The Terror Of Happiness

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A while ago, I had to go see a counsellor on a bad day. What’s he told me stuck with me; damaged people tend to sabotage healthy relationships because they’re so unused to what it feels like to be happy. It’s easier for them to remain miserable, because they’ve learnt to trust unhappiness.

I can understand why, though unlike those people, I’ve learnt not to trust what my brain tells me.

Right now, I’m so happy that it hurts, and that scares me, because the idea of losing that small, overpowering piece of happiness feels like it could tear me in two. 

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Addicted

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Things I have been/am not currently addicted to:

1- Delirium. Can you really blame me? It was a place where I could be strong and courageous instead of weak and useless. It gave me the opportunity to be this unstoppable force, and there was no better feeling.

2- Junk food. Then I decided that I’d hate myself even more if I was fat as well.

3- Cutting. This was back when I first tried to kill myself. I still couldn’t feel after that, and it took Daniel to make me snap out of it, another more powerful addiction.

4- Cracking my knuckles. I was even younger when I had this habit. For some reason, I always did it while playing video games. I don’t anymore.
Things I’m afraid of getting addicted to. A much longer list.

1- Prescription Medicine. Hence why I don’t take it. Probably should, but I’m too scared of the potential side effects, not to mention my negative history with St Johns Wort.

2- Sex. It’s not that I’ve got a problem with it, I just worry about the situations I could potentially get myself in because of it. And I can only think of the problems that it would cause if, for some reason, I happened to be in a relationship.

3- Not-so-Prescription Medicine. Ie, drugs. Togami mentions occasionally that one day I’ll be interested in experimenting, but right now, I’m too scared of permanently fucking up my already fucked up mental state to try.

4- Alcohol. Not likely, considering how the taste of my first drink wasn’t that good. But if I find a nice tasting alcoholic beverage, then this is likely to change.

5- Self Harm. If I am in that place where I have to mutilate my body just to gain some twisted sense of fulfilment, I’m checking myself into hospital. The end.

6- Shopping. I really don’t have that much money that I can afford to splurge it on luxuries like shoes and tea and corsets. If I’m going to be able to move out of home, I need to moderate.

7- Violence. I know that I’ve got that streak inside me. Right now, it festers as passive-agressiveness. And that’s where I want it to stay.
What I’m currently addicted to:

1- Modelling. I like people thinking that I’m beautiful. I like thinking that I’m beautiful. But I’m only capable of being that in front of a camera, and god knows for how long.

2- Friends. Mainly because if I’m by myself for too long, I’ll remember all the various reasons why I hate myself, which can contribute to why I don’t have friends in the first place.

3- Daniel. Probably the one lifeline I actually have. But what sort of life am I going to have if I can’t live without my imaginary best friend?

4- Anxiety. I thrive on those panic attacks where I can feel everything, pain and pleasure. I love to feel my heart race, to gulp down freezing cold air, right before my breathing gives out and I collapse from the feel of everything.

5- Depression. When the anxiety attack I’m hoping for just won’t come, I’ll just go lower and lower until I hit rock bottom and it hurts. Because then I’ll finally remember what better feels like.

6- Love. The scariest drug of them all.

My whole existence is a series of addictions, one after the other.

Infinity

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Let me close my eyes.

When I open them again, they’re yours. But what does that mean?
_______________________________________________________________________________

“GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME!” I screamed, obliterating the Espers whose claws were digging into me. “How…much…longer…”

Neekah finally came into view. About fucking time. “So savage…

“Stop,” I hissed. “What do I have to do to make this stop? I’ll do it.”

No shame at all…

“Nope. None at all. I’ve given up,” I said flatly.

One more, my love. One more.

I closed my eyes. I had been attacked by the mangled body of my mother, a screaming Jhaq, and finally, I’d been thrown back into a war where I finally gave up and let them tear me to pieces, only to wake up hearing Emisair barking orders before I was let lose into another. I just wanted to go home, wherever that was. I wanted Daniel…And that bastard knew it.

One….more….

…of course. Who else was left?

Oh god, what was this bastard going to pull with him?

My heart throbbed. Daniel… I opened my eyes, and stared at him. “Oh…”

He lay motionless, all life drained from him. His eyes were blank and empty, as if he were a stuffed animal. Was he going to come alive like Kaya had? But surrounding him were at least a dozen Espers along with a large array of lights and screens. I didn’t know what was going to happen.

Wait.

Eyes.

Two of them.

The right side of his face was completely unscathed. It wasn’t just the fact that his eye was still there; he looked younger than I had ever seen him. But it was undoubtedly him.

The Espers started murmuring suddenly, and I watched helplessly as wires were connected to his head and needles were inserted in his skull, causing the lights to start moving in a pattern that would only make sense to them. I didn’t know what was going on, but I could only assume that this was another distorted image that he was showing me. Another ‘scene’ he was creating.

The ‘Daniel’ gave out a sigh, and the Espers began speaking directly to him. “State your name,” I heard one say.

“Mmm….” It was as if he had a frog in his throat. “Mmmah….mmmahphh…mmmahphheeeu.”

….huh?

Matthew? Before I could think any further, he spoke again. “No…..I’m…wait….Gah….Gabe? Gabriel? I…” His voice was finally becoming clearer, though the things that came out of his mouth made even less sense.

“Two of the personas have been recognised,” one of the Espers spoke. “Continue uploading.”

I didn’t know why I was paying so much attention. This was all fabrication, it wasn’t real. It was all in my head…it didn’t make sense, none of it made sense. And why did it matter that it didn’t, this was not real!

In an attempt to remove myself from the situation in front of me, I looked around to see where exactly I was in this place. As I adjusted, I figured that I was looking down on this situation. Was I in a cell then? Wait…

Slowly, I raised my head to see my hands cuffed to the ceiling in front of me. I almost automatically became overwhelmed with nausea, as I made myself check behind me. Yup. That was the case for my legs as well.

