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Mind Playin Tricks on Me
#1
Malik stalked the quiet fake streets. The normal lights of the park were off. No ferris wheel spun with piping music, no screams of entertained and terrified children. The cold breeze blew against his ears despite the black hoodie.

His prey was there among the jumbled shadows of building, stands, and rides now deathly quiet. A slow smile formed on his lips, white teeth seeming fangs glistening. Out there, hiding, heart beating in fear. He could smell him.

It had been so long. So very long. The one he sought there, somewhere. Finally.

As if on cue, lights came on, rides came to life, ghostly patrons mingled and ran and laughed. The chaos of music and life, squeals and screams. He was here...somewhere.

The colors alternated, bright and vibrant, sounds loud and clear; light dark and shifting, sound warped and shifting in tempo. Demonic. His hands opened and he felt power at his finger tips. Gore would drip from the heavens when he was done, his prey exposed and eviscerated.

His nostrils flared and eyes flashed red.

Darth Malik had come....
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#2
She spun between the stars, weightless and drifting. A pause now and then circled the gleaming treasure of a dreamer, and while she was not conscious of it, her journey was a well-repeated one; lives strung like pearls on a string, counted patiently as she sought to check on those held dearest to her Other. Most slept peacefully, dreams sweet and uneventful -- and of little interest, though sometimes she watched anyway. On this night that even included, she was surprised to discover, the one who never found contentment, though she had only ever once slipped the dark veil into that space. So often, he dreamed of loss.

Afterwards she dispersed to less purposeful diversions, the dreams and their owners unknown to her. It was like flicking through the pages of a book, never quite settling on a story, that endless way she roamed. Until one dark star feathered against her, strange in its resonance. Ever the curious child she swarmed on the oddness of it.

Usually it was Mara’s pets she found gnawing content at the hearts of a nightmare; Nim followed the trails they left often enough to recognise signs of their passage. Darkness oozed like the putrification of a rotting corpse here, but it was disease of the mind not the claws of a predator. She lingered upon it, curious to recognise a duality in the skin beneath: a swarm of darkness and light fighting for the same space. Two halves of a whole, in some ways, but not a comfortable coupling. The conflict made her shiver as she peered deeper into the soul of such a strange dreamer. Did her own look like this when her Other rested truly, and Nimeda’s consciousness dispersed like a dandelion blown to the wind?

Dark things stalked inside, filling her up with static that jerked her free. Enough to make her think twice about the dangers contained within. None were ever truly beyond help, but some required more than she could give. Such lessons stuck, even with her, for necessity could not allow them the chance to be learned twice.

Only then she saw what he was hunting.

And she found herself born again on legs pumping into a frantic run, the leer of the theme park lights dissecting across her skin. Her heart beat a little wild, not quite her own fear so much as the oppressiveness of this place. Her feet were bare, their soles needling pain on the litter strewn ground. Nim’s hands pressed against her ears, disturbed by the sounds. “Where are you?” she called out, then clapped a hand tight over her mouth, uncertain that had been wise, even as the sound of her own voice was swallowed in the discordant chaos.
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#3
Marcus pressed up against the stand, trying to hide. The smell of oil from the corn dog fryer filled his nostrils, forever overlaying his memory of it with pain. The dark night was lit up by the noise of the rides, the laughs and whooshes of the cars and their occupants punctuating over the hum of park visitors.

The people seemed oblivious, almost see through. As if they were imagined. The smell of pop corn and concrete and cotton candy and grease were real, though. The stink of fear and terror.

He was here, somewhere. Who, he didn't know. But someone waited for him. Hunted him. He hadn't been this afraid since....ever. Not at Mamma Lawsons. Not at the Van Pattons. Nowhere. Ever.

He tried to get his breathing under control. It was one of the first things he'd learned. Be calm. Go somewhere else.

But for some reason it was gone. He couldn't. He felt naked and exposed. He looked down and saw...

A child's hands, small and helpless.

A new horror washed over him as he carefully rose, standing on tip toes so he could see his reflection in the glass of the stand.

Warped and distorted, but unmistakable. His face, it was true. But baby fat and roundness was the most noticeable. He was nine or ten.

His eyes widened, the feeling of helplessness overwhelming him.

He tried to reach for the power but nothing came. His stomach lurched, in time with the screams of the occupants of the gondola at its apex, dropping to swing the guests in a parabola described by the arm, squeels of delight and laughter at the release.

