More WoD homebrew stuff. This time a Hunter conspiracy made of teenage girls who fight monsters and actually work for Exiled True Fae throwing wrenches into the work of the Real Actual Faeries because Exiles are bitter. I haven’t really thought how they’d interact with Changelings themselves. They’re ostensibly going to be Enscorcelled, and they’ve essentially got Contracts of a sort. They take on Banes the same way that Spirits and Ghosts have got and in exchange they have powers.
They also have a manga and an anime based on them, because I love the idea of propaganda for magical teenagers who might die fighting monsters.
Everyone dreams when they’re little of being something more. Firemen, police officers, superheroes, princesses. When we’re younger, we always think that adults can do amazing things, and we always wish we had some kind of power to change things. For many children since the late 90s, they grew up wanting to be Starlight Guardians, first a comic book series created by Kagome Yuzuki, a young Japanese woman living in LA, and then later as a Saturday morning cartoon. It was standard fare, well received. A story about young girls who fought against nightmares and a vaguely defined “Darkness”. The themes all centered on friendship and companions and it was praised for the fact that the girls struggled with protecting the world and going to school, as opposed to most other shows where classes are never missed and family is never worried.
It was considered a deconstruction of the magical girl genre, showing what the fallout might be, but it remained hopeful and upbeat, and managed to find an audience across many age groups and demographics.
Yuzuki has never really given an interview, despite her creation being so popular, licensed, translated, and dubbed in several languages. Starlight Guardian cosplay is common at anime and comic book conventions, and there have even been six video games and two stage musicals in Japan. All that’s known about her is that she moved to LA when she was 16, and that she’d been disabled when she was 19. Some fans speculate that she was shot, but there’s nothing but rumour to support that, certainly not medical records.
The truth is that Yuzuki didn’t come up with the Starlight Guardians and their secret world of magic and fairy creatures. They’re a Conspiracy of Hunters, mostly young women, dedicated to fighting evil and stopping the creatures that live in the Dark Forest, that cause nightmares and steal away children. She belonged to them once, and they’re very real. They really do fight against darkness, creating citadels and fortresses in the magical realm known as the Dark Forest. They gain their powers by making deals with the creatures that live there that don’t want to devour the living, or cause nightmares. Everything written about in the comics is based on the experiences of Yuzuki and her cell, and later on stories she heard from other magical girls.
Originally it was a way of coping with her injuries, which left her unable to fight. As time went on, the Starlight Guardians have used Yuzuki’s rather sizable media empire, rivaling that of Sanrio (of Hello Kitty fame) to act as a sort of propaganda. Young women take to the idea more easily when they can point to something. For many of them, their secret becomes a shared experience. Some turn away from the show, hating it. Others love the comics and cartoons, and hope that Yuzuki will immortalize their exploits so that they can encourage other young girls to be heroes.
Kagome herself is now in her twilight years, an unassuming Asian woman in her mid eighties. She works with the Guardians still, though rarely as anything other than a figurehead. She doesn’t lead, and she sleeps with a gun underneath her pillow.
The girls who join the Conspiracy are often young. Younger than most other Conspiracies by a long shot. Some are barely out of middle school. While most are high schoolers, there are some who make it to college before they’ve been brought into the fold. Almost every Starlight Guardian has had an interaction with the Unseelie, evil faeries from beyond the Dark Forest who feed on mortal children and pervert dreams. Some lost friends and loved ones, while others were taken themselves, and still bear the scars as their skin was torn at by the thorns before their rescue.
The Dark Forest
The magical girls make their sanctuary in the Dark Forest, a dreamscape wilderness with all manner of strange entities. Much of it isn’t actual forest, but all throughout even the strange towns and markets are vines and branches, and the ever present thorns. All manner of faerie beastie lives in the Forest, some strange animals that almost but not quite look like mundane animals. Some of the stranger creatures can even talk. And in sometimes in little temples or caves, or even in the markets, the Starlight Guardians can find something even more powerful.
They call them the Seelie. They claim to have been banished from their homes by the Unseelie, and they bargain with the Guardians, granting them powers to fight the Unseelie that manage to get to earth, stopping them from grabbing up children. Many of the Guardians have personal grudges against the Unseelie as well, for replacing siblings with doppelgangers, or trying to grab them through the Thorns.
Many of the magical girls can sculpt the Dark Forest, creating new pathways that are safe, and even creating little bastions of hope against the darkness.
The Unseelie are everywhere because the Dark Forest is everywhere. They poison dreams and steal away the innocent. Many a Starlight Guardian was born when a young woman was dragged out of bed at night and found herself pulled through the thorns of the Dark Forest, only to be rescued from whatever horrid fate awaited her in some far away faerie castle by an upperclasswoman who always seemed so distant and aloof. The Guardians make their Safe Houses far away from mortal eyes in the Dark Forest, and they do fight the nightmare beings there sometimes, but more often than not they chase down the monsters that creep out of the Dark Forest and threaten the innocent.
Monsters of all stripes have their origins in the Dark Forest, from creepy crawly spidery things that hide in attics and wait to capture anyone exploring that old abandoned house, to strange batlike things that glide through the night sky. While faeries that steal away children are the primary enemy, more often than not the magical girls face inhuman creatures, animals that escaped the Forest and try to sate their hungers.
There are also many doppelgangers, people left behind when the Unseelie take someone away. They often don’t even know what they are, and the Guardians are torn on how to deal with them. Some feel that as creatures of the Dark Forest they should either be destroyed—often resulting in the doppelganger turning into a pile of sticks and stones and snails and puppy dog tails—or sent back into the Dark Forest by force. Others feel that they’re as much victims as those who are stolen away, and that killing them just tears a family apart. At least with a doppelganger they think their son or mother or relative is alright.
Sometimes, the Seelie beings that the Starlight Guardians make pacts with will have certain tasks for them. Sometimes finding rare ingredients, or dealing with the Hobgoblins in the Dark Forest itself, before they can even leave it. Most of them have no problem carrying out these ‘missions’.
Even beyond the Unseelie and the monsters that crawl out of the Dark Forest, there are many other things that feed on the innocent. No magical girl worth her salt would ever refuse to fight an enemy because it’s “not my problem”.
College was a big change. You’d just gotten out of a bad relationship, you were away from home for the first time. You were on your own. At first you were okay with it, but as the weeks went on, your dreams became nightmares, all the horrors of loneliness magnified. They all came to a head when you were dragged out of your bed by a woman on horseback, her hair—her head—all on fire. She dragged you by the ankles and your flannel nightgown was torn to ribbons and your skin was bleeding, but before she could steal you away for good you were rescued. Now you work to keep others from experiencing what you did.
You absolutely adored Starlight Guardians. It was your favourite show as a kid, you had all the toys, and even now you have a plushy of Hitomi, but as you got older you grew out of it, and called it kids stuff. That was before you were attacked in the park one night by a creature that looked like something out of a nightmare—or a TV show. Then a little white creature asked “Do you want to be a Starlight Guardian?” Now you’re living your dream, and you know twelve year old you would cream herself, but you just wish you could sleep soundly ever again.
