Erika is tired of fighting and the war has only been raging for a few months. "It'll be over soon enough," Oliver says. He's standing beside her, inspecting his nails in the muffled light spilling into Misty's old shack. She doesn't think she's ever seen the ghost sit down before, always standing.
"How do you know?"
"The dead always know." She closes her eyes and lays her head back against a moth-eaten pillow. Tattooed on the backs of her eyelids is Min's face, smiling despite the blood pooling around his head like an oil spill, blue-green hair bright against dark crimson.
"Is Min still here?"
"No, he moved on." She doesn't expect the words to hurt so much, but her heart stops beating for a second and she wants nothing more than to die. She wants her boyfriend back or to join him because what's the point if he's not beside her? They'd promised to stay with each other forever and how could they possibly keep that promise if one of them is dead? "Eri?"
"I don't think I can do this." Oliver sighs and kneels in front of her, resting his hands on her knees. Cold seeps through the torn material of her jeans, making her legs spasm before she grows used to the sensation. It's always a shock to have Oliver touch her, ice cold compared to the humid Louisiana heat.
"You can." His stare pins her in place, makes her breaths stutter in her chest on their way out. "You are going to do whatever you have to in order to take out the asshole that killed your friends. Do you understand me?" She gives a hesitant nod, then another, firmer, one. "Kick his ass like I told Cami you would."
"Okay…. Okay, I will." The door of the shack swings open to reveal Cordelia outlined by afternoon sunlight. She doesn't see Oliver, no one but family can, but she can sense him. She's not a fan of dead serial killers following her students around. "Is it time?"
"Yes," Cordelia nods. Erika can feel the build-up of magic, the swelling bubble of it slowly stretching across the globe until it's suffocating. The tension will snap soon, wiping out billions of people in one swoop, a Hell on earth. Erika stands after a moment, following Cordelia outside where Myrtle and Madison are waiting. There are four holes dug in the ground, deep enough to withstand whatever's coming.
"At least I've got jeans on."
"Huh," Madison asks, glancing over at her as they all don their cloaks.
"I've got jeans on. Bugs can't build a home in my cooch." She snorts out a surprised laugh and Erika joins her, neither of them mentioning the hysterical edge to it. "God, this is gonna suck."
"At least we'll be alive afterwards. We can still toss the Antichrist in the garbage heap he belongs in." And really, that sums up all their feelings on the subject. Michael Langdon is garbage and they're gonna shove his ass in a compactor to make mob bosses everywhere proud.
"Alright," Cordelia says," let's get this over with." They all share one last hug before dropping down into the holes, using their magic to draw the earth over them until the gray skies have vanished. Cordelia's magic washes over Erika, soothing and warm like a lullaby. Her eyes close in a deep sleep as the rest of the world begins to crumble, a faint song playing in her mind.
Earth angel, earth angel, will you be mine? My darling dear, love you all the time….
Consciousness floods through Erika in a wave, crashing over her and filling all her senses until she's suddenly propelling herself upward out of the dirt. The landscape waiting for her is a wasteland, Louisiana blown right off the map and replaced by piles of ash and moldering rubble. Misty's shack has been blown over, only the barest hint of a foundation left behind as a marker for where it had once stood.
"Ugh, I have a worm in my nose," Madison groans in disgust. "I don't even want to think about where else they might have gone."
"Thank God for jeans," Erika says. She spits out some more dirt, trying to get the gritty taste of it out of her mouth. "Maybe the Egyptians had the right idea. Put me in a pyramid with a few cats and my iPhone when I die. I'm not a fan of burial."
"Same. Hook up some WiFi and my afterlife will pass smoothly." They share timid smiles, neither of them wanting to remember how it had felt under the earth. Claustrophobia had set in fairly quickly, the ground vibrating from the Blast and sending more dirt against them until Erika felt sure that she really would die there. "How long were we buried?"
