Archive for August, 2015

6 ~ Life After Death

Posted: August 23, 2015 in Entropis

“Are you kidding me? This is the best, man! I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited!”

“I’m just saying, it’s still dangerous.” Iris kept her voice down, ducking her head across the aisle of the train, “Even aside from falling out of the building, the other people in there… it could’ve gone bad. Really bad.”

“Yeah but it didn’t! You fixed it in time!” Euphie grinned, “Come on, you gotta admit! Saving the day, stopping Schisms, it’s a rush! You can’t tell me you didn’t enjoy it.”

Iris looked away, staring down the carriage of the tube train. It turned a corner, and the long snake of connecting carriages followed one by one. There were no doors between them, and the view all the way down gradually closed itself off.

“Just because we—”

“Aaahhh! I knew iiittt!” Euphie laughed, “You can change the subject to hide it, but ya don’t fool me! I saw your face after we got out! You were psyched, man!”

“Keep it down, would you?” Iris didn’t meet her eye, “Anyone might hear you…”

“Pfft! There’s hardly anyone here, and even then, so what? It’s like, nearly midnight, they’ll think we’re drunk or something! Chill, man! Just admit you really do like being a hero after all!”

Silver watched and listened, sitting silently next to them, the clacking of rails between stations giving a rhythm to it all. Little things sounded louder, the background noise that she normally wouldn’t even notice cutting into everything else. The rustling of a newspaper being opened, the hiss of the doors, the beeping alarms, and the underlying, constant chakachak, chakachak, chakachak of the train tracks dragged her attention away. She couldn’t focus on anything. The noises, the play of light through the windows, even the vibrations of the whole juddering train running through her, it was as if the world itself was saying Look. Look at me. Look at each detail, each precise, tiny bit that your senses tell you. At any moment that could collapse. It could be gone. It could all well up into some great big Schism and those little things you’re seeing, feeling, hearing, all that would never have existed.
Look, it was saying, while you still can.

“Right, Silver?”

“Huh? What? Sorry I was, uh, what did you say?”

“We were saying how great this whole powers schtick is!” Euphie grinned, “I mean, you especially must be loving it!”

“She was saying how great it is…” Iris chipped in, but Euphie ignored her.

“I mean, come on man! You can change stuff into other stuff! I’m jealous!”

“I don’t…” Silver shrugged, “Why?”

“Are you kidding!?” Euphie threw back her head in disbelief, “Why? Man, you can literally turn lead into gold! Like, not even lead, like, you could turn this whole train into gold! You could be rich as shit!

Even Iris made a face of agreement,

“She has a point.”

“You could turn shit into gold!” Euphie continued, “You could be rich from shit! You could poop gold!”

Iris’ face stopped looking agreeable,

“That’s disgusting.”

“But so cool!”

Silver ran her fingers over her necklace, the rings sliding against each other, “It’s not that easy. It’s easier in a Schism, but… I don’t know…”

“You don’t know? What’s not to know? I wish I could do that! With my powers my best bet is robbing a bank. I could, like, melt the vault doors and stuff. Man, can you imagine…”

“You’re not serious.” Iris glared at her, “You can’t go from ‘We’re all heroes isn’t it great’ to ‘Let’s rob a bank’ in less than five minutes!”

Euphie paused, her mouth slightly open for a moment as realisation seemed to dawn on her,

“Ohh man! Ohhh maaan! I’m the anti-hero! What a twist! Jeez, Iris, I thought for sure it’d be you!”

Silver couldn’t help but smile. Despite the danger, the destruction caused by these Schisms, without them she would never have met either of these strange girls. They sat opposite each other, their softly glowing dresses stark against the darkness through the windows behind them. They were so different, Euphie’s energy and force of personality almost contagious, her loud voice dwarfing everything else in the carriage, while Iris’ soft voice was penetrative in its calculation. She was gracefully smart, somehow, Silver thought. The kind of smart that’s too busy analyzing everything to care what you think. Yet it’d been her that worried most about the people in the Schism. She liked them both, in their own ways. Even here their body language was opposite, Euphie laying back into her seat with her arms spread apart across the backs, while Iris hunched forward, elbows on her knees, chin on her hands.

“Silver’s right, though. It isn’t easy outside of Schisms. I don’t know if it’s raw power or what, but something in there makes it easier to affect things.” Iris glanced at Silver, “At least you both have more visible powers. Mine seems to be subtle. Fixing broken things and stuff. Not something I can practice so easily…”

“What’re you talking about? Kia said it was like, solid and stuff, right?” Euphie’s blonde curls flopped into her face as the train juddered, “So you could freeze water, and like, anything I blow apart you can put back together!” she laughed, brushing her hair back, “So I don’t even need to worry about what I break! Perfect!”

“It’s not that simple. It’s about more than just solidifying things. I learnt that tonight, in the police station. It’s about bringing whatever it is to the best it can be. In the case of raw material that could well be more solid, but with anything else, it’s just… well, refining it. Refining it until it can’t get any better.”

Euphie shrugged, “That’s not what Kia said.”

“Well maybe Kia isn’t right about everything.”

They’d gone back to Kia’s apartment after the Schism, the luxurious flat seeming scarcely lived in, with much of the space turned into some sort of training area. She taught the others what she’d taught Silver the night before. Three nights ago to the rest of the world, she reminded herself. She’d listened to the same explanations over again, trying to glean more understanding this time, but it had been Iris who had understood the most. Yet, it had also been Iris who’d questioned the most.

“So much of this just doesn’t mesh, it doesn’t apply to the world.” Iris frowned, “I mean, these don’t even seem like forces of nature. They’re at once both too vague and too specific. I can’t work out how it all fits together.”

“It seemed to make sense to me.” Silver watched a station flash by through the window, “I mean, if you think about it, everything does go through that cycle.”

