By Rebecca Inch-Partridge
A heavy, raspy breathing woke them. Vance’s translucent image loomed by their bedside. He fought to speak through the blood. His side erupted. He doubled over in fatal anguish.
“Oh God! It didn’t work,” Tina panted.
“No shit!” Richard pulled her to him protectively, belaying the harshness of his own words.
Vance reached out to Tina. Richard moved to shield her. “It’s okay,” Tina said. “I was wrong. I didn’t create the Paraxous Cluster. It already existed. I just picked up on Twyla’s thoughts. We must have the same mental frequency or something.”
“If you’re linked to Twyla, then why the hell is he here?”
She cocked her head as if hearing the words that Vance couldn’t utter. “He’s here to warn me that some of them can cross over when they die.”
A molten glob of bloody tissue and bones appeared behind Vance. A crackling blast of electricity fired from the form, ripping his image asunder. Vance vanished in a writhing wave of body-parts.
Tina tried to tell Richard that the glob was what remained of Cassie after Twyla had knocked her into a magma-mine. But no sound came. Cassie held them both paralyzed. The mound of flesh and seared organs floated closer.
What do you want? Tina thought at the apparition.
A wave of greedy pleasure told her everything she didn’t want to know. The bitch planned to switch places, sending
Tina to the great beyond and taking over her life here on Earth.
Tina’s Irish temper wasn’t about to yield. She concentrated on all of Cassie DeConnet’s victims. Vance reappeared between Cassie and her intended target. Beside him, two tree-people took form. As Flagoans, Twyla’s godparents dwarfed everyone in the room, including Cassie. Their leaf covered heads and multiple arms were a welcome sight. Even if they had gaping holes through their trunks, which oozed sap.
Dozens of other dead aliens from the Paraxous appeared. Apparently, Cassie had a lot more victims than even Tina knew about. They closed in around the former Elder DeConnet. She hurled angry energy bolts at them. Her massacred imaged winked out with each blast.
Right before the mob tackled, Cassie shot out a telepathic tentacle that wrapped itself around Tina. Then everything faded to black.
When the darkness gave way, Tina could see Richard shaking her body and checking for a pulse ten feet below where her consciousness now hovered. All the others were gone. An out of body experience? I must be dead.
Very good, a mental voice mocked her.
A tall, well endowed, auburn-haired woman materialized. She looked exactly how Tina had envisioned Twyla. But this woman’s soft feminine face was distorted in a hateful sneer. It had to be Twyla’s mother, Cassie. This sure isn’t heaven with her here. Oh shit, I’m in the empathic plane.
Cassie glided closer. Tina tried to backpedal but only floundered in midair. Beneath them, Richard performed CPR on Tina’s body. Cassie shot out metallic tendrils from her fingertips. They pierced Tina’s mental flesh and snaked through her empathic veins. Paralyzed once more, Tina could do nothing to defend herself.
Cassie threw back her head, laughing. I knew we’d be compatible since your mental frequency is so close to Twyla’s, but I never dreamed it would be this easy.
‘Fraid it’s not going to be as vreking easy as you thought, a new mental voice challenged.
Blazing lighting bolts struck at Cassie before Twyla appeared. Her form was more solid than Cassie’s, but seemed almost holographic in this reality. She held an energy shield at half-oval combat mode. The Guardian slashed the air with it and more lightning flashed.
Cassie blocked it with her own shield as she had the first attack. The shield’s light-red glow evaporated, leaving her exposed. She hurled fireballs at Twyla. The Guardian’s shield absorbed each destructive orb in a graceful arching motion. Then with a sharp slice, it shot out cannon balls of white energy.
Cassie incased herself in a protective shell before they hit. The tendril connecting her mind to Tina’s were severed and fell limp on the invisible floor of the plane. Go! Twyla ordered.
Tina found that she could move again. She looked down. The scene beneath her was shrunken by distance. She scrambled toward her body in an almost swimming motion. About ten feet above it, something blocked her way. She pounded and kicked at the invisible barrier but couldn’t penetrate it. Tina watched helplessly as Alex came into their room and found his father pressing on his mother’s chest.
“Alex,” he panted. “Call 911.”
Alex burst out in wailing sobs and threw himself on his mother’s body. “Mommy. Mommy.”
After another cycle of CPR, Richard tried again. “Alex, if you want to help mom, call 911. Now.” This time Alex obeyed the commanding voice and hurried to the phone. “Tell them your dad’s doing CPR.”
“Help! Help! Daddy’s doing C R P to my mom. Help!”
The battle going on around Tina went silent. She looked back. Twyla was gone. Cassie’s image faded in and out but refused to disappear. Her eyes fixed on Tina.
No! Someone help me! Tina reached out mentally for Twyla. Nothing. Cassie’s image grew closer. Tina refused to retreat from her position directly over her body.
Push her! Twyla’s empathic voice echoed in Tina’s head.
Tina had no idea how to do that, but she gathered all her Irish will and stubborn temper and projected it at Cassie. The DeConnet elder flew back. Twyla popped back into the plane. The force of Tina’s shove impaled Cassie on her daughter’s awaiting shield. It’s not happening, Cassie. I vreking killed you once. You’re staying dead.
Cassie flailed about, but the more she fought the deeper the shield sank until it protruded through her chest and stomach. Twyla looked up at Tina, who watched in a morbid trance. Go! Get back!
Little firemen swarmed into the room beneath, which was once again far away. Tina noticed that her own image had become ghost like. She dove down, only to smack into that clear ceiling. I can’t get through! She called to Twyla for help, but the Guardian was too busy chopping at all the tentacles that Cassie shot out in an attempt to snare her.
Tina saw one of the firemen was a medic. All his advance life support equipment was wheeled in on the gurney behind him. She couldn’t decide whether to be hopeful or worried. If she couldn’t get back, she wanted her body to be beyond recovery so Cassie couldn’t use it.
Tina looked over to the battle still raging. Cassie leapt into the air and flew by with blurring speed. Twyla boomeranged her shield, slicing the tendrils before they could snatch Tina. But that gave her mother time to summon up a ball of energy as big as she was. You always were a pain. Good bye, Twyla.
The Guardian launched and flew straight at Cassie. The energy ball collided with her shield mid-flight. A sun-bright explosion temporarily blinded Tina. When her sight returned, she was alone in the void except for the figures scurrying about beneath her. She watched as Richard picked up Alex and carried him out of the room while firefighters continued working the code blue, cramming an airway tube down her throat and shocking her heart.
A tiny voice cried, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy.”
Tina reached out but couldn’t cross the invisible divider. She tried to contact Twyla. The link was gone. She brought a hand to her face. It was no more than a vague transparency.
“Mommy,” she heard Alex call again.
I’m so sorry, baby. I can’t get back. She hoped part of him could feel her message. Mommy loves you, she concentrated as hard as she could.
She tried to send her love to Richard as well. A warm light caressed her fading form. It grew in size and intensity until it replaced the darkness around her. She looked for Richard and Alex but found only soft light. A quiet serenity took hold of her. She said goodbye, wishing that she could hold them one more time.
Then a presence made her swing around. A shadowy form blocked the light in the distance. It reached for her. An empathic tendril slithered across the whiteness.
Tina turned to the source of the light and only briefly wondered what was on the other side. Once she went to the great beyond, the gateway to the Paraxous would close forever. Cassie could never cross over again. Richard and Alex would be safe.