Okay…

Carefully, I let the skin on my left hand heat up once again, and after a while, the metal began bubbling into a boiling liquid. I ignored the searing hot fluid burning my skin and focused on removing my hand from the cuff. Ow. I held the hand out in front of my face and analysed it. No cuts. Giving myself a moment to recover, I placed my left hand on the right cuff.

It was then that Daniel began screaming. My eyes flashed back to the scene below me, helpless to do anything but watch as the lights went haywire and the Espers hurry to wrench the wires and cables out of his skull. “Let me go!” he snarled, spasming uncontrollably. “No! Noooooooooo-”

With a loud zap, he suddenly fell silent, and slumped. His eyes fluttered shut. One of the Espers sighed, pulling out one last wire. “Encase the brain,” they murmured. “Send the subject to Readers for examination.”

“What alterations are required?”

A pause. “Wait until it’s awake, and capable of speaking. After analysing speech patterns, see if you can close off some of the data implanted. Then analyse it’s interactions once again.”

I squeezed my eyes shut as I heard them all walk away, Daniel in tow. I couldn’t bear to see his lifeless body strung along like a puppet. “I fail to understand why this is necessary,” a remaining Esper spoke, not walking with the others. “A functioning form is all that is needed, why bother giving it a personality?”

“We’ve already established the creation process,” the same one who was giving the order replied. “However, there are Etherals who would be greatly interested in the ability to change one’s personality. Who knows? We might not have to create more subjects if they are willing to supply us with them.”

“Still, I’d hardly call the creation process ‘established’. The other creations have been giving out as of late. We may no longer have ones to spare for extra experiments such as this.”

“Alas, this one is already spoken for. If there’s no more forms for Mutations, then it is up to them to create more. However, I’m not to take responsibility for the ones who lose control when it comes to experimentation. Hmmph. If one can call it that.”

“I believe that I’d have to agree. It’s still functional, despite everything. It wouldn’t do any good to simply send it to those who are all too happy to destroy it. Especially if it gains the ability to act as a natural subject would.”

“That’s indeed what I’m hoping for. An artificial being that is capable of thinking, feeling, reacting identically to a natural being.”

“You aren’t craving companionship are you? Mayhaps you shouldn’t be here, if you’re wanting more.”

“You’re the one making jests. It’s not a habit you should retain.”

“Hmmph. Even if your experiment is successful, it’ll be used for some other task after the Etheral are satisfied with your ability. If it’s physically functional, then it can be deployed for other more important things.”

“Very well. Once the data is confirmed as the prototype for later experiments, I’ll-” The Esper was suddenly cut off as my right hand suddenly broke free of the cuff and my upper body dropped.

For a few seconds, I just hung there upside down by my ankles in silence as they stood there frozen in disbelief.

Then I raised my hand and finished them off.

As the laboratory burned, I heard footsteps behind me. “That wasn’t necessary,” he purred. I closed my eyes, and felt my tears run down my forehead. “There there…” he said soothingly, wiping my forehead with his slimy hand. “Would you like to come down?

My eyes blinked open and I glowered at him in silence. In response, his hand cracked across my face. “Fuckin’ bitch,” his voice snarled. Obviously he got bored again. “Say something’. You know the truth now, don’cha? Your darling Prince Charming isn’t even human. Cmoooooon. Gimme some reaction!”

“Don’t give me that bullshit,” I hissed through the pain. “There’s no way that this is fucking real. You’re an illusionist, this is what you do. You mess with people’s heads, you messed with Kaya’s head, you messed with Nereida’s head!”

Urrrrrgh…god you’re dense,” he groaned dramatically. “Jeez, aren’t you meant to be the open minded one?” He shook his head and immediately, I felt myself falling to the ground. Instinctively, I braced my hands for impact and pushed against the cold metal floor so that I could roll safely onto its surface. “Very well. Why is it so difficult to believe Nereida and Daniel? Yes, yes, those weren’t their present forms, I believe that’s abundantly clear. But why does that mean that it’s not them?

Before I could object, he lifted me up off the ground and onto my feet. “Consider me an illusionist with a cause,” he said. “Both you and Kaya searched for the truth, and that’s what I’m giving you. It’s merely that you’re denying that it’s real because it’s something only you can see.” He chuckled darkly, his rotting face contorting into a strange grin. “That’s a bit rich, when you think about it. Why is what I’m showing you different from the entirety of my world to you?

I clenched my teeth. His words were all too familiar. How many times had I used that argument? Just because someone else can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Pain, love, knowledge… It’s amazing how people can completely ignore the things they can’t, or even refuse to, understand. Even though I was forced to admit that the world in my head was essentially a hallucination, I never ignored it, because it was just as real as the world I was born into. And so was this experience he had dragged me into. Why should I deny that his word was truth?

I found a valid argument. “Stop trying to confuse me,” I said. “The experience with you, Nereida and I had never happened. I don’t know whether or not that’s how Nereida felt, but that definitely never happened. That wasn’t reality. Also…there’s no way that you would’ve known about Daniel’s life when he was imprisoned. Because they didn’t upload him to the network. He was considered unsuitable for experiments.” I pushed the memory of Daniel hooked up to those computer-like mechanisms out of my head. “And in the real world, you wouldn’t be allowed to set foot in the facility. So…wouldn’t that experience be purely based on your interpretation? Considering of course you’re not making that up…right?” I felt so drained by this argument. I was still trying to make sense of everything happening around me. The only thing I was clinging to right now was the fact that this was all something that he implanted in my head, a figment of my imagination. Because if this was another Delirium, then what the hell was happening to my head?

After a while, he spoke again. He sounded normal, well, as normal as he could’ve been. “Do you wish for an explanation?” he asked me. There was nothing hidden in his voice.

