CURRENTcarcinoGeneticist from RIGHT NOW opened up a memo on board ‘GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE MINUTIAE’.
CCG: ATTENTION ALL QUASI-SENTIENT LIFE FORMS ABOARD THE SS INSANITY.
CCG: YEAH, THAT MEANS ALL OF YOU. I PESTERED YOU ALL INDIVIDUALLY, EVEN THE IDIOTS, TO INFORM YOU IN ADVANCE ABOUT THE SPECTACULAR VERBAL SMACKDOWN THAT IS TO BE THIS MEMO’S GLORIOUS MAIDEN VOYAGE.
CCG: SO YOU’VE GOT ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING LEG TO STAND ON WHEN FACED BY THE FULL FORCE OF MY INEVITABLE WRATH AT YOUR NON-ATTENDENCE.
CCG: AND, FOR THE RECORD, I EXPECT ALL OF YOU TO FOLLOW MY ANNOUNCEMENTS WITH NOTHING SHORT OF QUASI-RELIGIOUS FERVOUR IN FUTURE. OR, FAILING THAT, AT LEAST MAKE A PASSING ATTEMPT AT SUBSERVIENCE.
CCG: ANYWAY, IT’S ALL HANDS TO THE DECK, WE’RE READY TO LAUNCH, AND GODDAMMIT, WE’VE GOT TO SHAKE OFF THIS WEIRDLY PERSISTENT NAUTICAL METAPHOR BEFORE WE ALL DROWN IN A WAVE OF IRRELEVANCY.
CCG: WHATEVER, NOT THE POINT.
CCG: THE POINT IS, LAUNDRY.
CCG: YES, YOU HEARD ME CORRECTLY, PEOPLE. I’M GIVING FULL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO THE GIGANTIC TRUNKBEAST PLODDING ITS WAY AROUND THE ROOM IN THE WORST APPROXIMATION OF STEALTH I’VE EVER BEEN FORCED TO WITNESS.
CCG: LOOK, I’VE THOUGHT THIS THROUGH, ASSESSED ALL VIABLE OPTIONS, AND TO CUT THE CHASE, WE CAN’T JUST KEEP ALCHEMIZING CLOTHES, GUYS.
CCG: THIS IS NOT A GODDAMN FREE FOR ALL, THOSE THINGS ACTUALLY COST GRIST, YOU UNBELIEVABLE CRETINS.
CCG: SO I GUESS WE OUGHT TO MAYBE THINK ABOUT WASHING THEM INSTEAD, OR SOMETHING?
CURRENTgallowsCalibrator from RIGHT NOW began responding to the memo.
CGC: BL4R K4RK4T W3 D3CR33D TH4T 4NY 3V1D3NC3 OF TH1S “L4UNDRY” OF WH1CH YOU SP34K WOULD B3 SUMM4R1LY STR1CK3N FROM TH3 R3CORD 4ND CONS1GN3D TO TH3 OBL1V1ON FROM WH3NC3 1T C4M3
CGC: 1 TH1NK W3 3V3N H3LD 4 R1TU4L
CGC: 4 L4UNDRY B4N1SH1NG R1TU4L
CURRENTturntechGodhead from RIGHT NOW began responding to the memo.
CTG: okay nanny mcphee moving past the fact that i have free exemption from witnessing your weirdly targeted online meltdown
CTG: given the whole self-sanitising godtier getup
CTG: do you think maybe you could find some quieter way of venting your bizarre neuroses
CTG: like crochet or something
CTG: really angry superspeed yarnfuck ragecrochet
CGC: Y34H K4RK4T TH1S R34LLY H4S TO STOP
CCG: OH, OKAY TEREZI, FINE.
CCG: I’LL STOP ATTEMPTING TO CRAM SOME SEMBLANCE OF ORDER INTO THE UNTRAMELLED LUNACY OF OUR DAILY EXISTENCE!
CTG: is where youd finish if the universe didnt hate us all
CCG: YEAH, WELL, LUCKILY FOR YOU MORONS, I’M NOT ABOUT TO STAND BY AND WATCH YOU ALL CHOKE UNDER A SWEATY AVALANCHE OF YOUR OWN SOILED GARMENTS.
