Raiyne’s Whimsy

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The following is the original April 1, 2014 release of Raiyne’s Whimsy, a novella by Natalie Neumann. Natalie does not recommend that you try to read the original work due to its low quality, structural issues, and grammatical errors. Instead, she encourages you to read the summary included in Volume 07 of The Saga of Vincent Dawn and the development history described in Volume 03: Raiyne’s Whimsy of Natalie Rambles About The Saga of Vincent Dawn to better understand the content of this novella.

Chapter 01: Party

“Rainy Woods.  It is a small town away from it all, just a speck in the northwest.  With a population around two thousand spread across five square miles.  It’s a quiet place where everyone knows each other, crime is annually at worst, and where trust is as common as the pine trees that outnumber its residents tenfold.  We keep to ourselves and only need occasional truck shipments to get on by.  Other than those, we don’t pay too much mind to the rest of the world, we barely look at it through the paper, magazines, radio, and news programs.  Instead, we lead a calm quiet life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.  Raiy, age 9.”  

“Geez, you were a trooper back in ‘94.  Care to revise this ‘Raiy’?”  said Caroline, a fairly husky and short young woman.  With short and naturally curly brown hair and light green eyes that were kept in balance by a freckled face containing twin dimples.  As she was crouching down in the middle of an disorganized attic that smelled of rodent droppings and mold.  “Look Caroline, I asked you to help me clean this place out, not complain about something I wrote nearly half my life ago.”  grumbled Raiyne, or ‘Raiy’.  A woman of the same age of eighteen.  With a far leaner and taller figure that contrasted the other further with a darker complexion, jet black hair that went down just past her shoulders, and eyes that shined an inexplicable pale blue.  As she dug through dusty boxes of report cards and third grade art projects.  “C’mon, I know this sucks, but you really expect me not to be an ass when hearing about my friend’s past?  And here I thought you knew me like a book.”  Caroline replied with a smile, as she rubbed poorly applied paint off of an equally as poorly sculpted clay pot.  

“Which is a bit ironic if you think about it, seeing as how if you didn’t call me up and gossip every other night, I’d be just breezing on through one a week no problem.”  Raiyne responded half jokingly as she tried to organize the accumulated chaos of a decade.  “Yeah, I guess I’m sorta to blame for that, with the whole teasing crap I rustled through in my early days.  I was a kid, I was dumb, and thought that Raiyne Underwood, the part time librarian, was not someone I’d be spending my Sundays with.”  Caroline said as the dust caught up to Raiyne and she let out a cat-like sneeze.  

Caroline replied with a squee, as she enthusiastically devoted all her attention to Raiyne, temporarily abandoning a cardboard box.  “Remember when I dressed you up as a cat and got suspended?”  “How could I forget?”  smirked Raiyne.  “You got grounded for a week, and I was taught about racism when I was seven.” Raiyne remarked as a box’s bottom fell through, releasing a few pounds of paper.  “Exactly why you shouldn’t be the one non-white family in town.” Caroline said like it was a marvelous observation.  “Last time I counted, there were about fifty non-white people, but I was one of the three ‘ethnic’ students at that time, and you did call me the ‘black beast’.”

“Oh shit, you’re right!”  replied Caroline with a chuckle.  “Yeah, didn’t I also bring with a dog kennel for you to crawl into?  I think we were just screwing around for show and tell.  How was I suppose to know I was ‘being racially insensitive’?”  “Yeah, probably afraid we were going to become like those violent kids that flood the nightly news or something equally as ill informed.”  Raiyne mumbled as she finished organizing the boxes into piles.

“Okay, took less time than you said, so now do I get my back scratched?”  Caroline snarkily demanded in the form of a question.  “Fine, let’s not do this song and dance once more.  In order for me to ultimately lose less time because you whined about how I could have made a party wild, I’ll come with you yet again.  But I’m only promising that I’ll give it a try”  reasoned Raiyne, content with the situation before her.  “Yepadepayoyo!  Get your stylin’ threads on while I do the same.  See ya in fifteen!”  Caroline said as she left Raiyne with boxes she still had to move out of the attic.

After spending ten minutes taking down the boxes of memories undesired by their owner, Raiyne donned on a beige suit with a matching hat, slightly elevated brown dress shoes despite her already tall stature, and a red tie for a bit of color.  Following twenty minutes of reading in her den, not another soul in her humble little abode, she heard the familiar two handed knocks of Caroline, arriving at the time Raiyne anticipated.  She opened the door to see her friend rocking a red flannel shirt, some mildly worn jeans, and fairly clean farmer boots.  Which, along with her short hair, painted an almost groan worthy picture for Raiyne, as Caroline continued to smile with her freckle filled face, dimple to dimple.

“Really Caroline?”  Raiyne muffled as she covered her face with her palm.  “Yeah, I know it’s pretty casual, but all my nicer stuff was… displaced.”  Caroline reasoned, rubbing the back of her head and looking to the left.  “You have a room full of hand-me-downs, handmade costumes, and goodwill bargain rushes.  Yet you’re wearing some of your brother’s old farm gear for a… brand of teenage get-together?”  “Well… you’re the one wearing a suit on!  How does that fit a ‘teenage get-together’?”  “I tell you every time, my Uncle found a literal truckload of suits back in the sixties.  He gave most of them away, yet he ended up shoving fifty in a box, and look who most of them fit.  They make up a third of my wardrobe!”  “So, would it be better if I had one?”  “Well, you’re five foot two, I’m six foot one, and even then putting you in a suit would be like putting a monkey in one.”  Caroline puffed her cheeks out before responding with, “You do realize that we were suppose to be at the party five minutes ago?”  

With a sigh of acceptance, Raiyne exited her house and walked with Caroline to her red four seater, taking the seat behind the driver’s.  Following a minute of silent driving across the transitioning evening, Caroline started a conversation.  “So, any news on that college you talked about?”  “I’m still working out everything with the scholarship and trying to get a look at a campus nearby.  So I guess I’ll be babysitting you for a few more months.”  “What?  You don’t babysit me, I can take care of myself, I just… like to have someone help me tidy up.”  “You called me a good seven times in the past ten days to help you remove eggs from the ceiling and carpeting, kill a rat, make you dinner, and even do your laundry.  I’m surprised you made it through three days, let alone three months.  All in the salary of a part-time clerk too, or are you begging your parents to stay in that dingy apartment?”  “I take care of rent by myself, thank you very much.  It’s just that the apartment owner lets me pay by doing chores and errands for her.”  “And, y’know, she’s your Aunt.”

“Why do you need to be such a downer?”  Caroline groaned.  “Why don’t you look at the road?”  Raiyne half-joked as she realized Caroline was drifting too a bit too close to a mailbox.  “See Raiyne, this is why I don’t like how you sit in the back seat!  I’m not used to looking back there regularly.”  “You’re suppose to be.  I never got a license and I know that much.”  “You want to walk the rest of the way wise guy?”  “I’m only coming because you’re making me!”  “Oh… damn you and your logic!”

Following five minutes of bantering about the merits of music and how it defines an individual, area, or even generation, the two young women made it to their designated location.  “So what is wrong with-”  Caroline mumbled.  “There is nothing wrong with any exact genre of music.  I don’t like certain stuff, but that is a preference.  It is a form of expression and while I do have issues with some aspects, none of them are objectively bad!”  Raiyne said before a grand exhaling of her own breath.  

The two exited their car and looked up to the building twenty feet away from them.  An expensive looking three story house made for visual appearance above all else, as silhouettes crowded the large windows with more than thirty individuals in all.  Caroline pressed a buzz emitting button next to the house’s thick wooden door, causing a figure to open it a few moments later.  He was a large man in terms of height, muscle, and weight.  Stone faced with beady brown eyes, coarse pale skin, and inch thick gelled black hair with a yellow stripe down the middle.  Caroline shot a smirk at him as she barely managed to throw her hand up to his shoulder.  “Ay Rigoberto, mind if we come on in?”  ‘Rigoberto’ looked down and mustered a scowl at the young woman, removing her thin fingers from his person with the sausage links growing out of his palm.  

He spoke with a slower speech pattern as he took a stance that did not look as dominating as it did look silly.  “I told you before, stop calling me that!  I didn’t know what that guy put in the stuffing, and didn’t light the cigarette to blow it up!  I, Roberto Shines, didn’t rig no fucking teddy bear!”  He said without realizing his own double negative.  “Geez, way to get your panties in a bunch.  I thought you’d be less of a stick in the mud if you were willing to trash your parents’ summer home.”  Caroline said while rubbing her right index finger beneath her nose.  “Who’s saying I’m a stick in the mud?  You brought Dampener, the frickin’ librarian!”  Roberto sneered, thinking he’d won the ‘argument’ with such a childish line.  

“Let me ask you something big guy.  What would she do to ‘ruin’ your party?  She looks after books, a stick in the mud is the least of your goddamn worries.  While I’m the sleepy kind of drunk.  Worst case scenario is that I pass out on your couch and Raiyne needs to organize your bookshelf in a way you don’t quite get.”  Roberto leered at the two for a while, Raiyne tapping her foot and Caroline unbuttoning her shirt while looking as cute as possible.  “Fine.”  Roberto uttered as the left the door open and walked away.

The duo wandered into a barrage of loud music, lights, food, alcoholic beverages, and people aged sixteen to twenty-two.  Raiyne glared at Caroline as she went closer to the speaker and greeted passersby of both genders with a firm slap on the backside, already forgetting about her friend.  Raiyne tried to get her attention, but Raiyne’s voice was completely engulfed by the booming of a surround sound turned up to a customized eleven.  She decided to make the most of the other offerings where she could actually hear herself speak and go upstairs.  That is, before going right back down as she found Rigoberto and his ‘partner’ in an intimate situation in a bedroom with an open door that had the words, “Fuck Shack” crudely written on a piece of paper crudely attached to the door.  However, upon further inspection, there were three beds in that room, all of which were occupied in what looked to possibly become a miniature orgy.  Raiyne  promptly did the most polite thing possible and returned downstairs.

Grabbing some of the less health degrading foodstuffs from the snack tables, she eventually found herself in the comparatively quiet kitchen with not another soul even looking in her general direction.  She thankfully planned ahead for such an event, as she pulled out a small book from a suit pocket, and a portable CD player and small headphones from another.  She pushed play as white noise came on and she left the bustling uncomfortable world of the party for one described by a writer, but made in her mind.  She carried on for half an hour before disappointingly letting out a sigh and putting the book back in her pocket with no bookmark attached.  Mumbling something about never trusting a description.

With plan B out of the way, Raiyne tried to pursue plan A again, which was quickly retired once more as Caroline began to loosen her shirt and dance as her cheeks grew more and more red.  Raiyne casually left the party a mere forty minutes in, as she stepped outside to get away from the loud music and shouting drunkards. That is, after leaving a note on the fridge reading: “Miss Caroline Steticks, seeing as how you once again left me to support a wall while making an ass out of yourself, I’ve walked home.  No hard feelings, but I think this is why I won’t be your ‘roomie’.  Please try to grow up.  Sincerely, Raiyne Underwood”.

She took off, descending from the hill the out of place home was built on top of, while following the right side of the damp road, caused by a drizzle that occurred while she was in the home of Rigoberto Shines.  She kept a solid pace for a few minutes before messing with her CD player and popping in some music, causing her pace picked up a bit, though it was still a good walk away from her house. 

She was nearly there roughly twenty minutes later later, when Raiyne felt a sudden unrest.  Her eyes jotted around as she took out her headphones and heard a growl that overpowered the usual ambiance of wind brushing through the evergreens.  She looked around the lone strip of road she’d been following and into the thick forests that made up the majority of the town.  Jumping a bit as she heard the sound of crushing pine needles grow ever closes, as the one source of light in the cloudy night popped up.

Two red lights grew more visible as the noises grew louder.  Raiyne merely stood like a deer in headlights as the figure finally burst through the trees, releasing a howl that inspired Raiyne to dash, also like a deer, into the woods behind her.  She looked up to the trees as the fear from properly encountering the creature filled her with adrenaline.  All she initially knew aside from its eyes being nearly as tall as herself, was that it was sprinting with four legs, and let out a bark not unlike a bloodthirsty hound.  She began reaching up for something high enough to get away from the creature, losing her hat and CD player well before she made it more than a few meters away from the road.

It was not until the road would have been completely undetectable before Raiyne found a branch low enough to climb onto.  She grabbed the coarse yet moist bark for some form of hold and even managed to do a pull up to distance herself from the creature.  However, it was too late.  The beast was all too strong as it bashed the tree with its head, causing Raiyne to nearly fall to the pine needle filled muck beneath her.  Much which she carefully avoided after getting a better look at her predator, and hoping it was delayed for a few more seconds.

The creature appeared to be a massive wolf, or perhaps a dog of a breed difficult to determine, but with its torso sized head, piercing gaze or crimson, and teeth big enough to fully cut through her lean figure with one crunch, that was of little concern.  As it was gnawing through the trunk, loosening it along with her, Raiyne jumped off into the mud below, landing on her feet, and instantly beginning her search for a place this creature could not reach, thinking about finding a small cave, or maybe even a cellar in an abandoned cabin.  In the meantime, she tried to trap it between tighter trees, but it brushed through the branches with nary a stumble.  

Raiyne grew tired from her mad dash, running out of adrenaline and lacking the physical prowess to sprint much more than a quarter mile.  Her hope began to fade as when crawling up a steep hill nearly twice as tall as it was wide.  The beast’s pace decreased as well, but not as quickly as hers.  When it was close enough to Raiyne for its spit to hit the back of her head, Raiyne’s fear was unquestioned, as it continued to pursue her.  That is, until its panting was seized by an even greater noise, which brought forth a moment of silence where all she heard was the sound of her rapidly beating heart.

She jolted her head to the beast’s former location, panting like crazy as her damaged beige suit rose with her breaths.  The creature was dead, a thick mist coming out of its neck along with a violet ooze that bubbled as it seeped out of a large wound just above its jaw.  She looked around to see the cause, as her shaky vision focused on a bearded man in a dark hooded coat, brandishing a rifle in one hand, extending another.  He spoke with a voice hoarse and tired, muttering only one word. “Raiyne.”

Raiyne moved away from the coated man, as he kept his hand out and walked towards her.  He eventually dropped his weapon, sticking it into the moist dirt, and took off his hood.  Raiyne took only a second to recognize the face.  “Uncle?”  She shakily spat out.  The man crouched and grinned through his thick greying beard, before placing his hand on the exposed head of Raiyne, brushing and patting her before he pulled her fedora from his back, and placed it back on her head.  Overcome with relief and a vanishing fear, Raiyne did not begin to question her relative, she just entered his open arms and let out a great big wail as he pat her back and offered words of comfort.

