The room crackles with electricity that seems to hum in tune with the great machine strapped around her wrist. The air shimmers; sparkles and waves, as if reality was bending. Demetria takes a deep breath, inhaling determination and anxiety, and turns the watch to confirm the designated time. She knows that this could end terribly, that she may be stretched and broken into two by the sheer power of the time watch. But she has to do it. She has to save her grandmother and hopefully, by extension, her family from ruin. 

Around her, the laboratory begins to fade away. Colors blended and twisted, time wrapping around itself. The universe seems to fold, and a kaleidoscope of swirling lights and ethereal shadows surrounds her. Her skin melts onto her bones and every cell in her body feels like exploding, the sensation is akin to free-falling into a boundless and infinite corridor of existence. 

Moments stretched into forever, and seconds collapsed into picoseconds. The past and future danced before her eyes, each moment a blur of fleeting glimpses. Familiar voices from her past and echoes whispered throughout the brilliant vortex. She hears her mother, scolding her for breaking a vase. Her best friend says goodbye to her after a playdate, and there it is— the voice of her grandmother begging for her life. That’s where she needed to be. Demetria stretched out her hand as far as she could, not caring if her being was sliced in two. She needed to get there, no matter the cost.

Almost as quickly as it started, her body jolts and the bright colors of the time watch disappear. The world shifts into sepia as Demetria finds herself in an abandoned warehouse. She quickly checks the time watch strapped to her wrist: August 16th, 1768. The air tinged with an unfamiliar stench of old fur and garlic. 

Demetria steps out of the warehouse and finds herself onto the dimly lit, cobblestone street. The haunting glow of flicking oil lamps cast eerie shadows on the ancient buildings. The air before her was thick with a damp, heavy fog that obscured everything beyond arm’s reach. This had to be it. She couldn’t afford to make any mistakes now. 

She steps forward, her heavy boots clacking against the pavement. Demetria quickly grabs the wooden stake from below her coat. She was here for only one reason, to kill her grandmother’s captor and reweave time so the stain on her soul would never happen. She will never have to experience years of turmoil simply because she met the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Demetria notes the world here feels different, somehow colder, and less forgiving. It’s as if she had stepped into a painting, a gothic gray sky glooms over their more colorful fashion. She wraps her coat tight around her shoulders and continues forward, pushing through people crowding, rallying against the work of demonic powers. Demetria doesn’t believe in the supernatural, simply a lapse in judgment and bored-out minds from this generation.

She weaves further into the town, bumping into more believers. Demetria looks to the side and notices the leader of the protest, a charismatic orator, recounting stories to the missing women, the livestock drained of blood, and the ever-present dread that hangs over the town. He stands on top of a wooden box, a makeshift podium. The time has come, the orator declared, to rid our home of this plague. But Demetria perseveres, trying to avoid the townspeople, armed with stakes, torches, and a burning desire to reclaim their nights. 

But then she hears it, a familiar name- Persephone- that’s her grandmother’s name. Tuning back in, she watches as the speaker reads the names of the missing women from a large sheet of parchment. Anger seeps through her bones as she grabs the nearest person’s shoulder, 

“(Persephone)? Did I hear that correctly?” Demetria speaks with a voice wrought with urgency and anger.

The protestor looks back with wide eyes, the very act of approaching someone with the intention of talking about witchcraft was so fraught with danger. “Yes,” they nervously say, “(Persephone) was taken months ago, she– she was one of the first victims.”

What are the chances? Demetria almost says out loud. She finds this whole ordeal completely ridiculous. Her knowledge of history would let this be dismissed as the fabrications of hysterical minds. But if she was taken months ago, it meant that she had already arrived too late. There’s no avoiding the incident altogether now. 

“Where was she last seen? I’m a distant cousin. Please tell me anything.” There could still be a chance she can alter history, maybe still save her from the misery of those memories. Their leader stops talking. Demetria figures he wants to drag her into this manhunt of theirs. He takes a step down and walks toward her. His eyes brim with darkness and intensity, almost as if he’s ready to jam one of the wooden stakes in his belt into her heart.

“There’s only one place they could be held in this town. We’re trying to gather as many as we can to storm Dracula’s Castle at the Great Hill. If you’re truly related to one of the victims of such savagery—” his voice raises as he’s about to get into another rant.

