Abigail slept restlessly in the massive bed she had been invited to share with her lover. Of course, the invitation hadn’t been quite so eloquent; In fact, there had been no real words at all, just some shifty gazes, incomprehensible muttering, and a hand stretched out, palm up, towards the mattress. Still, it was an invitation she had accepted, more because her mattress was far inferior to his, rather than any sort of need to be close to him in the wee hours.
Nathan had come to expect her restlessness. Abigail always had much on her mind, and it translated into an absolutely frenetic energy. Now that Charles was gone and Abigail was, by far, the smartest and most business-oriented person living in Mordhaus, she was called upon for much more than just producing, which could have very well been the cause of her frazzled nights. Although, Nathan did wonder if her tossing and turning wasn’t somehow linked to her abduction- she often grumbled about never having slept so poorly in her life. He didn’t let her know he was aware of the things she said in her sleep, her defensive postures, her inability to handle touch when unconscious, and the way she would sometimes wake up screaming, which made him cringe whether it woke him or not. He didn’t let her know about these things because he honestly didn’t know how to react if she confronted him about it.
Abigail had been confronting him a lot, lately.
It was the very reason Nathan was not occupying his own bed at that moment. Rather, he was sitting in a high backed chair on his side of the room, head propped up on one hand, staring grimly at the woman absolutely mutilating his sheets with her constant movement. It looked as if she kept trying to escape from something. If she lay on one side or the other for just a moment too long, she would jerk around viciously, trying to settle somewhere that didn’t feel so off-balance. Every hour or so she would suddenly wake, groan, and roll over again. The frontman was growing seasick watching her. Gingerly, he touched his arm, and remembered what had driven him to such a state.
Every night for a few weeks, Abigail found a reason to get him out of bed. At first, she was too hot and couldn’t stand being near someone else. He had gladly gone, as she had been very ill for a few days and he didn’t want to end up covered in projectile sick…again. When she seemed better, save for the occasional waves of upset stomach and nausea, he tried again to sleep beside her. This time, she kept stealing his pillows and blankets away from him and cocooning herself with them, slapping his hands away whenever he tried to take them back. That maneuver defeated him fairly fast, and he either curled up in his underwear on the very edge of his side, or slept in someone else’s room, which was much easier to maintain.
After that, she kept waking up with an unusually huge appetite in the very early morning hours, and would sleepily demand that Nathan find her all manner of odd and untimely dishes. This would generally incite total panic and disarray. One night the Lady wanted Strawberry-Kiwi jello spread on handmade Hungarian Pumpernickel bread sliced exactly thirteen-sixteenths of an inch thick, topped with fresh anchovies, crumbled goat cheese, and prickly pears, and the next, she wanted fugu atop scallions fried in honey mustard, in a root beer-orange marmalade sauce, with deep fried asparagus breaded with General Kills Chocolate-Wrex cereal. Nathan would have to get up, stumble around, find a bunch of Klokateers who would then find Jean-Pierre, dictate the food, watch Jean-Pierre freak out and jumble words in Frenglish, be handed a ringing phone (seeing as very few people could understand Jean-Pierre on the phone, and ordering the Klokateers to make the calls would be like playing telephone with the ingredients), attempt to order the ingredients and have them delivered faster than the Concord could have made the trip, wake Jean-Pierre up again after he'd fallen asleep standing up, get him to prepare the food to Abigail’s exact preparations, and then return with the food, which would usually reach a soundly snoring woman who had very little interest in waking up again until morning, and had no desire to eat her concoction by that point.
These things Nathan could live with, for the most part. They came and went, like the tide. He definitely couldn’t say he was the world’s perfect boyfriend, so he forgave Abigail her evening oddities. But most recently, Abigail had become unbelievably violent toward Nathan. Her moods were out of control- they rivaled Murderface’s hissy fits. She would be fine, at her desk, working on their magnum opus with them or for them, and in the next sixty seconds, she would be screaming, crying, or giggling uncontrollably. When she wasn’t hanging all over Nathan like a starstruck groupie, she was hitting him. Hard. Sometimes it seemed like she didn’t even know she was doing it- others, she apologized profusely, and still others resulted in her pretentious justification of the event. Nathan was understandably confused, angry, and just a little frightened. He had even tried to talk about the situation, but Abigail had snubbed him, referencing his need for her as a producer and his desire for her. She went so far one day, after beating on him, to back him into a corner physically, then tell him that she owned him until the record was finished. Nathan had stood there in shock, but had wisely said nothing at the time. Abigail, mood-swings aside, was the best relationship he had ever had, and he would do just about everything to prevent it from ending.
