Author's Note: The title is a play on the term, 'Cognitive Dissonance,' just in case it eluded you. By no means is this a shameless self-insert, I meant it as an alternative story line to run parallel with the original series with its own unique characters/plot/etc. Discretion is advised for violence and swear words.

I do not own Puella Magi Madoka Magica nor any of the anime's Affiliates

"I feel like I'm traversing Gary Glitter's large intestine." I mutter, a sentiment caught by my travel guide's keen ears.

"You wouldn't be the first."


Nebulous nebula and impossibly convex/concave shapes coalesce into walls on either side of us, creating a tunnel that darkens as it deepens. Though it is my first time joining her on a witch hunt (and I think I'm doing pretty damn well) she offers no commendation.

"So why can't there be magical boys? Acting on behalf of my gender, I'd like to file a complaint with whoever, or whatever, twisted omni-god came up with this mess. Perhaps we can mediate something less sexist..." My attempt to lighten the mood is met with a leveling glare. "Sigh."

"Don't say, 'sigh.' Frankly I have no idea how you can be so nonchalant."

"Hey, I'm a laid back kind of guy."

In actuality, I'm having a small existential crisis. It's as if I were looking into the heart of a thousand dimensions as it's pumping not blood, but multi color yarn. Tesseracts and tesla coils spiral on the edge of my vision, making/unmaking/remaking pictures. It is very distracting, and disconcerting - enough so that I feel like emptying my stomach. She'd probably give me a good smack across the head and the label of 'wimp' if I did though, so I shut my eyes and continue forward.

When I bump into her back with a slight jolt, "Hey!" I open them again. She's trained her gaze on me, a familiar expression on her furrowed brow; it's one of aggravation.

"Watch where you're going."

"Yeah yeah, sorry. It's just taxing on my brain. I'm pretty sure I saw a discarded couch float by. It was practically brand new, who would throw something like that away?"

"Ha-ha." She faux laughs, though the nigh invisible twinge of a smile on her face tells me she found some amusement in the joke. "The witch is close. Are ya ready?"

"Well, let's have a full run down. I learned far too early this morning, six o'clock to be precise, that you were a self-proclaimed 'magical girl' with the ability and responsibility to fight... corrupted spirits is it? And you were given said supernatural powers by an equally supernatural cat on the basis of using them to fight evil. In return you were afforded a single wish, that of which could be spent on anything under or over the sun, and you chose to... do what again? Did you ask for world peace or a hundred billion yen - no more witches even? Those seem like the more obvious choices, but hey, I'm neither magical nor a girl. And then to prove your point - which I didn't have the patience to doubt - you drag me into the undulating, space-time-anomaly home of despair's palpable manifestation to watch you two duke it out."

I take a much needed breath.

"In response to your question, yes, I'm ready. But only because I'm pretty sure this is all a dream and nothing I say or do really matters."

She answers my diatribe with a blank stare, her lips parted ever so slightly, then murmurs, "Let's go then."

We walk through the cavernous remains of a neon cathedral, braving a surrealist landscape so breathtaking as to suffocate, so jaw-dropping as to starve. When I wake up, I'm definitely analyzing this weird ass shit.

As she walks a few paces in front of me, a flash of light envelops her in itself, then dissipates. She's now wearing an outfit very unlike her school uniform; it's lined with frills and voluminous - puffy - the visual equivalent of a lollipop. It shows a great deal of leg, and I'm glad no one is around to see this but a dance troupe of spastic radishes, and they seem more concerned with keeping step with each other. She looks over her bare shoulder and shoots me a wink. My composure falters.

One by one the seemingly docile pieces of scenery take notice of our presence, tensing in anticipation as we pass. Faceless, two-dimensional mannequins creak to life, somehow following our movements as we gain speed. Their cloth carapaces vanish into the distance as we break into a run, entering a wide, dome-like chamber complete with what looks like parapets and terraces, presumably drawn by some clumsy, crayon-wielding toddler.

In the center sits what I can only assume to be the-

"Witch. And a big'un at that."

Taken aback, I ask, "Where's the broomstick? Or the silly wart nose? This thing's not even wearing a hat." I wish it were trite, that way I wouldn't have to wrap my head around this monstrosity. At first glance it appears to be constructed entirely of gaudy brick and stark white mortar, but at second glance the true details come into focus. Its head, by very loose definition of the word, is a massive fire-spewing furnace locked in place by a web of ribbon and twine. With each moltenous breath, they singe black, then return to their original shades.

"Stay safe while I deal with 'er, it won't be too long."

The mannequins we'd ditched only moments before are rising like threatened snakes from the ground, their intentions clear as they begin shambling vaguely in our direction. I nod in affirmation, and when situated in a secure area shout, "That's my girl!" and duck, watching from behind an overturned plastic horse twice the size of the real thing.

She removes a scabbard from a hook on her waistband, raising it to her eyeline, then slides the scimitar it held into the opposite hand - her right. The witch rakes away a swath of floor in a single fell swoop, disturbing a bed of semi translucent dust. It throws a mist over the scene, but in spite of this I'm positive it missed its target. My girlfriend's poised, airborne figure confirms this. She dives, but the witch is agile and dodges, splaying its weighty arms behind it to hop to the side in an incredible 'fuck you' to physics.

Landing in a tumultuous doll mob, she dismembers them with little trouble - each of her measured swings flow in a rhythm that matches the sudden battle music. It's loud, chattering, shuddering chords resemble a classical composition, minus the composition part; it's as if the Philharmonic Orchestra hosted an orgy mid-concert. Vuvuzelas abound.

