Exhaustion and Madness IC



Original poster
((Each italicized quote is the beginning of a new scene.))

Alisa and Natalie
"God is cruel. Sometimes he makes you live."
-Stephen King

The Mad City is a place of horror, but also of balance. It is the direct opposite of the Sleeping City, a place forever awake. It is filled with all the little pieces of life forgotten or found unremarkable. The land wasn't able to be mapped or measured, time flowed oddly and without quantity. It made finding places that arrived upon the hour rather difficult, but that's how it was. In the Bizarre Bazaar, there was no fear of being captured. One could still be hurt or lured, but the rough patchwork of alliances and enemies was bridged. It was the only marketplace amongst all the Mad City, the last place that was safe.

It appeared to be a collage of times and places. Street vendors mixed among high rises, tinkerers calling out from their blankets and carts of goods rolling through the streets. From all eras the Bizarre Bazaar originated to sell some of the most varied and unheard-of items. Perhaps all of its charm came from the way pedlar's stood besides corporate businessmen. The whole atmosphere was perfectly wrapped up in its name.

This was where the Awake was supposed to be coming. Yet with all the possible doors or windows they could be arriving through it would be a little hard to find a person. The massive marketplace was stuffed full of Nightmares and Citizens, and trying to push her way through was a child. Her light blue frock was splattered in mud, feet and ankles absolutely coated. The thick mud that was caking her legs had earlier taken her shoes, and now the young lady ran about barefoot. Running about she was, going as fast as her feet could carry her in this crowded, strange place that didn't seem so strange any more. No, indeed, she was ducking and checking, searching for someone.

The Stray Cats were helping, moving across the rooftops and trying to spy anyone out of the ordinary. It was a little hard to do, though, considering there was no idea what the new Awake was or even gender. As it happened, though, they found her. Alisa raced to the lady, quite afraid what could happen if another Nightmare found a new Awake just wandering about the Bizarre Bazaar. So the young girl followed the Stray Cats' calls, ending before the woman. A lovely woman, who brought to image housewives and expensive dresses. But she was here, in the Mad City, and all homely images no longer applied.

"Hi! Welcome to the Mad City!" she greeted this Awake breathlessly. "I'm Alisa, and what's your name?" The little errand-runner held out her hand, giving as good a smile she could.

The devil's voice is sweet to hear.
Stephen King

A debt. The debt that has been waiting to be collected, that was meant to be paid yesterday. It is a terrible thing to owe money, even more so when the money you were meant to give up was due yesterday. The situation only became worse as the collectors haven't come yet and the storm was growing. Every moment it didn't crest just meant it was getting bigger and bigger and was going to spill over like a tsunami. For Mathew Chase, the tsunami would more than likely end up being full of blood and broken bones; sticks and stones, so to say.

There was a very polite knock on Mr. Chase's door. A simple, light tap in a one-two-three pattern. Then, door bulged from its frame, small slivers of wood splintering while it bowed. The thing on the other side banged into it again, breaking it down to reveal a pair of men. They had white, wrinkled skin and the outfits of a Colonial militia. Muskets with bayonets rested over their shoulders and swords were fashioned to their belts. The two seemed ancient, moving slowly as they stepped over the door and into Mathew's house. Their sunken eyes stared at the room before them, and could at the very first instant be mistaken for very corporeal and out of place ghosts from the good old times of America.

Ghosts, however, did not break down doors. They did not go hunting for a certain man by the name of Mathew Chase and try to bring him back to their commander. No, these were Minutemen. A whole world worse than ghosts.

"Hope requires the contender
Who sees no virtue in surrender."
-Dean Koontz

Errands to run, things to be done. Away form her father and the safety of family there were darker things at lurking. A weak young woman, Awake to the Mad City yet not quite thrown into its dark tantrums yet. It was like an unopened treasure chest found within a sunken ship. Greedy treasure hunters kept their eyes upon her, stalking her. Well, truly just one. A figure that looked human, but the androgyny was truly astounding, with the build like a male's yet the gentle curve of hips and the slight bow of lips that made one think otherwise. It wore a dusty, dirty jacket that buttoned across the breast like a military uniform. Dark stains splattered across its clothes, looking like blood but perhaps was just an awkward... ketchup stain or something more easily explainable.

Tonight something was a bit different. The figure wasn't following from a distance. He was but feet from Felicity while she went upon her errand. The poor student's follower was only getting closer as well, until the sound of its footsteps were right behind her. A hand reached out, to catch Felicity's shoulder. "Pardon me," the enigma grunted, the voice just as gender-less as the appearance, "I think I can help you." Those fingers went to her neck, to touch skin, slowly rising to paralyze Felicity. The Misogynist was on the hunt, and had his treasure right before it.

"Those who fear the coming of all Hells
are those who should be feared themselves."
-Dean Koontz

The robbing of a bank was the thing a sinner did. It was a rash, greedy thing. A valiant and brave soul stood up to him, a hero of a man who went up against fear and the unknown. That terrible soul, foiled and sleepless, was allowed to get away with no repercussions but his own conscience.

