gothiccharmschool:THAT PEN. Well, everything in this photo set, but THAT PEN.  I want the gnarly tregothiccharmschool:THAT PEN. Well, everything in this photo set, but THAT PEN.  I want the gnarly tregothiccharmschool:THAT PEN. Well, everything in this photo set, but THAT PEN.  I want the gnarly tregothiccharmschool:THAT PEN. Well, everything in this photo set, but THAT PEN.  I want the gnarly tre


THAT PEN. Well, everything in this photo set, but THAT PEN. 

I want the gnarly tree notebook.

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nicolemasonphoto: Just before the new year, I thought about what I wanted to do more of this year, a


Just before the new year, I thought about what I wanted to do more of this year, and what I could change. The first thing that came to mind was to take more photos of the hard times. Those times that I’m so distracted by pain or so in shock of what is happening; to remember to pick up the camera and document those times and treat them with importance and value equal to the highlights. I realized I don’t have many photos of when things went wrong, but yet those are some of the most defining points in my life. I want to tell a full story, containing both the times I feel most alive, but also those moments so close to death, when you thank God for giving you a second chance, once again. The pages in this photo hold the words of my first two days in 2017, as I sit in a hotel room in a small town in NE Oregon with nothing but a backpack and the clothes I’ve been wearing since New Year’s Day when I left Salt Lake City.

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mythologyofblue: Samuel Taylor Coleridge: ‘Lakes’ NotebookA map from one of Coleridge’s notebooks


Samuel Taylor Coleridge: ‘Lakes’ Notebook

A map from one of Coleridge’s notebooks kept between July and September 1802, recording his solitary exploration of the mountainous landscape of the Lake District.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ‘Lakes’ Notebook, 1802 
© The British Library Board


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shakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my dayshakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my dayshakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my dayshakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my dayshakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my dayshakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my day

shakespeare being a sass mouth always makes my day

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You know, I’ve been writing and editing and translating more and more English over the years, and I can’t tell you how precious and exciting it is to use a language that allows you to create whatever compound epithet you need to express what you perceive. Lego neologisms is what I call them. You open a book and suddenly things areice-clad,water-girdled,soul-stricken, filled with bloodlustandweather-eyesandhorn-tipped bows, and really, opening these possibilities for expression-building opens my mind-pen a thousandfold.

DISCLAIMER: Everything belongs to Malin RydénandFallen Hero, as you must know by now.
THERE’S ALSO : I guessthis oneandthis one feature the same idiots, though they all work as stand-alones.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Well, I said I’d do a bit of farm-angst for Una, so that’s where we’re at. I’m still trying my hand at their POV, and it’s all very vague and very where-are-you-going-with-this, I have no excuse, I just had a free night and stopped using my brain halfway through.

2013. The Farm.

You’re not closing your eyes now, not in this place, not ever.
Blink and you fucking disappear.
Things have changed. You’re just biding your time. You’re just crouching low. You look at them straight in the face and if they’re too soft you bare your teeth to make them stumble back. You can smell the fear on them, the unease. They’ve seen you quick, they’ve seen you wild. They can prod, they can slice, they can tear. You don’t care. You lock your muscles and you give them a smile that will turn their dreams to anguish. Oh they know, that they’re threading dark water. 

What did they expect? 

You fled once, and you had no-one then. They don’t stand a chance this time.
No slipping away into the night. No fleeing on silent feet.
No mercy.
You’ll be ready when the cavalry breaks down the door with a quip and a zap.
Any day now.
Keep your eyes open ’til then.


No windows underground. No clocks in the labs, only watches that the white coats hide under long sleeves. They keep you awake, but you wouldn’t sleep anyway. Your brain left to its own devices tends to spew a bloody-black tar of vertigo. Your eyelids feel vellum-thin and your fingers mauve-cold, and that’s all fucking fine. Jittery means paranoid, paranoid means alert, alert means lethal. Or as lethal as you can be when they tie you to the exam table and inject you with enough tranquilliser to kill a small dog.
Guess you shouldn’t have slammed your forehead in a-too-close-nose on—when was it? Day three? Day four? No more than that. 

You can see your synapses blink and flash on their black screens. Their speech is muddied, but it trickles in eventually, molasses-slow; sometimes it comes back quick and sharp when you break the surface of awareness, heart mad with the return of life. 

In the morning (is it morning?) they pin your tongue with a metal probe that tastes like a gun barrel and your name screamed too late. 
You’re not worried though. Too late once, but not twice.


It’s not that you can’t do it alone. They’re not stashing you in the same facility, weapon that you are now, but you’re starting to get the hang of the layout, stumbling in blinding corridors between two guards, listening to a stray hint and a whispered conversation. If you take them by surprise—a well-placed elbow when they free your wrists—you might be able to slip and hack your way through those keypads they thumb carelessly. The white coats don’t have guns, but the guards do. You’ve become more than adequate; you should be able to beat one of them up, even if your limbs right now feel like pulp, even if your mind—
The dampeners make your telepathy buzz and writhe inside your skull—too long, too long without stretching itself, without extending its fingers to brush at a reality blurry as a nightmare. 
Experienced like this, stuck inside your own body, bereft of those mind thresholds that allowed you the grey freedom of liminal spaces, the world has grown unreal. Maybe it is. Maybe you’re not here. Maybe you’re already gone.

Hey, come back. What were you saying? You should be able to beat one of them up and run run run to that metal door you hear shut like a sigh when the white coats finish their shift. Really—it’s not that you can’t do it alone. It’s just good thinking. You’re stronger with someone on the outside. When he comes, you can split this place open like a bruised fruit. 

You just have to hold out a little longer.


Any day now.


You don’t know what’s happening to your eyes. You’re not closing them now, not in this place, not ever—or maybe just a minute, only because the light needles at your optic nerve like a nail—you can feel it shift inside your pupil, nudging your brain with a wet ripe sound, all the way… All the way, far far far down to the back of your throat. 


