Vacant Throne



004.001 Leaving Teneville - Home Sweet Home


Home sweet home.

Sort of.

Seeing it surrounded by grass with the wooden fence cut off a few feet away from the walls in a perfectly smooth line gave it an uncanny feeling. Even more eerie, it felt empty. Alyssa hadn’t gone inside yet, but just looking at it from where the street should be, it held an air about it like it was lost to time. Though it was actually from the future, relative to the technology level she had seen anyway.

It was a shame the driveway had been left behind. Since both of her parents had been gone, both their cars were gone as well. Alyssa’s pickup had been parked outside the garage in its usual spot at the end of the driveway. A sharp line in the cement halfway there mirrored the smooth surfaces of the cut off fence. The truck would have been handy. Depending on the scale of the map Aziz had given her—if it even had proper scaling—she probably could have driven to Lyria in no more than three days at a sedate and careful pace. At the very least, she could have taken it to the mountains on the other side of Teneville. The terrain, though hilly, was smooth enough for a vehicle.

Wishing was all well and good, but it neither changed anything nor helped get her moving. So, with a sigh, Alyssa walked up to the front door and walked inside. She hadn’t locked it before she left—with the window broken, it wouldn’t have stopped anyone from getting in. Actually, she was hoping that Tenebrael would have done something to hide it from others. Though that might be a bit much to hope for from such a horrible being.

Alyssa felt the cool air-conditioned air before anything else. She almost started enjoying it as a welcome change from the heat of the day. Breathing in the air crushed her enjoyment to dust.

Choking down a gasp, Alyssa clasped the sleeve of her jacket over her mouth.

The rank smell of rotting meat burned at her nose. She gagged, turning back to the fresh outside air.

How could she have forgotten? Two dead bodies—Two people that she had killed. And she had just left them lying around. To be fair, she hadn’t planned on running off and spending three days in a village. Her short journey away from home had been solely intended to get a lay of the land. She had gotten all that and more.

But at a cost.

Taking a deep breath, she stepped back into the house. She couldn’t hold it forever. By the time she made it down the hallway to her parents’ bedroom, she had to breathe through her mouth. First thing first, she opened a few windows. Second, she peered down into the walk-in closet.

The body sat slumped against the wall, just as she had left it. Except the skin had taken on a sickly gangrenous pallor. Not really rotted out just yet, but it was getting there. Then there were the flies. Hundreds of them buzzed around the corpse. It sounded like an angry swarm of bees.

Alyssa ran to the bathroom. Strangely enough, she wasn’t feeling half as ill as she had the day she arrived in this strange world despite the condition of the body being far worse. Rather than empty her latest meal into the toilet, she threw open the closet. From the bathroom cleaning supplies, she pulled out bright yellow rubber gloves. Before putting them on, she glanced down at herself.

In a flash, she stripped out of her clothes, threw them into the washing machine, changed into her sports bra and workout pants, and wrapped a few towels around herself. It was strange that the washing machine worked—or any appliance really—but Alyssa wasn’t going to question her luck. Instead, she put on the gloves and went back to the closet.

“Sorry about this,” she mumbled as she reached down. Gripping the body under its arms, she dragged it out of the closet, through her parents’ room, down the hall, and out the front door. From there, she carried it a short distance away and dropped it on the ground.

The other body, which Alyssa ran back inside to her brother’s room to collect, was in much the same condition as the first. Maybe slightly better, but only because this one didn’t have bullet holes ventilating the body. Like the first, she dragged it outside and dropped it next to his father.

A part of her felt bad about leaving them in the open, exposed to wild animals, insects, and the elements. The unfortunate fact was that the garden shed hadn’t come with the house. Like her car and the fence, it had been left behind on Earth. With no tools, she would be forced to dig by hand. And that was simply not feasible. She might be able to collect a shovel from Teneville. Lazhar surely had one. Really, she should probably bring them to the graveyard so that they could have a proper burial. Dragging them all the way to Teneville was even less feasible than digging a shallow grave with her bare hands. And bringing other people here to help collect them on a wagon would expose her house.