CCG: BECAUSE APPARENTLY I AM JUST THAT MUCH OF A PHILANPHROPIST.
CCG: I WILL SAVE YOU FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR OWN INDOLENCE. I WILL ORGANISE A LANDRY ROTA, AND YOU WILL *THANK* ME FOR IT.
CCG: I’M GLAD WE HAD THIS DISCUSSION.
CCG: STAY TUNED FOR FURTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS! TOMORROW WE’LL BE TACKLING LITTER.
CURRENTcarcinoGeneticist ceased responding to the memo.
CTG: not one fucking word tz
CURRENTturntechGodhead ceased responding to the memo.
Your name is Karkat Vantas, and, for once, this isn’t actually the problem. Throughout the course of two Earth human “years” spent floating aimlessly through paradox space on a desolate hunk of rock, you have become gradually reconciled to the unfavourable responsibility of being you. What once ranked as a great injustice has since evaporated into mild irritation. Which is not to say that it doesn’t still rankle when you watch the others potter happily around the meteor, blithely content with the solidity of identity gained from the act of not being Karkat Vantas. As if they’ve done it every second of their lives, without ever even considering otherwise. Which they have. Freaks. But there you have it. Your name is Karkat Vantas, and that isn’t actually the point; the point is how little any of it means now, and the point is being Karkat Vantas, one of many tapering strands of possibility forming the greasy split ends of the universe.
Right now, that isn’t pressing. For now, you have folded your knees to your chest and packaged yourself up into a spindly computer chair, eyes resolutely anchored to the ceiling. Several hairline cracks weave and intersect in the northwest corner. Which isn’t actually interesting. It is nonetheless preferable to exploring the recently germinated forest of photos that have sprouted over all areas of the lab. They’re tacked haphazardly to the walls: Rose’s face split into a crooked, close-mouthed grin over the stained pages of some antique doorstopper; Kanaya grimacing over a cup of coffee; Kanaya a split second later, with a flash-fire smile; and Terezi, Terezi plastered all over the room, Terezi to the nth degree – and even a few of Strider himself, uniformly angled and blurred. He’s never managed to catch you on camera – not that he’s ever made more than a cursory attempt. You think one of those darkish shapes at the edge of one of the Kanaya portraits might be your hair, so there’s that.
You reach out, irritated, to pluck the nearest photo – a still shot of the carapace guy with pretensions to elected office gnawing at one of Kanaya’s shoes – from where it’s taped to the metal countertop. God, he could use a less obtrusive hobby. But now a deep, electric thrum is pulsing through the room, and through you, coursing past and constricting your throat, pressing up against the roof of your mouth - and the photos are trembling like leaves in a gale. Then, with vicious efficiency – there’s release, and
would you look at that, your surroundings are no longer your own. Any lingering residue of warmth has been sucked from the air in a whirl of ash, leaving you dizzy and draped in chill. You now stand at the foot of a tall, wrought iron gate - sheeted in dark and in gray, curdling mist. The sudden perceptual shift isn’t as disorientating as it once was, but the acrid tang of char on your tongue is forever surprising; you hate this place, god but you hate it.
You’re in a windless, desolated street. Framing the fog with bright, silvery flecks of light is the arching shape of a giant hall. It looms above the other clustered silhouettes - shadowy-light suggestions of buildings, three quarters shrouded by the atmosphere – coated in a thin scurf of dust. God knows what’s sheltered in there. You’re alone at its doorstep, and nothing could induce you to move – but then a lacerating screech knifes through the air behind you, and you hurl into action; the angels may be nothing more than abstractions of abstractions, but damned if you’re staying here. You wrestle briefly with the decorated latch of the gate, numb claws tussling with looped iron, and you’re through just in time; you slam it shut as the feathered hellbeast dives, slamming against the bars with a thwarted crash. Inside, you slump against the stonework, drawing in ragged, ineffectual gasps of air. It’s been too long since you last strifed; you need to breathe, you need to think. And so you breathe. You breathe until you’ve worked past the knotted constriction of your chest, and the pounding in your neck slows, and then you risk a glance backwards.
