Disclaimer: If you saw it on TV, I don't own it. Soundtrack for this story: the album Barbaro (ma non troppo) by Present, something I'm pretty sure is forbidden in the Magic Kingdom.
The young redhaired woman drove on through the night, impelled by all-consuming fear. The car she'd stolen was nothing compared to the Sloth, but that remarkable vehicle was long gone. Undoubtedly the law was already looking for her, but she had to get back to Waite. Had to. There had to be some way to undo what they'd done.
She should have been enjoying the good life. That had been the plan. Instead she was alone, racing the clock, hoping for a miracle. How could it all have gone so wrong in so little time? A year to the day.
Tears ran down her cheeks, blurred her vision.
She remembered Egbert Waite's ramshackle cottage on the outskirts of the town. Remembered the kids bolting from the yard; evidently they'd been peering through the small windows, trying to catch a glimpse of the old man's rumored sorcery.
Most people considered him a fraud, though they wouldn't say it to his face. She had reason to believe otherwise.
His first words to her had been demanding; he did not work for free. "You have the money?"
For answer she reached into the bag, withdrew the wad of bills. She wished she could forget what she'd done to obtain it, but it really didn't matter. Very soon all the bad decisions of her past would be behind her.
They'd be someone else's problem.
Waite's withered claw closed on the money; he began to count it, slowly, methodically. The agony of withdrawal tore at her guts as she fidgeted in the shaky wooden chair. She'd been so long without a fix. She couldn't afford it. The warlock was holding every cent she had.
"It's all there," she blurted. "It's all there! Every penny. I promise."
Waite scowled. "You've waited this long, little lady. You can wait a little longer. And since I've lost count, I guess I'll have to start over."
She almost blacked out before he finished; his harsh voice snapped her back to reality. "Right. All here. Now listen. When the incantation begins, there is no going back, and it can only be done once."
"Because you only have one soul to sell. Do you understand? Once you have bargained with Duke Akylbas, you belong to him. At your death, he will claim what is his. He is a lesser demon in the hellish hierarchy, but that's the price of all magic. I made my bargain with his Master, many, many years ago."
Thoughts of fire, torture and eternity came back to her, echoes of her Baptist childhood. Deceitful devils and wrath of God. She almost stood up, almost walked out.
"Okay. Okay. Whaddaya need, blood?" She held out her arm, marred with needle tracks. "Give me the blade or whatever you use. I'll do it myself."
"No blood. This isn't Hollywood. It doesn't work that way. Akylbas himself will seal the deal."
He was turning down the antique lamps. "Quite." An old black and white television was barking out the news; Waite clicked it off. "TV is my only modern weakness. I recall when the telegraph was the marvel of the age. Never did master the code, though. Too many other things on my plate. Do you watch Agony County?"
"No. Not really." She hadn't owned a television for years.
"A fascinating show." He peered at her through squinted eyes, as if only now seeing her. "I believe you had a brief TV career yourself, didn't you? A few years ago, perhaps?"
The boyish blonde shuddered. "Please. I – I'm sick. Can we just get on with it?"
"Yes," said the warlock, his ancient face in shadow. "Yes, I believe we can." He sat down opposite her at the table. "Whatever happens, obey me to the letter. Or your soul will go with Akylbas this evening. Understand?"
She nodded. Without further adieu the warlock made a strange sign with his left hand, a motion that left a dimly glowing symbol hovering in the air, slowly fading from view. "Mighty Akylbas, commander of seven legions, Grand Duke of Transformations, come to me. One desires to be another." A sign with the right hand, a repetition of the simple words.
Above the table a shimmering darkness began to collect, a fusion of opposites that had no right to exist. It spread spiral tentacles throughout the room.
Waite continued his spell.
Slowly the absurdity of her situation crept over her: sitting in a dismal little room, surrounded by musty, crumbling books and weird old artifacts, watching a crazy old man do creepy parlor tricks. Her heart sank within her.
She pushed the chair back.
Volcanic fire erupted from the eerie blot as a gigantic, misshapen figure reared up from its center, clad in blazing armor, its eyes searing red slits, long, stringy hair and tangled beard smouldering. In its left hand was a black candle, which it sternly presented to Adrena Lynn.
"Take the candle, before it changes its mind," hissed the old man. "Claim it through Gelulath Vorah."
She couldn't move. Never dreamed it would be this terrible. The Grand Duke snarled, revealing red hot teeth of iron, a seared and blackened tongue. If it spoke, the sound of its voice would kill her, she knew.
"I – I can't. I can't! You take it!"
