OOC Stitches' Testing Lab

As they walked, Laine asked a very interesting question. Could Pepper make a path? She had certainly never tried before. She couldn’t be sure that she couldn’t. It wasn’t impossible, surely. Where would she even start?

“You can do this. It is as easy as breathing.”

The thought rose up from deep within her and left her with a thick headache. But then, she knew what to do. In her mind, she picture the long unbroken line that was the Path. Then, she pulled it while she breathed in. It stretched, and the lights raced over toward the two women. Soon, the Path was fully curved around the giant beast, and back beneath their feet.

As quickly as the thought had arisen within her, it was taken away. It wasn’t as if she couldn’t recall it– it was as if it had never existed at all. There was a moment where she didn’t know how to change the Path, and then there was a moment where she knew how. Nothing existed between them. In fact, that single missing millisecond meant that she almost tripped over her own feet. She managed to stay upright and walk, somehow keeping to the beat.

“I… did it… I think.”

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There was an incident in 2015, in which Class-B researcher “Peppers” wandered into the CU for ACF-327. This is the only known incident of the “Music Man” acting out of its usual anomalous behavior. “Peppers” was immediately contacted by the anomaly, and reported that it asked her immediately to remove its record player from the premises. “Peppers” then proceeded to take the anomaly and open her portal. She disappeared inside of it for approximately ten seconds before returning with the record player.
The thought rose up from deep within her and left her with a thick headache. But then, she knew what to do. In her mind, she picture the long unbroken line that was the Path. Then, she pulled it while she breathed in. It stretched, and the lights raced over toward the two women. Soon, the Path was fully curved around the giant beast, and back beneath their feet.
We can once again reply to specific parts of posts without having to delete entire sections.

Personnel File: Elizabeth Pepper Krasniqi

This file is restricted to Class-D personnel and higher. Unauthorized access will result in immediate disciplinary action.
Name: Elizabeth Pepper Krasniqi

Anomalous Designation: ACF-7823-A "Peppers"

Rank: R-Class-C (R-Class-D pending)

Locations: L-14

Age: 25 y/o. (D.O.B. 6.30.1997) [Eternally 22]

Hair color: Blonde

Eye color: Green

Height: 1.49 m

Weight: 44.5 kg

Hobbies: Sewing, watching horror movies and romcom movies, reading fiction books, rollerblading, and going to concerts

Foundation History
Elizabeth Krasniqi was discovered at the age of five in [REDACTED], California. Her parents reported her missing and she seemingly disappeared for three days, only to reappear right in front of her parent's eyes. This happened once more before an undercover agent reported the anomaly. Agents were dispatched to examine first the location, then the child herself. Upon noticing extremely high levels of [REDACTED], they determined that the anomaly was the child herself. She was taken into custody under the pretense of [REDACTED]. While her parents initially put up a fight, once they were adequately compensated they agreed to visitations only.

Initial testing assumed that Elizabeth was popping in and out of reality at a consistent spot. This was quickly proven incorrect as the child began to pop in and out of reality all across the facilities. Attempts to contain her failed miserably. Multiple containment procedures were attempted, but it was soon determined that it was unnecessary for her to be contained, as she willingly stayed in the facilities with the researchers, who she bonded with. Further testing was deemed necessary. Attaching cameras to her proved to be futile, as the only footage that they recorded was of a black space with a strong interfering sound.

In a stroke of brilliance, researcher Kallie strapped a GPS onto Elizabeth’s wrist for a week. From there, they were able to determine that she was traveling in some liminal space between points A and B. The child herself was unable to explain for many years how and what she was doing.

At age fifteen, Elizabeth was reassessed. At this point in time, she had begun to show great promise with her ability. After years of training and instructions, she had mastered what we have decided to call “walking” between point A and point B through her dimensional rifts in a fraction of the time it takes to physically walk there. Distance seems to be irrelevant. After testing, it was determined that she could also lead others through ACF-7823-B.

