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Original artwork by Iris van Thol

Simulacrum

Darcel’s scream of rage echoed through the void.
Trapped. They’d trapped him, with the spell he’d created himself. He should have seen it coming, but he had been distracted by a pretty face who whispered sweet lies.

Darcel had been ready to give her everything. He would have made her his Queen. They would have ruled the land together forever. All she had to do was serve him. Instead she choose to betray him.

They would pay. All of them. He would destroy them all. He was going to rip them to shreds. And she…She would be the very last. He would make her watch her precious kingdom, everything she build up, burn to the ground. There would be no mercy, every soul young or old, would suffer by his hand. He would make her listen to each agonized wail before he let her take her last breath.

She would plead. She would beg. She would die with the knowledge she had brought this fate upon the people she claimed to love.

Darcel reveled in his hate fueled rage. The only problem, he had to return to his world to exact his revenge. This place, the void, was not supposed to have a way out. That was the way Darcel had created it.
But that was just it. He had created it himself.

If she thought she had defeated him, she was sorely mistaken. He was Darcel the Conqueror. The most powerful mage that ever lived. The leader of the mightiest of armies. The only one who ever came close to uniting the five kingdoms under one flag. He was not going to be defeated by some two-faced, back-stabbing harlot.

All he needed to get out of here was one single unguarded mind, a single glance. Maybe passing a fresh rain puddle and thoughtlessly looking where to step without getting wet. Sure, she would have instructed her people to avoid reflective surfaces, to be vigilant. To keep protective runes on them at all times. But in time, their vigilance would falter. Time was irrelevant in the void. And Darcel only needed to be lucky once. He forced his thoughts clear and started reaching out, searching for the glimmer of an other mind he could exploit.

Darcel grunted in pain and surprise, closing off his thoughts as quickly as he opened them. Instead of the darkness he had expected to find, his probing mind filled up with an overwhelming blinding light. What was this? What had he stumbled upon?

Slowly, carefully, he reached out again, shielding himself for the energy he now knew was out there. Immediately the sensed them; billions of individual minds, each shining with an intensity he had never seen before. Amazing. How could he ever have thought this place a void? It was the very opposite. It must have been his own burning rage drowning them out before, or he would have seen them the moment he arrived here.

So many, it was overwhelming. He needed just one mind to take over…how would he know which mind to choose? Darcel focused his attention on the point of light that seemed closest. He felt himself travel in its direction faster than light, closing in, ready to merge.

Only to slam into what felt like a solid wall. The impact left Darcel reeling. What the hell was that? There should not be any physical objects in this state of existence. Certainly not this close to an open mind. He pushed his arms out in front of him. They were met with an unyielding resistance. But whatever was holding Darcel back, he couldn’t see it. The owner of the mind was clear as if they were both standing in the same room. There was no ripple, no distrotion, nothing at all suggesting a reflective surface. The refection was perfect. And there the person was, casually staring into it, as if it was the most mundane thing in the world.

He stared at his target in fascination. The person in front of him, appeared to have naked, exposed flesh. Most of it covered in strange fabrics. The cloth was obviously shaped to fit their body, yet looked like it would provide laughably little armor. Darcel was sure it could be ripped with bare hands if…

Hands! Look at the hands. They too were fleshy and the five — five! — independent moving appendages ended in blunt, round stumps, with just a thin layer of horn that could hardly be called talons. What was the use of those? It smiled, revealing teeth that were as blunt as the ends of its hands. This creature was obviously not of his world.

The creature took a small object out of the folds of fabrics it carried around it’s body. Then it leaned towards Darcel. For a second he thought it was looking right at him, and instinctively took a step back. But it seemed unaware it was being observed. It brought the small object, clamped in its weird, blunt appendages to its face, and smearing it around it’s mouth. The object left a rather appealing color of fresh blood behind.

When it was done painting it’s mouth, the creature stepped back and kept looking into its perfect reflecting surface, satisfaction radiating off it. Darcel nodded in approval. Yes,blood mouth, very pretty. The creature adjusted some of the fabrics around it’s body and then left.

