Swamp Thing: The Doll’s House, Chapter 2: It’s a Long Story

by Doc Quantum

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Abby Cable awoke the next morning. Rushing out of bed to run to the bathroom, she rubbed her eyes as she tried to see the room more clearly. Matthew wasn’t in bed, as usual, probably off to join Prince Toscos on the hunt for the Psirens traveling through the Daylands. As she sat herself down on the toilet seat, holding her ample belly in place, she couldn’t help but notice how much larger she was now.

But of course she was larger; she was six months pregnant, wasn’t she? There were only three more months to go before she and her darling Matthew would usher a new life into this world. Already the prince had agreed to be the child’s godfather. Perhaps she and Matthew would even stay in this dimension for a while longer than they’d originally planned. After all, it would be much more difficult to raise a child while acclimating to strange new worlds every few weeks.

It felt like she’d hardly gotten a wink of sleep last night. All she remembered was tossing and turning as her dreams tormented her. She’d seen visions of a horrible-looking, disfigured, monstrous man with spider-legs; he was chasing her, planning to kill her, she knew, until she was saved by someone else whose large, imposing form inspired her only with reassurance, not fear. She should have been terrified by her savior, given that he was also a monster, but instead she felt safe in his arms.

She’d been reading too many romance novels, she decided. Where was her husband in all of this? She wished, just once, that she would have a romantic dream about Matthew, but the only time she ever dreamed of him, he wasn’t himself. Strangely enough, he was always a raven who spoke with Matt’s voice. Matthew the raven — what a silly concept.

It made her think of Eve back on Grimoire Island, and that raven she always had with her. Everyone had told her that the raven could talk, and that it liked to talk quite a bit, but whenever she was around it, she’d never heard one peep out of that thing. It was creepy, anyway. All it did whenever she was around was sit on Eve’s shoulder and just stare at Abby. She’d once asked Eve about her raven, and what its name was, but Eve had never given her a straight answer. All she’d said was that she used to have a raven named Edgar Allen — that was a cute name — but that he’d finally passed on to his reward. She never did get around to mentioning her new raven’s name, and something else had always come up.

Eve was a strange one, anyway. Most of the time she appeared to be an attractive young woman with raven-black locks of wavy hair, and all the male teenage students doted on the bosomy teacher’s every word. But there were times when, out of the corner of Abby’s eye, Eve seemed to look like an old crone. Of course, given the supernatural qualities of Grim Island, Abby knew that she couldn’t always trust her own eyes when she’d lived there. That place was practically awash with magic.

Abby frowned, realizing how strange it was that she was thinking about Grimoire Academy. She hadn’t given a moment’s thought to that place, its one-eyed headmaster, and her fellow teachers there for a very long time. She hoped that Rose Psychic, Adam Frankenstein, and young Timothy Hunter and all the rest were all right, and she even wished Headmaster Gallowglass to someday find a lasting peace in his troubled soul. It was for her sake that he’d left the island for the first time in nearly forty years, after all. He’d finally helped her to return to her old home just in time. (*) If not for Gareth Gallowglass, she never would have been reunited with Alec.

[(*) Editor’s note: See The Books of Magic: Fever of Death and The Books of Magic: Changeling Unmasked.]

“Alec?” she said aloud. No, surely she’d meant to say Matthew. “Who’s Alec?”

She winced in pain as the baby kicked, causing her to lose her train of thought. It would be another two months of this before she could finally give birth. Being seven months pregnant wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

***

Lieutenant Matthew Cable sat on a high ridge overlooking a meadow. Next to him was Prince Toscos, a blue-skinned, white-haired, regal-looking man with pointed ears, two small eyes, catlike teeth, and an old scar running from just below his left eye down to the left side of his mouth. Instead of the usual horned crown he wore, a strange-looking, out-of-place, computerized helmet was atop his head; next to him Matt wore an identical helmet. The two men were looking down at a group of seven scantily clad, green-skinned women of the race known as the Psirens, who were as yet unaware their presence.

“They don’t look all that dangerous to me,” said the prince.

