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"Is that the new kid?"

"Yeah. Poor guy. Father said he went from completely normal to this in several months."

"What is several months, anyway? Two?"

"Yeah, but it's close to three in this case."

"So... not several?"

"Hush up. This young man seemed to have started drawing pretty bad-looking drawings on everything when he got a chance with that red paint marker."

"Bad? As in scary?"

"Yeah, but I was referring more to the quality. Handwriting just became a bunch of scribbles, but you can still see 'DUMB KID' and 'GOOD JOKE, MAN', pointing to what can be assumed as a bad scribble of himself."

"GodDAMN."

"I know. His dad just thought to keep him home from school a couple days. You know, get things settled. Instead seemed to rattle him up more. Even when he ran out of paint just continued with a permanent marker."

"On the walls?"

"Yeah."

"Holy goddamn shit. A 17-year-old?"

"Just turned about two days ago. When he was driven over to the plane that brought him here, he was screaming about how he wasn't going to get psychoanalyzed and such. And do you know what's the odd thing about it?"

"What?"

"He mentioned this other kid's name. In full. Rose."

"Does he know her?!"

"I don't know. Sounds like it, but the odds..."

"Yeah, and the other two. Goddamn this is shitty luck right here."

The two doctors continued on with their little conversation, the young man in question had woken up to a strange bed. Not that he didn't remember falling asleep in it the night before, but rather wasn't expecting waking up to this!

"Goddammit, dad." John uttered. "This is even worse than those shitty cakes four years ago." He started chuckling, "Dear God, I'm nuts. Nuts enough to write all over tax forms, nuts enough to talk to myself, nuts enough to have voices in my head tell me what to do and keep me up all the goddamn time, but still sane enough to realize I'm nuts... and STILL nuts enough to laugh at all this. Dear God. I'm outta here, Jailbreak sty-"

"John, are you up?"

"...no?"

"Yes."

"...no?"

"John, you're up, I can tell from the failed soliloquy."

"Dammit."

"Anyway, here's a towel and some shampoo just outside the door. Use it or there'll be no cake for you."

Cake. The young doctor learned new swears that day, but at least it got an otherwise physically filthy man out of bed and, after some coaxing, into a shower.

------

John was lying in bed several days before on orders from his father, and hating every second of it. Every moment of inactivity, of not doing something, was a guarantee that those voices smother his conscious, break his will, and otherwise destroy himself from the inside out. When he explained the situation to his online friends, he expected some sort of sympathy from at least Rose and Jade, as well as ironic chastising from Dave. While it did happen, John could tell from various comments and utterings that his friends were more concerned with themselves. He got up to check those particular logs, which he had done so quite a few times since the correspondences stopped.

---

TG: bro. you sound like two steps away from being a joker.
TG: not like a haha joker. im talkin about batshit joker.
TG: bane of men in tights.
TG: you'll be all up in gay man grills, making jokes on sexuality and shit.
TG: don't go that way bro. no. don't do it.
TG: there's way too many dongs unnecessarily flapping about on this earth.
TG: gog, the smuppets.
TG: a whole bunch of superhero smuppets. each with foamy dongs and rumps brushing each other.
TG: crossing swords in both senses.
EB: dude, your bro still has those things?
TG: get these goddamn smuppets away from me, john. my bro must love these things.
EB: he needs to get laid.
TG: dude. he does. no doubt with those things.
TG: the mental images won't brush off.
EB: im sorry.
TG: you'd better. i'm up to my neck in naked puppets and you're bitching about gogdamn voices. deal with it like a man.
TG: not like a whiny fucking woman on the rag.

[TG] has stopped pestering [EB] at 16:13

---

Dave and Rose seemed to be on less and less, which perturbed John, but he simply attributed that to having less time as a result of school, jobs, and the like.

---

TT: Sounds like you're subconscious is trying to tell you something. Something that if you were to consciously know would either drive you nearer towards insanity or a revelation.
EB: gee thanks for the comfort.
TT: Quite easily hypergraphia. Though whether the hidden conflict is the source or some other disorder is present is still a mystery.
EB: I KEEP TELLING YOU I DONT DO THAT HA HA HA HA HA
EB: IT WAS THE GODDAMN IMPS
EB: HA HA HA I DONT WRITE SHIT ROSE CAN WE GET BACK TO THE FUCKING VOICES?
EB: BECAUSE THE THOUGH OF RUINING MY OWN SHIT IS HILARIOUS
TT: John, I'm sorry for derailing the topic, but I'm going through mental issues of myself right now. I need to figure out my own shit.
EB: ???
EB: what's up?
TT: It's not like any of the subconscious ramblings your mind is attempting to understand or otherwise vent out.
TT: It's mother, again.
TT: Passive-aggressive oneupsmanship, to be more precise.
EB: oh yeah. your mother being a bitch as usual?
TT: Yeah, you can call it that.
TT: Anyway, I have to go and feed Mutie.
EB: how is mutie?
TT: Vodka Mutini's doing well, but my mom's been using her as another tool for her passive-aggressive campaign.
TT: She asks me if Mutini's exactly like Jaspers.
TT: And even got another mausoleum built when he dies.
EB: oh dear.
EB: well i'll let you go now. see ya.
TT: Thanks John. Hope you figure out what the voices are trying to tell you. And don't worry, I've been psychoanalyzing everyone else my whole life. I'm sure I can handle myself.

[TT] has stopped pestering [EB] at 13:04

---

No doubt that would happen eventually. People have lives to live, people to see, things to do, and this time in their lives would no doubt be pretty busy.

---

GG: oh noooo! D:
GG: john i am so sorry!
GG: but maybe this is good for you
EB: what are you talking about jade?
EB: am i talking to your creepy dreambot again?
GG: of course not john!
GG: youre trying to tell yourself something
GG: something very important!!!
EB: what could it be
GG: it could be a ton of things, john :3
GG: im going through weird brainy-type stuff as well!
GG: and i think i'm coming close to figuring it all out!
EB: you too?
EB: god, everyone's having problems lately
GG: i know!!!
GG: dave has to deal with all those icky puppets :(
GG: and rose's mom is insane!!
EB: well, anyway, what do you think about me
GG: lets see...

[GG] disconnected from [EB] at 04:13

---

But when Jade was getting hard to get in contact with was when John realized that maybe this online nakama of sorts, that had saved the world at one time, that he had physically touched, was falling apart. It hurt John, but he eventually came to the conclusion that people drift apart with time and move on to new people to be friends with, and he should move on as well. Originally, he thought the voices had subsided. He thought that maybe his friends weren't really his friends, and the voices were trying to tell him this. But instead, several weeks ago, they came back in spades. They had became powerful to the point of VERY FUNNY KID YOU COULD BE A REAL COMEDIAN SOME DAY WITH THAT LITTLE ROUTINE OF YOURS.

"Stop it..."

NO REALLY, KID. THAT ACT OF YOURS IS STUNNING.
YOU COULD SERIOUSLY BE THE NEXT CHARLIE CHAPLIN WITH THAT.

"Shut up."

I NEVER SEEN SUCH A KID BE ABLE TO PULL OFF ALL OF THE INTRICACIES OF PROP COMEDY SO WELL.

"Goddammit, stop."

DUMB KID
HAHA SO DUMB
YOU SUCK

"Stop!"

SERIOUSLY YOU'RE SUCH A GODDAMN IDIOT THAT EVEN BABIES ARE SMARTER THAN YOU.

"ENOUGH! STOP!"

---

"Holy crap! John! My TAXES! THEY'RE DUE IN FOUR DAYS! AAGH!"

John had been making a sandwich when his father showed the now-ruined tax forms his father was holding. Scrawled drawings and words of deriding nature were haphazardly spread across each and every page, making the whole document useless. John took a look through them all. He didn't see the bright red markings, just an otherwise normal tax document.

"What are you talking about? Those papers are CLEAN!"

"This behavior is out of control!"

"What behavior? The only thing wrong is freaking voices telling me I suck!"

YOU DO KID
AHAHAHA

"...I'm calling a doctor."

"Oh, goddammit, not this, dad! THIS ISN'T FUNNY!"

THIS IS HILARIOUS
YOU ARE LIKE FUCKING ROBIN WILLIAMS WITH THIS
YOU CHARLIE CHAPLIN PRO
I LOVE THIS GUY

John shook his head, "...enough..." he muttered.

HAHAHAHA YOU CRACK ME UP
SERIOUSLY, YOU SUCK
YOU CAN BE THE NEXT FAILURE
THE NEXT FAILURE OF COMEDY

"NO GODDAMMIT NO. JUST STOP!" John had ran back to his room, and continued to yell, totally unaware of the marker he applied to wall.

Chapter Text

John never really guessed that in all his life that he would actually be spending time in a "building full of horrible mental rejects", so naturally being one of those "rejects" wasn't exactly making John's day.

"So I'm gonna hang out with loonies?"

"More or less."

"Any of them hot?"

"I wouldn't be concerned with that, John, but if you're good you can stay in the coed rec room."

"What is good?"

"I dunno. It's not like I work here."

"You DO work here."

"Oh, right. Well,... um... just do whatever you're told."

John smirked. "Very elaborate."

"Whatever, kid. I'm not the one who's sick."

John simply sighed. He'd thought these professionals weren't supposed to be assholes, but apparently he was wrong. Reminded him of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was, without a doubt, one of the worst movies John had ever seen. Not as bad as Titanic, but still so horrible to John.

But he still agreed that the depictions in that movie were totally accurate to what he was seeing in the so-called "therapy room" at that moment, sans psycho bitch warden, thank God. But he did see anxiety-ridden young men of around his age, the occasional child-like depressive, and one person claiming his socks were too large.

"We DO keep the real dangers in another ward."

"I can obviously see that." John retorted.

---

They had strapped him onto a stretcher, commented on the writings all over the wall (including the fresh markings), noted how physically sick John had looked, and took him out to the hospital. The voices were loud, and increasing in number. Banging his head on a soft, springy surface and yelling at the voices did very little to help, and only increased the talk back the voices uttered. He was wheeled into an emergency room, still raving at the mockeries. He tried pulling at the restraints to break himself free, causing the strecher to roll and shake, two wheels planted on the ground, two slightly off, growing larger at each pass. Then, cessation. They were gone. Which John thanked, as he could tell that weird liquid being prepped in a syringe was for him.

