees, eliciting another shriek from the middle aged man.
  6594. >She grabs his hair too, pulling his head back so that you two can look right at each other.
  6595. “Dash, what the fuck?”
  6596. >”Gotcha!”
  6597. >The man cries as she tightens her grip on his hair.
  6598. >”Ehh please, no pay, no pay good! I go now, yes!”
  6599. “What the fuck are you doing?” you snap, taking a hesitant step toward her.
  6600. >”It’s alright, Anon. No need to search for hits now. I found one!”
  6601. >She…
  6602. >No, no this can’t be happening.
  6603. >”He’s even part of the mob too! You’ve read the papers, you know the story behind the Caravan. And come on, Twibright Darkle? That’s either an alias or a villain.”
  6604. “That--no--fucking...that doesn’t matter!”
  6605. >Your thought process is quickly dissolving here.
  6606.  
  6607. >”Just take the gun out, Anon. Come on, nobody is around right now, not for a mile.”
  6608. >She shakes the man violently, bringing out more cries from him.
  6609. >”Come on, Anon! One shot, that’s all I want!”
  6610. >”Ehh no please, no shoot! No shoot shoot! I give money, yes! I pay! No shoot!”
  6611. >Shoot him?
  6612. >Kill him?
  6613. >But he’s not a monster.
  6614. >That’s just a regular human begging for his life.
  6615. >She doesn’t actually expect you to…
  6616. >She does. Of course she does.
  6617. >You can see the hunger in her eyes.
  6618. >Those eyes.
  6619. >The once magenta orbs glow dimly and begin shifting hues.
  6620. >She’s losing control of herself with the excitement.
  6621. >”Shoot him!”
  6622.  
  6623. >Shoot him?
  6624. >No, he’s a human.
  6625. >You can’t just go and shoot a human.
  6626. >But if you don’t, what happens to your relationship with Dash?
  6627. >She wants a bloodthristy killer--a maniac like her.
  6628. >If you don’t become that, will all these ten years be for nothing?
  6629. >They’re for nothing anyway if you kill that man here.
  6630. >But if you don’t take the chance, you risk losing her.
  6631. >Doesn’t the end justify the means?
  6632. >Of course it doesn’t. What are you avenging if you become what you set out to kill?
  6633. >You breathing quickens.
  6634. >”All you have to do is shoot him, Anon. Come on, he’s a bad guy anyway! Isn’t that right, mister?”
  6635. >She motions his head up and down.
  6636. >”Ehhh no, not bad yes! Not bad! No shoot, please!”
  6637. >”Bu-hu-hull shit! How many drugs do you move every night? How many prisoners have you transported?”
  6638. >”None!”
  6639. >”Liar!”
  6640. >She pulls on his hair, straightening his neck out.
  6641. >You can see the stretch marks forming on his scalp as the skin struggles to keep up with her constant pressure.
  6642. >”Ehhh, three or four, yes! Not much! Not bad!”
  6643. >”See?”
  6644.  
  6645. >It doesn’t matter if he’s bad!
  6646. >It wouldn’t matter if he was Adog Bitler, you can’t just...take a life like that.
  6647. >That puts you on their level.
  6648. >You’re a monster, but you’re not A monster!
  6649. >You can’t kill him. You can’t.
  6650. >And yet...if you don’t...if Dash really wants this and you refuse her...
  6651. >If she walks out on you…
  6652. >Your mother, your father, what did they die for?
  6653. >You have an obligation to them. Surely that outweighs one random taxi driver.
  6654. >Listen to yourself!
  6655. >That’s a human you’re talking about!
  6656. >”Come on, Anon. One single bullet right in the chest. That’s all it’ll take.”
  6657. >”Ehhh no! No please! No shoot! I have kid! Good boy! No shoot!”
  6658. >You eyes burn as you look at the man.
  6659. “You have a,” your voice cracks and sticks in your throat.
  6660. >He sniffles and nods frantically. That is, as best as he can with Dash holding him.
  6661. >No.
  6662. >No, you can’t do it.
  6663. >You’ll find another way--you always have.
  6664. >You can still finish your mission. You don’t need to kill him.
  6665. “Dash, I--”
  6666.  
  6667. >She wraps her arms around his head, grabbing hold of opposite ends, and twists.
  6668. >His head jerks to the side in sync with a resounding crack that echoes through the air and travels throughout your body.
  6669. >It’s turned far past where any normal human could turn their head.
  6670. >Dash sighs and lets go of him.
  6671. >His body drops, flopping onto the ground without a fight.
  6672. >The man’s open eyes stare blankly off into the ocean.
  6673. “Dash,” you whisper.
  6674. >You swallow hard, unable to look away from the yellow corpse.
  6675. >”It’s ok, Anon. I’m not upset or anything.”
  6676. >She stands up fully and walks towards you.
  6677. >She takes hold of your hand in hers.
  6678. >It’s at this point you realize that you’re trembling, shaking like a leaf on the wind.
  6679. >Stop that.
  6680. >You try to steel yourself, but it only barely works.
  6681. >The thoughts still race through your mind despite the ordeal being done with.
  6682. >Kill him, become a monster, avenge them. Let him live, honor their memory, fail the mission.
  6683. >Rainbow pulls herself against your form and stands on her tippy toes.
  6684. >”I just thought I’d have a little fun. I guess it’s confirmed now though, babe.”
  6685. >Her lips brush against your neck gently.
  6686. >”You don’t kill regular people.”
  6687. >She trails up to your ear, giving it a light peck that turns your stomach over.
  6688. >”You only kill monsters.”
  6689.  
  6690. >That’s right. You only kill monsters.
  6691. >You’re glad she understa--
  6692. >You blink a few times as your brain plays catch up with what you just heard.
  6693. “What did you just say?”
  6694. >Her hand cups your cheek and pulls your head.
  6695. >You meet eyes with her.
  6696. >Hers are blood red now, but the glow has certainly died down.
  6697. >Does she even know?
  6698. >”I saw you the other day, Anon. Remember when you killed that big dog looking thing?”
  6699. “I...you saw?”
  6700. >Has she been following you?
  6701. >How much has she seen?
  6702. >Has she seen Rarity? Twilight? The Director?
  6703. >Who else has been following you? Is there a possibility of it?
  6704. >How much does she know about you?
  6705. >Does she know you know what she is?
  6706. >Does she know about the plan?
  6707. >”Yeah. The way you killed that thing, Anon,” she breathes, “That was fucking rad.”
  6708. >Dash leans in again, putting her next kiss on your lips.
  6709. >She hangs there for a second before parting, but doesn’t go very far from your face.
  6710. >”I don’t mind if you can’t kill humans. Dating a monster hunter is awesome too,” she grins.
  6711. “Rainbow Dash,” you state in a low, careful tone, “We have to talk.”
  6712. >”I figured.”
  6713.  
  6714. >Your eyes land on the dead man just a few feet away from you.
  6715. >You didn’t know him. You don’t care to know him.
  6716. >As far as you’re concerned, he’s just another dumbass you’d have to avoid one day anyway.
  6717. >Even so, it’s a human life--one taken by a monster.
  6718. >Worse still, he was a father.
  6719. >Tomorrow, a little boy is going to wake up to a world without his dad.
  6720. >It really is a part of growing up.
  6721. >To live, to grow old, to eventually bury those who nurtured you.
  6722. >It’s the nature of life. No matter how much you love something…
  6723. >If it has a heart, it can die.
  6724. >That said, there is no such circumstance where a boy should have to be told that his father is dead, his neck snapped on some dirty pier on the outskirts of Bahhston.
  6725. >It’s wrong. There’s no two ways about it.
  6726. “Rainbow Dash,” you start, “Did you know him?”
  6727. >”Of course not.”
  6728.  
  6729. >Of course not.
  6730. >You’re not sure what answer you expected out of her.
  6731. >More so, you’re not sure why you asked.
  6732. >That whole ordeal is over. Onto the next topic.
  6733. “Then why’d you kill him?”
  6734. >”Why? Well, duh. He knew who we were at that point and you weren’t going to do it.”
  6735. >That’s not a valid reason!
  6736. >You can’t just up and murder someone for something so petty!
  6737. >Move on, Anon. You’re getting too worked up over this.
  6738. >You have more important things to talk about.
  6739. “He had a son.”
  6740. >”Lots of people have kids. Lots of bad guys too. He was a bad guy, remember?”
  6741. >The only villain you see here is blue.
  6742. >That other person? The dead human stiffening on the ground? He was nobody.
  6743. >An average joe going through the day, waiting to get home to his family.
  6744. >Does she just not understand how important family is in this world?
  6745. >You’d go as far as to call it the most sacred thing.
  6746. >Friends come and go. Friends can turn their backs on you when you need them most. You’ve experienced that.
  6747. >Family? Your parents were always there.
  6748. >Your mother and your father were your biggest supporters in the world and they stuck by you until the very end when you let him die--when you murdered her.
  6749.  
  6750. >”Anon, are you actually upset about that?”
  6751. >You tear your eyes off his form and look back at Dash.
  6752. >Hers are mostly back to normal now.
  6753. >There’s still a little hint of red, but the magenta has nominally returned.
  6754. >What an ugly creature.
  6755. “Not very, no.”
  6756. >Disgusting bitch.
  6757. “I just don’t want to leave a trail of bodies wherever I go. What happens when the law starts asking questions?”
  6758. >”Hey, if the cops start acting up, they might just find themselves with a generous donation and start looking the other way.”
  6759. “Are you saying you’ll bribe the cops?”
  6760. >”Well I was trying to be all cool and smooth about it, but yeah, I can bribe the cops. I am rich, you know. Being a sports megastar has some perks.”
  6761. >You once knew a cop back in high school.
  6762. >Officer something. He was pretty fucking weird and you always thought he may have been a pedophile.
  6763. >Even so, you could tell he had the kind of character to resist something like that.
  6764. >Then again, that was 10 years ago and in Canterlot.
  6765. >Modern day Bahhston is likely very different.
  6766. >Given all the graffiti you see, you doubt the police have much control over anything here. And if they do, they just don’t care.
  6767. >Kind of like somebody else that people generally look up to for guidance and protection but never delivers. Eh, God?
  6768.  
  6769. “And you’re sure that would work? Just flash some green at the cops and they’ll ignore a trail of corpses leading to us?”
  6770. >”Of course it will.”
  6771. >Yeah, of course it will. She should know.
  6772. >She’s probably done it before.
  6773. >The vampiric cunt has probably had to get the cops off her tail more times than she’s passed a test.
  6774. >Alright, that’s not fair.
  6775. >She’s probably never passed a test.
  6776. “Anyway,” you say, turning the both of you around so that you’re faced away from the dead taxi driver, “What were you doing following me?”
  6777. >”Oh yeah. Um, well,” she stutters. “I saw you leave in a rush and I wanted to see what was up.”
  6778. >Yeah right.
  6779. >She was probably going to attack you, maybe bleed you dry until she saw the wolf.
  6780. >Nice try, blue bitch. You’re not that dumb.
  6781. >You know enough about enough to know when you’re being played, and she is trying real damn hard right now.
  6782. >Still though, she may have been trying to kill you earlier, but it’s sounding like seeing you go and kill a monster may have finally given her just the right hots for you.
  6783. “Well now you know what all those calls I get are.”
  6784. >”You get them a lot, don’t you?”
  6785. “Yeah.”
  6786. >She smiles at that.
  6787. >”And don’t think I didn’t notice when you said ‘us’.”
  6788. “There is an ‘us’, isn’t there?”
  6789. >”You keep this up and there might just be, Mr. Hunter.”
  6790. >Oh, Dash, if only you knew.
  6791. >The grin that stretches across your face is genuine for the first time in a long time.
  6792. >You can just imagine her look when it happens.
  6793. >Oh, it’ll be worth it. So god damn worth it all.
  6794.  
  6795. >She decides to tie the body up to a hunk of metal from the engine and toss them both in the water.
  6796. >The yellow man sinks, leaving behind no evidence of himself at the surface of the ocean.
  6797. >”Presto. No more trail,” she says pridefully. “Now we don’t even have to bribe the cops.”
  6798. >That’s not how that works, but sure, whatever.
  6799. >You two end up spending the rest of your date on a walk, “enjoying” each other’s company until the sun gets too high overhead that the vampiress begins to awkwardly hug the shadows formed by nearby buildings.
  6800. >Honesty, you don’t know how she hasn’t blown this secret to anyone else yet.
  6801. >She can’t control her eyes, she can barely control her fangs, she shows obvious distaste for the sunlight, and then there are the feats of strength.
  6802. >Now, of course anybody has the potential to be strong.
  6803. >The catch there is that normal humans tend to look strong as well.
  6804. >A woman with arms about as thick as your ankle should not be able to win against a 200lbs man in an arm wrestle.
  6805. >That’s not sexist, that’s just realism.
  6806. >Anybody who watched that televised match between her and that bodybuilder and didn’t think something was up is a grand idiot.
  6807. >She eventually offers for you to follow her home to get out of the light.
  6808. >That’s an offer that you 100% absolutely would never want to take her up on.
  6809. “Lead the way.”
  6810. >But god damn it, you need to get close.
  6811. >You don’t have enough time--nor would you ever have the patience--to form a real and meaningful relationship with either of these two women, so the next best thing you’ve got is mad infatuation.
  6812. >There’s just enough time left on the clock for you to make them think they love you whether they actually do or not, and that’s all you really need.
  6813.  
  6814. >Rainbow takes you through the alleys and back streets, sticking to all the shady corners she can.
  6815. >For the periods where she has to enter the harsh daylight, she keeps a tight grip on the hood of her sweater and pulls it down over her face.
  6816. >You can see the exposed portions of her hand start to burn as the afternoon sun beats down on her.
  6817. >You have to hand it to her. She has some serious solar resiliency for a vampire.
  6818. >Impressive by their standards.
  6819. >All that really means though is she feeds frequently.
  6820. >Very frequently.
  6821. >In the next alleyway, when she lowers her hand, you spot the area of burned flesh.
  6822. >It’s not healing back over this time. Her tolerance is just about out.
  6823. >She’s going to need to feed again to repair that damage.
  6824. >Given how small the burn is, it’s probably not much.
  6825. >Midnight, on the other hand, if she even survived your last encounter…
  6826. >You may just be responsible for a staggering number of casualties.
  6827. >The thought sits in your stomach like churned milk.
  6828. >Just another reason to hate vampires.
  6829. >Unless you watch them die with your own eyes, the chances of them finding some poor salaryman to feast upon and regenerate are way too damn high.
  6830. >Don’t worry, though. You’ve let her slips twice now, sure, but the next time?
  6831. >Yeah, the next time you two meet is the last time.
  6832. >That’s a promise, Midnight.
  6833.  
  6834. >”It’s not much farther,” states Rainbow Dash as she picks up the pace.
  6835. >You follow loyally, keeping just a few inches behind and to the right of her as you two move through the city.
  6836. >Before long, you come upon one final alleyway.
  6837. >It seems like a dead end.
  6838. >The long brick passageway looks like nobody has bothered to come and clean it since the day you were born.
  6839. >It’s certainly dark enough for her liking. It’s also dark enough for any bacteria in the area to enjoy as well.
  6840. >The spots of filth staining the walls as they extend up two stories are proof enough of that.
  6841. >She leads you down this corridor of decay and to a discreet iron door sunken into the wall at the far end.
  6842. >God damn, is this a safehouse?
  6843. >This is were mobsters go to hide when they can’t bribe the mayor anymore.
  6844. >Dash produces a thick key from her sweater pocket and slides it into the door just under the handle.
  6845. >She twists it, shaking some rust off both the old key and the dated locking system on the door.
  6846. >It licks loudly as the mechanisms inside shift despite their age.
  6847. >The sports star leans against the old grey door and pushes, forcing it to scratch against the disgusting floor beneath it, and slide open.
  6848. >When the iron barrier is gone, you’re met with a long staircase leading up into a darkness you’re not entirely comfortable with.
  6849. >”I know, I know,” she sighs. “Just go on up. My place is at the top of the stairs.”
  6850. >Holy shit, she’s a hermit.
  6851. >This definitely used to be a drug den.
  6852. >This was the scene of an orgy-massacre.
  6853. >A world renowned con artist once hid here while the FBI searched tirelessly for him.
  6854. >Strippers have probably been killed here.
  6855. >This is like the eighth worst house you’ve ever seen in your life.
  6856.  
  6857. >Even so, you go up the stairs, ignoring the distressing squeaks and creaks of the planks as you go.
  6858. >Soon, after entering the pitch blackness that the staircase offers, you hear a sturdy slam from behind you.
  6859. >Door’s closed. No going back now.
  6860. >When you’re forced to stop, it’s because of another door in front of you.
  6861. >This one is wooden, by the feel of it.
  6862. >You can’t see it, but you trace your hand along the side until you hit a small brass doorknob.
  6863. >It chills your fingers, but you grab and turn, opening it up.
  6864. >To your shock, you’re met with light.
  6865. >Electrical light, sure, but light nonetheless.
  6866. >You step into it, into her home, not really sure what you’ll see but fully expecting the worst.
  6867. >You know, pizza boxes everywhere.
  6868. >Towels, clothes, general trash.
  6869. >Maybe some roaches or rodents. Rodent droppings for sure.
  6870. >As your eyes adjust and the full picture comes into view, you’re actually quite surprised.
  6871. >It’s not neat, persay, but it’s definitely an organized chaos.
  6872. >It is, however, not dirty by any means.
  6873. >It’s a light blue loft, losely matching her own skin tone.
  6874. >On the left side of the room is a bed, dresser, full length mirror, and gaming station.
  6875. >In the middle looks to be a living area. This includes a couch, coffee table, and a pile of magazines bigger than the engine block of your truck.
  6876. >At a glance, most of them are sports mags, almost all of which have her on the cover.
  6877. >Others are about cars, some are gaming magazines, and then you of course find some porn in there.
  6878.  
  6879. >Trailing right, you see a kitchen.
  6880. >It’s set up as if to have a meal always on the ready, but you know right god damn well she never cooks.
  6881. >In fact, her oven looks so clean it may as well have just come out of the package.
  6882. >She’s never touched that thing other than setting it up.
  6883. >The fridge shows signs of use though.
  6884. >It’s got a share of red stains on the front and the handle.
  6885. >Subtlety is not one of her gifts.
  6886. >There’s also an inordinate amount of socks lying everywhere.
  6887. >You’re not sure what her issue with socks is, but you see a perfectly good hamper half full with other clothes sitting just a few feet away from her bed.
  6888. >So...what’s the issue?
  6889. >”Like what you see?” she asks, popping up behind you.
  6890. >No.
  6891. “It’s homey.”
  6892. >”Hey, do you want some water? I’ll get some. Why don’t you go sit on the couch for a bit?”
  6893. >You oblige, having a slight idea of what she’s going on about.
  6894. >You move on over to the also blue couch and sit down, sinking into the soft leather seat.
  6895. >Shit, this is her spot.
  6896. >You move over to a significantly less comfortable portion of the couch, leaving the ass dent between two cushions for her.
  6897. >It’s in this moment of relative calmness that you realize your hand has been stuck inside your jacket, gripping your revolver.
  6898. >It takes conscious effort to let go of the gun and set your hands down on your knees.
  6899. >Man, and you said Rainbow Dash had no self control.
  6900.  
  6901. >She arrives at the couch a minute later and hands you a tall glass of crystal clear water.
  6902. >You examine her form.
  6903. >She has stripped the sweater off, leaving only a white tank top that hugs her body tightly, showing off even more her laughably small chest.
  6904. >The tops of her hands that once were burned and blistered are actively healing.
  6905. >The blue skin reforms over the scarring as the blisters deflate, retreating back into her hand.
  6906. >Your gaze shifts up to her face.
  6907. >On the corner of her mouth is a little drop of blood that didn’t quite make it in.
  6908. “You’ve got something on your mouth,” you say, casually pointing to it.
  6909. >Her eyes, now red as that blood, flitter girlishly.
  6910. >”Better fix that then,” she coos and nearly jumps on you.
  6911. >Her lips smash into yours.
  6912. >You can clearly make out the copper-like taste of the blood she just guzzled down.
  6913. >Your stomach turns over on itself both from the lack of food in it and the revolting thought of what is now entering your mouth.
  6914. >It would be so easy to just kill yourself right now.
  6915. >Like, right now. This very moment.
  6916. >Just grab your head and twist really fucking hard.
  6917. >Grab your knife and impale yourself.
  6918. >Go jump out a window and...wait, there are no windows here.
  6919. >As you ponder all the possible ways to end both your life and hers, you gingerly wrap an arm around her shoulder and respond to her advances.
  6920. >Every muscle in your body wants you to stop this, but you press on.
  6921. >To help, you close your eyes.
  6922. >Not having to look at her briefly eases the sense of disgust.
  6923.  
  6924. >Rainbow leans further into you, pushing you against the couch.
  6925. >Wow now.
  6926. >You try to push up, but her vampiric strength makes it all too easy for her to hold you down.
  6927. >With a firm grip on your shoulders, she slides you down and lays you out on the couch.
  6928. >You’ve barely got time to breathe as she assaults your mouth.
  6929. >The opportunity does come though, when she begins to trail her kisses down your chin and onto your neck.
  6930. >Your hand instantly flies into your jacket and grabs hold of your cross.
  6931. >Your other hand is placed firmly on her chest and pushes with all your might.
  6932. >To her, it may just seem like a gentle nudge, but she does take the hint luckily enough.
  6933. >Rainbow pulls away just a bit.
  6934. >Still laying on top of you, she meets your eyes and grins.
  6935. >”What’s the matter? Never been bottom before? You’ve got to fight me for top.”
  6936. “It’s not that,” you say.
  6937. >Yeah, not that.
  6938. >More like you don’t want to be bled dry on some smelly couch in a safehouse in downtown Bahhston.
  6939. >”What’s up? You’re not getting cold feet, are you?”
  6940. “Of course not. I want this. Trust me, I do. It’s just that, you know, in the middle of the day? It doesn’t feel right.”
  6941. >”Are you serious? That is so fucking lame.”
  6942. “Hey, why don’t I come back tonight and we can pick right up? I’ll even bring drinks.”
