Sharp Divinity

“Prove it,” Agent Whitney said. Neither he nor the rest of his squad lowered their weapons. They all kept their aim focused on the two women sitting in the diner’s booth. Both were pale; the lean one wore an all-white suit, the other one wore a matching black suit.

“What kind of proof would you like?” Dana Sharp – the woman in white- asked. She lifted a glass of water from the table. A small black hole appeared above the glass; then, it moved down around the glass. The drink was replaced with a filled wine glass in her hand. “Water into wine?”

Speaking directly into your mind again?” Her voice filled Agent Whitney’s mind; it was a foreign, invasive thought. Exactly like the elders described.

“Just the fact that I’m here with my assistant should be more than enough proof for an Earth that monitors its population so closely.” Agent Whitney had to admit she had a point. He assumed most people would panic when suddenly surrounded by armed soldiers in a public space. She seemed to be expecting them as if she knew her presence would be noticed. He had no idea where the two women came from. Whether she was who she claimed to be or not; she still had amazing capabilities. Agent Whitney guessed if she wanted him and his men dead, there was nothing they could do to stop it. He relaxed his weapon and nodded at the rest of his men.

“Wise choice,” Dana said. “You’ll be thrilled to know you’re at the right place at the right time. I’m a busy woman, so let’s talk about why I’m here,” she gestured at the seat in front of her booth.

“I’m not fond of the methods your society has chosen to control your population,” she said.

“I knew you weren’t God,” Agent Whitney said. He looked Dana in the eyes. “If you were, you’d know that God made the rules; we just follow them.” Dana smiled.

“I know what I did,” she said. “We’re talking about your society, not me.”

“No one can get pregnant if we reach the population limit!” he said. “What else can we do to keep the Human race going? Wait for people to die naturally? Our elders already live hundreds of years and that’s only getting longer.” Dana sighed.

“I can see now that I was too hopeful,” she said. “It seems humanity, in general, is less intelligent than I thought. A God shouldn’t have to explain her designs; but, you folks are just too simple.”

“I put the limit on this Earth to encourage you to think about expanding; to encourage exploration. Why do you think I gave you longevity on top of the population limit?” Dana asked. Agent Whitney had often wondered about that. It seemed like a cruel joke, but now he was able to see its purpose.

“I’m putting you and your men in charge on this Earth,” Dana said. Her assistant stepped forward and placed a small white briefcase on the table. She opened it, then stepped back again. The inside was lined with red velvet. Six rectangle shapes were hollowed out and holding what seemed to be transparent glass cards.

“Sacrifices stop immediately. The limit only applies to this Earth; with these you’ll be able to access other Earths. At the risk of over-estimating you again, I trust you have some ideas of how to make use of that information,” Dana said. Agent Whitney nodded.

“Yes, my God,” he bowed his head. Dana sighed.

God is a title that feels rather weak; Please, call me Ms. Sharp.”

Stellar Movies

“A hockey mask!?” Murphy scoffed. “Because nothing says, ‘scary monster’ like a hockey mask.” A tall man in a jumpsuit and hockey mask slaughtered a couple on the screen.

“Shhhh,” Phoebe nudged him with her elbow. The pair of roommates sat on the couch together for the first of their new weekly scheduled movie nights. “You wanted to watch movies from other universes; this is what you get.”

“But a hockey mask? At least our ‘Jackson’ is scary in his movies,” Murphy said. “He doesn’t need to protect his face like a weakling.”

“His name is Jason in these movies,” Phoebe replied. On the TV, a spaceship landed next to the lake in the middle of the night.

“Oh, you’re right,” Murphy rolled his eyes. “That name makes him way scarier. Well, I hope the alien is cooler.” The two watched in silence for several minutes, then Murphy was hit with a stray thought. 

“Hey, you said there’re infinite universes out there, right?”

“Yeah,” Phoebe nodded without taking her eyes off the screen. The alien hunter and super zombie murderer were both stalking the same victim; it was one of her favorite scenes.

“So… does that mean this could really have happened somewhere? I mean, this movie, these two killers. They probably exist?”

