From the lingering remnants of bloodied cardboard, and manifested through a successive generation of delusions.
Content Warning: TSF Series #018: Dæmon;Heäd contains content that some readers might find disturbing or uncomfortable. This includes sexually explicit activities, rape, strong language, hateful language and slurs, violence, suicide, forced physical transformation, and relentless gender dysphoria.
TSF Series #012: Boxfort – An Escapist Transsexual Fantasy was a story designed to play around with the broad ideas of escapism, fantasy, and my own personal anxieties and fears. In fact, it was so personal that I named the protagonist after myself.
However, there were several concepts that were left on the cutting room floor of TSF Series #012. Particularly the idea of giving the protagonist more mental issues and having them be tormented by a voice in their head. I wanted to find a place for these ideas, and was given a bout of inspiration on July 10, 2022. A particularly emotionally wrought day. One where my anxiety was high, my mood was low, and the only thought that brightened my mood was fantasies of the myriad ways I could fucking kill myself. I tend to have a few days like that every year, and seeing as how I’m not dead yet, I guess it’s fine.
In all seriousness, my own mental health is relatively stable, but I like to channel these intense feelings into my work to give them a strong emotional core and level of earnestness.
After devising this general concept, I left it sit for nearly 16 months before writing an outline, where I reassessed the story and changed the protagonist from another incarnation of ‘Nate Neumann’ to a new female protagonist. Partially because the character rapidly diverted away from being a self-derivative due to their numerous mental quirks, but mostly because the story I was writing did not feel right with a male protagonist.
Also, as should be fairly obvious, the title of this work, Dæmon;Heäd, is inspired by the influential 5pb. and Nitroplus visual novel, ChäoS;HEAd. Originally, I planned on playing through the game to accumulate inspiration for this story… but I did not get around to it. As such, the similarities largely end with a socially reclusive protagonist with mental health issues that experiences some manner of delusions
Chapter 1: Contemplation
Date: Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Location: Jaldabyth, Wisconsin
I spent a fraction of a second staring at tonight’s dinner, because it was pretty much the same as it always was. A simple dish of noodles and chicken breast, covered in a layer of tomato sauce for additional flavor. I took my usual fork as I spooled up a mouthful, inserting it into my mouth before allowing my eyes to drift across the kitchen. It was small, compact, quaint, and only left enough of a dining area for three people. One end of the table was up to the wall, and while one might think that my dining partner would sit across from me, that was seen as too… distant in our household. So, instead she sat in the seat closest to me, meaning I had to adjust the position of my vision by 45 degrees to properly see her. My mother. Though she requested that I call her by her first name, Amber, since we started working together.
A 47-year-old woman with straight brown hair, a complexion on the cusp of entering the olive pigmentation, a taller than average height, and a fairly slender build that required maintenance. She was dressed for the season, in a green scoop neck top with three-quarters length sleeves and capris jeans, and as I looked into her light brown eyes, I saw the calm flowing through her body.
She ate her meal, one identical to my own, quickly, chewing only a few times before swallowing, as if she was under a timer, when she truly wasn’t. It was merely an unfavorable habit that she could not shake. A habit that I thankfully avoided, albeit in the other direction, as I was a considerably slow eater. I had a habit of letting the food mix throughout my mouth, spreading it about with my tongue, before chomping it with every tooth, only to swallow it when it was thoroughly chewed. It was an act that I did not do for any reason as rewarding as savoring the flavor, but rather as a tactic to prevent an irritated stomach.
I thought about this as I chewed, my eyes drifting across the curtains in the background, and my thumb idly rubbing against the handle of my fork. I had become lost in my own mind yet again, and only became aware of this after Amber prompted me back to reality.
Amber: “Is everything alright Stella?”
She knew the answer to this question, as I had become nothing if not predictable, but I still appreciated her boundless concern.
Stella: “Yes, I… I was just lost in my head again.”
Amber: “So, nothing’s bothering you? The food’s fine, and you’re fine?”
Stella: “Yes… Amber. I am doing fine. Dinner tastes as good as it usually does.”
Amber: “You know, if you ever want to try something new, I’m more than happy to—”
As Amber began to explain this for the umpteenth time, a chime came from her smartphone. I always assumed it was rude to have a phone on a dining table like this, but that supposedly is no longer the case. I patiently chewed as she viewed her message history, only for her to adopt a relieved yet disappointed expression.
Amber: “Heh. Hemming finally gave us the banking information for the first quarter… after asking him for two months.”
Stella: “And how did he send them?”
Amber: “He took pictures of them, with his phone.”
Stella: “…He does realize that we need to read them and enter them, right?”
Amber: “I told him, but men like him can be as thick as a rock when it comes to changing even the smallest part of their lives. I would love for all of our clients to just use QuickBooks Online and have all their bank accounts synchronized, but they just don’t seem to get it. Sure, it might cost them more money, but we can work faster, bill less, and they don’t need to rely on us to get updated copies of their books. They can just look it up on their damn phones!”
Stella: “W-Well, there are some benefits to QuickBooks Desktop, right?”
Amber: “Oh, absolutely. Back when you were a wee little gal, I was a diehard supporter of Desktop, and wouldn’t touch Online with a ten-foot pole. But… Intuit stopped putting resources into Desktop— it looks the same it did a decade ago— and Online was given a complete overhaul. Though, I do wish they had more continuity between products. Desktop wants things done one way, Online wants it done another way, and bouncing between them isn’t as easy as it should be.”
I nodded along as Amber discussed our job. She had gone on this ramble before, but I did not wish to tell her she was repeating herself.
Stella: “There’s also the cost to consider. We are paying $300 a year for Desktop and—”
Amber: “Sweetie, that’s nothing for software. Besides, I make sure to sneak the costs in our clients’ bills. And while I don’t trust Online to say where it is now… that’s the client’s problem, not ours.”
Stella: “Assuming they actually pay their bills… I just ran an accounts receivable report, and the dance studio still hasn’t paid his invoice from December.”
Amber: “Of course Gregg hasn’t… I’ll give him a call after dinner.”
Stella: “Isn’t it a bit late for a phone call?”
Amber: “It depends on a client, and with a deadbeat like him, it’s fine so long as it isn’t between 22:00 and 7:00.”
Stella: “I… I’m sorry Amber, I meant a bit too late for you. I know we worked crazy hours this month, with all the tax deadlines, but don’t you always say that you don’t like it when I work at night?”
Amber: “Stella, you’re 20. You’re my daughter. You’re my assistant. And the last thing I want to do to you, in the entire world, is take advantage of you. You deserve to have your own free time to do what you want. I do this because this is my business. Besides, it’s just a phone call. I know a lot of people don’t consider those ‘real work,’ even though they absolutely are.”
I nodded along at Amber’s reasoning and, having my worries dismissed, returned to the meal in front of me. While I ate, Amber continued to spitball ideas about work, asking if she should offer ‘discounts’ to clients who get their bank information organized, as she would be happier if we spent more time doing ‘valuable’ work. She had a point. Because while we could just scan paper documents, run OCR, and manually enter each transaction, that takes time and is not ‘value added’ work. It was a point we discussed and re-discussed periodically, but this time Amber appeared more determined to make this goal a reality.
The conversation drifted to an end after I finished my dinner. She left to make her phone call, while I got started on the dishes, as per usual. I began by rinsing the plates we used for our meal, but before running the water, I had to… relieve myself.
I traipsed through our single-story home to the smaller restroom, where I wasted little time pulling down my soft black form-fitting pants to do my business. Even after doing the act… 365 times 20 times approximately 6 times— nearly 50,000 times, I still felt as if there was a specific inefficiency with how the female urination process functioned. Particularly, the fact that it so often scatters along one’s legs as they urinate, necessitating the use of something to blot or wipe away the urine.
With a sigh, I carried out the procedure until I was at the sink, one hand under the water to verify the correct temperature and another with soap from the pump. Only once the water was at an adequate temperature for killing germs, I scrubbed my hands for 20 seconds, mouthing each number as I awaited this target.
It was not lost upon me how rigorous my approach with hand washing was, but it was something that I was taught and followed,fully and completely, unlike the overwhelming majority of my fellow humans. This rigor was simply a part of me. It was part of… Stella Neumann.
As I washed my hands, I looked up at my expression. My skin was pale, an ivory hue, and far from the sun-colored complexion of my mother. My hair was similarly lighter, being colored an uncommon auburn that went past my shoulders, its shape featuring a slight curl that never truly went away despite my attempts. I stood at just over 160 centimeters, weighed less than 50 kilograms, and my form was rather bony, lacking in muscle or fat, and only possessing a slight curves. All wrapped in a simple sky blue t-shirt. Truthfully, I do not think my appearance changed a readily perceptible amount since I was 16, so this was what I was stuck with. The guise of someone small in many ways, who lacked unique features beyond hair color, with even my eyes being a dull brown. The same color, shape, and design as… my father.
If that fact were not pointed out to me, I likely never would have perceived it, but once it was, it became an unignorable fact when viewing my reflection. Which was, in part, why I was not particularly fond of the sight of myself.
I groaned as I left the bathroom behind and returned to the kitchen… only to stop and look at one of the only photos lining our walls in this home. A photo from June 23, 2001— almost 15 years ago— featuring myself, Amber, and my father, Nate Neumann. A man with red hair, dull brown eyes, and a pale complexion. His preserved memory smiled toward me, and I was forced to remember what happened to him.
On August 15, 2001, Nate Neumann killed himself.
Though I was fortunate enough to know him for the first six years of my life, I did not truly know him. Amber describes him as a brilliant man. One with many quirks and vices, but a man who was always kind, always polite, and perpetually hard on himself. A man who faltered in social situations and had many ‘rituals’ that he had before he did certain things. A man whose understanding of finances and markets allowed him to fully pay off his home— my home— our home— twenty-three years early.
However… he was also a man with good days and bad days. One day, he could be calm and happy, satisfied with his abilities. The next day, things could become ‘ugly’ as Amber described it. He would cry, he would scream, he would panic, and his composure would shatter. Even as an adult, he still had days like these, and despite receiving ample help… that was a part of who he was. A part of how his mind worked. And there was no way to change that. It was simply something he had to live with until… he had a very bad day. A bad day, where he was alone.
He came home from work one day, Amber and I weren’t home, and by the time we came home… he had killed himself. He took a kitchen knife and used it to puncture his throat. I was not allowed to see what his body looked like, what his bedroom looked like, but I have a vivid imagination.
I looked away from the sight of my father’s smile and dug a hand into my pants, pulling out a small turquoise stone from my teensy pockets. It was a worry stone, given to me by my father. He said that whenever I felt anxious, whenever I felt scared, I should rub it. That it would make my stresses go away, that it would make everything better.