It slowly dawned on Darcel that the perfect reflective surface was intentional. These creatures used them as a tool in preparation for some sort of ritual. He was not sure, but it certainly felt like it was a mating ritual about to take place.

A big grin started to appear on Darcel’s face. The creatures had such bright shining minds. Such untapped energy. If he could harvest even a couple of them, surely he would be able to tear open the void and return to his own world, more powerful than he had ever been before. And while he could not penetrate their minds just yet, they did not know he was here, observing them. Soon enough he would find a way to break the barrier. First, he would have to learn all he could about these interesting creatures. It might take a while, but time was the one resource he had in abundance.

Dale walked into the men’s room with big, hurried steps. Anyone watching might have assumed he really needed to go. But as soon as the door closed behind him, the friendly look disappeared from his face, replaced with an angry frown. He let out a soft growl of frustration. He glanced at himself in the mirror.

“Who do they think I am?” he whispered angrily to his reflection.

These humans had the strangest habit of talking to the reflective surface they called “mirror”. Darcel had learned a great deal about them in a short time because of it. The one he was focused on right now was broadcasting a lot of indignant anger. That was another thing, human minds were broadcasting all the damn time, but none of them seemed to be receiving. Like they were all deaf to the minds surrounding them. Darcel had not yet been able to make contact with any of them. Even after learning five different versions of what they called language, even after tiny pauses where they seemed to be picking up something, Darcel had not been able to enter one single mind. The creatures called humans proved to be quite the challenge. He enjoyed a good challenge.

Darcel smirked at the man in front of the mirror, mockingly imitating his movements and thinking his words back at him; Who do they think you are?

To Dale’s surprise, a voice in his head responded to his whisper: Who do they think you are? He blinked a couple of times. It felt like his reflection was looking at him. Well of course it was, he was looking at his reflection after all. Yet somehow, it felt different. Was even his own reflection judging him? Dale snarled into the mirror. “What are you looking at?”

Almost automatically Darcel imitated the man’s snarl. He managed to for perhaps a second before starting to laugh. Just the sight of these humans with their soft blunt teeth trying to look intimidating looked hilarious. A moment later the man started laughing too. Darcel tilted his head, a little surprised. Was that a coincidence, or did the man just imitate him? You, I am looking at you. Who are you? He focused the thought on Dale the best he could, willing it to go through despite the man’s lack of telepathic receptors. To his delight he noticed Dale mirror his body language by slightly tilting his head.

You, I am looking at you. Who are you? Dale didn’t know whose voice his mind had conjured up, but he liked it. It had deep, soothing tones. It didn’t sound judgmental at all. The words sounded sympathetic, pleasant. Encouraging even.

“I’m Dale Seymour,” Dale said proudly. “And I don’t need anyone telling me what to do. Least of all those pompous pricks.”

Darcel pushed against the barrier keeping him separated from the human’s mind. It slowly started giving way, stretching out. Yes, finally! This mind, this Dale person, was susceptible to his influence. Darcel was sure he could force his way inside. You don’t need them, they need you, he thought at the man called Dale. Flattery had always been a easy way to get the attention of his target. Very few were immune to it. These humans, with their love for looking at themselves in their mirrors, should even be more responsive to some sweet talking.

You don’t need them, they need you, Dale heard the voice say. He noticed his reflection smiling at him before he felt the smile on his lips. “That’s right,” Dale said out loud. “Yeah, that’s right. They do need me.”

You are not just anyone. You’re special.

You’re special
“You know what?” Dale told the voice, “I am special. People look up to me.”

They adore you
“They do. They love me.” Dale nodded to what he assumed was himself. “Millions of people listen to my voice, watch my content…”

Darcel was about the pierce the barrier of Dale’s mind. He could feel it. All he had to do was keep telling the man what he wanted to hear. Keep him engaged.

