Liz, Impact Day
Aidan and I arrived back at Wendy’s cafe, but she was nowhere to be seen. There was a piece of paper sitting on a table, with two seats arranged as though people had been sitting in them only recently. Next to the paper was a small case.
Aidan approached the table, opening the case first. He held up a syringe, and shrugged. I walked over, and picked up the note.
I broke the rules. The price has to be paid.
I’m gone now.
Rachel is clever, but she underestimated me. I should have realised sooner, though.
Still, it’s not too late to stop them, and believe me, you need to stop them.
Go to Rachel’s cabin. Take the syringe. It will nullify the blood of mine in her system.
We read the note a few times, and Aidan looked at the syringe again.
“She tricked us,” he said, carefully, feeling out the words.
“They both tricked us,” I said. “Right from the beginning. This was a game to them, and we played right into their hands.”
“I loved her,” Aidan said, sounding stunned.
“We both did,” I said.
“We have to stop her,” he said.
I didn’t say anything. I took a moment to be quiet, to let the knowledge sink in. Charlie hadn’t included us because she needed our help. She was building our attachment, so that when she let herself get captured, Rachel could manipulate us into going after her. Because Wendy saw right through Rachel, but Aidan and I, we were genuine.
We weren’t her friends. We weren’t even people to her. We were tools. Tools that she’d used. And why? For power?
“She’s not the person we thought she was,” I said, slowly, deliberately.
“She’s a monster,” Aidan said.
“They both are.”
“Maybe it was all Rachel,” I said, hopeful but not convinced.
“There’s only one way to find out,” he said.
“Let’s go, then.”
Aidan seemed fired up, but I just felt numb. I could barely believe any of it was happening. The one thread, the one thing that had been keeping everything together through my crumbling grip on reality was Charlie, and the hope that I could save her. Now…
We’d fought, but I’d never stopped loving her. I’d never stopped needing her. I would have done anything for her, and I had. I’d gone along with her reckless scheme because I was so caught up in my feelings for her that I…
The two of us ran. It was the fastest way to get there. We didn’t worry about people seeing us. We didn’t worry about anything, except getting there before Charlie and Rachel could finish whatever little plan they’d put together.
It all ended that night. That’s what I genuinely believed.
* * *
I kicked open the door, Aidan close behind me. Charlie’s head whipped around, taken by surprise at our entrance. Good.
“How—” she began, but we didn’t give her a chance to say anything more. We moved, and we moved fast.
Aidan went for Rachel, determined to neutralise the threat before she could retaliate. She was dangerous, but there were two of us.
I went for Charlie, hurling her across the room, away from Rachel. She cried out, but I picked her up, pinning her against the wall.
“Use it!” I yelled at Aidan.
“No!” Charlie screamed.
Rachel didn’t put up a fight as Aidan pinned her down. She seemed languid, almost weak…
It wasn’t until Aidan had stuck the syringe into her that I realised what had happened.
“You took it from her, somehow,” I accused Charlie. She just snarled at me, struggling to get to Rachel.
Rachel began to convulse, twitching and shaking beneath Aidan. Unsure of what to do, he held her still, trying to make sure she didn’t hurt herself. It seemed like the serum was doing a good enough job of that on its own.
It was supposed to counteract the effect of Wendy’s blood. We had no idea what it would do to somebody whose blood no longer contained that, but it didn’t seem to be good. Rachel started screaming in pain. Charlie fought harder. She wasn’t strong, though. She hadn’t taken it yet?
“Fuck,” Aidan said, looking desperately down at Rachel.
“She deserves it,” I said, trying to battle my own guilt. We’d acted rashly, and even if Rachel had played us, she didn’t deserve this. Nobody did.
“Fuck you,” Charlie spat, kicking me in the stomach. I barely felt it.
I noticed her left hand had been clenched the entire time. Was she holding it, somehow?
I pried her hand open, but there was nothing there. An empty hand? Why? I glanced up at her face, and she grinned. It was an awful, cruel expression.
Before I could stop her, she shoved her other hand over her mouth, and I caught a glimpse of a red crystal between her teeth. I tried to grab it from her mouth, but it was already gone.
“Aidan!” I cried, as Charlie’s grin faded, replaced with a look of increasing shock.
Her eyes darkened, turning almost black. Her veins bulged, also darker. That hadn’t happened to either of us. Something different was happening to her. Was it because she took it second-hand? Because she swallowed it?
Because she was different?
Her skin began to blister and break, blood seeping out, covering her. I pulled my hands away from her, and she dropped to the floor.
“What the fuck,” I muttered, as the blood began to peel away from her, floating in little flecks around her, picking up speed, creating the shape of someone, something much bigger.
She moved, and the shape moved with her. It was getting thicker, blocking out the person underneath. Before long, it was all we could see.
The creature, whatever it was, looked around the room, and saw Aidan, still hunched over Rachel, trying to control her seizure. It bellowed, a terrifying sound that turned my legs to jelly.
The creature moved fast, faster than even Aidan or I could. With a single hand, it grabbed Aidan around the waist, and hurled him off of Rachel. He hit the wall and crumpled, collapsing harder than he should have with Wendy’s blood in him.
He didn’t get up.
I tried to run to his aid, but the creature intercepted, grabbing me around the throat, slamming me against the wall. I tried to fight back, but all of the strength had left me. Is that what happened to Aidan?
“WHAT DID YOU DO?” the creature said, in a voice that wasn’t Charlie’s, and wasn’t human. It reached deep into my brain, triggering every fear reaction I had. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. All I could do was stare, and tremble.
It dropped me, and I nearly collapsed. Summoning the last of my strength, I crawled over to Aidan, who was barely moving. He groaned as I tried to check his body for injuries.
There was a grotesque hand print on his back, where the creature had held him. It was black, like the flesh had been burned.
The creature staggered back into the centre of the room, the visage of blood thinning out, revealing Charlie beneath, her eyes glazed and distant.
The blood vanished entirely, and Charlie stood there, unsteady on her feet. She looked down at her hands, looked through them, unable to focus.
Then, she tilted her head back, looked up at the ceiling, and began to scream.