“Ow!” Astrid landed bottom-first on a concrete picnic table in the park. While pain shot up her tailbone she heard several chimes fill the air. A group of four kids sat at the table she landed on; instead of being surprised, they all checked their phones instead. “Sorry,” Astrid apologized to the group and climbed off the table, but the group ignored her.
“NO WAY!” one of them shouted, but the entire group seemed to be buzzing with the excitement of their screen.
“What’s S–*plus?” a brown-haired girl asked.
“Who’s Astrid?” a ruddy-faced blond boy asked.
“Hi! I’m Astrid,” Astrid waved at the group. This time she caught their attention. The two boys and two girls left their seats and surrounded Astrid with curiosity on their faces.
“No way, she looks super scrawny,” the second boy commented about Astrid.
“Has to be, she showed up right when the ranking changed,” the brown-haired girl said; then, she looked at Astrid. “How did you get to rank 1?” she asked the scrawny girl directly. Astrid shrugged.
“I don’t know what that means, I just got here. Do you guys know anyone named Mundo?” The group burst into laughter.
“Right, right, you have no idea what we’re talking about,” the blond boy said. He took two steps closer to Astrid while browsing something on his phone. Then, he showed her the screen. It was a Top Ten list with her name at the top. “1. Astrid – S+” But the second entry caught her attention. “2. Mundo – B.”
“It’s a complete coincidence that you’re asking about the guy in second place,” he said.
“It is, but that’s great! Where can I find him?” Astrid’s question was punctuated by the same chorus of chimes she heard when she arrived. The group automatically checked their phones.
“Whoa, another one!”
“What’s going-,” Astrid started to ask, but stopped. It all clicked. She heard the sound when she landed and took the first spot on their leaderboard. Now it sounded like someone took the first spot again. She meant to try and peek at one of their phones, but she caught sight of something in the corner of her eye. “Oh.”
“Now who the hell is Ballisea?” the blond boy asked. “S- infinite? Is that even a thing?”
“Hola, Luna,” Ballisea smiled at Astrid. The pale, horned woman in a flowing black dress stood atop the concrete picnic table. “How fare your travels?” she asked with an amused tone. Astrid narrowed her eyes.
“Hey,” she said, then paused. She needed to consider her words carefully. She did not want to offend Ballisea with an accusation, but there was no other explanation. “Are you-,” Astrid did not get to finish her question. After the word, “you” left her mouth, a black hole opened under her feet and swallowed her up completely. Chimes sounded from the group’s phones, but not one of them took their eyes off Ballisea.
“Di.. did you kill her?” the brown-hair girl asked. Ballisea looked down at the young teenagers and smiled.
“Of course not,” she said. A black portal, the size of a garage door, appeared in front of the group. White skeletons marched out of it while chimes filled the air; a new tone rang each time a skeleton appeared. “When I kill someone, it’s a little more obvious.” The skeletons marched forward on the teenagers. “Like this.”