Sam was still shivering, but it had gotten better. The tea in her hand was comfortably hot without being scalding—but she had to hold the cup in both hands to avoid spilling it. She took a sip, closing her eyes. In the darkness behind her eyelids, Miss Kent’s blood-drenched body filled her vision, her eyes staring at nothing, a grotesque shadow of a grin frozen on her face.
She retched, but nothing came out this time. She felt Susan's arm hold her closer. Her embrace felt very soft through the blanket and the thick wool sweater Sam had been given to wear.
Susan had talked to her for a while, then given her space, then talked again, very briefly and intermittently. Sam couldn’t really remember what Susan had said to her. Like everything else, it had seemed to slip away in a cold drudge of terror and nausea—but she remembered that it had been things that had been vaguely good to hear. Things that might have even helped her. It was hard to tell, but Sam was tentatively sure that she felt a little better now than she’d felt earlier.
It was hard to imagine that she had once felt worse than she was feeling now.
“I...” she began, and the words felt like more vomit in her mouth, and for a moment she thought she’d throw up again. Instead, she continued speaking.
“I don’t even know why I went there today. Usually I just sleep in.”
“Sometimes things just happen, Sam,” said Susan. Sam remembered her last name. Susan Ferrier. Like a ferryman, only a woman, and pronounced the French way. Sam thought it was a fitting name for someone who guided people through troubled waters, trying to make their passage safe, keeping them away from—
—flashing in her mind's eye, she saw the back of the library, tables thrown around, smeared with red, and a lake of blood. She sobbed, and she felt herself falling into the horrific image in her mind. But Susan’s warm presence around her kept her steady and reminded Sam that she was still here, in this moment.
Moment by moment. That was one of the things Susan had said when Sam had asked her through tears when this was going to be over. Susan had told her that every bad moment passed, that there was no way but forward, and that Sam didn’t even have to do anything to make it happen. Time would take care of that for her all by itself. There would be pain, and grief, but it would pass.
There was a knock on the door, and Sam could feel the hairs on her arms stand up. She felt suddenly tense in a very different way that had nothing to do with what had happened. She felt like whoever had knocked was important.
Susan looked over her shoulder, then turned her attention back to Sam. “I’m still here, and I’m not leaving” she said softly, making eye contact with Sam, asking wordlessly for her permission to answer the door. Sam nodded. She couldn’t imagine that anyone would disturb them if it wasn’t important. She knew it was important.
Susan nodded back. She gave Sam another moment of reassuring eye contact before she went for the door.
“Excuse me, Mrs Ferrier," came a voice from the other side as Doctor Ferrier opened the door a little bit. "I’m Detective Mina Park. I know this is very soon, but I’d like to see Miss Collins.”
“You’re correct,” Susan said curtly. “It’s very soon. Too soon, in fact. I’m sorry, but I can’t have her speak to any police officer yet. You already asked her plenty of questions. Any more will have to wait.”
Sam looked around, her mind prickling. She recognised the voice, and the name! Something stirred in her. Something that she wasn’t sure was anxiety or excitement. It felt like an itch, like...
...like she’d felt yesterday.
“Let her in," Sam blurted out. "I want to talk with her.” See her, feel her, touch her. She shivered, but this time, for an inexplicable reason, it felt almost pleasant.
Susan hesitated for a moment. The door was still half-closed and the woman outside was still out of view. After a second or two she nodded and opened the door, letting Detective Park in. Sam watched her enter, and they locked eyes.
The feeling would have been like nothing Sam had ever felt, if it hadn’t been for Jordan. It was like live wires touching. Something swelled inside her. A heat, rising in her chest, blooming. A feeling of connection, of significance, billowing through her mind like a cloud of heavy perfume. It felt good.
Her eyes lost their focus. No one noticed. “Hello officer,” she said calmly through the thickly swirling fog that had just filled her mind. “Good to see you again,”
“You’ve met?” said Susan Ferrier, but Sam hardly heard her. She didn’t need her anymore. She felt much calmer now.
