Disclaimer: Not mine. DC's. It's probably a good thing they're not mine, either, seeing as I'm being so evil to them.


Poisonous Melodies


It started when they slaughtered my parents. How could it not?

You see, once upon a time there was a nice, happy town called Keystone City and some nasty criminals that wanted to take it over. Problem was, Keystone was protected by a big hero type called the Flash. The nasty criminals were afraid of the Flash, but they were even more afraid of the fact that he had powerful friends that he could call on at a moment's notice. A few seconds at the most. He was, after all, the fastest man alive.

So the nasty criminals had a problem. They were pretty sure they could take on the Flash alone, but not when he had a bunch of his friends backing him up. They needed a solution. And what was the wonderful, innovative idea they came up with?

Get rid of the friends.

Oh, not by killing them. That'd be too obvious, and the Flash would start getting suspicious before they could put their big, awful plan into practice. They started getting rid of them in subtle ways. Clever ways. A family emergency here, a business problem there... And then there was me. A former criminal; so why not go for the obvious and do a frame-up? That was clever. That was subtle. That was doable.

The nasty criminals thought and thought. What would it be? A robbery? Assault charges? Nah. Something more. You see, the nasty criminals didn't really like me very much. And they didn't much care about what happened to me.

Or to my family. So they killed them. Slaughtered them, in fact. And then, because that wasn't quite enough, they grabbed me in the dark of night, and they strapped me down, and they used some cool little hypnotic mirrors to make me think I did it.

Do you know what it looks like when you kill someone with sound? It's really quite interesting. See, a sonic gun doesn't work like a normal gun. It doesn't kill from the outside in. A sonic gun works by vibration. Every substance on earth, you see, has its own unique frequency. If you can match that frequency, you'll interfere with the substance's structure, and it'll break apart. Ever seen an opera singer reach a pitch so high they can shatter glass? That's the same principle. Vibrational frequency. That's how a sonic weapon works. It finds the frequency on something like... say, your bones. Then it shakes them and shakes them, until they break apart inside of you. Splinter and shatter until you're a broken rag doll. If that's not enough? No problem! Just alter the frequency to something else. Blood, for instance. Ever seen someone's blood boil? Or maybe the heart. People are always going on about broken hearts. Maybe you could even make someone's brain explode, literally. The possibilities are endless. Not really very pleasant, granted. But endless.

Anyway, getting back to the story. They strapped me down and they told me I'd killed my parents with my trusty sonic weapon. They let my own brain fill in the details on what that might have involved. I have to tell you, I never realised I had such a vivid imagination. Then they set me free into the world, planted some useful incriminating evidence, and waited for me to be arrested. And of course I was, soon enough, and I certainly couldn't dispute the idea. After all, even if my heart was screaming that something was really wrong here, there were all these nasty memories sitting in my brain, so it had to be true, right?

Hmm... So. Parents dead. Arrested. Prison. Hideous memories. Did I forget anything? Ahh, right. A warden who wanted nothing more than to see me crawl. That was fun, let me tell you. Daily beatings. Solitary confinement. Wonderful paranoia-inducing drugs in the infirmary. Iron Heights penitentiary was a damn crappy place, all in all. That's pretty much why I broke out.

People are always going on about how Iron Heights is completely inescapable. Pfft. Personally, I think that kind of talk's put out by guys who haven't been tortured enough to really want to get out. Just try having your broken arm pinned behind you while someone grinds you into the cement floor. That'll make you find an escape route pretty damn quick.

Worked for me, anyway. I got out, ran like hell, and found James Jesse, the former Trickster, now FBI agent who, after a bit of understandable misunderstanding, offered me a government job taking down nasty criminals just like the ones that did all of that stuff to me. And how could I say no to that? They gave me money, an apartment, and a guarantee that I wouldn't be put back in Iron Hell. Everything was great.

Except it wasn't, because there were still the memories.

Ever had nightmares? Ever had nightmares every night? Ever had nightmares where you butcher your parents from the inside out and then wake up and realise they're actually memories? Ever have flashbacks where you're tied to a chair having the living shit beaten out of you? Ever had to run to the bathroom to vomit up the contents of your stomach when someone drops a nice red bottle of ketchup on the floor? Wouldn't it just drive you mad?

It would. It did. They offered me therapists. My parents had offered me therapists when I was a kid. They wanted them to 'fix' me, make me a nice obedient little child who'd stop being such a rebellious disappointment. Maybe if they had, my parents wouldn't be dead. There's a cheerful thought. I didn't want the therapists then, though. And I couldn't stand them now. I didn't want to talk about my problems, I wanted them to go away!

How to do that, though? That was the question. Most people, they want to lose themselves, they disappear into a bottle. Or a handful of pills, or a needle, there's a million drugs out there that can do the job. I thought about that, I really did. But then I realised that the answer had been staring me in the face the whole time. 'Cause I didn't need drugs. I had music.

Nope, this isn't going to be a big tract about the therapy of song. I don't play nice, normal songs. My songs are anything but normal. See, the nasty old criminals that did bad things to my head weren't the only people who knew things about hypnotism. I've been an old hand at it for ages. It was the whole gimmick behind my former villianry, in fact. I was the Pied Piper. When I played, people followed. People did what I said. I said "jump". They said "how high?" I could compose a tune to make people do anything, make people believe anything. So why couldn't I just do the same thing to myself? Record the tune, put it on a loop, patch it into a micro-device, put it into my ear. Doable. Subtle. Clever.

I tried a general happy mood, to start off with. Patched it in, turned it on, spent the day giggling like a schoolgirl. So okay, I probably needed to tone it down. But the general idea was... the general feelings...

