Shadows Made of Light


D^Knight was getting extremely tired of dark. In fact, as he stared around him at the thick blackness that surrounded him, he resolved to start carrying a flashlight. At least.

"I can't see," said Isis from beside him.

"Me neither," he replied.

"Got a light?"


"Couldn't you... oh, I don't know... Write one?" Rachel sounded extremely annoyed.

"If we could see to Write, Rachel, I think we'd have Written ourselves back to the Solar Heart by now," he replied. "Assuming our powers still work at all."

Isis sighed. "Hell of an assumption."

"How did that happen, anyway?" D^Knight mused. "I didn't even know it was possible."

"You and me both," was Isis's reply. "Damnit. I wish I knew WHAT THE HELL WAS GOING ON!"

The last six words were shouted upwards, and echoed into the apparently high ceiling.

"You and me both," D^Knight muttered.

"Don't worry, Wri-writers... you'll f-f-find out." A shrill, stuttering young voice rang out from somewhere ahead of them, chilling the two Writers to the core. Rachel stiffened, looking about them.

"What the hell was that?" she whispered loudly.

"Shhh!" Isis and D^Knight said simultaneously. Rachel, strangely, quieted.

"Oh, silly Wri-writers... th-th-think I c-c-can't see y-you if I c-can't hear you."

"I recognise that voice," Isis whispered, even her voice sounding pale.

"What is it?" D^Knight stared in the direction of the voice.

"It's from... I think... oh no..."

"Re-remember me n-n-now, Wr-writer? Sh-shadow? Ooooorioooole?"

D^Knight felt Isis stiffen next to him, and the temperature in the room seemed to drop.

"Gwenna," Isis whispered.

"Yeeeeessssss, Ooooooooorioooole," the voice said, now sounding decidedly childlike. A light gleamed slowly brighter in front of them somewhere, showing only a small, stick-thin, paper-pale young girl, dressed in a white hospital gown, with sparse white hair and unusually large blue eyes. Her head seemed slightly larger than it should have been. She stared at them intensely, her legs twisted at odd angles. She couldn't have been more than four or five, but she was staring at them with eyes empty of anything that might have once been a soul.

"What is she?" D^Knight leaned over and whispered.

"From an X-Files fic that Chan and I started; semi-SI fic... Gwenna... was a human/alien hybrid. We never finished the story."

"But that means..."

"We"re in Shantytown," Isis confirmed.

"Yeeeesss!" Gwenna exclaimed gleefully, the light level in the room flashing suddenly brighter for a moment or two, and then darkening again. The three huddled in its centre were left with spots dancing before their eyes.

"Did I forget to mention..." Isis croaked, "...that Gwenna is PK?"

"Um, yes," D^Knight replied, straining to see into the blackness before them. He'd briefly seen the outline of the room. It was about the size of a standard gymnasium. It might even have been some sort of gym. He'd seen seats on one side. The floor beneath them was wood, at least. Behind the child, he'd seen a dark space that might have been a door. He nudged Rachel, who was hovering over his shoulder.

"Hey, Muse-lady... can you see anything?" he whispered.

"Well... kind of. Just dim shapes. Why?"

"'Cause I think I saw a door behind the kid."

"That's good, right?"

"It is, if we can see to get out it."

"Magic sword do?"

"It won't do any good," Isis whispered, "Gwen will snuff it out before we get within a few feet of her."

Rachel grumbled, swore, and took her hand away from the hilt of her sword. "So, what do we do, then?"

There was a brief silence, filled quickly by the delighted giggling of Gwen. The room became abruptly colder, and the Writers began to shiver.

"Well, sit here and freeze is fast becoming a primary option," D^Knight muttered.

Something suddenly hit the floor behind them, and all three of them jumped. The "something" turned out to be a small, glowing digital device, reminiscent of a Digivice. It hovered cheerfully a few feet off the ground until D^Knight, after glancing at Isis, who seemed somehow different in appearance, closed his hand around it.

