For the second DP Day of Angst!
I think this is slightly more depressing than my first Angst Day one-shot (The Point of No Return) but I like it—the idea actually hit me while listening to a song by Three Days Grace.
Anyway, the idea behind this—besides the song—is actually from two quotes in "The Ultimate Enemy"
"Clockwork! Meddling again"
"In my weaker moments…."
(both by Dan Phantom)
Well, that's all I have to say about this—oh, other than that this fic is rated 'T' for language and near character death.
Happy Angst Day!
No laughter filled the rooms of the old building; no footsteps echoed through its halls. No people bustling in and out the front door….no family inhabiting its empty quarters. Nothing but the sound of silence remained in the once vibrant home; only dust decorating the dulled furnishings in a fine but distinct layer of white, which only added to the ominous feel brought about by the lack of luminosity, as very little if no light at all penetrated the large, heavily boarded windows. Shrouded in darkness, the building's vacancy reminded those who passed by it of a heavily apprehensive, mausoleum: a resting place for the souls and memories of those who once lived in it. And a highly respected location that was not to be touched.
Perhaps that was why he came here so often. This place, these empty corridors, so cold and raw from years spent struggling to withstand time without the proper care….its sturdy but aging exterior….and its hollow, crumbling insides. He somehow felt connected with this old building, as if the two of them were part of a secret club. A club that revolved around misery and regret. A club that revolved around pain.
It hit him then—hard—as it had been doing quite recently, and he cringed, his hand muscles tightening in response as he reached up to clutch at the violent, stinging feeling mounting in his chest.
"D-damn it…." He choked, before his sharpened teeth glued themselves together. It hurt….it hurt so much. More, he realized, than any ordinary wound. Had it been one of a physical nature, taking care of it would have been easy. But this….this….this he couldn't deal with. This kind of pain….this kind of torment….was too much, even for him.
He couldn't feel it, but knew his body had begun shaking due to the rapid movement of the surrounding shadows, caused by the excessive flickering of his fiery white hair. At least, he called it 'hair' but the flames themselves had no solidified form—just masses of reacting gasses and off-color energy. There hadn't been any real hair on his head for….
….for almost eight years.
He closed his eyes tightly then, squeezing them together in attempts to block out the sudden onslaught, as memories from that day came flooding into his mind. That day….he'd lost everything. His family, his friends….everything that made him who he was….gone. And he, the one responsible for their….gathering at the time, and their sole hope for survival, just stood there helplessly as their lives were wretched away from them. Him. The so-called 'hero.'
"But I'm not a hero!!" He cried abruptly, slamming his fist down hard, "I couldn't even….I couldn't…."
His body recoiled then, and he bent forward, hands clutching hard at the sides of his head. He couldn't do it. He couldn't save them. Even with all his powers, he let the lives of the ones he loved slip away from his grasp. From his protection.
"D-D-amn….it…." he swore again, burying his head, already aware of the clear, salty liquid brimming in his eyes; uncaring even as a tear broke free and began trickling down his face. If anything else, it just added to his misery. Tears. A common expression of human emotion. But he wasn't human—that was the thing. He hadn't been for a long time, not since the day he'd decided to have his humanity ripped from his body. And yet, here he was, sitting hunched atop his old bed, crying like a child. It just….it just didn't make sense. Nothing did. The tears, the overflow of emotions….he thought removing his human side would relieve him of all this, not add to it. He wasn't supposed to feel like this….he wasn't supposed to feel anything at all. But the pain wouldn't go away. And neither would the memories.
Over and over, they played in his mind: the Nasty Burger, the furrowed brow of his former teacher, suspicious glances, confession….and the heart wrenching explosion, as a young raven-haired boy watched with widened eyes as his entire life fell apart. Only a few feet away from him. But it was that difference in distance that showed him the extent of his abilities—his limits. Showed him just how much of a hero he really was.
And then the memories shifted: focusing on a period in time some two years after his miserable failure. Faces of stranger—of all genders and ages—flashed before his crimson eyes like an old film reel. Bringing his body closer together, he shuddered. Their faces—contorted looks of fear and agony—splattered with blood and the occasional one with bone exposure, all crying out in shrill, terrified screams, whose mere memory alone were enough to pierce his sensitive eardrums. So many lives…innocent lives—both human and ghost—eliminated by his hand. At the time of their death, he thought he was doing it for the sheer simple reason "Because he could." Now, however, as he sat there in near darkness, he realized the real reason behind the killings was that he needed to. Needed something to fill the emptiness in his chest—to block out the numbing feeling that had continued to grow inside him ever since that day.
