Dicro Corrune had made a horrible mistake.
It was around 10 o’ clock at night and instead of studying for his language exam two days from now (and God knows he needed to) he was sitting across from Ignis in his office, grading his papers for him. That wasn’t the mistake, though. That was Tuesday.
It was Dicro’s suggestion in the first place, if one defined “suggestion” as “an off-handed joking comment that Ignis picked up on and Dicro agreed to with a shrug”. Ignis wasn’t exactly the greatest when it came to grading papers… or reading them, for that matter. As far as Dicro could tell, he had far more important things to be working on. That was just like Ignis, always planning something. Knowing him, he was probably plotting out some sort of chart that included all of Hell College’s students and faculty, linking them together on a scale grander than anything Dicro would have ever imagined.
Or, judging by the vaguely irritated look on his face, he was still trying to figure out how to use the laptop he had been issued.
No, the mistake Dicro had made came from absentmindedly saying “yes” when casually offered a drink. He didn’t even realize that he had said anything until it was in front of him, and at that point he couldn’t just back out. That would be impolite. He would sarcastically complain about having to grade papers and show Ignis how to open the internet all day long, yes, but he had class. He had manners. Turning down something he had accidentally asked for would just be rude and, more importantly, awkward.
Fortunately, it didn’t seem like it was affecting him too badly, at least for the time being. He was definitely a little out of it and kept having to re-read sentences thanks to a lack of focus, but it could be worse. All of that frozen yogurt must have helped out his constitution, or something like that. Maybe it just needed more time to kick in. Maybe he was just too nervous about losing his inhibitions in front of someone like Ignis for it to really take effect.
Still, now it was taking more time than he had planned to get through these papers. That class had to have at least a hundred students, so even having to grade three-page papers was a huge pain. It would be easy to just let people off easy and give them all As, and given the quality of most of these papers it was just as tempting to fail everyone and be done with it, but those sort of scenarios were exactly why Dicro was here in the first place. He wanted to grade everyone as fairly as possible and provide ample criticism to allow them to improve themselves, and that was one of the many reasons Dicro hated himself. Why did he do these things to himself? Why couldn’t he love himself? Why did he feel the need to suffer? Now he understood why Spades was always so grumpy.
He couldn’t say he was unhappy, though. It was a nice change of pace to be somewhere aside from in bed or on the internet, as much as he adored both. He didn’t mind doing busywork, especially if it made someone else happy, and especially if that someone was Ignis.
Wait, no. That wasn’t what he meant to think. Why was his glass full again? God damn it.
There was nothing that wasn’t fucked up about the word “read”. It could be pronounced two different ways and had two different meanings, but half of the time he always read it as the opposite of what it was supposed to be and then got confused about sentence structure and oh man, this was not going well. There were so many errors in this paper that he got confused whenever a sentence was actually correct. And where was their thesis statement? Conclusion? The entire paper seemed like it was completely train-of-thought, with the writer making up things they thought sounded right here and there with blatantly plagiarized chunks of text placed liberally throughout it. The font size was recognizably larger than assigned, the citations weren’t formatted properly, Dicro had no idea what this paper was even about despite having reread it three times, holy shit he had never seen anything so poorly-written in his life. He could feel the writer’s incomparable apathy radiating off of the paper. It was so intense that he couldn’t even feel bad about marking the paper as a failure.
‘This is the absolute worst paper I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading.’ he wrote at the top unhesitatingly, sure that any of Ignis’ students could believe that he wrote that himself. Not that whoever wrote this paper would care. They couldn’t possibly be capable of caring about anything.
He glanced at his empty glass. He was beginning to understand Ignis a little better.
Now he was starting to feel it. It was still bearable, but he wasn’t so sure that was a good thing. His soul was vibrating just enough for him to be aware of it, but not enough for it to be pleasant enough for him not to care. Dicro fiddled with his pen anxiously, trying to focus on grading instead. It wasn’t that great of an alternative.
“Gods, could this possibly load any slower?” Ignis groaned. Desperate to do anything that wasn’t grading, Dicro scooted his chair over to the other side of the desk so quickly that he nearly fell over.