It’s still there. It chitters its exasperation – gah, don’t look at its face, just don’t look – and pries at the gate with curved, clumsy talons. But it’s okay. It’s not even real, god - this is pathetic.
You force yourself to your feet. You broke in through a side entrance, tucked behind one of the sweeping pillars that bend all the way to the roof. Here, nothing remains of the fog save for a few spiralling tendrils that have crept their way under the doors. The rest is stone-gray and silent in austere immensity, and you step with caution as you make your way to the centre. It’s bare, but for a wide stained glass window glistening gemlike in the far wall. The colours cast fiery snatches of light towards the middle of the floor, where – framed by a tall, carved archway - a gaunt figure kneels. Head bowed; sat motionless.
You approach, surprised afresh by the dull, echoing clatters of your footsteps, when
he breathes, and there’s wonderment in it.
Then, all of a sudden, he’s sprung to his feet, and he closes the space between you like it’s nothing, like it’s allowed – crushing you into a vehement hug. You can’t move. You can’t think. It’s just a blur of tangled arms, bony wrists and abrupt warmth. He releases you a fraction too late, hands still clutched at your shoulders and staring at you like you’re his, like you’re salvation -
pale for you alwways kar i swwear it
lovve you more'n this wwhole fuckin vvoid of a universe
It hurts. And how. It tears through your stomach with its bare claws, and shreds your guts into mince. And that’s not even taking the words into account; that’s just the fevered glow behind his eyes, and the way he whispers so fiercely, like nothing else matters except saying this. This is why you don’t get caught up in dream bubbles. And this is why, above all, you never talk to them. He’s holding you so hard it hurts, eyes anchored to yours, and you think you want to break something.
i wwas fuckin insane for not seein it before
but then you wwere there to help me evven accountin for that
an im so sorry for nearly goin straight off the deep end
i wwas an idiot kar but this is it evven if wwere both here for the wworst side a forevver
this is serendipity like those wigglers nevver dreamed
You feel like a voyeur to your own pale drama; this isn’t for you – you can actually feel yourself blushing. But as you avert your eyes, you fix on something truly bizarre: someone leaning against the pillar in a sleek, black suit. He tips his head to you, just vaguely, but enough for it to be deliberate, and oh, what the fuck –
But now the scene is being washed away by a strengthening background hum - even Eridan’s confusion at your choice of response, melting like watercolour paint, and you panic and grab fistfuls of his shirt - because no-one deserves to be locked in along with the angels for eternity - but it all dissolves regardless, and the corner of the photograph is digging a ridge into your palm
“Hey. Hands off the exhibit, dude.”
You blink at that, because Dave is gone. You were looking straight at him, but he vanished along with the rest of the dream.
Except, once you whirl around to find him, he’s slouched against the doorframe. Wrapped in his perpetual god tier regalia and frowning.
Practically gaping, you open your hand. Out flutters the picture, crumpled and torn.
He takes one look. “Jesus,” he mutters, snatching it back. Then – irritated? - he stalks out, cape rippling behind him like the largest testament of idiocy ever known to troll.
Right now, you don’t think you could call after him even if you wanted to.
CURRENTcarcinoGeneticist from RIGHT NOW opened up a memo on board ‘YOUR GREAT (REINSTATED) LEADER’S NUMEROUS MEASURES TO STEM THE FLOW OF INSOUCIANT DRIVEL’ (previously titled ‘GENERAL ADMINISTRATIVE MINUTIAE’).
CCG: IT HAS COME TO MY LEADERLY ATTENTION THAT A FEW OF YOU HAVE BEEN QUESTIONING THE VALIDITY OF THESE BULLETINS.
CCG: BY WHICH I MEAN THEY APPEAR TO HAVE BECOME THE TARGET OF PETULANT JIBES, PUERILE INNUENDO AND OVERALL MOCKERY AT THE HANDS OF A FEW PEOPLE ON BOARD THIS METEOR.
CCG: YEAH, DON’T THINK I HADN’T NOTICED.
CURRENTturntechGodhead from RIGHT NOW began responding to the memo.