“Looks are deceiving,” said Matt. “You let one of those girls into your mind, and you’ll never be free again.”

“And you’re sure these odd helms will make them powerless against us?” asked the prince.

“Don’t worry, Your Highness,” said Matt. “Just stick with me, and we’ll have these Psirens out of the Daylands before you can say Jack Rabbit.”

“Your expressions are strange, but your intent is clear,” said Prince Toscos. “On your word, I and my men will follow you into the bowels of Hell itself to free our land.”

“Hopefully it won’t come to that,” said Matt, chuckling.

***

Abby Cable swooned as the pain in her belly became more pronounced. She’d been carrying her child for eight months now, but it had felt like an eternity had passed. When was all this going to end?

She needed something strong to dull the pain, but she didn’t want to risk hurting the baby. If Matthew were here, he’d know what to do. But she didn’t expect him home until dinnertime. He was too busy hunting Psirens, anyway, and she wouldn’t want him hanging around all day with her. Matt had always been a man of action, and after such a long time of inaction and illness, he was finally able to indulge his adventurous side once more, except now they were having fantastic adventures of the type they’d only ever seen in fantasy novels.

Matt had given her a sedative once before, one that had put her under and relieved the pain within moments. It had been quite recently, too, if she recalled correctly, so it must have been after she’d become pregnant. He wouldn’t have given her anything that would harm the baby, she reasoned, so it wouldn’t do any harm if she took another one now. But where did he keep them?

Searching through the bathroom, the bedroom, and finally the kitchen, she was unable to turn up anything, not even a Tylenol. Unless he’d taken them with him, the sedatives had to be in the house somewhere. She decided to look for them in his workshop.

She knew Matthew didn’t like her going in there alone, since he had collected several trophies from the various dimensions and worlds they’d visited, and some of those trophies could be dangerous in the wrong hands. But the pain was too great; she needed relief.

Looking through his messy work desk and the various drawers full of all kinds of mechanical and technological parts, she came up with nothing. It was obvious that he wasn’t hiding anything from her in here, either. There were no sedatives in the house, she realized. They must have used them up and thrown away the bottle. It was the only explanation she could come up with.

But the pain only got worse. At almost nine months pregnant, she knew she was still a few days away from her due date, but she knew the baby could be born any day now. It was time for some creative thinking.

Several of Matthew’s trophies could do wonderful things. Maybe one of those trophies could also bring her relief in a way that would be safer than pills. She began looking through them, trying to remember if he’d told her about anything that might help.

Then she saw one trophy case that was empty and open. She frowned for a moment until she realized why, and looked over at the work table. It was the psi-helmet from Dimension 42 — the original prototype that Matthew had copied for Prince Toscos and his men. It wasn’t exactly the same as a sedative, but since it had the ability of giving its user total freedom over the mind, it just might be able to help her control her body’s pain responses as well. A sly smile formed on her lips as she walked toward it and picked it up.

***

Matt Cable and Prince Toscos had led the charge of the Royal Guard toward the Psirens in the meadow. At first the green-skinned women had done nothing in reaction except to appear as alluring as possible, and they began singing their telepathic song for the newcomers, not knowing that the men were all protected from their control via the other-dimensional psi-helmets they wore.

It was only after the first man had placed one of them in chains that the Psirens all realized it had been for naught, and they began to fight back.

The Psirens began screeching and leaping around like wildcats, scratching at the blue-skinned men trying to apprehend them. They put up the fight of their lives, but in the end they were much too small to stand up to the Royal Guardsmen, despite the gallantry evident in the way that the men tried to be as delicate as possible with them.

After the Psirens had been subdued, the translator spoke to them in their own language, informing them that they would be deported back to their own lands. None of the green-skinned women looked happy to hear that, but they still looked relieved that they wouldn’t be put to the sword, or worse, by their captors.

Matt slapped Prince Toscos on the back as the two men congratulated each other on a successful hunt.

“You must tell me someday how you came to be in possession of such a wondrous helm,” said the prince.

