She wandered again, her body tugged among the universe like a marionette. Exhaustion had long begun setting in her bones and rattling her consciousness. The liminal space carved between realities propelled her down, down, down. She landed, a fog stuffed with nightmare visions of monsters and magic clouding her brain. Yet, another notion sliced through the thoughts tumbling. Writhing through her mind like snakes. She wondered if the last time was approaching.
Emilia’s Journal: I am tired. So utterly spent. Did I land in Erica’s world again for the…third time now? I can’t keep track of time anymore. This feels like a test no one can win. Write down everything that happens? Collect objects for this “Higher Power” entity? Meanwhile, I — someone who hadn’t left their house in years — have been sent to worlds with magic lacing the bones of the earth and giant creatures who want to consume everything in its path. The last time I was here, Erica was almost eaten alive by that grotesque beast emanating from her stuffed octopus. Now, I lay hidden on the side of the house again. Gary Slaughter, that ghastly man who sends children to possible death, talks to Erica’s mentor, Jessica. How can she speak so openly with a man whose morals are utterly compromised by his dedication to an “order” or existence? Or maybe I don’t understand. I don’t understand when Jessica talks about children being eaten by monsters and her duty to make the surviving kids into warriors. Their values align somewhat, but there’s a sense of…sinister intentions lurking around when they talk in hushed tones and unspoken codes. Is there conflict within this “House of Slaughter”? Could betrayal be at hand? Betrayal…I’ve been thinking about betrayal recently. Why? I can’t say. I feel like a monster is slowly consuming me too.
Aaron and the woman in white approached the drunk woman and the master monster slayer. They debated Erica’s fate, some with anger in their voices and some taking a neary passive stance. Emilia listened to grown adults discussing which children are selected to eradicate the beasts plaguing the land. They spoke of which children survive and the old ways of the selection process. She gleaned that this House of Slaughter truly lived up to its name. Monsters and initiates were forced to bond in symbiosis or be killed. Slaughtered.
Emilia’s Journal: Erica arrives safely, just as these adults seem to be ready to slaughter one another! Erica hugs Gary and Jessica. Their embrace makes me remember my parent’s embrace and how desperately lonely I am here. If only I could find Aimée again. The last time we were here, their presence comforted me. I was not alone in this amalgam of realities. I need to find that object and get out of here before these people try to initiate me into this horrifying place.
She followed the group inside the house, her footsteps like a creeping shadow along the ground. Gary Slaughter created a tattoo for Erica since she passed her initiation ritual. Emilia’s emotions overwhelmed her again as she watched the tattoo ink seeping into the small child while Gary spoke of more monster hunting, gaining a mask with teeth emblazoned onto black cloth, and forcing Erica to undergo a rite that would allow her to keep seeing monsters in adulthood. They wanted her to be a hunter. Erica would become Erica Slaughter. She would be one of the greatest monster hunters in the Order of St. George.
Emilia’s Journal: Erica is different. They tell her she has traits that make her…lack empathy. The order relies on recruiting children with these traits, and Erica’s conglomerate characteristics have not been seen by anyone in the Order for a long time. How can an adult tell a child she is a monster? “Only a monster can kill monsters”, I heard, as Erica vehemently denied the words spilling out of this leaders’ mouth. Isn’t Erica more than a monster, though? She has a dragon tattoo now. Erica isn’t a monster. She’s a dragon. She’s a dragon who will someday protect her treasure: Children who monsters want to kill.
An object shimmered next to Emilia. She peered at the totem, visible only as if it was shining through a prism of light. Carved from stone, obsidian black coloring rippled from the dragon totem.
Emilia: I found the item here for the Higher Power! But…wait…Aimée…she already found one when I was here…the last time.
Her head pounded as understanding built up like bricks inside her skull. There wasn’t merely one object per world. There were multiple objects. Lies had infiltrated her malleable sense of comprehension. To correct the cognitive dissonance she faced, Emilia had to find the entity. She closed her eyes until the universe transported her back into the empty space of the universe. The Higher Power towered above her, but Emilia’s timidity had vanished. The confrontation was inevitable. Words of dismay and hurt at betrayal poured out from her once weak voice.
Emilia: You’ve manipulated me! You betrayed me from the moment you sent me here! Why are you doing this? What have I done to deserve this torture?
Higher Being: I notice your anger. I do not take pleasure in being the one that ignited it, nor is it something I planned to make happen. It was not all lies, even if you might suspect otherwise now.
Emilia: Not all lies? How am I supposed to believe anything you say now?
Higher Being: I did not lie when I explained to you the objective and significance of your task. What I said about the poor being who chased you and who I am, or was, it was all true. But you are not mistaken either. Although I do regret it, I did point you in a wrong and pointless direction that would have led to nothing at all.
The truth is, when you fell onto that world, I sensed the soul of the world was there. Something overcame me, unlike anything I have felt in more time than even I can remember. I think…I think I was scared. Scared for me, scared for what little is left of the people I once belonged with. I am not sure I was ready to put an end to our existence.
Emilia: I…I understand being scared. But I’m scared too. I’ve been scared of everything, the known and the unknown, for years. I thought this was a chance to change myself, but now…it doesn’t matter anyway, right? What’s the point of all this if life is going to end? I’m terrified.
Higher Being: I did not take into account that even something like me, an old, frail being forgotten by time and space itself, would be afraid of something so mundane as that. I tricked you for enough time so that I could come up with a better plan. But it was a useless attempt.
I can’t do that anymore. There’s no more time. Now that we have moved the world’s soul, they’ll know where to find us. I suppose it is somewhat funny I was not able to move past that fear in thousands of years…I know I wronged you, but…will you remember me? I lost my body. I lost my world. The only thing I have left is the little parts of me I managed to maintain over time. Will you remember that? That I tried to do good?
Emilia: I guess I understand. Trying to do good for other people is a blessing and a curse I know well.
Higher Being: Well, it’s time now…everything seems to be a matter of time. Goodbye.
With hands that were not exactly hands, or anything too distinguishable for the human eye, they held the object and flew around it in the most delicate of manners. The delicacy was not only a sign of carefulness but of sadness and fear. With this touch, the object shone, and just some of the light transported outside, mixing with the ancient being. It was consuming itself and everything it ever knew. A blaze of light illuminated the space that had been dark for so long, and for a split second, Emilia felt satisfaction coming from it. It dissipated quickly as everything does, and the journey she and who knows how many others were put into was finally over.
Emilia: The universe contains so much more than any story ever theorized. I want my home to be more than a self-isolating cell: I want to live life out there….wherever “there” takes me.
Colors like the aurora borealis transmogrified into dark swatches of black. Magic infused itself into the air, lightning slicing through the crimson land where creatures and beings of Arthurian legends locked themselves in battle. The woman screamed when an undead army of skeletal figures charged at a man clothed in blue. Lancelot, voices had whispered, bore a weapon that appeared forged from the streaks of lightning blasting the earth. Two King Arthurs battled, but Lancelot’s loyalties were divided.
Emilia: Is that…Lancelot? King Arthur? MERLIN?! Has this reality been shattered?
With no time to write, Emilia watched the reincarnated figures of lore fight with death, oozing through their bones. Lancelot defeated them, his agile body nimbly evading blows and dealing fatalities to the victims standing in his way. His foes were defeated nearly before Arthur, Merlin, and Galahad gained a chance to retreat from the losing war.
Emilia’s Journal: I write now after watching Lancelot slay hundreds of his enemies swiftly. I don’t know why there are Arthurian characters around me, but they are here, and they are viscerally real. Lancelot bows now to…Lady Guenivere! She reveals herself, electric blue flames composing her body as Lancelot pledges his allegiance to her. I can’t see her face, and I have no idea what threat she poses to —
The journal disappeared when she was composing her thoughts. The Higher Being required an object — a talisman of sorts — from this world, but not that location. She moved through the swirling cauldron of unrealities again. Thrust from the unbalanced darkness, she landed inside a castle. The Otherworld washed upon her in blinding technicolor.
Emilia’s Journal: Was that a mistake? Was I meant to witness that battle? I’ve landed in a place this older woman calls “The Grail Castle.” The sprawling architecture gives me ample room to shelter myself in the shadows and listen. An elderly woman, Bridgette, seems to take charge of the group. They speak in thick accents, but I hear her refer to the awkward-looking man as her grandson, Duncan, and his girlfriend (possibly?), the huntress-appearing woman named Rose. We are in the Otherworld, from what I can deduce, yet parts of England are nebulously intertwined with the realm here. Rose keeps begging to visit her parents in Bath, yet they speak of dragons and untenable security outside the castle. If I could check in on my parents, I would in a heartbeat.
Bridgette and Duncan converse about memories and lies. Manipulated memories hold Duncan’s mind in a state of distress. Bridgette yearned for him to understand how she tried to protect Duncan in his youth. Raising him as an innocent child, freeing him from the vice of monster hunting and succeeding her legacy, drove her to secrecy and lies. Family, Emilia understands, is haunted by the burdens of regret and wishes.
Emilia’s Journal: Bridgette finally agreed to leave the Grail Castle and journey to Bath for Rose’s sake. I snuck in the trunk of their car. Around me, I hear screeching whispers and feel otherworldly magic floating through the wind.
The crew of monster slayers and world-travelers stopped for respite. Upon them, an evil descended, bearing its teeth and sneering. A medusa, its head writhed with snakes, flicking their tongues out and rearing back to strike.
Emilia: What is that thing? I need to find this world’s object now!
And there, standing upright on the very edge of the rocks, a golden chalice sparkled. Though not the grail of legend, the item served its purpose. She did not hesitate before sprinting away from the lumbering giant in front of her and snatching up the glittering cup. The universe released its breath, blowing her away into another otherworld.
Martin’s eyes opened. He was back where he had fallen asleep, in the abandoned city. Stretching, he grabbed his notebook.
Martin’s journal: Alright, I’m back. Thought the idea was every time the sleep grabbed me, I was brought somewhere else. But maybe not. Maybe I’m reaching the end of this giant path that I’ve been strung along, and all this cosmic energy is winding down. Maybe there’s something in this world that I still need to find, still need to explore. But this has all been so chaotic that maybe it’s just trying to throw me for a loop again by doing something that I don’t expect.
Glancing up to the sky, he squinted. There was some sort of plane above him, and it was dropping what appeared to be giant mechanical cats, silhouetted against the sky in black and yellow.
Martin’s journal: I guess I know where I should head next if I really am supposed to keep track of all this stuff.
