Darkness Returns to the House of Loud

BY : Trillhouse
Category: +G through L > The Loud House
Dragon prints: 176
Disclaimer: I do not own The Loud House, nor the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

Happy spooptober, friends. In the spirit of the season, I figured it was time to return to an old fan-favorite and continue the story of Darkness Falls on the House of Loud... albeit not in the way I think most would have imagined, or necessarily wanted.

In any case, it should go without saying that you should read the original story first. While this story does take place in an alternate timeline, the events of the first fic are extremely important to the plot and you will likely be a bit lost if you jump in blindly. Without further ado, let's get this nightmare started.

 


 

What happens when you die?

A foolish question perhaps, excluding matters of faith and individual philosophy regarding such things as the soul and reincarnation; these are subjective topics that fall outside my areas of expertise. Speaking from a scientific perspective, the answer is of course a simple one: death is nothing more than the cessation of one's biological functions. When you die, you simply stop living. You, as a person, cease to be, while time itself continues on as normal. At an individual level one's death may be mourned, or celebrated, or even memorialized through reverence or worship… but to the universe as a whole, even the greatest king's life is nothing more than a miniscule blip in the timeline. Insignificant. Meaningless.

But what if one was erased entirely? What if, hypothetically speaking, one were to be removed from existence? Not merely the end of their life, but the utter eradication of their brief time in the sun. Everything they were, had been, and even would be simply… forgotten. Stripped away, as though they never existed at all. What would happen then? Would the timestream simply correct itself and proceed as normal?

Or would there be consequences?

All too often we forget that time is more than just the past and present. Time flows. The future, though we cannot see it, lies beyond the here and now. There are branches, yes; the timestream is not a straight line, multiple potential outcomes exist to all situations, which of course leads to the existence of parallel timelines. The 'multiverse', so to speak. But this does not change the fact that even these individual branches are predetermined. In essence, the universe does not have 'plans' for us, but rather possibilities. Much like a choose-your-own adventure novel, to put it as simply as possible.

Continuing from that metaphor, however, what if you were to take the hero of said adventure and remove them? Those branching paths no longer matter… the subject in question no longer exists, after all. And yet, they were written. So what then? Do these now-impossibilities simply cease to be? Do they 'correct' themselves to fit this altered history? Or do they remain stuck in limbo, inaccessible no matter what the future may bring?

Over the course of my research, I can confidently say that I've garnered a greater understanding of the multiverse than any man, woman, or child before me. I have seen through the eyes of my own alternate selves, peered into parallel dimensions ranging from nearly identical to completely opposite of ours. I have witnessed many extraordinary and wondrous things, beauty unknown to the universe we inhabit. But nothing is so cut-and-dry… there is no light without dark, no beauty without horror, no awe without terror.

I have seen myself die more times than I can count. I have seen myself, my siblings, my parents commit unspeakable, vile acts; acts that the family I know would simply be incapable of. I've watched as my own experiments, experiments that succeeded without error in our world, bring about catastrophic consequences… death and destruction on an unprecedented scale. Millions of lives lost to my own hubris, sometimes from seemingly minor flaws that had never even factored into my calculations. The knowledge that, time and again, a simple flip of a metaphorical coin was all that prevented me from bringing about the end of life as we know it is… troubling, to say the least. Even outside of my own involvement, I have witnessed such fallen and twisted worlds that they still haunt me to this day… and, sadly, that is not the worst of it.

In one of these 'excursions' I found myself peering into a timeline nearly identical to our own… which, as an aside, is more often the case than not. As such, I was prepared to simply move on.

And then 'it' happened.

There was a vicious shaking, not unlike that of an earthquake; and, when it ceased, me and my siblings found ourselves somewhere… else. Where, exactly, I cannot say, but that timeline's version of myself theorized we were outside the space-time continuum. A realm between realms, so to speak… a dimension existing outside the multiverse. Pitch black, comprised of nothing more than darkness so deep that no light could penetrate it. It was Lucy's doing, albeit unintentionally; a magic ritual gone awry.

Yes, magic of all things. Something I, up until that point, had discounted as pure fantasy. But I digress.

In this plane of darkness I witnessed events that, to this day, I cannot fully understand. The darkness encroached on us, picking us off one by one; whether those lost to it died, disappeared or worse, I do not know. But even through the eyes of another, safe from personal harm, I felt terror… terror that I can only hope that neither I, nor anyone else, will ever have to experience again.

I watched my siblings come apart, losing themselves to fear and grief. I tried my best to save them using the Universal Tunnel System, but despite my best efforts it too was for naught. Lola… the poor girl was frightened, and in her panic she activated it too early, teleporting us, and Lily, into the void of space. A dazzling sight, perhaps, or at least it would be were we not to expire shortly thereafter. In any case, that was it… I was dead. As I said, this was nothing new, as I have witnessed my own death on many occasions. And it's always the same: everything goes black, and that's it. End of transmission. Like turning off a light bulb.

And then, just as I was about to end my observation, my counterpart awoke. After my own death, I simply woke up in my own bed, as if it had all been nothing but a dream. All was well. All was normal.

Except that there was no Lucy Loud.

She was not simply dead, no, nor was she missing… she had simply never existed. Her bedroom belonged to Lynn alone. She was gone from family photos. Neither my alternate self nor anyone else had any memory of a Lucy Loud. She was gone. Erased. There was no Lucy Loud and, despite what I had seen just moments prior, there never had been. Needless to say, I was baffled. Whatever had happened after my death must have somehow altered that timeline both past and present.

But what of the future?

Perhaps I should have ended things there. I was disturbed, and frightened, and quite frankly I felt I had already seen more than anyone should. But my curiosity got the better of me. I 'scrubbed' the timeline, seeking out these branching possibilities, trying to find some indication that Lucy had at least left a mark on history. Alas, she did not. Not… directly, at any rate.

I must return to a previous point. What happens to these possible futures when they are made impossible? When some force of incomprehensible power does the unthinkable and rewrites history itself? Do these lost possibilities cease to be? I can now say with confidence that, no, they do not.

If there's one thing I've learned over the course of all this, it's that no matter how much knowledge I gain, or how much I think I understand about the nature of the multiverse, in truth I have barely scratched the surface. There are things beyond that, realms and entities that I cannot fully comprehend. I don't believe that I ever will, or even that I should. But what I have learned is that reality does not like to be tampered with.

I have decided to suspend all further research into the multiverse. The U.T.S. prototype has been dismantled and the schematics destroyed. To any alternate versions of myself, or any others who may stumble across this message, I implore you to do the same. There are things that man is not meant to understand, and while the quest for knowledge should not be denied sometimes it must be for the greater good. The timestream, despite its infinite branching possibilities, has plans. Interfering with those plans can cause 'errors', so to speak. All actions have consequences after all. Even the smallest pebble can make a ripple in the stream. These 'ripples' could be events that will never occur, songs that will never be sung, words that will never be spoken, even people that will never be born. History may prohibit them from existing, but they exist nonetheless… somewhere outside space-time, living yet unliving. Trapped, alone. Watching.

