Anathema sat and watched the stranger sleep—the man that Adam and his friends had found, unconscious next to his overturned, burning motorcycle, just down the road from her.
He looked vaguely hungover, with what seemed to be permanent dark circles under his eyes. His long lashes twitched as he dreamt, breath quickening just before he woke. Sitting bolt upright, he stared at her. “Wha-what happened? I was—“ He winced, pushing his fingers against his temple, like he was fighting back a headache. He’d had a pretty bad gash there when they’d first brought him in, but it seemed to have all but vanished in the hour he’d spent resting in her guest bed, Anathema noted, with some curiosity.
“You crashed your motorcycle into a tree. Split your helmet in half. The kids—Adam and his friends, they told me where to find you, helped me carry you here.”
“Carried me here?”
“Not easily, but yes.”
“And you are?” he asked.
“Anathema Device.” She held her hand out to his. “And you’re him.”
“Him who?” the man asked, shaking her hand, just once.
“The one Agnes wrote about in prophecy three thousand and six: When the burning chariot inverted be, a two-souled man, the guardian of the golden gate, will be upon your bed aching his head.”
“Your motorcycle was upside down, on fire. And you’re Edward Brock, from San Francisco.” Anathema felt herself smiling as she held out his driver’s license. “The Golden Gate.”
“Eddie. Not Edward,” he said sourly, and took his license back.
She cocked her head, letting her focus drift to better see his doubled aura. “And you’ve definitely got something special in there.”
“Yeah,” he said, and there was a protective tinge to his voice. “I do.”
“Don’t worry, I’m just—curious, about what it is.”
“Not an it. They’re my other half.”
“Oh?” Anathema pursed her lips and looked at his auras again. That explained it then. They were overlapping. There weren’t just two souls inside of Eddie: the souls were entwined with each other, the dark purple pulsing through the yellow. Two souls that made up one whole. “And what do I call them?”
Darkness rippled beneath the skin of his shoulder and then an oil-slick black head burst out of it, with razor-sharp teeth, milky white eyes, and a voice like rumbling rocks that answered, “Venom.”
If Anathema hadn’t been mentally steeling herself for the Apocalypse for years, she might have been terrified. But given the state of the world, she was merely surprised. Very surprised. And a little frightened. “Nice to meet you,” she said, keeping the tremble out of her voice. Mostly.
“So,” Eddie scratched at the stubble on his chin, narrowing his eyes, ever so slightly. “Care to explain why we woke up here naked, without our wallet? Just curious.”
“Like I said, your motorcycle was on fire, your clothing was burnt to a crisp. I wanted to make sure you were okay. Luckily you don’t seem to have any burns. Not a scratch on you.” Anathema pointed at the nightstand which held his wallet, his seriously cracked phone and the keys to his bike. “Want some tea?”
“Coffee?” Eddie countered, clearly appeased.
“I’ve got biscuits. Baked them myself.”
Venom’s white eyes blinked at her.
“They’re sort of like cookies.”
“They’ve got chocolate chips.”
Venom’s head retracted, seeping down into Eddie’s shoulder, as Eddie threw back the blanket. Anathema was about to turn away, to give him some modicum of privacy, but he was wearing clothing, or rather, clothes were forming over him, a black pair of boxer-briefs, and a skin tight t-shirt.
“Wow,” Anathema said. “That’s...really handy.”
Eddie smirked at her. “You have no idea.” He headed for the bedroom door as his boxers lengthened, becoming jeans. They even had the texture of denim.
She couldn’t help but wonder where the teeth had gone to.
Anathema’s eyes kept flicking towards the small serpentine head munching on biscuits while she and Eddie talked. “How long have you two been—“
“Little over a year,” Eddie said.
“What brings you to Tadfield?”
“I’m a journalist. And I’ve been following stories about all the extra-weird stuff that’s been happening lately. Atlantis, giant sea monsters, dragons, spaceships,” his eyes narrowed on the last word. “All of it seems to be pointing right here,” Eddie tapped his fingers against the table for emphasis. “Good coffee, by the way.”
“Thanks, want another?” Anathema brought the pot over and Eddie filled his mug to the brim, leaning down to slurp right from the cup before picking it up to gulp down the rest.
“Your heart is racing” Venom said, licking chocolate from their mouth with an overlong tongue.
“It’s good coffee,” Eddie said, brushing away crumbs Venom had dropped on his arm. “So, Anathema, how’d you know I was coming? You said something about a chariot?”
“Ever heard of Agnes Nutter?”
Eddie and Venom shook their heads in unison.
“I’m a descendant of hers. She wrote a book: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter. One of her prophecies told me about you.”
“Wow. You know, I hear a lot of weird shit in my line of work, but can’t say I’ve ever heard that before.” He cocked an eyebrow. “Any of them true?”
“All of them. So far.”
“How many are in the book?”
“Thousands. They average a prophecy a month, more, now that we’re getting closer to the end of the world.”
“End of the world?” he scoffed. “Again?”
“What do you mean?”
“We saved your world last year. My kind was planning to invade this planet and devour all of you.”
“Oh.” Anathema took a sip of her tea. “Well, I’m glad they didn’t.”
“Agnes didn’t mention that?”
“That was probably the one about the man-eating worms I couldn’t quite place. We thought she meant a virus or a para-“
Venom hissed; Eddie interrupted her. “We don’t use that word.”
Venom’s tongue grabbed the last of the biscuits from the plate and munched on it, eyes slowly unnarrowing.
“It makes sense now though. Why you’re here,” Anathema said, growing excited.
“Yes. Isn’t it obvious?”
“You’re here to help me save the world.”
“I’m just not sure how.”
“Who do we fight? Are they tasty?”
“Tasty?” Anathema thought for a moment. “They’re the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the Antichrist.”
“Excellent. We’ve never eaten horses before,” Venom licked their lips, drool welling out from between their fearsome teeth.
“The Four Horsemen are real?” Eddie asked.
“Men, even on horseback, are no match for us.”
“I don’t think they’re entirely human,” Eddie said.
“They are most definitely not,” Anathema agreed.
“Neither are we.”
“Well then, what are we waiting for,” Eddie pushed back from the table. “Let’s go save the world.”