[Snippet] Madness

“And you’ll feel a little pinch…”

Nerio barely felt the needle entering his skin. Only a couple of years ago, the sight of a needle would have made him light-headed and sick to his stomach. Now he didn’t so much as blink as Dr. Mercury injected him with… He didn’t know what. He used to ask each time with anxiety shaking his voice. Now he didn’t care. Vitamins, steroids, immunizations. A pilot needed to take a lot of shit in order to stay in fighting shape.

“There you go. You’re all set.”

Dr. Mercury smiled at him, her lipstick too red, her smile almost clownish. Nerio’s smile back was empty, brief, and insecure as he slid off the exam table and let his sleeve fall back down over the bandage the doctor placed on his arm. It did burn a little but these days, he was becoming numb to the after effects.

“Remember to report any side effects to your supervisor.”

“…right.” Nerio nodded and bumbled through the door and out of the sterile room, with its beige walls and posters of how to stay healthy and know the signals of illness. Lately, he was in such a fog that he wasn’t sure he knew which way was up and which was down.

Somehow, he made it back to the barracks, where he dropped into a heavy sleep. But when he woke up, he felt like he never slept and his whole body was shaking. The windows were dark and other soldiers and mecha pilots were now occupying their beds. Some snored loudly, others breathed in, out–soft and peaceful. Nerio raised a shaking hand to the side of his head, which pounded incessantly. Slowly, he crawled out of bed and swung his legs over the bunk. His feet touched the ground but when he tried to stand, everything felt like jelly.

He had to crawl to the bathroom, where he heaved out his guts. First he felt hot, searing from the inside and then he felt cold. He shivered and shook, holding onto the toilet bowl. Normally, he’d never rest his cheek tiredly against a toilet bowl but he felt like he was dying. His face on a toilet bowl was hardly the pressing issue here. Flashes of red clotted his vision and then the most horrific thoughts. Blood on his hands, blood on his face. His mother, his father. And who was that? Rien?

The next thing he knew, somebody was laughing and poking him on the shoulder, jabbing him where the shot had been given. Pain ran all the way down his arm. He lifted his head and looked up at one of the soldiers. A couple of the other guys were laughing and jostling one another. Amongst the words spoken, he heard hangover and something about partying too much. Ha ha. That was so Nerio. Such a partier. Not.

Forcing himself to stand up, Nerio dragged himself to a sink so he could wash his face. No, what he needed was a full on shower. Stripping down, he stepped into one of the showers and let the cool water cascade over him, waking him up and mostly dispelling the sickly feeling that clung to the edges of consciousness. Once he was washed up and awake, he made his way back over to his bunk. Honestly, now that he was clean and moving, he almost forgot just how crappy he felt the day before.

He smiled slightly to himself as he sat on the edge of the bunk.

Follow You

Long, wicked black claws curled around his closet door with a soft tick-tick sound. One narrow red eye peered through the slim opening, glowing imperiously. Everything else in the room was cast in deep shadow. Only that eye and those claws seemed visible in a sea of darkness.
Matthew held his breath and watched. He tried not to move. He tried not to exist. Wide hazel eyes remained fixed on the claws because the eye filled him with cold dread. That eye paralyzed him.
Visions of blood and claw marks flashed through his memory, sepia and red film reeling violently. Matthew could not breathe. He couldn’t think. He closed his eyes. He trembled.
The sound of claws sliding over wood and plaster sent a shiver down his spine.
“Gil,” he whispered, his voice shaking on the single syllable.
He heard Gil’s voice in his head.
“I see them every night, Matt. They’re hunting me.”

Apricot Excerpt

“How did I get here?”
Her voice still didn’t rise above a whisper. Her voice sounded as pale as Chase looked. Wispy, insubstantial, fragile.
Chase’s lips moved and Iris leaned in close, closer, hoping to hear whatever he kept from her, whatever he held on his tongue. Desperately, he held it but she knew he wanted to share it. She waited. Chase didn’t say it. He averted his gaze. Iris closed her eyes and lifted her head. The heat from the late afternoon sun warmed her, warding off the chill that started deep in the pit of her stomach.
“I was in the atrium,” she tried to explain. Her teeth shook. She felt almost numb from the cold of it. It. Whatever it was.
“I was in the atrium only a few minutes ago. Only a few seconds ago. Chase. Chase…” Her voice shook and rattled. “Chase, please help me.”
“Apricot,” he said.

Opposite Sides

All business now, wasn’t he? Raziel was so accustomed to the Blue that latched himself onto him and looked at him with warm eyes. In the darkness and distance, he couldn’t make out Blue’s eyes but he had a feeling they no longer looked to him so fondly. His voice said it all, but so did the tilt of his head, the set of his shoulders, the way his brows were lowered. Even if Raziel couldn’t see his features in great detail, he could see all these things–and they made his heart sink, the guilt deepening.

