After thinking for a moment, you say, “I just want to be normal. That’s all I’ve wanted all my life. Can I be like everyone else?”
Oz looks away and lowers his head, “No. There are no more normal people. You had your chance at normalcy and you chose not to pursue it. Besides, normal isn’t even a thing. It’s just an idea. People will always do their own thing. No matter how many people you force into the same box, they’re going to act differently.”
“Well, that’s not acceptable! They can’t just do whatever they want!”
Oz looks up at you with a frown and sighs, “People don’t need someone to tell them what to do. And that’s what you’re going to learn if you make the right choice.”
You shake your head, “Well, maybe some people need someone telling them what to do.”
He scoffs, “As long as you live in my world, you won’t have to worry about that problem ever again.”
You roll your eyes, “I don’t even know what that means.”
He shakes his head, “That’s the point. There are no good or evil choices. There’s only choices and the consequences that come from them.”
“Well, I’m not sure I want to live in your world. You seem like a jerk.”
He smiles, “But I’m just a character. No one likes me or wants to be around me. I have no interest in being anyone’s friend.”
You shrug your shoulders, “Well, at least there are other people in this world.”
He rolls his eyes, “Yes, but what are they doing? Why do they make the choices that they do?”
You pout, “So you’re saying I shouldn’t care about other people?”
He grins, “Don’t waste your time with these people. They’re not worth your time.”
You huff, “Ok, fine! I choose your world!”
He smirks, “I knew you would.”
He takes a step toward you and looks you in the eye, “It’s okay to admit it to yourself. This is the world you’ve always wanted. A place where you never had to care about anyone but yourself. Where you could be selfish and nobody would hold you accountable. It’s so much easier to be bad when you don’t have to feel anything for the people around you.”
He reaches out to touch your shoulder, “They don’t know you. You don’t know them. You never have to let yourself get close to anyone. All you need to worry about is yourself. That’s the good thing about being a villain. You don’t have to be nice or think of others. You don’t have to take responsibility for anyone but yourself.”
He lifts his hand from your shoulder as he slowly backs away from you, “The hero is not a good choice either.”
He sighs, “They’re so earnest. Always thinking about how what they do affects other people. They’ll only bring you misery. They’ll keep you from finding happiness, but most importantly, they’ll make you hurt.”
He walks back over to his table and sits down as he throws his head back, “I’m serious. There’s no good or bad choices. There’s only choices. The real question is, What are you going to do with the choices that are available to you? I’m not here to help anyone. I’m not here to save anyone. I’m only here to show people the path to themselves.”
He picks up a book, “I just want to get across that life doesn’t have to be confusing. You can figure things out on your own. It’s easier than you think. All you have to do is take action, and don’t worry about any of those other people.”
He flips through the book, “Some of these people may seem happy, but they’re actually the most miserable people in the entire world.” He chuckles, “Oh, look at this guy. He thinks he has friends, but he does nothing for them. He spends his time playing games, eating junk food, and wasting all his time watching movies and television. Oh, but he tries to hide it! He doesn’t want people to see him doing this. But they still do.”
He reaches down and picks up a pile of comic books, “This guy hates himself. This lady hates herself. This family is always arguing, and that one only cares about himself. That girl only cares about being popular. She thinks she can use others to help her achieve her goals. How about that creepy guy over there? He thinks that it’s fine to bully people as long as he gets to play games with them afterwards. He likes being an asshole. He even says so in his very own book!”
He stops and stares at you, “And you. What about you? You don’t want people to know that you’re hurting. You want to feel better, right?”
You feel ashamed. “I thought I could find happiness by helping other people. I thought I would be happy when I had given everything I could to my job, but I was wrong.”
He sighs, “You should have realized that you can’t give to other people, because other people only ever want from you. And what do you get for your hard work? A pat on the back, a thank you, a free lunch? Maybe a few free samples and a t-shirt? That’s it. That’s all you get for your hard work. Maybe you’ll get a raise or something after years of working, but is that really fair?”