It went to the man who was in a car accident, but still.

---

"Are you sure there's nothing wrong?"

"Yes. I am certain. Dad's just worried and overreacted."

"Are you absolutely sure about that?"

"God, for a state-of-the-art nut house this sure is low tech."

"Very well, John. Maybe the other boy and you can become friends. Anything to add, Dave?"

"...Dave?"

---

Doctors, or rather psychologists, came to John, each separate from one another, asking the same questions. "How long has this went for?" "What are the symptoms?" "Have you wanted to kill yourself?". It'd became annoying even the first time, and John was ready to go apeshit after the 5th. Why couldn't there just be one of these fools instead of five? Didn't they trust him?! Voices started appearing on the very corners of his mind, but weren't of much distraction.

---

John didn't really know what he did to earn the co-ed rec room privileges, as he was mainly being a jerk every time someone asked him questions or "presumed" something. But somehow, he earned it. Probably by not going apeshit and beating the crap out of someone with something as heavy as a wrinklefucker. Which was good, as he was curious about this 'Dave'. He was pretty certain this was NOT the Dave he had ascended with years previous. But the facial features. John needed to know if he really was mad.

---

...There's this place in Colorado, up in the mountains, away from the city...

...it was called the Midnight Mountain Institute for the Mentally Silly...

...Doesn't believe in the whole medication mumbo-jumbo...

...State-of-the-art technology...

...You'll get plenty of rest there...

...Talked it over with your father, he agreed to it...

"...No."

...He's doing it out of love...

"NO, I'M FINE!"

Hugging, father trying to calm him, the late evening flight over, more questions a mind was too tired to fight, no resisitance entering the bedroom assigned to him... then morning.

------

This room, the rec room, actually looked pretty normal despite all of the patients in the standard blue robe and pants getups. It annoyed John, but he couldn't really complain, being in the same uniform. The room actually looked pretty expansive, enough to fit twenty to thirty patients. A couple tables set up for various card games, several television sets, both on opposite sides of the somewhat thin room, so that neither set is louder than the other. Otherwise meant to help pass the time in an otherwise very boring place, though whether successful or not depends.

John wasn't too interested in those things, however. It was that boy he had seen just earlier in that godawful "group therapy session". He never uttered a word, and there weren't any Ben Stiller shades on, so John wasn't certain if this was a case of mistaken identity or a horrible accident. Dave, the dude with the blonde hair, was sitting with two girls, one with dark hair and glasses and another with blonde hair, all of them playing a rousing game of Hunk Rump: The Gathering. John marveled at how a mental hospital could have such a thing. He could in fact hear the blonde girl chastising Dave for not being able to tap his ass card.

"I'm going to! Look!" Tap. "See?"

"Haha." the blonde-haied girl laughed. "You tapped ass! You like man rump, Dave! No matter where you turn, you cannot ignore the peck and call of erotic, homosexual men."

"I do not!" Dave seemed to have gotten very flustered at this, but regained composure. "Bros do not like other bros in that way. We may love each other, but not in a totally uncool way."

"What about that new kid you seem so infatuated about?"

"For the last time, Rose, this bro is cool. Not spilling out his naked, violated soul out into the world from the backseat of a hooptie to be taken advantage of." He glanced around, and locked on to John. "Hey, there he is now."

John froze, his mind reeling and was trying to piece together this new information as he was beckoned to come sit with them. "I must be insane." he thought. "This can't be them. It just can't."

The dark-haired girl, who now appeared to have buck teeth at this close range, spoke up. "Yippee! We have a new friend! Wanna play with us? We can start over if you want!"

"Pleasedon'tsayJadepleasedon'tsayJadepleasedon'tsayJade..."

"I don't mind if Dave doesn't." Rose said.

"No prob. You were winning again anyway, Jade."

"SHIT I MUST BE MAD." John's mind vomited. This was highly impossible, only a bad fan story would use such a shitty plot device! But he calmed down, clinging onto the thought that maybe, just maybe, this was all just an odd coincidence.

"Anyway, hi." The blonde girl introduced. "Introductions are such an odd part of society, and its use confuses me, but I'm Rose, she's Jade, and he's Dave. You must be John, unless Strider was lying."

"Strider?" John uttered.

"Yo." Dave threw one arm up and made a totally illin' gangsta sign.

"Uhh... do you guys happen to know any other Johns?"

"Yeah!" Jade clapped her hands together. "I met a John on the Internet, introduced him to Rose and Dave, and we went on a big adventure together!"

"Any... last name?"

Rose muttered. "Egbert. Why?"

"I-I'm Egbert, and I am going to pass the fuck out."

John passed out.

Chapter Text

"He's coming to! Give him the water, Dave, hurry!"

"Okay, okay, Jade. He's not going to die. I'ma pour dis water out if he were."

"I must admit that John's reaction would be the reaction of any man, sane or not, if he saw three of his own friends in such a dubious situation and locale as a mental hospital designed for "sillies"."

Gulp, gulp. Haaack!

John noted the square florescent light hovering on the edge of his right eye. He sat up on the soft couch and noted the three leaning over.

"Are you okay, John? Are you?!" Jade shook.

"Yeah… Jade?"

"Yay!" Jade giggled and hugged John tightly. "Oh John, we're all together again! Isn't this great, John?"

"Urk! Yes, Jade, could you let go?"

"Sorry, John!" Jade let go.

"What… are you even doing here, anyway?"

Jade simply shrugged, "It's a secret. Nobody really knows."

John gaped. "Yeah…" Dave muttered. "Bro didn't like my hatred of smuppets. Thought I wasn't being ironic about it either. Irony there is that I truly wasn't being ironic. So he ironically thought I was going insane from non-irony that he decided to get me in here ironically in the most ironically named place possible." He scoffed. "It's like a multi-layered irony cake made of… irons. A wrinklefucker cake."

"I think mom thought I wasn't exactly sound, and instead of having me deal with it on my own, she decides to stick me in the most expensive, high tech looney bin possible. Even I'M getting sick of this passive-aggressive chicanery. But not before setting up retirement home plans."

John grimaced. "Just… make sure that… it's a checkmate."

"I have plans, John, and once the right conditions arrive, my mother will be sorry, and no amount of blotto or otherwise drunkenness would be enough to wish it all away."

"Damn, Rose, that's like ice-cold."

"It's diabolic, Strider, but that's not the point. The point is that this is an incredible fluke that four sane people, from severely different locations, who happen to know each other, are all in a place like this. It's like someone's horribly terrible fanfiction."

AHAHAHA THAT CRACKS ME UP.
SERIOUSLY? SANE?
YOUR FRIENDS ARE EVEN BETTER.

"Yeah. Ehehe." John half-smiled in an attempt to ignore. "My dad kinda overreacted over something and through his crappy sense of parenting decided to put me here."

NICE JOKE, KID.
HAHAHAHA
DOWNPLAYING SERIOUS MENTAL ISSUES
JUST LIKE IDIOTS

"Can we get an arousi… I mean a rousing game of Plump Rump on?" John chuckled nervously.

"Oh no!" Jade squealed in protest. "Not that icky game again!"

"It's okay, Jade. We can always just play cards." John reassured Jade.

BWAHAHA AROUSING
YOU CRACK ME UP
YOU SUCK SO HARD.
OH GOD I CAN'T BREATHE.

Rose had traded the deck and a half of Plump Rumps from a neighboring table with about two mixed decks of cards. Feeling she didn't need to shuffle, she just dealt them to her friends. John picked up on of his cards, and found it to be the six of hearts. He smiled, and picked up the other four cards. They were all jokers.

OH GOD. THIS IS JUST TOO GOOD.
HOW BAD MUST YOU SUCK TO GET SUCH A THING?
DUMB BRAINLESS SHIT.

"Dave, you start! Please? You're a great starter!" Jade smiled.

"Hrrmf. Guess a bro's gotta be a bro. Yo Egbert, got any sixes?"

"Uh… y-yes."

John relinquished his card, and sat staring at his remaining cards. Jokers. Two were labeled black and had a black and white joker juggling four balls. The red labeled cards were the same, but the joker and balls were colored. Regardless, John felt it, the suffocating sackcloth the voices brought. Only the joker cards were visible to him, bringing a small stuttering shake throughout John's body. Though he hadn't realized it, Jade seemed to notice this crazy tic.

"John, are you okay?!"

John very temporarily snapped out of it. "Yes! Yes, perfectly fine. It's just a bit, uh… cold."

COLD! GREAT PUNCHLINE
BEST PUNCHLINE I'VE EVER HEARD
HAHAHAHAHAHA
CAN YOU HEAR ME LAUGHING, JOHN?
BECAUSE YOU ARE GOING PLACES!

His stomach flipped, much like an acrobatic pirouette. The voices were back, full force.

YOU ARE VERY FUNNY
YOU SUCK, EGBERT!
HOW HIGH MUST YOU BE TO BELIEVE YOU'RE ANY GOOD?
BECAUSE YOU'RE NOT ON ANYTHING AT ALL.
BRAVO, JOHN, YOU WIN THE NOBEL PRIZE FOR SUCKAGE!

The jokers on the cards were moving. They had begun to juggle their balls, giggling in that very creepy clown-like way.

GO ON, FREAK OUT
DOOWITDOOWITDOOWIT
IT'LL BE HILARIOUS
WE'RE ALREADY LAUGHING
HAHAHAHA

"No."

"Uh, John? Bro, I was asking Jade if she had any threes." Said a now cardless Dave.

"Ugh, you cheater." Muttered Rose. "John? What's troubling you? You seem… edgy, and not what Dave can consider edgy."

"I be the edge-master, yo." Dave said ironically. "Stopping the non-edgy with my cutting edge."

HAHAHA
YOU ARE REALLY IN THE NUTHOUSE NOW
BECAUSE ALL AWESOME COMEDIANS
END UP IN THE NUTHOUSE

BANG.

The voices turned to static for a split-second, then returned.

HAHAHA
BRAVO! BRAVO!
YOU'RE A MASTER IN THIS ART
THE ART OF BEING A DUMB KID!

