Deathspider/The Mio Breakup

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The Mio Breakup

These are a collection of stories concerning Deathspider and Battle Girl Mio's acrimonious breakup in December of 2006. The writer was going through some drug related issues and depression, which caused a lot of the IC/OOC friction between the two players, and what better muse than turmoil? Enjoy.

Anger Rising

Written Dec 2006

Miguel glared out over the dance floor of the Pocket D, loosening his tie. He was on a smoke break from tending bar, a job he took to pass the time during his retirement as a favor to a friend of his, Regina. Flicking the ash from his cigarette, his jaw clenched painfully, and for the first time in months, he was at a loss about what to do.

Holidays were traditionally a time for family and loved ones to fight and bicker and hurt each other’s feelings. This Thanksgiving was no different. He and his fiancée, Mio, had one of those fights. You know, THOSE fights, the kind where the really hurtful words come out and there’s no way to un-say those things to each other, and you had to either react to what was said or stew over it until someone broke down and apologized.

This is where Miguel was… deciding on whether to react or wait it out.

He wanted to act rashly, yell and scream and act like a hurt kid, take his toys and go home. But deep inside, he knew that wasn’t the answer. Still didn’t make things easier. And it didn’t make the waiting game any better. He hated this – the empty time between the fight and the reconciliation. That time where you just simmer in your own juices and think and deconstruct everything that was said and your mind goes off in a million tangents, not one of them actually constructive or positive. An overwhelming negative weight just sitting on your shoulders, and you can’t crack a smile because all you can think about is that argument and it festers like a boil.

Smouldering inside, he turned away from the Red Side wall and into the bar area, climbing up the stairs and settling against the bar on the mid-level, where not many people would come and bother him. He didn’t want to come across any of his friends, enemies, or anyone just coming to comment on the hateful look on his face.

Ever since he decided to hang up his hero costume and concentrate on going back to school and focusing on getting a real life, you know, the thing he was neglecting while he was out, tearing off people’s hands and blinding dudes and fighting every single day of his life… Ever since he stopped wearing his spiffy new black and red costume, it seemed like everything sh*tty was coming to a head, and he couldn’t punch it or kill it or mutilate it like he could before. Yeah, he got his ‘real life’, alright, complete with real failings and real disappointments and real frustrations, the total package.

He felt like an idiot for thinking that he could just hang it up and expect that everything would become like some idyllic fantasy life where he could just kick back and enjoy. At least when he was going out and risking his life everyday, the little things that cause life’s frustrations and mishaps were muted, pushed so far to the periphery that they didn’t matter, kinda like how life was when he was a pasty junkie before he got his powers. Now that that constant adrenaline rush was gone, now that the little things were able to grow unhindered like weeds in a garden, it was like every one of his flaws were magnified and nothing seemed to work. Punching out Carnies or some Praetorian psychopath was cake compared to this ‘real life’ stuff.

Sitting in Pre-Algebra, non-credit courses, struggling for a C average, staring so hard at the problems that his eyes ached for hours afterwards, trying to make sense of quadratic equations.

Sitting through long mission planning meetings at Portal Corporation with Unai Kemen, making sure some dipstick Cape doesn’t land in a volcano or meet some horrible fate as soon as they walk out of a portal. Listening to some nerd mumble over a cheesy Powerpoint presentation about financial constraints and forcefield durations and quarterly progress reports. Clenching his fists so hard under the table the skin on his knuckles split open, asking himself why he took this damn job when he could simply go bust up a Superdine drug deal and take the cash after he brutally beat up the dealers like he used to do.

The long nights of waiting for Mio to come home from her Uncle’s workshop, watching Sportscenter repeat itself until he fell asleep on the couch, the dinners for one, maybe two if his daughter suddenly decided to show up.

Oh yeah, and his daughter. He suddenly had a twenty year old kid from the ‘future’. Like that didn’t cause enough stress between him and Mio, thrust into the role of ‘hapless parents’.

Well, what was the alternative? Spending the endless days leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper? He had such a bad reputation with the Freedom Phalanx these days that none of his contacts called him up anymore, except for the military out in Firebase Zulu, but then again, they took –anybody- because no Hero really wanted to fight Rularuu and harvest strange frickin’ fruit and take pictures of goofy extra-dimensional monuments. The farthest most Heroes went extra-dimensionally was to come here, to the Pocket D, and perform empty posturing and freetime herding like a bunch of cattle that could say nothing in millions of words.

He could go fight Arachnos out in Warburg or in that strange shifting Atlas Park the D.A.T.A. scientists found, but he was done with the whole ‘Paragon verses Rogue Isles’ thing. The crap that went down this year with Chimera and Rakescar and the senseless violence that was the hallmark of this past summer had turned him off of the whole conflict, and he wanted no part of it anymore.

Maybe this thing with Mio, the fight, the way they were together, maybe it was just symptomatic of a bigger problem – that he didn’t have a place in Paragon anymore and that trying to force himself into something he wasn’t, namely his failing experiment with ‘Real Life’ and having something more substantial than beating people up to fall back on, was simply a pipe dream.

Maybe he was just hanging around longer than he was supposed to. Maybe that’s why Mio was getting sick of him and not coming home at night. Once he put up the costume, he was worse than useless, he was an albatross.

He frowned at that thought. He was feeling sorry for himself.

He turned around at the bar and stubbed out the dying butt of his cigarette into the ashtray. The pasty bartender had long ago given up the thought of conversing with him like a human being and was slumped against the railing, reading this month’s Maxim. His lip curled. A singular thought occurred to him.

I need to get out of here.

Dear Mio

“Love, oh love, look what careless love has done”

I read that in a Dark Tower book once. Don’t remember which one, but the line stuck with me. In this situation, it’s depressingly apt. I’ve been careless.

On Thursday, when we had our fight, you were right about a lot of things. And I’m sorry that I’ve pressured you, hurt your feelings, and brought you to the state of mind where you think we’re not working, and that kills me.

Maybe you’re right, and we do need some time apart. For me… well, it’s a good time to get out of the city. This ‘Real Life’ thing is really not working for me, and that’s almost as depressing. But not quite.

I want this to work… so let’s take your advice. I’m going to take a long vacation. Hopefully, I can clear my head some. Heroing has lost any appeal it once had, and busting my chops at school and work is equally unappealing. And let’s face it, I think we are on two different sheets of music, and we’re not really sure what the hell we want.

