Just because it’s water doesn’t mean you can’t get burnt.
If God really made the world in seven days, it was because he used a cookie cutter.
People were all the same. Animals were all the same. Every day was a boring repetition, every song a noisy drone, and every meal as tasteless as the last.
A Place Out of Reach
Ma promised her the world was warm and colorful. Ib must not be living in that world. She was outside looking in, peering through dirty stained glass that blurred everything into black and white.
So bland. So pointless. Those kids in her class always stuck together every recess bell. What were they laughing about? What were they crying about?
Ib touched her face in one moment of wonder.
Oh, who cares. She should keep reading this book to fix that C she’d been getting.
“Did you remember everything, Ib?”
“Oh! Do you have your handkerchief? You know, the one you got for your birthday?”
Ib nodded, shimmying away from her Ma’s excited demeanour, but that could only go so far, for both of her hands were held by her parents. The afternoon sky was a dreary grey as they led her through the gates.
Mayhem of Colors
On a canvas of white were shapes and brushes displayed in the most spontaneous ways that did not at all adhere to the rules she had been taught thus far. Ib felt like walking towards those frames to study further.
“Hm? You want to go ahead? Really, Ib… Oh, all right.”
So she took off on her own. Ma’s voice was echoing from behind her, telling her Pa she was interested in the paintings.
‘Interest?’ So that was what it was. Not bad.
And Ib quickly learned that her ‘interest’ waned all too soon. This artist called Guertena, as talented as he’d been, there was a certain rule to that twist existing in all of his creations. Be it paintings or sculptures, all were singing about a man’s tale that she did not care to know.
The outlines of the cookie cutter were becoming clearer and clearer as she browsed. Just another lazy ‘God.’
The enormous painting displayed itself with impulsive shades and bold imageries, bearing the foggiest resemblance to the pixelated world she saw every single day, sans the colors. Little did she know, the darkness following her admiration of the artwork was the spiraling stairs that led to…
She’d thought she had none, but this… This was new. The hard squeeze of her heart when the mannequins lunged at her. The smothering fear that iced her limbs as she heard the sound of a frame dragging across the carpet. As her heart hammered and her legs collapsed from exhaustion, an exhilarating affect spread through her body.
There was a time when she felt fatigue, and the thought of wanting Ma and Pa occurred to her as natural as breathing. Someone. Anyone was fine. For the first time, being alone was terrifying.
The blue rose that she picked up and nursed to health gave her a companion. A man? A woman? This person didn’t fit into the cookie cutter. Such odd hair. What eccentric behavior. And a little bit of a smartass, but that was okay. For the first time, she didn’t mind being with a stranger.
The red footsteps led her towards a friend. This child didn’t fit into the cookie cutter either. A chatterbox. Why so insistent? Why so cheery? For the first time, someone hadn’t given up on befriending her.
Ib traversed the gallery’s whimsy. There was no end to the twists and turns. Then suddenly…
A twinge of unease made it hard to walk away from the wall of steely vines. She was looking forward to seeing her companion again as she appeased her friend with superficial words.
Faced with her friend’s erratic advances, was it gladness that she felt when her companion came for her? This person was Garry. The man who had taken care of her when her body had caved. The one who’d given her the lemon candy, and whose shaky smiles had been offered at strangely appropriate times.
And was it disappointment she felt as they hid among the tools and waited for her friend to leave? That child was Mary. The girl who had beamed at her without a trace of dishonesty.
Pain wrecked her body with every step as she leant onto Garry for support. The starry corridor seemed to stretch on. They should never have tried to go through the wall of vines.
Standing before the pile of ash, she inhaled the burnt smell that had replaced Mary’s crayon-y scent before Garry pulled her to his lanky frame in consolation. He misunderstood. She didn’t care that much. Or perhaps he was the one that needed this. It couldn’t be helped then. She let him rub circles into her back with one bleeding hand.
Funny how it actually felt like out here was the fabricated dimension instead. The insipid greeting by her parents after everything was displeasing. The uneventful days that unfolded before Ib left her feeling empty again.
Garry introduced her to macaron on their first get together. It was okay. They frequented a nearby café, and Ma and Pa were too happy that she finally ‘took interest’ in a relationship to care about the strange match.
