Cracks

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Cracks
Books

Dawn turned off the computer she was using to transcribe the interview as Blanche held her hand out, offering her a pendant.

“I understand. Oh, thank you so much! It’s wonderful!” Dawn smiled as the placed the pendant around her neck. Blanche returned the favor, wiping a small tear from her eye.

“It is my pleasure, dear. Now, where would you like to go?”

Level 6.1, please. I have to pick up some chocolates for Faith and I. I may also swing by O’Mio’s bakery to make some of those Oreo truffles from Object 56,” Dawn replied.

“Oh, how lovely! Your visit was a pleasure, my dear.” Blanche waved her hand in the air, causing Dawn’s body to slowly phase out of The Cygnus Archive. After a few seconds, she was sent to The Snackrooms. Blanche was now alone. The silence of the empty Archive was commonplace, yet unsettling in these circumstances. Her smile dropped from her face as she pondered the recent events. She let out a big sigh of relief, having finally released some of the burden. Thoughts raced through her mind. She knew the document was going to be put on The M.E.G. database. The realism of the illusion would be weakened ever so slightly. She took a deep breath, calming herself.

“It will be alright,” Blanche thought to herself. “Nothing will change.” She sat down as she poured herself another cup of tea. She glanced out the window of the Tea Room and summoned a large tome that was twice her size into it. She began reading an old tale written centuries ago to take her mind off of her reminiscences. The gargantuan book floated in front of her as she read about the warrior named Archibald. She read out loud to herself to dampen the eerie silence.

Archibald the mighty sir of valor rode through the town on his faithful horse. That gent held a sword high above his head as the townspeople praised the warrior. The Townspeople called out to the man as the horse leapt forward, saying “Archibald! Archibald! We praise thee; thy power is bested by no other!”

“Thy love means more to me than thou canst ever know. Mine confidence as I gaze upon the visage of this formidable dragon hath been restored. I promise thee, I shall bring that beast’s hideous head back to thee with mine sword through its eye and its fiery breath extinguished.”

His golden hair of most wondrous length flew behind that gent as the wind hitteth his chest. Archibald waved to the pixies who flew beside him, exclaiming “Good Morrow,” to him as the gent passeth by.

“Lady Blanche?” a voice asked. Blanche was immediately withdrawn from the fantasy.

“Oh, Tom! Utmost apologies for not greeting you at the door. I was so enthralled by this wondrous tale of Archibald The Great.”

“I could hear,” Tom teases. Blanche smiled.

“How was your day, dear?”

“Good. And yours?”

Blanche was silent for a moment, not wanting to lie. “Well, this story and your presence has made it much better.” Blanche levitated the inconveniently large book over their heads and floated it back into place on one of the higher shelves.

“Did I miss something? How did the interview go?” Tom asked inquisitively, a hint of concern laced in his voice.

“Well, I remembered some things I would much rather forget. That is all. It is of no matter at this moment, and you need not be concerned for my well-being. Come, your tea is getting cold.”

Tom put his hand on her shoulder as she turned around to pour the tea. “M’lady, with all due respect, your ‘well-being’ is literally my job. If you need to talk about anything, I’m all ears.”

“Thank you, dear, but what I said was truthful. We all have our demons, and I was just faced by a few of mine. I’m all better now. You need not w-”

Blanche was interrupted by a hug. “Fine, I won’t pester. At least accept this hug, though,” Tom replied. Blanche embraced the gesture.

“T-Thank you, dear.” She hugged a little tighter.

Tom backed up and smiled. “Now then, let’s have that tea.” He walked into the tea room to sit down, but suddenly froze in his tracks.

“What?” Blanche asked, confused by the sudden halt.

“Did you feel that?”

“Feel what?”

“A gust of wind just passed by. Caused my spine to shiver. Did you do that?” Tom asked.

“No… That is strange.” Blanche halted for a moment as she mentally searched for anyone in the level. She suddenly sensed something enter nearby.

“Someone’s here,” Blanche whispered. Tom shivered again as another gust of wind hit him. This time Blanche felt it.

“Who?!” Tom asked, confused.

“Tom, run.” Blanche commanded, her tone dropping.

“What? What do you mean run?”

“Tom! Do as I say!”

“B-But-”

Blanche turned around suddenly and teleported Tom away into a different room. It was back to the silence. Blanche took a deep breath.

