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“My Amelia, I’ve missed you terribly. Tonight is worth, to me, any consequences that may come of it.” -- Espionage
For all of Miriam’s beauty and natural poise, her severity was unmatched. -- Glow
PEOPLE VS. OUR CREATOR "We create our gods, not the other way around." -- Clockwork Horrorshow's Unjust -Injustice for All-
"You're dead, Julia." -- Quarantine
“I almost forgot which one you were, girr.” -- The Mannequin Diaries

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 Two

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Scottie Elisabeth
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PostSubject: Two    Wed Nov 30, 2016 12:46 pm

Again, I didn’t remember the walk, but instead just arrived at my destination. As soon as I opened the door I found three of Sophie’s caretakers.

“Collin!” the roundest one stopped me, holding her hands up in front of her as the other two disappeared. “Now isn’t a good time. Your gran isn’t well.”

Those weren’t the words to get me to leave. “Let me see her,” I insisted, attempting to go around the woman. She immediately pushed me against the doorframe.

“She isn’t having a good day,” she whispered, almost aggressively. “There’s no need to see her like this.”

“What’s going on?” I caved to her, too exhausted to push her out of my way.

She sighed, clearly uncertain how much she could bear to share with me. “She’s just getting worse. She’s been screaming for your grandfather all day, episode after episode. It’s heartbreaking.”

My heart ached for her. Sophie was losing her mind, no matter how hard I tried to keep her. “It’s alright,” I insisted again, annoyed that I had to go through this with every new set of caretakers. “I’ve done this for years. I can handle her.”

Sophie did indeed scream for me, distracting the round woman enough for me to slip past her. “Go home, Elise. She’ll see you tomorrow.” I didn’t look back to see if she obeyed but instead made my way to Sophie’s room, just in time to see her slap one of her caretakers, clearly belligerent. “Hey!” I announced loudly, rushing to Sophie’s bedside, distancing her nurses from her. “I’m so sorry,” I offered the women, despite this clearly not phasing them. “Please, I’ve got her now. Go home and get some rest. She’ll see you tomorrow.” They always seemed to leave the quickest when I ended that way—‘she’ll see you tomorrow,’ as if they needed a reminder of the day to be okay leaving her with me, allegedly young and untrained. I sat on Sophie’s bed as the nurses said their goodbyes and exited the room.

“Soph,” I lightly chastised, scooting to sit next to her on the bed. I avoided her blank face but instead wrapped my arms around her shoulders, pulling her against me. “I’m sorry I took so long.”

She was quiet now despite not seeming to hear me. Her body didn’t respond to me but it didn’t resist me either, so I kept hugging her, trying to wish her mind back into her body. At least she was calmer now. “I know they’re annoying but you can’t slap them,” I teased, not expecting a response. “They just want to help.” I leaned my head against hers, frustrated at how exhausted I was. It wasn’t safe to do a transfusion now, especially if Sophie was out of it, but what choice did I have? “Just a second,” I told her as I released her. I got out of bed and went to her dresser, pushing the heavy wooden thing out of the way to access the safe behind it. I twisted the knob to the date of my wedding—a date Sophie did not even know—to retrieve the monstrous looking machine inside. I left the safe open but locked the bedroom door on my way back to the bed.

When I had begun working for Henry nearly a decade ago, he had just created his machine for harvesting Glow. After spending a night with a vicious succubus and losing a significant portion of his lifespan, Henry did whatever any shark would in a situation involving robbing others of their intangible life force—he figured out how to profit by it and put out an underground notice looking for a incubus or succubus to try it out on. I was bored and curious at the time. Sophie’s body had been betraying her for years and we had just gotten another garbage diagnosis; I was very curious about this man who thought he could harvest Glow for human consumption.

Even now, Henry’s machine was not perfect. It was a prototype that he hadn’t been able to successfully improve, removing Glow by electric pulse, separating it from my blood and then harvesting just the energy through the electricity of the machine, which could later be transferred to him in a similar but reverse fashion. Henry’s machine relied on electricity.

Mine relied on blood. Instead of trying to separate the Glow from the blood, my machine was essentially a homemade blood transfusion tool. One needle plugged into my arm, the other into Sophie’s, with the machine to do the work with suction and distribution. I sat next to Sophie on the bed, sterilizing both my arm and hers before inserting the machine into my arm and hers and flipping the switch. I sat back in discomfort, silently begging Sophie not to have an episode now. Recently it had become harder and harder to get Glow into her system and it was obvious that she was losing herself faster than I could bring her back. It was only a matter of time now.

