Unraveling Mind

Author's note: This very dark post is simply a dumping of some dark feelings into a fantasy scenario. It contains mild blood and violence, as well as some imagery of self-harm and suicide.

"Thanks for the ride," Tala said, a hand raised in farewell as the portal closed behind her friend.

She reached for her keys, unlocking the door. She and Amah's little apartment wasn't much, but it was theirs. There was a door into the other part of the house, where Yogurt and Miah and their children were surely resting off their own adventure for the day.

Amah was out with Izi, so Tala was alone. And for Tala to be alone, especially not having heard from Lixia recently, meant there was a good chance...

"Think fast, bitch!"

Tala dove under the greatsword's swing, the dull swoosh overhead telling her there were a scant few ilms between her and an involuntary ear trimming. The kind that trims off your ears.

Yep, this again.

The problem with having a succubus in your head is that, while the sex is amazing, succubi are still voidsent, and voidsent still bring out the worst in people. And when you're used to manifesting things with your extra aether, like, say, a hot succubus girlfriend... the bringing out can be very literal. As it often was for Tala.

"Hello again," Tala said, rising to face her other self. In the back of her mind, she felt around for Lixia. If the succubus could get control back, her other self would cease to be. But in times like this, Lixia was often out of reach (or the other Tala wouldn't have appeared in the first place) and the weakness of her aura with other-Tala taking up most of Tala's aether didn't make finding her easier. "You're early today. I thought I'd get at least an hour before you showed up."

The other Tala was deathly pale, her face gaunt and skull-like. Her eyes glowed red with malice. Where the real Tala's fangs had somewhat blunt points from wear, the other Tala's fangs had clearly been very deliberately sharpened. She wore the same clothing as Tala - today a forest-green top with a dark blue skirt - but it was torn and ragged. "And here I thought you were smarter than that. You should know by now that I wouldn't pass up an opportunity like this."

The greatsword swung again, this time low. Tala skipped over it like a lethal jump rope, raising her hands. "I'm unarmed. I don't want to fight with you. Please."

"You're right, it's not fair," the other Tala said thoughtfully. She tossed the greatsword aside, and it dissolved into the air. "I shouldn't need a weapon to kill you."

Tala had a second to process this before her other self lunged for her, knocking her into a chair. The chair fell over with a clatter, but her attention was more on her other self's clawed hands. Reaching for her neck. Straining. The tips scraping against her jugular. She swallowed hard. Her own hands held her other self's wrists, for now, but...

"You all right down there, love?" Yogurt called through the door.

Tala gave an uneasy laugh. "I'm fine. Just a bit clumsy. No harm except to my dignity.'

"Go on. Tell them I'm here. Call them in. Give them your sob story," the other Tala hissed under her breath. "What are you waiting for?"

Tala shook her head, teeth gritted. "I'm not unleashing you on Yogurt and her little girls. You want a fight, your fight's with me."

"That hasn't stopped you from dragging Miah and Aisha and Sirara into your fights with me, has it?" The other Tala bared her fangs in a vicious grin. "Is it different somehow, with them?"

"They... They can handle themselves. They can get out if... if they're hurt," Tala said, her voice and grip unsteady. Calm. The more you feel the fear and the despair and the anger, the stronger she gets. Just relax, and-

The other Tala laughed mockingly. "Out of the fight, or out of your life?"

Tala's grip slipped.

Sensing her moment of weakness, her other self pressed harder. "They wouldn't be the first, would they?"

Tala's hands went slack, and now free, her other self's hands grabbed on to her throat. Her body squirmed involuntarily underneath her opponent, not liking having its air supply taken away.

"How many adventuring friends have I eviscerated?" the other Tala taunted. "How many have stopped coming to your aid? How many more are close? Aisha and Sirara are picking their battles. Wisely, I'd say. They know you can't be saved. Even Miah... sweet Miah, light of my life... even she's not a fountain of unlimited healing, even she needs a break from constant first aid. And she's starting to get real tired, I'd say."

Tala weakly shoved at her other self. Her muscles were starting to tremble and go slack without precious oxygen. She managed a breath of air. "Stop... Stop, please..."

