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The Nightmare Machine
By Redphantom Xenpsychous

You know, I think I've been doing this long enough now that I can set a few ground 
rules. Rule one, never bleed. Rule two, never carry a crucifix. Rule three, don't sleep 
until dawn, if at all. Rule four, always eat plenty of garlic. Rule five, always carry 
silver bullets in case you run into unexpected trouble. These rules were going through 
my mind as they tossed me through that glass dome. 

There was no time to turn into my ghost form, no energy left to fly. The only thing left
to do was enjoy the long fall in slow motion with my battle heightened senses. The whole
dome shattered after I went through, it was a marvelous sight, like ice shattering over 
a frozen lake. And the shards falling, it was just like watching angels fall out of 
heaven. I fell into to tower, through the windows I could see the stars. I was moving 
so fast it looked as though they were falling. It looked like the entire sky was 
falling. A spiral staircase wound it's way down the tower, twisting and turning, quietly
mocking me as I made my way down to the old rotten wooden floor. It fell apart the 
instant I made contact with it. Wooden planks rising up and hitting my red face. Rusty 
old nails scratching my red skin as they made their majestic flight into the air. One 
of the nails found it's way right into my back. I continued my descent onto the cold 
cement floor of the dungeon. My sunglasses broke and a shard flew into my left eye 
causing my dark red blood to slowly pour onto my red skin and the pale gray floor. I 
heard the snapping sound of my body before the nerve signals reached my brain, because 
sound travels faster than pain. I've been hurt worse. 

A nail fell into my hand before the wooden boards rained down onto my body. Then came 
the shards of glass, cutting my red skin as they hit the ground and split apart into 
tiny little translucent cubes. I watched the blood spill from my body, and in the dim 
fire light from the wooden torches lining the dungeon walls it looked as though my skin
was slowly melting off onto the cold stone floor. One of the boards must have cracked 
my head, because I noticed my white hair was slowly turning red. From the depths of the
dungeon I vaguely saw above me a flash of lightning, and I heard the thunder as the rain 
fell upon me. It was ice cold. Soon, my grandfather's old trenchcoat was completely 
soaked in the frigid water. It spilled off of me and onto the floor where it mixed with
my blood, causing it to become diluted. Then it crept across the dungeon onto the 
skeletons of my fellow prisoners. Every single nerve in my body was saturated in pain. 
It was hard to move. 

A crucifix dropped out of my grandfather's coat as I struggled to get up. Ok, so I 
broke one of my own rules. Old superstitions die hard. My gun, and my silver bullets, I
had left at the top of the tower. It's not like they would be of use to me anyway, my 
gun had jammed. That's what got me into this mess. That reminded me of rule six: expect
any of the above to fail, and be ready to improvise once they do. What that rule really
meant is that there are no rules. People just like to think there are. I lost my 
strength and fell back to the ground. I couldn't help looking at Jesus's face on the 
crucifix, and I thought, "Seriously? You couldn't have had me be knocked out for 
this part?"

I was reminded of that other guy on the cross next to Jesus. What was he? A rapist? He 
said if Jesus was really God, why wouldn't he just get them down? Now, Christians, they 
can take whatever they want from that story, but I always felt sympathy for the guy. It
seemed to me that all he was really guilty of was skepticism and ignorance. Would you 
believe it if a friend of a friend told you some carpenter could walk on water and then
turn it to wine? And of course, he was ignorant because he had no idea Jesus was really
God, within the context of the story. Sure, he was an asshole, but you try having good 
manners after you've been nailed to a fucking cross. He was ignorant, he didn't know 
Jesus was god. 

Ignorance is a one way street to Hell. Once you start down that path, your only hope 
for turning back is a head on collision with another driver desperately trying to 
escape. That's the only exit. If you can pull yourself out of the hot twisted metal 
before the gasoline catches on fire. If you can walk barefoot on the highway over the 
broken glass. If you can ignore all of the frightening road signs and misguided 
bucktoothed sermons telling you to turn back. If you can survive all of that, you can 
escape that road and move on. Assuming that you can stand the sight of your hideous 
bloodstained face. 

My parents were Christians. I have no idea how I turned out the way I did. It all 
happened so fast. My life changed before I knew it. It was such a slow transition. I 
didn't even notice it until it was done. I just looked in the mirror one day, and there
I was. I wonder if my parents are still Christians? Maybe their faith was shattered. I 
know my father became a drunk, and a bigot. How amused would he be today, if he learned
I've turned into one of the ones he scorns? My mother, I know she became a much more 
unpleasant person to be around, and I know she took up collecting these action 
figurines. Some stupid thing. A magically themed set of action figures. They made a 
story around the figures and everything. It made the damned thing easier to market. I 
don't even remember now what it was. I do remember, I wanted them as a child. My mother
told me we couldn't afford them. Today, she's an avid collector of the figures. I 
remember...for the longest time, I wanted to look after them. I wanted to be their 
guardian angel, their totem, their ancestral spirit. I wanted to know everything. I was
afraid that I would lose them. If I let go, I'd lose them one day when I was crossing a
street corner and I would never be able to find them again. 

