She wandered again, her body tugged among the universe like a marionette. Exhaustion had long begun setting in her bones and rattling her consciousness. The liminal space carved between realities propelled her down, down, down. She landed, a fog stuffed with nightmare visions of monsters and magic clouding her brain. Yet, another notion sliced through the thoughts tumbling. Writhing through her mind like snakes. She wondered if the last time was approaching.
Emilia’s Journal: I am tired. So utterly spent. Did I land in Erica’s world again for the…third time now? I can’t keep track of time anymore. This feels like a test no one can win. Write down everything that happens? Collect objects for this “Higher Power” entity? Meanwhile, I — someone who hadn’t left their house in years — have been sent to worlds with magic lacing the bones of the earth and giant creatures who want to consume everything in its path. The last time I was here, Erica was almost eaten alive by that grotesque beast emanating from her stuffed octopus. Now, I lay hidden on the side of the house again. Gary Slaughter, that ghastly man who sends children to possible death, talks to Erica’s mentor, Jessica. How can she speak so openly with a man whose morals are utterly compromised by his dedication to an “order” or existence? Or maybe I don’t understand. I don’t understand when Jessica talks about children being eaten by monsters and her duty to make the surviving kids into warriors. Their values align somewhat, but there’s a sense of…sinister intentions lurking around when they talk in hushed tones and unspoken codes. Is there conflict within this “House of Slaughter”? Could betrayal be at hand? Betrayal…I’ve been thinking about betrayal recently. Why? I can’t say. I feel like a monster is slowly consuming me too.
Aaron and the woman in white approached the drunk woman and the master monster slayer. They debated Erica’s fate, some with anger in their voices and some taking a neary passive stance. Emilia listened to grown adults discussing which children are selected to eradicate the beasts plaguing the land. They spoke of which children survive and the old ways of the selection process. She gleaned that this House of Slaughter truly lived up to its name. Monsters and initiates were forced to bond in symbiosis or be killed. Slaughtered.
Emilia’s Journal: Erica arrives safely, just as these adults seem to be ready to slaughter one another! Erica hugs Gary and Jessica. Their embrace makes me remember my parent’s embrace and how desperately lonely I am here. If only I could find Aimée again. The last time we were here, their presence comforted me. I was not alone in this amalgam of realities. I need to find that object and get out of here before these people try to initiate me into this horrifying place.
She followed the group inside the house, her footsteps like a creeping shadow along the ground. Gary Slaughter created a tattoo for Erica since she passed her initiation ritual. Emilia’s emotions overwhelmed her again as she watched the tattoo ink seeping into the small child while Gary spoke of more monster hunting, gaining a mask with teeth emblazoned onto black cloth, and forcing Erica to undergo a rite that would allow her to keep seeing monsters in adulthood. They wanted her to be a hunter. Erica would become Erica Slaughter. She would be one of the greatest monster hunters in the Order of St. George.
Emilia’s Journal: Erica is different. They tell her she has traits that make her…lack empathy. The order relies on recruiting children with these traits, and Erica’s conglomerate characteristics have not been seen by anyone in the Order for a long time. How can an adult tell a child she is a monster? “Only a monster can kill monsters”, I heard, as Erica vehemently denied the words spilling out of this leaders’ mouth. Isn’t Erica more than a monster, though? She has a dragon tattoo now. Erica isn’t a monster. She’s a dragon. She’s a dragon who will someday protect her treasure: Children who monsters want to kill.
An object shimmered next to Emilia. She peered at the totem, visible only as if it was shining through a prism of light. Carved from stone, obsidian black coloring rippled from the dragon totem.
Emilia: I found the item here for the Higher Power! But…wait…Aimée…she already found one when I was here…the last time.
Her head pounded as understanding built up like bricks inside her skull. There wasn’t merely one object per world. There were multiple objects. Lies had infiltrated her malleable sense of comprehension. To correct the cognitive dissonance she faced, Emilia had to find the entity. She closed her eyes until the universe transported her back into the empty space of the universe. The Higher Power towered above her, but Emilia’s timidity had vanished. The confrontation was inevitable. Words of dismay and hurt at betrayal poured out from her once weak voice.
Emilia: You’ve manipulated me! You betrayed me from the moment you sent me here! Why are you doing this? What have I done to deserve this torture?
Higher Being: I notice your anger. I do not take pleasure in being the one that ignited it, nor is it something I planned to make happen. It was not all lies, even if you might suspect otherwise now.
Emilia: Not all lies? How am I supposed to believe anything you say now?
Higher Being: I did not lie when I explained to you the objective and significance of your task. What I said about the poor being who chased you and who I am, or was, it was all true. But you are not mistaken either. Although I do regret it, I did point you in a wrong and pointless direction that would have led to nothing at all.
The truth is, when you fell onto that world, I sensed the soul of the world was there. Something overcame me, unlike anything I have felt in more time than even I can remember. I think…I think I was scared. Scared for me, scared for what little is left of the people I once belonged with. I am not sure I was ready to put an end to our existence.
Emilia: I…I understand being scared. But I’m scared too. I’ve been scared of everything, the known and the unknown, for years. I thought this was a chance to change myself, but now…it doesn’t matter anyway, right? What’s the point of all this if life is going to end? I’m terrified.
Higher Being: I did not take into account that even something like me, an old, frail being forgotten by time and space itself, would be afraid of something so mundane as that. I tricked you for enough time so that I could come up with a better plan. But it was a useless attempt.
I can’t do that anymore. There’s no more time. Now that we have moved the world’s soul, they’ll know where to find us. I suppose it is somewhat funny I was not able to move past that fear in thousands of years…I know I wronged you, but…will you remember me? I lost my body. I lost my world. The only thing I have left is the little parts of me I managed to maintain over time. Will you remember that? That I tried to do good?
Emilia: I guess I understand. Trying to do good for other people is a blessing and a curse I know well.
Higher Being: Well, it’s time now…everything seems to be a matter of time. Goodbye.
With hands that were not exactly hands, or anything too distinguishable for the human eye, they held the object and flew around it in the most delicate of manners. The delicacy was not only a sign of carefulness but of sadness and fear. With this touch, the object shone, and just some of the light transported outside, mixing with the ancient being. It was consuming itself and everything it ever knew. A blaze of light illuminated the space that had been dark for so long, and for a split second, Emilia felt satisfaction coming from it. It dissipated quickly as everything does, and the journey she and who knows how many others were put into was finally over.
Emilia: The universe contains so much more than any story ever theorized. I want my home to be more than a self-isolating cell: I want to live life out there….wherever “there” takes me.