BANG. BANG. BANG.

---
"I'm so sorry, John! Why didn't I do anything to stop you?!" She was hugging John very tightly the moment he returned with a continuously darkening bruise, and by God she wasn't going to let go, much to everyone's chagrin.

"Well, you did kinda help, Jade. If Dave had his way, that simple skin bruise could've been a gash or worse."

"I didn't do anything. I don't have a bruise." John spat out.

"Hey, that table was cool. It knew how to chill. This one's being disgusting with its homosexual colors and shit, and I didn't have Egbert to back me up on that."

"Sure, Strider, and I'm not going to divulge in how naïve I was not to shuffle the cards from those conniving tricksters in the hopes of freaking one of us out with coulrophobia and actually succeeding in that endeavor. At least John is fine… in the physical sense, anyway."

Jade had finally let go. "I'm fine in BOTH senses. I told you my dad was being overprotective and kneejerked into this decision."

Dave pushed his index finger into the bruise, and waited. "That's also what she said, John." He smirked.

"Ewww!" Jade grimaced.

Rose shook her head. "That doesn't… even make any sense, Dave."

"I'm telling you that nothing happened! I'm okay!" John growled.

Silence.

"Well, it hurts a little…"

More silence.

"But it doesn't explain the phantom writing bullshit, because that's silly and not true."

A third beat.

"Help me kill the voices."

Chapter Text

John had woken up the next day feeling out and out crappy. He blamed it on the "terrible food", but knew in the back of his mind that the food was delicious as hell and that whatever his friends had in store would test him. He curled up on the adequately comfortable mattress and pulled the sheets over himself.

"I don't want to wake up. I want to go back to sleep. Dear God, can it wait for several more minutes? Goddammit, put the sun down. And no one gets hurt."

"You're up." John checked. It was the same man that woke him up and showed him around yesterday.

"Yeah… I guess…" John muttered, very reluctantly getting out of bed, hesitating halfway through, then continued getting up anyway.

John continued to feel somewhat odd all morning, very often waffling the reasons as just being made that way through some hospital antics or as a result of what may occur later. Passing by Dave, however, closed the mental discussion, as the now oddly blondish-pink haired boy glanced at him and grinned.

"Better ask for some pep pills. It's gonna be long, from what I heard."

"Goddammit." The eggs and biscuits from earlier felt as though they were vomiting up alcohol-rich, slightly pink upchuck right into John stomach. It was a stupid analogy when John thought about it.

The moment he walked into the rec room just after lunch, he was hugged tightly by Jade.

"Oh goodie! You're here!"

"Heh. Thanks, Jade." John softly grinned to Jade as she led him to a television set and couch.

"Ouch, bro. Did you take a good look at that thing? It's purple and looks like a lump."

"Please don't touch it." John pleaded.

"I touch what I feel fit. I'll tag your forehead even."

"Dave was here, posing to disguise his own personal insecurities and inadequacies."

"…Shut up, Rose. How'd you even get the TV to ourselves for the next six hours?"

"Simple, really. Made an appeal to the guy that runs this ward, explained why we need to do this… then psychoanalyzed him into submission. He is quite certain we know what were doing more than they are."

"That what she said." Dave whispered to John.

John glanced over to Jade, almost certain of a response, but she had fallen asleep in her seat. For a moment, he thought it looked absolutely adorable.

"John, we're going to show you a couple of movies. Not your crappy, terrible movies that you like, but rather, good ones, for lack of a better term."

"What are they?"

"Dr. Strangelove and It's a Mad, Mad, Bluhity Bluh World. Not in necessarily that order."

"Dear fuck, no. Those movies SUCK!" John protested. "The first one's too stupid! Nothing's funny, and why the hell does that douchebag ride an atom bomb to certain death?! And the second one's way too long and silly! It's like they told the actors to clown around and just filmed the results! And that one woman's a BLUH BLUH HUGE BITCH."

"The pity of today's culture… we're still watching them anyway." Rose opened up the case for the first movie.

"Wanna make sweet burns at these things?"

"I guess." John uttered.

GO ON
BE FUNNY
IT'LL SUCK

---

Surprisingly, John had managed to keep the voices at bay for the entire movie, with himself and Dave mocking the various aspects that were considered bad by their standards. Jade had even woken up midway and joined in a bit (or rather, laughing at the jokes as intended by their makers) before promptly falling back asleep again.

John was getting antsy. "Oh come on! The fact that they aren't seeing that goddamned large "W" is pissing me off. Look at it! LOOK AT IT!"

LOOK AT YOURSELF

"Quiet, you." John grumbled to the voices.

Dave had gotten a little tired. "Dude, it's like the whole cast did drugs before coming onto the set. They're so discombobulated and running everywhere. They have no idea what is happening."

Rose, meanwhile, was observing John very carefully. What was he saying, what he was really saying, where in the movie he was saying it, and so forth. This movie wasn't picked at random, and she only hoped that the next movie would do exactly as intended.

Halfway through the next movie, all three of her friends were asleep, with Jade's head on John's lap, and John's head unintentionally leaning on Dave's shoulder. Perfect, exactly as intended. She picked up the crayon she used to write down her findings and twirled it under her nose like a handlebar moustache. She youth rolled up to the television and nearly bumped into it.

Dave stirred. "Psyche-out?"

"More or less." Rose took out the disc and inserted another one. "It's a shame the third short film in this is on another disc somewhere. Couldn't find it. But I think these two should be enough to elicit some sort of response."

"And bro will be too half-awake to really control himself?"

"Precisely."

"This sounds like a pretty illin' way of gaslighting. Except without all the maliciousness. It'll show us a John we didn't know exist." Dave began to rap.

"Stop it and wake them up."

"No and yes. I cannot digress." Dave joked. "Yo, Egbert, Jade."

Jade popped awake. "Dave?"

Meanwhile, John groaned and opened his eyes. "S'it over?"

"Not quite. Keep awake with all yo' might." Dave uttered.

John stretched and yawned, then almost proceeded to go back to sleep if it weren't for Dave lightly pressing the bruise on his forehead. The small shock of pain woke John up more, enough to not drift off to sleep again.

"Geez, this guy really sucks at drawing." John commented. "They're all stick figures."

"Heh. Yeah." Dave agreed.

John just watched the movie, annoyed at the apparent lack of substance to him. Just some guy and little pointless stories about his life, though the sequence with the brains disturbed him. Then the apparent breakdown of the main character on screen disturbed him even more, and he unconsciously wringed his hands He jumped ever so slightly when Jade grabbed one of his hands and nuzzled her head into his shoulder.

"It'll be okay." She said, hinting John at some sort of precognitive event only Jade knew about. "You'll get through this. We'll be there with you."

"Thanks…?"

The first short ended and jumped right into the second. Again, John was annoyed by the various little stories in it, and got extremely irked at the two-minute leaf-blower sequence. This was stupid by John's standards, and all the deaths had some sort of innate silliness John noted.

Rose, meanwhile, very carefully noted every single reaction John made. Yes, films like these would make John think, and hopefully something would poke out that would help explain everything. She knew how this next film ended, and remember how it even got to her. Dave would be too manly to react, and Jade fell asleep just a minute prior, but she needed to focus on John. The twist moment arrived, and Rose started taking special notice. Whatever reaction takes place, Rose had to exploit it, but hoped it was the one she already prepared for. And it happened. Though not exactly the blubbering mess, the whimpering emanating from his lips, Jade's soft embrace, and Dave's look of 'This is a flowery, unmanly thing, what should I do, Rose?'. Like a tigress, she has captured her prey. The pieces had fallen into place, and she was going to show John this picture.

"…looked out, and thought of all the wonderful things he would do with his life."

YOU ARE ONE DUMB KID
NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE THAT
THAT'S ALL I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE MATTER
YOU SUCK
AND THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT.

Chapter Text

John hated the memories, wished they would just die or something. The voices knew that and fully exploited it. They would die with John and die on their own. The jokers were there on the physical plane, years ago, but not many. Many small children were jeered by these clowns at the time, an innocent little talent show. John reckoned he was no older than four at the time, and was certain his act would be the best in his age group. He was doing a magic act with the magic kit he had gotten for his birthday, and was certain he would win. But the jokers in the audience, all they were doing were mocking every single move John made.

HAHAHA NICE TRICK, KID.
YOU SUCK!
HOUDINI YOURSELF OUT OF HERE.

John ignored the jeers and kept on, finally reaching the best trick he could perform, the newspaper cone trick. To John, magic couldn't get any better than that. He poured the milk in. But he didn't have enough newspaper, and the inky gray milk fluid dripped out from the bottom.

BOO! YOU SUCK!
WE'VE SEEN THIS TRICK A MILLION TIMES
AND IT SUCKED ALL THOSE TIMES
HEY KID, THINK FAST!

One of the jokers threw a pie, and it had landed square into John's face. He had ran off the stage holding back tears. IT would've been the end of the story, but next year, John had entered into the same show, and once again jeered by the same people. And the next year. And the next. By the time John was in 6th grade, it had become some sort of sick thrill. He hated every second of the jeers, but wanted to prove to them that he wanted to do this, and even started putting in comedic sections of his acts. No dice, and in fact the jokers had become more severe than before. The idea that these people weren't banned from this surprised John, and wondered how many times they would keep coming back. Unbeknownst to him, though, the peanut gallery was different almost every year.

YOU'RE A SHITTY MAGICIAN, KID.
FIND SOMETHING BETTER TO DO
DEAR GOD, YOU SUCK!

The show allowed anyone to enter, and had various age level tiers, with the winner of a certain age group being best in show. It had mattered once, but now John was bent on revenge. Maybe not active revenge, but passive "hey look, I am getting better, what do you have to show for it"-type revenge. His finale in the last show was the classic lock and chain escape trick, but inside a large glass tank of water, curtainless. He had practiced for months on this, and by God, he wanted to show them a thing or two. Dunked into the water, he went to work, and for the first fifteen seconds did well, but then whey had started up again.

YOU SUCK
MY GOD, THIS IS TERRIBLE
SHENANIGANS!

John's momentary lack of focus had nearly cost him his life, and he remembered waking up off-stage spitting up water from that well-aimed jab to the chest. Despite all the clamor, John could just make out those familiar jeers.

