Arista is.. awake [5.6]

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There's a time for jokey introduction statements; this isn't one of them.
Arista is awake... I repeat, Arista is awake!

Events unfold including but not limited to:
Ellie having fun babysitting Alice,
Hannah takes a stream of interrupted naps
(none of them by choice),
and Arista has unreasonably large breasts, apparently.

Get ready to strap in again folks! The countdowns started and we're in for a bumpy ride!


 

“So powerful?”
My lips curled in joy as my fingers waved listlessly through the air in front of me leaving trails of blue magic in their wake.
“How utterly glorious!”

My wrist flipped out and without a single input from me the thick tendrils of condensed magic around me started to grow once more, weaving their way further and further down Cutis’s form until he was practically cocooned in my magic’s icy grasp.

“Oh Alice.. oh my darling girl, you are without a doubt my greatest creation..”
My eyes scanned around us listlessly for a second despite my attempt to halt their movement, pausing slightly on John where he lay panting on the shoreline far below with people rushing to his aid before moving over to stare at Edith’s almost dancing battle across the water with Poseidon, which still showed no sign of ending any time soon.
“It’s a shame she got her claws into you so early, I’m sure we can fix that with time though, can’t we?”

My hand rose up with a few arcing finger movements and an ornate hand-mirror appeared in my palm, slowly my hand continued up until it reached eye level with my face and the smirk on my lips twitched just the tiniest bit wider.

“Hello Alice, you can see me, can’t you?.. how extraordinary you are my clever little girl..”
My head cocked to the side and an almost tired sigh left my lips as they shifted down slightly into a pout.
“I have a sea beast to send home, an old man to put in his place and a victory to claim before I’m ready to chat properly with you Dearheart.”
A smirk spread across my lips as my eyes twinkled slightly with some deep amusement that I couldn’t hope to understand.
“You don’t want to watch all that, do you?.. it will be ever so dull..”

My hands moved again, one drawing the mirror closer to my eye while the other pulled down my eyelid ever so slightly with such gentle care.

“Don’t worry Alice. I’ll keep up the act for your sake, even play the love-struck little imp with your ‘John’, and when I’m done, I promise that I will explain everything you need to know my dearest daughter.. don’t fight me Dearheart, mother knows best.. how about you just.. Sleep?”

The word, spoken from my own lips, hit me hard and the world grew hazy as I stared into my own sparkling eye until it all finally faded out into the oblivion of slee-.

======

“Huh? Hardy little shit aren’t you sis?.. admittedly I’ve never kicked someone like that before but you have and usually they’re out for a few hours, not a minute..”

“..oww?..”
Slowly I rolled myself over and winced at the bright white light all around me but eventually my eyes focused enough that I could see Ellie’s face properly at last.

“Oh well! Guess that just means I’ve gotta hit you harder this time.”
I barely had a second to blink before she reared back her foot and punted me in the face so hard that blood flew everywhere.
“Oops?.. Silly me, I missed. Hold still now and this won’t hurt a bit!”

Judging by the slightly manic grin spreading across her face I’m not completely convinced that the ‘miss’ was in any way unintentional.

“Ellie don’t-”
With a now rather predictable roar of rage she pulled back again and kicked me so hard in the side of the head that something broke.
In a heartbeat the world turned fuzzy and proceeded to go dark all over again for me.

======

“-I appreciate your help Elder, I doubt we could have succeeded this day if it wasn’t for your aid.”

“Ba! Useless girl be needin’ all the help she can get.”
My eyes finally came back into focus and I found myself staring at Edith while we both stood on the shoreline.

At this point I’m not sure of anything, especially what the hell is going on right now, but I think Edith is giving me the sceptical look she usually saves for those rare times that a Hub staff-member is stupid enough to claim some level of knowledge or competence in her presence?
It’s a subtle shift from her usual grumpy frown to her sceptical-grumpy frown in all honesty but it’s one you come to recognise when the change can be the difference between a shop discount or a cry of ‘BAD JUJU’ followed by the sound of wood meeting skull.

With all my hopes that the whole ‘talking to Arista as she took over my body’ thing was just a bad dream leaving me, panic set in and I found myself frantically trying to move my body in some way or another.

I’ve not got much experience with mental magic in general but willpower happens to be a rather large factor whenever two mages face off against each other for control in any situation.
A fire mage can beat a water mage if their magic, focus and will are stronger then the water one, despite their natural type disadvantage, after all!

In a purely metaphysical sense I ‘held my breath’ and forced my will as hard as I could towards the idea of moving my body.
After a painfully long pause and the beginnings of a truly monumental headache for my troubles my left leg suddenly buckled sending my body awkwardly sideways mid-conversation.

It wasn’t much but it was something, proof that all hope wasn’t lost yet if nothing else.
That being said I felt exhausted from the effort now and, as if the universe just wanted to mock me, John practically appeared out of nowhere to catch me before my body could fall too far towards the water again.

“I’d be the first person to say you rock that whole ‘utter lack of grace’ look like a ‘nerd goddess of falling injuries’ Han, but I think it’s time you stopped pretending and admitted that your exhausted. You’re magic is weak as all hell, which isn’t that much of a surprise considering that crap you pulled on Cutis, but you need time to recover.”
For a long moment my body stiffened within John’s grasp, a problem that got even worse as his magic gently brushed over mine like it so regularly does lately, asking permission to cover me in it’s warm depths, before Arista apparently came to a decision and let herself go limp against his side.

