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This one is different
She was told the nice lady doctor with the pretty hair was gone. Mara internalized the loss stoically, but there was no additional grieving. Instead, she continued about her days as she always did. Mostly she stared blankly, sometimes falling asleep where she sat. However, Mara didn't fight like she used to. Although she held to the name, Mara, rather than Daiyu as they insisted she was. She would tip a shoulder, onyx hair slipping in the movement, and return to Mara like a comfortable sock.

The new doctor was suppose to be different. The others whispered about her during recreation time. She didn't know the name, but at least the change would be something new. 

Mara waited in the therapy room, as always. Her scrubs were clean unlike some of the others. Her slippers were soft. Her hair was loose today, but her eyes sank the longer she wait. She sat so still, hands on her knees, she may have been in the midst of meditation if it wasn't for the drip of drool beginning to pool in the corner of her mouth.

With a jerk, her eyes yanked to the shadowy corners and she smiled as she pat her knee. Her pets would keep her company until the doctor came.

@"Meera Alam"
Meera tapped thoughtfully at her full lower lip, considering the file before her. Daiyu Sòng had been with the Guardian for a considerable length of time. One of the resident psychiatrists – some woman by the name of Milton – had been attending to Daiyu’s needs for some time, but to no avail. Clearly. Otherwise, this young woman would not now be passed into Meera’s capable and firm hands.

This Daiyu had a strong case of dissociative identity disorder. Meera was not surprised in the slightest. It was often said that madness accompanied artistic genius. This Daiyu was not just any patient. She had been a successful author in the horror genre – and what a vivid imagination she had! Under other circumstances, Meera might have found herself sharing a glass of wine with the woman and discussing the finer points of vivisection.

Perhaps after she was healed.

This Daiyu was a test set forth for Meera by the Guardian. She had wanted to rise in the ranks here, the Atharim had wanted her to rise in the ranks here. Oh, they could have pulled a few strings to expedite the process, but they insisted on authenticity if she were to do what needed to be done. She would have to establish herself here like any other professional.

Her ‘betters’ were idiots, of course.

Meera had entered as a nurse, officially, but she had garnered a few promotions. Should she fix the Daiyu woman, the Guardian would begin to consider her qualifications from Cairo. A residency was even talked about in the break room.

Meera grimaced and tossed the file onto her desk, snapping her fingers for the orderly. The young man rushed over from his corner and pulled her wheelchair out from the desk.
“You will take me to her now,” Meera commanded and the orderly obeyed without hesitation. “So good to find obedient helpers these days…”

The ride over to the therapy room was a short one. The orderly had been silent, as instructed and Meera contemplated the Daiyu woman. Only one other personality to deal with, simple enough. The hard part was the fact that that personality was her pen name. Meera could not just meld the two. It was a shame that her light did not yet work the way she wished it to.

Oh, Meera could crack the woman’s mind with a whip of Fire, Earth, Water, and Spirit – but the results were not always long-lasting and rarely ran so deep as that.

The doors to the room swung open as the orderly pushed Meera to the large window and comfortable chairs. She raised a hand and the orderly scurried away to a corner. The patient sat motionless, eyes more than half-lidded. A stream of spittle ran from the corner of the patient’s lips. Meera smothered a sneer with little effort and adopted the face of a warm, loving mother. She cleared her throat lightly and let herself become the mask she now wore.

“My dear?” Meera’s voice oozed honey and sugar, inviting the woman out of her stupor, “Sweetheart, it’s time to get up now.”

"She had tortured hundreds, maybe thousands, in the name of understanding and reason. Torture made sense. You truly saw what a person was made of, in more ways than one, when you began to slice into them. That was a phrase she'd used on numerous occasions. It usually made her smile." 
- The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, Chapter 22, Robert Jordan
With the warmth of her Pets fuzzed up on her lap, Mara slipped into the sort of slumber that saw her sitting up. If not for the bend of the neck and slip of saliva, she may not look like a suicide survivor. Simply a sleepy, sad sop.

She’d not heard the door, nor the whistle of wheels: only a voice picked into her mind like a block of ice jabbed by the stake. She jerked slightly, a sudden tension that seized up her whole body and dissipated as soon as comprehension settled. Why she couldn’t sleep so soundly in her bed, supine and safe, she couldn’t say.

