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Old 02-14-2007, 12:22 AM   #1083
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 2,179
I didn't mean 'should I end the story there?', I meant if I should cut the chapter off there. Anyways, that Q is void since I added in another 3 and a half pages of writing. Crits to help it improve are highly valued.

Happily Ever After

Preface: Ever taken the time to mull over your favorite bedtime stories? The tales about brave princes, wicked witches and damsels in distress? A world of wonder and whimsy where good triumphs over evil, happy endings are expected and fantasy and imagination are unlimited, restricted only by the boundaries of the human mind. These tales which helped ease worries, for no harm ever befell the protagonist in the end, and surely real life must work the same (ha!). But how dare you believe the picturesque, sugar-coated fantasies so readily laid out for you on a silver platter in your childhood to be the original pieces! Looking into it one day, a twisted plot bunny began to form, gnawing at the edges of my mind till I appeased it – to take all those cherished childhood memories of Snow White and Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella and such – and give them a fresh, somewhat grim and morose twist. Blame Edgar Allan Poe’s dark and disturbingly wonderful shorts for further inspiring me, but I hope this yarn will make some hairs on your neck to stand on end, and a few chuckles to escape your lips — for when seen under a certain light, you should find some humor, albeit dark.

As long as I’m writing, I might as well clear a few things up. I don’t own Psychonauts, it’s property of Double Fine. These fairy tales (really archives of stories that then belonged to none), are part of the public domain, and this version of the tales belong to me. I don’t particularly like this chapter, for most takes place in a humdrum environment, and I much more look forward to future updates which take place in ink and illustration mindscapes, and there is more dialog than description and doing in this chapter; and dialog is so much harder to make beautiful and melodic. Either way, I hope you enjoy this first taste and continue to read. Keep in mind that reviews make the plot bunny grow, assuring faster, and better updates.

Once Upon a Time,

Why were the skies weeping? Their cold tears forming in the heavens and being shed to the earth below. Layers upon impenetrable layers of thick gray clouds carpeted the skies, as if enveloping all beneath them into a sorrowful mourning. Let the ground below be witness to the anguish and bear the tear’s marks and grow moist with each passing moment of personified rainfall. The winds howled in a most horrid manner, sweeping through the rolling hillsides and valleys and the scraggly pines of the forest. Even the trees themselves seemed lifeless, their wet bark a dull and musty brownish grey tone, their needles limp and of an uninviting muted green hue. The aura of sadness was inescapable and penetrated through even the most optimistic of demeanors.

A meandering little strip of dirt road cut through the listless green of the wood, it’s path choppy and uneven, as if it were the result of an intoxicated man’s spontaneous desires. Yet a lone spot of color, a vibrant little dot of yellow amidst the drear ambled along the aforementioned winding path.

The woman driving the little taxi cab was a young thing with curly brown locks and freckles sprinkled across her nose. She clutched the steering wheel with an iron grip, for she hated when clients asked to be taken to places that required navigating bad roads such as this, especially with such unpleasant weather, and had little trust in both her cab and the path. She couldn’t help but sneak a few furtive glances to her passenger in the back however. His hair was reddish brown hue, his skin tan and his eyes an all too vivid emerald and he looked about 16. He wore a blue-green turtleneck with a little badge visible beneath the dark brown leather jacket he had paired with matching brown leather pants. Oddly enough, a pair of crimson goggles were slung around his thin neck.

His name was Razputin.

He rested his elbow on the window ‘sill’, his face in his gloved palms. Those vibrant emerald green eyes showed all signs of boredom and possible irritation, for they were listless and concentrated on no particular subject despite the fact that his attention was facing out the window. Tree after decrepit, emaciated tree flicked across the window view, catching his thoughtless interest for a fraction of a second before disappearing from sight, only to be replaced by another gnarled ancient that captured his eye for just as long.

It was eerily quiet within the little cab. Raz’s breath was rather audible even against the soft pitter-patter of rain droplets against glass and steel that seemed to be ‘gaining momentum’ if you will, signaling a torrent yet to pass.

The woman contemplated striking up a conversation, or turning on the radio to something pleasant and upbeat, but another peek at the young man and she could tell his mind was deep in thought and reflection. Either of things that had been or things that could be, she never dared to ask. Clients would at times welcome human interaction with gusto, but there were doll-eyed, silent others who reacted with a little jump and all the emotion you could expect from one who’d been startled or interrupted from a pleasant dream, as if her voice were an unwelcome intrusion to a carefully constructed fantasy.

