Episode 45: The Other Side

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Content Warning: This episode deals with quite a bit of mature subject matter (domestic abuse, rape, suicide, and murder just to name a few). If you're sensitive to this kind of stuff, well, here's your warning about it.

The stopover in Clockwork City was for one night. By the morning, Frankie was more-or-less back to her old self, only showing a few signs of the illness that had nearly killed her. Her hair was lank and she had bags under her eyes, but other than that she was right as rain, cheerful and bubbly. It was like the previous day hadn’t happened.

Clockmon led the visitors out of the city, using tunnels and special routes he had devised to get through quickly and without detection from other Digimon still living in there. Ryudamon invited him to come along, but Clockmon declined the offer. He had stated that someone would need to keep things in order when Digimon began returning to the city, once all the fighting and difficulties were over with. Plus, the city was his home, and he was reluctant to leave it.

To make up for lost time, Ryudamon gave the nod for those who could be used as transport to do so. So Valramon flew above and ahead of the group with Tom, Eric, and Eleanor. Vespasmon carried Piper, Corneliamon, Hunter, and Skollmon. Eva, Rose, and Hatimon sat on Skadimon’s back. Hurakamon carried Frankie, Rubimon, and Ryudamon, while Rusdramon was laden with James, Reyez, and Ailurmon.

Valramon kept ahead of the group as they all made their way, their speed consistent, covering ground much faster than if they were walking. Tom would feedback to everyone if there was anything he could see coming up that could prove dangerous, or obstacles that could be avoided. Rivers, lakes, densely forested areas and herds of Digimon who wandered around aimlessly. For the most part, Ryudamon assured them that larger herds would just carry on their daily business – but no one was entirely willing to take that risk. So with Tom’s guidance, they would find a different route, or a way around them.

His vantage point gave Tom a good overview of the Digital World for the first time. He had never really noticed before how easily the terrains changed and how often.

Over a space of five hours he counted the amount of different landscapes Valramon flew over. There were flatlands that went on for miles, with meadows and the occasional lone tree standing out in fields of flowers and grass. Forests and woods, dense ones where it was impossible to see the ground beneath the tree canopy, and others that were slightly less densely packed. In these it was possible to see the occasional Digimon wandering through, but only glimpses of them. They flew over no less than three towns, another large city, and countless small holdings and villages.

Occasionally he would spot things that didn’t look like they belonged and would bring it to the attention of the others on the ground. Valramon narrowly avoided a collision with some electric pylons that went higher than the trees. He saw two cars that had been turned over and crushed in places, like they had been stepped on. There was a carriage of a train at one point, one end of it sitting abstractly out of a lake.

Each new discovery he alerted the others to, they would investigate as they went past, but never stopped to get a closer look. Their main focus was to get to The Rift which would allow them to get home.

They stopped every few hours to give the Digimon a rest, and themselves. Eleanor had stocked up on more supplies in Clockwork City, including some different foods which everyone partook of. The breaks were few and far between, only lasting for ten or twenty minutes at the most before someone took the lead and started ushering everyone to get going again. Tom would take off on Valramon, fly ahead, and give the all clear if it was safe for the others to start travelling.

No one wanted any fights. No one wanted to get involved in any fights with anyone. It would waste time, and they had lingered in the Digital World long enough.

That first day, they made up more distance than Ryudamon had expected them to, and then some as they travelled until the last speck of daylight was gone and Tom couldn’t see through the darkness.

They camped in an open field, setting up perimeters and settling in for the night, determined to travel again at first light.

It took Ryudamon some time to fall asleep that evening. He barely recognized the group around him from the one he had met so long ago. Before, they had bickered and argued over any little detail. There had been problems, spoken and unspoken, that had caused tension and unease. And at that time, there had been trust issues and difficulties by the dozen, which Ryudamon had tried his hardest to work out and help with, but had come to realize it was ultimately down to the Tamers and their Digimon.

Now he looked around and saw them as new people.

They had grown up so much in the time they had been apart. They still bickered, argued, and there were still some things unspoken, but far less than before. Any issues that had been apparent or been made apparent were worked out, discussed, and dealt with. They banded together as a team, not just eight separate entities that had to work together. They were a bona fide team, even Rose and Hatimon worked effortlessly alongside them, although they tried to remain aloof. They were all part of something huge. They trusted each other, and knew one another as well as each of them knew themselves.

They were strong. And that strength and trust was going to be important in the battles to come.

In a way, Ryudamon felt oddly proud of them, and his only hope was that they wouldn’t forget their need for one another when the time came.

Morning broke with a sudden rainstorm and Ryudamon feeling as though he had only slept for ten minutes before the rude awakening.

The rain forced everyone to move quickly, pack up camp, and get moving to avoid the adverse conditions. They started walking on foot, the Digimon needed to eat and wake up fully before they could evolve and carry the others, so Eleanor distributed food to them and they ate as they walked. Even without the transport of the Digimon, they kept a good, solid pace until the rain stopped.

It was almost evening again when The Rift came into view.

And it didn’t so much come into view as was sensed.

Tom saw only another field ahead of them, something to be crossed, but Valramon hovered in the air and disregarded Tom’s request to keep going. She dove to the ground and landed in front of the others, stopping them from going any further.

“I think we’re coming up to The Rift,” she stated, Eric slid off her back and lifted Eleanor down. Tom followed them, and Poemon flashed into Valramon’s place.

“Why do you think that?” Ryudamon asked, climbing down from Hurakamon’s back.

“Look up.” Poemon pointed.

The clouds above them were light grey and they obscured the sky completely, but it was still possible for some sun to break through the very edges of them. Further on, where Poemon pointed, the clouds were black, heavy, and looked as if they would burst at any moment and rain down a typhoon. There was no sky to be seen, no sunshine strong enough to break through.

“It could be another storm on its way,” Frankie suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Hurakamon rumbled. He quivered beneath her, his muscles twitching and vibrating as he stood. The others were gathering around, and each of the Digimon were on edge. She could see Rusdramon’s nostrils flared, her eyes wide as she stomped the ground impatiently, turning in circles on the spot despite James asking her not to.

The wolf twins were standing on the backs of Vespasmon and Skadimon. Their eyes seemed to glow and their respective tail fires were whipping back and forth, energized. Skadimon’s claws scratched into the ground. His pupils were like pinpricks and he snarled every so often; his fur was on end and he trembled just the same as Hurakamon did. Even Ailurmon was alert; she had hopped onto the ground and seemed edgy as she walked towards Poemon.

Rubimon, Ryudamon, and Corneliamon didn’t seem too fazed by whatever was causing the odd reactions in the other Digimon. And even Poemon seemed unfazed, which was unusual.

As if on cue, a fork of lightning lashed down from the black sky. It wasn’t obscured by the clouds; it wasn’t even a small fork. It was huge, visible, and white. Immediately afterwards there was a tremendous roll of thunder above them that sounded like a cacophony of cymbals being smashed above them all at the same time. Poemon grabbed Tom’s leg in fright, while the wolf twins began to howl. The other Digimon joined in with cries of their own against the thunder, which continued for several seconds.

“We’re definitely in the right place,” Rubimon confirmed.

Hunter climbed off Vespasmon’s back, Skollmon hopped off as Hunter helped Piper down. Others around him began to do the same, climbing off their Digimon and letting them return to their Rookie forms. Even though they were smaller, the heightened atmosphere obviously affected them. It was worrying to see Irbimon and Siberimon snarling, and Odocomon pawing the ground with her hooves, each in turn. Caesarmon’s tail smacked against the ground, creating dents where the metal rings landed.

“What do we need to do?” Reyez asked. His question was aimed at Eric and at Ryudamon. Eric had been the one to get the instructions for this place from Logan, and Ryudamon was the oldest amongst them, so he had to have a clue what was going on, or what they needed to do.

“Enter the field,” Ryudamon explained.

“Obviously,” Reyez returned.

Eric cleared his throat. “We need to enter together. As a group. If the lightning strikes and we’re not together, there’s no telling what could happen to the person it strikes against.”

“Sounds positive,” Hunter said.

“We’ll have to time it perfectly, between strikes. Get to the centre of the field. You’ll need to form a circle around those of us without D-Touches. We’ll be in the middle, so we’ll get hit too. Hold onto your Digimon,” Eric explained, “and hold tight.”

“We have to get struck by lightning...?” Eva said, as if the concept had only just dawned on her. “Won’t... won’t that kill us?”

“Our father returned from the Digital World this way,” Rose told her. “He didn’t die.”

Eva snorted. “Can’t imagine it did much for his health.”

“We can either go,” Tom spoke up loudly, “and try this out. Or we can stay here, never knowing, and leave our home to Mukademon’s mercy, of which I doubt there’ll be much. It’s everyone’s own choice, but I know what mine is.”

Another flash of lightning lit up the sky, followed closely by a roll of thunder that bellowed above them.

It took very little convincing to get everyone to see Tom’s way of thinking. In fact, it took nearly none at all.

Everyone was frightened of the prospect of getting hit by lightning. It was one of those things you sometimes heard about on the news or read on the internet, stories of people getting struck by lightning in some way and it giving them a heart attack, or giving them trailing burn-like scars. It wasn’t a prospect any of them wanted to face, the idea that this option, their only option home, could kill them. But there was little choice in the matter. This was the way they could get home, and unless they wanted to wait around for however long it took Logan to configure a way to get the transport pod to return them, this was their only way home.

Ryudamon took the lead on the approach to the field.

On closer inspection it was easy to see why this was the right place. The Rift was a barren flatland. The grass here – what little remained – was dry and burnt. The soil was hard, cracked, and crumbled when it was touched. The closer they went to the field, the windier it became, and wetter. The black clouds had opened as they’d started walking, sending down sheets of rain that hit down like bullets, making dents in the dry earth.

It was a dead and desolate place, and there was little time to see more of it. The lightning and thunder was coming quicker and more frequently, making the gaps in which they had time to get to the correct spot and organize themselves smaller and smaller.

Ryudamon counted in his head each time there was more lightning. It had started as being a minute between each strike. Then it lessened to about fifty seconds. Now it was barely thirty. They had to move quickly and fluidly to get anywhere.

He stopped the group before they walked into the hot bed of The Rift. All the Digimon reacted to the energy here, even Rubimon, who beforehand had seemed immune to it. Eric held her in his arms, while Eleanor held Corneliamon. All the other Rookies were clutched by their partners, so Ryudamon was the only one walking without assistance. It would be quicker to move ten of them and himself, rather than twenty and himself. Plus with the way the Digimon were behaving, all panting and some of them foaming, he didn’t want to risk them getting distracted.

Everyone was silent, with their D-Touches out and ready.

Ryudamon waited, pelted by the rain, for another strike. They would move as it happened to give them the biggest time allowance they could get – which he reasoned was about twenty-five to thirty-five seconds.

The centre of The Rift was marked by the charred ground, where the lightning hit the most often, but not always. They had witnessed the lightning clashing against other parts of the ground too. But the middle was the worst, there was a space of at least ten or twelve feet that was just soot. They would run there, and lift their D-Touches. The ground there was flat, and being tall would have been enough. The D-Touches were just an additional measure to draw the lightning.

He held his breath, counting.

Twenty-eight, twenty-nine.

Lightning struck the ground and the thunder followed instantly.

“MOVE!” Ryudamon shouted.

One. Two. Three.

