🎮 The Pursuit of Heartlessness

When I came to, I was back in that dark basement, lost and disoriented. The fog had cleared, and all that remained was the alluring glow of the mosaic mirror before me. In its vibrant reflection, I sat with a concerned mask cast over my face while my hands gripped firmly around my chin, massaging my jowls, trying to soothe a ghastly pain I couldn't quite place. It is funny how disorientation can provide this almost faux sense of comfort, how it allowed me to feel a calm set over this room that moment ago was defined by the ritualistic chantings of that beast... The memory of his grueling figure jolted me out of my daze and forced me into a hysteric panic. I hurled my stool at the mirror, splitting the phantasmic projections of my journey. The memories seeped from the glass inflections and pooled onto the ground like a pool of ink-tainted gasoline.

I spun frantically, scouring the room with foam-expounding jaws. My body had irradicated all calming sentiments and replaced them with earthquake-inducing shivers as I searched fervently for that heinous creature that lurked in the depths of my every trauma. I coiled my back in preparation for its appearance. My claws stood starkly at attention, ready for the stand-off I had become so accustomed to. Yet, as I stalked feverishly and growled uncontrollably, all that stood in the room was me, a (now decimated) mirror, lockers, and a man. I hadn't noticed him before, but he stood calmly in an all-black Armani suit. Its sleek tailoring hinted at wealth and power that starkly contrasted the opulence around him. A wide-brimmed hat cast a shadow over his eyes, obscuring his intentions as he surveyed the room with a cold, calculating blue gaze. His every breath let out a commanding air with an almost muted intimidation, yet it was also unnerving, hinting at a hidden agenda beneath his composed exterior.

He reached out to me with obsidian leather gloves. His eyes gleamed like sapphire with an enticing invitation to join him on this undisclosed escape into the bootleg city of dreams. I won't lie; I like shiny things, so to his seeming surprise, I took his hand.

*** It's important to inform you this story isn't pretty, i can tell you right now there is no happy ending, and the considerably diluted contents may still be disturbing to some. Feel free to stop reading now. If not, I warned you.***

I could tell you about our scenic walk into the city. Tell you how we walked over the Blossom bridge, looking out over the serene river as it painted a decadent image of the cerulean depths of the Night or how the fireflies illuminated the forest as we walked alongside the river, how we spoke about the future, our pasts or maybe even just the mundane repetitions of the day to day. But those are just details I filled in after years of walking this same path. The truth is, I had no clue how we'd gotten here. But at this moment, we stood at a wooden bridge slathered in viscous honey whose aroma oppressed recall of the manuka luxuries of New Zealand. A feminine silhouette tied my hands and knees to the railing above and sat on the bridge. Patiently, she waited, drenched in the sweet nectar while silk-ridden creatures riggled against her skin, feeding on her flesh. For the moment, her screams were nothing more than silenced tears, caught and rendered motionless by a golden web.

A torch lit up on the other side of the bridge. The Dark man pulled me across, dragging me deeper into our riverwalk, suggesting that this woman and her torment were not deserving of our attention. We continued.

He paused before we reached our next attraction to reach into his pockets and pull out a hulking knife the length of my forearm that had no business fitting in anyone's pockets. Yet, from out of the galactic confines of his pants leg, it emerged, and he placed it in my hand without a word, but we shared a subtle undertone as to its purpose. A chain erupted from the hilt and wreathed into my skin, damning me as the sole wielder of this blade. I held it with the intent of protection and continued forward with my shepherd. After all, it's well-known that clowns lurk in the forest at Night. The whole water-proof mascara epidemic has probably led to a new sub-species of aquatic clowns I needed to watch out for.

We continued passing a group of figures hanging from the trees like monkeys. Their hands and ankles were their only support points as they were tied together and bound by unwavering limbs that cast a green canopy over the skies. It was a vibrant green with a strange ability to highlight the jarring liquid leaking from the soaked rope. There was no telling how long these bodies had been hanging. But the way their eyelids were stained purple and cascaded with a texture like slush told me they had been here for a while. They groaned and coughed confessions as if they were pleas for remorse. But it was remiss; no admission could save them now; everything about them reeked of betrayal and guilt, leaving them in contempt.

A glimmering black smile briefly escaped from the man's mouth.

Another torch ignited ahead. But my steps grew hesitant as the chains clashing reverberated from ahead, followed by a powerful pounding encapsulating the soundscape in unease. I held my breath as if bracing for impact with every step, as there was an abrupt sense that I should be afraid of this man. I attempted to shake the feeling as, after all this time, he had come to feel like a dominatingly comforting presence -- like someone whose only purpose was to care for you and you alone, yet simultaneously, his essence portrayed a sense of self-servitude. Instinctively, I clutched the knife tightly in my vice as if welded to its hilt.

The pounding continued as her red dress began to shine through the midnight horizon. But her luster was now dulled and dampened, as the silk was no reaped, ravenously clinging on to her by mere threads. Men continued to pulverize her as age-old bruises were viciously ripped open by the sheer force of their assault. Her body flailed in the air, falling victim to their every whim. I watched helplessly as every gash, once sutured, ripped at the seem. Every bone, once cast, now splintered. Every scar, once faded, was now reimagined. My heart wept for her, honestly, and that must have been enough to garner their attention, as with that pulsing cry, the beating came to an abrupt halt, and I was allowed a second to look at her. I gazed upon her in remembrance of my radiant savior and inspiration who had been demoralized into a martyr for my wrongs. She dangled over a pile of powdered snow, just out of reach, before finally swaying to be still. This close, I could see past the superficial harm from these goons and see into her self-inflicted traumas. Her fingers had been mangled by attempts to claw down to the wintery slopes below. Her wrists were swollen and contorted, and they dangled in a way that defied the human anatomy. Her shoulders bled with the pattern of bite marks that seemed to conspire with the rigged gouges writhing around her neck.

I only saw two ways this could end. She either continued to endure this endless torment like Prometheus until someone deemed her worth the chilling release of the abundant powder below. Or... well, what happens next?

With a laugh, I slit her throat. At least, I think I laughed. There was no vibration in my vocal cords. My mouth remained shut, and my heart continued to bawl and beg for her safety. But there was also no doubt that my laugh had escaped at that moment, and the looks on everyone's faces made me believe it was true. She departed us with a soft almost forgiving smile. I looked around for the man, hoping that maybe he would show some semblance of approval, but he was nowhere to be found. I walked over to the river to look at my reflection. All I could feel was discussion as I looked into the red glow of my right eye that surrounded the deep black hellscape of my pupil. The other shone a gorgeous sky blue, and its pupil seemed to vilify a vast white hue. They reminded me of rubies and sapphires, and I liked shiny things. But, for the first time, I wondered, "At what cost?"

My inward reflection didn't last long as that insistent laughter resounded through my head, and I remembered the realities of my insanity. It's funny, really; I never asked what scared me more. The thing I had become, or the fact this was always just a game. I just replayed the campaign. Night after Night after Night, looking for an alternate ending.

One last torch ignited behind me.

I woke up resting on cool tile under the shade of a piano. My phone flashed with a single message from Hollywood:

"Sorry for last night."

So, as had become the norm, I awoke dazed and confused. 

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