The actress playing Maria looked down lovingly at the young man playing Tony as the lights focused on them and the music of the show moved away from its reliance on the tritone to focus on a sweet, loving duet for the scene’s musical number, Tonight. It was Chase’s mom's favourite back when she was young enough to play Maria. Back when the name Dolores Hunt was enough to draw in a crowd at the local theatre. Even now, in her deteriorating state, she could remember West Side Story and how much it meant to her. Her family had to fight so she could come watch it at least twice a week.
She began to softly mouth the lyrics to the song along with the young actress on stage.
“Only you, you’re the only thing I’ll see, forever. In my eyes…” She stopped, and tried to think about the song. Her lips were quivering and a few tears started rolling down her face before Chase took her hand and squeezed it.
“In my eyes, in my words, and in everything I do,” her son looked at her right in the eyes, offering a tender smile that felt like a warm embrace. She took a deep breath, and smiled right back at him.
“Nothing else but you, ever.”
After the play, Chase walked her back to the hospital, umbrella in one hand, his other arm locked with hers. They didn’t talk on the way there. She was the one to break the silence when he dropped her off.
“I love you, hijo.”
Chase smiled at her and gave her a hug he was sure she’d remember. “I love you, ma.”
He waited until she was inside to let himself tear up. Samuel, who was waiting for him outside, came out in the pouring rain to hold his hand and comfort him.
Chase snapped out of it relatively quickly. They still needed to go to the library.
Back in Chase’s house, Amy struggled to get out of bed and stumbled into the living room, still in her dirty, bloodied up clothes.
“There she is, my hero,” Sarah snickered as she turned away from her laptop to meet Amy’s gaze. She had bags under her eyes and she couldn’t really notice, but her left pinky was shaking ever so slightly
“How long have you been up?”
“Couple of hours, if that.” Sarah turned around to scroll through multiple tabs at the same time. “Why?”
“You look like shit.”
Sarah chuckled. “Well, that’s fucking brave coming from you right now. Can you get me some more coffee?”
“Absolutely not. What are you doing?” Amy sat next to her.
“Trying to find something about where the picture was taken. Google Maps just shows a field in the middle of fucking nowhere.”
Amy pondered. “I think you’re focusing too much on those coordinates. Do you know when it was taken?”
Sarah’s face lit up. She brought her photo editing program up again. “A month and a bit ago.”
“I’m starting to think we know why Abraham was targeted,” Amy scanned her eyes across the living room. “Where’s Chase?”
“Chase and Samuel are over at the library, doing some old school detective work. There are blindspots in my news archives when it comes to the Ark.”
“So you’re still working the cult angle.”
“Yeah, and I think that shit goes way back.”
It wasn’t unheard of to draw a line between the Ark and the occult. Tinfoil hat types had made the connection years ago, citing their seemingly endless funding, endless list of A-list scientists and their weird fixation on religion when it came to branding as proof. There were virtually endless reports, hoaxes and urban legends about cult activity in the Ark’s premises, and while statistically most of them had to be fake, it was all worth looking into after the last two days.
A little over an hour later, the boys rushed through the door, trying the wrath of the on and off downpour.
“We come bearing newspapers,” Chase exclaimed.
Samuel was right behind him, balancing various cardboard boxes. “And pizza, as well!”
Amy didn’t want to admit it, but large chunks of text were her biggest weakness. She tried, she tried really hard to focus on the stack of newspapers right in front of her but it all seemed a little bit aimless. By the time she skimmed through the second paper, her mind was already far up in the clouds. She noticed how nice it was to simply breathe in. The fresh, humid air from the open windows filled her lungs, and gave her a tingly sensation on every centimetre of skin that wasn’t covered by her jacket. The sound of the rain on the rooftop and the cracked asphalt on the street sounded different now that she was inside, that small degree of separation gave it an unintrusive, calming sensation. She closed her eyes for a moment, and opened them to a table covered in newspapers. A cursory glance at all of them revealed something she hadn't noticed before, a name, one that was repeated in almost every article that focused on the institution. Doctor Bourbaki. “I think I got a lead.”
According to the Ark’s website, Thomas Bourbaki was the head scientist in the building, and one of the many casualties to the earthquake… and nothing else. No citations, works, not even what he specialised in. What was more interesting is that he shared last names with one Nicolas Bourbaki- or rather, with nine other people. Nicolas Bourbaki was a pseudonym for a group of master mathematicians.
“Holy shit,” Chase couldn’t stop staring at the screen. "It doesn't necessarily sound cult-y, but that's fucking weird."
"What does it mean, though? What are they trying to hide?" Samuel asked to noone in particular.
