2 ~ Still Human

Posted: June 28, 2015 in Entropis

The number sixteen hung, brass on white, like it always had. As if nothing had changed. She could picture the amount of times she’d opened this door. Now she was outside, and didn’t want to open it. She could imagine exactly where everything was, how it should be. Through it were so many memories. They flashed through her mind like a swan song, the last display of something that she knew was gone. But if she didn’t open this door, she could at least pretend.

The first time she’d come here, the third in a line of flats they’d moved their dwindling party to, she was the only one to stay when the booze ran out. She hadn’t thought she’d stay for almost a year. The night he showed her how he liked to melt things, she could still hear him saying ‘everything melts, in the end, fire’s just… it turns everything to ashes, you know? Makes everything the same. That’s why it’s an element in like, China and shit’. He’d spoken with such passion, she’d loved it. For a while, she even thought she’d loved him.

“Well? Is it open? What’re you waiting for?” Kia stood just behind her, hands on her hips, impatient, “If you take much longer something’s going to feel us again. The longer we take, the more things warp.”

“I know, okay I just… I don’t know that I can do this…”

“You don’t have a choice.” Kia’s tone made her flinch.

“You don’t understand, my boyfriend is in there!” she turned her back on the door, almost protective, “Those things back there, in the other flats, they used to be people too. I don’t want to see him like them… everything’s so wrong, I just, I keep thinking how I want to go home but this,” she swallowed the bubble of emotion that began to rise up her throat, “This is my home… I can’t do it. I can’t go in.”

They stood for a silent moment, but she stared at floor, not wanting to meet Kia’s eyes. She didn’t know why all this had happened to her, but she wasn’t like Kia. There’d been a mistake, somewhere. She couldn’t handle all of this, this insanity. She wanted to walk inside and go back to bed. How was there any way all of this wasn’t a dream?

“I meant it when I said you don’t have a choice.” Kia’s voice had lost its edge, but she stepped past her to the door, “This Schism, everything here, it’s yours. I’m not saying it’s your fault, but it always happens when a girl transforms. I wish I could say I know why, but there’s stuff even I don’t know.” She sighed, “The point is, this one is yours so you have to fix it. It’s a reality break, and if we don’t fix it then the entire building vanishes from existence. Nobody even remembers there was supposed to be a building there except us.”

“Is… is that so bad? Maybe it might be better… especially if everyone’s like those things downstairs.”

“Might be, but we can’t get out.” Kia tapped the lock, and the door went ajar, “The weird concrete sphere may be how it looks like on the outside, but inside it’s endless. Doesn’t matter how far you go towards what looks like the outer shell, you never get closer past a certain point. And the longer you wait, the more it expands to other buildings.” She pushed the door, and it slowly inched open. “So if you want to live, you’re going to have to help me with this.”

She could already see the ruined room inside. The flashes of ice were still solid, their points all pulled in the direction of the bedroom door. Shards pointed up, jagged, like clear grass had grown across the carpet. If she went inside she’d see him. She’d see his body. And, maybe, his body would see her.

“I, I don’t even know how to do what you do… I can’t help, I just, I’ll just wait outside, and—”

“No.” Kia’s word was resolute, “You’re going to need to find the Heart of the Schism and turn it back. This is complicated, but we’re opposed elements. I can’t fix a Schism like this. If Maddy were here…” she paused, and shook her head, “I need you to finish this. I can stop anything that might be trouble, but you need to be the one to deal with the Heart.”

Kia stared at her, then shut her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose for a moment. When she opened them again, she just looked tired.

“Look, I know this is tough, but we’re low on time. The rooms are going to start warping completely soon, and then it’ll become impossible for someone so new to deal with it.”

There was no choice. There was only one answer she could give, even if she didn’t want to give it.

“Alright.” She said, “I’ll do it.”

At first, she thought the door had warped to a different flat. The front room was a sprawl of jagged ice creeping across the walls, binding the furniture into a crystalline shawl that covered the room. The air tingled with chilled mist, and the only indicator that this was Jake’s living room was the piles of large, frozen candles, all melted into each other to create a multi-coloured melting pillar. His livelihood, when he actually sold them. She’d always thought the wax looked frozen. Somehow, covered in frost, they looked more realistic.
His body, when she’d left, had been infested with icy flames jutting from him, and it took her a moment to realise that the stalagmites that groped for the ceiling had grown from the sofa. Through the thick, glassy sheath that covered it, she saw the distorted blackened shape that had once been Jake.

