—CASSIE—

TUCKER HARPER’S DORM
New York University

I can’t take my eyes off of Tucker’s dead roommate. I don’t even know his name. This isn’t how I envisioned things going. I didn’t think his roommate would die, slipped some bitter pill by some doctor, who I’m guessing had some sinister motives.

Beside me, Tucker is barely breathing, his face pale and aghast, “Oh no…oh no, oh no.” He shakes his head, putting his hands on the side of his head as tears begin to fall from his eyes, “Not again, not again…”

I can’t keep Tucker’s memories out from streaming into my mind. I see flashes of Ben Harper, Tucker’s brother, holding Tonya Harper, Tucker’s sister’s lifeless body, half her skull missing, her eyes open and dull.

I can feel exactly what Tucker felt at that moment, an unrelenting sorrow of grief that stops my heart, and my lungs.

I push back passed Tucker’s grief, removing his memories from mine. I need to be in the now. This isn’t’t over.

“Get out!” I turned to him, “Get to safety now!”

His green eyes stare into much in the same way they looked up into mine mere minutes ago. I had lost my virginity then. I didn’t expect cuddling and long stares into his eyes after the deed, but I most certainly didn’t expect this. To be fair, of the two, this was the more likely.

I have known this day would come. Since I first learned of the prophecy, I had wondered when they would arrive.

I look back at the corpse only to see that the green vomit it had collapsed in was moving on its own, slowly creeping up the dead boy’s fingers, rising up the back of his ankle, down his face, over his eyes.
.
“This can’t be happening!” Tucker is shaking so hard he’s vibrating. The follies of super speed.

“I’ll handle it!” I snap at him. I grab his face and make his eyes meet mine, desperate for him to just listen, “Please just go! Get to safety! ”

The green waste is spreading over his roommate’s shoulder, seeping down his spine. There is no other alternative. Tucker needs to go.

I take a deep breath, focus on Tucker’s eyes so that I can see every speck of brilliant green and force my way into his mind.

It’s as if I’ve lost all sense of equilibrium. My world shifts out of view, blurring and I feel like I’m on a capsizing boat.

“Stop shaking!” I shout telepathically and he does, his eyes glossing over and his mouth slagging. I take his hand and hold it tight,” “Go. Run. Get somewhere safe.”

I could tell him to take me, to grab me and run but I can’t leave. I have to face him.

His eyes gain some life and he nods. I let go of his hand and back away, and mere moments later he’s off, my hair blowing back in his wake.

“Guys, please hear me,” I try sending out another telepathic message to my friends but my thoughts only to echo in an empty void.

I turn back to the body. Almost none of the spew is on the floor anymore, all of it covering the corpse. The blood is spreading thin, looking more and more like veins.

I focus on the body and try to lift, smash it, tear it apart but nothing works. I need to get it out of the dorm and away from people.

The bile has almost. engulfed the body. The last of it pours down the corpse’s face like plastered until it covers it completely.

And than the corpse gasps. He breathes in the human waste covering his mouth and than shoots up to his feet as if held up by strings. The green bile seeps into his every pore, and the creature underneath is finally revealed.

His face is a sickly white, sweaty and tinted with green. His eyes are pale and glossy; colorless, his pupils dead. His skin was wet, boils and hives covering his hands, face and neck. He’s taller than the last time we met but he has no visible muscles, in fact he sags with frailty, his back hunched and his hands frail. He doesn’t resemble Tucker’s roommate nor does he resemble his last host, a Morlock man named Panacea. His cheeks are shallow in, his skin cracked and peeling, his small mouth chap. The little wisps of hair on the top of his head are white.

When he raises the hood of his dark green cloak, he looks like Death but he isn’t death at all.

He is Pestilence.

And if he’ here for me and my visions are true:

Lily giving food to a starving teen girl.

Famine.

Josh surrounded by chaos and fighting.

War.

And Cory following people who have been long buried.

Death

Then my friends are in as much trouble as I am.

—CORY—

AN ALLEYWAY OUTSIDE OF CB’S PUB , RIDGEFIELD, NY

I believe in the ghosts, werewolves, aliens and zombies. Cassie thinks it’s dumb but I’m a mutant. Who is to say ghost can’t exist, or clones or people who come back from the dead as good as new. So when I saw Ororo  I thought, maybe, she was alive, maybe somehow or another she came back from the dead or was never even dead in the first place.

But then I started to see other dead people, one after another, never at the same time. Tonya Harper, Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Charles Xavier…all dead as dead can be. By the time I chased Ororo out of the pub I was performing in, I already knew who I was facing.

