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Hylurania by Bernadette Wouters

Hylurania by Bernadette Wouters

Helyna strolled through the Forest of Winterborough, the great forest which she had only just discovered. Five days ago, home would have been a big house in the centre of an enormous city. A house shared with her parents, two sisters, and one brother. It […]

The Prince by Elise Bajada

The Prince by Elise Bajada

Every single day in a lonely palace, A young prince sat in his chair holding a chalice. He kept wondering what’s outside those walls, Far from the lonely empty palace halls. The king in front of him telling him his duties, The queen presenting him […]

Thoughts by Elisa Cordina

Thoughts by Elisa Cordina

But how do you expect people to understand you,

If you can’t even understand yourself?

And how do you expect others to fathom your thoughts,

If they, muddled, are put aside on a shelf?

You are disoriented, conflicted, bewildered,

Your thoughts chaotic, unclear, untidy,

Overwhelmed, yet you try to escape the fog,

Perhaps you succeed… ever so slightly.

You’re right, that’s too good to be true.

How could you think your thoughts wouldn’t be laughed at, scorned, mocked?

Time to box them up, again, again,

An abundance of unheard hubbub, on a shelf stocked.

Maybe next time you’ll pack yourself on that shelf,

All your smiles, laughs and twinkles,

Save your being… that way you can’t be scorned,

But what if you wake up from the reverie and find your being wasted, unknown, with wrinkles?

Your thoughts are you,

And you your thoughts.

Out with the old, In with the new by Michelle Boffa

Out with the old, In with the new by Michelle Boffa

Mad monkeysrunningin a drunken symphonya clattered melodyno insightto the skeleton of beautythey once starved of attentionin a frantic searchfor progressin an ignorant dismissalof the things that really matter.

What did you do to my child? by Juanita Galea

What did you do to my child? by Juanita Galea

What did you do to my child?What did you do to his eyes?Emerald green, they once had been. At the front of the lines he bravely stoodCarrying our cloth above a branchHand on his heart he proudly sung for us. Hands trembling he said a […]

Two Perfect Girls For Me by Gianni Grioli

Two Perfect Girls For Me by Gianni Grioli

There is a kitchen table and 4 chairs in Upstage Left. Andrew enters from upstage left and Tony walks to the kitchen to find Andrew passed out. Tony tries to wake him.

Tony: Drew, You gotta help me! I don’t know what to do! There are two perfect girls for me! And I cannot for the life of me decide who, how, and why! I’m freaking out here!

Andrew: Ok… I’ll help you… just answer one question for me…ok? ! !

Tony: Sure thing pal, anything, you name it.

Andrew: How… the hell… did you get into my house?

Tony: Your girlfriend Dawn let me in.

Andrew: Dawn? Oh you mean Valerie!

Tony: You broke up with Dawn?

Andrew: No! She broke up with me. It turns out…she didn’t swing that way…

Tony: What!?!

Andrew: (sigh) It’s not a hard concept to grasp… she likes women, and I like women. You do the math

Tony: I’d rather not, by any chance are you drunk?

Andrew: If I was drunk… would we still be having this conversation?

Tony: Hung-over it is. Make you a cup of coffee?

Andrew: Nah. All I need is some tomato juice, vodka and a couple of aspirin.

Tony: Isn’t it a little early in the morning to start drinking?

Andrew: There are two things my dad always taught me… when you’re hungover, drink the same beverage that got you drunk, and… it’s five o’clock somewhere.

Tony: …You know what? Let’s just get back to my problem.

Andrew: Bah! Your needs, what about my needs!?! Can’t you stop being so selfish?!? (Laughs) ah, who am I kidding? My life is fantastic. Ok, go ahead and this time, slowly. Now, what seems to be the problem?

Tony: Do you remember Pamela?

Andrew: Pamela? Gonna have to be a bit more specific.

Tony: From the party last week!

Andrew: oh yeah, what about her?

