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Max
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The Mind Flayer

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How long is forever?

Maxine would've reckoned it was the duration she must've been in this room. Was it a room? She wasn't entirely sure. The lights were off like someone had taken blackout curtains to the sun, but it wasn't dark in a way she'd ever experienced. She could make out her hands and clothing just fine. The floor was hard and dry, but like whatever was above her head to make up the ceiling, it was an impossible blackness of unknown material. Quite frankly she didn't even know how large her confinement was. The wily woman had wandered for eons it seemed without bumping into a wall. Yet despite all her traveling she never felt like she went anywhere.

Over and done was the shouting, threatening, and general tantrum throwing. She was in some phase resembling reluctant acceptance now. In perfect, agonizing silence she laid on the midnight floor on her back and stared straight into the abyss above. Her interlaced fingers rested on her sternum and her ankles laid crossed. She ran history through her mind but never did she come up with an explanation for her current circumstance.

The Rusalka had been incarcerated before. Shackles and holding cells were more familiar than any place she'd called a proper residence. Each prison or jail was unique but really they were all the same. Only this one, whatever and wherever it was, proved to be a true outlier from the rest. Iron bars, chains to walls, and firmly locked doors played the existential dread and panic that came with the deprivation of freedom. Slags Deep's Level Seven had upped the ante with the undeniable perils that actively hunted the residents it swallowed and rarely spit out. Truth be told, she was starting to long for a trade back into that memorable hell.

Confusion and frustration ate at her for a considerable amount of time. Now that she was growing exhausted of the suspense and the ignorance, it was the sinister settling of silence that weighed on her more with every passing second. Moment by moment she was suffocating. She could feel it in her unburdened chest.

"Hello," a bright, polite voice split the stillness in an instant.

Maxine jumped, hands searching for a sword that she suddenly found was missing from its sheath. Her head rocked to the direction of the voice while her forearms rose as if to protect her head. Her dark eyes focused on a tall woman with golden hair and a soft, closed mouth smile.

"I apologize," the stranger continued. "First I kept you waiting and now I've frightened you."
"You don't scare me," Max rushed to correct her as she found her feet to square to the woman. Her expression hardened as she noticed the twitch at the corners of the woman's mouth at her response.
"Of course not."
"Where am I?"
"I'm sorry?"
"Y'know what, fuck that, let me the fuck out of here." Max eyed the woman, and when the expected response didn't come immediately, she took several quick, firm steps in her direction. "Now."
"Curious," the golden-haired woman mused with a tilt to her head. "Do you think I'm holding you captive?"
"You tell me, broad, you're the one who expected me to be here and I sure as shit would like to leave." Her hands began to clench at her sides. "At this point I don't care who put me here. We can get to that. Show me out before I do something one of us won't like."
"Since I've walked in the room all you've done is challenge and make demands of me," the blonde woman observed with a purse to her lips. She gently rested her palms on the thighs of her tan skirt. "Do you find that demanding usually gets you what you want?"
"This is me asking nicely. I rarely do it more than once."
"A woman of action, then." The stranger smoothed out her skirt and took a couple slow, poignant steps closer to Max. "That's not necessarily a poor quality. It all depends on its execution, Maxine."

The golden-haired stranger smiled and then eased herself down into the smooth, flawless leather chair that seemed to manifest from oblivion to catch her. Her blue eyes fixated on the speechless Rusalka and her hands dropped to rest on either arm of her chair. The deep blue shirt she wore had a sharp collar and yet its flowing quality retained a feminineness to it. Maxine's jaw tightened but one of her feet stepped backward.

"How do you know my name?" the cursed woman growled her question lowly.
"That question's maybe a bit too complicated to answer plainly," the well-dressed stranger admitted. "You can call me Ana. It's not the consolation you were looking for, I realize, but I do hope it's a start." Ana's palms turned up on the arms of the chair. "I'm not your enemy."
"Well I'm trapped in whatever this is, you're clearly not, and you're not really one for answering my questions. Not my enemy? I'll be the judge of that."
"Your mind is your own."
"Damn right it is." The words came out maybe a little harsher, more defensive than they should've. Max straightened up. "So, what do you want from me?" The criminal dipped her hands into her pockets and turned them out to show.
"Nothing of that sort," Ana assured. "I'm just here to talk."
"Yeah? Talk about what?"
"Whatever you want."
"Bitch, I don't even know you!"
"No?"
"No! And usually when I lock someone up with no way out and start asking questions, it's not a conversation. It's a fuckin' interrogation. You think I'm stupid?"

