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You Just Can't Keep a Bad Juju Down

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Where is the baby?

You wake in a featureless white room. You are lying on the floor next to a shitty sword. The room is both familiar and unfamiliar. It is familiar because it is laid out like your room in your old apartment, but it is not your room in your old apartment. The walls are blank, there is no furniture, and outside the window you can a desert that goes on and on and seems to have no end. A desert as featureless as the room.

You go to the door. Outside this mirror of your room you find what looks like the rest of your apartment, as empty and featureless as the room you woke up in. Still, you know it’s not your apartment. It does not feel like your apartment.

Where is the baby?

Where is the baby? The baby should be here. Panic. Desperately you search your empty room, the empty bathroom, the rest of the empty apartment. The baby is not here. Maybe the baby is on the roof.

You must find the baby.

Outside there are only blank halls, no doors to other apartments, no people. You find the stairs, climb all the way up to the roof. The baby is not there. No one is there. You look out onto the desert and see nothing, the whole perfectly featureless and flat. Maybe the baby is somewhere else in the building.

What if the baby is hurt?

The baby is not in the building. You check every floor and the baby is not there, nothing is there. No doors, no other apartments, no people. The only things in the whole building are your apartment and you.

You hurt the baby.

You spill out onto the sand, into the dull, dead heat of the desert, searching wildly for any sign of the baby. A sound, footsteps, anything. You’re calling the baby’s name but you hear nothing. You keep searching. Eventually it gets dark. You return to the apartment.

You hurt the baby.

You remember. You remember all of it. For a while you try to cry but you can’t remember how. You sit on the floor in the dark until the dark fades into early morning and think about the baby. You feel guilt. In the end you pick up the shitty sword, go to your knees, and cut open your belly, it seems appropriate. It hurts a great deal, but not as much as you deserve. It takes a very long time for you to die.

The baby is better off without you.

You wake in a featureless white room. You are lying on the floor next to a shitty sword, covered in your own blood. You don’t feel very well. Obviously you didn’t die. When you lift your white tank top there’s not even a mark where the sword went in. You are whole once more. You try to cry again but you still can’t remember how. You lie on the floor for a long time, until the sun goes down, comes up, goes down again. Then you get up and leave the apartment.

You’re a monster.

You climb the stairs back up to the roof and look out over the desert. You can’t see much, only the moon and stars reflecting off the sand. The moon is heavy in the sky. You look up at it and think it’s as familiar and unfamiliar as this apartment, though the stars are very, very different. The night is still, there’s no breeze, the heat of the day is starting to fade. Eventually you step to the edge of the roof and then off. It feels like you fall forever, then you land. It hurts, but not as much as you deserve. This time you die quickly.

What happened to the baby?

You wake in a featureless desert. You are lying on the sand next to the apartment building, covered in your own blood and with sand up your nose and in your mouth and eyes. Your sunglasses are missing from your face. You turn your head and find them lying next to you, broken in the sand. You turn your head back up to the sky. You lie there for a while, thinking about the baby, thinking about what you’ve done, and then you get up and go back inside and upstairs to your apartment. You check your sylladex but it’s empty of anything but shitty swords, so this time you do your best to make a noose out of the clothes you’re wearing to wrap around your neck and hang yourself. It hurts, but not as much as you deserve. The clothes aren’t long enough so you choke to death instead of having your neck break. It takes a long time to die and when you wake up it’s only to die again and again and again and again, neck still wrapped in your makeshift noose.

It’s what you deserve after what you did to the baby.

Eventually you can’t stand it anymore so you somehow manage to struggle your way free bit by bit between death and death.

Why can’t you just die already?

You wake in a featureless white room. You are lying naked, except for your underwear, on the floor next to your makeshift noose, covered in your own blood and sand. There’s not a scratch on you. You are alive. You do not want to be alive but it seems like you can’t make yourself be dead. You do not know what to do.

You do not know what to do so you lie on the floor and think about what you’ve done as the room gets dark, gets light, gets dark, gets light, gets dark, gets light. You are not sure how many days pass. The baby is not here and neither is [he]; there is nothing you want to do and you have no orders. Your strings are cut, the curtains pulled closed, the lights are out, the audience has all gone home.