“Yes,” said Detective Mina Park, and her expression seemed quite absent-minded. When she’d seen Sam, wrapped in blankets on Dr Ferrier’s couch, Sam had seen a moment of surprise, almost shock, in Mina Park’s eyes. Then, Mina’s expression had settled into resolute calmness.
Dr Ferrier looked back and forth between them, looking puzzled. Sam almost understood her. She had a vague feeling that neither she nor the Detective were acting normal right now. She didn’t mind it that much. She was way too preoccupied with the sudden pull that she was feeling in her tingling chest. It was almost as if she was being drawn forward by the tip of her breasts. Her nipples felt suddenly very sensitive and tingly, making her feel restless. Following that urge seemed to make it better. Sam stood up, letting the blanket fall off her back, and walked over toward Detective Park, who closed the door behind her and started approaching Sam. Every step made her feel better. Her nipples felt so good. It was almost as if someone was sucking them with warm lips.
“What—” Dr Ferrier began, but Sam didn’t hear what came after as Sam fell into Detective Park’s embrace and kissed her deeply. Sam felt arms embracing her, and they felt so much more comforting than when Susan had been the one to hold her. This was better. This was correct. This was where she belonged, and an exhilarating sense of excitement and anticipation gripped her. A tiny part of her felt confused, but the pulsating, throbbing feeling that ran through her veins drowned it out—and she felt Mina’s flesh against her own, and it was electrifying and arousing. Her breasts were pressed against Mina, and she felt her piercings push into her nipples, and it felt wonderful.
Their kiss lasted for a long moment before it broke apart, and when it broke, Sam could feel her nipples strain against the fabric of her shirt as if they wanted to go back. Her piercings felt unnaturally warm, almost hot.
“Oh, I see.” Dr Ferrier said flatly, looking embarrassed by their display of desire.
“She’s witnessed us,” Sam said—but it felt more like she was watching someone else speak. The words hadn’t passed through her consciousness before they’d left her lips.
“Yes,” Mina said, and looked emotionless as she spoke.
“Errr...” Dr Ferrier said, looking at them with a furrowed brow.
Mina looked to her right, and Sam drunkenly followed her gaze. Next to them, on Dr Ferrier’s desk, she saw what Mina was looking at. A letter opener.
A sense of great purpose flooded through her like boiling water and before she knew that it was happening she felt herself move toward Dr Ferrier. She jumped at her, knocking her down, feeling her collapse under her weight. The Doctor gasped and groaned as the impact knocked the wind out of her—and Sam grabbed her arms and slammed them into the floor next to her, pinning her down hard. Doctor Ferrier shrieked, and tried to twist free. Sam shifted her weight, kneeling on the woman’s chest, covering her mouth with her hands. Behind her, Sam knew that Mina was grabbing the letter opener.
Distant pain echoed through the red fog of her mind as the woman punched the side of the torso in self-defense, but she hardly noticed. The heat swallowed it up and the pain evaporated like single raindrops falling on a burning church. She looked behind her and saw Mina approaching, stubby blade in hand, deadly purpose in her burning eyes. The beautiful detective knelt down next to the struggling woman and wasted not a moment’s breath before stabbing into Doctor Ferrier’s throat.
Susan Ferrier jerked violently as Mina pierced her neck, again and again. Sam watched her eyes widen and moisten with tears, listened as her muffled screams turned into gurgling, croaking breaths.
Soon the screams ended, and the woman was dead. Sam let go and got back to her feet.
She turned to Mina. “Blood of the Mother,” she said.
“Flesh of the Mother,” Mina answered.
“Her call is in my ears.”
“Her call is in my blood.”
“Sacred blood, destined to serve.”
“Blood of the Herald. Blood of the Mother.”
They kissed again, feeling each other’s flesh, feeling the hot blood beneath their skin, pulsating, burning with the ancient lineage that made them sisters.
After a long moment, they broke their connection, and Sam spoke grimly. “The Incursion is already failing. I was drawn to the Sanctum, but the First Servant was dead.”
