Persona Non Grata
By: Brave Soul RMS
Disclaimer: Only two of the characters featured here (Grey Thomas and Juniper Hawthorne) are my own. The rest were loaned to me with the permission of their authors. The "Shin Megami Tensei: Persona" games are not my intellectual property, but are merely sources of inspiration. However, the plot, though inspired by SMT, is 100% my creation. You have my word about that.
WARNING: The following story contains elements under the official rating of M for Mature. This includes scenes of violence, scenes of gore, moderate cursing, alcohol use, possible drug use and sex, and other things of that nature.
It may also depict events that directly defy the laws of physics and/or nature and the main characters go above and beyond the normal limits of the human body. But this part's purely in the pursuit of awesome. What'd you expect? This is a Shin Megami Tensei fic.
However inane the above statement may be, the following actually holds some relevance. A message to the squeamish, prude, or easily-offended: You choose to read this of your own volition. You have been warned. And may God have mercy on your soul... Just kidding about that last part :D
Chapter 000: Welcome to the Velvet Room
Sleep held no comfort for the likes of Logan Martin. For others, it was a welcome getaway; a means through which they could forget the world and all their problems and just disappear quietly for a few hours. For Logan, sleep just served as a reminder that, when he awoke, his peace would be shattered and he'd be thrust back into the hell (at least to him) he was unlucky enough call his life. It was even worse when he dreamed.
Dreams, for normal people, were filled with comforting thoughts and though the contents of a dream may be a warped, swirling vortex of confusion and anarchy, the pleasant thoughts that could be pulled out of the mire and deciphered made sleep that much more enjoyable.
Again, this was not the case for Logan. It never was. He never expected it to ever be. His dreams would forever be haunted by his emotions and instability and the demons that slept in the darkest corners of his psyche, waiting for nightfall. For the most favorable time to strike and do as much damage as possible. The scary thing was that this all routine for Logan now. It'd become as predictable as the change of seasons.
But tonight, the devils didn't show themselves. Were they afraid, he dimly wondered as he floated around in nothingness. Maybe they'd just gotten bored with him. It's no fun picking on an unresponsive target, after all. No, that wasn't the case. They'd never willingly abandon their favorite toy.
Logan floated within the darkness of his mind for what seemed an eternity, never once questioning exactly why he was so aware when he was supposed to be asleep. There wasn't much to be aware of; just darkness on all sides and he was chillingly aware of that fact. Maybe that was why the demons weren't around?
Just then, a royal blue light flickered into existence within his nonexistent dreamscape. Logan tried to ignore it and force himself into a deeper level of unconsciousness but his efforts were in vain. The light started to move and Logan thought that it might be a fairy. Like that really annoying one from Legend of Zelda.
"Ignore it,"he mumbled to himself. But the light, whatever it was, was persistent. Now whenever it moved, there'd be a shrill tinny ring like the sound a single sleigh bell made. That got Logan's attention. He flippantly whirled around, weightless within the confines of his thoughts, and glared at the light.
"What do you want? Go away, I'm trying to sleep!" he barked at it, getting angrier with each word. The light slowly started to grow in response. Then Logan corrected himself. It wasn't growing, it was getting closer. He scowled.
"You… What is it you truly desire…?" The voice was not his own and sounded like it belonged to that of a wise old sage out of a fairy tale. "Answer," it coaxed when Logan said nothing.
"I want for you to leave me alone and go away," Logan growled. The light was suddenly blinding him now and he felt something land on his nose. He swatted it away and rubbed out his eyes to see a tiny blue butterfly standing but six inches from his nose, flapping its wings lazily. The light was coming from this pest, Logan realized. The butterfly started to fly circles around him.
"Would you like to be rid of this curse? Of this darkness? Of this solitude…?" the voice asked mysteriously.
"Now you echo. Yay," Logan quipped dryly. "I already said what I wanted. Now grant my wish, you stupid bug or genie whatever you are." The voice was silent for a moment and the butterfly continued to orbit the irritated Logan.
"You hold within you a great power. An endless potential that can become anything you so desire."
"Bullshit. If that were true, my life would be a lot different than it is now," Logan muttered darkly. "Where's this potential you're talking about?"