I could see my reflection in the mixture of my own blood and water which covered the 
floor. I saw my yellow eyes gaze back up at me. I hate my eyes. They look like a demon's
eyes. Menacing, animalistic. Leaving Jesus on the floor I forced myself to stand. This 
time I was successful in getting up and staying that way. If I was to die, I would die 
on my feet. I closed my eyes and forced myself to forget about the pain. I felt strong.
My trenchcoat always made me feel strong. It was the same coat my grandfather wore 
during the World War, facing down the greatest group of supervilians ever to live. 
Facing their mighty empire. My great grandfather wore it as well. Both during the war 
and before. He was one of the old superhuman hunters. He was one of the ones who escaped 
from the supervillians when they took over. He was lucky. They took most of the 
superhuman hunters to the gas chambers. The way I heard it, none of the superhumans were 
willing to turn my great grandfather in. He was a rat bastard, he killed a lot of 
people, he busted a lot of heads, but he was always fair. He never went after anyone who
didn't deserve it. He never abused his position. My father wore this trenchcoat during a
riot. He was one of the few humans to emerge unscathed. I myself wore the coat when we 
fled Greenefield during The Uprisings. We were one of the last families to escape. This
coat has always had a magical protective charm for my kin. 

Of course, if I were to die in this coat, I wouldn't be the first. My great grandfather
was shot in the back while he had it on. Magic in reality is a fickle thing. It waxes 
and wanes, like the cycle of the moon. Thirteen vampires entered the dungeon and circled
around me. Their leader said, "I've got to admit, you've got spirit, kid."I 
couldn't help myself, at this, I reacted with a wide smile and a mad look in my demon's

Another vampire asked, "Shall we devour him?”

The leader shook his head and said, "No, his blood is not worthy of us."

The thirteen vampires left, leaving me alone, bleeding out all my blood in the cold 

It was dark, the air was cold, and it was beginning to snow. A black car pulled into a 
parking space on the street by the apartments. A man stepped out. From the shadows, I 
could not make out his physical features, but I could see he had blue eyes. His eyes 
were blue. The man walked into the apartment building. Up five floors and down the hall
to his place. He went in, put his things down and went straight to his computer. He 
turned it on. Something didn't sound right to him, and the screen stayed black. The man
turned the machine off. It sounded to him like one of the hardrives had not started up.
The man began to open the computer case. The fact it was broken must have distracted 
him, because he never noticed the intruder. Not until the intruder held a gun to his 
head and asked, "Are you brave?"

The voice was a voice I knew well, and it filled my heart with terror. 

It was hot. Dreadfully hot. I kept trying to turn the heat down, but it was busted. Not
unlike all the other things in my office. Picture frames, the duct taped window, the one
filing cabinet, the one drawer in my desk, the lamp on top of my desk. All busted. I was
sitting down at my desk, sweating profusely. I had even taken off my trenchcoat. I was 
sitting down at my desk attempting to open a very peculiar looking archaic box. A man 
came into my office one day and gave it to me. The man told me that he was a member of 
a traveling carnival. He told me that if I could open the box and retrieve the prize 
inside, he would give me one thousand dollars. He told me if I solved the puzzle, I 
could just come by the carnival the next time it was in town and collect on my bill. 

I needed the money. Desperately. The landlord told me if I missed another month of rent 
I would lose my office. A very bad thing considering I also live here. Up on the second
floor. Business had been slow lately. I was only stuck there doing this because my other
career plans fell through. I wondered what all my old friends would think if they saw 
me now? Would they like the new house I had built on top of shattered dreams? I didn't 
have much time to think about it, because the door to my office swung open and a woman 
walked in. 

She was not an attractive woman, nor was she unattractive, she was just rather ordinary
looking. Maybe if I had known her better, I could have found the things about her which
were beautiful. She carried with her a large binder. I have to admit, I can't give you a 
good idea of what she looked like, I could not make out her features very well in my 
dimly lit office. There was something about her which was very unsettling to me. Her 
presence made me feel uncomfortable. Apparently she felt the same way about me, because
when she looked at me, she frowned and asked, "Are you the detective?”

"Yes, I am."I replied. 

The woman looked skeptical. She eyed me with suspicion. Then she said, "You don't 
look much like a detective. You look like a..."She stopped. 

I waited a minute or two before asking, "I look like a what?"She just stood 
there and stared at me blankly, and I asked, "What do I look like?"

"I don't know..."she said slowly, and then she quickly added, "But you 
don't look like a detective."

"Do you want my help or not?"I asked irritably.

The woman sighed, "I guess so, since you're the only one available."Then she 
sat down in the chair across from mine and stared at me. 

I asked, "What can I do for you?”

"I want you to find someone for me."she replied. 

It was not an uncommon request, however, it was one which rarely had a happy ending. 
There are plenty of people who are taken by shadows in the night, but most of the 
disappeared are that way simply because they wish to be gone. I reached into my pocket 
to grab a pen. I had forgotten about the shards of glass from the night before. I 
writhed in pain and pulled out my now sliced up hand. I placed it upon my desk and let 
it bleed. The woman stared at the blood intently. 

She did so for a few minutes before asking, "What's your blood type?"

I scratched my head with my good hand, "You know, I'm not really sure."

"Blood is a really valuable thing, you know."the woman lectured me, "I 
donate my blood every week. Blood is precious and you shouldn't waste it."

Both her and I watched myself bleed for a moment longer before I asked, "This 
person you want me to find, what is their name?"

