Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 26

It sped so fast towards her that she didn’t have time to think. With every fiber of her being, she held up her hands and blocked the electric cloud from snatching her. The strength of the force behind it became too much for her, and against her will, it eventually it overcame her. She expected pain or even instant death, but instead, she found herself suspended in the air. She felt as light as a feather and she felt herself floating up the mountain, but before she got close, she felt a cold wind encircle her body. In an instant, the police uniform she had on got replaced with a flowing white dress. She didn’t have time to contemplate what it meant though because the cloud lifted, and she dropped onto the rocky ground.

She quickly looked up to see the other Rebel officers just as confused and startled as she felt. Bernadette had a dress like hers while the men wore loose, white pants with a matching vest that left their chests partially exposed. From behind her, a cold female’s voice greeted her with, “Congratulations! You found me!”

Gwynivara whipped around to see the same green skinned woman that she had seen in her dreams! Her black dress draped coolly over the dark stoned throne that she also had seen before. She leered arrogantly at them with a beast chained to each side of her. Gwynivara cried out, “You!”

The green skinned woman nonchalantly said, “Yes, me!” Gwynivara stood up in a ready position, a gesture that the woman laughed off. “Trying to give a brave face? How do you expect to fight me with no weapons?”

The outfit changes suddenly made sense to Gwynivara now- she had disarmed them! She could see their original clothes and belts in a heap behind the woman, but she didn’t let her eyes linger too long- the less this lady knew, the better! “So, why not kill us now and get it over with?”

She smirked, “That may not be necessary. I hate to waste a good resource.”

“Resource?” Gwynivara puzzled.

“Yes,” she divulged, “The point of my mission is to spread the disease, so it wouldn’t make sense to kill people who have it.” She surmised the Gwynivara would ask, so she explained, “My name is Rafeneita, and I’m captai nof a military brigade on my planet. My people have over-harvested minerals in our planet’s core, and it’s slowly disintegrating. If we don’t find a new planet to move our people to, our entire race will get destroyed, and I won’t let that happen!”

“So, to save one planet, you’re gonna destroy another?” Gwynivara probed.

“Do you really think your planet would tolerate millions of strange beings living alongside them?” Rafeneita asked pointedly. “No planet would, even if they had the room! This was the only way.”

“But why Earth?” Gwynivara inquired knowing she wouldn’t like the answer one way or the other.

Rafeneita revealed, “Because your planet is weak. Your species tears each other apart over the slightest differences- skin color, financial class, gender; such shallow, petty things, and yet these slight variances make some believe that they’re superior to the other. The more advanced planets bind together like a tightly woven piece of fabric, which makes it hard to break through. Your kind is so far apart that it’s easy to penetrate. Earth is divided, and since you’re already pitted against each other, it made it easy to use it to my advantage.”

“I can see how you manipulated your henchmen to do your bidding because of this,” Gwynivara calmly debated, “But why use Venenatus Sanguis? If your planet needs to get re-homed as quick as possible, there must be faster and easier ways to destroy a species.”

Rafeneita replied, “Like I said, why waste a resource? I don’t want to taint anything that may hurt my people. Some weapons leave scars that the land absorbs for decades to come. But why, as you called it, Venenatus Sanguis? Tell me, how long have you had it?”

“Over ten years.” Gwynivara’s interest peaked, but she still remained vigilant. She didn’t know why Rafeneita was telling her this. This knowledge could prove useful to the Rebels, but Gwynivara knew full well it didn’t benefit Rafeneita to tell them any of this. She kept them alive for a reason, and she knew better than to let her guard down.

“Ten years, and you have no idea what it is, do you?” Rafeneita watched Gwynivara shake her head, and when she glanced at the others, she saw that they seemed clueless too. “I gave you power.” No one expected to hear that, and with a devilish satisfaction, she went on, “Your thoughts and emotions emit an energy that can be felt by all that surround you. This disease simply amplifies it. When your heart feels something powerful, it has a powerful effect on this energy. Venenatus Sanguis simply gives this force life. Your planet is so vulnerable that when you do get power, you don’t know what to do with it! You can’t control it! It makes the division between you all much farther apart. You can’t share power, and your arrogance makes you underestimate your enemies. Especially females! The men on your planet underestimate them simply because they have a different set of genitals! No one suspects my involvement or that I’m even capable of such a thing! It made it easy to settle in and watch you all destroy each other! And the juiciest part, no one has any clue how powerful they actually are! Just by strengthening their mind and harnessing their emotions, they’re capable of doing extraoridinary things, and yet your species trains the powerful to think that they’re the weak ones! Earth already very skilled at destroying each other, and all I had to do was help speed it along!”