Dicro nearly spat his drink out all over the screen, but thanks to his carefully-trained instincts (or maybe just his internalized aversion to harming electronics) he just spent the next 30 seconds choking on it instead. He had never seen so many toolbars at once, and certainly never in person. He had no idea one could ever obtain so many toolbars in one hour without consciously intending to.
“W… What are you even trying to open?” Dicro asked, dumbfounded.
“E-mail.” Ignis replied matter-of-factly. “Some dumbass wants to wire me some money to hold for him while he goes through some legal bullshit. He said I could keep 30%, but… like I’m just going to give that back.”
Looking satisfied with himself, Ignis returned his attention to the screen as the page finished loading right on cue.
“By the way, what’s your credit card number? No reason.”
…Dicro was going to need another drink.
“There.” Dicro sighed, rolling his chair back carelessly into the wall. “I got rid of a bunch of junk you didn’t need, installed an anti-virus, and set you up with a different browser. Don’t bother with the default one.” he explained, staring up at the ceiling as though it had offended him.
“What’s the difference?” Ignis asked, already sounding unconvinced that there was one.
“Well, for starters, the default one is much slower. It’s also bulkier, less convenient, more prone to viruses, doesn’t have nearly as many add-ons...” Dicro trailed off, counting off on his fingers. Wait, did he only have four fingers? What the hell? That wasn’t enough.
“Wait, wait. You’re telling me there’s, what, two different internets? And one’s completely worthless?”
“No, no, the browser itself isn’t the internet. It’s just what you use to access the internet.” Dicro continued, remembering that the thumb also counted as a finger.
“It’s kinda like… it’s kinda like summoning a demon, you know?” Dicro started anew, figuring maybe this explanation would be a little more up his alley. “Like… if you use a shitty sigil, you’re gonna get a shitty demon. But if you use a really good one… no, wait, that would summon a different demon entirely, I think?”
Dicro slumped over, massaging his temples. “Okay, scratch that, it’s like if… if you used normal blood instead of virgin blood. You’d still get the same demon but… weaker? Or would you get a different demon that’s weaker? Or do you not get a demon at all since it’s not the right kind of blood? This isn’t making sense, is it?”
“Nah, you’re good. Keep going.” Ignis encouraged, refilling Dicro’s glass.
“Alright, well, I guess what I’m saying is that the internet is the demon, and the browser is like… the summoning? Or… a contract?”
Dicro’s hands slid down to his mouth as he recalled the countless hours he had wasted doing absolutely nothing online. It all made sense now.
“Holy shit… this explains everything.” he whispered to himself in awe.
“To be honest, though… I don’t think I could ever be a professor or anything like that.” Dicro objected with something like a laugh. He knew Ignis was just kidding, but he didn’t feel right playing along.
“I don’t see why not. You’re already doing most of the work.” Ignis shrugged, periodically glancing between his screen and Dicro, who was idly spinning around in his chair.
“Ehh… not really.” Dicro disagreed, slowing down a little bit. “I mean, my name’s not on anything, you know? You’re still the face, you know what I mean? Like… you’re technically the one with all of the responsibility, you know? If someone was mad about something in the class, you’d be the one they’d get mad at, you know? Right?”
Ignis scoffed, “Oh, come on. You can’t tell me you’re really worried about anyone here. If anyone tried to mess with you it’d take, what, two seconds to drive one of those chains through their skull? One? Don’t sell yourself short, kid.”
“Well… that’s not really what I meant. I appreciate the thought, though.”
Ignis leaned back, raising an eyebrow. “Then what did you mean?”
“I dunno, I guess I’m just not the kind of person who could handle having a bunch of people mad at me, even if I technically could, like… physically or whatever.” Dicro explained, coming to a stop. “I don’t want people to hate me, you know?”
“Listen, Dicro, you can’t waste your time worrying about whether people like you or not if you want to get anywhere in life.” Ignis sighed, as if this was a conversation he had had with him a million other times. “You can’t please everyone. Take it from me; there’s always going to be at least one asshole out there who wants to ruin your fun.”