"Sarah and I looked into the group's work to see if that would drop any hints, but we think that's too convoluted," Amy clicked her lips. "I think it just means a bunch of people were the head of the Ark under one pseudonym. It's weird, but as Chase said, it doesn't really mean anything to us. Nothing concrete anyway."
"So, is that it? Just like that, we're back on square one?" Samuel protested.
"That's how a lot of detective work is, buddy, get used to it," Sarah put a hand on his shoulder. "This doesn't mean we're wrong, this just means we have no concrete proof we're right yet."
Amy couldn’t pay attention to the conversation they were having. The sound of a car pulling up right across the street made her jump. She closed her eyes, hard, and saw Chase’s house from a block over. She took a moment to take in the surroundings, take mental notes of important details. Whoever was watching them was wearing a black jacket, and the car was old, older than Sarah’s from the looks of it. Her head began to spin and she had to open her eyes, just in time to grab Samuel by the arm when he tried to leave for work.
“There’s someone outside the house. They’re watching us.”
“Uh,” Samuel started. “But I really need to get to work.”
“How do you know that?” Chase barged in.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sarah looked out the window and closed the blinds so fast she almost ripped them off. “It’s the black car. Can he leave in any other way?”
“He can leave through the window in my room and call a cab a few blocks over,” Amy shot back immediately.
“Can someone explain what the fuck is going-” Chase was interrupted by his cousin.
“Anything suspicious there?”
Amy closed her eyes again. “No, he should be fine if he beelines for Scott Street from there.”
Samuel was already being pushed into Amy’s room by Sarah. “But my car…”
“It’s fine, I’ll get it to you when it’s safe, now go.”
Chase was more so confused than angry but he still raised his voice when Sarah was back. “Explain yourself.”
Amy took a deep breath. She already felt bad that she hid it from both of them yesterday, so maybe it was for the best. Either way, there was no escaping it now. "Yesterday when I called you, you helped me through sensory overload and I noticed that if I focused a lot, I could hear everything."
"Well, yeah, that's what sensory overload is."
"No, I mean everything. Other people's conversations, televisions all over the neighbourhood, people's music through their headphones," Amy looked at Sarah momentarily, who wanted to tell her how much of a little shit she was last night. “And yeah, that car.”
“And you can sense people, right? That’s how we beat the monster last night,” Sarah added.
“Sorta? When I close my eyes and think really hard about it, I can see what other people are seeing.”
Chase was tapping his foot and glancing at the window every now and then. “Fine.”
“What? Is that all?”
“I’m gonna have to trust you on this for now, Amy. Right now we should focus on dealing with the car.”
They all looked at each other in silence for a few more minutes before Amy spoke. “Well, they’re looking for Sarah, or at the very least her car. I think the smartest thing to do right now is for someone to distract whoever is following her while the other two go to Sarah’s house in Samuel’s car. I’d do it… But I can’t drive.”
“That’s probably for the better. I’m starting to think you have a thing for martyrdom. Chase, can you drive? Dad’s gonna be worried if I don’t show today.”
Chase grabbed a big black hoodie and rushed to Sarah’s car. As expected, the black car followed suit and when Amy gave the green light, she and Sarah rushed to Samuel’s white Peugeot 206. Amy was taken back by the change. The car smelled like fresh lavender and the leather seats felt like they weren’t falling apart. Sarah just thought it lacked personality.
Chase started off driving slow, mainly just to keep up with the car in the rearview. Sarah was right, no licence plate number. His hands shook as he grasped onto the steering wheel. He wanted to throw up from the faint smell of smoke but he recognized that a lot of that was the anxiety. He was way in over his head. Left turn, shortshift. Was Amy lying? No, she couldn’t be. Right turn, speeding up on the straight. The car kept up just fine. His palms were getting sweaty. Don’t freak out, man, you can’t do this right now. The car was catching up. Left turn. City center in the afternoon, lots of traffic. Think, Chase, think. He scanned his surroundings, and noticed another Vauxhall not too different from Sarah’s in the right lane. He stepped on the gas, catching up to it right before the traffic light turned red, tailing it as it took a sharp turn towards the city park. Chase cut through an alley and killed the engine. He watched and waited. The twin Vauxhall sped off and a minute or so after, the black car went after it. He sighed before getting out of the car and covering it up to the best of his abilities with a dirty, torn piece of cloth. He took his phone out and noticed his hands were still shaking, so he took a few more deep breaths before unlocking it.
Sarah’s phone honked, startling Amy. “Why is that your phone’s notification?”
“Oh, that’s Chase.” Amy snorted. “What is he saying?”
left the car somewhere safe, gonna make a run 4 the house and check if everythings good there
ill call u when im ready for the car switch. gunna try and lay low, probably stay with sammie 2nite
“Well, that’s good. I think we should lay low tonight as well. Do you mind staying over?” Amy shrugged. “Well, okay, but you have to get in through the window. Dad can’t see you come in.”
