April 3rd, 2002

Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

belief

When I was younger, maybe eight, I woke up with thin rivers of cold perspiration running down my cheeks. I'd had a nightmare, the subject of which is now long forgotten in the recesses of my memory, buried under years of thoughts and actions that were much worse. Like most children do, I ran to the nearest adult in tears; the old grandfather who had adopted me. He picked me up and set me on his ample lap, petting my hair while I sobbed. He told me that nightmares were formed from the dark corners of our hearts and that there wasn't much we could do to stop them. But he said that in dreams reality is only the shape of your mind's belief. I asked him later, when I thought I spotted a monster crawling from under the bed, if this applied to real life, too. He said yes, sometimes it did. I went back to my room and forced myself to stop believing in the monster I kept seeing sliming over the floor, and it disappeared. So I wondered then, if I stopped believing in the world, would it disappear?

When I was sixteen, I was traveling with my brother. He was much older than me, wiser, stronger. He reminded me of the man who had adopted me, except he wasn't Korean. We were vigilantes of a sort, you know, went around slaying maniacal sorcerers hellbent on world destruction and doing good deeds and the like. It was a pleasant life, except for the constant, life-threatening danger. But being young and enthusiastic, I never thought about it much. All I knew was the adrenaline that rushed through my veins in battle, and how good it felt to win and hear the praises of my brother. But you know how life is. Nothing is allowed to stay that simple, it's just too easy.

As it so happened, one of the maniacal sorcerers we were set to defeat was one that we had come up against several times before. His name was Rien, and he was a right bastard, as my dead father would say. He had adorned my cheek with a lovely scar on one of our previous meetings. That day the sun was searing and rubicund; even the grass flattened beneath the heat. The sky quivered in the blaze, a shocking blue expanse without a hint of cumulus. We met our enemy inside a crumbling ruin, where he was as usual devising a plot to unravel the various fabrics of the universe. But something was off about him. Instead of attacking us directly, as he usually did, he dodged, disappearing every time my brother struck at him with his great, green bladed sword. I did not realize until too late that he was pulling a hackneyed trick on us, trying to wear us down before he came in for the kill. Angered by the revelation, I cried to my brother of his plot. But he was on the ground, panting and perspiring, clutching the hilt of his sword weakly. Afraid, I whirled. Rien was nowhere. The dank, rotting air of the ruin was as still as all death that had happened inside it. Suddenly he was there, above my brother, and I screamed as his long claws ripped through my brother's flesh and clothes. I jumped at Rien, my own sword held high, but he knocked me away with a conjured gust of wind. My own screams drowned out my brother's cries of pain. He looked like a grotestque, torn apart rag doll, the skin of his chest ripped away to reveal his bony ribs and red, gushing heart. I had seen many terrible things since I reunited with my brother, but none of them compared to that. Nothing equaled the look of sheer terror and pain twisting his features, or the sight of his own blood spilling from his body and pooling onto the floor. I fainted then, with Rien's laughter ringing in my ears. When I woke, he was gone, and I was alone with my brother's corpse.

I have stopped believing in the world, but it is still here. My grandfather's trick could not work on a space so vast, I supposed. Now I work on my own, waiting for the day when I have enough power to make reality coincide with my belief.
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

memory from a dream

Most every night when I sleep, I dream. The unfortunate thing is that I have very little memory of whatever the dream was when I
wake up. All I have, really, is a feeling--sometimes it's warm and happy, like I was dreaming of sunny fields of daisies or something
equally cheery like that. Sometimes I feel ill, you know, the way you feel after seeing something graphic on television. And
sometimes what I feel is too terrible to describe, a sense of disgusting despair so wretched that all I can do is stare at my grimy window until it fades away into the corner of my mind.