Where are you? You haven’t seen your face in so long. Behind the mask there’s a mask that hides a mask that hides a mask. No—that’s not true. It was all real, it was, it was. You remember your face, unveiled on a grey-fog night, glimpsed one last time in the glass panes before they shattered into emptiness—it can’t have been more than a week. You know he’s coming for you like you always come for him.
They’ll be here. They’ll all be here. They’re heroes after all. You’re heroes after all. None of you would let the world fester like this. None of you would let the tubes leak black, the air turn to rust, the HOWL enter you until it spreads and slashes at your brain, until the trigger clicks.
Where are you? You haven’t seen your fa—Wait. Rewind, don’t get lost, he’s coming for you like you always came for him. Shouldn’t you prepare yourself? Get up? Move fast? Cover your bare spine, your naked legs? You wouldn’t want them to see your skin. 

You’re running now. There’s a good chance you’re running. Remember? Remember? Remember the city how the windows reflect the street how the skyscrapers melt into the sky how the sky dissolve into the dark mad sea? The pavement is thumping against the sole of your feet and the heat is swarming up your legs up up up through the tip of your fingers to the root of your hair. Yes you remember the heat. Outside, inside. Heart bursting with it. 

You think you gasp awake.


Don’t forget again, you have to keep your eyes open.
Blink and you fucking disappear.


Time is sluggish around here. No clocks, and you miss the toxic purple of the Los Diablos sunset, the velvet cover of the night, you miss, you miss, you miss Anathema, their voice, their hand on your shoulder, that smile you saw melt like too-hot play-doh under their stained fingers—shut up—you miss the heat of the sun on your nape—yes that’s better—you miss coffee rich and dark, you miss the mind-voices weaving in and out of your head, never alone, always alone, you miss the supple cover of the suit, the darkness of the mask, you miss you miss you miss your name so roundly shaped by tongues warm and familiar. 

You remember your name, right?
One of the white coats joked about it the other day. Asked you if anybody ever fell for that cardboard Irish heritage you aimed at. They’re growing bolder now; they get in your face, they laugh, they don’t hesitate before they pull at your eyelids, stab at your arm, open your jaw.
Too close, too cocky, leaving on your tongue the foretaste of revenge.

One night (is it night?) two of them move around you snake-like in the yellow daze and while they stick their electrodes on your scalp they jeer, they circle, they ask again and again—so did you like it, the glitter, the fame? Say, how was it? Did you party your heart out? Did you touch your heroes? Did you wear a dress? Did you think you could be a person? Did the tattoos turn your little friends on?

As if they didn’t know that what you snatched for yourself back then was only a half-life, hidden and veiled like prey, every opening making you weaker, making you reckless, making you—what?
Still they shouldn’t, shouldn’t snicker, shouldn’t touch, shouldn’t spit. 

You could still bite. You will, won’t you?
You were supposed to be crouching low.
Feels like you might have fallen to your knees instead.


Time is running out. You’re not stupid. You can feel your palms turn soft, your muscles turn liquid, the mellow ginger fuzz growing thicker and thicker when you slide a hand on the head they shaved—when? A week ago. A month ago. A century ago.

Any day now. He knows you can take it until he’s ready. He must be planning something big. Silly man, always so dramatic. He’s had time to track you down now, to gather what he needs, to convince Steel, even. You can see it now, the bursting in all guns blazing, the brilliant grin, the righteous anger, the flash of blue and white. You’ll be ready, you’ll be ready.

It’s not that you couldn’t do it alone, but you’re a little tired. It’s so much easier when someone’s got your back, right? He taught you that. You should tell him when he gets here. You should tell him a lot of things.

Hours—days—weeks—seconds unfurl like a shroud.

They leave you alone a little sometimes and when nothing moves when nothing hurts it’s difficult not to sleep. Pain soft and hushed has settled at the base of your spine, reminding you where your body starts and stops. You haven’t felt the edges of your mind in so long, you have to cling to flesh. 

Today they’ve settled you in the familiar lab, sitting slightly swaying on the exam table, waiting, useless and empty. Your patient gown is thin and papery, gaping at the back like a hungry mouth. The air is hot and humid, the neon tubes sizzle and pop like bug zappers. On the white boards, they left a few of your scans—lovely colourful waves on translucent black. On the nearest work table, you can see the coffee growing cold, and two library books wrapped in neat plastic covers, and even a trashy tabloid with a cover so crisp and new— 
So crisp and new—

You know that smile.
Suddenly swallowing is stretching your throat.
You know that stupid fancy shirt. You know those camera flashes. You know that lazy hand caught in a cheeky wave, two fingers up.
You know that sloping shoulder, that arm wrapped snugly, warm as a secret and light as electricity. 
Oh yes yes you know that sun-drenched happiness.
You don’t know the girl, you don’t see the venue, you can’t read the title, but it doesn’t matter.

You’ve seen enough. 
You close your dry eyes before they burn.
He’s not coming. Nobody’s coming.
You fucking disappeared. 

DISCLAIMER: Everything here belongs to Malin Rydén andFallen Hero, which I might have mentioned once or twice, you know, in passing.
WHAT TO EXPECT: Warnings for body horror mentions? Other than that, nothing much to look at. Short and a little sweet. It’s Ortega’s POV and my use of em dashes still borders on fanatical.

You plummet out of sleep all at once, with your heart in your throat and your hands slick with sweat, mattress yielding to break your fall. It’s pitch black—black like a gaping mouth. You can hear your pulse in the dark. You can hear the fear that tremors down your spine. Something’s not right; something throbs under your flesh, pound-pound-pounding behind your eyes. Did you cry out?

In the tar of night, ears pricked, you raise yourself on your elbow. When the blood and the sizzle recede, when your heart slides back in place, you understand. 
There’s somebody here.
There’s somebody close.

A cupboard sighs, hushed—and naked feet pad on the kitchen tiles. Then; then the whisper of liquid as it falls and settles, the clinking of metal against ceramic, the faint, cautious scrape of felt-padded chairs; maybe, the supple folding of legs and the lazy murmur of a yawn. It smells warm and coffee and sweet.

Oh, silly you. Are you coming?

You get out of bed, you find your feet, you find the door; you find your thoughts when reality sets and cristallises. The living-room is cool and spilling aquatic light and there, just there, from the kitchen, as vivid as a beacon, the shadow moves her hands.

