lack of strictness or care / looseness of a limb or muscle
rating: +7+x

A pale moon washes over the starless sky as the voices of thousands yell in a cacophonic chorus of meaningless noise.


Rita Cain opens her eyes. She knows what day it is; the exact date flashes in her mind. She gets dressed, takes a shower, eats breakfast, and walks to work.


Suns rise and fall as seconds turn into minutes turn into hours turn into eons. Trapped in my mind, I wait.


Light from the sunless sky draws her forward as she continues the trudge towards base eleven. Practiced feet dance around the cracks in the pavement as her chest rises and falls with her breath. Another day. Another dull day.


Bright candles burning half as long from both ends. Betrayal from an old friend. Does the sun envy the moon?


"How've you been, Rita?" the secretary says to her from behind the desk. They haven't spoken very much before. Just a few cordial hellos. What was her name again?

"I've been well! And you?"

"Pretty good! I lost some important files, and my boss is kind of pissed, but aside from that, everything has been going great!"

"Oof. That's rough." Did she expect more of a response than what she had said? Rita isn't sure.

"Yeah."

"Well, I have to go to my office now." Did that sound awkward?

"Okay. See you around?"


Lost leaders drawn towards incandescence. Birds cover the sea without an olive branch to perch. Thousands die in a flood across the world.


A new assignment; should be easy. Some enigmatic level called the "Blancherooms" because it has entities that look like Blanche. Wonder who came up with that name.

SD Class 1 with "unstable topology". That means "space", right? She'll have to look it up in a dictionary later, but now she has read the article to prepare.


Hunks of matter create the illusion of thought. Neurons flash cryptic signals self-contained. Blocks carved with practiced ease.


"H— Hello, is someone there?" Another Blanche. Double-check the interview notes and start it up.

"Hi, what's your name?"

"Oh, God! A real person! God, I've been in this dreadful place for so long… Do you know the way out?"

Lost. Aren't we all? Still doesn't answer her question, but she'll get it from her later.

Oh right, the Blanche asked her something. Uh…

"Not really, to be honest. The Database says that if you just walk around for long enough, it should take you to another level."

Hope that helps.

"D— Database? What are you talking about?"

She doesn't know about the Database? Well, she is an entity, after all.

"Never mind that; just keep walking around, and I'm sure you'll find your way out eventually. Anyway, I still have a few more Blanches to interview."

She'll be fine.

"O— Okay."

And, end log.


One million Earths piled on a turtle's back roll off one by one as their constituent parts shatter onto the cosmic floor below. It all started with the beginning.


5:30: M.E.G. assigned therapy meeting. What's the saying again? "200 dollars an hour for awkward silence?" At least it's free. Thanks, Andrew. Legitimately.

"Are the voices getting better?"

Rita sighs.

"Not really, but I've learned to ignore them for the most part."

"That's good."

Is it?

"I just— I just— I don't know."

"You just what?"

"I just wish I didn't have to deal with this shit. Like, why me? You know?"

"It must be hard."

"And like, why could I just have not gone on that mission? Why did Henry have to close the door? Why did any of this have to happen? It feels like this so easily could have not happened, but now I have to deal with this for the rest of my life."

"You might not. We still have a couple medications to—"

"Medications can't heal magic. You know that."

"We can still try."

"We? You don't have to deal with any of this. I do."

"…"

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I know you're trying your best to help me. It's just— It's just a lot to deal with sometimes."


Light reaches my eyes for the first time. The photons hit the retina hit the neurons hit the brain. A face forms from the darkness.


"And you said there was something else that was bothering you?"

Still in the therapist's office, Rita tries not to look at the clock. She always notices.

"Yeah. It's probably nothing though…"

"What is it?"

"Well, when I was leaving, that thing said, 'see you in two years'. It's been two years to this day. I don't know. I guess I'm just waiting for something to happen."

"And what do you think is going to happen?"

"That's the thing; I don't know."

The timer rings. Times up.

"My next appointment isn't for an hour; you can stay a little longer if you want to talk about it."

"No, that's okay."

But it isn't. How could it be?


One hundred pins stab tender flesh, holding it in place. Pain dulls with time until it can no longer be felt. The scars still remain.


Everything is finally over, and she can go home. The words still haunt her.


Life comes and goes in flashes. A face. A voice. Memories from so long ago. Birth is the first step in the journey to death, and then. Nothing.


Maybe nothing will happen today. Maybe she's safe.


Time never ends. People live, and people die, but time never ends. Time has been going for so long, but it is finally time for me to live again.


Please let her be safe.


The shackles are finally open.



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