Michael hated the Cooperative. That really was the only way to phrase it. They were too useful, though, and provided the resources (in excess) of what he would need to bring his apocalypse. Yet he couldn’t help but hate them, despite all his efforts to at least pretend otherwise. His Not-Miss-Meade was the closest thing he had to liking somebody, yet he saw the unnatural flicker of her eyes and knew that he wasn’t speaking to just her.
He saw the reverent devotion in some eyes and distant fearfulness in others. Didn’t matter, really. They served a purpose and once he ended the world they’d eventually go too.
But first the witches had to go.
That was priority above all else. He would personally see to it that they went extinct and would not have the privilege of dying in his apocalypse.
That’s why, while he and Miss. Meade were in route to that witch-saturated home in New Orleans, he knew they’d have to make a pit stop and detour. The power was distant, but so palpable he could taste it. Bright, warm, radiating and pulsating with energy.
“Michael, honey, no we need to stay on the highway if you want to make it there by morning.” Miss. Mead told him. She was sat straight up, eyes always focused on the road in front of them. He remembered the tech junkies and what they said about giving her time, yet her robotic movements had their ways of surfacing.
“Sorry Miss. Meade, but there’s business I got to take care of somewhere out there,” he nodded to the long back road he’d exited onto. There was a gas station and a small, long closed diner before there wasn’t much else worth seeing. He knew he was going the right way, despite it being nothing for miles all around them.
“And what sort of business out there would be more important than killing the witches, Michael? So that we can move on to ending the world?”
He flinched despite himself, knowing that avenging the original Miss. Meade and securing his destiny should take precedence over the power he felt out in the middle of nowhere. He figured then, that honesty was the best policy in this case. “There’s a very powerful witch out here, somewhere.”
When he saw the confusion on her face, he was quick to add in, “very powerful and not too much of a detour.” He spoke with confidence despite not being entirely sure, himself. The coven was blatant and open, practically begging him to seek them out by not masking their energy. It reminded him a bit of the Supreme, and for a moment he wondered if God had sent a savior for his flock. It might make things interesting, if there was a second coming and he actually had worthy opposition before he ended it all.
But the closer he neared, he knew it was more than likely a small coven of witches separate from Cordelia’s little band of magic users.
Miss. Meade nodded, eyes training out into the endless fields, “alright then. Even after New Orleans do you think we’ll ever truly get rid of all of them?”
He kept his eyes focused on the road but let his grip tighten around the steering wheel.
But he wasn’t so sure about that.
She didn’t belong here.
Mallory knew that, as did the entire congregation. Yet she sat as she always had in her pew in the back corner. Her grandmother was a frail, but very much appreciated presence beside her. She did her best to listen to the words being spoken, to feel the light of God in this holy place.
Yet she couldn’t. Her eyes kept wandering to the front of the church, where her family sat at reverent attention to the words being spoken. Third pew on the left, as usual. She’d sat with them once, until she’d been sent to live with her grandmother just after graduation. She didn’t feel like she belonged when she sat with them, but there had been safety in blending in among her parents and siblings. She and her grandmother stuck out now that they were separate from the others.
“Have faith,” the preacher had told them at family mediation, after they had said the devil was tempting her. “Be pious and good, and with continued devotion you can return to the main flock.”
She saw her sisters with ribbons in their hair and her brothers with their freshly pressed shirts. Her mother and father wore their usual dress and suit, their faces trained to the front of the church. If they would just spare her one glance…
She may not belong with them, or has always been an outsider even in her own family, yet she longed for the familiarity of her own home.
As soon as services conclude and the basement opened up for the potluck, Mallory left her grandmother’s side and approached her family. Her youngest sister Lucy was the first to spot her, and immediately threw her arms around Mallory.
“I miss you, Mal!”
She squatted down, enjoying the warmth, “I miss you too.” She whispered into the dirty blonde hair.
Her others siblings held back under the gaze of their parents, but she liked to think she felt the same warmth from them as Lucy gave.
