• Published 12th Apr 2015
  • 7,833 Views, 355 Comments

In the Absence of Sunset Shimmer - MyHobby

A murder in the mirror world brings Sunset Shimmer back to Equestria, with her world's Twilight Sparkle in tow. While they track the killer, they struggle to reconcile the differences between them and their mirror counterparts.

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Anything You Can Imagine

Rain poured through the locks of Sunset Shimmer’s hair. She stood a couple feet away from Canterlot High School’s statue: A horse rearing back, its front legs kicking the air. It was lit by three spotlights at its base, casting large shadows over the yard.

Shadows with long, regal necks. Towering, powerful legs. Manes that seemed to flow in the rain-soaked grass.

“You okay, Sunset?” Twilight asked. She held the brim of her hat as the wind threatened to blow it away. Her glasses fogged up in the cool air. “Where’s the portal?”

“Right here.” Sunset pointed at the statue’s marble base. “We came through right here.”

Twilight shined a flashlight at the horse’s head. “You guys really have some kinda equine fixation, don’t you?”

“Y-you might say that,” Sunset chuckled. Her brief smile melted in the downpour. She reached out a hand and laid it on the monument’s flat surface. As expected, she didn’t go through.

“The portal only opens once every thirty moons.” Sunset turned to Twilight. “As in thirty months, which equals—”

“Two and a half years,” Twilight said. She knelt down beside the base, running her fingertips over the cool material. “But you came through ten years ago, which means this is the right year. So why isn’t it open?”

“It only opens for three days.” Sunset jerked her head towards Twilight’s car. “You miss that mark, it’s like the portal isn’t even there.”

Twilight pulled keys from her coat pocket and clicked the unlock button. Her car’s headlights flickered in response. “And those three days are… when?”

Sunset wrapped her fingers around the door handle. “Right around CHS’s Fall Formal dance. Six months from now.”

“What?” Twilight slapped her hands on the car’s roof. “We can’t wait six months to go after Adagio! We need to track her down now before the trail goes cold!”

“I know!” Sunset waved an arm in the statue’s direction. “But without the mirror on the other side, the princess can’t make the connection manually. We’re sunk before we’ve even begun.”

Twilight flung herself into the car, doing her best to keep most of the water outside. Sunset followed suit, grabbing a handful of her hair and squeezing it out before slamming the door. She peered at the statue as it guarded the school.

“I had to try, though.”

Twilight Sparkle glanced at the backseat, where Sunset’s book, her diary and connection to the other world, sat high and dry. “So, what? It’s up to the ‘princess,’ now? We’re just gonna leave it?”

Sunset leaned her elbow against the door. “Unless you’ve got a better idea.”

“I think I do.” Twilight tapped her index fingers against the steering wheel. “We gotta find Aria’s portal. If Adagio really went to the other world, it could lead us right to her.”

Sunset Shimmer shook her head. “The only people who know where it is are either dead or worlds away. Do you have an ace up your sleeve I don’t know about?”

Twilight snapped her fingers. “We have an ace. Your book. You said that it’s always connected to the other side. Always.”

“Yeah.” Sunset reached backwards and pulled it to the front. She let it fall open to the middle. “It’s how I’ve kept in touch. Their copy was how we were able to connect the portal even when it wasn’t open naturally.”

“And like an internet connection,” Twilight said, tapping the cover, “the signal goes both ways.”

Sunset’s eyes widened. After a moment’s thought, her shoulders slumped. “But I don’t have the equipment to make the connection from this side.”

“No, that’s not what I’m talking about.” Twilight laid a hand on Sunset’s forearm. She grinned. “If something’s giving off a signal, or any kind of energy, that energy can be detected, can’t it?”

Sunset’s brow furrowed. “If you have the right kind of receiver.”

“Uh huh.” Twilight cracked her knuckles. “Guess who’s been tracking magic activity for ten years?”

Sunset pressed her lips together. Her head tilted to the side as one eye narrowed. “You’ve got magic sensors?”

“It’s how I found out about your school. It’s why I started sticking my nose everywhere.” Twilight crossed her arms over her chest. “It’s how I met you, I think. Tracking down whatever weird things were happening. You were always in the middle of it.”

Sunset shifted in her seat. She touched her wedding band and let a deep sigh run through her body. “Years later, I still am.”

Twilight gave her a tiny smile. She pulled a cloth from her pants pocket and wiped down her lenses. “All we gotta do is calibrate the machine to search for whatever kinda magic your book’s putting out, and it’ll lead us right to the other portal. And Adagio.”