Yawning, he started to jog towards where the cats were landing. A few minutes later, he arrived. Spotting the drop point from around the corner, he pulled out the journal and continued.
Martin’s journal: The kids are back. Looks like they’re alright, which is good to see. I was worried about them. But now they’re facing off against some cats that I saw drop from the sky, a huge spider thing made out of glass… and a man in a red spacesuit. They’re talking about something now… seems like the man wants to stop the kids from doing something.
Martin saw something that shocked him. Dropping his journal, he scrambled to pick it back up and open it up to the right page.
Martin’s journal: OK… a giant frog just showed up. A golden one with a green tongue. Not sure how that happened. This world is… weird. But the frog attacked the guy in red! Wait, he grabbed a ladder, but the frog’s jumping after him! And… it’s got him!
Suddenly, the world was hit by a shockwave as a giant red being appeared out of thin air a few blocks away, slamming down onto the ground. Martin was knocked back, and he struggled to stand up before he was hit by another shock wave, knocking him to the ground as he blacked out.
The world isn’t fair. Justice is more like a fairy tale than anything resembling reality, and with an unfair world comes rage, a lot of it. We tend to see rage as this horrible feeling, which, to be honest, isn’t the case. Which doesn’t mean it’s a beautiful thing or something like that. It just means that anger and rage are a lot more complex and more transformative than we might think. These are some of the things we can see in Maw.
Maw is a new horror mini-series written by Jude Ellison S. Doyle, art by A. L. Keplan, Colors by Fabian Mascolo and Federica Mascolo, and letters by Cardinal Rae. It tells the story of Marion, who is dragged into a female retreat by her sister Mandy, trying to give her a new perspective and some empowerment, things she seemingly can only get from a drink. But after Marion is the victim of a horrible assault, things take a turn and awakening something in Marion that starts a violent transformation.
The first thing that caught my eye in this comic was the way it’s colored. Fabian Mascolo (with the assistance of Federica Mascolo) uses colors in a way that really enhances the story. One example of this is how Mandy’s redshirt really contrasts with the rest of the color palette, while Marion’s black outfit makes her less noticeable, even with a bright background. This is such a great way to make the reader familiar with the characters without tons of boring exposition. There are a lot more moments where colors are used to strengthen the atmosphere and tone of a scene. I will always appreciate this in a comic.
The art itself is also pretty amazing. Kaplan’s use of shadows, facial expressions, and body language does a really great job of telling the story, making the readers feel the emotions permeating the scene. There is a flashback that is extremely charged with emotion. But due to the nature of the scene, feeling them without being there could be a challenge if it wasn’t for Kaplan’s fantastic job.
All that being said, if I had to choose a favorite thing about this comic, it would be the way it explores the themes of injustice, violence, and rage. This comic doesn’t hold any punches, it’s pretty raw and will make you feel extremely mad at the world, and I think that’s good. We should be mad at the world when looking at the right reasons. Thinking that there isn’t any more violence against women anymore is either naivety or voluntary denial of the facts. The way the system continues to run over the many women that have been victims of violence is just terrifying. Maw takes these problems and puts them right in your face, making you really think about it. There are some moments where Doyle’s dialogue will make your blood boil. I’m thankful for that.
Maw #1 is an outstanding introduction to what looks to be a shocking and important story. The creative team uses everything the medium of comics can give you and uses it to create a comic that will make you see through the effects of rage and the ways of power. I truly believe this is the start of one of the most important series in comics right now.
She opened her eyes, exhaustion weighing on her fluttering heart. Time was relative. She had no idea how long it had been since before, but knew these journeys were transformative both physically and cosmically. Waiting to land in another world always spiked her adrenaline in the black unknown. This time was different, though. Running from a force intent on capturing her had taken its toll. She remembered flying, erratic and desperate to escape the light being. A space, spanning the lengths of the universe, yet full of nothing, beckoned her. Stars danced, dizzying and all-consuming. Then, a voice spoke.
I am the one that took you, and the rest, out of your homeworld. I wish there were more reasons behind my acting that I could explain to appease you, but that’s not the case. I was desperate. I shall start from the beginning so you can at least maybe understand.
When I pulled you out, it was not the first time you traveled. It wasn’t the first time for any of you. Every time you go to sleep, a piece of your mind leaves your body. Everything you have ever dreamed of was real for someone else. The nicest dream you had, the most utterly terrifying nightmare is just other worlds your mind was attracted to. What I did was merely bring your body with it to serve a purpose. That’s also why your memory was fragmented at the start, because of all the unusual heavyweight.
But the reason I did all this was that I needed help. The beings that chased you here, they’re threatening to end it all. They may not realize it, but they’re leading everything into extinction. You see, trillions of years ago, their civilization was going to disappear rather sooner than later, so they retreated into themselves, learned to control the journeys their minds went in to escape their reality. We achieved what we set ourselves to do, but we never stopped. At some point, I realized we were changing. Deep inside ourselves, we were different. Our minds were lost in the infinite universes with nothing to come back to, and so, we recessed into something that we never meant to become. I retreated here, into this limbo detached from any world, to remain forever. Alone, but sane. Now, my people are unrecognizable. If they still think, it’s in a way that nobody else can understand, and their behavior is simply erratic. There is no helping them anymore.
They feed off the places they inhabit through the objects you’ve been finding. I wanted to do something before, but if I ever go out, my mind could simply never return. Using you was the only way to stop this, and even then, communicating has been hard. They’re far too sensitive to the ways of the universe now and able to feel any alteration in it. Even when you travel. Even right now that I brought you here. Now that you know this, you have to focus. You have to find the world they once belonged to and bring me the object so that I may destroy it, and them, once and for all. What I have placed on your shoulders might be a burden, but I fear it’s a necessary one.
Nothing more and nothing less needed to be spoken. She nodded firmly before entering the magic embrace of another world.
She tumbled, her hair caught in the grassy knoll in the forest. There, she saw her familiars. Jo and the witch of Haresden, Orla, repaired a cairn to appease Mamo’s restless spirit. The woman wrote in her journal. Documenting her travels for the Higher Being now equated to saving her world from ruin.
Emilia’s Journal: The world is so much bigger than anyone could ever fathom. I’m grateful to again visit Orla and Jo’s universe, where magic seeps from the whispering leaves of the forest to roots buried in hardened soil. Orla and Jo build the cairn, and Jo asks Orla to teach her magic. Jo wants to wield this power. She is drawn to magic and the secrets it contains, and now, I feel a similar pull. If magic settles in the right hands, it can change the world.
Much to Jo’s surprise, she realized Orla had already shared a magic conduit. The necklace hanging around Jo’s neck — once a gift from Mamo to Orla — was a gift from Orla to Jo. A pedant yields power. A pendant funnels power from its users: the power to share, to give, and to accept the responsibility of this power.
Emilia’s Journal: I am transported as Orla and Jo bike around town. My own body feels untethered from time and reality at this point. It’s becoming harder to discern reality from a dream, and I feel as if I am merely a soul floating at this point. I have to find an object to return to the Higher Being. In a land with magic literally altering the town itself, I’m sure the object will turn up when I least expect it.
She searched heartily, the traveler once confined to isolation, then shivering with enlightenment. Orla and Jo collected nettles under the simmering sunlight to ward off bad magic. They collect enough, gently uprooting their stalks and weaving them into a protection ward. Together, the two casted magic upon a group of sheep standing in a concentric pattern around one of Mamo’s buried bones.
Emilia’s Journal: Jo performed magic! Magic can be utilized, learned by the power of willfulness and collaboration. The creepy sheep crop circle dispersed and revealed another eerie bone. I hurried to keep up with them as they headed to this forest where black birds circle the sky unendingly. Hopefully, they can find the answers to why Mamo’s bones are misplaced, strewn throughout Haresden.
A black crow, obsidian wings reflecting the light, spoke to the young women. Jo had saved Caractus before, and she was calling in a returned favor.
Emilia’s Journal: I don’t know why a talking bird surprises me after all I’ve seen now, but the gravelly timbre to his voice makes me uneasy. He looks like a shadow. A streaked ink stain painted on a canvas. Caractus wears a lengthened black hat upon his bird head that appears to mesh into his body. Finally, Jo and Orla find answers to their burning questions from this corvid. Before her death, Mamo asked the corvids, the magical birds, to scatter her bones in all corners of Haresden. Oh god…she let the bird eat her body for…power? Power seems dangerous in the wings of these creatures. Talk of death and bones upsets my stomach still, but my intrigue has overtaken my fear of death these days. “Power given freely is power doubled.” The mantra repeats itself again in this universe. It holds nuanced implications about the cycle of life and death itself.
Bound by the bargain, Caractus explains how his deal with Mamo came with no additional inquiries. They simply accepted the exchange of services and unleashed Mamo’s chaos into Haresden. Without understanding, Orla and Jo charted the buried bones once again on their map. A pattern emerged on the piece of paper.
Emilia’s Journal: They’ve buried nearly all the bones at gravesites except one. Looking at their map, they realize they’ve fallen into a trap! This devil bird and the untamed magic duped the two women. A faery ring pattern has surfaced on the map. I remember faery rings meaning curses from before…they’re in trouble now.
Next to her, the woman found a black shape no bigger than her fingernail pushing through the earth. She dug up the soil to find a ceramic figurine in the shape, carved in the shape of a black bird. From the figure, blackness swirled until it overwhelmed her body and stole her back into the void.
From the depths of that empty space outside of everyone’s reach, Aimée now appeared on a beach. They remembered it well. It was the first time they met with Emilia. Wexler, the threatening robot, was there. Pacing, waiting for something to come out of the water. It dawned on them he was waiting for Eve, who, the last time they saw her, had dived into the water to look for the vault that could save humanity.
A threatening sound came from underneath the sea, like the world itself was roaring. A giant monster made of metal thrust out to the beach. In a rapid series of events, Wexler threw a blow against the robot, but it was a useless attempt, as it made no real damage, and the machine suddenly returned the favor with a missile. Everything happened so fast that Aimée’s head took time to process the sound of the chaotic scene. When they finally reacted, they hid behind some debris to write what they just witnessed.
Aimée’s journal: The missile did not explode or anything. It…grew trees in the collision area, they trapped Wexler. The mecha is not attacking either. They’re…talking! It’s Eve! And that’s the vault, I’m guessing. She’s telling him to do better while she’s away, trying to save the world. She will go for a long time, planting the seeds all around the continent. But she will come back.
The vault then started walking in the opposite direction across the beach, shooting the seeds from its mechanic tail, automatically planting them into the ground. Trees grew large in a manner of moments, as the gigantic silhouette became little until it disappeared in the distance.
