Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Arkady’s long winded monologue didn’t help us with getting off that floor. There didn’t seem to be an end everywhere. Even with rest breaks, the walking was wearing Sky and Me down.

Adrenaline quickly replaced that exhaustion when Sky froze and said, “We need to get out of here.” She didn’t go into specifics, but it wasn’t hard to infer what she was talking about. It had been dark inside the building ever since the storm clouds came in. But now the shadows were becoming darker, and growing longer. It looked like they were moving, slowly covering the room in a wall of blackness. Arkady grabbed a paperweight from a desk and tossed it into the shadows. I waited for the sound of it hitting the ground, but there was nothing. Like it had just disappeared.

A: “Well, that certainly doesn’t look like a friendly development.”

We ran to the window, where there was more light. The shadows continued spreading toward us, leaving everything in darkness. I tried being rational, telling myself that it was just darkness, that it couldn’t hurt me, but that was a failure at reassurance. Normal darkness does not move on its own. Nor does it swallow up all light around it like a black hole.

Further down, the window was broken by a tree that had grown through it. Arkady ran over to check it out, and said we could climb it to another floor. I was strongly against that idea, because climbing up the side of a skyscraper is a terrible plan. But I didn’t get a chance to argue for long; Sky was so panicked by the darkness that she practically jumped through the window and started climbing up as fast as she could. I had to climb after he, and Arkady quickly followed me.

This was one of those times where I hate being right, because climbing that tree was a horrible idea. The storm was worse than it had looked from the inside. The black rain was coming down so hard it was difficult to breathe without swallowing it, and the wind felt like it was trying to blow me off. At least there was too much fog below us for me to see how high up we were. The tree grew along the side of the building for two floors before a large branch had torn another hole in the windows, which was where I presumed Sky was climbing toward. I’m no climber, but I was too busy being terrified that something would happen to Sky to worry about that.

We had almost reached the broken window when things got worse. The bark on the trees began to shift so it looked like it was covered in faces. The faces opened their mouths, and let out a horrible scream. I froze up with fear, but they must have caused Sky to let go, because I saw her falling past me a moment later. I looked down just as Arkady lunged to catch her. He did manage to grab her hand, but then he fell as well, and they both disappeared into the fog.

It was difficult to see while hanging off the side of the tree, so I climbed the last few feet through the broken window, and started looking for them once I was on solid ground. I don’t know what I was looking for, really. I’d seen them fall, and it was impossible to look through the fog. And I thought, that was it. This is how I lose her. Not taken by the Boss, not killed by Arkady, she just falls to her death. And I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

As I was thinking that, a hand came out of the fog, grabbing onto a branch. Arkady pulled himself out of the fog, with Sky hanging onto his back. He must have caught onto something below the fog, and started climbing back up. With Sky, it was taking him much longer to climb. But he was still doing it, slowly regaining ground.

Once again, things got worse when he neared the top. The faces on the tree stopped screaming, and instead started biting, viciously tearing into Arkady’s hands. For a moment I thought he was going to fall, but he kept coming, even as they drew blood. When he got near the window, I grabbed Sky, and pulled her inside. Arkady started to come in as well, but all the blood on his hands caused his grip to slip, and he started falling.

If I’m going to be honest, I have to say that I was completely willing to let him fall. It would have solved a lot of our problems. (Aw, nice to see you care so much. –Arkady) Sky, however, seems more forgiving than me. As soon as Arkady started to fall, she grabbed his arm. And since Sky is a small, malnourished girl, and Arkady is a huge, muscular guy, there was no way she could pull him up. So long as she kept holding on, she was going to get dragged back down. There was no way I was letting her fall again, so I grabbed Arkady’s other arm, and helped pull him back up. I really hope that bit of mercy doesn’t come back to bite us later.

This floor seems normal. Compared to the last one, that is. It still looks like a hybrid swamp/corporate office, but it’s regular sized, and the shadows aren’t trying to kill us. Now we only have to deal with the fact that most of us feel like we are about to collapse with exhaustion and sleep for a few weeks.

Good night.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

We slept for the “night” in the stairwell, until I was woken up by what sounded like someone doing pushups. When I opened my eyes, yes, Arkady was doing pushups. After watching him for a while, Sky tried imitating him, but couldn’t do a single one. She looked really upset about that, until I told her that I probably couldn’t do any either. Being a desk slave doesn’t help with fitness. Instead, we just ate a small breakfast while Arkady finished up his workout.

