This fanfiction is a short oneshot that takes place directly after the events of my absolute favorite Invader Zim episode: the Halloween Spectacular of Spooky Doom. If you haven't seen it you can read a script of itat thescarymonkeyshow(dot)com, as you'll probably need at least a base understanding to fully enjoy what's below.This storywas written in response to a "This fic is about WHO?" challenge in which the participants were asked to write about an obscure Invader Zim character. It was determined that I half cheated and half didn't ;)

As always, I encourage feedback in any size, shape, color, strain, or form. If ya liked it, hated it, or just plain felt ambiguous about it don't hesitate to let me know. And also don't hesitate to thank Senri for yelling at...er...convincing me to post this —waves at Senri—

I like to write fanfic, I like it a lot
But copyrights can get tricky in spots
So before you start reading, I'd just like to say:
My intent is to honor, not steal in any way


-------------------- Fine Line Between Love and Hate --------------------
By: Lael Adair


Existence is never a guarantee. Things change; that is the nature of the world. Eventually everything that is created must, in some way or another, face its end. It may come quickly, it may not. It may be painfully bitter, or filled with such joy that it makes the experience worthwhile. But be it messy or clean, verified or wrong, the ending will happen, and every living creature is aware of it. The conundrum, therefore, is why do such creatures continue to exist? Not just exist, but fight to exist. Why, despite these inevitable truths, do they struggle in an ultimately futile battle to take that last single breath, form that last desperate word, feel that last comforting touch?

The reason? There is none—or, rather, none that generates any type of satisfaction from knowing it. The answer is simply that, they do…Even those that were never real to begin with.

Self-preservation is the underlying principal that regulates every living mind. Any transmitted neural impulse Y racing through any functioning organic system X can ultimately be traced back to that source. Sentience has the ability to overlap such programming over time, often making it seem obsolete or irrelevant, but that does not change the fact that the underlying element is still there. In addition, to succumb to such a deception is a foolhardy and dangerous game. To forget one's true self is to forget what is real. And, in such an instance, it then becomes the burden of the mind to regulate the world to the best of its ability. But the mind is not an organized system of well-sorted thought and intellect. It is a varying mass of pulses and sensations easily swayed by the smallest outside influence. The only rule that keeps the pieces all working in unison is that of self-preservation. And even then the definition can get lost in translation.

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A long, crab-like leg shot out and embedded itself deep into a hapless panel of metal. Beneath it the machine struggled like a wounded animal as powerful muscles slashed it open as easily as if it were made of paper. Cracks and sizzles from the hastily-constructed circuitry spit high into the air until, finally, a vital line was severed and the machine fell lax to the ground with a convulsive shudder. The purple leg removed itself and stabbed viciously again, skewering the skull-shaped cockpit of the device neatly on its deadly tip. With the aid of a second appendage, an effortless yank severed the skull in two and sent the lower mandible spiraling into the distance. The destruction did little to satisfy Nightmare Bitters' rage.

Snarling and clicking through her grotesque mouth, the abomination turned her insectoid body sharply to the right and began to stalk back out of the darkened scene where her one chance for freedom had escaped. Before her the Nightmares scurried over themselves to move out of her path. When she was in a good mood the fearsome ruler of the Nightmare World was not difficult to stay alive around, but in her current state it was very likely she would just as soon skewer anyone that got in her way.

Her multitude of legs moved in a scattered, yet repeatable order that gave a bestial rhythm to her walk. Her body ached with every step; it was the price she paid for her ability to transform so drastically from her original self. Truth be told she enjoyed this shape better, but it was large and burdensome and not well-suited for anything other than hunting. When she returned to the skool she would have to change back if she wanted to get in the door.

Her eyes came up at the thought of her castle, seeking it in the distance though it was only a spot on the horizon. The skool sat at the edge of a darkened chasm that was lined with several curled stone columns stretching towards the sky like the ribcage of a skeleton. It existed at the brink of a world that was precarious at best, but in light of the alternatives it was relatively stable and Bitters liked that. She was drawn to that. A tall, chain-link fence surrounding the perimeter protected the grounds from intruders, making the front doorway the only accessible entrance...barring the gaping hole now punched to its left, of course. A long, painful groan escaped from Bitters' throat as her thoughts turned to the damage sustained from the fight earlier that evening.