“There wasn’t this much, before… the ice has, it’s grown. Can it do that?” She reached out to touch one of the stalagmites.

“This changed from your element, right?” Kia scanned the room slowly, her eyes unblinking, “What was it before it was ice?”

“Fire.” She said, and cried out as her fingertips touched it. “Agh! It’s hot! The ice is boiling hot, it’s like touching a kettle!” She stepped away from it, “How is that possible?”

Kia shook her head,

“You’ve got to stop thinking in terms of possible and impossible. I can’t do this sort of thing, changing stuff, I don’t know for sure how it works. But I know that inside a Schism, anything is possible.” She tapped one of the icicles hanging from the ceiling with the back of her hand, “It’s like it’s both fire and ice, at once.” She paused, “The ice isn’t growing, I don’t think. The fire is spreading. It just can’t go faster than ice can freeze…”

“This is insane. This is genuinely crazy. This has got to be a dream…”

“It’s not a dream, and we need to hurry up. Do you know what the cause of the fire was? Maybe that’ll help.”

“I don’t know, I was asleep. I wasn’t even in here when it happened.”

Kia moved to the door into the bedroom, which was open, but the doorway was frozen over in a wall of ice. Her hand hovered just over it for a moment before she frowned, and raised the other. The wall misted back at her concentration. She shivered.

“I can’t do it. I’m trying to make it melt but it just gets hotter, I can feel it growing from the power I’m using. Anything I do to try to break it is only going to make it stronger.” Kia glared at it, annoyed, “It’s always the same. You’re going to need to find a way to change this into something else. Something I can degrade.”

“Is that what your element is?”

“Yeah, Entropis, but questions after. Try to change the heat into something else. Though, as strange as it might sound, don’t make it cold. It’ll be harder because it’s so opposite.” Kia took a step back, “Try to change it into something completely unrelated.”

She stepped up to the wall of ice, staring at it. How was she supposed to do this? She could, that much may be true, but it was one thing turning a physical object into another, that was easy to imagine. You could see that. But heat? How could you just change something that’s hot into something else? And, for that matter, what else? There was hot and cold. All temperature stages were related to those two, gradients in a chart from one to the other.

She concentrated on the ice, putting her hand close enough to feel the heat radiating out of it. It was surreal to feel it so hot, yet watch the ice slowly growing, freezing the moisture in the air around it. Everything was so wrong that somehow it was easier to believe she could do crazy magical things like transform objects. She thought about other things she’d felt in the past, other sensations that might replace heat. The steady thumps of the bricks against the walls around her reminded her of thick, heavy rain. She could imagine the thumps on the glass, the vibrations of each impact making the pane shudder with the force. But she couldn’t use rain. Water was already in ice, and it might make it stronger. Hell, the last thing she wanted to do was make it rain boiling icicles or something. And yet… the vibrations…

There was one car that drove through the road every morning, belonging to someone who worked in the area. The bass pounded out of that car like a mobile night club, and every morning it’d wake her. The windows would rattle, the music throbbing her brain into wakefulness. She hated them. Yet, music vibrated. It had taught her that much. If she put her hand near a speaker, she could feel the bass thumping through the air. Just like she could feel the heat.
The ice began to whine. She’d been trying to make it a large vibration, like bass, something thick and pounding, not this little noise. She concentrated harder, and the noise only got higher.

“What are you doing?” Kia was staring at the ice, “Why’s it making that noise?”

“I was trying to get it deeper, something powerful that might crack it. You know?”

“You replaced heat with noise?” Kia’s stare was intense; she wasn’t sure if this was good or bad.

“Well, uh, I figured, like, you know how opera singers smash glasses and stuff? Well, maybe it’d work on ice…”

There was a long pause as Kia shifted her stare back to the ice,

“…Yeah… yeah! Okay, great! I’ll degrade the ice to the point where it’s weak to that frequency of vibration, then it’ll shatter itself!” The stare transformed into a wide grin, all teeth, “Yeah that might actually work!”