I’ll have my communicator, and my cellphone, so if you or the team needs me, I’ll be in touch.

I’ll love you until the stars grow cold., Mike”

Miguel looked down at his note, and it seemed wholly inadequate. Then again, love and leaving letters always do.

He carefully folded the letter and placed it on Mio’s pillow, looking down at where she slept, wishing to God she’d come in and stop him, cling to him, cry, and tell him it’d be alright. That would be so much better than this. Slinking out in the night like a rat. But really, it was now or never. If he didn’t leave now, the problems would just snowball further, and that was the one thing he didn’t want. He didn’t want to leave the team, and he sure as hell didn’t want Mio to leave him.

He winced. Not when it seemed they finally got their shit together. They were supposed to go to Cancun in a couple of weeks… He had the ring already picked out.

He shook his head, stepping away from the bed and walked towards the door, grabbing his duffel bag on the way, his costume and a few days worth of clothes inside. He stopped at the doorway, and looked back at the living quarters he and Mio shared inside the Hazard Guard base. “Hope I see you again.” He muttered, and walked into the hallway towards the exit.

The black 1987 Buick GNX rolled into the gas station on the outskirts of Paragon City with nary a sound. It pulled up near the building, and was put in park. It was an anachronism these days – when people thought muscle car, you didn’t think of a Buick, although back in the mid to late 80s, the Grand Nationals were blowing the doors off of Mustangs.

The door opened, and Miguel stepped out, walking slowly around to the back, every inch away from Paragon City seeming to add a weight on his shoulders. He unlocked the trunk and pulled out the spare tire, grimacing at the fact that while he had bothered to spend the money to buy an entirely new tire with a rim, he was usually too busy to remember to inflate the damn thing. He rolled it over to the air compressor, letting it fall on it’s side while he dug in his pocket for fifty cents.

“Leaving, Mister Sanchez?” a voice intoned behind him.

His lip curled and he looked straight ahead, annoyed. This was all he needed. He slowly turned around.

Statesman and Manticore, the former hovering above the ground the way he tended to do, as though touching the ground was beneath someone of his stature, and the latter gritting his teeth and conspicuously holding his bow. That figured, Miguel thought to himself. After all, he did, during a lengthy trip into the Rogue Isles, beat the ever loving crap out of Manticore on his fancy Longbow sea vessel. Mister Sinclair had never forgiven him.

In the glare of the lights of the service station, Statesman’s faceplate gleamed, showing off all the dings that repeated polishings couldn’t hide. His cape fluttered impressively behind him, and the deep red and blue of his costume were nearly black, contrasting nicely with the blazing white stars on his chest and cape.

You had to hand it to him. Guy knew how to make an impression.

Manticore, on the other hand, the light seemed reluctant to shine on him. Which, to his ego-swollen head, gave him the impression that he was a creature of the night, a hunter of evil in the gloomy twilight of blah, blah, blah. To Miguel, who knew a thing or two about being a creature, what with the days of turning into a creepy, bloodthirsty spider thing, Manticore simply looked like he was slinking along in the shadows like a crack addict with extreme light sensitivity. And that ridiculous headdress! God! I thought I threw that thing over the side of his boat, Miguel thought ruefully as he shook his head.

“Yeah, yeah I am. Winter Break and all that.”

Statesman chuckled. “Classes don’t let out until December 15th, Sanchez. “

“Running from something?” Manticore chimed in, which made Miguel clench his jaw in annoyance.

“Okay.” He took a deep breath. “I can somewhat envision what States is doing here, Corey, but you… This is pathetic. What, I beat you senseless on your dippy little Longbow ship, after, might I add, your mercenary thugs tried to kill me, and you have the gall to hold a grudge? And what, you can’t come to me face to face without hanging around the Big Dog’s heels?”

Manticore gritted his teeth. Miguel shook his head, snorting. “You suck.”

“That’s enough, Deathspider.” Statesman rumbled, his voice seeming to echo the long years of his life. Miguel supposed that if he himself lived that long, he could rumble and intone. If someone younger than say… 60, did that schtick, it’d be ridiculous. “As far as I’m concerned, that matter was settled, and for you two to keep going at it is unprofessional and immature.”

“Well, he started it…”

“I don’t care. Manticore is present because we’re on our way to a summit in New York. We just happened to notice you stealing away in the dead of night, not to mention today you put in for a Leave of Absence and had your hospital teleporter turned offline. Makes one think, especially when concerning someone with your history and… lapses in judgement…”

He, of course, was referring to Miguel’s rather unsavory stint as a ‘villain’… the three months he spent in the employ of the Dark Dominion, and the many Longbow operatives he put in the hospital, if not in the morgue during that time. It took Miguel several months to get an iota of trust back among his friends, not to mention earning his Hero License back – that took saving Statesman himself in one of Tyrant’s many (and eerily successful) raids into Paragon to nab the big guy.

“Ah. I must have also applied for an ‘Unnecessarily Harrassing Visit’ as well. Yeah, I’m taking a vacation. I did everything by the book, you said it yourself. I had the debriefing, I have no arresting authority outside Paragon City, got no teleporter so no fighting, yadda yadda yadda. So what’s the problem.” He kneeled down, fishing out two quarters for the air compressor.

“The Freedom Phalanx was concerned. Hero Corps was concerned. I’m sure several ex-Longbow troops are concerned…” Statesman’s voice level remained the same, but the last bit had just enough inflection to it that reminded Miguel, yeah buddy, I haven’t forgotten what you’ve done. “It just seems that when you leave the confines of the city without proper… supervision, there are what I euphemistically call ‘incidents’ I’m concerned that there might be some more ‘incidents’, and I would be remiss if I didn’t take the time to look you in the eye and see if you can convince me otherwise.”

The compressor chugged to life, and Miguel reached for the air nozzle. “Well, seeing as the other times I left town, I really never bothered to clear it with any of you guys. Second of all, I haven’t been running around doing any sort of superhuman activity. I’ve been a good boy, going to school, working with Portal Corp…” He sighed. “Look, I know I have a… less than perfect track record, alright? But I did everything by the book, and I deserve a vacation. At the very least, I won’t be around to bother any of you high and mighty Phalanx personnel, what with Manti over here posing over in Brickstown and skeeving out Swan all day.”

Miguel looked up at Statesman, who loomed over him, his face nearly invisible behind the visor save for his eyes. “Look, the girlfriend isn’t happy, and we need some time apart. I can’t spend that time in the city. I need to get away. Alright? Can you guys get past everything wrong I’ve done, while conveniently ignoring all the right, and just let me go without a hassle? That’s all I’m asking, guy.”

