With a face that was launched to sink
And I seldom feel the bright relief
It's been the Worst Day Since Yesterday
If there's one thing I have said
Is that the dreams I once had now lay in bed
As the four winds blow my wits through the door
It's been the Worst Day Since Yesterday
Fallin' down to you sweet ground
Where the flowers they bloom
It's there I'll be found
Hurry back to me, my wild calling,
It's been the Worst Day Since Yesterday
Though these wounds have seen no wars
Except for the scars I have ignored
And this endless crutch well it's never enough
It's been the Worst Day Since Yesterday
Hell says hello, well it's time to I should go
To pastures green, that I've yet to see
Hurry back to me, my wild calling,
It's been the Worst Day Since Yesterday."
Flogging Molly, The Worst Day Since Yesterday
Titans: Fuck 'em.
Shit. I guess I shouldn't just start with that, I should probably build up to it, the way a proper story would.
You know what? No. Fuck titans.
And fuck Joseph Conrad, the Heart of Darkness has nothing to do with Mr. Kurtz or slavery or the cruelty of man against man. That shit sucks, but that's not really the heart of darkness. I have seen it. I have stared at it. It spoke to me.
Also, I died.
Worst fucking day ever. Since yesterday.
I came out of the underworld, Helheim, and found out that the world is ending, I lost three months, I can't talk to my dad, then Gunnar's dad is in frost-giant-land, we've been played by someone pretending to be Loki, Fenrir is probably at large, Manannan Mac Lir is still alive, Ixion blew up my house, Kane stole my fucking ghost, the world is still ending, we still don't know how to fix it, I met a titan and oh hey. I DIED.
That last one was my fault. Kinda. I'm a fucking moron. Who in their right minds thinks while they're five months pregnant, "Sure, I will go waltzing through this mysterious soul killing apparatus, upon which is inscribed, 'to cage the darkness,' because that does not sound sinister or dangerous at all." Apparently I do.
And Never, if you're reading this, I do not wanna hear one single fucking quip about that "right mind" bit.
And I'm a moron because I was convinced at the time that the worst thing that could have happened to me was that I would lose some time. Nope, I was wrong about that too. There are worse things than losing time. A lot worse.
But that's what I was worried about, so I borrowed those casting stones from Gunnar and after I used them I was sure that time wouldn't be any different and I was also sure that there was something on the other side eating souls.
Yeah. A device powerful enough to draw souls in droves by the thousands from all over the nation and powerful enough to contain something that is consuming, in massive quantities, the souls of the dead, and what does crazy fucking Laurel do?
Well naturally, I traipse right in and give it my soul.
And my sons'.
I am trying to convey the magnitude of this event. I have been through a lot of shit. Shit I just lived through. That's kinda what I do. It's like that's what Fate has been building me to do: survive. It didn't work. I went through this machine and I felt my soul get ripped away from my body and I died.
It stung a little.
I guess now I should back up a little to how we even got there. Brendan found the gloves in Berkeley, but Marie was gone. I know why, now.
I was in Chicago, where we and the kids met up at Gunnar's. Kas and Ciara coptered in with the dwarf so I could work on him. Dorthen lost his left arm and his left eye but is gonna be okay, and while I was working on Dorthen and Brendan was in Berkeley, Nate went to talk to the president about forming a government funded divine black ops type team. He had said he wanted me on it. I told him I assumed he wanted Gunnar too, because I wasn't joining up without him and oh hey, he probably knew I was just gonna call and tell him about it once I hung up with Nate. Nate seems to be okay with that now, that's just kinda the way things work. Whatever I know, you can pretty much assume Gunnar's going to know it, too.
So those of us who were in Chicago decided that the next move was to go to the soul sink in the Atlantic. Before that we wanted to head to the Smithsonian and soak up some more power, like we figured out how to do back when we fought Caleb. I got to spend some time with the kids, which was pretty awesome. They're growing up fast. Charlotte's got this wicked looking scar on her face. After I gave her a huge hug, I asked her if it hurt. It didn't look like it should, and she said it didn't, and it looks like it was just supposed to be there.
Getting to the Smithsonian was kinda funny, the National Mall was supposed to be closed. Well, it was closed to normal people. I'm not normal people, and dammit, I was in the mood for a field trip.