John obviously took that as a sign because he quickly shifted himself and scooped us up into his arms in a ‘bridal carry’, turning away from the water’s edge towards the trees without another word.
My eyes strayed around the treeline for a few seconds but while they moved around my focus remained on what I could see of Edith and John’s faces out of ‘my’ peripheral vision.

It may just be my fear driven desperation talking but I could have SWORN they both shared a meaningful look over my head?
It’s kind of hard to tell properly when you can’t control where your eyes are focusing obviously, if I didn’t know both of them so well and their facial expressions specifically then I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell anything was happening in general honestly..

‘Awake again Alice?’
If I could feel or control my body in the slightest at this point I’m sure a cold chill would have gone down my spine as Arista’s version of my voice echoed awkwardly into my brain without coming from my physical ears.
‘My, my, you’re more persistent then I gave you credit for Dearheart.. whatever am I going to do with you now?’

My body stayed practically immobile in John’s arms as we moved off into the trees.
While I don’t like making assumptions, sometimes that’s the only option available and I think it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that in order to talk to me like this Arista’s had to disconnect herself slightly from my body?

..very dangerous move..
Very dangerous move indeed!

Before she could say another word I pulled together all of my willpower that I could martial and did the only thing I could think of.
Out in the real world my body jerked harshly to the side making John stagger slightly and stare down at me in surprise.

“..John..”
The word left my lips without any of the force, without any of the power and desperate screaming fear I wanted to give it even as the rest that would follow disappeared into nothingness.

I couldn’t get another word off before I lost contact with my body again and Arista started forcing us to cough heavily as if it would cover my word in some way, while an overwhelming pressure pushed down upon me from whatever weird space of existence I’m currently.. existing in?..

Focusing on her actions became a secondary priority a moment later though because in my drained state something managed to slam into my consciousness again and, just like the first time she forced me into my mindscape, I lost my tenuous contact with reality to the white abyss once more.

======

“Aaaaaaahh-oof!”
Falling out of the sky in your mindscape, only to come crashing down against an endless expanse of white never gets any easier or less scary apparently?
The falling wasn’t too bad objectively but the stopping hurt like a bitch sadly!

I just lay there on the white floor that so painfully stopped my fall at first panting heavily and trying to gather my whit’s from the wild ride I’d just ‘enjoyed’.

I didn’t even know it was possible for a metaphysical representation of your consciousness shown in the form of a ‘body’ to ache but apparently mine can because it does, and my head hurts, and it feels like I cracked a rib or something on impact this time too..

“Well that one lasted a bit longer at least? Maybe I just need to get more creative in how I knock you out?”
..oh no..
“I hurt you accidentally before knocking you out last time too.. better be safe than sorry I guess?.. don’t worry Alice, this will hurt you a lot more then it’s gonna hurt me, but it’ll all be worth it in the end.”

Her feral grin told a completely different story as Ellie walked towards me with an almost casual air about her.

“I promise this has nothing to do with any kind of resentment I may rightfully harbor against you for mistreating me, locking me up inside your head in isolation or teasing me by first giving and then tearing away the only family I’ve ever had in a matter of days.. this is strictly business.. Momma wants you to take a timeout until she’s done sorting your messes out for you and she left me in charge of you.”

“Ellie.. please, don’t-”

“MY NAME’S HANNAH!”
The world shifted, endless white walls darkening into an ominous shade of red and a creeping black, meanwhile the floor underneath me surged and rolled until I found myself laying splayed out on a table formed out of the floor with solid restraints moulded from the table itself holding me in a spread-eagled position.

“By the time I’m done with you, you’ll remember my name.. I can promise you that much Alice.. I can promise you that much.”
Her hand waved in the air slightly and a pair of dangerous looking, extra-large sharp-edged shears formed out of thin air to rest in her palm.
She twisted them over as if inspecting them before turning her eyes back towards me with almost gleeful anticipation obvious on her face.
“Where should we start? Fingers or toes?”

“Ell-Hannah? Please don’t do this..”

“SEE! You CAN learn, imagine how much progress we’ll make with a bit of time and effort?”
She stepped closer to me and I frantically tried to struggle my way free to no avail.
“I think we should alternate, a finger, a toe then rinse and repeat.. one snip for every year you left me trapped in here all alone sounds fair, doesn’t it?”
She cocked her head to the side almost thoughtfully, it didn’t last long however before her smile brightened again with malicious glee.
“We’ll have to get inventive when we get past twenty I guess.. don’t worry, I’m good at being inventive.”

“Hannah don’t.. No! No, No, No, NO!”
She leaned in to snatch up the pinky finger on my left hand and, with a crunch that will haunt my nightmares for years to come, her ‘fun’ began in earnest.

======

The real world materialised around me as I finally, blissfully fell unconscious within my mind scape.

For a long time I couldn’t focus on anything of importance.
If it were possible at that exact moment I would have rolled my body into a tight ball and just sobbed myself into oblivion.. the things she did to me.. the pain was unimaginable!

While ‘waking’ to find my body still completely out of my control isn’t even close to a ‘good’ thing, the fact that I couldn’t directly feel my fingers and toes but could see them as Arista apparently took time out of her busy evil plotting day to paint my nails in a dark shade of purple nail polish, one that I know for a FACT I don’t own, at least reassured me that damage done to someone inside their mindscape doesn’t translate into the outside world.

..it was a long shot to start with but then again you never know with magic, right?..
Exactly!