Yet the brink of madness lay close at hand. Doorways, lined with red light and manholes with slow, coiling smoke and the smell of wax raising from it came more and more common. Windows that looked out upon bizarre sceneries and filled with strange anachronisms crossed into Arden's life far more frequently. The Mad City was trying to force itself into his life, filling up all the empty spaces on his walls and throwing itself before his feet.

It was his choice. It was always his choice. It was Arden Hall's choice to rob a store, his choice to refuse sleep. Now, he had the choice to escape.

"To know the darkness is to love the light,
to welcome dawn and fear the coming and night."
-Dean Koontz

There were shadows that clung to that room. They seemed to breathe and hang, clouding about the corners. Body parts were in a mass, blood spraying the walls and dripping particularly thickly from the ceiling. Amongst the chunks of flesh that had not been rent were insects. Foul things that all had a uniformly charcoal shade, maggots and centipedes all working their way through he flesh. Crickets that hopped from the splattered blood and clung to the wall as flies buzzed in a thick, cloudy volume around the walls. They were feasting upon the body, and if some sick person were to look close enough, noticed the black crawling shapes had worked from outward in.

The creepy crawlies had, apparently, made Guy burst into a spray of blood and body parts. Now a deepening darkness coated the room, making the lights grow dimmer. They were amassing to take a shape though it was impossible to tell what figure would emerge. It was an eerie sight, as the bugs slowly began to roll and crawl their way towards its. Bloated and sated from their feast, they lazed into the shadows to disappear. Each maggot and spider that vanished within the inkiness gave it more depth, more solidification.

"Get busy living or get busy dying."
-Stephen King

What could bring a life back from death? What was worth a human life, a thing of miracles and emotions? It was only a monster that could kill and run; it took a cold-hearted fiend to walk away from someone freshly dead. There are the horrid beasts who roar and lurk within the shadows, those who revel in blood and pain and are typically found and locked away in cages. There are also the things of silence, slowly hiding and creeping, revealing their face only in the most dire of situations.

Elliot Ward was one of the latter.

He was left within his own misery. Creeping up into that misery, slowly invading his house, were figures that darted just out of the corner of his eye at first. A blur of movement, vanishing before he could find them. But then they became more brazen, taking things directly. Moving keys or remotes, misplacing items that were always left within a certain spot. They enjoyed the horrors of Elliot's mind, the slow descent into insomnia and the guilt that would plague him from two weeks prior.

The Grimlins finally revealed themselves that night. They were feasting upon objects found in the kitchen. Not food, necessarily, but the garbage and other general, random items not meant for consumption. Apparently, the grotesque beasts had a hunger they could not satisfy even with scars. Their bodies were tiny and withered, like those of starved children, with bulbous heads and hands. It made watching them crawl and hop around rather amusing if it weren't for the fact that they were so horribly terrifying with rows of shark-like teeth and torn scraps of clothes that appear to have been scavenged from the worst of junk sites. Their bodies were the same color as old, bruised fruit, and they had a smell of rot about them as well. There were five of them in all, making a ruckus in Elliot's kitchen.

I barely have time to twist my head to look away from what remains of Guy before I'm on my knees, emptying the contents of my stomach onto the floor. My heart's beating so fast it feels like it might explode and the panic's already setting in, but right now I can't do anything but balk in horror of what's happened to my friend.

They've finally caught up to me... but it was Guy who paid the price for what I did.

Now a horrifying sense of guilt accompanies the terror; this is my fault, what has happened to Guy. My former employers must have found where I was hiding and decided to pay a visit, maybe hoping to get their product back. I never thought them capable of something as... horrific as this, but I knew who I was fucking over when I did what I did.

And now Guy lies in pieces across the the fucking room, all manner of bugs feeding upon what's left of him. I glance up again and double-back with a cry of "WHAT THE FUCK?!" when I suddenly realise what the insects are doing.

They're massing, forming together, taking the shape of... something.

Cursing I grab my bag and begin to inch towards my room. The rest of my supplies, and the money, are in there, as well as the window I can escape out of. Sticking around here seems like the worst fucking idea ever; I've got the get moving.

Sleep can wait.
Tonight, it was a little darker than usual. The only light that was forming was the light from the street lamps. It was a little colder than the night before. Things seemed a little quieter. No one was about. But Felicity had to finish these errands, so at least she wouldn't get the dead end of the stick again when she got home. She walked through the allies of Mad City. A place you never walk alone. She could remember the terror she had that night. It was almost as if it were real, and happening right now. It seemed to be like it was, when things didn't go right.

The wind shifted just a little but enough for her to notice. It was definitely becoming colder at nights then in the earlier days. The men she passed she could feel the eyes upon her staring her down like she never belonged. When something caught her shoulder. She jumped at the words; "Pardon me, I think I can help you." She shivered a bit at the sound that came from behind her. The voice seeped into her veins almost into her core of her stomach. She wasn't exactly sure what was going to happen. The fingers moved up along her neck, they were cold, and then she could feel nothing...

Sleep was definitely an issue.
"Oh god oh god oh god oh god" They were going to come fore me. Hours to live if I was lucky. I spend my days and night waiting for the fatal knock on the door, if they're even that courteous.

When the knocking started I stood. This was it, they where here for my money or my blood, and I was all out of money. I looked for somewhere to bolt to, or at least something I could beat them back with to make a run for it but it seemed they didn't want to wait for me to open the door.

