There wasn’t much that Ophelia had to recover from. She had woken up after the cure had done the job of ridding the invasive human created disease, and then within four hours she was walking through the garden in her bare feet. Her mother’s hand in hers felt good and she didn’t think that there was anything else in the world that she would ever want. The pain and dreams she had while under the disease were things that she knew were real and weren’t real.
“I don’t want to leave this place,” Ophelia said. “I don’t know where this is, but this is better than home.”
Perdita nodded. The evening sun was half gone behind the distant mountains staining the entire sky a deep crimson. Long dark mountain shadows extended across the valley, a cool wind came up and pressed against them as they stood there and stared out across the land.
“There are uncountable places we can go to, different times, different people,” Perdita said. “But none of it will matter if we don’t stop the woman who is looking for you.”
“There’s a woman looking for me,” Ophelia squeezed her hand.
“Well,” Perdita shook her head. “Women. All of them versions of me.”
“Why,” Ophelia asked.
“Because you’re you,” Perdita said. “And these women are as stubborn as I am.”
“What would they do to me?” Ophelia bent down and stuck her fingers in the cold earth.
“More things than either of us want to think about,” Perdita frowned.
They stood there in the garden and watched the sun start to set. If this was a good story with a good ending where everything made sense and there wasn’t any time travel or disturbing things that had happened to either of them. They would have spent the remainder of their lives in a house that Amara and Autumn would have built especially for them, and Perdita would have only used her love and science to make their lives easier.
But this isn’t that kind of story. So, as they stared at the sunset, the sky spilt open revealing the black void. It was too far to see but Perdita knew it wasn’t normal, and that whatever the void had behind it; it was coming out after them. Whatever thing or things were thirsty for their blood. The void rippled as things crawled out and tumbled down the mountains disappearing in the shadow below.
“House,” Perdita whispered.
Inside she shouted for the others, and they all took turn looking out the window as more and more black things came out of the void. And then, after a few minutes, it closed leaving a sliver of blood red sun just above the mountains.
“We can’t jump,” Liam said looking at them. “Not everyone can go.”
“Then we’re going to run,” Amara said gathering her guns.
“I’ve got a truck,” Autumn said.
They piled in the truck. Autumn driving, Ophelia in the middle, Perdita in the passenger’s seat. Liam and Amara had climbed into the back, and they drove east along the narrow road winding down the hills. They watched as a black wave of things covered the house, orchard, and garden. What they couldn’t see is that these things were devouring everything but the soil as they came across the land.
“Keep driving,” Amara shouted. “Don’t stop.”
But it wasn’t enough. Soon the things were close enough that Amara could see them clearly, individually. They were seven-foot humanoids that crawled on all fours. They were covered in black armor with chitinous tails that curved up to a point. Their faces were void of any humanity. Instead, there were mandibles with wide mouths and silver teeth. They smelled of death and shit.
“Aren’t you going to shoot,” Liam shouted.
“Not until I have to,” Amara said.
It was one hour after that they ran out of gas in the middle of a small town called Crater. If it wasn’t dark, they could have seen mountains in the distance that people had come and take pictures of for years. If they weren’t be chased by those things, they could have admired the ancient looking main street that had been made modern.
“We’re not going to outrun them,” Amara said as she stopped running.
Everyone followed suit and looked between one another. This wasn’t what they thought would have happened so soon. None of them were ready to say goodbye to one another and half of them had already decided that they weren’t.
“Only three of you can jump,” Autumn said. “Two are going to be left behind.”
“We can try and take you through,” Amara said grabbing her hand.
“And we’ll be driven crazy,” Autumn said. “The other Perdita explained it.”
“We’re fucked then,” Liam said.
“No,” Amara shook her head. “Not after this.”
She quickly slipped her fingers around the eye and ripped it out of her socket. The pain was immense but not as bad as it was the first time. She grunted as she stumbled over to Ophelia who had backed against her mother.
“This isn’t going to be nice,” Amara said.
“Don’t,” Perdita started to say but Amara shoved her hard against the pavement.
“Neither of you are dying here,” Amara said. “Not after all the shit.”
Ophelia screamed and thrashed on the ground as the eye connected to her brain. This, Amara thought, was going to take a few minutes. She tossed Autumn the gun and handed Liam the shotgun.
“I hope I taught you how to shoot,” Amara smiled at Autumn.
“You sure did,” she smiled.
They kissed for a good while. The sound of the thing’s armor scraping against each other sounded like a rolling wave of water. Their mouths moved over the ground and ate indiscriminately. They watched as a man was screaming as they ate all of him almost at once.
“You can’t stay here,” Perdita shouted. “You can’t stay here.”
“There’s no other place I’d rather be,” Amara smiled.
She started firing well before the creatures were too close and she continued to fire only pausing to reload. Creature after creature collapsed on the ground to be devoured by its own kind. Autumn followed suit and Liam only shot when one made it too close. He wasn’t good with guns, but with Amara’s shotgun, it didn’t matter.
“I fucking hate you for this,” Perdita shouted as she wept.
“We would have all died,” Amara replied after reloading.
“See you around,” Liam said as he tossed her the shotgun.
And then they were gone leaving Autumn and Amara standing in the middle of a street that would be devoured in ten minutes. They looked to one another, told each other that they loved one another and embraced as tightly as they could. Then they pulled the trigger at the same time. As their bodies collapsed, they were devoured, flesh, muscle, and bone. The entire world was swallowed up and nothing was left but dirt void of any nutrients.
Black pods were placed in lines along the ground. All of it was processed materials; organic and inorganic processed into one thing. Inside there were being created and molded be better than their predecessors who lay dead. They too, would be devoured by their children when they were hatched in two million years. And then they would travel across the cosmos repeating the same thing until there was nothing.
But that wasn’t important. What was important is that someone appeared on the planet after everything had gone silent. They moved with heavy tentacles dragging the ground leaving behind silver trails of metal and acid. Their feet sank and swallowed up the dirt processing it into their own bodies so they would be more universal.
They moved one of their six hands into one of the pods and pull out a skull that had not yet processed. Slowly the skin and muscle form on the head until Amara is looking up to the thing that called itself Perdita Prime. She cannot comprehend what she sees and she has an aneurism. Perdita Prime stops it from happening and smiled with two of her four mouths.
“You’re not going to die,” she said in fourteen different voices.
She then opened her swollen stomach and shoved Amara inside. There the bodiless head screamed and writhed but it wouldn’t help. For the next three thousand years Amara would suffer. She would watch as Perdita found Autumn in her different reiterations and made her suffer in uncountable ways.
But for the moment Perdita Prime walked across empty planet and considered her options and how she would find Ophelia. Of course, the other woman would have cured her, it was the only reason she had sent Amara after her. That woman, Perdita frowned, was almost as smart of herself without consuming the rest of them.
She looked up as something moved three million strings away. There was something out there that was hungry for her, and she could feel it. She knew that she had to keep moving, but she couldn’t let Ophelia get caught up in whatever was coming for her. Else none of the things she had done or become would be worth it.
There wasn’t much she could do but keep moving. So she slipped out of the reality and spent the next three thousand years torturing Amara while, in one day Perdita, Liam, and Ophelia sat in the middle of a field in Montana and wept for their lost friends.