Manticore sneered. “States, this is obviously another one of his excuses to go back and wallow in the Isles. He’s killed enough of my men, if you let him go, I know he’s going to end up back in the Isles. Are you ready to just let him waltz out of town and put more Longbow in danger?”

Miguel sighed. “Oh Fu—“

Statesman silenced him with a glare. “Enough. He has a point, Mister Sanchez. But like the petty little rivalry you two have, it’s in the past. You’ve done everything I’ve asked you to do, and you’ve turned your life around. And for that, I congratulate you. Even Paladin has told me of your story, and coming from him… that means something.”

He paused. “But…”

Miguel muttered under his breath. “Always a catch…”

Statesman’s voice turned cold. “If you screw this up again, Sanchez, that’s –it-. I’ve learned patience and forgiveness over the years, but I’ve also learned another thing… Forgiveness and forgetting are cousins of the most tenuous relation. Only a fool forgets. If you mess this up, the only way you’re getting back into Paragon City is in handcuffs or in a body bag. There’s enough psychopaths in the Isles killing our men and injuring innocents, and I swear to God Almighty, if you join them again, I will take you down myself.”

He paused again, to let that sink in. “As the debriefing already told you, you have no arresting authority outside those War Walls. If you start stirring up trouble out here, that’s exactly what you’ll get. Trouble. Great pains have been taken to localize and gather up most of the superpowered population in the US here in Paragon, and there are quite a few government agencies who want to keep it that way, so we don’t have something like Siren’s Call in every major city and town. The kind of agencies who’d rather put a bullet in a rowdy Cape’s head than deal with the body count and the collateral damage superbeing fights cause.

“That said… Recluse’s thugs don’t quite feel the same, and periodically go outside our little quarantine and cause trouble. I… emphatically advise you against getting into any trouble, because the post-Riki War United States isn’t like Paragon. But if you see anything with an Arachnos symbol on it…or anything related to it, I suggest you deal with it quickly and quietly. With superhumans running around with nuclear missile codes from Warburg, the prevailing climate in the United States is that we… -we-… are a threat that can easily spill over into the countryside, and with people still finding dead bodies in the rubble from the War, that is not the kind of attention we need.

“We’ve gathered everyone in two big locations, and we’re fighting it out while the rest of the world is getting back on its feet. So I’m telling you. So you know. So that when you mess up, you won’t be looking stupidly up at me while I beat you into a red smear… keep your head low, and if you see any burgeoning Villain activity, nip it in the bud. Are we clear?”

Miguel pressed the nozzle to the air stem of the tire, and it began to slowly inflate. He nodded, resenting having being dressed down in front of Manticore, and his smug look of ‘Ha ha ha ha, the Big Guy’s Chewing Your As*…’, but the speech was a bit revealing, and he took it all in, Statesman somewhat confirming things Miguel had thought of before, albeit less laden with conspiracy theories. “Yeah… We’re clear.”

Statesman grunted. “Good. Just so we understand each other. I’m trusting you, Deathspider. Don’t make me… and yourself… regret this.” With that, Statesman disappeared, zooming up into the sky in a blur. Manticore stepped closer, baring his teeth.

“I for one don’t just think, I –know- you’re going to mess this up, and when you do… when you do, I’m going to be there laughing as I put an arrow right between your eyes.” He growled, a look of gleeful anticipation in his eyes.

“This coming from a guy who plays with shafts all day.” Miguel sneered, popping off the air nozzle and throwing the hose over the hook of the air compressor. “I hope you get AIDS from one of your cabana boys, you pompous, glass-jawed jackas*…”

Manticore spat. “You’re not worth it to start anything right now. I’ll wait until States gives the order to bring you in dead or alive. I’m aiming for the former. See you around, murderer…”

Miguel grumbled. “I’ll see you on the Sex Offender Registry. Get out of here. Your bodyguard just left.”

Manticore began to reply, but his teleporter flashed and he too was gone, leaving Miguel alone with the chugging air compressor and his tire. “Well, if that wasn’t a conclusive sign, I don’t know what one is.” He stood, and rolled the tire back to the GNX, stowing it and slamming the trunk shut. He had enough smokes and Gatorade to last him a couple of hundred miles.

God, he thought, irritated at having to look at Manticore again and getting ‘The Talk’ by Statesman. What is this, did November 2006 get nominated as ‘Push DS Away’ month or something? Mio cancels their anniversary and vacation, his daughter ‘from the future!’ shows up and disrupts seemingly every facet of his home life, school and work was intolerable and getting moreso by the day… hell, not even any of his old villains were still around to make his life interesting. And now Statesman is chewing his as*. Wonderful, he thought to himself. Just… wonderful. Now I really –want- to get out of town. I can’t stand this damn place.

He opened the door and climbed in, slamming the door shut, fuming. This sucks, he thought bitterly. If I could have a day where I didn’t feel, or get made to feel, spiritually, like dirt, I’d be amazed! If they didn’t look down their noses at me because I’m half-Mexican, or that I screwed up and was a Villain for awhile, or this that or the other, my heart would explode because it couldn’t take the sudden shock of being treated like a human being. Christ!

He turned the key in the ignition, the GNX coming to life. Pealing out of the gas station, he rocketed towards the onramp of the Interstate, wanting nothing more than to get out of the shadow of Paragon, out of Rhode Island… just anywhere but here, where nothing was going right, and life just ended up being one disappointment or failure after another.

I need to get out of here.

The Buick cruised north on the Interstate, away.


Written Dec 2006

I got up feeling so down

I got off being sold out

I've kept the movie rolling

But the story's getting old now

I just looked in the mirror

Things aren't looking so good

I'm looking California

And feeling Minnesota

So now you know, who gets mystified

Show me the power child

I'd like to say

That I'm down on my knees today

It gives me the butterflies

Gives me away

Till I'm up on my feet again

I'm feeling outshined

Someone let the dogs out

They'll show you where the truth is

The grass is always greener

Where the dogs are shedding

I'm feeling that I'm sober

Even though I'm drinking

I can't get any lower

Still I feel I'm sinking

So now you know who gets mystified

Show me the power child

I'd like to say

That I'm down on my knees today

It gives me the butterflies

Gives me away

Till I'm up on my feet again

I'm feeling outshined

“Outshined”, Soundgarden

The inside of the strip club glowed with a hazy violet lumiscence that seemed to permeate everything – the clouds of cigarette smoke, the faces of the Asian businessmen who sat, faces rapt upon the stage for the next performer… everything. Most strip clubs seemed to exude this feeling of having a thin coat of velvety slime coating every surface, as though the performers had been commanded, en masse, to drag their nethers across every inch of the place. This was no different. Sleaze tended to transform a place, guilt and lust coalescing and giving the physical characteristics of what was peddled there onto the location itself.