This boy alone seemed too lurid for so drab and somber a setting, she acknowledged with a dash of curiosity. Why would he possibly want to head to a place of even higher degrees of drear and gloom? They neared their destination, the cement and cinderblock behemoth casting a dark shadow over the cab, looking destitute and haggard in it’s own right. She pulled the automobile into the pathetic excuse for a parking lot, the asphalt cracked in so many places it was a stilettos nightmare made manifest.

Under the circumstances of the building being it’s own microcosm, the downpour would have been perfectly suitable. Sunlight would have been too garish and plastic an atmosphere considering the building’s purpose, and birdsong too sweet and melodic (unlike the steady mourning of the rainclouds) to create adequate ambiance.

The young woman turned to face her client, and said in an airy voice, “We’re here . . .finally. . . are you going to need a ride back?” she awaited his answer with trepidation. Please . . . say no . . .

Razputin had been momentarily been transfixed on the building with utter dismay, but gave the girl a slight, if forced, smile, “I dunno how long I’ll have to be there so. . . do you have business card?”

The girl nodded slowly and reached for a small compartment built below the dashboard. She clasped a thin white card between her thumb and index finger, giving it up to the mysterious boy, “Call the number and one of the company’s cab drivers will arrive to pick you up. It may be a bit of a wait however, seeing as how bad the weather is getting . . . you don’t want to be here . . . do you?”

Raz nodded no, “Of course not, I’ve got better things to do. But it’s my business to be here. Anyway, thanks for the ride.” He handed her the money, opened the clunky door and stepped out into the rain. It was so cold . . .

Family matters then? The woman pondered the idea, but she wasn’t about to prod. She merely took the money and stuffed it into another little compartment. Within moments, the car vanished into the distance, veiled by a thin layer of freshly forming fog.

Not much use standing out in that bitter chill, so Raz regained his composure into something more respectable and businesslike than his current disheartened one and entered Cedar Heights Insane Asylum. To his further disappointment, there was neither overhead nor an automatic-gust, or even a little mat to dry and clean his lightly muddied shoes on, so he passed straight into the asylum through the automatic doors sopping wet and leaving faint tracks in his wake. If anything, the heater was on and tempered his coldness a bit. The reception hall had made pitiful, though sincere attempts at being welcoming with some nice ferns in pretty planters, plush suede furniture, and a couple colorful paintings on the wall. Surely at one point the illusion was an honesty and hardly a façade, but over the years the decently executed décor had grown into a ruse that fooled none, but still tried. Ironically, despite the rain outside, the plants seemed dead and neglected, and he wrinkled his nose at sight of the seating arrangements which had torn at it’s edges.

His footsteps alerted a kindly looking receptionist who had remained sitting at her post for who knows how long. But by her expression, Raz could tell she had been affected by the depressing weather outside and the unavoidable monotony of her job. She was dark skinned and with curly hair pulled into two pigtails, and it didn’t take the boy any gleaming to tell her personality did not suit her occupation . . . she would probably do an afro justice, Raz thought, amusing the idea a bit. Don’t blame him, afros are a universally acknowledged symbol of a very funky decade and are very sexy.

Raz stepped up the receptionist’s table and curtly asked, “Um . . . I’m Agent Razputin Aquato. . .” What else was there to say? In all truth, he wasn’t sure why he was called here at all. . .

The receptionist’s eyes widened and her bubblegum pink lips curled into a smile, “Ohh! My brother Carl tol’ me ta watch for a young man named ‘Razputin sumthin’!” Raz just gave her a curious look, for he did want to know why he’d been called there in the first place. The receptionist continued in her British inflected accent, “Well, your ‘task’, for lack of a better word, is in one of the upstair rooms, I’ll take ya there.”

Raz followed her with no resistance till they reached the room in question. On the way, Raz asked her if she’d ever considered an afro. The girl laughed and elaborated on the fact that while the suggestion had been offered to her by others, she wouldn’t for she didn’t like disco or funk music nearly as much as she liked country.

