Clouds aren't visible deep in the mountain wilderness of Alaska. Instead, the sky is one solid sheet of gray. Unmoving, empty. The only movement that comes from the mass is the heavy rain that steadily pours from it. Bathing the trees below in cold moisture. Baptizing the forest with nature’s gift of renewal. This remote area is absent of anything resembling the touch of man. Just a landscape of thick woods, mountainous terrain, and a high concentration of wildlife. The nearest human is over a hundred miles away. They don’t belong here.

A group of deer graze in a grassy area between a series of trees in a lighter forested section of land. Not far from them is the beginning of the dense woods. Though there are many things in there that they would enjoy eating, they have been avoiding entering this section of thicker trees. Eventually, the temptation proves to be too much for one of the larger males. He strays from the group. Enters the dense woods. As he eats from plants not offered in the lighter section of forest the sounds of other animals in the area disappear. Only the impact of rain drops and the creaking of trees remain. He stops eating and looks around. His body tense, but still. Listening for danger. Unaware of the threat descending from the trees above.

The deer’s first instinct is to run, but the idea has come too late. A figure crashes down on his back, just below his neck. The impact almost causing his front legs to buckle. A blade of bone plunges into his neck. In his panic, he bucks and throws his head back repeatedly. Attempting to throw off the predator or catch it with his antlers. The figure grips his fur tightly while fending off the erratic strikes. The sharp, bone blade is repeatedly thrust into the side of his neck. Blood pours from the wounds. Matting his fur. With every buck, every bit of spilled blood, his energy wanes. Until he can carry on no more. He collapses to the ground. Labored breathing becomes shallow. Then the breathing ceases. His large, black eyes go still as life leaves them.

The figure climbs off the lifeless deer. The boney blade is wiped against the deer’s fur to reduce the amount of blood on it. Then it’s tucked into a tiny, ragged skirt made out of animal hide. Beyond the animal’s blood, it’s the only thing that adorns her pale, marred body. She exhales deeply, drops of red falling from her scarred lips.

In the world of humans she was known as Eclipse.

Out here, she’s just another predatory animal that has found its place in the food chain. Crimson soaked hands grab the antlers and drag the corpse deeper into the thick woods. The trail of blood left behind is continually thinned by the rain, but never fully erased.

Bare feet dig into the ground as she pulls the body behind her. The months spent here have hardened them. They’ve adapted to the conditions of the ground. Even the scrapes from the bark of the trees she climbs no longer bring her pain. Her mind isn’t filled with thoughts of her feet, her latest kill, or the cuts and shallow puncture wounds she sustained from its antlers. No, they are far from where she is.

Though her senses stretch outward in search of danger, she can’t help but think about him. Despite the distance, the time away, and her dual focus of survival and self-improvement, he is never far from her thoughts.


Just the thought of the name fills her with longing and sadness. In a world she knows she doesn’t belong in, he’s the only thing that that ever truly felt like home to her. Unfortunately, it was a home she had to leave.

She didn’t like it, but she knew it was the right decision for both of them. Her capture, and experimentation, at the hands of the Prophet had come too close to fully releasing her inner demon. Had almost allowed it to inhabit her body. Let it back into the world. She couldn’t allow that to happen. Not ever. She knew she made the right choice in leaving. She was so sure of it. Yet, part of her still wants to argue against that. It may have been the right thing to do, but the cost was tremendously high. Too high.
It isn’t just the voluntary separation from the man she considers to be her husband. That in itself has been agonizing. It’s that she had to walk away from the life they had been struggling to maintain together. The life the world was determined to rip away from them at every turn. The loss of the only sense of belonging she ever had during the entirety of her life weighs heavily on her tattered soul. Like a giant, angry slab of stone pressing further against her chest with her every breath. Working to constrict the last vestiges of life from her body.

The pain that fills her inside endures as it always has. Something her demon loves to remind her of during its incessant chatter. Even all these months where she’s lacked any form of human contact it has remained. Refused to go dormant. Though all remnants of the chemicals that were flooded into her system have long since been ejected from her body, she has to wonder if some of their effects were permanent when it comes to the thing inside her. Even taking the life of animals, like this deer, somehow serves to feed it in some form.