YOUR MAGIC IS AMAZING
SERIOUSLY, YOU SUCK
GO BACK IN THE WATER, DUMB KID

---

Dave stared in amazement. "Woah, look at bro go."

"I'd better make note of this, but John's too busy with the crayon."

"Did you think this would've happened?"

"A little, but I honestly wasn't too concerned about it." Rose sighed.

Jade had sat down next to John and started sobbing, "John, stop it." She pleaded.

"That's what they did, yeah. They will pay. I will show them." He made a broken grin, and giggled. He had been applying the dark blue crayon to the wall, scrawling out the voices and their physical appearance. Whether or not the voices really did look like what they looked in John's sick little head or a lack of art skill and general speed and sloppiness, but he had already ruined a corner of a wall and a motivational poster. They had listened to him relate the original memory with relative sanity, but began to become unhinged relating the fact that this had kept happening every year after that. He had become an insane mess relating the near-fatal magic trick, and out of desperation had taken Rose's crayon and began wall scribbling.

"Jade, get out of the way." Dave demanded.

"You're not g-going to hurt him, are you?" Jade hiccuped.

Dave had kneeled down on the other side of John. "Yeah, Jade."

Before Jade could react, Dave had turned John so he was facing right at him, and bro slapped him as hard as he could. John's broken smile gritted, and the pin-points immediately dilated back to normal.

"Ouch!" John started rubbing the stinging mark Dave left. "What the hell?"

"You were unhinged. Like, that one dude from that shitty Ghostbusters sequel you love so much."

"I'm… fairly certain I wasn't…" John looked confused.

"…Don't you even notice what you did to the wall?" Rose inquired.

"No, Rose. Not this shit again! Why can't you understand that I don't write on the walls or whatever?!"

YOU SUCK AT THIS
YOU'RE BETTER THAN COMEDY
YOU'RE JUST A DUMB KID

"Because it's in plain sight, bro" Dave brushed his fingertips across the wall. "And I'm feeling where you made those shitty marks right now."

John threw a face of pure disgust. "Goddammit, not you, too…" He jammed his hand onto the wall and rubbed it. "I'm not feeling anything, Dave!"

HAHAHA
OH GOD, I CAN'T…
HAHAHAHAH
KAHAHAHA
…BREATHE

"What about the blue wax on your hand?"

John took a quick glance at it. "Not a goddamn speck."

THIS IS GREAT
IT IS SUCH A SHITTY PERFORMANCE
LOOKIT THEM, YOU'RE FOOLING THEM
AND THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR STUPID
GOES TO YOU, JOHN!

Jade couldn't take it anymore. John was sitting right in front of the very thing he was denying and not even seeing it. Her precognition told her things would work out for the best, but how long it would take was uncertain. She simply collapsed onto John and began bawling into his shoulder. "John, why can't you see that we want to help you? We all love you, and-and… we wouldn't be the same without you in any way! Why can't you see that, John?"

YEAH, KID
WHY CAN'T YOU SEE THAT
WHY CAN'T YOU SEE THAT YOU SUCK
HUH?
WHY CAN'T YOU

John brushed Jade's hair with his hand, gently pushed her back. He grinned, the pupils went tiny, and he grabbed the crayon and continued with his insane scribbling, occasionally muttering the damning piece of evidence.

"It makes me feel good…"

Chapter Text

The worker had been in various hospitals, but not once did he ever think that a patient would be helping another and getting notes better than any of colleagues. When his colleagues were dealing with an increasingly snappish John, he had personally asked for them, but unfortunately since he was unable to promise a return, was refused. It struck him as odd, but needed to deal with a writhing, squawking young man, as he had a hard grip of a doctor's wrist with his bite. He looked at the three admittedly sane, but quirky, youths and noticed the mysterious black-haired girl being comforted by the talented psychoanalysis girl and even the young man.

He wondered if they really were friends for years, but had to focus more on removing their other friend from the room and otherwise subdue him.

Sometimes he hated his job.

---

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

John woke up in his bed, listening to the clock in the hallway keeping the bitonal beat. He turned his head to his side, and groaned. His entire body ached in dull pain, not unlike a headache.

"Of course. Say you don't use drugs in patients… must be fine print."

He tried getting up, but was gently nudged back down again.

"Easy, kid."

"The hell?" John mumbled.

"You had a bit of a freak out, John. I had to get you to stop biting one of my coworkers."

John didn't know what to say. "Is he okay?"

"Yeah. He was trying to pull you away from writing and drawing on the walls."

"I didn't do that. Why does everyone say I do that?" John could feel his consciousness begin to darken.

HAHAHAHA
YOU ARE PERFECTLY SANE
YEP NOTHING WRONG HERE
YOU SUCK AT EVERYTHING

The doctor thought fast. "Uh, er… nevermind. It must've been someone else." He noted John's disturbed face turn calm. "So, tell me about yourself…"

Other times it was okay.

---

"That's nice work there, Jade. I'm sure John will like it."

Rose was looking in awe at Jade's card. It was a piece of paper folded in half, and had a design on front of a cute little birdie with a thermometer, with words above it saying "I'm sorry you're not feeling well". On the inside the same bird was flying and tweeting with other birds, and the message continued "But your friends are with you all the way!!"

Dave gagged. "Do you really think John would want such a thing?"

"Get well cards can help speed up recovery, seeing as how a person feeling like shit will take a longer time to do so."

"But it's… unmanly. It'll make John unmanly. Do you see the irony in that situation?"

Jade finished and signed her name. "But I drew cute little birdies!"

"Brainless feathery assholes are what they are!"

"Come on, Dave. You can sign it too if you want!"

"No way." Dave folded his arms. "What bro needs is some sense knocked into him. Isn't that why you convinced those lame doctors to not clean up John's little art project?"

"Sort of, but maybe this can help too." Rose signed her name in the huge blank space on the inside.

"Well… I guess bro needs all the help he can get." Dave picked up a red crayon and signed. "But don't look too deeply into this, guys. I'm only doing this because you guys forced me to."

"Forced you to do what?"

Jade smiled, and showed John the card the second Dave was finished. "We made this for you!"

John looked at the card and grinned. "Thanks, guys."

"I swear, I'm not a fruit, John."

"Heh. I don't know what I'd do without you guys in a time like this."

Chapter Text

Dave's red game piece was nudged to the side by a green one. "Sorry, Dave!"

"Goddamn it, Jade."

John laughed, totally unaware of the last time he had fun like this. Playing a board game with his best friends, the weather just warm enough to open the barred windows, letting in the mountain air. He had not heard a single voice for a day now, and has otherwise felt his best in months. He had kept the card near him at all times, as he simply adored the kind words of encouragement it held. And best of all was that Dave was losing horribly in this game, simply because of all the poor luck Dave was having.

"Man, this game is fixed. My ass is getting handed to me by a girl."

"Maybe you're just bad at board games in general." Rose smirked.

"Might as well give up board games forever." John joined in.

"Do you realize how much cred I'd lose if I were to run and cut loose from the board games and their shitty luck? My God, that would suck and be fucked up." Dave rapped, bobbing his head to the imaginary beat and holding an imaginary microphone.

John took a card on top of the deck. Eleven. He thought for a moment, then swapped the same piece Jade had used with one of his own.

"Bro, ICE cold." Dave approved.

Rose smiled. "You'd better watch out for Jade, John. She will knock that piece right back like a regressive defense mechanism."

John didn't notice the quick and somewhat dirty glances Jade and Dave made to Rose. "I think I have a pretty good chance, Rose."

"You don't, teehee!" Jade confessed. John glanced right at her. She seemed odd, as if something was very wrong, but she ended up falling asleep.

"Hey, looks like Jade concedes." Dave noted. "Maybe I'll finally have a chance."

John turned to face Dave, practically ready to give out a witty response. The wall where he'd supposedly written on was glimpsed for a fraction of a second, but it was enough for John to pause in a cold sweat. He though he saw something flash for a moment, but rationalized it by thinking to himself that it was the trees moving outside and their shadows fooling him.

"Uhm… yeah. You sure you can shake off the shitty lu-" John stopped. At the corner of his eye, it flashed again, this time longer. Enough to see scrawls of YOU DUMB KID on it.

"…John…?" Rose began to ask, but already, John had gotten up with the card in tow and walked over to the wall.

"Nice strategy, Rose." Dave whispered.

"This wasn't part of my master plan."

"What?"

"I-I don't know. I'd thought that John would eventually bring all the facts together, and that maybe lowering his guard would work, but this is too quick. Another day, at least."

"What does that mean?"

John brushed his fingers over the joyful, colorful card his friends had made. The smooth, gripping wax registered in John's mind. He placed the same hand onto the wall, and started to feel it, fingertips gliding on the smooth walls. Only to suddenly feel the exact sensation of crayon he felt on the card.

"No…" The room had became dark.

HAHAHA
THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU GO INSANE
GOOD THING YOU ALREADY ARE
DUMB KID

John's arms shook, and he took a step backwards. He blinked, and everything was there, every single crayon mark creating deranged words and deranged jokers in his retinas. They were his. Everyone else was right; he WAS writing on walls. Writing the very dark energy he was attempting to dispel each and every time the darkness took hold of his conscious, and in an attempt to shield his fragile ego blocked each and every mark from being consciously recognized. He was facing his dark side, the one he didn't want to acknowledge, or accept, but it was right there in front of him, bearing teeth.

 

YOU COULD BE A REAL COMEDIAN SOME DAY WITH THAT LITTLE ROUTINE OF YOURS
NICE JOKE, KID
HAHAHAHA

A meek whine reverberated in John's larynx, continuing to back away from the wall. John trips over a chair and falls face up, but quickly scrambles to sit upright and continue backing away. As far as he knew, he was in a voidless plane with this discomforting chicken scratch. He smacked the weights that had suddenly clutched his shoulders, and continued his retreat.

"Stop this!" John's confused and frightened mind could only blurt out.

AT A LOST FOR WORDS?
THIS IS SO YOU JOHN
THAT IT ISN'T YOU
CONTRADICTIONS ARE SO HILARIOUS
AREN'T THEY, JOHN?

