Matilda’s eyes snap open, and the girls sits upright, holding her chest. For a second it had felt as though her heart was pounding. It never beat before, though, why start now? Still, that chill had been a direct result of the voice she’d heard, calling her name. Had it been her shifter companion, up in the middle of the night? Upon turning toward said lover, Matilda sees that Valerie is not in bed, so she gets out from under the covers, her bitty bare feet padding across the floor slowly. “Val? Babe? You up?” Traveling into the kitchen, she finds nothing, no one. “Okay… maybe she went for a walk in the field-“
An ear splitting rumble shakes the house walls as a flash of lightning cracks the sky open above. Matilda’s hands fly over her ears and she shrieks, falling into a minuscule ball in the middle of the hallway. The boom subsides for but a moment, only to be replaced with a second flash and a louder explosion of earth-rattling sound, sending Matilda into even more hysterics. After about the fourth of fifth strike of lightning, the young vampire realizes she still hasn’t seen or heard Valerie. If she’s outside, she needs help, and there’s only one other person on this planet to do so. Taking a deep breath, she collects herself and stands. Braving the shaking and the booming, she throws open the door and steps outside.
The thunder quiets the instant the door is opened, and what she sees out there is momentarily breath-taking. The bolts of lightning are still coming down around the house, but they move at the slowest pace imaginable, leaving her free to gape at every single second of its presence. She walks into the fields outside, weaving between the bright white arcs of jagged electricity, almost like trees with how still they were. In fact, nothing at all was moving as far as she could tell, and that was probably what made him easy to spot.
A sound catches in her throat as she sees him, Mordecai, sitting atop his gravestone. Her father is smiling at her, more brightly than any single one of these bolts, and she runs to him, crying as they embrace. She wished more than anything she could form a smile back. “You’re here, you’re actually here! …Aren’t you?” The young one does a quick look around at the frozen storm, then back to the old Vampyrum. He chuckles, taking his hat off and placing it atop her head.
“I am really here, little one. Although, here is not where you think it is, I’m afraid.” He puts a hand against her back and she can actually feel her father again. She holds back more fresh tears if for nothing more than to hear how he plans on explaining this one to her. “You’re confused. This is… a dream, I suppose. Or a vision. I never knew what they were when I had them.”
“Dreams? Visions? Of what?” He only smiles at her, and yet all the same, she somehow gets it. “It’s… this is the future, isn’t it?”
“It’s somewhere’s future. Unless you stop it.” Mordecai folds his arms, looking at the lightning and sniffling a bit. “Our people, and others like us, have had these sights since the beginning of our bloodlines. We made many theories. For some reason the most popular one seemed to be that the Devil gave them to us so we could survive disasters of a catastrophic level, because we were his strongest link to this world.”
“So this is… this vision is prelude to a world-ending disaster of some kind?” Matilda asked, looking a bit more wide-eyed at the lightning. It seemed less beautiful now, hearing that it could cause such destruction.
“Ehhh, more like, world-shifting disaster,” Mordecai interjects with a little shrug. Matilda gives him a look, and he sighs. “You have the option to stay here. With Valerie, here on Avdain, and no such destruction would come to you.” He takes his hand off of her back and stands up, walking toward one of the lightning bolts. “Just know that this storm, it is coming… and sadly, you’re the only one that can stop her. So you’re also the only one who can choose to.”
“Oh great,” Matilda scoffs, getting up off the gravestone and walking after her dad. “So is that why you came? Present me with some big opportunity to save the world and get back to being me? I remember what I said, you know.” Mordecai stops, turning to her, so she continues. “I said I wasn’t going to carry this around and mope myself to death like teenage Matilda. I just… I’ve been waiting for the right time.”
“I know you have, bug.” Mordecai gives her another heartwarming smile, reaching out and booping her new nose with his pointer finger. His smile, however, dissipates noticeably and is replaced with not a frown, but an all the same grim look. “…I’m dead, honey. I know it hurts to hear, but it’s the truth. I’m not really here, I can’t possibly be… but that doesn’t make this any less real. I can see you, from somewhere so far away, you wouldn’t believe it existed. I didn’t come here on my own, child… you brought me here to warn you. You’ve been waiting, and now this? …This is the time. Are you going to stand and face it?”
Taking a deep breath, she hesitates. She can stay here, with the one last person that matters to her in this world, and be safe forever from further misfortune. Or she can go back, return to Hellifyno and, somehow, stop a giant lightning storm from killing people she’d be a villain not to help. Finally, she takes a last step toward her father, holding out her right hand, the real one. “Show me.”