Gwynivara didn’t like her grim view of humanity, but she inwardly refused to let it get to her. Her explanation made the appearance of Venenatus Sanguis make sense, but she knew that Rafeneita would only sit and talk for so long. She pressed her, “So, you want to destroy the planet, but not all of it? You mentioned something about not wasting resources; how exactly do we fit that role? What exactly do you want with us?”

Rafeneita told her, “You’ve captured my curiosity. I’ve never seen a more diverse group of people bonding together for a single cause! And you, you fought back against my charm! Tell me, have you mastered the power of the disease?”

Gwynivara didn’t want to let Rafeneita know how much she knew about the incantations she had performed, and she especially didn’t want her to involve the rest of the Rebels if she could help it. If Rafeneita had any idea of how powerful they were, she would resort to higher defenses to counter this. If Rafeneita stayed under the assumption that they were still in the infancy of discovering the power of it, she would let her guard down a little, which could give them an upper hand. However, she guessed that Rafeneita could probably sense when people lied to her, so she decided to tell the truth, at least partially. She shook her head, “I haven’t been part of this group for that long.”

“How about the rest of you?” Rafeneita looked to the rest of the Rebels.

Everyone else shook their heads too. Max bravely spoke up, “I just got here days ago really. So much has happened lately that no one has had time to teach me anything.”

“And yet you’re here.” Rafeneita gave them a piercing look as if she were scanning the Rebels for their honesty. “You just went along with it because you like to help?”

“That’s right,” Max confirmed.

She seemed to have detected no signs of deception, so she accepted this answer. “That’s okay. I could teach you.”

Gwynivara got caught off guard hearing this and reacted, “Teach us? Why would you do that?”

Rafeneita enlightened them, “You’re not the first group of people to band together to try to stop me, and instead of spilling powerful blood, I gave them a chance at life. As capable as they are, they still get outsmarted by a group of Rebels who dared to defy societal laws to protect their kind. You take pride in doing the right thing, and that’s a very admirable trait to have, but tell me, how do you choose the lives of some over others?” No one responded. “By fighting me, you’ve sentenced my people to death. What makes one life more important than another? I can either demolish you and your entire family to save my planet, or I can spare you in exchange for your service. All you would have to do is spread this power more. If they seem capable of handling it, we will recruit them to join our side. If not, then we will spare them the agony of living with it. Either way, your kind will find peace. And do not worry about your law enforcement.” She glanced over at the pile of uniforms behind her throne. “We will protect you. So, can I count on your help?”

Gwynivara did not respond right away. She had no intentions of joining Rafeneita’s side, but she knew that by telling her no that a fierce battle would ensue. None of the Rebels had any weapons, and their enchantment skills were very limited. Kierram was very proficient, but Rafeneita didn’t seem to know that. She must have known one of them had attacked one of her men with the power of Venenatus Sanguis, but she probably figured it was a fluke. Rafeneita made a point of disarming them before she brought them up there, and so Gwynivara wondered if defeating her could be as simple as finding a clever way to grab their police belts. But she figured that Rafeneita must have a way to defend herself if she had refused her offer. She didn’t see any backup hiding anywhere ready to fight them at a moment’s notice, but that didn’t mean that they weren’t there. She also considered that Rafeneita had the capability to fight them all on her own. She knew one way or the other, she would have to draw the answer out of her. Only then could she decide if she should play along and sabotage her plans later or if she should stand up to her and never once give her the satisfaction of thinking she had won. Rafeneita’s patience clearly had started to peter out, and all Gwynivara could think to say was, “So, at the end of it all, we have to spend the rest of our lives with Venenatus Sanguis? If there’s no cure, then what would be the point of-?”

