The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, Chapter 1 by Laura Zabala
                                                                   My Lady


 Izzy is still on her way home. The cuckoo clock we bought in Germany announces that it's 5 pm. My smart watch doesn't show texts yet. Sigh. My eyes wander back to the criminal profile. It is not often we hunt a serial killer - at least not a paranormal one. No one has an ID on him yet. In our community, we still fear the internment camps of decades past - so, for the most part, paranormals stick to the letter of the law. We might have crooks and tricksters, but, we are truly wary of the standards who outnumber us 100 to 1. So far three women have died. All of them have mouths wide open; charring around their lips. Whatever the perp' does when they kill there are no memories, or feelings to trace. The corpse is simply a husk. There are no souls hanging behind in the aether looking to communicate his whereabouts either. I put the Flimsy down on the coffee table. Time to stand up and stretch. The sucking sound of our door opening sounds off from the entry.

"Hey, Zara." Izzy is carrying a grocery tote.

"Hey." Izzy saunters in wearing her retro dress. The fabric swishes around her muscular legs. I scan her voluptuous form up to the auburn curls. My hands grab her bag and automatically unpack it for her. "How was your day at work?"

The smell of coffee wafts through the air, "I need a drink after grading all those papers." Her shoulders look tense. I fold my arms beneath my breasts. She probably would find it weird if I offered a massage. Izzy and I have been best friends since elementary school. We were always a pair. It was natural for us to go to trade school together. Later on, she pursued a scholarly education and now works as a professor at a university on the banks of the Raritan River. Although I didn't go for a university career I was there doing my own paperwork while she studied. It was only natural we bought a house together. Although, everyone thought us weird. "You're not lesbians why would you live together? Don't you want to marry one of your boyfriends at some point?" We usually say something like,"I am not worried about it." Although, in truth, I feel no one will ever replace the prime position Izzy occupies in my world.

"Zara, are you listening?" Izzy holds a coffee cup under my nose.  "Oh, sorry." I grab the cup from her hand.

"Sweety, you really need to leave your work at work sometimes." Izzy does not pick up on emotions or thoughts the way I do, though her abilities are impressive in a different way.

"Izzy, this time--I can't. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that." Izzy motions me toward the table. I sit and prop my chin on my folded arms, letting myself relax. "Izzy, you know how you love walking at night and by yourself in general?"

Izzy immediately crosses her arms, "What of it?"

 I hear the rise in her voice and sit up, "There is a paranormal serial killer on the loose and we have no leads."Izzy's mouth drops in disbelief. "I don't think I have ever gotten such a good view of your tongue before." I lean forward my raven straight hair falling over my petite breasts. Izzy shuts her mouth and shakes her head. Her eyes are wide. 

 "Zara, if what you are saying is true…"

 I put my hand up to stop the negative down spiral, "Izzy, you know your visions would tell you if this endangered paranormals as a whole. I know you see ahead, but please be careful from here on out." Izzy shook her head, "I am not a Goddess - there is no guarantee that I would see anything. Some events are beyond sight. I didn't even have a clue about this happening." Zara nodded, "That is what concerns me. Neither of us has picked up on the killer. No one has. Why?" We finish our coffee in silence. The conversation palpable with every slurp of the brew. Thankfully, caffeine is still legal. We will need it for the continued investigation.

 We enter the small home office we share. Izzy sits on the cushion by the window and I sit opposite her on my cushion. She holds out her hands and I grab them. At first, a tingling sensation passes through my head and body. Then as our minds merge a blank canvas comes into view. Izzy is a passive participant as I reach within her mind. Images of events begin to course in an unending stream. There are fires she will report. Accidents to avert. Where are the kidnappings? While sifting through the violence and emotional imagery Izzy begins to shake. My search slows to a brief pause. You ok? Izzy takes a breath, I am now. My search resumes. The image of a woman with blonde hair and olive skin comes into view. At first, all we see is her face. As the image pans out we see her walking with a Flimsy wrapped around her arm. Her boots clacking on the glass sidewalk. I try to zoom out to see the site.