She eventually reaches her destination. The hut she constructed between the bases of several trees. It rests beneath a canopy she built up in the trees to provide some protection from the weather. She lets go of the animal and pulls the bone knife from her skirt. She skins, cleans, and carves it. Her nearly nude form staining red in the process. Making her look less like a person and more like some ancient monster returning from a battlefield. All but the meat and hide are cast aside. She puts the meat on the hide and brings it over to the makeshift fire pit. It doesn’t take her long to get the fire going thanks to the canopy blocking the rain. After getting the flesh over the fire she leaves it to cook.

Eclipse steps out from under the canopy, into the pouring rain. Letting the cool shower wash over her. Streams of diluted red liquid cascade down her pale, scarred flesh and pool at her bare feet. She tilts her head upward, allowing the rain to gather on her face. Her dark, blue eyes closing only to see images of Angel inside their lids. She had told him when he was done with the world to come and find her. Unfortunately, he isn’t done as of yet. The world refuses to let him go. To give her what belongs to her alone. Its hatred of her has always been great. She was never part of its grand scheme. Something it has always made painfully clear.

The cold rain enveloping her body is the closest thing to his touch she has felt since she left. There’s no comparison, but in the long absence of his presence it has been a hollow comfort. A merciful lie. A cruel fantasy. One always interrupted by the laughter of the foul creature within. Even now she’s forced to abandon this empty dream she so wants to cling to. The laughter shattering this mental construct she attempted to create. Having not spoken a word in months she leaves everything in her thoughts. Fine demon. So be it. If she will not be allowed even this momentary illusion then there is no helping it.
After months of fighting the urge to break a vow made only to herself, she gives in. Her will to keep it has eroded. She strides over to the hut with purpose. Stepping inside she goes directly to a hastily assembled bin of sorts and throws open the lid. Upon seeing the item inside, she realizes it can’t be helped. She has to hear his voice. It’s the only way she can soothe the remnants of her sanity. She grabs the satellite phone from the bin and takes an involuntary, heavy breath. Her eyes staring at the device for a long moment.

Though she hesitates, she’s already committed to making this call in her mind. Weakness be damned. There will be no turning back. The course of action has already been determined. It is absolute.

She powers it up and dials the number. As it rings, she suddenly realizes she is holding her breath and exhales. Apparently, she’s more nervous than she realized. A multitude of negative possibilities fill her mind. She shoves them aside. There’s no room for them right now.

Her heart skips a beat when the call is answered. He doesn’t say anything. No greeting. Nothing. Doesn’t matter. She knows deep down it is him. He answered despite not knowing this number. Despite absolutely hating the device he always carries in his front, pants pocket. Without him having said a word she feels instantly connected to him again. She knows his breathing better than she knows her own. Even through crackling reception. It is him. For the first time in a long period of time, words escape her lips.

“Angel,” Eclipse said. “Angel, it’s me.”


Her small fist hit the side of his body with a dull thud. A squeaky grunt escaped her lips.
Angel looked down at the child beside him. Her blonde hair was matted with sweat, tangled around her face—her cheeks were flush red with exhaustion.

“Embarrassing,” Angel spat out. “No thrust. No power. No force. Are you trying to kill me or tickle me? Get up.”

“I can’t…”

“Get up.”

He didn’t have to repeat the request.

Dawn stumbled to her feet. Her scrawny legs were bruised, and cut, and scraped—casualties of the frozen dirt floor. She doubled over, and breathed deep.

“Again,” Angel said.

She eyed him momentarily, then lunged—her small frame gliding quickly through air, a scream caught in her throat. Her fist again connected with Angel’s bare torso—a flesh-colored canvas painted in tattoos and scars. He let the punch land. He made no attempt to move or avoid it. His body remained still, his feet planted.

The scream in her throat broke free. A whimper soon followed. She shook and massaged her bleeding knuckles in pain.

“Worse than the last one,” Angel said. “The point is to get stronger. The longer the fight goes on, the stronger you need to get. The more exhausted you are, the harder you need to hit. There are no second chances. Those final seconds can never be undone.”

“I can’t do it…” she huffed through tears.

“Why not?”

“You’re so much bigger! And older! I’m only 12!”

Angel moved for the first time. He took a menacing step towards her. She recoiled instinctively.