“Yes, and no,” Phoebe replied. “There are records that hint a Unique Soul like Jackson-Jason existed. It’s probably why so many Earths have a version of him; but, aliens don’t exist.”

“Huh? How do you sound so sure?” Murphy asked. His question was punctuated by sudden action music. On-screen the hunter and murderer met and began their clash. The alien was shown struggling to find the killer with his thermal vision. Phoebe sighed, then used her node to pause the movie as the alien reached up to remove his mask.

“Pretend everything,” Phoebe paused, then decided to stress the word. “EVERYTHING, all of existence exists in one house. Every room in that house has locked doors.”

“Okay,” Murphy nodded. “With you so far.”

“When I say, ‘I can travel to infinite universes’, all of those universes I can travel to are in the same room.

“Whooooa,” Murphy’s mind boggled at the fact that there was more than infinity out there.

“Aliens don’t exist in this room; that’s what makes them aliens,” she giggled.

“So, then, they do exist outside this hypothetical room, right? How do we know they haven’t visited?”

“Unique Souls are intended to travel between universes. We do that by,..”Phoebe lifted her hand and wiggled her fingers at the air. “…interacting with the vibrations on each Earth we visit.” A dish-sized black portal opened in the air; then, she dismissed it with a wave.

“But… aliens?” Murphy asked. He wasn’t sure how her explanation was related. Phoebe nodded.

“The explanation starts getting into Mundo territory; boring for me to explain. If an alien touched a Unique Soul, that Unique’s frequency would be forever changed. Not only that, the moment it touched the void, all Uniques that have been through the void would know about the new frequency. It would be like another room in the house opened up to us. We’d be able to visit Earths that have made alien contact.”

“So,… they could still be in our room and just haven’t touched a Unique Soul yet?” Murphy asked. Phoebe shrugged.

“I guess. But with so much to see out there already, it doesn’t matter.  You’d be surprised at how alien some Earths are. Can I start the movie again?” Phoebe asked. Murphy nodded. Phoebe woke her node but accidentally tapped the ‘Forward’ button instead of the ‘Play’ button. The movie jumped forward to her next saved scene.

“Oh no!” She dropped her node in a hurried attempt to rewind it.

Spoilers,” Murphy said with a chuckle. On the screen, the alien hunter was donning his newest prize: a hockey mask.

“Well, the first one isn’t that great anyway. Now we can do the other one!”

“There’s another one?”

“Yeah!” Phoebe chirped. “From a different – different universe.” She finally got her hands on her node and pulled up the next movie. Murphy laughed.

“Freddy vs. Jason vs. Predator vs. Aliens vs. 3 Stooges vs. Dracula? They’re not even trying to give it a movie title.”

“Shhhh, this is the best one. No talking. You need to pay close attention to the plot or you’ll get lost.”

Sharp Fee

“HELLO!!??” Gavin yelled at the top of his lungs. His call echoed around the empty lobby; but, no one showed up. He managed to wait several seconds before getting fed up. Screaming was his resort. He rang the service bell on the desk several times and even tried calling the hotel number; no one answered. Finally, he decided to call the travel agent. Gavin’s panic died down once he heard another person’s voice.

“How can I help you, Mr. Walker?” Gavin was glad he wouldn’t have to dig out an account number or anything. He recognized the voice as the woman that put together the vacation for him. It was a small detail that helped him temper his anger. The woman on the other end sounded pleasant and willing to help. Gavin felt guilty for not remembering her name.

“Uh, hi. There’s no one here. I can’t check in to get a room. Where is everyone?”

“You requested the Lonely Planet package,” the woman replied. “There’s no one else there.” Gavins suddenly felt a knot growing in his stomach. “Pick any room you like.”

“Whoa… wait. I don’t have the money to rent out a whole hotel.,” he said. He hoped they would let him cancel due to what was obviously a misunderstanding.

“There won’t be any more fees on top of what you already paid,” the woman said. “However, if you’re unsatisfied with your current package, you may choose another destination. At Sharp Travel, we strive to do our best for our clients.”

