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Strange Days




Strange Days


With a contented sigh, Bacchae was finally able to collapse onto his throne and breathe a little. Predictably, the party had lasted long into the night. It was about three in the afternoon now, and Bacchae had just rolled out of bed a few minutes before. Normally, he would have just thrown the whole day in the trash, but there was—unfortunately—shit he had to do today.


At the very least—if he remembered correctly—he had already crossed one thing off the jumbled series of vague notions knocking around in his brain. Those kids had been sent packing. They’d approached him pretty shortly after the hullabaloo had started.


“Doug, man, how on earth did you do that?” the guy with the sick tattoos had asked.


That had pissed him off considerably. But before he had a chance to suitably express it, little miss Sabrina had put a hand on tattoo boy’s shoulder. “Tommy,” she said, not taking her eyes off of him. “I don’t think he’s Doug.”


“What are you talking about?”


Okin’s fragment sighed, and finally met Bacchae’s eye. “Do you wanna tell them, or should I?”


They found a quiet alley, and the Millers listened closely as they explained that their friend had entered the past tense.


“So, basically, it’s time for you guys to scram. There’s no more people to save here. But hey, if it makes you feel better, there was no saving him in the first place.”


Tommy still didn’t quite look like he got it, Bacchae hadn’t told them even remotely everything, but Cindy did. Before she followed the others, she turned back to him one last time. “Before I go,” she said, “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.”


“What about?” he asked. “You don’t even know me, so there’s nothin’ to be sorry for.”


“I know. I wasn’t talking to you.”


She turned and headed off after the others, leaving even Bacchae a little confused about the whole thing.


So that was taken care of, at least. Now there was nobody else around who’d try to call him by that stupid name.


He leaned back against the chair. Ugh, what a rager last night had been. His head felt foggy and weird. Holy moly he was really out of practice, fifty fucking years out of practice.


Bacchae reached down to grab the joint he remembered he’d hidden in the cushion. Except that as he rummaged around, he realized that it wasn’t there. That stupid fucking clown had smoked it, hadn’t he? Yeah, he totally had, Bacchae remembered him doing it. And he was really trying not to think about that. It felt itchy, there was a whole subset of memories there in his head that hadn’t actually happened to him. Yet he still knew what it had felt like, to be that pathetic dumbshit. It really pissed him the fuck off.


His skin crawling, he stood, and stalked off to a higher floor of his clock tower, one that he knew hadn’t been touched yet.


But just as he reached for the blunt taped under the microwave, he happened to glance out through the window, and stopped. Someone was watching him. Bacchae often felt like he was being watched, but the paranoia was largely warranted, as he often was.


And this time was no exception. The Tea Party below was trashed, and a few stragglers were still drinking near the gallows. The dark-haired kid standing stock straight in the middle of the plaza was not one of them. Bacchae clicked his tongue with irritated recognition. Mike Miller. The clown might have been too much of a dumbass to figure out why he was here in Discord, but Bacchae could put two and two together.


He slung his coat on, and it fit him like a glove. It fluttered slightly behind him as he sauntered out to the Tea Party, and right up to the kid.


“So she wants to meet me, huh?” he asked him.


He nodded, though one of his eyebrows lifted a fraction of a centimeter.


“What, surprised I guessed?” Bacchae chuckled bitterly. “I may be missing fifty IQ points, but I’m not stupid.”


“It’s not that. I just wasn’t sure how much you’d remember.”


“Oh, trust me, I remember everything,” he leaned in and poked Mike’s chest, wondering if it would get a rise out of him. It didn’t seem to, and he was disappointed.


“She’s close,” Mike said, then gestured for Bacchae to follow him.


There were currently several largely vacant buildings lining the Tea Party. It had become unfashionable to live there while Malachi was in charge. That would change now that Bacchae was back. But like everything, it was going to be a lot of work. Ugh, he really needed to find someone to take care of all that shit for him.


