Warnings: Violence, death, rape, etc.
Word Count: 9868.
Characters: Alan, an OC, and references to canon characters.
Notes: This is a mess and I know it. =| Also notes for shifting tenses, and a lot of reading between the lines. Picturesque Madness takes place when Alan is 21, this takes place from 12 to nearly 14.
Read Order: Name and Point, Picturesque Madness, Progression, Gentle Homicide, Untitled Piece.
Timeline Order: Untitled Piece, Name and Point, Gentle Homicide, Progression, Picturesque Madness.
Summary: Sometimes shadows conceal what should have been hidden. Sometimes they tread on truths already known. --Change is never instant, no matter what the sources say. A shift can never be shown in moments, and behind the scenes, there are causes and effects, and none of them are what is expected.
References: The Likeness, by Tana French, and Dance Dance Dance, by Haruki Murakami. Also this thread.
“How deep and dark dost silence keep;
It is the whisper on your skin,
The kiss upon your sleep.”
She went by Ariadne.
And that was all that he knew.
There were movements in the dark, dust and decay, and he refused to look at it. There was a fluttering in his heart, a cheap sense of longing, and he wanted nothing of it. There was a lack of sense to that emotion, a wisp of wind, and denial, and there was no need for anything else.
"There was always a need for it," came the voice, silky and annoyed. He closed his eyes, closed his heart, and the voice retreated. Instead, at the edges of his hearing came the shifting of flesh, the rub and flutter of dry wings.
Shadows in the dark.
In general, he was a good child, a silent unnerving child with the tendency to stare. Stare as if the shadows underneath sunken eyes give more than a lack of sleep and long nights. Stare as if the shadows darkening bones give more than hollows in the flesh. It wasn’t quite fear, and more fascination that prompts the staring, and any guests that come over to "ooo" and "ahh" over the pretty boy would become uncomfortable momentarily. For a child should play, should they not? Not remain motionless in the plush chair and gaze unblinkingly like looking into one's soul.
The new couple who had gathered him to them with compassion soon retracted their bid. Again, again. Changes. Shifts in the membrane around him.
It was like the pulsing of the womb. Something waiting to be born.
If something was to be born, it would have to take in the environment. Much like evolution itself, how things evolve and shift are based on what exists around them. For him, what existed was uncertainty in what was solid and actual. Certainty in the fact that the above did not matter.
There were shadows in the dark. This remained a constant.
Still, he would close his eyes, close his heart. And the voice retreated, and sleep would come.
He began to react when he was called. Like an animal learning a name, he found it simpler to respond when it was used. It was, by no means, the reaction of identity. If anything, he responded to darkness and shifting forms more than not. The bright areas of the day were as doubted as anything. Still, he shifted in turn, learned to adapt. The middle-aged couple were pleased at this; the woman cooed over him and gave him sweets. The other boy that resided there glared, and found resentment.
He ignored it, because it did not concern him. Others' actions could no longer touch him.
This was proven wrong when the other child moved to attack him. Nothing like a true fight for survival, but a child's brawl, a territorial dispute of "stay away from what is mine." There was a brief amusement at the thought of him being a threat to this one's claim, and then the fist colliding with his jaw made things a bit more clear. He took a breath, resolved himself to act.
And then he opened his eyes. And for the first time, he experienced the sensation of violation. Of there being another in his form, only moments ago. He shuddered to himself, arms wrapping around his form, and in the movement, caught the sight of the other boy, face a pulpy mass. He looked it over with apathy, wondering.
Then he was wrenched back, the man screaming incoherently, spittle flying with no rhyme or reason. He made no sense of the yelling. It seemed familiar; the loss of meaning. As if the man was speaking a language no longer uttered, he could not understand it. Unlike the other boy, when the man's meaty fist slammed into his face, no small amount of blood flew. He had bitten his tongue, possibly. Loosened a tooth, maybe. The woman's screams had added, and he thought of them as animals, then; as the first humans born, those who could only communicate through screaming and violence.
His vision was darkening with that one hit, and like at night, the shadows only summoned the voice. He stared at his own blood, wondering why it was so unreal.
"Because you aren't the one who should bleed."
He was on his knees this time, when he blinked, and the man's neck had shifted to an unrealistic angle. There was feminine sobbing, the quiet sounds of movement from the mess that was the other boy.
He wondered, abstractly, in the clarity that light had wrought. In the dreamlike quality that inhibited the day. What it meant what you vanished. When you were swallowed in shadows.
Her name was Ariadne. She called herself that, at least. She was seventeen and nearly free, and had achieved a peace at that knowledge. Alan watched her, at the prison called child services. Violet eyes unblinking, he would stare at her without regard as she sat on a bench outside and stared up at the sky. A pretty picture, if one ignored the fence around the yard, tall and imposing. As if it mattered. By this point, most had given up. As if they would try to find something of life.
A child could no more turn a man's head around than an elephant could slip through a key hole. No matter the testimony, facts remained. But he was no longer something wanted, no longer something exquisite and too much like a toy.
And so he turned thirteen in the comforts of a locked room with silence to celebrate. There was something fine with this, something familiar in the absence.
Her eyes were as gold as her hair and there was something animal-like in the way that she looked at you. She was friendly, to be certain, would smile easily and quietly, laugh to welcome you. Her eyes, though, held a sharpness that he wasn't unfamiliar with. It was how species would separate each other, look down upon the lower life forms. She did it perfectly, and none even knew the amount of petty contempt they afforded in her.
