I’m the sister you don’t want to meet in a dark alley.
An assassin for hire, I’ve got skills other people don’t. Blame my magical heritage and a mother who gifted me a set of knives and my first revolver not long after my sixteenth birthday.
When a magical object transports me to a perilous jungle as part of a job interview, I have to admit I’m intrigued. So what if my future-seeing sister told me to avoid the stranger offering me employment. She also told me we’d end up lovers.
I can see why. The Warden—real name Bane—is all kinds of sexy and grumpy and massively cursed. He needs me to keep him alive during some kind of arcane event. If I do, then I get to choose a treasure. Oh, and save the world.
Me, a hero? Guess we’ll see because I’m about to come face to face with more monsters than I knew existed. I’ll be tested. Seduced. And, according to my sister, will most likely die.
The odds are against me, but now that I’ve met my match, I’m determined to win this fight - and his love.
My eyes popped open before my alarm, my excitement bubbling. Turning sixteen only happened once in a girl’s life. Add in the fact that not only did it land on a Friday the 13th but also on the day of a rare hybrid eclipse, making it extra special—for me and my sisters.
Triplets born, one after another, at the exact moment the moon covered the sun. Was it any wonder our mother, Fraussa Grae—which she swore was her real name—already a little bit too much into the esoteric, chose to name us after the weird Graeae sisters of Greek mythology? You know the gross ones that shared an eyeball. Enyo, Deino, and Pemphredo. Of us, only I, Enyo, kept my original name. My sisters went by the nicknames, Dina and Frieda. In their defense, no one ever spelled their birth names right.READ MORE
That special morning, we dressed, each of us catering to our unique sense of style. For me that consisted of jeans and a rock band T-shirt with unlaced black boots. My usual attire that caused my more fashion-conscious sister to sigh. “Could you at least do something about your hair?” Shaved on one side and currently dyed a vivid green, I didn’t see her point.
Dina chose a short plaid skirt with a cream-colored top that barely touched the waistband. Any shorter and the principal would have sent her home to change. Under that mini, thong panties that looked massively uncomfortable seeing as how her ass crack ate the fabric. Her dark hair hung straight and shiny, not one strand out of place.
Frieda marked the day with a clean pair of track pants and matching hoodie. She favored comfort above all else. As for her hair? A messy pixie cut, not by choice. She’d neglected brushing her hair during the March break, and the knots proved impossible to remove. A trip to the hairdresser left her with a more manageable style.
Given we lived only a mile from school and Mom claimed the fresh air did us good, we walked. Not together, I should add. While we shared a converted attic-loft bedroom and were close—like duh, we did share a womb, after all—when it came to social circles, we each had our own set of friends. We split up as we exited the house, knowing we’d hang later when we celebrated with Mother at a restaurant.
For me, my school day started under the bleachers with my best friend, Maya, and a joint. First period was history—boring. Then government—even more boring. By the time I finished science, my buzz wore off. Just in time for lunch, whereupon I got high again.
As I toked on the skunky joint, I eyed the moon creeping across the sky. “What time’s the eclipse supposed to happen?” I asked, squinting at the sun’s brightness.
Maya shrugged. “Sometime during last period. Apparently, Mr. Gruber got us some glasses so we can watch it.” Mr. Gruber being our English teacher.
“Cool.” It actually was. Sixteenth birthday, Friday the 13th, and an eclipse? Like, holy shit. I just hoped I got to see it. My cramping stomach had been getting worse all day. Could it be the elusive period my sisters and I had yet to get? Just in case, before the tardy bell rang, I hit a bathroom and slid a pad into my underpants. Mom had been insisting for years we have some stashed in our lockers because she believed in being prepared. For once, I might not call her crazy.
The discomfort intensified as the afternoon went on, enough I almost asked to be excused, but the buzz of excitement over the upcoming eclipse kept my ass in my seat rather than skipping.
Last period, as promised, Mr. Gruber handed out the special glasses and we headed outside. It seemed like all the classes did, given the number of students milling on the football field. The groundskeeper had to be gnashing his teeth, seeing his immaculate turf being trampled.
I spotted my popular sister, Dina, by the team benches with her gaggle of posh girlfriends, holding court and flirting with a good chunk of the football team. Frieda sat in the bleachers, face buried in a book. Apart from us, she preferred her own company.
