Chapter 16: Maddie's Demons
While I was running away and maneuvering through this forest it seemed like the forest became brighter. I'm not sure how, but now I don't need my flashlight to walk around. Before when I first landed on this island it was pure darkness inside this forest but now it just resembles Kuraigana's eeriness and mystery. I wonder if bringing Maoi's head closer to its body somehow lifted this… curse? Illness? Devil fruit power? Who gives a crap; I just know that when Cataria and I moved Maoi's head closer to its body this island became lighter; in appearance and feeling.
A deep growl was born inside Asura's gut but it soon traveled though his body until it became a ferocious and animalistic roar. When he produced his roar the inky sky lit up with multiple lightning bolts. The sudden shock of light illuminated Asura's face… and it wasn't a very pretty sight; seeing his brutish grin with the blood on his teeth and all his grotesque facial features made my want to gag.
"DIE BITCH!" he roared. His gut wrenching voice sailed throughout the forest.
I leave my thoughts about the mysterious of this island and my brain tells me that Asura is huffing and puffing in rage and lust for blood while his hands are balled up into fist, and suddenly his left hand turns red. It's not the red hue which you get when you burn your hand; it's more similar to a blushing hue which you would find on someone's cheeks.
A blushing hand, ha! Now that's a sight you don't see every day.
"FOREST-FOREST, TREES COME ALIVE!" he commands.
Ha, this bastard still thinks he can get me? I have my hat and I just drank my elixir of life, I'm clearly at least equal to him in strength!
About 6 or 7 trees that surround me on this boulder start moving. It starts out innocently when their branches would just sway, it seemed like maybe a strong breeze came by… but it wasn't a breeze. Then the branches would stop and it looked like they formed fingers with all their smaller branches and their thicker and stronger branches looked formed into biceps. Okay, that's not so bad right? The most they can do to me is extend their branches and try and capture me, right? I highly misunderstood the powers of the forest-forest fruit. After the trees' arms formed their roots started snaking out of the ground, with in a minute all their roots were out of their home and now they started to twist and turn to each other until they formed two pairs of legs and feet for each tree.
… I know I've done this a lot recently, but I think I should evaluate our strengths just to see the differences in our strength…
Asura: Infamous Pirate, is crazy, 'might' have killed a lot of people over the years, must have a bounty, feared by Marines, physically stronger than a normal man, has devil fruit powers, stole the Forest-Forest devil fruit, he can steal other people's- OHhhh, I completely forgot to factor in that possibility. He might not have a limit on how many devil fruit powers he can steal; so that means that he can have hundreds of devil fruit powers up his sleeve… seems like I'm going to be fighting hundreds of different powers all wrapped up in a nice little bowtie inside this fucked up bastard.
Me: I have close combat experience; not helpful for this situation. A powerful devil fruit power, but if I used it now it would be a double edge sword to me. I have a hat that has devil fruit powers, which I can't show Asura or he might try and take it again, he just thinks it's a normal hat right now. I'm fast, I'm not physically strong, I have a temper, I'm Mad and I'm kinda smart…. If all else fails, I have Dorothy; Asura would eat her in a heartbeat. Then there's Cataria; I doubt that she would actually help me kill Asura…. I always have that which I could use, but right now doesn't seem like the right time… or I might be too stubborn to use my devil fruit powers and that on him right now. It's a toss-up for those two possibilities.
… In conclusion I have established that I have at the most a 20% chance of leaving this island alive and 7% chance of actually killing or defeating Asura…. I'm so royally fucked.
It seems like my first statement about, 'I'm clearly at least equal to him in strength!' might be- no, it was VERY WRONG.
So I have two options now: fight a group of humanish trees and Asura, and most likely die… or, I could do a 'Cataria'…
I stare at the almost done formation of the human hybrid trees and then I fasten my hat on my head. I turn on my heels in the opposite direction and I run away as if I were a Humandrill and I just saw Dracule Mihawk coming.