“Doesn’t matter. The world doesn’t care how old you are. Three, five, ten, fresh from the womb—the world will kill you all the same. You bleed the same blood at any age. And the soil is always thirsty.”

He thought of the child. His first child. He often did. A vision of Mikey—his throat slit from ear to ear—danced sadistically through his head. There was so much blood. Blood in the dirt. Black blood. He’d never forget it.

“All excuses are fatal. All justifications mean death. The world will not allow for your mistakes. And it won’t care why you’ve made them. Get up.”

No rebuttal came from her direction. She gathered herself. Calmed her nerves. Squared to face him.

He looked her in the eyes.

“Again,” he said.

Her roar filled the room. She bolted at him—with speed like her mother—and lunged at his stomach. The fist connected again. The blood from her knuckles was left on his skin.


She wasn’t finished. She screamed again and launched another fist. But this time Angel effortlessly swatted it away. They began to circle each other.

“Let me ask you something,” Angel said. She threw another fist, and again it was deflected. “Why do you fight?”

A question that had once changed his life.

“Because you tell me to,” she replied, anger creeping into her voice. Another punch thrown, another deflection.


“Because you make me!” She lunged. Angel pushed her aside, and she stumbled in the dirt.


“I don’t know!”

She turned and tried to charge him—he quickly side-stepped, and stuck out his leg. She tripped and collapsed to the ground, growling in frustration.

“You do know. Tell me.”

“I fight…” she got back to her feet. Readied her next attack. Her voice became a whisper. “…to survive.”

She came at him again—only this time he held nothing back. A massive arm swung through the air and backhanded the girl across the face—a hit with enough force to send her tiny body soaring across the room. She landed hard in the dirt. Blood trickled from her mouth. But she did not cry out.

Angel looked down at his daughter.

“I do this because I love you,” he said.

“I know,” she groaned, spitting red phlegm into the dirt.

And she really did know it, too.


I don’t fear the outside world.

Though I was raised away from it, I understand its nature. Its predatory desires. The hatred it holds for me. My parents have spent my entire life drilling it into me. The world hates me. Wants me destroyed. For the sin of existing. The transgression of their blood flowing through my veins.

I was very little the first time I heard it. I had so many questions. Ones that weren’t answered to my liking. It was a long time before I could believe any of it. Years. They eventually showed me. I could no longer argue with some of it. I accept the world hates and fears me. I’m also at peace with the fact that I’ll never truly belong in it. I have no preoccupation with why things must be this way.  Honestly, I don’t even hate it back. I don’t have to be a part of it for my place to be in it. I know that.

My desire to go into the world doesn’t stem from not being happy here. I do like it here. I love my parents, but I can’t stay here forever.  What’s the point of all this training if I don’t go out and find my own way eventually?
That’s what this OWF match is about for me.

I want to prove to parents, and myself, that I’m ready. Ready to survive on my own. It has nothing to do with wrestling. My parents have rarely ever spoken of it. My grandfather told me more about it than they have. I just want them to see I’m ready to stand on my own. Something I need to prove to myself as well.

This is my test.

I will not fail.


“I’m going to take her.”

“I don’t want you to.”

Angel paced around the small cabin. His hand worked anxiously at the large, graying beard that hung from his face. His eyes were cast to the floor. A warm fire raged behind him.

“She has to go, Angel. She has to see for herself.”

Eclipse was sitting on the floor, her back against the wooden wall. She sat unnaturally close to the fire. She craved the warmth. She liked to feel the burn across her skin.

“Does she? Why? Why does she need to see what’s beyond these walls—beyond these mountains, these trees? We can keep her here. She’s protected here. She’s safe.”

“She’s vulnerable. Ignorance is weakness.”

Angel couldn’t argue the point. He’d spent a lifetime avoiding his problems—blinding his eyes so that he could not see them. It only ever resulted in failure.

“You know why,” Angel whispered, turning away from his wife. “You know why I can’t let you take her.”

“I know, my love.”

“That world out there…” Angel turned his eyes towards the open window—towards the crystalline black sky, towards the sea of radiant stars. “…it has taken everything from me.” His voice began to crack. “I will not let it take her, too. I will not lose her. Not her. Never her.”

“I will be by her side, Angel. Always by her side. Nothing will happen.”

Angel snapped back.

