On talking to a void (which occasionally talks back)
On talking to a void (which occasionally talks back)
In which Bakura goes insane (but doesn't), Ryou is sanctimonious (but isn't really), and the third resident of this particular mind is a solely implied phenomena. I feel obliged to mention that this has its roots in Lifeinabox66's Freefall. Freefall is Hetalia-based, and bears little resemblance to this, other than in basic premise. Whilst reading it and giving basic concrit, I mentioned that it would come out a little different were I to merely hear the synopsis and attempt to write it myself. Later, with permission, that's basically what I did.
One should always look after their sanity. If left unmaintained and in substandard condition, it has a tendency to develop a grudge.
"Don't look so surprised."
It doesn't surprise him – not really – although he wishes it did. He wishes it because it would make him feel less responsible. As it is, there's a burning, sickening desire within to reach out and – help.
"I don't need your pity."
Yet isn't that such a look of vulnerability? On a face not made to show it, too. Which just makes it all the more easy to sympathise. He's an idiot, he thinks, to sympathise with this. With him. But how can he possibly not?
"Our situations aren't similar. You and I, we have nothing in common. Stop thinking it."
But how can he not? Being in a cage, cold bars threatening and solid, never giving way… What else exemplifies the connection between them? Both placed in captivity, by the monster within them.
"Oh, how poetic. Tell me, landlord, how does it feel now, to be looking down on the one who has caused you so much pain?"
It feels like aching, in his chest.
Or maybe like a lie. Like cold steel slipping through his mind.
Denial, perhaps? Flashes of hot denial. No, they didn't die. No, it doesn't hurt. No, you can't cry.
Silence again, regressing to how they've always been.
"You know I won't leave."
Oh, he knows it. After all, he can hardly forget months and months of his incessant… pestering. He wonders why he can't just leave him here – is silence not torture enough?
"I've been here for days already."
Oh. So not months, then. Well, time is all relative when you're stuck in the dark. This place is hardly the epitome of good will and cheer, and it has a certain ambience that quite suits that atmosphere. Which is to say, he can't see his own hands if he presses them to his face. It's not like he has a watch.
"It's your mind. I think you could get out, if you tried. I'm sure you could."
Why doesn't he? He's being invasive enough already, after all, and he's the one wielding the glaring façade that is empathy. He might as well move around the furniture a little.
"I don't think that I can do it on my own. This place isn't mine. It's… down the corridor, so to speak. You don't know how hard it was just to get in here. You have good locks, you know."
Persistent little bugger.
"I couldn't even wake up properly, not with it in control. But when you were, it was a little easier. Did you not try to keep me suppressed?"
Yes, actually. It's not his fault that he doesn't have the mental stamina to put somebody in a temporary coma whilst he hijacks their body.
"But it's based around willpower, isn't it? In here, I mean. Aren't you even stronger now, chained up? Do you really not want to be free?"
Rage isn't everything. It lends strength, briefly. Eventually, all other emotion succumbs to weariness and apathy. That is the nature of a deal with the devil.
"Please try to get out."
He's said this before. Murmured it; whimpered it; pleaded. It's rather pathetic, to be doing something like this out of good will. Well, good will and an inability to do anything else. After all, is he in control, right now? Oh, his cage is bigger, but it's still the same, from the perspective of the captor. He said it himself, back when he first came here all those – days ago. Ah, the brief illusion of freedom. It's sweet in its own naivety. Enough to cause cavities.
"You can't stop me from staying here. You're trying to get me to leave. I know it! But it won't work!"
Won't it? Eventually, he'll become like everyone else. He'll succumb to the darkness, and maybe they'll both sit in useless silence for the remainder of the time they have left.
"It's better than being alone."
And this is where they differ.
"Even if we're both silent, at least I'll still be here with you."
The difference is academic, if there's neither sight nor sound to illuminate it.
"No matter how long it takes."
"Why do you not fight it?"
"Its goals are my own."
"No, they aren't. It's a big black pit at the back of my head that swallows my thoughts and wants to eat me alive. You're a person."
"You have no idea of the irony of that statement, do you?"
"You've never tried to hurt me whilst I've been here."
"It would be meaningless."
"You see? You don't want to hurt people!"