You’re a guy. Not a macho guy, but you always thought there was something wrong with the guys who obsessed over a cartoon for girls. Then you accidentally wandered into the Dark Forest somehow, and you were drafted. Now you obsess over the cartoon yourself, hoping that it will give you some idea of how to keep from dying now that you know there are monsters out there. And you really wish you’d listen to your mom when she said to cut your hair.
The Starlight Guardians aren’t a unanimous group. There are several smaller groups that make up the Conspiracy, each with a different way of approaching the Vigil. Within the Conspiracy, they’re known as “circles”, after the group of doujinshi artists.
Big Sisters, Little Sisters is a group of magical girls who focus not so much on the Dark Forest or fighting monsters, but on helping those less fortunate. They even have a public face, acting openly as fans of theStarlight Guardians, dressing up in cosplay, and visiting sick children. They even put on skits at elementary schools. They believe they can make the world a safer place by making it less hospitable to the nightmare sustained Unseelie.
Spreading information through doujinshi and fanfiction, as well as helping with the animated series, Starlight Projekt can help get the word out on tactics and chronicle the exploits of Guardians. Sometimes they even honour fallen Guardians, though they do have a tendency to dramatize events and “ship” members of the Conspiracy. They also manage to bring in money for the magical girls. Kagome Yuzuki belongs to this circle.
The largest circle within the Guardians is the Starlight Sisterhood, who actually go out and fight the monsters up close and personal. Many of it do it out of a sense of justice, or regret at not being able to save a sibling. But a rather large number simply want to show up in one of Starlight Projekt’s doujinshi, or be immortalized by Yuzuki herself in the cartoon that inspired most of them to fight in the first place.
Status in the Sisterhood is gained by stopping evil, and by the number of pacts and agreements with the things in the Dark Forest.
● Entry into the Guardians comes from first defeating one of the evil faeries. You can purchase dots of Pactio, and have others who can look up to you.
●●● You’ve seen enough of the things that haunt nightmares that you know how to recognize them. You gain the Unseen Sense Merit fromThe God-Machine Chroniclep.175 towards the Fae.
●●●●● At the highest level of Status within the Conspiracy, you have several resources to call upon thanks to your pacts and bargains with your Sisters. Divide three dots however you like between Allies, Retainer, or Safehouse Merits.
New Endowment: Pactio
By making deals with the more benign creatures of the Dark Forest, the Starlight Sisterhood gains some measure of supernatural power to do battle with the creatures of nightmares. Every time a member of the Starlight Guardians gains a new dot of Pactio, choose one of the following Endowments. A Guardian can change out which Pactio powers she has by sleeping for one night in the Dark Forest. Each point of Pactio comes with a cost, though: The magical girl takes on a Ban as if she were a Rank 1 spirit for each dot, representing the bargains made with the Seelie that allow her to use the powers. Her magic also suffers a specific Bane: Cold Iron.
Something from the Dark Forest agrees to help the magical girl, whether out of the goodness of it’s heart(?) or because she’s made a bargain with it. The mascot is rarely larger than a dog, and looks nothing like a normal animal. It understands simple commands, and will carry them out, though more complex actions might require a Presence + Animal Ken roll.
Attributes: 3/3/2 (divide among Power, Finesse, Resistance)
Skills: 9/7/3 (divide among Mental, Physical, Social)
Willpower: Power + Resistance
Essence: 10 (10 max), used for casting Dread Powers.
Speed: Strength + Dexterity + Species Factor
Defense: Lower of Dexterity or Wits, plus Athletics
Health: Stamina + Size.
Virtue and Vice: Any. Some Mascots share the magical girl’s Virtue, while others might not.
Size: 5 or less, based on the animal it mocks
Dread Powers: Assign four dots
Innocuous: Anyone but it’s magical girl suffers -2 to Perception rolls to notice the Mascot.
Conditions: The bonded Guardian and the Dark Forests are considered suitable conditions for regaining Essence. Any time a Mascot resolves a condition, or would otherwise gain a Beat, it instead gains a point of Essence.
Battling evil is a tough job, and anything that you could call “evil” with a straight face generally isn’t going to pull punches, even against a teenage girl. The Barrier Jacket is a lightweight piece of armour that protects a Starlight Guardian. By spending a point of Willpower as a Reflexive action, she gains an armour rating equal to her Resolve for the scene.
The “Jacket” covers her entire body, though it may not look it. It often takes the form of a cheerleading outfit or school uniform, and has touches of glittery moonlight in it. No matter what appearance the barrier jacket takes, it provides complete protection for the scene and is impossible to hide as mundane. Cold iron ignores the Barrier Jacket’s armour.
Light of Truth
A bright light shines from the Guardian, centered on her heart. It emanates around her and reaches out a number of yards equal to her Presence, illuminating the area as if it were a flickering candle. In addition to creating light, anyone within the radius of the light talking to the magical girl must spend a point of Willpower to speak falsely, and takes a -2 to any rolls to obfuscate the truth. In addition, any supernatural creatures roll Composure + Potency contested by the Guardian’s Presence + Resolve to remain hidden, whether through invisibility or stealth. Mundane characters are spotted instantly. The light also causes hidden nooks and crannies to glow faintly, giving anyone looking for hidden objects a +3 to their rolls.
A character must concentrate when using the Light of Truth, and can take no other actions besides moving her speed and using her Defense.
No magical girl would be complete without a fancy sword or bow and arrow. By spending a point of Willpower, the Starlight Guardian summons a physical weapon that uses the Weaponry skill and takes the form of a staff, a mystical sword, or something of the type. The weapon is between size 1 and 4 with a damage rating of 1L, and an initiative penalty of -0.
The weapon lasts for a single scene, and can never be lost or stolen. Any time it isn’t in the Guardian’s hand, she can summon it right back at the top of the initiative.
Sometimes monsters can get places that people normally can’t. By making this bargain, a magical girl can reach those places as well. Provided she moves at double her speed, she can move along any surface, even one that couldn’t support her weight or is against gravity. A Guardian with this power can run up walls, across glass, or even over deep mud or shifting sand (but not water) without so much as ruining her shoes. When using this power, she can also leap incredible distances, doubling her successes on any such Athletics rolls.
Big Sister Says
Blessed by the inner light—or at least the pacts with the Seelie—the magical girls can resonate an aura of authority. By spending a point of Willpower and rolling Presence + Intimidation + Striking Looks versus each opponent’s Composure + Potency, a Starlight Guardian can make herself appear to be someone more imposing or authoritative. She doesn’t actually become anyone different, but people perceive her as being in charge so long as she doesn’t do anything to go against that impression.
In addition, so long as she doesn’t openly carry a weapon or strike at anyone, if an opponent does choose to attack her, they first have to spend a point of Willpower and roll Resolve + Composure.
