The giggling stopped, the house stopped shaking, and an unnerving sense of calm filled the place. All I could hear was the other me rocking in his chair, laughing under his breath, and the Moxie cannibal swinging back and forth on the far side of the room. Then, the chair and swing stopped, adding to the uneasy silence.
“Mmm…somebody is in trouble now,” the Other Than said, breaking into mad gales of laughter.
I grimaced as Moxie’s own guttural chortle joined his maniacal laughter. In unison, he began to rock, and she began to swing.
This was bedlam! Madness!
“What happened here!?” I demanded of my other self.
He stopped rocking and stared vacantly at me, where I remained kneeling on the floor. I felt hot breath on my neck and turned to find the cannibal Moxie staring down at me. She panted in my ear, making low growling noises. Her touch was unexpectedly soft and tender as she reached out to caress my cheek. There was a look of desperation in her eyes. She opened her mouth and let out three short grunts. She skipped past me on bare feet to the Other Than. Sitting on the floor at his feet, she wrapped herself around his leg. He reached down and patted her head.
“Have you ever seen a creature so beautiful?” he asked, looking down at the Moxie cannibal.
They stared at each other with complete adoration and devotion. In my world, Hera had kept my version of Moxie in a child’s body. Moxie had always been Hera’s little Mou. The body this Moxie inhabited, I remembered, she wore it in my world as well, now dead before her time. The other me continued to stroke her hair as she hugged his leg.
How was he touching her with his bare hand and not killing the mortal vessel she inhabited?
This time I asked instead of demanded, “What happened here?”
The other me looked at me, smiled, and answered.
“Emma. Emma happened here. Her parents trapped the goddess Hekate and attempted to make a deal for their sickly daughter’s life. It backfired, obviously.”
“Obviously,” I agreed.
I stiffened, and a chill ran down my spine, my wings unfurling as I inhaled sharply. The Other Than and cannibal Moxie froze. His wings opened, and her gaze focused on the stairs that lead down to the main level of the house. He let loose a maddening sound.
Cannibal Moxie growled with long strands of saliva running out of her mouth, down her chin, and onto the floor. I cast my gaze that way and saw the little girl, Emma, standing at the top of the stairs smiling at us. The Other Than hyperventilated and rocked frantically in his chair. I rose to face the little dead girl, drawing to my full height and authority.
“Emma, you’ve been a naughty girl, and it is time to stop!” I commanded, pointing my index finger at her.
She shot me a toothy grin, and her brown eyes lit with mischief and ill will. She approached me to the panicked sounds of both the Other Than and cannibal Moxie. I stood my ground, index finger still extended firmly in her direction. She stopped right at the tip of my outstretched finger and bit it hard. I cried out, pulling back as she flashed razor-sharp fangs at me. I held my hand to my chest and looked down at the little demon. She didn’t break the skin or tear my glove, but it was enough to smart.
I looked over at the Other Than and cannibal Moxie to see he had one of his wings covering her protectively, while she peered around it snarling. I looked back at Emma. She was dead, possibly cursed by Hekate, but she was a soul, and a soul was a soul that needed reaping. She continued to bare her sharp teeth at me as I removed my glove.
I reached out quickly, catching her off guard and slamming my palm into her chest. She roared and growled like a wild beast, causing the house to shake again, bringing panicked sounds from the other me and cannibal Moxie. Emma’s veins turned black, her eyes became a dead white, and her skin took on a bluish hue. She continued to scream as I began to extract the white glowing light of her soul from her chest. When it was halfway out, it spoke to me, to tell its tale, as all souls do.
“Mama, I want to go outside and play with the other kids!” she called from her bed.
“No, Em! You know not in this cold weather, baby. You wouldn’t be able to breathe out there,” Mama answered from the other room.
“Mama, I need friends!” she called from a wheelchair, looking out the window, watching the other children running around outside.
“We can have someone come over, but you can’t get too excited. Remember your heart, my angel. And you will need to wear your mask and gloves,” Mama said from the other room.
“Are you sure we’ve done the right thing?” Mama whispered to Papa.
“Yes, the goddess Atë was very specific,” Papa responded.
Hekate’s dead body lay stretched out behind them, overlaying runes drawn on the hardwood floor. A glass beaker glowed in Papa’s hand, filled with the Goddess of Magick’s golden ichor and magic. They marched to Emma’s room and had her drink the golden pulsing liquid. They created a monster.