Tony: Well I added her on Facebook…

Andrew: That’s great. Have you spoken to her yet?

Tony: Well no, but…

Andrew: Dude, why do you constantly panic! It‘s just typing a few little keys, is that so hard?

Tony: It’s a lot more complicated than that!

Andrew: Of course it is… when is it ever not complicated with you? I swear, solving the Da Vinci code would be easier than solving the insanity of your mind.

Tony: If you just let me explain…

Andrew: Ok. Although I don’t see what could make it more complicated.

Tony: There’s another girl.

Andrew: That complicates things.

Tony: Tell me about it. I met these two perfect strangers and now I have no idea what to do.

Andrew: Sounds like an idea for a bad play.

Tony: Dude focus.

Andrew: Ok, so where did you meet this girl?

Tony: After I left your party I went to the bus stop and I met her there, I hit on her, we chatted a little…

Andrew: Wait! … You didn’t use that stupid “what time is it?” pick-up line, did you?

Tony: Maybe…

Andrew: (To Audience) Did he? Come you can tell me, this show does have some form of participation

Tony: What are you doing?

Andrew: I’m talking to the audience.

Tony: You can’t do that!

Andrew: Why not?

Tony: Coz it’s my story. I’m the protagonist and only the protagonist can talk to the audience.

Andrew: Sorry dude… But I’m your best friend, not a plot device that can help you move your story along.

Tony: Just shut up… And it worked, didn’t it?

Andrew: Oh man, that is the weakest pick-up line I’ve ever heard.

Tony: Can we focus? Anyway, I added her on Facebook and we’ve been chatting ever since

Andrew: So you have both girls on Facebook?

Tony: Yes

Andrew: Can I see them?

Tony: Ok?

Tony sits next to Andrew and shows him his phone.

Tony: This is Monica.

Andrew looks at the phone.

Andrew: There are like a thousand messages here! Did you chat every day during the week?!?

Tony: Maybe…

Andrew: Jailbird? What kind of nickname is that?

Tony: When I met her she was up past curfew and she got grounded for it.

Andrew: Ok… So what I’m getting is this… A younger girl, who is into you, wants to date you and is cute, is in a competition for your affection with a girl who is A LOT closer to your age group, doesn’t even know you exist and the only girl you can think about. And you can’t choose who you want to
be with.

Tony: There! So you see my conundrum. What should I do?

Andrew: I know what you should do! Let’s pretend that one of my hands is Monica and the other one is Pamela ok? Now, look at them both. Now, look my right hand! Back to my Left! Back to my right! Back to my Left! (Slaps Tony on the back of his head with his right hand) Stop playing games and just pick one!

Tony: How? Who!?!

Andrew: Oh for Pete’s sake. You know Monica far more than Pamela and she agreed to go out with you. What more do you want?

Tony: But what about Pamela? She’s the one I think about! She and I have similar interests we’re both artists!

Andrew: Who has a boyfriend.

Tony: Still?

Andrew: Why are you asking me? I don’t know.

Tony: Well her Facebook says she’s single…

Andrew: And you’re going to believe what people write on Facebook?

Tony: Well what else can I do?!

Andrew: Give me the phone.

Tony: Why?

Andrew: Can you just trust me?

Tony: The last time I trusted you with girl trouble people called me “Anal Anthony” All through our first year! So forgive me if I say “no”!

Andrew and Tony struggle until Tony falls off the chair. Andrew sits on the chair

Andrew: Let this be a lesson to you! Don’t mess with me when I’m hungover! Now let’s see… Ah, Pamela!

Tony: Dude Stop! !

Andrew: (Pushing away with one and typing with the other) H-E-Y SEND! There it’s done! You’re welcome! Now if you’ll excuse me… I’m going to throw up, pass out and wake up in about eight hours… hopefully in that order.

Andrew exits upstage left. Pamela enters from stage right, sits at the bar and answers her phone.

