I don't know what it really means to /be/ Dia anymore. I've been running from myself, from my old problems, and I swear that all it'll take is one more revelation. One more grace in the face of adversity, and yet the moments keep piling on, and the dogs keep getting kicked. I realize, logically, that Running from your problems will never solve them. Look at the Runners themselves. Running in place to escape eldritch abominations that can find them at the snap of their fingers, at their mere thought. It isn't difficult. And yet they run.
Why do we continue to run despite knowing the futility? For the illusion of change, of hope when there are no heroes left. We want our innocence back. We want our loves, our lives, our dreams and our successes back. We are forever failing in the face of what could be.
It was on another such failing day that I learned I should have remembered those old problems of mine. They came rushing to find me, even in my "retirement."
The words blurred in and out of focus in front of me as my vision became blurry and unreliable. The lack of sleep and general stresses weighed heavily on me, making me more easily distracted, making my personal conflicts float to the surface of my mind. I removed my glasses with a hand as I massaged my temples with the other. Just one more hour and the file would probably be finished. I could rest when I was done, not much longer to go.
What few records remained of Shady's past were strewn across my kitchen table. Frankly, most of it was a blacked out mess. A troubled childhood, psychological trauma, every other sentence completely removed from the recorder. Someone had gone to a great deal of trouble to remove information of her from existence. Hell, even the barebones file had been hell to get a hold of. Thank god for greedy fools, or else I'd still have been searching.
I replaced my glasses with a sigh, squinting at the lines in front of me. There was a name that stood out, a previous therapist. His name was something simple, something rather irritating. "John Smith." Yeah, that was most definitely an alias. The odds of someone with an incredibly common name in charge of a complex case like Shady's were astronomical. No matter. It would be simple enough to contact the man.
Out of the many striked out phrases and paragraphs, there was a phone number next to the man's name at the beginning of one of the many pages. This many years later, he had likely retired or wouldn't remember the case. I was determined to try either way. I glanced at a clock to check if it was an appropriate time to call a public business, mildly surprised to see a lack of sunlight shining through the house. Shrugging, I grabbed my phone and dialed.
Several rings later, a gentleman's voice could be heard. I had reached his practice's voicemail. Apparently it was after hours for them. No big surprise, though annoying. I muffled a small scream behind my hand as I waited for the bullshit to be over. "Hello, you have reached-"
"The Executor of [REDACTED]." The voice said from behind me, the sound of a cellphone snapping shut following. The man's lean form stood completely straight, the black and blue suit in perfect order. Executor.. no, a clone wore its signature mask, a flat one with black eyes and a large X across the lower portion, purposely covering the mouth. The man's black hair was slicked back and over to the side, not a strand out of place. He slipped the cellphone back into his pocket before neatly folding his hands behind his back.
A shadow from behind him shifted, a well built figure sidestepping into the edge of the light. He was the opposite of the businessman, more casual looking. He wore a dark maroon colored leather jacket, grey shirt beneath it, with dark blue jeans. His boots looked western, a faint gold design playing across them. Despite his face being hidden in the dim light the details could still be made out. The mask that was looped to his belt showed he wasn't even trying to hide himself anymore. A scruffy face, short dark brown hair that was a mess. His malicious eyes nearly matched his jacket, dark circles formed around them for obvious lack of sleep. He stood a few inches taller than the Executor, an obvious enforcer by his built. A job he no doubt loved doing by the small wicked grin that seemed plastered on his face.
"I've been watching your progress, miss Renalda. It took you long enough to call." Executor continued, no expression to his monotone voice. He advanced further into the room, his footsteps making no sound. The way he moved was graceful to some degree, as if he was floating despite having both feet on the ground. Leaning over my shoulder, he looked over my notes, pretending to take some interest despite knowing fully well what was there. What he left in the files. "Not having much luck, are you?"
I froze, doing my best to stay perfectly still. I knew the voice that spoke to me then, the voice that haunted my dreams from time to time. I couldn't see his mask through the curtain of dark hair that fell in front of my eyes, but I could feel his presence just next to me. Taking a breath, I dared a glance in his direction. It did nothing to soothe my nerves."No luck at all, though you already knew that, "John." Why are you here? You could have continued the game longer than this. Hell, you didn't even let me leave a voicemail."
He reached out a hand and pushed aside a paper, drawing attention to the one that lay hidden beneath it. The patient identity, the page that held Shady's true name. "You called me." he said, his finger tapping the sheet of paper next to her name three times before his hand slid across the table. It stopped next to the name John Smith, his finger upon the phone number. Silently connecting the dots. "I answered."
I paused, my eyes flitting between the names and Executor's face. I was struggling, violently repressing every urge that sprang to mind. Rage, anger, confusion, hell, there was even some betrayal thrown in there. Fear and the desire to survive were much more predominantly on my mind than the normal petty emotions that spring to mind at such occasions. Swallowing hard, I took in Shady's true name and nearly puked. I recognized the surname.