Given we had a few minutes until the big event, I tried to slip away, wanting to smoke the half-doobie I had left, only I got corralled by the stern vice principal, the steely-eyed Mrs. Transom. She took one look at me and pointed to my class. Detention sucked. Don’t ask how I know. I sulked back to my group.
It wasn’t so horrible. As the moon neared the sun, strange wavy lines appeared on the ground. Kind of cool and hypnotic. I found myself watching them as our teacher droned.
“…what you’re seeing are shadow bands, a prelude to the eclipse, which means time to put on the glasses and keep them on, especially when looking at the disappearing sun. We don’t want anyone going blind.”
That warning was enough for me to jam the ugly things on my face. The things Mr. Gruber called shadow bands rippled oddly when seen through the lenses. More annoying, my exposed skin itched then began to burn even as my flesh remained unmarked. No one else appeared to be uncomfortable, so I gritted my teeth and tilted my head back. The edges of the sun appeared to pulse as the moon began to cover it.
My stomach wrenched hard enough I bit my lip lest I cry out in pain. Fuck me, if this was my period, it could screw right off.
The moon hit the halfway mark on the sun, and my vision blurred. Were the glasses not working? I blinked and could see spots of light behind my lids.
A question not asked by me. I’d have sworn I heard my sister Frieda inside my head. Obviously, my mind was playing tricks. I opened my eyes and glanced at the bleachers to see Frieda standing, one hand dangling by her side holding the book, the other on her stomach as if she, too, cramped. Don’t tell me we were going to pull some triplet bullshit and all go on the rag at the same time?
A peek over at Dina showed her trying to shove her way through the group of boys, a smile pasted to her lips, but I knew her well enough to see something bothered her.
Without even thinking of it, I moved for my sisters as the sky darkened. The world around lost all color. All shape. Even sounds became a blur. All I could see were my sisters. The three of us converged, reaching for each other, looking for comfort, hands clasping and forming a circle just as the full eclipse hit.
Pure blackness fell.
I could see nothing.
Until a single chime sounded and a bright, pinkish light flashed before my eyes. A voice, dulcet and soft, yet, at the same time, a booming vibrato, shook me as it said, “It is done. The promise has been fulfilled.”
What was done?
A second later, pain ripped through me, a pain so intense I wanted to scream, but not a sound emerged. Only agony existed. I hit the ground on my knees. The extreme torment might have torn me apart if not for the anchoring strength of my sisters. We still clung to each other, hands linked, the suffering shared.
By the time light returned, the sun no longer hidden by the eclipse, I found myself tense and panting. The discomfort vanished.
I blinked at my sisters and wondered if my expression matched their pale ones.
A trembling Frieda surprised me when she said, “What the fuck just happened?”
For once, I didn’t have a smart-ass reply.
As Dina stood, I noticed red liquid rolling down her bare legs. “I think you got your period,” I stated, only to realize I felt a warm wetness in my own crotch.
Frieda murmured, “And so it begins.”
Happy fucking birthday, and the one that changed the course of our lives.
The apartment stank of weed, body odor, and rotting take-out. Not surprising given the scumbag who lived here, one Theodore Gallant, currently out on bail for aggravated assault, rape times two, and illegal possession of a firearm. Back in the day, the scumbag would have been kept behind bars until his trial. Alas, in these modern times, criminals had more rights because, don’t you know, it wasn’t their fault. It wasn’t the scumbag’s fault he beat up Pamela Lorenz. He’d had a tough childhood. It wasn’t his fault he raped her so violently she spent two weeks in critical care. His mother never hugged him enough. As for the firearm? How was he supposed to know the guy who sold it to him from the trunk of a car in an alley did something illegal?
Theodore “Scumbag” Gallant presented a classic case of wasted space on this Earth, and yet he currently walked free, while his victim lived in a state of fear, refusing to leave her room and only having contact with her mother.
Enter me, who hated scumbags. When Mrs. Lorenz approached me—not directly, of course, as I never meet my clients in person and relied only on the dark web for communication—I took the job for much less than my usual fee. Some things you just had to do for pleasure… and justice.
The door to the shithole opened and in staggered Gallant. I should add, he didn’t stumble because he’d gotten drunk. His unsteady step came from the weight of the woman draped limply over his shoulder. His unconscious date had a bit of meat to her bones, and I doubted she’d given consent.
It appeared I’d chosen the right night to pay Theodore a visit.
