This... has most certainly not been my week.
Or perhaps I should say 'month'?
And to think I haven't even stepped beneath any ladders... or opened an umbrella indoors, for that matter.
Although... I suppose I could have unintentionally spilled some salt somewhere along the line. It's sometimes difficult to tell what gets upturned during a scuffle, hm? The devil on my shoulder must be laughing itself into a coma by now. Oh, yes, I see the humor. Absolutely divine. Truly.
I suppose it is stating the obvious to say that I am not faring as well as I had hoped. I knew my condition was to get worse, but I hadn't expected it to progress this quickly. It has left me... with a lot on my mind. A lot to consider. Study. Ponder. Even my last mission has left me a touch troubled. Though not in relation to what our dearest Hope Bearer did to me, actually. Nor for how both actresses got away.
They were meant to get away.
It was not how Shooter had wanted it, but I hadn't a choice in the matter. It... had not been my stage.
It was Father's.
His Will made me His pawn. His piece. A mere puppet who was trying only to do as they were told so as to keep their mind intact. So as to not annoy Him. So as to not lose themselves under His hold and be ripped apart into a Hallowed. He had a role for me to play, and I did my best to accept without question. To yield any other distraction and focus solely on what His Will wanted of me.
There is a reason, after all, that He tends to only be seen with Hallowed. It becomes... exceedingly difficult to not panic when His hold comes over you. When you can feel His influence in your mind and core. It is difficult to not... resist. To not fall to the most basic instant for survival and fight His guide. Because if you do... He will not think twice to tear out that side of you. He will not think twice to remove your own will, so that He can influence His own without hindrance. Without interferance.
To survive as a Proxy standing by His side... one must willingly step aside from full control of their actions. Submitting themselves mind, body, and soul. Without question. Without panic. Just a simple, calm, respectful acceptance of His Will - His Ownership - over you. As you are His property. Nothing more.
Mantras can be helpful. To repeat phrases to yourself. Over and over again. But through all this... you must still be effective in your role. Efficient. To work as if nothing is wrong. As if who you are isn't on the line in even the slightest way. As if... His mere presence doesn't effect your senses.
It is like... opening your eyes under water. Your vision is still there, but everything bears a slight distortion. Odd flares of light and sound. It is almost as if you are seeing partly how humans are meant to... and partly from His own view. Nothing coming in focus as it should... and yet you must make do. No matter how hard it is to stay relaxed. No matter how hard it is to even think. You must make do.
There is no other choice.
To say it is "a difficult balance" to maintain would be the same as commenting that a hurricane is "some wind and rain." It is... a terrifying position to find yourself in. One that has left me... very much drained in both mind and body.
Initially, I had intended... to pay Requiem a visit next after I had left the Cafe. With how my current situation with The Beak has been confirmed, I had planned to trust the care of Kali and Loki to the Priest for the time being so they wouldn't continue to be exposed to His presence. I hoped that, in so doing, I would be able to protect them from His Sickness. After all, they have been my loyal partners for so long now... it would truly be a shame to lose their contribution to the Purpose.
Especially since they tend to show more talent than many of my kin do.
However... Father changed my mind.
It was an incident I declined to mention in my post after I had visited "Joseph". One thing that I left undisclosed when I spoke of the phone call from the Highers earlier.
I told you how their call had woken me up.
What I withheld, however, was what I'd been woken up from.
The "dream" which was all too vivid... and that I can still recall every detail of. In which I was walking amongst a dense fog. Each step I took accompanied by a puff of a gray cloud curling up to my knees - as if the ground I walked on was nothing but soot. I could smell and taste the smoke in the air as I pushed through snagging twigs of bushes. Their hooks tearing at my clothing - a simple shirt and pants - as I shoved my way through. Earning a few cuts as I went. Blood beginning to flow.
As I went further, I noticed the soot at my feet had become intermixed with bones and black leaves. Various items that were broken or charred laying scattered about... and I passed each one by until something much bigger in size appeared from the fog.
My old home. In the very same condition it was in when I had left it.
Just a blackened, hollow shell of what it once was.
And yet I still walked right in - pushing the door wide.
Inside, the layout was exactly as it had been... but it was all made of glass. I could hear whispering caught adrift in the air. Echos of faint laughter. Of sweet nothings and plans once laid which came to be worth not but ash. I left a dotted trail of crimson from my gained cuts as I made my way through the halls. Scaling the stairs. Walking past room after room with doors left closed. Undisturbed. Until, that is, I reached the door at the end of the hall. Another creak of an opening door. Only this time the room I stepped into was not glass, but back to how it was before the fire. The old master bedroom. The floor had returned to ash and bone, but everything else was in its place. Every piece of furniture. Every trinket. The only difference being the muted tones - as if everything had soaked in the darkness that surrounded the structure and true color was no longer possible here. Only the red was still left ablaze. Only the red.