"You're fooling yourself. I've killed as many as it has, whilst we've used this body. Besides, the idea that murder is justified by the ends achieved is something truly despicable, and ultimately, the very reason for my continued existence. I will murder those in my way, and I will not make pretty excuses for it. Nor will I allow you to do so."
"You can't get rid of me."
"Must it always come back to this? Yes, my limpet of a host, you will stay here for all eternity, basking in the sanctimonious glory of being an attempted saviour. No, it will not be any more productive than playing a board game against yourself back in your own room."
"I don't do that!"
"Yes. Yes you do. I don't even have to have any knowledge of what goes on in your half of this place to know that you do."
"You're being ironic."
"That's a very human thing to be."
"You… You are the most inane, pathetic excuse for a landlord I ever have had, could have or will have the displeasure of speaking to. And that isn't even touching on the glaringly preachy, self-righteous tone of your very subconscious!"
"Then why are you still talking to me?"
"For once in your entire life, will you do as I say and shut the hell up!"
Sometimes, when in a less than charitable mood, you think you are talking to a brick wall.
Occasionally, you wonder if being removed from one's own mind makes one leave behind the associated brain cells. If they existed to begin with. Moronic, pathetic, idealistic brat.
You also ponder punching him, but you've never been violent, and are probably depressingly bad at punching people.
Getting out from behind these bars, slipping off these chains, stretching, just for once… You don't particularly care about that. Honestly, it's beyond you to care about much, besides sticking this out until the bitter end. But you might – just might – want to get out - just once, just maybe – if only for the chance to throttle Ryou Bakura.
It's difficult to judge time around here, but Bakura gets the feeling that his host hasn't been around in a while. That's rather confusing. Maybe he is here, but not speaking. Holding a vigil, until Bakura gives in and calls his name.
Which is, of course, never going to happen.
Is he late? By an hour maybe, or two. Or – who is he kidding?– a week, or a month, or a year. Well, Bakura might know about anything more than a month. That would probably be obvious, given he does occasionally spend some (negotiable) time in the outside world.
Watches: that beautiful invention. Truly, they are the spoils of a great and developing reality, callous as it remains. Over the years he's spent locked away, he's even had enough exposure to his host's memories to learn to read one. What Bakura wouldn't give for a watch.
Well, technically Bakura would give nothing for a watch. He would see one, want one and take one. Nonetheless, it's the sentiment that counts.
He thinks he's going slightly insane in here, locked away with only his thoughts for company, as opposed to the voice in his head. Or maybe he's beginning to speak like that voice. Next he'll be writing letters to his dead sister.
He doesn't have a dead sister.
The other one does. That voice. Where has that voice gone?
Ryou wanders. It's a little less dark around these bits of Bakura's consciousness. Which is to say, he might have half a meter's warning prior to bumping into a wall. If he's lucky.
This could, Ryou reflects, count as trespassing. Having said that, if Bakura makes the effort, he'll sense the intrusion anyway and this being his mind, dropping a boulder or an anvil in Ryou's way wouldn't be difficult – even from within a cage. Besides, it's not like Ryou can see much.
He's not overly sure why he's doing this.
"Who's there?" The voice is small and scratchy, and not quite scared. It's something else – fierce.
"Ryou Bakura?" It almost seems a question. A lot of things Ryou says come out as questions, which is a problem Bakura's never had to face.
"What's Ryou? I'm Bakura." The speaker steps into Ryou's precious sphere of visibility.
"Are you?" It's a child, an oversized red jacket draped over his shoulder and swamping him in its folds. He looks nothing like Ryou's Bakura – or at least his mental image of him, scraped together from what he has gleaned from the very few instances of them inhabiting separate spaces. He's scowling, but it isn't schooled or calculated. It's pure, raw irritation, mingled with automatic dislike. Besides which, their only physical similarities are their masses of bright hair, and the child's is slightly darker in tone. More grey than white. Ryou decides not to think about the symbolism of that, instead lingering on the fact that this cannot be his own Bakura. He's in the wrong place.
"I am! And you shouldn't be here. Nobody should be here. Not ever."
"If you don't mind me asking, why not?"
"I do mind. You still haven't told me your name."
"I did, and you didn't believe me. My name is Bakura."
"Both of us?"
"If it's easier, then you can use Ryou." He's fast tiring of this conversation, or rather, they both are. Bakura because he seems completely uninterested in the entire situation, other than to get Ryou out of this place, and Ryou because the child is completely unrelated to him. A sort of mental non sequiter.
