From the Lost Files of the Trickster come...the alternate ending to "All in the Family," the last story of the Austin series! In Chapter 12 of AITF, the evil Girl Goblin gives our hero, Austin Smith, two choices. What would have happened if he had made the choice he didn't make in Chapter 13? Here's my conception of the answer.
Epilogue: One Angel in Another's Hell
(Author's note: This is an alternate epilogue to "All in the Family" and an alternate end to the Austin series. Reader beware: it isn't exactly a happy ending either.)
Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colored ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turned fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell.
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.
--William Shakespeare, Sonnet 144
Peter Parker hunches over his kitchen counter, nursing his coffee. "I knew it. I knew it all along." He levels a gaze at the longtime archenemy that, until recently, he was grudgingly related to by marriage. "Your son ran off with that psychopath."
"Shut your mouth, Parker." The doctor's large brown eyes, inherited by his son, almost burn holes into Peter. "My son sacrificed himself. He left so that your daughter and her children—our granddaughters—wouldn't be killed by the Goblin."
"What do you know about sacrifice?" Parker looks down at his coffee. He knows too well of sacrifice. He sacrificed countless relationships, his academic activities, his friendships, his career, every time he had put on that red and blue suit to fight villains like the one sitting before him. In spite of his efforts to protect them, one ex-girlfriend died at the hands of another villain, the grandfather of the woman his son-in-law had "run off with."
Peter's daughter, May, is merely pushing her poached eggs around with her fork. She also knows of sacrifice. Her daughters—Parker Marie and Ottoline, named after the hero and villain they are descended from, are also listless and sullen. They also know of sacrifice now. The greatest lesson passed through their family—that with great power must also come great responsibility—is hard-earned through three generations, learned from blood and tears.
Goblin had given Austin a choice. Divorce May and marry her, or watch as everyone he loved gets killed. He had chosen the former, to prevent the latter. But was it about sacrifice, or did he really love Noreen after all?
Because an Elvis impersonator from Atlantic City had told a New York City friend a very strange tale last week. An extraordinarily beautiful, tall, auburn-haired woman, half-dragging a young, handsome, brown-haired man, was married in a local chapel a few days ago. They were accompanied by a teenage boy with auburn hair, his features an attractive mixture of the couple's. The bride wore a white, lacy wedding gown, but the man had four metal, tentacle-like arms poking through the back of his tuxedo. He was rumored to be the son of the infamous Doctor Octopus, or even Doctor Octopus reincarnated. And when Elvis looked at the couple to pronounce them man and wife, he looked at the bride's face and saw the coldest, most inhuman, most piercing blue eyes he had ever seen. They—and their owner—gave him the chills. Those eyes had no shred of kindness, mercy, or conscience behind them whatsoever.
The retired villain looks at the retired hero. He also knows of sacrifice—the wrong kind. He had sacrificed his wife, his love, for his experiments. He had sacrificed the lives of citizens he did not even know, for his own selfish dreams.
"What do you know about sacrifice?"
They know too much. All of them. And they bridge two worlds—good and evil, madness and sanity, light and darkness, leaving only a large gray area in their place.
May pokes at her poached eggs and looks up at the sky. Somewhere he's out there—and she knows—and does not doubt—that someday, somehow, he will find a way to come back to her. She cannot. Her whole world hinges on it. And she knows that when, and if, he does, she will be waiting, and so will her daughters, her father-in-law, and, grudgingly, her own father as well.
The flame of Mary Jane's scented candle, as bright orange as a pumpkin bomb, flickers in the wind. It only takes one candle to dispel the darkness, and love is so much more than a candle. Love can light the stars.
Terminat hora diem, terminat author opus.
(The hour ends the day, the author ends her work.)