The woman looked surprised and slowly replied, "I don't remember his name."
she must have seen the look of suspicion on my face, because hers had the slightest 
hint of anger before she explained, "I haven't seen him in a long time."

I moved on the the next obvious question, "What does he look like?"

The woman seemed to space out when I asked this, she waited a while before saying, 
"I don't remember, but his eyes were blue."

I rolled my eyes at the woman under my sunglasses, "How do you expect me to find 
him if I don't know what he looks like?"

"Oh you don't need to find him."said the woman before she dropped the binder 
on my desk, "I already have. I know where he is and who has taken him."

I'm sure I looked confused, I certainly felt it, "You mean, you just want me to go
and get him?"

"Yes."the woman replied, and then she added, "And you have to bring him 
home. You have to make him come home."

"I won't force him to go home against his will."I replied quickly. 

The woman said, "He wants to come home."I was skeptical. Most of the 
disappeared are that way because they choose to be. Still, I allowed the woman to empty
the contents of her binder and show them to me. It was slightly horrifying. All these 
pictures of the man, none of them very clear. None of them indicated that she had any 
relation to him whatsoever. Every bit of logical insight I had told me she was stalking
him. I wondered what she wanted with him. Did she want to kill him? Was she upset 
because someone else beat her to it? Maybe she wanted to torture this man. Then kill 
him. I should have known from looking at that binder that this wasn't going to have a 
happy ending. I should have put it down. I didn't. I needed the money. The woman told me 
she had deduced that the man had been abducted by a magician. She figured out that he 
had taken many others as prisoners as well, and they were all held underneath his 
theater. She told me I could save those people, but I didn't have to, not as long as I 
saved the blue eyed man. The woman told me the magician had a show coming up in about 
three hours. All I had to do was walk down there and get the blue eyed man back. It 
would be easy. Reviewing her detective work, I found it flawless. 

After she had finished giving me all her information and had all her files neatly packed
back into her binder, I asked the woman, "Why don't you just go down there and 
retrieve him yourself?"

"Magicians frighten me."was the woman's reply.

After that, I had to ask her, "So, what does this guy mean to you?"

The woman frowned at me. She spent a few minutes lost in thought before replying 
helplessly, "I don't know."We both got up and headed towards the door. The 
woman looked at me the way someone would look at a man who had a strange rash on his 
face, she asked, "Shouldn't you wear your coat? It's cold outside."

I had forgotten my trenchcoat. I went over to the coat rack and put it on. The woman 
extended her hand out to shake mine, of course, mine was cut all to hell, so I looked 
awkward. The woman said, "It's ok."And at that I shook her hand. It felt warm,
and she smiled at me. The woman had a lovely smile. When I let go of her hand, mine was
completely healed. The woman lectured me, "Blood is a commodity. You shouldn't 
spend it so recklessly."Then she walked out of my office into the rapidly falling 
snow, got into her white car, and drove away. I wondered why she never told me that she 
was superhuman. Perhaps she too, was a superhero, or a retired one. 

After about ten minutes walking through the cold snow, I wished I was back in my warm 
office. The snow was deep and still falling. Walking was quite a physical feat in those
conditions. I walked the part of town I rarely travel. I got lost and wound up by the 
charred remains of a gas station. A place where a horrible tragedy once occurred. There
was a small tribute to the dead there, wooden crosses, aged photographs, and whithered 
roses. Children were vandalizing it. I found a homeless man and asked him for 
directions to the theater. He very kindly gave them to me. With the directions, I found
myself outside the theater in no time at all. It's architecture was beautiful, it was 
designed much like a mosque or a church. I arrived shortly before the show was set to 
begin, and I loitered outside for a few minutes. 

I was not looking forward to what would come after or to the magic show itself. I don't
care for magic tricks. For one thing, I use magic, for another, what of magic I don't 
understand, my old friend Pimp Wizard explained to me. I hate it more when there is no 
magic at all. When it's all a trick. I don't care for magic tricks. I don't care for the 
feeling that someone is messing with my mind. I don't care to be reminded of how flawed 
my senses really are. It's unpleasant when you realize how faulty your perception of 
reality is, because that's all we really have in this world. It is disheartening to say 
the least when you realize that you can never see the world the way it actually is. It's 
disheartening when you realize that if you actually could, no one else would. They would 
lock you up in a rubber lined room and put you in restraints. Of course, the reason for 
our limited vision is, they say, is because if we could see everything, our fragile 
brains could not process it all. You must know nothing, if you wish to know anything at
all. Still, I don't like to be reminded of my own ignorance. I don't like the 
realization that I can't trust anything, anyone, or myself above all. 

The line was getting thin, and I assumed that meant the show was about to begin. So I 
went and bought my ticket. It cost precisely five dollars. Taking my seat inside the 
theater, I was taken aback by the darkness of the place. The seats were a neutral gray 
color with black armrests. The floor itself was gray, the stage was black with black 
curtains. The walls were black. The lights were dim. The windows were stain glass which
depicted images laden with occult symbolism and dead pagan gods. There were several odd
looking machines on the walls, all rusted gray metal with a light bulb in the middle. 
The curtains swung open and spotlights focused on the magician standing on his stage. 

