Inky blue gases stretched and weaved, the interstellar medium completely engulfing the long dead solar system within. At the end of its length, a black hole gradually ate away at the fluid matter, its pull drawing spirals that rippled throughout its reach. Several light hours in the other direction, the beating star of the system, slowly crumbling, still gave form to the interstellar medium all about.
Along this way, beyond the reach of the cloud, a blue form came into order from the space between space, wispy tendrils wiring together, bending at perfect, precise angles. A human would have recognized its shape as a face, the contours leaving large holes for eyes as they built a forehead, nose, and mouth, the endpoint much like a mask. And as it formed, around it, similarly coming from nothing, a black cloud billowed to life, pulsing with an orange and red glow. Spots like eyes shuddered, other parts of the face seeming to form before breaking apart, only to come back together, never quite resembling what it was before, the voice low like distant thunder. “All life goes to its end. Destruction follows all creation.”
The thought was finished by the other, the tone clear and soft like a bell. “But life must be given its fair chance.”
Terataya, one of the Lords of Order, an astonishingly powerful being in their own right, had never expected to be approached by the Lord of Chaos, T’Charr. This plan had been a thought in their minds for a blink in the length of the universe, but as things were, that was all the time needed for the balance to shift in all the wrong ways. They knew their target, the proposed lynchpin of everything. They each had their suggestion for the champions, but in her search, Terataya had gone out of the original plan, and had no expectations for things to go smoothly. But T’Charr was ahead of her.“You have chosen?”“I have. A pair. For us to choose individually, while we may find fitting representatives, to force them into working together without prior contact could produce disastrous results. But in my search I found those who know conflict and peace. Creations of love and the pain of destruction. It is a change in plan, but...”
T’Charr was quiet, face broken apart, but he spoke again just as it reformed. “Very well.”
Terataya was surprised, albeit pleasantly. “Earth faces great chaos. I had made my choice, but...order. Order is what the Earth needs. Not in excess, but as the scale shifts in the favor of chaos, I may defer to order.”
Agreement reached, there was no need for further words. Their respective glows intensified, one of the lines forming Terataya splintering off, beaming into the distance. Following along, a ball of orange fell from T’Charr, dropping through the cosmos after that blue line, circling it as black smoke fumed out a trail behind it, speeds surpassing what was known to man as the shards of power found their place.
Planting the butt of the broom on the driveway, a knobbled hand brushing away at the sweat under his gray bangs, Don Hall admired his work, the driveway now perfectly clear. Snow wasn’t a big problem the once or twice a season it met the city, but Don wasn’t about to let it be any sort of problem. Ducking into the garage, he shivered at the cold, moving past his light blue pickup, closing the garage door as he slipped his white winter coat off his sturdy shoulders. Hanging it up once he was inside, he walked through the small laundry room and into the lower hallway of the two story house. Reaching the living area, he let out a groan as he plopped into his couch seat, the off-white cushion well worn.
Around him was nothing but quiet. The powered off TV in the living area, the adjoining kitchen, the rooms upstairs, even the heater: all was quiet. Don rubbed one hand on his leg, creating extra warmth from the friction while the other scratched his throat, the skin looser than he remembered. As his body relaxed the aches started up again: his knees, the arm he’d broken a few years ago in a fall, his sides as he’d continued to shiver. Mind concerned with busying himself, nothing he could do came to mind. The grass was dead and had no need to be mowed, nothing was broken that he could remember, he was all stocked up on groceries. He’d just seen his son Hank’s family over Christmas. He’d called Holly and, well, she didn’t seem happy to hear from him.
Ears ringing in the silence, he grabbed the remote and turned on the TV, letting the news reporter fill the room with sound, any sound. Anything to keep him from picking up things in the distance, sounds he always misheard as calls for assistance that weren’t really there. He hadn’t lived with anyone in years but he’d never stopped hearing Hank or Holly call out his name, even though they were nowhere near. He hated it. He hated how no matter how much he rubbed his legs trying to get warm, it felt colder in here then it did out there.
---“I’m taking my break.”
Getting up from the desk, Holly’s pudgy form, clad in navy blue, moved off without as much as nod from her coworkers in response to her gravelly voice. Wrinkles straining from her tense expression, she glanced at the clock reading ‘3:13’ before moving from the back area to the neighboring hall, outside of the reach of general store’s customers. Normally, the office served as a break area for pharmacy staff, but Holly Granger went a bit further, out through a glass door into the smoking section. Wiping away moisture from the bench situated in the walled off section, the sky open for smoke to pass, her hands flexed for cigarettes that weren’t there. “Oh fuck,”
the woman hissed under her breath. Thin nails scraped at the line of her thin, white hair, swept back behind her ears. Bowing her head, she felt a headache come on in her frustration. She’d been trying to quit: she needed
to quit, but dammit if she didn’t want to kick herself right now.
Rather than retreat back inside, she took a seat, grimacing at the cold and the wet. Letting out a grunt, a hand hovered over the metal bench, shaking in hesitation before she slammed it down. Letting it out was better. Her curses, pisses, and moans barely reverberated through the glass into the hall, largely slipping up to the sky where they would fall onto no ears. A part of her definitely wanted to take her rancor inside. Give someone else a piece of this hell. But her legs didn’t move from their spot, the only thing rising being the fire in her belly as she continued to grumble at the only one who could hear her.
