Disclaimer: I do not own Dragonball Z.
AN: Heed the warnings. This story is rated as it is for very good reasons. I will reiterate: this fic contains severe depression, self-mutilation, and self-cannibalism. It is also probably the darkest thing I've ever written. If you can handle that, proceed and enjoy.
I have never been one to dwell on place. Before, while I was still alive, I merely noticed my surroundings and analyzed how to best utilize them, all in the most objective manner possible. I find myself examining them subjectively now, not because I have the luxury, but because I will loose my mind if I don't.
I sit crouched beside a rocky pool in a glade of vibrant greens, interspersed with white and black mottled tree-trunks. I see a thick canopy of leaves above me, and golden dust motes swirling through the air around me. Here and there in the thick carpet of verdant grass grow patches of ruby-lavender and cherry-blossom-pink flowers. I know for a fact that they match the color of my blood and my eyes, just as the greens match those on my chitinous armor. I cannot find fault with my surroundings, and that is what frightens me.
I can no longer resist as a force not unlike hunger draws my gaze back to the water before me. I can see my reflection in its mirror-like surface, as perfect as I had always perceived myself. And I am once again transfixed by it. A dark, mirthless chuckle rumbles through my chest; they couldn't have created a more fitting prison for me if they tried. Me, Cell, the perfect being, ensnared by my own flawlessness. The irony of it all makes the chuckle erupt from my mouth in an empty laugh.
My sanity is cracking. My memories, once sharp and crystal clear, are becoming blurred. I'm having trouble remembering any face other than my own. Even visages I thought would be forever branded into my mind have started to slip away from me. The longer I stay in this accursed place, the harder it becomes to cling to what I had. I'm no longer sure I'd recognize Goku if he were to approach me now. I don't know what is the more fitting torture, the assault on my mind or the fact that I haven't been able to draw on even a spark of my power since I arrived here.
I squeeze my eyes shut against the perfect image before me. The darkness is relieving and soothing, but it doesn't last. That irresistible pull forces me to open them again. And if it wasn't bad enough, the reflection smiles, even when I know I'm not. That is the worst of it; it is me, but the face is somehow not mine.
I shudder and try to focus on something else: a memory, that silver pebble to the left of my reflection's crest, the subtle lapping of the water against the rocks, anything but what stares back at me from the mirrored surface of the pool. But it is almost impossible; I can't even meditate anymore.
For a split second I remember something, and I latch onto the memory like a lifeline. I recall how I came to be here in this glade. I remember being imprisoned in that cramped cave with Frieza, his father, and their cronies, those dead-weights that tried to tag along with me during my disastrous escape attempt. I remember pacing about like the caged beast I was, dragging my hand across the bars that seemed to suck away our power, and snarling at anyone who tried to converse with me. I remember how afraid of me they all were, even robbed of my power.
And then I remember how they all started to be taken away, one by one until only I was left. I remember how when my turn finally came, they'd brought that warrior Pikkon with them as a security measure. I think I may have tried to leave once I was free of the cage and its energy draining powers. I don't think I got very far if I did. I know I was lead to the glade then, and I remember the ogre prattling on about how long it had taken to create, but I don't think I was paying attention to him. Maybe I should have.
And then we reached the edge of the glade, and I remember how out of place it looked compared to the rest of Hell. The vibrant greens were almost shocking. The rest is a blur, but I know Pikkon pushed me forward, over some invisible threshold. All I remember after that is the pull from the rocky pool, and with that thought I find myself back in the present. I growl low in my throat as my brief reprieve is disrupted, glaring resentfully down at the mirror-like surface of the water. I swear, my reflection smirks back at me.
My rage ignites and my claws extend, my hand slashing out violently to strike that taunting image. The water splashes out of the way, and for a moment my reflection is gone, before the ripples still and it shimmers back into existence, like always. It wouldn't have been the first time I'd tried that; the first few times it was annoying, and later it was disconcerting, but now it sucks away what hope I have left.
I sigh at the futility of my situation, numbly examining my extended talons, my gaze alternately focusing on them and the pool. I note them, their length, they way they gleam in the light, the sharp contrast between the jet-black chitin and my snow-white skin. I curl and straighten my fingers, wondering why I can't seem to recall ever using my claws while alive; they are quite formidable weapons. I feel a morbid desire to test their capabilities.
In more of a reflex than a conscious action, my talons rip across my face in a vicious strike. I feel no resistance as my flesh and chitin part easily before them, the sharp pain that follows a welcome sensation. I can feel the blood flow hot out of the wounds, dripping into my eyes and slipping into my mouth. I lap it up eagerly and make no move to wipe it away. I need this; I desperately need these novel sensations.
But my reflection, my damned reflection, remains unmarked. Ruby-lavender blood coats my hand, drips from my brow ridge to my cheek right in front of my eyes, and trickles off the tip of my nose into the water below. I gingerly probe one of the wounds, feeling the wet on my finger and the pain in my face, but my reflection merely touches snowy-white skin, flawless and unbroken.
The ache in my face dulls too quickly for my liking and the pull returns. I find myself relying solely on my eyes for a moment, lovingly stroking a finger down the inner boarder of my lavender tear-streak, watching as my reflection does the same. The drowsy feeling it brings me is cut short the instant my roving digits encounter the gashes once more.