But over the years, it had become clear to him that no matter what he did, no matter what he'd become, there remained a very faint remnant of his human half, and, though he'd try to ignore it, occasionally it would break free, and he'd find himself in a similar situation to the one he was in now. Drowning in a sea of guilt, regret, and suffering. And he couldn't take it anymore.
Shifting his position so that his legs were at the edge of the bed, he stood, his body feeling almost….unfamiliar to him. But he paid that little heed. All he could focus on, all that he seemed capable of thinking about, was the amount of pain swelling in the area his heart used to be. Eyes gone dull, he was only vaguely aware of the amount ecto-energy now forming in his left hand. And even if he had been, he wouldn't have cared. He just wanted it to stop. This….this….plague of feelings and emotions. He didn't want them—wasn't supposed to have them anymore. But they were there—haunting him every day since he'd supposedly given up on his humanity. As he felt the surge of energy in his hand cease, he once again seemed unaware of his body's actions. Even when the newly completed ecto-ball lay poised at his abdomen, by his own hand. It didn't matter anymore. He just wanted it to stop. Wanted the pain to go away….
Appearing out of nowhere, a luminescent portal, shaped like a clock, ripped through the fabrication of time, warping its surroundings into a twisted spiral. After a moment or two, the portal settled itself enough for a pale figure, garbed in various shades of violet, to hover through, a silver-grey staff gripped tightly in one hand. As he began to observe the situation displayed before him, he knew the entryway behind him closed—as a vibrant aqua colored light illuminated his back, and the long cloak draped around his shoulders. But he paid only partial mind to this. There was a more important matter at hand.
Seeing as to how the majority of the room was in total darkness, it wasn't difficult for him to pinpoint what it was he had come here to do. And whom he had come here to stop. In the far center—towards the right wall—was a man….or rather, used to be a man….bathed in a fierce ecto-glow. By his hunched position and the hollow look in his eyes, this….intruder….recognized what he had just interrupted, and furthermore, where the eerie light was coming from. The final act of desperation. An act committed by someone who'd lost all hope for the future.
Sighing to himself, he floated forward, in order to take a closer look at this mid-way suicide attempt. The man—or Phantom, as he was known—had formed a dangerously high-energy ecto-blast; the kind usually used to take out entire cities. Only he'd aimed it at himself, obviously aware of the amount of power required to end his life. As it stood now, the blast had yet to make contact with his pallid flesh; currently the ecto-energy remained only a few inches away from Phantom's chest. Sighing again, he shook his head. Another inch or two and he would have been too late.
It irked him slightly, this near miscalculation; being the Master of Time, he was usually very precise. However, for the last hour and a half, the Observants had been breathing down his neck—shaking with fury when they'd discovered what it was he planned to do. Calling him "mad" and "irrational." Questioning his position in power. He frowned. If they knew what was coming, they wouldn't be so quick to judge.
He then set himself to the task of removing the charged ecto-blast from its position, without damaging the suspended Phantom. In the end, it wasn't hard; all it required was some careful and constructive movement of Phantom's arm—thankfully the muscles weren't locked—so that it now faced away from his body, towards the opposing wall. The building may be severely damaged, but it wasn't of his primary concern.
After a moment or two of contemplation, he raised a gloved hand, slamming it down on the small clock perched atop his staff.
FSHWWWWWSHWWWW!!!!! An explosion of light, followed by an ear-shattering bang erupted through the air, as the ecto-energy collected in Phantom's hand propelled into the wooden wall on the other side. Alarmed at finding himself in the foreign situation, Phantom cried out, his voice increasing its volume as he was thrown back by the force of the ecto-blast….
….an ecto-blast that, if he remembered correctly, should have been aimed at him.
"W-what the….?!" He sputtered, taken aback by the pain now stinging his back and ribcage, and his unexplained relocation of his ecto-beam. "H-how did…t-that shouldn't have….w-why…." He was cut off then as two wispy, red strands of translucent smoke spewed from his nostrils, alerting him there was a ghost nearby. He whirled around—slowly, as unexpectedly smacking into the wall behind him had hurt quite a bit—and was shocked to find someone else was in the room; eyes widening as he realized "nearby" meant "right behind you." Scrambling to his feet, the disheveled Phantom instantly tensed, a fanatical expression in his unfocused pupils as he struggled to maintain a menacing air.
"Y-you…." He started, hardening his voice and raising a shaking hand, "w-whoever you are….I warn you….I—"
"No," his opposer cut in, his tone ringing with ominous authority, "you won't, Danny."