She caught him watching once, and winked; the expression dared to reach her eyes.
She would ask him, without regard for normality to society's terms of politeness, about what had happened. He was too cute to be any real trouble, she would say with a grin, and move to touch his hair. He would dodge it without thinking, and she would shrug and continue, playing a game instead to guess the means. She won, despite the logistics, in the most basic of forms, and light and dark shifted behind her.
Her face either had no shadows, or was darkened beyond recognition to where only her eyes were seen. There were no shadows to be read within her. He could not tell what she meant when she spoke.
She asked him how "he" was, and Alan stared at her. She returned the gaze, amused, something familiar in the expression, then tilted her head.
Her face was clear that day. No shadows touched her, like something that didn't exist.
Darkness became close to reality, their moving forms in the dim recognized and accepted. They were bolder now, crept closer to his bed, and he would pull his knees up to his chest, pull the blanket around him, and stare wide-eyed at the movement.
"You can stop it, you know. At any time, you can stop it."
But why do something that doesn't matter? Why seek to change what no longer exists? There was a snort of derision, a sense of annoyance.
"You've become young, again, haven't you? What happened to all the knowledge that you gained?"
Gained? Something had been gained? He would speak more of loss, correct? Fading names and faces that were no longer there. There was a beat; the shadows hastened their movements.
"...Can you move from where you are, or not? This stagnation is too much, even for you."
Could he move? He wasn't sure. It seemed too much like death, to accept one reality, and take steps in that direction.
He closed his eyes as the voice moved to talk next. There was an emotion like pain, and then only the shambling flutter of shadows dancing beyond his eyes.
He hummed to himself, a quiet lullaby.
She watches him like she knows. Her face again, is bright, without depth or shading. She asks him how "he" is, and he feels anger, rare and fleeting. She smiles, like something was achieved in this, and grabs him around the neck in casual affection.
"What'll you do, then? When you can't handle things anymore? Will you choose, or just maintain nothing, and give in that way?"
There's something like compassion in her, something like comfort in her touch, and he feels younger than he is as he stares at the ground, as tears bless the dry dirt beneath.
"You don't have to do anything," she says to him. "But you should do something."
He is given to another family. And thinks nothing of it, accepts it as the flow of life.
The first time he was struck by this man, Alan vanished, like a simple progression. When he opened his eyes, both were bruised and bloody, and when the man regained consciousness, his anger existed just the same. Alan remained, this time, as if the presence that protected in its parasitic form had lost its power--could now only retain itself for a period of time.
Alan never slept easily. Just as well, he wasn't one to lose consciousness simply because he was beat to the limits of recognition. The woman gathered him when the man was done, drove him to the hospital and spoke words of explanation. The nurse looked at Alan suspiciously, but the boy said nothing to refute whatever she had said. Again, there was no sense to words, no understanding in the act.
He was treated, and released, and he sleeps when he gets home.
For the first time in cumulative memory, he dreamed. He cannot tell you what, and won't recall anything when he does wake. There might not have been anything at all, other than impressions, and sensations. It could have just been a memory, left untouched.
He is small, and as he is. There are two sets of arms around him, and for the first time that he can remember clearly what he feels is this: Safety. Security. Comfort. The untouchable pure sensation of "home."
Alan slept, and woke up crying in a cold bed in an empty room, all alone.
He first saw her after that, across the street at a park people rarely went to. Her golden hair seemed to shine against the setting sun, and he thought it was a cliché even if it wasn't meant. He angled towards her, crossed over to the other side instead of returning to the house, and trod up to her like it was something obvious. She smiled at him, then changed her expression slightly, touching a hand to his swelled cheek. The man had been mad. Alan healed quicker than most; a child's prowess, the woman had pleaded, but the man seemed to take it as an insult that Alan was not covered in cuts and bruises like he was. It had been a fair fight, while Alan was gone. The voice that had occupied his form without him had kept the odds even.
"You let this happen," she says, not unkindly, and he denies it, questions. She shook her head, smiling sadly. "If you keep this up, you're going to disappear."
He stared at her, like he had when she first appeared in his life. "You're going to disappear," she repeats, as if to make him believe. "If you keep denying him."
She had turned eighteen, and was free to do what she willed. After celebrating, she was curious, concerned-- "You're like a dopey little brother," she grinned, ruffling his hair. "And I know you don't take care of yourself."
And that was obviously true. Worse now that Alan had an aggressor. After the first time, there was little Alan didn't do that wasn't wrong. Little that he did that didn't cause some reaction, irritation, change. She sighed with frustration, said something about karma, and told Alan to fight back. He didn't fight. Never did.
"But you do," she had insisted. "You've fought before, hurt others before. Your body remembers, if your mind doesn't." She leaned back on the table she was perched on, looked at him in an unhappy way. Like countless times before, she asked, "How is he?"
And like countless times before, Alan walked away.
What she called herself was Ariadne, and what was left of herself was bound to the name she had chosen. There was little she kept within her; memories were dispersed as easily as forgotten information. What was important, was held, and what was not was released to give more room. It was needed, after all. Needed to allow herself to exist. When she had kept everything close to her, kept memory and sensation as most did who feared the absence of existence, of death, life had not existed. An overload, a shutting down, and she had went insane as easily as most. Was tossed into a place for "those like her," those who had been affected by what the world could not understand. And when she learned what to say, how to act in the way they had wished, she was released--there was no longer any place for her, and she was shuffled as much as any other.
