This is a one shot fic based on Mora and the unanswered questions surrounding her character. Why was Mora so afraid of growing up, how did she and Gruumm cross paths; things of that nature. She was my favorite of the S.P.D. season, but sadly she was given no back story. So I thought it would be fun to go back and fill in the blanks with this fic.
It isn't exactly PR style, but it fully explains Mora and the things she did. I hope you all enjoy it.
Confinement; this was the punishment handed down by the officers of the S.P.D. academy. Any creature who saw to it to step outside the law would face the same fate. They would find themselves locked away in a dark, silent holding cell no bigger than a baseball card. Ultimately they would be filed away somewhere behind locked doors and eventually forgotten. The world would keep on turning and those criminals would soon fade into obscurity. Their victims would go on with their lives, sooner or later moving past their suffering. But those in confinement could not forget. They were left to dwell on the things they'd done; those crimes that had landed them in S.P.D. custody. Unlike their many victims, those who broke the law would be left alone, forced to live out the rest of their days haunted by the ghosts of their pasts.
This was the case for Mora, an unfortunate being brought down by the academy's commander himself. Ever since she'd been brought to justice by the much respected Doggie Cruger, this had been Mora's life. She found herself trapped there surrounded only by darkness. At first the child had fought this punishment with all she had. Mora screamed and screamed until her throat burned. But now, days having passed since her confinement, the tiny Troobian saw the truth. Those screams were wasted. No one heard. No one cared. She was alone there. No matter how long she shouted, it would bring her no closer to freedom, fore the only ears to hear those desperate cries were her own.
Time passed slowly for Mora as it did all those who'd gone before her. Seconds drifted by like hours there. It hadn't taken long for loneliness to set in. No matter how long she sat there praying for another sign of life, she still found herself alone. Minute after minute, hour after hour, the only voice Mora had to soothe her was the one inside her own head. It felt to her as if the thin walls of that card were closing in on her. This was it for her, it seemed. From the moment she saw the light of the card reflect off of the Shadow Ranger's helmet until that when she would draw her final breath, this would be all she had. It was enough to make a creature go crazy, having no one to talk to but themselves. In a lot of ways Mora longed for the days when Rangers destroyed their enemies. Destruction, she felt, would be relief; far better than wasting away like this.
Confinement gave criminals time to reflect. Trapped within their nearly paper thin prisons, they would have no other choice but to look back on their lives. Mora herself had played the events of her life over and over again in her head. She could see them so clearly. Those choices she'd made had forced this onto her. Through her mind's eye, she could see exactly where she'd gone wrong. She'd traveled down the wrong path and this was where it landed her; in a card locked away, shunned from society.
"It wasn't suppose to be this way.", she choked out through her tears. "All I ever wanted was a second chance. I wanted to be young again. I never asked for this."
As she spoke those words so softly in the darkness, Mora felt a few stray tears start to roll down her cheeks.
The tear drops continued to fall from her lost blue eyes. One after another they would travel down her rose red face. In the midst of the Troobian's sobs, her mind began to play back once again the series of events that had landed her there in that God forsaken card. Little by little Mora's memory carried her back to the very first day things had started to go wrong.
* * *
A young Mora moved slowly through the streets of the planet Onyx. The girl's black boots scuffing through the dirt sent dust rising up from her path, gradually beginning to sting her eyes. Head hung low, Mora passed one Western style building after another. Behind her she could hear the sounds of other children playing. Their screams carried loudly through the dusty air. She could hear their shoes pounding the ground around her as they ran in all directions. Each of different origins, these aliens scurried like mice through the streets of the run down old town. They were all full of energy. All except for Mora that is. The girl moved at a snail's pace past them, without so much as a word spoken. She didn't look up, wave, or acknowledge them in any way. She was in her own little world on that day. To look at her there, seeming so lost beneath the burning sun, one would've wondered if she saw the other children at all. In fact she had. Mora knew they were there. She simply had no interest in conversing with them. They were nothing to her, as she was to them.
In time the girl found herself ready to turn a corner, moving onto the next street in her aimless stroll. The turn had come and yet she stopped. Something had caused her feet to stop moving; a change in her surroundings. Mora no longer heard the sound of kids shoes against the dirt. The thuds they'd once created had stopped cold. The kids weren't moving. Though her back was to them, Mora knew this. Their games had come to an end all of a sudden. Little by little, Mora's head began to rise. For the first time in miles, her blue eyes shifted upward, being torn away from the ground beneath her.
There was a curiosity in her mind as she continued to listen to the new found silence. In an instant the kids behind her had stopped playing, stopped moving all together. They'd frozen. But what puzzled the brunette alien was why. Had she done something to gain their attention? Had the sadness on her face alerted them?
Some time passed by before that all too eerie silence was broken. Somewhere among them, Mora heard a soft giggle. It was so faint at first, almost impossible to pick up. But as the seconds ticked by, that sound began to grow louder. Soon the laughter of one child moved on to another, then another. Like wild fire it spread throughout the group until the sound was all that Mora heard. Their cackles, so loud and cruel, over powered the howl of the wind. There was something so taunting about it. And even without looking at them, Mora knew what this was about. It was her. Those kids were laughing at her. She didn't know why, but she could feel it. Their eyes must've all been locked on her, watching her. She hadn't yet turned, but she could sense herself being held in their judgmental gaze.
The laughter continued, growing louder and more taunting with time. In the midst of it, Mora simply stared straight ahead. Not once did she turn her head or even dare to shift her eyes in a momentary glance at them. What had she done, the kid continued to ask herself? What was it about her that drew their attention? Mora truly didn't know, but that would be answered soon enough.
Within the giggles of the many cruel intentioned aliens came a single word: Mora. Her name began to be repeated among them. "Mora..... Mora.....", they would chant. Over and over her own name met her ears in an eerie monotone. With each repetition of the word, Mora felt her face growing hotter. This was due in part to the blistering sun that shown over Onyx and in part to embarrassment. All of a sudden, through no fault of her own, Mora found herself the center of attention. She was the target. Each one of those kids behind her had focused on her. She'd passed them minding her own business, but for some reason they'd singled her out. They'd chosen to tease her. "Mora.... Mooorrrraaa....", their chant continued over top the laughter of others.
"Just keep walking.", Mora thought to herself. "Just walk away and forget about them."
Her face she guessed must've been as red as the pedals of a wild rose in that moment. If she stood there and allowed them to see the effect their taunting had on her, it would never stop. If those kids knew they'd gotten to her, this lost, confused feeling Mora had would never go away.
"Don't let them bother you.", Mora continued to instruct herself. "They don't matter. They're nothing. Just low rent trash with little better to do. They aren't worth the gum on your shoe. Ignore them and walk away."
And so she did as the little voice in her head commanded. Placing one foot in front of the other, Mora started to distance herself. Lowering her head once again, she started to round the building to her right, yet she didn't get any further than two steps before she froze again. The girl felt a small pebble bounce off of her back. When her eyes shifted, she caught sight of it lying a little ways from her in the dust. One of the kids had thrown it. Mora knew this even without seeing the action. She could imagine one of the brats in her wake thrusting their arm forward and throwing the tiny stone. It looked little bigger than a raisin, but it wasn't its size that mattered to her. It was the thought.
"That does it.", she huffed through tightly clenched teeth. A fury could be noted in her eyes as she spoke those words so softly to herself.
Suddenly Mora turned, laying eyes on the motionless group of kids for the first time. They all stood in a pack just the way she'd envisioned. Kids of all different sizes with faces ranging through every color of the rainbow, each with their eyes locked on her. There were approximately ten of them, Mora guessed while shifting her gaze across the group. Some wore cruel smirks while others remained stone faced. Why had they focused on her, Mora wondered once again? She'd done nothing to them; simply passed by. Now all of a sudden she found herself victim to their cruel taunts.
She truly didn't understand what had drawn their attention to her so suddenly, but she was Hell bent on finding out. Mora's tiny hands became clenched into fists of rage, held down at her sides. As a warm desert wind continued to blow through her long brown hair, she stared them down. Her eyes grew wide with anger; the cast stone having set her off.
"What do you want?", she shouted to them from her distance.
All Mora got in return for her question was more taunting laughter. It quickly spread throughout the band of alien kids once again. A few pointed their fingers at her, amused by the anger they saw in her pale face.
"Knock it off!", Mora snapped in an even more furious tone than before.
"Or what? You'll tell your daddy on us?", one boy retorted.
His words singled the boy out from the rest of the horde. Mora saw him as a slightly over weight creature; his complexion a dark blue with a cocky smile spread across his scaled face.
"Oh that's right.", he went on. "You can't. He's a jailbird now!"
At first Mora's brow furrowed in confusion. The fat boy's comment had angered her, but even more so it had confused her. The girl's head tilted slightly to one side trying to figure him out. Was this a joke? It sure didn't appear that way to her. Not in the tone he used.
"What the heck are you talking about?", she finally demanded.
Mora's eyes were focused on the boy, but before he could voice a response, another of the kids shouted from near the back of the group. This was a girl, or at least Mora thought it was. On a planet as diverse as Onyx, it wasn't exactly easy to tell.
"Your dad went to jail! S.P.D. got him! I saw it on the news!", she called out.
"Yeah," the first boy pitched in, "He got locked up for kill'n that cop!"
Mora started to respond, but she found no words. The girl's mouth opened, but not the slightest sound emerged. She'd been left speechless as a deep silence washed over the group. For the longest time, none heard anything beyond the howl of the wind around them that whipped through Mora's hair.
At first she wasn't even sure she'd heard him right. Maybe that wind had deafened her. But the longer she stood there staring at the mob of children, the more she began to doubt that theory. The boy's claim repeated itself in her mind like a broken record. The last few words seemed to echo around her just the way their laughter once had. Mora was left stunned there beneath the rays of golden sun. Its warmth covered her face. When at last she was able to speak again, the brunette child found her sentence emerging in fragments.
"You're.... you're wrong!", she cried defensively. "He's..... he's not in jail. He's conquering another galaxy! My mom said!"
"Please!", the girl in the crowd shot back. "He's confined for life!"
"He is not!", Mora shouted. But in her voice she could hear a hint of uncertainty. Her objections, so loudly spoken, were as much for her own benefit as they were for that group of kids. She needed to convince herself. "My dad would never let S.P.D. take him down! He's the strongest warrior in the whole universe and when he gets back, he'll..... he'll rip you all apart!"
With a wave of his chubby hand, the blue scaled boy dismissed her passionate claim. Mora could see his head shaking in doubt. He hadn't believed her. None of them had. In fact, Mora began to question if she even believed this herself.
"Nah.", the boy spoke. "He was carded."
As laughter erupted once again from the crowd, Mora would've liked nothing more than for the ground to open up and swallow her. Those ten kids stood before her all giggling and pointing. Her life was a joke to them. Mora didn't know whether or not to believe their story. But either way it didn't make the sting of their cruel intentioned cackles any less. The girl felt her hands start to tremble. Her face was growing hotter by the second, red with embarrassment. The kids could see this. She knew they could. They could easily see how their words and their laughter had hurt her. And so they kept on. They drew pleasure from watching her hands shake. Looking on at them, Mora knew what these heartless beings were waiting for. They wanted to make her cry. Each one longed for the moment when that first tear drop would fall from her eyes. They watched and waited for them to run down Mora's face like rain. Only then would the darkness inside them be satisfied.