It was one of these empty buildings that Mike led him into. Jesus christ this place had really fallen apart. As he followed the kid up the stairs, he noticed that most of the lights were no longer functioning and the carpet was so moldy he could smell it without leaning down. Hadn’t one or two of his old cohorts lived here? This whole damn town had fallen apart without him.


At the end of the hall, Mike paused in front of the door that led to one of the smaller apartments. “You, uh, might be a little surprised.”


“Hit me with it.”


“It’ll be easier to show you,” Mike sighed, and opened the door.

She was set upon a rickety table, her screen open and facing him. No doubt it was intended to be a big reveal, but it was such a silly surprise that Bacchae’s first move was to do the one thing he did best: he started laughing.


“So you must be Abigail Hodge, huh?” he said. “I was kinda wondering how you survived being stabbed, you know, like twenty-two times.”


The number was ingrained into his brain, but he pushed it aside.


“Still, this is quite a bit more pathetic than anything I could have come up with.” he shrugged. “Congrats on the ghoulish half-life, I guess.”


“Is that it?” she asked, the shark-tooth grin falling off her face over the course of four distinct frames. “I gotta say, I’m a little disappointed.”


She’d wanted a reaction. She’d probably envisioned a grand revelation in which she got to watch him rage that she was, despite everything, still alive.


“I have no idea what you expected,” he shook his head. “If you wanted drama, you should have sent your little errand boy way earlier. I don’t know you, lady.”


“Hmm, well this is rather fascinating,” she said, almost more to herself than to him. Her fans sounded like an airplane taking off as she thought. “If I’m honest, I expected there to be a little more… left of him, you know? Some anger, maybe even a bit of fear if I was lucky. In my wildest dreams, I thought potentially I might be able to cause some sort of mental crisis. And yet, this is interesting in its own way. You do know the things I’ve done, don’t you?”


“Of course.”


“And is Doug really completely gone besides?”


“What is this, twenty questions? I’m not your guinea pig, you know.”


An odd, rather broken sound crackled through her speakers. It sounded a bit like laughter. “That sounds like something he would say.”


“I should really be thanking you for that, if anything. Without you to loosen up the screws in that clown’s brain, I don’t know if he would’ve been able to hear me at all.”


“Oh, you flatter me,” she crooned. “I’m sure if not by my hand, causality would have found another way. But it was such a pleasure to be a part of it. Although I will admit, I’m very curious about how it all works.”


“What, fate?” he scoffed. “How the hell should I know? Ah, but you know what that makes a lot of sense.. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? Well, besides the obvious.”


“Whatever do you mean?” Why had she bothered to program an animation for batting her eyelashes? Oh, wait, that was a silly question.


“This was all just another experiment for you. You’re trying to… fuckin’… hypothesize how fate works.”


She sighed. “You know, you might actually have some brains if you hadn’t already addled them with substance abuse.”


“I monitor my use,” he claimed. “Not very well, but I only stick to the fun stuff. Alcohol, weed, shrooms, mercury off-gas… Really get the nerves jumping, that shit.”


Giggling, she winked at him. This was off-putting. A girl winking at him had never made his skin crawl before. “To answer your question, yes. I’m sure I’ll never really be able to do it properly. But already this little test has proven… very fascinating.”


“That’s just… good for you, isn’t it? Though now that you’re done, I think it’s about time for you to scurry away.”


“Unfortunately, given my current situation, I won’t be ‘scurrying’ anytime soon.”


“That’s what he’s for, isn’t he?” Bacchae gestured back to Mike. “I’m telling you to fuck off. I don’t care where you go, but I want your little pool boy to grab your ergonomic ass and carry you right out of my city. Got it?”


“Whatever for?”


“You ask too many questions, and I don’t like it.”


He made to grab her monitor, but Mike pushed off the wall and took a step towards him. The lack of hesitation surprised Bacchae.


“I wouldn’t worry about little old me,” Abigail chirped, cheerful as ever. “My business here is concluded anyway.”


Despite her nonchalant air, Mike was still nearly glaring at him.


