Text between <<double angle brackets>> is the Iturbe-monster speaking directly into the minds of others.
The press was out in force, even with all the coverage of the big UFO story--but when Tsukino Usagi emerged from the building, she wore the awful majesty of a mourning queen. People melted away from her, and from her friends, when she joined them. More than half the cameras and microphones trained on her stopped working, forever; technicians would later find cracked and even powdered parts inside them. One of the last film photographers would find something extraordinary in his darkroom later--but he would never sell the image, and never show it to anyone else, not in the thirty-nine years he had to live afterward.
Even Leah and the legal help she'd organized could not get the police to release Chibi-Usa's body for two weeks. Nancy thought Usagi would never go to school the next day, after listening to her weep through the night, but she did. She returned, did her homework, helped with cleaning up after dinner, and went to bed, sleeping soundly. But she didn't talk, not any more than was absolutely necessary.
At night, Nancy hardly slept, until the third night when Usagi got up to pee, as ever. When Usagi came back, she sat down on Nancy's bed, and said, "You don't have to be afraid here. The Grey Lady's wards are holding. He cannot reach us here. Leah explained it to me."
"But she is dead."
"That does not matter."
"How can you be sure?"
"If he could attack in here, he would."
"He could just be toying with us."
"No. He likes to do that, but he fears the power of the Grey Lady. He did not attack her until he was sure she was weak. I heard his true thoughts."
"But when we leave--"
"He has to fight me. He fears that I will grow more powerful if he waits too long, but he is too weak now. He will wait. He will wait for the New Moon. He is strongest in the New Moon, when the face of the moon is dark. He thinks I will be weakest then, since my power is drawn from the Moon."
"Is he right?"
"I do not know. Magic works differently in your world. Most of my powers did not seem to be tied to the phases of our moon. But once we had to wait for the full moon to go there . . . I do not know." Usagi hugged Nancy.
"How can you be so strong?" asked Nancy.
"I . . . I won't give up. I may not win. But I must fight him . . . it. No one else in your world can stop it now. Perhaps others will come to help, but your world is hard to get to, the Grey Lady said. This thing will kill again and again, more and more, and I think it will grow stronger and stronger. Maybe I can stop it now. I have to try."
"Aren't you afraid?"
"Yes, inside . . . but I remember Chibi-Usa. She was always braver than me. I will try to fight as bravely as her . . . it is all I have left to do."
"But how can you just go to school?"
"If I stop going, I will give it pleasure. I won't."
Finals started one week and one day after the police released Usagi.
Sergeant Arteminski, Lieutenant Martini, and many other people who had seen moon angels continued to spend their days talking to psychologists and their nights sleeping in secured wards.
It was a somber graduation. Jimmy was the valedictorion. Usagi finished far below that, but her grades would be good enough to get her into most American colleges.
The next day was Chibi-Usa's funeral.
The moon was a few nights past full. Nancy rode with Jimmy and Usagi on their after-midnight errand.
It took two hours to reach the spot. They stopped at a windy overlook, and Usagi scattered Chibi-Usa's ashes upon the wind from the sea. They floated up in a silvery spiral, and were lost into the night.
"Why didn't you keep her ashes?" Nancy asked.
"I want to think that she is everywhere," Usagi answered.
Then they went home.
Nancy woke up to a wonderful, warm summer morning. The light rain that had fallen on their way home had washed all the pollution from the air. It was as nice a day as Nancy had ever experienced. Even the sadness of the days before, the fears of the night, and the obscenity of the murders could not steal the beauty of this moment. Would she try to think of this moment when that thing was killing her, as it had promised?
Nancy saw that Usagi's bed was empty.
She came downstairs, where her mother and stepfather were going through the papers. Her mother was cutting out things for her scrapbooks, and Nancy saw that she was saving all the funeral stories. Nancy got a plate and scooped up some scrambled eggs from the electric skillet, set on "warm" as her mother usually did for weekend and summertime breakfasts. Checking the fridge, she noticed there was plenty of orange juice--something there never was if Usagi had been there first. "Hasn't Sue eaten yet?" Nancy asked.
Her mother looked back at her oddly. Then she said, "No. No, she hasn't . . . Why don't you make up a tray? She's with Jimmy. Take him some food, too; if he waits much longer, he won't have time to eat before we have to start getting him ready to go."
"Go? Oh, yeah." Jimmy had to catch a plane in a few hours. He was going to be a Marine again.
Nancy actually didn't figure it out until she walked into Jimmy's room--without knocking--and found him in bed. With Usagi.
When they came back from the airport, Usagi spent most of her time with her art supplies. With pastels, she turned out a wonderful picture of Jimmy waving to them, just before entering the plane. "I think you must have some of your father's talent," remarked Nancy, when Usagi gave her the picture."
"Or my mother's. She was a commercial artist, before she married otousan."
"And she gave it up?"
"Otousan takes a lot of taking-care-of."
They actually laughed. But then Nancy began to cry. Usagi sat down next to her, and gently took the picture away. "If you get it wet, you will spoil it."
"I know why you did it!"
"You know what?"
"I know why you did it! I know why you made love with Jimmy!"
"I love Jimmy-chan. He is leaving, and I could not--"
"That's not true!"
"You don't think I love Jimmy-chan?"
"That's not what I mean! You love him, but you have always been faithful to your fiance. No matter how much you wanted Jimmy. But you did it because it doesn't matter now."
"Does not matter? It matters to me! I NEVER did this with anyone but Mamo-chan."
"It doesn't matter because you don't think you will ever see your first love . . . you think you're going to die!"
Jimmy was going to Florida for the next part of his Marine training. There was a long wait in Dallas/Fort Worth; mechanical trouble downed the plane he was supposed to take, and it took hours before the airline found a replacement--an elderly DC-10 hired from a charter company.
The moon was out above the clouds when they reached altitude, and Jimmy watched it for a long time. He realized they would be landing fairly soon, and he decided to visit a restroom while he still could.
Washing up afterward, he saw something strange in the mirror . . . and something gripped his heart in an icy grip.<<Buenos noches, jarhead! I saw you with the Moon Slut . . .>>
Jimmy tried to open the door, but his arms lost their feeling. Darkness filled his eyes.
<<I haven't decided whether to do your sister before or after your slut . . . after, I think. For dessert. I'll have enough energy from your slut to materialize for a long, long time. I want to . . . >>
Jimmy's mind was filled with unbelievably sickening images. Somehow he remembered what the Grey Lady had said about the creature that was doing this . . . <Fight . . . Fight it!>
<<Oh, I don't think so, jarhead . . . I won't tell your slut I did you until the last, just before I take off her head. I'll let her wonder . . . but don't worry, jarhead. I wouldn't let you die alone . . . >>
The icy grip was released. Jimmy began to breathe again. But he was so weak . . . it took him a long time just to reach the emergency button.
The flight attendants were just pulling him out of the restroom when the pilot slumped over his controls. The plane went into a spin. The co-pilot almost recovered when his heart suddenly stopped.
Jimmy died with 198 others.
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