“Collin,” Soph interrupted my thoughts with a rasp.

“I’m here,” I reminded her, reaching to stroke her hair with my free hand. “Just relax.”

Sophie leaned to rest her head on my shoulders and suddenly I was at the beginning, when Sophie was just 25, freshly widowed and unable to return home to her family, found me. I was reluctant at first; I didn’t like to get friendly with those with normal lifespans. They only live long enough to hurt you with their death. But Sophie was determined. People said she loved me and to maintain our friendship, I pretended not to know. She never said, never made advances toward me, and thus our relationship was strictly platonic. It was only now, as her mind threatened to leave her, that she called for me near constantly when I wasn’t at her side. She would tell her caretakers that she was in love with me and they, naturally, assumed she was confused. “You must be named for your grandfather,” a nurse lovingly responded once when I introduced myself to her after she had already met Sophie. That began two decades ago now and yet still, every time a new caring team arrived, that was what they assumed. What else could they make of our situation? A 20-something living with an elderly, deteriorating woman, caring for her intimately day in and day out before I finally relinquished and obtained homecare workers for her, and now still regularly dismissing her caretakers to take things on myself. Even after getting her nurses though, she got worse and worse, her body deteriorating more rapidly than she could bear. It came to a head a decade ago, when I built my machine.

It was easy then, when I only had to give her Glow to fix her physical ailments. When her mind began to go a year ago, the Glow seemed to stop working as well. Perhaps it was never a long-term solution. It was so difficult to know for sure if what I was doing was still helping her, but I certainly tried my hardest to keep her for as long as I could.

Before Sophie, those I love never lived more than three decades after I knew them; lifespans just weren’t what they are today. Now my sweet, dedicated Sophie had been with me for nearly seven. Even if I wasn’t in love with her, I didn’t want to see her go, especially now. What was I to do without her, having dedicated my last decade to keeping her going just one more day?

“Okay,” I whispered, barely able to blink without falling asleep. “That’s all I can do for now.” I began removing the needles from our arms, frustrated with how slowly she was able to take my blood. Her body had such a hard time with it now. For the last year, I was having to do transfusions every day to keep her going. They didn’t seem to be making much of a difference anymore.

“I have to go soon,” she whispered in return, her voice almost sounding young for a moment.

“Where are you going?” I asked, barely listening as I cleaned and bandaged her arm. The transfusions had been making her delirious lately, but it was good to hear her speak.

“Collin,” she stated firmly, drawing my attention with her tone. I looked into her eyes and they were far from empty. Her face was badly weathered with her age but her eyes were as they always had been. She was lucid. “You know I can’t keep this up.”

My eyes watered at the first coherent sentence she had formed all week. “I don’t want you to go.”

Her frail hand stroked my cheek and I was overwhelmed with guilt and discomfort. She had spent her life with me. I had ignored her affection every day. She was simply my best friend and I loved her for that, but I felt nothing more for her and it crushed me now. I couldn’t even give her what she wanted and yet I held on to her, drawing out her agony, adding a day, an hour, a breath, every chance I could. And for what? So she could re-live the pain I had caused her, each time she fell out of lucidity?

“I’m sorry,” I shook my head, fighting my own pain to acknowledge hers. “We don’t have to do it anymore.”

“I’ve enjoyed my life,” she assured me as she eased back into the bed, her old body fighting her with each movement. “And I love you.”

My stomach knotted. She had never lucidly said those words to me before. This was really it. I eased down next to her, resting my cheek against her bony shoulder. She was so different now than when I had met her, but it was still her underneath. And she wanted to be let go.

Sophie reminded me every day of my wife and as much as I swore she wasn’t, Sophie was my way of righting my wrongs with the universe. I owed Sophie now to make a choice for her, not for me to assuage my own guilt. Even after centuries, I hadn’t changed. I wasn’t in love Sophie, just as I wasn’t in love my wife. I could not be a good partner, even a platonic one. Sophie was old and battered by life and needed me to love her, and still I didn’t. I spent money on nurses, I took the lifespan of others to give to her, but I couldn’t give her the one thing she truly wanted of me.

Except now she wanted something else. Sleep. I wouldn’t keep her from it any longer.


I woke to my phone vibrating incessantly in my pocket. My eyes adjusted quickly to the lamp lit room and I realized I couldn’t have been out long. I glanced at Sophie. Still asleep, but indeed asleep. The machine was still next to me on the bed and my arm was already healed from the process. I moved from Sophie’s side, retrieved the machine, and pulled my phone from my pocket simultaneously.

“Hello?” I asked quietly.

