Here’s a Glimmer Girl factoid: my holographic eyes can perceive the entire light spectrum. That means I can see what is visible to other humans and a whole lot more; gamma radiation, infrared, microwaves, you name it. And it’s everywhere. Looking up at the night sky as Glimmer Girl reveals a cosmic rainbow few others experience.
In this place, however, there was nothing. Past the heat of Lindsay’s body was an endless void, stretching forever without horizon. There was ground beneath our feet, but it was devoid of any kind of warmth. Whatever this cursed landscape, it was as far from Earth as it was from Heaven or Hell.
Lindsay took my hand. “Are you okay?”
No answer was forthcoming. My gut screamed that this place was wrong. No human, or even a pseudo-vampire like Lindsay, was meant for this world.
“Where are we?”
She peered into the nothingness. “At a guess, the last place anyone would want to go.”
The Abyssal Realm; birthplace of Lord Nihilex, and all manner of nasties given shape by nightmares. Hours ago I couldn’t have conceived of such a place; it was a story told by strangers. Being there was something else.
“So long as there’s light we’re safe,” Lindsay said.
I turned up the brightness from incandescent to beaming. The light dissipated in the void, but revealed odd shapes along the way. Some of them were human-like, but also inhuman; like the ‘freaklings’ under the Red Wraith command. Others were monstrous of another kind. Just sharing the same plane made my skin crawl.
Oh, gods. We were trapped.
My expression must have been obvious, because Lindsay squeezed my hand tighter. Even in the depths of the Abyssal Realm she found the ability to smile. “It’s going to be okay,” she said. “So long as we stick together.”
I nodded, and forced a smirk. If she needed comfort it didn’t show, but I would be strong for her as well.
We started walking. The smooth, even ground stretched into eternity. Was there a point to our wandering? We’d never know if we didn’t move. The monsters shied away from the light and kept their distance. Lindsay’s hold never let up.
All was quiet; the sound of my own blood coursing overwhelmed the senses. It would have been easy to lose my mind, and to drown in the depths of self.
Lindsay stopped. “I see something!”
A square shape stood apart from the shambling beasts. The closer we moved the larger it became. Soon we made sense of the shadowy portals along the sides. They were windows running along the wall of a castle. It wasn’t just any castle, either.
“It’s the castle of the Great Vampire King,” she gasped.
“You mean Dracula?”
She frowned and shook her head. Suddenly I was an inch tall. How was I supposed to know there was another vampire king? Most of my education on the supernatural came from pop culture, after all.
Hand in hand we ventured toward the structure, across the asphalt of a parking lot, and toward the double gates. They opened with a heavy groan. Someone was waiting for us.
Nestled in the hills overlooking Crescent Valley was a castle out of sync with the world around. Older than the city itself, the structure had become a tourist trap, surrounded by myths about the once ‘Great Vampire King’ who’d made his home there.
The legends were true, though few knew it. Among their number were a handful of vampires – living vampires; allies to humanity who walked freely in the day – who occupied the clock tower upon the castle’s highest peak. They were Fang Force; night’s defenders and guardians of the innocent.
Cass was a sensibly dressed fellow with concern fixed to his brow. He paced the length of the clock tower and bore holes in the wall with his intensity. Of all his cohorts he was the most serious about his duty; especially so when it came to Lindsay. Every so often he stopped and nurse a thought, shook his head, and moved on. How desperate and how foolish might he yet become to save the friend his heart still considered ‘Master’.
“Didn’t you just replace those floorboards?” Vincent asked.
“You’ll wear them down again at this rate,” he said.
Vincent was, in so many ways, the opposite of his cohort; rolled sleeves, deliberately messed hair, and sneakers in place of loafers. Where Cass paced back and forth, Vincent smoldered under an otherwise cool exterior.
“What would you have us do?” he pressed.
“Trust our friends to form a plan,” Vincent said, and he did just that. After all, portals and gateways were not their area of expertise.
Just then, the doors at the bottom of the staircase flew open. The other two vampires sprinted up the stairs with grins as wide as their faces. The first, Luther, clutched a leather-bound tome, and slapped it down on the nearest table. Both he and the other, Drake, flicked through the pages.
“What did you find?” Cass demanded.
Drake scowled. “Give us a moment!”
A small purple bat dropped from the rafters. All three stood back, giving the creature room to flick through the pages. Spike, after all, was the keenest mind and most learned among them.
She landed on a page scrawled with notes, old and new, coupled with arcane symbols, and details of a ritual thought lost to history. Spike muttered the words under her breath, then squealed with delight.
“There is a way to bring Lindsay back from the Abyssal Realm,” she said.
Luther and Drake pumped the air, victorious. Cass breathed a sigh of relief. Vincent climbed from his chair.