"One or two years," Myrtle says, pushing her hood back. Her hair, normally vibrant and bouncing in a frizzy halo around her head, has been done up in a series of tight braids and the sight of it is almost enough to make Erika laugh. She's never seen Myrtle's hair in braids before. Erika and Madison combine forces to clean everyone with their magic, erasing dirt from the fine creases of their cloths and setting Myrtle's hair free. Erika's never like being dirty. "Delia, tell me you felt that pulse, too."
"It's time," Cordelia nods. She's facing west, her back to the others as she sends out a faint pulse of her own magic. There's an echo almost two thousand miles away, the familiar warm glow of Mallory's magic lighting up the distance for a brief instance. "Everyone join hands." They form a circle, hands locked together and heads tilted back to use the vague light of stars as a focus point. Teleporting isn't an easy task, Erika's certainly not good at it and it had nearly killed her eight years ago during the Seven Wonders. She holds tight to Madison and Myrtle, feeling her great-grandfather's presence behind her. The magic is dizzying, a string around her waist that pulls her to the next location with no care for gentleness. When their feet touch down on California soil, Erika opens her eyes to find even more destruction. Buildings have toppled, streets pitted with craters, a thick layer of ash covering the ground. There's no trace of familiar landmarks to be found.
"You guys think my skeezy ex-manager bit it," Madison asks, looking around. "I hope he did. Dude was a perv." Erika snorts, squeezing Madison's hand again before letting go.
"Come on, she's this way," Cordelia says. It's not a long walk, their combined magic had carried them most of the way, and it's barely ten minutes before they come across the intimidating fence that had once surrounded the Hawthorne School for Exceptional Young Men.
"I didn't think it was possible for this place to get any more depressing," Myrtle complains. "I know it's the end of the world, but would it kill these people to make an effort and spruce the place up? Maybe some nice daffodils or tulips." Cordelia grins over at her and Myrtle returns it.
"I thought we were on a time limit," Oliver mutters. He's sulking on the other side of the gate and, in that instant with ashes and death surrounding him, Erika can see the monster he had been for the first time. Oliver isn't just the sweet man that had sung her lullabies or helped her with her homework, he also murdered a string of women in the fifties and sixties so he could make furniture out of their skin.
"We should get going," Erika says, not quite meeting Oliver's impatient gaze. "Mallory and Coco might need some backup." Cordelia nods, using her magic to push the heavy gates open and leading the way onto the grounds. The only landmark to be found is the ugly spiral from the garden, a set of stairs leading deep underground into a sanitation chamber.
"This room brings back memories." Erika shoots him a scolding look and he has the decency to duck his head. "I know, bad timing."
"Bad everything, Gramps. Keep your inner serial killer contained."
"I'm working on it." Cordelia glances briefly at where Erika is staring, but she doesn't see Oliver any more than she could see atoms. She raises a brow in question, but Erika waves it off and shakes her head. There's no point in delving into family drama when they've got an Antichrist to bitch slap.
The embers in the firepit spring back to life as they come into the library, bodies scattered around the room and vomit laced with venom splattered over floors and furniture. Stevie's voice echoes from the radio, rock on, gold dust woman, take your silver spoon and dig your grave.
"Find our sisters," Cordelia orders. The girls split up, each of them dragging a body from the mess while Cordelia fetches Coco's body from somewhere upstairs. They lay them all in a line, stepping back to watch Cordelia work. She kneels over each of them, slowly breathing in their magic before standing and breathing it out again. The three women shoot upright, letting out rib-shaking gasps that make Erika's twinge in sympathy. Madison grins as she kneels in front of Mallory, helping her get her glasses off and sit up a little straighter.
"Surprise, bitch," she says. "I bet you thought you'd seen the last of me." Mallory lets out a shuddering breath as she glances around, Madison backing up out of her personal bubble. "Congrats, you're back from the dead."
