In Triplicate, Chapter 1- Cora

I cringed and squeezed my eyes shut when the door opened. Maybe if he thinks I’m asleep he’ll leave me alone. The footsteps stopped, next to Cecelia’s bed. I had just enough time to hope he wouldn’t come for me. A pang of guilt pushed through my fear for wishing it on my sister, instead.

He stepped forward, and I shivered as my blanket slid off to the floor. I fought my trembling, knowing he was looking at me, praying he’d just want to look like he sometimes did. He crouched on my bed and I knew I wasn’t that lucky.

“Cora, wake up,” he said. “I need you.” His hand rubbed me down there.

I shuddered, wetting myself. I didn’t think it would gross him out, it never did before, but it made everything hurt just a little less. “Okay, Daddy.” I scooted back, spreading my legs open for him. If I didn’t, he’d just beat me and hurt me even more.

He climbed up between my legs and kissed my neck. “That’s a good girl.”

I looked over at the other bed, where Cecelia pretended to sleep. I deserve this, for wishing it would be her instead of me.

….

The clock said it was almost four. “Are you done with supper? He’ll be up soon.” The gumbo smelled amazing, like all Cecelia’s cooking.

She sighed. “It’s almost done. Get a couple beers and put them in the living room, that’ll distract him for a little bit.” She went back to cooking, muttering under her breath. “Don’t know why he bothers, he heals too fast to get drunk. Just a waste of money.”

“Okay, if you think so.” I took a six pack out of the fridge, only missing one can. I hoped that five would distract him more.

Dad was passed out on the couch, stinking of beer and weed. Cecelia’s right, he’s so strong, why does he need to use drugs? Why does he need to use us? Why can’t he find someone else? 

I sneaked as quiet as I could, hoping I didn’t set off his super hearing. I slowly lowered the beer, desperately trying not to shake too hard and make the cans clink on the coffee table. It didn’t work.

“Buh?” Dad snapped up, muscles bulging with power and veins pulsing with green light. “Oh, it’s you.”

I cringed under his gaze. He had a video of himself ripping a man’s head off on TV. He called it his coolest stunt and made us watch it all the time. I think he just wanted us to know we only lived because he didn’t kill us. I kept my eyes focused on his feet. “I… I just…” I pointed at the beer. “Maybe you’re thirsty?”

His body shrank down to its normal size, that was good, he was even meaner when bulked up. “Dumb bitch, they taste like shit when warm.”

That never seemed to bother you before. “S-sorry, I’ll take them back.”

He leaned down and grabbed he pack. “Nah, leave it. Yer so useless you’d drop ’em.” I was shaking so hard I might, and then I didn’t know what he’d do. “Speakin’ of useless, what’s taking your idiot sister so long?”

“I… I don’t know.” She was usually so good about getting supper done on time, but today she was ten minutes late. “I’ll go check.” Please let me go, don’t take it out on me because Cecelia messed up.

“You do that,” he plopped back down on the couch. I retreated to the crack-hiss of one of the cans opening.

Cecelia was stirring the pot when I got back. My stomach reminded me I hadn’t eaten anything. I reached for a spoon, but Cecelia smacked my hand away.

“Stop being impatient!” She smiled, but it seemed forced. She poured a couple scoops of the gumbo into a bowl. “Take this to Dad. And don’t touch it, you know how he gets.”

“Can’t you do it?” I did know. I knew what he’d want with his meal, that’s why I whined.

“No.” Her voice was so cruel, her dark brown eyes cold.

“Please.” I welled up with tears. “I’m sore.”

“Just do what I say!” Her had raised up, as if to slap me. I flinched back and started crying. I felt her hand when it rested gently on my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Cora. Please, just listen to me this once. I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

“O-okay,” I sobbed. “Sorry I’m such a crybaby.”

Cecelia’s arms wrapped around me. I held on to her like my life depended on it. Even though she was sending me out there to him, I still loved her. “It’s okay, you’re the younger sister, it’s allowed.”

“Only by fifteen minutes,” I muttered into her shoulder.

“Well, then in fifteen minutes you’re not allowed to be a crybaby,” she said. “Now you better hurry up before he gets mad, I’ll be out there really soon, okay?”

I hoped she wasn’t lying. “Okay.” I pulled away and took the bowl of soup into the living room. Dad hadn’t covered up, just lounging naked while watching something about tigers on TV.

He looked up. “About damn time, now get your ass over here.” I rushed over as fast as I could without dropping the bowl. He grabbed it out of my hands and swallowed a mouthful straight from the bowl.

I knew what he wanted next; as slowly as I thought I could get away with, I slid my pants down. Please, Cecelia, don’t leave me to do this alone. 

Dad started coughing hard, and the soup spilled onto his lap. I stared in confusion and shock; he never coughed, he never got sick. “Wh-at did you-?” He was cut off by another hacking fit.

