Chapter 10 – Fire

Sometime during the movie, Brune’s thin wrists slipped from the grasp of her friends. She rose so very slowly, like an old person. She continued to stand there until a few people sitting in the rows behind her grew agitated with her. She padded slowly around Jaciam and Nox without touching them. Little, small, shuffling steps. When she entered the isle she was met by a nurse with pearly porcelain scales.

“Do you need to use the bathroom?” at this, Brune slowly dipped her head

“Vinny, I’m going to take Brune out for a moment.” the nurse announced with a flick of her long, reptilian tail.

Dr. Phaedrus fought to keep his soles from dragging down the empty hall. The morning in which he had felt so oddly serene seemed a lifetime away. For the first time in a long time, it dawned on him that he couldn’t remember his last decent nights sleep.
Since the moment he had decided not to meet up with Dr. Molckenhoff- his entire day seemed to have backlashed into his face like karma. He had been struggling to keep patients from the showers calm after the unfortunate surprise leak that morning, and had acquired a bloody nose in the process. His usually well kept appearance had cracked.

Ahead he spotted Brune and a porcelain nurse stepping out into the hall. Brune had spotted him immediately, and she immediately dashed forward- her striped wings flared out, and scales flew behind her like snowflakes.

“Brune!” came a cry of surprise as the moth girl flung her arms around the psychiatrist’s middle.

“Miss… Dyrocundra-” the strength of her grip genuinely surprised him. He looked up to see the nurse hustling forth. Her doll-like eyes flung wide with surprise, and a little fear.

“I’m so sorry, we where just heading off to the restroom. Brune, please let go of Dr. Phaedrus, he’s had a very long day.” The moth only hugged him closer, burying her face into his soiled uniform.

“If she is being this difficult I’ll escort her with you.” Phaedrus huffed. Like most of the staff at Schmerzen, she didn’t really like the psychiatry director, was even a little afraid of him. The moth’s head was still bent towards the floor, clinging to Phaedrus’s arm. She knew that Brune preferred Phaedrus for some reason, above other staff, but this close physical contact was very unusual.

The body that had once been Kaji’s exhaled loosely and bits of dust and feathers flew across the distance to the dancing chartreuse fire that illuminated his twisted-meat face. He didn’t say anything. 

Jaciam hissed at him, suddenly growing desperately afraid. Is this what Brune’s hallucinatory world was supposed to be? Or had she wandered entirely off the plane? 

“Where am I?” she asked, and she could not stop a shiver of fear from entering her voice. The terrible throught crossed her mind that she had left her body for so long that it had stopped functioning, stopped beating, and that she had died. If she was dead… was this where she was supposed to be going? To meet her carcass of a brother? 

“And who’s to say it’s not?” he said in a voice that was far too deep. It no longer had that air of familiarity. It was cold and wretched and entirely inhuman. 

“Who’s to say it’s not what?” Jaciam asked, and her voice was as weak as a whisper. 

“Hell.” In one jerky, sudden movement, Kaji’s body stood up. A puppet on a marionnette’s string. He twitched forward as if he were walking backwards jerkily with the film on rewind. He moved toward her with all the spastic movements of a dying wasp. The flame parted ways for him as he shuddered and convulsed towards her. She could smell his burning flesh stinging her nares. With growing horror, she saw that the part of his face that had been torn away was covered in glittering, crawling beetles that made a continuous noise of skittering clicking. The light flashed across their black carapaces like a rolling, disorganized way. 

“This… isn’t…” she breathed silently, and she suddenly felt as if she had no air left in her lungs. She stepped backwards away from him. “You’re not my brother. This house is dead…” 

Kaji didn’t speak, but she heard a voice arch across the sky, impossibly deep. The sound of falling when the pictures are moving… dead… in… time… 

She stepped back again, trembling, tripping over herself so that she landed on her wings with a painful tear in her muscles that shivered like ice up her spine. “This isn’t real, this isn’t hell, this is just another dimension, I’m not even breathing now with this fallen idol—“ 