Did she stay the night?
Fuck. What did you even tell her to achieve that? 
Maybe you’re just that hot.

The challenge is ready on your tongue and you would, oh you would snicker, but something twists hard in your gut when you step close—to you she raises her head, her too-sharp nose; the powdery light dances on her blue eyelids, on the dark mirror of her coffee, on the glint of her almost-smile, and for just a second the ache is so acute that you’re afraid of the sound you might let slip, of the arranging of your face.

Maybe she doesn’t see it. Maybe she’s too serene. She’s strange and lovely here, in her white t-shirt, tinged pink with the half-light, her bruised fingers curled around her cup, a book opened and abandoned, her bright hair cowlicked and tousled by sleep; and her mouth was on your mouth, wasn’t it, just a few hours—

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer”, she bites.
You blink. 
Shit. That’s your line.
“It’s safer anyway. Your memory ain’t what it was when you were young, right?”
You see your smile in her smile in your smile and you take the chair in front of her with as much swagger as you can muster.
“You know what, I should. Even the score a little.”
“The score? I would rather die than take a picture of you, Ricardo.”
"First, that’s a little extreme. Second, what about the magazines cut-outs you keep under your bed?”
She’s pouring coffee into your cup and barking out a laugh and the coffee spills a little, and her eyes crinkle a little, and you think you laugh too, and here it is, the pointy elbow that jabs so well, and the freckled forehead that she pushes against your shoulder when she’s too soft to hit, so close you could kiss them both, kiss her full.
“I’ll keep your body under my bed, you idiot.”
“A little cramped for my taste, but whatever gets you going.”
She throws a napkin at your smirk. 
“Do you have to turn all my death threats into flirting?”
“Oh so we are flirting? Good to know.”

You stretch your arms above your head while she mentions that you’re a fucking peacock and you choke on your tea when she says that you’d flirt with a mirror and god, you haven’t felt that young in a lifetime, haven’t felt that bright, blurry with sleep that you are, blurry and happy with your knee against her warm knee and the surf-sound of the waking city. Maybe later today you’ll cook for her. Maybe you can get a bit more sleep. You haven’t slept in so long. You deserve it. You deserve to rest a bit, with her shifting warmth against your stomach, shadowed (no) and enclosed (windows) and safe in the cool dark.

She’s looking at you, no smile, eyes as soft as a touch. What colour are they again? They keep changing in the odd cold light. But she’s strange and lovely here, in her Charge sweater, tinged blue with the morning sun, her bruised fingers curled around her teacup, her bright hair wet and darkened from the shower, her icy little feet against your ankle, and maybe later today you’ll cook for her—

“I don’t think you do, Ricardo.”
You start.
The clock click-click-clicks. 
“Sorry. What?”
“I don’t think you deserve to rest.”
Something’s not right.

There’s somebody here. 
No. No, that’s not it.
Your heart slams into your ribs. 
“Why didn’t you stop me?”

She lays her scalding eyes on your face like a white-hot hand and the pain of it bubbles and pops right through your brain and you see her—you see—the trembling—the silent scream—hard and grey and terrified in her Sidestep suit, tinged bloody in the afternoon glare, no, no no no, her gloved fingers curled around the gun and was that 
was that your name in her mouth?

“Where were you?”
Turn off the lights. Close your eyes. 
Get out of here.
“How dare you! How dare you leave me there?“

You hear the chair slamming on the tiles before you realise you’ve jumped to your feet; wait, how can that be, there’s no chair in here; there was never any chair; you can hear yourself breathe, too fast, too shallow, but you can’t—there’s no—you don’t have an answer for her, and you want to beg, you want to cry, you would—sorry, sorry, I’m sorry—but there’s no—there’s only her voice and your voice and why didn’t you stop her? Where were you? How dare you? How dare you walk away?

The walls are white and behind her the window stretches and pulls and blinds and in the air the stench of blood and oil and death, so potent it makes choke, and heave, and you think you’ve buried your face in your hands (close your eyes) but you’re wrong.
You’re wrong.

She tilts your head up. Her palms are cold against the fever of your temples, your cheeks. 
“Look at me.”
Don’t look.
"Look at me.”
Look at me
Look at m
Look at

You don’t want to look you know you know exactly don’t look don’t look don’t lo
In front of you or in your mind, you see. The brokenness of her ruined face and the sickening dip of her lovely freckled forehead and the blood all that blood on the ground all those bodies, and your stomach turns when she hangs a smile on her mangled jaw, and she’s so close you can taste the fear on her breath, so close you can see the broken teeth, the distorted bone, the glass digging into her torn skin, and in her bright blood-soaked hair the gaping—the—

                           Did she                Did you

                           cry out?               cry out?

Waking in the swallowing dark is a relief so potent you could sob.
You don’t, though.
Quick. You need to find your feet, find the door. 
Where were you
It’s okay. You can go. There’s nobody here.
There hasn’t been anybody here in years. 

CONTEXT : I’m not saying 90% of my life is spent babbling about Fallen Hero but you really should check it out
DISCLAIMER: Not much is mine except for a few shot-in-the-dark head-canons, and everything else belongs to Malin Rydén.
WHAT TO EXPECT:Erratic punctuation & coarse language. Mild spoilers. Everybody is halfwitted and loves thinking in italics. Also, Iwas going to be a cool cat and limit myself to a little bit of fighting, a little bit of thinking, but then BAM this got chargestepped and sappy and out of hands real fast. I have no excuse. 


First the fist collides with your jaw then you grin.

Duck turn kick (miss) kick (hit) and shift. Shark skin is rough like sandpaper and wet and unyielding, but you track the soft and the weak: eyes squinting in the heat and the supple maw you might be able to break and the snout curved like an arrowhead and that human body, ready to bleed, ready to sizzle, following you between the cars. High up, the press is circling vulture-like; from your little dotted audience you feel the smiles and the gasps and the screams and the sighs skittering in your veins like water boiling. 

It’s been going on a while and you’re hot (more than usual, that is), you ache, the taste of blood goes straight to your head. Shit that’s good. Tap hiss tap dance your heels on the asphalt and in the huge windows of the building from the corner of your eye you can see you. Behind the sweltering quivering heat of summer. Facing the ugly misshapen silhouette of Sharkinator.