She opened a door and pulled Raz into the room. It appeared to be another waiting room of some sort, where a very upset looking couple, a warden and a mystery figure who appeared to be asleep on one of the benches with a long coat draped over the feminine form awaited. The warden appeared to be the receptionist’s older brother she had mentioned earlier (and that wasn’t saying much, for the two seemed as if they were still in college), and looked absolutely fatigued. He expression became incredibly relieved at the sight of Razputin however,

“Sherri! Is that the Aquato boy!?” he asked in utmost exasperation of his sister, Sherri, the receptionist. Sherri nodded in an equally jovial manner and essentially pushed Raz into the room.

“Hey, hey! What’s going on???” Raz questioned.

“You’re going to help us is what!” the other man snapped. Him and his wife seemed torn between rage and anguish; he tall with short, curly brown hair and a tanned complexion donning a rumpled, pinstripe suit; she with long ebony tresses that fell to her waist and of undeterminable origins clad in a teal ‘skirt-suit’.

The wife attempted to say something, but Raz held up his index finger for a lapse of quiet, “Look, I love my job and all, there’s the excitement and the cool factor – so I’ve never really objected to whatever missions I was assigned; but this better be important because I was called out during a new episode of Law and Justice!!!” - his eye began to twitch a little, but he continued, “If this turns out to be a cop-out and I miss out on the truth behind Cathy’s checkered past and her ties to the dead mobster I swear I will scream in agony! And I don’t think you want to hear that.”

Carl attempted to console the youth, “Look, I know this is sudden but we’re under a lot of pressure, time is crucial and we cant afford to waste time. A child’s safety and sanity are at stake here. Considering the circumstances, we had to get the nearest qualified agents possible.”

Raz’s eyes widened, “. . . Did you say a ‘child’?”

He turned to the couple, who grimly nodded.

“Our girl, Renee,” the woman sniffled, “My name is Dianne, and this is my husband, Cicero, by the way.”

“Nice to meet you, Dianne and Cicero. . .” Raz replied incredulously with a small handwave, unsure of what to make of . . . it. “What’s the problem?”

An oddly familiar voice replied with a little yawn (most likely the fourth person in the room), “Their daughter, Renee’s psyche—”

Raz’s head flipped (and would certainly have spun a full 360 degrees had he needed) to face . . .


He hadn’t seen her in three years. That first year he knew her was considered mere blissful puppy love, and if one could shake off the salacious connotations, a summer fling even. The next few were spent as a friendship. There was no nasty breakup . . . the two had simply (and thankfully, had mutually) grown apart. There was an awkwardness for while, but there was no spark anymore; and in this environment Raz had met the side of Lili reserved for friends and acquaintances alike. It was colder, more cynical, and a bit more demanding on his end than the warmer, more affectionate front she showed to those she was most intimate with. Then . . . Lili moved away. At that point, Raz hadn’t minded too much. He had no interest in any girl (or girls) at that time and long afterwards — that weren’t his age anyway, if you must count his innocent obsession with Asian born, rising musical talent Keiko Aramaki — and made other friends among the children of the agents working at Psychonauts HQ, seeing as due to the nature of his circumstances he practically lived there, as well as many other children of the aforementioned agents. He made occasional trips to her blog. . . but other than that, there hadn’t been any contact between the two teens in 3 years. Well, until now.

Her garnet hair was pulled back into a lone ponytail, and apparently over time her physique had grown to be more willowy and svelte than voluptuous. She seemed around his height, and with her thin body seemed unfit to be an agent, but then again, that was on mere physical pretenses. Raz knew she was a very capable psychic, her talents belying her small build. The zealously applied eyeshadow had proven to be a staple of the girl, and still remained. She wore the official uniform shirt of dark green and her khaki pants were tucked into black leather boots.

“Is, that really . . . yeah it is. . .” Raz quickly corrected himself, having done an exploratory gleaming of the girl’s outer psyche. It was intangible in nature, yet the sensation felt nearly tactile . . . a girl like Lili, a girl he knew well and had once loved, had a ‘texture’ all her own.

She cast her long jacket onto a coffee table as she jumped up. Lili seemed bemused, but a wry grin crossed her lips, “Raz!? For a moment there I thought you were agent Mayfew!”

The two walked up to each other and friendly hugs were exchanged.

Raz laughed, “Man! 3 years and we’re reunited for a mission! Did you graduated early? I see you have a badge now.”

Lili kind of shrugged, “I preferred to take mindfeeds instead of traditional school. It takes a lot less time and you actually learn something. I finished four years of highschool in a little more than one and could focus on ‘naut training.”

“I took some lessons through mindfeeds, but it’s still tough. You have to voluntarily go comatose so some person can feed you information. . .” Raz’s voice trailed off.

