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Mercy's Inquisitor

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She summoned me once again that night.

The lady watched as I approached, my eyes resting on the intricately carved marble in front of me as I baked under her radioactive gaze. She clicked her tongue, and I could imagine her crimson red lips curling themselves into a tightly wound smirk. "Well, now," came the teasing lilt I had come to despise. "You're looking well."

"Thank you." My voice tripped and struggled to steady itself.

"Well, you needn't be so formal." She beckoned with a single hand, and the intimacy of that one gesture caused me to look up into her eyes. They were slanted and glinting in the darkness, hinting at the smile I now knew was there. "Come, Imagination. That is what you call yourself, is it not?"

Sozo, I wanted to correct her, but only a fool would question the lady's words. Instead of battling the urge to speak up, I walked forward obediently until I was mere inches away from her long, elegant form. The aura that surrounded her was dizzyingly intoxicating. "So beautiful," she breathed. "My dear muse, Imagination. You have done me justice."

"Thank you," I said once again. What else could I say? She was still watching me, and any sign of hesitation would break the spell at once.

The lady tapped her fingers on the velvety surface of her luxurious shaze. "You know," came the purred remark, "I hear that you are struggling with my bidding."

My blood turned to ice and then sludge in a single second. "N-no," I stammered, hating myself for the high-pitched tone that tainted my words. "I'm perfectly fine. In fact, I'm working on a project right now that is sure to please you."

She slowly raised an eyebrow, sending chills down my spine. "Really. And tell me, what is this... project... of yours?"

I mumbled its name.

"Please repeat, dear one."

"Mercy's Inquisitor." The title spilled out of me at a slightly louder volume.

"Mercy's Inquisitor..." As if testing its flow in the silken tone of her voice, she repeated it a few times under her breath. "Lovely. A very poetic name for what will doubtless have a pleasing outcome. You really do interest me, Imagination.”

At the risk of being at the receiving end of her crushing displeasure, I decided to force a reply. “And how do I interest you?”

“Well, your kind has always interested me.” The lady laughed softly, and the sound itself was like the taste and feel of melted chocolate. “Your boundless determination, combined with your obvious naiveté, should make for nothing but frivolous lies, and yet so often your words are that of unfathomable maturity. I cannot even begin to imagine how you gain such an understanding of my requests and me.”

“It isn’t easy,” I admitted.

“There you are, see, Imagination? It’s so much easier to confide when two people share a common ground. Of course, we both know who holds the authority in our… relationship.” The word itself was sugarcoated, but I could taste the bitterness of it in my throat. “I’m sure you don’t mind, though.”

“No. I…” I did mind, actually. There came a point at which living as the inferior—living under her sadistic obsessions and shameful ideas—was just southward of intolerable. She and I had left intolerable behind a long time ago, in fact, but in this way, I was easily able to conceal my true feelings. My true misery and hatred—everything she made me feel—poured onto paper in the form of fictional words. But she delighted in my angst, my writing tendencies that told of steps away from madness, and so I made no attempt to stifle them completely. After all…

“Imagination? I will need to cut out that tongue of yours if you don’t put it to use.”

… the lady delighted in beauty within violence.

“I apologize,” I mumbled. “I was lost in thought.”

She seemed to be satisfied with my answer. “Better that than a haze of writer’s block. When you are finished with this ‘Mercy’s Inquisitor,’ I should like to take a look—”

Something flickered at the back of my mind that I hadn’t felt for a long time. Something my vocabulary reminded me was called panic. “Wait,” I said hastily, flinching. “Please, wait.”

The look on the lady’s face was that of such perfect, utter incredulousness that it truly made me fear for my life. Never was I to interrupt her. Never.

“What on Earth is it?” she said, in a tone that matched exactly her expression.

How desperately I wished to break her gaze! “I would prefer for it to be a surprise,” I told her, silently cursing over and over the cliché of my words. “This could potentially be my best piece yet, and I believe it is best viewed as one, published whole.”

The lady remained frozen for a few more heartbeats. Then she chuckled quietly, and I imagined myself being swept off my feet and into orbit, pulled by her unbreakable gravity. “Well, well,” came the amused laugh. “Imagination displays a will of her own. I believe next the apocalypse is upon us?”

Her casual humor made me stiffen. “All I am saying,” I said carefully, “is that I would prefer for you to wait. Impatience would only hinder the immediate appeal of my piece.”

(At what point had I learned such words? Were they a mere survival skill, absorbed and applied through the passage of time?)