John felt his back hit some sort of force, unable to continue away in any direction. He instinctively pulled up his knees to his chest and his head to his knees, now in pure fear at the approaching scrawls with a mind of their own. John covered his head, feebly attempting to protect himself from this abomination permeating his very existence, but was fruitless. Pent-up voices, locked away within various dyed mediums, were freed, free to ravage the mental landscape. John felt every synapse in his being burning, being overloaded from every single voice going off in a near simultaneous tidal wave.

John screamed, and felt no more.

Chapter Text

"It's highly unorthodox, and I'm not even sure he's gained entire lucidity."

"Please, Mr. Doctor-man?" Jade pleaded. "He needs us."

Rose backed Jade up. "He needs to know that we won't just disappear right when he's at his most vulnerable and unsound." She paused. "If it sweetens the deal, I'll give you my findings that you wanted so much.

"Yeah, dude. Give us a chance."

"Well…" The doctor thought, "I guess I can let you see him for five minutes, but not much more, and if he gets violent towards any of you, you'll have to leave the room so we can make new arrangements." Silence, then a gesture. "Follow me."

The three youths followed the quickly tiring doctor through the hallway, and in the doors labeled "Observation Ward".

"Remember Dave." Rose whispered. "Not only can John may or may not be disoriented and therefore may not recognize us, but if he does start having another episode to not slap him. It was pure luck you didn't get caught, but now we'll be monitored up the ass, and we don't need another friend in here."

"Ugh, fine. But, I… I just don't like seeing him that way. I love him."

"I know."

"Not in that way."

"Right, Dave."

"Um, guys?" Jade asked. "What do you think those other arrangements for John are?"

Dave shrugged, but Rose sighed. "Quite possibly the other ward."

"You kids are a smart bunch." The doctor stopped in front of a door. "You all know more about John than anyone else. All I can hope is for God's mercy on his soul."

"Gay." Dave stated.

The doctor opened the door slightly. "John?" He asked in a hushed tone.

A peculiarly voiced answer. "…Yeah?"

"Your friends are here, John. Do you want to see them?"

A long pause, then finally, "Yes."

His friends walked into a smallish room, containing only a bed, and enough room for some sort of equipment to be set up right next to it. In the ceiling corner nearest the door, there was a surveillance camera, with its red light blinking indicating every move was being recorded. John seemed to not only be strapped down to this bed, but also was restrained onto the bed through the various rings and around a straitjacket. John himself looked agitated, with a tinge of calm, and his thin, pale skin and messy black hair seemed to exemplify his state of desperation. The door behind them closed to where it was opened just a crack.

"You have only four-thirty now." The doctor warned of the wasted time.

"…John? Bro?"

"Dave." John moved his head as much he could to be able to see his friends. "You were right, I guess, Rose."

Rose began to ramble. "I didn't expect a volatile reaction such as this happening at all. Or maybe I did, but didn't think it was realistic enough, or…"

"Yo, flighty broad."

"Shut up, Strider."

John sighed. "This is stupid… every time the voices come, I get my ass handed to them. Maybe I'm supposed to be their bitch."

"Don't be upset, John!" Jade smiled. "Everything will turn out okay! You'll see!"

"Jade, look at the facts. I've just discovered what can essentially be called my dark, twisted side just yesterday, yes?" His friends nodded. "This other side has been doing that for who knows how long, and every time those voices mock me…" John closed his eyes and shuddered, feeling his irises attempting to collapse on themselves.

"Yeah, bro?"

John regained composure, and irises reverted to normal. "I'm powerless. That's all there is to it, and there's no way I can get rid of them unless someone literally rips them out. I don't know how to do that, so I don't know what to do."

Dave's average sane eyes met John's tormented eyes. "Fight. And don't stop until you win. Never accept defeat. Never just lie down and take it like a pussy, John."

"Strider, that's… incredible." Rose was speechless.

"Bro keeps kicking my ass during our fights, but there's no way I'm gonna let him taste victory. Real men just don't lie down and accept defeat, John. Beat back with whatever you can think of."

"But I'm always outwitted." His face relaxed into apathetic dejection.

"Dammit, Egbert, listen! You have to kick those voices senseless when they come, or else."

"Try to find a hole in their logic." Rose added. "Exploit that hole."

"Exploit it like an exploitation film, dog."

John's face tensed up a little. "I know. I-I… it's just that I don't think I can do this without you guys."

Jade scoffed. "John, that's ridiculous! We'll be there for you always! Trust me!"

"Can you think of anything else to say, Jade?" Dave asked.

"Yeah, but it's just that John really, REALLY needs to know that!"

"She has a point, Strider." Rose interjected. "Maybe we can schedule in intentional episode so we can help John out the entire way. If we didn't have a time limit with our visit, then maybe we could've eventually start one." Rose paused. "The equipment's all here, after all."

John's lips formed a very small smile. "Very funny, Rose."

"I don't think it would even be too difficult in convincing the doctors here to help out, either. The psychiatrist just outside seems very willing to assist in any way necessary, so why not?"

"Well…" John thought, then grinned. "If you're all there, then I guess it wouldn't be so bad."

"We'll fight together!" Jade cheered. "Those nasty voices can't possibly defeat all of us!"

"Right, because I'll be the only one actually hearing them." John laughed.

Dave smiled. "I'll show them that those voices ain't no match to my cutting wit and fighting skills."

The conversation stopped with a soft rap on the door.

"Time's up."

Rose turned to John and smiled. "I'll get them to follow through with this plan even if they hate every single inch of it."

Dave nodded. "Yeah, Egbert. It shouldn't be too big of a problem with four of us against those lame-ass voices."

Jade smiled, and simply uttered. "Don't worry about a thing."

With that, John's friends had to leave him in an empty room. The pep talk made John feel reasonably sane again, even with all the restraints on him. It had even saved him from the terror that was the other ward, when, after a long talk with a doctor, he was freed and led back to the saner ward for bed.

---

The doctor sighed. He would hate the next few days forever.

Chapter Text

John woke up in the middle of the night when he heard someone in his room. He jolted up, and looked around, though it was pretty useless until he got his glasses on. He turned to be face to face with an eyeless dog-wolf hybrid of pure-white fur. John could swear he saw this thing before, but he felt so groggy that he wasn't even sure he was awake at all. He noticed Jade next to this dog, apparently very sad. She hugged John, and John, unsure of what to do, simply hugged back. When she let go, the beast picked her up by the shirt collar and both vanished.

John jumped when he heard more noise outside his room. The sun had just broke over the horizon, though it was still too early to wake up just yet. Yet, he slid out of bed and peeked outside the door.

"Not now, man. Not now."

"We've deemed you sane now." Said a female doctor. "Don't worry. You two will be sharing the plane ride back home."

"But what about our other friend?" The voice was farther away.

They seemed to have been moving further from John, towards the doors leading to the entrance. "We'll take good care of John, but right now you two need to go home."

John's eyes widen. He could not believe what was happening, and for a moment thought it was all another dream.

YOUR DREAMS SUCK, KID
IT'S JUST REAL LIFE

"But we promised him we'd stay for him. Who knows what may happen to his psyche when he finds out." John could tell this was Rose. He heard the doors open.

"You can make a call here for him, and hopefully he'll be able to talk to you."

"Hey, what happened to Jade?" It was Dave.

"We have no clue how she got here, or how she left." The doctor sighed.

The realization of the situation hit John, and it spun his head around. His friends were leaving him. They were being forced to! John burst out of his room and looked around to find his friends.

THEY'RE LEAVING YOU
YOU'LL HAVE NO ONE TO GO TO
YOU'LL BE STUCK HERE
HAHAHAHA. NICE.

"We've contacted your guardians yesterday, and they will be waiting for when you arrive."

It was down the right hall, John realized. He started running towards them, voices he actually wanted to hear.

"Hey kid! Stop!"

Except those. Before he knew it John was being chased by a heavy-set doctor, luckily too slow to catch up to John. John turned a corner and sped up. He could see their backs as they were reluctantly led out to the lobby. The doors were closing, and from past knowledge John knew the doors would lock if they closed, so he naturally sped up to his very fastest. If he could only get his hand in, he could keep the door open. But he didn't realize just how fast the door was closing. He thought it was slower when he first entered. John couldn't go faster, so he simply hoped to make it. The opening became a large crack, and quickly shrinking. John was twenty feet away.

RUN, DUMB FUCK, RUN!

"Rose! Dave!"

ROSE, DAVE!
DON'T LEAVE ME
DON'T LEAVE A DUMB KID!

His friends turned and saw him barreling down the hallway with now two people hot on his trail. John kept running, the door closing to a mere inch. He closed his eyes and stuck out his hand. Bang. He hit the door.

NO WONDER YOU'RE SO DUMB!
YOU KEEP MASHING YOUR HEAD INTO THINGS!

The adrenaline rush kept John going, and he started banging on the door's window, still yelling for his friends but they were led out the door and into a waiting small aircraft. He felt a primal banshee scream come from his throat at the same time red-hot tears trickled down his face. John felt the tackle an instant later, and realized it had happened. His friends left him. He wriggled and writhed, attempting to ignore the fact.

FACE IT KID, THEY'VE ABANDONED YOU
THEY'VE LIED
JUST TO PLACATE A DUMB KID
AND YOU BELIEVED THEM

"N-no! They're my best friends!" Darkness had almost overtaken John.

ARE THEY?

The sheer unexpectedness blanked John's consciousness completely.

---

John couldn't tell where he was at first. The walls looked same, but different, as were the people in it. John looked down, and saw he was once more in a straitjacket, but now strapped down to a wheelchair. When he discovered he was in the other ward, John immediately succumbed to the jokers' darkness.

Meanwhile, the doctor simply facepalmed. "Lousy goddamn stupid ward system."

---

John was quickly disorientated by the number and length of when the voices took him, and so the days seemed to blur from one day to the next. He felt too meek to care, though. He knew he had lost just by the sheer frequency of it, and simply did not feel like fighting. It was pointless to John.

It was a warm spring evening when someone came up behind him. It was that doctor again.

"Your father called. He wants to talk to you. Do you?"