You had to give up things to keep others. She would attest this to any. She had given up her sense of self to retain what she was, memories and likings dispersing as if they never were. Or had it been she had given up what she had been, in order to be her true self? She was not one to debate it. She had made a choice and lived with it, with no regrets.
The influx of information pouring from others' subconscious, from the world's unconscious memory, had been more wanted than anything she had experienced. Her one desire was understanding, and by giving up what she was, she had gained clarity in spades.
So her name was Ariadne, for all intent and purposes.
He asked her only once, what she meant by asking after the elusive "him," and she smiled like she wasn't going to answer for a minute. Something in his impression might have crumbled, because hers softened. "You don't know?"
He shook her head, adamant, and she sighed, quieted. Again, he thought she might not answer. Finally she reached out with a hand, and tapped the bridge of his nose with a small smile. He blinked, confused, and she smiled more. "He is what you left behind. And now is only shadows."
...He feared the shadows in the way that they might swallow him, close over his head and allow another to exist where he once had. And where did he go, when another took his form? Did he cease existing, in those moments; was it that, after enough time, the existence that was him would cease altogether? They had appeared, the only clear thing in his earliest recollections, and so were highly unwanted. But the voice was not the shadows, was it? Because when he closed his eyes to accept the dark, the voice faded away. He was more confused than he had been, more unwilling to question her about what laid beneath. Her expression sobered, as if she knew this.
"It's overused, to be sure," she said, quietly. "But when something new is created, there exists an opposite, doesn't it? And nothing is ever really whole," she said, watching him with her inhuman eyes to compliment his own. "Completion is something you can't really define."
He didn't follow her at all. Part of him understood every word.
"What about this," she went on, hands moving as she talked. "Can someone actually be alive if they aren't whole? It's all checks and balances, isn't it? If you give up something, you can gain something, and if something's forced on you, you lose something." She watched him, but he was still, a doll like any other.
She seemed to give up, and reached an arm out to swing around his shoulders. "Why are you so scared? What are you afraid of?"
Should he speak of fear? He’d rather not. There were things not to be touched, things harsh and viscous in the dark, trailing things too close to regret and echoing despair. He stared at what was, at what came before, and his fear was only recollection, of each dripping remnant creeping towards him and crying, whispers of voices he no longer heard, that no longer existed, speaking names of--
"You can stop it. You can stop it at any time."
What could he stop? He started to think about it incessantly, considering. It was the first active thoughts and desires that he could hold in his memory, but if one considered it, why not contemplate what the voice in the dark said? Alan could stop it. Stop what? And then, the other thing-- Could he move forward from this? It was too much, the voice had said. Even for him. What had that meant, he wondered. Why was it the limits of his being, and not another’s? Things shifted in the dim that night, but no words rang out from the dark, no presence was felt in the absence of light.
It felt more like darkness. Like things that could be forgotten during the day.
He wondered when he had started thinking that, that the day was clearer than anything else.
He talked to her about clarity, and how he had used to doubt the day. Instead of reacting like any other, she looked up at the sky and pursed her lips in thought. "You might have been right, about that," she answered finally. "Because in the light, there are shadows, right? Shadows, lies, deceit. At night, everything is dark, everything's covered smoothly, evenly, and it's more outright that way, I think. It's more comfortable that way."
He wondered if that was the reason, then, why shadows weren't often seen on her face.
She laughed, and he would remember that sound, when he forgot everything else. It's bold and deep, and resounds like a bell. He watched her laugh, and she smiled at him when she finished, her face clear and without depth. She blinked, and like it was natural, he blinked as well. When his eyes opened, her face was opaque, gold eyes shining. It was nothing new, he had seen it before, but never in tandem after the other. He frowned, the smallest expression, and she only looked at him. He felt suddenly, like he had never seen her before.
She smirked, then, and winked, the same expression she had made when he first saw her. "What lies in shadows is what is true," she intoned, voice languid and loose. "And what exists as bright is defined as 'pure,' a canvas for you to create on.
"The time when you give up something," she repeats slowly, "is the only time you can gain something in turn.
"There is nothing simpler than this," she states. "You can have anything you want. As long as you accept that there is a price and you have to pay it. You will always have to sacrifice something to progress. 'We all cut off our own limbs to burn on some altar. The crucial thing is to choose an altar that's worth it and a limb you can accept losing. To go consenting to the sacrifice.'"
He is staring at her blankly, a soul regressed within itself, and that which remains within her, shadowed and unknown, sighs. "Are you just going to keep this up? I know that you understand. You've become the bright canvas, but you're far too cast in shadows.
"What did you want so badly, to give up everything that you were?"
He doesn't know what he had wanted. As he was, he didn't exist as a creature of wants. What had he given up? She had said everything, but was that entirely true? There were things he remembered, but only as one blind and deaf. Touch and sensation; a baby's memory, what is simple in form. Could he consider anything he had as gain? Anything beneficial in nature? If he was someone that cared, he would likely hate his life, detest his existence. So what had been lost?
What had been gained?
She had said once, if something was forced on you, you would lose as well. Was it that, then? What had happened, beyond the shadows that surrounded him?
There was silence that night, but there was the sense of waiting. The silence was deafening, and he felt panic, suddenly, at the absence of what had been constant the past years. His eyes peered into the darkness, but there was no shifting mass. What did that mean? There was some kind of comfortability in existence, something accepted rather than a remainder of apathy and a detached area of something called life. What did that mean?
