"You idiot! Can't you see this will hurt both of us?"
"Well yes, but it'll hurt you a lot more than it'll hurt me, and I can live with that." -- OohLookShiny
There were things she could never talk about. And one of them was the battle of wits with a godlike being.
They could make their arena look like anything. Be made out of anything. They could cast a glamour so powerful that it overwhelmed her. But there was always that greasy sensation that things were not as they seemed.
The last time they had brought her into their reality, she had felt it in just a few minutes. The grass was not grass. The elysian fields may well have been a midden. They might have been gods at one time, but they were not the kind of gods that she understood. They were more like the ancient nexii of power as depicted by Lovecraft.
And they had long since gone rotten. Corrupt and putrid inside, like an apple that had been coated in red wax, but still allowed to decay on the inside. They shined themselves up, for sure, by playing at being forces for good, but she could sense what lay underneath that thin veneer.
They said, Your long journey is over.
They said, It is time for your reward.
Part of her mind flashed a picture of a Nazi officer executing one of their sympathisers once they had ceased being useful. It came with the phrase, Thank you for your service to the third reich.
She balked away from where they were leading her. "Why'd I have tae follow ye?" she asked. "It should'nae matter to you were I am. You said you'd send me back home."
They said, Yes. That is what we said.
They said, Things had to change.
She opened herself to the ambient power. Absolute power. The first thing to break was their glamour and she nearly passed out from the nausea. She could see every last dirty little secret they had been trying to hide. She could feel every sin they owned like self-mobile slime crawling up her back.
And she could taste their fear.
"You promised me," she said. "you'd put me back."
After that, it was a little more... intense. They were creatures of will. Used to their power. Shayde was a creature of mortal needs. She had organs that needed thinking of.
In the end, she could only believe in three words, over and over again. Put. Me. Back. Put me back. Put me back put me back put me backputmebackputmeback...
They said, You will hurt all of us. Even yourself.
She said, I can live with that.
And there was a door. She knew where it would lead. Exactly where they had left her. But not, sadly, exactly when. That might have been more merciful. But they were strangers to mercy.
It was worse, the second time. They knew what she could do if they let her and now their guard was up. She knew what they had made her to be and used every atom of it. And every second she spent in their realm was a second that the power could begin the rot inside. Every instant was one where their siren song might have some allure.
She called to her friends. Clumsily at first, but with increasing refinement. Used their souls as a beacon. Fended Them off with all she had left.
They said, You could fix us if you stayed...
She said, No.
Power corrupts. They wanted the power she had learned from them. They wanted to find the door, too, to other realities that they could influence with greater power. O yes. And the more they had, the more they wanted. They would never have enough.
She had a power, too. She had learned what 'enough' was. Where it was. She had a place to belong and limits that were acceptable. It was something that They would never understand.
It was how she got free. And how she shut the door behind her. The only way to open it again was by not wanting it to open. The things in that other reality could eat themselves for all she cared.
She had a home. She had friends. It was not the home she missed, and they were not the friends she had lost. But then again, wanting what one can never get is part of being human. Getting everything one wants, on the other hand, makes a monster.