I've never been good at confrontation.
I tumble and then force myself to my feet to run down the hall after Doc and Wren and Mayday. I gasp for air as I run, my lungs are on fire. TRIGGER grabs me from behind and throws me to the ground, hard. I hear a crack in my ribs, followed by searing pain that fuses with the pain already there. The wind is knocked out of me and I gasp for air, clawing at the ground.
“DRU!” Wren screeches, I try to find them in the large space. The room is expanding. Someone tall is coming after me, coming for me, limping at me.
Doc reaches out for me and I try to scream to get him to run and not try and a large limb swings through and smacks him hard into a wall. He slumps over. I reach out to him, wrenching from the pain, trying so hard to focus. I’m seeing triple of everything. Triple Trevors falling to the ground. I hear quadruple Wrens and Mabels screaming.
Doc is hurt. He’s hurt bad. And it’s my fault. It’s my fault.
It’s all my fault.
I start to hyperventilate again, looking up and screaming soundlessly as Wren and Mayday, who are screaming back at us, leaving themselves vulnerable from behind. Someone grabs Mayday by the back of her hair, yanking her backwards and holds her around the abdomen as she bucks and wails. Wren goes to help, but he is tackled from both sides by two other monstrously strong followers of this monster.
It did get worse.
They fight, they struggle, they can’t win.
My fault, my fault, my. fault.
It hits me in the pain like a heartbeat, a second part of me I don’t want. A parasite, something outside that wants in. It’s hungry and it wants to feed. It feeds on fear, it’s growing stronger. We made this monster. I made this monster.
I made this, and people are dying. I made this monster to help myself, to get it out of me, and instead, I poisoned the world.
“Dru,” Doc snaps me back to the reality I don’t want to be in, but I am stuck. I take a breath and look between him, his brother and my best friend, and then over my shoulder in the darkness where we left the elevator. He looks so far away and more than half dead but he’s looking at me so fiercely and he demands:
“Dru. Finish it.”
“DRU! DOC!” Wren is bucking and thrashing and fighting. He punches one of the proxies and he gets hooked across the face.
“DRU!” Mayday shrieks, hands on her head as they continue to yank her hair back. “DRU DRU DRU!”
“Finish it, please.”
I look over my shoulder, and there is the creature. Those red, glowing eyes in its opaque shadowy form. It surges at me and I shoulder roll out of the way, dizzy with pain. My chest is on fire. I can’t breathe. The pain surges through me, like I’m biting down on a live wire. Mayday is screaming out to me, Wren is cursing and screaming out to all, especially his brother. The monster looms over me, this time it’s not a dream. There is a distinct possibility that there will be a face eaten, and it will be mine. It takes me in, eyeing me with those eyes that are so akin to the eyes that Mayday created from my exact words. But, this is more than my monster. This is more physical than my monster. This is my monster, but not my monster. This is physical. This is real. I struggled to find the words.
“What are you,” I ask, barely a whisper, my voice shaking. More of a statement than a question.
There is a voice, like a vibration, in the middle of my brain, traveling down my spine and into my stomach, right into the pit of it. I hunch forward and my lips part slightly, but I hold in another moan of pain. I stare back up at the monster looming over me.
Do you not recognize me?
The monster stays stoic, staring over me. My breath puffs out foggy even though the air is muggy and increasingly heavier with each passing second. Harder and harder to breathe. Harder and harder still.
I am the thing that keeps you up at night, I am the leech that feeds off of the suppressed.
“TRIGGER doesn’t exist.” I barely breathe.
It was the position I was willing to take. They wanted it so desperately that I was more than happy to oblige.
“You shouldn’t exist.”
But, I do, starting from you.
The monster’s face contorts from TRIGGER to a large, gaping maw of spiked black teeth and neon red mouth. It leans close and I lean as back as I can.
They gave me all I needed, but I still hungered for something that they gave me through the meaning of what I became. The fandom, the legion at your disposal, it gave me being and strength and this form. I am hungry, and you can feel it. You know what I need, you know what you give. TRIGGER was yours, and now it is me. I am now of you, and you will become of me.
The monster pauses. The proxies, even from so far away, go still. Mayday keeps crying and screaming for me. Wren is cursing in different languages at this point. It closes its maw and looks at me. A string of warmth worms through my stomach. Some tension releases.
“No.” I repeat, with a little more force. I sit up straighter, staring it in the eye even as I shake and my head swims. “No.”
I stand, the monster shrinking back, staring at me with it’s mouth parted, with drool coming out, all eyes on me. I gulp, my knees are weak, the hook is digging deep into my gut pulling me towards the monster, the darkness in me, the venom in me, wanting to be back with the darkness of TRIGGER that got us here in the first place.
“You are a thesis project that got further than I could have ever imagined.” I gulp again, and cough. “You are my demons, but I expelled you from my body.” I take in a ragged breath, my throat is raw. “You are word vomit.”
“You need to leave.”
It just stands there, frozen, and I start to know that this is it, that we are going to die. Whatever I felt before, it’s gone now. I can’t control this. I can’t control this. I feel the dread eating away at me, rust, decay. I’m slipping back in, and the monster is growing, looming over me again. Past him, I see Doc on the ground, I see my friends screaming at us and for me. And also at me. Everything is all about this and it’s not at once. The darkness is too dark. The world is too small. My chest is compressing, my chest is on fire, my abdomen is torn open now, entrails basically on the floor, and I gasp as the monster comes close again.
Who do you think you are? I am your darkness. You cannot ignore me.
“I created TRIGGER,” I shudder again, hunching over, clutching my stomach. “And therefore you are mine, and you need to go.”
The monster looms higher, arm up, now with angular sharp finger-like appendages there. I bring up my hand.
“NO!” I scream, defending myself. “NO! YOU NEED TO GO. NOW. OUT. OUT OF HERE.”
Suddenly, the mood shifts. My pain thrusts forward and out of my palm, towards the creature. I am staring at it and it is staring at me and I am in pain and it has its hooks in me and we are connected but I can’t let it stick into me. I am in control. I have to intervene, and this is it. I glared into it, forcing my pain onto it as it forced it onto me. The link between us quivers, I can feel it like a cord. The monster shrieks suddenly and cowers back from me. I cough, hacking hard, and I continue to fight it. I grit my teeth against the pain, adrenaline coursing through me, and I go on my knees and hold out both hands, and lean forward. The monster shrinks back more.
Suddenly, it’s more of my TRIGGER, it’s figure spazzing out, twitching, flickering, angular, sharp. I know this monster, it is mine.
“Out of here, out of me.” I gasp for air, struggling to maintain consciousness. The room is spinning, the lights are on the floor and the tile is on the ceiling. One hand on the floor for leverage. “LEAVE ME ALONE!”
The monster glitches in real time, a freeze frame after jerk after freeze frame after jerk, lurches out its limb and I feel a pain but before I know it I’m back on the ground on my knees with the wind knocked out of me. There is pain and so much pain but I turn and look at the monster clawing at the air, clawing towards me. The proxies are staggering and dropping like flies, unconscious.
I hold out my hand to the monster. I hold out my hand as a stop, as a stall, and I scowl through the pain as everything hurts and is on fire and it’s ice and oh my god this is it. The monster slumps over beside me, looking at me, panting.
I WILL DESTROY YOU.
“Not today.” I command, and turn my head away from the creature. “Probably not tomorrow either.”
I hear another wail, and the monster lunches at me. I finally succumb to the pain, and I feel the hook yanked out of my stomach as I slip into unconsciousness, the fire spreading through my skin as I slip down under the surface.