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August 29, 2013

I Hraet You (87)

Beat 87: If You Say It, They Will Crack

“Sorry.  But your time’s up.”

Deirdre held up a hand, and brushed nonchalantly at a few bangs.  “Just how long have you been trying to seal the deal here?  And how many times have you come up empty-handed?”  She shook her head.  “Face it.  There isn’t a shred of proof you could offer, and not a thing you can do to change the world -- yours, mine, or hers.  You’ve just been wasting your time here -- so why don’t you just accept that and go with what comes easiest?”  She turned an eye upon Sheila -- fidgeting, and unable to look anyone in the eye, but still offering a clumsy nod. 

“So you would rather let things stay the way they are, rather than try to improve your lot in life?” Lloyd asked.  He covered his mouth.  “I know the O’Leary women can be a bit stubborn, but to go this far…I fail to see the gain from it.”

“I…th-that’s because I…”  Sheila shook her head, letting a few globs of snot slide across her face in the process.  “If things can’t change -- if I can’t change -- then that’d make all your effort pointless, right?  So maybe…I-I dunno, maybe this is as far as I can go.”  She found just enough spirit to look down at Lloyd.  “Maybe it’s better if you just give up.”

Lloyd’s brow started to tense.  “So let me see if I understand this correctly.  The real Miss O’Leary would prefer to bring this venture to an end and risk having her body commandeered by her alter ego.  Meanwhile, the unreal Miss O’Leary would prefer to have her creator suppressed -- if not erased outright -- even if that could lead to any number of catastrophes, metaphysical or not.  Do I have that right?”

Sheila and Deirdre exchanged a look.  They could have said more -- and might have been about to -- but Lloyd didn’t need to hear anything else.  It’s as if they enjoy forcing me to go around in circles, he thought.  It feels as if every time I try to offer up an argument to try and help them, one or both of them try to slide back into their standard routines.  A resistance to change is understandable, but it almost feels as if there’s a sense of inconsistency here.  As if they’re being forced to bounce from one mindset to another.  At this stage, I wonder if either of them have a plan beyond their supposed goals and roles.

I wonder…could there be a cause for it?  He eyed their half-stars.  Could it be that there’s some level of interference thanks to their current level?  Or maybe…maybe there’s some sort of external factor I haven’t considered?

No.  That thread can wait.  They may be doing their best to guard themselves from me, but I know for a fact that I have all I need.

“Miss O’Leary.  And Miss O’Leary.  You assume too hastily that I’m of no use to you anymore.  Foppish as I may be, I can promise you that once I’ve focused on a task, I’ll do all I can to complete it -- especially if said task involves mending a crumbling heart.  So, I would ask that you not dismiss me just yet; if, after this final strike, you’ve found my efforts to be fruitless and irksome, then you can proceed however you wish.  In exchange, if should I succeed in striking true, then you’ll allow me to take absolute control as needed.  Do we have a deal?”

“If it’ll get us through this faster,” said Deirdre.

“I-I guess that’s all right with me,” Sheila said with a snort.

“Good.  Now then, as I was saying.  My goal here is to unite the two halves -- the timid and the bold -- so that together you can do what neither of you alone could.  Why?  Because the two of you are more similar than either of you care to admit. Like it or not, you are, as they say, cut from the same cloth.  Almost literally, in this case; you two are the same person cut in twain.  The perennial split personalities, given form…well, relatively speaking.”

He crossed his arms.  “Everything that follows from here on out is going to be based on that simple truth.  And while I’ve no expertise in the fields best suited for a genuine diagnosis, I have evidence that will prove my claim.  And with it, you shall move forward.  You shall become, together, what neither of you could become alone.”

Deirdre’s eyes shifted around the room.  “So where’s your proof?  Or are words all you have, as usual?  When are you going to get it through your purple head?  Words aren’t enough!”

“Actually, ma’am, they are PRECISELY enough.  All I need to do to win this battle is to ask you a question.”