“Where are you?” Henry’s gruff voice demanded.

I returned the machine to the safe and locked it before answering: “Home.” I returned the dresser to its proper spot, doing a sweep of the room with my eyes to ensure everything was put away and normal looking.

“Come to the office. We need to settle up.”

“Have you called Miriam or shall I?” I asked absentmindedly, wondering if we would be interrupting her date. I hadn’t thought to look at my phone’s clock before answering.

“It’s just us,” he responded curtly, his tone leaving no room for disagreement. “Are you on your way?”

I hesitated. I had done sessions alone with Henry before for one reason or another, but it wasn’t our standard. His assistants were always important—putting electrodes in varying places to prevent overuse of any specific area of my torso; watching for things to go wrong; having a set of eyes on the procedure other than Henry’s. I trusted him enough, sure, but he was just one man. Two was always better. “Coming.” I hung up without waiting for a response, immediately moving to my texts before unlocking and exiting Sophie’s door.

There was already an unread text in my conversation with Miriam. She had checked to see if I had made it home alright. Perfect; I could tell her what was going on without making it seem too out of the ordinary.

Yes, thank you. Just heading back to the office now. Henry wants to settle up.


Now? Are you okay? Miriam responded as I entered the unlocked office building.

I’ll keep you posted. How’s your hand? The building was unsettling the night. The main lobby, where the loans are applied for and processed, was completely empty. At the fewest, there was always a teller or two finishing up paperwork after hours. But it was too late to be here, even for them. When I opened the door to the hall, I saw light surrounding the door at the end, slightly illuminating the otherwise black room. I took a deep breath before approaching the illuminated door. My phone’s vibration interrupted me.

I looked to see a picture of Miriam’s hand, looking as well as, if not better than, it did before she burned it.

Good date then, I responded before pocketing my phone once again. I swallowed my hesitations and stepped forward to open the office door. Before I could, it opened before me, with Henry ushering me inside.

“Took you long enough,” he chastised, but there was no trace of his earlier frustration in his current tone. “How are the burns?” Though he had turned away from me to fiddle with the machine, his voice carried what seemed like genuine concern.

I was already unbuttoning my shirt for the transfer and looked for myself. They were nearly gone. I still had too much Glow. No wonder I had such a headache. “You know me,” I responded nonchalantly, just ready to get it all over with. “How’s the machine?”

“Better,” he said, turning to me now. “It was just such a big score. You understand.”

I nodded without responding as I made my way to my usual chair, closest to the machine. Henry looked a lot less stressed than he had before. Perhaps all it took was a session of his own to stabilize himself once more.

“It shouldn’t be long this time. It actually took quite a lot when it malfunctioned earlier.” The way Henry spoke of his machine was like a true tinkerer. Despite his descent into greed for youth, he was a tinkerer at heart—just an advantageous one.

“No worries,” I offered as my phone again buzzed in my pocket. I started applying the electrodes to myself despite my hesitation. “Miriam’s a sweet girl. Don’t hold it against her.”

“She’s not going to make it with us,” he stated simply, not a hint of malice in his voice.

“What do you mean?” Finally all of the electrodes were connected. Henry looked over at me and I nodded for him to flip the switch. My heart stalled with the first seconds of the machine activating, as it always did.

“She’s shit at following orders when it really counts. I don’t trust her to collect for me.” Henry finally seemed to relax when the machine worked as normal and planted himself in his chair. His face was simultaneously exhausted and rejuvenated. There was something about Henry that just did not look quite right—almost as if you could not look directly at him. It was an effect of the Glow. His experience with the succubus had set him forward roughly a quarter of a century by his own estimates and he had abused enough Glow to reverse a significant portion of that. It made him look simultaneously aged and youthful, depending on the angle and expression he was in the middle of. All said though, he was handsome. Dark skin, immaculate fingernails and teeth, hair kept short and neat. He had excellent posture, making him seem far taller than he was. And above all, he was clever. He was just a bit vain. “Hot though,” Henry interrupted my thoughts and I wondered if that was really the issue—having a beautiful secretary that he couldn’t put his hands on. A succubus, not unlike the one he had fallen for previously.

“Don’t be so hard on her,” I warned. “She would be hard to replace.” My head was getting heavy now, the machine always zapping my energy right away.

“She’s no Lilly,” he mumbled and I had to agree. You could always trust Lilly.

“But she’s loyal,” I argued, wondering just what had inspired her to act on my behalf before. “She was just looking out for me. And if something had happened to you when you were transferring, she would have looked out for you.”

“I did it without her,” he shook his head, answering a question I hadn’t asked. “We don’t need her.”

