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Evil Genius
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Post Folie à un
The door opened on well-oiled hinges, and the orderly entered with his tray.
"Miss Everline?" he said. "You ready to break your fast?"

He raised his voice a little; there had been days when he came in and the patient in room 14 ignored him -- or rather, when she was too lost in prayer to notice him. As far as the orderly was concerned, the patient's turning to religion was nothing to be too concerned about. Ezra offered to protect her faithful from evil, after all, and in his opinion the patient in room 14 had suffered from plenty of evil when she got to the Sanitarium.

Of course not all the doctors ascribed to that line of thinking, especially not the new one, doctor Tom. The orderly did not understand all their fancy medical talk -- his qualifications for working at Saulsbridge were that he was big, strong, and possessed of a disposition both kindly and firm -- but it boiled down to them fearing the patient in room 14 was using religion to escape her problems, rather than deal with them.
From the orderly's point of view, getting religion beat dealing with your problems by obsessively eating bugs or reverting into a small child in your head. And really, what was there really to disapprove of in a young woman who insisted on starting and ending the day at her bedside on her knees, praying in silence, and rigorously bathing every morning?
The patient in room 14 was quiet, withdrawn, and maybe a little too serious -- the orderly had yet to see her crack a smile -- but she had stopped having screaming nightmares and huddling in a corner, alternatingly babbling about 'joining the Circle' and scratching her own skin bloody while ranting about wanting to do horrible and physically impossible things to someone named 'Dodds'.

"Miss Everline?" he said, again. "Breakfast."

The patient in room 14 ended her prayers to Ezra and rose smoothly. She was quite pretty, even with her red hair tied back and her skin paler than when she first arrived here. The drab inmate's dress could not disguise she was in good shape -- doctor Tom had disapproved quite loudly when she started doing increasingly complex exercizes during her time outside, only for the senior staff to order him to shut up -- and her eyes were the purest blue the orderly had ever seen.

"Thank you," was all she said, as she took the tray from his hands.

The orderly waited while the patient in room 14 sat down and ate her bowl of lukewarm porridge. She never showed much enjoyment for the stuff, but the orderly could not blame her for that. At least she had never tried to throw her breakfast at him, she just ate it in a manner that suggested she was trying to ignore the taste. After the patient had scraped the last morsel out of the bowl, she handed the tray back to him.

"Miss Everline?" the orderly said, fighting not to smile.

He held out his hand, and the girl flicked her wrist. The spoon she had palmed shot out of her sleeve and slapped into her hand. The orderly took it from her and tried even harder not to smile. The girl never showed any enjoyment for this little game she played, but she kept palming small items. Never anything she might use to harm herself, never his keys, but still. He was never sure whether she was very gently trying to tease a response from him, or that this was another way for her to get back in form.

"The doctor will see you for your therapy session in three hours, Miss Everline," the orderly said. "He says you're doing well. You might be going home soon."

"I shall take a nap, then," was her only response.

As the orderly closed the door behind him, he thought -- not for the first time -- that if there was anything worrisome about the patient in room 14, it wasn't that she had found religion while clawing her way back to sanity, nor that she'd scrub her own skin raw if you gave her too much time in the bathroom, and it surely wasn't that she practised flips, cartwheels, walking on her hands and light-fingered larceny. It was the way nothing seemed to really excite her. Not even the chance of leaving the Sanitarium.

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Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:10 am
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: Folie à un
The dream always started the same. She was alone. She was naked. She was trapped, buried in something that clung and stank and blinded. In the beginning, she had woken up screaming when the dream started.
But in time, she had managed to resist that urge. It did her no good anyway; no matter how many times she rose howling from the dream, it was waiting for her as soon as she closed her eyes again. And she could not stay awake forever.

She was alone. She was naked. She was buried in something that clung and stank and blinded. But -- and this was important -- she was not a panicked animal.
Squeezing her lips tight together, struggling not to breathe, she struck out. Not a panicked animal, but a determined one. She dug, she clawed, she kicked. Gradually, she managed to punch and kick and rip and tear herself some space, enough to hastily gulp in a breath or two. Then she kept going, making more space to crawl, slither and squirm into and breathe.
Repeat, repeat, and repeat again, until finally...