He was tanned, he looked like he was of Arabic descent. He looked like a traditional 
magician, he wore a top hat, a coat, a vest, and they were all light blue. His pants 
were light blue as well. He took off his hat and held it in his hands. He was nearly 
bald, with a small layer of black fuzz covering the top of his head. His eyes were 
hazel, and they had a hypnotic quality to them. The magician had a mystic aura about 
him, even if he had worn street clothes, you would know that this man dealt business 
in magic and the occult. There was a darkness about him. You could see it somehow. It 
surrounded him. It seemed to hover around him. Bending to his will. He looked like he 
controlled the darkness. He looked like he was entirely in control. He looked like a man 
to be respected or feared. 

The magician smiled and said slowly and mysteriously, "Tonight, over the course of
the next two hours, you will witness me bend reality and then turn it over on it's head.
To accomplish this feat, I will call upon the forces of magic only twice. You will 
notice several machines placed upon the wall."the magician pointed to the strange 
metal devices with the light bulbs I noticed earlier, "If I use magic at any time,
those bulbs will light up and sound an alarm. I will call upon magic only twice. Just 
twice. For the rest of the night, I will call upon a much darker, much more mysterious,
much more powerful force."

I had a hard time not laughing at this. I expected that this was going to be a lame 
show. Five minutes later, I was completely mystified. I could not believe that the 
magician had not used any actual magic. I thought that the devices the magician used 
must be fakes. So, I took out my own magic detector. It never went off. Not once. I was
perplexed. I was completely awestruck, drawn in, I even let myself forget why I had 
come to the show to begin with. Forty five minutes went by and I sat in my chair 
stupefied. The magician's assistants, wearing light blue robes wheeled onto the stage 
an iron maiden. 

The magician asked for a volunteer from the audience. A majority of the hands shot up 
into the air. The magician looked over all the volunteers and chose me instead. At first 
I was unhappy at being chosen, but then I was excited at the chance to possibly learn 
the secrets of the wondrous performance I had been witness to. I eagerly got up and went 
to the stage. I was to be placed inside the iron maiden. Just before he told me to step
in front of the thing, the magician whispered to me, "Once you get in, you will 
know the way out."I pressed my hand against one of the metal spikes as the 
assistants began to close the torture device and it began to bleed. 

I let out a howl of pain as soon as they shut the door and the spikes went into my body.
I heard the entire crowd gasp and only one thought echoed throughout my mind. Ghost. I 
heard an alarm sound as I turned transparent and fell through the bottom of the iron 
maiden into a large black painted room below the stage. I turned back to normal just 
before I hit the black cement floor. My blood spilled out and created a large puddle 
around where I lay. "There are healing potions in the refrigerator."said a 
voice from my left. I looked around the room and saw a mini fridge to my right. I 
crawled up to it, opened the door and reached in for one of the glass bottles filled to
the brim with a green substance. I drank it, felt warmth, and instantly my wounds were 
gone and my clothes whole. The makers of healing potions learned long ago it made little 
sense to be made whole again and find yourself half or stark naked. I stood up and 
looked back at the man who had given me such sound advice. 

He was sitting in a black fold up chair at a table covered in black tablecloth. There 
was an empty chair sitting across from him. I could not make out his physical features 
well in the shadows, but I saw his eyes. He had blue eyes. He was playing solitaire with 
a deck of cards. The man asked, "Are you the detective?”

"Yes."I replied.

The man nodded, "I've seen your ad in the newspaper. You seem like a poor 
detective, but the ad is well done. You did a perfect job of making yourself look 
better than you are. Perhaps you should consider a career as a salesman."I walked 
up to the table and sat in the empty seat across from the blue eyed man. I sat silently
and watched him play solitaire. The man asked, "Did she send you?"

"Yes."was my answer. 

The man laughed, "You know, the night I went missing, she went looking for me. She
searched for hours. She was distraught, in tears. I watched her from the bushes and 
quietly laughed."

I felt contempt for the blue eyed man. I could not think of anything more low than 
abandoning those who care about you. Then leaving them in pain and watching from the 
shadows, laughing at them. Like it was a joke. Not even giving them any kind of closure.
Just vanishing one day. Leaving your friends and family left to wonder what happened to
you. My assessment of the situation as I had speculated on back in my office changed 
suddenly. I didn't think that woman was stalking him any more. Maybe they were in a 
relationship. Maybe he cheated on her, maybe she knew, but he didn't know that she knew.
She had been stalking him while he was out with his mistress. Then he went missing, and
she didn't care about the affair. She was willing to forgive him. Going over the 
pictures she must have noticed something strange, and then she came to me to retrieve 
him. That was my latest theory. 

I didn't like the man based on what he had just told me. I asked him, "You don't 
feel guilty for making her go through all that? Without even any closure?"

"No."the man said coldly, and then he continued, "It would be better than
telling her the truth. It would be better then showing her what I've become. She doesn't
want to know that, and neither do you. You don't want to know the truth. You'll see. 
You don't want to know the truth."The blue eyed man finished his game of solitaire
and then shuffled his deck. He checked his watch, "We still have time. Would you 
like to see a magic trick?"I figured it couldn't hurt, so I nodded. The man 
shuffled the deck and then held it out to me, "Pick a card, look at it and don't 
let me see it."I took a card at random from the deck. It was the ace of spades. The 
man said, "Memorize it, then put it back in the deck somewhere random."I 
followed the man's instructions. He handed me the deck and instructed me to shuffle the
deck. I did so. Then he took the deck from me, pulled out a card, showed it to me, and 
asked, "Is this your card?"It was the joker. 

