“Inside every sane person, there’s a madman trying to get out” – Terry Pratchet
“Nightmare,” Rogue groaned and reached a tentative hand to caress the face she forgot was no longer there. She grimaced bitterly and bit the inside of her cheek.
“A little longer,” She muttered to herself once again. It was the middle of the night, and she muttered incoherently at being awoken before even the sun wanted to rise from its slumber. Twisting her legs out from between the soft, plush blankets, Rogue clambered her muscular naked body from the small bed and traipsed over to a plain white door with a smooth brass handle. Rogue’s heart rate noticeably decreased from the acceleration of her usual, vivid nightmares with the single touch of something concrete and real. Twisting the knob and opening the door Rogue reached a haggard hand inside and flipped the switch to activate the overhead light. As she did, her eyes made contact with the mirror at the end of the compact room and she nearly tripped on her own feet as she stumbled backward, reaching reflexively for her knife. She however found nothing, as the sharp blade was hidden safely away beneath her pillow on the opposite side of the room.
“Shh, we don’t want Daddy to hear you.”
Rogue stared in horror at the smiling figure in the reflective face of the mirror that wagged a finger in summons. The woman looked exactly like Rogue, save for her skin and her eyes. Thick black veins spider webbed over her sallow skin, caressing each curve and muscle with sinister beauty. Long cuts decorated her flesh and one shoulder hung limply as if it were dislocated from some severe injury, the skin sagging and black from the trauma. The figure’s eyes glistened with hateful intensity. Their solid black orbs with yellow irises floating between them held Rogue’s own as they reflected all of the atrocities Rogue had committed in her past. The yellow irises, enshrouded in the black sclera, darted back and fourth rapidly like they wanted to take in everything at once.
Rogue shivered uncontrollably, her hand covering her mouth to hold back the scream of terror she felt building in her chest. A cold sweat began to trickle between her shoulder blades as she stood and took a terrified step forward. Her legs quaked and she nearly crumbled on herself with each passing instant. Her strength ultimately gave over to the awful dread building inside her, but the cold wooden floor that pushed back against her collapsed knees as was no comfort. What reality she thought she had managed to step back into was only the absorption of her mind into something far worse.
“There’s a good girl. You didn’t think you could hide from me forever did you?” The figure spoke teasingly, twisting a strand of hair around her index finger. It took Rogue several seconds to find her voice and when she spoke it quivered in absolute dread.
“You know who the fuck I am!” The figure screeched and slammed its hands against the face of the mirror. She pressed the side of her face against her personal side of reality and grinned maniacally. Her pale cheek flattened by the glass of the other side.
“Azrael,” Rogue stated after her heart shifted out of her throat.
“Ding ding! You really are going crazy. You seem stressed. All of that beautiful death weighing on your pretty little head?” Azrael asked in a flood of quickly spoken words. Her tongue clicked and her lips popped with each word as she spoke. Rogue clutched and shook her head between scarred and calloused hands.
“What’s happening?” Rogue said in panic, shuffling back toward her bed. She dragged herself backwards like the devil himself was clawing at her outstretched limbs. Azrael tossed her head back and began to roar with deep, raspy laughter that seemed to make the world tremble.
“You’re a monster, Rogue. A murderer. A killer. A demon,” Azrael started. Using her hands, she pulled herself from the silvery mirror and limped haphazardly toward the cowering girl balled into the fetal position. “You’re so fucking pathetic, you putrid sack of shit. When I was in control, when it was me pushing the buttons, we were unstoppable! We slaughtered anything and everything and fuck did we love it! Now I’m condemned to urging you from inside your head. Begging for you to feed us!” Azrael spat.
“No!” Rogue shouted in denial, violently shaking her head. Azrael knelt down at Rogue’s feet and used her bloody hands to tilt Rogue’s chin up to face her gleeful grin.