“In a perfect world.” Sunset Shimmer tossed the diary into the back.

“Hey, in a perfect world, there wouldn’t be any reason to go on adventures.” Twilight Sparkle turned the key. The engine started up with a roar. “Then where would people like us get our fun?”

Sunset buckled up. “Not every adventure has to start with something awful.”

“Every one I’ve read does.” The windshield wipers jumped back and forth at full speed as Twilight pulled away from the curb. “You’ve gotta have a reason to want things to get better, right?”

Sunset let out a low “Hmm.” She stuck her hands into her warm jacket pockets. She gave one final glance at the towering statue in front of the school; a statue that was only one pair of wings and a horn away from being spot-on. “And if you’re not sure things can get better?”

Twilight Sparkle peered through the falling rain, looking for the roads that would take her home. “Then at least it gives you the chance to stretch your legs.”


Spike lifted his head at the familiar sound of keys jangling. He pattered out of the bedroom, his tongue hanging out in his effort to suck in some cool air. Twilight Sparkle opened the door to their little house, scuffing her boots on the welcome mat. “Hi, Spike. Been taking a nap, boy?”

He yelped in what Twilight assumed was agreement. She rubbed behind his ears and watched his tail wave behind him. He bolted past her to sniff the hands of the surprise guest in the entryway.

“Hi yah, Spike,” Sunset said. She ran a hand along his side and unzipped her jacket. She hung it on a nearby coat rack and proceeded to twiddle her thumbs. “Now what?”

Twilight unbuttoned her long coat and hung it beside Sunset’s. “Now, I’m gonna need that book.”

Sunset looked down at the cover. She tightened her grip. “You’re not gonna hurt it, are you?”

“No.” Twilight pinched the book between her fingers. “I’m just gonna use it to calibrate the machine. It’ll be over before you know it.”

Sunset swallowed a breath. She let her hands slip away. “Alright. I trust you.”

Twilight met her eyes. A lopsided grin spread across her face. “Thanks.”

Twilight motioned for Sunset to follow her down a flight of stairs, into a dark basement. Twilight’s hand ran along the wall, searching for a light switch. “I think whoever designed the wiring in this house hated his job. The switches are never by the doors.”

“That’s an oversight, alright.” Sunset rubbed her forefinger and thumb together. She smiled as a spark jumped out from beneath her fingernail. “Hold on, I’ve got a light.”

“I didn’t take you for somebody who’d carry around…” Twilight’s jaw dropped as she looked over her shoulder. “A lighter?”

Flames danced across Sunset’s hand, providing a little light to the stairway. She pointed with her other hand. “Found the switch.”

Twilight’s eyes were locked on Sunset’s hand. She reached up without looking and flicked the switch, sitting an arm’s-length away from the door.

Sunset blew the fire out and rubbed her hand on her jeans. She blushed under Twilight’s intense stare. “So, um… machine, right?”

Spike smelled her hand from behind. He gave Sunset an unquestionably quizzical look.

Twilight pulled her glasses off to rub her eyes. “Sunset… Sunset. You can’t just go and break my mind like that. Give a girl a little warning, alright?”

Once they had reached the bottom of the steps, Sunset laid an arm around Twilight’s shoulder. “Your mind has not begun to be blown. Just consider this a preview of what’s to come.”

“A preview, huh?” Twilight Sparkle moved alongside a large metal box, covered in dials and switches. She reached out and flicked one with her thumb. “Can everybody across the portal do that?”

“Not exactly.” Sunset Shimmer circled the giant computer, watching the lights flicker and listening to the innards chuff and whirr. “I’ve just always had a talent for magic.”

Twilight cranked a dial. She went to the side of the machine and pulled out a drawer, on which several black sensors were arranged in a circle. She set the book on top of them, watching white text appear on a black screen. “Is now a good time to ask how magic works?”

Sunset sat in a dusty office chair. She lifted her legs and spun around. “I’ll try to answer your questions. It’s been a while since I’ve really practiced, though, just as a warning.”

Twilight Sparkle stuck her tongue out of the side of her mouth. She flicked three switched and twisted two dials. “I guess my first question is ‘what is it?’”

Sunset Shimmer set her feet on the floor. She squinted at her intertwined fingers.

Twilight Sparkle took hold of a roll of paper as the machine printed wavy lines on it. “Stupid question, I’m assuming?”