Pamela: Hi.

Tony: So… How’s it going?


Manuscript by Andrew Debono Cauchi

Manuscript by Andrew Debono Cauchi

this manuscript unbound unordered abuses me yearning for a wild conclusion beyond moaning pages. a conclusion… …or eternal coma …maybe a clumsy margin note. …you call me back…as if on purpose. i feel you fresh beating from between the lines piercing breaks in my bones, […]

Jack’s Mistake by Jacob Fiott

Jack’s Mistake by Jacob Fiott

Character Description: Jack: Is wearing clothes fit for a job in an office. Lana: Is only heard as a voice on the phone. She is Jack’s wife. Time: Is wearing a suit. It is either black, or dark coloured. Hair has to be set up […]

Showtime  by Alexander Weenink

Showtime by Alexander Weenink

“It’s Showtime.”

He says as he walks up to the party,

His lines unwillingly learnt:

“Where are you from?”

“What course are you doing?”

“My surname is Dutch but I’m actually Maltese.”

“Oh – erm – tiny island, under Sicily.”

He soon runs out of lines.

And the conversations run dry.

So he runs home.

Not Home, but home.

“It’s fine.”

He says, knowing he has said that too many times already.

“That was just a rehearsal.

Next time…

It’s Showtime.”

Lethe by Kaylena Robin Steiner

Lethe by Kaylena Robin Steiner

Instead of being dipped into the River Lethe and forgetting, I am dunked and forgotten. I wander the world a ghost. My memories remain intact, yet the place where my presence would occupy space in others’ minds appears blank. My absence screams at me. Attacks […]

State of Flux by Matthew Cilia

State of Flux by Matthew Cilia

You set out to reach for the stars, But you landed amongst the dust A barren landscape one wouldn’t lust Yet here you are stranded in the mud. Those days you thought You’d have seen naught Love skin deep Heart of strings leap Mind numb […]

The Last Inquisition by Liam Agius Camilleri

The Last Inquisition by Liam Agius Camilleri

Inquisitor Burnes looked out from his carriage window at the liminal space where the dunes met the sky, mused on the minimal grace with which men get to die, and stopped himself. He was thinking poetically, and that would not do at all, as that went against everything that he had bound himself to when he first wore the robes of the Rationalistic Fraternity.


His mind, paying absolutely no heed to his reluctance to wax poetic, decided to improvise an ode to his adoptive brothers, none of whom he viewed with any particular fondness. He thought of old Brother Perry locked up in his orrery and the clockwork monks who had built it. The High Logician and the sly Rhetorician giving tuition on their Holy Mission, with logic illuminating those who lacked vision. And the Philosopher-Priests in their gossamer sheets, ever disputing definitions of nothing in the vast labyrinthine libraries of their alabastrine monasteries, with their elephantine galleries and lofty spires of –

The tall monasterial towers toppled down tactlessly as his train of thought was stopped by a sudden jolt, and the train was brought unpropped to a sudden halt. Something must have got stuck in the gears, as usual. He remained calm. The engine boy would see to it presently.

He thought of the delicate clockwork mechanism of the gears, perpetuating power with perfect precision till a perfidious hitch perturbed the pattern. The idea displeased him. He thought of the railway system, and how easily the carriage itself could become a hitch in its precise clockwork if the delay was left unchecked for too long.

As above, so below.

He stiffened and was just about to open the carriage door to shower the boy with abusive language when the reassuring roar of the engine returned to relax his strained muscles once more. He looked out at the vast stretches of desert surrounding him on both sides, pictured his rail-bound caravan chugging obstinately past the barren dunes, like a school of seals skimming successively through a sable sea of sand. He retched at the sickening musicality of his own singsong simile, and looked back on the day’s events, and how that strange woman had cursed him with the spirit of poetry.

