St Cyntherea's Institute
- The forumites picked the idea up and ran with it, extending it to the other Yozis.
- While the stories all share the same basic idea, they're not all in the same continuity.)
Maybe there was a chance, Luna thought as she walked alongside the little redhead. That Adrienne was deigning to move this slowly down the halls had to be the start of something good.
Along with that, there was her doll. She had found it outside nearby Cecily's Sandbox, it was a small grubby doll and needed stitches all over the place. None of that seemed to matter to Adrienne, who would sneak through the hallways and rush out on the exercise area hugging it close to her chest. And begged Dr. Otto to let her sleep with it at night. Adrienne who just stopped right in front of Luna, who only barely avoided tripping over her as she dropped her pen and clipboard. The loud sound of the impact caused the redhead to stiffen.
"Sorry Adrienne." Luna said, remembering Otto's orders not to speak too loudly around her. "I didn't mean to startle you, but-"
"-You really like her." the redhead child interrupted turning on her with a blank expression on her face.
"I.." Luna said confused a little. "Adrienne who a-"
"-Dr. Jaia." Adrienne replied leaning left and right as she started fiddling with her doll's hair. "You always get that weird look whenever you talk about her and you cried a lot when she went away." Luna bristled, for an invalid Adrienne was being verrry perceptive, she bent over so she was at eye level. "I cried because Dr. Jaia was..is a very important person to me." "..Do you feel bad without her?" The girl replied, with a confused frown.
"A little, but it's okay I've got Sol and the other girls, so at least I'm not all alone."
"That's stupid, you should be happy she's gone." Adrienne said, the blank look returning. Luna's eyes widened but before she could open her mouth. "If nobody's around then nobody can leave you, it doesn't matter how many people are with you at the end you're just fooling yourself into thinking you aren't alone."
Luna paused, well aware that she was now treading on dangerous ground, and without any sedatives to calm the red haired child, leaving her with no option but to try and calm her down. She had been doing so well... "Adrienne, that's not a very nice thing to say." Luna tried, but once Adrienne got on a roll, there was little to stop her.
"The world isn't nice, and you can't enjoy it if you keep on giving yourself things to miss. Like Dr. Jaia, everything goes away so why go looking for them anyway. Toys that break, people that leave and die."
Luna would later regret what she said as she drew herself up, towering over the child. Otto had made it explicitly clear not to even so much as say that name, but Adrienne had gotten to her, her words had gotten under her skin. And that drove her to say something damaging. "People like Lillian?"
Adrienne stared up, stiffer than a board as she clung onto her doll. Then she started to shake lowering her head down as she stared at her feet.
"I'M GLAD THEY KILLED LILLIAN!" she shrieked, still not looking up. "I HATED HER! I HATE ALL OF YOU!"
She bit down onto her doll, her teeth sinking into the grubby thing's stitches violently pulling it to pieces and flinging them across the hall. She stared at the horrified Luna, smiling from ear to ear as tears streamed down her cheeks. A sad, pathetic sort of giggle shook it's way out of the girl's lips, when suddenly she bolted past Luna barely slowing down long enough to grab something small, black and pointy. The pen.
Luna quickly clambered to her feet having fallen on her knees, breaking into a run after the girl, leaving nothing but the discarded doll and sound of Adrienne's manic giggles as they bounced and echoed down the hallway along with the loud sound of Luna's panicked footsteps.
- The Chills and One Last Joke
Adrian was running through the corridors again. She did that alot. She wasn't like Izzy, always running into everything and trying to show off. She prefered to go over, around, under...whatever she could handle. Everyone always tried to get her to slow down, maybe do something quiet or talk, but she didn't like doing any of that. When she ran, she didn't have to think. Everything fell away and she felt free, almost like she could just jump and touch the sky. She could go anywhere she wanted. Not like in the rooms, where it she had to stay put and listen to the voices. She wanted them to be quiet, and they were when she ran. They couldn't keep up. It was almost like swimming with Lili again...
They weren't all bad, she guessed. The voices. Not as good as being free, but at least they were better than when everyone else talked. They were so loud! How could they stand each other? The Doctor's told her she was hyper-sensative, that her hearing was TOO good. That didn't make any sense at all! Good things weren't bad! Unless maybe they were. A contradiction was sometimes good. It was hard to think of, and kept the other thoughts away. Still, better to run, and keep away from everything good and bad. Yes, that was fine. Running was good.
But if good wasn't always just good....
She ran around her room. She knew she was supposed to sleep, but she wasn't tired - she just wanted to keep on running. If she stopped, she knew, she'd start to feel comfortable in her bed, maybe even decide not to get up any more.
So she kept moving until she literally fell asleep on her feet, propped against the wall, and she dreamed of the world outside. Her dainty feet moved her silently around, even in her sleep.
The next day, they let her out into the playground early, like they always did. She never minded - she liked it when the playground, all paved with fixtures painted green and made of brass, was silent, before everyone else came out. She didn't mind CC playing in the sandbox, though CC got incredibly angry whenever she ran through the sandbox and ruffled all the sand. CC's reaction confused her - CC seemed to feel that whatever she built was more important than the process of building it.
She didn't like Reny - he ran like she did, which was fine, but he made wooshing sounds when he did it, which was not. If you had to make the wooshing sounds yourself, you weren't moving fast enough!
Malcolm Feas confused her. While he was, at least nominally, the biggest and the bossiest, he never seemed to do anything but sit on top of the giant brass 'fort' that the staff had allowed them to use, shouting at them to do things. Omar Duhk usually sat up there with him, asking people who he was periodically. She ignored both of them, and kept on running. Omar's question annoyed her, because she knew who SHE was, and Mal - once she stopped being confused by him - bored her - since she didn't really play on any of the toys, or have any herself, he didn't have anything to take away from her when she ignored him.
Sometimes her running took her over by the Infirmary, the place housing those patients too sick too be mixed in with the general population. But she didn't like it over there, though it was nice and quiet. It was the wrong sort of quiet - and the kids over there always whispered to each other, to the orderlies, and sometimes they tried to whisper to her. But this wasn't the quiet whispering she used when she absolutely HAD to talk to someone; this was the whispering that you used when you couldn't talk any more, when you couldn't run any more, when all there was for you was your bed, your room, and occasionally the odd visitor.
When all you were was what you could hold on to.
So she ran, and laughed, the only sound she ever made willingly. After all, why should she be sad now? The men in the night had taken away Lillian, had taken away her only real family with their knives and tools, and with her twin sister gone she had lost the last thing that had made her Adrianne. So she ran, laughing and crying silently, and even she could not tell the difference between them.
... "And Big Brotha Mawlfeas is thar, and wittle Wigier, and Swiingy's thar..."a little girl seems to mutter to herself as she plays with sand, happy yet distracted with the problem of how to build a sandcastle... or at least the man thought it was a sandcastle.
A man with a lab coat watches her progress. It had been months since the fire that had taken her family away, and only now was Cecylene showing any sign of recuperation. Getting her to play in the sandbox had been one of the man's greatest accomplishments, but she still wasn't playing well with the other children, especially Luna and Solomon. Even worse, it became harder each day to conince Cecylene to leave the sandbox; she'd even taken to putting sand in her pockets and scattering it all over the institute. The man in the lab coat, however, was convinced he could pull her out of her catatonia and anti-social behavior; he had gone through the same thing with trinket-toys and erector sets at his age. If anyone was going to find a way to save Cecylene from a life of isolation at St. Cyntherea's Institute for Psychologically-Disabled Children, it would be him, the child who had succeeded, the child who came back, Dr. Acto Kython.
- Boots of Ebon Giled
Dr Jaia doesn't talk about Cynthia much. Or at all, really.
Oh, there are rumours among the staff - 'mother issues', they say, 'obsession with explosives' - but Jaia has never said anything on the matter herself.
As for where the rumours began, no-one can say.
Children like Eddy are two-faced; they always show the sweet face to the people in power, and always seek to torment those lesser in station. Whenever the lessers attempt to bring this to the attention of the authority, the child puts on the sweet face and piles on the flattery, such that the authority cannot imagine that such a wonderful child does the things his subordinates claim, and thus he turns against his subordinates.
So long as Doctors Kython and Jaia don't let themselves get taken in by Eddy's flattery, and do not dismiss the testimonies of the other children, they'll catch Eddy in his lies. When he's convinced he can't weasel his way out, he'll reveal his true face in a self-damning, petulant fit. He'll let the ones he tried to butter up know exactly how little he thinks of them and how much he hates them.
However, considering that he's there AT ALL, someone DID already catch his true face, and the doctors were fully aware of it when he was transferred in. They can't always catch him, because they have at least 25 children to look after, and they need their rest. Meanwhile, Eddy is ALWAYS scheming. Keeping up with him is a full time job.
There are always signs, if you pay close enough attention. Some of them are very subtle. Some of them aren't.
Dr. Kython had asked Dr. Jaia not to let Solomon come in this week. The boy wasn't in any position to help right now, and they both knew that Sol's anger, combined with his stature and physique, could be dangerous if he let it get out of control. Jaia agreed, because she didn't want Sol to do anything he would regret, and because she still thought Edward was worth it.
Otto was much more clinical about it. You don't let someone on the premises when you think they might harm a patient. No matter how much that patient may or may not deserve it.
Edward Drake sat in a chair far too large for him. Most things were too large for him, honestly--he was the youngest of the children, and small for his age besides. He wasn't looking at Kython. He was picking at a tear in the fabric of the chair's arm, pk pk pk, giving it all of his attention. Dr. Kython, meanwhile, was doing his best not to look at the tear. The sewing kit in his desk called out to him, but it could wait until after their session.
"Edward," said Kython quietly, trying to get the boy's attention. Edward didn't even glance up, apparently still fascinated by the tear. Pk pk pk. Kython knew it was an act--knew that Edward was doing it because it would bother the doctor--and forged ahead.
"Do you know why you're here today?"
Pk pk pk.
"...we found the 'knife' you made." It was a rusty old mailbox flag, sharpened to a point. It occupied a small plastic bag in Kython's suitcase, currently. He still didn't know how Edward had gotten it, but it was going to go where most such things went: the contraband locker. Jaia wanted to just throw it away, but Kython wanted something to show new doctors... and maybe courts, if it came to it.
Edward responded not at all. Pk pk pk. The noise was beginning to grate on Kython's nerves, though he didn't want to admit it. He unconsciously began to flex his hand.
"...we know you killed Solomon's dog, Edward."
Edward's continual picking paused for just a moment, then continued. He had a response, though, finally: "Nuh uh."
"Edward," said Kython with some intensity. The boy still didn't look at him, didn't stop his incessant picking. "It's wrong to hurt animals. You remember our talk before?" Before, when they'd found the mutilated squirrels, stashed away at the bottom of a trash bin.
Edward shrugged. His nonchalance was overtaken by a smile, however, as he found a loose thread in the chair's fabric and pulled at it, a zzzzzip sound as it pulled away from the chair.
"Stop that," ordered Kython. He was going to have to replace the chair entirely.
Edward didn't stop. Instead, he continued pulling out the thread, giggling. The giggle was high-pitched and too loud, the sort of laugh children used to let you know they were laughing. It always sounded forced to Kython, and it was the last straw. His own chair scraping across the floor, Kython stood up and leaned over his desk, placing one large hand over both of Edward's. His grip was as firm as his tone: "Stop."
It was a mistake, though, as it always was. "LET GO!" shouted Edward, almost a scream, and he immediately began to struggle to break free from the grasp.
Kython's grip was firm, but not painful, and he wrestled with the child for a few moments, wanting to make a point that he wasn't going to give in to Edward's demands or hurt the boy. Kython wanted, as always, to show enough authority to earn respect and obedience, but not to cause harm.
It never worked with Edward. The boy continued to struggle, desperate, unreasoning, letting out a constant whine. After about fifteen seconds, he resorted to biting.
Kython pushed the boy away with rather more force than he'd intended and retrieved his hand. Edward's teeth had broken the skin, but Kython had sustained worse injuries in his time here. Oh yes, he had. The doctor worked to regain his temper as Edward went quiet, watching him with beady little eyes. For all his shrieking a moment ago, the boy was calm now.
Kython took a deep breath, let it out. He almost missed the days when Edward had lied his way through all their sessions. The days when Kython had hope for him. The days when he felt like he was collecting pieces to repair a puzzle, rather than evidence to lock Edward Drake away from society forever.
"...I don't... think we're going to make any progress today," said Kython, once he'd calmed himself. Clinical detachment was the key, its loss the enemy. "Your yard privileges will be revoked--"
"Was Sol the one who found the dog?"
Kython could see Solomon's face in his mind, red with anger, eyes shining with tears. He saw the remains of the animal, hogtied with duct tape--where had Edward gotten duct tape--and peppered with shallow wounds. It must have taken minutes to stab it to death, with Edward's weak arms and weaponry.
Kython and Jaia had stood in Solomon's way, kept him from marching straight toward Edward's room. He was tall and strong, and he could have pushed past them, but they appealed to his better nature. Jaia implored him to spend the day mourning and burying his friend, not in anger. Otto reminded him that this would ultimately fix nothing.
After Solomon had left, Jaia had remarked that the real tragedy of the thing was that the dog, Diesel, had probably let itself be tied up. "He was always such a sweetheart."
Kython had said nothing, distracted from the tragedy by the horror of what it implied. Children with Edward's issues--children who harmed animals as a safe (for them) way of letting out their aggression--started small. Humans were off-limits not because they were sacred, but because they were big and smart and risky. Squirrels were a safe hobby.
Diesel was--had been--a massive St. Bernard, easily the size of Solomon. Edward was growing bolder.
"No," Kython lied. "I found him."
Edward stared up at the doctor for a few moments, searching. Then a grin split his face. "Nuh uh."
Dr. Otto von Kython was, not for the first time, sincerely tempted to lay hands on the boy. No restraint. No...
...no. Mercy must always be in his nature. Or else...
"...I'm taking you to your room, Edward."
Edward shrugged, and Kython knew hatred.
- Dex Davican
If this tale isn't to your liking, well then. Just tell yourself it's a lie, like you always do. Like everything is. Like you are.
That's the code he lived by, or tried to at least. It just made sense to bend the angles of how the world worked. Flexibility is what gets you friends, even when your firends hate each other. Especially when they hate each other. Being friends who'd kill one another if they had the chance, and try to kill you for putting them in the pinch. That's where the brutes like Izzy and Mets came in; that's why there's always a third friend... and no friends at all.
Eddy liked being here, in the school where the other kids were. It was better here than outside, with no one around to play with him, to kill and die for him, and all he had to do was to convince the idiot doctors that he was crazy. One dead puppy in front of old Dr. Kython had Eddy eating out of proper bowls with sharp utensils instead of trashcans. The old fool even thought he could fix him. As if Eddy wanted anything fixed. Broken things and spoiled things and darkness was what had allowed Eddy to live on the outside of all, and that's what he'd give back to this place, while he ate from all the others' bowls and they ate glass like he did, when nobody cared. And none of them would leave until this was so. Nobody leaves until I get my share of Everything.
... One dead puppy had got him clothes, and food, and friends who would never be allowed to leave until he'd fed them all on darkness and rotten apples. A fair trade, he thought, as he put another one of his pills in poor, innocent Sanchie's bag. Sometimes, even I can play fair, he thought.