No wait, somethings off... somethings definitely off... who the hell are these guys. They step slowly into the room and a thought drifts though my sleep deprived brain. Its its a joke.... people dressing up like old soldiers. Gotta be right?

Hey Matt, there 'aint no camera this aint no joke.

"H-h-hey." I manage to stammer. Nowhere to run boy. I have to try.

"Who are you guys.... Look I'll come up with and money I just need time.." I'm circling trying to get to the door but with two of then its impossible... Fuck I was hoping not to have to use the window.

Perhaps it was because I hadn't slept in god knows how long but going out that window actually seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn't even bother to open it. You know like in the movies, hero jumps though and lands on his feet stead enough to aim and fire a gun. Its not that easy and with two guys int he room closing on me I wasn't even sure I'd make it out of the window.
Arden Hall

[DASH=Navy]That is what my drivers license says, but lately I haven't felt like myself. I feel like I'm buried beneath a mountain of worry and stress without a hope in hell of ever getting out. As the saying goes, the light at the end of my tunnel is in fact a freight train, but this train isn't made of metal. It's made of something inhuman, something twisted and frightening. I can feel something coming for me, every step I take is like a stroll through egg shell park; Every step cautious, every breath baited. Although these feelings have been building up for weeks, it didn't get really bad until after the robbery. Since then I have been on the run, searching for something, the whole time knowing that something was also searching for me.

My hands shake like windmills, uncontrollably, like they have a mind of their own. I sit crouched behind a dumpster, trying my hardest to ignore the smoke and smell of burning wax that keeps rising from a near by manhole cover. It must be past 2am, gotta be. I am surrounded by total dark, save for the distant flickering of a street lamp. I rub my eye's with the backs of my hands, and for a moment I see my dead son's face. I hear the sound of breaking glass and horrible twisted metal. In my haze I can actually see the red and blue flashing lights of the police as they arrive on the scene. All at once I sit bolt up right as I realize that those flashing lights are real and not a piece of the hellish memory. They've found me! I scan my immediate surroundings and come to the torturing conclusion that there is no way out. I panic. My throat feels like it's stuffed with cotton balls as a strange thought enters my mind. The sewers! I crawl on my hands and knees, like a dog after some old scraps, towards the man hold over. The pungent smell of wax enters my nostrils as I attempt to get the thing off. A finger nail snaps back past the quick, but it goes unnoticed as I manage to get the lid off.
Natalie wandered the Bazaar, torn between praying this was a dream and begging it not to be. She wasn't sure how long it had taken her to find herself here, nor how long she had been here already. She wanted Peter, and walked on with her head high because he wasn't here and she was proud of herself for not crawling back to beat on the now solid wall where her bedroom door had been.

When she stepped on a stone she snapped out of her daze a little and swore, realizing she was barefoot. And still in her night dress, if you could call it that even- she had out-swelled her nightgown last month and hadn't been able to get to a maternity outlet- but her slip was slit up the thighs so it was a little more accommodating of the baby... So she was cold, immodest and barefoot.

The thought cheered her immensely, strangely. But the cold would have to go; she didn't mind it but she was sure it couldn't be good for the baby if she used up all her energy shivering. And she didn't want to trip, for obvious reasons- and it shouldn't be too difficult. She was in a giant outdoor mall after all. There ought to be a coat and a pair of shoes here somewhere.

There was a small, pleased looking fellow with a small booth set up on a wall, at a perfect right angle so that they spoke to each other sideways. He was selling... it looked like everything.

"I'd like a warm coat and a pair of shoes, please. What do you accept in trade?" She had yet to see anyone pass anything she recognized as money, and the suddenly crafty look in his eye made her nervous.

"Oh, pretty lady, you have so much to offer-"

She cut him off with a withering look. "A list, please. I only want a coat and shoes."

"Weeeeellll..." He scratched his chin. "You do have an awful lot of inhibitions, deary. I have a nice, sturdy, and very comfortable pair of boots- they even change size to fit on their own and have no pesky dancing curses on them- a good buy! I'd be willing to let them go for, oh... ten or twelve inhibitions; fifteen plus tax, you understand. The only coat I have is canvas, ordinary, I've been trying to sell the damn thing since knee high to ducks so I'll toss it in for a curl of your hair, how's that?"

Natalie frowned. She'd always weighed her decisions very carefully against effect- to... to be able to do things with less worrying and ...and... to do what she wanted...

"Deal." She whispered hoarsely.

"Great!" He said brightly. "Here you are, if you'll just drink this for me. And Welcome to the Mad City!"

It looked, Natalie thought with amusement, like a small bottle of wine. But when she drank it and passed it back empty it was glowing blue. But she felt... good. Better than she had in a long time. Whether she found her way back home or not- of course she was going to try but either way, she felt like things might just be okay...

She shrugged into the coat and leaned against the wall- putting the boots on around the baby was a bit awkward but she managed- and looked up to see a wide eyed little girl standing scarcely a foot from her nose.

"Hi! Welcome to the Mad City! I'm Alisa, and what's your name?"

