Mallory had been too late for the right time to set things right. She felt the failure in her bones when she awoke in her younger body in her old home, with her past Grandmother.
She remembered bits and pieces of her. Those beautiful warm eyes, and the wise, kind tone of voice she always tried to keep, even when mad or disappointed. And the mean sense of humour that never failed to make Mallory laugh to the point of tears.
It had all come back to Mallory when she left her childhood bedroom to see the elder woman, sitting in her favourite ancient couch, reading, with the same pink mug filled with black coffee next to her peaceful form.
The date on the digital clock atop the side table next to her read May, 2017.
Even without the numbers, by the sight of her grandmother very much alive, Mallory knew what quarter of the timeline she had found herself within. The few weeks before the heart attack, and being shipped to New Orleans with newfound gifts and feelings, being the response to loss and despair. It hurt to see the last moments of happiness in what was meant to be her forever home. Before the coven, before the spell and apocalypse.
That’s why she was there.
A spit of venomous rage landed on her chest, thinking of what he had done.
She still had his strand of soft, perfect gold in her hand. There was still hope in the unnaturally smooth, hair. There had to be, the spell had worked, and she was back in the past, the earth hadn’t become an eternal winter and that’s all she needed to stop him. He would be in the school by now, a stray founded, just like her.
But there was still his birthplace. Shattered fragments of memory, of Madison and Behold corrected themselves, placed back together in a blurred visage. They found answers there, answers no one told her, answers everyone but her seemed to know. She needed those very answers, she needed to know everything about him, this creature of hate and fear. Mallory didn’t even know if she’d be able to recognise a youthful Michael. She’d never seen him before the end of the world.
Courage almost fled from her grasp when she was force to sat her final goodbyes to a childhood and beautifully innocent past. Grandmother didn’t know of course, it was better that way, even though Mallory wished she could fix this broken glass. Prevent her hands from being cut, prevent the suffering. But she was supposed to be selfless.
“I’m just going to movies with some friends.” She kissed Grandmother on the cheek, barely holding back tears.
A lie. She didn’t have friends. She was an outcast.
And in the lines of Grandmothers face, Mallory knew she knew. But nothing could change what had to be done, what had to be sacrificed for the greater good.
It was her duty, to the coven and the world, to walk away and change someone else’s past, not her own.
1120 Westchester Place.
Shivers ran down her spine when she realised how close they were, how synchronised their lives were, before she knew any better. Only a half-an hour drive to the birthplace of his evil. They had been only a small distance apart the whole time, and it frightened her more than the impending apocalypse.
The house was exactly how it should have looked.
Negative, dark and dangerous. A hissing snake, its head poking out of the leaves and protecting its territory. The closer she got, the harder it was to continue on. Feet being dragged down into the tainted soil that must have lay dormant beneath the house of horrors.
It smelt of anything but horror, and that scared her more than her imagination of what lay inside.
Roses. Spring. It smelt of a garden, much like the garden back home that she helped tend to with Grandmother.
The front door was locked, but with the help of an ancient dwelling energy inside of her, that had always been there, she opened it wide with a thought and goal. She closed it behind her and it locked on its own accord, but she wasn’t scared.
Being inside the house filled her with a strange relief, like it was the outside world that she was truly afraid of. Inside the house, what was supposed to be terrifying and abandoned, she found glimmering light and little dust. Everything purposefully placed, as if it were a true home, lived in by tidy residents.
The colours of the walls and furniture weren’t harsh, but soft, homely. She felt out of place in her black dress, the one she wore the day she walked inside the academy, never looking back.
Although there was no one visibly there with her, she felt them. She felt the presence of tragedy yet light. Mallory closed her eyes, trying to think back to the teachings from Zoe and Myrtle. Learning how to access the colours and sounds and feelings deep within herself. The power that vibrated in her fingertips and brought the hairs on her arm up-right. Bliss and joy humming in her chest and in her mind.
“And who might you be?” Mallory was forced to escape the safe haven of whatever truly lay inside her, to face an elder woman at the top of the stairs, something of an aged Southern Belle. Beautiful in a timeless sense. The woman wasn’t pleased, if Mallory was to judge by the cruel eyes and grimace. “I suggest you leave my property … lest you’re looking for trouble?”
It wasn’t a question, but still, Mallory couldn’t feel afraid.
This woman wasn’t alive.
“I’m not here to cause trouble, I promise-”
“-then why are you here, little church mouse?” The woman smirked down at her, amused by Mallory’s quiet disposition.
Mallory swayed slightly in her spot, unsure how to explain herself, but then she remembered where she was, and why she was there. “I need to ask some questions. About someone who used to live here?”
The woman considered her for a time, taking a drag from a cigarette Mallory hadn’t noticed before. “Well… there’s been many poor souls to live in this house. You’re gonna have to be more specific.”
Mallory hated to say his name, and it seemed the woman hated her saying it, “Michael Langdon. I need to know more about Michael.”
There was a stutter in the woman’s gaze, a falter in her stance as if the walls were crumbling and Mallory had told her a fate so horrid, she’d prefer to sink into the ground and never have to hear it again.
