Of Mutants and Monsters -- Part 1They had all come from a different world. One that had mistreated and abused them, stripped them of their power, marginalized them. Made them lesser than they were. Because of what they were and the things that they could do. It was only fitting, then, that they would seek out a better life among the stars.
It was only natural that they would work together in order to devise a portal that took them anywhere else. Anywhere was better than here, they all had similar thoughts. It didn’t matter how bad the next world was, they just wanted a fresh start. And if they were together, then the kids were convinced that they could survive anything.
… But even kids could grow apart.
Shortly before they stepped through the portal, groups had started to form. One group wanted to invade and conquer the next world. The other group simply wanted to live in stability and peace. Three of the most prominent kids from the latter group argued and fought the former group over it, arguing that, “If we try to conquer the next world, we’ll be hunted instead!”
To which the latter group replied, “Why should we live in fear just because of them!?”
The worst part was that neither group was particularly wrong in their beliefs, but that changed little at the end of the day. Both groups believed themselves completely right. There was no room for respectful disagreement, not when one group wanted to completely subjugate the next world in fear of what could happen to them if they didn’t.
In retaliation, the latter group decided to cross over first and ensure that the portal closed them out. But the former group quickly learned of their plans and a real fight quickly ensued. Without them manning the portal and ensuring its stability, it quickly grew beyond their control. There was a smell like burning hair and a sound that rend the air in two. The colors of the portal bled into everything, turning the surroundings a sickening pearlescent white and then black descended.
When every child woke up, they were in a completely different world with no knowledge of its rules.
The lock was breaking.
Or perhaps it already had broken.
The colors in her surroundings had gone a sickly grey, making everything seem more dead than they actually were. She was so hungry.
Even her color had gone muted. Just dull black sitting against her skin.
That was the emotion she was feeling underneath the numbness of her mind.
She’d forgotten what it felt like. Couldn’t even remember what it was until now.
Her eyesight came back to her slowly. Blurry, doubling vision that seemed to not want to settle. The first thing she noticed was the hand on her stomach. Her skin was cold, feverishly cold. She licked her lips and grimaced at the sandpapery dryness. Shifting brought a whole new assortment of aches and pains, even as she glanced up and took in her surroundings. She was in what appeared to be a storage room. Boxes piled high all around her, right to the ceiling. She was almost afraid that a wrong move would send them careening towards her.
She blinked slowly, struggling to recall why she was there in the first place.
Fractured memories surfaced slowly, piecing themselves together before her foggy brain. When the last puzzle piece slid into place, that forcibly drove away some of the fog and she scrambled to her feet, only to double over as her stomach growled loudly. Intense hunger pangs gripped her as she swayed on the spot, struggling to relinquish her body’s hold on the pain. She curled her arms around her stomach, gasping for breath. The temptation was wriggling around, beneath her body’s hunger, beneath the exhaustion curling like twine around her mind. The temptation that said she should take.
She didn’t want to. Not at all. But, oh, the colors around her were so dim.
Eventually, the hunger pangs ebbed back some. Just enough that she could function. Shakily brushing sweat from her forehead, she cast her blurry vision to the door on the other side of the room.
… Open. When it hadn’t been before. The lock had been working, she was certain of that. Every time she tried to open the door before only for the lock to open as if by some divine intervention? She shook her head and crept towards the door. With every step, she was mindful to remain light footed ‘lest a stray creaky floorboard give her away.
Standing in front of the door, she hesitated. Her ears were strained for any source of a trap. Seconds ticked by without anything to show for it, much less the sound of a footstep. The environment was completely silent, not even the sound of a skittering mouse.
Steeling her heart against the fear, she gripped the doorknob and slowly pushed it.
The door swung outwards with a high pitched squeak and she fought against the urge to grab the door, if only so she didn’t make the sound worse. She paused there, waiting for the tell-tale sound of footsteps to mark the fact that someone had heard, but there was nothing of the sort. In fact, it was almost eerie how the silence continued in the wake of the door’s rusty hinges. Every footstep made her acutely aware of her lack of shoes. The floorboards scratched roughly at the bottoms of her feet and she couldn’t seem to remember how she’d lost her shoes. The thought of dirt sticking to her feet made her inwardly cringe, but she had more important things to worry about!
Such as escaping this place alive.
There were doors on both sides of the hallway but she ignored these in favor of continuing on. There would likely be anything of importance, and she wasn’t here to explore anyway. She couldn’t help holding her breath, as if that would ensure that she would be the first one aware of anything odd going on.
It didn’t take long to find the stairs. They reached up into the darkness, long and foreboding. She could almost imagine the darkness reaching down with its claws to snatch her up. She wrapped her arms around her middle, suddenly shivering. It didn’t matter how long she stayed there, she had to get a move on. That person would come down to check on her eventually, and when they did… It’d be over.
