Magical Juggernaut Heather Crunch versus The Old Grind, Part I: Origins

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Or is it darkness? I wave my hand in front of my face. I see it just fine. But everywhere else... just nothing. Sigh.

The idea I came up with for fixing the broken me was that I'd make myself look especially terrible and dangerous. Through a combination of violence and threats, I would drive away everyone, burn all my bridges, and then disappear into the Akashic Realm for a while. The plan would be to live as a hermit there. I’d survive off of rations until I find a food-barrier... or start eating witches if I get desperate.

But, as time has dragged on and nothing has continued to happen, I’ve started to seriously question my decision. Am I *really* doing the right thing? Or am I just overreacting again? I started picking apart the threads and the whole thing began to unravel. The final nail in the coffin for the idea came when I realized there was no endpoint. It was a Mobius strip of pointless grandstanding and bad ideas without any goal beyond suffering.

How am I going to fix myself like this? Am I not allowed to wake up until I’ve reached the right answer? Or am I simply slated to die here in oblivion no matter what decision I come to?

…I really don’t want to die. Not when I still have so many regrets.

Heatherhat depressed.png

I squeeze my eyes shut and pinch my cheek between my nails. The stinging sensation sends shocks through my entire face, and something trickles down my fingers. Blood. And I’m still stuck here.

“I knew your dreamcatcher of a brain wouldn’t stay on task,” a familiar voice sneers. I open my eyes just in time for gravity to kick in. It plants me face-first onto the cold, hard ground of the “Monument to Failure” cathedral. It looks... *off*, though. The colors look washed out and hazy like I’m viewing everything through a cheap television. Even my counterpart is closer to monochromatic than before.

“And still, I wasted so much time, effort and faith into trying to set you on the right path,” Nether-me chides, her voice cloying, a hollowhearted simulacrum of saccharine sweetness. Perhaps mercifully, her voice sounds muffled, as if there's an invisible pillow gently smothering her to death. I pull myself up onto a nearby bench, using my hat to dab at my bloodied nose. I size up the void-eyed, twin-tailed doppelganger, noting the twitches tugging the corners of her eyes and mouth ever-so-slightly out of their places in her meticulously affected expression.

“New plan~" She chimes with barely concealed malice. "Step one? Just *die*."

The cold air stinks of disinfectant. The atmosphere had grown heavier with each passing hour.

The room holds a doctor, a nurse, and a visitor, all huddled over a patient in a white gown.

An EKG beeps out a monotone beat, and an old, grey, chipped steel air tank gently hisses as it pumps oxygen into the face mask of the patient. Another packet of psychotropics is torn open, and the crinkle of paper and plastic breaks the rhythm. They're popped into a mortar and pestle with haste, ground to dust, then added to the significant pile inside of a small mason jar.

The doctor takes out a grief seed and taps it against a red soul gem, dark and swirling with grief. It returns to its pristine red color, before darkening ever so slightly on its own. She drops the gem into the jar, kicking up a small dust cloud of antidepressants and painkillers. She follows this up by drowning it in a bottle of peppermint schnapps. As the clear liquid fills to the brim, she screws the lid back on, then turns the jar over a few times to let the powders dissolve properly.

"You guys suck, y'know?" the doctor mutters under her breath, pointing accusingly at her assistant. "I can't believe you made me use my own booze for this. This needs whiskey, Jade!"

The nurse’s stern expression doesn’t change. She calmly explains, "you can have my whiskey when you pry it from my cold, dead hands, sister." The doctor lightly punches her in the shoulder.

No response.

The visitor scoffs. "When she wakes, I shall gladly share my spirits with her." She gestures to the sleeping woman, adding, "as it stands, this is as haphazard as an adventurous schoolgirl’s room after her mother knocks on the door. I thought you were a doctor. Aren't you supposed to have these medications in their pure concentrated form as liquids?"

The jar is placed on the nightstand next to the bed. With a small clink, the gem settles in the murky brownish liquid at the bottom of the jar.

"Okay, first of all -- nobody invited you, Eurotrash," the doctor says, kicking an empty bottle on the ground, "Second, these-” she gestures to an arrangement of almost cartoonishly nonstandard drugs, the labels covered with cute stickers, which she assured were very professional, “-are the drugs I usually pump people full of, buuut needles won't work.” The bottle clinks against several others.

