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Burning Bright

Written by Dru1076 :: [Monday, 28 October 2019 10:27] Last updated by :: [Monday, 28 October 2019 10:47]

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Brenda Breyer was home. Stepping off the train and onto the platform didn’t feel like a homecoming though. She had always felt so out of place here growing up.

“Brenda! Honey! It’s so good to see you!”

Brenda smiled for her mother. It wasn’t a warm or genuine smile, but it was a smile her mother was very happy to see. Her father wasn’t there… but Brenda wasn’t concerned about that. She didn’t even notice until her mother broke off their hug of greeting and apologized for his absence.

“Your father had stuff to do at the farm. He wanted to come, sweetheart… he just couldn’t get away.”

“It’s okay, mom. I don’t mind.”

“Well… let’s get you home, honey.”

It had been three years since Brenda had left for New York to start her legal career, and her parents still had the same old truck. They weren’t wealthy, but they weren’t paupers. Brenda always wondered why her parents didn’t make an effort to show the world a better face.

Her mother was abuzz with information, filling Brenda in on all the happenings around town. The town hadn’t changed much. There was a new strip mall, and the movie theatre had been knocked down and rebuilt, but other that everything was the same. It made Brenda realise how she herself had failed to really change. Even after all her work and accomplishments… getting her law degree, landing a job with a big respected firm, getting her own apartment, building a life in a big city… In just one week it all collapsed around her and here she was right back in Hapsburg. It was depressing.

When they got to the farm she felt even worse. Her father had the place looking exactly the same. Nothing had changed here since her childhood. And she knew it never would while her father was in charge of the place. She remembered how painful it was becoming a woman under the guidance of a man who didn’t want anything in his world to ever change. As she thought about this, she felt a strange nagging tingle on the back of her neck and at her temples. A voice… unnaturally deep and guttural… spoke into her ear. It was clear and distinct… and quite frightening.

“What the fuck was that?”

“Jesus Mary and Joseph, child… don’t frighten your mother like that! And that New York language stops right now.” Tori dramatically patted her chest and pulled the truck to a stop in front of the house.

Brenda looked at her mother sideways. How could she not have heard that deep voice? Then she heard it again as her mother got out of the truck, and Brenda knew she wasn’t going mad.

“You gonna come out and say hello to your pa?”

Brenda shook off the disturbing voice and climbed out of the car. Bob wished she was the kind of daughter who would run into his arms and give him a hug, but Brenda just wasn’t that kind of girl. She calmly walked around the truck, hearing the voice again as she did but deciding to conceal it. She’d had years of practice lying to her parents about weird shit.

“Hey there Pa. It’s good to see you.”

Brenda approached him with no hint of excitement and gave her dad a brief hug. He kissed her hair and didn’t let go right away though she released him almost immediately.

“It’s really great to see you, my little sky pumpkin. You don’t look happy. Here.” He reached into his pocket and produced a small piece of candy, handing to her with a warm smile on his face. She returned his smile, only it lacked the warmth. This little running gag her father had going was actually a sore point with her. Ever since she was a small child he had been treating her like a puppy dog, placating her with treats. In truth, ever since she had understood what he was doing from around the age of eleven, she resented it a great deal. But she got a little payback in a way be pretending it still worked.

“Thanks dad.”

Not much was said at dinner. Her parents had decided not to press her about her failure in New York, but they couldn’t think of much else to discus and ended up sitting in awkward silence with their beautiful young daughter. They didn’t understand her anymore, and she understood them all too well.

It was hard walking into her old room. As she lay her head on the pillow that night, Brenda remembered all the nights she spent in this very room contemplating the special future she had in front of her. She had expected to be a super wealthy captain of the corporate world by now. And she was smart enough to do it. She was the smartest person she knew. She was the smartest person, on paper, that her home county had ever produced. The thing holding her back, as she had been well aware for a very long time, was not her. The thing holding back Brenda Breyer was the world. The problem was other people. Jealous, spiteful, and stupid people.

She saw it in everyone she met. She saw it in her teachers as a child when she outsmarted them, she saw it on the faces of peers her whole life when they realised how much faster her wits were than theirs. She saw it when she decided to dress like a sex bomb for her uncles wedding and let everyone see her amazingly perfect body. People just hated Brenda. And Brenda hated them back. Her mind turned to how she would show them. She would show them all…

The voice… louder than before but whispering… was suddenly back in her ear. The pressure on her temples was warm and getting hot… and she sprang up in bed to look around the room in surprise. She was alone. The voice made no sense… it was not a language she could understand. But it was, she was certain, a language. With sudden clarity, Brenda realised that the voice was beckoning her. It was not scary, or ominous. It was seductive.

Rolling out of bed she went to the window… the voice approved of this. Opening the window, she sensed a need to go toward the barn. Something inside her was being physically drawn in that direction, and she needed to answer the call. And that need was intense.

Without even thinking about it, Brenda climbed out the window and dropped to the ground. She never worked out, but she had always been at peak physical fitness and it wasn’t surprising that was able to land safely. She walked to the barn and entered her father’s hallowed ground. Here was a place she had rarely been allowed to venture, even as an adult. Anytime her father found out if she went in there alone he’d punished her severely for it.

Brenda felt a wonderful warmth inside her, and the voice seemed to exalt in her approach. There was a light… a blood red flow… coming up from the floor at the far end of the barn. She needed to get closer to the source of that light. It was important… very very important. There was something deeply familiar in that light.

The large trap door began rattling as she approached… the lights in the barn and back at the house were all fading in and out, glowing brighter at the peak of each pulse. Older globes burst, and more would have followed but opening the trapdoor seemed to sooth the source of the power surge.

Brenda couldn’t believe what she was seeing as she swung the doors up and looked down at a black shape on the straw strewn floor below. She leaned over and peered down in fascination. And then a bright pulse of red light blasted out, and she felt the grip of a painful unseen force take hold of her body. The invisible force laid siege to her muscles, making her convulse in a painful hot seizure. Sweat poured from her, and she felt something awakened within her… and in that awakening the pain stopped yet the seizure continued.

The flow of power that poured into Brenda’s body was playing havoc now with lights and electrical equipment all over the farm. Her mother, awakened by the disturbance, rolled out of bed and went out to investigate. Their was a growling mechanical hum coming from the barn that drew her inside, and there she saw a sight that made her gasp in fear. Brenda was hovering in mid air above the open trapdoor, her arms and legs quivering as she shook with convulsions and murmured in some unknowable language. There was ominous red light bathing her, and the mechanical hum was unquestionably coming from what Tori knew to be the source of that red light.

With a gasp of fear, Tori rushed forward to try and save her daughter from whatever was happening to her. As she closed the distance, calling Brenda’s name, everything went quiet and the red light vanished. As it did, Brenda dropped like a stone through open trapdoor and fell like a rag doll to the hard packed each, her arm catching on the sharp opening of alien spaceship her father had kept secretly hidden since Brenda’s arrival.

“Oh my god! Brenda!”

Tori hurriedly rushed down to her daughter, carefully helping the semi conscious Brenda to her feet. She swayed with her unsteadily balanced daughter but Brenda soon recovered and brushed her hair from her eyes.

“Mom? Who am I?”

Tori had wanted for so long to tell her daughter the truth about her origins that it came pouring out of her. Holding her daughter by the shoulders, she began to tell her everything.

“All our lives we prayed to the lord to send us a child…”

Brenda listened with a blank expression on her face, taking in the information and understanding all the strangeness she had endured her entire life in one instant All the odd feelings of being disconnected, of being so out of place. All those talks with counselling staff about engaging more with other kids. The strange way she never ever saw the colour of her own blood, even though she took some nasty spills. The fact she never got sick, or had acne. This revelation was key to all the bad things she had endured that other kids growing up around her had not. The frustration and confusion she had felt…

“You… you’re telling me I’m an alien…”

“We believe you were sent here for a reason! You’re special, baby. So very very special…”

“You lied to me!” The anger came as a surprise to both of them. But Brenda embraced it. Withdrawing from her mother she glared at her with hate. “Why did you do that to me? I hate you! I hate both of you! I hate this damn town!” She turn to leave when her breath caught in her throat and she looked down at her hand. There was blood. Her blood. It was a good deep cut, and she didn’t feel it until she saw it. But the sight of the blood made Brenda’s head spin. She looked up at the strange dark ship in confusion. “It… it cut me…”

“It’ll be okay, baby… let me help me help you!” Tori moved as any mother would to aid their injured child, actually relieved to see her daughter bleed after all these years. Unfortunately, Brenda picked up on that sense of relief in her mothers voice, and it rekindled the anger and sense of betrayal she was feeling.

“Leave me alone! You’re a liar! I hate you!!”

The truth was Brenda needed time to think, but there was honesty in her words. With strength that surprised them both she shrugged off her mother and ran for the ladder, leaving Tori to call after her. Brenda was feeling a turmoil of emotions, and she needed to be alone to process. The red light had been much more than just a revelation of her true identity. She was abuzz with a feeling of something locked deep within her being released, and whatever it was was growing.

Brenda was standing on the hill looking over town before she stopped and realised she had run at a full sprint for just over four miles. She wasn’t even remotely puffed. With each passing moment, in fact, she felt more full of energy. And just how fast had she been running? Paying closer attention she started running again. In just two steps she had accelerated into a blur.

***

Greg was proud of his ability to drive. He could drive like a demon, sober or drunk… just ask him and he’d happily tell you. He was a two speed kind of guy, and if he wasn’t parked he was at full speed ahead. His V8 roared as it chewed up the road, the big Chevy guzzling the gas the same way he’d been guzzling beers for the last four hours.

As he came hard around a turn, pushing the handling of his muscle car to the limit, he squinted at a blurring shape coming directly at him down the road. For a moment he though it was a woman, but it moved too fast and then just before it hit him it leapt up into the air and the Camaro passed under it. He watched in the mirror as he pulled the car up to a stop, but nothing came back down.