But I remember last night's dream with perfect clarity. I was ten, I think, or thereabouts. My hair was short, in a sort of sissy boy, bowl cut that framed my face. My eyes were large, curious and unnervingly feminine. I was the kind of kid that all the other kids liked to beat up on lazy afternoons when they had nothing better to do. Being that I lived in a small village, most of the afternoons were lazy and most of the kids had nothing to do. So I came home with black and blue marks on a regular basis. Not that it mattered. I lived with a rich family that was not my own; they never told me so but I knew it anyway. Everybody whispered about it. But anyway. This family was rich because both of its heads--my 'mother' and my 'father'--were always working, and thus never there. I generally stumbled into my house with nothing to greet my bruised, tearstained face but the echoes of my own footsteps. That is, until Clara arrived.

Clara was what I suppose people today would refer to as a nanny; she came by my house every day in the late afternoon to watch
me and feed me and make sure I didn't attempt suicide or anything upsetting like that. I loved her more than anyone else in the
world. She was fifteen, I think, very much an older woman for someone of my age, and I thought she was beautiful. She had soft,
wavy brown hair and bright, hazel eyes, and she was the huggy sort--every five minutes she would pick me up (I was pathetically
short and thin) and cuddle me. Most of the time she prepared my supper in the kitchen of our house, but on warmer evenings she
would take me out early and we would eat on the bank of a nearby lake. Tonight was one of those evenings, so she packed our
dinners in a basket, took me by the hand, and led me down to the lake. I carefully laid out a long, blue blanket over the grass for us to sit on, and she unpacked the food--sandwiches, bottles of juice, some chips. Light fare, but I didn't exactly have a healthy
appetite back then. Clara told me sometimes that it worried her, what with me being so small and everything. I shrugged it off.

I nibbled on the edges of the butter sandwich she had made me (I loved them, though I think Clara made them more as a secret ploy
to fatten me up) as we sat in the glow of the dipping sun. After a while she asked me about the marks on my face, as if I had never
had any before. I explained, like I always did, in a quiet, resigned voice, and she returned with a touch on the hair and a sympathetic look. I was glad that she did not overdo the pity, even the way she gazed at me made my heart ache with the realization of my own wretchedness. When the remains of the butter sandwich were safely inside my stomach, I curled up close to her, sipping from my bottle of juice. Clara rarely ate anything, only drank. She thought she was fat. I thought this was nonsense, but you know how girls are, so I finally gave up arguing. The night grew hotter and the air thickened as the sun fell further into the horizon, and Clara gathered me onto her lap to watch the sunset. The sky was as clear as the surface of the lake before us, and the sun's edges stained the few clouds with a brilliant array of reds and golds. I rested my head on Clara's shoulder and clung to her, looking up at her and how the last rays of daylight shone on her round, gentle face. She eventually realized I was staring at her and looked back at me, smiling. Her hair shone auburn, its individual strands seeming to glitter in the light.

"Beautiful..." I said.

"Yes," she said, looking back at the sunset. "It is."

I wondered if she knew that I wasn't talking about the sunset.

It was at that point that my dream ended, just abruptly stopped happening. I woke to the feeling of a hand stroking my hair gently.
She was lying next to me, her brown hair in her face and her hazel eyes smiling. I covered her hand with mine, and hugged her.

"Good morning, Claris," I said.
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

The White Flag (invader zim fic)

At the front of the classroom, Ms. Bitters was discussing the constant expansion of the sun. She explained to her pupils that in just a few billion years, the sun would reach a size large enough to swallow the Earth, consuming it in violent, fiery doom. Near the class's sole window, at the end of the first row of desks, a young boy named Dib ignored her. His black hair was done up on his
head in an odd style that seemed to defy all the major laws of gravity. Enormous glasses covered much of his pallid face, and his
amber eyes were trained on Zim, the student sitting at the other end of his row, as they often were. This student, Dib knew, was no
student at all, but an alien bent on global domination and complete enslavement of the human race. Dib's evaluation of this student's character was rejected by all his classmates--in fact, it was rejected by everyone around him (except possibly his younger sister Gaz, whom he suspected could really care less either way). Now, admittedly, Dib had 'cried wolf' a few times in his life, and he had devoted his entire existence to the research of all things paranormal and supernatural, but he knew the difference between fantasy and reality. And he had no doubts in his mind that this student was not of Earth's soil. Dib had thought Zim's physical attributes made it obvious--while equipped with somewhat normal blue-violet contacts and a retro pompadour, Zim still had flagrantly verdant skin and no ears of which to speak. Claiming a skin condition as the cause of such ailments did not fool Dib in the slightest, though it satisfied everyone else.