“Aha, yeah that’s, that’s just what I thought!” She flashed a smile back, but it faded against her nerves, “I don’t know exactly what frequency it is, though. I uh, I didn’t even know music had frequencies.”

“It doesn’t matter, just make it vibrate and I’ll do the rest.” Kia stepped up to the wall, squinting at the noise, “You’re not so sensitive to it yet, so I’ll work out the breaking point. Just flood it with sound!”

She focussed on the humming wall, feeling the vibrations, feeling for it inside herself, too. With concentration she could match it, then, as she gradually ratcheted up the vibrations in herself, it rose in the ice, too. The more she focussed, the more she felt it, as if something had awoken inside her that allowed her to feel more than she ever had before. She pictured it flooding out into the ice, directed it, channelled it like it was liquid. The vibrations in the ice began to rise, the tone becoming clearer, higher pitched.

“That’s it! We’ve almost got it!” Kia put her hands out, her fingertips touching the ice. It wasn’t hot, not anymore, but the vibrations pulsed through her as she fought to weaken the ice. “A little more…”

She focussed on flooding more inside, trying to meet the tensing ice, trying to meet Kia’s efforts with her own. When she’d been in school, she’d seen a ball go through a window. It’d left a jagged, circular hole in its wake, the glass smashed inward, across the room. This memory pushed itself forward as she watched the ice explode, but it was no small ball shape hole that exploded from Kia’s touch. The ice shattered, scattering itself across the bedroom at Kia’s full height, as if she’d gone barrelling through herself. A clean, Kia sized oval was carved through the doorway. The force that would’ve been needed to shatter near-meter thick ice like that… and just through vibrations, it wasn’t possible. But she needed to stop thinking in possible and impossible.

“Perfect.” Kia grinned through the doorway shape she’d made, “Let’s get in there and finish this off, shall we?”

She returned the grin,

“Right!”

They’d done it. They’d actually done it, as a team. Suddenly, getting out seemed possible. She might actually get through this and back to reality, where things make sense. As Kia stepped through the misting hole into the bedroom, a large crack sounded through the living room. Kia popped her head back through, “What was that?”
They both looked at the sofa, where the ice had cracked. The ice, solid ice, began to ripple. Deep inside, the black shape moved, and the ice coffin moved with it.

“Oh I am sick of this place…” Kia growled, stepping out of the room again, “You have no idea how much easier Entropis Schisms are. Shit doesn’t keep changing on you every two damn seconds…”

She barely heard Kia talking, instead staring at the blackened body within, which began to push itself up, the ice morphing around it like liquid, yet without changing state. The stalagmites that grew from it began to twitch and spasm, then flicked out, tentacles of burning ice that moved as Jake’s arms did. Was he alive? Was he sent mad by this place? Could… could they save him? She stood, frozen herself, unable to tear her eyes away even as the first long arm whipped out at her.

Kia’s body crashed into her, sending them both tumbling to the floor, the burning ice slicing through where she’d been standing a mere half second before.

“The hell’re you doing? Don’t zone out!” Kia spat the words as she yanked her upright, “I haven’t dragged you this far for you to get killed now!”

“But it’s, it’s Jake, he’s alive…”

Kia’s face twisted into a grimace, standing between her and Jake, “Don’t be a fool! This is no different from the TV full of arms, or the fridge guy, right? We must’ve drifted out pretty far, so we need to finish it off quick. I can’t do anything until you take the heat out of the ice, so get on it!” Another misting tentacle whipped out at them, but Kia shot her hand out and the arm lost its force, drifting lazily into the air above. Kia glanced back at her, “Yes? Okay? I’m going to distract it, I can probably stop it hitting us, but the longer we take the less time we have before the Schism starts to suck in other places!”

“I… I can’t…” She was still staring at the black form inside, “You’ll make him explode like the doorway, I can’t let you! There has to be another way! We can save him! I can heal his burns like I did my leg, and, and we can just blow the ice off, and then when we get out he’ll, he’ll be fine…”

The whole ice covered body tilted back, losing balance as Kia stripped the gravity from around it. She only had time to see a purple blur step up to her before her face snapped to the side, her cheek stinging. She’d been slapped. The thought took a moment to register, by which time Kia had grabbed her dress front and hauled her up, face to face.