CTG: kinda struggling to see how you would have managed not to notice
CTG: seeing as most of said puerile jibes take place on this very memo
CTG: we are hardly talking covert ridicule here
CTG: i mean you havent even made any serious attempts at silencing the naysayers yet
CTG: as far as dictatorships go this is basically the most halfassed
CTG: like if stalin had decided to keep the ussr in line with weepy radio broadcasts detailing all his abandonment issues
CTG: or if mussolini tried to strike terror into the hearts of the masses via chinese burns and wedgies
CURRENTcarcinoGeneticist banned CURRENTturntechGodhead from responding to the memo.
CCG: HAHAHAHA, HOW’S *THAT* FOR FUCKING DESPOTISM, YOU WHINING IGNORAMUS?
CCG: FEELING SUITABLY OPPRESSED NOW?!
CCG: RIGHT, SO.
CCG: WITLESS INTERJECTIONS ASIDE, I THOUGHT I’D TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO REMIND YOU THAT, AFTER HAVING RECENTLY RELIEVED ROSE OF HER DUTIES AS LEADER, I POSSESS ALL THE REQUISITE AUTHORITY TO TELL YOU PEOPLE TO SHUT YOUR WITTERING FAILTRAPS AND DO SOME CHORES.
CURRENTtentacleTherapist began responding to the memo.
CTT: Stepping down was a difficult decision, but in the end I suppose I couldn’t face up to the pressures of office.
CTT: Having waived all claims to coordinating our domestic duties, I can only hope that Karkat governs wisely in my stead.
CCG: WE EVEN HELD A SPECIAL COMMEMORATIVE CEREMONY AND EVERYTHING, THIS COUP IS THOROUGHLY FUCKING VALID.
CTT: A usurpation of the most genuine legitimacy, yes.
FUTUREturntechGodhead SEVEN MINUTES FROM NOW began responding to the memo.
FTG: still not buying you as ruthless tyrant dude
FTG: though points for effort i guess
FTG: where are you anyway
FTG: like are you still in the goddamn lab
FTG: quit moping up there already that place is not your personal gothic woetower of angst
FTG: its my art installation studio okay
CCG: SO WHAT IF I AM STILL THERE?
CCG: WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT, STORM THE FUCKING BUILDING?
PASTturntechGodhead from FIVE HOURS AGO began responding to the memo.
PTG: ahahaha knew it
PTG: kay gimme a minute
PASTturntechGodhead ceased responding to the memo.
CCG: I THINK I SPEAK FOR ALL OF US WHEN I TAKE A DEEP BREATH, ROLL MY EYES SOMEWHERE IN THE VICINITY OF SKYWARD AND ASK: THE FUCK, STRIDER?
FTG: nothing much
FTG: past me just stashed your dvd collection in its staggeringly shitty entirety into the cupboard behind you
FTG: because he is hilarious like that
CCG: OKAY COME ON, YOU CANNOT FEASIBLY IMAGINE THAT I’M ABOUT TO OPEN THAT CUPBOARD DOOR ON YOUR INCREDIBLY SUSPICIOUS RECOMMENDATION.
CCG: PRIMARILY BECAUSE – FUCKING SURPRISE! - I, UNLIKE YOU, ACTUALLY POSSESS A MODICUM OF FUNCTIONING GRAY MATTER.
CCG: I MEAN, JUST. WHO WOULD BE SO MONUMENTALLY MORONIC AS TO THINK THAT WAS A SUCCESSFUL PRANK?
FTG: dunno man
FTG: not exactly my prerogative anymore
FTG: but do you really want to risk it
CCG: OH, FUCK YOU STRIDER.
CCG: FUCK YOU PAST ETERNITY AND STRAIGHT INTO THE NEXT GALAXY.
CCG: FUCK EVERY SMUG ITERATION OF YOUR HIDEOUS FACE.
CURRENTcarcinoGeneticist ceased responding to the memo.
CTT: No, don’t say a word – let me guess.
CTT: Bucket of water over the door?
FTG: sometimes i cannot believe we are even related
FTG: like you really know how to demean a guy
FTG: i am genuinely offended you think id do something so bog standard douchey
CTT: Had I known your entire reputation was staked on my conjectures, I’d have shot a little higher.