And they know we're here.

 


 

 

It was a quiet night in Royal Woods. While her siblings slept peacefully, one white-haired girl lay awake in the linen closet she called home, scribbling away in her sketchpad with little more than the dim purple glow of her lava lamp cutting through the darkness. Most children would be fast asleep at such a late hour, but for Lupa Loud nights like these were far from unusual. She took after her mother, after all, so it was hardly a surprise that she would be something of a night owl. Besides, living with such a large and rowdy family was more than enough to make her appreciate peace and quiet when she could. Even the old man and Ronnie were out of town on their honeymoon, and wouldn't be back until Sunday night… a dream come true, as far as Lupa was concerned.

That said, tonight was something of a different matter… in fact, Lupa would have been asleep would her racing mind allow it. It was past midnight after all, and the girl had been struggling to sleep for several days in a row. But try as she may, Lupa couldn't help but dwell on the strange feeling she'd had in her gut for the past week. Lupa had always been somewhat 'sensitive' to unusual phenomena, even if she couldn't always identify the source. But things had felt… off as of late, in a way that she couldn't fully explain. As though she and the others were being watched, and yet without any sort of comprehensible presence as far as she could tell. Usually she'd at least get a sense of something, some manner of spirit or spectre lingering about, but this time there was none.

Disconcerting, to say the least.

Lupa frowned as she studied her work. It was… sloppy, far more so than usual. Little more than vague, smudged figures, perhaps human, perhaps not. Quite frankly, even she wasn't sure. She set the sketchbook aside before glancing at the clock. It was 1:34… late even by her standards. The girl sighed and rubbed her tired eyes. She supposed she should at least try to get some sleep, ominous feelings be damned. She wriggled a bit to get comfortable, pulled her blanket up to her shoulders and shut her eyes. There would be time to worry about things tomorrow… right now she just needed her rest.

No sooner had that thought crossed her mind than that sense of dread returned stronger than ever, like a vice tightening around the girl's heart.

Lupa bolted upright, her forehead breaking out in a cold sweat. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. She threw her blanket aside, and just as her feet touched the carpet a sudden jolt sent her flying into her dresser. She gasped in pain, but before she could find her footing the floor lurched again, sending her hurtling back onto her bed. Lupa cried out in shock and curled up, covering her head with her hands as the house began to violently shake, sending her dresser and everything atop it crashing to the ground. She shut her eyes and grit her teeth, barely able to hear the frightened cries of her siblings through the deafening, hollow roar that filled the air, a sound unlike any she had heard before. Within seconds that felt like an eternity, the shaking stopped as suddenly as it had begun. For some time Lupa didn't move, letting her racing heart calm down before slowly, carefully raising her head. Not that she could see much… unsurprisingly her lava lamp lay broken on the floor, casting the room in near-complete darkness. The girl swallowed, taking a few deep breaths to calm herself before patting around in search of her phone. Unfortunately, she then recalled that she'd left it sitting on her dresser. Lupa groaned and buried her face in her palm; of course this would be the one time she failed to keep it on hand. In any case, there was little sense in waiting around, especially with the growing commotion in the hallway. Carefully Lupa lowered a foot to the carpet, then another; she shuffled towards the door without lifting her feet, less she step on a piece of glass.

"Is everyone okay?!"

"I-I think so…"

"Lyra, Lyra! Godzilla was here!"

"No, Lizy, that wasn't-"

"Where are my glasses…? W-what's going on?! Bobby?!"

"W-what happened…?!"

"Everyone, please-"

"What's going on?!"

Lupa opened the door only to recoil as the hallway light met her eyes; after the darkness of her own bedroom, the sudden shift was almost blinding. She blinked a few times to adjust her eyes, and soon things came into proper view. Most of her siblings were present, clad in their sleepwear and understandably frantic given the situation, and Lyra seemed to be trying to maintain order. Only Lacy seemed to notice her arrival and let out a gasp before bolting over to her and sweeping her off her feet.

"Lupa! You're alright!" The girl cried as she hugged her sister tightly.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. Put me down," Lupa grumbled as she pried herself free from Lacy's grasp. She sighed and smoothed out her shirt before noticing that Lacy had a small gash on her forehead. "Holy shit, Lacy, your head!"

"Huh?" Lacy touched her forehead, frowning as she felt something warm and wet trickling down. "Oh… must've happened when the bunk bed fell over… i-it's fine though! It doesn't hurt!"

"Here, let me see." Lyra gently pushed her way through the panicked children surrounding her and took Lacy's chin, tilting her head to get a better look at the gash. Despite the athlete's reassurance, Lyra seemed far from convinced. "I don't know… that could need stitches. Liby, could you take her to the bathroom for a closer look?"

"S-sure," The lanky girl replied, still trembling with adrenaline. Lyra felt a small tug on her pant leg and looked down to find Leia staring up at her with big, watering eyes.

"Lyraaa… I-I got a boo-boo too…" The little girl whined, holding out her arm to show a tiny cut on the back of her hand, not even deep enough to bleed freely. Noticing the unimpressed look in her big sister's eye, she pressed on. "A-and I knocked out a tooth, see?"

"Didn't that fall out yesterday?" Reina asked, earning her a nasty glare from the younger girl… not that she could see much more than a vague blur without her glasses. Lyra sighed and turned to Liby.

"Take her too, would you…?" She asked; Liby nodded and headed to the bathroom with Lacy and Leia in tow. "Now, is anyone else hurt? Lupa?"

"Nah, I'm good," Lupa said with a shrug, before shooting her older sister a mischievous smirk. "How 'bout you? You look like shit." Lyra narrowed her eyes, pursing her lips in irritation. Having been roused from her slumber, the normally well-kept young woman looked quite the sight with her ruffled purple nightgown, frazzled brown hair and tired, makeup-free face. She sighed and rolled her eyes.

"Well, you're clearly doing just fine," She grumbled before shaking off her annoyance and turning focus back to the issue at hand. "Has anyone seen Liena?"

"Weh'r fyne," Came a deep, slurred voice as Liena stepped out into the hall. She was cradling Lulu in her pudgy arms, gently shushing the frightened infant as she wailed and whimpered. She had to awkwardly shuffle due to a terrified Bed clinging to her tightly, burying herself into her big sister's side. Lyra breathed a sigh of relief.

"Thank God. Look's like we're all-"

"Where's Bobby?" Reina whined, glancing around frantically for some sign of her twin brother. Lyra's brow furrowed and she did a quick head count; with the exception of the three in the bathroom, everyone else was accounted for but their brothers.

