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Sugar, Sugar

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...Sugar wasn't always like this.

She didn't always wear that open shirt, exposing herself for the sake of what she once called 'fashion.' She didn't always ignore everything going on in the world. She didn't used to dance. Her name wasn't always what it was, even.

She's changed, to say the least.

When Zacharie first met her, it was in Zone 3. Of course it was. At the time, they weren't totally addicted to sugar made from corpses, though, so everything was generally... normal. As normal as it would ever get. A rare, peaceful era.

Sugar wore sweaters and headbands, back then. She was the type of girl that didn't tolerate Zacharie's bullshit; it's why he was drawn to her, he supposed, though he'd never admit to it. He was just used to everyone exasperatedly putting up with all his ideas and rambles; sometimes he rambled just to take up people's time.

Zacharie was new to the marketing business, so he didn't have anything particularly interesting to offer at the time. Still, she liked to look at all he'd managed to collect. They'd met thanks to a music box he played to catch customers' attention. (She would one day tell him that she'd recognized the song; he never learned what song it was.)

They met a couple times after that, but not much transpired between them. The simple, joking, "Do I know you?" "How could you forget this face?"

Sugar had a special way of driving him up the wall. It was great.

It was a slow day when things finally took a turn; his music box had lured in a tired, drunken soul. Zacharie had no doubt that the man's home life was a wreck.

The problem, however, was that he wanted the music box.

Maybe the man just wanted to gift it to his wife as a lame apology or maybe he, too, knew the song it played. He didn't know; he didn't have the time to care.

When Zacharie refused to sell it, the man began to spiral into a breakdown. It was obvious that it'd been building up for a long time; it was so bad that he became burnt, something that was rare in that time period.

Stress did things to people; it was scary, especially since he'd been young and... 'pure' at the time.

Zacharie was attacked, and though the man was slow, he hit hard. Somehow, thanks to some sort of miracle, Sugar heard the commotion. (She lived a street away from where he liked to settle down his market; he later learned that it was simply the game's script that made it this way. Of course it was. Nothing was a happy coincidence.)

Sugar was even stronger physically than she was mentally; it didn't take long for her to subdue the man. She hit just as hard, if not harder.

After that is when they truly met and exchanged names and personal features. It was easy to get along with her, but maybe that's because neither of them had really been trying to deepen anything. Zacharie wasn't the type to date and, from what he could tell, neither was Sugar.

...Somehow, Zacharie ended up as the 'girl' in their platonic relationship. He just didn't have the physical strength. He wasn't blunt. He used his words to twist things around and confuse his enemies; he had a wide vocabulary, while Sugar had a wide range of what her fist could reach.

The whole thing was even more hilarious since she gave him a sort of 'nickname.' Zach, was what she decided on, since Zacharie was a mouthful and "sounded dumb." (Just like his face looked dumb. Plenty of other people had told him that.)

He'd been offended, despite his wishes not to; he didn't bring it up. He simply let it go. It was water under the bridge. He was just... 'Zach'. Nothing to do about it now.

They joked around often now; she would often spend days simply keeping him company while he tried to make some extra cash. They learned things about each other in that time. (Zach used to have a poor family, but now he simply fended for himself. Sugar was as strong as she was thanks to an abusive situation; she didn't share details. He didn't expect her to- didn't even want her to.)

...Then, things got better for Zach while they got worse for Sugar.

He got better items and made better trades, he got better at bartering and generally... just the marketing business in general was running smoother. Sugar wasn't so lucky.

Enoch had... changed, recently. Problem number two. His goals seemed to shift away from proper living situations and closer to... the 'happiness' of his subjects. Hence all the sugar. For awhile it was crafted through normal means, even. (At least, he thought so. No one really knew the details of where it came from. Enoch did the probable 'dirty work' for awhile.)

The slowly crumbling normalcy finally broke when Enoch introduced just exactly how he made sugar when surrounded by so much nothing. Everyone took it too well; they already had a taste for sugar and they couldn't bear to give it up.

Everyone was told not to fear the specters. He had no doubt that Enoch simply wanted to have plenty of corpses to feed the fire.

...Problem number three; both Sugar and Zach had already had just as much of a taste as everyone else. They were both shocked to find what exactly they were eating, but just like everyone else, they took it too well.

And that's what scared him. He wasn't himself anymore and he wanted out. Even in the darkest times, he's always had his witty humor and vast mind. Losing that for the sake of eating sugar... wasn't worth it. (That's what he told himself, anyway.)

Zach asked Sugar to stop eating it with him, and she tried, honestly, she did. She tried and she failed. (He was bitter. He'd suffer through a long night, shivering and unable to think of anything else but sugar, sugar, sugar... then show up at his regular marketing spot to find Sugar seeming guilty with a good night's sleep. Maybe she wasn't as strong as he thought.)

He finally snapped at her during the worst of his withdrawl; she stuck with him to make sure he didn't hurt himself, but once it was over, it was obvious she was mad. (He didn't remember what he said to her; he knew he had plenty of little dark thoughts that stabbed at people's insecurities and fears, though. It couldn't've been good.)

Zach tried giving her the music box as an apology.