You. You in cobalt blue. 

You, turn duck kick (hit) slide punch (miss) run! stop dodge laugh

‘Come on, Jaws, show some teeth!’ you taunt and won’t that make a great headline?

In the glass windows the waltz is dizzying, you spy; and Sharkinator snaps at you and you keep eyeing those gills that slice his huge head where it meets his shoulders; because why are they here, because it’s not like they’re any use, it’s not like he’s breathing underwater, so what does he do with those, and you think, what if, what if I spark these up a little?

The fish-man is stewing, whack tapandthump goes his knee against your stomach, a strangled chuckle (from you) and a snarl (from him):

’Don’t bite off more than you can chew, Marshal!’

Uh-oh, nice, so we’re really doing this, hm, we’re going for teeth puns? But you can’t hear your own laughter—you keep eyeing those gills—because the crackling breaks and swells in your ears—you flex your fingers (already itching) (what if, what if I spark these up a little?) and you’re ready when he lunges—parry spin and 


You’re not ready, though. For what happens next.

You’re not ready for the water.

You don’t get it, you don’t see it, you can’t see it, you don’t think that’s even possible, what in the actual fuck? Fine, fine, keep moving, can’t stop won’t stop, no, wait, it floods you like a dirty leak floods a crumbling basement; cold and murky and popping until something cracks, something breaks, something short-circuits in your head (are your eyes closed?) or in your back and you would laugh, you would, but there’s a moment there when you can’t feel your legs and the whiplash is enough to make you gag in sheer fucking horror.

Though you don’t. You don’t know where you are. Your head is swimming. (Get it? Swimming?)

Fall (on your knees) groan moan

(Is it crackling and bubbling you hear?)

dodge roll (yes) exhale and stand up stanD UP STAND—

‘—UP,STAND UP you fucking idiot!’

‘What… Una?’

‘Sure, yeah, say my name in public why don’t you, and next time maybe tag my phone number on a building while you’re at it?’

‘I mean, I don’t have your…’

‘Shut up and move!’

You glimpse the prone writhing body of Sharkinator but she’s going fast and the sirens howl and with an arm across her shoulders you turn, veer, ugh, you hit a wall or four, stumble, huff, and under your weight she’s seething; you can hear her sharp little muffled voice through the crepitating haze, you just couldn’t wait to show-off you absolute dumbass, you just couldn’t, ready to fry right there on the sidewalk, I can’t believe this shit and also do you think my life-purpose is to save your ass?

It’s a fine ass, you want to say, but your lips feel numb and your shoulder hits the fire escape with a clang (where are you?) and the glare of the day is needling at your brain so you let your head fall a little, on her smooth masked head, just a second, Una, can’t stop won’t stop you know me, just a second and then we—

‘Oh fuck no Ricardo, don’t you dare—

You definitely dared.

You wake up propped against the brown backrest of your own sofa, eyelids orange, yellow, white, and burning. You can feel her, gloves off, fiddling with your ports. The almost silence, just her breathing and the clinking of metal against metal, a screwdriver? Then, the tentative stirring humming of power under your flesh. The golden smell of coffee somewhere, somewhere close. You flex your hand and she slaps it impatiently, sighs, moves (creak) and comes back. Suddenly there’s a soft, damp, cool cloth against your cheek, hmmm, yes, though—wait—

‘What the hell?!’ you recoil up the backrest, face stinging, ‘is that bleach?’

‘Boo-hoo, don’t be such a baby, you’re too old for that,’ she tosses the soaked towel on the armrest (that’ll stain), smirking her bunny teeth smirk with a glee that’s nothing short of vicious. 

Mask rolled up to the tip of her nose, she flops down on the coffee table one knee up and closes her small white hand scarred and rough around your smiling winking face—well, not yours, but the one printed on the Charge™ mug. 

‘You’re merciless.’

‘Narcissistic much?’ she comments, tipping the mug. 

Here you are, lovingly painted, with tapered waist and rich blue suit and stylised thunderbolts around your head like some kind of storm-born saint.

‘It was… a gift.’

‘From yourself to yourself? I don’t care, I’m keeping it.’

‘Want to build a little Ricardo altar in your room?’

‘I will throttle you in your sleep.’

‘Please don’t wait for me to sleep.’

She might win at elbowing you in the face, but she can’t win at banter, so she snorts and huffs and shrugs, then walks away. You hear her swear low in the kitchen. You wonder if she blushes; her suit comes up to her chin and the mask comes down to her nose and the large turquoise ovals hide her eyes but she has freckles on her hands and a pale mouth that speak of light hair and sunburns. Not that it matters, but the suspense is killing you, right? It’s been killing you for years and it itches like a scab, this not-knowing, this not-seeing, this inch-by-inch, this one wall you can’t skirt jump wreck.

The cold bottle of beer falls in your lap and she sits back on her chipmunk perch one knee up. She snaps her fingers at you.

‘Just put the towel on your face, idiot, you’re still bleeding.’

You open the bottle and the cold brew hits your throat just right, bubbles and fresh bitterness like a jolt to the mind. You still feel hazy and lukewarm, you need hot-wiring.

‘That’s not how human medical care works, you know.’

You think she glares, can’t be sure with those turquoise fly eyes, but she gives you the finger too so there’s a fair chance.

‘Fine, yeah, but also, I’m not your fucking nurse.’


‘I am. And heartless. That’s my secret. That’s why I keep the mask on.’


‘Android. Come to wreak havoc on humanity and take the Rangers out, onebyone,’ she deadpans.

Is she fucking with you? 

Of course—still, your heart throbs in delight and your blood bubbles and something drops low in your stomach like jumping from a cliff (no no no don’t think about that) and you can see it in your mind, Una, teeth bared, knuckles white, eyes afire (blue eyes brown eyes grey eyes?), the scheming first, then the bite, the kill; she’s got the guts and the moves and the rabid wrathful kick. She could do it. Well: she could try.

You can, you can see it, the bite the kill—the kiss of death. 

Better not say that crap in front of Chen. He already thinks she’s a double-agent on the loose and you have to weave in and out of this conversation like an eel, laughing brightly, saying come on, come on man, she’s too soft, you’ve seen her coo at dogs when she thinks nobody’s looking.