Miguel Sanchez sat against a wall, a short glass of generic rum and coke on the table, untouched and the ice melting in the warm air. A cigarette glowed in the ashtray, a long gray cylinder of ash dangling precariously as it burned. He was characteristically dressed in black, a black so deep it seemed to absorb light, in contrast to his short white hair and brown skin. His face was set in a scowl that came so naturally these days, and most of the dancers steered clear of him – angry loners were common strip club clientele, but this one possessed a hideous, angry vitality to him, and his body produced a pheromone that chemically reacted with the people around him, setting their nerves to piano wire tension.

Consequently, he sat alone in the violet gloom. Which was exactly what he wanted. He wanted to sulk and feel angry. People tended to, once angry, stay angry, long after the stimulus for their anger has passed. And nothing made Miguel angrier than the sinking sensation of failure.

Not that any of the dancers, who were paid to be personable and cloying accommodating, would find out. Dancers were there to give lonely men attention and inspire the false hope that an attractive, or reasonably approximate of, woman will willingly come up and talk to them and dance for them, and perhaps find something in this random stranger that will flip a switch in this stripper’s head and go home with them. But strippers, like most women, did not want to deal with an obviously angry person like Miguel. Strippers had their own problems, and they didn’t have the inclination to listen to some embittered male rant about the evils of their sex, or work overly hard to extract forty dollars by cajoling this freak into paying for a lap dance.

Strip clubs and strippers operated on the basic principal of male/female relationships under the parameters of ‘Girl talk to you and let you see her naked, you pay money’. Adding complexity to this basic, tried and true formula was only needless aggravation, and as such, he was left alone after the first girl, a peroxide blonde, sauntered up with the question of whether or not he would like a private dance dying on her lips once his pheromone scent of danger and anger registered.

The rhythmic drum beats announced the next performer, slow and leisurely like the girl’s steps out onto the stage. The song began, full of sensuality and menace. He didn’t pay attention to the song though. The girl had caught it.

She was an Asian girl, Japanese. She slunk out, her hips swaying from side to side, reminding him of a metronome in slow motion. Her smile was lazy, her lips expressing how aware she was of her sexuality. Her eyes glittered in the dim light, perhaps surveying the men in the club, perhaps not. Maybe behind the mask of mock lust she was thinking which plan she should switch to for her cell phone, or wondering if her loser boyfriend’s herpes medication would finally work this time, but it didn’t matter.

It was the hair. Pink, obviously fake, but the look was enough to evoke a soft gasp from him.




She sauntered, placing a delicate hand on the polished brass pole and walking in a semi-circle in front of the appreciative throng of businessmen, the baby doll outfit certainly doing it for them. She wore the expression of an empress surveying her legions of followers with a practiced ease. Miguel sat, mouth agape, at the girl. Sure, her breasts weren’t nearly as large as Mio’s – he had, on more than one occasion, thought to himself that Mio’s breasts were ‘stupidly fantastic’. Her hips and rear weren’t as perfect, but she was distressingly similar to Mio.

It had been a week since he left Paragon City, and he had driven aimlessly west, his brain filled with things he should have said, things he should have done. God knew he didn’t want to be out here, angry and alone, but it was a better option than hanging around in Paragon City. Either way, he wasn’t able to sleep with her beside him. Being in the city still would be torture. He had even accomplished the feat of not thinking about her every fifteen minutes, losing himself in music on the stereo or wandering a city at dawn, walking along the streets, taking in the sights. And of all the strip clubs in Pittsburg, he had to walk into the one where a Japanese stripper wore a short pink wig.

He winced. This was exactly what he was trying to avoid. Thinking about her. But here this girl was, like an agent of cruel, sadistic Fate, taunting him with failure once again. Another reminder. A failure as a human being, as a boyfriend, as a teammate, as a father, as a son, as an employee, as a student.

She was a reminder, physically, but her very being was the antithesis of what Mio was. As the girl began to teasingly undress in front of a group of white men huddled to the right of the stage, looking up at her in a comical display of supplication, Miguel was struck how different Mio was. Mio was never sleazy, never vulgar – even when they made love or she teased him, it was always with an impish grin or a pixie-like allure, never the heavy-handed, unsubtle touch that was the stripper’s stock in trade.

The charm of the stripper and the slut was the promise of sex without the hassle. No need for mind-numbing chatter or having to fake sincerity or interest. No need for any unnecessary feelings other than the one that was at hand. You were spared all the things that separated modern men and women, everything that was ephemeral until there was only one commonality, and that was the desire to have sex.

But as most men find out once the red haze of lust has abated, that commonality is hollow. And when it’s over, it’s like… it’s like a stubbed out cigarette or a pipe with only carbon residue where your drug of choice has burned away. You wanted it so bad, and you got your high, but now all you have are ashes. A stubbed out cigarette. The taste of burn on your tongue. And if you’re ever to be happy, you have to have more. Either more of the same or something a little bit more… substantial. All highs were fleeting, no matter what you got your high from. You have to come down sometime. And when the high of sex is over, really, do you want the girl to be dressing in silence and mild contempt, or would you rather have her getting up to brush her teeth before she comes back to bed?

The girl was bare-chested now, offering her attention for those who held out dollar bills with outthrust arms, like a dog going for a treat. The more she displayed who she was, the more the resemblance faded. He leaned back, with his head against the wall, his eyes going to the ceiling, not wanting to look at this girl who reminded him so much of Mio beg for money. He wondered what she was doing now, even though he knew the answer – she would be out, doing what she was supposed to: being a super hero. Part of him, inside, secretly wanted her to be doing what he was doing. Fighting back tears, sulking, being angry and wishing he was there. But he knew she’d do what she always did, and bury herself in ‘work’. It was her way of coping with emotional turbulence, and she seemed to do a good job of controlling herself, save for not talking about things that bothered her until things blew up and got out of control. He figured that was part of her creator, “Uncle”, as she called him, programming her with what Miguel figured was an Asian peculiarity for wanting to maintain stability and not letting flashes of anger or frustration to surface and upset anyone. Or maybe she developed it herself, who knew?