The cement gray background of a nondescript building is barely in view. A gloved hand goes around her mouth. The victim is dragged out of view. The image ends abruptly. All I could gather was that the kidnapping actually happened during daylight hours by one of the many cement buildings in the area. We gently break the link. I slap the ground to vent my frustration. Izzy cocks her head and lifts her brows in question. "I can't get a read on the perpetrator, or the woman. All I could do was see and hear with that limited view." Izzy's face goes blank. We always get what we need when it comes to information. Izzy attempts to follow the thread of that future anywhere. Her eyes come into focus, "I am sorry, there's nothing." I put my hands on my temples. "Then, I am just going to have to get a hold of a remote viewer. Maybe we could at least find out who this woman is now that we know what she looks like." Izzy nods, in unison, we stand. Outside the window, the mask of night looms. We had been searching longer than I thought. We both head to the kitchen to grab some food. Tomorrow, I will have to double my efforts.


                                                       Flavor of Fear


  In a world full of action and reaction, change is the most predictable thing. Without friction, without opposing forces–life is stagnant. The Agent was more than happy to take part in the game of life. Her naked body stretched over a metal table. Her skin gleamed in the light, beads of sweat running across her trembling body. Vulnerable like a fawn caught in a hunter's trap, waiting to die, her eyes were wide. The Agent chose scarlet restraints to match the thread of life.

"The fine velvet I have placed you in–must feel like a soft kiss. Do not mistake it for a breakable bond. You are mine now."

The Agent traced with a finger from the crown of her head down the center of her face; then, all the way down to her navel. Her breathing was shallow. That day's catch had pendulous breasts, a large waist, and an overall thick figure. Her body evoked the thought of procreation, like an ancient goddess figurine. The Agent traced circles around her navel. Her sea of energy churned. The Agent could feel the lines of her energetic body - branches responding to every touch. Her energy vibrated throughout her entire body. The Agent's touch was like waves across her form. A fine instrument she was, for pleasure.

"My name is Yelena." Her eyes creased in her anger.

"So you've read my mind? Funny thing, isn't it? How a telepath can become so–violated?" The Agent waved a hand over her nude spread-eagled state. The assault was, refined, like art.

"What do you want with me?" Yelena said in an even voice. Her fear could be tasted in delectable waves.

The Agent licked lips, "I am sure by now you've figured out I also have abilities. Why attack my own when ‘we' are so outnumbered?" Neglecting to answer the question so accurately predicted, The Agent continued, "What to do with this vulnerable female body?"

Yelena's eyes flared; delicate about being called weak. The Agent could feel Yelena pushing against the psychic barriers around the room. Helplessly trying to find a weak spot to call for help. The Agent smiled, there was no escape.

 "Aren't you proud of your work?" 

 The woman was smart. However, she was wrong in assuming The Agent was crazed or committing these crimes out of pride for some deluded plan. That was a human aim. "I see now why you have been named. I am sure you will prove to be the best I've had in some time. That is a compliment I rarely give the women on my table."

 Yelena had spent all her life reading minds and watching faces on those skilled enough to hide their thoughts. Her face shifted from anger to abject horror. She knew what her death would be.

 "Oh, come now. I am not the monster you make me out to be. You have not been disrespectful so I will be gentle." A low rumble came from The Agent's stomach. "Now, to perform my duties."

 Yelena struggled, attempting to free herself of her restraints. "If I am so brilliant, why not let me live?"

 The Agent leaned over her body placing one hand on her forehead and the other on her navel. "Unfortunately, that is precisely why I must take you." Yelena gasped and tried to bite at The Agent's arm, but it was out of her reach. "No one has ever escaped. If you struggle it will hurt."