You swallow the beer and throw her a brilliant smile and lean all the way, arm outstretched to the fruit basket behind her but she thinks you’re—oh—she slides to the side with a sharp jerk; innocently you grab an apricot though you almost laugh when she hisses.

‘Oh yes, the remake would be legendary,’ you purr, mostly to see if she’ll rip your eyes out. ‘You. Me. Los Diablos 2019. I can see it. Babe Runner.’

‘I can’t believe someone made you Marshal. Who the fuck did you bribe?’

‘Don’t be mean, you’re the babe in this scenario.’

You sink into the sofa, stretched out and muscles sore, and when you bite into the apricot with a smile the flesh splits on your tongue like a burst of sunlight. 

She stares. 

She gets up.

She rolls down her mask.

Shedoes blush, doesn’t she?

Looks like you’ve won this round.

‘I’m leaving and you should get some sleep,’ she snaps cradling that mug empty of coffee and full of you. Her mouth is set and her gait is harsh despite your chuckle, but when she walks close there’s a second, a second soft and warm when her naked fingers skim your forehead petal-like but you’re an idiot so you reach to grasp her hand and she punishes you by smacking your head instead.


First the static sizzles against your eardrum and then you grin.

‘You’re in,’ says Deadeye and nothing else since.

The place’s been on your list for years, but this time it’s going to work, this time you’ve put a wire in its gut, this time you’ve heard it plainly from Manolo himself—she wants to meet them at the Cellar Bar. Hollow Ground. A face for the systemic chaos.

It’s been days but every time you tune in you get this shiver this quiver the urge to pace the urge to laugh the urge to dance no that’s not it—the urge to strike. You’ve turned off your own microphone so that you can tap tap tap throw the ball against the wall, twack whoosh open the beer bottle, click click click shake the painkiller box, crack hmm make your back pop. Better to keep your distance anyway, technology doesn’t like you much. You turn and turn in the little room, you open the dirty glass door and you crouch on the rickety balcony with the long-ranging binoculars, you fiddle and check the monitor and throw your hearing as far as it can go, which is much further than it once could, strain and strain and you write down the names, the places, you hedge your bets, you come at night, you doze and bite your arm, you sigh and stretch and skip, pins and needles under your skin and ants swarming inside your skull, and then

Then, one day.

You catch it.  

‘They’ll be here tomorrow night, her and Nocturne. Make sure everything is ready. Dampeners on.’

‘Seriously? Candlelit dinner with a telepath? Didn’t even know those were still a thing.’

Fuck yes fuck yes.You throw the ball hard against the stone floor and watch the current twitching between your fingers nervous and restless like your brain. You wait a while. You need sleep, you need gear, you dig the heels of your crackling hands against your eyelids and the pain simmers low like a headache. Shit that’s good.

Turn on your heel grab your bag breathe in get out.

Parkfield at night is full of scumbags with impeccable taste in shirts and suits, and if you ever get your  fists on one you’ll have to ask them for their tailor’s number. You can’t compete today, wearing a hoodie stolen from Chen, but still you glimpse you in the shop windows, shoulders stooped, hands hidden, head hung low, and you smirk slow in the shadows. Tonight you see her. Tonight you see Hollow Ground. Tonight the veil falls the light comes the hunt starts or—whatever else they say when an epiphany hits you in the face with a baseball bat.

You press your index to your ear and stop not far from the Cellar Bar, too close for comfort, close enough to get that small delighted shudder of adrenaline along your spine. And then you wait.

You’ve gotten better at that.


Grind your teeth shut your mouth bide your time.

You get your money’s worth tonight: wait listen track and 

hold your breath—hold… hold… hold on.

The voice you hear buries itself in that soft place beneath your ribs where a blade comes to kill.

‘I’m here for a meeting. I was told to wait at the downstairs bar,’ says the sharp little unmuffled voice.

Really you shouldn’t you shouldn’t be surprised but fuck, tonight? and all the same your blood rushes and pounds and you catch your gasp right before it burns your mouth and sssssssss hums a tremor from your bones to your flesh.

To Deadeye, but in your ear, Una asks:

’Aren’t you coming?’ 

You almost laugh. Dirty talking on the job now, are we?

Tempting really, but first you have to checkmate that filthy little liar and also, fuck, make sure she doesn’t get herself killed, and also, fuck again, make sure she doesn’t get herself hollow-grounded, and also, fuck! Shit, shit, shit. What the hell are you doing? What the hell is she doing? Where the fuck are you going? You sizzling crackling flashing and the audio goes dead and your mind races and splits like lightning. 

Can’t wait can’t stop won’t stop.

It takes everything you have not to break into a run, but then again you couldn’t get inside even if you wanted to, and you tell yourself, she knows what she’s doing, you’ve seen it, Chen’s seen it, you’ve exchanged glances—the querulous stance, the fading bruises, the hard muscle under those ridiculous layers. Seen it felt it

You find the grimy back alley and you grit your teeth. The one-way back door is condemned by a huge dumpster. You raise your gaze to the darkened windows, to the flickering streets and all those strangers who couldn’t care less about what you’re doing, hidden that you are by hood and night. Fuck this. Turn rush push.The dumpster whines on its wheels but yields to your hand and releases the door (just in case) and you dance back as fast as you’ve come; turn the corner, and now torture, walk the street once, twice, thrice, tap tap taping your fingers against your thigh.

Two hours days centuries minutes.

Two three four ten twenty.

You walk further and further to cover you tracks. In the shadows you lay your forehead against a coarse wall for a second. Twist, go back. Weave through the streets. Could use a drink, could use a jump, could use a fall. Could use a fight. Could fight Una. You think of that mask all those years ago, that mask rolled to the tip of her nose, and the grave (shit no), and all the masks that came and went, and all the masks that you both still have to peel off, you think of that mirror helmet of… hers? Of course it’s hers. Well, at least you can see yourself in it, and she knows how much you like that.

Suddenly you jolt and you hear, you hear it: the running steps, the scrape of the metal back door, the low swearing, the faraway shouts and the racing on the asphalt and then she hits you square in the chest like the bullet she is.