…. I did a 'Cataria' which I like to call running away from my problems and saving my ass for the current moment… I think the name's quite fitting.
I start running in the opposite direction that I came from. I keep my eyes roaming around the tree line trying to see any movement from any of the trees. Any of them could be the ones that Asura commanded to come alive and kill me.
I have no idea where I'm going and where I want to go. All I know is that if I stayed there I would have died… but I feel terrible leaving. I feel like a coward and I'm ashamed. My Mom always told me to never turn my back on a fight and always have my head held high. I don't know why my logic didn't kick in, maybe my instincts told my somewhat logical brain to take a 10 minute break and he could make sure that I don't end up dying, well look at what you've just done instincts! I seriously really do hate my beautiful and Mad mind sometimes.
I see in the corner of my right eye some movement between two trees, when I register in my Mad mind what I just saw I dig the tips of my boots into the ground. The sound of my boots digging and disarranging the ground resonates throughout the forest for a few moments. When my feet come to a sudden pause in their mission of running, I angle them perfectly where the heel of my feet are off the ground and I dig my toes further into the ground to gain more momentum. I lean forward and align my feet together while they are a few inches away from touching each other. I command every muscle in my body to construct and I close my eyes, trying to heighten all my senses. I feel my hair being pulled behind me, likely caused by a subtle breeze originating from ahead of me. He can smell me now. The breeze must be carrying my scent backwards to Asura and now he's tracking me.
I'm at a disadvantage.
I wait until the breeze changes… loud crashes are coming closer… and closer. Wait, just wait Maddie. They're surrounding me now. Three trees are to my left and three are to my right, while only one is ahead of me… 800 feet away … 600 feet away now. Just wait. I need the breeze to accelerate my speed, if I don't have the wind on my side then I'll eventually be caught…. 400 feet. The ground is shaking now; I hear grumbles and rumbles come closer and closer to me. Stay calm Maddie, just stay wait. I feel the wind now pushing my hair forward instead of backwards now. It's time!
I snap my eyes open and I see all seven of the trees about 200 feet away from me now. A smirk captivates my face; I'm overcome with excitement from what I'm going to do next. "Light step," I breathe out. I instantly feel the effects from my move change my body. I bend my knees and then I spring up. I feel my body shooting into the air, it feels amazing. Defying the laws of gravity and having the wind circle around my face makes my blood pump faster and faster in my veins. I sky rocket about 100 feet in the air when I see that the trees are still heading towards where I was standing. It seems like I moved to fast for them. I tuck my knees into my body and I start spinning back down to the ground. On my way down I see the flashing images of the hybrid trees, normal trees and the ground; the scenery isn't my cup of tea but it will have to do for the moment. Then I see that I'm getting closer and closer to the tree that was in front of me when I was on the ground. I don't have a lot of time to play with these trees because Asura is on my tail so I should just do this real fast. I extend my right leg and it connects with the tree's head when I hit it. The tree lets out a blood curtly screech which shakes the whole forest. The monster tumbles down and it falls on the ground clutching its head. Eventually the others hear their comrade's voice and they look over to it. I notice that the tree doesn't have any facial features. If they can't see me then they must have found me by hearing my footsteps while I ran away from them. I bet they have the same senses as those Butchers back at the Mansion. They can't see and can't smell, but they have extremely good hearing and they can touch objects… or in this case me.
I land smoothly on the ground and I look behind me. I expected to see the other six trees come towards me, but they don't. I turned my head around to see that only three of the trees were left. The other three were split open, it looked like someone took a Butcher knife and sliced them in half, vertically. Maybe one of those Butchers came by and decided to help me by taking out these mutated freaks. In the corner of my left eye I spy a tree's hand coming towards me, trying to capture me. I'm about to jump in the air to avoid the move when I see a long and thick black leather whip which is… shiny? The whip comes down and slices the tree's hand off of its body. I turn on my heel and I start leaping away. I know who or what cut off that tree's hand probably saved me, but I don't have time to stay behind to say thank you. As I leap away from the scene I hear the roars of the rest of the trees echo throughout the forest, what or whoever cut off that tree's hand must be killing the other trees. But I don't have time to turn back or help, I have to keep moving forward.