He poured himself a glass at the same time he topped off Dicro’s. “So I say fuck it. Do whatever the hell you want and if anyone gets in your way, make them regret it.”
“Easy for you to say. That’s the reason you got put in your prison, isn’t it?”
Ordinarily, Dicro would have immediately backpedaled fast enough to go back in time. But for now, Dicro didn’t notice his glass was overflowing even after he picked it up.
“Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had that kind of confidence, and I think more than anything I wish I could just stop caring about what other people think so I would be able to do whatever I want… but if you don’t care about others, how can you expect them to care about you, right? Y’know?”
Man, it was so comfortable in here. Dicro wished he had a blanket or something. He could curl up and fall asleep in this chair right here, right now. Yeah, there was a small couch over there – man, this school had to have loads of money, it was really unexpectedly fancy – but this chair was really, really comfortable.
“Like… no one’s going to like you if you attack their opinion every time they disagree with you, you know? They might be afraid of you and stay out of your way, but I don’t think that’s really a good thing… just because someone obeys you out of fear or intimidation doesn’t mean they’ll be around for you when you need it. I mean, the first chance they get they’ll probably leave you behind or betray you or whatever, right? With that kind of relationship, no one has your back. I don’t want people to listen to me because I threaten them or bribe them; I want people to listen to me because they actually care about what I’m saying, you know? Or, more like that they care that I’m saying something, because they’re invested in me as a person, I guess?”
He shrugged, sinking into his seat a little. “I mean, that’s why I’m helping you take over Entirety instead of just doing it myself… I know you don’t have a problem holding power over people, but I don’t want to suddenly be treated differently because of something like that, you know? I guess things will be different no matter what, though. If anyone knew I was the one helping you do all of the work then I’d have to deal with them just as much as you would, if not more, and that’s pretty inevitable…”
Dicro stared sort of blankly ahead, vision too blurry to really focus on anything. It seemed like Ignis was kind of tense, though. Was he talking too much? Probably. But he couldn’t feel anxious for long enough to care.
“I try not to think about it too much, but I can’t really help it, you know? I spend a lot of time wondering what’ll happen when everyone finds out about it… I wonder how many people will hate me. I wonder how many people I don’t even know will hate me. Sometimes I wonder if even you’d end up hating me for it. I wonder how many things I’ll end up doing that I’ll regret.” he continued without skipping a beat, tone completely lacking in the pathos that his words would imply. He propped his head up on the desk with his elbows, glancing off to the side at nothing in particular.
“You know, now that I say it out loud, I guess that’s pretty grim. Maybe I should worry less.” Dicro mused, pondering this for half a second before downing the rest of his drink and slamming the glass on the desk.
“Well, that’s probably why I like you so much! Your vicious and unforgiving optimism is a good foil to my quiet and unending pessimism!” he smiled, pushing himself back toward the center of the room where he resumed spinning.
Ignis was still silent, not that it really registered in Dicro’s mind and not that Dicro let the silence linger for very long.
“Hey, do you want anything from the vending machine?” he asked, leaning back so far that the chair almost fell over. “Oh man, I really want to press some buttons right now.”
Dicro had no idea where he was. Well, he knew he was in front of a vending machine, but he didn’t really remember why. He tried to read the candy bars in hopes of finding answers, but they weren’t helping much.
Dicro spun around, locking eyes with a familiar face.
“Oh, hi Istra. What are you doing here?” he asked.
“Just looking for food. Also chasing somebody. I like your chair.” they answered coolly.
“Chair? What chair?”
“You know, the one you’re sitting in.”
Somehow Dicro hadn’t noticed that he was still sitting in his chair from Ignis’ office. How did he get it all the way down here? Did he use an elevator? Probably. Well, that answered that.
“Who’re you chasing?” Dicro asked, whirling back around and planting his forehead on the glass of the vending machine, trying to psychically connect with its contents and remember what he was supposed to be getting.
“No idea.” Istra shrugged. “Just saw someone come out of the labyrinth and I started following them. Buuuut they were pretty fast so I gave up and decided snacks are more important.”
