The snow crunched beneath his feet as he hiked up the treacherous mountain, but Emit wasn’t one to give up. Breathing hard, he rested his shoe against a rock so he could readjust the straps. Upon hearing a long sigh, he turned and fixed his eyes on his traveling companion. He could sense something was wrong. Something was coming, and he didn’t like it, but he couldn’t explain why. He had no rationale or reason to his unease. It. Simply. Was.
“You doing okay, milady?”
Bella glanced up from her intense focus on the ground, trying to put one foot in front of the other as the trudged deeper into the Simlaskan wild. Snow fell continuously throughout the day, the white flurries piling higher atop the mountain range. The trees, former ghosts of themselves, were the only things keeping her grounded in the sea of endless winter, their bare bones branches, black and bleak against the white, as the light tried to claw its way through the the ground. It was nearly four in the afternoon and already the sun was beginning to dip beneath view, and the biting chill of the wind sunk its teeth into her face, the only exposed skin against the storm. She tried to remember what warmth was like. She strained to hear the crackling of a fire and remember the dancing oranges and yellows and reds against a black starless night and to feel the embers of heat when she stepped close enough to be encircled with smoke. She would give anything to feel that now, and nearly did, but Emit had warned her to avoid depleting her magic as it would also diminish her energy. She frowned as she shivered even beneath the layers of a puffy black coat, black ski pants, a black turtleneck, jeans, thermals, and tights. Emit was less bundled up as her and yet somehow he looked warmer.
“Why isn’t it spring here already, Emit?” she asked, wrinkling her nose.
He smiled. Somehow the way she said his name warmed his heart. She had asked if he wanted her to call him by his real name – Nediti, or his nickname, Ned. He turned and grabbed her hands, her red gloved fingers cupping his own, and squeezed. She was the first part of his life that made him feel Sim… human. He wanted to hold onto his Sim name, his chosen name, and it was fitting for his lover to call him as such.
“Because the snows do not melt in the highlands until nearly summer,” he explained, as they kept walking, beneath a grove of snow-caked trees for added protection against the sharp winds. “Have you ever spent time out here?”
“No, never…and now I…” she trailed off, slumping beneath the branches against a tree truck, rubbing her hands together for warmth.
Emit returned to her side, laying both of his hands against her own and pressed slightly. She began to feel a vortex of hot air, and her fingers felt less frosty. How does he do that? Spontaneously generate heat?
“Would you like to know?” he said, his icy eyes twinkling.
She smirked, playfully shoving his shoulder back, and indicated up the hill with her head. “Come on, don’t we need to make near the peak before sunset?”
“Yes,” he responded. “We can camp on the leeward side tonight so that we will be safe from the wind. My colleagues will meet us in the morning with a helicopter.”
“And… you’re sure… they’ll… remember you?” Bella said, grunting as she climbed over rocks and a fallen tree limb.
They had only just begun and already she was winded again. Must be the altitude.
“Would you like me to carry you?” Emit offered.
She grinned, pushing a stray hair off her face. “No, I can make it,” she insisted.
His mind-reading had become almost second nature, and she felt she was improving also, though she could more often sense his emotions than his thoughts. However, he still hadn’t picked up on an important detail. This was surprising. Bella frowned. She didn’t know how to bring up the subject, and she should bring up the subject soon.
“They will remember me,” Emit replied, turning and continuing his trek. “Two years have passed since I made contact, but the old codes I used seemed to work.”
They had plans to meet his friends in the Simleutian range above Midnight Hollow. It had been several years since his last meaningful work with the underground, a group of aliens known as the Orbix and sympathetic Sims trying to thwart the efforts of the invasive Xekzoi raids, kidnappings, and skirmishes planet-side and in surrounding space. However, Emit made contact with them using an old source in order to secure passage off-world. From there, they could start a new life together. It would truly be a new life, Bella thought wistfully, though the frozen air hurt her cheeks too much to fully smile. She patted her stomach. A new life indeed.
They continued hiking for another half-hour in concentrated silence. The incline leveled, though the snow was still ankle deep and even knee deep in some places. She focused on putting one foot in front of the other, and as with every step up the hill, she left behind her former world.