I guess it bears mentioning, working on Dorthen kinda ruined the clothes I was wearing, and I had just had a pair of jeans with me in case I'd gotten cold wearing shorts in Norway. And a toothbrush, and my medical kit. Yeah, that's all I packed before I last left my now exploded house. Anyway, Gunnar and I didn't exactly date long enough - or stay in Chicago long enough - for me to do the standard girlfriend bullshit, and leave tons of stuff at his place, so I ended up stealing one of his button-ups. That ended up being helpful in getting past the guards who were supposed to be making sure that the National Mall was evacuated.
The guards started trying to give us static about evacuating and not being on the streets and some other shit I didn't have time to pay attention to.
I turned to Gunnar, grinning mischievously. "You trust me, right?" Gunnar didn't really seem like the jealous type, but I figured it didn't hurt to check. Basically I wanted to know that my husband wasn't going to fly into a rage when he saw me batting my eyes at another guy - though, if the situation called for it, I'd bat them at a girl, too. The world is ending, I haven't got time to be insecure about my sexuality.
So I grinned at him, undid one of the buttons on the shirt I'd taken from his place, sauntered over to the soldiers and flirted my way into the Smithsonian. Not just my way. I got Gunnar, Harlan, Brendan, Nate, Kassandra, Ciara, Dorthen, Susan, Gunter, Amanda, Charlotte, Brendan Gair, Wolf, Nevermore and Astrid all in as well. That's twelve Scions, one dwarf, and three animals who got into a closed museum in an evacuation zone in the middle of a global emergency, and I did it with my hands behind my back. No, really. That sort of posture makes it easier to push your chest forward, which I probably didn't need to do but after the day I'd been having I didn't mind having those mortals slackjawed and tripping over themselves to give me whatever I wanted.
After we were done with the museum, I also wanted to get into a medical lab. So I flirted my way into one of those, too. Kassandra wanted to come with me when she heard I wanted to get into a lab, saying she could probably help me with whatever I was doing, since she'd been able to save Dorthen. Yeah. She was the reason he lived. I owe her for that, like something huge. I'd offer her my firstborn if I were the joking type. After my first conversation with Erzulie, though, that's not something I'm ever going to say even if I'm just kidding.
Anyway, she helped me do the ultrasound. If she didn't know before, she knew now that I was pregnant. And worried. A little.
I mean, I was really only worried because yeah, growth spurts are normal. That's what gestation is, a nine month sequence of miraculous growth spurts, but three month's worth in the span of a second or two is borderline terrifying. With all of the other supernatural shit happening to us and all of the places I've had to take them, I needed to make sure they were okay. If they were born ...wrong, I would have already failed miserably as a mother. That sort of failure freaks me right the fuck out.
But we found the lab, I laid down on a squeaky gurney, unbuttoned my shirt and started telling Kas what to do... Except she didn't need any instructions. She knew exactly what she was doing. Didn't even get weird about the scars - which are going away soon, I'm thinking about doing it on national television as a stunt to get us some recognition.
On the screen I saw two healthy, normal, obviously male, perfect babies.
My babies. I felt a wave of relief and, cheesy as it sounds, sheer awe wash over me. Yeah, I cried a little (fuck you, Never. You would have cried too).
I've seen some pretty cool shit. I've stood in a wetsuit on the bottom of the ocean and changed a prophecy and fought a war to save a Terra Incognita and watched my friends gang-rape a dragon of Norse mythology. But the coolest thing I've ever heard is the sound of my sons' hearts beating.
Nate had arranged with the president - I guess the meeting went alright - to get us transportation to the spot in the ocean where it seemed like we needed to go, and we were all on the boat talking about who would be going (the kids weren't) and what we would do when we got there and then all of a sudden a submarine pulled up next to us. Well, by all of a sudden I mean it spent a couple of minutes surfacing and sat there for a minute. Someone popped up out of the top and started using semaphore.
They were asking something about who they were meeting. No one else piped up, so I passed along the question. Some of that military training stuck.
I was gonna respond with just, "Pritchert," but I didn't have any flags. I went to just use my shirt but I guess Gunnar didn't entirely approve. I glanced around and had gotten to the second button before he realized what I was doing and he stopped me.
I pretty vividly remember that he'd implied, back when he heard about me running through a burning house and standing around in my underwear, that it wouldn't have been a problem so long as he was there to see it. Oh well.