“He’s dead! Understand?” Kia shook her, “Look at me, he’s dead!” Her face was twisted with rage, the sheer power radiating off her terrifying on the receiving end, “This is not a game! This is not a fucking movie! There is not a happy ending! He’s dead, and now his corpse is trying to kill us before we break this place apart!” Kia lifted her one handed, weightless, off the ground and turned, gesturing out at the creature, only for the ceiling to collapse down onto it. The concrete and bricks sent it tumbling, tiny terracotta meteorites slamming through the open hole after it, and Kia turned her attention back to her, “I am not going to die because you can’t deal with this. I’m only in here because you refused to come with me when I asked!” Kia lowered her back to the ground, “Now you’ve got one last chance, are you going to replace the heat, or am I going to have to make you?”

She stuttered, stunned by the force of Kia’s assault, struggling to make sense of everything. She felt tears prick her eyes again. Jake was dead, she knew that, he was, but, but he was moving and she had to let go of the impossible, didn’t she? Wasn’t there a way to bring him back? Her mind was flooded with memories of him, his little shy smile, the look of intensity he got with fire, the flame reflected in his soft, dark brown eyes. The warmth of him against her. She couldn’t do it. Even if he was dead, even if she couldn’t save him, she couldn’t kill him.

“I, I can’t…”

She couldn’t meet Kia’s eyes, but the other girl let go of her, pausing before saying, quietly.

“Then I’m sorry.”

The force of Kia’s strike sent her sprawling, gasping for breath, clutching at her stomach as she curled into a ball. A little sob escaped her lips. She felt something, some kind of probing energy pulsing through her mind, dissolving some part of her deep inside. But the pain stopped her focussing on it, the faint rush of Kia’s power through her mind eclipsed by her punch. She looked up at Kia, searching for an answer to ‘why’, but the girl had turned back to the monster, which had morphed itself further to attach to the ceiling and floor at once. It couldn’t be toppled, now. It had adapted.

She double-took. Monster? She hadn’t thought of it like that before. Yet she looked at it and, while she knew Jake’s body was inside, the thought didn’t fill her with the same loss it had a moment ago. It was just a body. A body trying to kill Kia, and by extension, her too. Kia had been right, this was crazy. She needed to do her part if she wanted to get out alive.
Pushing herself back up, she ran forward towards the monster, concentrating on it. She needed to get close, she needed to feel the heat. If she could feel it, she could replace it. Maybe one day she could do it from afar like Kia. As she reached the side of it, it noticed her, turning as if to look at her. Somewhere, deep inside, a tiny voice wondered if it was Jake turning, coming to his senses. The voice was snuffed out. Jake was dead. It turned, and a burning tentacle of ice came with it.
A chunk of roof fell from above, smashing into it, trapping it for a second and leaving her alive.

“Keep going! Take away the heat!”

Kia’s voice came from the other side, and the monster turned to swat her away, distracted once more. She focussed on the heat, radiating off the creature like a steaming bonfire. She had to change it. She had to imagine those vibrations, just like before. She had to fill it, completely replace heat with sound. The monster began to sing.
It seemed to sense what she was doing, and it turned again, raising its arm up above her head. She looked up, the ringing from the ice like a warning siren. But she wasn’t fast enough, she wasn’t used to this, and by the time she’d registered that it was going to hit her, she didn’t have time to move.

She was shoved out of the way by a purple blur, and the moving icicle stopped, inches from her face, by Kia’s outstretched palm. The entire creature stopped, shuddering for a moment, before a long, deep crack tore its way along the tentacle, crack-snapping towards the body in the centre. It twitched as the crack reached it. Then exploded. Shards of ice buried themselves in the walls and floor, and they stood alone in the room once more. She spotted parts of scorched flesh amongst the rubble. Jake’s flesh. She felt nothing.

“We did it.” She breathed.

“Not yet. We’ve still got to break the Heart.” Kia put a hand on her shoulder, giving her a smile with only her lips, “But we’re nearly there, come on.”