Not for him.

He covered his ears, unsure what to do.

A voice came to him, despite the hands. Not his stalker. There was desperation.

And Marcus didn't want to be alone. He was so scared. He peeked around the corner and didn't see his hooded hunter. His heart thundered in his ears and he was paralyzed.

Still, he forced himself, the first step the hardest. He ran, faster and faster, waiting, expecting the feel of invisible hands to draw him up and hold him, a fly in an unseen web where the spider slowly manifested, licking fangs filled with poison to liquidate his insides in a bath of acid, to empty him from the inside out.

He ran toward the voice, praying to no one who would hear; that he would find help....
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#4
The cacophony was like nails against her soul. Nim wrapped her arms around her waist as she walked, lips downturned. Petals from the flowers in her hair drifted shrivelled and grey, their scent like the fade of summer’s death. It smelled strongly of decay here; of the wanton waste from things left behind, not the rot of the living. The people she mostly ignored, their long pale faces and wide mouths, eyes rattling feverish in their skulls to distractions she could not always comprehend. Around her the music looped as if the same moment lived eternal, and yet her mind scrabbled at the melody, disturbed by missing notes; an imperfect circle of sound that made her want to cover her ears again.

Nimeda did not like the feel of the ground beneath her feet, the way it grabbed and tickled, sticky and sharp. There were no green things here at all. The sun did not visit this place, either.

She peered for traces of Mara’s pets, expecting to find them purring fat and contented in the shadows, but when movement finally caught her eye it was the fast-thrumming footsteps of a child, dodging through patches of light and the whirling kaleidoscope of laughter and screaming. Her arms unfurled just in time to catch him. “Well there you are, silly.” The smooth waters of her words were a different cadence to the rest, separate from his dreaming, at least for now. She had no power here, but the force of her nature was no small thing.

Her hand smoothed the back of his head, the warmth of her cradling arms like a mother’s touch. She would not stop him from pulling away, but neither from burying deeper into a comfort given freely; a brief solace from his fears, at least until they needed to move again. His heart was shrilling fast as a bird’s. “Did you get lost again? Come, take my hand and we’ll find our way out.”
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#5
He pressed his head into her midriff, squeezed with arms that were too short to meet in the back, her hands gentle and soothing on his head.

Eyes shut tight could not hold the moisture that escaped as his heart jackhammered in his tiny chest. He was 9 and scared and lost. And something was after him. But this kind lady would help.

After a moment, he was able to loosen and look up. She seemed calm and at ease, dark hair spilling around a bright face with warm eyes.

He dashed at the corners of his eyes but he couldn't hide the fear in his voice. "Someone is after me, lady. He wants to hurt me." He couldn't help but turn his head and peer into the night, seeing past the ghostly guests, searching for the one who was real.

Something red caught his eye and they widened. He grabbed her hand and pulled, little though he was. "Come on!!!! He's coming!" The door to one of the attractions was close. "We have to hide!!"
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#6
She held his little trembly body and waited for the fear to subside. It rippled out in waves, and she slowly stroked the back of his head as she felt the wetness of tears. A soft tune hovered somewhere on her lips, something old and spindly as the trees in her favoured grove, but he pulled free before the memory could take full form. As it sank once more into oblivion the brash and noisy world of his dream rushed back in.

Big eyes stared up. He turned to search for his tormentor, and Nim's gaze followed. Meanwhile his hand clamped upon hers, and the force of him pulled her like a current. When the door closed behind them the light flickered, choking. It was silent in here.

"You can call me Nim," she told him, as it finally burst to light around them long enough to see glints like thousands of eyes. A woman in a white dress peered back, a child holding her hand, repeated in triplicate. Then darkness. "What can I call you?"

She squeezed his hand, then reached out into the shadows with the other, apparently unperturbed by the pitch black. Laughter and shuffling zipped away to her left, echoing eerie into the distance, but she barely noticed. Mara's pets would find her a poor meal, at least as long as the child trusted to the cocooning safety of her presence. She stumbled a step forward, finding smooth glass against her scarred palm.

"Not that way then," she said. A hum of laughter left her lips, like maybe it was a game. Another flicker. "You're not afraid of the dark are you? No, I'm sure you're not. Sure would be easier to be able to see though."

Especially if he believed it so.