"Acceptance. Only that, nothing more."
He stared into the darkness, eyes catching nothing. Feeling nothing.
"She was right. That girl. You don't have to do anything and things will change."
There was a pause, a heartbeat's worth, and then the voice continued, pained. "But you really should do something."
The last week of his life begins with something simple. He wakes unusually early, and watches the sun rise. There is something of peace in the simple quiet before life began for everyone else, and the blank expression kept so well melts into a child's calm content.
It's warm, where the sun hits him, and it reminds him somewhat of the memory of arms holding him.
He smiles to the sun, and everything only becomes brighter.
There is something like mourning in her face when he laughs.
He wondered why. She had wanted him to be okay for almost a year now, and now when he expressed something that could be considered normal, her expression had turned sad instead. He questioned that, and she only looked at him.
"Is that your decision, then? To start over this way?"
He couldn't start over if he didn't know what was the original. This was more only starting.
"Hm. You could know, though. Maybe. You're still denying him."
...And what if there was no him? Just visions, sounds, in the dark.
She looked at him like she was disappointed. "You see lies as easily as people see color and yet you're going to try the same? I've told you. He's what you left behind. The pieces of you waiting for you to see them. And you're still not looking." She frowned in frustration, tapped her fingers on her knee. "I don't even think you've forgotten. I think you know exactly what--"
He didn't know anything.
Ariadne looked at him for a moment, then stood, brushing dirt off her pants. "Yeah. It's turning out that way, isn't it," she replied neutrally. Her face was dark with shadows.
"See you," she said, and that was the end.
Denial was a concept full of lies and deceit, as careless and careful as anything else. A concept to be kept close and never admitted to. Did he know anything about the time before? He wasn't sure. The power of denial was a kind of death; after a time, it becomes true. That thing never happened. That person never existed. The memory was gone before it was allowed to exist. So what, was it. That he actually remembered?
"You remember that building."
He did. There were many shadows there, both mundane and full of lies. He remembered skewed perceptions, miscommunication, arguments to end in breaking.
"And you remember them."
Them? If the voice was referring to those close, he only remembered black to counter his white. Though memory put the other as light to his own dark. Just that one. There were no others. That trail of thought ended in pain.
"He'd probably be so happy," the voice said sarcastically. "To know how much you're thinking of him."
But the him spoke of, black to white, was another thing to question, another piece left behind in the space which questioned what had existed. Even then, had that one really taken form?
"Excuses, you know. You're going to pretend you've forgot his tears?"
"They were what shifted you towards him first, you know. The impression of a crying child is such a heartrending thing, I'm sure. And then you caused it later, even when it bothered you so much. Do you even remember that? Do you remember leaving?"
...Leaving. Everything hurt. Hurt so much that day. That week. He had slept so much then.
"You left and he cried. Because, by that point, you were all each other had."
He was decent at finding others when he actually wanted, and so it wasn't altogether difficult to find her, to slip beneath her skin and seek her out. He asked to meet, and she acquiesced; it was not about refusal, only disappointment. He understood this, in a way, and explained that was why, in part. Why he is asking.
He slips her in after dark, steps quietly to his room and shuts the door. The lights remain off. They have become too much of a comfort, too wanted in their shading of reality to suit their whims. They cover what exists, they cover and smooth things over so things become dull and indistinct until all memory fades. He explains this, head down, as a way of explaining. Of apologizing. Part of him... Forgot. Wanted it. And this was only doing the rest. A part of him had always been giving in.
She watches him, silently, neutrally.
So he wants her to show him how to do this. How to touch the shadows surrounding him. How to learn about his blank canvas.
Her mouth twitches, perhaps at the usage of her allusions. She watches him, and he looks back. His eyes are different, less clouded, more clear.
She will think to herself, he is becoming a person, and she will reply with a sigh, twist her wrist to the side. His eyes unfocus in a moment, darkness becoming deeper in his sight. He feels faint.
"To grace sensation," she starts, and he thinks the phrase is familiar, "you only have to touch what does not exist in this reality. To touch the past," she clarifies, "you merely have to accept that you'll be hurt, and reach into the dark. Give in to the unknown, and allow what you cannot control."
He is... scared of that.
"Well. Think of it this way," she says idly, surrounded by the shadows that always crept towards him. Swallowed up, surrounded, her gold like a light in the dark. "You can live and you can die, without coming any closer to understanding why you're in so much pain. You are--" She continues quickly, knowing he would interrupt. "Because everyone is, and more are those who give so much to hold something so tightly.
"Don't you want to know what made you do that? This is only a step, but it's a step in a direction you should take."
Whether or not she saw the shadows, she could not hear the voice when it speaks. "Quite. 'You don't have to do anything', right?
"But you should do something."
If he keeps his eyes unfocused, it looks as if she's resting a hand atop a shadow. They don't affect her. Don't touch her. Keep a circle around her.
He reaches out a hand, to mimic his sight. His hands passes through darkness, and it's as if it wraps around his wrist, travels up his arm to smother him; sink deeply into his flesh.
In the absence of light, shadows will thrive.
And his sight changes, darkness brightening until it blinds him. Consumes him. Like he thought, in the end. He closes his eyes. There is a breath of air.
Mary, mary, quite contrary, how did your garden grow?