He was half right. It makes things better, but they never go away. They never can go away. Just like there was no way to change him, there is no way to change me, and, as my father liked to point out… I am his daughter
I shook my head as I felt sorrow clinging into my brain, intensified the rubbing of my worry stone, and moved to the kitchen, hoping for some cleansing.
The water heated up as I rearranged the dishes in the dishpan. With just the two of us, there were rarely many dishes, aside from Saturdays, when Amber cooked us meals for the entire week. Just a few plates, bowls, cups, and silverware.
While it was still work, I found joy in this simple act. The warm water felt good on my skin, heating it no matter the season. The act of scrubbing dishes underwater made me acutely aware of the small muscles filling my hands. And the little corner nook where the sink was located was crafted as if it was designed around my height. I did not need to slouch or strain myself, I could just stand.
The only thing I wish could be different was the noise. The sound of running water, clanging of the ceramics, and sounds of silent scrubbing all led to an inconsistent soundscape, one that made me wish that I could stifle it all with something else. …But then I would not be able to hear Amber as she called for help.
Before I could do much musing on this minor inconvenience, it was time to dump the dishwater, bringing my final task of the day to an end.
While I could have taken care of the bank statements sent by Hemming, I did not want to frustrate Amber, so I instead went into my bedroom. A small 9.3 square meter dwelling that contained everything I needed, and not much else. My bed, my dresser, a bookshelf filled with various belongings, and my desk. A simple white desk with two monitors mounted on an arm, attached to the computer I built four years ago.
It was where I spent the majority of my day— my ‘workstation.’ Where I helped my mother approximately 20 hours a week with her bookkeeping job. But in my off time, it was simply a place for me to enjoy myself. …Though, I would always feel embarrassed about telling anyone what I did, even my mother. Not because I did anything wrong or immoral. But because I was firmly aware of the pretense that what I did was… sad.
Most of my time was spent watching online video creators, and playing single-player video games by myself. Most people of my generalized demographic would be able to say they also talked to friends on their computer as well, but not me.
I am… not a social person. I do not have any friends beyond my mother. And I have not attempted to make a new friend since kindergarten. Why? Well… because they could reject me. They could hurt me. I could lose them. I would lose them. And I… did not want to waste their valuable time with someone like me. Amber, my mother, was stuck with me, but… nobody else needed to be. They could, and should, be with someone better.
As these bad thoughts and bad feelings loomed over me, I put in my earbuds, took a deep breath, and grabbed my tactilely reassuring wired Xbox 360 controller, starting up a game to enjoy the evening.
Four hours later, and after my mother wished me goodnight, I got ready for bed myself. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, put on my night guard, and laid down on my twin-sized bed, wrapped in a single sheet, brushing my worry stone with my left thumb.
If I didn’t have this stone in my hand, I wasn’t even sure if I could fall asleep, but even with it, it always took me a long time to lose consciousness. My brain just loved to buzz to the tune of sorrow when everything was off, when all the sound, noises, and voices were gone.
Was there much for me to be sorrowful about? No. I was not in a war zone, so my problems weren’t really problems, were they? I was safe. I was living with someone who loved me, and who I loved in return. But… why did I feel so empty?
…Because my life is so empty.
Outside of my mother… I didn’t have a life. I don’t talk to anyone but her. I don’t go out unless she takes me somewhere. She is the only person I work with. And… I don’t have any future. No goals. No plans. Nothing that goes beyond doing whatever I can to help her. …I can’t do anything other than this. And I hate it.
I don’t like myself. I don’t think I am a remarkable person… aside from how broken I am. But even then, I’m not remarkably broken. Too capable to not be truly disabled. Yet too incapable to be a regular person.
When I’m anxious, I hear voices in my head, telling me to hurt myself, but only when I’m anxious. When I am forced to talk to new people, I stammer, I stutter, but I don’t completely shut down and become catatonic. When I was in school, I hated being around other people, hated the noise, hated the clutter… but it was not bad enough that I needed someone to escort me everywhere.
I am an allegedly smart person. Someone who can learn some things quickly, but needs others to be broken down to their simplest levels and explained three different ways. But I’m too socially retarded to even go to college, let alone work a real job.
So, I had to say I was broken, that I was incapable of work, and was so scared of fucking up, I had a genuine panic attack. So… I guess I maybe deserve the meager amount the government pays me. $733 a month. Supplemental Security Income. Not enough to live on, but it helps my mother care for me. Well, that and the work I do for her…
What I’m doing is real work. It is a purpose. But… it still makes me feel like I am doing something wrong. I feel like I am on a road to nowhere, and that all that awaits me is death… but I cannot allow myself to die. I promised. I promised my mother that I would live.
I just wish that I could live as someone else. That I could change who I was on a fundamental level. I wish that… I could be someone different when I wake up tomorrow.
As I slept, I dreamed. And in that dream, I found myself suspended, unable to do anything beyond observe. And while observing, I heard a voice greet me.
???: “So, you want a change?”
It was a shrill, eager, almost childish voice that caught me off guard. Even if I could say anything, I didn’t know what I would say.
???: “You are not like my usual clients… but you’ve gotta try on the shoe to see if it fits!”
With that, the voice disappeared, my body fell down an invisible voice, and this brief dream came to an end.
Chapter 2: Transformation
Date: Wednesday, April 27, 2016
Location: Jaldabyth, Wisconsin
I woke up to the sound of an alarm the following morning. …Except, it wasn’t the alarm I was used to. It was harsher, the volume was louder, and it was as if it was meant to force me out of sleep, instead of lulling me out of it. I did not have a choice but to open up my eyes… and what I saw was both familiar and unfamiliar. The walls were the same, the room was the same, but… the angle was different. The furniture was different.
My bed was tilted 270 degrees, putting the longest side against an exterior wall, meaning my feet were where my dresser would be. My dresser was where my bookshelf used to be. My desk was where my bed used to be. My white desk had been traded for one with a wood finish. My bookshelf was replaced with two smaller pieces of furniture. And instead of emitting a soft green glow, the LED lights of my alarm clock were a vibrant blue.
Nothing was right about this. I felt my heart race as I took in this sight. But before I could do anything… I had to stop that damn alarm!
I then cast the sheets off of me and walked to the alarm promptly, but once the noise stopped… I was able to recognize that… nothing about my body felt right. Everything felt wrong.
My hair was no longer brushing against my back— it wasn’t even covering my ears. Everything I was looking at in this room, from the doorframe to the vent, was lower in my field of vision. As I brushed my fingers against my thumbs, they felt thicker, harder, lacking the same softness I had come to expect. And even as I stood on the same floor I have known for so long, a floor that I had mapped down to every floorboard, with notes about which areas squeaked when I walked on them, I felt wrong. Not just in the sense that I weighed more, but the very distribution of my weight was… different.
I had plenty of clues to answer the question of why I felt so wrong, but I could be a slow learner sometimes. So, with as deep of a breath as I could muster in this near-panicked state, I looked down at my body… and my suspicions were proven correct.
What I saw was not my body.
It was broader, it was bigger, the chest lacked the slight breasts I had called my own, and even the shirt I was wearing was different, going from a sky blue to a navy blue, and it looked to be at least a size larger.
I let out a guttural gasp at this sight and reminded myself of the night guard still gripping my upper jaw. I took it out and stared at the impressions of the teeth this object was molded after. They… were not my teeth.
I went to confirm this with my tongue… and I was right. The shape of my molars, the shape and point of my canines, and even the taste of my tongue… none of it was as it should be.
EVERYTHING WAS WRONG!!!
I passed the threshold, and my panic attack began.
This was something so routine for me that I had an action plan. If I was in my bedroom— and I was in some fucked up manner— I was to go to my bed, wrap myself in my blankets, and breathe into my pillow. Even through an anti-suffocation pillow, the rampant breathing would tire me out, allowing me to survive this attack from within my own mind.
My sheets might be different, but my pillow wasn’t, and even though everything was categorically fucked, I still— somehow— had enough sense to protect myself. Even if I wasn’t myself. I assumed the position, grabbed my worry stone, and smacked my face in my pillow. I hoped this would offer me calm… but it only aggravated things.
The pillow wrapped around my face in a way that made me realize that even my fucking skull was different. My nose was bigger, everything was bonier, my forehead felt bigger, and the more I moved it, the more this piercing sense of wrongness got worse.
The same was true for my entire body. Wrapping it in sheets, rolling around against my mattress, just emphasized the wrongness that surrounded every part of it. Whatever semblance of curves my body had was gone, and everything felt like a rectangle. Everything felt hotter, like there was some extra insulation buried somewhere within my skin, causing my body to sweat more than it did when I had panic attacks during the hottest days of summer. And as I felt my legs grow closer… I felt it.
Hearing my own voice, the sound of my hyperventilation, clued me into the full extent of what happened. My voice was deeper and felt disgusting as it bounced across my throat. It was… the voice of a man. I heard the voice of a man, felt the face of a man, could feel the hairs of a man poking from my arms and legs. And in case I was too thick to solve this basic equation… I had the manhood of a man. The penis.
I tried to use my worry stone to find calm, but there was no such thing as calm within a Category 5 hurricane, and this was a typhoon that could decimate a whole fucking nation!
My terror did not fade, it only grew worse. With every breath, it felt like a piston was slamming against my stomach. With every sound from my throat, I gripped it tighter in frustration. With every second, I thought of another fantasy to free myself from this wrongful body, to carve it to pieces and leave behind something familiar. Belt sanders, knives, hammers, buzzsaws, power drills, screwdrivers, my own malformed hands!
I needed some release. I needed to expel these boundless feelings and return to calm. But it wasn’t coming. It wasn’t happening.
I was closer to death than I could ever recall in my life, and just as I felt this stress would cause my organs to rupture themselves and explode, leaving me to die in a bloody broken pulp, too damaged to ever be repaired… I heard that voice again.
???: “Dayum, son. I heard about former bitches who don’t take to getting ka-boy’d like a Sunday sausage, but you’re something else, aintcha?”
I heard that voice… but I did not hear it. My ears did not register a sensation and… it was as if someone was speaking to a receiver wired directly to my brain. It was surprising enough for me to pause, to go from sixty to zero, and lay in my bed, one eye looking at my wall, the other one under my pillow. But despite being frozen, my heart was still racing, and I was intimately aware of my body.
I tried to think through a response with my stressed brain, but before I could… I felt something grab my shoulder, a hand spreading across my broader, larger, right shoulder blade.
I rolled around as quickly as I could, looking up at this person… and I wound up looking through them. What I saw was a woman, undeniably so. One about as tall as me— or at least as tall as I was last night— but her form was semi-transparent, as if she was a hologram. A hologram who could… touch me.
Her skin was colored a middle brown hue. Her eyes, a reddish pink. Her hair was short yet shaggy and bore a slightly bluish green color. Her head bore two little divots that looked almost like horns that, paired with her large pointy ears, gave her a slight inhuman look. Her face was both youthful and cute, featuring a toothy smile. While her body was curvaceous and bound in a dark purple bodysuit.