It is important to note that no one is to accompany Elizabeth without a blindfold face covering of some kind. Researcher [REDACTED] was the first to attempt to accompany her on a “walk”. It took them two days to return, at which time the researcher immediately put in a request for leave and began to see the in-house therapist and psychiatrist. She requested a transfer of locations. Although it took them nearly a month to discuss the events that transpired, Elizabeth had no problem explaining. “She got scared by one of the shadows and let go of my hand. It’s really dark, so it took me a while to find her again. I don’t think the shadows like outsiders, so it’s not good to get lost.”

Elizabeth appears to be unaware of where she goes, or how she goes there, but she can control it and therefore may prove useful in the future.

Addendum: Elizabeth has joined the Research team, so we have conducted another evaluation. In the 5 years since the prior evaluations, several things have become more evident, which will be listed below.

Elizabeth has an internal map that allows her to go anywhere she pleases. Exp; when asked to travel to a particular city in a country she has never been to, she can find her way there nearly instantaneously. When asked to provide an explanation of how she does this, she shrugs and insists, “I just know. I never get lost.” Being provided with a set of coordinates, she can lead teams to their exact location.

No amount of containment can prevent Elizabeth from going where she pleases. She willingly chooses to stay as she has developed deep, familiar attachments to the Field and Home Research Teams, especially to Dr. Reed and Dr. Fredricks. She poses no threat, so we have given her much leeway, including the recent promotion to A-Class-C.

Over the last decade, through extensive training, Elizabeth has mastered several new techniques. She can now use quick successions of her dimensional rifts, collapse the portals while keeping them active, the transportation of items touched but not traveling with (or simply dropping them into ACF-7823-B for future pick up), and the successful transportation of up to ten people. Amount of people she could lead through is estimated to be as many as she pleases.

As is protocol, she does have containment rules. She is designated Class Household. She is in no way allowed to be near any anomaly higher than Risky. After an incident where a Leviathan asked her to take it for a walk and she nearly unlocked its containment room, she has been banned from operating anywhere near them. She has no sense of self-preservation, so she must be accompanied by another researcher at all times. She may be used for the transportation of properly sealed and contained anomalies. Risky, Low-Grade.

Recent developments with "Peppers" have required a second addendum. Medical reports have recently been submitted to the staff that indicate radical changes to her DNA. These changes have been studied and the conclusion is that she has stopped aging physically. Furthermore, her cell turnover rate is so high, that it is unlikely she will ever age again. These changes were caused by her current status as a god host. She has absorbed the dying vestiges of what has only been referred to as "The Dead God." She has also taken on part of his consciousness, as it has been noted that she both hears and sees him. At this time, she is to be considered a nonthreat, however, her new designation is that of Leviathan, Low-Grade, as requested by SV-3 Jupiter.

Related Anomalies

ACF-7823-B: "The Dark Dimension"

ACF-7823-B, code name “Dark Dimension”, is the dimension that ACF-7823-A uses for travel. Extensive research has been done on it by researcher Kallie Reed. Although no imagery of it other than “Peppers’” sketches exist, other readings and examinations have been successful. The dimension is completely disconnected from our own, as the GPS stops functioning when inside it. It appears to have oxygen of a higher content than our own atmosphere according to readings. According to “Peppers”, or ACF-7823-A, the dimension is inhabited by shadowy shapes of varying shapes and sizes. They “talk” to her, but anyone who accompanies her reports guttural screaming and ear-piercing frequencies. According to “Peppers”, there is another being attached to the “Dark Dimension” by the name of The Goddess, and the shadows have discouraged her from ever leaving her “paths.” Much is still unknown about the dimension, but as it seems to be isolated from our reality with no way of breaking through, we currently classify it as Class Household.

We have stricken from the record all previously known information. This file has long been due for an update, as we stopped updating it in about 2015. When Dr. Kallie Reed ceased being the lead researcher, we simply added Dr. Krasniqi's field reports to the file. I don't think anyone actually read them. This has been a grave oversight on our behalf. This file is now restricted to Class-D and higher personnel.

The newest developments place ACF-7823-B as the same dimension as the one related to ACF-1003. Our original depictions of the denizens were taken when "Peppers" was roughly twelve years in age. We have compiled images of many of the different species found in the dimension, although "Peppers" and her guide Mikulass assure us there are many other species than just those found within the Cult's encampment. The many different species there were created with eyes that make out shapes based on levels of darkness.

