The Time Between (Venom #12)
By: Betsy Granger
Writing Prompt: Yes
Date: 7th Nov 2021
The green eyes of Betsy Granger pop open as she sits up abruptly and looks around. The last thing she could remember clearly was being shot by a blaster by an assassin droid and falling into the arms of James Raven. But that had only been seconds ago; how had she ended up in this shallow grave, covered in damp soil and autumn leaves? A circle of stones blackened by fire loomed ahead, runes scratched by a stick in the dirt. The night air was cool and calm, but something was amiss; the hair on her neck rose as she took in the stillness of the world around her. Uneasy, she leans back in the brilliantly colored leaves and looks skyward.
The stars… They had disappeared.
“Don’t be afraid, Impossible Child.”
Fear spreads through her, turning her blood into ice water in her veins. As she climbs slowly from the makeshift grave, something just behind her causes her to jump out quickly and crouch down defensively. “Hello?”
She can feel the eyes watching her from all directions now; the sensation sends a violent tremor down her spine. The ground under her bare feet is soft and moist, but when she looks down to study it, there’s nothing but the same black blanket that covers the sky above. Betsy looks up in a panic, her heart sinking when she realizes that everything around her has disappeared. The darkness had swallowed her up like a blanket, and now she stood frozen in a moment, unable to escape.
“HELP!” she screams uselessly out into the darkness, but the sound of her voice is swallowed up by the deafening silence.
“Let go of your fear, Betsy. Take a step forward.”
“WHO’S THERE?!” She cries out, swiveling her eyes all around her. “Please, help me out of this place.”
“You can make it out of there, Betsy; all you have to do is move.”
Tears spring into her eyes as the warm, familiar voice urges her forward again. She looks down again at the pool of perfect blackness beneath her feet. Fear grips her as she shakes her head, still paralyzed to the spot. “I can’t… I’ll fall and never stop…”
Light fills the space ahead of her, guiding her as it continues to cut through the darkness. The weight of her fear suddenly lifted as she was utterly mesmerized by the glow. She allows her instincts to guide her actions as she begins to walk slowly towards it. A silhouette of a man appears in the middle, tall and lean, his face shrouded in shadows. Squinting doesn’t help as Betsy creeps closer, feeling an odd sense of comfort emanating from the unknown caller.
“You’re so close now, Boop; just grab my hand.”
‘How does he know my nickname?’ she wonders numbly as her hands stretch outwards.
The light grows blinding for a moment, causing Betsy to close her eyes and turn away. Moments later, a strong, familiar set of calloused, hardworking fingers tighten around her own. She’s pulled forward with care before she’s enveloped by a pair of long arms. They tighten when she attempts to pull back to have a look at his face, but she catches a whiff of something familiar. Sweet pipe tobacco and hay; she only ever knew one man who sported that particular combination.
“Pappy?!” she asks in a strangled whisper.
At last, he releases his iron grip and holds her out to have a look. His bright green eyes well up with tears as his hand cups her cheek. A lump formed in her own throat as she does the same to him, using her thumb to brush off a runaway tear.
“My goodness, look how much you’ve grown.” her grandfather remarks emotionally.
“Well, it’s been quite some time, not since you…” Her words stick in her throat as she looks at her grandfather with wide eyes. “No… no, no nononono.” Backing away, she shakes her head vehemently. “This can’t be right…”
“Calm down, Boop,” he says in a comforting voice.
“This is just a dream state, right? Right, or maybe I’ve been pulled into another reality by someone again…” She begins to pace as her grandfather watches on patiently. Feeling his gaze on her, she rounds on him, pointing at him accusingly. “The Grand Admiral put you up to this, didn’t he?”
“Betsy, you need to listen to me,” he says in a soothing voice. “It’s not a dream and it’s certainly not another world. This is… well, the Other Side, for lack of a better way to put it.”
“Other side of what?” Betsy asks, her voice full of trepidation. In her heart, she knew the answer, but her brain refused to wrap itself around the truth of her situation.
Even when it comes, she isn’t ready. “Of the living, sweetie. This isn’t Heaven or Hell, we just wander about where we wish.” he peers down at her, gauging her reaction.
Finally ceasing her pacing, Betsy closes the gap between them and sits down hard beside him. As her shoulders shake, he puts an arm around her and hugs her tight against him. She rests her head on his shoulder as a tear slips down her cheek. “I’m really dead?”
“I’m afraid so, honey. I wish it wasn’t so, you’re far too young to be joining me here.” He looks at her with sad eyes. “Though it’ll be nice to have my Boop here for some company.”
Unable to speak through the lump that had reformed in her throat, Betsy only nods, but she isn’t able to hold it in for long. Soon, she’s sobbing into her Grandpappy’s chest, wallowing in self-pity and despair. He says nothing as he rubs her back and pats her hand, quietly letting her sob as she comes to terms with her fate.
After all, they had nothing but time.