“Schizoid?” Garry expressed his surprised over hot chocolate and macarons. “My, aren’t you a bit young to be diagnosed with that?”
“Well, I suppose it’s not like I can’t see that… I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do.” He took a sip of his drink, a distant look glazed over his eyes. “Hm, maybe you don’t even enjoy these outings with me.”
What did he mean? He was the one complaining about difficulty connecting with others after their experience in the gallery, so she was keeping him company.
At her puzzled look he apologized and told her to forget it, and they moved on.
He kept reminding her she could confide in him as though her memory was of a gold fish, so she did. She told him her intention that drained the colors from his face faster than the clock could tick twice.
The day was turning on its side as they walked, Garry objecting all the way to the gallery. Oh well, she liked to do things alone anyway. She left him at the entrance and jumped.
Abyss of the Deep
There it was again. Her heart was beating out of her chest as she ran, and the relief she felt upon spotting a vase was worth the pain of petals loss. The denizens of this world were so unsteady and irrational, always pitching her at new trials. There was no time to stop and ponder, for they liked to play dirty. And she liked beating them at their own unfair games.
Garry’s and her macaron date was now code for the new routine. A frown would be painted all over his face as he took her back to the gallery. That frown would become a smile whenever she returned, and the ‘welcome back’ he gave her was the gold star she collected. The gallery never made it easy, but she learned to stay one step ahead.
“Look at you, all beaten up.” His smoky coat was wrapped around her as he carried her back home. “…We should stop this, Ib.”
Ib knew that Garry was concerned about her parents’ words when he last returned her with inconspicuous scrapes. But she didn’t want to stop, and Garry always complied with her requests.
So the gallery grew angry, bloodshot eyes cracking open the floor beneath her feet and unamused chatters seeping out from behind the walls. What sore losers.
On one occasion, the air was especially thick when they entered the building. Garry kept rubbing his neck, asking her if there was something around it. He insisted on coming with her, so together they both sank.
Something was wrong. They couldn’t breathe, and the anchor fish that had always wandered in the corner was looming near, its huge maw splayed with sharp teeth. The fish was aiming straight at her, the realization eliciting a gasp from her mouth in the form of bubbles.
A large hand grabbed her by the collar and yanked her back. She saw a flurry of purple came in front of her for one moment, before it was snatched away in a curtain of foam. Ib flailed in the heavy body of water, trying to orientate herself. When she finally did, she was all alone in the dark abyss.
Ib struggled to climb out of the ocean and into the hallway of the new game. Miserably wet, she coughed and heaved for precious air. As her mind became clear, her vision blurred. She crawled back to the hole on the floor and gazed into the pitch black water rippling inside, expecting a gaunt arm to break through its surface. Laughter was echoing all around.
Burning droplets rolled down her face and into the ink below. She touched her face in a moment of wonder. This feeling, it was just like when Mary had reduced to dying embers. And the worst part was that Garry was not here to rub circles into her back.
A Place Out of Reach
Ib couldn’t remember what she was doing. She was in the Guertena gallery, which was approaching its closing time. Her parents, she knew weren’t there, so the question was how and why did she come here?
She looked around, spying eerily familiar corners. She had been frequenting this place for some reason. Her chest felt heavy at the thought.
Oh, who cares. She should return home before her parents got mad.
Author’s Note: *puts on glasses and stands in front of a white board*
Personality Disorder: a type of mental disorder involving maladaptive thought patterns that are pervasive. Persons with PD think they are perfectly normal, and it’s the world that’s wrong. Because diagnostic criteria for PD is long-term, and PD usually mellow out as time goes by, these disorders are not often diagnosed during childhood.
Schizoid Personality Disorder is characterized by indifference and social isolation. Persons with SPD have very limited social relations, prefer to be alone, find little to no pleasure from any activities, and may appear dull and unfeeling.
Should not be confused with Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is characterized by impulsiveness, self-entitlement, and a lack of empathy and remorse. Commonly referred to as ‘sociopaths’, persons with ASPD is often very sociable and good at manipulation.
Thank you for staying till the end of class!
- the reason why Ib remembered every, save for the last, trip into the Fabricated World is because Garry’s presence served as a memory jog for her.
- author realizes the array of Guertena’s works we see in the game can be symbolic for many, many scenarios. Re—spect, kouri-san!