The planet itself is made of flesh, with millions of trillions of smaller organisms functioning as one. The landscape is organic, except where it has been shaped by ACF-1003's hands. Much of the life lives beneath the surface, where large cavernous structures are reported to be. We have no direct documentation of these cities, although "Peppers" has said she's seen some of the caverns and believes her guide's word. Future expeditions are expected to document and explore one of these caverns.

There are two primary religions in the "Dark Dimension". The primary one is devoted to the Goddess, ACF-1003, and is considered a religion of peace and "the one true religion". The second is practiced almost exclusively by the Dead God's Cult, and it follows the belief that the Goddess's religion is one built on lies and falsehoods, and believes the only way to fix what has been done is for total extermination. After much discussion with the head priest, Mikulass, it is our understanding that the dimension has experienced heat death, and they were created after it. This seems to be a major point of contention. The cult claims that the primary religion does not properly acknowledge the Dead God, when he should be a primary figure in their religion. The cult has gained even more followers in the last decade, as "Peppers" has become more in tune with the powers offered to her by the Dead God.

ACF-1003 "The Sleeper" has yet to be seen within the dimension itself, but we anticipate an encounter at some point in the future, if not intentional, at least accidental.

[End of file.]
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Personnel File: Dr. Kallie Amanda Reed

Name: Dr. Kallie Amanda Reed

Rank: R-Class-D, senior researcher

Locations: L-14

Age: 60 y/o.

Hair color: Grey and Black

Eye color: Brown

Height: 1.57 meters

Weight: 50.8 Kg

Hobbies: Does research and paperwork count?

Foundation History
Dr. Kallie joined the foundation after an experience with the "Music Man" anomaly on June 5th, 1989. Through exemplary work and determination, she quickly rose to the rank of an A-Class-C researcher at location L-14. Her promotion came after she finished her research on the genetic disposition of anomalous humans and how to identify its signs in pregnancies. She is also the researcher who was in charge of the handling, examination, and raising of anomaly ACF-7823-A. We have been trying to promote her to A-Class-D for nearly a decade, but she has stubbornly refused the transition. We eventually gave her special clearance for Leviathan-level anomalies. It was only after the Breach, due to efforts from new location managers Isaac Cotta and Cody Redd, that she finally agreed to the promotion, and was made senior researcher at the L-14 location.

[End of file.]
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Personnel File:Agent Angelica Prosper

Name: Angelica Prosper

Rank: A-Class-D

Locations: L-14

Age: 35 y/o.

Hair color: Red (unnatural)

Eye color: Brown

Height: 1.77 meters

Weight: 69 Kg

Hobbies: PvP video games, reading Science Fiction novels and comparing them to her job, going to the shooting range, and learning new languages.

Foundation History
Angelica was recruited in 2016 after ten years of service as an active member of the United States Army. While much of what she did was classified, she has been on two five-year tours in the Middle East. She was recruited due to a close call with ACF-[REDACTED], in which she assisted the STRH team in containing. She was immediately curious, and reportedly told the Welcoming Committee, “I need a little wonder in my life these days.”

While she was nominated for early Class-D promotions twice for outstanding performance, Angelica informed location management that she didn’t feel she was ready to take on the responsibilities. After the 2018 breach, Angelica took over the front desk at location 14, on what was meant to be a short-term assignment. However, Angelica proved to be exceptional at personnel management and was efficient in the position. She was given an A-Class-D promotion, much to her chagrin, and was placed on a long-term assignment as the l-14 coordinator, personnel manager, and front desk.

[End of file.]
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He opened Their eyes. He sat up in the chair and looked around the room before finding Isaac’s face. He could feel the weight of Her body– Their body– as He stood up. He moved around to the back of the chair while He spoke.
“Please forgive me for standing. I prefer it to sitting.”

To: Jupiter, SV-3
From: Agent Angelica Prosper, A-Class-D

Date: 8/10/2023

Per request, I have compiled all files and documents pertaining to ACF-1003. All files and transcribed logs can be found attached to this document.