“Something always happens. You cannot stop it. It’s in our blood. The same blood that runs in her veins. Tragedy finds us. It always will.”

“All the more reason I should take her.”

He stopped pacing.

“You just said it yourself,” Eclipse continued. “And you’re right. We can’t stop it. If we don’t take her to the world, then the world will come to her.”

“It’s just…I—”

“And when that day comes, which would you prefer—that she be na´ve, and weak, and innocent—having never seen beyond these four walls? Or would you rather her be prepared. Capable. Focused.”

Eclipse rose to her feet. She moved closer to Angel. He was looking away from her, so that she would not see his tears. “The world destroyed you, Angel. Because you were not ready. Do not condemn her to your mistakes.”

He exhaled deeply—a sorrowful, quivering breath.

“Protect her,” he said, in the voice of a broken man. “Never leave her side. Never let her from your sight. The world will be after you. You, and her—those that I love. Because you are my family. Something the world never meant for me to have.”


“Stop daydreaming.”

My mother’s voice halts the progression of thoughts flowing through my mind.  I look over at her scarred face as she approaches. Mom’s always been as serious as she is caring, but there’s a hardness to her. She’s never been as emotionally expressive as Dad. That hardness always seems to increase when she’s teaching me something. Especially, when it comes to fighting. On the surface, it might seem like her training is similar to his at times, but they are far from the same. His training has always been to improve my skills for self-preservation. It’s often been a painful experience for me. Hers…it’s always been more like she’s trying to train my body to act on its own. As if she’s honing my instincts through brutality. There have been times I thought I might actually die.

Her lessons were harsh, but I learned a lot from them. A lot about myself. Something that became necessary when I was 15. Things changed for me at that age. I changed. I didn’t understand it at all.

It started with nightmares.

They’re still vivid to me now. I’d be in a hot, dark room with a gray, stone floor. The stones would be so hot they would sear the flesh of my bare feet.  Clawed hands, the size of my body, would tear through the darkness and slash me before pinning me down. The overwhelming fear would tear at my insides till my heart burst. My skin would burn from the inside, turning red and beginning to flake off. Then I would explode. The force of the blast would snap me awake. I had that dream for a week straight. I’d wake up covered in sweat every time.

It wasn’t long after that I started to feel it.

At first it was a dull ache in my chest. Over a few weeks it grew. In both strength and intensity. A dense pulse beneath the surface of my entire body. I could feel it pounding in me like a heartbeat. It was like something was trapped inside me and was trying to break free. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. It interfered with everything. I was too scared and angry to talk to my parents about it.

To make things worse, everything frustrated me. It was like life was constantly poking me with a thousand tiny needles. Eventually, it all came to a head. Dad was training me and I just lost it. It was so unlike me. I wanted to hurt him. I remember how heavy that feeling was. Like I wanted him bleeding at my feet. I lashed out with that feeling. Then it was like I suddenly realized what I was doing and regained control of myself. I felt horrible. I fell to my knees in tears and cried out an apology to him.

The look on his face wasn’t so much of shock, as it was knowing. I thought he would be angry. Either because I did that, or because I stopped and cried like a little girl. I don’t know. I was a jumble of emotions.

Instead he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re your mother’s daughter, alright. That’s enough for now. Let’s go home.”

Then, he just wiped the blood from his cheek like it was nothing, and waited for me to pull myself together.

The crisp Alaskan air nipped at her cheeks. She was older, then—17-years-old—though her eyes had already begun to assume the wariness of someone twice that age. They’d grown skeptical. They’d grown critical. They’d grown curious.

Angel rocked gently in the chair that he’d built with his own hands. Over the years their home had grown—from what was once a ditch covered in trees to a sizeable, if crude cabin. There was a porch, at least. It overlooked the vast Alaskan wilderness. He and Dawn both looked out ahead, into that infinite, open space.

“Can I ask you something?” Dawn said.

Angel kept his eyes forward. “You can ask, sure.”

“The implication being that you’ll answer.”
“No guarantees.”

She paused. This was territory that she’d tread many times before; she contemplated how she could now tread it differently. Though she understood the futility of trying to outsmart her father—particularly in games of language. As she often did, she decided it best to be blunt.

“What were you and Mom like? Before? How did you meet?”

“It wasn’t romantic. Not a story worth telling.”