Have to?” Rafeneita responded. “I would think you’d want to keep it. It is pure power, after all! But I’ll tell you what, if you help me out and you really don’t wanna keep it, I’ll give you this.” She pulled out a cylindrical vile with ornate silver carvings on each that contained a dark green liquid inside of it. “If you help me, I’ll give you the cure.” She tucked it back into the clothes underneath her chest. “So, the fate of everyone you hold dear rests in your hands. I need a decision now. What’s it going to be?”

Everyone turned to Gwynivara, who still hadn’t made that decision. She closed her eyes and listened to what her instincts were trying to tell her. A swirl of possibilities danced around in her mind, and suddenly, she had an unexpected vision that made everything much more clear. She now knew what she had to do…

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Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 5

Today is my first day in the Rebellion, and out of all the things to worry about, I’m most worried about what to wear!” Gwynivara remarked as she shuffled through a rack of clothes in a cavern shop. “I know, typical girl issue, right?”

A man with pepper-gray hair slicked to the left, large, thing metal glasses, and pale skin smoked a pipe as he sat behind as he sat behind the counter and casually kept an eye on the store. He shrugged and told her, “Listen sweetie, everyone wants to make a good impression on their first day! Sometimes you don’t get a second chance, so I get it!”

Gwynivara examined a garment, trying to decide if she wanted wear it today or not. “Ugh! I don’t know! What do the other officers wear?”

The man raised an eyebrow. “You’re an officer? That’s impressive! You got more guts than I do!” Gwynivara smiled gratefully, but before she could figure out what to say back, the man went on, “Most of the other officers are men, so they don’t care that much. Bernadette came from a rich family and brought most of her clothes with her, so don’t expect to find anything like hers here!” Gwynivara giggled, but that statement struck a chord with her; how Bernadette went from luxury to this environment must have quite a story to it! The man concluded, “Just go with anything that you would exercise in.”

Gwynivara found some lightweight pants and a matching shirt, but she suddenly noticed, “It looks really close to what I have on now!” She glanced at the clock on the wall behind him. “Crap! I don’t have time to look for something else!”

“It’s only for one day, dear! If you want, I can take a look around and find some items your size and set them aside for you,” he offered.

“Really?” She got a little thrown off because she wasn’t used to so many people treating her so kindly.

He shrugged again. “I got nothing better to do.” Gwynivara handed him the clothes she picked out, and he found the tags on them so he could see her size. “Okay, got it. Come by at the end of the day, and I’ll show you what I find.”

“Thank you so much, uh…” She fished for his name.

“Riley.”

“Gwyn.”

They shook hands, and Gwynivara complimented him, “You’re so nice!”

Riley chuckled, “Most of the time I’m pretty sarcastic, but you’re obviously new, so I’m on my best behavior right now.” Gwynivara laughed, and Riley concluded with, “Have a good first day!”

“You too!” Gwynivara replied automatically, but after she processed the interaction, she cringed. “I mean…”

“I know what you meant, darling.” Riley took a smoke but grinned. “It’s okay, you can go!” She smiled gratefully and left.

In the kitchen, Gwynivara didn’t have a lot of time, so she searched for food that could get prepared quickly. She settled on toast, and as she waited for her bread in the toaster, she heard someone enter from the entrance behind her. When she turned around, she saw Kierram and turned right back around. Kierram grumbled, “If you’re expecting an apology, you can forget it!”

Gwynivara shrugged and casually said, “Okay.”

“I-!” Kierram got thrown off by her nonchalant attitude. “What do you mean, okay?”

“I mean I don’t expect an apology from you.” Her toast popped up, and she began to put butter on it. “Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“What, now you’re mocking me?” Kierram accused.

Continuing to spread butter on her toast, she told him, “No. Actually, I genuinely don’t want your apology. I want to make my breakfast and do well in training. I could care less what you do or don’t do.”

Kierram scoffed, “Oh, now you don’t care! You cared enough last night to barge into my room and put your nose into my business, but now-!”