"Do many people call you that?" Perhaps Bakura is a little more willing to talk than he anticipated.
"A few." He answers honestly.
"It's a funny name. But why are you here?" His face has smoothed out into honest curiosity. Ryou pauses before answering in order to think, and finds that he cannot conjure up a plausible excuse.
"I'm an intruder."
"Oh, that's okay! 'Cause you're honest about it. Are you like me? I'm a thief!" He's practically glowing with excitement, and the sudden change leaves Ryou reeling.
"I'm a thief in a way, you could say. I don't steal jewellery or money or anything like that, though. I'm stealing a part of someone's mind, just by being here."
Completely ignoring the last statement, Bakura launches directly in to his next stream of conscious. "I don't steal money either! I steal gold and jewels and really cool shiny stuff. Well, I'm supposed to, but I'm not very good at it, so I can't do much. Mostly I just nick food off other kids like me, and that way I get to eat. There's nobody to teach me to rob pyramids and palaces and things, so I'm gonna get better on my own. Then I'll be the best 'cause nobody else has ever done all that stuff without being taught! I think." As he speaks, he moves, and Ryou has to follow, desperately looking for any sign of his location whilst trying to search for something related to his own Bakura.
"Eh – I don't mean to interrupt, but – where are we going?" Ryou holds his breath, wondering if this question will bring about yet another sudden mood swing. He can't leave just yet. Not until he has enough evidence to prove to Bakura that he's right, and that the spirit isn't a monster.
…Which is a resolution he came to approximately a second ago, and has now decided to stick to.
"'Where are we going!'" Bakura repeats mockingly. "Isn't it obvious?"
"We're going to…" He brakes off, and Ryou stares down at him in surprise. "I… don't… remember…" He looks up, wide-eyed. "Why don't I remember?"
"I don't know."
The image dissolves into shattered light, and then dissipates, and Ryou is in the dark.
Whilst drifting in and out of lucid thought, Bakura broods.
He's becoming something of a master at that.
He isn't sure how much time has passed since he last wondered. Potentially a vast amount. Probably five minutes. He never used to question it, but that's just another disadvantage of having his landlord pester him on a regular basis.
He glares at the darkness.
Five eternities later, he realises that the back of his mind itches. Eyes narrowed, he investigates.
"What were you doing?" Soft, cold, and effortlessly showcasing the ease with which he could make his host's life hell.
"I went deeper into your mind."
"I noticed. Largely because of the burning, aching wrongness that is someone invading your brain without warning." His voice is still calm. It's a chilling façade.
"You didn't stop me."
"I was barely awake when you first started on your little jaunt. But by the time you managed to violate my soul – well, can you not imagine my surprise? As opposed to being completely passive and oblivious to all around you, you decided to be proactive, I suppose. By, as per usual, hurting someone. This is hardly the first time that's happened. Oh, are you flinching? Painful, is it? Well, we are inside my mind. It would follow that words can literally sting… What, no comment?"
"I'm sorry. I intruded."
"Who is Bakura?"
For a moment, they pause. Ryou's face is as near blank as he can make it, despite the thick veil of darkness. Then he stands. He can't tell if Bakura is watching him.
"Before you go…"
"Give me that watch."
The silver chain rattles against the cage bars, and a flash of reflected light shatters a wayward shadow into two fragments.
Sometimes, breathing hurts. Choking is a rather nonsensical application of his lungs, given that they are merely the mental manifestations of what he takes lungs to be, but somehow, Bakura manages it.
Thirty minutes and twenty seconds since he last spoke to Ryou Bakura.
The blood, he imagines, must be a bitter shade of red on his hands.
Thirty minutes and fifty seconds since he last spoke to Ryou Bakura
There are scars, too. Scars that he doesn't quite remember receiving, even taking into account the faulty memory of one who has lived too long for such a thing. And open wounds. They ache fiercely, and he snarls at his own weakness, because that's what pain is.
A good thief escapes before capture is even a possibility. Occasionally, the natural consequences of a criminal life take their toll: cuts, bruises and such.
A great one sticks around long enough to mess with the heads of whomever is stupid enough to turn up and give chase. This can result in far more dramatic wounds, but it's all par for the course, and they heal into truly impressive scars.