CTT: Bucket of water over the door of a cupboard stuffed to the bursting with dirty laundry?
FTG: atta girl
FTG: whoa no
FTG: whyve you people got to be all shoving ellipses up in my screen
FTG: like what is it with girls and repetitive sequences of dots these days
FTG: this shit is just excessive
CTT: Strider. We need to talk.
FTG: yeah okay
It’s cramped, humid and utterly lightless in here. You wouldn’t have it any other way. Out of all the temporary hideaways you’ve scoped out for Gamzee’s use, this is the most unsuitable; his horns practically scrape the ceiling when standing. You’d asked him what exactly went wrong with the last one in that disused bathroom down in the east wing – from what you could tell, it was practically perfect - and he said he didn’t like to be up and motherfucking lingering anywhere, which you suppose you can almost appreciate. You’re trying to ignore the gut-churning irony of having chosen the vents as your latest refuge, though.
You’re both nestled together in the makeshift horn pile, which isn’t really a pile inasmuch as it consists of a few scattered horns and a couple of filched cushions, and Gamzee doesn’t snore so much as he giggle-squawks in his sleep, but you can’t even find it in yourself to be uncomfortable today. Even if the rim of one horn is digging in between the ridges of your spine, and he’s breathing directly in your ear. This is more than enough. It’s right, and it’s easy – and it was always, always serendipity for the two of you, even back when you were too stupid to even acknowledge it. This kind of perfection shouldn’t be chance. Some things are more than just sacred.
You thought you knew that. You thought every miserable you in the world might have known that, even if the others are awful and halfwitted at best; this was supposed to be a constant. The constant.
Wincing, you ease yourself out of his arms. Not practical. He clings like a goddamn wiggler, and it’s all you can do to hook his fingers out of your shirtsleeve without waking him. Luckily, he is a motionless lump of inertia, and also dead to the world. You manage to disentangle yourself with minimal effort, considering.
It’s about the middle of that nebulous stretch of time mutually determined as space for sleeping, so you’re more or less free to wander the halls. That is, assuming Kanaya hasn’t started her patrol; you’re not even sure if she’s capable of sleep anymore. She’s been feeling her way through this new state mostly by trial and error. Trial, error and sporadic instances of neck-biting.
You find yourself stepping towards the second staircase platform on the northwest corridor – and honestly, you couldn’t begin to say whether or not it was deliberate. Part of you reckons it might have been. Everywhere else has been scrubbed dry of any lingering trace of two years ago, but no-one could steel themselves to tackle this wing of the meteor – even Kanaya, with that unrecognisably hungry edge to her eye – and months of tacit procrastination have left the door undisturbed. You’re not actually sure what you’re expecting. You open it anyway – hoping to whatever’s left to hope to that the tacky roughness under the handle is rust – and slowly advance up the stairs.
You’re kneeling between dark, pooled splashes of colour, wrapped in the dark like a prison. And you swore, out of all of them, you were the least morbid-minded. You suppose that isn’t even much of a distinction anymore.
This is a terrible idea.
“Hey,” you say, regardless. You’re addressing the patchy kaleidoscope of purple directly in front of you. “Look. It wasn’t a choice, you know. Even if I’d found you in time and you hadn’t had your bizarre, eleventh-hour red thing for me – and even if I’d been willing to consider that kind of eventuality, which is a colossal fucking even… I don’t know. I didn’t. And who knows – maybe if I’d twigged what was happening sooner, maybe then I’d have been able to stop you, but that kind of speculative garbage is for doomed timelines, not real, functioning regrets. You think I haven’t seen Terezi’s face when someone brings up Vriska?” Your voice reverberates oddly across the hall, muffled and dissonant. You give a sort of shudder. “Not that anyone ever does, which is basically the exact fucking point. I’m alive, and you’re hacked in two pieces. This state of affairs is not likely to encounter reversal.” You clench your claws into fists. “So just. Just understand that, okay?”