She had inexplicably been both fulsomely foul and fantastically fair, both vigorously old and immemorially young, and all that she spoke was in verse and riddle. When the Inquisitor had inquired as to how she could so blatantly contradict the Law of Non-Contradiction, she had replied that there was no reasoning behind it; it was merely God’s will. This statement constituted the highest blasphemy for Burnes, who was of the firm belief that everything which existed did so in accordance with the God-given Divine Principles of Logic.

The hag did not exist in accordance with the Divine Principles of Logic.

Ergo, she could not exist.

Hours later as she was burning at the stake, she had fixed her ancient, youthful eyes on his and cackled over the roar of the flames:

“Listen ye now to my lyric prophetic:

Haunted ye’ll be by the spirit poetic,

And your determined attempt to move what is static

Shall shortly unwind the divine arithmetic!”

The first half of the prophecy, if prophecy it was indeed, had already been fulfilled, a fact he was still fruitlessly attempting to rationalise as the train finally pulled to a stop at the terminal right outside his abbey. How could the woman know the effect of a cause which had not yet occurred? Or perhaps her chant was itself the cause. He caught himself staring at his communal home with fresh eyes, and he appreciated for the first time in his life the restrained splendour of the architecture in a building he had always viewed in purely functional terms. He had difficulty grounding his newfound aesthetic sensibilities in reason, and this made him restless.

Immediately upon arriving in his cell, he rushed into the cylindrical Prayer Pod in the upper-left corner and sat himself down in a lotus position. His weight on the pressure plate brought the clockwork-powered pod doors to a close as the sacred prayer-fumes were sent up on their spiralling skybound sway from vents in the ground.

Perfect darkness.

He tried to enter the space in his mind reserved for moments of meditation. The realm of pure reason, free from the distractions of ego and instinct. But try as he might, he could not clear his mind from the implications of the day’s irrational incidents. He screamed a silent scream in the soundproofed security of his pod, and demanded that God answer his questions.

It was then that God appeared to him.


“You know well what ails me, my Lord. I was presented with a test of reason today. A woman whose very existence was a mockery of Your inexorable Laws. A hitch in Your celestial clockwork. Of course, I took it upon myself to make things right again. However, the existence of such an impossible creature baffles me, and her paltry poetry possesses my brain.”


“And are You, my Lord, perfect and self-contained?”


There was a long pause as the Inquisitor processed this new knowledge and considered his current position.

“But how can an unchanging entity be the source of an ever-changing world? Would the bringing forth of such a world not constitute a change in and of itself?”


 “I would never dare suggest – I am merely asking if there is some simple explanation that I have failed to consider.”


“But is not everything that exists bound strictly by Your Divine Laws?”


“Then how could one possibly justify this violation of them, my Lord?”


“Does that mean that the Laws of Logic do not apply to You?”


“But Sire, if everything that exists is bound to the Laws, but You are not, would it not follow, with absolute certainty, that You do not exist?”


“It seems to me, Almighty, that the very Laws which flow from You both contradict and, by negation, define You, for You are all that is not logical, and all that is not logical is no-thing at all. Your essence, therefore, is nothingness.”


“It could indeed, Sire. As far as I can tell, Your existence and that of the Logical Laws from which the world’s fabric is woven are mutually exclusive. Either You exist, or the world does.”

What followed was the longest split second in the history of time, as God thought deeply on his options.


And God turned His back on the world…

… Inquisitor Burnes was once again alone in the darkness of his Prayer Pod. Choking on the thick vapours that enveloped him, he stretched a hand out towards the ceiling and pulled at the chain which hung over his head, letting a slowly expanding ray of light into the pod as the doors slid away from each other.

He rushed out of his cell with his heart in his throat, confused by what had just happened but filled with an unyielding sense of dread. He heard roaring laughter refract and reverberate through the monastery’s rambling residential region, and ran towards the refectory where the ruckus was being produced.