“What? Your dad doesn’t let you bring girls over?”
“Oh, you are so lucky I’m not kicking you out of the car right now.”
Her dad joked about him not missing the loud music at all, but he couldn’t hide that he missed her. Even then, he gave her a whole speech about how proud of her she was for being social again and for letting herself be happy with her friends. There was a passing mention of the day that she moves away, immediately followed by a ‘but you’ll always be my baby girl’ that Sarah knew all too well.
By the time she was upstairs, Amy was sitting on the window and grinning like an idiot.
“Say anything and I’ll push you out that window.”
“Oh, I thought that was adorable,” Amy raised her hands when Sarah approached her. “Fine! I’m not gonna say anything, Jesus.”
Sarah had brought both of them some tea. Amy sat cross legged on the king sized bed and looked out the window. “You know, circumstances could’ve definitely been better but it was nice having all of you guys in one place, hanging out.”
"I'm not really a people person, so maybe I'm not one to say, but that was hardly hanging out, Ames," Sarah sat right next to her, handing her a steaming hot cup. Too hot for either of them to drink right away.
Amy shrugged. "Well, yeah. I just haven't done that in a while."
"Weren't you in a band though?"
"It was more like every one of us agreed to say that we were in a band," Amy chuckled. "We never really did practice and half of our setlists were always covers because we never got around to fleshing out our own songs. I only really hung out with Ryan."
"Ryan being…?" Sarah leaned over.
"The frontman," she sighed. "My ex."
"Oh shit, you don't sound super excited about that."
"No, not really. I think I just did it for validation," she sheepishly laughed. "I don't think he slept around but it was far from a serious relationship."
Her friend frowned. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. A lot of it is on me, I didn't really like him, I was just under the impression that I had to grow up really fast and growing up meant having a boyfriend and… He was all I could really settle for back then."
They both stared at the wall in silence as the tea finally cooled off enough for them to sip it comfortably. "Was he at least good in bed?" Sarah blurted out.
"Oh, absolutely not. It was my first time and it bored me to tears. You'd think he'd be better, with how… promiscuous he was."
"Promiscuous?" Sarah chuckled. "What are you, an old lady?"
They both burst out laughing.
"Fine, he was a slut. Is that better?"
"Much better" Sarah gulped down all of her tea and lied back on the bed. "You know, I don't really have any horror stories like that. Never been in a real relationship apart from like, middle school fake couple bullshit."
Amy looked around the room. "Huh. No clue what about any of this would be a hard sell."
Sarah grinned. "Are you of all people calling me a hard sell?"
"I could never."
"Just curious, when exactly are you gonna breach the fact that you have superpowers and that your dad is possibly in a cult? Is that a first date conversation starter?"
"Oh shut up."
"You could be really forward with it, have it as your Tinder bio!"
"Shut up!" Amy laughed and hit Sarah over the head with a pillow, only for her to strike right back. Amy fell backwards onto the bed as well.
Amy didn't notice, but she had her eyes closed and the biggest smile on her face. Sarah leaned over to look at her.
"So, I'm a Total Life Forever kinda gal, huh?"
Amy blushed, and sat up to meet Sarah's gaze. "To be fair, you do give off that kind of energy."
"Sure I do."
Sarah suddenly cupped Amy's face and kissed her. Part of her expected Amy to pull away immediately, but she didn't. She leaned into the kiss and shakily grasped Sarah's shirt by its collar when she pulled away.
The rain had stopped by the time Chase reached his house, but for more reasons than one, it was just the calm before the storm. Right outside his porch stood Herbert Newman.
“Excuse me, sir,” Chase tapped him on the shoulder. “Can I help you with anything?”
“Oh! Hi, you’re Amelie’s friend, correct?”
The boy nodded.
“She’s staying with you, right? I’d love to talk to her about…”
There was no way in hell that Amy told this guy where she was staying. This was wrong. “She’s not here right now. She was kind enough to stay over at a friend’s place, ‘cause im having a guy over.”
The scientist raised an eyebrow. “A boy?”
Chase’s fake smile twitched. “Yes, sir. I’m gay.”
“Oh, of course! Sorry, I’m getting old and I’m not as perceptive as I maybe should be.”
“Yeah, I can see that.” They both stood in silence before Chase cleared his throat. “Well, I’d invite you to come inside, but as I’ve said, I’m having a boy over…”
“Oh, yeah, of course. Tell Amelie I just wanted to check up, ask how his old man is holding up,” Herbert put his hand forward.
“I’m sure he wouldn’t mind if you just called him,” Chase shook his hand and squeezed it tight, enough to send a message. “Have a good afternoon, Mister Newman.”
