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Into the Black and White

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Hannah was running. Not unusual; Hannah ran and hid a lot, usually because she was instructed too. Lex would tell her to run and hide when their mom was in a violent mood. Ethan told her to run and hide in the tunnel of the play structure. 

She realized that, whenever she ran and hid, someone she loved got hurt. 

Hannah couldn’t remember why she was running this time, but she was being chased. A crowd was following her, stumbling, zombie-like, in rhythm. Like a dance. Hannah thought she could hear singing.

Any sound she may have heard was interrupted by a familiar voice, and Hannah felt like she was falling. Not unusual; Webby’s messages often felt like this. 

Her booming voice filled Hannah’s ears and shook her to her core. “Tomorrow will come, tomorrow won’t come, tomorrow come today.” She repeated over, and over, and over, and over until the message was surrounding, enveloping, drowning Hannah.

There are hands, clawing at her, so covered in blue that Hannah wasn’t sure if there was any skin under it. The bright color surrounded her, filling her vision until the familiar darkness disappeared, replaced by nothing but blue.

Webby’s commanding voice and eerie message, the countless hands clawing at her flesh, the intensely bright blue… it was too much. Where was Lex? She wasn’t alone, right? 

Hannah felt something drip down her face. Was it blood? If so, who’s? Webby’s message didn’t let up and Hannah continued to drown, helplessly hoping for rescue from a threat she didn’t understand.

A voice cut through the madness and sensations. A simple, “Stop, that’s too much.” Said with force, but not anger. 

Hannah sat up in her makeshift bed. Her face was wet with tears and sweat. Webby’s voice continued to chant, but much quieter than while she was sleeping. Hannah took a moment to calm down and breathe, looking around the room. She was alone, but Lex had left her own makeshift bed unmade and messy, standing out in comparison to Alice and Tim’s neatly-made beds. Deb’s was completely put away, as usual. Hannah wondered if she had even taken it out the night previous.

Hannah’s observations helped her calm down. The Professor’s house was grey and sterile, but it was safe, and the group had slowly been making it more like a home, much to the Professor’s distaste. 

As Hannah was getting dressed and re-braiding her hair, she noticed that Webby had stopped chanting. Worried it was because she had ignored her friend, Hannah mumbled an apology.

As if in response, Webby spoke back up, saying a new phrase, only once. 

“The Apotheosis is upon us.”

Hannah stopped mid-braid. “What?” She asked aloud, but received no answer. She frowned, fiddling with the unfinished braid.

What the heck is an apotheosis?

Her internal wondering was also left unanswered, and she huffed. She hated it when Webby ignored her. They were supposed to be friends! The other voice… she didn’t want to think about him right now. Webby didn’t like him, so neither did she.

Hannah finished her braid, put on the warrior’s hat, and half-made her bed. She really didn’t see the point in doing it, but Lex said she had too. 

With the room all set up, Hannah cracked open the door and peered out into the hallway. There was no one out there, but she could hear voices not too far away, and something else too…

Music. It wasn’t music like in her dream, it felt less sinister and more goofy. 

Hannah stepped fully into the hallway and shut the door behind her. It was probably the Professor; he liked to play music, but didn’t share it that much. The fact that he was playing meant that the house was probably mostly, if not entirely, empty.

She thought for a moment. The Professor was, well, a professor. He knew lots of things about science and music. He would know what an apotheosis is, right?

Hannah found her logic to be pretty sound, and followed the music to a small room with a tiny, raised stage. On the stage, unsurprisingly, was a keyboard, and playing the keyboard was the Professor. From time to time he would sing, but he wasn’t today.

It didn’t take long for him to notice Hannah and stop playing. He grinned at her and stood. “Hannah! Glad to see you finally woke up. Your sister was getting worried. Are you hungry?”

Hannah shook her head no, which was the truth, but reminded herself to eat later. The Professor had a lot of food stocked up for situations like this, but with so many people at his house, it wouldn’t last nearly as long as he planned. It’s important to eat while you can.