What he found there stopped him dead in his tracks. His brothers were all gathered around the long banqueting table, and in the middle of it, with a look of utter confusion frozen onto his visage, lay the dead body of the High Logician. The other priests, frothing at the mouth, dug in ravenously, tearing off whatever bits of the raw syllogist they could get their hands on.

He turned away and ran as fast as he could through the abbey’s double doors, leaving the frenzied feasters far behind. As soon as he was out, the abbey began to crumble rapidly, and he had time to take one last look at the proud ivory towers before they came crashing down in a clanking cacophony. Reality started tearing apart at the seams as the spaces between atoms let out blood-curdling screams and the crimson sky opened its jaws angrily, letting the sun fall down from its lofty throne.

Before he knew it, there was fire everywhere.

As the blaze threatened to engulf him completely, he realised that this was to be his last inquisition, and the world was to be his last victim. Through the infernal crackling he could make out the maternal cackling of the witch he had burnt, and he knew what he had to do.

He gave himself up to the purging fires of hell, and as the flames consumed his body, he started singing the seminal song of the new world…

Eternal by Kaylena Robin Steiner

Eternal by Kaylena Robin Steiner

Footfalls. Dying echoes of sudden movement. A vast open plain. Winding lazily along its edge, a river. The river meanders towards a small forest. Forest and river meet plain at a copse of tall, leafy, deciduous trees that stand denser than the rest. Hiding in […]

Where Man Lost his Soul by Reuben Zammit

Where Man Lost his Soul by Reuben Zammit

Problem Solver #2018 felt parched but walking to the nearest of the legally mandated water dispensers standing at regulation 80m intervals would mean giving up his 1 by 1 hot-desk to one of the 5% lurking around the low-ceilinged vault, the further ends of which […]

The Crimson Angel by Jacob Fiott

The Crimson Angel by Jacob Fiott

I was a fool. We all were. Every last one of us. We were blinded by his sweet words, his charm and grace. He played us like a fiddle. He never did anything illegal. He never did anything that was considered immoral by the majority. No. He simply changed the laws and directed the morals of his vast number of followers. He made us trust him and want him. We voted for him. We let this happen. We were like the marionettes my dad used to collect. He used to create these intricate stories, lives, for each puppet in his collection. These stories always managed to intersect at some point or another, to meet and become one, so that eventually he had created an entire society of puppets. All living their own fictional lives, unaware of the strings restraining them, and yet, always being manipulated by him. That’s what we became. Puppets, dancing and prancing with every tug of the string. Our president elect was the puppetmaster. We elected the devil.

I remember the time of the campaigns leading up to the election. He had made sure that his smug face, with his red hair and beard, and his moustache finely trimmed, was on every single newspaper. Always with that innocent smile. We did not know of the demons roaring within him until it was too late. He organized charity events every two weeks. Twice weekly he brought food and supplies to the homeless and volunteered a couple of hours at St. Anna’s Shelter For The Needy. Of course, this was oftentimes done with a camera conveniently situated nearby, of course. He quickly became known to the general public as the Crimson Angel. We were living in an economic slump and crime rates were rising, so he used that to his advantage. He proposed increased subsidies for patients unable to pay their fees. He petitioned for the creation of multiple rehabilitation programs for criminals to supposedly lead them back onto the right path. He proposed systems to improve the level of education. These systems, or so he said, were also meant to help the country become more civilized and decrease the crime on the streets by teaching what he called “Ethical Intelligence”. Basically, these systems were to enhance educational performance, and supposedly train the young children on how to be ethical. 