Bella knew that life as she knew it was over. Her heart had truly been captured by an alien. Living off planet was always something she had wanted to do, and while Emit lacked the financial status she was accustomed to, he loved her deeply. She could give up everything for him – her reputation, her career, her family, her friends, even her figure… she nearly laughed wryly at the last one. Her family was probably the hardest to leave behind, though she was starting to forge herself a new one.
Now that she was gone, she could have Emit and Mortimer could have Dina, and her children, by other men, could be happy with the nuclear family they needed. She would be out of the way. It would be for the best. Toddler Cassandra may barely remember her, but as far as she figured, Alexander may never know who his real mother was. She doubted Malcolm would come forward and claim his offspring as his own, even with her out of the picture. He was divorced from his first wife, Brittany Upsnott, and married to Andrea Hogan, though as soon as he learned that Mortimer held the rights to the Hogan family restaurants, he might leave his second wife. It really wasn’t fair, Bella thought sadly, just how much Mortimer had disturbed their lives. She really hadn’t planned to leave him like this, but she couldn’t stand to be under his control any longer. Maybe some day she could return and visit her children, but in all honesty, they were better off without her. Mortimer would take care of them and they would have everything they could ever need and want. They had enough chaos when she was around, and things would settle down after she left. Then why did she feel like crying?
“The launch from remote places such as these keep our signals hidden…” Emit explained as he stopped beneath a hulking tree and checked a GPS device. “…from the Sims and… others…”
She knew he meant Xenosi, but he didn’t say it in order to protect her. She tugged at her red-and-white peppermint cap, wishing she had purchased one for functionality instead of cuteness. This one barely covered her ears. They would be meeting an Orbix shuttle which would deliver them to a remote location on Luna. She had always wanted to live on the moon, and now was her chance.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, sensing Emit’s concerns.
“The device… is flickering… and it is not working properly…” he hit the sides of the hand-held machine, and then glanced around cautiously. “And it has been two years, eleven days, forty-seven hours and seventeen minutes since I was last in this spot.”
“That’s precise,” she said, trudging toward him.
“I am precise,” he repeated, focused on the beeping, blinking machine.
But we’ll find it right?” Bella asked, optimistically, as she hooked her arm in his own. “If we need to camp here until morning…”
“No…I do not think a campsite here would be wise,” Emit frowned. “And we are closer to the sky so the signal from the satellite should be clearer…”
“Is it the storm?” Bella inquired, shielding her eyes as she looked up at the falling snow.
“…but it is not…” Emit continued as if he didn’t hear her question.
“Okay… so it’s fine, right?” Bella said, trying to ignore her elevated heart rate. “We’ll be all right? We’re together and that’s what’s important.”
A strange, loud sound shook the snow from the trees. Startled, Bella gasped, and nearly stumbled down the hill. Emit gripped her wrist to keep her from falling. She glanced about frantically. There was no visible smoke or flames. What could have exploded? she wondered, rubbing her ringing ears. There was no one else out in the woods with them as far as she knew. Perhaps the shuttle needed to make a crash landing.
“What was that?” she asked, bending over to grab her knees as she was struggling to breathe normally. “What’s…happening… to me?”
“You are experiencing a form of shock to your system, milady,” he said, helping steady her balance. “Can you…”
Bella shook her head. He sounded almost as if he was underwater, and there were other sounds with him… voices… speaking…clicking… buzzing… in another language. His friends, perhaps? Bella had never heard the alien tongue personally.
“Emit… we should go… a force… like that…” she straightened to her full height, still feeling shaky. “…could cause an avalanche.”
“Stay here!” he said, with sudden urgency, running ahead around the curve of trees.
Bewildered, Bella stood motionless beneath the grove of trees. She couldn’t understand what was happening and why she felt this indescribable feeling. Her throat felt dry and parched, possibly from the altitude and from the half-day hike. She reached inside her coat and pulled out a temperature-shielded canteen, and took a sip of the water. Despite the sealed container, the liquid still had ice chunks as it slid into her mouth. Her hands were shaky and she lost the cap in the snow. Damn! The water would be frozen within minutes at this temperature. She was grateful they weren’t carrying their packs. Emit had managed to ship their belongings off-world in a crate bound for Lunar Lakes where they would collect their items by week’s end. If she had been carrying a pack, she would be even more winded.