I took just enough time to catalogue my body in general and the fact that we were apparently resting on my bed for some reason, before moving to much more important things like my desperate need to cry my heart out for the pain and suffering I just had to live through at the hands of ‘Inner-Hannah’.. definitely Inner-Hannah, not Ellie, never again am I going to call that psychotic bitch in my head ‘Ellie’!

“Back again, Alice? This really is becoming a bother, can’t you just be a good girl and play with your sister until I’m finished working?”

‘She fucking TORTURED me you insane MONSTER! Do you really think if I knew how to move from my mindscape to this psudo-waking state at will I wouldn’t have done it when she got the fucking SHEARS out and went to town on me for the fun of it?!’

I almost wish I could pant my breath or something for the emotional relief it might offer at this point, not having your body’s natural reflexes to emphasis any point your trying to make dramatically is probably a minor complaint in the grand scheme of things but.. DAMN IT! I need to focus on the little things right now to ignore the very big, very painful things I don’t want to focus on at all at this exact moment!

“Torture?”
‘Our’ hands stopped delicately brushing nail polish on as she froze mid-stroke and our eyes twitched heavily for some reason.
“TORTURE?!.. damn that girl, what the hell is she thinking?”

A now familiar pressure built up around me but instead of a forceful shove back into my mindscape I found myself swept up in a raging swell of power heading right for my mind if my guesses are in any way useful at this point.

======

“-told you to keep her busy and quiet for a while, not knock her out!”
My head throbbed nastily at someone’s raised voice.

For a few seconds I couldn’t really work out where I was or what I was doing but the disorientation didn’t last long and it took all of my hard earned acting ability to not react or twitch, giving away that I was in any way ‘awake’ yet.

“..she was pretty quiet and busy, especially after the third time she woke up..”
Inner-Hannah’s voice sounded almost pouty at first but it wasn’t hard to hear the enjoyment thinking about what she did to me last time I was in here brought to her by the end of it.
It took everything I had left to hold back my flinch, and the following urge to run far away from her, down to a few half-hidden twitches of my body.

On the plus side, the twitches let me know that all the damage she did to me in here has been fixed at some point in the process of my mind being thrown between the real world and back into the prison that my mindscape has become.

Despite my best efforts to stay still, my fingers twitched slightly and my face blanched as I felt them move when my brain was busy telling me that I shouldn’t have any fingers left to twitch!

“She woke up repeatedly while I was busy gathering my whit’s darling, everything in here is symbolic, what did you think would happen if she lost ‘consciousness’ in here?”
Arista sighed heavily before continuing on in an oddly gently tone of voice.
“There are only two places she can go, here and the ‘real’ world outside.. think before you act next time Hannah, I had to force her back to sleep several times and you KNOW how much I hate forcing my girls to do anything.”
To my surprise Arista actually sounded like she really meant that?

Overall, aside from the whole ‘taking over my body’ thing, she’s honestly been surprisingly gentle and soft spoken up to this point really.
..it’s a trick..
Well obviously, but I can’t see what her game is yet or what she thinks she’s going to gain from it all.

“She locked me in here alone for DECADES! No control, no feedback, just the endless white void and me! When everyone else finally awakened she suppressed me completely and only let me out when I could be useful to her!”
Inner-Hannah’s accusations hit me harder than I would have expected at this point.

It sounds pretty bad when she puts it that way and it’s all technically true too.
In my defence, I didn’t know she was a conscious entity at the time?
Hell, the first time I actually saw any emotion on her face came after she took over containing all of.. the.. other incarnations..

..shit..
Double shit! No wonder she’s going insane and she went all ‘reservoir dogs’ on me!
She’s been overwhelmed, helping Arista and apparently letting her out aside, she’s still holding back a tidal wave of past-incarnations that range from insane to bat-shit crazy on the ‘Arista’ scale of evil historical women!

“-Shh, shh, shh.. it’s okay darling. Take deep breaths, think calmly for a moment.”
I must have missed part of their conversation in my surprise; an inability to multitask properly is a rather annoying side effect of being in my mindscape sometimes.
As it is, yet again, Arista seems to be trying to offer a calm soothing voice for Inner-Hannah instead of the heartless bitch-queen I’d have expected from all I’ve heard about her over the years.
“She didn’t know you existed at the time darling, how could she? Take a minute and think of what you know about Alice, do you REALLY think she would do something like that to you intentionally if she knew?”

A worryingly long moments silence passed, eventually interrupted by a sniffle and more calming noises from Arista.

“I’m sorry Momma, it just.. it hurts.. my head hurts and everyone hates her so much and I can’t.. I can’t..”
Inner-Hannah.. Ellie, I guess, now that she’s not being a raging psychopath again?.. really did break down at that point and burst into tears from the sound of it.

Taking a big risk I peeked open one eye to stare up as a much older and larger looking version of Arista then I would have expected considering how most of our incarnations look in here, cuddled the still childishly dressed Ellie close to her chest while she tried to soothe her with mumbled words and gentle strokes of her hair.

“Alice is a sweet girl darling, just like you, she’s had a rough life which hasn’t been fair in a lot of ways.. all because of that heartless bitches manipulations, just like you, and she’s scared.. just like you..”
Arista’s hands came up to rub circles on Ellie’s still crying back as she let out a gusty sigh and lowered her head down to rest on the shorter girls shoulder.
“We’ve all suffered because of her manipulations darling. Nothing Alice has done to you is intentional, she’s just a pawn in a much larger game to Mother and blaming her for it all would be pointless.”