“Hello, doctor,” she spoke, accent heavy as her lids. Her memory was fuzzy as the – oh, no, nevermind, her pets must have fled prior to the doctor’s arrival. Mara folded her hands in her empty lap and stared blankly. She didn’t remember the doctor’s name.

“My name is Mara,” she said softly.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
The patient jerked awake shortly after Meera called out to her. There was a part of Meera that had been a touch crestfallen. It would have been much more enjoyable to forcibly wake her patient. Oh, she would not have cut into the patient; there was still a need for subtlety within these walls. Then again, the patient had been suicidal if not all together lucid. No. Cutting would not do in this case. Were the Light of God behind Meera, she might have tried her new weave on this one. Alas…

“It is a pleasure to meet you Mara,” Meera’s voice continued its siren song of honey and sugar, “My name is Doctor Meera Alam. You may call me Meera.”

Although the patient had not been looking in Meera’s direction, she fell into the motions of her mask – patting at her hair, smoothing her unruffled dress, tilting her head slightly as she gazed upon the patient. A mother’s love and energy were called for within the Guardian – most of the time.

Costumes played a great role in Meera’s mask. She did not dress flamboyantly but took a care when selecting the details of her ensemble. Her hair was pulled back into a sleek bun that was held in place with two long, lacquered hair pins and a matching comb. Her dress was from a local designer – a no name University student – it was a simple and elegant cut made from a fine white wool. The shoes were a tasteful kitten heel in white patent leather. A perfume of lavender and roses wafted from her limbs as she moved her wheelchair closer to the patient.

“You seem to be sleepy my dear, could I interest you in a cup of tea? Why, it always perks me right up,” Meera all but sang as she wore the pleasant smile of her mask. She held up her left hand, index finger pointed towards the sky, and the orderly leapt to fetch the tea from her office.

Of course, the patient was sleepy, according to the file it was the patient’s favorite activity. Strange that she had not been diagnosed with narcolepsy. The patient showed many of the signs: excessive daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, a loss of muscle tone. The medications they had loaded her up with could be playing a role, true, but not the morning medications. Meera had never been a fan of pharmaceuticals, it always felt like cheating.

Why sedate a patient when you could bend them to your will with a little time and care? She would have to fix that little detail after the therapy session concluded.

Had the patient been on anti-psychotics? Probable, but it mattered little to The Lady of Pain.

"She had tortured hundreds, maybe thousands, in the name of understanding and reason. Torture made sense. You truly saw what a person was made of, in more ways than one, when you began to slice into them. That was a phrase she'd used on numerous occasions. It usually made her smile." 
- The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, Chapter 22, Robert Jordan
Mara immediately perked up, just as the new doctor said she would. But it was not the promise of tea that lifted her spirits and tugged at her eyes, it was that finally, finally! Someone called her by her true name. My name is Mara.

She even smiled a little.

Then they brought her tea in an actual little cup. Mara marveled at the shine of the porcelain and the delicate design painted around the rim. She was Chinese. Tea was an important part of her homelife, although it was reserved for her parents.

She drew in a long, savoring sniff. “This is nothing like what I remember,” she said, taking a tentative sip.

The brew was awful. The liquid was burned and the steep thin and drawn. Yet it was the most delicious thing she remembered having in years.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
Meera smiled thoughtfully as she observed the patient. An orderly brought over a cup and saucer after serving the patient. Meera took both gratefully, flashing the face of her motherly mask at the no-name-intern. It was such a simple thing to go along with pleasantries – but it was the one aspect of the mask that Meera supremely hated.

The patient spoke a singular thought after tasting the tea and Meera nodded along.

“Sadly, that sentiment rings true for many a subject,” Meera cooed as past visions of blood and brain danced along her mind’s eye. The Light of God almost shone through, the memories were so pure. Still, Meera held to the mask. She smiled despite her restraint.

Meera sipped at her tea. Had it spoiled? The patient had been right. It was not as good as she remembered. She chanced a glance at the orderly to make sure he had not switched out her tea bags.


The orderly looked innocent enough. Meera let the idea go and turned once more to the patient. This particular subject had been an exercise in metal conditioning, so far as Meera had been concerned. How could she reshape this soul without God’s Scourge to assist her?