With darkness, rhymes, and light illuminating like florescent radiation--is there something accurate in that. I'll tell thee what I'll give thee. To slip into blue-green irises like an ocean to be lost in. There is something wrong here, something he cannot understand. In a room with wide windows, there is blood thick and covering most of the area. There is a sense of death. Something had died here, was dying, and he did not know. The smell of gunpowder is as obvious as the stench of gore. He doesn’t know. What happened here. Was still happening.
With silver bells and cockle shells.
There is something of one breaking in this. Those who are forgiven little, love little. And where is he to cast these stones? Should he touch this, the blood dried in hair, the motionless form cast in shadows, the emerald eyes staring--empty, open. Familiar, this. He had looked the same as this one now for a long time, hadn't he? As white as snow. As filthy as sin. This is what he felt. There was nothing here but a renewal of emotions, of loss already gained, of breaking and bartering with reasons for existence. There was nothing but one simple fact, a sentence his heart had held to more than any line, without him even knowing. Let's play together again.
And pretty maids all in a row.
"That," speaks the voice, darkness incarnate, tingeing red. "Is who you left behind."
He is sitting on the floor and there is nothing but Ariadne crouching in front of him, eyes reflecting light like something inhuman as she stares at him, head cocked. She thins her lips, decides to question. "Did you see him?"
Alan raises unsteady eyes. There was black like death, like decay in the night to allow the sun.
She thinks about this and frowns. "Not white?"
White. He wonders. What was white in this mockery of a play? There existed no purity, other than what was found in Ariadne's depthless expressions. She considers and he wonders about what existed to move him.
Both are creatures who learned easily to remain aware of their surroundings, but this time, they are caught unaware. Caught off guard at the unheard footsteps, and the door to Alan's room slamming open. They look up in tandem, mirrored twins with the same expression of animal wariness. He relaxes. The man's presence only tells of a beating that would vanish in time. She is older, understands more the ways of punishment when striking is unsuccessful. The man screams at her and she only stands, but he pulls his hand back, backhands her darkened face. The follow is her wrist being grabbed, and with more speed than Alan thought the man capable of, Ariadne is thrown outside. When the door slams shut, there is a beat, and then a scream, wonderful and horrible, high and long and shattering, like a creature being denied something needed. He hadn't known, that she could sound like that. Perhaps that is why he is still only staring when the man returns in a rage, still watching blankly.
There are empty sounds, for he is already going away, beyond where sense can be given to words. Thought you could bring a whore in this house. Too good for you. Thought you could get away with it. Stupid prick. Little faggot. The man undoes his belt, and a part of Alan sighs in resignation for the strikes that will make it difficult to sit back for a time.
He does not expect when instead the man smothers Alan with his form, closely too close, and Alan reacts on instinct, raising hands to press backward. They are only grabbed, twisted. He cries out, sounds too young, and the man seems enraged. He twists both arms behind Alan's back, holds them with one rough hand, and shoves Alan into the bed, forcing his face down into the mattress. Alan had no time for any other reaction. This is done easily, like an act done many times before. Even pressed into the bed, he slides--his feet touch the carpet, only toes like a child who couldn't yet reach somewhere high.
He feels air first, doesn't comprehend until a hand slaps against the underside of his bare legs. It hurts, and he wonders at that, wonders why his reaction is fear this time.
He learns. He learns of men's cruelty, and lusts and urges. Things she knew. If one could not break a creature owned, dominating them was the most simple thing to come after. There is no preparation other than a stickily licked hand along a length. The boy is forced open, pressed bruisingly into the mattress, a slow unending process that finally ends in the purely physical knowledge of another within him. Another too much inside him, too ill-fitting. There is moisture leaking, the sharp scent of blood and sweat too harsh. He gags, chokes, doesn’t understand until he realizes he is crying. There is a chuckle, sadistic. That's what you get.
Yes. He was punished enough. Put aside the pain. Put aside the lack of basic human rights of being able to move, speak, breathe, defend himself, make any choices that mattered. Here existed something more primal. There was another within his skin. And it existed as wrong far more than anything he had known. His mind closed at the violation. Pieces died and broke in the urge to maintain survival. If it was considered, surely, there was no coming back. No returning from the fact of something being taken, something shifting so violently and severe against his nature. Something that was entirely wrong. And this was clear as night and day never had been.
And yet it was not seen as enough. No. Not enough. There had only been a pause when the man was fully sheathed, and then he moved, dragging backwards, and this time Alan screamed, the sound swallowed as his head was forced more into the bed sheets. And that, then. That was enough, right?
No, not quite. Not quite. After a few of the long strokes, he had bled enough to make things easier, and the man found a hard rhythm, pounding fiercely with his anger.
There was no slip of another within his mind, no previously unwanted oblivion as the other took care of the aggressors in Alan's life. No shadows, no light, no darkness, no voice; only the muffled sobs and screams that he didn't bother hiding. Only the harsh grunts and panting above him. Eventually, pressed that strongly into cloth, sobbing like that, he thankfully lost consciousness. Just for a little while.
Only for a while it was dark.
And then the darkness turned to light.
He laid there after regaining consciousness, nothing moving him, nothing remaining in him at the moment. His eyes fell open on habit and he stared at the wall that he had seen upon waking. His body ached. There were dried and caked fluids along the inside of his legs. And his body felt like it wasn't really his, for the first time. There was something wrong there, now. Something that had been defiled in a way he couldn't speak of. For something that could not allow touch, deemed it too invasive, this violent intrusion had been nothing but a complete shattering of what had been held sacred. This was all abstract. Briefly focused on to shift aside as to not do more damage. In a way, it was better. Worse. Than curling in on himself and crying like the child he supposedly was.