A human skull sat on the pillow of the bed. Hollow eyes watching me as I approached the wardrobe across the room. My stare held on the large, fractured mirror it supported... and the image it reflected. My own image. As Nightscream. Standing amongst the same thick fog I had left outside. An adder curled around the left arm where my gauntlet should have been.
A chill crept down my spine as hand was placed to hand against the cold surface. My palm laying over a spider web that was supported around the frame. Its small, black builder biting my hand in retaliation as the mirror fractured more. The image bleeding out onto me until I became myself again behind my mask. The reflection of tattered clothing in the broken mirror melting away into a suit without end and arms bent at an awkward angle. A tall figure with a featureless face replacing my hood and mask. His form and the fog becoming one. Becoming impossible to define one from the other as the heavy blanket rolled out of the fractured mirror. Enveloping the room. Enveloping me even as the mirror shattered and shards rained down.
Then the room was no longer a room. The fog no longer a fog. Instead, He stood before me... with web spread all around us. Encircling us in a thick blanket. I felt the strings clinging to me. I felt the fear thudding in my chest... the panic rising as He stepped forward... looming over me...
And I felt as though the very air rushed at me. Piercing straight through my mind as good as any blade as I snapped awake in my hotel room. Head pounding. Phone ringing beside me.
I barely paid attention to the words of the Highers, my mind already turning. Shifting paces. Beginning to plan.
I had received my True Orders.
I knew where my rebellious sister and her master were.
I simply needed to set the stage. To spur our actresses into performing.
I know not why He chose me, but it is not my place to question.
I am not but His Humble Servant.
I did as He wanted of me.
I cracked the shell of she who eludes His vision.
I gave her attack dog a reason to show her true self.
All under Him. All under His stare. I merely had to keep the darling Sage under my own 'care' as Father pulled the strings on His puppet. A young boy. Perhaps sixteen. A Runner unaware of his own role in the game... until he was dying, that is. Until agony scorched through him in the form of a blade and Father no longer required his physical form to carry the costume He had fitted him with for Mitch's eyes only. One that bore Morningstar's very image. I saw it during the struggle. Father's hold over me granting mere flashes of His work. A flicker of an image long-since dead laid over the figure of one unaware of his own actions...
Sister played her part perfectly.
And the Hope Bearer... the Hope Bearer was most magnificent of all. Certainly not my sharpest student, but not my dullest either. She proved herself to be rather interesting... and proved me completely correct in my judgement of her. Her angelic mask no longer fits so flawlessly over her true nature. Her true self. I gave her the knife to carve away the lies... and she did an excellent job with it. I am quite proud of her.
She knows the truth now.
I saw it in her eyes when I felt the clawing agony in my lungs and the metallic taste of blood greeted my tongue. When my body refused to function as I was overcome by a fit of coughs which nearly stole me from my feet. Crimson staining the ground. Crippling me.
I dared the Sage to surprise me. And she did. But at the cost of losing our game.
The lesson had been taught... even if I did pay a touch of a price for it.
There was no need to follow them at that point.
I was still struggling to regain my breath - still struggling against the blood in my throat - when I felt Father standing directly in front of me. Staring down at me as I fought to recompose my fragile, mortal body. I shivered under Him - not daring to look up. Instead folding down onto my knees. Head bowed down. Struggling against the will to keep coughing. His influence running through my mind like water through a sponge. Filling everything as I struggled... to clam my fear. To accept His Judgement of my performance as His servant. For better or for worse.
Just an instant later, He was gone.
I had passed.
It was at that point... that I started laughing.
I had passed.
Eventually, I noticed Kali and Loki staring at me from a nearby tree. I knew then that Father truly had moved on. Otherwise they wouldn't have been anywhere near me. Smart-asses. The both of them. But at that point... there was not any other living being on the planet I would have rather seen.
Once I regained enough focus, I called them down to me and gathered up the rest of my things. Hitting the road in the exact opposite direction as the Sage and her pet... and I haven't glanced back once. Having used the last few days to realign my thinking again. To recover.
I've said before that every mission... has its own level of risk.
The key, however... is knowing precisely how much of a gamble you're taking before you even pick up the die to begin with. To know your opponent before they even have chance to realize you're paying attention. To know what circumstances you're walking into before you take the first step in that direction. You analyze. Study. Inquire. Ponder and analyze again. And only when you feel you can begin to predict them do you step forward... and then wait to be surprised.
After all, the one thing that never seems to change... is how quickly something or someone can do just that. One single action that could take no longer than the time it takes to inhale a sharp breath... and who you are abruptly becomes who you were. Decisions that were once straight-forward and common sense becoming convoluted. Twisted by emotion. Pain. Loyalty.
Better or Worse?
This is a taste... of what it takes to survive as a Proxy.
I am His Servant.
I am His Soldier.
To be used in any way He sees fit.