Somewhere in the PRIME-porium.
(Still a stupid name.)
There are people manning their merch stands, hoping to catch anybody on their way to or from their piss breaks to shill the latest things for you, the audience, to buy. They will work from before the doors open until the last fan walks off. They will be here almost in spite of themselves and if you hang out long enough, you realize how much everything blends together. It becomes a blur of meaningless faces selling bits of fabric, a bleeding through of capitalism. And noticing that this narration is beginning to sound like Rezin, let’s shake this up a bit.
What the majority of these miscellaneous faces fail to notice is that their stock is dwindling a bit. And it’s not because of sales. They turn their backs for just a moment and something steals just the smallest stack of merchandise. How horrible! How terrible! Who would do such a thing? He blends into the shadows and seems very happy about his petty theft either way. His tail wags as he plays with the t-shirt shaped cloth, throwing it up in the air and catching them up with his teeth. Chewing on them. Ripping them to bits. But he’s making sure not to eat them. That’s important. He’s a good boi, after all. He says so.
His stealthy bid to continue with what some might call theft carries on. He doesn’t see it that way. No, not at all. It was playtime for him. Clearly, some very considerate person had brought loads upon loads of toys for him. He has been a good boi, we’ve already been over that. Another piece is snatched away from the unobservant merchants. He had skills that would have made Arsène Lupin take notice. A mistake had been made, though. In his excitement, he had gotten careless. He may have checked his twelve, but he forgot to check his six. Never forget to check your six. Because of this, he was now compromised. His cover had been blown.
His potential captor stalked him. That might be a bit of an over-exaggeration, as they actually approached him from the front, making no effort to hide. That didn’t mean he was on guard. Playtime, remember? One must have priorities. He noticed them soon enough. Despite the cliché, hiding in plain sight is a poor strategy. If you’re trying to get noticed, though? There are worse ways to go about it. They reached a clawed hand for him. It was over, the jig was up, that’s the ballgame, the end is nigh, no going back now. They playfully tussled his ears back and forth.
“Bucky! What are you doing here?”
The voice belonged to one Ria Nightshade. Bucky explained himself, the excitement very obvious in his voice. His words meant almost nothing. This isn’t said to belittle him, it’s said because Ria can’t speak the language of dogs and their barking. Nonetheless, she smiles at her four legged friend, crouching down to get closer to his level. A wagging tail, a panting tongue and the facsimile of a smile let her know that Bucky is rather happy to see her as well. More ear scratches, some butt scratches and general pets are heaped upon the canine. He’s all too happy to receive the physical attention.
A figure rounds the corner. They are slender, elegant, but with an air of danger. The Time Lord has arrived. Anna Daniels has quite the sight in front of them. Bits of ravaged fabrics litter the scene, almost as if hit by a bomb. Bucky, seemingly sensing his owner’s presence, turns to confirm his premonition. He darts off towards them, greeting The Muse in much the same way he had greeted Ria. Speaking of, she had slowly trailed Bucky’s steps. Anna slowly dropped to one knee, their turn to love on their pet. They looked up at Ria prior to rising back to their feet.
Anna Daniels: Sis, fancy meeting you here.
A slight smile finds its way into Ria’s face.
Ria Nightshade: Purely coincidental, I promise. While I have you here, I wanted to ask you something.
Anna Daniels: We may have an answer for you.
Ria’s body language changes. She seems withdrawn, vulnerable. She hesitates. It could be a matter of wording. Perhaps she’s worried about the answer she’ll receive? A deep breath proceeds another change in demeanor, Ria steeling herself before speaking.
Ria Nightshade: So you’re a collection of entries inhabiting a human body.
Anna Daniels: Human?
The features of Anna Daniels look like somebody threw a rock and struck her. Somebody in that brain was about to launch into an explanation. But observing Ria’s demeanor, they opted not to.
Anna Daniels: Well. Close enough, anyway. Why?
Ria Nightshade: Do… they fight? How can you keep yourself from going mad when the noise never stops?
An air of exhaustion has surrounded Ria. It could be from her grueling match earlier. Her questions tell a different story. This isn’t a physical exhaustion. This is a woman suffering mentally, emotionally. It wasn’t an obvious cry for help, but a quiet plea for guidance.
Observing the circumstances, there is a nod from the vessel. As more pets are delivered to the not-quite-stealthy black lab, Anna’s slender fingers touch upon the GoPro connected to his collar. Master thief and quality cameraman. Who would’ve thought? The camera is grabbed from the pup.
Anna Daniels: Okay. First of all, we get rid of this.
It only takes a brief moment to whip out the sonic screwdriver from a pants pocket to disable the thing. Another moment to get stuffed into the abyss of another pants pocket. Still another to set up a chair.
Anna Daniels: Lesson one. Sometimes, what helps the body also helps the mind. That’s true regardless of what’s going on. Sit your ass down.
As if Ria had a choice in the matter given the New Era’s hands on her shoulders. The little sister sits and her big sis begins to pace. There isn’t a lot of eye contact in the pacing. Merely the booting up of thought processes and Firebug’s inevitable brashness bleeding through.