Despite knowing you have access to and have likely listened to the transcripts of these meetings already, I have included the audio logs for Dr. Redd’s interactions with ACF-1003 on 6/X//23 and 7/X/23. I have also included all the documents, images, and audio logs pertaining to the incident with 1003-D on 7/X/23. I am aware these have been readily available to yourself and your teams before now, but in the name of thoroughness, I have chosen to include them anyway. Having all of the pertinent information compiled in one, easy-to-access space seemed logically a good thing.

On 7/28/23, ACF-1003 was introduced to Dr. Elizabeth Krasniqi, ACF-7823. This introduction was facilitated by Dr. Redd, who was present for the duration of their interaction. ACF-1003 seems to have taken well to Dr. Krasniqi, and saw her again on 8/07/23, whose report can be found below. Her progress with both researchers has demonstrated radically new behavior for her. Dr. Redd’s synergy with ACF-1003 has proven to be a positive turn of events.

Further developments took place on 8/1/23, when Agent Cotta spoke with Agent Corby and Dr. Krasniqi. Dr. Krasniqi managed to reproduce a sketch of 1003-D on minimal description. She and Agent Cotta then deduced that Dr. Krasniqi’s dimension she uses to hop between spaces was actually the very same dimension that ACF-1003 claimed to be a goddess in. Dr. Krasniqi then identified that image of “Annihilation” as a denizen of the dimension. Dr. Redd was brought in to consult. It was also discovered at this time that Dr. Krasniqi came to the realization that she had absorbed the vestiges of the counterpart to ACF-1003, who for the time shall be referred to as “Dead God”.

An additional audio log that might be of interest is that of 03/07/21, taken by Dr. Krasniqi and the Lepidopterists, in which they discussed ACF-1003 with some of the denizens.

Finally, regardless of your presence at the time, I have also attached the report from Dr. Krasniqi of your outing yesterday.

Agent Angelica

The Morose
Once upon a time, it was you

Missy Beauchamp
Current Age:
Age at Embrace:
You know, I used to love you
. I really did. You were my whole world, and you shone just as bright as the sun you stole away from me. I never once complained about what you did, or when you killed Father. He was a monster, and you saved me. You gave me the power to be so much more than just a child, helpless and defenseless.

When you disappeared for a week, I thought you had left me behind with him. I thought you’d finally had enough of trying to protect me from his rage. After all, I depended on you so much. I would have gotten fed up with myself, too. I was so weak-willed and so very fragile. You went to great lengths to always throw yourself in front of me, to make yourself a target when he was angry. And he was always so angry.

I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.

Then you came home, and you were different. I noticed it immediately, but Father, he did not. He also didn’t notice when I fell ill in my room for a week, as you made me so much more than I was before. It was a curse that you bestowed upon me, but it was also a blessing. It meant freedom for both of us, an escape that we otherwise would not have achieved. You would have eventually left to marry, and then I would have been at his mercy until someone took pity on me and convinced him to marry me off as well.

Father was angry the night that I fully woke from death. He had come to bang on my door, and for once, you didn’t usher me away to hide in the closet or beneath the bed. Instead, you took my hand and you asked me a question. I remember being so hungry I could barely think, but I will remember that question forever. “Will you kill him, or shall I, Missy?”

I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.

A lot of what happened after that, I don’t remember. I just remember coming to with blood on my white dress and meat in my hands, and Father’s corpse on the ground between us. I haven’t worn white since that day, though not out of some silly thing like mourning his death. No, it was because he had always made me wear white, and I wanted to never see that color ever again.

We stayed close to the city after that, and everything was wonderful. We were together, and that was all I ever cared about, you know. When it was just us, we never had to worry about others. We always had each other’s back. And when we began to learn how to make things out of the dead, when we began to learn together, that was one of the best times of my life.

I wasn’t bothered by the thirst and the hunger. I wasn’t bothered by the screams or the blood or the flesh. I wasn’t bothered by any of the changes to us.

I was bothered by her.

We’d made it sixty years when you found her. I was so furious with you, that I couldn’t even begin to express it in words. We had made a promise. You had made a promise. You had promised me that we would always be together, just the two of us. And then you broke that promise. You wanted to add her. You said she could be like my older sister, that we could all be happy together. But I didn’t want that. I only ever wanted you.