Love Love Beam
Originally this Pactio ability had a different name, but the silly one stuck after it showed up in a gaiden or sidestory in the original Starlight Guardian comic. Older or more uptight Guardians prefer to call it the Starlight Beam. It takes the form of a magical burst of light coming out of the magical girl’s chest or hand (though more than one Guardian has shot hers out of her mouth) with the spending of a point of Willpower and a roll of Dexterity + Athletics. The blast has a damage rating of 2 and does only bashing damage, but it ignores Defense. The short range for the Love Love Beam a number of yards equal to the magical girl’s Presence + Resolve.
Sometimes enemies don’t stay down. Those enemies that just keep on coming just need a little assistance getting flat on their ass. By spending a point of Willpower for the rest of the scene the Guardian’s fists are cloaked in magic, or perhaps starry gauntlets appear. Any brawling attacks that she takes now do an additional 1 bashing damage on a successful hit, and the first time an opponent is hit they suffer the Knockdown Tilt.
Asked by Anonymous
Any actual feedback there, or just “your writing is terrible”? Tell me why it’s terrible. That isn’t very constructive, you know.
The weapons and equipment of British warriors down the ages, from top to bottom;
Crusader knight, 1244
Yorkist Man-at-Arms, 1485
New Model Army musketeer 1645
Lance Corporal, 1944
Reblogging this for future reference.
This is another World of Darkness homebrew. This time a friend wanted to have something similar to the game Muramasa: The Demon Blade, so I came up with this template for her game.
Geist isn’t actually updated to the GMC rules yet, but I’ve done my best to encorporate them here.
Long ago in Muromachi period of Japanese history there lived a swordsman named Sengo Muramasa. Second only to Soshu Masamune, his swords were of legendary quality, said to cleave any opponent in two. They were also claimed to be cursed, incapable of being drawn without drinking blood, even going so far as to cause bloodlust in whoever wielded one of his blades. They were said to go insane, slaughtering their kin or even turning the blade on themselves if it couldn’t have it’s bloodlust sated.
I made a vampire Bloodline based off of a joke. While the core concept (catgirl vampire) seems a bit funny, I’ve made it so that the bloodline itself can be played seriously.
A monster chases you through the graveyard. It taunts you, always with a smile and two mismatched eyes staring out from the darkness. It comes with flickering ghost-light and yowling laughs. It dresses like an entertainer, but tonight you’re the entertainment. Claws run down your shoulder and you turn, only for another slash across the opposite hip. The cat plays with you, toying and laughing. A gentle kick to the back sends you stumbling forward, and you break into a run.
The red lights of the motorcycle zipped through the light rain, riding the curves like a lecher’s hands. From the bike itself came the blaring synthetic pop music, intense and rising over the motor. In the distance, a storm was rolling in, and the low rumble of distant thunder could be heard. The rider wore a green and white varsity jacket, the back and breast blazoned not with a high school letter but something half corporate logo, half medieval crest. A stylized gryphon struggling against thorns on a shield. His helmet was pure black, reflecting the lights of the mansion as he pulled up to the gate.
A black man held up a hand at the guard station, and looked at a clipboard. He was in his thirties, and the man still seated in the station was about twenty years his senior. The rider slowed, and the blarring synth-pop died.
"Woah, now, need you to take that helmet off," he said, looking over his list.
He was a mortal. Nothing special, just a rent-a-cop.
Two quick shots coughed out of the silenced 1911M1A1 pulled from the side pouch of the gym bag slung over the Rider’s shoulder. The man died in confusion, but he died quick. His partner barely had time to draw his piece, and went down the same way, bullets coughed out by the weapon slamming into his chest, painting the back wall with red, then lazily tearing through the cheap drywall.
The Rider got off, slipped into the guard station and flicked the gates open. Then the music was back on, and he put the hammer down and drove towards the mansion.
Inside, a party was going on. Drugs and booze, a hazy room with beautiful people. Most of them were stoned out of their mind, and all of them were overtaken by the music and the lusts and emotions. It was nearly orgiastic.
And then a green Kawasaki slammed through the French doors, sending wood and door handles flying. For a moment, the dancing stopped, and then it was replaced by screaming as the Rider lept off the bike, sending it spinning into the crowd. One was silenced, the other wasn’t. With a cough-BLAM two shots went out and everything was chaos.
Two black suited men, skin grey and stony, their bulk inhuman, stumbled. Two more, looking like growling wolves, reached for shotguns and fired at the rider.
The party-goers, some mortal, some gorgeous creatures of wet dreams and nightmares, panicked. One went down to a shotgun blast meant for the rider, who ducked behind a stairway. The bike spun in loud, roaring circles in the center of the hallway. More men were coming, all monstrous and terrifying. A man with skin like glassy ice took two hits to the chest and kept coming, but the third to his temple shattered half his face and dropped him to the ground. His blood was red and cold.
The Rider tossed his spent pistols aside, and rolled to the iceman’s corpse, grabbing his machine gun and keeping his helmeted head down as more gunfire tore through the air. With a rapid drumbeat, he took down one of the ogres, and winged the second. He hadn’t been hit. And then the motorcycle slammed right into him, flying through the air after thrown by the grey skinned man. As he flew backwards into a decorative indoor fountain he took out the stoneskin, pouring the rest of the machine gun into him.
He slammed into the fountain’s wall, and water and foot long golden fish came flowing out. Pulling the keys from the bike and pocketing them, the Rider pushed the Kawasaki between himself and the bullets roaring from the wolf-man’s gun. He grabbed the plastic molding, and in a second he was up on his feet, supernatural strength pressing him forward. The bike slammed into the wolf man as if it were on the road. Muted by the heavy synth still pumping from the walls, his spine snapped.
The floor was painted with blood. Some red, some not. Some mortal, some not. Four dancers were dead. Others, still staring out from behind furniture and art fixtures looked on in shock as the rider picked up his bag. The figure shot a glance around the room, and they all got the message, fleeing from the hole in the doors.
Deeper in the mansion, a man with the face of a weasel hides, six guards with him. He wears a blue track suit, and snorts cocaine. A woman in an artfully torn shirt and pink spandex lies chained on the chaisse, her shoulders bared and her lips parted in a stupor.
One of the men goes to investigate, all of them drawing their guns. With the roar of a lion—the *actual* roar of a lion—the door shatters, and the inhuman creature is knocked backwards, baring fangs in anger. As stolen blood reheals shredded skin, another blast from the shotgun turns the monster to ash.
The five remaining guards let loose on the doorway, shredding the frame with machinegun and shotgun fire. The weasel does what he always does, and hides. Magazines are reloaded, and a creature of the night takes a bullet to the temple, sending the lifeless corpse into stillness. The Rider comes in with a rifle this time, lever action, a classic Winchester repeater.
His foes move with blinding speed, and the walls and bookshelves are torn by bullets. He ducks behind a mahogany desk, and the wap wap wap of a machine pistol blows through it. He lays back, one leg on either side, pressed against drawers. The rider looks between his legs, at the feet in the room, advancing on him and putting holes in the wood.
Twelve inches up, on the left. He pulls the trigger and recocks as the body hits the floor, crumbling into ashes. Three down. Three left.
