The old, long boardwalk creaked under Lena’s sandals as she sauntered along it, her hands in the pockets she had sewn into her skirt. From behind her, the fading voices of her family could still be heard.
The annual Duck-McDuck Family Reunion had met at a small beach resort a few miles outside Pelican City this year. A collection of beachfront condos had been rented for the week for everyone attending. Everyone had spent hours gorging on BBQ and catching up.
Gosalyn and Huey were still just as smitten as ever. Gos had laid everyone’s fears to rest regarding her “other occupation”- the Quiverwing Quack had the all clear from Darkwing Duck to “leave on business”. The Terror That Flaps In The Night promised he and Gizmoduck would be able to hold things down in Duckburg while they were gone.
Louie and Boyd had brought Bankroll Beagle, their new boyfriend. After Louie Inc. had bought out the Beagle Boys a few years before (all of them had jumped ship in favor of a generous paycheck and benefits, leaving only Bigtime Beagle stubbornly squatting with Ma in the garbage dump), young Bankroll had found his true calling in the accounting department, making the numbers dance.
Dewey was still single and loving it. Duckburg’s Premiere Triple-A Radio DJ had once described their orientation (Aromantic, Asexual, and Agender, or AAA) on-air as “a Prolonged Scream”, and had made their tenure on Radio Duckburg as aggressively gay as possible. As former drummer of the Nasty Crimeboys, Dewey “Turbo Dewmsday” Duck already had quite the following of Metalheads tuning in every day.
Lena, Webby, and Vincent had told everyone up and down about their new coven, and how proud they were of their new students. (Imani had agreed to feed Atticus while they were gone for the week.)
As the night grew late, Lena stood from her seat by the poolside. She leaned over, kissing Webby on the head. “I’m gonna go take a walk.”
Webby clutched her wife’s hand. “Need some alone time?”
Lena gave a half-shrug-half-nod. Webby nodded understandingly. “Take your time, we’ll be here.”
Now, the noise of the party fading behind her, Lena leisurely walked toward the beach.
She had a plan in mind, an idea she’d been saving for a long time. Now was the time to see if it held true to her imagination. Sink or swim, so to speak.
Normally, during tourist season, the beach would still have some swimmers this time of night. However, this being the off-season, it was quite deserted.
Stepping off the boardwalk, Lena felt her sandal sink in the sand. The sound of the tide was deafening.
Lena stepped out of her sandals, leaving them by the boardwalk. She wiggled her feet into the cool sand, relishing the feeling. The air had a slight chill that blew down the beach.
Lena walked forward until she felt, more than saw, the water rushing around her ankles.
In the shallow surf, she walked down the beach, thinking of nothing in particular.
After a while, she stopped.
She was surrounded by pitch black on all sides. There was no light pollution, at least not this time of year. The darkness wrapped around her like a blanket.
Just a few years ago, I would have had a panic attack here. I’d imagine Magica slithering out of the night or something. I really am growing.
Lena stared out to sea. The ocean stretched to infinity before her, the choppy waters a constant hum.
She had read a quote once. That there was nothing that cared about you less than the ocean in the dead of night.
There was no horizon. Only inky blackness stretching before her.
The magnitude of the ocean was tangible, gently sloshing beneath her with a barely contained power.
In her depths she harbored such terrors as box jellyfish and anglerfish and who knew what other horrors from the deep.
The sea was a ceaseless void. She loved no one and nothing.
She could take me right now, and no one would ever know.
Despite her initial resolve, Lena could feel her hands trembling at her sides. Her eyes closed.
The waves were deafening.
Lena opened her eyes.
A blue glow illuminated the waves before her.
She felt a great warmth ignite in her stomach.
The water parted in a perfect circle around her, seeming to cower in fear.
Lena looked up, her glowing eyes piercing the infinite night, the greatest shadow of all.
Flexing her magic and her might and her very soul, Lena pushed outward, embracing the darkness, the shadows, the sky-
The Night Awoke.
She was everywhere and nowhere.
Her reach stretched as far as the darkness did.
In the face of Her majesty, the ocean was but a puddle. A drop.
The Night smiled. No matter how deep the water or blinding the light, the shadows were always there first.
She saw Her family, Her loved ones, still sitting poolside.
She saw the distant lights of Pelican City, miles and miles away.
She saw a bonfire, miles in the other direction, burning comfortably, casting a welcoming light.
If the Night had eyes, they would have narrowed.
Not so welcoming after all.
A drunken lout, with grabbing hands. A young girl, barely out of her teens, separated from her friends.
The Night could smell the booze on his breath. Hear the entitlement in his voice. Sense the fear in hers.
The drunkard sneered at the girl. “C’mon, baby! You know you want summa this!”
