A garden. It seemed real; Emily could feel the grass underfoot, she wanted to take off her shoes and feel it between her toes. The air - there was a hint of cinnamon to it, drifting into her nostrils like magic. Magic. How, she thought to herself, could there be a garden in the middle of LNHQ? There were roses. Huge bushes of them, springing from the tilled earth. Orchids, of all varieties, staring down at her. Trees everywhere - the walls, she realized, were obscured by them. Soil. Grass. Flowers. Trees. Emily almost hyperventilated. "Hello." Emily shot out of her reverie, almost jumping into the air as the voice spoke. "Gah!" She turned, and there he stood: a thin figure, with skin like ice and eyes like diamonds. A haystack of platinum hair, and teeth like needles. He wore a flannel shirt and sensible jeans, with gardening gloves. The figure smiled, and bowed his head. "I see you've found my garden." "You're - their gardener?" "For the moment," he said, quietly. His gaze moved across the garden, the needling smile growing wider. "Beautiful, isn't it? I always had the green thumb - my sister was better with birds, of course - but we can't have everything." "This shouldn't be here - this isn't an arboreteum, and we're inside..." The figure shrugged, "I could, if pressed, plant a garden anywhere. You're Emily." Emily turned, brushing the auburn hair away from her face. "You know who I am," she said smoothly, "How?" She pulled off the trenchcoat; it was too damned hot in the garden, and she had only worn it to sneak past Luke without a fight. "I don't know you." "Of course you don't," giggled the man, "We haven't met. But I've - heard - of you. My name, I suppose, is Winterthorne. Yes, that'll do. Call me Winterthorne." Emily's eyes narrowed. "What's your real name?" Winterthorne's eyebrows shot up. "Ooo, aren't we perceptive." "Well," said Emily, "Winterthorne doesn't sound like a real name - Anymore, I guess, than Ravencroft - and since you say you're the LNH's gardener, you're probably a superhero like the rest of the crazies 'round here." "No, I'm not. A superhero, that is." Winterthorne smiled. "But you will call me Winterthorne and nothing else, for it pleases me. We all have - secret names, don't we? I believe your brother calls you - what was it? Ah, yes..." "Don't say it," growled Emily. "I hate it. And I don't see why I need to use it." "But, it's tradition, dear girl. And what is so bad about the name 'Demon Grrl,' anyway?" "Do I look like I'm wearing spandex? Do I look like I have scales?" "Both can be arranged." Needle smile. A frown blossomed across Emily's face. "Wait. How do you know all this?" "My sister. After a fashion." Winterthorne smiled. Emily's eyes narrowed again. "So who's your sister to be nosing around?" "You know - you're a bright girl." "Oh." Emily turned, and walked a few steps away. "You're her brother, aren't you? Makes sense, I guess. Same irritating smile. And I expect you're not really the gardener, assuming this garden's actually supposed to be here." "Assuming," Winterthorne grinned, "Any of this is real." "What?" Winterthorne waved, slightly, and smiled again. "Sweet dreams, Demon Grrl." "Don't call me..." And then it happened. A ringing, a deafening ringing that filled the entire building; Emily realized, perhaps to late, that the building didn't exist - it was one, huge garden. And the ringing continued, on and on and on and on and she wanted to scream out because it was giving her a headache and where had Winterthorne gone? He'd vanished. But the ringing wouldn't stop it just kept going and going and going... =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= Blue Light Productions Presents, TEENS IN TRENCHCOATS #6: "Wings of Gold and Oil Spill," by Ben Rawluk, special thanks to Jen Whitson. Continuity Note: Takes place amidst the events of _Misfits_ #36. Recommended Soundtrack: Tori Amos' "from the choirgirl hotel," Lamb's "lamb." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= >From the 'Trevor Blount School of Trenchcoating and Shoe Repair' Pamphlet: "The thing you have to realize, being a trenchcoater, is that the universe is sadly 'fictional,' at the whim of higher beings with possible sadistic streaks. Not just possible - probable. The upshot is, we have to deal with symbols cropping up at inopportune moments. And themes. You wake up one morning, put on your trenchcoat, and discover someone's stuck an underlying theme or subtext into your life while you were in the bathroom. Be watching for nasty metaphors." =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= "Ticktock screamed the clock." Emily's fist emerged from under the covers, slamming down on the poor, defenseless clock. From the gap in the covers, her eyes could be seen; they were pure white silohouettes in the darkness, but that was merely a trick of the light. "Stupid clock," she added, as an afterthought. "Stupider dream." She pulled herself up and out of bed, dragging across the floor to the bathroom. Assuming nothing remotely magical or irritating had happened in the night, the bathroom would still be there, with fresh jeans on the counter, maybe a shirt. If she was lucky, a toilet as well.Granted, thought Emily, the chance of anything being (a) halfway normal, and (b) halfway consistent around the LNH was probably practically... ...nil. "Bugger," Emily muttered; the bathroom was much as she remembered it, with one exception: bundles of roses had apparently been smuggled in during the night, to assault her first thing with their scents. No; Emily realized that they weren't bundles - the roses grew from between the tiles on the floor, out of the toilet, out of the bathtub and sink drains. "Bugger," Emily repeated, "Stupid dream was prophetic or something." A scowl formed on her face. "Can I _possibly_ have _one_ morning that isn't like something out of a cheezy Stephen King novel? One morning? Please?" She looked up toward the ceiling. "I know you're up there, whichever gods are actually running the show. You have major explaining to do." There was silence; had the gods been there, they probably would have just smiled knowingly. And maybe offered to play Yahtzee with her. The gods, Emily decided, were major bastards. "Right," she said, and looked back down at the mass of roses. "Where can I get myself some gardening shears, then?" The bed was rumpled, creases formed in the sheets as she sat there, fuming. Her name was Ravencroft - or at least, that was what she called herself now. She sat crosslegged, clutching a pillow tightly - her chin rested comfortably on it. The pitch-black socks were half-off her feet. Black hair like raven's feathers was pulled away from her pale face, and black lips were in full pout, as the scowl intensified across her face. "Stupid brother," she said, finally. Her voice echoed slightly. "Can't even let me shape some stupid trenchcoaters into my own stup - into my own /gorgeous/ and /talented/ image. Has to make a play to turn them into /his/ stupid image." Her lower lip protruded. She didn't feel gorgeous and talented. She felt old. And in that moment - her body seemed much smaller than normal. Her auras weren't on. And creases formed in her skin like they did in the bedsheets. Silence. The clock kept running. Ticktock, ticktock, tick-click. Ravencroft stared daggers into the clock, and it stopped, just like that. "Stupid clock," she added, irritably. And then she added: "Can't he just find his own stupid mortals?" Ravencroft's hair ruffled itself in the slight draft that ran through the room. Ravencroft pondered her hair, thoughtfully; and then she turned to glance out the window. A thin smile formed across her lips. Her face began to smooth itself. At least, she thought, the ravens were being useful. They were gathering, all over LNHQ - perching on the roof, flying around the grounds - and being a nuisance to the mortals. And the mortals would hold up big signs saying "Omens! Omens!" and nobody would have a clue what was going on, because they would be busy trying to figure out what was so symbolic about the birds. "And don't forget the garden," muttered Ravencroft, more to herself than the birds. "Rip up every single orchid you find. I'm not going to make it /easy/ for him to wreck everything." And to be perfectly honest, Ravencroft half-expected her brother to come waltzing out of the shadows, being all pretentious and smiling and anorexic, bragging about how he had foiled her plans once again. Not this time, she thought. Not without a fi... There was a knock at the door. Tentative, thought Ravencroft: probably Luke. A kid, she thought, who could most definitely do with a backbone. "Coming, Luke," she