 At first, the screams rang through the room. Fear and pain drenched the space like liquid gold. The Agent licked lips, the energy a delicacy in its purity. The strength of her will flowing like a river into The Agent's body. When she weakened, her gaping mouth let out barely a whisper—her eyes wide. Yelena had erroneously thought she would be raped physically. She realized as she felt her soul ripped before its time—there were worse forms of torture. She tried hard to concentrate feelings into her body. To lodge some sort of record within her. She did not know if it would work. However, if she used her strength to feed The Agent's whim. Certain pockets of her feelings and thoughts might be missed. The Agent smiled knowing her thoughts. Yelena began to let go of her fear. Her eyes staring at the white ceiling she felt as though she were floating. May the divine bring this creature to justice. She had been agnostic all her life but hoped that somehow this prayer would be heard. Blackness grew at the edges of her sight. She could no longer feel her body. As the last of her sight left her. She felt herself enter a large gaping hole. Her consciousness lost in a void.


                                                           Daydreams


 Cars honking. The memory of last night's conversation with Izzy swirls in my mind. Izzy isn't the toughest looking woman. Predators like to prey on those they perceive as weak. Izzy ran away from me once when I needed her. She cowered when faced by the rejection others.

 "On Hallows’ Eve the ghosts alight, dark spirits and monsters take flight into the nightmares of all who fear the night. Listen well, for wicked they be."

 The children were shaking, though they could not understand all of what they heard. Except for Zara, and her friend Izzy - the most well read students of Martin Luther King elementary. To be more accurate, Zara wasn't shaking despite understanding, Izzy shook and understood. Mr. Negron could see Zara was not buying it, "Zara, why are you so serious? Do you not believe in monsters?"

The children all stared at Zara and she responded seriously—"Oh no, tío," she called him uncle in Spanish. "I believe in them; talk to them. They are not all evil." Mr. Negron's jaw dropped, the children started laughing and calling her a liar.

Izzy tried to stand up for Zara, "Stop, she isn't lying–honest!" The children glared at Izzy. They laughed, their vicious faces singing in unison as they called her a fag. She ran from their hatred - stung by the pain of it. Mr. Negron silenced the children with a stern glare and a simple, "be quiet." The children went silent. They knew what would happen if they disobeyed an elder. Zara smiled coolly, her coal eyes steel against their taunting gaze. Her face like marble. Hair black as night. At the age of eight, she scared her uncle, Mr. Negron. That night, when David and Elsie came over to pick Zara up, he was quick to tell them.

"Are you aware that your daughter thinks she can talk to monsters?" His hands placed on the table. Both parents sat down composed at the kitchen table.

"Mother, I would like to go home."

Izzy followed in after her, timid, "Can I go with you?"

Elsie knew not to ask why. Most likely the other children made them both feel unwelcome. Although, she was quite certain they weren't the only ones. She smiled warmly at her brother-in-law, "I am going to take the girls home. It is, probably, best we take some time to talk to the children separately about this event."

She knew he'd be satisfied with her statement. Although, she was anything but. Zara was just a child saying something any child could during a game of pretend or when trying to impress others.

"Of course," Henry called for his children, Zara's cousins came in reluctantly.

"Jael, Peter, say goodbye to tío and titi." The children did as instructed and said goodbye to their uncle and aunt. Henry looked at them and they knew to say goodbye to Zara as well. They were younger than Zara by a year or so, but, she still enjoyed their company. She hugged them and did not blame them for going along with the others.

"Zara?"

"Yes, mother?" Zara looked at her mother's caramel skin. Elsie Bran was descended from Taino natives and an Afro-Puerto Rican woman. Sporting coal eyes and straight black hair like Zara's, she caught her husband's eyes easily when they first met. David, her husband, was also a Puerto Rican, but, was light-skinned with red hair.

"We need to talk about something," Elsie walked up to the bed and sat down.

"About how I should only talk to my uncle about what he thinks is right?"

Elsie's eyes registered shock for a moment and she stared directly into her eight-year-old daughter's eyes. They held a depth to them that could not be explained.

"Mother, are you listening?" Zara touched her arm, bringing her out of a trance.

