Madelyn picked Steven and I up in her car and took us to her apartment. Her father wasn't home, as she said, so we were in the clear. She led us both to her room, closed the door, and she locked it. She had all the materials we needed on her desk.
"So what's going to happen? Am I going to suffer some sort of divine revelation, or?"
She was being quite sarcastic, but I could tell she was a tad scared.
"No. You are going to face the Dying Man piece inside of you, and... well, things might get ugly. Don't worry though. We will be here to support you. I promise."
I sort of awkwardly put my hand on her shoulder and attempted a smile.
"Uhh... okay. Well, that'll be a change of pace... haven't seen the... 'thing' in a while..."
"Whoa whoa whoa.... what do you mean?"
"The Dying Man thing or whatever. She's disappeared."
"Yeah, she... I think they were a she, anyway. And she hasn't really bothered me... I don't know why."
"That's peculiar. She may just be biding her time. Whatever, that doesn't change anything, so don't worry."
Madelyn frowned at me.
"Owen, it's impossible to not worry about this. Let's just get it over with..."
"Yeah... okay, here we go..."
I looked at Steven and nodded my head. He nodded too and we started. We set up everything we needed. When it was time, Madelyn handed me the final piece to her ritual.
"Are you sure this is it?"
"It has to be. It's all she would talk about for a week..."
I held the mirror in my hand and looked into its reflection. A strange, peculiar feeling washed over me. I decided that yes, it had to be it. I put it down at Madelyn's feet while she sat in her chair.
I looked up at her.
"Are you ready?"
"Just get it the fuck over with, dude..."
"Damn Owen, you heard that, let's get started then."
I got up, grabbed Steven's hand, and then held my hand at the center of Madelyn's chest.
We both dropped straight into some place that was not the River, and just by that I knew; something was up. Steven and I floated down and touched ground in some abandoned courtyard, surrounded by ornate columns and stone benches. Above us, a blood red harvest moon.
"...Where the fuck are we, Rome?"
"I have no clue, but be on your toes..."
I motioned for him to follow me. We found an entrance to a hallway into an ancient building. The hallway was dark as hell. There were slots for torches, but the torches that were in them were quite unlit. We bumped around in the dark until we saw a bright entrance deep into the hallway. We followed the light and emerged in a giant atrium, lit by a giant torch built into the floor of the room. The warmth from the blaze met us as we walked around it carefully.
"This is so weird..."
"Tell me about it. I've never seen anything like this."
There were four entrances in the atrium. We could go three different ways. I noticed symbols above each door. One particular symbol caught my eye... a tear drop, but colored in red.
"I think we should go this way."
"Does it matter, they're all spooky as hell."
I grinned half-heartedly. We went into the new hallway. It snaked its way for quite a while. In this hallway, there were torches. Because of this, we noticed the murals along the walls. I tried to ignore them, but every other glance revealed something interesting.
There were a lot of images and symbols for blood. From more of the bloody tear drops to bath tubs full of it. There were also wiry lines of red that resembled veins and arteries. There were more of these particular symbols the closer we got to the end of the hallway.
At the very end of the hallway, only the veins and arteries remained on the walls, and they all led to the door, which was a scarlet red color with a golden door knob. I reached for the door knob, but I could not make myself grab it. I felt my blood run cold and I could not move anything in my body. I heard, on the other side of the door, a woman softly singing.
At that moment, my body wanted to be miles upon miles away from that singing.
I forced my hand around the knob, and I opened the door. I looked inside, and upon a red throne sat a beautiful woman in white robes, with her legs crossed. She had dark, curly brown hair and she had golden bracelets and large triangular earrings. She was, admittedly, seductively dressed. She was honestly the most beautiful woman I've ever seen in my life.
But then she opened her eyes, and a scarlet glare fell over us. I fell to my knees and I could not stop shivering. She smiled.
"Good evening, love. What's the sorry face for?"
"Wh-what are you?"
She smirked, picked herself up from the throne, and approached us.
"I'm eternal, I'm powerful, I'm gorgeous, and above all, I'm lovely! What are you, human?"
Steven gulped and spoke up.
"Scared, alone, and kind of nervous, to be honest."
"Ha! I like the honesty."
I tried to get up off of my knees. I could not. It was not allowed.
"Personally, I'm curious."
