Archive for the ‘Entropis’ Category

8 ~ This Has To End

Posted: September 20, 2015 in Entropis

One arm bent backwards, a shard of snapped bone piercing skin. A leg, mangled and crushed, blood pooling around it and rushing to re-join the trail from where it’d been dragged along the solidifying gravel. The very sight made Silver recoil, her stomach straining to force up its contents. It was little wonder that Iris had passed out, and astonishing that she’d survived at all.

Kia fought to beat back the mutated monsters that had been trying to tear Iris apart, their bodies twisted in overgrown aspects. One hulk made almost entirely of muscle smashed down at her with thick, knotted fists, and she leapt, bouncing off from another, bone shards growing out of its skin to reach around its body in some form of exoskeleton. A third monster clung to the leg of the over-muscled mutant, its limbs wasting away before her eyes as fresh gashes erupted across it, teeth snapping and chattering away from all angles. Above them, another creature watched them, eyes on every limb, every part of its body, sitting atop a platform roof. Even as its eyes met hers, more erupted across its skin.

How was it easier to engage with such unfathomable horrors than it was to look at Iris’ shattered body? Had she been so desensitised to the madness of Schisms that she could rationalise it as just being unreal, of being some warped dream that, once it was over, would never return? But Iris, her pain was so much more real. So much more permanent. With her powers gone, with her striking, glowing blue dress vanished, Silver had barely recognised her. It’d taken Kia’s guidance to realise that the unconscious, normal girl laying there was Iris. More than ever it reminded her that her broken state would last even after the Schism was over, and anything she did wrong now… would Iris be forced to live with it for the rest of her life? If she couldn’t heal her like Kia told her to, if she couldn’t get her back to her original state, would Iris end up being crippled forever?

She knelt next to her and stifled her own gagging at the smell. The air was thick with blood, the girl plastered in sweat, and she could feel the pressure of it all weighing down on her. She’d never felt so heavy, even as she extended her arms and began to concentrate on at least stopping the bleeding. Turning liquid blood into solid flesh. Would that close off veins, or would her intent work its way through her Metasis powers as it had with her own ankle? She hoped so – at the very least, she needed to stabilise the girl so she wouldn’t bleed to death.

Kia had managed to get on top of the muscle-bound hulk, its thick, powerful arms smashing at her as she dodged them. Its head was gone, dissolved by Kia’s magic, but even without it the creature continued to swing at her. Did it not need a brain? These things had once been human, passengers on a train that’d come through the station, despite Kia’s apparent attempts to report a disaster to divert any more on their way. But these were far from human now. A slew of corpses, each of them in varying states of dissolution, trailed off to the derailed train near the edge of the Schism, where it had hit the hardening edge and crumpled into a pile. Iris and Euphie must’ve fought hard to beat back as many as there had been, but it was hard to believe she’d have thought Iris would be okay on her own against these things. Kia was smacked off the top of the hulk by the bone-armoured thing that had climbed up it, but its arm had shattered as it had connected with her. She dropped to the floor, ducked under the hulk and send a powerful blow to the merged ribs of the monster clinging to it.
Somehow, they were still changing. The muscular hulk was getting bigger, its thick arms and legs gradually developing more layers. The skeletal creature was developing in the opposite way, its flesh withering away as its shell became less human, bone merging into a thick, beetle-like carapace that covered its body. The many mouthed thing had lost all control of its limbs and was just laying there, snapping away at nothing, barely an inch of flesh between its many jaws. Were these things really the unrestrained forms of the force she felt when she connected with the Heart? Would her desire to hide have transformed her into some tiny being that disappears into itself in some crude, warped way? What had each of these people wanted that had made Immallea refine them in such ways?

With Iris stabilised, she hesitated over the girl. This wasn’t like a gouge of flesh, transmuting one thing into another. A leg was so many things, bone and blood and muscle and fat. Get the balance wrong and it’d end up like, like those things. She was barely able to get the rings on her necklace to change independently, let alone something as complex as human biology. There was only so much magic could do, surely?

There was a crack and Kia was sent tumbling to the ground, scraping through the condensing gravel towards Silver, and collapsed in a pile of glowing purple. For a moment, Silver caught her breath, fear knifing into her at the thought of facing those things on her own, before Kia began to push herself back up, giggling.

“Ohh the atmosphere’s going, Silver! I can feel it! Or, well, actually I can’t feel anything, but that’s the point! I’m getting high already!”
She tried to restrain her giggling, continuing in a sing-song voice,

“You better get Iris awake real quick so she doesn’t start mel-ting!”
The girl looked up at the creatures, shouting out to them as they lumbered after her, “You call that a punch? That barely even hurt!” she laughed, stumbling forward, one arm clutching her side, “I’ve been smacked around by worse than you!”
She leapt up, still laughing, propelling herself gravity-less through the air, and grabbed the skull of the skeleton creature. Gravity returned to her, and she fell hard, the skull cracking against the ground under her.

Melting? Right, like the corpses from the train. Each of those were melting away, turning to water. She’d learnt somewhere – was it at school? – that people were sixty or seventy percent water, something like that. If this place was refining everything, making them pure, was that why they were melting? Were they turning completely to water? She shook Iris’ shoulders. Kia had said if they were unconscious, their powers wouldn’t protect them. If that was true, Iris’ mangled limbs were the least of her worries. Suddenly she couldn’t tell if the drops were beads of sweat, or Iris herself. If she turned to liquid, how could she ever make her better? Could she fix a melted brain? Could she remake a psyche that’d dripped away? She needed her awake, and she needed it now.

“Come on, Iris!”

She shook the girl again, flooding her senses into her, feeling for some way to wake her, feeling past the tremors of her beating heart and throbbing veins, beyond the steady pulsing flow of air into her lungs. Her need for Iris to wake lead her through each fibre of muscle, through the thick and hardened, then spongy lattice of every bone, her desperation opening her mind to each spark that flooded through her. She sent her energy in, probing and feeling, searching for something to grab onto, to shake and ignite into wakefulness, but there was nothing. Nothing that presented itself to her, or her magic. No switch she could flip that’d wake her. Even as a part of her mind marvelled at the scope of her awareness, she felt heavy with responsibility, her body seeming to be physically weighted by the life in her hands. Iris’ body felt slippery, somehow, both internally and externally, her consistency gradually slipping, slowly melting away. How long did she have? If she could just find a way to change her body into…

To change her into wakefulness. That was what she was, wasn’t she? She was change. Searching for some switch or natural part of Iris to change was pointless, she didn’t even know what she was looking for. Ironic though it might be, it would be Iris who’d know what might wake her. She knew about the body more than anyone. But what had changed one thing into another was intent, focussed and pure. She could feel her energy flooded through the girl’s entire body, what would be so hard about changing her from an unconscious Iris, and into a conscious one?

Iris’ body erupted into a burst of blue light, bright and forceful as fire, but vanishing as the girl’s back arched, her eyes snapping wide open as she gasped at her own sudden return to reality. Her chest heaved, her limbs flailed, fighting to grab, to push away, to gain some measure of perspective once again. Her eyes widened still further once more, and she cried out, her good arm going to the other, clutching it as she tightened into a ball, whimpering as her attempts to move her right leg did nothing.

“Iris, it’s okay! Iris come on, look at me, it’s alright!”

“S-Silver?” Panic still flared in her eyes, and she shrank from the girl, her whole body beginning to shake, “What- what happened? Where? I was… those things they—!”

“It’s okay! Kia’s fighting them off!” In the background, Kia’s giggling was barely audible, but the noises of cracking bone and squelching flesh told her she was still fighting, “It’s the atmosphere, you suffocated! You can’t breathe at the edge, but we got you out! You’ll be safe soon!”

“My arm… it, hohh, my leg as well, oh… God, Silver, it hurts to move, it hurts so much… what, what happened…?”

Iris’ panic was contagious, Silver could feel her body shaking with fear, clutching her heart as it thumped in her chest. All of a sudden she felt sick. She didn’t want to tell Iris about her leg, she didn’t want to reassure her, not when she couldn’t say for sure. When she truly didn’t know if they’d be able to fix her. She could barely force the words to tell her that…

“It’ll be okay, Iris… your leg, and… and arm they, they’re hurt but… we’ll fix you up, no problem, as soon as you’re safe!” She fought to keep the fear from her eyes, “Now you’re awake, it’ll be easy! We just need to get to the centre. Euphie’s at the Heart, waiting for us!”

Iris turned her head, looking over at Kia, who struck blow after blow against the creatures only for their broken flesh and bone to reform, healing up at terrifying speed. She ducked from every blow, keeping them focussed on her and away from the defenceless Iris. The muscle-hulk was so huge now that it towered over them all, swinging its featureless limbs with force enough that the ground shook every time it connected with something, but its speed so slow that Kia dodged its attacks with ease. The armoured bone creature, conversely, was barely moving. What motions it had were slow and grinding, its joints solidifying, with barely any visible gaps between bones, the whole creature almost one solid form. She couldn’t even see the biting one anymore. Kia backpedalled away from another fist as it swung down into the ground where she’d stood, and she paused, panting.

“Okay… hahh, hahh, right… you’re awake… you better… get going.” She straightened up, watching as the monster lumbered after her, “We’re running out of air around here… this fella ain’t gonna last much longer either.”

They watched as she let it charge, a purple matador staring down a bull of pure muscle, only to duck between its thick legs and let it keep going. It struggled to slow down, smashing into one of the pillars holding up the roof of a platform, its sheer weight crumpling it and tugging the roof above down with it, the pillar and roof fused into one and bending together. From above, a single condensed eye of hundreds rolled down the slope and hit the ground, its endless stare unblinking as it melted into the floor. The muscle-monster turned back, oblivious, and began to march once more towards Kia, determined.

“Come on, we’d best get going, if it sees us… well, you can’t move like Kia, can you!” Silver forced a smile, her attempt at humour falling flat as Iris tried to use her good arm to push herself upright, “Hey, hang on, let me help!”
She put her arms under Iris’, and though she flinched and moaned, they began to struggle upright together. The strain was intense, and Silver couldn’t help but wonder when she had become so weak. It was tiring just to stand up again, let alone lift Iris too, and the girl felt like she weighed twice what she should, if not more. Had her fear weakened her? Wasn’t fear and adrenaline supposed to strengthen you? Iris caught sight of her mangled foot and let out a gasping sob.

“Oh… oh god, my leg…”

“Don’t worry about that now! We’ll fix you up! That’s what magic’s for, right? We can do anything, your leg’ll be easy!” Silver heaved, trying to pull her further up, “Easy, no problem at all! But, but right now, we just need to get back to the Heart!” she panted, “So come on Iris… just, just try to stand, okay? Put your weight on your other leg, that’s it…”

“Hey! You two! Watch this!”
They both looked up at Kia, Iris leaning on Silver as they watched her dive out of the way of the charging monster, its speed taking it past her and further back towards the edge of the Schism. It ran on at full speed for a second before it began to slow, then something snapped. It shuddered, one leg giving out from under it and sending it flying forward, scraping along the floor. It squelched, and as they stared, it flattened, its body pressed against the ground as if some invisible foot had stepped on it, slowly increasing the pressure as it went further towards the solidifying edge. The entire creature spread out, its body puddling on the floor, crushed into a red, muscled pancake. Iris gagged and looked away, and Silver had to gulp air to force down her own nausea. Kia whooped.

“And that is why you don’t fuck with gravity! HaHA!!”

“What…” Silver forced her eyes away from the flattened creature, glancing quickly to the bone monster, it also unmoving, but cracks appearing along its legs, “What just happened?”
Kia staggered over, grinning, her eyes alight for the first time, “Gravity, bitches! This place, it’s solidifying everything! And as everything gains more mass, gravity intensifies! The edges’ll crush you! Come on, can’t you feel it? If it weren’t for my powers, I’d barely have been able to walk back there!”

“Gravity…?” Silver could feel the weight, the whole world bearing down on her relentlessly. She wasn’t weak. It wasn’t her. Really, truly, the world actually was bearing down on her. No wonder Iris was so heavy. “Gravity is getting stronger?”

“Yeah! If we don’t suffocate first, this place’ll make us flatter than a fox on a motorway! Hah!” She grinned at her own joke, “So you better get marchin’ if you don’t wanna kiss the dirt!”