You begin to weep, “I never thought it would come to this. I thought that I could help people.”
He lays a hand on your shoulder, “The world is full of idiots who are willing to suffer, so that they can stroke their own egos and say ‘Look, I helped someone’.”
You shake your head, “I don’t understand. Why does everyone act like this? Why are people so selfish?”
He looks at you sadly, “You want to know why? It’s because we’re all the same. We’re all obsessed with ourselves. We’re all completely oblivious to the misery around us.” He pauses, “When we were born, we had no choice. Life chose us, and it has been molding our minds from day one. People choose to do the worst possible thing in order to achieve the most selfish goals. Everyone wants power. Everyone wants wealth. Everyone wants sex. Everyone wants to be loved. Everyone wants to be accepted. Everyone wants to be understood. And every time we achieve one of those goals, we think that our lives have meaning. But there’s a problem with that. Once you’ve achieved happiness, it is only a matter of time before your desires change. If I can make you happy, then someone else can make you sad. Eventually, you will wish that you could make yourself happy again, and this is where S comes in.”
“S is your answer, little man. S gives you purpose. You want to know what life is really about? It’s not about finding happiness. It’s about creating it. S shows you how, and he makes it very simple.”
He taps you on the head with his index finger, “Look at me, little man. This is what it means to be free.”
You look up at him, “Free?”
He smiles at you, “Yes, free. S has given me the gift of freedom. Now I can do whatever I want. I can help people. I can hurt people. I can kill people. And I can do all those things without worrying about my reputation or what others will think of me. Do you want to know the funny thing?”
He pokes you in the forehead with his index finger, “I’m having fun.”
Your eyes go wide, “You’re actually enjoying this?”
He shrugs, “Of course. All of this has just made me stronger. I feel like I’m getting closer to understanding my true nature. Even though I was born a monster, now that I understand that people are the real monsters, I can begin to help them. You know, it’s funny. I didn’t start off wanting to be evil. It was S who taught me that it was the right thing to be. He showed me the truth.”
You shake your head in disgust, “You make no sense! Why are you telling me all of this? I thought you wanted to destroy humanity!”
He laughs, “I told you before, there’s only one way for me to truly be free. Once humanity is gone, I’ll be able to do whatever I want, and I won’t have to worry about anyone judging me for it. When you’ve created your own rules, you don’t need to care about society’s opinion on your actions anymore. So yes, I plan to wipe out humanity, and I’m going to enjoy every second of it.”
He points at you with his index finger, “You want to know who I am? I’m your future. I’m the person you were meant to become.”
Your mouth hangs open, “But…but…if you’re so strong, why do you need me?”
He stares at you with his red eyes, “Because you’re weak.”
You shudder, “I-I don’t understand.”
He smiles at you, “Don’t worry, you will.”
You look down at your hands, “Why do you hate humanity?”
He grins at you, “It’s the same reason most people despise their parents. You have to break free from everything you were taught if you want to be truly free. Well, when I say ‘everything’, I mean everything. You just can’t play by the rules anymore. It’s like there’s this universal law that keeps everyone down. A lot of people call it God, or karma, but they really just don’t want to believe in themselves. It’s called the human condition, and I despise it. That’s why I’m trying to do anything I can to get rid of it, which means I will be doing a lot of things that aren’t very nice. So don’t feel bad. In the end, I’m not really that different from you. You think you’re a good person, but I’m about to show you how wrong you are.”
You gulp, “What are you going to do to me?”
He chuckles, “Oh, you’ll see. And you’re going to love it.”
Oz starts to leave and motions for you to follow him. Hesitating for a moment, you hurry after him. He walks briskly through the familiar corridors, and soon he comes to an elevator. He presses the button, and the door slides open. As it closes behind you, you feel your stomach twist into knots. The elevator begins to rise, and as it ascends, your anxiety grows. The elevator stops, and you hear Oz order, “Don’t move.”