Natalie blinked. "In all the chaos here it's still so obvious I'm new? And Natalie. It is very nice to meet you Alisa."
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages."
-William Shakespeare

The pitiful little drug-mule emptied his stomach upon the floor. He could stick himself with needles and inhale all sorts of chemicals, but a little blood? It sent him falling over himself. The creature that was forming out of the lice and larva chuckled at this sight, his voice like the sound of a house settling in the middle of the night. It was like footsteps that had no owner, the sound of a voice with no mouth, like an emotion with no feeling or perhaps the voice was even like a cool draft in a windowless room.

It watched the little man recognize what was happening and scream in confused horror. This made it more amused, and the general outline of a figure had assumed. There was a head and shoulders, but no definite features were displayed in that solidifying mass of insect and shadow. The head, which had no eyes, definitely seemed to watch Sevens as the druggie got up and began to inch to another room.

It was impossible to walk anywhere without walking through some sort of something that had previously been the friend named Guy. Sevens would have to tread through blood or body parts to get to his room, an unsteady dripping of blood falling from the ceiling onto his head and shoulders. The creature that was almost finished creating itself watched with sick interest, wondering if the Awake would lose his lunch again.

Yet, the Creeper had finished his slow evolution into a turning, misty-edged form by the time Sevens was almost at the door. The cloaked man made of substantial, churning shadows floated closer to the insomniac, what could have been arms or just stretches of his ethereal figure reaching out for him. The Nightmare looked as though it were ready to just pull him into its darkness, to swallow him whole.

"thus with a kiss I die"
-William Shakespeare

The palm of a hand pressed against the pretty girl's neck, oils mixing into her pores, sending an icy numbness through her whole body with surprising speed. The Misogynist moved around to stand in front of her, a smile on that gender-less face. It wore a smile that was strangely akin to a cat catching a mouse, the grin that said it would have fun playing with her before killing her. "See, I can help you," that Nightmare spoke, coyly winding some hair around its finger. "You are so tired, aren't you? Life is just so... sad, isn't it?

"Things just aren't what you want. But I can show you joy again; I can give you people who will accept you." It leaned in, and one could smell the insanity as though it were perfume. It smelled of brine and sweat mixed in with the slight spike of gunpowder. The Misogynist was inches away from Felicity's face by this point and his breath felt like winter, as though it could form ice crystals upon glass.

Then, gently, its lips were pressed against Felicity's. The hand on her neck was now against her side, and the paralysis wearing off quite quickly without the skin to skin contact. As it was, with their lips touched, it slowly began to take her femininity. The curves of her hip, the swell of a breast, all that which would have made her a cute or attractive women were about to be slowly kissed away. It would take her womanhood, wouldn't even pause to re-paralyze her because the Nightmare was so confident she wouldn't run off.

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
-William Shakespeare

It was definitely no joke. There were no cameras, no smiles hidden anywhere for the future. One of the Minutemen walked straight towards Mathew, the other going around his side, as though they were a pair of dogs herding a sheep. "Salutations, kind sir!" one answered, his voice sounding like an ancient scroll tearing in the vault of a library; dry, with the echoes of precious secrets being discarded. "We are Minutemen, and we are not here for money," he replied cheerily enough. It would have been strange, being corralled by a kind Colonial soldier.

Neither one of them were pleased as he flung himself through the window. It was an ordinary window, and it led down into an ordinary Sleeper street emptied by the night. Both of them looked down, before only one jumped down after him. Up in the window, the second Minuteman was taking aim with his musket and firing as the first began to run after Mathew with surprising speed. The ancient rifle was sure to fail, but rushing to tackle the escaping Awake was something the quick-footed life-drainer could do a lot better.

It wouldn't be pretty if they caught up, either.

"I mean, maybe I am crazy. I mean, maybe. But if this is all there is, then I don't want to be sane. "
-Neil Gaiman

The cover rolls up, leaving a gap just large enough for one to squeeze through. Dropping down, Arden would land shin-deep in... something. It would seem to have a slightly thicker consistency than water, and of a deep navy color. Occasionally an eddy of color would float to the surface, sparkling pinks or rich violets. All sorts of hues and colors billowing through the depths of the liquid. Sometimes it whirled about it like ice water, other times lukewarm or at one time even scalding. The walls around him were curved brick, giving it the looks of a huge sewage system.

Upon the brick walls were candles, mounted there with brass holders. They were uniformly off-white, flowing down over their holders and the walls to touch the water like stalactites. The candles released a thick, trailing gray smoke and smelled of beeswax. Yet, they illuminated the tunnels, showing that Arden was in the center of a T-crossing. Straight ahead and to either left or right, it all seemed exactly the same.

There was, however, one anomaly. Off to his right were the sound of shuffled steps in the strange water. The sound of multiple people, slowly pandering in the water. Voices, muffled and distant, would sometimes accompany the sounds of slow moving.

Natalie and Alisa
"You've a good heart. Sometimes that's enough to see you safe wherever you go. But mostly, it's not."
-Neil Gaiman

Alisa was watching the pregnant woman pull on boots that did not match her night-gown. Did that mean she had just got them? Looking to a vendor near-by, she then looked back to the boots and had to wonder what the woman gave up for those items. The young lady had to wonder, also, if there was any... dysfunction with them. And that coat looked like something from the Bizarre Bazaar as well - then again, anything could look like it came from here. What did she have to sell for those things? Granny would be displeased to find the new Awake already lessened.