Anyway, he gave me his shirt, and Nate followed suit, and I let the sub know that, yes, these were the droids they were looking for.
We worked it out with the kids that they were all going to stay topside. They weren't happy about it, but if shit got out of hand in the water, I didn't want to have to worry about them. I was gonna worry anyway, but that's not the point.
After what happened, I'm really glad we left them up on the surface. They probably would have freaked.
We got ourselves changed into SCUBA gear and wetsuits and dove down in the sub - Gunnar, Nate, Harlan, Ciara, Kas, Brendan and I - and once down Gunnar opened the thing on the bottom of the sub and stuck his head down and checked to see what the coast looked like. Sparse.
Like, when he gave the all clear and we all got into the water and could take a look, it looked like the plant life and stuff was pretty normal. I couldn't really see any reason this should have been the epicenter for the earthquakes. No normal reason. Not surprising, since I hadn't really expected that the earthquakes were being caused by any normal phenomenon.
Brendan and I could see where the ghosts were disappearing into a pile of rocks. So we all unpiled the rocks and found - will wonders never cease - a machine. There was algae on it, so I brushed away the algae to get a better look. It was made of gold and had Greek carved into it:
To Cage the Darkness
Not quite ominous enough, so of course my first inclination is just to keep fucking with it. I tried digging down around it, ended up doing so for almost a minute before Gunnar spotted something I didn't (I'm actually a little surprised it took him that long, but maybe I was just digging kinda slowly), so he took over and we figured out it looked like it went way down into the earth. No telling how far down. At one point we turned the soul-sucking setting off, deactivating what Gunnar had said was a Spirit Beacon on the machine.
That just kinda pissed the ghosts off. One of them got mad, bitching about how it had walked all the way from Colorado.
Seriously? I'm trying to save your ethereal ass and you're bitching at me about the time you spent floating cross country? What the fuck else did you plan to be doing with your busy afterlife?
Maybe Gunnar's mannerisms are rubbing off on me a little. Or maybe I'm just getting tired enough to be a bitch, it's been like, a month and a half since I slept. Either way. I copped an attitude with the ghost, saying, "Well you shouldn't have. That was stupid." And it bitched at me some more about not being able to move on. So I shrugged and said that wasn't my problem. Because it's not. I've got ninety-nine problems, and that ghost ain't one. This machine, the fact that something is destroying these souls, the fact that Azezza was missing leaving me in danger of breaking a promise for the first time ever, that was my problem.
I guess that was the wrong answer and the ghosts got a little more pissed. They started swarming me, reaching at me and trying to rake at me with their ghosty little hands. It felt like they were trying to pull at something in my blood. It didn't really work, they couldn't hurt me. And then one of them seriously fucking dove into my stomach and I felt one of the boys start kicking like crazy. Not normal crazy, this was something going wrong. It wasn't hard enough to hurt me, but it was distracting and I was worried about both the one who was kicking and the other one who might be getting kicked, and that both of them might get hurt in the process.
Gunnar fixed it, though. Put a hand on my stomach, said, and I shit you not, "The power of Christ compels you," and the boys calmed down. There's kinda been this unspoken "low key" arrangement between us for the way we act in public and we tend not to make a big deal of being together (his preference more than mine really, but it works), but I couldn't help but kiss the man.
So whatever happened to that ghost managed to give the message to the rest of the ghosts to back the fuck off and they kinda left us alone while we fiddled with the machine. I tried to bend it, but it wouldn't give. Nate was about to hit it with his sword when we stopped him. If we could get some answers on the other side of this thing, maybe we shouldn't destroy it. Also, we had no idea how this one was connected to the other machines, and whether destroying this one would destabilize the whole world.
We talked for a bit about what to do. I got the idea that, with Gunnar's crazy ability to see things, maybe if I went through the machine he could keep an eye on me with that ring my dad gave him. I thought briefly about even letting someone else wear the ring, but maybe Dad would have been pissed off about that. Nevermind that it wasn't the ring I wear as my wedding ring. Yeah it was the one I put on at the wedding, but I wear the ring Gunnar gave me on my ring finger, along with my engagement ring.