“Mallory,” her father finally spoke, “how are things with your grandma?”
“Have you had a chance to think of why you’re there?” Her mother’s voice is colder than she remembers. A little sharper than it had been before the night she was asked to leave.
“I have. I’m feeling better too.”
It became awkward, a little too quiet for anybody to really be comfortable and so she speaks again more hurriedly. “The pastor and others from the church have come over a few times for checkups. And I’ve volunteered to do the cleaning after Wednesday evening services.”
Her mother smiles tightly, but it’s something. It’s her father who has no real reaction except the same stern frown on his face.
“Will you come home soon?” Lucy asks, her arms still around Mallory’s waist.
“We’re not quite there, yet.” Her father says quickly, at the same time her mother nods.
Mallory’s heart drops but she tries not to get her hopes up. She is nineteen, after all. It would be perfectly normal for her to be moved out of her family home by now. She wishes they would stop being so afraid of her. An invitation to dinner, being allowed to sit with them at church, even the occasional phone call is all she needed.
“We have to go downstairs now, Mallory.” Her mother grabs Lucy by the shoulder and guides her away, “please keep trying.”
She stood still as the others pass by her, trying not to let it affect her as deeply as it does.
“It’s okay Mallory, you know you always got a place with me.” Her grandmother tells her when she finally comes over. She didn’t need to hear a word of what was spoken, but she just knows. It’s been like this for nearly a year of cold shoulders and barely speaking to each other, the routine is down and there isn’t much that’s changed.
“Come on, let’s go get a bite to eat and then head home.”
The town is small, nowhere, and insignificant in every way. It’s maybe a mile or two in length altogether, with small shacks of houses spread sporadically. Michael can feel the power better than ever here. He can follow the signature he senses with ease, enough that Miss. Meade doesn’t even question him when he pulls up to the café on main street. The black SUV he took from the cooperative is probably the newest car in a fifty-mile radius, garnering looks from the few people walking by.
He ignores them, opting to head into the café with his Mss. Meade following closely behind him.
As soon as he opens the door, he’s certain he’s found the source of all the power. It radiates and pulsates through the small room, though he’s not surprised that he’s the only one who feels it. Most of humanity is ignorant when significant power passes by them, and Michael is living proof of that.
He scans the room for any sort of gathering of women most likely to be witches, yet sees only a handful of people, mostly on the older side.
He ignores their eyes on him and takes a seat towards the back while Meade orders for the both of them.
It’s when the girl comes to the counter to take the orders that Michael finally lays his eyes on the source of power he felt so far out from the highway.
And he’s mystified.
It’s only her, not a coven but a single girl that is capable of so much. She’s short enough that Miss. Meade is actually able to look down on her, albeit not by much. She’s pretty in a different sort of way, and despite her sad face he can’t help but imagine her when she’s smiling. His initial surprise begins to wear off, yet he can’t tear his eyes from her, even when Miss. Meade sets a drink and muffin in front of him.
“She’s cute but you’ll scare her if you keep staring like that.”
“That’s the witch.”
He nods, finally looking away before she caught onto him, “things have changed. We’re not dealing with a coven this could be…” Michael paused and thinks about everything he knew about the witches. “This could potentially be the next supreme.”
Meade looked back at the girl, “why isn’t she in New Orleans?”
“They never found her in this hick town, at least not yet.”
And just like that, Michael get’s all sorts of ideas, enough that the impending slaughter of the witches is nudged towards the backburner of his priorities. “Can you imagine, Miss. Meade, if the next supreme were on my side?”
“I don’t know much about witches, but couldn’t they kill her and let the power go to somebody else?”
“But if they couldn’t kill her, Cordelia fades and the others have nobody to turn to. Besides, witches don’t typically kill each other.”
They’re both staring at her when the girl behind the counter finally catches on to being watched. She looks up and on reflex looks away when she sees the two of them. She hesitates before going to the back, casting them a curious look before taking her refuge where they can’t see her.