Aimée’s journal: How does Eve manage to maintain so much hope? She not only firmly believes she’ll be back, but she will also save the whole world, preserve humanity. It’s admiring. I wish I could do the same. What I find hard to understand, though, is Wexler. Does she really expect him to be better? I mean, he clearly has a deep care for all the Eves, but…I don’t know, how can that work out? Talking about that, I should check on him.
Aimée returned to the wooden chains where the robot was trapped. Somehow, walking on that beach, they noticed how the sensation of the world had already changed. It wasn’t just a devastated and ruined world, but a devastated and ruined world with a future brighter than its present. However, when they reached the place, Wexler’s absence surprised them. He had already escaped, which worried Aimée, considering his previous homicidal tendencies regarding any humans apart from Eve.
It felt like he could be right behind her, with his claws prepared to rip them apart. But despite that, they kept looking and were able to hear sounds coming from the house at the shore. Some growling mixed some steps. They got dangerously close to the window in order to check what was going on and found the killer robot with an unexpected prisoner inside: Eve. The older Eve who turned into one of the monsters. She was tied to the wall, with the eyes blank and an inexpressive face.
Aimée’s journal: I thought he killed her after she turned! He’s saying something…He’s gonna keep her alive and try to cure her somehow. Even he hopes for things to be better, no matter how bleak they seem. I guess…maybe I should allow myself to do that for once.
They held their journal against their chest, a bit afraid, a bit braver. They realized now what they needed to change. Then, the time would come to put that into practice.
Aimée’s journal: Night is just about to come, and I’m gonna go to sleep. Until next time.
Flung to another world, she opened her eyes. A dream or a memory projected around her in a circle. She looked from frame to frame, her head on a swivel. Avery, she recognized from her previous time in this dimension, knelt on the ground in a twilight forest. A woman named Emma wore a blue dress, caressing Avery’s face as his eyes adjusted from her ethereal glow. Emma begged Avery not to leave her, but fate twisted their promises. The woman watched the universe burst into flames around them all while Avery dreamt of crash landing from a plane.
Then, the two woke simultaneously. She swan-dove into Avery’s existence again, a feeling akin to parachuting from an aircraft carrier. From behind the corner inside Avery’s house, she heard him. Avery talked with his loving family. His reading-obsessed daughter begged to read an edition of “Astounding Adventures”, and his pregnant, independent wife reminded the two about more pertinent priorities. The woman took out her journal and began writing.
Emilia’s Journal: I am revisiting universes! I’m here in Alabama again, this time watching Avery interact with his family instead of witnessing him experience racially motivated altercations. It’s nice to see he has a family unit. Love and care amid darkness can help propel anyone back into the light. Having someone to return to at the end of the day is an inspiring motivator…one I wish I had back home.
She blinked, and the images in front of her winked out like a star. She found herself now hidden behind a tree beside a dirt-carved road.
Emilia’s Journal: I can’t explain what just happened, but…I seem to have moved slightly forward in time? I was listening to the Aldridge family discuss school and responsibility, and now I see children eagerly chasing their sky-blue painted van. Oh, it’s a bookmobile! They offer free books to the kids here. It brings me so much joy to know they are igniting a love of reading in these children at such a young age. Books have been my companions for as long as I can remember. Hardships in life can be circumvented just for a few hours, lost within the earthy pages of a novel. Could they have any poetry books in there? Any Emily Dickinson? I miss my books, but it feels like I’m living in one as well!
Running at implausible speeds, she kept up with the blue van. Avery’s wife dropped him off in town. Everywhere, signs of racial injustice and segregation physically and literally cast a shadowy pall on the well-lit town. Avery’s service as a WWII veteran equated to very little in an era where even separate waiting rooms reduce Avery from a human to a skin color fraught with oppression.
Emilia’s Journal: I’ve been sitting here for hours — or is it days? Time moves strangely here like it’s racing by to show me what is significant. Avery works in a restaurant. His incredible commitment to labor and perfection are overlooked. The customers — all white — find fault with every damn thing he does. They call him a liar, using derogatory tones and words. His manager reminds Avery how lucky he is to merely be employed at the disgusting establishment. My heart ached the last time I was here. Again, I feel repulsed at these men, knowing I can do nothing but wait in the shadows in fear of interrupting the natural cycle of events in this strange time-traveling existence I’m experiencing.
Late that night, three white boys physically assault Avery after closing hours. A stranger, a white man in a bowler hat and round spectacles, berates the boys and aids Avery. The woman perfected the art of soundlessly existing a long time ago. She trailed the two men, curious why the white man bandaged Avery’s wounds and offered sympathy toward Avery’s pain as a Black man.
Emilia’s Journal: I don’t trust this guy…he appeared out of nowhere. Usually, men like this have a god complex or some sort of white savior ulterior motive. Now he’s telling Avery about his services at his clinic outside of town. He wants Avery to return if the pain ensues, almost aggressively demanding rather than suggesting the statement. I don’t trust anyone, but especially not white men with medical leeway.
She felt time bypassing. Careened forward a week into this universe’s future, she peered into a room in her line of sight.
Emilia: Woah, did I just skip more days again? There’s Avery with…that man! The doctor! Wait, what is this?
Next to her, she found a book laying on the ground. It was not a book from the Aldridge bookmobile but a novel she had never seen before. The title, glowing dark red against a black background, said “Medical Apartheid.”
Emilia: What is this? Is this a clue? I can’t see enough to read!
She fumbled with her journal pen, hoping the words written under the desolate shadows transferred legibly onto the page.
Emilia’s Journal:Time is too chaotic here. Unpredictability terrifies me. These time jumps are throwing wrenches in my ability to cope with this situation. On top of everything, I found this eerie book about apartheid, and…the title looks like dark blood. I know it has some meaning or a code locked inside, but it’s far too dark in here to see any words. I’m now at the doctor’s clinic. Avery is laying on a table, backside up. He had talked about intense back pains before to his wife, I think…my memories are murky here. God no, he’s letting that doctor administer a shot right into his back! The doctor said this shot was like a magic bullet. I don’t think this is the type of magic that will help alleviate Avery’s pain, though! Damn this world for making me watch people suffer!
Sorrow weighing on her chest, she closed her eyes — or something closed her eyes for her — and blacked out. She clutched both the journal and medical research book she discovered close to her chest before slipping back into the great unknown.
Martin scratched his head. He thought he recognized this place. The brick walls, the newspaper stand lying nearby…yes, this was the same location he had fallen asleep once before. He got up, his back smarting from lying against the wall.
Martin’s journal: I’m back. The place with the kids in those astronaut suits. I’m a bit scared to check, to see what happened to them. But I suppose I should.
Martin glanced around the corner. There was an impact crater where the explosion of energy had happened the last time he had been here. Otherwise, there was nobody around. He tentatively called out, “Hello?”
Martin’s journal: They’re gone. Place is empty. Looks like it’s been a while.
“Oh hey,” came a voice from above him. Looking up, Martin spotted a figure in yellow with long blond hair staring down. “Didn’t expect to see you here.”
Martin blinked. “Are you… the one who wrote in my journal?”
The figure chuckled. “Oh, no. To be frank, I don’t know who you are or how you got here. I’m just here waiting for the kids to come back.”
“Oh, you know them?” Martin asked, raising his pen to write.
“Not really, but I’m going to get to know one of them pretty well soon,” the figure said, taking a step through the air. “I’m Ursa Major, you see, and he’s Ursa Minor. Or, well, he will be.”
Martin’s journal: Found somebody here, saying they’re Ursa Major. Maybe they’re connected to the giant I saw last time? Still unsure what’s going on.
“You writing about me?” the figure asked, peering down onto Martin’s journal. “Not going to report to the Secretary of Luck, are you?”
Martin laughed. “Honestly, I have no clue who that is.”
“Alright, I believe you. Anyways, I must be going. Kids are set to emerge from their new lives in a minute. See you.” The figure floated away, leaving Martin starting after him. Martin laid back down, sighing. Looking up into the sky, he found the constellation Ursa Major in the skies. It looked beautiful, twinkling up in the skies, the Big Dipper and its surrounding stars.
Martin’s journal: How can a person be a constellation? I don’t quite get it. You know, this world’s actually kind of nice. Nobody trying to actively kill me or anybody else, just the buildings. That guy was actually pretty nice, too. Anyways, I can kind of see how Ursa Major fits that being and this world. The stars are pretty nice here. They feel like… more than the stars that I’m used to. Though I can’t even remember those ones, I admit. At least the constellations here are the same.
Staring up at the stars, Martin reached into his pocket. Feeling around, he found a tiny version of the constellation. Pulling it out, he stared at it for a bit, before stuffing it back into his pocket. Across the street, he saw a flash of yellow light as four figures emerged from the air.
Martin’s journal: Looks like the kids are back now, and they’re safe. Guess Ursa Major slipped me that constellation, huh? It’ll be nice to have, in any case.
Tucking the journal away, he fell asleep once again.
Something is Killing the Children
A new universe shaped itself around her, slowly coming into sharpened focus. She saw two identical boys with red-tinged hair terrorizing a young man in bed with a knife until he cried. Before she could assess the scene, a person intervened. Cecilia’s hazardous crimson-colored eyes bore into the assailants. She assuaged the situation using only carefully strict commands, words flying like knives into the boys’ ears through the white bandana draped over her mouth.
The world spun on its axis, flipping her into another scene. Instantaneously, she recalled the lightless barn room. She was a penumbra in the room hosting a monstrous leviathan, a shadow surrounding a cataclysmic evil in the rooms’ core. Fingers flexing, the woman wrote, although the pages were captured by the darkness.
Emilia’s Journal: Erica’s world is teeming with monsters, both human and supernatural. I’m inside with her this time. I might as well be a participant in the evil the adults have thrust this little girl into. She talks to her purple stuffed octopus, Octo, as if he is real. I know Octo is more than a toy — he is a harbinger of the greatest terrors Erica has ever endured. She talks about a day in the past. Her entire family was slaughtered by the creature now inhabiting Octo, the toy. Death and destruction follow all these people I visit bouncing from realities. Death follows me in ways I never wanted to think about after…maybe seeing how others handle the aftermath of loss and grief is on purpose? Can I learn how to handle my own turbulent grasp on life after my dad’s passing?
Erica screamed at Octo. The monster killed her mother, her father, and her sister. Blood spilling out of their bodies and leeching happiness from her soul. Angered, Erica reminds the monster of his own slaying. She retrieved a knife. Instead of fleeing, she used her outpouring sorrow and misery to thrust her into the belly of the beast.