Little by little, the confused kid began to back up. One step at a time she slowly distanced herself from them. These steps, however, were not enough to shut out the laughter that surrounded her. They were waiting for that moment when the flood gates would open, but Mora would've never given them the satisfaction. She could feel her cheeks start to tingle; her chin begin to quiver. But she couldn't let them win. So instead, she turned away and broke into a run across the dusty ground.
Mora was set to run from them as far as her legs would carry her, but she didn't get far. Another sound, much louder than the children's taunting laughter, caused her to stop cold. This was the ear splitting sound of a blaster's discharge. Through wide eyes Mora watched a beam of rose red light travel across the sky. When it sailed past her head, the girl turned allowing her gaze to follow it. Seconds after her body had made that shift, she saw the light collide with the ground inches from the group of cackling kids. Upon impact, it sent a shower of dust and fire shooting up from dirt beneath them. Mora's mouth hung open as she watched this scene play out. The second the flames had ignited before them, the ten began to scatter. All took off in different directions. Their cocky attitudes had vanished the moment the shot had been fired. Now they were reduced to babies screaming in fear. They ran as quickly as they could from the sudden burst of fire; some into the distance and others through the doors of run down establishments that lined the street. Their cruelty was gone. Now only terror remained.
Most of the time Mora would've taken pleasure in this. A tiny smirk would've come to her lips and a slight twinkle to her eye. But on this particular day, she found herself only confused. This was both by the mysterious blast and by the accusation those kids had made. She couldn't find the humor in the situation fore her mind was weighted down.
"Huh?", she finally gasped. "Who would've.....?"
Turning once again in the direction of the blaster's hot light, Mora's words fell away. Squinting, she could see a figure moving toward her. He was little more than a silhouette at first; his features lost in the sun's light that shown down his back. Staring on, mouth agape, Mora saw only a dark figure. His steps were slow, but steady carrying him ever closer to her. Through the blinding rays of golden sun, Mora saw him return the gun to a holster at his side. It made a faint clicking noise when locked into place.
"They won't bother you again.", came a familiar voice.
Though Mora couldn't yet see the man's face, she knew she'd heard that scratchy voice somewhere before. It took a moment longer before the creature had grown close enough to escape the sun's glare.
"You?", Mora choked out in a whisper.
Indeed Mora had laid eyes on this figure before. With thick white armor, a helmet of bright red, and yellow eyes that flashed as brightly as the sun, his image returned to the girl. She knew him. This seemingly cybernetic being that grew nearer to her was an ally of her father; a faceless soldier whose name she'd heard and since forgotten.
When at last he'd reached her, Mora simply stared up at the man in question. He towered over her four foot body; his shadow being cast down upon her, blocking her from the sun's light. At first glance he would've appeared intimidating, but Mora didn't find herself afraid. Even though his name was a mystery to her, she could remember seeing that face in her past. It was this hint of familiarity that prompted her to speak without much further hesitation.
"I remember you,", she said while pointing a finger up at him. "You're Dad's friend..... Volvo."
"Valco.", he corrected with slight annoyance in his voice. "And you are right. Your father and I have been allies for many years."
"And you helped me because....?"
"Don't over think it, child. I came to your aid because you are Sorran's heir. I have developed a great respect for your father in these past years. It is only right that the same respect be shown to you, Mora."
A brief silence came over the two of them once Valco's words had fallen away. Though they were familiar with each other, neither really knew the other. To Mora, Valco was no more than an acquaintance of her father. She'd never really known him. She'd seen him on rare occasions throughout her life, but the two had never really spoken. At least not anything carrying beyond causalities. Valco had been kind to her, mostly due to her father, she knew. But the two weren't really friends. What was there to say?
In time Valco saw to it to break the silence. His raspy voice could be heard from deep inside the sparkling helmet as his head lowered. His golden eyes once again locked onto Mora. "You shouldn't be out here.", he told her with little emotion in his tone. "Onyx is no place for children. The creatures who inhabit this worthless rock are a danger to you." He paused momentarily in his words. "Hell, they are a danger to themselves."
Through the glow of Valco's eyes, he noticed Mora's face go blank. Somewhere in his words, she'd shut him out. She seemed so distant as she stared over her shoulder, looking to the spot where those kids once stood.
"Mora?", Valco questioned. Yet again his voice went unheard.
It wasn't his words Mora found herself concerned with. It was those spoken by the kids just before they scattered into the distance. She found herself staring at the spot on the ground where the blast had hit. Its dirt was left charred black; a hint of smoke still rising from it, quickly to be blown away by the desert wind. For some time Mora remained entranced. The hot air blew a few locks of brown hair back over her shoulder.
Valco would've spoke again were it not for the sudden shift in the girl's position. So sudden in her movements, Mora returned her focus to him. There was a seriousness in her deep blue eyes as she looked up at him.
"Were they right?", she asked him quietly. "About my father.... were they right?"
"I beg your pardon?"
Valco hadn't over heard much of the conversation; only the laughter that followed. Thus he was lost as to the cause of the girl's troubled expression.
"They said.... they said dad got contained. Its not true, is it? They said S.P.D. defeated him, that he killed one of their own and.... now he's serving a life sentence. They're lying.... aren't they?"
"Have you discussed this with Vexica?"
Mora shook her head from side to side prior to answering. "Mom told me he left. That he was destroying another galaxy. I asked her which one, but.... all she'd tell me was that he'd be back soon. No matter what else I ask her, she just repeats that and then shuts down. Its like she doesn't even hear me."
Valco was silent for some time. From her spot in front of him, Mora could see the creature's head start to lower. Though she could read no expression on his face for obvious reasons, she could tell something was off. All of a sudden Valco was distant, far too quiet for comfort. It was in those moments watching him ponder the situation that Mora saw the harsh reality. What those kids said was true. Were it not, Valco would've never hesitated like that. He'd have forced the doubts from her mind immediately. But instead his just stood there staring at the rotting planks of a wooden deck a few feet from them. Her father's ally couldn't even make eye contact with her. He was holding it in.
Mora shook her head before raising a stiff finger in his direction. She was no mind reader, but it was clear to her what Valco was considering. He was asking himself whether or not to follow Vexica's obviously fictitious story.
"If you even think of lying to me," she started in a threatening tone, "I'll vaporize you where you stand."
Valco's head didn't turn, but she did hear his voice faintly from behind the shining helmet.
"You really are Sorran's daughter, aren't you?", he asked hypothetically. Valco could see the similarity in her tough approach. It was like talking to a miniature version of the warrior he once knew.
"Don't pacify me. They were right. Dad's in confinement?"
As she continued to listen, Mora could hear a sigh escape from within the robotic looking creature that towered over her. Valco didn't want to do this, but he was not to be let off the hook. Mora's eyes remained focused on him, burning a hole into his very being. He could've never walked away from there, not without giving her the answers she deserved. Mora was too much like Sorran to ever allow that. She was spoiled. What Mora wanted, she got, and what she wanted then was the truth.
"Yes, Mora.", Valco finally admitted with a hint of defeat in his voice. "Your father.... he's gone."
This had become apparent to Mora from the silence she'd been given before. Yet as those raspy words fell down upon her, the preparation didn't help. In the seconds that followed, she didn't know how to feel. Should she be angry, curse the academy? Sad perhaps over losing the father who'd given her so much? Should she skip the emotions and vow revenge? Nothing was clear to Mora. All she knew for sure was that Sorran was gone. She could no longer wait in the window for him to return. She'd never again see him walk through the door with his armor rattling and his blood stained sword resting over his shoulder. Sorran would never again lift her into his arms and call her his princess. Because of S.P.D. he was gone forever.
In time her lonely eyes returned to Valco. There was an emptiness in her voice when at last she spoke again. "How'd it happen? The kids said he killed one of them; an officer. But....."
"You need details.", Valco offered, finishing her thought. "Your father was in battle with the Red Ranger, William Tate. I don't know how much Sorran has told you over the years, but there was a vendetta between the two of them. They hated each other. Both were too stubborn to retreat. Tate wouldn't call for backup. He wanted to bring Sorran in on his own. But your father was too powerful. In the end, he shot the man dead."
Mora nodded. There was a time when a story like that would've impressed her. She'd always known her father to be a ruthless fighter. But on that day, she still felt empty inside. Even if he had beaten Will Tate, it still wasn't enough to bring him back to her.
"I'm afraid once that final blast was fired, Sorran became overly confident. He gloated; stuck around to revel in his victory. A cruiser passed him, saw Tate's busted helmet lying on the grass...." Valco stopped to gather breath. Telling this to Mora, knowing how she adored her father, was not easy for him. He was indeed a heartless criminal, but this did not mean Valco didn't have some loyalty for those he'd let into his circle, Sorran and his child included. "They surrounded him, pulled their guns.... your father was trapped. S.P.D. confined him before he had a chance to escape."
"And.... he'll be there... forever?", Mora questioned, trying her hardest to fight back her own tears.
"Indeed. They charged him with first degree murder, a charge that by itself carries a potential life sentence. Adding on the fact that the victim was one of their own..... I'm sorry, Mora, but.... Sorran will not be coming home."
* * *
At the time, Mora hadn't been able to see it. But now, sitting there in S.P.D. custody herself, it all seemed so much clearer. Her father's judgment and eventual confinement was the first in the series of events that lead to her own. The girl's life had worked like a chain, each event linking to the next, and gradually leading her down a road she never should've traveled.
While staring around in the darkness that was the tiny card, Mora felt her mind continue to drift. She felt the memories flooding back to her one after another.
* * *
Nearly a year had passed since Sorran's judgment. Vexica had moved on, but Mora never could. Each night she would sit atop her bed with memories of her beloved father plaguing her mind. Every time the sun sank behind the trees of Onyx, Mora found herself in the exact same place. She would sit there for hours on her soft, plush mattress, locked in her room. The girl's only comfort came from a single doll she affectionately called Cindy Sunshine. Unlike her other toys that were long since forgotten, Cindy remained in her heart. Mora carried her everywhere with her, no matter how many times Vexica begged her not to. Her mom felt she was too old, but Vexica couldn't understand. When Mora held Cindy in her arms, she felt close to her father once again. That sad looking, mangled old doll was all she had left of Sorran. That poor stuffed toy had been beaten down by the hands of time. It looked like trash to most, but for Mora the badly aging Cindy was everything. Sorran had given it to her when she was three years old. The first time she'd watched him leave to wage war on the since conquered Aquitar, he'd put the doll on his daughter's lap, vowing to return. When Mora looked at the gift he'd given her, she thought of Sorran and the love seen on his face that day. With her father gone, it seemed the bond she'd once shared with him had been passed on. Mora clung to the doll he'd given her instead because his loving arms were no longer there to hold her.
On this particular night, Mora found herself staring blankly out at the moon. Its silvery glow shown in through the window, glistening across her face. Its light caused the lingering tear drops on her cheeks to sparkle like diamonds. The girl sat Indian style on her bed clinging to Cindy as always.
With a sigh, Mora lowered her head slightly, looking into the eyes of her little stuffed friend. There was a notable sadness on her face; one that had stayed there ever since Valco had broken the news to her.
"I know what you're thinking.", she said softly to the doll. "You think I should talk to Mom, that I should tell her I miss Dad. But you've seen her. She doesn't care. That witch doesn't wanna help me. All she wants to do is suck up to that new guy."
