The Downing Building
New Hebron, California
When they emerged inside the void Sapphira, wasted no time unleashing a beam of energy at Chemosh. Though aware of Van den Broeke, he did not speak or acknowledge the other exemplar for fear of drawing attention on her. Amy had none of their abilities and had no way of defending herself. If he could keep the other occupied, perhaps he would spare her his wrath. Though a faint hope, it was all he had.
Chemosh’s form was bathed in light as the blast cascaded around her outstretched hands. She might have looked angelic if it hadn’t been for the malicious grin stretched across her face. Sapphira dropped his hands, letting the energy flicker and die. He pursed his lips and dove forward to dodge the other’s counterattack, but there was no way to avert or ward off what came next.
Color coalesced all around them, muted images sprang to life growing brighter and more vivid in seconds. Amy and Chemosh faded away. A city took form around them, and Sapphira swallowed hard as he came to recognize the images all around him. It was New Hebron where his daughter had died. He froze peering all around; the street was devoid of people or cars. Otherwise it was just as he remembered that fateful night.
Even in the dark, the shadows seemed bright compared to the emptiness of the void. He looked around and stopped. He locked his eyes on to the exact spot where it had happened. He furrowed his brows and stepped closer. As he did, an outline of a car and a pair of forms huddled on the ground took shape. They grew more vivid with each step and when Sapphira was close stopped dead in his tracks.
He found what he expected, but it didn’t make it any easier. Hot tears stung his cheeks, and he tasted bile in his mouth. He gritted his teeth and looked down at his former self, clasping the dying form of Clara.
His past self wept and Sapphira did too. Sapphira sobbed, between breaths, but Everett cried making no sound. When Clara’s last breath escaped her lips, Everett looked up at his future self and glowered.
Sapphira took a step back, his breath catching in his throat as he eyed his other self between sobs.
“Look at you!” Everett screamed out at him. “Look at what you’ve become!”
Sapphira took another step back, but did not speak. Instead, he clenched bath fists at his side and watched his former self shake with rage.
“That monster killed our daughter, and you just let him go! How could you?!”
“I-I,” Sapphira sobbed and felt his eyes grow wide. “I thought that was what I wanted, but I’ve come to understand that it wasn’t right. That’s not who we are!”
“It’s not who you are! You weak, degenerate, twisted freak!” Everett scream, lurching to his feet, his bloodied form still dripping blood. “If only we’d been given powers before it was too late! I never would have gotten involved in all this namby-pamby nonsense.”
Sapphira stood there breathing in and out, trying to steady his breath. He let out a high-pitched scream and scowled at the old man. “You don’t understand a damn thing, old man, you’re angry and hurt, but that doesn’t excuse the hatred and bigotry you have spread. I’m ashamed of things I said and did when I was you!”
Sapphira screamed again, and his, or rather her, past self cackled and an all-too familiar inhuman grin spread over his face. “Oh Sapphira,” he asked. “Why so defensive?”
Sapphira threw both hands up projecting a wave of energy that sent the old man hurtling away. She spun around, expecting Chemosh to emerge, but instead silence followed. She heard soft, feminine laughter and turned back to his daughter’s corpse. The body had jerked sitting upright, and she leveled her cold dead eyes on him. Her face cracked into a grin and her lips parted revealing a double row of razor-sharp teeth.
Clara glanced down at her hands, cocking her head sideways as her fingernails extended outward becoming thicker and sharper. She lurched forward swiping at Sapphira and the exemplar lurched back as the other’s new claws raked the empty air.
The ground rumbled all around her and Sapphira jumped back as it cracked and gave way around him. A dozen or more forms emerged from the ground. Every creature was more misshapen and inhuman than the last. Each wore a grotesque version of a familiar face, his wife, his granddaughter, his parents, and a ten-year-old boy whose face he’d almost forgotten, his older brother who had died when he was still young.
Other faces from the past joined the mix, but the only one that produced a scream of terror belonged to the creature who resembled Amelia. Her face was a near perfect recreation, but that was the only resemblance. She leveled her blood-red eyes on Sapphira and grinned at her with a mouthful of fangs. This produced another scream from the exemplar. Though one of the most grotesque things she had ever laid eyes on, it was the fact that it looked on her with Amy’s eyes that so disturbed her.
Amy’s body was twisted and contorted into impossible proportions, but that wasn’t even the most appalling thing. One breast drooped from her chest, stretched and swollen and hung inches above the ground. The other half of her chest was flat and covered in grizzled hair. She had a complete vulva between her legs, but it squirted green cum on the ground with each new step.
Amy stretched its hands out, and Sapphira jerked away from them realizing as she did so that instead of fingers each digit resembled a penis, some circumcised and some not. The creature called out, but it spoke with such a strong slur, that Sapphira could make neither heads nor tales of what it said.
Sapphira heard a voice call out, but she couldn’t be sure to who it belonged. She spun around, a figure flickered into sight before her and disappeared again. She did not recognize the figure which had been faint, but she thought it might have been Amy. She called out her name, but received no answer.
The mock-Amy lurched forward backhanding her with one of her phallic hands and Sapphira jerked back, not quite avoiding the attack. Though she experienced no pain, the blow sent her reeling away into the chortling form of Barbara, her dead wife. She knew she was looking upon an illusion and that these creatures were not her loved ones, but despite this understand she did not attack.
The creature that resembled Barbara, lurched forward her clawed fingers raking the side of her breasts. Sapphira jerked away, avoiding another attack from her mother. She was maybe three feet up when something latched onto her ankle and was slammed back down to the ground. The exemplar never learned which of her attackers had been responsible before being buried under a writhing mass of misshapen figures. Her cries fell on deaf ears.