"...Lemy," Lyra gasped, her face turning pale. She rushed to the end of the hall, nearly barreling into Liena as she headed for the boys' bedroom. "Lemy!" She cried as she threw open the door.

"Lift with your legs, dammit!"

"We are lifting with our legs!"

"Well lift harder then!"

"Maybe if you helped-"

"And how the hell am I supposed to do that, Lyla?"

"G-guys, c'mon, don't fi-"

"I swear, as soon as you're out of there I'm gonna smack the crap out of you." Lyra sighed in relief as the familiar sound of bickering reached her ears. Unfortunately, that relief was short lived as she took in the sight before her. The boys' room was in utter disarray, with toppled bookshelves, toys and models littering the floor. The boys were in the center of the room, seemingly no worse for wear… or, at least, two of them were. There stood Lyle and Bobby, grunting with effort as they tried to lift the bunk bed the former shared with Lemy; it was laying on its side and, to Lyra's horror, there were a pair of legs sticking out from beneath it.

Lemy's legs.

"Oh my God!" Lyra cried as she rushed over, to the boys' surprise.

"L-Lyra!" Bobby gasped.

"Oh, good, you're here-"

"Oh, great. Here comes the nagging," Lemy groaned.

"L-Lemy…!"

"Chill, I'm fine," Her little brother assured her; she peeked over the railing to spot a very disgruntled Lemy trapped between the top and bottom bunk, his legs pinned beneath the heavy piece of furniture. Despite this, he seemed more frustrated with the situation than pained or scared. "Mind giving these two a hand?"

"God… o-okay, hang on…" Lyra stammered, getting in position to help Lyle and Bobby lift. "How did you even end up like this?" Lemy simply averted his eyes.

"...I dunno."

"He was dangling off the side to smack me in the head," Lyle grumbled.

"Gee, thanks, tattle-tale," Lemy shot back. Lyle rolled his eyes.

"Can't we just leave him there?"

"Of course not. Now, help me lift this," Lyra instructed, and the two boys complied. Still, even with Lyra's help, her stick-like arms made little difference. Lyra was interrupted by a tap on her shoulder and looked back to find Liena standing behind her. "Liena?" Without a word her older sister passed Lulu into Lyle's arms and gently nudged her aside. The large girl gave a little stretch before squatting down and, with seemingly little effort,lifted up the bunk bed enough for Bobby to help Lemy out from underneath it.

"Whew… thanks Liena, Beej." Lemy unsteadily got to his feet with Bobby's help and Lyra immediately pulled him into a hug.

"Thank God you're okay…"

"H-hey, c'mon… enough with the mushy stuff," Lemy mumbled, his cheeks turning a light pink. He wriggled from her grasp and cleared his throat. "...Glad you're okay too, though. That was a hell of an earthquake."

"I-is that what that was…?" Bobby stammered, to which Lyle shrugged.

"What else could it be?"

"Good point…" Bobby muttered, glancing around the room. "Um… h-has anyone seen Asimov…?"

"No, can't say I have…" Lyra could see how concerned Bobby was about his kitten's absence, and kneeled down with a smile. "Don't worry, Robert… I'm sure she's just hiding, she's a cat, after all." She said as she gently ruffled the boy's soft black hair. Bobby frowned and gave a small nod.

"I guess…" The timid boy mumbled. "I just hope she… ah…" Bobby trailed off, his face going pale as he laid eyes upon the fallen bookshelf. "A-a-a-AAAAHHHH!" His sudden shriek of horror made the others jump in fright.

"W-what? What's wrong?!" Lyra sputtered. Bobby bolted to the bookshelf and dropped to his knees.

"M-my things…!" The boy cried. Indeed, the floor around the bookshelf was strewn with fallen plastic models and trinkets, some in pieces. Bobby picked up a model Deathscythe Gundam with trembling hands. The wings had snapped off completely, and as he attempted to fix a loosened arm the shoulder joint broke off in his hands. He looked as though he were about to cry.

"Oh, come on," Lyle scoffed as he handed Lulu back to his older sister. "Don't tell me you're gonna start crying over some stupid models."

"Ah-hmm." Liena shot her little brother a disapproving look. The effeminate boy huffed and crossed his arms.

"Yeah, don't be a jerk, dude." Lemy said. "Don't you have stuff on there too?"

"Yes, but my things are important," Lyle said with a dismissive wave of his hand, only for his eyes to widen in realization. "MY THINGS!" He cried, running to Bobby's side. Lemy rolled his eyes while Liena stifled a small giggle. Lyra sighed and joined the distraught boys, putting a hand on each of their shoulders.

"It's okay, you two. Things can be replaced," She said with a smile. "What's important is that no one's seriously hurt." Bobby sniffled and gave a small nod, setting down the broken toy before getting to his feet. Lyle lingered a moment, then sighed and hung his head.

"Yes, I suppose so…" Liena offered her little brother an encouraging smile and a pat on the head.

"Bobby?! Are you okay?!" Came the frantic voice of Reina from the hallway. "I-I heard a scre-OW!" In her haste, the little girl ran headfirst into the doorframe before falling flat on her rear. Bobby gasped and rushed to her side.

"R-Reina! Are-" Before he could finish that thought, his twin sister nearly tackled him to the ground in a tight hug.

"Bobbbyyyy...!" Reina whined, squeezing him so tight he could barely breathe. "Are you okay?! Y-you're not hurt, are you?!"

"I'm fine…"

"Are you sure?!" Reina squinted, her face inches from Bobby's as she studied him for bruises. "What's this, then?" She asked as she brushed aside his messy black hair and noticed a red mark on the side of his forehead.

"The corkboard fell on me… I'm fine, though," He assured her. The twins shared a smile, only to be pushed apart as a rattled Bed ran past and clung to Lyle's side.

"L-Lyle…" The quiet girl whimpered. Lyle put his arm around her and gave her a little squeeze.

"It's okay, Bed… it's over." The effeminate boy said with a gentle smile. As always, his snippy demeanor faded entirely when it came to his adopted sister. Liena smiled brightly at the sight.

"Okay, okay… come on, everyone," Lyra said, ushering her siblings out into the hallway. "Let's regroup and get our bearings." Those gathered muttered in agreement, save for Lyra and Lemy; as she was about to join the others in the hallway, she heard a small grunt of pain from behind her and noticed Lemy wince as he rubbed one of his legs. Lyra frowned and kneeled down to take a closer look. "Lemy, are you sure you're okay?" She asked. "That looks like it's getting swollen-"

"It's fine, it's fine," He said, waving off his big sister's concern. "Just a bit sore." Lyra looked at him, studying his gaze for a moment, but he merely gave her a reassuring smile. The older girl sighed and gave a reluctant nod of understanding before leaving the room. Once she was gone, Lemy's smile faded and he followed with a slight limp.