Emilia’s Journal: Wow, Erica isn’t a timid little girl at all. She is strong, stronger than I’ve ever been. Not once does she back down from this looming creature in front of her. She shouts, the memory expunged from her mind onto the surface of this untamed reality. Her arms make a stabbing motion as she relays the simple facts: She killed the monster, and the monster did not kill her.
Faltering, Erica stepped back for a moment. Memories can be redistributed, temporary pieces of information reformed into an amalgam of objectivity by their narrator. The woman retreated further away from the confused young girl. Then, a nascent silhouette flickered into view. She gripped her eyes, forcing them to adjust to the weighted blackness. If anything was real, it was the person sitting only footsteps away from her. Another human. Another traveler. She never talked to people. Somehow, the compulsion to speak outweighed her social anxiety. Another person meant she was not alone any longer.
Emilia: You…you’re real.
Aimée rubbed their eyes as their body automatically sat in a position appropriate for running away as easily as possible if needed. Their eyes explored the room with weariness, but all of their muscles tightened when they realized they had obliviously skipped the person just in front of them. After crawling in urgency a few meters back, it came to their attention that Emilia wasn’t trying to do anything. She was excited, even. Should Aimée run, or was this truly the first person they ever met with who they could properly interact with? However, time for questioning was short, as every ounce of focus was directed at their hands. Specifically, the journal they were holding. Now, it was no longer a matter of some docile person finding out about them. She was the person they were looking for.
Aimée: Holy…It’s you! I can’t believe it worked. It’s so…Here, look!
Aimée took their journal out of their pocket and flowed all the pages before Emilia’s eyes.
Aimée: Who are you? Do you have any idea what is happening to us? Are you taking any part in it?
Timidly, Emilia pushed her own journal forward.
Emilia: I don’t know what’s happening, but…I’ve been writing it all down. Something said to write it all, so here it is. Every event and every person I’ve been watching is all documented inside. Have you been…here before?
She gestured to them in the dark. Beside them, Erica verbally tussled about altered memories with a glowing, enormous yellow sequid creature dwarfing all the humans in the room. To the left of Aimée, Emilia sees the faint outline of an object.
Aimée: Nothing I can recognize here, so I guess not. But I’ve been to other places, and the only thing they had in common was how fucked up they were. I managed to stay out of harm’s way though so that’s been nice…So, what’s her deal?
Aimée said as she nodded in direction to the sleeping girl. If it weren’t for the fact that she was talking, Aimée would’ve thought Erica was only a corpse. The whole imagery found in that room unsettled them, even though there was nothing overtly creepy about it, which concerned them more. Emilia explained everything needed about Erica as well as she could with help from her diary, which Aimée translated into their own.
Aimée: Listen! I think she’s saying something important.
Both of them mirrored each other as they started writing. Erica was fighting with Octo directly now. He was manipulating the events, corrupting her memory like it meant nothing. However, Erica demonstrated her strength, realizing the cruel game she was put into, and went through the real murder of her whole family all over again. Her mother wasn’t alive, and she never escaped. She was rescued by another person, someone from the order just like her, who also captured the monster inside Octo.
Erica’s still body suddenly moved. Her fingers grasped the table she was on and started reacting to something in some kind of limbo between her subconscious and reality. Emilia noticed it right away and alarmed her new acquaintance of the danger.
The travelers ran outside the barn and hid in the shadows, soon to be conquered by the sunset. Erica’s silhouette walked out slowly with Octo in her hands, almost as a sign of power. They waited for her to be far enough to reunite and keep talking, which was hard to know given Erica’s background and skills to not let things like that go unnoticed. When the circumstances finally allowed them to feel secure and free to conversate, Aimée noticed something beside them. An old butcher’s knife with the blade covered in blood, resting in the grass.
Aimée: Hey, take a look at this! I guess it makes sense to find something like it here, but it feels…off, in a weird way. I can’t explain it. Do you understand?
Emilia explains how she just found the book, which produced her the same feeling, and prompted Aimée to keep it as she did with her object.
Aimée: When will we finally be free of all this? I thought it might have been a horrible joke from the universe, and we’re just fucked, but…there’s something, maybe even someone actively making us look for all this shit. If there’s a purpose to all this, why choose us? Me?
Emilia: I don’t know, but I…I’ve never liked change. And there’s so much sadness in these places, and we can’t do anything about it. I don’t know why it would pick us. I’m not a person who can handle…other people…very well. Someone is controlling our lives! How do we escape an invisible enemy?
Aimée: I guess if anything, it means we have to keep looking. It may not be a joke, but it sure does feel like it…I could find you before. I have to be able to find you if needed. You too! We could even find others if there’s any.
Emilia: I agree. Something has changed, and now these strange objects are appearing! If we can work together again, I think we can figure out more than we would on our own.
Aimée: Well, it was surprisingly nice knowing I’m not alone in this. Thank you. I hope this is not the last time we see each other.
Emilia: I haven’t talked to anyone in so long…I never thought I’d miss human interaction. We’ll be reunited again, I’m sure. It’s the only way…
Both lay down in the cold grass; the sun was about to reach them as the mountains were letting it reveal itself. Sleep came quickly as always for them, but this time was different. There was someone there who, even if a stranger, meant they were not totally alone in these worlds.
Writers: Katie Liggera, Simon Zuccherato, Gabrielle Cazeaux.
Eat The Rich is, in many ways, a story that has been told time and time again. It’s a combination of class disparity and horror, as the discomfort of being somebody of a lower class amid an upper-class group is highlighted through the use of suspenseful storytelling techniques. This can be a very successful combination, as the 2019 Academy Award, Best Picture winner Parasite will attest. It can be a tricky story to tell, however, requiring both a deep understanding of class dynamics to ensure neither side comes across as a caricature and a hook to help set the series apart from its competitors.
As the opening chapter of this story, this issue, written by Sarah Gailey, focuses on introducing our characters and setting. The main character, Joey Dorsey, is a young woman brought to the beachside town of Crestfall Bluffs to meet her boyfriend’s family. Joey is the centre of this issue, and to the book’s credit, it does a good job of establishing who she is. She’s forgetful and a bit of an introvert, but most of all, she’s kind.
That kindness is not appreciated in Crestfall Bluffs, however; while Joey’s boyfriend Astor’s family professes to treat their staff as a part of their family, it’s made clear by the nanny that Joey’s treating the staff kindly will only result in rejection. True kindness seems to be alien to Astor’s family.
This is a series that has very little room for ambiguity; you’re either on Joey’s side or not, and the visuals do a masterful job of conveying this idea. I’m a big fan of the colour work in this issue by Roman Titov. Joey and the things in her comfort zone are depicted in a calming blue, while the unknown is coloured a blood-red. This colouring manages to accurately convey Joey’s state of mind at all times throughout the issue, which is important for an issue so focused on mood as this one.
It is complemented well by Pius Bak’s line art, rendering people and objects in crisp, clean, and simple lines, which composes layouts where this colour palette can really shine without being too conspicuous. Cardinal Rae does a great job on lettering here, using a variety of lettering effects to portray emphasis and tone. Rae’s balloon placement is also strong, trailing across panels and highlighting the divides between characters.
Eat The Rich #1 has all the pieces for the start of an enjoyable miniseries. And while it may not be the quality of Parasite, few things are. Hopefully, the rest of the series manages to follow through.
The calm sound of the waves washed over Martin. He stretched, looking around. This time, he was on a sandy beach in the dark. He glanced from side to side. Looked…normal. Uncannily so, after what he had been through. “This can’t last,” he said out loud.Wearily, he pulled out his notebook.
Martin’s notebook: Well, it’s another new place. No rest for the wicked. I’m assuming that’s why I’m here. It’s some sort of punishment. At least I’m still alive in some form or another, so I’m gonna try and make the best of it.
Flipping to the next page of the journal to continue writing, Martin blinked. There was a note already scrawled there:
Time is running out. Look further.
Martin looked closely at the handwriting. He didn’t recognize it. Flipping to the next page, Martin continued writing.
Martin’s notebook: How did somebody else get this book? Am I being taken somewhere in-between all these different places? I’m not sure. And frankly, I’m fed up with being unsure. Either way, this no longer seems like a punishment, a purgatory, if there’s someone else intentionally communicating with me. Maybe there’s some hope left.
From down the beach came the lights and sounds of a beach party. Martin sighed.
Martin’s notebook: I know, I know, I should go check out what’s going on down the beach. It’s my job, as much as I have one in a place where I don’t get paid and don’t seem to be helping anyone. Maybe this will actually be a nice party where I’m accepted and actually get a chance to relax…but I doubt it. And, I’m sure, if anyone else ever gets to read this…you doubt it too.
Slowly, Martin plodded his way down the beach. Reaching the party, he noted that everyone there was very well-dressed. This was clearly an upper-class party, and he wasn’t invited. He loitered off to the side, trying to stay out of the way, trying to avoid notice. His eyes were drawn to a man standing on the stage with a microphone in hand.
Martin’s notebook: Made it to the party. There’s a guy here, and he’s just calling out insults to specific people in the crowd. Honestly, sounds like a pretty trash party. I’d leave if I were one of the guests. And it looks like some of them are. Let me follow.
Martin followed a woman wearing a blue and white dress closer to the edge of the water, where a couple men were already standing around talking.
Martin’s notebook: You know, maybe this is fine. Maybe it’s just a normal event. That’s gotta happen sometimes, right? Maybe whoever wrote in my notebook actually sent me to somewhere nice… or, at least, not terrible.
Looking up from the notebook, Martin noticed one of the men had tackled another. Pulling out a knife, the man on top started stabbing the one on the ground, covering both of them with blood. Backing away, Martin quickly started running.
Martin’s notebook: Well, that’s that down the drain. Another murder. Another death. They don’t seem to care about me, luckily enough, or maybe they just haven’t noticed. Either way, I don’t care. I’m out of here. What’s with all the violence anyways?
Turning the corner to hide behind a nearby beach house, he stopped. He didn’t even notice how quickly he was breathing. He tried to force himself to calm down.
Martin’s notebook: It’s gonna be alright. I’ve survived so far. It’s gonna be alright. I just need to keep believing that.
And behind that beach house, he curled up and fell asleep.
Sometimes dreams are more than one’s mind projecting an abstract illusion of what it feels or wants. Sometimes there are anomalies at the root of what we see. This dream was a twisted vision of something that transpired or may have transpired. Time itself is always changing and contorting.