They ran together as group, following Ryudamon as he dashed across the ground to the centre point. The Digimon panted and growled. Irbimon and Siberimon were releasing awful yowling noises while both Hatimon and Skollmon were snarling and drooling at the mouth. Ryudamon couldn’t blame them; it was taking all his willpower to ignore the intensity of the energy here, how it felt like every breath was a punch of pure power. It would overwhelm even the strongest Digimon, Ryudamon only managed to avoid the same fate by his years of training.

He reached the centre point first, and was joined quickly by Eric and Eleanor. They took up their places in the middle of the black ground.

Ryudamon beckoned the others, each of them taking a spot in a circular shape around. Arms were lifted, D-Touches in hand and bright with color.

The rain was harder now more than ever, and Ryudamon feared the pellets would cause damage. Those around him were soaked through, water dripping from their clothes, hair, noses. He admired their resilience, he could not imagine a worse thing that this, soaked to the bone and the prospect of death if this lightning did not work.

Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen.

They were in place and the clouds above them were churning angrily. All they could do was wait.

The Rookie Digimon struggled and writhed. Caesarmon almost slipped out of Piper’s arms, but Ryudamon snatched his tail so Piper could get a better hold of him. Half of Eva’s arm was frozen, an unconscious action from Irbimon. Odocomon’s legs were flailing this way and that as she struggled to get out of James’ grip. Hunter had bite marks on his arm from Skollmon’s teeth, and Rose had cold burns induced by the cold of Hatimon’s tail. It would be over soon. They would return to their senses once they were out of this accursed place.

Twenty-three. Twenty-four. Twenty-five.

Lightning shot down just to the left of the group.

Ryudamon inwardly cursed, until another fork crashed down on the opposite side. Ryudamon backed up towards Eric and Eleanor. Another shaft of lightning, then another, until forks were raining down around the tightly packed group.

He didn’t dare close his eyes, though he wished he could close his ears. He could hear surprised and terrified screams coming from Eleanor, Eva and the others. And even the faces of the men were fearful, and rightly so.

The lightning was so frequent now that there was no time to hear the thunder, or to see the sky. It just rained down white light at the group. He had to make sure they were all safe. The light was blinding, but he had to be certain they were alright for now.

A fork of lightning struck down, straight into Tom’s D-Touch. The electricity split off, travelling around the group, D-Touch to D-Touch. The lightning converged on itself, crackling and fizzling noisily.

It exploded, swallowing everything in sight.

Ryudamon shut his eyes then, closing them tight against the light and the pain that caught him. A terrible pulling and tearing that ripped right thought his body as if every bone was being broken and every muscle was being torn. It was agonizing and eventually everything, the light and the pain, relinquished to blackness.

-----------------------------

Caesarmon woke with a startled yelp.

He had rolled off the couch where he had been sleeping, woken halfway between rolling off and falling, and the yelp had come from his sudden impact on the floor.

He shook his head dramatically, before it dawned on him that he had been asleep on a couch. Not the ground, not Piper’s stomach, not in the grass. A couch. The sofa, the cream suede couch Cleo had bought just before Christmas. It was lined with pink and pale coffee-colored cushions. Near it was a matching set of armchairs, all surrounding the television, with the fireplace close by.

He recognized the sofa. He recognized the fireplace. The wallpaper, the odd but intricate artifacts that sat in cases and on walls.


“I’m... home,” he murmured, his eyes drinking in the sights around him. The living room had never looked so pleasing. And the thought of sleeping on Piper’s soft mattress and being able to dine on oysters and clams when he convinced Piper to go out and buy some for him was intense. He could feel his mouth watering at the thought of it.

“PIPER!” He had to find her, to celebrate the fact they were home, that the lightning in The Rift had worked. And better than that, the house was still standing. If Mukademon had attacked while they’d been missing in the Digital World, then he hadn’t reached the suburbs yet.

Caesarmon ran, bolting around the couch and then through the hallway and up the stairs. He noticed that the clothes lining the banister of the stairwell where Piper sometimes left them to dry weren’t hers. They were male, and far too big to be Hunter’s. He reasoned Jesse was home, or Andrew. If it was Andrew that wouldn’t be a problem. Jesse on the other hand...

He stopped in his tracks when he heard a noise coming from the kitchen and peeked his head out between the banisters. The noise had been the fridge closing, and the noises that followed were the clinking of glass bottles against each other. Coming from the kitchen was one of Jesse’s house mates, a lay about called Travis, with dreadlocks, a nose ring and, as Piper had always described it, a slow mind.

Caesarmon hated Travis with a passion like no other. Travis had tried to hit on Piper more times than Caesarmon cared to remember, going as far as to corner her several times and try to kiss her. Jesse had done nothing, just laughed when Piper had told him about it, and the only reason Travis’ attempts had been thwarted was due to Caesarmon himself.

Twice, as Tiberimon, he had smashed Travis in the back of the head with his tail rings. And as Caesarmon he had tripped him up, sending him face-first into Piper’s bookshelf, leaving him with a fat lip and a chipped tooth. Piper had started seeing Hunter not long after that, and Travis had only backed off when Hunter confronted him about it. Travis was slow, but not entirely stupid.

Putting his chagrin at Travis being there aside, Caesarmon continued up the stairs.

The second floor split off into several rooms: four bedrooms, Jesse’s, Piper’s, their parents and a spare bedroom, and the main bathroom. Piper’s room had an en suite, so did Andrew and Cleo’s. Caesarmon stalked past Jesse’s room first. The door was wide open. He was lying on his bed, which was untidy, smoking with a set of big headphones covering his ears. The volume on Jesse’s music player was up to the point that Caesarmon could hear the deafening bass line and most of the lyrics. There were empty beer bottles cluttered around the foot of Jesse’s bed, and the room stank something terrible - it made Caesarmon’s eyes water.

Hearing Travis coming, Caesarmon hurried on to the next room.

He found it odd that Piper’s door was ajar, normally she had it closed if Jesse was around, but he pushed it open with his snout and peered in, grinning.

At first he thought he’d gone into the wrong room, brought his head out, counted the doors on either side of the hall and then stuck his head back in, followed by his body.

This... wasn’t Piper’s room.

Well – it was. It had all of Piper’s stuff inside it. But it wasn’t her room. The pale green and white striped wall paper was gone, replaced with dark reds, making the room seem smaller. The curtains were drawn, blocking out the sunlight. The windows were closed too, letting an odd smell linger inside. Normally so tidy, the floor was filthy, like it hadn’t been vacuumed in months. The door to the en suite bathroom was open, the light on, and Caesarmon gauged it was from there the odd smell was coming from. Dirty clothes covered the floor, and Piper’s desk - usually neat and tidy - was a mess of unwashed glasses and more clothes. Her laptop was open, on a questionable page with fully naked women flashing up on it.

Piper herself sat on her bed. Her hair was long and unkempt. She seemed to have forgotten how to brush it and it fell forward, mostly obscuring her eyes and face. Her clothes were old, baggy and full of holes, and where Caesarmon would have normally seen her sitting on her bed reading a book, she sat there boredly flicking through a gossip magazine.

He was confused; Piper hated those kinds of magazines.

Where were her books? Where were the bookshelves with all the other books? Where were the plants she kept in her room to make it bright? Where were the wallpaper and the cleanliness? The fresh smell? Why was her bedding all rumbled, why wasn’t the bed made? And why was Piper just sitting there reading a magazine, ignoring the flashing graphics on her laptop screen?

Caesarmon clambered up on to the bed. “Piper?” He nudged her with his nose, his voice cautious.

The bedroom door creaked open wider, and Travis sauntered in, carrying two bottles of beer and a cigarette dangling from his mouth.

“Hey sweetness,” he greeted Piper and handed her the beer bottle.

“Sweetness?” Caesarmon repeated. “Who’re you calling ‘sweetness’?! And what are you doing in Piper’s room!? GET OUT!”

Piper took the bottle wordlessly and wiped the condensation off with her fingers. She didn’t take a sip, didn’t even look up from her page. Travis sat down at the desk, beginning to look at the images on the desktop. He tilted the chair back and it creaked.

“Stop doing that! She hates that,” Caesarmon snapped. He turned to Piper. “Aren’t you going to tell him to leave?! Piper, come on! It’s day time – why aren’t you at college?!”

Panic was beginning to threaten to take over his chest, his heart was pounding and he could feel his brain running a mile a minute. Why was everything different? Why was Piper ignoring him? Caesarmon padded across the covers, he butted Piper in the arm; his head hit her, but she didn’t notice apart from moving to scratch where his head had touched her bared skin. He tried again to the same reaction.

“Piper, come on!” He smashed his entire weight against her, and she just shifted where she sat, and sat up straighter. Caesarmon’s mouth hung open. What... was this? What was going on? There was no explanation for it except that this wasn’t his home. This wasn’t his Piper.

Ryudamon’s plan had failed, and Caesarmon could only guess he had been transported to a place where his Piper wasn’t alive. Just this doppelganger.

He whined softly, releasing a weak squeaking noise.

Travis was playing a video on the laptop with the volume up, and he was grinning inanely, his eyes following the movements of the naked women in the video. Piper rolled her eyes, flicking a page of her magazine noisily. The sleeve of her shirt adjusted a little, and Caesarmon caught sight of some blemishes on her upper arm.

Again, she turned the page loudly, and sighed for added effect. Travis didn’t seem to notice. Caesarmon saw the blemishes closer, despite the bad lighting. They were bruises and they went around her arm like it had been grasped hard by a large hand.

“Can you turn that down? Or put headphones in?” Piper snapped, raising her head. Caesarmon gasped, seeing her face for the first time. Her right eye was bruised, mottled purple and brown. Her lower lip had been cut recently, it was still healing.

“Why?” Travis asked, smirking, leaning the chair back even further.

“Because I don’t need to hear women badly acting and pretending to enjoy that,” Piper explained. She threw the magazine to one side and shuffled off the bed. Caesarmon followed her as she looked for a pair of shoes under the bed and the mess of clothes. On finding a set on converse, she sat on the edge of her bed and began pulling them on. “What are you even doing here?!”

Travis paused the video and looked at her through half-hooded eyes. Caesarmon hadn’t really noticed it before, but Travis had a certain threatening look to him. “What do you mean, Sweetness? I’m hanging out with my girlfriend.”

“WHAT?!” Caesarmon gaped. “What about Hunter?!”

Piper scoffed. “I’m not your girlfriend. I dumped your stupid, sorry ass, remember?”

“Is that attitude you’re giving me?” Travis stood up. He was taller than Piper by a head at least, and lean. She backed up a step, flinching automatically as he stepped towards her. “You didn’t dump me, I don’t get dumped,” Travis told her fiercely. He had his hands on her upper arms, his grip tight. “We had a stupid fight, and we made up. The only reason you got a black eye is because you flinched into my hand when I went to hug you.” His voice was still, firm, and quiet.

Caesarmon frowned, Travis had always been a jerk, but he hadn’t imagined he was dangerous.

“No, that was your fist smacking into my face when I tried to leave this room,” Piper corrected, trying to free her arms. “Just go. I don’t want to be with you. I’ve tried explaining it nicely.”

Travis smirked. “And who do you think is going to want you, except me, Sweetness?” he asked, leaning towards her, the hold he had on her upper arms seemed to get tighter.

Piper faltered a little. “W-well...”

“Sweetness, you’re damaged goods. You’ve got no prospects; no chance of getting further in life than being someone’s bitch – so why not mine? After all... look at you.”

Caesarmon growled. He wanted to bite Travis. He wanted to tear his eyes out and make him cry in agony. But he couldn’t. If he couldn’t touch Piper, he doubted very much that he could touch Travis – try as he might.