****An Impossible Promo****
“You recently asked me on Twitter how it felt to be on the top. Even with the mediocre attempt at humor that followed, I could tell that you were being a thousand percent serious in the inquiry.”
Betsy grins into the camera smugly, flipping her glossy blonde hair over her shoulder.
“I can’t deny that’s it’s much easier to breathe when you’re at the top of the mountain looking down at the world. Look at you, among the rest of those who weren’t up to the task of putting the New Status Quo in our places. Ascension gave you, along with so many others, an opportunity to pick us off, one by one. The mission was simple:
Take us out before we took over.
Don’t feel too bad, NSQ’s rise to the top was always a foregone conclusion. It just took the lot of you some time to accept the truth.”
A well-manicured finger points towards the camera.
“I almost feel bad for you, to be honest. I’ve been taking out your buddies one by one from the moment I first stepped foot in the Fight Tower. I watched as Shawn Warstein bounced you around like a basketball and still you came back for more. Are you a glutton for punishment, babe? You do look like the kinky type, so buckle up honey.
It’s about to get weird, just the way I think you like it.”
Her lips twitch as her green eyes begin to grow into pools of inky black.
“You may still have your friends, but at the end of the day, you failed as a collective to destroy the New Status Quo. Look at how you and your friends came at us with dulled needles and ineffective remedies! We are the disease that has no known cure; better than you have tried. You and so many others, doomed to scatter and scramble helplessly about, hoping to concoct the serum it’ll take to destroy what we’ve created.
This is the only friendly warning you’ll get:
Just stop now.”
Her expression grows sinister as she stalks closer to the camera. The black trench coat she wears rustles gently as she moves, blending into the shadows she is surrounded by. Her mouth tightens as her voice deepens, becoming unfamiliar and terrifying with every syllable.
“I’m not the woman I used to be, Apathy. The Betsy Granger this world is familiar with died in late November of 2021; what you see before you is what remains of the woman I once was. Take anything you thought you knew about me and toss it away; it’s become as worthless as your place on this roster. I’ve evolved where others have fallen backward; I see now that the only way to eradicate what continues to plague this industry is to get my hands bloody.
Lucky for me, I’ve found myself surrounded by some like-minded folks.
Our meteoric arrival in Season One was only the warning shot; Ascension was when we put everyone on proper notice.
Season Two, behold as we truly begin our reign.
Our first act as a unified power around this place?
We start taking out ALL the trash.
Guess who’s first up on MY list?”
Betsy smirks as she taps the camera with one blood-red fingernail while running her opposite thumb slowly across her throat.
“Do yourself a favor and wait for me out back by the dumpster. It would be less humiliating for you if you just let me throw you inside whole instead of chucking you in piece by piece. Or you could do the smart thing and stay in the back; if you do, I want you to look at yourself in the mirror, and recognize the nothing piece of shit you’ve always been.”
She pauses abruptly, staring off into space, the entire world melting away around her. A menacing flash of red crosses over the obsidian orbs before flickering away. The black begins to retreat from the whites of her eyes, her usual bright green returning to normal. A confused frown flickers across her face for a moment before clearing up into a grin. When she speaks again, her voice has returned to normal.
“Either way, once I finish up business with you, I set my sights on a bigger prize that I find myself desiring as of late. Incidentally, I hear Manhattan is stunning this time of year.”
With an exaggerated wink into the camera, Betsy opens up her hand and shoves it into the frame.
Fade to Black
It had taken quite a while, but eventually, her tears had stopped and a numb acceptance washed over her. She hoped wildly that the faithful sound of Excellence’s engine would cut through the strangely perfect world her grandfather had brought her to. It looked so much like the family farm her parents still lived in; except the fields and crops were much lusher than she remembered. The farm was also much fuller with livestock than there had ever been in all her summer spent there.
The farm was freshly built, bright red paint soaking in the rays of a perfect Sun. The two-story home was as perfect as she ever remembered; she and Pappy had sat together at the kitchen table over two cups of strong black coffee. Everything around her was crisp and tangible, looking just as she remembered it growing up. Pappy had explained how each haven had been designed to the occupant’s idea of comfort and happiness. This inevitably started them on the topic of family, which Pappy seemed very eager to hear about.
“Does your father still have the patience of a saint, putting up with my daughter’s… personality?” Pappy asks, watching as Betsy looks around the walls. Her voice is far away and light as she replies.
“Ma and Pa are still going strong; mind you that’s after Mama did some time in prison.” A soft gasp from Pappy draws her eyes back to him. “She and Papa separated for a bit, and she got involved with a really shady man. Fell into a bad way with some worse people for it and when shit hit the fan, she took the fall.”
“Oh, Elena…” Pappy says softly.