Nonetheless, Nathan was a naturally angry person. No one told him that he was their property. No one. He was going to continue on like nothing had happened. But the final straw had been earlier that evening. Abigail was already in bed when he crawled in. Unfortunately, in her restless sleep, her hair tie had come undone, and he didn’t see the small strand of hair under his hand before he put it down. It pulled hard enough to hurt, though not to create a complete tantrum. But Abigail had jerked awake with a shriek, screamed in his face as he blabbered that it was an accident, socked him in the arm as hard as she possibly could, and then told him ne was lucky she kept him around- then promptly rolled over and went back to sleep, as quickly and completely as turning off a switch.
Bewildered was not nearly strong enough a word for his feelings as he glumly repositioned himself in the Gothic Revival dining chair. He felt like he knew what was going on, but something was blocking his full understanding of it. Had he done something to deserve this treatment? Nathan thought back. Sure, the beginning of their relationship had been rocky…well, actually, it had been a total avalanche of disaster. Still, he’d gotten the girl, hadn’t he? He’d even rescued her from evildoers- how much more romantic could he possibly get? Nathan checked himself mentally- Abigail wanted to be with him. He knew it. But so had Rebecca, and his fan-lover, and so many other women along the way. Still, there was something different about his interactions with Abigail. He could feel it, and he hoped she could, too.
So what was causing her mood swings? Nathan could feel his frustration mounting to unstable levels. After a couple hours of contemplating had passed- a record, for him- he considered shaking the woman awake and demanding that she be gentle with him. However, just as his body tensed to move, Nathan’s tiny, often underused inner voice told him to let the sleeping dog lie- that answers and resolution would come in their own time. Eyes closing with eaten irritation, Nathan listened, and settled into a long, dark, dreamless sleep.
Abigail felt cold.
The young producer pulled the bed sheets and comforter closer around her, full well knowing Nathan could not possibly be in the bed with her. He radiated heat like the surface of the sun, and no matter where he was on the giant double-king size bed, she could always feel him practically incinerating her. Often she had found that feeling to be akin to complete and utter comfort, but lately, not so much. She didn’t quite know why that had changed; she just knew that it had. However, she had so much going on around her and inside her head that she didn’t feel it was a question worth asking herself at that time.
The comforter didn’t do much to warm her. Abigail shivered and curled in on herself. It felt like an icy breeze was drifting across her and around her. Dreading the idea of becoming fully conscious, she made a last ditch effort to find a source of heat.
“Mmmn…Nathan?” She mumbled, searching for him in the room without opening her eyes. However, no response came. Still, Abigail had the distinct sense that she was not alone. Someone, or something, was close by. Instantly, her senses kicked in, and she was immediately on high alert.
Abigail found herself afraid of what she might see before she even opened her eyes. Could it be that she was back in that room, a dying Toki in her lap and her own life hanging in the balance between utter defeat and sheer strength of will? The need to know overwhelmed her. Had everything been just a dream? She peeled her eyelids open.
The sight she was met with wasn’t what she was expecting.
It was worse.
Nathan was in front of her. Sitting ramrod straight in a chair, fully clothed except for his boots. His head lolled listlessly to one side, resting partially on his shoulder, partially on his chest. His hands loosely gripped the arms of the chair from the front. It looked relatively normal- save for the fact that his jaw was slacker than it should have, or even could have been, his skin a ghastly pale color, and his eyes open, but slicked over with blackness, mere pinpoints of light dead in the center where his pupils should have been, and they seeming to focus on her.
Abigail tried to scream, but nothing came out but a small puff of air. Logic kicked in. She was dreaming. She had to be dreaming. Squeezing her eyes shut, she shuddered and pulled the blankets up over her head, turning over and trying to force herself to believe Nathan was fine, that he didn’t look dead and possessed not five feet away from her, and that his dead possessed body wasn’t staring at her with lust. That train of thought would get her through until morning. It had to.
Minutes later, a thudding noise, like heavy flesh on stone, reached her ears. Normally she would not have cared to see what had happened, but some small part of her told her that sound might have been Nathan, and that he might be seriously hurt. It took more than a moment for Abigail to build enough courage to pull back the covers.
That move was intercepted by something much bigger than herself.