“Show yourself, Icarus,” Blanche muttered. She lifted her hand, causing bookshelves to move out of the way in an instant. A high-pitched giggling echoed throughout the empty halls like that of a lunatic. The final bookshelf moved, and a dark figure of pure black void stared directly at her. The bottom of his cloak moved like a ball of fire. Beneath his hood were two eyes that glowed a deep purple hue.

“Hello again, dearie.” The dark being laughed. His voice was something you’d expect from some kind of goblin or someone whose mind was beyond gone.

“What business do you have here?” Blanche stated firmly. “I thought you told me you wouldn’t return to this place after your visit regarding The Path Less Travelled.”

“I did, didn’t I?” He chuckled. “However some promises are but lies that are easily broken. Can’t I come see my dear old friend in a time of anguish?”

“How did you enter undetected?”

“That is for me to know and you to lose sleep over, dearie.”

“Leave, or you will be removed.”

Icarus chuckled again. “Feisty, aren’t we?” Icarus disappeared and reappeared behind Blanche in the tea room. He lowered his sleeve to reveal a black, charred hand that was pure bone; no skin, muscle, or anything. Still floating above the air, he poured himself a cup of tea. “I heard your internal suffering, and thought I’d come to see what could possibly be affecting the all-powerful “Entity 140” so badly.” A toothy smile could be seen beneath his hood that shrouded his face. His bony hand held the cup’s handle as his Grim Reaper like body gazed directly at her.

“So you’re here to taunt me?” Blanche snarked.

“I suppose, if you want to be frank about it. The fact that you have not immediately sent me out of the Archive tells me you are curious to see what I have to say.” The smile grew wider.

“Don’t make assumptions.” Blanche lifted her hand to remove him from the level, but in an instant, Icarus opened a rift between the two deities. A purple portal sent Blanche stumbling back. As it closed, Icarus floated Tom in the air.

“H-What?! Blanche?! Who in the world are you?”

“Relax, young one. Your fate lies not in my hands but hers.” Tom looked at Blanche with a mien of shock.

“Icarus, do not involve the boy in this!” Blanche ordered.

“Can’t you just obliterate him or teleport him out of the Archive?!” Tom exclaimed.

“Ooo, now that would be hilarious. Go ahead, ‘Lady Blanche,’ show him what you can really do! See who is faster. Try your luck. Can you decimate this apparition before I can decimate the boy, or will you save his life before I can do so? Do it! Stop the big bad wolf from consuming the grandmother! Be the hero and condemn me back to my suffering. Be the role model he thinks you are!”

“Thinks?” Tom interjected, his look of concern growing.

“Your persuasions are futile, imp. I would never risk a life to settle a petty squabble.”

Icarus cackled. “Oh, now this is too good. You’ve really got it all worked out, don’t you? By day, you’re the wholesome old lady who runs her little library with her errand boy, but by night your thoughts overwhelm you. You toss and turn, constantly saying two little words to yourself: “what if?” A simple utterance, but a ludicrously complex meaning. Infinitely idealistic and pessimistic. It keeps us up at night by bringing us to the past, while also putting us to sleep with fantasies of the most optimistic situations. Endless potential and an incomprehensible amount of meanings. These two little words are what hold you back from truly portraying this persona you hold so dear.” The imp giggled as her breath staggered. “This is frankly quite abominable, this little charade you have going on here. Soon enough, the mask will fall, and the light that snuffs the darkness will be overcome.” The being approached Blanche quickly while cackling in a high-pitched manner.

“You’re certainly one to talk, projecting yourself into my library with this cursed proxy of yours,” Blanche replied, collecting herself.

“Au contraire, dearie. How much longer can you lie before they figure it out? How much longer can you deceive them into believing that all you are is this? What will it be this time? Enslavement of all humanity again? Or will they have to trap you in a moon before you get the chance? Back to that little question ‘what if?’ Soon enough, they will begin to ponder such a question. ‘What if she loses her temper?’ ‘What if she decides to obliterate The Endless City because she was in the mood?’ ‘What if she forces all of the backrooms to gaze upon her hideous visage?’ Once that happens, your little fantasy of paradise will be terminated faster than mine all of those years ago, dearie! How adorable.” Icarus laughed as Blanche struggled to catch her breath. The archive began to shake ever so slightly like an earthquake. “Fantasy is fragile, and soon enough yours will break.” He flicked his bony finger against the wall, causing the wall to ripple like a pebble in a pond. Blanche lost her balance as the entire level erupted into a violet shake.