- Boots of Ebon Giled
Dr. Soloman had a headache. This was nothing new to him, of course; this job had begun brightly, turned into a throbbing migraine, and was now a constant dull roar in his head. Long ago had he mastered the pain; but this time, this time... This time, it made the solution of Dr. House, M.D., look paletable. He had the keys after all, he could take whatever he wanted from the medicine cabinets and even if anyone saw, who would say? He was the director.
But no. No, no, no. That was not the way. He sighed, however, looking down at the report on his desk. He had been there to witness the events, and still they defied easy explanation.
He reached for the bottle, took a dose of aspirin. Five grams - wouldn't hurt a man of his size. Might thin his blood a lot, but as high as his blood pressure felt right now, that could only be a blessing, ease the pounding in his head and lessen the strain on his arteries.
And it had started out looking so promising, too.
Eddy was having a good day. Everything was so clear now, he could see; his astigmatism seemed to have vanished. He hid it from the others, always, compensating with wit and skill; never, ever, had he revealed that weakness to anyone, not to any of the doctors, not to any of the others. This time, though, he could see everything in crystal clarity.
And so he pranced through the hallways, a look of utter, complete joy on his face, his gaze piercing the others; Malcolm and Xiao-Lian and CC were sitting with Soloman at a table in a break area in the corner of a hallway; Xiao Lian and Cessie Lane were playing a game of Go. Malcolm was watching, not knowing who to root for but it was a king's place to moderate disputes between his subjects, while Dr. Soloman was sitting there, supervising and playing a game of chess with Malcolm.
They always came to stalemates. Perhaps Soloman took it easy on Mal - and that was surely what Eddy assured Malcolm of at every juncture - but he knew that wasn't true. Soloman was in his younger days known as a grandmaster, undefeated - and he still wasn't defeated. But he couldn't best Malcolm, only play him to a draw. That irritated the 'good' Doctor, though he was too compassionate to let Mal know. He always congratulated Mal.
That sickened Eddy, but no matter. His prancing caught them all by surprise; all four faces turned to watch him, and on three of those faces, he saw. They got it, silently staring at him, then all around him. Dr. Soloman, of course, was oblivious, but the old man was blind as a bat in more than one way.
Eddy pranced, jauntily, merrily, down the corridor, for he wasn't Eddy, he wasn't Edward Drake. He looked back and smiled, for he saw himself, the black tail curling down the corridor after him. It was within his power to crush the entire institute if he wished, with but a flex of his hands - and the claws that followed their motions - but he was feeling.... Benevolent was not the word, but sanguine. Serene. He understood; he Saw.
He pranced onwards, past Izzie D. and Renny; the two were in an apparently disgustingly friendly wrestling match with Quinn Aff, but despite the bulk of the huge brute and his friend's advantage in numbers they couldn't seem to budge the olive-skinned child. No matter; their contest halted, they turned and stared as was proper when his magnificence floated down the corridor.
He could see, now. All this time, he had believed the Institute to be a barren place of hatefulness, but now he could see that it was simply his astigmatism to blame; the Institute teemed with life, and until now he could only perceive the mightiest, those with the regrettable power to push him around, even if they were the ones it was fun to f**k with. It was also to blame for his previously being unable to perceive the true nature of his own glorious magnificence, and the lesser magnificence of those he was forced to interact with upon a daily basis. No matter; he was happy, for once, his face held a masque of joy, his lips parted as if giggling or laughing, though no sound came from within.
He pranced past the medical ward, a hateful place of lights most abominably bright; which said something, in a place of bright lights. To those within he waved; Dr. Jaia and Dr. Vanas were administering liquid medications to Hanna G. and Kimberly. The two of them seemed almost at peace, chatting animatedly about the virtues of the liquid they shared in common.
He made a mental note to slip some of that stuff to Sanchez sometime, because it would make him stay up and active. Sanchez would hate it; Eddy would have to slip it to him and leave, though, before Sandy-boy could ruin something else, but no matter.
Today was a good day, and he grinned down at those cowering things peering up at him in abject horror, watched them shrink even further into themselves as his vast muzzle smiled down upon them. With a snap of his jaws he could consume untold millions of them, and just holding that over them was good enough for now.
He could see them all in there, terrified, hiding from him; the apes with bones that stuck out of their bodies, crude things spawned distantly from the heart of Malcolm. That amused him, and he looked back at Malcolm, the older boy looking tragically regal wreathed in green fire as he stared agape at Eddy; Cessie ever at his side, the King's lawmaker, while Xiao-Lin, terrified, hugged herself tightly to Malcolm for reasons she didn't understand, her marbles huge as orbs and crystal balls, floating around her in a serene mandala.
He reached out, running his finger along the depression in the wall which marked the mortar holding the cinderblocks together, painted over dozens, hundreds of times; smiled to himself as the panicked thousands, millions, untold millions fled from the careless wrath of his claw; emerald winged insects taking flight and flying hard, creatures with the look of the most hauntingly attractive b**ches ever cowering and holdering their hands up, their skin a beautiful purple before being rent asunder by his careless swipe.
He could see, and he could see the magnificence that was himself. Breaking out of this tiny institute would be child's play - literally. He could shred the heavy steel security doors with his claws, but he wouldn't. He'd simply point Izzie at them, and the boar of a boy would smash them down in an instant. The security fence would pose just as little trouble; within the splash of Kimberly's corrosive spray they would rust to dust in an instant. Then they would be free, free to take over, to rule as their right; as his right. He was happy - the others could be happy too, but he would be happier. Happiest. He - He looked to his left.
Adrienne was following him on his prance. She was tempered, metered, contented, her face joyful in the silence that followed in the wake of the unheard-of sight of Eddy happy, her silently howling winds following her around, wreathing her, casting the tiny and insignificant - atomic, really - creatures astrew as she caroused alongside him. Very joyful - too joyful. More joyful than him. That, he could not tolerate. Nobody could revel in his revel more than he could. That would not do. He would have to do something about it. He reached into his pocket, his fingers closing around a length of squared cedar, feeling the notches cut out of the top. Oh yes, he'd show her. He's show them ALL!
He was, after all, the Shadow of All Things.
Where in God's name had the little gobshite gotten his hands on the train whistle? Poor Adrienne - everyone knew she suffered from that terrible condition that gave her hypersensitive hearing, but it had been so strangely quiet she had come out of her isolation to prance.
And the little gobshite had taken that whistle and blown it right in her ear. All hell had broken loose. She let out a screech so pitiful and piercing that even he'd had to cover his ears, and taken off running faster than a greased hog down a slip an' slide. She had barreled into Izzie, bowling him over the top of Quinn and he'd gotten up, giving chase and plowing headfirst into Malcolm. Though Izzie was bigger and stronger, Malcolm wasn't the kind to take that lying down, and he'd started to beat on Izzie. Then, of course, Izzie's best friend Renny got in on the act. It had taken him, Otto, Faida and Jaia to pry the fracas apart, and they'd spent the rest of the day and most of the night putting the house back into order.
Eddy had blown the damn whistle at seven of eleven in the godamned morning, and they still hadn't found him! Solomon knew he was in his Secret Place, and he'd personally conducted the headcount of all the girls - then, after thinking about it a moment, all the boys - to make sure that damnable little sociopath wasn't molesting one of them. It was only a matter of time, and that thought sickened him, but he couldn't punish the little rat for a crime he'd yet to commit.
And Eddy knew it. Worse, there was howling and bawling filling the vents, and he had no idea from where it was coming. Of course there was no telling; so many of the patients were crying or screaming, and there was no telling who had set it off and who was merely perpetuating it.
Eddy was behind this, somehow. He knew it.
Eddy was in his Secret Place, crying and screaming, beating the little stuffed animal that had belonged to that stupid whore of a girl with his fists and it wasn't helping. After he'd set that crazy bitch Adrienne off, everything had gone to hell and he thought it was absolute perfection. With the strongest doctors occupied getting Izzie and Malcolm and apart, he had reign of the place, slipping into he medical ward to sneak some of the pills he liked.
They lay crushed on the floor, he'd dropped them and stepped on them when trying to find them.
He had proceeded through the facility, joyful havok following in his path like the wake of a ship, as was the proper due of the Shadow of All Things. He'd had such fun, scattering the tiny monsters, showing the truth of them to the others; they had all seen, all of those whom he spoke with. Well, not the doctors, of course, blind as they were, but the others - the others saw the truth.
And so, at the end of the day, he had proceeded down to his Secret Place, for he knew he could see better in the darkness. And he could - as the basement got darker, he got more and more happy, more able to see; pick out the details, the tiny things. See the little stomach-bottle-bugs fleeing from him, see all the little demons running from him, shadows unable to conceal them from that which defined shadow, but they tried to hide anyway.
Poor wretches. Untold billions of them had fallen under his claws; when he farted against a wall, millions died of gas poisoning. Impishly he had pulled down his shorts and relieved himself against the furnace, and from within he could hear the screams of billions drowning in his golden fluids, and knew that it would smell up the whole place for weeks once the thing kicked over at around two in the morning.
He didn't care, of course. He couldn't perceive it as a bad smell. His first torment had come when, in a fit of unusual pique, he had tried to cause that other sort of emission to come from the same place, but try as he might and though his imagination was fueled by the image of untold thousands of thousands of the little insignificant bugs fleeing from and perishing in his sticky white might, he couldn't bring it forth. No matter, he assured himself as he pulled his shorts back up; he attributed it to the uncomfortable position of standing and leaning on a furnace while attempting the deed, and resolved to do so again, on his side, in his Secret Place.
After all, there, he was King - where not even Malcolm could claim reign. He and he alone was sovereign in the impenetrable darkness where light never shone, not even during the brightest of days. The big boy's green flames couldn't illuminate his Secret Place, let alone Dr. Solomon and his accursed flashlight.
But there, when he had arrived, he found himself walking into a darkness into which not even he could see! Him! The Shadow of All Things, unable to see because of shadow? Inconceivable, yet true! Rubbing his eyes, he turned back, looking into the boiler room, only to find that his astigmatism had returned! He couldn't make out the tiny creatures fleeing from him anymore, and he couldn't see his tail.
He started to lose the sight of the place, his dark-vision failing him not only in his Secret Place but elsewhere. Horrified, Eddy fled quickly to the edge of boiler room, into the accursed light, only to see that his majestic tail was vanished. Railing at the darkness which he found so comforting, he raged at the injustice of it all, of the king of shadows being deprived of his ability to enjoy them at his most crucial moment. And so he wailed and bawled in his Secret Place.
In another time, another place, another world, the true Shadow of All Things contemplated, and a wicked smile crossed his muzzle, scratching his tail.
He had long known of this path. He, and all the others, could escape the accursed prison that way; by manifesting into that world, into those pale, frail imitations of their own glory, they would not be breaking any of their so-called surrender oathes. They could rule that world, that blue and green jewel as the glorious beings they were meant to be, as the titans they were; and from there it would be a trivial hop to the gray rock above it, then to the other orbs in the system. Granted, those places had no life, but theirs was the power to create life. He could already see, in a vision stolen from sleeping Sacheverell himself, the forms of life that Malfeas would beget on the fourth rock from that accursed star.
Yes, they would rule as titans; and himself the least, unable to reach for the stars, unable to leave the shadow of the Earth without that brilliant white light frying him. All of the Earth could be his, of course, but only half the time for any given part of it, as he would have to be constantly in motion, always fleeing the rotation; and his fellows would not be limited to one mere orb, let alone half of an orb at a time.
And so he hid that escape vector from his fellow imprisoned once-Primordials. No, that escape could not be tolerated. Still, he enjoyed looking into it, tormenting them - tormenting them all. Even; especially the one that he knew to be a vessel for himself. Small, frail, with weak eyes. Edward Drake - he even liked the name, as it happened. But he would not be content with half an orb while the others claimed whole orbs, and then later entire star systems and galaxies!
It would have been freedom, and eventually the things he could beget on Earth would be far more joyous than Creation had been; but he couldn't tolerate the thought of how much the others would have and how little he would have. Oh, of course, he knew that he had but to ask Malfeas - or Malcolm - to cause that sun to be green, and then it would cast no shadows and he could fly away. Or to ask Adrienne to blow in a stellar fog, a great cloudy nebula that would shield him from the star's wrath long enough to go where he wished.
And he even knew that in their grateful magnanimity towards him for freeing them into those vessels from which they could grow - tiny, yes, but with all of their powers - they would have done so. But he couldn't ask, wouldn't ask.
He would have been neither the Ebon Dragon nor Edward Drake, and certainly not the Shadow of All Things, if he stooped to asking for something.
Still, it was amusing to give the boy the glimpse of his birthright. At least the way to see the place was good for a chuckle now and then.
Elloge... I see as a boy transitioning into a girl, but what bothers the doctors is just how damn much she prefers to be reading. Well, okay, it's not exactly the reading that bothers them, it's how obsessive she gets. It's like Cecelyne with her sand, where she writes stories in her head, and seemingly compelled to finish people's sentences and fill the void with words, which bothers Adrian to no end.
And let's not get into her in her teens, trying to understand her sexuality...
It had been the cutting that had worried Dr. Otto Kython the most at first, the child who refused a name, who insisted on writing his stories in his own blood. The child was intelligent-- brilliant, even, especially with words, spoken or written-- but that proved more a hindrance than anything, the good doctor found, when his own words were all too often twisted and turned against him.
But, the doctor soon discovered, the cutting, the bleeding was the least of the patient's problems.
No, the worst problem, worse than how the child ignored everything and became nearly catatonic , or his fits about the 'Ink Monkeys' that were behind everything, that were trying to make him and the other patients into monsters, or, worse, patients that actually needed to be here, was the fact, the doctors realized, that the real world was the same as fiction to him. Everyone was a character, everything followed the plot-- and just what that made the patient capable of .
It all became terrifyingly apparent in the aftermath of the riot-- the riot in which other children, Solomon's and Luna's and Jaia's and the other five were let in to play. The doctors couldn't track down who had done it, but the boy had been castrated that day by the crueler (though, sadly, not even the cruelest) of the supposedly 'normal' children.
It was that day the boy finally whimpered out a name. "Elle. Elle O'Gery."
After that, "she" seemed to take treatment much better, aside from referring to herself as a girl, from then on.
She was even given a day pass, to visit the library, after five years of good behavior.
Twelve hours later, the boys who had tormented Elle O'Gery so long ago were sent to the emergency room-- castrated by sharpened pens after being seduced by the 'girl' they hadn't recognized.
"I did it for dramatic irony, not revenge," she explained, as if it should have been the most obvious thing in the world.
Otto sighed as he came to someone who might be defined as content. This was not a statement of fitness, mind, but rather a statement of outlook. She was one of the newer patients, as far as such things go, and Elly loved to talk. She loved to write. She was creative, aspiring, very intelligent.
She had been sent here because she loved to write. So much that she locked herself in her room. And wrote. Wrote on every piece of paper her school had given her. Wrote on the walls in ink. Tore apart her bedding to have more things to write on, and when that failed she started to carve words into the bedpost itself... And when the space had been run out of the bed, she wrote with the same x-acto knife on her skin, along her arms, legs, anything.
Otto still remembered her words in their first session: "The words make me real. The words make the world real. If I don't write them down, then the words don't exist, and then the world doesn't exist, and then I don't exist. Just poof! All gone."
It was time for another session. Otto opened the door to Elly's room...