Anyway, my jewelry is not the point. I don't wanna piss my dad off, and I knew Gunnar could watch me and I was probably one of the most capable of us when it came to surviving potentially weird environments. Ciara wasn't going to let me go alone, and for some reason Harlan wasn't either (not that I think he has any reason not to think I'm not awesome enough to follow into an underworld, he's just hard to read and surprises me when he actually wants to do something). So Brendan, having newly figured out how to talk to ghosts, and making me feel a little more sane in the process because holy fuck, someone else can see all of the weird shit I can, said he could push us through the machine and it would just be up to me to get us out. That way I would be more capable of dealing with shit on the other side and just had to worry about paying the ichor tithe to get our asses out.
Turns out, that part of the plan was unnecessary. I'm not the one who got us out of there.
The second we walked through the arch of the machine I heard Ciara grunt and Harlan screamed the most painful scream I've ever heard. And then they were blue. Translucent, blue, glowing a little. And I could see my sons.
No. That's not right.
I could see their souls because we were all dead.
I got my sons killed.
Everything in me was screaming that I wanted to turn around and walk back out, leave the arch, and run home crying to my mommy.
But I couldn't. I couldn't do a fucking thing, except move towards the deepest darkness I've ever seen. That shit in the shadows that scares kids and pets and old people? Yeah, this was probably its grandfather.
It was a Titan. Not a titan. Titan.
I've been -face- soul to ... whatever... with a Titan. Capital T. Fuck.
It was really quite civil, which was frustrating and unnerving.
You know, when you come face to face with your enemy you want to be able to hate it. You want to be able to look at it and think, "That is the bad guy. I am the good guy. The lines here are clear and I know which side of this conflict I am on. Clearly mine is the right side and everything is going to be fine. Once I figure out what the fuck it is that I'm doing here, I will know what to do next and it will be fine and I'm going to save the world and we're going to win."
Yeah, that didn't happen.
Erebus - the great and terrifying primordial darkness - was strangely polite. Aside from the part where he was ripping apart my soul.
He said they were building a new world, one that was supposed to coexist with the Old World. The world we know isn't supposed to change, and Erebus is supposed to have "dominion" over this New World. And it said it was serving the wishes of Nikola Tesla.
If Tesla has managed to convince the TITAN OF DARKNESS to serve his wishes... I'm scared. That's not really something that's ever happened before. Me being scared. I've been worried, I've been nervous, I've been on edge. But even with Scary Mary, I can't say I was really scared. I mean, I thought I was then but I didn't really know what being scared meant. I couldn't really say I'd been afraid. I said it anyway but I didn't know what it meant.
Now I do. I've been inside of and encompassed by the primordial darkness which mankind has feared since its birth. It spoke to me, and it made perfect sense and I am afraid.
Of Tesla, of this war, of what's happened before and what's coming after and for the fate of the world and the lives of my sons and the souls of my bandmates... I'm scared.
I don’t know how we can fight something like that. It’s pre-elemental and all encompassing and I wonder... I can imagine a scowl on Gunnar’s face if I say this to him, but I wonder if maybe we don’t have to fight. Maybe we can put the world back together peacefully.
Fuck, I just don't know anymore.
I came to with Kas over me, doing CPR until I came back to the land of the living. Yeah. All the divine shit we've witnessed, all of the powers we've gained, and it was CPR that brought the three of us back from inside the machine, from the grips of a Titan. Nate had successfully revived Ciara and Brendan had been working on Harlan and I was too busy coughing up water to really see what Gunnar had been doing.
As soon as my lungs were clear, I wanted to get back into the water. I had to get back in the water and I had to get back to the machine. I'd seen something in there, something that was worth dying again for.
Before I was surrounded by the darkness, right on the threshold, I had seen Azezza and gods-fucking-dammit, I was going to save her.
"Get her out. Get her out, get her out, get her out, get her out!" was pretty much all I was saying as I headed back into the water. Turns out the machine has a reverse setting, and I didn't have to die again to go get her. When she came out, I hugged her so tight I almost squeezed her out of my arms. She was crying. It's strange, and heartbreaking in ways I cannot even begin to describe, to see the ghost of a child - might as well be a baby, for fuck's sake - weeping. I kissed her forehead and held her tight and told her I was so proud of her and that she did good hanging on for so long.
Staring down the threshold of darkness.
Yeah, I started crying too.