The comforter was ripped away from the terrified woman by something that didn’t seem to have any discernible matter, or shape, or texture. It wasn’t quite something assuming space, but rather the perceived absence of it caused tangibility. It registered that Nathan was no longer in her peripheral vision, but Abigail quickly found she had bigger things to worry about. The anti-mass was collecting in front of her, engulfing the space around her. It tossed aside the comforter and quickly advanced past the thin bedsheet, which Abigail had used to hide herself as a last, childlike defense.
Petrified beyond reason, she finally found her voice to scream, but scream though she did, no one could hear her. Abigail scrambled backwards like a crab on the mattress, grabbing hold of every pillow on the bed and hurling them with all her might at the entity before her. They passed through the dark shadow without hindrance, and it advanced further.
With Nathan’s bed being in the center of the room, there was no headboard to prevent Abigail from crashing onto the hard floor below as she pushed herself further back. Her frantic, incoherent shrieking at the otherworldly beast before her was of little good, and suddenly turned into a yelp of surprise as solid surfaces gave way beneath her. She braced for a hard impact on her back, but no such impact came.
Trembling like a leaf, Abigail opened her eyes to find tendrils of anti-mass wrapped around each limb, as well as her midsection, supporting her above the floor. She struggled, but the seemingly gaseous creature was incredibly solid and strong around her. It deposited her in a lump back on the bed, pinning her down by spreading out above her ominously.
Abruptly, the form began to change. It was vague, at first. It moved in an almost reptilian nature- scale for scale, vertebrae for vertebrae. If she squinted, she fancied she could almost see a crocodile in the surreal mist. But the shape continued to change. It became a large, inky black figure, flyaway wisps framing what might abstractly be called the head. The two pinpoints of light in the middle of that shape seemed to confirm that theory; like piercing eyes, they held Abigail’s gaze. While the rest of the features were vacant, the ancient stare that surveyed her was oddly familiar. Ragged gasps of air ceased momentarily as Abigail realized exactly what was holding her captive, and it stole her breath away.
“N…Nathan?” She whispered in disbelief. In answer, the pinpoints of light twinkled, seeming to pulse with an unknown emotion. For a split second, Abigail had that same, "I must be dreaming" sensation wash over her, a complete relief.
And then the anti-Nathan wrapped its icy appendages around her in a rib-splitting embrace and dragged her upwards, so she was an arm’s length away from its main bulk. The young woman gasped, finding little give to take more air in.
The entity that seemed to be Nathan- or at least a part of Nathan- began to shudder with a dark note. Abigail’s ears strained against the sound of her rapidly beating heart to make out where it was coming from, but it was omnipresent. The sound was deep, and emanated from the entirety of the ancient form. It grew louder and louder, almost as though it was growling at her. The pinpoints of light that served as eyes doubled and then tripled in intensity. Abigail whimpered as the squeezing grew stronger, her entire body completely off the mattress and suspended in the air. Before long, the growling noise had taken on the strength and ferocity of a swiftly oncoming freight train. Grimacing, Abigail broke eye contact with the ancient being that held her, and began to do something she never did consciously.
She started to cry.
The noise of the freight train growl died down immediately. The pinpoints of light returned to their original, nearly innocuous state. Abigail, still crying, opened her eyes again. The being swam in front of her vision for a second, and then drifted closer, more inky, icy arms enveloping her, cradling her still just a little too tightly for comfort.
The entity reached out a larger limb- this one resembled an arm, though its shape drifted too much to have discernible fingers- and slowly approached Abigail’s face with it. She winced, drawing back and away instinctively. The cold, misty limb suddenly made a single point of contact on her forehead- it felt as though she had lifted the lid on a pot of simmering water with her face over the opening. A deep, rolling sound, like the crashing of ocean waves and the thundering of a thousand storm clouds rattled the room, and the cracking of glass signaled the frequency was powerful enough to damage the dresser mirror behind them. A darker spot- blacker than black- appeared below the eye-lights in the mass. It gaped wider, a vacuous entrance to the internals of the beast. The vibrations increased in intensity, suddenly filtering through several different pitches and voicings. Abigail’s mortal brain took a few seconds to translate the ancient language of vibration into words.
“Miiiine.” The entity said, poking its captive in the forehead once more, firmly, enough to let her know it meant business.
Abigail could only nod, awestruck, mystified, and terrified all at once.
Slowly, the producer realized she was descending from her midair predicament, and the crushing hold of each tendril was lessening. The frequency of the vibrations lessened, and she thought she could hear the sound of gentle water lapping a shore somewhere in a not-so-distant wrinkle of space and time. The hovering being set its prey back down on the bed with the utmost of care, and one by one, returned the pillows and blankets to their previous positions. It draped them over her shivering form, the gentle caress a far cry from its earlier rage. An appendage pushed her back against the stacked pillows, and she gasped as it trailed a second limb down her cheeks, dispensing with her streams of tears.