"In all the chaos here it's still so obvious I'm new? And Natalie. It is very nice to meet you Alisa," the woman answered, and it was a very good question. Natalie, then, who seemed very honest and very forthcoming. Both traits that would kill her. What scars did this one have that had driven her to insomnia and beyond? Ah well, she was here now, and so it was.

"Well, no. I mean, it's not really obvious. But we were looking for you," Alisa said and waved towards the rooftops at the mention of 'we'. A trio of Stray Cats were still up there, clad in nothing but their sparkles and treasures. "Granny wants to meet you! She's really nice. She's the one who told me to come find you before the Nightmares caught a sniff," the child declared, reaching out to take Natalie's hand and hopefully lead her towards her Granny. "Granny's the best. She can make anything you want come true. Anything! Some people call her a witch, but you know, she's just kind of misunderstood. She just wants what's best for her children. She says I'm going to be her child, too, you know. She'll become my Granny for real," the girl babbled, trying to convince this older woman to come with her.

"GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!" I yell at the advancing monstrosity, throwing myself through the door and slamming it shut behind me. I hope to sound tough, or at least mildly threatening, but all that comes out of my throat is the voice of a panicking man.

Good job, Sevens. Really gonna make it think twice about coming at you now.

I sprint for the corner of the room, aware that the thing next door could get in here at any minute, and wrench up the floorboards. Inside is a small locked chasbox; my ill-gotten gains. I stuff it into my messenger bag and grab the remaining cans of energy drink from my bes-side table before running for the window. From there, I can get out onto the roof and away from this place.

Trying to make sense of this nightmare seems pointless right now; I need to focus on getting the fuck out of here right now, then let my mind come to terms with that... thing I just saw later.

Fuck me, I'm gonna need therapy or some shit after this.

Assuming I survive, and that's still an 'if' at this point.

"thus with a kiss I die"
-William Shakespeare

Felicity though her body shivered a little. Her mind was still conscious, but her body and her face, were not. The coldness was what chilled her bones to the core. Finally, she preyed her eyes opening looking at the man that was standing in front of her now. The grin almost looked like he had something in mind, but she wasn't exactly sure what it was. As terrified as she was now, it was starting to be like a game to him. A game that she wasn't able to control herself, or how she was going to win it at the least.

The words from his lips seemed sincere; almost serene, almost too good to be true. "Things just aren't what you want. But I can show you joy again; I can give you people who will accept you." She watched as the man leaned in-- "How would you be able to do that..." Her voice trialed off as if she was forcing herself to speak instead of screaming. Wanting to move back from him as he leaned in closer to her face, she couldn't. It was like her body was stoned in one place.

Unable to help it, his lips were pressed against hers. The thoughts running through her head were incredible. She wasn't sure what was going on. More so confused than anything else. The hand that was against her neck she was now at her side. It was almost soothing. Like it was supposed to happen. It was a nightmare she definitely wasn't ready for... one that needed to end quickly. Her figure became a little bigger than before, and trembling wasn't even an option...

No rest for the wicked
Elliot hadn't been sleeping well. In fact, he had been sleeping at all. He could barely close his eyes before he saw her again, that girl, standing there waiting to be smashed into by his truck. Eyes bright and afraid, face white and pale, this isn't what she looked like, but it's what he saw every time he closed his eyes. Sometimes she was covered in blood, her body deformed and wet. Sometimes she wasn't any of that, instead her skin was dark, like a bruise, her body seemed oddly shaped, her clothes in tatters. Sometimes he could smell her rotting...

He sat up from his bed slowly, feeling as if his body were heavier than it should be. He felt drained and empty, no will or effort stayed long enough for him to make good use of it. Nearly two weeks of little sleep, then no sleep, had finally taken its toll on him. He was ready to give up. Elliot slipped his shoes back on and slide his belt around his waist. He didn't bother undressing anymore and was fully clothed and awake within moments. Glancing at his watch he saw that it was still late, another night of no sleep and bad t.v. it seems.

Elliot entered the living room and smelled something rotten. He couldn't quite place his finger on it, but he gave the scent a low priority among his other thoughts. His mind floated with the idea of making a strong pot of coffee and maybe some loud music, if he couldn't sleep he may as well be fully awake. Yawning heavily, he rounded the corner to his kitchen when he saw her again, that girl. Her name was Karen or Kim, something like that, and here she was in her terrible form, black and rotten. He stopped short of the entrance and started for a long moment.

"No... no...", he found himself repeating. He backed away slowly as he took her in. His mind reeled with the idea of his nightmares given form that he barely noticed the other figures milling around his kitchen, but he did notice.

He scrambled back further as the small figures advanced, moving out of the kitchen's threshold and into the living room. "Wh-what are you doing here? Who are you?!", he demanded, but his words solicited no response. Instead they simply advanced upon him, closing off the available space. In a familiar panic he quickly rushed past them, towards his bedroom, barely wincing as a hand tore at his shoulder. He ran as quickly as he could towards his bedroom, his steps echoed by the footfalls of the handful of others chasing him. Barely managing to get shut his door in time, Elliot braced against the hardwood, feeling the thump-thump of bodies challenging his paltry defense. Finally allowed a moment of clarity, Elliot locked the door and backed away slowly, keeping his eyes on the entrance as it shook continuously. He had no weapons save a simple folder knife and a smithing hammer, yet no will to fight, only an ever greater sense of danger. Despite his fear, or perhaps because of it, he gripped his hammer with both hands and held it before him, like a talisman.