Lloyd nodded.  “This will decide it.  I’m going to ask you a question -- one question, and one question only.  If it goes as I intend, then we’ll proceed from there.  If not, then you can both consider this entire juncture a failure, and you both can go about your merry way.  I’ll never interfere with your lives again.  I swear it.”  He locked eyes with Deirdre.  “All I ask is that you answer as truthfully as you can.  Can you offer me that much, at least?”

“Heh.  You’re such a demanding little boy…but, if it’ll finally put an end to this, I guess I’ll go ahead and play along.  So go ahead.  What do you want to ask?”

“What’s your dream?”

“My dream?  My dream?  Is that it?  Are you serious?”  Deirdre pressed a hand to her forehead and let loose a hearty laugh.  “Oh my God.  You’re serious.  You’re actually serious about this.  Of all the stupid-ass questions…you would have been better off asking me what color the sky was, boy!”  She turned to Sheila, still fighting off traces of a chuckle.  “Can you believe this guy?  He’s asking me what my dream is!”

Sheila didn’t meet her gaze.  In fact, she’d practically stopped moving.

“I don’t believe this…so this is your ace in the hole, huh?  Talk about fizzling out…”

Lloyd didn’t take his eyes off her for a second.  He just held his ground, waiting silently.

“Fine.  You want an answer?  Then I’ll be glad to give you one.”  With a confident smirk, Deirdre looked down upon Lloyd -- no doubt for the last time, Lloyd guessed.  She took a slow breath.  “You want to know what my dream is?  Easy.  My dream is…”

Deirdre kept staring at Lloyd.  “My dream is…it’s…my dream is…my dream is to…”  And little by little, that smirk started to fade.  “My dream is…!  It’s to…!  I want to…!”  Her breathing sped up.  Her arms trembled.  Her eyes widened.  And time after time, she tried her hardest to speak -- something, anything.  But her mouth flapped open and shut -- if that -- with each attempt, forcing her to quiver more and more after each failure.

And Lloyd just stood there, watching it all.

“What the hell is this?  Why can’t I say anything?  It should be easy for me!”  Deirdre’s stare turned fierce.  “You!  What the hell did you do to me?”

“I didn’t do anything, ma’am.”  But he shook his head quickly a moment later.  “No, that’s not quite right.  I did do something.  I took a big gamble -- and by the looks of things, it’s paid off.”

“What are you going on about?  You think this is over just because I can’t tell you about my dream?  Who cares?  So what if I --”

“Deirdre,” said Sheila.  “It’s over.  He’s already won.”


Sheila nodded at her, and looked back at Lloyd -- or more appropriately, past Lloyd.  “That’s it.  If he figured out that much, and made it this far, then there’s nothing we can do to stop what’s next.  Like it or not, we lost.  We’re at his mercy.”

“The hell I am!  There’s no way I’m going to let an idiot like him come out on top!”

“But this is part of our agreement,” said Lloyd.  “My offense has struck true.  And because of it, you’ve no choice but to listen to me.  Those were the arrangements, weren’t they?”

“Screw the arrangements!  I can do whatever I want!”  With her teeth borne in a feral scowl, Deirdre started to lunge at Lloyd.  The only problem was that she didn’t make it very far; she couldn’t take a single step out of line, no matter how much she wriggled about.  It was as if she’d been bolted to the stage.  “What is this?  Why can’t I --?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  I won the game, so you’ve handed control over to me.  Or were you not fully aware of the consequences of your actions?”

“Bastard!  You tricked me!”

“I did no such thing.  I laid everything out as needed, and you gave your consent.  What happens as a result is a consequence of your own creation -- so, let’s bring this confrontation to an end, shall we?”  A slight smile teased his lips.  “I would prefer not to see what sort of power I now hold over you.  If you were able to turn me into a young lady, perhaps I can now turn you into a mere toddler.”

“Y-you wouldn’t!  If you do that, then…then this hot body of mine will --!”

“Disappear, yes.  Though to be fair, I would assume that as a toddler, Miss O’Leary was quite adorable.”