Heh. Ethical. I wonder if that word will ever mean anything again. The proposals mentioned previously are but a few of the things he stated that he intended to do. He made himself look like a step ahead of a saint. Election day came, and so did his landslide victory. The Crimson Angel, being the best liar out of all the candidates, completely annihilated their chances. .  He won, and the devil dug his claws. It did not take long before we saw his true colours. For the first two years of his term he implemented his proposals. We were quite surprised. Here was a president who actually did all that he had said he would do. That was unexpected. All seemed to be going great, until he started stating his terms and conditions. He eventually made it so that only people who had been living here for ten years could benefit from the subsidies. It seemed a little extreme. As usual, he used his charm to tip the people in his favour, saying that by doing so, more money would be circulating in the hands of the people since those not planning on living here permanently would not get them. It made a slight bit of sense, I suppose, butten years? Couldn’t it be five or six? Ethical Intelligence gradually replaced religious teaching to the point where it was almost impossible for people to even choose to learn religious knowledge. That’s when some people started to stir. They saw it as an infringement on the right to choose one’s faith, but I guess the majority weren’t the religious type. “Wit and muscle are what turns the wheel of the economy.” was his response. He stated that his aim was to better peoples’ way of life, and education should be aimed at that, not religiosity. That’s what churches are there for, he said. Eventually he proposed a means to tackle the crime rates head on, as the rehabilitation systems were not giving the desired results. He said he wanted to be radical, to be tough on crime. “A good offense is the best defence, but a deterrent is better than both.” the Crimson Angel proclaimed. He proposed the creation of a task force called Thunder 25  to help the police force with the rougher and tougher criminals. Obviously, most people agreed to that. Scratch that, everyone agreed to that. Less danger for the police and a more specialized force sweeping the streets. Who wouldn’t want that? If only we knew what the task force was really for. All that devil ever wanted was power. Just goes to show. Give a man the power of God, and watch him become the devil himself.

Thunder 25 began operating, and state-sanctioned thugs began walking the streets. The rehabilitation programs were serving as recruitment methods for the new “task force”. Thieves and murderers, unrelenting criminals, became the ones to enforce the law. They seemed to carry out their duties with the innocent civilians more than they did with the wrongdoers. Any unrest was met with a squad of 25s swooping in. Censorship came back into full swing. Speak against the Crimson Angel, and you could be sure that Thunder 25 was watching you. People who possessed such opinions were swiftly dealt with. Some were fined, most were locked up. Ethical Intelligence bared its fangs of indoctrination. School children were being brainwashed into subservience, into acceptance of this tyranny. Adults were threatened into submission. One’s own family is often a good enough leverage. Any time people tried to rise against him, the “dissenters” were crushed under the combined forces of the army and Thunder 25. 

Now, you might say, why didn’t the army rise against him? Surely it could have the means to stop him. That’s the thing. He reworked the army from the inside out. Generals who opposed his views were demoted and soldiers were laid off. Those within his close circle of associates were given the positions that allowed him to control the army by proxy. Foreign countries never really did anything to help. Some foreign governments spoke in favour of the people, but never tried to truly help us. For them, to go against the Crimson Angel meant putting certain beneficial trade deals in jeopardy.  If anything, through their actions, they supported him. Multiple groups sprung up to offer resistance to this regime, but without the army’s support, very little could be done. Almost all such groups were either liquidated or forced underground.

I joined one of these groups. We offer resistance using Force when necessary, but we also try to build Bridges and connections with foreign organisations, trying to gain some support for our cause. After infiltrating a prison to break out certain hostages through an underground tunnel network, we started being called The Tunnellers. I was inspired to join by my son, you know. He was always a fighter that one. He used to get into quite a lot of trouble in school because he always had to speak up when he felt he was wronged. That’s how he died. He spoke up because he, and countless others, were wronged. Around five hundred thousand protesters joined forces during the earlier days of the regime in order to oppose the Crimson Angel. They held signs and placards with slogans of all kind, all five hundred thousand of them chanting in unison “We shall not be crushed! We shall not be silenced! We shall not be crushed! We shall not be silenced!” over, and over, and over. They made their way to the presidential tower, demanding amendments. Demanding freedom. Thunder 25 was called in. A fully trained, fully equipped army of thugs with rifles surrounded a group of people holding sticks and cardboard. They would not be silenced. They stood their ground despite the threats, the intimidation. “We shall not be crushed! We shall not be silenced!” Thunder 25 surged forward. “We shall not be crushed!” Thunder 25 started to push and beat the protesters. Some of them even fired their guns to try and scare them. One of the 25s grabbed a woman by the hair and dragged her behind him. She was screaming, her face a mixture of pain and rage. My son went to try and help her. My boy. They told him to back off, pushed him, threatened him. One of them even aimed his gun at him and told him to walk away. My boy wouldn’t move. They said he threatened them. They killed my boy! I was told that all he had said was “We shall not be silenced!” He was still a young boy, but he was so much more.