Upon learning it wouldn’t cost him anything extra, Gavin reconsidered his situation. He did want some quiet time away from everything. Having an entire hotel to himself didn’t sound half bad all of a sudden. But, he was there via misunderstanding.

“Well, I think I’m here by accident,” Gavin apologized. He knew it was his own fault for lack of attention. “The travel guide, ‘Lonely Planet’ puts out vacation recommendations. That’s kind of what I wanted when I said ‘Lonely Planet’ package. But, since I’m here, it’s only right that I give it a fair shot. That being said, can you remind me again what this vacation is supposed to be like? I thought I knew what I was getting.”

“Of course, Mr. Walker. My name’s Lucy and I’m your personal concierge for this vacation. Anything you need, I’m at your service.  You signed up for a two-week ‘Lonely Planet’ package. For two weeks, you are the only human anywhere on that Earth. Many of our clients use these types of vacations to live out their ‘last person on Earth’ fantasies. You’ll find a welcome package with a node in the manager’s office. With that node, you can customize the Earth for your experience as you see fit.” Gavin spotted a door behind the check-in desk and headed toward it.

“Wait,” he asked. “I’m the only human on Earth? How’d you do that? Where are you?”

“On another Earth,” Lucy replied. She tried to maintain an even tone, but Gavin heard a slight, ‘duh’ in her voice. In the manager’s small office he found a white folder with the travel company’s logo- a pair of red scissors- on the front. He opened it to find several welcome pamphlets as well as a smaller red envelope. A card-sized pane of glass was in the envelope; its display lit up to show the time when he touched it.

“So, not only do other Earths really exist. For a few thousand dollars I can rent one out for two weeks? That seems ridiculously cheap.” Gavin sat down at the manager’s desk and began playing with the node. After it greeted him, it started to ask him questions about the kind of Earth he wanted to vacation on.

“Sharp Travel isn’t about making money, Mr. Walker. We simply want to give our clients the best vacation of their life. Honestly, the money is just a service fee.” Gavin pressed enter on his last choice. Then, the node displayed a new message.

[Cyber-future template selected. Build time – 8 hours.] Gavin didn’t know exactly what that meant, but he hoped it would somehow give the hotel a futuristic look.

“Service fee?” Gavin chuckled. He put the node down and stopped splitting his attention. “My signature on a few forms hardly seems like it’s worth this amazing vacation.”

“I did inform you that your soul was part of the transaction,” Lucy said.

“Wait… you were serious!??” Gavin was glad he was seated; his head spun at the news. “I thought you were joking because of your slogan. ‘Vacations worth selling your soul’,” he repeated as if she didn’t work for the company. “I don’t want to sell my soul! Cancel everything!”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Walker. If you had changed your mind five minutes ago, I would have been happy to refund your soul. However, you’ve already used the amenities. There is actually another reminder on the node before you use it; which, you also agreed to.” Gavin vaguely remembered seeing the word ‘soul’ somewhere in the wall of text he acknowledged. He accepted the responsibility of his situation with a heavy sigh.

“Is there anything you can do for me?” Gavin begged.

“Let me check,” Lucy said. After a few quiet moments, she spoke up again.

“Mr. Walker, because it’s the slow season I can extend your vacation for three more days if you like.”

“Well,… it’s better than nothing,” he replied with a shrug.

“Great! Your total comes out to $627.33 cents. Is it okay if I pull it out of the same account you paid with?”

“You’re charging me!?” he asked.

“Of course not, Mr. Walker, we already own your soul. However, there is still a service fee.”

Sharp Discussion

“He’s going to let this continue?” Satan asked. The giant red-skinned man sat in his cavern office behind a large obsidian desk. In front of him sat a young woman with sea-green curls and olive skin. Isla nodded an answer to his question.

“He wants to see, ‘how it plays out’,” she said. Her exasperated eye roll gave away her true feelings on the subject. Satan sighed.

“I feel like he’s losing interest in the whole thing. Between this and letting Ballisea run wild,” Satan gestured at Isla with his hand. “He didn’t even come in person.”