The bedroom itself was humming with energy, an inferno of ice having swept the room and now, as if still drawn by oxygen, spreading over to the window. They stepped through the hole they’d made and Kia cast her eyes over the room.

“So, what are we even looking for? This Heart thing, won’t it have changed like the ice?” She tried to look too, but aside from the ice, the bedroom looked entirely normal. With the takeaway packets and beer bottles scattered around, she sort of wished it didn’t. “How can we find something that could be anything?”

“Because it won’t be like anything you’ve ever seen.” Kia kicked the debris aside as she moved from one side to the other, “It’s more accurate to think of this as the eye of the storm, and the Heart is flooding the area with your element’s energy. This spot is barely warped because it’s kinda like a nest for it. Eventually it’ll consume that too, which is when this place will collapse. One element can’t last forever on its own, it’s too unstable.” Kia swept the floor with her foot, the detritus dissolving at her touch, “This one’s all about transformation and mutation. So when a Schism happens from too much of it in one place, you get everything merging and changing and eventually, when even the place the Heart’s in has been consumed, nothing but chaos.”

“Chaos.”

She repeated the word, working the ideas through her mind. Were these her new abilities? The force of change that, pushed too far, made everything into impossible combinations? She could feel the constant flux all around her, the endless shifting of states, one thing into another, gradually getting faster. At its peak, at a speed where you couldn’t even feel where one thing became another anymore, that was chaos. True chaos. Everything was everything, simultaneously. The thought made her head hurt. Something inside of her yearned.

“Here.” Kia had started lifting the bed, then, as she spoke, the mattress rotted away to nothing, the metal turned to rust. The rust collapsed as Kia glanced back at her, coating where the bed had been in orange dust. “This is it, it’s under here, under the carpet.”

She watched her pull it up, the carpet dissolving in her hands, turning to dust. Degradation. The bed had collapsed in seconds as if it’d been left outside for a century.

“There we go.”

Kia had stripped away the floorboards and the gaping, splintered hole where her bed used to be gave way to a soft, green glow. She stepped closer for a better look. The floor was hollow, now, pipes and wires stretched through it like the guts of a wall. The thick pipes and bound wires clustered together around a large, crystalline egg-like object, and as they reached it they changed, seamlessly becoming pulsing veins or twitching limbs. The inanimate into the animate, then back into inanimate again as they transformed, all stemming from this powerful orb like conduits. It was at least the size of her head.

“It’s not nearly as big as I thought it would be.” Remarked Kia as she tapped it with a nearby bottle. The bottle sagged, now made of paper, as she lifted it. “Gonna get bigger, though, it swells a lot just before the place collapses.” She tossed the bottle away, “Okay, now I need you again. This thing is like a little ball of change, and you need to hold it still for me so I can pop it. You got that?”

“Hold it still? That bottle just turned—”

“No, no, not literally. You need to force it, briefly, into one thing. If I try to break it down it’ll become something else before I even know what I’m breaking. If you guide it, it’ll become a single thing for a moment, but it’ll try to change again after.” She rocked on her haunches, “You have to hold it long enough for me to dissolve it down to something inert. Got it?”

“I think so…” She crouched down next to Kia, “I can’t touch it though, right?”

“Yeah, unless you fancy having arms made of pasta or something.”

She reached out, trying to sense something, trying to feel something like the heat or vibration. She tried to make herself sensitive, like Kia had said, if she could only feel when—
Reeling back, she clutched her forehead. She’d felt it, then, felt the rushing change, a gyroscope of fluctuating being. Trying to pin down anything was like trying to grip the wheel of a speeding car, her mind hurt at the very effort. Kia watched her stumble with pursed lips.

“Don’t do that again. This is exactly what I was afraid of, you’ve made it bigger. Be more careful, the bigger you make it the more it speeds up. ”

“I, I can’t, it’s…”

“There isn’t can’t, right? If you don’t, we die. If you do, but do it wrong, we die.” Kia’s voice was stripped of emotion, “I don’t want to die, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either. So try again, and this time, don’t let it take. Go with it.”