What did he come out here to tell Blue? To give him the keys or else? Was this a declaration of war? They were on opposite sides, should it come to that but Raziel couldn’t see himself hurting Blue, not any more than he already had. If it came to war, could he really sink his blade through Blue’s throat and watch him take his last breath? The thought alone sickened him.

He didn’t know where he stood anymore, that was his problem. His blind loyalty and faith in Charon had been shaken. The man seemed to be losing his humanity. He was caving into the monster inside him. Blue was so obviously repentant and yet he was exiled, left to die out here. They knew he would be attacked and gave him no provisions and no way to protect himself. They even stole his ability from him, leaving him helpless, wounded, and alone.

Raziel saw it happen more than once to others before Blue. He saw their friends and family fight for them, he saw them spit on them, he saw them cry for them. Once or twice, there were deserters shortly afterward, those who decided their love for the exiled exceeded their love for the community. “Let them go,” Charon said bitterly. “They’ll die beside them. There is no room here for bad seeds.”

Slowly, Raziel dropped down on one knee and lowered his head, heart thumping hard in his chest. He stared at the leaves beneath his boot.

“…Blue, I’m sorry.”

Error, Error, Error

Please note that this scene involves abuse. Read on at your own discretion.

You failed,” Angelo said, striking him with the back of his hand. Heavy gold and silver rings bit into his jaw and cheek and Shin Il had to fight the urge to smile. Clearly, Angelo wasn’t thrilled about what happened. He sent the word down to kill that bastard, Myo In Sung and here Shin Il was, unable to kill him. No, he got away. Sneaky bastard. Somehow, he managed to get away and although Shin Il tried to hunt him down for a good few hours afterward, he couldn’t find him. The city was too large and even though Shin Il knew the area well, he still wasn’t able to ferret out any possible hiding places. He deserved every smack he got, every derogatory term…

But he couldn’t smile. No, he couldn’t smile at all.

“You know what happens to failures… I know you do,” Angelo said, gripping his hair tight in his hand as their eyes met. Yeah, yeah. Failures got punished. Now this was the tricky part because he couldn’t enjoy the punishment too much or they would catch on. The look in Angelo’s eyes was hard this time, though, and there was something new and dangerous there. Had he caught on now? Did somebody tell him something? His gaze was sharp as a hawk and Shin Il stared too long–he was rewarded with a hard shove back and away. The harsh movement wrenched his neck and shoulder and he didn’t have to hold back the seething little hiss of pain that elicited in his still broken arm. Ahh…

“This is your third strike,” Angelo said, looking down at him with flat eyes, disappointed eyes. Yes, this was the third guy who escaped. But of the other two, he did eventually get them when punished and given a second chance. Besides, his work usually went well. Three out of however many he had been given since he became a hitman? Better than most! But Angelo looked dead serious, his jaw tense.

“We can’t afford this many errors at this point in the game, little Shinny. I don’t think you get it. That asshole’s been taking down some of our best and there’s just no way we can allow him to live. You had your chance and you blew it. So…” Angelo brought out a gun and pointed it at Shin Il’s head, between the eyes. Even Shin Il knew what that meant but death and pain, those weren’t the same. He had too much left to just let Angelo blow him away now.

Gathering together whatever water he could, he flung it hard in the direction of the gun. Just as it went off, the water hardened and sliced through the air, cutting Angelo’s hand clean off.

“FUCK!” Angelo shouted, immediately grabbing for his bleeding stump of a hand. Wasting no time, Shin Il dropped down to grab the gun, prying the hand from it and taking it in hand before he aimed the gun first at Angelo’s shoulder, his chest, his knee, and then finally smirked as he pointed it at his nose. The last thing he heard was Angelo’s cry as he ate lead and dropped to the ground in a pool of his own blood. He heard voices down the hall, however, and he had no time to waste. They had to know something went wrong when they heard so many voices. Damn it. Why did he have to relish the violence so much?

Skidding out of the room, he went down the hall and through the first door he saw. Lucky day. It led to the stairwell. He moved up rather than down; they would be expecting anybody running to go down. Up, up, he ran until he made it to the rooftop, where he shut the door behind him as quietly as he could. He threw the gun over the ledge and heard it clatter into a garbage can. He looked over the ledge himself. He was six stories up. Jumping wasn’t an option if he actually wanted to make it alive. So he turned his gaze around to the building next door. The jump was dangerous, too but… It was about his only option.

