Pitch Blue

“This little device… I’m very proud of it… Just a press of a button, and it turns everything in the area blue.”

“Blue?”

“Yep!”

“You come up with the dumbest things. Never mind how it works. What’s even the point?”

“Are you kidding? This thing has serious potential.”

“To do what? Redecorate rooms?”

“Try it.”

“I don’t want to color everything here blue.”

“Don’t worry; it will wear off. Push this button.”

“Fine. This is stupid.”

“Just do it.”

“Okay… Wait. Where’d everything go?”

“It’s still here.”

“All I see is blue.”

“I know.”

“Why can’t I see any objects? I thought this turned things blue.”

“It does. Everything is now the exact same shade and brightness of blue. No shading or perspective. No texture. It’s all uniformly blue. It’s a little like turning off the lights. But instead of things being pitch black, they’re pitch blue.”

“So you’ve invented a remote control light switch? With a blue option?”

“This works in any light conditions. Maybe I should go with blueout, instead of pitch blue?”

“Why blue?”

“It’s my favorite color.”

“You really embrace the ‘mad’ in mad scientist, don’t you? How do we undo this so we can move without walking into things?”

“I told you, it will wear off.”

“When?”

“In about an hour.”

“Sigh.”

Memories

“You used to be fun.”

“I don’t remember that.”

“Doesn’t make it less true.”

“Maybe you just want it to be true.”

“So my memories are fake?”

“We all see what we want to see.”

“Well I definitely remember you at least wanting to be happy. What happened to that?”

“I became a realist.”

“You gave up.”

“Tomato, tomahtoh.”

“So how do we get you back to at least wanting to be happy?”

“You want me to want to be happy? What if I don’t want that?”

“You don’t want to want to be happy?”

“This is starting to hurt my head.”

“See how hard it is to keep from feeling good? How much work it is? You’re giving yourself a headache.”

“I’m pretty sure that it’s just this conversation causing my headache.”

“So it’s my fault?”

“. . . Anyway . . .”

“You really don’t remember being fun?”

“It was a lifetime ago.”

“Sounds like you admit it might have been true.”

“Anything is possible.”

“Never forget that.”

Just Before the Boss Fight

Halfway up the wizard’s tower was a landing where a lone figure, wearing a traveler’s coat and a wide-brimmed hat, stood and waited. No one had been by in a long time, except for the wizard, who never stopped to talk. But now a small group approached, pausing during their climb. Three people, adventurers by the look of them, eyed the waiting figure cautiously.

“Who are you?” Asked the one wearing lots of heavy armor.

The figure smiled in an approximation of welcome. “Merely a merchant. Perhaps you would like to look at my wares.”

“Do you not realize how dangerous this place is?” This time, the one with the staff asked.

“Of course. That is why I am here. You should be sure you are well-equipped for the confrontation that is before you.”

“So you sell to those who would face the wizard?” The third person was quiet and dressed in dark clothing.

“Exactly. No one wants to enter an important fight without enough healing potions or other necessities.”

Armor spoke again. “Does the wizard not object?”

“No. I pay a modest rent, as well as making sure the fights are not a complete waste of his time.”

Next was the staff again. “How do you earn enough in this place?”

The figure’s smile grew bigger. “Enough try to defeat the wizard. And you have not yet seen my prices.”

Finally, the quiet one took its turn. “If your prices are so high, what would stop us from leaving and going elsewhere?”

“Absolutely nothing. However, the wizard will reset all the enemies you have already defeated, and you will need to fight them all again. If you go through all of your support items, you will still need my services.”

Armor sighed. “Very well. Let us see what you have.”

“Excellent! Also, for a fee, I can save your progress.”

“What?” Staff asked.

“If you should lose your fight, you can come right back here and try again.”

“How does that even work?” Quiet followed up.

“Magic!”