“He has been doing it for a while,” Isla agreed. “Some of the Middlemen think he’s following your example. He might be considering a successor.” Satan’s eyes went wide in shock; but, he couldn’t say he was surprised.

“You can’t mean…,” Satan paused looking for the right words. “She’s a Zero! She was at least. now she’s -,”  Isla interrupted him.

“Now she’s running her own afterlife. After being just you two for so long, the big guy thinks a third competitor could spice things up. He thinks she couldn’t possibly make any headway this late in the game,” Isla shook her head. “We’ve been trying to convince him he’s underestimating her.” Satan nodded vigorously.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned,” he chuckled. “Even if the bossman said, ‘I have no doubts Dana Sharp will win this round’; that would still be underestimating her. He sees everything, but he doesn’t notice everything.” Isla nodded.

“We know. The scarier part is; she’s found somewhere to hide.”

“What?!” Satan asked. “That’s… that’s impossible! Where?” Isla rolled her eyes again and giggled.

“If we knew that she wouldn’t be hidden.”

“And he’s still not going to step in and stop it? That’s cheating.”

“Big man says it’s not cheating if we can’t catch her doing it. Which, we can’t.” 

Satan grumbled under his breath for a few moments, the finally shook his head.

“You know what I just realized? It’s not my problem anymore,” he said. “Julie’s almost done with her quest, then I’m out of here. If he’s not going to worry about it, I’m not going to either.”

“That’s what the Middlemen decided too,” Isla nodded. “It’s business as usual, just a bit slower,” Isla said. She stood from the chair. “Was there anything else you wanted to bring to his attention?” she asked; a black portal opened to her side. Satan shook his head.

“That was everything. Thank you, Isla,” he said. Isla nodded, waved, then stepped through the portal.

Sharp Campaign

There is no other way.

We make the rules.

In life, you’ll find

you control your own fate.

Life is a game; Don’t think

you can’t set your own rules.

For a good life; know that

we provide the tools

to give you strife, or

live happily ever after. We decide

if our reality is real. You’ll never

forget the day of this event.

Remember:

The AlterNet is everywhere.

-this Ad brought to you by Sharp Development.

Over Armor

Nicholas’ confidence tripled the moment he walked into the Magus’  tower. Only the high council and a few of his close friends were present as witnesses, despite Nicholas’ public challenge. The Magus herself stood in the center of the dueling arena; she wore a long purple robe with sparkling gold embellishments. She was rumored to be hundreds of years old, but barely looked older than Nicholas’ mother. Long salt and pepper hair with a few laugh lines under her eyes being the only wrinkles on her skin.

The fact that the Magus was an old woman is what made Nicholas think he stood a chance at all. He knew he’d probably earn some backlash for sucker-punching a senior citizen; but, once he had her title it would be worth it. Nicholas loved watching wizards duel. He often wondered why no one ran up and attacked their opponents at close range. He had trouble making friends in his younger years because according to them he ‘wasn’t playing right’. What they saw as rule-breaking, Nicholas saw as a weakness. He practiced with a dagger as often as he practiced his magic.

“I expected a bigger crowd,” Nicholas said. He descended the few stone steps into the stone arena. “Didn’t want to get embarrassed in front of too many people?” he asked.

“I didn’t want to bother people with a non-event,” the Magus said. She gave him her own confident smile. “The council and your witnesses are all we need to ensure fairness. I want to point out that this is an actual duel. This is not a lesson, I will treat you as an opponent, not a student. This is not a duel to the death; however, I strongly encourage you to fight with the intent to kill. You won’t stand a chance otherwise,” she said.

Yeah, I’ve got the intent,” Nicholas grinned to himself.

“Standard duel rules. I’m assuming everyone here is familiar with them?” The Magus looked around the room. Nicholas followed her gaze and saw everyone nodding. It was Nicholas’ first non-school assigned duel. He knew all he needed to; stabbing your opponent was not against the rules. 

“Ready?” The Magus turned her back to Nicholas and faced the far side of the arena. Nicholas lined up behind her with his back to hers. Nicholas and the Magus each took ten steps forward. Nicholas readied his first spell as soon as he finished the tenth step; then, one of the councilmen jingled a small bell.