John had no idea why he said yes, but he thought it had something to do with not having much social interaction at all since his friends left. Even though he hated his father, he wasn't going to have his broken spirit destroy his sanity that way. The doctor had wheeled him over to the phones in the hallway, and freed one of John's arms from the straitjacket, before giving the phone to him.

"Hello? Dad?"

"Hi John."

"Umm… how are things home?"

"Too quiet, John. Too quiet."

"Taxes finished?"

"Yeah."

Silence.

"John?"

"Yeah?"

"I miss you. Please get well soon."

"Uh…" That disgusting emotion called guilt ran through John's veins.

"I've been trying to call you for several weeks now, but every time you were in another of those fits."

"Several weeks? …What day is this, dad?"

"May 16th, John. Why? Are the fits so often that you can't tell if a day had passed or not?"

"…Yeah…in fact that's exactly it. I'm probably way behind in school now, considering I'm banned from using any pens, pencils, and such."

"I've talked it over with the school, and they will let you attend the study hall in summer school to catch up."

"Thanks, dad."

"John, I know you can do this. You have done so much that I can be proud of, that you can be proud of."

"Uhm…"

"I swear to God, John, the moment you get home I'll have a cake ready for you."

"None of that Betty Crocker stuff, okay?"

"Anything for you, son. As long as you fight for it."

"Okay, dad."

More silence.

"I'm putting all your mail on your bed."

"How much do I have now?"

"Several packages, some mail from colleges, a bank statement, I assume…"

"Nice. The neighborhood dogs taken care of?"

"They keep shitting on our lawn, so when you do come home, please be careful."

Chapter Text

John normally didn't like cake, but somehow the idea of having sugary junk food instead of equally delicious, healthy food flowing in his arteries had staved off the voices for the rest of the evening. He hadn't realized how long and far away he's been from home. Breathing fresh air instead of the dusty indoor air that almost burned his nostrils excited and depressed John. He didn't want to be here anymore. The thoughts swam in his head even when he was lying in bed.

AWW, POOR KID MISSES HIS HOME
WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO, CRY ABOUT IT?

"Shut up, asshole."

GOOD BOYS DON'T RESORT TO NAME CALLING
BUT WHAT DOES A DUMB KID KNOW ABOUT THAT?

"You shut up. Now."

I TALK WHENEVER I WANT.
I'M A PART OF YOU, REMEMBER?
OF COURSE YOU DON'T

"I'm sick of you, leave me alone."

BUT I ENJOY TORTURING YOU.
IT'S ALL YOU'VE EVER BEEN MADE FOR.
HAHAHAHA

John felt the pull of the black hole that was those voices.

"That's not it."

THEN WHAT, THEN?

"I saved the world."

YEAH, ONCE.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
HEROES ARE USELESS ONCE THEY FUFILL THEIR DESTINY.
AND A DUMB KID CANNOT BE A HERO.
OR AN HERO.
STUPID KID.

More of reality detached from John. "I-I did it with my friends."

MORE LIKE FUCKS
FACE IT
YOU ARE NOTHING TO NO ONE

John felt pure fear hit his brain, and the real world around him darkened even more.

"Why are you doing this? This is entirely s-stupid! Y-you're stupid!"

STUPID? ME?
NO, STUPID
IT'S YOU

John's mind reeled. The voices were gaining color? This was it, as the world around John had dissolved into a void of darkness. But the rope connecting John to his consciousness wasn't entirely cut. John could still feel the cold air wisping across his body and into his lungs. The fear was too much, and he curled up in a meek defensive maneuver.

YOU ARE A SHITTY ACTOR!
THINK YOU CAN HIDE?
WE ARE INSIDE YOU
YOU CANNOT HIDE FROM US!

"Please! I don't want this! J-just go away! Why are you even here?!"

YOU DUMB KID
I'LL NEVER GO AWAY
UNLESS YOU DECIDE TO OFF YOURSELF
BOOM
HEADSHOT

"No! I would never do something retarded like that! Why would I do something like that?!"

BECAUSE YOU'RE A DUMB KID
DUMB ENOUGH TO BE REMINDED OF THIS

"It's not true!"

BY YOUR LOGIC
YOUR LOGIC THINKS YOU CAN JUST GET RID OF ME
SHITHEAD

"Oh God…" John tightened his fetal position. "Dave, Rose, Jade… where are you? Why aren't you helping me?"

BECAUSE, OBVIOUSLY, THEY CAN'T MENTALLY SEND ANY POWER TO YOU
CLOSE CALL, WASN'T IT?
IF THEY WERE HERE, I'D STILL BE HERE, THOUGH
IT'S USELESS TO FIGHT
IT'S USELESS TO LAUGH YOUR WAY OUT, TOO
GODDAMN GRADE-F JOKESTER

"Stop saying that!"

NO

"Stop!"

NO YOU STOP

"STOP!"

---

Pesterchat #sburbascenders begin log at (23:25) CST

(23:25) TG: yo
(23:25) GG: hiii dave! :D
(23:25) TT: We've been waiting for you for at least several hours.
(23:25) TG: bro had me help out with his goddamn smuppet film.
(23:26) TG: it was terrible
(23:26) TG: so many fucking smuppet testicles
(23:26) TG: you couldnt believe
(23:26) GG: D:
(23:26) TG: I know. Its enough that I have to play plump rump the gathering with him
(23:27) TG: ironically of course
(23:27) GG: well at least youre here now! :D
(23:27) TT: Speaking of, anyone talk to John in the past week?
(23:27) GG: no
(23:27) TG: says here hes been offline for 4 weeks 5 days 12 hours
(23:28) GG: poor john!
(23:28) TT: I know. I would've thought he would've been out and talking to at least one of us by now.
(23:29) TT: He seemed to have cracked completely when he noticed Dave and I were leaving.
(23:29) TG: dude was cracked like a crackhead on crack
(23:29) TT: Not now, Dave.
(23:29) TG: hes probably been pussying out of kicking those voices in the junk
(23:29) GG: guys
(23:29) TT: Yeah, Jade?
(23:29) GG: I've had a premonition that today would be very important
(23:29) TG: how so?
(23:30) TG: fall asleep and had another of those freaky visions or whatever?
(23:30) GG: well, it had john in it
(23:30) GG: he looked battered and bruised and broken and just so unhappy
(23:30) GG: then he saw me, and I guess you two were there as well, and he seemed to get better
(23:30) TG: jade that has got to be one of the stupidest dreams ever
(23:30) TG: how in the hell would egbert suddenly get better like that?
(23:30) GG: I don't know, but maybe we're supposed to do something
(23:31) GG: I don't know
(23:31) GG: we can't just appear to him from here
(23:31) TT: John wouldn't be allowed anywhere near a computer, if I am correct with the idea that John had a terrifying breakdown and got put in that other ward.
(23:31) TG: dude, that would be harsh
(23:31) TT: Harsh, yes. But the most likely situation.
(23:31) GG: you mean he could be in there with all those creepy people?
(23:31) TT: Yes.
(23:31) TT: But only because John would probably be classified as a creep himself.
(23:31) TT: I am putting out a sorry here in case John ever does come back and happens to have this log.
(23:32) TG: no prob, rose. I'm not gonna delete anything
(23:32) GG: dave, your so nice! :DD
(23:32) TT: I need to go to bed now.
(23:32) TG: k. bye rose
(23:32) TT: But I think we need to do something for John now.
(23:33) TT: A prayer, maybe.
(23:33) TT: It'll be at least comforting for us.
(23:33) TG: dudes don't do prayers
(23:33) TG: but pouring a 40 I can do
(23:33) TG: though bro will beat my ass again for pouring a 40 in an unironic way
(23:33) TT: Whatever suits you, Dave.
(23:33) TG: im doing it now. Pouring it all over the shag
(23:33) GG: ok, I'm doing it now
(23:34) GG: mr.god, could you please help john get better
(23:34) GG: its all I ask
(23:34) TG: rose, are you praying now
(23:34) TG: to freud or whatever?
(23:34) TT: Yes, Dave, I'm praying to Freud
(23:35) TG: I knew it
(23:35) TG: you belong to scientology
(23:35) TT: Freud wasn't a scientologist, numbnuts.
(23:35) TG: well, he had pretty fucked up ideas
(23:35) TT: Night, guys.

[TT has left the chat room]

(23:38) TG: so jade...
(23:38) GG: yeah;lf dk

[GG has left the chat room|fell asleep]

(23:39) TG: goddammit
(23:39) TG: I'm not gonna talk to your goddamn dreambot again

[TG has left the chat room]

Chapter Text

Chapter 11: Darkest Void

John was freezing from the cold breath the voices were continually wisping at him. He had become tired, and he simply wished for some sort of end to this nightmare. Even if it did mean shooting himself, it would at least cease the voices that had plagued him for so long.

AWWW YOU'RE GIVING UP
BUT YOU'RE SUCH A GOOD COMEDIAN
WHY DO YOU GIVE UP SO EASILY
ONLY FAILURES GIVE UP
FAILURE

The voices hit John, scathing his brain in all directions and angles. "Please!"

HAHAHAH
THE COMEDIAN SNAPS
HE HAS NOW BECOME THE COMEDY

"No! Please! Just leave me already!" John sobbed.

NEVER, JOHN
I ONLY LEAVE WITH YOU
WHY DO I KEEP REPEATING THIS, DUMB KID?

"Oh, God!" John choked. "I can't take it!" he started to thrash.

YOU DO KNOW YOU'RE NOT MOVING IN REAL LIFE

"Aaagh!"

Dark nothing permeated his soul, and John was right on the edge of awareness. He had lasted an abnormally long time, and was ready to succumb. He wasn't going to give in to this fit, but to every single moment that the voices utter in. John had enough. It was too much to even think about bearing any longer, to defend from the venom the voices vocalized. John looked around in the room he knew he should be seeing, but was almost totally enshrouded in black. His pinpoint pupils caught a bit of white on the other side of the room, but it was too faint for him to make out or even care what it was, except only that it was white. Sitting in total contrast with the thick, black tar blinding John from virtually anything else.

YOU'RE AFRAID OF THE DARK, KID?
DIDN'T YOUR DAD TELL YOU TO GET OVER IT?
NO WONDER

The dull white had changed, though, and was thrust in front of him. There were details, too dark and fuzzy to be interpreted as anything.

