((Author's Note: Well, I finally did something I've wanted to do for quite some time. Looking back at The Coming Darkness, I realized just how terrible it was. After playing through another game of Eternal Darkness, I finally got the motivation/inspiration to do this. It will be both familiar and different, and I hope that all of you new to Eternal Darkness and my writing or old fans will enjoy this.))
Chapter 1: Longshot
One would never think that a softball team would look menacing in pink. Every player had mocked and jeered at the unfortunate team that had to wear hot pink outfits… until they turned out to be the unbeatable team of the season. Anytime a team found out they had to play the "Pink Panthers", there was moaning, groaning, and a player or two who never showed up. What the coach had meant as a joke had turned into the team that won every single game due to the stellar skill and teamwork of the players.
Cheers and yells filled the warm night air, the next batter for the "Screaming Eagles" stepping up to the plate. In the tournament, the police department-sponsored team had just barely managed to catch up to the Panthers in points, and now it was down to the pivotal moment. Bases loaded, two outs, last inning, the entire scenario that a player feared being thrust into. Danielle Sterling was definitely not liking it. At eighteen, she was one of the oldest in the current league and playing for her last season. On the back of her midnight blue uniform shirt was the number 59 in large grey text, her nickname "Longshot" directly above it. Four gold stars were lined up on her right sleeve, a sign that she had been chosen as the team MVP that many times. The youth didn't even bother looking around at the spectators, tightening the straps on her blue, white, and black batting gloves and lifting up her favorite purple bat. When she was ready she took her place, deep blue eyes locking onto the pitcher behind her blue-rimmed glasses.
The nickname was just something from an old game she had once played, a minor character who fought long-range. It suited her. If she could manage to hit the ball, it usually was a home run. If it didn't go so high, the opposing team was quick to avoid being hit by the speeding projectile. She didn't even look like a likely softball player, so many underestimated her. Not only that, but she looked like she was about to fall apart from nerves.
With a smirk, the opposing pitcher sent such a fast pitch across the plate that Danielle was sitting there blinking rapidly in shock a full second after the ball had been caught. She adjusted her dark blue helmet on her head, hearing her coach calling out words of encouragement. She had to focus, had to avoid messing up.
"Danielle… come to us…"
The warm air turned into a frigid stillness, her heart skipping a beat within her chest. An unusual fog had rolled in quickly, hiding everyone else from sight. Not only that, but a silence filled the air that made her feel as if everything was suddenly muted. But there was one thing that stood out amongst the fog, something that Danielle immediately wished she hadn't seen. Several feet in the air hovered an inhuman shadow, four arms waving about it, a tadpole-like tail moving back and forth slowly below it. That strange female whisper she had heard undoubtedly belonged to that shadow, and as it stretched out one of its long-fingered hands towards her, a chill began to fill her body. It beckoned for her, and her body wanted to move towards that terrifying shadow as a single emerald eye began to glow…
"Kid, what're you doing!?"
Danielle was snapped out of her trance, shocked to see that a second strike had been added to the scoreboard for her. Angry shouting from her team made her heart pound in anxiety. What had happened? How had she managed to miss that last pitch?
I don't pull it together, and my own team will kill me!
Tensing up, the last pitch shot at her, the youth swinging as hard as she could. The jolt ran all the way up her arms as the softball soared deep into the outfield, Danielle dropping the bat and sprinting around the bases, arms pumping for speed. As she rounded third she saw the ball being thrown back infield, deciding to just try for home anyways. After all, they had already managed to scrape enough points to win. It was good to go out with a bang. Feet pounding against the ground, she rushed for home and leaned back, going in to slide as the catcher slammed her glove with the ball down right into Danielle's shin. Her sharp cry seemed lost amongst the cheers of her teammates in the dugout as she laid there, head back against the ground and her shin throbbing in pain while a not-too-happy catcher tossed away the ball with a scowl and went to rejoin her team.
"You alright there, Danielle?" her coach asked, now standing over her with his NYFD cap pulled down slightly on his forehead. In his late forties he was starting to show his age, but it didn't stop him from doing what he loved most. Coach Anderson wore the same colored uniform as the rest of them, but with Coach on the back and no numbers. His black hair beneath his cap was beginning to show signs of grey, his green eyes filled with concern as he held out a hand to her.
"Hey, I've had worse. Like getting hit in the eye with that pop fly one time." Grimacing, she took her coach's hand and was helped to her feet, shin throbbing in pain as she put some weight on it. "Probably going to be bruised for a little bit, but nothing too bad. Not gonna be fun sitting in a cramped airplane with it, though."