He gritted his teeth until his jaw ached. He felt the mingled aches of wanting to see Mio, right now, no matter what, and pulling her into his arms – and a vague, grinding resentment at the situation and all involved. He just… he just…

“You’ve come to a pause…” the doctor said.

Miguel looked up at his therapist, recommended to him by the people at Paragon City Hall. Apparently, he was a former hero back in the late 1960s and he even worked as Statesman’s therapist in the past. “Hmm?”

“You’ve stopped. Here, you’ve been talking my head off, and now you just pause? What, am I not to hear the rest?”

Miguel scowled. “I… I don’t know what else to say.”

The therapist smirked. “How about we take a break. How about a nice joke? You know, I used to be a licensed mohel?.”

Miguel arched an eyebrow. “Oh? Why’d you quit and become a therapist?”

“Why’d I quit? Too much… overhead  ! Oh!” The fifty-ish doctor broke out into gales of laughter.

Miguel paused, then made a sour face of disgust. “Oh! That’s awful!”

Doctor Aaron Leibowitz laughed. “Oh, us mohels… we’re on the… cutting edge … of humor! Ho!”

Miguel shook his head, wincing. “Ow. Stop it.”

The doctor’s middle-aged girth shook with chuckles. “Want I should… cut it out?” This prompted another gale of laughter.

Miguel smirked, shaking his head. “Awful, just awful. How long have you been saving those?”

“Oh, just little… snippets … here and there…” Doc said, laughing to himself. “I find it’s amusing to come up with as many puns on my former profession as I can, plus it breaks the tension in therapy. Unless, of course, somebody is just looking at me like a dumb mule, asking ‘What’s a mohel  ?”

“I learned what it was on Seinfeld.” Miguel sighed. “Thanks for letting me unload on you for the past couple of weeks. I just… I wish I knew what to do. It’s like God reached down from Heaven and smote me with a Loser Lightning Bolt.”

“That’s Zeus, what with the lightning bolts. With our Lord, we get turned into pillars of salt! What a bargain! But I see what you’re saying… nothing working out, am I right?”

Miguel nodded, folding his arms over his chest, looking out over the skyline of Pittsburgh. “Yeah. Almost every facet of my life, things that wouldn’t of mattered before I hung up the costume, now they just seem magnified until… I just feel overwhelmed. It’s affected my confidence, it’s affected my relationship with Mio…”

Dr. Leibowitz leaned forward, almost conspiratorially. “Have you ever considered that you’re not supposed to be normal? That the goals and expectations that you’re putting yourself up against, these vague, ill-defined standards, are not what you’re supposed to be doing?”

Miguel narrowed his eyes. “What do you mean?”

“You’ve been coming here for a couple of weeks now, Miguel. You say that you wanted to try to have a life beyond being a Hero, that… ah…” Dr. Leibowitz talked with his hands, gesturing animatedly. “… that you feel like if you try to be ‘normal’, like the people you protect, people like Mio and your mother and anyone else that matters to you, that you’ll be what you were supposed to be. You feel you’re supposed to have a full time job and have a college degree and do all these things, live up to these standards that society puts on men. But the problem is that you’re not a normal man. By your own admission, you’re barely human anymore. Am I right?”

Miguel nodded, and the Doctor went on. “So why are you putting yourself up to human standards?”

Miguel looked at the Doc. “Because I live in a human society. I mean, that’s the context we all measure ourselves against…”

“But you feel like you’re not human. You’ve got super powers, Miguel. You, by the very definition of superhuman, can’t be a normal human anymore. How can you measure yourself up to what normal people do and say and carry on, when you don’t live a life that even remotely resembles it? Here, let me explain.

“You know why the divorce rate is so high in this country? Because back in the 1970s and 1980s, people’s ideas of marriage were straight from Leave It To Beaver and the Cosby Show and all these pop culture standards. Wife stays home and the father goes out and earns the entire paycheck and nobody ever has to fight over bills or cleaning up the socks or any of the other minutia of married life. And since children have been glued to television sets, raised by the idiot box, that’s what they learn, and when they grow up, and their relationships, their marriages don’t end up like that, they throw up their hands and wonder ‘why is everything not working out?’ Women watch movies and see these paragons of manhood, like Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp and John Cusack, and these movies of just these dream guys, and they look at their boyfriends and their boyfriends come up short. Just like how men look at these physically impossible specimens of womanhood, and look at their girlfriends, what with the bellyrolls and stubble on the legs… Our culture pushes this vision of impossible perfection upon us, and we think ‘Hey, that’s what I’m supposed to have, this is how I’m supposed to be’… but we’re not like that. Humanity isn’t like that. Men, women, marriages, all of it, we’re comparing it to an impossible fantasy manufactured and sold to us while our men and women fall woefully short of that ideal, and our marriages and relationships disintegrate around us.

“You see, Miguel, your problem is that you thinking you’re a failure because you’ve set some unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. You want a marriage and you want a ‘real life’, but you have to come to the realization that you can’t have the model life that you’ve learned on television, you can’t have this fantasy life that you’re finding yourself falling short of. Your life was changed irrevocably when the Council took you away and did those experiments to you. Physically, emotionally, psychically, you are not the same person you were prior to when they took you and changed you. So what you have to do is find new goals, new expectations to set because the old ones cannot apply anymore.

“You also look for validation. You want someone to tell you ‘Miguel, you’re doing alright, you’re an okay person, you’re not a monster’. And from what I’m hearing, people can’t give you all the reassurances that you’re looking for. And they’re not doing anything wrong, Miguel. You can’t look for other people to give you that pat on the back and make everything all right – you have to look to yourself to give yourself that validation you need. If you can’t look into yourself and find something you can live with, then how can you expect anyone else to do it for you? The pressure you’re putting on your teammates, on your fiancée, on your friends, it’s too much for them, and they’re getting fed up with it. Imagine how you’d feel if Mio kept coming up to you, whining ‘Am I okay, am I alright, am I a worthwhile human being, is my butt too big?’ over and over again? You’d go nuts!