She reached the edge of the decimated Nightmare city and ambled her way up the expansive stone staircase leading to her fortress. The sharp tips of her legs cut deeper into the steps with increasingly vengeful force as she surveyed the brick and debris scattered down the hillside at her left. Only hours ago her one chance for salvation had escaped along that same path. Someone would pay for that.

Her foremost foot fell upon the top landing, laboriously pulling the rest of her body up behind it. Before her a covered cement walkway stretched for a few dozen feet before disappearing into the ebony maw of the skool. With a private growl she slunk forward to rest and recuperate in her haven—potentially brood over the repercussions these new events held over her future—but before she could change form or reach the door a voice addressed her from the shadows.

"Back so soon?"

Bitters bristled with an angry screech. "How dare you show your face!" The long striped cords snaking out of her back gave a loud snap for emphasis.

Membrane floated into view from the darkened entrance with a high-pitched cackle, his right hand waving lazily in the air. The metal claws infused into his fingers were retracted...for the moment. His voice resonated low in his chest. "I take it he got away."

Bitters stalked forward, slamming her powerful legs into the ground with such force that the bricks in the building jumped. Membrane's eye stalks extended from his head to follow her front two raptorial arms as they rose into a striking position.

"You did not assist us" she hissed. "We could have escaped if you had only helped! Your embodiment holds the most powerful sway over the child's heart! You KNEW you could have frozen him in his tracks with fear!"

The claws rushed outward with a metallic shing. "I brought you the child. From what I remember, fear is your embodiment."

Bitters' eyes narrowed into slits. He was merely toying with her. The Nightmare World was unique in that every aspect of it was significant. Each element required effort from the mind to create which meant nothing was constructed that did not have a reason. As such, the individual components of the Nightmares themselves had hidden meaning that reflected the consciousness that had created them. Though the aspects of their configurations were twisted and complex, for the most part their general designs followed common "themes" that were centered around a single topic, referred to as an "embodiment." Bitters herself was the embodiment of Fear. Dib was Doubt. Gaz was Shame. And then, of course, there was the most powerful element standing before her...Love.

She ruled this world, but only because he allowed it, because he had no interest in it. It was the source of a continuous jealousy on Bitters' part, made ever-sharper by the knowledge that he could overpower her in a second if he wanted to. Such was the privilege he held for being the First.

Since the day the child was born he had been a constant figure in its life and, from almost that same day, a constant Nightmare in its mind. He was worse than the father that beat his children, worse than the father that dragged his family through the bowels of Hell before finally abandoning them just two stops from the door. He was the father that said "I love you" and never once felt the need to make eye contact. Without him the Nightmare World...no, the entire mind...would have only grown to a fraction of the cheerless magnificence it currently flaunted—for while his embodiment was "love," he was mockery in every sense of the word. He was the malfunctioning agent that allowed the balance to tip towards darkness and despair. And he was well aware of his place.

His construction mirrored his power. In part he was mechanical, which spoke of intelligence and perpetuity. The claws and eyes were deceptively delicate, but they were deception only. Though hidden from sight the majority of the time, when needed they were practical and fast, and gleamed with a merciless, horrifying light. The rest of him took on an intangible form—like a god beyond any range of reach. The rules did not apply to him. He was not required to walk upon the ground like everyone else. Gravity succumbed readily to his will, along with anything else his twisted embodiment desired. He was above restrictions, and far beyond them—an idol so revered that he could neither be touched nor matched.

As Fear, Bitters had size and strength. She was a master in the arts of persuasion and intimidation, and could crush others into sludge with nothing more than the power of speech. In fact, she could usually convince them to crush themselves if she chose her words carefully. That was how she had come to rule this world so quickly despite the fact that she was a relatively new element in the child's life. As an insect and a changeling by design, however, she was also endowed with an unusually keen sense of self-preservation. She was one of the few that actually understood how precarious their positions were as the Nightmares of an eleven-year-old boy. Nightmares never disappeared, and no living creature was immune to them, but they did change. Over time fears mutated into other forms. The balance of power could shift in any direction. Bitters already did not like the look in Shame's eye as it slowly matured by the day. And, at another angle, Hate had begun to stir to life.