A: “Alright. Let’s get moving.”

I’d been hoping he would take longer. The more time we spend down here, the longer before we reach the top. And I don’t want to think about what’s going to happen when we get there.

My concern made me drift off as I tried thinking of a solution, so I didn’t realize anything was wrong until Arkady stopped walking.

A: “Well. This is weird.”

It took me a moment to notice what he was talking about. And when I saw it…. The stairs we were walking on were going sideways. And when I looked up, the stairway continued to twist around at impossible angles. Imagine an Escher painting, but without the limitations of a 2D image.

A: “Kid, you getting any feeling that everything’s about to explode at us?”

*Sky shook her head*

A: “Hm. I still don’t like this. We’re getting off the stairs.”

We went through the next door out of the stairwell. I tried to check the floor number, but couldn’t make it out; the numbers painted over the door just looked like a white blur. We went through the door, and found the floor on the other side to be far larger than any room in the building should have been. Rows of cubicles stretched on and on, seemingly past the horizon.

A: “Looks like it’ll take a while to walk through here….”

That was certainly true. We walked for hours, without any indication that we were getting closer to the end. After a while, my legs started cramping up. Endurance is not something I am built for. But I knew there was no way Arkady would be willing to stop.

Sky was having similar problems, and she actually collapsed from the pace we were going. Without a word, Arkady picked her up and started to carry her. She seemed frightened at first, but soon calmed down. For the time, at least.

D: “You really are in a rush to get out of here.”

A: “Of course. We need to get to the top of this building as soon as possible so I can kill this kid.”

That set Sky into a panic, and she pulled out of Arkady’s arms, falling onto the ground. Arkady just laughed at her as she crawled behind a desk, like it was a joke.

D: “What the hell? Why did you do that?”

A: “Because it was fun?”

D: “You really hate us so much that you’re willing to mess with her head just for fun?”

*Arkady seemed genuinely taken aback by what I’d said.*

A: “That’s ridiculous. I don’t hate either of you.”

D: “You keep talking about killing us both!”

A: “And? I’m going to kill you two because I feel like it, and it might forward my goals. I certainly don’t hate you. At most, I’d say I feel mild disgust towards you. And even then, it’s nothing personal. It’s just because you’re proxies.”

D: “So that’s it. You’re disgusted with us so you think it’s okay to just wholesale slaughter every one of us.”

A: “Whether or not it’s okay doesn’t factor into it. I kill proxies because I feel like doing so.”

D: “That’s not a real reason!”

A: “Isn’t it? Why do people climb mountains? Because they’re there. Why do I fight the Slender Man? Because he’s there.”

D: “No. That can’t be it. Dozens of people are dead because of you. You can’t have done all that just because you felt like it.”

A: “Can’t I have?” *He pulled a chair from a desk, and took a seat.* “Tell me writer girl, what are you?”

D: “What?”

A: “Okay, easier question. What am I?”

D: “You’re a sociopathic murderous monster who-”

A: “Wrong. I’m a collection of subatomic particles undergoing a continuous process of chemical reactions which, as a result of entropy, will eventually break apart.”

D: “What does that have to do with-”

A: “Everything.” *He stood up and started pacing, making me wonder why he’d gotten the chair in the first place. Sky peeked out from behind the desk to watch.* “Everything decays. Everything dies. You, me, the girl? All of us, dead. The time in which we are alive is barely a blip on the timeline of the universe. And once we are dead, everything we have done is for naught.”

D: “Oh come on, you’re being dramatic. People don’t just vanish when they die. They leave an impact on the world. They still did things, there’s still people who remember them.”

A: “They’ll die too. And all your accomplishments will weather away like dust.” *A laugh.* “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings/Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” *He sat back in the chair* “Even after all the things I have done, you think it will matter in the end? I could become the most famous, most accomplished human in the world. And none of it would matter. In 3 billion years, the rising temperature of the sun will have rendered Earth unsuitable for habitation. In 4 billion years, the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with the Milky Way. In 3x10^43 years, all stars will have died, leaving only black holes. And in a nearly immeasurable time after that, those black holes will die as well, leaving only subatomic particles. And then even those particles will decay. In the end, there will be nothing. Nothing at all. In the end, no matter what you do, it will turn out the same. Your life, this little adventure in the tower, even the Slender Man’s millennia of work… all of it will be rendered pointless. There have been eternities where humanity did not exist; and when it is done for again, nothing will have happened.”