Taking her pale little digits with his own, Mordecai touches one of the bolts and quite suddenly, they are above the storm, impossibly high in the air. Her stomach does a little flip and her grip tightens with haste, but he is calm throughout the event. Below them, the planet is tormented with puncturing lightning strikes, breaking molten holes in the crust and slowly imploding the entire body outward. “This isn’t really happening, of course,” he says, not taking his eyes off of Matilda, while she watches it happen. “Avdain is safe. Valerie is safe. The people back home are not safe. This is what will befall them, if she reaches them before you do.” The planet is torn apart, pieces exploding outward while others simply burn and melt, until nothing remains but the thundercloud, dark and looming. She looks back up at him, and his eyes still reflect that inferno of death despite its subsiding. “I didn’t need to watch it like you did… I’ve seen it enough times to know what it looks like.”
It’s like the pain of the planet is in her now, her heart heavy with guilt, all while she hadn’t even refused the call for certain yet. “Y… you keep saying ‘her,’ and ‘she’… You’re not just being cute with your words, are you?” He doesn’t answer again, he just looks at her in that knowing way, and she nods to herself. “It’s a person… and I have to kill them. I have to do it… again.”
“You don’t.” Mordecai replies. “I already told you, your fight is the one you show up for. If it isn’t this one, stay safe for another few centuries until the next one comes along. The world doesn’t have to be your problem.”
“It already is, though, isn’t it? You made it your responsibility for years, so whether it’s just a family thing, or it’s the universe’s most… fucked up shift change… it falls on me now. I gotta carry it, or people are going to die. One or billions, that’s my choice. I guess I’m making it.”
“Hey. I almost burned that very same world to the ground, you know. Twice.” Smirking, he lets go of her hand abruptly, taking her face in both of his hands. His thumb rubs a tear from her soft cheek, and he leans in, planting one last kiss over her forehead. “There’s a darkness in both of us, and it will always be there. But you, my love… you were always better at being responsible for that, too.” They share a laugh, but she can feel the end of this reunion coming like a slow sunset, and it burns her to her core. “No matter what happens… I’ve never been more proud of you. Now, why don’t you go save the world?” With that he lets go of her face, and she barely has time to reach out for him before she plummets back toward the storm, as it swallows her whole and a fresh crackle of lightning rips through the middle of them both.
She sits upright in bed for the second time, the rattle of thunder echoing in her ears as she clutches her blanket close to her chest. Her heart had definitely thumped that time.
“Val.” There’s no sound at first, then a little shift in her girlfriend’s breathing. “Valerie.” Now there’s a tired little “Hnngh?” in return, and Matilda rolls to the side, circling the shifter with her arms and legs, nipping at her ear. “Wake up, woman. I need your help.” After that she gets out of bed, making sure to make as much noise and movement as possible to rouse Valerie.
“I’m up. I am up.” Valerie says, rubbing her eyes and sitting on her edge of the bed, curling her toes against the floor. She’s certainly been getting more decent sleep since she and Matilda had finally been reunited. Glancing over her shoulder, she sees Matilda rummaging through the bedside drawer, tossing out rolled socks and undergarments. “What are you looking for over there? More weed? Sorry but I put the rest in a jar and moved it to the back porch, babe, it was really starting to piss my nose off…” The shifter trails off, seeing Mat crawl back over to her with the walkie talkie Dax had given them for supply runs and, if need be… off-world trips. “Um… Mati, are we… are we out of something in the fridge?”
“Sorry, Val. It’s for the other thing.” Taking Valerie’s hand, Matilda puts the walkie into her palm before squeezing gently, never breaking eye contact. “Call Dax. Tell him we need a ride back home. Yes, I said we, don’t start,” she says, squeezing Valerie’s hand again when seems about to interject. “I will explain on the way, but just… they need me, Val… and I need you.”
Biting on her lip to avoid interrupting, Valerie gives a heavy sigh. Just when she was getting used to being safe and happy, slightly bored notwithstanding, little Mati goes and pulls the ‘I need you’ puppy dog eyes card. “Damn you, vile woman,” she sneers, but can’t help but give her a smile before lifting the walkie to her face. “Hey HalfMan. It’s SafeHaven. We, uh… we need a lift.”
After a moment the reply came through. “One of these days I’m not going to respond until you call me by my actual handle, you ass.” The girls share a quiet giggle just then. “I’ll be in that stretch of nowhere within the next three days. Sit tight.”
“See you then, MoonDog,” Valerie says into the walkie, and there is only a hint of “for the last time, it’s SkyDo-” before Valerie switches the radio off. They smile to one another, and the shifter leans in, resting her head against the vampire’s. “You sure about this?”
“Not one bit…” Matilda replies, looking deep into those beautiful, algae-green eyes as she takes a deep breath, submitting to her calling completely. “…That’s how I know I have to do it”.