A 'play date' Cody had called it. The words 'new experience,' 'make friends' and 'get out more' were all present in her friend's speech. But Ira knew exactly what this really was about, she knew damn well what those horrible researchers and security personnel wanted. There was a 'smell' coming from inside her room that the Foundation personnel couldn't identify(it was a dead rat, she hid it in the floor panels). They wanted to force Ira out to find the source and clean her containment unit, but Ira liked the smell!
But Ira didn't get much say in the matter, or rather, refusing to leave and fighting the research personnel would've made Cody sad. She didn't want to make him sad. But the fact that they manipulated Cody into getting her out of her room still made her blood boil. She knew he would approve of her desires, he wanted what was best for her. What was best for her was what she wanted, and she wanted the smell of that dead rat. As she was stepping into the new containment unit, her heart-rate monitor steadily beating, she was formulating plans to attract another rat- kill it- then hide the new corpse even better.
Her mind stopped for a second as she entered, the heart-rate monitor quietly beeping beneath her long-sleeved, white cotton shirt, matching well with the white snow that covered the ground. It was cold in here, that was new. not unfamiliar, her waking world was cold too, so very, deathly cold. It was a familiar feeling, and she liked it, but this insufferable form was not built for it. Sitting down against a tree, she increased her heart rate to a more manageable 105 beats per minute, far above the 40 beats per minute rate that would send her into unconsciousness and send the security teams into a panic. The raised heart rate should've been cause for alarm, but no one was measuring her for staying more awake.
Squatting against a tree, she crossed her arms and made herself comfortable. Cody had told her who she could meet in here and what they could do- but she forgot. Perhaps she could've at least tried to remember, but she didn't care enough. If something was inside this little forest room that the Foundation novelly kept, then it could show itself to her. A Goddess did not lower herself to call out or beg a lower life form's approval- or so Ira told herself. So, in lieu of being a good and hospitable guest, Ira began quietly plotting on how to get her hands on another rat.
No - no she was not. Charity had seen her share of humans in this place, had even seen her share of things that weren't-quite-human, or human adjacent, or even only vaguely human acting, but none of it compared to this. Its head was screaming. Red and violent, spread across a scope that she couldn't even see the end of, far beyond the bounds of this room. As Charity approached, the forest began to shift to match that terrible mind - trees shedded their leaves, twisting into flesh-like tendrils, and the tranquil white sky blotted with stains from the blood of clouds. The ground underneath was damp, the smell in the air, thick and sweet. Humans wrote their memories in meat, so they were often vague and ill-defined.
This thing wrote its memories in meat, as well, but the meat was the memory, thicker and hotter than her meager stones.
Peeking out from behind one of the fleshy protrusions, the girl from the forest watched the girl from outside it, cautiously keeping her distance until she'd decided it was, after all, safe. For the moment. Only then did she creep forward, ready to bolt back out of the forest and the crack and the tunnel beyond at a moment's notice.
"You shouldn't be here," Charity murmured, rubbing at her arm and tilting her head as she lighted on top of a tendril nearby. "Did they tell you to come here? Did they want to see what I'd do? I knew they liked their tests, but this is horrible. You shouldn't be here. I don't want you here."
The world changes around Ira and, for a moment, she startled. She was positive she had not fallen asleep! She had increased her heart rate, not decreased it! Yet, as she felt the soft and squishy ground beneath her fingers, the sensation confirmed to her that she was still awake. Standing up, she slowly walked over toward a tree as it curved and twisted into a monstrous tendril of flesh.
She placed her hands upon it and felt it gently breathing. It breathed... How could anyone know her 'trees' breathed like this? She cursed her body's limitations as she wanted nothing more than to tear this tendril apart and examine the formation of its capillaries. Did they bear her handiwork? Were there runes carved on the bones? Which tendril was this one specifically? She made them all so unique, they were all precious to her. A quiet voice broke the anomaly's focus for a moment as a dark shape seemed to speak to her. A dark shape? Not her children, no, they would not dare to open their mouths in her presence without her explicit permission. This must be the entity that Cody had told her about, the one she had forgotten.
It spoke softly, timidly, as though Ira might jump at her at a moment's notice and destroy her. This was reverential. The Goddess enjoyed this. It spoke the correct tone. But its words were wrong, it spoke of tests, it spoke of wants, and the Goddess would deign to correct these thoughts. Placing her hands on her hips in an oh-so-self-righteous manner, the Goddess spoke, "Tests- tests?! Incorrect! Wrong! Speak not this! I perform no tests! Abhorrent methodology and flawed mindsets all. Cody asked -me- come to -you-" The emphasis she placed on those words again, a special distinction made to define herself as not human, not the same as whom she was speaking to, "He asked, nicely. So, I go. Here is-"
Ira stopped for a minute, looking all around at the imitation of her waking world. It was quiet, but she suspected that was only because if her children were called into being then horrible, horrible things might happen. Something or someone was making a beautifully rendered painting of her favorite places to be, of her home. Ira wasn't a researcher so she didn't immediately assume the dark shape constructed this. But whatever all this was, she did appreciate it. "Here is nice. I am, grateful. Resembles home, my handiwork, my effort... I desire temporary guest rights, I demand them."