Slowly Ellie nodded her head against Arista’s rather full chest and pulled away with a heavy sniff.
Our eyes connected and I cringed away from her, my fingers and toes curling tightly in response to where my mind went instantly.
That obviously wasn’t the right thing to do because Ellie broke down crying again and looked away from me in what I can only imagine was some form of shame.

“I’m sorry Alice.. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.. I didn’t mean to hurt you so badly!”
Arista held her tightly and turned almost worryingly maternal eyes towards me.

“I can’t imagine what you went through Alice. Please don’t blame Hannah for her actions though, she’s under a lot of pressure and the incarnations inside her tend to get restless when I’m not nearby.. you know what it’s like to have incarnations influence your actions by now, right?”
My mouth went a little dry as I tried to process her words.

..this isn’t my fault, is it?..
Of course it’s my bloody fault! Ellie was practically a walking coma patient when I first brought her back and the first thing I did was shove millennia upon millennia of unruly incarnations into her head!
..when you put it that way..

“..my name’s not Alice?..”
The words just kind of slipped out honestly, it wasn’t really a conscious decision but just the first thing that spewed forth while my mind guiltily started tumbling in circles over everything.

To my surprise Arista laughed and even Ellie snorted from her position against her ‘older’ looking form.

“Little Alice.. oh my little Alice, you really don’t see it, do you?.. There’s much we have to discuss and many things I need to explain before Mothers evil can be stopped but that must wait until I have enough time, tonight preferably, and I’m sure this little part will be okay to tell you for now.”
She shifted her body sideways to better face me and turned Ellie aside as she went until she rested in a one-armed hug that looked surprisingly comfortable considering the situation.
“I think it’s about time we were introduced properly.. My name is Aris-Ta, one time daughter of the Ta clan and often called the ‘Mother of Magic’.”

Her face brightened into a warm smile as her intelligent green eyes gazed down at me softly.

I don’t want to admit it but she LOOKS like a mother to me?
Tall, taller than Ellie by at least a head or two, wide hips and a relatively large bust, all held in a comfortable looking white cotton dress.
It’s hard to place ages, nearly impossible with mages generally, in this case though, I’d have to put her in her late thirties maybe early-forties?

To be honest, if I didn’t know better, I’d think she was going out of her way to look like what I would consider a ‘classic modern-day Soccer Mom’ version of me from the future.. possibly with bigger boob’s then I’m ever likely to develop though, I hope..

“You are a daughter of my mind.. probably the last of your kind.. your name has been and always will be ‘Alis-Ta’ Cooper .. my little Alice, Alis of the Ta clan, I’ve waited SO long to finally meet you.”
She actually had the gall to offer me a watery smile after making that ridiculous statement!

“What?! You can’t just.. I didn’t.. My name was Alistor, my MUM gave me that name!”
She snorted amusedly in almost perfect synchronisation with Ellie as they both fixed me with pitying looks at my denial, as if I was a particularly slow child that just didn’t understand how the real world worked.

“I hate to burst your bubble Dearheart but your Grandmother gave you that name, under your Mothers advisement.. under MY advisement.”
She took a step towards me and I jerked my body back sharply across the empty white floor between us.

With a hurt looking frown she lifted her palms up slightly and took a step backwards to show she didn’t mean any harm in the movement.

“I believe the complete wording was ‘Lou-lou dear, if your youngest daughter ever has a child, she should call it Alis-Ta, trust me it will make sense one day’..”
She sighed heavily and offered me a pained half-smile.
“Poor Louise tried her best but even our greatest seer’s wouldn’t have been able to predict you being born male, the universe apparently has a sense of humor about things.. it probably doesn’t help that she’s always been a little bad at memorising names, I should have written it down for her in hindsight, although I guess ‘Alistor’ was better than her forcing your biological egg-donor to name her bouncing little boy ‘Alice’ though..”

My jaw dropped and I stared at her indignantly.
I’m not quite sure what offended me more, the idea that she put THAT much effort into selecting my name so long before even my Mum had been conceived, the fact that she thinks Gran’s got a bad memory or the fact that she called my Mum an ‘egg-donor’!

“Oh, I’ve gone and upset you again.. I just can’t do anything right today, can I?”

Well, you took over my body pretty much unopposed, how’s that for apparently doing something right?!
Before I could outright say that to her, her head cocked suddenly to the side and a frown creased her face slightly.

“Someone’s trying to wake me up. We’ll talk more tonight girls I promise.”
Her eyes cut between me and Ellie for just a moment before she seemed to finally come to a decision about whatever was bothering her.
“Not that I don’t trust you darling but I think it’s best for everyone if we separate you two for a while. This way you can relax a little too, let the incarnations that are bothering you out for a while without worrying about hurting Alice.”

Ellie smiled at that idea but it filled me with dread above anything else.
Arista’s eyes squinted shut for a moment and I found myself propelled across the floor suddenly as the endless expanse of white around us seemed to both contract and expand at the same time.

For a few wild seconds I couldn’t really tell what was going on, up was down until it wasn’t and in a tumbling mess I ended up falling a few feet only to land on the soft bouncy surface of a bed instead of the hard white floor I’d been expecting.

When I finally managed to struggle upright I was left to stare out in confusion at an almost identical copy of my childhood bedroom, with the obvious exception that it was all FAR too large to be normal!

I tried to shuffle off the bed but found the skirts of my suddenly appearing, very fluffy, party-dress getting tangled up around my waist instead.
That brought my attention to the much bigger.. or should that be smaller?.. problem of the moment.