Gwynivara, who had already finished preparing her food, looked him square in the eye and stated, “I care for you as much as any other person or animal in that I don’t want you to die, but I have my own life to worry about, so I don’t care what you do or don’t with yours!” Kierram didn’t respond other than to look utterly stunned. While she walked out of the room, she regarded him coldly, “See you at training!”

“I don’t do training!” Kierram sneered.

Gwynivara turned her head and gave him a piteous glance. “Oh, okay then.”

As she walked down the hall, Kierram called after her, “I could, I choose not to!”

Not looking back, Gwynivara responded listlessly, “Good for you!” Kierram viscerally growled in frustration and went back into the kitchen.

Later that morning, Gwynivara found a heavy oak door at the end of the left hall. With great effort, she pulled it open and nervously entered. The training arena reminded her of a high school gym except for the dark, rocky floor. The spacious, well-lit room had soft, foamy mats placed strategically throughout the area. Nine men and Bernadette were already practicing sword fighting with slender, wooden poles. Emorick hadn’t arrived yet, so she surmised that they did this as a warmup exercise. With everyone else paired up, she thought it’d make sense to approach one of the men who formed a group of three. However, it felt too awkward to just in like that since she was so new to the group, so she hesitated. She silently debated whether or not to join them or to wait for a calm moment to introduce herself to everyone.

Her decision got made for her as one of the men in the group noticed her. He stopped in his tracks, nudged his buddies, and pointed behind them. They turned around were surprised to see someone standing there. The three discussed something, and one of them walked towards her. Gwynivara felt a rush of gratitude and really respected the Rebellion for its thoughtful people. When he got closer, she observed a smug smile on his face, the kind of smile that a person bears when they’re good-looking and know it. Gwynivara sincerely hoped that this interpretation wasn’t true, but the way he posed in front of her, leaning on his pole while maintaining way too much eye contact, she was certain her presumption would prove to be accurate and groaned.

The man very smoothly asked her, “Come to watch us practice, bunny?”

Scowling, Gwynivara informed him, “Actually, I’m here to practice. I’m an officer too.”

He raised his eyebrows in mild admiration. “Oh really? Well, feel free to practice on me anytime!” He either didn’t notice her disgusted expression or he didn’t care because he went on, “Seriously, I’d love to see your sword-work!”

Before Gwynivara could let out a noise of revulsion, she heard one from behind her. She turned around and was surprised to see Kierram standing there! The man must not have noticed Kierram giving him a dirty look because he urged, “Come on, let me have it!”

Reaching into a tall crate next to him, Kierram suggested to her, “You heard him, let him have it!”

He tossed her a pole, and anger impulsed her into it. She raised her arm and, using all of the strength in her muscles, she whacked him in the stomach! The force of her strike took the air out of him for a moment. The room fell silent as Emorick entered. Gwynivara still felt miffed about the situation, but she hung her head shamefully, fearing the worst from Emorick. Instead, Emorick ordered, “Keep going!” Although this slightly shocked her, Gwynivara obliged and hit him in the arm and then again in the opposite leg. Hiding his grin, Emorick regarded the man, “Come on, Kennith, fight back!” Kennith genuinely tried to fight back but couldn’t get a hit in.

When Gwynivara got a good hit on the back of his head, Emorick instructed, “Alright, that’s enough. Stop!” She adhered to his direction, feeling vindicated. Emorick stood over Kennith, who rubbed his head pathetically, and told him, “All soldiers will treat each other with respect if they want to remain in it. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, sir!” Kennith responded civilly.

“Good,” Emorick addressed him, “Now go get an ice pack from the first aid station. You’re dismissed for the day!” Kennith could not get away fast enough and dashed out of the room! As soon as he was out of sight, Emorick directed, “Alright, everyone, gather ‘round!” He sat on an apple box on the other side of the room while the others sat cross-legged on the floor before him. He saw Kierram hesitate to sit, and clearly Emorick did not expect his presence. “Kierram? You’re here!”

Everyone turned to him incredulously. Gwynivara expected him to say something snarky, but instead, he pointed out, “You act like I’m the new one here!”

That brought their attention to Gwynivara, who clumsily waved hello. “Hi! I’m Gwyn!”