A bitter tone had come to her words, growing more and more obvious by the second. Vexica had let go of her past with Sorran, moving onto a new man; Boron. Every time Mora saw them together, she felt sick inside. This wasn't simply because he had taken Sorran's place with her mother, but what it had done to her relationship with Vexica.
"Ever since that little twerp moved in, Mom's forgot about us.", Mora went on, speaking to Cindy as if she were a person instead of an object. "All she ever does is try to make him
happy. Its always what he wants, when he wants it, and us.... we don't even matter anymore. She forgot us... just like she forgot Dad. Its all about him, 'Boron the Moron' and we're.... we're invisible."
A tiny sniffle cut into her words, bringing her back to silence. Of course she knew Cindy Sunshine wasn't real. That doll couldn't hear her, she couldn't understand her, and yet Mora talked to her anyway. With Sorran contained and Vexica caught up with her second husband, Mora didn't have anybody else. Cindy was it for her, the only friend she had left. As sad as it was, that doll was the only one in her house she felt would listen to her.
"What does she even see in him?", Mora wondered, still directing her words to the toy in her arms. "He's mean, he's ugly.... I don't understand. She's always fussing over Boron. Why not us? When did we
stop being important? How come he's the only one that deserves her attention? She was never like this when Dad was here. But ever since she met the intergalactic jerk.... she's like a different person. She doesn't talk, she doesn't laugh, doesn't smile. I don't even know her anymore."
Mora gave a brief sigh while she continued to stare at her stuffed companion.
"Guess that's why they call 'em step parents, huh? Cause they march right in and step
all over ya."
Throughout most of that evening Mora had heard nothing but silence in her house. Only her own voice within those four walls broke through it. This was how it had been ever since S.P.D. had taken Sorran away. She saw her home as this dark, lonely place. In fact, that structure in a run down suburb of Onyx didn't feel like home at all anymore. It was only wood and bricks to her. It had stopped being anything more the day Boron moved in. Mora felt like a stranger there as she sat atop her bed; as if she didn't belong there at all. Each night Vexica would go on with her new life, leaving her forgotten child behind that locked door. Mora never heard laughter ringing through those halls. Most nights she heard nothing at all as she remained there, frozen in the starlight from the window. The entire place was lost beneath the blanket of silence.
This night, however, proved slightly different from the others. As Mora wiped a few tears from her wet cheeks, she began to hear something in the distance. It was faint at first, only loud enough to draw her attention. The girl's head turned slowly in the darkness; her eyes suddenly focusing on the closed door across from her. The sound had caught her off guard. It was such a rarity that any life could be heard in that old house.
"What was that?", she asked Cindy softly.
Mora's hands tightened around the plush torso of the doll while waiting. Would she hear this strange sound again? At that moment, her mind tried to play it back for her, but she was still unable to make it out.
Following a few curious moments, Mora did indeed hear it again. The mysterious sound came louder this time, cutting easily through the white drywall that enclosed her room. Shouting. What had grabbed her attention had been the sound of angry shouts heard from down below. It was difficult for the child to make out words, but the tone was all too clear. There was a rage there. Continuing to listen, Mora bit down slightly on her bottom lip. She could feel her heart start to beat faster within her.
The voices were obvious to her as she shifted Cindy around on her lap. These were her parents; Vexica and Boron. With every cry that floated through those thin walls, Mora only held tighter to her toy. Her arms wrapped gradually around Cindy, embracing her in a hug that grew more fierce by the second.
At first Mora was unsure of how she wanted to handle this. Her best bet would've been to stay there in that dark room and pretend she'd never heard. But those her age had a strong curiosity about them; something that soon took control of the alien girl. There was a part of her that wanted to stay there, to hide away behind that door until it was over, but even stronger was her urge to see what was going on. She had to know. Mora didn't know why she cared so much. Just natural curiosity, she guessed. But whatever the reason, she soon found herself climbing down from her solid black bedspread. Once her feet collided with the cool, hardwood floor, Mora began to advance toward the door. Her steps were slow and quiet.
"Shhhh!", Mora instructed Cindy with her index finger pressed firmly to her lips.
With a note of hesitation, Mora placed her hand onto the golden knob of her bedroom door. It was cold to the touch, much like the rest of her home it seemed. Once drawing a breath down deep into her lungs, she turned it, allowing herself passage into the hallway.
All was dark as she stepped out onto the soft carpet. The only light came from the living room; a single lamp shining up the stairs, giving an eerie glow to all that surrounded her. The closer Mora got to the railing, the louder those shouts became.
"I did everything I could, Boron!", Mora heard her mom yell. "I sent the officers away, but I can't stop S.P.D. forever! If they come back with a warrant, what am I suppose to do?"
The desperation so clear in Vexica's voice caused Mora to stop. With one tiny hand resting on the stair rail, she stared down into the living room. Through fearful blue eyes she gazed down those steps, listening to her parents' angry cries echo around her. The girl couldn't see the two of them; only the front door that lay closed and locked far below. Boron and Vexica were still hidden, but their voices were not. From her spot at the top of the stairs, Mora could hear each word spoken between them. Holding Cindy closely to her, she listened. A mixture of curiosity and anxiety could be seen spreading across her young face in the lamp's orange glow.
"If I tell them no next time, they'll lock us both
up! Then what?", Vexica demanded.
"You let S.P.D. into this house! You opened the door and you let them inside, in spite of what I told you! And now you're going to stand here and feed me some crap about doing all you could? You know better than to answer to them!"
"They saw me in the window, damnit! I couldn't just...."
! I don't need your excuses! What I need from you is loyalty!"
The more of this fight Mora heard, the more frightened she became. Each furious word that carried up those stairs left her feeling sick inside. Her stomach tied into a thousand knots there in the darkness; her body starting to tremble. She heard a slight fear in Vexica's voice. And even though it was her mother in the fight, it felt to Mora like she
was the one under fire. Boron was so angry; every sentence he spoke being heard in a bone chilling snarl. Mora could already imagine the rage in his blood shot eyes. She could see his clinched fists and despite their distance, she could feel her mom's pain. Vexica had given her life. No matter how much the two had drifted apart in that past year, Mora still hated this. She didn't want to think about what was happening down there. Were it up to her, she'd have turned away and blocked it all out. But sadly she could not. Her brain screamed at her to run, to turn away from that landing, and dive back into her bed. She wanted to throw the covers over her head and pretend it wasn't happening, but she simply couldn't. Her legs, nearly buckling beneath her, would not carry her. Mora found herself shaking so badly at the top of those stairs that even standing was difficult. She had to clutch her hand tightly to the rail to keep herself up right. No matter how badly she wanted to shut this out, Mora just stood there, listening helplessly.
"I tried to throw them off your track!", Vexica insisted to her husband. "But they won't believe me! S.P.D. knows who I am! I was married to Sorran, he took out one of their own! My word means nothing to them now! I was married to a cop killer. That's all those people see when they look at me! Its only a matter of time before....."
"Don't you say it! If those cops come back here, Vexica....."
"I can't stop them!"
A sudden crash caused Mora to jump. Her breath caught in her throat as her step-father's fist collided with a table below. The sound was so sudden, so loud that it felt to her like a gun shot ringing out through the house. With it, Mora felt her grip on Cindy grow even tighter. Her hold on the doll was the only thing that kept her hands from shaking. The girl's mouth hung open; her eyes full of fear. When she felt her chin start to quiver, Mora finally found it within herself to move. At first she took only one step back. She wanted so badly to disappear into her room, unheard, and make herself forget these feelings she had. Though it seemed her wish wasn't to be granted. As the girl's foot hit the floor once again, she heard a loud groan from the aging boards beneath her; one that stopped her dead in her tracks.
"No. Please no.", she spoke in a whisper to the doll.
The creaking in that old house had been so loud. Hearing it erupt around her caused her heart rate to accelerate. One rapid thud after another came from her chest. At first she tried to tell herself they didn't hear, but deep down she knew that wasn't the case. Her cover had been blown.
"You see, Boron?", her mom asked just as frantic as before. "Now you woke Mora! I told you to be quiet!"
"She is my daughter! You have no right...."
"You should've thought of that before you made me a target!"
The sound of shattering glass finally broke Mora's frozen stance. The very second it rang throughout the house, she turned and took off across the carpet. With her long brunette hair blowing wildly behind her, Mora dove back through her open bedroom door, slamming it behind her. For a time she just stood there with her body pressed against it, staring into the eyes of the doll she held. Her heart pounded inside her. That sick feeling only grew worse as she imagined what might unfold in those minutes to follow.
These feelings Mora had were only natural. Even though there were times she felt Vexica was a stranger to her, the woman had still given her life. To stand there and hear Boron shout at her that way broke Mora's heart, no matter how much her mother had changed. Hearing the shouts ring out, the alien kid would've liked nothing more than to disappear. She didn't want to be left with those voices in her head or worse yet the mental images they'd left behind.
* * *
As she came back to reality, Mora breathed a frustrated huff. She hated looking back on these events, but she'd been left with nothing else. She had no toys, no friends, not even her beloved Cindy. There in that card, all she had were her memories. Locked away within the academy somewhere, Mora truly wished she hadn't tossed Cindy away. While under the temporary control of Omni, she'd let go of the only thing that could bring her comfort. She let Cindy fall into the abyss and thus she had nothing. There was nothing left to calm her. She was stuck there in her miniature prison, being forced to relive the events that had placed her there. With Cindy gone, no one could help her. She'd be stuck like this, trapped in her own mind until finally her sentence was over and she'd drawn her last breath.
* * *
A few days had come and gone since her parents' fight. Since then Mora had heard those shouts every night, but never again had she dared to go beyond the safety of her room. Instead she stayed there with the covers pulled tightly over her and the pillow resting atop her head. Silently there in the dark, she would pray for it to end even though in her heart she knew that it never would. Every time the moon rose over the streets of Onyx, that same scenario played out. Once the shades were drawn and the doors locked, it always ended up the same. Mora was left to listen to those same cries forcing their way through her walls. Boron would yell until his throat was no doubt burning and Vexica would take it from him. Mora had heard her mother try to defend herself, but in the end she'd always cave. Boron was right, she was wrong. Vexica would submit to him, her pride lost. Mora heard these things night after night from her bed. And every time she would drift off to sleep begging to escape the feelings they left her with. As she closed her eyes, she would wish upon every star in the sky that she could be anywhere else. Be it one mile away or a thousand, she simply didn't want to live that way anymore. She wanted out of that house and out of the range of those terrifying cries.
In the daylight Mora tried not to focus on the downward spiral her life had taken. She'd do her best to block it out as she was on this particular day. Standing in the doorway of her kitchen, Mora could see Vexica with her back turned. The woman's hands were moving frantically, throwing one thing after another into a giant metal pot.
From the door Mora found herself standoffish at first. She stared in silence at her mother, who wore a solid black dress with silver wrist bands that glistened in the range light. For a time the child wasn't sure if she'd say anything at all. Perhaps she would just walk away. That seemed to be what Vexica wanted anyway. But before Mora knew it, she heard a voice emerge from her lips, bringing attention to herself whether she wanted it or not.
Mora hardly ever referred to Boron by name. She didn't feel her step-father deserved even the slight respect that using one's given name implied. He was nothing to her. And so she resigned herself to pronouns instead.
"In battle.", her mom answered without turning. Vexica's voice was quite empty, lacking any emotion it would've once held.