His door was beginning to give way and he didn't want to face what was coming. Fear and uncertainty froze him in his position, yet a voice within him cried to run or fight, but do not to stay there! The door groaned again, this time an odd, sickly laughter accompanied the door's strain. He couldn't stay, but he didn't want to fight. Glancing over at his window, he realized that the sun was anachronistically pouring through.


Elliot didn't have time to think or reason. Still gripping the hammer he made for the window. Unlatching the catch and pushing it up with a shaking hand, he looked back in time to see those hellish others break the door down finally, and pour through. Fueled with a greater sense of urgency, Elliot quickly threw himself through the window, eyes closed and head down.

He landed with a heavy thump on what felt like familiar concrete. Opening his eyes, Elliot looked up and immediately turned himself over with a start. He quickly glanced around for a sign of how or why he was suddenly safe and sound on the ground, not in his alley and in broad daylight.

"What the fuck...", he mumbled to himself. Picking himself up off the ground, Elliot grabbed his hammer absently as he rose. Stumble slightly he walked down the street in search of... anything.
Not here for money... but here for blood.

The thought just managed to pass through his head before he hit the ground amid a rain of shards. His legs failed under neath him and he stumbled and forehead careening into the red brick wall of the facade of the run down apartment building. He wasted no time cursing but pushed himself from the wall and still in the shorts and vest he had lived in for the past few sleepless days stumbled away his hand going to his forehead and coming away red.

"You stupid bastard." he chastised himself before the thud of the pursuer and the click of a hammer being pulled back stirred him back to life.

His pace quickened but it wasn't fast enough. That bastard was fast.

Panic rose like fire within him as his vision blurred. Nothing mattered not only getting as far away from those.. LARPers... The panic burned beneath his skin, bubbling as he almost gagged on what felt like sick. Panic didn't feel this way... He scratched his arms continuing to run. Fuck it felt like they were on fire, acid... He glanced down and almost stopped running.

Blackness was seeping out of his arms.. and then exploded out of his mouth. He slipped in it before seeing an alleyway. Out of options he crawled inside the sludge beating a slick spot at the mouth of the alley as Matt made a desperate attempt to climb the ladder of a fire escape his hands leaving the rungs slick. What the fuck was happening to me, what it this stuff. It burns everywhere it touches me, and its everywhere inside me. What did they do to me?
"Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it."
-Terry Pratchett

The advancing monstrosity, as it was, did not get away from the Awake. In fact, the Creeper could not be stopped by doors. It took a bit longer, yet its incorporeal form began to slide through the cracks and edges of the door frame. It was laughing at him now - a low chuckle that crossed ears like cobwebs in hair. It stopped, though, seeing him at the window and seemed to grin. A darker darkness against the shadows of its face, the grin spread eerily and gaily on its face. The existential thing did not move as the boy crawled through to get onto the roof.

The roof of a building that was not his own. It seemed to be an 1800's styled roof from England, with the surrounding buildings a whole view of contrasting styles and heights. There was a Gothic cathedral standing beside an African hut; a Russian stilt-house that somehow managed to merge seamlessly with a modern, American townhouse. And all across the houses, hidden in the shadows and clustering in the alleyways, were birds. They were of all varieties, from hawks to larks. They were uniformly black, with bulging and bloated dead eyes that seemed to pierce through the body.

The birds seemed to stare at Sevens, intently boring their dead eyes as he stood upon the roofs of 3 in the Morning.

"She was also, by the standards of other people, lost. She would not see it like that. She knew where she was, it was just that everywhere else didn't."
-Terry Pratchett

It wasn't able to answer that incomplete question, not as they kissed. It wasn't anything special or deep. A chaste kiss with their lips slightly apart, so her femininity could flow through. It tasted like roses and blood, and the Misogynist hated the taste, thought it foul and stomach-churning. Yet, the Nightmare kissed her for as long as she could survive without breath and then a few seconds longer. The young person who had before been a lady now stood a gender-less Awake. An insomniac of the most androgynous form, and it made the thing before Felicity smile broadly.

As though the cat was only half done with its toy, said that grin. Here, here was something it had done. A transformation of the best sort, leaving the Awake neither male nor female, something of a vague sense that could not be discriminated and be perfectly cataloged among other descriptions and variables. It was just one last thing to narrow the bridge to perfection. So the Misogynist gave her a proud look, a relieved grin, but still a deadly one. Deadly because Felicity was still an Awake, still a thing of chaos and uncontrolled temperament.

Yet that could be fixed as well. The Nightmare put on a glove and held out a hand to her... well, it now. "And now would you like to meet your siblings?" it inquired. "Those who look like you, who will embrace you, those who know what it meant to be lost and have now found home. We can give it to you, can give you acceptance. How can we? Because we are the same as you are now." He gave her that coy look, silently saying she wouldn't refuse; that she couldn't.