  6943.  
  6944. >Rainbow sits up, pressing her hips against yours.
  6945. >She crosses her arms defiantly.
  6946. >”And what if I want some now?”
  6947. “Then it’ll feel even better tonight when I win and teach you how to bottom.”
  6948. >You almost hope something terrible happens to you tonight so you don’t have to back that up.
  6949. >You’re sure there’s some lie you can pull out of your asshole that can help you weasle out of this.
  6950. >Dash smirks and climbs off of you now.
  6951. >”Right, you’re going to win. I’d like to see that, Mr. Hunter.”
  6952. “You won’t need to see anything. What is it the kids say these days? Turn around and bite the pillow?”
  6953. >”Oh my god, you are so lame,” she chuckles and walks away.
  6954. >The sports star makes her way to the front door and pulls it open.
  6955. >”Get the fuck out of here. And when you come back, it better be with the hard shit.”
  6956. “You a vodka kind of girl?”
  6957. >”Do I look like a vodka kind of girl?”
  6958. >Well…
  6959. “I’ll catch you later then,” you say, getting up.
  6960. >You make sure to fish your hand out of your jacket as you pass by her.
  6961. >”I’m expecting a good fight tonight.”
  6962. “I already beat you in a game. I think the bed will be easy enough.”
  6963. >She scoffs and punches your arm.
  6964. >Your bad arm.
  6965. >You retain a groan as you leave.
  6966.  
  6967. >It’s still a few hours until your date with Rarity.
  6968. >On your way back to the Charlemane, you somehow end up going the opposite direction and wind up back at the pier.
  6969. >The yellow taxi from earlier sits where it was before, parked and dead.
  6970. >Dead.
  6971. >You walk over to the edge of the pier and look out over the water.
  6972. >It extends as far as you can see and beyond.
  6973. >The ocean really does seem endless sometimes.
  6974. >That’s not so bad.
  6975. >The best part about the ocean though, is that no matter how expansive it is, there’s always an island somewhere out there.
  6976. >A nice, small, uncomplicated island.
  6977. >A sandy little beach where nothing can hurt you.
  6978. >Maybe the taxi driver wanted that too.
  6979. >Maybe he wanted to go somewhere with his son to just enjoy life.
  6980. >That’s not really an option anymore, is it?
  6981. >Not that you care. It’s not your problem.
  6982.  
  6983. >You open up the taxi and search the glove box.
  6984. >The smell of old leather and mothballs fills the taxi as you rummage through all the crusty papers inside the small compartment.
  6985. >At the bottom is a small handgun, a wallet, and a flip phone even older than the one you have.
  6986. >You pull out the last two items and dial the authorities.
  6987. >The phone rings for a second or two before someone picks up.
  6988. >”911, what’s your emergency?”
  6989. >Gosh, she sounds happy to be here.
  6990. “Hey. Yeah, I just saw a murder on, uh,” you stop and search for a street sign around.
  6991. >There’s a thin green sign a couple dozen yards away that works well enough.
  6992. “It was at the pier near Clover St. There’s a taxi nearby.”
  6993. >”The police are on the way, sir. I need you to get somewhere safe and stay on the line if you can.”
  6994. “I’m safe. The killer is gone. They threw the guy in the water.”
  6995. >”Sir, I--”
  6996. >You slap the phone shut and drop it, along with the wallet, on the ground.
  6997. >Before you head off, you give the ocean one more look.
  6998. >One day, Anon.
  6999. >The salty air thins out, becoming regular pissy air as you make your way deeper into the city of Bahhston.
  7000. >Soon enough, a horde of police cars and a few ambulances drive by you.
  7001. >Well shit, took them long enough.
  7002.  
  7003. >While they arrive on the scene and start making their calls, you head off to a small clothing store between two pharmacies.
  7004. >The inside is cramped and filled with all kinds of clothes arranged by size, season, and color.
  7005. >It also smells like a teenage girl’s bedroom in here.
  7006. >You’d like to take Rarity out somewhere fancy, but not overly fancy.
  7007. >You already went through the expensive taste phase. She thinks you’re funny, rich, and have connections.
  7008. >Now it’s time to humanize you. Go for the smaller joints, keep it all a little more simple.
  7009. >Granted, you’ve already spent a night at her house and walked around with her in your casual wear.
  7010. >Maybe you’re past that already.
  7011. >Well, to be safe, you pick up a blue button up shirt with some standard khakis.
  7012. >You change into the business-casual attire, making sure to keep all the bandages and scars covered up appropriately.
  7013. >It fits.
  7014. >Speaking of, now you’ve just got to head home, change bandages, ad standby until date time.
  7015. >Easy daaaaa and you forgot about Proditor.
  7016. >Is he still waiting for you to come in and “kill” him?
  7017. >You should talk to him about that. You know, tell him it’s good.
  7018. >Or you could just let him keep waiting while you go on your date.
  7019. >Yeah, that works.
  7020. >You might even be able to weave it into your excuse of why you can’t fuck Rainbow Dash.
  7021. “Sorry babe, I’ve got to go talk to some old vampire about one of your psychotic friends from high school who’s trying to take over the world.”
  7022. >Yeah, that’ll go over real well.
  7023.  
  7024. >With the time remaining that belongs to you, you head back home and strip down to nothing.
  7025. >The bandages pulled across your upper body are dirty now, covered in both dirt and blood.
  7026. >You grimace as you pull them off.
  7027. >It gets stuck on your stitches, so you have to carefully take the last bit off of your chest.
  7028. >When that’s done, the angry, inflamed wounds are revealed.
  7029. >The cuts themselves have puffed up slightly and turned red.
  7030. >They ooze a nasty, yellowish substance.
  7031. >Yeah, that needs to be taken care of.
  7032. >At least your arm looks good, all things considered.
  7033. >The cuts running down your bicep appear to be healing nicely even though they were made only this morning.
  7034. >You grab some assorted supplies and get to work on yourself, first by wiping yourself down, then covering yourself with a antiseptic.
  7035. >It stings like Hell, but you rub a generous amount into your cuts, trying to clean them out.
  7036. >While that soaks in, you lean over the bathroom sink and try not to focus on the burning.
  7037. >It doesn’t work too well, obviously.
  7038. >Two or three minutes pass. Maybe four.
  7039. >At that point, you run the water and clean yourself out again.
  7040. >As best you can, you get the remaining gunk out of your wounds.
  7041. >This shit is honestly becoming such a chore.
  7042. >It’d be so easy to down a bottle of fairy tears and be done with all this.
  7043. >You run your fingers over the cuts, wincing as the touch sends a jolt of pain through you.
  7044. >Yeah, it’d be easy to get help from those monsters, wouldn’t it?
  7045. >But you’re done with that.
  7046.  
  7047. >You pull out a nice, big pad precoated with disinfectant and lay it across your chest, then cover it up with fresh bandages.
  7048. >It’s a little difficult pulling them around your back, but you manage well enough that the banadages hold tight against your body.
  7049. >When that’s done, you pull out a standard white tee, the button up, and get dressed for Rarity.
  7050. >Your hair needs some help too, you guess.
  7051. >With a wet hand and a comb, you work for an obscene amount of time trying to get the mess on top of your head under control.
  7052. >You almost get it to a point where you could pretend to be some homo walking out of a GQ magazine, but the built-in “fuck you” attitude of your hair is too powerful.
  7053. >It’s not...ugly.
  7054. >It definitely looks more tame than before.
  7055. >Looking in the mirror, you think that Rarity may even enjoy it.
  7056. >It’s nothing you’d pick for yourself, though. You’re more content to just keep it clean and otherwise leave the damn thing alone.
  7057. >Hey, whatever though.
  7058. >It’s good enough for her, you’re sure.
  7059.  
  7060. >You take a look at your phone and note the time.
  7061. >Fancy that. It’s time.
  7062. >You grab the dress jacket and begin loading up on essentials.
  7063. >The cross, the gun, spare ammunition, a fire charge, a...no, leave the egg.
  7064. >You do end up taking the glass and some garlic powder.
  7065. >Who knows? Maybe you can have some fun.
  7066. >At this point, you don’t want to risk bulging pockets and opt out of taking a fire charge or a solar charge.
  7067. >Without wasting any more time, you head out back to a certain car lot with a certain businesswoman.
  7068. >She spots you walking up the path to her little office and draws her gun.
  7069. >You smirk and push open the glass door, entering her space.
  7070. >”Stop right there.”
  7071. >Her hand is shaking.
  7072. >”You’re not getting me this time.”
  7073. “I’m not out to get you. I just need a car for a few hours. Something nice, preferably.”
  7074. >She spits right at you.
  7075. >The glob of saliva lands a few feet away, but you get the message clearly enough.
  7076. >”What are you, some racer?”
  7077. “No. I’m trying to impress a girl.”
  7078. >”Are you kidding?”
  7079. “Boy, if only you knew how much I wish I was.”
  7080. >You run your fingers through your hair, trying to keep the beast under control.
  7081. “Hey, have you ever shot somebody before?”
  7082.  
  7083. >”What?”
  7084. >Her eyes widen.
  7085. >You can see the jitters spreading from her hands to her knees.
  7086. “I’ll take that as a no.”
  7087. >You step forward again.
  7088. >She steps back in response.
  7089. >The two of you continue this until her back hits the wall of the office.
  7090. >”Stop right there. I’m in my rights to shoot you right now.”
  7091. “I know you are.”
  7092. >You take a few larger paces forward, getting right up in front of her, and reach past her head for the cork board covered with keys.
  7093. >You snag the keys labeled Mercedes and pull back.
  7094. “But next time, if you really feel threatened,” you say, reaching for the gun.
  7095. >She yelps as you grab it, but otherwise doesn’t move.
  7096. >Your thumb makes way for the hammer, which you pull back.
  7097. >The weapon clicks, now ready to fire.
  7098. “Make sure you’re actually ready to shoot.”
  7099. >With your other hand, you grab her shoulder firmly and force her still.
  7100. “And stop shaking so much. If someone is coming for your life, don’t give them the opportunity to take it. Be ready and be hard.”
  7101. >She eyes you curiously as you step back.
  7102.  
  7103. >”Who the fuck are you?”
  7104. >You turn your back and begin to leave.
  7105. “I’m just a hunter.”
  7106. >The glass door opens noiselessly as you exit the office.
  7107. ”I’ll get these back to you later. Wendigo, was it?”
  7108. >”I, uh…”
  7109. >You can hear her fumble with the gun and set it down on her desk.
  7110. >”Indigo. Indigo Za--”
  7111. “Indigo.”
  7112. >Nice girl.
  7113. >She’s probably going to get beaten to death one day by someone who actually wants a car.
  7114. >Bitch has to learn to use that damn gun.
  7115. >You track down the Mercedes matching your newly acquired keys and hop in the driver seat.
  7116. >It’s awfully low to the ground.
  7117. >You’re not too comfortable. That’s not to say the seats aren’t soft.
  7118. >They are. By the standard, this is the most comfortable car you’ve ever sat in.
  7119. >It’s just not your style is all.
  7120. >Oh well.
  7121. >You throw the thing in drive and speed off, destined for Rarity’s current abode.
  7122. >The building comes into view.
  7123. >Rarity is already outside.
  7124. >Lucky?
  7125. >She’s eager, at least.
  7126. >A good sign.
  7127.  
  7128. >She’s done up in a black little number that, from this distance, looks just glittery enough that you’d feel safe betting most of it is sequins.
  7129. >You pull up in front of the curb and get out as she starts to walk towards you.
  7130. “Evening,” you call out and run up to greet her.
  7131. >The two of you embrace.
  7132. >She nuzzles your neck briefly.
  7133. >”And good evening to you, Anonymous.”
  7134. >Her purple hair, slightly more voluminous tonight, tickles your nose as it flops into your face.
  7135. >Rarity pulls back and wraps her arm around yours.
  7136. >”Shall we?”
  7137. “Of course.”
  7138. >You lead her to the car and help her in.
  7139. >When she’s seated properly, she looks at you with those big, blue eyes of hers.
  7140. >You’d almost buy that her eyes don’t turn red when she’s slaughtering people they’re so blue.
  7141. >”Where are we off to tonight?”
  7142. >You close her in and walk around the luxury vehicle to get in your own seat.
  7143. >Idle chat is made as you cruise through Bahhston.
  7144. >The sun has fully set now, just in time for you to make it to the restaurant.
  7145. >It’s a little out of the way compared to Dorcea, but this isn’t Manehattan.
  7146. >As far as Bahhston goes, this is fairly high class.
  7147. >Like all the other joints you’ve been with this bitch, you’ve done a few jobs for them.
  7148. >About four years ago, there was a little problem with joltians raising the electric bill.
  7149. >Then two years ago, they call you back to deal with a fucking bodak.
  7150. >Yeah, that day sucked.
  7151. >Anyway, Una Cena Costosa owes you one.
  7152.  
  7153. >You park across the street from the busy building and help Rarity out.
  7154. >You’re both greeted at the door and led inside by a short, skinny man in a red suit with a little too much to prove.
  7155. >”Right this way, you two. For Anonymous, we’ve reserved a special window booth.”
  7156. >Rarity giggles.
  7157. >”Everybody seems to owe you something, don’t they, Anonymous?”
  7158. >The man turns around and nods.
  7159. >”I’m a recent hire, but I’ve heard stories of Anonymous’ services to this restaurant. He has my thanks.”
  7160. >Yeah, keep looking for tips, shortstop.
  7161. >You’re taken to that certain booth he spoke of.
  7162. >It’s in better shape than the others.
  7163. >The green leather looks practically untouched, and you can’t spot any bleaching in the rug or wallpaper in the general area.
  7164. >The hanging over the table is also totally free of dust.
  7165. >Man, they must never sit people over here.
  7166.  
  7167. >Rarity settles into the seat and instantly grabs for the laminated menu placed in front of her.
  7168. >”My, look at all the options.”
  7169. >You sit down as well and take your jacket off.
  7170. >Folding it up nicely, you set it down right next to you.
  7171. >It never feels right being too far away from your gun, so you make sure that it’s easily accessible from the jacket directly beside your leg.
  7172. >To join in, you begin looking over the menu too.
  7173. >Hey, the steak looks goo--
  7174. >Your eyes land on the price.
  7175. >It’s a good thing this place owes you a favor.
  7176. >You’re not usually one to worry about cost, and you’re not even going to spend anything here, but even you can feel the wallet drain.
  7177. >It physically hurts you to scroll down the page, examining the costs of everything.
  7178. >”The chicken looks nice,” she says excitedly.
  7179. “All’arrabbiata?”
  7180. >She nods.
  7181. >You graze over the ingredients.
  7182. >Spicy shit.
  7183. >It’s chicken though, so whatever.
  7184. >You end up getting some of that and a cup of coffee for yourself.
  7185. >She takes an entire three minutes to order with how complicated she has to make everything.
  7186. >The waiter nods obediently though, offering no resistance to her demands.
  7187.  
  7188. >When done, he scuttles off.
  7189. >In another half an hour, the food comes out.
  7190. >You’re about to thank the waiter until you see who is carrying the trays.
  7191. >It’s certainly not someone you’re excited to see in this situation.
  7192. >”Well good evening, you two!”
  7193. >An elderly man in a patchwork suit saunters up, armed with your food.
  7194. >He lands his yellowed eyes on you and gives you a smile.
  7195. >”Um, hello, darling. And who might you be?”
  7196. “Nobody in particular,” you interject.
  7197. >”My boy, you wound me!”
  7198. >The Director lays your plates down in front of you with the orders swapped.
  7199. >He eyes the table curiously.
  7200. >”No, that doesn’t look quite right.”
  7201. >He leans down and swaps the plates around, moving the chicken with pasta to your side and the big plate of fuckall over to Rarity’s.
  7202. >”There we go. That looks better.”
  7203. >”Terribly sorry,” speaks Rarity, raising her hand, “But who are you, again? We’re sort of in the middle of something here, dearie.”
  7204. >”Oh, where are my manners?” he laughs.
  7205. “Nowhere. Now go.”
  7206. >”My name is Discord. I’m young Anonymous’ boss over at the west branch.”
  7207. >Rarity raises an eyebrow.
  7208. >”His boss? Anonymous, you never told me your employer as so,” she looks over his suit. After a few seconds of silence, she continues with, “Eccentric.”
  7209. “And he never told me he was coming.”
  7210. >”Oh, well, you see, I was in the area and I saw this restaurant. I thought to myself, gosh, I sure am hungry right now. I could go for some overpriced food. So I came in here and sat myself down, but then who do I see walking by? None other than my dear boy Anonymous and a striking beauty clutching his side! Of course I had to come by and say hi.”
  7211. “And now you have. Goodbye.”
  7212.  
  7213. >The Director places his hand over his chest.
  7214. >”And pass up this opportunity to meet the girl I’ve heard so much about? I think not!”
  7215. >He slides in, sitting down right next to you, and leans onto the table.
  7216. >The scent of old leather and hard candy fills your nose.
  7217. >”Heard so much about?”
  7218. >”Oh, of course! He’s spoken endlessly about you for about as long as he’s known you!”
  7219. >Rarity shoots you a wry smile.
  7220. “Well, it’s sure late. Let’s help him off to bed, shall we? He needs sleep in his old age.”
  7221. >”Oh, please. I don’t bother with sleep!”
  7222. >Rarity reaches across the table and holds your hand.
  7223. >”Let him stay, won’t you, darling? I’ve never met any of your friends from work.”
  7224. >That’s because you don’t have any.
  7225. >”I think it’ll be fun.”
  7226. >It won’t be.
  7227. >You look away from her and at the Director.
  7228. >He shoots you this innocent little look like he doesn’t know exactly why your blood pressure is rising.
  7229. “Are you sure, Discord? It’s pretty late for you. I’d hate for you overwork yourself and have something bad happen to you,” you say with emphasis on the last few words.
  7230. >”Oh, I’m sure I’ll be fine. He’s always been like this, you know,” he says, looking at Rarity. “So dedicated. Ever since I met him, he’s had a certain determination I haven’t seen in anybody else. It’s really quite scary how he can get when things get in his way.”
  7231. >”Really now?”
  7232. >The Director smiles and flags down the waiter. He orders himself a dessert item and gets right back to talking.
  7233.  
  7234. >”You should have seen him when he was younger. So eager to learn, absorbing everything I had to teach him like a sponge.”
  7235. >”How long have you two been together?”
  7236. >You take a sip of your coffee.
  7237. “Ten years.”
  7238. >”Yep. I picked him up right out of high school. Everybody at the branch thought I was crazy, but he’s turned out to be the best investment I’ve ever made. Why, I can’t think of anybody I’d rather leave the branch to than him.”
  7239. “And I’ve told you before. I don’t want to run the branch. Administration isn’t my thing.”
  7240. >Your index finger begins to twitch underneath the table.
  7241. “I’m more hands on.”
  7242. >Rarity coos and lids her eyes at you.
  7243. >What is she...oh.
  7244. >Ok, yeah. You can work with that.
  7245. “I could show you later.”
  7246. >”I’m up for a lesson, darling.”
  7247. >The Director begins to laugh.
  7248. >”Oh, young love. You’re crazy in your own ways.”
  7249. >Rarity giggles.
  7250. >”Anonymous is nothing of the sort. He’s the most down to Earth gentleman I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Trust me, I know crazy.”
  7251. >Yeah. Herself.
  7252. >Her friends.
  7253.  
  7254. >”Once, I knew this boy in high school. I can’t remember his name now, but I do remember he was captain of the football team when I was a freshman, and rather large too. I think the coaches may have been forcing a few certain chemicals into him.”
  7255. >Well, that’d be a bet she’d win.
  7256. >You’ve really slimmed down since then, on top of all the other changes.
  7257. >That’s probably why she can’t match the faces.
  7258. >”Then one day, he just snapped. I think it was near Thanksgiving, actually. He suddenly went on a rampage and killed his parents. Then he’d run around the school shouting about monsters and how they’re coming to get us all.”
  7259. >She shivers despite how warm it is in here.
  7260. >”I can still remember his screaming as the police dragged him out of the school. He was covered in blood. Given what he did to his parents, I don’t think it was his.”
  7261. “It was,” you snap.
  7262. >”Dear?”
  7263. >Shit.
  7264. “I mean, you know, it was his blood. I read about that in the papers too. It was big news at the time.”
  7265. >”Yes, I suppose it was,” she sighs. “It really is awful how it all went down. I wonder what made him do it. How does somebody wake up one day and just decide to start killing people?”
  7266. “You tell me.”
  7267. >Rarity shrugs.
  7268. >The Director claps his hands together and announces, ”Well, I think we’ve all learned a lot from this topic. Hopefully we can take this all and be able to better ourselves so that we may head out and in turn better the world.”
  7269. “Yes, let’s. I think we’ve talked enough about dead parents on thanksgiving. Besides, I don’t want to hear about all the guys you used to know,” you smirk and give her a little kick under the table.
  7270. >Rarity scoffs.
  7271. >”Oh please, darling. They were only boys. I much prefer the man I’m with now.”
  7272. >Does she understand all the implications that can be pulled from that statement?
  7273.  
  7274. >She seems not to.
  7275. >Her gaze, while dripping with arousal in itself, seems all too innocent.
  7276. >Rarity, you are one dumb motherfucker.
  7277. >Her foot snakes underneath the table and rubs against your leg.
  7278. >Wait, this shoe is flat. Isn’t she wearing high heels?
  7279. >You look to your right at the Director.
  7280. >He throws an exaggerated wink your way.
  7281. “Discord, I have an idea.”
  7282. >”I love ideas.”
  7283. >He should try having more, then.
  7284. “Why don’t you prep the room for our meeting tomorrow? There are some files I left on the desk with Proditor. You do know Proditor, don’t you?”
  7285. >The Director’s gleeful expression shifts slightly, turning more smug than anything else.
  7286. >He raises an eyebrow at you.
  7287. >”Why yes, I remember him.”
  7288. “Funny, you never mentioned it.”
  7289. >You two look at each other for a good minute before Rarity coughs.
  7290. “Tell him the game plan changed when you see him. Actually, know what? I’ll come by tonight when we’re done here. Then we can work the kinks out together. Sound good?”