The Digivice immediately began to glow, and D^Knight opened his hand again, holding it palm side up between himself, Isis and Rachel. Their faces were lit by the blue glow coming from the tiny screen, and suddenly it flashed, and there was a tiny person-shaped hologram standing on the screen.

"Greets, all..." The Chandri-gram said, "...sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but this is all I could do on short notice. I sent in some cavalry; you should be able to make it out of there easily enough, but you'd better hurry. By my map, you're really close to the event horizon of the big hole..."

"Wh-what are you d-d-doing?!" Gwenna demanded suddenly, her head snapping up.

Isis glanced over her shoulder, and then looked back at the Chandri-gram, who kept talking.

"...I don't know how long we have, but I'm sure it isn't a great deal of time. As soon as you can get past Gwen, get the hell out of there. You should be able to Write again, but not much. Use your powers sparingly. They seem to be becoming limited. Good luck," she said, before her image fizzled out.

"A lot of good that does us," Isis said. "What do you suppose she meant by cavalry?"

Her question was answered quickly, when a short, red-headed woman appeared out of the shadows behind Gwen. Gwen herself was glaring murderously at her prisoners, but when the red-headed woman touched her shoulder, she looked up, and her expression became that of a child who'd been caught with a hand in the cookie jar.

"D-Dana?" the child's voice had diminished in tone. The threatening, frightening voice was gone.

"Gwen, what are you doing?"

Gwenna looked quickly about, her eyes wide. "N-nothing..." she blurted out, then looked back up at the Dana Scully fictive who was looking sternly down at her.

"That's not true, is it, Gwen?" Scully asked. Gwen dropped her eyes.

"N-n-no," she said. "I was b-b-bored. And m-mad."

"Because they forgot you?"

Gwen nodded silently.

"Don't worry, sweetie... they won't forget you anymore. Let's go." Scully reached down and scooped up the child, shooting a meaningful glance at Isis.

"Consider this a reminder, Miss Symon," she said over her shoulder before she disappeared. The two Writers and one Muse looked at each other.

"Miss Symon?" D^Knight asked. Isis shrugged.

"Mary Sue," she said dismissively.

"Was that the cavalry?" Rachel inquired.

"Guess so," Isis said, as the lights in the room brightened slightly. It was now bright enough to see by, or at least walk by.

That was when D^Knight noticed something. Their avatar forms, Isis's Oriole-form as well as his armour and sword, were gone.

"What..." he said, holding up his hands before him. Isis stopped and looked down at herself. Instead of the slim, gleaming Oriole-form, she was dressed in jeans and a plain green t-shirt, her hair frizzy and red-blonde, her eyes blue, one with a brown birthmark in the iris.

"Oh no. The... that thing... that must be why our Writer Powers weren't working. That thing is sucking everything away!"

"Including our avatars?" D^Knight looked very worried. "We really don't have long."

"Then we'd better get going!" Rachel exclaimed, seizing both Writers by the arm and dragging them towards the door.

Outside, they saw that the cause of their worries had grown. The gaping, swirling vortex had risen now, and looked like a small black twister, turning slowly in the middle of Shantytown. They were only on the very edges of Shantytown, but that thing was still uncomfortably close.

They ran a few blocks before they realised they couldn't; the thing was gaining in speed and they simply weren't fast enough on foot.

D^Knight stopped, pulled a piece of chalk out of his pocket, and scribbled something on a convenient wall.

"What'd you do?" Isis asked, trying to read the writing, but failing. "You know, your handwriting is even worse than Chan's. And that's quite an accomplishment."

D^Knight grinned as a small hover-car landed behind them. D^Knight tucked the chalk back into his pocket before the trio ran to the hover-car, boarded it, and sped away toward the City.

Chandri sat back on her heels, pressed a button on the device in her hand, then let it float upwards, then watched as it whizzed off towards its destination.

She sat still for a moment to catch her breath. She'd been running from place to place for two hours straight. She sat outside the Solar Heart and watched the sky. The stars seemed to be moving. They were all drifting towards Shantytown, noticeably.