“Is there a hotel around here?” He asks, knowing that his little detour just got extended.
There was a hotel just past main street. It was old and musty and not at all what Michael usually stayed in. He stayed locked on to the girl’s presence while Miss. Meade laid down. He liked to think she was just napping, but he knew it was unnatural how still she held and how her breathing seemed as consistent as it did unnecessary. He ignored all of this, focusing on the little witch at the café.
It was dark out when he slipped away from the hotel and walked back up the short street to the shop. It had just closed for the night, the curtains drawn and the closed sign hanging in the door. He went into the ally behind the old brick building and waited, knowing she was still inside cleaning.
He pulled out his phone while he tried not to grow impatient for her. There were many messages he never bothered to look at, let alone return. World elites asking him for favors now that they knew who he was. Some tattling that so or so president regularly and dutifully attended church and was a God believer. Celebrities asking him to take care of their rivals in exchange for anything. Jeff and Mutt asking him how killing the witches went so they could get to the big show.
He ignored all of them, already sick of his followers. Honestly, he was tempted to just wipe all of them out along with the rest of the world.
But he didn’t like to think along these lines, it all became to tempting.
So instead he waited in the empty ally just outside the little café where the next supreme witch was finishing up her shift for the night. He waited and he waited, until finally the old door creaked open and she finally came out.
She was much shorter than him, barely reaching past his shoulders.
When she realized she wasn’t alone, he had to hold back his laughter the way she took small steps back and dropped the bag of trash she’d been lugging beside her. Her eyes were wide as a dumb doe and her mouth hanging open.
She tired to compose herself, but he could see the way her eyes flashed to the closed (and likely locked) door she had just exited.
“What are you… you were here… what are you doing here?” She finally managed to get out.
He did laugh this time, feeling delight at how rattled she was. He looked her up and down and licked his lips, something she didn’t miss.
“My name is Michael Langdon.”
He put his hand out, but she didn’t shake it. She was eyeing around them, trying to find an escape.
Tentatively, maybe once she realized there wasn’t much escape, she took his hand and gave it a small shake, “I’m Mallory.”
She quickly pulled back, balling her little fists at her side. “I don’t… why are you back here?”
He tilted his head to the side and looked her up and down. Such a small, lithe thing was capable of so much power, yet she seemed to have no idea. It just occurred to him that maybe she didn’t. What a waste, to be capable of so much yet to never know. To be left to rot in such a small, insignificant town.
He knew what she was capable of, though. Her power was enough that he thought the simple humans around her must at least pick up on something.
“Tell me, Mallory, do the others treat you different?”
Her eyes flash up at him, wide and curious before the fear returns.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“Yes, you do. You’re different, aren’t you? They know it, and they treat you worse for it.”
She was looking down now, her body trembling he realized she’d begun to cry. She did her best to hold it back, but he heard the sniffles and scratchy breaths.
“Please, I just want to leave.” She moves to go around him, the trash bag forgotten on the ally ground.
“Don’t be afraid Mallory, I’m offering to help you.”
He’s much taller than her, something he uses to his advantage when he gets in front of her and boxes her in against the brick walls.
Her eyes drop back to the pavement, but he likes the way she tries to squirm away, even against the solid wall. He grabs her by the shoulders in a firm grip to still her movements. He feels the untamed, explosion of power he’s managed to trigger out of her before it hits him. He grits his teeth against the onslaught, knowing she’s throwing too much unfocused energy to really knock him down just yet. When it’s out of her, it’s just him and the solid wall holding her up when she begins to sob.
He almost takes pity on her then, knowing he’s pushed her perhaps harder than he should have. Michael doesn’t know much about comforting somebody, has never personally felt much reassurance from others, but he does his best when he helps her sit on the ground. He hesitates before sitting down with her, only pausing when he remembers the ally isn’t very clean and he just got the custom shoes and suit he’s in now.
She’s curling up, her arms wrapping around herself as she rocks on the ground, “what was that?” she asks in between deep breaths.