John, can you hear me?

This voice sounded different. It was calm, almost reassuring. Reality returned very slightly.

Can you hear me, John?

"Y-yes."

Look.

The white was gaining focus, but it was still too dark for John to see. Was that a bird? What are the scribbles?

OH GOD YOU REALLY CRACKED NOW
EVEN MORE JOINING THE PARTY
WHY ARE YOU SO GULLIBLE, DIPSHIT?

Do you know what I'm holding, John?

"No. It's too dark…"

It's the YOU SUCK your OH GOD YOU SUCK.
They want you to get A BRAIN, KID.

John could feel reality slipping sharply. Another descent into a black realm he could only remember in primal fear.

Your friends love you, John!

An arrow pierced John clean through him, and he instantly realized the white had been the paper card his friends made. The short, laconic message, the colored signatures, memories that were so recent, but felt like a lifetime ago. Reality had ceased for John, but yet he wasn't in total darkness. It had taken a ruddy look to it, the red and black mixing, stretching, whirling around him. John cursed at himself for forgetting about them, as they had kept him in relative sanity for so long. Friends he could not have gotten anywhere else.

WHAAAA I MISS MY FRIENDS
SUCK IT UP, KID. THEY'RE GONE.

The voices surrounded John, but unlike virtually any other time, there seemed to have been a source.

"Who are you, and what do you want?!"

BLUH, I'M NOT TELLING YOU
YOU TELL ME, DUMB KID.

"I just need some answers so I can kill you or whatever!"

This seemed to antagonize the voices, and their collective breathing reached John's ears, chilling them through.

WHY SHOULD I REPEAT OURSELVES?
GO BACK TO SUCKING AS A HUMAN!

"What? What do you mean by that?" John could feel electrical pulses in his head, which in turn started causing very bad headaches. "Fuck, am I having a seizure?"

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT, DUMB SHIT
FUCK, ARE YOU BEING A DUMBASS?

"Stop mocking me!"

STOP MOCKING ME!
BLUH BLUH BLUH

John growled. "I seriously mean it! What do you want?"

KEEP ASKING
YOU WON'T GET ANY ANSWERS THAT WAY
ONCE A FAILURE, ALWAYS A
DUMB PIECE OF SHIT

John scowled, but untightened his expression. Something was sinking in, but John couldn't tell what it was. "What?"

DADDY, DADDY
THE MEAN VOICES WON'T STOP YELLING AT ME
I'M SO SCARED I WETTED MY PANTS!

"I only wet them a little back then!" John stepped back, unsure of what to say. "Do I have to prove that to you?"

YOU CANNOT PROVE SHIT
JUST TRY

"Well, it's… uhh…"John started stammering. "Yeah! I can just ask my dad if that was true!"

HAHAHAHAHA. THAT NOTION IS PURELY LAUGHABLE! HAHAHAHA.
HE COULD BE LYING FOR YOU.
COMPASSION. SUCH A DISGUSTING EMOTION.

"Compassion isn't an EMOTION, numbnuts!"

YES IT IS
AND WE CAN PROVE IT, TOO
JUST LOOK ON THAT DUMB WIKI SITE
UNLESS YOU'RE TOO CHICKEN TO!

"I'm fucking strapped down in real life right now, and I doubt I could get to a comput…"

FUCKING CHICKENSHIT DENYING ASSHOLE
AND CHICKENS AREN'T SUPPOSED TO HAVE MESSY HAIR
GET A POOR PERSON'S HAIRCUT, DUMB KID!

John didn't feel the realization hit him until that very moment, and the hit had stung him good. He remembered that terrible feeling his young self felt for days after the original fiasco, and the scornful hatred of his previous attempts to appease the trollsome voices. He was a failure, and he never obtained his goal of approval during those talent shows.

"Oh… fuck."

The previously black and red void surrounding John had turned into a mostly deep red speckled with black, and the seemingly endless borders of this void became apparent and at once turned it into an ever smaller world. The voices ignored this, and continued to speak as if from infinity.

HAHAHAHA
NOW DO YOU SEE, JOHN?
NOW DO YOU SEE HOW TERRIBLE YOU ARE AT SUCCESS?
FACE IT, MAGIC IS A DEAD ART
AND YOU'RE JUST ANOTHER FAILURE FEEDING IT.

John instinctively huddled up against an imagined wall, shaking his head as if he were fresh from the shower. He swallowed a mixture of tears and what John assumed was vomit down, thinking any utterance to defuse that fact would be broken into pieces. John felt a tear roll down his cheek; he really wanted to give up right at that moment. A black, dead void did sound better than a red, yelling one that kept stealing the consistency of reality.

"I-I can't give up. My friends need me to win."

THEY SAID THEY WOULD HELP YOU!
WHERE ARE THEY?
OH YEAH, THEY ABANDONED YOU!

All mental processes felt either frozen or stuck in a piercing loop. John had not only flipped off the handle, but off the deep end. Banging, scratching, biting at these assumed borders, with wet streams dropping from their ocular source. John knew who was going to win, and it sure wasn't him, and in his last defense curled up tighter than a pillbug getting its soft, fleshy body poked with a stick. Synapses started firing in random directions, causing more chaos around John. His world was black, with white scratches blipping into his eyelids and across his brain. John's soul had compacted within itself into a pinhead, unable to be shrunk and exponentially increase in mass any more. The voices increased in intensity and loudness. Voices of all sorts of tones, from the hard and piercing to the soft and venomous. They were everywhere, and were starting to kill John. But his auditory receptors started picking up and homing into one certain voice. It sounded familiar, but pleading.

C'mon, bro. What kind of pussying are you doing now? Start fighting, man. I know you can't hear me, but I'ma pouring a 40 for you. You'd better shape up and come back to us. …I miss you, bro.

"Dave…" John loosened from his position slightly, when a shine attracted his eyes.

One of Dave's shitty katanas laid in front of him. Beckoning him. As instantly as the mind crushing revelation from before hit him, this new revelation hit harder. His friends would never want to leave him. He had found a fallacy in the voice's logic, and was mentally re-enabled to stand. John picked up the sword.

WOO SEPUKU!
DOOIT!
DOOWIT, DUMB SHIT!

John felt the wall to his back, and in an instant plunged the katana in it. The voices, for the first time in John's life, screamed in bloody murder. This victory was short-lived, though, as they came back.

SOLVING PROBLEMS WITH VIOLENCE?
ONLY DUMB KID FAILURES DO SUCH A THING!

"It wasn't hate, dumb fuck!"

AND LANGUAGE!
DEAR GOD, YOU SURE DO SUCK AS A HUMAN!

John sliced the wall again with the blade. "I never saw hate in my friends!"

THEY COULD STILL HATE YOU BEHIND YOUR BACK!

"Then why have we all been friends for five goddamn years?!" John punctuated this point with a stab. However, the blade had gotten stuck in the wall, and when John pulled it back out had snapped the blade in two. The shell of John's perceived reality burst apart, and he was once again in the swirling red and black void. The voices spoke again with a very slight hint of panic.

YOU'RE STILL A FAILURE, JOHN
CERTIFIED FAILURE FOR 13 YEARS
YOU FAIL!

John felt that increasingly annoying flash of despair infiltrate his mind. The voices were less, though, but still just as annoying.

John, I know you're not in the best situation right now, considering your mental state, but I implore you to fight. Otherwise, who knows how long this may take! It feeds on logical fallacies! Don't let it do such a thing!

John noticed he wasn't holding the katana hilt anymore, but a pair of long, thin sewing needles. John instantly recognized them as the needles he gave Rose as a birthday present. He turned around, and almost jumped. It was himself, but his skin was a dead, pale color, and although his yellow, sticky eyes looked dead, they were slowly scanning John's face. Lips separated to form a sharp-toothed grin of insanity.

"Hello, dumb kid…" His voice slithered. "We finally meet face-to-face."

"Not really." John retorted somewhat nervously. "This is probably more like mind face to imagined face based on weird consciousness s-"

The figure totally ignored John. "How does it feel?"

"What?"

"How does it feel to be facing your darkest fears, your darkest insecurities, up close and personal?" It grinned, showing its shark toothed mouth.

John was totally confused, and answered with the first thought that came to mind. "It sucks."

"It sucks indeed. Sucks to be you." It began to cackle. "Sucks to be such a massive failure for life, whose only option for salvation is a blasphemic skewering of one's own life."

That set John off, and he had knocked down this dark version of himself and plunged the needles in this ugly form's eyes before lurching back in personal disgust. The figure screamed to temporary deafness on John's part, but by the time John had regained composure, his dark doppelganger had stood back up, supposedly taken the needles out of his own eyes, oddly unaffected by any part of the squick.

"Is that your response? Stabbing the most important windows of truth?"

John began to visibly shake, but swallowed his fear. "How the hell can you stab a window?"

Dark John grinned as he bent the needles into two. "Exactly, you dumb shit."

The two locked eyes, with barely alive blue eyes staring into barely dead yellow and grey-blue pinpoints. John felt those eyes digging into him, and he once again began to feel the very start of the electrical storm.

John started feeling physically sick, his mind already taxed to its limit with the sheer intensity of this episode. His body weakened, and being too busy trying to mentally untangle all these lines of thought his knees buckled. John felt the exhaustion flow through his veins, and he started to pant for the air his brain was starting to plead for in order to maintain all thought processes. His limbs trembled, his heart beating madly in his head, his ears feeling though they were being stuffed with cotton as sirens rattled in them; John felt he hadn't eaten in days. Just a minute ago he had let go of his fears just temporarily enough for his body to realize its own state. Mentally, John was beginning to feel his soul compact within itself again, and actually blinding John of his body collapsing within itself.

"You are so gullible, John. So goddamn gullible that it always cost you so dearly." The crooked smile came back. "And you think you can just BURY IT?" He began laughing, but still gazed right into John. "OH MY GOD, HAHAHAHA! YOU'RE A REAL COMEDIAN, JOHN. ONE MORE ACT, COME ON! I GUARUNTEE IT WILL SUCK!"

John could hear the voices within this entity's mockeries, and in a blink his overtaxed mind had filled to the brink with them, electrical pulses going haywire. He was really starting to tire of this, as it was starting to sap his physical energy just to feed this.