“I didn’t do anything!” I stepped away from him but tripped because my pants were around my ankles. I fell hard on the wood floor and screamed in pain from landing on my tail bone.

“K-kill y-ugh!” Dad stood up and doubled over. He planted one hand on the coffee table, hard enough that the wood cracked under his strength. Green light pulsed from his skin like a horror movie.

He shoved his fingers into his mouth, and soon was emptying his stomach all over the floor. I scooted backward as fast as I could with my pants tangled up. I’d seen him with a lot of looks in his eyes over the years, but never that one. I knew then that I was going to die.

He stumbled forward, slowly healing from whatever happened. “Try to poison me you stupid whore?”

“I didn’t!” I cried, backing up into a corner. “It wasn’t me!”

Dad’s head snapped back toward the hall to his room. “Cecelia!” I looked to where my sister was standing  with Dad’s shotgun. Another of those things he didn’t need, he could do more damage with his bare hands. “You!”

“That’s right,” Cecelia’s voice was quivering with anger. “Enough to kill a pack of elephants. Enough to slow you down.”

I think Dad tried to say something, but Cecelia already pulled the trigger. She flew back into the wall, her mouth open in a scream I couldn’t hear over the gunshot. Dad slammed hard onto his back in front of me, his face a blood covered mess, glowing with the nasty green light.

For the briefest moment, I had hope, but only for a moment. Dad was already climbing to his feet. Cecelia was leaning against the wall, her arm dangling. The shotgun laying on the ground near her feet

Dad stumbled blind toward Cecelia. “Uff kuk.” Dad’s face was destroyed, I couldn’t understand what he said.

I watched in horror through my tears. He’s going to kill her and I’ll see everything and I’ll be all alone until he kills me.

You can save her. It was an idea, an instinct, a promise, and I grabbed it without a thought.

Blue light wrapped around me as my eyes opened to a world of things I never knew I didn’t know. Cecelia’s body blossomed, showing me every inch inside her. The damage he’d done inside her was worse than he’d done to me, but she never once complained to me. She’s in so much pain. Her shoulder broken from holding the shotgun wrong.

My new instincts let me know how much of a miracle it was that she hit him at all.

Dad was in worse shape by far. The poison in his system really could have killed an elephant or two, even after cleaned some by his healing.

The shotgun slug broke almost every bone in his face and bruised his brain. That alone should have knocked him out even without the pain and blood loss. He was blind, relying only on his own combat sensing power which was weakened by the injury.

He was, perhaps for the first and only time, vulnerable. I followed the instincts I now had. In a single fluid motion I stood, pulled my feet from my pants and grabbed the fireplace poker. I brought the weapon down on the back of his head, where his spine met his skull.

He whirled, swinging at me with enough force that it could have broken the metal rod in half. I ducked under, catching his elbow with the hook. It pierced deep, tearing the nerve of the funny bone.

Dad jerked his arm, and I lost my weapon. His next swing almost caught me, forcing me back. I tumbled to the ground.

I could see how his body had adapted to the poison and was already putting his senses back together. His next attack would hit, and I wouldn’t survive. Another shot rang out, and my power’s instincts alone got me out of the way before Dad fell on top of me. His spine was broken, and likely most of his ribs.

“Never turn your back on the enemy.” Cecelia stepped forward and pulled the trigger again, punching another pattern of damage into our father. Her injuries had vanished, healed by the glowing red nimbus of power around her. Dad only had the power to bulk up and heal, but Cecelia had full shapeshifting.

“The base of the skull,” I gasped. “He c-”

I didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence. The slug hit, punching through the soft spot and into the brain. His green glow stopped, along with his heart and lungs.

“Is he dead?” The red light radiating from Cecelia’s body dimmed, fading until it was just in her eyes. She had burned through whatever power she had, consumed almost all the fat stored in her body, and now the adrenaline she was running on.

“Yeah.” My own blue light danced with hers, reflecting off every surface. It, too, dimmed now that the threat was gone. I walked over to my sister and wrapped my arms around her. “It’s over.”

“Good.” She turned to look at me, lightly brushing my tear-soaked black hair out of my face. “We’re free.” She leaned in and gave me my first real kiss.

 

NEXT

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18 thoughts on “In Triplicate, Chapter 1- Cora

  1. And so In Triplicate begins on such an upbeat and cheerful note. Now maybe people will stop saying “maybe Kitten’s powers are why she’s messed up” despite repeated WoG saying it doesn’t work like that. Nope. Her childhood took care of all of that for her. She was damaged long before gaining her powers. Heroes are made, not born. Monsters follow the same rule.

    PS- yes- that WAS a “Mark of Cain” Manifestation. Two of them from the same source preemptive before the murder that triggered it. Oh, and the recipients of the power are the killers. This is, in fact, a thing that CAN happen in the setting. Rare? Absolutely. But possible.