“Not stupid, just… not something I ever considered.” Sunset shrugged. “I mean, it just is. It’s like, somebody asking ‘What is sunlight?’ Everybody knows what sunlight is. It’s always there. You can always just…”

Sunset Shimmer grew quiet.

Twilight Sparkle went over the figures on the sheet, doing the math in her head. If her calculations were correct, there was a hint of the same magic energy running through the book. Not only that, but it was within driving distance. Just a little longer, and she could pinpoint the location.

She glanced at Sunset, who was staring into the middle distance. “Just what, Sunset?”

“You can always just reach out and touch it.” Sunset laughed humorlessly. Spike pattered up and sat beside her. He rested his head on her lap. “Magic is energy. Pure energy. We get the energy from sugar, which gets metabolized in our bloodstream. Our hearts produce it, and out of there, it gets spread throughout our whole body.”

“What?” Twilight giggled. “You guys get more powerful the more sugar you ingest?”

“No! No! We’ve got limits. If you eat too much sugar, you’ll still have the same issues we get here.” Sunset cracked a grin. “Even though there’s a rumor that some of the greatest wizards in history were morbidly obese.”

Twilight snorted. “Oh, so you’ve got wizards now. What’s next? Witches? Sorcerers? Stage magicians that actually use magic?”

Sunset lowered her eyebrows.

Twilight Sparkle’s face went blank. She slapped her forehead. “Sorry. This is just… weird.” She cleared her throat. “I’ll shut up now. Continue.”

Sunset nodded. “The magic is carried from our hearts to our limbs, or horns, or wings, or whatever we have, by little veins called fairy strings. It’s built like the nervous system, trailing all throughout the body. From there, we manipulate it to do whatever we want. There’s whole libraries full of magic textbooks teaching how to perform different spells, or to brew potions, or how to manipulate the weather, or anything you can imagine.”

Twilight Sparkle touched a pencil to her lips and watched Sunset’s eyes shine. She could see the energy building in her friend. Talking about magic was pulling a long smile across her face. It was pumping adrenaline through her veins, shaking her with excitement. She loved magic, Twilight realized. Loved it.

“Anything you can imagine, huh?” Twilight said. She shook her head. “Why would you want to leave a place like that?”

Sunset Shimmer clenched her fists. The fire died in her eyes, but it was replaced with something else. Something Twilight couldn’t quite identify. Something sad.

“I was the personal student of the most powerful, wisest magic user in the world.” Sunset rubbed Spike’s head, while he whined in sympathy. “I studied under her every day, learning and growing. But it wasn’t enough. Not for me. I wanted something… something that I considered my birthright. I wanted to rule.”

“Rule?” Twilight Sparkle ran her eyes over the numbers etched on her paper. Getting closer. “Like a king or something?”

“Exactly like a king,” Sunset sighed. “One with more magic than they knew what to do with, and an eternity to abuse it.”

Twilight let the paper fall to the ground. She pressed her palms together and looked away. “Eternity?”

“I found a spell that I thought would lead to everlasting life.” Sunset Shimmer bit down hard on the inside of her cheek. “When I learned my teacher was hiding it from me, I freaked out. She said I wasn’t ready. I didn’t listen.”

Twilight Sparkle blew a long breath between her lips. “Anything you can imagine, huh?”

Sunset smirked sadly. “That’s only the half of it.”

Spike put his paw up beside his nose, looking at Sunset with his green eyes. He yawned wide.

“I ran away,” Sunset said. “I was furious with my teacher. I was embarrassed with myself. So many plans were all falling down around me.” She blinked back the sting in her eyes. “For reasons I’ll never fully understand, the mirror was open at just that time. I jumped through to escape Celestia and start my own life.”

Twilight’s lip twitched. “Celestia?”

“My teacher.” Sunset held up a finger. “And also the name of the principal at my school. You’re not the only one with a double.”

Twilight stretched out her arm and rested her back against the computer. “You’re gonna have to explain that to me one of these days.”

“I think you’ll get it soon enough.” Sunset ran her fingers through her damp hair. “When I got here, it took me all of an hour to realize I was in over my head. I didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know how things worked, and…” She opened her hands palm-up. “I couldn’t do magic.”

Twilight waved at the staircase. “Three things that have, clearly, changed.”

“Right. But that’s ten years of change.” Sunset watched Spike’s sides heave with every breath he took. “Took about a week for the police to pick up the young girl stealing food and living in dumpsters. With no known next of kin or legal guardians, I was put into the system.”