At first, I joined the Tunnellers as a way to get my revenge.  They killed my boy, so I wanted their heads. I wanted blood! But now I’ve found a new purpose. My son’s legacy shall not be vengeance.  It shall not be anger, or hate, or blood. Any of these would simply help all he fought against. No. His legacy shall be justice and freedom.

The Nascency of Dawn by Claire Bugeja

The Nascency of Dawn by Claire Bugeja

It was the stars that caught her attention first. She was sitting by herself near the lake, her face lifted to the sky, the bright blotch-mark of sunlight red against her closed eyelids. Her fingers trailed listlessly across the surface of the still waters, and […]

Automata by Jacob Fiott

Automata by Jacob Fiott

The night was vibrant. There was an electricity in the air that was tangible, and yet, there was something about it that felt dead. The city was visibly active in those dark hours, with people going about their individual activities, always the same, unchanging. Some […]

Nox by Marcon de Giorgio

Nox by Marcon de Giorgio

The large rusted door screamed as Ramiel’s hands curled around the lever and pulled it open. Rust plumed down in showers onto the grass, reddening the leaves.

“It should really change this door shouldn’t it?” Ramiel’s joking tone was unfitting. 

Louise said nothing, her palms white as she clenched them. Dread filled her the instance she was given this task. What a cruel joke.

Ramel sighed. “Loulou, lighten up.”

She wordlessly stepped into the tunnel, her nose wrinkling at the putrid smell. It was too dark to see. She snapped her fingers, her palm emitting a dim light. 

Ramiel whistled as she did. “Fancy. Your skills come in handy.”

She shot him a glare, trying to stop her hand from shaking as she illuminated the tunnel. There seemed to be no end as she led them through it. Her heels stepped over bones, causing them to snap beneath her soles. She took uneven breaths, willing herself to calm down. Being tense meant she’d be unnecessarily on edge, the worst thing she could have been at that moment. She glanced at Ramiel; his hands were leisurely tucked into his pockets. A smile formed on his lips when he met her gaze.

“You should show some fear. Arrogance will get you nowhere.” She warned.

“Oh, I’m scared out of my wits!” He laughed. “I took a long ass anxious shit right before we came here. It’s exhilarating.”

She rolled her eyes, unamused by his choice of words. She might have appreciated it had she been under the influence, but at that moment her mind raced on other matters. Her anxious state got slightly worse when they were met with another door. She glanced at him expectantly. He cracked his knuckles, slight sparks emitting from them as he did, and grabbed the wheel in the centre of the large door. Each turn rattled her chest. Each turn was a step closer to what was beyond it.

The rancid air increased tenfold as Ramiel pushed open the door. Louise made her way through the crack, the door being too big to open fully. The air was stuffy and weighed down on her. She stretched her arm out, illuminating the room around her. It was here, she could feel it.

Ramiel stepped in behind her, his squinted eyes surveying the darkness. “Nox!” He yelled recklessly.

Louise was about to hit him, but stopped when she saw movement from the corner of her eye. She turned, watching the abysmal darkness shift and move around them. 