“I was there too,” Mina answered. “There was an interloper. My unbound self did not realize it, or I would have killed her right then. The Sanctum is forsaken now. It is no longer the place where our blood will fulfil its purpose.”
“How will it, then? Are the gifts still alive?”
“They must be. The power of the Mother still binds us.”
“But we've been set back. We can no longer converge in the Sanctum. We must let the gifts find us so that they can claim us before they wither. Do you know about the third Herald?”
Mina nodded, then asked: “Good. Who is she?”
“Jordan Wright, my new roommate. I've tasted her flesh in communion. We came in the Mother's name. But... when I was drawn to the Mother’s gift in half-sleep, she did not follow the same call. Her will must be stronger than mine.”
“She must follow the Call,” Mina invoked.
“She must follow the Call. Her will must break as ours did.” Sam echoed.
“Yes.” Mina said. “Go to her. Make sure she hears the Call that awakened in her Blood. I will seek the Interloper and kill her.”
“Yes,” Sam said.
There was a long pause, and the two women stood there, staring at nothing, unmoving.
Finally, the taller one of them blinked, and looked at the other. “I’m terribly sorry, Miss Collins, but I have to go,” said Detective Park. She nodded apologetically.
“It’s fine, Detective,” Sam answered. “Thank you for checking in on me. Between you and Dr Ferrier looking after me, I’m feeling much better now.”
Detective Park smiled impishly. “Just trying to make sure you’re okay. You didn’t have it easy the last couple of days.”
“Thanks again,” Sam said, getting up, too. She pulled off her blood-drenched sweater and tossed it next to the corpse neither of them were seeing. Mina had been quick and her hands were mostly clean, but Sam's hands were covered in red.
“If anything comes up, call Detective German. He’s one of the good ones.”
“Will do,” Sam said, and they both left the room.
“Oh, sorry,” Detective Park said, “this is awkward. We already said goodbye and now we’re both...”
“Nah, I still have to go the restroom and wash this blood off my hands before I go. Can you lock the door?”
“Yeah, I'll lock Dr Ferrier's office. Did she manage to help you?”
"Yes she did. I feel much better now."
"Glad to hear it. Take care, Samantha."
“Thanks, I will. See you.”
Detective Park left, and Sam washed her hands up to her elbows for five minutes under hot water without knowing why. As she scrubbed something unseen off her fingers, she thought about how much better she was feeling. She was glad to go home and see Jordan. Just the thought of her was enough to make her feel an exhilarating sense of excitement and anticipation.
She really wanted to see Jordan.
“Oh my God, what happened here?” Jordan asked, eyes wide.
“I can’t tell you, Miss. Please move along. This is a crime scene.”
Jordan stretched her neck to look beyond the parked police vehicles and catch a glimpse into the library, but it was no use.
“I’m looking for my roommate, Sam Collins. Did something happen to her?”
The police officer looked at her for a moment, brow furrowed, as if he was trying to remember something. “One moment,”, he said, and walked away. “Hey Sarge,” he bellowed, waved at another officer – a fat man with an enormous mustache – and as the man approcahed, they began speaking in a hushed tone. Jordan’s heart broke in two. Oh God, something happened. Something happened to her! She’s hurt. She’s dead! She’s gone! Oh God, oh God.
“Miss Collins is fine,” said a voice very close to her, and Jordan almost jumped. The first officer had returned along with the mustachioed one. They were standing right in front of her. Mustache was offering her an outstretched hand. She took it out of habit.
“Sergeant Roland,” he introduced himself. “You looked worried. I’m sorry for the confusion. It appears that your roommate was unfortunate enough to discover this crime scene. I’m afraid I can’t let you see her, but let me reassure you that she’s doing fine considering the circumstances. She’s with us, getting counselling. We’ll have her make a witness statement once we’re sure that she’s well enough to do that. Once that’s done, she’ll be free to go. I will tell her that you came to find her. I’m sure she’ll be glad to hear that.”
Jordan swallowed down the thousands of questions that she wanted to ask. Her head felt heavy with the swirling thoughts and emotions competing for attention, all circling around one thing: Sam! The very thought of her sent Jordan into a state of exhilarated excitement. “Where can I see her? The police station? I must see her!”