Mora waited a moment, staring on at her mother from the doorway. She hoped to see the woman turn around, maybe even to smile at her. But as the hands of a nearby wall clock shifted, the girl realized this wasn't going to happen. Vexica kept right on working. With the steam rising up into her face from the boiling pot, she continued to throw things inside without the slightest thought to her daughter. She'd dismissed her as she always did.
"I had art class at school today. I.... got an 'A' again.", Mora offered, once again trying to start some conversation between them. Though all she got for her trouble was a passive grunt. "My teacher.... he said I have a real gift."
"Nice.", Vexica finally replied under her breath.
Most of the time Mora wouldn't have pushed this. She'd have simply sank back into the shadows and disconnected from the world. But she found some hope on that day. Knowing that Boron was gone left her slightly more optimistic. Maybe she could get through to Vexica if it was just the two of them. She wanted so badly to regain the relationship she once had with her mother.... before 'the monster' moved in.
The child took a few hesitant steps forward across the sticky kitchen tile. In her hand she felt a thin piece of paper. Its rough texture against her fingers had served as a reminder to her. Prior to that moment, Mora had forgotten she was even holding it.
"I drew you a picture. I thought maybe.... you could hang it on the refrigerator the way you used to.", Mora started again in a soft, unsure voice. Talking to her mom truly did feel like talking to a stranger. Ever since Boron came into their lives, she didn't feel comfortable with Vexica anymore.
"You can hang it. I'm sort of busy, Mora."
"But..... don't you even wanna see it first?"
"Later.", Vexica replied dryly. "I have to get this dinner done before your father gets home."
"He's not my....", Mora began to object. Though before she could finish, the kid stopped herself. Though she hated the way Vexica had worded that, she truly didn't want to focus on Boron. She wanted just one moment of her mom's time without that guy being in the way.
As the seconds flew by them, Mora noticed once again how cold Vexica had grown. Since the day she met Boron, she'd been distant. But as time passed, she only seemed to sail further away. By appearance Mora's mom looked exactly the same as she always had. Vexica had flowing brown hair that hung low down her back. Her pencil thin figure and tanned skin hadn't changed. But inside, she was completely different. Not once since Mora entered had her mom bothered to turn. She hadn't even looked over her shoulder at her. The woman just stood stiffly over the stove with her eyes fixated on the pot. Mora was left looking up at her back. No eye contact was given even for an instant.
"He said it was some of my best work ever.", Mora continued, desperately trying to gain Vexica's attention.
Moving forward across the floor, the girl went to her mom's side. Even then she didn't see Vexica's eyes shift. Mora was quickly growing frustrated. After being spoiled by Sorran all those years, she was not one to be ignored. And so she held the picture up in both hands proudly. An eager grin spread across her face while her eyes sparkled hopefully. "Please turn", Mora said to herself. But her mother did not. Her hands kept moving at warp speed over the counter top. Alas she never bothered to shift her gaze.
"See? Its a unicorn flying through the air. And the teacher even let me use glitter paint for its mane! See?"
"Its beautiful.", Vexica replied with no feeling in her voice at all.
"Mom! You're not even looking at it!", Mora screamed suddenly over come with rage.
At first it didn't look like Vexica had heard her at all. Who knows? Perhaps she hadn't. Mora did eventually gain attention from her black clad mother. This was not, however, the type of attention she craved. She watched as Vexica finally started to turn away from the stove. The woman's eyes had locked onto a lime green refrigerator in the corner, completely missing her daughter. After taking a few steps toward the humming appliance, Vexica nearly tripped over Mora. In her haste, she hadn't seen her standing there. With Mora so many feet shorter than herself, it would've been easy for the woman to miss her.
A gasp escaped Mora's mom's throat as she grabbed hold of the countertop to keep herself up right. Her steps stopped suddenly, only inches from the child staring up at her.
Mora looked up into her mom's eyes hoping to see some sign of light, but all she saw was anger. All throughout her walk home, the girl had imagined pride welling up in the eyes of the alien woman. She longed to see a smile, to hear words of praise; anything that would revalidate Mora's worth to her. But instead all she got was a look of frustration.
"Mora! Please, just.... go play! I don't have time for this!", Vexica screamed. The woman had obviously run out of patience.
"I have less than an hour to get this damn meal finished. I don't have time to deal with you!"
Had Vexica only been paying attention, she could've seen the sting her words had delivered. She could've heard it in her child's voice if she'd just taken the time to listen. But she couldn't.
"All I wanted was for you to look at my picture.", Mora explained once again in a whimper. "It'll only take a minute. I thought....."
"You and this picture!", Vexica cut in with the same harsh tone as before. "I can't spend every waking minute of my day trying to pacify you!"
Mora didn't realize then the effect those few seconds to follow would have on her life. In the blink of an eye, she would be changed. Her heart would break and she would shut down. The sweet, innocent girl Sorran had raised would be gone forever and the next step on her path toward confinement would be taken. With a gasp, Mora watched as her mom extended her hand. In a single swift motion, the girl felt the paper jerked away from her. Vexica's dark eyes had focused on her daughter's art. She at last saw the picture, but she didn't see the care Mora had put into it. She didn't see just how much it meant to her child or that her approval was worth everything. Vexica could see nothing in that moment. She found herself blind with rage; the frustration of living under Boron's thumb had caused her to snap. The stress of those nights had finally taken their toll on her, causing her to shatter her daughter's spirit without ever even realizing it.
Through wide eyes, Mora watched helplessly as her masterpiece was destroyed. The whole world seemed to move in slow motion as Vexica's hands, hard as stone, began to tear the picture in two. Inch by inch Mora watched the picture she'd worked so hard on be ripped apart. She'd poured her heart and soul into it, but Vexica didn't care. She couldn't. With every tear made in the paper, Mora could feel herself dying a little more inside. All her work, all her time, everything she'd done to make that picture perfect had been for nothing. In spite of her effort, Vexica had destroyed it.
Confidence shattered, Mora watched those two shredded pieces of her paper fall to the floor. Drifting slowly down to the sticky tile, the once beautiful Unicorn lay torn down the middle. For a moment Mora just stared at it, held in the overcasting shadow of her mother. In that time the girl felt cold inside. She wanted to scream at the top of her lungs, but no sound came to her. She wanted to cry, yet no tears would fall. She was frozen, both physically and emotionally. She'd wandered into that kitchen before looking for the mother who'd raised her. But in those discarded pieces of paper, Mora saw that woman no longer existed. The loving, caring person who'd given birth to her was no more. Boron had killed her. Left behind was no more than a shell of the woman she was before. This creature who towered over her beneath the kitchen lights may have been Vexica.... but she was not her mother.
"There. I saw it. Now get out.", came Vexica's words, so cold they sent a chill down her daughter's spine.
Mora began to back away from her. One step at a time she tried to distance herself. But before she considered turning away, she lifted her head, locking eyes with the emotionally baron Vexica. The light once seen in Mora's face had gone out. Only darkness remained. It was seen in her eyes and heard in her tone as she spoke in a low, vengeful voice.
"You're no better him."
And with that, Mora began to turn away. In this motion, she caught something out of the corner of her eye. It hadn't meant much to her then, but looking back she was able to understand. In her peripheral vision she caught sight of a bruise on Vexica's face. It had once been hidden behind locks of dark hair. The entire time she'd stood there, Mora hadn't seen it. It wasn't until those final seconds as her body began to shift around that she noticed the truth. There on Vexica's cheek was the answer for all the world to see. The woman may have believed she could hide it behind locks of hair and carefully applied makeup. She was wrong though. Mora saw. Vexica may have hidden this from the rest of Onyx, maybe even from herself in a sense. But her daughter's eyes, as cold as ice, had seen through her facade.
The problem was that it was too late. At one time Mora would've felt sympathy for her mother. She didn't need a psych major to know just how that bruise had appeared. But that time had passed. Mora had shut down the moment she saw her torn picture hit the floor. She no longer cared for Vexica. She was angry. She was hurt. That mark on her mom's face, proof of the Hell she endured night after night, truly didn't matter to Mora. As she carried herself back across the kitchen floor, soon to disappear into the shadows of the hallway, the girl could honestly say she'd given up. Vexica's pain was inconsequential to her.
* * *
Mora breathed a deep sigh as her mind began to bring her back to her cold reality. There was a bitterness seen on her face in the darkness. Had someone peered down into her card at that moment, they would've seen just how much her mother's actions had wounded her. It may not have mattered much to some, but to Mora it did. When Vexica ripped that drawing, she made her daughter believe that she didn't matter. Art was Mora's passion, yet Vexica refused to take any interest.
In her head, Mora could still see the picture lying torn on the floor. This was a mental image that had stayed with her all her life. In black and white, it remained etched in her brain year after year. Looking just as vivid then as it had all that time ago, Mora still felt the sting of Vexica's insult.
"You should've left him.", Mora said coldly to herself. These words she spoke alone in confinement were meant for her mom, even though she knew the woman couldn't hear. "You should've run when you had the chance, but instead you stayed. You let yourself be his victim. You condemned yourself to a life in that house and let that creep destroy you little by little..... and me along with you."
In a brief pause, Mora found herself staring at the thin walls of her make-shift cell. There were so many to blame for her imprisonment. Her mother had caused her to shut down emotionally, both by breaking her heart with that picture and forcing her to listen to those same fights night after night. And then there was Boron, the man whose iron hand beat the mom right out of Vexica. The woman was cold. She'd shattered her daughter's confidence and for that Mora could not forgive her. But at the same time, this child did realize the cause. Boron made Vexica that way. And though Mora wouldn't admit it to herself, Sorran was partially to blame as well. Had he not fired the fatal blast that killed Sky's father, he would've still been in her life. S.P.D. wouldn't have locked him up and none of those other events would've happened.
Yes Mora's life was a twisted mess. The adults who were meant to care for her had let her down. It was their mistakes that had ultimately landed her in S.P.D. custody. The actions she took later in life were Mora's own choice, but it was their mistakes that lead her to walk such a foolish path.
"If you would've just gotten out, maybe you could've become yourself again. Maybe I wouldn't be spending the rest of my life in some worthless card." An irritated grunt escaped from within her as she finished her verbalized thought, "Why did you have to stay in that house? Why did we
have to stay?"
Once again Mora's mind began to run away with her. Her words soon faded into nothing. As their sound vanished, she could feel herself falling backwards in time once again, back to the next wrong turn she'd made on the road of life.
* * *
Weeks drifted by all the same for Mora. Every time the sun faded from the sky, the same sounds would carry up to her. She could hear Boron's shouts echoing through the house, her mother's desperate cries for forgiveness soon to follow. "Just one more chance", Vexica would beg her husband. No matter how much time passed, it was always the same. The rage present in that old house could not be ignored. And little by little it began to have an effect on Mora. She may not have been the one abused, but that didn't make her any less a victim. It was Mora who had to listen to this night after God forsaken night. Those screams would slice through her walls and sink down upon her, killing the innocent child she'd once been. Because of Vexica's choice to stay with the monster, Mora was left a prisoner in her own house. The walls she was trapped inside were thin; plaster and drywall, nothing more. But for her, they may as well have been constructed of cast iron. She couldn't escape. As long as Vexica chose to live in that Hell, so too did her daughter. With every bone chilling cry to carry its way up those stairs, another piece of Mora fell away.