Ana sighed and sunk a bit back further into her seat. The fingers of her left hand tapped a pensive rhythm along the leather of the chair. For a moment the two women merely existed in tense silence, Ana in thought and Maxine in arm-crossed obstinance.

"I don't think you're stupid, Maxine," Ana maturely broke the silence first. "Quite the contrary. Will you sit?"
"Fuck you."
"A 'no' would've sufficed."
"Fuck. You."
"You're angry. "
"Damn right."
"You'll never get out of here."

Suddenly Maxine had crossed the space between with a dark expression. "I don't do well with ultimatums." Her hand shot out to grasp Ana by her fragile neck to start squeezing the life from her. Her fingers never curled to add fatal pressure to arteries. She shook her head and stared at the empty air she'd caught in her hand. Wide eyes searched just beyond it but the darkness had seemed to take Ana's place in a blink.

"You want to know why I'm here and how I know who you are," Ana's voice echoed from a distance. Maxine lifted her head to find the woman several, inexplicable yards ahead of her still sitting in that untouched leather seat. Ana's brow raised and her voice raised to cross the space between, "I'm not trying to hurt you."
"Then what, Ana?" Maxine threw her hands up. "Fuck off with the run-arounds. What exactly then are you trying to do then, huh?"


"I'm here to get you out of here, Maxine."


Last edited by Max on Sat Nov 13, 2021 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total. word count: 1254
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Re: The Mind Flayer

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Maxine shook her head and laughed, "Talking?" She sauntered her way back into conversational distance. "That's how you're supposed to be helping me out of here?"
"That's right," Ana nodded.
The cursed woman bent at the waist, laughing darkly to the floor before rising up suddenly with her hands pressed to her temples, "I am so fucked." She paced back and forth for a couple minutes uninterrupted by Ana. "You got in here somehow. Why can't I just go out that way. There like a door behind a curtain or a floor board to pop?"
"I'm afraid not. It doesn't work that way."
"Holy shit...doesn't work that way...okay. Okay."
"I understand this is all probably very confusing for you."
"Uh-huh, I'll bet." She turned toward Ana and scoffed, gesturing toward where she sat in her chair. "I can see the way you're all bent up about it."


Again, Ana only left Maxine in polite silence while the woman paced and cussed about their surroundings. It was for the best. The way her head was swimming, Maxine wasn't entirely sure she wouldn't try in vain to strangle the stranger again if she said the wrong thing.

"So how does it work then? This...talking...getting out?" Max questioned.
"The door requires a key," Ana began as she brushed at her dress shirt. "I'd like to help you find it. The tricky bit is this..." Ana leaned forward a bit with an earnest expression. After a gentle pause she admitted, "I have no idea what the key is."
"What do you mean you don't know--!"
"But you know what it is, Maxine," Ana interjected before the cursed Rusalka's outburst could cut her off. "You don't know that you know it, but you do. I'm here to help you remember. We'll find it. Together."
"Where the fuck would we even start to look?"
Ana tapped at her temple as her answer.

Maxine drove her heels into her eyes. Her mind was swimming. Nothing made any sense. She was trapped in this world of oblivion with a stranger who seemed to have all and yet none of the answers. She didn't know whether she wanted to fall to her knees and beg Ana to start speaking plainly or to make every effort to just kill her.

How can I know where to find the key out of here and also not know it? What the fuck...

"Y'know this has been fun," the words fought their way out from between Max's grit teeth. "Hilarious. Obviously this new shit is kicking my ass and this is the trip of a lifetime, and I'm done playing along. So...thank you but fuck you, Ana." With that she laid back down as she had before, hands folded on her sternum and ankles crossed. This time she closed her eyes.
"Pardon?" Ana asked incredulously.
"I'm done. I'm riding the trip out."
"Does this feel like a drug-induced hallucination do you?"
"Ana, I don't give a fuck. Sit there and talk or shut up. Don't matter to me. You're not real."
"Wow."
"You're telling me. I really do have a nose for the good shit."
"You're familiar with the concept of denial?"
"I'm familiar with being off my fucking face. Bye, Ana."
"How many people did you kill last time you were off your face?"