"No."I responded. 

The blue eyed man laughed, "Sorry, I'm not that good. I just started studying 
magic. My computer broke, so I don't have much else left to do."the man looked at 
the card, "The joker? I thought I took all the jokers out."He placed the card
down on the table face up. Then the blue eyed man looked at me and asked, "Would 
you like to try again?"I nodded and he reshuffled the cards. 

I went to pull out my random card, and it was the joker once again. I laughed and placed 
it on the table face up. I pulled another card and it was the joker. I put it down and 
drew another, again, it was the joker. I put the card down and said, "Haha, I get 

"It's not a trick."the man replied, "It's you. You keep drawing the card. 
Maybe it's attracted to you. Maybe, that card is a window into your soul."The blue
eyed man placed the deck of cards on the table a spread them across the length of it 
face up. He looked at his watch and said, "I must be going."Then he left the 
room. I looked down at the cards and picked up the king of hearts. I stood up and looked
around the room. It was full of all sorts of magical instruments and gadgets. I looked 
back down at the card in my hand and saw that it was the joker. I dropped the card in 
shock and it fell slowly to the floor. 

"Please do not touch any of my equipment, some of it is dangerous."came a 
deep, seductive voice from behind me. I turned to see the magician had entered the room. 
He was no longer in his magician outfit, rather he was in a black long sleeved shirt and
black pants. The magician spoke, "My uniform is so uncomfortable."I began to 
speak, but the magician cut me off, "I would like it if we could both be honest 
with one another. So let us not use our stage names."the magician walked up to me 
and said, "I am Mathew. That means gift of god. What does Redphantom mean?"

"I don't know."was my response. 

Mathew laughed and said, "It means a ghost who also happens to be red. You didn't 
know that? The real question is: how did he become that way? Red is an unnatural color 
for human beings. How did he become that way?"I said nothing, Mathew smiled, 
"He doesn't care for me to know, so I shall have to run an experiment to discover 
the answer."

My instincts suddenly kicked in and I reached into my trenchcoat for my gun, but it was 
gone. Mathew pulled it out of his own pocket and said, "One must always carry with
him a fair stock of silver bullets."I struggled to assume my ghost form, but it 
would not work. I physically began to show signs of performing an extremely strenuous 
activity. Mathew waved his index finger at me, "Magic will be allowed twice in my 
show, twice, and no more."Mathew kept the gun pointed at my head and gave me some 
time to realize the hopelessness of the circumstances before he said, "I would like 
you to please empty the contents of your pockets and place them on the table."

I did exactly as he asked. First I placed on the table a camera, and then some pens, 
pencils, and paper. Lastly, I placed on the table a crucifix. Mathew was highly amused 
by the last item, he commented, "I never would have pegged you for a superstitious
man. Do you carry it because you live constantly in fear? Or because you're a predator?
A hunter of shadows, ready at any time to lunge into the darkness and capture your prey.
"Mathew stared into my eyes before adding, "Perhaps you carry it because you 
see yourself as a cage. And Jesus is the night guardsman, there to prevent the ravenous 
beast from clawing it's way out."

"You know that god hates you, don't you?"Mathew asked, "Don't take it 
personally. God hates everyone. That's why he placed them all in this miserable place. 
God created chaos, misery, pain. Man created order, happiness, and joy. It is our job 
to take this mound of mud, water, and electricity and make is something more."

"What are you doing here?"I asked, "Why did you abduct all those people? 
Why did you abduct the blue eyed man."

Mathew looked bored, "I didn't abduct him. That was the work of another man. I 
purchased him for fourteen dimes, seven nickels, and a penny. I purchased him because I
wished him to build for me a machine of torment. The man who took him, I believe you 
and he had met before on a cold day in January."That last sentence tore through my 
soul like a serrated blade, I felt uneasy. Mathew smiled, "I'm glad to see that you 
know the incident of which I speak."Mathew walked over to a black wooden cabinet 
and said to me casually, "He told me to tell you that he commends your spirit."
Mathew took from the cabinet a box and some wrapping paper, then he closed it and walked 
back over to the table.

Mathew said, "He told me that you were deserving of a gift, and to tell you that 
he's terribly sorry about your head." Mathew placed the camera, the pens, pencils,
paper, and the crucifix in the box and wrapped in the wrapping paper. Then he looked 
straight into my eyes and spoke slowly and conversationally, "Tell me, Edward, do 
you think your friends and family are angry at you because of what happened?"

My heart beat faster and my eyes popped out of my head, "What?"I asked. 

"Well, I mean,"Mathew quietly continued, "It was your fault, wasn't it? 
You were careless, reckless, ignorant, stupid..."

My heart began beating out of my chest, I again said, "What?"

"Fine."Mathew spat, "I was just trying to help."I mumbled something
and Mathew said, "No. No need to speak on my account. I already know everything. I 
was just trying to help you. You should stop holding everything in, it's bad for you. 
You need to let it spill out."Mathew took a small knife, quickly pricked my hand 
with it, and laughed. 