Chapter 02: Exposition

Raiyne’s eyes fluttered open as the morning sun awoke her from a slumber she did not recall entering.  She remembered the dog and then her Uncle, but it was all a teary blur after that.  With her current location being a bedroom she did not recognize.  With hard wooden floors, stone walls, and several bits of handcrafted furniture, including a queen sized bed she found herself underneath the cream sheets of, the room was rather nice, and vaguely nostalgic.  Although the same could not be said about her new loose fitting outfit of a blue sweater and black sweatpants, which barely fit her.  

As she got up and pressed her feet on the rug covered floor, a creak came from the floorboards, which was followed by several others coming from behind the bedroom’s thick wooden door.  Before she could react to a possible threat, the door opened with a figure carrying a tray of fruit, eggs, toast, and tea.  While the food did cause her stomach to rumble with hunger, she was more alarmed by the one holding it. 

His face was weathered by age, head shaved by choice with only a few hairs poking out the back.  With an ethnicity difficult to point down without going back four generations that resulted in unique and… lighter complexion than the woman before him.  Aside from that, Raiyne examined his glazed hazel eyes, natural smirk, and inch thick beard balanced with grey and black in a ratio two to five.  He stood tall at six feet four inches, wearing a modest outfit of a white shirt with black trousers held up by matching suspenders undisrupted by any additional clothing.  Well, aside from some socks

Quickly placing down the tray on the nearest table substitute, the man grabbed his niece in a firm, but loving hug, tussle of her hair, and declaration his fondness of encountering her with a far more clear sounding laugh than what bits of his voice she heard last night.  Sharing in the joy to see her relative again, Raiyne ceased the warm embrace, breaking away from the hug as she donned a serious face.  

“First thing Lou, I’m really glad to see you again.  Second thing-” she began to fumble out before Lou placed a finger over her mouth.  “Take a seat dear, you’ve had a rough night.  You eat your breakfast, I’ll do the talking.”  With less determination in her eyes, Raiyne took the tray and began to sip a bit of her tea as Lou pulled a chair from beneath a nearby desk.  

“You remember the story about the suits, right?”  Lou began as Raiyne nodded in response.  “Well, that was back in 1973, 30 years ago.  I was new to this town, brought in at the age of 25 to help with a logging operation with about a hundred other workers.  But when I was driving away an afternoon on the settlement’s freshly made roads, taking in the scenery, I noticed how a truck was lying abandoned at the side of the road, with boxes of suits, the kind of which my father, your grandfather, always wore.  I waited for about ten, twenty minutes.  Nobody came.  So I figured the suits were up for grabs, assuming my dad would get a kick out of these, as would a few of my buds.  Yet, as I was filling up my trunk with the tenth box of a dozen suits, I heard a rattling off to my side.  I turned, moved a bit into the roadside forest, when I found a feral humanoid feature with fang-like teeth”

“It appeared to be blind by its lack of pupil or iris in either eye.  Just these white glowing orbs that were traced on me as I looked at his unhealthily lean figure and red clay-colored skin.  I backed up, wishing I brought something with me.  I mean, we had people to take care of wildlife and wanderers if the construction didn’t scare them away, so I was completely unprepared for a wolf let alone this… thing, so I just backed up.  At least, until it did just the same, back into the woods.  I walked towards it, assuming that someone who was burnt naked and apparently lacking a penis wouldn’t try to set a trap for me.”  

“I went fairly deep into the woods, deep enough to barely make out my car.  Which is when I saw it.  Standing tall just a few inches above the ground, something that did not reflect light from any of its surfaces and seemed to avoid it.  It was a rhombus shaped hole from every direction that had a color as a far darker version of those around it.  Capturing the autumn orange held by the leaves on its sides, but being pitch black in the center.  It was almost like a hole of missing matter and light”

“I leaned in forward, trying to touch it, but I pulled it away as I felt a tingling in my fingers.  It is a feeling I can not describe and unlike any others that I have felt.  It was just… unnatural.  Yet no sooner than I pulled away my arm and took a step back that I heard a snarl from behind me.  It was the creature.  I originally tried to run away, going through the woods as the figure followed behind me.  Not unlike what I presume happened to you.  Sadly, there was no one to go after it and shoot it in the brain, and I had to try to fend it off with a big stick I found on the ground.  “

“I bashed it in the head as it bit off portions of the stick.  My aim wild and the creature’s endurance high, I eventually tried a similar method with a rock I found, avoiding bites and scratches from its long nails as best I could and trying to just bash it in the neck.  And, following several bite marks all over my body, I clobbered him right between the eyes, and again, and again, and until I saw it ooze out, the indigo liquid that dripped out as the body became an orange mist.  The corpse grew more decomposed until it was shriveled like it’d been out for a week, when it had only been a minute.  Within ten, even the bones became dust.”

“Too much my surprise, after the creature had died, the hole in the air I found was gone, as well as my bite wounds.  It was like it never happened.  And that, that was my first encounter with what I dub the Rifts.”  “Rifts?”  Raiyne chimed in as she was halfway through eating a slice of toast covered with jam, only taking issue with that term above what happened.  Or perhaps she just desired to make this into some breed of conversation.  “I’ve spent years, thirty this October, encountering these things.  And met friends who’ve come and gone, by ways pleasant and unpleasant I’ve been able to figure out a few things many from a scientist buddy I met in Middle School, Wheatley Quinlan, oh boy were we ever the pair.  Wheats and Lou they called us back then, but the important thing is that he originally came to Rainy Woods in order to experiment on the trees back in 1989, when you were four.  He theorized that these Rifts were some sort of portals to another world.  A theory he tested and… failed.  As he leaped into one as I fought off a creature from the Rift.  Not that he was the only one lost that day, but I’d rather not talk about Babs.”

“I’ve also never pinpointed one opening, so I’m still not sure if the monsters, or Rifters as I call them, even comes from it.  Only thing I’m sure about them in regards to opening is that it happens approximately one hour after precipitation, assuming it doesn’t start back up again during said hour, a Rift opens somewhere in Rainy Woods.  It doesn’t matter what kind of precipitation either.  Rain, hail, sleet, or snow.  Hence why I’ve missed out on some many of your snowy November bound birthdays and white Christmases.  Would’ve loved to have seen you Raiyne, but I’m the only one left who buys this horseshit.”

Raiyne cocked her head as she sipped away her tea, her face communicating her question faster than her mouth.  “I take a picture of the Rift, it is blurry.  I sent the police out to get the Rifts, they find jack.  I tell someone about the Rifts, the Rifters go after them along with me.  They seem like animals, but these things are smart.  They know not to show themselves, and only go after people alone, and continue to go after those who avoided the Rift once, like myself..  I haven’t got a clue what they want, but they sure like to dig into people and cause a ruckus.”

“Course, there were some less tamable.  It’s not all beasts.  I’ve fought conscious energy, singing toxic mist, and even living trees.  Giant bugs occasionally pop up, even a few shapeshifters that took me awhile to figure out.”  “So how did you necessarily stop singing toxic mist?”  Raiyne said, getting a bit sceptical.  “You know how Vampires hate garlic, and Werewolves can only be killed by silver bullets?  Well, that’s how these devils work.  What I shot down that dog with was a silver special made by some old friend in New England.  A blacksmith who forged silver while jamming to heavy metal.  Real screwball, listens to heavy metal as he forges, but his work’s far from shoddy.”  

“What’s next?”  Raiyne interrupted.  “You’ve got vials of Holy water to throw into their face and burn them?”  “Yes!” smirked Lou as he crossed his legs.  “I’ve also got repurposed tear gas grenades filled with garlic.  But I like to use my silver sword whenever possible.  Light for a one handed weapon and cuts through most of them like butter if I can get a good hit.  Which would be often if not for how much more effective guns are.”  “And if they hit you, you’re fully healed?  How the hell does that work?”  Raiyne erupted.  “Good question, wish I had an answer other than I’m simply fully healed as the Rift closes, and it hurts like hell in the morning.  Not that I’m gonna lick that gift horse in the mouth anytime soon.”

Raiyne looked around for a minute, trying to keep everything straight.  Her Uncle basically declared himself to be a hunter of the supernatural.  She saw the proof for herself, and couldn’t think why he would lie after the six foot tall demonic dog.  That’s when it hit her.  “Are they going to come after me?”  She murmured to herself more than to Lou.  “Well, they did for the last six I saved after they directly saw the Rifter, so I’d presume.  And, Raiyne… I would love for you to help me with this.”  Her expression slowly shifted into a set of sunken eyes with one raised eyebrow.  “I’ve been getting on in the years and, well, I’m certain that without a protector, this town would be attacked by a creature that breathes fire and burn within hours.  Rainy Woods needs a protector.  And I would be honored if you would let me train you to be one.”

“I… appreciate the offer-”  “Raiyne, I know you well enough to see this scenario through to the end.  You’ve always been too kind for your own good.  Why else would you have stayed with that friend of yours.  We both know that you would be camping out nightly trying to figure out what that creature was.  Eventually we would have crossed paths.  You would have taken interest.  You’re just that kind of person.”  “Goddammit, he’s right!”  Raiyne mouthed as she sneered to her lower left.  her expression changing into acceptance as she played the scenario in her head a few times, all ending the same way they would now, except this was probably the safest way.  She stood up and placed her hand out in front of Lou.  No words were exchanged.  Just a firm shake that led into another instance of comforting physical contact. 

“Now, it stopped raining twenty minutes before you got up…” trailed off Lou, rubbing the back of his bald head.  Raiyne pondered her options, nearly objected a few times, and eventually asked where the shower was before trailing mumbling that she’d be ready in seven minutes after a quick cleansing.  During which Lou rummaged about his unnecessarily large home for one man, running down the stairs before opening an out of place metal door that lead into a mix between a garage and armory.  With tables covered in a dozen firearms that were barely within allowance for hunters to utilize, boxes of bullets that glimmered as the ceiling lights hit their shells, and a barrel full of garlic.  Said barrel was located right next to a rack of different stitched together jackets that served as camouflage, warmth, protection and storage due to their many pockets.  All to the corner accompanied by gas canisters that were organized into several different milk crates.  There were a good dozen melee weapons with a variety of silver knives lined up on the walls.  Even a dented vest that shared the material, but lacked the glimmer, instead housing bite marks and various deformities.

However, the most prominent feature of the area was what made it seem the most like a garage, the customized black motorcycle that looked to go for several dozen grand despite being filled with half as many blemishes as the silver vest.  Lou quickly began to zoom through his many toys, selecting a different jacket from the black one he wore last night that was preemptively filled with gadgets that he mildly altered until his rummaging was overheard from a dashing Raiyne, still trying to blot her hair dry and fix her borrowed sleepwear so it properly fits.  

Lou grinned, happy that she was so willing to help out, but already anticipating questions she thought while cleaning herself.  “How exactly are we going to find these ‘Rifters’?  What are their boundaries?  Is there only one per rainfall, or-”  Lou tossed her a jacket that was lighter than his fifteen pound one by only a third.  Along with a pair of boots that were at least one size too large.  “We’ve got a bit of a drive, I’ll explain on the way.”  he said while making sure she saw what they would be riding.  

Fixing on her slightly too large coat, Raiyne looked at the bike for a moment, briefly wondering how she would be hopping along, before Lou placed a simple motorcycle helmet on her and what looked like outdated pilot headgear for himself.  He got on the vehicle as Raiyne noticed the amount of space left in the seat, hopping on without really comprehending just what she was doing until the motorcycle began to emit a very audible hum.  An unfurnished wall of the room began to open upwards, and she was holding onto Lou for dear life as he zoomed past the curved roads.

After thirty seconds of rush, Raiyne began to shout over the wind and engine, barely looking at the landscape that zipped by her, trying to take Lou up on his offer for Q&A.  “So, how do we find these things?”  Taking a second to infer what she was trying to say from the wind blocking, Lou shouted back in a far more audible manner.  “I am a man with many talented friends and ones with deeper pockets than you’d believe!  One of which, as well as being a good mate, helped figure out that these Rifts emitted a Radio signal that not a lot of people would be able to find, and sounds like static anyhow.  I’m able to track it down with this wristband I’ve got, and using Jenny’s built in system!”  “Who is Jenny?”  Raiyne roared.  “It’s the pet name given to this old girl you’re on.  She’s only five years old, but most of my girls are lucky to get half that far!  Now Raiyne, we’re in luck, the Rift just opened about six minutes away using these roads, and the Rifter should be still circling its 50 meter radius for at least fifteen afterwards.”  

“That’s good!”  Raiyne shouted over the wind, growing louder during a sharp turn.  “But do they only come from Rainy Woods?  If so, any reason why?”  “I wish I could tell you if there were or not, but these little buggers are more or less a mystery to me, and I’ve taken down a good two thousand of them.  Always been one creature per Rift, regardless of size and strength.  Not even that much focus is placed on the precipitation itself.  Sure, it was raining pretty hard last night, but only for twenty minutes.”

“But enough talk about Rifts and their effect on my life, how’s life been going for you?”  Raiyne was taken aback a bit, almost forgetting the world outside of the one Lou had been telling her.  “Things have been… fine, I guess.  Just been working at the Library to get some experience, some money, and have an excuse to read more.”  “Sounds nice, shame that you wouldn’t be able to keep everything straight.  Now, I’m not trying to screw with ya, I’m just saying you’d be guilty and drop everything if I got into a jam.  Try to deny it, but you’re just that kind of person.”

The final three minutes of the trip were met with silence, as Lou parked and dragged “Jenny” into a bush near the road.  The two walked in between rocks and evergreens for only a minute or so before finding the Rift floating in a small clearing.  The shape and form immediately captured Raiyne’s eyes, the emptiness that floated just a few inches off of the ground, spanning up several feet in a big blob that looked both wrong and important, like touching it would make something amazing happen.  She refrained herself after a few feet as Lou grabbed her shoulder, and giving her a concerned look.  

She immediately began scanning the surroundings, staying right next to Lou, and fiddling with her pockets.  Where she stumbled across several things from rations, water, rope, and even a custom pistol that she nearly dropped before shoving back into her coat.  She wondered why Lou had given her all of this stuff while being unprepared.  She never fired a gun before, and because of the occasional hunters in Rainy Woods, she was more than a little intimidated by them, so why would she have a gun in her coat’s breast pocket?  