“What the fuck?” Greg span in his seat looking all around for whatever he’d just nearly run over. He was alone on the road, with only the comforting rumble of his idling V8 for company. Shrugging his shoulders he put it in gear and peeled off down the road. As he pushed the stick up into third, the frightening blur shot past the front of the car and he screeched to a stop having missed whatever it was by only a few feet. And then with a rip of torn air the blur blasted the back of the car, rocking the heavy vehicle on its suspension. Greg whipped his head around, but the blur mocked him by shooting past the front bumper making him turn quickly back before it was already passing the back of the car again.

“Fuck this!” Spooked by the strangeness of it all, Greg floored it and took off down the road. The blur rocketed past him, cutting across the road and vanishing into the forest. Then it reappeared from the other side of the road and ran across the front of the car making him swerve dangerously. Recovering control he sped up. It was a fast car, and the engine modifications weren’t the only thing he had done to improve its performance. He’d tricked out the transmission, lightened the body, and spent a lot of money on the suspension and brakes.

He screamed as the blur angled out of the forest across the front of the car only missing it by an inch. He howled in frustration, watching it flash through the red glow of his tail lights three times it rapid succession. “Fuck off!” Determined to outpace the mystery object, Greg hurtled up the road at reckless speed. But the blur just rocketed up behind the car and passed him as though he were standing still. It then made his fear rise a notch by lifting from the road and rocketing straight up into into the sky. Greg leaned forward, scanning the sky, but was unable to see any sign of the blur now. Then a cold feminine laugh chilled his heart and he looked to his right to see her. Her clothes the colour of the blur, a raven haired woman was running right alongside his roaring muscle car. She looked perfectly at ease, as though she were just out for a stroll, and she was smiling in a way that made him instantly hate her. It was a smug smile so full of self assured confidence and pride he just instantly wanted to punch her as a natural reflex. Was she… she looked familiar…

Her finger pointed ahead, and drew his attention back to the road just in time to make a slight turn he nearly missed. He looked back to the right and she was gone. That face… he knew that face. Just as the name came to him, and his eyes returned to the road, he saw her standing in the middle of the lane ahead as if daring him to run her down. He was so confused and frightened by the unnatural experience that any hesitation was gone. He bore down at her eager to smash her smug smile off her face with the front of his Camaro. She made no effort to move from his path, and the car plowed into her with the V8 at full throttle.

***

“She found the ship? She knows everything?”

“It’s like she was drawn to it. Something was going on with the lights. I’ve never seen her so upset… she still wasn’t back when I went to bed.”

“Where is she now?”

“I’m right here,” Brenda popped into the room, surprising her parents with her sudden appearance.

“Uh… are you okay baby? It’s only fair, that you’re upset…”

“It’s fine, Mom. Really.” With a clear air of calm in stark contrast to her emotional outburst the night before. Brenda sat at the counter and grabbed the cereal box and a bowl.

“You must have a lot of questions, sweetheart. You can ask us.”

“No. It’s really okay.” Brenda poured milk onto her cereal, and dug out a spoonful.

“Honey… I know we kept secrets from you. I’m real sorry about that.”

“I understand. It okay. I had time to think about it and I’m happy about everything.” She took another mouthful of cereal from her spoon and chewed, giving them a smile as she ate that came a little too late after her words to be convincing.

“Brenda, I…”

Tori stopped her husband from pushing the point, placing a restraining hand on his arm. “Well..we’re both ready to talk when you do want to ask us questions. It’s a lot to process…”

“Is that guy Ryan still in town?”

It was such a random question it threw Tori right off. Ryan rescued her. “Sure. He’s doing real well for himself now. He’s taken over his dad’s dental practice in town. You used to have a crush on him didn’t you?”

Brenda smiled. “I think I’ll drop by and get a check up.”

“He married Susan,” Tori observed, pouring everyone a glass of orange juice. “You should have seen the service! Such a gorgeous young couple.”

“Susan Stanton? I don’t remember her being gorgeous.”

“You’re not jealous are you? You dated a lot since those days, baby.”

Brenda didn’t answer. She just kept eating her cereal while she looked out the window and planned her day.

***

Ryan Heimerstat rinsed his patient’s mouth. “Spit please, Gloria. And we’re all done. Bring Tommy back around next month, okay? I know he hates the chair, but he’s gonna hate it more if he doesn’t get his regular check up, okay?”

“Thank you, Doctor. I’ll make sure he comes. If I ask him to bring Billy in, he will come.”

“Good good. It’s always a pleasure to see you Mrs Carsforth.”

Ryan followed his patient to the door of the surgery, and leaned his head out to signal he was taking a break to his receptionist. She smiled and nodded, and the good dentist retreated into his workspace and nurse. “Grab a coffee, Kathy. The next patient is just a consultation.”

“Thank you, doctor. You want one?”

“Please. I’ll be along shortly.”

Ryan picked up the phone as his nurse left the room, and opened an outside line.

“She’s very pretty.”

He jumped at the unexpected voice, and turned to see a dark haired woman the same age as him standing right there in the room with him. “Oh… you startled me! I do apologize… I must ask you to wait a few more minutes outside. I need to make an important phone call.”

“It’s okay, Ryan. I’m not a patient.”

“I’m sorry… you seem… oh wow! Brenda? It must have been years! How are you doing these days?”

“I’m back in town for a little while. I thought I’d drop by and check up on you.” Brenda stepped closer. She smelt wonderful, and her amazing fit body was dressed in a tight blue dress that showed off every undeniably seductive curve. “See how you were doing these days.”

Ryan shuffled uncomfortably. Hot memories of incredible sex flashed through his mind, and he looked away from Brenda’s wonderful breasts.

“I’m married now, you know. To Susan.”

“I remember Susan. Chubby girl; braces.”

Ryan’s eyes narrowed with a flash of anger. He instantly remembered the reason why had never wept over this cold hearted woman. It was never never easy to be sure whether Brenda was deliberately cruel or not, but her attitude had been a key reason they had broken up all those years ago.

“You should join us for dinner. Bring your folks…”

“Do you really love her? Can she do the things I can do?”

“What?” Ryan was astonished by the question. The memories triggered by what she could do… with her mouth… with her hands… with that body… made his face flush with colour and his crotch tightened. “That’s an inappropriate question, Brenda. We’ve been married for years… of course I love her.”

“I’m going to tell you something, Ryan. I’ve recently come into my inheritance, and things are going to change around here. The first thing I thought of when I found out about my potential was you… about how different things would have been. You aren’t going to believe the things I can do now. None of them will.”

Ryan was distracted by her nipples as they tented her dress, and didn’t really hear what she was saying. “You can’t be here, Brenda. I’m working. I’m married. You’re a… a very beautiful woman… but I’m married and happy with my wife. This can’t happen.”

“You don’t understand. You don’t know how special I am.”

“Money doesn’t make you special Brenda. And your dads farm ain’t worth that much.”

“Ha! I’m not talking about inheritance from my parents here. I’m talking about my real parents. I’m going to show you Ryan. You’ll see. Soon… everyone will know.”

Her tone was disturbing. Ryan was about to order Brenda from the room when Kathy returned from the kitchen with two coffees, pushing open the swinging door with her back and turning into the room. Ryan looked her way, relieved by her timely appearance. When he turned back to ask Brenda to leave, the beautiful crazy woman had vanished into thin air, as if she’d never been there.

“Here’s your coffee, Doctor.”

***

Susan said good morning to three people as she made her way to the car with the shopping. Both the kids were at school now and she had at least part of her day back. Popping the trunk of the car, she frowned at her cell phone and slipped it into her pocket, feeling a bit worried that Ryan might be having a very busy morning. She placed the bags securely so they wouldn’t move around, and stood up closing the trunk.

The smiling brunette in front of her as she turned with the keys in her hand made Susan gasp in fright. Where in hell had she had come from?

“Hey there, Susan. It’s been such a long time.”

“Hello.”

Susan was uncomfortable. The vibe she got from this woman sent chills down her spine. Brenda had always had that effect on her.p, ever since they were children.

“You lost a lot of weight. Remember when you were fat? Ha! Doesn’t seem that long ago, does it?”

Susan frowned. She knew Brenda well enough to know the hot as hell brunette was trying to be kind.

“I’ve got to go, Brenda. It’s good seeing you.”

“Sure. I ran into Ryan. Congratulations.”

“What?”

Brenda held out her hand with a smile. “Mrs Heimerstat. It’s like meeting you for the first time… we’ve both changed so much.”

Susan warily moved her keys to her left hand, and did as her polite southern upbringing demanded. Brenda’s fingers were warm, and a little smaller than Susan’s. Their hands clasped in an age old gesture.

“I thought I’d marry him. Did you know that?”

Brenda’s grip tightened, and Susan looked down with concern. The pressure was uncomfortable, like when she met her husbands friends and they forgot their strength. It didn’t hurt, but the signal was clear. “Hey…”

“Oh… but of course you knew. Because I told you, didn’t I, Susie?”

Susan winced as her fingers were now mashed painfully together. “What are you doing? Ow! You’re hurting me! Let go!”

“He was mine first. You’re not meant to be a part of his life. You should think about getting a divorce.”

Susan screamed, unable to believe the pain as Brenda’s fingers tightened around her hand like a steel vice. The pain was blinding, and she could hear the bones grinding and crunching. The sound alone was sickening, and Susan could feel the source of every individual crack and pop. Nobody was this strong.

“You’re special. Because you’re the first one to see the future. Leave him. If you don’t… I will kill you, and I’ll kill your kids too. Do I look like someone who wants to raise someone else’s little maggots? If I have to kill you, I’ll have to kill them. Think about that while your getting that arm reconstruction.”