“To an extent yes, but the things you can do, Silver… you especially, they don’t make sense with… with everything we know! I mean, you turned wood into metal. That’s not just rearranging molecules! That’s fundamentally changing molecules from one type into another! That’s not just transmutation, that’s outright transformation!”

“Hey, heey, come on!” Euphie grinned from across the aisle, “You’re thinking too hard! This isn’t science, man! This is magic! Crazy awesome magic! You need to stop trying to explain it and start learning to use it!”

“If these forces are behind everything, if they really are the elements that make up the world like Kia claims them to be, then science is fundamentally wrong about a lot of things… you can’t expect me to just believe that on her say so.”

“I’m a bit confused as to how giant horrible Schisms of collapsing reality aren’t like, serious evidence.” Euphie sat up, “I mean, if that don’t convince you I don’t see what will.”

Silver nodded, “Even if it’s hard to believe from everything you’ve been taught, which, I mean, sounds like it’s a lot… well, we still have to fight them. We still need to stop them. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise there won’t be much left for science to analyse!” Euphie finished. She grinned like it was a joke.

Iris glared at the ground.

“Whatever.” She muttered, “Magic is science for the ignorant.”

“Well, whatever yourself!” Euphie stood up, swishing her purple, magical dress at Iris, “While you’re off with goggles and test tubes, me and Silver are gonna be changing poop into gold and living the high life! Kia didn’t get that posh flat by working as a barmaid man, she went and magicked herself some cash! I dunno about you, but with this kinda power I don’t see you going out and getting a real job!”

Iris’ head jerked up at her, her face twisted into a grimace, spitting her words,

“Maybe I want to! Why are you so damn keen to throw your life away? I’m in university, trying to do a degree and now Kia tells us these Schisms take away days every time you go into one! Do you know how hard I worked to get all the As I needed? And I did better, I got two A stars! I had a plan, I had a life, and now… and now…” she gestured at her magical dress, “This! This happens and I’m supposed to just drop everything?”

she ducked her head, hands clawing the air around it, as if trying to slowly tear away a migraine,

“How much is all this going to take from me? My mum’s back in Reading, calling me every day to find out why I’m not taking her calls, and I don’t know what to tell her! ‘Oh, sorry mum, I’m suddenly imbued with magical powers and this stupid dress only I can see but can’t take off! Oh, and yeah, I’m missing classes because I’m having to fix parts of reality that’re collapsing and I’ve nearly… I’ve nearly died in them!”

her face started to crumple and she looked away,

“But don’t worry mum! I’m fine!

She swallowed and took a deep breath, clenching her jaw tight.
There was a moment of silence as Silver sat there, stunned. Euphie looked shocked too, but quickly hid it, looking out the window as she searched for a reply.

“We’re not all as gifted and talented as you.” she said, her voice dry, “So you’ve got some great life, some great future. That’s great man. Sorry if these magical powers just, like, get in your way.”

Euphie turned her back, grabbing the bar over her head and staring out at the black night outside, or her reflection,

“Guess you’ve just got that much less shit to transform then, huh? Must be real nice to have that leg up, but we don’t all get that, you know?”

“You don’t get it.” Iris murmured, “You’re not even listening.”

“Aw, or maybe you don’t get it!” Euphie wheeled around again, “Maybe you forgot the part where we would’ve died if we didn’t get these powers! Maybe you might wanna remember how the alternative is your mum burying you in the fucking ground, and somebody else gettin’ your damn uni course!”

Euphie curled her lip,

“This is our second chance. Who gets that, huh? Some of us get to make mistakes right again, but shit, it sounds like you never made any! Well soh-ry! Nobody’s making you come with us when we go to beat Schisms! In future, just ignore ‘em! Do your uni course! Have your perfect little life! Who cares!”

“I can’t do that…” Iris muttered.

“Yeah ya can! You just learn to ignore the dress for the rest of your life, see past it, whatever. Then you can just be Iris McNormal and forget about Schisms completely!”

Iris shook her head, her voice quiet,

“No, I can’t.”

Euphie put her hands on her hips, glaring down at her like a furious teacher,

“Why not? We don’t need you! We don’t need some downer whining about everything she’s lost all the time!”

Iris sneered back,

“It’s not about you. Not everything is, you know that? It’s about everyone else. Everyone back in that Schism, in the police station, they were real people, with families and children and lives and dreams, just like me. I can’t leave them.” she shook her head, “I’m studying to become a doctor. A surgeon, hopefully. Do you know how few women there are in surgery?”

she sighed, raking a hand through her thick black hair,

“It’s stupid because I’m the one who wanted to save people. Now I’ve got magical powers and the job of saving people from being sucked out of reality, and I can’t take it.” She looked up at Euphie, “I can’t take the… the hopelessness of it all. Kia said there’s no way to get people out of Schisms once they’re in. We shut that one down, and even the people who were left in the room with us when it ended, they were gone.” She looked away again, taking in a long, stuttering breath, “How can you just… just accept that? If I don’t fight… if I just give up, try to ignore it, then those Schisms are just going to keep growing, sucking in more people, destroying more places. I can’t just… let them die…”

Silver stared at them both. She wished she had something to say, something to add, a eureka moment that’d inspire both of them. She’d always had this curse, where in the moment she needed it most her mind would go blank, and only hours later would she think of the right thing to say. Now she was paralysed, her brain too busy processing everything to be able to think of what to do. Neither of them were wrong, exactly, but at the same time she didn’t want to take a side even if they were. It was like watching her parents argue. She was just forced to watch, tongue-bound and helpless but to wait for it to end.
Euphie sat down, one leg up on the seat with an arm resting on her knee. Both of them looked exhausted. The train clattered into a station and the doors opened, bringing a momentary silence between them as they waited for it to move off. Silver watched the doors, but nobody got on. She glanced down the aisle, but couldn’t see anyone except down the very ends of the carriage. They probably couldn’t hear what they were saying at that distance, but even if they could, they probably wouldn’t have any clue what they were arguing about.