The girl, a round duck with black and white feathers, stepped back. “I-I really need to get going-“
He snatched her wrist. “C’mon, I see that swimsuit,” he leered at her. “I know just what you want.”
The girl’s hand impacted his face as she wrenched her hand away. The drunk blinked, then narrowed his eyes and snarled. “Why you-“
The voice had come from nowhere and everywhere.
The drunk staggered back, his eyes darting around. “Who said that??”
The girl was suddenly aware of the shadows surrounding them. The shadows crept closer and closer, despite the bonfire not shrinking or losing its heat.
In the darkness, an eye opened. Big and blue and the size of a whale’s.
Then another eye opened.
So many eyes. Dozens. All around them.
THEY SAY THE NIGHT IS DARK AND FULL OF TERRORS.
The drunk was dimly aware of a warmth in his shorts as he did something his mother had very patiently taught him not to do when he was very small.
A smile, several meters long and with far too many teeth, slid into view.
THEY. MEAN. ME.
The enormous mouth began to open, and that was the last thing the drunk saw before turning tail and running, piss still trickling down his legs. As the girl watched, he faceplanted in the sand, before scrambling to his feet and continuing his sprint.
The girl whipped around. The inky void was gone, taking the eyes and teeth with it. In its place was the second-most-beautiful woman she had ever seen, clad in a blue bikini skirt and with legs that stretched for miles.
Lena smiled, flecks of gold vanishing from her eyes. “Sorry if I scared you. I hate guys like that.”
The girl staggered over and wrapped Lena in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you so much!” She leaned back, her hands still on Lena’s shoulders. “How did you do that! That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”
Lena grinned. “Would you believe magic?”
The duck grinned. “Absolutely.”
Lena extended a hand. “Good to meetcha. Lena Vanderquack.”
The girl shook her hand vigorously. “Ivy Muscovy.”
“You’re not alone out here, are you?”
Ivy shook her head. “Nah, I got separated from my girlfriend. Have you seen her? She’s-“
“A pig? Blonde, green one-piece?”
Ivy’s eyes widened. “How did you-“
Lena grinned, pointing behind her. “She’s a quick walk down that way. She’s looking for you too.”
Ivy flinched. “Oh crap. I better go hunt her down.” She turned to go, then paused. She turned to face Lena again. “Do you… live around here.”
Lena shook her head. “Nah. Just visiting for a week or so.”
Ivy nodded. “Oh, cool. Okay.”
Lena grinned again. “Do you want to learn?”
Bashfully, Ivy shrugged. “Kinda, yeah? But we leave tomorrow, we’re going back home to Spoonerville.”
“I’ll tell ya what. My sibling and I teach a group of kids back in Duckburg. If you want, I can add you to the group chat and give you lessons over that.”
“That would be amazing! Here, lemme give you my info…”
A while later, Lena sat on the bottom step of the boardwalk. Her sandals dangled from her fingers, her feet buried in the sand.
Though she had played it cool in front of the kid, her heart had been pounding.
She had never held that much power than when she had taken the Night for her own like that.
If I can do that… what else can I do?
After a long pause, Lena shook her head.
Nah. I’m good.
She liked being her. Though admittedly, the whole Eldritch thing could be pretty cool sometimes.
The dry stairs behind her creaked. A familiar voice spoke. “Penny for your thoughts?”
Lena turned. Vincent Sabrewing, her brother, stood behind her, gently lit from behind by the lights from the condos.
Lena smiled. “Hey, bro. Just thinking.” She patted the boardwalk. “Pull up a stair, sit a while.”
Vincent plopped down, his usual turtleneck swapped for a green tank top for the summer. “I couldn’t help but notice quite a large use of magic enveloping most of the beach a while ago.”
Lena chuckled. “I shoulda known you’d see that.”
“Dare I ask?”
Lena shrugged. “Just trying something new. Testing a theory, I guess.”
Vincent kicked gently at the sand in front of them. “And? Did you learn anything?”
“Nothing I wasn’t already sure of.” Lena wrapped an arm around her brother, hugging him close. “I can do anything.”
Vincent snorted good-naturedly. “I or Webbigail could have told you that.”
“Love ya, Vince.”
“Love you too, Lena.”
There was a comfortable silence, filled only by the sound of the waves.
Eventually, Lena spoke. “Did I miss anything while I was gone?”
“Huey and Dewey challenged Louie and Boyd to a game of chicken in the condo pool.”
Lena froze. She slowly turned to face Vincent. “And we’ve been talking here and not going up there to whoop them?!”
Vincent grinned. “I think they understood they’d only have a chance of winning if you weren’t present.”
Lena jumped to her feet. “Come on! Me and Webby have a title to defend!”
Laughing, Vincent followed his sister as Lena took the boardwalk stairs two by two, back to the ones they loved.