It didn’t matter if It now wore Stryker’s face, I know Death when I see it.

Death smiles at me and looks at me with Styrker’s cold grey eyes. I remember those eyes, wide and fearful, smoke and blood pouring out of them as I ended him.

And I’ll do it again.

My hands spark with electricity and I make a fist and point it at Death-Stryker. A large bolt bursts out of the center of my fist and zig-zags towards Death.

“Ha!” Death-Stryker puts out an open palm and the bolt hits it dead center. With a flash of light, my attack dies. “Always so rash and fool-headed,” I fire another bolt and this Death-Stryker swats it away as if it’s a fly, “Enough of this.” But I fire again and again, and each time It blocks my attacks each time, moving closer to me, Its eyes cold but emotionless. “I said ENOUGH!” It grabs me by the throat and lifts me to the air. I fire again, even as the hand tightens around my neck, cutting off my air, but with Its free hand It catches my attack, curls it into a ball and throws it to the ground. “ENOUGH!” Death throws me over Its shoulder and I land hard on my arm.

I get back up, my body bursting into flames. It’s not enough. I’ve killed Stryker before, I’ll him again.I’m not afraid of him and I’m not afraid of Death. I make a cup with both hands and begin to gather the flames.

“Fine! Death throws up Its hands, a dark mist pours out from Its body.

The flames in my hands turn blue and I prepare to attack, throwing back my hands over my head. But then the black mist drifts down Death-Stryker’s body and It’s Ororo.

I pause, my hands above my head. It is looking at me just like she use too, with the same soft and kind blue eyes.

“Cory, stop,” It says in her voice and the flames around my body are blown out, “Thank you…”

I know It isn’t her. I know It is something horrible and evil, but I haven’t heard her voice in so long that I can’t help myself, I want to hear more.  I want to be by the closet thing I’ve ever had to a parent.

“What do you want?” I ask It.

It moves near me, walking like she did, “I just want to talk.”

I stare back at skeptically, “About?”

“The only thing you and I have in common,” It says softly.

“And what’s that?” I ask.

It came up to me and put a hand under my chin, Its touch as soft as Ororo’s, “Death.”

—LILY—

The Palisades Mall, Nyack NY

The homeless girl still hasn’t risen from the ground. “I’m hungry…”

‘Me too!’ I want to tell her but telling a homeless girl your hungry just seems wrong, so I just nod knowingly, “I know, so how about you get on up and I buy you some food.” I give her a warm smile and hope she has forgiven me for attacking her. But the fact is, she did sneak up on me. I live a very dangerous life!  And parking garages freak me out. So add that all together and I’m going to going to most likely kick your butt if you sneak up on me.

But I can’t tell her that, because I’m afraid she’ll sue me and put me in an even deeper financial hole. Plus, the gnawing guilt of hurting the needy is never good!

“Maybe we can go shopping after, buy you some new clothes. I have some friends who might be able to help you,” The Summers ran clinic out in California. While it wasn’t a mansion or a school, they did provide shelter for people in need, “So come on,” I say to the girl who just continues to stare at me as if I’m about to murder her. No one has ever looked at me like that. I’m the nice one damn it! “Let’s go.”

I reach out and wrap my hand around her wrist. A hunger like nothing I’ve ever felt before consumes me.  I reel away from the girl, my stomach cramping so badly that I cry out in pain.

A smile crosses the girls lip, “I feel a little better now..”

I look up to her as she stands, my hand clutching my stomach, my knees shaky. As the homeless girl gets to her feet, her face starts to change. Her cheeks concave into her face, her skin yellows and her teeth turn brown. She stretches her back, and her waist curves inward and her belly retracts. She stretches out her hand as if to yawn and her fingers become stick thin. Her hair turns a brittle yellow and her lips thin, as dark circles appear under her yellow eyes. She stretches out her fingers and they elongated and thin, the finger nails popping off. When she finally lets out a deep breath, she looks more skeletal then human, her skin tight against her thin, waifish frame.

“Famine,” I say through gritted teeth.

“Aren’t I just?” She smirks.

—JOSH—

A Clearing in Mt Lakes Park, North Salem, NY

It all happened so fast, faster then even I could keep up with, and I have super speed!