She slumped in the chair. “Thus ensued a couple months of house-hopping because nobody knew what to do with the megalomaniac with a horse fixation.”

Twilight rolled another office chair next to Sunset’s. She sat down and took her friend’s hand.

Sunset squeezed. “By the time I was carted to Davenport and Roseluck’s, I was just happy to have a roof over my head.”

“Davenport and Rose—” Twilight’s eyebrows jumped as she leaned back. “You’re Scootaloo’s foster sister?”

A grin brightened Sunset’s clouded face. “Yeah, I am. How do you know her?”

“She’s one of Apple Bloom’s best friends. I was usually dodging water balloons while I was tutoring Big Mac.” Twilight narrowed her eyes playfully. “If it was your idea to form the Crusaders Club, I may never forgive you.”

“I wasn’t that evil!” Sunset said with a guffaw. Spike’s head perked up as his tail wagged. “No. I was a victim just as often as anybody else was.”

“Good.” Twilight gave Sunset’s hand a final squeeze before letting go. “You know, you make yourself sound like a real piece of work. You’re not like that, though. You’re a good friend.”

“I’m a good friend now.” Sunset let Spike lick her palm. “I had to go through the fire a couple times to get here. I had to have all the nasty stuff burned away.” She sucked her lips in. “Your double, the Twilight from the other world, she was the first big one. Scootaloo and her parents helped. Until I screwed that up, too.”

She shrugged. “It would never have worked if our friends didn’t stick around to help me grow.”

Your friends, Twilight thought, but didn’t say.

“And you. Thank you for being there for me.” Sunset scratched Spike’s head. “I owe you a lot.”

Twilight Sparkle stood up and glanced at the rolls of paper the machine was still spitting out. “You mean mirror-me or what?”

“No, you. Just you,” Sunset said. “Coming in and saving the day is all well and good, but the most important people in your life are the ones who stay.”

Twilight frowned. She lowered an eyebrow and watched Sunset’s face. Her friend smiled gently, her fingers still scratching Spike in just the right spot. The silly dog was on cloud nine.

Something gripped Twilight’s heart. She coughed and turned away to stare at the numbers. Several calculations later, she had the location. “I’ve got it. Let’s get a move on.”

“You’ve got it?” Sunset stood. “Already?”

“I told you, I’ve been tracking magic for ten years. A decade is plenty of time to become an expert at something.” Twilight scribbled a few notes on scratch paper. She flicked off the machine and let it whir to a halt. “Or at least to think you’re an expert at it.”

“That’s a dangerous spot to be in,” Sunset muttered.

“Maybe so.” Twilight double-checked the pistol strapped to her chest. “But no time like the present to find out for sure, right?”

She marched to the stairs, a devilish smile touching her lips. Sunset held up a hand. “Wait a sec.”

Twilight skidded to a halt on her heels. “Huh?”

“We can’t just haul off now. We could be gone for days. Or weeks.” Sunset Shimmer pulled out her phone and started to dial. “I need to find a place for Sunny to stay. You might want to put Spike in a kennel.”

The breath caught in Twilight’s throat. She looked at her dog. His graying tail wagged behind him as he waited for a word from either of them.

Twilight blinked. “Anything you can imagine.”

Sunset gave her a double-take. “What’d you say?”

“Actually, I think I’ll just bring him with us.” Twilight took the stairs two at a time. “Come on, Spike! Come here, boy! Wanna go for a ride?”

Spike barked and hurried up the stairs as fast as his tired limbs could carry him.

Sunset Shimmer stared blankly up the stairs. Her phone clicked in her numbed hand. A squeaky voice spoke out the other end, grabbing the tip of her ear. “Oh, yes, honey. Could you put your mom on? I need to talk to Pinkie about something.”


“You’re sure this isn’t too much trouble?” Sunset Shimmer asked.

Pinkie Pie smiled as Cheese Cake, her toddler and current youngest child, crawled up her arms. “No problemaroonie, Sunset! You know Sunny’s always welcome here!”

Pinkie Pie’s arms were skinny, but deceptively strong. She lifted Cheese one-handed and cradled her in the crook of her opposite elbow. “Believe me, I’m always here to support your adrenaline addiction.”

Sunset scoffed. “It’s not an adrenaline ad—!”

“I know! I know. Sorry. Just trying to make a joke.” Pinkie shook her head, letting her pink curls bounce. “But seriously, I’d be happy to look after Sunny. Maybe this time he and Cheesy will become good friends. Right, Cheesy?”

Cheese Cake scrunched her nose. “No.”