"Within you. Within your true self," the voice answered. Enigmatic responses be damned! Logan wanted solid answers!
"Look, I don't know what the hell you're talking about. I'm me. This is who I am. Disappointed, right?"A tortured, angry edge slipped into his words. "Wait, why am I even talking to you? All you are is a figment of my imagination. Just the meds making me trip balls again."
"Stop saying my name!" Logan snarled.
"You hold the key. You hold endless possibilities within your heart. I am here to deliver a message: your world is in great danger."
"You expect me to believe that? This isn't some stupid video game!" Logan's shouts progressively grew louder. He took a breath to steady himself and continued, "Get outta my head, you stupid hallucination." The voice continued, unafraid of Logan's anger.
"Your world is in danger and you are one of a handful of people who possess the power to stop this calamity. I leave you with an ultimatum: You have eighteen months to build up your bonds with others and amass enough strength or your world shall cease to be. Only through trust and understanding with others can this goal be reached. Fulfill your destiny, Logan Martin. Pursue your true self."
"What does that mean?" Logan asked the voice. "I don't have any friends so I guess the world's just gonna die if it's counting on me."
"Pursue your true self," the voice repeated again. The butterfly made one last revolution around Logan and stopped a few inches from his face again. Then it disappeared as easy as it'd appeared, its light going with it, snuffed out like a candle.
MORNING: Martin Residence
In the real world, Logan awoke with a start. His eyes snapped open and bolted upright, surveying his bedroom. Dresser to the far right, door next to that, bedside table, lamp, windows closed and shuttered, and the television was on top of his armoire where it always was. Everything seemed normal. The pale blue light glowing from behind the shutters told Logan it was just about time to get up for school. He looked at the alarm clock on his bedside table. Six o'clock. He frowned.
"I really have to lay off the meds," Logan sighed to himself. He ran a hand through his messy mop of brown hair and forced himself out of bed to get ready. As he staggered groggily into the bathroom, he let out a truly monstrous yawn. Another day, another six hours at St. Yung Private High. The downside was that he had to get up at an ungodly hour of the day. And there was the little issue of almost every student and teacher there being a rich snob. The upside? Their uniform was the very epitome of badass. For clothes that cool, Logan would endure just about everything.
MORNING: St. Yung Private School
Since Logan wasn't a boarder at the school, he had to commute to the school. St. Yung was close-by so that wasn't really a problem at all and he could easily walk the distance. The real problem (one of many, really) was showing up to the school and being stared at like some kind of freak at a sideshow by damn near everybody in the courtyard. The title of 'school headcase' unfortunately came coupled with the disapproving, fearful, or apprehensive stares of the student body. Unsurprisingly, the life of a sociopath was not an easy one, but, an hour later, Logan stood in St. Yung's spacious and immaculately green courtyard dressed for the day.
"The sun isn't even awake yet," he noted sleepily. The sky was still stuck in the periwinkle limbo between early morning and late night. Quickly getting bored of the view, he looked down at his school uniform and allotted himself a small smile of satisfaction. Yep; still badass.
The school's uniform consisted of deep black bottoms that were a cross between slacks and jeans, a white dress shirt, red tie, and a jeans jacket the same color as the bottoms. The right half of the jacket was decorated with a black and white checkerboard pattern while the left half was unadorned except for a silver metal badge rimmed red pinned to the breast with the roman numeral for two carved into its surface. The jacket's zipper was polished to a shine and the collar was high enough to completely cover one's neck when buttoned shut. If it was worn the right way, Logan believed that the uniform could make anybody look like they'd just stepped out of a spy thriller.
Uniquely to St. Yung's, the students were allowed a certain degree of liberty when it came to their uniforms and many students had taken full advantage of this. Many made modifications to their uniforms, added accessories, or wore clothes they already owned. Logan was a member of the latter group, opting only to wear a simple black shirt under his jacket.