"Tell mommy, how do you speak to ghosts and monsters?"

Zara cocked her head. Her eyes roamed Elsie's face as if she were verifying something. "Promise you won't be scared," she told her mother firmly.

Elsie nodded, "you forget. I am no normal mother."

A creaking sound resounded from the top of the stairs and swift footsteps approached. Zara calmly stared at the door, "Come in, father." David swung the door carefully shut as he stepped in, "I want to know." Elsie had told David she would be asking. Apparently, it was too much for her husband to resist. Zara beckoned him to her bedside and outstretched both hands. Each parent grabbed a hand and then turned to glance at each other for a moment. No normal child was like this, but, then they had long known Zara was different.

Suddenly, they were drifting in darkness. A crossroads of caverns came into view. Creatures of various kinds walked through the dim passages. Some walked into glowing liquid doorways. Their forms lost once they entered. Some souls were drifting, their bodies more etheric than material flesh. Others walked past them, not seeing the dead, though it seemed some did. Zara's voice resounded in their minds, "This is the crossroads where I speak to the ghosts and the people of other worlds." They saw orbs of energy going down a tunnel with light. Predatory creatures with horns and large teeth that made them gulp in fear. Then abruptly, they were back in Zara's room staring at their daughter. It took them a few moments to register what had occurred. Zara waited patiently and looked at her mother, knowing she would be the first to speak, "You are a powerful witch—why didn't you tell me?" Zara released their hands and checked to see if her father was okay. "You never asked and I did not know it was different. Izzy told me that this isn't normal. Although, she thinks it is cool." Zara smiled warmly, which was something Elsie did not often see. Zara wasn't necessarily unhappy just serious most of the time—except for when she was around Izzy, her best friend.

David gazed at his daughter blankly, "I know you can pick up our thoughts sometimes, but, I wasn't prepared for this." Elsie looked at his eyes and could see the fear he was trying to hide. Then she looked at her daughter's cold gaze. Her lips just had a slight droop at the corner. An ice-encrusted void of isolation and rejection came through Zara's guard.

Elsie addressed her husband lovingly, "David, why don't you prepare us all some hot chocolate to ground us after our journey. I know I'd greatly appreciate it and our daughter just used a good deal of strength to show us that place."

David, her agnostic husband, left the room after a terse, "alright." She had amazed him many times with her magic, but, hers was nothing like Zara's. Elsie and Zara were registered paranormals with the state. David was from a conservative background, though more open-minded. Elsie had always known Zara was a gift from the gods. How David saw Zara seemed to align with Elsie's views, but, this experience may have brought him past his comfort zone. Elsie was about to address Zara, but, her daughter began first, "I am sorry. If I knew he would be scared—" Zara cried for the first time since she was a baby. The tears ran silently down her cheeks. She did not have downturned lips. Instead, her eyes illustrated her pain. Again the void crept through her daughter's aura, an expansive darkness. Isolation was all Elsie could perceive. She held her daughter closely and imagined herself wrapping her in the light of the sun. Projecting the image of a summer day in a forest.

"It is not as bad as you think, but, if it is—I will always be here for you." Zara could see the place her mother was imagining and she felt warm. The feeling of her mother's touch making her slow her breath.

Zara commented once she was calm, "It was not hard to show you. You know that, right?"

Elsie nodded her head. Standard was the word given to people who did not have extrasensory abilities. Her mother a paranormal and a witch, had begun to teach her general witchcraft terminology, morality, and spells that year. It was unavoidable that Zara was taught witchcraft because she had been a natural witch all her life. Had her mother not taught her, she would have found her way to it and practiced alone. Witchcraft brought a new arsenal of tools to a Paranormal and a spiritual connection to other realms. Historically, it was not an approved practice. Witches delved beyond earth into alternate spaces that still were not understood, or even believed in. A knock resounded on the door, mother and daughter turned simultaneously. David walked in smiling and carrying a tray with hot chocolate and madeleines. He set the tray on Zara's nightstand and offered her hot chocolate first, then gave a mug to his wife, before taking his own cup.