It was so good. So good to not feel the anxiety, the horror, the nightmare that my existence had become. There was nothing, and I felt happy, and I couldn't not do it again. I experimented with the intensity, and tried to get more variety into it. After a weekend off I walked into work the next day humming to a soft tune that made me bright and confident, and everyone smiled at me and commented that it was good that I was feeling better. And I did feel better. I felt bright and confident all day, and when I turned off the tune that night I scowled, stomped off to my workshop, did some tweaking, and spent a peaceful night floating on a calm and happy vibe.

I spent the whole week with 'bright and confident' before I realised that people were beginning to talk about me behind my back, this time pointing out that the whole 'perpetually peppy' act was beginning to look just a little off. When I got home that night I decided I had to vary things, so I took off the "confident" tune (it was hard to "concentrate" with that one. I was going to need an "intellectual" song) and started making up a whole array of melody loops to suit different emotions. One day I could be "calm and happy" another I could be "busy and productive", after that "slightly annoyed but generally okay". That was the worst one I made. I mean, I was doing this to stop the bad emotions, I hardly needed to make more. I put the tunes on mp3s in a folder on my Mac, and I stuck a randomiser on them so I could have a completely arbitrary emotion every day. That was a lot better, a lot more believable. No one guessed a thing.

No one but James Jesse.

He cornered me in a corridor in the FBI building where we worked one day and looked at me seriously.

"Okay," he said. "What's going on with you, Piper?"

Today I was feeling "slightly annoyed but generally okay", so I said. "What the hell are you talking about?"

He looked at me sharply, and said, "Your body language has been all over the place for the last few weeks, and it's always been unnatural. You know, I'm well within my rights to order a drug test on my employees if I think it's warranted."

James is a con artist, you see, and he's very good with body language. I didn't much care about what he was saying though, because I knew I was okay. No drugs for Piper, he's strictly clean. I was annoyed though (slightly annoyed, in fact), so I scowled back at him. "I don't know what you're talking about, 'Trickster'."

He doesn't like it when I call him that. He thinks that he's gotten over it all, which is just stupid.

"I'm talking about the fact that I know there's something up with you."

"You're that sure?"

"I'm that sure."

"Can you prove it?"

He looked at me again, and his eyes narrowed. "I will." And then he walked away.

I wasn't worried though. I mean, I was slightly annoyed. But generally okay.

James kept a good eye on me after that. It didn't bother me. Of course not. I smiled sweetly at him, and negotiated the day with aplomb, and then I went home and turned off the music and stomped helplessly around the house until I turned on my sleep music and fell gratefully into dreamless oblivion.

Then we had a mission. I mean, we'd been doing small things on and off. Minor scuffles dealt with, a lot of information gathering. You don't launch an all-out war on the criminal element without a lot of planning.

This mission was a full-on espionage one, though. We needed info on the effects of certain chemicals on Dr. Alchemy's element stone, you see, and there was a very dodgy private company who we were sure had information. Getting in and out was going to be tricky and needed to be subtle. So they sent me and good old James Jesse, who could be surprisingly restrained when the need arose.

We snuck in no problem, found a chemical lab where they'd been doing research. We even found notes. The idiot scientists hadn't even bothered to lock them away, just left 'em on the lab bench ready for the next day's work. It was easy. Nothing was going wrong. And we got cocky.

There was a guard. An arrogant guard. A "shoot first, ask questions later" guard. With a big gun. He was an idiot. You don't shoot guns in a chemical lab, and the company shouldn't have even let him have it in there. So much for safety restrictions.

There was a guard, and we didn't even see him until it was too late. His first shot was meant for me, but it didn't hit. Instead, it went into a sealed chemical jar behind me, and I was splattered with something foul smelling and stinging. I tried to react, I wanted to react. But as soon as the stuff touched me? I went down. Suddenly there was no strength in my legs, no power in my arms. I went down, and I stayed down, and I watched as James screamed, twisted to the side, and called for back-up.

Then I watched as another guard appeared behind him and shot him in the head, just like that. I couldn't call a warning. I couldn't even open my mouth.

And it was over. Just like that.

The FBI were quick. They had people on standby in case something went wrong. It made more of a splash than they had ever wanted, but they got me out before half the guards even knew what was happening. They got James out too. Or at least what was left of him.

They took me to the hospital, and found they I'd been splashed with a minor paralysing agent that hardly affects most people at all. In the end they decided that it must have been an allergic reaction, that by coincidence I was more affected by the chemical than others. They were wrong, of course. See, I looked it up on the internet using my nifty little laptop. The problem with this chemical was, it was broken down by adrenaline. You couldn't use it on most people because they got scared or excited and the paralysis was shaken off.

I didn't have that problem. I was calm and happy.

James was dead.

They kept me in the hospital for a night and then, at my insistence, sent me home with worried looks and a couple of weeks off to recover from my experience. They booked therapy sessions, too, but that was okay. I was sure I could get through them.

So I went home. I went home, and I walked over to the mirror and ever so carefully I reached up and turned off my nice calm tune. Then I stared at myself in the mirror as the guilt, and the horror, and the pure awfulness of it all hit me. And then I reached up and turned the music back on.

I haven't turned it off since.

I don't have any bad emotions any more. I don't have any real emotions at all. I don't care. I can't care, and that's really the point.

The world hurts, the world cuts. The world is nothing to me. I wake up, I get dressed. I watch to see what my emotion will be today. Then I walk out into the terrible world, floating in a haze of poisonous melodies.

All is well.