Although, the worry all seemed to cease as Lou stopped, his right arm reaching into his pocket and pulling out a handgun, while his left reached to pull out a silencer he tightened on.  Raiyne looked over his shoulder to see what caused him to ready his weapon, and she still was not sure what she was seeing when looking at Lou’s target.  Encompassed in the light present at nine in the morning and the falling leaves of autumn, the slime-like Rifter looked almost majestic, if not for how disgusting the actual form was.  It appeared to be an object covered in mud, well, more like a mix of feces, sewage, and sand than wet dirt.  With a trail of ooze behind it, Raiyne walked a bit more to get a closer look at the blob, before stepping on a twig.  Lou’s eyes shot open along with his mouth.  He loosened his stance to move near Raiyne, as the blob vanished for a second, seeping into the earth.  Raiyne paused for a fraction of the time, as she felt a bit of a rumble through her boots.  Leading the girl to get a far closer look than she ever desired.

The Rifter erupted from the natural debris and seeped it stinky wet body over Raiyne’s, who appropriately let out a scream.  The being encompassed her up to the knees, as she felt a tingling occur within them.  Her horror only grew as the muck moved around, altering its form into that of a man’s upper body.  Complete with arms, torso, and even a face that included a hollow mouth.  Which quickly popped out eyeballs that looked more appropriate on a small animal than a humanoid face.  

It flapped its makeshift mouth as it roared with a “Nyeh!”  Its voice like gravel, yet somehow sloppy.  It felt appropriate given its form, but that didn’t stop it from sending shivers down Raiyne’s spine through merely its groan.  Although, that is not all it released from its one facial hole, as it looked at Lou with content and shouted at the bald man.  “You!  I’ve heard of you!  The Huntsman who stood in our way for generations.  You want what I’ve got?  Well, I’ll give you her, if you let me take you with this whole fucking town!”  Lou’s expression shifted as he tightened his grip on his firearm, aligning it as he held it to his side with his right hand.  “Don’t think of firing that Argentum!  I’ll burn out with the girl, and I can tell she’s fresh!  And the last thing she needs is to feel her legs melt into stew!”

Lou was in a pickle, lowering his weapon, placing it on the ground with his hands going behind his head.  Raiyne was in even hotter water as she felt her pants being eaten through along with a layer of her skin and boots.  Lou decided to communicate with the create, moving closer while giving Raiyne a noticeable wink.  “You know, I have killed nearly a dozen of you freaks.  Not Rifters, just the ugly sacks of shit that I guess you are the same species as.  If you think you are the one who will overpower me, you are truly an idiot.  So, I’d recommend letting the woman go if you want your death to be short and painless.”

Raiyne felt like chiming in, but could only make out a few startled gasps as the Rifter creeped up her legs, which grew only more difficult to move beyond a twitch.  And while she had plenty of toys in her jacket, the thing moved an eye her way whenever she moved more than nudge.  And the mild burning that grew in her legs was not helping her decide on an action.  “As your world has shifted, your strength has decayed, Huntsman.  The process I know not from experience, but know infinitely well as that of aging.  Your days are numbered, and your body’s growing slow.  So why don’t you lay down and let me feast upon your carcass before it loses all of its decaying worth?”  The instant he finished flapping his pudding like face, he brought his eyes to Raiyne, who reached into her pocket for her firearm, her face striking with fear as the burning sensation grew in intensity.  

However, as the creature’s face began to sneer, it was interrupted by a knife sized chunk of metal that flew halfway through its head, causing it to grow distracted as it let out a shriek.  As the grip loosen, Raiyne hopped out of the oozing away creature, with its form losing structure as the metal emitted a gleam that was unmistakably the same as the silver she witnessed before.  With its tosser being none other than Lou, still in a throwing position with one arm as he reached into his coat to pull out and toss what could only be described as a garlic smoke bomb.  The Rifter continued its ear shattering screech as it inhaled the gas and lost even more from, oozing away until it was unrecognizable aside from the fair scent of old meat that was formed from its remains and the garlic gas.  

During all of which, Raiyne was frantically rolling on the ground, patting her leg while holding back screams, before Lou could catch his breath after dealing with the Rifter.  Tears came out, as both relief and a result of pain.  Her skin was rapidly eaten away after the chunk of silver hit the monster, and was down to the bones as the remains became a steamy vapor that was continuing to emit from the grotesque mesh of bones and flesh.  It only took seconds of screaming and relief as the leg eventually began to form back, growing rapidly from the bone and out to her skin until it was as good as new.

Raiyne was ecstatic to see them returning, but she had a look of fear and possible emptiness on her face, like she thought this was all a dream, before her uncle rushed up to her, holding her as the tears were a staple between both parties, as her repeated, with his eyes jittering like insects, “I’m sorry”.  The two stayed there for several minutes, feeling a mix of regret and shock.  Before getting up, withered and tired and slowly driving back home on their motorcycle, as they both attempted to begin conversations before realizing that there was nothing they needed to say.  The thought of regret filled Raiyne for the majority of the ride, but as she looked over the scattered homes from the elevated terrain, she realized that this was something she truly could not walk away from.  

Chapter 03: Shines

“Rift Constable Log 10/30/2003:”  Read a computer screen as Raiyne glanced over her own writing, mouthing out what she typed moments beforehand.  “It has been thirteen days since October seventeenth, the night that changed my life forever.  I have encountered a total of five Rifters in my brief tenure, and think that I’ve gotten over my burns, cuts, and that one lost limb.  Mind, you it is still horrifying as the very idea of hell should be, because if I die, I won’t be coming back.  Though, I honestly try not to think about that too much.   Instead, I’m just thinking about whether or not the other Librarians are pissed at me for quitting so abruptly, along with my plans for tonight.  I shall be moving into my uncle’s house so he won’t need to rely on me and my lack of a cell phone to be ready whenever the rain falls.  And in a town literally named after how rainy it is.  We don’t even bother with forecasts in this town, we just always have an umbrella nearby.  Anywho, I’ve got to pack up a few more things before he gets here.”

Raiyne saved the document as she placed her hand over her recently reformed leg.  It was still odd to recover from major injuries so rapidly, but after encountering several other Rifters, she had gotten more or less used to the idea.  As the boxes of her possessions, scattered about her decently sized green wallpapered room, demonstrated.  With the only thing other than her computer left being furniture.  Saving the file as she read the time as 7:12, she shut down her PC and began to untangle the mess of wires made up of a printer, scanner, ethernet cable, monitor, and actual computer.  That is, until she was interrupted by a knocking on her door.  Turning her head, narrowly avoiding the desk she was crouched under she looked to see Caroline leaning on her doorframe, with her looking normal in mildly worn jeans and a T-shirt of something Raiyne did not even attempt to recognize, before getting to her face, which looked like it was hit with a spiked bat.  With bits of fake flesh and blood scattered over it.  Raiyne’s interest halved as she remarked, “Getting the Halloween party done early, eh Caroline?”  Caroline puffed out her cheeks.  “C’mon, I spent half an hour getting the make-up right, and you’re just going to give me that half caring expression?  I thought we were friends!”

“We are,” Raiyne began, pausing a bit too long for a response.  “It’s just that I’m at a busy point in my life and, well, it’s celebrating Halloween early because of the forecasted storm.  You’re nineteen, I’m gonna be the same in a few weeks.  We’re not kids anymore.”  Caroline made a cute frustrated expression through her fairly well done face paint, as she nearly tripped over the boxes Raiyne laid out in her room.  Before grabbing some of Raiyne’s hair while she was still on the ground, gently lifting up bits while shouting, “Poo-pee-head!”  Raiyne just sighed.  “See, that’s what I’m talking about.  Two weeks ago, you were dancing without a shirt on, red with intoxication.  What do you even plan on doing when you’re, I don’t know, twenty-five?”  Caroline crossed her arms and looked away, trying to be taken seriously despite having face paint on.  “Well, you’re constantly changing your plans.  Not only can’t we be roomies, but you’re moving fifteen minutes away?  That is such a dirt move, girl!”  

“I’m not trying to avoid you.”  Raiyne said with sincerity.  “Something came up with a job my uncle had, and I just can’t refuse an offer like the one he gave me.”  Raiyne said without outright lying, but still misdirecting her friend.  “And it’s one where I need to call before coming over.  Just great.  Now who’s going to help me ‘mature’ myself?”  “Living by yourself, actually by yourself, will help you out a lot.  I’d sooner say I was holding you back than helping you really grow.”  Raiyne said, as Caroline’s face pierced through the make up to show a mix of shock and sorrow that Raiyne likely did not anticipate with her words.  Caroline quickly wiped the face paint away and stormed off, leaving Raiyne to carry boxes by herself once more, feeling only mildly bad for upsetting her friend as she let out a hearty sigh..  

After several minutes of lifting boxes, Raiyne brought everything down from her second story bedroom and down in front of the front door.  Picking up a random book while checking the clock until it struck eight.  The doorbell promptly rang, revealing the familiar face of Lou.  After exchanging a hello, both of them began to bring out the boxes, placing them in a white moving truck.  It only took a few minutes of mostly silent labor where Raiyne described her possessions, which were almost entirely basics like clothes, books, and a PC with monitor.  Following the locking of her house, still empty as it was when she left with Caroline two weeks ago, the two took off with a decent length car ride ahead of them, with Lou driving of course.  

“So, where’d you get the truck from?”  Raiyne said, making small talk.  “I rented it, simple as that.”  Lou responded.  “Sure, I’ve got plenty of money, but that hardly means that I’ve got an assortment of vehicles lined up.”  “Money that was given to you by my Dad, right?”  Raiyne inquired, trying to get the man’s story straight.  “To a certain extent, but Bill’s wise investments were not as wise- well, I’d hardly say mine were wise, but I managed to get lucky throughout my life, meeting and befriending people who would become millionaires.  Hell, was given a hundred shares when they started out, managed to sell them for five hundred a pop.”

“Which you spent on a house for yourself?”  Raiyne inquired, trying to make sense of her uncle’s actions.  “Well, after Bill died, back when you were… eight, he left me with a very large investment.  It would have normally gone to your mother, Natalie, but instead it went to me, and Bill said he wanted me to spend my share of the nicest house in town.  Leaving you with very little.”

“Which, erm, explains why I was stuck alone for most days, as my mom had to take a more transportation heavy job that is 80% business trips.  With you being too busy to grow attached to a little girl like me.  Am I getting this right?”  “I wouldn’t put it that way, but Natalie was determined to not take my money, wanting to always make a name for herself.  And with Bill gone, she started to try to fill the hole he left with more work, almost forgetting about you.”  There was silence between the two, before Lou continued.  “You look more like Bill when he was young then you look like Natalie when I first met her.  I can’t speak for her, but I’m guessing she just sees him inside of your eyes.  I-”  “Can- can we change the subject?”  Raiyne interjected, clearly not wanting to talk about her parents.  Lou shut his mouth and looked at her, sectioned onto one side of the truck’s seat, with eyes fixated to her lower right.  

The two concluded the night without much more discussion, moving inside Raiyne’s packages before she retired in the bed she had laid in prior.  Staying up a bit later than normal, looking out at the window, fighting the temptation to open a box when she assumed Lou was already asleep.  Yet as the clock struck midnight, she covered herself with a thick blanket and drifted away.  Second guessing herself as her eyes fluttered off.  

Her cyan eyes opened when she heard a knocking on her doorframe.  With Lou standing nearby with his usual smile that only changed to allow him to offer breakfast.  Raiyne went down with him after reorganizing her bed.  It was not as frivolous as before, but the hearty breakfast was mostly grainy cereal, nuts, and fruit.  Afterwards, as Lou was filling up his dishwasher with the bowls and plates used, he attempted to strike up a conversation with her.  “I don’t want to feel like I’m pressuring you with this.  I’ve just seen this so many times and when I did get to see you, I at least though I learned a bit about you.  If you really don’t want to do this, I can let you leave.”

Raiyne looked over at her boxes still more or less packaged from last night, asking Lou to help her unpack.  He calmly agreed as they brought the supplies up to a room barren side from basic furniture with a dresser, bed, desk, and two bookshelves.  They remained mostly quiet throughout the first half of moving around her clothes, books, and other personal effects that made up what Raiyne wanted to have handy at all times.  Until Raiyne sporadically chimed in.  “Did you truly need to kill that mud creature?”  The two stopped unpacking as Lou responded with a sigh.  “Yes.  I could let these creatures go and live free, it’s just that I have no reason to trust them.  Humans have a system in place where they normally follow rules and the majority of the population agrees with them, or at least doesn’t go against them.  These Rifters do not have any system that I am aware of.  That, and it takes a tool for a man to kill another in most cases, these Rifter could potentially murder dozens with their own natural abilities.”

“Well, what if they weren’t able to spit acid?  Could they be left alone then?”  Raiyne asked, stopping her unpacking entirely.  “Raiyne, 30 years.  I have been doing this for nearly twice your lifetime.  The question came up, I’ve given these Rifters a good three, four, maybe even five chances.  They never worked out well.  They just… can we not talk about this?  It’s a very complex issue for this early in the day.  I’ll go get the training gear ready, assuming you still-”  “I’m fine Lou, I’ll be down after I sort my clothes.  We don’t need to talk about this if you don’t want to.”

Approximately twelve minutes later, Raiyne entered through an open door in the corner of Lou’s house, wearing sweatpants and a plain white shirt.  With Lou similarly dressed in what looked to be a track suit, as the two entered a sort of exercise room, if said room also contained airsoft guns and padded swords.  Over the course of an hour, the two lifted, ran, and practiced on training dummies with the substitute weapons.  Which was accompanied by conversations fixated on the equipment available to them, rather than the topics of morality they had been attempting to discuss.

Following a pair of showers on alternate sides of the house, the duo made note of the state of the world outside, and how there was rain on the windows.  In a huff, Lou reached into his kitchen’s fridge, which was packed with pre-made meals in tupperware.  With some Nasi Goreng he muttered as for her, and some Schnitzel for himself.  Raiyne began to wonder how exactly Lou found the time to make all the food, before thinking about what he would do during most rainless days.  

They scarfed down their food within ten minutes, not making time for conversation as they rushed back to Lou’s armory, for lack of a better term.  He mumbled off about everything he had acquired, listing how many countries the cases for the gases came from, the rising price of silver, and even showing off how he had a hundred gallons of gasoline accessible from the room they were in.  Raiyne was a bit starry eyed seeing all of the many toys used, not in the way a boy imagines a stick as a gun, but from one playing with a chemistry set.

After making sure to spray themselves with the scent of garlic to prevent physical contact, placing on jackets and helmets to mildly match the overcast that followed the rain, Lou commented on his “Rift-dar” starting to detect a signal.  Departing the instant he found a trace, located twenty minutes away.  He cursed under his breath before starting up Jenny and going down the mountain pass that lead up to his home.  It was a quiet drive where Raiyne chose to just grab onto her uncle’s torso and look past the pine trees.  She thought about how accustomed she was to them, acting as a sight every day of her life, while never ceasing to look appealing to her, with a new detail popping up every time.  Not that she could see many as she was zipping by at 60 miles an hour, which was oddly ignored if only due to how few police officers there apparently were in Rainy Woods.