Lili changed the topic and smirked. “What are you doing in Cedar Heights?”

“Watching Law and Justice—”

“I cant believe I’m missing the new episode either!” Dianne exclaimed out of the blue, her small hands clasped over her gaping mouth. She seemed genuinely concerned. Why she hadn’t mentioned it earlier . . .Oh, of course . . . there was a situation at hand . . . Ahem!

Raz calmed down, “So what exactly is going on with your daughter?”

The parents themselves seemed unsure, so Carl stepped in and explained as best he could, “Cicero and Dianne simply wanted to have Renee tested for psychic abilities. After the HazardWater incident, it wouldn’t have been too surprising— the insane asylum’s rather used to performing the tests. The contaminated water reached the area she lived in and she ingested enough for Psytanium managed to spark some buried psychic skills . She began acting weird as a result, and probably didn’t know what to do about it. The school noticed too, and asked her parents to send her here for testing just to be sure.”

Dianne sniffed, “We figured it would be a routine test. Afterall, thousands of kids and teenagers and adults alike have had to take it because of HazardWater.”

Carl concluded, “We had some empaths administer the test— turns out she’s a telepath. Considering all the outside input the girl would have received over time, as part of standard procedure, they were going to perform a mindsweep. They had the psiportal and were about to do so but she panicked and sent out a flush of pent up negativity. The empaths had good mental shields, but weren’t expecting that. In her daze, Renee ran out and bumped into one of the asylum inmates. She is docile and didn’t attempt to harm her or anything; but the girl had been given a slight mind scramble. In Renee’s confusion she entered that inmate’s mind. . .”

“. . .And it’s up to us to get Renee out, then?” Raz asked. Carl nodded.

Lili crossed her arms, “Have you tried smelling salts?”

Carl feebly nodded once more, “But with the mind-scramble she is unaffected. That means she’d have to know that she is taking it, physically or mentally. Extension of mind from body is scary enough, but with that mind scramble, she’s really susceptible to whatever is inside that inmate’s mind. And being a telepath in that state, at that age, and with so little experience, what we’re most worried about it making sure that the inmate’s karmic signature doesn’t imprint itself onto her. You must have heard of all those people that have lost their individuality from doing freelance mind-hacks — and counting that the inmate is, well . . . obviously, insane is most disturbing. We need to untangle Renee’s mind from the woman’s quick.”

Raz nodded, “’Kay, I’ve seen people who’ve lost their individuality, and it isn’t pretty. If I can stop it from happening to someone else — especially a frightened little kid, Cathy’s steamy affairs and obscure connections are worth missing out on.”

Lili agreed as well. With formalities aside, Carl took them to their mission. Laid out on 2 beds were the inmate and Renee. The woman was restrained and asleep, fair haired and fair skinned, with her blonde tresses in two fat braids and a moony face who seemed to be in her late thirties; the woman was surely pretty before her madness. Renee was a female miniature version of her father and had little resemblance to her mom aside from her hair and the obvious feminine facial features, and was about 11, in a blue woolen turtleneck and faded jeans. It was easy to tell that she was lost in her astral trance the way her eyes were clouded over.

Carl indulged his waiting crowd, “I don’t know much, but I do know her name is Rosaline . . . she was some lyricist composer person and made a lot of money writing songs for musicals and stuff like that. Then she married this man that ran off with her money. She became severely depressed and the final blow came with some Psytanium overexposure. Not sure how it happened. . . but it did.”

Lili turned to the parents, Carl and Sherri (who for reason’s unknown was still there), “Me and Razputin are highly trained despite our age. I can assure you that we are very capable of retrieving your daughter. I suggest you stay in the waiting room, however.”

The four understood and left the room as she had asked, though not before Dianne gave her little girl an encouraging hug. Lili headed to Rosaline and placed her hands on a part of her head. Unseen psychic force passed through her fingers, and noting Raz’s curious expression, she informed,

“I’m stimulating the part of the brain that releases endorphins to put her in a peaceful state of mind. We need this lady as calm as possible. For our sake . . . and for Renee’s.” When she finished, Raz adjusted his goggles and took out his standard issue psiportal, flinging it onto Rosaline’s forehead.

“Ready to do this?”

“Of course.”

A Turn for the Worst (noun): 1 When things in a constant state either positive or negative go really bad, more than before 2 Hollywood director’s indispensable tool in horror films 3 what is going to happen/happening to Raz and Lili at this moment.