I withdrew my hand in pain and it began to bleed. I asked, "How?"

"Did I know?"Mathew quietly asked. He continued calmly, with a hint of 
malice in his voice, "I knew because I can see right through you. Everyone can see 
through you when you use your powers. And they know your true nature. You can't turn 
invisible, only translucent, and that only helps people see right through you. It 
enables them to gaze right into your soul and what they uncover there is sickening."

Mathew placed the box he had wrapped up in my hand and spoke, "Don't open it, 
you'll ruin the surprise."He walked over to a bookcase, and said, "I want to 
show you my marionettes."He moved the bookcase aside to reveal an old dusty 
staircase. Mathew walked down it and I followed. The staircase did not feel structurally 
sound. It creaked the entire way down. Mathew spoke conversationally, "It 
impresses me, I must say that you have discovered all my secrets."

"I didn't."I replied, "It was some woman. She figured it out and sent me.
"then I added, "She said magicians frighten her."

"You did not decipher the puzzle? You've merely been sent here to collect? Well, 
you sound much more like an assassin or a soldier than a detective to me."Mathew 

My mouth was wide open for a second before I said, "I didn't come here to kill him. 
I came here to save him from you."

"I never said that you were going to kill him."Mathew said in monotone before
he turned to me, smiled, and looked me straight in the eyes, "Do you want to kill 

"No."I quickly replied. 

Mathew chuckled, "Well, when I called you an assassin, I was thinking of you 
attempting to kill me. I can see that thought never once crossed your mind. Does that 
mean you like me?"I said nothing. Mathew smiled before continuing to walk the 
staircase. He called back at me, "I like you. I'd write a play for you. Starring 
you as the leading antagonist"

"I'd want to be the protagonist..."I nervously replied. 

Mathew looked back at me with a disappointed expression, and asked, "Why? Being the 
antagonist is so much more fun."Then he continued down the staircase and added 
quietly and menacingly, "I'm going to make you the antagonist."We reached two 
wooden doors. Mathew unlocked them and we walked through into a large open room which 
was very well lit. 

Mathew closed the doors behind us. The walls were crudely painted with scenes of 
suburbia. There was a giant doll house to my left, Mathew gestured to me to stand at 
it's window. I looked in and saw a family of five sitting at the kitchen table eating 
plastic food. They were all smiling wide with their teeth exposed. 

"You can call them dolls if you like, but I prefer to call them marionettes."
said Mathew from behind me. 

I walked away from the window out into the street painted on the floor. Mathew slowly 
followed me. A woman in pigtails and a dress walked out with a smile on her face and 
addressed Mathew, "The internet is broken."

"Don't worry ma'am, the repairman should be along shortly to make it as good as 
new."replied Mathew reassuringly. 

The woman in pigtails pointed to Mathew and looked at me, "This is a good man. He 
feeds bread to the pigeons."

A man in a crown and royal robes strode by us on a horse. I asked Mathew, "Who is 

"The king."Mathew replied. 

"Aren't you the king?"I asked in confusion. 

Mathew laughed, "No, I'm the puppet master. The king is beginning to bore me. I 
must remember to have an archer wait for him in the grassy knoll."

I looked confused and asked, "Hasn't that happened before?”

Mathew had a look of knowing, "Right you are. So cliché. I'll have to have him be 
stricken down in the streets instead. By a deranged maniac who will then flee somewhere
safe."Mathew then looked at me, "Allow me to give you a tour of my world."

We walked around the room and Mathew proudly displayed every one of his doll houses and
marionettes. We came to the last one, a smiling man balancing on a wooden board laid 
across a wood chipper. The man's hands were tied onto two handles which were connected 
to ropes that were attached to weights with the number two hundred written on them. 
When the man lifted the weight up to a button, an axe swung and chopped the tree which 
was suspended above him, which in turn fell into the wood chipper. Once the man brought
the weight back down, the tree lowered down, or a new tree was brought it.

"This is the hard working man who supplies me with wood for all my doll houses."
Mathew explained as a tree fell into the wood chipper, Mathew added, "He does his 
job poorly, and if he soon does not discover the mysteries of chopping wood without it 
falling to the chipper, then he shall find himself hungry, roaming the streets for a 
new vocation."In the distance, there was the sound of someone cutting metal. 

I stood there disgusted by what I had seen, Mathew saw this and said, "Don't you 
be cross with me. You're the one who asked what I did with my prisoners."There was
once again the sound of metal being cut. 

I talked without thinking, "Now I understand what the blue eyed man meant when he 
said I didn't want to know the truth. "

"Of the truth, you remain woefully ignorant, but don't fret, very soon Pandora's 
Box will be opened to you."Mathew replied. 

There was the sound of metal cutting metal again, I asked Mathew, "What is that 

Mathew smiled, "That's the sound of the blue eyed man hard at work. He toils away 
in the tower, the safest place in town. Though with little point, the door is at all 
times kept unlocked. The man is building for me a machine which controls what people 
dream. He who manufactures dreams controls the dreamer, don't you agree?"Mathew 
began to walk away and I followed, he called back to me, "This is my world, within
it's walls what will be your role?"

"I don't want to be a part of this world."I replied. 