Chuckling heartily, Anderson shook his head. "Knowing you, you'll probably ram your leg into a chair on accident or something while you're gone." As Danielle dusted herself off, Anderson's smile was replaced by a serious expression. "It happened again, didn't it? You completely blanked out there and missed a pitch. For a second I thought you were about to collapse right then and there. What's going on with you, huh?"
Once more Danielle grimaced, the youth adverting her gaze and picking up her bat from the ground. "I don't know. I've just been having trouble sleeping since Mom and Dad left for LA for that business trip. Weird nightmares that keep waking me up in the middle of the night, that's all."
"And what happened out there on the field?"
Danielle glanced back at the coach, noting the genuine concern in his eyes. Lying to him would just make her feel miserable about doing so. "I saw something… some hallucination, I think. Maybe just because I've been so exhausted lately. I doubt it's something I need to go see a doctor for, though."
"Then why not go see Dr. Roivas? He may be retired from actually practicing, but he's a good guy. I'm sure he'd be willing to see you for free if I sent you to him."
"Roivas… Dr. Edward Roivas, the psychiatrist?" He nodded, causing Danielle to raise an eyebrow at him. "C'mon, coach, think about it. What would seeing a shrink do for me, huh?"
At this Anderson crossed his arms, and Danielle knew she had gone too far, especially if this was a friend of the coach. "You'll see him. Tonight. Whatever is going on is more than just a few dreams, and he'll be able to tell if it's something you need to go see an actual doctor for or not."
Danielle opened her mouth to protest, but the slight glare he gave her caused her to choose otherwise. There was no use arguing, especially not with her stubborn coach. "Yes, sir," she murmured slightly, turning to pack up her things in the dugout while pushing the thought of going to visit Dr. Roivas to the back of her mind. She would much rather try and get some sleep than go talk to a psychiatrist tonight. "Even if that sleep doesn't come," she muttered.
A massive inferno raged before her eyes, a dwelling fully involved by the fire that sought to devour it. Yet despite her proximity to it, she didn't feel the heat coming from the blaze. Screams could faintly be heard over the crackling of the flames, but she just stood there motionless without the slightest feeling of concern for whoever was still trapped inside. Behind the burning house, a massive shadow could faintly be seen. It almost seemed to be the same one from before, but its body seemed thinner and more spindly. Not only that, but it had a strange glowing green rune where its head should have been.
The hands waved about in the air, green light covering them as the screams from within the building intensified before being cut off abruptly. The great shadow lowered its hands, hovering there behind the inferno as a ringing sound filled her mind…
The phone on her nightstand rang shrilly, stirring Danielle slowly from her deep slumber. Groaning she forced open her eyes, making out the blinking red light at the top of her phone before reaching to snatch it from its stand. Who in the world would be crazy enough to call this late at night? It was nearly two in the morning! "Hello?" she answered groggily, shutting her eyes once more as she rested her head on the pillow.
"Miss Danielle Sterling?" an aging voice asked.
"Yeah, it's me…" Danielle murmured, slightly irritated at being woke up. "Who's this, huh?"
"I am Dr. Edward Roivas. Forgive me for calling so late at night, but a good friend of mine called and was quite concerned about you. When I informed him that you had not come to see me earlier, he suggested that I call to talk to you immediately, despite how late it is."
"Dangit, coach," she muttered under her breath, rubbing tiredly at her eyes before sitting up in bed. "I guess he also told you to insist that I come over despite it being nearly two in the morning?" she growled, not bothering to hide her irritation.
"Yes, he did."
"Tch…" Danielle wasn't happy with what Coach Anderson had done, but apparently he knew that she would not come despite saying she would. "Alright, I'll come."
Coach Anderson would kill me if I didn't, anyways, she thought to herself, sliding out of bed and grabbing the clothes she had planned on wearing on the plane later on today. "Very well. I shall be expecting you soon." Not even fazed by the youth's irritation, Dr. Roivas continued on as if nothing had gone wrong, giving Danielle the address to his home. Not that she needed it, though. Everyone knew of the creepy old Roivas mansion on the outskirts of town. Rumors abounded that the place was actually haunted and that the Roivas family had a dark history of insanity.
Once she had changed, Danielle snatched up her glasses from the desk and slipped her keys into her pocket. Pulling on a blue, black, and white windbreaker that she received for being on varsity for high school JROTC, she headed out the door and locked it behind her, wondering why Coach Anderson was so determined to get her to see this guy. What was there to worry about regarding a few strange nightmares probably caused by her watching horror flicks all the time?