He started at a run and he jumped. His heart was in his throat as he leapt through the air. He landed on the other side, hitting it with his knee and rolling over onto his broken arm. He sucked in a breath as he rolled onto his back and that was when he heard somebody coming up on the rooftop he just left. Quickly, he slid over to the very edge of the new roof, pressing against the side. They probably couldn’t see him, and who would think he would have jumped rooftops if they didn’t see him running like an idiot? Still, he held his breath as he listened to shouts and then heard the rooftop door close again.

Still, he didn’t move, remaining where he was, watching his own rooftop, every part that he could see. His eyes darted around from one spot to the next. Then he heard the rooftop door across from him close again. Still nothing. Nothing. He didn’t know how long he lay there before he finally got up, but there was nobody on the other rooftop and nobody on his. Slowly, he made his way to the rooftop door and listened carefully as he descended the steps.

Eventually, he made it out of the red light district but he quickly dodged into a shop where he could buy a hoodie and pull it on. Not too fishy, given where he was. He skulked through the shadows of the alleyways until he found himself near the edge of the territory. Then he was crossing over. Still nothing, yet he didn’t breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Finally, he made it to a little diner, where he edged into a hidden booth near the back. Now what? Now what?

————-

Note: The title of this came from the song Error by Madeline Juno. I highly recommend giving it a listen. Check it out here: Error – Madeline Juno!

Want to know more about Shin Il? Check out Somnia. Be a part of his story! Please note that you have to join the site to see in-character posts. 🙂

Promises, Promises

“No… no, no, no…” Junsu shook his head, holding tight to Hyo Won. He could hardly breathe past the clenching of his heart and the tightness in his chest. His breaths came up harsh and shuddering as he suffocated on the weight of his fear. Physically, he shook from the effort of trying to hold it all together but he was failing miserably and he knew it. It wasn’t fair. This wasn’t how it was supposed to turn out. Hyo Won was supposed to get better, he was supposed to leave that horrible affliction behind and start living and be happy and… and… not… die.

The hope was fading fast, too fast for Junsu to collect it and try to see things with his usual brand of optimism. Now he had to stare it in the face, the way Hyo Won changed, just the way that he said he would. Hyo Won knew it was going to happen and he warned Junsu. He warned him so many times but Junsu was so stubborn, so sure that he could change his fate simply by virtue of being there. Stupidly, he thought if Hyo Won loved him enough, it would keep him here, as if it could keep the darkness at bay, as if love eclipsed everything else.

“Hyo Won…” His voice was unsteady, cracking like his heart. Even though Hyo Won was holding him back, he could feel it, too, the way he had to fight to keep the claws from sinking in. He could feel the tension in his body. He could even feel the muscles spasms as Hyo Won fought for control over the darkness inside him. It was so hard to look at him like that, staring up at him, pleading with his entire body. For a couple crazy heartbeats, he wanted it to happen, for Hyo Won to rip into him and kill him on the spot, just to make the ache stop. But then where would that leave Hyo Won?

His lower lip trembled as he tried to speak again but he could speak. Nothing coherent passed his lips, just a harsh choking sob before he leaned in and squeezed his eyes shut. He kissed Hyo Won, shivering. He stroked the side of his face. And with his other hand, he reached out and grabbed the gun. Cold. Metal. He was warned, so he knew what he was getting into. He promised Hyo Won he could do it. He promised that it was worth it just to be with him. He promised him.

“…I love you… Hyo Won.”

He pulled the trigger.

Knight In A Dress

The last thing any self-respecting knight wanted to do was don a dress and play the pretty princess. Malrion was one such knight. Yet there he stood, outfitted in a glittering ensemble of pastel pink and yellow. He felt very much like a decorative doll on display in a lady’s hutch.

His hands went to his clean-shaven face, to his hair, which fell in loose brown curls around his shoulders in a perfumed mass. Small braids had been plaited with tiny white flowers and his face had been painted to a mockery of an elegant woman. He didn’t know why he had been chosen over all else. Surely the scrawny Lord Adrian would have served a far better maiden than Malrion.

He stood in the midst of the four dragon rocks, feeling naked despite his get-up. He had no sword on him, no weapons save for a slender dagger laced up his thigh. Normally, he wouldn’t be caught dead without his beloved blade, Bernadine, yet here he stood now, bereft of her protection. His hands itched and ached to tear the dress from his body—he would rather go naked than stand in such frippery.

A shadow fell over him, massive enough to blot the light of the waning sun. Malrion’s heart flipped and he stared up. His hand went instantly to his hip, useless. No sword. He could see the dragon now, flying overhead. If it had looked enormous from the sky, it was nothing to the size of it as it drew closer. He told himself he wouldn’t feel such fear if only he had Bernadine in hand.