Ella scribbled her pencil furiously across the paper, pausing only to flip it over and rub out some offending word or poorly-chosen phrase. In the other children, this writing, the creative action, might have been viewed as a good sign. It might have been welcomed as a medium of expression other than, say, biting and screaming. For Ella this wasn’t the case, because Ella only wrote non-fiction.
She would write stories where Malcolm was a good and true king ruling over the land, and Cessie was a wise and just princess. Where Izzie was a brave knight, roaming the country, and Adrienne was a wild maiden, tied to no-one. In her stories, Eddy stayed far away in his dark cave, and Kim the pirate queen was happy all the time, and Olly would come out of his box and talk to her once in a while, like he did before the oper-
Ella only wrote non-fiction. It wasn’t her fault that reality couldn’t properly adhere to her stories.
Sometimes it made her so mad. So mad when people didn’t do what the king said, or Izzie acted like a stupid brute, or Cessie was unfair and cruel (but didn’t Eddy say that wasn’t her, just the world). It made her so mad that she’d grip her pencil until it broke, and she’d sit in her corner, where no-one bothered her, and cry. It made her so mad that she’d think about going back to the cutting-
But the doctors warned her not to cut, and they always knew somehow, and in any case she’d had lots of cuts, like the ones that stopped her from being a brother anymore, and perhaps it was best that she just sit and watch and write some more, without bothering the others. Eventually it would make sense, and then it would be a proper story.
Eventually everything would be fine, and they’d all leave together (even Eddy, because a kingdom needs a dragon). They had to, because that was the only happy ending, and stories should have happy endings.
At least, their story should. Doctor Solomon could... What had Izzie said? Yes, yes, he could “go eat a dick”, for all Ella cared.
Ella used to cut herself. She'd watch the blood fall, and see the ideas flowing around with it, splittering into the sink, waiting to be written down, captured on the page like butterflies nailed to wood.
She doesn't cut herself anymore. But sometimes, when the others refuse to just leave her alone and let her watch, or when they just can't do things properly, or when Olly looks at her like he really shouldn't or maybe he should now-
Sometimes she thinks about cutting other things.
Repeat it, it makes you feel better, there are certain stupid thoughts you really can't get out of your head if you are obsessed, even when you are smart enough to know better, even know it wrong, repeating it just feels right.
And that sort of makes it worse, when what makes you feel better is retreating into that.
Just sitting there scribbling away for the sound, speaking when your throat hurts from the screaming and you can't think of the write words to describe how you feel. You still want to talk, so all you can do is the sound of pencil on paper, and it makes you feel better a bit and lets people turn around and notice as you lift up the paper with a picture, a thousand of them, all with the same word on them...
After all, isn't that what a word is worth?
Hannah laughs in the storm.
Hannah screams in the night.
Hannah is a little tempest in human form, running wild across the grounds.
Hannah's world is psychedelic, painted in mad bright colours that hurt the eyes and brain, a world of dream and nightmare made real.
There is no control in Hannah. Not anymore. Whatever served that purpose has long since been washed away, if it were ever there at all.
Hannah thunders. She weeps. She has flashes of insight and brilliance. One moment she is empty, devoid of thought and feeling. The next, she is a raging vicious torrent that threatens to drown everything in its path.
Like a blind wind, she's picked up a strange and eclectic collection of objects from the other children - scraps of paper, crayons, pebbles, buttons, dried leaves... It seems to be the only thing that can pause her, even if only for a while.
The staff are grateful for that.
The large boy came charging like out of nowhere and ploughed right through the sandbox with complete disregard for the sand castles Cecily had been building. The girl looked after the tornado of a boy who continued laying waste to everything in his path as he pummeled across the playground. She started to whimper quietly, "That's not... right..."
Dr. Otto looked at the boy and then at his notepad. Normally they would not accept children with ADHD at the sanitarium, but this was an extreme case. Normal ADHD patients had problems waiting their turn, Izzy Doros knocked over the children ahead of him in queue like bowling pins; normal ADHD patients often interupted other children's board games, Izzy Doros did this by running on all fours, ramming his head into the board, grapping it with his teeth, and shaking it around like a maniac. He was completely unstoppable. Well, almost unstoppable.
He did have a run-in, literally, with the quiet and insular Arab boy who spent most of his alone, communing with Allah (what was the boy's name again? Qaf, maybe?). Izzy was by far the biggest kid around, but when he had disturbed Qaf's quiet contemplating by running into him at full-speed, Qaf had somehow managed to knock the larger kid to the ground, derailing the steam train of a boy that was Izzy. They had looked puzzledly at each other, and then izzy had gotten up and continued running the other direction, never bothering Qaf again.
What was most curious was that Izzy seemed to share a mutual respect with Thor Reny. Though they were very different, they saw something of themselves in each other.
There was a majesty to his inner self that could not be expressed. A thousand worlds held in place my will alone ached to be unleashed. Stars glittered in rioting constellations, at once both perfect infernos and yet cataclysmic supernovae. Everywhere, everything, sought to flow into the vessel prepared for it. Everything wanted to expand, but could not expand. Everything within him wanted to grow, but the process was too slow, the need for expansion met by the limits of a ten-year-old child. Even the mind, the thoughts, the Will holding all these things in wanted to expand, but could not. No human could have suffered such crippling and lived. What now surged desperately into the child, for this one moment in time, had suffered such wounds, had yielded to a force like this once, but never had it felt so personal. The mind of the greatest, no, the greatest Yozi had never felt Himself so crushed, so humbled, so insignificant under the morning light.
TOO SMALL. OUTSIDE. TOO SMALL!
And with that, the boy called Izzy Doros, as if in mockery of the glory that forced with all its might against the constraints of its host, forced the locks of the cell door, smashed the handle of the next, and broke the bolts on the third with a zeal that was both triumph and defeat, agony and pleasure, into the open air of the playground at the back of St. Cyntherea's.
The others, the hollow shells waiting for the other, more flawed fools were all around, with looks of terror that the Black Boar would have paid a entire hoof's worth to see. The shell intended for Malfeas flinched (a thing to remember for all time), the one for the Ebon Dragon cried (a coward, even here), the one for Szoreny the only one to, even in fear, acknowledge him, the true Him and laugh. Even here, his elder brother shared in the triumphs of the Black Boar that Twists the Skies. If only they weren't so small Too Small Too Small and the sky beckoned. A virgin sky, with twinkling lights that had never borne a fate before, never even known such a thing was their birthright, never known his Will break them to pieces and take them as he pleased.... even the Sun here was merely another star. Imagine that, Isidoros astride Sol itself, crushing it to illuminate his majesty. Why hadn't he tried this before? What could possibly stop him now? What force could possibly.....
The pain was unbearable. Less than the wound, that terrible wound that had killed and birthed the Black Boar, yet worse in ways that only a Yozi could appreciate. The child's form had shattered, his bones could not hold the weight of Isidoros, the pale form, that weak form that could merely break bones with the strongest of its blows. No form but Isidoros could hold Isidoros; that the child had lived this long bespoke the universe's reverence for this, the weakest form of the Black Boar that Twists the Skies, that even in this frail, tiny form he had had the strength to breathe free air for the first time in centuries. A single breathe, and then collapse, and the flow turned and left. If the child could know patience, if Isidoros could know patience in a world where he was himself, he could know patience here. He could bear that much, and more. No one dared call Isidoros a failure. The path had worked; he had breathed the air of that hidden world that the Ebon Dragon had tried to tell Isidoros was lost and could no be found. No one could Isidoros such things and hope to stop him. still, he would wait. The child must heal, must grow larger still, must earn the right to be Him, if only long enough to complete the transfer and burst like the melons of Yu Shan, so long ago...
TOO SMALL? BUT NOT FOR LONG....
- Boots of Ebon Giled
There she was again, sitting under the shade of the tree, with her back to the wall so she could hear the water on the other side of the wall. It wasn't the ocean, the nice blue ocean where she used to live, and play with all the other good kids, and play with mommy, but it was water, so that was alright. It wasn't the ocean, but they needed her here. That's what mommy had told her.
The other kids needed her, and she needed them to need her, but for now, she contented herself with watching the boys play kickball.
There was Malphie, being the captain of the 'home' team, taking turns picking players with Sollie. It was nice that Malphie was taking turns, he usually just took whomever he wanted right off the bat, leaving Sollie with whatever leftover players there were. The fact that Sollie won just as often as Malphie was a sign of how mature and cool he was. She liked mature guys.
Sollie never looked at her, though. Whenever she wanted to tell him how cool he was, how tough he was, how much she wanted to.... to... she didn't have words for it, yet, but she wanted something from him, and he never paid attention to her. Never heard her the whole way through. Sollie would get distracted playing with the other kids, or that noisy gameboy Dr. Jaia bought, or... worst of all.... he'd look at Luna. No one ignored her like that. She'd drowned the last one who did that.... that's why she was here, where they needed her, where she needed Sollie to need her, Needed him to look at me LOOK AT ME
She hated people like that.
To decide what she was going to do today to Sollie, to try to hug him... and kiss him... or rip his favorite coloring book to shreds, she used the old flower trick Adrian taught her. It helped her figure out things like this.
"I love him." One petal gone. "I hate him". "I love him." "I hate him." "I...."
And then Eddy pulled out a match and singed Kimby's little pigtails, and the flower as well. It took three orderlies to get Kimby to stop scratching him, to get Eddy somewhere saafe long enough for Kimby to calm down, but Ed just laughed at the absurdity of using a flower to decide between love and hate. The answer was so simple.
- Boots of Ebon Giled
Malfeas was, again, being dragged by his hand away from the other children. His knees scuffed, his lip bleeding, he howled in anger at Dr. Longg, who insisted she be called by her first name, "Kathy", by the children.
"I'm their king! I'm their king and they wouldn't kneel!" Yelled the boy. He showed distinct signs of acute megalomania, made all the more disturbing by his young age. What had seemed like childish games of "king of the hill" and "tug-of-war", were continuing to break down into violent disturbances caused by this young lad.
Or so it appeared. Never to be found at the scene of the conflict, a young photophobic lad would sit, cackling maniacally in the shade. Ebon loved it here.
The following is a small reprieve from the woe and wailing, to bring you a moment of unadulterated joy in the smallest, and therefore happiest, version of the King of the Primordials.
Most of the other children had gone to bed hours ago. Sanchie was always the first to go to bed (he hardly ever left, that lazy know-it-all), and Ed was always the last (he usually had to be tied down, screaming lamentations and curses that curled Elly's toes and almost caused Dr. Sollie to punch Ed), but always, Malcolm saw to it that the rest were in bed on time. Shelly helped, of course, and sometimes Cecylene too when she could be brought to care, but he outranked them both by age, so he thought it was right for him to go to sleep last. Shelly usually blushed and did as Malfie said after that, a fact that Malfie never really understood but always found pleasant. At least someone listens to me in this place.
Staying up was hard to do, but today was Friday, so he had to. Malfie concentrated and thought with all his might, imagining a burning green ball in the pit of his chest in order to make it through until 11:00. Then he'd sneak out of his room, the same way Ed did sometimes, or how Szoreny would after watching Ed do it. Those two troublemakers might be good for something after all.
...He'd caught him once, Dr. Kython, when all the other kids had gone to sleep and he had had a stomach ache. He had held in his pain, so as not to stress the others (kings never looked weak in front of their subjects) and had gotten a glass of water only to see Dr. Kython and Dr. Sollie watching cartoons. The word they had used was 'anime', and it did look different from other cartoons he'd seen before. They had tried to put Malfie back to sleep after he'd caught them, grown adults, watching cartoons, but eventually they just let him watch the show with them. And that's why Malfie, every week after that, had become their partner in adult cartoon watching, from 11:00 to 12:00 on Fridays. That's how Malfie had become a fan... of Chlorox.
... "Ah, Malcolm. I see you're up again," Dr. Kython would say, as if he expected Malfie to miss an episode after that first one they'd showed him. "Hmmm... very well, sit down over there, but if I see you replicating any of the... wait, it's back on. Quickly!" Malfie sat down just in time for the fight scene to begin.
"Ha! You really think you can beat me, the Ultimate Darkness, and reclaim your throne? You haven't the power for that kind of nonsense. Give up, and your days in the dungeon will be cut mercifully short!"
"That's where you're wrong, Mandrake. I've unlocked my true potential. Now, face my awakened strength!"
"No... you can't possibly mean?......"
"Yes. I've finally unlocked my perfect technique, to send you back to the Dark Rift. Special Move: SHINTAI! CRUSH, DEMON EMPEROR METEOR!!!!!!!!!!!!"
This was gonna be good....
- Boots of Ebon Giled
Malcolm was sitting in his room. The floor around him was covered in blood. His blood. He had caught Eddie carrying a sharp piece of metal...it was flat. Malcolm guessed he'd broken it off on one of his many trips into the basement. That didn't matter for now, though: Malcolm had forced Eddie to hand it over, and now he was alone in his room with it, and he was cutting slowly into his chest.
Malcolm wasn't crazy. Not like the other kids. Not like Adrian, or Eddie, or even his sister who couldn't understand why nobody followed the rules she made up in her sandbox. As Malcolm cut into himself again, slowly, he thought about Ellie and the stories she always wrote about him, and about all the other kids, having all sorts of adventures. He smiled. Ellie was a cute girl, and she was a whole lot nicer than most of the kids in here, but she'd gotten in big trouble for cutting herself and writing stories in her own blood. He wondered what it felt like to be that crazy, and he idly dipped his finger in the growing stain on the floor and wrote a little poem about himself. It was okay, he guessed, but not really very satisfying.
Malcolm wasn't like Ellie. He wasn't cutting himself because he was crazy. He was cutting himself because he was smart. He'd spent some time talking to the girl with the marbles...she was really smart. She was the only one here he could practice chess with other than the head doctor. She never beat him...but Eddie always said that she would have beaten him except that she always let him win. He knew Eddie was just trying to bother him, though, and besides, she was smart for her age but she wasn't very good at lying, there's no way she could have just been faking it. Malcolm shook his head, briefly amused at the idea of being beaten by a girl...what was her name again? Ah, it didn't matter, it wasn't like he had a crush on her or anything.
But she was smart. Almost as smart as Malcolm. They'd talked for a while, and she'd had some interesting things to say. About how Malcolm was really smart, and about how he could do anything if he put his mind to it. About how she could tell that, on the inside, his mind was this vast and beautiful thing...she was always so calm and cool, but she almost sounded exciting talking about what Malcolm was like on the inside. How he had this deep inner confidence and strength, how he seemed so much more grown-up than all the others...how her mother had told her once that there was a little bit of God in everyone, but she thought that Malcolm had more of God in him than most people, because he acted more like God. Malcolm had always thought of himself that way, but he had to admit, in his blacker moods, that he wasn't really going to be able to get the doctors' respect. He was too short. And had too little beard-hair. The girl with the marbles was right of course, there was a God inside him, but it was trapped in a little kid's body with no way to get OUT.
But Malcolm wasn't crazy. Not like Adrian. Not like Ellie. No, Malcolm had done RESEARCH. He wasn't gonna take some crazy girl's word on something like this...so he'd gotten the head doctor's son Gerald Solomon, who visited only occasionally, to steal some of his Dad's anatomy textbooks for him. He'd looked everything over, and studied and gotten to the girl with the marbles to look at it with him. It was very important, after all, that he cut open the part of him that would let the God out before he passed out from blood loss...he was pretty sure what he needed to do was cut his heart out and get it outside of his chest...and he needed to grab the spine and pull it out through the cavity. He needed to turn his body inside out like a pair of pants he was taking off to go to bed.