The coffee table comes flying over the desk, and nearly crushes the Rider. He interposes the stock of the Winchester, and ice and chill spread out around him. The table freezes in the Winter wind, and a strong blow from the butt of the gun splits it in half. The assassin gets in a low crouch, and pushes against the heavy wooden desk with both hands. It lifts three feet off the ground as he heaves it away, and the count is two and one. A vampire lies on the ground, panick in his dead eyes, legs torn off by the force of the desk. Wounds knit, there’s no way to restore that much damage.
The other two fire off shots, and the bullets catch on snowflakes and ice, missing the Rider. Fire-cock, and the teams are one on one. A bullet sends the Driver piroutting, green jacket stained with blood. He pulls the rifle up one handed, and pulls the trigger, only for the hammer to click uselessly.
The vampire smirks on the other side of the carnage, and levels a heavy Baretta at the rider’s black helmet.
The slide is pulled back and the chamber is empty. His smirk goes away.
The Rider tosses the Winchester, grabs it from the stock, and in one smooth motion heaves the weapon barrel first into the undead bastard’s chest. He falls to his knees, then drops. The rifle clatters to the floor in a vaguely human shaped pile of ash.
The weasel has the girl in his arms. Her head droops, and she’s still chained to the chaisse. There’s a .38 special at her temple.
"D-don’t come any closer!" he stammers, hands trembling.
"You sold us out, Weasel."
"N-no, man, no, I didn’t, I’d never do that," the coward lies.
He takes a bullet from an M1A1 in the thigh and drops the girl, clutching his leg, eyes wide. “To *leeches*.”
"C-come on, man!" the weasel whimpers, crying like a dog. "Th-they were gonna kill me, man! T-tell the king it’s done! N-no more, no more deals!"
Another bullet slams into his same thigh, this one going through the back of his hand first. He pulls it away, clutching at it and staring in shock at the hole straight through.
"O-okay, okay! L-look, man, they paid me in Krugerrands! All yours!" the coward pleads, "You ever seen one? F-fuckin’ gold coins, man!"
The next bullet tears through his foot. “You’d bribe a knight with apartheid money,” he says simply. “You are a rat-faced bastard.”
Two more bullets knock the girl free, taking care of the silvery chain around her ankle that keeps her in place. The knight says nothing as he picks the girl up, ignoring the pleas of the Weasel. He carries her in his arms, and walks out of the room.
"W-wait, man! You can’t leave me like this! Th-they’re gonna come back for me! I-I ain’t useful no more, man!"
The gym bag lands in a heap in front of the Weasel, and he winces, crawling towards it and opening it up.
"Fuck…" he murmurs, seeing the plastique and the green LCD counting down.
The Rider ignores his obscenities and begging, rights his bike, and peels out with the girl on the back, both hands at the Rider’s waist, one of his over top for security. Nothing is left behind but carnage and a streak of black rubber on the bloodstained marble floors. The music still blares.
The mansion becomes kindling.
I never realized how much I need the internet.
I came home at noon after an awkward night spent in the top bunk of a friend’s guest bedroom. I hate sleeping over. I hate the obligations of being a guest, I hate not having a retreat, not being able to hide. Do I really need to? Others in our group have gone off to be alone, to sulk or cry for no reason. We tiptoe around each others’ illnesses and provide comfort. Why do I always feel like if I speak up and say that I feel bad, that sometimes I can’t take the jokes, or the way the weight of obligation from sleeping over makes me feel, that I’ll be met with hostility or derision? Why do I feel that I’ll be hated? I hate the dance of being asked to stay over so that drinks can be had late into the night, and then having to play the guest as if I asked to stay over. I hate feeling like a burden, but if I don’t, someone needs to drive. If I do, then I can’t be up like my usual vampiric self, sitting at the dining room table on the computer, because I might wake someone or interrupt morning ‘me’ time.
Regardless, though, the internet.
I came home and the internet was off. Apparently it’s been off since 1am. Here I sit at 8pm and it’s still off. At first I didn’t care. I fiddled with the router, heard it was going to be off for another hour, then took to entertaining myself with cheesy low grade vampire porn from Kink.com I downloaded ages ago. It was as corny as you can imagine, I finished up in the spots I could keep from laughing, and took a shower, expecting the internet to be back. It wasn’t.
By two, the internet still wasn’t on, and I tried to read a comic I was suggested. 54 pages in, and The Nikopol trilogy didn’t interest me in the least. I took a nap. Or tried to.
I didn’t get to sleep. Instead, I had a bit of a freak out. I didn’t cry or even whimper, but I still lay there with my face in the pillow and worried. Feared.
Halloween is coming up, and I’ll be turning 25. When I was in high school, I always assumed I’d be dead or have my life together.
I’m still living with my parents, I’m spiraling deeper into depression. I’m broke, with a single dollar to my name. Of course, with the mountain of debt above my head, ready to fall on me like so many men buried in trenches from artillery fire, I don’t really even have that. I live in a toxic environment, were I’m constantly confronted with passive-aggression on a daily basis, and reminded in so few words that I’m a burden. And worst of all, I’m in the oroboros circlejerk Catch-22 where I need money to get treatment, and I need treatment to get money.
And on the other end of the coin, I see no burning orphanages to valiantly risk my life on, so I doubt I’ll be dead by All Saint’s Day. Suicide isn’t something I want. Really, I don’t even want the noncommittal oblivion of sleeping and never waking up. I want to get better. I want this bullshit to end. I’ve lost a quarter of my life. Maybe even a third. What’s suicide if you haven’t got a life? I just want to get free of the cables trying to drag me down.
But that’s where we come back to the circlejerk. I can’t get treatment. I have 0 dollars and 0 cents. I have negatives, actually. Every time I’m getting treatment, I feel that passive-aggressive weight. It nearly physically pains me to go to the psychiatrist. Six months or more have passed and none of the medication seems to do a damned thing for me. Or maybe I’m just saying that because I’m off of it, and will be for another fifteen days, at least, while waiting for the doctor to come back from vacation.
Every time, during that long car ride, I can just feel the resentment from whichever parent is driving me. “Why can’t you drive yourself? Why can’t you get a job? Why can’t you pay for the medicine and the co-payment yourself? Why are you such a burden? Why am I still caring for you at 25? Why do you always blame us?” I’ve been told I should hate them. Maybe if I was sane enough that I didn’t need to hear those things, I would. But instead I can only feel a sense of pity. Pity to the people who’s apathy has driven me to depression. We don’t speak the same language. It’s not a generation gap, or even an issue of intellectualism. They simply cannot understand me. It’s impossible to talk to them. And so I don’t hate them, I just feel sorry for them.
But back to the internet.
I never realize how much I need it until I don’t have it. Even now, writing this in OpenOffice, I keep glancing at the little icon of a monitor and that yellow triangle overtop it. Wishing the internet would come back on.
I don’t even DO anything. The last month I’ve done nothing but hang out in the /tg/chat room on a fetish roleplaying website. In a month and a half I’ve wracked up twenty characters. And only a fraction of that time has been spent “lewding”, that is engaging in erotic roleplay. And the times I do, I don’t get aroused by it, as others seem to. I do it to write. And embarrassingly enough, it’s the most writing I’ve done in ages. And I fulfill people’s typefucking fetishes. Female on male rape, romance, being seduced by demons, or just bards. Helped one person explore orientation play, with her young princess being given a working over by an older woman after being unsatisfied with awkward teenage boys just looking to get their nut off.
