Only Human (Serial Story) Part 13 – Conclusion

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The circle glowed and bright lights erupted out of it as Tim and Ginny forced the lever down on his prototype Metaphysical Transfiguration device.

Rachel, still held by the neck by the Smiling Dark, felt oddly light. A feeling of joy and excitement ran through her. It was a feeling she hadn’t felt since she was a child.

* * *

It was Christmas morning. She and Natasha were sitting in painful anticipation for it to be seven AM. The time their parents told them they could wake them up.

“What do you think Santa brought us this year?” asked Rachel, vibrating with excitement.

“I don’t know, but I hope my motion sensor camera caught him doing it,” Natasha’s eyes sparkled with delight. “You know this is just a memory right?” she asked.

The question caught Rachel off guard. “Can’t I enjoy it?”

“This was my last Christmas…” Natasha trailed off.

“Am I dead?”

Laughing, Natasha said, “Always the optimist. No sweetie. You’re not dead… Not yet.”

“Are you real?” Rachel threw herself at her sister and hugged her.

“At the moment, anything you think of can be real. Now wake up.”

“I still miss you,” Rachel’s tears fell onto her sisters back as they hugged.

“I know, but I don’t miss you enough yet to have you join me. Wake up.”

* * *

The feeling of excitement and power was almost painful.

“What just happened?” asked the man in front of her. He was shadowed as if light didn’t enjoy touching him, but he was still just a man. His face looked like an aged movie star’s, his skin closer to grey than any real colour.

“I think you just became punchable.” She punctuated her quip with a punch.

Lightning crackled around her fist as it connected with the Smiling Dark’s face. It left small burn marks on his cheek. He fell to one knee, his smile disappearing for a moment, and said, “Just because I’m corporeal doesn’t mean I’m helpless.”

His arms reached out and shadows coalesced around his hands forming dark blades. He took a fencer’s stance and started moving towards her. She could see dark tendrils of shadow moving around him like some sort of Lovecraftian monster.

The machine had turned him into a monster that creates and manipulates shadow instead of being made of it. The belief of monsters all over the world that he existed was amplified. Rachel knew what had happened to him had happened to her. The belief of everyone on campus was that she was a demi-god, and she could feel the power of the gods inside her.

“Leave now and you can live.”

“I will have you one way or another.” He attacked and she parried with blades of lightning.

“Ew!” she exclaimed before adding, “I warned you.” Turning to her friends, she said, “Leave the room.”

They fenced, Rachel letting him think he could win, until everyone had left the room.

“I am darkness, shadow, and death. You can’t kill me.”

“I am a demi-god of lightning and energy. Let’s see if you can survive with so much light there isn’t room for shadows.” She reached deep into herself for her new power and pulled it out forcing it into a ball of pure lightning bright plasma around her. She let it expand and cover every millimetre of the room.

The Smiling Dark’s screams were drowned out by the crackle of power. When the entire room was light and electricity she tried to stop it and found she couldn’t. The energy went wild and there was nothing she could do to stop it.

* * *

“Thank you,” whispered her sister’s voice as Rachel started to wake up.

Everything hurt. Rachel opened her eyes to see that she was in her dorm. “She’s awake,” yelled Ginny. Her friends walked into the room followed by a large man with an eyepatch.

“How are you feeling?” asked the large man.

“I hurt, but I think I’m ok.” She was better than that; she knew her broken bones and cuts had healed completely.

“The ache will pass with time. It’s a side effect of returning you to your human self.”

“Ok.” It was all she could think.

“You fought well, Rachel, and for that I hold no grudge for you copying my son’s powers. Just don’t do it again.”

His son? Rachel’s eyes went wide. “Odin. Oh my…” she trailed off.

He chuckled. “If you so choose, your place in Valhalla is guaranteed.” With that, he disappeared.

“Way to go, you amused and impressed the All-Father,” Tim said, probably meaning it to be a joke, but sounding just as amazed as she felt.

“Wow.”

“So whatever you did, vaporised my lab and the entire Transmutation building.” Tim still sounded amazed, and seeing her worried look, he quickly added, “Don’t worry about it. It happens more often than you’d think. Transmutation is a volatile area of study.”

“Dowan and I got everyone out in time,” said Ronnie smiling at Dowan.

“Naw, it was mostly you, man,” Dowan replied smiling back.