“Well, fine,” Euphie broke the silence as the train pulled away, “We agree on something at least.”

Iris ignored her, but Silver spoke up.

“I… I don’t know what to say about all this. I mean, I wish I could but… I didn’t always want to save people. Well, uh, that sounds bad, but, I mean that I never really knew what I wanted! Even now, since I got these powers, I still don’t know what I want to do with them. But…”

she took a deep breath. It was difficult to force the memory back up, after she’d spent hours trying to forget it,

“Tonight… or, well, however long it’s been in that Schism, I… I killed people.” She stuttered over her words, “I mean, I, I didn’t mean to! It was an accident, I was scared, they were, were grabbing me and I, I just kinda lashed out and… and one turned to some kinda sand…”

Silver shook her head, trying to clear it, trying to make the images less clear in her mind. The thick, oozing red sand spilling from the opened stomach, the hole shaped like her hand print. There’d been no stain, no blood that touched her, but she felt it burning into her palm. The burn of power, raw and uncontrolled. The burn of a life. The heat of it made her feel sick, and she grasped it, as if to hide it,

“I don’t want to do that ever again, I can’t, I, I need to know how to control it. I just wanted to get them away and, and…”

She stared through her own hand to the guilty one, hidden beneath.

“Iris was right, they’re still people. What if I did that outside of a Schism? What if I did it to my family!”

The thought filled her with terror, and she stared at them, her mouth opening and shutting as she tried to find a way to put it into words. She clearly didn’t need to, their expressions alone told her they understood her fears, but they both paused for a moment as they searched for an answer.

“You just… ah,” Euphie floundered for words, looking away “well, be careful I guess?”

“Don’t blame yourself for what happened, Silver.” Iris said carefully, “You were being attacked, it was self defence…”

“Yeah! Anyone would’ve done the same! It was survival, you or them! Couldn’t be helped!”

Silver shook her head,

“No, no I… melting someone else isn’t self defence! I’m not in control! What if something happens outside of a Schism? I don’t want to die, I have to protect myself, but… but not like that…”

The two other girls stared at her, uncomfortable. Iris reached over and put a hand on Silver’s.

“Really, neither of us are in control either. You’d be better off talking to Kia rather than us, but, ideally all of us should be more in control than we are.”

“We just need to train together!”

Euphie’s eyes lit up, her usual wide grin stretching back across her face,

“These elements form a cycle, right? We can work together and progress something through the cycle and back again! Oh man, we could do something’s entire life cycle in minutes!”

“That’s cruel. Can you imagine being forced through your entire life in minutes?” Iris glared, “The more I think about it the worse that is! How could you even think about doing that to an animal?”

“What? Nobody said anything about animals!” Euphie shook her head, “No man I meant a tree or something, jeez! We could take an acorn, grow it up, I’ll wither it down, then make another with the acorns it dropped along the way!”

Silver smiled,

“Yeah… yeah that’d be so cool! We could grow loads of trees!”

“Christ…” Iris put a hand to her forehead, closing her eyes, “Every scientific law of energy–”

“Fuck science!” Euphie shouted with a grin, “We can do what we want! We’re part of the system now, Iris, which means we can break it!”

“That’s called corruption.”

“It’s called awesome! Seriously though, if you don’t get your head around this, man, you’re gonna have a hard time using your powers! You gotta start thinking less like a normal person and more like a bad ass magical girl!”

Silver realised the speech wasn’t just for Iris. It was important for her, too. She needed to start opening her mind up to the possibilities these powers could bring her. Euphie was doing it already, that was for sure. No doubt in a few weeks she’d be living in some uptown flat with everything she could want, It didn’t seem like something that’d fit Entropis, an element of decay and destruction. Wouldn’t that sort of person be brooding and moody like in the movies? How could Euphie – blonde, bouncy, loud Euphie – possibly be joined with an element of degradation?
She looked to Iris, leaning back in her seat, eyes closed, hand in her hair, how did she fit Immallea? To be fair to herself, she knew precious little of Immallea. She hadn’t even seen it in action. And herself? Did she fit Metasis? This chaotic force of change and transformation and growth? She was an insecure runaway that’d never amounted to anything, in class or outside of it. She relied on everyone around her to get anything done, her parents, then Jacob, then Kia, now these two. Euphie was more adaptable than she was, Iris was more self assured. How could she turn reality into something new when she didn’t know what to do with herself?

“Hey, why the glum look?” Euphie rounded on her, “It’s Iris’ day of moodiness! If you join in I won’t be able to breathe for brooding!”

“Nothing,” Silver said quickly, “Nothing, it’s fine. I was just wondering what I’m going to do, too. You know, with these powers.” She stretched, “I mean, I guess I always thought I’d know if I won the lottery or something what I’d do with it, but… well, I guess they say money isn’t everything…”

“Yeah but it’s a great place to start!”

Euphie looked like she expected Silver to laugh, so she forced a smile.

I know what you mean, Silver.” Iris looked up again, “Euphie may be right when she says I can’t treat our ‘second chance’” She did air quotes with her fingers, “like it’s purely a negative, but it can’t replace your life. What were you going to do before this happened?”

“I… I don’t know, really. I always liked art, but nothing ever really worked for me… they kept saying in college, ‘find your medium, find your medium!’ but, I dunno… nothing ever really stuck.”

“Well then work on that. You can use this magic stuff to make it so you don’t need to worry about rent or food or working a job, so you’ve got plenty of time to figure it out.” Iris shrugged, “I’ll be going to my uni classes, still. Whether or not you’re magical, knowing what you want to do with your life is still important. Only now we’ve got to find some way to balance it…”

“Silver, ignore that bullshit, man! You wanna do art? You wanna find your medium?”

Euphie grinned a wide, toothy grin, enjoying the moment of dramatic silence as they both waited for her to finish,

“You’ve been given a medium no-one else can do!”