“How can I? It’s changing so fast I can’t keep up! How can I stop something like that? It’s so much more powerful than me!” She panted, running her fingers through her hair, gripping the roots in frustration, “I don’t know what I’m doing! Nothing makes sense, I’m fucking terrified and you’re just telling me I’m going to die if I do anything wrong! Just, just stop!”

Kia frowned, blowing out a deep breath,

“Alright.” She said, after a pause, “Alright, fine. Okay. I hear ya. I’m sorry. I’m outta my depth in here, I’m relying on someone who’s never done it before and, well… I’m scared too, right? You and me, we’re opposites, and we’re the worst damn duo, elementally speaking, to be dealing with this. You’re too similar to it and I’m too different. We need to work together, just like before. Find some middle ground. We’ll have to get creative, right?”

She nodded, slowing her breathing,

“Yeah… yeah okay.”

“We both want to get through this. Let’s just think about it.”

They stared at the bulbous, crackling crystal, its limbs morphing into water and gas and back again. It was getting bigger.

“It hurt your head, right? Maybe if I try to dissolve its connection with you a little, you can deal with it without it overcoming you. What do you think?”

“I… I guess so. Let’s try it.”

She concentrated on it once more, Kia’s hands on her head. She felt Kia’s power push its way into her, familiar somehow, and she felt her empathy with the orb weaken slightly. She could feel it pushing back, the speed of it lashing through her mind, but it was dampened.

“Hang on,” Kia stood behind her, “I’ll see if I can just make it one way. Should give you more influence over it.”

She could feel its power surging, changing everything around it, its substance remoulding itself constantly. If she could just direct it, she could make it change into one thing, but what?
She tried wood, pushing at it with her mind, imagining the texture, the thickness, the structure, as if the Heart itself had been carved out of some great tree.

“Good!” Kia’s protection began to waver, but the Heart’s energy had slowed down, accommodating its wooden shape, “I’m going to try to make it rot, hold it steady!”

With Kia’s protection gone, she could feel it starting to shift, transforming into something else. She tried to hold it, forcing her mental image of its wooden form onto the ball of power, but it forced its way through, regaining speed once more.

“No, okay, not wood. It’s too solid, there’s too much to change.” Kia pushed her power back into her mind, “Try again, this time use something else. Something easier to destroy, even when it’s thick. Like… uh…”

“No, you were right before…” She stared at the crystallised power.

“Huh?”

“We need to go with it. I need to go with it. I can’t stop it changing, I just can’t, it’s against its nature, and, and I guess by extension mine, so…” She cast her hand out, her mind with it, “I just need to keep it changing to something that makes it weak…”

She felt her mind tumble and scrape as it was dragged along by the speed of the energy, but forced herself to keep focussed. Paper was easy, so light and flexible, then water, its weight crashing down into itself even as she forced it back to paper again. When she went with it, all it needed was a suggestion, and it changed with her. A ball of self-dissolving soggy paper. She felt Kia’s own power begin to tear.

“That’s it! That’s it, you’re doing it!”

She felt its power wane, collapsing in on itself. Tearing itself apart, Kia weakening it further, all with her mind inside, sliding around the dispersing energy. It was hypnotic. So much made sense here, so much was possible. Endlessly possible, and she was a part of it. As it began to fade, a part of her wanted it back. All that power…
The orb shattered. Her mind was flung free. She stumbled back as the walls of the room collapsed, shards of brick crashing down around them. The floor began to tumble. She felt arms around her waist, and the world began to spin. Kia leapt, and far off, the walls of the sphere began to crumble. The city wasn’t behind it, waiting to be unfenced. The city, reality, the world she knew began its reclamation. From all sides, buildings rushed in, like cops in a raid or shoppers in a sale. Perspective aggressively righted itself. In seconds, everything snapped back to how it should be. And as they landed on top of the building they’d just saved, as the world became everything she knew once more, she realised that everything she’d just experienced had actually happened. This wasn’t a dream.

Kia let go of her, and she dropped to her knees, retching. She felt a reassuring pat on her back, but could hear the smirk in Kia’s voice.

“The first time’s always the worst, girl. Let it all out.”

END OF CHAPTER TWO

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Read Chapter 3 – Two Forward, One Back – (Coming July 12th)

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Comments
  1. janishaves says:

    Really cool writing, keep it coming.

    Like

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