"Oh, but you are."Mathew said, "And in my world, unlike the real world, 
everyone has a place. Everything has a function. Every event a purpose. What will be 

We were near the doors to exit the large room again, and near the doll house where the 
woman in a dress with pigtails still stood. Mathew turned to me and asked, "Do you
wonder, Edward, when I do my magic tricks, am I manipulating reality or perception? Or 
are they one and the same?"Mathew exited through the wooden doors and I heard them
lock behind him. His voice rang out through his world, "Don't forget to open your 
belated birthday present."

I realized that I was still holding the box. I unwrapped it quickly and opened it to 
find it's contents. A gun and three knives. I put the knives in my trenchcoat and held 
the gun in my hand. 

The woman with pigtails saw me with the gun and said, "Is that a gun? You should 
get rid of it. Having a gun is just like holding the devil's axe. It gives you power, 
but then you find yourself chopping off heads and you can never go back."

I ignored the woman's warning and walked around the world, gun in hand. I felt more at 
ease. I felt invincible, like I was made of solid titanium. I was able to observe all 
the little subtleties about the world and fully appreciate how fucked up it was. I went
full circle and back to the prisoner on the wood chipper again. 

He began to scream and cry, "Help me! I'm stuck here working all day, and I go home 
and eat and sleep and then I just come back here and work again. I can't fucking take 
it! My bones ache. I think I'm wearing my muscles down to the bone. If they hear me 
complain, they're going to castrate me, because everyone's life sucks. I can't take it,
get me out of here."

Two knights wheeled a guillotine in front of the wood chipper. Two other knights began 
to climb up onto the wood chipper. My finger pulled the trigger of the gun before I knew 
what I was doing, and the bullet found it's way to one of the knight's armor. There was 
a flash and sound on his armor, and he winced, but did not stop climbing the wood 
chipper. I jumped onto the wood chipper after him. Once up there, I stole his sword and
kicked him into the wood chipper. There was an awful sound as the metal blades of the 
chipper shredded his armor and bore into his flesh. Blood flew through the air and the 
man gave off an the most awful shriek of terror. The other knight was on the wooden 
board and had almost reached the prisoner. I jumped up onto the board and stabbed him 
with my sword, then I threw him to the ground. I then proceeded to untie one of the 
prisoners arms from the one of the handles.

I had finished this when I caught a rock intended for the prisoner's chest. I glared at
the knight who threw it with my demon's eyes before jumping down to face him. I punched 
the knight, knocking him to the ground. Then I ripped off his helmet and bashed in his 
head with the rock. It took five knocks with the rock before his head was reduced to 
blood, flesh, and pulp. I picked up the vanquished knight's sword. The one remaining 
knight came at me and slashed at my face, I just barely managed to dodge, so I wound up
with a fine cut under my right eye. I raised my sword to strike his several times and 
he blocked each one. It was during one of those strikes I finally took out one of my 
knives with spare hand and planted it firmly in the knight's face. After this, he fell 
down to the ground and did not get up again. Blood was splashing on my body from the one 
knight still the wood chipper, and the knight was still screaming. 

The king rode up behind me on his horse and asked, "What's going on here?"I 
sliced him in half. Then I did his horse. I saw the king's body flinch, so I chopped it
and his steed's body into little tiny pieces. When I was done, I glanced up at the 
prisoner. He managed to get free and was slowly walking off the board. The prisoner lost 
his balance, slipped and fell. Of his entire body, it was only his left foot that got 
stuck in the chipper. It began to reel the prisoner in, and he began to flail and 
scream. I took another one of the knives out of my pocket and ran to the controls on 
the chipper. I stabbed it repeatedly until it finally stopped. I looked back at the 
prisoner, half his leg had gone into the chipper and he the shock had caused him to 
become unconscious. I looked at the pile of blood from my rampage. I saw the remains of
the king and his horse, the man with no head, and the knight who was half devoured by 
the chipper yet still alive and conscious. 

I was taken aback by the sheer brutality of what I had done. When I had begun, I had 
done some with noble intent. I wished to free a prisoner and spare him castration. In 
the end, I created a damn a bloody mess. I looked down at the pile of blood, and a drip 
of blood fell down from the cut on my face. It fell into the pool of blood, and floated
on the surface like oil on water. Then it traveled to it's own patch of ground. I looked
up and saw an entire horde of knights waiting for me. I drew my gun and aimed directly 
for the exposed part of the foremost knight's face. A hit. He fell. At this moment I put
away my gun and fled. I had to flee somewhere safe. The tower. The tower with the blue 
eyed man inside. I ran there as fast  lightning and slammed the door behind me. I 
latched it shut and locked it behind me. I could hear he knights outside trying to bust
their way in, but they never could. I was entirely safe. 

I heard the sound of a workman cutting metal. I remembered the device the blue eyed man
was constructing. The nightmare machine. I thought of the madness I had witnessed 
outside. The total perfection of the methods of torture employed by Mathew. The 
simplicity of it, the genius of it. How could it possibly be any worse? I thought of 
the condemned marionettes I had seen outside. 

"You have to stop this."I shouted. 

The metal working on the floor above me stopped, and the blue eyed man called down to 
me, "What?"

"You have to stop this."I yelled, "This madness. You can't make it worse. 
You have to stop this. You have to stop building that machine."

"No."was the blue eyed man's response.