All the same, Chandri couldn't help feeling that the problem was coming from somewhere else, and that the hole was simply an extension of it.

::It's getting worse,:: she thought, before some of the stars were blocked out. There was suddenly empty, black space where points of light had been before.

::What... Nazgul?:: she thought, backing toward the door, then thinking better of it when she realised that the Café was empty and the door more than likely locked. Instead, she pulled her hood over her head, and sprinted off down the street.

A few seconds later, she turned right at a cross-street, then right again, and again. The darkness over the stars ahead was ever above her, proving her theory that it had been following her. Ten minutes later, she was back in front of the Café. The street was wide and the cobbles damp, making every noise echo along the street. No other living thing seemed to move at all.

She pressed herself against the side of the building, as much in the shadows as she could be. ::This must be what went after Tris.::

The thing above her uttered a cry, and swooped down towards the street. There was a hissing, whispering noise when it touched the stones, and as the bird-shape became a person-shape. It wasn't a figure so much as it was a hole, an absence in the shape of a humanoid creature.

It stooped, turning its "head" around, looking for her. Finally, it seemed to sight her, and made a hissing sound. Chandri stepped forward into the dim light, a half-foot-long cylinder in her right hand. Moving out into the middle of the street, she shook it, twice, and with the sound of metal sliding on metal, the staff snapped out to its full length of about five feet. She held the denn'bok before her defensively, but the creature made a hissing noise again that could have been laughter.

"Not... fight..." it rasped, and extended what might have been a limb, or a hand. Chandri stared at it, confused for a moment, before she felt her eyelids drooping. Then she was falling, and the heavy darkness had her before she hit the ground.

As always, she was detached. This was the reason for her once being called cold, unfeeling — more than once. She was strangely calm as she watched it, fascinated with its slow, mindless destruction. She vaguely, somewhere off at the edge of her senses, could feel what she thought she ought to; numbing fear, cold, horror, grief — but they were far away, not attached to her conscious processes. Not yet, anyway, but she knew that they'd catch up with her soon enough.

For now, though, as always, she shoved the panic down, the pain and death all around her blocked out as much as possible. She was closed in on herself. She couldn't feel Crystallis, or Tris, or even the other Writers anymore. She could feel nothing, except the certainty that she was doomed. Around her, the Universe seemed to rage about her in a tantrum through which no one thing could reach.

Except one.

Somewhere, even past the distant place her emotions were, she could hear a voice. It was distant, but familiar. She knew that voice — she knew she should answer, reach out toward it, but she couldn't. She was simply too tired. She just wanted to sleep...

::No,:: she told herself grimly as she pinched herself, hard. Her head jerked up and her eyes watered as the dark warmth left her limbs, to be replaced by cold, and the ache of pulled muscles. Her head hurt. She sighed and tucked her knees under her chin. None of the things that usually raced through her mind raced through it anymore. The voice was getting fainter, and she was getting colder.

"Chandri? Chan? Damnit, Chan, wake up!" Lise prodded her cousin in the shoulder for the third time, and for the third time, got no reaction.

The waiting room in Subreality General was crowded, to say the least. Lise knew that the sudden deficiency in staff probably had something to do with it.

And Chandri was out cold. Lise had found her sitting on the stoop of the Solar Heart. She'd been unconscious, with a bump on the back of her head. That had been nearly an hour ago. Since then, though her breathing and pulse had steadied, Lise had been unable to wake her. She was afraid that her cousin's unconsciousness might be the result of something else altogether — like Burnout, for instance.

Finally, a very young intern called her name. Lise waved a hand to show herself, and the nurses wheeled over a gurney. When both Chandri and the gurney had disappeared through the door, one of the nurses, an unusually diminutive Gally fictive, approached the tired Writer with a clipboard.

"Are you next of kin?" she asked in clipped tones.

"Uh... I guess so..."

"Good. Fill these out." She thrust the clipboard into Lise's hands, and vanished after the gurney.