"And here comes the circus," Lupa quipped as her siblings filed out into the hallway. "Nice bun, Lyla." Her effeminate younger brother blushed a light pink and removed his scrunchie, letting his long hair flow freely.

"Well excuse me for not wanting to mess up my hair…" He grumbled. Lupa and Lemy shared a small laugh at the boy's expense, and even Lyra couldn't help but stifle a snicker. Lyle shot her a look of irritation and she quickly glanced away, clearing her throat.

"S-sorry," She muttered. "Anyway… Liby? How are things going in there?"

"One sec…" The redhead replied from the bathroom as she gently put a band-aid on Leia's cut. "There we go. We're good." The trio re-joined the others in the hallway, Lacy now sporting a large bandage over the gash on her head. "Lacy's fine, I think… didn't seem too deep."

"Good to hear." Lyra said. "Has anyone tried calling-" The young woman's attention was drawn to a light tug on her nightgown, and she looked down to see a nervous Bobby staring up at her.

"U-um… where's Loan…?" He asked; Lyra frowned, mentally scolding herself for forgetting about their basement-dwelling oldest sister. She turned to Liena.

"Liena, could you go check on her?" She asked. Liena nodded in agreement and passed Lulu to Lyra.

"I-I'll go too…!"

"Bobby…" Lyra began, only to sigh and give a small nod of agreement. "...Okay. But stay with Liena… we don't know how bad things are going to be down there." Bobby nodded and joined Liena, who offered him her hand with a smile. Lyra would have preferred that he stay with the rest of them, but she knew how concerned he was for Loan… besides, he'd be fine with Liena.

"Wait for me…!" Reina tried to follow, but Lyra stopped her.

"Hang on, Reina. You need your glasses."

"But-"

"Liby, could you help her look?" Lyra asked.

"Sure thing. C'mon, Rei," Liby said, leading her reluctant younger sister into the room she shared with Lacy. Lyra turned back to the rest of the group.

"The rest of you, go wait in the living room… assuming it's in good enough shape, of course," Lyra instructed. "I'll grab my phone and be down shortly." The rest of her siblings muttered in understanding and headed downstairs while Lyra returned to the bedroom she shared with Liby. Lupa, however, lingered a moment, her bemused smirk dropping as soon as she was alone. She hugged her chest and took a deep breath to calm her frazzled nerves. Lupa had always been one to hide her vulnerability even in the most trying of circumstances, sometimes even from herself. And in truth, something as simple as an earthquake would normally roll right off her back in a matter of minutes. But for reasons she couldn't understand, all she felt right now was an intense, creeping sense of dread. She could still remember that overwhelming pressure she'd felt just before the quake hit, unlike anything she'd ever felt before. And then the quake itself… she was no seismologist, but it had felt wrong somehow. The shaking, if one could even call it that, hadn't seemed to come from below; rather it was as though the house itself were thrashing around her, lurching this way and that so violently that she could barely believe it was still in one piece.

And then there was that sound. Through the furious creaking of the house and the crashes of furniture and other objects had been that hollow, overbearing roar, almost like a particularly powerful gale of wind rushing past her ears. There had been something unnatural about it, as though she weren't just hearing it but feeling it in her very core. It had felt raw, primal, almost alive.

And, above all else… angry.

 


 

"Whatch yoo step," Liena slurred as she and Bobby headed through the kitchen. Not that Bobby needed to be told twice… the floor was littered with broken plates and glasses that had fallen from the cabinets. Bobby was glad he'd had the foresight to put on his slippers, though he was surprised that the kitchen wasn't in even worse shape than it was. Some plates still dangled precariously at the edge of their shelves, and Liena was sure to give them a quick push back into place lest they fall. Perhaps most importantly, the refrigerator remained upright and seemed to still be running just fine, much to the relief of the family's two biggest eaters. Regardless, there were bigger issues at hand, and the two hurried to the basement door.

"Loan?!" Bobby called out as he pushed open the door. "Are you…" The boy trailed off as he laid eyes on the basement… or, rather, laid eyes on a nearly pitch-black room. It wasn't unusual for the basement to be dark after nightfall, after all it wasn't as though they left the light on during the night. Normally, however, there'd be at least some light pouring in through the small window above the laundry machine, if not from the backyard light than at least from the moonlight. Tonight, Bobby couldn't even see the window through the darkness. Anything beyond the light spilling through the doorway was little more than a black void. The little boy swallowed and began to fidget in place. Young Robert didn't consider himself particularly afraid of the dark… sure, he slept with a night light, but what boy his age didn't? But a pitch-black basement, on the other hand? That made him feel a bit uneasy.

Liena seemed to notice his fear and gave the boy's hand a gentle squeeze. Bobby looked up at her, seeing her looking back at him with a warm, reassuring smile across her chubby face. He swallowed again and gave a small nod, and the two carefully began making their way down the stairs. He grasped Liena's hand tightly, barely able to hear the stairs creaking over his own heartbeat. The two headed to the center of the room with small, slow steps, lest they trip over any unseen obstacles, and Liena reached up to pull on the light cord…

...Only to feel nothing.

Liena furrowed her brow. She knew the basement like the back of her hand… the switch should be right above them, right?

"L-Liena…?" Bobby stammered, gripping her arm tightly. "What's wrong?" His big sister didn't answer as she continued to paw for the cord, her waving giving way to desperate flailing as she tried to find it.

She couldn't help but breathe a deep sigh of relief as she felt it brush against the back of her hand.

Liena gave the cord a tug and the pair had to hide their eyes as the light flickered on, bathing the basement in a dull yellow-tinged light. It was fairly dim, but after such intense darkness the light was nearly blinding.

"Sowweh," Liena apologized.

"It's okay…" Bobby hurried to the door separating Loan's room from the rest of the basement. Once, the basement had been like any other, but when their father chose to unite his children under one roof some changes naturally needed to be made. As such, the basement was effectively split down the middle, with the back half enclosed and turned into a bedroom for Loan. Bobby couldn't help but feel bad, but Loan didn't seem to mind… she liked to keep to herself after all, and as far as she was concerned the basement-dwelling lifestyle served her just fine. "Loan…?" Bobby knocked on the door, receiving no response. He frowned and knocked harder. "L-Loan? Are you in there?" Again, nothing. Bobby pressed his ear to the door and his heart sank as he heard rapid, gasping breaths from the other side. "Loan!" The boy threw open the door without hesitation, bolting inside with Liena following behind only to trip on an anime figurine and fall to the ground with a grunt. He shook it off quickly, and glanced around for his oldest sister. The room was dark, with the only glow coming from the TV screen; the game Loan had been playing seemed to be frozen, emitting a buzzing sound as her character was stuck mid-jump. "Where-" Glancing past his sister's bed he finally spotted her huddled in the corner, curled into a ball in the throes of a severe panic attack. "Loan! Loan, a-are you okay?! It's me…" Bobby crawled to his sister's side, but she didn't seem to notice him. "Loan… c-can you hear me?" The little boy reached out and touched her shoulder, only for Loan to shriek in terror and smack his hand away. She stared at him with wide, wild eyes, her forehead dripping with sweat and chest heaving with heavy breaths.