Susan was in too much pain to register the shocking threat in Brenda’s words right way. And then the pain grew worse, the strength of Brenda’s powerful grip instantly doubling. Susan was driven screaming to her knees, unable to believe the astonishing agony. Looking up to see Brenda’s eyes sparkling down on her with intense interest, her lips turned in a cruel smile, Susan pleaded to no avail. Obviously enjoying herself, Brenda jerked her hand down and snapped both the bones of Susan’s forearm in multiple places before letting go. Susan clutched at her broken arm and howled in agony, bringing a dozen people running her way. When she looked up to see them rushing toward her, there was no sign of Brenda at all.

***

Tori was pinning freshly cleaned bedsheets to the line when the sherif’s patrol car came rolling up to the house. She smiled and waved, wandering over to see what he was up to.

“Hey there Frank. How you doing?”

Frank looked unhappy. But then… Frank always looked unhappy. “Hello there, Tori. Fine day… real fine.”

“Sure is beautiful. We best enjoy it while we can, right? What brings you out here today?”

“Well, I’m here to see Brenda. There was an incident in town, at the supermarket. I don’t suppose you happen to have your daughter home?”

“I saw her wandering into the woods toward the river this morning after breakfast.”

Frank frowned in deep thought and scratched his beard. “You mean down toward where the river runs past your property? Not toward town?”

“She probably didn’t get all the way to the river. I imagine she’s gone to check out a few old spots. Come around the back and I’ll give her a holler.”

“Very kind of you, Tori.”

That walked down the side of the house and toward the woods. Tori was curious as to why the Sheriff wanted to question Brenda about something that happened in town when her daughter had been in the woods all morning. They walked down past the barn and

“Brenda! We have a guest!!”

“I’m right here, Mom.”

Tori and the Sheriff were both a bit startled by Brenda’s voice speaking directly behind them. They turned to see her standing just a few feet away next to the barn.

“Oh honey! You scared me!” Tori laughed. “What are you doing in the barn?”

“Just examining the animals.”

The Sheriff cleared his throat. “Good morning, Brenda. Do you mind if we have a word?”

Brenda smiled. “Not at all.”

The Sheriff looked at Tori and the silence dragged on a moment before she made her apologies and walked back to the house. “Oh… of course you’ll want to talk alone. I’ll go and make some coffee.”

“There was an incident at the supermarket about an hour ago. Do you know anything about that?”

Brenda’s eyes narrowed in thought. “No.”

“You know Susan Heimerstat? And her husband?”

“Yes. I was at school with them.”

“You mind telling me where you’ve been this morning, Miss Breyer?”

“Miss Breyer? Is this a formal interview, Sheriff Morgan?”

“I heard you’re a lawyer now. Well, ain’t that something. I’m investigating a witness report regarding an assault that resulted in grievous bodily harm. The victim is in hospital having surgery on her arm. Witnesses are pointing at you. As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s my job to ask questions as a result of that.”

“Of course. To answer your question I’ve been in the woods all morning.”

“Okay. So you didn’t go to town and talk to Ryan? No quick trip to the shops today?”

“Sheriff Morgan… I’ve been in the woods walking around. For the last half hour or so I’ve been right here in the barn. If anyone hurt Ryan, it certainly wasn’t me.”

“Well… I’ve got a sworn statement that says you were in town, and that you assaulted Susan at the supermarket. I’ve got another statement from a separate witness that puts you in town at around the time of the assault.”

“Somebody is lying to you. Obviously. I was here on the farm all day. Dad took the truck over to Uncle Pete’s, so I don’t see how I could have walked all the way to town and back already today. It’s not even noon. Why… that would take a couple of hours each way if I walked that far.”

“It is a long way. A determined person could cover that ground.”

“Really?” Brenda smiled in a way that Sheriff Morgan did not like at all, but he had to admit she was right. It was too far for anyone to walk there and back in less than half a day. “Seriously Sheriff… I mean, I would have to be able to fly to do that.”

“How do you feel about Susie and your ex getting hitched? You and Ryan dated for a long time I hear.”

“Oh Sheriff… that was years ago. I’ve dated quite a bit since then. Would you like me to come down to the station? I can make a statement if you like.”

“Well… I guess I am going to need you to sign a statement. Drop by when you get a chance and if I’m not there one of the deputies will interview you. And I don’t mean next week. Tomorrow or the next day.”

“Of course, Sheriff. I hope Susan moves on after this.”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, I understand assaults can be quite traumatic. I hope she doesn’t dwell on the past. That kind of thing can kill a person, you know? On the inside… I mean.”

“She’s a good soul. Good souls are strong. I’m sure once her injury is healed she’ll be fine. And if I do my job, which you know I will, she’ll get some justice for her pain.”

Frank walked back to the car deep in thought. It was a strange case indeed. Susan had sworn black and blue, as had her husband, that Brenda had been in town. However, not a single witness could be found to support their claims. Nobody else at the dental clinic had seen her. Nobody at the supermarket had seen her. He had asked dozens of people around town and nobody had seen Brenda at all that morning. On the strength of his current evidence, he didn’t have a case. The adamance of the Heimerstat’s statements had him convinced they were telling the truth, but he could not say the same about Brenda. She was lying to him, he was sure of it. His every instinct told him she was guilty. None of it made any sense.

***

“The Sheriff came by today,” Tori said to Bob as she slipped the roast back into the oven.

“Oh? What for?”

“Brenda didn’t say. She’s been out in the woods most of the day.”

Bob yanked open the fridge and took out a beer. Leaning on the counter, he pulled the can open and took a long swig. He leaned on the counter and wiped his wet lips on his sleeve. “He came to see Brenda?”

“Something about an incident in town. At the supermarket.”

“An incident when? It isn’t like she could have driven to town… I had the truck.”

“I don’t know. It was really weird. She was in the barn again.”

Bob stood up looking worried. “Down with the ship?”

“No. She said she was looking at the animals.”

“She doesn’t like animals. I heard the strangest thing today. Marjorie at the supermarket said some lady got her arm broke closing her boot lid. Must’ve slammed that thing right down on it hard. Stupid right? But that’s not the strange thing. It was Susan Heimerstat.”

“What? But… Brenda was just asking about Ryan this morning.”

“I know. And the Sheriff comes? Maybe I should ask her about it.”

Tori glared at her husband, her own suspicions overshadowed now by her indignant anger that husband dare have the same idea. She was really angry with herself for having the thought pass through her own mind in the first place.

“Don’t you dare talk such nonsense. She just found out some pretty hard stuff to deal with and you won’t make it harder for her by throwing wild accusations around.”

Bob smiled reassuring and rubbed his wife’s upper arms. “Okay. Don’t worry. You’re right. There’s no way she could have gotten to town and back on foot. It’s just a silly coincidence. Can I help with dinner?”

“Help how? By burning the gravy again?”

“That was nine years ago. You know how I know that? Because you remind me at least once a week.” Bob smiled and pulled her into a close embrace. “I love you, Tori Breyer. I would have starved to death long ago if it weren’t for you.”

“You’ll starve to death tonight if you don’t get out of this kitchen and let me get to work.”

Half an hour later Bob was on his second beer and walking out the back door to call Brenda in. The light was fading fast, and the air had already started to chill. He was about to shout out to his daughter, assuming she was out in the woods with a book or deep in thought. She’d always been a loner as a child, despite her parents efforts to get her involved with other kids. Knowing where she came from… or rather: not knowing… Bob had always been troubled by this. Other kids simply didn’t like her. Watching her interact with her peers had been painful even before she had started to talk. After a while, he realised the other kids seemed to instinctively know there was something off with Brenda. Even other parents didn’t take to her easily. And when she did start talking… much earlier than her peers… she was just so smart, so remarkably intelligent, that other kids found her annoying and weird. He had watched her struggle with acceptance her whole life.

Bob hated the world a little bit for it, because he loved his daughter deeply. She had been such a beautiful baby, and so well behaved. However, he could never forget where she really came from. And he knew the world had every right to question its acceptance of Brenda Breyer.

He was about to call her name, when the sound of crying lambs caught his attention. They had been at it since he walked out, but it wasn’t uncommon for them to have a bleat together. What was odd was that they didn’t stop. Taking a thoughtful swig of his beer, he put the half full can on the porch rail and walked down toward his barn. He grabbed his .22 from its handy hiding place near the door as he walked in. Snakes weren’t uncommon, and Bob kept the gun handy for just such occasions. Grabbing a few bullets from their seperate hidey hole (Tori would go on for hours if she found a loaded gun lying around) he slipped one in the chamber and walked down toward the frightened animals. As he turned the corner and looked down the row of pens his breath caught in his throat. He would much rather have seen a snake.

“Brenda?”

She didn’t respond at all. She just kept standing there looking down at the young lambs as if In some sort of trance. Bob’s eyes darted from the terrified panicking animals and back to Brenda several times but what he was seeing still didn’t make any sense.

“Brenda?” He pulled the bullet back out of the gun, and leaned the unnecessary weapon against the wall. “Honey? Are you okay?” He approached her cautiously, feeling very uneasy. She made no indication she had heard him at all. “Brenda?” He couldn’t see her face, and there was something about the way she was standing that added to the bad vibe he was getting. “What are doing, baby?”

He reached out to gently touch her shoulder, and she let out a gasp and jumped. It was like she’d been sleep walking and his touch woke her up. She recovered from her start with amazing speed, which did not make Bob any more confident about the situation.

“Oh… its you. Hey Dad.”

“What are you doing? Everything… Okay?”

“Sure,” she replied with a smile. “I was just thinking about stuff. Is dinner ready?”

“Uh… yeah. Come on up to the house and lets eat.”

She nodded and walked ahead of him as Bob gave the lambs a curious examination. As soon he’d taken her attention away from them, the animals seemed to calm a little. They were still bleating, but with much less urgency. He knew what a frightened lamb sounded like… but he couldn’t work out what had scared them. As they walked, Brenda surprised him with a heartfelt apology.

