[New and want to jump in? Please read the Instructions, but go ahead!]
It was almost impossible to think. The eyes were watching Septimus closely, too closely, impossibly closely. It felt like they could see his thoughts, his soul, everything he’d ever done that he didn’t want brought to light, every sin and grief and shameful hidden thing that he’d forgotten along with those he hadn’t. It welled in him like sweat seeping through his skin, unable to be held back just by wishing he could.
It was easy to see how people went insane in stories about things like this. He bit back an inappropriate laugh.
“I…” What could he even sacrifice that could possibly help either of them? If he lost his love, he probably wouldn’t keep fighting for Sweet. He thought about that and wished, briefly, that he could do more for Sweet now. The monster had said he could enhance Sweet’s humanity—he tried to send some to him, to will his love, his hope, his dreams to reach. But felt nothing.
And why would he? The thought rose bitterly. These things were only shared when communicated. Wanting it to happen didn’t mean anything unless he could do something about it.
So it was back to sacrifice. His dreams? That seemed like the safest option, but he didn’t trust it. In so many ways, dreams were the symbol for the future, and if he gave that up, wouldn’t that mean he’d stop fighting for himself?
No, above all, he couldn’t give up hope. Hope was the only thing that even had a chance of standing up against a creature like this. Everything about it threatened to overwhelm him with madness, misery, the loss of self. If he lost hope, he’d stop fighting entirely.
What was the best option? Giving up the things that made him human was less of a concern than it should be—Sweet wasn’t, apparently, and he seemed just fine—but in terms of what part of it wouldn’t be giving up too much to let him save them both—
“I need more information,” he blurted.
The creature didn’t respond to that except for a sense of brief confusion—only barely that, though, brushing against him with a lack of concern.
“A sacrifice has less value if it’s made while not knowing the value,” Septimus said, and hoped it was true. It seemed like the sort of thing Seven would have believed, for better or worse. “I don’t know anything about you, o-or him, or any of this. You were, you had a relationship with Sweet’s mother, right? Miranda?”
The end of the corridor was almost there. He focused on it, hoping without much faith that he’d reach it while the thing was distracted.
Miranda, she / yes, a tool / she could birth something I could
/ hollow /
That didn’t sound good for Sweet. “Hollow out? Is that why you’ve been feeding on him?”
The things he loses makes / room.
/ nurtures me / drains him / shifts from one to another /
You know that, surely?
The last with a strange, horrible amusement that washed out over Septimus. He broke into a run, his will snapping, reached the end of the corridor and—
—he came back to himself wrapped in something, dangling over a whirling void, breath pushed from his lungs. That awful thing’s presence was closer here, rather than further away, and he realized that the end must have been a pitfall, a drop further into the earth, into this thing’s self.
It held him carelessly, slithering darkness crawling over his skin and leaving coldness behind.
I would rather / you make this sacrifice /
“Please,” Septimus sobbed, teeth chattering, his calm swept away against his will. In the darkness, with no solid ground underfoot, vertigo hit him and it felt like he was spinning and spinning, falling. “Let me see Sweet!”
Why? It was unconcerned. Only curious.
“I—” Wanting to wasn’t enough. He knew that. “Can’t you rewind time? Make this how it never happened? If I gave you something good enough, could you do that?”
No. / This is outside time but / inserting you will move you forward.
It seemed to consider.
I could keep you out here endlessly
“No,” Septimus groaned. Everything ached with the cold, and he was more deeply afraid than he’d ever been in his life. He reached up, tugging the necklace free from his shirt. “Is this enough? If I gave you this? Is it something you want?”
It seemed like reality drew a breath.
“It is,” Septimus said, chattering. “So it must be a strong sacrifice. You can have it, just free me and Sweet—”
Not enough / but / if you sacrifice it, I will bring you to him.
Not give him back to you but /
/ bring you / show you / reveal /
/ him. /
Then / perhaps
/ you will find something better /
/ to give up.
He could tell that he couldn’t bargain any further; had nothing left to bargain with but parts of himself. And if he dropped, it’d get the amulet anyway, along with the rest of him. It’d just be less power than if he gave it willingly.
But if they were together, maybe they could figure something out.
“Fine,” he said. He tore the necklace from his throat and let it drop from numb fingers into the void.
Reality wrenched again and he found himself in what looked like a normal basement. His flashlight illuminated it as usual, casting shadows around broken glass and wood shards and dusty air.
He hung in the air like he was suspended by a thread, rotating and coming to pieces. His skin had flaked off to reveal darkness underneath—no, Septimus realized, not darkness, but void. It was the night sky, endless and deep, stars glittering in their depths. No, eyes. Eyes that were stars, stars that were eyes, staring up through the gaps in his body where his flesh had been stripped from him.
Sweet’s mouth opened and opened and opened, splitting along its middle and through his cheeks, void pouring out of it. An eye opened in its center, where his tongue and throat should be, fixing on Septimus with such an intensity that a bolt of pain shot through him.
Sep? Sweet said, soundlessly.
[Please offer actions, thoughts, or concerns for Septimus in the Comments.]
[Instructions | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13 | Day 14 | Day 15 | Day 16 | Day 17 | Day 18 | Day 19 | Day 20 | Day 21 | Day 22 | Day 23 | Day 24 | Day 25 | Conclusion | Author’s Notes]