You made it so hard for me, you know that, right? Because I really did love you. I still do. You shone like the sun you stole away from me. You gave me the power to be so much more than what I was. You cared for me and took care of me for sixty years. I thought the world of you. You were a constant in my life.

I’ll never be able to thank you enough for that.

But you also made me do the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Driving that stake through your back is the most unforgivable thing I’ve ever done. My hands shook so badly when I did it, you know. And I’d never cried so hard as I did then. Watching your body as it decayed away was the most terrible experience of my life.

Please forgive me, my brother, for what I have done.
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Samantha Walsh
Aka, “Phoenix”

Name: Samantha Caireach Walsh
Age: 25 (D.O.B 3/26/1998)
Gender: Female
Hair: Orange-red
Eyes: Amber
Occupation: Owner of a recently acquired gym.
Nationality: Irish, Scottish.
Residence: Pittsburgh, PA
Family: Amelia Walsh (mother, 53), Terry Walsh (father, 56)

Heat Manipulation - Due to an internal process, Sam’s body converts all unnecessary energy into heat. She naturally runs a temperature of about 101 Fahrenheit. Her body can withstand extreme temperatures (she’s handled hot glass with her bare hands before) without any issue, although if she gets too cold, her heat output is drastically lowered. She can generate temperatures of up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit on command. She can build heat over time, and her highest recorded and maintained temperature was inside a controlled heat retaining room over the course of three hours and reached 632 degrees Fahrenheit. She promptly passed out shortly after leaving the room.

She uses this ability in a multitude of ways, but her two favorites are superheating her hammer and creating hot air vortexes to “fly” inside. While she can generate enough heat to ignite things if provided with a spark, such as the matches she carries inside the right breast pocket of her jacket, she has avoided actually doing so for many years.

Accelerated Metabolic Rate - Sam has a heightened metabolism, which forces her to eat two to three times the amount of food a normal person needs to survive. While she could survive on the amount of food a normal person eats, she would be unable to use the majority of her abilities. In addition, she sleeps half the time a normal person would and heals at a slightly faster rate. It's not instant, and she can still be injured just as easily as a normal person.

On the flip side, these abilities have left Sam rail thin. She is constantly on the edge of collapse at the end of the day, because she never quite eats enough. Her soft face is graced with heavy under-eye shadows from her pushing her already limited required sleeping to the edge, and her refusal to care for herself properly.

Durability - Through training, and helped by her enhanced body, she is faster and stronger than anyone her size should be. She can take bigger punches than people twice her size, but she suffers just as much damage as they would regardless. She’s more durable than the average human, and can fall as much as four stories without sustaining life-threatening damage. She might break her arm, but she’ll get up and walk away.

Martial Combat - After a decade of enrollment in various self-defense and martial arts courses, Sam is not a master of any one particular fighting style, but rather a jack of all. A little memory of Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, and Krav Maga with a lot of kickboxing and Judo make the primary structure of her style.

A large hammer with a handle wrapped in black and red tape. It has a red wristband that Phoenix usually keeps wrapped around her wrist. The hammer has a basic flame print carved into the side. Her jacket contains multiple pieces of varying flammable materials which she uses to generate fire. She has backup pieces of charcoal in the internal wedge of her boot heels. These items range from a box of matches, slivers of charred wood, and actual pieces of charcoal. Some other items on her include a police scanner, zip ties, duct tape, and a first aid kit, all neatly contained in the small backpack she carries with her everywhere she goes.

Her vigilante outfit consists of a hoodie to hide her hair, a simple domino mask to obscure her eyes and a black leather jacket. She wears black pants with armored elbow and knee guards, gathered by her mother from the army manufacturer she works for. Underneath this, she wears a suit crafted with materials from her mother by her father, the tailor. It's simple, red, and shows at the edge of her sleeves and when she raises her arms. Her suit and boots are made of Gore-tex Crosstech materials and are made to her exact specifications. They took a pretty penny to acquire, but Sam takes safety very seriously.