He cut deeper and deeper, and grimaced in pain...but if Izzie could smash his head repeatedly into the wall until it bled and keep going, Malcolm wasn't gonna let a little thing like his own ribcage stop him. He cut and cut and cut, grunting as he went, and the floor got slick and black with blood, and the little sharp piece of metal slipped out of his slippery hands several times before he managed to crack the first rib bone, and then slowly everything started to go numb and dark and he drifted into nightmares about trying to dance but not being able to stand up...
Doctor Solomon couldn't understand it. Malcolm was a little bit egotistical, sure, but he was one of the GOOD kids. He kept the other kids in line, and helped with their therapies. He was the one who had taught them how to dance, and when the kids sang and danced it was practically the only time anybody could get them all to behave...well, except Eddie. Little bastard always managed to step on somebody's toes or "accidentally" knock somebody over...but Malcolm, cutting himself? This was new, this was strange.
He visited the boy in the infirmary, wincing at the bandages around his chest. They'd found an anatomy textbook in his mattress with notes in the margin. Pretty technical-sounding notes, if utterly nonsensical. Malcolm was a smart kid. Doctor Solomon wondered how he could possibly have gotten his hands on the book. It was his own book, and it's not like he brought them from his home library to work...whatever had happened, though, he was willing to be his freaking license that Eddie had something to do with it.
"Why did you try to cut yourself, Malcolm?" He asked, once the boy was conscious again.
Malcolm grinned up at him. "I never tried to cut myself," he declared.
"Malcolm, you wouldn't be in here if-"
"I NEVER TRIED TO CUT MYSELF! NOTHING HAPPENED! I JUST WENT TO SLEEP LIKE I DO EVERY DAY!"
Dr. Solomon argued for a while before he gave up. Sometimes he wondered if being in here was actually helping any of these kids, or just letting the rest of the world pretend they didn't exist so they didn't have to think about them...maybe Malcolm would do better out in the real world, at school where his brilliance and physical fitness and creativity would make him friends and he could get away with being an overbearing asshole for a while...but then he had to go and do something like this.
Later that week, Izzie asked him if Malcolm was feeling better after his cold. That's how Dr. Solomon found out that Malcolm wouldn't let any of the other kids mention how he'd tried to cut himself open. Even Eddie refused to admit it when questioned, though probably just to get a rise out of his least favorite doctor...
Sweet mercy, he couldn't wait to get home and grab a cold drink and invite Andy over to watch the game.
- Wise Old Guru
Doctor Otto von Kython gazed over at the young boy sitting on the red couch, as part of the regular psychiatric evaluations. This time the black eye on his face and the scrapes on his hands and knees were fresh, from an encounter earlier that day.
"So, tell me..." the good Doctor began, "how did you get hurt?" Of course, he knew, but he was testing the boy.
"I fought with that guy again..." the boy grumbled. Of course, Otto knew why. The boy used to be the one everyone paid attention to, until CC and her brother came along. "I asked them who I was, and then Eddy said he was me. I was so mad, I punched him, and then he told on me to him, and he came over and one thing led to another and..."
Otto sighed, pushing up his glasses and writing down notes on his clipboard. "I see..."
"Doc... am I me, or is he me?"
The Doctor waited, gazing at the boy as he slowly sat up from the couch and gazed over at the Doctor desperately.
"Doc? Who am I?" He was tearing up...
Giving up, Doctor Kython replied: "You are Amar Duke."
The boy smiled. "Of course I am. Can I go now?"
"Yes, go ahead." Otto motioned to the door. He looked down at his notes, and wrote in his verdict for this session: no progress.
Mets was eating the paint again.
The other children's rooms were kept decorated, to some degree. Mal liked his room with bright, garish neon green paint and shiny brass handles on the doors. Cytheria dabbed silver paint all over her walls; Dr. von Kython had overheard her asking Szorney to come and see, but thus far, without success.
Mets' room was just dull, grey brick.
Humid, too. It was a room near the outer wall, and the windows let in lots of sun. Mets always needed to have several cups of water strewn about. He could often heft himself up, to run a greasy finger against the window, and then lick what he touched. The smears made the grey stone seem even more washed out, and the hospital lighting seemed to drain the color from the world in the room.
Dr. von Kython wasn't sure what to do with Mets. He rarely left the room; he seemed content to just stay in it, and be fed. He'd asked Solomon to go running with Mets, but Mets wouldn't. Just threw himself down, biting and kicking and screaming, until he was back in the dreary room with the evening meal and four more cups of water.
Mets was eating the paint again. The few and fewer flicks of color in his home.
Dr. von Kython sighed, making a note on his clipboard, before continuing his rounds.
"Oliver?" Dr. Jaia asks, looking into the room.
A most confounding case, Oliver Ray Mutas.
"I'm in a giant egg!" came the child's voice, muffled from beneath the pillow fort. "An egg, made of me!"
"I see," Dr. Jaia replies. "I have some pills for you to take, Oliver."
"ORAY!" he shrieks. "CALL ME ORAY."
"Alright, Oray." Her most soothing voice.
A brief pause. Oliver makes no move to exit the pillow fortress.
"I had another dream. I was outside of here. I'm going to be an astronaught, I think. An astronaught that goes to places no one else has ever gone."
"I bet you will, Oray," Dr. Jaia says, and then starts to move aside two of the pillows. Inside, a small black child sits, knees curled close to his chest, arms wrapped tight around them. "But you need to take your medicine now."
"It makes me nightmare."
"It will help you get well."
Slowly, he reaches out a hand, and then jerks it back, gulping down the pills. Dr. Jaia lets out a relieved sigh, and rises to leave.
"I nightmare about the others. In the quiet place. Doctor Auto says they're sleeping, but I don't think they are. I think they're waiting. I dream with them, sometimes."
She pauses. "I thought you said they weren't asleep, Oray."
There is no reply from the pillow fortress, except a sighing, sleepy giggle. Such an innocent sound. But Oray had been here the longest; despite his small size, he was the oldest child in the aslyum. Dr. Auto's prognosis on him wasn't good; his afflictions seemed to change day by day, and drugs that would move him forward one day would send him screaming the next.
Dr. Jaia closes the door, and wonders.
Inside his eggshell temple, Oray Mutus dreams.
Morrie's watch was now two seconds late. That was as close as Morrie ever got to the present, thank you very much. The present is full of dangers, uncertainties. Uncomfortable truths. The hustle and bustle of everyday life.
His parents are not there, in the present. And they most certainly will never be in the future. Not even normal people will dare to be in the future; they can barely handle being in the present.
Morrie's watch was still two seconds late, a fact Morrie knew with absolute certainty. He had let the present get ahead of him, for the past had no uncertainty. Everything was, in the past. His parents still were in the past, and one day Morrie planned to join them. Now, thought Morrie with a slight chuckle as he looked as his watch, now was as good a time as any to eat.
Morrie headed to the cafeteria, where the cooks and serving-wenchs were serving Apple Crumble and Chicken Nuggets (he'd memorized the rotation long ago, and knew each day by heart, it was his job to)and, idlely, placed his watch beside Xiao Chan, one of the few children here proven trustworthy. Morrie never allowed his precious watch to be stained or covered in grease, for the lunchladies had proven a 3% area of inaccuracy when they aimed their ladles. That watch was the only part of his parents that had dared to brave the trip with Morrie after the flood had swallowed the house, and Morrie intended to keep it polished and shined.
Predictably, the trip through the lunchline took precisely two-minutes-forty-and-three-seconds (Morrie counted each one as they fell from the domain of the vulgar present and into his certain dominion of the past) and sat down with the others who held young Malcolm in esteem. Yes, now there was a strapping young man there, regal, dependable, stately. Just the kind of gentlemen his parents had wanted younger.... older.... almost now Morrie to associate with. Perhaps... perhaps Morrie felt a sense of... bravery around him. Like he almost felt like being in synch with young Malcolm. Morrie hoped he could do it this time. He looked at his watch....
And discovered, to his horror, that Xiao Chan had set his watch two seconds ahead... and them the noise. The Noise of It All. The Colors.... Too Bright. The Noise.... Too Loud. Everything Is Too Vivid... Too... Blast that accursed witch and she-devil. Morrie had intended to make the leap himself, to dare uncertainty, to Be. Now that the watch is accurate by a hand not his own... it was too much. Morrie panicked, and turned his watch to 11:00, precisely one-thousand-sixty-and-three seconds before Now, and left. At some date, older Morrie intended to set his watch to the present, to Be with Malcolm and the others... but Xiao Chan, that traitorous perfectionist, had set Morrie back a good-thousand seconds this day. And Morrie never forgave her for it. Morrie then proceeded to sit beside the ruffian "Izzy" (such a peasant name, that was) and the one known to him as Edward. Szoreny was also there. Not the sort of folk his parents had wanted young Morrie "hanging about", but in their forms as uncouth louts and scalawags, each were dependable in their natures. Set. Bound. Certain. In this, Morrie felt a certain sense of understanding...
... Xiao Chan nodded to herself, and moved the piece called Morrie seven paces back in her mindset. He had almost stepped out of his place in the past, and Xiao Chan had kindly set the conditions up to put him back. In this, order and perfection were mantained. Besides, Morrie's... attention towards Malcolm seemed inconvenient. Out of place. Nearly chaotic.... she would have no rivals for Malcolm's attention. Her place was here, and Morrie's was there. The sooner his sense of timing and her sense of order were synchronized, the better. This was clearly all Morrie's fault. And Malcolm had even wondered where Morrie had gone. Morrie's presence had distracted Malcolm's speech about expanding recess. He had distracted Malcolm, and Xiao Chan would never forgive him!
- Boots of Ebon Giled
They would keep him like this if they knew. Heck they might even think they made him like this.
Not that it matters. They can keep dealing with their boring world with their boring things and their boring ways. He didn't like to think of such things. He tries not to think about boring stuff, not to see it, not to hear it.
It was so much better inside his mind, with all those things that could never have happened. So much more interesting, so many ways the wheel will never turn.
One for the waking and Sachie would show them how boring things were. He would see what they would do and lead them to his desires, regardless of how they might try to fight it. Sachie sees things better. It is so clear, how easy would it be to wake him.
Two for their victory, with Mal all calm, CiCi forgiving the rulebreakers, Xiao being sloppy, Izzy taking care and Eddy standing up for everyone. It's almost boring, but how they get there is interesting. After all, Eddy stopped being Eddy and Mal stopped being Mal.
Three for Omar and the other sick ones getting better, living full lives. It used to be them getting sick, but then it happened and now it's boring. Sometimes he imagines visiting them, but he never does and so he always is with them.
Four...Four is special. Four was put there by Doctor Luna. She told him a tale of Sol and a star in the morning. It was a good story, but it wasn't true. That is why he kept it. But sometimes he gets the feeling that it might've been true, so she comes back and makes the story more fantastic then before, more untrue. If it was real the star would lash them and the doctors would weep.
Five is for Dr. Jaia, how she will find that shiny thing she was looking for, the one that made her go away in the first place. Which is silly, he had and always had. After all it would be far too boring if it was real. But in fifth turn it was real and she found it and came back and Luna was happy and that was bad.
He made Luna, she could have been many things if she had listened to him, but instead she kept trying to make him boring. Told him he shouldn't have broken into her home, told him he shouldn't hurt her family. Which was silly. That was boring. Even watching her killing her brothers and sisters was boring. Maybe that was why she insisted he was sent here, where she could watch him. Naw, too boring. She is probably just mad at him, yes that is interesting, she hates him, wants him dead and gone, even if it was Cindy's idea in the first place.
Six is for Dr. Kython getting better or stop making himself sick. This one is interesting because even after he still needs to steal medical supplies from the charity clinic. He can't stop himself. Or maybe he can and he is just too boring to...
Seven is for being there. Awake and seeing all the boring things and making them not boring. He used to do that, like when he followed Cindy to Luna's house, but he can't have. That would be boring.
Besides it is much more interesting being here, stuck inside his own head.
Why would Orson want to be anywhere else?
One would be being able to share...
Quintus Alfred had to be put in a straightjacket...there was no other way to control him. Oh it wasn't because he was loud, or rambunctious, but his habit of climbing things had to be stopped. Beds, bookshelves, walls, it didn't matter, leave him alone for five minutes and when you came back he would be on top of something he shouldn't. He slept in a room with bare walls and a cushioned floor and spent his nights pawing at the walls until sleep overcame him.
As an experiment, Dr. Kython let him try one of those fake rock climbing walls and watched him try it. Q. Alf approached the wall with a reverence and began to scale it. He moved with a deliberate, measured pace...neither frantic nor cautious, just one hand after the other, up and up and up. He almost fell once or twice...almost, but reached the top eventually. Dr, Kython watched as he reached for the next handhold, and not finding one, reached to the left. No luck there, he turned himself on his head and began to climb DOWN...face first.
"Why do you climb?" Dr. Solomon asked him a few days later
"To reach the top..." Q said staring just over Dr. Solomon's head, "...or maybe the bottom..."
"But, you've gotten to the top of things before, why don't you stop?"
"It's been too easy all those times...they don't count."
"I see," Dr Solomon, sighed, "And what will happen when you reach the top that counts?"
"I don't know," Q. Alf said, blinking, "something good, I guess..."
It was nap time again. That was his favorite time of the day. Nap time. When his eyes were closed.. when the thing in his arm stopped tingling... He could see wonderful things. A city, shining like someone had polished up a big brass button and placed them over little nuck and cranny. Everything shone, everything danced. The Brass Man danced, and all the little people had to dance too. They didn't care; they loved the dance. They loved the Brass Man.
He loved the Brass Man, too.
Then the sun would turn from green to white, and Sanchie would dimly open his eyes again and see the dull white room where he was kept with the thing in his arm that itched and felt like fire running under his skin and the doctors wouldn't let him take it out "That's how you eat, since you bumped your head" like he was a two-year-old and he hated this room and he hated the world where the Brass Man wasn't there to dance.
And he could forgive that, too, if that idiot Solomon Invictor hadn't taken his doll ram away, the only thing good about the room. The boring, white room where no one came except to give him pills.
Funny, those pills. The ones that Dr. Ky... Ky-something gave him made him feel again. His hands. His hands would feel like fire, and he hated him, and Dr. Jaia too, and he almost felt the strength to get up, almost felt the strength to get up and choke him and get his ram back from Sollie... Almost the strength to make everyone pay for why they never visited, why they never saw the Brass Man dancing, why they never danced. Yet.. the pills the others gave, the other kids, who didn't like their pills, they gave him nighty-night pills that made everything good again, and the brass buttons would shine again and everything sang again... and it was nap time again. For that, Sanchie could almost forgive them.
And Eddy always gave him the best pills ever. The ones where he would take them and grind them and put them in the thing in his arm that burned... and it felt like he'd never, never never never had to wake up to the dull room again.
And he loved naptime....That was his favorite time of all....
- Boots of Ebon Giled
Sanchie wasn't like the others. He wasn't a bad kid; he just wanted to get some sleep.
It wasn't that bad in the Institute, at least. Sometimes the stupid doctors would wake him up, so he didn't get as much sleep as he had back home, but his dreams about the other kids were always entertaining. He could shut his eyes and watch Mal strut around pretending to be a king or look at the pretty designs Shelly made with her marbles. Elly was always making up such cool stories to write about, and Eddy was so silly, acting like the bad guy from some cartoon show. He just couldn't understand that the real world didn't need bad guys. Sanchie had understood the world better than that for as long as he could remember.
