“Almost there,” Dawn mutters as she finishes climbing the rope.
With Kara strapped to her back and their supply bags hanging from her arms, she barely has the strength to pull herself out of the hole. The ground is littered with feathers and chunks of meat left by the ravens, which can still be seen flying in the distance. A single set of large prints are near the edge of the broken earth, the tracks the only sign that the large bird ever existed. Not wanting to fall back into the decimated cavern, Dawn crawls towards a nearby stream and dunks her head into the water. She immediately comes up coughing and gagging, the taste reminding her of the ocean and leaving her tongue burning. To her relief, she hears Kara yawn and begin mumbling, which are the first sounds the girl has made in the last few hours. Undoing the rope harness, she puts her companion next to her and lazily flops onto her back to stare at the evening sky. She is surprised to see the stars gradually appear with no extra constellations, the normal sight giving her an odd sense of peace. The effect is nearly lost when the moon comes out as full, but sheds enough of itself to become a crescent.
As the minutes pass by, a shiver runs up Dawn’s spine and she leaps to her feet with renewed strength. Knowing that they are in danger, she grabs only one bag of supplies and puts Kara over her shoulder. Slightly awake, the girl tries to complain, but her throat is too dry for her to do more than whisper. Catching a sense of urgency in the faint words, Dawn turns around to see that she forgot her companion’s precious satchel. Sprinting back to retrieve it, she nearly chokes on the thick air that is flowing out of a forest to the south. Seeing the pulverized remains of the factory, she charges over the uneven ground and prays that they can find a hiding place in time. Leaping over a low wall, she stumbles at the feeling of electricity running up her legs. The shock is not enough to hurt, but she can only limp towards an overturned vat that is covering most of a hole. Holding Kara tight to her chest, Dawn forces her body to run and she slides into the narrow gap. Landing neck deep in a pool of cake batter, she quickly puts the gasping girl on her shoulders and puts her finger to her lips.
“I can’t smell them in here,” a voice says from nearby. Strange footsteps can be heard coming around the vat, the alternating noises being a meaty thwack followed by a barely audible hollow thud. “All of the food is making me hungry. Not that I have a stomach thanks to your botched repairs. Are you sure the missing you is here? The ravens didn’t find it in the underside and they’ve never made a mistake before.”
“There’s a first time for everything,” another woman replies with a laugh. Dawn steps back at the sight of heeled feet and a long, crimson skirt coming into view. “The stars distracted me when she was running. I know she came in here, but there are so many hiding places. Where would a normal, sane me go? I should just level the place and scrape the remains into a sandwich bag.”
“As far as we know, you need her alive.”
“That’s so boring.”
“Ian is the one who wants to kill her.”
“The little puppy really needs to stay out of my personal business.”
“You did inadvertently create him.”
“Stop blaming me!”
Without warning, the vat is knocked over by the woman with a golden eyepatch knocking her companion across the factory. Dawn makes out the limp form of a red-haired person whose right side is flesh and bone. Gemma’s left side is a mannequin that has half of her face drawn on its head and a large dent in its chest. The startled travelers are frozen in place as they watch the woman, who looks exactly like Dawn, walk over the hole and continue heading towards the former cop. Kara is the first to snap out of her stupor by leaping onto solid ground and run for a metal box that she can squeeze into. Unable to escape as quickly as the girl, Dawn tries to swim to the other side of the hole where she can press herself against he wall. She is halfway across when the batter erupts into a geyser that launches her into the air. The woman lands in the wreckage of an oven and narrowly misses hitting the bright red heating elements. She whirls around to see that the Gemma and her master are at the edge of the debris, neither of them daring to take another step.
“It’s been too long, Addison,” the woman with the eyepatch declares. Hearing Gemma clear her throat, she cocks her head to the side and giggles at her mistake. “I mean Dawn. You’re looking well, other me. Sane and normal, but healthy. That’s good because I could use those muscles when we recombine. Don’t you think it’s time for that? I promise to give you more attention. Maybe you can take the reins of our body during an eclipse. Do something mundane like read a book or . . . what else to the boring and sane do?”
“Leave me alone,” Dawn snaps while backing away. A wall of bodies and metal rises up behind her, but it bows inwards to avoid being touched. “You can only reclaim me if I go willing and I refuse. I had no room or purpose in your head. Out here, I have a body instead of being a bundle of subconscious thoughts that never gets to breathe. We’re both better off without each other, Addison. It isn’t like I have any of your power, so stop tormenting me whenever I leave my forest.”
“Why did you wander out of that safe zone?” Gemma asks, her eyes falling to the satchels hanging from Dawn’s shoulders. She is about to go in search of anything suspicious when her fake leg stiffens and refuses to move. “How about a compromise? Give me her body and she can have this piece of junk. I can feel human again while she will be free. You can alter it to look more like my true self, right?”
“Yes, but then I’d have nothing to put my hats on,” Addison bluntly replies. Floating over the debris, she reaches out to touch her sane self, but is shoved away by an invisible force. “The angry puppy put a lot of work into keeping us apart. Without you, I can’t focus enough to destroy him. All I can do is fight until I’m bored and then I go away. What if I give you the month of February?”
“I said no,” the woman growls.
“Nobody speaks to me that way, except my reflection.”
“I am your reflection!”
“That’s why none of my mirrors work!”
Dawn hurls a handful of batter at Addison, who swiftly ducks her head into her body like a turtle. Temporarily blinded, the reality-bender is unable to avoid a second glob that hits her in the chest. With a tired sigh, the god-like stares at her ruined dress and reaches up to tear the garment off her body. She stops when Gemma coughs and settles for wiping the goo off the smooth fabric. The smell puts Addison in a trance and she goes about licking her fingers, which gives Dawn an opening to sneak by the other woman. When the former cop reaches out to tap her master on the shoulder, her mannequin side is turned into a large spoon. The fleshy half falls to the ground and flops about like a panicking fish, the chunks of metal leaving deep cuts on her body. No longer paying attention to her sane self, Addison skips over to another pool of batter and stretches her jaw down to her knees to take in every spoonful. Seeing no reason to stay, Dawn casually walks over to the box where Kara is hiding and drags it away. For the next few miles, she can still hear Gemma struggling to talk with only half a mouth and bring her master’s attention to their escaping prey.