~☆~

The platform with the Heart was clear, the stretch of concrete bare and untainted but for the chewed up hole in the ground where Kia had uncovered the Heart itself. Euphie ran over to greet them as she saw them coming, her lips trembling as she saw the state of Iris.

“Oh God, Iris, man, I didn’t think… I, I had no idea this’d happen, I’m so sorry… I should never have—”

“Shut up!” Kia batted Euphie away, “Not now! You and Silver, get on the Heart! I can’t do it ‘til I sober up a bit, so you both better start now!” She turned to Iris as Silver set her down on the ground, leaning against one of the platform pillars, “You gotta learn how to fix yourself, and it’ll be way easier in here. I’m gonna help, right? But I ain’t gonna be able to do it for ya.”

“I’m going to be okay…?”

“That’s up to you! You’re gonna be as good as you wanna be. Would’ve thought being in here would’ve taught you that by now.”
Kia shot a look up at Euphie and Silver, and they moved back towards the Heart. The smooth, featureless egg, shining a gentle dull blue in the crevice it was nestled into it seemed to merge with its surroundings. They hunched down around it, Euphie staring into it as if it held answers past its constantly re-growing shell.

“Man, this shouldn’t be hard at all, right? Not with you and me on the job.” Euphie clapped Silver on the back, “Like in the last one, we kicked arse! Fought back those nutters no problem!”

“Hah, r-right…” Silver gave her a wincing smile, flashes of accidentally tearing people apart and watching them fall into endless blackness telling her a different story, but if Euphie wanted to remember it that way, she wasn’t going to change that. “This one’s a little different though…”

“Yeah this one’s way easier. Man, when Iris transformed, I felt it real close and I totally found her stuck in this car that was just, like, sucking her up, you know? Just like in here, ‘cept she couldn’t use her powers yet.” She pointed down at the egg, “This one’s massive though, the one in Iris’ Schism was tiny, a little pebble thing. Melted it down easy!” She grinned, “This’ll be a little harder I guess.”

“You fixed Iris’ Schism? And yours as well?” Silver frowned, staring at the layering oval Heart, “You learnt fast… I mean, you must’ve been really good to do all that without training.”
Euphie shook her head,

“Nah, nah I’m way better now than when I met you guys. Already. Before, all I thought I could do was melt stuff down. Figured it was fire powers or whatever. Besides, I didn’t have a Schism, so by the time I felt Iris pop up I’d had like, a whole day of messing about with ‘em.”
She went quiet for a moment, glancing back over her shoulder at the pair behind them,

“Iris is gonna be okay, right man?” She bit her lip, “I act without thinking, like, all the time. I figured she could handle it, you know? It’s easy to forget how all this element stuff works.” She shook her head, “I shoulda just done what Kia said, man. I shoulda just listened.”

“Don’t worry,” Silver smiled, her face was probably going to ache later from all the forced bravery, “Kia’ll know what to do, she’ll get her back to normal.”
Euphie nodded, kept nodding, then shrugged,

“Nothing we can do though, right? So let’s get on this! I tried to give it a go while you guys were gone, but uh, heh, it’s pretty damn strong. You don’t happen to have any idea what might weaken it a bit, do ya?” She flexed her fingers, “Then I could melt it!”

“I don’t know…” Silver ran a hand through her hair, “I tried to change it into something else, but it was so distracting, I could barely get anywhere.”

“Yeah, it’s way too solid for me to break down as it is. Maybe if it was like, something really weak. You know? Or, really un-solid!” she shrugged, “I dunno man, I don’t deal in different types of stuff, I just smash it all.” She winked.

“Well, water’s about as unsolid as you can get, I guess.” Silver stared down at it, “Maybe if I just…” she projected her mind down to it, feeling its surface, the smooth, self-reinforcing metallic substance it’d created itself into. She felt it connect back, its tendrilous energy reaching into her mind, gripping at thoughts, searching for some way to force her into one set mind state. She tried to push past, tried to ignore her own mind and focus on transforming it, but she could feel herself rebelling. Water was so different to it that forcing it was a strain. She couldn’t roll with it like in her own Metasis Schism, she had to try to force it back against its nature. But she couldn’t just give in, if Euphie saw her do that, what would she think? She’d be disgusted. She had to show Euphie that she was strong too. She had to prove she could be just as–

“Heey, hey snap out of it man!” Euphie had grabbed her arms, pulling her away from it, “You started rockin’ and shit and, like, got super intense. All your arm muscles start twitching, man! You okay?”
Silver blinked,

“Uh, I… yeah…” What had she been thinking? The echoes of her need to be seen as strong still bounced around her head, but suddenly they made no sense. It’d managed to get so far into her head she couldn’t even tell, anymore. How was she supposed to fight it when it could mess with her mind – the very thing she needed to fight it? “Listen, Euphie, this thing it… it gets in my head…”

“Yeah, man, no kidding.”

“Kia did this thing, last time, where she broke down the connection it made with my mind. Could you, like, do something like that?”
Euphie shifted a little,

“Uh, well, I dunno man, that doesn’t sound like such a great idea…”

“Why not?”

“Well… I ain’t so good with my powers. Like, I can melt stuff sure, but… I don’t wanna mess with your head. I don’t wanna, like…” she winced, “Melt it.”
Silver frowned,

“Alright… well if that’s out, I need to find a way to do it fast…” She tapped her head, staring at it, “Something easier than pure water…”

“What about some other kinda metal. Like, somethin’ I could melt easier.”

“Yeah, something that turns to liquid really easily… I wish I’d paid more attention in Science back in school…”

“Hah,” Euphie grinned, “Don’t look at me, man, I don’t know anything about it.”
Silver thought hard, what metals melted really easily? She’d seen pictures of molten vats of stuff on TV on documentaries and movies when they made weapons, but she didn’t know what they actually were. Was there any use for metal that wouldn’t harden? “What about… what’s that stuff they use in thermometers? Quicksilver or something.”

“Oh yeah! That stuff! Man, I broke one once, that shit is cool. Slides around everywhere.”

“What if I turned it into that? I’ve never seen it as anything but liquid, but it’s metal right?”

“Worth a shot!” Euphie grinned.

She cast her mind back in, determined now, with a purpose. She felt it grab onto her, felt it probe her mind to force her into one mental process, but she focussed as quickly as she could. She could see it, that quicksilver stuff, all shiny, two-tone iridescent like silver oil. She saw it melt, watched it collapse in her mind. Its strength was in its mass, but as liquid, that just made it broader. She could feel it moulding with her mind, even as it tried to mould hers.

“Ohh damn! That’s awesome! I’m well jealous, I wish I could do that!” Euphie leant over the crevice now filled with blueish mercury, “Okay lemme try! I’m gonna break it apart!”

But Silver could see it recombining. She watched it slide together, reconstituting into a singular egg-like shape. It was weaker, that much was sure, but its forces were focussed on turning itself back into the strong, solid object it had just been. Euphie was struggling against it, her attempts gradually creating a tiny whirlpool in the centre, but little more. It gathered itself together around her as if she were little more than a nuisance, getting in its way.
Silver reached out again, she had to hold it still. Liquid was weak and malleable, but hard to concentrate on. But there was one way she knew to deal with it, and from there, she’d had practice. She reimagined the pool, reforming it in her mind, and with her mind came reality. And in reality, steam rose from the pool of quicksilver as it lay there solid, yet liquid. Cracks appeared across its surface as it fought against its new form of being, but Euphie’s own force sent a great rift down the middle of it, and split it clean apart.

“Oh, damn, you’ve frozen it solid! Nice going, man! It’s way easier to split up now!” Euphie jerked her head at it as if she were headbutting it from afar, and another crack appeared,

“Oh, oh! I know! It’s frozen, so, like, turn the rest to water! If I melt it right, it’ll evaporate!” She grinned, “Good luck coming back from that, eh?”

“Right!”

Silver nodded, she’d planned on doing the vibrations again, but of course this wasn’t like the fire-ice, Euphie could actually melt this. Now that they’d weakened it, it was getting easier all the time. She could think straight, and with Euphie backing her up she could keep it under control. As it was broken into chunks, she transformed each bit into pure water-based ice, the fragments so easy to change it barely took any effort. Euphie cheered as the first of them gushed into a geyser of steam from her force.

“Woo! Did you see that! We’re getting it Silver!”

The chunks began to explode into pockets of steam one by one, and as Silver looked away, she found that the station was practically gone. The earth and concrete had merged to form huge plateaus from the ground, and as she looked up past them, the sky had been completely merged with the walls that’d been growing up at the edges. The entire Schism was enclosed, the plateaus actually colossal stalagmites trying to rejoin with the sky. This place wasn’t going to fall apart like Entropis, or devolve into utter chaos like Metasis… Immallea turned the world into one solid, constant bubble of one substance. Fail to stop it and they’d be crushed and incorporated, everything becoming one. Was this the true face of refinement? Of purity? All three forces of the world, their governing balance, as Kia had put it, were so horrendous when unrestrained. She watched the towers of rock reach the ceiling and spread, as if they were in some huge earthen lava lamp, and all of a sudden she could imagine the earth forming, the three forces working in conjunction to form the careful planet they called home. She thought back to the pictures she’d seen in school books of the world, filled with volcanoes and ash and lava, and now could imagine these three forces doing battle, wrestling amongst each other to stake their claim, tides of power forcing inert matter to life. The calm they’d achieved in the end that had allowed life to flourish and grow, what had unsettled it? What had caused these Schisms to tear this world apart once more?

“Yeah! Last one!” Euphie was silhouetted by a last gush of steam, “This Schism is going doooown!”

The world began to crack. Solid rock fragmented above their heads, shards falling down across what had once been a station. The entire Schism began to fracture as though they were inside a giant egg, and as the walls broke apart, reality rushed in to reclaim the stolen space. The world righted itself, forcing reality back upon the over-purified solidity of Immallea. Balance was restored, and everything amiss disappeared. The destroyed trains and mutated people were gone as if they’d never existed at all. Litter blew along in the wind, tumbling across concrete and gravel to get caught in patches of grass. Around them, the automated announcer chimed, and informed them that the station was closed. Traffic all but drowned out the noise of birds. Yes, this was reality again alright.

“Wooo! Yeah! We did it! You and me, Silver! What a team!”
Silver’s arm was grabbed and whirled around by a celebratory Euphie, bouncing her way around her. The cheer was infectious, and Silver felt herself starting to grin, only for the dancing to abruptly stop. Euphie dropped Silver’s arm and ran over to Iris, who was sitting on the concrete by the pillar. Her arm seemed back to normal, but she was still holding her leg, frowning.

“Hey man, your arm! Your arm’s okay! Your leg’ll be fine too, right?” Euphie turned to Kia, who stood over Iris as she worked, “Her leg’ll be fine, yeah?”

“Yeah. She’ll be fine. She’s got the hang of it, let her concentrate.”

“But, that’s awesome! I mean, she can heal herself! Like, her arm was pretty damn busted, so if she can fix that, she can fix her leg no problem, right?”

“Yes, yes, sure. Be quiet would you?”

“And we fixed the Schism too, so like, everything worked out fine! We’re a pretty bad ass team! Next time, Silver and me, we’re gonna–”

“Euphie!” Iris looked up from her leg, “Will you shut the hell up? I’m trying to concentrate!”

“Right, right,” Euphie nodded, backing off, “Yeah, sorry Iris…”
Iris put her head down, glaring at her leg, and closed her eyes. “It… it didn’t work out fine. Don’t you get it? Didn’t you see how many trains full of people were just… just slaughtered in there? How can you see all those deaths and say it all worked out fine!?”
She put her hands to her face, then slowly ran them up and through her thick black hair, letting out a deep breath,

“How can you talk about next time like it’s some kinda game? We’ve got these tiny little powers, and we’re fighting against entire breaches in reality, and you act like we’ll just keep going forever…”
The world had come together, and now the world was coming apart. How could they fight that with their abilities? The forces they were up against transcended human imagining. These weren’t just forces of nature, these were the very concepts that created nature, in all its force. Were they really making a difference, or just standing against a tide, feeling victorious because the wave hit them first?