  7291. >He nods understandingly and answers with “Yes, that does sound like a fine plan.”
  7292. >Quicker than the food appeared, his dessert vanishes into his stomach, likely raising the old man’s blood sugar a little too far.
  7293. >”Goodbye for now, my boy. And to you,” he draws out, turning his attention to the white bitch across the table. “I may be seeing you later as well.”
  7294. >In a coffin, maybe.
  7295. >”But for the time being, enjoy yourself.”
  7296. >”Thank you, dearie. You have a wonderful night as well,” she replies happily.
  7297.  
  7298. >The Director climbs out of the booth in chorus to many cracks from his decrepit joints.
  7299. >”Ta ta, young lovers!”
  7300. >With his final declaration, he leaves.
  7301. >You two, you and the vampire, are alone again.
  7302. >You breathe a sigh of relief.
  7303. >Huh. Ain’t that funny?
  7304. >You never thought you’d be relieved to be alone with a vampire before.
  7305. >Of course the circumstances aren’t necessarily normal--as far as your life constitutes “normal”--but even so.
  7306. “Alone at last, right?”
  7307. >”Oh, I liked him. He seemed fun.”
  7308. “He’s got you fooled, then,” you accentuate with a laugh.
  7309. >”Darling, why is it you never tell me about your work?”
  7310. “Because it’s not interesting?”
  7311. >”Still, you must want someone to be able to talk to. I’m sure some days can be quite stressful.”
  7312. >Your mind wanders to the infected canyons carved into your chest.
  7313. >Yeah, some days can be pretty stressful.
  7314. >Technically speaking though, you really only have to worry about it for another ten days.
  7315. >You live that long and do what you need to do.
  7316. >If anything happens to you after that...oh well.
  7317.  
  7318. >You order yourself another cup of coffee as this one runs dry.
  7319. >Rarity is still working on her first glass of wine at this point. What’s it been, almost an hour now?
  7320. >She must not like the brand, you suppose.
  7321. >Glancing at the bottle, you make note of the name and to not get it again.
  7322. >Can’t have your girl getting fussy this close to the end game, right?
  7323. >Ooh, that’s a great idea.
  7324. >Find a real nice bottle, one of her favorites.
  7325. >Then you replace its contents with this brand.
  7326. >She’ll be excited going to drink it, find out it’s some garbage poor people wine, and then bam. You lay it in.
  7327. >”What’s so funny?”
  7328. “Huh?”
  7329. >”You’re laughing, darling.”
  7330. “Oh, I just remembered a joke somebody told is all. It’s dumb, don’t worry about it.”
  7331. >She somehow relates this to something “funny” that happened in the fashion industry and spends way too much fucking time telling you all about it.
  7332. >Of course you just nod and smile, offering occasional input.
  7333. >By the time the clock strikes nine, you’ve both finished your meals. More importantly, she’s finished her speech.
  7334. >You take a look down at your watch and let out a long sigh.
  7335. ”Shit, I didn’t look at the time. Rare, I hate to say, but I really have to get going here. Discord and Proditor must be lost right now.”
  7336. >”Oh, that’s right. Terribly sorry, darling. I forgot you had plans.”
  7337. “It’s nothing to worry over. Come on, let’s get you home.”
  7338.  
  7339. >Rarity offers no resistance when you take her back to her hotel and see her off for the night.
  7340. >The designer leaves you with a kiss and a goodbye before entering the building.
  7341. >When she’s out of sight and hearing, you take the time to vigorously wipe your mouth clean of her filth.
  7342. >Disgusting creature.
  7343. >The thought of having to spend time with her tomorrow makes your blood boil.
  7344. >Ten days, Anon. You can do it for ten days.
  7345. >You pat your face a few times, bringing sensation to them as you drive off into the night.
  7346. >So, what’s the game plan?
  7347. >Call Dash, bullshit your way out of fighting for top and bottom, then visit the boys at Proditor’s house and discuss just how far they’ve decided to leave you out of the loop.
  7348. >Honestly, you don’t know why these fuckers are so secretive.
  7349. >How can they expect you to do this whole “save the world” bullshit if you don’t know what’s going on?
  7350. >If you’re being serious here, fuck the world.
  7351. >You’re not here to be a hero. You’re not some protector or savior.
  7352. >There’s only one thing you’re on this Earth to do, and when that’s done, these people are on their own.
  7353. >You’re getting real fucking tired of always having to...save...hey, wait a minute.
  7354. >Your eyes latch onto the road, just to the right of your car.
  7355. >There’s a certain human-shaped shadow appearing every once in a while in the moonlight.
  7356. >You throw on the blinker and turn abruptly.
  7357. >It follows you.
  7358.  
  7359. >Well, what do we have here?
  7360. “A tail, huh? Alright, tough guy.”
  7361. >It’s definitely a monster.
  7362. >Given the state of affairs in this city, it’s probably a vampire.
  7363. >Your car isn’t fast enough to outdo one of them, especially not on these streets.
  7364. >One thing you can do, though, is turn down a pretty deserted road and park across the street from a convenient store.
  7365. >Giving yourself a quick pat-down, you reassure yourself that you’re armed with the cross, your gun, a handful of spare rounds, your bracer, and of course the glass and garlic.
  7366. >This should be enough if you play your cards right.
  7367. >Hell, everything always boils down to “if you play your cards right.”
  7368. >That’s just the nature of life, isn’t it?
  7369. >You know, you brought it up before, but you can’t help but chuckle again at the fact that your time around these girls and all these monsters has calmed your nerves around vampires.
  7370. >Before, your blood may have stopped cold at the mention of it.
  7371. >Now? You’re out here getting ready to fight one.
  7372. >Some humans train their entire lives to specialize in vampire hunting, and here’s dumb ole’ Anonymous getting ready to go get his ass handed to him.
  7373. >Holy shit, you’re stupid.
  7374. >Complacency kills, you know.
  7375. >Anyway, you get out of the car and make way for the store.
  7376. >It’s a small, out of the way place about as large as the lobby of the Charlemane.
  7377. >The building is a gross shade of yellow, from the walls that you believe were once white to the tile floor.
  7378. >There are a great many aisles of assorted snack foods, a few small spinning racks of chips, and a small freezer section in the back.
  7379. >You count two bystanders on top of the cashier at the counter your left.
  7380.  
  7381. >You move away from the door, heading about to the middle of the store.
  7382. >When you make it into the bread aisle, the doors ring as a new figure pushes them open.
  7383. >In a somewhat discreet manner, you take a look at them.
  7384. >Oh mother fucker. Really?
  7385. >Your displeasure isn’t worth hiding here.
  7386. “You’re fucking joking,” you call out.
  7387. >The man walking towards you wears the stupidest fucking grin.
  7388. >”Evening, Anon.”
  7389. >You visibly sicken as Flash fucking Sentry takes place just the aisle across from you.
  7390. >The two of you are separated now only by a chest-high wall of cheap aluminum and snack items.
  7391. “What’s the deal, huh? Midnight too afraid to come kill me herself so she sends her dog?”
  7392. >”Twilight isn’t afraid of anybody, you got that?”
  7393. “I know Twilight isn’t. I’m talking about Midnight. There is a difference, isn’t there?”
  7394. >Flash scoffs and follows you as you begin to slowly move through the aisle.
  7395. >”So, I guess you’ve figured it out then, haven’t you?”
  7396. “Not at all, actually. I’d still like to find out exactly what her plans are, how Sunset fits into all this, and just what she’s promising all these races of monsters to get them to work together. Most importantly though, I’d really love to know why everybody I hate from high school keeps popping back into my life.”
  7397. >”And you expect me to answer that?”
  7398. “No. I have little faith in your character. You’re a bag of shit if there ever was one. Even so, I know how much of a desperate little puppy you are. If you’ve latched onto Midnight, you’re not going to betray her. It’d be pointless questioning you.”
  7399. >”You’ve got some nerve, you know that?”
  7400.  
  7401. >You don’t need him for anything. You could shoot him right here and be done with it.
  7402. >...Or.
  7403. >No, bad idea, Anon.
  7404. >Very bad idea.
  7405. >Fighting vampires requires distance.
  7406. >And yet you find yourself actively throwing that principle away.
  7407. >Maybe it’s your history with Flash, but something about him just makes you really want to cave his fucking skull in.
  7408. >You reach into your pocket and pull out the two bottles of goodies.
  7409. >First, into one palm, you pour some garlic powder.
  7410. >On top of that, the glass.
  7411. >This is going to sting.
  7412. >”You know, I used to like you, man. You always seemed so cool.”
  7413. “Yeah?”
  7414. >”Yeah. And then that day came. Man, you were a fucking mess.”
  7415. “I had a bad night.”
  7416. >”I’ll say. Dude, you looked so ugly crying like that. I didn’t even know men could make those noises.”
  7417. “Is that what Sunset said when she put it in your ass?”
  7418. >You make a fist and begin grinding your knuckles into the mixture.
  7419. >Your skin tears and begins to bleed profusely as the glass cuts your hand open.
  7420. >The garlic works itself into your wounds as well, for all intents and purposes, poisoning your blood.
  7421. >You resist the pain for now and repeat the process with your other hand.
  7422. >”Is your chest bleeding? I could smell the infection before, but that’s a lot of blood in the air now.”
  7423. “Yeah, but I’m not too worried about bleeding around you. It’s not like you’re going to be able to do anything anyway.”
  7424. >”You’re awful cocky for someone who hasn’t killed me yet,” he seethes.
  7425. “Right back at ya.”
  7426.  
  7427. >You two reach the end of your respective aisles.
  7428. >Now on the other end of the store, right near the freezer section, you make a move.
  7429. >You flare your arm out, throwing all kinds of bags of goodies off the shelf and at Flash.
  7430. >He moves back slightly, blocking the barrage of junk food with his arm.
  7431. >In that spare time, you jump out from behind the shelf and strike, throwing your bloodied fist right into his face.
  7432. >It feels like punching a brick wall and you pull back, clutching your throbbing hand.
  7433. >Flash laughs when you’re done and points at you mockingly.
  7434. >”Is that seriously the best you can do? One single punch? Bitch, I’m a vampire!”
  7435. >Yeah, a vampire with blood all over his cheek.
  7436. >Blood mixed with garlic.
  7437. >Flash moves with incredible speed, but even now, you can tell he’s slower.
  7438. >You’re not nearly fast enough to be able to block him, so when he punches you, you take it right in the cheek and fly into the freezer door, shattering the glass.
  7439. >Your face stings as blood begins to pour down your face from the gash on your cheekbone.
  7440. >Flash grabs you by the shirt and pulls you out of the freezer, getting you close enough that you reach up around his arm and grab him.
  7441. >Then, with your other hand, you land three solid punches to his face again.
  7442. >You shudder from the pain of punching his rock solid face, but it’s it not enough to deter you.
  7443. >Flash raises his hand to punch you.
  7444. >His fist rockets by.
  7445. >This time, you’re able to react.
  7446. >You duck your head to the right, letting his hand miss you by an eighth of an inch, and then you punch him again.
  7447. >His eyes widen and he lets you go.
  7448. >The man reels back, feeling his face.
  7449.  
  7450. >”What the fuck?”
  7451. >Gently, he brings his fingers up and brushes them against his cheek.
  7452. >They return to in front of his eyes, examining the blood now coating them.
  7453. >”Wait a minute. Is that,” he pauses.
  7454. >If you can keep this up, the garlic stuck to his skin will drain enough of his power that he’ll be as strong as your average human.
  7455. >You can already see it on his face, too.
  7456. >The glass sticks to his skin, embedded partly in sections.
  7457. >The flesh weakens with every strike.
  7458. >”Are you fucking joking? You’re trying to punch me to death?”
  7459. “What can I say? You bring out the ass in me.”
  7460. >”You little,” he growls.
  7461. >As he grinds his teeth, you can see the fangs start to grow out.
  7462. >His eyes, too, redden to the color of blood and begin to glow dimly.
  7463. >”Both of you stop right there!”
  7464. >The two of you look over to the counter.
  7465. >Two men stand armed while one person runs frantically out of the store.
  7466. >The cashier from earlier brandishes a hefty looking shotgun.
  7467. >The other man holds a small black pistol and a golden badge attached to his wallet.
  7468. >”You’re both under arrest.”
  7469. “You are making a huge mistake right now.”
  7470. >”Damn right he is!”
  7471. >Flash begins to move, but you grab his coat first and pull him back, slamming him into the wall and punching him again.
  7472. >”I said freeze!”
  7473. >Again and again, you punch him.
  7474.  
  7475. >Suddenly, Flash puts his hands on your shoulders and shoves you.
  7476. >You go flying back several feet and slam into a shelf, knocking it over.
  7477. >From how weak the sound of the gun is, the cop fires two shots.
  7478. >They land on Flash.
  7479. >It doesn’t kill him, of course, but you can see the hurt it brings to his face.
  7480. >Yes, that’s it! Keep going, Flash. Let the garlic do its work!
  7481. >Flash runs again, going straight for the two men.
  7482. >The cashier shoots him square in the chest, slowing him down enough that you can reach out and grab his leg.
  7483. >Flash falls over, and you drag yourself on top of him.
  7484. >You raise your fist to punch him, but your shoulder lights up in pain as the cop shoots you, ending your attack.
  7485. >You roll off of Flash and scoot back, narrowly avoiding another shot.
  7486. “Fucker!”
  7487. >”Stand down before I put you down,” he orders sternly.
  7488. >The cashier shakes his head vigorously and yells out “Fuck that,” before shooting at you.
  7489. >You duck and miss that shot by a hair.
  7490. >The slug roars past you and embeds itself in the wall behind you.
  7491. >That’s one thing you don’t want to be shot with.
  7492.  
  7493. >Flash is on his feet again and grabs you by your shirt collar.
  7494. >You’re lifted off the ground and tossed across the room at the two humans.
  7495. >The cop fires once, thankfully missing you, as you collide with him.
  7496. >He falls down underneath you while the cashier scoots back, pressing himself against the rack of cigarettes behind the counter.
  7497. >Flash speeds across the room, visibly slower now, and grabs the shotgun, yanking it out of the human’s hand.
  7498. >The cashier stumbles forward, and Flash grabs at his throat.
  7499. >You scramble to your feet and punch him in the back of the head.
  7500. >Flash growls and whips around to face you.
  7501. >You punch him again, sending this one square into his nose.
  7502. >You can feel it break against your knuckles as his own blood spills forth from it.
  7503. >The vampire roars and latches onto you.
  7504. >He pulls you in close and bites your shoulder, sinking his teeth deep into the flesh.
  7505. >You howl in pain and begin frantically hitting him, trying to cover as much of his face as you can in your blood.
  7506. >Flash is forced to let go of you.
  7507. >You lean forward, pressing him against the cash register, and grab the cashier yourself.
  7508. >You pull him, slamming the human’s face into the counter hard enough that the thunk rattles your bones.
  7509. >He drops to the floor, unconscious and bloody, but safe and out of your way.
  7510. >Now for Fla--
  7511. >His knee finds way to your stomach.
  7512. >You can feel your feet come up off the floor from the force of his attack, and you almost lose your dinner of him.
  7513.  
  7514. >While you’re in the air, he grabs you and pulls you in close enough that he can bang his forehead against yours.
  7515. >The blow to your head leaves you limp, and you almost drop to the floor right then.
  7516. >At the least second though, you regain your senses and catch yourself.
  7517. >Flash lunges with his claws outstretched.
  7518. >You cut left, letting him fly by you, and grab him by the arm.
  7519. >He squeals as you lift him up and snake your arms across the front of his body.
  7520. >Holding him there, you land several uppercuts, clanging his teeth together until you feel something press into your back.
  7521. >Oh fuck.
  7522. >There’s a horrendous bang as your left side explodes.
  7523. >Your legs give out and you lean on Flash for support, but his tired body can’t give you much of that.
  7524. >You push him away quickly and twist, ignoring the pain in your gut.
  7525. >The cop, bruised and bloody from his fall, stands there brandishing the shotgun.
  7526. >It’s aimed directly at your side, ready to tear through you again.
  7527. >You dodge as he fires the next round and grab the gun, forcing it up and into his wrinkled face.
  7528. >The man fumbles and lets go of the weapon.
  7529. >You let it slide out of your hands to the barrell and hold it up like a baseball bat.
  7530. >Then, with all your might, you swing it right into his jaw.
  7531. >The officer drops like a rock, landing on a pile of chip bags.
  7532.  
  7533. >You huff and puff, clutching your oblique as it bleeds, staining your clothes a deep red.
  7534. >That’s a bad one.
  7535. >On the bright side, the slug punched right through your body and left nothing inside.
  7536. >Bright side…?
  7537. >Well, you suppose the bright side is that you’re alive.
  7538. “For now,” you whisper as Flash stands again, now on shaky feet.
  7539. >”You son of a bitch. I’ll kill you! I’m going to rip your fucking head off and bring it to Twilight in a box!”
  7540. >This is usually when you’d say something snarky back, but all you can muster this time around is a groan.
  7541. >Your knees begin to shake as the pain from your cumulative wounds begin to overpower the adrenaline coursing through your veins.
  7542. >Can’t give up yet, though. No, not yet.
  7543. >You have to tough it out, Anon. It’s not an option.
  7544. >Your already failed them once. Don’t fuck this up again!
  7545. >You charge forward, slamming into Flash and forcing him back.
  7546. >You slam him into a standing shelf and knock it over.
  7547. >The two of you fall down, crushing the sugary treats below you, and you roll aside.
  7548. >Flash tries to get up, but you’re too quick to climb on top of him.
  7549. >You sit down on his chest and begin to punch him repeatedly.
  7550. >One, two, three, five, eight, eleven.
  7551. >Blow after blow, you can feel the bones in your hand weakening, but at the same time, his own face begins to distort into a bloody, mangled mess.
  7552. >Flash, probably barely conscious at this point, reaches up and grabs your neck.
  7553. >You can tell he’s giving it his all, but even so, it feels as if a small child was trying to choke you.
  7554. >By his cobalt hair, you grab him and slam his head into the ground, forcing him to lose grip.
  7555. >You reach into your jacket and pull out your cross, unsheathing the blade at the same time and throwing the cover far away.
  7556.  
  7557. >Flash’s eyes land on the silver tool and widen with fear.
  7558. >He brings his arms up to block you just as you force the blade down.
  7559. >Pulling back, you slap his arms away and stab again.
  7560. >Once more, he blocks you.
  7561. >Now angered, you grab him by the wrist and force his arm to the side, opening a shot for you.
  7562. >You try once more, but now with his other hand, the man stops your dagger once more.
  7563. >Alright, fuck it.
  7564. >You let go of his restrained arm, freeing it, but it won’t help him.
  7565. >You sit up just a tad and lean forward, then drop down, with all your weight and both hands.
  7566. >Flash’s defense crumbles away underneath your fall and his arms give out.
  7567. >The blade of the cross shatters through his clenched teeth and slices through his throat.
  7568. >You can feel the tip of your blade strike tile beneath him.
  7569. >The vampire’s eyes, filled with horror and pain, slowly return to their normal color as life drains from them.
  7570. >His protests weaken into nothing, and soon enough, his squirming body goes limp beneath you.
  7571. >You breathe heavily and regret every single one.
  7572. >Each new breath of air hurts more than the last until you can’t think it could get any worse. Then it does.
  7573. >You sit there for too long, staring at his corpse, wondering if he’ll move again.
  7574. >He doesn’t, though, thankfully.
  7575. >You don’t think you could take much more. Not right now, not tonight.
  7576. >Another fight…
  7577.  
  7578. >You’ve been running ragged for a while, but you don’t think your body has the gas left to go through anything more.
  7579. >You move to stand, pulling hard and freeing your blade from Flash’s mouth.
  7580. >Through the hole in his throat, you can see the floor now covered in blood--both his and yours.
  7581. >Speaking of blood, the mixture of it and sweat makes your shirt as wet as if you had just taken a dip in the pool.
  7582. >You know it only weighs a few pounds, but it feels like a few tons as you force your tired form to move despite the restrictive clothing.
  7583. >Your knees creak as they extend, straightening your legs and helping you to stand.
  7584. >Or, well, hunch.
  7585. >Trying to stand up straight is a bit too much to ask of you right now, so you settle for hobbling your way toward the exit.
  7586. >As you pass by the counter up front, you look down at the cop sprawled out on the floor.
  7587. >He lies face down in a puddle of blood, gently shaking and coughing.
  7588. “I really fucked you up, huh, big guy?”
  7589. >You lean down, fighting against your body’s protests, and lift the fat, old man up.
  7590. >His head hangs lamely as blood and teeth drip out of his mouth, covering his shirt.
  7591. >You propr the man up against the counter and lean his head to the side so everything can drain properly.
  7592. >His breathing returns to normal now, signaling your departure.
  7593. >The cold night air hits you like a train as you leave the store.
  7594. >It does little to cool the burning in your body, but it is welcome nonetheless.
  7595.  
  7596. >You limp away, passing by a deep looking alley with a full dumpster.
  7597. >You briefly consider heading in just to sit down and do a bit of cleaning up before you get the car seats soaked in your blood.
  7598. >”Good show in there.”
  7599. >Yeah, that seems like the best...course…
  7600. >Wait a minute.
  7601. >”I’m a little disappointed Flash couldn’t kill you, but not very surprised either.”
  7602. >Fuck.
  7603. >Fuuuuck fuck fuck.
  7604. >Fuck you.
  7605. >Just all around fuck you. Fuck tonight. Fuck your life.
  7606. >”Besides, I guess this means we just get to have some more fun together.”
  7607. >You turn your head, looking into the darkness and the direction of the voice.
  7608. >You hear the sound of heels banging on concrete as she slowly approaches you.
  7609. >Her form emerges from the shadows.
  7610. >Her eyes are already red, glowing so very brightly that it almost hurts to look at them.
  7611. >”What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?”
  7612. “Hello, Midnight.”
  7613. >She smirks.
  7614. >”So, you found out.”
  7615. “Is Twilight alive in there?”
  7616. >”Does it matter?”
  7617. >You tighten your grip on the cross.
