Monday, August 1, 2011

Atrocity Asylum (Fiction)

This is a bit stream-of-consciousness, and honestly, it was inspired in part by Plex of Jinxed Thoughts' latest post about the everyday activity of her characters in game. I liked the sentiment, and was more interested in the in-character voice that my warlock Merricat might have, as I've been playing her a lot more lately. This is what emerged. I enjoyed this and might write more in this vein, as she's a lot more fun to think about in-character than my paladin. I find it hard to write from a Draenei perspective.

Anyway - enjoy.

ATROCITY ASYLUM

I remember who I am, and I realize I'm standing in Stormwind, in the Dwarf district. I had forgotten who and where I was. That happens often enough that this sudden confusion is not uncommon. Sometimes, the world vanishes when I focus on the voices in my head.

The city buzzes, are there more people now, or is it just an impression? I let the conversation drone drown out my thoughts and the voices among them. Passing the fountain, I catch a glimpse of myself, and suddenly, I don't know how I feel about my hair, so I go to call the drake rescued from Ulduar as a whelp to be raised to this beast, and it seems a travesty to use this beast for such a base purpose, to cross a city. To do the same by food would feel just as shameful - to draw forth a demon from a nether plane to ride a few streets.

Besides, neither of them are here, not here in the city where their horror would not be appreciated, no, they are far in distant lands though only a beck and call away. Instead, I walk the few blocks to the barber. Goblin hands turn and fold, snip and trim, color with strongly scented chemicals until I'm satisfied. The face in the mirror is less obvious, more plain and practical, which is how I feel lately. This modest dress, these slippers, these affections of a life that isn't mine.

The day passes in a blur, the city buzz ebbs, but doesn't die, under moonlight it's as potent as it was under the sun. Summer heat lingers in the stone streets, radiating into the starry sky. After dark the world is different, here in the borders of the ruin, where the city gives way to a crater, where years of civilization, hundreds of cultivated lives, delicately constructed moon-wells filled with waters from a distant land, all evaporated in a blaze of dragonfire, in the blink of an eye, in the beat of a heart.

Why do we cling to this fragile civilization so fiercely? A voice answers in my head, but I ignore the words.

All the world seems dim and perilous. Death at every corner and yet, this is where I come after dark to look into the hollow crater and see reflected back this fact - that there is a hole in the heart of creation, and it is ruin. To ignore it is to folly, yet to worship it is weakness.

The voice in my head turns, a broken language speaks in my ear, and I understand the sentiment, reply in kind, and there is green fire in the sky calling me. It's not really there, of course. I see things that aren't there, sometimes. Sense things happening in far and distant places.

In the mountains to the north, hunting among the crags, I hear the call of Razorscale's whelp, her metal bindings grating as she moves. If I was a kind woman, I would have killed her to spare her this hideous, painful existence. But appearances must be maintained. I have a reputation to keep, after all, and she is grateful for life, in the end. What else is there, but the darkness? And given a choice, wouldn't we all take pain over nothing?

My head is full of voices now, but I master them all, and they diminish. Their names are burned into my thoughts, seared and branded, and the agony of the process was great, but today I cannot imagine my identity without the brands. Bound together now through felfire and pain. We are lovers together, in nearly every sense except the most practical, and the most banal one.

At night, I sense the eyes of people on me. I wear this dress to hide my body, I make myself plain, as ugly as I can, and yet men stare - but perhaps I flatter myself. Perhaps the eyes are not full of desire, but fear. Or maybe pity. Do I seem different to others or do they seem different to me? Am I alone, or are they a community? Perhaps it is all of that.

Thirty years of voices in my head, twenty years since the first brand was pressed into me, burning hot, green fire, searing heat and singing wounds, the name sounded like a garbled sound but soon I learned there was more. And then, through the years, new names, new brands, until I suppose my eyes no longer look as they did. Or perhaps again, this is all in my head. Like the voices.

Lovers? The voices are as close as I can get. Thirty years of life, thirty years of horror and pain and insecurity - but not lonely years, no, never alone. There is something to that, at least. I see the mad, the babbling, the broken, and I wonder if they are truly sad, for they always seem to have company of their own, even if the company is invisible

As if on cue, something pricks my hand, a drop of blood rises on the palm, and I feel a breath on the back of my neck, hot and sulfurous, a growling, angry voice, and I shudder, willing it away.

Just my fantasy. The voices stay away until I call. I tell myself that it's true.

But not tonight. They won't be quiet, if they have begun to prick, then they are eager, have been denied their share of blood for too long. I return to my rooms. I have lived here since I cam back from the horror of Northrend. Does the toothless old woman who lends me this space gain something in return from voices of her own? I have never paid, guided here by my last contact, a guard who died shortly after I left him, body too mutilated for a proper burial so he was burned quietly. Coincidence, or part of a greater plan? Does the old woman know what happened to her predecessor? How long before I'm discarded myself in the same way? An unrecognizable mess of flesh to be burned in a nameless pyre. And yet she smiles and offers me food, treats me like her long-lost child, talks to me in a voice and language I know is not hers.

The rooms are bare. A closet for clothes, bed for us to sleep in, hard chairs to sit in, and a fireplace to burn things in. Only the kitchen seems like it might belong in an ordinary house. Full of spices that hang in bunches from the wall, a wood table laden with bowls of fruit and flowerse, and shelves filled with grains and bread. And always, the fresh, bloody meat. I have never traced the source of the bloody, quivering, warm flesh - the taste of it in my mouth warns me against knowledge I'd rather not know.

She's waiting for me, and in my room, I see she has already laid out my things, hidden among the boards - the clothes dancing with shadow energy, the weapons, amulets and trinkets, woven with black magic. The voices rise in my head, I shed my clothes, and she helps me dress. Each item feels like a clammy, dead hand for a second before my skin remembers the familiar touch of unholy things. The voices whisper, eager to be let out, each one hoping to escape its confines just for a short while, to burn, to mutilate, to rend, to consume... I shudder and look to the woman, who smiles back, a kindly tooth-less grandmother, but her mouth opens and a litany of horror escapes the black hollow.

The voices gibber madly, but there is something greater than them. I wonder if this woman is an avatar to dead and forgotten voices, not just the voices lost among the Nether. Voices that once had real power. Voices that once ruled the world.

I turn away and catch a glimpse of myself in the small mirror behind my door, an item left to serve what shreds of vanity remain. The woman in that mirror is not the woman I saw in the barber shop. That woman was plain, easily forgotten, banal and ordinary. What I see in the mirror is a dead face, masked and wreathed in doom. I see a slave to powers that are beyond her comprehension. And I see a little girl, screaming, screaming, screaming, as the first name is branded into her soul, in black and endless nightmares.

"Go, now."

The old woman smiles at me, a mother encouraging a daughter down the Cathedral aisle in wedding robes. The dagger in my hand shimmers white, but there is nothing holy about it, just the reflect light of a disengaged goddess.

Outside, the summer heat has finally passed, a slight chill descends from gathering clouds. I lift my hands up and shadows rise to fill me, I weave a pathway through space and time and dimensions. One of the voices rises from a pool of  black. It growls, arches its backs and lowers its maw to the ground, it goes on the hunt.

It blends in with the patchwork shadows filling this grassy back streets, a friend now for two decades, a trusted companion, a guardian in the most desolate and dangerous places, a terrible horror that would not be here if not for my intervention. An aberration that would end if I were simply to walk in the other direction, and throw myself into the ruin in the heart of the city.

I contemplate this for a second, and then, I follow in the demon's wake, ready to commit atrocity.

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