The duo eventually arrived, hiding the bike not all that well before Lou rushed into the woods carrying a hunting rifle.  Raiyne called for him to slow down as she caught up, which did not take long as Lou stopped when he saw the corpse of what he presumed to be a Rifter.  It was like a navy blue wolf who had yellow stripes along the ends of its fur.  Hardly strategic camouflage, at least in this world.  Lou claimed a knife had pierced its neck, and as the corpse was rapidly decaying, he inferred that who or whatever killed it must be near.  As if on cue, they heard a rustling that lead to a second almost too fast for either of them to comprehend.  

A humanoid figure popped out from a nearby bush, jolting right for Lou, grabbing him just as Lou was fixing his rifle’s sights on the figure.  With a firm grip around Lou’s neck, able to pop it with its massive claw within less than the second it took for him to get a hold of him, Lou was essentially powerless as the rifle fell out of his hands.  The figure leaped up onto a tree, jumping up a good ten feet as it grabbed onto the bark with its one free hand and tossing itself up to another.  Once it got nearly 70 feet above the forest, Raiyne, who had been too startled to do anything but watch, was able to get a look at the figure.  She could only stare into its vibrant green eyes, as its blue-grey coat of fur was amplified by the noon’s high sun.  Raiyne made note of its tall stature of a good seven and a half feet, broad shoulders, and even a snout sporting thick fangs.  Along with its thick physique that explained some of its might, but not at all his dexterity.  While it might have not been exactly what she imagined, the figure before her was unmistakably some sort of wolfman.

Raiyne’s eyes darted around the forest floor, landing onto the rifle that Lou dropped.  She stepped before it as the creature let out a very appropriate howl.  Well, if it had been smoking for a few years.  “Cool it Dampener.”  It said in a move that would’ve likely stopped her even if he didn’t use that term.  “Dampener?”  Raiyne said beneath her breath, comprehending what, or rather who she was talking to.  “That’s right, good old Roberto Shines is back.  Bigger, stronger, and better in every way you can fucking believe!  And even more that you can’t!”  

Raiyne looked confused at the very prospect, and stared at what she could make out as her uncle.  “L- Let him go Roberto!  He doesn’t want to hurt you, he just wants to help, we both do!”  Raiyne blurted out, not wanting to see Liam either drop or claw off Lou’s face.  He scoffed at her.  “Help?  Ha!  I’ve gotten quite a few new instincts since I, what’s the word?  Awakened!  And they are screaming that you and Gramps over here are nothing but trouble.  Why shouldn’t I trust them.  They make me feel so fucking amazing after all!”

“Perhaps I should explain.”  Roberto continued, loosening his grip on Lou’s neck.  I was trying something out with Jess, the girl you saw me pounding in the ass a while ago.  Said she wanted a more ‘exotic’ experience, so I took her out to fuck in the woods.  Then this cunt of a wolf came up and bit my leg.  So, I took my knife and cut that bitch’s throat, and within minutes, I became this!  It was like a killer workout where I was more jet-jacked than being mellowed out at the end.  I got hairy, so I was more of a motherfucking man.  I was able to literally fuck the brains out of Jess in that bush over there with my glorious wolfy dick!  Little Roberto’s a shy little bitch, so he’s hiding, but trust me, keep this up and you’ll get all sixteen inches in your dirty black-ass face!  Even if your face wasn’t something I wanted to bite and rape, why the fuck would I listen to a cooze like you?  And this old fart?  I would love to asphalt his asshole!”

Raiyne was speechless as she attempted to take in what the werewolf began to cackle.  Wondering what she should do, thinking as she just stared at the expressionless Lou Underwood giving Roberto the worst stink eye, at least until Roberto was preparing to flat out pounce and presumably murder and rape Raiyne simultaneously.  “And then what?”  Lou shouted, getting Roberto’s attention.  “You were given great powers, and you’ll do what?  Murder and rape people from your town?  You sickening bastard!  Have you no honor, no shame, no sense of val-”  “Are you giving me shit about nobility?” Roberto barked as he tightened his grip.  “This is the twenty-first century!  A man don’t need to be shit when it comes to class, the ones who rule are the ones who’d be willing to take the power and use it to fu-”  He was cut off by the sound of gunfire.  As Roberto’s attention was averted by Lou’s complaining, he failed to notice that Raiyne had grabbed the rifle and shot Roberto in his left shoulder.  Causing his grip on Lou to drop, as Lou fell from the branch.

Lou was high enough to suffer a fatal injury if he fell.  He needed to grab onto something and fast.  He could not manipulate his weight very much, but if he could slam down onto a branch halfway down, he’d be alright.  He managed to grab at a few small branches as they broke off, before his leg crashed on one, breaking his fall by focusing all the injuries on a broken and blood spewing leg.  Raiyne only watched him fall, and was conflicted on whether or not to try and go after her uncle and confirm his injury as a non fatal one, or try to go after the shoulder grabbing Roberto.  She didn’t have time to choose though, as Roberto leaped onto her, not worrying about the possible shattered legs from the fall, which he did not seem to have if the fact he dashed to Raiyne afterwards was any indication.  

Raiyne traced the rifle on Roberto, hoping to get a shot in as he traversed the thirty or so feet between them.  However, the creature was too fast, and managed to swipe the rifle out of Raiyne’s hand before she could fire, slashing her arm with his good hand as well.  She waddled back a bit, as Lou shouted at her, rummaging through his jacket looking for something to help her.  Not that Roberto was willing to wait, as he brought her down with a kick, before slamming a foot down onto her chest, causing her to let out a large gasp with a clump of blood.  Before she could even inhale, Roberto grabbed her left arm with his right, his foot pinning her to the ground, as he began to yank it, a move that only increased the volume of screams.

They did not last for long, as Roberto placed his other foot over her mouth, his massive fifteen inch feet forbidding her to see or say anything, as only a mild muffle could be made out.  Neither Raiyne or Lou had the time to act as Raiyne could feel her flesh ripping off.  The pain was nearly great enough to knock the girl out as she felt the last nerve pull in two.  The foot was taken off of her face, allowing for her blue teary eyes to view Roberto with Raiyne’s arm dripping blood above her body.  The beast sunk his teeth in it, and emitted an audible crack as he took one bite into the bone.  Roberto gazed at her horrified face and spat Raiyne’s own half chewed flesh into her face.  Her eyes vibrated, mouth was static, the flood of fear and shock were enough to make such an emotion, but she turned silent as Lou shouted for her, bad mouthing Roberto as he did so.  Calling him an abomination, bastardization, and insult to humanity.

Which did phase the wolf-like creature much, as he grabbed Raiyne’s legs with his right hand, and threw her at Lou, crashing both of them into a tree as a trail of blood easily lead Roberto to the dying humans.  His eyes seeing them more as toys than half-dead humans.  That is, until Lou threw a glass bottle with a capacity of four ounces right at Roberto’s face as he rushed in for the kill.  As the glass shattered on his skin and the contents hit his eyes and face, Roberto fell flat on his back, yelling like a banshee, while clawing at the shards that were lodged in his flesh.  

“Holy specials,”  Lou coughed.  “Always were a handy tool.  Raiyne, you got that silver dagger?”  With vacant eyes, Raiyne nodded.  Moving her right arm away from her wound, and into her interior left pocket, pulling out a foot long weapon, half devoted to the handle, and half to a blood stained piece of metal.  Lou let out a grin as he did his best to lob the weapon into Roberto.  It struck a vein running from his neck, only grazing it, but cutting a deep enough hole to make a lime green liquid squirt out.  Roberto flailed around, bashing into trees, falling down, and releasing a series of moans as screeches as Raiyne looked on.  Color returning to her blood stained face face as Roberto did manage to get the dagger out, but it was a futile gesture, and fell to the ground right before the two.

Thirty seconds passed without a word.  Only a mild moan escaping from Roberto’s steaming mouth.  He was done for, but that did not prevent Raiyne from moving her broken form, and fumble over to Roberto, trying to use her legs as she fell thrice while traversing the twenty feet between them.  She pulled out a weapon from her pocket, a handgun, looked down the sights and made out the still flickering eyes of Roberto, filled with fear and pity as hers were blank and surrounded with blood, devoid of a quantum of sympathy for him.  She pulled the trigger as his already mangled face erupted with a lime green liquid, covering her face in a black ooze as the tears mixed the two colors together.

The two stayed there long after Roberto’s body became a white vapor and Raiyne’s mangled flesh oozed back onto the spot her arm used to be, and her cuts healed.  Lou said nothing, he just let her be, understanding her pain, but not showing any change in his eyes.  Static with the ever growing sense of regret for the world he introduced his niece into.  Waiting a good half hour before bringing her home.  The evening was silent, as everything they could say to one another was obvious through their faces alone.  Raiyne quickly removed her clothes and took a shower before she promptly went into her bed.  Her tears dried and expression lifeless.  She eventually drifted off as Lou looked out to Rainy Woods, a rising downpour inevitably bringing with another threat.  

Chapter 04: Whisp

Raiyne and Lou were wandering through the many miniature forests of Rainy Woods, the trees still damp with water, as Lou kept his eyes open and hands glued to his hunting rifle, ready to pop under his nose and fire at a second’s notice.  Raiyne, however, was more than a little shaky.  Eyes darting everywhere, paranoid about her surroundings as if some great unrest has fallen onto her.  She was prepared as she gripped a revolver, pointing the barrel to the ground as she slowly followed in Lou’s footsteps.  They did not speak however, merely looking out for the Rift, and if their positioning was any indicator, one another.

It took only a brief amount of time before Lou stopped and looked onwards to the absence of matter floating in the air, the Rift.  Both his arms grabbed his rifle as he stopped walking, gesturing Raiyne to do the same.  Pausing for for a minute, they heard a chirp nearby.  Although, something was not quite right.  It was like one bird imitating another species’ manner of speech, if such a thing were possible.  Lou reached into his jacket, pulling out a pair of thermal goggles that he placed on with ease, as he slowly walked forward with Raiyne not staying any less than a foot away from his behind.  He crept through the woods until stopping, as if something caught his eye.  Murmuring, “No body heat,” under his breath, he pointed his rifle through the trees, landing on a yellow bird sitting on a branch, although he saw it as pitch black through the goggles.  He adjusted his aim for the target no larger than his palm, pulling the trigger right as the creature seemed to blink out from the tree.  Lou ripped off his goggles, searching around with his eyes, hoping to catch the brightly colored creature.

His expression went from confusion, to anger, to fear, to sorrow, within a second.  The creature’s pinky sized head was the only thing he could see of it, but it was sticking out of Raiyne’s left eye.  Her expression implied she hadn’t even noticed the creature, until it let out its uncanny chirp, which sent Raiyne down to the ground within a second, clawing away at her face, trying to rip out the bird as its head seemed to sink into her skin, leaving behind an empty eye socket.  A transformation that was only the beginning for the little lady.

She ripped off her jacket and shirt, clawing at her skin as she felt extremely small circular bumps begin to form from it.  The altered skin grew more plentiful and larger as her face began to contort and shift, her nose falling off and teeth popping out of her gums.  Lou observed her body as bits of yellow appeared from her skin, before ripping her skin open as they revealed feathers.  Her arms began to lose thickness, as they became long flaps of skin that began to grow more of the yellow feathers, with her hands withering away as her feet ripped apart, toes ripping open to reveal talons as they broke through her skin, with the deep red blood popping from her pores obscuring their color.  Her torso and face began to grown what appeared to be some form of hair, as her lips began to harden into a thick beak.  Her transformation took only a minute but when it was done and she was a barely clothed thing neither beast nor human, all Lou could do was continue to stare while shaking his head in disbelief.

Her form was unrefined and virtually useless, unable to fly with a low wing span, and barely able to support herself with her stubby legs, as her beak barely opened to let out her screams, with black hair growing over her eyelids.  She looked like a genetic experiment bastardized beyond belief, a creature never meant to be, tears coming through through her neck as her black dot eyes stretched open further. She flailed about, falling and struggling to get up, wandering to Lou as he began to shout in rejection of this reality.  “No… no, this wasn’t what was suppose to happen, this never happened!  The Rifts never did this, I never did this!”

Raiyne made to to Lou’s legs, struggling to even breathe, cusping his ankles with what little semblance of arms she had left, as Lou traced his Rifle at her, tears rolling into his beard.  He muttered a simple, “I’m sorry” as he pulled the trigger, leaving Raiyne as a pile of flesh that let out a crimson stream with an accompanying mist that seeped through the woods, making a hefty fog that Lou ran through of, leaving her body to decompose like all the other creatures he killed, like she were just another Rifter.

Raiyne shot up out of her bed, covered in a damp sweater and trousers, having sweated an almost ludicrous amount in her slumber.  She took a sigh of relief, thankful she was having a nightmare, examining her surroundings with segments of tears floating in her eyes, only to be wiped away as she sniffled, before she refocused her arms onto her left arm, which caused her to wince as she touched it.  She checked a nearby clock that read the time as 2:22.  It would’ve been wise to return to sleep, but her heart was beating too fast for her to even think of going back to bed.  So she decided to at least get out of her sweaty sleepwear and into something similar she got from her drawer.  

She made her way to the same bathroom she had been using, preparing to take another shower.  At least before taking off her sweat pants, when she felt a chill down her neck.  Raiyne was certain that it was not just the wind or even Lou moving about his house, something about it felt unnatural to her.  She turned to look at where it came form, only to see something appear in the corner of her eye reflecting in the mirror.  She turned to see nothing yet again.  Raiyne kept on scattering her vision, looking for something that she knew to be in the bathroom with her, until she finally spotted it.

The levitating creature in the room with her was about the size of a softball.  Its head resembles that of a fox’s, with fur white aside from magenta stripes and yellow skin in its ears, along with eyes that practically glowed with the color of cyan.  While the rest of its body being a tail that flapped about like a scarf in a mild breeze, as the magenta pattern continued to a yellow tipped tail.  It looked concerning to Raiyne, but not like a threat, a hypothesis supported by how it let out a meep upon being spotted.

The creature hid itself behind the toilet, as Raiyne fished it out, grabbing it by the tail, only for it to slip away.  With catching the creature out of the picture, Raiyne tried to talk to it.  “M-My name is Raiyne and I’m- I won’t hurt you.”  The creature moved from behind a towel and circled around Raiyne, almost as if it was analyzing her.  It eventually stopped in front of her, just out of arm’s reach.  It began by creating some noises that sounded either obnoxious or adorable depending on one’s preference, before beginning to talk, sounding like a subpar voice actress’ take on a sophisticated twelve-year-old boy.  “Apologies about that, I’m simply not used to this place, I’m… just somewhat displaced.”  It was then that Raiyne noticed the creature’s lack of a mouth, as the noises seemed to come out of it.  “What are you?”  She blurted out.  

