This is a story I wrote all summer and ended in September, so naturally three months later I finally got around to editing it and adding a postscript. I really love the theme of it, even if I do get a bit uber-dramatic sometimes; so read again if you wish, read for the first time if you dare. Relax, the second chapter explains things a bit more. And please, I do like reviews.

SHADES OF GRAY

(formerly A Mad Mad World)

"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.

-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

"I tell them that I'm doing fine/Watching shadows on the wall…"

-John Lennon

Trinity is, to say the least, confused…Even too confused to know why, exactly, she is confused.

Doesn't happen very often? You could say that. In fact, doesn't usually happen at all. Especially not to the Ice Queen. And especially not of this magnitude. Trinity is always exactly certain, present in each moment, for how to survive otherwise in the darkly metallic world of today?

But now…A haze of black, a fog of green, what covers her she is not certain. In fact, all that is certain is that she's not sure what's certain. It's a very confusing world, like we said.

Where exactly-- she wonders as she drifts through…whatever it is. An idle, unfinished wonder. Kind of like, "Hm. I wonder why that billboard isn't there any more," or, "I wonder if they've driven her crazy yet?" She can't seem to care about the answer, though, because it's too hard to care about things when you don't quite know who you are.

The edge of reason nags at her. Why...(am I? is this?)

Oh, but 'Why' is gently gone, too. Ah, well.

It reminds her of something, she realizes. That place between sleep and daytime, where your dreams are tangent with your life and you're never sure what defines real---

But she is lost again in forgetting the sentence and not particularly caring about the answer, when suddenly there is a shock, a jolt, a voice.

"Hello, Adele."

A voice.

Reflexively, she struggles to open her eyes. (She suddenly has eyes to open. So is that what's wrong, she thinks fuzzily, that I can't see right?) Her brain is muddled, still in a weird sort of dreamstate. So it takes her a while to recognize the next words as they come after a pause.

It is--- yes, she's almost positive it's a woman speaking to her. "How are you, dear?"

"Look, why do you ask her that? You expect her to, what, to sit up and speak normally? You know you're only cheating yourself, Mabel." Now that's a man, realizes Trinity She is absurdly pleased at herself for figuring it out, almost missing the next halting message.

The woman sighs, a slight weary edge to her voice. "James, I don't know. I guess I just can't…" She swallows. "I guess I just…I just want her to…to say something that proves she's still in a real world. You know? Like, one time I think that she'll just stop ignoring us and, oh, say, 'Fine, Mom. And you?'"

"Hon. Hon, it's been ten years. The doctors say nothing will ever change, she's lost to us…You know what she does when she's awake? She's herself, but she talks to ghosts in the air, she thinks she's driving something, she makes up martial arts routines. There's no hope, Mabel, none. That's why we visited her when she was asleep like this last time. You know it's too disturbing for you and I to see her like…like that."

"Well, James, at least if she's deluded, she's conscious. She's alive! Who cares if it's not me that she's talking to? She has some kind of life, she's at least doing something in that brain of hers even if it isn't real--- God, what am I saying? How can that be right?!"

"Sshh…shh----"

"Adele! Wake up, sweetie. Wake up. ---Dan, tell them to stop drugging her up like this when we come. It can't be good for her, fake sleep can't be healthy--- Adele. Adele!"

"Mabel, for the love of God, stop shaking her!"

"I'm just trying to---"

A pair of crystal eyes shake free of slumber.

Adele—or Trinity, or Adele--- stares at her time-worn parents, and then,

she lets out a tiny

high

shriek.

Now, that doesn't happen very often either, does it?