Piper stepped back a little and lowered her eyes, her hair falling across her face. She wrung her hands together, before her shoulders sagged. Travis smirked. “That’s it. I’m the best you’re ever going to get, Sweetness.”

Caesarmon could have sworn he heard Piper whisper: ‘I hate you’ under her breath, but couldn’t be sure. Travis ran his hands up onto her shoulders, and the flinch was unmistakable. He forced Piper to look at him, and kissed her hard. Piper stood there motionless until it was over, and then started for the door.

“Where are you going?” Travis asked casually, returning to the laptop.

“Meeting Frankie.”

Travis tilted an eyebrow. “Why?”

“There’s a memorial service for that guy who killed himself,” she explained. Travis called something back, but Piper was halfway down the stairs so didn’t hear it. Caesarmon paused at the open door, unsure whether to follow or not. After all, if this wasn’t his Piper, then how could he be sure that this place was his town? He looked back into the room, at Travis. A shudder ran down his spine as Travis was looking straight at him, a triumphant look on his face, his mouth drawn in a lazy smirk.

Something squirmed uncomfortably in Caesarmon’s belly and without another moment’s hesitation he dashed out of the door and down the stairs after Piper.

-----------------------------

They wandered the halls of the mansion side-by-side and suspicious.

Skollmon and Hatimon’s joy of being home was short lived when they had noticed where they were. It hadn’t occurred to them at first how odd it was that they had been returned together, when ordinarily it would have made more sense of them to return to the apartments of Hunter and Rose, respectively. But where they traipsed now was even stranger.

The mansion was just like it had been before Bella had boarded it up and moved them all into the city.

The walls were paneled, the top parts dark green wallpaper throughout, and the panels a bright, white wood. The floor was wooden, varnished, with a rug that ran the length of the hallway and down the stairs. Each wall was lined with large pictures in wide frames, and each window with white netted and forest green curtains.

They had both woken up in Hunter’s old bedroom, and found it very similar to how his apartment was now. The bed was unmade, there were clothes in a hamper waiting to be washed, and clothes he intended to wear were flung over the back of a desk chair. His childhood furniture had been disposed of; his bed was replaced by a large double that sat in the middle of the room. He had a desk facing out towards a window, a large closest, and a flat screen television on the wall opposite the bed. There was different sporting equipment lying around: a basketball, hockey stick, and a soccer ball.

The twins had investigated for a short while, before running away as they had heard footsteps down the hall. They snuck out of the room as maids who had been cleaning Rose’s room came to clean Hunter’s. They quickly dashed into Rose’s room, to see if she was there.

Her room, like Hunter’s, had changed drastically from the last time the mansion had been lived in. The walls were no longer pink, instead they’d been painted white and Rose seemed to have used them as a canvas. Her bed was neat, tidy, and the rest of her room was similar, everything in a place of its own. Fastidious. There was an easel with several canvases next to it, including one with a half finished watercolor painting. Rose’s paints were carefully organized on her desk, along with a long grey smock covered in paint stains that she wore.

“This is weird,” Skollmon whispered to his sister as they walked down the stairs. They were following their noses, picking up the scents of Hunter and Rose. Bella too. They had always had maids to do typical daytime duties around the house, but neither of them could remember there being this many of them. None of them even glanced at the Digimon, or their odd shape. They never stopped, even when Skollmon was right in front of one where she was sweeping.

“Agreed,” Hatimon said slowly. “Perhaps the journey back got... muddled up some how?”

“Maybe.” Skollmon followed her. “Hopefully Hunter and Rose will know what’s happened!” he said cheerfully. Hatimon smiled a little, hoping her brother was correct, that their Tamers would know what had happened.

By all accounts the mansion shouldn’t have even been there.

It had been dilapidated and sealed up by Bella the last time Hatimon and Skollmon had been there, a rotting, dusty heap, and brought down by themselves and Mukademon. The fact that it was now standing, pristine, like it had been before Russell had died, and that there were people living there, that the house functioned as a house... was odd. And it unnerved her more than she cared to admit. Skollmon too was wary, but seemed eager to find Hunter and ask what had happened. He paced ahead of his sister, following the smells and sounds through the front hall and down towards the reception room.

They both paused at the top of the lower steps, the smells rising from there were tantalizing, and it only reminded Hatimon how hungry she was. They would have to eat at some point, maybe whine for scraps off the table – that always seemed to work.

Judging by the time and the smells of cooked bacon and sausages rising from the kitchens, they were having a late breakfast.

The door to the dining room was open, and Hatimon peered round to gauge the situation.

“No way!” she exclaimed. Skollmon barged past her, running right into the room and slamming into the Welsh dresser where most of the good crockery was kept. He created a loud ‘thump’ that grabbed everyone’s attention from their meal for a moment, before they returned to it.

Hatimon followed her brother as he recovered.

Her eyes were wide as dishes as she took in the scene.

Around the table sat the Divine family. On one side, Hunter and Rose, sitting and eating silently. Hunter had a cell phone out and was checking it with his eyes every few seconds to see if there had been any messages. Rose was otherwise occupied, quiet, and she gave off the same coldness Hatimon had felt from her before, when she had been partly controlled by the Parasite.

At one end of the table was Bella. Her hair piled onto her head in an ornate bun, dressed in a smart blouse and trousers. She was either going to work, or coming back from it. One of the two.

That wasn’t what took Hatimon – and now Skollmon – by surprise.

It was the other two sitting at the table.

At the other end of the table, opposite Bella, sat who the twins could only assume was Russell. His hair still thick, but it was streaked with grey, he had stubble on his chin, and he looked tired. His skin was sallow and a slightly off-color. Not exactly a healthy flesh tone. His clothing was disheveled and he ate quickly, like he hadn’t seen food for months. His eyes were sharp and intelligent, and bits of him were reflected in his children.

Then, opposite Hunter and Rose, was Logan.

He was taller than either of them remembered, his hair thicker and shorter. But that was all that had changed. His eyes were alert and completely aware, taking in and analyzing everything around him. His mouth tight and his expression irritated. He picked boredly at the food on his plate with a fork, further scrambling some scrambled eggs.

“Logan, you’re old enough to know not to play with your food,” Bella said from her seat. She rustled the newspaper in front of her, and Hatimon noticed how Russell grit his teeth.

Logan laid his fork down on the plate. “Not hungry.”

“You’ve barely eaten,” Bella replied.

He shrugged. “Not hungry.”

Skollmon walked around to Hunter’s seat and stood up on his hind legs, balancing his forepaws on what little of the seat was available for him to perch on. He whined and wagged his tail, before nudging Hunter’s elbow with his nose.

Hunter didn’t appear to feel it. He picked up his cell phone and leaned back in his seat.

Skollmon tried again, barking this time, loudly and in quick succession. No response. He looked at Hatimon with a worried expression as she peered up at Rose.

“I don’t think they can see us,” Hatimon stated, “or hear us.” She butted her head against Rose’s legs under the table. In response she uncrossed and then re-crossed them. “Can’t feel us either.”

“What?” Skollmon’s frown deepened. “How can that be?”

“I don’t know,” Hatimon admitted. “When we were transported, something must have gone wrong.”


Russell let his cutlery clatter to his plate. “Must you play with that accursed thing at the table?” he asked Hunter irritably.

Hunter always had the keypad noises on; it was low, but audible. Skollmon never minded or even noticed the noises anymore. Russell seemed less pleased with the sounds.

“I’m just sending a text,” Hunter explained, not looking up from the screen. “Don’t blow a blood vessel.”

“It hurts my head; the noise,” Russell informed him. “Turn it off.”

Hunter rolled his eyes, finished sending his message, and laid the phone down on the table. He looked at Russell as if to say: ‘happy now?’ before returning to the food on his plate.

The meal resumed in silence. Logan sat with his arms folded, glaring at the plate in front of him. Not allowed to leave the table until everyone else had finished. A stupid and archaic rule that he hated and never understood why his parents enforced it. They never said anything or talked like a normal family. Plus there were better things he could be doing with his time than staring at some rapidly cooling food.

He stood up from his place, the chair scraping over the floor.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Russell snapped without turning to look at his oldest.

“Oh boy,” Skollmon muttered.

“Logan, still as obstinate as ever,” Hatimon agreed. They had seen plenty of arguments unfold between Logan and Bella. They were never pretty, nor ended well for any party involved.

“I have better things to do that sitting here doing nothing,” Logan told Russell.

“This is the only time we get together as family,” Bella said from the opposite end of the table. “Logan, please sit down.”

Hatimon and Skollmon exchanged surprised looks. This was not the Bella they knew or remembered. Bella was harsh and mean. Cruel even. She never said please or asked anything from anybody, especially Logan. The two clashed heads so much it was always a battle of wills between them.

“Time together as a family?” Logan repeated. “That’s joke and you know it. We all know it.”

“Sit. Down,” Russell said dangerously. “I will not tell you again.”

“Actually – Logan has a point,” Hunter spoke up and his father’s hard gaze turned on him.

Logan shook his head. “Hunter, don’t get involved.”

“Nah, it’s time you stopped speaking for me and Rose. We all feel the same,” Hunter admitted with a wry grin. “We’re supposed to be the perfect family when it truth, I think we all hate each other to a point.”

“Enough,” Bella interjected.

Russell’s expression was contorted, somewhere between anger and outrage. But somehow he kept a lid on it, kept his rage covered. “No, no. Bella...” He sounded oddly calming, though the twins didn’t miss the edge to his voice and by the looks of it, neither did Bella. “We’ve heard how Logan and Hunter feel. Rose?”

To her name she looked up.

“Have you got anything to add?” Russell’s mouth practically slithered into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

Rose looked from Logan to Hunter, to Bella, and then at Russell. “I just think that... we’re kind of frauds,” she admitted. Hatimon’s mouth hung open. Rose was soft-spoken and seemed meek. Not strong, or outspoken as she was used to. This was a weak Rose.

“How do you mean?” Russell prompted, his smile still there.

Rose cleared her throat. “Like Hunter said, we’re meant to be this perfect family, when we can’t even have a normal conversation together without it turning into a shouting match.” She grew a little bolder. “We never talk, this is the first time you’ve sat down and eaten with us in weeks, and all that’s happening is we’re arguing. We’re the most powerful family in the city and we’re a lie.”

“Everyone lies.” Russell sniffed indignantly.

“Yeah,” Logan smirked, “and we’re the biggest lie this city and its people look up to. Imagine what people would say if they knew how you talked to us? How you yelled at us and mom all the time? Or how you like to lash out?”

Russell stood up and squared to Logan, his shoulders stiff and his eyes narrowed. “You insolent, ungrateful little snipe.”

Logan stood his ground. He and Russell were matched for height, but if things came to blows, Logan had the obvious superior strength. “What’re you going to do, dad? Hit me?”

Russell’s upper lip twitched. For a moment it looked as if he was going to strike his son.

“Russell, please.” Bella’s hand landed on Russell’s shoulder. She had moved from her end of the table as he and Logan had bickered. Her voice seemed to startle Russell from his anger. He rounded on her, snatching her hand off his shoulder, squeezing her wrist.

“Please, what?!” he spat.

Bella twisted her wrist. “Dear, you’re hurting me,” she retorted sharply. She yanked her wrist away, and rubbed where he had applied pressure.

Without another word Russell left the room, knocking over a chair and a plate from the table as he went. Bella sat down in what had been Russell’s seat and buried her face in her hands for a moment. Logan, Hunter and Rose all exchanged looks.

