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How Did We Get Here? (and other questions from Hell)

“Well…” Mayday bites her cheek with her tongue, and I grip the water bottle so much the crinkle echoes over the mic. I ignore it. I meet her gaze as she turns to me.

“Dru, you should explain how the monster came to be, if you want.”

The crowd cheers as my lips part slightly. Not so much cheer as shout an incoherent demand of a yell of knowing the monster, of knowing my monster. Mayday smiles encouragingly at me as behind her Wren gives me a thumbs up. I shake my head slightly no and then I feel Doc lean in next to me.

“You know, you don’t have to do it.”

I take in a deep breath and nod slightly, and then I lean into the mic, staring out into the audience, but not searching. No faces, just the wall right above them, into those dim shadows. Just, looking, but not looking. I tunnel vision myself so I’m only focusing on my story. “It started off, like most horror related-things, with a nightmare.”

The crowd has gone silent, everyone is looking at me. I gulp. “Okay I’m going to make this short because I don’t think we have all day for this.” I get a laugh, “Heh, alright, well, I had a nightmare about this, this negativity that was haunting me. Like, bearing down on me like a dark cloud with its own gravity. It made it hard to breathe and I could just feel the thing in the corner of my eye, lurking in the shadows, there, waiting for the next time I went to sleep.” I stop rambling and take a breath. Why are they so quiet? Why are they clinging to my every word? Don’t they know they’re making it stronger?

I don’t want to mention that it still does haunt me. I want to tell them to stop being so interested in it, to stop making it stronger. Blood rushes to my head, my nails dig into my knees. My mouth keeps going without my knowledge.

“So, Mabel asked me why I looked like I hadn’t slept in a week, and she was only off by a few days, I caved and told her. Then, she gave the monster a true face. And it was decided then that this monster, that feeds off of negative emotions, thrives on their cultivation, would be our creation.”

There is a beat, and my heart sinks to my stomach. Then they start to applaud.

“And then we put it out on the internet because we didn’t want that thing laying around the house.”

“No, sir, we did not.” I agree with Wren, and the audience starts laughing and I force a smile on my face. I need to make this seem as much about the game as possible, if they just focus on it being not real and just a game, it would make the monster weaker, right? RIGHT?

“It was a joint effort of shooing a vermin out of us, well, for me that’s how it felt. How it still feels. Having a way to sort of,” I motion with my hands like there’s a box on the table, “push the negativity out of me and into the world. We made it a videogame, and it makes it scary in a fun way...and not real.

“Really? That’s sort of, therapeutic, then.”

“I think it’s sort of relatable.” Mayday nods. “I mean, Dru and I don’t certainly have the same demons, but we could all use a good, cathartic scream every now and again, right?”

“I loved calling it our cathartic scream.” I smile, talking directly to Mayday. “Screaming does help pushing it out of mind.”

I feel the power hiss and recede as the audience laughs, taking the conversation from the monster at hand to creativity and triumph over fears. Good. This is great! I can do this. I feel a bit smug as it retreats, but it still teases me in the darkness of the room. I can see it, I try to ignore it.

“Really? I don’t like it. I like ‘love child.’” Wren butts in.

“Wren, please stop.”

“I’m pretty sure I’ve asked you more than once not to call it that.”

“Anyway,” The MC glances down at his watch, he’s obviously keeping a time restraint I didn’t think of. I bite my lower lip, clasping my hands together under the table and hunch forward. I look at him, I don’t want this to end. I don’t think any of us want this to end. “I know you guys have goodies for the audience, we’ll get those passed out starting now,” He lets the audience let out a HOORAH and then says over the mic, looking out into the audience that I still refuse to turn back to, “We also have some time for a few questions.”

He stands up and walks down into the audience, handing the mic to a random person in the audience. The kid stands, he’s dressed in an orange sweat suit and has a lopsided blond spiky wig on. He is grinning ear to ear.

“Hi! Uhm, my name is Carter.”

“Hi, Carter!” Wren chirps. “What’s the question burning in your soul?”

“I just want to start off saying I’m a huge fan, and I have to ask: how do you guys keep it up? There’s always so much more for us to find, and I keep getting blocks in my creativity.”

“I’m sure we all can relate to the terror that is art block,” Mayday motions to the rest of us. “And, in fact, we fight a lot more than you’d think. We never let each other give up, and sometimes it ends in a lot of screaming, and pizza.”

“You really don’t understand how easily pizza can shut people up.” I add, trying to ignore the shadows glitching in the corners of my vision.

“So, in regard to your question,” Mayday gets back on topic easily. “I would have to say that maybe you need to have that argument with yourself, to see what is holding you back, and that’ll jumpstart a release, and then just slowly just pull yourself through it, bit by bit. So long as you keep going, you will find a way out of it.”

“Maybe, also,” I lean forward. “Cathartic scream.”

As long as I don’t make eye contact in the audience, as long as I stay up here, everything will be ok. Ignore the moving shadows, ignore the stares that are trying to coax me to look up at them. Ignore the fear, push it away. I am powerful up here, they see me as a creator, and I can make TRIGGER just words on a page, just code, just an image as my friends and I have done. A Cathartic Scream!

Just. Don’t. Make. Eye. Contact. And then everything will remain good. See, I figured it out. I can handle the laser vision boring holes into my body from all different directions. I could be imagining the stares for all I know. This is fine. This is so fine.

Some more questions get thrown our way, but we have all the answers. We got this. I can make it through this, I don’t have to let it control me. It has no control. I don’t have to finish what I’ve started. My friends and I did create something fun, even if it is scary...but it’s not real.