“Well, the Huntsman’s slang is Rifter, and I suppose you, his newest assistant, would call refer to me as such.  Not that I wish to be associated with the countless individuals you’ve slaughtered.”  “You know who I am?”  Raiyne asked, ignoring how this creature could see her white panties.  “Oh yes, the Huntsman is a legend and a barrage of us ‘Rifters’ view him as the mightiest foe from what we can view of this world through the vortexes.  Though he was far more vulnerable the last time he lost an ally, so our attention has obviously been centered more on you, his damsel.”  “D- damsel?”  Raiyne repeated.  “Yes, those from my world mentioned her, or rather you, as being an unskilled and easy to defeat target who distracts the huntsman from the threat before him.  Seldom assisting in his battles, and very sloppy with her actions.”

“Hold it, why shouldn’t I go kill you?  You’re just another Rifter!”  Raiyne blurted out while going near the bathroom door.  “Well, I’m not hurting anybody, and back where I am from, we don’t execute people just for that.  I merely plopped into this place, taken away from my kin, and was wandering around for beyond a hundred minutes before I found an opening to this building of yours.”  “Lou- er, the Huntsman, encountered hundreds upon hundreds of you, and according to him, everyone was hostile.  At least, that’s what he told me…”  “Well, I won’t speak for any other creature, but I am more lost than anything, and I certainly know better than to try and attack a man who never failed to kill his opponent within over thirty years.”  “Then what do you want to do now?”  Raiyne asked, moving away from the door.

“I’m curious about these ‘Rifts’ and why these ‘Rifters’ are the way they are in this world.  Surely that is not too hard to believe.  If not, one of those mythic Argentum bolts should bring me down, or that accursed death gas bomb.”  “Well, how do I know you can’t just explode in my face or become toxic vapor?”  “Oh, the answer is quite simple.  If I wanted you dead, you would be dead already.  I certainly wouldn’t wait to try and get the Huntsman as well as his servant. I would be renowned as a legend amongst my fellow ‘Rifters’ for that alone.”  Raiyne pondered its words, and he did have a point.  The Rifters she encountered thus far seemed very direct with their means to kill, and she was half naked in a room with this Rifter, so there was no reason it wouldn’t kill her.

“I’ll have to get my u- the Huntsman, and let him have the final say, but…”  “But what?”  “I’m guessing he would have heard me talk to a… what should I call you?  And how can you even speak English?”  “You may call me Whisp, and I am not aware of this English, I merely began speaking and you understood me.”  “So, does the Rift unify languages or…”  “I’m living proof if it does.  I have been speaking the same language I’ve always had, and you’re lips might not look like it, but your words are of the same language from my perspective, as were the Huntsman’s.  At least, those who were on… my side of the Rift claim as such.  I have personally not gotten the chance to witness any.”

“Okay… Whisp.  The Huntsman would normally hear me if he was home, so-”  Raiyne’s explanation was interrupted as she heard Lou, the Huntsman, shout for her, following the slamming of the front door door.  “Raiyne, we have an emergency!  I know you’re shaken up, but I need help with this one!”  Raiyne went out, still unaware of, or apathetic toward her lack of trousers, and down to Lou, as Whisp followed her.  “What is it?”  She asked as she saw a mud drenched Lou panting and messing up his home with wet dirt.  “A Rift opened as you were sleeping.  I thought you deserved some rest, but I can’t find the Rifter.  It wasn’t near the Rift, and the Rift closed before I could find it.  I need you to help me look for it.  I’ve got an older vehicle I can take, while you go with Jenny and cover the Northern part of-”  Lou’s verbal planning was broken off as he saw a floating white fox head hover around Raiyne.  “There it is!  Raiyne, stand still, I’ll-”  “Woah, woah, woah.” Whisp interjected as Lou began to pull out a handgun.  “I’m not doing anything, Sir Huntsman, I simply popped out of the ‘Rift’ as you call them, and met your servant-”  Whisp tried to defend itself as Lou began to trace the creature with it.  

“Calm down you two!”  Raiyne interrupted, trying to look dignified in her underwear.  “Lou, put the gun away, and Whisp, explain the situation to Lou.  We can be reasonable with a… floating fox head with a tail, or whatever Whisp is suppose to be.”  The conversation lasted a little over half an hour, with ramblings of different and similar events, Whisp trying to explain them and why it is different, all as Raiyne only realized she had bare legs twenty minutes in.  They finally reached an agreement as Lou sat down, with his muddy underclothes, and let out a sigh.  “You want to observe us killing your brethren, or whatever you prefer to call them, and learn about the Rifts based on their actions?”  “Yessir, I desire to learn about these random portals to another world.  I mean, who wouldn’t!?”  

“…I’ve never seen a Rifter quite like you,” Lou said while grabbing Whisp to intimidate him “But I guess there is a first time for everything.  Just remember, the first sign of suspicion that I see, you’ll be getting this ‘Argentum’ right between your neon colored eyes!”  Raiyne let out a sigh of relief, happy to have made some possible progress with the very repetitive seeming notion of hunting down countless bestial manifestations.  Even if Lou did need to visually threaten Wisp at least twenty times  Either way, she hoped that they might figure out what these Rifts really are, and maybe even save her uncle from living like this until he is killed in battle.  It was not a likely result, but she had a feeling that everything would end up okay as she looked outside to see clouds looming for yet another instance of rainfall.  

Chapter 05: Dead

It was the morning of November the fifteenth, 2003.  Two weeks have passed since the trio was formed and continued their rigmarole of hunting after Rifters as the group grew more experienced as a unit, with Raiyne possibly doubling down after Whisp’s potential insult when the two met one another.  Although Lou’s gaze still did little to hide his distrust to the befriended Rifter as it popped out of a leather pocket fashioned onto the motorcycle.  The two humans adjusted themselves and moved the bike behind a rock, as Whisp squirmed through trees, searching for the other Rifter.

Lou and Raiyne followed their companion who shined through the morning skies, preparing weapons from their pockets, with Lou brandishing his one handed silver sword with a smirk on his face, as Raiyne got out a handgun that she handled with next to no hesitation.  Not even blinking as she held it upwards and continued to ascend up the hill that Whisp had led them to.  They carefully climbed up the steep incline, hoping the Rifter was not waiting for them on top, as Whisp let out a whistle and zoomed back to the two.  

“Wait, so you electrocuted a cat, one of those furry beings, back when you went by Louie?”  Whisp began to enthusiastically blurt out before Lou interrupted its comments to a prior conversation with a shush as he pressed his back behind a tree, aching to slash something with his big blade.  “We’re not here to tell you stories about my past, we’re here to hunt Rifters!”  “He’s got a point Whisp, could you just please tell us what what’re we dealing with this time?”  Raiyne asked, her hand reaching a gas canister through her jacket.  “I’m not sure, my world is infinitely varied and I have not seen everything, but this looks like a, what do you call it, a snake?”  Whisp questioned while floating around, wagging its tail like a dog going on a car ride.  “So thin, tube shaped, and probably a constrictor?”  Raiyne asked, making sure Whisp was on the right track.  “Yes, except I believe its more the biting kind with massive fangs.”  

Lou let out a sigh as Whisp explained what it saw so cheerfully, before grinning as he gripped his sword.  Raiyne on the other hand placed her gun back in its holster, and replaced it with a gas canister and a silver dagger.  They grinned at each other, ready to onslaught the Rifter with a sneak attack.  Sadly, their methods did not go as well as they expected, with the aforementioned Rifter crawling around in the underbrush as it resembled a shadow most of the time.  

Lou swung his blade about, sweeping the ground for any trace of it, as Raiyne threw two canisters to lure out the creature whenever she got a glimpse of a thick yellow that she presumed to be its fangs.  They continued stabbing the ground for several minutes, with Whisp trying to detect the other Rifter as the duo did more damage to the bushes and trees than they did to their target.  

The two humans panted lightly as Whisp continued to look through the bushes, illuminating them white as it grew near.  “This one’s smarter than most.”  Raiyne said, thinking out loud more than anything.  “If I may give a suggestion, perhaps we can lure this troublesome creature out with fire?”  Whisp inquired while swirling around the general area.  “No, fire won’t work, it’s too wet around here.”  Lou smirked, as Raiyne glared at him with a bit of concern.  “It was a joke Raiyne, sorry if it wasn’t a good one!”

After another minute of frustrated searching and slashing at fallen branches, the three heard a rustling nearby.  Lou reached into his jacket pocket, and threw some garlic gas at the general direction, which oddly led to a series of coughs to come from the bush, along with a human face.  Briefly aiming at the target with her handgun, Raiyne took only a few seconds to recognize the flailing silhouette.  “Caroline?”  She muttered before dropping her weapon.

Rushing over to her friend, seeing as how they both exchanged glances, Raiyne took Caroline away from the gas cloud, and sat her on a slightly moist rock.  However, Caroline didn’t waste anytime coughing while berating Raiyne.  “What was that?  It smells familiar, but geez it packs a wallop!  Raiyne, what are you doing out here with your uncle and a… floating white ball?”  

Raiyne was mildly grateful she didn’t have to explain the guns right away, but explaining Whisp was an entirely different matter.  “Well, you see, that was-”  Raiyne began while rubbing her neck.  “You said we’d meet on Tuesdays, but no!  You had to go out and do something at seven in the morning!  You don’t even answer my messages, what are you doing all the time?”  “It’s, erm, well.”  “There was cheese over my carpeting, hot cheese, and it sunk in because I didn’t know how to clean it!”  “Caroline… I’ve been hunting monsters!”

Caroline shot a scowl at her, as if Raiyne just said Caroline was a dumbass.  To which Whisp popped in between the two, sending Caroline falling off the rock and into the mud and leaves that made up the forest floor.  “Hello, my name is Whisp, and I believe that my mere existence brings validity to this young woman’s claimed profess-!”  Caroline immediately grabbed, squeezed, bit, and stretched out Whisp as it screamed in pain, with both Raiyne and Lou too flabbergasted to do anything.

The torment only lasted about twenty seconds before Caroline stopped, looking down at her 160 pound body, and saw the elusive Rifter crawling up her jeans.  She did nothing as she felt its two foot long body climb up her legs and into her private regions.  Lou, seeing everything well enough, fired at Caroline’s leg, and hit the Rifter in the middle of its body, but also shoving a screech inducing bullet into the girl’s leg as the Rifter kept on crawling.

It was an emotional tornado.  Whisp was prancing about in the air, fearful of what the Rifter would do.  Caroline was paralyzed with the unnatural sensation and the toxic silver in her leg.  Raiyne was crossed with wanting to help her friend and confront her uncle.  While Lou felt shame as the creature made it through regardless.  They merely stood as Caroline’s eyes began to redden, her body shaking, and eventually standing as her skin grew even paler than it previously was.  She whispered, “Help me.” before letting out a shriek of pain.

Her body began to morph, black streaks appearing around her eyes, her hands becoming more comparable to claws, teeth growing in size as her bone structure cracked and reformed into a massive monstrous mouth.  It did not take long for it to be used as it began to vomit out a mix of blood, fat, and even a few organs.  It sprayed everywhere, forging a radius of goop that sprayed Raiyne’s jacket with the innards of her friend.  After the expulsion of intestinal, however, saying the creature was in anyway Caroline would be a lofty claim as it was overly lean, had hay-like white hair, a mouth like a shark, and skin as black as night.  It took only seconds, but Caroline had surcummed to a fate Raiyne predicted for herself, yet this scenario was arguably more fear inducing for the young woman.

Lou was torn with the prospect of shooting the creature, aiming at it only to have Whisp quickly plopping right in front of the rifle Lou pulled from his back.  Lou reached for a gas canister to prevent much physical harm, but he found none remaining in his jacket.  He let out a grumble as Raiyne continued to shake her head, petrified in disbelief as her former friend continued her shouts as she crouched onto the ground, her back shifting as large bat-like wings popped out.  Easily dismissed as useless, they quickly began to flap like the wings of a hummingbird, somehow displaying enough force to propel the being up and above the forty foot tall pine trees trees.  Lou and Whisp took a second to realize what they were dealing with as Raiyne was doing her best imitation of a statue, staring at where Caroline used to be, her blood still covering her palms.  Lou grabbed her like a sack of flour and brought her back to the bike, Whisp following the mix of Caroline and Rifter as it flapped towards the closest chunk of town there was in the very spread out Rainy Woods.  

Lou had no time to confront Raiyne with words, not that he had any.  Instead, he settled on tying her onto his back with the use of his belt and zooming away at seventy miles per hour.  Hampered by the road layout to meet the creature before he could make it into civilization, he mumbled with distaste towards the recent events as he was verbally stabbing himself for fucking up as bad as he did.  “Nearly fifteen years since that day, I swore it would never happen, I- I couldn’t.  I couldn’t keep my fucking promise.”  While only a few people were out in the section of twelve blocks that made up a very small community, the mix between the Rifter and Caroline had popped on the hood of a moving car, clawing at the windows smiling with its jagged teeth.  Lou quickly stopped his bike, grabbing a rifle from a side compartment of his vehicle and fired a warning shot.  He did have the opportunity to hit it in the head, but he hesitated, as if he knew that the aftermath of the murder would be made all the more complex based on who decided to murder the abomination.

“If I lay her to rest, what will she think of me?”  Lou thought.  “If she put an end her friend, could she even go on?  After Wheatley I…”  Following the warning shot, the creature merely snarled at Lou, breaking the glass and taking the young man inside, devouring his face as Raiyne could only stare from the background.  Whisp came before her vision as Lou tried to stop the beast without doing any more than grazing it.  “Raiyne…”  It winced.  “Lou needs you for this.  He wouldn’t be able to kill Caroline, he couldn’t do it to your friend, but if you…”  Raiyne stood up off of Jenny, looking at what her friend had become.  A monster ripping out a man’s guys as its wings were getting holes from Lou’s bullets.  Seconds felt like minutes as her hand slowly moved inside her jacket, her colorful eyes began to fog up as she tried to keep her mind blank and not over think her actions.

Her hand touched the cold metal, slowly pulling it out.  It was a revolver, fully loaded with six silver bullets, all a squeeze away from entering the air, and into the flesh of the beast.  As she began to pull it up and look down the barrel at the remains of Caroline, the creature leapt at her.  Its face now with eyes devoid of an iris or pupil, black dots that looked into her and a smile complete with Caroline’s prominent dimples.  One of the only parts that seemed to remain  She was pinned down by the being’s claws, as the grinning mouth began to speak.  The voice was Caroline’s unaltered by any filters, and as perky as ever.  “You were gonna do it, weren’t ya Raiyne?  Kill your only friend, oh, you’re such a poop!  Well, Caroline doesn’t know about all this, but she says you wouldn’t fire that at her, so could you pretty please give the gun to me?”