Dib had focused all his energy in recent times on the capture of Zim, though as yet all efforts had been in vain. But, in his heart, he could not say that this bothered him terribly. Zim's presence gave Dib's life new meaning, much as he would never admit it. He knew for certainty that there was sentient life elsewhere in the expanses of space. His constant listening, searching, reading, and hoping was not merely a squandering of time. And what he cared about, really, almost as much as knowing that a threat to Earth's safety was being dissected on an autopsy table, was showing everyone the truth he had found. He wanted everyone to realize that he wasn't crazy, that he was right, and he didn't understand why this was so hard to prove, given Zim's arrival. Dib was so lost in his thoughts of frustration that he did not notice when the skool bell rang and the mad rush for the exit began. His classmates herded past him, shouting and talking as they dashed down the skool's front steps. He was jarred from his musings by a hiss from his teacher, who was suddenly upon him, staring at him demonically. Moved, Dib quickly gathered his things and was out the door before she could even speak. Gaz was waiting for him, her expression even more aggravated than normal. He offered her a shrug of apology, to which she responded by gesturing angrily towards the door. Dib cast his gaze about for Zim as the two walked home, but Zim had left quickly, and was nearly at his own house by then. Muttering under his breath, Dib supposed that it was just as well, for today.

Actually, Zim was in a bit of an inspiration slump. While he had not lost any of his ambition towards his goal of human enslavement, he was not entirely certain as to how to go about it. At the same time, he was wondering if Earth had any attributes that were not potentially fatal to his person. This annoyance was compounded by GIR's discouraging incompetence and Dib's constant, futile attempts at Zim's capture. How wonderful it would be when this planet was in the grasp of the Irken Empire. Everyone would realize that Dib had been right all along, but it would be too late, and that would make victory all the sweeter. Zim cackled to himself at the thought as he walked into his front yard, where GIR was standing in front of a tree, outfitted in his canine disguise. He was standing next to a tree, staring up into the branches intently, his eyes wide.

"Dare I ask what you're looking at?" Zim half closed one eye.

"I saw a squirrel," GIR answered promptly, in his twitchy, childish voice. "We're playing hide and seek."

"I see," Zim said slowly. "Well, I'll be down in the lab if you need me..."

GIR did not even look at him.

"Okay, master."

Swallowing frustration, Zim strode to his toilet. He climbed in with dignity and flushed. His small body was pushed down a
translucent tube that was barely wide enough to hold him. It deposited him on a cool, metal floor, in front of a vast array of complex and mildly disturbing machinery. He shed his human disguise as he approached one of many consoles. He was not certain as to what he wanted to do, and so he sat, his fingers tapping against the keys lightly. No ideas presented themselves. He stared at the blank, offline screen, and his mind wandered, and after a while of this mental roaming, he began to feel quite tired. Within the next minutes he was asleep, his fingers still on the keys.

Zim dreamed of the successful domination of Earth. He dreamed of Dib, screaming as he and his fellow humans were made to bow
as a conquered people. That was a pleasant image. He giggled maniacally in his sleep as the dream continued to play in his mind.
He saw images of himself sending the last transmissions to the Almighty Tallest, and as his brain lingered on these, his fingers
unknowingly began to race across the console in front of him. His dream continued as he pressed all the right keys, and in moments, the uplink with his Tallest had been made. As their ship received and accepted the transmission, Zim continued to dream.