Silence. Whatever response Phantom had had caught in his throat. It had been eight years since he'd been called that….that….other name. Eight years since he'd even heard it—many a time beating those who had once called him that to a pulp had quickly taught them to refer to him as Phantom. As far as he was certain, that name….Danny….was dead.
Yet….here was a ghost he'd never seen—much less heard of—before, who decided to….who had the nerve to....call him that. And though it should have made him angry, hearing the name "Danny" again tugged at his non-existent heart, threatening to break his already unstable cover. He gritted his teeth, brow furrowing, as he asked coldly, "How the hell do you know that name?"
His opponent blinked, his gaze flattening. "Danny Phantom. Age twenty-two. Formally known as Danny Fenton. Born to parents Jack and Maddie Fenton, now deceased. Sister, Jasmine, known to her friends as "Jazz." Deceased. Residence? Fourteen years: Amity Park—Fenton Works building. Half a year spent in Wisconsin, under direct supervision of Vlad—Vladimir—Masters; alias, Plasmius."
Phantom's eyes widened as he listened to his life's story being retold in a monotone, as if it all had been memorized from a written document.
"….shortly after taking the Career Aptitude Test, your life changed forever after witnessing the death of your family, friends, and high school teacher. Choosing not to live with the pain and grief that comes from losing loved ones, you accepted the offer given by Masters to split with your human half, creating two beings out of the one. But" And here the look in his eye changed, a scolding wisdom flickering behind his scarlet irises, "that too, malfunctioned, as, even with your human….your Fenton….half gone, pockets of your humanity still clung to your consciousness, and even as an adult you occasionally found yourself in a state of total, unbearable, depression." Though one hand remained clasped around an oddly decorated staff, the one facing him folded his arms. "One that pushed you over the edge, leading you to believe the only way out was to take your own life." His lips curled into a wry smile. "Only that didn't quite work out as you'd planned, did it?"
Whatever mask Phantom had been wearing failed him then; his face twisted in a look of pure, unmistakable horror. "Who….who are you?" He inquired, no longer caring if the tone of his question was fearful or not. "W-why….why do you know so much a-about me?"
The other figure in the room looked up, his arms falling to his sides. "I am Clockwork," he answered, gesturing to himself, "Master of all Time." He paused, watching Phantom's reaction curiously, before concluding, "And I know everything."
That last comment took a second or two to register in the ghost-man's mind. Being able to know everything seemed more god-like than anything else. But, judging from his floating and the otherworldly glow that was common for those in the afterlife, he guessed this….this….Clockwork was in actuality, a ghost. That aside, he had claimed to be Master of Time, which Phantom supposed would give one superior knowledge over all that took place. Regardless of that, there were plenty of other reasons why the one before him fit his name. For one thing, there were numerous clocks and watches decorating his entire apparel—on his wrists, waist—there was even a clock residing in his chest, swinging back and forth like a metronome as he spoke. However, the most bizarre feature of this ghost was the constant age-process he went to. One minute he was a child, no more than two or three, next an adult—perhaps a few years older than Phantom himself—which seemed to be his prominent form, as it was the one he remained in the longest, and finally, his last form: an old man. It was all very strange, and had the white-topped ghost been feeling more mentally sound; he most likely wouldn't have waited around for an explanation and just eliminated him like he did the others. However, intimidation can go a long way, and as Phantom wasn't used to being….well….afraid, a he was now, he wasn't exactly sure how to handle the present situation.
As it was, he asked simply, "M-Master of Time, huh? Well….what….what do you want with me?"
Clockwork at first said nothing, observing Phantom very much like one would a specimen under a microscope. The stammering, the wild eyes—he didn't appear to be the same terrible ghost that had destroyed countless lives over the past eight years. Rather, looking at him now, he seemed about as much of a victim as any of the ones Phantom had killed. Only, Clockwork noted, perhaps worse.
"What I came here to do has already been accomplished," he stated finally, "I just need to ensure what almost occurred doesn't happen again."
It took a moment to register in Phantom's mind, but shortly after hearing those words, his appalled expression morphed into one of rage. "Wait a minute," he shot, glaring at the other ghost, "it was you?! You stopped me from—"
"I did." The Master of Time interjected curtly, "That was a foolish thing you tried to do."
"'F-foolish….'" The ghost-man echoed, his eyes once again retaining that flat, unreal look they'd had before, "Do you….do you know what I've d-done? W-who I've killed?"
Clockwork merely nodded, knowing any words he said would come out too harsh—too short tempered.
Phantom, however, didn't actually appear to notice; his mind too wrapped up in his memories. "Then why....why stop me? Why poison the Earth any longer with my existence? Why risk the li….the lives-s…." He stopped then, drawing in a sharp breath from what he knew would be the eventual outbreak.