sighed, and pulled herself off the bed. She noticed that normally it was squeaky, but Ravencroft could move as silently as she needed to. Her socks pulled themselves up to her ankles. The raven hair fell forward, cascading around her face at /just/ the right angle. Her eyes widened, glistening with mock-moisture. And she pulled on her auras, filling up the room with her presence. She was less withdrawn, much "bigger." Ravencroft regarded her comfortable clothing with quite disdain. This won't do, she thought - and it changed. Black tights. A black tutu for - hell, to be honest, Ravencroft just wanted to see what Luke would say about her wearing a tutu. "Coming," said Ravencroft, affecting the tone of a bored housewife in 1950s Suburbia. She sauntered - as practiced, of course - over to the door, and opened it, lopsidedly looking out into the corridor. "Oh. Morning," the smile filled with teeth as she looked outside: Luke. His white makeup was smeared, the black eyeliner smudged a bit. His black hair was still damp, and matted across his forehead. She could tell he was trying to look /really/ tortured. "Hi," she said, smoothly. Smiling a nice, wide - no. She fixed that at the last moment. Smiling a smile of needles. Luke looked away, sheepishly. "H'lo," he breathed, almost inaudibly. He looked back, eyes travelling over her body, much like the eyes of any straight, teenaged boy. Stop. Bingo, thought Ravencroft. "Er - why are you wearing a tutu?" Oooh. Ravencroft grinned, inwardly. Time for the quizzical look. She gave it with style: the kind of look that asked why the hell anyone would ask such an obvious question. "Because I can, dahling." She smiled, and grabbed him by the arm. "Because I can. Anyway - what do you want?" Luke offered a sort of half-smile. It was like, Ravencroft mused, he'd started out smiling, but then realized he should probably scowl to save face. "I wanted to know if you wanted, um, to, ah, maybe get some breakfast with me?" He looked away, scraping the floor with his foot. He shifted his weight, Ravencroft watching his shoulders move from within his black trenchcoat. She straightened her back, and looked down at the boy. "At, like, the cafeteria?" "Not having breakfast with your sister?" She could tell - his unease grew as she mentioned Emily. Perfect, she thought. "Perdition, Emily, Mouse - are girls /always/ trying to get rid of you?" [* See _Misfits_ #34, and _Teens in Trenchcoats_ #5 - Footnote Girl] "Ah," Luke grimaced. Ravencroft smiled - he'd been practicing, she saw. "Well, whatever," Ravencroft pushed him out the door, following close behind and shutting it. "Enough witty banter. You're going to buy me breakfast..." Emily growled, catching her breath slowly as she climbed the stairs. They were grey, as bland and featureless as the walls. Why were there so many of them? She looked up, at the door to the roof. "Too many stairs," she grunted, and strode on. She had to get away from the roses. They were - dark. Something. Evil? Emily couldn't be sure, and played idly with her auburn ponytail as she /finally/ reached the roof access. Get the hell away from the roses, give herself some time to catch her breath, call Occultism Kid, and get him to make them - go away. Tentatively, Emily clutched the doorknob, and turned, stepping out onto the roof. A Hitchcock movie. When Emily and Luke were nine, their father showed them on of his all-time favourite movies: 'The Birds,' one of Hitchcock's more famous movies. Emily hadn't slept for a week: the sight, hundreds of birds - a mass of feathers and beady eyes - had remained with her. And now Emily stood in the centre of that movie, her foot sinking into that very mass of black feathers and beady eyes. Ravens? Emily gasped. "Ohmigod," was all she said. She clutched a small, ornatedly carved piece of silver - an amulet. A flash of memory: Emily, months ago. Foot in pools of ichor, demon's blood. The gnashing of thousands of teeth, as she stepped across a bloodbath, grasping hold of one of her grandfather's possessions - a small amulet. It had worked for him, he'd said. Near the end. Emily looked down at the amulet, and then at the ravens; they were everywhere - you couldn't see the concrete. They seemed to spill off the edges of the roof, into oblivion. Emily breathed in, and then out, closing her eyes and clutching