"Just breathe deeply," Cordelia says, shooting Madison an unimpressed look. "You need time to get your bearings." Coco wastes no time in getting up, using her sleeve to wipe the blood off her forehead as she paces the room. Dinah stands as well, moving away from the gathered Witches and closer to her dead son.
"I can't believe Brock stabbed me in the head," Coco grouses. "That little bastard had better hope he's dead!"
"Damn, Coco came back with an attitude," Erika remarks.
"Looks like our weakest link got a little stronger," Madison agrees.
"She'd make a great lampshade," Oliver observes. Erika shoots him another look and he holds up his hands in surrender, taking a step away from the group. "I'll go wait in the kitchen." He goes through the walls rather than using the fucking door like a normal person. God, he gets more dramatic every year. One of these days he's going to throw a big enough hissy fit that Nana Kincaid comes down from Heaven just to kick his ass.
"People react to spells in different ways," Myrtle says. "Remember when we brought young Zoe back and she nearly had a panic attack? And when Madison was brought back the first time, she coughed up rot and asked for a cigarette. The perfect antidote to stoke the blood and speed up the recovery process would be a spicy gazpacho Andaluz."
"Or some coke," Madison says. "That always pepped me right up."
"Okay, hold up," Mallory says, standing up with confusion creasing her face. "What the hell is going on? What do you mean I was brought back from the dead? Last time I checked I wasn't an evil high priest with a forbidden girlfriend."
"We had to place an identity spell on you and Coco to keep you both safe," Cordelia explains in a gentle voice. She used to read to Erika with that same tone, love poems and sonnets and the occasional spooky story once Halloween rolled around. "It kept you from knowing your true self so that the Antichrist couldn't sniff you out."
"That's great, but what about the zombie thing?"
"Obviously the Antichrist isn't picky with who he kills." They all take a moment to glance at the corpses littering the room. "He or people that work for him killed you all and we had to bring you back. You're special, Mallory, we can't win without you."
"You're on your own with that shit," Dinah states. "I made a billion dollars in TV, and all I ever did was straddle the fence. I'm sure as hell not dumping that strategy here." She stalks forward, but Erika's been chased by actual zombies so a voodoo queen isn't exactly terrifying. "I'm not here to defeat anyone."
"Just shut up and be happy we didn't barbeque your ass when we had the chance," Erika says.
"You can't help us anyway," Madison adds. "You couldn't defeat a mosquito with your backwards voodoo shit." There's another pulse of magic, a dark foreboding that smells of rot. Erika's nose crinkles as she glances over at the staircase across the room. Michael's up there, flanked by Mead and Valiente, looking far too impressive amongst the carnage.
"As if any of you can defeat me," he says with a cocky smile, drawing everyone's gaze to him. "I've already won." Cordelia takes a step forward, making up the head of their group as naturally as breathing.
"You haven't won," she states firmly.
"Have you looked outside lately," Valiente asks, gesturing around them. "Hell, have you seen this place? We've only been here three days and we tricked these dumbasses into eating poison apples. You'd think they would've learned a lesson from Snow White."
"You'd think your cousin would have learned to wear a nicer dinner jacket," Myrtle says, sarcasm lacing her tone. "At least the world can be saved." Erika smiles at her before focusing back on Team Rocket.
"By you," Michael asks with amusement.
"By all of us," Cordelia says.
"I'm not part of this," Dinah says, taking another step away from them. Erika remembers the afternoon she and Madison had seen Dinah's picture on the side of a bus, the rage that had burned in her gut when she realized how Michael had gotten inside the academy to murder everyone. He killed Min.
"Well I am," Coco says, charging forward to stand near Cordelia. She falters slightly, glancing over at Myrtle. "Just don't let me die again, okay? It really sucked the last time."
"When I'm done, you'll all wish you were dead," Michael says. It's a promise, dark and dripping with malice, a poisoned apple in manicured hands." His magic radiates off him like heat off a stove, tendrils of it snaking protectively around Mead and his cousin while red lines of a different sort of magic has tied itself in a neat bow around his heart.
