[POTW] Where, Mare?

It started with the command station radios.

Feedback turned into abrupt static, loud on every available headset around — deafening anyone within ear range, every face screwed into grimaces followed by obvious confusion. What’s going on?, some of the rookie officers shouted — some who couldn’t have been in Ashkent for more than a week, and Reed felt a clench of despair deep in his abdomen. Something was wrong, he just knew. The TV screens went next but they blacked out entirely, no longer filming any interviews or the news… It all just stopped, and a looking outside through the blinds showed a world to him that slowed down. Along with that, there was an overwhelming sense of suffocation bound around his chest at the vast darkness, with a distant burning sky – violent hues of oranges and reds… “Oh…” Shit, he uttered under his breath, haphazardly scrambling away from the slatted windows, bumping into someone in the process.

Time stood still as well. The blinking colon disappeared from sight.

And here he thought the minute hand on the wall clock couldn’t move any slower but it did, it is.

Reed’s mouth dropped though he didn’t have enough time to process any of what was happening before three officers barged through the station’s doors with frantic citizens; a mixture of voices spoke over one another and it was hard to keep track of. There was an urgency to their tones though, a desperation in their wide, panicked eyes and Reed’s heart felt like it was going to burst any moment now.

Captain Maynard wanted to say this was just an atypical blackout and all Reed could do in turn was stare at his superior incredulously, jaw dropping open in disbelief at the words he was hearing right now. A blackout? Really? With meteors suspended in the sky, looming above them like a message of their impending doom.

Then it occurred to him mid-freakout throughout the entire station what was going on, it struck him and all Reed could think to do was run away from the crowd of station folk that gathered in the main lobby, and down to the basement, grabbing his car keys then back upstairs, anxiously pushing passed his compatriots to the outside world.

He ignored their calls out to him, their questions and voices of concern: Han, where are you going? What are you doing, it’s dangerous out— He didn’t listen, their words went awash in his ears.

The distress felt different outside, like static clinging to the air around him and it was just as suffocating as it was inside, when all he could think about was of the devastation that happened to the German town. Is this what happened to them hours before their deaths? Is this how they disappeared? Reed stared up, wide-eyed, at the sky, horror morphing onto his face before he dropped down onto the driver seat of his car, trying to turn the ignition but it wouldn’t do. “Come on,” He groaned, exasperated – desperate to get home to the book he knew he had on hand. One of the things said in the lobby was the Mares of Diomedes, and he was no mythology expert but he could recall it from somewhere — those words ringing a bell in his mind, and all he knew was that he needed to get home right now, immediately, to it.

Again he tried to turn it over, still nothing and he smacked his steering wheel. He’d have to run home which was making itself out to be a major inconvenience right now; then he glimpsed up, saw one of the ACPD’s bicycles and—

Scurrying out of his car and to the bike, he propped it up from where it leaned against the red brick wall then rode off with it, going as fast as he could, purposely ignoring the twinge of guilt that banged against his chest when he did so.

The book, the book, the book… Was all he could obsessively think over and over again in his head like a mantra, eyes steeled over with determination. An answer lied within and he needed to get to it, sooner rather than later. Around him, people were running around like headless chickens, others took this as an opportunity to vandalize and destroy public property. If this were any normal day (by Ashkent’s standards), he would have stopped them but clearly, with a town in bafflement and uproar, now wasn’t the time. The other officers would handle it.

Until then, he was going to pace his home office (which he was in the process of renovating into a guest bedroom for his mother to move into) with Labors of Hercules in hand, cradling it by its spine as his eyes scanned the pages.

As insistent as he was before that this was too obvious of a trick to play on this town, he had taken it upon himself to purchase said book over the last two weeks; if they were all legitimately going through the trials, then he might as well read about them.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of information about the four horses except that it was the eighth task, they were especially hard to kill and had a specific diet fine-tuned to human flesh. And Reed needed just one tooth.

Still, the book didn’t stop there and he felt it pertinent to keep going, to read further so he did, skimming the pages after — every item needed was another labor, and his thudding heart came to a sudden stop at that realization.

Bridget had been right.

This is the Labors of Hercules.

And he would need Veronica’s help; maybe she had the strength to help him acquire a tooth or to help serve as a distraction (because he really didn’t know how well distracting four horses all the while trying to obtain a tooth would go for him, as a single individual)? They’d both figure something out, right? They could find more than just that together too; he hoped so, anyway.

“Oh, god…” He exhaled into silent space, sounding at a grave loss before dropping the book down onto the middle cushion of his couch. Pulling out his phone, he went to text Veronica but his phone was glitching — just as slow as reality itself, flickering even with a fully charged battery… He’d just have to meet her in person. With that in mind, Reed shoved his phone into his back pocket and ran back outside into the hysteria, flashlight in hand to hopefully combat the overwhelming darkness that hugged this town with impending danger. People were running this way and that, screaming bloody murder, while others prayed up to the sky above for mercy — regarding the flaming meteors as saviors to be thanked.

And quite frankly… For a moment, for the millisecond that he stood still, watching this madness unfold around him, it reminded him quite a lot of a Rick and Morty episode.

“We’ll be okay,” He nodded to himself determinedly, regathering himself and forcing a detachment from the chaos; he couldn’t react emotionally to this anymore, as much as he wanted to, as tightly knotted as his insides felt and as rapid as his heart beat right now, Reed couldn’t wallow in this. The town needed to be saved and if this was the way to do it, then so be it.