You deserve to be treated with more respect
“That’s right. I don’t need anyone to make it big.” Dale slammed both his hands on the edge of the sink in determination. “I’m going out there and tell them exactly what they can do with their laughable contract!”

Darcel felt the barrier that kept him from Dale’s mind break. It was just a little tear, but it was enough. At once he started forcing himself through. A thin tendril of Darcel’s consciousness slowly probed the far reaches of Dale’s mind.

Dale took a deep breath, threw one last glance in the mirror, then turned around and walked out of the bathroom.

As soon as Dale broke eye contact with the mirror, the barrier that had kept Darcel out solidified and became rigid again. Darcel’s tentative connection with Dale tore apart, as Darcel was slammed backwards.

Darcel howled out in pain and frustration. No! No, I had you. You were mine! He slammed himself into the barrier, clawing at it in rage. Come back here, human! You are mine!

Dale was about to close the bathroom door behind him, when he felt a prickle on his neck that made his hairs stand on end. As if someone was watching him. He glanced back into the bathroom, wondering if there had been someone in the stalls all along. But the stall doors all were the kind to leave a large gap at the bottom. If anyone was in there, he had his feet pulled all the way up on the seat. Dale dismissed the idea as unlikely, but he still couldn’t shake that eerie feeling of being watched.

Dale closed the bathroom door and walked back to the meeting room where a bunch of pompous pricks were waiting for him to sign their contract. After a few steps he spun around, certain he saw something out of the corner of his eye. All he could see was his own reflection in the floor to ceiling windows. Dale sniffed at himself. “I’m jumping at my own shadow.”

I still see you, Darcel snarled. He had never tried to follow a single human before. It was surprisingly easy. They really did love their reflective surfaces, even if it wasn’t all mirrors. Darcel never noticed how each mind was distinct, until he got personal with Dale’s. Now it stood out from all the others. You’re marked now.

Darcel watched Dale disappear through a door. His mind searched for a way to keep eye contact with the human, but the room he had entered seemed to lack any surfaces that could allow him access. Darcel paced impatiently back and forth, waiting for Dale to get into line of sight again. His rage burned hotter than it ever had before. He found his prey, had it within his grasp and then, somehow, he let it get away from him. Darcel had not dealt with failure for a long time. It was infuriating. He would not let this weak, unaware creature get the better of him. He would possess this human’s mind. He would consume its energy. But before that, he would make sure the human suffered in ways it’s small mind couldn’t begin to imagine for wasting Darcel’s time.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Dale appeared to Darcel again. The human mind was still radiating anger and frustration, but now also the pain and disappointment of a bruised ego. He was amazed these creature could feel so much, over such irrelevant things. Getting his revenge was going to be even more fun than he thought.

In the street it was no effort at all to follow Dale. Every building had windows that reflected the human. But Dale was ignoring all of them. He was looking at his feet as he walked, shutting out as much of the world as he could. Look at me, damn you, Darcel hissed. It made no difference. The human with his poor telepathic receptors had to make eye-contact to even be vaguely aware of Darcel.

Suddenly Darcel’s attention was pulled away from Dale by an enormous spike of energy on the other side of the street. It took him a moment to recognize the energy as an emotion — excitement. He had no idea emotions could be this powerful. He only knew emotions as a weak, secondary energy in living creatures. He stared at the yellow bloom in wonder.

Dale was shaken out of his sober thoughts by his name being shrieked from the other side of the road. Startled, he turned on his heels towards the sound. A young woman had spotted and recognized him. A fan. More specifically, a crazed fan-girl. Dale wanted to give her a friendly wave and smile. The smile never made it to his lips. His hand froze halfway up the air, as the woman ran into the street, forgetting about the heavy traffic.