D: “That’s… a really depressing way to look at things.”

A: “No. Wrong. It’s not depressing.” *He smiled, showing way too many teeth.* “It’s liberating.”
*Arkady stood back up, and resumed pacing.*
A: “People are always so obsessed with death, acting as if their whole lives revolved around it, almost like they worship it! They worry about how they will be remembered after death, they fear things that might cause death, they build entire religions around what they want to happen after they die! And for what? We’ll die. We are doomed to death from the moment we are born. There’s nothing we can do about it. So why worry about the inevitable?” *He stopped pacing.* “God is the pain of the fear of death. He who will conquer pain and terror will himself become a god.”
*He looked at Sky and me for a few moments, as if expecting a response, and then frowned.*

A: “Neither of you have read Dostoevsky, have you.”

D: “No….”

A: “Never mind then.” *Started pacing again* “In the end, the realization that none of your actions matter is true liberation There is no greater calling in life. No invisible force of morality and justice given to us from on high. The only thing in your life which matters to you…” *He stopped, and looked directly at Sky* “… is yourself. You are the medium through which all your experiences are filtered. You are the one who determines what is right and wrong. You determine what your purpose is. Not a god. Not a master. Only you.”

D: “That’s ridiculous. Philosophies which preach selfishness are inherently self-destructive. It’s the reason things like Social Darwinism don’t work. The strength of humanity has always been cooperation, achieving greatness from working together, not individuals acting solely in their self-interests.”

A: “Humanity can burn for all I care. Trying to improve their condition is as pointless as any other endeavor.”

D: “That’s… that’s just… that’s impossible to argue with. You’ve declared any other goal except for your own as meaningless, preemptively blocking any attempt to argue.”

A: “Yes. Hence its genius.”

D: “It’s not genius, it’s pseudo-philosophy. And it’s still a big jump from ‘Life has no meaning you should do what you want’ to ‘I am going to kill an eldritch god.’ Under your reasoning, the best thing any of us could do would probably be to stay home all day and eat ice cream until we died.”

A: “That is one conclusion that could be drawn. It’s the one most people seem to reach. But it’s just so… boring. With the limitations of slave morality and death worship thrown aside, what should I do? Dedicate myself to nihilistic hedonism to satisfy fleeting physical urges? No.”

*He walked toward the windows and looked outside, where the storm was still raging outside*

A: “Why waste my time on such a petty action when I could become something more? When I could become something greater?” *He turned back toward us, as red lightning flashed behind him* “Throughout history, conflict has been the force which has driven humans to rise up. When two ideas clash, only one can survive. To win, they must adapt and grow. The greater the obstacle, the greater the growth.” *He clenched a fist, and raised it to his face.* “So what did I choose for my opponent? My great obstacle? I chose the greatest conflict. I chose to battle a God. I will throw everything I have into his destruction. My purpose shall become the end of him and everything he has created. I will plunge the entire Earth into fire if I must. And in the end, only one of us can be left standing. If I win, then I will have become like a god myself. And if I lose… well, then I’ll be dead. When it’s all done, it makes no difference.”
*He raised both his hands up.*
“For believe me! — the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! Live at war with your peers and yourselves! Be robbers and conquerors as long as you cannot be rulers and possessors, you seekers of knowledge! Soon the age will be past when you could be content to live hidden in forests like shy deer! At long last the search for knowledge will reach out for its due: — it will want to rule and possess, and you with it!”

Then he just started laughing, unlike any laughter I’d heard before. It was insane, but not like the wild cackling of some crazy proxy. This madness wasn’t some out of control fire. It was like steel. Cold, hard, and completely under his control.

The Boss terrifies me. He’s an unknowable mystery, and I fear him for it. But when I watched Arkady laughing in front of the storm, I felt a different kind of terror, that might almost be as strong. Because the Boss is a monster. He’s supposed to be like he is. But Arkady’s a human. And yet, in spite of that, I have no doubt that he would burn the entire world down if it was in his way and he had the means to do so. He would kill us all on a whim, and it would have no greater emotional impact on him than any of us would feel stepping on an ant. And that scares me more than anything I’ve ever encountered before.

