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August 5, 2013

I Hraet You (80)

Beat 80: If Only It Were Rabbit Season…

“’Now I can see your heart’?  What, is that supposed to be your catch phrase or something?” Deirdre asked.  “Because if you ask me, it’s a pretty bad one, little boy.  Even the worst pick-up line is better than that.”

Lloyd’s finger drooped, and he rubbed his crown sheepishly.  “Well, truth be told it’s a bit of a work in progress.  Though you could argue the same about my mere existence…but let’s not dilly-dally with semantics at the moment.”  He resumed his normal posture, and gave Deirdre a nod.  “There’s a battle to be won, after all.  And it’s thanks to the dear madam that I have just enough of a foundation for my offense.”

“So, you’re planning on making me go gentle into the night?”

Lloyd shook his head.  “I intend to save the two of you in one fell swoop.  You are -- or at least, I hope you are -- two halves of the same coin.  To remove one is to restrict the other.  Therefore, I’ve but one option.”

“And that is?”

“To reconnect the disconnected.”  Lloyd thrust his finger at her once more.  “Before this is over, the O’Leary women shall be as one.”

Deirdre chuckled and shook her head.  “You sure are naughty with that finger, little boy,” she said with a smile.  “But that doesn’t matter.  Neither do your words.  If all you can do is talk, then you’ll never be able to beat me…so from now on, I’ll be taking control.  And I would say ‘I’ll be gentle’, but like I said, lying isn’t a good habit to have.”

“But --”

“The only ‘but’ that I’ll accept from here on out is mine.”  Deirdre snapped her fingers, and floated slowly toward the stage.  As she departed, she left a black dot in the center of the room -- and from that dot came a column of black wind.  ”I haven’t forgotten about you and your little foot-capades,” she said with a sneer.  “So I’ll be sure to return the favor a thousand times over.  It’s time for your punishment, boy!  You’re about to start falling for me -- permanently!”

Lloyd’s eyes shot toward the floor.  What had started as a mere dot had long since grown into a pothole -- and in seconds’ time, that pothole grew into a pit.  It kept spreading and spreading, throwing about black gales and letting loose a low-pitched squeal.  It didn’t even take a minute for Lloyd to be able to peer into the pit, and see what hid within: thorny black vines that writhed against -- and through -- the pit’s spreading walls, no doubt looking to lay into some fresh meat.  But what REALLY drew his eye lay nestled at the pit’s bottom, despite being hundreds of feet below.

Flames.  And plenty of them.

“I call it the ‘Venus Fly Trap’,” said Deirdre.  She floated above the stage, arms crossed and shoulders rocking with quiet laughter.  “You can try to hang on for as long as you want, but eventually those arms of yours are going to give out.  And when you do, your heart is gonna go all aflutter, falling towards a death that may or may not come.  Ooooh, I can only begin to imagine what kind of state you’ll be in when we finally have our little waltz.”

“Th-this is a gross misinterpretation of botany, ma’am!”  Lloyd shouted. The pit’s borders stretched ever further, and before long Lloyd found himself scrambling to avoid tumbling in.  He abandoned the desk and chair, and didn’t even turn to watch them tumble into the pit.  He just scrambled for the distant wall -- if only to avoid falling in sooner.

“There’s nowhere for you to run, boy!  You can either jump into my arms, or fall into them!”

Lloyd pressed his back against the wall.  She’s right!  Escaping from this situation is not an option!  The pit lurched ever forward, with its edge now just a few yards away from the tips of his toes.  Her mission is to have my mind split in two.  Now she has numerous ways to do so -- and I don’t even have one!  How am I supposed to accomplish anything like this?

He sidled against the wall, with sweat starting to pour freely from his body -- and he could only hope the pit’s heat was to blame.  Calm yourself, Lloyd.  Steel your heart against whatever challenges come your way.  You have just enough to launch your counterattack…hopefully.

“What’s wrong, boy?  Getting a little hot under the collar?” Deirdre called out. 

But in spite of Deirdre’s jeers, Lloyd found his nerve.  In terms of physical options, I only have one.  But I can see several others in relation to my skill set.  He looked up at Deirdre with a cool gaze -- one that made the bunny-eared beauty flinch and scowl.  Every one of the O’Leary women has proven domineering and eager to command the situation...and as a result, they’ve all been utterly uncompromising.  Therefore, if I’m to carve out a win, I’ll have to return the favor. 

Whatever advantage these women have over me, I’ve no choice but to steal it away.  And I’ll return the favor in full.  If they would seek to overwhelm me, then I’ll overwhelm them first!

“The time has come!  Rising up to overcome any challenge -- and piercing through whatever obstacle stands in my way!  The arrow of love, embodied!  Lloyd B. Hoigleheimer, going forth!”  And with those bold words, he climbed slowly and clumsily onto a few vines. 

“Don’t follow up a boast like that with something so lame!” Deirdre roared.

But Lloyd crawled in regardless, moving with all the grace and dexterity of a crippled spider.  Somehow he kept up a solid grip once deep inside, taking hold of one massive thorn after the next; the vines’ pulsations alternated between leading him deeper into the pit and back towards its surface -- but more often than not, he found himself sinking further towards a fiery death. 

“So what’s the plan here, boy?  Going in deep?  Or just stalling for time?”

“Survival is a top priority, without question.  But even so --”  Lloyd’s left hand slipped, and he dangled limply from a thorn before finding a semi-solid grip.  “Even so, now is no time to rely on my feeble defenses.  It’s time for my counterattack -- and I intend to strike true.”

