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  • Writer's pictureSiheli Siyathra

Twisted Realities (Part 2)

Aster was trying to track Hester. Again.

Except this time, the tracking mission was successful. Hester was getting careless, leaving more clues as to where she was. It had been a quick thing for Aster to determine that Hester had been responsible for the murder of the family. The fingerprints said it all. Now Aster was tracking a line of footsteps, only mildly concerned by the fact that they led to somewhere she hadn’t been before.

Raven was beside her, following along without a question. After his alternate twin’s murder, Raven seemed much happier than he’d been before. Much like Aster herself, he seemed to think that they were an unstoppable pair.

“Any idea where we’re headed?” Aster inquired.

“Looks like we’re heading towards the Greenwood,” replied Raven. “It’s a dangerous place. We need to be careful.”

Aster nodded, switching her gaze back to the prints in the mud. She had heard of the Greenwood. It was known to be a terrifying place, straight from the worst nightmares. And yet she wasn't worried. They were, after all, a formidable pair in their own right.

As they walked, Aster couldn’t help but wonder why Hester was getting careless. She’d been covering up her tracks ever since Aster had begun tracking her. Maybe Hester knew something they didn’t. Maybe it was all a trap. She opened her mouth to ask Raven what he thought about it, but then changed her mind. There was no point in worrying him about something that probably meant nothing. They were so close to returning to their peaceful world, away from the madness and violence of Earth. Better to just get on with it.

Aster distracted herself with ways she might kill her evil twin. Hester definitely deserved a slow, painful death, but maybe Aster would let her off with just a quick and painless death. She had a dagger on her, so the easiest way would be to spear the heart. She’d probably end up doing that, since killing was a messy business, and Aster hated mess. Maybe she could just get Raven to do it for her. That would definitely be easier for her, but then she wouldn’t have the satisfaction of looking into Hester’s eyes as the light left them. Aster was just trying to decide which method was better when she spotted the line of tall pines that marked the start of the Greenwood.

Ghostly tendrils of white mist wreathed the pine branches, seemingly alive. The whole place seemed to have a mind of its own. Even standing at the edge, she could feel the bone-chilling cold that was possibly the best-known fact about the Greenwood. Aster shivered, staring up at the cool mist. For the first time since the start of this mission, she felt the cold hand of fear grip her heart. Beside her, Raven gulped audibly.

“Maybe we should turn back?” his voice was laced with the same fear Aster felt.

Aster steeled herself. “We’ve come this far. This is the last stretch. We can go back to our world after this.”

That seemed to convince Raven. He nodded and, with a last suspicious look at the pines and a deep breath, he stepped in. Tentatively, Aster followed.

The cold enveloped the pair, making their teeth chatter. It was significantly darker inside, with only a few stray rays of sunlight reaching the undergrowth. As they continued on, the trees grew significantly closer together, forcing them to walk in a single file. Barely ten minutes in, Aster felt the telltale prickling at the back of her neck that usually meant someone was watching her. And the senses of a galactic being could always be trusted. Her eyes searched the trees, looking for suspicious movement. After a few seconds of studying the trees and finding nothing, Aster informed Raven of the chilling feeling, still not daring to take her eyes off the dark spaces between trees.

“Maybe we should go back and come back with more wea-” Raven’s voice cut off abruptly, followed by a strangled, choking sound.

Aster turned to look at him and immediately jerked back. The white blood of galactic beings was bubbling from his mouth, spilling down his chin and onto his clothes. His eyes were wide, the light of life slowly fading from them. His knees buckled and he collapsed, exposing the small but lethal dagger that was buried in the small of his back. Raven’s body convulsed once, then went still. Barely a second later, it evaporated, and the dagger landed point-first, burying itself in the ground.

Aster stood frozen for perhaps two beats, but recovered quickly. Anger bubbled inside her. It was Hester, she was sure of it. After all, who else could it be? That frivolous little heathen. She only knew destruction. Fortunately for the rest of the universe, Hester would take her last breath today. Aster’s eyes scanned the trees again, in time to see a patch of darkness detach itself from the rest of the shadows and run off, weaving between the tall pines.

With barely a second thought, Aster followed.

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