"I always thought the world would end in fire and ice," Myrtle says," not Witches and Warlocks."
"The four horsemen have ridden across the world, the seventh seal has been broken, wormwood has fallen from the sky and turned the rivers to blood and fire. The bottomless pit has been opened and my swarms of locusts and scorpions have ravaged humanity. The world has been remade in my Father's image." Myrtle gives a dry laugh that seems to annoy Michael, his left eye twitching just the slightest bit.
"It seems your darling daddy didn't give you the finished rulebook for causing the Apocalypse. The very first thing you should do is get rid of all the Witches. Otherwise, you're just wasting everyone's time."
"I could annihilate all of you in a second and the world would go on without missing a beat." His words are snappish and impatient, the very same attitude Oliver assumes whenever he's about to lose a game. "Defy me and I'll make sure all of you will be forgotten. Join me and I could give you a future free from pain and starvation. All you have to do is fall to your knees and worship me." He doesn't seem to appreciate the scattered laughter when the Witches realize he's serious.
"Fall to your knees before the King," Mead orders, bringing a revolver out of her coat pocket. If Erika really focuses on it, she can see it in a blonde woman's hand, a slim finger pulling the trigger and sending a red-haired maid tumbling off the bed. "Hail Satan!"
"Why would we ever kneel at your feet," Cordelia asks. "You're just a man, Michael, a Warlock. Warlocks have never beaten Witches."
"You raised me from the dead because I have voodoo to offer," Dinah says, moving forward slowly. "You'd hoped I'd be on your side, but if you knew anything about me, you'd know I only bet on the winning horse." She stops in front of the staircase, bowing her head to Michael in respect. She never notices the faint smell of death, the sound of an angry rattlesnake as Marie Laveau steps out of the darkness coalescing in the sharp corners of the room.
"She needed the help of a powerful voodoo queen," Marie says, sidling up to Dinah. She takes her sweet time, hips swaying and braids moving like snakes over her shoulders until she comes to a stop. "That ain't you."
"Cordelia promised Papa Legba the darkest and most corrupt voodoo queen's soul in exchange for releasing me from Hell. You'll serve him well in my place." Dinah looks ready to protest or read them all the riot act, but Marie is quicker and her machete is buried in Dinah's throat before the bitch can open her mouth. "It's about time to take out the trash, don't y'all think?"
"I said we should have done it at the start of this whole thing," Madison says. There's a faint click as the hammer of Mead's revolver is pulled back, her finger about to curl around the trigger when Cordelia mutters a spell. Mead freezes for an instant, the spell working its way through Michael's protective magic before hitting her full force. Mead convulses the gun falling from a limp hand and bouncing down the stairs.
Erika knows what's coming, has seen the spell before, and she has the good sense to duck down behind the fire pit. The other Witches follow suit, making it to cover right before the explosion. Gore rains down over the room, Michael and Valiente are blown off the landing with enough force to kill a normal human. When they peek out from behind their cover, Erika finds Valiente lying in a limp pile near the stairs, her chest moving in stuttering motions. Michael, however, is struggling to get his feet under him with all the rage of a wet gremlin.
"Madison, wait," Cordelia calls. Madison pays her no attention, scrambling across the floor on her hands and knees to grab the forgotten revolver. She has it aimed right as Michael stands up, bullet after bullet tearing through his chest and sending him sprawling backwards against a wall.
"M-Mikey," Valiente stutters. She's rolled over onto her side, but she doesn't seem capable of much more. Madison doesn't hesitate, dumping the used shell casings out and replacing them with six new ones. The first shot finishes Valiente, the next three are revenge for all the horror she's helped cause.
"Myrtle, get some of Michael's hair. If we're going to do this, then now's our best chance." Myrtle nods, hurrying over to Michael's limp form to yank a handful of golden hair from his head. She presses the fine strands into Mallory's hand, closing her fingers around them.