“What the hell? Why the fuck have I shrunk?!”
A loud crashing sound came from outside ‘my room’ and seconds later Ellie came into view, pressing herself up against the big thick bars that seemed to appear out of nowhere just outside of my doorway.

“Aww, you’re adorable Alice, when Momma gets back we’re gonna have to ask her to make it permanent, I’ve ALWAYS wanted a little sister!”

With a squawk I rolled myself off the bed in a tangled mess of net-underskirts and practically sprinted across the too big room to shove all of my, apparently much reduced, weight against the door until it swung shut in her face at last.

From there I slid down to the floor and ignored the almost worried sounds coming from Ellie behind me to pull my knees up to my chest and cry a little.
It’s too much, it’s all far too much, first Maven then Grace, Poseidon and Cutis a few days later, now Arista and Ellie!

..let it out..
I didn’t need any more prompting.

Tears trailed down my now tiny little-kid face and I shot to my feet only to run back over to my bed for some much needed stress relief in the form of a temper tantrum which is now apparently both an age appropriate response to things AND the first thing that came to my mind to do.

I hate my life!

======

“Alice?.. Alice do you want some food? It’s really nice, even if you don’t need to eat in here it helps, trust me.”
At some point in my rather undignified crying jag I must have settled into a kind of ‘numb’ half-sleeping state, because Ellie’s voice jolted me ‘awake’ in surprise for some reason.

Every once in a while as I lay there on my now far too big bed facing the wall, I could swear I was seeing something else, movement and colors with accompanying muted sounds that almost felt like I was trying to watch a movie underwater.. I guess it would make a bit of sense for something like that to happen considering ‘sleeping’ while in your mindscape apparently sends you back into the real world, so half-sleeping would leave you in some weird crossroads point between the two planes of consciousness, right?
..best theory I have at the moment..

“Alice, come on, please? I’m sorry I embarrassed you, I’m sure Momma didn’t mean to de-age you so drastically too, you know what mindscapes are like, our unconscious desires shape things in here and if nothing else Momma’s already shown that she considers you her LITTLE Alice, right?”
Part of me didn’t want to listen to her and her wholly too logical sounding rationalisation of my current.. child-ification?.. but a more vocal, ironically more childish, side of me just wanted to ignore her for the hurt she brought me last time I was trapped in here with her if nothing else.

..my fingers still feel weird and my toes too..
With that thought I wiggled said digits and turned over slightly to stare at the pudgy little baby-like replicas that had taken the place of my previously slender ones.
As things go, baby-fingers are a step up from no-fingers at least, right?
..definitely..

“I know you’re not sleeping Alice, Momma would have come back and complained by now if you were.”
That statement sparked an idea in my head that had me shooting up on the bed in a rustle of far too puffy little girl dress material.
“I’m gonna leave a plate of food at the bars for you. The others have found out how to set the TV to show re-runs of shows you’ve watched before and I want to know what happens with the ‘soap’ thing they’ve just put on.. I’m really sorry for earlier Alice, I wasn’t in my right frame of mind but I’m a lot clearer now..”

I didn’t respond to her obviously and with a heavy sigh I heard her moving away from the door at last.

For a long moment I just sat there trying and failing to focus on my new idea rather than any potential food that may be sitting outside despite the fact that it doesn’t really exist in the first place and this is all in my bloody mind and.. and.. GURH!

FOCUS HANNAH!

If I can work out a way to sleep, or at least lose ‘consciousness’ then I wake up as a passenger in the real world where I can talk to Arista.
If she turned me into a little kid by mistake then I can demand that she FIX it!
If she turned me into a kid intentionally.. then at least the masks can fall and I can get a real idea of what kinda twisted monster I’m dealing with, past the motherly smiles and unrealistically large breasts for a woman who is apparently genetically me if mentally aged a few decades by some stupid trick she can pull off inside my mindscape!

I think at this point I’ve accidentally proven that just trying to sleep isn’t going to work, I’m pretty sure if it was I would have drifted off at some point during my wall staring session at the very least?
So that only leaves.. knocking myself out somehow?..
..oh joy..

“Okay Hannah, what do you have in your room that can be used to knock out a small child?”

No baseball bats that I can remember, no poles or sticks..
My eyes drifted around me and settled on one patch of clear wall next to my wardrobe that used to have a clothes hamper in front of it, back before I moved out for the first time at least.

“I am NOT running headfirst into a wall! There’s got to be a better option than that, I just need to get creative..”

======

“..I can’t believe I’m doing this..”

Twenty minutes of searching and I found a few little things like a sock I vaguely remember losing when I was about eight-years-old and one of the hairclips that Sarah ‘let’ me keep when she got a matching set of them for starting elementary school.

Almost subconsciously I slid the sock on my, otherwise bare, little foot and the clip into my, far too long for this age, hair as some kind of ‘rebellion’ against Arista’s perfect little imaginary daughter image she’s foisted off onto me all of a sudden.

Something about the hairclip especially made me feel just a little bit more confident, or at the least slightly less silly, when faced with the prospect of intentionally running headfirst into a solid feeling mental construct made to simulate the pretty thin but otherwise also solid real-world walls of our house.

It’s almost like I can hear Sarah egging me on to do it just because she’d find the whole thing hilarious, or maybe I’m just going crazy from all the stress this whole headache of a situation is putting me under?
Either way, it’s wall time!

..this is a very stupid idea..
Well DUH?! Of course it is, but if it’s stupid and it works then it’s not stupid now IS it!

