It was a nightmarish, breathless scream, simultaneously otherworldly and all too real. To them it seemed beyond physical in presence, beyond volume and all reason, and to such extent that it dredged up in each of them ancient, long forgotten fears so powerful and primal that they could only guess as to what originally inspired them. Steven immediately recognized the cry; it was the same cry that he and Yvonne had heard in their apartment, only this time it seemed far more threatening. The cry also seemed to command him, to call him to rush out to meet its source. Come to heel, it seemed to say, and do so at once, or I will destroy your little sanctuary with you still inside.

     Blades finished his retreat in haste, with Andy immediately following in suit. The group was too stunned by the sound to notice. Instead, each of them stared down the aisles, toward the front of the store at the now darkening windows. As if obeying the unspoken command of the cry, they slowly moved toward the door, and as they exited the store they stared at the sky in horror.

     The thing before them was massive enough to blot out the setting sun. Each of its six eyes were wider than they were tall, and all three of its heads impossibly huge; if they had to guess, they were staring at a colossal pale lioness, but they could only get a vague impression of the entity, as it was far too massive for them to take in at once.

     Yet all seemed normal around them. Cars kept passing on the nearby streets. Pedestrians walked unperturbed by the behemoth before them. No one besides them seemed to see the beast, but to them its presence was undeniable. Even the air itself was heavy with its menacing presence. People continued to walk the sidewalks unaware of the behemoth before them. No one else seemed to see it, but it was there. Even the air was heavy with its presence.

     “Jesus Christ,” Carlton said. “She’s bigger than a fucking whale….”
Dheania’s middle head gazed down at Carlton, her massive eyes meeting his with a steely glare. Carlton froze in response, hoping to avoid the coming attack. Instead of retaliating, however, her gigantic form began to pull into itself, distorting her body and collapsing in form until finally she gained Twitch’s own body, now down on her right knee as if she had performed a simple magic trick for her family. The girl then lifted her head and flashed a wide, malicious smile, turning to stare deep into her father’s eyes, as if to say, Daddy, look at me. Look at your little girl. See what she can do?

     s she once again began to fade from view, Ash fell to his knees, panting and clutching the center of his chest. Bile rose in his throat, and as he placed his hands on the asphalt he began to retch. Steven and Carlton rushed toward him, only to be motioned back by Roderigo. Gibson could be heard on his radio calling for an ambulance.

     Roderigo lifted Ash’s head and looked into his eyes, taking note of his now dilated pupils. “Is your chest hurting?” he asked, checking the hybrid’s pulse.

     “No, not really, just… pressure,” Ash replied. His voice was shaky and weak, as if he was straining to talk. “And it’s beating fast. Very fast.”

     The world outside now seemed to be taking notice of them, and several onlookers began to gather. Gibson did his best to keep them back, herding them away from the parking lot entrance and toward the grass.

     arlton reached in his pocket and pulled out a bottle of aspirin. He quickly handed one to Ash, who nervously swallowed it.

     “Heart attack?” Steven asked, surreptitiously pulling Nightwalker back into his sleeve.

     “Hard to tell,” Roderigo said. “Could be an anxiety attack, but it’s better safe than sorry.” They heard Gibson say an ambulance was on its way, but Roderigo shook his head. “We’ll take him,” he said. “I don’t want you or anyone else involved in this. There’s a lot you don’t know, and you’re in danger enough already.”

     Gibson sighed. He began to grumble, but it was clear he knew Roderigo was right. “At least let me take him,” Gibson said. “If it’s a heart attack, at least the sirens should get us there quickly.” He gazed down at Ash as Roderigo checked checked the hybrid’s pulse again. “You do know CPR, right?”

     “Technically yes,” Roderigo said. “I got training in MEDEVAC, but I’m not a licensed EMT.”

     “Then come with me,” Gibson said. He reached down to help Ash to his feet, and the two of them walked him to Gibson’s car. Ash began to drift off, grumbling and clawing at his chest. Gibson frowned. “We’d better hurry.” They loaded him into the backseat of Gibson’s cruiser, with Roderigo climbing in behind him.

     “Sorry for the cramped quarters,” Gibson said, watching as Roderigo continued to monitor Ash’s vital signs. He turned over the car and began to back out of the parking space. “If I was expecting this, I’d have brought an SUV.”

     “Doubtful,” Roderigo said. “You’d have brought a bus and a SWAT team.”

     “That would have been a bad idea, then,” Gibson said. He hit the lights. “Hold onto something!” he shouted.

     The car jerked as soon as it hit the street, and Roderigo slammed into the passenger seat. He clenched the grab handle with his left hand to try to gain some stability. Roderigo didn’t know how fast Gibson was going, although he didn’t really care–he’d rather get to the hospital sooner rather than later.

     As soon as the car hit the main road, Ash’s breathing became more rapid. Gibson looked into the rear-view mirror. A frightened look crossed his face. “Maybe we should have waited for the ambulance,” he said.

     “Probably,” Roderigo replied. “But the more people who get involved, the more complicated this will be.”

     “So are you going to tell me what that was back there?” Gibson asked. Roderigo didn’t answer. “I’ll take that as a no,” he said. He made his next turn, taking a hard left two blocks from the bridge. “I just want to know what the hell that thing was, and why it decided it was going to look like Twitch.”

     “It is Twitch,” Ash said. “Or rather, the other way around.”

     “Jesus Christ, Rod, what the hell is going on?”

     “It’s complicated,” Roderigo replied.

     Ash began to sit up, staring at what to him was a far too familiar area. “What hospital are we going to?”

     Gibson looked back. “Mercy North,” he said. “We’re going to see an old friend.” He looked at Roderigo. “You’re fine with that, right?”

     “Yes.” Roderigo kept his answer as blunt as possible. He didn’t want to tell Gibson that Elisabeth had made a house call earlier that day–that would just be another question. In truth, he didn’t want Elisabeth involved either, but going to another hospital would only risk drawing more people into their personal hell.

     “Elisabeth….” Ash’s breathing began to worsen again, and he collapsed back in his seat. “She’s not… a cardi… a heart doctor….”

     “Relax Ash,” Gibson said. “She’s perfectly qualified. The woman is pretty close to being an omni-specialist.”

     “How long?” Ash asked. Gibson looked back to see that his eyes were clenched shut.

     “We’ll be there in less than a minute.”

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