There was a knock at his window. A tap-tap of light knuckles, and he didn't even move his gaze. After a while, the sound went away. Time continued.
When he opened his eyes next, she was in front of him. He didn't remember closing his eyes and he didn't care, didn't question her presence. She could have picked the lock or just appeared before him, and either were as likely at this point. He couldn't see her eyes from this angle, and lacked the will to shift positions to see her. He knew she was watching him, though, knew the weight of her gaze on his form. There was silence, heavy and thick between them, and she moved slowly, slid an arm underneath his shoulders to force him to sit. There was a moment of nothing, and then he flung himself away from her, retching over the side of the bed. She waited until he was done, and pet his hair, smoothing the locks oiled with tears and sweat. He let her. There was no point fighting her, and by any rate, she was -- something familiar --something that existed as necessary, the only allowance of comfort the world provided.
Once his body had calmed she lifted him, and he idly wondered if he was too small for his age. In the bathroom, she ran a warm bath, allowed him two minutes in it, then emptied the filthy water and refilled the tub again. This time she allowed him to remain in it, Ariadne herself sitting on the toilet to watch him with that still expression. He found it easier to meet her eyes, simpler to exist without any questions asked. The water surrounded him, warm and healing to his sore body, and he remembered that he hated baths.
She stood, and he blinked up at her, unable to distrust her at this point. She reached a hand down, touched his hair, and leaned down, pressing her lips to his forehead. His eyes closed. He felt like crying.
"...A dopey little brother," she said, and her voice sounded like tears. "Who can't even take care of himself."
She wants to leave, and he will come with her. Even now, she knows that he understands how unrealistic it is, but she will try anyway. She helps him dress slowly, then wanders around the room as he sits like a doll on the bed. Both of them understand presently. There is nothing worth taking that cannot be found elsewhere. They'll leave then, and move as far as they can until they are unable.
An idea dead from the start. The sound of the main door unlocking sounds like the breaking of a bone, and like the night previously (it had been only a night), both of their heads move in unison, following the sound. She speaks, the first thing said aloud. "Wait here."
Then disappears out the bedroom door.
When the walls shake, he recognized it as the force of a body into a wall. He blinked rapidly, eyes on the door. The decision is a simple thing. He stands like on ice, each step a careful thing of pain, and moves from the room.
In the entryway, the door is wide open, and the sounds of a scuffle reach his ears.
In the doorway, he stopped, entranced. She dodged a wide swing and slips under the man's reach, does a motion with her lower body, and the man falls, slams on the ground. He is enraged, and she is breathing heavily, and when she noticed Alan, she dashed to the open door, leaning down and resting a hand on his shoulder. Her face was clear, a picture from centuries ago, all angles and light, and even in the dimming light, he saw no shadows. "You're here. Where you stand," she says, as if explaining. Behind her, the man was rising, but she gave no sign of concern. "You're learning as you go, and you can find the explanations. Nothing is gained without loss. Nothing is lost without gain." She straightened, and yet still, time had slowed, the man behind her stumbling at a clumsy pace. "Do something." Then she shakes her head, giving a half smile. "No. Just.
"Keep your eyes open."
He blinks up at her, uncomprehending, as she whirls to meet the man's fist, takes it in her shoulder as she fails to dodge entirely. Perhaps she grimaces. He can't see her face. There is something like darkness around them, and he almost blinks again, almost breaks a promise he hadn't fully agreed to.
There is something like light, golden and luminescent in her eyes, when he can see them. There is something like a shower of dust touching her, shining, like watching the air in front of a window on a lazy day. It pulses and shines, and he is entranced.
The man hit her full on.
Keep your eyes open, she had said, and he watched her, watches her fly back from the force of the blow, body falling forever until she vanishes without hitting the ground. He knows this because he did as she said, kept his eyes open, and she vanished. Disappeared without disturbing the grass. As if she was never there.
The man wipes his mouth, turns and grabs Alan's arm and drags him inside, and Alan just keeps looking at where she should have fell.
The man's face is full of shadows. They slither over his skin, slough off the edges like decay. It hurts to look. Hurts to be touched by this thing that is dying where it stands, a shuffling corpse touching him, touching him touching touching touching, and where was-- There was something missing and-- His arms burns where he is touched and he thinks to scratch at it, loosen himself from the man's grasp; he doesn't care enough to.
Without warning, the man halted in the hallway, seven feet from a doorway Alan didn't want to go in. The man's eyes were wide, like he had touched on something shocking or horrific, and Alan stared up at him, doesn't close his eyes, doesn't close them.
So when the man dropped to his knees, still clinging to Alan's arm, he remained a witness. The man stared at nothing when he fell over, to the side to finally release Alan's arm, and the boy only watched. As something in the man's chest shuddered to implode, sunset's red breaking across the man's chest.
When blood touched the floor, Alan walked away. Entered the room, because there was nowhere else. Sat in-between the wall and bed with his knees to his chest and staring at the lessening light as it pulled across the room. Reality had shifted too far for him to count, the past twenty-four hours irreconcilable. Unable to be touched.
He was decent at finding others when he actually wanted, and so it wasn't altogether difficult to search, to attempt to slip beneath skin and seek one out.
But she's not there. Where he left her. Where she was. She wasn't there.