“…yes.”

He turned around and walked toward the hallway, toward more laboratories. It was then that I realised that this room was on fire. “Follow me.

I couldn’t allow myself to put my trust into this madman, no matter how normal he seemed now. But still…curiosity drove me to follow him into the darkness.

At last, we came to a door. “Ready?

I nodded faintly. He opened it and stepped inside, beckoning for me to follow. I stepped inside, and took it all in.

It was a playroom. More specifically, my playroom. I recognised the pink paint and the stickers covering the walls. “Why have you taken me….”

I was cut off by the sight of Kaya’s corpse lying on the ground, along with the body of a girl with long brown hair and hollow green eyes. My eyes. And next to them was…

“There’s…two of you?” I croaked.

Quiet now. Do you want to know how you were created or not?” Neekah asked, the one who lead me here.

“I…thought you were explaining how this was real.”

I am. You’re just being impatient.

“I think I have that right.” I approached my body and felt for a pulse. Nothing. Suddenly, something clicked in my head. Slowly, I turned my head toward Kaya’s body, toward the familiar, whirring sound coming from the life saving device inside her. “…oh.”

Are you beginning to realise?”

“…I don’t know. I…think I can gather how I ended up in Delirium though…and maybe something else. Assuming this is true, of course.” I looked at the second Neekah. “What are you planning to do here?”

He laughed in response. This one was still insane. “Very well…Miss Blackrim here has kindly followed me home, you see. Gave your lot quite a shock, you know. Anyway…she needs to go back, to do a little job for me. However, she can’t go back as the poison dragon with the poisonous tongue, you see. She needs to go back as a sweetling, an innocent child for them to corrupt. But not just any sweetling. A sweetling that has all their secrets, too dangerous to live, alas, there’s no way for her to die.” He gave me a bright smile that sent chills down my smile. “Let us make it a human sweetling, just so that it can pose as one of many who have come here by accident. A human sweetling that a lonely freak can keep as a pet.” It was then that he raised a sharpened sword and swung it down on Kaya’s hand. And then the other. “We must keep this though,” he said, rolling her onto her back. I took in the sight of the disc and flinched. “For a pretty, innocent and mysterious sweetling isn’t going to get off so easily with them. They’ll kill her again and again in order to get their fill.

In the span of a second, he raised his sword and swung it down on Kaya’s long neck. A black, murky fluid flooded out onto the floor, painting her face and hair. My stomach flipped and my head started spinning. And then he walked over to the girl who looked like me. I turned my head, not willing to watch him brutalise what I believed to be my corpse. “You should be thankful for all the effort I went to, in order to create an exact likeness of you,” Neekah said to me, the original one. “They’ll consider your hands, your feet and your face, but not much else. Though rest assured, your personal attributes shall be accounted for.” He walked away from me, towards my twin and kneeled down next to her. “Do you want anything adjusted? But your skin is already so silky…and your hair…” To my horror, he lifted up the girl’s freshly severed head and held it close to him. He started whispering words I couldn’t understand, as if he was soothing her. Blood spilled out onto his hands, and he stared at it, as if he was seeing the sun for the first time. Then he spoke again. “Just like a rose…” he sighed, taking a finger to his lips.

Hey!” the other man snapped, swinging his sword up, getting ready to drive into the madman holding my head. “That blood belongs to the freak with two heads! Give it back!

I started shaking then. Another time, another place, I ended up dead so that I could exist in a world I didn’t belong in. It wasn’t me though; but it could’ve been. They might’ve chosen me to get cut up, so another version of myself could travel to another world, another Delirium. I raised my trembling hands to my face, seeing nothing but blood. In another world, I was kidnapped and slaughtered like a pig. Maybe I didn’t even know Delirium existed. Why….

“Why?” I croaked. “Why did I have to exist here? Why…why did you have to kill her…so that I could live?”

Don’t feel so important,” Neekah told me, skilfully dodging his doppleganger’s swings. “You’re not the only one who gets to live. In an infinite amount of worlds, there is a Cat Madigan split between two worlds, choosing between the world she was born in and the world that only exists in her head. And in an infinite amount of worlds, there’s a Cat Madigan who is taken in order to play her part in a very important project. And in an infinite amount of worlds, that project ends up failing.” When Neekah looks up at me, I see no madness anymore. Only hard determination. “That’s your role in this. I want you to bring about a world where we succeed. And if you can do that, then you can return to your world for good. Isn’t that what you want?

It took a while to sink in, the words return to your world for good. At first, my mind was overcome with the knowledge that my existence in Delirium was the result of murdering another Cat Madigan; maybe even one who never was Cat Madigan. Maybe she had grown up without Kaya, without Daniel, until one day, she had an encounter with a corpse like man that would result in her death at his hands. And that could’ve just been easily been me.

And then it hit me. Delirium could stop. I didn’t have to have blackouts ever again. The hallucinations could stop, the dying could stop, the bloodshed could stop.

…Kaya could stop.

……so could Daniel.

Was that what I wanted?

I was so absorbed with this that I didn’t notice that Neekah had managed to come in close to my face. “Well?” he said, chuckling as I leapt back.

I straightened up and inhaled. “Tell me more about the project,” I ordered him. “I’m not agreeing,” I said, as he started grinning hungrily. “I doubt that you’d let me go unless I listened to what your purpose was. But if this is the only chance I have of returning to normal…then I have no choice but to take it.” My voice became a whisper.

As you wish…but we might want to go elsewhere.” He indicated his alter ego, and I realised with a shock that he was on the ground with a sword in his back. “Any requests, ma cherie?

“…I have one.”

I am all ears.

“…take me to your world,” I told him. “Take me to the world inside your head. Show me what the world looks like to you.”
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The world that he envisioned…

It’s before me now, an endless abyss, nothing but shadows.

