Chapter Fourteen: The Plain

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The light was getting closer.

He climbed within wherever he was. Was it the confines of Maddie's body? He didn't really want to consider it. The sides he grabbed and hauled himself up with were conspicuously absent of any organic feeling matter, but that didn't make it any better. He grabbed an outcropping and, with one final exertion, he pulled himself up.

Before him, lay a place he'd never seen before. He wasn't even sure he could comprehend it.

A vast span of arid land, but it was blackened. Not seemingly by soot or ash, but by something he couldn't really decipher, not to the naked eye at least. Beyond the plain was an outline painted on the horizon in a myriad of colors. Soft blues melted into harsh red and made purple, entwining and embracing the other. Some were colors he could barely fathom, let alone describe.

Maddie said something, and he tried to respond in any way he could. He knocked the sides of where he was, he shouted, he kicked. Perhaps it went through as she murmured something else, but it was impossible to tell.

He hit his head against the wall in frustration. Was this was it had been like for Maddie before? Before...When was before? What had happened? A deep clenching fear hit him, deep within his gut as he wracked his memories that were disconcertingly blank. He didn't even have a name, did he?

“Maddie!” he screamed, but she only responded with something that sounded like a soothing coo. He knew her name, surely he couldn't have always been here? Could he?

No one answered him. He was alone here. He looked through his window to this world Maddie was in as she walked across the pitch black floor, towards the colors that danced and flowed.

The noise barked from behind, causing Maddie to spin and face a creature that made her host gasp from his position within her.

Instantly, he could see something he recognized, the picture he had drawn, perhaps in another life. The colors weren't right, and appeared like a photo negative. The creature itself was a lumbering presence, and had dark, charred skin. Compared to how he remembered Maddie, they looked worlds apart. The creature before them was slumped and held itself in an awkward position, leaning heavily on a cane. It seemed without it, it would fall as the legs were twisted and appeared frail.

Its head was the by far the most grotesque thing to witness. He grimaced as he regarded the black scleras that leaked an unknown liquid. looked deformed and broken, and perhaps half gone on the left side. Half of its jawbone was visible and he could hear it grinding and champing as it stopped Maddie in her tracks. It began to speak.

*****

“This is not your realm anymore. You made your choice protecting the mortal.” Kas’ngi growled at their unusual appearance. “Tell me your name.”

She could not tell him, as she had forgotten. Only Maddie danced in her head, voiding all other memories. Names were important here, more important than on the other side of reality, the world just beyond the sight of hers.

“Your name,” Kas'ngi repeated, tapping his stick on the ground for emphasis. Maddie looked to the floor.

“I have no name.”

“Then you must die.”

This was the opening she had hoped for. Maddie lunged at the creature, her body igniting as she reacted in a way that was not expected. Chaos was unwelcome in her world, disparity was usually reserved for humanity, and order reigned supreme here. Maddie used her newly discovered spontaneity to her advantage, the same as when she'd first drifted through the rift and found Splitface. She wrapped her incandescent arms around Kas'ngi's face and kneed him hard in the stomach, borrowing some of Splitface's power to aid her.

*****

A sharp searing pain lanced through him, and he called out in a pain he had never felt before. It was as if something had attached itself to his scarred face and had dug into the skin, spreading thick poison through his body. He grimaced and tensed, riding the wave of it until it abated. Maddie said something, possibly in comfort, and the creature facing her had conspicuously disappeared. Maddie began to move once again, towards the colors in the sky, one step at a time.

*****


“I'm sorry, Splitface. It was necessary.”

He gasped. His name! He was Splitface. More importantly, the bridge of communication seemed to have opened again. “Maddie? Where are we?”

“My world. A plane of reality you shouldn't be able to see or even interact it, I've hidden you inside me, as I hid inside you. Once we reach the Rift, we can separate, else we will invert. This is the only way.”

Splitface knit his brow. Surely the Rift was close by if they had entered this place just by the arena. It wasn't more than fifty meters away. Maddie, seemingly reading his mind, answered the question for him, whispering as she did so.

“Distance here and distance in your chaotic realm are entirely different. I knew there was no way we could bypass those barriers with only your body, so we had to take a shortcut. It won't be long, Splitface, I promise you.”

“Maddie, how long do we have?”

“I do not know, little Splitface.”

Splitface fell silent as Maddie walked on. What did she mean by invert? It didn't sound good whatever it was, but his unease was very quickly usurped by utter terror when he noticed his hands as they gripped the sides of the wall. The places where the light from outside should be hitting was dark, and the darkness was a stark white. He turned one hand over, examining the skin that was resembling the floor that Maddie walked on. “Maddie. What's happening to me?”

“It is happening to both of us. We are inverting, becoming the other.” She held up her pale hand, wildly contrasting with the ground below. It looked normal, like any hand, like his hand should have looked. “We don't have much time,” she warned.

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