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Electra

The Marli Tharn

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"A wild animal that feels that it no longer has any reason to live reaches in the end a point where its remaining energies may actually be directed towards dying... If aggression cannot mend their troubles, then often they begin to drift toward the only other way out."

Richard Adams, Watership Down

October

The lights came up in the white box, but Singularity wasn't sleeping anyway. She lay on her stomach on her bunk and stared at the door of her cage, as she had for the last... long time. Days and nights were meaningless here, the lights went on and off at random, but she'd been there for several cycles now. Her hair itched, and her stomach was tightly cramped for want of food, but she had no desire to get up. Even when the door had opened invitingly once, she hadn't so much as investigated. There was no point to it.

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She had gotten out of the box once, she remembered that much. Not how long ago, or how it had happened, but she'd gotten out, gotten away, just for a little while. The world outside the box had been as bad as the world inside. She had found Pathos there, and tried to hurt her, but Pathos was invincible, even while she was sleeping, and her blows had been useless. The mental agony that had been inflicted as punishment for that was difficult to remember at all.

Eventually she'd woken up again, still outside the box, and gone to a place where there'd been wonderful food, so much of it, there for the taking! She'd tried to get some of it, but it was all illusion that disappeared the moment she reached for it. Then the scary man had come, and the bad luck man, the crazy man, the music man. They chased her when she tried to run, and her best attempt to fight back had been useless against the bad luck man, who just laughed at her as she'd drowned in the black dots. She'd ended up back here, back in hell, back with Pathos, who had been so angry about her trying to get away.

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Singularity knew that Pathos had done something to her mind, that not all the things she remembered were true, but not what was changed, or how to get it back. Pathos liked to hurt her for fun, and didn't mind letting her remember that much. She did know that the gist of it was true. There was no hope, not for escape, not for anything. She would die in the while box, and if she was lucky, it would be sooner rather than later. But she was not a very lucky person, so she waited, and waited, and waited. Someone out there was watching her, because sometimes the shower turned on to remind her to wash, and the food in the drawer started to smell really good. It was obviously something different than the usual sandwiches and vegetables, but she didn't go over and look. There was nothing good in hell, and there never would be.

The door opened again, and the images began to play on the wall. Megan screamed at her for help. Singularity buried her face in the pillow and closed her eyes. Megan was better off dead than here. All of them were better off dead. If only she were with them now, somewhere peaceful and quiet and safe. She didn't notice when the images switched off, or the door shut itself again.

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This is stupid. Singularity whimpered and curled in on herself as a petulant voice echoed inside her head. You're making me look bad, you idiotic freak. What do you think you're going to do, starve yourself to death? Let yourself get so filthy that no one will want you to leave your cage? Get real. Or better yet, how about unreal?

The white box and the whole world dissolved around Singularity, even as she clawed to hold onto some small fragments. Suddenly she was in a sunwashed room with wood floors and a giant dining room table. Not giant, she realized, she was just very small. The memory clicked into place, and Erin was three years old again, and trying to get up to the table for lunchtime. Mommy had made her favorite, grilled cheese sandwich and tomato rice soup, not too hot, with the cup of milk with her name on it.

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She eagerly clambered up into her seat, eschewing the booster seat and perching on her knees instead to bring her up to the proper height. She was so hungry! Mommy would be here any minute, she was sure, and didn't bother to wait before digging in. It didn't taste quite like she thought it would, more like a ham sandwich and chicken soup, but she was hungry enough not to care. In just a very few minutes, Erin had cleared her plate like a big girl, and finished her milk as well. But Mommy hadn't come!

Uneasy, Erin climbed down from the chair and went looking, checking the kitchen, then the living room, and then Mommy and Daddy's room, but she was all by herself in the house. That wasn't right! She pushed open the back door and walked into the yard, hugging herself as the wind kicked up and blew gravel and dead leaves at her. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them again, Mommy was right there, or what was left of her. Most of her face was gone, her arm hanging by a thread, her chest torn open and spilling revolting things onto the nice green grass. “Give me a hug, sweetheart!†the walking corpse demanded, lurching towards her. Erin screamed, and screamed, and then she woke up.

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She was still screaming when she woke, curled in a ball on the floor with the finished remnants of a meal around her. It took her a minute to remember who she was, and where. A trick, it had all been a trick in her mind, again. In this hell, not even her thoughts were her own. Crawling over to the bed, she began hitting her head uselessly against the rail, over and over again.

Have fun with that, came the derisive voice in her head, a trace of nasty amusement running through it. Just remember, if you break your bed, you're sleeping on the floor from now on. Behave yourself, or next time I'll do worse to you. My counterpart's not the only one who can be extra inventive. The voice went silent, but even Singularity was cognizant enough to not believe she was actually alone. She shuddered at the threat, for even though she couldn't remember details, she knew it was bad, very, very bad. The lights went down in her box again, but she stayed huddled on the floor, as though darkness and stillness would somehow keep away the monsters that lived inside her mind.

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