Logan stood next to one of the two giant fountains in the courtyard and looked around, face apathetic and his hands in his pockets. He knew a lot of the kids in the school and his parents had told him to pick out kids to avoid so as to reduce stress and confrontation. Logan was only all too happy. Scanning around once more, he laid eyes on a boy surrounded by a semicircle of girls, each one of them giggling like,
"High school girls," he said in distaste. Tittering herds of pubescent girls babbling on and on about the most meaningless things gave him a planet-sized headache. It was even worse when they abandoned all morals and threw themselves at guys like the one they'd ensnared in their unfinished circle.
The boy's name was Jett Mitchell, St. Yung's self-proclaimed 'hottest guy ever' and a member of Logan's year. A handsome boy in his own right, but, when he first came out with that bold declaration in the first year, Logan fought his damnedest to hold in his snort of laughter. For some reason, he was sought-after by every girl in the first and second years, several in the third, and even a handful of the cradle robbers - as Logan called them - in the fourth year. Needless to say, that didn't make him very popular amongst the male students but, lucky for him, Jett knew how to fight.
Jett flicked the bangs of his curly brown hair and said something to one of the girls in front of him. He cupped her chin in his hand and looked at her with an almost lustful glint in his green eyes and her entire face lit up like a beacon. Logan scoffed and turned his head away from the scene to look for others on his 'People to Avoid' list. His eyes landed on a pale girl sitting on one of the benches far off from everyone else, one leg crossed over the other and her nose buried in a book. She had pale skin and a purple headband in her dark brown hair.
"Henrietta Mackenzie," Logan said to nobody. Logan only had one or two encounters with Henrietta, at least to his memory. Their first was back in his first year and he'd been assigned to be her lab partner. Rejecting Logan's rather innocuous hello and introduction, Henrietta looked him dead in the face and told him to 'stay out of the way' because she didn't want him 'screwing up her carefully done incisions in the frog'. The look in her dull brown eyes practically went out and called Logan an idiot right then and there.
Henrietta must've noticed Logan looking at her because she looked up from her book and stared him in the face with that annoying emotionless look on her face. She looked away from him a second later and adjusted the red bow around her neck that was part of the female uniform before picking up her bag and walking towards the school.
"She's still as pleasant as ever," Logan deadpanned.
Logan kept up his search and only really found a handful of students out of about two-thousand to avoid. There was Jeremy Lynche, an upperclassman who really wasn't that bad on his own but the crowd he ran with sometimes gave Logan trouble. Then there was Emma Jacobs, a blonde girl from out in the country who was boarding at the school. How she made it to an expensive private academy like St. Yung, Logan would never know. Juniper Hawthorne, one of the only redheads in the entire student body, was a nice enough girl and never gave anybody trouble but she spoke so fast and with so many complicated words that Logan got a headache just thinking about her.
Floressa Roux, a girl with pixie-cut black hair who defied skirts by wearing bike shorts underneath, only had one classification in Logan's mind: she's hot. Really hot. The number one reason he avoided her was because he could bet his parents' car that he'd get grief from the rumors that would inevitably pop up, so that was a no-go. Grey Thomas was a pretty quiet kid in that he didn't really talk to anybody and got picked on because he smuggled a puppy into the dorms. It liked to bark a lot. Hanging out with him was a one-way ticket to more abuse but Logan remembered to talk to him if he ever wanted to modify his jacket.
The morning bell rang out with a strident eight-note tune, calling the students in for the start of classes. Sighs, groans, and random chatter filled the air like the buzzing of a beehive as the scattered students formed a river of solid black leading into St. Young's front entrance. Logan opted to hang back until the last few students were about to enter before heading towards the four-floor black fortress that was his high school. Instead of heading for his first period Mathematics room, he took a right and silently slipped into the door marked 'Dr. Murray, Ph.D.'. Unlike everyone else, Logan was allowed to skip his morning class every other day in favor of something more important.
Morning therapy sessions.
"And have you had any weird dreams lately?" Dr. Murray asked in a bored drone. The short, pasty, and balding sweater vest wearer didn't even look Logan in the eyes the entire time he'd been in the room and he was halfway though the therapy session. The good doctor just kept his head down and focused on his clipboard. Apparently the teachers were afraid of Logan too; even his own psychiatrist. Logan shot him a look of contempt and heaved a sigh before speaking.
"One from last night," he answered, almost as bored as Dr. Murray. "A pretty vivid one. I was floating."