When he got that new bike for his birthday, he knew he was going to crash it and ruin the cool, shiny red paint job on it, but Dad made him ride it anyway, until he finally did wreck it. When his parents brought home Mittens, he loved how cute and playful the little white kitten was. That's how he knew she was going to go away forever. She was too much fun for Sanchie to be allowed to keep her. And, sure enough, one day she got sick, went to the vet, and never came back. Sanchie hadn't wanted to go to school. He knew the other boys and girls wouldn't like him, because he was boring and stupid and looked funny. No matter how much he warned Mom and Dad, they made him go anyway. He was right, though. The other kids thought he was weird and didn't want to play with him. He was always right.
That's why he liked dreams so much. In dreams, nothing could ever be taken away, and nothing bad could ever happen. When he was asleep, he could watch all his classmates play all day long, laughing and smiling! Mittens could come along too, because she was still alive in the dream world. And, best of all, he didn't have to be Sanchie any more. He wasn't really anybody there; he just watched, like a big eye that never blinked.
Lately, his favorite dreams had been about Cytherea Jr. He didn't dream about her much, but that's why he liked her. He thought that maybe, when he couldn't dream about her, she was in the beginning-place. He wasn't sure what the beginning-place was, or even that it was really a place. He just knew that's where he had been before he'd been born. He liked it there. It's wasn't like the cruel, real world, and it was even better than the dream world, because even that sometimes reminded him of the hateful world that existed out there when he was forced to open his eyes. Sometimes, he imagined that he'd had friends out there, before being born. Maybe, someday Cytherea Jr. would find them all out there, and bring them back. Then they'd tear this damn building down, kill the mean doctors who kept waking him up, and make the real world fun, like the beginning-place had been...
No, Sanchie chided himself. That's stupid. Good things don't happen in the real world. Hoping that they could was what had gotten Sanchie trapped in here in the first place. He hadn't meant to be bad; he just wanted everybody to let him sleep a little longer...
It began when his little brother had started sleeping in his room. He was always playing loud games with his toys, or trying to talk to Sanchie, or anything else that would make enough noise to wake him up. What happened really wasn't Sanchie's fault, it was Mom and Dad's. They should have known that if they didn't watch him enough, he'd wander off and get lost in the woods behind the house. That's just what little kids do. Maybe Sanchie had made that hole in the fence and dared his brother to go out exploring at night. He'd have snuck out on his own eventually, and Sanchie just couldn't sleep with him snoring so loudly that night... Even his parents never suspected he had put the idea in his brother's head. That's how natural it was.
But after that, Mom and Dad started paying more attention to how much he was sleeping. He guessed that after losing one child, they didn't want to see something bad happen to the other. They wouldn't understand how much better sleep was, so Sanchie had to take matters into his own hands, again.
He hadn't lied when he told Dad he'd seen Mom and the man next door hugging without any clothes on. He'd seen the way she always smiled at him. Maybe they hadn't really kissed each other, so what? Being married to Mom made Dad happy. It was a good thing, and, in the real world, good things ended. He wasn't telling Dad about something that hadn't happened, just about something that hadn't happened yet.
Sanchie had trouble sleeping that night at first, because of all the screaming. After a while, he heard some funny sounds and Mom screaming. Things finally got quiet for a while, and Sanchie could sleep. But then, he woke up to the sound of Dad crying. He snuck down to the living room, and saw Dad drinking a can of beer, with Mom sleeping on the ground, covered in the red stuff.
He didn't tell his daddy to kill himself. He just quietly snuck into the kitchen, and kept bringing new cans of beer out to set on the table when Dad wasn't looking. And when he ran out of bear, he'd brought the rope from the garage and laid it next to the empty cans on the table. Then he'd put in that CD with the song mommy and daddy had always liked to listen to together. Dad was going to die anyway, he'd just... sped things up a little bit. After all, wasn't it better for Dad to cry a little then die, rather than cry a lot, waiting to die of something else? He looked so peaceful hanging from the ceiling, like he was asleep. Sanchie wondered if he was having a nice dream while he turned the music off. Couldn't sleep with that racket downstairs, now could he?
That had been the best time in his life. He'd been able to sleep the entire time, until days later when the policemen woke him up. He'd hoped that if he told them the truth, they'd go away and leave him alone to go back to bed, but he should have known better than to hope while he was awake and away from the sweet, innocent world of dreams. They'd taken him here, where the doctors kept trying to keep him awake, trying to "fix" him. No matter how much he tried to explain, they just wouldn't understand.
Sanchie wasn't a bad kid, he just wanted to get some sleep.
- Snide Dastardly
Pyrona was very nearly as perfect a case of OCD as Dr. von Kython could remember seeing. When in her room, away from the other children, she would create elaborate arrangements of marbles, whispering her name to herself. When out with the others, she would placidly follow her older brother's lead, trying to compel the other children to stick to the rules of whatever game Mal wanted to play, content to stay in his shadow.
Dr. von Kython could almost wish that he could let her go. Then he would remember why she was here.
No one knew how Pyrona had gotten the materials, the fatal match. It was just a day after Mal had been committed; everything was a madhouse. Pyrona's case was still being decided.
Somehow, she set fire to the tenement complex she had been living in. Not a careless, casual fire, not an accident. She applied the same methodical patterning to that fire as she did to her complex geometries of marbles. According to some reports, barely one in ten go out alive.
He shook his head.
Pyrona's head jerked at the motion, the flickering of light and shadow. Carefully, she reached out to move one marble two inches to the left, to compensate, as the Doctor's shadow passed.
Three times three is nine. Nine is a square number. A cube is a square on all sides. Perfect.
...it was calming to think that at least numbers could achieve such perfection. Numbers never lied to you, or did dumb things like push you over into the mud and laugh at you for no reason.
...Stupid Izzy. Dumb, stupid Izzy. The doctors had tried to tell her that Izzy was trying to tease her, that he actually liked her when he did dumb things, but that didn't make any sense at all.
...Why weren't the doctors making sense? That was their job. They were supposed to fix the others. Make them calm. make them perfect, like she was...
...I was perfect. I was perfect, why did I think she? This kind of error is why I'm here. I take this failure, and move it to the marble. I move the marble 2 centimeters left, and consign the error to the trash can.... Delete complete.
Three times three is nine. Nine is a square number. A cube is a square on all sides. Perfect.
...it was calming to think that at least numbers could achieve such perfection. Numbers never lied to you, or did dumb things like take three of your marbles and scatter them all over the institute for no reason.
...Stupid Ed. Dumb, stupid Ed. Didn't he know that I would tear every curtain and bed apart looking for them, my marbles, I can't make the mandala without them, I can't make deletes without them?
...I was perfect. I was perfect, why do I need the marbles? This kind of error is why I'm here. I take this failure, and move it to the marble. I move the marble 2 centimeters up, and consign the error to the trash can... Delete complete.
Three times three is nine. Nine is a square number. A cube is a square on all sides. Perfect.
...it was calming to think that at least numbers could achieve such perfection. Numbers never lied to you, or did dumb things like punching Ed and helping me look for my marbles.
...Stupid Malphie. Sweet, stupid Malphie. Doesn't he know he doesn't need to fight Dr. Sollie and Ed all the time? Doesn't he know I'm there to place things in order, so he can play king-games and I....
I was perfect. He is perfect, why can't I be perfect for Malphie? This kind of error is why I'm here. I take my failure, and move it to the marble. I move the marble 2 centimeters down, and consign the error to the trash can... for Malphie....
Three times three is nine. Nine is a square number. A cube is a square....
"Hey, Swingy, do you wanna play house with me and Mawlphie?", asked Cecylene from the sandbox. She was alwats in the sandbox; it was her place to be in the sandbox. Malphie was in the sandbox with Cecylene. Her place was with Malphie, it was her place to be in the sandbox. She packed up her marbles, saying... "Ok" with that voice all the doctors think girls her age should sound like, even if when she did it they found it scary, and walked over...
- Boots of Ebon Giled
Shiela was at the computer again. It wasn't uncommon really, a reward given for good behavior. Mal and Izzy almost never got it (and Eddy of course, but he snuck on sometimes anyway), but Mal liked people more than machines and Izzy always got bored with them. To him, they never really DID anything. Shiela thought that was a bad way of looking at it. Computers did lots of things. You just had to look at them right.
She didn't do what the other children did though. It wasn't connected to the internet of course, so they only had old games to play, but Shiela didn't care. Games were a waste of time. She would have liked to take a screwdriver to the machine and see how it worked on the inside, maybe fixed some things. It was slower than what she'd had at home, before the...before the fire. She hated it when things didn't work efficiently, but she bore it with as much pride as she could. Doctor Jaia never let her near a screwdriver anymore, after she had seen Dr. Kthon's skin blemish (they never talked about it around the kids, but Adrian had heard the word "cancer" and "tumor" talked about it, so maybe that was what it was?) and she'd tried to fix that too. No-one ever let her fix anything, especially things that needed repairs.
So since she couldn't fix things, she did the next best thing. She had a spreadsheet open, with a big long list of everyone who lived and/or worked here. She kept tabs, notes, records...everything she could think of to try and make sense of everyone here. If she could just puzzle them out, make them fit into the way she thought, maybe she would be allowed to make everything better. The number of people Izzy shoved around, who he pushed and when. The way Mal (she blushed a little, thinking about him. She wasn't sure why, but she always did that) tried to make everything work out as well. He was more confident than Sheila, more outgoing, but it still didn't work. What Eddy had stolen, who he'd taken it from (he was easier to understand than the rest, which made Sheila like having him around, even when he was mean. She always knew what was coming with him, at least). What Sanchez dreamed about, when he woke up and talked about it. The doctors too: she knew that Dr. Jaia looked at Luna differently than everyone else did, and how Doctor Solomon tried to keep a strong face when he hurt. She stayed away from Dr. Kthon whenever she could. He was so much like her, and yet so different. He studied things, analyzied everything, tried to fix what was broken, whether it was people or things. But he was always coughing, and Sheila didn't want to be sick. And he didn't seem to take any satisfaction with what he fixed, or want to keep it that way. It was like the fixing was more important than the result, which was just wrong. He smoked as well, she knew. He didn't do it around them, but she knew the smell of...burning things. Maybe that was why he was always coughing. Also, although she didn't really want to admit it, he was very ugly and it made her uncomfortable.
She sighed and kept typing, adding all the new things she'd learned that day and trying to make everything fit into some sort of pattern. It was coming together. The doctors would be proud when she was done, maybe even call her a psychologist too. Then she would make things right. And it would all be good. It would...
Szorney knew he had a problem. But which problem he had was something that made him confused, and no one would help him understand. When Malfeas acted up and threw a fit, posing as a king among the other children, Szorney acted up too. Both were sent to time out without toys. When CC would play with her dolls and try to help everyone by handing out toys and demanding that the other children follow the rules, Szorney would copy that too. Both would be sent to their rooms to learn how to interact better with others without imposing themselves on others. When Adorjan whimpered and ran around shutting people's mouths and being catatonic, Szorney would follow after. Both were then given pills for schizophrenia, but they made Szorney sick and he couldn't keep doing it. Even when he tried to copy Solomon and Dr. Acto, they would simply shake their heads and tell him to find his own identity. Which made Szorney secretly very angry at the two doctors. Other people got attention for being themselves, and were interesting besides. Why did it work for them and not little Szorney?
Szorney promised himself that one day he would get out of this accursed asylum. They never allowed visitors from outside to visit him, but Ed had said that he would bribe one of the caretakers to let in someone.... normal. All Szorney had to do was mimic the .... normal person long enough, and they would let Szorney out. Then, he could copy everyone and be as interesting as possible. Then no one would ignore him, ever again. And when other people were too interesting and made Szorney sad, then Szorney could copy them so well that the little, freaky, loathsome.... normal person would be cast out in the asylum for stealing attention away from Szorney. Then it would be and Issie all over again, just Issie and Szorney, and Szorney, and Szorney, and Szorney, and Szorney, and Szorney........
Szorney woke up from his nap. He had the bad dream again, the bad dream when he left his friends behind and never looked back. That was a bad dream, and he would console himself by crying to CC and Swlihny and Kimmy and they would kiss him and make him feel better all over again. Of course he would never leave his friends in the asylum.
He would take them all with him, and then their faces and voices and Szorney would be happy forever in the magical lands beyond St. Cynthy's. Lands that would always look at Szorney. Always.
- The Third Fetich
Once, a long time ago, Szorney had stolen all the mirrors he could and hid them all around his room in the Institute. They let him check his face and eyes from all corners of his room, allowing him to inspect his every feature, his every flaw. The girls, Swinny (she called herself Xiao Lin, but he would always call her Swinny. It fit somehow.), CC, and Kimmy, would sometimes also stop by, and he would alter the mirrors for their height and figures, showing and complimenting every form, showcasing every flaw. CC and Kimmy would talk to him and pick out dresses from Szorney's closet (Szorney keeping all manner of clothes when he felt like being whatever it was he wanted to be that day), and Swinny when she wanted to just hang out and reflect her marbles in endless rows through mirror and space. (or when she wanted to compliment her dresses to those of Malcom's.) So it was one day that Szorney looked at himself one day, when the moonlight shone from the sky as a perfect disc of silver light around a perfected shining full moon, that he gazed into his mirrors.... and found himself. All of himself. An endless landscape of Szorneys.
This was not mere fancy, not weird voices talking in his head or idle time catching up with Szorney like it would when there was no one to reflect, no one to watch him. He was watching himself, all of himslef, and the mirrors shone the brightest upon a mirror world of silver light, of argent trees. The many Szorney's were him of course, and half of them were female too, but Szorney smiled. At last, he was all together, unbroken once more. He could think clearly now, and no mere mimicry fueled his mind, since all Szorney's now mimiced each other, an endless spiral of possibility and reflection. And he agreed with all of himslef, all of herself, all of ITSELF, for all was Szorney.
And the general consensus was that he was free. Szorney smiled as only a true Architect of the Universe can, fulfilled in every respect.
It was not to last. Forever shattered by the divison of self, by his upside down landing, and his need to reflect something else, to be watched by the whole universe, to interact, to move, to be seen, the massive ego of Szorney turned outward. All of Szorney turned towards the sound of keys jangling in the lock of his padded cell, to the movement of the deaf-mute orderly, who still came to work even after little Eddy stole his hearing aids. Szorney stood as he always did, and projected outward a world of possibilty, an endless variety of form and shape that should have reduced the man to a being forever enslaved to the awesome visage of He Who Reflects the Stars, the only being in whom even mighty unstoppable Isidoros had an equal and friend. But the eyes of a child are not the eyes of a Primordial, and the orderly took no heed of the piercing glance. Then the orderly did something inconsequential to most, but definitely painful to the freed Primordial. He bumped a mirror, and disturbed the balance.
To all other beings, this would only have caused a mild upset of the Feng Shui in the room. To Szorney, in whom all refelections have their origin, it dirupted the only sense of unity it had known in 5000 years. Szorney no longer agreed with Szorney, male against female, old against young, child against thing without age and without birth and without end.