Stupid brain! This really isn’t the time to have your input here considering my mind is being used against me by Arista to start with, my gut instinct says this will work and I’ve got nothing else on the table anyway, options wise.

Before I could lose my nerve I took a deep breath and ran as fast as my now little legs would carry me, finishing with a diving head-butt to the drywall.

The pain was surprisingly intense and only exacerbated by the fact that it was ultimately pointless because I was still conscious enough to feel it.
..I think that’s a sign I should give up?..
NO! I’m not giving up!

“AGAIN!”
With uneasy steps I staggered back then leaned into another sprint that ended with another painful but unsuccessful head-butt.
..seriously, this is getting stupi-..
“AGAIN!”

This time when I staggered back to my feet I ended up falling backwards onto my ass as the room span around me unhelpfully.
For a long few seconds I just stared at the blood mark on the wall in front of me before dazedly bringing a hand up to feel the sticky mess coming from my forehead in surprise.

“Alice? Alice, are you okay? We heard banging an-”
I stopped listening as the world started going in and out of focus a few times, my eyes locked on the blood on my fingers.

A feral grin came to my lips and I forced my uncooperative little body to move as best it could.
A few more staggered steps followed by a lurch had me hitting the wall again with an explosion of pain that finally led to the oncoming darkness I’d been hoping for from the start and with suddenly worried shouting coming from outside ‘my room’ I collapsed to the floor, unconscious before I’d even fallen half way.

======

“-got to be something that can.. Alice?”

My eyes blinked furiously and for a few seconds I thought they were doing it under my command but when they stopped suddenly it became pretty obvious that it was just Arista’s surprised reaction to my sudden appearance in the back of her mind instead.

She’s getting better at noticing me too, I didn’t even have to say anything this time, that’s probably not good for me in the long run honestly?

‘It’s bad enough your caging me in a replica of my bedroom, apparently for my own protection, but why the hell did you turn me into a little girl in the process?!’
Surprisingly Arista twitched her eyes around nervously and from the body language she gave off I could only pick up worry from her in general for the few seconds I got before she reigned herself in, going back to an almost unnatural stillness that I assume is her way of hiding things from me now.

“The mind is a strange and wondrous thing Alice, even a master of the mind-arts cannot always foresee the effect a simple thought will have within a mindscape. I promise you that my intentions were pure. I’ve got a lot of things to start doing out here in the real world and as contrite as she is now, I can’t trust that Hannah won’t fall to her inner-demons again, potentially harming you in the process.”
Our feet shifted slightly and she blinked a little too quickly to be entirely normal before continuing.
“Separating you, while allowing her to let the other incarnations she contains out to roam seemed the best temporary action possible until I have time to sort things out properly, my intention was to provide a safe space for you to rest.. my mind however must have looked deeper than that and provided you, my little Alice, a safe space taken from your own mind while shifting you into a form I subconsciously assigned to you.”

‘..stupid magic..’

“Exactly Dearheart, magic IS stupid and while it should be respected like any powerfully dangerous beast, it can never fully be under our control when we rush or don’t take due care with it..”
She sighed heavily and glanced around us, inviting me to see that we are apparently in some off-the-beaten-path area of my newly remodelled ‘realm’ if the high quartz ceiling and dappled sunlight slowly moving across the marble pillars around us are any estimation.

“I apologise Alice. I do not wish to harm you with my actions, we are very close to the end of a VERY long game being played between myself and Mother.. for the last few centuries she’s had the upper hand and even now she works against me through you.”
A small smile tugged at my lips which felt weird to experience in such an abstract way.
“I love all my children equally of course but, just between us, I’ve been waiting a long time to meet you Dearheart. Whatever you may think of me now, I beg that you wait for tonight where I can finally sit down and explain events, past, present and future, to you. Everything I do is for the betterment of the world, if left in Mothers care we will be led to nothing but ruin.”

For a long stretch of seconds I processed all of that, trying to win a battle between the honesty in her voice and my rather obvious doubts about trusting her in any way, shape or form.

..she’s got to be lying..
I know my body and I know my tells, if she’s lying then she’s better than I could ever dream of being at it?
..John said Arista was evil..
John says a lot of things, only a few hours ago he admitted that he’d be willing to let innocent people die just to protect me for powers sake!
..she can’t be trusted..

It’s not like I have much of a choice here?
She’s kinda got me over a barrel with the whole ‘body possession’ thing and her own enforcer squad in my mindscape to keep an eye on me.
The best I can hope for is that she, or one of the other incarnations, lets enough information slip that I can gain an upper-hand of some kind, through luck alone.

I REALLY wish I’d taken the time to read up more on mind magic when I had the chance now!

‘Everything I’ve ever heard about you says that your evil incarnate, willing to kill on a whim and enjoying the suffering of others to an almost unhealthy degree..’
At this point I really doubt honesty can hurt much and maybe, just maybe, she’ll let something slip because of my bluntness if nothing else.

“Of course everything you’ve heard about me decries me as evil Dearheart, Mother has had a long time to stack the deck in her favor and with you being so close to her favorite mouthpiece, your ‘John’, it would be a surprise if you HAD heard anything nice about me to be honest.”

She sighed and brought her hand up to the ridge of my nose in an action that was so jarringly ‘me’ that it threw me off for a second before she continued speaking.