“Perhaps later,” agreed Matt. “I have to get back home soon. Abby gets a bit stir-crazy when she’s alone for too long, and I have a feeling we’ll have another mouth to feed by tonight.”

Prince Toscos laughed. “We must have you both over for a royal feast to celebrate the birth of your heir! Though I must admit, it still amazes me how your women are able to carry a child to term so quickly. Why, it was only two days ago that you told me she was with child! You must teach the women of our land your secret.”

Matt grinned. “If that were possible, I would. Believe me.”

***

“Honey, I’m home!” called Matt as he opened the front door and walked in. He waited for a moment to hear her reply, but there was none. “Hmm… must be sleeping,” he guessed.

Taking off his coat, he walked toward the bedroom, looking around as he went. “Honey?” he called. “Baby, you in here?” There was no one in the bedroom, and the adjoining bathroom was empty as well.

Walking back down the hallway, he noticed that the door to his workshop was ajar. A cold sweat suddenly ran down his back. She wouldn’t have gone in there without his permission, would she? Hadn’t he made that perfectly clear many times before?

Quickly opening the workshop door, he sighed in relief as he found it empty. There was nothing in there but his work desk and all his trophies. So where was she?

He smiled as he guessed where she must be — the deck. She loved being under the sun, even the alien one above this world. That was where he’d find her.

Opening the door to the deck, he saw her sitting on a chair, overlooking the view. Her back was to him. Abby was wearing a towel on her head, and she was dressed in a bathrobe. “Hey, honey, I was wondering where you were. Did you have a shower?”

“No,” she finally said, but her tone of voice was different somehow. “No, I didn’t have a shower.”

“Then why are you wearing that…?” He stopped speaking as a thought occurred to him. The desk in his workshop — there was something missing, something he had been working on and had left behind by mistake this morning.

Panic set in once more, and he placed one hand on his shoulders and pulled her around, none too gently. Now facing him, her eyes were full of none of the tenderness he was used to seeing there. No, she was looking at him with what could only be described as fierce determination.

“Wh-what’s going on?” asked Matt. “Are you feeling all right, Abby? You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine,” she said in a flat tone. “In fact, I’ve never felt better in my life.”

At that, she unwrapped the towel from her head. Matt’s eyes widened as he saw his worst fears realized. For beneath that towel was not wet hair from a shower as he’d thought; instead, she was wearing the psi-helmet from Dimension 42. “Oh, baby, you shouldn’t be wearing that! Here, let me take that off you.” He began reaching forward, but Abby recoiled back, then held up one hand. In it was a laser pistol, another other-dimensional trophy she’d found in his workroom.

Before he could say another word, Abby Holland armed the laser pistol and pointed it right at him. “Who are you?” she demanded.

“Wh-what?” Matt said, feigning confusion. “It’s me — your husband, Matt!”

“Nice try,” she said, then shot a blast at the railing just behind him, evaporating it. “My next shot will be right at your head. I’m done being lied to. You can’t control me any longer. Can’t use me. My eyes are finally open, and I know you’re not my former husband. He might not have been the best husband, but he would never have done what you’ve done to me.”

“‘Former husband’?” said Matt in an offended tone. But Abby merely raised the pistol threateningly, and he backed off once more, noticing for the first time that all signs of her pregnancy had long since disappeared. “All right, all right. Please don’t shoot, Abby. Just… just put the pistol down, and I’ll tell you the truth.”

“You can talk just as easily with a gun in your face,” said Abby grimly. “Now just who the hell are you? Don’t make me repeat myself again.”

“I am your husband… at least, in a way,” said Matt. “It’s a long story.”

“We’ve got plenty of time,” said Abby.

“I figured this day would come eventually,” said Matt. “I just wished it had been after the baby was born.”

“There was never any baby,” Abby growled, placing her left hand over her flat stomach. “That was just another of your ploys to keep me here. But you overplayed your hand.”

Matt sighed. “All right, all right. You’ve got me. Well, as I was saying, I am your husband, in a way, but in another way I’m not. It all started back when you were on the run from the DDI.”

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