Breathless from jogging the entire way to the Roivas estate in an effort to wake herself up more, Danielle stopped before the monument in the circular driveway, the two old-fashioned lamps on either side of it casting light upon her. It was a bit foggy right now, but it served only to make the ancient building creepier than in the daylight. The gardens were filled with mostly dying plants, evidence that the building's sole inhabitant didn't do much to take care of the area anymore. Of course, he was far up there in years, so he probably couldn't handle tending to such things as plants.
Her eyes flickered to a stone just to the left of the stairs leading up to the house, which had the name "Roivas" on it along with the date of the mansion's construction, which was back in the early 1700s. "Man, this place sure does look that old… gives me the creeps, too," she murmured to herself, making her way up the steps to the two wooden doors of the Roivas mansion. Taking a deep breath, she reached up a hand and knocked three times on the heavy wooden door, sliding her hands into the pockets of her windbreaker as she waited for the elderly doctor to answer. Danielle had been about to just go when he finally opened the door, a rather feeble-looking elderly man with white hair, black-rimmed glasses, and the kind of clothes that one would expect an elderly man to wear: a long-sleeved tan shirt with a dark blue vest over it, black tie crisp and neat. "Ah… Dr. Roivas?"
The elderly doctor nodded just slightly, adjusting his glasses with one hand. "Miss Sterling, I presume?" When she nodded, he stepped back to open the door all the way, motioning for her to enter. Danielle hesitated once more before crossing into the mansion's foyer. What awaited her sight made her gasp involuntarily. The foyer of the mansion was huge, much larger than she had expected. While the house was definitely showing its age with the tattered and worn carpet, she could only imagine its grand appearance when it had first been built. Two staircases led up to a balcony with a set of double-doors leading further into the house, a small setting of a table with a carriage clock between the two sets of stairs. Off to the left were three doors, two against the left wall and a set of double-doors beneath the balcony, while to the right one door was in the wall and a single door beneath the balcony.
Dr. Roivas brushed past her, walking towards the door against the right wall and motioning for her to follow. Still a bit in awe, Danielle stepped through the door after him and found herself in a library. Immediately to her right was yet another door, while to her left the library stretched on and around a corner, making an L-shape. There were a massive number of books lining the shelves of the library, although most of them looked as if they hadn't been touched in some time. The sitting area directly in front of them had two rather cozy-looking red couches, a fire going in the fireplace a few feet away. The elderly man motioned for her to take a seat as he did the same. "So, tell me what has been troubling you."
Well, Coach doing this for one thing, she thought to herself but didn't dare say aloud. "Just nightmares, that's all. Having trouble sleeping at night." She avoided his gaze, still examining the library instead of looking at the doctor.
"From what Mr. Anderson told me, it seems to be much more than that. He mentioned that you… frequently seem to 'space out' at times and are completely unaware of your surroundings when it happens. Apparently it happened earlier today during your softball game."
"Uh…" Danielle resisted the urge to flinch, now meeting Dr. Roivas' questioning gaze. He didn't seem upset that she had lied, though. In fact, it appeared he had expected it. Feeling like a kid caught stealing candy, she lowered her gaze to the floor. "Yeah… It does happen, although I wouldn't really say frequently."
"These episodes… do you just black out, or do you see something?" Dr. Roivas continued.
Her hand slightly gripped the armrest of the chair as she now leaned her head back, staring into the crackling flames. It was soothing, and just concentrating on it allowed her to focus. "I see something. A large, black shape with four arms and no legs, and it's got this weird green eye that glows. It's floating there, calling to me… and I want to go to it. But when I'm about to move… that's when I snap out of it."
Dr. Roivas rose to his feet, walking over to one of the shelves and scanning book titles. "And your nightmares?"
"I mostly can't remember them, I did have one before you called." Danielle didn't look up at him, still focused on that fire as she recalled her nightmare, the sound of crackling flames filling her mind. "A fire… I hear screaming, and there's this huge thing just beyond the fire. Four arms, and there's this green symbol just floating there where a head should be. I'm… just standing there, watching. That was when the phone woke me up."
Taking a seat once more, Dr. Roivas rested an old, leather-bound book in his lap, one hand pushing up his glasses on his face. "Hm… Curious indeed, especially these figures you've mentioned. It will take me some time to investigate any possible meanings to them." His tone was a bit odd, causing Danielle to shoot him a glance. Dr. Roivas stared at a photo he had withdrawn from within the pages of the book. "Danielle, I must admit that the reason I summoned you here so late at night was not solely based on Mr. Anderson's request," he spoke, using her first name for the first time. "There is something I must discuss with you, something that you may not completely agree with and believe at all."