Lise wisely bit her tongue and did not say any of the several dozen extremely rude responses that came to mind, because at that moment, someone tapped her elbow. Lise whirled around.

"Ki — Lily! What are you doing here?"

"I'm dreaming, right?" Lise's young cousin said. The twelve-or-so girl had shoulder-length brown hair and green eyes, and stared up at her older cousin with a confused expression.

::She's never been in Subreality in her "Real" form before...:: Lise thought.

"You're probably dreaming, yes." Lise said. "I don't suppose you've run across your sister? Or heard from her?"

Lily's eyebrows drew together. "Not for a while." She said, shaking her head. "Why?" She looked around, her eyes widening at the surroundings. Lise quickly recaptured her attention.

"Lily, I think your dream is over now. It's time to wake up."

Lily looked surprised, then nodded, and winked out of sight.

::Back to Reality, Lil... this is no way for you to be introduced to Subreality...::

Lise leant back in her chair and closed her eyes.

::Come on, cous...:: she thought, ::I know you can hear me. WAKE UP!::

There was no answer, just a dim presence. She opened her eyes. The first thing she saw was the reflection of a child in the television set of the waiting room. Lise was about to look away, when she realised there was no one making the reflection. Lise started, and straightened in her chair. The room was suddenly empty. The face on the screen stared impassively at her, and Lise stumbled forward to kneel before it.

"Who are you? I've seen you before!"

The reflection nodded. "Long time ago." It said. "Listen carefully."

Lise shook herself, blinking. Her eyes stung. What had she been doing? She looked up. The room had darkened, and there was no one in it.

"Hello?" she called, her voice echoing in the empty room. Something was terribly wrong. The plastic chairs were tipped over, the television screen she'd been staring at, cracked. The paint on the walls was faded and peeling. The windows were broken.

It looked as if the place had been deserted for years.

"Lise?" said a hoarse voice from the door.

"Andri?" Lise stumbled over to the medical fictive, a little unsteady on her feet. "What happened?"

"I don't know," Andri said helplessly. "There are still people here; back there. The Writers are still all in their beds. But the crowds, and all... I just looked up, and they were gone, and it was like this."

A sudden crashing and clattering from the outside doors made both of them fall silent. Tris appeared, sharply outlined by the drab surroundings.

"Is Chandri here?" she asked breathlessly. "I couldn't find her anywhere else in the hospital, and she said she'd be here, and everything's falling apart, and..."

Lise beckoned her into the next room.

Disclaimers: Subreality concept discovered by Kielle, all hail. She gets auto-posting-permission. Anybody else, ask.
D^Knight, Isis and Lise are Writers and belong to themselves.
Rachel, Tris, and any others I'm forgetting are Muses, and therefore not mine.
Gwenna is, as mentioned, a fictive from an X-Files fanfic titled "Heartbroken", by myself and Isis.
Dana Scully and X-Files are creations of the great Chris Carter. Not FOX.
The denn'bok, also called a Ranger Pike or a Pike, is a weapon carried by the An L'Shok, or Rangers in English; a sort've-army from Babylon 5, created by the equally great JMS... I'm not even going to try to spell his name.
The Digivice-like-thing is from Digimon... and even if I could remember who the show belongs to, I almost certainly couldn't spell it. Suffice it to say, it is not mine.
Miss Symon is Sharris Symon, Isis's first avatar - and/or Mary Sue. It's also the name she goes by in X-Files circles.
Shantytown was, I believe, created by Seraph.
The mention of a Nazgul is a reference to "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. As if most of you didn't know.
The Solar Heart Café was conceived of by D^Knight, and then we helped him build it.
Gally is a character from Battle Angel/Gunn'm... and I can't remember who created it. Not mine.
The cameo by Lily... she demanded it. Don't ask me. She's trying to get a feel for Subreality before she Writes anything herself. Lily is my youngest sister, and Lise's cousin... of course. More of her later.
Andri is Andri Kiln, a character from an original story of mine, called the "Key To The Iyanil". The Subreality version of him is public domain.
And that's that for this part. Last one next post!