Cross-posted from my AO3 account. Adult themes and precision cussing, beware. Mood music: 1 or 2 Spoiler: To Know Terror He's fucked up the world. Normally a good host oughtn't be so crude, but these words are chosen. He's fucked it all up, and if he could smile, and if only he had ears--He'd be grinning from one to the other. His mindâ€”what we must call a mind, for convenienceâ€”flies back to the beginning. The bare gray planet stirs; life forms, sparse yet steady. At a distance it's like a coin, sparkling in a gentle light. He raises his hand, frames the coin between his thumb and forefinger, and flips it, or flips himself. Eons pass as it turns, or he revolves. He halts the coin when its dark side faces him, or when he faces it. With his free hand he reaches, somewhere to his left. Nothing squirms at his touch, wriggles over his fingers. He clenches it, and pulls. Tugging, ripping, snapping. Flailing. A shadow furls around his hand; slime coats his glove. Without moving, the planet is beneath him now, or he above it, holding out the gruesome nothing with both hands. He drops it, and it spirals slowly downwards, like a ribbon. It creeps over the surface. Even from far away he sees its smoky tendrils take form, tracing the cracks and folds, penetrating, digging deep. The whole of Alternia seems to tremble. His mind begins to skip forward. The planet is spinning wildly. The beast sinks deeper, vanishing beneath the water. Children are born and die by it. Children are choked and deafened by it. Always children; the adults like to run far away, like to think they've escaped it or grown past it. But even as planets sprout, the coins spinning and sparkling like a technicolor fortune, it reaches deeper into them. It never lets go. It whispers to them, sweet terrible nothings they will never forget. They endure that madness. It breaks them, but they mend. That horrible nagging whisper in their minds, the tremors that rock them in sleep; everything scars them, nothing stops them. Their eyelids grow dark and heavy, but they clench their teeth and press on. The pain only makes them angrier. They are miserable, ruined. Powerful. Terrifying. It is not sheer force that makes them strong, but lying with the beast; learning it, fearing it. Living it. He watches them grow like jagged, filthy weeds, and he knows his contract has been fulfilled. To the letter, as always. They will win this time. And now his mind returns, to the best approximation of the "present" we could hope for. He sits at a table, fiddling with a chess game. The Kings and Queens are absent. Blacks and whites are scattered unevenly. Absentmindedly he moves all the pieces to the wrong places: Pawns across the board, Bishops in straight lines. No limits. No perspective. No purpose. A thin, wiry huff reverberates from his hollow skull. "I will give you purpose." His typewriter clacks. A protÃ©gÃ© requests him. Once more, he wishes he could smile. "I will fuck you up."