Shadowstep,” Nicholas cast his first spell at the sound of the bell. His shadow jumped up from the ground and enveloped him, then he was gone. He rose up from the Magus’ shadow behind her and did not waste any time. He stabbed his dagger forward at her spine.

The tip of the dagger touched her robe; a pulse of purple energy radiated from the point it made contact and pushed back against him. The dagger flew out of Nicholas’ hand. Before he could process the situation, stone pillars shot up from the ground to surround him. They were close enough to him and each other to prevent him from moving.

“What the hell was that?” The Magus whirled around and asked. Her  violet eyes seemed clouded with confusion. “Did you just try to stab me?”

“There’s no rule against it!” Nicholas shouted. He tried wiggling himself out, but the pillars kept him locked in place. The magus sighed. She reached up slowly, then patted his head. The gesture was deliberately slow as if to hint at how many spells she could have used in the short movement.

“You lose,” she said. The pillars crumbled away and the Magus nodded.

“There’s no rule against setting yourself on fire either; some rules are redundant. As the winner, I’m requesting an essay from you. Three pages on the importance of mana armor.”

Sharp Planet

“No way…,” Lyra almost couldn’t believe her eyes. The young woman sat in a diner staring at the TV in awe. A group of astronauts returning from Mars was being interviewed about the photographs they returned with. “That’s gotta be the reason I’m here,” she whispered to herself. Her boss, Ms. Sharp, asked her to keep spend some extra time on this Earth, but she did not give a reason. She pulled her node out and sent a report immediately.

It was a pleasant Saturday morning and the diner was full, but not overcrowded. Lyra expected the din of conversation to die down, considering what was shown on the TV. Actual, English words written on a cave wall on Mars. Lyra regularly traveled between alternate universes but even she was impressed. Even if the actual message struck a nervous chord somewhere in her. But, everyone around her was focused on their own troubles. Her node vibrated in her hands as she wondered about the cave’s message.

[Thank you, Lyra. Please exit to another server for your safety. Ms. Sharp requested an emergency shut down on that server; there won’t be a warning. – Melody]

Lyra was surprised. She felt confident that Ms. Sharp would be interested in the message; especially considering a human skeleton was found next to it. The more she thought about it, the more Lyra appreciated Ms. Sharp’s focus.

That’s why she’s the most powerful woman in the universe,” Lyra thought with a smile. “She knows what she wants and doesn’t let herself get distracted.” Suddenly, Lyra felt the ground tremble under her feet; she glanced at the TV and saw they seemed to be in the middle of an earthquake too. Lyra casually wiggled her fingers at the air next to her and opened a black portal to escape through before the Earth exploded.

***

“The server is down and the Mars astronauts are in hibernation, Ms. Sharp,” Melody reported to Ms. Sharp in her office. “Except for Lyra, everyone that saw the message is accounted for.” Ms. Sharp gave a curt nod.

“Put a team of Zeros to work on solving Mars frequencies. You are the only Unique that knows about it,” Ms. Sharp said. Melody nodded.

“Yes, Ms. Sharp.” She turned to leave, but Ms. Sharp spoke up again.

“Let’s not take any chances; this might show up again somewhere. It’s better to take ownership. Start an ad campaign on suitable Earths,” Ms. Sharp smiled as she repeated the four words found on Mars.

“The AlterNet is Everywhere.”

Unique Purchase

“It’s called a rice cooker,” Larry said. Despite his reminder, Dee nodded and dropped a hunk of raw chicken into the pot. It was the last in a short list of ingredients; none of which were rice.

“That’s what it’s called,” Dee said. “But that’s not what it is.” Larry narrowed his eyes at the appliance on the table between them. It seemed to be a standard 6-cup rice cooker. It was white with an electronic control panel on the front, and a glass lid. He watched Dee push the lever down; then, a red indicator light came on.

“Looks like one,” he shrugged.

“Really?” Dee asked with a large grin. It took Larry a second to realize she was holding the unplugged power cord in her hand. He focused on the rice cooker again and noticed that the red light was still on. He grew curious and peeked in through the glass lid but he only saw thick white steam.

