Carpe Noctem

by Amaranth Wise

How many of our daydreams would darken into nightmares, were there a danger of their coming true!
Logan Pearsall Smith (1865 - 1946) US-English essayist, editor, anthologist Afterthoughts, "Life and Human Nature" (1931).



Someone was shaking her shoulder roughly.

"Come on, wake up, already!" Came the hoarse whisper again.

Monet lifted her head and cracked an eye open. To the left of her field of vision was a clock- the digital numbers read 2:19 AM. To the right was a pale face. A pale, frightened-looking Chinese face.

"Jubilation? What is it?" She asked groggily.

"Shhh!" Jubilee whispered, slapping a hand over Monet's mouth. "Get up, quietly. And don't call me Jubilation!" She seemed nervous about something, her eyes darting to every corner of the room, as well as the ceiling.

Monet quickly got out from under the covers, shivering slightly as the chill air bit at her bare legs. It wasn't till then that she got a clear look at Jubilee. Dressed only in pajama pants and her favorite Beastie Boys talk, she was clutching a knife, her breath coming in short bursts.

"What's going on?" Monet whispered, leaning close to Jubilee. She put a hand on the knife and gently directed it towards the ground. Jubilee brought her attention back to her.

"Trouble, what else. Get up, put some shoes on, and come quietly. Keep yer eyes open."

Monet huffed in annoyance at being told what to do. But, she did as she was told, then stood up, tapped Jubilee on the shoulder, and whispered, "Why not just go out the window?"

Jubilee quickly turned and pointed at the aperture- that Monet now saw was barred.

"What the-" Monet quickly strode over to the window and tried bending the bars. They didn't even budge. Not good, she thought, as she tried to scan Jubilee's mind and realized that whatever it was they were facing, they were doing so without their powers. Returning to Jubilee and nudging her to get her attention, she leaned in and said, "I suppose your powers are not working as well?

Jubilee nodded, then jerked her head towards the door. "Take a look and make sure that the coast is clear."

Monet hurried to the door. It was already cracked, so she pulled it a bit farther open, congratulating herself for having put WD40 on the hinges just last week. Peeking out, she noted that not only could she not see anyone, she couldn't hear anyone, either. Turning back, she was bout to give the all clear to Jubilee when she saw that Jubilee was on the floor, her ear pressed close to the heating duct in the floor.

Her brow furrowed in concentration, Jubilee was listening intently. Apparently, she heard something that alarmed her, as she sprang to her feet and ran towards Monet and the door, pulling her out of the room.

"Against the wall. Make as little noise as possible, stay in the shadows, and above all, don't speak."

Monet nodded to show she understood. She was beginning to get an appreciation for the deadliness of the as-yet-unseen threat. She knew Jubilee, and knew that when it came down to it, the tiny girl was an expert at keeping out of sight.

Together, they crept towards the stairs. No sound came from the other bedrooms- everyone else was off on a field trip to Muir Island. As they reached the stairs, Jubilee came to a halt and took Monet's hand. Placing her own finger to her lips, Jubilee moved Monet's hand to a spot on the banister- a disgustingly squishy spot. Pulling her hand back, Monet saw that there were thin tendrils of slime stretching between her fingers and the top of the banister. Monet grimaced in distaste and rubbed her hand against the wallpaper to get rid of it.

Jubilee leaned in close again and spoke so low that Monet almost missed it. "Brood. Not good." Her eyes were still scanning every nook and cranny, and Monet did the same, looking for the telltale hints of eye-shine, listening for the scratch of claws on hardwood. She tried to remember everything she'd ever read on them- unfortunately, it was mostly case information and didn't help them in their particular situation. It was as they were about to head down the stairs that they heard it-

Both girls froze.

Jubilee raised the knife, careful to hold it so as not to reflect any light and reveal their location in the shadowy stairwell. Monet felt her tense, then drop into a crouch and move back the way they had come. As she entered a patch of moonlight cast by one of the tall windows lining the nearest wall, Monet saw that she was focused on a vent near the ceiling above the door to Paige's room.

Monet held her breath.

Jubilee leaned out a bit, then turned and dashed silently to Monet's side. Grabbing her by the hand, she began pulling her down the stairs, all pretenses at keeping quiet aside as they practically fell down the stairs. Behind them, Monet heard the vent cover hit the floor with a loud clang.

Not daring to look behind them, the girls reached the bottom of the stairs and pelted for the door. Now Monet took the time to look back, and what she saw nearly stopped her heart in her chest.

There were two Brood on the floor, scuttling forward as fast as their chitinous legs would carry them. Farther back, another was squeezing itself out of the vent- Monet was horrified to see that as large as it was, it obviously was having no trouble fitting through the tight opening.

Turning back to face forward as they ran around a corner, she barely had time to register the large critter that hurtled towards her face before she was ducking and rolling away from it. Leaping to her feet, she grabbed a nearby side table and sent it crashing into its head just as it flipped around to come after her again.