“What if this isn’t just here?” Iris grit her teeth, “What if this is happening everywhere? All across the world? We can’t stop them all! Do we just assume there’s other girls out there fighting other Schisms and winning?”
She gasped, her outburst sapping her strength and she clung to her leg, reeling from the pain. Silver stood, stunned. She had no answers. Neither, it seemed, did Euphie.

“You’re quite right, Iris.” Kia stood, motionless and emotionless, “And you’re really very quick to pick up on all that. We can’t go on fighting, it’s an endless cycle, and it ain’t ever gonna get better. Reality doesn’t give a shit if we live or die.”
She stepped forward, into the middle of them,

“We can’t keep fighting, but we can’t not fight. Too many lives are at stake, right?” She nodded, slowly, as if they’d agreed, “We all know this has to end.”

“How… how can it end?” Iris looked up past tear stained cheeks, “It’s just hopeless…”

“It’s taken time to work it out, and it takes a lot of work, but my old teammate Maddy and me… well, we figured it out.” She opened her arms out, wide and expansive, “A way to change everything at once. A way to make the world stable again.” Her arms dropped, “But we couldn’t do it. The two of us weren’t enough. And then… and then she died.” Kia’s face was blank. “Now there’s four of us.” She said, “And one of each element at that. We might just be able to pull it off.”
She smiled,

“What do ya say we give it one last shot?”

“What do ya say we try to save the world?”

END OF CHAPTER EIGHT

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Read Chapter 9 – The Power Of Three – (Coming August 4th)

7 ~ In The Moment

Posted: September 6, 2015 in Entropis

“Is it drugs? Is that what it is?”

“No! Damn it, no, it’s not drugs! I’m telling you it’s nothing illegal!”

“Well then tell me! Come on, enlighten me, what is this mystery job!”
She hadn’t thought this through. She’d assumed that they’d be more interested in the money rather than where it came from. Over the last few days she’d been careful; buying sets of plastic rings and necklaces from pound stores and toy shops and transmuting them into pure gold to sell at pawn shops around the area. Never the same one twice and never too many that it might look like she’d stolen them. They said something about missing hallmarks, irregular weight, and ended up giving her less than she’d expected, but she still made more in a day than she’d made in her life.

“I thought you’d be happy! Don’t you want me to pay you some rent?”

“Not if it’s drug money I don’t!”

“It isn’t drug money!”

“Then tell me how you got it! It’s really simple!”

“I… it’s…”
Facing down her mother’s accusations would be easy if she could tell her the truth, or even had thought of a convincing lie in advance, but with the Stare Of Judgement bearing down on her she was struggling to come up with something convincing while not making it obvious. She’d been so excited about having real money for a change that she hadn’t even thought of this happening.

“Is… Is it porn? Are you being paid to–”

“No! Mum, stop, it isn’t anything like that!”

“Then what is it? Because I don’t understand how you can make hundreds of pounds in just under a week with no qualifications, no experience, no references…” She ticked them off on her fingers, “You don’t make money like that without doing something illegal!”

“Well…” The closer to the truth she made it, the easier she found it to lie, “I was selling stuff, but… but none of it stolen! Really, I wouldn’t do that!”
Now she thought about it, was selling fabricated gold illegal? It wasn’t fake gold, so it wasn’t forgery. At least, not in the normal sense…

“I don’t want to believe that you would! Trust me, I really don’t, but you’re still not telling me how you got it! So what am I supposed to believe, huh?”
Silver bit her lip.

“I’m just… buying and reselling stuff, that’s all…”

“Buying and reselling what?” Her mother wasn’t buying it, “I thought you said it wasn’t drugs.”

“It isn’t! I started off with some of my own stuff, you know? To get a little something.”
She shrugged, hiding her inward relief at having found a thread she could run with. She really had started with her own jewellery, but she didn’t have enough after most of it had gone in the first Schism, and what she did have didn’t look like it would be made in gold.

“And, well, a friend of mine sells stuff online and he was saying how to do it, and how I could do it… so I gave it a go and ended up selling stuff for way more than I bought it!” She quickly scaled down her grin from self satisfied to apologetic, “I’m… pretty good at it, you know?”
There was a pause as her mother studied her, Silver could feel her scanning for any holes in her story or body language, any tiny indication that might verify her mother’s suspicions.

“Why did you sell your stuff?” She said, lie detector mode still on full, “You couldn’t have been paid so quickly, you’ve only been gone a few days!”

“Well, that’s why I went to my friend!” Silver gestured off, as if towards him, “It was his account! He paid me what I’d be getting, just in advance!”
Her mother wasn’t listening,

“You could have told me, you could’ve… you could’ve borrowed money from us! You don’t need to sell your own stuff just for money!”

“Why not?” She’d changed her approach, which meant she’d started to believe it. It’d be easy from here. “It’s my stuff! I can sell it if I want! I couldn’t keep half of it anyway, it was way too much to keep here. I’d have to rent storage and that’d just cost more. It’s not like I even needed it!”
She shrugged again, thinking back to all her old stuff that burned down with Jake’s apartment, wiped from existence in the Schism. With money so available, she’d be able to replace it all with even better stuff. Designer clothes, high end computers and giant TVs. Hell, there was no reason she couldn’t finish her parents mortgage, even buy her own place! She turned her attention back to her lie, her fake job and partner, the ghost of her old troubles,

“Borrowing from you doesn’t solve anything. How else would I have got some money without having to pay it back again?”

“You could’ve got a job.”
Silver groaned and rolled her head back. The last gasp of parental wisdom – when all else fails, get a job.

“There are no jobs. For exactly the reasons you said. No experience, no qualifications, no nothing.”

“Then why don’t you go to University! That’s what student loans are for!”

“I’m not doing this now.” Silver shook her head, “We’re just going to go round in circles. I’ve made some money, okay? Just… just be happy for me, for once, maybe.”
Her mother looked away, her mind churning for a new angle, a new outlet. Something didn’t smell right to her, that much was obvious, but Silver could see her struggling to find a hole in her story.

“I’m just worried about you. That’s a lot of money to just turn up with in three days.”
Silver stared,

“Well, I’d kinda appreciate it if you didn’t just assume I’m dealing drugs or whatever.” Whether or not magically crafted gold was illegal, it still stung that her mother’d assume it straight away, “I kinda hoped you’d know me better.”
The timer beeped on the kitchen side and her mother opened the oven, leaning down to stare in at the meat inside. The rich aroma that wafted out made Silver’s stomach churn with its own emptiness. She waited for a response.

“Go and tell your brother dinner’s ready, would you?”
Nothing? No response at all? A complete change of subject, in fact. What was that supposed to mean? That she didn’t know her better, but felt she couldn’t say that? Had her time away lowered her so much in her mother’s mind that she’d expect her to break the law?

“Well? Are you going to do it or shall I tell him myself?”

“No, it’s fine.” Silver turned away, “I’ll go.”
Her father would be back soon, and whether he knew it or not his reaction would decide the matter. Her mother wouldn’t bother making an argument out of it if he thought it was positive; fighting the issue against a majority would only make her look bad. But if he became suspicious too, then she’d end up using that to interrogate Silver further. She needed to get him when he came through the door, before he had the chance to hear about it in a negative manner. She could hear it in her mind, how her mother would phrase it to start lighting the fires of suspicion in his mind.

‘Oh, did you hear darling? Our sweet little girl has gone from having no prospects to making hundreds of pounds in a day! I wasn’t sure how at first but she’s assured me it’s a completely legitimate business.’
Yeah, just like that. And she’d use that ‘Isn’t that interesting?’ tone that’s just serious enough that she could deny any accusations of sarcasm. She definitely needed to get to her father first.

“Ben!” Silver yelled up the stairs, “Ben! Dinner’s ready! Come on!”
There was no reply, so she stomped her way up as loud as she could. Damn kid probably had his headphones in. She pummelled his door until it opened.

“What?”
Sullen eyes stared through slim glasses at her, his dark hair grown out in a fringe. She smirked at him, glancing past him and into his room.

“Dinner’s ready. What’re you up to? Playing games again?”
He closed his door behind him,

“No. None of your business anyway. Is dinner actually ready?”

“Kinda. In a ‘mum wants you to set the table in advance’ type of ready.” She barred his way, and grinned at him, “If you’re not playing games like always, what’re you doing? Homework? Like a good boy?”

“I said none of your business,” He sneered, “What do you care, anyway?”
He went to push past her, but she pushed him back. He’d grown quite a bit, and she felt for a moment like he might get past her, but he gave up. At just fourteen, he was already starting to gain on her in strength, but for now she still had the advantage. She couldn’t help but enjoy it while she still could, and she stifled her smile.

“Come on, don’t go yet, I haven’t seen you in ages! Can’t I ask what my little brother is doing?”

“You’ll only take the piss, whatever I say.” He folded his arms, “So I’m not gonna tell you either way. Can we go now?”
Silver mock-pouted,

“Aw, don’t be like that. Come on, I’m trying to mend bridges here!” She smiled, “Just because we haven’t got along before doesn’t mean we can’t start now! I’m back, we should do something together!” she nudged him, “Just tell me what you want to do, eh?”
He stared at her, his face blank,

“I want to go downstairs and have dinner. Can I do that?”

“Urgh! Come on! I’m not talking about right now! I’m talking about in the future! What do you like to do, or go, or whatever?”

“Are you serious?” He twisted his lip, “What is this, a trick? Mum’ll get mad if I’m too long, can we just go already?”
She paused,

“…Alright, alright I can see how it’d look that way right now, but, how else am I gonna talk to you? You lock yourself away and only come out for meals! I left, and I got some space, you know?” She nudged him, “Now I’m back I want to make up for it. I don’t mean to tease, it’s just habit. Let me get to know my brother on better terms. Let me take you out eh?” She smiled, “What do you want to do?”
He stared at her, looking bewildered and cautious, “I dunno…”

“Well,” she shrugged, “Think about it. Do you still like football? Still into the uh…” she cast a line back into her memory, but got nothing, “…Red team?”

“Red team?” He smirked, “You mean Arsenal? Yeah, I still support them.”

“Well then let’s go see one of their games! It’ll be fun!”
He squinted, “Seriously? I thought you hated football.”

“Haah, well… whatever, it’s not about me is it. Maybe it’ll change my mind.” She shrugged again, “Come on, it’s not like you can afford tickets.”

“Can you? I mean, it’d be like sixty quid for the both of us, and that’s just the cheap seats.”

“Cheap seats? And, the expensive seats, how much are they?”

“Like, a hundred each!”
She grinned,

“Heh, well, leave it to me okay? I’ll sort it out.”
They eyed each other, Ben staring at her, disbelief tinged with caution. He probably thought it was a prank or something, but she couldn’t wait to see his face when they sat up the front of a major stadium. Sure, it’d probably be dull as hell to watch a bunch of guys kick a ball into nets for an hour and a half, but maybe it’d convince Ben she’d changed. The more she learnt about these powers, the schisms, and the dangers that came with them, the more she wanted to be able to forget about it. Here, with her family, she could relax. She could love them and be loved by them, and know it for sure. If Ben could only come around, she’d have the perfect hide-away, free from crazy magic and imploding buildings. Her mum and dad would be easy, but Ben would be harder to crack. She heard the lock click downstairs, and clapped Ben on the shoulder.

“Sounds like Dad’s home, better get going eh?”
She dashed to the stairs, paused, then began to walk down casually. ‘How coincidental that she was coming down the stairs as he came in!’ he would think. Ben was catching up behind her, which would make it look even more casual.

“Oh, hey dad!”

“Hey dad.” Ben chimed in.

“Oh, he-ey!” Her father dragged bags of shopping through the door, one in each meaty hand, “Good timing you two, come help me unpack!”
He grinned up at them, his bristly beard unkempt and unruly. He’d put on weight since she left, sporting a belly that he joked was where he stored spare beer in case of emergencies. More like last weeks beer, thought Silver.

“I can’t,” Ben slouched off the stairs and towards the kitchen, “Mum wants me to lay the table.”

“I’ll do it.” Silver pulled the door out and followed her father as he went on ahead of her, “Where’s the car?”

“A bit further up, couldn’t find a place to park. Let’s get the bags in and we’ll take ‘em through after.”