"Progress just means bad things happen faster."
-Terry Pratchett

It may have looked like concrete because it was. Elliot currently stood in a small alleyway between two tall, perfectly symmetrical buildings. Large windows without curtains lined their walls, showing work rooms and factory settings with hundreds of people hard at their jobs. All of them had smiles and flushed cheeks. All of them seemed to laugh and just be having a good old time doing their work. If he were to go forward and join the street, there would only be a few people there. Each of them hasty to get somewhere, smiling and waving to one another. Not a single soul in a bad mood.

It was all clean, as well. As though, at night, someone came through and scrubbed the streets and the buildings and it all sparkled like it was freshly built. All of it was strangely open-looking and bright. Cheery, and perhaps rightfully so. The main street seemed to dead end to his left, and to the right it opened up to a plaza with a short but wide structure in the center. It was gilded at the corners, with statues of saint-like figures rising up around the doors and kneeling at the top. The domed roof came to end in a sigil of what could have been an "i" or a platypus, it wasn't exactly clear. Either way, it seemed the most important place, though strangely church-like.

Behind Elliot, deeper into the alleyway, darkness seemed to be festering. Things shifted in the shadows and that eerie giggling could be heard as sharp teeth gnawed into rotting garbage. It seemed the place he would have least liked to investigate, and far less appealing than the Factoidaries' bright face.

"Just because it's not nice doesn't mean it's not miraculous."
-Terry Pratchett

The Minuteman was almost on top of the damn Awake. Why did they always have to try and run, anyways? It's not like they were going to get far. Still, just as soon as he seemed to reach the damned fool, the smell of exhaust and rot began to come off. Startled, the Nightmare slowed, and watched as sludge began to pour from well... his pores. The thing kept pace, but didn't get any closer. It wasn't sure what touching that shit would do, after all. Though - and this was always the amusing part - the insomniac began to freak out from his Madness Talent.

However, at Matt tried to climb the fire escape, out came the musket. The Minuteman took aim and fired. It roared and powder blew into his face, but hopefully he'd hit. If not, the Nightmare was preparing to use his bayonet to cut him down from that fucking fire escape. No way he'd be able to follow up with all that oil and... well, whatever it was, falling from him. Thankfully, the second Nightmare came up, sighing at seeing the mess being made and the route of escape.

"No way he'll get into the Mad City that way," the second said to the first, who just shrugged and began preparing his ancient rifle for a second shot.

"What the fuck..." I mutter to myself as I stare around at my surroundings. I'm not standing on the building Guy's apartment was in. Hell, this isn't even the same fucking city; this is...

...this is somewhere else.

A place that every fibre in my body is screaming at me to leave at once.

The birds around me stare with their huge, swollen eyes and I am reminded uncomfortably of that Alfred Hitchcock movie that guy and I watched in an attempt to stave off sleep a couple nights ago. Exhaustion led to it scaring the crap out of us... and now it seems to be actually playing out in front of me.

Am I going insane?

...have I already gone insane?

As ever, now is not the time for such questions. In the room behind me is a thing that should not exist but does anyway just to spite humanity. And even after consuming Guy, I think it's out for seconds. Sucking in a breath, I push myself forwards into a run and throw myself out into the empty morning sky, my arms outstretched to grab the building next to this one, a modern-looking American home. When one finds himself out of his depth, he should always go for the most familiar thing, and this building reminds me vaguely of the house I grew up in.

Catching the ledge of the house and pulling myself closer, I spot a drainpipe nearby and begin to shimmy along the ledge towards it. I need to get myself back down on the ground, maybe catch my bearings if I can, and find out what the fuck is going on round here.

I feel like I've just walked into a fucking horror movie.
[DASH=Navy]The red and blue flashing lights, as well as my fear of being caught, were forgotten as soon as I landed in the sewer. It feels like I've crossed some sort of void in reality, like an invisible barrier, separating the earth I've know my whole life. I feel similar to how a drunk man might feel after a three day bender when he finally sobers up enough to talk without slurring. My feet, as well of the bottoms of my pants are wet now. Whatever this sludge is it has the consistency of warm maple syrup, but smells of wax. It smells like a goddamn candle factory down here, I think to myself, but surly this can't be wax? As my eye's scan the immediate surroundings I see that a dim light from hanging candles fill the brick lined walls. My eye's travel, feeling like they too are encased in wax, from the wall to the ground. A flowing river of melted wax lines the floor. As the occasional colored streak floats by I start to pick out shapes in the wax, the same way people do with clouds. For the moment I am mesmerized by it.