Red and Purple were at a loss, at first. Zim was quite obviously asleep, and muttering something about successful world conquest.

"This is one of those times when I wish we could just send an electroshock down there or something," Purple mused.

"Should we cut it off or wait until he wakes up?" Red half closed one eye. As if on cue, Zim started before Purple could respond.

"Grrg...just a dream," he muttered to himself, before looking about himself and noticing his present situation. "Oh--my Tallest!"

"Zim," Purple said heavily, "Watching this continue is getting kind of pathetic, so I think you should probably be aware of
something..."

"What is it?" Zim asked, bewildered.

"Do you really think you're on a real mission?" Red said.

"Your powers of subtlety are astonishing," Purple muttered. "Look, Zim... to be frank, we didn't really expect you to find a planet at all."

"We just wanted to get rid of you," Red shrugged.

Zim gaped, his mind clearly unwilling to comprehend.

"But--my SIR..."

"He's trash," Red said. "I mean, literally. He's got loose change in his head. Kind of surprising that he works at all, really."

Crushed, Zim did not speak.

"You're just not Invader material, Zim," Purple said, with just the barest trace of apology.

"Or Irken material, either," Red added, causing Purple sigh a bit. "What?"

"I'm going to stop this now," Purple said.

"Wait--" Zim said, his voice cracking. "What do I do?"

"Whatever you want," Purple shrugged. "Just don't come back to Irk."

And the transmission line was severed.

Zim did not move or speak or think or breathe for several minutes. When he realized that death would result if he continued on this
pattern, he exhaled. His brain, ever rationalizing, toyed with the idea that perhaps he was merely being put under a test and that the Tallest had not meant any of what they said. He was about ready to accept this when GIR wandered by, singing moronically at the top of his lungs. Zim pondered dismantling GIR for just a moment before discarding it. As sad as it was, GIR was all he had left, right now.

Zim left the lab, feeling numb. He was not quite aware of himself as he stepped onto his porch, still sans his disguise. He sat down, resting his head in his hands. It did not surprise him when Dib tumbled out from behind a lawn gnome, binoculars in hand.

"Zim?!" he cried in shock. "What are you doing?"

Zim did not look up.

"Sitting."

Dib stared for a few moments, flustered. "But..."

"I know," he said. "I don't care. Take photos."

"Well, I didn't bring my camera this time..." Dib trailed off, his enthusiasm draining. He had never felt so disarmed. "Why don't you
care?"

"I just don't," Zim answered dully, his antenna drooping over in front of his wide, red eyes.

"You know that if anyone else sees you like this they'll probably attack you, right?" Dib frowned. He wondered briefly if this was
some kind of act or trap. But it was difficult to ignore the deafeating aura of despair surrounding Zim.

"Has to happen sometime," he mumbled. Dib sat beside Zim, his mind swirling. He was prepared, he thought, for every event except
this. Complete and utter surrender was something he had not readied himself for. A large part of him was still excited--it wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and use Zim, even though he was now seemingly innocuous, to prove his theories correct. It would be so easy.

Too easy, he realized. And not only that, but he liked the idea of acting as the hero for the human race, doing all he could to stop an impending alien invasion. But since if it wasn't happening, then his prosecution of Zim would only serve to villify himself, even if it would make everyone understand. So in the end it was a question of conscience. He cursed inwardly, agonizing.

"What am I supposed to do now?" he said aloud, his voice thin and quiet. Zim looked at him meaningfully, and then back out towards the horizon, where the sun was beginning its descent. They sat that way for a long time.
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

Karma Slave (first incarnation)

Kuruma lived in a room where wheels hung on walls of stars. Behind, beside, and above him: everywhere an eye could possibly look there were stars, and wheels. Images played out in the spaces between the spokes of these wheels; pictures of lives lived or in the process of the same. At the centers of these wheels the light of a soul shimmered. Kuruma watched them because it was the
purpose of his existence. He had been in that room, with those wheels, since life first sprouted in the universe, and he was really becoming bored of it. It wasn't as if he were achieving anything productive, especially since a defect in the system rarely occurred.
Although he admitted that sometimes the lives he saw were somewhat interesting to watch, they were, for the most part, as banal
as the next television show. It was not simply human life he watched, but plant life, and animal life. People were at times amusing in their brilliance or stupidity, but watching a sea cucumber conduct its daily business was not particularly stimulating.