“We need to be safe,” I insisted, suddenly feeling defensive of the girl I had no affinity for. “And she helps ensure things are safe. She’s good at her job. She’s great with clients. Men fawn over her and half the time they up their loans to impress her. She’s the reason for half of the final notices going out right now. You’re just mad that she talked back.” Henry and I were not friends, by any means, but we did trust one another, at least as much as we had to. If he was going to sack Miriam for being a decent person, I was going to make sure he heard my objections first. “I’ll train her, if you want. You don’t have to go in cold like you did with me.”

Henry tapped his fingers on his desk, paying no attention to his machine, something completely out of character for him. Was Miriam weighing on him this much? “I suppose it would do me good to have a replacement lined up, just in case.”

I nodded as I allowed my eyes to close. “And if for some reason she tried to short you or something, you still have me here to handle it. I’ll make sure you get what you’re owed.” Though more agonizingly tired by the second, my tone was confident. I didn’t think Miriam would betray us but if she did, I could handle it, and it would be better to know she was untrustworthy sooner rather than later.

“Are you friends?” Henry enquired simply, undoubtedly trying to gauge the likeliness of my plan’s success.

“No,” I admitted and Henry sighed. “But we’re friendly. Polite, cordial, whatever we need to be. But to be honest, our relationship doesn’t extend far outside of this chair.”

To my surprise, Henry chuckled. “It is absurd, isn’t it? I bet you never expected that would be part of the job.”

“Just par for the course,” I mused, feeling more relieved now that his guard was dropping. “Suppose I’m just lucky that you have to use a machine.”

He laughed again and I relaxed into my chair, finally feeling like I had resumed control of the situation, now able to quantify the amount of Glow I was losing. Everything was fine.

My phone continued to vibrate in my pocket throughout the procedure. Was Miriam really so worried? She would have to wait.

“I have an updated job sheet for you,” Henry offered, Miriam's handwriting scrawled neatly across an unlined piece of ledger paper. “You can squeeze 5 or 6 in before Friday, can't you?”

I smirked, accepting the list. So much for my week off.
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PostSubject: Re: Two    Fri Dec 09, 2016 12:56 am

Those weren’t the words to get me to leave. ----This is a beautiful statement that I believe everyone has needed to say in their lifetime. You are amazing. Amazing. You put words to a feeling. Amazing.


She was quiet now despite not seeming to hear me. Her body didn’t respond to me but it didn’t resist me either, so I kept hugging her, trying to wish her mind back into her body. ----- Sad, but nicely written. I understand exactly her state from this.

----You’ve successfully revealed a plot point with Sophie. I congratulate you. Now I know why he’s doing this. I applaud you. It’s a nice plot point.

They only live long enough to hurt you with their death. ---- <3


“Collin,” she stated firmly, drawing my attention with her tone. I looked into her eyes and they were far from empty. Her face was badly weathered with her age but her eyes were as they always had been. She was lucid. “You know I can’t keep this up.” ----Eyes are the easiest way for me to communicate something to the reader. You did so just now so beautifully.

My eyes watered at the first coherent sentence she had formed all week. “I don’t want you to go.”

I couldn’t even give her what she wanted and yet I held on to her, drawing out her agony, adding a day, an hour, a breath, every chance I could. And for what? So she could re-live the pain I had caused her, each time she fell out of lucidity? ---- Fucking tears man. Fucking tears that are too real for me. That’s so honest of him, and so tragic at the same time. But I get it. I understand, Collin.

“She’s not going to make it with us,” he stated simply, not a hint of malice in his voice. ---- <3 This is a perfect description of how he said this. PERFECT!

----A++ for Henry’s description. What a fucking character description. Love.

“Hot though,” Henry interrupted my thoughts and I wondered if that was really the issue—having a beautiful secretary that he couldn’t put his hands on. A succubus, not unlike the one he had fallen for previously. ---Lol, yeah Henry is so beautiful, and vain, and hilar!

To my surprise, Henry chuckled. “It is absurd, isn’t it? I bet you never expected that would be part of the job.” ---Took the words from my mouth there, Henry.

----Yeah, I’m sort of worried now. I feel like Miriam really needs to warn him of something. This whole interaction between he and Henry without her seems wrong and mischievous. You subtly added the tension mentioning the phone vibrations. It’s like the low bass hum we use in film to provoke tension without directly calling the viewer’s attention to it. That’s real nice. I’m even more intrigued than I was a few minutes ago with the last chapter. Moving forward. LOVE!
-BF
!!!!!!!!!11!!!!

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