Clockwork too, recognized this turn of emotion, as his next words were far less harsh. "Look, I won't pretend that what you did was….right….necessarily, but you can trust me when I say killing yourself isn't the answer. It won't change the past; won't undo the crimes you've committed. And it won't bring back your family." Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Phantom had begun to move, and taking precaution—just in case—he followed the other ghost optically, not at all surprised when he stopped at the back wall, resting his forearm against its wooden surface and leaning forward.
"Y-you're….you're the M-Master of T-Time….aren't….aren't you?" He said shakily, more as a statement than a question. Clockwork remained silent, aware Phantom's comment had been somewhat rhetorical, and that he wasn't expecting a response. "Th-then," the other ghost continued, "You-you k-know what kind of m-monster I-I….I am. Y-you've seen….everything….everyt-thing I've d-done."
"Yes, I have—"
"T-then why s-stop m-me? Why….w-why…." His voice cracked, and whatever hold Phantom had over himself broke at that instant—salty tears leaking from his eyes, running down his ashen cheeks. "I-I'm a m-m-monster…." He reiterated, his voice unsteady as he continued to cry, "this world….t-t-this w-world would be….be better o-off without m-me…." The desperation in his tone had returned, which set off a warning inside Clockwork's head—a warning to be careful, incase Phantom tried to do something again.
A hand wavering over his staff in precaution, the Master of Time decided if he were to follow through with his plans, it was going to have to be now. "Listen to me," he barked sharply, "you may think suicide is the only way out—but I can tell you you're wrong." Phantom's position shifted, and it appeared he was going to protest, however, Clockwork pressed onward before he had the chance. "In another reality exists a different Amity Park—one ten years in the past. However, in two years time, the Danny Fenton of that reality will attempt to cheat on his—C.….and of course, being a parallel timeline to yours, he's going to succeed, and—"
Phantom's head shot in Clockwork's direction, the white flames of his hair dancing wildly about in response. "Why the hell are you telling me all this?!" He shot, fury temporarily replacing his sadness, "Did you come here just to torture me with memories of my—"
"The reason I came here was to stop you, and, in effect, prevent your—this—future from happening."
Once more, Phantom was drawn into silence, baffled by Clockwork's last statement. "I-I….don't understand…."
"You don't like this future—what it's—you've become—that's apparent. You wish things had been different, just as everyone else in this world currently does. You've proven that in more than one way."
"Even before today, there were signs. Signs you tried to ignore—tried to go about life thinking you really were a full-fledged ghost."
"Yet, despite your efforts, you still kept your emblem the same; a 'D' and a 'P' rather than eliminating the first letter—the letter that stood for your first name. And you were still drawn to this building—your old home—whenever that faint remnant of humanity came crashing down on you."
He folded his arms once more, waiting to see if Phantom would again attempt to protest. When he didn't, Clockwork continued. "I stopped you from committing suicide because I—or rather, your other, younger self—need you alive." He paused for a moment, choosing the best way to phrase his next statement. "When this Danny Fenton nears that….moment….this time around, I intent to interfere with his plans. Sending different ghosts from your current timeline to confront him; a trail of breadcrumbs, if you will, that will eventually lead him to locate my domain. Which is where you come in."
The tears had dried now, nothing but shining stains on his face, but confusion still blazed in his eyes.
Clockwork noticed this, and elaborated further, chuckling slightly to himself. "After an unsuccessful duel with me, Danny, Sam and Tucker will escape….into this timeline. Where, if all goes as planned, he should encounter you. You see, the only way to ensure all of this" and here he made a general swooping gesture with his free arm "never occurs, the younger Danny needs to see firsthand how his actions will affect the future. And hopefully, he'll make the right decision to change it."
Finishing his spiel, the Master of Time straightened, bringing his staff closer to his other hand. He didn't need to wait for Phantom's response—he already knew what it was going to be. Knowing everything did have its advantages, after all. And as such, his work here was done. A small grin tugged at the corner of his mouth, and he backed up into the portal he already knew was forming behind him. He was well aware the Observants would 'let him have it' when he returned—they had made that very clear at is departure—however, whatever verbal lashing they were preparing was nowhere near important as the task he'd managed to accomplish. As the lives he'd managed to save.
Phantom blinked. He was gone. That….that….Clockwork character had disappeared.
"Interesting." The ghost-man muttered, in no particular tone other than at the mere fact that he was once again alone. As if his unusual visitor had never been there. Everything was as it had been before….everything but the words now playing over and over in his head.
Had he meant it? Was there really another Danny Fe—Phantom out there?
Was there really a chance to change the future?