The man left glaring behind his shoulder as Chase got into the house and ran a thorough check of everything. It didn’t look like anyone had broken in, or tampered with anything. He grabbed the newspapers and Sarah’s laptop before throwing it all in her bag. He sighed before returning to her car.
Amy had fallen asleep by then. She didn’t notice how tired she still was from the day before, and how much her chest hurt when she breathed too fast. Sarah was proud of herself for that, but also sensible enough to take her to bed and just let her rest. When her phone rang, she jumped and rushed to answer it outside.
“I’m ready for the switch-up. Are you guys safe?”
“We’re good, yeah,” she whispered.
“Why are you being so quiet?” Chase had subconsciously matched her tone.
“Amy’s asleep. Is the house okay?”
“Noone followed me. House’s fine. But I think you were right about this Herbert motherfucker. He was right outside when I came to check and he really wanted to talk to Amy. Wouldn’t fucking drop it. He’s gone now but I don’t trust him one bit.”
“I fucking knew it,” she blurted out before covering her mouth and trying again. “I fucking knew it. Do you think he’s the guy with the black car?”
“It’d make sense, but I really hope that wasn’t the case. I kinda tried to intimidate him so he wouldn’t ask more about Amy.”
“Shit,” Sarah hesitated for a second. “Keep the gun, it’s in my bag.”
“But it’s unloaded.”
“He doesn’t know that. I don’t think anyone’s gonna call your bluff if you have your finger on the trigger.”
“I really don’t want to talk about this now. Just wait for me outside, yeah?”
Out in the garage, neither of them said a word. Chase just parked the car neatly and handed Sarah the keys before heading out with so much as a nod, driving Samuel’s car. He kept the gun in the car’s trunk.
Sarah immediately took her laptop and newspapers up to her room as discreetly as she could. She turned her laptop on again, expecting a message from her mystery informant… and subsequently felt fucking stupid when her inbox was empty. Of course it was. She was relying too much on this TRUESIGHT character and it was gonna get her or Amy or Chase in trouble. She sat down and thought for a second about everything they had found out today. Everything they read on the papers. Bourbaki- no, earlier. What Amy said. When the picture was taken. A month ago.
She cross checked the archives she had on her laptop with the physical newspapers. She was specifically looking for the deaths of three scientists in Fort or its surrounding area.
And she found nothing. But of course she didn’t. Not after what they had done to Abraham.
Two John Does and one Jane Doe. All of them died in horrific car accidents over the span of six months. Punctures and slashes from the wreck that made their bodies unrecognisable. She remembered one of them. One of the investigations she helped with in the forum was one that linked one of the John Does to Adam Blau, a brain surgeon that worked in the Ark before moving back to his old farmhouse on the outskirts of Fort. Whatever was happening, it had a bone to pick with the scientific community.
Meanwhile, Amy saw a white light out the window in Sarah’s room. She slowly got out of bed and walked towards it, vaulting over the window frame to land in a completely white void. Not a blinding one, just a pure white space full of nothing… except the outline of a building in the distance. While it seemed insurmountably far away at first, she was able to approach it a few dozen steps. It was the Vouivre general hospital and it looked empty, with all the lights off and none of the traffic that usually surrounded it. Careful, she opened the door and walked in, feeling the cold air of the outside world hitting her skin that was now covered only in a thin hospital gown. She looked down at her hands and they had turned old and wrinkly. Her body felt heavy, as if she wasn’t in control anymore. A doctor approached her, but she couldn’t understand what he said. He and a few other doctors sat her down on a wheelchair and rushed to her room. She couldn’t make out any details on the way there. Everything was blurry, and she felt dizzy and sick. When she was in bed, all that she could do was turn around and look out the window to see two bloodshot eyes looking at her from the trees. She blinked and they were gone, until she looked up again.
Amy woke up biting her hand so as to not scream. Sarah rushed to take care of her.
“What happened? Ames, are you okay?”
“Dream. Bad dream. Nightmare. It happened again,” she mumbled, out of breath.
“It was just that. Just a nightmare. Everything’s okay,” Sarah wrapped her arms around Amy as she started to slow down. She threw her shaking arms around Sarah and the girl just held her tight and kissed her forehead.
Dolores Hunt was paralyzed, gasping at air and trying to string together the words to describe what she was seeing, uselessly trying to reach the telephone just to the side of her bed. She looked up again and saw the same figure. Bright, bloodshot eyes, slender arms ending in claws and a morbidly deformed body with what seemed like five holes coming out of its chest. Its mouth was wide open, drooling all over the nightlight. And it was getting closer. The woman finally spoke as one of its claws was near her face. “Help me.”