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KE


It was almost sundown in New City. The streetlights were already on, making little pools of light on the sidewalk. Mina had a car, but she liked to walk to and from the market on nice evenings, thinking, That’s 30 extra calories I burn. Not that she needed to. Mina did pilates 4 days a week and ran two. Plus, being 25 had its perks. She passed a newsstand fully stocked with tabloids. Seriously? Are Tom Patterson and Heather Reese together or not? she thought. He’s so dreamy, he should kick that man-voiced bitch’s ass to the curb! Mina’s hand curled into a fist as she walked. Something white moved out of the corner of her eye. Mina quickly turned and caught the last bit of a figure turning the corner in what looked like a white coat. Mina reached the corner and looked down the street, but saw only the usual throngs of tourists and New City-ites enjoying the evening air. “Whatever,” Mina sighed and continued to walk home. A single white feather rustled in the cool breeze where her feet had been. Mina arrived home, letting herself in to the brightly light front hall of her townhouse (or however you want to describe that front hall.) Her teacup Chihuahua, Khloe, greeted her at the door, a yapping frenzy. “Yes, baby, I’m going to walk you right now,” Mina said. She put her things down by the door, grabbed the leash and somehow managed to fasten it to Khloe’s collar despite the pogo-stick like bouncing. Outside, the sun was just an orange sliver on the horizon whileMina walked Khloe around the block. Cars were pulling into their respective driveways, children rode past on their bicycles, and down the street Mina heard the crack of a bat

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connecting with a baseball. The air rang with parents voices calling to their children to come in and wash up. Back on her doorstep, Mina paused, staring at the sunset. A pair of hands came down on her shoulders. Mina gasped and tried to turn around, managing to just make out the form of her attacker. “Dammit Nicole, you scared the shit out of me!” she exclaimed, her heart still pounding in her chest. “Sorry. I just couldn’t resist,” said her roommate and best friend, bending to acknowledge the once-again frantic dog. “Why are you so late tonight?” Mina asked. “Had to work late at the paper. There was a dispute about the headline for one of the next issue’s articles.” “Oh?” “Yea, we were doing a spread entitled ‘A Tribute to Carmen Miranda’ and then people started wondering whether the masses even know who she is.” “Isn’t she the fruit-basket-on-her-head woman?” Mina asked, pulling Khloe back on track to head inside. Nicole followed. “You’d be amazed how many people don’t even know that.” Mina laughed. “So how’d it end?” “I managed to convince them that people would look it up because if it’s in World:Style, people will think they should know it.”


“Ah. Bravo.” Mina opened the door set Khloe free. “So what’s on the agenda for tonight?” Nicole asked, grabbing Mina’s groceries from the floor and carrying them into the kitchen. “Well, I bought some salmon-avocado sushi with brown rice and figured I’d pig out while watching Real Cougars.“ “Oh my God, that’s right, and then--” “The Heather’s Knows Best!” they both squealed. “You hungry?” Mina asked. “Nah, they fed us at the office. I’m full of gluten-free, vegan lasagna and Diet Coke.” “Oh my God, that sounds de-lish!” Mina unpacked the groceries, fed Khloe, and the two girls plopped down on the sofa, Mina with sushi in hand. Nicole turned on the TV. “The President approved another 100 million dollar bailout loan to Greece-“ “Ugh,” Nicole grunted, changing the channel. “In other news, Kusuri Enterprises reported healthy 3rd quarter-” “Give me that,” said Mina, grabbing the remote from Nicole. It’s channel 269.


The familiar faces of the women d’une certaine age filled the screen and the girls settled in to enjoy a reality TV-packed night.


Rya dodged another blow, the giant hand smashing a pile of aluminum garbage cans against the wall of the narrow alleyway. The hand itself was three feet wide and ended in talons. The attacker was close to 12 feet tall. Rya could not figure out exactly what the demon looked like; he seemed to always be hiding in the shadows. Or maybe he was made of them. Rya used the distraction of the cans splaying in all directions to swing back and cut the creature across the neck. “You bitch!” the monster growled. “What the...”Rya couldn’t understand it. She had a sword that could cut diamonds, and the demon barely had a scratch.

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The demon laughed. “ You think that little piece of shit is enough to defeat me?”

I have to call for backup, Rya thought. I’m in over my head. What is this thing?! Rya narrowly dodged another attack, but before she could react, another hand smashed her body to the ground. She heard the snap of several bones in her back break. She was done for. “Your time on this plane is over, little cunt,” the demon said. “I’ll never be…truly…gone,” Rya said, blood trickling out of her mouth and onto her once pristine white coat. “One down, then.” The demon raised a giant hand up again, and Rya knew no more of this world.