"Remember, dear, focus on this," Myrtle instructs softly, pleadingly. "Use it to locate a time and place early in Michael's life in order to stop this future from happening."
"Shed the ego," Mallory recites, standing," disengage from this realm, place myself there and say the words. Tempus Infinituum."
"That's my girl." Cordelia spares her a proud smile, but then it's falling away as she looks at Michael again. They all know what she's thinking, that a simple gun isn't going to keep him down long enough for them to finish this. It seems today is all about sacrifice.
"I'll hold him off while you guys find a place to cast the spell," Madison says, aiming the revolver at Michael.
"I will, too," Erika volunteers. "I'm not that powerful, but I've got one hell of a swing." She grabs up part of the splintered railing that had broken under Michael's weight, grinning impishly. Cordelia smiles again and pulls the girls into a tight hug that promises happy things, a brighter future even if they die in this timeline.
"I'm so proud of you two," she says with tears glittering in her eyes.
"Don't go getting soft yet, Delia."
"Yeah," Madison agrees. "Save the tears for when this asshole is six feet under." Cordelia's smile doesn't vanish this time as she ushers the others to higher ground, Madison and Erika sharing a look. "If I die again and you somehow survive, bring me back and have a margarita waiting on me."
"Fine, but if it's the other way around I expect to have a bottle of tequila and Min waiting on me." They shake on the deal, ignoring the air of prophecy that twines around their joined hands. The girls jump in surprise when a man falls to the ground, covered in flames and open wounds. "Oh, what the fuck?"
"Ew, he looks like a plague victim." The flames almost cover up another noise and Erika turns to find out what the hell sounds like a pool vacuum. She watches in morbid fascination as the puddle of blood draws inwards, pushing itself back into Michael to revive him.
"Head's up, Madison!" She swings as hard as she can, the railing connecting with the side of Michael's face hard enough to dent one of his perfect cheekbones. She swings twice more before something in her shoulder gives with a painful snap, the railing falling out of her numb hand.
Michael isn't one to waste time, he grabs the smooth end of the railing and drives the jagged points of it through Erika's chest. It snags on her ribcage and then powers through the bone and straight into her heart. There's no pain or quipped remarks, Erika Kincaid closes her eyes and doesn't wake up.
"Satan has one son, but my sisters are legion, motherfucker."
Mallory shoots upward with a strangled gasp and tears stinging her eyes, the power of a Supreme and something completely other burning her veins like fire. Blood trickles from her eyes and nose and she wipes it away roughly with the heel of her palm. She doesn't have time for this shit, she has an Antichrist to murder. She uses the magic brimming inside her to change her clothes, needing to blend in amongst the unaware masses. After that it's easy enough to hotwire a Range Rover and navigate the busy streets of LA. She pulls onto the right street in time to see Michael come storming out of a house, barefoot and fuming with his grandmother watching him on the front porch.
Rage turns her fingers into talons and she brings her foot down hard on the gas pedal. She hits him going eighty miles an hour and the tires leave black streaks of tar on the road when she skids to a stop in order to put the car into reverse and hit him again. He's a limp form on hot asphalt, a broken doll with golden hair turned red with blood and his clothes torn from her tires. She hopes he hurts the way her sisters had hurt in that other timeline.
Sensing eyes on her, Mallory glances to the right to find the grandmother and Valiente standing on the lawn. Neither are too distraught; the grandmother looks almost relieved while Valiente seems to be distracted by a pain in her chest. Maybe she'll have a heart attack and die, too. It doesn't matter, she's not powerful enough to cause another Apocalypse.
Mallory shifts the car into drive and hits Michael again for good measure, speeding down the road and out of sight. Her coven is alive; Cordelia's still the Supreme, Zoe and Queenie are still teachers, and it'll be cake to bring Misty and Madison back. On the radio, Stevie's crooning out a song and Mallory finally allows herself to relax.
Is it over now? Do you know how? Pick up the pieces and go home….