Although he lacked a real form aside from a mildly disturbing black mist, Kuruma usually took on a vaguely human appearance,
mostly for reasons of convience. He gave himself brown hair that fell into his eyes, which were red with touches of green. His skin
was a olive sort of brownish color, but it was not really that important since the majority of his body was consumed by black robes that degenerated into mist as one moved southward. Sometimes he had hands, because he liked to decorate them with patterns
and jewelry and because it was easier to spin the slower wheels with opposable thumbs. That was his only true function, he thought, to give the less enthusiastic souls the occasional push. Never had a wheel slowed to the point of stopping, at least, not with its soul still in the center. Secretly, he wished something along those lines would happen, just so he would have something to do.

Unfortunately for him, something along those lines did not happen, but on a certain day--the particulars of which such as the date
and year were unbeknownst to him; he did not keep track of time--he suddenly found himself with quite a lot to do. He was floating
around in his room of wheels, spinning the sagging ones and stopping to watch the more interesting ones for a few minutes before continuing on, back and forth, the general routine. Kuruma was in his seventh trip when Yamari, his creator, appeared above him, smiling benevolently. The sudden visit startled Kuruma, and he searched his mind for the last time the two had spoken. He came up empty-handed, and instead, just bowed respectfully, solidifying the rest of his mist into legs and feet.

"To...to what do I owe this honor?" Kuruma said, ashamed at the rusty, unused quality of his voice.

"No need for formalities, Kuruma," Yamari's kind, ethereal voice filled the room, and all the wheels at once spun just a bit faster. "It just occurred to me that this job, important though it is, might be jading you.."

Kuruma, aware of Yamari's ability to read thoughts, choked down what he was feeling and answered, nonchalantly,
"It is a little tedious..."

"Yes, well," Yamari continued, "I have an assignment for you that would be slightly more challenging, if you're willing to take it on."

"Who would watch the wheels if I left?" Kuruma said.

"Oh, you're not leaving. You'll have plenty time to take care of the wheels, still. This is just a minor thing," Yamari said. "We just want you to give one of your souls a little bit of extra help."

Kuruma's eyes ran over the lights in his immediate vicinity wonderingly. One of them glittered with a suddenly garish brightness, and he balked.

"That one...? Why does that one deserve special attention?"

"Well, if you don't want to do it..." Yamari's image began to fade, just slightly.

"No!" Kuruma cried, hastily, his lower half returning to mist almost spontaneously. Chagrined, Kuruma reasserted himself. "I do.
Really."

"Good then," Yamari said. "You know what to do?"

"Why... yes..." Kuruma answered slowly, when actually he hadn't the faintest.

"Guide it," Yamari said impatiently. "You have control over the lives it leads, so use that power to help it on its path to nirvana."

Kuruma thought again to ask why the focus on this particular soul, but a slight crack in Yamari's placid smile told him that it was
better to just obey.

"Yes," he said, bowing again, and when he raised his head Yamari was gone. He put aside his exasperation and turned his attention
to the bright soul before him. If anything, it was something to do.
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

Sarah & Steve (segment 1)

He pressed the barrel of the gun against the side of her head, his finger trembling as it hovered above the trigger. He was not
frightened; merely enraged. The two of them were trapped in a small room with no furnishings but a single, wooden chair in the
center. Neither of them were certain as to how they arrived there, especially considering that this room did not even have doors, but
they both wanted to escape, very badly. The difference between them was that he had a gun and she did not. Admittedly, the gun
only had about three bullets, but it was a gun nonetheless. He was surprised that whatever had brought them there had not removed
it from his person--it was in plain sight, hanging from a holster on the belt around his waist. He had awoken in what he estimated
was about ten minutes ago, to find himself staring up into darkness and then at the chair, to which she was currently tied. The minute she heard him mutter a wondering expletive, she had started to screech and flail as best as she could, given that she was bound and gagged. He had tried to explain to her that he was just as confused and frightened as she was, but she just kept wailing, like she couldn't even understand plain English. Although he considered himself a level-headed guy, he still had a limit, and this girl was seriously pushing it.