Emorick added, “She’s our newest officer. You’ll have to get to know her later though. We have more distressing news to discuss before we practice.” He reached into his pocket and brought out that purple orb. He showed it to the group, and when they leaned in close, they saw a local news article that showed a middle-aged man with light colored, slicked back hair, a bushy mustache, and a thin physique standing proudly with his hands on his hips, which had the effect of showing off his police badge on his belt. The headline read: Chief Forsythe Cracks Down on Venenatus Sanguis Fugitives. Emorick informed them, “It says that he’s hiring more officers specfically for the purpose of rounding up more people with the disease to bring them into quarantine!”

“No!” a couple men cried out.

Bernadette commented, “Well, looks like we’re about to get more crowded in here!”

“That’s true!” Emorick agreed. “We’re gonna increase our patrols in the city, of course. However, Chief Forsythe is relentless and won’t stop until every last one of us is exterminated! Our patrols will only be like a tourniquet-we won’t truly stop the bleeding until we fix the wound. We’ve gotta do more research on the cure!”

“How are we supposed to do that?” one of the men asked. “Every time we go to the library, every book written on the subject is checked out.”

“We could see if the hospital has any brochures,” another man suggested. The others murmured in agreement.

Gwynivara didn’t share their sentiment. “I worked for that hospital for over a year and a half, and trust me, their brochures aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on!”

The others were a little disappointed to hear this but accepted her input. The man who made the suggestion snidely inquired, “Do you have any suggestions?” He crossed his arms, clearly not expecting her to come up with a better solution.

Gwynivara shyly brought up her idea from last night, “The Public Health Center is doing research on Venenatus Sanguis, so they must have access to a lot of resources on the subject. Now, I know only authorized personnel would have access to the material, but I heard that they were looking for volunteers. So, if we signed up to help them out, we could sneak in and peak at what they’ve got.”

For a moment, no one spoke. Eventually, one man remarked, “That’s suicide! If we got caught-!”

Kierram interrupted, “I think it’s a great idea!” Everyone, especially Gwynivara, seemed stunned by his new-found allegiance. He affirmed, “What knowledge we could gain is worth the risk. I’m in!”

“Me too!” Bernadette asserted.

Emorick probed, “Are you sure you wanna take on a task so dangerous on your first day of the Rebellion?”

“We don’t have time to waste!” Gwynivara answered with absolute certainty.

He couldn’t argue with her logic, so Emorick consented, “Alright, Gwyn. You have my permission to head this mission.”

Kierram and Bernadette stood behind her. Hardly believing her fortune, she mentally started to prepare herself to plan this out. She began to head out, and the other two followed her. Before they could leave, Emorick called after them, “Just do me a favor…” Gwynivara, Bernadette, and Kierram all turned around and listened. “…Come back to us alive!”

Gwynivara vowed, “We will.” As soon as they turned back around and left, the three of them tried to hide their ominous sense of foreboding.

Rebels of Darkness, Chapter 1

Rebels of Darkness

“Good morning, Great Dismal Falls!” a wood-grain, plastic clock radio sounded as the digital time flipped over to seven o’ clock. The disc-jockey continued, “You’re listening to K-F-N-U, home to the greatest hits of 1976! A heavy fog still fills the sky but will lift by the afternoon. Don’t get too excited though, dark clouds stretching from the swamplands to the bay will start October off with very gloomy weather. Speaking of gloomy, our friends to the north have reported a road closure near the Chesapeake tunnel, so bad news for those of you who commute northern Virginia! No, it’s not from construction or a car accident this time. Sadly, a man living in the structure was found dead. Police suspect Venenatus Sanguis as two commuters were attacked by-”

A pale hand slammed down on the off button, and a woman’s voice grumbled, “Not today!” A blonde with feathered hair laid face first into her thin pillow. Her twin bed, which took the majority of the space in her room, had a disheveled heap of sheets covering it, and only a small corner rested on the curvy body of the occupant. With a groan, she picked herself up and got out of bed. She yawned as she opened her dingy bedroom door. Across the narrow hall was a cramped bathroom with peeling wood panel walls. She got a glimpse of her face, and her normally fair skin looked a little sallow, and her golden brown eyes were glossy and etched in red lines. She started to sigh, but she stopped herself. “No, not today!” she told herself as she turned on the shower.