Abigail thought it was over as the creature wavered, seeming to walk a line between her reality and another world altogether. However, it suddenly pulsed back into the room, the vibrations picking up again. The anti-mass drew closer, whispers of an electric air drifting across her arms and lifting goosebumps to the surface of her skin. A wisp of darkness reached out for the sheets, curling around them to lift them away from her body. Naturally, her breath hitched, and she readied herself for whatever was to come.
Another shadowy tentacle snaked out as the anti-mass opened its mouth-like maw once more. Abigail flinched. The tentacle rested on the center of her clavicle for but a moment, and then slid downward, between her breasts and aiming lower. She bit her lip, heart beating nearly out of her chest. It stopped before reaching any less favorable locations, however.
The tendril made small, wave-like pulsations against Abigail’s stomach. They felt like little taps, as though it was knocking around and seeking a response. The young woman looked up, taken aback. The head-shape of the entity was bowed, its pinpoint lights appearing lidded, as though it were thinking. The vibrations grew stronger, though they weren’t of the same intensity. It felt different. Like an undersea current was rushing along, instead of a choppy top-side storm. She heard the mirror crack again behind her, and a couple of her moved-in knick knacks tipped over somewhere in the room. For the briefest snippet of time, the world-and Abigail- held its breath.
“Mine.” The word registered in Abigail’s mind as the tendril made one final tap against her tummy, then withdrew. She met the eye-light gaze of the Ancient One a final time, chin trembling for reasons she cared not to think about right then. The lights twinkled, and the receding mouth seemed to grin a lizard grin for but an instant.
Then in the blink of an eye, it was over.
It took a forever for Abigail’s breathing to return to normal. She sat there, alone, with one hand on her chest, feeling for the rhythmic beating of her own heart. The other hand came to rest subconsciously on her stomach, rubbing in small, soothing motions, just as the tendril had done.
An eternity passed before Abigail remembered Nathan’s body was missing from the chair. Knowing somehow that the worst was over, she gathered what was left of her strength and pulled herself to the edge of the bed. Peeking over like a child afraid of the monster beneath their mattress, she feared what she would find, but heaved a sigh of relief to see the gently snoring form of her lover sprawled out in front of the chair. Hesitantly, she reached out to shake him awake.
“Nathan.” Her voice sounded small. Trying again, she shook him harder.
“Nathan, please wake up.” She pleaded. At this, he stirred.
“’m not getting you any food right now.” The frontman grumbled, waving her hand away.
“I don’t want food. Wake up.”
Nathan scrunched up his face tightly, stretching his whole body on the floor before relaxing and opening his eyes. Abigail jumped, swearing she saw the final traces of a pin-point light in his sockets before he blinked again, green eyes quizzically looking her over.
“Uh…you…alright?” He tried, sitting up slowly, the feeling coming back to stiff limbs. Abigail shook her head.
“No, Nathan, I am not alright.”
Alert to her palpable fear, Nathan quickly clambered onto the edge of the bed and looked at her expectantly as she fought to swallow and form words.
“Nathan…you’re…you’re a…thing.” She tried.
“I’m going back to sleeping on the floor.” He announced. She grabbed his hands before he could move, and he paused, studying her closer.
“No, that’s not what I meant. I mean…I can’t explain it. But you were you, and then you weren’t, and then you were…something else.” Abigail floundered. To her surprise, Nathan shrugged.
“Oh. Yeah. That’s, uh…that’s been happening a lot lately. Maybe I should get that checked out.”
“You…you know about this? Why the hell didn’t you tell me?” Fear melted away into hurt and anger.
“Uh…well… you’ve been kinda pissy for a few weeks…” He began. Nathan was prepared to finally explode on his lover for her actions, but found all his anger sapped away. Instead, he just ran his thumbs over the back of her hands, still wrapped up in his.
“I, I know. I’m sorry."
"Uh...I know. I guess. I mean, I feel like I know that. So, it's good, right?" He muttered, almost to himself, ready to be allowed to sleep in his bed again. Still, Abigail wasn't finished.
"But, Nathan, I think I have an answer for what I’ve done.” She murmured, feeling comforted by his actions. He looked up expectantly.
Abigail took a deep, steadying breath, and slowly drew Nathan Explosion’s hands toward her stomach.