Blood, limbs, bodies, death, and fire—that was the story, and he wanted only to forget it.

“Depends on who’s listening,” Dawn replied.

Angel smirked. “You’re too sharp for your own good, kid.”

“I learn from the best.”

A brief silence fell between them; no sound save for the bustling of the pine trees, the chirping of birds, the singing of the wind. Rays of golden sun slowly worked at the snow that surrounded them.

The stage was set. They both knew what was coming.

“Why are you afraid of the world?” Dawn shot out.

“Doesn’t matter.”

“What happened to you?”

“Not important.”

“Why do you and Mom have so many scars?”


A moment passed. “Grandpa will tell me.” The playfulness was fading from her voice.

“He won’t,” Angel replied. “Your grandparents are insane, but there are certain rules that even they won’t break.”

“Aunt Dusk will tell me.”

“Not if she wants to continue breathing.”


Dawn slammed herself back into the chair, crossed her arms, huffed and puffed.

“Why won’t you tell me anything?!” she cried.

“Why are you so curious? Why do you need to know?”

“I’ve seen the outside world, Dad. I know what’s out there—and I know that we’re not, and that’s all that I know. I have so many questions. Please…”

“I love you,” Angel declared, abruptly.

His words sat heavy in the space between them. Added their countermelody to the song of the birds, and the trees, and the wind. “I love you. More than anything in the world. Anything. You’ve made this whole thing worth it. Every scar.” He kept his eyes forward. Never turned to face her. “That is the only answer you need. The answer to every question.”

Dawn looked at her feet. “I love you too, Dad.” Her voice fell to a whisper. “And thank you. For everything.”

But Dawn wasn’t finished. She would never be finished—inquisitive as she was, down to her very core.

“Can you tell me just one thing?” she asked, after several minutes had passed.

“One thing,” Angel replied.

Dawn thought carefully—about wording, and tone, and intent. At last, she asked her question.
“How did you guys get here?”


He walked me home like nothing had happened.

Like I hadn’t done something terrible. Talked to me in the same manner he always had. I didn’t want to face Mom with what I had done. When we got back to the cabin I just kept my head down and went to lay down in bed. I could hear them talking in the other room, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. My mind flashed back to what he said about me being “my mother’s daughter.” I didn’t understand what he meant by that, but I was too upset to ask at the time. I fell asleep while trying to figure it out. The weight of my emotions put me into a deep sleep. I don’t know how long I was out, but when I woke it was dark. My mother was sitting on the floor next to my bed. Her back against the wall. Even in the dark, I could see her blue eyes fixed on me. Her face as expressionless as always. She waited a minute before saying anything.

“Your father told me what happened,” she said, her voice softer than it usually was.

I managed to quietly force the words out, “I’m sorry…,” but she just brushed them off.

“Don’t be. It’s not your fault, Dawn.”

Not my fault? How is that? I did it.

I went to ask something, but I stopped myself.  I was still stuck on what Dad had said. I decided to forget about asking why it wasn’t my fault. It took a moment to get myself to say it, but eventually I asked, “Why did Dad say I was my mother’s daughter?”

Her lips moved into a soft smile. Something I hadn’t seen often. She took a long moment before replying. Her eyes just staring into mine as if she were analyzing me. Instead of answering my question, she asked her own, “What were you feeling when you attacked him? What was running through your mind?”

I told her about picturing him bleeding at my feet. About this intense need to strike him down. I was honest, even when I didn’t want to be. I told her how it felt good until I realized what I’d done. I apologized more and waited for my punishment. I truly felt terrible about it. Enough that I would rather be honest despite my dread of her reaction. No punishment came. She listened to everything I said and just smoothed my hair out of my face with her hand.

“You are definitely my child, aren’t you?” She ruffled my hair some, messing it up. “Get some sleep. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”

“What are we doing tomorrow?” I asked. Her dark, blue eyes seemed to light up and harden at the same time.

“I’m going to have to teach you to control your rage.”

She got up and walked out without another word.

She wasn’t lying.

The next morning, through words and pain, she started teaching me. She told me my rage came from her side of the family. That she and grandpa both had it. That if I didn’t want to feel horrible for losing control like that, I’d better learn to utilize it properly. Then she showed me.