Working her way out of what had held her was not like being born at all. She fell from the fetid mass like a maggot, wriggling its way out of a carcass. For that was exactly what it was; a gigantic carcass, black with rot and ripe with decay. The land reeked of its monumental death for miles around, and the air was black with flies -- or at least, what appeared to be flies the size of children.
Grey Morphs, she had learned they were called. Creatures of dream. Creatures of nightmare. She lurked in the shadow of the giant carcass instead of lurching drunkenly away from it, the way she had done the first few hundred times she woke up here. Lurked and waited, judging the movement of the flies' shadows on the alien landscape all around her.

There was a sky of shifting orange and purple, twisting into spirals and globs threaded through with blackness. There was a landscape of broken rocks and barren earth, bright pink like a royal rose. Alien voices howled in the distance, and tendrils of twisted fungus lunged out of cracks in the earth to snatch at the flies -- and anything else foolish enough to get close to them.
Like her, if she was stupid.

She focused her eyes on one of the rocky spires. One out of a dozen within easy running distance that did not have something hideous living inside it or under it. The nightmare always repeated itself perfectly. She had learned what traps lurked where, now, knew how to run and when to run.
She also knew how it felt to die in this place, the horrors waiting for her if she put a foot wrong. Over and over and over again, she had learned.
She had learned.


'Now.'

She started to run, just barely dodging an arm that thrust out of the decaying flesh. Running, without looking back. There was time to look back later.
Six dozen steps separated her from the rocky spire, the first safe point. She ran, her feet devouring the distance in spite of the way the rocky earth bit at them.
'Ten ... twelve ... thirteen!'
She stopped, arms windmilling to keep her balance. The giant fly buzzed by, mere inches separating her grime-streaked skin from its razor-sharp wings. Death in pieces, while the flies descended on her screaming, twitching remains to feast before she had bled out.

Running again, zigzagging, left and right, ducking and weaving. Flies buzzing at her, spitting streams of acid at her while rough voices shouted behind her. The sound of running feet in hot pursuit. Running.

'Sixty-ONE!'
Throwing herself to the ground, rolling. Acid streaming at the ground all around, in front, then behind. Screams, hideous screams, and the sound of buzzing wings.
Ignore it and RUN
Sixty-TWO, sixty-THREE, sixty-FOUR, sixty-FIVE, sixty-SIX- sixty-SEVEN, sixty-EIGHT, sixty-NINE, seventy, seventy-ONE, seventy-TWO!
Now throw herself into a forward roll, land flat on her belly and CRAWL into a crevace barely wide enough to accommodate her, wriggle like a harpooned fish into a small cave with (barely!) enough room for her to sit on her knees and look back outside.

Men were pushing their way out of the gigantic carcass, wriggling their way out like maggot. Like her. Big men, burly men, men with harsh and cruel faces, men with harsh and cruel natures. This she had discovered when she lingered too long in the shadow of the giant corpse.
Now, in pursuit of her they were running into the gauntlet of giant flies, which spat acid at them and descended to feast as soon as they were too crippled to move.

DON'T get too comfortable, keep couting! Thirteen ... fourteen ... fifteen GO! Crawl back OUT of the little cavern, run widdershins around the spiral. Run faster because the earth is starting to shake, the spiral will topple soon, would bury you alive if you stayed in the cavelet for too long.
Flies are buzzing behind you, many flies, a great many flies, but keep running. Running, because you know why the earth is trembling.
The giant cadaver is starting to sit up.
It's looking for you.
Don't look back.
Run!
Don't listen.
Don't listen to the voice that makes heaven and earth shiver.
"PRETTY LITTLE GIRL."
Don't listen, RUN! Jump over the first crack, hit a hard left. The hand is coming, the hand big as a house, yellowed bone showing through layers of rotted flesh, toadstools growing on the fingernails, toxic mushrooms. Hit a hard right as soon as the hand is in the air again, RUN! Keep your balance, even if the earth shakes when the hand comes down.