Swallowing against the lump in her throat she began climbing up the stairs. A hand went out to the wall at her side, just in case she somehow tripped. Her whole body ached, hunger driving all new stakes into her head and her stomach. Her vision suddenly tipped and she found herself on her knees. The hunger pangs intensified and she groaned as it tightened like a noose, practically cutting off her air. She gasped for breath, the colors in her surroundings growing ever dimmer. She bowed her head down further, cutting off what view of her surroundings she could see.
After a bit, the pain gradually eased and she was able to stand on her own two feet with a bit of difficulty. Shaking her head, she bit her lip. The hunger was gnawing at her. She’d gone far too long without eating, how she was even able to move at this point, she didn’t know.
With a shaky breath, she continued to make her way up the stairs. The door loomed out of the darkness, high over her head, like an imposing figure. She was short enough that it was easy to peer through the lock without ducking, but what she saw turned her blood cold.
A piece of… Fabric? Wait, no…!
The door opened before she could flee.
There was a figure there with hideous warts over their pale, gaunt face. A smile stretched wide over cracking, yellowed teeth. The eyes landed on her and the darkness in its gaze inspired fear, if their appearance already didn’t. The colors surrounding the figure were all too tangible, changing from surprise, to anger, to pleased acceptance in the span of a blink.
Her eyes flicked down to the cleaver they had in their hands, as they raised it over their head --
And she fell forward, wriggling between their legs. The cleaver fell behind her and she felt the impact with every fearful fiber of her being. Jumping to her feet, she made a beeline for the front door. Her hands landed on the door knob and she wriggled it fervently. It wouldn’t budge. Not at all.
Gasping for breath, she looked up to see the locks on the door and just as she was reaching up to unlock them…. The cleaver slammed into the wall beside her. Her heart rammed itself right into her throat and she stumbled away from it as the figure pried their cleaver free from the wall. Her mind was in overdrive processing the escape routes she could take.
The figure was blocking both, the front door and the way further into the house. But there was a set of stairs off to her side.
Mind suddenly made up, she made a mad dash for the stairs. She could hear the figure behind her, breathing wetly down her neck. She darted to the side as their cleaver fell to the stairs post. As they were struggling to free their cleaver, she took the stairs two at a time. She reached the top before they seemed successful, because a blood-curdling yell pushed her ever forward.
Deeper into the second floor she ran, her pig tails flying through the air like flags.
She ran into the first room she could find, slamming the door shut behind her. As she tried to catch her breath, she examined the room warily.
It seemed to be a child’s room. There were toys strewn all about the floor, from a rocking horse to a few dolls, to a couple of picture books. The walls were a soothing baby blue while the ceiling was white, cracking in certain places. There were faded cloud stickers, some peeling in the corners. There was a bunk bed beside the door, fading covers covering suspicious lumps.
Heart beating a rapid tempo in her ears, she reached a shaky hand out. The silence in the wake of that creature’s scream grated on her. The lack of footsteps was immensely noticeable. Like he was waiting for her somewhere, ready to spring.
She knew that she should be hiding, or sneaking back to the front door, but some innate thing kept her from doing so. Some inner sense that knew what she might find, perhaps. The mysterious lumps weren’t moving, much less breathing, and that worsened the feeling all the more.
Gripping the sheet with one hand, the child held her breath. Once she was ready, she ripped the sheet off.
For a moment, she struggled to comprehend what she was seeing. When she did, it was with a gasp. A hand flew up to smother it, though she was too late.
On the bed, there was a child -- at least, she thought it was a child. What it really seemed to be was a doll that seemed to be made in the disturbing likeness of the monster from downstairs. Right down to the disturbing smile that practically split its face in two. When she’d ripped the sheet back, she’d unintentionally jerked the face towards her. Its blank eyes stared into her -- through her.
The sound of creaking floorboards echoed out in the hall. As she looked around in a hurry, her heart dropped. There was nowhere to hide. When they came in, she would be standing beside the bed, lost. Not even a window to scurry out of.
Her eyes landed on the bed or more specifically, the underside. Catching her breath, the child scurried underneath the bed. A hand over her mouth, she peered out. The harsh footsteps paused outside the bedroom door. The door ever so slowly crrrrreaked open on rusted hinges. The sound made her flinch but she was trembling too harshly to make a sound.
Muddy work boots trudged in and paused. The figure stood in the center of the room and turned in place, likely raking their gaze over everything.
Her insistence to stay completely still was rapidly working against her. Pins and needles dug into her legs, turning her willingness into a need to move. Her hip hurt, where it buried itself against the floorboards. And with the way she was holding her head to keep her pigtail from messing up, her neck was paying the price. All in all, she found herself in a very uncomfortable position. And the figure just wouldn’t leave!
She couldn’t take it. She had to move! Maybe if she moved slowly enough, they wouldn’t be aware of her?
