Twin Shadows by Jeremy Mifsud
Raquelle adjusted her earpiece as she strode towards the Rotunda of Mosta. Its cross glistened under the Maltese sun. Perfect—she performed best in warm weather. “I’ve arrived. Whom shall I blast?”
“We’re uncertain. Minimal levels of suspicious activity are being detected. You might have to blend in and wait.” Lynn’s tone was poised throughout the transmission.
Raquelle huffed—blending in wasn’t her forte. As she marched towards the cafés, the rhythmic clinking of cups and saucers accompanied the resonating chatter. The rowdiness repulsed her, so she bought a pizza and a diet coke from a pastizzeria instead. She planted herself on an empty bench on the parvis.
An elderly couple emerged from the church. The man held his wife’s arm while she grasped a cane with her other trembling hand. These were the kind of civilians she was out here to protect.
“Rose, let’s sit next to the young lady.” The man nodded towards Raquelle.
“Yes, George.” Rose’s voice was as frail as her demeanour.
Raquelle forced a smile and scooted towards the edge of the bench.
George helped Rose lower onto the bench. Her pursed lips quivered.
“Are you from around here?” George’s accent was foreign.
Raquelle gestured to her mouthful, excusing herself for not responding and then nodded. She barely glanced at him.
“Oh, we love it here. We moved from England sixteen years ago, and we’re enjoying every moment.”
The man rambled on, but Raquelle stopped listening. Only her alertness could safeguard their peace. The fidgeting in her legs diffused some of the suspense. The church bells rang ten o’clock and churchgoers slowly dispersed across the square. She hoped the couple would leave too.
Her ear vibrated. “Raquelle, we’re detecting an evil activity growing at the parvis. It’s quite possible the Twin Shadows are behind this. Don’t do anything until backup arrives. Clear?”
Raquelle gulped the remainder of the diet coke, crushed the plastic bottle and tossed it into a nearby bin. Swish. She didn’t even smile at the minor accomplishment. Foul words piled at the tip of her tongue. Raquelle knew how notoriously dangerous the Twin Shadows were, but what was she expected to do? Sit idle alongside two elders awaiting their final breath? This was an opportunity to prove herself, and nobody was going to stop her.
She scanned the parvis. It was just her and the couple. Her heart leapt—were they the evil? Holding a breath, she turned her head. The man’s eyes locked with hers. His pupils dilated into huge red discs. He grew larger, towering over her. His stretched skin tore and dropped to the ground. A shadow emerged from its human shell, floating above with sharp claws.
Rose fell to her face as a second shadow ripped itself out of her hunched back. The agent was cornered. She tumbled onto the ground, dodging a slash that split the bench in half. She leapt to her feet and ran towards the centre, knowing she could not outrun the Twin Shadows. She placed her palms on the floor, casting a ring of fire around her. The shadows dashed into the circle just as the flames rose, entrapping them behind domed pillars of fire.
“Tough luck, losers.” In each of her palms, she held a fiery orb. The shadows distanced themselves from her and she slid out unscathed from the small space between the cage bars. She launched an orb at each shadow, but they morphed their torsos to dodge the attack.
The orbs blasted the church’s columns, burying the entrance with piles of rubble. Screams echoed from inside the Rotunda. She looked back at the shadows swirling around one another. Fire had always destroyed dark creatures, but she had never battled pure evil before. They couldn’t escape the dome, but she was clueless on how to defeat them.
Their red eyes settled onto Raquelle. If they killed her, the flames would die out. Shit! One shadow dug its claws into the ground, grabbed limestone bricks and launched them at her. She blasted one after another until the air was nothing but dust clouds.
Dark barbs darted at her. She tumbled, jolted, leapt—dodging one after the other. Behind her, people screamed, car alarms blared, glass shattered, and something exploded. But she couldn’t look back.
A projectile hit her midjump, slamming her into the stone fence. She pushed her feet against the ground; a barb had her shoulder pinned down.
The dust settled as the Twin Shadows conjured another array of barbs.
She turned her body sideways, her other shoulder curling in front of her torso. Her blouse ripped as a projectile grazed her back. The earth quaked with each hit, but she did not feel new pain. She lowered her arm to find herself covered by erected rocks.
“Backup has arrived.” She could recognise the dry voice anywhere. Agent Terra.
A tendril of ivy yanked the barb out of her shoulder; she groaned. Meredith rushed in to tend the wound.
Lynn, the puny agent from headquarters, walked up the steps and marched towards the dwindling firestorm.
“What the hell, Lynn? Back off. Your pathetic tech is useless against these demons!” Raquelle shouted as the medic held her down. Her powers were weakening.
Lynn deflected the pleas. “This is my battle—nobody else can defeat them.”
“I created this universe to escape my demons.” Lynn clenched her jaw. “But I’m not scared anymore.”
The fire dispersed against Raquelle’s will.
“After the assault, I couldn’t bear the memory. I tried forgetting everything.” She inhaled a deep breath as her nostrils flared.
“But the memories haunted me in wakefulness and dreams.”
Lynn lifted her head and faced the shadows as they merged into one. She was taller than her timid posture had always implied. “Raquelle, Terra, Meredith. I had created you to help me cope. I had gotten stuck in this world, but now I realise why. I must be the one to end this.”
The merged figure condensed into a middle-aged bald man. He was taller and more muscular, but her presence dwarfed him. Her words became louder. “I won’t forget what you did.”
She grabbed his neck with both hands. “But you don’t get to control my life anymore. Your spirit dies today.”
Her grip tightened, disintegrating his body into a pile of ashes. She spat over his remains.
Lynn looked back at her squad with a wide grin. Raquelle forced a flat-pitched cheer. She was useless now.
“I couldn’t have done this without you.” Lynn hugged her squad.
Raquelle averted her eyes. “You’re kidding me. You handled them all on your own, with your bare hands!”
“Look at me.” Lynn lifted Raquelle’s chin. “It’s your fearlessness that paved the way to that demon’s demise.”
Raquelle shrugged. “Is this goodbye?”
“Never. This was just one battle. Life is a never-ending war, so I’ll be needing you a whole lot more.”
It felt wrong to smile, but a warmth wrapped around Raquelle’s body. She had found her flame again.
About the Author: Jeremy Mifsud is a queer, autistic writer and poet, currently reading for a Masters in Cognitive Science at the University of Malta. He has published a poetry collection Welcome to the Sombre Days (2018). More of his poetry appears or is forthcoming in Isabelle Kenyon’s anthology, Please Hear What I’m Not Saying (2018) and Lucent Dreaming.