“We’ll see about that, my sweet.” Pinkie smirked. “Danny! Can you come carry Sunny’s things to Cheesy’s room?”

Cheese Danish, a seven-year-old boy, hurried in. He tried to hide the fact that his mouth was dripping with whipped cream. “Yes, Mommy!”

“Danny! That was for after supper!” Pinkie rolled her eyes. “Is there enough left for the pumpkin pie Pound Cake made for us?”

Cheese Danish swallowed. “Um. I think so.”

“That’ll have to do for now.” Pinkie watched the boy scramble off. “And tell your sister to clean up! Daddy’s gonna be home in ten minutes!”

Sunset blushed. She let Sunny toddle away to where a bunch of toys were set out in the living room. “Sorry to spring this on you when things are so crazy.”

“Crazy? Girl, you have not seen crazy in this house.” Pinkie Pie giggled, letting a snort escape. “When three kids you reach, then can you talk to me of crazy.”

Sunset looked down at Pinkie’s belly. “With a fourth on the way?”

“Well, you know, we’ll probably take a break after this one.” Pinkie waggled her hand. “At least until Danny’s grown up.”

She took a deep breath in and snuggled Cheese Cake close. “There’s just something magical about my kids, Sunset. Something beautiful and amazing and fantastic. I love ’em to bits.”

She winked. “If you see the other Pinkie over there, remind her that she needs to hurry up and find her hubby. She’s missing out.”

Sunset jumped as Pinkie Pie whirled around, shouting at the top of her lungs. “Cherrileena Persephone Pie! You put that cookie back, get your buns into the bathroom, and wash your hands!”

On the other side of the house, Cherry Pie, a five-year-old girl with curly pink hair, slowly lowered herself from the countertop.

Pinkie Pie laughed. “Who needs eyes in the back of their head when they’ve got a mom-radar?”

Sunset smiled. She shifted her weight and angled for the door. “Well, thanks again for all your help, Pink—”

“Wait.” Pinkie rested her free hand on Sunset’s shoulder. She blinked rapidly to stall out a sudden onset of tears. “I, um, just wanted…”

She grabbed Sunset in a strong hug. “Just be careful out there, okay? Be safe. Come back to Sunny, okay? Please?”

Sunset hugged the shorter woman back. “Of course I will! I’m not letting anything happen to any of us. Trust me.”

“I’ll try.” Pinkie pulled away and wiped her eyes. Cheese Cake started squirming, so she let the little girl down. “I mean, I will. I will.”

Sunset held back a laugh as Pinkie’s daughter trundled over to smack Sunny on the back of the head. “It’s easy, Pinkie. All you gotta do is giggle at the ghostly.”

Pinkie stuck her hands in her pockets. She looked up at Sunset with watery eyes. “Sunset… these aren’t invisible, pretend monsters hiding in the shadows. These are real. These are the kinds who, when you sing at them, they just laugh back.”

Sunset Shimmer rubbed her chin. She danced her fingers through the air, letting magic build up around them. A wooden block lifted up behind Sunny, who was busy trying to knock down Cheese Cake’s tower. Pinkie crossed her eyes to see the block fly through the air and land on top of her head. She pulled it out of her curls and examined it.

“If we do meet any of those kinds of monsters,” Sunset said, “I’ll have a few tricks up my sleeve.”

She knelt down and held her arms out. “Sunny?”

The little boy couldn’t hear her over the racket running through the rest of the house. He alternated between building a castle and preventing Cheese Cake from setting up hers.

Sunset laughed deep in her chest. She picked herself up, walked over to him, and kissed her son on the top of his head. “Love you, Sunny. See you soon.”

“Love you, Mommy,” he said, stacking his walls inside a moat made out of yarn.

She stood up and zipped her jacket to her chin. She gazed out the windows at the constant, unrelenting downpour. Lightning flashed in the distance, followed by the faint rumble of thunder. She opened the door, stepped out into the cold, and gave Pinkie a smile.

“To Equestria or bust.”


Sonata Dusk sat in the office, surrounded by paperwork and scrambling police officers. Her hand was clutched tight around a small trinket, a tiny shard of a gemstone. It had once overflowed with power, but those days were far gone. The gemstone had been broken, and with it, the Dazzlings.

Caution Tape, that one hefty officer, opened the door and stuck his head through. “You gorra place tah stay, ma’am? Oi could give the shelter downtown a ring an’ see if there’s a spot for yah.”