Steeling himself as the dragon landed, Malrion licked his lips and tried not to give away the fact that his fingers twitched for at least the concealed blade strapped to his leg. He raised up an arm as dust was kicked up from its vicious wingbeats.

The dragon was actually a rather small one, he saw—now that it stood before him—no bigger than a pony, really, but still equipped with dangerous claws and spikes. Bright red scales glittered like fresh blood in the sun, slit-pupiled eyes of deep orange —almost amber—studied him as it dropped down to all fours. It sniffed and stepped cautiously forward, reminding Malrion of his dear sister’s cat when it came upon a mouse. Somehow, that didn’t make him feel any better.

“G-good dragon,” Malrion said, as if to a dog. He tried not to step back, though he leaned as far away as possible when its nostrils came a hand’s breadth away from him. Pale smoke plumed from its nostrils, forming spirals in the air that ghosted into oblivion. Malrion laughed nervously, his hands up, as another breath brought a wisp of smoke to his face. “Please…”

The dragon snorted, spraying Malrion with a fine mist. His face twisted into brief disgust—which he quickly traded in for indignation when the dragon turned away from him.

“Excuse me?” His fists clenched and he took a step after the dragon. “Hey! Where are you going?”

The dragon kept on moving, spaded tail drifting through the air like a slithering snake through the desert lands. Malrion took hold of it. That seemed to catch the dragon’s attention—although he couldn’t be certain that it was necessarily a good thing. It turned around, baring its incredibly long teeth and letting out a sound much like a hiss. Startled, Malrion almost dropped its tail. Liquid gold eyes bore into him and he tightened his grip, setting his jaw.

“I’m not afraid of some overgrown lizard! Come on, dragon! Take me!” He yanked the dragon’s tail, pulling it closer. Big mistake. It opened its mouth and let out a torrent of thick, stinking smoke that stung his eyes and made him cough. Oh gods, it’s going to breathe fire on me! Not in the mood to become fried knight, Malrion let go of the tail and kicked it square in the chest.

The dragon looked down at his slippered foot. For a moment, they remained that way, with Malrion’s foot upon the dragon’s chest and the dragon staring at it. Then the dragon let out a husky sound suspiciously like a laugh. Malrion tried to lower his leg for another attempt, but the dragon leaned back on its haunches and took his leg between its claws. With one tug, Malrion was on the ground, on his back, with the breath knocked from him. The dragon crawled over his prone body.

There was no way that Malrion was going down like this, so he dragged his hands over his pink skirts and clawed at them. Where was that damned dagger when he needed it? Oh, there it was. He grabbed hold of it and let out a cry of triumph. Now who had the upper hand?

Still the dragon it seemed, as it let out another puff of smoke. While Malrion coughed, it raked its front claw over his chest, splitting the dress down the middle. With little regard for the state of the silk dress, Malrion lunged up with his dagger aimed at the dragon’s heart.

The Last Songmaker

“I think you should become a Songmaker, Ezel,” Oaley said, picking twigs out of his thick black hair. His eyebrows were massive and twitchy, which only called more attention to them. They had lives all their own, each movement independent of the rest of Oaley’s face. Ezel lowered his head, lips quirking as he reached up and plucked a leaf out of his own hair.

“There is no such thing as Songmakers anymore, Oaley.” The leaf in his hand was crisp and brown. It would be easy to crush it into dust, but Ezel let it drift away on the soft breeze instead. “Besides, if somebody caught me singing, they would…”

“They can’t stone you. They couldn’t, if they heard you sing.”

“If they heard me sing, I’d be stoned.” Ezel stood, brushing a hand over his coarse breeches. Light brown hair fell over his eyes. It was so easy for Oaley to say; he wasn’t the one who would be tied to a stake while the villagers hurled stones at him. Oaley had the voice of a frog, and he couldn’t even drum his fingers into a tune. But Ezel, despite living in a world with no music, couldn’t seem to escape it.

Music was everywhere. It was in the brook, it was in the trees, in the wind, in the mew of a newly born kitten. Everything inspired Ezel. When nobody was looking, he skipped, he danced, he sang. When Oaley caught him at it a few weeks ago, Ezel was certain that it was the death of him. Yet Oaley had kept his secret. Now he was urging him to come forward and show all the villagers his skill.

“Have you ever seen anybody stoned for singing?” Oaley asked as he gripped the nearby willow trunk for support.

“No.”

“See? They won’t stone you, Ez. They’ll celebrate. Maybe you’ll bring song back to Peribia Down.”

“Just because we haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it won’t happen.” Ezel could only imagine what it felt like to be pelted continuously with rocks. He knew some of the villagers already didn’t like him—he didn’t want to test their hatred with a true reason for it.