Raiyne was paralyzed.  She thought back to Roberto.  He sounded different and showed a clearly more aggressive tone, but aside from her mauling and appearance, she only saw Caroline.  “Please.”  Raiyne whispered with the monster only a few inches away from her face.  “Give her back.  I- don’t want this.  I can’t do this.”  “Well Raiyne,”  It said through its crooked teeth.  “She’s with me now.  And you’re never going to get her back!”  

As Raiyne only grew more pale with the creature’s words, its grin was disrupted by a loud bang.  Lou shot the beat in its rear with his hunting rifle.  It did not take too kindly to such an act, as it hopped off of Raiyne, and to Lou, getting shot in the chest during the leap.  Lou tussled as his gun’s barrel was crushed by the creature’s claws.  Which were then brought to Lou’s left arm, grabbing the elbow and sinking down to the bone several times, yanking it off as a still shocked Raiyne starred, the monster’s words ringing in her ears.  Caroline was gone, she was no more.  This foul being was using her form and harming one of the closest people to her.  She picked up her discarded revolver, and traced it to the winged back, a side that barely held any resemblance to Caroline.  Her action only took a few moments, but the struggle shined in her eyes as they left twin trails of tears.

Raiyne felt the November wind hit the back of her neck as she squeezed the trigger, sloppily hitting the creature’s shoulder.  Then another in the spine, one in the gut, a fourth in the arm, fifth in the crouched leg, and sixth in the neck.  Dousing Lou with a white liquid as the creature fumbled about to Raiyne, letting out one last look of Caroline’s green eyes, before turning white as her body fell mere feet in front of her.  She was not sure if it was her imagination, or Caroline regaining consciousness, but Raiyne swore that she heard the beast murmur, “Thank you”.

As the sun was obscured by a series of clouds, three police cars and an ambulance arrived to see the mild destruction caused by the beast.  Picking up the victim it devoured, and bringing in a, before then, motionless Raiyne into custody, the remains of Caroline vanished into a cloud of indigo smoke, and Lou nowhere to be seen.  She remained motionless for the ride, staring into nothingness, and waiting for something to wake her up and say it was all a dream.

Chapter 06: Flee

 November eighteenth, 2003.  Three days had passed since Raiyne was brought into her town’s small, low security police station.  She was kept in a room that was empty aside from a few file cabinets and a cot.  Her eyes were glazed over, and face pale as she nonchalantly stroked her hand over Whisp, who remained static in her lap.  Looking more like a stuffed animal more than any living creature, an appearance it took on shortly after sirens were first heard.  She looked outside of her window, into the woods. There was nary a raindrop since she had been put away, but as a centimeter of snow began to build up, she knew a Rift opening was imminent.  It was far from how she, or anyone, wished to spend their nineteenth birthday.

Her attention was not disrupted as a scrawny police officer came in and silently left a bowl of hot soup on her desk.  Taking another, much colder bowl back as he left, the contents identical to the one he brought in, only missing a few spoon’s worth of broth.  The snow continued for half an hour, gradually making the ground as white as the clothes she was placed in.  The white sweater, trousers, and socks did reflect her inner emptiness, although black would have suited her state better.  She showed no verbal or physical reaction to the snow, merely taking in the situation, as she recalled the whisper of a guard talking about Lou’s disappearance.  She had no plan, no direction, and just sat with her knees at her chest, watching winter roll on in.

That is, until the door opened, and she heard a woman’s mumbling break the otherwise white noise she had been hearing for days.  Raiyne could eventually hear the woman’s words as she spat out either her own name, or the most common form of precipitation before she slammed open her door.  The shouting woman was wearing a business suit with a skirt along with a stylish purse over her shoulder, her height barely passing five and a half feet as her curly black hair fluttered, still filled with a few specks of snow.  It was difficult to pinpoint what her ethnicity was, seeming like a mix of Hispanic and Indian with glossy brown eyes.  While the similarities were not exact, the resemblance between the two was strong, it was Raiyne’s mother, Natalie.  

She rushed over to hug her child, as Raiyne dropped Whisp onto the ground, the creature flinching slightly as it plopped on the tiled floor.  Natalie whispered apologies in Raiyne’s ear, claiming to have tried to see her more, how she should have been there, how a flight was cancelled and she had to secure a deal.  All excuses made more compelling as she began to hug tighter and let out her tears.  Coldly, however, Raiyne was static until her mother let her go.  As a silence began to settle between the two, Natalie asked a simple, but bloated question. “What happened?”

Raiyne had her ask it thrice, growing more and more intense in tone and desperate for the answer.  Raiyne stood up, looked down into her mother’s eyes, and asked, “Where’s Lou?”  Her voice was hoarse from dehydration and lack of use.  “He’s in- Nobody knows Raiyne, I don’t know where he went to.”  Natalie said under her breath.  Raiyne’s expression did not change, as she looked outside, taking in the snow gently hitting the ground.  “When will the snow stop?”  Raiyne asked in the same manner as before.  “I- Raiyne, I just got back, I don’t know whe-”  “I need to know.”  Raiyne replied, showing a mere hint of aggravation.  “I need to be out by then.”

Natalie grabbed Raiyne’s shoulder, as Raiyne reacted like a wall.  “They said you killed a man and killed Caroline.  You had a knife, a gun, and… shot Caroline  You need to let me know.  What really happened.”  “Come with me, and I’ll show you.  Assuming you survive, and don’t lose who you held dear, like I did.”  Natalie shot a confused look before repeating herself, “Raiyne, what happened on the fifteenth?  They need to know… I need to know!”  

“Caroline was assaulted.” Raiyne began.  “The Rifter got her.  Made her into something monstrous.  It attacked that man, and I had to kill the creature.  She was already dead because of me.  I still feel its weight.  That gun, the way it sounded, the color of her… blood.  And her innards… bursting out.  It was all my fault.  I couldn’t save her.  I should’ve told her.  I just wanted her to be in blissful ignorance.  I wanted everyone to be.  I am a nice person because of that, but they wouldn’t believe me either way.  Nobody in that entire block made out that creature.  At least that’s what I’d guess if I’m the only one they can talk to about this.  They manage to stay out of sight.  Video, photos, and I guess even some people’s eyes.”

“Honey, you’re not making any sense.  If you could just lie down, maybe get something to eat, I-”  Raiyne walked to the other side of the room as her mother grew closer.  “Where is Lou’s bike?” Raiyne barked.  “Raiyne, I don’t know where-”  “Then figure it the fuck out!  Once the snow stops, another person will die, maybe more, maybe dozens.  I need to save them!  Lou’s unaccounted for, and I can’t trust anyone else.  Can barely trust myself after what I had to do.”  

Raiyne’s eyes darted around, for a fraction of a second, the snow looked to be very slightly receding, if at all.  She needed a way out as Natalie tried getting closer to her.  Raiyne’s lifeless eyes focused on the purse tossed over her mother’s shoulders, as she ripped it off, kicking Natalie down in the process.  The same slim guard from before rushed into the room, as Raiyne dived down going for the guard’s heels, biting them as he let out a shriek.  It gave her enough time to grab his gun from his holster, and Whisp enough time to roll into the door before it shut, acting as a wedge before Raiyne was able to mosey out of the room.  Whisp quickly plopped into her pocket, his abstract eyes still being able to display confusion as Raiyne sprinted out of the building.

She was seen as she went out to the parking lot, with most of the police staff too surprised to grab her, as she went straight to her mother’s purse to find a clicker for her car.  Raiyne did not take time to note anything other than it was expensive looking and silver, as she opened the door, turned the key, and took a deep breath as the car hummed, trying to remember what she saw Caroline do when she was driving.  She made it out and went to the general direction Lou’s house was in.  She drove through the narrow roads of the woods, hoping that she was safe as the lack of sirens boosted her confidence.  Unfortunately, she made one turn too slowly, and hit a large tree at thirty miles an hour.  Quickly getting out of the mess of airbags, and ill equipped into the snowy outdoors, she and Whisp went into the woods.

After wandering in far enough to not see the crashed vehicle Whisp floated in front of an exhausted Raiyne, who was living off of adrenaline more than anything else.  “Raiyne, I know you’re stressed out, I know you feel responsible, but you need to calm yourself if you want to get through this without freezing to death!”  “Whisp, you know what’s out there.  I can’t let a Rifter attack the town.  The last one only got one person, but who knows what’ll happen after something even worse gets through.  Lou showed me a stach he had somewhere, so maybe I can go after them, just until we find him, then, then-”  she was broken up by the wails of sirens, the police finally drawing near.  Raiyne took a deep breath, hoping that she could travel far and fast enough to avoid getting caught.

She wandered randomly through the woods, her socks damp as she regretted not looking for shoes.  Causing a case of the sniffling as she looked about the endless woods, hoping her footmarks would not be cemented enough in the half inch of snow.  She did eventually find a small shack, about the size of a tool shed, with half rotted woods showing its age, and the interior doing just the same.  She recalled the sheds that Lou had mentioned, small areas where he hid weapons and gear as back-up plans.  Though, this one looked to be more worse for wear than she expected.  With a clearly older weapon containing cruder silver bullets, and a jacket that looked like it cost far less than those he had at home, she promptly gathered as many things as she could, along with boots two sizes too big for her, as they were Lou’s.  The snow stopped as she placed the clothing on, with an internal clock counting down as she knew that within an hour, a Rift would open.  

Raiyne wandered in an aimless fashion.  Examining her gear, and her eyes practically glowing as she finally got some food in her in the form of a can of beans that she scooped into her face with nothing but her hands.  Yet, the energy that flowed through her seemed to only make her more focused on trying to find a Rift.  Only stopping to shovel snow into her mouth, or lead the officers on false trails as she covered her own.  Her fearful grin was concern enough for Whisp though, as it tried to strike up conversation with her.

“Pardon me if you may Raiyne, but do you not have faith in your uncle?  I mean, we don’t know where he went, but if you’re willing to go so far to stop the Rift, surely he would as well.”  “He could be captured Whisp.  He could be dead, he could’ve been attacked during that brief time I couldn’t help but sleep!  I don’t know where he is, but I do know that I am prepared for whatever comes out.  They wouldn’t believe me anyhow, they, they-” Whisp cut her off with a, “What about me?”  Raiyne looked at the creature, a bit confused as she was licking out the bean juice off of her fingers.

“I’m a Rifter, so if they see that I exist, perhaps they would believe others do.  I managed to meet Caroline no problem.”  “She died right after she met you.  Something about the Rifts, the Rifters, it just kills those who know.  Lou and I managed to get through some instances pretty easily, we made it unfair for them to try and kill us.  Communications are blurred about them, even audio gets corrupted on a tape recorder!  If we showed anyone, it would mean more deaths, I can’t let that happen.  We’ve lost two people, and that’s two too many.”

Following the conversation between the duo, an hour passed without much interruption other than some distant shouted and sirens.  As the time came, Whisp began to feel a Rift open, and it knew where.  The Rift was thankfully close considering the scope of the town, and through a bit of running guided by the floating ball, Raiyne made it to the familiar hole within fifteen minutes, but she almost wish she hadn’t

The forest floor was marked pink with a mix of blood and snow, becoming black with the remaining grass and fallen pine needles.  The bodies of men and women, donned in the familiar garb of the police officers, lied around the Rift.  Lifeless and with large chunks missing or cuts made over their bodies in random interholes.  She counted through them, making a total of ten people who were lying there.  “No, they are no longer people.”  Raiyne pondered in her head. 

She quickly drew attention to the motion near the Rift, the image of a large arm, its being unknown, but color a dark navy, and texture like an alligator, becoming less of an arm as it sunk into the Rift, holding with it a familiar figure, Raiyne’s mother.  Both her and the creature disappeared into the Rift, as if they went through a door to nowhere, their bodies fading out slightly as they vanished.  Raiyne did not think, she acted.  Walking to the hole and placing out her hand, feeling the foretold tingling sensation as her hand went numb upon touching the Rift, becoming invisible even to her.  She walked through the portal, with Whisp following behind, shouting at her to stop, and with good warning as the Rift encompassed the duo, removing them from the world as far as Raiyne knew it, and into one far, far, far worse.

Chapter 07: Pain

Raiyne was not sure how long she was out for, or where in god’s name she was.  She vaguely recalled walking through the Rift and the tingle that came with it.  But anything more just gave her a pain filled headache.  Not that she needed any help with those, as her ears were being auditorily assaulted as far as she could tell.  She fluttered her heavy eyelids open before she could make out a white ball shaped figure.  “Ser… ly Raiyne. can’t …ere for long!”  Raiyne made out from a garbled voice that she barely recognized as Whisp’s.  She tried to stand up, tripping and barely getting onto her knees.  After rubbing her eyes with her limp arms, she finally make out her current location, not that it was a pretty sight.  It was a cave covered in a dim white light from Whisp, the walls colored a bright violet, but their texture was like old cheese, squishing around as she moved her weight along the ground.  All while it smelled like a wet dog.

She was unable to properly support herself, and quickly fell back onto the stinky spongy ground.  Her short black hair was like a malleable chunk of lead, as her clothes felt as if she were wearing a suit of metal armor, even after fumbling her jacket off.  A move justified as she had thick sweat dripping from her brow.  It did not help her get up as her muscles felt nonexistent, even her attempts at speaking came out as a garbled series of two or three syllables uninterpretable by anyone, or at least to Whisp.  She reached for Whisp, trying to grab onto his tail as she couldn’t form a grip that would not hold against a mild breeze.  

Which was a problem, as a mild breeze was brushing up against the two, with its source being some shout deeper in the cave.  Raiyne tried to move her body to see what caused her to fall, but only shifted her weight a few inches as she wiggled.  Leaving Whisp to flutter around, spinning and bouncing its Cyan eyes back and forward in every direction.  Panicking as it whispered, “Not here, not now.  This is not good, this is very bad!”  Raiyne could only muster up a dopey expression as she managed to feel something wet latch onto her leg, ripping off the boots, and seeping through the socks into her feet.  With a jolt from the shiver she moved up her neck, making out a vaguely humanoid figure, one which stared at her with a face devoid of eyes.  It was the last thing she made out before Whisp and its light vanished, its cry for Raiyne muffled by whatever engulfed it.  

Raiyne was dragged through the cave, leaving a firm six inch deep trail as her body pressed down and indented the floor previously moistened by the slimy creature latching onto her leg.  She did not try to resist, as she was having enough trouble keeping her eyes open.  It did not take her long to leave the dark caverns and enter an orange and yellow hued, for lack of a better term, settlement.  Its ceilings were not much higher than the caverns, at about five feet tall.  With there being several shelters made of a more durable sandstone-like material that also seemingly served as support beams as they were using the natural floor and ceiling with every cylindrical hut.  With its occupants scurrying about as some took time to pause at the scene of Raiyne being pulled through their settlement.