The soul was nearly free of the pale blue creature. It was almost mine. Once reaped, there was hope that I could fix this nightmare she had created. Without warning, I was flung backward across the room. I lost my grip on the soul, and it reentered the horror that was Emma. She snarled at me as the top of her head flattened, pulling back to a point, and her white eyes grew large in their sockets. Shadow tentacles danced around her aura as she lolled out a massive black tongue and ran it over her sharp teeth.
“No one was my friend in life, so they will all be my friends in death,” Emma snarled and retreated down the stairs.
I did damage, and now it was time to end this, or so I thought. I would need some help. I stood up and walked over to the other me and the cannibal Moxie. Both of them stared at me in wide-eyed wonderment. I drew on my will and snapped the collar around the Other Than’s neck. He rose shakily to his feet, Moxie hovering protectively close. The Other Than wobbled, and she grabbed his biceps and wrist, holding him up. He smiled a wide, lunatic smile.
“Oh, you! You are going to die!” he told me and cackled.
The cannibal Moxie joined in the laughter. I had to push down the rage I felt towards both them and the girl Emma.
“Come now. The merry chase is afoot. You do remember the merry chase, don’t you?” I asked the other me.
“Oh, yes. I remember it very well,” he said, letting out another round of tittering laughter.
I nodded, and he imitated me, laughing all the while.
“So serious, so stoic, my lord,” the other me said with a great sweeping bow.
The Moxie cannibal applauded this show with, what I could only describe as, sounds of delight. The Other Than looked up at her from his bow and winked. She reached out and stroked his face as he rose. Taking her hand, he held it to his cheek and leaned in to kiss her. I groaned impatiently at them and gestured to the stairs. The entire house shook, and the two of them grabbed on to each other like frightened children. I raced to the stairs and down them, determined to put an end to this once and for all.
I got to the landing, then there was no landing, and into the abyss I tumbled. I flapped my wings furiously, trying to gain control and a sense of direction, but there was none to be had. Voices called to me. The gods of this world’s Pantheon, the dead, and the lost. All of them screaming, crying, and begging for help that I could not give. Then Emma’s voice cut through the darkness, thunderous and final.
The voices went silent, and I landed on my knees in the dining room, looking directly into the eyes of the cannibal Artemis. She wore a triumphant sneer on her face, her silver bow and arrow aimed at me. She showed off the ring she wore, the one she stole from me. She let loose the arrow, and it flew, sinking deep into my shoulder.
The pain was sharp and immediate. The arrow digging itself into my flesh. I bared my teeth against it, and the Artemis cannibal laughed as she nocked another arrow. I clenched my jaw. She fired, and I rolled out of the way, the arrow whizzing past my ear.
I pulled the arrow from my shoulder. The white-hot pain I was feeling was excruciating, and fresh black ichor gushed from the wound. I rose as she was getting her bow ready to fire again. With my wing, I knocked it out of the way and out of her hands. It went sailing across the room and clattered to the ground.
She staggered back, and I caught her by her braid, pulling her close to me. With all the force I could muster, I pushed the arrow I held up through the soft skin underneath her chin, piercing the soft palate, and into her brain. The arrowhead stuck out nicely from the top of her head. The cannibal Artemis collapsed dead onto the ground as I released her. I reached down and pulled the ring from her finger. I held in front of her dead eyes, baring my teeth at her.
“This is mine!” I told the dead goddess.
Applause came from behind me, and I whipped my head around to see the Other Than and Cannibal Moxie applauding my kill. At the feet of the Other Than were two scythes, his and mine. I reached out and called mine to me. It lifted off the ground and flew into my outstretched hand. I closed my fingers around the handle as it sang its familiar song to me. I was filled with a strange sense of peace at being reunited with my scythe.
“How did you…?” I started to ask.
“We stopped at the front on our way to find you, didn’t we, dearest?” he answered.
Cannibal Moxie grunted her agreement, and the two of them rubbed noses in an Eskimo kiss. I rolled my eyes. I knew from my own world, such affection was not meant for the likes of me, but how these two managed amazed me.
The house shook again as Emma loosed an animalistic scream of rage. I rose to my feet, scythe at the ready. The Other Than came to me, scythe in hand, and we stood back to back, wing to wing, the cannibal Moxie at our side.
“You killed my friend! You’re a bad god! Bad, bad, bad, bad! I am coming to destroy you!” Emma raged.
There was no doubt we were in the end game now.