My mistress folded her hands elegantly, one on top of the other, her spiderlike fingers entwining. “Well,” she remarked, her eyes still alight with entertained mirth. “I shall look forward to viewing this piece of yours.”

“And so I shall enjoy writing it.” I bowed my head and forced my body into a ninety-degree turn. The tile floor stretched endlessly before me, and I had barely taken a step towards the welcoming mahogany doors before she shifted on her couch and cleared her throat lightly. I could feel her stare brushing lightly over my collarbone, much more gentle than radioactive this time—like a lover’s touch.

“Imagination?”

“Yes.” I made it more like a statement than a reply, though that could have been due to the sudden dryness of my mouth.

The lady paused, and I could visualize her hungry, lustful expression. She knew that I longed for her; the sweet candy of her voice and the bitter poison of her words. She knew I indulged in her fickle desires, spent sleepless nights battling myself, and thrust the contents of my heart at the page in front of me. I hated her and loved her; she hated and loved me. For all the failed disappointments and the beautiful accomplishments.

They were all her doing.

In that moment, I loathed her, and I truly did. I wanted to lunge at her and claw at her eyes, rip out her vocal cords—anything, as long as I would no longer have to hear her voice. My screams would drown out her own; I would let my emotions flow once and for all, and the pen would literally become mightier than the sword. I imagined her eyes widening, then dulling as the light drained out of them, and then I would turn away and run as fast as I could. Run, run, through the inescapable mansion. Search for the world once more.

But in a matter of seconds, someone across the globe would touch a pen to paper, and she would resurrect, her porcelain skin healing its cracks and her eyes regaining their glimmer of avarice. She would call out in her teasing, soft voice, “Imagination…” and I would feel my chains again, dragging me through the halls to her side. I was her slave, her “muse,” and there was no escape for me. Her power would only grow. I would weaken and diminish until I, like the rest of my people, would fall into insanity.

And then there would truly be no hope left.

“You belong to me,” the lady Inspiration crooned. “You always will."

Though I had long since forgotten how, I pretended the cool brush of air the door provided was a single, pristine tear, slipping down my cheek.

oOo

Midnight came and went, and I stared at the arrangement of weathered parchment in front of me.

My own words had become so lyrical and tempting. Just as the lady’s were.

With a quiet scream of frustration and agony, I crumpled the papers in my fist and threw them across the room. They landed on the floor with a near-silent thud, and I collapsed against the wall, sinking to the floor. My hands were trembling, and I could feel the temperature of my body rising. It’s all crap. It’s all crap. I can’t do this. It’ll kill me before I finish it.

Mercy’s Inquisitor.

My ideas had seemed so enchanting at the time. A young man growing up under the cruel tyranny of his parents performing a spell to reverse the flow of time, in such a way that he could get retribution for all their wrongdoings. I had been so enamored with the plot, but every word I wrote was painful. It hurt, to look at what I had jotted down in my messy scrawl. The piece had taken form so beautifully in my mind and had now jumbled itself into senseless, chaotic drabble. “Why can’t I just write it?” I pleaded with myself, to some unknown force that had scrambled my own words within me. “Please, just let me write it! Mercy, please!”

This time, I really did feel my eyes blurring. Such efforts I had made to keep strong were crumbling in front of me.

“Mercy…” I begged. The crack of my mind was all too audible. “Mercy…”

Mercy…

That’s it.

I stood up and swiped the back of my hand across my eyes. A fresh pile of parchment had been sitting readily on my desk, and now I grabbed the first one and my favorite pen, the one that said World’s Fair in elegant, silvery cursive. My eyes flashed as I clicked the pen and placed it to the paper, furiously scribbling my title.

So what if she killed me? I was half-dead anyway, and a poor soul would more readily accept the afterlife than the living hell they were forced to endure.

And besides, I was Imagination. Whatever was said about me would simply be turned into words, words, and more words. I would feast on despair, clutch defeat, and reach out for angst. I would embrace my imperfections, the many that I had, and nothing would stop me from shouting my true feelings to the world. Willing or unwilling, they would hear what I had to say.

I would be ripped apart. Skewered. Tied to a stake and burned in hellfire, and she would stand to the side and smile at me with her sadistically delighted grin.

But it wasn’t about pleasing her. It had never been about pleasing her. It had always been about pleasing me—I had just been too blind to figure it out.

Someone, it seemed, had finally opened their eyes.

Mercy’s Inquisitor – by Sozo no Teki.

Inspiration be damned.

The lady summoned me again that night…



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