It may not have been obvious through Mora's actions, but had one looked closely enough, they could've seen exactly what her tortured environment was doing to her. The girl's room was once covered in beautiful art work. Hand drawn pictures of ponies, rainbows, kittens, and roses once lined the walls. But now it seemed that was all in the past. Mora didn't say much anymore. Her face never showed much emotion. But her feelings made themselves all too clear in her art. Mora's drawings had grown darker. They were no longer the pretty, light hearted things you'd expect for one her age. Little Mora used art as a form of self-expression. As such, the more tangled her mind became, the more disturbing her masterpieces grew.
It had been weeks since Vexica destroyed her unicorn. But still Mora kept drawing as she was on that balmy Saturday night. The girl found herself locked in her room once again, as far from the chaos as she could get. Mora sat Indian style on the hardwood floor with a pencil in her hand and Cindy at her side. The paper that lay before her was a perfect example of how much this life had changed her. Depicted there was no fairy tale princess, but a monster looking to have jumped out of her darkest nightmare. He wore a hood which shielded his face from view. Only a pair of terrifying eyes shown through. The man's clothes were torn. And in his hand was a jagged knife; a few drops of blood seen falling from its blade. As disturbing as this image was to behold, Mora's face showed a sense of pride. In time her eyes shifted down to another figure on the page. At the feet of the first man was a second; his chest ripped open. A pool of blood had been sketched around him. Cut deeply into his forehead with the blade of the first man's knife was a name: Boron.
"Perfect.", Mora said quietly to herself. The girl then turned toward Cindy, gesturing with her hand to the picture. It was as if she was displaying her work for the mangled toy. "What do you think? Do we need more blood?"
The gruesome scene on the page in front of her was one she longed to live out. To see Boron lying there in a pool of his own blood was one of many twisted fantasies the girl had. And since she knew she could never do it, Mora resigned herself to this dark art. She would draw her feelings, use these monsters that filled her mind as a way of releasing the anger she felt toward Vexica's new husband. Little did she realize then how much this skill would one day mean to her.
"Needs color, don't you think?", she calmly asked the doll at her side. "Lots of red!"
Mora's tiny hand began to reach across the floor in the direction of a nearby colored pencil. During this motion, however, the girl stopped. An earsplitting sound, so sudden, had drawn her attention away. Through those walls came another of many cries. Though this was one far more frightening than those before it.
"Boron..... Please.... Nooooo!
", Mora heard her mother shout with a primal fear present in her voice. The sound that met the little girl's ears sounded like something out of a horror movie. Soon after came the crash of shattering glass.
Silence was all that followed. Within this time, Mora's eyes shifted to Cindy, yet she spoke not a word. Her fingers released the pencil, allowing it to drop forgotten to the floor beside her. There was a time Mora would've kept her distance. When these things first started happening around her, she would bury herself within the covers of her bed and stay there until the first rays of morning light. But having to live this way for so long had left her desensitized. Gazing on at Cindy there in the floor with her, Mora found no hint of sympathy. With it the fear she once felt had vanished as well. That blood curdling scream would've sent most kids running, but Mora was no longer like others her age. She had shut down.
Despite the fact that she could no longer feel, Mora still had a hint of inborn curiosity. It was that instinct that sent her up from the floor. Using her unmade bed to push herself up, the girl came to a standing position. The second her eyes connected with her closed door, Mora heard another crash. Not glass this time; something else. From her room, she hadn't known what this was. But she would soon find out.
Slow steps carried the young Mora out into the hallway. All was dark around her just as it had been before. Listening to the floorboards moan beneath her like ghosts in the night, she brought herself to the staircase. This was where she'd frozen the first time. Her hand had clutched the railing, unable to move forward. But things had since changed. This time Mora was not held back. One by one she took those rickety steps down; each one creaking beneath her feet in a slightly different pitch. She moved slowly with the light of the table lamp gradually spreading over her face the closer she grew to the bottom. Mora couldn't yet see her parents, but in her steady advance she noticed something. The screams had faded. The room that waited for her lay in near silence. Only her mother's deep, forced breaths awaited. Upon reaching the last of those steps, Mora turned the corner. It was at that moment she came face to face with the image she'd always seen in her mind.
Her mother, Vexica, sat huddled in the corner with tear drops soaking her cheeks. With blood on her face and fear in her eyes, she stared up at her husband who towered over her. The remains of their glass coffee table lay in shards around her. Her entire body trembled; the sight of her husband's bloodshot eyes sending chills down her spine. The woman's dark hair was in tangles, her arms bruised, and thick crimson blood stained the palms of her hands.
For a time Mora focused solely on her. Most children would've run in fear at the sight of their mother that way, cowering beaten and bruised by the man she claimed to love. And yet Mora stood hard as stone. No emotion could be seen in her face as she stared across that room. Her lips were frozen in a frown and her eyes glazed over; distant, vacant. She drew a breath of warm air down into her lungs as her attention shifted. She went from the frightened Vexica to the man standing over her. Boron's chest heaved in and out with each furious huff that came from within him. On his face, his step-daughter noted three slashes; red blood running slowly from each one. This had been Vexica's one chance to defend herself, she guessed; to dig her dagger like nails into his flesh. Sadly that proved only to infuriate him more. Boron's blue veins protruded through his tanned skin; his hands still clenched in fists of rage. At that time, he and Vexica had locked eyes, though neither one spoke a word. Mora noted even from her distance the smell of alcohol in the air. Darkly tinted brown bottles lay scattered around the room, some having been broken on nights past. As for whose they were, the little girl couldn't guess. Perhaps this rage she saw in Boron was the product of alcoholism. Or maybe those bottles had been Vexica's way of coping with the life she'd chosen for herself. Mora could never be certain, but in fact it made little difference.
When at last the child's stone cold gaze shifted back to Vexica, she saw that her mom had noticed her. Vexica hadn't spoken, but Mora could see her staring, silently begging for help. Across the room Vexica had caught sight of her child. And through her terrified eyes she pleaded for sympathy. She longed for Mora to somehow unlock those gates and free her from this prison that was her life. Even before her mouth had opened, Vexica was asking for her daughter's help.
"Mora..... ", she began in a groan. Though the words quickly left her. She could see they would've fallen on deaf ears.
For so long Vexica had ignored Mora. She went through her days desperately trying to please her husband, trying to save herself from nights like this one. In those frantic attempts, she'd forgotten the child she brought into their world. It was only in that moment that she noticed how different Mora looked. The daughter she'd known was gone. Vexica had driven her away. For all that time she'd forgotten poor Mora. Sadly for her the tables had turned. Now it was Mora who'd forgotten her.
"I need.....", Vexica stopped to cough. Covering her mouth with her hand, she soon noticed fresh blood against her palm from deep within her chest. ".... help.... please...."
A response was neither seen nor heard in the watching girl. She hadn't moved a single muscle. It was as if those words hadn't reached her at all. Vexica continued to look on in desperation, but she knew it was too late. She'd pushed Mora away. This girl standing motionless in the lamp light was not her daughter. At least not anymore. The darkness she'd lived in had eaten away at her soul. Vexica had broken her heart in the kitchen the day she'd rejected her. That in combination with the nights of abuse she'd forced her child to listen to had left Mora cold. She may not have been born evil, but there in that moment, Mora was just that.
When looking back on this scene from her place in confinement, Mora often wondered why she hadn't done something to help that night. Maybe she was still hurt by the way her mother had treated her. Maybe she was simply too far gone to care at all. But whatever the reason, Mora did nothing. Vexica pleaded with her as the tears continued to fall from her eyes, but Mora refused. There in the silence of their living room, Vexica had only gotten one thing from the girl. Mora slowly shook her head from side to side, confirming what her mom already knew. She was on her own. Vexica had closed the door on Mora long ago. The girl no longer felt anything for her and thus she simply turned away.
"Mora!", Vexica cried in one last futile attempt to fix what she'd done. She longed for Mora to run for help, to call S.P.D., anything that might have saved her. But it was too late. "Mooorrrraaaa!"
That final wail was lost on Mora. The child didn't turn her head. She never looked back even once as she carried herself back up those stairs. Her heart had died and so she left her mother there to face the wrath of the man she'd chosen.
* * *
As Mora's mind continued to fall back through time, she saw herself standing in the doorway of her room. Hours had passed since she'd walked away from Vexica. Her mother had since forced herself to forget, ending that night as she always did. By crawling into bed with the monster who plagued her life. At that time Mora found herself looking around those four walls and wondering where to go from there. Her shelves were lined with toys that no longer mattered. Stacked in the corner were games she no longer played. She had no friends and her family had fallen apart. Thus she had no more use for two player games. Her bed had gone from a place of comfort to merely a place bury her head and cry. Though the tears could no longer fall from those cold blue eyes, Mora found it difficult to look at that bed where once so many were shed. The entire room represented her life, but it was a life she no longer had. Sorran was gone and he was never coming back. Vexica meant nothing to her anymore and Boron never had. Everything around Mora was little more than a reminder of how things used to be. Standing frozen in her doorway, she found herself growing ill inside. A kid's room is meant to feel like home to them; a safe place all their own. But this wasn't the case for Mora. This wasn't home at all. It was Hell.
"I'm done with this.... and I'm done with them
.", she spoke softly directing her attention to Cindy.
The doll sat right where Mora had left her. Cindy Sunshine remained there on the floor amongst the pencils and papers. Having looked all around her brightly lit room, Mora found that the little stuffed toy was the only one that still meant something to her. Cindy was a connection to her father, the one person in the world who'd never turned his back on her. This was something Mora could never part with. All the rest were nothing to her.
"We've spent too long in this house.", she went on while making a slow advance across the hardwood floor. "I'm sick of it. I don't know about you, but I can't take another night like this."
Leaning down, Mora swept her doll up into her arms and held her close. As the words continued to pour from her mouth, she started to sway gently back and forth as if rocking a baby.
"What do 'ya say, Cindy? Why don't you and I just leave this wretched place and never look back? We shouldn't spend the rest of our lives listening to them bicker. This place.... it hasn't been home for a long time. Not since S.P.D. took Dad away. So why stay? Mom doesn't want us anymore. She made that crystal clear the day that creep moved in. And 'Moron', well..... he's dirt. Who cares what he
wants. I say you and I get out of here and start our own lives. Forget all of this and just walk away. How 'bout it?"
Naturally she got no response from the object in her arms, but Mora's imagination could fill in that gap. Cindy was just a toy; fabric and stuffing, but to Mora she was a friend. The doll didn't need to speak. The little girl was simply using her to express her feelings; something no one else in that house seemed to care about.
"Well all right then. Away we'll go. And as for those two..... they'll get what's coming to them."
* * *
Moments later the girl found herself surrounded by the darkness of the upstairs hallway. The lamp light from the stairway shown up her back as she peered into a closet. The shelves loomed high over her head, some far out of her line of vision. All was silent. Mora's eyes shifted about, taking in the contents of the shelf eye level with her. Band-Aids, shampoo, unopened packages of soap. The house had been kept heavily stocked, fore Vexica knew even the slightest thing would set off the ticking time bomb she'd married. One mistake and she'd find herself on the end of his clenched fist. The three of them seemed to have all the essentials, yet not what the young Mora seeked.
"I know they're here.", she whispered to Cindy in the darkness. The doll was being held tightly under her right arm. "Oh where, oh where could they have gone."
Mora heard nothing from the floor beneath her. All the violence that once filled their living room seemed to have died down. Vexica could no longer fight back. She'd simply gone to sleep, likely pretending this was all just some bad dream.