He took a sip and stated, "Be careful, it is a little hot." Afterward, he offered them cookies. Elsie smiled, he seemed himself again.

The cars ahead shift gears into drive. A green digital display shows the clock. No lost time, phew. Inhale, Zara. Focus. Today is a big day; if the remote viewer identifies the next victim. Maybe, we can save her life. The car lurches, joining the skyway on my preprogrammed route.


                                                                   Tempting Fate


 Swoosh. I step into the waiting room of our building. Our sign, "Paranormal Investigation Taskforce" showing our little gray P.I.T. symbol hanging at the entrance outside and on the wall above the waiting room's lone clock. Our symbol is a poorly drawn copycat of a badge I said would suffice. The clock reads 8:15 am. We do not open until 9 am. My partner is moving boxes. "Tanaka?" I call my business partner by his last name. He pokes his head out the door. "Meet me in my office." We are equals in business, but in our relationship—our dynamic is a little different. He is waiting when I open the door.

"Take off your pants." He crosses his arms, "are you sure? We have a lot of work to get done." "Tell me no, if you don't want to, but otherwise—" I look him up and down, "you're mine." Tanaka removes his pants. As soon as they reach his feet, I grab his shirt in my fist and push him on the table.

His shirt is wrinkled after we finish. Hair disheveled from the pulling. He adjusts his collar. "That was a great start to the day." He caresses my cheek, "couldn't wait until later?" I cup his rear before moving to sit at my large antique wooden desk. "This case is stressing me out." He pulls up his chair from his sleek industrial desk.

"This killer could bring the old days back." My breath catches in my throat. I place my hands on my temples. Breathe.

"None of us want the concentration camps again." With an exhale, I straighten up and adjust my tie. "If I weren't so scared, I would waste my time on the small time paranormal."

Tanaka sits back and folds his arms, "you admitting fear worries me more." His gaze leads to the awards on the wall. We both know we caught more Paranormal and Standard criminals than most of the police force combined.

"Our business reputation is at stake too. I don't want someone else to get this guy. We get most cases now. We even have a hope of being federally contracted." Tanaka nods in acknowledgment. He stands and paces, then hovers right behind me.

His hands rest on my shoulders, "You aren't telling me everything. This is becoming personal. Why? Are you afraid of being attacked?"

I scoff, "I do not fear this idiot. It's Izzy." Tanaka removes his hands and sits back down. His chair is still angled away from his desk.

Tanaka chuckles, "don't think I won't poke the bear during lunch."

I cringe, "I am not a bear. The situation is not a bear. There is nothing to discuss. You know my stance."

Tanaka turns to his desk, "I am not just your boyfriend you know. I am your friend. As a friend," he dramatically puts his hand to his chest, "I feel the torture you are putting yourself through. Don't you want to know what she'll say?"

I glare at him, "We already bought a house together. I will have to see her every day if she rejects me." Tanaka understands I am bisexual. I understand that he hates the idea of marriage. We have an open relationship. My role is to curb his parents wish for him to settle down until he can man up enough to just say no. His role is to give me some lovin' and distract me from her. I also like him, a lot. Annoying man.

He handles the paperwork, while I make calls to our regular contractors for the small time cases. Arranging stake outs for those more organized criminals. Those in my "Definite Idiot" pile, or DI list—I handle by myself. After lunch, around 1 pm, I make the preparations to get the next on my DI list. Izzy helped me locate her. She works at a pizzeria. The smell of garlic wafts into the air. I walk in, order a pizza and sit down in a corner. As I eat I watch her doing her work, while pretending to check the clock or look at decorations. Space cadet is my game now. My aura masked by the visage of dreamy eyes. I feel her energy spike. She raises a psychic mask. Putting on a fake appearance of still working at the counter. I can sense her energy walking to the cash register. Wow, what an amateur. I shut down my auric signature and walk to the bathroom. I turn and snap a picture of her reaching into the drawer and a video of her pocketing money. She turns just in time to see me walking away from the bathroom. I smile at her, before tilting my head and looking at a painting dazed. An audible sigh comes from her mouth as if she thinks I didn't catch her. I send the information to Tanaka so he can notify the police of my finds.