‘Once upon a time, a land far, far away . . . there was a boy . . . and a girl . . . their names were . . .Raz . . . and Lili . . . and here . . . their tale begins . . .’

That airy, deep voice far too reminiscent of a certain, smooth voiced turtle for comfort was the first thing Raz and Lili experienced of Rosaline’s mind. It drifted in through one ear . . . and out the other . . . as if the sound was a vessel in and of itself and floated of it’s own accord. Moments into the transference of your psyche into another’s mind, there was a lack of all sensory input. Be it taste, touch, smell, sound, sight . . . there was nothing. The first sense you got back was usually touch; there would be an awkward rush of air through one’s stomach, and then you became aware of the ground beneath your feet. Yet . . . this time it had been that voice. Completely deprived of all your other senses, it is hardly pleasant.

The two youth’s managed to cobble all their senses together shortly afterwards, taking very little time to note what they could already tell would be a difficult to navigate environment. They appeared to have manifested in the outskirts of Rosaline’s mind, a densely wooded forest with all the quaintness and charm of a dusty and lonely library during rainfall. The trees were exceptionally tall and rather impressive, their gnarled branches twisting this way and that, the canopy so dense that sunlight poured down to the ground in pockets and streams between leaves and limbs. The foliage in itself was hardly exceptional — in fact, the imagination and creativity poured into the landscape was equal to that of a household encyclopedia — each one seeming as it could have been a prime specimen from a real world forest in northern Europe to be cataloged into a plant nursery’s merchandise index. Yet that wasn’t to say there was nothing eerie or ethereal about the forest. There was something unsettling about the lack of color — as if the mindscape been naught but a painting who’s settings were toned down by an omniscient entity till it was sheer degrees short from grayscale and required some effort on part of the person to identify the true colors.

“In the distance . . .” Razputin rasped, pointing with an outstretched hand to a series of turrets and spires that jutted above the treetops somewhere in the distance, like a castle from a fairy tale. Lili turned to see it, looking somewhat amused,

“. . . It’s like it’s made of ink.” She concluded. Working on a little hunch, the girl knelt down and closely inspected a dandelion. If one looked carefully enough, they could just make out the semitransparent hatching patterns that were inked into the plant.

“A dandelion, good sir?” she questioned Raz in a warmer tone that usual. With a little flick she plucked the dandelion from it’s roots, surprised to immediately see ink thread itself from the other plants like strands of spider-spun gossamer and draw the little dandelion back to it’s former self before her eyes.

“The whole world is made of ink,” she realized, dropping the wilting bloom absentmindedly. Raz attempted an equal discovery of his own, snapping a twig off a tree bough, looking delighted at it’s effects. He didn’t take too much pleasure in his find however, when a faint melody rang through his ears and disrupted his reverie.

“Do you hear that?” He asked Lili, cupping his ear to hear the noise better. She nodded no. Dismayed, Raz beckoned her to come over to him, perhaps from there she could snatch a few notes. Lili obliged, but it was still in vain for she heard nothing. Now frustrated, Raz convinced Lili to do a little empathic mindshare. Lili grumbled, not too pleased. She rather disliked sharing empathy and telepathy between her and anyone else, it made one subject to another’s experiences and left your mind vulnerable. Seeing as it was Razputin however, she would make an exception.

“Ohh. Now I hear it,” Lili responded. Now on the same page, the two teens began to follow the curious music, both knowing it would be their best bet for escaping the thick woodland . . .

One would think that a person such as Eris, who had complete, unbridled rule to be exceedingly blissful and content. She had single-handedly taken advantage of those past troubled times— Her putrid venom quickly corrupting the landscape and it’s citizens. And when all was done and dealt with, Eris was launched into the seat of power.

In the end . . .

. . . It was her job.

With a twirl of crinoline and tattered silk, the reigning mistress rose from her velveteen seat and folded her arms as she began to pace back and forth in her mottled satin slippers. She wasn’t happy. She wasn’t blissful.

She was afraid.

Why not? Her chokehold on the people was being threatened! Her current train of thought never got too far however, as a courier rapped on her chamber door and her attention was diverted.