You hope the baby is somewhere safe. You remember how it felt the first time you picked the baby up, like you finally had a purpose all to yourself other than being [his] puppet. He’d felt so good in your arms, little man smiling up at you and gurgling away and you’d though you could do it, you could keep him safe.

The baby is safer away from you.

[He’d] found it amusing at first, how happy having the baby made you. He’d said you were like a woman, like a new wife with her new baby. He’d made you put on a dress and put on some makeup and tend to [him] like [he] was your husband, the baby the baby of the two of you. [He’d] even wanted the baby to suckle at your tit but there was no milk there and it’d made you uncomfortable and you’d thought it might be bad for the baby so you hadn’t wanted to do it and that had made [him] angry, but [he] was always angry with you anyway. That was the first sign that you shouldn’t have brought the baby home, even though you knew what was coming and didn’t think anyone else could prepare the baby to face it.

Why did you have to be too weak to protect the baby?

Even though [he] was angry about you refusing to nurse the baby things were alright at first, they were, you think they were. But you got too carried away. You spent too much time with the baby, paid too much attention to the baby, you made the baby his own clothes, his own toys and not the kind of toys [he] liked, no, you made cute little wholesome toys in cute little wholesome clothes, and you took the baby everywhere, never wanted to put him down, and you took polaroids of everything he did, and you made up sick rhymes and sick beats to keep him entertained, and his first word was ‘mommy’ which is what [he] had been calling you and you didn’t even mind. No, you liked it. You liked being the baby’s mommy. You even kind of liked being [his] wife. Except [he] got jealous of the baby.

You should have taken the baby and ran.

How could you run? [He] would never have let you run.

[He] hurt you. [He] hurt the baby. [He] made you hurt the baby.

After [he] got jealous everything got very, very bad.

You don’t want to think about it anymore.

You don’t deserve to forget.

Eventually you get up off the floor and pull apart your noose so you can put your clothes back on. They’re covered in dried blood and sand, wrinkled and stretched out of shape, but that’s ok, you don’t care what you look like anyway. Your white-blond hair hangs around your face in filthy strands. When you go and look at yourself in the bathroom mirror you look haggard, tired and too skinny. You don’t remember being hungry since you woke up alive the first time.

You don’t deserve to eat, not after what you did.

You end up going into the empty mirror of the baby’s room and lying on the floor there. This time you almost remember how to cry but then you forget again. You’re not sure how much time passes, a long time you think, but you don’t care enough to count the times the sky outside goes dark and then light again.

What was that?

You wake in a featureless white room. You are lying on the floor in the dark in a mirror of the baby’s room. There is a noise outside. You do not know what it is. Then you do. You recognise [his] voice. [He’s] found you.

[He’s] here.

No. “No” you repeat the word to yourself. You can’t let him get you. If he gets you again he might make you hurt the baby. You have no choice.

Strife.

You meet [him] in the main room of the apartment, shitty sword in hand. [He] is both familiar and unfamiliar. [He]is larger than you remember [him] being, the shape of [him] the same as the shape inside your mind and not [his] shape in the physical world. A massive form, a void into which all light sinks. [He] reaches for you with his long, floppy arms, grabbing at you, trying to make you [his] again.

You do not want to be [his,] you were [his] for your entire life before this life. You remember what it was like, both before the baby, but especially after the baby. If you let him make you [his] again then when you are good [he] will degrade you, when you are bad [he] will make you hurt the baby, when you are neither [he] will simply hurt you or make you hurt yourself. If you are very bad [he] will hurt the baby.

You must not let him hurt the baby.

You strife. This time you win, you cut [his] shadow-form to ribbons and rest the day once more on the floor of the baby’s room. [He] comes back the next night. You strife again. You win again. You rest again. [He] comes back again. This time [he] approaches you with sweet words, [he] wants you back, [he’s] sorry for the things he did, [he] promises he won’t do them again. [He] won’t hurt you like that, [he] won’t make you do those things you don’t want to do, won’t humiliate you like that, won’t make you degrade yourself for [his] amusement and the amusement of others, [he’ll] let you have some freedom, let you make your own choices, let you be in charge of your own body, your own mind. Well, some of the time, when [he] can trust you not to do anything too stupid. Maybe the two of you can find a new baby, try being a family again. For a moment you waver.