“Well don’t string it out, Euphie, get on with it.” Iris folded her arms.

“You don’t need clay or pencils or, I dunno, glitter! You’ve got the world, Silver! You can morph stuff, anything into anything! Reality is your medium!”

Silver stared. Was that true? She looked at her reflection in the window across from her, the inky black of the night creating a mirror. The rich green of her dress flowed down her body, her trainers an odd contrast to the innate elegance of it. It was almost a shame nobody else could see it. No-one else could see how well it suited her.

“Except that doesn’t really help, does it.” Iris’ tone was flat, almost mocking, “Giving someone a bigger palette doesn’t help them work out what to paint. Apparently, restriction can be more conducive to creativity than complete freedom.”

Silver looked to her,

“Really?”

“Well, I read it in a book. I don’t know much about art personally. I can’t say it’s ever interested me.” She hesitated, “But, uh, I’m sure you’ll come up with something!”

~☆~

The train pulled out of the station, sliding away behind Silver and down the tracks. Bright orange letters flashed up on the sign overhead, informing her that there’d be no more until morning. As the train’s chakachak echoed away into silence, the rear red lights dwindling into the distance, she slipped through the open barriers and out onto the street.

Euphie and Iris were an interesting pair to end up with. She’d never really had much of a choice in friendships, if it wasn’t teachers pairing and grouping people, it was colleagues she was forced to work with in part time jobs. Now fate or whatever had stuck her with these two, and she wondered if she’d met them in other circumstances whether she’d have made the effort to get to know them. Or, even then, would they have bothered with her? Was it similar personalities or circumstances that ultimately made people your friends? Iris with her goals and smarts, and Euphie with her boundless energy and enthusiasm; chances were they’d both look past Silver as someone with little in common with either of them. She’d never made any truly lasting friendships, each group of people around her changing with her circumstances, classmates and workmates drifting off their own ways after leaving.

But these circumstances couldn’t change. All three of them were bound together by a common thread, a thread nobody else could see, or understand even if they told them. They needed each other, no matter their personalities or backgrounds, their attitudes or ideals. They needed each other, because without each other, they’d all have died in their first Schism, and at the rate they were going, any other could be their last. Was anything faster at forming friendships than survival? She doubted it.
Would it also help her find herself? Everything seemed to be forcing her to, as if everyone was scared she wouldn’t. As if she didn’t work it out quickly, something bad would happen. On and on, ‘Find your goal, find your purpose, find your medium.’ Why did it have to be so important now? Everyone seemed to act like it was the deadline to some assignment. ‘Please specify what you will be doing for the rest of your life. Don’t get it in by your twentieth year and you’ve failed. No resubmissions allowed. Sign in triplicate on the dotted line.’
Why did that have to apply to her still, after she gained magical powers? Why did she have to act like everyone else when she’d become so much more? Reality was her medium. She could do whatever she wanted. Iris was right, it didn’t help her figure out what to do, but as soon as she thought of something she’d be able to do it. That freedom alone was reassuring.
Euphie was right, she decided. These powers really had been her second chance. She’d gained a new outlook, a new direction, and most of all, new friends. So she had to fight a few Schisms, well whatever, they’d get easier as she got better. And she’d get better as they all learnt together. She grinned up at the moon, its alabaster eye of light bright enough to penetrate the city glow, and winked back at it. She was Silver, now. Just like a new moon, everything before was forgotten, washed away, and reborn. Now she had everything she needed to make her life how she wanted. It was only up from here. Right?

END OF CHAPTER SIX

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Read Chapter 7 – In The Moment – (Coming September 6th)

5 ~ Falling

Posted: August 9, 2015 in Entropis

Trapped. The word rang in Silver’s ears as she worked to transmute the desk they’d found into metal, moulding, almost welding on the door handles Kia had torn out of nearby doors. Iris worked to protect it against the ravages of the Schism, beating back the spreading rust in the metal or rot in the parts Silver hadn’t yet transformed. Euphie flapped, uncertain, next to them both.

“Is she sure this is gonna work? I mean, I don’t even know how she does it, let alone do it with all of us on top! What if it doesn’t work man? What then!?”

“I don’t know! But she’s the only one who actually knows what she’s doing, so we’re gonna have to try!” Iris focussed on a spot of rust spreading around the handles. It hesitated, then appeared to change its mind, returning back to metal. “Maybe you could just be quiet and let us?”

“I just, I can’t fly like her, man!”

“Neither can we!”

Silver glanced over at ends of the hallway they were in. It was getting closer. The long passage was supposed to have lead back to the main stairway up to the floors above, but half way down they’d noticed it coming. The steady trickle of pieces of floor, tearing chunks out of the walls with it as they fell, had followed them like a persistent stalker, the black abyss of nothingness beneath it almost glaring in its lack in comparison to the station and reality. Here, they’d found that the consuming nothingness wasn’t just behind them, it was ahead too. The floor they stood on was a candle burning at both ends.

“Silver, you’ve known her for longer, right? You’ve done this before yeah?” Euphie had started to pace, “This is like, a walk in the park for Kia!”

“I dunno, I mean I’ve only known her for a day. But it was her idea, so she must be pretty confident it can work.”

“Yeah! Confident, man, that’s it! She’s real confident! We’ll be fine!”

Silver continued to concentrate on her construction. The desk was practically finished, now. It was a simple design, but it’d been a question of holding it together rather than anything else. Everything was breaking down so fast that Iris barely had a chance to keep up. They probably wouldn’t have a chance to maintain it once they were gone. She’d found a roll of tape in the drawers and stuck it over the joins. She’d always thought sticky tape was useful, and that was before she’d been able to turn it into steel welding.

“Here she comes! But damn she’s uh, cutting it fine!”

Silver and Iris looked up from their work, and bouncing off the hallway walls came Kia, kicking off for thrust to get there faster. She dropped to the carpet and moved straight to the desk,

“All finished?”