Maxine's eyes flashed open and her lip curled. In an instant she her rolled toward her chest and gotten her feet underneath her. The moment her gaze locked on Ana's stunningly calm demeanor she'd lunged off the floor toward her. Ana drew her hands into her lap as Maxine slammed her own palms on either side of the chair. The cursed Rusalka's face rested mere millimeters from the blonde's. Ana didn't flinch. Her sky-blue eyes stared right back into the raging storm of Maxine's with nothing but professional coolness.

"It's not just quantity but quality isn't it though?" Ana dangerously pressed on. "Is it the death toll itself that put you in my face or specific casualties?"
Maxine's eyes were wild. "Shut. The fuck. Up." Her fingers curled into the leather chair, denting deep into the material. "What do you think'll stop me from adding you to the pile?"
"Ability, for one."

Scarred knuckles smashed toward the head of the chair with every ounce of weight and emotion Maxine could muster. Her body slammed onto the floor with a merciless thud. She lifted her head to find Ana sitting, unharmed, in her pompous little seat well out of reach. The cursed Rusalka smashed her fists into the floor and up she was again. She rushed the chair again, this time shooting her foot forward to topple it and Ana with it. The same failure repeated. In the blink of an eye her target was gone at the time of impact, well out of range.

Impossible.

"Let me summarize what you're beginning to learn," Ana started. "Your blessings and your curses are gone here. Your weapons are gone. You can attempt to assault me until you're too tired to stand if you want, but it won't yield the results you're after. You're powerless here." Ana clapped her hands together and slowly shook her head. There was something in her eyes Maxine couldn't quite name. Was it sorrow? Vexed sympathy? Ana gestured toward the enflamed woman in her midst. "So you have two choices. One: you can remain trapped here with no stimulus and remain powerless. Two: you can do the work and get out. It's up to you."

Maxine stared at her with her hands balled into fists so tight at her sides it was a wonder her hands didn't bleed. Her chest heaved some but it was with anything but exhaustion. The energy surging in her veins was familiar, and the boil of emotion intoxicating her thoughts felt dangerous.

"That's enough for today," Ana exclaimed suddenly. She rose gingerly from her seat, which promptly disappeared as soon as contact with her was lost. "Do the work, Maxine. For your own sake." The golden-haired woman turned from the criminal and retreated. As the sound of her feet echoed out she faded into a silhouette and then into nothing at all.

Everything was back to anxious darkness. No sound seemed to exist. Max was back to being absolutely and completely alone.

And that aloneness was deafening.


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Re: The Mind Flayer

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Have you ever felt boredom? Not just being bored, but that bored when you've truly exhausted every conceivable activity to keep yourself entertained. Yes, now you know the one. That soul-sucking boredom that numbs past restlessness into vexation at your own existence.

Fucking kill me.

Even the dark humor game of "How Many Ways Could I Kill Myself in This Room" failed her. At this point she wasn't even convinced she could smash her brains open on the floor with genuine effort after her attempts to punish Ana. The room was barren. Only her own breaths broke the silence of it. There was nothing to toy with or even break. Worse, her mind was starting to wander from its pen into places she'd rather it didn't. That's where she was at: a place where torturing herself mentally was preferable to the purely sedentary life she'd been resigned to.

"Given up the 'bad trip' theory yet?" Ana's words rang out.
"It's dying a slow death," Maxine groaned. Maybe the suicide-inducing quiet was better than another round with this enigma. She looked up at Ana's slender frame from where she sat, knees drawn into her chest. "For someone claiming there's no way out but my key, you sure as shit dipped pretty quick and easy."
"I'm not so beholden."
"Obviously."
"You haven't tried to hurt me yet," Ana observed with a soft smile. "Does that mean you're ready to do the work?"
"At this point, Ana, I'd dig my own eyes out with my fingers if I stay much longer. What do you want to talk about?"
Ana crossed her arms and answered, "You of course."
"Oh, of course..."