“—Thanks, but I’m fine going myself,” Demetria interrupts and storms off to get a map of the town. But from a distance, she can hear the cries of the crowd and the warning of the orator, don’t disappear like the rest of them.

She glances down at her map, confused for a moment before she looks back up and sees Dracula’s castle— supposedly, where her grandmother is. Half of the castle is crumbling, bricks and stones scattered near the entrance with moss covering the broken parts. It bore the weight of its history in every crumbling stone, each shard of shattered glass, and every wind-whipper banner that flapped against the wind like tattered remnants of a bygone era. Tendrils of ivy clung to the surface and gothic windows gaped like hollow eyes, staring out into the abyss. The air was heavy with an eerie stillness, broken only by the occasional howl of the wind and Demetria’s heavy breathing. She sighs, gripping the heavy wooden stake once again, and continues forward. 

She pushes on the door and it opens easily with a loud creak. The hallways echo with emptiness, only the sounds of her footsteps reverberate through the darkness. The carpet below was completely tattered with burn marks and swords strung about. 

“Hello?” Demetria calls out. No response. A quiet anger still burns within her stomach, but she perseveres and continues. 

Then she finds it, a small stairway downward that splits off from the main. A broken bookcase seemed like it was once covering it. But she notices a small crest etched on the side of the wall, a tiny carving of a lion and a dragon– what was her family crest doing here? Then she realizes: it wasn’t an act of vandalism or idle whim, it was a desperate signal from her grandmother. A message. This wasn’t just a simple hallway, it was the entrance to the prison where her grandmother was being held. The torches that line the wall seem to call her in further, casting dancing shadows that seem to taunt the very concept of salvation.

Demetria ventures deeper into the dungeon’s depths, the air growing heavy with the dank scent of despair. The echoes of forgotten cries and the distant drip of water on cold stone filled the suffocating silence. Each step reverberated through the grim, narrow passageway, sending shivers down her spine. She was close, she knew it, she was right here. 

Her heart quickens as she turns a corner and enters a small chamber. There, illuminated by a feeble shaft of pale moonlight streaming through a small, grated window, Demetria saw her grandmother, Persephone. Not the Persephone she knew, but a past version, but her grandmother nonetheless. She was shackled and hunched in the corner of the cell. Her frail form, bathed in the faint light, was a stark contrast to the metallic chains that bound them. Demetria knew those eyes, the eyes that were always filled with love when they looked through photo albums or painted on tiny canvases, were now pools of desperate longing. Demetria knew her grandmother suffered under the hands of her grandfather, but not to this extent.

Demetria steps forward, “Persephone?” she softly says. The thin body before her flinches at the sound of her voice. Demetria rattles at the thick prison bars before they bend at her strength. “Persephone,” she repeats. But she recoils in fear, pressing themselves further into a corner. 

“I– I know you are one of his underlings, stay away from me!” Persephone’s voice trembling. Demetria’s heart aches, witnessing first-hand how her time in captivity left deep scars. She cautiously approaches, her hand outstretched in a non-threatening gesture.

“It’s okay,” Demetria slowly raises her hands up as a gesture of peace. “You must’ve been here for so long. I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner.” She stares into her grandmother’s eyes once more, seeing that her fiery spirit and her willingness to fight back still remain. Maybe it’s not too late.

“You must be cold,” Demetria puts on as sincere of a smile as she can— it’s been a while since she has tried to, not since working on the time machine. She takes off her coat and attempts to push it through the railing, it falling flat against the brick floor, “You can have it. It was hard finding this brand that you loved. Took me years,”  she says as she laughs dryly. Persephone slowly reaches for it, wrapping it around her feeble body. She finds herself comforted by the gesture from this unfamiliar girl who seems to know more than she’s letting on.

“Who are you?” she stares at Demetria, feeling as if she should know her.

“You don’t know me. And it’s hard to explain how I know you.” Demetria replies, trying to look around the chamber for a key to the shackles. The frustration that’s built up from all the time spent preparing for this suddenly starts to come out as tears pierce her eyes.

“There’s no time— just, goodness where is this stupid key?!” Her voice cracks. She’s so close, so very close to changing her grandmother’s life forever. One where the pain wouldn’t seep into her bones, one that would let her paint with a smile. She’s so close to giving her a photo album filled with treasured memories instead of buried regrets. She can taste the way her grandmother will enjoy freshly baked salmon instead of the slop and mold she would’ve survived on for a year. She will get to live without a hollow caved into her chest.

