The red glow of her cigarette was the only light in the building. The street lights had been blown out long ago. That was fine. She didn't need much light, and anywhere, there was nothing down here worth looking at.
Everyone of any importance was dead, but there was no point in whining about it. Start whining and you turned out like one of the old guys. It was pathetic at first, and then it was just exhausting.
Anyway, she wasn't going back there. Nobody there could mind their own business. Last time, they'd tried to stage a goddamn intervention for her--tried to get her to give up the relic, muttering something about appropriate grieving, which was pretty fucking rich coming from somebody who ran around the city dressed like a bat because his parents died thirty years ago. Appropriate grieving, my ass.
He wasn't even a good bat. Bats had scrunchy noses and enormous ears. His proportions were all wrong. She'd showed him an endless parade, from flying foxes to bumblebee bats, and not one of them matched, and apparently "Stylized Bat-Like Figure Drawn By Someone Who's Never Actually Seen A Bat-Man" wouldn't fit on his business cards or something.
Anyway, point was that she wasn't going to cede the moral high ground to a whiner who didn't understand bats. She'd suggested once that he spend some of that money finding a cure for white-nose syndrome and instead he'd gone and blown a quarter million on a Bat-themed jet-ski. Jerk.
Fine, maybe she was spending a bit too much time shifted. It wasn't a crime, was it? The green dude had showed her brainscans and tried to explain something about the problems with brains being shoved into tiny little spaces for long stretches of time. He was the most decent of the lot. His whole civilization was dead, but he didn't bring it up in casual conversation. She'd tried to keep herself to bigger shifts after that, but it wasn't easy. People noticed a rhinoceros on the street the way they didn't notice a rat.
It was very pleasant being a rat. The world went to whiskers and tails and a symphony of smells. A mouse, now--being a mouse was bad. Her brain started to feel squeezed. There wasn't enough there. She was always slow and stupid when she came out of mouse-shape.
Lately, though, her thoughts seemed to echo inside her skull whenever she was unshifted. She'd shrunk somehow, and there was too much space left.
Maybe it was the space he'd left behind.
Perhaps today she'd turn into a rat and stay that way. Would it be such a bad life?
She ground out the cigarette under her heel and opened the box. The relic inside was a shrunken as a monkey's paw. It only granted one particular wish, and only to her, but that was all she needed.
She took out her dead brother's severed hand and folded her fingers against it. "Wonder Twin powers, activate," she whispered, and felt the power take her away.
...this is all John Scalzi's fault. I accept no responsibility whatsoever. Address all complaints to him. Forever. Oh god, I was supposed to finish a book today, and instead I started writing Wonder Twins fan-fic.