"Come out, come out wherever you are". Mora playfully called to the object of her search.
Mora looked for some time until at last something caught her eye. A tiny box lay off to one side of the shelf, hiding mostly in shadows. The glow of the lamp's light hadn't touched it.
"Here we go."
Jumping a little to advance her reach, Mora snatched the box from its spot. The sound of her dark colored boots hitting the floor made a thud that rang throughout the once silent hall.
The box was light in Mora's hand, made of thin cardboard. Letters covered the top of it, but in the darkness they were impossible to make out. With Cindy still held beneath one arm, Mora slowly lifted the lid of the box, tossing it to the floor beneath her. In her mind she knew what she was about to do. Mora understood the severity, but still no hesitation was seen in her motions. Before the girl's eyes were hundreds of tiny matches. Wasting no time at all, Mora took one firmly between two fingers, striking it against the side of the box. The rest fell forgotten from her other hand. Instantly the tip lit up with an orange flame that cast its glow throughout the once dark hallway. For a moment the girl just stood there in the fire's light. That flame danced in her eyes as a twisted smile formed across her young face. She could feel the heat on her fingers, soon lifting up onto her face. A soft chuckle could be heard within her while the stick continued to burn.
"This is it, Cindy. The end.", she whispered quietly in the flame's glow.
That fire was mesmerizing to Mora. It grabbed hold of her. As she stared on, Mora could almost hear it screaming her name. She knew what its light represented for her; freedom. With every flicker of that gently swaying flame, she could feel her heart start to beat faster. As the seconds passed her by, the girl's smile only grew wider. Had one seen her there, they would've seen the darkness that lurked within her. In the fire's light it became so clear just how far this life had driven her. She was no longer Sorran and Vexica's innocent child. That girl was dead and gone. In her place was a hallow, desensitized, cruel being.
"Say good night, Mommy.... Step-Daddy. Your day has come to an end."
With that, Mora let the match fall from her steady fingers. Her eyes shifted down, following it in its quick descent to the floor below. It didn't take long for the fire to catch on the old shag carpeting at her feet. She knew the moment it hit that her job was done. It would spread throughout those halls taking away all of the torment of that house.... and her parents along with it. With the sick smile returning to her face, she began to walk away. Back to her room she went with the flames slowly rising behind her. She could feel their heat on her legs as she opened the door, venturing inside without a single regret in her heart. Across the room she once called home, Mora spied a window; her escape. This plan, disturbing as it was, had been well thought out. Light the match, climb out the window and down the drain pipe to freedom, then stand back and watch it burn.
* * *
Mora had imagined this scene so vividly and within an hour's time it had become reality. There she stood on the grass staring up at her former home. The flames had spread quickly, engulfing the entire structure. Their bright glow lit up the night sky as brightly as mid-day. The fire light that over took the house washed over Mora's face as she stared up in awe. The smile still remained, so twisted and evil.
"I told them not to get a gas stove," she started in a playful voice to Cindy, "but would they listen? Nope!"
Mora had seen neither Boron nor Vexica make an escape. Their daughter stared coldly up at their bedroom window seeing only flames forcing their way out through shattered glass. Neither one had a chance. They'd been burned alive in their bed. Mora knew this, but still she felt nothing. She listened closely to the fire as it crackled in the night. That building hardly resembled her house at all from where she stood. The fire had over taken it, leaving little resemblance to the place she once knew.
" 'Smoke detectors', she said. 'A waste of money'. Good call, Mom. Simply brilliant.", Mora reminisced with sarcasm in her voice. "You really weren't the brightest bulb on the tree, were 'ya?"
Mora stood only nine years old that night watching her parents' home burn to the ground. Nine years of life and she'd already committed a double murder. This wasn't uncommon for the planet Onyx. It was a cold, cruel place by nature. An event such as this wasn't likely to even make the news. In most civilizations, however, this would've appeared truly sad. She was so young and yet already so far gone. To be able to stand without remorse and watch her parents burn said volumes about Mora.
It seems the young possess many obvious traits which separate them from the rest of their kind; a short attention span being one of them. Whether they be playing a video game, doing their chores, or in this case watching their parents burn to ashes, children hardly ever stay focused on one thing for very long. Their minds start to wander and activities become boring. Mora was beginning to feel the effects of the childhood trademark while watching that old house burn.
The girl breathed a sigh while brushing a few locks of brunette hair back behind one ear. "I'm bored here.", she told her stuffed friend in the midst of this action. "Can't they die any faster? Why is it parents are always slow when the kid
wants something? If they
wanted to burn in a flaming Hell, we'd have been done hours ago!"
It was clear by her rather light hearted take on the situation that Mora truly did feel nothing. Standing there beneath the stars, she acted as if she'd done nothing wrong in the world; as if this were just an every day thing.
"Forget it!", she finally concluded in a huff. "They're toast. I've seen enough."
As Mora's footsteps began to carry her away, something in the flames caught her eye. The girl turned back, but only for a second. Somewhere within the bright crackling fire was an image; the face of a creature made from the very destruction she'd caused. At first glance Mora's eyes grew wide. She stared on into that light and inside she could've sworn she'd seen it; a man's face. But as quickly as it had made itself known to her, the image was gone. Mora squinted with the flames still shifting across her pale face, but the harder she tried, the more lost that vision was. It had vanished.
"Cindy, did you see.....", Mora started, before allowing her words to fall away.
Could it have been her imagination, she wondered? Maybe her mind was playing tricks on her. Could it have been manifested by some hint of guilt she had left over? Mora tried to justify this, but in her heart she knew better. It was real. It had to have been. She saw it out there; the face. But what was it?
"This is too weird. We are so out of here!"
And with that, the murderess child took off. She ran at full speed across the dew covered grass; its long blades brushing up against her legs as she went. Mora's brown hair blew back behind her in the slight breeze. Casting out her confusion, she just ran. The girl didn't know exactly what it was she'd seen in that fire, but one thing was for certain. She didn't want to stick around and find out.
* * *
When Mora lit up her old house and vowed to break away, she'd counted on an easy ride. She told herself life would be better. If she could simply escape that house, she would have everything she'd ever wanted. She'd be free. She could feel like a kid again, away from the violence, from the evil that lurked within those walls. But all too often children don't see the full picture. They only look at one side, the positive. Most fail to see the unavoidable downside in these rash choices they make. On Halloween they only see the candy. Very rarely do any bother to consider the stomach aches that follow it. In horror movies they see only entertainment, giving no thought to the frightening dreams and sleepless nights that come along with them. With each choice comes at least one unfortunate side effect. Mora, like most her age, couldn't quite grasp that when she'd lit the match. She saw only the brightness, never realizing just how bad things would get.
Since burning down the only home she'd ever known, Mora passed her days on the streets. Her teenage years had been spent living in the shadows. The fun she'd imagined herself and Cindy having was little more than a fantasy. There had been no joy in this. Her days weren't filled with laughter the way she'd imagined when she let the match fall. Instead they were a fight to survive. During the day she was forced to rob the citizens of Onyx. Mora put herself in a very dangerous situation just to keep food in her stomach. Once the sun had gone down, she hid. The girl ducked low into allies, slept in boxes; anything to stay out of sight. Onyx was not a safe place at any time of day, but the danger level only became higher once the sunlight faded from the sky. Most who walked those streets after nightfall wouldn't live to see the new day. Mora knew this. As such she did everything she could to hide.
The years that followed were hard. Life on the streets was an unforgiving Hell for Mora. Though struggling for food wasn't the only downside to her decision. It became apparent to her one hot Summer night that she hadn't met her goal at all. Mora longed to recapture the life she'd lost in that house, but living on the streets did not provide her that. It only pushed her further from it.
Mora was nearly thirty years old that night, standing stiffly against the warm bricks of a gas station. In her face one could see just how rough her life was out there. Time and stress had taken their toll on her, leaving her skin wrinkled and her eyes dead and cold. The woman's black clothes were torn; her once beautiful nails long since chipped and broken. When she turned to see her own reflection in the establishment's window, Mora couldn't even recognize the woman staring back at her. She no longer saw the innocent child she longed to be; only a stranger standing in her place. All she'd ever wanted was to enjoy her life like all the other kids. But even after killing her parents, she found that she couldn't have her wish. That time had passed. She was grown. Boron and Vexica had robbed her of her childhood; their abuse forcing her to grow up too quickly. And there gazing at herself in the spotted glass, Mora realized that even without them, she couldn't get that time back. She was an adult left alone in the world. She had no friends and her family had been turned to ashes before her eyes.
"Who is this woman?", Mora asked herself. "This can't really be me. I'm not old. I'm not feeble. I'm just a kid."
This may have been true inside, but the reflection told a different story. Mora wanted the time that was stolen from her, but she could never have it.
"How could my whole life have passed me by? One minute I was a child held in my daddy's arms and then.... in a flash, it was all gone. Dad was arrested, Mom forget him.... she married that bastard Boron and then.... my childhood was lost. All these years gone. I just don't understand it. I don't feel any different. I want the same things I always did. Somewhere to play, somebody to lift me into their arms and tell me that I actually matter.... I want the life I should've always had. I still have those same dreams I did when I was young, but my body.... its moved on without me."
The longer she stared at the grown-up's face, the more distraught Mora felt. Her breathing became heavier. Her chest began to ache.
"No! No, this can't happen! I don't wanna be this way! I just wanna go back! I want my childhood back! I want my life
In anger, Mora thrust her hand up against the glass. The sudden impact of her flesh with the window sent a pain surging up through her arm.
"I just wanna be me again.", she said to herself, suddenly sounding defeated.
Once catching another glimpse of herself in the glass, Mora turned away. She could no longer look at that face. Breathing a defeated sigh, the woman began to sink her way down the wall, eventually coming to a sitting position against the black pavement. For a time she raised her hands, covering her face. She hated the way the world looked through adult eyes. It all felt so wrong to her. Her parents had ripped her childhood from Mora's tiny hands and forced her to grow up too quickly. And now even with her freedom she found she couldn't fix that. She'd literally been beaten down by the hands of time. Her parents were long gone, but the scars they left her with still remained.
"Why?", Mora asked herself. In her voice she could hear herself choking back tears. "First I was a prisoner in that damn house and now.... now I'm a prisoner in my own body. Why couldn't I have gotten the chance I deserved?"
When she lowered her hands Mora came face to face with the world she so hated. Men and women walked back and forth across the gas station's parking lot. Each one moved at a fast pace. They were caught up in the stress of adult life. None of them had any time for fun. They just drifted into the same boring cycle. Wake up, go to work, come home and prepare to do it all over again. Each person who drifted in and out of Mora's vision was stone faced and stiff. They were all trapped in the same routine; the one Mora so feared.
That life wouldn't have seemed so wrong to her if she'd been allowed a chance to be young first. If she could've enjoyed her youth while she had it, the stress of the grown up world would've never scared her the way it did.
Eventually Mora pulled her knees up close to her chest and lowered her head. It was there she sat for hours, silently wishing that the world would just stop turning. She didn't know what to do. But what the woman did know was that she couldn't go on this way. She couldn't fall into the mundane existence of an adult without ever having been given the luxury of a carefree childhood.