It took him a moment to notice me. First, he dumped the unconscious woman onto his couch. Then he muttered, “Fucking heifer.”
“Well, that’s rude,” I replied, the words dropping starkly in the silence.
Theodore whirled so fast he almost fell over. His eyes widened as he took me in before he blurted out, “Who da fuck are you? Why are you in my fucking place?”
“Why don’t we start with what the fuck do you think you’re doing with her?” I gestured to the woman drooling on the nasty couch cushion. You couldn’t pay me enough to sit on any fabric in this place. Heck, I’d wiped down the wooden chair before parking my ass in it.
“What I do is none of your fucking business. So get out unless you want to join in.” He licked his lips as he grabbed his crotch. There didn’t exist a universe where it would have been sexy. No wonder he relied on drugging his dates.
“If I wanted a skinny two-inch dick, I’d finger myself.”
The insult had him snarling, “Fucking whore, we’ll see how small you think it is when I choke you with it!”
“You and what army, dickwad?” I stood, and as often happened, the bravado began to wither from my target as he faced someone as tall as him at six feet. I’d hit a growth spurt after my sixteenth that didn’t stop until my early twenties. Annoying, seeing as how I had to special order my pants so my ankles didn’t show.
“Mouthy bitch. We’ll see how brave you are once you meet my sharp friend.” He pulled a puny blade, the metal of it marred in orange and brown streaks.
I grimaced. “When was the last time you cleaned that thing?” Good thing I kept up to date on my tetanus shots.
Rather than reply, he jabbed it in my direction. Easy to sidestep. I chopped his hand hard enough he yelped and dropped the knife. Before he could recover, I’d grabbed hold of his greasy hair, and he uttered a fitting pig-like squeal.
He didn’t yip for long. I wrapped my arm around his neck and squeezed, making him claw at my leather sleeve to no avail. I bought quality shit because, in my line of work, every layer of protection helped.
My grip remained tight as I dragged his ass to the already cracked window, the sill of it showing burn marks and ash. A wobbly table sat to the side of it with drug paraphernalia strewn across it: crack pipe, needles—that I steered clear of—empty baggies, an ashtray full of roaches. Me, I preferred the cleaner high from a bong or vape pen.
Scumbag twisted and pulled as I heaved the window into its widest position. The night air rushed into the large opening, the screen that might have once protected from accidents long gone. Three stories up. Enough to kill a man—especially if he landed headfirst.
Without a goodbye speech—because, quite honestly, Scumbag here knew his crimes and I had no interest in listening to him lie about how he could change—I tossed him out. He didn’t make a sound unless the splat counted. I tossed his crack pipe out after him. Make it look like an accident and the cops wouldn’t dig deeper. Why would they? One less crook in the system made their lives easier. It would be one less predator to take up resources and court time. Even better, there would be one less victim, not that the snoring woman on the couch would ever know. She’d slept through it all.
Job done. Time to leave before I got noticed. Usually, the cops took their sweet time answering calls in this part of the city, but a body in the alley would garner a more rapid response.
As I headed for the door, I paused. If I left the woman behind, who knew what might happen. The cops weren’t the only danger around. Predators thrived preying on the weak.
You’re not a hero. A reminder that I’d not come here to save anyone, just to collect the paycheck at the end. Still… I also wasn’t an asshole.
With a sigh, I grabbed the woman in a fireman hold, slung her ass over my shoulder, and exited. People might see, but none would talk. This kind of place didn’t encourage snitching.
I carried the girl to an apartment on the first floor, currently empty of people, the bathroom torn apart to fix some plumbing. A safe place for the woman to wake up, realize her poor life choices, and get her ass home in one piece. To those who thought me cruel to leave her instead of bringing her home, I drew the line at being a taxi service for idiots who drank too much with strangers.
I’d been that idiot in college. Woken up beside more than a few regrets. Did I blame those guys for taking advantage? Well, yeah, but I also took responsibility for the fact I’d behaved stupidly. I owned my actions, even the ones that made me look—and feel—bad.
With the girl more or less secured, I left, my steps quick, my face shrouded by the hoodie I wore under my leather jacket. No mask for me. That kind of shit drew more attention now that the pandemic was long past.
Once I returned home—three subway switches and a ten-minute walk later—I sent a message to my client: Done.
Within the hour—the length of time it probably took my client to verify my claim—my crypto account received payment and I went looking for my next job. Lucky me, an assassin for hire never lacked for work.