I don't know how long or how far I have traveled while leaping. All I know is that when I jump up I see a bird's eye view of the area that I'm about to land in. then I see it. I'm up in the air when I see it. I'm so petrified with what I thought I saw my whole body freeze and I don't prepare for my landing. I tumble down back to the ground, my whole body is on fire and I can only hear my erratic heart beating fill my ears. I don't know if that's all from my fear or from my fall. I know that my whole body must be in pain, but I don't feel it. I can only feel my heart pumping faster and faster. My body is numb; I don't know what to do. Think Maddie, think, and don't freak out. Your Mad mind must have played a trick on you again. I lay scattered on the dark ground trying to sort out what I'm feeling and what I just saw. I wait like a baby lamb out in a field full of man eating wolves for my hypothetical wolves to come and devour me. My whole body is shaking; I don't know what to do. It's almost like the tree incident again.
But my wolves don't come.
I try and pick up my battered body off the ground but all I can see are my shaking hands trying to grasp hold of something solid. Eventually I steady my hands and I move my body so that I'm sitting on my knees. But my eyes don't leave the ground. It's like the ground grew millions of little eyes and I'm having a staring contest with them all, but in reality I'm to s- no. you're not allowed to feel or even think of that taboo word. If I feel or even think that way then I will die.
My eyes don't leave the ground. I don't depend on my other senses to tell me what's around. I move off my knees and now I'm standing on my shaky legs, I straighten my body, but instead of having a staring contest with the ground I glue my eyes close. They want to open and see what's going on though. I'm fighting my own body so that I'm not faced with what I think is there. My eyelids are demanding for me to open and to search my surrounding to make sure I'm safe, but I know I'm not.
For the first time in about 7 years I wish that Dracule Mihawk was here…
I ty and calm my unstable heart, but it won't. Just do it Maddie, it's not going to be there. It was just your Mad mind. My logical brain must have come back and it's trying to talk me into a rational state of mind, but that's impossible. There is no such thing as a Hatter ever being rational. But I listen to it, I know I shouldn't have, but I do. And it's one of the worst mistakes that I have ever made so far in my short life.
I don't peak one eye open first, no. I open them at the same time, similar to when you rip a Band-Aid off of your wound in one swift move. That's what I did.
The numb feeling before has run away from my body. I don't know how to describe this feeling, I know I have had this feeling overcome me before but it's been so long. I've tried so hard and for so long to build up my resistance to this. All of my hard work over the years, all the tears that I have shed and all the horrible flashbacks that I had to relive were for nothing now.
In front of me lies a sea of red and orange. The sea dances along the trees and they get higher and higher with each second I stare at them. It's like a big party of little Demons dancing around me and they are mocking me, but they want me to come with them and to join them. I can feel them coming closer and closer to me. The beating of my heart has stopped; all I can hear now are the Demons' laughter fill the eerie air around me. No…No… NO…NO… NO!
My legs collapse and I fall back down onto the ground. I implant my fingers into my scalp.
Stop it! I can't think about it! Don't think about it Maddie!
My vision goes blurry, I'm relived for a second, but then it ends. My vision blurs but I can still see the Demons and they're coming closer to me.
My world starts to shake. I don't know if it's from an earthquake or my body is shaking really hard, maybe I'm having a seizure. I don't know.
The Demons' laughter dies down, but now I can hear people screaming for help. I hear wood burning and I hear the ghostly sound of metal slicing through flesh. I don't see the Demons or the forest anymore. I see something worst. I see my worst nightmare. I see the visions that have haunted me for years appear before me.