Sam is serious. During her daily life, she can come off quite aloof and distant. She’s generally polite and gentle, despite the distance she willingly puts between herself and others. She lets very few people in under the shield she’s built around herself, but when she does, she becomes fiercely protective of them. She can be quite caring toward these people, giving her all to take care of them and ensure their safety. Instead of letting people inside, however, Sam has a tendency toward forcing herself to be lonely. She feels it better if normal people aren’t close to her, and tends to think the same thing about other… more-than-humans.

If Sam is serious, Phoenix is severe. Phoenix is the hard and cold mask that Sam wears brought to its final conclusion. She gets brash and quiet and violent. She’d rather break your kneecaps than let you run away from her. While she’s never killed anyone, she’s all but ready to do so, if the situation called for it. She is the pent-up rage that Sam carefully conceals beneath her soft and polite smile. Her temper flares easily, and she has to reel herself in to avoid permanently injuring crooks and villains.

Sam tends to find the easiest solution to a problem and follow that logic all the way through, even if the situation starts to get complicated. She’s got enough of a one-track mind to be called “obsessive”. And certainly, she considers herself obsessive, almost compulsive in her goals. Everything she does is done with passion, despite the way she distances herself from others. She works with passion, conviction, and determination.​
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Sam’s head was spinning when she woke. She felt like a train had hit her head on, her body as achy as if she’d fallen off a building. And she had done that before, so she knew what that felt like. There were hushed voices off somewhere in the distance, but she didn’t care about that. She didn’t care about the bone-deep chill that was suppressing her heat either. Instead, she started tossing her head back and forth as she looked for her friend.

Alice wasn’t immediately within sight. That wasn’t necessarily a red flag, although she would look back on it later and realize it had been intentional. She thought nothing of it and assumed the older girl had simply managed to make it without getting injured this time. She let her eyes close for a moment and fell back unconscious.

Memories swirled through her head, interlaced with dreams. Memories of meeting Alice for the first time, and their first patrol together. Dreams of a hand reaching out to her and a scream. Memories of Alice bringing her meals during finals, of them celebrating her eighteenth birthday. Dreams of Alice’s body lying lifeless on the ground barely out of reach. Memories of the man consumed by shadow as he reached out and touched her, sucking the life and heat from her body.

She bolted awake, jolting upright. It hurt her entire body and she groaned. Hushed voices stopped and then hands were on her face and in her hair.

“Sammie? Oh my god, Sammie, baby, are you okay?” Her mother’s hands pushed her curls back from her face.

“We thought we were going to lose you, darling.” Her father’s hands tucked her hair back and held it there.

Sam coughed and felt her insides practically crack with the cold that was permeating her body. “Mom, Dad… where’s Alice? Is she okay? What happened to me?”

She saw her mother look over her head at her father, the two exchanging a look. Her mother swallowed, and her rough hands cupped Sam’s face. She had a sad smile on her face. “Your wristband’s automatic monitor sent out an SOS when your body temperature dropped to 80 degrees. We came as quickly as we could. You were so cold when we arrived that we thought you were dead. It wasn’t until we brought you home that you started to warm up. We didn’t know if you were going to make it.”

“Mom, where’s Alice? She was with me.” Her voice had a bit of edge to it, and she grabbed her mother’s hands, moving them away so she could look around their basement that had served as her base of operation for the last few years. The second cot had a body in it, and she saw long raven hair. She breathed out, and she reached her hand out to touch Alice’s shoulder.

“Wait, Sammie, don’t–”

Her fingers met Alice’s shoulder and cold radiated outward and into her finger tips. A deep cold, a frostbiting cold. A dead cold. She felt her heart stop and she jerked her hand away before reaching back out and shaking the older girl’s shoulder. “Alice? Alice, wake up.”

Her father reached out and took her hand, pulling it back. She struggled against him, trying to reach for the girl as tears filled her eyes. “No, no, Alice, wake up! Alice, please, I know you can hear me, wake up!”

Her parents began to restrain her, and her father eventually slung her over his shoulder and started to carry her up the stairs. Tears fell from Sam’s eyes, warm, but not as warm as they should have been. She pounded weakly against her father’s shoulders. “No, let me go! Why isn’t she waking up? Why isn’t she waking up?

“Sammie… Alice is dead.”