I shaped this world. Creator, destroyer, it depends on the teller. As my friend once said, history is written by the victors, or in this case, survivors.

What do you think when you’re here? Are you proud of me? Angry? Not that I care. You were once so important to me. However, I don’t know anymore if I was just another pawn in your mind games.

It doesn’t matter though. You’re gone now. Erased from existence, sealed away, I wouldn’t know. But there’s still the mystery of how I can see things from your eyes, despite everything.

Black Cat’s Ugly Head

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Mummy, I’m bleeding! the child shrieked as I landed with a thud.

Slowly, I staggered up, dusting myself off, ash and debris everywhere. “Was that really necessary?” I asked angrily.

Temper, temper.

Temper my ass. “What do you expect me to do?”

Why on earth would I give you directions? How boring!

“…of course,” I mumbled. “Well, it’ll be boring if I just stand here doing nothing, won’t it?”

Suddenly, a mass of light was launched at my face, and I stumbled backwards to avoid it. “Fuck!” I hissed. It was then that I was aware of him laughing. “Shut up Neekah,” I growled.

What do you know? I’m having fun! His voice was cheerful, though it still had that sinister undertone.

I got up. “So that’s your plan? Throw fireballs at me while I struggle to figure out what to do? From past experience, that stuff gets old over time.”

Didn’t stop you.

I just shook my head. “Movement…movement…” I got my legs to start walking in the darkness. Step one achieved, now to do stuff. I felt my hand prickle as a faint glow extended from it. The light didn’t touch anything, but it would hopefully stop me from walking into anything. Seek a way out, I told myself. So I began to walk forward, in the direction where the light came from previously.

Cold…cold…colder…. he said petulantly.

I rolled my eyes and nearly walked into a doorway. Hot! Hot now!

“You really don’t know how to play this game,” I informed him, trying the handle. Locked.

Why does it have to be by your own rules? he demanded. I’m the only one playing here, so why should it matter to you?

“Then what the hell am I doing?” I questioned.

Let your rules be your rules and my rules be mine, he sang.

He was becoming more and more unstable by the minute. But that wasn’t what I was worried about right then.

Because I could feel something approaching. It was slight, very slight. It would take one who had lived in pure silence for a very long time to notice it. I could physically feel the vibrations of the footsteps becoming more and more intense as they advanced towards me, hear the creature’s growl in the back of its throat, smell the hunger radiating from them. That door was a mousetrap, and I was the mouse.

I could sense every move they’d make. The second they leapt at me, I was already diving out of the way of the door, preparing myself to strike back. I swung around and raised my arm, fire ready.

I only saw its face when the light seared straight through it. Black scales and scarlet eyes. It didn’t look like Emisair though. Then again, she hadn’t finished changing the last time we fought.

It collapsed to the ground. Watch it, Miss Madigan, he sang. How many more friends are you going to kill?

“Not a friend,” I panted. “And it’s not real anyway. Everything you do is an illusion.”

Why so sure? And why so by the book? Hasn’t that been done enough already?

Shut up…I thought. I got up and inspected the door more closely. A keyhole? “I expected something more high tech,” I said.

Pfffffft. Keys are more entertaining. Now find one.

I suppressed a groan before starting in the other direction. Cold…colder… he murmured again.

Oh for fucks sake…I turned around. Hot…. His voice became excited. It finally hit me then, and I felt a wave of nausea rock my stomach. I reluctantly walked back toward the Emisair-like monstrosity. Hotter, hotter, hotter! he sang. Fouuuund iiiiiiiiit! he finally trilled as I stood above the thing.

“…please tell me that the key is just underneath her,” I grumbled.

The key is just underneath her, he said obediently.

“…why do you sound different?” I enquired. “You’ve been acting like a child all of a sudden.”

When he spoke again, his voice became quieter, more threatening somehow. Don’t mind me… he purred. There’s never been one so fickle as I. Do you know how dull it is to live with the same personality for the rest of your life? It’s…sickening. So I change. There’s nothing wrong with that. Is there?

“…I’m not allowed to judge. I’ve got Kaya,” I admitted.

That’s right…NOW OPEN THE BITCH AND TAKE THE FUCKEN KEY! he suddenly shrieked.

Open…oh god. I looked toward the corpse. She’s already dead, ya piss brain, he groaned. There’s no harm in it, surely?

“Forgive me, but I don’t usually dig around in people’s corpses after they die,” I said dryly.

Riiiiight. I mistook you for the cranky skeleton again. My bad, he replied snarkily.

I tentatively looked at the gaping hole in the beast’s belly. It had gone straight through, and I could see the charred flesh where the light pierced it. “Am I going to have to…”

I dunno. Up to you.

I inhaled. “Right. Okay.” I made myself reach down into the…gap. Ugh….it was still warm. I prayed that the key was just in there, that I didn’t have to…dig into the body.

Aaaaand it wasn’t.

Yay.

I could hear him laughing. “How long ago did you make her swallow the key?” I asked.

You’re assuming I made her?

“Fine. How long ago did she swallow it?”

Just when the game started, my dear. He had changed again; his voice had become soothing, calm, gentle. Like a father singing his child to sleep before he smothered her with a pillow. Why do you ask?

I thrusted my arm upward, tearing through flesh and bone. “Just checking where I should look,” I informed him.

It was at that moment that the monster’s mouth opened and the key dropped to the ground. I stared at it, my mouth agape, my arm still entrenched in the monster’s body. My apologies, he said sadly. I was under the impression that the key was swallowed. Apparently not.

Grimacing, I pulled my arm out, wiping the black guts onto my leg. I picked up the sticky key and angrily shoved it into the keyhole. “This is your fantasy,” I said. “Of course you knew what happened to the key.”

But I am merely a director, he said calmly. I gather the stages, the actors, the music. What happens from there is out of my control. I’m not controlling you, am I?