“You and I both know that the world is never as black and white as some people wish it could be.. as Alistor were you a hero or villain?.. you murdered thousands in cold blood to protect some nebulous concept of ‘innocent people’ and ‘the greater good’, while secretly being manipulated by others into acting as their oblivious killer-for-hire-”
If I could, I would have blanched in response to her words.
..apparently I’m not the only one who can be blunt about things..
“-is it our intentions or our methods which make us evil, Dearheart? Some of the greatest crimes in human history have been perpetrated by those with the best of intentions after all..”

We sunk into a momentary silence again as she shifted our feet a little and glanced around us thoughtfully.

“I will not claim to be perfect or truly innocent Alice but in this war of attrition between Mother and myself neither side is truly ‘innocent’ by any means.. at least I’m willing to look at my faults for what they are and work towards improving my methods for the next time I face such a situation, which is a LOT more than can be said for HER!”

Despite the almost bitter bite to her words I couldn’t help but feel a little reassured by them-
..I shouldn’t trust her..
-I’ve met bad people who monologue on about their ‘best intentions’ before though and they have rarely, if ever, been so clear and logical about everything.

While I wouldn’t go so far as to trust her as such, especially considering the whole ‘body possession’ thing still hanging between us.. I guess.. I guess I’m willing to hear her out at least?

It’s not like I have much of a choice anyway and maybe I really WILL get some bloody answers at last instead of vague hints or rushed half-truths like I’ve been getting from all sides lately.
The fact is, it looks like she needs me on her side against Ari, or ‘mother’ as she calls her, a lot more then I need her right now which is potentially one bonus to this whole messy situation.

I’ve known for a while now that something big was happening around me out of my view, too many coincidences, too many crazies popping up from nowhere, too many convoluted tangles of old relationships and new problems coming home to bother me one after the other.
The last month or so has felt like it was purposefully crafted to drive me right up to the edge, then back again repeatedly and, if I’m being honest here, it’s worked.

I’d like to think that this big takeover bid by Arista is the end of things but my gut tells me it’s not even close.

As much as my ego might disagree with me on this one, I’m just not THAT important in the grand scheme of things?
We’re talking about entity’s who were present at practically the dawn of humanity, fighting a near endless silent war of backstabbing and forward planning to a degree that hurts my brain just to consider the timescales involved.. I really doubt that after all that time, possession of one ‘daughter’ by one of them is really the ‘end goal’ they’ve both been working so hard to reach.

There’s something more going on and I’m sorry to say that playing nice while keeping my ears, eyes and even nose open for clues is probably the only way I’m going to have even a chance of foreseeing what’s ahead at the moment, let alone stopping it!

It’s as Arista herself said earlier, I’m just a pawn in a much larger game.. luckily she seems to have forgotten that if given half a chance and enough time to move, even a pawn can become a Queen in chess.

‘I’ll wait until tonight to hear your side of things Arista.. can you provide me something to do while I wait though? Sitting around in a room bored out of my mind really isn’t going to leave me in a very receptive mood towards anything you might have to say honestly.’
A smile twitched across our lips again before she let off a gusty sigh as if very put-out by my ‘request’ and trailed into a half-stalled out attempt at laughter.

“Of course Alice, give me a moment and I’ll do you one better. I’ll add a television to your ‘room’ where you can either watch your own memories or view a real-time link to what I am seeing and hearing at that exact moment, how does that sound Dearheart?”
Well.. that sounds amazing actually?

Far more then I was expecting or even hoping to get out of her, with this ‘TV’ I can actually keep an eye on her to make sure she’s not up to no-good with my body.

How oddly accommodating of her?
..and suspicious!..
Very true, suspiciously accommodating, but still potentially useful for me to gain information that I DESPERATELY need at this point in time.

“Come Alice, I’ll return you safely to your room and sort this out quickly before going back to my business.”
Something nudged into my consciousness, a lot gentler then the last few times have proven to be, and I found myself being pulled along with her, back into my mindscape once more.

======

This time instead of ‘waking up’ either mid-freefall towards a stark white floor or flat on my back, I ended up landing almost softly, face-down onto the recreation of my bed within ‘my room’ instead.

After about thirty seconds of silence the door opened and Arista walked in with a smile on her older, motherly face which didn’t even twitch as the bar’s reformed behind her causing Ellie to jump back in alarm from her now aborted attempt to follow her inside as well.

“Now dear, where do you want this television to be? Anything else I can provide while I’m here? Some books perhaps, or some food to enjoy the taste of if you get truly bored maybe?”
A feral grin spread across my cheeks as I considered the possibilities.

As long as she’s offering.. well..

“I don’t suppose you know what a popcorn machine, a Jacuzzi or a games console are do you?”
She cocked her head to the side slightly for a moment before a slow smile came to her lips again and she nodded in agreement.

If I have to be a prisoner, at least I get to be a comfortable one!

======

“What the hell is she doing?”

I rolled my neck uneasily and stared hard at the massive, wall-wide TV sitting in front of me showing Arista’s point of view where she’s apparently getting drawn deeply into a conversation with Gran, of all people, about gardening of all things?!

Slowly my far too small shoulders slide a bit deeper into the nice bubbly water of the Jacuzzi she really did end up giving me, having to expand the size of my room by several degrees in order to fit it in with a good view of the TV as requested, and my arm lazily moved over to snag some more popcorn which surprisingly hasn’t gotten at all sickly or filling for me yet despite my near constant eating of it since she left back to the ‘real world’.

..there’s got to be something I’m missing here..
I need to think strategically, what could she possibly be gaining by sitting in the dining hall of my realm discussing gardening with Gran?
She didn’t put in all this effort to take over my body, just to talk about trimming weeds or nurturing wildflowers with the now ex-Garnier matriarch I can see smiling away happily on the screen before me!

