A/N: Yoni babuyee - The Xaranian equivalent of “the bogey man,” used to refer to the creature(s) seen in sleep paralysis dreams.
It’d started after Ery came home again from that weird challenge.
No, not that Ery himself was being weird; I meant the dreams. I’ve really never had many nightmares and even the times I did have them, Ery would always be there to comfort me. Even when he was away, participating in that weird challenge, I didn’t have any weird dreams -- and then it happened.
I’m trapped, immobilized to my bed as the tendrils of sickeningly red mist seep into every corner of my bedroom. At first, I only thought, Eh, it’s just some old ‘Yoni babuyee’ as Ery calls it, it’s nothing I’ve not faced before.
But something seems worse about it than some sleep demon paying me a visit. I’ve always ... let’s just say, I’ve familiar with demons haunting me. I’ve had one hunt me down for years and he’s only stopped now because I’ve been laying low ... I still look over my shoulder, too.
This really felt ... too real, yet not real? Even the room I was in, the room that was once my deathbed, it didn’t feel quite there. Things moved, twisted, and slowly rotated as if something were reading me. I’ve had experience being a ghost, for the record, so I know a thing or two about messing with people and making them see things. Though I was the one on the giving end, not the receiving, it leaves people drained. They often would say their head felt “tingly,” “fuzzy,” and very “creeped out,” and I guess it was my turn.
It kept laughing, laughing at me as the pounding in my head ebbed and flowed like it was a pulsating creature. Something inside the mist was forming, but I can’t see it; the only sensation I feel is a total disconnection from myself and my physical body. Something is contorting, I can feel the pain of something twitching uncontrollably, feeling my strength leave me as I continue to lay on my literal death bed before the smell of something burning hits my nose.
And then I’m awake.
I’m right beside Ery with Mercedes perking up from his sleep and tilting his white head at me in concern. A cold sweat runs down the back of my neck, as I shakily stumble out of bed and rinse my face with cold water to remind myself that I’m still alive and I’m not stuck in some strange limbo; at least that’s what I want to believe. As I make my way to our bathroom everything about my surroundings feels dangerous, like something is an illusion but it’s hidden in plain sight to my eyes.
I don’t know why I feel this way, and it doesn’t leave me until hours later after I sat on the toilet seat, staring at everything and just waiting, waiting for something to come out and get me. That’s what they don’t tell you about all of this; it’s not the threat of something actually attacking you, it’s the threat of something lurking.
I’ve had a bad past, where I may or may not have nearly ended the world because I made a pact with a Wyrm of Pestilence and actual Devil Arcana himself because I didn’t want to die. I wanted power, fame, amour, and immortality and I was stupid and didn’t think straight when I should have; I burned Ery at one point when he got sick because I just wanted to--not that I’d ever do that again, I’d rather burn myself.
In that past I’ve had, dealing with demons, Wyrms, bugs, and being a ghost, I learned a thing or two about how these guys work. It’s not like the movies, where they just make their presence known--no, never. They want to toy with you, watch you run away until you’re absolutely cornered and they can do whatever they want to do to you. They watch you run and wither away until they trap in their realm with your lover and try to possess you, and you can’t do anything becuase--I’m getting off -track now.
It’s weird because the whole time I just ... it was the bedroom but it was not. It was the human realm, but it was not. It was the Arcane Realm, yet it was not. Someone ... something ... was messing with me; I could feel it and I know what it’s like to be the one doing that to people. It’s bigger than me if what my gut was telling me was right; far bigger than I could ever imagine but maybe ... maybe it’ll leave me alone.
I’ve got my poochies, Mercedes and Melchior, with me and I also have Ery here too and he knows lots about magic and the Arcana more than I do. I’ll be safe with them, I don’t need to be afraid ... I can’t be afraid. You can’t show fear to spirits and Arcana, all it does is make them stronger and make you more vulnerable.
Even as I write this, something is ... something’s wrong. I just don’t feel safe, but I don’t wanna think about it. Ery’s in the bathroom right now, but I swear I can feel it down the corridor to my old, abandoned bedroom from years ago. I’m not going down to that place today, not unless Ery is there with me. I don’t think he can tell, but I’m sitting outside the door just waiting for him to be done.
As I sit staring at our room, I can feel my heart racing out of unease ... the only thing that keeps me company is the pitter-patter of water as Ery is washing himself and the small little tunes I hear him hum sometimes. Mercedes and Melchior have left the room, I think they went to the back of the Magic Shop, probably using the bathroom on the backyard.
That’s ... what I’m supposed to believe, right? That’s what I’m supposed to fall for, but it’s all warped now. I kind of noticed that one of the poochies just ... looked at me funny? But maybe it’s just me, maybe it’s nothing at all and that stupid whatever-it-was just messed with my head that much to the point I’m getting scared of everything. That’s what I want to tell myself, I’m trying so hard to tell myself whatever messed with me last night didn’t mess me up that bad.
But that’s the thing everything seems different now, and I can’t tell if it means I’m just losing it because some creature attacked me or if I’m being in the right here.
I should tell Ery. I really should tell Ery ...
No, nevermind; I won’t, I don’t need to. It’s all just nothing, right? Everything is normal, everything is fine--we’re past that phase of running away from The Devil and saving the world from an impending apocalypse because of a ritual. It was just some bad dream and it was just lowly spirit one-upping me because I’m just too great that I had to be one-upped. That’s all it was, that’s all it ever was.
I’m gonna stop writing in this piece of paper now, I mean, I might as well throw out the whole notebook, really. I’m not gonna be writing in this hunk of scrap ever again, and it’s not like I’m gonna share this with anyone.
Okay, fine. I’ll hold onto it for just a little while.
A/N: Bayubeni chaiya - The Xaranian equivalent of “boba tea.”
So, I ... didn’t get rid of this notebook after all.
Before you say anything, it’s not that I’m scared or anything and I can tell Ery if I feel unsafe about all of this at any time. Bah, who am I kidding? No one’s going to read this, which is why I’m writing in this notebook here anyways.
Basically, I had another weird moment. I know Vesuvia like the back of my hair, and I know where things are --mostly. Sometimes, I get a little bit lost, but really I do know places well, and the one place I know a bit too well is The Rowdy Raven. It’s not as fancy and high-class as it could be--and if Noddy would let me do the renovations to Vesuvia, I can bet you it would be--but the bartender makes a good brew that even Az can meet me up for sometimes.
Right, I guess I should make who I am more clear--even if I don’t think anyone’s gonna read this. I’m Count Lucio, the count of my home and country, Vesuvia. I am the Count, still am, even though I died at some point, hence me having experience in the supernatural area. I was revived though, by my boyfriend ... who I accidentally burned at one point ... Ery.
About the whole “me burning Ery” thing; that, uh ... so when I said I made a deal with The Wyrm of Pestilence, and The Devil--I may have spread a plague, a Red Plague, throughout Vesuvia and it almost killed the entire world. I, um, had a habit of making deals to benefit me and trying to scam the party I made a deal with. Yeah, maybe making a deal with an Arcana and a Wyrm with the power to bring illness to people for my conquest for power wasn’t smart, but my memory of the whole events is foggy. Everyone’s is; Ery’s, Az’s, the brute, Noddy, Jules, Portie ... no one can remember the precise events during the time that plague I brought was infecting everyone.
For me, I just remember being bedridden, screaming for Jules to help me and make sure no one else saw me in my shameful, pathetic state and then things get fuzzy. I remember the fire, though, and the smell ... you never forget a smell like that ... right. So, I was heading to the Rowdy Raven to get myself a little something -- I wanted to make this alcoholic bayubeni chaiya, because why not -- and then I step inside. The Rowdy Raven really isn’t that big of a place, but the moment I walked into that room that weird feeling I’d been feeling all day yesterday since my weird dream struck me again.