“Sure.”
She watched him walk ahead, keeping slightly behind him. She hadn’t seen much of him over the few days she’d been back, her irregular hours meant she missed him, either being at work or already in bed. Seeing him again seemed strange, somehow, as if her family had been set apart from him. She loved him, but at the same time, she didn’t really know him. Not like she knew Ben, or her mother. He’d worked on an oil rig when she was growing up, working to earn enough for the house they lived in, but it meant that once he was eventually promoted to something more desk-based, she’d been too old to spend proper time with him, preferring the company of her friends. Now that she thought about it, was the difference that he was around more, or because she wanted to try?

“So you’re back for good now? Your mum told me you’re moving back into your old room.” He turned slightly to look at her, still walking towards the car, “I’m surprised it’s big enough for you, these days.”

“It’ll do for now,” She smiled, “I don’t know about for good, but for a while. At least until I get a handle on things. That’s… that’s okay, right? She said you were just using it for storage.”

“Oh yeah!” He nodded, pulling his keys from his pocket, “Yeah it’s fine. It’d be nice to ‘ave you back! Ben’s not so talkative these days, in his moody teens. It’ll be good to have a third person at the table.” He winked.

“Hah, yeah…” She waited as he opened up the boot of the car, still the old Corsa, and taking bags as he handed them to her, “I might not be able to make every dinner, but I’ll do my best.”
He nodded, shutting the car again.

“Yeah you seem busy lately. If you’re ‘aving trouble moving out, you know, if you need any ‘elp…”

“Oh, no, it’s nothing like that.” Silver realised, this was her chance, “Actually, I’ve just started up a little business with a friend of mine. Buying and selling stuff. You know, eBay and all that.” She grinned at him as he picked up his share of bags and started to follow her back, “I’m pretty good at it, I’m making decent money! My friend’s helping me get started.”

“That’s great, I’m glad.” He huffed, “Really, that’s great. A job like that, as well, you can do it part time. You could do it while you were at Uni, or whatever.”

“You too? Come on, I told mum I didn’t want to go, I don’t want you nagging me too. Besides, if I work it full time, I make way more money. After selling all my old stuff I didn’t need, and using that money to get me started, I’ve made great progress! Plus, it’s pretty fun.”
He nodded, quiet for a moment,

“Well, if that’s what you wanna do, then I guess that’s that. I’m just glad you’re back for a bit. It’ll be nice to see you.”

“Yeah. Yeah it’ll be good to see you too. Hey… hey listen, I know you don’t get a lot of time off but… I was wondering about, you know, maybe taking Ben to go see a football match. Treat him a bit now I’m back.” She pushed her way back into the house, “I was wondering if… well… maybe you’d like to come?”

“‘Ey maybe! When is it?”

“I don’t know yet.” She paused, “I don’t know much, actually, but if you’d like, we could all go together. Not mum, she’d hate it, but you know, just us three.”

“Well… it’d depend on when… and what time of day it is, I mean I’d prob’ly have to take the whole day off…” He put the bags down and rolled his shoulders, “But, if I can, then yeah,” he grinned, “That sounds fun.”
She smiled back. After all the horrors of the schisms, after watching the world tear itself apart, along with the minds and bodies of anyone close enough, this was what she needed. To feel normal again, surrounded by family, in a place she was welcome, where she was safe. She could smell dinner in the dining room, but more than anything she was looking forward to the few hours she’d have where she could forget about it all. Put it all out of her mind, and maybe, just maybe, for the first night since the fire, she could feel just a little less alone.

“Go ‘elp your mum dish up, I’ll take this lot through.” He bent down to pick his bags back up, then paused, “Oh, and check the fridge. I bought some cider. I always wanted to take you out for your first, well, hah, first legal drink.” He chuckled, then shrugged, “But it’s a bit late now, so I thought we’d have a toast or something, welcome you back.”
Silver nodded,

“Right. Thanks, dad.”
She never did realise just how much she lost when she left. She’d always been so keen to get out, to move in with Jake, to gain some independence, she never considered all the things she’d really been leaving behind. Maybe now she’d be able to make up for it. She’d thought at first that it’d be her family that’d be happiest to have her back, but really, it was her who needed them. She could use her powers to help them, but whatever she did with money, it’d never compare with what they did for her.
Maybe she really could help Iris and Euphie and even Kia save the world. It was no wonder Kia seemed so worn down and pessimistic, after all, she went back to her fancy apartment alone. The thought of trying to take on those nightmares without any family, or friends or anything… With no break to relax and let it go… Silver didn’t know how she’d managed it. But she didn’t need to do it alone anymore. Together, they’d be an unstoppable magical girl team. And Silver could stop the Schisms, come home, and let it all wash away. With her family there, maybe she really could do it. They wouldn’t even know it, but she couldn’t be Silver without them.
She sat down at the table and breathed in the smell. She could do this. She knew that now. With them to come home to, she really could do this.

~☆~

“No, no please, I can’t do this… Please, I can’t…”

“You don’t have a choice! You need to do it now!”
Another train smashed through the regenerating wall, shards of stone scattering across the other tracks and platforms, the train’s horn eclipsing the smash with a blast of noise so loud they flinched away from it.

“That’s another, they’re not going to stop, don’t you get it!?”
Kia ducked her head as the train hit a chunk of stone from a previous breach, jerking the vehicle off the rails and slamming it down into the floor. Carriage by carriage they slid sideways, the squeal of metal scraping against the condensing gravel below it like a dying scream from the great steel snake. Kia turned away from it and back to Silver,

“How many more trains full of people are you going to let die!? How many?”

“I can’t…” Silver sobbed, “I can’t concentrate on it, every time it feels like… like it’s gonna…”
The train smashed into one of the previous ones, the carriages whiplashing the impact through to the end until it came to a complete stop. She watched as Euphie ran over to it, climbing up the wheels and onto the roof. Kia snatched her attention away, her face twisted with fury.

“What!? Like it’s gonna start affecting you, too? Every single one of those people feels that the moment they’re in here! Every one starts feeling themselves change!” She clenched her fists, and took a deep breath, “Pull yourself together! You’ve got it easier than anyone in here!”
Silver turned back to the Heart. It seemed so smooth, a perfect sphere of uncalloused metal, except it didn’t look hard like metal. It transcended that, somehow. And whenever she focussed on it, tried to mould it with her mind, she felt it mould straight back. She felt her consciousness stiffen, her body become rigid and focussed. Dedicated, almost. She felt her energy drain from her, but one specific part strengthen. Each time she tried was different. Her strength, her speed, her awareness, her toughness. It didn’t just drive her body to adapt to one specific trait but her mind, too. The last had been her emotions, and she’d been flooded with so many feelings and sensations that she couldn’t take it. She’d never felt so vulnerable, every thought filling her with hysteria until she broke the tendrils of its focus. Kia didn’t seem to understand.

“What you feel, that’s happening to them for real! Permanently! And every train that comes smashing through here means more people suffer!”

“Kia!” Euphie’s voice cut through as she bellowed across to their platform, “This train isn’t opening! The windows, they’re, they’re turning to steel! Everything is! I can’t get them out!”
Kia paused, straightened up, and yelled,

“Leave them! They’re better off in there than out here!”
Euphie dithered, looking between her mentor and the train. She crouched down, straining to look inside, then stood up again,

“But it’s filling up inside too! They’re panicking, I can’t leave them!”

“Yes! You can!” Kia balled her hands into fists, “They’re already dead! If you let them out they’ll attack us! Leave them! Get back to Iris, she needs your support!”
She turned back to Silver, lowering her voice and tone to a threatening growl,

“Every moment you don’t fix this is another chance for more people to die like they will.”

“Why can’t you do it?” Silver could hear how pathetic she sounded, “You’ve done this before, you don’t need me!”

“Because you need to be able to! By using your element, you can scale it back, you can change it from whatever it’s trying to lock itself into and force it to balance out again! I can degrade it, but that’ll only make it work harder to strengthen itself.” Kia shook her head, “And if you can’t beat this one, then you won’t be able to beat any of them. You’ll be useless.”
Silver sank, her long hair hanging down around her head to block out the twisted world around her. If only she were stronger, if only she were able to face this stuff like the others. Iris had collapsed the last Schism, and she hadn’t broken down in tears over trying to fix the Heart. In fact, she’d pulled it off by now. Iris was smart and talented, Euphie was fearless, and Kia was experienced. Silver had none of those, so maybe she really was useless. If she left it to them, maybe they’d fix the Schisms faster, because they hadn’t tried to rely on her. Drops hit the floor beneath her face, then evaporated. Maybe if she hadn’t been here, that last train wouldn’t have come through. If she hadn’t been here, they’d all have survived.

“We don’t have time for this!” Kia seethed, “If you’re not going to do it, then I’ll try to do it with Euphie. You’ll have to help Iris keep us safe.”
Silver stared at the spots where her tears had fallen, feeling the trails along her face. What the hell was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she just do it? Her element was Metasis, the embodiment of change and growth and mutation, so surely she could adapt? She had to face it, otherwise what was the point? Why not just give up and pretend she was normal like Euphie had said on the train. The others all had their reasons, but why did she do it? What really made her Silver? She turned to the Heart once more, focussing on it, feeling its power with her mind. She had to try one last time. She had to prove she could do it, not just to Kia, but to herself.
She could feel it growing. It appeared like it was adding layers to itself, building itself up to be bigger, stronger, harder, but as she probed her mind out to it she felt all that energy probe back. It pulsed through her body searching for something to grip onto, and after a brief feeling of being filled with it, the sensation began to pull. Her mind began to scream at her to hide, to become small and run and flee, to get away from everything and disappear, and her body felt like it was being sucked inward, a black hole deep inside her trying to shrink her down, make her so small nothing could ever find her ever again.
She pushed back, ignoring the whimper that escaped from her lips, and forced her mind to try to change it, to make it fixate on something else. Anything else. But her mind kept telling her to pull away, to hide and run. Take Kia’s offer, it told her. Take it and try to get out of here. You’ll be safer from all this if you just hide. Just run and keep running. It’s the only way. She couldn’t shake it. Whatever she tried to change it to, she couldn’t concentrate. How could she force her magic onto it when it was doing the same to her? Surely Kia would find it easier! Breaking something, degenerating it down to nothing, that must be easy! Changing something, you had to mould it with your mind, concentrate on exactly what you wanted to change it to. From one thing to another, and the transition between them. How could she do that to something that was trying to force her to concentrate on only one thing? Even worse, running away was exactly what she wanted to do, Heart influenced or not. She couldn’t do this. She just couldn’t do it.
She broke away, reeling from the magic flooding through her and crawled back, shaking her head.

“I-I can’t. I just can’t…”

“KIIAAA!”
Kia’s reply was cut off by Euphie’s scream, and as they turned to look, she struggled on top of the train with two passengers, each of them trying to force her off the train, with more climbing out of the window she’d opened.

“Fuck, I told her not to open it!”
Kia leapt, shooting through the air towards Euphie and smashing into one of the passengers. He was dressed in a suit, probably going home from work, but as he swung an arm out at Kia she caught it, and though she only seemed to push it aside, as she let go it was withered and atrophied, a muscleless husk. He collapsed to his knees, clutching at it as she swung her elbow into the back of the other passenger’s head, a casually dressed woman. She collapsed too, unconscious or dead, Silver couldn’t tell from the platform. Kia gave them no mercy, she never hesitated and never held back. Was that why she was so good at fixing Schisms? Or was it just that so many Schisms had made her that way? A year, she’d said. That’s all it’d been between now and Kia transforming. Silver couldn’t imagine herself being so ruthless, certainly not so fast. They were on their way back now, the other passengers pushed back inside and left to their fate. A young girl was climbing out as they jumped down, struggling to pull herself out. She flailed, trying to pull herself free, stuck somewhere inside. She let go of the edge but didn’t fall, her hands grasping at whatever was holding her, desperation clear in her movements. Silver turned away. She couldn’t watch. She couldn’t do anything, either. Iris was right, this was all so hopeless.

“And if you don’t listen, how the hell do you expect to survive? I know what I’m doing! I’ve been through this before! If I say leave them, you fucking leave them!”

“R-right, Kia.” Euphie’s voice was small and shaken.

“And Iris? Where’s she? Why didn’t she go with you?”

“She’s still back at the other carriage.”

“What?” Kia rounded on her, “You left her!?

