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“We’re not trying to intrude on anyone!” Lachlan shouted over the wind. “We just want to go home!”

Sam could hear Jen shouting something too, but couldn’t make out the words. He imagined the others were shouting similar replies–assuming the others were still nearby, that was.

For all he knew, everyone except he, Jen, and Lachlan were lost forever in this lightless void.

“No one threatens the wife of I, the resplendent empress, and survives!”

“‘Wife of I’?” Lachlan shouted back. “What kind of utter grammatical travesty is that? Just say ‘my wife’!”

Seriously, Lachlan? Of all the times to be a grammar snob, he was picking now?

Sam squeezed Lachlan’s arm, hoping it was enough to convey the message: ‘Don’t antagonize mysterious, powerful alien beings by correcting their grammar.’

His hand prickled again, but this time, he felt the prickling in both hands, and even his feet.

He held his good hand near his face to find his fingers swollen, and the skin under his fingernails tinted a deep purple-blue. He looked at Lachlan to find the effect even more pronounced on his pale skin. Lachlan’s lips were a vivid, violent blue, and his fingers around Sam’s wrist looked like a sunset; a vibrant purple at the tips faded into an angry red.

“We’re not threatening your life!” Sam shouted. “Wait! I mean, threatening your wife! We’re not threatening your life either, though!”

His words came out slurred. He felt suddenly floaty in a way that had nothing to do with being suspended in the air.

“You dare challenge I, the all-powerful She-Who-Wears-the-Stellar-Crown? You? Beings so weak and powerless that losing some of your precious oxygen is enough to scramble your fragile minds?”

Losing oxygen? Wait, but that would mean–

“Challenge me!” said Lachlan. “It’s ‘challenge me’! ‘Challenge I’ doesn’t even make any sense!”

Sam could feel Lachlan shaking, and realized he was laughing.

“Challenge… challenge me!” he wheezed. “Challenge me-hehehehehe!”

Sam couldn’t help it–he started laughing too. Hard enough that it was painful–hard enough that little balls of tears escaped from his eyes and floated away in the wind.

“You dare laugh at the majestic and glorious empress? You dare mock me? How dare you!”

“You–” Sam paused to fend off another involuntary wave of laugher. “You say the word ‘dare’… so much!”

“Perhaps if I extinguish your insubstantial little lives, that shall teach you a lesson!”

“We can’t–we can’t learn a lesson if we’re dead, you… you fuckin’ dingus!” Lachlan shook with laughter again.

“You dare insult the almighty–“

“She said ‘dare again!” Sam interrupted.

“Why don’t you… why don’t you dare to use another word?” added Lachlan.

Another wave of laugher came over Sam, weaker this time. In fact, every part of him was feeling weaker. His head buzzed, and Lachlan’s face was growing blurrier and blurrier.

“While you mock me, your companions plead for their lives!” came the thunderous voice. “Know that your insolence has doomed them all! Prepare to die, human fools!”

Sam felt his heart lurch as the dizzing sensation of falling backwards hit him–the same sensation he’d felt when he’d walked through time, defying every law of physics to undo Lachlan’s death.

He was doing it! He’d unlocked his latent abilities again, and once again, he was going to save the day!

He was–

Wait. No. He was actually falling backwards.

Oh no.

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