“For what it’s worth, the time there has changed her.” Betsy smiles wistfully. “Adelaide and I made our amends a few years ago; she helped rescue me when I was kidnapped.” Pappy’s eyebrows lift and Betsy grins, nodding her head. “There’s so much to tell you about… After you died, things fell apart for a long time.” Her face crumbles as she wonders if her family even knew she was gone yet. “Oh god, I never even got to say goodbye to anybody…”
Rising quickly from his chair, Grandpappy scoops her out of hers and into a tight embrace. She holds him as she begins bawling once again, her body wracking violently with the force of her emotion. Pappy strokes her hair as he makes comforting sounds. “Now, now child, in time, you and your family will all heal. Take heart in knowing you won’t be alone here, and they will still have each other back there.”
“I just wish I could see them one last time and explain… everything.” she manages between sobs.
Pappy nods understandingly. “I know Boop, but that’s against the rules.”
Sniffling, Betsy wipes at her face and looks around the room over his shoulders. In her hysterical states, she had been unusually unobservant to her surroundings. As the tears begin to slow, she takes another hard look around the room, finally realizing that something is off. Her eyes widen when something suddenly dawns on her and she pulls out of her grandfather’s grip.
“Pappy… Where’s Meemaw? She should be here with us, shouldn’t she?” Betsy inquires, before sweeping a hand towards the photos scattered around the walls. “And where are all the family photos?”
“Stop here Betsy, please.” Though his voice remains gentle, Pappy’s eyes grow wide with caution. “Don’t ask any questions; just stay here and be happy with me.”
“Pappy, what is this?” Betsy takes another step back, looking around fearfully. “What have you done?”
“I was trying to protect you, Boop; he’s been looking for you since your soul arrived and he’s almost at the door,” Pappy says, his voice full of grave sorrow.
“He who?” Betsy asks. “Are you even my grandfather?”
“You have to run, Boop, now. Before he arrives. Get a head start,” Pappy pauses, looking around suddenly. “She calls to you… Follow her voice.”
“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?” Betsy screams, rushing forward and grabbing Pappy by his shirt.
“There’s still a chance for you if you run now, Boop. I love you, honey.” Tears form in his eyes as he gives her one last hug and a firm kiss on the forehead. Before she could reply, he turns her around fully and pushes her out of the door.
Stumbling forward, Betsy falls from the porch onto the same empty void Pappy had rescued her from. Unlike her arrival when fear had paralyzed her, it now drove her forward at a quick pace, as if she hoped to outrun it. Even as she dashed forward, she could feel eyes watching her from the velvety darkness all around her.
They weren’t friendly.
“ORTUS!” A familiar female voice calls out suddenly.
Betsy stops dead in her tracks, looking out all around here. She knew that voice; it was only in recent weeks that it had become a source of comfort and strength to her. As a powerful male timber joins in the calls, she cups her mouth and attempts to call back.
“JAMES! LYCANA! I’M HERE! PLEASE HEAR ME!”
Just as she lifts a leg to rush in the direction of their voices, the sensation of being watched grows heavier. Pausing, she has just enough time to register someone darting forward before they are directly behind her. Betsy doesn’t even have time to turn her head before a pair of strong arms wrap around her; one about her torso while the other snakes around her neck. Moments later, she’s lifted off her feet as her attacker takes flight, carrying her farther away from the beckoning calls of the Sapphire Vixen and the People’s G.O.A.T…
When she and her abductor finally land in the dark world he presides over, Betsy stumbles away and spins around into a defensive crouch. She’s taken aback by the breathtakingly handsome man standing before her; even the fact that he only had one eye only added to his dashing good looks. He smiles at her indulgently as she continues to keep her distance.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“She’s very efficient,” he responds mildly, a charming smile appearing, ignoring her question. “Always seems to arrive at… convenient moments. Worry not, I have no intentions of keeping you on this plane. I’d hate to deprive her after all she’s going through.”
“She… You mean Lycana?” Betsy asks in confusion, but she’s met with a gaze that gives away nothing. “What does she have to do with anything?”
“Everything, of course!” He replies gleefully, clapping his hands together once. “I’m going to help you get back to her and that saucy-sounding chap that joined her adorable chant. But you’re going to deliver a little message for me… When the time is right.”
Suddenly, a warmth fills her as his gaze intensifies; his tone is inviting as he bids her come closer, whispering to her of things she couldn’t comprehend. Before she could ask him what he meant, he snaps his fingers and she shakes her head, smiling up at him in polite confusion. He runs a hand down her cheek; she shudders at the freezing cold touch and the feeling of slime down her cheek. Unbeknownst to her, he’d left his mark upon her, and smiled as her eyes glowed a deep red for a moment before returning to their normal shade of green.
Behind Betsy, a blue vortex suddenly bursts open, eliciting a scornful laugh from the mysterious stranger.
“It’s only a matter of a time…” he says as he turns Betsy towards the vortex and pushes her gently into it…
…Moments later, after tumbling through the vortex, the eyes of Betsy Granger fly open as a scream escaped from her lips, marking her return to the world of the living.