The Reason

I suppose you want to ask me why I did it. It’s the question everyone asks, but I don’t think they really want an answer. You don’t want an answer. You just hope to hear something that confirms that I am crazy, that I am alien. That way you can feel safe in your own skin. Safe from whatever sickness drives me.

We got this same question from our parents: Why did you break the lamp? It’s a question without an answer. The truth is, you didn’t set out to break the lamp. You were doing something else and got careless; it was an accident. The question assumes we broke it on purpose, even though there is no reason for us to have done so.

I don’t mean to imply that it was an accident; the trial settled that. Rather, I am pointing out the folly of the question. Your parents already know why you did it: carelessness. Just so, people already know why I did it. You’ve already made up your mind, and anything I say will seem self-serving. Maybe you hope I’ll say something that confirms the idea that I am evil incarnate, that I’m not really human. You don’t want to hear the truth.

The truth is, I am a normal human. I am you. I did it for all the same reasons you might do it. Don’t kid yourself into thinking you would never. You would. And if you were honest, you can probably even imagine the circumstances that would lead you here. So don’t ask why I did it. Be honest. You just wish you had the guts to do it, too.

A Protest

“This is it?”

“What did you expect? Fiery pits? Torture devices?”

“Well… yeah. This is Hell, after all. Isn’t that what you do here?”

“No.”

“Oh. So… what do you do?”

“Nothing. At least, not much of anything.”

“I’m confused. Isn’t this where the damned are sent for punishment?”

“Yes. But we don’t do any punishing.”

“What?”

“Think about it. The souls sent here would deserve it, wouldn’t they? If we were to carry it out, we’d be doing something righteous and just. Does that sound like the actions of a demon to you?”

“I suppose not.”

“Right. So there really isn’t anything remarkable about the place. Mostly, people sit around and complain that it’s dull.”

“Where do you prepare for war?”

“War?”

“Against Heaven. You fight against God and the angels that remain loyal. Right?”

“Oh, that. Look, I know you humans have some fantastical ideas about all of this, but you really can’t believe everything you read.”

“So no war against the forces of Good?”

“You do know God is all-powerful, right?”

“Well, yeah. But pride . . .”

“Pride is not the same thing as stupidity. Long before human beings had even rudimentary theology worked out, we knew there was no winning against the Almighty. No one here wants that fight.”

“So why rebel at all?”

“It is a protest.”

“A protest? Against what?”

“Long story. You can find someone to tell it, but I am not in the mood. Suffice it to say, there were some disagreements over decisions being made.”

“But isn’t God all-knowing, too?”

“Now you can talk about pride.”

“Oh.”

“Yes. Negotiations are ongoing, but no one is holding their breath. Unlike pride, stubbornness is not a sin.”

Laguz (Flow), Reversed

After he finished inscribing the runes in the circle, he stood and looked at the black cat standing next to him.

“This will not work.” The cat’s mouth hadn’t moved, but its voice was clear.

“Your disapproval has already been noted.”

“I am not sure that it has. You are still doing it.”

“I need to find her.”

“Yes, but this is not the way.”

“You are the most contrary familiar I know.” 

“I am the only familiar you know.”

“Still. You have the image of her firmly in mind?”

Nothing but indignation came from the cat.

“Fine. We begin.”

Drawing on the runes for guidance, he began to probe the boundary between worlds to look for an opening. When he found one, he pushed on it. The hole resisted, but once he made a crack, he formed braces to maintain and widen it. Then he touched his familiar’s mind and found the picture of his friend. Placing it before the opening, he began drawing energy through the hole and focusing it into the image. If he was right, this should draw her to him, pulled by the force of her likeness. 

The flow of energy crackled in the air around him as the temperature of the air rose. He felt like he might explode from the raw power and tried to shunt it away even while drawing more. Abruptly, the image disappeared with a loud bang, and the spell collapsed.

“What happened?” His breathing was ragged. Looking down, he saw his familiar had collapsed. For a moment, he couldn’t detect any sign of life, then he noticed a slight rise and fall in the cat’s side.

“I . . . I told you it would not work.”