This particular dream was one of a tragedy that occurred centuries before. This is a dream that Mazarine saw, a dream that others have had through time. It wasn’t clear if it truly is a dream or a ripple effect of energy created by the Zeo Crystal itself. It started as Zophram stood at the center of the stars, a hologram to meet with Elders of Eltar. A plea was put forward by Zophram to move the Zeo Crystal to Eltar itself as another attempt had just been made by the Dark Spectre to claim it. The latest attempt nearly claimed the life of Zordon of Eltar, who Mazarine knew much about as his importance to the galaxy was still felt today.
The plea fell on the uncaring Elders who denied Zophram as they had not yet come to a decision of what to do with the Zeo Crystal. That’s when the mood quickly flipped from desperation to anger. Zophram was the Elders Supreme Guardian, tasked with protecting the galaxy. But Zophram knew the Zeo Crystal could end their enemies with ease, protecting countless lives and maybe even prevent the death of his close friend Zordon. Once again, the Elders relied on their platitudes of protection while their own people died.
What came next was clouded, but a few things were clear to Mazarine as he followed Zephram through the vision. Zephram was going to move the Zeo Crystal without their help, but when he touched it, there was a massive energy surge. A surge that changed everything. Zephram of Eltar was dead, but something much more sinister was left in his place. A conqueror whose name was known even now…Lord Zedd.
As if the backlash of the energy surge were real, it awoke Mazarine in his bed in Millennium City in the year 3015. His hand reached out from his bed to grab his Chrono Morpher from his bedside. Mazarine is a part of the Time Force special investigations unit. This dream meant something was going wrong in the timeline.
“I have to go back.”
Swirling comets turned inside out, posed as the most beautiful planets, and disappeared before their eyes in a heartbeat. Unforgettable views that they would soon forget. Terrors hunting you to bring out your insides and play with them. All the vivid moments that seemed tailored just for them like they always wished. Experiences that no other could live lost in the back of their subconscious forever. That’s all dreams are.
Now Aimée found themself inside some kind of metal fortress. The striking disparity between the placid dreams and the imponent, almost frightening feeling of the cold metal made itself apparent almost instantly. However, the fear could not take over them this time. At this point, they knew the force that led them into this always put them somewhere safe.
Aimée: It seems like some kind of…spaceship. Am I in space? I always wanted to go to space!
They got up and walked towards a door. It opened automatically to reveal a room full of creatures unlike themself, all varied in color, shape, size. Screens hovered above the floor, showing seemingly human people, monsters, and a building.
Through the pages, they found a new annotation made by someone other than them. ‘’Time is running out. Look further’’.Aimée was becoming used to things beyond their understanding, taking just a few seconds of processing before turning the page to start writing.
Aimée’s journal: There’s a humanoid, cosmic-looking shark, and even they seem friendly. They’re some kind of federation. I’m hearing something about a missing human, related in some way to a human person here named Gigi. He has been kidnaped by three aliens that pretend to be heroes for humankind, but they’re trying to destroy it…somehow, this isn’t even the worst place I’ve been to.
Aimée wrote everything as they detailed the rescue plan, which involved a distraction by the sibling of the invaders, Mia, who now worked with the federation. Gigi and the leader went to the three alien’s spaceships to rescue Shawn. Both Mia and Gigi talked before parting ways. The tenderness and awkwardness in their words demonstrated a relationship with the potential for a beautiful love. Meanwhile, Aimée decided to follow Mia to write the events.
The sunset arrived as Mia waited at a beach’s shore where they agreed to meet with their siblings.
Aimée’s journal: Why are they taking so long to come? It feels real off…Wait! I think I see someone coming from the sky? It’s the aliens, they look like people now. Except for the flying part, y’know. They’re landing and…The trap the federation set trapped one of them!
The excitement made them almost scream in support, but that was fortunately contained. Sadly, one of them evaded the trap and was prepared to attack! She grabbed Mia and threw her away to the water. Fear filled the bodies of the brave agents, who were too weak to face the alien conqueror. But then, everyone’s attention turned to the sky. A distant figure eclipsed a portion of it as they intuited what it was: The ship where Shawn has held hostage, and the leader and Gigi infiltrated. The alien they were fighting worried for a reason unknown to the federation until she revealed: The third of them stayed behind to guard the ship.
Aimée’s journal: How are they supposed to survive with her inside? They seem to be too powerful! That must be why they flew the…
As they were writing, their hand suddenly slipped as a reaction to a deafening explosion; in the place of the spaceship was now only an expansive wave of fire. Everyone, even the federation’s enemy, turned silent and froze in place. The explosion’s wave stunned Aimée, who stumbled back until they fell to the ground, trying to come back to reality.
Aimée: Mia…They lost everything. Gigi is dead, their family hates them, they’re alone…I can’t keep doing this. I can’t keep escaping world after world. Seeing people lose loved ones, their whole lives, everything they held dear. Always seeing from a distance…The person I saw in the apocalyptic world. Where the twins were! I must go there. I have to try to go there. Maybe we can decipher what all of this is together.
This time sleep didn’t come by itself. Didn’t caught up to them and force them to leave. It wasn’t a way to escape. This time Aimée was using it for a purpose. If they traveled between worlds unaware as they slept, maybe they could control it, and they were going to try.
World matrices and a labyrinth of unexplored realities merged. Dark spirits transported the woman in their palms, passing her along until quantum dimensions synthesized. The bodiless forces quavered momentarily, reticent. Nevertheless, she somersaulted into a universe where spirits crawled from the galaxy’s outer reaches onto quiet grasslands. But something changed. She was sent here before, she recognized, hiding in an attic behind wooden boxes and a long-forgotten childhood basketball. Reality-jumping came full circle, like a snake consuming its tail.
Emilia: Orla. Jo. It’s them again…
Already, her fingers meshed with the quantum-strained pages of her leatherbound journal. The witch, Orla, and the girl with the sick mother, Jo, climbed down the creaking attic stairs before the woman could slither out to follow them.
Emilia’s Journal: Somehow, I am back. Fate has returned me, and I watched Jo and Orla capture Mamo’s insidious, viscous-appearing spirit inside a taut coin sack. No time has passed here since I left them. How is it possible? Is magic key to returning home? Do I want to return home? At least I landed inside Jo’s house this time. I entered a cabinet, the slats providing me enough light to watch them from afar. But I am finding darkness and isolation…not as comforting as I used to.
As Orla sewed luminous threads of magic into the sack containing her grandmother’s restless spirit, the woman wrote everything. Their existence was the antithesis to the woman’s own secluded life. Orla prepared an altar at the hearth and set it aflame. A coal-colored spirit resembling a lizard extracted a bone, Mamo’s bone, from beneath the hearth’s ashes.
Emilia’s Journal: Orla and Jo are leaving the house now, so I’m writing as quickly as I can. Orla, with her magic and knowledge, released the hearth spirit building a nest out of Mamo’s bones. The bone, no smaller than the length of my Orla’s finger, was radiating untapped power. Jo’s mom should get better from her sickness now that the girls extricated the bone. Mamo didn’t receive a burial after death, Jo explained. Instead, her energy was redistributed…and they need to locate Mamo’s bones to conduct a proper burial. Death…I am so familiar with death. I can’t help but hold out hope that maybe…maybe Mamo isn’t dead?
Orla and Jo traversed the sweeping countryside, burying the bone at Haresden’s border. The woman trailed them, emotions rolling through her like the ebb and flow of the hills surrounding them. She noted a tangible connection growing between Jo and Orla. For the first time, after watching Orla describe how the anchoring talisman Jo wore on her neck was a protective witch power source, a longing for human gnaws at the woman’s broken heart.
Emilia’s Journal: Mamo’s unburied bones have been scattered across countryside gravesites. Jo doesn’t hesitate when Orla announces the necessity of visiting each gravesite and fixing the berserk magic plaguing Haresden. Although they barely know one another, and Orla remains somewhat closed off, they have a deep-rooted understanding. The symbiotic borders of Haresden need to be maintained. Jo will do anything to quiet the restless fae and swelling waves threatening her town, even without magical abilities. I remember that desire…a burning flame of loyalty toward my father throughout our limited time together. Orla and Jo… are showing me that death does not have to be an endpoint. Through death, an ember can spark, leading to new relationships. Have I been wrong to close myself off from the outside — from everyone — my entire life?
She followed them, listening to conversations multiplying her grief while Orla dined with Jo’s inviting family. She followed them as they mapped their journey on paper, identifying a pattern in Haresden’s borders coinciding with Mamo’s power as a hedge witch. Talk of patterns was paramount. A spell was required to reinstate the deceased witch’s power. If only spells could restore the woman’s life so easily, she yearned.
They traveled to Haresden’s docks, where a humble fisherman and an old fishwife pointed them toward vexed fae in the rockpools. Diminutive rock trolls ambushed Orla and Jo on their escapade. Mankind intervened in magical beings’ natural order, and Mamo’s death meant an inability to protect the finite balance between structure and chaos.
Emilia’s Journal: I’m exhausted. After a few days here, I’m beginning to wonder if I will have to leave. Haresden is beautiful, and Orla is bringing peace back to the unsettled land. When Jo speaks about her love toward Haresden, I want to experience that same joy and commitment somewhere. I don’t love the solitary existence I meticulously created for myself back home…I want a home again. Traveling is new after years locked inside a self-made prison, yet it also brings me a feeling of…catharsis? Orla and Jo rebuild the cairn townsfolk had destroyed to widen the road. They appease the trolls, but Orla’s demeanor is downcast. She explains how magic is a resource meant to be harnessed, and how constant traveling brought her a similar sensation of magic. Magic holds potential, but corkscrews and flourishes in different places for each person who wields it. Orla left Mamo because she could not thrive with her grandmother. My father left me through death, and I could not thrive without him. Could Mamo and I be harboring similar resentments?
Ruminations on life, family, death, and magic spilled into her mind like a gurgling water pitcher until the dark maelstrom seeps inside. Her thoughts cracked into a million shards as magic whisked her away to another world.
Francesca was suddenly awoken once more. When did she fall asleep? Was she knocked unconscious? If she had a body she could readily discern, it would be aching. She felt pangs of discomfort and soreness, despite not really being in a corporeal form. What was going on?
She looked at the screen again to see Xavier Woods, Kofi Kingston, and Big E once more. The pain she was feeling seemed irrelevant when she saw these three men before her. The trio was in Triple H’s office after their successful first outing as a tag team. They were introduced to awkward dudes who seemed to be doing the same song and dance she had seen earlier with Kofi, trying on different gimmicks and corresponding costumes, only to feel like none of them felt right. Francesca started to feel a deep sense of sadness, “Why am I so attached to these people? Why do they feel so familiar?”