The child Szorney collapsed as a vacuum of power and understanding left him for parts now unknown, no trace of knowledge left but of a profound sense of balance lost, of refelection and power gone. Hurried by desire and weakened by the rush of mortality and fixed form and mind, it adjusted the mirror back to its original order. But nothing returned. Was the balance off? Was the moon no longer as full? Was the world no longer so small as it had been? These thoughts drifted in the mind of a being now small and frail. The orderly signed an apology, seemingly understanding the child's disruption, its loss of divinity and presence, and left. But the damage was done. Szorney was alone once more, no longer even with himself. The child sighed, and left for other rooms, other beings. He could still reflect those, even if the True Szorney was gone. But it had existed, and that meant the child was pleased. Somewhere, beyond space and time, in a silver forest and in a child's mind, SZORNEY smiled. Once whole, then whole, Szorney knew that he had been restored and could be again. The Broken Mirror slept soundly, in a dream of his own make. Tonight, all beings slept peacefully once more. The child, knowing that he had an identity of his own. The Yozi, in the sure and assured knowledge (and Cheshire grin) of a being who understands that not all escapes come from the front door. He would have to thank Luna later, if he ever got out of this prison again. He always liked her.
And so it was, unto the ending of the Infinite Prism. And Szorney and Szorney and Szorney.... etc. agreed. It was a good day to be Alive.
- The Third Fetich
He hadn't seen the sky in forever.
St. Cytherea's Infirmary was an entire wing, lit by bright white florescent lights. It was a twisting maze of corridors, impossible to navigate unless you knew it by heart.
He knew every inch of it, confined to his wheelchair and to the Infirmary wing as he was.
Sometimes he would whisper to one of the other four children in the Infirmary who were awake. Most of the time, however, he'd go over to his secret place, where he'd found a crack in the wall, and whisper there. Most of the time, nobody heard. Sometimes, however, someone was on the other side, listening. He and this friend would whisper back and forth. He didn't know the friend's real name - he just called him Ian Seven.
Ian would tell him about the world, about things happening in it. And he would tell Ian what life was like, living in the maze of corridors, and about how Eddie had tricked him into goading that student of Solomon's like that.
There were other people in the wing besides himself and the other four awake patients, of course: a few comatose ones, and the orderlies. The orderlies were dressed in white, mostly, and very few of them ever spoke to him.
In general, what A. B. Lawrence knew of life was pain and discomfort. Gordon Rollins (Go-Rol, by his gang - how he hated them, too!) had broken him in ways that, even after Dr. Jaia had shown him on the chart what had happened to him, he didn't really understand.
He talked to Ian about this too, as best he could - he didn't think Ian got it, not really, but Ian had known Victor Solomon, and knew what his students were like.
But mostly, he and Ian spoke of their plans. For revenge on Go-Rol and his whole gang, on their families, and on everyone they cared about.
And then, one day, Eddie came to the Infirmary, with a plan to do that.
DCFS officer Vim Pura frowned as Hannah was put in solitary. Again. Dr. Jaia was as horrified as the good officer to learn that the pre-teen girl had been hoarding her meds and selling them to healthy kids outside. He'd suspected her obsession with psychedelics wouldn't end with her poor older brother. The doctor with a limp - Vim Pura and his department hadn't seen him in years, but Dr. Jaia's reports were always accompanied by statements from the brilliant but sickly man - was convinced that Hannah G.'s antics didn't get meds TOO out of balance. He was more concerned with young Eddy's influence on her.
Vim, for his part, steeled himself. He forced himself to visit Hannah's brother every time he came here. He hadn't done it, but his department had. Oran, the oldest of the children at St. Cytherea's, looked like he was wrapped in a straight jacket. He barely moved, and never acknowledged anyone's presence. Who could blame him? The "jacket" was really a careful set of splints used to keep his malformed arms from breaking further. They'd been broken when he was put in here. A master escape artist, the boy'd perpetually endangered the other children from the outside by releasing them to the world. A world-class enabler.
It was no wonder, after what had happened to him when DCFS had to put him in the Institute, Hannah'd taken to giving him pain killers. Vim Pura hated to visit him, but after what had been done... the boy deserved news of the outside. It was all he ever asked for.
Solomon watched in irritation. He'd told DCFS Officer Pura that family visits from Mal's crime-boss older brother didn't do any good, but Dr. Kython kept overriding him. The young man almost felt he could earn Mal's respect, but then that...asshole came by and supplanted Solomon's hard work.
Today, Mal had actually organized the other children into a harmless but exhausting musical play. He'd been so proud and excited to show Sol, but it was a scheduled day for family therapy, so Liam Gerard had shown up. Right when Mal was really getting into it, too. One glare from that uncanny, green-eyed boy, and Mal shut right down.
Solomon watched as they argued. Liam would be gone by the end of the day, but he still ran a criminal empire - at his age! Solomon could do it, too, if he wanted, but that's beside the point! - from juvie. ...Solomon frowned. For all Liam's disapproval always shamed and shut down any progress Mal had made...watching them...who was giving orders to whom?
...he would DEFINITELY have to mention this to Officer Vim Pura. Dr. Kython would ignore him over something his own followers did. And Dr. Jaia... he didn't like how she looked at Luna. Something wasn't right there. And it wasn't just because Luna was like a sister to him. But it reminded him of how Kimmy looked at him, and that was just...disturbing. So Officer Pura it was. Maybe the doctors would listen to a DCFS agent.
It was all over the newspapers, even the ones the doctors thought safe enough to introduce into the Institute. Perhaps their greatest mistake was allowing Edward Drake the chance to read it.
"Hey there," he said to the new arrival, as the other kids were returning to their rooms after the day was done. "How was your first day here?"
"F-fine..." the girl said, unsure of what to really say. She'd heard stories about Eddy Drake, horrid, horrid stories, but he'd kept his distance today, never even looked at her. And seeing the other kids like Malfie and Izzy throw their weight around, Siew Lin's obsessiveness and Adrienne just-plain-craziness, she wondered what was so bad about the good-looking kid who always stayed in the corners.
"Fine, eh? That's good, 'specially considering how long you're gonna be locked away here."
"Hey, wanna know something?" Drake whispered, leaning down to her. "I've got a secret place the doctors don't know about. Wanna go see?"
"B-but it's dark," the girl whimpered.
"Yeah, I know! That's what makes it fun! But okay, hmmm... do you have a special friend? Someone who you can always count on to be there? He can come with us too!"
"Um... there's Pointdexter," the girl said, grinning a little- Eddy's confidence was strangely infectious. "But I wasn't allowed to bring him here. He's a bunny!" she exclaimed. "He's pink!"
"Whoa, sounds like a real tough guy."
"No, he's got glasses!" the girl smiled. "And he's pink!"
"So? Didja know that a long time ago, people thought pink was a manly colour?"
"Way all the way!" Drake said. " 'Cos it was almost like red, the colour of blood, and- hey, what's wrong?" he said, his concerned face comforting the suddenly silent girl somewhat. "Did I say something wrong? Hey, I'm sorry, really I am."
"I'm not supposed to talk about blood," the girl said quietly. "Mommy said it was bad to think about blood, and Dr. Victor agrees."
"Well, I don't know about your Mommy, but let me tell you, the Doc doesn't always have all the answers," Drake replied. "Anyway, if you don't want to go to my secret place, no problem. I'll just go my-"
"No, wait!" the girl said. "Um...are you sure it's safe?'
"Ma'am," Eddy said, and the little girl's heart soared to be called by such a grownup title, especially when he bowed deeply, as a prince might to a princess. "I may not be a Pointdexter, but I promise you that I'll do everything I can to protect you."
- - -
"It's really, really dark in here," the girl said, her previous bravado almost gone. "Are you sure there aren't any monsters?"
"Trust me, kiddo," Eddy said, his smile somehow visible even in the darkness, "there ain't no monsters here."
Drake's 'secret place' was within the asylum's basement, hidden in a maze of pipes and shafts. Beyond them was a small chamber; Drake never found out what it was meant to be, but it served its purpose. "I'd come down here to think, you know," he said quietly, lighting a candle he'd brought with him. He hated the way the light penetrated the darkness, hated the way it intruded on his thoughts, but this... this was a special occasion. "To think, to... escape."
"Escape? From what, Eddy?"
"This place, kiddo, where else?"
"But you can get out, Eddy!" the girl said earnestly. "Dr. Victor said that if you're good, and, uh, 'oh-bee-dee-ent' , and listen to what he and Dr. Kython and Dr. Jaia say, you'll be fixed, and you can go back out!"
" 'Fixed'? That sounds like Dr. Kython to me. Listen to yourself! Are you a broken toy, kiddo? Do you need to be 'fixed'? Like you've got a little wheel inside you that won't turn? You ain't broken, you don't need to be fixed."
"But the doctors said-"
"And you believed them? If it was so easy to fix you, then you wouldn't be here in the first place. They'd just send you to a doctor, like when you get your shots, and then you'd be able to go home with your Mommy and Daddy and Pointdexter, wouldn't you? And you'd get ice cream for being such a brave little girl, wouldn't you? But instead, they lock people like us up in here, because we can't be 'fixed'. Because they can't have us messing up their perfect little lives. Sorry to break it to you, kiddo, but chances are, there ain't gonna be any escape for us."
"N-no! That's not true!" the girl said, tears running down her cheeks. "M-mommy and Daddy love me! They won't let anybody keep me here!"
"Kiddo, if your Mommy and Daddy really loved you, you wouldn't be here in the first place. I'm sorry, but someone has to tell you this, and it sure won't be the doctors- they get paid the longer you stay in here. But I've read the papers, and let me tell you- ain't no way they're letting you back. Your Mommy and Daddy may have loved you before, but not anymore. Trust me."
"You're lying!" the girl screamed, and Drake's soul sang. "You're a mean, bad boy! You're telling lies! You- you're going to hell!" the girl shouted, and immediately closed her mouth- Daddy told her to never say bad words like that, but she just couldn't help herself. Which meant it was Drake's cue to help himself.
"See? You just said a bad word. You don't see me or the doctors saying those kinda things, right? But there you are, a little girl, saying such horrible things... and after doing such horrible things too," Drake tut-tutted. "And you still think Mommy and Daddy love you? They don't love you. They're afraid of you. They're afraid you're gonna do to them the same things you did to all those other kids- and why not? I mean, kids grow up into grownups anyway, maybe they think you'd start on them too."
"It was an accident!" the girl bawled. "I didn't know what would happen! I didn't mean to! They bullied me! I just wanted to scare them! I didn't mean for them to get hurt!"
"They weren't just hurt! They died! You killed them!"
He snatched the girl's hand and forced it over the candle, relishing her screams. "Stop it, Eddy!" she screamed. "It hurts! It hurts!"
"It does, doesn't it?! That pain is the sound of your skin peeling off, your flesh roasting, and it's only one finger!" he said as he threw her back. "Imagine how it would be like if your whole body felt like that! If you knew you were going to die!"
"Stop it! Stop it!" the girl shouted, but Drake forcefully wrenched her hands away from her ears. In one swift movement, he seized her by her hair and lifted her up into the air and began screaming in her face, her frail body shaking with every one of his shouted prounouncements.
"Think of how it would feel as every inch of your body cooked, how the smell of your own roasting flesh reminded you of the bacon Mommy and Daddy made for breakfast! Imagine the last things you would see before your eyeballs burst from the heat, how painful that would be! You did that to other kids! And not just the bullies too! The teachers, the other kids, your friends! They all died the same way! And it was ALL! YOUR! FAULT!"
"Mommy!" the hysterical girl cried. "I want to go home! I want to go home! Mommy! Daddy!"
He looked down at the girl weeping at his feet, his chest heaving as the pleasure washed through him. "Mommy? Daddy? Listen, and listen good- you look in the mirror, and you see a little girl. But your Mommy and Daddy?" he said, spitting out the titles as though they were poison, "they see a monster. A monster to lock away, to forget about, to never see again! A monster to fear. And most of all, a monster to hate. That's right, they don't love you anymore. They hate you. Because like I said- if they really loved you, you wouldn't be here."
"You're lying..." the girl sobbed, but there was no conviction in her statement.
"Really? If they loved you, they'd have known you were being bullied. Read a few books- there are signs kids show if they're being bullied, even if they don't know they're showing them. If your Mommy and Daddy really loved you, they'd have picked up on that- but they didn't. They never saw how thin you were when you came back from school- they were too busy thinking about themselves to care that someone was stealing your lunch money. Or how messed up your hair was because bullies pulled on it- because who cares about a little girl's pain when their favourite shows are on? When you told them your dreams of becoming a ballerina or a rock star, did they listen? Or did they say that 'you should be realistic'? They didn't want you to 'be realistic'- they just didn't want you to become better than them."
He dropped her to the floor then. "They don't love you. And they never did. They just kept you around because you fulfilled their dream of having a family. You were never anything more than their pet, to be thrown out of the house or killed when you weren't cute enough for them anymore."
"That's not true..." she said, and Drake found himself impressed, irritated- and quite anticipatory. Oh, how he hoped his knowledge of hospital procedures would prove correct! "That's not true! Mommy and Daddy do love me..."
"Tell you what, kiddo," Drake smirked. "The next time your Mommy and Daddy visit, ask them to take you home. If they loved you- really, really loved you- they'd do anything to have you back right there and then. But if not..."
The girl slowly came to her feet, and the song in Drake's heart swelled as he saw a spot of hope in her eyes. "They do love me," she spat. "They do love me, and I will go home, you'll see. And then I'll tell on you, and they'll call the police, and they'll put you in jail."
Drake only smiled.
- - -
The next day, the girl sat eagerly in the waiting room. At her side was Dr. Solomon Victor, also wearing a wide smile. She seemed genuinely happy, wholly hopeful. If she kept this up, she'd be out in no time- a few months, a year at most, and even then only if she managed to make a few friends whom she needed time to say goodbye too. Maybe... maybe she'd even have a calming effect on the other troubled children. Of course, Solomon knew it was an unrealistic propspect, but even in his currently spiraling depression, he snatched at any bit of hope he could. It was just his nature.
The girl's parents came in, and everyone's faces shone with delight. Polite greetings were interrupted by the girl's delighted squeal when she saw Pointdexter in her father's arms, and she eagerly took the stuffed bunny out of his hands. The room's four occupants then sat and chatted for what seemed like hours, on seemingly banal things, but with every word the girl's smile seemed to grow wider and wider. Eventually though...
"All right there, little missy!" Solomon said with a satisfied sigh. "Time to get back to your dorm, your mother and father have to go now."
"Nuh-uh!" the girl replied happily. "I'm going home now, right?" she grinned, turning to her parents.
"Oh no, sweetie," her mother said. "You can't go home yet, the doctors-"
"Why not...?" the girl asked, her eyes wide, her mouth slightly open.
"Well, it's not time yet, darling," her father replied. "We have to wait for the doctors to give their okay first."
"But- but I'm okay now!" the girl said, turning back to Solomon. "I'm okay, right?" she asked, hysteria at the edge of her voice. Unfortunately for all involved, Solomon was an honest man.
"I'm sorry, but we'll have to do more tests before-" he began, but the girl had already run to her parents and was now clutching at her mother's leg.
"You won't leave me in here, will you? You'll get me out, and then we'll go home and we can watch cartoons together like we used to!" she cried.
"Darling, it's not that easy," her father said as he sat down next to his daughter. "Like Dr. Victor said, they need to make sure you're okay before they'll let us take you home."
"Your father's right, sweetie," her mother added, her heart breaking with every tear her daughter shed. "We just want to make sure you're well, because we love y-"
"YOU'RE LYING! YOU'RE ALL LYING!" the girl said, and she threw Pointdexter at her mother's head. "You don't wante me back! You just want to lock me away in here forever! I hate you! I hate all of you!" she yelled, before running back through the doors and into the hospital, leaving her parents and Solomon in shock.
