It was October; the sky that had once been a luscious cerulean in the afternoon was now hindering on sunset at around four. The clouds that striped the sky were used sparingly and emitted this hubristic aura from the way they soaked up the golden rays on the underbelly of that white fluff, nevertheless, that yellow hue would soon seep away like a retracting tide as the sun dipped further beyond the horizon. One could stare at this view for hours, taking in every detail and flinching at every breeze.
In this position was a lonely cop, leaning on the edge hood of her squad car. She was at the boundary of the little town, appropriately named Purgatory, that she called home, asking for a little quiet. It was crazy back there when your days are filled with demon hunting and trying to balance the workload of being a cop. With striking ginger hair and smile that could light up the darkest days, to anyone else she was unmistakable: Nicole Haught, the city girl gone country. To an outsider, it would seem she would have chosen this life purely for the quietness and tranquillity yet that was simply not the case.
You see, Nicole isn't like you or anyone else. She's different. Whether it's a good different or a different that would raise some eyebrows, she's still not the same as anyone else.
'One in a million' was a phrase her girlfriend Waverly tended to use. No kidding, Nicole would think.
It was not a matter of who she was, more what she was.
At that very moment, she felt a heavy rumble at the back of her throat and without even taking a moment to think she concluded it was time to go home.
"Not now, Nicole," she grumbled to herself, sliding into her squad car and adjusting the mirror, "it's not even that time of the month yet."
"Not what I meant."
It took her several seconds to stuff the key into the hole as her hands were trying to break from their icy prisons and allow the blood back. In Purgatory the winters hit hard and started early, hence why October was dropping into the single digits. Once she'd got her car running, she balled her hands into fits and blew into the little nook her thumb created before deeming her hands able enough to steer.
The journey was simple enough, one dirt track and another more commercially friendly road and then she was home. Almost ten minutes into the trip she facepalmed, suddenly remembering her plans for that night.
"Goddammit⎯ Waverly!" Nicole exasperated, "wait, no, it's..."
The cop blinked for a second, realising she'd cocked up her calendar again.
"No, no, it's tomorrow, isn't it?" Nicole spoke to herself and began trying to wrack her brain to give herself answers, "the full moon is..."
She slammed her hand on the steering wheel before smacking her head against it.
Her arms slumped dramatically into her lap with the tips of her fingers barely touching the wheel; she couldn't believe she'd done it again. Last month she'd planned to stay around at the homestead for a night as Wynonna was busy visiting Alice outside of Purgatory. The two had, had the place to themselves and were obviously basking in the advantages of having a house to yourself, alone with your girlfriend. All was going well, the two had decided to watch Frozen, Waverly's idea, when Nicole felt a similar rumble in her throat. She hadn't paid much attention to it as she was convinced she'd got the days right and perhaps this was some pre-full moon thing yet after spotting a lonesome deer outside the window wandering the grounds, Nicole felt a sudden urge in her chest. That's when she decided to leave early due to "feeling unwell."
A cruel world she lived in where every day was an inner battle between her emotions and keeping it together. One wrong move and it'd all come crashing down.
She gulped and slipped her hand to fumble about her khaki trouser pocket for her cellphone.
Maybe Waverly would understand? It all came down to what excuse Nicole used.
"Hey, Waves?" Nicole mumbled into her phone as she held it between her face and neck,
"Hey, cutie!" Waverly's flowery reply sent butterflies through the cop's chest, almost distracting her from what she was on the phone to do,
"So, urh, I called to say⎯"
"⎯Are you cancelling on me again?" Waverly interrupted, an obvious irritation coating her voice,
"Well, I uh⎯"
"⎯Nope. We've planned this for weeks now. I made it my mission to arrange movie nights around Wynonna's timetable and while still giving you time in advance. You're not bailing again."
"Waverly, this just came up⎯"
"What came up? What is so important that you only think to tell me an hour before we're scheduled to see each other?"
Nicole paused and chewed on the bottom of her lip as she pondered an answer.
"It's..." her non-idiomatic response was grating with Waverly and Nicole could tell, "Nedley. He needs me to work an extra shift tonight."
Nicole could almost feel the coldness on the other end of the line and actively slowed her driving speed to accommodate for her discomfort.
"Right..." Waverly sighed into the phone, "... tomorrow then?"
The cop loosened up at the audible shift in Waverly's tone. She was still tired and sick of her girlfriend's antics, but Waverly still wanted to see her: even if that meant waiting another twenty-four hours.
"I'll drop in tomorrow morning and take you to work," Nicole smiled a little to herself,
"Don't bail on me though, I need that ride," Waverly laughed a little,
"I promise," Nicole resumed her normal acceleration and turned off onto her road,
"Alright, see you later, my love,"
"Bye, baby," Nicole hummed and clicked the end call button just as she stopped in front of her house.
She stepped out of the car and stared to the home that felt so alien to her now. She was so used to waking up at Waverly's side with an arm draped over her lover's side and all those bonus blankets. Don't get her wrong, sometimes the jejune nature of her home was all she needed after a long day and not the irksome tendency of Wynonna constantly interrupting her and Waverly. That said, a full moon alone was not one Nicole was overly zealous for.
"I guess it's just me, myself, and I tonight."
