"The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?"
—Edgar Allan Poe, The Premature Burial
St. Louise Orphanage of Gotham City—October 31st, 2008, All Hallow's Eve Night
A bolt of lightning illuminated a shadow at the end of the cobblestone corridor. Sharp footsteps echoed across the arched walls towards the nuns huddled at the opposite end as they jumped and made the sign of the cross. At least one fainted dead away at the sounds, sure that whatever was in the chamber at which they stood sentry escaped and had now set upon them. The eldest of them all, a wizened and wrinkly Sister Bernice, raised her lantern and called out a stern, "Who goes there? Show yourself immediately!"
The lantern's weak candle flickered low as the stranger pulled back their hood, and the sisters let out a collective gasp. Even the storm thrashing outside seemed to lull in shock as the midnight visitor stepped into the light.
"What business does a Justice League Seer have at our humble convent on this fine night?" asked Sister Bernice primly, as if there weren't screaming and thundering and otherwise worrying noises coming from behind the gaggle of nuns. The other sisters gathered close behind her, full of scorn and furrowed eyebrows, and blocking the view of the trembling door.
The Seer gave no visible reaction, seemingly prepared for their prejudice. It was no secret that the convents in Gotham—and perhaps the Church as a whole—professed to not believe in clairvoyants, yet sometimes called on those at League for their assistance during their darkest hours (though, admittedly, it was not often that convents were under siege).
In return, the convent provided something of a halfway house for 'afflicted' orphans until the League could get them sorted and into somewhere more permanent and…equipped for their needs.
"You know full well why I'm here," said the Seer reasonably. "But I'm feeling generous tonight, so I'll give you a reminder. You were warned eight years ago. I'm here to pick up the fallout."
Though Sister Bernice wholeheartedly agreed with her, the truth was that at the time, the convent had needed just one more child to meet the quota for their funding petition. The damned girl had shown up so conveniently—Reverend Mother couldn't afford to just package and send her off to the League immediately.
Yet and still, the convent's hurt pride was Sister Bernice's hurt pride, and she wasn't about to show it. "We have the situation well in hand, thank you very much."
"Just like you had it 'well in hand' the first time this happened? Or the second? Or perhaps the third?"
"We managed without your interference then—"
"With no loss of life, perhaps. How is the West Wing doing nowadays? That felled wall back up yet? How about that half-formed portal to the underworld in the catacombs we had to close up two winters ago? Is it still trying to vomit up the dead?"
The novices twittered among themselves excitedly as Sister Bernice sputtered with a sort of restrained fury only attained after decades of denying one's self. "W-well, I n-never!"
The Seer smiled her grim smile and rose a single eyebrow in question. "Are you going to let me in or not?"
"Our—our priest is currently performing an exorcism, surely whatever you need to do can wait until he is finished—"
"Rachel has already suffered for eight years, sister, with her affliction," said another sister quietly, placing a hand on the sleeve of the older nun's habit. "It is time we let the League help."
A rather loud thump sounded against the door, and the Seer's other eyebrow joined the first. Sister Bernice would call the look smug if everyone wasn't already high strung—and rightly so. The day's events would have had anyone not versed in the supernatural happenings that so often plagued Gotham running screaming for the hills.
"'Affliction'? Enough bullshit," The Seer snapped, dropping all pretenses. "Your Reverend Mother is in danger. Step aside, if you don't want more blood on your hands tonight."
"More blood? What are you—" there was another shared gasp as the Seer's lack of mentioning the priest sunk in, and, like wick from a flame, the nuns melted away from the door.
"If I'd known it would be that easy, I would've mentioned that when I first got here," the Seer mumbled, swiftly crossing the now empty space between her and the door.
"Wait!" Sister Bernice called out, stepping forward. She took the Seer's hands in her own, gnarled and trembling with age, and pressed a tiny crucifix into them. "It's made of lapis lazuli," she whispered. "It…calms her down. May the Heavens protect you."