“I’m sorry, Pa. I know I’m not supposed to go in the barn alone.”

“It’s okay, Brenda. You’re not a kid anymore. I guess you know now, right? Why I didn’t want you in there?”

“You didn’t want me to find out who I am.”

“That’s not it. Fact is… if people knew about what it’s that barn, they’d come take you from us. I don’t know why I kept it. I really don’t. Maybe it was so you could find it, like you did.”

“How did I get a social security number?”

Bon stopped in his tracks. “What?”

Brenda stopped too, and turned to face her father. “I wasn’t born in a hospital. How did I get a social…”

“I heard what you said. Just seems… a funny thing to ask right now.”

“It can’t have been legal. Somebody else knows about me, because you’d never be able to pull off something like that on your own.”

“It wasn’t easy. You’re not wrong about that. It was worth the effort though. According to the records, you were abandoned anonymously at a fire station in Baltimore. Your mother took care of that stuff with help from her dad. Grandpas been dead for a long time. Nobody else knows but me and your mother. And if I’m honest… I think it’d best if you hadn’t found out.”

“You never would have told me if I hadn’t found it?”

“Well… truth is I wouldn’t have. I wasn’t entirely honest before. I kept that ship because I was going to show it to you when were grown up.” Anger flashed in her eyes and Bob felt ashamed. “I know… you’re growed up now, and I never showed you. But as the years went by, and you got older, I guess I… I guess thought you were better off not knowing. I know it hasn’t always been easy for you, and I figured if I told you where you really came from it would just make it worse for you.”

“How?” Bob could see the anger in her eyes, but she showed no emotion in her voice.

“It’s one thing to feel out of place. But knowing that you fell out of the sky… I thought that might make you think that you don’t belong here. I didn’t want you thinking that.”

“I know now. And it’s okay, dad.” She smiled. “I’m going to be just fine.” She turned to walk to the house. “You should have shown me. Things might have been different. For everyone.”

***

After dinner Brenda went up to her room while her parents sat down to watch television. Once upstairs she closed her door and opened her window. As she turned away from the opening, she heard the voice. Her phone buzzed in her pocket.

“What the…”

Pulling out her phone Brenda looked at the screen. The voice rumbled again in her ear and the screen on her phone flashed red. Black characters scrolled down the screen, a mix of strange runes and what looked like Chinese letters in no sensible arrangement. The voice invited her, seductively begging her for something. The screen flashed red and then the web browser was opening in its own. Images of violence flashed by, slowly at first and the faster and faster. Soldiers beating women. Men kicking dogs. Lions taking down antelope and gorging on the flesh. In every image there was a clear victim and a very dominant attacker.

She stood there for several hours with images from around the world, stolen by the ship off the internet, were fed to her at rate that would make the screen simply appear white to any human observer. The still images were interspersed with short clips, none of which would have passed muster on YouTube, and Brenda found it all deeply fascinating. The focus shifted from the animal world to gangland violence and war, from physical violence to weaponized attacks on every scale. Brenda soaked it all in like a sponge, realising the ship was trying to tell her something important. The images grew more and more intensely graphic, showing animals and then people torn open with their innards splayed out, or with limbs missing. The series culminated in close ups of internal organs and blood that a normal person would have been repulsed by. Brenda could not look away.

The voice was chanting now, and she was seeing footage of Hitler, Pol Pot, Kim Yong Il, along with paintings of Ghenkis Khan, and Napaloen. All scenes of dictators and kings standing powerfully above their subjects.

***

Bob woke with a start, glancing automatically to his 20 year old alarm clock. It was 2:23 in the morning. In all his years on the farm, he had never heard noises like those the animals were making right now. The pigs were squealing, the chickens were going crazy… and the lambs were screaming more urgently than ever before.

“What the hell is going on down there?” Tori asked, rising beside him the bed and looking out the window toward the barn. She was relieved there was no ominous red light visible… but the sound of terror coming out of the barn left her chilled to the bone.

“You wait here. I’m going to check it out.”

Bob bolted down the stairs and burst out the back door. He was out of breath by the time he had run the length of the yard to barn. As he got nearer he could hear sickening screams of blind terror. There was a loud crunch of timber, and he stopped in tracks outside the barn suddenly concerned that going inside might not be such a good idea. There was another crunch, and a slapping sound of something wet being slammed hard against a support post. Bob’s concern for the animals overrode his fear and he ran in inside.

There was less noise from the lambs, and they were quiet while the other animals continued to make a boisterous ruckus, by the time he was rounding the dividing wall with the .22 in his hand. As he stepped around the corner there was a loud explosive crash and something smashed its way powerfully through the back wall of the barn behind the pen of lambs. Running past the gory scene in the pen, giving it a wide eyed look of horror and disgust as he ran by, he got to the back door of the barn as fast he could but there was no sign of whatever had just made a three foot high hole in the hardwood wall of his barn. It was the right size for a small bear, but there was no sign of any tracks leading into the barn.

Bob returned to the lambs, and gaped at what was left of the animals. Pieces of them were scattered all over the floor, with some large chunks of torn flesh stuck even stuck to the fence Bob had never seen animals ripped apart like this.

“Oh my god! What the hell happened in here, Bob?”

Bob turned to see Tori standing there in her woolen night gown holding a hand over her mouth in shock.

“I’ve never seen anything do this to animals. Tori… we have to talk to Brenda. I think she did this.”

“What? That’s crazy! Why would you even say that? It was a… it was a cougar or something. A wolf.”

“There’s no tracks, Tori. Look! No cougar tracks. No wolf tracks. No bear tracks. And I’ve seen what those critters do, Tori. So have you. She was in here just this evening when I came to get her for dinner. She was standing right there where you’re standing right now, and she was just staring at these little guys.”

Tori’s shock and disgust was swept aside by her indignation. “How dare you even think such a thing.”

Bob picked up a piece of a lamb, a head with four inches of spine and a single front leg dangling loosely while it dripped hot blood onto the floor. “Look at this Tori. There nothing on Earth could do this. We need to talk about this. She needs to explain.”

“I can’t believe you, Bob. How is it that Tori is supposed to have done this? You’re talking crazy! Look at that hole! Brenda did that did she? After she ripped the lambs apart? How? With her bare hands?”

Bob calmed himself and tried to reason with his angry wife. “You didn’t see her, Tori. You didn’t see the animals reacting to her. It was like she was a wolf. They were frightened like she was a predator ready to strike. Something’s been different about her these last few days and you know that. You see it too, don’t you? I know you do. Ever since you found her with the ship.”

Tori did know. But she refused to allow herself to see her child tearing into the helpless lambs so violently. It just wasn’t possible. She couldn’t let be possible… and she wouldn’t let it be. “She’s just lost her job in New York and found she’s not just adopted but from another world. Of course she’s acting weird! She’s under more stress than either of us could understand. We just need to make sure she knows we love her and we’re here for her. And you need to clean up after this cougar. I don’t want Brenda to see this. She’s having a hard enough time as it is.”

***

Ryan was disturbed by the sound of a car alarm going off in an side street near the hotel. He’d fallen asleep on top of the covers with the window open, and it had gotten cold. It had been such a long day, and he was glad he’d found a room right across from the hospital. It was only an hours drive back to Hapsburg, but he decided to stay. The surgery had been extensive, and had still been going when he had been told by a friendly nurse that he really needed to get some sleep.

As he rolled up to his feet and closed the window, he discovered he was not alone.

“She’s not really worth all the worry, you know.”

Ryan whipped around to see Brenda standing right there in the middle of the room. She was wearing a sexy red evening dress, standing barefoot on his carpet with no care for the chilly air.

“How did you get in here?”

“I flew in through the window.”

Ryan scoffed at that. “This is the third floor.”

“I didn’t say climbed. I said flew. I was thinking about Susan today… about all those adorable social media posts you made about your beautiful relationship. You guys are so perfect for each other. I can see now that breaking her arm isn’t going to be enough.”

Ryan grew instantly furious, but kept his voice cold. “You should be in a cell. The Sheriff will find something. He knows about everything.”

Brenda nodded, smiling in a way Ryan found both hypnotic and disturbing. “I know. He doesn’t have enough to get me… but I will have to deal with him now. You were much too convincing, Ryan. He won’t stop being suspicious of me.”

“Why did you hurt her? What has Susan done to you that deserved that?”

Brenda laughed. “She lied to me more times than I count when we were kids. And then she stole you from me. I didn’t hurt her, Ryan. I tried to save her… but now I understand that even if I convince her to go, you won’t let her leave. I think you guys are just too much in love. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me you’ll leave her right now and come with me. Tell me you’ll be mine forever, and I’ll make you the wealthiest man in the world.”

“Holy shit… just how far off the reservation are you, Brenda? What the sweet fuck are you talking about?”

Brenda smiled confidently. “I’m so serious right now you couldn’t possibly comprehend what you’re about to pass up. It’s lucky for you that I love you, Ryan. Because I care about you enough to make sure you don’t miss out on the greatest opportunity of your life.”

Ryan stepped toward the phone, astonished by her insanity. “I’m calling the police. You’re not getting…”

Brenda was suddenly standing over the phone beside the bed, somehow crossing the entire room before he had finished his first step. “No. You’re not going to call the police.”

Ryan’s eyes went wide. “How did you…”

Brenda chuckled. “I’m not the daughter of stupid redneck farmers. I’m much more special than that. You’re the only one who knows how special I am. But soon… everyone will see. Come with me, Ryan. I always loved you.”

Ryan was visibly repulsed. As incredibly hot as Brenda was, he just hated her too much. The sex had always been amazing. More than amazing. But she was just so strange… so exhausting. Both emotionally and physically. There were dozens of reasons they had broken up.

“You are out of your mind. We were terrible together… and I love Susan. I married Susan. We have children, and I love my children. I will never leave them. Do you understand me, Brenda? I love my family. You can have any man, I’m sure. But not me. I love Susan and I always will. You’re wasting your time with this. I will never leave my wife.”