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The alarm went off. 7:30am. “Fuck,” Mina mumbled and rolled over on her back. Why did I stay up to watch The Late Show?

Mina put in her contacts (she’d been able to put in her contacts without a mirror for as long as she could remember) and got out of bed. Putting an ear to her room door, She could hear Nicole in the kitchen putting lunch together. Mina walked into her bathroom and turned on the light. She was not much of a morning talker, and was happy she didn’t have to walk outside her bedroom to start getting ready. By the time she was done washing up, and walked to her closet, she heard the front door shut. Nicole has left the building. Mina put on a bright purple, silk romper with mint green flecks and walked out of her room. Khloe was ready to be walked. “Hi Khloeeeee,” Mina oozed. “Let’s go walk so Mommy can finish getting dressed and not get fired,” she jokingly baby talked. Putting on some flats and wrestling Khloe to get her leash on, the pair went outside. After a brisk walk, Khloe was unleashed into the wilderness of the living room and Mina finished putting on makeup and put some of Nicole’s leftover coffee in a to-go cup. “Bye bye Khloe, be good!” Mina called over her shoulder, grabbing her bag and locking the front door behind her.


“What do you mean Rya never came back last night?” Maya yelled. She didn’t know why she was so angry, when she’d suddenly felt a block of ice in her chest in the middle of the night. How could she be surprised? “It’s what I’m saying, Maya. Rya swore it was just another demon and that she didn’t need help. Now we can’t find her anywhere,” James repeated. “I felt something go cold inside me last night, and me and a team have been scouring the area since then. Nothing.” “If something’s…happened to Rya,”Kaori started, trying to keep her breathing calm. “We have to find the body before somebody else does.” “Maya…,” James put his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll find her. You stay here in case she turns up.” Maya nodded wordlessly, using the last of her will not to cry over what she knew was true. What they both knew was true.

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Mina parked her green Fiat in the employee garage. It was a little before nine and the garage was full of cars, forcing Mina to park on one of the upper levels. Great. She grabbed her coffee cup and her purse and shut the door, activating the alarm as she walked toward the elevator. The elevator door opened onto the Women’s Contemporary buying office of Primavera, a luxury department store chain. Mina walked hastily toward her buyer’s office. All of the assistants shared offices with their buyers so that they could work more closely with them. Luckily Mina had a younger buyer with whom she got along swimmingly. Nancy was already there. “Happy Friday!” Nancy exclaimed, as Mina took her seat at the desk, facing wall opposite her. “Happy Friday to you too,” Mina said, smiling. “O-M-G did you watch Real Cougars last night?” Nancy asked, while Mina booted up her computer. “Yes! Karen is such a bitch! And what the hell was Rita wearing? Has a yellow jumpsuit ever been in? Gross.” “I know! But Sharon was so super cute as usual. I’m so glad we put in that re-order for that Tory dress. It looks just like it, and it is going to fly off the racks!” Mina’s computer finished booting and she opened her inbox. There were already 40 messages from vendors and stores. Happy Friday, she thought. “Nance, what is up with all of these emails? Like, didn’t we tell


Wherewithal we needed the sample for the Christmas-in-July shoot next week? “Ugh, I know,” Nancy said. “I’d seriously exit them if their stuff wasn’t so super cute. They are so unreliable. But at least they managed to score us backstage passes to the Blake concert next month!” “What?” Mina exclaimed. “They came through? Oh my GOD, I can’t believe it! Fuck the photo shoot! We are going to see Blake!” Mina turned back to her emails and decided that it was a happy Friday after all.


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“I’m soooo tiredddd,” Mina whined as she drove her car from work. There was nothing good on the radio and the traffic was brutal. “Dammit! The drawbridge is going up!” Mina put her head on the steering wheel, accidentally setting off the horn and startling herself. The driver in front of her looked menacingly at Mina through the rearview mirror. “Sorry!” Mina waved apologetically. Settling her back against the seat, she looked out her passenger-side window. There was something gleaming in the late afternoon rays penetrating the alley next to her. Mina leaned over further, but could not figure out what on earth it was. Deciding that traffic was not going to get worse at this point anyway, Mina cut across to the deserted opposite road and into a parking lot across the street, and proceeded to cross back toward the alley. Trash was strewn everywhere, the bins in crumpled heaps on the ground. The alley was dark except for the few rays that managed to stream through due to some gaps in the eroded wall above. They gotta do something about this building. Gross! Mina at last reached the gleaming object. It was a long sword. Almost like a kitana, but so much longer than any she had ever seen on display. However Mina did not have long to ponder the kitana because she spotted the hand grasping onto it, attached to a mangled body. It a woman, her eyes still open in a frightened stare. Her body was covered in blood, her coat pink from soaking overnight in it. “Oh my God.” Mina started to back up so she could call 911 back in the safety of the main street.


