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July 15, 2013

I Hraet You (74)

Beat 74: Rabbits Bite Harder Than You Think

Trixie rubbed the back of her neck.  “All right, one o’ y’all is gonna have to explain all this to me.  ‘Cause right now, this ain’t clickin’ for me, and it’s startin’ to gimme a real headache.”

“Oh, don’t worry.  I intend to,” Lloyd said with a nod.  “You see -- oh wait, you know what I just realized?  I didn’t give my first secret technique a suitably-proper name.  This requires an immediate remedy!  So henceforth, you can consider it to be known as The Supra-Dazzling Un-Logic Carnival: First Move…”  He stole a glance at the shotgun in her hands.  “Er, then again, I suppose the renaming process can wait.  And explanations are in order, I suppose.”

“Good plan.”

“Yes.  Now then, where were we?”  He shifted around in the chair -- still bound, of course. “Besides a double-sided hostage situation, of course.  But I’ve long since grown accustomed to that.”

“Stockholm syndrome’s a hell of a thing,” said Mrs. Overdose.

Lloyd shrugged and let the comment slide; if Sheila was willing to sit quietly and listen, he wouldn’t make any more trouble than necessary.  “It was by your own admission that you gave me the clues; you mentioned that you did everything ‘she’ -- whoever that may be -- told you to.  But all things considered -- your expulsion, your apparent lack of friends, your need to play host to me -- you’re sorely lacking in opportunities to find counsel.”

Mrs. Overdose turned to Trixie.  “Has he ever been this competent?”

Trixie shrugged.  “It comes and goes.”

“The clues and evidence are simple enough to spot, and subsequently string together,” said Lloyd.  “It takes a bit of off-kilter thinking to make certain conjectures, but it’s hardly an impossible task.  Though to be fair, past experiences have made my claims a bit more reasonable.”  He leaned back in his chair.  “Miss O’Leary.  I would like to make a claim, and would very much like a confirmation or refutation of its accuracy.  To put it bluntly, I ask this of you: do you have an imaginary friend?”

Sheila let out a yelp; if she could, she would have leapt a solid foot into the air.  “I-I…”  She lowered her head.  “Yes.  I do.”

“So it’s as I surmised, then.  Excellent.  It seems as if I’ve begun making some genuine progress.”  Even with recent events taking their toll on him, he could feel his vigor returning.  “Now then.  From what I can gather,  you’ve been in close contact with this ‘friend’ for quite some time.  She’s become a confidant, and a trusted ally, thanks to the advice she’s given you.  But just think about the quality of advice you’ve been given, Miss O’Leary -- and with it, the consequences that have resulted.  Expulsion.  Attempted seduction.  Fully-executed torture, though bred from misguided affection.  Destruction of property.  Possession of weaponry.  Assault via that weaponry.  All things considered, can you honestly say that you’ve been getting good advice?  Honestly?”

Sheila chomped on her lip.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t be right about that, as well,” Lloyd said with a sigh.  “Very well, then.  Miss O’Leary -- the purpose of the Shotgun Foot Rub went beyond putting on a show.  It was a demonstration.  Or rather, a revelation; in order to expose the fatal flaws at your core, I had to put you in a situation that put you at odds.  A situation in which, even if you had someone on-hand to offer advice, they would fail to offer anything useful.  In doing so, I’ve exposed the gap between the two of you…and with it, the frailty of your being without your advisor’s services.”

“So all o’ this was just to make her split up with her imaginary friend?” Trixie asked.  She started beaming.  “Hey!  I think I’m actually followin’ along for once!”

“Well, I wouldn’t call it ‘splitting up’ per se,” said Lloyd, taking the wind out of Trixie’s sails.  “But with this, my hope is that the gap between the two has been exposed AND admitted to, more or less.  And thus, the healing process -- such as it is -- can begin in earnest.”

“So what happens now?” Mrs. Overdose asked.

“That all depends on Miss O’Leary’s next act.”  Lloyd shifted his hands, putting them as close to Sheila’s as he could.  “I’ve reasoned that all I have to do is ask, and so I’m going to ask: Miss O’Leary, do you want to join my harem?”