She… was a woman who inspired many questions, but the most obvious one leapt out of my strained throat before I could stop myself.
Stella: “Who are you?”
The horned woman cackled before offering a response wired directly to my brain.
???: “The name’s Akumako!”
Akumako: “I’m a dæmon who was assigned to guide you through the wet and wild world of boyhood! But you seem to be a bit of a spazz, so I guess I have my work cut out for me. Currently, I’m chilling in your head— that’s why you can see right through me and can’t quite hear me. But if you’re done acting like a little bitch and ready to man the fuck up, then we—”
Stella: “You did this to me?!“
I burst out of my sheets and stared at the flying demon before me with an expression that I hoped was able to convey a mere modicum of the hatred flowing through my body and mind.
Akumako: “Chill, bro. It ain’t my fault you’re defective and aren’t going gonzo over your fat hog. I’m here to help you, but if—”
Akumako: “Corporate said you wanted a change, so I gave you a change. Simple as that. Now, are you—”
Stella: “I don’t know what the fuck you are! I don’t care how the fuck you did this to me! But you WILL turn me back to normal, right now!”
Akumako: “God, they make eggs so fucking thick these days… Look, I can’t do that, chief. You’re changed, so you may as well make the most of—”
Stella: “NO!!! I WILL NOT LISTEN TO YOU! The demons in my head are not to be listened to.. You… you are just a delusion. You are NOT REAL! You cannot be real! Get out of my head! Stop distorting reality! Give me my body back! You…”
I paused as I remembered a mantra that a social worker taught me long ago. Or, at least some version of it.
Stella: “The unreal cannot hurt me. The rules of reality are firm and cannot be changed. If something seems impossible, then it must be impossible… The… unreal cannot hurt me. The rules of reality are firm and cannot be changed. If something seems impossible, then it must be impossible! None of this is real… none of this is real… NONE OF THIS IS REAL!!!”
As I shouted, my mother— Amber— slammed the door open. While everything had changed… she looked the same, right down to her wardrobe. Tears were pouring through her eyes, and the moment she saw me, she ran up to me, hugged me, and pressed me against the bed. She had done this before. It was the best way to calm me down. Especially when I was having a dissociative episode like this. I wanted to thank her, but before I could, she spoke to me.
Amber: “I’m so sorry! It’ll be alright, it’ll be alright Scott—”
What? …No. That… was wrong. My delusions never changed anything she said. Amber was always unaffected by them, so why… why wasn’t she saying my name?
I’ve always been Stella.
It’s not short for anything, it’s not adaptive to nicknames, and… I like it for being so pure, so simple.
I’m not… Scott.
Just the sound of that name, so plain, so guttural with its hard O sound, it sounds… disgusting when it’s attached to me. So… why would she ever call me something like that, why would—
Amber: “Scott, honey, answer me! Please! Are you okay, do you need help? I need to know! I need to know what you need! Scott? Scott!”
…No. This… must be a delusion. My mind is malfunctioning, producing something unreal. I should not… She should not…
I was already sobbing from my panic attack, but now, I was beyond hysterics. I was unable to perceive my own actions. I was only able to perceive the fact that so, so many things were wrong.
The way she hugged me. The way my body felt against hers. The way my body felt as it pressed against this harder mattress. The sound and very feeling of my cries.
I looked past my mother, and at the demon— Akumako— who still floated where she was, an annoyed look on her face as she took in the sight before her.
Akumako: “Ah shit, I’ve dumped myself into one helluva doozy, haven’t I?”
Amber could not hear her words. Only I could.
…There were only two options.
Either my sanity failed me, and I had gone crazy, hallucinating a different body, different world, and manifesting other people from nothingness. Or… I had been sentenced to Hell before death.
Chapter 3: Confrontation
Date: Thursday, April 28, 2016
Location: Jaldabyth, Wisconsin
As the clock struck midnight, there was not a doubt in my mind that I just finished the absolute worst day of my life. I lost my body. I became someone else. And the worst part is that… she thinks that this is all normal. Memories, reality itself, everything has been changed. She says that Stella never existed. That I have always been Scott. That this body, this room, is not a delusion. But rather… I am the delusion.
The rules of reality are firm and cannot be changed. If something seems impossible, then it must be impossible.
Reality says that I am not myself, so my very identity… must not be real. But… I know it is real. I know I am mentally ill, but I can still think. My thoughts are clear. And they lack the discordant and wild scale of more typical delusions. Imagining that one lived as a different gender their entire life is quaint compared to thinking that you can hear the voice of a fictitious divine.
I know who I am… and this is not who I am. This is not my body.
For all my terror and agony, I eventually was able to find some calm. I laid in what used to be my bed, propped up by pillows, dressed in clean pajamas, staring up at the ceiling with eyes, reddened by rampant tears. I did not want to think, so I listened to my ‘thought suppressing’ music on my MP3 player. A series of discordant noise masquerading as music, executed at such high BPM that it could give someone a headache. But for me, it was calming.
That was true… even in this new body.
I was exhausted. Panic attacks leave me wiped physically due to the strain it puts on a body’s muscles. Even so many hours after the initial burst this morning, this body was still sore. While the stress, the frustration of this situation, left my brain feeling like a pile of tenderized meat, ready for the fire.
But I was not the only one I hurt today, as my mother had to deal with me. When I panic, she panics. And for every tear I shed, she sheds another.
…I just wanted to sleep and wake up from this nightmare… but I knew that wouldn’t help. The reality of this situation is too grand. Too immense. For if this were a dream, a hallucination, there would be cracks that a keen mind could highlight. And the only thing wrong in this reality was… me. The way this bulky body felt, right down to the way its left thumb felt against my unchanged worry stone.
With the lights already off, I tried to lull myself to sleep as I rubbed this stone, shuttering my eyes, and turning down the tactilely reassuring volume wheel slowly, before silencing my music. Through the vibrant blue light of the alarm clock, I saw her floating before me. The demon who stole my… everything.
Stella: “I told you to go away…”
Akumako: “I did, but that was yesterday, and now is today. So, how’s the boy’s life treatin’ ya Scottie?”
I lacked the strength to rise from my bed, and hoped that the murderous look on this hardened visage would be sufficient.
Stella: “You will NOT call me that! My name is Stella!”
Akumako: “You’re still on that dumb shit? I guess what they say is true. If you crack someone hard enough, they’ll shatter.”
Stella: “Trust me, you did shatter me. In so, so many ways. And for reasons you still refuse to tell me.”
Akumako: “You wanted change, and I gave ya a change, solving your problems. In ye olden days, it was some blue fucker bound in ceramics, but nowadays, its hardworking dæmon gals like me!”
I looked up at her with a scowl. It felt as if these new facial muscles kept gravitating to such expressions, but this one was worn with every ounce of intent I could muster.
Stella: “You solved nothing. While I do have struggles… they were internal struggles. They were based on how insular and empty my life was. On how I was unable to achieve the bare minimum of what is necessitated to be a normal person. One of the few things that I could rely on, one of the few things about my life that I was satisfied with… was my body. It was the shell— the vessel— that kept the goop that constituted who I truly was as a person. It was… comfortable. …But then you took that sickly goop and poured it into an ill-fitting container, forcing it to congeal in a foreign shape, while leaving behind much in its original container.”
Akumako kept a plain expression as she was talking, like a therapist who only took her career in the promise of money who was working on a ‘charity case’ for credential purposes. Complete with her eyes drifting as I spoke, legs crossed as she floated in the air on an invisible bouncing stool.
Akumako: “…Did you seriously describe yourself as ‘sickly goop?’ Damn, you need to do some mad work on your confidence game, man.”
Stella: “Because of you, I now lack anything that is truly mine in this world. This room, this body, though I may deem it to be mine… it is not. It is merely someone else’s… and I am occupying it because I have nothing else. It truly is an experience that warrants a place within Hell.”
Akumako: “It’s not someone else’s, it’s yours. Your room, your body, your clothes. I made ’em specifically for you, ya know!”
Stella: “I can tell… A delusion like this could only be attributed to a demon. And while I have I dealt with my own demons in the past, never have they been as upfront and literal as you.”
Akumako: “Fuck an angel with a cattle prod— This ain’t a delusion, ya dumb pea! It’s all reality— you can tell by the feel, the vibe, and most defo the noise!”
Stella: “I… I don’t care what it is. But if you are going to torment me— If I need to deal with a ghostly demon in my head— then please turn me back to normal. Grant me the privilege of at least having a comfortable body.”
Akumako: “Can’t do it. I don’t got the juice. A full reality changing TF ain’t cheap. Even if the only thing you’re trying to do is remix a history, toss a Y, and throw in an X. If you actually offered a modicum of effort, maybe you could enjoy your new life.”
‘Have you ever tried not being retarded?’ Was a phrase that my peers at school earnestly asked me before, and Akumako’s statement carried with it the same dismissive and deliberate lack of understanding.
Stella: “…You don’t actually care about me. You just want to shove me into a role. …If you had the decency to rob me of my autonomy, to bleach my brain and make me forget who I was, that may be preferable. That would be a death that would leave no body.”
Akumako: “Well ain’t you just a fussy gussy. Could you can the dramatics and offer an actual, concrete reason why you don’t like this body. I get that it’s different, but so what? Lots of people got different bodies. 97.3% of them in fact. …Wait, no, wrong job— 99.1% of them!”
Statements like that made me doubt any facsimile of sincerity Akumako could offer. It was typical for demons to speak in riddles, but this, combined with having her words beamed directly into my head, as if they were my own thoughts, made it hard for me to react to her with anything less than anger.
Stella: “…You want me to explain why I loathe this body and everything about it?”
I groaned at her prowess of filling me with such frustration with just a single compound word, and began the laborious process of standing up. It was easy enough to ignore the finer details of this body while lying down, but just entering a standing position forced me to confront the ways in which it contrasted with the one I had known for my entire life. Everything felt more rigid, the very bones felt bigger, and everything around it felt thicker. This was still the body of a skinny man, but the bigger hands, bigger feet, and a flat, straight frame from my armpits to ankles, all instilled a sense of wrongness within me.
I powered through the discomfort as I made my way to the bathroom. A room that I had grown to despise for many reasons this past day, and I would have to re-experience all of them to satisfy the demon lurking within my head.
The dark of the night obscured the contents of the room, painting only a vague outline that I could easily follow without being confronted with this new reflection. A reflection that inarguably contained similarities with my own but, more than anyone… it resembled my father.
Nate Neumann was a thin man of an average height with bright red hair, dull brown eyes, and a pale complexion. The man I was in the mirror matched that description to a tee, and while there was an obvious age difference, as Nate passed away at age 36, the resemblance was undeniable. The bone structure of the face, matured enough to be devoid of the fat of a prepubescent, was the same. The natural stature was the same. Even the hairstyle, though a bit more ‘modern’ by some nebulous, difficult to describe, metric, was practically the same.