I turned the key and opened the door. Nothing but black. I tossed a little ball of light though the darkness, and it hit what appeared to be a door about ten metres away. Slowly, I walked. “That right there,” I replied, “is a whole new philosophical debate.”

He laughed jovially. But consider this. Everything and everyone you experience is real. Everything you considered an illusion is in fact, genuine. It is merely, how do you say….different.

“Stop playing with my thoughts,” I said, opening the next door.

Everything in front of me was sky. Cold, silver sky. I looked down to see the ocean below my feet. One drop and I’d be there, in Helevia. “What now?” I murmured.

I suggest you make your leave, he told me. It is clear that you are no longer wanted here…

I frowned, and slowly turned to see Espers with big wide smiles slowly walking towards me. “Can I kill them?” I found myself asking.

There’s more where that came from, he told me. I doubt they’ll follow you though.

“It’s the key all over again,” I shook my head. I took a step backward into the air and fell. “Dammitdammitdammitdammitdammitdammitdammit!” I hissed as the wind screamed in my ears. I inhaled a long breath and squeezed my eyes close as I hit the water with a smack.

I’d only seen this done through Kaya. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect to be honest. But after a minute of floating beneath the water, I realised that I was running out of air, and there wasn’t anywhere to go. My heart was racing and I just focused on swimming down, I didn’t care where. Helevia was what I hoped for, but hell would do just fine.

Then I was grabbed, and pulled further down, at a faster rate than I was swimming at. I froze and just let them, and when my head started getting foggy, when I was about to give out, there was air.

I opened my eyes. I remembered this room, though the logic behind how I got there was a mystery to me. “How does this work?” I questioned. “Why is there air under a layer of ocean? And gravity for that matter?”

Eh….I don’t feel like explaining, he said in a whiney voice.

“…fine. But I don’t reckon that the laws of physics give a fuck about an apocalypse. Just saying.”

Pffffffft. And you say my logic is fucked.

“Your logic is fucked,” I retorted. I thought for a moment and looked under the nearby mattress. Yup. The large pile of matted silver locks were still there. Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeugh, he hissed. Grooooooooss.

“Shut up.”

Does she still have the fingerbones there too?

“That came later,” I informed him coldly. “Though I must say, you’re a fine one to talk.”

“Whatever are you talking about?” A voice suddenly asked.

I froze. I knew the voice, though we had never spoken together. When I turned to look at her, I found myself relieved that I wasn’t looking at a mutilated corpse. “And what’s the point of you?” I questioned. “Why do you exist here?”

One green eye and one blue eye gazed at me dreamily. “I could ask the same of you,” she murmured. “Why do you exist here of all places?”

“That question is going to take years to answer. You go first.”

“Of course I exist here. This is my world, my home. You don’t belong here.”

“But this is my head. My visualisation. Why is he making you appear in front of me?”

I took you here because you need to be here, he said in a serious voice. You must be here with the empress Nereida, just like you had to slaughter Emisair.

“This isn’t Nereida, this is you, pulling her strings behind a curtain. She died a long time ago, before I even came to Delirium.”

“A long time ago? But everyone is still alive, don’t you know?” Nereida enquired.

“Not helping.” And then it hit me. I stared at Nereida, who responded with a slight smile. “Wait, what?”

He chuckled. Understand now?

“No…” I tried to process what she said. “Why would you-”

“Tell you that? Why not? You know it’s going to happen. You’ve seen it. Haven’t you?” Nereida responded.

“But…why would you make her like that?” I directed the question to him. “Why would you…what’s the point of making the empress…like this?”

Whatever do you mean? he murmured as if he didn’t already know.

“…her people are dead. She killed them all….if this is all in my head, then what reason would you have for creating a Nereida set before she slaughtered her people?”

Another dark laugh. Splendid…

“Consider this,” Nereida spoke again. Her gaze was calm and kind. More a mother than a murderer. “Everything around you is just as real as that world that you commonly reside in. But to that world, it is only a mere possibility, an idea born from imagination, not yet reality. Understand?”

“…no.”

Why so stubborn, the madman hissed. You know exactly what’s going on, you just don’t want to admit it. Because if that’s true, then that means that you have to accept something that you really don’t want to.

I stayed silent. Nereida spoke instead. “It’s still going to happen,” she said. “Nothing will change in that regard, I can promise you that. But…I assure you that if there were any other way around this, I would take that path.”

“….how can you do that? How can you make yourself do something like this?”

“Anyone can,” she said simply. “It is what has to be done. When you have nothing but your objective in mind, you can do anything. Kaya taught me that.”

I laughed then. A mad, maniacal laugh. “Did Kaya teach you to poison innocent people? To watch as they were strangled from the inside? No, don’t answer, I already know. Kaya would’ve never condoned something like this. And don’t say that she would’ve.”

She smiled back politely, and I felt my stomach swirl around in anger. “What does that make you then?” she asked. “Kaya allowed you to get thrown in here, didn’t she? She’s not the only one who sent lambs to the slaughter, you know.”

“Don’t compare me to innocent children.”

“But you are one. You’ve just forgotten it, that’s all. You think that you’re not one because you haven’t been allowed to be. But you are.”

I shook my head and charged out of the room, into the giant hallway. In front of me was the little ghost child. “How did this happen?” I asked him. “How did you become such a monster?”

“How did you?” Neekah replied, before lunging for my throat.

I found myself knocked to the ground, holding the little monster child away from my neck. I saw Nereida behind us, watching as if this was a performance. Desperately, I lifted him away from me and threw him back as hard as I could. For the next two seconds, I could only watch as he splattered against the wall, his eyes going wide and his mouth half opened as if to scream.

Nereida smiled smugly as I crawled back. “No…” I croaked.

“Are you alright?” she enquired, suddenly concerned. She reached for my hand.