Don't give up John! We love you so much, and we'd be sad to not have you! Please, John! We wouldn't know what to do if we didn't have you anymore! Please… I know you can do it!

John saw the cold metal materialize in front of him, and knew instantly that this was the rifle Jade used. His friends were helping him, and John couldn't help but smile. The mental stress was melting, allowing John to physically stand and hold the weapon.

"Is the massive failure going to shoot himself?" The entity smirked. "That's probably your best chance, John."

John squinted right into the eyes that mind screwed him, this time piercing instead of being pierced. "No. I am not a failure."

"Yes you are, John. Just look at the facts. You fail miserably at amusing people deliberately, but when you're failing spectacularly is when people laugh! That's all anyone wants you for, anyway, even your friends! I thin-"

John had squeezed the trigger and shot his shadow right in the shoulder, causing it to yell out and hold the bleeding wound.

"My friends like me for who I am, you dick!"

The figure glanced at John and scoffed. "There you are with the language again."

John shot two more rounds, both of them hitting his adversary's abdomen. "And it could just be bad luck or something! I can do those tricks perfectly almost every other day of the year!"

"Luck. Is that you're blaming this all on, John?" the figure wheezed.

"It may not even be luck!" John gritted. "But I know what I want! To! DO!"

John punctuated this with three shots, the first one hitting the figure in the leg, the second in the chest, and the third in the skull. The figure crumpled, twitched for a second, then all movement left it. John aimed with the rifle and tried shooting at the motionless doppelganger. It out of ammo, but it didn't matter. John felt the red and black landscape change into its previous, pitch-black form and his body scream at him. He fell onto his knees. It was getting harder to breathe, and now his whole body was trembling. John decided to close his eyes for just a moment, almost expecting himself to fall asleep and otherwise leave this place.

"Heh. Nap time for the failure, eh?"

John snapped his eyes open and saw the bullet-riddled being towering over him. John tried to stand, but his legs buckled out from under him. His lungs seemed devoid of any air, even when he tried breathing it in.

"What's happening to me?" He wheezed.

John felt cold fingers latch into his hair, and he locked eyes once more with this entity. "What's happening is that you don't want to fail, but are anyway."

John was thrown in the void and slammed into a wall. Somehow, this violent act restored John to the point of standing again. The throbbing and tremors had also ceased.

"FACE IT, JOHN. WHO LIKES MAGIC ANYMORE? THAT SHIT DIED WITH HOUDINI. NOW ONLY DOUCHEBAGS AND IDIOTS PERFORM IT!"

John felt foolishly brave. "Which one of those am I?" He felt the figure slam him up into a wall.

"IDIOT, YOU GODDAMN IDIOT! I DON'T KNOW HOW MANY TIMES I HAVE TO SAY THIS, BUT YOU. ARE. SETTING YOUSELF. UP. TO. FAILURE!"

Milliseconds passed before John was shocked catatonic. Chilling emptiness filled him to where John couldn't defend himself from the darkness's taunts, jabs, and "logic", despite having just previously being able to hold his own. His brain was full of nerve firings, while the rest of his body was devoid of any feeling. John collapsed, and felt that tiredness come marching back through him. He couldn't breathe in this compressing environment and mental state, so he stopped. Battle fatigue had caught up completely and then some, and John really felt like ending this fit in the quickest way possible.

I'm so proud of you, son.

"…Dad?" John croaked out.

I love you, son. Please… I'm alone without you. You need to defeat this.

Energy seeped back, though John was still unable to stand, let alone breathe. "Impossible… it's impossible. They just keep coming back."

Keep going and there's no end to what you can't do. You're a wonderful young man, John. I couldn't have asked for better.

John smiled and sat up. In front of him his weapon was materializing in a burst of white. He grabbed the handle and against his physical limits stood up and held the heavy Wrinklefucker in his hands.

"Haha, Look at yourself. You can barely keep yourself on your two legs as is without that stupid hammer."

The figure's smirked disappeared when John took one look at him and laughed before getting smashed in the face with a steaming iron. John bounced backward and almost fell over, but regained his balance.

"At least looking like a fool is better than foolishly not doing anything."

"Bluh?!"

"As long as I do what makes me happy, who CARES if I fail?" BOING.

The shadow rubbed the new patch of burnt flesh. "Yeah, keep telling yourself that! That's what all failures do!"

BOING. "I'm not a failure! I saved the world, for fuck's sake! How many people you know did that?"

"Not many, but it still doesn't detract the fact that you keep telling yourself lies!"

"If you're my inner demon, and you say that I lie to myself, then are you saying you're the liar?" BOING.

The figure fell over from that last blow, and attempted to get back up. His voice was starting to crack. "Uh, uhm… you fail, Egbert! You're wrong about everything, and don't you forget it!"

"Hey, demon?"

"Yeah?"

"I'm a magician and comedian at heart. Do you really think I'd give them up?"

"Look at the odds, you dumb kid!" BOING. SNAP! The figure held his crushed knee.

"I know what the odds are, and I know I may need to do something else to support myself."

"Are you giving up?" His voice sounded pleading. BOING. SNAP! The other leg became useless.

"I'll keep working at my craft. Diligently, even! And one day I'll make it!"

BOING. SNAP! His left forearm was crushed. "But what if you don't? Whoops, there goes your dreams!" The shadow spat out.

"It's like that old saying. Worse to have not loved and not love… uh…shit!" John simply hammered the last limb and it shattered.

"You suck!"

"Hey, demon."

"What is it this time?"

"Shut up already, and let me breathe."

John threw his strength with his final blow, hitting the demon square in the chest. John bounced back, and saw the demon as his yells became gurgles, then silence. The body disintegrated with the hammer into white, and John was finally alone in the black void. His mind felt clear, everything made sense to him, but his body finally gave out for good in that world. White flashed his world and his being, and he smiled the entire time.

Chapter Text

John faded into a world of white, its features undefinable from all the light, but at least he finally able to breathe again. He sucked in the air greedily, but was somewhat confused over the amount he was breathing in. Pinpoint irises dilated back into a normal state, and the world came into focus. John noted that there was an air mask strapped onto his face, not unlike his body to the bed. He followed the hose to a machine constantly pumping air, and noticed another tube going into his arm, leading up to an IV bag on a pole that was labeled 'Nutrient Pack' in big, bold letters. There were two other machines in the room, one that he saw had wires attached to his head, and likely monitoring brain waves, and the other monitoring his heart. He turned his head and saw the trunk of his body, and it looked somewhat thin to John. John blinked, his fairly dried up, sticky eyes uncomfortably grabbing his eyelids.

"John?! John!" John turned his head to his other side, finally noticing his dad and ramping up his confusion even more. "John! Are you okay? Can you hear me?!"

"Dad?" John blinked several times to alleviate his dry eyes. "What-Where am I?"

"You're in the hospital, John."

John thought of it as an odd statement. "Uh… yeah. Since April?"

"No, John. A different one in Denver." John could hear tinges of choking. "You were brought here several days ago, w-when you seemed to be stuck in a fit. T-they had to, because your body was going to shut down from not having food for so long. They attached that machine to monitor your brain, a-and it would usually be normal, but then it would go o-out of normal. You were twitching so much, and it lasted f-for so long… T-then you stopped breathing and…"

His father trailed off into a blubbering mess of a man who would normally show strong signs of having mangrit. John knew it had something to do with nanna dying and the mom he knew birthed him but never remembered, and thus being the last of family his dad could cling to very dotingly. He wasn't sure how a moderate lack of nutrients was enough to be deadly, or even the physically possible reasons of his near-death.

"It's okay, dad."

---

The doctors were stunned. John had physically recovered in under two days and had no near-fits, let alone full blown ones. He had returned to the Mentally Silly institute, and in a day was back in the low-threat ward, his somewhat weakened limbs finally free to move. Three days later, on a beautiful Friday afternoon, John was told that he was finally going home. The various tests John had to begrudgingly endure showed little abnormality, enough to finally release him.

The next day, he was back in his normal clothes, wearing his fairly new green slime ghost shirt he had gotten the previous Christmas. His dad literally bear hugged him the moment he stepped into the small airport. The several hour car ride home lasted forever due to an odd juxtaposition of anticipation and growing annoyance with his dad, who rambled to John on and on about various things that had happened when he was gone. Though with all the love and support he had received, John was honestly more concerned with returning home.

By early afternoon, the car had finally pulled up to the driveway, and John jumped out to the yard. The grass smelled sweet, despite not being cut, though the crap he almost got his hands and knees in were a different matter.

His dad smiled. "Cake is inside."

John's eyes widened. Somehow, the prospect of cake seemed both delicious, yet laced with sugary danger. Still, he was coaxed into the house. He was still eating cake half and hour later, wishing he had known better.

John had somehow made his way upstairs and flopped into his bed, the sheets smelling fresh of fabric softener, and his mail jumping off to the floor. All this parental love and attention was starting to grate his nerves, the ones in his distended stomach especially. He got up when the stomachache subsided, and discovered his computer. He instantly booted it up and doubleclicked on the Pesterchum icon when the system had fully loaded. Though his chumhandle was set to invisible, John noticed Rose, Dave and Jade were all listed as online. John hesitated, then doubleclicked on the chat icon for #sburbascenders.

EB: hi.
GG: :DDDDDDDDDD
TG: holy crap, john?
TT: Looked like the prayers worked.
EB: yeah, it me dave.
TT: Congratulations, John.
EB: didn't think anyone would be online, let alone here
TT: The chat has been active since we were released.
EB: what did you guys talk about?
GG: about you!!
GG: we were so concerned that we wanted to talk to each other about it!!!
TG: I worried about you, bro
GG: but now that you're here its like were all together again!!!!!!
TG: all im gonna say
TT: He told me he was crying.
TG: liar. i never did such a thing.
TT: Those uncharacteristic periods prove otherwise.
TG: well okay yeah I was egbert but not bawling my little heart out or shit like that.
TG: im not a pansy
EG: heh. Yeah.
EG: hey guys?
GG: ??
TT: Yeah?
TG: what
EB: you're all awesome friends.
EB: i couldn't ask for better.

Everything would be right with the world.