So many ways to die, over and over and over again.
Come to the third deep crack in the earth, feel it shake as the corpse lumbers to its knees behind you. Don't look back, even when it says
"I HAVE SOMETHING TO SHOW YOU"
you don't want to see that.
And you don't want to keep running across the pink landscape. You can run forever, you found, but the corpse is so large that just a few steps are enough for it to catch up. It can step on you, or it can hem you in between its hands as though you were an insect, and then things get horrible, so horrible.
Instead, you lower yourself into the crack, start to shimmy down into the darkness warm darkness moist darkness cloying darkness
the Circle the Circle join the Circle
and you must fight off those memories you inhaled on a cloud of spores.
You descend into the depths, your feet testing the way, blood dripping from your skin and the corpse's grime finding its way into the cuts and scratches you already suffered during your escape.
Ignore it, ignore it, don't think of filth, or disease, keep testing the way, testing the way until you find the opening. Lower yourself, squeezing your way into the darkness and the silence, until you come to an opening in the rock wall. Crawl inside, hurry, because something huge and malodorous is blocking out the light from above, and bodies are raining down into the chasm.
More of those maggot-men who crawled their way out of the giant corpse, chasing you. Some fall into the depths, screaming, others are smart and climb, come looking for you.
Hide, then, hide, and be very silent.
Wait now, in the darkness, for the men to descend bare inches past you.
Silent, while the giant corpse tries to widen the crack above and the maggot-men are calling for you by name below.
It seems you are hemmed in, helpless, captured.

The darkness comes alive around you, great wings of blackness caressing your skin.
"You used to be so deliciously afraid," a voice in your ear teases. "Whatever could have changed?"
"Enough smalltalk" you hear yourself say. "Is all in readiness? I would be quit of this ... place."
You can barely believe your own audacity in talking to a Shadow-Morph of the Dreamspawn so. But then you know he secretly likes it when you mouth off.
This is one thing that changes from time to time. Some dreams, he pretends to take offense and starts torturing you in the dark until you wake up screaming. Other dreams -- most dreams, now --
"Is all in readiness?" you ask.
"Are we ready to bust out of this prison?"

There comes a knocking.
Knock, knock, knocking on your chamber door.
Like the evil-minded raven from Plutonian shore, begone from here and darken my doorstep nevermore.

"Miss Everline?" you hear. "The doctor is ready for you now."

Slight emphasis on the 'now'.
You sit up and straighten your clothes.
You are clean, you are clothed, you are wearing shoes.
Still you feel soiled from what happened in the dream. Makes you want to scrub your skin with a steel brush and bathe in acid.

Instead you say "Coming", swing your feet over the side of the bed and walk to the door.
Not long now. Not long before you are released from the Sanitarium.
If only you can free your soul before it's time to leave.

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Mon Nov 13, 2017 11:58 am
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: Folie à un
"I'm just not sure it's the right time for you to leave the Sanitarium."

The patient from room 14 did not protest or try to plead with doctor Tom. She barely even blinked. No twitch, no frown, no re-crossing her legs. Her hands lay in her lap, peacefully folded one over the other.

Doctor Tom waited a moment for the girl to respond. When she failed to do so, he pushed down his anger - he hated it when these stupid people just left him hanging, acting as though his words of wisdom were going in one ear and out the other - and continued: "You've become so withdrawn. I'm not sure you'll be able to cope in the outside world, away from the structure provided by the Sanitarium. What would you say to that?"

"I would say I think otherwise," the patient from room 14 replied, her tone perfectly calm, perfectly pleasant.

No more.

Doctor Tom had to press down very hard on his anger. This patient had become such a source of frustration to him! At first, she had been interesting, the perfect study object to whet the blade of his academic skill on. Her psychoses and neuroses had been right at the surface, waiting for his genius to expose them as the delusions of a feeble woman's mind that they were, to instill a proper sense of order and reality in the clay that was a patient's mind.
He'd been forced to wait his turn, though; first the old dogs had to have their shot at the screaming, self-harming girl. That had been alright. He had been so certain that she was too broken inside for their kind of plodding, slow-witted therapy. His turn would come, and he would turn the wailing waif into a normal, productive member of society.
The transformation would be another necessary rung on his climb to the top of his profession, as well as deeply personally satisfying.
He had been so certain.
But then she started to respond to the old dogs. Less screaming. Doctor Tom was sure she still suffered from night terrors every time she went to sleep, but she weathered them, somehow internalized the fear, started to construct this shell of infuriating calm. By the time he was finally allowed to work with her, she was this ... thing sitting in front of him.
He was the doctor, the genius alienist trying to transform her from a crawling worm into a dutiful butterfly, and she just sat there during their sessions. She listened, she replied - but only when it suited her. He kept getting the feeling that she was judging him! Her responses were voiced pleasantly and she never said anything that was directly insulting, but he kept getting the feeling that she was subtly mocking him.
And he had been so certain.