Perhaps this was not the way to go about speaking to the dark shape, but Ira was not one to follow advice or protocols. She sat delicately against the tendril and turned her hands out, palms up, as if expecting something. She expected a delicate and ornate tea set of bones to appear in front of her, poured with the dark liquid of her waking world. The drinks were known as 'Red of the Sphere' and were considered a delicacy due to the difficulty in acquiring the ingredients. It was a common gift to the Goddess, but she appreciated it nonetheless as it suited her. It did not even occur to Ira that such items would not appear before her, as her mind had gently slipped toward how she might act in her waking world. The world where her every whim was met almost instantly.
"Cody told you to come here? He brought you here?" Charity replied, incredulous, furious. Hair whipping around her in a frenzied wind that didn't exist, she took another cautious step towards the thing. She - It seemed comfortable here. Of course it did - this place had modeled itself after the twisted scape in its mind, that terribly vivid place of noise and heat. As it held out its hand, for a moment, a ivory bone cup flickered, red liquid sloshing inside -
Then Charity sent it away, tried to send it all away, tried to make it go. The forest flickered underneath the flesh. Snow and ice spread, then melted, then spread again. But it wouldn't leave. This wasn't her place, like those in the foundation thought - it was just a place between, its being influenced by the strongest impression within it. And -
She wasn't the strongest here, now.
"I thought he was my friend." Charity folded her arms, retreating back away from the thing. "He's horrible. This is - worse than the questions."
She narrowed her eyes.
"If you try to eat me, I'll - I'll hurt you. I know cold, I know silence. I'll freeze your blood. I'll smother your lungs."
The bones resisted her desires temporarily, the world shifted and changed, but it did not survive resisting the will of the Goddess for long. Grasping the ornate bone handle, Ira took a sip of the thick liquid whilst the shadow spoke. She disparaged Cody, but Ira didn't seem to care, she was too enthralled in the taste of the liquid.
It tasted sharp and bitter, a swift kick to the senses that caused an impulsive desire to spit it back out. It even hurt going down the throat. But the aftertaste filled the senses with joy and the feeling of ancient remembrance, a liquid that tasted like emotions long forgotten now rising again. It tasted like the sight of an old photograph of loved ones still yet living, but different. This was the liquid of her world, the liquid she made specifically to remind her dually of the pain of her separation in form, and the joy of reuniting once more. She smiled gently, then looked to the shadow as its hair billowed in unfelt winds.
"Not eat you, not eat anyone. Seek inner peace amongst my presence. In your steps, calm."
On a normal day, encountering a normal being, such threats might've elicited an entirely different response out of the petulant child Goddess, but not today. Today a gift had been given to her, and everything suddenly started making sense to Ira. Cody must've known this would happen, known that this thing could give her that bittersweet taste of home she so desired. Of course, he knew; her friend knew her so well. Patting the warm flesh beneath her, the echoes of the Sphere that was not here but hated her all the same, Ira motioned for the being to come and sit.
"-You- have relinquished unto -Me- gifts. Perhaps, unintentional, but gifts are gifts. Today, only today, -you- may know this shard. Speak my name, Ira."
And there was kindness in Ira's eyes, kindness unlike she felt in a very long time.[/font]
It was lying. It was a liar. It had to be. Nothing so vast could speak so small. Creatures like it - like them, for whatever it was was closer to her than the mortals of this place - did not deal in simplicity. They had many reasons for many things, and their attentions were seldom simply present without the threat of something more.
Even without trying, by simply existing, they exerted themselves upon the worlds around them.
But - one thing was right. It wasn't hungry. At least. Wasn't hungry here. Charity watched as it drank from the cup, being itself over her non-being, and then she approached. Timidly. Carefully. She didn't sit beside it, out of fear, but she hovered in the air nearby it, little shadow lighting on an invisible perch as she settled in a cross-legged seat.
It said the name it had. That was a good sign, at least. Giving your name first was a show of trust. Though - she wasn't about to invoke it. She knew enough not to do that. Instead, she introduced herself in turn.
Her hands toyed with her hair, twisting the tendril nervously.
Ira watched the shadow, Charity, twist and curl and sit in the air. There was a small voice that spoke to the little Goddess, a still, quiet voice that whispered from the depths of her bones. It spoke in heaves, panting and growling. For a moment, Ira looked far off, listening to those tiny inner words whispering dark truths to her.
Then, refocusing on Charity, she seemed a little more solemn. She did not answer immediately, instead looking at the ornate bone tray that rested on the ground. There were little fruits stacked on a little plate, they had always been there of course. A tray would not be presented to the Goddess of Red of the Sphere without the fruits of her labors. Reaching down, she picked one up, it squirmed and writhed in her hand. It felt so real, so alive, and Ira pondered at it. Was it real? Was it alive?