“Pretty much!”

“Good. Then we’ve gotta move fast. I’ve found a way up. There’s a lift for the disabled near the entrance which gives us a straight line to the top. That’ll give us some time as the two floors below collapse.” Kia climbed up on top of the desk, “Unfortunately that means we need to go for longer than I’d like. But I’ll do my best.”

The floor was getting small, their island sinking into a black sea, and the three girls took hold of the handles sticking off on all sides, while Kia stood on top in the middle like a rock star on stage.

“Right. Here goes.”

There was a moment of uncertainty as nothing happened, worried looks passing amongst the girls on the floor, before all of them began to feel lighter. The desk itself lifted slightly off the ground, tilting gently one way, then the other as they held it. The floor around them began to crack as if they were in the middle of an icy lake. Silver gripped the desk tighter, ‘Come on Kia… come on…’

“Kia, man, the floor’s going… hurry up yeah?”

“Let her concentrate!”

Iris stared down at the floor, the web of cracks beginning to reach her feet.

“I’m trying! I’ve never done it this big before!”

Kia had her eyes shut, intense focus on her face. Slowly, gradually they were getting lighter, but it wasn’t fast enough. Silver felt the floor snap under her feet. They had seconds at most.

“What’re you doing? Don’t let go!” Euphie almost let go herself, “Hold the damn desk!”

“I’m buying us time!” Iris had dropped to her haunches, her hands down on the cracked surface below them, which began to mend, “I’ll grab on when it’s ready!”

“No! If it collapses we can’t—”

“Shut up! Let me concentrate!”

Iris shut her eyes, battling the collapsing floor with her own will as Kia fought with gravity. She was getting there, but whether she’d be able to actually lift all of them before the floor collapsed was another matter. Silver really wished she could transmit power, maybe then she could do something to help…

“It’s getting too dangerous Iris, grab the damn table!”

“I can hold it…”

“No, you can’t!”

Chunks of floor tumbled away by Iris’ heels, the small circle they were stood on was cracked through and segments were sucked into nowhere each second. Silver watched as one fell, and it didn’t disappear into nothing, it didn’t pop out of existence, it just kept falling. Some kind of ambient light kept it visible all the while, just getting smaller and smaller, fainter as it dwindled from distance. ‘Would it keep going forever?’ She wondered, ‘If I fell, would I fall eternally? If the decay that’s corroding everything in here isn’t affecting me, would I even die?’ She stared into the blackness and wondered if anything could possibly be worse than that. She felt the edge of the floor against her feet, and felt sick.

“I… I can do it…” Iris frowned against whatever forces she could feel, “It’s strong but…”

The ground beneath her feet collapsed, and her eyes snapped open, a gasp escaping her lips as her hand reached out to grab back onto her handle. The desk lurched as the rest of the carpet collapsed, and Silver felt gravity grab her by the ankles and stomach. She gripped the handle, the other holding the edge of the desk in desperation, pulling herself up onto the table as much as she could only to watch Euphie slip off, only her hand on the door handle still visible. The table tilted after her and Silver realised they were falling. The walls were gone, now slightly above them, and as she looked back down below her she saw Euphie hanging from the table, her hand clasped around Iris’ wrist. Their mouths opened and closed, as if they were yelling at each other, but Silver heard nothing but the blood rushing in her ears, her Heart beat thumping bass around her body, her raw breath.

She forced her eyes back up, looking at first to Kia, who was still standing unphased on the desk surface, then at the remains of the station. Each room, or the remains of them, was clearly sectioned by the walls around it, but being below allowed her to see it as though they were stacked. She could still see the edges of the cells, the hallway where the gunman had been, and there, the main entrance and lobby. ‘Like a giant waffle press right over my head…’ she thought, except that it was falling towards them. Getting closer.

Was there a difference in feeling between falling and levitating? Was it just a matter of perspective? She looked at Kia, who met her eyes, now open, and grinned. She’d done it. There was no air that she could feel, no resistance of gravity, it felt like she was falling down into the dark, into nothing, when actually, she was rising. They were all rising. She must’ve done it. They were going to be alright.

Euphie and Iris were still dangling, their grip on each other tight, but both were looking up at the station with relief. As they rose back within the walls, they felt sound return to their ears, felt the movement of air, the slight weight of gravity that bore down on them for a moment before Kia lifted it. And with it, them. Now weightless, Euphie pulled Iris back to the desk, who grabbed her handle and clutched at it. She’d gone pale, her dark skin a shade lighter than it had been before. Her breathing was heavy, and she lay half over the desk, eyes wide open, gripping it so tight she shook. Even Euphie looked drained, but clung to her handle with a grin.

“Man, for a moment I thought we were dead!”

“Yeah, well, you weren’t alone there,” Kia said from above, “If I hadn’t got the hang of it before I left the building like you guys, we’d all be floating out into nothing now. Doing me on my own is easy, doing it in a whole big bubble is like, trying to make stuff happen without being able to feel it. Damn hard.”

“But you did it!” Euphie waved her limbs around, floating out as if in water, “I was just sayin’ to the others they didn’t need to worry with you around!”

“We’re okay…” Iris huffed, sucking air back into her lungs, “For a moment I thought that was it…”

She sat up a little, taking measured breaths.

“You’re welcome!”

“Yeah… okay, thanks Euphie.”

“That’s the second time now!” Euphie grinned back at her, “I guess you owe me big time huh?”

“We should be able to get up to the top now, but we still need to be careful.” Kia began to push the desk so that it floated down the hall, “Pass too far from the desk and you’ll still fall, so hold tight, right?”

“I don’t get it,” Iris let herself float up a little, “If gravity stops working outside of the station, shouldn’t all the bricks and such stop falling? It’d collect around it, wouldn’t it?”