She wouldn't accept it, but he kept trying. (Looking back, he hated himself for trying, for bothering at all.) Eventually she took it, but he had a feeling that it was only to make him stop. (He would be proven one day, that that was true, when he would hear it's familiar song as it played in the hands of someone else. They were possessive of it. ...He wanted it back.)

They parted ways then.

It took a lot of lonely days and nights until he started changing things up; too many people recognized him and asked "hey... where... where'd your friend go?" Because Sugar was better than him in all aspects. She was pretty and, like it or not, that drew in customers just as well as a pretty song.

So he changed his look, changed the way he dressed, and took to wearing a mask, when that didn't work. It took a few tries to find one he liked; of course he ended up with the saddest one he could find. It was stupidly poetic. (He had a bad face anyway. It was better this way.)

...Problem number four; he found out that this was all just a game.

Everything was scripted, everything was planned, from meeting Sugar to suffering the addiction... even realizing that it was a game was part of the plan. By then... all that was left to do was to wait for the anomaly.

In his spare time, he'd found out how to cross over to other zones freely. He went back to calling himself Zacharie. He avoided zone 3 for a long while.

...When he finally went back... he didn't like what he saw.

There was plenty of new machinery and lots of smoke, there were far less people, his old market spot was in the middle of a factory now, and Sugar's house was empty.

Zacharie spent awhile looking around. He told himself he was only doing it to see what changed in his old home, but he was truly looking for sugar. It was hard when everyone stared at him with empty eyes. He was glad he decided to wear a mask.

He found Sugar among corpses. That would be problem number five. She was throwing them into a large furnace; the room was sweltering. And reeked of death.

When he first approached her, she ignored him. Zacharie, for once, didn't have anything to say. For the first time since he could remember, he was speechless.

Sugar finally looked up, seemingly confused by his silence. She wasn't smiling. She always smiled. This was wrong.

"...Who are you?"

"Zacharie."

"...No you're not."

He sort of regretted the mask now, but he didn't move to take it off. He was numb; he couldn't think through whether or not revealing who he was was a smart idea, after whatever he said to her. After they left off the way they did.

"I suppose not."

There was a long silence.

"...I'm ignoring you."

...Well then.

Whatever Zacharie had been expecting when he finally found Sugar definitely wasn't this. He let his eyes wander around the room; there was a large pouch of innocent looking sugar by the door, corpses all around the room, and Sugar. Nothing else.

"...What happened to your clothes?"

She looked at him like he was stupid, "they're dead. They bleed. I have to pick them up and hold them if I want dessert. I have to dance for them."

"I meant... I meant what's with the whole... open shirt thing." Being 'childhood friends' made it awkward. It was funny. He was talking about her clothing choices while surrounded by corpses.

"It makes it easier to dance. It's hot here. It burns. ...Fashionable." She never stopped in her work. (It almost did look like a dance, though morbid.)

Zacharie asked her a few more questions ("What did I miss?" "What happened while I was gone?" "Where's your family?") but they were all ignored; she took the oppurtunity to say more mystic one liners.

He really had no choice but to leave her be. It was about another whole month until he went back again, only this time he had a reason other than his own emotional turmoil.

He'd gotten to know the Judge and, though strange, he knew a lot. He even taught Zacharie easier ways to reach different zones and... how to take people with him. That's what decided it. If he couldn't get Sugar away from the horrid treat, he would at least get her away from the taxing labor. (It was hardly a solution, but it was in the script. It was written in the code. He couldn't act outside it- not much anyway. He would take his chances to rebel when they didn't get people killed.)

So he brought Sugar to zone zero, only after helping her gather painful amounts of sugar. It caused him literal pain to bring so much. He had already prepared the room, though, so it was fine.

He dropped her off there and... left her.

He checked up on her daily for awhile; every time he looked she was perfectly content. He brought her materials for various things like drawing and crafts, but she didn't even thouch them for weeks. All she cared about was the sugar and... dancing.

A puppet show he glimpsed gave him the idea to make puppets out of her unused materials; she could make them dance with her. (She'd taken to begging Zacharie to dance with her, but that only brought pain to both of them. The first time, she'd broken down. The second, she'd gotten violent. If she broke the puppets, they could be repaired. He, unfortunately, could not.)

...And just like that, there was nothing else he could do for her. She was perfectly happy and content. She was insane and obsessed, but she was happy.

...This was fine. She was just... a troubled friend. No one special.

But then problem number six showed up; the biggest and worst of all. The anomaly was finally here. Zacharie had almost forgotten. (Of course he hadn't. He recognized daily that no matter what he did, he was following the code. He hated it. The anomaly was the only one with real influence.)

The batter. A stupid title, in his own opinion, but who was he to Judge. Heh...

He already knew from the code what the batter would need; he saw the code because it was written in the code that he would see it. He had to see it in order to gather what the batter would need for his mission.

And everything was fine.

But then he killed Sugar.

Zacharie had been ready to dump all the batter's precious items into the nothingness, let him burn among the burnt for murdering someone insane and broken, but that wasn't in the code.

...The code didn't even matter anymore. She was broken. Of course she was content, of course she was happy, but in the end, she wasn't herself.

He'd been drawing out her suffering.

In fact...

"...I guess it's better like that."

"..."

"Need anything in particular?"