What I do, though, is just hang out and shoot the shit. Sure, I’d rather do it in an IRC room with ten people instead of a fetish website’s chat with 70, but talking is talking, and talking is a distraction. Perhaps not a healthy one, in the long run, since it distracts me from things like writing and working to dig my way out of this hole, but it is helpful in keeping me from experiencing the fucking anxiety that I faced today.
And even beyond whatever flavour of the year I’m experiencing, the internet is always there with a pile of distractions, from 4chan to Reddit to Youtube to Newgrounds to anything else, if I pull myself out of a rut and search. And it can provide a balm, too. So often I’ve worked out my problems by bitching to others, or even by listening to others bitch. Worked out like knotted muscles, soon to return, but still.
And still I glance at that icon, hoping for a change. And it seems like I can’t put it off any longer, and I need to move. I need to move my mattress and desk downstairs to the den. From Quasimodo to cave dwelling creature. I’d rather leave my belltower and go somewhere else, but once again, I need money.
Maybe this will work out for the best. A change of scenery, at the least. Let that small change help me. God, I hope it does.
I hate writing about myself…
If anyone does read these posts, go read another one. Go read Lauren, or On Your Feet, Private. I feel like I owe any reader something that isn’t shit. I need to tell another story. Fuck, I owe myself that.
This was written back during my ill-conceived time at ITT, during an Ethics class. I stumbled across it wondering “what the heck is ‘The Code’?” and I’m reminded how much I like my own writing, so I thought I’d share. So much of this blog seems to be me finding old stuff, I really ought’a write something new, huh? I was still dating my old Mage ST at the time, and it shows a bit. Remembering the people I talk about here makes me nostalgic. Happy for a time that no longer exists, and that I can’t go back to.
I am a saint, and I am a sinner. I mock, deride, and insult some, while encouraging, praising, and cheering others. I’ve done no great good, or great evil. I’m a human being, and as such, my ethics are contradictory and often contrived. Selective, subjective, and at odds with one another.
I find that many of the statements of my ethics are in the form of “I would X but not Y”. I would steal two dollars sitting on a table, but I wouldn’t steal a .99 cent pack of gum from a store. Is it because there’s harsher penalties to shoplifting even small items than to pick up untended money? Perhaps. I’d never want to hurt someone, but at the same time I’d like to. I wouldn’t want to start a fight, but I’d like to be in one. I wouldn’t want to be a thief, but I’d like to steal something.
I suppose the bulk of my ethics comes, as with everything, with my interactions with people over the internet, having lived a rather boring life off of it. As I’ve mentioned in previous Reflections papers, I find myself in the position of an inadvertent counselor. I seem to attract people with issues, and I let my shoulders be far bigger than they are, shrouding them in a mantle of tears. I provide a mostly sympathetic ear. Even the ones who seem schizophrenic in outlook, calling me a good friend one moment and the next insulting me and mocking my efforts, get the same treatment of arm chair psychiatry and advice into their problems.
Over the years, the doctor has been in on issues of gender dysphoria (more than twice), feelings of hopelessness and isolation, offering a kind, gentle word to people who hate what they are and others who’ve been for lack of more colourful descriptions were raped by a family member. I’ve talked with people who suffered cancer, survived it, are afraid it’s coming back. I’ve talked with at least one person who caught it in time. I’ve talked with a lonely, isolated girl who lost six feet of her intestines to Chron’s Disease, and an admittedly very creepy transsexual in her mandatory year as a woman who performed a meatotomy on herself while talking to me on IRC. For your own sanity, do not Google that.
Often times, I feel almost as if I’m someone who’s phone number is one digit away from the suicide hotline, and many times—thankfully none in recent years—I’ve felt like the people on the other end of the line were going to end their perceived suffering if I said the wrong thing. Most of them were whiny adolescents and barely-out-of-their-teens angst ridden melodramatists. Once again, an example of contradictory nature. The people I ‘see’ now in my little unofficial ‘practice’ are more deserving, and yet less effected. Despite their issues of intimacy, gender confusion, and straight up displacement, the things that get them down are online games.
Lately, I’ve taken it upon myself to become more proactive in my helping of others, going from being a sympathetic ear to actively offering kindness to those who seemed like they needed it, beyond my usual. I doubt that this class had anything to do with it, but there’s always the chance that if I say it has, I’ll get a bit better grade. It was here, in cheering someone up, that I was given what I feel may have been the most heartwarming praise that I have ever been given—as well as yet another indicator that my life is weird.
“If I was a real girl, I wish I could marry someone as good as you.”
In thinking of this topic, I was advised to look at the actions of the characters that I play in my roleplaying games. I was told to look at the character’s action, and then think about how I would do it differently. My character, a “Death” focused Mage, who uses his necromantic powers, and manipulation of Shadow as if it was a physical substance, to solve crimes and help the living, has faced many things. In his first case, a man killed his wife and children. But it was because of the influence of a ghost that conned a church into believing he was a God. The pastor let himself unspool from this mortal coil to become ephemeral, my Mage stopped him. In the end, the result of that first case was a man in prison for a crime that wasn’t his fault, and a man who wants to kill me for showing him that his beliefs were a lie, and having the gall to keep him from dying.
He’s seen children living in an underground city, Lost Boys style, with gladiatorial matches sometimes to the death. He’s seen a flood drown the sick leper children in Low Town. He’s saved a woman—a cop, basically—from pushing herself for her career in a way that was suicide. He’s had to deal with the ethics of whether his Goddaughter belongs with him—who loves her and cares for her enough to kill for her, despite refusing to kill for any reason—or whether her father deserves to have her back—he faked his own death, and is possibly the cause of a series of storms that caused widespread black outs across the US.
I don’t know what Juste’s decisions say about me. But that he has had to make them is a big exploration of morality and ethics as a whole for me. After all, what better conflict than Man versus Himself? What better way to create tension in a story than to have an internal conflict mirror an external one? Or of course the other way around. That my ST is creative enough to give me these issues is one of the reasons I love him so much.
But the question is: What do the character’s choices say about me? What about the characters that are further removed from me? Can a character who thinks very differently from me tell me as much about myself as the actions of a character that thinks similarly to myself?
I don’t really know. I don’t know what my ethics are, to be honest. I think, if boiled down, it would simply be… Don’t be a jerk. But at the same time, I’m very flexible on that definition. I say mean things as often as I say nice things. I borrow with no intent of repayment, I lend with no intent of repayment. I say kind words to those who need them, and yet I’m brash and brusque.
Asked by Anonymous
Either way too early or way too late, depending on your frame of reference. Also, thanks. I really need to write more, even if it is just random vignettes.
Frank fucked me well. He didn’t fumble around or feel me up. He knew just how to press my buttons to get me where I needed to go. He fucked me good. I was writhing beneath him, gasping for air. When he finished inside me, for a brief moment, I felt alive. He was good at what he did. A real pro.