  7618. “No, I guess it doesn’t. So,” you huff, turning slightly and lowering into a fighting stance. “I guess we’re doing this, huh?”
  7619. >”You’ve gotten away from me too many times, Anon. This time, only one of us is walking away.”
  7620. “Agreed.”
  7621.  
  7622. >She’s twenty five feet away from you.
  7623. >You have two feet of sidewalk on either side of you until you hit, in front of you, the street which is lined with parked cars.
  7624. >Behind you sits that alley, probably a good forty feet deep with a dumpster sitting at the end of it.
  7625. >You’re tired and bleeding pretty bad.
  7626. >At the same time, she seems to be completely healed from your last fight.
  7627. >She is, however, unarmed.
  7628. >You’re packing one cross, one bracer, one gun with spare rounds, and the blood coating your hands which is currently laced with garlic.
  7629. >It’s not much, but it’s something.
  7630. >If you can keep your distance, you might be able to whittle down her strength if not outright kill her.
  7631. >Then, if she gets close, you can strike.
  7632. >The moon shines overhead, illuminating the vampiress.
  7633. >She makes a long, slow motion of taking off her purple sweater, leaving herself in just a blue blouse with a similarly colored vest.
  7634. >”You look awfully dirty. I wouldn’t want to mess up my sweater.”
  7635. “A real forward thinker, huh?”
  7636. >This is really the last thing you want to do right now.
  7637. >But hey, you kind of did bring it on yourself, didn’t you?
  7638. >Well, there’s no hope in running.
  7639. >You couldn’t even if you wanted to.
  7640. >She has to die. It’s better you kill her now than let her carry on with whatever she’s planning.
  7641. >Her life is a direct threat to your mission, right?
  7642. >Then go, Anon! Move!
  7643.  
  7644. >You throw your arm forward, flicking some of the seasoned blood off your knuckles and at her.
  7645. >It doesn’t travel nearly far enough to be remotely a threat to her, but it’s a distraction nonetheless.
  7646. >When she prepares herself for a real attack, you jam your other hand into your coat and draw your revolver.
  7647. >People tend to favor their right sides when they move.
  7648. >It’s guess work here, but if she moves to her right to attack…
  7649. >You aim for her. Or rather, where she will be.
  7650. >Midnight disappears from your vision, moving faster than you can see at this point.
  7651. >On a hope, you fire the weapon at a lamppost to your right.
  7652. >At her speed, if she went that direction, it’ll hit her.
  7653. >Your weapon fires, and before your next thought can process, the bullet strikes the lamppost harmlessly.
  7654. >No Midnight. Damn!
  7655. >Then she’s on your left!
  7656. >You twist your body and aim directly to your left.
  7657. >Midnight appears just a few inches away from you.
  7658. >Her forehead is dead center on your barrel, and you can see her eyes fill with shock.
  7659. >You pull the trigger, but the slightest bit of hesitation robs you of the kill.
  7660. >Your weapon fires again, but Midnight moves out of the way just in time so that the silver round passes through the bun of her hair.
  7661. >She retreats several yards and jumps on top of the hood of a small car.
  7662. >You follow her with your eyes and jerk, forcing the weapon to follow.
  7663. >Your body is too slow though.
  7664.  
  7665. >The beating you’ve taken slows you down too much, and the next shot you take hits air as well.
  7666. >Midnight vanishes, reappearing to your right some feet away.
  7667. >Sure, now she picks the right.
  7668. >”Impressive. I’ve only seen a few people as quick with a gun before.”
  7669. >You clutch your side.
  7670. >All this moving isn’t helping your wounds.
  7671. >As if the pain in your chest wasn’t enough, the bullets, the bite, the cuts…
  7672. >She might not even need to attack you at this rate.
  7673. “What can I say? I’m kind of an impressive guy.”
  7674. >Midnight chuckles lightly and touches her now somewhat deflated bun.
  7675. >”That one was pretty close, wasn’t it?”
  7676. “Yeah.”
  7677. >Suddenly, her almost cheerful demeanor shifts, sending a dangerous chill down your spine.
  7678. >”It’s not going to happen again.”
  7679. “Funny, I hear that a lot.”
  7680. >Midnight charges again.
  7681. >Right or left?
  7682. >Know what? Fuck it.
  7683.  
  7684. >You jump to your right, far enough you believe that if she were to attack you, you’d now be past her.
  7685. >With your gun up, raised right for where you once stood, you fire.
  7686. >Midnight appears right there and whips around, stretching her razor sharp nails out for you.
  7687. >Your bullet meets her this time, lodging into her right bicep.
  7688. >The vampires shrieks and pulls back.
  7689. >You dig your heel into the concrete and stop yourself. Then you lunge forward with the cross, swiping at her.
  7690. >Midnight raises her arms for defense.
  7691. >Your blade opens them, putting two neat cuts into the fronts of her forearms.
  7692. >Farther back, she retreats.
  7693. >This time you follow suite, putting more distance between you two, and raise the gun again.
  7694. >Got her!
  7695. >You pull the trigger and fire, aiming right between her eyes.
  7696. >Midnight ducks though, preparing to move.
  7697. >You’re close enough to her now though that you don’t need to guess where she’s going.
  7698. >From the way her hair moves the instant before she disappears, you can tell she’s going to end up on your right.
  7699. >You wrench your body, turning so the cross can cut straight across your right side.
  7700. >Midnight’s form comes into view right there.
  7701. >The look of shock on her face is priceless, but you try to keep your eyes on her hair.
  7702. >She shifts again. Another right.
  7703. >You dig your foot into the ground and pivot, bringing your silver blade to the new location quicker than before.
  7704.  
  7705. >When Midnight pops back out, it’s in the path of your blade.
  7706. >She steps back, narrowly missing your reach, and blinks out again.
  7707. >Left!
  7708. >You swing your arm to the left.
  7709. >When the woman next appears, your blade has already passed her, leaving you wide open.
  7710. >With a grunt of discomfort, you kick back, almost falling now, and use the momentum to help bring your gun forward.
  7711. >Midnight moves again before you can shoot, this time for the right again.
  7712. >You land hard on your side, but scramble to a good enough position where you can strike.
  7713. >From the kneeling, you swipe at your general right side.
  7714. >Her shins come into view.
  7715. >Your blade makes a very light cut across them.
  7716. >Midnight gasps and jumps back.
  7717. >You try to follow her, cutting wildly and making some progress.
  7718. >Another three cuts make it into her flesh, bloodying her legs.
  7719. >”You little!”
  7720. >Midnight kicks, slamming her foot into your hand.
  7721. >It hurts like a son of a bitch and reel back, getting your feet back under you and shooting up.
  7722. >Your left hand throbs intensely where she kicked it.
  7723. >The woman rubs her forearms gingerly, scowling at you.
  7724. >”I don’t know what it is about you, Anon, that makes you such a pain in my ass. What I do know is that I am going to thoroughly enjoy killing you.”
  7725. “You’d have better chances teaming up with Flash. He’s right in the store if you want to go get him. Oh, wait.”
  7726. >You toss her a grin.
  7727. >It’s your own way of trying to convince yourself you’re not totally fucked here.
  7728. >And hey, to your credit, you’ve landed quite a few hits.
  7729. >If you can keep this going, you’re going to come out on top.
  7730. >Just keep whittling away at her like with Flash.
  7731.  
  7732. >Midnight breathes deeply and exhales, showing off her fangs.
  7733. >”I hope you enjoy the talking you’re doing, because you’re not going to be doing it much longer.”
  7734. “I enjoy very little in this life, but I’d be lying if I said talking shit to pieces of shit didnt make me smile.”
  7735. >You adjust your grip on your weapons.
  7736. >Midnight’s muscles visibly tense.
  7737. >She’s getting ready.
  7738. >It’s probably going to be another storm of attacks.
  7739. >Wade through this, Anon. It’s almost over.
  7740. >It’s almost over.
  7741. >She darts off again, this time to your left.
  7742. >You cut with the cross in time for her to appear just a few inches away.
  7743. >Midnight snarls and vanishes again, moving to your right.
  7744. >You jerk your wrist, forcing the blade of your bracer out.
  7745. >It extends past your hand, the point meeting up with the barrel of your revolver.
  7746. >You make a cutting motion, again, just missing Midnight as she makes it to her destination.
  7747. >She speeds off again.
  7748. >You follow her movements.
  7749. >This happens again and again and again.
  7750. >You begin to feel like a hamster on a wheel going around and around.
  7751. >The next time, instead of retreating like usual, Midnight grabs your wrist.
  7752. >She pulls your left arm up and away, opening your body up.
  7753.  
  7754. >Before she can properly attack, you take aim with the gun and prepare to fire.
  7755. >She catches this though and wrenches your arm again, bringing it down and knocking the gun out of the way.
  7756. >You’re hunched over now with your arm twisted in a very painful manner.
  7757. >Midnight tightens her grip on it as she continues to contort your form.
  7758. >She sends her knee into your ribs, sinking it several inches deep.
  7759. >You can hear the bones cracking against her might, but even worse, you can feel it.
  7760. >Your chest locks up suddenly as you begin coughing, spitting up blood onto the dark ground beneath you.
  7761. >Midnight rotates her leg, twisting her knee further into your chest, before pulling away.
  7762. >You clench your teeth in pain as the absence of her support lets your chest settle and the now loose bones flop around in your chest cavity.
  7763. >You look up at her annoyingly smug face.
  7764. >”Not so talkative now, huh?”
  7765. >You spit a mouthful of blood out, covering her glasses.
  7766. >She makes a sound of disgust and tries to wipe them off with her shoulder.
  7767. >With her distracted, you flip the cross around in your hand so that the blade lays on top of her hand.
  7768. >With your next move, you cut, slicing her hand open.
  7769. >Midnight shrieks and lets go of you.
  7770. >Despite yourself, you stand again and plunge the cross into her shoulder, forcing her back.
  7771. >You free the blade and stab her again, this time closer to the chest.
  7772. >Once more, continuing to force the woman back, you lay into her.
  7773. >The next stab enters her shoulder again, and then her chest directly.
  7774. >You slam her against a car parked near the sidewalk, cracking the passenger window, and make another attempt to bury your blade inside her.
  7775.  
  7776. >She, much like Flash in his final moments, attempts to block you with her arm.
  7777. >Not happening, bitch.
  7778. >You grab her by the throat and push, lifting her off the ground.
  7779. >Her strength wavers shortly, and you think you have a window, but then she wraps her arm around yours, placing her hand on your shoulder.
  7780. >With her other hand, she pushes against your chest.
  7781. >You can’t react in time for this.
  7782. >She pulls and pushes at the same time, twisting in just the wrong way.
  7783. >You can hear the pop as your shoulder is ripped out of its socket.
  7784. >You shout and try to push away, but you can no longer control the limb.
  7785. >With your other hand, you press the gun against her belly and wrap your finger around the trigger.
  7786. >Midnight lets go of you, letting your arm drop to your side and hang there like a wet noodle.
  7787. >She suddenly pushes on your chest.
  7788. >It’s gentle at first, but the amount of force that increases with every nanosecond is exponential.
  7789. >You’re lifted off your feet and soar through the air like a common bullet.
  7790. >You slam into the ground once, then twice as you rocket away down the alley.
  7791. >Your back crashes into that dumpster with such force that you sink into the metal, permanently deforming it.
  7792. >The legs of the structure scrape along the ground as it’s forced back, even lifting into the air with you for a split second.
  7793. >The combined momentum of both you and the now dented dumpster frees you from it, flinging you onto the ground.
  7794. >You roll a few times before finally coming to a stop on your belly.
  7795.  
  7796. >Ow…
  7797. >...
  7798. >Ow…
  7799. >...
  7800. >Ow…
  7801. >It’s the only thing you can think of right now.
  7802. >Every single thought you have washes away as another wave of pain racks your body.
  7803. >Your mouth hangs open as if you were screaming, but not a single sound leaves it except for the heavy, labored breath that struggles to fill your lungs.
  7804. >It feels like you’re trying to breathe through a coffee stirrer here.
  7805. >Where even are you right now?
  7806. >You force your eyes open.
  7807. >Well...eye. Your right eye refuses to obey you and holds shut.
  7808. >You’re...you’re in an alley.
  7809. >Why?
  7810. >Your hearing begins to return to you.
  7811. >With that comes the sound of high heels tapping on the ground slowly, confidently.
  7812. >Angrily.
  7813. >You were on a date...and then you were in a store…
  7814. >There was a fight. Flash.
  7815. >Yeah, you killed Flash.
  7816. >And then…
  7817. >”Come on, is that all you’ve got?”
  7818. >Midnight.
  7819. >That’s right. You were fighting her.
  7820. >And she threw you.
  7821. >You try to get up, but holy Hell is that a trial.
  7822. >You can’t move your left arm at all.
  7823. >You’re beginning to wish you didn’t even have a left arm from how much it hurts.
  7824. >You put your right underneath you, noting that you’re still clutching the gun for dear life, and push.
  7825.  
  7826. >It’s an incredibly long and painful process.
  7827. >At some points, you feel like you’re going to pass out.
  7828. >Not being able to get a good breath in isn’t helping.
  7829. >Blood constantly pools in your mouth, dripping out like drool.
  7830. >Soon, you manage to get to your knees which you take the opportunity to rest on.
  7831. >Your vision is coming in and out at this point.
  7832. >Still, you force yourself to look at Midnight as she saunters over.
  7833. >Her hand brushes against her wounds.
  7834. >”As much as I hate you, I want you to know that I respect you, Anon.”
  7835. >She chuckles as she flicks some of her blood at you.
  7836. >It splatters on your face--some of it covering your eye that still wont open.
  7837. >”I’ve never met anybody that gives me as much trouble as you. And to think, you’re still just a human. It really is praiseworthy.”
  7838. >She stops in front of you and stares down into your eye.
  7839. >”But that’s the thing. You’re still just a human. There is no comparison between us. You may have been able to kill Flash with that little garlic trick, and I’ll even admit you injured me with it, but it’s just a trick. Everything you’ve done is a trick--stupid little stunt that you get just lucky enough to pull off every time so that you can run away with your life.”
  7840. >She spits out some of the blood that has gathered in her own mouth.
  7841. >”But it’s over now. Your luck is out. You’re going to die in this alley, and I’m going to turn this world into Hell.”
  7842. >She smiles wickedly and finishes her little speech with “Look on the bright side though. I’ll still kill the girls for you.”
  7843.  
  7844. >The girls.
  7845. >Rarity. Rainbow Dash.
  7846. >Yes, kill them.
  7847. >You have to kill them.
  7848. >It has to be you, not her.
  7849. >It has to be.
  7850. >That means you can’t die here.
  7851. >If you can’t die, then Midnight has to.
  7852. >Yeah, that’s how it’s going to be.
  7853. >You groan, trying desperately to relocate resources to your legs.
  7854. >Your efforts pay off as they begin to move.
  7855. >With one foot sliding underneath you, you push up off your knee.
  7856. >Your left arm dangles helplessly, but your right arm--the one with the gun--it’s ready.
  7857. >Your hand shakes viciously as you maneuver the weapon, aiming it at her.
  7858. >What happens next happens in slow motion, as if the universe decided you had to be able to see every frame of what happens in these next few milliseconds.
  7859. >Midnight raises her foot.
  7860. >She places it against the front of your supporting knee.
  7861. >Then it...it goes inside.
  7862. >No, it doesn’t go inside. It goes through.
  7863. >Her foot sinks into your leg, forcing your knee back.
  7864. >The bones crack and shatter into pieces against her.
  7865. >You can feel every tendon and ligament snap as she pushes on, fully extending her own leg.
  7866.  
  7867. >Words cannot properly describe the feeling.
  7868. >You don’t think, even given a hundred years and the finest writers in human history, you could ever properly recount the sensation in your leg.
  7869. >The closest thing you can come to is a long, pathetic scream that leaves your throat.
  7870. >You fall down on your back and writhe in agony as Midnight regains her footing.
  7871. >It feels like an eternity with you lying there, screaming your little lungs out.
  7872. >Tears begins to stream down your face as the pain wraps around your mind like a boa, crushing any thought that isn’t about the horrific pain growing in your leg.
  7873. >You somehow find the strength to lift your head up off the ground and look down at it.
  7874. >It’s bent in a disgusting way and soaked in as much blood as your midsection.
  7875. >You can also see it begin to swell, even from under the pants, as various fluids flood the area.
  7876. >Suddenly, the vampiress grabs your good leg--the ankle, that is--and lifts you up.
  7877. >The world is a blur as you find yourself flying through the air.
  7878. >Your back crashes against something hard. You’re not sure what, but you’re pretty sure whatever it is, it’s broken now.
  7879. >Then you’re moving again.
  7880. >This time it’s the ground. You know that for sure when your face crashes against the concrete.
  7881. >Again, you’re moving.
  7882. >Wham. Wham. Slam. Bam.
  7883. >She’s swinging you around like a ragdoll.
  7884. >No, like an angry child trying to break everything in their room with a plastic baseball bat.
  7885. >Except it’s not a child, everything is made of rock and metal, and you’re not made of plastic.
  7886. >The last time, she lets go of you.
  7887. >You collide with the final surface, totally shattering against it, and fall to the ground without ceremony.
  7888.  
  7889. >As you lift your head off the ground, letting a few bricks fall off your head, a seemingly endless stream of blood and teeth drain from your mouth and nose.
  7890. >Your face is covered in blood now, and you’re pretty sure your eye wouldn’t open even if you used pliers now.
  7891. >It hurts to breathe.
  7892. >It hurts to even be.
  7893. >Midnight reaches for you again, this time grabbing you by the shirt collar, and lifts you up to your feet.
  7894. >She forces you against the brick wall behind you--into the human-shaped crack.
  7895. >The smile she’s wearing could kill somebody.
  7896. >It’s killing you.
  7897. >Wait...you’re still holding your gun.
  7898. >Your fingers are locked around the grip, refusing to move for god or the devil himself.
  7899. >Your hand shakes from the strain you’ve been unconsciously putting on it.
  7900. >Good.
  7901. >One shot.
  7902. >That’s all you need.
  7903. >One single shot, and she’s done. You just have to land it in the right spot.
  7904. >She moves in, getting way too close to your face, and extends her tongue.
  7905. >She takes a long lick up your face, and shudders.
  7906. >”Ooh my, that is grade A blood right there. It’s seasoned to perfection. You are quite a treat, Anon,” she says with a blush.
  7907. >Midnight goes in again, drinking what pours out from your face.
  7908. >The feeling of her tongue scraping against your skin will haunt you forever.
  7909. >But hell, if it keeps her busy…
  7910.  
  7911. >You let the woman continue to gorge herself on your blood as you, with every remaining ounce of your strength, move the weapon into position.
  7912. >You tilt it up, aiming for her head.
  7913. >Almost...there.
  7914. >Now you just have to pull the trigger.
  7915. >You move your finger, but god damn, suddenly the five pound weight of the trigger feels like five hundred.
  7916. >You grunt as you try to pull it back.
  7917. >Slowly, but surely it does.
  7918. >Suddenly, Midnight grabs your wrist and pulls it up, aiming the gun away from her and toward the sky.
  7919. >Fuck!
  7920. >A low groan escapes your lips as she puts pressure on your joint.
  7921. >The vampire licks her lips, seemingly done with her meal.
  7922. >The wounds on her shoulder and chest have healed now, leaving not even a single mark.
  7923. >If not for the remaining blood and the ruined clothes, you’d never be able to tell she had been injured.
  7924. >”And that’s from just a sampling of your blood. I’ve never tasted anything quite like you. I’m almost tempted to keep you. How’s that sound, Anon? You want to stay with me and be my own personal blood bag?”
  7925. >Five pounds.
  7926. >You make the effort and pull the trigger, firing the gun off into the air.
  7927. >There’s your answer, you purple bitch.
  7928. >”Feisty. I’ll admit, I’m truly shocked you’ve lived this long. I hate to break it to you though, I’m a woman of my word, and I kind of promised to kill you.”
  7929.  
  7930. >Midnight begins to move your arm.
  7931. >You try to fight her, but there’s just no more power left in you.
  7932. >You’re helpless against her might as she forces your hand down and twists it around, aiming the revolver at your own stomach.
  7933. >She doesn’t stop there, though.
  7934. >She continues to push.
  7935. >The barrel presses against your skin.
  7936. >Oh no.
  7937. >God, no.
  7938. >Your watch in horror as she pushes it further, forcing the weapon against your obliging form.
  7939. >It finally reaches a point where your body rips open, unable to fend off the steel of the gun.
  7940. >She lodges it deep inside you, until the trigger guard rests against your belly button.
  7941. >You squeal like a bludgeoned fawn as she twists the gun around, stirring your insides.
  7942. >Then she too wraps her finger around the trigger and pulls.
  7943. >You can feel the bullet tear through you, come out the other end, and then ricochet off the wall and back into you.
  7944. >Your blood begins to drain through the cylinder, emptying onto her hand.
  7945. >She finally lets go of you completely.
  7946. >Unable to hold yourself up, you plummet to the Earth and land hard on your ass.
  7947. >Your hand meekly drops from the weapon, landing at your side, now as useless as your left.
  7948. >Midnight laughs to herself as she slurps up the sanguine juice on her hand.
  7949. >Without anything else, she turns and begins to walk away.
  7950.  
  7951. >You watch her leave.
  7952. >She’s going to do terrible things.
  7953. >She’s going to kill people. Innocent people.
  7954. >She’s going to take your girls and rob you of your vengeance.
  7955. >She’s going to get everything she wants if you give up here.
  7956. >You have to fight back. You have to…
  7957. >And yet, despite the anger and hatred boiling inside of you, you can’t lift one finger.
  7958. >All you can manage is a slight, choked whisper through the gargling of your blood.
  7959. “This isn’t over,” you wheeze.
  7960. >She stops there and turns back, looking at you in shock.
  7961. >Then, when her eyes lay on your beaten form, covered in bruises and blood with a gun poking out of your gut, her expression shifts to a delighted look of relief.
  7962. >”Well, I suppose you’re half right. You’ll bleed out soon enough though, and then you’ll die. Then it’ll be over.”