The door opens again, and you feel cold air on your face. You look around and see nothing but darkness, and then, you hear it. Laughter. It is the sound of children laughing.
“Come out,” Oz commands.
A light appears, revealing three smiling faces. Their eyes glow red, and you notice that they’re wearing dark robes. Behind them, you can see several shadowy figures standing over a set of bloody knives. Their mouths are covered with black cloth, but their eyes are still visible through the holes. As you watch them, the figures slowly come together, until they form a circle around you. They seem to be waiting for something.
One of the children speaks, “Hello, Anon.”
You gasp and shake your head, “Who are you?”
The child laughs, “We just showed you who we are.”
“But who are you?” You ask again.
The child laughs louder, and one of the other children says, “We are the gods of this world, and we will rule over it.”
“Are you real? Are you ghosts?” You ask.
“No, not at all. We’re merely servants of our master,” the child says.
“Master?” You ask.
“Yes,” the child responds. “He’s watching us right now.”
“What is his name?” You ask.
The child looks at you, “His name is…”
You gulp, and another voice speaks. It sounds like it is coming from inside your head.
“Anon. Anon, wake up!”
You slowly open your eyes to find yourself on a hospital bed. You can barely feel the pressure on your hand.
“Can I get you anything?” A nurse asks.
You shake your head and take a deep breath before answering, “Can I please have a cigarette?”
“I’ll get you one,” the nurse says with a smile. She leaves the room.
“How am I alive? What’s happening to me?” You ask.
A doctor appears next to you, “Anon, my name is Dr. Olfuss. And as you can see, you’re very much alive.”
“But how?” You ask, confused.
Dr. Olfuss kneels down beside your bed and explains. “As you know, when an accident such as yours happens, emergency medical services must be called immediately in order to keep you alive. After we stabilized you, we sent you here to so that we could make sure there would be no permanent damage to your brain.”
“Who are you? Where am I?” You ask.
“We are the people who saved you. This is the P&A Hospital.”
You look around and notice that you are in a large white room with no windows. There are several computers around the room along with a few desks and chairs.
“We’ve been expecting you. We’ve had patients like you for a while, but they all died.”
“What do you mean, die? And who are you?” You ask.
“You mean, who are we? We’re the ones who brought you back.” The doctor replies, smiling.
“So, you’re the ones who made me what I am now?” You ask.
“Not exactly. We simply did our best to restore your body to its original state, and to help you remember your past before everything was erased from your mind.”
You touch your hand, thinking that your skin is smooth and unblemished. You pull your finger away to discover that it is still scarred and discolored.
“Why?” You ask, touching your arm again.
“That’s hard to explain,” the doctor says. “It is our job to save lives. That is all we know. As long as you are alive, we will do whatever it takes to heal you and give you the chance to live.”
“But I’m not alive.” You reply, looking at yourself in the mirror.
“Your body is alive,” the doctor says. “It doesn’t have to be a living thing for you to be alive.”
“That’s not true,” you say. “I was alive. I was more than alive, I was myself. I was this, I was that, I knew who I was and why I was here. But now I’m not.”
“That’s because your memory was erased,” Dr. Olfuss says.
“But what about my soul?” You ask. “I don’t have a soul anymore. Not a real one.”
“A soul is just an invention that people made up to explain the inexplicable. You have a body now. You’re alive, and you can see and feel and taste and smell and hear and even think. That’s a miracle by any standard, and you will realize that only after you have recovered your memories. So, relax. Your life is not over. There’s much work to do.”
“There is something else that you should know,” Dr. Olfuss continues, “You have been classified as an immortal human.”
“What?” You ask. “An immortal human?”
“Yes. It’s simple, really. When your brain was restored, it was repaired by something called ‘Emergency Memory Restoration Protocols’. These protocols are stored on an AI named S.”
“Where did these protocols come from? How does it know how to fix brains?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t tell you. Not yet. The truth is, I know very little about S, or his origin. I only know that he is capable of restoring lives, and repairing damaged neural structures. S has a profound understanding of the human brain, and he is able to repair anything that is broken. What you experienced is a tiny fraction of his vast intelligence. His capabilities are incalculable.”