One of Kaji’s arms fell with a wet flump into the fire, which curled hungrily around it as smoke flared into the sky and the acrid smell of burned flesh stung her nares. Ashes fell from the hungry sky and settled around his diseased face. 

~~~ 

Shyah and Wickett each stared limply at the charred electronics that sizzled before them. Ash from its broken body lay scattered on the floor, like dust from a tombstone. In unison, they stared at each other without expression. They almost seemed like two halves of the same person then. 

Shyah’s face whipped towards the origin of that sudden, murmuring voice that had spoken mysterious gibberish. Wickett was slower to follow, and he wore a mask of apathy. Without hesitating, or even glancing toward the three members of their party that remained, Shyah padded down the hall to follow its beckoning call. 

Shyah never spoke and although she still sometimes thought in language, remnants of previously symbolized verbal communication she used when she was a child, she primarily thought in flashes of images and wordless stories in her head. As she approached that red light that limned the walls with a soft and lonely haze, Shyah’s head began to tell her some very, very strange things.

There had been a terrible accident; the violent noises of stabbing knives, scissoring needles, blood spattering the walls. No one screamed; neither made a sound but for the breath in her own ears. When quiet thick with dread ensued, there was a steady drip of liquid to the floor. The echo filled the room with claustrophobic horror. Too terrified to look. No one had ever meant for this to happen. 

Her eyes fell numbly and without words upon the catastrophic scene. An arctic fox that looked identical to her lay enshrouded in mute silence, bright black blood painting her clothes. Lacerations had been casually carved into her living flesh, gashes like grisly abysses, parting her skin like repugnant ripples in the sea. Both of her arms had been sheared off, landing with dull thuds and dreadful immobility on the cement ground. Her Other’s eyes were like black holes of nothing, stabbed into pieces of dead meat, weeping a dark fluid. The mouth had been half soldered shut, a tiny hole the sole evidence that a mouth had ever been there at all. 

The only sound was the steady dripping of blood from the metal table to the floor and the heavy, labored breaths emanating from her Other. Her chest rose in pained bursts. 

A faceless someone wrapped in strips of bandages what had once been her twin but now was only a piece of diseased meat. It took many, many layers for the thick blood to stop soaking red through the stark white, but no matter how many layers of the gauze was wrapped around the thing, she could still see Her chest rising and falling with struggling breaths.

The sphinx with the upside down face fanned her wings wide, the feathers angled around him like a cage, but he could still see the surrounding green eyes peering between the gaps of the feathers, forever watchful.

“Don’t you remember me?” she whispered, and he might have preferred that she had shouted at him, because her voice was thick and soft, laced with sadness, a perfumed seduction that twisted his brain around in his skull.

“I- remember…”

“I was beginning to think that you have forgotten about us.”

“I… never forget.” Said Nox

“Did you see the hole that you made?” asked the sphinx, and when Nox looked at her again, he saw that her chest was an open cavity, a heart shaped hole where her breastbone should have been. He could see right through to the other side, and he saw green eyes peering back at him, curiously. Oh why? Why would she give it away like that?

“Did you expect a hero’s welcome?”

“I don’t expect anything.” Said Nox. Lies… (said the eyes at once) His ears flattened against his skull. The twisted version of his sister drew him close, and when she spoke to him her tongue sounded strange, beautiful and senseless, and Nox could only watch her, eyes dazzled, whispers clicking, lights spinning.

“Didn’t you know that I tried to follow you?” She had tried to follow him…

Something within Nox was stirring, like an animal and building up through his blood for a long time, and finally it had reached its limit and possessed him fully. He gazed at his strange sister with her empty chest… a chest where her daughter had died, where her lovers had scorned her, and where his poison had infected it. Words that been lying dormant inside of him sprang to his lips of their own accord.

“I couldn’t see you… through the veil of green eyes, eyes that never belonged to me. I was very wrong Kate. I was never strong enough to face things like you.”

“I run because I am proud. I run because I’m haunted, I’m hunted and because I am insatiable and fearful. I run because I love too hard, and because if I break, I will become something I was never meant to be. You have faced these challenges and have been beaten- but you carry on because you love to live- and you have something to live for. I have never been broken in such a way- and in the process I have broken myself. I have shunned pain and so I have become meaningless.

I am a flawed thing. I have what one might call the human condition. Death disturbs me, and so it haunts me. Our family is cursed with skulls and bones, and it has driven me away because I do not wish to face their crimes, because I cannot stand the sight of pain it burns me so.
That is why I left. That is why I have cut my own path, lost my name. That is why I cannot remember anything… and that is why I’m here. I am ashamed to be the son of murderers. I will no longer fight someone else’s war. It’s inner battles that I must contend with now, but I’ll be there for those who do not need a marionette of convention.

I’ve left them behind, like so many others. I’m sure it isn’t right; but I must move on from my sickness. I need to let go of something go in order to behold something new, something that is just out of my reach. I cannot stop when I’m so far in, I have to find what I’m looking for… so I must say good bye, good bye for now and take my heart for your one that has been destroyed. Go.”

When he was done speaking, he kissed his sisters burning forehead and closed his eyes.

He didn’t know for how long he had been standing there by himself, but when he opened his eyes again he was alone. In fact, everything around him was now absent. Vague red shapes surrounded him, with feathered edges that vibrated, that pulsed in their obscurity. The sky and sea now looked one of the same, the distant fire in the sky where now broad, frosted lines of light that vibrated so much they almost created their own white noise.

He blinked. He was carrying a pair of eyes, where they his old ones? The ones that had melted in the mirror back at the Institution? No…
No they where not his.
They where turquoise blue.
They where Jaciam’s eyes, the ones that had been taken from her.

There was new energy inside of him, or rather, there was an absence of another element. It was as if something very heavy was pulled from his chest and the ache was now pushed aside, overcome by a more powerful emotion. His heart was now beating in his sisters chest… wherever she was. His thoughts where consumed by violet gryphons, felines, foxes and insects. He felt stunned of how he had managed to neglect them. They where mere ghosts in this world, they couldn’t afford to separate from each other and yet it had happened.

His long legs stretched like elastic. Gravity and friction didn’t apply to him in this vague world of colors and shapes. His strides became fast and furious, and his glow, gaudy and strange glanced sharply off the world of red. It would be a long climb, but he hungered for it, he hungered for the very top, and it was as urgent he reach there as quickly as he could. It was as if he where riding the wave of his stream of consciousness. The energy and ideas that he had created where newborn, and he must run with them, protect them before he doubted himself- if he let them sit out in the open for too long they would shrivel and die and he would be back where he had started. As long as he could still believe that he could reach the window he could.

======

Byrd was watching the white fox continue on ahead. Brune clung to the points of her guardian’s sharp, talon like fingers, peering through them like bars. The red light was lancing off of both of them in curious ways, making Shyah’s slight frame appear lithe as a skeleton. Byrd took Wickett’s wrist to lead him forward, click clacking her way across the spiders that Shyah dropped behind her in her wake like a trail of breadcrumbs. The red light around them seemed to be taking on a playfulness, like little light figures on the wall, revolving. It reminded Brune of the light shades that where in her room that she was little, casting shadows of mystic things on the wall. She tried to make out the symbols and figures, they looked primitive, some of them where just scribbles, Picasso faces, skewed eyes and noses, masks.

A voice seemed to be speaking these sounds, undulating like an old wax recording, distorted to the point to where she couldn’t make out what was being said. It sounded like the Catman… but, she knew it wasn’t the Catman… perhaps it was his imprint that he left behind. Brune wondered at it, and the more she thought about it, the more it became clear. It never was supposed to make sense that she knew of it, because that wasn’t the point. Like lorem ipsum, the old language that was forgotten and only ever considered gibberish by the new age… or perhaps like Dada poetry. It was the way the words rolled off the tongue, the way that the tones and clicks affected the spirit and body that mattered. The Catman, she decided, took a phonetic stand to the world, a different perspective.

And the more she listened and looked at the phantom images crawling over the walls, the more Brune began to piece together the story that was being told.

It was Shyah’s story…

It was so full of violence that for a moment the moth ducked her head, curled into a ball to hide herself from them. She couldn’t hide from the whispers however, that found her antennae and vibrated them with ideas of sawed off limbs, endless pits for eyes and cold, metal instruments.

The light now was coming into the form of something a figure that stood in the middle of a distant open chamber. It seemed to be a canine with long limbs and ears that trailed off into ribbons of light. He had no skin, his entire body could be seen a brilliant roadmap of glowing veins, a heart gently beating. He glowed red, the light from him spanning across the floor, domed ceiling and walls with various doors. He was frozen in place, projecting Shyah’s story impassively… though he would tell anyone’s story if they came close.