Big E, Kofi, and Xavier finally settled on an evangelist gimmick that they didn’t entirely love but were asked to stick with at the behest of Xavier Woods. They agreed they love the name The New Day but felt like the preacher angle is mildly offensive at best. Francesca looked on with anxiety, “I know this is incorrect, but I can’t figure out why exactly I know this. Why does this feel so wrong and still so…gah, why does everything HURT?” She muttered to herself.
As Francesca continued to watch these men struggle to find their place amongst their WWE peers, the men finally seemed to come to some kind of impasse. They separated, only for Xavier Woods to hope that once their break was over, they’d all come back as the New Day to fight in the ring again. Francesca’s anxiety built as she witnessed each member go back to their respective homes and lives outside wrestling. They discussed with their loved ones how they couldn’t seem to find the right footing yet, and whether or not they should bother continuing on their current trajectory. She was suddenly drawn closer to the screen as she saw Xavier Woods gently caressing his locker as he cooed: “The time isn’t right. Not yet, old friend. We have to wait” Francesca could hear this echoing in her mind and started to feel dizzy. Was this a déjà vu?
After several disappointing losses left both the New Day and Francesca feeling pretty deflated, Xavier Woods, like the lovable rapscallion he is, decided the best course of action to get their star on the rise was to simply…be themselves.
As the New Day was asked to use their power of positivity to boast about potatoes in the great state of Idaho, they did exactly what WWE creative generally didn’t want from their performers; they improvised. Francesca cringed the entire promo as they haphazardly tried to talk up the special spud but started to feel a rush of prideful adrenaline when the improvisation began. Xavier, Kofi, and Big E started bad-mouthing the potatoes given to them for the spot. This pivotal moment was where the future of the New Day really became clear.
Francesca watched as the light in Xavier Woods’ eyes glimmered. He showed Kofi and Big E the internet’s reactions: they were being talked about. ”Hey, any heat is better than none, right?” She thought. The New Day then found themselves in a feud with The Shield over the differing opinions regarding their formerly slighted tuber. The Shield had challenged them to a pancake fight in Philadelphia. She felt the infectious energy of the men’s excitement built on this absolutely ridiculous angle.
The three men were lost in thought, stunned by the chance they had always wanted but unable to process how overwhelming that opportunity was. They are then pulled back by a young girl who notes she is a fan of theirs and wants a selfie with them. The New Day knew at that moment how they were going to proceed with this huge opportunity they had been given.
The pancake fight with The Shield was underway and Francesca felt unease creeping through her. Half out of excitement from seeing The New Day looked so in sync with one another, moving effortlessly like they were three parts of one greater being. The other half being fear of the outcome of this match. Could they win? If they do, where would they go from here? Too many questions to even begin to answer, and they all made her feel sick with worry. Then suddenly, she saw it. The moment she was unaware she was waiting for: Xavier Woods jumped into the squared circle and started shouting, “NEW…DAY ROCKS…NEW…DAY ROCKS!” She started to feel and hear the echoing in her mind again and winced. Once she looked back at the screen, she saw it. Xavier Woods, proudly playing his beloved trombone in the ring for the first time with the New Day. She heard Kofi’s innermost thoughts, “I was so caught up in it, I almost forgot to pin him. Until I heard Francesca.”
This time they couldn’t remember what they dreamt. An all-black panorama tainted with white spots was the only image that would pop out in their minds if they tried to remember. Everything was incinerated by the white spots, as Aimée opened their eyes to intolerable pain. To their misfortune, their back was serving as a blanket to all kinds of scraps.
Lifting their upper body, they were met with a devastating view. The buildings that were still up looked like relics, ruins from a past time that left nobody to be remembered by. It felt like every frightening thought lurking in a kid’s mind at night crossed to reality at the same time. What struck them the most, however, was the silence, the emptiness. There was no one around.
Aimée: This…Looks like my world. What if it is?
The sound of people not sufficiently far away startled them. Hiding amongst all the junk with velocity, they saw two young people relaxing on the roof of a deserted house. Aimée checked if the journal was still in the pocket and hadn’t fallen out and combined with all the trash to a pleasant confirmation. The two people could’ve been confused as the same person if it wasn’t for their age difference; one of them a kid, and the other a teen. However, there was someone else, apart from anyone else as they were, who Aimée was unaware of.
Emilia: Eve and her…sister……they’re together. They’re safe!
The pen returned to her hand. She eavesdropped and wrote because listening and writing had shielded her from harm thus far.
Emilia’s Journal: I am happy to report the older version of Eve acting as younger Eve’s guardian. I remember the fearlessness in Eve from the last time I visited this world. Although, Eve’s clone exhibits Eve’s tenacity amplified! They are a united front in the face of a hopeless world, which gives me hope for my own situation. Wexler, that evil bear I saw massacre the other orphans last time, was taken down by older Eve! Yet, I hear them talk about Wexler’s ability to rebuild — he is hunting them again. I wonder if I am being hunted by that inexplicable light source still? We are all running from evil as it adopts different forms.
Keeping up with the two adolescent girls became an arduous task for the woman. She ran, nimbly and quickly, feeling emboldened by the freewheeling affection the girls displayed.
Emilia’s Journal: These two don’t stop moving! They have a mission to find a vault — one sunken underwater into the hollow recesses of the ocean. Their determination forces me to evaluate myself, humbling me. Overcoming impossible odds seems plausible with someone by your side. If I ever get home, I need to seek out companionship. Living life alone, I am betraying an instinct for friendship. The older Eve just told young Eve how Wexler betrayed them both. The son of a bitch bear murdered their father! Oh god, they lost their father at such a young age. At least I had nearly twenty years before my dad died…they are so young, yet so resilient.
The elder version of Eve told the younger Eve her survival methods. Her words revealed a barbaric truth undercut by irony as the two gorged themselves on a feast.
Emilia’s Journal: I slipped into a boarded-up room while the Eves ate. What I discovered…worries me. Older Eve related how she forced herself to eat a minimal amount of food to stay alive. At first, I felt horror at this planet, forcing a mere child into starvation.
As night blanketed the girls in shadows, the woman listened to a tale with enough terror to fracture her worldview.
Aimée: What if this is my world? How the fuck can I be sure that’s not the case? All those people, just gone. All the time I spent alone, avoiding everything. Guess I don’t have to make that much of an effort now…Shit, what am I talking about? I don’t know if it’s that what hurts me or the fact that it doesn’t hurt me as much as it should.
Emilia’s Journal: Out of every dimension I have visited, I can’t help but question the creation of a place so beset with horrors. The older Eve is a clone — and not a clone of the younger Eve. No, they are two out of six clones of an original, human Eve. I must be lost within the withering pages of a science-fiction novel. They were born and grown in labs, learning about a world lost to mankind’s environmental mayhem. The Eves were meant to be saviors. And the cruelty of this world continues…only these two Eves survived. I can only rely on a former instinct telling me that I will survive too.
Morning came again, and the woman soaked in daylight like a sponge.
Emilia’s Journal: As they eat breakfast, I listen intently and am determined to record every word of their encounter. Apparently, restricting calories was necessary. By hindering pubescence, the older Eve has been forcefully preventing herself from reaching adulthood. She has every reason to fear adulthood. Here, adults turn into monsters. Adulthood has its challenges in any world, but adults cannot thrive as people here. I feel my stomach churning, thinking about how much these children have endured.
They ventured outside and began to rummage through a towering junk heap on the docks. The woman tentatively followed them, overwhelmed with a chill. Somewhere, another presence lurked.
Emilia’s Journal: I waited inside the red stone building instead of following the Eves. I can see them from the slats in the wall. The older insisted on Eve taking a boat out to search for the underwater vault while the older Eve clone waits behind. As I watch the younger Eve float out toward the sea, a figure caught my eye. I am looking now, straining to look across these mountainous trash piles cluttering the land. Could it be? Another person? Another traveler? It’s definitely a human…but I can sense their impermanence in this world. They are like me. I…I am not the only one.
Aimée’s journal: I saw someone moving beyond the girls. At first, I thought she was going to attack the girls, but…She’s just writing, like me. What could this possibly mean? Maybe I’m not the only one going through all of this. Should I reach out? Why would I?
Sadly, accurate conclusions coalesced in her thoughts too slowly. The robot bear clanked loudly, distracting the woman from the person writing in an exact replica of her journal. Wexler, the robot, spoke calmly to the elder Eve, igniting a reunion much like a parent returning to their abandoned child. Humanity’s continued existence depended on Eve, the bear said. Although, a suggestion floated in the air; dandelion seeds catching the wind before replanting in fertile soil.
Emilia: Humans could be…wiped out? This planet is devastated though..maybe it could regrow without humans for a while.
Pinpricks of luminescence as sharp as razors descended up her; a shapeless form of radiating pursued her. The memory scraped against her thoughts like a scalpel as she somersaulted into another universe. Reality no longer felt solid and unyielding: Reality was malleable. She tried to connect the words to form a coherent idea. Instead, the concept was two goalposts separated by a field spanning galaxies. She was both the midpoint, the untouched ball, and the two opposing teams. But, without an endpoint, she was marinating in a cesspool of endless directions.
Reality was malleable. There was no altering the fact. There was no changing another fact: Someone — or something — was hunting her. She escaped once, the fear of death a tornado unspooling inside her stomach. She had weighed her options in the chase. Prey versus predator: Who would prevail? Losing her father was inevitable, but she did not want to lose herself. Circumnavigating her own death helped her cling to an idea of escape from this threat. Then, she cannonballed toward another plane on the innumerable spectrum of realities. Sapphire steaks of light rained down from the stars. Comets, she gaped, before the cosmos swept her away and, she too, fell.
Emilia: There’s magic here…I can sense it.
She found her journal — her minute version of salvation. Writing in the notebook may have been a command from a silent entity before, but she had always loved the written word. The journal was a lifeline, a secure container to process her thoughts about worlds and people she had purposefully avoided before.
Emilia’s Journal: I see a woman with a dark complexion walking alone. Pillars with ancient symbols bisect the green earth. Everything here feels like a relic, but the woman seems unafraid of trespassing on its path. It’s even more important to stay hidden since something is trying to catch me. If I had built up any courage to possibly interact with another person for the first time…the strange light pursuing me has doused that flame.