“Emit?” she called hesitantly.
He stood in the midst of shadowy branches and snow, his head tilted at forty-five degrees, his eyes closed. He felt the wind die down, almost unnaturally, and the falling flakes halted in the air a few feet above his head. He breathed in and out, his breathe creating slowed puffs of visible air from his nose and mouth. Bella called to him through a sea of clouds, a fog of jumbled thoughts. It wasn’t often he was caught off guard, when he wasn’t prepared. He had a sixth sense, an intuition. He could practically taste impending danger, but today, he felt nothing, though he had clearly heard the sound. An accident?
He recalled the sound years before, on his first descent into the atmosphere of Simterra. It was a rookie mistake. The thrusters misfired and caused a concussive force, but the clean energy burned smokeless and flameless, leaving little to no trace, unless one knew what they were looking for. Of course, he had been a rookie then, but he was still smart. Vastly smarter than most of the average intellect on this planet. It was the advantage the Xenosi had. Advanced technology. Enhanced intelligence. Burdened with glorious purpose. They would conquer the sector, and maybe one day the galaxy.
His forehead creased ever so slightly. They wanted him to hear their entrance. They wanted him to know they were here. They were coming for him. He could sense it. He listened. The silence was all too familiar. They were blocking him… with their telepathic shielding. His eyes snapped open.
Bella gasped, startled, as Emit suddenly materialized by her side. Teleportation. He only used it when it was an emergency.
“Run,” was the only word that escaped his mouth.
Bella’s eyes widened in terror as she saw a transport ship, and not the one they were supposed to meet. This was one she had only read about, and seen vague pictures of before as no one had really lived to tell the tales on Simterra or anywhere else the Sims occupied. She threw up her arms in defensive posture as Emit leaped in front of her, throwing up his own arms to shield her as his face contorted with an emotion she had never seen on his face before – frightened anger. It was if everything was spinning out of control in slow motion. Bella couldn’t understand why everything seemed to move at an infinite stagnation like it was stuck on a loop. She tried to run, but all of her muscles were sluggish while her senses were heightened. Something was coming. Something was on its way to their position… or rather someone. Or two. She didn’t know how she knew it, but she did.
Two feminine looking Xenosi materialized from beneath the transport ship, glowing with an aqua blue and neon green light. They were encapsulated in strange form-fitting suits, the only exposed skin, their green skin with splotches of blue, yellow, and hints of brown. Their solid black eyes gazed awkwardly, and blue electricity crackled all about their bodies. Emit threw up his arms involuntarily, his face contorted in pain. His arms hung suspended in the air above his body, his knees slightly bent as if to hold the weight.
“Emit! Emit!” Bella gasped, her own feet literally frozen in place.
She couldn’t move. One of the alien women, the darker green-skinned one, with back hair, and a captain’s hat, stepped toward her. So we aren’t all frozen in some weird warp bubble or something, Bella thought. The woman’s eyes narrowed.
“Hello cousin,” she spoke in stilted metallic-sounding words.
“Cousin?” Bella lifted her hand to her lips.
Emit grunted and groaned, but was unable to break free of the telekinetic grapple on his wrists. Bella tried to reach for his hands, but was unable to force movement.
One of the alien women suddenly appeared only three feet from Emit, as if she floated across the snow. Bella couldn’t even utter a sound, paralyzed in fear.
“So… this is… the thing…” the woman buzzed, looking at Bella with disdain. “…whom… you have… chosen…”
“Stay… away…” Emit grunted. “…release her…”
“Oh…” the woman tilted her head in three sharp movements, cracking her neck muscles. “Should I?”
They entered a rapid-fire discussion in a language Bella didn’t understand, with random buzzing, clicking, and screeching like metallic scratches or nails on a chalkboard. She wished she could cover her ears, but she couldn’t fully move normally. Somehow the Xenosi had complete control of her motor functions. Bella closed her eyes, wishing the scene was a nightmare.