“You’ve got twenty-four hours,” Bacchae shoved his hands into his pockets and made for the door. “If I see you after that, I’m gonna recycle your goddamn circuit boards.”


Though Mike made to close the door behind him, Bacchae stopped him with a hand. “You were wrong, by the way.”


Mike tilted his head.


“She messed you up way more than she ever did to Doug,” he explained. “At least he still hated her.”


Bacchae closed the door on his face and started walking. He made it all the way to the bottom of the landing before he paused. After taking a deep breath, he held it in for a moment… and then punched the wall with the side of his fist. His face loosened, and all the while cursing Newton’s stupid laws, he shook off the offending appendage and stumbled out of the building.


Back in the room, Mike stared at the aperture for a second, his fists clenched.


Abigail didn’t seem to notice. “Well, that was anticlimactic. He didn’t even get emotional, just smug and slightly irritated.”


“I don’t know what else you expected,” Mike still hadn’t turned back to her. “He’s not Doug.”


“I know, it’s just, if my hypothesis was correct, I figured… Ah well, it doesn’t matter.” She sighed. “Ultimately, I saw what I came here to see. My life’s last great work, finally drawn to its proper conclusion. So… I guess that’s it, then.”


Mike finally turned. “What are you talking about?”


“That’s it! I’m done. I’m—for all intents and purposes—already dead. Frankly, I don’t even know if I’m the real Abigail Hodge, so you might as well shut me down, close the lid, and leave me to gather dust.”


“Are you serious?”


“There’s nothing left to do. I think this is as good a place as any to end it.”


He stared at her, and her camera stared back.


“I don’t believe you,” he said finally.


“Pardon?”


“You’re trying to trick me,” he sighed. “You just want me gone. If I shut you off and leave right now, I guarantee that you’ve programmed some sort of back-door way to turn yourself back on again. And then you’re going to go right back to doing what you do best: ruining people’s lives.”


“Well, I never said it was a good lie.”


“So, I’m not going anywhere.” He sat at one of the chairs in front of the table in demonstration. “Someone has to put you on a leash. My life is pretty much forfeit, thanks to you, and I’m sure I’m the only one who’s willing to put up with you, anyway.”


“Wait, if what I think you’re saying is correct,” the barest hint of a smile was creeping into her pixels. “You’re going to commit the ultimate sacrifice? Giving up so much of your time in this cosmos, time you have with your family before they all go and die on you, to prevent me from committing heinous crimes? That’s… why Nihil, that’s almost a little romantic.”


“You have a strange idea of romance.”


“But you’ll stay with me?”


“Yes. I will.”


“Forever and ever?”


“If I have to.”


“Oh, Mike,” she swooned. “You sure know how to tell a girl exactly what she wants to hear.”


~~ o ~~


He was already out and about, and already in a foul mood, so Bacchae decided that he might as well take care of one more thing. He was gonna go down to the labyrinth.


There were a few entrances scattered throughout Discord, but Bacchae didn’t need any of them. The city did what he wanted. He’d made it, after all. He simply waved his hand in front of a brick wall and it moved aside, revealing a stairway that led down into the dark.


It was like a carnival ride of sorts; he didn’t usually bother to keep the labyrinth running unless there was someone inside it. Needless to say, right now the constant grinding of the walls shifting and the wailing of the damned was exacerbating his hangover. It was working double-time, as he wanted to make sure that Kei had the time of her life in his fun house.


She’d already abandoned her body, of course she had. She could move much faster without it, and she wouldn’t have to worry about dehydration or sleep deprivation. Heheh, that was a funny little rhyme.


He found it pretty quickly.


Elizabeth’s body lay in a heap on the cold, stone floor, her limbs twisted in awkward directions. Nothing more than a puppet with her strings cut.


He stared down at it for a minute, an odd, lingering feeling of regret wrestling around his insides. He hoped this would make it go away.


Next to him, Cocaine glanced at the body too, and clicked her tongue in annoyance.


“Kind of a pathetic end,” Bacchae agreed.