You miss the baby.

NO.

You fight back harder than ever, you fight until your shitty sword breaks, then [he’s] got you down, [he’s] trying to get in between your legs because that’s the best way [he] knows to get you under control if the baby’s not here. You can’t think. You’re panicking. You thought this was all over. You even almost thought you were free. You’re an idiot. You almost think that this time you’ll remember how to cry.

Somehow you end up ejecting your entire sylladex of shitty swords like a cork popping out of a shaken bottle of champagne. A couple go through [him] and [he] vanishes. A couple go through you and you die. It hurts a great deal, but not as much as you deserve.

[He] deserves much worse for hurting the baby.

You wake in a featureless white room. You are lying on the floor in a pile of shitty swords, covered in your own blood. Sunlight is coming in the window. You sit up and stare down at the swords. You know [he’ll] be coming back tonight.

When [he] does come back [he] seems angrier with you than ever. [He] calls you a cunt and weak and a whore, and not in that semi-affectionate way [he] did sometimes back then. You strife, it’s brutal, [he] calls you names the whole time, reminds you of things you don’t want to remember, still you win. It’s not much reprieve. He’s back again the moment the sun goes down.

[He’s] never going to leave you alone.

Somehow you manage to fight [him] off each time, but it sees to get closer and closer, more and more it all ending with [him] on you, between your legs, your jeans halfway down your thighs, and you know you can’t win forever. You try to rest in the daylight, when [he’s] gone, but then [he] starts showing up when it’s light as well, rematerializing every time you put a shitty sword through [him]. You are going to lose. [He] is going to win. You are going to become [his] again.

Never.

Just when you think you can’t take any more. Just when you think this will be it, the final strife you can manage, the final fight before you are subsumed to [his] will once more, [he] vanishes. You kill him and [he] doesn’t come back, or at least doesn’t come back immediately. You pace the apartment. You wait for [him] to return. The sun sets, rises, sets again, and then there [he] is and you can almost smell the victory on him as [he] steps through your ruined door, a not-so-shitty sword incongruously slung across [his] narrow shoulders.

“I found Dave” [he] opens with.

Your baby.

You plead with [him] but it doesn’t matter, [he] makes it very clear that [he’s] sick of your tantrum and unless you’re a good little bitch and let [him] have you [he’s] going to take [his] not-so-shitty sword and stick it through your baby and there’s nothing you can do to stop [him.] You try to stop [him] anyway. Now [he] knows where your baby is there’s no way [he’ll] leave Dave alone even if [he] does get you back, not when [he] knows that your baby is the best way to keep you in line.

You have to keep [him] away from your baby.

The strife does not go well, for either of you. You are exhausted, [he] is overconfident, it turns into a stalemate. Obviously this is not what [he] expected. [He] calls you some more names before you get the impression that [he’s] suddenly smirking, though [his] face is as much a void as the rest of [him] so you can’t see [his] features.

“Why don’t we take this fight to Dave,” [he] says, “See if he can’t get you to behave.”

You panic. [He’s] out the door before you can stop [him], long, noodly legs eating up the journey down halls and stairs and out of the building. You chase [him], throwing yourself recklessly after, always just a few steps behind. [He] makes it out onto the sand and then all of a sudden [he’s] airborne, flying away from you like [he’s] a superhero or some shit. You chase [him,] each step throwing up clouds of dust, wishing so badly you still had your hoverboard, until all of a sudden you’re airborne too, body propelling itself through the air on the power of how much you can’t let [him] get where [he’s] going.

It’s all building up inside you.

You think you might be losing it. For a moment you’re back in your apartment, your real apartment, your familiar familiar apartment, and your baby is looking up at you with betrayal and he’s never going to call you “mommy” again because you have to hide in the distance of “bro.”