Sheila rocked in place, and nearly tipped over in the chair.  “What?  Harem?”

“Harem, indeed.  It’s my intent to create a harem -- a paradise, a borderless world of love -- for the sake of my fellow men.  But the key to doing so lies not in my ability to amass countless beauties, or take actions to ensure my pleasure alone.  No, what I need -- what I must do -- is go where I can, and do what I can, to better those around me.  I only wish to extend a hand, and my aid.  And if you’ll have me, Miss O’Leary, I would gladly do the same for you.  It would be my honor.”

“Lloyd…but…b-but I…”

Lloyd nodded slowly.  “There’s much yet to learn about you, I know.  But know this: for as long as this heart of mine holds out, I’ll be there to lend my aid.  You’ve only to accept it.  That much you’re more than capable of doing -- I only ask that you choose who you trust and listen to more prudently, so that certain mishaps are…less frequent.”

Sheila stared at her lap.  “You really wanna help me…”

“I do.   Why wouldn’t I?  I care about you, and I wish to see you happier than you’ve ever been.” He laughed airily.  “There are many things in this world that I cannot do -- but I would like to believe that putting a smile on your face is something I can do.  Can, and will.”

Sheila sucked a few pints of snot back into her nose, head hung low and hands clasped into fists atop her thighs.  “You really wanna help me,” she said in a low tone.  “You’re…you’re such a good guy.  But I guess that’s why I…”  She shook her head and unfolded her hands -- and then, let them hang behind her back.  “Soooooooooooo…what happens now?”

Lloyd nodded at Trixie, and nodded at Mrs. Overdose.  “We’ll just have to play it by ear,” he said with a smile.  And he took Sheila’s hand in his own.

--STAGE ON--

Lloyd opened his eyes.  Not even a half-second after doing so, he blinked as rapidly as he could, in hopes of making sure that he hadn’t started seeing things.  He wasn’t, but he did have more than enough reason to.

The room he’d entered was black and white.  Not monochrome -- nothing but white, with the objects within only discernible by their black outlines.  If Lloyd started walking about, he’d have more than enough space; even then, the room had no shortage of clutter.  Wires ran from one end of the room to the other like lazy snakes.  Props and tools of all shapes and sizes -- trees and boulders, cameras and chairs -- lined the area, with paint cans and planks cast about with the caution of the common ostrich.  Lloyd sat in a director’s chair behind a long desk; directly ahead stood a stage, flanked by curtains and (supposedly) brightened by rows of hanging lights.  Nothing in that world besides the so-called prince could boast of any color.  But he’d long since accepted that facet.  He was just happy to be back.

Ah, the audition room once more.  How I’ve missed you, old friend, he thought with a wistful smile.  It’s the start of a new day -- and with it, a chance for newfound strides toward a dream. So let’s not delay a second longer!  Let us begin with the…the…

Lloyd stood up and looked around the room.  Wait a minute.  Why am I alone in here?  He pressed his hands onto the desk as his head snapped to and fro.  Has something gone wrong?  Os is this some sort of gimmick?

“Hello?  Miss O’Leary?  Are you in here?” he called out.  But he laughed to himself soon after.  “Oh, yes, of course.  If I should be calling out to anyone, it should be --”

And suddenly, he didn’t feel like laughing anymore.

Ka-DEATH FROM ABOVE!

Lloyd pulled away from the table just in time to avoid having his hands crushed -- or perhaps punctured -- by a pair of high heels.  He reeled and tumbled, and looked up at the intruder that rose to her full height…every last, overwhelming inch of her, observed and accounted for.  A red corset.  Dark stockings.  Buttoned cuffs.  And of course, bunny ears -- ears that tried, and failed, to distract from a neckline that plunged far enough to reveal a grand canyon.  Ears that tried to bring focus back to the head -- the satin-smooth waves of red hair, the subtle-yet-striking touches of makeup, the eyes that couldn’t even begin to hide the scalding, malicious rage that flowed unfettered from her core…

One of those things wasn’t quite like the others.  And it was the very thing that Lloyd noticed first -- after letting his eyes drift downward for a few moments.