“Don’t,” I hissed. “Just send me somewhere else. Hurry up and do it Neekah.”

Your wish is my command.

Drag You Down

Standard

Still not dealing. And you really should know better by now.
_______________________________________________________________________________

“You see?” I whispered, raising my hands in the air. “These are the kind of situations where I make awkward conversation in order to calm myself down.”

“Can’t you just throw fireballs at them?” Papa Willis hissed back, shuffling close to me.

“All in good time.”

“Preferably before they slit our throats?”

“Wait,” I ordered him.

“Why?” he asked, exasperated.

“Willis, why haven’t they attacked us yet?”

“I…” He shook his head. “Is that a rhetorical question?”

“Think about it,” I advised. “Espers would’ve attacked immediately, probably while we were still on the ice. And would ordinary ones come here?”

“So…who are they?”

A slow smile came to my face. “Let’s see.”

Willis frowned at my overly happy face, but kept quiet.

My suspicions were confirmed when they were within ten metres of us. There were three of them, both humans. “Oh wow!” I said cheerfully. “This is awesome.”

They hesitated for a moment. The woman, who had called out before, spoke first. “State your name and breed,” she ordered.

“Breed?” Willis asked, confused.

“Humans,” I called back to the woman. “I’m Cat. This is Willis.”

There was murmuring. “Not possible,” one of them growled. “The both of you came from the mainland. Monsters live there.”

“It’s the truth,” I replied.

More murmuring. Then the same man stepped towards us. He had tangled blonde hair and dark, flickering eyes. “Hold out your hand,” he told us.

I hesitated, but Willis sighed and held out his good arm. The man took out a knife and raised it. I flared up. “Don’t you dare-”

The man swiped the blade across Willis’s finger, and dark red blood spilled out immediately. “He’s fine,” he called back. They relaxed slightly.

I didn’t. They were looking for human blood, scarlet and salty. When they open my hand, and after that, my throat, all they’ll find is this poisoned, steaming concoction which screams out monster. I held my breath in as the man looked toward me.

If he had taken my right hand, it would’ve gone that way. Instead, the man chose the left, and before he could cut it, the five letters glowed, and he froze. “Altered human,” I breathed out. “They changed me long ago. I’m probably not human anymore, but I’m not one of them either.”

Freak…” he said softly, reading the carvings. His face hardened. “You’ve encountered them.”

I nodded.

“And yet you’re here to tell the story.” His voice took on a growl. “Explain that.”

“Deal with the devil,” I said simply.

“Oh really?” he snarled. “What, are you going to rat us out? Is that why you’re out here? Both of you?” He glared at Willis, whose face had gone white as snow.

I shook my head. “In exchange for my freedom, all they wanted was my mortality,” I said quietly. “The transfusion, I’ve been told, acts as a life support; it keeps my organs functioning as my body repairs itself from fatal injuries.”

“And who told you that?”

I hesitated. Noah had, after analysing my healing process from when we rescued Papa Willis from the Espers. He was fascinated by Esper technology; I suspected if he was lower born, then he would’ve become one himself. “They did,” I told them, knowing already that there was no way they were going to let themselves trust me now. Not when I shared the blood of monsters.

My suspicions were confirmed. “Out on the ice,” the man snarled at me. He held the knife to my throat, and snatched my arm. “You won’t be needing this, but we will.” His hand went to my jacket and started unclasping it. He rolled it off and tossed it to one of his companions. The icy air whistled through my head; my layer under the jacket was just as warm as another layer of skin. “Now walk,” he ordered, and I stepped tentatively backward, until I could feel the world moving beneath my feet.

“I can vouch for her!” Willis insisted, as the other two held him back. “She wouldn’t hurt a fly, I swear, she’s done nothing wrong!”

“She’s a monster,” the third stranger spoke up. “Even if she doesn’t mean us harm, there’s no telling what she’ll do. There’s only one place for her; frozen down there, where she can’t hurt us.”

“No!” I watched Willis struggle in their grasp. I could hear the ice cracking beneath me slightly, as I continued treading backwards. The man with the knife didn’t let up, forcing me further out onto the fragile lake.

“You don’t need to be afraid of her!” The woman probably thought she was being comforting. “You can come with us, you don’t need to be with her. We’ll keep you safe, we promise.”

I glimpsed over my shoulder, trying to see how far out he would make me go, and my stomach flipped. Jhaq’s frozen face, eyes widened in fear, stared at me from beneath the ice, and the snapping sound increased. My head snapped back toward the man wielding the knife. “No,” I gasped.

CRASH!

The knife brushed against my neck as I grabbed his hand. The last thing I saw before I fell backward into the waters of hell was Willis tearing himself away from the other two, who stood there gobsmacked as their companion was pulled into the water with me.

The screaming water forced its way down my throat as I clawed at the newly formed ice above me. I felt it soften slightly where my left hand touched it, but the ice, despite how thin it was when I walked on it, had suddenly gained a foot in width. I could vaguely make out through the dark stormy water the writhing form of the man beside me, as the water choked him from within, until his flailing slowed and eventually came to a stop. The shadows started moving for their next pray, and as they came closer and closer, I braced myself for death.

Suddenly, there was light. I didn’t hesitate; summoning my remaining strength, I surged towards the source. The shadows clung to my legs, dragging me down, but I couldn’t stop now that I could see the sky.

The air was bitter and cold when I thrust my arms out of the water. I clung desperately to the ice so that I could raise my head above the surface and cough out the evil water in my lungs. Already, I could feel the ice forming over me, as I tried to lift the rest of my freezing body out.

The woman ran at me and raised her foot to kick me back down, only to go flying past me, which made me realise what Noah must’ve given Papa Willis. The ice was now grazing under my arms, so I heaved myself up. I felt something sharp biting through my skin, through my remaining clothing, as I crawled out on top of the ice, but I didn’t care. I was already used to that kind of pain, and a few nicks in my thighs were a fair exchange for avoiding death once again.