A fair-skinned man wrapped in crackling, lightning bolts of water materialized next to the woman. No less than a breath later, a green-tinged woman taking on the striking appearance of a Gorgon takes her place beside the duo.
Emilia’s Journal: I have to be in a mystical realm. These three beings pulse with energy, magic suffusing their skin. I hear them address one another as Kaya, Ral, and Vraska. They know each other well and converse about separate adventures. It seems Ral traveled to an inn and blew up…werewolves? I must be inside a fantasy novel. This is why I prefer poetry. Reality over fiction. But this journey has made me question…what do I even know about reality? Have I been living in fear of other people, of the outside, of all these factors that make up human existence when reality is just a facade?
Each planeswalker spoke of their search for knowledge across multitudinous dimensions. Success in obtaining information was vital, for the planeswalkers lacked evidence. A man, Jace Beleren, went missing after a near-death psychic overdose. Targeted attacks in the resplendent realm of Ravnica mounted, endangering lives on every plane. A cult put plans in motion to summon an evil apparition — a god of old. So, the planeswalkers split. Locating an elder planeswalker woman possessing fire-casting abilities and counsel became pertinent. The trios’ individual might and resilience promised results — but they returned to one another near empty-handed.
Emilia’s Journal: Ral tells the group about Innistrad, a plane overrun by werewolves with an appetite for flesh. A full moon turned men into wolves during a nighttime sea voyage. Summoning a storm, Ral escaped without a scratch but no word on this mysterious fire-woman. Vraska, the gorgon-woman, sailed the high seas as well. Gossip from her former crew revealed nothing. She frightens me, but she speaks with a quick wit and amicable nature. Her power emanates from her alluring eyes. Their glow reminds me of that light…and now I am questioning my safety once again.
Kaya, an assassin who can pass over into the ghost realm, reported no confirmation of the elder planeswalker during her search in Amonkhet. Sand and death, skeletons and creatures trapped in a cyclical loop of misery, impeded Kaya. The hiding woman listened in astonishment. Kaya’s feats were extraordinary. As someone plagued with grief and death’s bondage herself, the woman pondered communication with the afterlife.
Emilia’s Journal: They walked for what felt like an eternity. Eternity — the concept no longer holds weight. Is my dead dad living in an eternal version of heaven somewhere? If these infinitesimal universes exist, maybe I’ll find him…I wish I could stay here. Magic feels safer than reality’s confines now. I would like to learn to harness magic to learn my purpose and defend myself from my haunting pursuant. These planeswalkers could teach me to live again.
She stopped writing when the trio found who they were searching for. Standing defiant in the rubble of cracked stones, a woman in a red cloak turned toward them. Lines ran like rivers across her face, giving the impression of a woman as old as the sediment beneath their feet. Jaya Ballard’s mouth dropped open when the planeswalkers uttered a name. The name, Marit Lage, belonged to a Kraken-like demigod — a primordial evil capable of sowing irreparable damage.
Emilia: I’m not safe here after all if a simple name can scare these magic wielders…I’m not safe from anything in any reality.
Devastated, she tried to throw the journal. Sadly, the unkind darkness came for her, as usual.
Martin bolted upright, looking around. He was sitting at a picnic table near a short, small, secluded building. He could hear cars rushing by; they must be near a highway. Then this was some sort of rest stop. He pulled out his notebook.
Martin’s journal: Didn’t think I’d get away. But I did, and I’m somewhere else. Somewhere that’s… hopefully… safer. Wish I had more goals beyond survival, but I can’t afford that. Not when I don’t know where I am, or where I’m going next. So I’ll keep running, and escaping when I need to. At least this time it’s somewhere with a working restroom.
Stretching, he got up and headed into the rest area for a much-needed bathroom break. After washing his hands, he made his way out of the restroom and headed for the door outside. But then… he froze. There was a ball of light waiting outside, similar to the one that had chased him previously. As a family made their way into the rest stop, unaware, the ball entered the rest stop with them. Panicking, he scrambled back into the rest stop, heading towards the entrance on the opposite side of the building. But he stumbled as he noticed something else, the light glinting off a familiar pair of sunglasses.
Veering off to the side, he made his way into a shop selling some t-shirts, some books, and a few other souvenirs. He pulled out his journal.
Martin’s journal: I can’t do this, I can’t face them again. The ones who almost killed me at that diner are back, them and the ball of light, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to avoid both. How did they both find me here? What even is this rest stop? I’m not sure, but I need to get out of here as quickly as I can.
Finding a changing room in the back of the store, he headed in and closed the door behind him.
Martin’s journal: Alright. I think I’m safe here. Now how long do I have to wait before it’s safe? How will I know when they’ve gone? I just want to actually find some time to figure things out. Like, who actually am I? And how do I get home?
Martin took a deep breath, closing his eyes. As he opened them, he heard police sirens.
Martin’s journal: I can’t face this. I’m staying here. Nobody’s going to look here. I’ll be safe. I have to believe that. After all, nothing all that bad has happened so far, right? Other than being chased by people who want to kill me and something that could want to do worse, as far as I know.
He stayed huddled in the changing room. He heard the whirr of a helicopter, then screams. More pointless death, he would’ve predicted that’s what those serial killers would end up doing. He hoped they’d end up in jail or dead, but with how the police were faring against them, that wasn’t likely. Then the ground shook with a deafening noise.
Martin’s journal: Maybe that’s the helicopter down, I’m not sure. Either way… I think everyone here’s dying again. And if I survive, I still have to escape that light ball too. It’s too much. Another day, another high likelihood of death.
Maybe when I die, I’ll wake up at home.
Eyes squeezed shut, he huddled on the floor, scared but exhausted. Slowly, softly, he fell asleep again.
They felt the cold and humid floor on their back, and their mind drove to late nights when they fell out of their bed and stayed asleep on the ground. The memories made them even more tired, and their mind struggled to reconcile the necessity to open their eyes for any dangers that awaited them in whatever place they found themselves in.
Aimée: This looks like the faerie castle. I never thought I’d see the same places more than once. Does this mean instead of infinite universes there are like four? I guess scientists missed the fucking mark on that one, huh.
Their black boots slid against the ground as they raised their knees to stand up. Taking the journal out of their old green jacket, they started writing and giving nonchalant steps guided to the room’s window. Nearby enough to hear the conversation, Aimée witnessed Wynd and his sister talking. It started fairly simple, but each word flowing out of their mouths felt more upset than the last one. Wynd wants to stay and help with the war, but his sister wants to go somewhere safe for both.
Aimée’s journal: I don’t think either is wrong; they’re both just scared in their own way. It’ll be easier if he just flew away…Is it a good idea to leave alone like that? They were being chased by Vampyres.
In the structure front of where they were, Aimée distinguished something moving. It was a light, just like the one who chased them before. Somehow, they (or it?) knew Aimée was here. They dropped to the ground with their back to the wall, pressing the journal onto their chest.
Aimée’s journal: The shitty lights are looking for me again. Why in the world am I their objective? I can’t just wait around for them to catch me, and I have things to do (I guess?).
Wandering through the room, trying to avoid the lights and anyone else who may see them, they reached a room with one of Wynd’s friends on a table and unconscious. It startled them for a moment, but he was there just to be taken care of his wounds. Before they could move, the sound of Wynd and the faerie who helped them before entered Aimée’s ears; they were about to enter the room. They hid behind the door as rapidly and subtly as possible.
Aimée’s journal: Wynd seems awfully concerned about his friend, and I can’t blame him. Although he seems better, fortunately. He started telling the faerie Thorn is so important to him because he couldn’t go outside in the city, so he often climbed up a high point and watched people live their lives to feel less lonely. I kinda know how he feels. Despite all, this is a beautiful place. It saddens me that some people cannot even experience it, and then there’s the war too…
The lights vanished in a heartbeat, followed by distant, crumbling sounds. The floor shook, taking everyone out of equilibrium. If it wasn’t for all the noise rumbling at the same time, they would’ve noticed Aimée. They heard the words coming out of the faerie, ‘’The tree’s coming down!’’. It felt like a hit to the nose that stopped time for a second, and before being able to move or attach to anything, they were already in the air. Fleeting images raced against her eyes as their body hit everything in proximity without control as time was somehow slower and faster than usual. They questioned if they may have been dead when everything stopped but were gladly (And painfully) surprised to know that wasn’t the case. There was a piece of wood just on top of their ribs, but between grunts, Aimée was able to lift it.
Their hands were trembling too much because of the fall; they weren’t going to be able to write anything for some time. But they could try and watch, if barely. Standing up with help from the wreckage, they could discern Wynd, the prince, and the faerie, but…Thorn was below so much debris, and there was so much blood. The three weren’t even able to cry for their friend, as they were attacked by the Vampyres, who immobilize the faerie, captured the prince, and stabbed Wynd. They weren’t interested in anyone else; if the case were any other, Aimée would’ve been dead already.
Aimée: I have to…Do something. I have to help…
It only took a few steps for their body to waste the little energy it had, and like a puppet whose puppeteer suddenly dropped, Aimée fell to the ground unconscious.
Martin opened his eyes on a park bench. Standing up, he looked around. It wasn’t the diner where he had fallen asleep; that was near a forest. He was in the middle of what appeared to be a small town. Something was wrong, though, and it took him a few seconds to put his finger on it.
Martin: No people…
Pulling out his notebook, he flipped to a new page and began to write.
Martin’s notebook: I’m in what looks like a midwestern American town. Maybe Kansas. But it’s empty, and I have the dreadful feeling that something’s gone wrong here. Or is about to go wrong. Or maybe even both. At least I’m away from that diner, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve just landed myself in a situation that could be just as bad.
Hearing a noise, Martin spun around to see four children slowly making their way down the street, wearing strange suits that covered their bodies. Martin hid behind a pillar as he continued to take notes.
Martin’s notebook: There are some kids here, in what look like spacesuits. Should I have one? It seems like I’ve been sent here without one, so it’ll have to do. And I seem to be breathing fine, in any case. One of the kids is throwing a rock at stuff for… some reason. I should get closer to try and hear what they’re saying. Maybe it’ll help me figure out exactly why I’m here.
He tried to edge himself closer to the children, staying close to the side of a nearby building to avoid getting spotted. As he did, though, he paused; one of them was walking in his direction. Backtracking, Martin wrote furiously.
Martin’s notebook: I think one of them might have noticed me. I’m going to pull back and see what happens.
As he slipped away, he noticed a figure in the lot across from where he had woken up. He hadn’t noticed the figure when he had first arrived, but now he could see there was a child there who looked nearly identical to the one who had gone away from the rest of the group.