"Now," he breathed heavily, his other hand balled into a fist, "the way I see it, you've got two choices here. Either you calm down, or I blow your fucking brains out."

Her wail died down quickly as the gunbarrel's cold metal dug into her right temple.

"Good," he said, holstering the gun and relaxing somewhat. "Good. Now, if you promise to keep your mouth shut, I'll see what I can
do about getting you out of that chair."

She nodded slowly, and he knelt behind her, examining the knots of her bonds. Surprisingly, they were standard fare--easily undone,
though the rope was coarse against his hands. He untied first the ropes and then the cloth gag around her mouth without much
difficulty.

"What the hell is going on?" he muttered, as she stretched her arms and rose from the chair.

"Excellent question, Watson," she said, and he discovered that her voice was strangely deep for someone with such a high-pitched
cry. "Terribly sorry for my loss of control. I thought I was in a horrible nightmare from which there was no waking."

"Well..." he said, looking around the tiny room, "you might be."
Adrasteius: Really?  Really.

Sarah & Steve (segment 2)

"Any thoughts on how to escape?" she said.

"Before we get to that," he said, "why don't you tell me your name."

"Oh," she said. "Right, that would be good. I'm Sarah."

"Steve," he returned. "Stephen, actually, but you know... everyone calls me Steve."

"Oh, good," Sarah said. "Steve and Sarah. We've alliteration."

He stared at her for a moment.

"Riiiight."

She smiled brightly and looked about the room, her eyes scanning for a possible exit. She walked to the leftmost edge of the room
and ran her hands along the walls, her fingers searching for some kind of knob or hidden switch.

"What are you doing? Even with such little light, it's obvious that there aren't any doors," Steve grumbled. "You're just wasting time with that."

"There might be a secret passage," she insisted. "After all, we got in here, didn't we... so we've got to be able to get out. Simple
logic dictates that."

"Of course," he sighed, sitting on the chair as she continued her explorations. He pushed on the chair's back so that the front legs
lifted up off the ground a little, and tried to keep his balance there, but the forelegs quickly gave way beneath his weight. The chair tipped backwards, and he fell, sprawling onto the floor. He massaged his temples, grumbling incoherently when he heard Sarah's
giggle. He squirmed on the floor as he tried to get up, pausing in surprise as his hand touched something on the floor and a click
echoed in the empty room. A panel in the floor beneath him slid away, and he and the chair both fell, though he had the sense to
grab onto the edge of another panel. He cursed aloud when he heard the sound of splintering wood, and Sarah was kneeling next to
him instantly, her hands on his wrists.

"I've got you," she said, pulling. He cursed again.

"Let go, damn it!" he hissed. "I'll pull myself up."

He dug his nails into the floor and pushed his body upwards, crawling slowly back onto the floor.

"Nice," she said, and he suddenly felt embarrassed.

"Yeah, well," he scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, "I work out."

Sarah peered over into the newly created hole.

"I wonder if that's the way out."

"I don't think so..." he said, "that chair is history."

"Wish I had a flashlight," Sarah frowned, fishing in her pockets. She came up with a set of keys that had a small laser pointer
hanging from the ring. "Suppose this will have to do."

She clicked it on and held it over the hole, squinting. He stood behind her, leaning over to see what she saw. The little red light did not illuminate much, but the glint of metal it revealed told enough.

"What the hell? A spike pit?" he said, eyes wide. "What the hell is going on?"