If someone took a photo of this reflection, of this body, and told a past version of myself that this was my father, I would accept that as a fact, with zero hesitation.
Stella: “Akumako, do you know about my father?”
Akumako: “Uh… lemme just check my notes and, ah right!”
As Akumako spoke, I could see her in my peripheral vision but her reflection was not captured in the mirror. I did not bother questioning why.
Akumako: “Born 1965, died 2001 because of an aspie hissy fit gone suicidal. And… huh. You sure as sugary sandpaper look like his son, dontcha—”
Stella: “If I could muzzle you, I would…”
Akumako was right. This body did— as a matter of indisputable fact— look like it could easily be the son of my father. I was an only child, but if I had a brother, he would look like the person staring back at me in the mirror.
Stella: “All my life, I had been compared to my father. From a young age, I was diagnosed with the same mental conditions as him. He used to playfully compare me to himself back when he was still alive. And when he killed himself… I became terrified that I would do the same. My mother was terrified of that as well. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see… myself but as a man. I see the visage of a man who killed himself from stress and anxiety. A man whose death has lingered over my life, every day, for over 5,000 days.”
Akumako: “Yeah, and is that such a bad thing? Your pappy was pretty handsome, and unlike him, you’ve got a real fat di—”
Stella: “Seeing this face look back at me, looking into these eyes, seeing this shade of hair, and even hearing this voice, though muffled by my true inflection it may be… it all reminds me of him. And embodying this form… it makes me feel as if my self-diagnosis was merely a premonition.”
Akumako: “Is that… supposed to mean something?”
Stella: “Before I met you, I felt like I had been diagnosed with a death sentence. Like I was floating through life with the belief that I would not be able to amount to anything. This conviction that I was the manifestation of the vices that killed my father. But— all thanks to you— that is no longer the case. Instead, I am his reincarnation. And… I know I am destined for the same fate.”
Akumako: “So, you look like your pappy and wanna kill yourself? That ain’t an Oedipus Complex, but it sure smells like three.”
Stella: “…But even if this body didn’t look like him, I might very well feel the same way, as… everything this body has that mine lacks, disgusts me. Everything is coarse and hairy instead of soft and smooth. Movement lacks a subtle flexibility that I once possessed. The form carries itself with a different weight and shape that makes every step feel fundamentally wrong. Hearing such a lower voice come out as I speak reminds me of when I had strep throat. And then… there’s that.”
I stared down to the pants covering this body, and groaned, not wanting to reference it through words.
Akumako: “What? You’re counting your dick as a negative? …Seriously? Look, even if— lemme repeat, IF you ain’t trans, every cis girl has the fantasy of waking up with a dick one day. Even lesbians— especially lesbians! Well, except for those poor unfortunate souls who go their entire sexual lives without seeing a grown man-sized penis.”
Stella: “So, you’re saying it’s impossible for me to not like the idea of having a penis?”
Akumako: “Uh, yeah. Maybe not if you got mouth-to-ass-fucked by your PE teacher at age 7— but those folks ain’t real people, ya mean?”
Stella: “…Why do I even bother with— I hate the idea of having a penis because I… find the very concept of sex to be discomforting.”
Akumako: “You fucking wot, mate?”
Stella: “The primary purpose of sex is to procreate. And the idea of procreating with my flawed genetics would be an act of malice. My genes deserve to die out, and anyone born with them would be carrying a genetic death sentence.”
Akumako: “Bro, you sound like that 8chan dude with fucky baby legs. ‘Sides we ain’t here to talk about breeding, we’re here to talk about masturbation! Or fapping. Or manksterbatin’. Or clam stabbin’. Or—”
Stella: “Oh, fuck no! The act of masturbation is the act of tricking one’s body, one’s senses, in order to elicit pleasurable sensations. It is exploiting a glitch in human biology, a way for humans to abuse their bodies to eke out a false pleasure! The idea of manipulating my genitals for momentary satisfaction, no matter how they look, or watching others in the act of sex, fills me with… disgust.”
Akumako: “Whoa, Christian culture really sodomized your brain big time. But I guess that is to be expected, we do be in cheese country, yo.”
Stella: “I… I know my perspective is flawed. Normally I’m not so blunt about this, but… I’m not in a good space mentally. This was— obviously— a bad day for me. And even as I try thinking… it is like my means of thinking has been mutated. It is as if my anger and frustration have been amplified, while every other emotion— joy, sorrow, even fear— has been buried under a safety blanket.”
I took a deep breath after making this confession, briefly wondering if Akumako was just… fucking with me, while reading my mind— for she was inside my mind. But as I exhaled, I realized that… I had to go again.
Stella: “Could you… just leave me alone for the rest of the night. I need to pee, brush my teeth, and… try to go to bed. And having you barking at me won’t make any of that easier.”
Akumako: “Au contraire, mon cher. I can help with both of those things, just let Missy Akumako work her dæmon magic!”
It was at that moment that I felt this body’s hands move against my will. The demon in my head took control… and the first thing she did was prop up the toilet seat.
Akumako: “I know you tried to piss while sitting down before, but with a dick like yours, you gotta stand, dude!”
Following a flurry of motions executed as my mind sat back in awe, I was looking down at a penis, accompanied by inch-long red pubic hairs, pointing down at the toilet bowl below.
This was not my body, this was not through my will, but I was still subjected to its every sensation, and grimaced as I awaited the inevitable. The feeling of hot urine shoot through this warm dangling piece of flesh, taking the form of a brutish burst of piss that collided into the bowl of water below, causing a powerful splash on impact. I could even hear the sound of fluids flying about.
This… was beyond disgusting. I already hated the act of urination, but this… was so, so much worse. It sounded worse, it looked worse, it felt worse. And if I wanted to live… I would need to do this… several times a day.
Fury, rage, but most of all, revulsion filled my being and, even though my control of this body was interrupted by Akumako… these sensations were powerful enough to overcome that.
This body’s stomach churned and intestines lurched upward, and the contents sprayed out of the mouth. I fell to the floor as pee continued to drizzle outward, and sank my face into this piss-splattered bowl, forced to breathe in the scent as I expelled the eggs and strawberries I ate for dinner, along with a not-so-healthy amount of bile.
By the time all was said and done, I was lying there, staring into a toilet full of piss and vomit, breathing heavily with a burning throat, on a tiled floor with a puddle of piss surrounding the toilet, partially absorbed by the clothes I wore.
Stella: “Please… Just fine a way to turn me back to normal. I… I can’t live like this.”
And I couldn’t. Every aspect of this body, this life, made me want to die. But… I had to survive. I promised my mother. I could not force her to live with that pain…
Akumako: “Well if you can’t go potty without going barf, then no shit you can’t live like this. Ugh. This isn’t working, so… I’ll come up with something, but for now… I’m not gonna clean up piss and vomit— at the same time. Not after fuckin’ wit that futa-egg in Yggdraz. Peace!”
With that casual departure, whatever pressure Akumako placed on this body’s muscles vanished, and whatever sensation filled my mind did the same.
I was all alone again. Alone, with no way out of this disgusting predicament.
Chapter 4: Affection
Date: Sunday, May 1, 2016
Location: Jaldabyth, Wisconsin
I survived the end of the month. Akumako left me a modicum of hope, and that was enough to force me to keep on living, no matter how much I despised the act of being this. I woke up every day hoping to hear her shrill voice yelling into my ear, offering me a way back to normalcy… but that was three and a half days ago. Half a week ago.
The only way I could maintain a facsimile of stability was work. I caused Amber to lose a day already, and with the month having just ended, there were a lot of reports and reconciliations I could work on. Sure, bank statements technically did not generate until tomorrow— if we’re lucky, but I could get everything 90% of the way there.
Normally, such a task, basic though it may be, would be relaxing, routine, and almost enjoyable… but everything had to change. The desk and chair were the same, as were the monitors, but the ergonomics were all off. The body I resided in was simply too tall for this setup, forcing me to adjust the monitors as I worked and tried to maintain the right viewing angle. While the keyboard… would have been annoying enough to use on its own, but the larger hands at my disposal just made everything painful.
I kept my worry stone at my desk for when the frustration wrapped around me, and as I took a momentary reprieve from my tasks, a familiar knock came on my door.
Amber: “Scott, I’ve got a snack for you.”
With my permission, Amber entered my room, a radiant smile on her face and a plate in her hand, which she gently pushed onto the usual place on my desk. Looking down, it was my typical afternoon snack. A scattering of vegetables of an agreeable texture along with a small plastic container full of hummus. Even in this altered world, everything was segregated exactly to my liking…
Stella: “Th-Thank you mother.”
I had been avoiding speech for the past few days, as the less I had to hear this voice, the better I felt. And when I did speak, I tried to make things both high and quiet. Anything to sound less distinctly male.
I was hoping my response would be sufficient, that Amber would recognize that I was working and leave me be. But, instead, she sat on my bed, as she often did, and began to talk to me.
Amber: “Sweetie, you know that if anything is bothering you, I can help. No matter what you need, I’m there for you, 100%.”
I had pondered telling my mother the truth, and while I know she would try to believe me, she would likely think I was speaking in metaphors.
Stella: “I know Amber. You’ve always been there for me, and… I appreciate you beyond words.”
Amber: “Aw, Scott. I feel the same way. And that’s why I worry about you. …Are you sure you want to keep working on the month-end stuff? You can just wait until Monday, and even then, tax season is over, the first quarter is over, and we can take things easy. Everything is okay. We can go and see a doctor if you are worried about something, even if it’s just for peace of mind.”
Stella: “I… I’m working toward getting more ‘peace of mind.’ But for now… I want to focus on something more procedural. Something I know I can do.”
As I said that, Amber stood up from my bed, stretched out of her arms, and wrapped me into a hug. Though I felt wrong due to how different this body felt from my own… I still relished in her embrace.
While my body was gone, while she referred to me as a man… my mother was still my mother. She still treated me the same, regardless of which gender she thought I was. Her face still carried with it the same warm glow of affection. The burgeoning wrinkles that crept up as she smiled were in all the same places, and her looks of joy and concern matched my memories exactly.
I whispered words of thanks into her ear, but before I could say more, she let out a small spasm, and broke off the hug, digging a hand into her cleavage to pluck out her smartphone. She smiled as she looked at the caller, and turned to face me as she answered it.
Amber: “Hey Maki, is Scott not answering his phone again? …Well, we got rid of the home phone, and Scott keeps his cell in his backpack for when we go out and… Oh, he’s doing some odds and ends for me. I told him not to, but he can be a little worker bee. …Scott, are you okay if Maki comes over in about half an hour?”
I was… confused by that question. I had no idea who this ‘Maki’ person was, nor had I had anybody ‘come over’ since I was a small child. Well, except for that one doctor who made house calls. But when in doubt… the past of least resistance is just to say yes.