I wrench my bloodied hand away from me with a hiss of distress; this accursed place is destroying me. And what's worse, it is an attack against which I have no defense. They are using my very nature to turn me against myself. I can't help my pride; it is an integral part of who I am. I suppose I've always been most like Vegeta in that regard. I can't help my vanity either, though it took my brush with death to realize just how vain I truly was. I must get that from Frieza.
I freely admit it now, even as I am taunted with the very fact: I am obsessed with myself, my power, my skill, my accomplishments. And they have turned it into a weapon against my sanity. They want me to give up my identity, to become just another faceless soul waiting for reincarnation. But I will not let them win.
Curling my bloodied hand once more, I drive my clawed fingers into my eye-socket. I do not bother to hold back the howl of agony ripped from my throat. But I ignore the pain and the sparks blinding me, driving my talons as deep as they can go. I can feel the blood and gore dripping out past my hand and down my cheek; I can taste it as it flows into my mouth. My other eye is tearing up, but it doesn't matter. All that matters is escaping this prison they've damned me to.
Through the intense pain in my skull that somehow set my entire body aflame, I feel the dull scrape of claw against bone. Almost without thought I wrap my fingers around the sphere of my eye. I feel a twinge of morbid satisfaction as I squeeze the thick, main nerve between the sides of two digits, watching more sparks obscure my vision. A hollow laugh erupts through my panting breaths, before I sharply jerk my fisted hand away from me.
I cannot help my scream as I feel the strain of tissue unwilling to break finally giving way. Agony erupts from my now empty eye-socket and lances throughout the rest of my trembling frame. My tear-ducts overflow and the salty fluid gushes down my face, stinging my open wounds. My vision flashes white before graying and finally fading to black. Yes, as long as I am feeling this pain the insatiable pull to look into the pool is little more than background noise in my mind.
But, predictably, the reprieve doesn't last. The pain dulls, and my remaining eye is forced open to gaze through the mist of tears at my reflection on the water. A shaky bark of frustrated laughter escapes me; it still remains whole and unmarked, smiling up at me pleasantly. Even as the gore drips into the pool it denies my wounds.
Slowly, I bring my bloodied, fisted hand back up to my face. With my remaining eye I can clearly see the torn optic nerve dangling from between my fingers, and ripped muscles behind them. I uncertainly open my hand and soon find myself staring directly into my own eye. By Broca's Golden Tail, do I really look so sad and broken? I don't know what it is about the detached organ that tells me that, something in the glint off the pupil, wide with the last dose of adrenaline it would ever receive.
And for a moment, just a moment, I can see my true reflection in the glassy surface of my eye. I can see my visage, a mess of claw-marks and blood, my left eye-socket a gaping, black hole in my face. And I smile, the first true smile I've had in a long while. I can see me as I am, not what I had at one point wanted to be. But the moment ends, and the reflection is gone. My new smile becomes painful on my lacerated cheeks, and I can feel genuine tears forming. I once more find myself confronted with the likeness in the pool, and the dull rage builds again.
Angrily, I shove the eyeball into my mouth, aggressively crushing it between my molars. I taste the salty liquid that gushes from it, mixed with the coppery tang from all the blood I've spilt. I chew, slowly and deliberately, before swallowing. The flavors linger in my mouth, and I work my tongue to retain them all. Almost thoughtlessly I lap the ruby-lavender blood from my fingertips.
A pause as I notice the reflection licking its fingers as well, gazing up at me seductively. And I snarl down at it, pulling my hand away from my mouth briefly before driving my claws into my remaining eye. Again I scream, my entire vision sparking and flashing. I waste no time gouging out this one, ripping away as soon as my fingers have wrapped around it. Crackling white, then darkness.
In spite of the pain I breathe a sigh of relief; the pull cannot affect me if I cannot see. I barely feel the slippery eyeball slide out of my hand, barely hear the splash as it strikes the water. I am too focused on the escape I have discovered; until my eyes regenerate, I will be free of this prison.
Desperate hope fills me as I hesitantly back away from the pool on my hands and knees. I have a chance to leave this horrid place once and for all, and I'll be damned if I don't take it. Two full paces back, and I turn about-face, my hands feeling along the ground, touch now my most reliable sense. The soft grass teases my blood-caked fingertips as I crawl away. Four body-lengths away and my hands come across the first tree, its bark rough and flaky. Carefully I maneuver around it.
The difficult trek suddenly becomes a frantic race against my own physiology as I feel my body starting to heal itself. I hasten my pace, my hands darting across the grassy ground in frenzy of movement. Another tree in my path that I weave around, a rough stone that I drag myself over, a patch of silky-soft flowers that I ignore and trample over. But I can't seem to find the edge of the glade, the place where grass becomes dust, nor can I pick up another energy signal to track to. I dimly realize that I haven't felt the presence of another being since I arrived. My regeneration is becoming harder to stay off, despite all my efforts to fight it down.
But then my hand strikes water. I freeze, losing my control of my body's restoration process. My eyes almost bubble back into being, opening once more to see, through the unfocused haze, the mirror-like surface of the pool I was trying to escape. My perfect reflection smirks up at me knowingly. Tears form in my fresh eyes, and I do nothing to hold them back. I have no will left to fight its pull, and I gingerly make myself comfortable at the water's edge, my gaze once more locked with that of my reflection.
They are trying to break my spirit. I fear that they have already succeeded.