After her hair had dried, she put on a ruffled white shirt that matched her white, flared trousers. She put on a pale pink blazer and a matching scarf to break up the color pattern. She felt reasonably pleased with her make up job; it was harder to tell that she didn’t sleep much last night. She grabbed her beige purse and walked to the end of the hall where a linoleum foyer that separated the living room from the front door. She gazed over to see her elderly roommate sitting stiffly in her recliner watching television. She let her roommate know, “I’m off to work! If everything goes well, I might-”

“That’s nice, dear. Have fun.” The roommate had adjusted her shawl, but other than that, she did not take her gaze off the television set. The younger lady stifled a sigh and headed out the door.

In a tiled hallway with florescent lights, she sat in a chair that stood outside an office with a big, wooden door with the words ‘Hiring Board’ etched on it. She had an application on a wooden clipboard that she began to fill out. The first line asked for a name, and, without thinking, she wrote Gwynivara Wallace. She started to fill out her address when she realized what she had done. She scribbled out the name she wrote and thought for a moment. She whispered to herself, “How do I spell my last name again?” The receptionist at the triage desk gave her a funny look, so Gwynivara tried to cover her tracks with a polite smile. The receptionist didn’t say anything and went back to filing her nails, so Gwynivara went back to her paperwork, trying to remain more inconspicuous.

After she turned her paperwork in, she waited silently for them to call her in. Her muscles were tense, so she took a couple of deep breaths to relax more. At that point, a man with large glasses and a lab coat poked his head out into the hallway and called out, “Taylor McCartney?” At first, Gwynivara doesn’t respond, so he called out again, “Taylor McCartney?”

Gwynivara snapped to attention. “Yes, that’s me!” The man, with a slight look of disappointment, beckoned for her to enter, so she complied and went inside.

The room was empty except for a long table where four men in lab coats sat. The doctor who got her from the hallway took the fifth seat and addressed his colleagues, “Gentlemen, this Taylor. She is applying for the head janitor position.”

The other men frowned, and the one in the center regarded her, “I’m afraid there’s been a mistake. Miss McCartney, you can go back to work.”

Gwynivara didn’t move or speak for a moment. She had a vacant stare like she was still trying to process what just happened. Another doctor asked her, “Is there a problem?”

“I don’t understand,” she replied. “My interview was for this day and time, I’m sure of it. What’s the mistake?”

The doctors, who had already gotten up to go on with their day, sat back down grimly. The man in the center explained slowly, “Miss McCartney, I’m very sorry our job board wasn’t clear enough, but this position is for men only.”

“But…!” Gwynivara’s heart sunk. “But I’ve been cleaning for years…!”

Another doctor piped in, “Cleaning up after your family doesn’t count!”

“No!” she objected. “I was a janitor at the library, and before that I cleaned hotel rooms. I’m the best janitor here! I know all the cleaning procedures inside and out! I’ve even trained people to do this job! I have the right experience for the promotion! Why should my sex matter?”

The center doctor responded unsympathetically, “Yes, you have an excellent background, which is why we accepted your application. But with a name like Taylor, we thought you were a guy. Look, I didn’t wanna waste your time, and I certainly don’t wanna hurt your feelings, but we can’t have a woman in a leadership position, especially a woman like you.”

That last comment made her nervous. “What do you mean?”

He clarified further, “I don’t mean that in a callous way! A person in a supervisory role has to be tough and a little intimidating to be taken seriously. You’re so pretty and sweet, I just don’t think any man on your staff would take you seriously.”

At first, Gwynivara seemed relieved that his previous comment didn’t mean what she thought it did, but she came to realize that this was not that much better. The more he talked, the more she pronounced her frown. After he had finished, she scoffed, “So…if I make myself ugly, can I re-apply?”