"B-Bob… Bobby…" She managed to gasp out, her horrified expression giving way to one of remorse. "I-I'm s… I'm s-s-sor…"

"I-it's okay… it's okay, Loan, we're here…" Bobby quickly pushed aside his shock and took his sister's clammy hand. "Everything's okay." Loan frantically shook her head.

"I-I c-c-ca… can't…" Loan sputtered, her voice cracking into an unintelligible wheeze. Liena knelt by her side and rubbed her back, making gentle shushing sounds in an attempt to calm her… not that it seemed to be doing much. As much as she and Bobby wanted to sweep the girl into a hug, they'd had enough experience with Loan's panic attacks to know that crowding her would only make things worse. Bobby looked to Liena with a worried expression.

"I think she needs, um… th-that stuff…" He said. Liena nodded in understanding and gave Bobby a quick pat on the shoulder to assure him she'd be back momentarily, then got to her feet and hurried out of the room. Bobby turned his focus back to his oldest sister and gave her hand a squeeze. "Loan, y-you need to breathe, okay…? Y-you're gonna pass out…"

"B-B-B-"

"Shhh… breathe," Bobby said softly. "J-just try and breathe. Everything's gonna be okay." Loan forced herself to look up, her blue eyes meeting his, and gave a small nod. She shut her eyes and tried her best to steady her breathing, to little apparent effect. Panic attacks were nothing new for Loan, but Bobby couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her in such a state… though he supposed he could hardly blame her given the circumstances. Soon enough, Liena returned with a glass of water and a Xanax tablet. "Loan, here… Liena's got your medicine," Bobby said as Liena came to the girl's side. "I-it'll help you feel better." Loan's eyes fluttered open and she looked at her sister, who was offering her the pill with a gentle, encouraging smile on her face. Her gaze lingered on the pill for a moment before she snatched it from her hand and swallowed it, then took the glass of water and chugged it down. She mumbled a nigh-unintelligible 'thank you' and handed the glass back to Liena before shutting her eyes and taking a deep breath. Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Inhale. Hold. Exhale. Her brother and sister remained by her side for several minutes as she tried to stabilize her breathing, Bobby lightly grasping her hand while Liena rubbed her back in small circles. After some time there was a noticeable shift as the drug started to kick in… her tense muscles relaxed, her labored breaths gave way to a stable, if somewhat shaky rhythm and the pounding in her chest gradually slowed to a heavy, sporadic thump.

"W-what h-h-hap… happened…?" She managed to stammer, her voice barely above a whisper.

"...An earthquake," Bobby said. "Um… we think so, anyway. Everyone's okay, though." Liena nodded in agreement, and Loan glanced between her and her youngest brother before letting out a small sigh of relief. "Are you going to be okay…? Lyra wants everyone in the living room, so-"

"N-not yet…" Loan whimpered, before looking to Bobby with desperate eyes. "Please s-stay…" Bobby nodded in understanding, then turned to Liena.

"Um… I'm gonna stay with her for a bit… is that okay?"

"Mmmhm," Liena hummed with a warm smile, patting the boy's head before getting to her feet. (Take your time.) She signed.

"Th-thank you…" Loan mumbled. "U-um… could you turn that o-off, i-if you don't mind…?" She pointed towards the TV. Liena nodded again and walked over to the TV stand, stooping down to press the power button on the console… only for nothing to happen. The picture remained frozen, the speakers blaring that awful, electronic buzzing. The young woman frowned, then snapped her fingers as she remembered that the actual power switch was on the back. She reached behind the console and flicked the switch.

Nothing.

Liena furrowed her brow in confusion. This was unusual, to say the least… she may not have been a technology expert by any means, but surely flicking off the power should have done something, right? She glanced over her shoulder at Loan, who seemed no less perplexed than she was.

"T-try pulling the plug, I guess…?" Loan suggested. Liena nodded and did so, and thankfully that seemed to do the trick. With that, Liena shrugged and left the pair to their business. Seven-year-old or not, she had faith in Bobby's ability to calm their troubled sister.

Liena made her way back up from the attic and into the kitchen, frowning as she saw the utter mess that lay before her. She groaned and massaged her temples. As tired as she was, there was no way she could leave broken glass lying around until morning. With a sigh of resignation, she got the broom and dustbin from the nearby closet and got to work.

 


 

"Any luck?" Liby asked as she came down the stairs with Reina in tow. Lyra was holding her phone to her ear, and after a couple of seconds the young woman lowered it with a sigh and shook her head.

"Nope, nothing," She said. "Not even a single bar."

"No wi-fi either," Leia groaned.

"No luck with the home phone, either," Lyra added. "Guess the quake must've knocked out the phone lines. At least we still have power."

"Looks like we're the only ones. It's pitch black out there," Lemy said as he and Lacy looked through the window. "Even the streetlights are out. Never seen it so dark outside."

"Yeah…" Lacy agreed. "Wonder how bad it is out there?"

"Hadn't thought of that," Lemy mumbled with a frown. "Shit, I hope Gordon and Lina are okay…" Lyra pursed her lips in irritation, but opted not to scold him this time… she supposed she could let a little profanity slide given the circumstances.

"I'm sure they're fine, Lemy," Lyra said with a reassuring smile. "For now what's important is that we're safe and mostly unhurt. Though I still think we should get your head looked at, Lacy… and your leg too, Lemy."

"I told you, I'm fine," Lemy groaned with a roll of his eyes. "Stop being such a worry-wart."

"Lemy, a bunk bed fell on your leg," Lyra countered. "We won't know you're fine until you've gotten an x-ray."

"But-"

"That's final, Lemy."

"Ugh!" The boy huffed, grumbling under his breath as he turned his attention back to the window.

"You know, speaking of which… you'd think we'd be hearing some sirens by now," Liby noted. "Or car alarms, or something, right?"

"Maybe it wasn't as big an earthquake as we thought?" Reina asked, before glancing around the room with a frown. Lyle was on one end of the couch with Bed, gently stroking the frightened girl's hair to soothe her, while Lupa sat at the other end bouncing her leg anxiously, seemingly deep in thought. A particularly frustrated Leia sat in the armchair, trying in vain to get a signal on her phone, while Lizy sat on the floor excitedly rambling about Godzilla to a perplexed Lulu. "Where's Bobby…?"

"Still down in the basement, I suppose." Lyle shrugged.

"Reina, wait," Lyra said as the bespectacled little girl headed for the kitchen. "Please don't go off on your own… I don't want you guys wandering around right now, not when there's broken glass everywhere."