Suddenly left is right, up is down, in is out and denim vests come back into fashion. Reality, or what passes for it here, rolls over, and any purchase my feet had on the ground goes into foreclosure. I'm scrambling through open air, counting my few blessings, until one of them catches me in her arms. I try not to swoon as she gives a cocky grin. As we're falling (a fact she seems unaffected by) the witch passes by in the background. Assuming that gravity has no say in this vexing realm, I venture a conversation.

"How's the fight going? - it's difficult to tell."

"Another minute and we're outta here."

"I think another minute'll kill me."

"It had better not," she frowns, "I've put a lotta stock in you." Wind whips past us both, tossing my hair but leaving hers perfectly coiffed. She leans down to plant a kiss on my lips - it's brief, but passionate.

"My heroOO-!"

The force of the touchdown, while not rattling her delicate frame in the least, sends my generously larger body tumbling across the ceiling.


The witch impacts nearby, crushing several of its minions; these guys need a union. Having proven to be more nimble than it looks, the behemoth climbs to its trunks and bellows green flame in protest of recent events. Before it seemed angry; now it seems absolutely livid. Its blows are no longer aimed - they fly in a manner dangerously unpredictable. My protector is nowhere to be seen, existing only in reddish-purple blurs as she slashes with the speed and precision of a master swordswoman years her senior. The cacophonic milieu accelerates, the end is in sight.

The witch's arm separates from its owner in a shower of rock and orange gore. The wires keeping its furnace battened fail - they thin, then snap, unleashing an inner inferno to match the rage of Pompeii. The plaster walls nearest it blister and bubble as a wave of dizzying heat sweeps over me. Five or six mannequins caught in the immediate blast range immolate, their legs collapsing into ash beneath them.

Undeterred and unfettered, my girlfriend continues her merciless assault. Four additional strikes rend the witch apart, and as the music climaxes, it explodes.

"Yori!" I yell her name, shielding myself from the sure-to-be-fatal aftermath. My head is swimming in galaxies and my forearms feel like the useless protection they are. The temperature rises, a plume of destruction wells up to reach me - a shock of rainbow hues cloud my vision, and... nothing.

The air is thin - it's freezing. A gust drags at the hem of my untucked dress shirt as I lower my guard to peek past it. There stands Yori, proud and just a tiny bit smug with what I can now safely label a victory. I spin in place, scanning for any flitting remnants of the clusterfuck world I managed to survive, but none are there. Above us are blue clouds, a gathering storm, and below me lies the Tokyo cityscape.

"We're alive." I state. My observation hangs sheepishly between us.

"How do y'know that?" She responds, hand on her hips as her battle costume melts away into the normality of her school uniform. It is pristine, pressed, and wrinkle-free.

"Call it a hunch."

My smile isn't genuine, but without it I feel vulnerable. Cradled in Yori's cupped palm is an orb latticed by a silver frame; inky smoke snakes around its insides, curling, expanding, compressing.

"Care to explain?"

"More than I already have?"
"If you will," I say, then add, "Curiosity is healthy."

"It's a grief seed. Witches drop 'em after they've been-"

"Thoroughly eviscerated. Speaking of which, wow. Awesome work."

She's visibly annoyed at the interruption, but nonetheless flattered by my comment.

"Go on," I urge.

"As I was sayin'," I cringe at her informal Kansai dialect, a habit I've yet to shirk, "grief seeds are like a reward for killin' witches. They help purify a magi-girl's soul gem after a rough 'n tumble. Like this." Yori connects the 'seed' in her hand to a new ball she pulls from a hidden pocket, burnt orange like her hair and eyes. The pollution in it dissipates. "This way I can use my powers freely."

I think on it a moment.

"That's an incentive. Not a reward," I exclaim. She grits her teeth.

"Ya don't say."

"I do. As I figure, you're not gaining anything. It's like being given more basketballs for making a basket. Sure, you'll be able to keep playing, but you can't leave the court. Is this metaphor pellucid?"

"What? Use real words please."

"Is it comprehensible? What advantage do these 'grief seeds' afford you beside the encouragement to kill more witches? More 'grief seeds,' more witches. More witches, more 'grief seeds.' Do you understand? It's a cycle, isn't it?"

Yori jabs a sharp finger into my sternum aggressively enough to push me back and stares me down until I had no choice but to closely examine my shoelaces. Then she speaks, and it is I who understand.

"I'm not at any liberty to complain about the hand I was dealt coz I wanted it - I made a contract, an obligation. I'd be fine with no encouragement, no 'incentive' at all," she spat, "but it comes with the job. I don't kill witches, I protect people Masao. From the dark. From the evil that would swallow 'em up soon as look at 'em. This is the life I'm sworn to and you should be grateful I've shown it t'you 'stead a' hidin' it."

Of all the carefully arranged thoughts in my head, I can find none that would earn me anything but a slap. Still, a slap is less painful than silence.

"What was your wish, Yori?"

"That's my own business." It leaves her pursed mouth as a hiss, warning me to leave the subject alone. She exhales, her features softening; a tired frown replaces her grimace. "Anyway, I'm exhausted. Let's call it a day."

"Yes. Let's."

And that concludes the first chapter. I hope you enjoyed it, and feel more than free to tell me what you think. :)

/(o w o)\