Four well-placed gunshots broke the silence, putting a spiders’ nest of cracks in the heavy glass door. Vicki lowered her gun, and Melkhiresa moved in to give it a solid kick that shattered it to pieces. Vicki moved a stride forward, in the same span of a heartbeat that Melkhiresa stepped back to her side.
Of one mind, clockwork and fluid, like partners were meant to be.
The way was clear.
There was no alarm. No guards rushing in. No retribution.
As the pair of them stood at the center of the misshapen, dreamlike world. Its atmosphere settled over them like a bloodstained shroud.
“So I guess this is it, huh?”
There were flashes of light – of sheer energy – coursing all around them, drawn like fireflies and lightning to the skyscraper at the heart of it all. But despite that, there was no physical sense of movement. No breeze, to ruffle their clothes or their hair, or to clear the dusty miasma choking the streets surrounding them.
The world was utterly still, cloaked in a perpetual sunset that caught all around them in a sickly yellow glow.
The air was heavy. Stifling.
“Down to just you and me,” Vicki continued, “in a jacked up, carnival-mirror, other-side-of-Hell New York, up against...” she gestured dismissively at the building, “whatever we find up there.”
“Yeah,” Melkhiresa breathed. “The Wall Against the Darkness. Just two cops from Staten Island with worthless badges.” Not to mention, completely out of their element. “That’s... us.”
“Yeah. Who’ve fuckin’ thought, huh?”
They shared one last moment of silence.
Then Vicki snickered. It evolved into a full out laugh, and proved highly contagious, until the two of them were leaning into one another, fighting to stifle their giggles. The sound echoed in the empty street, pushing back the against the ominous, oppressive emptiness.
Vicki clapped Melkhiresa’s shoulder, causing them both to wobble, and squeezed affectionately.
“You know, when this is over you’re buying me a drink. Heck, I think we both could use one.”
“I’m buying you a drink?”
“Fuck yeah you are. You’re still the rookie here.”
“Hey,” Melkhiresa protested, “I’ve been with the Unavowed longer.”
“Yeah, by two whole fuckin’ days.”
Melkhiresa smiled. Maybe at her, maybe at their argument.
“Alright,” she agreed. “When this is over, I’m buying you a drink.”
“That’s more like it.”
They were still leaning into one another. The half-askance stare between them grew heavier, Melkhiresa’s smile fading entirely with Vicki’s smirk slipping. Before Vicki could ask what, she practically knew. It was pitch perfect without a word, all in the eyes – the all too human eyes – and the cant of her head.
She’d only meant to blink, or so she told herself. But the soft, shy touch against her mouth enticed her down a different train of thought entirely. The barest shift, and they were pressed against one another, with no space to breathe, following the sensation – feeling, thought, prayer – deeper. Melkhiresa’s warm hand slid across the back of her neck, evoking a shiver; Vicki returned the favor by digging her fingers into the other woman’s hair.
They remained there, even after they broke apart with a flutter of eyelashes and shy, easy smiles. Melkhiresa didn’t quite meet her eyes; not until Vicki chuckled, prompting Melkhiresa to chew her lip.
Not like precinct regulations mattered to either of them anymore. One of them, no matter how innocent, was still a wanted suspect to half a dozen murders, not even to speak of God knew how many other crimes, and the other was a disgraced cop who asked too many questions.
It felt weird, but it felt right.
As if somehow it didn’t matter where they were, or how they’d gotten here.
A giddiness settled in her chest, as Melkhiresa’s gaze flicked to her mouth. Vicki smirked, more than happy to meet her halfway.
Or she would have been.
An unpleasant squelching behind them, the way that had come, broke the eerie stillness of the broken world. They both turned. Melkhiresa’s eyes widened, and Vicki shoved her back a step even as hers narrowed.
“What the unholy fuck is that thing?”
“Oh?” Vicki demanded.
“It must’ve been... uh...” Melkhiresa winced, but continued the thought out loud, “when I used that summoning spell.”
Vicki shrugged her jacket a little straighter.
“I knew it,” she grumbled. “I knew that shit was trouble.”
The creature was all sinew and muscle, and practically nothing else, except worst of all it had a face – grotesque, but featured – with sharply intelligent eyes that bored into them. Another of the creatures squelched into being. And a third.
Melkhiresa stepped in front of her. Staring them down, like that would do any good.
“It was an accident,” she said, “go back to wherever the hell you came from.”
“An accident, it says,” one of the things rasped.
“Go back?” another mocked, laughing harshly.
A fourth splattered against the pavement, springing back into form unharmed. The third slithered closer. All four of them were fixated on Melkhiresa, their creepy eyes pulsing with a hungry light.
Behind her, Vicki had flicked the chamber of her revolver open, empty casings scattering on the pavement as she deftly reloaded. She clicked the chamber shut again before pocketing her loader.
Six shots against four guys?
“Don’t worry; I got it.”
“Whatever they are, they’re not immortal. Mandana killed one the night she and Eli...” Melkhiresa struggled for the applicable word, “freed... me.”
“Hey, I’ll take care of them; you take care of the psycho upstairs.”
“Get going already.”
“Yeah...” Melkhiresa nodded. Her fingers brushed Vicki’s arm, before she spun around to make a dash for the shattered door. Her footsteps crunched on broken glass, then echoed on tile.
“And don’t forget,” Vicki called after her, over her shoulder, “you owe me a drink.”
With that, she turned to face the monsters creeping forward through the wan light towards her.
“Anyone ever tell you, you fuckers are ugly?”