  7963. “I…”
  7964. >”Hmm?”
  7965. >You try to swallow the mouthful of blood, but it gets caught in your throat and comes back up as a cough that splatters your lap with red.
  7966. “I’ll be seeing you, Midnight…”
  7967. >She looks, if only for a second, almost sad.
  7968. >That same smugness returns all too quickly though, and she nods to you.
  7969. >”Sure.”
  7970. >And then she leaves.
  7971.  
  7972. >You watch her go, unable to stop her.
  7973. >Soon, you can’t even find the strength to look at her.
  7974. >Your neck gives out and your head drops lamely, staring at nothing in particular as your vision begins to fade.
  7975. >You know you should be angry right now, but you’re not.
  7976. >You can feel it--your anger, all of your rage and hate--slowly slipping away.
  7977. >They take with them everything else.
  7978. >You can’t even feel your body anymore. A welcomed development.
  7979. >As the world begins to crumble away, leaving you in nothing but darkness, your chest begins to relax.
  7980. >No more pain, no more sorrow.
  7981. >Only a distinct tiredness that makes it too hard for you to register anything else other than how exhausted you feel.
  7982. >Even that doesn’t last long.
  7983. >Soon enough, there’s nothing there at all for you to latch onto.
  7984. >No emotions, no desires, no thoughts or regrets.
  7985. >Only a vast emptiness that forms the new plane of existence you call home.
  7986. >Huh.
  7987. >Is this what calmness feels like?
  7988.  
  7989. ----------
  7990.  
  7991. >”Holy shit, what happened to this guy? They peel him off a railroad track or something?”
  7992.  
  7993. >”Anonymous.”
  7994. >Who said that?
  7995. >You can’t see anything in this pitch blackness.
  7996. >It’s strange. That voice sounded familiar.
  7997. >It was firm, manly, and yet felt as soft as a cloud.
  7998. >It warmed you if even for an instant.
  7999. >All too quickly, the bitter cold of nothingness returns.
  8000. >You’re somewhere. Nowhere?
  8001. >It’s hard to tell.
  8002.  
  8003. >”We need to drain his lungs.”
  8004.  
  8005. >”Anonymous.”
  8006. >There it is again.
  8007. >What is this feeling?
  8008. >You wish you could see.
  8009. >Instead, you float onward in some sort of void.
  8010. >You’re tired.
  8011. >You think, at least.
  8012. >You remember being tired. Why, though?
  8013. >Nothing comes to mind.
  8014. >NOTHING comes to mind.
  8015. >You just want to sleep.
  8016.  
  8017. >”We’re losing him!”
  8018.  
  8019. >”Anonymous.”
  8020. >The voice comes once more.
  8021. >Form begins to come to this vast world.
  8022. >It’s at first a hint of light, and then a gentle air that carries the heat of fire and the smell of smoke.
  8023. >Slowly, as if each piece of the world appeared with every drop from the sands of time, something begins to shape itself.
  8024. >It’s a room.
  8025. >A small, dull room with little furniture, and yet the lively fireplace in it makes it seem like home.
  8026. >Home.
  8027. >There’s a couch there, too. On it sits two people.
  8028.  
  8029. >”Still nothing. Give me four hundred volts.”
  8030.  
  8031. >”Anonymous.”
  8032. >The voice. It’s theirs.
  8033. >His.
  8034. >Hers.
  8035. >The two people stand up, their backs to you.
  8036. >You know them, don’t you?
  8037. >Yes, those people lie somewhere deep in your memories.
  8038. >It’s hard to think right now.
  8039. >This heavy tiredness that dampens all of your thoughts is becoming a bother.
  8040. >”Anonymous.”
  8041. >”My son.”
  8042. >The fondness of his voice and the love in hers reach through your ears and wrap around your brain.
  8043. >The sound invades your mind and roots around deep inside it, sifting through the thoughts on their own and highlighting key memories.
  8044.  
  8045. >”Jesus Christ, close that hole.”
  8046.  
  8047. >Images flood your mind.
  8048. >A child, a mother, and a father sit down at a small table to enjoy dinner. There’s a cake with the number seven written on it.
  8049. >The same boy and the same man later run around a grassy plain, catching a football.
  8050. >What are these memories? Why are you seeing them?
  8051. >You just want to sleep.
  8052. >You’re so tired. Can’t this wait?
  8053. >As much as you want to go and relax back in the blackness, something deep inside you resolves to stay.
  8054. >It’s a dim flame that burns in the pit of your stomach.
  8055. >Every time you see a new image though, it seems to burn hotter.
  8056. >You can feel this heat travel through your body, bringing life to your chest, to your arms, to your legs.
  8057.  
  8058. >”He’s going under again.”
  8059.  
  8060. >”Anonymous.”
  8061. >That voice.
  8062. >You know that voice.
  8063. >Another scene flashes in your mind.
  8064. >The child is grown. He’s a teenager, dressed in some school uniform.
  8065. >He’s running down a new grassy field, surrounded by his peers. They all chase a football.
  8066. >Off in the distance, those same two people watch him and cheer on.
  8067. >Those people.
  8068. >You know them.
  8069.  
  8070. >”Come on, stay with us.”
  8071.  
  8072. >”Anonymous.”
  8073. >You know that boy.
  8074. >You’ve seen him before.
  8075. >Then there’s a road.
  8076. >It’s a long, dark road that you can barely see through the heavy rain.
  8077. >A sense of dread washes over you, but you don’t know why.
  8078. >What’s going on?
  8079. >There’s a car. In it are the people you keep seeing.
  8080. >The man, the woman, and the boy seem oblivious.
  8081. >They’re lost in conversation as two figures move in the cover of the night.
  8082.  
  8083. >”Time of death?”
  8084.  
  8085. >”Anonymous.”
  8086. >Your chest locks up as the car flips.
  8087. >Watching this scene play out hurts. It hurts more than anything you’ve ever felt.
  8088. >It’s enough to wash away the tiredness.
  8089. >The woman’s face comes to you again, bloodied and covered in dirt with eyes that pierce through your heart.
  8090. “Mom!”
  8091.  
  8092. >”No way. He’s stabilizing?”
  8093.  
  8094. >”Anonymous.”
  8095. >You’re back in that room.
  8096. >Your living room.
  8097. >You look around, memories of all the time you’d spent in here coming back to you.
  8098. “Mom! Dad!”
  8099. >They’re standing there, in front of the couch.
  8100. >”Anonymous, my boy.”
  8101. >”My dear, sweet boy.”
  8102. >You take a step toward them, but the distance doesn’t decrease.
  8103. >The room seems to grow longer the more you approach them.
  8104.  
  8105. >”Good morning, Bahhston!”
  8106. >”And what a sad morning it is, Flim. Death befalls the region.”
  8107. >”That’s right, Flam. Police have received many reports of deaths in the last few hours.”
  8108. >”From Canterlot to our own backdoor, people seem to be dropping like flies.”
  8109.  
  8110. “You’re here,” you shout eagerly, breaking into a sprint to catch them.
  8111. >You never do, though.
  8112. >The room just continues to stretch, keeping you same distance away all along. The same all too close and yet much too far distance.
  8113. >”Look how far you’ve come.”
  8114. >”You’re all grown up now.”
  8115. >It’s not working. You can’t catch them.
  8116. >”You’ve done so much in your life. Look at all the people you’ve saved.”
  8117. >Your mother’s soothing voice does little for you right now.
  8118. >The pace of your heart overpowers her calming effects.
  8119. >Come on, go get them!
  8120. >They’re right there!
  8121. >”And son, we couldn’t be more…”
  8122. >”Sad.”
  8123.  
  8124. >”That’s right, people just seem to be tripping over bodies lately.”
  8125. >”Sure we have the occasional murder, but this is something else, Flam!”
  8126. >”All the way through Canterlot, people have been going missing and turn up hours later, dead.”
  8127. >”Some conspiracy theorists think it may be a government test gone wrong.”
  8128.  
  8129. >Huh?
  8130. >”Looking at you now, I’ve never felt more disappointed in my life.”
  8131. >Your mother turns around to look at you.
  8132. >”Everybody has to bury their parents one day.”
  8133. >Next, your father.
  8134. >”But no parent ever wants to bury a child.”
  8135. >You slow down from a run to a jog, and then a walk.
  8136. >”This thing, this...this anger you’ve let grow inside of you,” he stops.
  8137. >”It’s consumed you.”
  8138. >”You’re not even Anonymous anymore, are you?”
  8139.  
  8140. >”Good morning, Bahhston!”
  8141. >”We’re going to have to stop opening with ‘good morning’ if this trend of deaths keep up, Flim.”
  8142.  
  8143. “No, dad, I am. I’m still your boy,” you plea, stopping in your tracks.
  8144. >”You have a mission.”
  8145. >”What happens when you’re done?”
  8146. >”What’s left of my son when his mission is over?”
  8147. >What’s left of you?
  8148. >Well that doesn’t really matter, does it?
  8149. >”Exactly.”
  8150. >”It’s that line of thinking that’s the issue.”
  8151. >”You’ve lived for this purpose for so long.”
  8152. >”Why can’t you live for yourself?”
  8153.  
  8154. >”Good morning, Bahhston!”
  8155.  
  8156. “Why should I? What have I done to earn that?”
  8157. >”You’ve done so much already. What more do you need to do?”
  8158. “I need to make up for that night! I sat there! I watched everything and I just sat there!”
  8159. >Your vision of your parents begins to blur as tears form in your eyes.
  8160. “If it was you, you would have done something. But me? I sat there and I watched you die. They took everything from me and I let it happen.”
  8161. >”No, son--”
  8162. >You wipe your eyes clean with your sleeve and meet your father’s look.
  8163. >More coldly than you’d intended, you state “And now I have to take everything from them.”
  8164.  
  8165. >”Good morning, Bahhston!”
  8166.  
  8167. >Mom? Dad?
  8168. >You groan and open your eyes, now aware of a general ache throughout your entire body.
  8169. >You’re in a new room now.
  8170. >It’s white. A very clean, crisp white that gives you an uneasy feeling from how bright it is.
  8171. >This isn’t your living room.
  8172. >Where are your parents?
  8173. >You crane your neck, turning your gaze from the ceiling to examine the rest of the area.
  8174. >You’re lying on a stiff bed that’s hooked up to a few other machines.
  8175. >Various wires from them run underneath the heavy blanket covering you up to your collarbone. Among those is a small tube of clear fluid that steadily drips into your body.
  8176. “A hospital.”
  8177. >So you’re not dead afterall.
  8178. >That’s good…
  8179. >Odd, though. You seem to remember taking quite a bit of punishment.
  8180. >You’re pretty sure you remember getting shot, but you can’t feel that centralized sort of pain.
  8181. >”Oh, you’re awake.”
  8182. >And there are people here.
  8183. >Also good, you guess.
  8184. >It makes sense there would be people in a hospital anyway.
  8185. >You lock onto the person sharing a room with you.
  8186. >She’s a younger woman with glasses and hair pulled back into a bun, save for the various strands that fall into her face.
  8187. >Judging from the green scrubs she’s wearing, she must be a nurse here.
  8188. >”That’s good. I’ll go get a docto--”
  8189. “What day is it?”
  8190.  
  8191. >She stops short of exciting and glances at you.
  8192. >”It’s Sunday, cowboy.”
  8193. “Thanksgiving is this week?”
  8194. >She nods.
  8195. >Five days.
  8196. >You’ve been asleep for five whole days?
  8197. >That’s...no way. That can’t be.
  8198. >That means Midnight has had almost a whole week to follow through with her plans.
  8199. >She’s had five days to grab your girls and whisk them off to god knows where.
  8200. >Damn it.
  8201. >Damn it!
  8202. >God damn it!
  8203. >>You had one job, fucker! You had literally one job and you fucked it all up!
  8204. >God damn you!
  8205. >You throw the blanket off yourself and swing your legs off the bed.
  8206. >Grabbing at your body, you begin to rip the wires off of yourself. When those are gone, you remove the IV from your arm.
  8207. >”Hey, now, relax there, big guy,” the nurse orders and rushes over to grab you.
  8208. >You push her away and jump off the bed.
  8209. >Suddenly your right knee gives out, sending a massive wave of pain through your leg.
  8210. >You crumble and end up using the bed for support.
  8211.  
  8212. >”Wow there, cowboy! You need to take it easy.”
  8213. >The nurse rushes to your side and grabs your shoulders.
  8214. >Her touch is warm and gentle, and yet firm enough that you can tell she’s not afraid to get forceful.
  8215. >Oh, right. Your knee.
  8216. >You remember that.
  8217. >Wait, you DO remember that.
  8218. >Thinking back, there’s no way you should even be able to move it, let alone swing it around and jump off the bed.
  8219. >You look down at your leg.
  8220. >The entire knee is as white as snow with tendrils of alabaster snaking up your thigh and down your calf, following the trail of various muscle strands that had been torn in your initial injury.
  8221. >Oh no.
  8222. >Your side, too, looks to be mostly healed and bleached white.
  8223. >Your chest, once red with infection, is now a duller shade of your own skin with the cuts filled in.
  8224. >Most of the wounds you’d suffered are either completely or mostly healed now, leaving you with even more scars than before.
  8225. >No no no.
  8226. >There’s only one thing that could have done this to you and you know right damn well who is responsible for it.
  8227. >Midnight beats you. And now...now the Director! You know it was him!
  8228. >He used those fucking fairy tears on you!
  8229. >First you’re beat within an inch of your life by a monster, and then you’re brought back to it with help from them!
  8230.  
  8231. >Midnight. Discord.
  8232. >Midnight. Discord.
  8233. >Midnight! Discord!
  8234. >Wait!
  8235. “Where is Rainbow Dash?”
  8236. >The nurse tries to help you up, but you nudge her away and make the effort to stand yourself.
  8237. >”The baseball player?”
  8238. “Yes, the baseball player!”
  8239. >Safe in her home. Please say safe in her home.
  8240. >The nurse rubs her chin and replies with ”She went missing a few days ago, I think. News says she hasn’t gone to any practices with the team.”
  8241. >FUCK!
  8242. >It’s all falling apart at the seams.
  8243. >Everything you’ve worked for for the last ten years is on the verge of collapsing.
  8244. >If it hasn’t already, that is.
  8245. >You shove off the bed and walk, almost falling over every time your weight falls onto your knee.
  8246. “Clothes. I need clothes.”
  8247. >Your chest begins to tighten up. A similar stiffness makes itself known in your right arm.
  8248. >The feeling starts at your shoulder and travels down, but you do your best to ignore it.
  8249. >”I can get you some,” she replies readily, keeping right next to you as you walk.
  8250. “Now. I’m leaving.”
  8251. >You can feel the heat from your racing heart spread throughout your body.
  8252.  
  8253. >You’re done.
  8254. >Game over.
  8255. >You’ve ruined everything.
  8256. >You let her win.
  8257. >Yes, you!
  8258. >You let her win!
  8259. >You moron! You worthless, garbage thing!
  8260. >”Yeah right. You’re not going anywhere.”
  8261. >Your leg’s protests become too loud, and you throw yourself against the wall, using it for support.
  8262. “I’m leaving.”
  8263. >”Like I said, no you’re not.”
  8264. “I have things...I need to…”
  8265. >You idiot.
  8266. >Stop resting! Move your ass!
  8267. >You begin to move again, keeping careful of your right leg, and hobble over to the door.
  8268. “Clothes now! I need to go! I need to stop her!”
  8269. >The nurse comes to you, grabbing you with quite a bit of strength, and pulls you away from the wall.
  8270. >”Come on, cowboy. Pull yourself together. Look at you, man. You’re a mess right now.”
  8271. >You were a mess before. This? This is nothing! You can take on the world!
  8272. >She lifts her foot and dangles it next to your knee.
  8273. “Don’t you da--”
  8274. >She smacks the side of it with her toes.
  8275. >You shout and fall forward, putting all your weight against the surprisingly sturdy woman.
  8276.  
  8277. >”Yeah, and I’m half your size,” she grunts.
  8278. >The nurse begins to walk, ushering you back to your bed.
  8279. >”I don’t know what woman you need to stop from doing what, but I can guarantee I’m stronger than her and I just ruined your day. We’re not even counting all the big guys out there that are going to try to stop a naked patient from running around the wing, or the police officers that are going to want to know how a John Doe ended up in your condition.”
  8280. >You reach the edge of the bed now.
  8281. >She grabs your arms and pulls them forward, forcing you to lean against it.
  8282. >”There you go. Now breathe,” she soothes while rubbing your back. “Just breathe, big guy. You’re safe in here, alright? You don’t need to do anything, so just rest for now and as soon as we get this whole identity thing squared away, you can leave. We couldn’t find any ID on you when you got here, so we assumed the old guy that carried you in ran off with it.”
  8283. >Of course he did.
  8284. >You’re beginning to piece that night together.
  8285. >He must have ignored your demands and watched your fight with Midnight.
  8286. >Yeah, must have.
  8287. >The nurse sighs and ruffles your hair.
  8288. >”Man, you’re like a big kid, aren’t you? You’re sure as stubborn as one.”
  8289. >She chuckles lightly and removes her hand from you.
  8290. >”Just a kid in a man’s body. A big, messed up body. You know, the doctors talk about you. They say they’ve never seen so much scarring on someone before. Even your organs are covered with it. How’s a guy end up like you, cowboy?”
  8291.  
  8292. >Rainbow Dash…
  8293. >Rarity…
  8294. >You need to save them.
  8295. >Who knows what Midnight is doing?
  8296. >You know full well what she’s capable of though, and that…
  8297. >If you’re being honest, it scares you to death.
  8298. >You haven’t felt so totally overpowered and helpless since that night.
  8299. >Just remembering how she threw you around so effortlessly makes you shiver.
  8300. >”Cold? Come on, let’s get you back in bed.”
  8301. “I have to go,” you say again. ”Do you really want to know how I got like this?”
  8302. >You turn your head and look at the woman in the eye.
  8303. >”Does the story include how you started healing so fast?”
  8304. “There’s a very dangerous person out there. I don’t think words can properly describe it all. The closest I can get is...she’s going to do unspeakable things to this world and everybody on it. She’s not going to stop until everything you love is gone.”
  8305. >”That sounds like a problem for the police.”
  8306. “The police would be helpless. It has to be me. It has to be. Do you understand that? I won’t let it be anyone else.”
  8307. >”Why not? She obviously messed you up pretty bad. Let someone else do the fighting. You’re allowed to take a break.”
  8308. “No. It’s...I,” you trail off and move your gaze to the bed, prefering to look at the blankness of the blanket than anything else.
  8309. >”You,” she repeats.
  8310. “I’m not a good person,” you admit. “I did something horrible--something I can never take back. The only way I can make it up to them,” your voice trails off as you search for the words. “It starts with stopping her, so you go ahead and do what you need to do. Call your guards, call your cops, call everybody, but I am leaving this building and I am finishing my mission even if it kills me. And I promise, I can do a lot of damage before I die.”
  8311.  
  8312. >The nurse smiles after your speech and grabs you underneath your shoulders.
  8313. >She hoists you up and onto the bed, keeping a threatening hand hovering far too close to your knee the whole time.
  8314. >”Well, I guess you fit the bill. I had my suspicions. What sensible girl doesn’t?”
  8315. “What are you going on about?”
  8316. >The nurse begins to reapply the wires and cords to your body.
  8317. >You bat her hands away, but she grabs your knee and gives it the lightest squeeze.
  8318. >Even that is enough to stop you in your tracks.
  8319. >Your body locks up before she can put out any more force.
  8320. >Satisfied with your “cooperation”, she continues with her work.
  8321. >”When the priestess told me there’d be a man coming by that she needed to see, she gave me just the weirdest description. She said you’d be dedicated to your work. Does that really narrow it down though? I mean, I’ve had patients trying to go back to their firm after heart attacks. That’s dedication, ain’t it?”
  8322. >When she’s done, she grabs the white blanket from the corner of the bed and brings it up to her chest.
  8323. >In a grand motion, she unfurls it over you, letting the warm cover fall and drape on top of your form.
  8324. >”But you? Man, you’re something else. Yeah, you fit the bill.”
  8325. “Who the fuck is the priestess?”
  8326. >”Let’s just say she can be very convincing.”
  8327. >The nurse, satisfied with her work, steps back from your bed.
  8328. >”Alright, cowboy, give me a name. I can bullshit the paperwork for you. I’m going to need a few days, but hell, so do you.”
  8329. >She pats your knee gently. You wince in response.
  8330.  
  8331. >”Three days and I’ll have you out, alright? But you have to cooperate with me here.”
  8332. >You examine her face.
  8333. >She doesn’t look like she’s lying to you.
  8334. >Three days though?
  8335. >That puts you at Tuesday. Way too close to the mark.
  8336. >You could probably speed up the process by giving her your real information, but then of course, the Anonymous in public records is an escaped serial killer long overdo for some mental health treatment.
  8337. >You can only imagine how many cops would flood this building looking for someone like that.
  8338. >This nurse is giving you an out.
  8339. >If it means you can make it to Midnight…
  8340. >You can work with Tuesday.
  8341. “Alright,” you relent.
  8342. >She smiles.
  8343. >You need a name to give her though.
  8344. >One does come to mind.
  8345. “My name is Incognito.”
  8346.  
  8347. >”Well, Incognito, my name is Innominate. Now, let me go get the doctor. I’ll tell him you’re awake and he’ll probably spend an hour or two interrogating you on a few minorly important matters. While he’s doing that, I’ll start on your papers.”
  8348. “Hey,” you say before she leaves.
  8349. >The nurse turns around in time to catch you pulling your blanket back up, covering your damaged body.
  8350. “Why are you doing this?”
  8351. >”I told you, didn’t I?”
  8352. “You mentioned a priestess.”
  8353. >”Look, when I first started out, I was having a rough time. A real rough time. Learning about death is one thing, but seeing it? Being apart of it? That hit me in places I didn’t think it could.”
  8354. >You know a few things about that.
  8355. >”I was starting to question my place in the world, if you know what I mean.”
  8356. >She sighs wistfully and begins to leave.
  8357. >”But then I met her. She showed me things, cowboy--things I never thought I would see. And then I started to believe.”