It was almost nine in the morning; the birds were performing their early symphony throughout the forest and waking up the day creatures while also ushering the night ones away. The luminous beams that were ploughing through twisted branches of the forest weaved amongst the sagacious trees and left cascading shadows along the muddy floor, while a morning like this seemed peaceful and barren of life, it acted as a coverup for the bustling night that had just come.
The seemingly empty forest had but one reluctant visitor. A man adorned with jeans too tight to be appropriate and a brown, leather jacket lined with a soft wool stood tall amongst the verdant environment. His eyes that seemed aged further than his body scanned around the trees, but they hid an underlying fear behind those brown orbs.
He hated the forest. But Xavier Dolls always got the job done.
He pulled his phone out of his coat pocket and peered over the screen for a second, taking in all the information when a twig snapped unexpectedly behind him. A normal person would've turned at such a harsh sound, but he only blinked.
"I thought you'd never get here, Earp," his smile came through with his tone,
"You said it was an emergency, but I suspect you only said that so I'd be on time," Wynonna trudged over the logs and fallen leaves to reach her coworker, "what's the situation?"
"Look at the trees," he stared out once more, but this time he was squinting ever so slightly,
"What about the... oh..." Wynonna followed his view and a heavy confusion settled, "why are they like that?"
Some of the trees had become almost serpentine and were bent in unnatural positions with branches forming knots and whole tree trunks had been snapped in half with most only having deep gashes along their bark. They warned of a pernicious presence as no normal creature could've inflicted such damage upon these ancient trees.
"No clue," Dolls replied, crossing his arms to conserve some warmth,
"Could it have been something supernatural?"
"Perhaps... but we can't jump to conclusions yet," Dolls hummed to himself, bringing his hand to cup his chin,
"Well, I would not want to cross paths with whatever did this," Wynonna brushed her fingers over the torn branches with a delicacy she was not aware of having, it was almost out of character.
"So..." Dolls smiled a little, moving his hands into his coat pockets,
"So," Wynonna replied with a smile of the same enthusiasm.
"Hello...!" A voice came suddenly that was so flowery and full of sweetness that it was unmistakable,
"Waverly?" Wynonna turned on her heel to face out to the rows and rows of trees,
"And Nicole!" Waverly responded, coming out from behind a bush, "we came as soon as you called, Dolls,"
"I appreciate it," the stoic man responded,
"What did you need?" Nicole asked, appearing behind Waverly,
"Take a look for yourself," Dolls gestured widely to the area of carnage,
"Woah..." Waverly blinked, stepping forward to get a closer examination.
Nicole seemed a lot more hesitant to take a look and only peered over her girlfriend's shoulder. Her arms were crossed and her eyes were not focusing on one point for too long. If she hadn't been standing a few feet in front of Dolls and Wynonna, she was sure the two would've picked up on her strange behaviour.
"Any ideas?" Waverly asked, turned to face the trio,
"None that seem quote, unquote, 'normal'" Wynonna made speech marks with her fingers and leaned heavily on her back foot,
"A revenant...?" Her sister questioned,
"No revenant has displayed such strength to create damage like this," Dolls interrupted,
"Maybe we should get Jeremy down here to search for DNA?" Waverly suggested and Nicole visibly squirmed, "something wrong?"
"No," Nicole answered quickly, "just cold."
She was, in fact, the opposite. She could feel herself burning up with fear, part of her wanted to just run and keep going but the other part had rationality and order. She just had to wait it out.
"Doubt there's going to be much to find," Dolls sighed, "how old do you think this is?"
"The leaves here still looked disturbed," Waverly pointed to a spot where the mud and greenery had been moved through the sheer force of a tree trunk crashing down to the ground, "has to be a couple hours,"
"I guess you're right, it wouldn't hurt to bring Jeremy down to take a look," Dolls nodded more to himself,
"Doesn't Robin do some forest job? He should know a little about the wildlife here," Waverly asked,
"Robin did Jazz history," Wynonna deadpanned, "he'd have no clue."
As the others were conversing, Nicole stepped forward and looked to the damage. She brushed a gloved hand over the torn bark and almost winced as her eyes scanned every snap and every dead leaf. The fact she could barely remember even coming in this direction the night before left a sick feeling at the pit of her stomach. What else did she do?
It felt as though the others were hot on her trail or at least finally uncovering it. The images of what they'd do to her crossed her mind and she tried desperately to shake them off in an attempt to keep a neutral expression but her eyes were devoid of substance and emotion as she pictured shackles and so many needles. The blood samples, the poking and prodding, what would Waverly think?
"Hey..." A hand rested softly on the cop's shoulder, "are you okay?"
Nicole turned her head for her face to appear almost inches from Waverly's.
"I'm fine... just... thinking," Nicole turned her head back, blinking herself back to the present,
"You sure? You look as though you've seen a ghost," Waverly's light laugh chimed in the ginger's ear like church bells,
"Really, I'm just deep in thought," she gulped, "just wondering who⎯what could've done this."
"You know, I wouldn't be surprised in this town if someone had done this."
"Good point, whatever it was, hopefully, it's long gone by now," Waverly sighed, leaning onto Nicole's shoulder.
Nicole wrapped an arm around her girlfriend's shoulder and squeezed gently.
"Yeah... I hope so too."