"What would you even do if we released you?" he asked. "Where would you go? Is there anyone who can take you in?"

That was usually such a useful question. Patients with little to no family became flustered, exposed flaws in their emotional armour that he could tear open, exposing their weakness to his brilliant mind and words. He knew the red-haired brat had lost her parents, he knew she had no other family to speak of! She should be blubbering, or stammering, or just frowning!
But her face didn't even twitch, damn her!

"Mordentshire," she said; perfectly calm, perfectly pleasant. "There's a nice inn in Mordentshire. I have a little money set by in the bank there, too."

"How long can you tide yourself over, though?" doctor Tom insisted. "What can you do to support yourself? You must have lost your position with the travelogue company by now. You have been with us for ... how long?"

The impudent brat just glanced at his calendar! She didn't smile, she didn't say anything, she just glanced at his calendar and shook her head a little, as if to say 'You poor man, your memory must be failing'.
He hated that! He hated her! How dare she mock him to his face? How dare she make him feel stupid? She was the stupid one! She was the flawed one! She was the one who needed to be fixed, needed to be transformed! He was a genius, he was perfect!

"But how will you support yourself?" he tried again. "Who is going to give structure to your life?"

"There is more than one company writing travelogues," she said. "It really isn't that hard for someone with the proper qualifications to find work in that business. So few people are willing to travel regularly."

All perfectly pleasant - but doctor Tom had to suppress a surge of fiery rage. The little brat couldn't possibly know that he'd tried to get into the program in Chateaufaux, only to be turned down. That, and the program in Paridon. Sri Raji hadn't even replied to his application.
She couldn't know, couldn't possibly know, no matter how knowing those blue eyes were. They had been beautiful when he first saw them, clouded and grey with fear and stress, but they had become clear and deep as she clawed her way back from the brink under the care of those old dogs. It was disgusting. It was infuriating. She couldn't possibly know, but she still did! She was mocking him, mocking him, looking down on him! It couldn't be allowed!

"I am really just not sure," he tried again. "As I've said, you've become so withdrawn. I worry you are retreating into a different kind of delusion, rather than fighting your way free of the one you were suffering when you arrived. This ... obsession with religious ritual..."

He had read the transcripts of the patient's sessions with the old dogs. He had read all of them, damn her! When she first started to pray, they had carefully prodded her to make sure she wasn't doing just what he was accusing her of, retreating into a more pleasant mental construct than the one she had built up around these imaginary bogeymen of hers, 'the Circle' and 'Dodds'.
Back then, she had definitely shown signs of irritation! Now, she just sat there, watching him with an air of mild interest!

"What will you do," he said, "when you have another episode and you're away from the Sanitarium? Who can take you in when that happens?"

"Perhaps I shall enter the church," she said. "Structure and comfort. Very efficient."

Doctor Tom wanted to reach over his desk and strangle the little bitch. Religion was no solution for mental disorders! No replacement for proper therapy! He had written three papers on the subject, they were readily available in the Sanitarium's library, even if those miserable old fricks at the National Alienist refused to add them to the monthly publication!

"That really isn't the kind of structure you need," he said through gritted teeth. "You need more, stronger therapy."

"But doctor Oswald tells me I am doing very well, and I am nearly ready to leave," the patient from room 14 said.
Placid as milk, pleasant as honey cake. But still.
Doctor Tom had to fold his hands to stop himself from reaching out for her throat. Oswald, the most worthless of the old dogs, and the chief of alienism here at the Sanitarium! The main stumbling block on doctor Tom's progression to the top of his field! The old corpse occupying the seat of authority and fame that should rightfully be his!
He couldn't say outright that Oswald was wrong, and the little brat knew it!