My plans to line up my next gig ended up derailed by a knock at the door.
I yelled, “Not now, Frieda.” I didn’t have to tune into the doorbell camera to know who stood on the other side. Ever since our sixteenth birthday, my sisters and I had been more closely attuned. By that, I meant we could feel each other’s more extreme emotions—which made for awkwardness after a night of good sex. Poor Frieda, the almost virgin of the group, had a hard time meeting my or Dina’s gaze the mornings after.
Since our sixteenth, we could always find each other, too. Like homing pigeons, we’d never be lost. Which led to the more annoying part of our curse: the inability to stay far apart for long. And not for a lack of trying. We’d not realized the issue until Dina wanted to go to a summer camp out of state. Within days, she became violently ill and returned within the week. Even vacations failed. Either we all went, or we planned really short excursions.
Given this quirk, we ended up buying a derelict three-story brownstone and renovated it into three large apartments, one sister per floor. Close yet private. We loved each other, but sometimes a woman needed her own space.
Frieda didn’t knock again. She didn’t have to. While I wanted nothing more than to relax and do fuck all but browse the web, I couldn’t avoid my sister. She wouldn’t be bothering me without cause. Frieda hated leaving her place. The problem with seeing the future? Turning it off every time she set foot outside. I bugged her that she needed to practice more, but she never listened.
She brought with her a portent, a sensation that tingled the skin and let me know shit was about to happen. Heck, shit had been happening since our sixteenth birthday.
The day we got our powers.
Back to the day of the eclipse, our red flood, and a sixteenth birthday gone off the rails…
“This is bullshit,” I muttered while pacing the bedroom I shared with my siblings.
My sisters and I had fled the football field—with our bleeding uteruses—as quickly as we could bolt. Thankfully no one noticed the blood rolling down Dina’s legs or the wet spot on Frieda’s dark pants. My pad saved me from embarrassment, but it wouldn’t contain the gush for long. The moment we arrived home, we rushed to strip out of our soiled clothing. We let Dina shower first, and then I motioned for Frieda to go next. The pad I’d put in place had already been swapped out for a fresh one.
When my turn came, I grimaced at the pink water swirling down the drain. Nasty but at least the cramping had calmed down. Guess I could now officially call myself a woman.
With a fluffy towel cinched around my boobs and body, I emerged fresh and clean to find grave expressions on my sisters’ faces.
“What’s got you so glum? It’s just a period,” I scoffed. Unpleasant, to be sure, but not entirely unexpected.
“Is it just that?” Dina arched a brow. Or haven’t you noticed something different?
It took me a second to realize Dina’s lips hadn’t moved with the second question. Yet I’d heard her.
“Cool ventriloquist trick. I didn’t know you’d been practicing,” I stated, heading for my dresser and some clean clothes. I dropped the towel on the way, nudity with my sisters not a big deal. After all, we shared the same genetics.
“She’s got it too,” Frieda’s quiet comment.
“Got what?” I tossed over my shoulder as I snared underpants and a T-shirt.
“Take a look in the mirror.”
I grimaced at Dina. “A look at what? Is this your way of saying I’m bloated? Because duh, they taught us it was normal in health class.” Just like the cramps should be expected.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” Frieda huffed. She whirled around and lifted her shirt, showing off a tattoo on her back. A series of symbols running up from the crack of her ass to just below mid-spine. Done in white, not black. Odd choice.
“Damn, when did you get that done? Has Mom seen it?” I exclaimed, kind of jealous. I’d always assumed I’d be the first one to get a tat.
“It appeared today.” Frieda lowered her shirt as Dina lifted hers and murmured, “Ditto for me.”
I blinked at the similar markings in my sisters’ flesh. “Wait, you guys got tattoos without me?”
“No, dummy. I’m saying they just appeared. You’ve got one too.”
“Bullshit,” I exclaimed, yanking on my underpants. “I can’t believe you left me out.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, look in the mirror.” Dina repeated the order.
“Don’t see why. Think I’d know if I got a tat,” I muttered as I marched to the full-length mirror bolted to the back of our door. As I got close, I whirled and glanced over my shoulder, ready to unleash on my sisters, only to slam my mouth shut hard enough my teeth clacked. I blinked, and yet that didn’t make the markings down my spine disappear.
“What the ever-loving fuck?” I breathed. “How did this happen?”
