Vriska stood on the edge of infinity. She felt herself sway, standing motionless before the yawning darkness that spread before her, vast and impenetrable. Images flickered within the maw, short whispers of a life lost, a promise broken. She wept as she beheld it, knowing what she saw was her life, her failures. She had died, not a hero, but a villain. Why? She had never planned for that. Never taken a step in either direction. And yet when that blade had pierced her heart and forced it to shred itself even as it tried to beat life through her veins she had known, without a doubt, she would die. There would be no revival.
She let the tears fall, just more blue stains on an already terribly stained shirt. Her God Tier was ruined now; the soft, bright orange robes were dyed the blue of her life. She found that aroused little concern within her, though. She was much more riveted on the story of her life that unfolded in the darkness before her. The flickers had resolved from indistinct moments of horror and empty shapes into a clearer, moving memory of her actions. She watched it all with eyes the color of pale marble, weeping all the while.
She saw her first murder; when her lusus had sent her out to find and kill a young troll to bring back. Or else. Or else what?, she had asked in youthful innocence.
Or else, her lusus had told her, I will be forced to eat you.
And so she had hunted. The troll she selected was young, only half a sweep older than her, part of the normally bright yellow caste. She had treated it like a game at the time, for what more could it be? She tracked him for a few hours as he moved through the ravines near her hive with his lusus. A small, forgettable creature—no more than a scared white blob in her memory. She felt a small pang of regret for the creature when it walked first into one of her snares and was killed. The wailing of the young troll had been terrible until she emerged from the shadows and ended his life with the sharper end of a heavy rock.
Vriska lifted her hands as she felt again the sensation of flesh and bone giving way beneath her makeshift weapon, the horrible sound he had made as he died. That boy would never leave her; that poor lost troll who had to watch his lusus, his best and probably only friend on Alternia, die. Only to be murdered and fed to a cruel, uncaring beast. Suddenly she felt rage. Rage at what she had been forced to do; rage at what her lusus had required, the price she’d been forced to pay. Any chance at friendship was gone for her. Nobody could get too close—nobody except the other highbloods, like Equius, who had no fear of consumption from her voracious mother.
She preferred the lowbloods.
That was how she had met Tavros, in fact. She had been forced to range far and wide to continue feeding her ever-hungering mother. Down, off the broken plateaus, to a series of cliffs near the still-unknown ocean. There she found his hive. He had set it in plain sight of everything, facing the cliff. It took her sweeps to understand why he would choose such an open, indefensible location for his hive. He’d told her, and she had laughed it off at the time, in her cruel way.
I built here because I like how the sun looks when it rises over the water.
Wow, Tavros, what a fucking stupid reason to choose a spot to live.
That was a lie. She wished she had thought of it first.
That first time, though, she had been prepared to kill him. By then she’d armed herself with conventional weapons, thanks to the mechanical nature of her noble neighbor. It was a science. Shoot the lusus, drag the troll back, if they got away shoot them too. Avoid it if you can. I like them fresh, mother whispers.
She had advanced stealthily, creeping from cover to cover. Vriska had become a master of stealth in her grim pursuit of sustenance. She saw him outside, with his stupidly inadequate Tinkerbull lusus, and sighted her weapon on them. For some reason she hadn’t pulled the trigger and ended the little lusus’ life. She’d never known why—it had been one of the many things that tormented her about Tavros Nitram—until now. Now, in review, in hindsight, which was always 20/20 (or so they told her when she was alive and such things mattered), she could see it clear as Alternian day. He was playing. Carefree, happy, unaware that his life was under immense danger. So innocent. Carefree. Everything Vriska wanted.
So instead of killing his lusus and dragging him back to be fed to her awful mother she had set the weapon aside and emerged to watch him at play. He’d taken a while to notice her, but when he did he only hesitated a moment before seamlessly including her into his game. An adventure of some kind. She’s hazy on the details because at the time it was so alien to her. So strange to waste time, so strange just to laugh for no reason. She had loved that night more than any other in her entire life. And now, with that hindsight, with her new vision eightfold that was always, always 20/20, she saw that that was the day she fell in love with Tavros Nitram.
And the day she began to despise him.
He represented everything she couldn’t, or would never, have. Happiness, freedom, joy. Instead she was shackled to fear and hatred and agony. She had never told him of the nights she woke up convinced she was being attacked by the spirits of those she had been forced to kill. Had never told anyone of those horrible nightmares. Never would, if she could help it. One more secret. She could never verbalize it to anyone that this was her entire relationship with Tavros. First a target, then her first friend, then her first love. And she had hated him for giving that to her.