I was maybe a bit glad it wasn’t the feeling that everything suddenly was twisted in front of me and I couldn’t trust what was “real,” but that isn’t to say it didn’t get me all nervous just suddenly feeling like I stepped into one of those portals that you find in the Arcana realm. It was disorienting and trippy because I see the confined space of the bar, the people occupying it, the chairs, the walls that are supposed to indicate something is “contained,” yet it wasn’t.
All I could tell is that the closer I came to the “walls” surrounding the bar, the more the sense of fear grew inside me. The feeling felt very familiar to me, maybe it was something buried inside of me from the time The Red Plague was taking over everything. It was almost as if the wall would move further and further away, with each step I took towards it.
That was probably the point of it, the reason the wall would never actually end is ’cause it’s not supposed to. It’s just an infinite space meant to ... contain me, yet not contain me. The more I walk down, the more lost I feel and if I’m lost then I’m easy to be snatched by whatever is making it do that. I’m guessing ... it’s like walking inside the open mouth of an alligator, and the moment you’re deep inside the jaws will snap shut and it’ll swallow you whole.
I quickly back-tracked and just took a moment to breathe even if I was in public around these other people. I was already feeling disoriented and paranoid about yesterday and this wasn’t helping me at all. I didn’t like that the one, comfortable, compact place that I liked had now been transformed into an illusion hiding something that was likely wanting to get me. See, the other eerie thing I felt the whole time was that I swear that the people would look at me the closer I came to the wall and kept trying to follow it.
I don’t mean people looking at me like I’m crazy, I mean looking at me as if they wanted me to keep going. Like they were part of whatever was going on and wanted me to go down into that portal and just let whatever waited for me get to me. I grabbed the brew I wanted, and the bartender with what looked like--for just a moment--a disappointed, disgruntled expression gave me the small keg and sent me off on my way.
I headed back home, kind of walking slowly as I looked around the town squares, markets, and gardens I passed through to the magic shop. The places I thought were small, comfortable, and not that big had me wondering if I was wrong to think about it. Ery was always one to tell me that just because something isn’t big doesn’t mean I should ignore it and now as I stare at the streets of Vesuvia everything now seems bigger than me even if it is just ’cause of some stupid spirit messing with my head.
What’s always weirded me out about the portals in the Arcane Realm, of every part of the Arcane Realm, was how you always feel watched even if you are in a giant, endless space. It’s like walking into an empty room and feeling a ghost staring at you, waiting for you to make a move or debating if it’s going to make its move on you. Maybe that’s how everyone felt when I pulled a few pranks on them ... I wonder if this creature is teaching me a lesson? But why do I need a lesson, especially this kind of lesson? I’ve already done everything for the past oopsies; I said sorry to Az for getting his parents banished to the Arcane Realm, and the others and I’ve been doing better about being less selfish and listening to people.
Why am I being tormented over this? It can’t be someone just being mad at me for being a bit of a pranking ghost for laughs, right? That’d be ridiculous, it’s just so petty and I’ve done so much worse than to warrant something like this. I really ... don’t tell Ery, but last night’s really been messing with me. I don’t like being in my head too much and having it messed even more with twisting my senses and then doing it again with the places I feel safe in; I’m begging you.
As I write more in this notebook, I think I’m processing maybe, just maybe, how much bigger the thing responsible for messing with me is. I know, for sure, that to it I’m just a loud, noisy speck that gives you good entertainment and Ery is the speck that comes to me. Whatever you are, I really am sorry okay? Please leave me alone, I’m ... I’m getting too old to have mental magic battles and running away. I won’t tell Ery, okay? Don’t get him involved, please. He’s everything to me and he doesn’t deserve this; just focus on me but don’t hurt him.
Please don’t hurt him.
Burreno - The Xaranian equivalent of the mixture used for tapioca pearls in boba tea.
I’m ... I don’t know anymore. I think this notebook is the only “real” thing in this place, I just ... give me a second to think, everything’s foggy and I’m currently soaked in the blood of my ... no, those weren’t Mercedes and Melchior. I didn’t kill my poochies; I didn’t kill my poochies.
I don’t know what anything is anymore. I don’t even know if the person I hugged in my arms was even Ery to begin with or another false person. God, it’s just so messed up; I don’t know if I’ve totally lost him and everyone I know and I’m all alone again or if maybe Ery was taken somewhere--right, okay, I need to keep it together.
So I was right about earlier, I was right that everything I was seeing wasn’t real, or it’s not ... it’s not what I know. It just started out with me coming back from the weird Rowdy Raven place to the Magic Shop with Ery. I’d set down the keg on the kitchen counter, and I think the first thing I should have noticed was how “chill” Ery seemed.
I’m not saying is Ery is super uptight, but he’s not exactly relaxed on certain things. If I were to bring a keg of beer and be reaching into the Burreno mix; he’d put two and two together and just start fussing over me a bit and helping me make everything while warning me not to get carried away with the alcohol. It’s just what he does, he frets about me getting too drunk and having a hangover the next day, so that’s what he does.
But he didn’t do that, and I know this is going to sound like it’s not a big deal but it is--it’s honestly a big deal. He just smiled at me, welcomed me back home, hugged me, and then began helping me unload the keg and asked if I’d like some help with the Burreno. Now listen, I just -- after everything that’s happened, I suddenly had this to deal with all in the same day.
After noticing that shifty as hell reaction from him, I’m just standing there, just trying not to flip out and shake Ery because, again, maybe it’s just me and maybe I’m not in some weird dimension forced on me from some being as I try to go about the day.
“Ah, yeah!” I answered him, managing the best, natural smile I can muster. “Sure, I can’t wait to totally drink all these down -- it’s gonna be a party tonight, that’s for sure.”
That was half said as me being myself, but half said as a test--Ery’s always been reserved about me being this way. Even if he’d let me do it, his face would always show that slight look of apprehension before agreeing to or before telling me he wasn’t okay with me doing something. I know Ery, we’ve been together for barely a year, but I know how to read him because we’ve been through so much together.
Please, I half beg to him and myself silently. C’mon, Ery, please...
“Ah, yes!” he clapped his hands together, making my heart stop beating faster than a drum, “That would be wonderful! I’ll make sure I put a Xaranian-style taste to the beer then, if you will let me?”
“Aha, yeah!” I agreed with him while screaming on the inside in panic, “Give me a second, okay Ery? I’m gonna go fix myself up.”
Maybe it wasn’t a good thing, but I’m awfully quick to notice when Mercedes and Melchior aren’t around. I mean, those poochies are my children--I’d defend them to here and back and they’d do the same for me. I didn’t hear the little clacking of their paws on the floor of the shop nor their sniffing and slight grunting so, naturally, I seek them out. After all, I’m already being creeped out by Ery’s relaxedness when I know he would not be relaxed at all, so the least I could ask for is a breather by cuddling my two fur babies.
“Mercedes?” I let out a whistle as I called for them, stepping outside the back door of the Magic Shop, “Melchior? Here fellas, daddy’s home! Come to daddy!”
Nothing; no bark, no attitude-filled “woof,” absolutely zilch.
Okay, I frowned a bit, really feeling alone and just weirded out by all of this. So, they’re not around the shop? But Ery would never let them roam so casually like that? At least, I really don’t remember him being the type to do such a thing -- he’d always be worried about those two getting attacked when we’re not around to defend ’em.
I hopped over the fence and strolled around the small neighborhood and miniature shops, trying to search for them, repeatedly calling for their names and whistling. At one point, I managed to dig out one of their treats from my pockets and start waving it around in my vain attempt to get them to come to me, “Mercedes? Melchior? C’mere boys, it’s me, Lucio!”
If it wasn’t clear that whatever’s been happening to me was twisting what I knew into something else, then it certainly was now. I hadn’t smelled it before, but something in the air stank, it was far more strong and pungent than what I’d smell down by the docks. I pinched my nose, still calling for my poochies despite how stuffed and nasal-y I sounded, “Come on, boys, don’t you wanna come back home? Where you’ve got treats, good food, and a place that doesn’t stink so much?”
