The day that Midnight Hollow crumbled was an average one. The sun set red. The night sky rolled in. And Death showed up to a birthday party.
It made sense, after all; how else was he supposed to claim that unfortunate woman who had somehow passed on from old age in the swimming pool? But no one expected him to stay.
And certainly, no one would have ever dreamed that Ramona Mallon would draw him into her web.
It all started with the offer of a place to stay. Turns out that the man under the robes isn’t a demon without a face, but a handsome young man with ever-changing eyes. And of course, Ramona Mallon was curious. An unconventional scientist, yes, but a scientist all the same, and the child of Death itself was definitely something worth studying.
He was no better or worse than any of the others she’d had, and almost to her disappointment, was polite, but not passionate.
He stood and watched her for a while, then disappeared into the ether. It was like he had never been there at all, with no trace of his presence aside from a set of rumpled sheets and the faint scent of rain.
Ramona was almost convinced she’d imagined the entire thing, until the all too familiar symptoms started up again, the nausea creeping up like a cold hand running down her spine.
They varied sometimes – she was left totally bedbound, or not sick at all, sometimes craving the most disgusting food imaginable, sometimes barely able to keep down bread. But this one barely seemed to be growing, five months in.
That was, at least, until the deaths started.
Midnight Hollow wasn’t exactly the cheeriest of places. Everywhere was draped in black, up to and including the clouds. The sky was always the colour of blood at sunset, and they had more graveyards than they did grocery stores. Death wasn’t an uncommon visitor to the town, but this was something else entirely. And it seemed to be following Ramona.
At first it was just some of the elderly, quietly shuffling off while no one paid attention.
Witnessing deaths in town was pretty unlucky, but a drowning at the local pool? A house fire night next door? And the handyman, well… that was just unfortunate.
Weirdly, she began recovering after that. Before, the baby was so small, they couldn’t even find it on the ultrasound. There had been fears of a phantom pregnancy – a true supernatural phenomenon – but after the deaths, it was almost growing overnight. First no more than a blip, then four little heartbeats. Almost like they were… feeding.
But, no matter. Ramona had resolved to carry on as normal – she had far too many sets of twins to count anyway, and four at once couldn’t be much more difficult, with the older kids to help out. The trouble was, not everyone in town was so supportive.
Demotions, protests, refusal of entry into shops. Whispers in the street, her elder children being shunned from school. As soon as Felix was old enough, he fled the town alone, leaving his mother and siblings to deal with the fallout.
Midnight Hollow’s burning grudge was a thing to be reckoned with. For all its macabre ways, they protected their own. And Ramon Mallon, with flame bright here and a stunning smile, was not one of them.
So she found herself left with no choice, but to call Sunrise Inc.
They were firm, and probably not in the least bit fair.
‘We’re a business, not a charity. This is an emergency situation; we can’t save everyone. You take what you have, then leave, understand? We’re looking out for the future of the experiment. Sacrifices have to be made.’
And with that, Ramona was forced to agree.
It was deemed an emergency situation, a necessary evacuation that started with a cover story and ended with a bang. It was nothing too surprising; attacks had been happening for weeks, and a deliberate arson attempt definitely wouldn’t be anything new. People were starting to get scared and looking for a scapegoat; the target, therefore, was obvious.
So she slipped away, in the early hours of the morning, whilst the flames engulfed the wreckage of the life she’d left behind.
The new clinic was one in Sunset Valley; quiet, discreet, and state of the art medical tech that most places could only dream of. Some smartass had codenamed the babies “The Four Horseman,” and the rumour had spread before Ramona could make it stop. Test after test, then extensive bedrest, because when you’re the incubator for the children of Death, there’s no expense spared.
Ramona herself, for the most part, was confined to bed rest, a dull, slow punishment where she had nothing to do but wait, under strict supervision.
‘Mum, can’t we just go home? You can have the kids there, that’s what you did with the rest of us.’
‘Soon. It won’t be long, okay? Sunrise’ll give us a place to say, and we can carry on, as normal. Just like before, but somewhere better.’
Less than a week later, the labour began’ earlier than usual, painful and frightening; nothing she wasn’t used to, apart from life and death tangled in a bloody paradox.
So then of course, it was really no surprise that it ended the way it did.
The children were perfect; four girls, born minutes after the other. No one was sure quite what had happened; the doctors were murmuring about a quadruplet birth being too much for the mother to handle, others whispering about curses. Death was never supposed to produce life, so he needed something fair in return.
But nonetheless, they were loved in return. Family was family, no matter who the parents were.
Unfortunately, there were some who would disagree.
‘B – but they’re my sisters, I can’t just give them to you to be lab rats! They’re babies.’
‘Your mother signed a contract – ‘
‘I never signed any contract – ‘
‘You have no idea, do you? You just see this as pointless cruelty – these children could prove everything! Years of study, years of experimentation, and you just want to waste their potential?!’
‘You’re pathetic. I would have expected better from you.’
‘And I think my mother would have expected a bit of common human decency – ‘
‘Your mother was going to hand them over anyway. She knew what was at stake.’
Garth stayed silent throughout the exchange, waiting, planning, counting on an opportune moment to whisper his plans when his twin was alone.
And in the dead of night, the desperate, half thought out plan, borne of love, came to fruition.
Hooray, reboot time! As you can probably tell, these chapters take longer to produce since it’s now going to be story based, and there’s a lot of staging and such. I’m working on my novel right now and don’t want to prioritise one or the other, so I’m aiming for two chapters a month, week on/week off.
It’s still a 100 Baby Challenge, but it may use the DITFT outline; I’m not too sure. But if you like what you see or have any feedback, please leave a comment.