Crystal's Notes: So I reread all that I wrote for this story. And to be honest, I was mad with myself. For making the "Confederate" the bad-guy. (Because honestly, that was a bit biased on my part and completely unfair.) But then I read the last chapter and amended for myself that this version of the "Confederate" is not really what I think the real Confederate, during the time of the Civil War, would have been like.
I want that to be clear.
This version of the "Confederate" is, as Arthur said, completely made-up by Alfred's own fears. He's just his nightmare other than acting like it's someone who's been around before.
I imagine the real Confederate wasn't so nearly as mean; again, I want that to be clear. I don't say that because I somehow agree with slavery (I don't)—but rather, I say that, because I don't agree with stereotyping the Confederacy as "evil," "demonic," and "twisted," which is what I realize may have come across in previous chapters.
Okay. 8D Now that that's done. One final note:
The last couple "quote" stanzas are from the same song—but that song will carry over into the next chapter. I don't know if anyone pays them any attention, but if you were curious, the song title and artist will be named next chapter, after the final bits from it have been used for breakers/fillers/whatever purpose…they're serving. 8D
Thanks! And enjoy!
AnarchySoul's Notes: Praise the worthy Krissey. Praise her. Happy she's back 8D? I am too (heart heart)
"'Tis now the witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on."
- Hamlet, Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Arthur decided that dark, flickering lights in—of all places—an asylum—were really one of the highest markers on his list of "Top Ten Freaky Things." And honestly, if he didn't have a son in there—a brother—whatever—inside, along with several, probably dead doctors—then he wouldn't even be found within a foot of the place.
But as it was, he needed to be here.
Russia grabbed his arm as they reached the first dank intersection, which scared the United Kingdom more than he'd let on—How the heck am I sane, taking with me—of all people—Ivan along to the asylum—but he listened closely, either way, as the tall man muttered, "We should probably split up, da?"
"Yes," was Arthur's instinctive response, merely to agree with whatever the bigger country was saying—but then he really thought about the words and the implication of what they meant, and quickly recovered himself. "I mean no—no, let's definitely not split up. That is a bad idea. Very bad idea. Aren't we more powerful in numbers—?"
The island nation realized, perhaps by the tone, perhaps by the shift of Ivan's hand from his arm to his shoulder, that he was shaking at that moment. Trembling.
What? Why? I—I can't be scared—I'm the United Kingdom. What have I to be afraid of—
"I believe little America is as scared as you are."
Self-realization became startlingly clear, a beacon in Arthur's head, making him tense up even more and shake his head. Suddenly, he was very aware of the reason he was quavering. "No," he disagreed. "Well—perhaps Alfred is. But not the Confederate. He knows…he knows I can't hurt him." Can't, because I won't. Because you're still the face of the boy I care for so much. "But he…well, you know what he can do even to someone he cares about. You've seen it."
Russia didn't frown—perhaps that wasn't possible for the enormous man—but the smile did dip a fraction in acknowledgement, before picking itself back up. Plus, it looked ten times creepier than normal in the faulty lighting, which hardly served to comfort the United Kingdom any. "I doubt the same will be of you, Arthur. Little America treasures you. He will protect before hurt you."
The sandy-blonde sighed. "Let's…let's just hope so."
Ivan's hand on his shoulder patted once, before leaving as the giant country turned around. "I will be heading this way, then. Now that that is taken care of. You take the other—da?"
"Da—I mean. Yes." Arthur shook his head, clearing his thoughts as he, too, turned away from the other and faced the darkened hallway in front of him. He swallowed.
This one had hardly any working lights.
Onward to the belly of the beast, I suppose.
The father of lies
Coming to steal
Kill and destroy
All my hopes of being good enough
I hear him saying cursed are the ones who can't abide
Soft inhale. Soft exhale.
Soft inhale. Soft exhale.
Breathe. Keep breathing. Keep calm, dumb heart. Keep calm.
It was hardly anything but. Arthur wanted to keep his hands in his coat pockets—and yet didn't. For a few minutes, he fumbled with the idea, hands darting to his sides before darting back to the calm interior, before pulling them back out because he didn't want to be caught without time to defend himself.
He swallowed numbly—and to his greatest surprise, when he finally heard something, he wasn't as scared as he thought he'd be. Instead, a cold, heavy courage clasped itself over his heart, locking and clicking into place like a safe on his fear.
For this, the United Kingdom was rather grateful.