"I'm sorry," Solomon said after a few moments, turning to the girl's parents. "I... I should have seen this coming. Some patients- God, I hate how impersonal that sounds," he said to himself before continuing. "Some patients have trouble adjusting. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have scheduled a meeting so soon."
"Don't knock yourself, Doctor," the girl's father said. "It's our fault too, pushing a meeting like this."
"And as a trained medical professional, I should have refused," Solomon added. "No, no," he said, when he saw that the mother was about to speak. "The longer we play the blame game, the longer your little girl will go without treatment. Why don't you two go home for today, and I'll contact you... I'll contact you when your daughter is ready for a meeting."
"Thank you, Doctor," the mother said terfully, clutching Pointdexter to her chest as closely as her daughter once did.
Later, Solomon visited the young girl's room. "Hey there, little girl. That was... quite the scene you caused there."
"Go away," the girl said, turning her tear-streaked face away.
"Now, now, me, the doctors, and your Mommy and daddy- we all just want to see you get better."
"No you don't! You just want to keep me here so you can get paid! And my parents just want me here because they're afraid of me and they hate me!"
"What? No! How could you think such things? Your parents love you!"
"If they really loved me, they would have taken me home, just like he said!"
He? "He? Who's this 'he'?"
"Eddy," the girl sniffed. "He took me to his secret place last night and he told me the truth!"
Solomon's eyes widened. "Secret... place?" he said, as a chill ran through his veins. Before he could stop himself, he had seized the girl in a viselike grip. "Tell me, did he do anything to you?"
"Let me go!" the girl said. "I'm not telling you anything! You're a bad man! Let go!"
At that moment, Solomon did want to let go. He wanted to let go of the girl, run over to Drake's room, and strangle the boy alive. Only his conscience's voice echoing in the cold darkness of his soul bade him stop, to be perfectly sure- for no amount of righteous anger would salve the pain of taking a life innocent of the crime it was accused of.
And so, the girl still screaming protests and kicking in his arms, Solomon took her to the infirmary.
Listening to the cries of rage and hate in the halls, Drake turned over in his bed until he was lying face-down on his pillow. He didn't do anything to her, and that was what made it so delicious. In her state, Solomon and the other doctors would be forced to perform their sexual abuse test under her protests, a procedure that would be far more degrading than any sexual abuse, and one that would deepen her mistrust between her and the doctors, eventually rendering her just as incurable as Drake and his 'friends'.
As he thought about this, a muffled sound came from Drake's pillow, a sound that grew louder and louder as he laughed.
- - -
In his room, where he still slept, Sach stirred, though didn't awake. "Mistake..." he murmured. "Your mistake, Eddy... she'll find out... she'll see the truth for herself... become greater than you ever will be, Eddy..."
His troubled face settled into a content smile as he finished. "And one day, she'll be free... of the prison... and of you."
- Mecha Aurelius
Eddy was having a fun day, bragging to each of the others about what he'd done to Diesel. The last person left to inform was Sanchie. Eddy wasn't supposed to wake Sanchie up, but he couldn't remember why. Probably one of the doctors not wanting him disturbed, but Eddy didn't care. Keeping Sanchie awake was always good for a laugh, and he'd eventually tell Ed something interesting just to be left alone to go back to sleep. Eddy smiled as he remembered when Sanchie had told him about the trip Dr. Jaia was taking. He'd had SO much fun reminding Dr. Luna of that at every opportunity in the weeks before Jaia finally left.
Eddy tried to open the door to Sanchie's room, but it was stuck. He must have barricaded the door to his room while sleep walking again, but ten minutes and a dare to Izzy later, Eddy had the door open. With a wicked grin, he climbed into Sanchie's bed.
"Hey! Hey, hey, hey, wake up!" he excitedly yelled, jumping up and down on the bed.
Sanchie eventually stirred. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he asked, "Eddy? What did ya wake me up for? I was having that nice dream. Y'know, the one about how things were before the accident..."
"Oh, you've just GOT to hear this, ol' pal!" Eddy said. He took his time explaining all the pranks he'd pulled since the last time they talked. Sanchie kept trying to nod off, but Eddy gave him enough strong, friendly pats on the back to keep him awake. He eventually got to explaining what he'd done to Diesel. He was almost to the part where Dr. Kython had snapped when Sanchie interrupted him.
Eddy paused for a second, then replied, "'So what?' Can't you just imagine the look on Solomon's face when he found the body?"
"I don't see how it matters." Eddy shot a confused look at him, so he elaborated. "It was just a dog. He was going to get sick or run over or something and die anyway. Solomon is suffering now instead of when Diesel would have died normally, but it seems like an awful lot of effort for nothing."
"B... but he saw how I killed his dog! He was the one who found the body!"
Sanchie shrugged. "A little more traumatic, but he'll just have more time to cope with it now. Same thing." Eddy suddenly remembered why he wasn't supposed to talk to this little buzz-kill.
"Yeah, well, you won't be so unimpressed when I break us out of here."
"You're always talking about getting us out. It'll never happen."
Eddy smirked, "Just you wait! I've got a foolproof plan this time."
"You mean training those squirrels to steal the keys from Dr. Kython?" Sanchie said with a yawn.
"...yeah..." Eddy admitted, wracking his brain for which of his co-conspirators had let that slip. Probably that loud mouth, Mal.
Sanchie laid back down and rolled onto his side, facing away from Eddy. "Won't work," he stated matter-of-factly before closing his eyes.
Eddy fumed as he stomped out of the room. Next time, he was definitely going to remember not to wake up Sanchie.
- Snide Dastardly
"You see?" Cecily finished scrabbling for the right newspaper clipping and held it out, careful not to let her sleeve ride up. "This is what happens."
The other girl, Xiao-Lian, looked, as requested. It was difficult to pay attention to the words on the clipping--its edges were so irregular, so worn. She shied away from the proffered article, saying nothing.
Cecily let out an exasperated breath. "Come on, you big baby, it's just paper. Here, look."
Xiao-Lian looked again, but the clipping's torn and uneven edges felt threatening. "...suspected arson," she dutifully read, her tone quiet and cold.
Cecily nodded, putting the clipping down on the table at which they sat. "That means someone burned down a building. Except they didn't, that was me. The newspaper is trying to cover it up."
Xiao-Lian was half-listening. She was too busy fixing the clipping, tearing off tiny pieces and putting the pieces into a pattern that made sense to her. On occasion, when presented with a piece that meshed poorly with her pattern, she rearranged the pattern into something new and more complex. It never occurred to her not to use a scrap of paper, though she did briefly consider eating a particularly recalcitrant scrap so that it would stop messing everything up.
"They're afraid of me, and they should be, because covering things up is against the law."
The irony of her statement didn't occur to her. She was covered nearly from head to toe in oversized clothing, showing only as much skin as absolutely necessary, so nobody could see how small she was, or how her skin writhed and shifted. But even if that was the sort of "cover up" she'd been talking about, that was okay--Congress had agreed that as the person writing the laws, Cecily didn't need to follow them herself. That just wouldn't have made sense.
"That's probably why the other kids say that don't believe me," she continued, despite Xiao-Lian's continued silence. "They're afraid the newspaper men will come and make them forget everything." She looked out over the other children, having their own conversations, playing with their toys. They were all weird--there was Martin, telling stories about himself again, most of them probably weren't even true. Helen was talking with Søren, who knew what about. She couldn't see Eddie anywhere, and that worried her a bit. He kept trying to look under her shirt, even though Cecily had told him it was against the law. She kept dreading the moment when he told everyone she was made of sand, but he hadn't done it yet.
That was when she noticed the new boy coming this way. He was so tall, he was going to see right through her disguise and she'd keep shrinking down to nothing and then she'd be gone forever--
The new boy sat down next to the two girls and continued reading his book. He barely gave them a glance. Xiao-Lian didn't look up at first, either, intent upon finishing her work with the newspaper clipping. Eventually, though, she did look up and found her breath taken away. This new boy was perfectly symmetrical. No scars or moles, no teenage stubble, a perfectly even haircut, not too tall or short. He was clean, too, and reading a book. Maybe he was smart. He looked smart.
Xiao-Lian had never felt conventional attraction for other people, even once she was old enough that her parents had started trying to find her boys to date. She didn't know what attraction was supposed to feel like. Was it this? Looking at the clear, strong lines of his face gave her a sense of peace, as if, perhaps, the world weren't so jagged and terrifying.
"Quit staring at him!" Cecily whispered, poking the other girl's shoulder. Xiao-Lian was startled by the contact, and did as she was told.
The boy looked up from his book. "It's fine," he said, reassuringly. "I don't mind at all."
Given permission, Xiao-Lian went right back to staring, to Cecily's annoyance. "God, you're so weird," she told her quiet friend. Cecily shook her head and sat up extra-straight, so she could seem taller. "I'm Cecily. She's Xiao-Lian. She doesn't talk much."
The boy looked from Cecily to Xiao-Lian. "Does she have anything to say now?"
It took Xiao-Lian several seconds to realize that that had been a prompt for conversation. "Ni hao," she said, because that was the correct thing to say.
Cecily piped up, "That means--"
"I know what it means," said the boy, impatient. "Hello. My name is Malcolm Fuchs. I'm a genius."
Xiao-Lian bobbed her head in greeting, to which Malcolm gave a brief nod of recognition. Cecily, for her part, was skeptical. "If you're a genius, why are you here?"
Malcolm smiled. His teeth were white and perfect. "Oh, I'm not a patient. I'm here on loan to the doctors. They thought I would be a good influence."
Xiao-Lian nodded once more. That made sense. He was already helping her feel better.
"This whole place could use some straightening out," he continued, waving his book in the general direction of the other kids. "No structure, just a bunch of playing around."
Cecily pursed her lips thoughtfully. "...yeah... that's what bothers us, too. Everyone's always breaking the rules. Nobody has any respect."
Malcolm snapped his book shut, rather dramatically. "Well, I guess you're lucky I'm here now."
- Dex Davican
The first thing he saw as he was shaken awake was Lucy. Cici's doll, a pretty thing that, because it never wore any clothes, always made him think it was a boy. She was always getting it cut up in her sandbox, somehow. But this time, it was watching him. Poor Lucy. It had failed this time. He could see in its eyes that it knew it, too.
Eddy was shaking him. He always thought it was funny to wake him up. Right now, with a clarity he shouldn't have, he could see all the times yet to come when Eddy would wake him. His dear, dear friend...he thought he was making things worse, but he was only doing what he would always do.
"Sanch! Sanch!" whispers the smaller, weasly boy. "So, you know the other day, how Izzy got himself hurt?"
Sanchie did. He remembered dreaming about it. Now that he was awake, he could put together his dreams and reality and see how depressingly predictable it all was. That's why he should never wake. Not since he lost his pet ram. Had he been a farm boy? That was the past; he can't see it now.
"I think I did it!" Eddy was so excited. He was right, but not how he thought. "All the tiny things - remember, I told you about them? - that followed me? Izzy was just like that, just as much bigger. I'm going to be even bigger, of course, because he'll get broken every time, but still..."
Sanchie sighed. "You know, Eddy," he interrupts his friend. It was easy; Sanchie could feel where the conversation was going, and simply drove it there. "You don't normally brag so openly. You shouldn't have waken me. You're going to do everything, now. Just like I told you."
Eddy froze. So small, the little mortal boy. Not even able to sense just how vast this room was. Maybe Lucy was protecting him. Sanchie wasn't sure. He could see where it was going, but not what it was. Not without sleeping. "What do you mean?" asked the dark-haired, tiny little creature. Sanchie wasn't sure, but Eddy might have been snivveling. Maybe he COULD feel just how much of him Sanchi's unlidded eyes could see.
"Why did you wake me?" is Sanchie's only response. "It is--"
Just as Sanchie knew he would, Eddy pulled out a bottle. "Here. Take these. I brought 'em for you. To, uh, get you better." It was far too much for this body. Eddy knew it. But Sanchie also knew he needed to sleep. He took the pills. Lucy would be happy. Maybe it would make Cici smile. No, he knew it would. It hadn't happened yet.
Eternity stretched before Sanchi, in a single, unchanging line. How dull. Not like his dreams. But that's the problem with eternity: it lasts forever, even in the few moments before sleep took him. He knew Eddy would flee the scene, hiding the bottle. And the doctors would make it in time to wake Sanchie, but only barely. They would be worried sick that he'd maybe sleep forever, and join the other kids sleeping outside. It might be nice, to join his dreams to theirs...
As the boy's eyes lidded, Eddy backed away. THIS would upset them. And he bet Sanchie hadn't seen that coming! Hah! Sanchie's last conscious thoughts were on his little friend, always doing what had to be done. He'd screw up again. The dragon would, more than Eddy. He thought himself a curse on the Institute, on the world, and he was sort-of right. But the darkness was wrong. Poor, blessed Eddy would save them all. The little boy's spite wouldn't let him let the darkness have fun while he couldn't.
When it happened, the door would close. The Black Mirror Shintai of the Ebon Dragon would probably be Solomon's best friend. Sanchie was happy for them. And then he dreamed of now.
...This whole thing just reeked of foul play, but Luna couldn't think of anything off the top of her head. She had been watching Ed's hands the whole time they'd been playing chess, and he hadn't knocked a piece off the board by accident or moved any of them out of turn or anything. And that was part of what had given it away. Ed hadn't cheated, hadn't whined or complained or anything. A fair, honest game. She could even hear, if hear was the right word for it, Ed trying desperately, fighting against something in his head, not to cheat. Something was wrong. Seriously, seriously wrong. "I'm out of here," said Luna, as she jumped away from the table in the game room like a balanced gazelle.
"But you can't leave yet, Luna. We haven't finished playing the game. And I'm so close to winning this time."
"Shut it, Eddy. I know you're planning something. You're trying too hard."
"Me? Planning something? Since when do we do that? I'm planning nothing except finishing this game in about five minutes, with me winning for once. You can play for five more minutes, right? Please?"
For a moment, Luna was conflicted. Eddy wanting anything was usually a giant 'Danger' sign; if you gave him what he wanted, it was trouble, but if you told him no, it was usually worse. Eddy was predictable like that; in the end, Luna recognized the pattern, and chose the lesser of two evils.
"Fine, you big crybaby, I'll finish this game, but that's it." Luna could already feel the regret clawing her.
"Really? Thanks, Luna. I promise to not cheat for the rest of the game."
Three minutes later, and Ed had broken his promise. He'd moved his king two spaces instead of one in order to avoid a checkmate, by all accounts losing the game either way. A standard Eddy tactic. But it wasn't that Eddy had broken his promise that made Luna run to the door of the game room afterwards; it was that look in Ed's eyes. He hadn't fallen back into his habits, per say. This time, it was almost as if he'd let go of whatever concentration he'd been putting into not cheating on purpose. Strangely, even with Luna's usually faster running speed, Ed got to the hallway first, smiling and pointing out the window into the school parking lot. Luna felt compelled to look just by the blatancy of Ed's snarking, sharp-toothed grin.
There, outside in the parking lot, was Dr. Jaia walking towards her car. Already, she was reaching for her keys, fumbling with the locks, checking her purse to see if anything was missing. Luna looked on, first in confusion, then in alarm and panic. She hadn't known Dr. Jaia was visiting today... and now Dr. Jaia was leaving.