You exhale a groan and steady her with a hand but she jerks away and she’s ready to split but then her eyes register you and for a second you see it like you saw it in that coffeeshop when she came back from the dead, the deer in the headlights, the panic flaring, the dark twist of her mouth ready to bite. 

So what can you do? Smile, sigh. Laugh. 

‘Fancy seeing you here, lover.’

She’s breathing fast and blinks, fists clenched. She must be really upset, ‘cause you wouldn’t have survived that nickname otherwise. You take her in; the hair mussed, the throat working, the shitty flannel shirt on a large t-shirt. Did she meet and greet the queen of down below dressed like a depressed teenager? Fuck she’s an idiot and irresistible. She’s on the balls of her feet and she’ll punch you soon but you see the soft and the weak, her arm slightly bent, her cut lip, the surprise that you could use to take her out. Then suddenly she barks (attack first think later):

‘I’m working, Ricardo. Are you following me?’

Is she? Is she working? Working for the bane of your damn existence?
Tonight the teasing doesn’t flow easy.

‘Working. You’re working.’

‘Working, yeah.’

She’s fucking with you but that’s only fair; after all, you are fucking with her.

‘Shit,’ you say, duly concerned. ‘That boss of yours is running you into the ground.’

She pauses, eyes fixed on yours, warm and dark and wavering. She’s not gonna fall for it. She’s not. She oh, she is. Sharply she turns her head and she sinks all at once, hook and sinker she swallows the lie, ravenous ravenous for half-truths she is.

‘Yeah, she’s a jerk. Listen, I have to go.’

‘Aren’t you going to slap me goodbye?’

‘You’re as disturbed as you are ridiculous.’

‘Whatever you want me to be,’ you tease, but your heart is in your throat.

She snorts and sidesteps you (get it?), ready to disappear, but when she walks close there’s a second, a second soft and warm when your thumb comes and wipes the blood off her mouth, and she’s an idiot so she reaches to grasp your hand and rewards you by kissing your palm instead.

CONTEXT : I just wanted to try my grubby paws at Herald’s mind-voice, riffing on the air-boy’s headscape, something swirling, expansive, yet scattered. I think. And, uh, if you haven’t read/played Fallen Hero: Rebirth, this will basically be nonsensical. That being said, what the hell are you waiting for? It’s here, and it’s incredible, so click the link.
DISCLAIMER : literally nothing here is mine, this scene (or a version of it) pops up at the end of the game, I just shifted the POV. Cheeky one-liners, lovely characters, and cool-ass world-building all belong to Malin Rydén.
WHAT TO EXPECT : Danny being shit at combat, me being shit at combat description, blatant and manic disrespect for basic punctuation and adjectival rules, non-native English potentially riddled with errors, a badly-camouflaged very marshmallow bluestep.

In the mirror, the smile is radiant and familiar, that one smile, the screen smile, a tug at the jaw, a supple curve of the cheekbone, a creasing near the eyelid. Breathe in. I think it reaches the eyes, and that’s good. Freeze-frame. I stare a little too long, fixed, glazed, but—of course, I look down first, suddenly self-conscious. He is another. When I bite the inside of my cheeks, zygomaticus grate and pinch under tired flesh. 

Hands clasped on the stripped marble of the washstand, I close my eyes for a second and listen to the gala undulate around me like a gust of wind. Breathe out. The clinking of high heels, champagne glasses, camera flashes. The mingled voices and laughter from the crowd saturating the trills of the orchestra. What is it… Brahms? Rather exuberant for background music; my mother usually went for Satie, his unobtrusive minimalism, the lightness of summer and greenness. I straighten up, wash my hands, meet my own gaze again. Pull at my necktie. Hmm. Under the immaculate collar, the blue edge of my suit peeks out, supple nanomesh moving like a tremor of invulnerability, second skin, an echo of truth under the soft guise of formal wear.

Just in case. If something happened. If I need to leave in a dash. And a little bit for me, too. You get how it is—the hero suit feels much more mine than the trendy clothes they tend to select for me. More mine, and more what I want to be. God, I’m being such a spoilsport, aren’t I? When Barbara comes into the dressing room with her rolling garment rack and her joyous cackle, there’s always a kiss on my cheek, a squeeze on my arm, a flourish of blues and greys to compliment your eyes, doll. If she’s having fun, then it’s all good. I smooth the vest she ironed with obsessive fastidiousness (don’t sit, it’ll crease), and turn around. 


The offensive is soft and quick. Like a flock of birds they converge around me brightly, and, docile, my body takes over. My face shifts, my voice drops. I guess it’s all about—what? Modulating, absorbing, emoting? A few pictures under the lancet arch, a string of selfies, a few handshakes, a too-personal question that I dodge with sweet nonsense. I hear myself chortle to a joke I can’t even make out. A blur, yes, but warm, filled with goodwill, right? It’s not that bad. It’s the least I can do, really. I sign two notebooks, three napkins, a very embarrassing swimsuit picture cut out from a magazine, a naked arm; I think someone asks permission to give me a kiss on the cheek and I lean down, slightly dazed with the harsh colours and moving brilliances of embroidered stones, with the heavy expensive perfumes wafting close.

When I want to make my leave, they part with a common exclamation of sympathetic regret; someone squeezes my palm heartily, another hands me a flute of champagne; waves and whispers and smiles, a few promises. They know I’ll take questions for the Rangers at the end of the night. I cross the large corridor, reflections and dark marble; and step into the golden glow of the chandeliers.

(Breathe out.)

The weight of gravity lessens, freed by the stately height of the ornamented ceilings, by the cristalline width of the glass walls. Beyond the large ogives, the night is purplish, bright, swirling under the tempting rhythm of Santa Ana. Good weather for controlled gliding and absolute freedom, and I’ll soon be drowning in it; just a few hours left. Down here, there is a heavy quality to the air, always a little too rare, always a little too thick, like caressing silk against my tongue and along my throat. They can’t imagine how transparent (how easy) breathing becomes when you soar. How water-like.