"But-"

"He'll be back soon, I promise." Lyra said with a smile. "Just sit tight, okay?" Reina pouted and growled in frustration, but nonetheless stormed over to the couch and sat between Lupa and Lyle.

"This sucks."

"Life sucks sometimes, kid," Lupa muttered. "You'll get used to it."

"No doubt she will," Lyle mumbled under his breath. Reina shot the boy an annoyed glare.

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

"Nothing, nothing," Lyle said with a cheeky grin and dismissive wave of his hand. Reina crossed her arms and let out a childish huff.

"So… what's the plan here, Ly'?" Lemy asked. "We're just waiting around for… what, exactly?"

"That's…" Lyra began, before trailing off. In truth, she was hoping to get through to their father to ask what the best course of action would be… but she wasn't about to tell Lemy that. She was in charge, after all. The young woman cleared her throat. "...While I'd like to take you and Lacy to the hospital, I think it's best to stay put until we're sure it's safe. There could still be aftershocks, right…?"

"So… you don't know, then," Lupa quipped. Her pious older sister shot her a look of irritation much to the young goth's amusement.

"Anyway," Lyra continued, turning away from the girl. "Let's just sit tight and calm down, okay?"

"But Lyraaaaaaa!" Lizy whined; the toddler sprang to her feet and ran up to her big sister, hopping up and down excitedly. "I wanna go an' find Godzilla!" Lyra chuckled, her expression softening as she kneeled down and ruffled the little girl's hair.

"Don't be silly, Lizy, you know Godzilla's just make-believe."

"Nuh-uh!" Lizy said with a shake of her head. "Didn'ya hear him? It was like 'RAAAAAWR!'"

"Oh, Lizy…" Lyra snickered. "That was just the earthquake."

"But it didn' sound like a erf'kwake…" Lizy muttered.

"Oh? How many earthquakes have you heard before?" Lyra gently teased. The toddler frowned, sheepishly averting her eyes.

"Uuuuummmm… this many?" Lizy splayed out several fingers. Her older sister chuckled under her breath and gave her a poke on the tummy, making her giggle.

"You have a very active imagination, Lizy. Go play with Lulu, okay? We'll go outside when I know it's safe."

"...'Kay…" The toddler mumbled, slumping her shoulders in disappointment. She waddled back to the infant and Lyra got back to her feet.

"Still don't see anything outside, I take it?"

"Nnnnnope," Lacy replied. "Nothin' at all." Lyra frowned and walked over to the other window to peer outside for herself. Her brow furrowed at the sight, or, rather, the lack thereof… as Lemy had said, it was pitch black. She could see nothing save for the front lawn, and even that simply faded into the darkness after thirty feet or so. It was… unusual, to say the least, not to mention eerie. Lyra had outgrown her fear of the dark many years ago, but she couldn't help but feel a slight chill. She was snapped from her thoughts by a loud yawn from Leia.

"Ugh… I dunno about you guys, but I need my beauty sleep," The girl said as she wriggled in her chair to get comfortable. "Anyone wake me up and you're dead."

"I may take a nap myself, actually…" Lyle agreed, before looking towards Lyra. "What time is it, anyway?"

"One sec…" Lyra picked up her phone again. "It's 1:35."

"...What…?" Lupa spoke up at last. She turned to Lyra with a perturbed look on her face. "Sorry, but could you repeat that?"

"It's… 1:35," Lyra said again, cocking an eyebrow in confusion. "Why?" Lupa didn't respond, nor did she move… she simply stared at Lyra with a furrowed brow, as though trying to gauge if she were serious.

"That's… that's impossible…?" The girl muttered under her breath.

"What's impossible?" Reina asked with a tilt of her head. Again, Lupa didn't answer; she was too lost in thought to even register the question. 1:35. When she'd last checked the time, it had been 1:34. Not long after that, the earthquake had hit.

It had been at least fifteen minutes since then.

Lupa snatched Leia's phone off the coffee table to double check. Again, 1:35. She stared at the phone in silence for a moment, until Reina gave her a nudge.

"Hey, Lupa… you okay?" The younger girl asked with a note of concern to her voice.

"I…" Lupa began, before setting down Leia's phone with a sigh. "Y-yeah, just… got confused for a sec." She tried her best to brush off her concerns… she was probably just mistaken. She'd been tired after all, and one could hardly blame her for misremembering the time after just an intense quake. She needed to clear her head and calm down.

"Where are you going?" Lyra asked as Lupa slid off the couch and headed towards the staircase.

"Bathroom," The goth said plainly. "You can come if you want, but I warn you, it's gonna be a sloppy one."

"Ugh. We don't need the details, Lupa," Lyra scoffed with a grimace. "Just… do what you need to do, for goodness' sake." The younger girl snickered as she climbed the stairs; concerned though she may have been, she'd never turn down the opportunity for some fun at Lyra's expense. She'd been lying, of course… rather than head to the bathroom, she instead took a right towards the linen closet at the end of the hall. She paused at the doorway, glancing over her wrecked bedroom as best she could in the light spilling in from the hallway. She frowned and took a careful step inside, then felt along the wall for the light switch; she rarely ever turned on the ceiling light, instead preferring the soft glow of her lava lamp, but she supposed she didn't have much of a choice at the moment.

Once she found it, she flicked on the light to observe the damage. She supposed it could have been worse, all things considered… her dresser had toppled over of course, and everything that had rested atop it lay scattered across the floor. Her lava lamp lay in pieces, leaving a stain of purple-dyed liquid soaking into the carpet along with now-hardened lumps of wax. Thankfully it seemed that it had broken into fairly large shards, which would definitely make things easier. Lupa used her footh to nudge her slippers out from under the bed and put them on, then squatted down to grip the side of her dresser. With a grunt of effort she lifted the dresser upright. The drawers slid open but contents didn't spill out; unfortunately, her phone lay beneath the dresser with a cracked screen.

"Oh, for fuck's sake," The girl grumbled before returning to the task at hand with a sigh. Once she'd pushed the dresser back into place she set about picking up the various objects and debris littering her carpet, placing her belongings back on the shelf and dropping the pieces of broken glass into her wastebin. Checking her phone, she found that it still worked fine… still, she'd need to get it repaired at the very least. Perhaps her 'uncle' Lincoln would replace it if she asked nicely?

Psssh, as if.

With the immediate issue taken care of, Lupa could get back to the real reason she was here; the goth opened her sock drawer and rummaged about inside, smirking as she felt her hand touch something small and rectangular. She withdrew a pack of Marlboro cigarettes and a lighter, taking one from the box before re-hiding it in the drawer. Finding an opportunity to smoke could be tricky in the Loud house... Lyra was one thing, but even Lupa knew better than to push her luck with her fiery stepmother. But with Ronnie away and Lyra otherwise occupied, she figured now was an opportune time to light up and unwind a bit. She slipped her phone into the pocket of her yellow pajama shorts and headed to the bathroom with cigarette and lighter in hand, being sure to lock the door behind her. She opened one of the windows on the back wall and lit her cigarette, taking a deep drag before blowing a plume of smoke outside. That hits the spot, she thought; the girl pocketed her lighter and leaned on the windowsill, then shut her eyes and took another lungful of smoke. As much as the tobacco industry had innovated over the years, Lupa knew fully well that it wasn't good for her… and quite frankly, she couldn't care less. Current situation aside, given the life she led she was entitled to relieve her stress however she chose as far as she was concerned.