For the briefest moment, Michel remembers a similar feeling when he lived with his grandmother. The confusion and conflicting feelings had sent him into his fair share of breakdowns before he finally closed that side of him off. In truth, there had been some relief in Constance’s death.
He lets go of her until she’s completely dependent on the wall before he slips off his long jacket and sets it on her. Doesn’t quite tuck it around her, she does that well enough on her own.
“What did you do to me?”
He can’t help but laugh a little, “nothing Mallory, that was all you.”
“No, no it couldn’t be me. I- you’re lying. What did you do?”
He says nothing, just waits until she’s finally done with her stronger cries and starts to calm down. She flinches, but complies when he pulls her up to her feet. His jacket nearly falls off of her, but he takes it and swings it around to cover her properly. It’s much bigger on her, enough to keep her properly warm down to where the ends touch her ankles.
“Come on, I’ll give you a ride home.”
She’s never felt so ill in her life. Her head lulls and smacks against the window of the car she doesn’t remember getting into. It will occur to her that she’s in danger and she’ll snap back to attention, yet her head will feel too heavy moments later and she’s back to resting it against the cool glass of the passenger window.
The heat blasting from the vents and the big jacket wrapped around her are nearly too much, yet her skin still feels clammy and cool and she knows she would otherwise be shaking from the cold.
“Which way?” that soft, almost unnaturally smooth voice asks. She remembers telling him her grandmothers address, but it’s been a while. She would have been home a while ago if she were alone. She cracks open an eye and tries to figure out where they’re at.
“Are you lost?”
“GPS doesn’t work in this shit town.” The stranger- no, he said his name was Michael. Michael is an ass who can’t take directions. Not that she really wants him to know where she lives.
Yet she knows she won’t make it home on her own like this.
“Turn left up here.”
She must pass out again, because she soon wakes up to him shaking her roughly on the shoulder. “Which road?” he nods to the small cluster of neighbors not far from her grandmothers.
“That one. We’re the last ones on the left.”
She forces herself to stay awake when he pulls right up to the small little place her and her grandma share. The lights were out, and when she remembered it was Monday, she knew her grandmother was out at church bingo for the night.
Ordinarily, this would mean Mallory would take a long shower in their only bathroom before kicking back in front of the tv and watching whatever she pleased. But tonight, stranger in tow, she wasn’t sure what would happen next. She eyed the dark windows of her neighbors and wondered if they would hear her if she screamed. She reached out haphazardly for the door handle. “Thank you for the ride, I have to go.”
Of course, he wouldn’t just let her go. She felt the cool air and the sounds of him getting out.
Out the corner of her eye she could see him circling his car until he reached where she sat. She flinched back when he opened the door for her and offered her his hand, something she stared at before tentatively taking.
He walked her up the porch and to the old, ripped screen door, “well, aren’t you going to invite me in?”
Incredulous, Mallory looked up at him a little too fast, her vision blurring. Before she could tell him absolutely not, Michael was already pushing past her into her home.
It was too much of an intrusion. He was just too strange and had flipped up her entire night. Not to mention the absolute danger that radiated off of him. It was odd, the way he moved with such ease and confidence.
Mallory found the sight of him in her small hallway like a death sentence, and despite her exhausted body, she turned and began to run.
She heard him sigh and follow behind her, but she didn’t dare stop or look back. She ran as hard as she could to the closest house.
Before she could scream for help, she was screaming because she was being pulled back. She didn’t hear him catch up to her, just one minute he was a still a good distance from her, and the next he was wrapping his arms around her waist and jerking her back.
“No! No, let me go! Help!” She screeched, struggling to escape him.
He carried her back to her house with an embarrassing amount of ease. No matter how much she struggled, he managed to get her inside and kick the door shut behind him.
Mallory got as far from him as possible when he let her go, trying to catch her breath and think of what to do next.
He really was quite beautiful, a fact she was forced to acknowledge when he squatted down in front of her.