"Is it a grown-up? Might I speak to him for you? I would not let him hurt you." Her hand continued to trail against the mirror wall, feeling them a path through.
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#7
Her fingers were soft....but he knew couldn't trust them. No one was there for him. Him or Andre. Ever.

But for a moment, he wondered. Let himself dream. Lights flashed and it was her and him. And just a thought for a second he felt safe. The lady would hold him and protect him. She sheltered him.

There were billions of them. Reflected. Her smile was inviting and he wanted to believe.

Red eyes looked at him...

Marcus screamed and fled in panic, leaving her behind. Walls of glass bounced off him as he ran, panic and fear his only drive. There was no path. Just terror.

He couldn't be caught. He knew that
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#8
He fled.

But not before dreaming the lights on. Nimeda saw herself a thousand times over, from a thousand impossible angles. The child too, scurrying fast, hands squeaking against the mirrors as he sought the path through, smearing his reflection. Already she could not distinguish the dozens of images of him from the truth.

Her chin tilted up, searching the shadows. She tapped the glass in front of her, watching her reflection perform the same. Again and again like a ripple.

“I see you too, you know.”
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#9
Malik walked the streets lazily, sidestepping the phantom guests. He could almost see through them if he tried. The booths and rides and booths if he really focused. The one he hunted could be found very quickly if he truly wanted it.

But what good was a kill without the chase, the flare of nostrils at the scent of fear and panic, their slow realization that no matter how safe they thought they were, he would not stop.

It was something to be savored. Marcus deserved as much. Malik had come to him when he was just a boy, had borne his punishments, had steeled his resolve, had given him courage- and more. A hope. A path. A destiny. Power. Malik did that!

And yet Malik was denied nearly always. Kept on a leash, let out only at need. Malik didn't drive except in those rare instances he was allowed. The word burned on his tongue. He was a Dark Lord of the Sith, not a servant.

His glowing red eyes grew in intensity and the dream faded. He stopped and raised an eyebrow, smile slowly forming on his lips. There were two of them. Interesting. He did not question the how. He was not Marcus, slave to his curiosity. What was, was. The only thing that mattered was whether it was useful to him.

The world snapped back and he watched from a distance, content to wait. Let him run. As for the other...

"I see you too, you know.” The voice floated to him. It wasn't that the crowds and noises lessened. But they were unreal. Whoever she was- it was a she, he recognized- was challenging him.

Foolish, that, especially in this place. Not even Marcus controlled him here. He was weak, the child he had been and always would be.

"You play at games you cannot know," he whispered, knowing she could hear him. He focused and could see her through the outlines of the wall. Small, young, pretty. Real. Not his typical prey. She did not give off the stink he recognized instinctually. The one that begged for his undivided attention.

Except for the challenge, now. "May I ask who you are and what you are doing here?" Not curious, not really. Just all part of the game.
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#10
It was quiet but for the sounds of the child’s frantic attempts to escape from the maze. Nim’s hands gently probed her path ahead, dozens of other Nimedas making the same attempt in her periphery. 

An answer did not come immediately, and when it did it was but a whisper sent to tickle her ear with a shiver.

“I’m fond of games,” she said. “Of the surf that chases toes. Of shouting out over the cliffs in search of echoes. I raced a man to shore once, through waters like ice, and the rocks skinned my feet to shreds. Sometimes games can be unpleasant, I suppose. Maybe this one is such a kind.” The memories were fleeting things, darting like fish escaping the shallows, but she did not try to capture them for she was focused on the path ahead. Nim was not a methodical creature, but she was persistent. How many times must the tide kiss the cliff before he gave way to her touch?

"I felt you. Across the time and space and distance of the in between. Pain is like that, you see -- it is never quiet. But you are not alone in that; I could roam the rest of my days and never find you all.” The thought sparked an image of Noctua, and the garden, and her despair. Of the question of Need. The ironic thing, he had told her, is that everyone does need something, but it’s not what they think; nor is it for me to deliver. Only Nimeda had never been able to stay away. “I came because you are familiar. You are Two, like me. Why do you hide your Other face from me? Will you plan to hurt me, too?”

They were not quite the same though. She and her Other were like two sides of the same coin, harmonious in their existence and never attempting nor needing to betray the opposite side. Perhaps ignorance was the secret; she knew so little of the eyes she opened when the dreaming was done. These two were jammed on the same side of the coin; one she imagined to be spinning frantically.
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