Slowly, her heart thumping in her ears, the child stretched her leg out. The pins and needles had traveled up to her thigh now and there was very little hope that she’d be able to work them out of her legs. Bending her leg, she went to stretch it out again. But she’d been completely preoccupied with her current task, and didn’t see what was wrong until it was too late.
As she stretched her leg out, she kicked the back wall.
The mishap completely froze her in place. Her heart pounded in her ears as she waited to see if the figure had heard that. It didn’t take long. They dropped to their knees and forced their meaty head as close to the ground as possible. Their eyes rolled around in their sockets for a moment before locking onto her. And, if anything, that wide smile stretched wider. Without thinking, she scrambled out from beneath the bed and made to race for the door. But it seems her luck so far had run out.
She was yanked back by a harsh hold of one of her pigtails. Jerking to a stop, the child turned and saw the figure looming up, impossibly tall, behind her. Something glinted in the light and a look down revealed the tool of her demise, a cleaver. She clawed and tried to pry the hand off of her hair, but it was in vain. They were an adult and she was but a child. They were far too strong for her.
The figure lifted her until she was hanging onto the floor by her tip toes and raised their cleaver with their other hand.
Tears burned her eyes. She was going to die. Poppy and Bennett wouldn’t know what happened to her at all. They wouldn’t know that she… died.
As they swung, she reacted without thinking.
A flare of energy stopped the swing from connecting. The girl’s hand was latched onto the one holding her hair. The girl’s eyes were now an unnaturally green glow, a golden circle ringing her pupils. The room’s colors turned muted, the unnatural energy rapidly bleeding them dry. But she wasn’t interested in the colors of her surroundings.
She was interested in the monster’s.
Before, the monster’s aura was a dim, muddy brown. Now it was pure black from fear.
Fear. It was a delicious color.
Her hold tightened on their arm and with that, the colors began to leach from the figure. They were rapidly turning stark white as the colors began to drain from them. The figure gave a roar before throwing her at the wall. Her back hit with a harsh thud and she slid down it. But that didn’t matter anymore, she had this monster in her sights. Holding both hands up, she concentrated on siphoning the colors from them. The very air trembled with the use of power. The monster screamed and scratched at their face as the bleached colors trailed up their legs, their hips, their torso, until it finally climbed into their face to join the whites of his eyes. The aura of fear surrounding the monster emptied until there was nothing there and the figure collapsed, suddenly dead weight. She didn’t know how long she sat there, gasping into the silence.
Tears choked her. She didn’t have to check for a pulse to know that they were dead. Even if they were trying to kill her, was this really right…?
“We have to survive. It’s just what we do!”
With a little sniffle, she wiped her eyes. She had to leave. Someone could have heard that.
Getting to her feet, she trudged to the door, gently rubbing at her aching head as she went. Really, her whole body ached. But there was nothing for it now. The hunger pangs were now nothing, so she was fortunate to not have to deal with that.
She trudged across the hallway, down the stairs, and stopped in the kitchen. She balanced on her feet then, trying to decide if she should risk grabbing food first or just escape. Ultimately, the decision made itself for her.
She was about to leave when a cat’s meow stopped her. Pausing on the spot, she turned slightly towards the sound. Her eyes widened as she saw a black and white cat sitting outside of the kitchen window. Its stare was pointed at her and when it noticed it had her attention, it scratched at the glass, sending out harsh noises. Her mouth opened.
With the first uttered word, she jumped into action. Dragging over a kitchen chair, she hopped onto that and then crawled onto the kitchen counter. When she lifted the window, the cat happily crawled onto her lap. As she pet it, the cat meowed and rubbed against her. The sight of such a familiar thing made her feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside.
But that was quickly short lived.
She sucked in a wavering breath and addressed the cat. “Do you know where Bennett is?” She stared hard at the cat, practically willing it to give her a positive reaction. Instead, the cat looked apologetic, tilting its head away with a sorrowful meow. She wouldn’t give voice to the way her heart squeezed and, instead, hugged the cat close. “Okay… Okay!” She bit her lip. “We just have to find him. He probably knows we’re coming anyway, so that’ll make things easier!”
Poppy looked up at her regretfully, likely noticing the panic in her voice. They gently leaned up and licked her cheek.
The simple action almost brought tears to her eyes but this time, she was able to blink them back. She smiled at the cat. “You’re right. We have to be positive! Like Bennet always says, we’re good at surviving!” Hugging the cat close, she glanced out the window and noticed a fire escape. That would be a far better escape than the front door.
Poppy crawled down from her arms and hopped out the window, easily landing on their feet. Then, they looked up at her, clearly waiting. She took another moment to take a steadying breath before following the cat, closing the window behind her as she went. And then, keeping an eye on the rain clouds above them, she followed the cat through the winding city.