Phaesya, world-renowned psychic, intergalactically recognized mystic, and senior member of the Justice League was completely, utterly, abysmally unprepared for what awaited her on the other side of the door. And that was putting it lightly.
Horror, absolute and paralyzing, had sunk deep into her bones and took up residence there. She suppressed a shiver as she realized she was standing in someone's blood. It seeped along the cobbled floor under her boots and if she hadn't seen the collared priest slumped in the shadows to her left, neck bent at an impossible angle, Phaesya would have assumed the flagstones themselves wept tears of crimson in anticipation of this cursed night.
Finally, Phaesya forced her gaze to the center of the candlelit room—to the eye of the storm—where the girl stood, transfixed. She was but four or four and a half feet, and slight. Her hair covered her face like a sheet made of black ink, and, upon closer inspection, Phaesya noticed that her bare feet cleared the floor by at least a foot. At first glance no one would believe that such a slight thing could be causing so much terror, but Phaesya knew better.
Ignoring her body's screaming compulsion to get as far away from the room as physically possible, Phaesya approached the child, raising her hands and offering her palms in the universal I-mean-no-harm gesture. "Rachel, I know you can hear me. Everything is going to be okay, but I need you to calm down."
Rachel gave no response, frozen in suspended animation, unnerving, and silent.
"Did they take this cross from you, Rachel?" She asked on a hunch, and her guess was confirmed by the agitation of the almost tangible shadows surrounding them. "They had no right to take it. You feel better when you wear it, right?" Almost imperceptibly, Rachel's head dipped, and Phaesya edged closer, mistaking her response as a sign that she was calming down.
She was an arm's length away when Rachel's head whipped up in a movement too fast to consider human, and she grabbed Phaesya by the collar, forcing her to look into her face. Four crimson eyes bored holes into the depths of Phaesya's soul, and a fanged, twisted grin marred the child's angelic face.
"R-rachel, please, if you're in there," Phaesya stuttered, hating the weakness in her voice and how her courage seemed to flee in the presence of a child twenty years her junior. "I'm h-here to help you—"
"You cannot help me," it said it sweetly, but the voice that responded to her was not that of a thirteen-year-old girl. It belonged to something far more depraved, and far older than the earth itself. The acrid, too-sweet smell of death and rotting flesh invaded Phaesya's nostrils and she shuddered in Rachel's iron grip.
"I shall be the end of all things mortal." It moved Rachel's mouth to Phaesya's ear, and its sing-song whisper sent chills racing down her spine. "Women and children will be slaughtered like pigs in their beds, and the entire earth will burn with everlasting fire. None will be able to restrain me, and the puny human race will be reduced to ants beneath my feet."
Phaesya choked as it brought Rachel's tiny white hands around her neck and squeezed. In a last ditch effort, she brought the lazuli cross into contact with the skin on Rachel's forehead and chanted a spell of expulsion, the most powerful one she knew. There was a chance that it wouldn't work, as whatever was in this girl was drawing from part of her very soul, a part of her that was symbiotic with her being.
Whatever was possessing Rachel chuckled at her efforts, white fangs flashing with the sporadic lightning. But the spell seemed to be taking hold, and the girl began to shiver. Demon-Rachel gave Phaesya one last shake, but before the entity left her body, it cheerfully sang a deadly verse in the psychic's ear:
"I vow that in five years time
I shall claim what's rightfully mine."
As Rachel slumped to the ground before her, Phaesya watched as the crucifix dissolved into the empty space in her forehead, leaving a single, blue, diamond-shaped stone.
The eavesdropping nuns stumbled back when a mentally and physically exhausted Phaesya threw open the door, clutching a limp, but no longer possessed Rachel in her arms. She swept past the sisters, eager to leave the forsaken convent orphanage and get back home to Jump City.
"Your priest is dead. You may want to call an ambulance," she called, almost as an afterthought, over her shoulder. No one made a move to stop her from taking the girl—perhaps they were all too stunned by the weight of her words and everything that had just transpired.
"I told them from the start that the child was evil," Sister Bernice muttered to herself, long after the woman had gone, and there was no one left in the corridor to hear her.