“Easier said than done, boy.”

“But that’s precisely it.  My only weapon may be my words, but my words are all I need to win the day.”  He swung to his right, switching over to a new column of vines before the old one could cart him into the pit.  “It’s all beginning to make sense.  I was under the impression that you were doing your best to overwhelm me -- when in reality, the one who’s truly been overwhelmed for untold ages is you.”

“It’s like you’re getting worse and worse at romancing a lady,” Deirdre said with an aside glance.

“You’ve been getting more offensive, and more aggressive, since the start.  If you’re the one responsible for giving the real-world Miss O’Leary the consul she’s taken to heart -- becoming a would-be commando and arming herself with weaponry, all for the sake of pursuing me -- then clearly, you’ve been in danger well before our first meeting.  I may be threatening you more directly with my presence here, on this day, but in reality your life has been on the line for quite a while.”

Deirdre shrugged and shook her head slowly.  “Sticks and stones, boy.  Sticks and stones.  And honestly, I’m getting tired of playing these games with you.  So, I think it’s about time for me to wrap this up.”  She spun a finger through the air, and the pit’s walls began to rumble.  “And since you love your words so much, I’ll do you a favor and wrap this up literally.”

Lloyd peeked over his shoulder.  Sure enough, vines -- flaming vines -- rocketed towards him from the opposite wall.  With a yelp like a frightened Chihuahua, he dropped lower into the pit and scrambled to his left; the vines sailed overhead and hit the wall with a spark-flinging slam, with a few embers making their way to Lloyd’s arms.  In spite of the searing that followed, he kept moving -- climbing, dropping, and yelping as vine after vine came at him.

“Oooh, I like a man who’s flexible,” Deirdre said with a smirk.  “But how long can you last?”

“Long enough to make a claim,” Lloyd answered with a smile -- though if it could, his body would have let out a wail.  “You were created for a reason -- to serve the real Miss O’Leary in a way that no one else could.  Where her mother failed, you would succeed.  You would be there for her, as an immutable and ever-enduring part of her, ready to serve and eager to bring about a smile. At least, that was the intention from the outset.  But something along the line changed.”

Deirdre winced -- and the vine that screamed toward Lloyd slowed down just enough to miss turning him into a human slot machine.  “What are you getting at?”

“You must have realized it yourself.  Miss O’Leary is getting older.  Her tastes have changed.  Her preferences have changed.  Her desires have changed.  You are, at best, a holdover -- a relic of the past that can only grow so much in tandem with your creator.  Put simply, you are an imaginary friend -- the sort of friend that every child inevitably sets aside at one point.  You’re merely delaying the inevitable as best you can.”

Another wince; Deirdre’s smirk grew taut and thin, and her vines missed their mark by a widening margin.  “So what?  If you say that’s something I already knew, then what’s the point?  Talk fast!”

“My point is that you’re forcing your way into your other self’s life as best you can.  Sabotaging her life.  Forcing her to fall from grace.  Putting her in the same mindset she had as a first grade student -- that the only one she can turn to for support is you.  You want her to remain in stasis…and if the opportunity arises, you’ll take her life for yourself.  But there’s an inherent flaw with your plan.  Something that you have not -- or perhaps cannot perceive.”

“Oh yeah?  And what’s that?”

Lloyd took a moment to catch his breath, all too aware that he’d actually earned the luxury.  The flaming vines kept coming, but by that point they could hardly get within six feet of him; more than a few of them swiped impotently at the walls rather than thrust inward.  “There’s little doubt that you’re an idealized form of Miss O’Leary -- a version of her that could be, given the proper treatment.  And indeed, you’ve gained some semblance of independence from her, and would love nothing more than to stage a coup against her.  But that is precisely the problem: you have only a semblance of independence.  Try as you might, you will always be connected to her -- unable to sever the bond yourself, but more than capable of being erased on a whim by your master.”

“Get to the point already!  Or do you not have one?  Or are you just enjoying talking around in circles?  What is it, huh?  Got nothing to say, you little bastard?”

Lloyd shook his head.  “There are three important points to remember thanks to your connection.  The first is that whether you realize it or not, whatever harm you do to Miss O’Leary is harm done to yourself.  The second: that in your quest for independence and control, you’ve tried to sever the bond between the two of you…and as such, you’re relying on a nature -- an inherent code built into your heart -- that is by default full of exploitable holes.  The third, and most vital of all, is a simple one: undeniably, you’re as fragile as you make your host out to be.  Maybe more; at least she acknowledges it.”

Deirdre’s grin had long since started to waver, and even with the distance between them Lloyd could hear a growl forcing its way through her throat.  “Oh yeah?  Pretty bold claims for a little boy!  But it doesn’t matter how much you try to talk your way out of this -- when it comes down to it, you don’t have a shred of proof, sweet cheeks!  Why the hell should I EVER take your words seriously?”

Lloyd gave her a quick answer.  He pulled a hand away from the wall and pointed ahead -- to the opposite wall, where so many flaming vines had erupted.  Two in particular had caught his eye, and Deirdre’s shortly after.  They burned brighter than all the rest, with flames that could melt an iceberg -- but based on their angles, they had no intention of going after Lloyd.

They were aimed at Deirdre.

“We aren’t alone in here,” said Lloyd.  “But that’s only a facet of your coming defeat.”

TO BE HEARTINUED…

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