The sandy-haired island nation drew to a stop, feet suddenly feeling like stiff rods instead of flesh and bones. It was a bit difficult to move them. He swallowed a second time. "…Alfred?"
His voice echoed down the dark, still hallway.
"…Alfred, is that you?"
Because something was most definitely there. At least, he thought so. That thrumming, flowing sensation deep in the marrow of his bones told him that it was Another—a country, too—a nation that was human and yet wasn't, threaded into being by the wills and ordainment of many.
On a lighter note, he wasn't quite sure whether he wanted it to be Russia who was hiding or America.
Either, at this moment, would be terrifying.
Oh, what was I thinking, getting myself into this mess? Sighing, the United Kingdom shook his head, clearing his thoughts. His senses were playing on him—heightened by this idiotic sense of fear he had in him. He blamed it on his unlikely companion. Shouldn't have brought Ivan along. Now I have two monsters to be wary of—
—and Arthur barely had time to react. Just as his back stiffened, stance readying itself for a fight, a hand clasped over his mouth, strong and curved—and another placed itself on his back—and then with a shudder, the United Kingdom felt that same draining, tugging feeling as before, like strong, potent molasses was being slid along his insides as white burst from his back, feathery and large.
So there you are, a calm voice in his head said—sounding quite unlike himself, to be honest, but yet he was glad for his apparently-braver-than-consciousness-subconscious.
Another voice, suddenly loud and fearful, cried out. ARTHUR, RUN—!
But the United Kingdom shut out the voice of his long-time comrade, fighting to stay in the present, in the real world, and not in the mind, as he struggled against the grasp of his captor, teeth nipping for a good bite on that hand, wings flapping.
"It's all in vain, you know."
That voice he knew, whispered in his ear as the hand on his back removed itself temporarily. When it returned, all Arthur felt, instead, was metal.
"It's handy what you can find around at a hospital. Don't you think, Arthur?"
Metal? Metal? What's he holding?
There was such desperation in that voice. Such fear. Why? What was the Confederate planning? Arthur grit his teeth, tugging, tugging—and dang it, why was America so strong?
The metal moved along his back, sending shivers up and down Arthur's spine, crawling along his skin.
"You know what they do to birds when they don't want them to fly away, Arthur?"
Heavy. Laden. Sinking to the bottom of his stomach like iron.
He isn't—he wouldn't—
The struggling intensified, frightened—and suddenly, he knew—knew why Alfred—the real Alfred—was so scared, so terrified—and he wanted to scream—scream so loudly—cry out—ALFRED HE'S NOT REAL HE'S YOUR IMAGINATION YOU CAN STOP THIS—and oh, where the heck was Ivan? Right when he needed him? At this one, rare, inconceivable moment in time—
"Now, now, Arthur. You're not going to get away from me this time. I'll make sure you stay with me always."
The metal—scissors, Arthur realized a split-second before their bite—cut into flesh, bone and feathers.
And before he could stop himself, Arthur began to scream.
Alleluia, he's right!
Alfred wished he could cover his ears.
Flesh—it—it shouldn't make that noise. That squishing, squelching sound—and all that blood—and the bones—the crunch, and the tear—
And Arthur was still screaming.
That was the worst.
Muffled by his hand in the real world—yet so vibrant, echoing, loud and painful and raw and vivid, thrumming, horrible in the world of the America's mind.
He was shaking.
But that didn't really matter, did it?
Red—there's so much red—
It shouldn't have been there, some part of his mind still stammered. Not here—not in his mind. Not covering his hands, soaking through skin as if he was the one holding the scissors and snipping through Arthur's wings—right here, in the present—by his own hands—fingers, pulling on the handles to crunch, squelch, snip, scream—
The red grew, dripping, pouring, rushing all over his hands—his arms—his shirt—his pants—filling up the entire space of his mind—GUILTY GUILTY YOU TORTURER, TWISTED, MURDERER—the words, painted in blood, all over his consciousness—
Shaking red hands gripped the sides of his head, and Alfred couldn't breathe. RED, RED, ARTHUR'S RED—ARTHUR'S RED I SPILLED—I DID THIS—I DID—
When the final tendon was snapped and the first wing finally fell—huge—white—it was supposed to have been beautiful; not painted and marred, seeped through with red—and splattered to the ground—limp—a complete limb, severed and just lying there—
—Alfred, too, began to scream. Long and horrified because—
The devil is preaching
The song of the redeemed:
That I am cursed and gone astray
I cannot gain salvation