“You couldn’t leave it alone, could you?” Bella said finally, looking at Logan angrily. “Your father works hard for everything this family has, the least you could do was not antagonize him.”

“I was telling the truth,” Logan argued. “He has to hear it from someone.”

“Yes,” Bella affirmed, “me. You’re his children; he shouldn’t hear these things from you.”

Rose swept her hair back. “With all due respect, Mother, you’re not at your strongest when you’re around him. In fact, you become almost like his doormat.”

Bella sighed, running her fingers through her hair. “Rose...”

Hatimon had seen enough and left the dining room in a rush. She stopped in the hallway, pausing by the door and Skollmon joined her a few moments later. They could still the hear voices from the dining room, but couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying.

“What is wrong with this place?!” Hatimon barked. “Russell should be dead. Logan shouldn’t be here!”

Skollmon’s ear twitched back on his head. “Maybe this is how things could have been.”

Hatimon looked at him. “Could have been?”

“Yeah.” He nodded. “Russell was meant to die when he tried to bring the Core through. What if here, he managed to bring the Core through and survived? He accomplished everything he ever wanted. That would explain why Bella is so... not-Bella. And why Logan is here, why Hunter and Rose aren’t the same ones we know.”

“That almost makes sense,” Hatimon told him with a small smile. Skollmon wagged his tail. “But why is everything so backwards here? Are the others here?”

“Bella’s going to be leaving for work soon, why don’t we go with her and find out? We’re way out of the city here, so it’s unlikely for Poemon or Siberimon and the others to be here. Getting to the inner city, we’ll have a better chance of finding them and figuring things out.” He grinned and nudged his sister’s head. “Eight heads are better than two!”

-----------------------------

Irbimon woke feeling strangely comfortable. He lay curled up with his eyes shut for a while, the blankets covering him like a cocoon. He didn’t want to leave the warmth, until the most recent events came flooding back and he bolted upright.

At first nothing felt amiss; he was home, safe, and Eva was sitting at the desk beside him. Then the fact that the room layout was all wrong began to sink in. The desk Eva was sitting at was her old white one, thrown away when she moved in with Tom, out of her parent’s house.

For a split, glorious second he thought she had broken up with him and moved back home. But the realization that he would have remembered the chaos of something like that soon followed.

Eva was hunched over a laptop, idly clacking the keys and scrolling around, her left hand holding a slice of cake. Irbimon recognized that cake – it was Eva’s personal specialty, and the one that scored her a job at the bakery. He forced himself to stop salivating and look away, for the location was still nagging at him. It was definitely Eva’s old room, but something was missing. It took a moment for him to realize that there were no picture frames. Eva used to have loads of them – of family, friends, eventually Tom as well. But now they were missing, the only things missing. Eva herself was dressed in the most unflattering thing Irbimon could imagine on her – and Irbimon wasn’t much of a fashion buff – sweatpants and a mottled beige sweater at least two sizes too big.

Irbimon crept closer. “Eva? What’s going on?” He waited for a moment before clambering up against her chair. “Eva?” Nothing. He nudged her hand a few times, only to have the girl idly smack him across the face, as if she were swatting a fly.

Before he could protest, the room door swung open and Eva’s mother leaned in.

Irbimon looked up and frowned at her. “Hey mum. What’s going on? How come Eva’s back home and dressed like a hobo?”

“Eva, dear,” her mother started, completely oblivious to the snow leopard’s questions. “You’ve been indoors all day, eating the cake you baked this morning. There won’t be any left by tonight at this rate.” She smiled gently, not meaning any malice with her words.

Eva shrugged without turning around. “There’s no one else to eat it. Dad’s diabetic and you don’t like sweets. At least when Megan still lived here she’d have some and it wouldn’t go to waste.”

ME. I will eat it! I will eat all of it!” Irbimon pleaded, eyeing the half eaten slice on her desk. “I want to eat it now!” He pawed at Eva’s arm, only to have his touch idly brushed away again.

Her mom stepped in and scooped the plate off her desk. “Well, you don’t have to bake so often. Once a week is plenty.”

Eva grumbled something about hobbies and passions and not understanding.

“Then go find a job in a bakery. There’s at least three of them within a few blocks of here.”

The plum-haired girl’s eyes widened and she looked away quickly. “M-maybe. But then I’d have to… talk to people…” Irbimon frowned, it was unlike Eva to act so… Poemon-like. The last time he had seen that expression on her face was her first day of high school – she had been utterly petrified.

But then, he had been there to reassure her that day, and had basically frustrated some sense into her.

Her mother sighed audibly and gently pressed the screen of the lap top closed. “Then at least go out and get some air, I shouldn’t have to baby you like this at your age. There’s all sorts of events downtown today, go take advantage of them.” She left before Eva could protest more.

Irbimon’s face was in a constant state of confusion as he followed Eva out of the house. Neither she nor her mother could see nor hear him, and the same was the case with everyone they met. It took all of his brain power to come to the vague conclusion that the world he was in was one in which he didn’t exist. And without his somewhat pushy influence, Eva never broke out of her shell.

It was frustrating to watch; he could only imagine how trying it must have been for Tom to spend his life with Poemon, who basically had to have her confidence beaten into her with all the fighting. He wanted to both smack and comfort Eva when she started tearing up after the bus driver told her she was ten cents short. She had the change, it wasn’t a problem, she just had to dig more out of her purse.

They walked down the streets in silence, Eva sidestepping everyone and keeping her eyes on the ground. This world looked almost exactly the same to Irbimon, except for the incredibly dreary weather, as if it had been threatening to rain for days but the clouds wouldn’t let up.

Every-so-often he would pass a block where he knew a different store from the one he saw should be there. He wondered about the unknown repercussions of himself and his comrades’ existences, that in some distant way they affected things like this.

His comrades.

He silently chastised himself for forgetting about them in his confusion and concern for Eva. They must either be in the exact same situation as him, or also not in existence. He didn’t like the thought of himself as a ghost in this world and chose to accept the first possibility as truth. Immediately he opened his ears and nose to his surroundings, hoping to pick up any sign of anyone.

Informative posters hung in some of the shop windows, advertising some week-long awareness campaign and listing off a few locations for events. He hoped that there would be something that the alternate versions of his human friends would be mutually interested in, and even dared to hope that Eva would be willing to brave the crowds long enough for him to search for them.

-----------------------------

Frankie slowly drew the lip gloss wand over her lips. She checked her makeup over again in the vanity mirror, looking left and right with her hair tied in a ponytail. She stood up, gripping her towel and walking towards her closet for an outfit, humming a tune that Siberimon couldn’t pinpoint right away.

Siberimon watched from the bed, staring blankly. She couldn’t hear him, she couldn’t see him, and all he could do was take in what was going on. He was flat out shocked, so shocked that all he could do was stare.
Frankie seemed normal, nothing off. She was missing her signature blonde streak that he was so used to seeing her have, but aside from that and the fact that she lived in a very modern and expensive penthouse... it was all normal.

When she came from out of the walk-in closet, she proceeded to get dressed. Again, nothing out of the ordinary. After placing on some skin-tight jeans, five inch pencil heels and a belly shirt to match, Frankie put on her accessories and grabbed her purse. Siberimon slid himself off the bed, feeling like a zombie, and followed her out the room.

Stepping out of the room, to the left, the penthouse looked out into the city, with the entire wall made of nothing but windows that allowed all of the sunlight in. The actual walls were very white, not even off-white, and the floors were a black gloss marble - sleek and clean, the black furniture and decorations matched perfectly and the lights built into the ceiling were dimly lit. Siberimon could tell Frankie had decorated the place, full of highly priced paintings and plants that basked in the windows. Frankie’s heels clicked the floor as she walked towards the couch which faced away from her in the center of the giant room.

“I’m going to the memorial service, you sure you don’t want to come?” she asked softly, leaning down.

The occupant of the couch didn’t answer, or they didn’t answer loud enough for Siberimon to hear.

She leaned forward, wrapping her arms around the figure’s neck. “You sure?”

Reyez didn’t look up from his drawing. “Positive,” he answered as his cigarette hung loosely in his mouth. He continued to draw into his sketch pad as his legs were elevated on the all-glass coffee table in front of him. The entire living room faced away from the windows, in front of a wall that occupied a huge flat screen television over the modern fireplace. Reyez wasn’t paying much attention to the TV, using it as background noise as he drew.

“Well, I’ll be back later,” Frankie kissed him on the cheek before walking out. Siberimon followed, not saying a word.

Ailurmon sat beside Reyez on the couch. Her eyes were half hooded, staring at the TV. Like Siberimon, she had come to terms that she could not be heard or seen, but sitting beside Reyez didn’t seem any different than any other time.

When the two Digimon had awoken, they were shocked to find themselves in this expensive place. Reyez and Frankie were apparently together and seemingly loaded with money. Siberimon and Ailurmon were more than shocked and confused at first, protesting to their partners, but soon discovered that they didn’t exist. There were pictures around the penthouse of the two, apparently happy and married. The place was tidy, well kept, and even Reyez’s smoking was kept to a minimum.

When the door shut, Reyez looked away from his picture. He placed the sketchbook aside and stood up, walking to another room. It was the first time Reyez had made a drastic movement from anywhere besides the kitchen since Ailurmon had woken up, and she found herself curious to follow him.

Reyez opened the door to another bedroom, the room was dark and Ailurmon couldn’t decide if she should’ve walked in or not. Before she could make a decision, she leaped back at someone falling on the floor in front of her. The man tried to stand up but was bound by his hands and feet, gagged with a piece of torn cloth around his mouth and eyes.

Reyez walked out of the room, shutting the door behind him. He grabbed the man by the back of his tattered t-shirt and threw him back down in the open area by the windows. The man groaned in pain. Reyez kneeled down, releasing the guy of his gag and blindness.

“HELP! HELP!!!” the man screamed immediately.

Ailurmon had gotten close enough to recognize the young man. It was Miles. Ailurmon was quite curious as to what was going on. Obviously Miles had done something to piss Reyez off, especially for Reyez to tie and gag the man. She knew much about Miles, and the history behind him. Reyez’s mother and his father use to date, and from that he and Reyez used to be childhood friends. Their parents were almost married but it never worked out because of Reyez’s mother being comfortable with her lifestyle, and his dad wanting more. Around high school, when Miles’ father had struck it big in the music business, he had started to resent Reyez and other things followed. No matter how cool Reyez acted, Ailurmon always knew that Miles could get under his skin pretty quickly. Miles had secrets on Reyez that not even Frankie knew, and it was hard for Reyez to accept that someone he used to call his brother had turned into such a spoiled and demented person.

“Where’s the money?” Reyez said simply, still kneeling down.

“I don’t FUCKING KNOW, MAN!” Miles shouted, almost snarling.

Reyez rubbed the bridge of his nose in aggravation. “Yes, yes you do know.”

“Look! I’m telling the truth, okay? Maybe you should ask your fucking WIFE. SHE might know!”

Reyez took it into thought, maybe Miles was right.

“All I know is that when you two ran off and bumped uglies, some of my money went missing. You’re a pretty wealthy dude, Miles. You’d have no reason to steal from me right?”

“RIGHT!” Miles came to a slow realization. “Wait, how’d you...?”

Reyez stood up. “Did you really think I wouldn’t know where my wife was?”