“In a nutshell, my spidery friend, is that you don’t think highly enough of yourself, who you are isn’t good enough for you. You’re comparing yourself to other people, which is always folly because everyone is different, but you’re on another level. You have super human abilities, and you live a life that’s completely different from these ‘people’ you’re comparing yourself to. On that level of comparison, of course you’re going to fall short. And since you do that, you’re nervous and anxious, and you’re inflicting this neurosis on the people you love and you associate with. You have got to come to terms with who you are, not who someone else is or what you think you should be, you have to be comfortable with who you are. You want to be normal, well tough. You can’t be ‘normal’ anymore, Miguel. You have to be who you are, what you have become. How else can you expect anyone to put up with you, much less love you, if you can’t even stand being yourself?”

Miguel frowned, looking up at the ceiling. “God. The solution to my problem is a cheap platitude.”

The Doc sighed. “Miguel, trust me. You have to be comfortable in your own skin. Not that there’s a lot of things I can tell you about how your life is ‘supposed’ to run, I mean, after all, what with you being half-spider and all. But only you can figure it out, I mean, I can prescribe you horse pills, every medication under the sun, but that isn’t going to solve the problem! The only person who can fix this is you. Not me, not some pharmaceutical company, not some handbook entitled ‘Half-Spider Hybrid Human Psychology’, but you. And you have a problem that every human has, it’s the human condition. Everyone feels this to the extent, trust me. It took me years to figure out how to be comfortable being me, and I’m Jewish! I’m virtually crawling with crippling feelings of inadequacy!”

Miguel curled his lip, looking across the room sulkily. “Doc… Look, I… Alright, I can accept that, but how do you become comfortable with, say, I dunno, turning into a big spider-thing? Or, or… you say I have to be comfortable with what I am and what I’ve become. What… “ His voice softened. “What if that’s not what Mio wants?”

Dr. Leibowitz shrugged mercilessly. “Then Mio isn’t the woman for you, Miguel. Look, if she loves you, truly, and wants to do your little marriage/live together combo package, then fine, good for you! But if you’re not who she really wants, then you both are doing neither a service by sticking together. You say she’s the love of your life, well, what if the reverse isn’t true? But that’s immaterial right now, really. How do you expect her to love you and put up with your crap if you can’t stop being a nervous wreck, and being an angry, frustrated schlep?”

Miguel exhaled softly, swinging his legs off the couch and putting his head in his hands. “I dunno, Doc. I dunno.”

Leibowitz looked up at the clock. “Look, Miguel, your hour is about up. Why don’t you come back on Friday, and we’ll get into the lab results from Doctor Nehru’s team. They’re telling me there’s, of course, some chemical imbalances that we may be able to help with, but I’ve always felt you can’t cure someone’s mind with a pill. That’s a schmuck’s way out, you have to learn to change yourself, otherwise, what happens when you’re out of pills? Tell Betty on the way out, ah, what do you feel about one thirty-ish, Friday?”

Miguel stood, moving the tip of his tongue over his front teeth behind his lips. “Right. Sounds good, Doc.”

Miguel walked slowly out of the office, leaving Leibowitz alone with his plaques and diplomas. Well, not completely alone.

The air shimmered in front of Leibowitz, a spectral form of smoke and darkness forming from nothingness. A raspy voice whispered “Very informative, Doctor… very informative indeed…”

Aaron Leibowitz frowned, shaking his head. “I hope you’re happy with what you’ve made me do… disgusting.”

“You did what any human worm would do to protect your secret, Doctor… but no matter… Deathspider’s demise is more important to me than your sordid little past. But as to the terms of our agreement, Doctor, you are living up to it splendidly. Your telepathic powers are dulling his senses as to not to detect my presence, and he’s vulnerable and unfocused. Soon, he’ll be vulnerable enough to…” the raspy voice trailed off. “You don’t care, do you?”

“Not particularly.” Leibowitz muttered, clutching the armrests of the chair.

“No matter…” the being’s eyes flashed. “Soon, I’ll have my revenge on Deathspider, and the rest of his pathetic team will follow!”

Degradation Trip

Written Jan 2007

“We all know about the rat pressing the bar so often to get a jolt to the pleasure center of his brain, pressing till he keels over from exhaustion. How about the rat that leaps back and forth over a short wall to avoid an electric shock from the screen floor? A light signaling the impending shock (quickly) teaches the rat to jump immediately. That’s bad enough, but when the jerks running the experiment stop linking the warning light with the jolt and just randomly shock the poor rodent, he begins to deteriorate faster than the sickest skid-row bum. He becomes ultra-nervous, develops neurotic behaviors, and is obviously in constant anxiety in anticipation of the pain he cannot avoid.

In psychological parlance, the rat is the victim of ‘learned helplessness’ and begins to display all of the traits commonly associated with ‘depression’. His life on earth becomes unpleasant and short.

In other words, he gets mean and dies”

– John Hogshire, “Poppycock: Truth and Lies about Poppies, Opium, and Painkilling Drugs”

It shouldn’t bother me, no… It shouldn’t. No No… It shouldn’t bother me, no… It shouldn’t… But it does! – Faith No More, “A Small Victory”

Night falls over the hotel room Miguel is sharing with a friend. He is curled up on the mattress, trapped in a tangle of sheets. In his hand, his cellphone’s display light shuts off.

The all too familiar holiday misery fills the room. Like a cloud of nerve gas filling a train station.

Being told by your daughter, who looks depressingly like your ex-girlfriend, that she hates you both for not being able to hold it together, was a bit more than Miguel could handle.

It has been three days since he had returned from Pittsburgh, where his therapist had, predictably enough, been blackmailed by a renegade sect of the Carnival of Shadows. This led to a bloody and brutal battle in a near by college, thankfully, no civilian casualties thanks to Winter Break. He returned home to find out that, well, he really wasn’t needed anymore, thank you for your time. Truth be told… it was long overdue. Mio had been unhappy for awhile now. He was lucky for it to last for long as it had.

And now… misery.

So, what now?

The new year was approaching, and it didn’t look like it was going to be any better than the last. And most of all, it would be without Mio. Probably without much of his daughter. Without his team – how could he remain on the same team that his ex-girlfriend led?

Some folks think suicide is an option because, even though a situation can be dealt with, and obstacles overcome… why bother?

He groaned, rolling over and covering his face with a pillow. God, he thought despairingly, why is it the woman he loved was the one woman he was incapable of being able to live with, or make happy, or, hell, just make her able to tolerate him?

He waited a good fifteen minutes for a reply. God, he thought sourly, must be busy.