What Mora didn't realize was that she wasn't alone beneath those twinkling stars. Even in her memories she never saw this. Looking back on these events from her holding cell, there remained much Mora didn't know. The woman had spent that night just as she had many others; held in the gaze of two burning red eyes. They'd followed her for so long and yet she never noticed them. All too often she'd been locked in their sights like a deer in the cross hairs of a hunter's riffle. This night was no different. Around the corner, standing close to the bricks was the man. He watched her in silence as she began to cry. Every word Mora had spoken carried over to his listening ears. This creature who followed her in the shadows knew more of her life than she could've even dreamed.
* * *
Hours later the now grown Mora found herself walking a concrete path in the park. Trees shot up tall on both sides of her, this being one of the few wooded areas on the surface of Onyx. Above her the stars shown brightly with a mesmerizing white light, but Mora couldn't see them. Her head hung low; a pair of lonely eyes focused on the ground beneath her. There was a beauty to that park, held beneath the rays of starlight, but none of that could register to the woman.
When at last she did glance up from the path, Mora's eyes focused on something in the distance. It seemed to call out to her; one lost soul to another. A swing set held beneath the silver glow of a full moon seemed to scream her name. It looked to have been the victim of time's cruelty just as she was. The swings blew gently in the breeze. The chains that held them, caked with rust, squeaked with each tiny movement they made. This was once an icon of youth, but from the path it only looked old. There was no telling when a child had last shown it attention. Mora could see so much of herself in that rusty, beaten down swing set. Something once so full of life sat alone, old and forgotten.
"Too bad you can't talk, huh?", Mora called to the swing as if it were some attachment of herself. "Time is a cruel bitch. It doesn't slow down for anyone. Not you.... or me. You can hide behind makeup or a thousand coats of paint, but underneath you're still the same. You're old, beaten down, broken.... and one day you'll be gone. You'll lay there choking out your last breaths and realize that it was all a waste. Life passed you by." The woman paused with a huff while narrowing her eyes. "Time. It just keeps on speeding past you until one day you wake up, you see yourself in the mirror, and there's a stranger staring back at you. You no longer see the youthful, innocent soul you used to be. She's long gone. All that's left is some old woman. Somebody.... you don't even recognize."
Had another being passed by her in those moments, they'd have sworn Mora had lost it. But she knew full well what she was saying. She saw something in that swing set. It seemed to represent what she felt inside.
"Some people don't even value time, but you and I.... we know better, huh? We've seen its effects. We know the damage it can cause. People blow through life thinking they have all the time in the world. Then before they know it.... they've run out. The sands have slipped through the glass and their facing the end. Why can't more creatures see it? I didn't. Not until it was too late."
Licking her lips a moment, Mora stepped forward. Her feet left the concrete, being submerged in the wet grass that lined it. As her somber words continued to greet the silent night, the woman began to feel the dew soak through her worn boots.
"When I left home, I told myself I could have it all out here. I believed I could recapture the past some how; that I could take back what my parents stole from me. But I couldn't. I've spent every day since just trying to survive. Taking money from perfect strangers, eating out of dumpsters just praying for some discarded scrap to ease my hunger. I haven't had fun, I haven't enjoyed life. Hell, looking back.... I can't even remember the last time I smiled. I thought I could have my childhood when I ran from that burning wreckage. But I can't. Thanks to my parents, that time is long gone."
Mora couldn't help questioning herself. She shook her head breathing another of many pitiful sighs. Standing there with the moon light washing over her face, she realized just how crazy she must've looked. Had someone passed her on the sidewalk, they'd have doubted her sanity. They'd have laughed at her, called her crazy for standing out there in the dead of night pouring her heart out to an object.
"Look at yourself.", she said; her words now directed to herself instead of the swing. "You are standing here in the middle of the night talking to a piece of playground equipment." A brief pause came as the woman shifted perspectives. "I knew I shouldn't have swiped that last Margarita."
For a moment Mora let her head fall back. Her eyes drifted up to the stars as she ran her hands through her tangled brown hair.
"This wasn't what I imagined at all. I'm out here alone chasing some memory of pure, innocent life. I can run after these fantasies all I want, but I'll never catch them. I'll die out here long before."
Mora's hand clinched into a fist. Her voice grew lower, more bitter than before as she spoke once more, ending her monologue. "Why did my life have to turn out this way?"
Taking one last look at the kindred spirit she found in that swing set, Mora turned away. Her steps soon lead her back onto the concrete path. Her movements were slow at first when finally she began to walk again, further into the darkness. There was a sudden caution about her, one that hadn't been present before. The woman couldn't quite put her finger on it, but something felt different. Everything seemed normal. The world around her looked as vacant as it had before. Yet something inside told her this wasn't the case. Something had changed. Mora's eyes shifted back and forth across the park's open landscape. She saw nothing, but couldn't shake the eerie feeling that was falling over her. Something wasn't right.
In her time on the streets, Mora had learned to trust that voice in her head. It had guided her this far. It was the only true friend she had, short of the doll resting under her arm. And so listening to its advice, Mora picked up her pace slightly. Her steps grew faster across the concrete; the heals of her boots tapping a steady rhythm high into the night sky.
The further she ventured down that path, however, Mora found that hers were not the only steps to shatter the peaceful silence. There were more out there. They shadowed her own flawlessly. When she stopped, so too did the distant footsteps that caused her heart to race. Drawing deep, frightened breaths, Mora turned to glance over her shoulder. Nothing. Only miles of that same path she'd already walked. Yet this didn't ease her troubled mind. She knew she'd heard something out there. A life on the streets of Onyx had sharpened her instincts. She was right. Mora knew she was.
"Hello?", she called out softly at first. No answer met her words. Only the soft howl of the wind around her. "Is anybody there?"
Mora's footsteps carried her faster and faster through the night with the fear growing ever brighter in her eyes. Her breaths were deep and erratic. Any rhythmic pattern they'd once held had been lost. A chill shot straight down her spine when a realization fell upon her. As her own steps picked up speed, so too did those behind her. She was being followed.
Not slowing in her pace, Mora looked back over her shoulder once again. Still she saw nothing. What was this?, she asked herself. She could hear the footsteps clear as bells, but there was no one else there. Was this her imagination? Some side effect of hunger, fear, or even loneliness? The woman began to doubt her own mind, but only for a moment. When she heard those steps again, Mora confirmed her fears. They weren't in her head. Those heavy, pounding steps against the pavement were indeed out there.
"Who are you? I can hear you! Just.... answer me! Show yourself!"
Mora's body froze when she heard a soft chuckle. Laughter rose up from somewhere around her. She couldn't pin point it. It seemed to surrounded her, coming in equal pitch from all sides. As the seconds passed, this sound only grew louder... closer. In this laughter she could sense something twisted, something evil. But still nothing had met her eyes.
Mora could no longer move; not forward nor back. She stood motionless on the path. The terror she felt building up inside had paralyzed her. Her first thought was to scream, but what good would it have done? This was Onyx. No one would've come. Had her desperate cry met the ears of another, they wouldn't have rescued her. They wouldn't have cared at all. This planet was known for its darkness. The cruelty of its inhabitants was legendary throughout the galaxy. Were Mora to call out, she'd have been wasting her breath as well as her time. She was on her own.
"Who the Hell are you?!", she repeated, hearing her own words echo high into the black sky.
"Relax, Mora.", came a voice from around her. It, like the laughter that preceded it, had no distinct direction. It was everywhere.
"Mora's dead. Her parents killed her. I am Morgana now.", the woman responded in a dry, emotionless tone.
In her mind, Mora was the child; the entity she longed to be. Mora was innocence, light, and purity; all of the things she'd lost through the violent Hell she'd lived. To call herself by that name would've been an insult to the memory of her childhood. Morgana felt she was a different person then. Her life in that house as well as her life on those streets had changed her. Morgana served as a name for that stranger she'd seen in the glass. She was the woman who so frightened her, the face she didn't know, and the body she found herself a prisoner inside. It was all a matter of perspective, but by her view Mora had died the day Boron came into her life. Since then, all she'd been left with was the hallow, emotionless shell: Morgana.
The fears were welling up higher and higher inside Morgana. Her legs quaked beneath her and her hands trembled. She'd have no doubt fallen to the concrete walk were it not for the relief brought in a flash of white light. Pure, blinding rays shot up in front of her. She could no longer see the path she'd once walked. It was lost in the sudden glow. Morgana's arm shot up quickly, shielding her eyes.
"What is this!?", she screamed at the top of her lungs.
The moment the words had left her mouth, the light faded away. The night had been returned to what it once was; peaceful and calm. The only rays to light up the park were once again those of the moon and stars. Whatever this sudden beam was had vanished, but in its place stood the answer. As Morgana lowered her shaking arm once again, she came face to face with the creature who'd followed her. At first glance she felt her heart jump into her throat. A gasp fell from inside her as she began to backtrack. One unsteady step followed by another gave her slight distance from this creature.
"You have no need to fear me.", came its next words in an eerie, emotionless monotone.
"Who are you? What do you want with me?", Morgana shot back.
There before her, hidden partially within the cloak of shadows, was a lone figure. Morgana couldn't see much, only a silhouette of his massive body blocking her path. The one thing made clear to her through the darkness were his eyes. Those eyes that held her in their gaze, seeming to cut a hole right through her. They burned as red as fire, never blinking, nor straying from her. When at last the man stepped forward, emerging from the shadows, Morgana's mouth began to close. She saw something in him; the truth behind an event she'd long since forgotten. He was right there for her then, standing in clear sight beneath the silver glow of the moon.
"You! You were the one....", she started. Morgan was unable to tear her sights from him as those jumbled words continued to form. "I saw you that night..... in the fire. You were there! When I burned down my parents' house, you.... you were there."
"I thought I imagined it, that face staring at me through the flames. But I didn't. It was you. You saw what I did."
"I've seen all that you've done, my dear. From your parents' murder to the events leading you to strike that match. I know you.... maybe better than you know yourself."
The creepy tone held in the man's voice caused Morgana's muscles to grow limp. Cindy Sunshine fell from beneath her arm, colliding with the concrete at her feet. And yet her eyes didn't follow that toy. She couldn't tear them away from the massive creature before her. Morgana stood frozen staring into the burning eyes of a monster, too afraid to move so much as an inch.
"I am known as Gruumm; Emperor of the Troobian Military Force. I hold entire galaxies under my thumb. I have seen the destruction of over a thousand civilizations; taken all that they built, leaving them with nothing."
"Clearly you don't suffer from a lack of self-esteem.", Morgana replied dryly. Her fears were starting to fade seeing as no harm had come to her, yet she was still unable to shift her gaze from the man. "So what do you want with me?"
"I know of your past and of the torment you've endured. You killed your parents in cold blood...."
"They deserved it!", Morgana shouted, cutting him off. Momentarily a fury could be seen in her face.
"Undoubtedly. I am also aware of why
you chose to see their end. I know of the goal that drives you, Morgana. I know what those two took from you. Something very precious was lost in that house; your chance to be young."
Gruumm was right. Morgana couldn't argue that. But the accuracy in his words was the very thing that left her feeling uneasy. He seemed to have a window into her soul. How could a man she'd never met know so much about her? There was no question in the Emperor's tone. He formed his words as cold hard fact, without a hint of uncertainty. He spoke as if he'd known her all her life when in fact Morgana had never heard his bone chilling voice until that very night.
It took some time for her to form a response. Her mind was doing back flips simply trying to understand. It didn't seem real to her that another being could understand what she'd done. Especially one with whom she had no previous ties.
"How.... how do you know all of this?", she questioned him. The woman's tone was meant to sound forceful, but came out only as confused. She couldn't hold the fury in her voice then, not with so many questions prying her attention away.