“I was– I’ve only been gone a minute! She’ll be fine!” Euphie faltered, “I… I thought…”
Kia took a deep breath, sucking down the frustration that creased her features. It was replaced with a cool calmness and a practiced air of command.

“Right, Euphie you’re staying here. See if you can break down the Heart or something. I don’t know, whatever, just stay here.” she turned to Silver, “You’re coming with me. If Iris is missing any parts you’ll need to shape her new ones.”
Euphie paled,

“Missing any… this is crazy, I’ve only just got here!”
Kia snarled,

“You’re so… naive!” She spat the word, “You were there to balance her out! Every time she uses her powers, she’s heightening the element around her! She makes this whole place worse!” Kia turned her back on the girl, “If she’s going to try to defend herself, she’ll be pumping it with more Immallean magic. So stay here, and don’t fuck anything else up.”
Euphie shrank, and Kia began to run. Silver did her best to keep pace, and watched as Kia corroded her way through the husk of one of the other trains.

“If she’s been pushed back to the edge, she’s done for.” Kia forced her way through, “The edge accelerates fastest, and Immallea purifies. It concentrates all physical matter into its purest form. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except air ain’t pure. It’s like, seventy percent nitrogen. And if any of us gets knocked out, we ain’t gonna have the protection our Transformation gives us.”
Silver stared as she broke through the other side, shavings of rust drifting to the floor, gradually becoming pure iron once more even as they fell.
Kia flexed, took a deep breath, and began to run once more,

“And if anyone needs to survive, it’s her.”

END OF CHAPTER SEVEN

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Read Chapter 8 – In The Moment – (Coming September 6th)

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)

4 ~ Heroic Expectations

Posted: July 26, 2015 in Entropis

Some superhero she was. Her first call to adventure and she wasn’t flying through the air, or driving dramatically through the streets. She couldn’t do the anti-gravity thing Kia could. The text from Kia had appeared mid-afternoon, and she’d rushed out to boldly take on the new Schism that was threatening the city! And now she was on a bus.

How embarrassing could it get? There’s some tear in reality destroying the world, and she’d stood there for fifteen minutes waiting for the bus to arrive, and it was going to take another half hour just to get there. So much for The Silver Beam of Luna Light. How could she possibly use her powers to travel? Sure, she could change one thing into another, but that wasn’t going to help her fly or run super-fast or whatever, was it? Maybe she could change water into petrol, but she didn’t even have a driving license, and with London traffic she wouldn’t even get anywhere. She could see it now. ‘Sorry Kia, I couldn’t help you save the world, the traffic on the north circular was awful…’

Still, with three line changes on the Tube and no transport of her own, the bus was her fastest option for now. Maybe she’d talk to Kia when she saw her about ideas of how to get around. She must’ve known another girl with Metasis powers, surely? How had they done it?
The bus juddered into its stop, the doors opening with a hiss to let people on and off. The ticket machine beeped a greeting to each customer. Everyone stared at their own little patch of nothingness and on they went, the bus wheezing its way through the streets of London. As they travelled, she felt it. That little tug she’d felt just before the Schism at Jake’s place had erupted into being. But this wasn’t a pulse, this wasn’t the gradual increase she’d felt before as it slowly formed. This was constant. The strength increase she could feel as she travelled wasn’t from it getting stronger, but from her getting closer. She could feel the power. An otherworldly wrongness drawing her towards it. Was the Schism calling to her? Could it feel her like she could feel it?

The bus felt horrendously slow, creeping through the streets like an old dog, stopping to pant in bus stops before plodding on, ignored by the rest of the world. She took the time to practice some more, focussing on the pendant she’d found in the boxes of her stuff that had been in her old room. Three rings, interlinked together on a chain, one silver, one gold, one bronze. She’d liked the symbolism at the time, seeming to mirror the triangular, yet interlinked cycle Kia had described, but since leaving she’d found a better use for it.

Holding it in her hand, she focussed on changing the material of each ring separately, without contaminating the other rings. She could feel it in her hand, and nobody else could see, but only when she was really sure she’d transformed the ring did she open her hand to check. Now she’d slept, and was calmer, it was definitely easier. She’d only messed up twice, and she’d been able to change the ring back each time. Maybe one day she’d be able to change all three simultaneously. At least the bus ride would feel less like a waste of time.

~☆~

She arrived at the nearest bus stop and ran towards the address Kia had given her. As she turned onto the right street she staggered to a stop, staring at the building up ahead. It was mostly whole, unlike how Jake’s block of flats had been, but while the building hadn’t broken apart huge cracks had been hacked through it. Through the cracks came thick bushes and climbing plants, moss spread across the brickwork like a skin disease, and the windows were cracked and faded. How could people not see this? How could they walk by it without realising what had happened?

Her phone trilled in her pocket, with Kia on the other end.

“Don’t go in yet. I can see you, come down the alley next to the news agents, go up their fire escape. I’m on the roof.”

The phone booped dead.

Why the rooftop? Did Kia have a thing for them, or did they genuinely provide some useful quality she didn’t know about? Nobody else could see that they were anything other than normal people, so there was no need to hide. She crept around the back, pulling herself up the ladder and onto the flat, modern rooftop. Between ventilation boxes and the skeletal fingers of aerials she spotted her, the almost glowing purple dress just as beautiful in the sunlight.

“Hey, look, I’m really sorry, I got here as fast as I could but I can’t do the gravity thing or anything, and I had to get the bus and it was really slow and took forever, and traffic and, well, I’m here now. I’m not too late, am I?”

Kia shook her head, ignoring her babbling,

“No. Actually you’re a little early.”

“Early? But it’s right there!” The roof joined with the cracked, Schisming building next to them, the thick clusters of climbing vines probing along the ground where they joined, “Shouldn’t we go in and shut it down?”

“Not yet.”

Kia was sitting on the edge of the roof, watching the streets below. She must have seen her arrive by bus, moments before, but she was just sitting there as if unconcerned. Her only real greeting had been a glance over her shoulder.

“What if we take too long? What if it collapses? Aren’t…” she almost couldn’t bring herself to criticise the elder girl, “Aren’t we wasting time?”

“No, don’t worry, we’ve got hours yet.”

“Hours?” She frowned, “We were barely in the last one for one hour, and you were saying how it was gonna collapse any moment!”

Kia sighed, stretched, and turned to face her properly,

“Trust me, it’s fine. Time works differently in there to out here. Some Schisms last for days before they collapse, even if it seems like a couple of hours on the inside.”

“What? … No, that… that doesn’t make sense…” Why was there always more? Why was nothing ever simple? “When we came out it was like, one in the morning! If hours had passed, it wouldn’t still be night!”

“We’d been in there just under an hour. When we met, it was two o’clock. We were in there just under twenty four hours, reality-time.”

“That’s not… that can’t be possible…”

“You’re still saying that?” Kia glanced back down at the street, then at her phone, “With everything that happens inside a Schism, with all the insanity you witnessed last night, you really think time is gonna remain the same?” She looked back down at the street, “Time is a part of reality. When reality goes wrong, so does time. You’d be better off just assuming time doesn’t apply, and checking the time and date when you get back.”

She gripped the ventilation unit next to her, letting it support her. She felt tired, all of a sudden. Was there more she didn’t know? Would Kia have even told her this if she hadn’t wanted to go in early, or had she just not told her before to save her the shock?

“It’s almost time, don’t worry. Let’s give it a minute or two longer.” Kia stood up on the edge of the roof, the two floor drop below ignored. “Now that you know, it’ll give you time to tell your family you’ll be away.”

She hadn’t thought of that. Really, the only people it affected were her family, who’d wonder where she’d been the last day or so. But what would she tell them? She bashed out a message to her mum, hoping her excuse would dodge most of the hardest questions.
‘Decided to visit a friend for a bit, will be back in a day or so.’
Kia glanced down at her phone again. She was clearly waiting for something. She was about to ask what, when Kia cut her off,

“Looks like this one’ll be mine.”

“Yours? What do you mean?”

“My element, Entropis. The building’s all crumbled and overgrown. Accelerated decay. Over the next day or so this will gradually spread and the places affected will collapse in on themselves, at which point it’ll all be gone from reality and everyone’ll think it’s always been that way.”

“Always? But what about everything that happened in it?” She stared at the decaying building, “People’s memories of it?”

Kia’s face went dark, inscrutable. She turned away in silence for a moment, looking out over the rooftops and down the street.

“You’d be amazed what people forget.” She stepped towards the cracked wall across from them, “There’s no memories of something that never existed. But we don’t get the luxury of neat little rewrites. We’re outside reality’s filing system, so we get to remember.” She paused at the wall and dissolved one of the cracked pieces of brick with her hand, creating an entrance, “Our little curse.” She said, her tone acidic, “So let’s get started on making sure everyone else can remember it too, shall we?”

She felt lighter, that was her first impression. The air tasted strange and plants that had seemed to infest the building on the outside had vanished within. The crack Kia had made had deposited them out of a ventilation shaft, which crashed to the ground behind them, the metal corroded with rust.

“You smell that?” Kia asked, “That’s the smell of dying. The bricks, metal, wood, even the air, it’s all going bad.”

“It doesn’t seem nearly as extreme as the last one.”

Kia snorted. The room seemed to be some kind of office, the desk in the middle of it sagged as books on shelves moulded more with each second. The weight of the computer was finally too much, and the desk collapsed.

“It’s not as abrupt as that, but trust me, it’s just as strange.”

She turned the handle of the door, pushing against the rotten wood, which mushed even as it opened. The handle fell out as she let go.
Kia walked out, calm and confident, but the feeling of being anything other than a normal girl was driven out of ‘The Silver Beam of Luna Light’ by the noises she could hear. The low moans of utter, unrestrained despair. Howling, screaming, and somewhere, echoing down the hall like an audible strobe light, unhinged laughter. Facing strange paranormal dangers was scary, but these sounded like people, a lot of people. And utterly insane.
She peered around the doorframe,

“What is this place Kia? A mental hospital?”

“It may as well be now.” Kia was glancing through the windows of other offices, “But it was a police station.”

“But all these people, they sound…” A gunshot sounded from somewhere below, and more screaming broke out from somewhere, “What was that!?”

“Damn, I was hoping they wouldn’t have an armed unit here.”

She ran over to Kia, following her down the hall,

“Stop, wait, just… just tell what’s going on! Why is everyone insane?!”

She spotted someone inside the office, the overturned rusting filing cabinets and moulding desk blocked most of them from sight, but still, at the back, a white shirted man rocked back and forth gripping himself. She stared, transfixed. Horrified.

“People don’t stand a chance in here. It’s no different to what you saw in the other Schism, it’s just less… obvious. Everything’s decaying in here, faster and faster, and when it comes to people the first thing to go is always the mind.”

“We… we can’t just leave them…”

“Yes. We can. They’re as good as dead now. Let’s go find the Heart, and if you still want to save them by the time we get it, then you’re welcome to try your best.”

Kia’s dry, emotionless tone sapped the hope from her. She spoke like it was already a foregone conclusion. These people were gone, in their mind here, and from reality soon. What would their families think? What of all the husbands and wives back home waiting for their loved ones after work? Were these the missing people on milk cartons and posters? It seemed too cruel. They’d had no idea what was going on, or that this was going to happen. This was no understandable disaster for either side. No tsunami or terrorist bombing that people could imagine. They’d just vanish.

“Come on, you’ll get used to it. Let’s go.”

Kia’s words didn’t reassure her. Part of her hoped she’d never get used to it. How much did you have to lose to stop empathising with these poor people? Just how much had Kia seen that made all this so easy?
They made their way down the stairs, the howls and screams and maddened chants getting louder as they descended. Another gunshot rang out, followed by three more. Kia had stopped at the sound of them, waiting, listening for more.

“Don’t underestimate guns. We may have elemental powers, but they only respond as fast as we can think, and focus. There’s no magical shield you can throw up or whatever, if you get shot your only option is to heal yourself as fast as you can.” Kia went to the bannister and peered over, checking below before continuing on, “Which there isn’t much chance of, given the shock. So, just don’t get shot.”

“You’re actually serious… we’re in here to stop reality collapsing and there’s insane cops with guns… I’ve never even seen a gun before, why do they have guns?!”