A King, however, scoffs at the mere mention of being wounded. Then again, chained and at the mercy of a brat (with morals), Bakura is a twisted parody of a King, never mind a King of thieves. The blood runs in rivulets down his arms, and it's a little warm. Sticks to the skin, so he doesn't rub it.
Thirty minutes and fifty-five seconds since he last spoke to Ryou Bakura.
The pretty patterns made by blood have always fascinated him.
Then he blinks, and they are gone.
Thirty minutes and twenty seconds since he last spoke to Ryou Bakura.
Ryou is fully in control of his body. This is something that happens with reasonable frequency, but he still sees it as a pleasant surprise. Time sharing has resulted in various things happening to him, from all his friends turning into lead figurines, to a stab wound in the left hand, and though he tries to remain optimistic, a small part of him still expects to wake up in hospital, one of these days.
But it's the middle of the night, and he finds himself at a loss as to what he should be doing. His bedroom is dark, and he pulls the blanket over him and stares at the wall for a few minutes. Or what might be a few minutes. Going into another room to check the analogue clock seems implausible. Mechanically checking his wrist, he realises again that giving away his watch was a terrible idea.
It also leads him to wonder how it's disappeared, given he tossed it away whilst inside his own head.
Come to think of it, this is probably one of those things that it's best not to wonder about.
He's useless. Bored and witless and not tired in the slightest – though very, very weary. Ryou doesn't know quite what to do with himself, and it's mildly annoying. Though it is much too dark, so he stands and stretches, and paws lazily at the switch on the wall. He's half sick of shadows.
The bulb's gone.
Curling back up deep under his blanket, Ryou curls a strand of his fringe around one finger.
It has to have been a few hours since he and Bakura argued.
Surely there's a way in which he can get back into his soulroom voluntarily?
"Are you there?"
"I couldn't find you."
My heart bleeds.
"It smells of blood in here. Are you hurt?"
Not particularly. Possibly. If I am, it's a product of my imagination.
"I don't understand!"
You can have the watch back. It's useless, by the way.
"It lights up if you press the left button."
I know that. That's not why it's useless.
"It seems accurate enough."
How long has it been since we last spoke?
"Two hours and forty-three minutes."
An eternity. Though if you weren't useful as an anchor to reality, I would still kick you back out.
No need to worry, landlord. I value my sanity.
"Is that blood?"
"You gestured, I think. With your hand. You splattered blood on me."
"No it isn't!"
A meaningless reflection of the inner workings of my mind. It won't kill me.
"That doesn't make me feel any better! Let me see your hand!"
Stay away. I will get rid of you, if you annoy me.
The moment his hand slips through the bars, Ryou knows that something is wrong. There is no icy pain, or burning agony – just the strange distortion of reaching a hand into another world, in the vain hope of saving someone.
It's a little like getting a very distinct case of pins and needles.
Bakura's last yell has barely faded when their hands touch, and the contact stains Ryou's palm with sticky, viscous blood. He can't tell the colour, deep in this darkness. Gritting his teeth, he pulls, dragging Bakura to the edge of the cell.
It's then that he realises why this is so strange.
The hand isn't his own.
For one thing, it's a little bigger. His own fingers, spindly and thin ('pianist's fingers', he has been told, to his mild surprise), wrap easily around it. The skin is calloused and scarred, and, as he brushes against a wrist, he touches a hard metal band.
So presumptuous of Ryou, to think that Bakura's true form was his own. Of course it wasn't: an ancient spirit, locked away in a gold trinket for millennia – how could something so powerful be his? Ultimately, his own role in events is minor.
In a sense, he is completely unrelated to Bakura.
It astonishes him.
And then Bakura slams into the bars, and his free hand swings around to hit in the darkness, and Ryou feels it in the stale air just in time to throw himself sideways. Childlike, he still clutches Bakura's hand, and the resultant force of his movement pulls them both over again.
Childlike. Like a child.
"What the hell are you doing?"
Wrapped in a coat far too big for him, the tangled swaths of fabric tumbling over his wrists, and now over Ryou's. Dreaming of becoming thief of gold and jewels; gold now adorns his wrists. And the voice: a mixture of petulance, defiance and confusion.
"Get off of me!"
"The other Bakura: the child in your memories. That was you. Stop trying to throw me off! I have proof! You aren't a monster. How could you ever be?"