“Deirdre.  It’s been a while,” said Lloyd as he climbed to his feet.  “Apologies for not calling you by name first -- I’m still a bit of a greenhorn when it comes to a matter of social graces within metaphysical apparitions of the heart.  I hope you can forgive the faux pas.”  He held out a hand.  “As the vernacular goes…we cool?”

Deirdre gave him a swift answer.  She punched him so hard he thought his face might burst through the back of his head.

“AHYGNYAN!”  Lloyd slapped his hands across his face -- and kept them there as he sailed into the back wall with the force of a speeding train.  “HRGH!  Oh WOW, that hurt!  I think my face is -- okay, I deserved that.  I really should have known better than to --”

“Close your mouth, boy,” Deirdre snapped -- once again, in a voice too deep and clear to belong to Sheila.  “You’ve done enough talking for one day.”

Lloyd pointed feebly at her, mouth agape.  “But aren’t you a year younger than me?  Why am I the boy?  Granted you have a mature body, but given that it’s mostly just a cleaner version of Miss O’Leary’s --”

“What did I JUST say?”

Lloyd clapped his hands over his mouth. 

 Deirdre folded her arms under her chest.  “You really are starting to turn into a pain in the ass.  I give you a chance at pleasure beyond pleasure, and what do you do?  Run back to that snot-nosed girl and bend over backwards to try and please her?  And for what?  So you can make her feel good about herself?”  She let fly a biting laugh.  “Get real.  As good as you’re intentions are, you’ll never be able to follow through.”

She glanced over her shoulder.  “Take a good look around, sweet stuff.  Sheila isn’t here.  And without her, whatever you’re trying to do, it won’t work.  All the good intentions in the world don’t mean a damn thing when you realize that, as hard as you try, as much as you talk, you can’t change a thing.”

Lloyd’s brow twitched.  “The way you’re speaking, it’s as if you intend to become a full-on antagonist.  Though given recent events, I wonder if that’s been the case all along.”

“Antagonist?  Heh.  Maybe so.”  She looked down at Lloyd and sighed, but wore a slight smirk regardless.  “You had it exactly right, Lloyd.  I’m Sheila’s imaginary friend.  I was created by her -- I’m a version of her that could, but never will be.  In a lot of ways, I’m better than her.  Or rather…I’m better in EVERY WAY.”

“That remains to be proven.  Especially since you’ve het to have a physical presence in the real world.”

“Physical presence?  And why would I need that?” Deirdre spread out her arms.  “What I say goes.  When I tell her to do something, she does it.  She depends on me so much, it’s like she doesn’t even exist.  Honestly, it’s like that girl is fading away…and when she does…well, somebody has to take the reins, don’t they?”

“You’re planning to take over Miss O’Leary’s body?”

“Calm down, boy.  I’m not that aggressive; I’m just saying that it’s something that’s going to happen naturally -- and sooner rather than later.  C’est la vie.”  But she shook her head briskly.  “Of course, that’s all assuming that little boys like you don’t stick their purple heads in our -- or should I say, MY business.  The two of us like things just the way they are, and we’re both willing to let nature run its course.”

She folded her arms again and looked away.  “Like I said, you were exactly right.  Helping Sheila -- doing that voodoo you do -- will probably end up saving her in ways none of us can imagine.  But the tradeoff is that more than likely, I’ll stop existing.  Your presence here means one thing: my life is on the line.”

For the first time in ages, Lloyd couldn’t say a word.

“What, lost your nerve already, boy?  That’s no way to satisfy a woman.”  Deirdre cocked her head upward and smirked at him.  “I know my life is on the line here.  And I don’t intend to lose it.  If you think you’ve got what it takes to save Sheila, then by all means, try.  But I’m not going to make it easy for you.”

She stepped backwards, and dropped off the table -- at least she would have, if she hadn’t started floating through the room. 

“My life is on the line.  And from here on out, so is yours.”

TO BE HEARTINUED… 

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