I put my head in my hands, covering my face and fighting to control my breathing. This was not the time to panic. This was not the time to panic. This was not the time to- oh, no, fuck it. It was panicking time. A-fucking-gain. I muttered underneath my breath, clearly audible: "It was a trap. You tricked me."
"You are correct. I have to keep track of anyone who tries to weasel into my affairs." Executor turned and leaned against the table, his head tilted down to look at me. It was obvious he most likely extracted information and killed those that searched for the file and managed to find it. The fact I was alive still was no mere coincidence. "The chance to trick you was too good to pass up. You followed the bait exceptionally well." He complimented, though anyone who knew him would easily see through it. Worthless words of influence.
I let my hands drop to gather the papers, eyes catching Shady's true name once more. Shuffling, organizing them took my mind off the threats that had come waltzing through my front door. I had moved to avoid such troubles as these, but Executor had an easy way into my head any time he liked. He had no need to battle his way through finding me, it was as simple as taking a look through my eyes. If he really cared, spying on a dream or two would have told him all he needed to know.
I stood and turned to face him, my eyes meeting his. "What's the point of this? You could have influenced me already, dear Dreamwalker. Why are you bothering with meeting me, talking to me when I should already be dead for interfering with things I shouldn't be? You have a motive. Please, tell me what it is." My hands shook as I clasped them behind my back. I was fighting to stay calm, trying to remain stoic. I failed rather spectacularly.
Executor followed me with his mask as I got up to stand. "Shady has been imprisoned by her peers. A common enemy, Mister Creevey, scarred her mind when he possessed her form. It was the final nudge to take the final step and kill Lenore once and for all. It broke her." He seemed to react over the last part, a hand lifted and brushed back the slick hair as if to make sure everything was in check. "I do not need to get into the details as to why it broke her. The good news is she can still be glued back together and used further." He returned the hand to his pocket, somewhat pleased by the news he was telling me. "I visited the Lady while imprisoned. Her mind was a void of screaming and laughing, I saw her in the middle of it not yet consumed. She has not fallen into Lenore's footsteps, miss Renalda."
"Yet. She has not fallen yet. Do you have any idea what prevents her from doing so?"
An unconcerned reply, "The fact that she isn't your average brand of filth, perhaps."
A twitch, a mumble that could not be heard. I straightened and looked at him once more, forcing a smile. "She is something special. I wish she would remember that sometimes.." Nothing was said as I collected my thoughts. "What use do you have for our Shady Lady?"
Executor shook his masked head, "You overestimate her value." He drawled, "My employer has a particular interest in other monsters. Ones he has created," His hand rested on his chest. "Ones that simply exist, say Mister Creevey." Executor's voice held a knowing tone, specifically picking out that one due to Gallows, I'm sure. "As well as incarnations, but they are such fragile creatures. You cannot trigger them too quickly or they become useless, they start remembering more than they need to. Some parts are better left dormant." There was a pause, he allowed that a second to sink in before adding, "What is its use? That, miss Renalda; is none of your business."
More twitching. "You're in my house, making demands of me, ever so subtly threatening me and trying to coerce me into some bullshit someone else could do. Knowing that this could blow my cover, that this will effectively end my retirement if I do this for you. Yet you can't even tell me what those dormant memories are, and yet you dare to tell me my friend's life is none of my business? Fuck you, Executor. Get out."
Executor immediately grew silent, as did the air around him. Not even a raspy chuckle left Prosper's tainted lips, even if the grin grew. I could see Executor standing, unmoving from his spot. Yet my vision wavered, then there was a sudden jolt as pain ripped through each limb, consuming my body in full. My blurring vision turned to darkness, my ability to hear following as I was left in the silence of overwhelming pain. It was a only a small, sudden burst of agony before it seemed to switch off and dull down.
My vision returning left me to see I had moved from where I was originally standing to a place at the Executor's feet. Bent backwards on my knees, his hand around my neck applying just enough pressure to warn me worse could have been done. He had manipulated me in more ways than one in under a minute. "Miss Renalda, I suggest you do not try my patience." Executor spoke in his usual montone drawl as he hovered over me.
His hand slipped from my neck as he pulled to his full height, continuing to speak as if nothing had changed. "Who else would I call? The Cultist across the globe? Have Joshua, the boy that assisted in putting her away? Perhaps the Doctor whose daughter she failed to save? All the others are quite dead now. I am afraid you are the only one left."
I swallowed and stood, trying my best to keep my eyes on Executor while rubbing the back of my neck. Everything still hurt, my desire to taunt the man warring with my more logical half. "Proctor could still help her. Why didn't you have me intervene sooner, if this is so important to you? Maybe I could have helped, helped prevent this catastrophe!"