They had all known it was coming. As the Nightmares of a human child it was common knowledge that, eventually, their host would emerge from the naïve cocoon of youth and encounter an element with the potential to consume them all. Without Love functioning properly to counter-balance the effect, Hate would be free to reign where Fear had once ruled. It was little more than a miasma at the moment, but it was sinister even for their world and it was growing at a rapid rate. Though Hate still had no body, it had already developed its first feature—an evil pair of unfeeling magenta eyes. It was upon seeing those that Bitters had first decided she needed to escape.

She stomped in a circle around Membrane, who watched her closely, eyes swiveling, as he flexed his fingers. The rest of his body did not move. "That child was your only method of escape" he taunted.

A leg leapt outward with lightning speed to skewer him through the head—the only tangible part of his form. The move was deflected with a quick flash of metal. A following cloud of white smoke billowed angrily about Membrane's feet as he extended the gleaming claws further to slash at Bitters' eyes. She pulled back with a guttural growl and used her extra legs to skitter quickly to the right, swiping sideways at his body with a plated forearm in an attempt to scatter his essence. He shot backwards in a column of mist to rematerialize a few feet away. She chose not to follow him.

"Just because you don't wish to leave this place does not mean it is the same for the rest of us!"

"You were free" the specter replied. "You retreated."

"That world was not the One."

"It's the only other 'One' there is. Were you surprised at the similarities?"

"More at the differences" Bitters answered with a shudder. Her legs shifted to redistribute her weight.

Membrane turned to the side and began to pace slowly across the entryway—back and forth, back and forth. His claws were sheathed and gone. "I've told you before that you are looking for something that doesn't exist."

"Hate is growing in power. You know it more than anyone." Sharp teeth clacked nastily together. "When it matures it will destroy all of us. If you had helped me when I asked the first time all of this could have been avoided. The child was a last resort."

Bitters hid a sneer as the specter halted in its tracks at the mention of Dib. Love was sick and twisted, but it could not deny its core connection to the boy.

"You asked me to bring him to you. You're lucky I did that much. He was terrified."

"Who are you trying to fool? You enjoyed it."

Membrane's response was a sudden, hysterical shriek that ricocheted between the skool and the oblivion around them. "As I said...you're lucky I brought him to you. Especially now that I won't be keeping him as agreed due to your catastrophic failure." He sidled closer to stand level with Fear's head. "But unlike you, I know how to make the best of things, and I like it here." His voice dropped to a threatening snarl. "Don't come to me again."

Bitters' eyes narrowed. "I won't forget this" she growled through clenched teeth. "I will escape from here, and once I find a perfect world to inhabit of my own free will I will make it an appoint to destroy that horrible child...and you along with it."

Membrane shook his head. "You'll never find such a place" he said, chucking ironically. "Don't you know? Perfection is all in the mind."

End


I...really don't know where this fanfiction came from. Most stories I write are planned over at least a few weeks and gutted and reconstructed dozens of times before they ever make it here. But this one...I wrote the first sentence with no idea of what I was going to do, went all the way through nonstop, and finished without knowing what I'd done.

I figured it was a blurb, a scribble, a draft, a random idea, a snippet, whatever you want to call it. But though it's sat on my computer since October 19, 2005 and I desperately wanted it to grow into something...it has undergone virtually no changes since the day I wrote it. I played with the wording in some spots and shifted a few sentences around, but did nothing to the plot, dialogue, action, characters, or overall idea. In fact, you can see this story in its original form on my livejournal in the Scribbles section, which you can get to from my "Cutting Room Floor" link at the bottom of my ffnet profile. I've read this fic over at least fifty times, editing machete in hand, looking for something to change—to cut, add, mangle, destroy, or even just poke in the ribs a little. But each time I walked away with nothing, feeling no better about it since the day it was written.

In short, this fic is some sort of renegade, anomalistic brainchild that I can't explain, don't understand, and can't even collect child support on because I don't know who the father is. But, be that as it may, I hope you enjoyed it. If you have the time, I'd really like to know any thoughts, critiques, or impressions it left on you. I'm curious to see what the hell this thing does since I have no idea.