About a few feet away from me, I think I hear something, A growl?
“Grr...” the creature’s call comes again before going quiet for a few seconds. Instinctively, I tighten my golden arm around the hilt of my sword; something isn’t right. I’ve heard the boys growl before, it never went that low and guttural; even if the two were growing while eating their chops. I don’t know how to properly put into words how unnatural the noise I heard was, or how it sounded more like something trying to mimic a dog but failing at it hard, but I knew something was off.
Cautiously, slowly making my way around the corner, I saw the source of the noise. It was Mercedes and Melchior but they were feasting ravenously upon a corpse. The pungent smell that had been lingering in the air was overwhelming, and I was already on the verge of puking until I saw what the two dogs were feeding on--a decaying corpse. The face had long been chewed away from the insects and beetles that had gathered in on the feast, but the white strands of hair told me everything I needed to know.
“Az...” I shakily gasp, unable to keep quiet. I regretted that decision immediately as not only did what I thought was Mercedes and Melchior stopped their movements but every creature present just seemed to stop. There was an uneasy tension between me, what looked like my dogs, and the heebie-jeebie-inducing insects having a banquet on Az’s corpse; it felt like I wasn’t supposed to have seen something, and maybe that was the case.
I’m still gripping the sword’s hilt tightly as the two dogs slowly turned their heads towards me and began heading my way. The insects didn’t even fly or move away, only remaining still on Az’s body as Mercedes and Melchior approached me.
“H-hey boys,” I greeted them, my voice shaky at their ... stilted movements, I think that’s what best describes it. They just didn’t walk like dogs would; they walked like they’d never been dogs to begin with, even though they appeared to be normal. “You enjoying your...”
What I thought was Melchior barked at me, and it sounded normal. As reckless and stupid as it was, I thought this mean everything was fine and maybe them eating Az’s dead body was just my imagination. I leaned forward, at least having the brains to think to use my metal arm instead of my flesh-y arm to pet Melchior when I finally see it. It’s only a brief flash but the sloughing flesh, the blacked areas of what were once skin peeled back to reveal more of the daggered, plaque-riddened teeth, the masses of buzzing beetles, flies, worms, and insects feasting on what I can only think is a walking corpse version of my poochie ... I pulled my hand back and took off running.
As I headed back to the Magic Shop, everything around me changed again. The smell was now everywhere, and it had grown so much in strength that I could feel my stomach churning from how putrid it was to my senses. At some point in my fleeing, I could hear the barking of one of them just before they lunged at me, and out of self-preservatino and fear I drew my sword and cut through the jugular of one of my poochies with ease.
What I’ll always hate the most out of all this, is the fact that the decaying corpse of a dog that I know those two truly looked like and weren’t my dogs never showed when I killed them. Whatever was causing all this wanted me to suffer as I heard Melchior let out a whimper as his blood sprayed onto my suit a bit before his body fell lifelessly to the burgundy stone street and bled out.
The not-Mercedes had long lost his domestic side as he had no issue coming after me and trying to land some lethal bites on me. In our scuffle I managed to lose our sword and was forced, by metal hand, to cut through his jugular as well before taking off, hopping over the fence, and slipping back inside the shop with my back slumped to the backyard door.
The notebook I’d kept was now laying on the floor next to me along with its pen, and since then, I’ve just been writing everything that’s happened to me. Maybe it can’t be seen now but I’m shaking, I’m wondering if maybe I just killed my two dogs and that I was hallucinating the walking corpse I saw. But that can’t be a hallucination, the smell is so awful; how could that not be real? I saw what I saw, Az was dead, Ery wasn’t being Ery, and my poochies were living-dead poochies -- that has to be true.
I’m going to stop writing now. I need to rest, I need sleep; I don’t know where I am and I’m all alone.
I hope Ery is okay, I really hope nothing happened to Ery.
Deemonkai - The creature’s referral to The Devil
Nenai- Xaranian for “no.”
For the record, I’m not at the Magic Shop anymore. I’m currently on a boat, feeling seasick as all hell, but I’m trying to sail far away from that Vesuvia--if I can even call that place “Vesuvia” anymore. I’ve got this notebook and pen in my lap, just sitting out in the middle of nowhere as I let the currents carry my ship.
I need to make an update, right?
When I was taking refuge at the Magic Shop, I’d been taking a nap against the door, exhausted from fending off the fake Mercedes and Melchior. It felt nice to sleep, just surrounded in darkness as if I’d never witnessed having to kill what looked like my dogs, never having to have that weird dream that looked like my old room, and never having to see Ery act anything but himself.
Then something warm, breathy snakes its way into my ear in a deranged, raspy voice, “Your flesh, Lushiyo.”
My old fighting instincts kick in as I awoke with a jolt and blindly swung towards whatever direction I heard the voice from. That was a mistake, however, because Er--no, that thing immediately grabbed my arm and pinned me onto the floor. It looked like Ery, but it wasn’t, I don’t think it was.
The smell was back, I could feel myself starting to retch before the imposter placed its hand over my mouth, clamping it shut.
“No, no, sweet little thing,” the voice was shifting? It sounded ... it was Ery, then Az, then Noddy, then Mama, and then something else. It changed voices around, like how I see Jules and his little acting troupe would between shifts in scenes at the Community Theater. “You’re so rude; so, so, rude. Deemonkai was going to use you as a vessel, but that’s just a waste. You’re much suited to for someone to savor; the elastic, smooth, stretchy, and soft casing hiding away those squelchy insides are meant to be devoured.”
“Ery’s” mouth suddenly unhinges, revealing multiple rows of teeth and a worm-like tongue as his face begins to slough off; the bits of rotting flesh falling on inches away from me as he presses his hand further against my mouth, slowly trailing his fingers to cover my nostrils.
I tried to fight back, struggling for air, Is this guy going to kill me?
″Ne-nai.” Ery’s voice coming from the monster sounds so jarring and broken, “No, no--that’s farrrrr too soon.”
Finally, it drew its hand away from my mouth, causing me to gasp and choke as beetles begin to crawl out. Digging the claws of my metal arm into the floor, I tried to hoist myself up, but, once again, he pins me down with ease. Coughing and hacking, more crimson beetles poured out of me, causing me to lean over and continue to spit them out as the creature watched me in demeaning silence.
“What ... the fuck...” I croaked and growled at the thing, “Do you want?”
“You’ve done so much, yes?” the fusion of voices thing is grating on my ears as it continues, “So, so much ... and it comes with a price.”
It extends its hand out towards me, a perverse chuckle escaping from its lips as it runs its gangly, decaying fingers alongside my cheek, “The human who reeks of death, has such a nice flavor; as expected. Hunting you down was so easy; you have such a poor means of defense; Lu-ci-o.”
The last of the beetles finally is coughed out, leaving me to breathe heavily for air before I face the creature who dared to wear Ery’s face, ”...I said not to hurt Ery.”
“Eridæus, is unharmed. It is only you, just like you requested. Slowly, you will succumb, and I’ll have indulged in every piece of your body.”
I managed to stagger up, “You’re not touching any of me.”
“How bold, assuming ... of you,” it twirled its fingers, slowly morphing them into rotten, deformed tentacles. “That smell, Lucio, is it really from the others around you? Or perhaps somewhere much closer?”
I limped towards the door, “You’re not going to do anything to me; I’m gonna find a way back and you’re going to regret not killing me.”
“It will not happen,” I tried to ignore its words, even though I could already feel them lingering in the back of my mind, “Your death is in motion, all we have to do is wait.”