I take a step forward, scanning the crowd, looking for Ortega. He’s not far, easy to spot in dark blue, aiming a cheerful wink at a flustered waiter as he gives back his empty glass. His posture is effortlessly confident; something indefinable in the angle of his hips, the arc of his shoulders, the boldness of his tilted chin, a pervasive self-confidence that I sometimes try to imitate (don’t tell anyone) in front of the large mirrors, in the changing rooms. Although I usually end up looking like a puffed up chick, if I’m honest. 

I swallow a mouthful of champagne before I join him; the bubbles go straight to my head. 

He arches a brow when he notices I’m alone, and I rub my neck. 

“So… Angie’s gone.”

I still don’t know if she left because of the paparazzi or because she wanted to lacerate my face until I begged for mercy, but I keep that to myself. Snarls and insults are better than the silent treatment, right? At least there’s space for communication there; space for improvement. 

“The exhibit was that bad?” Ortega teases before stealing my glass. He usually does—maybe he thinks I’m underaged. I let him with a chuckle. 

“It was pretty cool, actually. They have one of your old suits, you know. Was your waist really this tiny in 2003?”

“Hey! You watch your mouth, kiddo.”

He smacks my forehead and I hold up my hands in immediate surrender, but I hear myself giggle all the same. He doesn’t go easy on me when it comes to my skinny legs, so it’s only fair.

“You should go and take a look. There’s a whole display for Sidestep.”

“Is there now?”

A half-smile tugs at his lips and, without my glass, my hands suddenly feel very empty, very itchy; I thrust them in the pockets of my slacks. Don’t ask. Slowly, instinctively, my body rocks from the balls of my feet to the tip of my heels, and I have to catch myself before I start to hover. Keep your feet on the ground, in more ways than one. And don’t ask.

“So. No date, uh?” I ask.

“No date,” he shakes his head, and I can see an amused glint of teeth now. Smart eyes pierce through me like a torchlight. Looks like I’m as easy to read as a colouring book. There’s something about Ortega’s slow, silent teasing that reminds me of Josh and hits me square in the thorax. The same smug little delight in the pupil, a youthful crinkling of the eyes, just a hair’s breadth from a snicker. I clear my throat. Is that stupid raspy laugh mine? It is. Very smooth, dude.

“What? I just wanted to make sure before I tell your fan-club that you’re available for the eve-”


The first detonation is deafening.

“What the…?”

The next explosions flare up amidst brittle sounds of human fear and shattered glass. 

My feet immediately lift from the ground where it cracks and trembles while Ortega spreads his arms to keep his balance; I grab his wrist tightly, to stabilize him—no, to stabilize myself. Around us, the crowd starts to scream and scramble as stucco columns tip and crash in the empty gallery above. Thick, dark smoke swells from the back corridors, a wave of heat, a stream of fog, smelling of ammonium; in the miasma and the half-light, I can hear the coughing, the stumbling—the sharp pulse of my blood in my ears. Panic vibrates around us like a rolling tide. They’re rushing toward the doors as one, a moving glittering mass of merging bodies under the flickering chandeliers. Jesus. They’ll walk over each other and hurt themselves before they even get stuck in the damage. 

Ortega’s voice cuts through the chaos.

“Daniel! Go and check the exhibition rooms for casualties, okay? I’ll take care of the crowd for now.”

“Of… of course.”

Don’t do anything stupid. Come back as soon as you’re done.”

His face is obscured for a moment, but I can hear the sharpness of his usually golden voice, the serious downturn of his mouth, the dry glare summoned from his Marshal days. The cogs turning in his brain. Does he think I’m not capable of handling this? I… Yes. Yes, he thinks he needs to protect me as much as the civilians around us. Without Argent and Steel, he must feel—no. No, no, it’s fine. Focus. I let go of his arm with a quick nod, heart thundering. No matter. This is not the time to argue. People are in danger. And… actions speak louder than words, right? I can show him—

“Good luck,” I mumble without meeting his gaze.

I soar and dart toward the archways.

For a suspended second, in the twilight before I curve, a suspended second between shadow and light, I sense a sizzling creeping flow brush against me, a feeling of unease, a velvet-deep dizziness. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the people below come together, join, fall into step behind each other; like an obedient army, a neat row of puppets, walking in line despite their strangled screams, despite the panic that shudders on their dark mass like a breeze on a lake. I swallow, hard. Breathe… in. 

The exhibition room is a lonely tomb. I expected huddled bodies and howling pleas, I expected the foundations to shudder until they crumbled and fell, but there’s nobody here—nobody but a dark silhouette, ambivalent, fluid, moving with seamless brutality amidst the glass-stands; gripping mannequins, tearing at cloth, shattering hissing screens. Around them, the heroes of my childhood lie sprawled and discarded, ridiculous, garish, strange to my straining eyes and my shuddering brain, a parody of amputated dolls and plastic grins. 

Alien. Remote. 

In the aquatic halo of blue-green spotlights, the stranger freezes abruptly, a gleaming spectre, their back still turned to me. There’s a gasp, I think. A gasp that grows to a chuckle that swells to a laugh, verging on manic, tinged with eeriness through their vocal distorters. The beating of my heart drowns  the jarring movie soundtrack that plays on a loop in the ceiling speakers. I grit my teeth; and dive. 

The air moves with me as I gather speed and with it surges the impetus of my attack; just a split second, a clear line, an easy arc, fast, swooping down on the exposed enemy, ready to ram into them in one motion and—with dizzying ease, the silhouette steps smoothly aside at the last moment. I stifle a scream, wait!—too quick, can’t adjust my trajectory, smash into a large glass-stand, raise my arms to protect myself against the impact. Around me, the glass explodes, the wooden shelves collapse, weapon-parts shudder and fall in a loud clatter of hollow metal. The dark spectre laughs softly, then advances toward me. Snow-like grating of heavy boots on broken glass. I tense, rush, crawl, clumsy, ready to block the next blow (am I?), but—

“Outside,” they say sharply, a smile behind the helmet.

They spin around and disappear in the murky corridors of the deserted museum, movements fluid and back taut. I scramble to my feet, pushing away the gaudy hero accessories (too light—only replicas), and take off straight away. There’s a spike of frustration needling at my gut now, and shame burning my face up to the tip of my ears. Throbbing. Thank god, nobody else was here, not Ortega,  not Argent, not the cameras. A string of curses rings in my ears. My voice. Hush. Fuck, fuck, fuck. That guy eluded me like air. Effortless. I can’t fight that kind of reflexes, can’t parry so quickly, and they won’t need long to figure it out.