As if to illustrate her point, the doctor grabs a random emptied syringe from a cabinet and nonchalantly jabs it into the sleeping woman's sternum. The needle snaps in two, its pointed end whizzing off and embedding itself in the visitor’s cheek like a dart. Neither the doctor nor the visitor flinch.

“And third,” she adds, “patient safety and comfort isn't really something I really, like, care about?"

Silence. Slumping of shoulders.

"Before now, I guess."

The EKG still beeps, the beat's pace slowing slightly as the mix sinks into the gem bit by bit. The visitor sighs and removes her hat.

"Seeker of Wisdom, please come back to us..."

Nether-me triumphantly holds me up by the neck, my bloodied, beaten body her trophy to show off to herself. Through the haze of pain, I snarl back defiantly, clawing at her grasping hand. It’s an empty gesture, like a cornered puppy baring its fangs at a ravenous wolf, at least partly because of how much of it turned into gurgling and choking sounds. Even my vision’s going blurry, the cathedral twisting and distorting all around me.

My tormentor drops me to the floor in a broken, gasping heap. She stabs my head with the point of her heel. “What did anyone ever do to deserve YOU?” she taunts, stomping my head and drawing fresh screams I didn’t know I still had in me.

“You had EVERY advantage as a magical girl!” she screams at me, her words harder to understand when she’s not doing so. The spiked points of both heels dig into my jaw as she leaps over me to stomp even harder. I roll away from her landing, and she rewards me by gouging my leg with her weapon to pin me down again. “You hit the jackpot with your power set! How could you fail this hard?” she persists, stamping on my head again with nothing to stop her. My agonized screaming and throbbing headache can’t drown her out.

“The best Officio in the world couldn’t make you a hero!” Stamp. “The most ferocious Warmaster of all time couldn’t make you a hero!” Stamp! “MUTANT SPACE CAT MAGIC THAT GRANTED WISHES COULDN’T MAKE YOU A HERO!” STAMP!

My gut burns like a shameful sun, hollow and empty. This is how it ends, I realize. My body dies, and then my mind executes me. I don’t have any rebuttal besides ‘fuck you’, but I want to at least say it instead of screaming like a wounded animal! I catch her foot, but that won’t stop her. It’s only delaying the inevitable.

“WHY ARE YOU STILL HERE?!” my assailant roars, pulling her weapon out of my leg. She swings her scythe, stopping short of my neck, and hooks it from behind. By now, the only color in my vision is the spots dancing in front of my eyes. She and the cathedral are little more than fuzzy blobs of gray. I mouth a silent curse at her while struggling to escape. I’m not going to go down without a fight. Not against her.

Even if I deserve it.

“STOP WASTING EVEryone’s time, and just d-”

Nether-me’s voice grows faint until I can’t even hear it. Right in front of my eyes, she and the Monument to Failure fade until nothing is left. The same blackness as before, with nothing but a spotlight to illuminate me. I squint against the accusing ray of light.

Am I dead? Is this Hell?

I stand up, but a sharp pain in my right leg brings me crumpling to the ground. I grit my teeth and try again, shakily succeeding since the sting seems to have abated some. My body feels relaxed - maybe too relaxed. My injuries aren’t healing, either; I can still see my heart through my chest, its rhythm slowing to a crawl.

The first thing I think of is bandaging my injuries. Except I don’t have a first aid kit. That was something I declined so I could store more weapons in my inventory. Time to improvise. Silver spreads out from every unobserved spot of my outfit, patching myself up with tape that will do even worse damage coming off. Without the need to worry about becoming somehow deader than I already am, I can rest. Rest for a while to at least get my breath back. And then, I can…

…what, exactly? There’s nothing here. I limp off in one direction, and nothing. The light follows me like a vigilant searchlight on a hobbled convict. At least there’s actual ground now instead of a sea of nothing. Then a calming fuzziness drapes over my brain and body like a blanket, and my large, boisterous strides become slow and deliberate.

Then, without warning, there’s suddenly an ugly scene of carnage lit up before my eyes.


What the hell.

What IS all this?

Heavy snow and thick fog blur the features of a coast off Japan that I still recognize immediately. The illumination comes from nearby bolts of lightning that pierce the heavy clouds overhead, and the blaze of the burning wreckage of a luxury cruise liner a kilometer away. From this angle, I can just barely make out the letters ERNAL MAI through the billowing black clouds of smoke. The sign glared back at me accusingly; at the one that got away.