The five doctors exchanged uncomfortable glances, and the man in the middle talked to her sternly, “Look, women have many strengths, but being tough isn’t one of them. I mean, let’s say you have a man about my size on your team and he broke a major company rule. I’m upset, I’m agitated, could you honestly say you have the strength to fire me?”

Gwynivara leaned in close, stared at him dead in the eye, and stated firmly, “Doctor Richards, I would love to fire you!”

The men all got a jolt of shock at her response, and clearly Doctor Richards was offended. “Well, young lady, if that’s going to be your attitude, then you’re fired!”

For a moment, Gwynivara couldn’t move. Her mind couldn’t absorb what just happened. She wasn’t even aware of the fact that she had picked up her purse and had left the room. She sat on the bus and could care less about the people around her. She tried to wrap her mind around what happened, but she was too dumbstruck to accept it. With her body on autopilot, she managed to get off at the right stop and walked herself home. When she got to the mobile home park she lived in, it started to sink in, but she forced herself to not think about it or show any emotions. As she walked through the complex, she switched from watery eyes to nerves on edge. Every noise and movement made her jump. Finally, at the end of the row, next a chain-link fence, her house came into view. She ran towards the front porch and checked all around her. When she saw nothing precarious, she took a deep breath and went inside.

After she had changed into her pajamas, which were black sweat pants with a black tank top, she sat on her bed and scoured over the classified section of the newspaper. She had a mug of tea next to her on the nightstand, but she ignored it as she poured the job ads. She pushed back more tears as she focused on her search. Her hands started to shake a little, so she set the paper down and took a drink of tea. As she held her cup, she had one of her legs on the floor. At that moment, a rat brushed by her ankle! Instinctively, she pulled her leg up, but as she did, the contents of her mug spilled forward. The tea spread through the newspaper and even soaked into her bed. That was the last straw! Gwynivara finally broke down and cried her eyes out!

After a minute or so, she heard a loud bang outside. She stopped crying and stared outside in fear. “Oh no!” She reached under the bed and grabbed a sword. She watched the entire window-side wall pulsating, so she stood with her weapon at the ready. Soon, the wall gave in and came crashing down. The perpetrator was an eight-foot tall creature whose appearance somewhat resembled a mix of an elephant and a pit bull! It had sharp talons and glowing red eyes that glared fiercely at her. After a split second of assessing the situation, Gwynivara ran across her bed and headed towards the beast’s body. It swiped her away like a bothersome fly, sending her sailing outside!

She landed in the barren field that laid outside where the fence used to stand. She got up in time to avoid getting crushed. It tried to bite here, but she swung her sword at it, scraping off a lot of its mouth. It had a momentary distraction from its pain, so she ran closer to its throat and tried to stab it, but it flung her away. She landed on her back this time, and immediately, she saw its head dive towards her. She stabbed it in the eye, and it roared in pain. She got up and ran to where its heart most likely was located. She stabbed it, but the sword only pierced its skin, which was so thick that she couldn’t get her weapon out. Before it could swipe at her, she dodged its attempt. She kept avoiding its reach as she racked her brain trying to think of a way to defeat him at this point.

Suddenly, a muscular man with a clean cut and deep gray hair style, a slate tank top, and camo pants appeared and fired a spear gun at the beast! The spear had a rope attached to it, which trailed behind it as it hit one of the beast’s knees. Before the creature could react, the man ran around the beast, making the rope bind the creatures legs together and made it fall down. Gwynivara ran to it, and, with one foot on the monster, she used both her arms to pull her sword out. The man instructed, “Get its throat!” She heeded his word and jammed her weapon into its neck. It let out one final shriek as she dragged her sword from one side to the other. They watched as the beast took its final breath.

As her adrenaline started to slow down, Gwynivara realized that her neighbors had come out to witness the chaos. One neighbor observed the destruction and cried out, “What the hell happened?”

Another neighbor answered, “Look at that thing over there!”

A third neighbor exclaimed, “Oh my god! It’s Venenatus Sanguis!”

As everyone rushed to find a phone to call the police, Gwynivara knew she had to escape before they could get her. The man who helped her directed, “Follow me!” Something in his voice had a timbre that conveyed confidence and genuine care, so her instincts told her to trust him. She followed him as he fled the complex.