Stella: “S-Sure. I wasn’t expecting that, but I can… adjust things.”
Amber: “Come on over Maki, Scott really could use some fun right now. …Alright, I’ll see you later too”
With a beep, Amber ended the call and redirected her attention to me.
Amber: “Maki’s really excited to see you again. It’s been, what, two weeks?
I offered my mother vague replies to her comments, not wanting to act ‘strange’ in her distorted eyes, before asking that she leave so I could focus on my work and snack.
Normally, such an unexpected turn of events would leave me frazzled to Hell and back. My isolated nature has atrophied my social skills, and the idea of having a friend is so foreign that I don’t know how to act around one. But… actually, no. While I wanted to say that this situation made me stronger, it didn’t.
My food and work were sufficient distractions, but once I reached five minutes before my encounter with this ‘Maki’ person, my anxiety struck me full force. My body was shaking, and the only calm I could find was with my worry stone.
I was paralyzed when I heard the doorbell, unable to move from where I stood in the living room, when Amber moseyed onto the door, opening it to reveal my ‘guest.’ …And as I saw their face, my worry was replaced with something else.
Maki was a woman, shorter than me, about my age… and she looked exactly like Akumako. I felt like an idiot for not figuring it out sooner. Aku-mako. Maki.
She had the same brown skin, the same pink eyes, the same short yet shaggy hairstyle, but instead of being a bluish green, it was a common black. Her horns were gone, face was still as deviously cute as ever, and her thin yet curvy form was dressed in a peculiar outfit. A dark purple tank top with the words “miracle banana” written on it in a bold white font, a pair of jean shorts, black leggings, and a pair of yellow boots.
Maki: “Hey Scott, how’s it going?”
Her voice was similar to that of Akumako— I could believe it was her voice— but it sounded less shrill and exaggerated, more normal, and almost… calming. I mean, aside from the fact that she’s calling me by the wrong name!
I pondered a way to respond to her… only for that familiar voice to appear in the back of my mind.
Akumako: “I’m real now, bitch!”
The world faded away as I contemplated the sight before me, tried to find out how Akumako made herself ‘real’ and make herself a human… but was unable to give me my fucking body back! Was this what she promised? To find a bold new way to harass me? To change my life even more by retconning a friendship with me?
I was at the cusp of breaking out in a rage… when Amber left Maki and I in the living room, telling us to ‘let her know if we needed anything.’ I took a deep breath, counted to three, and then approached ‘Maki’ staring down at her with the angriest face I could manifest.
Stella: “What are you doing here? Why, of all things, would you—”
Maki: “Oh my gush, Scottie! Let a girl explain things, will ya! I’m not your enemy, I’m here to help you adjust to your new life, by giving you the one thing that can improve the vast majority of all men! A girlfriend! I got permission to be here with you indefinitely, so we might even be able to make this a forever thing. Ain’t that something?“
I clenched my worry stone and channeled all my patience to not explode at her.
Stella: “…And has it occurred to you that I am not part of the majority of all men? Because, I don’t know if you forgot, but I am supposed to be a woman, and was happy being one before you showed up and fucked everything up!”
Maki: “C’mon, everybody— except for misogynous gay dudes— loves a little female companionship, and—”
Stella: “I have no interest in a relationship. I consider myself to be a defective person, and I just want to get through life, helping others by performing a limited scope of tasks, and keeping my problems isolated to as few people as possible. I do not want friends. I do not want to burden anyone else. And I certainly don’t want the person who erased my life to be my girlfriend! I. Hate. You!”
Maki: “I… I’m sorry.”
I paused as I heard those words. Though they were merely words, I had not expected someone as crass as Akumako, or this… vessel she was controlling to ever offer an honest apology to me.
Maki: “I know I screwed up. I know how much you hate your new existence, but… please, just give this a try. You have spent so long being so sure of yourself, when you only understand a limited scope of what life can offer. I want to provide you with a different life, and if you don’t like it… then I guess I need to try something else.”
Stella: “…So, if I want any chance of getting my body back, I will need to play along with your twisted little game?”
Maki: “Uh… Yeah! You’ve got that right! A day out with me is the only way to improve your life! Ain’t that something?”
The last thing I wanted was to spend time with Akumako, no matter what form she took… but I did not have a true choice in this matter.
Stella: “Fine. What’s the itinerary?”
The itinerary was not to go to a typical noisy date spot or, even worse, an ear-splitting movie theater. Instead, Maki and I walked to a nearby forest preserve. With the end of April, spring had thoroughly sprung, all the buds lining the trees had bloomed, and though the sun was high, the temperature was at a crisp 22 degrees with a light but pleasant breeze.
It was about as idyllic of a day as one could expect for a walk… but the act of walking was still one that filled me with a persistent sense of wrongness. The way my narrower hips stiffened my stride. The leg hairs brushing against my pants were like bugs crawling across my skin. And the way the wind brushed against both my exposed hair bearing arms and the short hair on my head.
I normally hated bringing my worry stone out of the house, at risk of losing it, but… I had to keep it in one hand to maintain my composure. While my other hand rested in Maki’s heavenly soft palm.
Maki: “I figured this place would be more your speed. It’s silent beyond ambiance, isolated without being claustrophobic, the air is clean— once you ignore all the pollen— and it’s pretty dang pretty, dontcha think?”
She was not wrong. This place was nice, positively pleasant, but as I walked down this paved pathway, I remembered why I never afforded places like this much thought. The woods are a great place for a young woman to get raped, kidnapped, or assaulted if they happen to meet the wrong person in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I was not subject to the same threat at the moment… but that realization only brought me sorrow.
Stella: “Yeah, it’s… nice. It… almost makes me wish I went on more walks like this with my mother.”
Maki: “Why not ask her? Do some bonding while around nature! It’s the perfect place for a little heart-to-heart.”
Stella: “W-Well… I don’t like to inconvenience her more than I already do. Doctors appointments, prescriptions, haircuts, clothes shopping, it’s all simple stuff, but… it doesn’t make me feel very good about it, and I try to buy whatever I can online to save her time.”
Maki: “Geez. Somebody should be more selfish, ya know. You are doing literal unpaid labor for your mother, and all you think about is how much of a bother you are. She loves you, loves spending time with you, but you’re too worried about wasting her time? Puh-lease. If she was so concerned about her free time, she wouldn’t have dedicated her life to being a parent.”
Stella: “I… I guess you do have a point, but parents don’t have a choice in how their kids turn out. For every few hundred children born, one will have lifelong issues. Most parents don’t think they will be part of that fractional percentage, and if they are… they should not need to sacrifice their lives for the lives of their children. They should not be burdened by… defectives like me.”
Maki: “Whoa! Somehow you managed to sound both suicidal and like a eugenicist in the same damn sentence. Ain’t that something!”
Stella: “Is that really a surprise? I already told you that I felt I was diagnosed with a death sentence. I have a lifetime of self-loathing induced by my own disabilities, and the fact that you are prohibiting me from living my life as I want to, then—”
Maki then let go of my hand, brought a hand to her chin, and finally pulled out a smartphone from between her boobs. She poked around on it for a moment before offering me a smile.
Maki: “Diagnosis, schm-iagnosis! I’m gonna bright your heart up and make all the bad feelings go away, ‘cos I’m Maki Ko. But first, let’s grab some grub, as I sorta forgot to have lunch. Dæmons only need to eat on occasion, but you humans need to eat all the V-darn time. Ain’t that something!”
With a cheery plop, Maki placed her phone between her boobs again and grabbed my hand, dashing and dragging me out of the nature preserve.
Eating out was… something I had not done since I was a small child. Restaurants were deliberately designed to channel noise, make it difficult to converse with others, and pack in numerous people into a single place where they eat, allowing germs to spread easily. It was all to appeal to some neurotypical communal or social desire that is beyond my comprehension.
It is why I was shaking with unrest as Maki dragged me into a small Thai restaurant… only for it to be empty, with a dozen or so tables, all left vacant, both inside and outside. It was an odd sight, but seeing as how it was 15:07 when we entered, a time between the typical late lunch or early dinner, I suppose that was unsurprising.
The sheer volume of visual stimuli to take in left me far too frazzled to determine the social rules for something like this, leaving Maki to handle the arrangements that led us to take a seat. The chairs and table both featured an uneven glossy finish that made me question their cleanliness through texture alone. While the frigid water that I was given was so cold that it would hurt one’s teeth regardless of their dental health.
Everything about this place carried with it a sense of foreignness and discomfort, and not just because it was a distributor of food in the traditional style of a non-dominant culture. If I was alone, I would have just ran away, but Maki, fortunately, handled everything. Ordering the ‘simplest’ things on the menu, and talking to me as we waited for our food.
Maki: “Hey, uh, why do you keep fiddling with your silverware?”
Without even thinking, I was doing just as she said, clenching and unclenching the large spoon before me.
Stella: “Because… Everything feels different. The texture of this skin, the very shape of these fingerprints, and the way I feel things, it is all different in a subtle yet stressing way. Everything is harder to use. The keyboard, the mouse, the controller, even if some of these things were chosen for this body’s hands, it still feels wrong to use them. But… none are worse than my phone.”
I pulled the phone out of the massive pockets of the pants I was wearing and flipped it open to show Maki, who looked at it with confusion. It was a basic pay as you go flip phone. The exact same model and phone number I had a week ago, hence why I considered it ‘my’ phone.
Maki: “Ain’t that something. A flip phone in the year of our oppressors 2016. What’s up with that?”
Stella: “W-Well, smartphones are expensive, and their tactile feedback is… lacking. I need to feel a response, a click, when I use something to know it worked. Otherwise, I keep doubting myself, wondering if what I’m doing is real. I tried using Amber’s phone, but my brain refuses to process how it works.”
Maki: “Didn’t you have a DS or something, maybe an iPod Touch? If you were an old, I’d get that, but you were a kid when touch screens were en vogue, dude.”
Stella: “I tried using devices like that, and have a DS in my closet, but even as a kid, I didn’t like how they felt to use. It is merely one of my many defects…”
Maki immediately changed the subject as she saw my mood sour, and kept things light as we waited for the food to arrive. A chicken and rice dish known as ‘khao pad’ and a stir fry chicken and noodle dish known as ‘pad woon sen.’
Maki: “It’s a bit of a waste to get something so boring from a restaurant like this… but if you wanna expand your palate, you’ve got to start from somewhere.”
Stella: “I… Thank you for being considerate with your choices, but could you please explain… what is in these dishes. It’s hard for me to eat something without—”
Maki: “The first one is fried rice, chicken, garlic, white onion, green onion, carrots, and peppers, but not the spicy kind. Second one is stir-fried noodles with egg, chicken, carrots, bean sprouts, white onion, green onion, and green peas. Also, they use a few sauces to give it extra flavor, but it’s not spicy or anything. It’s mostly made using soybeans, vegetables, spices, that sorta stuff.”