“Are you done with your theatrics?”
She averted her eyes and nodded slowly, still trying to think of a way she could get out of this alive.
“Good. Now Mallory, tell me who you are.”
“I- what do you mean?”
“I asked you back in that alley if others treated you differently. Now tell me, what did they do to you?”
She licked her lips, “why do you want to know about that?”
“I’m curious, Mallory. I think you’re made for more than this small town.”
Her confusion must have been evident. He stood and offered her his hand which she didn’t take, content to stay on the ground. He eventually dropped his hand and circled around her, looking at the various pictures hung on the walls, from the living room to the kitchen, even peaking down the short hallway to the bedrooms. He stayed in front of the crucifix nailed to the wall for a while, before turning back to her.
“Do you believe in this?” He asked, rapping his ringed fingers against the cross.
She looked back down, “are you going to kill me?”
“I’m not sure yet.” He began to move again, Mallory watching his every move as he made his way around the living room, looking at the pictures hung on the wall. They were mostly of her and her family, maybe a few of her late grandfather. He lingered at the one of her and her grandmother from her graduation the year before. Still looking at the smiling image, he asked again, “why are you not with your parents?”
Mallory watched him, thinking perhaps this was all a dream or maybe she’d collapsed at work and was on her way to the hospital with a concussion. Something plausible, rather than this. She brought her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around herself while still watching him from her place on the ground.
“They say I’m unholy.”
“Oh? In what way?” he asked, new glee in his voice.
“My mom came to my room one morning, and I was floating maybe a foot off the mattress? That’s what she said anyway. I went to church counseling and they said I wasn’t in God’s light anymore.”
He was smiling, she could tell that much with his back turned to her but she said nothing more.
“Do you want to be seen by God and his flock of hypocrites, Mallory?”
She flinched, “when you put it that way.” She spoke in a moment of boldness, despite knowing the church was the only place for her.
Mallory felt herself tensing, fear gripping her once more when she heard the car pulling up the gravel drive way. “Please, my grandma, she’s innocent. Whatever you’re doing here- please just don’t hurt her.”
He looked at her for a while, a small, terrible smile on his otherwise angelic face.
“Nobody is ever innocent. Meet me tomorrow.”
Her breath hitched, but she did her best to nod, “okay, where?”
“I don’t know. Is there anyplace to get a decent meal around here?”
“The diner just before you leave town on the south side. They have good breakfast.” He didn’t seem to like this much, but before he could start insulting the towns food any more, she cut him off. “There really isn’t much else.”
“Fine, be there at one.”
The door opened just as Mallory managed to stand, her heart racing when her grandmother walked in. “Mallory, whose car is that in the driveway?”
Michael stood patiently with his hands behind his back until her grandma noticed him, “Oh dear! Hello, I’m sorry I didn’t see you there.” She tried to laugh it off.
“Michael Langdon. I gave your granddaughter a ride home after she fell at the coffee shop.”
“Mallory! Are you alright?”
“Oh goodness, thank you Mr. Langdon. Would you like to stay for diner?”
“No!” Mallory yelled, before she could stop herself.
She could feel Michael’s sharp blue eyes on her, but she didn’t dare look up.
“Thank you, ma’am, but I really need to be going now.”
“Well alright… next time! Get home safe, boy.”
Mallory watched from the corner of her eye as he passed and was (mercifully) out the door, presumably without ever looking back. She’s still tensed, even when she hears the car start up and pull out of the driveway.
“He seems like a nice young man, but you should avoid being alone with boys at night, Mal. It could lead to rumors.”
“I didn’t-” she takes a deep breath and tries to stop shaking, “you’re right. It just all happened so fast.”
“I’ll tell you, he’s a cutie. From out of town, I feel like I’d remember him.”
Mallory can only groan, feeling sick to her stomach with what was to come tomorrow.
It really takes him no time to find the diner Mallory mentioned. The towns just small enough that he swears all he really has to do is stand on his tiptoes and he can probably find whatever he needs.