  8358. “In?”
  8359. >”In her. She’s a little odd at first, but she means well, and she really is out to do good in the world. She saved me, and if I can help her save others, I will. Now do me a favor in return for doing your paperwork. Go visit the church when the doctor is done with you, alright? It’s on the second floor just down the left wing.”
  8360.  
  8361. >Great.
  8362. >Yeah, you wonder who this bitch is.
  8363. >She’s from high school. Fucking everybody is these days.
  8364. >Who have you met in the past few days, Proditor aside, that you didn’t go to high school with?
  8365. >Like...two people tops.
  8366. >Innominate exits the room, leaving you alone.
  8367. >Fuck, was she a teacher or something?
  8368. >You only remember two female teachers by name.
  8369. >No, she was probably a student.
  8370. >You remember quite a few of them, too.
  8371. >What are the odds she’s one of those priests all about destroying the world to remake it in God’s image?
  8372. >Pretty high, probably.
  8373. >Well, whatever her motives are, she’s giving you a helping hand.
  8374. >Maybe you owe it to her to see what the big idea is.
  8375. >And hey, if she turns out to be some minion of the night, or just plain ole’ tries to get in your way, well, murder is always an option.
  8376. >Damn, but what if she’s human?
  8377. >You could still maim her. That’s in fair play.
  8378.  
  8379. >After a few minutes, your room is intruded by an new face.
  8380. >This time, it’s an older man, sitting probably at around his forties.
  8381. >This one wears a long white coat that hands around his shins, covering most of his pale blue scrubs.
  8382. >”Good morning, John Doe. Or should I call you Incognito now? Although considering both their meanings, I guess it doesn’t much matter which, does it?”
  8383. “You can skip the bedside manner.”
  8384. >His wrinkled face is graced by a slight smile as he saunters up to your bed.
  8385. >The man takes a quick look at the machines you’re hooked up to and nods.
  8386. >“The nurse tells me you tried to run away.”
  8387. “I don’t like hospitals.”
  8388. >”And yet you stayed.”
  8389. “What can I say? She’s convincing.”
  8390. >He laughs.
  8391. >”That she is. You know, she got me to quit smoking. Fourth best decision I’ve ever made.”
  8392. “A doctor smoking?”
  8393. >”We all have our vices.”
  8394. “Hear, hear.”
  8395. >He searches the room for a second and finds a stiff looking black chair beside the wall.
  8396. >He grabs it and drags it over next to your bed, then sits himself down.
  8397. >”I’m glad you don’t like bedside manner. I can drop a few of the formalities now. I’m Doctor Horse, by the way.”
  8398. “You’re kidding.”
  8399. >”Says the man named after a browser function.”
  8400. >You briefly want to break his jaw for insulting your father’s name, but decide against it.
  8401.  
  8402. >The good doctor reaches over and pat your chest.
  8403. >”That’s quite the ticker you’ve got in there, you know. Why, when you came in, we figured you were as good as dead. Almost every bone in your body was broken, there was more fluid in your lungs than we knew what to do with, and your brain was about as bruised as a banana. You actually did end up dying on us a few times--eleven, I believe--but your heart just woke back up every time.”
  8404. >He leans back in the chair and begins to rub his chin.
  8405. >”And then the oddest thing happens. Right about the time we hook you up to a new IV, you just start healing. I watched the scars actively form on your organs and piece together shards of bone that made up different limbs. Have you ever heard of something so amazing?”
  8406. “Didn’t it happen to that one guy from Mumbai, too?”
  8407. >”I don’t recall a case like that.”
  8408. “That’s weird, I totally remember it.”
  8409. >”Well, either way, you’re by far the most interesting patient I’ve ever had. Incognito, I would very much like to run a few tests on you, if you’d be so kind as to volunteer.”
  8410. “What, are you a doctor or a mad doctor?”
  8411. >”Did you know that humans are among the fastest healers on Earth? Our cells are programmed to divide at a vastly accelerated rate when they sense a wound. That’s why we scar so easily. The cells, in their mad rush to divide, make mistakes in the DNA and come out all malformed. It’s not perfect, not when you compare it to, say, a starfish which can seamlessly replicate entire limbs. It does allow us to sustain incredible amounts of damage relative to other species though. The same wound that may kill a dog from shock alone will trouble a human for months until it heals with a pretty scar.”
  8412.  
  8413. >He grabs the blanket from your neck and pulls it down just slightly, revealing the marks on your chest.
  8414. >”This all? It’s a miracle in every sense of the word. It’s all the beauty of humanity’s imperfect healing combined with the finesse of another. Whatever is going on in your cells could be the answer to a lot of pain in the world. You could save millions, Incognito.”
  8415. “Gee, you’re kind of laying this all out on me right now. I mean, I just woke up and now you’re asking me to sell myself to science.”
  8416. >”I suppose I am. Sorry about that.”
  8417. >Horse gets up and walks to the end of your bed.
  8418. >He grabs a clipboard hung on the front and brings it up to his face.
  8419. >”According to this, you’re on track healing just fine. The worst of your wounds are all but gone, save for the mess going on in your knee. Let’s see. Your spine is doing well and your liver is back up to eighty percent functionality. What really wor--”
  8420. “Wait, what about my spine?”
  8421. >”Oh, it was broken. Pretty nasty, too. Our recent scans have shown it’s almost completely healed now though, so you should only be experiencing some numbness and the occasional unresponsiveness from your legs. As I was saying, what worries me is your heart.”
  8422. “What wrong with my heart?”
  8423. >”Well, to be frank, I’ve seen healthier ones in men four times your senior. I don’t know what you’ve been doing your whole life, but some serious stress has been eating away at it. Coupling that with the fact that it’s basically just one big scar at this point, I wouldn’t want you performing any strenuous activities. The poor thing might not have the strength to keep going if you push it too hard.”
  8424. “Are you shitting me, doc?”
  8425. >”I wish I was. It looks like rapid cell regeneration can only heal so much, huh?”
  8426. >Great. That’s just fucking…
  8427. >You sigh and turn your head to look out the window.
  8428. “Whatever,” you mutter.
  8429.  
  8430. >”Don’t you worry, though. Grass General is the best place in the nation for a heart patient to be at. Our cardiovascular health program is the peerless in the country.”
  8431. “Sure it is.”
  8432. >”That’s right. If you follow our advice, you could live to see forty. Maybe even fifty.”
  8433. >Your chest begins to tighten up again.
  8434. >You rub your arm too, trying to massage out some of that stiffness.
  8435. “Forty, huh? That’s your best estimate?”
  8436. >”Son, I don’t think you quite grasp the damage you’ve done to yourself.”
  8437. “Don’t call me that,” you snap suddenly, locking eyes with Horse.
  8438. >The color drains from his face and he steps away from you.
  8439. >The man coughs and composes himself briefly before nodding.
  8440. >”Right, sorry. Anyway, yes. That’s my best estimate. I don’t know what kind of life you’ve been living, but even considering how fast you seem to be able to heal, you’re running your body into the ground. There’s only so much it can take before it just gives out. Your heart appears to be the first one showing this, and sadly that happens to be the most important part.”
  8441. >He flips a page on your clipboard and scans the writing before setting it back down on your bed.
  8442. >”Look, you’ve got a lot to take in right now. I’m going to leave you with your thoughts for a while, but I’ll be back tonight to check up on you. While I’m gone, please consider my previous request. And also, maybe consider getting in line for a transplant.”
  8443. >Horse gives you a slight smile before leaving the room.
  8444. >It’s suddenly very quiet in here.
  8445.  
  8446. >It’s almost nice.
  8447. >Sure, having a bit of time to collect your thoughts away from all the monsters and the perils of the world is good every once in a while.
  8448. >However, this is not that particular time.
  8449. >You’re with your thoughts now because you’re doing nothing.
  8450. >You’re stuck here in this hospital, wasting away while Midnight runs around the city.
  8451. >And hell, you’re not too fond of these thoughts right now anyway.
  8452. >Midnight, Discord, Proditor, Rarity, Rainbow Dash, Sunset, Flash,Pinkie, this priestess, and everybody you’ve been forced to deal with in the last few days make themselves known in your mind.
  8453. >Why? Why all at once?
  8454. >You just wanted to do one simple goddamn thing and now you’ve got everybody and their mother throwing their problems onto your plate.
  8455. >This priestess, whoever she is, may have some answers for you.
  8456. >She’d fucking better.
  8457. >You flip through a few channels on the television, becoming instantly bored with every one you land on.
  8458. >Movies, television shows, soap operas, and the like do nothing for you.
  8459. >One thing you change to is actually is actually that stupid Sedan Helsing movie you watched with Rarity and Midnight all those nights ago.
  8460. “Rarity…”
  8461. >She’s such a fragile girl.
  8462. >You hope she’s alright.
  8463. >It would suck if she got too damaged before you could get your hands on her.
  8464.  
  8465. >You decide to leave that particular movie on, allowing the monsters on screen to stir your blood up and help restore your fury.
  8466. >It works a little too well though, and one of the nurses ends up coming in to check on your blood pressure.
  8467. >No scary movies for you, she says.
  8468. >Sedan Helsing isn’t even scary, bitch.
  8469. >Thanks to that, you’re forced to sit in silence until Innominate eventually comes back.
  8470. >She’s changed into her civilian clothes now--a tight pair of jeans and a cropped jacket as green as an oak leaf.
  8471. >”Hey there, cowboy.”
  8472. >When she enters your room, you notice she’s carrying a dull looking shopping bag with a large red cross on it.
  8473. >”I can’t stay long; my lunch is almost up. Did the doc come in to see you?”
  8474. “Yeah.”
  8475. >”Man, I bet he talked your ear off, didn’t he?”
  8476. “He had a few things to say. Nothing too long, though. I don’t think it was even ten minutes, actually.”
  8477. >”Really now? That’d be a first. Lucky you, I guess.”
  8478. >She walks up to your bed and tosses the plastic bag onto your lap.
  8479. >”Anyway, here are some clothes.”
  8480. >You reach down and grab the bag, pulling the plastic open and examining the contents.
  8481. >It’s a set of green scrubs, the same as hers.
  8482. >”You’re not really allowed to wear regular clothes as a patient, so you’re going to have to settle for these for now.”
  8483. “I’ll deal. Thanks.”
  8484.  
  8485. >Innominate smirks and places her hands on her hips.
  8486. >”Guess I know why the doc didn’t spend too long with you. He must have caught on that you’re not a talker.”
  8487. >You raise an eyebrow at her statement.
  8488. “What else am I supposed to say?”
  8489. >”Am I wrong?”
  8490. “Not entirely.”
  8491. >The nurse takes a look at her watch and sighs.
  8492. >”Crap. Well, duty calls. Later, cowboy.”
  8493. “See you.”
  8494. >With a wave, she rushes out.
  8495. >Pretty much the second she’s gone, you throw the blanket off yourself and change into the new clothes.
  8496. >You peel the wires off yourself, removing your body from the hold of the machines, and climb out of bed.
  8497. >There’s a pair of socks in the bag too, which you pull onto your feet before sliding off the mattress.
  8498. >When your weight falls on your knee, you almost buckle, but shift over to your left leg just in time.
  8499. “This is going to take some getting used to,” you grumble and begin to limp out of the room.
  8500. >As you near the door, you pass by the bathroom.
  8501. >How long has it been since you pissed?
  8502. >Well, the urge suddenly strikes you, and you manage to drag yourself in.
  8503.  
  8504. >The scrubs carry some shocking utility with them. It is beyond easy to pull the waistband out of the way and let loose your yellow river.
  8505. >You finish the stream and shake your soldier a few times, ensuring it’s fully drained before you go to wash your hands.
  8506. >As you arrive, you spot a mirror on the wall and can’t help but look.
  8507. >Your breath catches as you see your face for the first time since you woke up.
  8508. >Your hair has grown out of control, along with a generous amount of stubble that coats your face.
  8509. >That’s nothing, though. A quick shave solves that.
  8510. >What draws your attention are the marks.
  8511. >There’s a huge white line running along your right cheekbone, connecting with your eye and tracing along the bone.
  8512. >The scar travels over your eye, ending inside of your eyebrow.
  8513. >There’s another one, smaller, right on top of your nose.
  8514. >Other small marks are shown on your forehead and chin, and there’s even three white scars that cut across your lips, likely where your teeth had been knocked out.
  8515. >Speaking of…
  8516. >You open your mouth to inspect.
  8517. >Everything is there now, thankfully.
  8518. >You vaguely remember seeing a few of your pearly whites falling out of your mouth along with that river of blood.
  8519. >The fairy tears fixed that issue, though.
  8520. >You huff and pull the mirror aside, searching the medicine cabinet behind it for a razor.
  8521. >There’s nothing in there.
  8522. >You’re not surprised. It makes sense they wouldn’t leave a razor around for you to use in unhealthy ways.
  8523. >You’re just going to have to request to shave like some kind of incompetent child is all.
  8524. “I fucking hate hospitals.”
  8525.  
  8526. >With all of your personal business done, you hobble out of the bathroom, out of your room, and into the hallway.
  8527. >It must be your lucky day, because just on the other side of the hall, you see a row of wheelchairs ready for use.
  8528. >Oh so slowly, you make your way over, careful of your right leg with every step.
  8529. >One of the nurses on the floor--a young man this time--offers to give you a hand over.
  8530. >You refuse at first, but he’s rather insistent and makes it obvious that your cooperation is not an option.
  8531. >Upstart little punk.
  8532. >You “accept” his gracious “offer” and allow him to help you over.
  8533. >Now, you’re not one to use wheelchairs, but you also don’t want to be putting unnecessary stress on this damn leg.
  8534. >The sooner it heals, the better.
  8535. >The way things are going right now, you’re just going to have to load up on narcotics before you fight her again.
  8536. >Boy, that sounds like a really bad idea when you put it like that.
  8537. >You squeeze the chair into the elevator and, after noting which floor you’re on so you don’t get lost later, smash that mothafuckin’ two button.
  8538. >Smooth jazz fills the cube-like room as creaky metal wires move you between floors.
  8539. >Four, three, and finally two.
  8540. >Once properly wheeled out, you turn down the left wing.
  8541. >It’s pretty empty, thankfully.
  8542. >The few people you pass by react to your form in one of two ways: apathetic and concerned.
  8543. >”Oh, bless you,” says one woman who could pass for a grandmother.
  8544. >Uh huh.
  8545. >You smile and nod, but otherwise keep to yourself until you come upon the small church area.
  8546.  
  8547. >It’s a stained glass door nestled into a brown brick wall--jarringly different from the white paint of the rest of the hallway.
  8548. >Thankfully there’s a wheelchair button, so you press that in and, after the doors peel away, head on inside.
  8549. >The room is oddly calming. That is to say you know it should be.
  8550. >The atmosphere does nothing for you really. You’ve had a few too many nasty encounters in churches to be put at ease by the decorations.
  8551. >It’s a fairly large room. Wide enough and very long, though short compared to other churches you’ve seen.
  8552. >The windows that are usually found in stand-alone buildings here are simply paintings of Christ and all that noise.
  8553. >At the front, of course, stands an enormous cross with a life-sized Jesus nailed to it.
  8554. >Ah, you remember when a wood gnome pretended to be Jesus.
  8555. >That was kind of fucked up, actually.
  8556. >Anyway, the church here is empty, save for you and one other person.
  8557. >They’re at the end of the room, knelt down in front of ole’ Jesus.
  8558. >The woman--the priestess, you’re assuming from her clothes--hasn’t noticed you yet.
  8559. >With her head bowed, she continues her silent prayers.
  8560.  
  8561. >Her outfit is mostly conservative.
  8562. >It resembles a typical nun uniform, except it’s not a dress. The black skirt ends just below the knees and continues on with jeans a similar color.
  8563. >Her top is hidden by a long black jacket which you believe to be leather or some equally expensive material.
  8564. >Jeez, it’s even got spikes on it.
  8565. >There’s a black headdress atop her head, but it does nothing to contain her wild, fiery hair.
  8566. >Your jaw drops as you pull up the memory of everybody you’d met in high school.
  8567. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
  8568. >”Please refrain from using such language in the house of God,” she says calmly.
  8569. “Who the fuck let you become a priest?”
  8570. >She sits still for a few seconds, likely connecting the dots in her mind.
  8571. >Then, she turns around and lands her cerulean eyes on you.
  8572. >”Hello, Anon. It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”
  8573. “Sunset fucking Shimmer. Yeah, long time no see.”
  8574. >She’s not a vampire. Elsewise she wouldn’t be in a church.
  8575. >What are you then, you she-beast?
  8576. >”I’m sure you have plenty of questions.”
  8577. >Sunset stands and takes a few steps in your direction.
  8578. >You tense up, readying for a fight, but she stops about halfway and gestures to one of the pews lining either side of the room.
  8579. >”Come on, let’s talk.”
  8580. “Can we start with why everybody I’m trying to kill responds to your name drop with violence?”
  8581. >”Well,” she says while taking a seat, “Half of that answer probably starts with ‘who I’m trying to kill’.”
  8582. “Don’t get smart with me.”
  8583.  
  8584. >You wheel yourself up to her pew and hit the brakes.
  8585. “Sunset Shimmer.”
  8586. >”I’ve been hoping to talk to you for a while now.”
  8587. >She examines your face closely.
  8588. >Her expression shifts from ease to one of slight disturbance.
  8589. >”Is that all from her?”
  8590. “Answer my question first. What part do you have in all of this? Why does everybody want to know where you are? Why should I not pierce your heart right now?”
  8591. >”I hope you don’t mind if I start with the last question there. I’m a human, and we both know you don’t kill humans.”
  8592. “People keep saying that.”
  8593. >You peer into her eyes and try to find a tell.
  8594. >Is she lying?
  8595. >No way she’s human. Her of all people.
  8596. >Back in high school, you’d have sworn up and down she was a demon.
  8597. >”I’m right though, aren’t I? As long as I’m human, I have nothing to fear from you.”
  8598. >You can feel your fists clenching on their own.
  8599. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
  8600. >She ignores that statement, letting silence hang in the air.
  8601. “You still have two other questions,” you state shortly.
  8602. >She nods and slides down the pew, away from you.
  8603. >She gently pats the spot beside her.
  8604. “I’m not sitting down.”
  8605. >Wheelchair.
  8606. “In a pew.”
  8607.  
  8608. >”It’s only proper when in His house.”
  8609. “Well he,” you spit, adding venom to the word, “Can eat it. I’m not here for him, I’m here for you, apparently. Now I’m not going to ask you again, Sunset. I have been led around this city on half truths and whole lies, fighting everyone else’s battles while thinking they were all for my own. I’m real fucking sick of hearing partial stories to very specific questions. Tell me what I want to know.”
  8610. >The woman sighs and hangs her head.
  8611. >”I’m sorry. To answer your question, yes, I’m involved with this whole mess. I’m not with her though.”
  8612. “For some reason I doubt that.”
  8613. >”It’s true. A lot happened to me in high school. It was only three years after you left, but amazing things started to happen. I met people who changed my life and showed me who I really was. I’m not the same bully you used to know.”
  8614. “I didn’t ask for your life story.”
  8615. >”One of those girls was Twilight Sparkle.”
  8616. >Well now everybody fucking knows each other, don’t they?
  8617. “Right, and she was the nicest, most sweetest little gumdrop on Earth until her split personality decided to kill everybody. Am I on the right track?”
  8618. >Sunset seems almost offended by that.
  8619. >”She was the sweetest girl, yes. We were best friends. Twilight and I were closer than sisters. When I lost her that night, it hurt more than anything I’d ever felt before. Midnight killed my best friend and I’ll never forgive her for that.”
  8620. “Sounds familiar,” you mutter.
  8621. >Her righteous indignation fades.
  8622. >”Yeah, I guess you would know a few things about that. I’m sorry, Anon. I really am. Back then, I thought you’d just snapped. I didn’t figure out the truth until much later.”
  8623. “I don’t want your sorry. Keep going. How are you involved here?”
  8624. >”Well,” she continues, “Twilight and I were close enough that Midnight thought I may want in on her plan. When she told me what she wanted to do, I told her no. We had a falling out, and I’ve been spending every day trying to stop her since.”
  8625. “What’s her plan?”
  8626.  
  8627. >Sunset points to the statue up front.
  8628. “She wants to become God?”
  8629. >”She has an obsession. When she first appeared, she tried to merge two worlds together--ours and my home.”
  8630. “Excuse me, what?”
  8631. >”It’s a long story. We stopped her though. Everything was peaceful from then on until she came back. When she did, she stole the artifacts that connected us to that world. She used them to gain her power.”
  8632. “I guess that explains a few things.”
  8633. >”She destroyed our friendship and broke our connection to the other world in the process. Now she wants to connect us to another. She’s going to turn this Earth into Hell.”
  8634. “Like actual Hell?”
  8635. >”Actual Hell.”
  8636. >Pff, sure.
  8637. “That’s going to be tough considering it doesn’t exist.”
  8638. >”What do you mean?”
  8639. “Hell? Heaven? God and the devil? What the fuck, Sunset? Of course it’s fake.”
  8640. >Her eyes almost pop out of her head.
  8641. >”Are you kidding me? After everything you’ve seen, how can you deny it? You know the power a cross holds over vampires!”
  8642. “The same power a bullet holds over humans.”
  8643. >”How do you explain miracles?”
  8644. “Magic.”
  8645. >”And where’s magic come from?”
  8646. “I don’t know,” you scoff. “From the ether. It doesn’t matter where it comes from.”
  8647.  
  8648. >You lean back in your chair.
  8649. “How do I not believe in an all powerful, all loving God whose ultimate plan for the universe is true goodness?”
  8650. >She nods vigorously.
  8651. “I’ve seen monsters eat children whole. I’ve seen mothers, in the name of their god, sacrifice their babies. I’ve seen families burned alive. I’ve seen people I love torn to shreds by those I thought I could trust. Tell me, is all of that good? Is it steering towards something great?”
  8652. >”In ways that we can’t comprehend, yes. Good can’t exist without evil. If we want to appreciate happiness, we need to understand sorrow. I’m sure that’s what He’s doing.”