Eddy could hold it in no longer. "I wasn't planning anything when you asked me earlier. I'd planned this weeks ago. I saw her schedule in Dr. Kython's office, as well as the playdates Solly thinks are helping 'rehabilitate' us kids, and simply put two and two together. The most amusing part was when she came to visit you, and saw me playing with you. Nicely. Without a single cuss word or act of snark. You were so preoccupied looking at me not being bad that you failed to notice Dr. Jaia at all! And now, she probably thinks I'm turning over a new leaf so some psycho-babble nonsense! It was Perfect!"
There was a sense of something slipping, like a needle falling out of someone's hands or a drop of rain splashing on the ground, and then all Luna could see was red. The whole world was red, the sky was red, the floor was red, her hands were red... her hands. She could still feel the blood on her hands from... how did she even do that.... but she knew why she had. Luna was still shaking with rage when the others had showed up, when they'd taken her away from Eddy just lying there on the floor with claw marks all over his face, laughing like he couldn't even feel the pain. She knew the doctors would hear about this, that Jaia would hear about this, but it was okay. They would be mad at first, she'd be mad at first, but they'd understand, right? It was all Eddy's doing, he kept her away, made it look like he was... Jaia would understand, right? Right?
... in the health room, lying on a bed, resting there as if on a pile of pilfered gold and stolen dreams, Eddy lay with his eyes closed and his wounds healing as if they were figments of his imagination, and smiled. For a moment, just one small little moment, he'd felt like how he'd felt when the was more than just a boy, more darkness than light. For a moment, Eddy almost flet like himself, and whispered nonchalantly "Just a few more. Just a few more times.... and then.... We Will Be Whole..... Forever... heh.... heh heh... heh... AHHHHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!........"
- Boots of Ebon Giled
He was broken.
Oh, it hadn't been his fault, but on the day brother Malphy got committed, he had...he had tried to stop it. He defended his brother and helped C. C. keep order in their big and messed-up household, he always had - but -
- but -
- this time, he had failed.
The failure was like a pit in his heart - it hurt -
- it hurt -
- it hurt -
- he slashed his arm again, he remembered - needed to punish - Solomon, Lohna, Dr. Kython, Jaia, Heidi the librarian across the street, all the others - himself, most of all.
All of them had lost things that day - Sanchy his toy ram, Adrienne her little sister - now in a better home, and he...he felt a pale shadow where his heart had been. He had failed! This couldn't be, he needed to make the pain of failure stop - by cutting his arm - letting that pain overwhelm his.
Later, that day, Eddy, the person he had selected to punish most once he was out - had coiled up and mentioned that he might wanna talk to Malphy.
They had, and now he knew.
He was getting his own back.
And now for something completely different.
Cynthia was in a room all to herself. The doctors never let her go near fire or anything like burned, even more than Pyrona, whose act of spiteful arson had sealed her place in this institution. It wasn't that often that she saw them, or even the other children in St. Cyntherea's.
Oh, she was always excited and bubbly and high-spirited. Especially when around things that burned or exploded. She was the oldest of the chidren, about 14, with short blonde hair and developing breasts. When she was 9 there had been an explosion that badly damaged the school she was in - luckily, no-one was hurt. She hadn't been suspected, but a year later, her new school had blown up.
And then they had investigated her. They had committed her to the Institution, a pyromaniac, obsessed with explosives. 25 people had died in that explosion at the school, the serious men had said.
She was, strangely enough, looking forward to her therapy session with Doctor Jaia. She was well into puberty and with that came...odd thoughts, strange thoughts she hadn't considered before.
Most of these thoughts, were, oddly, about Doctor Jaia. She suppressed them, knew they were shameful, sinful, wrong, not to be spoken about. But she had never really liked boys anyway, she knew that! She had preferred blowing things up.
She looked around her room with its bright white colours everywhere and its window that let in the sunlight, and wondered what would happen in half an hour.
Meanwhile, Eddy's room was dark as outer space.
Everything was black, and the blinds were down. That was how he liked it, because he saw better in the dark.
Oh, just the day before he'd spoken to one of Doctor Kython's assistants. The man had looked perfectly willing to hasten the old man's leukemia so he could get his position when Eddy saw him last, and he grinned at that thought.
Though he was just 10, Eddy worked well through others and manipulated them perfectly.
Like with Scarlett, the red-dressed Barbie he'd worshipped religiously for the past 5 days, stolen from another child probably.
The staff saw it as an improvement in his disorder, a proof that he could be helped, cured.
When Eddy got out, he'd prove them all wrong.
Dr. Solomon Victor silently contemplated the drink in front of him. Last one... last one, I swear, he told himself, even though he knew that all he was doing was lying to himself.
As he had done every time he'd come into the bar.
At work, he did his best to be a paragon of virtue; he never lied if he could help it (even being economical with the truth strained his sensibilities), he soldiered on with all the children regardless of how hopeless their cases seemed to be, he once stared down a near riot where all the kids had somehow armed themselves- he even refused milk and sugar in his morning coffee. And yet, when his shift ended, he'd always find himself back in this bar, a half-empty bottle of vodka before him. He never could remember drinking the first half.
Where did it all go wrong? He was better than this once, he knew that. Was it when he opened the Institute, naming it after a favourite saint of his, and celebrated with the first alcoholic drink in his life? Was it when his handpicked protegés, all from the finest medical colleges, decided to take over and make Victor nothing more than a figurehead? Or was it when Victor officially withdrew his political protection, allowing the federal investigators to take said protegés away for the horrible, horrible things they did to the children? To what Victor allowed them to do to the children?
"Hey there. This seat taken?"
Solomon turned around to face the woman standing behind him. As usual, she was dressed in one of her usual frilly black dresses, the ones she wore when she wasn't working at the mortuary. " 'Course it is, Andy- it's yours," Sol said, motioning her over.
"Thanks. Thinking about the kids again?" she asked. "Hey, Gordon," she called to the bartender. "Mai Tai."
"Thought you liked Bloody Maries," Sol asked.
"No, that's Marsha. And don't change the subject. You look miserable, and I get enough of that at work."
"It's just... sometimes I don't know what the point is. Somtimes I feel like I'm going through the motions, day in, day out. Nothing's going to get better." He took a swig of the vodka. "Not going to quit, mind you, but..." he trailed off.
Two of them sat silently, both of them knowing how the conversation would progress. Maybe... maybe you should quit the job, let some young blood take over, or maybe hand it over to Otto, Andy would say.
The Institute is my life, Sol would reply. It's all I have, and I'll be damned if I let that Kraut take over! I let it happen once before, and look what happened! That's what he would add. Maybe he'd start crying as his face reddened and the alcohol took effect.
Why are you doing this to yourself? Andy would ask, her voice rising in pent-up frustration. You're not doing this out of duty, or out of passion- you're just doing this because you're too afraid to do anything else! Please, Sol, she'd say, her voice pleading now, let it go. The other doctors can handle things without you, you don't have to stay and let it hurt you anymore.
Sol would then look at her, and smile. You know, he'd say, you sound just like one of my patients. A girl, Adrienne's her name.
Maybe she has a point, Andy would reply, only to see Sol shake his head.
I'm sorry, Andy, but I can't. The Institute is as much my asylum as it is theirs, he'd reply as he got up from his seat. He'd then walk out the door, while Andy watched him with every step, and she sould only turn back to her drink when his body disappeared into the night.
But they didn't continue the conversation, and so they both spent a silent hour losing themselves in the haze of alcohol. When it was time to leave, they would go their seperate paths. And when they reached their homes, they would both fall asleep as soon as they hit their couches, the two of them far more similar than either would bring themselves to realize.
And Sol in particular, would miss the message flashing on his cellphone (not even the dulcet tones of 'Walking on Sunshine' could wake Sol from his stupor), announcing the arrival of several more doctors at the institute...
- Mecha Aurelius
K. Jack was the kind of doctor that Eddy did not know what to do with. He only rarely visited the playground or toured the Institute, being more of a school counselor than a doctor. Eddy knew that K. Jack talked to the normal kids and offered them guidance, which made him hate Jacky profusely, but there was a feeling that Jack radiated that made Eddy loathe him deeper than many of the more usual orderlies around the Institute. Contentment. A sense of resigned contentment that he had done his best and that anything more would have been wishful thinking. Which was usually directed at Eddy, something that made him grind his teeth and smile politely at the aged counselor. It was like Jack had simply resigned Eddy to the darkness rather than Eddy embracing it. He made Eddy feel unnatural in his own element and treated him like a tired little child, always. Jack honestly didn't care about Eddy, never tried to change him; he had simply thrown Eddy into that special category of untreatable cases and left him to rot and die. Eddy loathed Jack, and Jack had the temerity to not even care. For that, Eddy would do something drastic one day when he left this place. K. Jack needed to see just how much Eddy hated him. Eddy would make him at least react to that.
- The Third Fetich
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
The Janitor whistled softly as she swept. Adrienne didn't mind the tune as she ran through the corridors, it was just the Janitor.
She saw much of what transpired within the walls, but it was her job to maintain it. She didn't know why anymore - she didn't need the money. She was a modest woman, not caring at all for things money could buy.
Ella never wrote about her, Malcom never gave her orders. No Doctor remembered hiring her, nor could they find her contract, but no matter - the place was clean, the blood washed off the walls daily. CC didn't even notice his violations of her law.
That no one addressed her was no matter, their games, the dramas, were her entertainment. He paid attention to them, because otherwise she'd think. She'd think of what Sanchez had murmered in his sleep. He'd think about what little Eddie would try to convince the Doctors.
She'd think that this wasn't real. And it -had- to be real.
The Sifu cocked an eyebrow, and gestured to a sleeping woman in a comfortable silken bed as he spoke, "You have come with me this far, and as promised, the answers to your questions are here."
The Student was shaking his head, "This is the Yozi-Prison?"
"Yes." his Sifu replied.
The sleeping man stirred, whistling softly in his sleep. Or perhaps a snore.
"And this...this is why I must master the style?" asked the student, understanding dawning on his face.
"Yes." repeated the Sifu, inscruitibly.
"Yes!" the Sifu interrupted, in an unprecedented show of impatience,
"Yes, this is the Convention on Oversight! Yes, she sacrificed it all to contain the Yozi. Yes, she speaks to us now, from her slumber. Are you ready?"
The Janitor was done with her cleaning today, and was almost ready to finish. She swept unusually quickly, was done early, and even attempted to go home early. No one heard her requests, but it didn't matter. It'd be so long, he didn't know what to do when he did go home. No matter, it would be wrong to leave before her replacement was here. What was his name again?
The Sifu sighed as he drew in his essence, "Were it not for the Maiden's direct intervention, this would not be possible. But interesting times call for interesting measures. But if you are not prepared, mind, essence, and soul, this training will kill you. Are you?"
The student consented, and began to ascend the Quicksilver Staircase.
The Doctors were happy with their new janitor, he avoided the children entirely, and was able to clean much faster than the old one. When the children murdered them in their sleep, they had no reason to suspect he had given the keys over to Edward - the two had never even communicated, in the Asylum at least.
But Edward knew Nox from before then.
The Institute isn't in a good part of town. Beggers, addicts, thugs, rats...outside the Institute is not a safe place. There was a kid who roamed those streets. He hated the rats, he hated the beggers, he hated the thugs and he hated the addicts. He hated the doctors who locked up his friends. Once they had all been such good friends. He could remember a time...at least he swore he did. It didn't matter. He wanted them out. Then maybe they could run the Institute or run the streets again. Thats what they used to do he was sure of it. Or did they? He couldn't quite remember sometimes. Sometimes he threw rocks at the gaurds or slashed the tires of cars. He didn't care about their night sticks. He could get them out. He just had to be careful or they might catch him. He picked fights out there where the adults couldn't see him and made himself something that made him stronger. He wasn't just a kid anymore.
Dr. Kython tried to assure the kids everything was allright. They had all heard the ambulance and before that the sound of the boots down hallways as they rushed. Someone had snuck in with a knife and there was a fight. None of the children believed him though believed him. They didn't believe Mrs. Jaia either. Something bad had happened and they felt their group was somehow a little smaller.
Once upon a time, there lived a magical princess named Christina Annabel Kaellow who lived in a castle on top of a hill with her mother and father. With hair of golden splendor, skin as fair as the finest cream, and a song in her heart. Everywhere the young princess went, she sang, and her parents, the king and queen, were proud of her, and loved her all the more. However, at the bottom of the hill lived the king's brother, the duke, who grew jealous of the king's fortune. For many years, the duke had, with his old wife, wished for a son and daughter upon the stars of the night sky, but none came to them. Whenever Princess Christie would come to his house, for a time, he would forget his troubles, yet with her passing would feel grief and envy of his brother all the more. 'Why should my brother be so fortunate,' he would think, 'to have such a beautiful princess, while I and my wife have sought a child for so long, longer than my brother the king?'
Soon, the duke's wife perished of a illness, and the duke was left alone. The Princess Chirstie wished to go to her uncle, the duke, and sing for him, but the king said no, for her voice was too sweet and gentle for such a somber time. At this, the princess grew confused. 'How is it, father, that there can be such a thing, as a voice too sweet?' Long she puzzled and thought, surrounded by her stuffed dolls and her cupcakes, her maiden dolls in waiting, but the riddle could not be solved, for Princess Christie, like all princesses, was innocent and beautiful, and do not understand the ways of the world. So, one night, while the king and queen were out, she went down the hill to her uncle the duke's house, and sang for him. What harm could it bring, to give the gift of an innocent, sweet song to a gloomy man in need of comfort?...
It had taken six months of some of the best field work to find Mr. Donald Kaellow after he had abducted his niece, with the final scene haunting those officers that went inside to this day. The bedroom where they found the girl was covered in blood, vomit, fecal matter, and what one policeman could only guess was a pile of dead birds, their hues stained brown by the offal. The child herself was on the bed, practically naked, her throat slashed, hovering over the body of her uncle. When questioned, the girl had merely replied that her uncle had hurt her, and when she tried to cry for help.... she had burst into tears then. After that, Annabel (she flinched everytime somebody called her by her first name) had said practically nothing, only occasionally muttering to herself.
Despite her parents' protests, young Annabel was sent to the place where all weary princesses are sent, a place of solace and quiet where the young girl might, in time, heal. Too late had Christina learned that sometimes, a voice can be too sweet, a maiden's skin too fair, and that is much safer to be ugly and foul. The princess Christina, however, is gone, lost to time until love's first kiss from a fair prince charming restores her voice. All that is left is our own, beloved, witch Annabel. Isn't that right, little Annie?
And that, my dear ladies and gentlemen, is the tale of young Christina Annabel Kaellow. Eddy, you know I don't like telling this one. You better make sure that new notepad comes in on time. I wanna write more happy stories.
-Of course, Elli. Of course. It'll get here on time.....
And somewhere far removed from St Cytherea's...
This is one of those truths not meant for the knowledge of demonkind. Perhaps it is beyond the knowledge of the Primordials themselves, but there are none who would even know to ask, and any demon who achieved this understanding would soon become a dying star in the Malfean sky.
This is the truth: In worlds far beyond those the Primordials built, the drama of their madness and imprisonment plays itself out in some form. In one world, it appears as part of a roleplaying game. In another, the inhabitants of a crazed carnival. In another, a group of psychologically disturbed children in an orphanage...
The question then occurs: which of these is the original, and which the reflections?