“Not quite. The bricks and carpet and stuff will keep falling until the station’s gravity dies enough that nothing floats. Even if it’s broken off, it’s still a fragment of reality in endless nothing. Whatever rules apply to the place it comes from will still apply to it when it’s miles away. Remember, it’s not just the physical reality that’s breaking down, but the elements that create reality.” Kia frowned, “It’s kinda hard to explain when you don’t know. We’ll talk about it after.”

Silver listened, but even with the knowledge the other two didn’t have, about these strange elements and the nature of Schisms, there wasn’t much that made any real sense to her. All this stuff seemed like a lot more information than she needed to know. Weren’t they trying to keep reality as reality, and not deal with the nothingness out there? Still, if understanding it had helped Kia and Iris stop them falling, or floating or whatever, into it then maybe it was useful. She was just glad she wasn’t the one that needed to work it out.

“Okay it should just be around the corner here…”

Kia pushed off from the wall as they got close, the station around them having visibly deteriorated since the time in the cells. The walls had gotten shorter as they’d crumbled away below, and as they floated into the lobby, they spotted the lift doors clinging to the mechanics inside the shaft, jutting down where the walls ended like a pair of buck teeth. The desk floated over to the doors and Kia gave them a kick.

“These are thick,” she said, “It’ll take me a few minutes to break ‘em apart. You’ll have to hang on.”

“Wait, waaait a sec, why break ‘em?” Euphie floated up to the doors and hit the button at the side, which turned red, “It’s a lift, man! Just call it, we’ll take it up!”

Kia didn’t say a word, just turned and stared pointedly at the nothingness below the lift doors. There was a loud creak and a grumble, followed by a clang.

“What, uh,” Euphie looked nervous, “Was th—”

As they watched, the huge metal box of the lift dropped out of the bottom, falling away into the void, a trail of lift cable and bits of hydraulics falling after it.

“You seem to be forgetting that this place is falling apart.” Kia drawled, “Right then, now that there isn’t a lift in our way, let’s get on with it.”

“Wait, hang on,” Silver heard herself speak before she’d even finished thinking of her plan, “You don’t need to. I can… Hm…”

“Don’t you start…”

“No, it’ll be fine, look.”

She pushed herself over towards it, using the desk itself as leverage. She’d done it just last night, there was no reason why she couldn’t do it again. She pressed her hands against the thick doors and remembered back to her incident with the salt shaker. If it wasn’t just material she could change, but thickness too, then the doors shouldn’t be difficult at all. Her practice with her new necklace and the desk made metal easy to concentrate on, and with her hands against it, she could feel for the thickness disappearing, feeling for any movement in the space they slid into. She closed her eyes, focussing, feeling, trying to imagine the entire pair of doors as huge sheets of—

“Uuwaagh!”

She toppled through to the sound of ripping, the dim light from the foyer cut off momentarily as she fell forward and down, straight towards the empty black below, before stopping with a hard jerk.

“I didn’t think you’d lean on it,” Kia dragged her back onto the floating desk, “But I guess you’ve all gotta learn the hard way.”

“What is this stuff? Foil? Man, you turned massive lift doors into foil?” Euphie flapped the remains of the door, then tore off part of the sheet, “What the hell?”

“I, I thought it’d work!”

Silver stood up, brushing herself off a bit as she reoriented herself.

“Yeah! That’s what I mean! It’s genius man! Bloody brilliant!”

“It’s definitely quicker.” Kia gripped the door frame and pulled them into the lift shaft, “I guess you can do the same to the doors up the top, too.”

They floated up, pulling themselves along the rails that lined the corners of the shaft, lift doors passing one by one. The lift shaft was gloomy, worse than the rest of the steadily darkening station, and only the glint of metal from the light below guided them along until they reached the fourth floor.

“Over to you, Silver. It’s good practice for you anyway.”

She nodded, and put out her hands as the floating desk clunked against the doors. Somehow, knowing for a fact that you could do something made it all the easier to actually do it. That confidence made it stronger, and she was starting to see how time and experience with it all would eventually get her to Kia’s level. How long had Kia been doing all this? Years? What would she be able to transform in that time? It boggled the mind to think about, so she focussed back on turning steel into tin foil. Truth was, even having done it before, it was difficult to believe she could. Knowing your own capabilities and believing them inside might not be as similar as she’d thought.

“Great.” Kia tore through the doors, foil crushed apart as the desk floated through, “Yeah, it’s definitely up here.”

That much was obvious. As they passed into the lobby area of the fourth floor, the sound was what hit them hardest. Moans and cries whimpered from all sides, hunched forms huddled into walls and crevices. It was difficult to tell who had been police, they were all equally dishevelled, and most, incredibly aged. One woman struggled to lift the blood-stained paper weight she’d used to beat in the splattered remains of the dead man’s face below her. The look on her face as if she were carrying out some monotonous chore, oblivious to those around her, or what she was doing.

“Give it back! Give! Give it! Give it back!”

“I just wanted to… to touch it…”

“Did I bathe? Did I…?”

“You! You, all of you! I don’t see you! Any of you!”

“Maybe just the one… one… can’t hurt…”


The voices went on, gibbering and crying in their own world. Was the human psyche so fragile? Were we all really this close to a breakdown, to utter madness, all this time? These metaphysical, magical powers protected her now, but before this, would she have gone crazy too? Humanity seemed so strong in its own little sphere of influence. Outside of it, it truly had nothing.

“Oh God,” Iris reared back, floating out of the little bubble of anti-gravity and sank, slowly, to the floor, “This is… I can’t stand this, this isn’t right!”

“There is no right.” The anti-gravity bubble disappeared, and the desk, Silver and Euphie also sank to the ground, “It’s just how things are. Let’s get to the Heart and end this.”