“Certain stations have armed response units in case of emergency. Like riot cops and stuff.” Kia kept close to the bannister as she edged down, watching for any movement, “They’re pretty common in London, I’m surprised you haven’t seen them.”

“I never expected to be fighting them!”

“Nah this ain’t even close. There’ll be one nutter who could access them who’s decided to go get one. We’d not last five seconds against a proper trained team.”

“You’re really bad at this reassurance thing…”

She followed Kia, and as they left the stairwell they looked out into the main lobby. They could hear muttering and screams coming from inside, but desks and pillars blocked their view. One of the large glass windows for an office had shattered, and bullet holes appeared sporadically up one wall. Hairline cracks laced the walls and ceiling, with occasional tiny showers of plaster sprinkling down from above. Kia gestured, then ran in a crouch to behind one of the cubicles. They peered up and over the top, spotting one officer hiding face down and muttering under her desk, and a few feet away from her, another walking slowly down the aisle shouting,

“I’ll find you! I’ll find you!”

More shots rang out, and the walking officer jerked, blood and a gasp spurting from his lips before he collapsed to the ground. Red blossomed across his back, and the policewoman under her desk screamed, burying her face in her arms. They ducked back down behind the cubicle, and Kia somehow still looked calm.

“Right, so the gunman’s here.”

“That’s it!? Some… someone was just shot! Right there, in front of us! And that’s your only response!”

“Shh! Keep it down!” Kia glanced up over the cubicle again, “It looks like he’s gonna be in the corridor over there. Come on, let’s go take a look.”

“And now you want to go closer!

Kia ignored her, creeping around the side over to the edge of the hallway, glancing around the corner. She nodded to herself, then Kia gestured for her to take a look too. There was a man at the far end standing against the wall at the end, looking down both directions of the L-shaped hallway. A rifle was in his hands, and he held onto it like it was all he had left, clutching it to the bulletproof vest. His eyes were wide open, staring manically down one way, then the other, and as his face turned towards her she ducked back around.

“He’s not gonna hang around for long.” Kia whispered, “Chances are he’s gonna come straight down here, and put a hole in anything that moves on the way. He’s probably trying to get out, I’d imagine.”

“So what do we do?”

“We deal with him. We may not be able to withstand bullets, but if we’re smart, we shouldn’t need to. I’m going to go underground, tunnel beneath him, and collapse the floor under him so I can disarm him.”

“While I do what? Sit here and wait for him to shoot me?”

“No, no,” Kia shook her head, “You need to watch how far he gets. Once he gets to…” she glanced around the corner again, “There’s some dried blood up the wall on the left, once he gets level with that, stamp on the ground. I’ll take him down.”

“You’re kidding me!” She swapped places with Kia and glanced around the corner. The gunman had begun to move, slowly moving along the hallway, watching for movement, “He’s coming. He’s coming now!”

“Calm down,” Kia crouched down, placed her hand on the floor and a circle began to erode, “Don’t give yourself away. If you can slow him down then great, but if you don’t keep your voice down he might work out where you are.” The floor gave way beneath Kia and she dropped down into a hole just big enough to contain her. “It’s pretty much solid concrete foundations down here, so it’ll take me a few minutes to get there. Just… just relax, alright, and keep an eye on him.”

She watched Kia dissolve her way through the concrete, wishing she could do a little more than just watch. Why was she here? Kia could deal with this on her own. The pretence that she was helping to break this Schism was so transparent she wished Kia had just told her to wait. It’d take her several minutes to tunnel through under the floor before she’d make it. Were hours really ticking by outside? Was life going on out there in fast motion, or were they in here in slow motion?

Thinking about all that wasn’t going to change anything. Morphing a shard of glass into mirror was easy enough, and using it to spy around the corner made things a lot safer. But the feeling of uselessness was starting to weigh. This Maddy girl she kept mentioning, what had happened to her? Was she dead? Probably. But how? If she’d been as powerful as Kia and Schisms seemed easy to her alone, then why would they ever get into trouble together? There was so much she didn’t know, and the more questions she asked, the less she seemed to understand. Better to focus on what she did know, and make something of it. Was there any way she could help? She watched the policeman twitch his rifle around as he slid his way along the wall, slowly padding closer. If Kia’s friend had been vulnerable then that meant Kia was too. A stray bullet could kill her only hope of learning enough to be able to take on these Schisms alone. Maybe of getting out of here alive. And he was almost there…

The flash of movement in the mirror was all she had. The wall gave way behind the officer, and the shout of surprise from him echoed down the corridor. A purple glow came through the rubble as it fell, and for a moment she thought it was Kia until a dark blue joined it, a pair of girls wrestling with the lone officer. She stared in shock, unable to move, or even process what was happening, before the floor beneath all of them collapsed. They disappeared in a cloud of dust, and she scrambled up off the floor to run after them.

“Aa-agh— get, get back, away!”

“What’s going—”

“Hold him d—”

“Get away!”

“That’s not, stop, that’s me!”

“Where’s the gun!?”

“Stay back! No, stay… st… nngh…”

The dust cleared, revealing four figures sprawled in the remains of what had once been concrete foundations. One was Kia, the officer’s forehead clutched in her hand as she lay on top of him, holding him down. Her dress, and one other, had shone purple through the dust, and the other belonged to a shocked looking blonde girl, her dress adorned with rings of silver drops around her curves, who held the remains of what seemed to be a much melted rifle. But the third girl glowed a deep blue through the sifting dust, the silver trim rigid over her dark skin, an intense look pointing her features. None of them had noticed her as she’d watched from above, and instead the pair kept their eyes on Kia.

“You’re another one!” The blonde girl spoke, pointing as if at a zoo, “You’re like me!”

“Perceptive,” Kia smiled, patting the officer on the head, “Guess we’re not alone in here after all. You’re new.”

“Yeah!” The blonde girl got up and dusted herself off, tossing the rifle away, “We didn’t even know there were others in London, let alone here!” The girl in blue got up too, but stood just behind as her friend talked, “Man, I’m so damn glad! We barely know what we’re doing!”

Kia floated off the ground a little before putting her feet down to stand, suddenly seeming a mixture of friendly and cocky.

“Well, you’d be welcome to join me and, oh,” Kia looked up out of the hole at her, “There she is. This is—”

“You’re green!” The blonde girl interrupted, “Man this is like some kinda movie! Have you got like, forest powers or something? Or, wait, do either of you have special names?”

Kia tilted her head, smirking,

“Special?”

“Yeah man! Aliases! Like, I’m Euphoria! And, this is Iris!” The other girl raised a sceptical hand in greeting, “That’s how it works, right? We get magic outfits and powers and aliases to protect our families from villains and stuff, yeah?”

Kia shook her head,

“I just use my name. Kia. I don’t really need an alias.”

“Aw, man. It’s a pretty cool name, though. He-ey, I bet you’ve got a name!”

“Well, uh,” The Silver Beam of Luna Light lowered herself down to a crouch at the edge of the hole, “Not, not really…”

“You totally do!” The blonde girl, Euphoria, grinned, “I can see it in your face! Come on, tell me!”

“Euphie…”

Iris, the girl in deep blue, put a hand on her arm, but her friend shook her off.

“Come on! We’re superheroes! Everyone knows about ‘em, man! The comics, the movies, everyone’s seen ‘em, and now we’re them! You blatantly thought about it, so come on, spill it!”

“Uh, well…”

She stared at this girl, caught in the headlights of such energy. The girl clearly had no problems with being surrounded by insane police in magical balls of collapsing reality, as if she was caught up with the novelty of it all. A little part of her was jealous. She had thought about taking on some sort of superhero persona, but she hadn’t planned on telling anyone. I mean, if she told them it, they’d probably laugh. Kia had played it cool and confident, even after being so unemotional earlier. The Silver Beam of Luna Light would definitely get laughed at. They both had one word names, how could she think of something cool on the spot like this?

“Sil…ver…?”

“Silver, huh? Man, I’m the only one with a really cool name…”

“As important as this is,” Kia broke in, “We need to end this Schism. We can discuss names afterwards, right?”

“Man, Schism. What an awesome word. Like, that’s way better than bubble. What does it even mean?”

“A tear, or a divide.” Iris spoke up, “But, how would I have known what they’re called?”

“No, stop, you’re not listening.” Kia was starting to look annoyed, “We need to work as quick as we can. We don’t know how long we have in here, and chances are the Heart of this Schism is going to be in the cells.” She jumped up out of the hole in a single leap, leaving the other pair to clamber out, “So we can chat afterwards, right? Trust me, you don’t want to be in here when the ceiling starts collapsing.”

Silver watched them climb out, unsure what to say. She’d thought that meeting other magical girls would be great, but Euphoria or whatever was a little too into it all, like she’d never seen the kind of horrors that was in the other Schism, while the other girl, Iris, was so quiet and intense she seemed almost unapproachable. Both girls were such opposites that trying to figure either out seemed impossible in the presence of the other.

“Are we just going to leave him there?” Iris was looking back into the hole at the subdued policeman.

“Yeah. Not much more we can do for him now.” Kia began to walk, taking leadership by force of seniority, “Gotta concentrate on stopping this place collapsing.”

Euphie followed her, but Iris hung back, looking uncertain. Her eyes met Silver, piercing her with a glare, and she couldn’t help but feel judged in some way. “It’s true. We can’t even leave until we sort it out, so there’s no way we can get him out either.”

“So we’re trapped.”

“Kinda, yeah. But, not like them. Kia says they’re here for good.”

Iris stared down at the unconscious policeman, then looked back at Silver,

“…They’ve all gone mad.”

“Yeah.”

“Euphie doesn’t… she doesn’t seem to notice.” She looked ahead to her friend, who was talking with Kia as they looked ahead into the next section, “Neither does your friend. Do you think it’s because of whatever these powers are? They’re both the same type, right?”

“I… doubt it.” Silver shook her head, “I think Kia does notice. I just think she’s learned to ignore it.”

“Hm.” There was a moment of silence, “If only it were that easy. We should probably keep up.”

Without another word, the girl in blue walked off towards the others. Without realising, Silver found she’d gone from sidekick to trailing after people she’d only just met. How did that happen? She thought she’d left pecking orders behind with college…

The walls had begun to collapse. Chunks of plaster thudded to the ground, doors began to bulge out as they and their frames rotted, light fixtures sparked and flickered, and the periodic clocks on the walls ticked in and out of place, each one telling a different time. Police stations, Silver found, were mostly hallways and offices, and what offices they went in were cluttered and busy. ‘A tidy mess’ was how her mother would put it; everything out for a reason, but to someone else looked like chaos.

“The Heart should be in one of these,” Kia approached the bare, rusted metal of the temporary cell doors, “It shouldn’t be difficult to shut down. Much less now you’re here.” She glanced at Iris, “How well can you use your powers?”

“I’ve only had them a few days. I don’t really get them yet.” She replied, “I can make stuff go completely solid.” She nodded to the cracks in the walls, “Which means I’m a little out of place, I think.”

“Nah, the opposite. You’re perfect. Everything’s collapsing too fast, so who better to have than someone to make it whole again? Come on. Let’s find the Heart, you’ll get the hang of it.”

Kia began accelerating the rusting doors, the first one hitting the floor with a clang and disintegrating into several parts. She peered into the blank cell of a bed, rotten mattress, and lifeless light bulb, shook her head, and moved on to the next door.

“You’ve only transformed within the last few days?” Silver spoke to Iris as they watched Kia work, “I didn’t realise you were so new.”

“Man, we’re both new!” Euphoria butted in, “I transformed like, a week ago, and then I rescued Iris about three days ago!”

“Rescued is one way to put it.” Iris’ face was unreadable.

“We did it in the end! It could’ve gone way worse!”

“I transformed just yesterday,” Silver said, “This is my second. I didn’t realise they were so frequent.”

“This is our second too.” Said Iris, “But we felt yours, and we would’ve come to—”

“Stop, be quiet.” Kia’s tone was hard, “This is wrong.”

“What’s wrong?”

“This. All of this.” They looked into the cell Kia had burst open, where a wall had come crashing down, exposing the cell next to them, “If the heart is here, there shouldn’t be so much that’s collapsed here, right? Hearts collapse everything around them, but they’re the last to go. Like a storm or something. Why is everything down here so destroyed?” The ceiling puffed plaster as another piece fell out, followed by another as Kia blew another cell door in. The inside was just as ruined. “This isn’t right! Where the hell is it if not here? It can’t have progressed this much this fast!”