I nodded in response, thankful for her direct answer. It sounded similar enough to the ingredients of the chicken stir-fry Amber made a few times in the past. It was not my favorite, but that was also a frozen dish, while this was freshly made. Well, presumably…
I decided to start with the rice dish, taking a small morsel to place under my nose before planting it on this tongue, making sure the flavor was sufficient before testing the texture with these teeth. It felt more familiar than it tasted, with the seasoning doing much to transform the flavor, granting it some extra kick, but not unpleasant. It was still within the ‘correct’ spectrum of flavor for a meal, unlike that one revolting Asian mango dish Amber had me try as a small child. It managed to single-handedly make me detest that fruit.
This however… it carried with it a level of slight unfamiliarity, but the worst thing about the experience was being reminded of the different skull I wore as I ate. The chomping down of teeth, making sure to chew my food thoroughly, caused minor reverberations that reminded me of my unconsented state of being.
Maki: “So… you okay with the food? You can try my noodles if you want and we can switch, or we can go fifty-fifty if you are feeling extra-venturous.”
Stella: “It… it’s about as good as I could hope. Just, um, bear with me as I eat.”
Maki: “Right, can you eat all of that? I sorta forgot that you had lunch beforehand— at least I assume you did— and this is—”
Stella: “I… I can. For as much as surreal as the act of eating is within it, I find myself hungrier than ever. I guess it might just be a metabolism thing…”
Maki: “Oh, totally! It’s why the NHS says men should eat 2,500 calories a day and women should eat 2,000. Though, that’s the result of industry propaganda and moneyhatting, when the real figures for modern folks should be closer to 2,000 for dudes and 1,600 for girls. Now, ain’t that something?”
After finishing our meal, Maki and I returned outside and, rather than directly go home, Maki insisted that she take me somewhere special. Despite her far more friendly attitude compared to her antagonistic Akumako persona, I still knew that she was… the same deep down. While I was inclined to humor her, to accept her kindness for what it was, I did not trust her.
She took me to a park, one that was surprisingly isolated for such a pleasant day, and featured a small lake. The lake was only about 100 meters at its longest point, but still represented a sizable body of water, and made for a pleasant sight to walk around. We walked around it once, only for Maki to urge me to sit at a conveniently placed bench with her, to ‘bask in the scenery.’
She had a point, as the nature of this area had been preserved well. The water looked clean and was teeming with natural plantlife. Birds gracefully hopped in and out of the water, waddling through it, cleaning themselves, before going on their merry way. And the woodland critters who called this place their home could be seen scurrying about across the periphery.
Maki: “It was a bit of a trek to get here, but I think this view makes it worth it, wouldn’t you agree?”
Stella: “Y-Yeah. It’s very nice. I’ve been here before, when I was meeting with a doctor to help with my anxiety as a kid. I liked her, but as I met her, as she took me to these pretty places around town, I felt like she was wasting time on a lost cause.
Maki: “Geez, is there anything I can do to brighten up your mood?”
Stella: “You know what I want, Akumako. I just want my body back. If… If you wanted to bring change to my life by becoming my friend, by getting me out, making me leave my little shell… I think I would have appreciated that. But everything we do, every second I live, I am met with this sense of wrongness. And you… you are the one who caused it. If you have the ability to become a human, to write yourself into my past… then why can’t you just turn me back to normal?”
Maki’s persistent smile morphed into something sorrowful as she turned her head away from me.
Stella: “Like this, happiness is harder to come by than ever. Everything I feel rings meaningfully hollower. My highs are lower, and my lows are even lower than before. Everything I wear feels ill-fitting, and just sitting down… feels worse. From my legs to my butt to my back. …I hate this and… I will ask again. Please… turn me back to normal.”
Maki: “…Like I said, I need permission first, and before I ask, we need to try one more thing. We’re all alone— trust me on that— so let me show you the best thing about being male. Just… try not to barf all over my hair while I do you, alright?”
I knew what she wanted to do… and as much as I hated everything about it— as much as I despised her for dragging me along like this… this was not a choice. Not a decision. It was a prompt, and there was only one correct response.
Maki: “Whoa! You agreed with just a nudge! Ain’t that something! For playing along so nicely, I’ll let you decide if you want any help, as I know you can be a bit of a spasmer when it comes to anything more than a hug.”
Stella: “Yes, do… do whatever you can. Just… help me get through this.”
Maki: “Don’t be so glum, chum, I know that you’ll be swell being swell, and you’ll be seeing the pearly gates when your pearls are cast like dice!”
Stella: “…W-What the hell does that even mea—”
I felt a certain pressure clench the forefront of my mind, as if something was shoving me away from the controls of the body I was piloting. And I knew who it was, as it could only be her. She made a smile creep onto this body’s face, and as the dread dug itself within me, I became a mere observer. For Akumako was not only in control of Maki, she was in control of what I would only begrudgingly or accidentally refer to as ‘my body.’
Much like on Thursday night, Akumako pulled down this body’s pants and briefs, revealing its penis. Akumako smiled as she stared at it, and her expression was reflected on Maki’s face. With Maki on her knees and Akumako’s legs spread, she proceeded to wrap her lips around the penis. And as it entered her wet, warm gums, it grew to its frightening full size.
Since I wound up in control of this infernal thing, it had a habit of getting erect apropos of nothing. A randomized defect of this body, and one that decimated whatever modicum of peace I was able to accumulate. But here, having this defect be triggered, having it be inserted within another person, touched and caressed by someone else as they lathered their tongue around it… warranted a far stronger reaction.
I tried to scream, but this mouth would not move. And as my fury remained sealed, it grew. Louder, harder, harsher, before becoming a manic cry, begging for Maki to cease, demanding her that she move her fucking mouth. In response, Akumako shrieked at me.
Akumako: “Shut the fuck up, you ungrateful little shitstain! You agreed to getting your dick sucked and, you are going to get your fat fucking cock sucked! Just wait until you cum! That’s the best part and—”
As Akumako berated me for my panicked response, she paused and this body was struck with a truly powerful sensation. A pulsating hot force that sent something shooting from and through its most erogenous zone. Every part of this body felt hot, the hairs were standing up on end, and I became aware of every inch of skin covering it.
After the relentless discomfort of being… what I could only describe as raped, this was something… warm, comforting, and that left my senses dulled. It was almost like being given a sedative after having a panic attack at a hospital. It was… nice.
…But a sedative leaves a lingering feeling, it sticks with you, and makes you feel happy due to an influx of chemicals throughout the body. It was synthetic, it was potent, it was powerful… while This… was none of those things.
From a moment of calm, from the highest emotional high I had experienced since being bound in this body, I entered my lowest. The fake sedative kicked in within seconds, but it faded just as quickly, leaving behind only raw nerves and piping hot fury. …While adding a torrent of disgust over what I had just done, what I just felt.
This body became mine to control once again, and as I gained the ability to move its face, I could feel it grow tense and red.
I promptly hoisted up the pants and underwear, feeling a warm wetness as the penis pressed against the briefs. My frustration burst like a bag of hair thrown onto an open flame, and as I reached this apex, I looked down at Maki. She was licking the remnants from semen her lips, shooting a chipper smile at me.
Maki: Now ain’t that something? It tastes just like oatmeal! Yummers!’
Emotions could be hard to read. I knew I was bad at expressing them. But I was breathing from my mouth, loudly, hardly, and literally shaking with rage all the while. With her link to my mind, there was absolutely no way, in any scenario, that Maki could not tell how much I hated what she subjected me to… yet she smiled. Abusing her cuteness in the hope that I may take pity on her, but… it did just the opposite. It made me want to destroy what she had.
I clenched a fist and slammed it squarely into the side of her head. She fell to the dirt with a thud, and just as quickly, I was slamming a show against her face. Once, then twice, then… I forget how many times.
My composure shattered, whatever reserved nature I had been clinging onto was gone, and… I attacked Maki. I went ballistic, screaming bloody murder.
Stella: “YOU LYING FUCKING DEMON! FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU!!! I KNEW I SHOULD HAVE NEVER BELIEVED YOU! I KNEW YOU WERE FULL OF SHIT! TURN ME BACK! GIVE ME BACK MY BODY! GIVE ME BACK MY LIFE! GIVE IT BAAAAAACK!!!”
I stomped her face as quickly as I could, aiming for her nose, brow, chin, mouth, whatever I thought would hurt the most. I hopped up and down on her body, as if I thought she was a trampoline. And when my feet grew tired, I slammed my body down onto hers, bashing my elbow into her back before joining her in the dirt, grabbing her by the neck.
I then stared into her face.
She was crying, like anyone would in this situation, blood was pouring from her forehead, her lips were burst open, and her entire body was stained in dirt. She covered her face with her fingers, protecting them from further harm, and curled up into a ball as I offered her a reprieve from my assault.
I did this to her. I caused her this pain, this palpable fear… and looking down at the dirty bloodstained hands I controlled, there was no denying that I was the one responsible for this.
I… did not want to hurt anyone. I did not think it was possible for me to do so. Well, at least not physically. But now, with this stronger body at my disposal… I just did that. And, somehow, that fact alone was the most disgusting thing I had experienced… ever.
I felt sick. I felt ashamed. An apology would be the least I could do, but… after everything she put me through, I had no words of thanks for Akumako or her alter ego. I loathed myself for what I did… but that was nothing next to what I felt toward her.
I looked back at Maki, crawling up from the ground, looking at me like an abused puppy, and I only had three words to offer her.
Stella: “I hate you.”
Chapter 5: Devastation
Date: Sunday, May 1, 2016
Location: Jaldabyth, Wisconsin
I barely knew where I was, so it took twice as long as it should have for me to get home. When I did, I collapsed in my bedroom, bound in a blanket.
Everything was sore and aching. The pain of a hoarse throat kept me silent. The red remnants of tears painted the face I wore. A pungent sweat reminded me of how different this body truly was from my own. And as I tried to find my calm, I was met with a bitter realization. That… I was alone in this house.
Night had fallen, and it was dark everywhere. Amber was not home and I had no idea where she was. She didn’t like going out at night, and would always tell me when she was leaving. …But she never left the house when I was gone. Either she would leave, or we would leave together.
I got out of the bed, my feet wobbly from all the running, and I scrounged through the house. A desperate gesture… that bore no results. She was not in her room, the kitchen, the basement, or any bathroom. Looking out of the living room window, I could not see her car where she usually parked it during this time of year.
With increasing desperation, I pulled out my cell phone, slowly navigated it using fat fingers, and patiently waited for a reply. Instead, I received an automated recording, saying that the number was not available. There was no voicemail, no voicemail message, just… nothing.
I… did not know what that meant. Was it off? Did the battery die? The phone itself is what recorded the voicemail— right— so if it was off, there would be no voicemail… right?