"Floating?" Oh, so now he was interested. "That's odd; most of your dreams have you either standing still or running. Elaborate." Logan smirked openly.
"Ask nicely," he goaded, obviously enjoying the agitated look on the man's face. "Come on, don't look like such a sour puss. Ask nicely and I'll tell you."
"Logan, you're being childish," the doctor reprimanded, his frown deepening. He pointed his pen at his patient and continued, "You know, I don't have to be here and help smarmy little brats like you. All I have to do all day is sit and wait until Thursday and I get paid either way -"
"And you get to go home to your beautiful trophy wife and kids, blah, blah, blah," Logan finished for him, his voice a rude drone. His eyes hardened into a glare. "Look, pal, I'm not exactly looking forward to seeing your face every other day first thing in the morning either. So just shut up and take notes." Dr. Murray's bushy moustache bristled in rage muttered something under his breath about enduring for the extra pay. Logan smirked victoriously and leaned back in his recliner.
"Like I said, I was floating and it was nothing around me but blackness. Like I was in an abyss or something. There was this weird blue light that popped out of nowhere after that and it turned out to be a glowing butterfly. Then a voice rang out - I think from the butterfly but I'm not sure - telling me about trust and friendship and saving the world or some shit like that." Logan shrugged. The dream was insignificant but it stuck in his mind a fresh memory nonetheless. "Maybe I've been playing too many video games?"
"Obviously," his psychiatrist said dryly.
"I dunno. It felt more to me that I was tripping balls in my sleep again thanks to those crazy meds you give me," Logan retorted in a falsely thoughtful tone. Dr. Murray's face scrunched up in indignation and Logan suppressed a laugh effortlessly.
"The medication does not induce hallucinations," he insisted. Logan's smirk grew when he heard the clearly annoyed bite in the doctor's words. "It's meant to control any chemical imbalances you may have so that you don't lash out. Considering that you're starting to act up again, I'd say it's time for another dose."
"Screw that," Logan said almost immediately. "Tastes like the crap you'd find at the school cafeteria." Dr. Murray took a few deep breaths to control his rising irritation and fixed Logan with a debilitating glare. It was the first look he'd given Logan in a half hour. Biting his tongue, Dr. Murray took a pocket watch out of the briefcase at his side and Logan groaned and fell back in the recliner.
"Not the hypnosis again. Does that even work in the first place?" he demanded, eyebrow raised skeptically.
"Logan, you -"
"Yeah, okay, fine, I know," the boy hurriedly submitted. He shifted into a more relaxed position and let his body's tension fade away. "Okay, go." Dr. Bill nodded and dangled the pocket watch over Logan's face, swinging it back and forth like a pendulum.
"Focus on the watch and try falling asleep," Dr. Murray instructed him. Biting back a growl, Logan went through the motions of hypnotherapy like he'd done countless times before. He cleared everything out of his mind and made sure to keep his eyes on the watch without moving them. Left, right… Left, right… Slowly, the ticking of the clock next to the bookshelf behind Dr. Murray ticked in synchrony with the swinging of the watch and Logan felt his eyelids get heavy. If any credit could be given to Dr. Murray, it was that he was one hell of a hypnotist.
Logan's vision started to blur. Incense candles were lit somewhere because their heavy perfume pressed down on Logan's senses, pushing him further into sleep.
"When I snap my fingers, you will fall asleep. And when you do, I want you to repeat to me what was said to and by you in the dream to the best of your ability," murmured Dr. Murray. His voice sounded like it was coming from the other end of a tunnel.
Left…tock…right…tick… Wait, no, that's not it. The order's reversed... The sound of a piano reached Logan's ears playing a hauntingly mysterious melody. Had that happened before? His mind found no answer.
"Can't remember…" Logan muttered unintelligibly. A woman's voice joined the piano playing. She was singing a beautiful aria that melded with the instrument to create a ghostly but strangely placid and inviting melody. The music was still far off and that kept most of the sound away from him. Longingly, Logan wanted to hear it more clearly. Dr. Murray raised his fingers to snap and his lips moved, counting down from three. Then he snapped and the world went black.
MORNING: Unknown Area
And then it went blue.