“Miss Wright, I promise you that we’re doing everything to make sure that Miss Collins is fine. An officer will drive her home once she’s ready.”
“No. I want to see her as soon as possible,” Jordan insisted, and something in her chest felt like it was burning and driving her forward. The world had shrunk away. She had to see Sam. Only that mattered.
“Where is she getting counseling?” She swore she could almost physically feel the tight knot of anxiety and love inside, and feel it push against her rib cage. Her need to be with Sam was something material and fundamental, and she felt hot and sweaty and anxious, and it was hard to even concentrate with the rushing, throbbing sense of purpose that pulsed in her veins.
Mustache raised an eyebrow, and shrugged with his hands. “Sorry. Can’t tell you. You’ll have to go through official channels, confirm your identity. If you want that, you’ll have to go to the precinct on Madison Street. Be sure to tell the receptionist why you’re there and that I sent you. Just know that it may be a while. Honestly, by the time you’ve filled out the forms and they let you visit the shrink, she’ll probably be done. My advice is just go home and wait for her.”
“I’ll try my luck, thanks,” Jordan said absent-mindedly, nodded, and turned away. As she walked off it was as if she was being tugged forward by that overwhelming sense of urgency at her core. She was hardly thinking. She was only moving toward that sense of purpose and excitement. To be with Sam. Her nipples tingled. They felt hot.
It felt good to know where to go, and for a while all of her thoughts seemed to slip away, buried and pushed away by the smooth, warm feeling of purpose and direction, and it was already hard to remember what had led her on this trajectory. Simply following it filled her with churning excitement. Nothing else was important. Only her purpose. Only—
“Jordan,” someone said from directly behind her, and the surprise jerked her awake, and a shiver went through her, and her head seemed to clear. She spun around, and her eyes did something weird. She blinked hard, trying to stop whatever was wrong. It didn’t go away, and it made her dizzy.
Jordan was in a narrow, deserted side street, and there was a woman standing in front of her.
And yet, the same time—there definitely, positively wasn’t.
She saw both things at the same time, shifting in and out of phase, one impression growing stronger and the other weaker, then coming back around. A woman, wearing a black cloak, a heavy briefcase, and no shoes. Then, just an empty sidewalk. Then the woman again. Jordan felt like she should have screamed, or jumped, or fallen over in surprise. But she somehow had failed to do any of those things—and it felt too late to do them now. Instead her brain had skipped that part, and proceeded straight to conclusions.
“Holy shit are you a ghost or am I having a stroke?”
“Neither,” said the living optical illusion in front of her. “It’s complicated. We need to talk.”
“Do we?!” Jordan said, her voice, high-pitched. She still wondered why she wasn’t completely losing her shit. She had a suspicion that it was because all of this was so impossibly weird that her brain was just refusing to process it. Maybe she was in shock, and would crash soon. That would be bad.
“Yes, Jordan. You’re in grave danger.”
A cold feeling of panic seemed to pour into her gut, and all she could think was yes. Good job, Jordan! Finally an appropriate reaction to something you’ve heard or seen!
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve been feeling things you’ve never felt before, haven’t you? Done things you couldn’t explain. Felt urges that you haven’t had.”
“That’s none of your fucking—”
“...destined to serve.” Jordan answered automatically, then immediately shrieked with surprise. “—what the fuck why did I say that?!”
The woman made a complicated motion with her left hand, and the illusion around her disappeared. Jordan could see her clearly now. She was the same age as her, or younger. White. Blonde. Glasses. She looked nerdy. Not the kind of person Jordan expected to be deathly afraid of. But she was.
“What the fuck just happened?”
“Magic is real. Demons are real. Lilith the mother of all Demons is trying to return to Earth. You have demon blood in your lineage, and she’s trying to use you as her vessel.”
Jordan felt like she’d just been hit by a semi. Everything seemed to spin around her. She felt like she was falling, like she was going numb.
“What... no... that’s ridicu...”