I was shocked, "What? You can't make this worse. You can't have a conscience and 
make this worse. You can't help this man torture his victims."

"Watch me."said the blue eyed man.

"Why the hell would you do that?"I asked. 

The blue eyed man simply said, "It's my purpose."

"What?"I replied. 

"It's my purpose."the blue eyed man repeated, "Everything in this world 
has a meaning, a purpose. Unlike the real world. I do this because I have to. It's my 
function, and I must fulfill it, or else I'm broken."

My mouth dropped open, "That's insane."

"This is what I do to survive."the blue eyed man responded, "I don't 
want to die. So I do this to survive. I told you she would be sickened by me if she 
found out what I was doing. I'm sickened by what I'm doing, but what else can I do? This 
world is a sickening place, and we must do sickening things to survive."I went 
silent at this, and the blue eyed man resumed his work. 

I again retrieved from my trenchcoat my gun. This madness would end. I first walked to 
the stairs and began to run once I stepped onto them. I never noticed the metal cutting
had ceased. Halfway up the stairs, I felt the hot lead bullet dig into into my hand and
then I heard the sound of the shot. I feel backwards and tumbled down the steps, hearing 
two shots from a gun as I did. I reached the bottom of the steps and lay on the ground.
My hand began to bleed. I saw a bullet hole form next to my face and that prompted me to 
move. I heard another shot as I moved to the side of the staircase where the man's blue
eyes could never find me. Rule seven, never charge into battle guns blazing, all gung 
ho and exposed. Not unless you're suicidal or a soldier. 

There was a long silence before the work in the floor above resumed. This time I crept 
up the stairs. The office was completely dark, but the wielder emitted light which 
illuminated the blue eyed man. In the light, I could have sworn I recognized his face. 
The wielder turned off and the shots came at me. I ducked behind a few unfinished robots 
and then peeped my body up twice to return fire. I heard the blue eyed man duck behind 
his work table for cover. I moved closer to him, taking cover behind a large trashcan. 
He never tried to shoot me while I was exposed. I deduced he must be empty. I jumped up
onto his work table, he moved towards a wooden desk by a window, and I fired two shots.
Two misses. The blue eyed man reached into his desk and threw some object into the air,
it emitted a static shock. I jumped down and hid behind the work table. 

I peered out from behind it and looked towards the blue eyed man. He was behind his 
desk, to one side of it, there was nothing but a wall and space. The other, a window. 
The fake light from massive room came in a beam through the window. It looked just like
pale white moonlight. I made my move, going around the desk through the empty side. I 
got right up close to where the blue eyed man was crouched and held the gun right up to
the top of his head. I pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. I was empty. The blue eyed
man stood up and punched me, I moved back, pulled out my one remaining knife and stabbed

The blue eyed man fell into the moonlight and I descended upon him, stabbing him many, 
many times. In the moonlight, I saw his blue eyes, and I saw his face. At long last I 
realized who's face it was. Mine. 

The man was me. Me with pale white skin, black hair, blue eyes. He was me. He even wore
my grandfather's trenchcoat. He was what I was. He was what I would be today if I had 
not been murdered.  

The floor fell out from underneath us, an alarm sounded, and we fell out of the iron 
maiden onto the stage. The audience gasped in horror and let out boos of discontent. I 
looked out onto them and I realized that the entire crowd was full of people I knew. 
Friends, family, loose associates, they were all disgusted by what they saw. Mathew 
stood next to me, once again in his magician's uniform. 

"And you will see."Mathew started, "Our volunteer has emerged from the 
iron maiden completely unscathed...and what's this? With a twin. Oh, it looks like they
didn't get along very well. Perhaps the red one got confused."The crowd let out 
more sounds of disapproval and disgust. They began to boo. Mathew turned to me and s
hrugged, "I don't think they like it."He turned back to the crowd and said, 
"Never fear, folks, I'll make it disappear."Mathew pulled out of his 
magician's coat a long purple blanket and threw it over me and my other self. 

I suddenly found myself in the kitchen of my childhood home. I turned to my left and 
saw my other self at the sink, hunched over an open computer. He was no longer an adult.
He can't have been older than fourteen. He turned to me, still bleeding from where I had
stabbed him. He was crying. Weeping, the tears streaming down from his face. He looked 
completely fragile and helpless. He said, "I can't fix it. It broke and I can't 
fix it."The tone was deep, but his voice sounded childish. 

My other self staggered over to the kitchen table and sat down. He laid his head upon 
the table and began to bleed from his eyes, ears, and mouth. All the blood began to 
stain his skin red, and the black color from his hair began to drain out onto the floor.
Leaving his hair white. I walked over to the computer and tried to fix it. It crumbled 
into shards when I touched it and cut up my hands. I turned back to look at the table. 
Thirteen vampires entered the kitchen and circled my other self. They turned him over, 
revealing his eyes had transformed into yellow demon's eyes. 

One vampire asked, "Shall we devour him?"

The leader of the vampires shook his head and said, "No, his blood is not worthy 
of us."

That's when I woke up. No one else was home. Shadow and Sparkey were outside, probably 
hunting shadows. I got out of my bed and went to get my trenchcoat. I put it on, then I 
sat on the ground with my back to the wall. I wrapped my arms around my knees and sat 
there for hours. I did not sleep the rest of the night. I didn't even blink.