It used its hands to help itself stand up, its body shifting and contorting, forming the vague shape of a man. If a man had four arms at uneven length, a slouch that disguised it’s true height, and a mask for face. The figure slowly circled them, regarding them both curiously, its arms and legs moving in unnatural ways as its smoke-like body moved through the air. Louise eyed its face, a theatrical mask that gave it the look of constant euphoria. The smile unnaturally curled upwards, its snake-like tongue slithering out from between its razor-sharp teeth. The darkness of the room concealed them well, but not well enough to hide its grotesqueness. The creature stopped, a predator who had successfully observed its new prey. 

It loomed over them as Louise raised her hand to see it better. She gulped, fear consuming and paralysing her. Its face was frozen into a perpetual wide smile, a mocking gaze. It knew. It knew the fear that held her voice. The fear that haunted her dreams, her memories. The creature contorted, writhed and twisted as the smoke turned into skin, the shape morphing into that of a very handsome looking man. A stolen face.

“What is it that you want from me?” It said with a low and bewitching voice. 

Louise couldn’t move. She glanced at Ramiel; whose lips were parted with admiration. He chuckled, almost maniacally. “That never gets old.” She refrained from rolling her eyes, expecting him to go on.

The creature stuffed its hands into its pockets as Nox’s new face huffed. “I don’t have all day.”

Louise cleared her throat, willing herself to speak. “T-the Goddess.” she managed. “She has another assignment for you.”

Its face remained impassive, waiting for the details.

“A mage by the name of Reed. They’ve been accused of blasphemy and treason. A top tier magic user, specialised in wood magic.” She continued, tense.

Nox slowly nodded, unblinking.

“She warns you not to underestimate them.” Louise said, glancing at Ramiel to avoid its gaze. “She wants them alive.” She then gave it the news it was waiting for, “You may steal their husband’s face.”

The handsome man’s face contorted into a playful smirk, a maniacal joy. It started to chuckle. “Oh joyous!” The body began to contort into another person, a nimble woman this time. “A new face to add to my collection.” said the new voice.

Ramiel watched with awe as Nox changed shape. Louise couldn’t understand how he could be so fascinated by such a horrifying sight. He should have been unsettled! Especially when one of the faces Nox possessed was Ramiel’s old lover. She willed herself to move. Their task was done, they were allowed to leave. She was about to tell the disgusting creature this when she watched its face contort into something familiar. Her face paled significantly; the light she was emitting faltered as shock pierced her stomach. A muffled sob escaped her lips. The young face looking back at her smiled sweetly. The little girl’s eyes matched her own, her hair as black as hers. She wore the same dress she did from that night. She felt warm tears escape her; she had no control over her emotions. What a cruel joke.  

The little girl’s smile turned foreign, enjoying the reaction it was getting. Louise’s hands closed into fists, the room darkening completely. She let out a raging yell and slashed through the air, a bright ray of hot light cutting through the darkness and slashing everything in its way. 

“Don’t. You. Fucking. Dare!” She yelled. The creature turned back to smoke, watching her with avid curiosity. “I will not sit here and let you mock me! We’ve given you your task. Report to her once you’re done.” She arranged her collar, rage snuffing out her fear as she glared daggers at the cruel creature. Nox merely cocked its head to the side, a mocking or questioning gesture. She bowed her head, not wanting to further aggravate the situation, and turned, walking out of the tunnel. Ramiel whistled and hurried after her, he didn’t dare say a word. If it was out of respect, or if it was the fear of receiving the brunt of her anger, she did not know. She only focused on getting out of there, her steps heavy and digging into the cracked soil. She didn’t look back, not once, not until they were out of the tunnel.

She let out a ragged, but relieved breath once they were out, taking in the cold air. It was completely silent for a while, except for the occasional rattle of the greenery around them. She let herself calm down, her moment of weakness finally over.

Ramiel pierced through her brief serenity, his voice prodding at her. “What was that?” he asked. “WHO was that?”

“That’s none of your business.” She shut him up, remembering that her birthday was soon. She should light a few more candles for her this time.

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