Maxine found her feet and tugged her clothes back into their rightful place on her body. While her outfit never seemed to change, Ana had returned in a whole new ensemble. It was a pair of neatly pressed black pants and a white top today. It was the only suggestion to Max that time was somehow, somewhere, still passing her by.

"So, what?" Maxine mocked. "You wanna know my favorite color? Favorite drug? Best fuck?"
"If that would help you feel more comfortable to start with," Ana gave her unflappable answer.
"Right," the cursed Rusalka scoffed.
Ana adjusted a golden bracelet on her wrist and shrugged, "Okay, how about I start."
"Be my fuckin' guest."
"When I first got here your hand searched for something on your person," Ana pointed out toward Maxine's hip. "There, on your right side. What was it?"

Maxine's brow furrowed and her right hand dipped to feel the area for herself, finding the empty sword sheath. She patted the item on her weapon belt and shrugged, "Sword, I guess."
"When did you get your first? One that you used?"
"Fuck, I don't know. Ages ago now I reckon."
"Tell me about it."
"The first sword that was mine that I used on someone?"
"Sure."
"You sure you wanna hear that one?"

Maxine watched Ana closely where she stood. There was something off about the way the woman slowly nodded in confirmation. It wasn't the gesture. It was something in the woman's eyes again. A knowing of some sort. Like she knew what story she was asking about. The cursed Rusalka adjusted her jaw but relented.

"I was on a ship," she started slowly. "Working. It was a long time ago. I was on a crew. Captain was kind of a dick. The work was fine, it was just new to me is all. The rest of the crew had been on ships before. They knew the jobs and they were quick. The captain noticed. We didn't get on." The Rusalka shrugged. "Didn't matter. Somehow the ship went down. A fire. I found a piece of driftwood from the wreckage with...a friend. Ned. We drifted along for a while. He didn't make it. Kept the sword to remember him by."
"Tell me about Ned. Who was he?"
"Just a friend. The people I was living with for a while, they were kind and all. I just wasn't cut out for how they did things. I think everyone knew it by the end. Ned was another boy who grew up in the same spot. He wasn't such a cunt about me being foreign. We got on is all. He helped me get the job on the crew."
"On that ship that went down?"
"Yeah."
"He was good to you, Ned was? You two were close?"
"Mhm."
"Right up until the end even?"
"Mhm."
"What happened to him?"
"What?" Max's brow furrowed. "I told you what happened. He didn't make it."
"Max," Ana said her name softly. "What happened to Ned?"

Maxine stared at Ana and crossed her arms. Despite the hardness of her eyes the golden-haired woman didn't shy her own away. The cursed woman reached down toward that sheath again. Another pat.

Still empty.

"He knew what I did," she finally murmured. "I got in trouble...earlier that trial. A scuffle. Captain wasn't too pleased. He said some things, I said some things, and before I knew it I was below deck. I was angry. I was trashing the place and I spilled something. It blew the ship apart and Ned knew it was my fault." Max shook her fingers through her raven hair. "After a while of drifting it looked like we might finally make it. I knew what his people would do if they found out what I did. I couldn't risk it."

This time when Maxine's fingers danced toward the sheath they bumped against the hilt of the familiar gladius. Her brow furrowed. Gradually her fingers wrapped around the handle and she found herself pulling Ned's gladius free from its resting place. She held it out for herself to view, noting the nicks and imperfections she'd awarded it over the years along its edge. The cursed Rusalka pressed her lips together.

"It was still on his hip," Max admitted tightly. "He didn't know what I was doing until I buried it in his guts. I could still see him thinking about the ship we hoped was coming to rescue us when I did it." She found her wrist mimicking the movement in made so long ago in slow motion. Her eyes glazed ahead, staring into a face consumed with the surprise of betrayal and fear of death. "I couldn't risk it."
"A fresh start," Ana suggested softly.
"Yeah," Maxine murmured as she slid the gladius back into its rightful place in its sheath. The back of her hand came to rub her nose briefly. "Yeah. Something like that."
"He was your first?"
"But not the last."
"Was he different?"
"Yeah. Yeah, he was different." The trapped woman didn't know why she was looking up toward the black ceiling now. There was nothing up there. "Should've made it easy after that. To kill a bunch of cunts after you've already gutted a good man."
"Did it get easier? After him?"
"Nothing got easier after him."