With a quickened speed walk, I managed to grab one of my smaller boats docked at the port, start it up, and sail out east. Something that’s not a worm or The Devil is after me; I’m either in some weird realm, or it’s done something to me where I’m not with Ery or anyone else I know. This whole thing reminds me of that trick realm I was in with Ery all over again with those dead people I’d killed. Part of me knows I can’t head its words; it’s only going to mess with me more, give it more of an upper hand. But that’s the problem, that smell has never left since, and if by “close” that thing meant myself, then, is what that creature said true?
Slowly, with a shaking hand, I slip off one of my capes and look down at my chest; sure enough, the foul smell is present and I can see my skin beginning to turn a sickly yellow. I really don’t get what’s happening; I don’t understand how this thing is affecting me and keeping me away from Ery. How did it get me in front of Ery? Was Ery even able to defend me at all? Did he hurt him?
I just need to get back; my ship has been sailing out at sea for a few hours but just saw land. Though, if this isn’t actually Nevivon and is another fake place, then I’m not sure what to do. If everyone here is nothing but those weird dead-flesh dropping things, then I can’t trust anyone I set foot in, it could all just be minions or proxies for that creature as he knows he’s going to corner me.
...I don’t have a choice in the end, anyway. As I’ve been jotting down what’s happened to me, that weird sickly yellow color has begun to spread throughout my body--it’s gone from my chest towards my right shoulder. With how dark and smelly it’s getting, I guess it’s a form of my flesh rotting away. There’s this weird, painful biting sensation, like I’m being eaten alive from the inside--which supports what the thing said about “savoring me” and all that.
So, since I seem to be getting worse as the minutes fly, I’m steering my ship to the Nevivon port. I need a place to rest for a bit while I try to figure everything out; there’s gotta be a way to get out of this alive, I know there is. I just need to sit down, calm down, and think all on my own, but it terrifies me. Every big thing I’d done, Ery was always there and now?
I was utterly alone, afraid, and isolated.
I just heard the thwunk of my boat hitting the port, and now there’s a steady pain on that area of my chest. I’m gonna hide this notebook and write more when I feel less like a million eyes are watching my every move and suffering.
Ery, please know that I’m so sorry. I’m really, really, reallly sorry ... maybe this will be the last oopsie I make.
After I’d docked my ship at Nevivon, I managed to crash at some run-down, abandoned sea shop, and went to bed behind the reception desk. The things in this place like being all up close and personal way too much, because, again, I was woken up by something making noise in my ear. I slowly opened my eyes to see some cat-masked woman straddling me with a toothy grin.
I lunge forward, trying to headbutt her and get her off me, but she’d read my moves too well and headbutted me first, sending me collapsing back onto the ground with a splitting headache. A smile grew on her face as I blocked her grab with my metal arm, straining up against her grip with the mettle I could muster before managing to give her hard enough shove to disorient her and land a blow across her face. Her mask flew off, skidding onto the wooden floorboard and I could finally see what she looked like.
Red-head, blue eyes, freckles ... it looked like Portie, Jules’ younger and spry sister. But she was only laughing at me, and Portie only laughed when I was being made a fool of. She would have been annoyed at me in this situation--actually, she’d probably be angry with me--and if she had me pinned she’d be giving me that icy glare I’ve seen her give Jules when he looks like he’s about to break into Az’s Magic Shop again. Her smile too, it didn’t seem like her either; it was just too eager and not human-like, just like everything in this world kept appearing as.
I grunted, managing to give her a strong shove off of myself and scrambling up to my feet, “You’re not Portie.”
“Is that what you want to tell yourself, Lucio?” she giggled, standing up like one of those string puppets and leaning against the dusty, wooden counter, “Do you need to be knocked off your high-horse that much to realize I am Portia?”
“No, you’re not,” I growled at her, trying to sit up again only to have a deadlock grip between her clammy hands and mine. “Ery wasn’t Ery, so you’re lying to me.”
The sound of the shop door creaking open echoed through the room, the heavy footsteps of boots pressing on the old, worn-out wooden floorboards as another masked figure takes to the fake Portie’s side--I recognized that stranger’s tacky plague doctor mask immediately, “It ‘wasn’t Ery’, huh Lucio?”
″...You’re not Jules either.” I snapped him, getting ready to draw my sword.
The hairs on my arms stand straight up as I heard the duo laugh in unison before the thing that impersonated Portie walked closer towards me, “You really ... aren’t going to face the reality of this? You haven’t changed at all, Lucio, even if...”
She is sizing me up, and I could see a drop of drool escape the corner of her lips before she licks it up with her rotting tongue, ”...Even if you’re definitely not the right one.”
I clutched onto the hilt even tighter, “I’m getting sick and tired of everyone here talking in riddles with me.”
“Jules” tilted his head at an angle I didn’t think was even possible before he adds, ”...You think He would make a mistake?”
I heard the bones in “Portie’s” neck snap as she turned towards her brother, her smile stretched so far that it looked like her jaw would unhinge at any moment, ”Ilya, He’s been so far gone that I think any Lucio would do for him.”
“The shortage of a meal, too,” the person claiming to be Jules slowly bobbed his head in agreement. “So, guess He did make a mistake after all.”
I’d finally had enough, “Can I please know what the hell is going on?! I’ve had to kill things that looked like my dogs, I’ve had something that looked like my boyfriend shove beetles inside of me and let me run away just because he wants to toy with me, and now I have you two talking weird! Who are you two, really?! And what have I done to end up in this place?”
They fell silent, just staring at me and then at each other for a painfully long moment before “Portie” grabbed my metal arm and yanked me with an inhuman force towards her, “Nothing dies here anymore, Lucio--not since the Red Plague infected everyone.”
“Wha-” I shook my head at her, “No, the Red Plague died out and I--er, Ery and I--stopped the Devil!”
“But it came back again,” fake Jules added, a hiss escaped him as he chuckled. “And who do you think was responsible for that?”
I couldn’t argue with them on that, ”...What about Az? Ery? I saw Az’s body down the street from his shop.”
“Eridæus and Asra don’t exist anymore,” a rage was laced in “Portie’s” voice, reminiscent of the Portie I knew of, as she slammed me against the wall, breaking down into a fit of laughter, “You betrayed them both--do you get it now? You betrayed Eridæus and saved yourself; you sacrificed them both to Him and they took it out on the world, trying to hunt you down.”
More of her face began peeling away, the pieces of skin sprinkling onto the floor, “It wasn’t The Devil, but a relative of him is what He calls himself. Using Eridæus and Asra’s rage to manipulate them both, Eridæus’ body became the vessel of all three of them; Eridæus, Asra, and Him. A new version of the Red Plague ravaged the world; we’re immortal but hungry.”
Before I could do anything, “Jules” cornered me as well, “Particularly, for the person who caused this mess to begin with.”
Slowly, he removed his mask, showing me how both of his eyes were that sickly bloodshot I’d seen in myself all those years ago, “But, you’re not the Lucio who ran away from us--clearly. You’re someone else, a misplacement. He’s snatched you up, and now you’re stuck here.”
He then wrapped his sticky, glove onto the nape of my neck and squeezed down hard, sending the biting pain further down my body, “And it seems He wants to convert you, too. That’s cute--guess He can’t help but be a savorer towards you.”
I hissed at him in pain, “Get your hand off me, imposter, before I cut it off!”
“Like you could,” the fake Portie hissed, “Relax, won’t you? Even though we’d much prefer to tear you to shreds, we’re at least appealing to His good side.”
She finally let go of me, tapping “Jules” on his shoulder to do the same, “He wants to toy with you, so he’ll listen to us keeping you around for a while.”
Another giggle escaped her, “But you better find a way out of here, just like you did last time, Lucio, and fast. It doesn’t matter if you’re the wrong one, He wants you.”
I watched “Jules” readjust his plague doctor mask back on along with Portie grabbing her cat mask off the floor. Everything was still a load of information I wasn’t even sure how to process, ”...Where are you two going?”