“I don’t know,” my book-loving sister stated unhappily. “But I suspect the eclipse played a part.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I scoffed. “Eclipses don’t give people tattoos.”
“Then how do you explain it?” Frieda insisted.
“Explain what?” Mom entered at that moment, a woman beautiful for her age, which she wouldn’t reveal for some crazy reason. We had her pegged at between mid-thirties to early fifties. Hard to tell given her smooth features and hair unmarked by gray. The woman never celebrated a birthday, which I found odd given she always made a big deal about ours.
I plastered my hands over my boobs, glad that I at least had underwear on. “Mom! You’re supposed to knock.”
“Don’t be a prude, Enyo. I gave birth to you and wiped your ass. Not to mention, I have the same body parts.”
“It’s called respecting our privacy, Mother,” Dina snottily replied. “We’re young ladies now.”
Mom snorted. “You’re children living under my roof, and you’re currently avoiding what’s got you in a tizzy.”
“We got our periods,” Frieda blurted out. The weak link in our triplet chain. She never could keep a secret from Mom.
The statement arched Mother’s brow. “All three of you?”
“During the eclipse,” Frieda added without any kind of prodding at all. I usually liked to hold out for a treat, like Mom’s chocolate brownies.
“Is the start of your menses the only thing that’s happened?” Mother asked, her laser stare fixing me in place.
“Isn’t that enough?” was my sarcastic retort.
“Do you feel different? Has something about you changed?” Mom prodded.
Fuck it. Rather than speak, I whirled to show her my tattoo.
“Do you all have the mark?” A strange thing to ask. Most parents would have lost their shit at their child getting inked.
As my sisters showed off their tattoos, I tugged a shirt over my head. Mom might have birthed me, but as a teen girl with boobs that had been changing, I’d yet to get comfortable in my new skin.
“I swear we didn’t go behind your back and get them.” Frieda immediately begged for mercy. As if Mom would punish us for something like that. She had her share of ink on her body. Most of it symbols that she told us she’d explain when we got old enough to understand.
“They just appeared,” Dina added. “We didn’t have them this morning.”
“It’s finally happened. I wondered if it would,” was Mother’s cryptic reply.
“Why don’t you seem surprised?” I questioned, because nothing about this day made sense, not even her response.
“I always knew you were special. Just look at the moment of your birth. Do you know how rare it is to have a child born under an eclipse? I wasn’t due for a few more weeks, but the labor hit me so fast I had you on the side of the road under the eclipse’s dark light.”
We’d heard this story before. “We know. You popped us out one, two, three, like candy in a Pez dispenser, and all before the eclipse ended.” A wonder we’d all survived. By the time the ambulance arrived, Mom had the cords cut and our newborn butts swaddled.
Mom nodded despite my levity about our birth. “A miracle birth on an auspicious day, at a rare moment. I wondered if you would be destined for great things. I believe we got our answer.”
“Answer? How are spontaneous periods and tattoos an answer?” I blurted out.
Dina proved calmer. “You expected something like this to happen.”
“And didn’t warn us?” I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.
“Warn you about something that might never happen?” Mom shrugged. “I had no idea if you’d be blessed.”
“Blessed how? I’m bleeding like a stuck pig, crampy, craving chocolate and salt, and have a tattoo on my back I didn’t ask for. And to which I’ll add, wasn’t what I’d have chosen.” I’d been eyeing a thorned bicep vine for my first when I turned eighteen.
A hand wave from my mom didn’t ease my annoyance. “Take some Tylenol for the discomfort. The menses part can be eased in the future with a blend of herbs. And if you’re hungry, then, by all means, raid the pantry.”
I scowled, but before I could blast my mom, quiet Frieda spoke. “What do you mean when you say we’re destined for great things?”
“Only time will tell. In the meantime, you’ll have to prepare. I’ll have to make some calls so we can get started right away.”
“Calls to who? Prepare for what?” Dina frowned, a rarity, as my perfect sibling worried even at her age about wrinkles.
“Those who can teach you the things I can’t.” Mom clasped her hands and beamed. “I can’t wait for you to begin your training.”
“What kind of training?” My suspicious query.
“That will depend on the results of the tests.”
I rubbed my forehead and let Frieda tentatively ask, “What kind of tests?”
Mother’s smile held no hint of humor or sarcasm as she declared, “Those to discern what kind of magic you wield.”
As a sixteen-year-old, I did the most normal thing.
Until I saw the proof.COLLAPSE