“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you go.” Mina turned and saw a tall, blonde woman in a white lab coat. A badge on her left breast pocket had a ¾ outline of a globe with a syringe going through it. The letters KE were emblazoned atop the missing quarter. “Wha-what do you mean? We have to call 911, this person has been murdered,” Mina stammered. She reached into her purse to pull out her phone. “I said I can’t let you do that,” the woman repeated, stepping closer to Mina. She was blocking Mina’s only way out. “Wait, did you do this? Did you murder this woman?” Mina half asked, half exclaimed, adrenaline rushing through her veins. The leggy woman gave a look as if injured by Mina’s words, but it vanished in a second, and she took another step closer. “Give me the phone.” “No!” Mina said, backing further into the alley. She took another step back and bumped into something. Turning around, there was a young man, also tall, also wearing a lab coat. His ID had the same logo. Where have I seen that logo? Who are these people? “You have nowhere to go,” he said. “Just let us help.” “No!,” Mina yelled, dialing 911. “She’s seen too much, James. We have to take her.” “Kaori, please, we can just erase her memory. It’s not a big deal.” “Like she’s going to stay still. And even if we could, an alley is not the place to do it. Someone’s going to come any minute!”


Mina was in the middle of the two towering figures talking nonsense about memory erasing. Were they scientists? Murderers? Or just crazy motherfuckers? She wasn’t going to stay to find out. She charged at the woman named Kaori. No dice. The woman named Kaori had Mina in her grasp. “That does it. James, give me the blindfold” “Nn---” Mina tried to scream but they had thought of that, and stuck a piece of cloth in her mouth. Mina continued to struggle, but suddenly everything around her went black. Am I unconscious? she wondered to herself. But it couldn’t be. She was still aware that she was in Kaori’s arms, but it was as if the sun had gone out. She felt Kaori’s grip loosen and broke free, tearing the hood off. I just gotta get back to the car. Mina started to run. She could see the opening of the alley, the sunlight beyond. Freedom. All of a sudden the entrance was blocked, like a castle gate slamming shut. This was not a gate. “What the…” Mina said, looking up. Her gaze met two coalblack eyes about 12 feet up. A creature unlike anything she had never seen, giant chest rising and falling with each foul breath. Mina wanted to move with all her might, to run, run back into the alley. The nut cases were better than this. But she was frozen in horror. She felt her knees buckle beneath her. Those eyes. Soulless. Staring right through her, as if it could take whatever made her alive. Those. Eyes. And then, nothingness.


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Voices. Mina could hear voices, but not what they were saying. Am I dreaming? She tried to open her eyes, but her KE body wouldn’t obey. The voices KE were getting louder. KE Mina pricked up her ears to see if she could make out the conversation.

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“Kaori why did you bring her here? We could have taken her somewhere, erased the memory and let her be.”

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Kaori? Erased my memory? I must be dreaming. “James that thingKE was going to annihilate her.KE If we didn’t move through the Field and get her back here, he might have followed.

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You know this is the only place we can’t be detected.”

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“Let’s see what she remembers when she wakes up.”

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Mina felt something next to her. An arm swept under her back KE raised her up. It was as if KE KE and the lights turned on in her body and her eyes flew open. Mina saw the woman and it all came back to her.

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Mina heard a presence closer to her. They were coming her way. She had no idea what was going on but felt that things KE be better if she could face KE them with her eyes open.KE would She tried to pry open her eyes, but nothing was working.

KEthe woman. “She’s awake!” said

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“Well, now what are we going to do with her?” The voice apparently belonging to JamesKEasked. KE KE

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“Wait, what happened? Th-the monster! The alley! No, you’ve got to let me go.” Mina thrashed, but Kaori was amazingly KE KE strong. “Stay still. You are not in any danger. We are not going to let anything hurt KE you. You went into shock, KEso we had to take you.” “You’re not going to let anything hurt me?! You killed that woman, and who knows KEwhat you’ve got going on with… KE whatever that was!” “We did NOT KE kill Rya!” Kaori yelled. KE

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Mina went limp in fear.