A moment after a blue light filled his vision, Don was left star struck at the next sight to come to him. Before him stretched countless lights, most of them white, pulled flat and long, edge to edge in his vision. At once, he felt like he remained still, yet clearly he was moving at a pace he could barely comprehend. His body did not seem to be his in the same way. Looking at his hands, white and blue swirled together in an extraterrestrial glow. He didn’t seem to have form, but he was here. He breathed without breath and could hear the rush of the empty void. Then there was another sound, one ringing in his mind, not making words, just echoes of distress. Reaching out to that nostalgic voice, he called mentally, Holly!?Don!? Is that you!?
Her voice had a roughness to it, a friction that gave him warmth from the pleasant memories he’d shared hearing it, yet Don was also left confused, not understanding how it lacked the scratchiness it was supposed to have. But he left that aside for now. I’m right here.
As soon as those words came out, he could see something else, another shape. Its silhouette was tall and feminine, strands of fiery red trailing from the head, the body and mixture of of white and red like nothing known to his imagination. Before he knew it, he drew closer, reaching out his hand. In her reflex, her own opened up, but she didn’t reach out. Please
, he asked.
Taking the leap, she grasped his wrist, Don clasping his hand around hers in return. Even if only in this moment of fear at the unknown, they would meet it together.
Then, it all returned to stillness. Feeling his eyelids, he wrested them open, struck breathless at the view of the cosmos before him: the swirl of a black hole engulfing an aurora, speckles of starlight visible beyond it. Looking down at his hands, he became aware of his form. His hands were clad in white, a light blue spandex jumpsuit coating a body much more toned than he’d been in decades. Running his hands across his face, his smooth skin was under the cover of a white cowl, a short cape flowing behind his shoulder blades. “Uh...”
Those his voice should have gone deaf in the void around him, he could still hear it, questions piling up.“Don!”
Holly’s voice called back at him. Turning about, if being swept away to some unknown spot in the galaxy hadn’t been enough to empty his mind, seeing Holly again certainly would. Her hair a long dark red, it matched the wing shaped domino mask over her eyes and the red stream of ribbons trailing as a cape. He couldn’t draw his eyes away from her, the woman similarly much younger, skin tight suit generously revealing a figure that left him starstruck. He’d forgotten how much that playful bounce in her motion made his heart race.“Good god, you got hot,”
she said, taking the words out of his mouth, placing her hands on his chest as they clung to each other in the drift. One of his hands fell towards her read but she slapped it away. Senses restored, he gave a light shake of his head before keeping his arms to the side, ignoring the stab in his heart he was too distracted to linger on, letting his attention return to wherever it was they were. As once he looked back up, he quickly became aware of the two massive faces floating with them in the dark as they finished forming, their sizes closer to that of skyscrapers. “Holly!”
Don called out, grabbing her by the shoulders and turning her about. “Oh what the hell.”“Don Hall and Holly Granger: we have chosen you to restore balance to your home world. I am Terataya, a Lord of Order.”
The voice was clear, pleasant.“I am T’Charr, of Chaos.”
The name the booming voice gave in itself was less like a name and more like a roar, Don reflexively gripping an arm around Holly’s shoulders at its resonance. “And it is chaos that threatens your world.”“We have fashioned your forms after the heroes that aim to protect Earth. We do hope you discerned our intent.”
Don was just feeling more lost by the second.
Pushing herself out of his grip, Holly floated forward. “...To bring order to Earth?”
she presumed.“To bring Balance.”
T’Charr’s form shattered as it moved its position a bit closer. “Holly Granger, your powers draw from chaos. While at its worst, chaos is disarray, instability, and irregularity, it can also be change, adaptability, and contention.”“And you, Don Hall,”
Terataya began, the blue lines etching form splintering, dashing across the region, looping around to the side, now closer to Don, who turned to see the lines reform. “Order is stability, integrity, peace, but if left unchecked it can be stagnation, complacency, or stubbornness. Chaos can be born from excessive order.”“And vice versa. Order alone cannot bring balance to Earth, as other Lords may believe. And as such, they may not necessarily be your allies.”“But...why us?”
Holly wondered.“It does not have to be you. We will give you a week to decide if these mantles are yours to don. Do what you shall as a hero, commune with us if you need, but first and foremost you must rely on yourselves, and each other.”
Don looked back to Holly, admitting, “I just don’t really...”
Holly turned about, floating back over to him. “What, you don’t want to give it a shot?”“You are taking this way too lightly! I’d assume it was a dream if you weren’t so...you!” “Don, don’t you raise your voice, I’ve been done with that shit for years.” “Well sorry if the giant space faces and this superhero nonsense is getting me a little touchy!” “Oh, touchy, huh? You were touchy before they showed up.” “Yeah, and you have room to talk!” “I’m not the one making excuses!” “You are intolerable.” “And right into the ad hominem, which in case you didn’t know means: go-”
The two forms engulfed by light, they were pulled back from where they came, gone in a flash. After a moment of silence, T’Charr noted, “More chaos then I was expecting from a choice I deferred to you.” “Change and adaptability, even contention, as you said. Let us hope it is change for the better.”
Stirring to a start, Holly was grasped with a strong chill. Her body suddenly back to the heaviness she was used to, she looked around to see several coworkers looking on anxiously, having joined her in the smoking area, clearly concerned. “Get off!”
She grumbled, shooting to her feet. Stumbling a bit, some hands reached out to help but she kept them away, retaining her footing. Moving past them, she went back to the hall, grateful to be back indoors. Going along the hall with no real direction except ‘away’, she felt more tired then ever, one arm on the wall to steady herself as she kept course. Buzzing coming from her pocket, she clumsily pulled out her phone, hands shivering as she took a look to see Don calling. Hanging up preemptively, she saw the time was now 3:33, a bit past the end of her break. After all that, she was going to need another one...