Like something missing that belonged, there gaped an absence. As if she was never there. Had never existed to begin with.
Night breaks like clarity, and the smell of decay fades. It is replaced by the thick smell of blood, then, that, too, vanishes. There exists the smell of dirt and ice, of fire and metal, warm sweat and dull antiseptic, and there is something familiar and altogether whole in the scent that he blinks without thinking, loosens without knowing. There exist no shadows, but the voice echoes behind him, higher in pitch than he is used to.
"...What did you do now?"
There is a beat, hesitation. Forward and to his right, the voice speaks again, rougher in tone.
"No, you didn't do anything, did you? You just...."
Tried. Tried to make things better. And everything--
From behind him. "Fell apart. Yes, I know." It's irritated. Frustrated, though perhaps not at Alan.
There exists a clarity unseen before. The darkness holds no secrets, touches no lies, and Alan can vaguely see a form to his right, sitting cross-legged watching him. He stares without reservation. It speaks. "What do... you remember now?"
Remember? What could he remember?
Violence and crushed grass, blood and pain and aching, and she was, and--
The higher tone. "No. What do you remember before? You saw, didn't you? You saw them."
The memory within the shadow. The night of broken bodies and tearing minds and pain resounding in chests. Hearts breaking, trying so hard to mend. A dark-haired boy staring blankly.
There is a painful sound to his right. He can't make it out. "What about the other one?"
There was no other.
"The crumpled form," the voice behind him clarifies. "Bleeding on the floor."
There is silence and memory, but it tells him nothing. There is no recollection, no color.
"Remember now," the voice to his right pleads. "Remember--"
"Now, that your eyes are open," the one behind him finishes. "Look closely at what you could not see."
As if it is a command, his mind traces backwards. It is far too simple in his current state--there exists a lack of thought and emotions, only facts as they are seen, only a blank slate; an empty canvas. He touches what existed as unseen, touches pain and shattering and quiet decay. Loss and death and dying. White and black and
...His heart stops completely, stills with shock. And in the painful absence, on the other side of his chest, another heart still beats. His stutters, starts and catches up; for a moment, out of synch, and then both pulse in the same rhythm. So perfect one would never know.
No. He would never know. Of loss, of the effects pushed into him.
The form to his right shudders into recognition. Hair the color of blood on a head bowed in retribution. Alan stares. Can only stare. Can not fathom the reasons why.
Why could he see him now? Because his eyes were open?
There was a pause like regret. He is unsure which voice is the one to speak. "Because you've lost so much that now you can see."
Could see what? He is entirely blind to any truths, can not realize any things in an accurate nature. So there were three, then. What does that change? Where is the darker one, then? If his shadows were coming to life.
The red-haired figure lifts his head, and Alan is drowning in blue.
Something like a knife pierces him, presses into his chest, and as he is filled as he could never be before, all he understands is loss. Blue eyes widen with concern, and Alan falls backwards, slumps into the arms of the other voice. They clasp around him possessively, nails pressing into Alan's skin. He wonders who this one is. He can't be bothered to look. He feels like something is vanishing even as the space is clearing. There is the thought of something like "connections," of those once one, though it was funny, wasn't it? Because they were, again, two parts to a whole, and even if he searched forever, he would
Never find him. Never find any part of him.
The red-head rolls to his knees, moves quickly towards Alan, stares at him in something like horror. Too close to a desperate worry. Alan cannot understand.
There is something like the sensation of one dispersing and it is familiar. He wonders if he looks at his form, if he will be falling to pieces.
Should he recall the rhymes and reasons? There was something of green in this, an emerald light, but that was not the only cause. There was red as well, red as a heart torn out of a chest, red as a willing betrayal, a wish never acted on.
If Alan thinks to remember, he can. He can look back and understand how he left the place of lies and deceit, what led to his shift and change and his own abandonment--a bookend piece to an action already started, was it? The red-head touches his arm, first hesitantly, and then with something like need.
"That wasn't my choice! I couldn't--"
The voice behind him snickers, and the red-head glares behind Alan for a moment, before looking back. "So you remember, huh?"
Not in so many words. Loss and its effects. That was all.
And it was true, and he knew it somehow. Red had left black and white, but before then, red had left in a much worse way, a breaking a tearing, and it came down to that, didn't it? It only came back to that.
A hand pushed through his hair, in comfort or condescension. "Yes, that's right. That's one of the things that began all of this. But it's nowhere close to the beginning."
The red-head is wearing a nice look of shame and anger. It's somehow fitting. The voice behind Alan continues. "Just as the truth of what happened isn't restricted to those events. You can see the facts like paintings, finished canvases, but for the truth, you have to understand the whys."
There is no room for truth on a blank painting, a canvas ripped. The lighter voice snorts in distaste. "You say you're a painting if you're blank? Then you're just unfinished, aren't you?" There is something like desperation in this.
Alan feels the sensation of weightlessness, and wonders.
Maybe instead. He is black thrown over the painting. Ruined by someone who denied it life. Unsatisfied with how it turned out.
The nails of the one behind him dig into his arms. Alan stares at them. "...You may be more close than you think."
"You're wrong." The red-head is staring at him now, eyes intent as if nothing had been lost. "It's not like that at all."
The grip on him relaxed a fraction. "Then, what, dear heart? What has happened here?"
