Chapter 86

                Sobbing was the first thing that hit their ears. The house was dark, lit only by afternoon sun streaming in through slits in the blinds. Alice felt a sense of near-familiarity, like she’d been here before but couldn’t recall it. The hallways and rooms were small, a stark contrast to the hollow mansion that she would eventually think of as home, yet there was also a warmth to this place missing from her eventual dwelling. At first, the sobbing seemed to be coming from nowhere, but as she scanned the room Alice eventually found the source. It was Shelby, pulled into a tight ball on the floor, weeping with the sort of hoarse, tired voice that spoke to hours of the task.

                “Mom. Mom!” Alice was moving before she could think, trying to wrap her arms around Shelby only to have them pass harmlessly through.

                “It’s a memory, Alice, and I can’t let you interfere with it.” Abridail’s voice was choked, and he pointedly was avoiding looking directly at Shelby.

                “Why is she crying? Who did this?” Sorrow was being replaced with fury as Alice struggled vainly to try and comfort her weeping mother.

                “No one did this, Alice. Not unless you believe in higher beings, and I doubt you’d want to hold them accountable for this, if that were the case. This just… happened. No one did it. There’s no one to blame,” Abridail told her.

                Alice was about to demand an explanation, but before she could a new noise filled the air. It was the sound of a lock being turned, and seconds later the front door opened to reveal Charles Adair. He seemed chipper, a mood quite out of place as far as she was concerned. That lasted for less than a moment, until he caught sight of his wife on the floor. Moving so fast Alice didn’t even have time to step to the side, he was next to Shelby, offering her the comfort that Alice hadn’t been able to.

                “Shelby? Darling? What’s wrong? What happened?”

                At first, it seemed he was only going to get sobs in response, but eventually Shelby croaked out a single word. “Alice.”

                “What about Alice? Is she okay? Where’s our daughter?”

                More sobbing, harder now, and another word. “Bathtub.”

                Charles Adair went white, treating Alice to yet another new expression on her father’s face. Fear. Unmitigated terror was in his eyes as he bolted up from Shelby’s side and hurtled into the bathroom. He flipped the switch on so hard that the plastic cracked, flooding the room with light to reveal…

                Nothing. It was empty, pristine even, if one ignored the toothpaste tube on the counter. Charles stared, obviously uncertain of what to make of the scene before him, then spun around and ran into a nearby bedroom. The observers followed, only to find him staring into a wooden crib where a cheerful baby with golden locks was cooing at him, reaching up with her chubby arms and tiny fingers. Charles looked as though he might faint with relief as he stared at his daughter, reaching out and gently running his hand across her head. Alice couldn’t recall a single time her father had been so openly affectionate to her, and for a moment she hated him just a little more. If it had been outside his capacity as a person, that was bad enough, but to know he could love made it all the more hurtful that he’d kept her at such a distance.

                Charles watched his baby for a few moments longer before heading back toward the living room, no doubt to speak with his sobbing wife. Nick, Mary, and Alice went to follow, but Abridail blocked them at the door.

                “It will take him a long while to calm her down, and there’s nothing to be said that any of you needs to know about.”

                “What was all that, anyway?” Alice asked. “Mom… Shelby, she’s beyond distraught. But as far as we can see, everything looks fine.”

                “My guess is that it’s not what we can see that matters. It’s what she sees.” Nick’s voice had lost its ever-present tint of snark and humor, a fact which worried Alice almost as much as the sight of her sobbing mother had.

                “He’s got the gist of it,” Abridail confirmed. “Alice, you know your mother has visions of the future. When you were born, her power began to act… strangely. The visions came on stronger, more frequently and almost always about the same subject.”

                “Show me,” Alice demanded.

                “I’m not sure that’s wise,” Abridail cautioned.

                “You said this whole thing is about understanding what happened to my mother. Well if that’s the case then these visions seem pretty damn relevant. You’ve obviously been in her head, I think you know what she saw. So show me, show us, what was so terrible.”

                Rather than replying, Abridail simply walked out of the nursery and across the hall. Alice followed, so set on her path that she almost didn’t feel Mary’s hand slip into hers, or Nick put his arm around her shoulder. No one said a word as they passed back into the bathroom. Everyone had their own suspicions of what would be awaiting them, and while none were exactly certain, they all knew it wouldn’t be pretty.

                Abridail stood there, waiting for them. As they entered, he stepped to the side, giving them an almost perfect view of the room. Slowly, as if waiting for them to stop him, which he very well might have been, Abridail raised his hand and snapped his fingers once.

                Instantly, the room changed. Shelby was on the ground near the toilet, her eyes rolled back so that only the whites were showing. Water was pouring across the floor from an overflowing tub soaking the carpet and bubbling as it passed through the crack in the door. And in the tub, with the facet still going full blast, Alice could just make out something bobbing in and out of view. Something unmoving, with golden hair.

                Mary’s grip tightened as Alice brought her free hand to her mouth and tried with all her might not to throw up. Another snap filled the room and the scene was gone, it was just an empty bathroom once more. But none of them could forget what had been there, what Shelby Adair had foreseen.

                “I… I didn’t…”

                “No, Alice, you never died,” Abridail assured her. “But that didn’t stop your mother from getting visions of it. No matter what she did, no matter how many layers of protection your father put in, she still kept getting them. The exact way it happened would change, however two things were always there: Shelby being caught helpless in a vision, and your death.”

                He paused, looking at the empty bathroom once more. “As if watching her daughter’s death wasn’t bad enough, your mother kept seeing you die because of her. And with each passing instance, she became more and more certain it was going to happen. That’s why she got desperate.”

                “It was for me,” Alice whispered, eyes still haunted by the recent vision. “That’s why she didn’t want me to know. That’s why you tried to keep it secret. I’m the reason my mother tried to go from Powered to Super. I’m the reason she lost her mind.”