Monday, April 27, 2015

Day Eight-Fifty-Two: Paradise Revisited

Libby awoke in the most comfortable bed she’d ever slept in. It was so comfortable that she wasn’t even sure that she was awake, and when she registered that, yes, she was not currently asleep, she decided to go back to sleep, just because she’d never rested in so plush, so soft, and so marshmallowy a bed. It took her almost an hour to remember that she’d been kidnapped, and even that was not quite enough to dispel her sleepiness.

Not right away, anyway.

Sitting up in bed (a difficult task, given the sheer softness of the thing), Libby wiped the fatigue out of her eyes and looked around. She appeared to be in a white room of substantial size, though aside from the canopy bed (Oh my lords, she thought, it has a canopy) there wasn’t a whole lot to see: a side table, a chair, and a door. The furniture seemed to radiate a subtle glow, as if possessed by fireflies, and everything felt warm to the touch. 

Libby rubbed her head. Ugh. A… dragon… yeah, right, those fuckers… turned on us, and… one grabbed me… Pagan tried to help, but… fuck, where am I?

Grunting, Libby hopped out of bed. She noticed immediately that she was not wearing her usual work boots, as the warmth of the floor felt nice on her toes. She further noticed that she was not wearing her captain’s uniform, nor anything else that might feel familiar. She was, instead, wearing an elegant noblewoman’s dress, made of a satin so delightfully blue that Libby thought she might puke.

The fuck is this? Libby pulled at the sleeves of the dress, half wanting to rip it off. There was not, however, a ready substitute for the dress and she left it where it was. So somebody stripped and re-dressed me? The shit? Why’s everybody always tryin’ ta pull this bull with me?

Growling, Libby stalked across the room, making for the door. She was now more angry than bewildered, and she wanted to confront whomever’d put her through such a disorienting kidnapping and reawakening. She was just beginning to process the list of potential captors as she threw the door to her room open -

- and found herself standing in some sort of paradise. 

Libby’s room - actually a small, glass cabin - appeared to be part of a larger building compound. The remaining buildings were much more opulent: a majestic, almost dainty castle, a low-set but sprawling stable, an open patio filled with chairs and tables, an eatery that smelled good even at a distance, a garage absolutely brimming with tools… more buildings seemed to pop up as Libby wandered slowly along the grounds, each more interesting and tempting than the last. The grounds themselves were also a paradise of sorts, sporting a thin, winding stream, thousands of beautiful flowers, an assortment of inoffensive animals, and pliable grass that crunched deliciously between Libby’s toes.

A puppy ran up to Libby and began licking her ankles. She kicked it away with a scowl, and it vanished into a puff of clouds, evaporating as happily as it had come. 

“Well, shit all over me,” Libby announced rather loudly. “Ain’t this lovely! Ain’t this just fuckin’ lovely! Now, maybe somebody can show himself so we can get this bullcrap over with, ’n I can punch him in the face, ’n I can get outta here!”

“If you want.”

Libby spun. The voice came from behind her, though when she looked there was no one to see. She glared at the absence of life. “Don’t fuck with me. Don’t.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” the voice said. This time it came from Libby’s right, though, surprise surprise, no one was attached. “This ain’t my doing, lady. I’m not that interested in you. Gave you a wedgie, sure, but I was givin’ everybody wedgies back then.”

A wedgie? Libby’s lip curled. She thought back to all the people who had given her a wedgie in her lifetime. There were only two names on the list: her father, once, while they were sawing down trees… and a rampaging, mischievous ghost.

“Philip?” Libby’s fists clenched. “Philip?

The ground in front of Libby bubbled abruptly, and she stepped back. The grass and the plants began to merge and grow, rising up to form feet, legs, arms, a torso, a head, and a familiar guardsman’s cap. He was as ivory as a rat’s eyes when he was fully formed, but it was Philip, no doubt.

“Hey,” Philip said, tossing Libby a small salute. “Been a while. You look healthy. Though I guess anything is healthier than dead, right?”

Taking a quick step, Libby swung her right fist into Philip’s face. The punch passed through his skin as though he was no more substantial than air, and his jaw quickly reformed once Libby was stumbling away. Philip smiled and tutted as Libby gave it another try, delivering an uppercut to his stomach that was no more useful than the first blow. He waggled a finger as Libby stepped away, her face red and angry.

“Sorry, babe, won’t cut it here.” Philip looked to the sky, a rounded, flat bowl with no obvious end in sight. “I ain’t in charge of this particular section of paradise, but I can do enough to keep ya from beating me down. Pretty simple for a dude who’s been a ghost the last four years, am I right?”

Libby stomped the ground, growling loudly. She knew the display was nothing more than posturing, however, and she felt like a sulky teenager by the time she stopped. “Fuck you.”

“Yeah, I get that a lot, these days.” Philip shrugged. His head twitched to one side, abruptly, and he smiled. “Don’t have to worry ‘bout me. I’ve done my job. You have other shit t’worry ‘bout.”

“Oh yeah?” Frustrated, Libby sat down and began picking at the grass, throwing big handfuls of it up into the air. “Do tell, motherfucker. Do tell.

“You’ll see in a moment.”

Twitching again - indeed, all of limbs seemed to be gyrating subtly now, a motion Libby found rather disturbing - Philip sank back into the ground. Libby kicked at the spot where he’d vanished, but the ground didn’t seem to care.

Enraged, Libby continued to pick at the grass, flinging it around the space with gusto. When she cleared one patch, she moved to another. There seemed to be no end to the stuff, and the grass she picked appeared to re-form whenever she turned her back for more than a second. This aggravated Libby enough that picking grass became an obsession, and she spent a good five minutes at the task. If nothing else, the crunch of the grass between her fingers was satisfying…

… though it almost distracted her away from the sound of approaching footsteps. 

“Whaddya want now, asshat?” Libby growled, not bothering to turn. She gathered up a big fistful of grass, determined to throw it in Philip’s face.

“Only to be with you, mom,” a very different voice replied.

Libby stiffened, eyes wide. The grass slipped out of her fingers, forgotten. She couldn’t bring herself to turn around, now, because she knew that voice, she knew it so well, so damned intimately, and she didn’t want anything to do with it. A wide ache opened in Libby’s guts, one she’d constantly had to hide from herself. 

A hand fell on Libby’s right shoulder, then another on her left. “Please look at me, mom. Please.”

Chilled to the core, Libby turned. Grayson was watching her, her Grayson, all shining eyes and shining smiles, as young and trim and beautiful as he’d been when they were living together in Pubton. Before she’d learned that he was a monster. She was so enraptured and horrified by Grayson’s face that Libby didn’t immediately realize the two hands on her shoulders belonged to two different Graysons…

… and that the two Graysons were actually four. Or eight. Or sixteen. Libby quickly lost track as more Graysons joined the throng, emerging from buildings on all sides. They congregated around Libby, all reverentially silent and beaming.

“Welcome home, mom,” the Graysons intoned as one. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”

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