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Kaori’s look softened. “We were looking for her body. You found it first.”

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“So did that..thing killed her?”

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“The Mara. Yes it did.”KE

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Mina’s head spun. “A Mara? What is that?”

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“Wait, so what does a pharmaceutical firm have to do with any KE KE of this?” “It’s confidential.”

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“Something you should stay away from. I’ve said too much already.” Kaori propped the hospital bed Mina had been lying on so Mina could lean KE back. Mina let her back sinkKEinto a pillow and then noticed she had been hooked up to a vitals machine with the same logo Kaori had on her coat, but this one also had KE Enterprises. That’s what KEthat logo is. KE a name. Kusuri

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“Confidential, my ass! My roommate is probably wondering where I am, and I’m just supposed to tell her I was attacked by KE KE KE some monster after seeing a dead body, kidnapped, and taken to a pharmaceutical-company-slash-justice league, and then let go? That monster is still roaming the streets! What’s the matter with KE KE you?”

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“We KE don’t intend on letting you KE tell that story,” Kaori said,KEher voice calm. That made Mina even more hysterical. “So what are you KE going to do? Keep me here?KE How am I ever going to sleep again? Do you have something in this massive building for that?”

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“As a matter of fact we do.” As if on cue, James walked into the room holding a glass of water and something small in his other hand. KE KE “Take this,” Kaori said, “and you’ll forget everything. We’ll take you KE back to your car. You’ll think KE you just blacked out. “ KE James handed Mina the water and gingerly dropped the little pill, a tiny purple sphere, into her palm. Mina looked at it and then back up at James KE and Kaori. KE

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“Why can’t I know what’s going on? What if more people get hurt?” KE KE KE “This is what we do here every day,” James said. “It isn’t for you to worry about.” KE KE

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“So I’m just supposed to live my life thinking this never KE KE KE happened? I can’t not live in reality,” Mina objected. “Would you rather go the rest of your life wondering whether a

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Mara will come after you again, and what you are going to do if it happens?” Kaori asked.

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“I…I don’t know…but anything has got to be better than living a lie.”

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“Do you mean that? Because once you take the plunge you can never go back-”

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Mina was growing tired KEof conversations in front ofKEher, about her, that did not include her. “Guys!” Mina exclaimed. “I’m a big girl, and I demand to know what the hell is going on. Is there a blue pill I can Because this is getting KE take instead, Morpheus?KE old!” James and Kaori lookedKEat each other. “Suit yourself,” KE James said, “but leave me out of this. She’s your responsibility from now on, Kaori.” With that, he left the room.

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Now it was just Mina and Kaori. Kaori turned and walked a few feet away to what looked like a stainless steel locker. Mina sat up KEher feet were hanging off the KE side of the and spun around so that bed, trying to see what was going on. Kaori took a key out of her lab coat pocket and unlocked the locker. She reached forward

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“She’s seentoo much, James. And this sort of wakeup call is bound to happen to everyone sooner or later. MightKEas well start KE with her.”

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“Wait a minute,” James interrupted. “You are not honestly entertaining the idea of letting her walk out of here with that memory still KE in her head. Have you lostKEyour mind?”

KE everything, and she “This isn’t aKEgame, Kaori. If you show her isn’t ready, her head is likely to explode.” KE

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into the shadows KE of what looked like a 4-footKE deep cabinet. Where is she going? Narnia? Mina wondered.

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“You wanted enlightenment, Mina, this is what I’m going to give you. “

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All of a sudden Kaori turned around holding what looked like a missile launcher in her hands. At least four feet long and silver, it looked like a giant cannon crossed with a giant Colt. It even KE KE had a giant trigger. If the situation weren’t so severe, Mina might have laughed, as it looked too insane to be real. But her whole day KE had pretty much been likeKEthat. “What the--“ Mina said, KE instinctively scooting back and falling off the bed onto her back. Sharp pain surged through her body.

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“N-n-never mind!” Mina said, standing up. She could not get to the door without running past Kaori. She backed up instinctively until she felt her sore KE back against the wall. “I’d KElike to exercise my other option!”

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Kaori KE took aim. “Here we go!”KEShe squeezed the giant trigger KE and a giant yellow ball of light shot out of the barrel. “No!” Mina yelled, of her eyes. As if KEputting her hands in frontKE that was going to help. Happy KE Friday.

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Kusuri Enterprises