Icarus lifted his other hand, causing the entirety of 906 to begin collapsing. Books fell from their shelves, cracks developed in the wall, and Blanche’s skin began to blacken and rot. Icarus’s giggle echoed around the room. Blanche looked at a terrified Tom who began to scream as the reality of his body began to contort as he gazed into the beyond.

“Enough games!” Blanche screamed, her voice deepening and echoing around the room as if a thousand voices had screamed it. She slammed her hands into the ground, amalgamating Icarus’s illusion back into the library. Her skin reverted to its normal form, as did Tom. Once the dust settled, Blanche’s hand was wrapped around Icarus’s bony, charred neck. His hood fell down, revealing the black skull of a dead man. Tom fell to the floor as Icarus cackled through choked breaths.

“Well, well, well… If you poke the bear enough times, soon enough it’ll bite back!” Blanche’s breathing was uncontrolled and shaky as she held Icarus in the air by the neck. Tom looked in silence and disbelief. “Now do it. Be the lumberjack who killed the wolf! Follow in the footsteps of Claudius and snuff out any remaining light! Be like Gudang, and live with the mistakes you’ve made!” Blanche’s hand shook as she grasped the cloaked skeleton firmly. Icarus’s eyes glowed a bright purple as his voice echoed once more. “Obliterate this apparition! Be the stronger one, Azel’Kyra! Redeem your sins! Soon enough the cracks begin to show, and once you fall through, there’s no going back! You have no idea how dangerous you are, so prove to the boy that you are the superior-”

“Blanche!” Tom screamed amidst the chaos, gazing at Blanche melancholically. Blanche finally snapped out of the manipulation and dropped Icarus to the floor. She gasped, and a tear dropped from her face once she realized what she had done. He fell on his back, excreting a black bile from the fractures Blanche caused on his neck. He continued his maniacal giggling.

“I knew you’d gone soft,” Icarus smiled. He shot a purple beam of energy out of his hand in Tom’s direction. Blanche immediately deflected it away from his heart, but it still managed to pierce through Tom’s shoulder. Blanche gasped in shock. She turned back to Icarus, ready to send him away, but he had disappeared. Blanche mentally scanned the entire infinite archive for any foreign presence, this time far more thoroughly, but found nothing. He was gone. She instantly healed Tom’s injury and disintegrated all of the blood and bile. She brought Tom to the tea room and sat him down.

“Blanche… what the f-heck just happened?” Tom asked. Blanche was silent.

“Someone I met many eternities ago paid me a visit. He is someone who has much animosity in his heart. A-and… He…” Blanche fell back on the couch, struggling to breathe. “I-I-I’m sorry, dear… I-”

“It’s ok, Lady Blanche. Tell me five things you can see right now.”

“W-What?”

“Just trust me.”

“I-I-I see the kettle, a p-pillow, the couch, the wall, and you.”

“Okay, good. Now four things you can hear.”

“B-Books still falling on the floor, my breathing, the springs of the couch, and your voice. Tom, I-”

“Trust me. Three things you can feel.”

“The couch, my dress, and the ground.”

“Two things you can smell.”

“My perfume and the tea.”

“One thing you can taste.”

“The…” Blanche snickered ever so slightly, “dusty air.”

“Now how do you feel?”

“Much better. Surprisingly better. You were right, that did work.”

“I’m just as surprised as you are. I was ready to ask for 20 or 30 things, knowing you,” Tom jested. Blanche snickered in reply. There was a moment of silence as the two pondered what just happened. Tom broke the thick atmosphere after a few minutes by jumping up from the couch. “Now let’s have some of that tea.”

“Tom, no! You were just-”

Tom lifted his sleeve, exposing his shoulder. “I was stabbed, yes. But it’s all gone now,” Tom teased. Blanche smiled slightly, wiping a tear. He poured them both some tea and passed Blanche her cup. She sipped the warm beverage, soothing her racing thoughts.

“Thank you, dear.”

“Anytime. Now why don’t we just forget about what happened, procrastinate on cleaning up the mess, and resume that book you were reading earlier?” Blanche smiled, levitating the tome inside of the room and opening up to where she stopped earlier.


IcarusShill

Icarus will return in future entries.

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