Part 1 – Sabrina
I couldn’t tell Veronica what I was doing on Impact Day, because I was with her. It was a Friday night and we were doing the same thing we always did, hanging out and playing video games. Her younger sister, Ashley, was asleep on the armchair.
Veronica and I both sat cross-legged on the couch, controllers in hand, furiously mashing buttons as we attempted to virtually murder one another through brightly coloured avatars. She was focussing intensely, determined not to lose to me. I was wincing every time one of the characters got impaled by something sharp, and marvelling at their ability to keep fighting.
“If it were me,” I said, blocking a barrage of punches, “I’d give up after the first hit. What do these people even have to be fighting about?”
“Oh, who cares?” Veronica asked. “Honour, love, a desire to rip their shirts off and punch each other?”
There was a bright flash of light as my character unleashed some kind of energy beam, knocking Veronica’s off the screen.
“I do not understand how you’re so good at this,” she complained. “You don’t even like video games. Or fighting!”
“Maybe I’m not good,” I teased. “Maybe you’re just really bad.”
She responded by having her character flip over the top of mine, and kicking her up into the air. I cringed.
“Have you ever been in a fight?” she asked, suddenly serious.
“No,” I told her.
“What, huh?” I demanded. “You think I would?”
“Well, I mean, I don’t think you’d go looking for a fight,” she said. “Just, you know, I can see people wanting to fight you. Because of the-”
“Oh, right,” I said, deflating. “Yeah, I’ve had some close calls. I think I’m too much of a shut-in to really have much to worry about, though.”
“Ashley got into a fight once,” she said.
“Mmm. Wouldn’t tell me what it was about, but apparently some kid said something that pissed her off, and she just, let him have it.”
I looked over at Ashley, still asleep on the couch. I could have sworn I saw her lips curl into a slight smile.
Ashley was only thirteen, and as a general rule, soft spoken and quiet. Excitable around Veronica and I, but the rest of the time, she was more of the quiet nerdy type.
“What could have set her off?” I asked, resting my controller on the floor and stretching out on the couch.
“I don’t know,” Veronica said, shrugging. She dropped her controlled, and pulled my feet onto her lap. “I can guess, though.”
“What, me?” I asked, looking back over at Ashley.
“You know she loves you,” Veronica said. “You might as well be her second bigger sister.”
“I guess that’s kind of sweet,” I said. “Still, I’d really rather she kept out of trouble.”
“You’ll never guess who her new idol is,” Veronica said, rolling her eyes dramatically.
I frowned, not sure what she was talking about. Ashley wasn’t the type to idolise anyone, except…
“Oh, no,” I said.
“Yep. It’s a good thing they don’t sell merch, the house would be full of it.”
“What appeal could a vigilante thug have to a teenage girl?” I asked, and Veronica laughed at the expression on my face.
“Hey, you didn’t grow up on comic books. She did. The vigilante may as well be Batman as far as she’s concerned.”
“Batman? They’re a skinny punk in a ski mask and a hoodie. Not exactly superhero material,” I said. “Besides, they haven’t been seen for like, six months. They’re either dead, or coming back as a supervillain.”
“This city has enough villains,” Veronica said, shaking her head. “Sometimes it does feel like something out of a comic book, y’know?”
“More like a fifties gangster movie,” I said. “At worst, West Side Story.”
“Hey, you know the rules,” she snapped, then grinned.
“No musical theatre in this house,” I repeated monotonously. “You have no culture, you know that?”
My phone buzzed in my pocket, surprising me. I dug it out clumsily, and realised my mum was calling me.
“Honey? It’s getting late, are you coming home soon?” she asked, her tone more concerned than annoyed.
I pulled the phone away from my ear, and checked the time. It was a good hour later than I’d thought.
“Sorry, I didn’t realise the time,” I said. “I’ll start heading home now.”
“Okay, honey. I’ll see you soon,” she said, and made a kissing sound before hanging up.
“Gotta go?” Veronica asked, pouting.
“I think I pushed my luck a little tonight,” I said apologetically. “She’s still not cool with me staying over at girls’ houses.”
“If only she knew,” Veronica said wistfully.
“I am so not ready for that conversation,” I said, shuddering. “For now, I’m just gonna put up with it.”
I grabbed my blazer and pulled it on. Veronica leapt up from the couch, surprisingly graceful, and wrapped her arms around me.
“You know, whenever you are ready to talk to them, I’ll be there with you,” she said.
“Thank you,” I said, hugging her back.
I hugged her once more at the door, then started my walk home. Thankfully, we didn’t live too far away from each other, and I knew it wouldn’t take me long to get home.
Except I never got home.
It started with a scream. A single, piercing, mind-numbing scream that seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. The ground beneath me trembled and shook, and I lost my footing, landing hard on my butt.
All around me, everything seemed to warp and twist. I watched as cracks began to form, running through the ground, through houses and trees, even through the air itself.
High above me, in the sky, I saw the same thing that everyone else in the city saw that night. A massive tear, and a sparkling diamond sky beyond it.
There was a deep, sharp crack and some kind of silver construct came bursting through the tear, seconds before it sealed itself up again. The construct, looking like some kind of sci-fi spaceship, broke apart violently, pieces flying away in all directions.
A chunk of ship landed with a deafening boom a street away from where I was sitting, and I felt my stomach churn. Without even thinking, I leapt to my feet, running towards the billowing plume of smoke that had already begun to form.
By the time I got there, a crowd had already gathered around it, but nobody seemed game enough to actually step onto the property. I pushed my way to the front, and had to fight against my body’s urge to throw up.
The house had completely caved in, and parts of it were still burning. I couldn’t tell if anyone was inside it when the wreckage hit it, but there was definitely someone in there.
I could barely make them out, a silhouetted figure leaning against a wall, half surrounded by fire. Instinct took over again, and I ran towards them even as the crowd began to shout. I blocked them out.
I vaulted over the fence, stumbling but managing to maintain my balance. The heat and smell of burning wood hit me at the same time, and I covered my mouth with my elbow, squinting to see through the smoke that was making my eyes water.
The closer I got to the prone figure, the more I realised just how dire the situation was. Some piping had broken loose, and was currently jutting right out of their chest. I didn’t realise until it was too late that I was standing in a pool of their blood.
I staggered forward, and got a better look at the person who couldn’t possibly still be alive. It looked like a woman, possibly in her mid twenties, with short platinum-blonde hair. Her expression was eerily serene.
I’m not sure what came over me, but I found myself overwhelmed by the desire to touch her. I crouched beside her, my trembling hand reaching towards her face.
The moment my fingers touched her, I felt a painful shock race through me. My entire body spasmed, and I collapsed beside her, twitching, even as I saw her move.
Her eyes fluttered open, looking about curiously. If she felt any pain from the pipe sticking out of her chest, she sure didn’t show it. Her gaze fixated on me, and a strange sort of smile played across her lips.
She reached in front of her, her delicate fingers wrapping around the pipe, and effortlessly snapped it. I could only watch as she slowly stood up, separating herself from the pipe. She cracked her neck, her spine, her fingers, then stretched out like a cat.
The last thing I remember before I passed out was her crouching beside me, reaching out to touch my face, just as I’d touched hers, the same smile still sitting there.