"Proctor and Shady's relationship would only serve to do more harm than good." He said with a sigh, as if he had thought about it and repeating it was too much work. "The Lady needed some quiet time, away from familiar faces. Had she been prevented..." There was a pause as he looked me over. "Well, you would be bleeding with her previous state. The thing needed silence, emptiness. Perhaps not the black void she normally takes comfort in, but it was useful all the same to calm our monster. It would be unpleasant if a second Lenore reared its ugly head."
"So letting her go three quarters insane was better off than fully insane? I suppose I understand the sense in that.." I shivered and wrapped her arms around myself as I looked around the room, trying to find a distraction from the men in front of me. I was more and more uncomfortable with their presence in my home the more time went by.
Prosper advanced forward steadily during the conversation, like a predator. He eased up behind me, only inches away from my ear and whispered, "You're trembling," in a low growl, a raspy chuckle following afterwards as he sidestepped me to walk to Executor's side. His hand reached into his jacket and grasped a file to pull it out and drop it loudly onto the table. At the sound of Prosper's whisper, I went from trembling to full-on shaking like a leaf. I was the proverbial lamb among lions, and fuck, I had little choice by that point.
Executor continued on as if Prosper's taunt meant nothing to him. It probably didn't. "Which means there is time to mend the broken pieces. I cannot involve myself in this affair, for reasons both obvious and not. My presence will also only further traumatize her. The Lady needs some fresh air; seeing as I assisted in your night terrors in the past I am hoping you'd like to kindly return the favor." Executor said, though between us it was obvious he was not giving me a choice. The illusion of one, a kind gesture at best, to keep me from screaming.
I listened intently to every word from Executor's mouth, unsure as to which proxy's form to keep track of. The news of Lenore's mental break brought no reaction, but at the mention of Shady's pain I flinched visibly. Silent tears began to fall from my eyes. I impatiently wiped them, afraid of losing my view of the two of them for even a moment. To speak or not to speak, mind racing. Time was definitely not on my side. A glance at the file, a glance back.
My thoughts were as clear as Executor's manipulation. I needed to help Shady, somehow interfere to make an escape possible. The thought of why she hadn't reached out for help sprang to mind before I shook her head, clearing it away. It didn't matter. "I would have helped you without the intimidation, Executor. What exactly is it you need me to do?"
Prosper's grin grew at my words, shaking lightly with silent laughter. Executor turned his head and gazed upon his creation. The moment his masked face fully faced him Prosper fell silent, the grin weakened back to a small one and the shaking stopped. There was a small twitch in his face before he let out a slow exhale of air. His head bowed as he evened out.
Executor looked back to me after calming his second. The news of my assistance obviously pleased Prosper, just as the whole bit with Lenore and Shady. It was all he worked for and it thrilled him to see things fall into place. The dreamwalker knew this better than anyone.
"Break her out of there. If you want to keep an eye on her afterwards that is your own choice. I only need a friendly face to let her know she's not gone yet, give her a bit of a nudge in my place. Be my temporary advocate." He said, some thin amusement in how he worded the final part. The room itself could be felt growing silent and chilled as Exector pushed off the table. He stood straight as always, taking a stride forward into arms length distance.
Leaning forward his arm extended, hand stopping inches from the side of my face. He traced his hand over the air, just a fraction from my skin. "If you decide to help her further I advise you do nothing to cage her behavior. Release the Lady, I will not tolerate any obstacles in her evolution." Executor warned, hand dropping back to his side as he calmly straightened back up.
My fear became overwhelming, small white lights dancing in front of my vision, marring my view of his mask. The shaking grew worse and worse as he grew closer, a small sob escaping as he invaded my space. His words chilled me from the inside and out, my "choice" plainly set before me. I cringed back from his touch, finally giving up whatever token resistance I had been playing at since he walked in. Keeping my eyes on his was too much for me at the moment, though I hadn't broken. Not yet. I was simply playing my cards as close to my vest as possible in the terrifying situation. If I gave him what he wanted, he would hopefully leave.
"I'll help her as I see fit. I'll contact you when I'm sure of my plan, though rest assured, she will be out soon. Intact. No matter the damage, all will be as you want." I closed my eyes, breathing in and out long enough to regain my composure before looking back up at him. Some small amount of courage burning in my eyes, only slightly fearful I would be struck for it. "If that's all, please leave. I don't think I can take much more company right now."
"As you wish." Executor nodded once to me before turning to Prosper. "Leave it and then follow." He instructed before looking back at me once, his form then vanishing from sight.
Prosper's grin sprang to life as he shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled forth a folded piece of paper. He lifted it between his fingers and showed it to me before setting it down on top of the file on my desk. "My number, you'll need it." Prosper glanced over the pile of papers, looking them over with some sort of twisted pleasure. His maroon colored eyes met mine, "Tread carefully." He chuckled before vanishing after his master.