The words froze her and she stopped moving as they left the basement, Alice’s body finally disappearing from view. Her father gently deposited her on the couch and her mother quickly came in to wrap a blanket around her shoulders, curling the edges in under each other to make sure it was secure.

“I’m so sorry, Sammie. I’m so sorry. She was already gone by the time we got there. We couldn’t save her.” Her mother gently rubbed her shoulders through the blanket and shot her father a concerned look. “She’s still cold, Terry. What do we do about this?”

“We just wait. There’s nothing else we can do. We don’t even know what they were fighting.”

Sam’s eyes flashed up and she whispered, her voice hoarse, “It was like he was made of shadow. All the lights went out when he came in, and all the warmth disappeared. He was fast, faster than me. He side stepped me and then reached out and touched me. I felt all the warmth in my body leave me, Mom. I got dizzy and I fell down. I think Alice tried to bend reality and he got to her first.”

Her voice broke when she said her friend’s name. Not her friend, her soul mate, her better half, the truest match for her in the whole world. She wasn’t in love with Alice, but she loved Alice like the moon. She was the softness to Sam’s angles, the calm to her fury, and the deep night sky to her midday heat. Sam was the sun, and Alice was the moon, perfectly in balance with each other. Her perfect. Other. Half.

Gone now. Gone now, and leaving Sam all alone again.

“Her mother is going to be here soon, Sammie. We called Ms. Shaw.”

“Camilla is coming?” Before the words were even out of her mouth, there was a knock at the door. Sam felt her blood run even colder than it already was. She pushed the blankets aside as her father went to answer the door. Something stuck in her throat and she gasped in softly as the door opened. Camilla Shaw was a tall and regal version of her daughter, the same raven black hair and green eyes as the girl. Right then, those green eyes were sadder than Sam could ever remember them being.

She stepped inside the door, and even at that distance, she heard her softly say, “Where’s Samantha?”

“She’s over on the couch with Amelia. She only just woke up.” Camilla looked up and directly into the sitting room and into Sam’s soul, it seemed. Her eyes weren’t accusatory like Sam had been exxpecting. No, they were just sad. The woman stepped into the house and slowly walked to the sitting room, and Sam stood, unstable and clutching her stomach. She closed the distance between them.

“Camilla. I’m so sorry. This is all my fault. I should have- I should have–”

The woman entered Sam’s space and wrapped her arms around her shoulders, pulling her close. Sam felt tears hitting her shoulder, and the woman’s soft voice rang out by her ear. “This isn’t your fault, Samantha. Alice knew the risks. And she loved you dearly. She would be so happy you survived. Please don’t blame yourself.”

Sam immediately burst into tears and held the woman bone crushingly tight, before letting up so she didn’t hurt her. She heard Camilla gasp slightly before sighing. She was still silently crying into Sam’s shoulder while Sam now bawled openly.

They held each other and cried for a while, and then they all went downstairs. Sam’s father and mother helps Camilla carry the cot out to her van. Sam stayed in the room. As soon as they were past the doorway, she walked up to it and went to close it. She made eye contact with her father as he rounded the corner on his way out. He nodded sadly to her.

She shut the door and engaged the lock. A long time ago, they had rebuilt their basement, adding panels of industrial radiant heat transferring panels as the walls. They had exchanged the door for something heat proof and made sure it was a perfect seal.

Sam walked to the middle of the room and sat down. Her breathing, which had finally come under control, hitched and caught in her throat. She let it out. A blast of heat erupted out from her, lifting her hair into wild tangles in the air and blowing her clothing away from her. The cotton clothing caught fire, blazing up around her and falling away into ash. She screamed, her throat tearing and tasting of iron. She screamed and she screamed as the room got hotter and hotter. The plates of the room creaked as they started to radiate the heat into the earth, but not fast enough. The temperature of the room burned hotter than Sam had ever burned before as she screamed and cried out her despair.

Alice was gone.

Alice was gone.

Alice was GONE.

Sam screamed until she couldn’t scream anymore. Then she curled up on the floor, her vision blurry. She closed her eyes, and they stayed shut. She felt the last bit of strength in her body leave her, and then there was nothing.

Sam was alone again.​