Thing started happening all at once, making it hard for Darcel to follow exactly what was going on. The excited energy spike was moving, coming closer. Dale went from broadcasting a complex cocktail of negative emotions, to a blast of simple, pure fear. But it was not just him. Strong fear was being broadcast by multiple minds in the street. The combined energies were so strong, they seeped through into the void. In that moment Darcel realized the true strength of these human creatures was not thought, like he was used to, but emotion. It felt like standing in the middle of a lightning storm. His mind drank in the energy. When he reached out, the barrier before him moved with him as if it was nothing more than a thin layer of elastic cloth. And still it was not over. The fear had turned into terror, releasing even more energy.

“No!” Dale screamed, just as the car’s breaks shrieked. Around him, other pedestrians were yelling too. But it was too late. There was just enough time for the woman’s eyes to go wide with surprise, then a dull thud punctuated by the tinkle of broken glass, and the woman’s body was flung sideways like a rag doll. Horrified, Dale ran into the street towards the woman, who was lying on the pavement at an unnatural angle. “Call an ambulance,” he called out, his voice broke into a strange, high pitched squawk. “Someone, call an ambulance!”

Dale dropped on his knees next to the woman. She was still breathing. Shallow, watery gasps, but still clinging on to life. He didn’t dare move her much, but he did grab her hand hoping it would provide some comfort. “Oh God, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he told her. Tears were filling up his eyes, blurring his vision.

Darcel observed Dale trough the shards of glass scattered all around him. With the barrier between the human world and the void now reduced to the consistency of a wet napkin, it would be the easiest thing to grab the human’s mind and suck up all his life-energy, destroying him completely. But he hesitated. Not just yet. This turn of events was fascinating. There was so much Darcel did not fully understand yet. So much he still had to learn. He was still feeding on the massive dark energy the humans were releasing. Dale himself was broadcasting as much sadness and horror as anyone else, but interestingly, one other distinct emotion no one else was feeling; guilt. Why would the Dale human feel guilty?…Unless…

You did this
The voice Dale had heard earlier echoed trough his head. But something in it had changed. It sounded like multiple voices laid over each other. Loud enough to be a yell and soft enough to be a whisper. The sentence was both a question and an statement. There was something else overlaid, too. A high whine. Like standing too close to high voltage power cables. He could feel his tears roll down his cheeks. “She just ran into the street. I couldn’t stop her,” he mumbled defensively.

A response! Dale responded without eye-contact. It made sense with all the energy Darcel had just absorbed, but he was impressed none the less. Both with himself and with the human.

You caused her to come to you, with no regards for her own safety
Dale pressed the woman’s hand to his cheek. “Why would she just run? Why didn’t she look?,” he sobbed.

She was one of the people who looked up to you
I didn’t mean for this to happen. I didn’t want this,” Dale whispered. He felt a hand on his shoulder. When he looked up, he saw one of the ambulance personnel who wanted him to move aside. The ambulance stood waiting a few steps behind them. Dale had not even heard it pull up. Dazed, he stood up to get out of the way.

You wield this power over people. She will die because of you
“No, no, no,” Dale whispered. Louder, he asked the paramedic: “She’ll make it, right?” The man shot Dale a look but gave no response. Dale suddenly couldn’t stand to be around the accident and the people any longer. He turned around and walked away as fast as he could. A couple of seconds later he was running. Perhaps I misjudged you, the voice rang in his head, fainter now, but still clear. Dale suppressed a scream. All he wanted to do was hide away.

Darcel observed the scene of the accident a bit longer, feeling no need to follow his target. He was confident he would be able to find the human called Dale again if he needed to. He had severely underestimated this world, these creatures, and what they could do. What they could do for him. Such raw power…and yet they seemed completely unaware of it. And Dale, Dale was the most surprising of all. The amount of control he appeared to have over others was phenomenal. With no effort from his part — no coercion, no intimidation, no threats. Simply being in proximity was enough for someone to offer themselves up. What could happen, if Dale started using his power? The possibilities were endless. Darcel wanted that power. He needed the power Dale had. He needed to rethink his methods. Observe. Learn. Grow. She could keep her world, Darcel had found something better.

Writer of fiction, blogs and erotica. Frequency in that order. Popularity in reverse.

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