A woman of literally many faces, Eris’s vast assortment of smooth, white Judas masks seemed unable to procure any one face capable of expressing her rolled up negativities, and as such had settled upon a mask with a rather general upset expression. It had to do. However, she had her courier to attend to. With a flick of a crimson hand-fan, her mask had been replaced with one featuring a more appropriate neutral expression, and Eris called,

“You may enter.”

The chamber door swung open, and a skeletal figure in a marred tux leaned in, his sight settling upon the queen, “What do you want for us to do with the girl? She seems ready to wake, and we still haven’t received an answer. The lower courtesans are handling her as of now, and are as dimwitted as ever.”

Eris flicked her fan over her mask again, now revealing a more thoughtful look. She placed her finger on her chin, and with another pass of the fan replied,

“Where is she? I want to be there when the sleep they gave her wears off.”

“She is being contained in the eastern clocktower, m’lady.”

Another flick—

—And now a smile.

Eris sauntered over to her skeleton messenger and added a final, “That will be all, Kalavera.” She stepped past him and went on her way. . .

How long she’d slept, she didn’t know. For how long she’d stayed in that dreadful clocktower— she didn’t care. Renee just wanted out. Contrary to the belief held by these three mysterious women who had been attending to her (and had left shortly before), Renee had woken quite a ways back. She didn’t recall falling asleep, and the events leading up to it were a haze— She could scarcely recall her time at that asylum . . . these two clairvoyants had done something to her . . . then there was that woman with the long blonde braids . . . then . . . she wasn’t sure. . . some people . . . attacked(?) her, perhaps? . . . and she fell asleep . . . then she awoke, to find herself in a dank and depressing room, surrounded by some mysterious ladies in frilly gray dresses who watched her as she ‘slept’, occasionally complaining and tittering.

Thank goodness they’d left.

The unwelcoming room seemed like an attic; musty and cold. The splintery wooden floors were highly unattractive and random brick-a-brack made this neglected space their home— as did glimmering cobwebs and broken porcelain dolls, their polished glass eyes never ceasing to stare. There appeared to be only the slightest traces of color in an almost grey room, leaving Renee to be the most colorful thing there. If anything, the Victorian bed she had been given was spacious and soft, undoubtedly stuffed with down. She shot up, trying to make sense of her situation. With a sniffle she wrapped the sheets around her thin frame— she was in trouble, that was assured.

She glanced out the glass of the giant clock that took up nearly all the space of the faded brick wall to her left. Even if it was a mirror image, Renee had originally expected being able to read the time with ease. Not so. There were four hands instead of the usual three, and they did not all move clockwise. The numbers weren’t recognizable to her either. Pale moonlight from a strangely large moon shone through the glass, illuminating the room quite a bit and casting the ever moving shadows of the clock hands across the room and the bedspread where she lay. With a dry moan she plopped back down into the bed, about to try and fall asleep once more when something caught her eye.

Cast away in a dusty forlorn safebox, partially concealed by a lace handkerchief, something shone. Renee steadied herself to better see it. A cellophane reel of some sort? Renee was about to leave her bed to check when the sound of heeled footsteps alerted her. She tensed and stared fearfully at the giant oak door of the room.

The door opened slowly, ominously, with a dreadful creak. The heeled footsteps began once more and out of the unnatural shadows emerged a most unforgettable woman. She was very tall and carried herself with pride and grace, her steps slow and deliberate. Pale skinned with raven black locks held into a neat chignon, her hair was parted in the middle and her bangs parted in four so they could be loosely pinned to the back of her chignon with little clips forming two loops beneath her ears on both sides. She was clad in a light blue silk slip with the top fashioned in the style of a kimono; thought slightly ruffled and ruched where the fabric overlapped. True enough, one arm matched her kimono top with a proper kimono sleeve while the other arm remained sleeveless. The gown of her attire was light and flowed from the top’s seams like a Greek chiton, cut and fit to expose a good portion of her leg, and around the woman’s waist was a simple cobalt hued, button-up corset made of the same satin as her kitten-heeled slippers.

Yet . . .

It was that Judas mask one focused on. White and otherwise featureless, it could have stood to have been considered a decently pretty face had the facial expressions not been so over-exaggerated to the point of being frightening. The mask bore a ridiculously happy expression; the smile too wide to be humanely possible and curled to her nostrils in a far too perfect arc, the eyes brimming too extremely. In a lacy, black gloved hand adorned with exquisite rings the woman carried a candlelight and in the other a bright scarlet hand-fan.