“Oh, get a room,” gagged Tim.

Turning to Tim, Ginny said, “That’s not a bad idea.” She cocked an eyebrow and crooked a finger. Tim turned bright red and rolled to the kitchen. They closed the door behind them as they entered the kitchen area.

Both Dowan and Ronnie looked uncomfortably around the room until she said, “I’m not up for a threesome.” Their eyes opened wide until they saw she was joking.

“Who would you have chosen?” Dowan asked, with a twinkle in his eye.

“Yeah,” smirked Ronnie.

“Me. If I had to choose someone to die, it would have been me.” The boys looked a little disappointed with her answer and she added, “If you’re asking who I choose now, I don’t know. I like both of you and I’ve had a long few days. Why don’t we have a few dates before I decide?”

“Ok,” they said at the same time.

“I’m not opposed to that threesome,” said Dowan, and he winked at Ronnie before disappearing.

Ronnie turned bright red, something Rachel thought vampires couldn’t do, and said, “Take care,” before walking out of the room still blushing. There would be a lot of time for her to choose. Avenging her sister made her feel more at peace than she’d ever thought possible, and now she was looking forward to her classes and flirting with two hot boys. Her life was looking pretty good.

Both Tim and Ginny were in the kitchen. Ginny walked back in and asked, “Anything I can do?”

“I’m ok. Thanks.”

“I’m glad you’re alive. Sorry you lost your god powers.”

“I’m not. I like being me. I like being Only Human.”

The End

Only Human (Serial Story) Part 12

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Part 10 | Part 11

Standing holding the heart of Rachel’s professor, the Smiling Dark said, “Shhh. That’s enough information for my new bride.”

Rachel, Dowan, and Ronnie stood there mouths agape for longer than they should have. The Smiling Dark was exactly what it sounded like; a Cheshire smile and piercing grey eyes surrounded by a semi-transparent shadow in the shape of a man.

“Bride?” asked Rachel, still in shock.

“Yes. I’ve been following and guiding you your entire life. I made sure you found what you needed to be strong and what you needed to grow stronger. I forged you through pain and combat until you became the woman you are. Now you’re almost ready to take your place at my side.”

“No!” she said sounding more confident than she felt.

“You don’t have much choice. You’ll do it. If not for yourself but for your friends,” the shadow sneered.

In a smooth motion Rachel pulled out and threw her mystical dagger. It should have hit the shadow right in the face but instead went through it and stabbed several books in the cluttered office.

The shadow laughed. “You cannot hurt me. I’m not corporeal. I’m an idea, a fear, I don’t work on your plane of existence unless I want to.”

Something about its words made her think of Tim but she didn’t know why and didn’t have time to think about it.

“Must make having a bride difficult,” snarked Dowan. “I mean what’s the point?”

“I will transform her to be like me and we will rule the world.” The shadow’s arms lifted and both Ronnie and Dowan were pulled up by their necks by an invisible force. “Rachel. You will be my bride or I’ll destroy anyone and anything you’ve cared about. The last woman to refuse me was Atlantean.”

“Scary. Put them down.” Again her voice was calm while she was terrified.

“Kill one and you’ll be ready.” When she hesitated, he laughed and added, “I’m not without a heart. You can keep one as a toy.”

The Smiling Dark, literally dangled two men in front of her. She’d known she’d have to choose between them eventually, but not like this. She’d hoped the other would still be her friend, not dead.

“The trickster is quite handsome but he’ll age and get old. The vampire will offer you decades of play time. Both will scream prettily for you.”

“I think you have me confused with someone else. I don’t want to hear them scream… in pain.”

“Not yet. Once you kill one, you’ll feel differently.”

Part of her relished the idea and it sickened the rest of her. Had her bloodlust and love of the hunt been because of the Shadow? Is he the reason she liked to kill?

Her stomach churned. How could she fight something that wasn’t corporeal; that was more of a metaphor?

“I’m not killing them! They’re my friends.” she said, and thought about all her friends.

“If you don’t, I’ll destroy everything you care about.” There was ageless patience in its voice.

“Can you give me time to decide?” She couldn’t think of a way out of this, if she couldn’t hurt it than she was helpless.

“Of course, my bride. You have one hour to decide.” Both men fell at the same time and the shadow was gone.

“I can’t believe that worked,” she mumbled.

“Good job getting more time,” choked Dowan.