She could hear Emit’s voice clearly in her head as if he spoke aloud. Although she could see he was wincing, she could tell his mouth wasn’t moving otherwise.
How are you… she fought to communicate internally on the higher plane of consciousness, as if trudging through a pool of super glue. Sending telepathic signals was tricky enough. Communicating on a frequency the aliens before them couldn’t hear was even harder. …speaking to…me… she gasped, nearly doubling over in pain as she felt as though her head was being split in two.
The headaches are normal since your mind isn’t trained… fight it anyway. It’s the only way.
Only way… what?
“Hello cousin,” the other female Xenosi, with the lighter green skin, spoke in the same metal, almost mechanical tone.
A spiky glowing green gem held the red hair in place, like a perfect ponytail in back, flawlessly symmetrical bangs in the front. When she turned, her eyes pierced to places Bella didn’t even know existed, reflecting little beams of white snowy light. She felt morbidly curious and simultaneously terrified. Emit dropped his arms, though he did not make a move to run away or fight the women.
“Greetings Ai’nam,” he spewed. “Release her. You want me,” he shot a death glare at the other woman, who stood with her hand jarred at an unnatural angle on her hip.
“At’rom will not help you,” the woman called Ai’nam laughed harshly. “She traced your signal here. After…” she circled him, brushing past Bella in the process, and tapped his nose three times upon reaching his face again. “…all this time… after all these years… we have finally found you… and to think… it took a kos’cek smeti…” she wrinkled her nose and growled in Bella’s direction. “…to help us find you.”
The woman called At’rom leaned in and sniffed Bella, clicking her tongue. “Nediti, she is putrid. How do you…” she buzzed her lips. “…tolerate such stench?”
“What do you want?” Emit asked, his voice low, vibrating with righteous anger.
“You should be kneeling,” At’rom said forcefully. “What kind of respect is this for your queens?”
“Queens?” Bella shifted her head, frightened. “Emit, these are your cousins?”
Yes, these are the queens. Bella gasped and covered her mouth in shock. Emit never said he was related to the queens wreaking havoc on the planet and out in space. She knew he came from an important noble family, but the royal family?
“What do you think we want?” Ai’nam said, blinking rapidly. “You are wanted at the royal palace. Your services are needed again.”
“Do you not think your little… vacation… has been extended long enough?” At’rom sighed, flicking her fingernails in Bella’s direction.
“I will never go back with you,” Emit clenched his fists.
“Oh but you will,” At’rom cackled, a strange glowing device appearing in her hand as she lifted it to hit Emit.
“Run, Bella, run,” Emit turned, lifting his hands to block the hit.
Terrified, Bella watched as Ai’nam materialized by her side, her hand phasing through Emit’s chest. She blinked rapidly. What was she seeing? Was she hallucinating? Emit gasped, his legs buckling, as the Xenosi queen yanked her arm from his insides and rubbed her wrist with her other gloved hand.
“At least I know the device is still beating within your heart,” she said with an almost smirk. “I have looked for this for years. You really thought you could hide this inside your body, Nediti?” she leaned over and patted him on the back and clucked in his ear. “Or is it Emit? That is the name you selected to be called these days?”
Emit hit the woman in the abdomen with his fist. She doubled over in surprise. The distraction gave Bella enough time to run about thirty steps before collapsing face first into the snow after she was hit with a bolt of blue energy. She cried and hugged her sides. Searing pain tore through her lower rib cage and abdomen. She was almost paralyzed by the sudden jolt to her system as the alien weapon knocked her to the ground. Ai’nam cackled with laughter as she seemed to telepathically knock Emit from his feet.
“I forgot… cousin… that you can… block telepathy if you’re in range of a physical blow…” she said. “A weakness… we would do well… to improve against…”
“Time has been too long since we had a worthy opponent,” At’rom giggled.
“Stop it! Stop it! Just leave us alone,” Bella screeched. “He doesn’t want to be with you anymore. In your service.”