“After everything she put that body through, one would think she’d treat it with more… I dunno, respect?”


“Ahh, but she’s a daemon,” he explained. “It was just another meat suit to her. But that’s why we’re here, right?” He reached under his coat, and from only the gods knew where, he produced a pair of converse heelys, left in his clock tower by a boy who hadn’t known he’d never be back to retrieve them.


“This is a good place for them, I think,” Cancer nodded her approval, before scrunching her face and itching at her head, where some of her hair was starting to grow back in patchy clumps.


So Bacchae set the shoes next to the body. But when he stood back up, he noticed Conscience looking glum. “Sorry, I don’t have anything of idol girl’s to leave.”


Conscience glanced upwards, thoughtful, before plucking the two scrunchies from her hair, letting it fall into colorful curls. “I don’t really need these anymore,” she said, and placed them gently next to the shoes.


“Welp,” Bacchae grabbed a flask from his inner coat pocket, “here’s to the victims of circumstance.” He poured some onto the floor next to the objects, before taking a big swig from it himself. Then he passed it to Cancer, and in turn, each of them drank as well.


“Jesus Cocaine, leave a little bit for me later, will ya?”


She stuck out her tongue at him, but passed the flask back.


For a minute, they all stood in silence. After enough time had passed, walls began to form around the body, the shoes, and the scrunchies, cutting them off from the rest of the labyrinth. A tomb for them to stay for the rest of… forever.


Bacchae turned back, back to the staircase that led upward, where the city awaited him, and the three angels followed behind.


“Alright ladies,” he said. “Let’s get truckin’. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”


~~ o ~~


By the time Jack was conscious and no longer sprawled out on the couch upstairs, Bacchae was already back like nothing had even happened.


“You look like you’re in a good mood.” Jack cleared his throat, still a bit groggy as he stumbled down the stairs.


Bacchae sat up from where he’d been laying across about three different lounge chairs. “Should I not be?” he chuckled. “I’ve got my city back, my life back, we just had a blow-out party. I’ve got some good weed…” he blew a large cloud of smoke out to demonstrate.


Jack plopped down, and grabbed the proffered blunt. “Mostly just figured you’d be a bit peeved, seeing how many people have tried to come in here and muck it up while you’ve been away.”


“Oh, I am. I’m actually pretty fucking furious. I feel like the fucking janitor having to clean up after all these gross little asshole children. But that’s a problem for future me to deal with. Or, you know, preferably not at all.”


“So, who’s the unlucky recruit, then?”


“What’dya mean?”


“Well, if you’re not gonna do it, and I’m not gonna do it, then we need to rebuild a Tea Party that can, right?”


Bacchae scratched his nose and thought for a while. “I don’t think so,” he said finally. “If it gets too big, if you let in just any ol’ schmuck that looks like he’d fuck a real estate contract if you let him, well, that’s exactly how you get Malachi.”


He had to pause to wait for Jack to finish wheezing.


“Nah, it’ll be more work, but this new Tea Party’s gonna be a lean, mean, efficient… thing. Just you, me, ehh… maybe one other guy. Three’s a good number.”


“You sound like you’ve got someone in mind.”


“Maybe,” Bacchae shrugged. “We’ll have to see how things play out. But we’ll deal with that…” he checked his wrist as if there was a watch there, “… later.”


Jack shook his head. “Proactive as always, I see. But, I guess we’ve got all the time in the world, eh?”


Bacchae flopped down and let the haze overcome him for a moment, just one. Nothing felt right and everything was doing its best to fuck him over, just as it always was. If Doug had thought that it was a feeling exclusive to him, then he’d been more of a clown than Bacchae had thought.


Nah, that shit was all him, always had been, always would be.


Between you and me, since Bacchae thought that it was a feeling exclusive to him, that made him the biggest clown of all. It was a very… human feeling to have. He’d hate that implication, but luckily for us, he’s in no position to hear our thoughts anymore.


That’s probably for the best, as the one thing we can all agree on is that Discord was the place where that crazy bastard truly belonged.

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