“How can you be so…” Iris shook her head, struggling for words, “So uncaring, these poor people…”

“I learnt.” Kia reached the blood splattered old woman and tapped her lightly on the forehead, rendering her unconscious, “And you will too. These people are already dead. The sooner you stop worrying about them, the quicker you’ll get the Schism finished.” She ignored the others around her, turning back to the three, “Which is only going to save more people who aren’t already dead, right? So let’s get on with it.”

Euphie stepped forward, catching up. She turned back to Iris as she realised she wasn’t following,

“Hey, come on, she has a point! We need to get this done! Think of all the people we save if we’re fast!”

Silver could understand Iris’ horror. It was beyond awful to see people reduced to this, their minds so degraded that they’re barely a fragment of the person they used to be. But at the same time, there was nothing they could do for them. Even if they got them out of the Schism somehow, “saved” them, their minds wouldn’t just spring back to how they were, would they? They’d be let out into a world, having one minute been normal, rational people, then the next clinically insane or brain damaged. Maybe it was a blessing they were stuck in here, at least that way their families don’t ever know how they ended up. How they lost their minds and ended up like… like this. She put a hand on Iris’ shoulder and gave her half a smile,

“I know where you’re coming from, but let’s at least focus on doing something positive where we can.”

Iris frowned, unable to meet anyone’s eye.

“Yeah.” She said, “Yeah, okay.”

The fourth floor was mostly hallways and offices again, but with more luxurious board rooms, conference halls and planning rooms full of white and glass boards with symbols and ideas drawn out on them. ‘This must be a more important station than I thought,’ she looked through the windows that weren’t frosted, looking for anything that might be important, ‘I thought this was just a little station, but this place is fully kitted out for everything. What could possibly have set off a Schism up here?’ The area was almost pristine, with very little damage across the walls or windows, and only the most simplest of things looking worn down. Were the potted plants dying from the Schism, or had the police just been too busy to water them? Was the rusted vent plate like that before or only now? It was difficult to tell. They must be practically on top of the Heart, you could almost forget that the floors below were crumbling away into nothingness.

“Here.” Kia rapped on the window of the door she was looking through, “This is it, it’s got to be in here.”

The others appeared next to her, peering through into the room.

“How do you know?” Euphie asked, “I can’t see past all the people!”

“Exactly. They’re how I know.”

The room was crammed with people, all pressed inside as if waiting for something. The rows of chairs that had once lined the conference hall were scattered around in piles or on their backs. The people, officers in varying states of dress alongside normal clothed others, all stood in tightly huddled clusters, as if afraid of the other groups. From somewhere near the door a flickering projector wrapped spectral words around their bodies.

“It’s instinctive, they’ve all run to higher ground, so to speak. That guy with the gun wasn’t moving to the entrance, he was trying to get here, to the most solid point in the building.” She smirked, “I really should’ve realised. Guess I’m getting too cocky.”

“So we shut down the Heart,” said Euphie, “Like the Schism where I found Iris. I dissolved it. Want me to do it again?”

“Nah that approach ain’t gonna work here. Everything’s already dissolving.” Kia opened the door, glancing at Iris, “What we need is solidity. Which means I want you and Silver protecting us from this lot. When we start messing with the Heart, they ain’t gonna like it.”

They crept inside, but Kia strode ahead, ignoring the maddened people around them. They were ignored in turn, and Kia pushed a few of them out of the way as she headed to the middle. Even as she shoved them, none of them reacted, but as she moved past them towards the small stage, every head in the room turned to look at her. The way they turned, all in unison, sent a shiver down Silver’s spine. They watched Kia as she began to rap on the stage with her fist, but none of them moved. They stayed huddled together in their groups, watching. She glanced to the others, and Euphie looked back at her, eyebrows raised, uncertainty etched across her face. “Uh, Kia…?”

“Yeah, yeah it’s definitely here. Come and–” Kia turned back from the stage, but her smile dropped as she met the eyes of the others in the room, “Uh, yeah, okay, we better be quick. Come and get ready to take care of it.”

“This is creepy, man…” Euphie carefully threaded her way through the crowds, ignored until she reached Kia, and their eyes turned to her, “I really don’t like this…”

Silver and Iris joined them, and Kia dissolved part of the stage to expose the Heart. It shifted like the other one, but rather than shifting between materials, it eternally decomposed. Collapsing, melting, rotting, rusting, it did them all simultaneously, and every layer that disappeared held another below it that decomposed again. It never seemed to get smaller, and all around it were the rotten remains of the wood and shattered fragments of concrete that had once been the floor it was now lodged into. Several of the maddened people in the room took a step forward.

“Okay, we’re going to need to do this fast. They’re not going to like us messing with their one bit of solidity, and there ain’t gonna be any reasoning with them.” Kia put a hand on Iris’ shoulder, “This time you’re going to need to ignore them, and focus completely on the job at hand, right? These two,” she gestured to Silver and Euphie, “They’re going to make sure we’re not interrupted. The quicker we finish this, the quicker all this goes away, right?”

“Right.”

Iris nodded.

“H-hang on, just a minute,” Euphie stared back at the congregation, “How’re we supposed to keep ‘em off you? There’s like, two of us, and like, maybe thirty of them.”

“Do whatever you can. Knock them out, destroy the floor, make a wall, whatever. Just keep them away, right?”

“We’ve not… I mean, I’ve never done anything like that,” Silver took hold of one of the chairs, lifting it off the ground by the back, “How do we–”

The nearest group of maddened people started to move, their eyes focussed unblinkingly on Iris. Each of them began to shuffle forward, picking up speed, walking with intent as if they were about to lynch her for some unspeakable crime. Their fingers spasmed, mouths snapped, and a few of them let out small gasps of desperation.

“Shit, they’re moving man!”

Euphie grabbed a chair too, fumbling with it as they got closer. One of them stalked ahead of the rest, and the others strove to catch up, gradually making their way into a run.

“What are you doing?” Kia grabbed Iris’ shoulder, “Did you start already!?”