I rolled over and faintly watched the ice grow even more, sealing under the water the drowned body of the man with the dark eyes. Something trickled down my throat, warm and thick. I didn’t need to touch it to know that it was my blood, my poisoned black blood. The same substance was flowing from my legs right now, and when I sat up, my muscles stung from the injuries the ice gave me.

Willis staggered over to me. “You’re okay,” he croaked.

I nodded softly. “Thanks for breaking it,” I whispered. “I didn’t want to die that way.”

“Would anyone?”

I shook my head. I looked past Willis, to the two behind him. They were scowling at me, as if their eyes could push me under the water again, so I could drown with their friend. “What do we do?” I whispered to Willis.

He turned to them. “Get out of here,” he said to them. “Look, when we get back, we won’t mention the both of you. We’ll say that Cat got attacked by this man, and this man only.” He indicated their frozen companion. “You can get away. We don’t want anyone else to die. Please…”

The two looked at eachother, but I knew where their minds were at. “You came on behalf of them,” the woman spat. “You would’ve seen us in chains, or dead.”

“No! Look, hear us out-”

“Please,” I spoke up. “Please, just get out of here. Save yourselves. He…he would’ve wanted you two to live. That’s why…” I let my voice trail off.

The wind screamed around us, nearly concealing them from sight. There was no response, no response except for a loud crack, and when I flashed back at them, their forms had disappeared with a splash, and I realised. “No!” I screamed.

Willis held my shoulder. “Get back,” he told me.

“But-”

“You can’t save them. We’re only a little bit from land, c’mon.”

“Open a hole! Let them swim out!”

“I will Cat, I promise. Just get back.”

Reluctantly, I crawled backward until the world beneath me stopped. “Stay there,” Willis ordered, and he walked back to where they were standing. His back to me, he knelt down to the ground, and I watched as the ice cracked and parted. He hurried back and sat beside me, waiting for something to happen.

There was no point. “They’re not coming up,” I said hollowly.

“They might,” he insisted.

“But they’re not.” The ice was closing again, their final gateway closing. Suddenly, something did appear out of the water, and I gasped. Was this a miracle?

But it just stayed there, like a buoy floating on top of the water. My sudden hope quickly deflated as I realised. “They didn’t sink,” I murmured. “It was too late.”

“Shit…don’t look.”

I rolled over. “I won’t,” I replied. I squeezed my eyes shut. “I’m not.” But it’s still firmly implanted in my mind, that body floating atop the lake. The sound of the ice growing over the body was as loud as thunder; when it stopped, I thought I had gone deaf. It was pure silence.

Until I heard Willis stand up beside me. I tiredly turned to look at him walk away, towards a dark mass on the ground a little bit away from us. He scooped it up and started coming back. “Your jacket,” he said, placing it on my shoulders.

“I should freeze,” I said bitterly.

“Well, you’re not,” he said stubbornly. “It wasn’t your fault. They attacked us.”

“Because of me. They were protecting themselves.”

“Were they? Isn’t that what the monsters were doing in that story?”

“I…”

“Exactly.”

I curled up on the ground, pulling the coat over my head, taking me away from the brightness, at least for a little while. I wanted to fall asleep and never wake up. Sleep was warm…even in a place like this.
_______________________________________________________________________________
When I tried to remove the jacket even for a little bit, the wind smacks me in the face. “Ack!”

“Holy shit, you’re blue,” Daniel growled, pulling me toward him.

“Daniel…” I tried to sound annoyed, but I was too tired to pull it off.

“I take it your adventure was more eventful than mine then.” He looked at Papa Willis.

“Humans,” he replied. “Three of them.”

“Really?” His voice sounded interested. “What happened? Where are they?”

Before Willis could respond, I spoke up. “Under the ice,” I murmured. “I would’ve joined them if it weren’t for Willis.”

“I see…” Daniel’s voice was weary. “Thank you.”

“No problem,” he said. “She probably wishes she were there with them though.”

“Why?” Daniel wrapped a blanket around me. “Why you want that?”

“They died because of me.”

Daniel snorted. “Let me guess. They attacked her, and she sent them under,” he said to Willis.

I was silent. “It’s okay. Hey.” He cupped my cheek. “You look like hell.”

“I want to go back,” I said weakly.

“Right.” Daniel pulled out a strip of cloth and tied it over my eyes. “I’m just glad I didn’t have to dig you out of the ice.”

“I hate it here,” I growled to myself. “I really really hate it here.”

Let’s Raise Hell

Standard

Cat Madigan is back, bitch!

Sorry. That was rude.

But I’m back. And I need to catch up on Delirium. Starting now.

__________________________________________

“Okay, we’re moving,” Daniel said.

“What? What’s going on?” I was dragged away from Daniel’s desk where I had been sketching.

“Papa Willis isn’t on the network,” he said.

“What? He was last time.”

“And now he’s not.” He pulled me out into the hall, nearly running down the stairs.

“Daniel, stop for a moment,” I told him. He slowed down, but only to a pace. “I have to tell him that we’re going.”

“Why?”

“In case he can help us!”

He groaned. “If he could, he would’ve-”

“Daniel, please, let me try.”

Daniel sighed. “Fine. Just wait till we reach the armoury. I’ll get us some backup so you can get back to Reality for a bit.”

“Agreed.” He then broke off into a sprint again, this time with me following closely, with the crowds of people watching us pass by.

Upon reaching the door, I immediately dropped. When I opened my eyes, I was in my room again. “Okay…” I grabbed my iPad and typed in my message for Papa Willis. Five minutes passed, and there was still no answer. “Crap!”

Then Mum came in. “I need you to set the table, dinner’s in ten. And fix your bloody room!” She popped out just as quickly as she came.