Royal blue, to be exact. Logan opened his eyes and looked around, seeing he was back within the blackness of his former dream only for a royal blue spotlight to switch on and shine down on him. For some odd reason, he was dressed in a gray pinstriped suit and red shirt. Ignoring the general weirdness of his situation, he had to admit that the suit came close to beating his uniform in terms of sheer badass.
"Alright, I'm done admiring this outfit," he said under his breath. Raising his voice, he looked up at the spotlight and called out, "Where am I?" Silence was his answer. A moment later, the piano started playing that same melody again and it was not long before the woman's aria followed. Light flooded Logan's consciousness, finally allowing him to see his surroundings in full.
He was in what appeared to be a high-class nightclub that was all but empty but for two people. Directly in front of Logan was a woman on a stage dressed in a sparkling indigo dress and white opera gloves. She kept her hair up in an elegant bun and her eyes were shut. This woman was the source of the aria, Logan realized, but he couldn't figure out how she knew how to achieve such amazing harmony with the piano player when she had her hands over her ears. The piano player himself was a tall man dressed in an indigo suit and black tie who had a blindfold over his eyes as he played the purple piano with the skill and ease of Beethoven himself. Again, Logan questioned why he intentionally handicapped himself like the woman.
Logan turned around apprehensively and saw a fully stocked bar behind him being tended to by a man with short bleach-blonde hair. Shaking off the initial shock, Logan noticed he, too, was dressed in indigo and even used a blue rag to clean out a wine glass. Turning around again, Logan's heart almost burst out of his ribcage. There, suddenly in front of the stage, was the strangest little man he'd ever seen in his life.
Balding like Dr. Murray, the man's hair was much longer and straight as opposed to the psychiatrist's puffy remaining hair. He was dressed in black ( a welcome change) and his white gloved hands were clasped together on the round table he sat at. But his nose was what drew Logan's attention. It was inhumanly long and hooked like a buzzard's beak. The man fixed Logan with an amused look in his big, bloodshot eyes when the boy noted the tall and attractive woman at his side. She, too, was dressed in indigo and carried a large book under her arm. She bore a strong resemblance to the bartender right down to their hair color.
"Welcome, young man," the man with the long nose said, his voice smooth as silk, "to the Velvet Room." Logan took another look around the club to confirm everything he was seeing was real. Then, rather ineloquently, he drawled,
"Dude, I am tripping balls." This earned a laugh from the bartender.
"I assure you that this is no hallucination," the long-nosed man continued. He stood up and showed himself to possess long, skinny legs and a body shaped like an upside down egg. "My name is Igor. My associates here are Margaret," he pointed to the woman beside him, "her younger brother, Theodore -"
"Theo," the bartender insisted.
"Belladonna," Igor gestured to the aria singer, "and Nameless." The piano player nodded in Logan's direction, never once breaking concentration. Belladonna kept on singing.
"Uhm…" Logan fumbled around trying to find words in the presence of such a fantastic scene. "My name's Logan. Logan Martin."
"Very pleased to meet you, Logan. Please, take a seat," Igor offered politely. Logan slowly walked over to the indigo-cushioned chair opposite Igor as the strange man sat down once again clasping his hands together. "I assume you don't know why you're here."
"Is it that obvious?" Logan joked. "What was your first clue; the dumbstruck look on my face or the shock when you appeared?" For some reason, all of Logan's negative emotion had left him the moment he'd introduced himself to Igor. He felt strangely at peace here. Better not to question it, he reasoned. Igor laughed but Margaret kept her face stoic.
"A sense of humor. We haven't seen that in a guest in a long while," Igor remarked. "Nonetheless, I shall explain." Logan kept quiet and listened.
"Where we are now is the space between consciousness and sleep, a sort of safe haven or limbo. Only special guests such as yourself," Igor gestured at Logan, "are allowed to visit the Velvet Room."
"What makes me so special?" Logan asked. A wry smile grew from Igor's lips.
"You remember the dream you had last night, correct? The strangely vivid one?"
"Yeah, the one with the butterfly telling me about saving the world and crap." Margaret twitched almost imperceptibly in annoyance. "Is that why I'm here?"