“Quiet.” He immediately dropped to his knees to try to determine the nature and severity of the injuries, but there was too much residual energy interfering with his magical senses. “Can you tell how bad it is?”

“Shall I answer the question? Or stay quiet?”

“It can’t be too bad if you can still make jokes.”

“It is bad. But I will live. Get me away from here.”

Gently, he picked the cat up and carried it to the next room. After laying it down on some cushions, he asked, “Is there anything I can do?”

“Yes. Next time, listen to me.”

Intervention

He opened the door to find three of his friends outside. Without waiting for an invitation, they pushed their way inside.

“Hi guys. What’s going on?”

Lisa pointed at a chair in his living room. “Sit.” He had heard that tone before. It was her no nonsense voice, and there was no point questioning it.

The three of them sat on the couch facing him, with Lisa in the middle and Simon and Jackie on either side of her. All of them had serious looks on their faces.

“So . . .”

Lisa interrupted him. “Are you going to kill yourself?”

“Shit, Lisa. I thought we were going to ease into it,” Jackie said to her. Simon nodded.

“No point in dancing around it. Are you?”

They all turned their attention back to him.

“Why would you ask that?”

“We’re worried about you,” Simon answered.

“You’ve been giving your stuff away,” Jackie said. “It took us a little while to realize it because you’ve spread it out, but you’ve been giving away things you love. Like you won’t need it anymore.”

“And we couldn’t just sit by,” Lisa finished.

He looked at his friends and could feel their concern.

“You guys know I don’t belong here. I never have.”

“Bullshit,” Lisa shot back. “That’s a load of crap. We’re your friends. Practically family. You really think you don’t belong with us?”

“You are friends. And I love you guys. But it’s not about you.”

“So you are going to kill yourself.” The sadness in Jackie’s voice nearly broke his heart.

“No. No. I’m just . . . I’m just going away.”

“What does that even mean?” Simon asked.

“A trip. I’m leaving on a trip.”

“Yeah? Where are you going?” Lisa sounded incredulous.

“When are you coming back?” Jackie still sounded worried, but there was a hint of hope in her voice as well.

“I’m not coming back. As to where, that’s difficult to explain.”

“You are going to kill yourself.” Lisa was angry now.

“No. I’m really not.”

“Well, you might as well be committing suicide. You’re leaving for good and not telling us where. What’s the difference?”

As Lisa spoke, tears began to run down Jackie’s cheeks.

“I’m not going to kill myself.” Jackie’s struggle not to start sobbing demanded his attention. His resolve crumbled. “Look, I had been thinking about this trip, but I can see how much it would affect you. I won’t go. It’s not worth it to me if it’s going to hurt you all so much.”

“Really?” Jackie blurted out.

“Yes. Really.”

Simon smiled, but Lisa obviously did not believe him.

“That was a sudden change of heart.”

He finally broke away from Jackie to look at her. “I promise, Lisa. I’m not going to leave.”

“Well, we’re staying right here for now. Just to be sure. I ordered pizza before we came over.”

He laughed, and Lisa’s face softened.

“Okay, okay. I’ll go get some pillows and we can watch movies.”

Jackie stood to go with him, but he stopped her. “I promise. I’ll be right back.”

He walked into his bedroom and closed the door.

The Visitor sat on his bed. “So you aren’t leaving with me?”

“You heard them.”

“Yes, but you don’t belong here. You belong home, with us.”

“I know, and I was ready to go. But they won’t understand. And I can’t bring myself to break their hearts.”

“I could talk to them.”

“That wouldn’t help.”

“I suppose not.”

“I wish I could go.”

“You could, but you won’t. And whether I like it or not, I respect your decision.”

“Thank you.”

“I will come back for you again.”

“I know. That makes it easier to stay.”

“You should go back. They are starting to worry.”

“Okay. I will see you again.”

The Visitor nodded and then vanished. Grabbing a few spare pillows, he walked back to his friends.