December 20th, 2016
Night grew upon the house.
A girl crouched outside the gate, stalking the shadow that moved nearby. It had arrived first, but for some reason, remained outside.
The girl didn’t like fighting someone from Invergence. Doing so required a completely backwards thought process in combat. When you would normally expect a retreat, they would attack. When you expect them to fight, they would find a way to trick you. The Invergence were masters of the unexpected, not because they planned it that way, but because they simply thought…backward. As she observed the shadow, it moved. Too big to be a human, she thought, but too calculating to be a large animal. She reconsidered confronting it; more information was needed before she could fight. Had Invergence found a demon to do their dirty work?
There was flickering light inside the house. Someone was there, multiple someones. The girl shifted her feet, barely taking her eyes off the lurking shadow for a…Where had it gone?
Cursing, the girl rose and ran quietly to the door. As she approached, sounds of laughter and conversation filtered through the windows. She cursed again; this was going to complicate things. The shadow must not have wanted to cause a scene, or it would have busted into the house and killed everyone inside. Doing something like that would cause too much risk to the timeline. Thank heaven Invergence respected that at least, she thought with some relief.
The girl arrived at the door and paused, not exactly sure what she had planned on doing there. But with the sounds of a social gathering inside, she did the most sensible thing: she knocked.
Smiling faces greeted her at the door, and the girl squinted at the light from within. She smiled, pretending to be just another friend, and they let her in like nothing was wrong. They all assumed that someone else knew the newcomer, and gave her no extra thought. The girl walked through the crowd, trying to find the couple she was looking for. Most of the friends were female, and many carried wrapped presents of various sizes. Some were unwrapped revealing gifts suited for a baby girl. She still had no idea what so many people were doing in the house, but she pretended to belong and no one suspected otherwise.
After a few moments looking around the room—she didn’t find them. So she moved to the kitchen area—and there they were. Katariina Rios, resting on the dining-room chair, while her husband Sergio retrieved some cookies from the oven. The girl took a moment to stare at the couple. It had been so long.
Katariina jumped slightly as she felt her little girl kick. She let out a slow breath and smiled at her belly. This was the week; her doctor said the baby was behaving wonderfully and, if all went well, wouldn’t require any special help in the delivery. It was a textbook pregnancy. Unfortunately, that also included the textbook side-effects. Her swollen ankles ached from moving around the house so much today. Honestly, she just wished everyone would leave.This whole party had been her husband’s idea, sort of like a second baby shower closer to her delivery date. She had gone along with it, but that was before she felt like popping.
She sat conversing with her neighbor, Jessica, while her husband took cookies out of the oven. After he transferred them to a plate she motioned him over to snatch one before he took them to the living room for their guests. As he left, she noticed a small, blonde-haired girl in her late teens observing her from the doorway. The girl had on a black leather jacket over a plain t-shirt and jeans. Katariina didn’t know the girl, and assumed she must have accompanied one of the others. But there was something familiar about her. Katariina couldn’t put her finger on it. When the girl caught her staring she blushed and looked away then stepped back into the living room. Katariina quickly refocused her attention on Jessica who was saying something about the first time a child says “mama.” After a little while she decided to move to a more comfortable location in the living room.
As she entered the well-lit room, she spotted the same girl, engaged in hesitant conversation with Mia, who seemed to be doing most of the talking. The girl looked over at her, but then seemed to become more engaged in the conversation. Katariina found a spot on the couch and sat. She put back her head and let every muscle relax.
She stayed there for the rest of the evening, making polite conversation here and there. Soon she became tired and it was time for people to start leaving, and yet they took their sweet time doing so. After another hour, only the blonde girl and a few others remained. Kat was about to cross the room to talk to the girl, when they heard a knock at the door.
The back door.
The knock came slowly and with a lot of force—bang—Bang—Bang! Kat frowned, who would be knocking so loud on the back door? Perhaps a guest had locked themselves out? Sergio got up to open the door, just as the knock came again, louder than before. Kat looked around the room to see who was missing. She then noticed the blonde girl standing up and eyeing the door suspiciously.
The knock came a third time. Sergio moved to open it, but the girl quickly moved to intercept.
“Don’t answer that,” she said in a raised voice. The knock came a fourth time. Then a fifth time—and a sixth. It was like the knocker was trying to imitate what people usually do when they knock on a door, with no real idea how to perform such a seemingly simple task. Kat felt a chill down her spine. Something told her it wasn’t a guest knocking.
“Everyone,” the girl spoke again, “the party is over, Kat and Sergio need you to leave. Please go.” Only two guests were left. The blonde girl quickly herded them towards the door. Both guests muttered indignantly but did as asked. Kat felt a stab of annoyance. Who did this girl think she was? And also, how did she know their names? Was she a friend of Sergio?
But her husband seemed just as clueless when he asked, “Excuse me, who are you?”
“You are both in danger,” she said as if she hadn’t heard him.
The knock continued, louder now.
“I need you to leave the room,” the girl said. As she spoke, she unearthed an object that looked like a large ring from a pouch on her belt.
“I’m sorry, we don’t even know who you are,” Kat said, “Sergio, answer the door.”
“No!” The girl raised her voice as Sergio approached the back door, “listen, I can’t explain now, but whatever is on the other side of that door is…”
BANG! The door burst inward.
Kat and Sergio recoiled as a massive form stepped into the room. It hunched over as its head brushed the ceiling. From a height of what must have been eight feet, its limbs hung disproportionate to its body, with massive hands that supported long, thin claws. Its face looked like it had once been human, but was now grotesque and shriveled like it had lied face-down in a dirty swamp for hours. Its whole body bore a sickly dark-orange color. For a moment, all they could do was stare at this monster as it ducked through the doorway. Then its eyes found Kat.
The massive form moved towards her with surprising agility. Kat screamed and fell backwards onto the couch in her attempt to escape. Sergio broke through his disbelief at seeing a monster in their house, and moved to help her. But the beast was already bearing down on Kat.
Suddenly it froze.
They had forgotten the blonde girl. She stood resolute between the monster and Kat, though how she had intercepted so quickly, Kat did not know. She no longer sported the clothes that she had worn into the house. Instead, she wore dazzling white with a flowing white cape. Emblazoned on her chest and the back of her cape was a golden symbol Kat had never seen before with the letters A and F combined together within a circle. For a moment, everyone stared, including the monstrous intruder. Then it snarled and lunged at the girl. She sidestepped so fast, it almost looked like she had materialized next to her original position. The monster’s fists tore a hole in the floor.
“Run!” the girl screamed.
They ran. Sergio did his best to help his wife as they stumbled past the front door and to their car. She couldn’t move very fast, and the exertion really took everything out of her. Loud bangs and flashes of light came from inside the house as they scrambled into the car. The girl was obviously holding off the creature somehow.
Sergio put the car in reverse and slammed the accelerator. Soon they were on the road, leaving the bangs and flashes behind. Both Kat and her husband were breathing heavily.