The Professor got off his tiny stage and walked over to her. “Did you need something, Hannah? Or just wanted to see the show?”

Hannah fiddled with her shirt. “Apotheosis.” She mumbled, looking at the keyboard.

“Apotheosis?” The Professor repeated, urging her to explain. Adults always wanted her to use her words.

“What’s apotheosis mean?” She clarified.

He nodded and walked back towards the stage. “Well, it has two meanings.” He grabbed the stool from behind the keyboard and set it in the center of the room before sitting on it. Hannah inched closer and sat on the floor near him.

“First,” he began, “an apotheosis is the highest point in someone’s life or job. Like, reaching the top of the mountain, it’s all downhill from there. Or the climax of a novel!”

Hannah nodded, truthfully understanding. She wasn’t sure how she could have reached her apotheosis when she was only thirteen, but Webby was never wrong.

“The second definition is…” The Professor paused, a hand on his chin. “Well, to put it bluntly, it’s the evolution into godhood. Being raised up into the heavens, that kind of thing.”

That got Hannah thinking, and her thinking worried her. Was Hannah becoming a god? Or was Webby talking about Wiggly? Even thinking his name made her shudder. 

Eventually, Hannah sighed, frustrated and getting a headache. It was probably not too big a deal; most of Webby’s warning’s didn’t directly affect Hannah. She still hadn’t figured out what the “Cross” and “two doors not one” messages had been about. This was likely just another one to add to the pile.

The Professor snapped Hannah out of her thoughts with a question of his own. “May I ask, where did you learn that word? It’s not exactly widely used, not anymore.”

At least it was an easy answer. “Webby.”

The Professor nodded. He liked hearing about Webby and the Black and White, and had sprung up a million theories about it. He sometimes complemented the Professor’s work, other times criticized it. Hannah didn’t care either way, she just wanted him to be quiet.

“I figured I would ask. You see, I’m not sure if I’ve told you before or not, Hannah, but I had a theory about how the apocalypse would happen.” The Professor gestured widely. “The whole world would become a musical! Everyone singing and dancing, all united as one, all across the world! World peace… but at what cost?”

The Professor continued his rant and Hannah listened patiently. She had a feeling he didn’t get to talk to people much. It was nice to hear such passion, even if it was about the end of the world.

Her peace, however fragile, didn’t last long.

There was a hum in her ear. “He doesn’t know how on the nose he was. Right apocalypse, wrong dimension.”

Hannah frowned and tore at the hem of her shirt. It was him.

“Apotheosis. Bad, John.” Right on cue, in came Webby. Normally Hannah would be relieved, asd Webby usually got him to be quiet, but Webby had been so loud in her dream and then ignored her all morning, so she wasn’t so certain.

“I know it’s bad.” He said, and Hannah could hear the tension in his voice. “I never said it wasn’t. I simply said Professor Hidgens’ theory was correct. I see no issue.”

“Hannah.” Webby growled, and Hannah flinched, despite the tone not being directed at her. 

“I’m sure Hannah doesn’t mind. Right?”

Hannah blinked and tried to rip apart her shirt. He always wanted her to answer. He couldn’t hear her think like Webby could. Why did she have to talk?

Webby interrupted before Hannah could open her mouth, not that she planned too, and sounded angry. “Stop. No talk.”

He sighed. “I’m not forcing her to talk. I’d rather keep this argument between you and me.”

“Webby wins.”

“You can’t just say that you win and end it. Nothing is ever that simple.”

“Leave.”

“I wish I could.”

“Leave Hannah!”

Outside her head, Hannah’s hands had drifted from her shirt to her ears, and the pressure was enough to make her head rumble. Unfortunately, the rumble wasn’t nearly loud enough to drown out the bickering voices.

It took a few tries for the Professor to get Hannah to notice and hear him. She let him take her hands and help her calm down, breathing slowly and drying her tears. As she calmed, the voices fell silent. She knew they were listening, they always were.