She trailed off. Suddenly, she felt hot. Her skin seemed to prickle painfully. A terrible disorienting thrill billowed through her, and to her surprise, she recognized it. It was the thing she’d been feeling the whole time, growing within her. The dizzyingly emotional love, the lust, the sense of significance, of purpose. The irresistible need that had driven her to kiss Sam – that had felt so satisfied when they’d fucked. All of it seemed to well up like a flood wave inside of her – and suddenly she knew it, and wanted it, and welcomed it.
She looked at the filthy Interloper and hissed. The woman had to die. It was hunger and thirst and air and sex. Killing her was the best thing in the world. Jordan sprang forward, aiming her hands for her throat but found only thin air where the woman had stood.
There was a sharp burning pain in the back of her neck, and then—
She blinked. Time had passed. How much, she couldn’t tell. She was still on her feet, shivering, aching, freezing. Her knees felt like they were about to give out.
“Oh God, you told the truth,” she said, almost retching. She felt empty and cold and alone – and she realized with a sickening feeling that she felt that way because whoever that woman was had just exorcised her. The heat, the love, the drive, the anxiety she had been feeleing had been the same thing that had just sent her into an inhuman bloodlust. Fuck. Fuck! Fuck!!!
“Yes,” said the woman. “You’re probably in pain now. But I prefer this to killing you.”
“Goddamnit, shut up! You have terrible bedside manner!” Jordan said weakly. She felt like throwing up. “Do you have any idea how much you just destroyed my world?”
“—please shut the fuck up an give me a goddamn minute to fucking deal with this!”
For a moment, the woman looked taken aback. But she did what Jordan asked her, and remained still. For a small eternity, they stood in the alleyway in silence. Jordan felt sick and dizzy. She swallowed the horrible reality like bitter medicine. This just happened. For real. Magic. Demons. Did that mean that—
“So fucking God is real, too?!”
The woman looked at her, biting her lip, hesitating.
“It’s complicated. We don’t know.”
Jordan had to laugh. It was a single, humorless ‘Ha!’.
“Same as the rest of us, then,” she said.
“We need to go,” the woman stated flatly, not commenting further. Jordan took a deep breath.
It was all fucked.
“Yeah. I guess we do,” she said.
The darkness is in pain. It is in a wet place, ripe with the smell of refuse and disease. The sound of running water fills the putrid air. It feels at home, but it is not where it needs to be. The bowels of the city are not where it will find the Blood it seeks.
The stench is in no way unpleasant to it, but it masks the scent that it needs to pick up. The darkness can already feel itself growing thinner, feel itself drying out. It needs flesh. It needs to meld and join and infect and multiply, but it knows that it is being hunted, and as such it has grown cautious. To attract the flesh means attracting the hunter. The hunter is wearing the dead, and can sense them.
The darkness feels hatred, burning like black fire. It still tastes the hunter’s blood, but the overwhelming taste of defeat sours it in its soul. The woman had held Power, and its venomous teeth had failed to poison her. The darkness had been forced to flee.
Its gifts are spread thin now after their encounter with the cloaked woman. There are far fewer of them now than there had been, and they have all been scattered and are hidden in the wrong places. Hidden from betraying daylight, crawling underground into slick canals, far away from the place they need to go.
It knows it cannot easily leave the stench of the sewers until nightfall. It knows it will survive until tomorrow morning, at least, but not much beyond that. It needs flesh to survive. It has to find flesh to sustain itself.
But it cannot find the scent it seeks. The scent of the ancient Blood. It lost that scent when it left the place of its birth. It still feels it in the air, maddeningly faint. It is thrumming, vibrating in the soul space of living energy. The energy that birthed it. The energy that keeps it alive. The energy that awakens the Heralds, stirred and awakened by the Blood’s dormant presence.
Ancient Blood, coming together by chance, awakening the source that started the flow of the bloodline. Awakening itself. The darkness reaches out, skittering and crawling and smelling, seeking for the scent that will lead it to willing, sacred flesh.
It seeks, and it seeks, and it seeks.
And finally, it finds something.