He grunts and sits up, running his hands through his white, bleached out hair. At least, he thought bitterly, thanks to his power’s amusing side effect of bleaching his hair color, he could say this was giving him gray hairs. One thing that wasn’t productive, and he knew this from the other times he had to deal with being rejected and tossed away, was sitting around moping about it – it’s definitely not like women somehow instinctively responded to it, like crying was some sort of mating call to them, rousing them back to their senses to come and make things all better again.

No. Women despised weak, crying men. It was time to work through this misery like a man.

He grunted again, swinging his feet over the side of the bed, and reached under to pull out a suitcase he picked up off a group of Family thugs he mangled in Independence Port. Working the latches, he opened up and reached inside, and hefted a kilo of relatively uncut cocaine. Nodding grimly to himself, he stood and walked over to the bathroom area, slapping the hefty bag on the marble countertop. He looked at himself in the mirror.

Pathetic, he thought. Look at you. You haven’t slept in days. What, you think because Mio tossed your ass to the curb, you have a right to sit around and cry and whine about it? Screw it, amigo… take the coke, go hit a bar, get plastered, out of your mind. It’s New Years anyway, who cares? Nobody cares. Besides, look at it this way – at least you have nobody else left to disappoint.

With a snarl he slashed open the bag with a fingernail, pouring out a respectable amount onto the counter-top. He hadn’t done a line in years – over 6 years to be exact. But really, what did it matter what he did, when everything he did turned out to be either wrong, not good enough, or simply not what somebody wanted? He made a huge, crude line – he estimated there was pretty much a gram on the counter top. Good enough, he thought, pressing a finger to a nostril and inhaling, clearing his sinuses. Let’s see how good the Family’s junk is.

Before he bent over, he spared a momentarily glance in the mirror. Was this going to solve anything? What would Mio think…?

He snarled. Like Mio cared.

He bent his head to the monstrous line and began to inhale.

The Dirty Duck was oddly deserted tonight. The Hero population, thanks to the popularity of the Pocket D, had long leeched away the clientele. Not that Skyway City was exactly a happening place to begin with. Still, it was popular enough with the neighborhood crowd.

Miguel sat on a barstool, blearily regarding the twelfth tallboy of rum and coke. His head swam, and the… heroic amounts of cocaine he snorted mingled with the alcohol made him more disoriented and mentally fried than he had been in years. The bartender, a meaty bald man in a pristine white shirt and an apron, largely ignored him. Miserable customers were an integral part of his livelihood. No need to have to listen to them, though.

The door jingled open, and the bartender’s eyes widened a bit.

Miguel faintly heard the creak of leather, and the scrape of boots on the hardwood floor. He grunted. “Happy New Years…”

“Awww…” a mocking voice from behind him began. “What’s the matter, Deathspider? Did your widdle girlfriend leave you? Awww!”

A grimace formed on his lips. Turning around slowly, his bloodshot eyes focused on the red and black costume of the member of the Freedom Phalanx that seemed to hate him the most. Manticore.

“Weee… Now this is a holiday treat. I didn’t know the NAMBLA spokesman drank here! This… this is truly an honor.” He drawled.

A fist flashed out of nowhere, it seemed. Manticore’s gloved hand connected with his jaw and exploded into a bright flash of red and white light. He staggered off the barstool, falling to a knee and snarling.

“Pathetic. I swear to God, I don’t know why Statesman let you off the hook for Pittsburgh, but you got off lucky, you miserable excuse for a human being. Way I see it, you should be in a jail infirmary right now. But that’s fine – I’ll put you in the hospital myself.”

Miguel shook his head, trying to get his bearings, but Manticore’s foot flashed out again, smashing into his ribs, drawing out another animalistic growl. The red garbed Phalanx member gave a savage smile. This was perfect, he thought to himself. Deathspider had thwarted him in the Isles, right on the Longbow battle cruiser he and his Wyvern mercenaries were transported on. Deathspider had come out of nowhere and savagely beat him. It was like he dodged every arrow Manticore could fire, and he wasn’t able to cope with the flurry of powerful, brutal attacks. He was left with most of his ribs broken, his jaw shattered, and a burning, incandescent feeling of hatred for Deathspider.

What goes around comes around, he had told himself, and now, hey, look, he was right. He launched another kick at the Mexican, his boot smashing into Miguel’s head, his head cracking into the wood, drawing blood. Miguel collapsed to the floor, a low, throaty growl emanating from his throat.

“How does it feel? How does it feel?” Manticore’s voice rose, heady with cruelty and satisfaction. “Now you know! Now you know what happens to scumbags like you who think they can go around and do whatever the hell they feel like! Now your girl left you! Oh yeah, I’ve seen your girl, I wonder what she’s doing right now? Maybe I can go find out, after all, it’s not like she’s gonna want you after I stomp you into the dirt…”

A bright red gleam appeared in Miguel’s eyes. A hand flashed out and his fingers sank into Manticore’s ankle, drawing out a muted grunt from the Phalanxer. “You… pinche maricon… pendajo…” He rose, his hand locked in a deathgrip around Manticore’s ankle. “Don’t you ever… mention her…”

Manticore snarled back, bouncing on one foot to keep his balance… and he attempted a spinning kick, trying to dislodge Miguel’s hand with his boot flashing through the air. The boot connected with Miguel’s head and they both went down in a heap. Manticore’s body slapped onto the floor, and Miguel slammed back on the side of the bar, the gold railing painfully digging into his spine. “What’s the matter? Ah, maybe she’s tired of losers like you and wants a real Hero, huh? Maybe… “

Miguel roared and punted Manticore’s head.

The black motorcycle boot came in at a low arc, smashing into the flesh underneath Manticore’s jaw, rocking the man’s head back. Choking, Manticore fell on his back, hands going to his throat. Miguel staggered over, nothing in his drug and drink addled brain except the desire to kill this bitter, petty jag-off. He reached down, grabbing Manticore by his stupid headdress, and yanked him to his feet. His voice was unsteady, fighting back the rising, hysterical tide of emotion and rage. “Don’t you ever… bring her into this! Don’t you ever…!”

Manticore’s body exploded through the front window of the Dirty Duck. He hit the sidewalk with a meaty sound, and a choking, bubbling gasp. Miguel appeared through the hole in the window, hot tears of frustration over Mio running down his face. He didn’t even see the twelve Wyvern thugs standing there until it was too late.

‘Take him down.” A man in a silver and black battlesuit said, without much tone or inflection.