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Re: The Mind Flayer

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Max remained lost on her feet for a few breaths. The sword felt heavy in her hands, but it wasn't upon its shine that her eyes rested. Her gaze was locked somewhere far from this bizarre space she was confined to with the stranger named Ana. Ages away. If it wasn't for the soft sound of spatter dripping to the floor, there was no telling when Maxine would've returned to the present.

Dark eyes ventured back to the length of Ned's sword. A once clean but damaged work of metal was coated in slick crimson now. It ran smoothly with gravity until it gathered near the tip, only for each drip to resign itself for a final fall to the obsidian floor. The sound of the tiny impact was deafening. She had seen the sword muddied with the life of others, but this wasn't the same. Somehow it felt as though she recognized this blood. It was that of its original owner, drizzling at the feet of his killer.

"You killed more than the man," Ana pointed out carefully.
"Because he was my friend?" Max asked, forcing her attention back to the woman she nearly forgot was there.
"No." Ana shook her head. "You killed the life you had when you killed him. Your place with those people, wherever you called home. It died with him."
"I guess." The blood on the end of the sword kept dripping. "I knew I had to go down with that ship. I knew I couldn't go back. Not again."
"Not even now? After all this time?"
"Never."

Max turned her attention back to the bloodied floor only to find no blood at all. The spatter had diluted slowly from that deep burgundy to a clearer blue. The blood left on the sword dried, but the water saturating about her feet only spread and grew in volume. The ex-convict's eyes glanced about, searching for a leak in the blank-slated room but finding nothing. In the distance, but surely only within her mind, she heard the crackle of thunder.

Ana looked up in time to watch the start of rainfall precipitate on their heads. Although it seemed as real as anything, Maxine's didn't feel her hair dampen. In the context of their conversation, she knew what it was trying to herald. It was a memory she'd never forget.

"Chrien."
"Yes."
"This was the trial you received your blessing." Ana rose from her seat and calmly walked through the ankle-deep floor of salt water. "This is how you turned your face toward the Immortals."
"I had nothing," Max confirmed with a nod. "I had no power. I was dead on my feet. The only closeness I felt, I lost a world and a sea away. A sister, a father, all gone. She found me when I needed her in the middle of the ocean. Not because I was special or deserving. I look back now and I know exactly how she was so drawn to me, why she bothered."
"Why?"
"Inside, we feel the same."

Ana smiled sympathetically. A couple more calculated steps brought her side-by side with the Rusalka. One of her hands reached out, index finger pointing into the swirl of sea water lapping at their legs. Max followed her gesture and found a small hole in the tiny flood. Water cascaded subtly through the opening. It was little more than a slit in whatever reality they existed in, but it seemed to beckon her anyways.

"Time and greater sorrows took some of the sting out," Ana remarked, nodding to their surroundings altered through storytelling. "Even this one. One you've told no one before." Maxine swallowed and adjusted her grip on the sheath of Ned's sword. Ana brushed a blonde lock behind her ear and exhaled a steadying breath. "This is as easy as it will be, Maxine. This will be painful and hard, maybe harder than anything you've ever done...but if you can trust me, even a little bit? I'll help you find that key."

The ex-convict looked to Ana, this mysterious woman who showed up in oblivion in a manner that made her as much a suspect as an asset, and searched the honest yet guarded eyes staring back. The Rusalka adjusted her jaw.

"I'm cursed, Ana." Max turned the point of Ned's sword down. "I've killed everything I've ever known." Her second hand came to aid the first, grasping the gladius tightly where it hovered over the yawn in the floor. "I don't know what easy feels like...but I do know pain. Let it come."

With that she plunged Ned's sword into the opening, plugging the small waterfall of sea water when it fit snugly like a stuffed lock. The gladius settled in place at the hilt against the ground. Ana gave Max an encouraging nod, and the cursed Rusalka gave the sword a twist. Something deep below their feet, far below the water and the obsidian floor underneath groaned. Then, the world caved in all together.


Continued Here (The Mind Flayer II.)


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