Brenda sighed. “I know, Ryan. And I’m going to take care of that.”

The way she said that frightened him, and Ryan moved for the phone. She blocked him and he tried to shove her aside. His eyes widened as he tried to move her. It was as though she were a steel pillar driven into the earth, and he couldn’t budge her. She looked down at where his hands were on her skin, his knuckles white but his fingers failing to dimple her flesh for all his strength, and glanced back up with amusement sparkling in her eyes.

A single arm rose, and Brenda laid her hand on his chest. With strength that moved his weight with terrifying ease, she shoved him backward and he flew bodily into the far wall and crumbled to the floor. For a moment he was sure she had broken a dozen bones, but the pain faded as he struggled to his feet.

“I’m going to help you make the right choice. One day… and it better not take too long, Ryan… you’re going to thank me for this.”

Brenda walked to the window he had just closed moments before and opened it back up again. Looking out at the hospital, and into the window of Susan’s room on the third floor, she smiled before turning her attention to the ground floor. The hair on Ryan’s neck bristled as a strange energy seemed to suddenly permeat the air. A gentle red glow appeared around the window frame at the height of Brenda’s head, but Ryan couldn’t see the source. Then a blinding flash of red light exploded forth and he watched in amazement as raging red beams of angry energy burst out of his ex-girlfriends eyes and struck the ground floor of the hospital.

Ryan rose from the floor with wide eyed horror on his face, watching over Brenda’s shoulder as the red beams took a terrible toll where they hit the building across the street. The power of the beams was appalling, and as Brenda moved her gaze across the length of the ground floor she set the very concrete on fire and left it dripping like molten lava. Ryan couldn’t comprehend what he was seeing. She melted the whole wall, glass concrete and steel blasted away by the incredible heat in an instant. Ryan watched in growing dread as she kept sweeping the deadly beams back and forth carving a molten path through the building four feet high and ever deeper. Inevitably the whole side of the building collapsed, it’s support literally taken out from under it. The noise was defeating as the structure fell, and Ryan’s heart sank.

“My god… Brenda… what have you done…”

Brenda turned to face Ryan, her eyes glowing gently red. “I saved us both a lot of time and foolishness. Get some sleep, Ryan. You look like shit.”

With that, and the whole west wing of the hospital a flaming ruin for a backdrop, Brenda picked both feet up off the ground at once and floated into the air. Right in front of Ryan’s disbelieving eyes, she drifted out the window and hovered in the air a few moments allowing him time to walk to the window and see her floating there, the image searing itself into his subconscious. A split second before the first stunned witness cam running onto the street with their phone in their hand, Brenda flashed upward into the sky with such speed that Ryan pulled a muscle in his neck trying to track her departure. His eyes fell back to the burning ruins of the hospital and a scream of despair and loss rose in his throat.

***

“Good morning, Honey. Did you sleep well?”

“Sure. I forgot how quiet it is out here on the farm.”

Tori and Bob exchanged glances. “So you didn’t hear the animals last night,” Bob asked, trying not to sound suspicious but only making it more obvious.

“I didn’t hear anything. What happened?”

“I was going to…”

Tori elbowed her husband into silence. “A bear broke in and killed all the lambs. There was quite a ruckus. It didn’t wake you?”

“No.” Brenda took another bite of her bacon and smiled. Her parents smiled back.

“Have you thought about what you’re going to do now?” Bob asked, sipping his coffee.

“What do you mean?”

“Well… you can’t stay around farm sulking forever. Have you been looking for work?”

Brenda finished a mouthful of eggs and washed it down with cold orange juice. “I do have a little something going on. A friend of mine in the city was working on the next generation of cellphone network. I have a few contacts with tech companies, so I’m going to switch things up and go work for him.”

Tori and Bon were both surprised. “Who is this friend?”

“He lived in the building with me. You don’t know him.”

Tori smiled. “That sounds really great sweetie. So what are you up to today?”

Brenda looked thoughtful for a moment. “There’s a few things I need to take care of. I have to go make a statement at the Sheriff’s office about Susan. But… that can wait until tomorrow. I’m still a bit frazzled, to be honest. If it’s okay, I’m gonna just take a book and go out in the woods.”

***

“So who found him?”

“George and Elroy were up here tracking. The tracks led em right here. No wonder… the smell of blood would have drawn em for miles. How you think he managed to get all the way up here in the Camaro?”

Frank stood there scratching his beard. His eye wandered expertly over the forest floor as he made a slow robot of the crash site, and then he stopped and regarded the smashed up and ruined wreckage of Greg’s Camaro in the small clearing.

“It looks like he got dropped here from a helicopter. The earth is shifted like he just… sort of… fell out of the sky. From about… tree height I’d say.”

One of the deputies was examining the huge gaping hole in the side of the wreck. “This happened after, I reckon. Like they opened up the car with power tools to maybe save him.”

“Sounds beautiful, except that he was alive when they left him here,” Frank noted. “Takes a few hours to die from these wounds. If I didn’t know better, I’d have to say this was definitely aliens. What is that?”

“Looks like something he might’ve put on there hisself. A logo for a rock band or something?”

Frank leaned down and examined the logo painted on the bent rear panel more closely. It was like a double Bluetooth symbol, an angular figure eight with a line sit through the middle. “This is blood. Make sure the lab guys take a good sample of this… I want this checked out. If this is Gregs blood, we need to find out who drew it. If we find them, we find out how in hell they got this Camaro so far up in the mountains that I had walk for two hours to get here. I’m going to go see Gregs mom, and tell her son’s died in damn car crash just like I always said he would. You two stay here and don’t let no animals eat any more of Greg. The State boys will be here soon. I’ll send some food up… it’s going to be a long day.”

***

Samuel Hannah was having a great day. He should have been working on his next app, or cleaning up his filthy apartment, but he’d been happily waging war in the world of online gaming with a cavalcade of fun shoot outs. He was about to sneak around a corner and jump a the position of a talented challenger when a dark avatar sprung out into his face and blasted him with a spray of virtual lead.

“God damn it! Ha! The son of a bitch got me again, guys. I’ll get back there as soon as I can…”

He had just enough time to grab a coke from the fridge before he was respawned, and he jumped up from his gaming chair to do just that only to be stopped in his tracks by the last thing he expected to see.

“Brenda? Holy shit! What are you doing back in New York?”

“I just flew into town for the morning. I wanted to talk to you about something.”

“Oh?”

His printer started spitting out documents, making him jump in surprise.

“How did you… how did you get in here?”

She smiled. “Would you like to get rich, Sam? I mean… really really rich? Would you like to be famous?”

Sam was not impressed. “What the fuck are you talking about? Brenda I… you should answer the question. Did you just break into my apartment?”

Brenda stepped right up close, not touching him… but invading his physical space. Her scent filled his breath and her tight black dress left nothing to his imagination. He knew how amazing sex with her was from previous experience, and he was instantly hard as a rock. She had his full attention.

“I need you to be my Elon Musk, Samuel. All you have to do is exactly what I tell you for the next few months, and you’ll have more money and power than Bill Gates.”

Sam chuckled. “I hope you’re aware how lame that sounds. If you’re gonna try bullshitting me you gotta be more subtle.”

Brenda walked by him and picked up his neglected game controller, taking his avatar back into battle.

“I have to tell you, Sam… I wish it was unnecessary. I wish I could think of an easier way, but things would be a lot easier for me if I had someone to be my partner. I don’t like the idea of fame… I just want the money.”

Coming up on the first enemy in the game Brenda downed them instantly before the other player had time to even see her.

“I just want to stay in the background, and besides… nobody will accept this level tech was dreamed up by a lawyer.”

She downed three enemies, walking right into the open and letting them ambush her. The moment they popped their heads into view she hit each opponent with one clean kill shot so fast it made Sam blink in astonishment.

“I can deliver what I promise. And you can deliver a face the world will accept.” While the printer beeped to announce it had finished its job, Brenda took down another enemy in the game. Sam had never seen such incredible reflexes on a player before. As he watched her slaughter her every opponent he grew immensely envious. “Sign that document, and you’ll become rich beyond your wildest dreams. And I’ll show you things you never dreamed possible.”

Sam picked up the stack of paper and looked it over. It was a contract, written in the most complex lawyers mumbo jumbo that he had ever seen in his life. “What is this?”

“That, Mr Hannah, is your confidentiality agreement and contract. Sign it, and we can start taking over the world.”

With his team mates from the game cheering his name in her ear through the headset he’d dropped to his neck, Sam watched in amazement as his former neighbor racked up perfect kill shots until the round ended and his team won by landslide. She’d singlehandedly brought them back from a whitewash defeat to claim a runaway victory. Placing the controller down, Brenda turned and locked eyes with her potential business partner.

“What do you say, Sam? I have so many things to show to you.”

***

Ryan tried to tell them what happened, but there wasn’t a single investigator who let him get past the line about Brenda shooting light from her eyes. He was dismissed and angrily shown the door. Driving fast back to Hapsburg, his mind a complete mess, he nearly crashed three times. He went straight home ignoring phone calls and just sat on his couch for hours trying to make sense of what had happened.

There must have been dozens of people trapped in that burning rubble. All that death and destruction… and it was only the loss of Susan that touched him. And it was with her face in mind and tears rolling down his cheeks that he climbed into his car and drove down to the Sheriff’s station. He had to tell Frank who really was responsible for Susan’s death. He needed to tell someone who knew he wasn’t bullshitting.

At the Sheriff’s station he was told Frank wasn’t there. He said he would wait, but the deputy he spoke to suggested it would be best to wait at home. That was when he got furious and insisted he needed make a statement. His emotional state led him to being put in cuffs and placed in a cell.

“You want to wait?” The deputy had said as he led him to the cells. “Well you’ll have plenty of company waiting in here hot head. We’re holding nine guys for court in the morning. Don’t worry… ill put you in the next cell over. They’re a noisy bunch though.”