Dicro squinted at the snack cakes. They were definitely telling him something. Yeah… someone ran into him in the hallway, huh? He didn’t think much of it at the time – mostly because it felt like he had just gotten electrocuted and subsequently forgot it even happened until he opened up a psychic connection with junk food – but that was probably the person Istra was talking about.
He was really feeling gummy bears tonight.
Without warning Istra punched through the glass, pulled out the entire row of gummy bears, and dumped all of the packages on Dicro’s lap.
“That’s the one you were looking at, right?”
“Yeah.” Dicro responded, nonchalantly shaking the glass out of his hair.
“Cool.” Istra gave him a thumbs up before taking back one of the packages. “That’s payment. Alright, see you tomorrow.”
Dicro tilted his head a little as he watched Istra rummage through the vending machine in blatant disregard for the law – not that there was much in the way of law around here.
Istra looked over at him again, a bag of cookies hanging out of their mouth. “Yeah?”
“Has anyone ever told you the eyes on your arms are really pretty?”
Istra glanced down at their arms, which were completely eyeless.
Dicro had no idea where he was. Well, he knew he was in an elevator, but that was pretty small-scale. The full story was more complicated than that, and infinitely more terrifying. He had never been here before, in this life or his last. There weren’t any familiar faces here, not yet – but he knew he’d find them whether he was ready or not.
The latter took form as the elevator door opened, letting in an unexpected guest. Said guest rolled in on a rolling chair, which got caught on the edge of the elevator and tipped over. The occupant of the chair spilled onto the ground, fall cushioned by an alarming number of gummy bear bags. By far the strangest thing about them, though, was that that they were also Dicro Corrune.
Dicro covered his mouth and backed into the corner, struggling to obscure his face with his hood with his free hand. He was there. He was right there.
“I’m… I’m so mad…” the other Dicro laughed, on the verge of tears. “I can’t believe Ansaiele wasn’t here to record that… that was gold… I love being alive…”
As the elevator doors closed, thoughts raced through Dicro’s head. Was… was that really him? Who was Ansaiele? He didn’t know an Ansaiele. Why did he love being alive? He never loved being alive. Why couldn’t he say anything? Why couldn’t he move?
“Hey…” the other Dicro looked right at him, much to his horror. “Are you okay?”
No, he most certainly wasn’t. He could feel himself flickering – violently, too. It had to be noticeable. Why couldn’t he say anything? Why couldn’t he…
The other Dicro, still lying on the floor, slid him one of the gummy bear packages. He watched Dicro with anticipation, like he was trying to get a cat to play with a toy. Dicro stared at it for what felt like an eternity before reaching for it with a trembling hand, holding it as close to his chest as he possibly could.
They stared at each other for a while longer, each equally at a loss for words. It was the other Dicro who broke the silence.
“I’m so fucked up right now.” he stated bluntly.
Of all the words Dicro had planned to say to his other self, the only ones he managed to spit out were : “Me too.”
As soon as the doors opened, Dicro leapt over his counterpart and bolted for the nearest staircase, fleeing as far as he could in the opposite direction.
Even here, he was of no help to anyone.
Dicro wasn’t sure how he managed it, but there was a gummy bear in his glass. He stared at it intently, too distracted to notice that Ignis was picking up his slack on the papers.
“Hey, Ignis, do you ever… do you ever become really conscious of your mortality?” he asked, pretty sure he could hear his voice echoing off of dimensions that were never meant to be heard.
“Considering I’m not mortal… no.”
After another minute of silence, Dicro spoke up again.
“Hey Ignis… do you think gummy bears are conscious of their mortality?” he inquired genuinely. “Do you think they’re afraid to die?”
Ignis looked up from the paper he was grading, looked at the crime scene that was Dicro’s glass, and returned his attention to the paper.
Dicro’s shoulders sunk as he gazed down into his glass, the weight of his unintentional sin weighing heavily on him. He cupped his hands around it, consumed with grief for the innocent life he had never known.
And then he unflinchingly downed what remained, gummy bear and all.