"I have watched you and unlike the rest of this planet.... I have heard your cries. You long for a second chance. You wish to be young again; to regain the life that was taken away from you. You want to see this world through the innocent eyes of a child, fore you were never granted that luxury in your past."
"I don't.... understand."
"All creatures deserve that chance; the chance to find joy in their youth before the adult world sucks it out of them. I understand you." Gruumm paused as his eyes flashed, sending their rose red glow across Morgana's face. A silence fell over the two while the emperor waited, letting his words sink in. "And.... I believe I can help you."
Morgana's mouth opened in an attempt speak, but no sound came. What Gruumm had said made little sense to her. She'd heard him out, but this creature's explanation left her with more questions than answers. Even with those words spoken between them, Morgana still found herself staring blankly at him.
"How can you possibly help?" Morgana asked doubtfully. "You fight armies, but you can't fight time."
can't.... but I can. I can give you the second chance you long for. I can give you.... your childhood."
With his words came another flash of white light. In its wake, Morgana saw a staff materialize, held tightly in the emperor's hand. Its sudden appearance startled her, but only for a moment. Her attention was soon drawn away by the flashing red light at its end. She could hear Gruumm laughing softly to himself from beneath the howl of warm summer wind.
"I have the power to answer your prayers. Doubt me if you must, but I can make you young again."
There was a part of Morgana that longed to take this mysterious creature at his word. He was offering her the one thing she felt she could never have. She'd spent her whole life chasing this unattainable dream and then from out of the shadows he appears, offering her what she so craved. Gruumm was standing there only a few feet away ready to hand Morgana the prize which she could've never grasped alone. Yet she didn't run to him. Her face didn't show joy, or any emotion at all. She simply remained cold, narrowing her eyes in doubt. The woman had learned many things on the street. How to survive, how to do without, but most notably she learned how the society of Onyx worked. If a creature offered something, there were always strings attached. No one on the surface of that cruel planet did things purely out of the goodness of their hearts. Most, Morgana found, had no hearts at all. Thus her hesitation to buy into what Gruumm offered.
"So you're willing to give me what I want most in the world? You would use your power for my benefit?", she asked still holding obvious doubt in her words.
"What's in it for you? I wasn't born yesterday. I know this planet. I know how it works. You wouldn't offer this to me without a price. You stand there acting like some noble saint, lending me a hand in my hour of need. But surely you know how transparent you sound. You're after something.... but what?"
"These streets have made you wise. I will in fact require a small sacrifice in return for my.... services."
"What could I possibly offer you?"
From Morgana's perspective she had nothing. She'd given up everything in that burning house. She'd lost any material possessions she had once owned simply to watch her parents suffer.
"I have nothing. Certainly you know that. You seem to know everything else
about my life. Anything I could've given you was burned up in the fire."
Morgana watched in silence as Gruumm's head began to nod. He understood. She saw this in his motion, lit up by the silver glow reflecting off of his skeleton like head. But if that were true, if he really did grasp what little she had, what did he expect of her?
"I am not after a material possession.", he began. "No, what I seek is something much more.... exclusive; something only you can offer me. I need your talent. You see, I have guns, tanks, warships, but the one thing I lack is perhaps the most powerful weapon in existence.... the imagination of a child. I know of the demons that haunt your dreams. I've watched them come to life in your art a thousand times over the years."
"My.... art?", Morgana repeated in question. Her tone held more confusion than before. It seemed with every piece of the puzzle Gruumm laid out for her, the more lost she became.
"You have a very unique gift, my dear. The mental abuse you suffered in that house has given you a window into darkness. The violence, the rejection; they have molded your mind. The creatures you draw far surpass any seen on this worthless rock. They are an extension of you. They reflect the emotional damage your parents caused. That is what I need from you. Your art, Morgana."
"Very much. You have an edge. The torment you endured in that house in combination with your child-like imagination has given you something very special. Though most may miss the beauty in your creations.... I do not. I see them as masterpieces, each and every one. I need you. With your imagination at my disposal, none may stand in my way."
"This is too good to be true", Morgana thought to herself. Gruumm was ready to hand her the ultimate gift and in exchange for what? Her art; the hobby she'd lost so long ago. Simply by doing what she loved again, she could have it all. As the woman stared across the park to the monster who had followed her, she couldn't quite grasp what was happening. It didn't seem real at all. Morgana drew one breath after another through clenched teeth, just trying to figure him out. Gruumm seemed serious. There was no humor in his deep, booming voice.
"What have you got to lose?", Gruumm finally asked her, cutting off the brunette's thought process. "By your own admission, you have nothing. Lend your talents to me and you can have it all. You will be able to recapture your youth, you will be free of these streets, having a place within my empire.... call me narrow minded, but I fail to see the downside."
No reaction was seen in Morgana for the longest time. She wanted to answer. So desperately she wanted to accept this, but a nagging voice in her head would not allow it. It was all so strange. She would've liked to think it over, to take time and consider her options, but as was always the case, time was not on her side. Morgana could see her potential savior growing impatient beneath the stars. He wouldn't wait around forever.
"Tick tock, Morgana.", Gruumm spoke dryly.
"Fine.", she eventually responded following a few more stray moments of hesitation. "I suppose you can't exactly screw me over. Life beat you to it a long time ago. Work your magic."
"You are.... certain?"
"Yes. If your powers can make me young.... if you can free me from this Hellish shell of a woman and restore who I truly am.... I will do as you wish. I may not trust you, but in spite of that, I cannot live another day like this. I can't go on trapped inside this flesh prison; not if there's another way. If you make my wish come true.... I'm yours forever."
With those words that carried so clearly across the summer wind, Morgana quite literally sold her soul to the devil. Looking into the emperor's crimson eyes, she could somehow see she was going too far. An alliance with him would carry her further into the dark. A tiny voice in Morgana's head screamed this to her, but alas, she ignored it. A life with him could've been torture for all she knew. But worse still would've been to spend her days wondering 'what if'. What if this was for real? What if his magic could've granted her wish? Morgana may not have known Gruumm, but she knew herself. She knew she couldn't go to her dying day never knowing if there was truth in his offer. She had to try. If there was even the slightest chance this creature could resurrect her youth, that distant lost soul known as Mora, then she had to go for it. If that meant giving up her freedom to some stranger, so be it.
Little did Morgana realize just how quickly his power would take effect. From out of nowhere, she felt something. It was light at first; a tingling that radiated through her entire body. Similar, she felt, to falling asleep on her arm. With every flash of Gruumm's terrifying eyes, she felt this sensation grow stronger. Her body was slowly changing, reverting back to the one seen so vividly in her memories. From the concrete beneath her came tangling vines, green in color. Before the woman could fully grasp what was happening, they'd wrapped themselves around her. In seconds she could no longer see the outside world. Those eerily twisting vines had enclosed her, forming a cocoon around her. She was cut off from the sights and sounds of the park, submersed in darkness. Morgana's breaths were slow. Among all of the other feelings inside her, she noted fear. This was the one and only thing making its way through her body that she recognized. As for the rest, these changes she felt within were all foreign to her. She struggled to hear from beyond those walls, but all was lost. Surrounding her was pure, undisrupted silence.
To Morgana it felt like hours she'd spent wrapped up in this strange ritual. In reality, however, the transformation had been completed within seconds. Like most other things within that vined, organic casing; all sense of time and space had been lost to her.
When those vines finally fell away, retreating back into the ground from which they came, the woman's heart froze in her chest. The watching Gruumm suddenly towered over her. She'd once looked eye level with the creature, but now he stood tall, like a sky scraper, casting his dark shadow over her. She was terrified at first, unable to speak. She simply stared up at Gruumm, once again lost in the glow of his burning eyes.
"Welcome home, Mora.", he spoke coldly. Those words, frightening in tone as they were, confirmed the girl's questions. She was free.
Mora gazed down at last to her hands. They looked so tiny in the moonlight, still slightly trembling. No scars could be seen across them. The dirt once present beneath her nails had vanished. With a gasp, she raised those hands to her face. Her skin she felt was different. Her wrinkles had faded. The lines once present around her eyes were little more than a distant memory. Beneath her fingers, Mora felt only smooth skin warmed by the breeze that blew toward her. Next in her frantic shifts, Mora ran her hands through her long brunette hair. It was soft, no longer tangled. Two tiny locks had been pulled into pigtails, a trademark of youth, while the rest hung lightly down her back. This, she finally realized, was her dream come true. She didn't understand how, but by some miracle Gruumm had lived up to his word. He made her young again. He'd given her back what her heart most desired.
"I'm..... I'm.... me
again.", the girl stuttered.
Gazing down she saw herself in the same dress she'd worn so often as a child. It was mostly black with maroon detailing; its fabric soft against her skin. Those torn and tattered rags she'd worn as Morgana were gone. When at last things had sank in, Mora's excitement could not be contained. A high pitched, joyful squeal escaped her mouth, echoing high into the night sky. With such youthful energy, the girl began to jump up and down. A light spread across her face in an instant, so pure and untainted by the cruel world that surrounded them. The girl's smile at that moment was enough to light up the darkness; her eyes twinkling in the moon light like the bulbs of a Christmas tree.
"You did it!", she screamed to Gruumm in delight, "You really did it!"
"As I told you I would."
Mora was unable to hold back her emotions. Over and over she would jump up from the concrete and listen in turn to her black boots pounding back down onto it. Up and down she would go, meanwhile watching Gruumm step forward. The emperor took gradual steps toward her. Once close enough, he leaned down, taking the discarded Cindy Sunshine into one hand. Morgana had dropped her sometime ago. Slowly Gruumm lifted the doll up from the concrete and placed her back into Mora's loving arms. Clutching Cindy so tightly, the picture was complete. Mora was back.
The last thing Mora remembered from that night was her warning. She'd couldn't recall the context of it. What the two could've been discussing at that time, she was unsure. But Mora could remember those words; such a frightening contrast to the rest of the night's events.
"Remember, child..... I have given you a gift on this night. But what I give.... I can
* * *
It is said that hindsight is 20/20. Though very much clichÃ©, Mora was living proof that this saying is true. Drifting back to the harsh reality of her paper thin prison, the girl could see in vivid detail just where she'd gone wrong. Those same events paraded through her mind night after night. Confinement served as a time of reflection for those in S.P.D. custody. Mora and those like her were forced to look back on their lives and dwell on the mistakes they'd made. It could be torture sitting there day in, day out reliving the past. But that was her penance for the crimes she'd committed. Mora was forced to endure these memories over and over again sitting there in the dark. She would see them playing through her head like a movie that she was powerless to pause.
Many say death is the ultimate punishment for those who step outside the law. This was the belief of so many Rangers of the past. But from Mora's perspective, confinement proved much worse. Had she gone up against another team, she'd have been granted the sweet escape of a blaster's fire. Its hot rays would've ended her suffering. But having faced the cadets of S.P.D., she found herself enduring a far worse punishment. To sit there and relive those same mistakes relentlessly until her dying day proved to be inhumane torture through her tear soaked blue eyes.
"Was it worth it?", Mora began to ask herself. Her alliance with Gruumm had indeed restored her youth. This was something she'd fought so hard for. But was that truly worth wasting away in that card, forgotten by the world? She truly didn't have an answer. Sadly for her, Mora would have the rest of her life to sit there and ponder that very question, "Was it really worth it?".