“I have a question I know we’re all dying for the answer of.” This young man stands up and stuffs a hand in his pocket.

“Oh, cutting right to the chase. Abrasive.” Wren smirks. “What solace are you wishing to seek, child?”

“It’s about the video that’s been all over the internet now, the one with the summoning circle, you know what I’m talking about?”

I immediately frown. The laughter echoes from the recesses of my mind. The shadows darken. Those dead, dark, dolls’ eyes are there, staring. They lurk, waiting. Murmurs in the audience make all of this grow and fester and make it come closer and closer and closer to us. My heart pounds in my ears.

No, no! We were so close!

There is a pause, Wren sets his jaw and rests his forearms on the table. “Sort of.”

“Is that a secret promo for the movie? Like, are there actually more demonic instances in the movie than what we’ve gotten online?” He’s tumbling over his words and they’re crashing into me at the bottom of the hill. “Is it demons? Is that it?”

“No,” Wren shakes his head. “Just, no. That was just a fan made video, we don’t have any connection to that video, I can assure you.”

“So,” He seems disappointed. “No demons?”

“I can’t confirm or deny demonic presences,” Doc intervenes before his brother says something he might regret, and I’m thankful. I didn’t want to remember that video, especially not now. “But, I can assure you, we didn’t have anything to do with summoning any sort of demons and stuff.”

The boy sits down, looking disappointed that no demons were summoned in the making of our creation. It didn’t come from a demon, it came from ourselves.

A girl dressed with a rainbow colored pixie cut wig and blue feathered wings stands up. I focus on her rainbow knee-high socks. Where can you get those socks these days? Maybe the internet. I blink again, and realize I might know this girl. I learn further in, ignoring my own rules from not too much earlier. Focus on this girl, not the growing darkness.

“Alright, first, my name is Maggie, we met yesterday, and an amazing trailer, I can’t wait.” Maggie, we did meet yesterday. Yesterday feels like so long ago, but it’s nice to meet a semi-familiar face in this sea of potential ax-murderers. She’s speaking quickly, she’s excited. Or nervous. Or both. I can definitely relate to that. “I mean, Dru, this is primarily for you.”

I perk up and actually stare at her. “Y-yes?” I lean closer to the mic and clear my throat. “Yes?”

“Yesterday, you asked me why I liked TRIGGER, and I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer you then. I’ve been thinking about it, while keeping updated on you guys, and then discussing it with my friends. And, and I realized that it has to do with a lot of internal stuff and with this thing that I have, that I guess is my question.

I was thinking about what you said, too about the monster being like a cathartic scream for your inner poison, so to speak.” She puts a hand on her chest. “I, uhm, I totally get that. I really do. Like, I feel like that’s what interested me first in TRIGGER. I found this space where I felt like others understood how overwhelming anxiety could be. I mean, that’s what you meant right, earlier? I guess I want confirmation on my fan theory.”

The anxiety, the thought of the monster, it’s making it grow. This isn’t working, this isn’t helping. No no no no.

It’s coming, it’s getting stronger.

“Well, I mean,” I shrug, trying to not think too hard about it. You’re not being judged, you’re not being judged. “What’s your fan theory?”

“It’s that the monster is an embodiment of those it controls, like anxiety. But, as someone who suffers from GAD, I know anxiety can be consequently good, or needed, in some situations, even though overwhelmingly in others. So, I guess, maybe sometimes the monster is a protector? Could it be?”

I blink, and lean back in my chair, stunned. Even the darkness I’ve been pushing back with my mind, trying to not focus on it, seems stunned, too. It freezes in its tracks at this theory, as if listening and trying to figure out what it means. I look at this girl I’ve never met before as my mind goes blank. I realize she’s squirming and waiting for an answer, so I lean forward again.

“Uh. Wow.” I blow air out of my mouth, the noise crashing through the mic and the speakers.

“Oof, sorry, uh, Maggie, I…I know. I suffer from GAD, and I wouldn’t be getting chapters and information or mythos out as fast as I do without it day-by-day keeping on schedule. But, at the same time, it consumes you, like the world is going to swallow you whole. I know a lot of people could relate to that, a lot more than they’d dare to admit.” I’m talking a little fast, my knee starts to bounce and I’m wringing my hands under the table. This is true strength, this is battling the darkness. TRIGGER hisses again, retreating. I try to not feel too triumphant.

“But…there are the good times, and there are the very bad times. I guess, you take the monster as you will. Who knows, maybe what you want will be coming soon. Was that good, did that help answer your…question?”

Mackenzie just smiles, nodding, “Thank you.” She hands the mic back to the MC and I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding. I’m in a stupor. Someone’s got it. Mayday is squeezing my shoulder and smiling at me, pride shining in her eyes. I can’t help but smile as there is a slight applause from my answer. Someone understands anxiety, and someone thinks of my next idea and wants it before I release it.

“I have another question, our last one for the panel!” The MC calls from a different part of the audience, and I look over before I can stop myself. I stiffen, my cloud-nine-esque feeling draining out from the bottom of my flip flops into the floor.

The girl bores into me, the mic up to her lips. The young man stands up out of the corner of my eye, there are more people along the back wall. When did they get there? Were they always there? Were they always standing? My soul starts sinking towards the floor. How inappropriate would it be if I hid underneath the table? I have a feeling I know where this is going.

“Okay, sweetheart, what is you-“

“Will you finish what you’ve started?”

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