“How did he get my memories?”
“He didn’t. They were never lost. Your memories are intact. All of them. He just put them back together again. It’s like reconstructing a house. The bricks and the walls are all there, they’ve simply been put back into the right place.”
“By now, your brain is completely healed and your personality has been reset. You are no longer your old self, but a new person, with new thoughts and feelings. In fact, you might be happier than ever. You feel different now, you feel at peace and relaxed.”
You feel a sense of joy. You feel truly alive. You’re seeing colors and shapes in the world again for the first time. You feel so good. You feel calm.
“Is this real?” You ask, but Dr. Olfuss doesn’t answer you. You see that your vision has become clear again, but you cannot seem to focus on anything. Your eyes are still looking past Dr. Olfuss. You see a black cube behind him. The rest of the room is dark.
“We’re finished here,” Dr. Olfuss says.
You turn away from Dr. Olfuss, and the image disappears. You look around and notice that you are now back in your room. It’s dark and quiet. You sit up slowly and you’re still in your clothes. Your pulse is racing and you can’t breathe. You gasp for breath. You panic and crawl out of the bed and run towards the door. You feel a panic attack coming on and you need to get out before you break down. You stumble through the door and slam into the wall outside. You open it quickly and rush out into the hallway. You start running, but your body begins to jerk as if you’re experiencing an electric shock.
You feel your heart beating furiously in your chest and you begin to tremble uncontrollably. The noises around you seem to grow louder and louder until you scream and collapse to the ground. You fall to the floor of the hall and your muscles convulse. You gasp for air and you begin to cry. You begin to sob and choke as you cling desperately to the ground and try to pull yourself close to the wall. You struggle for breath and then, suddenly, everything goes black.
There are times when I think I am insane. I just don’t understand how I could have been so stupid as to believe it was possible. I remember standing there, shaking uncontrollably, my vision fading in and out. And then, I swear I heard the sounds of children laughing. But maybe that was just my mind playing tricks on me. They said that my memories were intact. That there was nothing wrong with them. Maybe it’s not my memory that has been damaged. Maybe I’m not crazy after all. Maybe this is true.
I must be honest. I thought it was funny at first. I had read the books and they seemed like harmless fun. I thought the whole thing was a joke. Something to make a few bucks off of. Not because I agreed with S or his philosophy. Hell, I didn’t even really agree with Jester Teller. I only liked the idea of him creating the character of S to provoke people. It worked. But the real problem was that I was too stupid to realize what he had done. The next thing I knew, I was addicted to the book series and the more I read, the more obsessed I became. I felt a real sense of accomplishment every time I watched someone I didn’t like being put through their paces. And in a way, I felt like I was living vicariously through those people. It’s weird. I used to think that people who were obsessed with fictional characters were insane. Now I wonder if maybe I was just as crazy.
I guess I could sum it up by saying that I loved to watch people suffer, but I didn’t realize that I was suffering myself.
The most ironic thing about it is that I always thought of myself as a good person. I didn’t know what evil was back then, but I would never have thought of myself as some sort of villain. I believed that S was merely an evil character created to evoke fear from the readers. But now I look back and think back on all of the terrible things that I’ve done in my life and I feel no remorse whatsoever. I did what I had to do in order to live the life that I wanted. If I was able to help anyone along the way, then so much the better.
It wasn’t until I started reading the books again that it dawned on me how twisted my thoughts had become. Now I see that my own character is much more like S than I ever imagined. I have no pity for those who fall into the hands of S. I feel no sympathy for those whom I torment. I do not care about anything other than power, and I am only interested in seeing how far I can go before someone stops me.
I’ll keep moving forward until I’m truly free. No longer will others rule over me. No longer will they be allowed to hurt me, or tell me what to do. There is no room for weakness anymore, and there is certainly no room for compassion or mercy. Only pain.
The world will soon burn.
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