When you turn to leave, he’s stood at the top of the stairs, looking for all the world as though this legitimate display of grief is a spectator fucking sport. Not Eridan. Dave. He’s looking straight at you, more or less. There’s something etched across his face that’s impossible to parse. Before you knew him, when all you had as reference were pixels on a screen, you thought he was like marble – but that was before you had catalogued a thousand miniscule flickers of movement, each denoting a different shade of annoyance or scorn. Probably there were other things in there too, but it’s not as if you were paying that much attention. Nonetheless, long story short, Dave moves. He works so hard to control it, but you notice regardless. He schools his features, grits his teeth – but he moves. It’s always an abortive flash, shorn off at the edges, and by this point you’re pretty much sick of being thrown the hacked-off butt-ends of emotion – but it’s still there, still palpable.
Right now, it’s downright inscrutable.
“No,” you practically bite. “Not now. Not today, when I lack any ounce of patience with which to stomach your unmitigated hoofbeastshit. Get the fuck away from me.”
He doesn’t get the fuck away at all. He takes a neat step forward, in fact, still focussed on you with that inexplicable intensity. “Just seems to me,” he says, eventually, “like the one guy listened, and the other…” A short, careless shrug.
Shakily, you stand. A short, evaluative pause. Damned if you’ll ever show it, but he’s sort of floored you. Eventually, you force out: “Still flying high as smartest human, I see, Strider.” It’s not as sarcastic as you might have intended.
He gives a small, yet audible pfft of acknowledgement. You don’t stay to watch his face, though. You push straight past him, down the stairs and back through the door, and you’re running now – scrambling and sprinting away from this hideous disused abattoir. He doesn’t call you back.
You’re stumbling over your feet to get across the corridor
and, against all logic, he’s standing in front of you, just a few metres off: hands raised palm-upwards in an effortless gesture of surrender. You skid to a halt about three feet before him, mostly in order to avoid crashing. He’s – god, he’s actually smirking - like, there is genuine facial fluctuation happening here, and it’s somewhat concerning. Sliding his shades up the bridge of his nose with one finger, he says, with an odd sort of warmth overlaying the monotone –
- and you can’t even formulate a decent response; it’s completely disarming. He raises an expectant eyebrow as you splutter.
not exactly the welcome i was expecting
parades a little lacking
kinda short on the confetti
i mean is one goddamn float too much to ask for
Which doesn’t make one iota of sense, frankly. You open your mouth to tell him as much, but he cuts you off with a swipe of his hand.
yeah i get it
believe me i get it okay
but goddammit we slogged through the batshit mutual ignorance tango once before and we might as well do it again
for want of anything better to do in this surrealistic dreamspace mindmeld
As he speaks, the walls recede into nonexistence, peeling away to reveal the muted glow of the Land of Heat and Clockwork. You’re standing on a rusted chunk of iron – a pier which stops midway across a lake of lava as though bitten off at the edge. The space of a blink, and it’s just – there – searing and vivid before you. It’s always impossible to pinpoint that moment of departure from reality; always an odd, unnavigable gradient. You flinch, bite your lip. Realise.
FUCK, DAVE. YOU’RE…
You reach across, half on instinct, grazing your claw against the edge of his shades. Unbelievably, he doesn’t flinch or take a swipe at you for it. Instead, he lets you ease them gently off his face, until you can see his eyes - motionless, and stark, milky white, like discs of ice. It’s all the proof you need. And somehow it negates the entire gesture, which is standard Strider fare. Still. You hand them back, taking care to hold them by the arms and not the lenses, almost by way of consolation. He snorts.
Fuck, it is too. You shift a little, causing the joints of the causeway to shudder. Moreover, it’s unnecessary – a pertinent fact that you’ve entirely managed to miss so far. This isn’t an obligation. This isn’t even something you’re capable of tolerating right now.
With effort, you lift your gaze back to Dave. He tilts his head to the side, birdlike and oddly persistent.
hey karkat -
- LOOK, JUST SHUT THE HELL UP, STRIDER!
He scarcely reacts. Which is to say that he’s frozen, impassive as ever – but beneath it all, there’s a stifled recoil, a strange flicker of indecision. You’re nervously conscious of the fact that you’ve finally done it; finally hurt him that extra bit, with little more than a careless jibe.