The day ended with me covered in bruises and my own blood, but I learned a lot. I got the impression there was a lot she didn’t tell me though. How was this the first time I knew this about her? What more was she keeping from me? It had to be quite a bit more. What I saw in her that day was frightening. I’d never seen that side of her till then. From then on, when she trained me, I saw it a lot more.

She’s spent the last four years pushing me harder and harder. They both have. Dad’s training certainly didn’t ease up after. As I prepare to endure another one of her lessons, I have to wonder how much more I’ll need to be prepared for the world.

I guess I’ll find out soon enough.


Three years.

It had been three years since he received that phone call. Since he last heard her voice.

Angel had scoured the earth. Had broken into heaven and torn through the infinite vastness of hell. He climbed the highest mountains, and descended to the lowest depths. For three years he had searched for her. Had longed for the sound of her voice. The warmth of her touch. The scent of her skin. And he was, three years later, at the end of his road—having exhausted all other possibilities, having chased all other leads.

The answer to whether he would live or die was in a log cabin that sat just over the hill.

It was quiet.

More than that—it was silent. The world moved in slow motion, and was entirely without sound.

It was a painting that moved, that lived and breathed; a painting in which the subjects existed across epochs, through worlds, their motions imperceptible against the cosmic centuries; a still life that captured an eternity. The scene was as it would always be. Was as it had always been.

Angel trekked through the knee-deep snow. His clothes were tattered and filthy. He was vastly under-dressed for the climate. Frost and ice hung from his lengthy beard; clung to spots of his exposed skin—burned it raw, and turned it black. Sweat glistened across his emaciated face. The radiant sun scorched his eyes.

The man who never stopped thinking had ceased to have a thought. His mind was empty; a defense mechanism against the utterly alien and overwhelming emotions that threatened to tear him apart. He was a nomad. A vagabond. A wanderer. For three years he had searched for his own heart. In seconds he’d either find it again, or understand that he’d die without one—the frost and the ice filling whatever hole was left in his chest.

He pushed up over the hill. He was breathing heavily. The camping pack slung over his shoulder bore down on him with every step—the aluminum cooking instruments clanking together in an unnatural cacophony. As the cabin came into view, he threw the pack off his shoulder. It dropped into the snow and sunk. It didn’t matter anymore. Clothes, tools, tents, scraps—his lifesblood for three years—they were irrelevant, now. He would either live, or he would die. Survival for its own sake had disappeared into the mountainous backdrop against which the cabin was perched.

A bird chirped in anticipation. A rabbit scuttled through the underbrush. Somewhere behind the trees, a fox looked on, its narrow eyes contemplating the scene.

As Angel lurched closer—his muscles and mind objecting to every agonizing step—he searched for signs of life. He saw none. The snow around the cabin was smooth, untouched, pristine. No smoke escaped from the crudely built chimney. No sound emerged from behind the crooked shutters.

For three years he’d been met with nothing but disappointment. This would be the last of it. He could take no more.

But onward he marched. Toward whatever end. So long as it was an end. So long as it was over.

He stood inches from the door.

His eyes looked over the handle as if it came from another world.

The barrier in his mind began to weaken. The flood pushed through. Blood, limbs, bodies, death, and fire. Michael. Plague. Liz. Jasper. Draco. Anders. Xavier. Graham. Chloe. Rabbit. Mikey. The Prophet. Dusk. The Professor. Hideki. Sparky, Drax, and Vito. Jesse Williams. Meredith. Redemption.

The whole of his life became clear to him; became one thing; he could see it in its totality—every face, every voice, every second, every death, every love, all the pain, the sorrow, the grief, the momentary joy—the defeat, the failure, and the triumph. Every scar on his body burned in unison. All his wounds reopened at once. The noose scar around his neck tightened its grip. He couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t think. Couldn’t exist.

His hand gripped the rough, wooden handle. He forced the door open against a mountain of snow.

The air left his lungs. The feeling left his flesh. The blood left his veins.

Angel collapsed to his knees. His body bent over in exhaustion. He began to cry.

Through the tears, and the hair, and the sweat, and the ice, he looked into the barren cabin; looked through it, past it, above it, below it.

Eclipse looked back at him with those glowing blue eyes. And she smiled.

The radiant sun rose to its peak behind them.

The dawn of a new day.