Raiyne eventually did get a good glance at the occupants, and almost instantly recognized them.  She recalled the first encounter she had with Lou, where she was assaulted by a creature made of muck and with a face half formed.  She tried to speak to them seeing as how she met one that was fully understandable before, though her mouth could only produce something that sounded like, “Buh-do-uh-va-ba-di?”  The muck man holding her feet did not respond, continuing to drag Raiyne for several minutes before throwing her in the middle of several near identical looking beings that ogled her like a freak.  She even heard them mumbling, saying with the same voice and inconsistent lip patterns and the same grimey voice how she was, “The Huntsman’s whore” and would be “decomposed”.

The crowd built over several minutes, as Raiyne was still restricted to only being able to move half of her fingers.  The muddy lifeforms ceased after building up to at least twenty that she could easily make out and began to look up at the ceiling with rather creepy grins as the sandstone began to shift and form a face.  Making a hole for a mouth, and digging out eye-like rocks convex with a small concave hole where the pupil would be.  The face leered at her, donning what looked like a grin.  “Well, well, well.”  it muttered with nearly the same voice as the species around it, as it was only slightly deeper.  “What brings you here?  Surely you knew it would be death that awaited you?”

Raiyne fidgeted around, moving her lips and trying to speak, instead biting her tongue softly in another mumble.  “She can’t even speak?  What did you do to her?”  The ceiling mounted face looked at the mucky Rifter that dragged her in.  “Nothing!”  It responded in fear.  “I didn’t even decompose a hair, Duke of Lutum.”  It was then that said Lutum began to raise its hands, revealing a dim light coming from its gloopy arm.

“What do you have in your palm, you twit?” barked the Duke of the Lutum.  The Lutum then let go of Whisp, letting the muck drenched fox head and tail out into the open once more.  “What is wrong with you, Bosh’tet?  We’re on good terms with the Espers!”  The Duke erupted, causing a mild shake through the caverns.  “It was with the Huntsman’s whore, conspiring to help her live, when she was in the halls of Zog.”  The accused Lutum spouted as a defence.  “Please, oh mighty duke of the Lutum,”  Whisp began to plead with surprising comfort. “The whore and I mean you no harm!  She wandered into the Rifts separating out worlds, growing weak she entered this one.  She cannot even speak in this state, let alone fight.  We only wish to find one of her kin that was brought into the Rift.”

“Her kin is that of the Huntsman, Esper!”  The Duke uttered with fire in his voice.  “Her kind has brought down dozens of our kin alone and taking merely one in response is an act of extraordinary generosity.  If she was too greedy for merely that, why should we let her live?  Her hands are stained with the blood of not only our enemies, but our allies.  Or do you speak on behalf of your kin by defending such a creature?  An act of betrayal for everything our kind has stood for long before either of our existence.”

“I speak outside of my kin, and as a traveller between the two worlds.”  Whisp began.  “Not an observer of what goes on when a Rift is open through the seeing stones, but one who was chosen to cross through two.  Yes Duke of Lutum, I have survived an encounter with the Huntsman, several, I have even become their ally for many an encounter with another species.  Earning the trust of him and his whore, or to use her true title, Lady Raiyne.”  

“You shame yourself and your kin regardless of your intentions.”  The Duke began, keeping a low tone that grew in intensity.  “You were the indoctrinated subject made a slave by those two!  Assisting in the murder of the chosen fighters selected by the Rifts.  You dare find that a point in your own favor?”  “The fighters you speak of are not nearly as noble as you think.”  Whisp replied.  “The crossing through the Rift produces a unifying effect that is not strength or courage, it is bloodlust amplified by the hatred your type built around the Huntsman.  I have seen many sorts of fighters, from the Squidbears to the Buzzers, all stricken with rage at the sight of anyone resembling the fabled Huntsman.”

“And what of you, Esper?  What prevented your… bloodlust?”  The Duke questioned, preparing to kill both of them if his stone eyes were an indicator.  “Once a Rift selects its fighter, the fighter is given great power they can reject or fully embrace.  Its allure was the mightiest of temptresses, but I rejected the power, resulting in a clear mind, and a far weaker than normal state.  I felt the power, and could see the corruption that lied within it.  That is why I wished to join the Huntsman, to end this endless conflict.  And if you’d let us free, perhaps we could continue to find such a way for us to live with the Huntsman and his kin.”  

“You starry eyed fool.”  The Duke said with an uncontained anger.  “We can barely keep ourselves from entering wars between clans.  How could we live with a mightier one?  None shall accept their order, nor shall I.  We know of the six billion of his kin, and they would lack the reason to keep us alive.  We are prey, they are the predator, we may never live in peace.  However, I seek not your demise, young Esper.  The Huntsman’s kin shall be slain in due time given her stature, and I see no benefit in being the destroyer of this… Raiyne.  Bringing anger among the others by how I may have rid them of their petty glory.  Regardless, she appears to be moving now.  I suggest you do the same.”

As the two had been talking, Raiyne began to get enough mobility to stand up, well, more like crawl.  As the Lutum let both her and Whisp out into caverns similar to the ones they entered from, with directions provided by Whisp.  “Alright Raiyne, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of questions, but we need to run.  We were lucky with the Lutum, but I doubt things will be that smooth next time.”  “So, we’ve gotta get to-”  Raiyne tried to talk, despite her limp tongue and looking quite ill, as she vomited a bit of beans shortly after her attempt to vocalize her thoughts.  

The two continued in silence, going through a rainbow assortment of caves, Raiyne still leaving  trail as the cave’s texture remained as squishy as it had been, if not even less thick.  They walked for an hour, seemingly in circles, as the aroma shifted between fresh cat litter and that of a damp wood and feces.  Not that much changed over their wandering, just Raiyne’s general speed thanks to some blood in her legs, and a wall to lean on.  That was until they encountered a figure who was doing much the same as Raiyne, though without a light of their own.  It was Raiyne’s mother, in the same clothes, albeit a little tattered, that she wore during her reunion with Raiyne. Raiyne’s face was flushed, but as she saw her mother breathing before her, the color became more vibrant than it had been in days as Raiyne embraced her.  

The young woman was in tears as she called out for her mother while attempting to dash for her and enter into a firm hug.  That is, until Raiyne’s mother dug her fingers into Raiyne’s back, slashing it as her face became completely blank, devoid of eyes, nose, ears, or her mouth.  Raiyne stood there, in shock for a pain riddled second.  She then clenched her fists and knocked down the creature with all her might.  Going to town as she stomped and punched the creature in its face, or lack thereof.  Eventually going so far as to take the now claw-like hands and use them to slit the creature’s throat, which emitted a gooey yellow liquid.  The creature still fought despite the neck wound, and jammed its claws into Raiyne’s chest before Raiyne dug her teeth into its neck, and used her weight to toss her onto the ground again and wailed on it until the creature was unrecognizable as anything, let alone Raiyne’s mother.

The battle with the Rifter led to a jiffy of triumph, a second of regret, a moment of tears and then a gradual lapse in consciousness.  No part of that was unexpected, as the girl’s formerly white sweater was stained in both her blood, and the yellow ooze that filled the veins of what was looking to be her last victim.  With blood pouring out very quickly, death seemed to be only a few minutes away, a fate she would not be conscious to feel.  A scenario which Whisp seemed to realize, though its reaction was to take its small body and press it against Raiyne’s head, an odd gesture that quickly caused the glowing creature to seep into Raiyne’s body, tail and all.

Chapter 08: Freedom

“So this is the end?”  Raiyne thought, her body a blood soaked mess, and mind drifting away into the land of the dead.  “All this time, all this fighting, and I’m lying here in some cave, slowly losing my vital fluids to be absorbed by god knows what… Lou’s the only person left I care about, and he could be dead as well for all I know.  Fleeing after I had to kill my best friend, how much of a dick can you be?  I’m sure he had his reason, but I’ll never get to hear them, will I?”

“Raiyne, I believe I can help you with that.”  Whisp projected mentally to Raiyne.  “What, can you bring back the dead?  Caroline would never be the same anyhow.  What do you even say to a friend you brought back from the dead?  Would they recall the sensation of death and become a miserable, cynical, real ass of a person?”  “No Raiyne, I can’t do that, but I can help you, or so I think.”  “Help me do what?  Not die, and likely be killed again by some bloodthirsty tentacle boars within ten minutes?”

“Well, no, not quite Raiyne, it’s more of… a clean state.  I think I can undo everything that has happened to you, Lou, and those around you.”  “So, you can turn back time?  Nobody will remember what happened?  Everybody would be alive?”  “In a sense, they will be.  Even you.  You will not remember the Rifts, you will not meet Lou and learn of them.  You would likely go off to college in a few months from that day, October seventeenth, two-thousand three.”

“But, before you do anything Raiyne, I must ask you to reflect on what would happen if I did this.”  “What do you mean?  I- oh, right, Lou wouldn’t get help, and if he’s the only one who… but could I still join him, just get to do this over from-”  “Raiyne!  I am limited here.  I can only do so much, I can’t go to the other Espers and have them sacrifice some of their energy to help you, even if I did have the time.”  

“So… what are my options?”  “Well, I could revitalize you, and allow you to rummage through these caverns, but I would highly go against such a plan, with all the creatures that could kill you.  I don’t know where your weapons ended up, so you’d be useless in combat.  The second idea is for me to undo all of your actions up until the night you told me about.  I could make it so you didn’t get a book you disliked, so you wouldn’t leave that party. Unfortunately, like you said, you would never become allies with Lou, and he would continue to fight off Rifters, eventually dying while you went off to college, your hometown likely being destroyed, or with so many people, perhaps even the world.  Rifters are always wiser depending on the threat before them, so an army would bring out ones that could kill you and Lou in seconds.”

“What else can I do?  Neither option sounds remotely beneficial.”  “Well, Raiyne, I could make you into a Whisp.  Or any Rifter.  You could survive, maybe even become a warrior with yourself rising above your kin, unifying all of the-”  “Whisp, I’ve fought off a dozen Rifters!  Thirteen with the one wearing my mother’s skin.  Without my weapons, I can’t do anything, and being on an equal level with one of them wouldn’t help when fighting off several! ”  “Sorry, I’m thinking out loud here.  There is one more option, but it is…”

“What is it Whisp?  Just, please, tell me.”  “My fourth option, and the last one I can think about other than having you die painlessly, is to… I can stimulate your mind and use it to simulate an idealized life for you, Caroline, your mother, and Lou!  A world without Rifters, and maybe even have the memories of your dad come with too!”  Raiyne did not project her thoughts, contemplating them in silence.  It felt like an hour of waiting as Whisp began to mumble, as if it did something wrong.   

“You can let me live out a paradise in my mind… then what happens to me?”  “You die Raiyne, gone forever.  Your mind, everything you were, gone with the rest of those you love.  Live the happiest seconds of life anyone ever got to, or struggle through this one, perishing here with not a single sensation going through your mind.”  “Whisp, I see where you’re going.  I would be living a false life, nothing would be real other than my interpretation.  But who’s to say that about any life.  It is what we make of it, what we consume, what we remember is all that matters in our lives.  Fame and honor may sound like prices, but as your mind ceases to be, none of that matters.  Only you, your very essence is important, as you will never see the world outside of what you observed through your years.  Upon reflection, I suppose all life may be pointless, running around and trying to survive, keeping a cycle going until humans were able to live a life based on pleasure.”

“Sorry if I’m rambling and sounding a bit pretentious, the loss of blood will do that.  But with no suffering, one may say the joys have less meaning, but as my body is in torment, and my mind is in bliss, I believe I will reach such a peak, and- What the hell am I talking about?”  “So, Raiyne… should I do it?  Simulate a life of bliss?”  “Go for it Whisp, in my last moments on this earth, I might as well be reminded of those I love, and not of their deaths.”  “Understood Raiyne, are you sure that-”  “Whisp, I have mere minutes left in life, I open myself to you, and all the joy you may bring with.”

With that, Whisp began to meld into Raiyne’s brain, as her body began to smile as her mild heartbeat ceased.  Her last thoughts that of summers with her family, growing old with a man she never was able to meet in real life.  She had achieved contentment, as she ended her life with a tear flowing down her face.  Heat ceased from her body, blood stopped pumping, her mind no longer crafted thoughts or maintained anything, it was a hunk of flesh sitting in a corpse.

Well, at least for a second, with her pale blue eyes flashing open, as a sharp crimson pierced the original color.  Blood returned to her body from the floor, and she began to stand.  He clothes still tattered, but a smirk on her face.  She began to walk through the caverns, feeling up her breasts, and dashing through the darkness with a maniacal laugh as she attempted to strip while running.

Chapter 09: Chaos

Lou was awoken by a bright light that shined into his face, his vision impaired by the sudden change in his surroundings as he heard a voice.  “So, what’s this old fart doing here?”  a male voice said, very angry at the idea of an old person even existing.  “I dunno, but check out his hand?  Sonuvabitch musta been in Vietnam of something.”  Another male remarked.  “Hand?”  Lou thought, trying to move his stiff body around, making note of his lack of shirt, sore everything, and his left hand missing a few inches below the elbow, replaced by a small metal claw extended by some foam, and wrapped in some white plastic.  

Lou could only stare at his appendage, his mouth open, gasping as the two male voices continued to berate him.  “You alright, Geezer?”  “He’s freaked the fuck out, whaddaya think?”  “Bub, now’s not the time for you to act like a big man, you lost the Divine One’s gym knickers, and now the Snakes are after our asses!”  “What the hell are you talking about?”  Lou barked with a cough as his vision focused onto two men with light beards and clothes that looked like they were worn for over a week.  Looking similarly as they both were caucasian teens with one having blonde hair, and the other having black.

“Wait a sec, you’re that old prick who always farts around hunting and riding that motorcycle!”  The blonde one remarked.  “Name’s Lou Underwood, and learn some goddamn respect!  Tell me why I’ve got a fucking hook for a hand!”  “Me and Jeb got no clue.  We’re holding out from the Trifecta, and we found a pissy crusty old melting pot without his left hand!” the black haired Bub groaned.

“Ungrateful little- What’s the Trifecta?  Hell, what day is it?”  Lou mumbled.  “It’s the Twenty-second of November… I think”  Jeb said while looking over the hospital room they were in.  “As for the Trifecta, y’know, the Snakes, Knobs, and Rockers?  How long have you been out for?”  Lou shook his head, rubbing his eyes.  “Four days, I guess…. four days?  Four days!  Oh shit, oh shit!”  Lou tried to get up, able to walk, but needing something to support himself.  Which he chose to have be a table, that he grabbed with his left arm, toppling down because of his new appendage.  