Certainty and urgency build in my gut. That’s more than my stomach can bear right now, and I cough up splotches of dark red bile onto my hand. I head on towards the shoreline of a small beach. There’s no crunch of sand or snow beneath my boots, no biting cold from the wind and snow. No stimuli besides me being able to see it. But my body remembers, and it shivers sympathetically. I find an erratically woven trail furrowed through the snow, heading inland at a slow pace. It was about here that… yes, there’s a half-buried boot here. I bend down, wince, and try to take it, but my hand passes through it.

There’s no mistaking it. This is where it started.

I pick up my pace, following the trail off the beach and onto a road that saw little travel in this weather. Another soundless lightning bolt illuminates what I’m looking for: two figures in the distance. One of them is the sole survivor of the cruise, just a young girl who was traveling with her mother and father. Her long blue hair hangs over her face, almost totally blinding her. Her coat is in tatters, the frayed edges still glowing from being aflame. I can’t see it from here, but beneath the coat is her life vest and a simple dress beneath that. She’s shivering, her breathing punctuated by heavy breaths frozen in midair.

The other sits atop a road barrier, its beady red eyes visible even in the darkness. It looks like a a mutation of a cat and ferret. Its coat is white enough to blend in with the snow, except for the pink ends of its long, floppy ears, encircled with floating rings. Its mouth doesn’t move, but it doesn’t need to. Not when it can talk straight into her head.

Heather. Kyubey. Our meeting was an accident. A mistake. Something I have to correct.

“Don’t,” I whimper at the dying girl, building up to a shout: “Don’t listen to him!” They don’t seem to hear me.

I lurch forward, flailing to make my stilted movements faster. I bring out the Eversword, its color shifting rapidly without my input, and hurl the oversized thing at the mutant cat.

My aim is off, and it flies harmlessly overhead. I glance at the girl, who has long since been told to think of a wish, besides preventing the crash of the ship or the resurrection of anyone onboard. She is in deep, sad contemplation. Were life fair, she would have died before coming to the decision.

“I’m begging you, don’t make that wish! You don’t know what you’re getting into!”

Heatherhat ohno.png

I call my sword back. It flies back to my hand, and I make it grow until I can hit the creature from where I’m standing. I grip it tightly, firmly, and channel all my rage and indignation into my swing! It passes right through Kyubey’s body, the terrain, everything. It hits whatever ground is here with a loud clunk. Nothing’s changed. Those two don’t even notice.

I switch targets and bring my blade down on the girl. Equally useless. Goddammit, this isn’t fair. This isn’t fair at all.

I start running towards them again, smashing and hacking at them and the scenery, my efforts as effective as trying to attack the moon by hitting its reflection in a pond. They don’t fade away. They don’t die. They don’t disappear.

For the first time ever, a big crack forms on my Eversword, then a jagged chunk falls off and disappears like mist. I keep slashing and hammering at my targets, trying to do anything. Anything at all. My trusted, unbreakable weapon is breaking down further and further. The blade falls off and disappears, and I’m left with an oversized haft that I hurl at the girl, who looks like she’s made up her delusional mind. It vanishes before it even makes contact.

I put every fiber of my being into running. My wounds rip open painlessly, dulled by the full horror of my own powerlessness and my attempts to fight it.

Don’t do it. Don’t do it!


I scream, my voice ringing in my own ears as the cat leaps to the girl’s side. The stupid girl lets him raise his ears to her chest. I dive at them, as a gust of wind soundlessly roars past them. The naive girl speaks, making her wish. I pass right through them both.

Everything is stained with a bright red light. As I wail in despair, my contract is complete, in exchange for one wish: to be a great and mighty hero who can protect people.

Heatherhat criesaboutbaseball.png

Don’t cry.

Don’t you dare cry.

Stop. Crying. Please. You can’t… you can’t just keep crying all the time! Please, just once…

I can't, I can’t stop my tears. Why won't they stop?! Why can't I stop them?!! Why is, why would, why did this happen?! What did anybody do to deserve me?! Why am I being shown this?! What am I supposed to do when I can’t learn from my mistakes?! WHY AM I STILL HERE?!

“WHY!?!” I scream out into the void.

The fading scene does not answer. I’m left alone again. Tears stream hotly down my face as the incriminating spotlight glares at me. Even my own thoughts damn my actions.

Because at the end of the day, it’s my own damn fault.