“You’re nothing but a fucking sociopath who gets off on watching other people’s lives get destroyed! How many people are you going to fucking ruin before the police catch up with you? I took your wife away from your crazy ass, but all I can see is that she’s just as fucked up, and a lying bitch! FUCK!” Miles began to sob into the floor.

Reyez lifted up his tank top, pulling the gun from its holster on the side of his jeans. “You’ve become totally useless”

“Wait REY-”


Ailurmon screamed in shock of the gunshot. She fell back on her butt, sliding away from Reyez and Miles. Reyez had his fits, but Reyez was nowhere near this level. Her eyes shook as she looked at the man she thought she knew. Reyez’s face was just like it always was: unreadable, with no sign of any emotion.

He nudged Miles’ body over with his foot, smirking. Ailurmon could see the blood pooling on the floor and the sight of it was making her sick. She couldn’t stand the sight of this, let alone breathe. Ailurmon scrambled to her feet and ran out to what she was hoping was the front door.

-----------------------------

Poemon’s panic was beginning to get the best of her, as if all the calmness she had gained since first evolving was forgotten. This hadn’t felt right from the moment she had woken up, and it was just getting worse.

She had woken up cold with her limbs aching, which she soon realized was as much from the bolt of lightning as it was from having laid on a metal floor for who knows how long. She was in the bed of a pickup truck, full of various tools and unmarked boxes. The engine was off and it was parked outside of a strip mall on what she assumed were the outskirts of town, but Tom was nowhere to be seen.

After briefly checking her surroundings for people, she fluttered onto the roof of the truck to get a better look at everything. The location was completely unfamiliar to her. Poemon was about to launch herself into the air when the jingle of a convenience store door caught her attention, and she dived back into the bed of the truck.

It took far longer than it should have for her to even recognize her partner.

Tom’s hair was grown long, pulled back in a slick ponytail at the base of his neck. No bangs framed his face, like the way Hunter wore his hair. She hated the look on him instantly.

Once the shock from that revelation wore off, she noticed the dark patterns of tattoos down his neck and each of his arms. Poemon had nothing against tattoos – she rather liked the ones Reyez had – but to see them on Tom was absolutely bizarre.

But what finally set her off was who was pressed against his hip, his arm resting on her waist while her hand rested on her purse straps. The characteristically disgusted expression rumbled up some very uncommon emotions within Poemon.

It was his ex-girlfriend Halie. Short, dark-haired, and a two-faced woman the likes of which Poemon had only ever again seen in Bella.

It had been her, as Corvimon, who overheard Halie’s incriminating phone call while Tom was taking a shower. It revealed that she was, to put it simply: a lying, cheating bitch, and once the conversation was relayed to Tom later that night, puzzle pieces fell into place around him and caused a swift end to that escapade.

The completely ineffective flailing and accusing and borderline crying that followed made it clear to Poemon that she was as a ghost to Tom. The confusion that that revelation caused was quickly overtaken by utter panic.

If he was still with that woman, she must have never been able to tell him the truth about her. This thought grew stronger and clearer as she followed them in the back of the truck, which finally rumbled to a stop outside of a somewhat dilapidated mechanic’s garage.

A man stormed out from the large open door, his head shaved bald and a thin, dark goatee over his chin. He swore incomprehensibly before slamming his palm down on the hood of the truck. “And where the hell have you been!?”

“Relaaaax Manuel,” Tom replied. “I was in a tight spot for a bit, and my lovely Halie here got me out of it. Didn’t you, babe?”

Halie snorted derisively. “If you call dropping cash on freeing your useless ass ‘getting you out of it’. We’re gonna have a hell of a time making rent this month, and the kids will be back to eating Cheerios for dinner.”

Poemon spluttered.

Manuel crossed his arms over his chest. “You’ve been gone for three days, boy. Joseph’s been gone for a week, as planned, and shit’s been hard to manage on my own. Where the hell have you been?” he repeated.

Tom shrugged. “Jail.” Poemon’s beak hung open. “Hit a guy for being an asshole and the cops don’t take it lightly.”

His boss, on the other hand, took it considerably more lightly. He scoffed and threw an oily rag at Tom’s chest. “Well get your ass back to work. This shit ain’t going to fix itself.”

The whole situation had Poemon dumbstruck, and feeling like she must be in a bad movie. But the more things happened around her, the more she pieced together how the world, their world, had changed. If Tom was with Halie because she never told him the truth, then so she must not have been able to advise him against other less than safe choices in life. She felt a small glimmer of parent-like pride for having helped him out so much through his younger years – granted, much of that consisted of “please don’t do that it scares me” – but it was quickly extinguished when she glimpsed the scrunched-up face of Halie.

The unsettling thing was that Halie was looking directly at Poemon, with the smuggest of grins spread on her face.

-----------------------------

To say she was confused was an understatement.

Odocomon had gone beyond confused to downright frightened. Nothing was as it should have been, and being alone only made her worry and fret more.

She had woken up in James’ room, groggy, lying on the beanbag she slept on. The blue fleece James covered her with was folded up beneath her, rather than covering her as she slept, and it took her a few minutes to wake up fully and remember what had happened.

She recalled The Rift, the pain of the lightning, and that was it. There was nothing else in her memory except a vague haze of noise. She stepped off the beanbag and turned towards James’ bed, expecting to see him lying there, sprawled out and snoring with a comic book open on his chest. An image she was used to.

The bed was empty, made, and everything was away. The room was tidy, almost discerningly so. James liked everything to have a place, and was fastidious about certain things, like his hardcover comics being in order of series and release. But for the most part he didn’t mind things like clothes being in the wrong place or left out.

It dawned on Odocomon slowly as she looked at the bed and the walls. Everything was laid out differently. This wasn’t James’ room. Well... it was. But not his current room. This was his room in the old house they had lived in before they had moved into the Atlas Corp provided building.

“This isn’t my house,” Odocomon murmured softly to herself. “Why are we in this house?” She stepped towards the desk and rose up onto her hind legs to peer at the things that were there. There were a few photographs of James with his family, his brothers and sister. One of him and Tabitha, his grandmother. She counted them back to herself, there was one missing. One of herself and James that Frankie had taken. In it James had been doubled over laughing, while Odocomon had been sitting back in a pond with water reeds over her head where she’d stumbled.

Odocomon had hated it, but James liked it too much to let Frankie delete it, despite Odocomon’s request.

An odder thing was that James’ Captain America wallet was sitting on the desk by his lamp. He never went anywhere without it, or his house keys, which lay beside the wallet. The only time he took them off his person was when he was going to bed, or going to be in the shower. Even when he was relaxing at home, he kept the wallet and keys in his pocket in case he needed to leave urgently.

The door leading to the hallway was closed – which wasn’t so strange – but it meant Odocomon had no way of leaving until James came back from where ever he had gone. It only led to more questions. After all, she had woken up here, so why not James? Unless he’d woken up first.

But that begged the question, that if he had woken first, and seen that they were in the wrong house, surely he would have woken her up to alert her of it? Wouldn’t that have made sense? He wouldn’t have gone off to explore or find things out on his own.

More questions rattled around Odocomon’s brain as she paced around the room. Comics were all in line on the bookshelf, spines showing. His clothes were put away in the cupboard or hung up perfectly with the hangers all around the same way. Even his shoes had been lined up in pairs at the bottom of the open cupboard. The only item of clothing that wasn’t away was his maroon leather jacket, with the orange stripes on the shoulders.

It had been one of his favorite items of clothing. Old and comfortable, and he had pledged to never get rid of it. It lay on his bed, neatly folded like he had taken it out of the wardrobe to wear it, and completely forgotten about it.

Worry churned in Odocomon’s gut and she found herself pacing the floor one way, then the other slowly. She wanted to know James was safe. She wanted to know where the others were. And she wanted to know what had happened to put them back in this house?

The door to James’ room opened slowly, and Odocomon’s ears pricked up. She stopped pacing and turned on the spot to greet James.

Only, it wasn’t James who walked in.

The door opened slowly, shedding more light into the room from the windows in the hallway. Tabitha held onto the door handle and peered over the room. Odocomon’s spirits fell, it wasn’t James, but Tabitha could answer some of her questions surely.

“Tabitha?” Odocomon spoke up, walking towards the elderly woman. She didn’t seem to hear Odocomon, looking over the room with watery grey eyes. Her face was still, and oddly calm.

“Hello...” Tabitha murmured, stepping slowly over the threshold. She was practically shaking.

Odocomon peered up at her. “Tabitha?” she said again.

Without responding, Tabitha walked across the carpet. She was dressed in a black pant suit, her hair had been drawn back into a low braid, and she carried a blue crochet blanket in her arms. Odocomon recognized it immediately. It had been James’ baby blanket, Tabitha had made it for him before he was born and embroidered his name onto the edge of it. As a way of not missing him when he went to school as child, Odocomon – as Fallomon – had often wrapped herself in the blanket to surround herself with James’ smell until he was home again.

The blanket was hung over Tabitha’s arm, leaving blue fibers on her black clothing. She laid it next to the jacket as she sat down on the bed and picked it up.

Odocomon approached apprehensively, watching as Tabitha brought the jacket up to her face and inhaled deeply. When she placed it in her lap, her eyes were full of tears and her lower lip and chin quivered. All of her earlier calm seemed to have disappeared.

Odocomon stepped towards her. “What’s going on?” she asked, desperation and urgency cracking at the edges of her voice. “Tabitha, where is James?”

A noise of a floorboard creaking grabbed Odocomon’s attention. She turned her head to see Noah and Marie peeking around the door frame. Noah was tall and skinny with hair like Marie’s, only longer and more unkempt. His eyes were the same grey-blue of Tabitha’s. He was dressed in a suit, black pants, black jacket and shirt. Marie had had her hair brushed, and wore a black dress with a bow on the front. Her eyes were red, swollen. She carried a pink handkerchief in one hand.

“Grams...” Noah said softly walking across the carpet. He sat down beside Tabitha and wrapped an arm around the old woman’s shoulders. They shook violently and she buried her face in her hands. He said nothing else, just sat there with a blank expression on his face. His skin looked grey, and there were huge bags under his eyes, like he hadn’t slept.

Marie came in a few seconds later.

“Marie!” Odocomon yelped, standing in front of the little girl. Marie didn’t see or hear her, instead making a beeline for Tabitha, and laid her head on her grandmother’s lap.

Odocomon began to breathe faster, and her blood ran cold. This was wrong. This was so very wrong. The evidence was right before her eyes, yet she refused to believe it. She didn’t want to believe it. He couldn’t have been dead. She would know. There would have been a feeling, something, a gut wrenching feeling that would have told her.

And why would he be dead?

“What happened?!” Odocomon yelled. “Where’s James?! Listen to me!” she was screaming, her voice straining as she choked on her own words and felt tears stinging her eyes. “Why won’t any of you answer me?!” She stomped her hooves. “TELL ME!!”

Noah stood up first, and took Tabitha’s hand. “Come on, the car is here.”

“I can’t,” Tabitha murmured, her grip increasing on the jacket. “If I go there, it’ll be like it’s real.”

“But it is real, Grams,” Noah told her. His voice wasn’t harsh or angry. It was sad, and Odocomon could hear it quiver as he tried to be strong for his grandmother. “James is dead. He killed himself...”

“No,” Odocomon breathed.

“And we have to say goodbye.”

“NO!” she screamed. “NO. HE ISN’T DEAD! HE WOULDN’T HAVE KILLED HIMSELF!” They couldn’t hear her and in her frustration she bolted from the room and scrabbled down the stairs on gangly legs that seemed to move all on their own. Her vision was blurred by tears as she ran through the open doors.