“To find more food,” bloody-eyed Jules answered, taking to Portie’s side as she left the abandoned shop. “You remember where our old cabin is--go there if you need shelter. But don’t make yourself too obvious, Lucio.”
The familiar hiss escaped from him and I tensed up as a long, snake-like tongue peeked out under his mask, “You’re lucky Pasha and I still have something left to hold onto. Everyone else? Heh, I guess you were right about Muriel being a ‘brute’ after all.”
I managed to find the old place, just taking some old, smelly, blood-stained cloak off of a skeleton nearby and draping it over myself as I quietly headed to Portie and Jules’--at least since they claim so much they are the same Portie and Jules I know--old cabin. I finally found the place, looking just as disheveled and desolate as every other part of this town did, and managed to head upstairs and take a seat on the dusty, flesh-riddened bed and write more stuff down in this notebook again.
I’m not kidding about the flesh-riddened--that’s what’s wrong with this place--everywhere I go it’s stained a gross, saturated crimson; that smell I kept smelling from myself, the fake Ery, the fake poochies--or maybe they weren’t fake--it’s the smell of decay. There are people but they look like a collection of meatbags with legs, and their eyes... they remind me of the rabid boars we’d see back at home, the Scourgelands. Manic, insane, and wanting to hunt -- is that what they meant by “hungry?”
I don’t know what “I” did here, and what they mean by “I was misplaced,” that I’m “not the Lucio they’re looking for.” Despite the rot that’s now spread to the back of my ear thanks to Jules squeezing it, I can tell I’m nothing like the things here; I stick out like a sore thumb. I need to channel that sense of survival I learned from Ery when we were on the run from The Devil, and when I spent time with him in his hometown once.
Shit, the pain is worse now--it’s pulsating, oozing inside of me and the pinpricks of beetle pincers tearing through me keep increasing in intensity. The smell on myself is getting stronger, and now my skin is beginning to show a bit of peeling; not down to my flesh, but still.
I don’t know why I write in here, maybe it’s to pretend I have someone here, someone with me as I face being dropped in a world that’s not my own all by myself. In the past, I never had anyone and just focused on running; I then had Ery all by my side when I finally fixed my mistakes. But now? I’m all alone and faced with a mistake that I didn’t do ... at least I don’t think I did it.
No, I didn’t do it.
It must be that thing messing with my head, now that it’s put its magic or whatever inside of me ... maybe it’s going to try to make me think I am the Lucio it’s looking for.
But I’m not.
I’d never do that to Ery, I’d never betray Ery and my friends like that a second time.
I’d never do that.
The sun’s setting and I’m sure if I stay awake, someone could find me. I’m gonna barricade the door and sleep with my sword nearby--getting real sick of things watching me sleep around here.
Those two people had to be fakers, right? I didn’t kill my poochies, I didn’t do something where now Ery and Az and some demon are all fused into one body, and I didn’t cause another disaster. It just can’t be true, okay? I mean, I’ve made oopsies--but this oopsie seems like one that’d really ... like I don’t think I’d even do it if I was drunk. There’s something that needs to be clear here, I care about Ery, a lot. I made promises to him I told him I was going to keep and I’ve kept them since then; sacrificing him to a demon was definitely something I would have promised to not do. At all.
Now that I’m not in fighting for my life mode, and have a moment to just chill, nothing is making sense to me. I still don’t appreciate that that girl--I’m not calling her Portie because she just can’t be her--woke me up like that and that guy made that itching inside me worse, too.
Right, I should update. Well, I didn’t stay at the port shop; I was going to find my own shelter but every time I tried to explore beyond Nevivon something kept giving me the heebie-jeebies. Like, if I were to actually not go to the place those fakers told me about, somehow I’d end up worse than I was. So, now I’m at the run-down place that looks like the old home Portie and Jules spoke of way back.
You know, the more I keep saying their names the more I wonder if I’m referring to the real ones or the fake ones? Well, no, the fake ones are fake, right? I mean, they’re just messing with me. Just, forget that I even brought it up again. Also, everywhere I go is nothing but a heebie-jeebie fest. I mean, I just naturally draw attention but the things I’ve seen lurking around this town aren’t things I want getting near me--ugh, they’re also all bugs too.
Okay, well, they’re all like they look like bugs--I think the only things that haven’t looked like bugs were the faker people and the faker poochies. So clearly it’s something messing with me, even if’s making me all itchy and my skin’s not looking great because of it. Or maybe it’s because fake Jules made it worse--bah, what difference does it even make at this point.
I miss Ery, the real Ery I mean. I miss him being here by my side to help me out, or to even talk to me. He’d always know what to do in a situation like this, and I just think better with him around. I’ve gone solo before, and it’s not like I can’t, but ... it just hurts now. He’d probably be very calm about this and find a way to help us survive with all the magic stuff he knows that I don’t.
The more I sit here just trying to write the more scattered everything gets; every time I just think about something, it just gets hard to do it. I feel alone, and I feel like I’m talking to no one. I almost didn’t write today, because I didn’t really think I should--what if writing meant those fakers had gotten inside my head? Maybe they already are...
The one time I shouldn’t focus on something, I keep feeling tempted to focus on it. But it can’t mean anything because none of it is true--they said so, they said I’m not the Lucio they were looking for so that means it’s not true ... right?
You know, also, I just realized everyone else is needing food and all that but me? I think that’s one neat thing about magical places is that sometimes you don’t need things like food, water, or a shower--especially if you’re a ghost. Well, I do enjoy being able to shower with Ery now, but still it’s pretty nice especially if you’re in a place with starving ... nevermind.
Talking to “someone” who doesn’t reply back is really hard. I mean, I never really liked silence much because all it reminded me of was bad things--well not all bad, but mostly bad. Whether it was Mama letting me go or Ery, uh, having to get onto me for something. Should I even be writing, really?
No one’s going to read it, and no one’s going to answer me back, so why write? I could just drop off and nothing would happen ... no one would care. Maybe I’m even talking too much in here, but then again the silence of not writing just seems worse for me.
Problem is, I don’t really have much to say about anything because the fakers are being fakers and messing with me and well this whole place makes what I saw when The Devil came back for me look like a pony ride at a fair. That, and the itchiness gets really, really bad at night. Well, it’s not even “itchy” anymore, it really has just become like something eating me away from the inside somehow and crawling. Ugh, the crawling is the worst...
I mean, I guess there’s the creatures? It’s nice that at least I can slay them and not have to worry about them looking like people I know or are close to my heart. They still don’t seem natural though, still acting all stilted like they’re trying to act like a bird, rat, whatever even though they’re not. They also ... don’t die, like Por--the faker girl--said; I tried stabbing one of them and it just kept reforming like some kind of magic clay except gross and smelly.
Reminds me, maybe I have some trinkets from Ery in my pocket? Maybe those came with me before I ended up in this place; it’d be nice to have a fragment of him with me -- he’s always made these sage-branch thingies that smell nice and apparently are meant as some magical charm. He’d always be giving it to people--especially me though, because he loves me and I sometimes do things I shouldn’t. Okay fine, a lot of times I do things I shouldn’t. I’ll go check later tonight if there’s anything in my pockets he gave me to just hold onto when the night passes over.
...Did I take everything for granted? I mean, what did I even do before all of this? It’s honestly hard to have a conversation like this, and I haven’t done this since I was like in my teen years back in the Scourgelands. But, really, did I take Ery for granted? I know yesterday I’d forgotten to tell Ery I loved him before he went off to do readings at the shop, and I maybe forgot to hang the clothes for him ... is that what this was all about? Was it just a lesson for me to not brush aside the moments I have with him?
I don’t always forget to though, I always tell him things like that every other day, and, for once, Az didn’t give me the stink-eye when I did that time. So that means I haven’t been doing that to him, but then that thing--this is why I hate silences. I hate it because it makes it harder for me to just ignore everyone. I just want to stop thinking about this and have a moment of just ... not facing this. I don’t want to think about any of this but I can’t because I’m all alone and I don’t have anyone to ... I’m going to call it a night.