Alan is breaking in bits and pieces, and each exchange only fuels the transition. It worsens when the two voices start to converse, and he can recognize it now, that if he combines both tones, they make the voice he has heard since he can remember. There is a jolt of pain that flares through him--he cries out softly, and clutches his stomach. He wants to roll on his side and curl like a child, but those arms hold him still. The red-head's jaw clenches, he swallows.
"Come now," the higher voice asks, breaking like needles over Alan's skin. "Can't you come up with the whys?"
"It's my fault."
The form behind Alan freezes, as if not expecting that at all. There is nothing present that Alan can understand.
"It's my fault," he repeats, and squeezes a fist to his chest. "Because of me, you've.... Damnit! It wasn't supposed to be like this!"
"But it is, you know. It is the undeniable 'reality'. The only thing that can be traced back to a solid and complete source. Everything else is just..."
The two stop. Alan coughs, a rough hacking sound, that transpires like a statement made; the result of an unknown endeavor, a failed outcome. There are flickering lights, too quick and bright to be seen, shining pieces of memory untouched. Like that night. Like the three figures, black and red and white, a perfect combination and in contempt with each other. In love with each other without a word. The connections between each other ruined without a thought. It exists as too much, too many things to place before a blank screen; he shudders to hold them, and fails short.
He is gasping for air and can't remember how to breathe. There is something familiar in that.
If he touches one of these shining remnants, it will be done. He will know everything, understand everything, and he will fall apart.
He remembers, suddenly. What she said.
"Think of it this way," she had said idly, surrounded by the dark. "You can live and you can die, without coming any closer to understanding why you're in so much pain.
"This is only a step, but it's a step in a direction you should take."
And didn't the voice say itself? There was nothing Alan had to do. But he should do something. All he had to do was reach for what he could not accept, touch what was not actual, give in to what could not be controlled, and recall the past in its purest form. Darkness was truth, and his canvas was black. It was fitting, wasn't it? That his outcome would mimic his only want.
Behind him, he heard the form swallow, but he said nothing. And silence is agreement like no other.
It is the other, who intercedes. Who leans forward suddenly, grabbing Alan by his shoulders. There is something of a recall in this, of two sets of hands, but one doesn't fit. The form behind him trembles at the other's ferocity.
"No, damnit! I didn't come this far to watch this again. If remembering...."
The red-head's mouth thins and something painful passes behind his eyes. Alan can only watch, transfixed. He is swimming in blue.
The one in front of him leans in suddenly, and presses his forehead to Alan's own. There is nothing but blue, and he is caught willingly, hypnotized by the color. By the owner of them. "I won't lose you again."
The one behind him is shaking as if he will never be warmed. And still, he is silent. Waiting for the other to declare his intent.
The red-head's grip tightens, and he whispers fiercely, eyes flaring with color.
"Just forget, Albedo. Forget."
Have you heard this story?
There once was a boy who had two brothers. He loved them as no one would ever love any other. Of one, he loved more, the meaning of his existence, and of that one, he was his other heart, his reason for life.
Now, the trio was split up, of others’ designs combined with their own flaws, and if fate had its way, they would have separated for far too long a time. Instead, they came together, in a way that denied sense, and in part time itself, and for a breath of history, they existed as they had.
But fate is never so kind. Things would deteriorate, break and decay, and the one that was the boy’s heart would slip away without a sound, mirroring actions already taken. The boy with left with the other brother, and both would cling as if there was nothing else.
Here is what the boys do not know. The one who was the boy’s heart had seen their deaths, taken part in the whys, and mourned them far more than they knew, loved them fiercer than they could believe, and his actions were only the result of his inability to accept their existence before him. His disappearance the second time was not of his design, and he would be brought back again before the story was done.
But I am digressing, for this story is not yet there. There once was a boy. Who was broken quite well. Heart, mind, and form, and when there was but a shell, a blank canvas left, he was deemed a success, sent away from the third, to return to a world he had never been from. Here, he would meet a girl or a being, of which it is not my place to say, and in that, he would be able to recall the ability to choose. To return back to the place he had unwillingly left. To remember everything once peeled away.
And again, we will return to fate’s unkindness. To the bitterness of men and the desperation in which friends act in to save us. As if sacrifice could be anything but a more horrible loss. And in the aftermath of that day? There remained fresh breaks and fractures, holes able to be filled in, but only by choice. And the choices were perfectly clear, had been detailed throughout the tale. There is only what is and what had been, and the product of the pulsing membrane in the end had been a restart. In the end. A choice made by another, and the same in one. The words to be spoken? Could be translated as this:
Don’t die. Go on living.
And the boy? He will grow into a man, bitter and lonely and ignoring of any thing that does not exist within the confines of the deemed reality. There no longer exist any shadows, for darkness is but truth, after all, and if one sacrifices themselves to seal it away, there is nothing left but light and darkness’s remains. And so, part of him will sleep without end, until a day when a light is remembered, and a song plays out before him. And then, nothing like sleep will return--an unconscious desire for what was given to him, and ripped away just as well.
There will be no shadows. But memory has a way of returning all the same.
And the boy? He is not a liar. He has made two promises, and despite his contradictory behavior, he will keep them.
He does as she says, and he will keep his eyes open. He does as he said, and forgot the color of blue.
And the results of those promises? The identities of the voice, or voices, if you will? The meaning of the girl? Well, that has not come to “light,” now, has it? So it is for you to contemplate and judge.
But there is a meaning in every word, and gain for every loss.
She vanished as if she was never there. Just as he would, years in the future.
Her name was Ariadne. And that was all that he knew.