  8653. “Stow it. There is no God here, Sunset. And if there is, then he’s either powerless to stop this suffering or he’s evil and allows it to happen. Either way, it’s fucked.”
  8654. >”How many people have you saved?”
  8655. “I don’t count.”
  8656. >”I bet it’s more than you ever could. Imagine how many people are happy right now because you chose this path. Imagine if that night hadn’t happened. Where would they all be?”
  8657. “I don’t care.”
  8658. >”All pain leads to good. I know it’s hard to understand, but I’ve seen things too. I’ve been apart of it. When I was younger, I was a terrible person.”
  8659. “I know. You got on the lunch table and told the whole school with a megaphone you’d never date me because I was an ugly dweeb.”
  8660. >”Exactly! I even tried to enslave the whole school and invade another world with a child army!”
  8661. “...What?”
  8662. >”But I saw the light, Anon. I saw Him, and He showed me better ways. Now I help people do the same. Nothing good is good without coming from bad. Do you see what I mean?”
  8663. “A child army?”
  8664. >”Not the point here.”
  8665. “No, I think that’s pretty important.”
  8666.  
  8667. >Sunset waves her hands as if to erase the topic from the air.
  8668. >”Look, the important thing is that she wants to destroy this world and I want to stop her. I can’t do it on my own though. When she stole those artifacts I mentioned, I lost most of my powers. I’m barely connected to Him now and I can’t take her on alone. You though? Look how far you’ve come on your own determination. Can you imagine what we could do together?”
  8669. “Powers?”
  8670. >”Like I said, a lot happened to me in high school.”
  8671. “What kind of powers?”
  8672. >She rubs her chin for second.
  8673. >”I guess a good way to think of them would be as blessings. I don’t have much left in me though. It was all tied to those artifacts, so when they left, I only had what was stored inside of me already. There’s no recharging these.”
  8674. >What the fuck did you miss from high school?
  8675. >Apparently everything exciting happened after you got thrown into the asylum.
  8676. >Well god damn, maybe if you’d seen it all you’d be a little more trusting.
  8677. >As it stands though?
  8678. >You’ve put faith into Discord and Proditor--a monster of all things--and so far they’ve spit right in your face and put you in a wheelchair.
  8679. >Now you’re supposed to take Sunset fucking Shimmer’s word on good faith and assume that the fourth most vile woman you’ve ever met just magically changed her ways and is a good, all well-meaning christian girl with magical powers that she’s not going to make a fucking child army with?
  8680. >Yeah. Not happening.
  8681.  
  8682. “Sorry, but I work alone. If you want to be of any help, you can tell me everything there is to know about Midnight and what she wants to do. Tell me how I can stop her. I’ll take care of the rest. You can just hide here where statues and paintings can keep you all nice and safe.”
  8683. >”And let you run out into the world like that?”
  8684. >She points at your current seating arrangement.
  8685. >”Word traveled about the condition you were in when you got here. I can’t let that happen to you again, Anon. I won’t.”
  8686. “And what do you owe me?” you shout, leaning so close you almost fall out of your chair. “What connection do you think you have to me? You have no right demanding a place by my side!”
  8687. >”Are forgetting that your heart stopped eleven times on the table? Your soul almost passed through, but God saw fit to keep you on this Earth a little longer. Are you going to throw his blessing away or are you going to let me help you? I’m not some little girl, Anon. I can carry my own weight. I’m much more useful to you in a fight than from here.”
  8688. “I don’t want you anywhere near me when it matters,” you growl.
  8689. >”Why are you being so stubborn?”
  8690. >You take the brakes off and pull back from her.
  8691. >It takes a few seconds of playing around to get your bearings right on this thing, but you manage to turn the chair away from her and towards the door.
  8692. “Look, I’m not going to waste my breath arguing with you. When you see things my way, come to my room. You can tell me everything there.”
  8693. >”Anon, wait,” she calls out.
  8694. >The woman jumps up from her seat and runs over, grabbing onto your chair before you make it to the door.
  8695. >”I’m not done yet and neither are you.”
  8696. “Let go.”
  8697. >”We need this.”
  8698. “Let go, Sunset.”
  8699. >”You’re going to listen to me. I’m going to tell you everything you want to know and when you’re ready, the both of us are going to end it all. I have just as much invested in this as you, Anon. You’re not going to deny me.”
  8700.  
  8701. >You place your hands firmly on the arms of the wheelchair and push, rising out of the seat.
  8702. >A long groan escapes you as your weight crushes into your knee, but you bear with it and turn around.
  8703. >With your hands still on the chair, you grip it tightly and yank, pulling it free from her grasp.
  8704. “How dare you make that kind of demand of me? I haven’t seen you since fucking high school, at which point you apparently had a child army. How am I supposed to trust you with this?”
  8705. >”So you’ll trust my info but not my help?”
  8706. “I…”
  8707. >”Yeah, you didn’t think that one through, did you?”
  8708. >You growl and shove the chair out of the way.
  8709. >Marching forward, you get so close to Sunset that, when you look down at her, your noses practically touch.
  8710. “It’s off the table. Her, them, all of it. They’re mine. Do you understand me? Mine!”
  8711. >”I’m not asking for their lives. I’m demanding to help you keep yours.”
  8712. “I don’t need hel--”
  8713. >You cut your words off as a sharp pain runs through your chest and down your right arm.
  8714. >It forces you to shut your mouth and hunch over.
  8715. >Turning away from Sunset, you lean down on a pew and clutch your chest.
  8716. >”Anon, are you alright?”
  8717. >The woman rests her hands on your back.
  8718. “I’m fine,” you snap and pull away.
  8719. >”See? You’ve run your body so ragged that not even magic can help you heal anymore. You can’t keep pushing yourself, Anon. It’s going to cost you everything.”
  8720. “Shut up,” you whisper.
  8721. >”I know how hard you’ve worked for this. I would never try to take it away from you, but you have to understand what I have in it too. That thing killed my friend, she insulted my Lord, and now she wants to destroy my world. Let me help you, Anon. We want the same thing here.”
  8722. “Do we?”
  8723.  
  8724. >You look at her through the corner of your eye.
  8725. >”You’re referring to them.”
  8726. “I’m not so dumb I can’t piece together that puzzle. They were all in your little group too, weren’t they? Difference between them and Twilight is that they’re still alive. I fully intend to change that.”
  8727. >”I know that’s your current goal, and you wouldn’t be willing to forgive them either, would you?”
  8728. “Forgive them?!”
  8729. >Despite the pain, you stand up again, looming over her.
  8730. “Do you have any idea what I saw that night?! Do you have any idea what I did with these--with these hands?”
  8731. >You raise them up as if to strangle her, but keep your palms a safe distance away from her actual body.
  8732. “With these fucking hands! Can you even imagine what it’s like to wake up every morning feeling someone’s blood running down your arm, or to see their face every time you close your eyes?!”
  8733. >You step forward, and in response, Sunset retreats.
  8734. “Forgiveness is not an option!”
  8735. >The pain in your chest worsens.
  8736. >It overpowers your own anger and you have no other choice than to stumble back and search for your wheelchair.
  8737. >It’s a few feet away, so you hobble over and plop down inside it.
  8738. “It never was.”
  8739. >She sighs a long sigh and hangs her head.
  8740. >”I had a feeling you’d say something like that.”
  8741. “Then why’d you ask?”
  8742. >”I had to, didn’t I? They were my friends.”
  8743.  
  8744.  
  8745. ”Were?”
  8746. >”The girls I loved were kind and innocent. These are killers.”
  8747. >She looks at you again and points to the crucifix hanging around her neck.
  8748. >”And I owe it to Him to do what I can to right their wrongs. Besides, they’re going to die anyway, be it by your hand or hers. Still, having hope never hurts.”
  8749. “So she is planning on killing them.”
  8750. >”She has to. The last remnants of our magic lie in our friendship. Midnight thinks if she can somehow rekindle that bond, she can steal enough power from them to apart the barriers between this world and the next. That kind of drain would kill them, though. I tried to tell her that, but she…”
  8751. “She knew.”
  8752. >”And she didn’t care. Isn’t that awful?”
  8753. “It certainly sounds like her.”
  8754. >”Have you ever had somebody in your life that you thought you could trust absolutely, and then have them betray you?”
  8755. “You already know the answer to that.”
  8756. >”And you know how much it hurts then, don’t you?”
  8757. >You nod.
  8758. >”Anon, I need to do this in the same way that you need to finish your mission. I need to right their wrongs. It’s my world too, you know.”
  8759. >You look away from her and cover your face with your hand.
  8760. >She’s probably being genuine about it.
  8761. >But even so, you can’t let her in.
  8762. >It’s too much of a risk, isn’t it?
  8763. >Having her next to you--a woman you barely know at this point.
  8764. >That’s a good thing, though.
  8765. >You did know her once, and quite well.
  8766.  
  8767. >She was awful. Terrible. A real, honest to goodness bitch.
  8768. >Now? You’ve got this church and her stories to go off of.
  8769. >That, along with what you know from your own investigations so far.
  8770. >Midnight really does seem to hate her.
  8771. >Shouldn’t that be enough?
  8772. >No, it’s not.
  8773. >And yet, despite that, you find yourself still thinking about it.
  8774. >Why are you entertaining the idea?
  8775. >You’re at the end of your rope. That’s why.
  8776. >You can only push so far on your own.
  8777. >Your whole life since that day, you’ve fought every battle alone,
  8778. >It’s taken you up to this point.
  8779. >Now you’re sitting in a wheelchair, covered in more scars than you can count with a fucked leg, a barely functioning heart, and apparently a broken spine.
  8780. >How much farther can you really go like this?
  8781. >Far enough?
  8782. >Maybe, if you had proper rest and prep time.
  8783. >That’s not really an option though.
  8784. >This is happening and it’s happening soon.
  8785. >If you rush in in your current state, you’re going to fall apart before you can get to them.
  8786. >You can feel it even now.
  8787. >Your body is struggling to keep up this charade of a life.
  8788. >If you’re really as devoted to this cause as you say you are, don’t you owe it to them to take all the help you can get?
  8789. >But fuck, even if she’s different, how much so?
  8790. >What’s to stop her from putting a knife in you when Midnight is dead?
  8791. >You scratch her back, she stabs yours.
  8792. >It’s a valid worry.
  8793.  
  8794. >”Anon.”
  8795. “You’re asking a lot of me.”
  8796. >Sunset walks over to you and takes a knee.
  8797. >She reaches for your hands and clasps them between hers.
  8798. >She closes her eyes and bows her head while saying “I don’t expect you to be able to fully trust me after all these years, but you should have faith in Him, and know that as long as I wear His symbol, my intentions are nothing but pure.”
  8799. >Your eyes fall on the cross tied to her neck.
  8800. >It’s a meaningless trinket, but to her, it must be very special.
  8801. >If she’s really as changed as she appears to be, that statement holds a lot of power.
  8802. >Maybe…
  8803. >Maybe you just need to have a little faith in someone.
  8804. >Yeah, like you had faith in Proditor and Discord as they lied and connived behind your back.
  8805. >You laugh and shake your head.
  8806. >Wow, this is all so fucked up.
  8807. >”What’s funny?”
  8808. “Fine,” you reply. “I’ll let you tag along.”
  8809. >”Anon, I--”
  8810. >You cut her off.
  8811. “But you have to remember one thing.”
  8812. >”Yes?”
  8813. >Leaning down, you cup her chin with your finger and pull up, forcing her to look at you.
  8814. “They die. All of them. You understand that, don’t you? I don’t care what past you used to have with them; they have no future.”
  8815. >You can see the hurt in her eyes from your words.
  8816. >She sighs heavily and stands up, freeing herself from you.
  8817. >”I understand.”
  8818.  
  8819. >The ache in your chest has abated for now, giving you a chance to really catch your breath.
  8820. >You take that time to bid her goodbye and wheel yourself out.
  8821. “Come by my room later,” you say just before closing the door.
  8822. >As much as you’d like to keep talking, and oh boy, you really would just love to chat the whole day away with Sunset fucking Shimmer, you’d like even more to get some food in your stomach and get around the place.
  8823. >At the cafeteria, you grab yourself a chicken sandwich and some coffee.
  8824. >Actually, maybe caffeine isn’t the best thing for you right now, considering your heart.
  8825. >...
  8826. >What’s one cup going to do, huh?
  8827. >You find a nice seat in the corner of the room and set yourself up with your back to the wall.
  8828. >The foil over the sandwich is helpless against you as you tear it to shreds and dig into your meal.
  8829. >Wow, you had no idea how hungry you were until you bit into this thing.
  8830. >It’s cold, slimy, and tastes cheaper than rubber, but god damn if it isn’t the greatest thing in the world right now.
  8831. >Before you know it, half of it has been devoured and ends up a big ball of mush in your mouth which you wash down with a few gulps of Joe.
  8832. >While this goes on, you keep a cursory eye scanning the room.
  8833. >It’s filled with people. They all seem normal enough.
  8834. >From every glance you get on reflective surfaces, there are no vampires or wraiths around.
  8835. >If there were, that might be a serious issue.
  8836. >You don’t see any silver around here, so in the case of most monsters, you’re kind of helpless.
  8837. >If it were a vampire, you might be able to break a leg off your chair and use that as a stake, but that’s a big if considering the time restraints of that situation.
  8838.  
  8839. >You’re just happy it’s not an issue right now.
  8840. >No vampires, no werewolves, no goblins, no monsters, no nothing.
  8841. >Continuing on with your meal, you allow your mind to drift to other topics.
  8842. >Once more, it lands on your parents.
  8843. >More specifically, your conversation with them earlier.
  8844. >Or, not them so much as your feverish imaginings of them.
  8845. >What comes after your mission?
  8846. >You’d like there to be an “after”, but with how things are going…
  8847. >A quiet boat ride on a warm sea to an empty island may not be an option anymore.
  8848. >For so long, you’d just wanted to get away when all was said and done.
  8849. >As you near Thanksgiving, it’s becoming more and more difficult to imagine yourself continuing on much further.
  8850. >You rub your knee absentmindedly.
  8851. >Perhaps with Sunset on your side, your chances have improved enough.
  8852. >”You’re not even Anonymous anymore, are you?”
  8853. >His words ring in your ears.
  8854. >”What’s left of my son when his mission is over?”
  8855.  
  8856. >”Getting some lunch, cowboy?”
  8857. >Huh?
  8858. >You find Innominate standing in front of your table, holding a tray of food.
  8859. >”Mind if I join you?”
  8860. >When did she get here?
  8861. >You must have been too deep in your thoughts.
  8862. >You’re going to need to stop that. It’s a dangerous habit to make.
  8863. “Go ahead,” you answer, gesturing to your demolished food. “I won’t be here long though.”
  8864. >The nurse sits down across from you and grabs some napkins.
  8865. >”I see you’ve found the wheelchairs. What, couldn’t stick it out walking?”
  8866. “I seem to remember a girl half my size aggravating the wound. I didn’t want to make it worse.”
  8867. >She shrugs.
  8868. >”I needed to make a point.”
  8869. “You’re a very bad nurse, you know that?”
  8870. >”I’ve heard it once or twice. Everybody's a critic, right? I’m sure you’ve had a few people tell you you’re not the best at your job.”
  8871. “No, actually. I’ve had plenty of complaints about the job in general, though.”
  8872. >”Really? What do you do?”
  8873. “I guess you could call it pest control.”
  8874. >She takes a bite of her salad and smirks.
  8875. >As she continues chewing, you flick your eyes down at the napkin dispenser.
  8876. >In its chrome plating, you catch a fuzzy reflection of Innominate.
  8877. >Human.
  8878. >”So,” she says after swallowing, “You’re feeling better?”
  8879. “How do you mean?”
  8880.  
  8881. >She points your chair.
  8882. >”You made the effort to move around. Even if it’s just getting lunch, it shows a change in mood.”
  8883. “Well, I had things to do. Speaking of, I need to shave too. Think you can get me a razor?”
  8884. >She raises an eyebrow.
  8885. >”A razor?”
  8886. “What, do you think I’m going to open my wrists or something?”
  8887. >”No, not at all. I just like the stubble.”
  8888. >She takes another bite of her salad.
  8889. >”It adds texture. But whatever, yeah, I can get you a razor.”
  8890. “I’d appreciate it.”
  8891. >You start back up with your meal.
  8892. >The nurse continues idle conversation while you eat.
  8893. >Like you warned her, it doesn’t last long.
  8894. >Soon enough, your sandwich is gone and the coffee as well.
  8895. >”Hey, is coffee the best idea for you?”
  8896. “Deja vu.”
  8897. >You toss your shit into a nearby trash can and begin to roll off.
  8898. “I’ll see you later, I guess.”
  8899. >”You’ll see me at around four o’clock when I’m making my rounds. Be there, alright?”
  8900. “Sure,” you reply and leave.
  8901. >Now what do you do?
  8902. >Wait in your room, you suppose.
  8903. >Holy shit, you’re going to be bored out of your mind for the next few days.
  8904. >There are so many better things you could be doing with your time if you were out there, but you’re not.
  8905. >You’re stuck in this hospital waiting for paperwork, for Sunset, and for your body to recover.
  8906. >Time wasted.
  8907. >You’ll just have to make up for it all later. And boy, you’re damn sure going to make up for it.
  8908. >Get ready, Midnight.
  8909. >She wants Hell so bad? She can have it. You’ll be more than happy to send her there.
  8910.  
  8911. >You spend the next couple of hours sitting on your ass and feeling particularly worthless.
  8912. >At a few points, you turn your eye to the television to see what was up.
  8913. >Nothing overly important.
  8914. >It’s a lot of sitcoms, reality tv, and old movies that people used to care about.
  8915. >There’s the news too, but all that ever covers is the blanket of death falling over the region.
  8916. >Apparently people go missing and show up a few hours later dead--usually by exsanguination.
  8917. >You know right damn well what’s going on with that and watching it only makes your blood boil, so you opt to pay little mind to it.
  8918. >Actually, far more often than not, you find yourself imagining all the ways you’re going to enjoy ending that purple bitch’s unlife.
  8919. >There’s a rather long fantasy you end up having where she’s on her knees, begging you to stop, and you answer her by shoving a wooden stake down her throat.
  8920. >You’re not too proud about where the rest of that vision goes, but you’d be lying if you said it didn’t bring a smile to your face.
  8921. >Does that make you a bad person?
  8922. >Eh, fuck it.
  8923. >At around four, just like she said, Innominate returns.
  8924. >She does a few quick checks on you. You know, making sure your wounds are healing nicely.
  8925. >Apparently everything is on track for green except for your blood pressure.
  8926. >It’s “dangerously high and an incredible risk factor for your health,” according to her.
  8927. “Three days.”
  8928. >She sighs.
  8929. >”I’ll see what the doctor says.”
  8930. “Three days,” you repeat.
  8931. >”I’ll be persuasive. That’s the best I can offer you. I took an oath, you know.”
  8932.  
  8933. >She does, at the end of her little visit, produce a shaving kit for you.
  8934. “Thanks,” you mutter while climbing out of bed.
  8935. >The nurse rests a hand on your shoulder, keeping you still for a moment.
  8936. >”Hey, take it easy, alright?”
  8937. “Uh huh.”
  8938. >You wave her off and make way to the bathroom, making sure to shut the door behind you.
  8939. >Once in solitude, you get to work.
  8940. >Inch by inch, you rid your face of hair and bring your smooth skin back into proper view.
  8941. >The missing hair puts more attention on your scars, but that’s fine.
  8942. >You’d rather see those than risk giving a monster something to grab onto on your face.
  8943. >Although, to be fair, they could just grab onto the hair on your head.
  8944. >You’re not fucking shaving your head though.
  8945. >Fuck being bald.
  8946. >Anyway, you do head off to get some dinner.
  8947. >You can still feel the hunger twisting your stomach, but when you try to eat, a sense of nausea stops you from swallowing much more than a few bites of bread.
  8948. >It’s probably just you getting used to eating again. It’ll pass.
  8949. >Settling for some nutrition shake, you surrender and move back to your room to perform nightly maintenance.
  8950. >After the brushing of the teeth and the washing of the face, followed by a quick wipedown of the important spots and a little toilet duty, you make way back for the bed.
  8951. >You’d shower, but with all the moving you’ve been doing today, your knee just isn’t having it.
  8952. >Isn’t that pathetic?
  8953. >You’ve done almost nothing since you woke up and here you are phrasing it as “all this moving.”
  8954. >You weak thing.
  8955. >Dad would be so proud, wouldn’t he?
  8956. >Maybe you should ask a nurse to help clean you.
  8957. >You can only imagine the reaction you’d get out of that.
  8958. >Well, in anybody but Innominate.
  8959. >That woman is liable to take you up on your offer and play a game of connect the dots with your scars.
  8960.  
  8961. >You’ve caught her more than a few times eyeing your arms.
  8962. >Her and half the people in the cafeteria, that is.
  8963. >You look down at them as well.
  8964. >The origins of most of them are a mystery.
  8965. >You can tell from the shape of some where they came from. For example, the bullet wounds in your left forearm and bicep, or the bite marks on your right arm matching a goblin’s bite profile.
  8966. >Actually, yeah. You do remember that one. It got infected the same day.
  8967. >Fucking goblins.
  8968. >Then there’s the new scar running down your bicep. It’s not a bad souvenir from the fight. Hell, you’ll take a little scar in return for ending the changeling race.
  8969. >Small price to pay, right?
  8970. >Oh, and that snake looking one on your elbow is from a magma worm.
  8971. >They like to burrow.
  8972. >That wasn’t a fun fight.
  8973. >Ah, memories.
  8974.  
  8975. >A short while before visiting hours are to end, a certain priestess visits your room as well.
  8976. >Sunset makes herself at home, taking a spot right beside your bed and getting as close as she can to you.
  8977. >You skip the pleasantries and get right to business with her.
  8978. >Contrasting your earlier conversation--and to that end, every conversation you’ve had with anyone knowledgeable on the subject--she’s refreshingly open with you about everything.
  8979. >She tells you all about her history with the girls.
  8980. >The story begins about a year after you left, when the first “Twilight Sparkle” entered the world through some portal that was hidden in the school.