"Curiosity is one of humanity's greatest assets! It's so beautiful. I've watched it grow over thousands of years and honestly, it never gets old to watch some little pitiful creature question how the universe works. What are you curious of at the moment? Why your limbs refuse to budge? Where you are? Who I am? Go on, tell me!"
"Well, first things first, what are you?"
"Smart human. Well..."
She walked back to her throne. She raised her right hand, and we were suddenly standing up. Two stone chairs rose up from the ground, and we fell into them.
"If you'd like to know what others call me... The Red Cap. But if you want to know the full story of what I actually am, what no name could accurate describe... well. This might take a while. Make yourselves comfortable!"
The atmosphere changed. I was still uneasy, but it was clear she meant no ill harm to us. At that moment, at least.
"Sooo... what does it start with... did it start with him? I guess it did. Well, our master, dear old fellow he is, arrived onto the planet quite some time ago.... for undisclosed reasons, might I add."
"Master? Who's that-"
"Hush. Don't interrupt me, dear. He arrived. and he discovered humanity, in all of its wondrous beauty. He was so transfixed by humanity's capacity for fear. He studied it, preyed upon it. Eventually, he learned how to manipulate fear. From there, it was only a matter of time before he could take humanity's fear and manipulate it into a material form. That's how the Memetim was born."
She yawned and stretched in her seat.
"I apologize; yacking on about the past gets me so tired sometimes! The Memetim surpassed all of my master's expectations. He was unprepared to deal with such a creature. So, in order to preserve the human race and the planet's future, he destroyed his own creation. The Memetim was obliterated, shattered into hundreds of pieces that scattered throughout the world."
Images began to pop into my head. Images that I could not make any sense of. They morphed into shots of a projectile crashing into an isolated valley. Smoke rose up from the blast radius. A red glow emanated from the crater. Zoomed in to see the silhouette of a woman yawning within the smoke.
"That's me! Wasn't I beautiful even then? Of course, I didn't actually have any physical form, that's just an artistic representation; I was not strong enough yet! I was a widdle babby!"
Thousands of years passed by in a blink of an eye. A structure was built upon the crater. The structure resembled the temple we were inside at that very moment. A young girl, around my age, sat in a courtyard. She had black curly hair, dark skin, and her eyes were a beautiful brown. She sat alone, singing softly to herself.
"She deserved better. I wish she wasn't the first. She was so innocent. But it had to be her."
She stopped singing. She shivered in her spot. She looked at where I spiritually watched from and I could see tears in her eyes.
"It took a single week for me to take her over. Soon, I had the entire temple under control. I used her to command them, lead them, guide them. I became their prized possession, and also their fearless leader. Everyone loved me, everyone wanted me, and everyone served me. I was content with just them. For the first decade, anyway."
The young girl, now controlled by the Red Cap, sat in a stone throne. She had the same smirk as she does in the present. But days passed by, and the smirk faded. She watched from top of the valley.
"I wanted more. But the body I was in... it was far too old to be useful to me. So, I decided to cast it aside in the city. I found a man who told me to call him Dionysus. I seduced him. I took him. I became him."
I saw her wear the skin of this man. He sat on a city corner, and his eyes seemed like a lion's, searching for his next prey.
"I took it upon myself to build up another family. Humans... they fall so easily into temptation. They have no self control! I could restrain myself centuries upon centuries, waiting to taste the human soul, and yet humans... they can hardly stand waiting at all! It's amusing, and yet so easy to manipulate if one knew how to. This man that I took the guise of was only the first. I traveled far and wide, and I studied what made humans wanted. What they lusted after. What they needed more than anything. I am a God, built upon the basis that humans cannot control themselves."
She smirked at us yet again. She tapped her long fingernails against her throne. She looked to the side of her throne, grabbed a bowl of grapes, and feasted upon them in front of us. She kept her eyes fixed on us as she bit into them.When she was done with one branch of grapes, she licked her fingers, put the bowl aside, and walked towards me slowly.
"Let's take a break..."
She began to slowly pull her robes off. As she did this, the throne room melted away. We were now on the shores of a giant ocean. The ocean, instead of dirty blue water, had either entirely scarlet water, or it was actually blood. Her robes fell onto the white sand behind her. I looked around for Steven, but he wasn't there; I was alone. I tried to avert my gaze from her.
She stood in front of me, inches away. I could see her smile in the edges of my vision.
"Stop that. I'm not going to hurt you, foolish boy."
She took my head and kissed me upon the forehead. I felt all my defenses vanish. My arms fell loose at my sides and I stared into her eyes. I felt my inhibitions slowly disappear. I was so goddamn scared.