“What do we do now? How do we beat that thing?”

“We don’t,” she replied. “But I know who will.”

She had a plan, based off sketchy information and half thought out, but it was a better than no plan at all.

* * *

“What does this thing do?” asked Dowan confused.

Looking up at him from his wheelchair, Tim sighed, “It converts belief to reality.”

“Isn’t that impossible?” asked Ronnie.

They were all standing in Tim’s lab. He was doing something with the electronic parts and all the knobs. Rachel didn’t fully understand was he was doing. Only that it could move the Smiling Dark into phase with them so she could punch it.

Shaking her head, Ginny said, “If people believe in something strongly enough, that belief can fuel the creation of something. It’s why we have gremlins; they were dreamed up through a combination of altitude sickness, lack of oxygen, and human belief. Over just a few years, all the pilots in world war one believed in their existence. A lot of the mythical races owe their existence to belief.”

“It’s called Gaiman’s Hypothesis of Metaphysical Transfiguration,” Tim added.

“Normally it takes years, sometimes lifetimes, for the belief to become real,” Ginny rubbed Tim’s shoulders as she talked. “Tim’s research is about speeding up or slowing down this process. The Smiling Dark is part way through and has found some way to influence the world.”

Ronnie looked at Rachel and tilted his head towards his sister and Tim, wiggling his eyebrows. Rachel gave him a smile.

“Wait, we want to make this thing more real?” asked Dowan, rubbing his throat.

“Yes. If he’s real, he can feel pain.” Rachel actually growled. She impressed even herself with the viciousness of the statement.

“Just make sure he’s standing in the middle of the collider,” Tim pointed at a series of tubes set in a perfect circle on the ground. There were wires coming from various parts of the tubes and magical glyphs on every surface.

“Don’t get trapped inside with it.” ordered Ginny.

“Why?” Rachel asked, and both Ginny and Tim shrugged.

“Time’s up, my bride.” The shadow appeared behind them, smiling, always smiling.

She had to figure out how to get him into the giant, really obvious, trap. “Remind me why you need a bride?” she asked to buy time and sidle towards the right place.

“Once your innocence has been taken—” he was cut off by snickers from all of Rachel’s friends. “Once you kill one of those you love, you’ll be ready to be my bride. We’ll combine and become one.” He moved with her, shadowing her movements.

“First, I’m still trying to decide if I like them enough to do more than kissing. I wouldn’t say I love them. And when you say combine and become one, you mean figuratively right?”

“My essence shall invade your body and we shall meld into a being of great strength and darkness.” If it was possible, its smile grew wider.

She was standing in the middle of the circle and the Smiling Dark was moving towards her. She was ready to throw herself out when his arm, composed of shadows and fear, reached out and grabbed her by her throat.

“Which of them have you decided to kill?” it asked, moving its entire body towards her.

“You!” she choked out. “Tim, now!”

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Only Human (Serial Story) Part 11

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 |
Part 10

Ginny had fallen unconscious from blood loss. Rachel took her knife back up and shuddered at what she had to do next. She had to cut the flesh that had touched the holy oil. It infected and necrotised the flesh of a vampire, who were not actually undead.

After cutting up her best friend, she reached into the fridge for a bottle of artificial blood and fed it to Ginny. She woke up part way though feeding and screamed in pain. Her wound started to close slowly as security arrived.

She told them everything, except her being human and hunting for her sister’s killer.

When they left, Ginny insisted she stay in the same room. As she cuddled with the sobbing vampire, Rachel couldn’t help but feel like her quest to find her sister’s killer was hopeless.

* * *

There was no heat in the bed with Ginny. The extremely low body temperature of vampires must have been the root of the rumours about them being dead.

It was cold and Rachel was sore from her various fights of late. She’d come close to death that night. When Ginny had fallen asleep she got up and walked around, cleaned the kitchen, and did some studying.

When she went to the washroom, the toilet seat hurt her back. She rolled up the t-shirt she’d changed into and saw a perfectly circular bruise where she’d been hit by the wizard’s spell. It was as wide as her hand was long and just above her bellybutton. She touched it and it stung, the skin felt sensitive. It felt like she had burned her skin and bruised. Looking at her back in the mirror she saw that she had an identical bruise on her back.

“I hope this isn’t all in my head,” she whispered.