He leaves Miss. Meade back at the hotel and arrives at the diner right at one. He’s seated in a booth that has duct tape over the tacky red fabric, and given a menu that’s just a little sticky. Honestly, he’d be embarrassed about the situation if he thought there was any chance of running into any of his followers here.
Like the last time he met Mallory, he senses her long before he catches sight of her mousy brown hair or doe eyes. He holds back a laugh when she shuffles towards him, her eyes downcast but he can still see the dark circles beneath them.
“Get any sleep?” He asks, knowing full well she probably tossed and turned all night. She slides into the seat opposite of him and avoids looking directly at him. “Get anything you like, it’s on me.” He tells her, false chivalry and all. He flipped through the menu and saw nothing to his liking. He’d tuned out after seeing two dishes start off as ‘Ma and Pa’s famous…’
“I’m not very hungry, but thank you.”
He ordered a pot of coffee when the waitress came over but otherwise ignored all of the curious looks they were getting. He could see the light red flush crawling up Mallory’s neck but also ignored her discomfort.
“Now when we left off last night, I was trying to figure out how you could still follow the word of a hypocrite like God.”
She flinched, just like she had the night before.
“God is love. Why are you here?”
“Believe it or not Mallory, for you.”
He lets things go on in a loud silence for a while, content to sip on his drink and look down on her.
She finally manages to look at him, “I just want to go home.”
“Why? So much more to the world than your grandmother’s trailer, Mallory.”
“Not my grandma’s house. I mean I want to go home to my parents. I need to earn their trust back.”
“They don’t want you Mallory, they know you’re different.”
“Who are you?” She asks with more strength than she’s managed in the past.
“I’m like you.”
“What do you mean? Please, just tell me.”
Michael smiles, knowing he’s finally captured her curiosity. “We’re different, you and I. I’ll show you.”
Mallory has seen the shows that come on after dinner, has read the books and newspapers. She’s known since childhood to never speak to strangers, let alone get in their cars or go to their hotel rooms. Yet here she is, once more in the passenger seat of his car. Her seatbelt feels choking and she sits stiffly, straight ahead as he drivers her to one of the only hotels in town.
“How long have you lived with your grandma?”
“Almost a year now.”
He hums, “I was also raised by my grandmother.”
“Yes, for a while.”
She still thinks of running as far as possible from him, but her curiosity has been piqued. She knows he’s dangerous and that she shouldn’t trust him, yet there’s no denying an attraction to his offer. She wants to go with him and to see what he has to offer. Because surely, there has to be more than this small town? Mallory isn’t quite certain anymore, and simply follows him when he opens her car door in mock politeness. She follows him into the hotel, casting a quick glance around to make sure nobody has seen her enter with him.
But it’s a Tuesday and fairly slow. No witnesses, she trails in behind him into the hotel her family stayed at once when their water froze in the winter and they weren’t talking to her grandma.
He’s staying in a room at the end of the hall. They say nothing as they make their way down, Mallory looking at all the ways she can run if she changes her mind. They pass the last emergency exit and make it to his room, 116.
“I think I should go.” She stumbles over her words, her body feels hot and clammy, her nerves shot. It’s a mistake to be here, she realizes, perhaps too late.
He reaches behind her and presses against her back until she’s forced to step inside.
And she jumps, just now noticing the woman sitting at the desk.
“Michael, what is she doing here?”
“Mallory, I’d like you to meet Miss. Meade. Miss. Meade, this is Mallory.”
The older woman glares at her from the desk, looking her up and down before turning her attention back to Michael. “She doesn’t seem like much.”
“Oh, now be nice, Miss. Meade. Mallory’s still coming into her own.”
Shes still on the verge of making a break for the door when she gathers herself, “will you please just show me whatever it is you were talking about?”
“Of course.” He goes to one of his bags. She doesn’t know a lot about fashion but assumes they’re expensive. Gucci, maybe.