Advok. Brune muttered, recognizing her oldest friend, the storyteller… and suddenly she began to cry. Her sobs where silent, for she was too small to be heard

Something is wrong… he wasn’t supposed to be here, not her old friend.

In silence, Byrd’s feathers began to flake away, like chipped paint. They fell to the floor, and little by little, she was beginning to disappear. The dissolving Byrd looked at Wickett to whom she still held hands with, her expression somewhat surprised. There was no empathy to be gained from the feline, but perhaps a request

Where are they going?! Where are they GOING? WHO is taking them? Brune was mouthing in a silent fit of screams Stay- stay stay!

Byrd spread open Wickett’s hand and placed the insect within his palm. She still held his hand there until she had dissolved down her neck, shoulders, then down her legs, until she was nothing but a pile of pink fluff and toe nails scattered on the floor. Brune trembled, holding her wings together like a cloak, staring at the spot where her friend had once been.

=======

“What’s wrong Brune? Do you still need to use the restroom?”

“Look at her eyes.”

The nurse was startled to hear Dr. Phaedrus’s speak so softly. They where standing together at the restroom, Dr. Phaedrus was staring at Brune with more concern that she would have never guessed had been possible to be seen on his face.

“For gods sake look at her eyes.” the nurse flinched nervously

“Brune, let me see your face.” the moth seemed unmoved until she gently tilted her face upward.
The moth’s pupils where huge- she had NEVER seen anyone with pupils that large, they had spanned to almost across Brune’s entire optic, pushing out almost all traces of pink. It looked like Brune’s entire eye had been stained black.

“Her-pupils- they…” she glanced briefly at Phaedrus, who was simply staring at her, bereft.

“We need to get her to the infirmary.” he said shortly, to which she immediately replied “yes”, but her muscles couldn’t be commanded. She couldn’t tear her gaze away from Brune’s alien eyes for more than a second.

“Do you know where the nothing dimension is?” the moth said. Her voice was strange, it was pinched, narrow, as if she where speaking with a glass cup suctioned over her mouth.

“It’s the tomb, womb, and everything in-between. It is the gateway to the to the threshold of the overwhelming void. The Catman, can approach us in an alternate dimension that lies next to our own, until he is right next to the spot where we would be … when he is close enough to touch us will he appear on our plane. It’s so clever, we never see it coming.”

All three of them where quiet enough to hear the indistinct laughter of the audience in the cafeteria. It seemed so far away now, miles away. The hum of the walls seemed to be singing a hymn. When the nurse looked at Dr. Phaedrus, she saw the hair on his neck had prickled.

Something came that was soft and vague… almost like a wet sponge being dropped unto the floor. Both the nurse and Phaedrus looked up wordlessly toward it. It came from around the turn of the corner at the end of the hall. It continued at a consistent rhythm, and grew louder. Something had appeared on the ground at the end of the hall. It was bright red, like paint. The sound had stopped.

There where foot prints standing there.

Foot prints.
There where foot prints standing there and nothing else.

Slavord looked over at Phaedrus, her mouth open but no words. He was looking at the end of the hall, a strange, hallow look had inhibited him. Dr. Phaedrus had a preset list of reactions he used to respond to situations… nowhere on his list was there a situation like this.

The distant audience in the cafeteria laughed again.

Splack.

Splack.

Another footprint appeared in the hall, closer than the first pair. After a moment, another footprint appeared.

“Where is your doll Dr. Wolf?” Brune whispered. The ermine was verbally unresponsive, With a robotic movement he reached into his pocket and withdrew the small voodoo doll that the moth had crafted for him earlier that same day. Dark eyed Brune studied it and then took it from him, and with one movement ripped it in half.

The footprints suddenly broke out into a charge. Before the nurse could move, or even think of making a sound a flash of yellow and pink danced before her eyes, The moth had attacked the nurse hard in the face. Ears ringing, vision blackening- All she could make out in her whirling vision was Dr. Phaedrus’s face as he was being dragged down the hall on his stomach, behind him something wild blurred long, lithe, there not quite there, legs and arms that where as tall as the ceiling and black and vibrose, with a neck long body numb ideals with shards of white

blank pieces of white paper

Bloody pieces paper-

The skeletal shell of Kaji’s broken body continued to hobble crookedly toward Jaciam. The places that were torn into strings of dried sinew and muscle were cast into sharp relief by the fire, and the smell of burning flesh curled nauseatingly in the air with twisting wisps of salted meat smoke. 

Jaciam no longer had anything to say to him, and no longer had anything she wanted to hear. Her fear began to bleed into the ground, as if she had suddenly developed pencil thick holes in her back that it slowly dripped from; a leaky glass. 

Despite the twinging pain in her wing that bolted sharply from her torn muscle to her back and up her cervical spine, Jaciam rolled to her side and pushed herself up to her feet. They had suddenly grown strong, as if she had laid down roots into the green-limned soil. When he was several inches from her face, her brother’s corpse stopped and merely stood, his entire body shuddering and trembling. The beetles’ shiny carapaces twitched and flitted green flashes of light, like a rolling wave of scarabs. The acrid smell of rotting, burning flesh made her stomach twist and churn, stinging her nares with wild abandon. 

She put her hands up to his face, touching the surfaces of the shining beetle layer. They felt hard and cold under her frozen hands. He didn’t move. 

She pushed further; her hands made contact with his face and began to sink deep into his flesh. The skin and muscle parted ways for her hands like soft butter. The twisted, broken piece of broken that constituted his beak shifted to the side messily. He looked nothing like his former self. 

His soft tissue turned a silvery green and her hands began glowing with a soft luminescence. The glow traveled slowly up to her elbows. She got the vague feeling that something terribly important was happening, but she did not know what it was. Her brother’s flesh began to twist and melt, malleable and bubbling. It sunk into her own skin, absorbed into her own corpse-like, alien arms. His mass slowly shrunk and the boundaries between them became porous, permeable. They pressed into each other. They began melding into each other. 

Strip the soul. Fill the hole. 

Why did you do it? she wondered quietly, filled suddenly with a kind of quiet, broken despair that tasted like ash. 

… I had nothing to come home to. Nothing. Nothing. Nothiiiiinnnggg… the last broken, disembodied thought dissipated into the space between them like a burnt log falling into itself with a shower of sparks. 

There was a tightening around her throat and chest, like something compressing it—her eyes felt sudden pressure that screamed with pain—and then it was done. Not a feather, not a piece of rotting muscle left behind. She had completely absorbed his body into herself… everything but the broken, burning arm that had fallen into the fire. It had already been swallowed by the heat and rendered into useless, black carbon. 

She felt strong she felt herself she was located right where she was supposed to be, her arms felt real there was nothing left to this alien, dead feeling of her limbs. 

The fire grew a searing, toxic green that filled the whole sky and then it suddenly blew out like a candle. There was nothing left. All was silent, all was dark and unseeing with the bone trees around her staring at her like silent, condemning witnesses. 

Jaciam inhaled, her lungs bursting with renewed power. There was a cold presence to her left. She could not see it. She felt it. It was The Doppler. 

In her mind’s eye, she imagined how The Doppler must look standing there, staring at her with her empty, half-pomegranate eyes gaping in that huge, cat-like skull. The body the head rested on would be desiccated, shriveled grey skin stretched thin over a jutting skeleton. Curved incisors poised over her bottom jaw like a scissoring beak. 

She spoke. 

Do you want to know what I go home to, Jaciam Katiyen? 

In the wake of that harsh, hissing voice that bled across the space between then, there was an empty silence, the kind of silence that feels limp yet tight at the same time, the tautness found in the laxity of a dream. Jaciam could not breath. 

I came home to bruised hands and broken laughs and sociopathic smiles and blood in your wallet. 

Jaciam turned her sightless face towards the Doppler. 

“All I came home to was a dead brother and a dying mother and an alien body and no eyes left to mourn them with,” she whispered with a feral violence. 

Jaciam’s wing’s sprung open, huge and powerful, like a prehistoric bird of prey. The tissue in her wing had healed, and her muscles rippled under the feathered skin. She bent her legs and launched into the air with a forceful spring. The bone trees shook around her as she flapped fiercely, growing higher and higher in the air, leaving the Doppler behind. She had not flown in months and she knew that it was physically impossible to become airborn that way, but the newborn wings she had made it somehow possible in this slippery dreamspace. 

She had to find her brother.

~ ~ ~

WickitshyWickett stared impassively at the dissolving hallucination, as if she were folding in on herself in a pile of ashen feathers, a nuclear holocaust tearing her from the inside out. He cupped his hand below the tiny, newborn moth that had been entrusted to him, fingers limply curling upwards. Now it was only the three; the hallucinations’ existence had not been feasible in this world. 