She landed a knee in her other self's stomach, rolling away. Claw marks in her throat, fresh and blessedly shallow, stung intently, but it was a minor concern compared to what was going to happen to her if she didn't get this monstrous doppelganger gone soon.

Lixia, please, I need you right now!

No response.

Tala's other self got up, wiping her mouth with one arm. "Begging, Tala? Really? Is this what you've been reduced to? Can't even fight me properly anymore, just have to plead for your life."

The sudden low uppercut caught Tala in the solar plexus, and the wind went out of her. She went down on her knees, desperately trying to suck in a breath.

The other Tala grabbed a long, sharp chef's knife from the apartment's little kitchen. "But really, pleading is all you've got. Your life isn't worth much."

With her free hand, the other Tala slammed the real Tala's head into the edge of the nearby countertop. Sparks of blindingly bright pain scattered through her head, and her ears rang.

Blood dribbled down her face from where the counter had hit. It must have split open on the corner. She considered this thought in slow motion. Her brain seemed to have taken quite a hit.

Maybe this was the time she lost this fight, she thought distantly.

Even her sluggish mind could recognize that the knife was jabbing towards her chest. She raised an arm to deflect it, and felt the razor-sharp edge slice through the flesh of her bare arm. ... Not her brightest move.

Her other self egged her on. "Wow! I don't even have to cut you, you just do it to yourself! Block this one too, do the other arm!"

Blood poured from the new injury. It was deep enough to be bad. She couldn't repeat this and still keep enough of her blood in her body to live.

The adrenaline from that realization made her take the next swing at an angle, give a glancing blow. The scintillating pain in her other arm told her she hadn't avoided getting cut, just that it wasn't quite as deep.

Dazed though she was from her head wound and the blood loss, Tala knew a fight that was lost when she saw one. She raised her hands again - this time in surrender.

"Giving up, are we?" Her other self paced around her. "You do know I'm just going to kill you, don't you? I have no intention of letting you walk away from this."

The real Tala looked up at the other Tala, wobbling slightly from her wooziness. She made an effort to meet the doppelganger's gaze.

Somehow, her silence seemed to incense her duplicate further. "Say something. Do something! You're going to die. Right here, right now. I'm going to kill you!"

This didn't seem to motivate Tala to respond.

The knife blade went up against her throat. Just tight enough to bite in and leave a thin red line. Her duplicate's voice was almost desperate in its demands for a response.

"This is it. Say something. ... You really are just giving up, aren't you? How pathetic. I'll make it quick. You're not even good sport anymore."

But Tala had been fighting this battle too long to put up any more resistance. She closed her eyes and waited to die.

...

You can put the knife down now. Lixia's voice, in her head. I'm here.

As her copy had disappeared, the knife had somehow ended up in Tala's hand. Still pressed up against (her own) neck.

Lix... Tala responded weakly. She threw the knife away from herself like it had burned her. I'm sorry.

Lixia's voice went quickly to concern. Tala, you're really hurt. Let's get Miah. You need those injuries looked at.

Tala looked over herself, over the blood staining her top to a disgusting brown color. She remembered her doppelganger's words, though. ... No, I'll... take care of myself. I don't want to bother her.

Don't want to bother- Have you gone over the deep end? Well, you did take a pretty hard hit to the head, looks like. Lixia clicked her tongue. Don't make me manifest and call her down here myself.

Tala's body ached at the thought of manifesting a body for Lixia. She'd lost too much blood, spent too much aether to sustain another apparition this soon after her fight with the last one. I can do it. I'll get my star globe and everything will be all right.

Tala... Lixia sighed. ... Just... be careful. If I had taken a minute longer, you...

I'd be dead, Tala said bluntly. Lix, I don't think I can keep doing this. It's going to happen, sooner or later.

It's not going to happen, Lixia said sharply. I've literally crossed hell to come find you. I am NOT letting you go that easily. I will move the heavens and the earth to save you if I have to.

Tala gave a weary smile. Thanks, Lix. Love you.

Love you too, forever and always.

In the recesses of Tala's mind, her other self whispered, If only love were enough to protect you from me.