Miguel’s eyes focused, way too late, on the man. An arrow slammed into his shoulder, sinking heavily into the meat, as he leapt away, narrowly avoiding a barrage of shafts filling the air. Snarling in pain, he rolled to a crouch, and a spring, redirecting him down an alleyway, pain and frustration sobering him up quickly. Behind him, he could hear the mercenaries shouting for a medic, and the sound of their jetpacks whirring them forward after him. But Miguel was faster than any of them, and as the haze of inebriation burned away, he surged forward and disappeared into the night, clutching the bloodstained steel shaft of the Wyvern merc’s arrow with gritted teeth.

Cherish was bundled under a heap of blankets, curled up on the couch. Her father’s friend, Ellie, had given her a place to stay, and she had spent most of the time since her parents split up in a depression

She couldn’t help, though, feeling silly, moping over her parents. First of all, these were her parents from this time, 2006. Well, soon to be 2007. She was born some 70 odd years in the future. So it was vaguely disquieting to call these her parents, but they were… but they also weren’t. Seeing her parents young, stupid, and at war with emotions and feelings, and most of all, each other, made her a nervous wreck.

One thing that truly pissed her off was that… in an odd way, her parents splitting up was like they were trying to negate her. Like psychologically trying to cause her to cease to exist. Oh, Mom… Mio… had told her that all of this wasn’t her fault, but it seemed too much like, the moment she got here, everything went downhill for her father, her mother, and her as well.

She couldn’t help feeling like coming here and making contact with her family in the past was a colossal mistake.

Still, it didn’t quell the rage and anger and helpless frustration she felt towards both of them. How dare they, she thought petulantly, ‘break up’? Like they were a couple of stupid teenagers with stupid drama and stupid emotional rollercoasters – couldn’t they see they were supposed to be together? But no… Mother isn’t happy with anything and is looking elsewhere, and father is a neurotic, self-loathing, hateful wreck of a human being.

That’s a comforting homelife, she sneered, clutching the blankets tighter. She was utterly miserable.

A hard, forceful knock roused her from her thoughts. She sat upright on the couch, clad in one of Ellie’s nightgowns. The girl was way more petite than Cherish was, and in another state of mind, she would have taken the time to appreciate how it clung to her in a mirror. Now she was just irritated with it.

“Ellie?” she called out in the gloom of the apartment. The sound of the woman murmuring and grumbling in her sleep was the only response she got.

The knocking again, more insistent. “Ellie!” Her father’s voice choked out. “Open up! I need help…” he sounded desperate, hurt. Against her better judgment, Cherish sprang to the door in a blur, working the locks and opening it to reveal her father, slumped against the door jam in his jeans and a t-shirt and his long coat, an arrow jutting from his broad shoulder. Blood ran freely from his nose, several abrasions and lacerations on his face, and of course, the arrow wound.

“Dad!” she cried out, pulling her father into the apartment with her. He staggered with her over to the dining room table, nearly upsetting it as he collapsed, falling to a knee and resting his head on the table surface. “Oh god, Daddy! What happened?” she gasped, hands trembling and not having much medical training, she looked at her father’s injuries worriedly, not knowing what to do.

He grunted, looking up at his daughter blearily. He stank of sweat, blood, the nerve-tightening scent of his combat pheromones, and liquor. His eyes seemed to take a long while to focus. “Manticore…” he mumbled, flecks of blood spraying from his lips. “Manticore decided to jump me while I was outta it… Serves… me right… for… whatever…”

Cherish looked over her shoulder and yelled. “Ellie! Daddy’s hurt!”

Looking back down at Miguel, she clenched her hands into unsteady fists and bit her lip. Suddenly her concerns about Mio and Daddy being together seemed very far away. Hell, how are they going to ever get back together if Daddy’s getting himself killed all the time? “Hold on, Daddy, we’re gonna get you help, okay?”

A lamp crashed to the floor, and Ellie cursed, stumbling out of the darkness. She was smaller than the both of them, a 25 year old petite brunette woman who had met Miguel months ago and they became good friends over time. She was a Defender – her magical gauntlets gave her powers to heal and protect herself with powerful energy blasts. Her eyes opened in shock, and she swiped the gauntlets off the coffee table and bounded over to Miguel. “Move!” she cried as she ran toward them, sliding on the gauntlets with practiced ease. She kneeled at Miguel’s feet, cupping his face in her hands.

“Oh god, what happened, Miguel? Who did this to you?”

He closed his eyes, grimacing. “I did, I guess… let my guard down… got sloppy drunk trying to get Mio out of my mind… and Manticore got the best of me… trying to get payback for what I did to him…”

Ellie sighs, a look of concern and anger crossing her face. “God, Miguel… why did you do that? You could have come here in the first place instead of sulking out there alone…”

Miguel sniffed, tears welling up in his eyes. “I am alone…” he grunted, blinking way too much… Cherish’s heart wrenched to see a tear running down her father’s battered, bloody cheek. She turned away, exhaling and collecting herself.

“Is there anything I can do, Ellie?” she asked quietly, holding her own voice steady.

“Go get your father some washcloths and a towel, and get me the first aid kit from under the bathroom sink…” Ellie said, more concerned about her friend’s tears than his injuries. Her gauntlets glowed with green eldritch light, and she closed her hand around the metal shaft of the arrow, gently pulling it free as the magical healing energies coursed through her friend’s body. Gently setting it on the floor beside her, she shook her head at Miguel’s tears, sighing softly. “Miguel, it’s going to be all right. Shh…”

Miguel collapsed against her, tears running freely now. “No… no it’s not going to be all right… She’s gone, Ellie… Mio is gone…” his big shoulders sagged and his breath hitched as he broke down. Ellie held him as he cried softly, unable to find the words to make it better, but hoping just being there would help.

“Mio’s gone… she’s gone…”

Cherish returned to the dining room, and looked at her father and Ellie clinging to each other, her dad’s voice choked with the tears that wouldn’t stop. She quietly set the towels and the first aid kit on the table, but they were too involved to notice. Hearing her dad cry was horrible enough, having to hear him cry in the arms of a woman that wasn’t her mother was simply too much to watch. She turned from them, and slipped silently into the living room, hiding her own tears under the cocoon of blankets.

Happy New Year, she thought bitterly.

(Continued from the quote before)

“Yet a single drop of morphine can reverse this learned behavior. What took so much time and sadistic dedication to destroy is healed within minutes. What does this tell us, then?

“The power to relieve pain is greater than the power to inflict it” - Gary Hogshire, “Poppycock”

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