  8981. >Stacking what you know now against her tale, you’d say it was some gateway to a middle-world filled with high target ethereal monsters. Those fuckers can cause some real mayhem when they get loose.
  8982. >But hey, you’re not the narrator here, so fuck you.
  8983. >She continues talking about her evil plan to enslave the student body and invade the middle-world,
  8984. >Then she put on some crown from that world, one that belonged to the first Twilight, and the resident energy from that changed Sunset into a form reflecting her own inner demons.
  8985. “I hope you know how absurd all this sounds.”
  8986. >”With everything you’ve seen in your life?”
  8987. “I’ve seen people turn into monsters. I’ve never seen them turn back.”
  8988. >”Well, it wasn’t monstrous in the sense that you’ve come to know. Like I said, this is all coming from a different realm, so it’s nothing you’re really used to.”
  8989. “Yeah, I’m just not sure I buy it all.”
  8990. >”You don’t have to yet. Just listen,” she assures you, continuing on.
  8991. >After she got her ass handed to her by Twilight and her friends, she was offered friendship.
  8992. >You hang on that last piece of information.
  8993. >Rarity and Rainbow Dash offering someone friendship instead of bleeding them dry?
  8994. >It sounds almost alien.
  8995.  
  8996. >The fun doesn’t end there though. Oh no, then she gets into the beginning of her reformation, which happens to include a visit from three mystical sea creatures that feed on anger and hatred to increase their mind controlling powers.
  8997. >Sounds a lot like--
  8998. >”Sirens.”
  8999. “They have sirens over there too?”
  9000. >”They have everything.”
  9001. “Even--”
  9002. >”No, except for those. They don’t have those.”
  9003. “Very well.”
  9004. >And then after that whole shitstorm, she joined a band.
  9005. >Apparently Flash’s had fallen out and the school needed a new “hype beast,” as they called it.
  9006. >So after that, the Friendship Games started up.
  9007. >You remember those. Fun times even though Crystal Prep, the rival school, always beat you guys.
  9008. >That was when she met this world’s Twilight and when things really started to get out of hand.
  9009. >It was also the first appearance of Midnight, a woman who’s name leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
  9010. >They beat her much the same way they beat Sunset the first time--the power of friendship.
  9011. >Because friendship is just the most powerful on Earth, ain’t it?
  9012. >Yeah, it sure works for everybody. Except when it doesn’t.
  9013. >Which, you know, is most of the time.
  9014. >You’ve never seen a troll not crush somebody’s skull because they told it about their best friend.
  9015.  
  9016. >You’re not nearly as interested in that as she would hope.
  9017. >Instead, you focus more on Midnight.
  9018. >You prod Sunset, searching for any detail on Midnight she can give you.
  9019. >There’s not much to tell, though, considering the woman was only around for about five minutes.
  9020. >And you do use the term “woman” lightly.
  9021. “And that’s around the time you got your powers?”
  9022. >”Yeah, close to.”
  9023. “And, refresh my memory. You could read minds and she was basically god?”
  9024. >”She was like a god, not like God. There’s an enormous difference.”
  9025. “You only answered half the question there.”
  9026. >”It’s complicated. I used to be able to see memories, yes, but that wasn’t for long. As our magic grew stronger, our powers began to take new forms. That is, until Midnight came back and ruined that all.”
  9027. “So why the fuck do only you still have your powers?”
  9028. >”Because I’m from the world it all came from. When our artifacts were destroyed, the magic couldn’t stay inside the others. My body was already a proper vessel though.”
  9029. “Uh huh,” you mutter.
  9030. >You’re going to need time to digest all this.
  9031. >It’s fucking crazy.
  9032. >Like, you know crazy, and this is way up there.
  9033. >Magical girls and all that?
  9034. >High school drama like you’ve never heard of?
  9035. >Well, you suppose it’s fair. You never finished high school, so of course you’re not an authority on said drama. You missed almost a full year.
  9036. >Apparently the crazy year.
  9037.  
  9038. >Eventually, the clock strikes nine.
  9039. >Sunset realizes how much of your time she’s eaten up and apologizes.
  9040. >She scooches her seat back away from your bed and stands up.
  9041. >”I really should have been watching the clock. You need all the rest you can get to heal up.”
  9042. “Hey, don’t worry about it.”
  9043. >”I know my story wasn’t the most entertaining for you to hear.”
  9044. “I wasn’t hoping for entertainment. It was informative.”
  9045. >”That’s a relief then.”
  9046. >A relief.
  9047. >She was that worried you were bored?
  9048. >Sunset heads to the door.
  9049. >She stops short of it though and turns around, looking at you with the hints of light coming from the hallway illuminating her face in the otherwise darkness of your room.
  9050. >”By any chance, you’re not afraid of hospitals, are you?”
  9051. “Why do you ask?”
  9052. >”I didn’t know if you’d want someone to stay with you tonight. I used to be afraid of hospitals too, but when I ended up in one, I had my friends there for me. It wasn’t so bad after that.”
  9053. “Despite my sordid history with hospitals, no, I’m not afraid of them. You can leave.”
  9054. >She nods.
  9055. “But thank you for the offer, I guess,” you add quickly before shooing her out.
  9056. >You don’t need any good samaritans watching you sleep.
  9057. >That’s just creepy.
  9058. >Besides, she’d probably have something to say to you when you woke up, and it wouldn’t be anything you’d want to hear.
  9059. >As you contemplate these things, you end up yawning and decide that it really is best to be getting to sleep.
  9060. >Scooching down in your bed, you pull the blanket up to your neck and close your eyes.
  9061. >As awake as you felt before, the general aches you’ve been feeling all day seem to sap away all your might then, and you drift off quite quickly.
  9062.  
  9063. >It happens again.
  9064. >The same dream playing.
  9065. >The same road stretching out.
  9066. >The same girls waiting for the family.
  9067. >The same screams ringing into the night.
  9068. >The same morning shedding light on it all.
  9069. >The same monster killing his mother.
  9070.  
  9071. >You shoot up off the bed, screaming your lungs dry.
  9072. >Your hand is held out in front of you, holding nothing but air this time, but it holds that air for dear life.
  9073. >Your knuckles are white, and your palm is red with blood from your own nails digging into your flesh.
  9074. >It shakes uncontrollably, but you can’t feel it.
  9075. >Your whole right arm is numb.
  9076. >Your chest, though, that isn’t.
  9077. >It hurts like you just got hit with a hammer.
  9078. >You look down to examine it and see several sets of hands.
  9079. >Following the trails, you see nurses of all shapes and sizes struggling to push you down.
  9080. >Obliging them, you let the hospital employees ease your drenched form onto the bed.
  9081. >”Sir, please try to calm down,” one cries.
  9082. “Get off me,” you spit and shake them off.
  9083. >Suddenly, two doctors and a familiar face enter your room.
  9084. >”I need twenty CC’s of--”
  9085. “You don’t need shit,” you cut him off.
  9086. >The doc looks to one of the machines you’re hooked up to.
  9087. >His eyes widen when he sees the numbers.
  9088. >”Jesus, how are you still alive right now?”
  9089. “I had a bad dream. It happens sometimes, alright? Nothing to get all worked up about.”
  9090. >”Incognito,” whispers Horse as he approaches you.
  9091. >The other nurses that were holding you down back off.
  9092.  
  9093. >Horse eyes you curiously and brushes his fingers against your damp scrubs.
  9094. >”It’s been a dog’s age since I’ve seen blood pressure that high. Nurse, get me enalapril. We need to get this down stat.”
  9095. >The man touches your face gently and pads around it, moving down your neck and to your chest again.
  9096. >”How do you feel, Incognito?”
  9097. “Uncomfortable with all this touching. Like I said, I’m fine. You can stop now,” you groan.
  9098. >Your chest tightens up briefly, but thankfully the sensations begin to fade and you find yourself returning to normal.
  9099. >”What was the dream about?”
  9100. “None of your business.”
  9101. >”As your doctor, I’d say--”
  9102. “You’re not my doctor, you’re a doctor.”
  9103. >”Even so, this isn’t something I can ignore. Is there any stress in your life that might be causing this kind of reaction?”
  9104. “No,” you state and look the man in the eye. “I live a perfectly healthy, non stressful life behind a desk. When I was young, I had a bad encounter with spiders and occasionally I have bad dreams about it.”
  9105. >”That was some dream.”
  9106. “What can I say? I’m a loser. I don’t even do my job that well. One time, this guy was trying to use his vacation days and I forgot to log it in the system so he had to work while he was out of town.”
  9107. >”Wow, that’s actually really shitty.”
  9108. “Right? But anyway, the point is, there’s no extra stress in my life. It was just a bad dream.”
  9109. >Horse looks at your monitors curiously, then back to you.
  9110. >”I’ll be watching these. Stress or not, whatever is going on inside you is unhealthy. We’re going to set you up on some enalapril to get your blood pressure down and work from there.”
  9111. “Sure thing, doc.”
  9112.  
  9113. >"You're not still upset about him, are you?"
  9114. >Upset? You?
  9115. >Of course not!
  9116. >You're Rarity, star fashion designer!
  9117. >How could you be upset about something as trivial as not having any contact with your boyfriend for a week?
  9118. >You drop your head back and swallow the rest of your glass of wine.
  9119. >A smooth red, like everything else in your fridge.
  9120. >Twilight, the dear, reaches across your counter and holds your hand.
  9121. >"Rarity, come on. You've had bad relationships before and you never let them get to you like this."
  9122. "I know, darling, but it's just that," your voice trails off.
  9123. >Your lavender friend looks at you expectantly.
  9124. >It's what?
  9125. >It's that you finally opened yourself to the man you thought was...
  9126. "Five days, Twilight. What did I do that was so wrong?"
  9127. >"Nothing! You didn't do anything wrong. If anything, he was probably scared. He knew how much love you could spare and he couldn't handle that. What a coward."
  9128. "He is no coward," you snap back.
  9129. >Shocked at your own tone, you quickly cover your mouth.
  9130. "Oh my. I'm sorry, darling."
  9131. >Now look at you. Yelling at your friend.
  9132. >Maybe he was scared of you.
  9133. >Oh, what is wrong with you?
  9134. >You hang your head and twirl the empty glass in your fingers.
  9135.  
  9136. >"Rare, I have an idea. Why don't you come with me back to Canterlot?"
  9137. "What? What's in Canterlot?"
  9138. >Her grip on your hand tightens slightly.
  9139. >When you look up, there's the slightest grin on her face, but as soon as she sees your eyes it turns back into a gentle, caring smile.
  9140. >"I guess you could say I'm getting the band back together. Just for a few nights, you know? A family reunion."
  9141. "You mean with Applejack and Sunset?"
  9142. >"With everybody. I thought it'd be fun, but maybe it will help you get your mind off him too."
  9143. >Get your mind off Anon.
  9144. >That doesn't sound so bad, you suppose.
  9145. >He has been haunting your thoughts, but it's not bad!
  9146. >His voice, his laugh, his smile.
  9147. >Oh, how warm that smile felt.
  9148. >Sometimes you'd feel like a gentler man had never been born. Then someone else would get near you and you'd see a sudden shift in his demeanor.
  9149. >There was a fire in his eyes--a deep, smoldering blaze that put up a shield between you and anyone else.
  9150. >That firmness made you feel so safe, despite your knowledge that nothing in this world short of a well aimed stake or a little sun could get you.
  9151. >"Rarity?"
  9152. "Huh?"
  9153. >Blast! Lost in thought again.
  9154. >Maybe it would be the best for you to get away from this for a while.
  9155. >Free your mind.
  9156.  
  9157. >You sigh and give her a weak smile.
  9158. "Very well, darling. A few nights in Canterlot might do me some good. When were you thinking?"
  9159. >"Tonight," she answers quickly.
  9160. "I can work with that."
  9161. >Well, you'd been meaning to get back in touch with the girls anyway.
  9162. >Of course you won't be able to go out during the day.
  9163. >You don't drink nearly enough blood--and none human, for that matter--to build any sort of immunity, so it's the night life for you.
  9164. >Twilight should be able to manage that though.
  9165. >She does like to plan.
  9166. >Twilight let's go of you and digs into her pocket.
  9167. >She produces a phone shortly and taps around on it.
  9168. >Seconds later, your own buzzes beside you.
  9169. >"That's my address. I assume you don't have a place, so just come by."
  9170. "Oh, I couldn't impose on you like that."
  9171. >"Impose? Rarity, it's been years since I've seen you! Having a sleepover wouldn't be an imposition, it'd be fun!"
  9172. "You mean that, darling?"
  9173. >Your purple friend nods fervently, shaking her glasses slightly.
  9174. "Well, if you insist. I'll pack my things here and head out."
  9175. >"Cool. I should be there before you, but if I'm not just call me."
  9176. "I take it you're off, then?"
  9177. >"Places to be."
  9178. "I understand. I'll see tonight though, won't I?"
  9179. >"Of course!"
  9180. >Twilight reaches out over the table and pulls you into a hug.
  9181. >You practically sink into her embrace and sigh contentedly before she releases you.
  9182.  
  9183. >"I really did miss you, Rare."
  9184. "As have I, darling. Now, you best be off if you want to finish those errands quickly."
  9185. >After another few drawn out goodbyes, Twlight speeds off out of your room.
  9186. >As for you, you open your suitcases and begin to load up with everything you'd brought.
  9187. >It was so nice of her to stop by.
  9188. >Being cut off from...well, you know all of that business.
  9189. >Twilight just showed up and began comforting you.
  9190. >She always knows just how to cheer you up.
  9191. >Remembering all the good times you had together does bring a sense of regret to you though.
  9192. >You can't remember why you all stopped hanging out together.
  9193. >It was around the time all of you lost your crystals though.
  9194. >Oh well. Don't dwell on the past!
  9195. >You have her now, and her friendship--all of their friendship is all you need.
  9196. >Well, one call from him wouldn't hurt either.
  9197. >Stop it, Rarity!
  9198. >Don't think about him.
  9199. >Anon and his perfect lips and chisled jaw and firm chest and...just don't think about it.
  9200. >It's about to be a girl's night!
  9201. >You finish the packing and heft the heavy bags over your shoulders.
  9202. >With haste, you hurry down the stairs and make it out to your car.
  9203. "Canterlot, here I come," you shout as you climb into the seat. "Rarity is coming home."
  9204.  
  9205. >The drive is significantly longer than you remember it.
  9206. >It takes about five hours in all, and by the end, your derriere is simply aching.
  9207. >You probably could have run the distance in only a few minutes, but that would mean leaving your car and belongings behind and, well, that's simply not an option.
  9208. >No makeup?
  9209. >Not to mention the designer items!
  9210. >Besides, altjough you're obviously safe, with all those disappearing people turning up dead, you don't really want to be out on...
  9211. >Foot...
  9212. >No, there's no way.
  9213. >Your foot slips off the gas pedal as you pull up to Twilight's old house from high school.
  9214. >He would never have let that happen.
  9215. >Brake, park, off.
  9216. >No, your Anon is strong. He'd would never let himself be overpowered by a few lowly thugs.
  9217. >Perish the thought!
  9218. >You notice that there are no other cars around and figure you really did make it before she did.
  9219. >As per the request, you pull your phone out and ring Twilight to let her know you're here.
  9220.  
  9221. >She picks up and assures you she is home as well.
  9222. >In just another second she pops out the front door and waves to you.
  9223. "Ah, there you are. Goodbye then, darling," you say and hang up.
  9224. >"What took you so long?"
  9225. "Traffic, darling. It was a killer."
  9226. >The two of you hug when you get to the door.
  9227. "Is your father out with the car, then?"
  9228. >"No. He, uh, he's not with us anymore."
  9229. >You gasp.
  9230. "Oh dear, I'm so sorry to hear that. What happened?"
  9231. >"I ate him," she replies and tightens her hug.
  9232. "What was that?"
  9233. >"I said I ate with him. His heart had been bad for years, and one night during dinner, it just gave up."
  9234. "That's terrible."
  9235. >"It is what it is," she sighs and let's go of you, then steps back and offers the house.
  9236. >You nod and pass her by, filled with memories as you enter her living room.
  9237. "Oh, the games we'd play in here."
  9238. >"We were just crazy kids back then, weren't we?"
  9239. "And now look how far we've come."
  9240. >"I know, right? Ms. Rarity, the world famous designer! You finally reached your dream!"
  9241. >You laugh.
  9242. "Yes, I suppose so. By the way, I don't think you've mentioned what you do for work. What secret science lab do you run nowadays?"
  9243. >Twilight shakes her head and gestures to the couch.
  9244. >"A drink?"
  9245. "I'd love one."
  9246. >When she goes to the kitchen just a room over, she speaks up to answer your question.
  9247. >"I don't do much in the way of science these days. If you can believe it, I'm actually a bit of a party planner."
  9248. "What?" you shout with incredulity.
  9249.  
  9250. >"Right? Crazy."
  9251. "Oh dear, I never would have pegged you for the party type."
  9252. >"Me neither, but I'm actually pretty good. I sure leave the guests dead. Actually, I was hoping you'd stay in town long enough to come to my party on Thanksgiving. All the other girls will be there."
  9253. >Thanksgiving?
  9254. >But you're supposed to be with him that night...
  9255. >"Come on, Rare," pleads your friend as she reenters the room holding two glasses of...something.
  9256. >By the smell, it's cheap.
  9257. >"It'll be to die for."
  9258.  
  9259. "I'll have to think about it, darling. I do have some loose plans for that night."
  9260. >"With him?"
  9261. "Do I detect a hint of jealousy?"
  9262. >"No, not at all. It's stupid though that he found a girl as amazing as you and he's just ignoring you though."
  9263. "And if you were in his shoes?"
  9264. >Twilight tilts her glasses down and peers into your eyes.
  9265. >"Baby, we'd be seeing other worlds."
  9266. >You burst into laughter, almost dropping the wine.
  9267. "How romantic. Dear, have you been in the bottle already?"
  9268. >"I may have had a sip," she says right before taking one.
  9269. "Well, be careful with this talk of other worlds. If Sunset catches wind, she may get excited."
  9270. >The woman chuckles.
  9271. >"Oh, I don't think Sunset is much to worry about.
  9272. "I don't know. She did beat you once."
  9273. >"She beat Midnight once. And Midnight is gone now, remember? It's just me, myself, and I up here now," she adds while tapping her head.
  9274. "I suppose you're right."
  9275. >You take a sip yourself.
  9276. >Oh wow, it doesn't just smell cheap.
  9277. "So," you start, setting down your glass on a nearby table and pushing it away from yourself, "What's first on your little agenda? When do we meet with the others?"
  9278. >"Well everybody should be getting in by tomorrow. We'll move on from there, but I was thinking tonight could be me and you. You need to get your mind off that jerk anyway."
  9279. "He's not a jerk. He's kind and sweet and gentle and smart and funny and--"
  9280. >"And a stand-up."
  9281. "He's probably just overly busy with work. He's a sales representative, you know."
  9282. >"Uh huh. And you believe that?"
  9283. "I wish you wouldn't be so cruel, darling. If you knew him like I do, you'd be sure."
  9284. >"Alright, enough about boyfriends! Let's talk about something more fun!"
  9285.  
  9286. "More fun? Well let's hear it, party planner. What's fun?"
  9287. >"Wet t-shirt contests?"
  9288. "How crass."
  9289. >"People sire like them though. Personally I prefer a little bit of exploration myself."
  9290. "Oh, I read about that once. It's called spelunking, right?"
  9291. >"Well, that's one kind."
  9292. "What did you have in mind?"
  9293. >She takes another swig of her drink and sets that down on the table too.
  9294. >"Can you imagine how Columbus must have felt finding a whole new world to explore?"
  9295. "Didn't he die soon after?"
  9296. >"Semantics."
  9297. >Twilight reaches out to the table and grabs the black remote.
  9298. >She aims it at the old looking television and turns it on.
  9299. >Goodness, you remember that being top of the line only ten years ago.
  9300. >It's amazing how time passes, isn't it?
  9301. >"A movie? I bet you're still into those sappy dramas."
  9302. "I am not!"
  9303. >She cocks an eyebrow and pulls up Webflicks.
  9304. "Well, alright, some. What are our options?"
  9305. >"The Sorority of the Wandering Trousers?"
  9306. "Seen it."
  9307. >"The Journal?"
  9308. "Seen it a million times."
  9309. >"Psychotic, Idiotic Love?"
  9310. "Is that the one with Ryan Gooseling?"
  9311. >"I think?"
  9312. >You squeal and wave your hands at her.
  9313. "Yes, that one will do."
  9314.  
  9315. >Twilight hits OK and runs back into the kitchen while you properly settle yourself into the couch.
  9316. >She returns a few minutes later with a bowl of popcorn that's hot, buttery, and ready for devouring.
  9317. >She sits herself down beside you.
  9318. >Thanks to the indentations on the cushions, you both sort of fall into each other.
  9319. >It's rather comfortable, so you leave it as is and watch the movie in peace.
  9320. >While watching, you can't help but think back to the night when all of you sat down and had that viewing of Sedan Helsing.
  9321. >Oh, you wish her and Anon could have spent more time together.
  9322. >They're such good people. You're sure they'd get along swimmingly.
  9323. >Then you wouldn't need to split time between them either. They could share you, just how you and all your friends would share each other back in high school.
  9324. >Simpler times, those were.
  9325. >The movie draws to a close.
  9326. >By then, you realize that Twilight has since fallen asleep.
  9327. >Her steady breathing hadn't changed for a while, but you didn't connect that to the sudden increase of weight against you until you saw her eyes closed.
  9328. "Dear, do wake up now. The movie is over."
  9329. >You shake her gently, to no avail.
  9330. "Come now, darling. You musn't sleep on the couch."
  9331. >Still nothing.
  9332. >You sigh and look around for anything to help.
  9333. >Behind you, on the back of the couch, is a small fleece blanket that looks about the same color as her hair.
  9334. >You grab her and shift so that the both of you end up spread out long ways on the couch.
  9335. >Twilight nuzzles against you as you pull that blanket down and drape it over you two.
  9336. "Sweet dreams," you utter, met with a responding smile.
  9337. >Ah, just like the old days.