Concern was billowing in my mind at a rapid pace. I needed to know what happened, I needed to find her— to confirm that she was okay. My breathing grew heavy, this body grew hot, and as I feared I would enter a new panic attack… I realized there was one place I hadn’t checked. The detached garage.
I grabbed the keys and ran out the backdoor, turning on the lights as I ran toward my destination… only for my eyes to catch something unexpected in the periphery. The backyard was small, mostly just grass, with the sole exception of a childhood relic that was still standing despite my age, for it had been built by my father.
A swing set built for two, and while it was left as a fixture most of the time… there was someone on it, swinging their cares away. A person who I recognized even in the dim exterior lights. It was Maki. She was still wearing the same clothes as before… but they were covered in dirt, dried blood, and tears, while her face was left swelling and bruised. Despite this, she still looked at me with a smile.
Maki: “You sure kept me waiting, you know!”
Stella: “Y-You… What are you doing here?”
Maki: “Waiting for you of course. I… I just wanted to apologize for what I did at the park. I didn’t mean to set you off that much, but—”
Stella: “I do not WANT your apology! I want you to turn me back to normal, and I meant every word I said about you. I’ll say it again. I HATE YOU! You ruined my fucking life, and it’s because of you that I’m going crazy worrying about where my mother is. Which I wouldn’t be if SOMEBODY didn’t take me away from my home! You are not my ally, you are not my friend, and you only bring me pain. I don’t know why, with your horrifying powers, that you are unable to comprehend this—”
As I ranted and screamed at her, I was interrupted by my ringtone. I turned away from Maki as I answered this call from an unfamiliar number, my words hoarse on account of a strained throat.
The voice who replied was, sadly, not my mother. Instead, it was the voice of a particularly calm older man.
???: “Hello, is this Scott Neumann?”
I hated hearing that name, but there was only one way I could respond.
Stella: “Y-Yes. That’s me.”
There was a prolonged pause between my answer and his response, which immediately worried me. …And for good reason.
???: “Young man, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”
???: “Your mother, Amber Neumann, was in a car accident.”
No, no, no, no, no…
???: “We did all we could to save her but…”
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NONONONONONONONO!!!
???: “She passed away. I am terribly sorry for your—”
I ended the call and did the only thing I could think of doing. I screamed.
This voice was… the epitome of everything male. It was hoarse, deep, guttural, and filled with a bestial rage. It hurt. It hurt in so many ways. And with all this rage, with this relentless torrent of fury, I needed a target, I needed someone to blame… and she was right in front of me.
The one responsible for everything.
A creature so vindictive that… she must have been the one who killed my mother.
The man said it was a car accident… but who would have the means to change reality itself… and a reason to kill my mother? Akumako. I beat her, I attacked her, and rather than taking it out on me, rather than killing the defective person who was suffering every minute of their existence… she killed my mother. All as a means of revenge. All as a ploy to hurt me more and more, to feed into her sick demonic urges. It made so much sense… it was the truth. It was a matter of fact.
I grabbed Maki by the throat and dragged her into the garage, throwing her down the floor. She spoke to me, but her words did not matter. Her words were not words. They were merely a disguise for her sick, twisted laughter. She was mocking me, tempting me, and reveling in my pain. She acted innocent… but she acted in a lot of ways. She could not be trusted. She did not have feelings. But no matter what she was… I was pretty fucking sure she felt pain. And she would feel a lot of pain by the time I was fucking through with her.
I tore open the toolshed, grabbed the largest hammer I could— a mallet 20 centimeters in diameter— and with my weapon in hand, I approached my target, informing it of its deliberate sins.
Stella: “You tormented me. You robbed me of my body, of the life I had been so desperately clinging to… but that was not enough. You raped me, promising it would bring me satisfaction, that it would make this curse make sense… You lied, and I punished you for it. You punished me by taking away the only person in this world who mattered to me. The only PERSON IN THIS WORLD I KNEW! I promised my mother that I would never kill myself, for I never wanted her to go through that pain… but the dead feel no pain.”
Maki: “Stella, fucking listen to me! I didn’t do anything to your mother! I’m sorry, I’m so sorry that you went through this! I was just following orders, just doing my fucking job, but—”
I struck her down like the monster she is, smacking her head with the side of the mallet, causing her battered body to fall against the concrete floor, ripping her elbow open in the impact.
Stella: “You robbed me, Akumako. You destroyed everything! You kept me going on some semblance of hope… but now I see that nothing matters. Hope is fucking dead! First, I’ll kill you… and then I’ll kill myself!”
I swung the mallet down, fueled by an incomprehensible amount of rage and adrenaline, operating at capacities I didn’t even know were possible… only for my body to freeze. Only for the demon in this head to speak to my mind yet again.
Akumako: “Like HELL I’m going to let you kill yourself after all this! I knew you were one fucky little duck, but I guess talking isn’t enough! Ready or not, bitch, here I come!”
Stella’s body fell to the floor as Akumako exerted herself, channeling her obscure demon powers as she ventured past the surface of Stella’s mind. Past the realm of communication and observation, into something deeper. A place of imagination and abstraction. The theater of the mind, the domain of thought, and a place that served as a pseudo-physical reflection of one’s mental state.
As such, it was little surprise that what Akumako saw was… horrifying. The structure and composition of this realm did not conform with the standards of reality, with objects floating about wildly, melding and dividing as they floated at varying speeds. The skies were the colors of blood and darkness, mingled together in a pattern so discordant and devoid of reason that it was almost painful to witness. The floor before her was rough and jagged, shifting in shape as she stared at it and color as well. It fluctuated through different hues at such a rapid speed that it would kill an epileptic. Then there was the noise, as loud and abrasive as possible, so imposing that it practically deafened one’s own thoughts.
Even as a demon, Akumako looked at this sight in horror, her eyes wide and legs shaking as she tried to navigate this mess, jumping, rolling, and flying as she narrowly avoided the patternless mesh of chaos, before reaching the all-seeing eye of this storm.
It was Stella, in the form of her true body, naked, in a fetal position, breathing hard, drawn-out breaths. She was hurting. She was in pain. No matter which way Akumako looked at this situation, it was clear to see on her face.
Akumako: “Stella, please, let me—”
Before Akumako could finish her request, she was stabbed by the world itself. The floor morphed into a series of a dozen spears, all of which rammed through Akumako’s body. She did not die, she could not die, but she was silenced. She was enraptured in pain. She tried to get the attention of the woman before her, and after eking out something that sounded like her name, Stella turned around, revealing her face, filled with fury.
She approached Akumako, and stared deep into her pink eyes with nothing less than utter hatred. And once she was certain Akumako reached the apex of her fear, Stella spoke.
Stella: “I am Stella Neumann. I always was. I always will be. You… do not belong here. You have destroyed me. You have only brought me pain. You stole my name. You stole my body. You stole my life. You stole my sanity. And now… you killed my mother. You do all this, and you dare to invade my brain? Truly, you are a demon to the core. …Now… LEAVE!”
The chaotic form of this domain of Stella’s mind shifted yet again as that lone word was uttered, randomizing and reshaping it. Akumako attempted to maintain her position… but soon found herself overwhelmed and expelled.
As she left Stella’s mind, Akumako found herself back in the body of Maki. She looked over herself, confused, but in her daze she saw Stella rising up from the floor, the mallet still in his hand. She panicked at the sight, desperately trying to move her bleeding body… only for someone to step into this garage. He shouted, loud and proud, and soon wrapped his arms around Stella, forcing her to drop the hammer.
All the commotion, all the shouting, must have drawn in one of the neighbors, and once he was able to incapacitate Stella, the conflict was over. She collapsed, weak, deprived of her drive and energy, and broke out in tears. Even as she cried, she still screamed, cursing Maki’s name and spewing as much hatred as she could with her tattered throat.
Maki groaned at her reaction and, with a tear trickling down her face, she said her goodbye.
Maki: “I’m… I’m sorry. I just wanted to help you, but, in the process, I destroyed you. …I will do whatever I can to make this right. Just, please Stella… stay strong for me.”
With that, Akumako, and Maki’s body, disappeared, leaving Stella alone, wrapped in abject and overflowing misery as she was left with… nothing.
Chapter 6: Intervention
Location: Divine Intervention Inc. Office #72, Heaven
The halls of white continued without end, interrupted only by doors that emitted a blinding glimmer to all who walked past them. How anyone was able to walk through here without growing blind, lost, or insane was a wonder to Akumako as she squinted her eyes at the signage next to each door, looking for the right one in this expansive hall.
Time became a vague suggestion as the setting repeated herself and the complex numbering system found new ways to baffle her. But, eventually, she found it. Room T-31-O0. She ran toward it as if her life depended on it, crashing open the door only to be blinded by an even greater light.
Akumako: “GYAH! Could you guys please cool it with the damn lights?”
???: “The lights are not damned— quite the opposite, dæmon.”
The unseeable speaker had the pompous candor of an aristocratic noblewoman, one who chose not to hide even a morsel of contempt to the person before her.
By the time Akumako’s eyes adjusted to the light, she saw who this speaker was. A young-looking woman with tanned skin, bereft of even the implication of a blemish. Bright, practically radiant, pink hair that flowed down to the small of her back. Glowing yellow eyes. And a white dress of silk that dropped down to her ankles, but left her shoulders, arms, and the upper half of her plentiful breasts exposed. And if the image was not painted clear enough, she also possessed a faint golden ring that floated above her head, its bobbing slow and reserved.
She was, in every sense of the word, an angel. Or rather, an Ængel. A woman who carried herself with an air of kindness and compassion… but as she looked at Akumako, her sculpture-esque face was twisted into that of scorn.
???: “What brings you here today?”
Akumako rubbed her eyes as she took in this sight. A simple office of nothing but white and pastels, with light so intense that it made it hard for her to keep her eyes open for more than a few seconds. She tried to maintain her composure as she walked toward the sole empty chair before the ængel’s desk, only to nearly trip in the process.
Akumako: “You know why I’m here, Tenshiko! Cut the bullshit and… turn down the lights, I can’t see shit!”
With a sigh, Tenshiko waved her hand, turning down the heavenly lights that filled her office, going from something radiant to merely bright. The colors in her office became more prominent, as did the many papers covering her desk, and the four ethereal monitors before her, invisible from one side, but showing a perfectly clear display on the other.
Tenshiko: “Let’s see, looking up your ID… Yes. This is about the human you failed to assist with their transformation, right?”
Akumako: “No, this is about your bureaucratic bullshit fucking everything up!”
Tenshiko: “The subject was selected to undergo a transformation through our selection process. We are currently processing your report.”
Akumako: “…I swear, it’s like talking to a fucking robot— Look, you fucked Stella up big time with this transformation, I thought she was just a tough egg to crack, but she ain’t no egg!”