"You must do it, or the spell will fail. Take it in the name of Gelulath Vorah!" The warlock's sharp whisper held a tinge of fear. "Do as I say!"
She watched her trembling hand close around the candle. "I accept this – gift, Duke Akylbas, in the name of... of Gelulath Vorah." Whatever that may be.
Instantly, silently, Akylbas was gone. The eerie void that had admitted the Grand Duke to this world collapsed on itself, vanished.
With no more concern than a man leaving the dinner table, Waite stood up, turned his television on. "Well. That's it for him. Figured his number was up. "
Adrena Lynn was still in her chair. She wasn't sure if she could ever leave it. "W-what?"
"The West Virginian senator. Been in office since 1959." Akylbas was already forgotten. To Waite, invoking demons was just another day's work. "Now the vultures will start circling. Politics is a dirty business, Miss Lynn. Steer clear of it. It's the devil's playground."
"Uh – you bet." She turned the candle over and over, amazed at what she saw. Stars and galaxies floated deep within its ebon form. For a moment, even drugs were forgotten. "Now what?"
"Return to your home. Take the candle with you. At precisely three am, let three drops of its wax fall on your left wrist, then burn a picture of the target in its flame." The warlock paused in tending to his oil lamps, fixed the woman with his rheumy gaze. "I would highly suggest checking the time against the atomic clock, if you have Internet access."
Was the old man that dense? "Yeah, well, that's not gonna happen."
"Remember, you get one chance at this."
Six years earlier, Adrena Lynn had been on top of the world. She had been a media star, a daredevil specializing in death-defying stunts. And if she faked it all, who cared? It was no worse than TV wrestling, less predatory than the televangelist racket.
"Be sure this is what you want."
She wasn't a mad Teutonic scientist with no indoor voice, or a monstrous batrachian mutant, or a snarky comet-powered supervillain. She had no designs on the world. There had been absolutely no reason for Kim Possible to interfere with her life.
"Be sure of your target."
And yet the cheerleader hero had ruined her, disgraced her, destroyed her. She couldn't get a job. She couldn't have a life. It was all Kim Possible's fault. She knew Possible was in college now, nineteen or twenty years old, never even wondering what happened to Adrena Lynn. Very soon, though, she'd find out. Maybe Possible had forgotten her, but she hadn't forgotten Possible. Destroying her had become her reason for living.
"Oh, I'm absolutely sure of my target, Egbert." The old man grimaced, but Adrena didn't care. She had what she'd come for. "It's gonna be freaky," she said as she left.
She had been unprepared for the intensity of the wax's searing heat on her wrist, but she didn't scream, just barely flinched. Should have expected it. It was from hell, after all. Then came the picture, a tattered cover from Humans magazine. Why she'd hung onto it, she couldn't say. Sometimes, drifting in narcotic heaven, she took it out, imagining all the ways she wanted Kim Possible to hurt.
How good it would be to wake up whole and well and strong, and know that the woman she hated more than anyone else in the world would awaken in this body, unable to understand what had happened, torn apart by the need for the drug.
The oily flame spread quickly across the page, consuming the young woman's image. Adrena Lynn stumbled, fell to the ground; though there was no breeze at all in her tiny, squalid apartment, the ashes drifted across her still figure. Something laughed.
She woke to the sound of someone knocking on the door, a voice calling a name that wasn't hers. "Kim? Kim, are you in there?" The air smelled so nice. The bed was so comfortable. There had been no bed in the hovel she'd lived in for so long.
She ran to the mirror, admired herself. The hair had to go. She liked it short, butch, not long and girly. She looked at her strong young hands, at her smooth, unmarked arms, at the curves of her athlete's body. It was a dream, a dream, and yet she knew it was real.
Everything was so clean, so new, so perfect. There, on the shelf, among the books: the famous Kimmunicator. And what was the Internet genius' name? Wade something. Oh yes, she'd learned a lot about Kim over the years, never imagining how important that knowledge would be.
Not that she had any intention of trying to be Kim Possible. She had much better plans than that.
She opened the door, knowing who would be there. Ron Stoppable, the sidekick turned boyfriend turned fiancé. She'd seen it on a tabloid cover. She drank in the look of him, the scent of him, the beauty of him. Football hero. Martial arts master. Tears filled her eyes as she embraced him, so excited to feel his strong body against hers. It had been so long, so terribly long.
"Whoa, KP. W – what's wrong, honey?"
Honey. "Nothing," she choked out, amazed at the strangeness of her voice. "Nothing. Everything is just right." And maybe you can come along for the ride.