Note from Nine: I was pretty sick over the entire weekend, even though it was bearable enough for me to see They Might Be Giants on Sunday (apparently I feel okay as long as I’m standing up?). Hopefully this part of the story will be worth the wait!

Desmond recongized the voice of the third spirit — presumably the Spirit of Things Yet To Come. Though he would never admit it aloud, it was the voice of one of the few people that truly frightened him, and hearing it when surrounded by pitch-black nothingness added a layer of terror that made his heart race.

“Show yourself!” Desmond demanded aloud, as forcefully as he could muster.

He whirled around, looking for the source of his torment, but seeing naught by cold, empty space. Then, with a tiny fizzling sound, the light of a single candle’s flame appeared nearby. In that dim, flickering light Desmond could see the candleabra bourne by the vampire Sylvia DuBois, who’s unnaturally blue eyes were fixed upon him in a most menacing manner.

“No need to be so tense,” came Yet To Come’s words through Sylvia’s voice, “this is all in your head, remember?”

Desmond swallowed, though his mouth and throat were suddenly quite dry. “It… it’s been a long night. I’d appreciate it if we could get on with this farce.”

Sylvia moved faster than Desmond’s eyes could track, for within an instant he suddenly found her face inches from his own. Her eyes narrowed, her lips curled into a snarl, she replied in a tone somehow equally calm and enraged. “You get the night you deserve, Mage.”

The force of Sylvia’s words sent Desmond scrambling backward, where something caught upon the back of his knees. His arms windmilled as he fell backward, toppling onto a sofa that had seemingly materialized behind him. There was then a sound of a cat mewling in surprise as it darted out from beneath Desmond’s head at the very last moment.

Desmond blinked in confusion as a room formed around him. At first, the surroundings seem to be constructed of wisps of smoke, but soon solidified into a cluttered, messy living room in a run-down apartment. Half-eaten meals were stacked on soggy paper plates, one of which was being sniffed at by yet another cat that had manifested into the scene. Taking stock of the surroundings, Desmond spotted no less than six felines in the room of varying colours and sizes… but also the sound of sobbing coming from an adjoining room, just out of sight.

“Where am I?” Desmond asked of Sylvia as the vampire seemed to glide up beside him.

“This is the future; specifically the future of one Violet Stark.”

“Violet…” Desmond repeated as he rose from the couch. Then, as an afterthought; “I thought I could walk through furniture in these visions.”

“Sometimes,” came Sylvia’s enigmatic reply.

The sound of Violet crying continued, and Desmond cringed. He’d heard the apprentice distraught before, but it was usually in a somewhat adorably flustered manner. The sounds that permeated the apartment that night were those of despair he’d never heard from the plucky younger Mage. “What’s happened to her?”

Sylvia glided toward the door to the room where Violet’s cries emitted, though Desmond took no closer steps; he didn’t want to see. “Violet is strong,” replied Sylvia, looking through the door to where Violet apparently was, “but eventually she could take no more of the emtional abuse she felt from your constant scolding. She left the Convocation, which in turn meant losing the friends she’d made there. Her life became one of solitude.”

“A bit heavy-handed, isn’t this?” Desmond scowled at Sylvia, though his heart did feel heavy to hear Violet’s continued anguish.

“Perhaps. But it’s needed.”

Violet’s voice grew louder as she entered the living room. Her glasses were gone, and her bright red hair was in disarray, yet…

“… she looks the same!” Desmond gasped. “Spirit, is this the near future?”

Sylvia frowned as her eyes trailed Violet, who numbly shuffled past to get to the kitchen. “No, Violet is in her fourties, here.”

There was a long pause as both of them watched Violet, who had begun eating handfuls shredded mozzarella cheese out of a bag. “She just never ages, I guess,” Desmond finally concluded.

“I know the feeling,” Sylvia shot back, wryly.

“This isn’t my fault, though! She… she needs to be corrected! She’s reckless and chaotic-“

“And a human being with human emotions,” cut in Sylvia, whirling to face Desmond. “Your form of ‘guidance’ seems to bear a chilling resemblance to how you were raised by your aunt after the death of your mother.”

Desmond rocked back on his heels as if physically struck by Sylvia’s words.

“No… I didn’t… she wasn’t…”

As Desmond scrambled to formulate a response, the scene dissolved into smoke once more, leaving the two in the blackness again.

Sylvia stayed completely still, her eyes shifting from blue to red as she watched Desmond. The tendrils of smoke were forming again, shaping themselves into trees, low stone walls, wrought-iron fences, and… gravestones.

Desmond attempted to steel himself, setting his jaw as he tried to hide the tremble in his voice. “Ah, of course. Here’s where I’m confronted with my own grave, yes? The big moment.”

Sylvia shook her head, pointing at one of the tomb markers nearby.

Despite what he’d expected, Desmond still felt a chill run down his spine as he braced himself with confronting his own mortality. Following to where Sylvia had pointed, Desmond stood before a grave that was marked as…

… Cecil Turner.

Confused, Desmond looked back toward Sylvia, only to find the spirit was gone. His brow furrowed, as he looked toward other nearby graves instead, thinking he had perhaps turned his attentions to the wrong place. Scanning the other headstones, he saw other familiar names: Patricia Owens, Melanie Rubicante, Madam Luna… but never his own.

As he explored, he realized where he was — the graveyard was on the site of where the Convocation building had once stood, and his grave was the only one not among them.

“Even in death… even in death, I’ve become alienated? No!”

True fear gripped Desmond as he scrambled through the graves, which seemed to stretch on infinitely as he attempted to escape the hellish scene.

“I only wanted what was best! I was doing my duty as Sentry!” he cried out, stumbling amongst the rows upon rows of Mage’s graves.

“You know what they say ’bout the road to hell…” came the disembodied voice of Tara Norwood.

“Like… it’s paved with good intentions, or something?” added the voice of Present (With an I).

“And this is where your road leads, Desmond Medraut!” concluded the voice of Sylvia DuBois.

Desmond whirled about as he ran, looking for some way out, as well as any glimpse of his tormentors.

He gasped as he came face to face with Lisa Harrison, her solid white eyes locking gazes with his own. “To hell with you!” she bellowed, her arms spread wide, looking as if to fly right into him.

Desmond quickly stepped back, only to find the ground no longer there. As Lisa’s chained, spectral form soared above him, he fell backward into an open, unmarked grave.