Bub and Jeb looked at each other, wondering if they should let Lou stay on the floor, before hearing a loud clash down the hallway outside of the room.  Bub looked through the opened door of the hospital room, poking his head through the door frame, as his head squirted blood a mere second later along with a bang, his body falling as the red liquid began to stain the white tile floors.  Jeb looked at Lou, with both fear, and the clear intent to use him as bait.  Lou could tell this, and placed up his hook as a way to tell him to back off.  It did not stop them from entering a tussle, where Jeb leaped over and began to fight dirty as he clawed and scratched the sore man.  Unfortunately for Jeb, it lasted mere seconds before Jeb was shot through his skull, falling limply down on the floor.  

Lou almost didn’t want to look up at the figure whom he presumed to also wished to place a bullet in his own head, but he eventually took a peek as a few seconds went by without any gunshot.  It was a large man in an a sleeveless fur jacket, with a snake tattoo on his right forearm, and a very familiar revolver in his hands.  Its customization stuck Lou as familiar, but he did not get enough time to comment before he was smacked in the face with it, stomped on, and thrown over the man’s shoulders, face pointing at the large man’s ass.  

Lou was then carried through the hospital, seeing how he was in one of the few nice rooms, with the entire place filled with marks on the walls, bloodstains, shattered tiles, and even a few more bodies aside from the two he saw murdered.  Lou did not bother to use his hook to distract the man, or even get his attention.  Part of him saw no good outcome for that, and the other part was baffled as to how this would happen.  At least before going back to his fear before the first man was shot that a Rifter had escaped in his absence.  A fear immediately mutated into one regarding Raiyne’s safety.  Mumbling frantically as the large man told him to, “Shove a cock in your mouth”.

The path to leaving the hospital only took about a minute before seeing the exterior that looked oddly normal, which he only took in for seconds before being shoved in a familiar red car’s trunk.  As he was attempting to get situated, the car began zooming away as he was encompassed in total darkness.  Hearing and feeling the car run over several obstacles, and even into another car if the second engine was an indicator, with the accompanying gunshots certainly not painting a better picture for him.  Lou, however, was trying to piece together just what the hell happened as his frantic mumbling indicated, with a bump on his noggin more or less jogging his memories

Lou recalled the aftermath of fighting off the Rifter mixed with Caroline.  A conflict that certainly didn’t end how he desired it to, having Raiyne kill her was definitely not his plan, but the introduction of Caroline was something he didn’t foresee either.  He tried to get Raiyne out of there, but there were sirens closing in and he fled as his body was still regenerating.  “How would I explain this?”  Lou thought.  “Having all of those guns, a hunting rifle at a crime scene.  I picked them all up, including Raiyne’s revolver, and instantly regretted not telling her my plan.  I had no time to think, I ran.  Hoping that I would be able to find the mayor, the chief of police, and desperately try to- Damn, I had no plan, I haven’t had to think about this for so long, so much could’ve… fuck!”  

“I kept track of the Rifts, had my watch tell me where they were.  It took me three days to find one, and when I did.. I… Raiyne!  I saw Raiyne walk into one, no sign of a Rifter, just snow covered dirt, and she just walk through a Rift.  Whisp was with her, following along.  I went too, rushing after her.  I threw my left hand out and…”  Lou felt his claw, bashing it against the trunk.  “No, no, no!  It can’t end this way.  Thirty years, over half my life!  I had ups, I had downs, but I can’t crash like this, I, I-”  Lou let out a scream from inside the trunk, as the car slammed to a halt, taking only seconds before the same large man opened the trunk with the same firearm, as he used it to fire a bullet just above Lou’s right hip.  Lou responded with the expected roar, only to be grabbed once more, his bleeding only contained by his light and loose hospital gown.

Carried like a sack of potatoes once more, Lou caught a look back at where the car had travelled, and it was through an expected tree encompassed path, but had one point of alarm when he looked into the trees and saw no fewer than twelve bodies hanging from nooses.  He looked through various other means of territory marking, more bodies, bones, and several snake centric designs painted or carved from wood.  Lou inferred that now was not the time for questions, so he kept quiet as he began to hear the sounds of chanting and… drum beats

He was thrown down as the noise began to swell.  Seeing several other people with some various part of Snake tattoo, clothing, or even jewelry.  All in a crowd of people from six to sixty, both genders, in ragged clothing, and all brandishing a weapon ranging from a shotgun to a pocket knife.  All of which was in the former setting of four blocks of houses, many of which were tattered.  From broken windows, a few buildings burnt to the ground, and several cars plowed right through them, now stripped of their parts.  All centered around a large bonfire in the middle of the four blocks, which several people were dancing around, or throwing wood into.  

Lou was not sure what to make of this, if only due to how radical of a shift this was for less than a week.  His pondering was interrupted as he was tossed to the ground, causing a second roar of pain as he was surrounded with what had to be twenty people looking over him and gasping, murmuring about a Divine One.  Lou grabbed his wound as he was escorted by the crowd to the bonfire, specifically to sit in front of it, and to gaze into the flame.  

The chanting and drums stopped as he sat, everyone around him going to their knees, and bowing down to the fire.  Lou’s confusion was certain, as the fire began to settle within its wooden prison, and then completely vanish as a hand reached from the ashes that settled below.  Its color was stained, but as another hand came to join with it, the figure’s identity was solidified.  Its back facing Lou, the figure was a woman in a white jacket, black dress shoes, white trousers, a blue rimmed matching hat, and with shoulder length black hair.  The theories were naturally buzzing around Lou’s mind, with the worst outcome being something rather obvious if confusing to him.  She turned around shortly after rising like a phoenix revealing a dark complexion, glowing scarlet eyes, a lean figure surpassing six feet, and misplaced smirk, Lou recognized the figure as all the bowing in the town shouted, “Hail Divine One!”  Though she had the face and body of the woman by the name of Raiyne, it was clear that the being before Lou was far from the one he knew mere days ago.

Chapter 10: Storm

“So Louie, how the fuck are ya?” spouted the figure that emerged from the flames, the white and blue ensemble along with red eyes hardly hiding the identity of Raiyne Underwood.  Lou was baffled, his hand red with his own blood, as both it and his hook reached for his niece.  “Nuh-uh Louie, we’re not gonna have anything that romantic.  But, I can’t blame you for wanting to get your hands on this bod.  …And in case that wasn’t enough of an indicator, I ain’t Raiyne!”  “Who, what, how-”  Lou began to trail off as the one resembling Raiyne laughed at him.  “Do you remember that one guy who called you Louie?”

“You… but… you died!” mumbled Lou as he gazed at the the one wearing Raiyne’s face.  “You entered the Rift, you distracted me and… and… I couldn’t save you both, I couldn’t save-”  “You couldn’t save a guy from a monster when you had the sights set right in between the bitch’s eyes!  Let alone save Bill, Samuel, or, my favorite Babs and… Wheatley.  Gone in one night, head pulled off by a Rifter, and sacrificing himself respectively.  Or in case you’re a dense bastard, myself!”  Lou could only mumble at this point, wanting to attack his assaulter, but hug who they looked like.

“Bam, I, Wheatley Quinlan, forty year old scientist looking for something that’d put me in the books, went back to the land of magic you told me about.  But, you kept it a secret, hiding it away until I played the big man, following my good bud and his monster hunting wife of five years to their marvellous secret once, twice, and finally thrice.  Where I had Babs take a toxic needle to her, well, everything, as I sneaked past, wandering through the Rifts.  I was desperate, eager, and, I’ll just say it, pretty dumb!  But from there, from that point, everything changed for me.  The world beyond the Rift is a magical one, and you know what?  It is the cause for everything you see!”

“Wheats, what the hell are you talking about?  You, you sent this town into this hell?  How, why, what would you-”  Lou rambled as Quinlan walked in circles around him, clearing his throat, preparing Raiyne’s voice, for another monologue.  “Back when I entered the Rift, something happened to me.  I fell into a situation which morphed into the being you knew as Whisp.  It was after a life’s worth of hardships and pain, but was ultimately worth it for the power I obtained near the end.  Oh Lou, I could go on for days about my Journey through the world that lies beyond the Rift.  All of which boils up to here, my single handed destruction of your town!”

“Why the hell would you do that?”  Lou shouted, menacingly pointing his hook at Wheatley.  “When you have a nice suit, you’ll look for opportunities to wear it.  When you have a great job, you’ll bring it up in conversation. when you have the power to- hold on for a second.”  Wheatley faced to his side, namely a small boy no older than ten kneeling before him.  “Shithead, get over here!”  Wheatley cupped his hands around his mouth and projected.  The child ran over to him, sprinting at about fifteen miles per hour.  

“Youngling, kill yourself on this asphalt, it would please your goddess.”  Wheatley said plainly as the child nodded his head, bringing his skull down onto the road in a loud bash that almost immediately broke his nose and sent the blood running down his face.  And he did it once more, just as impactful and with more lost blood.  And a third time, fourth time, fifth, sixth, and only ceasing by the twelfth as he fell down due to gravity, his bloody and broken skull standing in front of Whetley, who snapped his fingers, causing the child’s corpse to erupt into flames.

Lou had no reaction other than shock as Wheatley could only chuckle as he backed away, tripping, and kept his mouth open in a lasting gasp.  Wheatley then began to stomp the fire out of the boy, bashing its head in further until it broke open like a watermelon, the innards of the boy’s skull spilling out, oddly not leaving a trace on Wheatley from either the blood or fire, but splattering a decent amount of brain onto Lou’s body.  

“Tell me, Lou.  How much effort do you think that took for me?  After living a life as a struggling scientist, an overall failure, who would not become engrossed in these powers?  I just needed one thing, one aspect to bring me out of the land of the Rifters, I could not use these abilities myself, oh no, I needed a body that was not of the world beyond the Rifts.  So, I needed to bring someone in through the Rifts with me, do you see that Lou?”

“However, I was able to manipulate more than a few factors before I entered the Rifts, causing most factions to play along with a little plan of mine, as I would have an ability that could easily provide them with whatever they desired.  It was a tricky situation, hence why it took well over a decade, but once I managed to understand the factor that was Caroline, my plan was finally solidified, and guess what, it fucking worked  Throw in some visual trickery so she tries to go into the Rift and save her Mother, the corpses making the illusion I supplied all the more believable.  She was broken, and, well I was able to have her let my consciousness into her mind, her scarred, scared, and broken mind.  Which I destroyed after injecting it with bliss.  Providing the girl with a miniature fantasy before she was separated from this world, leaving only me.”

“Wheatley.  You’ve killed dozens, if not hundreds.  Led a town I spent 30 years protecting into hell!  Possessed my fucking niece, and cut off my arm!  Why should I let you live?”  Lou barked, furious at his former friend’s action, but Wheatley could only laugh at the implications.  “I merely emitted a very potent pheromone from my body, and managed to pull others to my whim.  An ability I am rather proud of, but I do believe that it has only worked due to this town’s more… isolated qualities.  With that in mind, Louis Underwood, would you like to go on a little adventure with a demigod?”

“Fuck you Wheatley!”  Lou barked at the top of his lungs.  “I’d sooner die than join up with a monster like you!  I have killed thousands, all under the banner of protecting my town, but never have I possessed the audacity to murder for sheer bliss.”  Wheatley just laughed for a good thirty seconds, Lou staring at him, still trying to stop his bullet wound from letting out too much blood.  Lou then instantly rushed towards Wheatley, his hook ready to claw off the smirk he wore.  Unfortunately, Wheatley pulled a gun from thin air, and sent a bullet through Lou’s left knee.  “Idiot!”  Wheatley shouted, the first instance where he expressed anger.  “I took you down with a firearm, I could set you on fire with a mere snap, I could turn your body into dirt, or have a legion of devotees gnaw into your still beating heart.  Don’t you get it?  You lost, Lou!  You failed Raiyne, failed your town, and even yourself!”

Wheatley then paused to give his recently acquired b-cups a squeeze and vagina a rub, as if he was trying to irritate and harm Lou even more than he already had.  “Lou, I would feel a tidbit sour if I happened to kill you.  I can have my servants patch you up if you want to be shipped off to Florida or some shit.  It was never about you, none of this was.  We had some good time, and I am willing to thank you for it.  You can walk away, live a life trying to forget this, or I can do you a favor and place a bullet in the back of your head.  Y’know, for old time’s sake”

Lou sat on the concrete, crawling around the remains of the town he once protected.  “I desired only to see one thing when I die, my town in good hands.”  Lou began, his eyes starting to fill with tears.  “Perhaps even my family safe, or some other way to fight off the Rifters.”  “Well Lou, in all fairness, there are no more of those, I managed to close them off when you were taking a nap.”  Wheatley interrupted, as Lou’s expression did not change.  “So, I then have truly nothing left to live for.  No family, no town, no fear that the Rifters would even come back.  I’ve got nothing, except the sight of my childhood friend fondling my niece in a town I helped build that’s up in flames… You take it from here, Wheats.”  “Sure thing Louie, sure thing.”

With that, Wheatley reached into thin air, and acted as if he were pulling open a sealed elevator door with both of his hands, grunting as Lou started to see him create an image both of them likely had eternally ingrained into their mind.  That of a Rift.  Lou had little time to react as he felt Wheatley rub his wounds, causing the bullets to evaporate, the blood to return, and the wound to seal, good as new.  He shot Lou a smile as he was stunned, and threw a pistol into the newly formed Rift.  Shortly followed by his old friend.  It was sudden, and the Rift shortly closed afterwards.  

Following the disposal of his friend, Wheatley began to take a lengthy walk across the town he sent into chaos, being praised at every inter hole, and seeing them offering sacrifices he requested, many raging fires, and even a few brawls that he could only look at and recall his orders for these citizens to brawl for the chance to be with him.  Followed shortly by thinking how he’d never see any of them again and causing a rainstorm with a couple waves of his hands.  A feat less impressive considering the skies were already cloudy.  He walked through the drizzle that enveloped into a downpour, his scarlet eyes piercing through the ensuing mist as he made it to Lou’s house.  Opening the locked door with a poke upon the knob, Wheatley went into Lou’s garage, staring at Jenny.  

It took barely any time at all before the town was enveloped in a full blown storm, and Wheatley was blazing through the rapidly flooding streets on his former friend’s motorcycle and wearing the equipment he bought for his niece.  As he was leaving town, he looked up to Lou’s house, snapped his fingers once more, and witnessed it go up in flames.  As for the remaining citizens?  They quickly panicked as they realized the chaos that ensued, almost forgetting what had happened over the past few days, the water already enveloping them at an alarming rate.  Wheatley then pulled out an MP3 player and began to sing along to Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back in Town.

Dad Ende

Continued in My Life As Abigale Quinlan

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