I fucked up. I shouldn't have just assumed she was "around" when we didn't see her for a while. I should have started looking for her the second she went missing and I didn't and I almost lost her soul to the Titan of darkness and I fucked up.
We got her back up to the surface. Gair freaked out, but in a good and happy way. That made me feel a little better. Susan asked what happened, and like a dumbass I just blurted out, "I died."
I didn't even think about how that announcement would have freaked the kids out, and yeah, of course Susan got all wide eyed.
I raised my hands trying to reassure her and said, "Suzie, I'm fine. I'm fine." And then my eyes got wide when I realized she had her scalpel out - it works like my necklace, letting her do all the godly health stuff - and could see auras the way I could and I asked, with a whole lot of meaning, "I'm fine, right?" Of course she had known I was pregnant as soon as we all met up at Gunnar's, she knew the same way Dad did and the same way I would have if I'd been looking at me, and she took me aside almost bouncing up and down as she squealed quietly, "I'm gonna be an aunt?!" So I had told her yeah, she was gonna be an aunt, twice, in about four months. That weirded her out.
Now, on the boat, she looked me over and said, "Yeah, you and the kids are fine."
My face met my palm as every adolescent head on the boat swiveled toward me. Gunter looked like he wanted to say, "I told you so" but couldn't actually back it up.
Then I realized Gunnar wasn't around, he was on the other boat, and on that other boat was Kane Taoka. Except Gunnar said that wasn't the real Kane. It was a fake Kane. Gunnar had talked to him already, and said if the rest of us had questions now was the time. I had one for him, and when he got three words in, there was some bullshit about, "my dark lord and master" I decided I was done. I went back to the kids and got bitched at by Nevermore.
For dying. Cuz I totally had the choice there. He had the balls to tell me I can't go to any more underworlds while I'm pregnant and what was my dad going to say and he's going to die tragically and too young when I give him a heart attack and how dare I put myself in danger like that and what if my Band mates hadn't been there to save me and I need saving and I'm a lot of trouble and I'm going to be in a lot of trouble and blah blah blah.
We kinda parted ways with the kids, giving them instructions to head for one of the safer sites to check out that machine and remove the control rod after spitting out those ghosts. They want to help and I can't tell them to stand by the sidelines while the world is ending. I know they won't listen anyway, because they're a lot like us. They know they can help and some of them are willing to die trying.
Anyway. After that we headed back to DC. I met the President. He stared at my ass.
And Gunnar showed us some blood sample Sly gave him. Something to do with something bad, I wasn't really paying attention beyond the "oh look, something to do besides get stared at by the President." I kinda jumped the gun, but I grabbed the napkin from his hand and told the President, very sweetly, to get me into a medical lab so I could take a look at it. It's only been a couple of months so I'm still not completely used to the whole "Dr. Esparza" thing. I'm still expecting people to be stumbling over "Kladakos."
They took us to a lab and I went into doctor mode. For all the good it did. I could tell it wasn't normal. Big revelation. Why would Sly have had normal blood on a napkin? Well, besides just to fuck with Gunnar and waste his time on a wild goose chase. Anyways, Kas came with me and when she looked at it she was able to tell there was ichor in it.
So what do I do? Well, Gunnar's response in these types of situations is to taste everything. I smelled it instead. It smelled like burning amber and - I know this sounds crazy, but fuck you, you're reading a crazy woman's therapy journal anyway - it sounded like electricity. Yes. Blood has a sound. Shut up.
I wanted something to compare it to, so I decided to go start smelling other things. Well, people. I started with Gunnar, because he's the least likely to have me institutionalized (which does not mean he's the least likely to tell me I'm acting like a nutcase).
It smelled just like him.
Yeah. He looked at me like I was crazy. He couldn't smell anything. Which was weird that I could smell something he couldn't. Maybe it's all the hormones that have made my nose go all crazy. I can smell the divine, though, I swear it.
And now it's off to the Great Henge to see an asshole about a stolen ghost.
I cannot stress this enough. FUCK THAT GUY.
Seriously. With something hard, sandpapery, and covered in chainsaws.
He stole my motherfucking ghost, after I and my husband got squid-slapped to get that bitch, and he didn't even love her, and is now trying to use her as leverage. I mean, I want to keep my promise to Erzulie. I have to. I don't break my promises. I want to give her daughter back to her, but not if it means making a deal with that motherfucker.