I was drinking amongst dozens of teenagers from my town and the towns that surrounded it. I spent most of the night watching my ex-girlfriend talk to some dumb joke, moping around like an emo kid locked in his room listening to the Cure or Taking Back Sunday.  Then somehow I was this close to making out with another girl while my ex-girlfriend watched from afar. Role reversal! But it, as it often tends to do, all went to hell with the battle cry of ‘FIGHT’

It was as if I was surrounded by war. It was town versus, teen versus teen. Boys and girls from North Salem brutally battling boys and girls from South Salem. At first I stood back confused, and then I got into the thick of, stopping one person from beating someone with a rock, another five from kicking my friend Milo to death. But there was too much, too many of them.

There <em>is</em> too many of them.

This is crazy, just insane. The clearing has become a field of war cries and blood. I look around for Megan but I can’t find her anywhere. I spot Tessa, a girl who moments ago I was this close to kissing, , beating a girl, Milo is hanging onto the back of a guy two times his size, punching him in the ear. And Derek, one of my closest friends, I can’t see him anywhere. That is until I look back to the bonfire.

“Oh God…” My eyes widen and my heart stops as I watch two boys throw Derek into the fire.

It’s as if everything goes to slow motion. I see Derek slowly falling into the flames, his hands flailing wildly, his eyes wide with shock. The very tip of the flames grace his back, looking as if they are tendrils reaching to him, swallowing him into a fiery death.

I take off running, my heart in my throat. It feels as if it’s the slowest I’ve ever run. Memories flash in my mind. I’m in Kindergarten and Derek offers me his pudding, I see us as cherub faced eight years, adventuring on a playground, Derek is protecting me from bully in fifth grade, in eight grade we’re taking turns throwing up after raiding his dad’s liquor cabinet, just last year I’m in the hospital after breaking my arm, powerless and without my friends, and he’s making me laugh.

And in the present, in the now, he’s falling into the flames.

My super speed carries me into the fire in what is probably less then a second. I don’t stop as I enter, I reach out for Derek, closing my eyes. I keep running, feeling only the slightest burn, the flames barely having a chance to touch me, my fingers  grasp him and then…

I’m out of the flames, coming to a halt as dirt and leaves kick up under my feet.

And, I realize as I look down at my empty hands with a wide, horrified eyes, I’m alone.

A cry escapes the back of my throat and my hands begin to shake.

This can’t be happening. No!

My eyes are staring to burn and my fingers glow blue. I’m about to scream, I’m about to fall to my knees and lose control.

When a cloud of smoke bursts from the ground and she’s there, holding him in her arms.

Megan has never looked more beautiful. The glow of the bonfire reflects in her blue eyes. Her blond hair hangs loosely in front of her face as she clutches one of my closet and oldest friends who is breathing, whole and alive. I’ve never wanted to kiss her more.

I finally collapse to my knees, relief washing over me.

“Get off!” Derek pushes Megan away and jumps to his knees. The back of his shirt smoking slightly and his face is red, but he seems no worse for wear. In fact, the only thing that seems to be on fire his anger. He glares at Megan then runs off screaming like a mad man as he closelines a boy from South Salem.

Megan gets to her feet, brushing dirt from her skit. I run towards her, look her up and down, checking for any visible burns. She stares up at me and I meet her eyes.

“I thought I missed him,” I say breathlessly.

“I teleported before you ran,” she replies, “Sorry.”

“I reached and he wasn’t there.”

“I must have gotten there just before you.”

“I thought-”

“I got him. Don’t worry”

A silence passes between us. I gaze into her eyes, watching the flames dance and again I have the urge to kiss her. She must see this, because she breaks the gaze and looks back to the fight.

“What’s going on?” she asks watching it will with a mixture of disgust and curiosity.

“No idea,” I shake my head.

We both wince as we watch our friend Allie run her finger nails down a boy’s face. Blood gushes down his cheek and he backhands ger, sending her onto her butt. Derek, defending his ex-girlfriend’s honor, tackles him.

“It’s like all our war,” Megan says shaking her head.

War. The word strikes me like a blow to the stomach. My eyes do a frantic once over of the brawl.

It’s exactly like a war. Not one person is fighting someone from a different school. Somehow a war broke out between three different schools and everyone, even the most peaceful of people, have gotten involved.

As it dawns on me, I begin to fell his eyes on me. I look to the sky and spot him in an instance; his red robes billowing in the wnd, looking like waves of blood against the night sky.

He’s watching, enjoying every moment of this, every drop of blood spilled, every bone broken, every tear shed. He wants casualties and if he doesn’t get them soon, he’ll make his own.

Megan eyes follows my and she gasps loudly.

“Is that..!”

I nod, “War.”

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