The crawling’s started and it’s going down to my ... you know. No promises, notebook, can’t say if I’ll write tomorrow or not--maybe I just need a moment. I don’t know, what I do know is that I’m tired.
...Okay, well, maybe I can’t just end it there. Ery, if you ever see this, I ... I’ll be alright, okay? I’ll be alright. I haven’t given up and I’m gonna find a way--just like I always have. It’s just been hard, it’s been rough, and things are really confusing for me. Just wait for me, okay? I’ll make up for the lost time, and I imagined you nodding your head and saying, “Xæ,” like you always would. Just wait a bit, tiger ... I’ll be there.
So, I’m stranded in the woods now.
First off, it’s not like I just willy-nilly run off and get myself into worse situations, I just...look, I didn’t wanna be there anymore okay? I was just trying to get out, that’s all.
I’m okay though, and oh right, you’re going to be called Phillis because I can’t keep calling you “notebook” the whole dang time. ’Sides Phillis is a cooler name anyways! Anyway, so I’m stranded in the woods—and the smell is worse here than in town somehow. And oh right so I’m not in Nevivon anymore either I uh, so I think I’m home? Kinda. So I know it sounds really really bad but uh ... don’t judge me Phillis but I joined the fakers.
Wait, wait, it’s not like I believe them — I mean I’m still calling them fakers— I mean I talked with them. Something about a ship and lending me a hand ... something about “He is after you,” I kinda lost track.
But basically, they thought if I go back to my home place maybe something can help me get back home—to my real home. Well, it went well before we got attacked at sea—fake Jules sure makes a good zombie pirate.
Oh right yeah these guys are essentially Noddy’s courtiers? The ones that bribed me into doing that deal with The Devil? Or, well, everyone’s turned into them, they’re all undead and want to eat living things ... like me. I mean not that anyone didn’t wanna eat me before if you get what I’m — right okay. So, we’re out at sea we get attacked and the ship wrecked in someplace kinda near the Scourgies, but not really. I’ve pretty much been stuck on my own — I didn’t wanna have the fakers near me with a ten-foot pole— and I’ve been making my way by foot.
I guess being alone isn’t too bad. I mean, well, I’m not really alone because I have you, Phillis. Even if you don’t say anything, and everything I think you’re saying is me just imagining it because you’re a notebook, it is company. Like I’ve said, I’ve run solo before but I really don’t know how I did it. It’s hard to remember what I should do or shouldn’t do without someone being there to help remind me. Just... you already know Phillis.
Right well so, that’s how I left Nevivon. As for the ship I had well yeah that’s what all three of us were on and it’s been wrecked so if I’m walking anywhere I’m doing it the old-fashioned way. That’s fine though—Phillis you know I’m a tribesman like Ery? It’s one of the many things we bond over, we both grew up in tribes even though it’s like we were in two different worlds. Could you believe it, they didn’t even conquer other tribes? Something about just defending territory or something I dunno. But it’s still weird to see we relate about certain seasons and stuff and then see we learned different rules and stuff—Erys people seemed nicer and fancier than what I had as a kid.
Okay so yeah about the “stranded in the woods” thing, so fake Portie and fake Jules aren’t uh the only fakers around. So when fake Portie was talking about how Ariel—Bariel? I forgot his name already—The Brute being an actual brute uhh well she wasn’t kidding? Let’s just say I did win that fight, but now he’s hunting me because he’s mad he lost okay? Yeah sounds good thanks for agreeing with me Phillis.
...Hah, okay fine.
Look Phillis I just bumped into him and he just attacked me. I mean I always knew the guy was a brute, but he really ... like I ... I know I did an oopsie of making him be my personal gladiator and kill haphazard opponents in my Coliseum but he really looked ... bad. And well I uh tried to talk to him but he attacked me so I just casually stabbed him cut off his arm before finding a place.
I um ... so I think these things have this power or something because when I chopped off El Brute’s arm it moved on its own just fine? Last time I saw that was with that one time with that Plague Wyrm.
Gah, look that’s enough info from me okay Phillis? I know I’d be worse if I didn’t have you but you’re not Ery, I can’t just trust you with everything! I mean I don’t even like have the guts to tell Ery everything sometimes even though I should. So just try to be considerate yeah? You know, like Ery.
Hey, Phillis, is it normal for a place to be extremely cold? I mean not like winter cold just cold like the magic cold? Like this reminds of a spell Ery used when he made me a small gift — like the cold that makes you suck your thumb cold. I really feel like I’m about to get freezer burn out here, aw wait... I swear if it’s another ghost after me I will run away. Ghosts are the worst okay? Ery’s ghost yelled at me once and I hated it.
Man, the brute is noisy. I mean he was always noisy but like ... it’s even noisier than before and it just sounds ... painful. Anyways, so I’ve been hunkered down in what I think was his hut? But honestly Phillis I’m just trying to pass the time—can’t really get any shut-eye with him stomping around.
I know yesterday I kinda ... rambled. A little. ...Fine, a lot. I rambled a lot about silence but not having anyone while being stuck listening to these noises just ... it’s painful. But if I’m forced to just face things because I don’t have Ery here then fine. I just hate being alone in all of this, it just reminds me of everything; it makes things louder and makes my oopsies seem more ... worse.
And if isn’t El Brute — wait, I guess he’s a faker but I dunno I’ve always seen him as a brute so it feels real enough—giving me a sleepless night the beetles are worse now. The itchiness is bad and it just—like it feels like things are moving everywhere inside me now. Had my hand spazz outta nowhere while I was trying to sneak by some sleeping monsters. I didn’t spot any fakers, I don’t think, but those fleshy things didn’t look easy to kill.
That’s another thing nothing here is easy to kill—reminds me of a moment from way back. Red beetles kept reforming and not dying and I just ... ran. I guess I’m doing it again anyway huh? Listen Phillis I can’t keep ... I can’t keep writing Ery’s name inside you. Okay, nevermind; I’m not going to say that again, that reads a lot weirder than I meant it to be. Point is, the more I write about the more everything hurts. Between us both I ... I don’t know.
Honestly, I just wish this was some bad dream you know? Maybe I just drank too much or mixed things I shouldn’t have and this is the result of if all.
Huh, he stopped making noise ... looks like I can finally get some shut-eye. But yeah, Phillis, don’t take offense it’s just ... in trying to survive here okay? Sometimes it’s better to not remember who I love in a time like this.
Oh my god, Phillis, I’m alive.
You know, I think treating you like a person who has a severe sleeping disorder helps with the fact I have to write things down so I can talk to you. It’s like writing a story, kinda ... except the story is actually real and maybe I might die—anyway, right.
So I headed out after Ariel—the brute—stopped making his noises and things were going fine but then I smelled something good, like really good. I’d been getting kinda hungry lately and I figured if I could get a free meal in a spooky forest then finders keepers losers weepers! Right yeah, looking back that probably wasn’t smart but I’m alive so that’s all that matters in the end.
I’m following the smell and stuff, and then at one point I’m lead to a clearing. Okay, yeah, it sounds like a horror movie, but I was hungry okay? So I kinda peek around, 'cause I was literally ready to fight the monster brute boy for this piece of grub if I had to, and then I step in something that feels soft and silky but also sticky. I keep trying to move closer to the smell of food but I start regretting everything because I realize more of that soft and sticky stuff gets all over me and then I hear this hiss.
Yep. Giant spider—I may have incidentally walked into a trap from some giant spider and now it was gonna eat me. Actually it’s why like you’re all messy and covered in webbing, Phillis, because I, uh, so ... I did slay the spider of course even though it was terrifying; but I was stuck for a bit. And yeah, no, I mean it; I did kinda almost die, but that’s why I was lucky and smart enough to angle my sword to cut me wiggle room to break free and fight the thing.