Maybe it’s just a matter of timing. A well-placed offensive to knock him out until the team arrives. Hopefully, they can’t fly. I haven’t seen his suit clearly enough to be sure. It’s a light thing, moving smoothly with their body. Yeah. Who am I kidding, really? There’s no way for me to know. Can’t study them closely, can’t pick apart pictures, can’t break down their weapons, not yet, not without any information, not in the dark, not in the now. The only strategy I’ve got is empiricism. Try now and think later. It’s not like I have a choice, right? I can’t wait around and let them harm innocent civilians for the thrill of it.

Ortega is going to strangle me. If the stranger doesn’t do it first.

At full speed, I burst through a still-intact window, and the violence of the collision feels like a body-slam, but, hm, that’s good. That’s what I need. Focus, wake up, go for it. I can do this. The others won’t be long now. I just need to stall the stranger for a while. Make sure they don’t attack. I’ve trained for this—more or less. 

I scan my surroundings quickly to assess the damage; the rotating lights rip through the haze, ambulances wailing and stopping a few meters away; bodies stagger and clash aimlessly under the white street lamps—rescue and escape and panic. On the asphalt, on the stretchers, on the steps, people howl and scatter and call out to each other and hysteria teems like toxic water. I close my eyes, just a second, throat tight. How many have died? How many will suffer tonight because they were in the wrong place, at the wrong time? Because a faceless monster wanted to spit on the remembrance of our heroes?

The night is purplish and red and balmy, and the villain is waiting for me in the center of a tentative circle of onlookers and journalists—their anonymous helmet tilted toward the sky, a face of darkness streaked with ascetic lines. Gracefully, they raise their armoured wrist; they beckon me with a little flick of the hand. Come. They move with elemental smoothness, feet firmly planted on the ground, limbs prompt and light, each minute movement purposeful and sharp. No useless flourish. A chilling and subtle confidence in the tilt of the head, the stance of the legs. Strike and hit. I remember their lightning-quick dodge, in the exposition room. Speed enhancers? Mods? Maybe I can match it with enough—right—youwish—no—I drift slowly, out of reach, fists clenched.

“And who are you, anyway?” I call.

Breathe in. Breathe out. I can do this.

“My name is Shadow,” they reply, waiting. Relaxed.

Oh, they already know. They know as well as me that I’m no match for them.

Something in my chest unfastens and plummets to my stomach, and I know, I know, I know I should wait for back-up, and remember Ortega’s warning, and listen to Steel’s voice whispering in my head not to engage in hand-to-hand combat, but the sirens and the screams are piercing and clawing at my brain and suddenly Shadow (Shadow, yes, armour dark, limbs supple, voice low, pulsating with this impossible half-existence that belongs only to the fog) turns toward the crowd, arms spread wide, and taunts with quiet delight:

“I feel sorry for you. Looks like your so-called hero has abandoned you.”

The impulse is as feverish as a blaze and when they make a step forward, when the reporter stumbles back with a startled jerk, when the threatening glove rises in the quivering aura of the electric lights, I throw myself forward and dart through the tepid wind, praying praying that they don’t harm anyone—that they don’t turn around—that my shove will throw them to the ground—just a minute—that the surprise will make them stagger and twist on the nearby corner of the pavement—that, that… (that Argent will materialise please and join me in quicksilver blue), praying that—

The force of my momentum would have been enough to—what momentum—what—

Torsion, swift, harsh, a clean turn—Fuck! Bending torso, agile arms, implacable grip, and nowhere to run. They lock me in a tackle, injected with my own speed, and toss me, no time to scream, no time to breathe, straight like a blade in a nearby car that slams into my back like a brick wall. Oxygen flees from me in a long shuddering convulsion, and I remain motionless, between motor and airbags and tarmac, trying to catch my breath, clutching my fist against my heart. I can hear the wheezing fraying between my teeth. Can I move? I can’t move. I have to move. I rise on one elbow. A stabbing pain fuses between my ribs and burns my lungs. I hear—I hear myself—choke like a kid in the dark—is that blood under my tongue—if I could only glide, gain some distance—but—Shadow’s heavy, shielded boot falls on my aching shoulder and I writhe reflexively, a strangled gasp. My fingers close, white and desperate, on the black stiff ankle.

“Don’t,” I pant, or think, or… beg.

They lean toward me, slow. Under the nondescript helmet, they seem to examine my face, just a little while. I wait for a word of triumph, a last torture, a last fracture, but the sigh that escapes them has the lightness of a secret, and their warning is a whisper:

“Time for a nap.”

One final shuddering thin breath when they raise their boot above my head, and—fade to black.

If you read French and wanted to check out my rewriting (retranslating) of Christina Rossetti’s Look On This Picture and On This, the magazine it was published in is now available online ! You can download Profanationshere. I’m on page 23 in PDF format, page 44 on the document. 

Anyway, it’s completely obscure, but I’m excited. 


His tibias, his patellae. His ilium and his coccyx. His ribs, opened one by one for me.

Suddenly, she touches his tucked knee. He starts, opens his eyes, looks at her.

Pauline Albanese​,from “The Closed Doors”


“…light doesn’t scratch at the retina and the wind is soft like a dying sigh…”

-Pauline Albanese, excerpt of The Closed Doors

Anger, deep.

How dared he
                     how dared he think of me as he thinks of
                     others think of me
with his eyes
with his lips
with his sex and his hands
                      how dared he defile the power of my presence
                                              the power of my existence with fantasies of


How dared he think
           of me
                    in flesh and
                                     sighs and
           think of me stripped
           think of me bare
           think of me
mouth locked gazes entwined fingers gripped
                                                  dared he think of
me me me

A silence.

Soft now.


How dared you give my soul a skin, a face, a voice
           and let it set your tongue ablaze
           and let it scald your belly
           and let it burn your nights
                                                       and let it taint me.

Pauline Albanese, Ἔρως, (published in Monsterzine)