"You like this. When was the last time someone truly hugged you, anyway? You want this. When was the last time someone really loved you, anyway? You need this. Come on, admit it...."
She embraced me. I felt comfort. And unease. All at the same time. She whispered against my neck.
"We could just take a break... no one would know. Wouldn't that be lovely? Right here, on the sands of oblivion... I know you're a virgin, honey. I can show you things. Or we could just hold each other, for eternity. I'd permit that. I'd allow anything to erase everything that painful woman did to you. She's no mother... She's not anything to you anymore. I can be everything, anything, to you."
She kissed my neck. I was shaking.
"What did you say?"
She put her hands on my cheeks gently. She pulled herself closer to me so that her body pressed against mine. I tried to squirm away but I could not.
"Are you telling me no? Oh honey... tsk, tsk, tsk... she's hurt you so deeply you refuse affection from anyone now. You've closed your heart to me... I cannot help you."
I felt something disconnect in my chest. Something rushed up my throat and suddenly I was spitting up blood.
"Wh-what's ha... aghghh..."
I felt so faint. Blood rushed up from inside of my chest. A deep pain resonated inside of me. I spat up blood everywhere. The Red Cap smiled in my face.
"I'm only doing this because I love you, sweetheart."
She kissed my cheek as she slowly put her hand around my throat.
I woke up. It was as if she had never moved from her spot. She was still feasting upon her grapes. She put aside the bowl and smirked at us.
"Are you two alright? You both seem so pale!"
I looked at Steven. He was sweating and breathing frantically, just as I was. He looked at me. He mouthed the words "Fucking monster" to me.
"Oh well.... where should I start again... let's retrace our steps. Do you boys know what's so special about me? Well, I'll tell you: I'm a mommy, and you both have met my dear sons!"
She cheerily smiled at us. I felt my stomach churn.
"No... that isn't possible... I created him. I created him through the Fear Mythos."
She shook her head.
"No, boy; you were used to create this universe, you did not create something as complex and beautiful as my son. When the Memetim was split, many of the pieces did not survive their impacts upon the earth. They dissipated, and their energies filtered out into humanity. Some of the pieces were recycled by my master to create new creatures. The other pieces... they survived impact, feasted upon humans, and grew in size. Most of the pieces that grew in size did not do what I did, but some of them, including me, desired to... divide, and discover. It could be compared to the same rush of ego a human gets when they pass their genes upon their offspring. So I did so, and I sent my sons out into the world. My firstborn, is the one you call... Grey, right?"
I could not believe it. Except of course I could, because now it all made sense. But if that was the case....
"Then... how did Grey end up in a pocketwatch?"
"I'm not as polite as my other son would lead you to believe! I don't owe you any answers for that. Besides, that isn't my business; that's the master's business. Now, you're up to speed. How does that feel?"
I felt her control release us. I fell to the ground. Steven did a second later as well. We looked up at the Red Cap. She seemed pleased.
"That should've taken long enough."
I got up.
"What do you mean?"
"What do you think I mean? Did you think I'd chat with you forever just on a whim?"
She snapped her fingers, and I heard some guzzling noise at the corners of the room. I looked at each corner, and I noticed that on the floor, there were these drains. The drains began to spit up what resembled blood... but it was a bit too dark to be entirely blood. It was a part of the Red Cap.
It slowly inched toward us. I ran to the door and tried to open it. The door disappeared.
"Let us out!!"
Steven ran over to the Red Cap in order to hit her but she took him by the neck and threw him at the wall. He hit it with enough force to crack it. He fell to the floor. I ran over to him. The liquid switched direction and slithered toward us.
"This is so sad. You two were so brave! I've watched you both for weeks, and it wast just so fun watching humans try to gain control. You thought you had it all under control. Even when I led you right to my son and let you take him. Even when I smirked at you as Madelyn. You two are both so gullible it's pitiful. And she thought you would notice if she weren't herself! Either she was wrong, or I'm an amazing act-"
"So you've been using her this entire time. I knew something was wrong..."
"Don't make me laugh. You didn't know anything. You played right into it."
The liquid turned into some solid form and grabbed onto my ankle. It twisted around it and traveled up my leg. I tried to kick it off but it constricted around my leg and refused to budge.
"So where's Madelyn now, huh!?"
I felt panic completely break through the restraint of sowing season and take hold of me. I frantically fought against the substance. The Red Cap laughed.