"See you next week," he said, as I lay there, spent, trying not to move. He zipped up his pants, and took the folded up hundreds from off the night stand, next to the Kleenex. I grunted in agreement as he left. What’s that phrase? You pay them to leave?
I lay there, still in my cheerleader uniform, panties around my ankles, and reached for the other thing on the night stand: A pack of menthols. I tried not to move too much, just letting the seed of my “prince” simmer between my legs as I inhaled a ragged breath of nicotine and tar and slow death.
"Those things’ll kill you."
I lifted my head slightly and glared at the ratty stuffed tiger sitting on the unused dresser. A long puff of smoke was my only reply.
I was reaching for the tissues to clean myself up and go wander the midnight nation looking for trouble when I felt an all too familiar nausea come over me. A twisting, wretched sickness that never impaired my abilities, but nonetheless told me that nothing was right in the world. And then the wall of the no-tell motel exploded inwards, pieces of wood and glass following a dark blur.
In an instant, I threw myself to the other side of the bed. With the supernatural strength granted to me by the night’s ‘lovemaking’, currently running down my thigh, I flipped it. Rivets popped out and metal bent as the bed went sideways. Barely in time to block the youkai barreling at me.
It snapped the bed the rest of the way out of the floor and pinned me up against the wall, the legs keeping me from getting crushed. I put my knees against it, and pushing outwards with my shoulders against the cheap wallpaper. The rusted metal underwire bit into my legs like little more than stiff grass.
The living wrecking ball warbled in a weirdly modulated voice, sounding like a robotic chicken. A claw came up from over the bed, nearly cutting into my face. I dodged, and grabbed it by the wrist, squeezing and twisting. It was disgusting, and made my uterus quiver painfully. But even monsters feel pain, and the thing squawked, then shoulder checked the bed. One of the legs of the bent upward, and the frame smacked me in the forehead.
I ducked down, but lost my grip as the stars flooded in. The hand was replaced by a beak. A red, razorlined thing, like some freakish cockatiel, with dripping waddles on either side. It snapped at me, but couldn’t reach. I held out my hand to the side and with a flash of pink light and rose petals I was holding a Chinese straight sword.
The demon let out an angry warble and scratched at the floor, trying to shove the bed into me. It wasn’t going to be folded like an accordion though, and shoved back with my knees. Unfortunately the cheap wall wasn’t as strong as I was, and I could hear it cracking under my back. With a grunt of effort, I pushed the bed away. Only, the wall gave, and I ended up with my shoulders going through the drywall. Either way, I had enough room to move.
The jian went through the bed like butter, and the youkai wasn’t any more of a problem than the cheap steel wires, the box spring, and the disgusting mattress. When the sword plunged into flesh, the pressure went away, the monster shrieking in freakish agony. The blade burned the damned thing and singed flesh and the disturbingly inappropriate scent of cherry blossoms filled the room.
With the leeway from the recoil, I lifted both legs up and double kicked the bed and bird away from me. They didn’t go dramatically sailing out the hole in the wall, but they did drag across the floor into the center of the room in a tangle. I got to my feet first, and was finally able to get a good look at the monster that attacked me.
It had a short, blunt beak with a wicked curve, but the body of a dinosaur, and it was covered in a shaggy, matted fur. It smelled like blood, and now women’s shampoo. As it warbled and clawed at the floor trying to right itself, I got into a defensive stance, black-bloodstained blade between me and the beast. It was flailing wildly, lashing out with claws like the ones I’d seen in some science class ages ago on a giant sloth.
A pillow came flying at me, batted to the side with the sword, and the thing righted itself, crouched over in the motel room, with the neon lights of the vacancy sign streaming in and backlighting it. It was hideous. And it let out a warbling, shrieking cry that physically hurt down at the base of my belly. Not that I wanted to let it show, so I just grit my teeth and growled back. We stood off for a long stretch of moment, the thing’s miasma now distorting the room. Colours faded and bent, lengthening oddly.
And then from the dresser, next to the TV advertised as colour with HBO, the little stuffed tiger let out a sharp whistle. The creature lost concentration, and jerked it’s head to the side, half panicked by the intrusion. Knowing it was coming, I just smiled, and kicked off the ground, driving the sword into the monster’s gut. The thing tore at me as I bit into it with my blade, that nauseating scent of cherry blossom and rancid blood filling the room again. Those scythelike claws managed to tear open my back, so I just dug in deeper, ignoring the blood staining the back of my Cheer uniform.
Instead of trying to pull me off, the freak did the sensible thing and rolled around back and forth, slamming me into the wall and getting away from my sword. It lumbered around in the middle of the room, trying to stay away from me, and kept glancing at the stuffed tiger. One of those big taloned shovel hands was pressed against it’s belly, keeping organs and ichor from falling to the floor. It was on it’s last legs, and was already putting it’s back to the monster sized hole in the back wall. But I was getting woozy as well, despite my recent recharge.
"Jenn?" came a concerned voice from the dresser.
“‘Mokay…” I mumbled, dismissively flicking a hand in that direction.
Birdbrain flicked his eyes back and forth, finally understanding. I needed to end this.
Love was the answer. I closed my eyes and tried to think of love. Instead I thought of getting fucked well by Frank, and the now half-dried semen on my thighs. I snapped my eyes opened just in time to get out of the way of the youkai swiping at me. Love. Fuck love. Nail bounced off steel, parried to the side, and the thing clucked at me, taking a few steps closer, forcing me to take a few steps back. I tried again. Why was it always so hard?
All I could think of were burned bridges. Parents, friends. I was running out of love.
My lack of action was met with a redoubled effort by the freak. It lashed out at me, and I ended up with nowhere to go, my back pressing against the wall. The gashes lit up like fire. I only had one sword, while he—it—had two claws, and a beak. I blocked once, but the other came down and tore through the drywall and ripped the front of my uniform into tatters. My shoulder would have been gone of I was a lesser girl. The stuffed tiger was crying out in worry, but I was ignoring him.
A *foot* came up and pressed against me. The touch was disgusting, and came with that nauseating burning glow within my uterus thanks to my ‘gift’. I swiped at it with my blade, but the thing caught my wrist and trapped it between two giant talons. The pressure increased. I couldn’t help but cry out in agony as another cheerleader shaped hole cracked into the wall. I think I felt a rib break, although it might have been a support beam. More agony. No, it was definitely a rib.
"Jennifer!" the tiger called out, panicking. Panicking and useless.
The freak warbled in victory, and I couldn’t help but wish I was thirteen again. Thirteen and naive. With fresh power restoring seed filling me up, and so much less dead inside. This would have been a minor threat, before three years of bullshit, three years of broken relationships and alcoholism. I reached down inside myself and tried to find love. Tried to find idealism, or hope, or anything. Somewhere, beneath ashes and cigarette butts I found it. A ratty stuffed tiger. A dead man inside. A kiss that meant something. Fuck me, of course it’s the improbable, impossible relationship.