At first the shapes are void and pointless, but then, slowly, a face begins to take shape. First it is that of my mother. A strangely long strand of brownish wax made her hair look like it was flowing and alive. Then the wax changed shape. The slender lines that had just moments ago made up the smooth jawline of my mother turned sharp and little specks of darker wax formed a goatee. It was the man that foiled my robbery at the bank! His eyes glowed with the same righteousness they had when he pushed me to the ground and called the cops. Then, the doppelganger wax began to change again. This time it was smaller. Two brilliant specks of blue wax filled the eyes as a yellowish stream made up small bits of hair. It was my son. His face held none of the love and childish innocents that it had in life, instead it was filled with malice and contempt. I could feel my face contracting into a sad grimace, all the guilt and remorse I felt was washing over me like a tidal wave of shattered glass. Just then, red splashed across his face. It dripped from his nose and mouth, bright red and gruesome like blood. His tiny lips mouthed the words "You did this to me". I turned at once from the visions in the wax and headed to the right. Out of nowhere came the sound of foot steps and muffled words, I headed in that direction still shaking from the experience. I had no idea who was down here, but after that horror filled event I needed someone to talk to.
Elliot stopped a few paces short of his landing, looking around to try and identify anything familiar. The buildings look like ones he'd seen before, faceless factories with their equally faceless workers. He looked back at where he had arrived and saw only darkness, but he heard clicks and scratches, and... laughter? The black seemed to creep into his very soul and his primal brain knew to fear it instinctively. Backing away slowly, his face tense with uncertainty and fear, Elliot continued to stare at shadows as retreated further away.

It wasn't until he reached the mouth of the alley that he allowed himself to breathe normally, that the fear allowed him to. He wanted to know what was in there, what he was seeing, but he didn't want to risk his life for it. Instead he, like anyone would, headed for the light. His inner mind knew safety was within the light, he need only reach for it.

"H-Hello? Excuse me, c-can you... can you tell me where I am?", he called to a passerby. The man was smiling broadly, he seemed friendly from a distance. As Elliot drew near he couldn't help but notice the strain in the man's face. The wrinkles around his eyes and mouth were heavy and deep, yet his demeanor seemed genuine. "I just...what I mean is, what street am I on? I can't seem to find where I am and that's a little weird since I live here...I think. And I've never seen this part of town, or that.", he pointed at the church-like structure that the roads seem to converge at.

The nameless man informed him that he was in the Factoidaries, the street had no name, and nothing more, though he listened intently. Elliot thanked him before parting ways and drew himself toward the church structure. It wasn't any denomination he knew, the symbol above the door seemed odd, and the building was much too extravagant to be in this part of town. Even so, he was pulled toward it, toward the light, and maybe to someone with real answers.

Slipping his hammer in a loop on his belt, he walked slowly onward, noting that the stranger he'd met wasn't the only happy person here. They all seemed happy, they all smiled broadly and appeared perfectly content. It was so calming in contrast to what he'd witnessed that he felt nervous again.

Why are they so happy? Are they drugged?, he thought, What sort of place is this?

Having worked for some years as a welder, he knew his fair share of tradesmen and factory workers and these people acted nothing like that. Such work was always hard, and a few people might have even enjoyed that, but this... no one enjoyed their work this much. His mind, now laden with fears both real and imagined, worked overtime to make sense of what he experienced, too find purpose and reason in this place, and he was failing miserably.

Nearing the building he arrived at the steps and paused, taking in the grand figures that adorned the entrance. To himself he asked, "What is this place? What is all this?"

From behind another work, a woman this time, responded, "This is the Mad City.", and moved on.

Elliot felt his heart strain, his head ache, and his body shiver at those words. He lurched forward, falling to his knees.

"This is the Mad City. This is the Mad City. This is the Mad City..." The words echoed in his mind.

The fear overtook him then, starting at a slow crawl that emanated from his spinal column and spread throughout his body, gaining speed like a fast plague. For a few brief moments it controlled his muscles and nerves, washed across his skin, and gripped his lungs. And as quickly as it had taken him over, it receded, his mind was allowed a reprieve. Mastering himself, he stood slowly and looked around. He was alone, and his answers wouldn't be found out here. He walked forward slowly and reached for the door. Pulling it open, he glanced around before quickly stepping inside.
"She was also, by the standards of other people, lost. She would not see it like that. She knew where she was, it was just that everywhere else didn't."
-Terry Pratchett

She paused staring into the creatures eye. She wanted answers. Answers that he wasn't giving her. Though the answers would be something that was unreal. Something she probably wouldn't believe in a million years. Her body still felt cold. Almost frozen in place. A temptation of wanting to fight back but felt hopeless. Too stunned to know, to stunned to really care.

With soft whispers, she repeated her question hoping for an answer of some sort. "How would you be able to do that. To give me what I want, to live in a place where people accepted me as me. To give me joy...I demand to know these answers. Please... If it's the one thing you do, at least give me that. She was fighting in her dream now. Resisting... Resisting the temptation again. A dream that was almost unable to be controlled.

She stared at the man as he held out his hand with the glove. Unsure of what was to happen. "And now would you like to meet your siblings?" A look of confusion across her face. "I... I... I have siblings?!" She stumbled over her words as if she heard them for the first time. She couldn't remember if she had any or not. Her body still felt numb. She wanted to fall to the ground but she couldn't.
The ball on lead found its mark and Matt's fingers slipped in his own ooze sending him plummeting back to the alley below."Jesus fuu..."

His hand went to his grazed shoulder and the sludge moving to cover the wound, but then it was covering everything at his desperate eyes turned to the minutemen a primal fury building, the instincts of a cornered animal with nowhere left to run.

"What do you waaaaghghgh." it came in a torrent as he doubled over. Snaking out of him. His eyes followed it, a shiny black tentacle that burned his throat as it snaked out of his mouth and reared up into the air its tip hardening and forming a point before rushing at the one who had fired.