Monday, August 5, 2013

After we got to the stairs, Arkady said we should stop so Sky and I could rest. Though I suspect it was really more for his own sake, given how much he was bleeding. (Lies and slander. –Arkady) The stairways seem to be the least changed part of the building, making them the safest place to rest. “Safe” being a bit relative, now that the clouds are blocking the sun, and the only outside light is from the occasional lightning bolt. If Arkady didn’t have a flashlight, I don’t doubt I would have tripped on the stairs, and probably broken my neck.

When we stopped on a landing to rest, Arkady started bandaging himself, giving me the chance to talk to Sky. She was staring at Arkady, with a blank expression and her head tilted slightly to the side. I don’t think she noticed me when I came over, because she jumped a little when I tapped her shoulder.

D: “You okay?”

S: “Yes….” *She started rubbing her wrists, where the branches had grabbed her.*

D: “Don’t worry. We won’t let you be taken away.”

S: “… You won’t?”

D: “No. I’ll get you out of here.”

*She leaned her head against me, and I put my arm around her. That was the first chance I got to really look at her hair after Arkady had cut it off. It looked as messy and uneven as you would expect from being hastily cut by a knife. Although, considering how much of a mess her hair usually was, it actually was a bit of an improvement.*

D: “You know, I think you actually look good with short hair.”

*I wasn’t expecting that comment to cause her as much excitement as it did.*

S: “Really? You think so? You really really think so?”

D: “Well… yeah. I mean, if I had a pair of scissors so I could even it out….”

*Arkady looked over at us, and I realized he’d been listeing.*

A: “Seriously? We’re in an office building and you don’t think you can get scissors?”

*He walked out of the stairwell. A few moments later, he came back in a threw a pair of scissors at my feet.*

A: “There. Have fun.”

D: “… Are you seriously letting your prisoners have scissors?”

A: “If you’re confident enough in your abilities that you think you can take me on with them, go right ahead. I’ll look forward to it.”

*Lightning flashed at that moment, illuminating his smile with red light. That convinced me that attacking him with a tiny pair of scissors would be a very, very bad idea. Instead, I took them and started cutting Sky’s hair as best I could.*

D: “Sorry if I’m not very good. I don’t really have much practice.”

S: “That’s okay.” *Giggles* “It’s been a long time since someone cut my hair for me.”

D: “How have you been getting it cut then?”

S: “I did it myself with a mirror.”

D: “… Alright, I want you to know that I really don’t mean this as an insult in any way, but that explains a lot about your appearance.”

S: *More giggling* “I know, I was really bad at it.”

D: “Who was it that cut your hair before?”

S: “Oh, it was-” *She froze up. I panicked for a moment, then I realized she had started crying.*

D: “Sorry, I shouldn’t have asked-”

S: “I don’t like this place. I don’t like being able to remember. I want to leave.”

D: “I know. So do I. We’ll get out of here. Just wait a little more.”

The rest of the haircut passed in silence. When I was done, the result… well, it wasn’t great. I haven’t actually cut someone else’s hair since I was in high school. But it didn’t look bad.

D: “All done. What do you think?”

*Sky felt her hair, but neither of us had a mirror.*

S: “Does it look good?”

D: “You look great.”

*That stopped the tears, and brought a smile back. Then she looked at Arkady, who had finished his first aid and was standing back up.*

A: “Good. It will be harder for something to grab you now.”

*Seeing how long and unruly his hair was, I couldn’t help but call out that bit of hypocrisy.*

D: “If that’s the case, maybe I should give you a haircut as well?”

A: *Rolled his eyes* “Yeah, whatever, Mom.”

D: “You’re an ass.”

A: “That is something I have never denied.”

*Before I could reply, Sky gave me a hug.*

S: “Thanks for the haircut, Mom.”

I can’t say I like being called Mom, but at least Sky meant it as an endearment. And when she said that, it made me realize something. She’s the only person I have left. Everyone else… they’re all dead. Everyone except her. I can’t let anything happen to her as well.

And for those watching from home, yes, I did take the scissors away from the girls after they were done with their makeover stuff. While I am certain that neither would be capable of killing me and escaping with them, I’m not going to be an idiot about the whole thing and let them walk around all the time with pointy stabbing objects. -Arkady