Also as if that trick wasn’t mean enough, there wasn’t any food! The smell went away the moment I finally got that eight-legged freak to flip over onto its back. Oh right, but I was amazing in that fight! You would have loved me, Phillis, I would have made you swoon but then crush your heart and tell you, “Sorry, sweetheart, I’m-”
Never mind forget I made that joke. But yeah, there was gore and guts everywhere and it was finally nice to face something in this place that could die! Like the moment I stabbed that thing in the butt I thought it would regenerate like all the other freaky abominations I’ve seen in this place but it just, like, bled! Just pure, old-school bleeding; something that isn’t scary and I can work with!
It was a good night, even though I’m left kind of hungry. You know, it’s weird ... I managed to catch a small quail to eat and fry but even though I ate it ... it didn’t even taste like anything? Like I like ox tartar any day, but I do remember how quail tastes for me and it’s not bland—I think. ...Yeah, maybe it’s just cause I got a small quail maybe that’s all it was. It’s not because of anything else. Why would I even let that thing mess with me like that?
Anyways so I managed to find a shelter in this guy’s den. At least it doesn’t smell as bad? It’s weird it’s like it reminds me of a normal smell—you know? Like yeah, it’s a smelly monster den but it’s at least not smelling like how everything in this place smells. Or how I’ve been smelling...
I miss being able to have a bath or a shower? I really miss being clean; I don’t mind having a bloodbath and stuff but like I want to be clean, too? I wanna smell nice because then I can look all handsome and dashing just like I used to back at home. But, yeah I haven’t been able to since nothing here looks even a little like I could bathe in it. Well and when you’re running away from your mistakes you don’t really get a chance to sit down and bathe for a bit.
You know, Phillis, I get you’re just a notebook and maybe I drew this face on you five minutes ago, but I don’t like how you give me the eye like Ery does. Like, what? I told you what I was going to—I just wrote down his name again didn’t I? Okay well, in my defense, that was just a slip of the tongue it doesn’t mean anything. You can’t make me think about him, you know why I can’t. It doesn’t matter that it gets more awkward talking to you inside this spider’s den, you know why I’m not gonna be doing that.
Hey you know, spiderweb, like, when it’s thick like this is pretty nice and soft. I could use it as a blanket actually, and I’m sure if I knew magic I could do things that involve making people or things trapped—fun party trick kind of thing you know? That and this place is great for hunting; yeah sure the smell the spider had been luring animals with is gone now, but that’s what hunting skills are for, Phillie!
After all, I'm the Count Lucio didn’t grow up in the Scourgies just for show; I know how to hunt and gather. I got a nice boar today, just had to let it chase me in here and that thing got
Stopped in its tracks quick. It wasn’t a big one though and it was kind of on the slim side but it was enough to have food in my gut.
You know, yeah ... a lot of the animals here are kinda small and skinny. It’s kinda like no one’s been feeding them and it’s just not something I’m used to? I dunno, all of the animals looked fine back in real Vesuvia looked fine — except for the Lazaret. Well, maybe they used to be good before I did my set of oopsies over there too.
Phillis you really gotta stop looking at me like that. I told you I’m not doing it; end of story. And no, I’m not crazy for reaching this point in my talking to you—it’s totally normal to be this close to each other in, like, a week—you’ve been by my side, buddy! Even if you were knocked out because well ... I need to write in you.
It is nice to have a cozy shelter for the night and at least I can trust nothing else is gonna come in here and try to snatch me up. But I need to keep going I think? Fake Portie and fake Jules made it clear that something in the Scourgies could help me out. Either they were being weird and didn’t tell me what it is exactly, or I didn’t remember and they did tell what it is exactly but it was still in a weird way.
They both talk so weird, it’s like those creepy twin people you meet sometimes, you know what I mean Phillis? Like the two dweebies who like finish each other’s sentences and just say very little but the other one reads them like a book kinda weirdness. I know the real Portie and real Jules are sibs, but I don’t remember them ever being that close.
If I get a few more boars, maybe even deer, I can make a fur cloak to wear on my way to the Scourgies; it’s gonna be cold, and while I can manage that I’ll need something to help during the night-time drops and snowstorms. Anyways, I’ll talk to you again when we make it Phillis. Catch ya on the other side.
And no. I told you I’m not talking about him anymore with you. I mean it.
Damn, Phillis, I forgot how cold it could down here. I mean, maybe that’s not exactly true ... but I just really forgot what it was like down here. I’d only been somewhere snowy back when I was saving the world with Ery but it wasn’t my old home, you know? Oh right, but I did make the fur coat and boots, so I’m all comfy it’s just sometimes a cold wind sneaks in and catches me off guard. But I got this though, I’m not gonna be stopped by some snow anyways, I told you I was a warrior in my prime.
Hey Phillis, is it normal to feel guilty? No, I mean, like out of nowhere feel guilty? See, I kind of lied about not letting things to get my head ... I was only saying I didn’t so, that way, I could help myself but it’s kind of gotten worse now. I just ... I know I didn’t betray Ery again I know I didn’t do this thing of sacrificing him to another demon along with Az—I know I didn’t do it.
But did I?
Like I can’t stop feeling like everything is so familiar. I don’t know how or why but like slowly things have been starting to ... like I saw Mama. She was, uh ... she wasn’t alive anymore. And I ... I mean I’m shaken up and I’m still shaken up writing this but something is familiar and it scares me. She was ... I don’t wanna even think about it, but she looked bad okay? She looked like she got hurt real bad and I never felt so upset in my life. And it’s been getting worse as I go along and I—why am I even going on about this to you? I shouldn’t even be thinking about this, if I keep going then I’m going to ... I’m gonna...
You’d probably be pitying me right now, if you could Phillis. I think you’re a nice person so yeah you probably would. I don’t even know what to make sense of anymore but I can’t keep hiding this from you but the only person I’d even feel fine being comfortable telling this to without flipping out is Ery but he’s not here anymore.
I killed him.
...I’ve killed a lot of people Phillis. So, so many people — it’s all a blur from now, but I have. I killed Ery at one point during the Plague, and I let the plague ravage the whole world because I was so selfish. I just didn’t want to die and I wanted delights and... big things that weren’t that big in the end. So maybe while I don’t think I’m the Lucio these people are looking for, but maybe I am? You know, something messed up and deep like that.
Fuck ... the itching’s becoming unbearable. It’s pretty much all over my body and it’s been making it hard to think like ... how I usually think. I don’t really dwell on stuff like this too much and I just kinda ignore it if I can and focus on the better things until things blow over but I’m struggling. I told you that I couldn’t talk about Ery because it makes everything worse. It makes the loneliness feel worse, it makes the itchiness and eating-ness worse, and it makes me think about everything worse.
I’m at a camp nearby one of the old tribes, the smell should be making me uncomfortable but I think either I’ve gotten used to it or ... or it’s like that small sense in me is saying I recognize it so it’s not that bad anymore. And I ... I feel gross, really gross and sticky. I tried to touch where it itches the most, my neck, and ... something fell and I’m leaving it at that. It’s also the actual reason I’ve been feeling cold.
Things have been falling off me Phillis and it’s ... it’s scary. I don’t even want to write because it just makes me scared and then what if something else falls off me while “talking” to you? I keep saying, “Do what Ery would do. Be cool and calm like Ery is even though you’re afraid — just focus on getting out of here.”
But I can’t, and I can’t keep ignoring things because something won’t let me. I just ... I want Ery here, I don’t want to face this all by myself and I don’t know what’s happened to him. I don’t know what that thing wants with me and if it is ... if it is Ery just a third of him then I don’t... I don’t...
Should I let him kill me, Phillis?
...I mean it’s not my Ery, but if it is an Ery then maybe I should make him happy? Make up for something I did even if i didn’t do it?