“Yes! And you still love it. You can’t lie to me Rogue; I’m inside your pretty little grapefruit. And every time you kill, you and I get closer and closer and closer. I know how you feel when you slit some stupid bitches throat. How your pulse quickens and your mouth salivates. Mm, it turns you on and you know it!” Azrael’s hands slid over Rogue’s tear stained cheeks and tightened with each angry word. “It’s who you are Rogue, stop running from us and forget that little bitch, Zaria. Let me inside Rogue. Let me in. Let me in! LET ME IN! LET ME IN!” Azrael screamed in Rogue’s face, her mouth frothing with rabid intensity.
“No! Get away from me! Get away!” Rogue shrieked, covering her head with her hands. Suddenly the door hummed open with a wash of white light. In an instant Seraph was in front of Rogue, pistol drawn and ready to fire.
“Azrael, what’s going on?” He shouted, concern pulsing through his color.
“The mirror, she’s in the mirror! Make her stop, please!” Rogue begged. Seraph didn’t hesitate to put three rounds through the mirror. He dropped his gun and wrapped his arms around Rogue immediately as the mirror shattered into countless, razor sharp splinters. Lifting her, Seraph sat atop Rogue’s bed, his daughter cradled in his arms.
“It’s okay, you’re safe. Nothing’s going to hurt you. I’ve got you,” Seraph crooned, stroking Rogue’s hair and rocking her in his arms as she quaked in fear. One of her small hands clamped itself over his arm and held it tightly.
After a nearly an hour of shaking, Rogue fell into a deep, exhausted sleep. Seraph lifted her gently in his arms and carefully placed her into her bed so as not to wake her. Pulling the crumpled white blanket over her body, Seraph peered down at Rogue’s peaceful visage. There, between her soft sighs and easy breathing, there was no anger or fear. Nothing to give away that the woman now asleep in a cushiony bed and curled up into a ball beneath her comforter, had murdered countless hundreds. That the woman who snored and smacked her lips in her slumber was capable of ripping a man’s heart from his chest and smiling as he cried out in pain. There was nothing. She was, in this rare moment, only his daughter.
“Father?” Nakir’s voice called out tenderly. Seraph breathed in deeply and turned to face his youngest. She leaned against the doorframe of Rogue’s bedroom dressed in cheetah print sweats and a loose fitting baseball tee. She rubbed her eyes tiredly, but Seraph could see the concern in her face.
“Go back to bed, Nakir. Everything’s alright,” Seraph murmured.
“What’s happening to her?” Nakir asked in a small voice. Seraph shook his head and strode toward the door.
“I wish I knew. I believe its residual effects of the augmentation process, but there’s no way she’ll tell me,” Seraph answered. Stepping into the hallway, Seraph pressed his palm against the access pad and shut the door that closed with a droning hum. Nakir frowned and shifted uncomfortably on bare feet. Seraph eyed her in speculation.
“Yes?” He asked humorously.
“I could speak to her. Lately she’s been opening up to me,” Nakir offered, looking anywhere but into Seraph’s eyes.
“Really now? Perhaps you should. Does she seem closer to understanding our cause?” Seraph pressed, stepping eagerly toward Nakir. Nakir nodded stiffly.
“I believe so. She seemed… contemplative when I explained why we had to eliminate Hayfork.”
“That’s good news. I’ve gotten word that Virus and Tinman are getting dangerously close to discovering we’re using Rogue. I’d rather not send her to kill her friends before she fully believes in what we're doing. That would make things… difficult.”
“I agree. I just wish the fighting could stop. Whether she believes in the cause or not, killing those closest to her isn’t going to be easy,” Nakir said meekly.
“No,” Seraph said sternly. His face contorted angrily and not for the first time, Nakir saw through the calm visage he hid behind. “No, but those bastards will die. Whether she wants them to or not.”
“What if they find us first?” Nakir asked solemnly. Her soft eyes seemed to stare off long into the distance. Having her sister home was not something she ever expected to happen again. The idea of harming Azrael either mentally or physically appalled and abhorred her. If Seraph noticed the distant expression, he made no show of it and instead continued his tirade.
“I already know that they will. One of our intelligence officers has already reported back that the team from Lance dispatched to investigate the radio silence at Hayfork has been eliminated. They’ll certainly be looking to strike and by the time they find us, they will be too weak to act and in that window we will crush them once and for all.”