The little bat winced. “Bringing Glimmer Girl back is harder…”
“Why’s that?” Cass asked.
Spike combed over the details. “Bringing a living person out of the Abyssal Realm requires a personal connection; friends, family, and so forth. The five of us have a strong enough bond that we can free Lindsay, but we’ve only known Glimmer Girl for a few hours.”
“Then we need to find someone who is connected to her,” Vincent said.
“But how do we do that?” Luther asked. “We have no idea who she is under that mask.”
“Or even if she has friends,” Drake added, earning a glare from those around. “I just meant that she’s the solitary type! Nothing wrong with being a loner.”
“I’m sure there’s somebody in her life with whom she shares a close connection,” Vincent said. “Cass, when you first met Glimmer Girl, what did you smell?”
The vampire balked at the question, valid though it was. Sharing the abilities of his familiar, Cass possessed a wolf’s sense of smell; an ability that proved more useful than most would expect. He composed himself, and cast his thoughts back.
“Rosewater and vanilla bodywash,” he said. “Berry shampoo, laundry detergent; there was also the smell of ozone.”
Vincent pressed his lips tighter. “What about her breath?”
He thought about it a moment. “Let’s see. Toothpaste, ramen noodles, chai with soy milk…”
Spike shot up. “I’ve heard the diet of twenty-first century university students subsists of instant noodles due to poverty!”
“During our earlier encounter, Glimmer Girl lamented having homework,” Vincent said.
“And the chai had a very distinct flavor,” Cass told them. “It’s unlike anything I’ve scented within a chain store.”
Vincent tapped his chin. “Then we can reasonably deduce that Glimmer Girl visits an independent tea or coffee house, likely near a university campus in Milestone City.”
Luther gawked. “You got all that from her breath?”
“It’s a long shot,” Cass said, “but it’s our best lead so far.”
“Then we return to Milestone City,” Vincent said. “Cass, ready your nostrils.”
The wolven vampire huffed, though he would survive the indignity. There was little he wouldn’t endure in his service.
It was a meltdown of childish proportions which, when multiplied by supernatural power, couldn’t be ignored. Lord Nihilex stormed through the halls of the subterranean keep, lashing out at anything – object or individual – that dared lay in his path. With statues and shrines already shattered across the floors, there was little that remained for him to rage upon.
“How soon until your machine is functional?” the shadow conqueror demanded.
The Red Wraith sauntered behind him, for all appearances unconcerned about the outcome of their alliance. ‘Failure’ was not a concept he indulged in; rather he reveled in the unpredictable manner in which events unfolded. It was a thought worth keeping to himself, however, as it seemed Lord Nihilex seemed accustomed to getting his way.
One fact could not be avoided. “Months,” he told the shadow conqueror, “maybe more. Dr. Fellow’s machine was one of a kind, and though he assembled it within a matter of days neither I, nor my people, grasp the depths of his intellect. What we built was an approximation at best, half driven by chance.”
How rare it was that anyone addressed Lord Nihilex in such a cavalier tone. He didn’t like it; not one bit.
“You will reassemble the machine,” he growled.
The Red Wraith yawned. “I’m afraid that isn’t possible. In fact, I’d say this alliance has come to its conclusion. Wouldn’t you?” He dared to place a hand on the squat lord’s shoulder. “Look on the bright side. We may not have achieved what we set out to do, but as an unintended consequence both Red Fang and Glimmer Girl are out of our respective… hair.” This in spite of the fact Lord Nihilex had tendrils over hair.
Of all the nerve! Of all the unmitigated gall! Lord Nihilex erupted with power. Darkness, like lightning, shot into the body of the would-be villain, and brought him to his knees. The Red Wraith squealed, fighting to dissipate into smoke, but the power of his cohort kept him in one piece. That piece was wracked in a pain that twisted his insides.
“You and I are not equals,” he seethed. “It is only because I have further use of you that you continue to live. Is that clear?”
He released his hold on The Red Wraith, whose limbs collapsed beside him. The villain suddenly regained ability to breath. “Crystal,” he croaked.
“Even without their leader, Fang Force still exists to complicate my plans,” Lord Nihilex said. “Your task is to eliminate them by any means necessary. Wiseman’s resources are at your disposal.”
The Red Wraith nodded, but said nothing.
From the shadows the ancient sage emerged. “Yes, my Lord?”
“Send Fantom into the Abyssal Realm. He is to seek out Glimmer Girl and the Great Vampire King’s scion,” he ordered. “Make sure they never return to this plane.”
So it was ordered, so it would be. Those who served under Lord Nihilex had but one mission; to see their Master’s will done.
The Red Wraith pried himself from the floor. He had no such loyalties, but survival demanded obedience. He wondered as he sought about his business, who was the greater enemy; Glimmer Girl or Lord Nihilex?
To be continued…