Spinning around, Monet saw Jubilee standing over the body of another creature, struggling to remove the knife that was now lodged in its brain via the throat.

"Forget it!" Monet yelled, and they resumed their mad dash for the front door, painfully aware of the sound of a multitude of tiny claws tapping and skidding on the floor. They slammed into the heavy door at full speed, Jubilee frantically pawing at the knob before she managed to yank it open. They fell out onto the porch and pulled the door shut, just in time for several bodies to hit it with a series of resounding thumps.

"Oh, crap. What now?" Jubilee said, looking at Monet. "We've only got a coupla seconds before they come out another opening."

Monet looked around as she got to her feet. Neither of them knew how to drive a limo, even if they were able to reach the garage on the other side of the school.

"Why, oh why did we ever leave our bikes in Westchester?" Jubilee moaned. "We have no choice; I think we're gonna have to run for it."

"Our nearest neighbor is quite a ways down the road, J. Do you really think we'll make it?"

"Ya got a better idea?" Jubilee said as she bypassed the stairs, jumped directly to the ground and started running toward the gate to the grounds.

"Good point." Monet said as she followed Jubilee out. Behind them, there was a great splintering crash as something burst through the door, onto the porch they had just vacated.

As they reached the pavement, a large, dark shape darted across the road in front of them and they slid to a halt, frozen in place.

"Oh, this is so not good." Jubilee said. As one, they craned their heads in every direction, but the surrounding grounds were black and utterly silent. Not so much as a cricket, much less a giant alien bug, dared to make a sound.


They whirled around in time to see the windows blow out of the estate. Monet pushed Jubilee to the ground as the shock wave poured over them, then yanked her to her feet and started running. Looking ahead, Monet could see the gate. It didn't seem to be getting any closer. Behind her, alien voices rose in the night, calling out in fits of glee over the destruction they had wreaked.

Jubilee, the faster runner when Monet's powers were gone, had pulled into the lead. Now, she fell as something reached out and snagged her ankle. She shrieked, and Monet screamed as the Brood sank it claws into Jubilee's stomach, screaming in triumph.

Monet had almost reached the two tussling figures when something heavy slammed into her from behind, knocking the wind out of her. Gasping for breath, She screamed in frustration and pain as she felt claws enter her own body. Bucking, she tried to throw the creature off. Failing, she felt one last shred of claws, this time at her throat, before darkness swum over her.

* * * * *


Oh, not again, she moaned inside her head.

"Come one, grrrl, wake up already."

Startled into opening her eyes, Monet realized that it was Jubilee talking to her. She looked up at her friend, who was bending over her, patting her on the cheek.

"Congratulations on rejoining the land of the awake and sane, M." Jubilee told her, taking her hand away from Monet's face and sitting on the side of the- bed? - that Monet was lying on.

"Jubilee? What-"

"'There is no education like adversity.'" Monet turned her head to her left, and met the smiling face of Dr. hank McCoy.

"Benjamin Disraeli." She told him.

He raised an eyebrow. "Very good, young lady. How about, 'Often the test of courage is not to die but to live'?"

She grinned back at him. "Vittorio Alfieri. Here's one for you- 'Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life.' A sentiment I do not happen to agree with at he moment!"

"William Congreve. I take it that you have not yet regained your memory?"

Monet frowned at them, then looked at Jubilee, who had been following their match like a viewer at a tennis championship. Then- "Ah, yes. After all- 'What is defeat? Nothing but education, nothing but the first step to something better.' Wendell Phillips," She said, in conjunction with Hank's utterance. They both grinned at each other. "I remember. We were in the Danger Room here in Westchester. A test of our ability to cope in the face of surprise. 'What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing.' Aristotle."

"Correct, on both accounts." He and Jubilee helped her to sit up. "You will perhaps be happy to hear that you and Jubilation passed with flying colors, aside from becoming deceased."

Jubilee sniggered. "Yeah- not only did Paige and Jono fail to make it out of the house, Angelo failed to make it out of bed!"

Monet laughed. "Why am I not surprised? 'Oh sleep! It is a gentle thing, beloved from pole to pole.'" She shot the quote at Hank quickly- nonplussed, he answered just as quickly, "Coleridge; I believe you are fine, Miss St. Croix."

"Come on." Jubilee said, handing Monet a soda. "I wanna go laugh in the faces of everyone who ever said the only thing I did well was talking. After all, now I have you to back me up, don't I?" She said to Monet.

Monet lifted her eyes heavenwards. "'By different methods men excel; but where is he who can do all things well?'" Monet ducked the hand that aimed for her shoulder and ran out, laughing, followed closely by Jubilee.

Hank laughed softly to himself, watching the two girls disappear from the Med Lab. "Charles Churchill." He muttered softly to himself as he resumed working, keeping one ear tuned to the sound of children's laughter drifting in from the hallway outside.

The End