Tenshiko: “Akumako, it is improper to use the deadname of your subjects, and based on our calculations—”
Akumako: “Could you stop looking for problems in my story and actually listen to what I’m saying, you pompous puss-ridled prick?! You fucked up. I fucked up. We fucked up. And now, she’s on the ledge, about to kill herself, all because this whole fucking system fucking fucked up!”
Tenshiko: “…Your arguments would be far stronger if you used stronger language, you sound like a child when you use such language. …What remedy do you seek?”
Akumako: “We undo everything we did to Stella, bring her mom back, and say fuck it to the costs. Unless you want this organization to be responsible for another death, then you need to help her out, because she will die. Because your mistakes and shitty orders knocked her right into psycho central. I saw her mind— which you would have seen if you actually reviewed my report— and that shit was fucked, even by Hellspawn standards.”
Tenshiko: “Akumako, how long have you been with our organization?”
Akumako: “Uh… fuck if I know, I have to deal with three different time scales— but I was one of the 72 demons to join up after the merger started.”
Tenshiko: “Then, by now, you should understand how we work. Heavenborn and the greater corporation of Divine Intervention pride ourselves as being the ultimate bureaucracy. Everything must be done according to rules and regulations, and even agents like me have no means of doing anything more than file a request. A request that would need to be reviewed by a committee’s secretary, a committee, and three tiers of councils before possibly being approved. After which, it will not be applied retroactively.”
Akumako was at the brink of tearing her hair from her skull as she sat through this dreck of an explanation. But she patiently waited for the right point in this canned speech to pounce with her counter-attack.
Tenshiko: “Furthermore, Divine Intervention Incorporated strongly believes in avoiding any logical fallacies in our assessments, and what you have presented is a sunk cost fallacy. When faced with failure, we must cut our losses, not salvage remains.”
Akumako: “You do realize this organization is supposed to HELP people, right? Because what you just said is that, if someone fails to fit into your cute li’l system, you just let ’em struggle and die. Truly, the thinking I would expect from an ængel.”
Tenshiko: “I understand that Hellspawn such as yourself desire to reinvent the structure of our organization, but unless a new rule is implemented, this case is closed. If the subject had a greater worth, then there are rules that would be triggered, but as a human, Scott Neumann was among the lowest five percentile using the DII proxy. In more direct terms, he is an expendable low value human being.”
Akumako: “…If you motherfuckers didn’t disable all forms of sex and violence in this pearly white tower of yours, you would be choking on my fat smegma cock.”
Tenshiko: “Yes, yes, quite the lovely image, Akumako. Now, if you do not have any further complaints to file, please be on your way. …Or I will need to crank up the lights to 120% power.”
Akumako: “You throw around one teensy little threat of violence, and they threaten to send your ass back to your home realm… Look, I was a cunt to Stella. I know I wound up traumatizing her, or at least gave her more trauma. She didn’t do anything wrong, anything bad, and I… want to help her. So, please, anything you can give me, I will use it to try to make whatever remains of her life better. How about that? Is that too much to ask for?”
Tenshiko looked at Akumako like she was trying to find something off with her appearance, looking over her person, her expression, and everything about her. She was searching for malice, deceit, abuse, or anything else befitting of a demonspawn like her. Yet, as she stared into Akumako’s determined reddish pink eyes, she could not deny the sincerity within her. With a sigh, she relented, and reached down into her desk.
Tenshiko: “…I’m not supposed to give these out, but I have a few of these for emergencies.”
With an open palm, Tenshiko presented Akumako with a red and black sphere, one that looked and felt just like a marble, but was at least five times as heavy.
Akumako: “This isn’t going to be enough for—”
Tenshiko: “It should be enough for you to speak to the subject, and that is all the power I can offer you. Either you can accept it, or you can not. It is a far cry from a rollback, but it is better than nothing.”
Akumako: “…I’ll take it. I don’t think Stella would appreciate having a dæmon pop in her head again, but… I’ll do whatever I can.”
With an outstretched hand, Akumako took the small sphere from Tenshiko, stood up, and walked out of her office, determined to use this morsel of power to help someone she hurt so, so much. …Which raised a rather important question. Could she help someone who had lost everything she knew and cared for, including their very identity?
…The answer was no.
Chapter 7: Salvation
Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Location: The Caulfield Institute, Zephyria, Wisconsin
Stella looked past the anti-ligature windows of her room and at the forest outside. On the third floor, she was not able to see much beyond the leafy branches of trees, but with the light of the near-full moon, she was able to at least see them in a fair amount of detail.
She stared at this sight from her tiny wooden desk, elbows on her legs as she slumped forward, rubbing a swollen thumb against her worry stone.
Her body was still transformed. Still inarguably male. Though, it was somehow even skinnier, with her face becoming something positively gaunt. The loose garments she wore masked what became of the rest of her figure, but as they laid upon her, as she sat, a clear impression could be seen.
Silence filled her room, unbreaking, uninterrupted, and to anyone passing by, there was no indication she wasn’t sleeping in her empty bed. She recognized this and, upon looking at the time, let out a silent sigh as she rose from her chair.
Stella: “The people here are good to me. Here, I am cared for. Here… I am given everything I need. …But it is all wasted on me. You would agree, wouldn’t you, demon?”
Stella turned to see Akumako, her body transparent, sitting on the bed, a forlorn expression on her face.
Akumako: “No, I wouldn’t agree, Stella. Just because you don’t know your future, that doesn’t mean—”
Akumako tried to speak, but she no longer had a mouth to do so.
Stella: “If you do not agree, you will not speak. If you cannot help me— which you have never been able to do despite your constant interference— then you will merely spectate.”
Akumako tried to move her ethereal body… but she could not. Her eyes remained transfixed on Stella as she slowly gilded her feet across the floor, moving from her desk to her mattress. She grabbed it with her large, meaty hands before pulling something out from its side. A tool Akumako had seen her steal and begged her to return. But, she hadn’t, and now, it was in her hand.
Only a bit over a meter… but it was enough.
Stella gently grabbed her chair as she prepared to tie the rope to the small bit of metal jutting from the ceiling— a sprinkler nozzle. She knew that these things were durable by design, and though one was not supposed to put any weight on them… that wasn’t going to stop her.
Stella: “You know, I was always bad with knots. I couldn’t even tie my shoes until I was 14, and by then I had given up laces. I only learned how to tie knots when I learned it could be my escape. I never told anyone that… but with Amber gone, this truth can no longer hurt anyone.”
As she spoke, she slowly tied the hanging end of the rope into a noose, wrapping it around her neck as she stood on the tips of her toes.
Stella: “This might hurt, but it is a more subtle and feminine method than falling from a tall height or taking a knife to one’s jugular. Meaning, it will be the final feminine action I ever do.”
Akumako tried to move, tried to speak with her mouthless face, but all she could do was stay there, static as a stature, as Stella eyed the chair, ready to kick it from underneath her feet. The two locked eyes for a long second, and Stella showed Akumako a smile. An honest, earnest smile that covered her whole face.
Stella: “I hate you.”
With a swift lunge of her left foot, the chair fell from under her, and Stella was left dangling from the nozzle above. She grunted, she spasmed, and despite her ironclad conviction, she still found herself clawing at the rope bound against her thick neck.
In this time of desperation and shattered attention, Akumako found herself freed from Stella’s mental commands. Her mouth returned to her face, and her body became mobile once more. She rushed toward the chair, hoping to free Stella from this death, but as her semi-transparent hand passed through her body, she was reminded of how truly powerless she was. All she could do was shout at Stella, begging her to do… something, but with no tools to aid her, and the rope bound so tightly around her neck, what could Stella do? Nothing but wait for the inevitable.
Stella dropped the worry stone from her hand.
Before it could hit the floor, the demon in Stella’s head vanished.
Along with… everything else.
Location: Divine Intervention Inc. Office #72, Heaven
Tenshiko: “…So, how did it go?”
Akumako: “You already— allegedly— read my report, so what else is there to say? I tried to help her, and she wound up killing herself. With how fucked the situation was, there wasn’t anything I could do to stop it without a rollback. Just… tell me what you’re doing with her?”
Tenshiko: “Nothing. He— She chose non-existence, and she has been erased. Just like her mother.”
Akumako: “All that trouble, all that work, for fucking nothing. So much for the consistency and efficiency of bureaucracy.”
Tenshiko: “It is admittedly a sad death. Stella did not share herself with others, chose solitude over being with others, and because of that, nobody beyond her mother got the opportunity to know her. Now, once the paperwork is filed and their belongings are redistributed, it will be as if she never existed. She will, at most, live on as the ‘weird boy at school’ in the minds of her peers. And as yet another client in the mind of her doctors.”
Akumako: “Yeah. She could have done anything with her life… but because of us, that future went kaput. Nada, zip, zilch.”
Tenshiko: “Humans are only what they leave behind, those who they affect. It’s why so many desire fame and power, so that even once they leave the mortal coil, a rendition of them will be remembered. It might not be their true self, but that’s because the true self is not a singular entity. The true self is the whole self, spanning space, time, and context. The sum of who one sees themselves as, who others see themselves as, and what they create, spread out across the entirety of their life.”
Akumako: “Oh, great. More philosophy from an ængel. Did you lose the plot, or are you actually trying to say something?”
Tenshiko: “I am saying something. Because you forgot to butt in with your side of the story, Akumako.”
Akumako: “Me? I just did my usual schtick for people like this.”
Tenshiko: “Yes, but surely you learned something through your time with Stella. Surely, some small part of her will live on with you.”
Akumako: “Well, I’m definitely not gonna take you guys’ orders with a whole can of salt from now on.”
Tenshiko: “That is a respectful conclusion, but surely you realize it is more than that.”
Akumako: “Ugh…I try not to get too attached, but now you’re making it sound like I’m the only person who knew the real Stella.”
Tenshiko: “Like I just said, the true self is the cumulative self, which can never be fully known by any one person. However, you saw a side of her that nobody else did.”
Akumako: “It was a pretty fucking ugly side, and I can tell she never wanted it to exist. …But I see your point. I saw her in a raw, unfiltered form. It was dysphoria cranked up past eleven and all the way to MAX. And… I guess part of her lives in me now. Because I ain’t gonna forget about what her head looked like!”
Tenshiko: “So, are you going to request a new position after we, speaking on behalf of my employer, made a massive mistake?”
Akumako: “Ah, fuck no. This gig sucked monkey cock, but unless I try to make things better, this place is just going to murk more people. I know the saying is that ‘our thoughts and actions create our destiny, heaven, and hell,’ but the key word is action.”
Tenshiko: “In that case…”
Tenshiko pushed a file folder toward Akumako. She opened it up, flipped through the documents, and looked at Tenshiko with a bold smile.
Glances alone were enough for these two, and Akumako walked out of the office with the file in tow, placing a set of sunglasses onto her face as she moseyed through these radiant white halls.