But then the game had begun, and she had had a chance to just be with him. Her lusus was dead, crushed in an avalanche and then decapitated by Vriska herself, a sign of absolute defiance. And then she was free. Free. What she had never been except during her brief games of F.L.A.R.P. with Tavros and Terezi and Aradia and Eridan. Tavros who she had crippled and singlehandedly destroyed the one thing she had loved in life, Aradia the one she had killed and who had become so cold and calculating that she didn’t hesitate to kill her back at the first opportunity.
But between then and the start of the game, freedom, absolute. She roamed with Tavros and played and found treasures with him. They played again, living that first day all over again except now it was weeks and weeks of days in a warm, burnless sun that warmed and invigorated. She had nobody else to go to—Terezi hated her, Eridan was too difficult to juggle while surviving the game, nobody else was at hand. Only Tavros. And he loved it; it was like she had never hurt him, like they had just met again on that one gloomy night outside of his ridiculously open hive and with that breathtaking view of the sunrise.
Sure, she still picked at him and made fun. But he enjoyed even that, at least a little. He loved being the object of someone’s attention and affection even if that affection had been cruel and twisted into something darker. Even if she couldn’t give him what he deserved. All of that culminated to the point of her death. When she had panicked and begged him, pleaded with him with all her might to end her, to kill her on her bed before she could bleed out. And he had ran. He had taken all of her affection and love and caring, all of her patience (thin as it was) for his cowardice and thrown it away. He had fled and left her to die in the most agonizing way possible. That had truly destroyed whatever fragile feelings she had been nursing at the time.
She had been reborn as something colder, someone meaner than even Vriska Serket. She had abandoned Tavros to the waking dreams of Prospit that he so preferred to the pain of living. What did he know about living, about dying for that matter? He was a coward, she saw, and she would have none of it.
And once more she sees with perfect clarity. That was the day she had her heart broken. The day she had fallen out of love with Tavros Nitram. Nothing had been the same after that. Not during the rest of the game, which she had spent alone, and not during the time on the meteor. She had spent that time with herself, mostly. Plotting. Scheming. Bringing Jack around and into his power. But why? Why had she done this, which had ultimately led to her final death?
Clarity. That’s what death is, she thought to herself as she stood on that precipice and faced her memories. Perfect clarity.
Jack had been built by her. He was already powerful within the human session—but not insurmountable. If she had let it be then the human with the stupid hat and even dumber glasses would have probably killed him. Her pride wouldn’t allow it. This was the beast that had destroyed her session, after all, stopped her and everyone cold from their hard-won right to the new universe.
How just, then, how perfect if she could be the one to kill him? She would build him, then, and know his weaknesses, his flaws, and then when the time was right she could move in and strike him down. That would finally free her again. Because she was just trapped all along after she Ascended. After she became the only God in the Troll’s session everyone had avoided her. She was frightening to them, deadly, mysterious. Just like on Alternia, she was ostracized simply for existing. Killing Jack would have justified everything.
John had understood that. When she had spoken to him—at first just part of a game with Terezi, an urge to outdo her old rival—he had understood her, laughed at her. But he hadn’t judged her. Not even when she murdered Tavros, finally brought an end to that sequence of events. He had understood and valued her as a person in a way nobody else did. She saw him now, standing there with his goofy, round-toothed grin and those beautiful blue robes. The Hero of Breath—the Heir of Breath. Breath, yet again, like Tavros. But he was so not like Tavros. John was brave and sweet and kind. He would have killed her before letting her bleed out. Of that she is sure.
And only now, only in death, can she freely admit that she fell in love with John Egbert. Only now when he’s beyond her reach forever. The thought is nearly enough to break her, to send her spiraling into the depths of madness and darkness from which she would never return. And maybe that would be for the best. Maybe, since she’s dead, she should just let the darkness take her and sweep her away and erase all of those ugly, evil memories and nightmares.
Then she sees the snow. She hears his now familiar laugh and can see the odd shape of his human hive that he calls a “house”. Buried in white. Blanketed in innocence. Without thinking she moved forward into the snow, walking past the yard and the tree with the lonely tire swing and the slime spring ride that’s half buried in snow and ice. And there, in the window, blinking out at her, is the face of the strange, amazing, brave human boy she’s come to love.
Will always love.
With her, now, forever, always.
And she knows this with perfect, 20/20 clarity.