Even to those not in the know, the family arrangement was unusual to say the least… twelve kids, their parents off chasing their dreams and leaving them in the care of their uncle, his wife and their two children. But few would ever even dare to imagine that the uncle in question-with the exception of Bed, of course-was also their father. Hell, even they had been rocked by the revelation, and Lupa was no exception. Damn near anyone would be shocked to discover that they were the product of inbreeding, especially on such an absurd scale. But what had stung even more was the revelation that her beloved uncle Lincoln, who had always been something of a father figure to her, was in fact just that… the knowledge that the man she thought she knew had lied to her for her entire life, leaving Lucy to raise her alone as a single mother, always present but never truly taking responsibility for what he'd done. The knowledge that he had not only done this many times before, but continued to do so even after her conception. The knowledge that even once he had found love, settled down and started a family, he betrayed his wife's trust twice more before finally coming clean. It didn't matter to Lupa if he was under the influence of some experimental compound, nor if he felt remorse for his actions, nor if he was determined to set things right. Nothing could change the fact that, at the end of the day, he had done these things and could never undo them. Did she think he was a bad person? Not necessarily. Did she believe that his attempts to make up for his actions were genuine? Well, she couldn't imagine he would take on such a responsibility if they weren't. Did she resent him nonetheless?

Abso-fucking-lutely.

While her siblings may have come around to him to varying degrees, Lupa was not so easily swayed. She made no effort to hide her contempt, and if she were to be completely honest she couldn't help but feel a small measure of satisfaction when her venomous words stung him. And yet, as much as she may have pretended otherwise, she didn't hate him. She couldn't. Despite the pain and heartache he had caused, when she looked at him she could still see the uncle she'd been so close to. When he tried to connect with her, she could feel the sincerity behind his words. But for him to try and be a father to her now after years of deception… she couldn't push it aside. She wasn't ready to, and she wasn't sure if she ever would. These conflicting feelings, her perception of him against the man he actually seemed to be, were irreconcilable. They ate at her far more than she would ever let on.

And so, she relieved her tension however the hell she wanted, no matter how self-destructive it may be.

Not that any of that mattered right now… no, Lupa's concerns lay with the supposed earthquake and the horrible twisting feeling she'd had in her stomach since then. The girl was no stranger to bad omens, but even she'd never felt anything like this. If anything, it reminded her of how Loan had described the onset of her panic attacks… an inexplicable sense that something was wrong, like at any moment the world could come crashing down upon her, no matter how ridiculous a notion she knew it was. Perhaps that's what she was experiencing now? No, something in her gut told her that wasn't the case. If nothing else, she at least knew she hadn't imagined the roaring sound, if Lizy's words were anything to go by.

Lupa exhaled a cloud of smoke and tapped off some ash. She idly stared out the window at nothing in particular, not that there was much of anything to see. It was eerily still and quiet, and darker than Lupa had ever seen it before, streetlights or not. Normally she'd be able to spot the neighbor's house from here, but not tonight; tonight, there was simply nothing. Hell, she couldn't even see any stars, let alone the moon. There were no sounds, not even so much as a single cricket or the gentle rustling of trees in the breeze. In fact… Lupa couldn't detect a breeze at all. Her clouds of smoke simply lingered before dissipating in place, as though the outside world had simply come to a standstill. Lupa loved her peace and quiet, but this? This was unnerving.

Lupa sighed and took one last long drag from her cigarette before snuffing it out against the windowsill. She figured that was enough of a breather for now… linger too long and the others were bound to get suspicious. She blew a plume of smoke out the window, then flicked the butt outside and shut it. Lupa took a small swig of mouthwash and a spray of perfume to mask the smell of smoke, not that she particularly cared if Lyra found out… for all her bluster, the uptight christian had no real sway over Lupa's actions. Hell, with how long she'd been gone she very well may have figured it out already. Lupa got out her cracked phone to check the time.

1:35.

"...Wha…?" Lupa blinked, staring at the screen in confusion. There was no way. She could accept one mistake, but she knew damn well she'd been upstairs for at least twenty minutes, if not more. She pressed the home button and quickly entered her passcode, and the phone unlocked as per usual. She swiped through her apps, even launched a couple just to check, and save for the lack of connection everything seemed just fine. Lupa's brow knitted, and that uneasy sensation washed over her once more; nonetheless, she shut her eyes and took a deep breath. "Relax, girl. You're being ridiculous…" She said under her breath. A dresser had just fallen on the thing, after all… it was hardly surprising that there would be a few malfunctions, right? The young goth shook off her concerns and headed for the door. She'd just have to check one of the others' phones to confirm. Lupa opened the door and stepped out into the hallway.

...Only to freeze in place as she laid eyes upon it.

Before her lay a hallway-their hallway, of course-and yet, something seemed… off. In fact, damn near everything seemed off. The walls, for one, were a yellowish beige rather than the eggshell white she knew. The baseboards were different as well, with chipped off-white paint and wider panels than the lacquered rosewood she was familiar with. There was a small table and potted plant that she had never seen before, and old-looking picture frames in different places than she knew they should be. The floor, rather than the sand-colored carpet that she had tread on countless times before, was made of a dark wood and had a long red rug stretching the length of the hall. Lupa remained stock-still, her wide eyes flicking about the hallway as her mind struggled to make sense of this. It was her hallway, yes… but not her hallway.

Lupa looked over her shoulder to find that the bathroom, too, was different. Checkerboard tiles, rather than the usual white. Walls painted a faded pale green rather than a pleasing light blue. A bathtub that looked barely large enough to comfortably fit a child. She had just left the room and now… now, she could barely even recognize it. Lupa snapped her focus to the door on the right… the room her brothers shared. With no small measure of trepidation she turned the knob and opened the door.

Again, this was not the room she knew. There were no instruments strewn about, no bunk bed, no rocket ship bed, not so much as a single Star Wars poster on the wall. Instead were two queen-sized beds, one blue and one pink, and a bedroom that was very much not intended for boys, with a white vanity against one wall and a sewing table against another. Lupa backed out of the room, heart racing and breaths growing ragged. She'd never been more confused in her life, and her mind was still struggling to process what she was seeing. She shifted her gaze to the door at the end of the hall… her room. She hesitated briefly before slowly, carefully heading down the hallway. She could hear nothing save for her pounding heart and heavy breaths which only grew louder the closer she came to the door. Finally, she stood before it. For what felt like an eternity she dare not move, let alone open the door… though in her heart she knew she had to. She had to confirm her suspicions. She shut her eyes and took a deep breath, then another; there was no sense in waiting. She slowly raised her trembling hand, then took one last breath and threw open the door.

