by CSyphrett, Martin Maenza and Doc Quantum
As Timothy Hunter carefully unpacked his belongings, neatly placing each item in its designated spot in the student dormitory called Zatara Hall, he couldn’t help but feel a mix of emotions. He knew he would miss his dad terribly, especially his morning ritual of devouring Bill Hunter’s signature chocolate-flavored pancakes. The thought of not having those pancakes every morning already tugged at his heartstrings, threatening to bring tears to his eyes.
But Timothy knew he couldn’t dwell on his homesickness for too long. After all, he had heard stories from other boys who had gone away to boarding school and they had managed just fine. Determined to keep a positive outlook, he reminded himself of the three times he would be able to go home during the year, as well as the two-month-long break in November and December. It would be tough, but he believed he could handle it.
Besides, Timothy had one thing to look forward to that brought a smile to his face. His new friend, Rick Billings, would be joining him at Zatara Hall. The two of them were among the select few chosen from different Earths for this prestigious institution. And by some miracle, they had even managed to secure beds next to each other in the dormitory. Timothy knew that having a good friend like Rick by his side would be crucial in navigating the challenges that lay ahead during the next six years before graduation.
The sun had long retreated beyond the horizon, casting a blanket of darkness over the island. Abby Cable sat in a plush easy chair in her bungalow, her mind buzzing with thoughts about her first day at the school. As she leaned back, taking in the comfortable surroundings, she felt a twinge of relief wash over her. The tour had helped ease her initial anxieties, reaffirming that she had made the right decision to come here and teach. It would fill the emptiness in her days, now that Alec was no longer with her.
Her gaze drifted toward the small television set perched on a roller stand in the corner of the room. In Houma, she had never felt the need for a television, but now it seemed to offer solace, a temporary distraction before she delved into the task of creating a lesson plan for the morning. It also provided her with a connection to the outside world, reminding her that even in this isolated island, she could still keep up with the news.
Grasping the remote control from the stand, Abby settled back into her seat, her thumb effortlessly clicking the television on. The screen flickered to life, and a familiar voice filled the room.
“This is Britt Reid with Channel One News at Six,” announced the anchorman, his words resonating through the space. “Our top story today is the arrest of Dwight Wicker, former head of the DDI, a formerly top-secret division of U.S. Army Intelligence.”
Abby was captivated by the television screen, her heart pounding in her chest as a small clip unfolded before her eyes. She felt an icy chill run down her spine as she watched federal agents lead Wicker out of his house, his face a stony mask. “Oh, my gosh!” she couldn’t help but exclaim, her voice filled with shock and disbelief.
The image on the screen shifted back to Reid, who looked straight into the camera, his eyes filled with an intensity that held Abby’s gaze captive. “Wicker,” he began, his voice steady and measured, “was implicated earlier in a plot to enrage and destroy the monstrous Swamp Thing. Anonymous leaks of information and a recording obtained by the media from undisclosed sources pointed to his involvement. But Wicker vehemently denied any connection to the conspiracy that resulted in massive property damage to Gotham City by Swamp Thing.
“Finally, one of the men involved has stepped forward, testifying before the Intelligence Oversight Committee. This brave informer is currently under protective custody until Wicker’s federal trial. He claimed to have been, and I quote, ‘urged by a Nemesis to come forward and ease his conscience.’ The trial date is yet to be set, and Wicker adamantly believes he will be proven innocent in a–“
Unable to listen to any more, Abby reached out and shut off the television. She placed the remote on the floor by her chair, her hands trembling slightly. Overwhelmed by a torrent of emotions, she buried her face in her hands, allowing silent tears to stream down her cheeks as the past came flooding back. She sat like that for a very long time.
Meanwhile, in the attic of the House of Mystery, Cain, its enigmatic keeper, entered a room filled with mystique. Clutching a feather duster in his hand, he approached a crystal ball perched atop a stand in the center of the room. With a delicate touch, he began to brush away the dust, revealing the captivating diorama encased within.
The miniature landmass glowed softly as the light danced and shimmered across its surface. Abby, had she been present with a magnifying glass, would have marveled at the intricacies of the scene before her. Mountains rose majestically, beaches stretched endlessly, and tiny buildings were scattered throughout, each holding secrets of their own.
But if she had looked even closer, peering through a microscopic cottage window, Abby would have spotted herself — a woman sitting alone, tears glistening on her cheeks as she sought solace in the soft glow of a miniature lamp.
Content with his dusting, Cain completed his task and gracefully left the room, leaving the crystal ball and its hidden stories behind.