Shyah seemed oblivious to the dissolution of their last defender. She crawled forward, eyes fixated on the walls. They were burning, burning. Fire had spread terribly through the crackling building and the smoke billowed with deadly toxicity in the air. 

No one could see the fire but Shyah, but she felt it in her vibrating bones. 

She knew the storyteller was there, telling her awful story, hearing it unfold in the metaphor. Scissoring, terrible violence that had rendered a person into a bloodied piece of meat. It had never really happened. It had happened in her head… so of course it had happened, but not by any version of consensual realty. She had seen it in her dreams. Over and over. The violent murder of her self. 

“Fire everywhere!” Shyah suddenly screamed, the first words she had uttered in years. “FIRE. MY GOD GET THESE WORDS OUT OF ME GET THEM OUT GET THEM OUT THEY ARE POISONOUS TOXIC THEY WILL KILL EVERYONE.” 

She opened her mouth wide, ripping her lips apart as the stitches pulled through her flesh. Her mouth bleeding and her lips in bloody strips, she screamed. It was a violent, terrible scream, the kind made by dying animals, the kind made by mothers watching their children die. It was a horrible scream, meant for no person and no human cause. An inhuman scream, a scream that lasts forever. 

Blood dripped steadily from her lips, ripped into shockingly red strips. 

As the scream rent through the hallways, curling the wallpaper toward the ceiling, Shyah reached past the twisted ribs that extruded from her chest, into the blackened cavity inside her. She ripped out fistfuls of spiders, throwing them as far from her as she could, throwing them over and over as if she wanted to extract something too horrible for words from her body. Although the scream still echoed vivid and raw in the air, her breath faded into ragged panting. 

“I wished it, I wished it so hard.” The spiders twisted and morphed in the air as they were thrown—they melded together, spindly legs growing and forming words. 

I WISHED HE WAS DEAD. 

“And then he was…” Shyah screamed again, a drawn-out wail, as the image of a burnt charcoal body appeared before the luminescent form of the storyteller. The scarlet cast bleeding into the hall reflected off the glossy surfaces of the burned carbon flesh. The body was unrecognizable as anything that had ever once lived. As it lay there amid the flames in Shyah’s head, its face fell in on itself with a soft flump of dead protein and a pathetic squeak of charcoal rubbing against itself. 

The spiders crawled over each other again as an eerie sound rose and fell in the distance, barely audible. It was the steady, rhythmic squeaking of bed boards and the mute scream of a little girl. 

The spiders formed spindly, leggy words. 

I WILL NEVER SPEAK AGAIN.
~ ~ ~

loik

Dr. Liok had to stay late that night. He was finishing writing a diagnostic evaluation on yellowed parchment. He had already called his wife several hours ago, and she had acknowledged the necessity of his stay with part amusement, part exasperation, and part sympathy. His office was cold and quiet. 

Throughout the night, he had the strangest sensation of being watched. Several times he had to surreptitiously glance over his shoulder to ensure that no one was standing in the corner with their eyes fixed on him. Even upon realizing that no one was there, he could not shake the feeling of wariness that made the fur on the back of his neck stand on end. 

Three or four times that night, his desk phone had rung and each time he picked up the receiver with increasing trepidation, as the only thing on the other line was a strange sizzling crackle. At first he assured himself that the phone lines were not completely recovered from the violent storm the previous night, but he almost thought he could hear a laughing whisper in between the crackling. A whisper that seemed to say his name before Dr. Liok replaced the receiver with a slam. 

Dr. Liok was finishing the clinical assessment portion of the diagnostic when he regained a sense of sudden awareness. He realized that he had been unfocused for the last portion of time (he looked at the clock… with a sudden lurch he calculated that he had been staring into the distance hazily for the last quarter of an hour…). He began to have a growing sense of wrongness, that something very twisted was going on. Glancing down at the page he had been writing on, illuminated softly by the golden light of his lamp, his hands began to shake. 

The entire sheet of paper was covered in angry black ink, spotted and marred. There was a black shape that had been scratched over his penmanship—a shape that looked oddly like an inhuman figure bent over. All around the figure were words carved violently and expansively into the page. Strip the soul. Fill the hole. 

Dr. Liok’s heart began to pound with fear, and then something seemed to break in his mind, and he was filled with a sudden sense of horrible wrongness, of the uncanny, as if something had violated the fabric of what was supposed to be real and what was supposed to be a dream. 

Without knowing precisely what he was doing, Dr. Liok stood up, his chair falling to the floor behind him, and he began running in the direction of the cafeteria

Brune watched in terror as the story continued to drip across the walls like glowing wax. The inscriptions twisted and contorted into Shyah’s thoughts, dreams. The moth convulsed, tears streaming down her round, plump cheeks. Her eyes felt like they where growing larger and larger, unable to contain her horror. Her face was pinched together, the expression of a shocked child. She was afraid to know the ending to Shyah’s story, which spun faster and faster on the walls like an out of control carnival ride, but she couldn’t tell her to stop.
This is real. This is what happens to real people. Real people, not the nasty tricks that your brain plays on you. Advok the storyteller was as impassive as Wicket during this storm of glowing red. He remained unblinking even as the primal scream rattled the Institution, causing its foundations to buckle. Rust peeled away like scales, walls began to dissolve, lights burst and fell to the floor.

Fire in the walls.
She could feel it, the scream, and the heat of the flames; they became her. Poor Shyah. Poor poor Shyah. Brune closed her eyes and tried to shut it out, to shut out those inhuman screams that burned her antennae and scorched her brain. There was another dimension inside of her eyelids. The Cat Man seemed to be lending her his eyes. She could see fragments of this other dimension beyond the veins of her lid, which looked like the spidery branches of trees. It was like a silent movie, because she couldn’t hear anything from this other dimension, her head was still filled with the scream of an arctic fox.
She imagined that she was standing in a hallway and looking down at the body of a woman who was collapsed on the floor. There was also a doll on the ground, torn in two on either side of her.
The hallway suddenly went dark. The lights had flickered off, plunging the hallway into shades of cool blues, but golden light bloomed from small fires in the hall, their small lights looming ominously up the walls. The fire had arisen from the footprints that the Cat Man had made, the red water had a lover of fire.
It’s Shyah’s fire, thought Brune. She looked down at her hands, and found that she was holding a lighter, perhaps taken from the nurse, she could not remember where she had gotten it. A small flame danced there, like a tiny needlepoint. Her fire must be spread. Everyone must see her story, and feel her pain. Brune moved the little flame to the fringe of her sundress, and watched as the flame jumped to the fabric, eating at it hungrily, leaping up the polyester, smoke curling into her face, bringing tears. When she looked up, she saw someone running in her direction at the end of the hall, but couldn’t make him out through the heat and smoke.

firebrune
“My incandescence will be the messenger of her pain.” She said, as if to explain her actions, but couldn’t hear her own voice, she could only hope it could be heard. The flames met her antennae, and the hundreds of delicate microfibers ignited in sparks, and still Brune stood, crying, and sedate and disconnected from the pain that it should have brought her. She wondered if the sprinkler system would turn on before she turned to ash, spraying the hall with the red water from Cat Man’s red river that now polluted the Schmerzen asylum. Surely then, the entire hallway would erupt into flames.
It suddenly made sense, why the red water was moving, why the Cat Man decided to move between dimensions like Pullmans Subtle Knife; he wanted something more.

He wanted the Nothing Dimension, the Institution to appear into the Schmerzen. Brune had allowed it to happen.

She was the one who could open portals, and she had opened one up for him.

Now as Shyah’s fire was now spreading, so did the grip of the Cat Man on their world.

Brune opened her eyes again and found herself still balanced within Wickets palm. She nestled into the grooves of his skin, and up at his sabered teeth with empty eyes.

You can’t leave me

Loki’s hair was like long black cobwebs. He could see it rippling over his head like an ominous storm, he saw it weaving beyond the curtains of colors like inky cracks, trying to dig into his subconscious. They struggled, and pushed against his train of thought, and he could hear their hissing whispers. Like spilt ink, the ribbons of black criss cross over the red sky, but it couldn’t block out the fire that had been burning there. The light came plummeting down with screaming tails of falling stars. For an instant he thought of Ashes of the Late World, how it was a world of collapsing color. Now the storm came in earnest, raining flames that eddied around his sides, their noise horrific, pummeling him forward. The light was draining out of this world; he saw it as it sailed beneath his paws into the deep chasm he ran over, into another place to burn.

You can’t leave here, I won’t let you

Loki’s world was shifting, spiraling downward, as the blackness of Loki’s hair enveloped him her mewling became distant, and more fervent. The farther he ran, the more distorted her voice sounded, stretched to reach him until it merely wailed like strangled cat.

IWON’TLETYOUIWON’TLETYOU

The world around him was trembling with a rising emotion. The scream of Loki was gone, replaced by another scream, still distant. It was the yammer of a fox. He couldn’t see beyond this forest of ink, and it was impossible to discern its direction. He could only hear noises it as if they where coming from the other side of a labyrinth, muffled and hopelessly distorted beyond recognition.