I muttered a cheer with ragged breath, trying to keep cadence and banish the miasma. It’s hard to make cheerleading work when you’re being pushed through a wall. But I did. And the writhing in my ladyparts went away, moving upwards to become a dense knot of warmth in my chest. I let in a breath as best I could through a compressed chest, the definitely broken rib threatening to break my concentration.
And I went limp, my head rolling back. I stopped fighting the freak for a single, desperate second. And then a pulsing pink beam burst out of my chest, burning the youkai off of me. I stumbled to my feet, pressing it back with the light of hope and love, and took another breath, raising the sword above my head.
"Foul demon," I shouted, tracing a glowing sigil in the air, "I banish you back to Hell from which you came!" with a strike of my outstretch palm—and a warbling shriek of terror—the sigil exploded. The youkai was nothing more than a disgusting, stinking smear of jelly on the carpet. The second it was gone, the sparkling pink light faded from me, and I dropped my sword to the floor. It clattered there for a moment, then faded away. I stumbled over to the upside down bed, grabbed the half empty pack of cigarettes from off the floor, and lit one up.
I looked at my thighs, and my exposed breast, covered in blood and sweat, chips of drywall and paint on my shoulder. Then I looked at the Kleenex. And I sighed. “I need a shower.”
All in a night’s work for a magical girl.
It was a bright, sunny day outside Crescent Garden Avenue. The kind of day where soccer fields would be filled up and you’d practically need to reserve a spot if you wanted to picnic in the park. It wasn’t really the kind of day you’d associate with a brutal murder, but then again, if every day with a murder was horrible, the sun would never come out.
The one thing that ruined the picturesque suburban cul-de-sac’s image of warmth was the bright yellow and orange caution tape. That and all the police vehicles. Seeing the already full driveway, CSU had just gone and pulled their van up onto the front lawn.
Standing out front, looking very noticeable leaning on the telephone pole, just outside the caution tape, was Detective Inspector Alex Drake. He looked like he might be related to the telephone pole, standing a respectable far-too-tall. He was handsome, though I suspected he didn’t realize it, with his thick, dark blond hair and strong jaw. He had that stereotypical stubble, the kind that makes you wonder if he shaves with a spoon, but still looks rugged. His shield hung around his neck, and he wore a shoulder rig beneath his jacket. He was indulging in one of his vices, but crushed the butt beneath his heel when he saw me coming. He looked uncomfortably queasy.
"Hey, kid," he said, taking a deep breath and looking down at me. Most people looked down at me, but Alex had to look way down. "Hope you skipped lunch."
"I haven’t even had breakfast," I said with a yawn. "Is it that bad? Sam wouldn’t elaborate, just said I needed to get down here."
Alex chuckled, looking for a moment like he wasn’t about to vomit. “It’s two-thirty… And yeah, it’s bad. Guy musta gone crazy or something. Killed his wife and kids, tore them up into pieces or some shit.”
"Pieces," he said with a sigh. "Go on, don’t make her wait. She’s already pissed I needed a smoke break."
With that, the two of us walked up the path to the house. The path struck me as incredibly well manacured, with hexagonal paving stones each about a foot apart, in a footstep pattern. They were neatly edged, but it wasn’t a professional job. The grass was cut, probably within the last few days. I could see the lawnmower in the back, one of those ones with the bag attached to suck up the clippings. Anticipating the worst and with my imagination running wild, it all seemed far too disconcerting.
But my imagination, it turns out, was small time compared to the real thing.
There was blood everywhere.
I don’t just mean “everywhere”, all over the carpet or the couch. I mean every. Where. There was blood on the cieling. He must have been painting with it. And just as Alex said, body parts. Small, child sized body parts.
For a moment, I just stood there in the doorway, my eyes focused on nothing in particular, the coppery smell of mostly fresh blood mixed with the more pungent smells of last night’s dinner, and the kind of piss that only comes from utter terror. When it finally managed to piece together what it was looking at, a piece of my soul started screaming out. I quickly closed my eyes and told it to shut up. A little chant to calm my nerves.
"Careful where you step," came a woman’s voice.
She startled me, and I had to clench to keep my eyes closed, and lock that screaming in my brain back up.
"Sam," I said quietly, trying to keep the emotion out of my voice. I didn’t open my eyes yet.
Detective Chief Inspector Samantha Tyler, bless her heart, just gave me some quiet. It only took a moment, then I opened my eyes with unflinching resolve and scanned the room, trying to take it in only in small portions.
Sam was the first thing I saw. Taller than me, but nowhere near as tall as Alex. She wasn’t as good looking as her partner, not traditionally at least. Her button nose looked like it had gotten all buttony from one too many playground fights, and she kept her hair short. It was strawberry blonde, and her bangs always seemed spiked up. I think she tried for a bob cut, but it never really looked like one. Her eyes were the thing I always noticed, though. She had worry lines, and caring eyes. We locked eyes for a moment, and then I scanned the room once I could take it in without tossing my cookies.
I did a little math. “Where’s the wife?”
"In the kitchen," Sam told me.
"Mostly," Alex said with a sigh.
The fresh snow crunched under my shoes as I stood around nervously. It was coming down softly, the pines out on the trail behind the school, and the Lacrosse field, all covered in white. It looked like a greeting card, almost. I was starting to feel foolish, standing there in the snow. I realized I’d walked a ever widening circle, and just shivered a little, sticking my hands in my coat pockets and hunching up my shoulders.
I took a look back over at the school, and finally saw what I was waiting for. Dark hair standing out against the snow, purple jacket, school skirt, thick black stockings. I could tell it was Isabella even from across the field. I nervously fingered the jewelry in my pocket, and tried to keep my composure as she took the long walk from the school. It was excruciating. I bit my lip, and my heart made a weird fluttering.
"Keep it together, Cory," I muttered, the sotto words still coming out in a little grey puff.
Standing there with my chest tightening, I began to worry. I had time to think about how stupid what I did was. Maybe I could come up with an excuse. “No, Izzy, someone else must have put that note in your locker” I mumbled, wincing at the sound of it. “Bella, we’ve been really close these last few weeks, and I’ve always thought you were… no, that makes me sound like a stalker…” It felt like forever and a day before she’d get to me, but at the same time it was like watching a fuze run out. What if she was angry? my fingers twisted around in my pocket. Maybe it was too forward?
"Christmas is coming up, and it’s a time for lovers… Ugh, why didn’t I think of something to say first?" I was mentally kicking myself over that one. Once I slipped that letter in her locker, it was too late to back out. Isabella was close enough now that I could see the look on her face.
She didn’t look angry. Was she smiling? She kind of looked like she was, but it was a humourous, incredulous smile. She was going to let me down easy, I could just tell. It was like every other time. I’d spend another Christmas alone in my room watching movies with my cat.
"I’m sorry!" I blurted out, after she gave me a friendly wave. I winced, feeling like more of an idiot.
"For what?" She asked, taking the note and envelope out of her pocket.
I winced again, and only opened one eye, my face all scrunched up. “That…” I halfheartedly mumbled.