Martin’s notebook: He’s found what looks to be his doppelganger, but it’s surrounded by this red glow. I don’t think it’s-
Looking up from his writing to check the scene, Martin noticed a giant form looming above the doppelganger. It was taller than the buildings surrounding them, taking the form of a bald person in a black outfit.
Martin’s notebook: There’s some figure controlling the doppelganger, and they’ve captured the kid, just picking him straight up off the ground! There’s this red energy coming off of the two of them, I don’t know how to describe it, but it feels… like some sort of jinx. I’m just glad I’m not caught up in the centre of it. The giant’s staring at the kid intensely… but she’s thrown him down now, right through the pavement! That must hurt.
A burst of light, seemingly from near the epicentre of the red energy, lanced out and started heading directly towards Martin. Glancing back, he knew that he couldn’t let it reach him. There was a reason the kids were wearing protective suits, after all. Getting up, he started to run, jostling to write as he did.
Martin’s notebook: The kids’ friends have come to help him, I think, but I can’t see what’s happening next. I just need to go away.
Diving into an alley, he watched the light zip past him. Breathing a sigh of relief, he noticed a newspaper stand, abandoned for what looked like years, with only one newspaper left. Picking it up, Martin shook the dust on it and read the headline:
“Stay on the move. Don’t let them catch you.”
Shivering, he turned back to look towards the giant. Just as he did, he saw it make contact with a new golden apparition that had appeared, blowing him backward. He fell back against the ground, knocking him out.
Something Is KillingThe Children
There are truths, and there are lies. And then, there are monsters waiting in the shadows. They wait to twist and bend reality, leaving nothing but decimation trailing behind it. She did not know who controlled the marginal space between perception and authenticity, fact and fiction. All she understood was a lack of control. She had allowed wayward circumstances to mold her destiny long before she spun out of existence. Shadow realms whispered secrets without candor. The beasts came out to play. Monsters not unlike the ravagers of unknowability rampaged in her mind as she hurtled down through the chasm past the liminal space again.
Contorting shapes disintegrated until she saw a vast white mansion. The houses’ enormity looked daunting in the forefront of a forest stretching far beyond her eye line. She watched as a red car pulled up, staking a claim on the dirt territory. Her location felt removed from urbanity. The woman sensed an unsettled atmosphere in the landscape, purporting a rural utopian exterior. A hippie-looking man sporting a black bun piled atop his head emerged from the house. Accompanied by a pack of black dogs, he approached the vehicle.
Emilia: I am so far away, but…are those dogs in the distance? Why do people own animals with all their slobber and fur matted with diseases? Why couldn’t I have landed in, I don’t know, a hospital or something? I’m tired of this outside world and unclean environment. Wait, a young girl just exited the car with a woman. Is this man friendly? He’s giving me a horrible feeling…Where’s that journal?
The beer-bellied man introduces himself to the girl, Erica, as Gary Slaughter. The trio entered his house. The woman cursed as she fumbled to write in her ever-present journal.
Emilia’s Journal: I looked away to find this damn thing, and now they’ve disappeared. I’ve crept up to the side of the house, now. Gary Slaughter’s voice pulses with authority, carrying through this cracked open window I’m peeking through. I hear him talking to Erica, the shy girl masking her emotions behind that swatch of hair covering her eye. Although, I recognize grief when I see it. She is grieving, possibly from a loss. I know loss. I relate to that feeling — wanting to retreat into yourself but knowing you must adapt to circumstances to survive. Erica’s visible eye doesn’t quite focus on Gary. I admit, he is a formidable presence. Gary sounds jovial, but now he’s talking about monsters. I’m unsure whether he means metaphorical monsters or…real ones. I’ve seen enough in my travels beyond my world now to anticipate the supernatural. For Erica’s sake, god, I hope the monsters aren’t real. The only monster I’ve seen so far is Gary. I’m making deductions through intuition, but I haven’t interacted with people in so long, I hardly know anything beyond the pages of my books. Still, I sense something sinister here.
They ate and spoke of monsters present on the premises. Words about training to fight and warfare against primordial beasts startled the woman listening outside. Daylight waned as stars began pockmarking the dust-colored sky. Erica, the adult woman, the horde of dogs, and Gary exited the house. They trudged from the looming mansion across a field of grass. Unbeknownst to them, the woman followed behind discreetly. Thoughts of shuffling dimensions and cosmic fields she has traversed suppressed her emotions. She felt connected to young Erica in ways she wished she could jettison into the darkness, swallowing their grief whole.
Emilia’s Journal: The blonde woman places a mask over Erica’s face after Gary enters a hulking red barn. I think of blood when I see it, and I feel an impetus to stop this strange ritual from occurring. But of course, I cannot intervene. I wait in monolithic silence as the woman tells Erica she has to enter the barn with Gary alone. My god…are they sacrificing this poor child? Hasn’t she been through enough? This reminds me why people frighten me. Evil courses through my own world. Evil people. Evil diseases. Cancer…and the good people, as hard as they try, can’t save everyone. No one could save my dad. And now I am alone, like poor Erica. They are sending her off to slaughter in some sadistic ceremony after terrifying her with tales of monsters. The woman tells Erica how Gary will ask Erica questions like her name and something about a totem named Octo? Is this a cult? Is Gary a monster — something about to kill this child?
Horror flirted with her premonitions of violence as Erica entered the barn. The woman gasped when visions pummeled her. Extraordinary sight allowed her to watch a man in a blue mask interrogate Erica. From afar, she recoiled. She saw everything Erica saw, experiencing the depth of Erica’s memories as if they belonged to the woman too. Erica’s family is murdered while Erica is spared. The purple octopus toy Erica clutched close to her chest in the barn protected her from death. A plush toy absorbed a black, spider-limbed monster. The womans’ body convulsed along with Erica when the monster was summoned from Octo in the lightless dark of the barn.
Emilia: Why are they doing this to a child? That’s a demon! How can she possibly survive?
A waterfall of red light gushed from Erica’s small frame. Blood rivulets flooded her nostrils, and then Erica crumpled to the ground. Gary and the masked man observed in abject consternation but stood fettered in place. Erica passed out, Octo sprawled on her chest like a shrine. The barbary ended before the womans’ trepidation nearly forced her to scream.
Again, a distorted light flared. It sizzled into view, defecting to whatever held it back previously.
Emilia: That light! The sun! It’s come back for me. It’s not stopping!
The light oscillated and advanced upon her. Her heart galloped along with her pounding feet as she ran from her faceless pursuer. She ran across the field until her feet no longer tread on tepid grass. Losing the light, a shadowy figure suddenly uncoiled in a mass of blood and teeth. The crimson-stained canines spelled out a message: “Stay on the move. Don’t let them catch you.” Then, she felt the celestial sphere pluck her out of reality.
BloodOf The Sardaukar
Aimée was now in a room. It was the same cold room they lived in for two years before they disappeared. It gave a feeling of desensitization, with white walls turning grey, a table that shared one single chair with an unstable desk, an old kitchen. It was the same as always, except now some small things were missing, and some added. It didn’t feel great to be in that room, but it felt normal, at least.
With their eyes open, they started witnessing a series of flashing events. They saw a kid from a noble family, which was slaughtered because of a diplomatic fraud. He was captured by the killers and trained through life and death situations he had to endure for years, to become one of the Sardaukar, the empire’s army. He had to live inside a prison for two months, where his little brother died beaten up by the inmates. Then was released in a desert for years where his other brother was poisoned by a lizard. He was the last member of his exterminated family, and Aimée was his witness. They appear on these memories flashes conveniently positioned on safe places among all the destruction and tragedy, as if it was premeditated.
Aimée’s Journal: What kind of hell is this? They just tortured that kid. This is all so fucked up. This is not like the other places I’ve been in. I have to be extra careful here; it feels like everyone would kill me on sight.
Before Aimée could adjust to the place, they appeared on a giant corridor, supported by imposing columns where they could hide behind. A conversation could be overhead flowing through the air. The tone that bordered on whispers functioned as a seal that let them know it was a pressing matter. It was a duke and his bodyguard talking about the ramifications that the duke’s actions could have. He freed a territory that the empire took over, administered before by the Kolona family. Aimée’s mind took a moment to process that information, as they were simultaneously trying to hide as well as possible, but soon it clicked; Kolona was the kid’s surname.
Aimée’s journal: Is it possible that the kid might get his family’s position again? I mean, the duke said he was giving it to the extended family, but he can step up. Would he want to? After seeing what that system’s capable of, maybe he wouldn’t even dream about it.
In less than a heartbeats time, the sound of explosions entered Aimée’s eardrums as a nail enters a piece of wood. Then screamings followed. Everyone started to panic, and the corridor was rapidly full of people running, that didn’t bother to think twice about Aimée’s presence. After running to a balcony, they saw what was happening: they were being attacked. If they were to trust the people running through the corridors, some faction called the Harkonnen was behind the attack. They had no reason to think otherwise, especially because they were foreign to this world and its divisions.
Aimée’s journal: They’re killing everyone! This seemed like a peaceful place. It’s part of the empire! How is it suddenly being attacked? Who are these Harkonnen they keep mentioning?
Things became clearer when they distinguished someone running on the roof that was just in the front. It was the kid, or who was a kid, and now a man. He was one of the attackers. This made Aimée understand the Sardaukar were sent by the empire to stop the duke, disguised as Harkonnen, to avoid connections.
Aimée’s journal: He’s about to fire a missile to a spaceship! That must be where the duke is. Why would they bother then? Oh my god, he just missed! The duke may survive. Maybe he missed on purpose?
Still, with the diary and pen in hand, they saw a light beam floating in space, just like the one they saw before. This time it was close and visible enough to make sure they weren’t just seeing things. They couldn’t even focus on it when it started floating threateningly against them. Almost dropping the diary, they started running down the nearest stairs. There was no time to look back, and it was already hard to avoid all the murderers present in the place. The screams, blood jumping out of stabbed bodies, and the deafening explosions almost made them just throw themselves against the floor and cry for help. They jumped a wall, went into two alleys, and hid behind a spaceship before they finally looked back to realize the light was gone. At Aimée’s side was a corpse; it had been stabbed with such strength that its guts were visible. But that’s not what caught their attention. There was the blood coming out of it slowly formed words before them: Stay on the move. Don’t let them catch you.
Aimée’s journal: I’ll have to think about what I just saw another day. I’m tired to even do that, and the sooner I get out of this fucking place, the better I’ll be.