“…What’s going on?” Larry asked. He briefly wondered if it was a prank. Although, in their short friendship of three years, Dee never showed any signs of being a practical joker. It wasn’t that she did not have a sense of humor, but as a rule she tended to be reserved. Dee shrugged.

“I don’t know exactly,” she said. She sat down at the small dining table across from Larry. “When I first got it, I was organizing my pantry and I accidentally dropped some ingredients into it. Nothing major. Some pasta, a head of garlic and a can of tomato sauce. Since I was focusing on something else, I put the lid on and planned to clean it up when I was done.”

“And then?” Larry asked.

“And then, after a few minutes, I heard a click,” she said.

“Click?” Larry asked.

*CLICK* the lever on the rice cooker popped up; the red light turned green.

“That click,” Dee said. She reached over and lifted the lid; it released billows of steam. The smell instantly hit Larry’s nose. It was the most delicious chicken soup he’d ever smelled. He looked in and noticed a rich golden broth simmering with chunks of chicken and vegetables.  “Except, when I opened it the first time it was full of fresh cooked spaghetti.” Dee grabbed the ladle and began serving a bowl for Larry.

“I experimented with it after that; it’s like a magic crockpot,” Dee giggled. “I can throw in pretty much anything and it’ll cook the ingredients into a meal. And, it’s been saving me money; I only need a small amount of an ingredient,” Dee stirred the pot and nodded at it to get Larry’s attention. “There’s way more chicken in here than I added.”

“Oh my god! Where did you get it!?” Larry asked. He hopped out of his chair and bent forward to study the rice cooker. His eyes roamed over the front, then he ran around the other side to check the fine print.

“I ordered it online from Woolie’s; it’s not like they’re making magic items. I’m sure it’s a fluke that I got this,” Dee said. Larry was nodding in agreement while trying to read the fine print.

“I need to see the bottom,” he said.

“You know something?” Dee asked. She stood from her own seat, then grabbed a different pot.  She pulled the inner chamber out of the rice cooker and emptied it into the pot. While she did that, Larry flipped the base over.

“YES!” he shouted loud enough to startle Dee slightly. “You are SO lucky.” 

“Well, I kind of already knew that,” Dee giggled. “This is obviously magical.” Larry shook his head.

“It’s NOT magical…,” he grinned. He walked around to her side of the table and pointed at something on the bottom of the cooker. It was a 36 in small, golden numbers. “…it’s Unique.”

Good as New

“It’s true…,” Carrie said. Her eyes were wide with awe as she watched the torn sheet of paper put itself back together on the desk. She sat in a large white office sitting in front of the world’s most famous man. He made headlines almost a year ago; his abilities were well known. However, seeing it happen in person was magical to her. She couldn’t believe she had a chance to talk to him.

“That’s not all,” Wendell said. He picked up the sheet off the desk and held it up to show Carrie both blank sides. The crazy scribbles he asked her to make an hour ago were gone. “It’s like new.”

“Amazing…,” Carrie felt relief wash over her. She now knew for sure that he could help her. The fact that he took the time to meet with her at all also felt like a good sign. She took in a deep breath to help calm her excitement. “About your fee…,” she asked. Carrie had very little, but she went into the meeting willing to walk out homeless.

“In my position…,” Wendell smiled warmly at her. “…I can name any fee I want from anyone.” He reached into a drawer, then placed a form on the table along with a pen. “I’ve only been doing this for about 10 months, but I’ve met a lot of people in that short time. The great thing about naming my prices is; I get to say ‘free‘ sometimes.”

“Free?!” Carrie perked up immediately. “You’d do that?”

“I would, and I have. I’d hardly be benefitting humanity if I only focused on money. If you sign the form, I have time to help you today if you’re ready.”

“Today!? Right now!?” Carrie grabbed the pen and signed her name at the bottom of the form. “I’m ready!”

“Wonderful,” Wendell said. He stood from his seat and walked around the desk while removing his white lab coat.

“I’m assuming you have a ride in the waiting room?” He asked while rolling up his sleeves.