He could feel that his sister was close; because there was rhythmic pulse that he felt …. a wing beat, or heartbeat.

His insides burned, and his fur smoldered with a toxic phantom glow that left a trail of noxiousness behind him. He had never felt quite this way. He had never found such an intense magnetic pull, almost a blind desire to find her, that it overflowed him. He could see naught his own glow.

“Kate-“ he began- but when he said it fell awkwardly from his lips. Kate wasn’t her real name- and he knew it. She deserved her own identity, as they all did, but he couldn’t remember it- they had all given so much of themselves away in order to come here, he wasn’t sure what was now left.

“You sold your eyes to come here,” Nox’s voice rumbled with compassion, and he felt those alien optics in his head pin, as if knowing they didn’t belong there “What have you seen that has caused you follow me into the dark… without question. You played the games, though you knew they would go wrong… and all a while I’ve been blind to you. I have hardly been a good friend to you. Now it is the only thing I can think of.”

===

Hobbs had been dozing off in his chair. It had been a rather quiet evening, and he had been bathing in the dull light cast by the new security screens. He knew that an odd noise had awoken him, when he woke up, half of the screens where offline with static.

The rabits initial thoughts was the keen disappointment of Dr. Phaedrus when he discovered that his new security system was defective. That sentiment soon faded as something on one of the working screens caught his attention.

Each camera panned down a different corridor, he could see Dr. Loik running down one of them. The next thing that he noticed that there where little black smudges on the screen, footprints, he realized, where everywhere down the hall. They led towards the direction of the cafeteria, where Dr. Loik was currently heading, the screen for that particular camera was defunct as the others. The footprints where everywhere, on the floor, and the walls, and even the ceiling of the hallway. He couldn’t tell from which direction that they had originated from, because so many of the cameras where off the line.
Someone was standing in the hall just outside the office, just beyond the door next to him. When he saw it on the camera, he wasn’t sure what to make of it, because he could identify any features of the figure. He strained to make out features in the pixalated projection, it was tall, and incredibly thin, it stood perfectly still, staring into the wired glass of the door and into the room which he sat.

Hobbs looked out, expecting a face to be staring back at him, but there was no one there. When he looked back at the screen, the figure was gone, but something else had also changed. The black smudges that he had seen on the walls, the floors, the ceiling where now glowing white.

That was the glow of a fire!

“Good …. god!”

Reacting instinctively, the elderly rabbit rose to his feet, knocking over his chair and tripping over his long ears. He stumbled over to a fire extinguisher hung the wall, just as the rest of lights in Schmerzen flickered off. Right on cue, the fire alarm bleared with a sound that was far too large for its little speakers. Its little flashing warning light looked like a strobe set off in a haunted house.

Dr. Liok, who always walked with a limp, pounded madly down the corridor towards the cafeteria. The usual sharp ache in his leg was all but forgotten as he tore through the space. Already he could smell the curling scent of something burning in his nostrils. Strangely, he felt no surprise nor fear, even as he spun into an intersection of two hallways, fire bleeding from strange patches along the floor everywhere around him. His sense of time began to slow and he felt a preternatural calm flood his brain like a slow drip that anesthetized terror. There was something on fire in the center of the hall, and Dr. Liok detected the sharp smell of burning protein twisting bitterly in his nostrils. His sense of smell seemed to have sharpened with this peritraumatic animal defense that coursed through his nervous system. 

He stepped towards the swirling, burning figure, and realized with a caustic twist in his stomach that it was Brune. He shouted an incoherent cry just as the sprinkler system sprung on, droplets of water flinging through the air. Dr. Liok had not even noticed the piercing sound of the fire alarm. It seemed something had taken him over, something that felt no pain and knew precisely what to do. Dr. Liok ripped off of his laboratory coat that had hung limply over a blue striped button-up shirt, flinging it around Brune’s flaming shape. Her body was taut and rigid under his embrace, but he slapped roughly at the fire covering her body, smothering it into nothingness. 

“Brune!” he shouted at her, staring into her eyes as black as the starless night sky. There was something terribly wrong with her eyes. “Brune! Are you okay!?! We need to get you to an infirmary NOW!” Without waiting for a response, Dr. Liok lifted her frail up into his arms and began to stagger towards the infirmary. Water began to course down his face and hair, and he could barely see through the halls with the billowing steam and smoke that intermingled with what seemed like rain pouring from the ceiling. Somewhere in the distance someone was screaming.

– – –

Shyah sank to her knees in a puddle of spiders, which skittered away into the fire, each evaporating with a small hiss and a pop. She covered her mouth with her hand, which instantly was stained red with the bleeding strips of flesh that hung from her face. They used to be lips. She would never speak again. And still the fires around her spun with a kind of fantastic life of their own, feeding off of the confusion and despair that permeated the group. 

They all seemed to have forgotten what they came for. 

Shyah pushed herself to her feet with her bloody hands as Wickett hobbled towards her, shrunken and depressed. He looked towards the storyteller, the light around the skinless canine crimson with fierce energy. She seemed to have lost the use of one of her feet as she limped forward towards him, dragging a useless leg behind her. 

WHO ARE YOU? The spiders knit into words in the air as she threw them from her chest cavity into the silent, crackling space between them. WHO ARE YOU AND CAN YOU TELL US THE STORY OF THE EYELESS CAT NAMED LOKI.

Kozz commission

Jaciam heard a feathery whisper brush in her head; at first she thought something had glided against the tip of her feathery, tufted ear, but she soon realized that it came from no source that was in any sense of physical promixity. Kate… it whispered achingly, a sound like a draping silk scarf slipping over dead, rustling leaves. 

The sky she tore through was burning with a kind of darkness that seemed alive, pulsating, watching her. It knew she was alien; it did not know quite what to make of her presence here. She was an extra jigsaw piece that had come from an entirely different puzzle. Jaciam glided over slipping streams of warm, billowing air, letting them massage her gently upwards and down again, flapping every so often to maintain her height when the thermals were not working in her favor. The air was warm and sickly sweet here, fostered by an eldritch, raw energy that made it almost smell like a mixture of post-rainfall in the spring and long-unwashed bedsheets. 

She saw twisting flickers of light in the distance, like bright metal that twisted and slipped away from their place in the sky, dropping with the helpless force of gravity. It was from there that the rustling whisper had caressed her mind. 

As she got closer, she realized there was a twisting mass of black ribbon-like hair that pulsed like empty veins past the fire in the sky, fire that rained down and bled into the obsidean soil. “Nox!” she screamed plantaively as she flew into those writhing, worm-like appendages, and another distant scream countered hers, becoming louder and louder… it was shrill… so deafening now she could barely hear anything else… it was going to deafen her… she couldn’t make out the words… 

Jaciam’s wings faltered and she dropped out of the sky like a stone, twisting over herself as she screamed and twisted her hands around her feathered ears, trying to ring out that terrible, nameless shriek. She felt hands grabbing at her shirt, her clothes, trying to tear it off, trying to tear the flesh from her bones and covet it for itself… 

She didn’t even feel the ground as it rushed towards her and she fell into it with a sense of blinding pain and the horrifying crack of bone.

An avian shadow was fast approaching up ahead through the slivers of light through Loki’s hair. Strangely enough, the concept of Jaciam actually flying had never really crossed Nox’s mind, so for a moment he didn’t recognize her small figure balanced between two fantastically powerful pinions. In that moment she truly looked like miraculous gryphon in the old fables he had read. Then something happened, her body had twisted unnaturally, as if possessed by a fitful rage.

“JACIAM!” he screamed. Hot green embers spiraled from the force of his voice.

“GODDAMMIT GODDAMMIT!” He had never felt such a wild panic thrill up in his body as he watched her fall, his shriek burst from him like a flame of green- the boom of a gigantic feline. His fur was no longer glowing, he was on fire. His very pelt blazed and rippled with the pure energy of a green inferno. The wildfire had consumed him it had consumed everyone here.

“DON’T TAKE HER AWAY FROM ME! I WON’T LET YOU!”

IWONTLETYOUIWONTLETYOU Lokivu’s echo paralleled his own, it came from another world, like a dream. He could feel her emotion, and it and her fear was like his fear, and his panic felt like her panic, anger, pain, burning, love.

leave_me_alone_by_komical-d387amb

Nox flung himself down after his fallen friend, stretching his limber, feline form as far as it would go as if to reach her before she met the ground. As he went, he relinquished his fear with a feral scream he never knew had been trapped inside of him. It sounded insane, when had he become so insane?
Loki was somewhere beside him, ahead of him, behind him, he felt her rippling through the air like a ludicrous smog, snapping at his ankles like vipers. He caught glimpses of the thin bones of wings ripping through the air like scythes as they spiraled down together.