“I AM THE AVATAR OF DESTRUCTION, THE BRINGER OF DESPAIR! ALL WHO MEET ME MEET WITH DEATH!” he shouted, throwing the glass on the floor. “A GOD SHOWS NO MERCY TOWARD THOSE WHO- oh my god I think it broke I’m so sorry I’ll clean that up immediately I’m so so sorry”
Better judgment clouded by morbid curiosity, Ignis pulled out another glass.
“I don’t get it.”
Dicro kept trying to explain, but couldn’t form a coherent sentence. He just kept pointing at the screen, laughing so hard that he was crying.
“Look at it! Look at the paw! It just keeps sticking out from under the pillow to grab the cat toy! Holy shit, that’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life! Oh my God. I love cats so much, Ignis. I just… I just love cats so much.” are the words he tried to say between his tears, but instead he just wound up on the floor in the fetal position.
Ignis looked concernedly at the number of tabs they had left to go through.
“You know… you know what I hate?”
Without waiting for an answer or even a brief glance to indicate Ignis was listening – not that Dicro would’ve been able to see it anyway, given that he was lying on the floor staring up at the indescribable masses that were collecting around the lights – Dicro continued:
“I hate when like… you’re watching a movie and like… they get into a fight, and it’s really stupid. Like… it could’ve been totally avoided if they just actually, like… talked to each other. Like… I watched this one comedy movie online once… I don’t remember why… I think it was because…”
One of the masses looked directly at him, he swore it. It didn’t even have eyes, but he could tell.
“Uhh… I dunno. But like… they just like… it was a bad movie. Like they didn’t even… it was terrible. I don’t know why I watched it all. It wasn’t even funny.”
He could hear the floor’s heartbeat. Strongly.
“Like… you couldn’t pay me enough to watch it again. It was… it wasn’t even so bad it was funny, you know… it was just… yeah…”
What was it trying to tell him?
“I bet… I bet you five bucks that you couldn’t get through the whole thing. Five of them. The dollars, not the… not the movie.”
There was a brief silence.
Dicro rummaged through his pockets, dragging out their contents. “Uhh… I also have more gummy bears… and a penny… and my phone… and all of this blood…”
“Deal.” Ignis agreed.
“Not like there’s anything better to do around here.” Ignis mumbled afterward, or maybe that was the floor again. He couldn’t tell.
“Why did I agree to this.” Ignis questioned about 15 minutes in.
“Yeah.” Dicro responded, fixated on whatever it was that was staring with intent at him from behind the screen.
“I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to set two people on fire more in my life. And believe me, that’s-”
Ignis trailed off as he noticed Dicro was asleep on his shoulder. Or maybe he was just unconscious. Could’ve gone either way.
[[9.5 – 2]]
“Why am I still watching this.”
[[9.5 – 3]]
“Fuck.” Ignis muttered under his breath an hour in, pulling out his wallet.
[[9.5 – 4]]
Eventually Dicro woke up again. Ignis apparently hadn’t bothered to move him, but Dicro didn’t even notice. His vision was really dark for some reason, but even then he could still see them.
Groaning, Dicro pulled himself away from Ignis and reached for his glass again, undeterred by whatever was snaking around it. Ignis looked over at him, and it almost seemed like he jumped back a little. That was weird. Wait, was that blood on his coat? That was weirder.
Ignis said something to him, but he had no idea what it was. Dicro stared blankly at him as he gently pried the glass out of his fingers, looking mildly concerned as he continued to speak words that Dicro was completely incapable of comprehending. Was he drinking too much? Yeah, he was probably just starting to take up too much space, huh? There were so many people here already. So many of them. They were everywhere. On the floor, in the air, packed from wall to wall, on everything, in everything, there were so many of them surrounding him that he had no idea how Ignis could just keep ignoring them. Maybe he was used to them? Man, he had no idea what he was saying. Dicro kept looking around the room, at everything that was looking right back at him. None of them seemed particularly interested in Ignis. Were they only looking at him because he could see them? Were they consciously aware that his staring was rude, hence them returning the favor? Were his eyes bleeding? Yes, they were. That explained the coat. Geez, he was an awful guest.
