The Alter Mysteries: Death Shadow, Chapter 3.1 by Laura Zabala

                                  At The Crossroads

                                    Face the reaper

                                      Know the truth

                                   Watch as they die

                            Your assignment is almost done

                              Your last breath my gift to you




  Tanaka is sharing the note with Izzy. Both of them hovering over their flimsies which are laying flat on the table. Pacing, my arms are crossed. The bubbling sounds of coffee brewing pierce my thoughts.


  “What?” I join them at the dining table.

  “The Crossroads? The ones you spoke about?” I nod to Tanaka. Izzy leans forward.

  “I think this message is literal.” Izzy looks at Tanaka and nods. He looks back to me.

  “Zara, if this guy is a shinigami we are out of our depth.” The memory of the fiery-haired beings returns.

  “Not necessarily.” The coffee maker beeps to announce that the pot is ready. Three cups on standby receive the contents. I grab the filled cups and a tray with sweeteners and milk. I place it on the table so we can all have our coffee how we like. I pour a liberal amount of milk into my coffee and three cubes of sugar. Tanaka takes two cubes of sugar. Izzy four cubes and some milk.

  “Wait,” I point at Tanaka, “I thought you are a rational man. You bring up shinigami?” The only reason I know shinigami means ‘death spirit’ is because of the popularity of the topic in anime. Izzy and I love watching anime together. 

Tanaka nods. “Look, even I am willing to believe it is possible. If it is possible, then we should steer clear.” 

  “Hmph, it sounds more like you are concerned about our welfare. Not that you really believe.” Izzy puts her hand down between us in a cutting motion.

  “Hold up, guys. Think about it. Either way, this perp’ is no joke. What are we going to do?” I am done arguing with her about her involvement.

  “Good question, I will handle this myself.” Both of them look at me like I’ve grown a second head.


  “Do you have any sense of self-preservation? The guy blew up like ten squad cars, including all the debris”

  “They were more like five. Honestly, someone needs to take him down before he throws us all back into the camps.” I take a sip of my coffee and smile. Who wouldn’t smile tasting such a divine cup?

  Before Tanaka can speak up again, Izzy interjects, “Look, Zara knows what The Crossroads are. She can even go there. Do you think it is a coincidence she is the one to get this case?” Tanaka stands and backs away from the table. “What the hell does the perp’ mean by, ‘your assignment is almost done,’ huh?” He looks at me directly.

  “Ken, I don’t know. Maybe there is something he knows that I don’t. Maybe he is working for the police. He seems to know who we are.”

  “Even worse, Zara.” Tanaka sits down again and puts his hand on mine. His fingers wrapped around my own. He is afraid. It shows in the way his eyes look at me like I could disappear any moment.

  Izzy drinks from her cup liberally. Her eyes are hidden for a moment as she downs the big cup. She slams the cup on the table causing a thunking sound. Wipes her face with the back of her hand.

  “Zara, there is something I have to tell you. Alone.” She eyes Tanaka for a moment. He doesn’t challenge her. How much time do they spend talking without me? Granted, the world doesn’t revolve around me no matter how much I act like it does. Izzy leads me to her room. The last time we kissed comes to mind the moment we step in.

  Izzy pulls out her sketchbook. Sometimes she draws her visions, especially the ones that repeat. She turns to a page at the back of her most recent book. She sets me down and points at it. Then hovers in the opposite corner to give me space. There is a comic strip on the page. A figure similar in shape to Izzy is standing before a woman. They are in an amorphous void. The only light from the women themselves. The woman Izzy stands in front of has an aura that is so bright it lights most of the space. Her gown is white. Izzy is a tiny figure before the glowing woman that is looking down at her. I look up at Izzy who motions to me to turn the page. When I do, my dreams begin to make a whole lot more sense.


 The woman in white robes has many women behind her. They too wear white robes. Their skin a variety of shades that one would see in the night sky. Some are gray-skinned, like me in my dreams. The towering figure, which has so many features of the races humanity she is racially ambiguous, points her hand at Izzy.

  Izzy wearing one of her nightgowns bows before her until she is on her hands and knees, “Watcher of fates, guide Moira that the will of the Moirae be done.”

Two Moirae one a dark navy the other ebony walk up to Izzy with a silver bowl containing pure water.

“Drink, child.” Izzy sits up and drinks the water. She clutches her head and rocks back and forth. With the turn of a page, Izzy is surrounded by so many images it is as if thousands of years of information are compressed into a single page. Izzy’s body lays flat on the ground. The next page her eyes are suspended in the void. The Moirae in lines with sickles and knives doing combat exercises. The goddess observing them. Izzy looks in a different direction and sees a library. The Moirae write in books, cut yarn and sew tapestries. The next panel there is a being whose body is coal black and eyes red. She is titanic in size like Ananke. The creatures surrounding her a spectrum of colors, notably some bleach-white with hair like fire.

“We will see sister, whose army will win.” In the Nyx they watch the souls move in the aether like marbles so tiny they seem entirely insignificant like distant stars in the expanse of night. The dark goddess stretches out her hand, the earth a distant marble in space. Several of her followers follow her command disappearing into the earthly realm.

“Ker, we don’t have to be a part of this.” Ananke addressed her coal-skinned sister.


“Life and death depend on us. Stop joking.”


Izzy’s eyes shut as the image of Ker’s face came into full view. Her red eyes stricken with hatred. The drawing ended abruptly. Panels in the beginning of being drawn stopped suddenly. Zara looked up at Izzy, “so my dreams are--no, you just happen to share them. We are too connected, Izzy.” Izzy sat next to her, “Listen, Zara, this is real, you are a member of the Moirae.”

“They’re fates who govern life and death, Greek myth. I solve paranormal crimes. Don’t you think if I were a fate I’d stop these crimes?”

Izzy sighed and grabbed her head, “You handle the fate of the criminals. Not the fate of the victims. Don’t you think it is interesting there is an opposing force that this Ker leads? Maybe you are Moira and your enemy if one of those servants from the other side.” Zara jumped off the bed and stood to look at the piles of books in Izzy’s room.

“Okay, let’s say this is possible. What are you doing for Ananke?”

“You’re asking the wrong question, Zara.”

A knock sounds at the door and Izzy lets Tanaka in, “What’s going on?”

Izzy block’s Zara’s path, “I was asking Zara on a date.”

“This Sunday 9 am?” Zara confused by the turn in conversation looks from Tanaka to Izzy, “sure.”

Izzy is the first to the door, “good, I’ll drive.” Zara looks at Tanaka standing in the doorway.

“I’ll just hang out and make sure no one tries to break into the house while you’re away.” Tanaka is gruff, but really Zara feels he is anxious. Zara closed the business for a few days, no new cases or flow of income wasn’t a great situation, but safety was more important. They had to figure out their next move. Tanaka liked to be prepared.

“Don’t just run around town enamored by Izzy without thinking things through. If you’re in danger we all are.”

Zara nodded, “That’s the thing, Tanaka. We know it’s a matter of time. We just need to be better prepared for next time.” 

Tanaka followed her trail through the hall, “I don’t like the sound of that Zara.” When they reached the living room they found that Izzy was missing. The two of them looked through the kitchen, living room and back down the hall. Izzy normally said something if she was heading out.

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