"Our time's just about up. You are still not sleeping soundly," doctor Tom managed to say. "I know. I shall prescribe you a sleeping draught; take the prescription to the apothecary when you leave. We'll talk again tomorrow. I want you to consider my words very carefully; leaving here too soon could cause irreparable damage to your psyche."

"I am sure my psyche appreciates your concern," the girl from room 14 said as she rose. A faint smile lingered at the corners of her mouth while she waited for doctor Tom to write out his recipe, and it lingered in his memory when she'd gone.

There had to be some way he could turn this situation around. Had to be.
But the girl frustrated him so! And then he couldn't find his Lucky pen, the gold-plated one he had bought himself to celebrate his graduation.

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Tue Nov 14, 2017 3:40 pm
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Evil Genius
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Post Re: Folie à un
"Are we ready?"
"Are we ready?"
"Are we
ready"?

"So impatient," he whispers in the dark, his wings brushing your skin.
Wickedly sharp, barbed tines.
Leathery hide that feels unbearably slimy and somehow both bone-chillingly cold and disgustingly warm at the same time.
Shadow Morph.
Director of nightmares.
An enemy by any other name.
Your one and only ally, here.

"Are we ready?" you ask again. "Can we leave yet?"

"I want to leave."

"I want to leave."

I want
out of here."

"So impatient," he whispers in the dark, his tines tracing the outline of your form, cutting your skin while they do. Lines of pain in the dark, the feeling of your blood running down your limbs, trails of searing heat and pain.
"So impolite," he mocks you. "A guest should be more appreciative of her hosts' abode."

"A prisoner's first duty is escape," you counter. "I am not a guest here. A guest can
leave when she wants."

"I suppose so," he whispers.
The tines stop moving. His wings close around you, a straitjacket of living leather, pulsing against your skin. Disgusting. You cannot control the goosebumps. You need to control your urge to vomit.
"Prisoner," he says, "I've been thinking. Why should I help you? I am of the elite, here. Why risk that for one low-grade mortal?"

This game again.
And again.
And again.
And again.
But you know what to say.

"You are a lord here, but not a king," you say. "Ultimately, you must serve. The
Ennui are the kings, here. But in Mordent...? There are no Ennui there; only herds of placid humans, plodding about their business. They'll never see you coming. There is no one there who could match you."

The wings contract, become a second skin around you. His eyes gleam in the darkness. So do his teeth.
"I can be a
king," he says, his breath the effluence of a charnel pit. "Your world will become my kingdom, my playground to fill with the most delightful nightmares. And your body..."

His wings pulse against you, make you feel sick to your stomach, sick to your bones, sick to your soul. It is like being buried alive in filth, if filth were aware and actively trying to seep into you.

"... your body shall be my vessel," he concludes, grinning in the darkness. "You still agree to the deal, do you not? I help you escape, and in return you become my servant. Your body, my vessel. Your soul, my vassal. Your life shall be mine. And your people become my playthings. Do you still agree?"

"I still agree," you hear yourself say, and feel his mind fumbling around in yours, checking whether you were lying just now.
The filth has found its way in, soiling your mind. You can only endure.
In the dark.

Finally, his presence recedes from your mind, and the wings unravel. You fall to the cave floor, your blood still flowing, your body bruised, your head pounding with pain. Still better than his embrace.

"All is not yet in readiness," he says, invisible now in the darkness. "Not yet. The
Ennui... He grows suspicious, for some reason. But soon. Soon all will be ready."

You sit up, stare in the direction his voice is coming from. You frown; you glare; you bare your teeth in a snarl.
"Hurry. Up!" you growl. "You get me out of here within the next two days, or
no deal. Understand?"

A growl from the darkness; an unhappy noise, like a dog that has been swatted on the nose.
"Soon," he promises in a whisper. "Within the next two days, yes. I promise. I swear. You will be fully free of the Nightmare Lands within the next two days. I will carry you, whole, into the waking world, and we shall be as one for the rest of your life."

"Get me out of here, get all of me out of here, or you get nothing," you say, hammering the words in like daggers. "No body. No kingdom. Just what you have, for ever and ever and ever, no change, no advancement,
nothing."

"I understand," he whispers. "I promise. I swear. You will be free, and whole."

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As of Saturday 09-04-2016, this is the latest page.


Wed Nov 15, 2017 5:48 pm
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