You have to keep your baby safe. [He’ll] hurt your baby. You can’t show affection, if you show affection [he’ll] hurt your baby and it’s bad enough when [he] makes you hurt your baby but if it’s you hurting your baby then maybe you can stop it before it goes too far, because [he] doesn’t have any limits, [he’s] not weak like you. Your baby can’t be weak like you either. You have to make your baby strong, if your baby is strong your baby can protect himself from [him]. And from what’s coming, you can’t forget about what’s coming. [He’s] not the only thing in the universe that can hurt your baby, though sometimes it feels that way. [He] thinks it’s funny that you think you can do anything about it, that you think you can do anything at all to keep your baby safe. But you can. You can make sure your baby is strong so your baby can protect himself, and to make your baby strong you can’t show affection because if you show affection [he’ll] hurt your baby and if [he] hurts your baby too much your baby can never be strong because your baby will end up broken like you and anyway you can’t stand it when your baby is hurt so you have to hurt your baby to make your baby strong or [he’ll] hurt your baby and you wish your baby would just leave, get out of here, because you know he’s getting hurt all the time anyway because the choice has become let your baby get hurt or hurt your baby or let [him] really hurt your baby and you’ve started acting out, hoping people will notice something’s wrong, but they never do, and you wish so much that your baby would speak up and tell someone about the way the two [three] of you live but he never does and every time you notice him talking to his friends it’s all [he] can do to stop you breaking out of [his] control for a moment to do something, find some way to contact those other kids’ parents and beg them to come and take your baby away from you before [he] uses you to destroy him or destroys him [himself] and…

Beneath you the desert disappears, suddenly there’s lush jungle, and then a beach, then some water, and then a city before your mind really registers what you’re seeing, the two of you moving so fast the world around you is changing like stop-motion animation. You think maybe you’re catching up. You think—

Is that your baby?

It can’t be, can it? It is, you’d know your baby anywhere. He’s so big now, all grown up. A young man leaning on the edge of the railing on a rooftop, looking out at the city and talking softly to another young man with dark grey skin and little nubby horns. Behind them there are more people, the smell of cooking, half seen, half registered evidence of a barbeque, because [he’s] heading straight for your baby and you’re out of time for thinking.

There is sound, voices, no doubt the two of you have been noticed. [He’s] heading straight for your baby, sword in hand. Your baby is backing up, and there’s a sword in his hand too and a— sickle? in the hand of the grey boy and you’re not going to make it in time, you don’t have the strength, even if you manage it can you even counter the blow you see coming? You must keep your baby safe.

It doesn’t even matter to you if your baby is strong enough to defend himself, he shouldn’t have to, it’s your job. You flashstep. The sword goes through you. Numb fingers drop your own shitty sword. It hurts, it feels like being fucked when you don’t want to be. You can feel it scraping along your ribs as it pulls out. Through bleary eyes you can see your baby. He’s gone pale. He looks terrified. The hand holding his sword can’t seem to keep itself up. [He’s] moving behind you, preparing himself for another blow.

Keep your baby safe.

Somehow you make yourself move, feeling the sword as it lodges itself into your side. It’s like acid. Like the fires of whatever hell are going to swallow you when you finally find yourself free. Your baby makes a noise, you can sort of see his mouth move, but you can’t hear anything.

The sword is jerked free. Things are going dark, reddish, grey, splotches of nothing across your vision. Your lungs are too wrecked to pull in air. You don’t know if you have a heart for it to still be beating. You can feel [him] prepare to strike once more. You’re too weak to move. Apparently you don’t have to because now you’re the object of [his] wrath.

[He] steps in close behind you and you think you can feel his cold, hard lips against the back of your neck as he pushes the sword inside one last time, a slow-fuck this time, spearing open your chest and pushing itself through that heart you weren’t sure you had. It hurts but you don’t care, you can see your baby, see him lift his sword, see how strong he has become in the determination in his eyes. You know you did nothing to give him that strength, it’s all him. You think maybe you manage to smile. You die.

It’s not good enough, not after everything you did.

You wake in a nice little room that’s been painted blue. You are lying in a comfortable bed under a fluffy quilt and a hand crocheted blanket, no shitty swords in sight. Outside the window you can see a city, a blue sky, life, greenery, something that looks like birds. You are alive. You sit up and look around, spotting movement out of the corner of your eye, the grey boy who was next to your baby, edging back out of sight behind the door.

You are alive. You are where your baby is. You know [he] will be back for you later. You still don’t remember how to cry.