He would be there. Working on his truck, she would see him and it would all be fine.

The sunlight and fresh air hit her like a sudden wall, and she stopped in her tracks. She saw James’ other brother Elliot waiting by a black car, looking solemn. In the front of a car was the driver, and sitting in the backseat was James’ father. Behind that was a second black car, longer than the first, with tinted windows in the back.

Odocomon swallowed hard, feeling like there was something stuck in her throat and it was choking her. She couldn’t breathe. She steeled herself and walked towards the second car, not wanting to look or see, but finding herself unable to look away.

There were flowers along the inside of the car, different colors in nicely arranged wreaths. They sat around a coffin with silver bars for the pall bearers. Walking around the back, the flowers had been arranged in a wreath that spelled out ‘James’.


“Oh God...” Odocomon whispered, her voice cracking. “What happened to you?”

-----------------------------

The cemetery and the grounds around it were awash with people, bodies moving to-and-fro as they meandered and mingled around each other. It was difficult to navigate in a crowd of people at the best of times, harder still when there were people tightly packed together. Herded almost, like sheep.

Siberimon slipped in and out between the crowd, trying to keep up with Frankie as she easily ushered people aside and they moved to part for her. Where Frankie was going was anyone’s guess. Siberimon couldn’t say. Considering this wasn’t the Frankie he felt he knew, she could have been taking a trip through the cemetery anywhere, but he followed her none-the-less. She might not have been able to see him, but being close to her gave him some comfort and a sense of belonging. He would protect her, as he had always protected her, even if that protection would go unnoticed.

He had seen as he entered a sign on the notice board outside the churchyard. There was a memorial service for someone who had committed suicide less than a week ago. The town had been filled with purple signs and ribbons, posters and pamphlets about “National Suicide Prevention Week” so Siberimon had put two-and-two together and come up with the most logical answer, that this memorial for the suicide victim was not only a memorial service, but also something that was meant to bring attention to it, for the town’s people.

He had spotted a couple of black cars driving into the cemetery as he and Frankie had arrived, obviously the bereaved family. He admired their courage, making such a personal thing public, to draw awareness to something so painful. He couldn’t imagine doing it himself, and hoped he would never have to.

When Frankie stopped suddenly, Siberimon bashed into the back of her leg and fell back a few paces. Frankie rubbed the back of her calf with her other foot, then placed both feet on the ground and peered over the heads of other people around her.

They were quite close to the front of the crowd.

Chairs were lined in front of an open grave; they were cordoned off from the main crowd. The main service was taking place in the church, as far as Siberimon could tell, and then there would be an additional service in the cemetery grounds for the crowds, as the casket was lowered into the grave.

“Piper!” Frankie called, waving over the heads of several people.

Siberimon felt a short burst of relief. Piper, she would be able to talk sense into Frankie! But his moment of relief was quickly diminished. If Frankie here was not like the Frankie he really knew, then there was nothing to say the Piper here would be any different.

He saw the blond girl approaching, her hair was long and her face was mostly covered, dressed in baggy clothing. He saw Caesarmon too, weaving in and out of the legs of people. He caught the otter Digimon’s gaze. His face was drawn and he looked quiet, upset. Obviously the same fate had befallen Piper as had befallen Frankie. Siberimon was willing to venture a guess that it would be the same for all of them. He wanted to leave. There was no point staying, really, if their partners could not see them, and they would do better finding the others and figuring out a way out of his mixed up reality. But at the same time he felt compelled to stay. Like he had to. Like if he left, he would be missed, or would miss something.

“Hey,” Caesarmon greeted in a sour tone. He sat down on the ground as Piper stood beside Frankie. Siberimon flattened his ears.

“Piper isn’t the same, is she?” Siberimon asked.

Caesarmon looked at him. He saw a small glimmer of relief, which was over shadowed by his sadness. “No. She doesn’t know I’m here.”

“Frankie doesn’t know I’m here either,” Siberimon told him, “and she’s married to Reyez. He couldn’t see Ailurmon either.”

Caesarmon frowned. “Piper’s dating Travis. Or… being forced to date him. And he’s mean. He hurts her.” He sniffled, rubbing his face with one of his paws. “Do you think this is hell? Or a punishment?”

“I’m sure there’s a more logical explanation,” Siberimon said. He didn’t want to admit his own fears.

“You let Travis hit you again,” Frankie pointed out, poking at Piper’s bruised eye.

Piper flinched away from her. “I didn’t let anyone hit me. You don’t let people hit you. They just do,” she snapped fiercely.

“You really need to break up with his sorry ass,” Frankie told her, folding her arms. She spoke to Piper in the tone a parent spoke to a petulant child. “It’s not doing you any good. I mean, have you seen yourself in the mirror lately? No offence.”

“This Frankie’s kind of a bitch,” Caesarmon stated, as he and Siberimon listened to the conversation from the ground.

“It’s not like I haven’t tried,” Piper retorted.

“Obviously haven’t tried hard enough,” Frankie said primly.

Piper glowered. “And how’s that coming clean to Reyez about screwing with Miles coming?” she asked, folding her arms. Frankie said something in return, but neither Siberimon nor Caesarmon heard as Irbimon ran through the crowd towards them, crashing into his brother.

“You’re here! THANK GOD!” Irbimon yelled. He stood back away from Siberimon who was glaring at him in a heap on the ground. “Eva is not Eva! She’s this meek, weak thing with no back bone! And she eats cake! So much cake! I mean, I love cake! But she eats a lot of cake!” He was waving his arms wildly. “She’s not with Tom – which I guess isn’t a bad thing – but this isn’t Eva!”

The plum haired girl had arrived as Irbimon had been ranting. She had diffused some of the tension between Frankie and Piper by standing in-between the two other women. Siberimon and Caesarmon looked at her, aside from a little extra chub around her face, Eva looked relatively unchanged. Though her posture was more introverted and shy than they had ever seen it before.

“Well… she’s still Eva. Just not the Eva you know,” Caesarmon said slowly. He was sitting up on his hind legs examining the three of them as they stood talking.

“Ergo,” Irbimon snapped impatiently, “not my Eva. She’s a pod person!”

Siberimon stared at his brother incredulously. “Pod person?”

“Do you have a better suggestion for her non-Eva-ish-ness?!” Irbimon was waving his arms again, frantic and demanding answers his brother and Caesarmon did not have. “Where’s Poemon? And the others?” he asked suddenly, dropping his arms to his sides.

Siberimon raised one shoulder. “We don’t know. We only found each other by following our partners here. I last saw Ailurmon at the apartment Frankie and Reyez share. But she stayed with him.”

“Wait.” Irbimon held his paws up. “Frankie and Reyez… live together?”

“They’re married,” Siberimon informed him, his voice flat.

Irbimon blinked once. Twice. “Wow.”

“And Piper isn’t dating Hunter,” Caesarmon added. “Seems like everything is different. I don’t really understand why though.”

Irbimon went to speak, but stopped short as he saw the doors to the church opening. A hush fell over the crowd, conversations stopping mid-flow. People looked at the image solemnly, hands clasped in front of them. Some just stared. Many members of the crowd were wearing purple ribbons. A priest walked out, followed by a polished wooden coffin carried by four pall-bearers. Following them was the family of the deceased, dressed entirely in black.

Siberimon’s ears flattened and he moved through the legs and feet of people standing around as the family members sat on the chairs. Irbimon and Caesarmon followed swiftly, not wanting to get separated in this strange universe they had found themselves in.

They quickly saw why Siberimon had left Frankie and the others. They hadn’t noticed it themselves, too focused on the casket and the precession being let out into the churchyard, but Odocomon had followed the family at a short distance. She was flopped down in the grass, barely a foot away from the open grave. Siberimon had recognized the family from meeting them once or twice when Frankie had visited James’ house.

He approached the deer Digimon apprehensively. Her eyes were dim and bloodshot, and she looked oddly small, almost completely obscured by the long grass. She glanced at him, but did nothing else. Her ears flattened and her eyes focused on the coffin as it was fixed onto the pulleys that would soon lower it and the body within into the soil.

Irbimon and Caesarmon stood a few feet back, unseen by the crowds who watched and listened as the priest began a eulogy.

Eventually, Siberimon sat down next to Odocomon, lifted her head into his lap and stroked between her horns wordlessly. Odocomon’s body shook and trembled, eyes clenched tightly shut. Unable to think of anything to say or do, Irbimon and Caesarmon retained their distance and their silence.

The flapping of birds wings wasn’t unusual. Several flocks of crows and pigeons had taken off, landed, and swooped in and around the crowd and the grave site since the priest had started speaking. He spoke slowly, his voice deep and low – which didn’t seem to fit the man’s stature of being short, balding man, no taller than Rose.

Irbimon glanced above him when the sound of bird wings continued. The shape of Poemon was unmistakable as she hovered above them. She wasn’t looking at them though. Instead she remained airborne, looking in another direction out into the crowd. Her eyes moved swiftly, following something or someone that moved among the gathered people.

“Poemon,” Irbimon called to her quietly. Neither Siberimon nor Odocomon had moved for some time, and Irbimon felt like a loud noise would disrupt them. Poemon looked at him quickly, smiled, and then returned her gaze back to where she had been peering first.

Irbimon’s ears twitched as he heard the soft falls of paws on the grass. Caesarmon had heard them too, and was staring into the crowd, trying to make out the owners of the footfalls. Skollmon’s flaming tail was visible first, obvious through the sea of legs and trousers. He was followed by Hatimon as they easily swerved and dodged people. Both were looking at Poemon, using her airborne height as an indicator of where to go.

Once the twins had seen the other Digimon, Poemon easily landed on the ground, a little out of breath. She ruffled her feathers and returned Irbimon’s hug. Skollmon and Hatimon slowed upon reaching their companions.

“How are your Tamers?” Caesarmon asked the wolf twins.

“Strange,” Hatimon said honestly. “Russell is alive. Logan lives with them. Bella is… not the Bella we know. And Rose is a weakling.”

“And Hunter’s a pompous, outspoken ass,” Skollmon added. Hatimon gave him a surprised look and he tilted his head. “What? I’m allowed to say that about him when he’s being… like how we saw.”

Irbimon looked at Poemon. “Where’s Tom?”

“He’s… not Tom,” Poemon said softly. “Not the Tom we all know. He’s… grungy. And unwashed. He has long hair and is with his old girlfriend. The one who cheated on him.”

“So same thing with Piper, Eva and Frankie then,” Irbimon sighed. He rubbed his paws over his face, feeling tired. “None of this makes sense.”

“How did you know we were here?” Caesarmon inquired.

Hatimon shook her head. “We didn’t. We came from Hunter and Rose’s old house. We were waiting for Bella to leave, but Hunter and Rose left instead so we hitched a lift in the car. They went shopping, and while we followed them around, we bumped in to Poemon, who was following Tom. We decided to stay together – safety in numbers – and when we read the signs about the funeral for,” Hatimon lowered her voice, “James, we decided to come here to find Odocomon.”

Caesarmon spoke softly too, hoping Odocomon couldn’t hear him. “How did you know the funeral was for him?”

“It was written on a leaflet that blew into my face: Memorial service for James Parker,” Skollmon explained. He looked across at Siberimon and Odocomon. “I guess she’s not…”

“She hasn’t said anything,” Irbimon explained. “Not to us.”