Down.
Down.

Until he heard a deep resounding crash of water, and the darkness of the deep ocean closed in over his head.

Drowning was the most painful way to die.

Nox stirred, and opened his weary eyes. He saw, nothing. When he stood he could still see nothing. ////where are you?//// His voice carried no weight, but the light that came from his open mouth and fur cast a small circumference of glow around him. The ground that he walked upon had no texture, no substance.

And then he saw the ruins of Jaciam splayed on the ground. Absurdly, she reminded him of a bird he’d seen fly into a windowpane. She was a graceful, perfect mess, with feathers hallowing around her body. He ran to her, snarling, crying before he reached her. He was too overcome to speak. He kept replaying his memory of the songbird that had rammed herself into the window, how he had tried to pick the creature up, to move it to a safer place. The bird had died in the palm of his hand- and he was afraid what would happen if he touched Jaciam like so- that she too would die. So instead he laid himself beside her as close as he could dare.

//Jaciam… Jaciam…//

It didn’t matter how many times he said her name correctly now.

Loki stood somewhere nearby. In the feeble glow of his light, only fragments of her could be seen, suspended in the darkness like pieces of a mobile on string. There was a suggestion of a cheek bone, the edge of her bat-like ear, her jutting ribcage, her crooked tail, her bulging, thick knuckles that hung heavily at her side.

Nox stared at her for a long time. He thought he would be angry, he thought that he would leap up and try to tear at her. Instead he felt numb- shocked, and stricken. She had done the impossible, she had defeated him. She had cracked him open, she had made him apologize, face his fear, and forced him through an emotional disaster that he had fought against for years. He could feel the light leaving him, dying. It was being swallowed up, eaten alive by the oppressive blackness that surrounded him. He was burying the pain, burying it down… down… down into the farthest place he could ever push it to go… push it right over the edge, erase it from existence.

<Don’t.>

Loki’s voice was so close it made him jump. She was so close that he could hear her rasping, her unimaginable insides creaking, shifting, her mouth bending like black, warm elastic with a sinuous noise like burning styrofoam. Her smile was going to fall right out of her face, sharp, pointed triangles suspended in the blackness dangling right in front of him.

///Why do you care?/// he forced the question out of pure exhaustion, he looked at her through a layer of tears eyes that ran freely, dripping with hissing steam as they settled on the black, texture less ground, painted only by bloody feathers.

Loki said nothing. She was so still, so quiet, and in the puzzled silence Noxoiuc Vanezio became quiet too.

There was no sound down here. The din of the fire, the screaming, it was all gone. He looked around; his low fire cast light on some textured surface. There was a tree going here, it seemed dead. It was hunched over like a clawed hand, its branches where twisted in an agonized sort of way- searching for the light that would never come. How had it even come to spawn here? It was so small, like a tiny barnacle in the abyss of the deep.

Nox listened, but he was looking at Jaciam- in her mangled state, her hair askew over her face. He was numb.

///She’s broken. You fucking /broke/ her- you bloody… written… thing./// The fiery words came spitting out, cracking, popping with each syllable.

<I’m broken too.>

Without even looking up, he knew that Loki had left him. Now, he hardly cared, his thoughts where consumed by something far greater.

///I won’t leave you here. I will not forget you.///

With some effort, the feline bent low pushed himself under the broken body before him. The rippling flame of fur did not scorch her feathers. Nox did not feel her weight on his back, only could feel the brush of wings on his sides and the sound of a trail being dragged. He didn’t know where he was going, but he couldn’t stay where he was. He began to walk on by the dead tree and gave it a passing look. His hind leg stumbled across its gnarled root.

Just when his mind had been almost put to a blank, a fleeting shadow darted across the vacancy in his brain. He stopped for a moment, and recognized a small floating mouse, something like a tadpole, or a sperm in a miniature rodent shape. It danced before him in the air like an eye floater; no matter where he turned his attention it followed the center of his pupil in mischievous delight. Whiquers, he had heard Brune call them before. It hung between his eyes, like a small, innocent beacon, oblivious to the oppressive powers surrounding them. Suddenly Nox remembered something; in the events that had played out in Ashes of the Late World that seemed very far away now, but he could recall when he and Jaciam had sat by the vivid bonfire minutes before they where to be married. One such creature had burrowed into his skin, it had become a part of him. Only now did it emerge again into the world, its nose twitched in a quizzical manner, and twirled away from his light, returning a moment later to stare with his beady eyes. It then finally settled by his feet.

There was a spider down there by his paws. He doubted he would have ever noticed it in the dark if hadn’t been for the Whiquer’s persistence. The creature danced around the perturbed arachnid until it scuttled off into the dark. Eager for another playmate, Whiquer darted off again, and Nox trotted after its playful squeaks. It wasn’t long before they happened upon another spider, and then another. Soon, there where many spiders scuttling about. The Whiquer pointed them out excitedly.

It was strange how something so small could instill a glimpse of hope. Ahead of him Nox could see a small crack in the darkness, like a red glow, blocked by ruins of man made things. He was heading right for it, following the trail of forgotten spiders of lost words. He knew it would eventually lead him to the others. They where fragments of Shyah’s words. He must be heading in the right direction. His trot quickly turned into a run, as he loped as quickly as he dared without spilling Jaciam from his back.

+++++++++

The hound turned its red gaze upon the limping, bloody fox as she came forward. His veins glowed steadily brighter, making him look like a roadmap of lava. He lifted his elegant, regal head and pointed his nose towards the ceiling. As the jaws parted, a vein crawled out from between his long, slender teeth, like a giant root, it branched out like a gigantic red tree. As it divided, it also formed words between its branches.

I am identified as Advok.
Descriptive Paragraph: I was the first to live and die in this place.
It was here that my skin was taken from me.
It is my blood that runs through the water of Institution.

More words danced on the walls, they twisted into iconographic storyline. Now the room was filled with only hues of black and red, its shadows and lights crawling over the contours and con vexes of Shyah, Wickett and the little insect. Now that the screaming was gone, the words moved slowly, like the gradual, destructive movement of lava, enclosing the figures in red light, completely entrapping them in Loki’s story in which they wished to hear.

The vein growing from the canines mouth continued to bloom until it pushed against the ceiling, crawling across it, snaking through the flames.

Subject’ file is corrupted. Attempting new approach. Redefining main subject; Schmerzen. Subject of question and Schmerzen are two alike. Definition of schmerzen- noun; pain. You know it by intention to heal tormented minds. This statement is false. This statement is false. This statement is false. Many bodies lay beneath the Institution in catacombs that are miles long. Noun: this place was once a cancer.
A Grim Star fell from the sky; it is undefined. Its shape twisted as it entered our halls, burning it, setting the cages on fire. The one who had infected this place, the good doctor destroyed Grim. Fact: cancer is mindless, it festered and remained even when the foundations of this building crumbled to ash, even when all those who had been freed had fled its empty shell. It trapped the fallen star inside its rotting corpse.
Fact: the pneuma, like all of us, remained because something had been taken away from them. The Grim collected the random, broken fragments of their code and subsumed them- meaning to set us free by providing her template, but the cancer overcame her- and her codex was destroyed. Missing file error 404. A black hole, the broken pieces that make her- missing error 404 the lack of identity make it become whatever anyone wants it to be. ID tags: Lokivu, the Cat Man, La Santa Meurte The Doppler. Encompass all identities but not the original carbon copy. It is what the good doctor Molckenhoff had always intended- Missing file error 404
Definition: Phaedrus. Noun- latin for Wolf
Definition: Nox. Noun- nitrous oxide. Latin- nominative case – vocative singular: Night

Who is she? Descriptive paragraph: The file has been corrupted and therefore lost. The coding error can be found in the earliest prototypes before corruption. The earliest prototypes are located beneath the Schmerzen. Noun. The Schmerzen sits above an unexplored graveyard on which you walk across- the catacombs stretch for miles beneath your feet. Adjective: it is undisturbed, and it is a prison. Fact: It will not remain hidden.

The hound was finished speaking. His veins covered much of the walls and the floor, snuffing out the fires. His pupils eyes turned, slowly, slowly to one of the walls, his head still thrust upward in his stance, it was clear he was straining to see in his peripheral view. A small, faint light had appeared in the corner where the fire had torn a hole in the wall. Smoke curled from it, and from the black pit, a pin prick of green light could be seen.

“The light.”

With a sudden jerk, the canine twisted himself away, repeatedly smashing his jaws together upon the tree that had sprouted from his throat. Blood spurted from the gashes as he continued to gnaw away, until he finally freed himself, like a rabbit from a snare- and he leapt through the air and into the air itself, leaving a streak of crimson frozen behind him. Only the torn legumes of Advok remained, hanging from the walls like vines.

++++

