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Utter Darkness

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Utter darkness, the empty void, all he knew was pain and silence. For years, he seethed with rage, and impotent fury. The punishment was masterful, his lips sewn shut with the thread of Bestla, his hands, feet, and magic bound, he was cast into the void, a place where time ran differently and all the laws of the universe ceased to exist. Alone with only his thoughts, and a mental clock ticking away the years, he spent decades writhing in the torment of starvation and eternal darkness without the possible relief of death; such was his immortality. Centuries past as he justified his actions, and the multitude of deaths caused by his rebellion. When the first millennium, came and went he began to believe that he had gone mad, he could almost hear the voices of those he had wronged as they began pleading with him, pleading for release from their own personal purgatories. His actions had doomed souls and the darkness in him festered, he refused to accept his culpability in their torment while he still suffered his own. As the second millennium dawned, his defiance began to crack. The weight of his actions began to gnaw at his pride and self-righteous indignation. After, a third millennium, regret began to press so heavy upon him, he wondered if Odin’s plan had been to break him completely. Slowly, over the next few centuries he came to accept his responsibility for his actions and despair, for there seemed to be no relief for his torment. His pride shattered, his ego bruised, and his body broken, he began to pray, as he had not since his youth. Prayers not for mercy, he knew that ultimately he deserved this punishment, but for death for he would rather face the judgment and punishment of the afterlife than the hell of this half-life.

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She was seriously considering going to see a shrink. In the seven months since the attempted invasion of New York, she felt like someone was watching her, like all the time. She knew that S.H.E.I.L.D. had her under surveillance, and that was really no biggie. She had got gotten used to that after their little godly encounter in Puente Antiguo. But in the last few weeks, her dreams had become terrifying as well. She would dream of utter darkness, of someone writhing in absolute agony. She could not see them, only sense that they were there just beyond her reach. She longed to comfort the poor person, but they seemed to be so very far away. There were muffled cries of torment, and she always woke up, sweaty, frightened, and sobbing; but every night she seemed to get a little closer. Last night had been the worst by far in the darkness, she could not see and she fought against the weightlessness that surrounded her. The tormented soul was there, her fingertips had brushed cloth and from the very visceral reaction, she knew two things, one it was definitely a he, and two, he seemed to be in more pain than she had even known.

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The voices had quieted as he came to accept his punishment, and as it became penance instead of discipline, the voices ceased altogether. The constant ache of hunger never left him, and the lack of movement had withered his frame. He was but a dry husk, only his immortality kept him breathing. His prayers did not go unnoticed; as he hung there weightless in the dark void, he began to sense the presence of another. The first time he was so startled by the sound of a female voice calling out in the darkness that he could do nothing. His voice was badly damaged long ago in the first few decades when he still screamed his anger through the stitches sealing his mouth shut. There was a tremor in her voice; she was out of place somehow. She pleaded for help, called out trying to free herself from the void, and only calmed somewhat when she realized she was not alone. Shortly after she called out to him, she left the void; her presence was simply no longer there. Months passed and she returned, not as terrified but still scared. She spoke rapidly into the void repeating that it was just a dream and that she soon awaken safe in her bed. As a cramp passed through his weaken body he moaned, the anguished and pained sound of a wounded animal. In the darkness she turned, her voice now projecting towards him rather than away from him. She called out trying to get him to speak to her. He could hear her frantic movements as she attempted to draw closer to him; and then again, she was gone. It became a repeating pattern, every few months she would return. She spoke to him, trying to learn more about him as she fought against the weightlessness of the void, seeking to draw closer to him. Each visit she came just a little closer. He began to anticipate her return and questioned in his mind the meaning behind her presence. She was not Aesir, that much was obvious from her speech patterns. She was a mortal from Midgard, and her time in the void confused him. The void was a place of punishment for the worst criminals of the nine realms. On her last visit, she had come so close her fingertips had brushed the tattered material at his shoulder. The groan of pain that leaked out from behind his stitches had been deep and raw. She again disappeared. He knew she would return and knew his appearance would frighten her. He had received no nourishment, or hydration in millennia. While it was not required to keep him alive, a lack thereof had ruined his body. To his dismay, he realized he was ashamed of his reasons for his imprisonment and of his physical state.

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She stayed up as late as she could force herself, her dream the previous night had felt so real; the tattered material under her fingertips so tangible that she expected to awake with it still clutched in her hand. Who was he? What did the dreams mean? Normally she didn’t go for all the hokey dream interpretation stuff that was really more her Mom’s shtick. She googled it; being in space was all about a representation of independent thinking, the stranger in her dream supposedly signified a part of her that was repressed or hidden, and pain could be a reflection of actual pain or could be a warning of a health problem. ‘Well crap’ she thought, that doesn’t help in the slightest. She drank a large coffee, played on tumblr, and watched a few episodes of Doctor Who from her box set; she even decided she should write a real letter to her Mom. About five sentences in, her forehead smacked painfully against the table as she startled awake. She had dozed off, it was after 3 a.m., and she couldn’t fight it anymore. She crawled into bed and was asleep almost before her head hit the pillow.

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When she returned she was silent. She floated so close to him, that if he were not bound hand and foot he could have reached and touched her with no difficulty. “Hello?” she spoke softly. He could only grunt in return. He could sense that she turned to face him. “Hey, are you alright? What’s wrong? Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked quickly. Again, he grunted in response. “Are you like mute or something? Well no of course not, duh Darcy. Okay are you hurt? Well again duh,” She reached out blindly, her fingertip brushed his cheekbone, and she flinched. “Oh my gosh!” His skin was dry and thin as paper, stretched over his sharp cheekbones. He pulled away with a moan of pain as she reached for him again. “You are hurt, ohmygosh, ohmygosh. Okay, how can I help you?” He groaned in frustration, there was no possible way she could actually do anything of benefit. She reached out again and he attempted to writhe away from her, her touch though gentle was agony, he had hung bound hand and foot in the weightlessness of the void for millennia, and even the mere brush of her fingertip was excessively painful. Her hands came to either side his face and gently began search blindly for injury.