“Holy shit… are you placing me under arrest? Gonna read me my rights or what?”

“Sir I am indeed at this time placing you under arrest. You are being detained for questioning in relation to your assault on a Sheriff’s deputy. A Sheriff’s deputy, I might add, whose had a helluva long day. Relax. There’s a bed in here and you look like shit. Get some rest.”

The cold concrete walls of the holding cell offered a strange comfort to the shaken man. When the deputy closed the door and locked it, Ryan felt safe for the first time all day.

***

Charles Jenkins was not as young as he appeared to be. He was thirty two, but looked twenty. It was his small wiry frame that gave this impression, but his overly polite and eager to please nature didn’t help, either did his habit of always being face down with his phone. He was sitting at his desk typing up the report about Greg and his Camaro when the lights flickered. He looked up at the ceiling and frowned. The fluorescent tubes were all flickering off and on, dancing randomly while even the image in his computer monitor became distorted and useless due to static interference. And then it all stopped.

“Hello. The Sheriff asked me to come make a statement?”

Jenkins was surprised by her presence. She was just suddenly standing there, just on the other side of glass wearing an amazingly hot two piece outfit that showed of her incredible body to good effect. He knew who she was straight away, but he hadn’t seen her come in.

“Sorry, Miss Breyer. The Sheriff isn’t available right now. Office hours are…”

Brenda smiled. “If you call him, I’m sure he’ll come in. It would be more convenient if he were here. That’s okay, though. He said a deputy could take my statement. Maybe you’ll want to call him later.”

“Well, I’m the only one here right now. I gotta stay out here and keep an eye in the front desk. I got strict instructions not to call Frank unless there’s an emergency.”

She was turning in the charm, and Charlie felt himself go weak in the knees even though he was still sitting at his desk. “You’re the only one I need. I’ve got to be headed back to New York… a meeting came up… and I really need to sort this out today before I go back. Can you help me out here, deputy?”

She spoke as though asking him out on a date, her voice soft and low and her eyes smiling. Charlie was awkward in getting up from his desk because he was suddenly fully erect and unable to hide it. He was relieved that she showed no sign of noticing, and moved to buzz her through the security door.

“Sure. I can help with that.”

He got his first good look at her and was amazed. He had last seen Brenda four years ago at her uncles wedding, and like most men there had been surprised how well built she was. Her skin had a healthier sheen now, which he didn’t think possible, and as she brushed past him through the door he noticed she smelt great. He didn’t normally notice that sort of thing.

“Thank you, Deputy.”

“Please, just call me Charlie. If you don’t mind, I can start taking your statement out here. There’s a couple of guys coming back soon with some fellers that got in a fight over at the bar. When they get in we’ll move to the interview room.”

“Sure.”

Charlie led her to his desk and pulled a chair over for her. He sat down and opened a new file, entering her details. “So… are you back living with your parents? Shall I put the farm down as your residential address?”

“Yeah. I’ll be staying here for a little while. But not long.” She sat down and placed her handbag on the floor leaning up on the leg of her chair.

“So… this in regards to the incident in the supermarket car park yesterday?”

“Yes. But maybe we should start with Greg.”

Charlie stopped typing and looked up. “I’m sorry? Are you talking about that car crash?”

Brenda nodded. “He was the first one I hurt. I didn’t set out to hurt anyone that night, but there he was. Driving like an asshole.”

Charlie’s eyes narrowed. “You were driving Bob’s truck?”

Brenda gave him a condescending smile. “I was out for a run. Burning off steam. He nearly ran me over.”

Charlie nodded. “I see. So… he swerved to avoid you and crashed? Sound like you’re lucky to be…”

Brenda shook her head. “No. I jumped the car just before he hit me. He didn’t have time to swerve, the that’s when I first found out for sure I can fly. But I wasn’t very good at it. I crashed through a tree coming back down.”

Charlie gave her a strange side wards glance. “What the hell are you talking about, Brenda? This is a serious matter.”

“You have no idea, Charlie. Nobody understands just how serious. Ryan knows. That’s why he drove down here to see Frank tonight.”

“I’m not sure I follow this, Brenda. Are you saying you attacked Susan?”

“Greg was first. I was just playing with him at first, but then I remembered what an asshole he was to me over the years. And the voice told me I should kill him. It even suggested what to do.”

Charlie didn’t know what to say. “The voice… it told you to make him crash?”

“Not in so many words. It’s hard to explain… but it tells me things with feelings. With images. I can’t understand most of what it says, but I have worked out at least three words. It’s the three words it whispers most of all.”

“Brenda… are you seriously telling me you hear voices?”

“I’m sorry but I wanted to explain about what happened with Greg. It wanted me to let the car hit me. But I didn’t make him crash… I just stood there and he ran into me.”

Charlie was only getting more confused. “What are saying, he chased you up into the mountains and ran you down with his car? And crashed afterward?”

Brenda laughed. “Oh, that’s silly. No… I took the car and dumped it in the mountains. I didn’t want it found right away. Then I saw the police up there crawling all over it. Next time I want to hide something I’ll do a much better job.”

“Brenda, I…”

“What’s wrong, Charlie? I’m giving you a full and open confession here. Aren’t you going to type this up?”

“Brenda… this is just crazy talk. You let him crash into you? Then why aren’t you in hospital? And what do you mean you took the car into the mountains? How exactly did you do that?”

Brenda didn’t even blink. She showed none of the signs of deceit that Charlie considered himself almost as good as Frank at spotting. “I’m not in hospital because I’m stronger a car. A lot stronger. Strong enough to carry a car like you carry a briefcase. I just picked it up and flew a few miles into the mountains.”

Charlie frowned. “Right. The flying thing again.”

They were interrupted by the arrival of two more deputies. They had two drunk guys with them, both of them showed signs of being in a fight. Charlie hopped up and from his seat and buzzed them in.

“You okay Charlie? You look worried.”

Charlie just gave a subtle crazy-person signal and closed the security door behind the new arrivals. “I’ll tell you later. Get those guys into the cells and get back up here. I need one of you to watch the desk while I finish this interview.”

Sam saved the file and put the computer on his desk to sleep. He led Brenda down the hall to an interview room and sat down with her and opened a laptop. “Damn… that’s weird. The file isn’t there. Just a second.”

“Really? That’s a shame. Do you want me start again?”

“No. I remember what you said.” He typed fast for a few moments and rebuilt the statement. “Let’s talk about what happened at the supermarket. That’s really why you came in.”

“Well,” Brenda spoke with an air of mystery. “We’ll get to the real reason I’m here later. I’m just waiting for the Sheriff to get in for her really interesting stuff. I’m going to blow your minds.”

Sam ignored her for a moment as he prepared a statement file again. “There we go… all done. How about we start with where you were at the time of the attack.”

“I was in the car park. Breaking Susan’s arm.”

Sam began typing. “In your own words, describe the lead up to the assault.”

“I had just left Ryan’s surgery. I was looking for Susan to get her to leave and take the kids with her. I have plans for Ryan that don’t involve having her around. I flew around over the town… went to their house, checked the school, the bars, and the supermarket. I waited around until she came out, and landed next to her the moment the coast the was clear. I made sure nobody saw me land, because I don’t want everybody to know about my powers.”

Sam typed it up, feeling as though he were writing some bad fiction. “Okay. So what happened when you got to the supermarket?”

He didn’t like the way Brenda smiled. “It was pretty sweet. I tricked her into shaking my hand, then I crushed her bones like glass. Not right away, you understand. I did it nice and slow so I could enjoy watching her face. The sounds she made were fascinating. I crushed her hand, told her to leave Ryan and let her know I’d kill her and her kids if she didn’t. While she was absorbing my little ultimatum I broke her arm.”

“How did you break it?” Sam asked as he typed.

“It really wasn’t very hard.”

“I see. Brenda, what is this all about?”

“It’s about what the ship said. I want to make my parents proud, so I’m going to do what they’ve been asking.”

“What’s that, Brenda?”

“It’s the only three words I am certain I understand. Every now and then it will just keep saying it over and over. Take the world… take the world… take the world.”

Sam was silent a moment as he typed. Brenda was sitting quietly watching him as he worked.

“So let me break this down. You killed Greg because of the voices in your head, by letting him crash his Camaro into you? And you assaulted Susan because of these voices?”

“Just one voice.”

“Have you considered it might be unwise to listen to this voice?”

“Sure, but it’s the only voice I’ve ever heard that hasn’t lied to me.”

Sam typed some more then sighed and leaned back in his seat.

“Brenda… are you sure you want to sign this?”

“You don’t want to ask me more?”

“What else have you got that you want to say?”

She laughed again. “Don’t you want to hear about the way I killed her? Isn’t that why Ryan’s here? To snitch on me?”

There was a knock on the door, a single sharp tap, and Frank entered. Sam stood up, looking quite relieved, and walked out. Frank gave Brenda a quick up and down visual scan, and pulled his head out of the room.

***

“Wait… what has Greg got to do with this?”

“I’m telling you Frank… she just came out with it. I don’t know if this woman’s setting up an insanity defense or something, but this bitch is crazy.”

“Go back in there and keep her talking. I’m gonna get Ryan up here and see if I can’t get to the bottom of this nonsense. Something ain’t right about that woman. Between you and me Sammy, I’m starting to think there’s aliens after all.”

***

Sam sat back down while Brenda kept messing about with her phone.

“You said you wanted to confess to the killing of Susan Heimerstat?”

Brenda kept playing with her phone. “Sure. I killed her.” She clicked the screen off on her phone and put it on the table. “I did some research on their relationship, and I realised she would never leave. And he would never let her. Especially with the children. So they only have themselves to blame.”

Sam frowned. “That isn’t funny, Brenda. Susan was in that hospital in Greenacre. You must have seen that in the news. Are you saying you killed her before the fire?”