No. She would leave them alone and exposed. If they truly wanted a respectable funeral, they should have pursued respectable careers rather than become thieves. Besides, Tenebrael had taken their souls—that white mist had to be souls, what else would it be—so these bodies were nothing more than lumps of water, carbon, and a handful of other elements.

Removing the towels and draping them over the bodies—less to be respectful and more because she didn’t want blood and rotten flesh clinging to them inside the house, she returned to the washroom and found a full bottle of bleach. Which she upended in the closet and the hallway where the bodies had been, though not before opening absolutely every window in the house. It would probably ruin the wood floor. Alyssa found it hard to care. It wasn’t like she planned on sticking around for long. It was a just in case measure should she find cause to return. Walking into a foul smelling charnel house once was more than enough for her.

Dirty work done, Alyssa took a quick shower—her first in three days—and set to doing what she had originally meant to do in the first place.

“Time to resupply.”

Technically, she hadn’t used all that much in the way of supplies. Only a few granola bars between her house and Teneville. The sad fact was that she hadn’t come properly prepared in the first place. To that end, she again went to her brother for help.

Since Clark had gone off to college, he had left a great deal behind. Including almost everything from his Wilderness Ranger days. Camping and survival gear just wasn’t that useful in a college dorm. However, it was perfect for Alyssa. The Rangers went camping one weekend every month and Clark had been in the Rangers from when he turned twelve until he turned eighteen. Six years worth of gear.

Digging through, she quickly found his hiking backpack. Much larger than her old high school backpack that she had taken on her first excursion. She dumped everything out on the floor and started going through exactly what she needed.

Maps? Absolutely worthless. A small metal cylinder that unpacked into a ten piece pot and pan cookware set? Potentially very useful. Sleeping bag? He had a few in his closet. Alyssa selected the thinnest and lightest one of the lot. And she grabbed a little personal tent as well. It was extra weight, but she worked out. She ran and lifted weights. Carrying it around might be a nightmare, but it would probably be worth it. Besides, like all exercise, she would get used to it. A bag of trail mix that was probably five years old? Alyssa tossed it in the trash.

She continued sorting through things—a watch, writing utensils, sunglasses, gloves, nylon rope, a whistle, binoculars, his camping guide which contained common flora and fauna, and several other items—until she heard a noise from behind her. Just a light creak of the front door closing.

Instantly, Alyssa found herself on edge. Her hand found her side, only to grip nothing but air.

When she had changed her clothes, she hadn’t reequipped her sidearm. The holster was sitting on the counter in the washroom. But she was in her brother’s room. She had survived an intrusion once before in the very same situation. Reaching down to the floor, she picked up the baseball bat from where she had dropped it after killing the first thief—she hadn’t touched it once since then—and leaned around the door frame into the hall.

A woman stood with bright golden hair running down her back, staring around the entryway. That on its own wouldn’t have been so strange. Alyssa could hardly remember the appearance of everyone she had encountered back at Teneville. It was entirely possible that someone had followed her back.

Except for the outlandish outfit.

Her boots were made of gold bands that criss-crossed up to her knees like a smooth braid. One of her hands had a similarly styled glove—her other hand was bare—though the glove turned to a single band that wound around her arm until it reached her elbow. She had a collar of gold as well that covered her entire neck and the tops of her shoulders, but the metal gave way to bare skin below that. A ‘V’-shape of gold plates covered her breasts just enough to not be baring everything, but would still be a scandalously low cut even on Earth. The ‘V’ led down to little pleats of gold that made up a short skirt.

If the armor—did something so impractical count as armor?—wasn’t enough, she had two golden-white wings sprouting from her back.

Already feeling a sick sensation in her stomach, Alyssa called out to the woman. “What do you want?”

The woman jolted as if she had just stuck her tongue to a battery. She slowly turned around to face the opposite end of the hall before turning back to Alyssa. “Me?” she said, pointing a finger to her bare chest. “You can see me?”

Alyssa just groaned. I knew it, she thought. Another angel.


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