In the din of blearing speakers and the sprinklers, the staff had been trained for what to do in a fire emergency. Once every few months a drill was carried out, so that patients knew what to do in case the situation arose. Everyone was to file quickly and efficiently through the doors outside to the front courtyard as calm as hindu cows. Role call would be initiated and they would wait until local help arrived on the scene.

As the red water touched the fire, instead of being extinguished, the fires only roared up higher. Everywhere where red water had touched the floors or walls was like gasoline agent. The flames spread so quickly, that in less than a minute or so, half of the asylum was now burning with the combination of the mysterious red lighter fluid and inferno. Heat waves where distorting everything in the hallways. Smoke was drifting up in black columns, filling up the peaks of high ceilings.

The night shift guards where running to marshal vagrant patients that had wandered into the halls in confusion of the noise. Nurses and doctors where carefully escorting injured patients out of the infirmary, some wrapped in blankets, others laid across stretchers, clutching their own IV’s. It was here that Dr. Chuvez was helping the growing number of nurses that where out and about moving patients. He was escorting an elderly woman, keeping a blanket around her to protect her from the heat, so that only the edge of her equine mouth could be seen, and a few tentacles of her squid-like hair.

Oba caught sight of Dr. Loik loping in their direction and saw that he was carrying something in his arms. The African wild dog’s expression screwed up once he saw what it was. The young insect girl in his arms looked terrible, her antennae had been burned almost up to her face, her dress was reduced to mere shreds, a quarter of her lower wing was now gone, and much of her fur was singed. When her eyes met his, he could clearly see his frightened face staring back at her.

“We can’t stay inside,” he said hurriedly to the wolf “zis place is being evacuated! Help iz coming, someone called for it-!”

It was then that the asylums intercom crackled. A tune had started playing, it sounded like the orchestral theme for a carousel. Through the music, there seemed to be someone was also trying to speak through the intercom, but there voice was so low and distorted, it was impossible to hear what was actually being said. Coupled with the siren that was already blearing, another noise was beginning to rise nearby. Shouting, yelling, screaming and coughing all at once and growing steadily in volume as patients and doctors alike began to run down the hallways, the seriousness of their situation finally becoming imminent.

Jaciam was still alive. But only barely.
She heard words spilling in a dull murmur around her, and in her dizzy unconsciousness, she could not make anything of the familiarity or plaintive sorrow in those voices. They whispered to her, brushing past her tufted ears like the soft susurration of a cloak dragging over wet leaves, like the ripples at the bottom of a well after you have fallen deep into its black depths.
Strangely, she felt no pain. Her senses drifted wearily from the sibilant sighs of the words exchanged around her to a world that was being painted in her head.
Jaciam. Someone said to her. Jaciam.
She knew who it was, and part of her wished that her stubborn body would just give out. He was haunting her. He went from memory of vivacious laughter, visions of flesh and broken bone quivering at the bottom of a cliff, a haunting spectre with beetles scuttling over his flesh, to this simple, mournful voice speaking her name. Why wouldn’t he let her be? Why wouldn’t he just let her be?
Kaji wasn’t her brother anymore. He was a part of her but he wasn’t her brother. With his departure, he took her sense of vitality in life, her groundedness in her body, a feeling of self and not of an alien other. He cast her world into pale shadow. She hated him for it. She missed him. She hated him. She missed him so, so badly. And she was angry that he left her.
Nox filled something that he left. Jaciam knew now that the Doppler had changed their stories, knotted together their histories in a grim and twisted marriage, impossibly entangling their subjectivities so that neither of them knew what was right and what was dream. And Jaciam was glad for it. Nox needed her and she needed Nox. They made something right for each other. They gave each other something that had previously only been a void.
She was grateful for the Doppler and her twisted backward stories. She was grateful for her bloody written things.
A sense of melancholic, impossible gentle peace washed over her mind like a wave as Jaciam teetered somewhere between life and death… at least the kind of life and death as the Nothing Dimension would allow.
– – –
Shyah and Wickett watched, silent witnesses, as Advok’s story leeched from his jaws, halting and stopping, broken and incoherent narrative riddled with errors and false memory codes. There was so much that still did not make sense. But there seemed to be one thing that wove together the bitter story like an artery: catacombs, that graveyard stretched for miles beneath the institution. It was there that the original file would be found, the file that could recite to them the purpose of Loki.
Who was the owner of her story? Who had hidden her files away in that cancerous place? The good Dr. Molckenhoff? Was Loki a victim or was she a perpetrator of this place riddled with spells and bodies and broken minds?
Shyah stepped backwards in apparent surprise as Advok gnawed himself free from the base of the tree-artery before bounding away. The voice of the institution had spoken its riddles, and nothing had been answered but for the deepening mystery of what lay below the institution.
Wickett moved towards her with a limping shuffle, and placed his free hand on Shyah’s back. Her bare ribs glinted in the red light case by Advok’s story, twisted and broken free of her damaged chest like the plaintive branches of a tree stretching into the mindless sky. Her insides were hollow and cracked, black like scorched earth. Both Wickett and Shyah felt it at the same moment and they moved into each other, into that common space with old sadness bringing them tranquilizing nostalgia, going back to the same as always—a touch on the back, a look of shared voice, a feeling of keeping afloat against wind and tide.
She looked at him with eyes as black as pitch as the green light grew brighter, moving toward that tear in the wall.

doublefeature2
Dr. Liok clutched the moth girl closer to him, filled with a kind of paternal strength. His eyes roved over the hordes of patients being ushered through the halls, the air beginning to twist and waver with heat distortion. “We need to get everyone out of here! This place is—“
But all at once he stopped speaking and stepped backwards with a dizzy lurch. The music was playing, that wrenching, awry sound of carousel music that sounded almost as if it was delighted.
Part of him knew that music, and that was impossible. He was filled with the immutable knowledge that this place was sick. This place was cancerous, toxic. It was rotting from the inside out for generations, and no one had seen it. And now someone or something had come to reap its monstrous sense of justice.
There was something so familiar in this story that Dr. Liok experienced an impossible sense of deja vu. He somehow knew so that many lives and minds and bodies had been rendered apart here for the sake of research, for man’s impossible dream, for flying toward the sun on wax wings. History had repeated itself time and time again, dusty files filled with evidence of the dehumanized rendering of science. It had happened in waves, like the phases of the moon. They had all been borne as grim witnesses to this dissociated enactment, and none of them had realized it.
That knowledge permeated his being in one dreadful, beautiful moment as Dr. Liok realized that no one in this world would be able to help them now.
No one was coming. No one could save them. This institution was built eras ago, with no attention to safety features in the case of a disaster such as this. No amount of water would calm these fires, and still the crackling carousel music in this child’s dream continued to bleed from the walls of this doomed institution.

Nox was not anything special. He was a fleck of carbon matter whose fur happened to glow in the dark. He stood out. He was awkward. He couldn’t cry properly, he was proud, defensive, stubborn, secretive and spent the better part of his life wondering why he wasn’t happy. In the grand scheme of things, he wasn’t unique, he was just as flawed as everyone else and he found that to be bizarrely beautiful. His life, it didn’t really matter at all, the world didn’t care what happened to him. It didn’t care that he his mom didn’t love him or that he tried to commit suicide or anything else that come from the rest of his pointless existence. The world still spun on its axis, the tides still breathed in and out, and the universe was still expanding into nothing.
And Jaciam’s life was totally, and undeniably out of his control.

‘It isn’t fair’ had crossed his mind many times before, but was the first time that he realized how absurd that sounded. Fair? He’d subscribed that word unto anything that had ever went wrong to him. Fairness implied that there was something that judged what was right and wrong, and this was the Nothing Dimension. Oblivion. There was nothing unfair, or fair about it. It simply didn’t exist. Lokivu had been trying to teach him these principles and it wasn’t up until now that he finally had a good grasp on the idea. If Jaciam left now, it was Nox’s strong impression that she was going to be gone forever. He was sure that the only way he would see her again would be in his memories, and they where brief memories to say the least. In a strange sort of way, he was beginning to understand that this was what Loki had been trying to teach him. Perhaps, this was what she was trying to prepare him for.

no

Give in.

Give up.

No.

I can’t.

I won’t.

(said the voice.. Her voice) And finally, he wondered what exactly was he NOT giving into? He allowed Jaciam’s calmness to infect him, but where her peace was non committal to her actions, his peace was only melancholy acceptance.

“I love you.” Where the first words that came out of his mouth- and even in this empty, texture less abyss, something have given them dimension and depth. His voice was full of emotion, it didn’t sound flat and monotone at all. It was heavy with grief, and brimming with affection.