The trio behind her looked at each other, only to find uncertain faces looking back. Another wall in one of the cells collapsed, and a crack shuddered through the floor. Silver took a step back. Was the floor going to open up? Anything was possible in a Schism…

“Kia… the floor’s breaking up, it seems pretty dangerous…”

“I know, I know! This is crazy, it’s like this is the…” her eyes widened, “This isn’t the Heart. This is the edge.” She turned her back to the cell, “The Heart must be above us! That’s why the floor…” The floor cracked again, more fissures sprouting off it like plant stalks, reaching out for the walls. “Get away from the floor!”

“What?” They all looked incredulous, “How can you get away from the—”

“Get back! This way!”

Kia started to backpedal away from the cracks as they began to quicken, and the others began to back off too. Piece by piece the floor began to crumble, falling away, shards of it toppling down into… nothingness. As the tiny pieces of concrete and carpet gave way, Silver watched them fall into endless black. The falling pieces were the only indicator there was anything but darkness down there, and as more of the floor crumbled, parts of the walls to the cells began to drop off into nowhere too. They watched their way back collapse, their only route off deeper into the police station, and even that was beginning to crack.

“We need to go higher. The Heart must be somewhere on the top floor.” Kia’s nonchalant coolness was gone, replaced with her usual urgency, “I was wrong about the ceiling collapsing. This is a whole lot worse. It’s going to tear the building out from under us.”

Only Euphie maintained her composure, saying with a grimace,

“Well hey man, look on the bright side!” The looks of panic on the others did nothing to deter her, “The only way is up!”

END OF CHAPTER FOUR

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Read Chapter 5 – Falling

3 ~ Two Forward, One Back

Posted: July 12, 2015 in Entropis

It’s always easier to leave than it is to go back. It’s easy to take something for granted when you’re not used to losing things. Kia had offered her a place to stay, somewhere she could sleep while she found a new flat. Somewhere she could practice. But right now, those weren’t what she needed.

She’d kept the key just in case, jingling unused on her key ring, a silent reminder that no matter what happened, she’d always be able to come back. It slid back inside the lock, the quiet click of metal teeth so much louder in the night. She had to be careful, it was almost 3:30am. If anyone inside heard her coming in they’d freak out, thinking they were being robbed or something. The last thing she wanted to do was make a fuss. She’d had enough fuss for one night.

 

“You have to understand, you’re kinda of two worlds now. You’ve never seen the other before because nobody can unless they’re a part of it. But now you are, you’re gonna have to get used to ignoring stuff. Seeing past stuff. To you and me, we’re wearing these fancy colourful dresses permanently. To everyone else, we’re wearing the clothes underneath. So make sure you wear stuff anyway, right? Don’t go ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ on people, yeah?”

“How am I supposed see through my own clothes?”

“Sounds weird but you can. You have to learn to look only at one side of things. Considering you’ve only been able to see one side all your life, it’s easier to pick up than you might expect. You have to start thinking like that though, two worlds in one. It won’t just be clothes, soon enough you’ll see plenty of stuff you’ve never seen before.”

 

Kia’s words still echoed in her mind, sorting the new information she’d been taught. Trying to process it. She hadn’t signed up for this. She didn’t ask for crazy magical outfits or vision or whatever. She’d always looked for the special and interesting in life, and Jacob and his love of fire certainly hadn’t been the first, but the things she’d seen tonight weren’t special, they were horrific. Normally, if she’d had a bad day she’d go to Jake, talk to him about it. Let it all out. Who could she talk to about this? She barely knew Kia, and she was so… dismissive. Like the teachers she’d hated back at school, who made it clear they thought she’d never amount to anything. Like the bosses at the places she’d worked for a month before getting fired the day before her trial period ended. Kia had that same tired look in her eyes, like it almost wasn’t worth her time.

The hallway was almost blindingly dark, but she knew her way by feel. Her fingers closed around the handle to the living room, turning it slowly, inching the door open. Did it still creak, like it used to? Would those old hinges give her away? Yes. The tiny creak sounded more like a shriek in the pitch blackness, and she froze, door half open, listening for any movement.

“That you Ben? Did I wake you?”

She bit her lip to contain her surprise. The voice hadn’t come from upstairs, it’d come from inside the living room. She peered hesitantly around the door.

“Mum?”

Through the darkness of the living room was the glow of a side table lamp, a smile-creased face lit up by a tablet propped on knees. Small, round reading glasses were reflected white by the tablet, framed by shoulder length brown hair, black in the darkness. They stared at each other through the gloom, and she watched her mother’s expression for how she’d react. Angry at her being away for so long? Barely calling or visiting or anything. Would she be cold, indifferent? Would she shout? She’d wondered about it the entire way over.

 

“Little Lion! You’re back!”

Somehow, being angry would’ve been better. Her mother set down the tablet, getting up to hug her. Why was she still using that damn nickname? When she’d been younger, four or something like that, she’d decided what she wanted to be when she grew up wasn’t a nurse, teacher, princess or any other imaginary future the little girls of her age had wanted to be. She wanted to be a lion. Any objections to the tune of ‘you can’t be a lion, lions are animals’ hadn’t deterred her. She had dressed up as a lion, she had acted like a lion, even roared like one. Her parents had decided it was the most adorable thing, and even though she’d grown out of it a year after, her place as her mother’s ‘Little Lion’ had stuck. The fact that her younger self had chosen to be a male lion was all the more embarrassing. In the much hated family photo album, she always thought she’d looked more like an over-zealous sunflower than a lion.

In her defence, she did feel she had chosen the animal well. It’s not like she’d chosen a tortoise or something. Lions were majestic and fierce. They were territorial and seen as the kings of beasts.  But after having lived with her boyfriend for a year, been a responsible (well, somewhat) adult with a job (briefly) the last thing she’d wanted was to come home straight back to ‘Little Lion’.

“Do you have to have to keep calling me that? I’m a little old now, don’t you think?”

Her mother’s arms encircled her, and despite her bristling response to her nickname, she felt her need for comfort and familiarity over-ride her, and she gently returned the hug.

“Oh you’ll always be my little lion!” She felt her squeeze, “I’m so glad you came back, we’ve all missed you.”

Just here, in this moment, the horrors of the day seemed to dissolve. It all started to feel like a dream again, some terrible nightmare that had felt all too real. She clung to her mother, feeling her warmth. This was safety. This was comfort. Who cared about the stupid nickname? She needed this. After everything that had happened, after everything she’d lost, it felt so good to be reunited. To know she really was alive.

“Hey, hey are you alright baby? You’re— oh, no, come on don’t cry, what’s all this huh? What’s happened? I should’ve known something had happened, now come on, sit down…”

 

“Don’t tell anybody. It’ll be tempting, hell it’ll be hard not to, but trust me, you don’t want to. It’s a really quick way of alienating yourself. People don’t like what they don’t understand. And we barely understand ourselves, so nobody else is gonna get it.”

“But there’s physical proof, I can change stuff, you can crush stuff… they’ll believe us if we—”

“If you start turning lead into gold all it’s gonna bring you is trouble. How long is that secret gonna stay secret? How long are they gonna keep looking at you as a daughter or friend and not as someone who might turn them to gold, if they crossed you? Or, worse still, as neo-Jesus or something.”        

“But how can you explain what you’re doing? You said those Schism things, there’d be more of them, what if one happens when, like, you’re at work?”

“You lie.”

 

“We… we had a fight. I can’t go back, too much has…” She swallowed a sob, “Too much has changed.”

They were sat on the sofa together, her mother’s hand resting on her back. The blank screen of the television reflected them in the lamp’s glow. She looked beaten, even in her fancy invisible dress. It didn’t hide the haunted look in her eyes.

“Well weren’t you renting somewhere? Can’t you just go back there?”

She shook her head,

“It was his place. I lived there with him.”

“Oh, I didn’t realise… you, you lived with a boyfriend all this time?”

Certain tones had their way of insinuating. They got under the skin.

“What do you mean by that? You knew Jake, you met him the year before last. I brought him to the barbeque.”

“I don’t think so, I don’t remember that…” her mother shook her head, “I thought you’d been living alone all this time!”

“No, how could I—” She turned to face her mother, “No, I told you I was moving in with him! You were so mad about it!”

“Well yes, I would’ve been. It’s one thing moving out but moving in with some boyfriend, that’s…”

“That’s what?”

They eyed each other, familiar tension in the air. That gunpowder moment when the wrong word in the wrong place would ignite yet another row. Spit and barbed words would fly, meanings twisted, feelings burnt. Mother knows best. Minutes into being back and she was already reminded why she left.

“Oh, come on,” Her mother patted her back, looking away, “Let’s not fight already, eh?” she smiled, “I’m glad you’re back, you don’t need to worry about finding another place for now, stay and catch your breath.”

Just like that, it was diffused. That was new. Did leaving really make her mother finally realise that she wasn’t a kid anymore? She’d believe it when she saw it.

“You don’t mind? I don’t have—”

“Of course not! There’s some stuff in your room so we’ll have to move it out, but it shouldn’t take long. We’ll have to wait until morning, though, don’t want to wake the boys up.” She paused, and reached out to take her hand, “I’m just glad you’re back… sometimes I’d think of you out there and wonder what I’d do if anything happened to you… I got so worried. Your dad would tell me, ‘She’ll be alright, she’s our little lion’, but it’s, it’s not that simple… anything can happen out there, and I know he worried too, it’s just…”

“Aw, come on mum, don’t cry, I’m alright! I was always alright!”

Her mother blinked away the tears, forcing a smile through them, avoiding her eyes and squinting in the gloom, “I just kept wondering, you’re only eighteen, and I know that seems old to you but, I kept thinking one day I’d get some call from the police… only for, for them to tell me about some accident, a house fire or, oh I don’t know…”

 

“Why you? You think you were picked or something? Like you’re some hero picked by magical entities to save the world or something?”

“Well, well no, I mean—”

“I wish! I got no idea why we’re picked, not really. Maddy, she had this theory that it was emotion. I mean, Schisms too. That emotion is powerful stuff, you know, the Power Of Love and all that crap in kids cartoons? She figured it was real, because Schisms all pop up in places where there’s loads of really strong emotions. Prisons, night clubs, hospitals, places that people feel really intense stuff, right? And, there’s always a Schism when there’s a new one of us, and it makes sense, you know? I mean, when you died, I bet it was really damn horrible, right? I bet you were terrified, yeah?”

“I… I haven’t really thought about it, I…”

“Yeah, I bet you don’t want to. Point is, when survival comes into play, you’re gonna feel a hell of a lot more than normal, maybe than ever before, because your body kicks into overdrive to try to survive, right?”

“Yeah, yeah that… that makes sense…”

“If you feel so damn much that you cause a Schism all on your own… well, I dunno, Maddy was pretty nuts, so she can’t have been right about everything. Personally, I don’t want to believe we’re born from Schisms.”

“But, we can’t be, I mean, we destroy them! How can we be part of something we destroy?”

“Hey I don’t have all the answers. I don’t even know that we’re supposed to destroy them. But I do know that I don’t want bits of London disappearing out of reality, so I don’t really feel like I’ve got a choice. If I were you, I’d get used to that.”

 

 

“Mum why are you up at this time of night? It’s like, four a.m. now. You’re hiding down here in the dark like you’re worried someone might find you.”

Her mother ran a hand through her hair, tilting her head back to follow it, a long sigh trailing after her. “I don’t sleep so well these days, I don’t know why. But tossing and turning all night wakes Malcom up so I come down here and read. Or,” she gestured at the tablet, “Mess about on the internet. I’ve normally fallen asleep on the sofa by now, but I guess it was lucky I didn’t, hm!”

“Yeah, I, I guess so.”

“Ben’ll be glad you’re back.”

“Ben? Pft, I doubt it.” The comment earned her a light slap on the arm.

“Don’t be mean! He’s missed you! You should’ve seen him the first few weeks after you left!”

“What, he stopped leaving his room even for meals? I’d be surprised if he even noticed I was gone.”

Her mother rolled her eyes and flopped back onto the sofa. She looked tired. Ground down.

“You don’t mean that.”