Double crap.

I had no choice. “Kaya!” I hissed. No answer. So I screamed internally, because actual screaming would alert the household, KAYAAAAAAA!

What? Her sudden appearance shocked me. She spoke as if she had been there all along.

“Gods sake…” I hissed. “Listen, can you take care of things here? We’re off to get Willis.”

About time. What am I allowed to do?

“Interact with the family only if they speak to you. Do not yell at anyone, do not kill anyone. And Mum wants the table set and my room clean.” I thought for a moment. “And I need to wash my hair too.”

I can have a shower? Kaya’s voice sounded happier.

“Yes, you may.” I listened for footsteps before sitting down on my bed.

I opened my eyes to see the last person I expected to encounter again. “What are you doing in the armoury? I would’ve thought that was beneath you.”

The woman rolled her eyes. “It is. It also happens to be where you are. So I am here.”

I sat up. “What do you want?”

“You’re going to save your little human friend. Why? Isn’t Daniel good enough for your bed?” she taunted.

“Are you here to spite me or do you have something to tell me which is actually useful?” I returned. I was tired of this so-called woman of fire. She kept trying to get a rise out of me, even in the most inappropriate circumstances. It was for that reason that I could never take her seriously. If she was capable of something other than mocking me, then I would probably have been hurt by her words. But alas, she wasn’t.

“I do,” she informed me, though it was clear to me that her words were just as likely to be bluster instead of actual advice. “I suggest that you prepare yourself for the worst.”

“Let me rephrase my previous remark…whatever the hell your name is. Do you have any information that can actually help me?”

“My name is Emisair of Fire, and that was it,” she told me. “You know what they’ve done. You of all people know what they’ve done. And you of all people can imagine what could’ve happened to that boy.”

“Of course I can imagine it. Why do you think I going after him?”

“That’s my point,” Emisair mused. “Why are you going after him when he’s already dead?”

“He’s not-”

“If he’s not, he’s a very lucky man. But you wouldn’t be rushing about the castle if you were so confident about his chance of survival.”

“Papa Willis is my dearest friend in the world,” I informed her. “I would probably do anything for him, and if I can save him, then I will, and nothing you say will stop me!”

She watched me as I got up off the ground and brushed myself off. I was walking away from her, towards the forgery, when she called after me. “Since when do you care about a lost life?”

“Since when don’t I?”

“Don’t you know?” Her voice became a purr. “You’re the hangwoman, Cat Madigan. How many people have you killed now? Can you even count that amount?”

I gritted my teeth, ready with my answer. “If I could change what I had done, I would,” I told her. “But I would never have touched them if-”

Emisair walked in front of me. “That’s why I’m not calling you a murderer,” she replied. “But you’re not far off that. It’s easy to justify whatever you’ve done wrong. But then you keep justifying it, until you no longer need a reason, you can just…” She ran her long nail across the flesh of her dark throat. “That is all I have to say.”

“…good.” We stood there, the two of us, until she sighed and turned on her foot, leaving the armoury. With that, I headed towards the hot furnace that was the forgery. I had never seen this place before, but I could see why Daniel might’ve kept me away. When the smiths looked up and saw me, my ears were suddenly filled with catcalls and whistles. One of them called out, “Oi Daniel! This ‘ere ‘yer little sweet’eart?” That was when all of them came over and surrounded me, and somehow, the leering and comments became worse.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t as uncomfortable as one would assume. Instead of shrinking away from them, I just laughed. The smiths were only teasing me, and if they knew about me and Daniel, then they knew that Daniel would crucify them if they laid a hand on me.

Which is why I didn’t recoil when two arms snaked around me and held me close. “Hello,” I said.

He just laughed and his hands gripped my waist. Suddenly, I was lifted into the air, and over Daniel’s shoulder. “Oi! Put me down!” I yelled, much to the entertainment of the men. He ignored me and walked out of the forgery, the laughter following us out.

Daniel closed the door behind us, and the laughter was muffled. “My dear sir,” I began.

He lifted my body and held me up in the air for a while. “Yes, I understand completely,” I told him. “You have muscles. You can lift Cat-Madigan-sized objects. You’re also not wearing a shirt. And your eyepatch makes you look badass.” He grinned and put me down on the ground. “Will that satisfy your vanity for one day?” I queried.

“Good enough.”

“How’d you get your strength back this fast by the way? Didn’t you lose enough blood to fill a Cat Madigan?”

He grimaced. “Lots of herbal stuff from Jhaq. I just get tired now and then.”

I frowned. “You going to be okay for this?”

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.”

“What’s the plan?” I questioned.

“First, this.” Daniel held out a thin, gleaming object. Tentatively, I took it. “Not your usual type of stiletto, but still.”

“Huh?”

“That’s what it’s called,” he explained. “You like it?”

It’s a knife, I realised. One perfect for a Cat Madigan. I grinned. “Cool. Much cooler than roses.”

“So you don’t want roses?”

“I’ve never been given roses before…”

“Back to the situation at hand…” Daniel began. “You know your way around, don’t you?”

“…a little bit. I remember Willis’ cell, but I’m not sure how long it would take to find it.”

He nodded. “We need to find Noah, then we’ll be off. Plan of attack is to set off some distraction which they’ll chase after. Then it’s just a matter of silently making our way through the place, got it?”

“Yup. I can be quiet. Silent as a cat.”
_____________________________________________________

A couple hours later:

“FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!” I screamed as I sprinted through the halls, the monsters slowly gaining on me. This a good enough distraction, Daniel?

I then saw the dilapidated wall leading out toward the rocks and I jumped. Not my body though; my body dropped as I fell out of it, and my shadow stood in front of it at the ready. The monsters saw me as I was, and raised their blades.

I’m not afraid. I am the mad cat, and I will kill them too.