Yellow-beige walls. Ugly, greenish carpet. A bed and dresser that were not hers. Models and knick-knacks and posters that definitely were not hers. This was not her room… at least, not yet.

It was her father's.

For some time, Lupa could only stand in silence as her mind put together the pieces. She was in her home, that much was clear. She also seemed to be in the past, or at the very least was seeing the past, though she couldn't place exactly when. And, as troubling as that was, there was an extra wrinkle that stuck out like a sore thumb: much like in her time, the house was in complete disarray… as if it had just been hit by an earthquake. Lupa swallowed and took a step forward, only to look down as her foot hit something soft. Lying on the floor amongst the mess was a small, plush rabbit. Curiously, Lupa picked it up; she could vaguely remember her aunt Luna playfully teasing Lincoln over a stuffed animal he used to sleep with. Apparently, he had it from the time he was a baby all the way to middle school, until the family dog got hold of it and tore it to shreds. She could only assume this was it.

Lupa glanced back out into the hallway. Much like outside it was almost unnaturally quiet, and there was an unexplainable stillness to the air that chilled her to the bone. She didn't even need to search to know that nobody was home… she could feel it. The house itself-save for the mess left by the quake-was essentially pristine, as though its inhabitants had simply up and left. And yet, somehow, she'd never been anywhere that felt so desolate, so lifeless… so abandoned. Like a moment frozen in time. And as she looked down at the stuffed rabbit once more, she spotted something else on the floor that nearly made her stomach lurch: a digital clock, lying upside-down amongst the debris.

It was displaying the time 1:35.

Lupa staggered out of the room. She had to get out of here. The bathroom… this had all started there. Maybe there was a way back. She nearly bolted down the hallway until she heard something that brought her screeching to a halt. It was faint, nearly inaudible over her own racing heart, and yet distinct and unmistakable: sobbing. The source was a door to her right, smack dab in the middle of the hallway… Lacy and Reina's room. Or, it would be at least… right now, if she remembered correctly, that would be the room her mother shared with Lynn.

Lupa furrowed her brow, weighing her options. Quite frankly, she'd seen more than enough… she couldn't stand being here a moment longer, and the fact that someone was crying nearby only amplified her dread tenfold. And yet, she couldn't turn away. Whoever that was… whatever that was… could very well be trapped here like her. They might know a way out. And so, despite her mind screaming for her to run, she found herself inching closer to the door. She pressed her ear against it and listened.

"No… no, no, no… all wrong, it's all wrong…" The whimpering voice on the other side was raspy, yet distinctly female. Lupa took a deep breath and slowly, quietly, pushed open the door. It was dim inside, compared to the other rooms-her mother's doing, perhaps-not to mention colder, and the walls and carpet were a muted blue. Instead of a bunk bed were two seperate beds, and it didn't take much effort to determine which was which… Lucy's black four-poster bed stuck out like a sore thumb. However, the room itself barely even registered in Lupa's brain. Rather, her attention was drawn to the figure in the center of the room. They were short, about Lupa's height, had long black hair and seemed to be wearing a figure was turned away from her, rambling to themselves as they paced and frantically pulled at their hair. "Said it would work, said it would WORK, no, no… wrong, wrong, WRONG…!" Needless to say, Lupa hadn't the slightest idea what they were going on about, but what was clear was that this person was in quite a distressed state.

"...U-um…" Lupa cleared her throat. "Hello…?" The figure froze in place, and after several moments, slowly turned towards the intruder. Lupa's eyes widened slightly at the sight.

It was a girl, as expected, looking to be about Lupa's age. Her skin was a ghastly pale shade, and her eyes wide and bloodshot, beset with dark creases… or, the one she could see at least, with the other partially hidden behind a curtain of black hair. What stood out the most was that the eye was a pale, ghostly blue, practically luminous through the dark room. Lupa had never seen this girl before, she knew that much… and yet there was an unmistakable sense of familiarity about her. For some time neither spoke, the girl's intense gaze almost piercing right through Lupa's soul.

"Er-"

"You… it's you…?" The girl said at last. Before Lupa could say anything the girl zipped forward, making Lupa recoil with a yelp. "I-it is… it is… no, no, no…" The girl shook her head, her expression difficult to read… it could have been anything from surprise, to fear, to rage. Perhaps all three. "You… you can't be here."

"I-"

"You can't be here," The strange girl pressed on. She glanced away, seemingly deep in thought, before snapping her gaze back to Lupa. "T-the others. Are they here?"

"Others?"

"The others!" The girl roared, lunging forward and grabbing Lupa by the front of her shirt. "Lemy, Liby, Lacy… the others?! Are they here?!" Lupa's heart plummeted into her stomach at her words.

"W-what…?" She stammered, her mouth suddenly very dry. "How the hell… who are y-"

"ARE THEY HERE?!"

"No!" Lupa blurted out at last, smacking the stranger's hands away. "I-I mean, they're at home… my home, but… listen, what is this?! What the fuck is happening, and who the hell are you?!" The girl once again fell silent, wearing a strange look on her face as she processed Lupa's words. Finally she let out a wavering groan, burying her head in her hands and pulling at her hair.

"No, no, no… wrong, WRONG!" She cried. "Wasn't supposed to happen…! You can't BE HERE!" Lupa had never been more overwhelmed in her life, and part of her wanted to scream at the girl to explain just what was going on. But before she could even consider the idea a low rumbling sound filled the air, a sound Lupa could feel down to her very core. The strange girl looked no less unnerved than she did, and quickly turned back to her. "Y-you have to go."

"I…"

"You can't be here," The girl repeated. "You have to go." Before Lupa could ask exactly how she was meant to do that, she was grabbed by the shirt again and pulled towards the girl. "Go," She hissed. "And whatever you do, stay out of the dark!"

"What-" The girl suddenly gave her a hard shove in the chest and she flew back, hurtling out of the room and back into the hallway. She let out a wheeze as she landed on her back, and started to cough as the air was knocked from her lungs. Finally, she managed to find her bearings, and pushed herself upright. The first thing she noticed was the unmistakable feeling of carpet beneath her fingers; and, as she opened her eyes, she found herself surrounded by eggshell walls with redwood baseboards. She was back home-well, her version of home-as though nothing had ever happened. For several minutes she remained on the floor, struggling to come to grips with what she'd seen. Had it been a dream? A hallucination? Was she losing her mind? Before she could even explore that train of thought, she realized that there was something clutched tightly in her hand:

Her father's stuffed rabbit.



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