“In this weather?” Sonata muttered. “Everybody from Canterlot to Barrelsville is gonna want a place to stay. It’s full.”

“Well, there was hope, but…” He jerked a thumb out the door. “We could set up a spot for yah to rest your head in ’ere. Not much, but it’s better than a back alley.”

Sonata held the gem shard between her forefinger and thumb, letting the sharp points dig into her skin a little. “Don’t bother; I’ve got a place to be.”

Caution pushed the door the rest of the way open and laid a form on the desk. “In that case, we need yah to fill this out so we c’n contact you again.”

Sonata turned around in the chair and leaned her head over the back. “Did you ever meet Aria?”

“No. Can’t say as oi have.” He shrugged and handed her a pen. “She had a bloomin’ pretty voice in those commercials, though.”

“She was grumpy. Rude. Mean-spirited. You probably wouldn’t have liked her anyway.” Sonata sighed, scribbling a phone number down on the sheet. “But when she wanted to, she could get your attention.”

Sonata moved down to the address, a smirk appearing on her mouth. “She could talk about anything, and she’d do it in a way that made you want to agree with her. She knew just what to say to either puff you up… or make you feel terrible.”

She licked the tip of the pen, an old habit that had never quite died. “That’s how we worked, you know. Adagio was the brains with the bazillion plans all going at once. Aria was the talker, the convincer, the silver tongue…”

She ended the address with a full stop. “And I was the ditz.”

Caution Tape took the form from her. “You miss ’er, then?”

“They sucked.” Sonata tucked her long ponytail into the back of her sweatshirt and pulled the hood up. “But I guess I loved them, too.”

Caution scratched his short haircut. “That’s the way th’ cookie crumbles. Even those you didn’t much like… they c’n still leave an ’ole.”

“Yeah.” Sonata got to her feet and stuffed her hands in her pockets. “Can I go now?”

“Sure.” Caution took a step back to let her through. “Do y’ need a ride? Oi could ’ave somebody bring a squad car around—”

“No, thanks.” Sonata shook her head. “I don’t have far to go. I’m halfway there already.”

She paused mid-step. She leaned back and turned her torso towards him. “Officer Tape?”

He squared his stance, clasping his hands behind his back. “Yes, ma’am?”

She didn’t look straight at him. She gazed at a spot on the wall just past his shoulder. “Did you ever want to be a soldier?”

Caution’s eyebrows came together. He scratched his temple. “Yes, oi did. When oi was little, oi thought oi’d like t’ be either a police officer or a soldier. Ended up choosin’ this ’cause oi wanted to stay local. Not a bad decision, oi think.”

Sonata smiled wistfully. “Somebody once told me that there’s more than one of everything. More than one kind of person in any given place. More than one idea in your head. More than one good decision you could make.” She shrugged one shoulder. “More than one bad decision.”

She tilted her head towards him. “I think you made one of the good decisions.”

He fidgeted, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “Well… thanks. Oi guess.”

Sonata walked away, making a beeline for the door. “You know the sad thing about there being more than one of everything?”

Caution Tape’s mouth dipped open. He made a small, dithering sound. “Uh, ah, no, what is it?”

Sonata pulled the door open. Rain prickled against her face. “It means nothing’s unique.”

She jogged into the rain, leaving a gaping Caution behind. Her clothes were soaked in seconds under the deluge. She moved with practiced ease, knowing exactly which alley to duck into, exactly which awnings she could run under, exactly which route would take her safely to her destination. She knew the city well after living there for a dozen-odd years. Every nook and cranny came to mind as naturally as breathing.

She came to the edge of downtown in a half hour. A highway led out of town, propped up by concrete pillars where it crossed a small river. Not many cars were out this late, especially after it had rained for so long. Still, she walked along the edge, not wishing to tempt fate.

She closed her fist tight around the crystal shard. It bit into her palm and let her focus on the painful sting, rather than her circumstances. Rather than what she’d seen that night. Rather than what she let happen.

“Hold onto your plot, Adagio,” she muttered. “They’re coming for you.”

She stopped at the base of a streetlamp and opened her hand. The gemstone, the last intact piece of her necklace, shined a deep, bloody crimson. She patted her pants pocket and heard several other shards jingle about inside. They were the last reminder of the power she once had, but would never have again.

“I’m gonna miss you guys.”

She lifted her head and saw lights in the distance. Houses big and small stood out in the darkness as people played, watched television, read, or whatever else they did on stormy nights. The suburbs lay open, warm and inviting. She quickened her pace and made way for her intended destination.