“Does she know who you are?” Ai’nam asked, amused. “Does she realize you are the son of her greatest enemy? And this woman… if you can call her that… she is puny and pathetic and weak… just like all the other insects…” she continued, her words dripping with disdain. “… on this planet. At’rom, let us show her who he really is…”
Bella flipped over on her back, panting hard. She sat up just as Emit transformed before her eyes. His skin changed to an odd blue color, similar to his hair, bearing the same shadings and markings as the other women. His hair shortened and he grew in height nearly a foot and a half. He swung an arm at the woman called At’rom, who doubled over into the snow, nearly falling on her face as Bella had, and he smacked the other woman called Ai’nam with the back of his hand, the shock wave of his surge of energy causing the both to tumble back.
When he turned to face Bella, she could see the strange green marks on his skin, beneath his eyes, across his nose, chin, and cheeks. His eyes had darkened, though not quite as black and soulless as the women’s eyes, and his nose narrower and tight. Bella expected to feel frightened, but upon seeing Emit’s true colors, literally, she felt a strange calm. He reached for her, pulling her up with intense force.
“Come,” he beckoned.
They transported into a vast spiraling golden light before she could fully process everything that happened. When they reappeared on another part of the mountain, he set her down and she stumbled forward in dizziness, nausea pooling in her throat. He seemed almost normal height again, though still in his natural blue skinned form, with green waves criss-crossing his face.
“Wha?” was all she managed to say.
“My cousins… the queens…” he said. “They have found me…though they forgot… in their telepathic grasp that I could still land a physical punch…” he flexed his hand. “…though it hurts.”
“How?” Bella gasped, tears splashing down her cheeks. “You?” she was overcome with confusion.
“Milady, are you not pleased with my appearance?” he asked.
“No… no… I mean… yes… you are…Emit…” she reached up and caressed his cheek, which felt cold and wet and scaly, almost fish-like. “…are perfect,” she whispered, her whole body shaking as she was still in shock.
His lips met her own, and he kissed her with fierce abandon. His hand encircled her waist, and another combed hungrily through her dark hair. They embraced in the cold on the mountainside as the snow continued to fall all around them, and Bella wondered if everything was a dream. It all felt so surreal.
“This is reality, milady,” he said, pulling back from her mouth. “And it is not safe. You must keep going…keep going to the rendezvous point.”
“What… about… you?” she cried.
“I cannot join you… not yet…” he hesitated when he saw the fear and pain in her eyes. “It is not safe for us to be together,” he squeezed her hands. “I need to… make sure… you are safe… off world… before they come again.”
“Your cousins?” Bella croaked. “How did they find us? Find you?”
“I do not know,” he shook his head. “They came themselves. That was… surprising. I must find out what they want. What they really want. You need to go, milady.”
“Emit, you can’t… you can’t fight them off alone…” she wailed. “You got lucky last time… but maybe… maybe I could help… I have powers…”
“…that are not honed or trained, milady,” Emit shook his head. “No I need to face them alone. A war is coming. I can sense it. I can feel it.”
Bella closed her eyes. She could practically smell his fear. She had never seen this side of him. He was truly terrified of his cousins and what they were capable of, and that freaked the living daylights out of Bella.
“We can fight,” she said, determined, balling her fists. “We can fight back against the darkness. We know they are here. That should give us an advantage. We can go get help. You can’t do this alone. You can’t face them alone.”
“You…cannot… possibly… know…” Emit said, clutching his chest and squeezing his eyes shut.
“Then show me,” Bella grabbed his hands, entering his memories.
The emotions at the surface were as she expected – fear… palpable fear. Then followed the darkness, endless darkness, thick, cold, paralyzing. She whirled trying to make sense of nothingness. She could sense… abandonment… utter and complete abandonment. She could hear his voice… his screams… he was yelling something she couldn’t fathom. There was almost an explosive energy as she attempted to reach for his hand in the powerful vision. The ground shook beneath her feet, and she looked up from black nothingness to blinding light… white light… she was floating over hills and mountains, across valleys and time and space… across stars…into the light… the blinding whirling white of a collapsing mountain. Bella yanked from Emit’s grasp, holding the sides of her head, sweat pouring down the sides of her face and her eyes blinking rapidly.