the amulet. Open your eyes, she told herself, and they'll be gone. She did. They weren't. And then her eyes locked onto something. An angel. But, thought Emily, it wasn't some pre-Raphaelite angel. The woman's wings were like gold - silver dipped in honey, mused Emily. She winced as the ravens fluttered around her heel. And this angel was so small, tiny - her ribcage was showing through her skin. The gold of her wings seemed to dance like liquid - like honey - across her body, flowing around her arms almost like armour. She was bruised and beaten, Emily saw, as the being turned to face her. "Are - are you an angel?" Emily took a step forward. More birds. They were screaming in her ears. She resisted her every urge to run away and hide in a very dark hole. "Angel?" The word echoed. Emily almost died. The woman certainly had the /voice/ of an angel. She took a tentative step toward Emily, brushing the ravens away with her wings of gold. Again, the liquid seemed to flow across her body almost - obscuring things? Injuries? Pain. "I am Kismet," the woman breathed. "I - I had hoped this would be a little less crowded than it is. I - I am almost ready." "Ready?" Emily breathed out. "Ready for what? I'm Emily." "The final stage," said Kismet, her voice quivering. "There is a war going on," she motioned toward the panoramic voice of Net.ropolis. "Out there." "God, you look awful, Kismet. Maybe I should get you down to the medlab..." "NO! No. Thank you. I can't go down there. Even up here is a stretch, right now." "You never answered my question." Emily took another step forward - she could feel beaks, poking into her leg. "Are you an angel? I've met plenty of demons. But - y'know? Balance?" "I - no." Kismet looked away. "I am no 'angel'." Her breath was laboured, and Emily watched: her foot became encased in the golden liquid. "I am merely a child. For the moment." Her eyes darted about, taking in the sight of the ravens, clustering around the pair. "Why are these - birds - here? They are not, usually." "I don't know - I can guess though." Kismet straightened; Emily's voice had carried a certain amount of bile. "You - has anyone ever told you that you're beautiful?" Kismet's eyebrows raised, and her eyes searched Emily's face. "Beautiful," she breathed. She seemed, Emily decided, to be decoding the word in her head. The angel - the girl, Emily corrected in her head, strode over to the edge of the building. "I had kind of hoped they would be the last people I saw before I - leave." "They?" Kismet nodded, wistfully gazing into the distance. "Them. Paytan. Brittany. Savannah. Bryan. Allen." With the last name, her voice caught for a moment. "But Brittany's - dead. Paytan is somewhere, doing something I don't understand. The others are looking for her. And I suppose you're the last person I'll see before I leave." She craned her neck, the golden flowing over her ears for a moment, as she looked at Emily. "I should get you to a doctor." "I said no!" Kismet winced, grasping her side. "I have to go," in a quieter voice. "This place is too crowded - I need to be alone, now." Her eyes shifted, and she turned to look deeply at Emily. "Please - if you see Savannah - tell her I said goodbye." "I..." But Emily didn't have time to finish her thought. There was a flurry of motion, wings drawn back, and then - Kismet flung herself upward, borne by the wings into the air. And she was gone, eyes staring straight ahead, focused on the tallest building in sight. "I - an angel." His name was Winterthorne. Or rather, he /called/ himself Winterthorne. Because - his voice giggled and quivered whenever he was called upon to explain - he could make a rosebush, thick with thorns, spring to life - even in the dead of winter. He didn't even bother trying to hide in the shadows, either. His hair stood out. It was tendrils of platinum blonde, springing from his head. Eyes like cocaine gleamed in the darkness. Winterthorne stretched, his anorexic body seeming to flow, for a second, like liquid, as he stepped forward. The room was small, by his standards: the ceiling was far too low, there were no columns or pillars - ugly. Barracks, he thought to himself, his tongue stretching around the word in his head while he looked back and forth. She hadn't even bothered to /change/ the place - a decent paint job, for one thing. And