A raw moan of pain gargled in the back of his throat. Every nerve ending she had touched seemed on fire from the warmth of her hands. She drew back apologizing profusely. “Ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh, I’m so sorry, I am so so sorry. I feel like I’m supposed to help you but how can I help you when I can’t even touch you without hurting you.”

She continued to ramble on as he breathed heavily through his nose willing the pain away. As the searing agony of her touch faded, he realized a small amount of the pain that he had come to live with here had been relieved. The irony was not lost on him; he had to endure pain in order to relieve his suffering. He had to willing allow a Midgardian to hurt him to ultimately be healed. His pain had frightened her though. He knew she would not willingly touch him again, for fear of hurting him. He had faced battles before; he understood that such pain was often necessary, such as the pain of resetting a shoulder that was out of joint. But how to make her see this? They were both blind in this great darkness, and his mouth was stitched shut. Perhaps she could remove the stitches, in theory only the one who had placed them, could remove them, but she was an anomaly. He understood from her previous diatribes, that somehow, her Midgardian mind was here in corporeal form while she slept; though she believed this just to be a dream. Ahhh, but the power of a dreamer…

He grunted at her to gain her attention, she stopped talking and reached towards him with a soft sad sound. He could tell her hand was just to the left of his face, his senses heightened from the long time in the darkness. Swallowing back the scream of pain, he pressed his mouth to her palm. Pain tore through his mouth as she jerked her hand away. “Holy frick on a stick! Your mouth’s sewn shut! What kind of monster would something like that? Okay so I need to figure out how to get that loose right?” As he struggled through the pain, she disappeared again. He muttered curses through the stiches into the darkness.

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She stumbled through her apartment with bleary eyes, it was only 5 a.m. Glasses forgotten in her daze, she rifled still half-asleep, through the junk drawer in her kitchen. Clutching her prize, she shuffled to her couch, flopped down, and was fast asleep once more.

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His frustration spent, he hung limply and settled in to wait the intervening months till she would return. To hold the madness at bay and to keep his mind sharp, he returned his thoughts to the equations he had been trying to riddle out before she had arrived. It was then a great surprise that she returned only a few hours later. “Hey, I think I got something that might help. I don’t know how I did it but I was kinda half-asleep and I grabbed the seam ripper from the kitchen, and now somehow I’ve got it here. I don’t know though, it seems to hurt you every time I touch you, maybe you could do it?” She asked hopefully. He grumbled through the stitches.

“Okay I got no idea what that meant. How bout we try this, grunt once for no and twice for yes. Okay?” He sighed heavily ‘This is so demeaning’ he thought, finally though he grunted twice in response. “Good, okay now we’re getting somewhere. It hurts when I touch you, right?” Two grunts. “Can you remove the stitches by yourself?” One grunt. “You want me to try to remove the stitches?” Two grunts. “Are sure? I really don’t like hurting people and I think it’s probably really going to hurt…” He interrupted her rambling with two forceful grunts. “Okay, wow, never thought a grunt could sound so demanding.”

He took a deep breath as she reached for his chin. Carefully feeling along the stitches, she found where they began and gently placed the seam ripper under the first stitch. “Okay, this is probably going to hurt like a lot so brace yourself.” He clenched his jaw against the pain, her touch did not burn him as badly as it had the last time but he knew if she were able to remove them, the agony would be terrible. “I’m going to count down from three and then pull okay?” He grunted twice impatiently. “Alright, let’s do this. Three… Two… One… pull!” As the thread snapped, an anguished moan slipped out.

“Ohmygosh, I don’t know if I can do this.” Blood seeped slowly from where the first stitch hung loose. With steady even breaths, he forced himself to ignore the pain and grunted twice. “Really? You want me to keep going? Maybe we could just do like one stitch per night,” she whispered. He grunted once, he would much rather get it over and done with, there was always the remote possibility that she would not return.

“Fine…” She placed the seam ripper under the first stitch on the other side of his mouth. “Okay same as before…” He clenched he jaw and determined not to cry out again. “Three… Two… One… pull!” He inhaled sharply through his nose, but did not make any other noise. She dropped her hands to her sides and he heard her mutter softly to herself. The thread was loose, now if she would just unlace the damn things he would be free to speak again instead of grunting like an animal. He grunted several times to gain her attention. She reached forward and gently placing her hands on his face felt for the ends of the thread. She then carefully began pulling the thread through the holes in his lips. His breathing came harsher because of the pain, and as her hands grew wet with blood, her fingers moved a little faster over his ragged skin. She quickly pulled the last stitch free and he yanked his face from her hands, and threw his head back as a primal scream tore from his mouth. He heard her flounder away from him sobbing.

Slowly the pain subsided, and he could hear her soft whimpers. “Thank you,” it was all he could manage, his voice was rough like the grind of rocks in a landslide, and his vocal cords burned even with those few words. He heard her sniffle a few times and then clear her throat as though she was going to respond but then she was gone again. His mouth was free, he began to laugh even though it pained him, it was a terrible and haunting sound that rang through the dark void. As his mind and heart calmed, he saw out of the corner of his eye a single delicate star…