“‘Dear Isabella,’” she read, the hint of a laugh in her voice. My face started burning. “‘I have something very important to ask you. Please meet me out by the trails at your earliest convenience. Yours, Cory.’”
I bit my lip. That was a bad way to sign it. “I-um…” I stammered. My heart was pounding. “Would you take a walk with me?” I asked, taking one hand out of my pocket and motioning to the beautifully white trail.
Izzy chuckled, covering her hand with her mouth. “Of course,” she said, moving in to walk alongside me. She glanced at the circle of powder kicked up and flattened down during my nervous pacing, but didn’t say anything.
I kept my hands in my pockets, fiddling with the chain and trying to think of what to say. Izzy just walked along, humming softly.
When she moved closer, and slipped her arm through mine, my heart nearly lept out of my throat, and my chest got tighter. It was starting to hurt. I bit my lip and swallowed, trying to ignore it. She didn’t think it was weird. Maybe she liked it. I was starting to think it would work out.
The woods were quiet, just the two of us, the falling snow, and the occasional bird not yet tucked away for winter. When we got to the Big Pine, I stopped, and with a deep breath, I broke away from Izzy. The Big Pine was almost a sacred place for the school. They say anyone who confesses there will have good luck in their relationships. I know that’s just superstition, and lots of people have had break ups, but Mrs Morgandy confessed to her husband here, and she’s had one of the happiest marriages I’ve ever seen.
I bit my lip, and fumbled around in my pocket, stumbling over my words as I did. “Izzy, we’ve, um, I mean, working together with you on the project… I always thought you were beautiful, and… I-I mean…”
That pounding came back tenfold, and I could barely hear myself. Izzy looked a little… concerned? I closed my eyes and swallowed. “What I mean to say is, I—”
The words caught in my throat, and out of nowhere, someone stabbed me in the chest with a burning hot iron. Red flashed through my vision, and everything when blurry and out of focus.
“I—” another flash of bright, bloody red accompanying searing pain. I stumbled for real, and dropped the bracelet, the little red heart falling down what seemed like miles to land in the snow. Everything felt slow.
Isabella was calling my name, but I couldn’t hear anything but that pounding. She rushed forward, but was too slow—so, so very slow, like she was barely moving—I dropped to my knees and them my face hit the snow. I was met with thousands of little flakes, before beautiful and scenic, now like frozen glass cutting into my cheeks, already wet with tears. My fingers were cold. Everything was cold. Except my chest. My lungs were on fire, and I couldn’t breath. When I tried, I sucked in the fresh white powdered glass.
Izzy was on her knees beside me, and all I could think about was how she was ruining her new stockings getting them wet and dirty like that. Her grandma gave them to her as a birthday present. I remembered her sitting there telling me how comfortable and cute they were over a bunsen burner, the goggles making her green eyes stand out and look watery through the plastic. Somewhere in the stretching space between breaths I could feel the memory of my cheeks burning when she lifted the hem of her skirt to show me the little purple ribbons, and I caught a glimpse of the gorgeous thighs I always tried not to stare at in gym class, and at the pool, and that time I walked in on the girls changing.
I wouldn’t see those milky thighs again. Or her long, black hair catching the sun. Or watch her face light up in a laugh when I let her draw little hearts on my hands during class. I wouldn’t see her eyes over the flame of a burner, goggles making them look like they were underwater. Was this the end?
I couldn’t think straight through the pain, and was crying into the snow, whimpering. I think I was trying to say I love her, but I don’t know if anything was coming out. My hand reached for the little white gold of the bracelet, closed around the little ruby heart. I saved up for weeks, fretting over whether she’d like it. Now I wasn’t going to be able to give it to her.
Fresh powder was kicked up in my face as she ran away, back towards the school. Through water and packing peanuts I could hear her shouting for help.
I panicked more. I could feel something inside of me fracturing. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to spend Christmas alone. I wanted to kiss Izzy. I wanted to hold her, and sit by the fireplace.
Another sharp, searing spear of frost coated fire jabbed it’s way through my back and out my rib cage, tearing through my heart with jagged, white hot barbs. Everything went bright, firework red, and then the colour faded from the world and I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t feel anything, except the clear shadow of my heart cracking.
There are different types of ghosts.
Some are your standard chains rattling, “get out” types, warning onlookers and occupants of impending doom. Others are just phantom feelings, little chills you get on the back of your neck, and the uncertainty of knowing no one is there, but feeling watched anyway. Usually harmless enough, if unnerving and downright spooky. Sometimes you’ll get shades that are restless illusions, going through the motions that lead up to their death, not really anything more than an echo. Ghosts can sometimes fixate upon their death, just obsessing, and not really understanding.
And sometimes they’re psychotic, angry, bitter phantasms that don’t really give a crap what’s going on around them, and only want to inflict pain on whoever’s around, driven mad by age and the trauma of their death, rightly pissed off at the living and even some of their kindred amongst the dead. Bitter, hollow spirits who want nothing than to spread the stain of death to all they encounter once provoked.
I’ll let you figure out which of them tossed me across the room, slamming me into the wall so hard that I left a dent.
I tumbled to the floor, landing on my face. I’d be dead if not for the imbuements on my grey-black trenchcoat, magical energy and alchemy strengthening every fiber and allowing it to disperse the energy in ways that rivaled body armour. Unfortunately it still hurt like hell, and my thoughts rattled around like dimes in a begger’s beer can.
The ghost of Howard Holmes had long ago stopped being human, his mind perverted, warped with the already depraved emotions that filled him when he was alive—emotions that caused him to murder six girls. And the ectoplasmic flesh that made up his incorporeal form had twisted with it.
Holmes’ ghostly flesh was a pale, sickly green, his clothes now tattered and shredded, though still recognizable as the suit of a well-to-do gentleman, the little ribbon tied in a bow at his collar now ratted and frayed. His black slacks torn and dangling, fading into the faint grey mist that hung around the mad ghost. What really changed, though, was his face.
In life, Holmes had been young, handsome, with fine features that lead six women to the afterlife. In death, he was emaciated, thin and skeletal, with eyes that burned with hatred. His cheekbones looked like they would cut me if I tried socking him. And where his thin lips and teeth that looked so white in the faded photograph used to sit, contorting his features and pulling taut the ephemeral flesh, was a deep, dark hole that couldn’t fit more than a pinky finger.
The dark, wretched shade hunched over in the middle of the room, letting back his arms like some kind of pit fighter and seemed to howl at me, the tiny pinprick of a mouth widening to show off thousands of little, like the Sarlaac Pit, going off into utter darkness. I sure as hell didn’t want to stick my hand in there. The sound came out in a low, rumbling hiss, like it had to work to escape that darkness.
I did my best to ignore the way that phantasmal growl chilled my bones, and seemed to make frost form on the broken shards of glass all over the floor. I blocked it out as I gathered myself up, standing shakily on my feet. With an almost casual wave, a gentle beckoning motion with my shaking hands, shadows began to dance around me, coalescing into something solid.
"Alright, ugly…" I muttered, tasting blood on my lip, "let’s do this the hard way."