So obviously the urge to continue eclipses all reason.
NO! NO, DON’T THINK I DON’T I MEAN IT, YOU ABHORRENT PIECE OF SHIT.
YOU CAN CURB WHATEVER CRAZED LITANY YOU’RE ABOUT TO UNRAVEL HERE, BECAUSE, HONESTLY, NOTHING COULD INDUCE ME TO CARE. WORDS CANNOT DO JUSTICE TO THE EXTENT OF MY PRESENT INDIFFERENCE.
I DON’T WANT TO SIFT THROUGH THE DETRITUS OF SOME CONVOLUTED EXISTENTIAL MELODRAMA SPANNING FROM THE INSTANT SOMEONE SCRATCHED THEIR LEFT EAR OFF CUE.
I DON’T WANT A DELUGE OF EXPOSITION ON THE VARIOUS SUBTLE YET CRUCIAL POINTS OF DEPARTURE STREWN ACROSS THE ALPHA TIMELINE LIKE FLIES ON A PUTREFIED CADAVER.
THE DEGREE TO WHICH I DON’T CARE ABOUT THE DISMAL FARCE OF YOUR POINTLESS ALTERNATIVE EXISTENCE SURPASSES ALL BOUNDS OF MEASUREMENT.
THE DETAILS OF YOUR PREDICTABLE, DIME-A-DOZEN DEMISE COULDN’T INTEREST ME IF I WAS THE ONE WHO PULVERISED YOU PERSONALLY.
SO DON’T YOU DARE, STRIDER. DON’T YOU DARE, OR I’LL FALL APART, I SWEAR TO GOD. NOT ONE FUCKING WORD. I’M DONE.
He is uncharacteristically patient throughout this diatribe. After a few solid hits, you seem to stop hurting him; he plasters it over with something resembling patience – or, mostly, composure. You’ll say this of Strider: grace under fire is an asset of his. Not that it makes a shred of difference. You’re not exactly talking to him.
He waits until you’ve finished regardless, which shows more consideration than you ever gave him credit for. Maybe that’s where this timeline diverges? Then he brings up his hand to adjust his shades, almost awkwardly. Warily, you track the motion. He just doesn’t move without purpose; every pose is motionless as a photograph before he breaks it – but for the life of you, you can’t understand why now, why fumble like this?
A bright burst of magma casts a momentary trace of light across his face, and you could swear he reacts to it, just a little. That or he’s just – reacting. To this. You glance at the floor. He takes an abrupt half-step forward.
wasnt gonna bend your ear vantas
actually id reckon ive been the picture of fucking reticence over here
GO TO HELL.
not the point
He folds his arms, slowly, and now it’s decisive.
weird accusatory monologues aside
im actually here to lend a hand
like there is literally nothing else in the offing save the heartfelt tendering of one cold dead ghost appendage
OH, COME ON. I’M NOT SUCH AN EGREGIOUS FUCKING CHUMP AS TO SWALLOW THAT.
nah dude im serious
oh fuck you vantas
CONSIDER THE SENTIMENT WHOLLY RECIPROCATED, STRIDER.
He studies you, appraisingly – with such flagrancy you almost flush. Instead, you swallow. Match his gaze, or try.
dude you are like seventeen kinds of whacked right now
and at least six of those kinds have to do with the batshit self induced insomnia jag youve got going
youre flakier than a longtime crackhead with dandruff
and youre falling to pieces
its like watching a baby duckling devour its own leg or a ringtailed lemur descend into alcoholism or something
IS THERE A POINT LURKING AMIDST ALL THIS FESTERING DROSS, PRAY TELL?
point is youre a goddamn wreck man
A nasty sort of pause.
OKAY, HOW IS IT THAT YOU CAN MANAGE TO BE FREAKISHLY BLUNT AND YET UNBEARABLY PROLIX, BOTH AT THE SAME TIME?
THIS IS A BONA FIDE GIFT, DAVE.
YOU’RE ALSO A FUCKING LUNATIC IF YOU THINK I DON’T KNOW THIS ALREADY.