“I just thought I’d try to feel how difficult it’d be!” she paled as she saw the oncoming people, all staring directly at her, “Oh, oh God, they’re…”

“Concentrate! Fix it! You have to stop it decomposing, make it into one solid thing! It’ll be easiest for you, so do it!”

“I don’t… I don’t know how!”

“Then learn! And learn fast!” Kia forced her to look at the Heart, “I’ll try to make it easier for you, but you need to focus!”

Silver swung the chair as the first person reached her, but the light aluminium frame bounced off him, barely making him stagger. Euphie grabbed his arm, but he tried to shake her off without stopping. The rest of the group reached them, and Silver tried to force them back with the chair, only to be shoved aside. Then she heard the scream.
The man Euphie had been clinging to clutched at a gushing red stump, stumbling to the ground to curl into a foetal position. Euphie stared, wide eyed at him, shaking as she backed away, suddenly unaware of anything else. Tossing the chair aside, Silver ran after the rushing bodies of maddened people, gripping one, then another, trying to pull them back, but their single mindedness, or perhaps their madness, gave them a strength beyond her own. She dropped to the floor.

“Euphie, I need you to weaken the floor!”

“I… I… his arm, it just, it just crumbled away, it…”

“Euphie, listen to me! Euphie please!”

The group of people had almost reached the stage, but Kia had stood up to greet them. Just before they got to her, she jumped into the air, and as her feet slammed into the floor, a crack sounded through the room. The ripping noise of concrete became louder, and as they reached her, the floor split open, a wide gash tearing itself into being through the carpet. The maddened began to slip through, first just legs, the ones in front falling forward and making the others stumble over them, but as they began to climb over each other the floor opened up wider. Kia stepped back onto the stage, and yelled out across the room.

“I told you to hold them off!”

Silver wasn’t listening. She watched as the fissure in the floor yawned wider, and as the maddened clung to the edges, some of them fell to the floor below. Except that there wasn’t a floor below, not anymore. What had been left of the walls of the third floor were collapsing into the blackness, and she watched those who fell disappear into eternity with a rising sickness in her stomach. Small cracks spawned from the edges of the main chasm, crumbling the floor away around it. Euphie was on the other side, staring wide eyed down the hole, the floor starting to crack around her.

“Move! Euphie, get out of there!”

Silver pushed herself up and began to run towards the stage, jumping over widening offshoots opening to catch her. Kia was back with Iris, helping her fix the Heart. It still seemed solid on the tiny stage, she just needed to get there…
The ground rushed up as something closed around her ankle, sending her sprawling to the floor. She turned over to see one of the maddened, a woman with raging eyes, spit flecking her mouth as she tried to pull herself out of the floor, or Silver in with her. She kicked out, trying to break free, but the woman dragged her closer to the edge. ‘Not this time,’ Silver thought, twisting around to touch the woman’s hand. But as she grabbed her wrist, she stared at the raging face. Below it, her name tag, white letters on black, read “Sandra Phelps”. It had been easy to focus on destroying the arm of a monster, but this woman… she was still human, still someone who, outside of here, had friends and a family and others who loved her. The floor was still collapsing around them, chunks of it raining down into the partially digested remains of the rest of the station and beyond, into inky darkness. This “Sandra”, she had a whole life behind her, years ahead of her to live. How could she break her arm? How could she let her fall endlessly into the abyss below?
Her hesitation lost her some grip on the floor, and she slid towards the edge, only for the woman to pull herself up slightly and grab Silver with her other arm. Others appeared at the edge near her, grabbing onto the woman and using her to climb up. Panic stabbed its needle into Silver’s chest, and she fought to beat them back, and off of her. She wasn’t ready for this, she couldn’t fight, she couldn’t stop them. An elbow smashed into her side as another climbed up, and someone grabbed her hair, forcing her to scream. Her hands jutted up at whoever was on top of her, her mind filled with the need to escape, desperation that consumed her to fight her way free. There was a wet tear and a hiss as hot, thick liquid splashed across her. The maddened person on top of her fell apart, their middle turned to red sand, and they flopped off. She kicked out at the woman dragging herself half way up her body, who screamed, suddenly sliding backward with increasing speed. She kicked again, but her foot hit a metal leg, thick and heavy, and the woman’s nails scratched her as she scrabbled against the weight of her own limbs. Silver watched, frozen, as the woman’s look of rage burned hotter, its intensity turned fully on Silver as she slid helplessly down, and vanished over the edge.
Only one had managed to get up and past Silver, and he sprang up, breaking into a run towards Iris with a yell. His run was met by Euphie’s shoulder, which pounded into his stomach and sent him tumbling over her to the ground. She span on her heel and dropped into a crouch, slamming her hands down karate chop style into the back of his knees. He howled, twitching and writhing, and she turned to grab hold of Silver, hauling her up and onto the safety of the stage.

“You’re alright! You’re okay man! Stay with me!”

“I’m… I’m fine, but I,” Silver looked back at the two halves of the corpse she’d made, “I, I didn’t, I just wanted to get away, I didn’t mean to, to do that…”

“Come on,” Kia’s voice rang out over the sound of cracking, collapsing masonry, “You’ve nearly got it!”

“Silver come on, you’re fine now, get up!”

“That’s it! Almost!”

“We’ve done it! We fixed it!”

Silver watched the room repair itself as if everything had been an illusion, rushing back together faster than she could watch. Fragments slotted into shards like pieces of a gigantic 3D puzzle, and the floor rushed up from below to repair itself. In seconds everything was back to normal, as if nothing had changed, as if nobody had died. The bodies were gone. The bloody sand that had been the insides of the person she’d killed had vanished. Everything was fixed. Everything was how it should be. But somewhere, outside of reality, in endless darkness for endless time, was Sandra Phelps still falling?

END OF CHAPTER FIVE

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Read Chapter 6 – Life After Death – (Coming August 23rd)