It's all so obvious now. This Bakura, this separate entity, is distinct from all of them. He is the child who dreamed of becoming a thief. And now, his hands are thick with blood.
"But I don't understand… why are you trapped here, still? Why won't you free yourself?"
Bakura finally wrenches his hand away, and Ryou stares at the space where his own rests, unable to see it for the darkness. It has its own thin layer of blood on it – and not his own. But… is it Bakura's? It's a product of his imagination, he said, but why would he bring this upon himself?
"Landlord, I'm warning you. I have tolerated you, up until now. And now, you will leave."
Somehow, the single syllable is far stronger than anything he's yelled, or shouted, or whimpered. Simple, blank refusal.
"I'm not leaving, and I'm not sitting here quietly." He's so much more confident now, knowing that he's right. Finally, persistence has paid off. "If that blood is something you thought up yourself, then I think that the cage is, too. That's why you won't escape. It's not that you can't, is it? You've locked yourself away, and you'll never come out. So I'm not leaving." All the pieces fit together so neatly, and Bakura's been so clever. But now it's all been laid bare in the sunlight, and Ryou knows exactly what's been going on. "Not until you destroy your cage, and I see what you look like. It's dark in here, so nobody can see anything at all, and I couldn't guess any of this. And then I wandered into a different part, and it was brighter, and I did see you, but I didn't realise it. But now I have my proof, and you have to accept that I'm right! You told me to leave, and I didn't, and I was right!"
Ryou scrambles back, knowing the response his outburst will elicit, and knowing that he is too far from the bars for anything but words to hurt him. As he does so, his watch catches on his skin where it wasn't quite fastened properly, and he lets out a tiny hiss as their blood trickles into one, mingling on his wrist and dripping into space.
His watch. Out of habit, he glances down to where the face should be. Even veiled in shadows, he can see the numbers, glowing faint and green.
If you press the button on the left, the watch face lights up. It makes it easier to read, and it's the kind of cheap gimmick that can add a negotiable amount of profit on to the price. Completely useless in most instances.
The world crumbles.
The shadows are the first to go, chased away by the indomitable light that churns and flows and strikes. Their surroundings are, for once, so bright as to chase away clarity: lines and shapes fizzle in the brightness, as opposed to merely being obscured by a clumsy blanket of blank shade.
The cage is next to shatter. Brittle as it always was, the shards of steel don't last long. They are thrown explosively into the air, and, hanging there for a moment, crumple. The dust floats away on a nonexistent breeze. It was an immaterial prison to begin with.
Finally, Ryou sees Bakura. He expects to see hatred or loathing: to feel red eyes burning into him and to know that, after everything, this action was the one that was unforgivable. Destroying the shadowy façade of the thief's mind.
Bakura looks terrified.
Ryou releases the button, and wrenches the watch from his wrist, flinging it as far as he can. Gently, darkness begins to well up again.
"Don't look so surprised."
He isn't – not really. No progress made with Bakura could ever last, and what can ever change in the mind of an ancient spirit? He can't help but brace himself for the inevitable fall. The trap that Bakura must have, lying in waiting for him. Nothing's different, and it makes him want to scream.
Letting out a mental sigh (that quickly becomes audible, given their surroundings), he takes up his customary position, sat by the bars of a cage that he cannot see, whose occupant he cannot understand. The urge to rip and tear and claw at the darkness, until it's all gone again, is horrifyingly strong.
He thinks of Bakura's face.
"I told you not to care, and you did. What were you expecting, exactly?"
He finds himself at a loss for words. Everything. Nothing. For something to tell him that there was intrinsic value in the words of liar. Poetry. What was he expecting, in the end? "Maybe," he finds himself saying, aloud and thoughtful, "I wanted to win."
"Something a little less, perhaps, than that – but who can tell?"
Something grabs his hand, with all the intensity of one trying to prove a point. Their arms align – mirror images of each other, he thinks, if he could see it.
He's sat back to back with the King of thieves. No metal mars the void between them, which itself is barely a whisper of a millimetre wide.
"It's better than being alone."
"You might be right."
There's nothing much left to say, so, for a time, they sit. The silence mingles softly with the shadows, resting gently on their shoulders.
Ryou closes his eyes, and they stop trying to see in the dark.