Skollmon and Hatimon’s ears drooped. Poemon preened a few of her feathers gently, before she shivered suddenly like there had been a cold breeze. She brushed it off swiftly. “So, who has any ideas about what’s happened to them?”

“I think it’s pod people,” Irbimon said.

Poemon regarded him for a moment. “Any sensible suggestions?”

“Hatimon had one,” Skollmon nominated his sister and nudged her with his nose. “It’s a good one too.”

“Ryudamon’s idea about us being transported from The Rift backfired somewhat,” Hatimon proffered. She sounded certain though, like her suggestion was more statement of fact. “I was considering it in the car. Russell… was odd. His behavior was very much like Bella’s, and like Rose’s was when under the Parasite’s control. It’s my theory that this… universe, I suppose, is one where the Parasite broke through from the Digital World when Russell returned that one time. That the Gods never destroyed it, or possibly never even existed. That our Tamers here are a reflection of what they would have been like… had we never entered their lives.”

Her words were met with silence and looks from the other Digimon that stood around her. None of them spoke, considering her logic and her comments on the idea. It was a thought that none of them had really considered much, but now that it was out in the open, it seemed to be the most sensible and obvious explanation for the changes in their Tamers and their demeanor.

“I used to eat all the cake Eva made,” Irbimon said slowly.

Hatimon regarded him, puzzled. “That’s… nice?”

“No, no,” Irbimon murmured, “it makes sense now.” He was staring at the plum girl’s face, which was visible over the shoulder of someone else in the front row. “When Eva would bake, she would eat maybe one slice of cake. Then I would eat any other slices she brought up. Whether I was Uncimon or Ouncemon, it didn’t matter. And she’s so meek. I used to… pick on her for that. When she let herself get walked all over, I would tell her off. Make her stand up for herself… Without me… no-one’s been there to eat the cake. Or to tell her to grow a backbone.”

“I guess without Odocomon, James didn’t have anyone to talk to about his problems and how he felt,” Poemon reasoned sadly. “He didn’t have any support. And Tom broke up with Halie because of me. I found out she was cheating on him, and told him. Without me, he’s never found out the truth.”

“And Piper’s never had me to defend her from Travis. Or to help her with her studying. Or to encourage her to do well. She used to take me to exams as a good luck charm, when I was Tiberimon and small enough to fit in her bag...” Caesarmon smiled at the memory. “She’d talk to me after the exam was over and tell me how she thought it went.”

The sudden knowledge, and how now the changes in their partners made sense, caused the Digimon to fall silent. They had all impacted on their partner’s lives. There was no way they could not have. It was disruptive, having a Digimon to cart around all the time. All their deeds, the times they had protected their partners, not necessarily from Digimon attacks, but in other ways had easily, in recent events, paled into the background. Now the proof was in front of them, the people their Tamers could have become without them.

They were resolved to get them back. Somehow.

They would.

Poemon squawked suddenly, taking to the air in a fluster before landing quickly. Her feathers were ruffled and she’d puffed up to twice her size. Irbimon looked at her strangely, while Poemon composed herself and smoothed down her feathers again. She’d been getting odd sensations and feelings since being in the cemetery. She had initially put it down to her powers, the fact she was of a dark nature, and cemeteries held certain affluence for corvids. Now though, she wasn’t so sure.

The little crow had no time to mention this to her companions as she heard the sound of running footfalls and heavy breathing coming towards them. The others had heard it too. Hatimon and Skollmon stared down the hill through the sea of legs in the direction of the sound, which seemed louder than everything else. Louder than the pastor and his words, louder than the hum of the crowd as people spoke to one another in hushed voices. Louder than the breeze that shook leaves from the tree branches. The sound over-rode all other sounds, and was quickly joined by the sight of Ailurmon, shoving through legs, an expression of panic written across her face.

-----------------------------

“What’s wrong?” Caesarmon asked as Ailurmon reached the small group.

She breathed heavily, planting her hands on her legs. The panda’s hair and fur was ruffled. She appeared disheveled and when she looked at the other Digimon her eyes were wide with terror. “Reyez – is – coming,” she told them between breaths.

Caesarmon glanced across at the others with an uncertain look on his face. Irbimon shrugged, while Hatimon and Skollmon looked at one another, puzzled. Poemon was the only one whose face was etched with concern for what Ailurmon had said.

“What’s changed with Reyez?” Irbimon asked, hoping questioning Ailurmon would shed some light on her panic.

“He’s – CRAZY,” Ailurmon shouted. Irbimon reeled back from her words, but she grabbed him by the fur and yanked him towards her, her face frantic. “He’s a different Reyez. A completely different Reyez!” She spoke quickly and without stopping for breath if she could; her voice was strangled. “He shot Miles! Shot him dead! Frankie’s been cheating on him with Miles and I saw him shoot Miles. Point blank range!”

Poemon stared. “Shot him?”

“YES!” Ailurmon yelled. “With a gun! In the head! There was blood everywhere. And Reyez didn’t even flinch!” The panda shoved Irbimon away, sending him sprawling onto the grass. She reached for Poemon who fluttered just out of her range. “REYEZ HAS GONE NUTS. AND HE’S COMING HERE!!”

“Why?” Hatimon prompted. She hid the worry in her voice well, but there was still a hint of it there. The Digimon might not have been visible, audible or tangible to their partners, but none of them wanted to see someone injured.

“To confront Frankie,” Ailurmon said. “Why do you think!?”

“We have to do something-” Caesarmon started.

“Too late.” Odocomon’s voice was a crack over their words. No one had seen or heard Siberimon or Odocomon approach. They had been silent. But they had obviously heard every word. “He’s here.”

Ailurmon’s face fell. They followed Odocomon’s gaze.

Reyez was standing beside Frankie, barely a foot away from her. He looked nonchalant, calm. His face a picture of indifference. Reyez was good at hiding his emotions and intentions, they all knew that. This was different though. His face was calm, but his posture was rigid, like he was holding some deep set rage and trying hard to hold onto it as long as he could.

The Digimon watched, and listened. Powerless to stop things unfolding.

“Frankie.” Reyez’s voice was like a hiss in her ear, a soft hiss, and it made her spine shiver. She turned to her left, seeing him standing there.

“I didn’t think you were coming, babe,” Frankie whispered back, her lips breaking out into a smile. Both Piper and Eva edged off a little. Reyez scared them both, though they would never tell Frankie that, and the further away they were from him the better. “What made you change your mind?” Frankie tried to slip her hand into Reyez’s but he moved it before her fingers could connect.

“I was having a chat with Miles…” Reyez explained, as if he was just mentioning the time. Color drained from Frankie’s face.

“Miles…?”

Reyez nodded. “Some money went missing. I had a friendly chat to ask where it was.”

Frankie knew what a ‘friendly chat’ meant. “…What did you do to Miles?” she asked slowly. She took a step away, but Reyez grabbed her wrist tightly and squeezed. Frankie winced; he yanked her towards him roughly. She glimpsed the butt of a pistol in his dominant hand and tried not to scream.

“Did you think I didn’t know you two were bumping uglies?” Reyez snarled, though his face was calm. And that terrified Frankie, and the Digimon watching. Siberimon was growling softly, he would have attacked, thrown himself full force at Reyez, but he knew it would be pointless. There was nothing he could do. He was powerless, just as everyone else was.

So far, no one else around the couple had noticed the firearm, or the vice-like grip Reyez kept on Frankie’s wrist. He pulled her roughly. “We’re going home for a bit of couple’s counseling,” Reyez said softly, beginning to pull Frankie. She planted her heels into the ground and clawed at the hand Reyez had around her wrist.

“PIPER!” Travis’s voice went up above the noise. His call stopped the priest mid-sentence and the old man looked over his Bible in the direction of the noise. People began to mutter.

Piper had immediately cowered behind Eva upon hearing his voice. Eva looked just as frightened.

“Where are you~?!” Travis’s words were slurring together and it was clear to see as he became visible, as the sea of people parted to let him through, that he was severely drunk, or high. Or both.

Caesarmon growled. Hatimon held him back.

“Bitch! I said where are you?!” Travis yelled. He threw something, a beer bottle, which narrowly missed someone’s head. The pastor was staring at the drunkard coldly. Tabitha was crying, holding Marie close to her body, while Noah and Elliott stared over the seats they sat on, glaring.

Piper squeaked and hid further behind Eva.

Reyez seemed to be the only one ignoring Travis’ arrival. He pulled on Frankie’s arm roughly, pulling her almost off her feet.

“Reyez, let go!” Frankie complained. “You’re hurting me.”

He said nothing, pulled again, getting enough leverage to start walking, and gaining momentum so Frankie could not sink her heels into the ground. The parted crowd made dragging her much easier.

Travis shouldered Reyez as he stalked past. Turned, in his drunken state, grabbed Reyez by the back of the shirt and shoved him. “You bumped me,” Travis said in a voice that was begging for an argument. “You should apologize.”

Reyez stared at the taller, drunken man with a bored expression. He glanced at Frankie.

“No! Don’t! Reyez, he hasn’t done anything!”

Her shouts fell on deaf ears.

Reyez lifted the pistol, aimed, and squeezed the trigger gently; all in the time it took for Travis’ eyes to open wide and realization to hit him. His lanky body hit the ground with a thud, blood seeping from a head wound.

Reyez sighed. “Sorry.”

Eva screamed.

Bodies were running, scrabbling to get away. Screams were echoing up in a myriad of voices, indistinguishable from one another. Several people fell over and were getting trampled in the stampede. Others climbed over tombstones, and tried to escape over the high flint walls that surrounded the cemetery.
In the panic, the Digimon clutched each other in the effort to not get separated again. They were knocked and jostled about. Shoved, and pushed, kicked. But no one saw them. No one noticed them, paid them any regard.

It was like watching a disaster film unfold.

“How does it feel to be powerless?”

Everything began to slow down, turn into slow motion and silence. Even the wind was silenced, the birds, the cars. The sounds of sirens that had erupted in the distance. It was eerily quiet. People stopped moving, freezing in place, in positions like statues, their faces a picture of pure panic and fear.

Color seemed to drain from around the Digimon, instead being covered by a strange black outline, a shadow that covered the whole cemetery and branched from the other side of James’ open grave. It was coming from the priest.

He was staring at the Digimon squarely, his mouth drawn in a thin, manic smile.

Hatimon’s spine quivered, and beside her Skollmon snarled, snapping his jaws. The other Digimon felt it. Felt the same energies they had felt that night at the Gala. When the Parasite – Mukademon – had first revealed himself to them all.

“Do you like my reality?” asked Mukademon. The shadow of Mukademon moved, and it was his voice that came out of the priest’s mouth.

Siberimon bristled. “Show yourself, COWARD!”

The priest smiled grimly. “As you wish.”

There was a terrible sound, the sound of fabric tearing and the sound of flesh being ripped from bones. The priest’s eyes fell dull and lifeless, as his body was torn in two, releasing a mess and fountain of blood spray. Guts and innards landed in a pool at Mukademon’s feet as he rose up, torn from the confines of his disguise. Mukademon was coated in the priest’s blood as it trailed down over limbs, muscle, and sinew like slow worms.

The grotesque Digimon reached down with one of his four hands and lifted the pastor’s bleeding heart to his mouth, he bit into the dripping organ, tore a piece away and chewed. Blood leaked from the corners of his mouth, coating his teeth and dribbled down his chin and fingers. He swallowed his mouthful with a satisfied gulp, and turned to the eight Digimon before him. The Digimon stared at him in a mixture of disgust and awe. Irbimon retched a little in his mouth.