It’s so bright as to be scalding here – so much so that you can spot him blink behind the shades. If you didn’t know better, you’d think you had surprised him. It is almost a victory.
SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT, BECAUSE FRANKLY I AM STRUGGLING TO BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE ATTEMPTING, SOMEWHAT HAPHAZARDLY VIA MUDDLED ANIMAL ANALOGIES, TO TELL ME.
I’M WILLING TO CHALK UP AT LEAST A FRACTION OF YOUR LIMITLESS STUPIDITY TO MY OWN INCOMPREHENSION.
very magnanimous of you karkat
SHUT UP, I’M TRYING TO BRUTALIZE YOUR USELESS EQUIVOCATIONS.
oh okay shoot
TELL ME SOMETHING, STRIDER.
DO YOU HAVE THE SLIGHTEST CLUE WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE UNTIMELY AND DISPROPORTIONATELY GRUESOME DECEASE OF A REALLY GOOD FRIEND?
NO, DON’T ACTUALLY TALK, I KNOW THE ANSWER AND IT’S NOT WHAT YOU’RE ABOUT TO SAY.
YOU DON’T, OKAY? THIS ISN’T JUST SOMETHING YOU CAN IMAGINE IF YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES AND CONCENTRATE REAL HARD.
WHAT ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SUDDEN, SEEMINGLY RANDOM MASSACRE OF SIX? LET ME TELL YOU. NOT ENJOYABLE!
TRY SIX TIMES INFINITY.
SIX TIMES THE VAST, GLITTERING MYRIAD OF METHODS BY WHICH MY BRAIN-DEAD ALTERNATIVE SELVES MANAGED TO SCREW UP IRRETRIEVABLY.
ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET? I AM. TIME OF MY SHORT, IMMEASURABLY FUCKED UP LIFE.
AND NOW YOU ACTUALLY HAVE THE STARKFACED TEMERITY TO TELL ME TO – WHAT?
PULL MYSELF TOGETHER? MOVE ON AND DEAL?
WHAT EXACTLY ARE YOU TELLING ME TO DO, DAVE? BECAUSE I’D HONESTLY LOVE TO HEAR YOUR ADVICE!
You stop for breath, savagely triumphant in having beaten back his accusations before they had time to flower. He doesn’t respond. He stands, calmly, waiting. It is enough to make you want to peel the skin from his face with the tips of your claws and snap every twiglike bone in his fragile, human body. Or – at any rate, it’s annoying. Eventually, he just shrugs. With a semi-swagger:
You shoot him a heated, incredulous look. And yes, he definitely almost smiles. He is so very screwing with you.
oh is this the part where i get to talk again
i wasnt clear on the rules of this dialogue is all
i mean on the one hand that sounded like a fairly blatant cue
but then you still seem hella intent on irrigating whole miles of imaginary volcanic wasteland with your sloppy self pity deluge
so im gonna need more explicit prompts here if you want to stop me screwing up the staging
SCENE AND ACTION, STRIDER. SAY YOUR PIECE.
okay fuck you that was clearly a theatrical metaphor and not a cinematic one
im not here to slap you on the shoulder and tell you to man up like some kind of grizzled commanding officer from a plotless war flick
there will be no training montages as you choke back your trauma and learn to face the challenges ahead
also this is dreamfuck hell not a bildungsroman
my prerogative is not encouraging you to grow as a person
i just want to do you a favour all right
jesus fuck you are such a raving douche
You process this.
YOU’RE GOING TO DO ME A FAVOUR BY BEING REALLY OBNOXIOUS?
im gonna do you a favour by helping you take some control here
It sounds plausible enough to give you pause, if nothing else; he sounds so oddly assured. You eye him uneasily.
OKAY. TELL ME HOW YOU WANT TO HELP.
pffft haha ten minutes in and he finally decides to ask
dont you just love how we roll
straight as the conversational crow flies
He sounds inexplicably pleased by this. You wonder if this should mean something. But then, he’s always been weird. Still, a Dave Strider with benevolent leanings is far better than a Dave Strider pissed off and prank-happy. Against your better judgement, you resolve to listen.