“…but antibodies are powerful - no one should forget that. Every antibody therapy has a small but real risk of setting off something terrible, and if you're targeting the immune response itself, well, the risk just goes up. The immune system is a bit like demonology: don't call anything up that you don't know how to send back down.”
A lesson I should have kept in mind before trying my own hand at it; I could have saved myself a lot of pain.
I'm alive. I've been awake for five days. I should have made this post earlier, and I have no real reason for not doing so other than I've been recovering from feeling like I'd been doused in gasoline and set on fire, and the shakes, and the vicious migraine and that it just didn't seem important, somehow. None of this did.
Now I think of it, it's a little worrying.
Black is doing well. I found him asleep in the hot water cupboard, probably in order to avoid Fracture and Veigar. I think he was the one that pulled me out of the freezer and put me on the couch, but I can't be sure since memory gets hazy about that point. I don't remember ever asking Veigar for help for example, even though it clearly and oddly happened, so you can imagine my surprise at seeing him upon waking.
He left shortly afterwards, since wherever he was in the house I got that prickly feeling of invaded personal space. I was unable to repay him. Thank you for reminding me of the significantly larger amount of funding Proxies get. I'm still not entirely sure how you knew where my house was. Don't just say 'files': the information in them comes from somewhere. Fracture, maybe? The Librarians? Strider?
It doesn't matter, I suppose. I still owe you for, if not saving my life than at least not letting me choke on my own vomit.
I died. I met the Contessa, and well, she did say that was a prerequisite.
The last thing I remember was lying on the floor, in a pool of blood and azoth and saliva, staring at nothing in particular with burning bones and absolute blinding pain everywhere, and the only thought in my head, going around and around, being I want to die I want to die I want to die. It was the only one there was space for, in that condition.
And then suddenly, I was in a chair. It's incredibly jarring, going from being as sick as a dog to absolutely fine in the space of less than a second, so you can understand I was a bit disoriented. The room I was in was unfamiliar, filled with chairs and drawers and a wardrobe. Mirrors, cracked and uncracked. A clear plastic ceiling, grapevines running up and over it and blocking all light but green. Sundry bric a brac, including in its number painted plates both license and ceramic, mismatched electronics, a Remington typewriter and a disturbing gnome. There was a thick layer of dust over everything. Nothing metal within reach.
More notable were the stuffed animals. Various species, extant and extinct, they were perched everywhere, positioned so as to see everything in the room. Out of the corner of my eye I swear they moved. Three were on the table I was sitting at, a spider, rat and koala. They were wearing bibs.
"Hi!" said the girl in front of me, and she looked perfectly like a young girl pouring tea. There was a scent about her, of dust and the smell of antiques, which made sense considering the surroundings, and nostalgia, which did not. Multiple times I'd catch myself thinking of the past more than should be usual, and would have to manually snap back into focus. Her eyes and hair were mine, giving her a slight air of 'little sister you never had' and she wore an elaborately frilly white dress which had its effect somewhat ruined by differently colored belts and loops of string and chain strung around her like tinsel, hung with things ranging from paperclips to an actual gemstone. I kept looking at a certain familiar flash drive hanging from the belt around her waist like a carabina.
"...hi? Who are you," I said. I'd guessed, but I wasn't sure.
"I'm the Contessa, silly! Can't you tell?" Does it say something that my first thought at this revelation was something along the lines of 'Oh, hell.'?
"Sorry, it can be hard to tell what someone looks like through text."
"That's okay. Used to be lots of people didn't know who I was when they got here. How do you like your tea, by the way?"
I looked down at the cup in front of me, which I honestly hadn't noticed. I picked it up, twisted it this way and that, and then set it aside. "It's, uh, a little too hot. I'll just let it cool down."
If she was bothered by my demurral, she didn't show it. "That's okay! So... sorry, it's been a while. Do you have any questions? People usually did."
"First off, why am I here? Last thing I remember is an extreme close up of the living room carpet."
"Well, it's because... I'm never quite sure how to say this... but, you're dead." She took a sip of her own tea. "It's not quite official just yet, though." I leaned forward, elbows on the table because to hell with etiquette. "I would have thought I would have ended up at the Archangel's place," I said carefully.
"Oh, him." The word was full of unhappy petulant venom. "He takes people I find away, and now I can't find people anymore! I think he did something..." she shook her head. "Anyway, I kinda grabbed you because you looked interesting from your blog."
"...thanks?" I said, because just what are you supposed to say to that? "Where is this, anyway?" My gaze met that of the black beady eyes of a stuffed tiger lounging on a grandfather clock. "Can I leave?"
She bit her lip. "Um... well, it's kinda complicated. You're not officially dead yet, so I suppose you could. You'd go back into your body. Dunno if it would work." She gestured at my cup. "I think your tea's cooler now."
I dabbled a finger in it, and then wiped it on the tablecloth. "A little too cool, in fact. Sorry." I swirled it a little. "So I can leave anytime? Good to know. First, though... where is this?" I repeated.
"It's my house! It's got all sorts of things in it, and you can stay as long as you like!" She spread her arms out, clearly proud. I was... less enthused. But she was the host, and it paid to be on her good side. "It's a nice place," I offered. "Very... eclectic." Go on, was my unspoken tone.
"Wellll..." she stretched the syllable out. "Remember when you were asking me about that data and how I got it? It's because it was dead! When a thing dies, it comes here and there's a place for it in my house!" She performed another expansive gesture. The sheer randomidity of the item type and placement began to make a little more sense.
She tickled the bibbed table spider, and it silently curled around her fingers as if asking for more. I eyed it. "Get a lot of destroyed stuffed animals?" This seemed to shock her and she placed a hand to her mouth.
"They weren't stuffed when they were alive, silly!" She giggled, before noticing my neglected cup. "Oh, sorry!" She poured another one and slid it across to me. There was a little bit of fridge horror on my part, which she assuaded. I'll leave you to guess what it was.
"So why stuffed, then?" I asked once I'd calmed down. She cocked her head to one side thoughtfully.
"I dunno, I never really thought about it. Maybe it's only the 'essence' of the animal comes here?" She drew the koala into a hug. "Maybe it's so I can name them all! This is Marbles..." She put it down and pointed at the spider and tiger. "These are Bumpy and Gerald. And this," she proclaimed, one hand resting on a stuffed elephant almost as high as the table, "is Xiomara!"
I blinked. "You name every single animal that dies?" Because seriously, who even has that much time. That much boredom. That many letter combinations. She nodded emphatically. "Mmhm! Say hi, Gerald!" The stuffed tiger gave something that sounded like a cough, before looking away and shifting to a more comfortable position. I looked from it to her. "So," I said. "This means you have my data somewhere as well."
"Your... oh, yeah!" She unclipped the flash drive I'd noticed earlier from her belt. "This is it, right?" I nodded. It was either it or a similar model. She tossed it up and down. "Well, it's mine now!~"
"What would you accept for it? I'm afraid I can't give you the other eye." I smiled.
"Well, um... I know!" She held up a finger. "You can have it if you beat me at riddles!"
I wasn't sure how good at riddles I was. I'd never really practiced. But this was the only chance to get this data or let it be lost forever.
"Deal!" I said.
This is a bit long. I'll post the second part later.