I'm being carried. I feel this person's arms around my whole body, its suffocating. I want to go and find him, but the person who is holding me won't let go. This person isn't walking or jogging, no he's running. But I can still see that the island that we were on, the sweet and lively island that we were on is turning into a ghost island. I see a mother stand in front of her children. She's trying to protect them from the Killers. But then there's a bang and the mother falls down to the ground. Her motherly instincts were to save her children, but they've backed fired on her. Instead of protecting them she created a moment in her children's short lives that they will never forget. They would always remember the day that their mother was shot right in front of them, but that memory doesn't live long in their little heads. Soon the children join their mother. They weren't the only family I saw being killed. I see hundreds of Murderers doing the same things in order to protect someone they love, but in the end I only hear their screams, cries of grief, metal slicing flesh and thousands of gunshots envelope the once peaceful and calm air. Soon all of those sounds become background music. I hear an explosion and the man who is carrying me stops. I look up and I hear the sound that will never leave my mind. I hear wood being burned and the smoky smell fill the once sweet air. I see the store that Daddy was in being suffocated by thousands of wild and enraged flames.
I feel my cheeks become wet and I hear my voice scream out to him. But it doesn't feel real, Daddy can't be in there. He said he loved me and to take care of Garrett, but he can't be gone. Where is he? Daddy is invincible; if he can survive a fight with Mommy then he can live. Where is he?! All I see are men running around killing people, but Daddy will stop them. He said he would always protect me.
"Your Father is gone. No one could survive an explosion like that. I am sorry for your loss," the man says to me.
But he can't be right… Daddy can't die. Nothing can kill him! He lit himself on fire once trying to make cookies and he survived that. If he can live through that then he can't die now! Where is he?!
The man starts running away again. I don't see and hear the sounds of the dying people asking for help or the Marines' gunshots or the metal swords slicing down person after person. No. all I can see is the shop that Daddy ran into to retrieve something be corrupted by deadly flames from Hell. I can only hear the cries of the flames. I hope that Daddy will come out of the store with some dust on his shoulders while laughing and then he'll come over to me and hug me and say everything is going to be okay. I hope that the sounds that I hear today will be forgotten when I wake up from this dream.
But none of my hopes ever come true and this is not a dream.
I still see the shop being burned down when the man puts me in a boat next to Garrett. I feel Garrett come towards me and hug me, but I can only see Daddy dying over and over again in my mind.
"I am Dracule Mihawk. I know that you two must be confused right now, but in order to survive we must go."
…if it wasn't for Dracule Mihawk coming here today none of this would have happened. These nice people wouldn't have died and the Marines would not have come and Daddy would still be alive. Daddy would be preparing for dinnertime right now. I bring the rim of daddy's hat down so that my eyes are hidden from this Murderer in front of me. I cling onto Daddy's hat; it's the only thing I have left of him… because of this Man.
Dracule Mihawk killed my Daddy and everyone on this once nice island.
"Hatter! This isn't real!"
… That's not true. I can see the fire that killed Daddy… it was all real.
"Snap out of this! Look around, this isn't real!"
I look up and all I see is the island burning in the back ground, while Dracule is standing in front of me. I wish this wasn't real, but it is.
"That's not real! Depend on your senses! What do you smell?! What do you hear?!"
I hear the waves splashing against the boat that we are on and… someone's yelling at me. That's not right. I look at Dracule and he's just standing there with his hat covering his face, I look at Garrett and his face is casted downwards. Who's yelling at me? ... It's starting again. It's a female voice. I don't ever remember hearing a girl's voice before. Whose is it? Her voice is getting louder and louder, soon it over powers the burning wood and my cries to Daddy.
My vision starts to blur. I can't see the burning island or Dracule anymore. As images fade I start to see grey surround me, expect for one place. It's hard to see, but I'm able to make out the silhouette of someone in front of me. Then I feel it. I don't feel the heat of flames around me, instead I feel something cold hold my cheeks. I blink my eyes multiple times trying to wash away the blurriness from my eyes.
As my eyes start telling me the truth of what's around me, I can finally see who's in front of me. It takes a minute for my mind to register who is holding my face.
"Cataria?" I whisper in a hoarse voice.