I eat the last of my pizza when they walk in. Wipe my hands while they approach her, "Police, we have some questions"—The DI runs out of the kitchen. The police run after her. I slowly stand. Wipe my mouth. Dispose of my trash. There she is. I approach her car as she gets in. Her car revving up sends an anticipatory chill down my spine. There is one problem for her, it won't turn on. I smile as I tap on the glass. She points a gun at me and I laugh. I punch the window, breaking the glass of her vintage car. Shame, she should have had sonic glass installed. Now I might ruin the interior. I send her gun away from her hand telekinetically and hold her body frozen in my mind. I lift her hands up with my mind. The officer that approaches her reads her rights. Then, without any effort extracts her from the car and cuffs her. I release my hold once she is in their custody. Officer Ryan stands next to me watching the perpetrator walk away in cuffs, "I'll send you a bill."

He sucks in his breath, "you had some balls with this one."

 I turn to him with a wry grin, "that would be ovaries. I have some business to attend to." He nodded and we waved good-bye. The rush of the hunt made me feel good, but this woman was so basic. I need a little extra adrenaline. My body lifts as I pull over the bar. The sweat running down my skin. My black shirt and pants ripe with my funk and pain. The power of that pain. The guilty pleasure of my being above the cut. Sure, maybe I am a bit full of myself, but it is better than being weak. I move towards the weights and start my regimen. Tanaka walks in and sits down on the bench next to me to do the same. "I met with our next client. You know we are not done for the day." I put the weights down and look at his muscles bulge as he lifts. "Listen, did you want a repeat of this morning? Working out will take less time." He put the weights down, "You are not literally asking that question, because if you were—I'd say yes, let's repeat this morning. Except, I take you this time." I sigh, "When will you learn." Then I wink at him. We both nod and get up. Time to get back to work. The remote viewer will meet us at 3 pm.


                                                                          3 pm


Izzy is outside. Tanaka stands up, "well that was a productive day. I am heading out." I wave to him. I can hear them greet each other. Her boots clack from behind the door. I open it, "Hello." It is not normal for her to come here.

"Since you mentioned a scary murderer I figured I would come to protect you." I folded my arms and shifted my weight.

"This is just petty."

"I want you to see how you sound. I may dress like I am from the 1950s, early 2000s, or some other sad period for women, but the truth remains." She leans forward, "I can handle myself."

I nod, "I get that, Izzy. Serial killers don't care about equality though when it comes to their victims." She grabs my hand. Heat rises to my face as she pulls me forward. Curse the pale skin my father gave me. Thankfully, her back is turned. We get into the car I scheduled. Our hands no longer linked, I can focus.

"What did the remote viewer say?"

I look out the window to my left, "I am not at liberty to say." Izzy scoffs. I look down at my lap and see her hands crushing her dress in my periphery. I sigh and look up, "I am contracting a different seer for this case. This is not something I want you involved in."

Izzy leans forward and faces me, "seriously?! Since when did you become my guardian?" The view below of the ocean catches my attention. The car moving through the skyway fast enough to make me get a headache.

 "Izzy, I don't mean to sound like an ass, but—"

 She lifts her hand to stop me, "That is what everyone says before being a—" she revised her response, "a butthead." I nearly laugh, her conservative background still polices her speech.

"I look out for you, just like you for me." I take a breath, "The woman we saw. She's dead."

"How do you know?" Her solemn voice draws my eyes, which capture the moment her hands release her dress.

"The remote viewer had a hard time finding her, but when she found her husk. Her horrified eyes were definitely indicative of death. Let's just say, the gaping charred hole where her mouth was is a greater testament to that." Izzy covers her mouth. With a measured pace, she removes the hand and places it on her lap.