    On a more personal level… this chapter was downright *painful* for me to write. Finding the voice of the character took work. Normally my writing hovers around “fourth grade comprehension” using the hemmingwayapp, and intentionally so. For characters like Glen and Daryl, it goes to 5. For Cora, it was forced down to a 2. And that level of focus on finding a child’s voice made an already painful chapter cut even deeper.

    This chapter, right here, is hopefully the darkest thing I will ever write in my life.

    And now that I’m writing again, can we please get me back up into the top 10? I’m at 17 and it makes me sad.

    http://topwebfiction.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This hurt as a reader too, although I suspect for different reasons.

      On to a different topic…
      —A Mark of Cain occurs when an Imbued is killed by another Imbued. The powers then transfer and transform to be more dangerous to the killer.
      —Timeline 1: the girls fail to trigger and get killed by their father. No Mark of Cain – the killed was not an Imbued. This is not the correct timeline.
      —Timeline 2: the girls trigger but get killed by their father anyway. Mark of Cain is invoked, but someone else gets the abilities. This is not the correct timeline.
      —Timeline 2.1: one of the girls triggers, gets killed, and that invokes the Mark of Cain. The second one triggers with a dangerous power. But one-on-one, she probably dies too. This is not the correct timeline.
      —Timeline 2.2: both trigger, but get killed anyway, since dear old dad is clearly a dangerous person. Mark of Cain is invoked, but someone else gets the abilities. This is not the correct timeline.
      —Timeline 2.3: the most probably course, unless both trigger at once, is their death. Given that some effects in this setting can be retro-causal, timelines 2.1, 2.2, or their many possible variants set up a Mark of Cain trigger that can be used retro-causally. Which ends up with what the author is talking about – preemptive dual manifestation.

      The above assumes the the Mark of Cain triggers are the deaths of the girls, which are then prevented from happening. Paradox. If you instead assume the Mark of Cain trigger is dad’s death, and there is still some retro-causal shenanigans going on, then the girls triggered with powers designed to take on their dad’s killers, i.e. themselves. This avoids paradox – the death necessary for the Mark of Cain still took place. And since the girls chose not to attack themselves, the usefulness of their own powers against each other is never tested.

      So in theory, a person with the potential to trigger could theoretically kill an Imbued and retro-causally gain powers designed to harm themselves. I hope that logic never gets out, or you will have suicidally insane normals attacking Imbued.

      Head hurts. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ time looping. tananari, I hope you have some consistent rules, because nothing screws up a good time travel/looping/precognition story like inconsistent ones. They are as difficult to write about as sensitive topics, but for different reasons.

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      1. I’m pretty sure when Tana said that this was a Mark of Cain event, he meant that the sisters got their powers from killing their father, just future-shifted by a few seconds. Both received powers that were roughly based on what their father could do.

        Cora got her body vision and combat senses, and Cecilia got shapeshifting instead of just regen and/or super strength. Both powersets can be pretty easily linked to the father’s implied regen, combat sense and powerful form.

        So you are right in the whole retro-causal thing, since they gained powers from killing their father, which was only possible thanks to their powers. But the rest of you conclusion, about people getting Imbued off of their own potential death and getting a power that could harm themselves, seems to be off.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “He stepped forward, and I shivered as my blanked slid off to the floor.”
    Should be blanket, not blanked.

    “Her shoulder broke from holding the shotgun wrong when.”
    Incomplete sentence.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. After reading this, I’m pretty sure you need more trigger warnings. Especially the possibility of links straight to a page rather than people starting on the home page. This is degrees more afoul than most other chapters, really didn’t expect something so… this, less so right off the bat. Really sets a tone for how the rest of this story will be. Then again it is kitten… so maybe not so surprising in hindsight.

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        1. Probably should be a more explicit and detailed warning also. All I found was
          “Throughout the stories in Price, I will explore themes of violence, horror, and selfishness in all its varieties. Alongside themes of heroism, determination and sacrifice. I won’t shy away from alternate lifestyles or sexuality, though I don’t plan to actively seek it out, and where they do show up I’ll paint them with the same brush I paint the rest of the setting.

          So, ye of weak stomachs or delicate sensibilities, turn back now.”

          And that does not leave me expecting something like this chapter.

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          1. Not my fault other people treat readers like toddlers and plug “trigger warnings” on anything more emotionally traumatic than a MLP episode. I outright state to the readers that they should expect violence and horror- including material that might be of a sexual nature.

            I make it clear my story is not meant for those who can’t handle that kind of material. I trust my readers to be adults and know their limits.

            And if that’s to be my flaw as a writer… that I make the mistake of trusting readers… then I’m okay with that.

            Of course… there are far more horrific scenes in mainstream movies filmed on a regular basis… really, I’m surprised anyone’s left that’s still this sensitive. Either that, or maybe I’m just an absurdly good writer who’s better at creating reader-character empathy than movies like Irreversible and The Shawshank Redemption.

            Man, that would be AWESOME if I could make myself believe it. But really, I suspect you think people need to be coddled… and I disagree.

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