Popping it into her mouth, she smiled. It tasted alive, it tasted real. She could feel its suffering in death, and that was the taste of the fruit of her labors. Smiling, she looked to Charity and responded. A pleasant mood had taken her, and she would not question it. [font color="8682eb"]"here, Here-? I am here, Cody asked me. I am, -Here-, I asked me. You observe, reflected here, this my home. A mirror so carefully displayed, exquisite. But- not reality. Outside is, not here. Outside is not home. Here is not home. But, Here is protection, safe, insurance...[/font]
A quizzical look took her face and Ira asked, "Why, you Here?"
She was beginning to understand that she wasn't in immediate danger. No - the immensity of that thing, of that malice, wasn't entirely present, in a somewhat similar way to herself. It seemed there were more holes in this world, and other things had leaked inside. Still, she maintained an air of caution, always keeping an eye on the thing-called-Ira, always ready to bolt at a moment's notice, a rabbit- of sorts - in the presence of a hawk - of kinds.
"You can be here," she admitted. "Here is you as much as here is me. Nothing is here, so it is whats in it."
She gave her hair a particularly hard tug. As much as the thing-called-Ira could be here, it was obvious Charity wasn't entirely on board with accepting that herself, yet.
"I'm here because - I'm lonely. Were you lonely, too?"
Ira was quiet for a long time after Charity asked her question. A battle raged inside the little girl, one where a small, angry inner voice demanded she not show weakness. It demanded she use her strength, her control over this new arena, to annihilate and consume. But the voice was nothing more than that, just a voice, and Ira was the one who ruled here. Sipping the last of her dark drink, she spoke.
"Yes. I was, I am, terribly alone. I wish not that. I-"
Standing, she looked at the dark shape of a woman and faced her with a solemn and determined expression. Stamping her foot, she demanded, "Show you! This I decree, demonstrations-!" At once, the fleshy ground beneath their feet shifted and changed. It cried out, actually screeched, with pain and suffering. The intense feelings of agony were reflected back from the below to the above, forcing themselves onto all not cut off from emotions. For this was the way of Ira's world, emotions felt by one were felt by others, and words were simply unnecessary.
And the ground below was pain, suffering, and HATRED. In its hate, Ira carved a map of stars. Little spurs of bones represented planets, lines of blood vessels formed connections between them, and bulbous flesh helped fill in the gaps where more visuals were necessary. A web of interconnected flesh and bone half looking like a web, half like a star map, finished forming beneath their feet. Pointing to one specially crafted and rune-marked bone, she spoke as if everything she had just done was as natural as pulling out a piece of paper and crafting a rudimentary drawing.
"This- my world. Center and interconnected. Everything I created. Everything alive. Nothing dead, except he whom I killed. All to fill, all to show. Look left, right, all about. Everywhere, I created life. Nothing dead, no, nothing. Yet, still, lonely. You understand?"
Charity watched as Ira warped the ground beneath them. As it let out a scream, she flinched, drawing back, almost fading into nothing save for the glow of her eyes. Once she realized it wasn't a danger, though, she relaxed again, simply staring as the tiny tyrant carved out the boundaries of her domain.
"You didn't make it, though."
She looked up, frowning.
"You just filled it. That's not making. That's like - saying I made this."
She gestured loosely at the world around them, currently covered in imagined meat.
"You filled it - to not be lonely?" Charity met Ira's eyes. "Empty places are still empty if they're only full of you."
Ira made an entirely un-Goddess-like sound as Charity finished, a sort of snorting 'UHG' before throwing up her hands. Walking away for a moment, pacing back and forth, then walking around, Ira declared matter-of-factly, "You understand nothing!" Then, once more, she turned and walked away. She ranted to herself in noises that certainly sounded like words, but definitively were not words. They were the sounds that words made when spoken but formed in a way with her tongue in that they carried no meaning at all.
Suddenly, she clicked on her heel and turned back to Charity. Like an older sibling scolding their younger brother for not understanding basic rules, Ira said, "Listen! I do not 'fill.' I create. What I make- permanent. Exists forever, with me, without me. Doesn't matter! I crafted pillars- the stones! Reality! AHG! Impossible to describe- You see it, then, then you know. But must see and-you-have-not-seen!" Once more, she threw up her hands. It was frustration, at Charity, at herself, at everything. Then, with the emotions fading, Ira spoke very quietly.
"Yes, though. Right, with one thing. Only one! Only one... I made things, not me. Decidedly not me. But, still, lonely. They were, they are, everyone is, unworthy. I am above, greater than all else. No one is worthy, you- you cannot understand." Then, walking toward the door, she added, "Go home, maybe, should- no, not home, not home. Containment. My box. Not home..."
It's what Charity wanted to say. Perhaps should have said. There was no use in antagonizing Ira any more than she already had, though - and despite the reassurances to the contrary, she was still not entirely sure if the thing was going to eat her.
As Ira left, the world behind her shifted, reasserting itself as the snowy forest. Charity settled behind a tree, watching, waiting, and only when Ira left through the door did she finally drift away into the wind.