Once she was more settled, the Professor moved back to his stool, which he had brought a bit closer. “Hannah,” she noted his habit of saying people’s names often, “may I ask you a question?”

She nodded yes.

He nodded in return. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I noticed you’ve been a little more… on edge lately. Has Webby been saying anything to you, Hannah? Besides the apotheosis stuff.”

Hannah thought. Really, Webby had been no different than she had ever been. Sure, Webby’s warning’s scared her from time to time, but she was a friend, and she didn’t mean too.

It wasn’t Webby who was upsetting Hannah. It was him. John.

Hannah almost told the Professor as much, but stopped herself. There were people in the house who thought she was weird, she knew that. They didn't believe Webby was real, and thought she was crazy. Something told her that if she admitted she was hearing a second voice now, it might just make the rumors worse.

She sighed, and thought an apology to Webby, before looking at the Professor’s neatly-styled grey hair.

“Argues. Loud. Talks too much. Mean, not helpful. Scary, always. Makes me talk.” She resisted the urge to pout, and hoped the Professor wouldn’t have her explain further.

He looked worried. “This seems out of character for Webby. I certainly hope something isn’t wrong…” He trailed off for a moment before resuming focus on her. “Hannah, if you ever need help, ask me or your sister. The two of us, for certain, will be glad to help however we can.”

Hannah nods. In her head, Webby tries to stay quiet. “You, John. Scary. Unhelpful. Loud.”

There’s a pause, and Hannah assumes he is ignoring Webby before being immediately disproven. “I see. Hannah, I sincerely apologize for scaring you. I promise, in the future, I will do my best to help you without causing you any harm.” There’s another, briefer pause. “I will stay quiet unless one of us needs the other, and that is a promise.”

Hannah huffs. As if she’d ever need him

Now that all was quiet, Hannah asked the Professor where Lex was, and he led her to a room they had recently dubbed the “Fun Room,” courtesy of Paul and Emma trying their best. Inside was all the games and fun things they had, which wasn’t much. The most entertaining thing in the room was the large amount of LEGOs, which the Professor had collected for a while before falling out of it, but never got rid of. He claimed they made good defense measures, but Hannah figured he just liked to build with them.

In the room was Lex, as promised, who immediately came to check up on Hannah, as well as Tim. Hannah figured Deb and Alice were off being cute together somewhere. The Professor decided to stay, and the four of them chatted and played chess (or in Tim and Hannah’s case, watched the Professor and Lex play chess). 

It was a while before there was a knock on the door, and in came Tom and Paul. Tom sat with his son, and Paul stayed near the door, relaying to the Professor what supplies they had found and where, a list which Hannah mostly tuned out. If there was anything important, Webby or Lex would tell her.

The more impactful news came with Emma and Becky. Emma nearly fell asleep in Paul’s arms, claiming she had run all over the house looking for everyone, and gestured to Becky to explain.

“There are people at the Old Starlight Theater.”

A simple enough statement as it is, Hannah didn’t see any problems with that. There were bound to be more people around the town. 

But Becky continued. “They seemed to be putting on a show of some kind. But, the weirdest part is… some of them are people we knew.”

The Professor looked up from the chess game he was currently losing. “What do you mean, Becky?”

“Well, I saw the ToyZone manager there, and some doctors from Saint Damien’s-- even Linda!” She fixed her hair and tried not to get mad. Becky wasn’t one to boast about murder, but she was happy to have killed Linda Monroe.

The Professor was intrigued, the chess game forgotten. Lex looked worried. “Bet it’s a cult. Maybe they’re reviving people…”

“Well, there was one other thing.” Becky mentioned, trying to politely interrupt.

Emma groaned against Paul’s side and shifted so she could be heard. “There’s a weird fu-” she caught herself, remembering there were children around. “There’s a portal on the stage. I saw people coming out of it.”

The Professor paced around the room. “Singing and dancing, like in a musical. A portal. People back from the dead… This could be a much bigger deal than you think. We need to investigate immediately!”