“Good day, to you, miss . . . what be your name?” she greeted with a silky, double-edged voiced, placing the candle on a low lying table and clasping her hands behind her back and peering down at the bed. At first, Renee was too stiff and frightened to answer, but she gathered her wits and replied in a quavering voice and a trembling lip,

“. . .Renee. . .and yours?” How improper! She soon realized this and simply awaited the expected, malicious response. Instead the lady cocked her head,

“Renee? What a pretty name.”

She sniffled, “Thank you miss.”

“You asked, though rudely, but I suppose it would be rude on my part to not indulge you. You will refer to me as Miss Eris.” How commanding . . .

“Eris? That’s . . . a unique name. Never heard it before.” Renee ventured that perhaps it would be best to continue the small talk to delay whatever horrid fate she was guaranteed.

“Really? I suppose you’ve never held an interest in mythology then.”

“I’m not even sure what that is.”

“Look into it some day, dear. The stories are quite fascinating.”

“What do you want with me?”

“Oh! So quick to get to your information, aren’t you?”

“Are you going to hurt me?”

“What makes you think that?”

Renee shrugged her shoulders, shrinking back into the down and her quilt fortress, “Do you need me for something? Obviously you do if you went to the trouble of bringing me here.”

Eris laughed behind her mask, Renee uncomfortably aware of the words she said despite lips that didn’t move, “My police were unsure whether to perceive you as a threat or not, but they were able to determine that you were foreign and as such of interest to me. Your safety and the level of hospitality you will be given depends on the answers you give me.” Her police!?

“So . . .” Eris continued, “Where are you from and why are you here?”

Renee answered curtly, “Cedar Heights, Vermont, USA.” The answer didn’t seem to satisfy Eris, and she urged Renee to recount the events leading to her being there. Renee did so to the best of her dreamy memory.

“She’s in an asylum now, is it. . .” Eris murmured to herself wistfully. Renee prodded,

“You knew that woman with the long blonde braids?”

“Oh yes, in fact . . . she’s in this building.”

“So I’m still in the asylum!?” Renee gasped. But how could that be!?

Eris flicked her fan across her face, showing a more taunting demeanor, “Not exactly.”

“But she’s here? And my parents too!? Can I see them?” the poor girl had yet to grasp what had happened to her, while Eris, though confined to Rosaline’s mind was completely self-aware.

“You still don’t understand, child. This isn’t that asylum, and no; you parents are not here so no: you can not see them. But that woman, Rosaline is . . . in a certain sense. She is my prisoner.” She said that last bit in an all too pleased tone that made Renee’s skin crawl.

“Her . . . prisoner!?” Renee squeaked, absolutely horrified. Her heart began to beat faster, her face going pallid as she stumbled back into the bedspread. Eris passed her crimson fan over her snowy mask to expose a dead-serious expression,

“Yes, m’dear, she’s my prisoner . . . just like you.”

Renee’s eyes were wide with fright and she cast several desperate glances towards the door, prepared to bolt towards it and flee. Eris caught them however and placed her hand on Renee’s shoulder and hissed,

“Don’t attempt escape. You will be killed. I will see to it. If you are docile however, I will make sure you are treated lavishly, like the guest you are. You must keep in mind though, as long as you are here you are subject to the laws of the land. And the number one rule here is that everything within civilized territory belongs to me. Point blank: you belong to me, you are my property, I own you.” With a flutter of lace, Eris took her candle and walked back to the door, bidding Renee goodnight as she closed and locked the door behind her to attend to her other business.

Renee felt about ready to faint, suddenly very tired. She rested her chin on her hands and her arms on her knees brought up to her chest, ready to cry. The tears began to flow soon after, though she did so silently. The moonlight shone upon her earlier object of interest, and Renee abandoned her anguish to, if anything, momentarily keep herself occupied by seeing what it was. She took the little reel in her quavering hands and held it up against the soft moonlight, barely able to make out the neat but faded ink that read,

“Infinite Symphony. . .”

Cliff Hanger (noun): 1- a surprising ending that doesn’t answer all questions viewers may have/have had. 2 and ending that leaves off before the task is accomplished. 3 what you have just read. 4 A bid for more reviews.

I do hope you have enjoyed this first taste of the tale I have in mind. I can promise you that things can only get better. Expect to see some psychological horror, Jazzkatz, and familiar names like Little Red Riding Hood and Big Bad Wolf to make appearances next chapter. Please review . . . please! They make updates faster =3
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