Deirdre bit her lip so hard Lloyd thought it might burst like a balloon.  “…Fine.  You’ve won this round.  But you haven’t done anything yet.  This thing isn’t over until --”

“Until I’ve mended your heart.  I’m all too aware, ma’am -- so let’s not tarry any longer.”  Lloyd rested his palms on the desk.  “You may be wondering why you were unable to say anything -- a truth, or a lie -- in regard to your dream.  The answer for that is simple: you don’t have one.  As an ex-imaginary friend, and as someone striving to claim her independence, you’ve separated from the real Miss O’Leary while offering up no substitutions.  Simply put, because Miss O’Leary had no dream when you were created, you yourself have no dream.  The very concept is alien to you -- an oversight that, once exploited, is enough to leave you thrown severely off-balance.”

“So I guess that’s something else I can blame my other half for,” Deirdre grumbled.  “But so what?  So what if I don’t have a dream?  Why does it matter?”

“Because without it, you have no means of proving yourself even remotely superior to the real Miss O’Leary…or perhaps even equal to her.”

“So you’re saying I’m the weak link?  Do you know how stupid you sound?”

Lloyd nodded.  “I always sound stupid, ma’am.  But allow me to continue regardless -- for you see, my belief is that as foolish as I may be, it would be even more foolish for you to act on your own any longer.”  He crossed his arms, and pressed one hand to his chin.  “Suppose you were to claim victory here.  Suppose you took on the role of the real Miss O’Leary, gallivanting about in the real world in her stead, in her body.  Then what?”

Deirdre laughed at the thought.  “Then I’d do whatever I want, obviously.”

“No you wouldn’t.  You can’t.”

“What, because I don’t have a dream?”

“That’s part of it.  But consider this -- consider everything that’s happened since I’ve appeared in this room.  I’ve managed to humiliate you, outwit you, overwhelm you, and very nearly break your spirit in two.  The façade you’ve nurtured is a careful one, but not an infallible one.  It can be broken, no matter how many airs you put forth.  And bear in mind that everything that’s happened to you is the result of a mere boy’s efforts.  You’ve been very nearly done in by a fool, one farce after another.  Even now, you’ve surrendered your imaginary powers thanks to nothing more than a simple agreement.  With all that in mind, can you say you can come out on top no matter the circumstance?  Can you earnestly assert, and believe that you’re ‘stronger’ than your better half?”      

Deirdre grimaced; if she could take a step back, she likely would have.  “O-of course I can.”

“Then let me ask you this.  Suppose I left here right now, and allowed you to take control of Miss O’Leary in full.  And bear in mind that you’ve been countered on more than one occasion by the efforts of a fool.  Given that, what would you do in the face of someone with genuine intelligence and reason?  Could you resist the efforts -- the condemnations -- of the common man?  Of the real world at large?  Or would it all break you more thoroughly than I ever could?”

“Don’t underestimate me, boy!  I can do much better than Sheila ever could!”

“No.  No, you couldn’t.”  Lloyd gestured toward Sheila.  “She may be the timid sort, but she has a far better chance than you ever will in your current state.  She knows and understands weakness.  She’s beein indoctrinated into, and familiarized with, the workings of the real world.  She knows what it means to feel pain, and fear, and any number of negative emotions.  She’s built up a tolerance that allows her to press on regardless, and perform to the best of her ability.  That, in itself, is a strength she may not have imagined on her own.”

Sheila looked to Lloyd suddenly, as if she wanted to make an objection -- but Lloyd held up a hand to stop her.  “You are an idealized form of Miss O’Leary -- a side of her born out of a perceived necessity, and transformed as she poured all her confidence and esteem into you.  That in itself means that she has reservoirs of strength that no man should underestimate.  However, such an act came with an unintended consequence.  In allowing the ultimate idealized consciousness to take form -- to allow her to develop independent of the real world, acting only as an observer -- she allowed you to become all offense and no defense.  You have no tolerance for dissention, no armor to protect you from the harshness of daily life.  If all it takes to break you are the words -- mere words, ma’am! -- of a boy, then answer me this.”

He gestured to a distant part of the room -- to the bar of soap that had long since been abandoned.  “What hope do you have against the madam?”


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