then Winterthorne smacked his forehead, because /of course/, his sister was lazy. He should have known that. He pictured her, bitching for hours in front of the "standard issue" - he spat at the thought - mirror, growling at her own birds because /he/ was being annoying. Everything was about her, and he had every intention of teaching her a lesson. And then - she was there. He didn't hear the door, but he didn't need to - he could sense her presence, a gaping maw in the pit of stomach, like he hadn't eaten for a decade or two. "Hello, Sister Wicked," he grinned, facing away from her. His voice echoed, as he desired. His mouth was a black-hole smile, devouring whole continents. "Brother Wicked," this was a snap. "Formal today, are we? Why are you here?" Winterthorne ran a finger lazily across the desk, and regarded the dust with considerable disdain. "Slumming it, I see?" He turned - a quick motion, like lightning on speed. His eyes fell open on the pale-skinned girl, with her dark hair. Dark eyes. Dark lips. Dark clothing. "And still playing the Gothgirl, as well. Girl, have you /never/ heard of pastels?" Ravencroft, for that was the name she preferred, scowled, crossing her arms with equal disdain. "Shut up, Mister White Silk Wardrobe. I told you to leave town - and I meant it." A slight chuckle flew from Winterthorne's lips, and he held his arms behind his back. "Nuh-uh. You're not the boss of me. And I'm merely in town to see our dear sister. Honest." The smirk returned, flowing across his features. "Well, mostly. I can still see her /and/ ruin your day." "See our - what?" The expression on Ravencroft's face - ooh, so delightful, thought Winterthorne. Just what the doctor ordered. "You /know/ we're not supposed to - it's against the rules. She did what she did and we're never to talk to her again." "Parents hate to lose a child. Mother was bitter, Father was horrified. So they decided to play Erinyes, of course. She got what she deserved. But that doesn't mean she's of no use to me - and really, should the Wicked be broken up /forever/? We have duties, dear sister." "I know our 'duties,' Winterthorne," spat Ravencroft. "And /she/ broke us up. You saw - you were there. Blood on her hands. She spilled Wicked blood." "You're just jealous - she did what you never could. She killed her brother." "Our brother. She destroyed the plan, Winterthorne. All our hopes for the future - up in smoke. She deserves loneliness and insignificance. I stand by Father's ruling." "Father's old. Older than the world. Who cares what he said. And don't you ever just - wonder? Wonder what happened to dear Little Sister, the baby of the family? Maybe she's a queen. I wouldn't be surprised. Even stripped of everything - everything but her element, of course - she could crush nations. We all could." "She wouldn't know who she was." "A pitiful excuse," mumbled Winterthorne, sticking his long tongue out in disgust; it snaked back and forth as he thought. "She knows who she is when the clock strikes twelve and the witches' cackle. You know the curse as well as I." "Yes! I know the curse. That's why we're not supposed to go near her. Mother will be even angrier than father. You'd be spoiled - tainted by her essence. She isn't Wicked. She's nothing now." Ravencroft turned, hugging herself softly. "You wouldn't risk it. You're just playing with my toys, is all." "Perhaps. Perhaps I already have one of your toys - perhaps I've visited her in dream, maybe I even left a parting gift?" The smile widened. "You - which one?" Ravencroft spun around to face Winterthorne once more, eyes blazing with rage. "Which mortal have you - you - you tested? Tasted. Filled with bile." "The girl," grinned Winterthorne. "I loved it. Her mind is so full of indignation." "I told you, Winterthorne..." He held a hand up. "I have to go, so you can't scream at me anymore. I have to go - see our sister again. I miss her." "You won't do it." "Don't you ever - wonder?" =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= NOTES FROM THE AUTHOR: "Teens in Trenchcoats," "Luke Jones," "Emily Jones," "Ravencroft," and "Winterthorne" are owned by Ben Rawluk, copyright 1999 - etc. "Kismet" is owned by Jenn Whitson, copyright 1999, also etc. Comments and questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org - thank you.Back to the Index.