“I think I’m… I think I’m gonna go throw up.”
Dicro was pretty sure he said that, but he couldn’t hear the sound of his own voice over all of theirs.
Fifteen minutes later, Dicro was fairly certain he had vomited up at least a fourth of his soul. His soul was still vibrating more intensely than it ever had before in his life and he could still see things he knew he shouldn’t be able to see (he was glad he never needed to use bathrooms; the number of beings hanging out in there was disquieting), but at least his nose and eyes weren’t bleeding anymore.
Struggling to get his bearings, Dicro stumbled out of the door, only able to find his way back to Ignis’ office through the trail of blood he left on the way here. For better or worse, in Hell College the only thing that made that suspicious was the fact that said trail of blood was only a series of droplets instead of a sickeningly steady stream. Something like that would be… pretty hot.
When he got back inside, he nearly tripped over his chair before he realized that it was something solid and real. It was less crowded in here now, and he figured if he didn’t stare then they wouldn’t stare back.
Ignis asked him something again, but Dicro still couldn’t understand him.
“…Probably?” he offered, not wanting to just say nothing. Not without hesitation, Ignis seemed to accept his answer and returned to grading papers.
As he sat back down and rolled up to the desk, Dicro noticed his glass was gone.
[[10 – 1]]
By now Dicro was starting to get tired, only kept awake by his enthrallment with Ignis’ pen strokes. He had no idea what he was writing, but he’d be damned if it wasn’t gorgeous. Not that he wasn’t already damned.
Despite the trance he was in, Dicro could still tell Ignis was looking up to check on him every once in a while. That was nice of him. This was nice.
“Thanks.” he said without meaning to. He wasn’t even sure he said anything at all until Ignis spoke up in return. It seemed like it was two syllables, but that could’ve been anything. For what? Why’s that? Fuck you. Fuck me. Fuck bees. Okay. Fight me. You’re dead. I’m dead. We’re dead. Apples. It was probably one of the first two, though.
“For hanging out with me, you know? I mean…”
Now that Ignis had stopped writing, it was hard for him to focus on anything to stay awake. That was fine with him. He wasn’t drunk enough to finish that sentence, anyway.
Dicro fell asleep right there on the desk, using his arms as a pillow. It didn’t seem like he was going to be finishing that thought any time soon, but Ignis couldn’t back into grading the rest of the papers. Granted, it was almost seven in the morning and it was hard enough to bring himself to start grading them in the first place, but still.
…What he said earlier was pretty bold of him. It wasn’t something he was expecting from someone like Dicro, or anyone he considered to be an ally for that matter. He and Fray sure liked questioning him, didn’t they? Though Fray didn’t have the audacity to imply that he was going to end up spending the rest of eternity hated and alone with only himself to blame for it.
But that wasn’t really something he needed to worry about. The proof was right in front of him, wasn’t it?
Ignis poured himself another drink.
Dicro woke up on the couch, and even though every inch of his body ached he felt unusually vivacious. Without moving he looked around the room, immediately noticing that no one was there. He quickly pulled out his phone, and much to his horror it read 1:37 PM.
His first instinct was to jump off of the couch and scream, but his memories started to settle in. There was a reason he woke up in Ignis’ office, there was a reason his pockets were full of gummy bears (and an extra five bucks, for some reason he hadn’t remembered yet), and there was a reason his sleeves were covered in blood. Oh fuck, he never drove anyone back home. Oh fuck, that was probably why he had a million missed texts and calls. Oh fuck, he just remembered a lot of things he wish he hadn’t said.
As such, his second instinct was to bury himself in his blanket and try really hard not to scream. It would be better if he went back to being unconscious for a few more hours. Yeah, that sounded good. Better than any other option, at least. He hadn’t slept for long enough to confront his shame yet.
…Wait, that was weird. How did he even have a blanket? No one who knew he was going to be here last night lived on campus, and otherwise the only place they kept blankets was the teacher’s lounge (a popular spot for Eldritch beings to nap).
Maybe he didn’t have that much to be ashamed of.