No, she supposed she didn’t. Ben was three years younger, shy and nerdy. She’d never tried to get along with him, and he’d kept mostly to himself, but they’d had a good time together when they’d been small. He’d always been quiet, but it was only after he’d entered secondary school that he’d retreated to his room and computer. She used to take jabs at him when she saw him, little jibes about how much of a loner he’d become, how he may as well marry his damn computer for all the time he spends with it, and so on. She’d thought he’d come back at her, get angry, something, anything, but he just became more reclusive. For some reason, that only made her want to tease him more.

It was funny how you could grow apart from someone without realising. She hadn’t cared much about him when she left, but she hadn’t cared much about her parents either. Yet here she was, still feeling guilty that her mother had been as worried as she had been. At the time, she hadn’t even considered them, or their feelings. She’d just wanted to get out. Maybe Ben had missed her? Maybe she just hadn’t cared enough at the time to notice.

 

“It’s simpler than you think, it all boils down to three things. Change, Consolidation, and Decay. If you think about it, everything works off these principles, in that order. Something has to come to be, right? That’s change, a seed grows, or a baby or anything living changes from one state to another. Then it reaches its peak, grows into a tree or an adult or whatever, it’s consolidated. Solid, see that in the middle? It’s the purest form. The strongest, best it can be. Then comes decay, where it breaks down from that form again. But, like, a tree makes seeds, then when it’s dead it becomes food for animals and stuff. Then they poop, it fertilises the ground, and the next tree grows from it.”

“The circle of life, you’re seriously telling me our powers are based on the Lion King?”

“No, no it’s not just natural stuff. It’s everything! Once you notice you see it everywhere. Like uh, like say the tree is made into a table! No, better, let’s say you’re making a metal table. The metal is in the ground, gets dug up by us and in order to make it into something new we need to put it through the cycle! We melt it down, right, that’s decay from the previous solid state it was in. Then, once melted, it’s in a state of change, and we mould it into the parts for the table. Each part becomes consolidated, fully formed, but even then it’s not a table! On top of that cycle, there’s the cycle of each part going from multiple bits into one solid form, the table itself. As the metal parts rust or weaken over time, both the parts and the form of the table itself have decayed.”

“So, you’re saying these three elements create a cycle of everything?”

“Right. You’re change. I’m decay. Maddy was solid. Heh, I mean that as like, the element, but she was a pretty solid girl, too.”

“What uh… what happened to—”

“Each of the elements has a special name. Like, I can’t explain it, it just feels correct. Sticks in your head, gels well with it.”

“You mentioned your one… it was uh… En… Encrop—”

“Entropis. En-Trop-Piss. Like that.”

“And the others?”

“The solid one is Immallea. Yours is Metasis.”

“I thought you said it was simple?”

 

The more she thought about it, the more it made sense. Turning it over while her mother talked let her put it in perspective. Hadn’t her relationship with her family gone the exact same way? Grown together, then she’d hit her teens, become more of the person she was supposed to become, and then they’d fallen out as time went on. It eventually decayed to the point where she’d left. Now, she’d come back, and things had changed, a little at least. Her mother was treating her a little more like an adult, maybe she could mend things with Ben, maybe she’d get along with her family again. For something stronger to grow, it had to collapse. Metasis, Immallea, Entropis. A triangular cycle.

And she was change. She was transformation. She’d felt it in that Schism Heart, the boundless anything, infinite potential. Wasn’t that what she’d always wanted? Hadn’t she always felt that potential inside herself? She’d always dreamt of doing art, never quite knowing exactly how she might do the art, but it had been that act of creation, of changing one thing into another that had excited her. Jake had understood, and she’d been envious that he’d found his way of expressing it, regardless of how dangerous a way it was. Each way she’d tried – drawing or painting or, hell she even tried pottery – all failed to quite inspire her as a medium of art. She couldn’t ever settle on what she wanted to make, or how to make it, and soon found herself sitting amongst other directionless peers while those who knew their calling streamed ahead. Made something of themselves. She did to them what she’d done to her parents, who’d kept asking exactly what she wanted to do. She left them all to their neat little planned out lives.

“Mm, well, I think we should both get some sleep, don’t you?” Her mother stretched, arching her back and twisting her neck, “At the very least, we should lie down. You’re probably shattered, after all this today, huh?”

“I am a bit, yeah…”

“Well, I’ll let you get some sleep.” Her mother stood, and smiled down at her. She paused for a moment, losing the smile, but it quickly returned. “I’m so glad you’ve come back, I promise, we’ll sort your room out tomorrow.”

“It’s fine, really.” She smiled back, “I’ll be fine. Just get some sleep, mum, yeah? I’ll see you in a few hours.

Her mother nodded, moving to the door, but didn’t quite leave. She hesitated, biting her lip for a moment before saying,

“Listen I, I don’t want this to end up in a row, baby but… If you’ve come home, does that mean you might think about going to university, too?”

“I don’t know yet. I, I haven’t had time to think about it, you know? Mum I only just got back tonight.”

“Oh you’re right…” She shook her head, “I just thought I’d ask, that’s all.”

She lay back on the sofa as she listened to her mother pad quietly up the creaking stairs. Why would she go to university just to get told what to do and how to create, when now she had the power to create anything? The world was her canvas, she could change anything to be just how she wanted it. She’d have to think of a cover story soon, but like hell she would go to university. She needed time to practice with these powers, like Kia said, and then she’d be able to take on anything.

 

“You’ll wanna practice pretty soon, you never know when another one might pop up.”

“Can’t you teach me?”

“No. I’ve already taught you what I can, actually using your powers is way outta my ability to teach. Your element is completely different to mine, for a start. It’s not a question of teaching, you gotta find your own way of working it. Practice makes perfect, right?”

“But I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Yeah you do. You do what you already did. Change one thing into another. When that gets easy start thinking of more ways you might be able to change things. Generally, it seems like it’s down to focus.”

“How can I focus? Like, with meditation and stuff? My mum does that, sometimes.”

“I dunno! If you want, I guess. I’ve not done it. But, you’re not going to wanna meditate every time you want to use your powers though. Better practice without it so you can use it when things get dangerous. Think of it like a martial art, right? The more you do it, the more likely you can use it when you really need to.”

 

~☆~

The salt shaker refused to change properly. Transmuting one thing into another took a lot more concentration than she’d realised, and picturing it as something entirely different was hard. Focus, Kia had said, was the key, but focus was the hardest part of all. Her mind jumped from one thing to another, refusing to clearly picture this china salt shaker as anything other than what it was.

Her mind told her she was tired, and she had to agree, but when she had laid down on the sofa images of the Schism came flooding in. Pictures of the man in the fridge, gradually absorbed while still alive. The TV, composed of… she didn’t even know. She didn’t want to know. Jake, encased in burning ice. It was so easy for all this to feel fantastic when it was surrounded by reality, but the Schism stuck in her mind as a reminder of how close to chaos it really was. She’d been imbued with the power to break the rules, and for the first time in her life, it’d given her an appreciation of how important the rules really were. Such a sobering thought had driven her back up, and into practice.

“If powerful emotion causes Schisms, then wouldn’t most people who’ve died in accidents have become magical too?”

The shaker became patchy, her attempts to mould it into steel only taking root in parts, the white china washing seamlessly into metal and back to china again. She tried to force her mind back on track, to envisage a fully metal shaker, sleek and shiny and cold to the touch.

“There just aren’t that many people who feel emotion quite as powerfully as they’d need to. Not to mention, we all keep it under wraps…”

The damn thing turned half into copper as her mind wandered, and she forced it back to steel, but the copper was weak, and bent slightly as she held it. Even as her powers turned it back to steel, an easier feat than china, the kink where it had bent remained. Damn it, why couldn’t it just work!

“…We force our feelings down so we don’t show them to the wrong people, so we can keep calm under pressure…”

She tried turning it back to copper. Maybe she could bend it back into shape. Why would the thickness change? She’d been focussing on keeping it the same shape as it had been when it was china, why would the copper be thinner than the other parts? Surely it’d just transform into thicker copper?

“…Ain’t nothin’ more pressuring than dying. Not everybody runs off emotional fuel in an emergency.”

If she could only keep her mind on track… the copper bent back, but the crease was still visible. She’d fixed her leg, damn it! She’d fixed flesh and bone like it was nothing and now she couldn’t turn a damn salt shaker from one material to another! What the hell was wrong with her?

“But even if they did, you’re not going to be overcome with feelings of love and happiness while you’re dying, are you? I wasn’t! God I was… I was, oh God I was fucking terrified I…”

Why was this so difficult!? It had been so much easier in the Schism!

“Everything always goes on about the power of love, but nobody ever considers the power of fear…”

The shaker crumpled under her attempts to force it back to its original shape, a tiny hole tearing in the side.

“…Of hate…”

She tried to patch it back together, to flow two materials into one, but they became garbled, her focus on the hole rather than the material making them fluctuate into random substances.

“…Of desperation…”

She lashed out at it in frustration, her desire for it to be something, or anything, gone in an instant. Why would the damn thing not do what it was supposed to!? She crushed it under her fist, feeling the metal, porcelain, and copper fragments dissolve, crumbling down as she forced it.

“…Who’s to say those aren’t as powerful as love?”

She breathed slowly for a moment, closing her eyes. She was tired. She was so damn tired. She couldn’t do this now. She’d been stupid to try. Under her hand was just dust, a small pile like she’d swept it up, tiny fragments of shining metal and white chips all that remained of what had once been there. Urgh, how was she going to explain this?

 

She leant back in her chair and stared out of the windows looking out into the street. Wasn’t this the time, in the stories, where she looks up at the moon and gains hope? Wasn’t it meant to shine down, bathe her in ghostly light while she ponders her new life? Reflecting the sun while she reflects on herself? The sky was overcast, the moon vanished along with the sun. There was no light to see the way ahead. She had to rely on herself now. Even when she’d left home, left the guiding hand of her parents and the Accepted Way of university and a steady job, she’d still relied on the older, more experienced Jake to pave the way for her. Now there was Kia, but Kia didn’t seem all that interested in the job. She’d have to work much of this out for herself. Of all the reality warping madness, of all the new worlds and super powers and murderous televisions, it was independence which scared her most. And now, for the first time, it didn’t look like she could just leave it behind.

She wished she could see the moon. Not just for its light, but because, when you really looked at it, it was truly beautiful. The way it shifted through its cycle, a little more each day blackened by the Earth’s shadow. But it always came out again. It changed, it adapted, and it emerged once more. A new moon.

That was what she needed to become. A new person. Someone who could deal with all of this, who could change and adapt no matter how dark it got, and come out the other side again. Maybe, eventually, just like the moon, she would be beautiful too. She’d be someone who really was worthy of these incredible abilities. But how did you create a new self? How do you become a new person? What’s the first step?

She needed a name. That was what all those super heroes in the movies did, right? They put on a mask and gave themselves a new name and suddenly mild mannered Norma Normalson was a fearless crusader for justice. She’d never liked those movies much, but maybe a name might help her start feeling a little more like someone who could do the things she was supposed to do? Maybe she’d be able to become something better than herself, if she stopped thinking of her as herself. Fake it ‘til you make it, right?

‘Well moon, you’re some fine inspiration’ She thought, ‘But I can hardly go around as Moon Girl.’

Or could she? What did it matter, nobody was going to know it. It could be an awful name, so long as it did the job. She didn’t need to tell anyone, and Kia sure wasn’t going to ask. What name could she have that might really capture the essence of the moon? And, maybe add something powerful, like a soldier or, or maybe navy would suit it better, given how fluid reality seemed to be. Yeah, that’d be cool. So, maybe… Sailor… Sailor… Luna? Sailor Luna? No that didn’t sound quite right…

‘Forget it, I need something more descriptive than that anyway…’

It was at 5:44a.m. that she finally thought of it. A name that, in her tired, near delirious state, she decided fit perfectly.

‘The Silver Beam of Luna Light!’

‘I am ever changing, of myself and of all I touch!’    

‘I am unstoppable! I reflect the light of the most powerful elements known to the universe!’

She smiled as she drifted off to sleep. God it was cheesy. Good thing nobody was ever going to know it. She’d be chaos moon crusader to her, and her alone.

END OF CHAPTER THREE

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Read Chapter 4 – Heroic Expectations

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)