“What I’m saying, Sam, is that I brought that hospital down and killed Susan. I killed all of them, but it was only really so I could kill her without making it too obvious she was being targetted. So I blasted the bottom floor of the hospital until enough of the support pillars were gone and it all just came crashing down. It was a lot more effective than I expected. It felt like I could do a lot more.”

Sam heard honesty in her voice, and saw it her perfect posture, but what she was saying made no sense.

“None of this is credible in any way. Not the thing with Gregs car. Not the thing with Susan’s arm. Not the flying. Certainly not the hospital thing. Your story doesn’t just have holes. It’s a chasm of impossibilities. Please just tell me one thing, before we go any further. Why are you telling me all of this? From what you claim, you went to the trouble of trying to hide that car wreck. You went to the trouble of making sure you weren’t seen at the supermarket. And you brought down the entire wing of a county hospital, killing God knows how many innocent people, just to mask the murder of one woman. If you’ve gone to all this trouble, why come here now and confess to me?”

Giving the deputy her most chilling smile yet, Brenda leaned forward and spoke conspiratorially. “I wasn’t going to say… but I don’t have any reason to lie to you. You’re going to be dead before I leave.” She leaned back and kept talking as if she’d just shared a small pleasantry. “I disabled all the cameras before I came in, and hijacked your computer systems. It’ll be like I was never even here. So it doesn’t matter what I say to you, does it?”

Sam was unimpressed. “You want to just tell me what this is all about. I mean… what it’s really all about? Can we just cut through all the bullshit here for a minute and have you tell me what the in the name of sweet Jesus this is really meant to accomplish? My sense of humor is wearing real thin.”

“Honestly, I’m just seeing what I can do. I feel my potential, and the ship is urging me to begin the war. Or conquest… or slaughter. I can’t quite put my finger on what it’s trying to tell me. So think of this as a little test run. If I can pull off what I have in mind here… then tomorrow I’ll start taking over the world. Oh… would you be a sweetheart and grab my handbag for me? I left it out at your desk.”

Sam was getting a headache from all her bullshit. He shook his head in growing frustration and went out to get her bag. He made a quick check to make sure there wasn’t a weapon, and saw the bag was actually empty except for a bit of red cloth. He shrugged, thinking this was actually one of the least insane things about this deranged brunette. He walked back in and handed her the bag.

“Here you go. This is such a waste of time Brenda.”

“Thank you.” She took out the red fabric and whipped it out. Sam watched her pull her head through a hole at one end, and she sat there smiling with a red cape draped over the back of her chair. “I need to make sure I don’t forget to put this on before I start killing everyone. I’d hate for any of the footage to get ruined.”

“What footage? You disabled the cameras, remember?”

“Only the ones up here. The ones downstairs in the cells are still working. Once I get started, I’ll reactivate these ones too.”

“What are you waiting for? Why aren’t you killing me already?”

“I’m waiting for Ryan to finish telling Frank about the hospital. He’s just up to where I opened the window.”

“Now how you could you possibly know that?”

Brenda held up her phone and showed him. On her screen was a statement file being typed by a busy cursor blinking out text at an awkward rate.

“What the fuck… that’s… impossible.”

“You really should be more open minded.” Brenda put the phone down and pulled out another bit of red fabric from her bag. “It’s been fun talking to you. But if I’m going to start at just the right time I better finish getting ready.”

Charlie watched bemused as Brenda stood up and turned away from him, pulling what turned out to be a mask over her head. He was totally convinced she had either lost her mind or was pulling a really bad prank of some kind. He remained certain of this right up until Brenda grew a foot taller right in front of his eyes. As she grew her wonderfully perfect body became visibly stronger. The changes were almost imperceptible when examined individually, but when combined they left Charles speechless. Her body had already been inviting and beautiful. She had a body that Charles could easily imagine striding a Victoria’s Secret runway, while at the same time bouncing and flipping across a balance beam or tumbling out a floor routine. And then Brenda slipped out of her clothes and revealed a black leather bikini.

“Brenda? What the…”

Without saying a word, the newly forged Brenda turned and put her hands on her hips. She stood completely still, and kept her eyes on her phone watching Frank type. Charlie just gaped at her, utterly lost for words and more than a little mesmerised by the astonishing improvement to Brenda’s shamelessly displayed body.

***

“I’m telling you. I know what I saw, Frank. It sounds crazy… I know.”

“Alright. I’m going to write this up and print it out. Then I want you to go home and sleep. Call your kids, but you’re in no state to have them around you my friend. You shouldn’t let them see you like this.” Frank reached out and placed a comforting hand on Ryan’s arm, squeezing firmly. “I believe you. I ain’t saying I believe everything… that’s a lot to ask… but that Breyer girl is bad news.” Frank returned to typing up the statement. “We got her in there confessing right now. I swear I got no idea how she’s pulling this shit, but…”

“What?” Ryan was startled, his voice loud. Horrified suddenly she may have heard him, he was careful to speak quietly but he couldn’t keep the panic from his voice. “She’s fucken here? In the building? Jesus… haven’t you been listening to me? That woman is a fucking demon from hell… if she’s here we’re in danger.”

“Hey… language. Relax big guy. She’s with Charlie. You know Charlie? The guy who kicked your ass into a cell a few hours ago? Yeah… he kinda told me about that. Charlie don’t look much but he’s a strong little son of a bitch. If he can handle you, he can handle her. And if he can’t, there’s me and two other guys. Both of them are a lot bigger than Chuck. I’m nearly done here.”

Ryan did relax, but only a little. “She’s a lot stronger than she looks. How do you think she broke my wife’s arm so badly?”

Frank shrugged. “That’s easy, that one. She did it with the trunk lid.”

“I thought you said you believed me.”

“I said that, and I meant it. I reckon you saw exactly what you say you saw. I just don’t think what you actually saw is exactly what you say. A flying woman who shoots death rays out of her eyes? I am not looking forward to filling the Feds in on this, believe me. There all done.” Frank finished typing and moved the cursor over the print button. He clicked on it, but nothing happened. He clicked again. “Damn computers.”

Ryan was about to speak when there was a loud blood curdling scream, muffled but still clear and chilling. Then there was the crack of breaking masonry and suddenly the scream was much louder. “No! Please! HELP ME!!!”

Frank leapt to his feet and rushed out the door. He ran down the hall toward the interview room drawing his sidearm and alarmed to see the interview room table had been smashed through the wall. He flicked the handle and flipped the door open, and as he did there was a crack of more masonry being shattered and he saw concrete dust billowing into the air. Stepping back and raising his gun, he covered his mouth and strained to see into the room. What he saw when he moved forward and looked inside made his stomach turn, and turn hard.

Charlie was propped up against the wall, his legs splayed out on the floor. Except he wasn’t just propped up, he was pinned to the brickwork by the nightstick going through his shoulder. His arms were missing, though Frank soon found them in opposite corners of the room. His stomach had been torn open… not cut, Frank knew what torn flesh looked like… and his intestines had fallen out onto his legs. But for all that, what really turned his stomach was Charlie’s head. The crown of his head been split open, and split wide. There was blood splattered everywhere. And then it got worse, because Charlie looked Frank right in the eye.

“Hey Frank. It’s the darnedest thing I ever saw.” He was talking like he was high on PCP, calm and dreamy. Then he frowned slightly and spoke more seriously. “She’s not human, Frank. She can’t be. Hey… can you… turn down the… lights…”

Frank span his eyes around the room, but there was no sign of Brenda. There was little question where she’d gone though, because there was now a hole punched clean through the wall. He was looking through it out into the car park. He returned his attention to his wounded deputy, but by the time he had knelt in the man’s warm blood Charlie was mercifully dead.

“What the hell?” The other two officers had joined him, one of them going over to the hole in the wall. He stuck his head out and looked down the exterior walls in both direction. Pulling himself back in he turned around and looked at his partner. “There’s no sign of anyone out there. Let’s go…” His sentence went unfinished, startled out of him by the shocking crash of a car being pressed into the wall and covering the hole. There was another crash from the front of the building, the crunch of a car getting wrecked quickly followed by another being smashed down on top of it.

By the time the three men had made it out to the front desk, a third car was dropped onto the two already blocking the front entrance to seal it off completely. Frank hated being wrong. Especially when he was wrong against his own instincts. He took the key from his pocket and unlocked the rifle rack, throwing shotguns to his men and taking one for himself.

“What are you doing?” Ryan demanded. “I told you what she did to the hospital! We gotta get out of here!”

“Have they got a fucking helicopter or something? What the fuck is going on?”

Before he could answer the deputy or even tell Ryan to shut up, Frank’s attention was drawn to the flickering of the ceiling lights. All the computer screens flashed on, their screens showing nothing but rolling static. Then all at once the screens blew out and the computers themselves burst into flame. The explosions made everybody jump, and just as Frank had recovered from that shock the fluorescent tubes strobed extra fast and bright and then blew in a shower of sparks and glass. Everyone covered their faces and flinched away from the dangerous shards. As they raised their heads there was a mighty crash and a section of roof exploded down.

Landing amongst the fallen roof debris came the cause of all the mayhem. But she looked nothing like they had expected. Her entire head was covered in a blood red mask, and she wore a full length cape of the same material. Beneath the cape she wore a small black bikini that weaponised her incredibly perfect body. This woman had Brenda’s perfect posture… but it didn’t look like her at all.

“Who the fuck are you?” Frank demanded, raising his shotgun at the intruder. His two deputies did the same.

The red mask tilted to the side, and then the woman just vanished. A blur flashed past the deputies and their shotguns vanished from their hands. One of them let out a scream and stared in shock at the blood spurting from where his left hand had been torn away. Then the blur flashed back and slowed enough for them to see it was the masked woman. She took hold of the bleeding man and rocketed upward right through an undamaged section of roof. The deputies scream was ripped away and quickly became almost inaudible distant. There was a small bang on the roof, followed by another, then a long string wet slops and slaps. The screaming had stopped.