"Indeed the very same," Igor confirmed. "Do not take that dream lightly. Your world is indeed in grave danger. I cannot explain the details now," he said quickly when Logan opened his mouth to ask. "But, fortunately, it is far off and it is preventable, though, only by you and a select few others such as yourself. People with the power to make their inner strength manifest. The power… of Persona."
"Say what now?"
"A Persona," Igor said, "is a mask one wears to face the hardships of reality. A sort of shield they show the world in order to protect their true selves. Normal people know this as a psychological theory but, in here, for people like you, a Persona is power and very much real."
"So… I can use a Persona?" Logan was beginning to catch on. "Okay, so this power is supposed to help me save the world? Sorry, Igor, but I'm not really buying into this." Igor chuckled wryly.
"I wouldn't expect you to just take my word on this. To you, we," he swept his hand across the room, "might as well be your imagination playing tricks on you. 'Tripping balls' as you so interestingly put it." Logan burst out laughing and took a minute to recompose himself.
"Okay, anybody with a sense of humor like yours must be real," he said after the last few traces of laughter disappeared. "So, how do I use this 'Persona'?"
"All in due time, my boy. Before that, you have to sign the contract," Igor said, suddenly all business. Logan raised an eyebrow and Igor responded by waving an arm above the surface of the table. A contract appeared from nothingness and a pen in an ink bottle did the same.
"How did you…? Forget it," Logan said, deciding it was better not to ask.
"This contract is nothing negative. It merely states that, in exchange for our services, you will work your hardest to strengthen your bonds with others and prevent your world from falling to chaos." Igor sat back and let Logan ponder his offer.
Logan heaved a sigh for the umpteenth time. So, from his perspective, according to a little hunchbacked man he met in a dream world filled with blue and indigo, the world was in need of saving and he was apparently the Chosen One. And, using a mask he'd show to the imperiled world, he would save it along with the help of a few other people like him and the power of friendship? It was unbelievable. Pure fantasy at best like something straight out of a dated RPG and, at the same time, a nagging force in the back of Logan's mind told him it was all true. He looked at Igor again and then shifted his gaze to Margaret. Her cold green eyes met Logan's and she gave a tiny nod as if reading the boy's mind.
"So, all I have to do is make a few friends, get a few super powers, and save the world?" Logan asked, his entire body language screaming doubt. Igor nodded at him. "Sorry, Igor. But I can't be assed. People don't like me very much where I'm from. Plus, this is all kind of farfetched, to be honest."
"I understand." Igor actually looked pretty understanding about it. "However…"
"There's always a 'however'," Logan groaned. He faintly noticed that Belladonna and Nameless were still singing and playing.
"Avoiding such a powerful destiny is not something that you can do. If the world calls for your help, you have no choice but to answer the call," the long-nosed man said seriously. Igor leaned forward in his seat, fingers laced together under his gargantuan nose and his brow furrowed.
"I don't like where this is going," Logan said. "I really don't."
"However much you may want to avoid this, you cannot," the strange man reiterated. "The call to destiny knows where you live and it refuses to take 'no' for an answer. You have limitless potential within you, Logan Martin. It would be a shame to let it all go to waste."
"I heard that last night," Logan said with yet another sigh as he got up out of his chair. He started walking away towards a door that appeared when started moving. "I'm gone. It was nice meeting you, Igor." Unbeknownst to Logan's turned back, Igor's face cracked into a devious grin.
"The next time you come here, it will be of your own volition," he said, keeping his smile out of his voice. "Before you leave, please, take a souvenir." Confused, Logan's answer came to him when a key appeared in the door knob of the door he was moving too. Curious, he took it out of its place and inspected it. Like most other things in the Velvet Room, it was a deep royal blue and had no teeth to speak of.
"What're you trying to pull, Igor?" Logan accused.
"Nothing at all," the man replied honestly. "We will meet again, Logan Martin. But for now, adieu." Logan eyed Igor warily before opening the door before him. A white void greeted him before it converted to light and engulfed him, taking him away from the Velvet Room. The instant before, some part of Logan's mind berated him for leaving.
Welcome to the Velvet Room, dear reader. Please leave a review on your way out.