The whispered words connected with something inside her and she felt dizzy. A flash of memories burned into her brain.

* * *

“It’s all in your head, Natasha,” Rachel yelled at her little sister when the treehouse was empty.

The adult Rachel could see her younger self and sister arguing about the existence of what they’d always called cryptoids. Rachel was firmly convinced they didn’t exist, it took Natasha’s death to convince her.

Natasha was nine in this memory or vision and Rachel was eleven. It was when she’d stopped wanting to play at hunting mythical creatures.

Adult Rachel tried her best to ignore what was going on and not look at her sister. It hurt too much. Instead she concentrated on the treehouse, everything in it, and everything around it.

“You’re mean and I hate you!” yelled Natasha as she climbed down the rope ladder.

Younger Rachel rolled her eyes and yelled back, “You’re just a baby who still believes in monsters and fairies!”

As she watched the past, Rachel saw something behind her younger self. It looked vaguely human shaped but cloaked in shadows that shouldn’t exist on that bright summer’s day. As she watched in horror the shadow smiled a bright Cheshire cat smile at her younger self and slowly looked up at her. When she started to think it could see her, she said, “Can you see me?” It winked at her and she found herself once again looking at her bruise in the bathroom mirror.

Her phone rang.

* * *

“So I heard you and my sister cuddled last night. Should I be worried?” Ronnie asked as she distractedly walked across campus.

“Not from her,” replied Dowan appearing on the other side of her.

The two men followed her as she continued to walk. After her waking dream she’d contacted her divination teacher, who’d invited her to meet in the morning at her office.

“Ginny’s prettier than either of you, both of you should be worried.” Rachel said over their bickering.

Pulling a coffee from the air, Dowan asked, “How is she, by the way?” He was the one who’d called her after her vision.

Ronnie replied, “She’s fine. Tim’s with her.” When Dowan gave him a funny look, he added, “The little dude is awesome and makes her feel comfortable.”

“He has my gun and he’s a specialist in ‘Metaphysical Transfiguration’,” Rachel said shrugging.

“Do you know what that means?” asked Dowan.

“Do you?” snapped Ronnie.

“No,” replied Dowan.

“Me neither.”

Both of them burst out laughing and looked at Rachel. “He tried to explain it to me and I think I fell asleep. Something to do with changing things that aren’t tangible into something you can touch and manipulate.” Rachel couldn’t help joining into the laughter. The three of them had to stop walking they were laughing so hard.

Both men knew where she was going. She’d told Dowan when he called and she’d told Ronnie when he and Tim showed up to take care of Ginny.

The three of them walked in comfortable silence until they reached their teacher’s office in the Blue Wizards’ School of Divination and Illusion.

The office was small and cramped. It had four desks shoved in the middle together and it looked like the office was shared by multiple professors. The Hag, their teacher, was sitting with pink spectacles on her warty nose, grading essays.

They awkwardly filled into the room and Rachel told her all the details of her dream, or vision.

“Oh my dear. That’s terrible,” the Hag said, looking distraught.

“Am I getting visions or memories?” asked Rachel.

“Oh definitely a vision. You have great divinatory powers. It’s a rare power for a demi-god. Normally it’s a human trait.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Humans are the most powerful divinatory beings. They can feel the magic around them and use it instinctually. It’s fascinating they have no clue how powerful it is. They call it good reflexes, luck, or gut instincts, but it’s all because they’re more attuned to the magic of time and knowledge.”

“Wow,” said Ronnie.

“You’re human, aren’t you, dear?” the Hag asked.

Changing the subject, Rachel asked, “What about the Shadow Man I saw in my vision. Do you know who that is?”

“Yes but…” she trailed off. Sighing deeply she said, “It sounds like the Smiling Dark. Subridens Tenebris.”

Both men gasped and Dowan said, “That’s just a myth, right? A story that parents tell their kids to make sure they behave.”

“Says the trickster spirit, to the Hag, standing next to a vampire,” deadpanned Rachel.

Smiling, Dowan lifted his hands. “Good point.”

“How do I find it?” asked Rachel, feeling closer than she’d ever been before.

From the crowded bookshelf, a shadow moved. At first Rachel thought it was from the clouds shifting, but it was an overcast day. It floated behind the Hag, and in one swift movement pulled out her heart.

“Shhh,” said the shadow. “That’s enough information for my new bride.”

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