“Please. He’s done something horrible to people I love, and he’ll do worse if I don’t stop him.”
The woman was suddenly put together again, smiling cruelly as if Mallory had imagined it all.
“Oh sweet child, you’re a bigger fool than I thought,” she said, before sauntering down the stairs, and straight past Mallory into what looked to be the kitchen. Mallory watched after her, slowly giving in to a feeling of helplessness she had felt only once before.
Before long, she felt eyes on her and swerved on her feet, ready to run or fight, only to find two mean watching her as if she were a strange creature trapped in a cage.
When she looked closer at the man…no, boy, in the striped shirt, her lips trembled and her heart drowned in familiarity. Golden hair.
She was silent when the elder man beside him spoke, “How are you seeing us? This can’t be possible.”
“I’m a witch. I’m here to learn more about -”
“-Michael… We heard. Trust me, you’re best to leave and forget about asking. There’s darkness here, darkness in that name. There’s no use in getting through to him, magic or no magic.” The man explained, a sadness in his gaze.
“He’s going to bring about the apocalypse if I do nothing.”
“So what? The world sucks anyway,” the boy scoffed, walking off into the shadows. Mallory looked back to the man, asking for anything, any help, any advice.
After an eternity of silence, he finally spoke, “What’s your name?” He smiled, waiting for her to answer as if she didn’t just ask three ghosts about the antichrist.
“Mallory,” she whispered, peering away from him to survey the house. Everything was much brighter, and she could hear the sounds of life. Cups being moved in the kitchen, a baby’s crying upstairs, a ball being bounced, and quiet bickering, that woman and a new voice arguing.
“How do you know Michael?”
She turned back to him, tears slowly starting to prick at her eyes, the man noticed, brows drawing together as if half-expecting something terrible to come out of her mouth. “I…I don’t know him. All I know is that he needs to be stopped.” He killed her sisters in cold blood, massacred his own brotherhood, brought about the end times… haunted her in the underworld she knew as Outpost 3.
He considered her for a time, before gesturing to the room behind him. A sitting room.
They both sat down and he took a moment to think, his eyes frozen on one spot in the ground, hovering over like a dark shadow, his hands clasped tight. He was haunted too.
When he began telling her all he knew, Mallory knew that she had fallen into a trap. That frustrating seed inside her, the one she was told to admire by Grandmother, and Zoe. The hurt she felt for Ben, for Vivien and Constance, and as horrible as it was, as much as she hated herself for it, for Michael.
The most pain she felt was for him.
A child thrust into a cruel world with a just as cruel purpose. Unfair. His grandmother, taken from him, his only home… She cried for them both. For herself and him. “He wanted to be good, desperately.”
Mallory nodded, licking away the tears from her lips. “I…I’m sorry. Maybe there’s a way I could free you from this house? I’m not sure if there is such a spell, but I could try.”
He smiled at her, blue eyes hopeful for a moment. “No, no. This is my grave, I made it, I lay in it. But, there is one person you could help.”
Moira, the housemaid who had been killed by Constance. Mallory dug up her remains and brought them to the cemetery where Moira’s mother rested. The woman had thanked her on her knees, and Mallory had drawn her into a hug, latching onto the woman before freeing her forever.
“You’ve done me a great service, little church mouse. That bitch never shut her mouth,” Constance thanked Mallory in her own harsh way, yet Mallory couldn’t help but feel pity still.
Mallory was sat at the small dining table, across from Constance. They had decided to let her stay for the night, and Mallory had lied again to her grandmother. “Staying at a friend’s house”… close to the truth, yet further than ever.
Mallory couldn’t stop thinking about what Ben and Vivien had told her. Vivien had come to her on her own accord, to speak of the ritual and the omens, things Mallory already knew, and things Mallory didn’t.
“Do you think there’s still good left in him?”
Constance laughed into her drink, some kind of spirit. “That boy… he’s condemned to evil. There’s no saving him. He’s, he’s just a monster, nothing more to it.”
Mallory winced, not believing in it. Even after all that had happened, after everything he had done, she couldn’t shake off the humanity she felt. Like his presence was still in the house, tainted, but hopeful. There was still good, but could she convince him?
She was given a bed to sleep on. A room upstairs. It felt familiar. The smell of death and roses. She knew at once he must have slept there once upon a time. She touched her fingers to the blankets, smoothing over the creases.
A creak in the floorboards behind her forced to look back in a fright. It was a girl, young, maybe her age, dressed in an oversized orange sweater, eyes swollen from crying.
Violet. Ben and Vivien’s daughter.
“You want to help him, don’t you?”
Mallory didn’t answer in words, but she knew her eyes said more than speech ever could.
“I know what that’s like. To care about someone even though they’ve done horrible things, regardless of knowing they’re a monster. I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy.”
Mallory remained silent, eyes following Violet as she faded away into the darkness. She didn’t really see her though, what she saw was Michael. His hand gentle and soft under her jaw, voice just as careful.
She looked down at his hair, her fingers caressing it ever so gently, just like he had caressed her.
There was humanity in him, even when he was truly the Devil.