No I did do it, I’m just lying to myself.
...Ignore that Phillis it was just that weird voice kicking in, but even though it’s a mean thought, I have thought about it. I mean, fake Jules and Portie said that I’m not the right one but that Ery—I mean, fake Ery— is still after me because he’s desperate to get revenge or something. Maybe if they’re around again I’ll ask them more questions? Just so I can ... understand better. Maybe I’m just gonna have to face things and not run away or panic and then bury them because it’s clear I ... can’t.
Phillis there’s so many dead bodies here, there’s really so many dead bodies here. And it’s not that I’m squeamish around them but it just ... something keeps telling me I did this. And I have before but it’s getting harder to remember this world isn’t my world and I’m just been trapped here. And then the things falling off me ... I want Ery. I just want Ery here with me so I have someone to keep me company in all of this. I know I only have you Phillis but things have been getting more dangerous — I was hunting and some beast nearly tore you to pieces but I protected you, just got a nasty gash on my arm.
But point is Phillis I ... could have lost you. And if I lose you Phillis then I’m ... I’m screwed. I won’t have anything to write into and then I can’t talk to you anymore. Sure I could write on surfaces but it’s not the same. And then I’ll have to leave anyways, meaning I leave you behind as I just try to get out of here and come back home.
Should I just write about home? Get one last try to just think about anything else besides the dead bodies that I feel is all of my fault and that I caused whatever is going on in this place even though it’s not true? I wouldn’t mind thinking about home ... I was just thinking about living in together with Ery a couple weeks ago. So that way he’ll have a proper place to live in besides that tiny room upstairs in his and Az’s flammable magic shop. We’d have a little fence be away from everything ... and just spend our days together doing whatever. He really is the kind of person where I could do anything and the day feels complete.
...Someone’s coming, Phillis. I’ll talk to you later but don’t worry; I’ll protect you too just like I do with Ery.
I finally figured it out, Phillis, the thing that always feels weird about you—it’s like an echo, like I’m hearing my own words and that’s the only thing repeated back at me. Right, speaking of that I had an ... encounter? I don’t really know how to describe it, I just ... so that person was kind of a person? It ... so Phillis, back when I was saving the world, Ery and I met a guy—dog— named Scout. He was a white little pupper with a staff that looked like it’s hurt if you made him angry. He helped us out in running from The Devil and I think the person or thing looked like him, at least it had his dog face but then the rest of his body looked literally anything else other than a dog.
So when Scout came into the cave, he stopped just a foot away from me and stared at me in silence.
“...Um, Scout?” I asked, ready to defend myself in that cave. There was still a hailstorm going on and was waiting for it to die down before traveling out there again—what? I know these things I did learn many things under Mama back in the Scourgies. Anyway but Scout or ... fake Scout nodded his head at me—okay make that three heads I just saw the other two pop up and glare at me as I’m writing this.
“O-kaaay,” I replied, still feeling weirded out by his presence, “Are you going to kill me?”
Nothing, just nothing. I don’t even think I saw the mutt’s eyes blink before his jaw unhinges and something slaps me across the face.
“OW WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?”
“Your recklessness.” fake Scout hissed; taking me by surprise. The last time I heard this guy actually talk was through Ery way back. Otherwise, the guy talked like, well, a dog for the most part.
“Wha’ do you mean?” I rubbed the bits of foreign drool off where his tongue struck me, “I didn’t do anything—this time!”
He didn’t say anything more just taking a seat across from me and bearing the rows of jagged teeth at me in a low, guttural growl.
“C’mon, Scout, you gotta believe me—I really didn’t do anything,” I pleaded with him, “I don’t even know what’s going on other than everything is red and not in a good way, and everyone looks like ... not themselves.”
Scout was still silent until his jaw stretched open again, mimicking my voice perfectly, "Wha' do you mean? I didn't do anything -- this time! C'mon, Scout, you gotta believe me--I really didn't do anything, I don't even know what's going on other than everything is red and not in a good way, and everyone looks like ... not themselves."
My face was steaming at this point; the last thing I needed was to be mocked, "Alright, what's the meaning of this?! This place isn't exactly fun and games for me, you know!"
I think the best way to describe what I saw Scout's face do is like that moment when you take clay, crush it up, and smoosh it back into a ball before you smooth it out and re-shape whatever you were making it as again. Yeah, yeah, I know, Phillis, I hang around my boyfriend too much.
Anyways, but that's pretty much what Scout's--ah, right--fake Scout's face did before he spoke again with my voice, "Just need to go down from here, and then I'll have it."
I tilted my head at him, "...Why are you mimicking me?"
"Why are you mimicking me?"
"Argh, what is with you people?!" I ran my hands through my hair and groaned, "Look, if you're that intent on messing with me, just end me already! You're working for that thing, right? The fake Ery? If this 'He' wants me dead so much, then aren't you going to do it?"
Another silence, this one dragged for a long time between us before Scout slowly answered me; this time, however, each voice seemed to shift to different people, "Echoes of the past, are what I speak now. All because of you."
Phillis, not really sure how to write it well, but let's just say I did get a little bit scared when he said the "you" part--it sounded like multiple people shouting at me. Anyways, he then pointed one of his tentacle-looking limbs behind me and even though all I could see was just the wall of the cave, I decided to listen to him. I walked over to the wall, only to see my hand went right through it.
I slowly turned around to face him, "...I've been here before?"
"Alright," Scout spoke again, now in my voice, "Thank god Ery is a heavy sleeper ... it's game time."
Upon hearing him say that, I went quiet and sat down against the sidewall of the cave, stunned. I mean, Phillis, it's just ... I told you, summoning another demon to the point Ery and Az got sacrificed, that sounds like something I'd promise Ery I'd never do to him. I mean ... so I did that? That's what I did? I snuck out behind Ery's back and came down to this cave and made another deal? But why? I never had a reason to.
I think at some point, the itching kicked up again, causing me to double over in pain. I couldn't really see it--well, I kinda didn't want to see it--but I could feel more bits of me falling out. I don't think fake Scout did anything, he just seemed to watch? Come to think of it, I could have sworn, in the wave of pain from what I think are the beetles biting me inside, that Scout laughed at me. I just took a glance at him a few seconds ago, and he stared back at me, his clear eyes seem cold and dead. So yeah, I think he was laughing at me; whether or not it was actually himself laughing at me or him echoing someone who did laugh from the past.
The thing that's really just messing with the most is that Scout--fake Scout--you know, it's been getting strangely hard to remember to call everyone "fake" and then their name. It's ... like I'm being forced to acknowledge that they're real, and everything I'm being told is real. I mean, I know I told you I'd been struggling to not think that I am the real Lucio they are looking for a few days ago, Phillis, but still. But right, that's also now a thing as I'm trying to not let the fact that Scout didn't say I was the wrong Lucio get to me.
Kinda wish I had stuck with Portie and Jules ... maybe they'd be giving me a nicer treatment by now.
"They are liars." is what Scout just replied to me as I finished writing that sentence. So, I'm guessing that is a ruse--right? Or, is what Scout saying to me the true ruse? Or is what I'm thinking the ruse? ...Are you a ruse, Phillis?
Ugh, I think I'm just going to call it a night. Scout hasn't left the cave and although all three of his heads scare me, I don't think he'd kill me in my sleep? ...I don't think he will, but you know what? At least I died fighting and trying to find my way back -- even though I'm not looking so great, Phillis. I lost a lot more pieces of myself in that wave of pain from the beetles inside me, and I don't know if I'm gonna make it by the time I do manage to find a way to get back home. I don't really wanna think about what I'll have to do if I end up turning into one of them...
I'll let you know what I find in the cave when I explore it tomorrow; fingers crossed I don't die and Scout stays if he doesn't kill me. I could use another friend around, especially for exploring a dark cave with some creature I can't kill trying to hunt me down.