“Oh.. No, I drove here,” Wendell paused.

“I’m sorry, you may have missed some of the more important details in the pamphlet,” he said. Carrie immediately regretted spending the hour on her phone instead of reading the information  he gave her. “You won’t be able to drive after the procedure,” he said.

“Oh.. For how long?” Wendell gave hearty laugh; Carrie felt her cheeks burn.

“16 years,” he said. He pointed at the blank sheet on his desk. “Like new, remember?”

Spider. Lady.

“Where- Ow!” Tara banged her head against something, then fell back to the cold, concrete floor. “What the hell?” she asked aloud while rubbing the ache on her forehead.

“Careful,” a soft voice said. “These cages aren’t that big.” Tara’s pain subsided and she looked around to try and get a better idea of her surroundings. She was in a cage with thick metal bars. Though it was dim, a small window with bars on it let in a sliver of moonlight. She was able to see several other cages in what appeared to be a basement or storage room. Though, only one of the other cages was occupied. A young girl that appeared to be about Tara’s age was doing her best to sit close to Tara. She sat with her arms around her knees and leaning against the side that faced Tara’s cage.

“Where are we? How’d I get here?” Tara asked.

“There were six other girls when I woke up here,” the girl replied. “Men came and took them, and the ones that arrived after me away one by one.” She spoke with the most defeated voice Tara ever heard; the girl’s tone was flat and distant.

“I’m Tara, what’s your name?” Tara asked. She guessed the situation and decided she wanted nothing to do with it. It was time to leave.

“Doesn’t matter,” the girl replied.

“That’s kind of long; I’m going to call you D.M. instead. How long have you been here, D.M.?” While Tara tried to make conversation with the girl, the locks to their cages were being dissolved by acid. Tara also managed to learn about their location and the people that put here there, from within the cage.

“Four girls showed up after me,” she said. “I think it’s about one a week; you’re the fifth.”

“Damn, well don’t sweat it, D.M. You’re out of here tonight,” Tara replied. The locks on both their cages popped off; two heavy clinks sounded on the concrete floor.

“What?” D.M. sat up on her knees and looked at Tara in surprise. “Did you do that? How?” she asked. Tara crawled out of her cage and stood to give a tall stretch.

“C’mon, I’m hungry. I’ll explain it over a pizza,” she said. D.M. timidly crawled out of her cage and enjoyed a stretch herself.

“There’s guards!” she said as Tara headed toward the door.

“Nah,” was all she said before opening the door. D.M. followed Tara out of the room and into a narrow hallway. She was glad for the dim lighting. It was brighter than the storage room, but not bright enough to blind her coming from a dark room. The moment she looked down the hall, D.M. shrieked in fear.

The two guards she expected to see were both on the ground; each one was covered with dozens of different types of spiders. The guards were already dead and the spiders were wrapping them in webbing.

“It’s cool,” Tara said. “They won’t hurt you, they’re with me.”

“…with you? What does that mean?”

“I can control them, c’mon.” Tara repeated. “I’m hungry. I’ll answer all your questions when I get some food.” 

“What about the rest of them?” D.M. asked. She pressed herself against the opposite wall to walk by the guards. Tara shrugged.

“What rest of them?” she asked with a smirk. D.M. followed Tara out of the building they were in. She spotted what looked like a main house, and two more corpses were on the ground being wrapped up by hundreds of spiders.

“Where did all these spiders come from?” D.M. asked.

“From me,” Tara replied as they kept walking.

“Okay…,” D.M. said. She didn’t know what that meant, but she knew Tara saved her life. She would get to see her family again as soon as she found out where she was. Tara seemed to know which direction to go so she continued to follow her.

“My name’s Denise,” D.M. said. “Denise Martinez.” Tara giggled as they walked through the acid-melted iron gate.

“D.M. it is,” she said. “I gotta say, you’re taking everything that’s happened pretty well. What’s your favorite number?” Tara asked.

“Three,” D.M. said. Tara nodded to herself.

“Yeah, I thought so. We’re going to have a very interesting conversation.”