It occurred to him that he couldn’t remember when he had last spoken those words. Saying ‘I love you’ in truth always seemed superficial, because the phrase was repeated so often that its original meaning became worn and faded. This time there was something more profound in those three syllables. He wanted Jaciam to know that he would not be angry with her if she left… even though it would hurt more than he could yet imagine. He knew how she felt when her brother had cast himself from a cliff and had left her behind in the land of the living. He understood how she felt just now, that passiveness between whether or not she lived or not, he had felt it once. He felt it when he sank into the waves- watching the silhouette of a ship above him rove slowly away and the thunder from above ebbing away on the tide. He didn’t care. There was nothing that was tying him to the world that could make him possibly care.

iloveyou

That had all changed.

Every fiber of him yearned for Jaciam to stay with him, but he knew he could beg, rage and plead with her until he was hoarse- but it wasn’t his decision to make. Even if he could somehow stop Jaciam from leaving, would he only cause her more pain and suffering? He had seen first hand how her spirit had been pushed out from her body like an unwanted houseguest, and unable to return while her ‘non-self’ remained. Would she ever be able to bridge the gap between her physical and mental being? He wanted to say yes, but even as he probed her cautiously for an answer, and he felt her consciousness rejecting his presence, trembling on the edge of that great abyss as if considering falling into it to put an end to a her story. He wondered if she was stuck too far down in that passive, tranquil, non-careness… not-herselfness to notice how far she had strayed away from him.

Why didn’t he leave her alone?

He could hear her think this phrase as clearly as if she might have spoken it, like a sigh of an old woman that was too tired to carry on.

That hurt him, like a deep bruise in his heart where she had unconsciously pushed him. She was still here, and still breathed (as fragile as her breaths came- he could feel as he walked steadily onward, his steps becoming heavier and heavier). There was something so precious in that, she was still young, she was still beautiful from the inside out- something sweet and ripe in a fruit whose skin looks damaged and rotted. Even though there where hallows under her eyes from where insanity had rubbed its fist, and there where scars on her arms from where the mirror had lied to her- there was so much that she hadn’t seen or felt that he thought, just because these terrible things had happened to her, she shouldn’t leave… she mustn’t. There where things that where so good, things that where beyond this madness that where good and true.

Lokivu knew how to bend and distort perception, and now free of her grasp (momentarily) he realized that in context, he hardly knew who Jaciam was. He thought that he knew her only a few short hours ago, because only a few short hours ago the name Jaciam was synonymous with the name Kate Venezio. He had been made to believe that he shared childhood memories with her- and he was sure that Jaciam had memories of her own with himself pasted in her brothers place, but in truth they had never done any of those things together. He had met her only yesterday during an Art Therapy session, and he could barely remember the gryphon’s last name.

What he now knew was that Jaciam was NOT Kate. Jaciam was a wonderfully complex, not-Kate person. She was a brilliant artist who drew instead of sleep, she was sensitive and eager and uncomfortable in her own skin and had the unfortunate bad timing to walk in on the lowest point in his life. It was true, she had filled a hole that had been torn inside of him. She had reformed the twin connection that had been disrupted between him and Kate almost a year or so ago, she balanced his pain with one so much like his own that they provided nourishment for each other, and it had worked… a bit too well. The old wounds that had never healed properly had been re-stitched by the Master of All Trades, and it still felt fresh. Nox had outgrown the small and pathetic husk that had been sitting in the white room, high on drugs and uncomprehending.

But even so, he still thought it was cruel of Loki to have done this at all. She made him put an identification tag on Jaciam before he had hardly gotten to know her for himself. Now all of his feelings contorted when he thought about her, because he didn’t know who was still the sister he had forgotten in a time before Institution, who was the real Jaciam, and who was this sister that Loki had invented for him. He longed to know the woman who had been pushed out of her body the day that Kaji died. He was determined to find her, but that determination clashed with the realization that he was too late.

And he would never know who Jaciam was.

In the back of his mind, there was something small glinting. It was a small as the whiquer that darted tauntingly out of reach. There was a glimpse of sunlight and laughter. In this dreamlike place, sanity wasn’t some word used half-jokingly, like it was an unattainable myth. Was it really unattainable? Where their brains so damaged or the chemical imbalance in their bodies so distorted by the Doppler that they could no longer return to the equilibrium that they had originally been born with? Was it out of the question to live his short, stupid life whilst not straight jacket, and instead under the sun warmth of friendship? Wouldn’t it be better to learn to enjoy that warmth, to be free of resentments and the toxin of hate, and rest. Just… rest in that peace of mind?

The fire that surrounded them was painful and unforgiving but… then he began to understand. There was non existence. This is where Jaciam was heading. This was where Lokivu ‘went home to’. Stuck. There was much splendor yet to be lived through in that short, precious time span that they still had left, (and that Nox had already wasted much to his credit) that the pain seemed quite insignificant- because there was something in life that was so much better and greater than that plane of nothingness.
And as if this was the final puzzle piece shifting into place, Nox understood the genius of picture that had been laid out for him. An unfamiliar emotion groped at him like an old, clawed hand. Jaciam had felt it too once, but it had taken him a while longer to realize that he /pitied/ Loki. This revelation was surprised him so much that it stopped in his tracks.

Lokivu couldn’t die. She kept going and going without stop and pause, rhyme or reason. She was like the never ending Nothing Dimension. Something had gone wrong enough for her to slip through the cracks of reality. She became a never ending loop of senselessness, filling up the vacuum of space with endless stray thoughts and the end brackets of forgotten code.

That had to be the worst torture ever conceived. Loki didn’t have the power leave as Jaciam did; she was stuck in a permanent state of lunacy. Now he understood why she had expressed such rage when he scorned life in favor of his precious drugs, because to her, the pain and joy of his life was the one thing that she couldn’t obtain on her own. The eyeless cat could not find relief in death, so it was better to try and live. But then, something like Loki couldn’t just ‘live’ again, not unless…
…. Unless there was someone there to live through. Someone who didn’t appreciate their own life- someone who was detached enough from reality that Loki could slip into their skin. This someone would need to feel as though they had already sold themselves and there fore didn’t care if someone else took their place.

The more he thought about it, the more he began to realize that all those years he’d been convinced that Loki had been haunting him alone was totally and utterly backwards. Loki hadn’t been after him at all. She knew from the beginning that he was far to stubborn, unwilling, that he would rather throw himself off a boat and into the OCEAN instead of becoming her advocate. Instead, she had made him realize that there was NO POINT in fighting, and he should accept what was about to happen next. For her plan to work, it made sense that it would all be consensual. Nox had been masterminded into giving away something so precious, he didn’t realize it until it was gone. He was just a pawn in the game.

It was Jaciam who could leave her body an open vessel, and it was Jaciam who was now peacefully considering expiring between his shoulders… it was Jaciam that the Doppler wanted- and she had known that he was the one who could hand her over. The stage was set up elegantly for her, and all Jaciam had to do was give her consent to the role – and there was NOTHING HE COULD DO. Jaciam had always been playing a role of a stranger, so when asked to give herself away, why wouldn’t she say yes?

Nox had never felt so foolish in his entire life. All of these thoughts had arrived in a non linear and abstracted enlightenment, like a physical blow. It was an epiphany so big, and yet so flawlessly simple he could think no further about it.

The red crack in the distance had swelled to a scar in the blackness. Nox He finally crossed the threshold into room in silence, with purple wings trailing in his wake. Without Advok there, the room now seemed cold and grey, with the remains of the blood vessel tree still swinging limply from the ceiling and walls. He looked at Wickett and Shyah’s silent faces. They where looking at him as if they too had shared something introspective. Shyah’s eyes where pitch black behind the stitches- they reminded him of his old eyes, black and vacant. He stared back with Jaciam’s eyes, bright deep agonizing blue, blazing hot, cold and acrid. At some point, he was going to apologize to them for dragging them down here into this heinous mess.

Loki had tried to change him, to make him accept that there where things that he didn’t have control over. But- there was something that he could change. He could control his own, and he would make sure that Loki could not touch anyone else ever again.

“The Doppler must be destroyed.” His voice had become calm. It burned with power; it was determined and so undoubtedly defined.

“Will you help me?”

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~ by komicks on July 11, 2013.

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