“What the fuck…”

There was another bang, then a leg fell through the hole she’d most recently made. All three men took an involuntary step back in disgust. And then then a disembowelled headless torso wearing a deputies uniform crashed through the ceiling over Charlie’s desk and smashed its way to the floor.

Ryan screamed and dove and a desk to hide while Frank stepped to a hole and scanned the sky with his gun barrel. “What the fuck is going on, Frank? What is that thing?”

Without warning the red blur came rocketing through the west wall, smashing through Franks office and close by the frightened deputy. He screamed, his left arm suddenly missing. Frank gaped in horror as the blur returned, smashing a new set of holes passing by to tear free another arm. Spouting blood, the deputy let out a blood curdling scream. His wrenching cry of confounded agony was squashed by a third rocketing pass of the supersonic blur. This time, the blur passed clean through the middle of the deputies body and Frank’s eyes widened in awe at what he witnessed. It all happened so fast he almost couldn’t follow it. A large section of the man was instantly liquefied, and the momentum of the blur ripping through him carried his legs and upper body at supersonic speed into the wall.

Frank took two staggering steps backward unable to comprehend what he’d just seen. As he did, two feet drifted down from the sky through the hole and slowly the red masked killer descended and landed on the floor in front of him. The incredibly sexy body was splattered with blood, but not nearly as much as it should have been by Frank’s reckoning. He didn’t even hesitate for a second. He raised the gun and fired. Before the pellets had even cleared the barrels she had vanished, teleporting four feet to the left. He swung the shotgun around and blasted off another spray of shot into suddenly empty air. He swung the gun to the right to where she was now standing and she moved this time before he even pulled the trigger. He tried to line her up, but she kept popping out of existence and reappearing somewhere else and he ended up just swinging the gun around chaotically in the air.

He let off three more shots trying to hit his impossibly fast target only to miss wildly and waste more shells. He let out a scream of frustration, and at that the masked woman stopped where she’d first landed and just stood there watching him. He lined her up, holding fire with the gun shakily aimed at her face. With a cry of rage he stepped closer and fired. His target didn’t move this time, she just stood there and took the shotgun blast without blinking. Deciding in that instant that the mask was some kind of armour, he aimed at her exposed stomach where she was completely unprotected and fired again. Once more she stood there and took the shot without any sign of concern. He saw the pellets splatter away from her naked skin leaving no sign of doing any damage at all and cursed in frustration.

In desperate anger he took another step closer and smashed the masked head in the face with butt of his shotgun. He then turned on his heel and drove the butt into her sexy flat stomach. His blows were both ineffective on his target and costly to himself. He pulled a muscle in his shoulder and sprained his wrist while achieving absolutely nothing. Tossing the shotgun he raised his pistol and shot her in face.

She let him have three shots, her head unmoved by the bullets that were shattered on her forehead, then her arm came up and she took the gun with such impossible speed that two of Frank’s fingers were claimed as well. She put the barrel of the gun to her temple, and pulled the trigger. Unable to make an impression on her skull, the bullet failed to clear the barrel and the gun was destroyed explosively. Already bleeding from two missing fingers, Frank was now had a piece of his gun lodged in lung. And it broke a rib to get there. None of that registered on him at all though… he was running on pure adrenaline now.

While she reached out grabbed hold of Frank by the shoulder she tossed the ruined gun through the wall. Frank grabbed her wrist and tried to jerk her hand away, but she was made of steel and just ignored him. He punched her once, then twice in the face. Then he screamed in pain, his hand badly broken. With her free arm dangling by her side she cruelly scrunched her fingers into his shoulder, destroying bone and muscle without mercy, and hoisted him with no sign of effort into the air. Carrying him the length of the room at arms length like he was a soiled nappy she pressed him up against the wall and ripped his nightstick from his belt, ripping the leather apart with frightening ease.

With speed and strength that was both shocking and unsurprising given what he’d seen her do, she slammed the blunt tip of the nightstick through his body just below his collar bone and smashing through his shoulder blade and deep into the concrete wall. She stepped back, and looked him up and down. He couldn’t see her face, just her eyes, but he knew she was smiling. With cruel clarity, Frank realised she was enjoying this. She was enjoying all of this a lot. Her hands came up and she laid them on his arms before slowly rubbing him soothingly. She increased the speed of her rubbing very rapidly until her hands were a blur and his shirt was smoking and then it burst into flame. Looking him deep in the eyes, she pressed a single finger into the blade of his hip and applied the pressure of a machine press.

Ryan heard another massive crack and pop from Frank, and decided not to stick around. He ran for the basement and the only place he thought he felt safe: the cell Charlie had put him in. Opening the door at the bottom of the stairs he was surprised to step into a brightly lit room. There was no sign of the electrical surge having done any damage down in the cells at all.

“Hey asshole! What the fuck is going on up there?”

Ryan gave the prisoner a look that made the big brute let go of the bars he was pressed up against and step slowly away, his eyes turned to the dark stairs behind Ryan. Frank was babbling incoherently to the sound of crunching bone and sickening wet squelches… all of which was loud enough to be faintly but clearly heard by everyone in the room until the door closed itself.

Another smaller guy with a scar on his cheer ran up and yelled demands at the ashen faced Ryan. “Let us out of here! Dude! Come on man! Hey! Where are you going! Hey asshole!! I’m talking at you mother fucker hey!”

Ryan had no idea how to open the cells. Even if he did, he knew for certain these men were going to die. “You’re safer in there!” he assured the angry prisoner, who was surprised to see that Ryan had run for three individual holding cells further inside the block. He practically threw himself inside the bricked off cell, then slammed the solid steel door and rattled it to check it was locked. He had no way to get out, but that was the furthest thing from his mind. Hyperventilating, he backed away from the door until the back of knees was against the bed.

A loud crash echoed through the basement, followed be a smaller one that Ryan realised must have been the door at the bottom of the stairs hitting the bars of the main cell.

“What the fuck? How did you…”

The words, spoken by the little angry guy with scar, were cut off by a wet crunch. Then he was screaming and his fellow prisoners became a noisy rabble, protesting boisterously. Ryan could hear a struggle taking place, and the short guys screams grew more shrill a moment before dying off suddenly with the chilling sound crushed bones. Something heavy and wet was thrown against a wall, and everything went silent until a metallic squeal filled the air.

“She’s coming in!”

The air erupted with the sound of angry desperate men. It sounded like they were all piled up on her, yelling and grunting as they tried their best to beat the living shit out of the intruder. A stomach turning squelch was followed by a short shrill scream and a much louder squelching sound. A sharp snap and a crunch was answered by another scream.

“No! Please! Please!”

“Fucking kill the bitch!”

Ryan heard another crunch, another scream, and a splatter of thick liquid, and could take no more. He covered his ears, falling into a seated position on the bed and rocking back forth. His own screams could not completely block out all the powerful thumps that came through the floor, nor could he totally block out the screaming. Fortunately… the screaming got quieter as the number of prisoners being tortuously torn limb from limb was shrinking fast.

Suddenly the screaming had all stopped except for Ryan. He stopped and tried to be really quiet, dreading the thought that his loud screaming had certainly given away his hiding spot. Even though it was inevitable the demon woman would find him.

The light in his cell flickered, and flashed brightly before it exploded above him. In total darkness, he pulled his feet off the floor and hugged his knees to his chest, pinning himself hard against the wall. He saw the shadows of her legs under the door, and he knew she was standing there.

“Leave me alone! Please! Just leave!”

The darkness was suddenly banished by a bright red glow in the centre of the steel door, right at the top. The glow brightened from deep red to brilliant white, and ran slowly down the door cutting through the steel just like a blowtorch. Molten metal ran down ahead of the almost blinding heat, and soon the entire door was cut in half. The two separate pieces of plate crinkled in a way that told him she had grabbed hold of each one by scrunching the steel in her hands. And the heavy steel was ripped out of the doorway and thrown in either direction.

All the lights were strobing now, and the demon stood there in all her terrifying glory. Her body was splattered with the blood of her many victims, and her eyes were glowing gently like the ends of cigarettes. She just stood there watching him while he began to sob. She walked slowly forward… and he tried to push himself through the wall babbling incoherently in fear.

Then the lights outside stopped strobing and she reached a hand up to her frightening mask. Grabbing hold of it, she ripped it off and grinned at the cowering wreck before her.

“Damn. That was a lot of fun. Thank you Ryan. I mean… I was going to get to this tomorrow. But thanks to you I got to do my little test early.”

Ryan was still shaking, staring up at Brenda but unable to put together any words.

“I know, baby. Impressive bod, right? It’s the real me, you know. This was hiding under there the whole time, but nobody knew. Not even Ma and Pa knew. And now you know. You’re the only one who knows how special I am. But soon they’ll all know. I’m going to show them, Ryan. I’m going to show them all. It’s going to be so beautiful, Ryan. I’m going to take the world, just like my parents wanted me to. And you’re coming with me. Now… we are going to talk about this some more tomorrow. I’ll even answer any questions you might have. Right now… I feel like having some more fun. I’m thinking maybe the Vatican. No? You’re right. I should save the Vatican for when I’ve got their attention properly. Something a bit smaller… but it’s got to be famous. What’s that? You think that’s a good idea? Seems a bit a long shot… but okay, Baby. Viva Las Vegas. As for you. Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to get in your car and go home. When you get there, you’re going to sleep. You are not going to try telling anybody else about me. I won’t have you spoiling the surprise! We’ve got a lot to do, Ryan. I know you don’t realise yet, but being chosen by me is the best possible thing that could have happened to you. You are, quite genuinely, the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. Now go home and get some sleep. And do it this time… you really do look like shit.”

And then she was gone, and Ryan was alone in a badly damaged building with only the pieces of Brenda’s brutally destroyed victims for company.

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