“Back to my question,” Mukademon spoke, “how does it feel to be powerless?” He sounded polite, and his voice was airy, as if he were making casual conversation. The smaller Rookies were stunned into speechlessness. Even those who tried to speak could only choke out a few odd sounds that didn’t form words.

“Do you like it here? What I’ve done? Showing you how it should have been? Enjoyed seeing how pathetic each of your human counterparts are? How inconsequential?” He sneered at them; he stared into the open grave, at the coffin. The feelers which made up his eyes, turned towards Odocomon.

“Do you see his weakness, oh Lady of Light?” His lips curled back over his teeth as he spoke.

Odocomon was shaking with rage. “Don’t you dare,” she warned.

“How unworthy he is? How little and insignificant? How he does the world and his family such a service by taking his own life? Less of him to be such a failure to those around him.” His feelers turned in Poemon’s direction. “And you, Daughter of Darkness?”

Poemon squeaked in terror.

“Your partner, so blind to the truth? So useless, and without purpose. Going through life with no direction, tugged and pulled. Lazy. Without a soul or concern for the future?”

Mukademon moved quickly, suddenly easing through the frozen people until he had found Eva and Piper who clutched each other in the fray. They had been running with the rest. The insectoid Digimon touched Piper’s hair with one of his hands.

“Get your hands off of her!” Caesarmon ordered, snapping his small jaws together.

Mukademon ignored him, continuing to caress Piper’s hair. “Such a meek little thing. So frightened of the world. And so willing to be hurt to make it through. And this one…” He turned to Eva. Irbimon snarled, his pupils like pin pricks. “Eating away her loneliness and sorrow. So wrapped up in her own self-loathing, content to be as she is. Pathetic…”

He moved smoothly over the ground, to Reyez and Frankie. Reyez still had the gun pointed, but now it was pointed at Frankie, who was on the ground, eyes filled with tears and terror, her hands clutched to her face.

“And these two…” Mukademon sneered at them and brought a scythe in a motion across Reyez’s throat, as if he were about to slit it. “Hell bent on self destruction. Destroying each other, and everything they love and hold dear. Their mutual hatred and weakness is what makes them hate each other and the world more. What makes them weaker and only continues to perpetuate it.”

He finally circled the twin wolf Digimon who snapped and snarled at his form. “And your partners… the way they should have been. Russell under my control, and the entire household quivering and fearful under his reign. It should have been Russell I took possession of. Mason is a poor substitute…”

He swooped around them, until the eight of them were veiled in shadow, cut off from the frozen crowd and Mukademon stood above them. “This is my reality. This is the reality that should have been, and the truth that you shall all now know. The only truth, that you are powerless to stop what is coming. My coming. That you will watch as I rise, and these creatures, these humans,” he practically spat the word, “you each hold so dear, will fall to me, bow to me. And I will destroy them each in turn intimately, as you watch. Unable to do anything to help them.”

Mukademon was silent, allowing he words to penetrate deeply, to resonate with each small Digimon.

Odocomon breathed deeply, she had her eyes closed. Her breaths were even, and finally she opened her eyes and spoke, finding a voice somewhere in the deep recesses of her mind. “You are wrong.” Her eyes glowed a furious purple, and it was Ceryneiamon’s that came out of her mouth.

Mukademon looked at her, his expression one of disgust.

“If your plot with this alternate reality was to frighten us, or dishearten us,” she spoke clearly, her voice ringing like a church bell, “then you have failed. And failed miserably.”

“If anything,” Morrigamon’s voice came from Poemon’s mouth, her own eyes shining green, “you have only succeeded in making us want to fight you harder than ever before.”

Each small Rookie Digimon opened their eyes in turn. And each set glowed their set color. Caesarmon’s a golden yellow; Irbimon’s a bright, warm pink. Hatimon and Skollmon exuded white and black auras. While Ailurmon stepped towards Mukademon with blue fiercely glowing from her eyes and Siberimon stood beside her, his gaze a simple orange hue.

There was a moment where it sounded like glass broke, but it caused none of the Rookies distraction, though Mukademon heard it, and glanced in the direction of the sound. His face was contorted in rage. His body shook, and sinewy muscles trembled.

“You’ve regained your powers,” Mukademon pointed out, his voice laced with distain.

“And much more besides,” Siberimon said, his voice that of Vayumon. “Our memories. Our knowledge. Our collective hatred of you.”

“That hatred will push us on you destroy you,” Irbimon explained, as Ymirmon’s came from his mouth. “For good this time.”


Caesarmon stood on his hind legs, and spoke with Gaiusmon’s voice. “You could say that you have made us more determined. We were determined to protect the Digital World, and the real one from you… But protecting it will never be enough.”

“You will die,” Marquismon spoke through Ailurmon. “Of that we have no doubt.”

Hatimon and Skollmon stalked towards Mukademon as Heliomon and Selenemon’s voices came from their maws. “History will not repeat itself, Mukademon. You are a Parasite, and Parasites can be destroyed. There is no other option but your death.”

Odocomon stepped towards Mukademon “And such a death it shall be.” Ceryneiamon’s voice was clear and firm.

The world around them shook suddenly; the Rookies remained perfectly still, energy pulsating from each of them, spreading over the ground while Mukademon looked for the source of the shaking. The coffin in the open grave suddenly exploded in a mass of purple light. The light manifested on the ground in the form of James, curled up as if asleep.

In the grounds of the cemetery, Frankie, Reyez, Piper and Eva did the same. They dispersed in different colored lights and reappeared from the brightness, appearing asleep on the ground. And beyond the cemetery, it was certain that Hunter, Rose and Tom had all done the same.

Mukademon’s mouth quirked. He stared at each small Digimon in turn, their glowing eyes, their voices, and the pulsating energy that ebbed from each of them. He was furious. He could feel his insides churning and turning over and over with an unfamiliar feeling he refused to admit was fear. Instead he smirked.

“I look forward to the day when we have this glorious battle,” he stated, “and I look forward most, to destroying you all.”

He laughed loudly, shattering the ground and the buildings and the frozen people around the Digimon. He disappeared in the blink of an eye. A shadow quickly gone. The Digimon watched as the colorless world around them cracked and exploded, splintered and split off like shards of glass breaking.

Then black. And silence.

-----------------------------

Poemon woke up slowly, and opened one eye, then the other. Her head felt heavy and fuzzy with sleep. Of a dream that had been a nightmare. Something weighed down on her, and she was lying on something, someone. Someone breathing beneath, judging by the regular rise and fall. She peered around.

She lay on top of Tom, and he had one arm slung over her back and wings. She struggled for a moment, sitting up. Around her she saw the others, each Digimon with their Tamer, in a circle. And in the centre were Ryudamon, Rubimon, Corneliamon, Eric, and Eleanor – all sleeping soundly.

They were no longer in The Rift, that was certain. The ground was much too hard and there was no dead or burnt grass around that she could see. Though there were some similarities to the Digital World that made her wonder if perhaps The Rift had transported them to the Gardens of the Dead. Around them were pillars of glass and crystalline structures, each one different in shape and height.

Poemon stood up.

Tom’s arm fell to the ground with enough of a thump he woke up with a start. He coughed. “Poe..?” he rubbed his eyes blearily, and pulled his hat from his head for a moment. “Where are we Poe…?”

Poemon threw herself at him, hugging him around the shoulders. “TOM!!”

Surprised, Tom returned the hug, a little confused by the little crow’s behavior. He pulled her away and stared at her. “You okay?”

“Quickly, quickly!” Poemon spoke in a rush. “Who’s your girlfriend? Who do you live with? What’s your job? Who told you about Halie cheating on you?”

Tom stared for a moment, but answered quickly. “Eva. Eva. None at the moment, and you,” he said. “What’s this all about?”

Poemon wriggled in his hands until he released her and hugged him again. “It is you!”

Tom laughed, confused by his partner’s behavior, but he returned the hug none-the-less. He noticed the others around him. Their placement replicated their places when they had stood in The Rift. He, Eva and the others were in a circle, and in the middle were Eleanor, Ryudamon, Corneliamon, Rubimon, and Eric.  Obviously the shock of getting them home had been a lot on all of them, they had all fainted or been knocked out by the blast and were beginning to stir slowly.

He noticed the Digimon were more frantic as they woke, each checking their partners for injuries and nudging them urgently to wake up.

“You are Piper Sasha Swift. You’re studying to be a vet. You love Hunter Divine. You would never let Travis touch you. Right!?” Caesarmon had his face right in Piper as she was sitting up. His eyes were bugged and he had his front paws on Piper’s shoulders.

She looked confused. “Uhm… yes…?” She nodded slowly, uneasily and unsure. “Thank you for the clarification?”

“I’m just making sure you’re you,” Caesarmon explained.

“What’s gotten into you?” Piper gently lifted Caesarmon’s paws off her shoulders and planted a kiss on his nose. She noticed the agitation of the other Digimon. “What’s gotten into all of you?”

“Nightmares,” Ailurmon informed her bluntly. She had punched Reyez in the face, told him never to shoot someone unless it was for a military reason and that she would forgive him for forgetting her in time. Reyez had said nothing, just rubbed his jaw where the panda’s paw had impacted his face.

“What nightmares?” Ryudamon asked.

Siberimon spoke up. “In our transportation from Digital World to real world it seemed… Mukademon corrupted the divide between the two. We woke up in an abstract world. One he must have created, where he had got through the first time with Russell and we had never hatched or met our partners. The result was an ugly one.” Frankie laid her fingers on top of the small tiger’s head and scratched behind an ear in a way of assurance.

Ryudamon stared at Siberimon curiously.

“We saw how all of you might have been… had we never been in your lives,” Odocomon explained. She nuzzled James’ cheek affectionately. “Some fates were worse than others.” An uncomfortable smile tugged at James’ mouth, so he busied himself, rubbing Odocomon’s head between her horns.

“You beat him though, right?” Rubimon inquired, she stretched her wings out and yawned.

Irbimon shook his head. “Not exactly. We… I guess we chased him off. Or broke his reality, or something. And then we woke up here.” He slouched down in Eva’s lap. “And I speak for all of us when I say we’re glad it’s the you’s we all know.”

“I hate to break up what is a touching reunion,” Rose announced, “but I think we should figure out where we are and where we go from here.”

No one had noticed their location, too preoccupied with making sure each partner was back to themselves, but now Rose had drawn attention to it, they noticed it.

First and foremost, they were no longer in the Digital World. So despite the detour courtesy of Mukademon, they had arrived back in the real world. And, if the landmarks were anything to go by, they were in their home town, downtown. Though it looked nothing like it should have.

“Mukademon’s obviously been pretty busy in our absence,” Hunter murmured, planting his hands in his pockets.

Buildings had been leveled. There was rubble covering the streets, and some had fallen onto parked cars. Near where they were all recovering there had been a pile up. A bus and three smaller vehicles looked as if they had been crushed together. Parts of the roads had been lifted and thrown around as tarmac littered the ground around them. Several large trees had also been uprooted and now either lay flat and dying on the ground, or leaned precariously to one side. There were also oddly shaped pillars and formations on the ground. Glass-looking, like those the Digimon had seen in the Gardens of the Dead.

“We need to find out what happened here,” Rubimon said.

“I fear it’s happened everywhere,” Ryudamon murmured.

There was a whirring sound coming from above them, and then, flying over the destroyed area a military helicopter appeared.

Ryudamon swallowed thickly, silently hoping they weren’t too late.

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