“What did I see?” she cried.
“What is coming,” Emit replied. “Bella, you need to go. I can…” he closed his eyes. “…sense them… coming…”
Bella grasped the edges of his collar. “But we could teleport again. We could fight. We could get help, and fight against them… uniting as one.”
“No, milady,” he said, sadly. “They are tracing my teleportation skills… that is how they found us once. I will not let them find us again… find you… please… go… milady…”
“Stop calling me that, Emit,” Bella threw her arms to her side in frustration. “Say my name. Don’t leave me like this.”
“Maribella, please… go…” he said, his voice cracked. “This is the only way. They cannot trace you if they are tracking me.”
“No…” she shook her head, the tears falling freely.
“Yes, Maribella… go…” he covered her hands with his own. “I love you. I will always love you.”
“Don’t… I can’t… Emit… I have to tell you…” she began, but he was enveloped in a blue crackle of lightning and golden glowing light as he was ripped from her side, pulled up into the unknown, waved of blue light flapping and buzzing all around her.
“EMIT!” she screamed, grasping up at the air in total panic. “NOOOOOOO!”
He disappeared into a ship as she dropped to her knees and clawed at the sky helplessly. Almost immediately, the entire mountain exploded in a boom. Bewildered, she pulled her hands close to her mouth, too startled to continue crying.
She turned to run as the the ground quaked, and the trees shook flakes angrily from their crowns. The snow rushed down around her legs, and she nearly sank into the sliding white sheets. Something cracked and crashed into the clearing ahead, obstructing what little line of sight she had as the powder shot up in the air fifty feet above her head. Bella gasped in horror. An avalanche.
Her mind ran on auto-pilot as she plummeted down the hillside, away from the aliens that had just snatched the love of her life from her arms, and away from the billowing tons of snow. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t feel. She simply ran. As fast as her feet could carry her. Faster than she had ever run before. She watched as towering giants of trees toppled at her heels, the weight of the snow too much for them to withstand. Her heart pounded wildly as her mind screamed for Emit.
Bella fell, her arm twisting behind her back and beneath her weight. She shrieked in pain, and realized this was it. This was how she would go. The sky was falling apart and the world was crumbling beneath her. As she looked back up at the mountain, she cried out for mercy, but to no avail. Nature would run its course today. The snow careened at wicked speed, about to crash over her body as if she were just another meaningless obstacle in its way. The frenzied avalanche would soon bury her alive… forever separated from Emit. She didn’t even have a chance to tell him the truth about the life within her. And now, Bella squeezed her eyes, bracing for impact, he will never know.
Author Note: This is the end of the Newlywed Years arc. I realized I never really let Mortimer and Bella be happy… well, for a brief moment. They picked a lot of their actions in game which supported my overarching story goals. Perhaps Newlywed Years was a misnomer, but Early Years was already taken. I plan to continue again in the future, but I wanted to take a break and focus on other stories.
I enjoyed this breather in Midnight Hollow, which is a truly beautiful world beneath the snow. Also I wanted to make a comment about the Xenosi women. Ai’nam is “Mania” spelled backwards with an apostrophe and At’rom is “Morta” spelled backwards with an apostrophe. Mania is the goddess of the dead in Roman and Etruscan mythology. The name Mor means “big and great” in Gaelic, and Morta is reminiscent of “mortal” or “mortality.” There is definitely a fear for one’s life when in the presence of the two Xenosi queens.
Is this what I originally planned? No, there were a lot of surprises with this story, but I did really enjoy the result. I had this song – Into the Darkness by The Phantoms stuck in my head for a long while with this story and didn’t know where to use it. The first version I sense/hear at the beginning of this chapter and the second version by Nightcore I sense/hear at the end. I was amazed at how the lyrics of these versions of the songs naturally wove their way into the story without me even realizing it. That’s how in tune this song was with this chapter and this ending for Emit/Bella. This music almost feels like a natural ending credits song for this point. I hope you enjoyed the journey with me. I plan to write more in the future, but for now, I will plan to return to Kass’ story… finally… after I return from my vacation. Expect a new chapter for KFLL in the next few weeks.