She was about to start yelling at me, but then she must have heard me. Her body freezes for a few seconds but then she starts talking to me. I can tell that she's not yelling at me anymore, but I can't hear her. I move my eyes away from Cataria to see where I am.
I see that I'm on the ground hunched over and I feel like my soul was ripped out of my body. I slowly maneuver my head from side to side to see what's around me. I can only see trees and darkness… then I remember. I remember that I ran away from Asura in order to gather my thoughts and then those monster trees came at me. I activated light step- ughh, what the hell was I thinking. I remove my hands from my scalp and I see some blood on the tips of my gloves; I clover my face with my hands. I can't believe I did that.
I remove my hands from my face and I look up to see Cataria hovering over me. Her mouth is moving, she must be talking to me.
Slowly I start to regain my hearing or I start to finally understand what's going on around me. My senses are coming back.
"Hey, Hatter, are you okay? What did you do out there?"
"Where… is… my hat? It… wasn't on my… head. I … must have… knocked it off… when I fell."
I examine my head, as if hoping that my hat is there. But it's not… Dorothy… where's Dorothy?!
I look down at her hands and she's holding my hat with Dorothy sitting in the tea cup portion of my hat. I try to reach out to take my hat back instead, Cataria takes my hat and she puts it on my head. She makes sure my hat is on my head securely and it looks perfect. She even dusts off some of the dirt that was on it.
I think I can finally trust her now. Before she took my hat and she teased me and she left me for dead, but now… I have faith in her. I normally don't trust a lot of people and it takes a long time in order to receive my trust but, Cataria is different.
She looks startled at first but then she regains her composure. "You're welcome," she says with her signature grin.
We sit there on the ground just staring at each other. I still can't tell what she's thinking or what she's going to do most of the time but I think as time goes on I might be able to master the hidden language of reading Cataria.
"We should keep on moving or go somewhere more hidden. Asura can easily spot us here in t-"
"You… changed your clothes…"
"Your clothes are… different."
Instead of wearing a white loose skirt when I first met her, she's now wearing white shorts which are the same length as her skirt. She doesn't have on her blazer too, instead she has on a cardigan with the same grey and teal horizontal stripes as before, and she doesn't have her beanie on too.
"…I believe that is not very important right now. We have other things to-"
"Why did you leave me?"
That catches her of guard now… but I do agree with her we are in the open and Asura can easily see us when he comes by.
I move to stand up, but it seems like I just caught a case of vertigo. Cataria moves to my side and she helps keep me up right on my feet.
"…I don't need your help…"
"You sure 'bout that? It seems to me that all of your energy was just sucked out of your body."
"… Shut… up-"
I look behind Cataria and I see them again… they've come back to take me!
Cataria looks behind herself and then back at me. She must have seen them right?
Why the hell is she looking at me as if I'm crazy! They are there! We have to go! But I can't move. My body is frozen…
"Hatter… what do you see?"
I see the flames reappear… and the Demons are coming out of the flames. They're coming towards me, there're laughing at me again…
"…Fire... Fire… FIRE!"
My hands try and reconnect to my scalp but they are stopped. Cataria is holding my hands still; she won't let me reclaim them.
"Listen to me! Don't freak out, the fire is not real."
…But the Demons…
"Depend on your senses. Close your eyes. What do you hear? What do you smell?"
…But I can't… the Demons are coming.
My world is dark. All I can see is darkness.
I expect to hear the familiar sound of burning, the unforgettable smell of smoke, and the Demon's laughter… but I don't. All I smell are roses.
"Calm down. Take deep breaths. It was not real."
I follow Cataria's orders and I steady my horrible heart. I take multiple deep breaths in and out, In and out. The smell of roses and my eventual somewhat normal heart steadies.
"It is not real."
"It isn't real."
We chant those two lines to each other for what seems like a thousand years. But I know it wasn't that long. I would be dead by now if a thousand years have come and gone.
Eventually the darkness is removed and I look behind Cataria and the flames, the Demons, everything is gone. I am only left with Cataria, myself, the trees and my memories.