"I think I've done enough yacking for today. Good night, sleep tight, little ones!"
She turned away from us and she almost left out through the throne room door. But... Steven got up, and despite his obvious pain, he screamed at her to stop right there.
She did, but she did not turn around immediately. She slowly turned around as Steven got up. Then I noticed the bloody substance was evaporating. I felt the scenery melt a little. Everything became blurry. I suddenly knew, and I prepared myself-
Steven initiated a William Tell. The Red Cap and him disappeared into a vortex. I held on tight to the reality of the domain. Luckily, I was not dragged along.
I immediately felt bad for my decision. Steven was alone in there with some monster. He could be suffering through anything. But... I had to stay behind so I could find a way out and stop sowing season. Everything was different then Steven and I; Madelyn was completely taken over. I thought it was too late for her. So I had to stop her on the outside.
For the next five minutes, I had to concentrate on ending the ritual. It was especially hard to do, considering I had no idea how to halt it without any results. In the end, I ended up escaping Madelyn's body. I was pushed out and I ended up in an entirely different setting then where we were before.
We were in my goddamn house somehow. And she had the shoebox. The one with Grey inside of it.
"How'd you find that?"
She ignored me. She opened up the shoe box and reached for the mask. I grabbed her from behind and tried to pull her away before she could take it. She stomped my leg and tripped me. I fell against my radiator. She grabbed the mask. I tried to tackle her but someone grabbed me from behind.
It was the Ghoul, in complete physical form. He had been hiding in my closet.
"Hello there. It's been a while."
"HOW DID YOU GET THE NECKLACE-"
The Ghoul smashed my stomach. It hurt so bad that I keeled over. I fell to the floor. He stomped my head so hard the floorboard underneath me splintered.
Madelyn tossed the mask to the Ghoul. He caught it.
The Ghoul left my room. I tried to cry out to my family to watch out.
Madelyn, or fuck, the Red Cap, sat down on my bed. She had no smirk. She studied me.
"How's it feel to lose completely, hm?"
"Where's... where's my family..."
"Why do you care?"
"They're my family..."
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Poor little Owen...."
She grabbed me by the shirt collar and lifted me up a bit just off the ground.
"I feel so bad for you. All that effort an-"
Her eyes widened. She let go of me and turned to look at my door way.
The old man, Norman, stood there.
"You're not Madelyn."
Norman pulled out a taser and unleashed it on her. She screamed and crashed in a heap to the floor. She rolled about as it electrocuted her. She became still.
Norman walked up to her. He shook his head, then looked at me.
"Are you alright?"
"That is alright. Stay down. I will handle the rest."
He sat down upon my bed. He waited. Around two minutes later, Steven appeared out of nowhere beside Madelyn on the floor. He was bloody and bruised up everywhere.
He touched her face. She slowly opened her eyes.
Norman pulled a gun out and held it to her head.
"But... she's fine, I took care of it..., she's fine, please stop pointing that gun at my friend!"
"Steven, it's okay... it's okay..."
Madelyn wasn't all together there, even if the Red Cap was gone. What ended up happening was, Norman forced Steven and I to leave my own room. It was sort of awkward, because there's no goddamn door on my room, so we had to go downstairs. He called us back up there later. Madelyn was in my bed. Beside her, the mirror, which was now cracked in a certain spot.
"She's okay now, but she has to take it easy. Steven, you cleared that spirit out of Madelyn-"
"No... no I didn't. She left. On her own. I wasn't strong enough to beat her..."
"Ah, well, that is no surprise."
I looked at him curiously.
"How the hell did you find us here? How did you know what was going on?"
Steven looked at me.
"That's my bad. I told him to be on the look out for us. I guess he saw some suspicious activity and decided to step in."
"Which you are lucky I did."
The old man picked up the mirror and went out my door. He turned to me.
"Owen...you realize that by doing this you've messed things up quite a bit? What did you expect to happen if you casually attempted to play God like this? I don't appreciate this at all. Next time, I might not be around to clean up any messes. I don't know who taught you that ritual, but do not use it again; it brings nothing but trouble upon those who use it."
He left after saying that. I couldn't respond even if I had the time to. I felt... so horrible. Steven's banged up to hell, Madelyn's hurt so much (SHE GOT FUCKING TASED), and...
Grey and the Ghoul are at large. Not only that, there's someone above even the Red Cap.
What have I done?