She’s not really sure what to expect, but when Michael takes a seat on the ground in the center of the room with nothing but a single candle, she’s baffled. “Please, take a seat.” He gestures to just in front of him.
She looks once to Miss. Meade who doesn’t seem particularly interested except for the occasional side glare in her direction.
“Now what?” she asks, once she’s sitting across from him.
He places the candle in between them. “Go on, light it.”
She looks for matches or a lighter but sees none, “do you have-”
“No. With your mind.”
Her eyes snap away from the unlit candle sitting between them. He’s serious. She knows he’s serious, yet logic tells her what he’s asking from her is impossible. “I don’t understand.”
“Just focus on the candle. Imagine the flame. Reach out if you need to, but just know that you can do it.”
She’s followed an insane person to a secluded location.
Well, except for his odd companion she feels watching them half-curiously now.
She knows she can light this candle.
“You can’t be so confused if you’ve never done this before. Clear your thoughts and light the fucking candle.”
She pushes everything else away, including her annoyance with him, and stares intently at the unburnt wick. The flame that bursts to life is so powerful she half hopes it burns him.
But not really.
She watches the little flame that’s come to life between them, “did… did you do that?” she asks, unable to pull her eyes from the burning candle.
“No Mallory, that was all you.”
She’s shaking and feels the tears beginning to well, “what am I?”
He smiles, “you’re…. like me.”
Mallory freezes, a sinking feeling makes her cold. Her eyes stay focused on the burning candle until she thinks she’ll be sick for real. “I have to leave.”
“Go on then.”
She scrambles up and manages to make it to the door without collapsing headfirst on her way out.
“Mallory?” Michael calls from where he’s still sitting, casually reaching out to snuff the candles flame.
She has her hand on the handle, ready to get out, but takes one last look at him on the ground, “what?”
“When you stop being so afraid, do stop by sometime.”
She runs until she thinks she’ll throw up. Then she keeps running until she makes it home where she does puke.
Michael doesn’t bother chasing. He knows she’s curious, and that in time she’ll be back. She’s too powerful, uncontained and itching to use her powers to pretend there’s nothing he can’t show her.
“Are we continuing, now?” Meade asks, later that night when he’s playing a game on his phone.
“Not yet, Miss. Meade. Still got business with the little witch.”
“But Michael, once we kill the witches we can move on and start the apocalypse. Wipe out the stupid people.”
He pulls his eyes from the screen and eyes her, though he knows she’s not on autopilot now. This is either Jeff or Mutt, though if he had to guess he’d say Jeff is controlling the voice right now.
It’s why he doesn’t feel so bad when he snaps at the current Not-Miss-Meade. “We’ll leave when I say so, Miss. Meade.”
If this were the real Meade, she might snap at him. Maybe tell him he may be the antichrist but while he’s under her roof (even if they weren’t) he better show some respect. But right now, this isn’t Miss. Meade and she simply nods and looks back at her phone, “of course.”
He stares another second before returning to the game. “Besides, the little witch is probably the next supreme.”
She stays locked in her room all night. When her grandmother knocks on the door, she gives a half-true excuse of being tired before burying herself deep into her covers.
It’s only after fitful, unrested hours of tossing and turning in her bed, Mallory finally takes a seat on the ground. She’ll never tell anybody about the candle she digs out of her closet, the one that smells like strawberries and that she was saving in case of a power outage. Nobody will ever know her focus on the wick in the darkness of her room, and the flame that would erupt while her palms rested flat against the wood of her floor.
Michael sleeps until well into the afternoon most days.
This one would have been no different, except for the tentative little steps in the hallway of the hotel, and the power that the girl radiated despite her fragile appearance.
He dresses himself casually and steps out of the bathroom just in time to hear the light taps against the cheap hotel door.
“Mallory, what a pleasant surprise,” he tells her when he sees her standing. The poor thing looks exhausted but oh so eager.
“Okay. Please, I have so many questions. Please, will you show me more?”
He smiles, stepping aside and letting her in, “let’s get started.”