"Er… Okay?" Danielle continued to watch him with confusion. What was this guy getting at?
Dr. Roivas took a deep breath, now looking towards her. He seemed almost uncertain about what to say, but the expression quickly vanished. "Fourteen years ago, I lost my son and his wife in a tragic accident. Into my custody I took their oldest daughter, but their youngest I turned over to old friends of theirs. I feared that her life was in danger, and that whoever was after my son and daughter-in-law would be thrown off the trail by my actions." He closed his eyes now. "Lying to my eldest granddaughter was the hardest thing for me. She believed her sister dead, her body missing. But I knew the truth that she was safe and sound, living a new life without any knowledge of her true heritage."
Raising an eyebrow, Danielle shifted uncomfortably in her seat, getting a better glimpse at the photo he held. It was a family of four, two parents and their young daughters, one with shoulder-length blonde hair and the other with brown. Seeing it, she was struck by a sense of familiarity. But why? She met Dr. Roivas' gaze, a slight frown on his face. "Their friends… were James and Kate Sterling. They were reluctant at first to go along with my idea, but in the end they followed along."
Danielle slumped back in her chair, staring at him in shock as she shook her head in disbelief. "C'mon, you have to be kidding me… There's no way any of that is true! Mom and Dad would have told me something about this if it was true, which I'm pretty sure it's not!"
Despite her raising her voice, Dr. Roivas remained calm and quiet. "As I said before, this revelation would be something you wouldn't agree with. I cannot force you to accept what I told you, but encourage you to seek the truth yourself. I told them to reveal the truth to you when they deemed you ready… but I feel that now is the time."
"Tch…" Danielle stood up, unable to remain seated anymore as she paced slightly. This news was so far-fetched, so unbelievable… yet a part of her was wondering if this really was true. After all, many said that she looked nothing like the rest of her family, not even one of her parents. "Can't believe this… This is crazy," she muttered, rubbing her forehead slightly.
Dr. Roivas rose also, setting the book and the photo down on the chair. "I can understand how you must feel. It is late, and you have had a long day. Perhaps it would have been better if I had waited until tomorrow to speak to you on this matter."
"No, no, it's just…" She let out a frustrated sigh, shaking her head and looking back at Dr. Roivas. "I need some time to think about this, okay? I've got a trip I'm going on tomorrow, and I've already got a lot on my mind."
Seeing her agitation, he merely nodded his head and opened the door back into the foyer. "I understand. Take your time. Perhaps when you return, I will have had time to speak to Alexandra about this."
"Yeah, maybe." She didn't mean to come off as rude to him, but she was really having a hard time taking this all in. He had really called her here at two in the morning just to tell her about this? Either he was very serious about his belief in this, or he was crazy. Regardless, she just knew she really wanted some sleep. "It's an eleven day trip. I guess I'll call you or something when I get back."
Dr. Roivas opened the front door for her, seeming to want to say something but deciding against it. "Take care, Miss Sterling. I will see you again when you return home."
Danielle frowned, walking down the steps with her hands in her jacket's pockets. As she hit the ground, she looked back and saw Dr. Roivas standing in the doorway staring at her. There was an odd expression in his eyes, one that she couldn't place. Regret? Longing? Despair? Or… was it fear? She couldn't be sure. He closed his eyes and turned away, returning to the interior of the mansion. Her frown deepening, Danielle began the trek home, playing the words the strange doctor had spoken over in her mind the entire way.
Edward Roivas felt heartbroken as he watched his youngest granddaughter vanish into the shadows, in a somber mood as he returned to the library. He felt like such a failure to her, having separated her from her family and caused her entire life to be a lie. Had it really been the only choice available? Couldn't there have been another way?
He picked up the photo he had been staring at before, feeling the sting of tears in his eyes as he stared down at the family that had been ripped apart not many months after the photo's taking. Turning over the photo, he used a pen from his pocket to write down the number for Danielle's home on the back of it before tucking it just under the book's front cover, his eyes flickering to the numbers 3:33 written in shaky handwriting. Placing it back differently on the shelf to attract attention to itself if one looked carefully enough, Edward took a dusty novel in his hand as he walked to the back of the library, where his private sitting area awaited. No fire roared in the fireplace as he took his seat, hearing the old grandfather clock chime three despite the hands being stuck on twelve.
For Dr. Edward M. Roivas, his time had come. He could do nothing more.