Anna Daniels: now. let’s get this straight. of course we fuckin’ fight. it’s an inevitability. you ain’t a mental mess of versions of yourself without a fair amount of dust ups along the way. it’s normal. or at least normal for beasts like us. so don’t worry about that so much. but if whichever one of ya is expecting a single cure all, you got the wrong idea, kid. lesson two, i guess. one size fits all only exists in shit clothing.
Suddenly, the pacing stops and the rant stops with a mumble.
Anna Daniels: They probably already know that. They aren’t stupid.
A shake of the head. Another chair is set up. Anna’s ass is in the seat. Now there’s eye contact.
Anna Daniels: Distraction. You may not realize how much a good distraction can pause a fight for long enough to make it less of a fight.
Bucky barks and wags his tail amongst the scraps, knowing that he is being talked about in a vague sense. He offers his own advice before continuing playtime. A smile creeps on Anna’s face.
Anna Daniels: Bucky says get a dog. It’s not the worst idea, honestly. They’ll make you live in spite of yourself. Let’s see, what else? Closer to match time, we end up rerouting all our anger against ourself and focus it on whoever’s in the ring. Still a distraction, just add violence. Sometimes, the vessel locks us in a room and screams into the void until we feel better. Sometimes, we rant to people outside of us. Good listeners can offer insight. And occasionally…
Sigh. Nobody wants to say it. But somebody has to say it.
Anna Daniels: Lesson three. Occasionally, you have to go a bit mad. Because you will have too much shit in your head and nothing else seems to work. Which means you might do something stupid and you might do some damage and you’d have to be ready to take responsibility for it. And that sucks. But the alternative sucks more.
The sage advice ends on a bit of a somber note. The aura hangs there for a moment before Anna’s eyes roll. Not because of Ria Nightshade, but due to the word vomit that just spewed forth.
Anna Daniels: And when we get long winded like this, please tell us to shut up! Our rambling even annoys us.
Ria’s eyes wander at the tail end of the conversation. It wasn’t due to boredom. There was a turning point, a time where one thing said had obviously affected Ria adversely. The words and their connotation hung in the air. The alternative sucks more? The alternative… She looks back to Anna, her unofficially adopted big sister. Ria’s eyes were riddled with worry and strife, a look she rarely allowed anyone to see.
Ria Nightshade: People wonder why I call myself a bad person. It’s not the drug use. It’s not the days where I’m more nasty than usual.
Ria taps her temple as her stare shifts from looking like an incredibly sad painting to one of deathly seriousness. She has information, something she has only very vaguely hinted at. This might not be the right time. The place we refuse to name again could also be the wrong place. Anna Daniels may not even be the right collection to reveal this to. There was a kinship here, though. The air seemed to get heavy prior to Ria speaking her next words.
Ria Nightshade: There are other people in here, more than the two others have been exposed to. One of them… You said the alternative sucks more? It might be too late.
The words were chilling, concerning and unexpected. Others? Too late? The cloudy nature of what was being said couldn’t be easily deciphered. Was this a warning? A confession? Whether it was foreshadowing or admission of past sins, it was not positive by connotation. It was Ria’s turn to pace, rocketing out of her chair. The nervous energy seemed to explode out of her, frantic steps back and forth in the area they occupied.
Ria Nightshade: I don’t know what they might do. I don’t know when they might come out. There’s a darkness inside me, moreso than what others have seen. True evilness. I’m scared. If they get out… I don’t know that I can control them. I worry there’d be a very real chance I’d be gone.
That last line could mean a variety of things. Did Ria mean Nightshade would be gone? Herself as a whole? What exactly did that mean? The frenzied pacing stopped abruptly, with Ria plopping back into her chair. Her hands become both a mask and support for her face, hiding and holding at the same time. Was there anything Anna could say to help? This situation might be one where only these creatures were capable of understanding the other’s struggle, at least on a basic level. Silence, the enemy of distraction, has taken a hold of the situation.
Suddenly, the vessel known as Anna Daniels pops out of her chair…and hugs Ria?!
Anna Daniels: This might warrant more discussion later. But we’re going to give you a little bit good news, bad news, and iffy news. Good news: you feeling fear is a good thing. If you didn’t feel fear, you’d really be fucked. Fear means you don’t want to be the darkness and it means at least one of you will want to fight it off. Bad news: they will come out. There’s no if about it and deep down, you know that. Knowledge is power. Prepare for it.
The question would be how? That would be a question the Multitudes couldn’t answer. Each mental battlefield is different. The ways to victory are different. And they couldn’t fight the battles for them.
Anna Daniels: Iffy news: you might end up…gone. You might end up completely different when it all hashes out. But we have faith in the both of you. No matter how fucked up and misplaced that may seem to you both right now.
With this, the Multitudes plant a kiss atop of Ria’s crown. And Bucky, ever sneaky, licks up the tears that slip from her hands. With one hand, Ria reaches down and gently scratches her furry friend’s neck. The other wipes her eyes as the woman does her best to inhale fresh air and exhale the negative. Without a word, she demurely rises from her chair and starts off with a turtle-like pace away from the poignant, yet still unresolved situation. As if someone hit the pause button on a remote, Ria freezes in place. She wearily turns, leaving her gazing at the Time Lord. A moment passes, but the mood somehow seems ever so slightly lighter. With as much a smile as she can muster, Ria speaks softly.
Ria Nightshade: Anna… Thank you.