"Was the perp' there?"

"No."

Heavy air like a vault settles over us. If we had seen things sooner. Maybe, we could have saved her. How many will die?

 The Agent sat with crossed legs. Soon. For now, no report of their passing had graced the media. However, with the next kill, there would be no choice. A smile graces The Agent's lips. A fuzzy feeling and zinging sound announced contact. They are calling. The next target's identity is ready.

They: You will go to Market Street and intercept this person.

[An image of the prey overtakes what is before my eyes.]

The Agent: Why a—

They: Silence. Be prompt. Do not show up late or early. Be there at precisely, this time.

[A clock with a display showing a date, time, month, and year appears.]

The Agent: Understood.

They: Good, the last soul was an excellent addition to our collection.

The Agent: The resilient ones usually are.

The memory of Yelena, her destroyed mouth—a charred crater, brings pleasure.

They's laughter rang through the connection. A chill passed through The Agent. What a wonderful sensation; fear. The connection fizzled as They withdrew. Time was on their side. The age of man would come to an end. The slate wiped clean.

 Izzy watches as Zara leaves the bathroom. Her robe and wet hair show her nightly ritual is complete. Izzy knocks on the door to Zara's room. "Zara?"

"What is it?" Zara calls.

"Can I sleep with you tonight?"

Zara unlocks the door and gestures to the bed, "nightmares?"

Izzy nods, "thank you."

 Izzy averts her gaze as Zara gets dressed. Zara quickly braids her hair. Izzy waits for Zara climbs into bed. Then turns to shut off the light. They hold hands like when they were children. Zara listens as Izzy's breathing slows. The sound of a snore announces Izzy's sleeping state. Zara props up Izzy's head gently. She does not let hands linger. She pushes the thoughts of Izzy's sheer nighty from her mind. This is my best friend. Friend. Not lover. The thought of Izzy's boobs shifting as she turned to shut off the light plague my mind. I release her hand and turn away. It feels like I am hiding. I hold on to the thought of a warm day in the forest. Mom, used the image to soothe me so many times. Overtaken by sleep, an ebony mist surrounds me.

 My consciousness returns to a familiar dreamscape; in the blackness, my dimension split across its planes. My skin the pale gray of a sunless night. My yellow eyes watch as the humans call to the gods, or whatever spirits might help them in their latest troubles. My raven hair falls across my bosom as I lean forward. My mirror displays the otherworld--their earth.

On the fringes of my plane, the souls of the recently dead pass through. Some souls are guarded, cross as prisoners, or cross alone to make their way. The living call to the gods, goddesses, or lone deity they attuned to. I send ushers to guide the sleeping souls, those still living, back to the realm of dreams. It is rare we allow a sleeper across the night plane to death. It is our job among others to ensure the safety of souls. I do not file them, judge them, or any such thing. I simply allow them their chance to live. My job is far different from such trivial things.

"Moira."

I am an orchestrator of fate.

"Moira."

I hear the prayers to the fates as my name. We souls of the Nyx dive down. Upon the borders, we hear her begging us.

"Please give me a chance—let me have this baby. I have waited so long."

We can all see past the veil into the car of a woman who was just told she could never bear children. I stand at the front of the group and look back at the others. We all know what her future holds. We also know an essential change has to come. The humans are too unruly. Even Yahweh, the newest god to ascend to prominence, is unable to handle the lot of them. Even working together, even answering prayers not assigned to us—things are getting worse.

"An agent must be born, the slate wiped clean. To fulfill the will of the Moirae."

Ananke stepped from behind the masses, she looked at me - "You will have a new name and new life."

"So shall it be," chorus the masses.

( Chapter originally posted in five separate posts on patreon.com/Laura_Zabala. Post edited 5.22.17 for grammar, punctuation, and to include the location where Izzy works, as well as a description of the company logo The Paranormal Taskforce where Zara works.)