I don’t get her motives?
I don’t get what she wants or even what she needs?

Why do even my evil body-stealing past-incarnations have to be so bloody complicated?!

Arista turned her attention to the side and nodded to something Sarah chipped into the conversation with a happy laugh.
Slowly I slid just a little deeper into the water, allowing one of the air-jets to hit JUST the right spot in my lower back to feel OH, so good for a moment or two.

..I don’t like this at all..

======

“No! Don’t-”

Obviously she can’t hear me and much to my embarrassment I was treated to a second-hand view of what it’s like when my body creeps up behind an unsuspecting John, pinches his ass, then when he turns around in surprise catches his lips with mine in an almost desperate looking kiss.

After an almost annoyingly long time they finally pulled apart and John stared at me through the screen with a dazed look of confusion on his face.

“Han? You feeling okay?”
Arista’s only response was to purr low in the back of my throat and pounce on him again, sending them both tumbling to the floor with another searing kiss that made me both equal parts embarrassed as all hell and kind of turned on at the same time to my utter shame.

“Just to check, have you been drugged and brainwashed at all or is this like the cat-girl thing again where you’re just really horny?”
My view cocked to the side slightly as Arista took a moment to decide on the best answer to that one before our eyes batted furiously and squinted a little shut in pleasure.

“Meow?”

John laughed and actually pulled my body closer with a warm hug that Arista settled into with almost practiced looking ease.
“I swear if this all turns out to be a joke or you wake up and don’t remember any of this I’m going to be majorly pissed off you know?”
The view turned up from his chest to stare into his eyes.

I had to turn away from the screen a little as the painfully obvious look of love, care and happiness radiated out from John’s normally rather stoic face and they went in for another kiss that looked VERY enjoyable indeed.

For a moment I was half-tempted to just drown myself in embarrassment or at least do it so I can escape to the real-world and tell her to stop bloody kissing him?!

Despite my best efforts though I found my eyes drifting back towards the screen and getting lost in watching what was quickly becoming a pretty heated make-out session between the pair of them.
If I stared at the screen hard enough I could almost feel phantom touches caressing me as his head moved to the nape of our neck and he started nibbling in a way that made Arista gasp out in enjoyment before purring a moment later.

One thing is for sure, I definitely know where the whole ‘cat personality traits’ thing came from at this point.
..stupid Arista..

======

“Thank the Powers, that’s over!”

I tried to sound relieved at that statement but even to my ears it hardly sounded convincing at all.
While I’d much rather never have to face or even admit to them in the slightest, I HAVE had fantasies about a certain stupid warm-bodied asshole friend of mine in the past.
They seem to come almost annoyingly often these days actually.

I’ve even found myself spacing out once or twice and having to shrug my inattention off as me ‘getting lost in thought again’ while trying to subtly hide my new body’s stupid little pop-up pervy thought alarms as I went.

I want to state for the record that I don’t love John!

I just.. he’s so warm, and his magic feels amazing, and he understands me so well, and we’ve been friends off-and-on practically forever and.. and..
..quit while I’m ahead..
Yeah, I think the points been made at this.. point?.. maybe.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint I can appreciate John’s aristocratic good looks.
From a purely logical standpoint I can understand that my now icy core reacts in a rather interesting way when its magic comes into contact with his fire core’s magic.
From a purely.. purely.. I dunno?

I just know that I don’t love John and I don’t find him attractive despite what my stupid body and my stupid brain and my stupid.. stupid.. GAH!

Why did she have to do that?!
I thought she was trying to ‘keep up the act’ and be me, that’s what she said at least?

Having a make-out session with John-boy is NOT ‘keeping up the act’!

Letting said John-boy, the dirty perv that he is, get worryingly close to second-base with my body while purring to herself like a cat-in-heat the whole way is NOT in any way, shape or form ‘being me’ damn it?!

..it was an interesting experience at least..
SHUT UP BRAIN!
..I should give him a chance when I get my body back under control..
QUIET!
..I bet his warm hands would feel amazing on my bre-..

ENOUGH!!

Powers, you’d think having my mental avatar changed into a little girl would stop these sort of thoughts but if anything watching Arista with my John has hit me like a freight train of hormones and suppressed lust out of bloody nowhere!

..my John?..
Shut. UP. Brain!

With a tired sigh I leaned so far down into the hot tub that my head went under the water and I ended up letting off a long stream of bubbles instead.

Who knew being stuck as a passenger in your own body-
..while the self-titled ‘Mother of Magic’ runs around snogging your unreasonably handsome best friend/redemption seeking enemy/often intentionally obvious man-besty for such a long time that you actually become a bit curious about just how good your lung capacity is from watching them go at it non-stop..
-could be so bloody EXHAUSTING?!

..at least it’s over now..
From the looks of it everyone’s making a move to go to bed and she’ll finally have to face me in here to explain her actions at last.

I’m not sure if my first question for her will be something pertinent like ‘why are you possessing my body?’, something useful like ‘when are you giving me back control?’, or just some kind of inarticulate sound as my best attempt at showing her just how embarrassed I am that she gave John’s tonsils a thorough, nearly hour long, check-up without consulting either him or ME beforehand!

When I get my hands on her I’m gonna-
Oh.. the screens just gone blank?..

I guess I’ll get to give her a piece of my mind faster than expected after all!
..why do I suddenly feel rather nervous about that idea?..



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