“The keys are on Dion, he’s—”

“Your lover— my grandfather— he had put you in a cellar that was filled with the bodies of many women before. His friends helped him, they brutalized you. You raised my mom, and she raised me; you went through so much pain to smile at us every day but I know your heart and mind were shattered. I know the story and I can’t let it happen again, not while I’m here!” Fury consumes Demetria, her tears streaming down to join the distant sound of water droplets echoing in the dungeon. She bangs on the bars, the clanging causing it to reverberate and send crows outside the small window to fly upwards into the moonless night.

Demetria finds herself slumping downwards, mimicking the position Persephone is in. She can only stare back at the person outside— her granddaughter— silent and holding her mouth tight to keep sobs from escaping. Persephone can’t help but think she raised one hell of a determined young lady. That is if the story is true.

“With the things I’ve seen here, what Dion has become… you being my future granddaughter doesn’t seem far-fetched yet,” Persephone decides to speak after the long pause of silence, “How are you here?”

Demetria sighs, no point in lying now, “Your daughter, my mother, raised me well. Taught me everything I know, she made me a good scientist.” She pauses, “Also, this.” Demetria taps at the watch on her wrist. Persephone eyes soften, it’s not just any watch, it’s a family heirloom that she used to own, too. Scurrying forward, Persephone pulls on the heavy shackles around her arms and reaches her hand through the iron bars to gently take Demetria’s hand in hers. “I’ve had an interest in time travel ever since Mother introduced me to that fairy tale, The Galoshes of Fortune. I thought that maybe… maybe if I was able to time travel, I could save you.” Demetria places her hand in Persephone’s, letting her inspect the watch. “So I changed it a little, made the family heirloom into something that could save us.” 

“It’s pretty.” Persephone hums before reaching down to pull something from what seemed like a pocket, but was hard to see in this light. Demetria’s eyes widen, it’s the same watch. It’s slightly shinier, the brass shines brighter under the flickering light. “Dion gifted it to me when he was still…” She pauses, “human, so to speak.” 

There’s a quiet, yet comforting pause. “I’m here to kill him, just so you know,” Demetria says. The confession hangs like a shadow between them. 

Persephone’s eyes widened in shock, voice trembling, “Wait, what? Hold on you— you can’t.” She says, “If you kill him, wouldn’t you… stop existing?”

“I-… wait, what do you mean?” Demetria’s face contorts in confusion. 

“Okay um, I’m not pregnant right now. So, if you were to kill Dion that would mean I never get the chance to give birth to your mother.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I want? How could I let him–”

It then hits Demetria, she has embarked on a mission with a singular purpose: to confront Dion, her grandfather, and put an end to the torment he inflicted on their family. For too long, his sins had cast a dark shadow over their life. As she stood before a younger version of her grandmother, a woman who had gone through so much pain and suffering at the hands of her grandfather; if Demetria killed him, not only would he cease to exist, but so would she. Her thoughts race, her heart aching with the impossible choice before her. Even if it meant she was never to be brought into existence at all, wouldn’t it be worth it? “But—” 

“—Don’t do it. Don’t kill him. He… Dion is a terrible, terrible person. He haunts me every day, but do not sacrifice yourself for me.” Persephone reaches out a hand through the iron bars and places her calloused hand on Demetria’s soft cheek. “Let me do this for you. I don’t know what kind of life I lived before you came here, but even if what I experienced may break me, that is not a reason for you to stop existing.” Persephone cradles Demetria, caressing her cheek as she sees tears flow out.

“Even if my passion for all the things I love faded away, it will find a new home. Look at you, all the work you did just to see me, to save me. How could I ever let you sacrifice everything you have achieved? And if you were to disappear, I would never get the chance to see who my granddaughter grew up to be after I go. You shouldn’t bear this weight. It’s my duty as your grandmother to protect you.” Persephone smiles at Demetria’s teary eyes.

“Would– would you like me to do anything? Please, don’t let me just leave you here.” Demetria’s eyes plead. The torches dimly flicker against the cobblestone walls, and the silence between the two is uncomfortable but shared with an understanding. 

“Just stay here with me for a bit.”

Written By: Issac & Mei

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