It had been a test of her faith. That’s what it had to be.

Meera would have to rely on her own mental aptitude to steer the woman onto the prescribed path. That was it. There were eyes watching – souls that would know if Meera had strayed from her Atharim mask.

Once they knew, it would all be over.


Meera had to do this ‘fair.’ She had to manipulate the patient onto the proper path – without the Light of God.

Meera shuddered.

“Mara,” Meera spoke in those honeyed words of her motherly mask, “I am ashamed to admit this… But, I am a huge fan of your work. The descriptions and those scenes – my heavens – one would think you lived through such horrors. What is your inspiration?”

It came easier now that Meera had adopted the voice. If only the patient would ignore the lapse in personality.

"She had tortured hundreds, maybe thousands, in the name of understanding and reason. Torture made sense. You truly saw what a person was made of, in more ways than one, when you began to slice into them. That was a phrase she'd used on numerous occasions. It usually made her smile." 
- The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, Chapter 22, Robert Jordan
Beto scrubbed his hands through his hair. His eyes felt strained and tired. Not that he had stayed up particularly late. But it had been a hard night all the same. At least he'd shaved off the stubble. Focus. He had to focus. The lead weight in his stomach sat with him nearly all the time. His heart alternated between a dull thud to running out of control in anticipation.

Usually, the last was in the evening, out in one club or other. Last night it had been a Munch. He had sat off to the side, at first, trying to observe. But looky-loos were not allowed. While voyeurism was certainly part of such a meet up, you were supposed to go there and make connections. And while not everyone was expected to play out a scene, either as sub, dom or switch, people did expect to make connections.

Not that he felt at home with BDSM, not completely. But between Anna, the nameless women, and Meera, something had been ignited. A flicker of emotion and feeling and he wanted to chase it. Had to chase it.

But nothing happened last night. There hadn't been enough time. And the public venue wasn't what he wanted. So yes, his wallet contained some new numbers. But he has still gone home alone and pounded a few. Maybe a few too many. No hangover, but if he kept it up, eventually, yeah.

That morning he'd had to remind himself why he was there. Daiyu. Cherones' cousin. And his contact. One of the reasons, anyway. He still hoped to find one of the magic users. Part of him knew they'd not have answers for him. How could they? Realistically, they ran the gamut in terms of age and experience, from what he'd seen in the news.

Still, they had more than him. And he wanted answers. And to feel again.

He gave his name to the receptionist. His contact had sent ahead to the administrator of the Guardian. Very likely he'd be put off with a functionary. But it was a start.

He took a deep breath, glad that he didn't look as bad as he felt. Energy was running thin, these days and he wasn't sure how long he'd last. He pulled out his wallet to bring up the news as he waited.
The warmth infused her veins with an unusual burst of vitality. Writing was an outlet almost as powerful as her dreams. Here was someone willing to talk about both. The smile that tickled the edges of her mouth was hard to contain, but at least for now, the exhaustion plaguing Daiyu’s body faded.

“The whispers of my pets. My friends talk to me. They show me scenes in my dreams, and sometimes, when I am alone and all is still, they visit me in the day. Their company is why I do not mind being here. I am not alone.” Her gaze remained downcast, almost unwilling to meet that of the doctors’. But it wasn’t aversion that really distracted her. It was a yearning, a searching of the shadows for the flicker of motion in the dark.

The last time she mentioned her friends, pity and accusation followed. There was nothing, but the darkness was watching none the less. Mara’s will attempted to summon the nearest pet, but it was resistant.

“They don’t like you,” she said with a hint of confusion.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
Meera nodded dutifully at 'Mara’s' words, adding just a touch of worry lines for effect – not that the patient had been looking up. If it had not been for the setting, Meera could have dispensed completely with the mask and this small thing before her would have been none the wiser.

It was going to be a long day.

The patient spoke softly about her ‘pets.’ They would surely have to cut back on the cocktail of pharmaceuticals that the orderlies had been pumping her with. How else would they be able to discover whether or not the hallucinations were due to un-diagnosed narcolepsy when it very well could have been schizophrenia or even the pills themselves? It certainly sounded as if it had been the pills, but she could not be certain until the girl had been cut off. The dissociative disorder was all well and good, but that really only accounted for this ‘Mara.’

It was incredibly cruel for God to put Meera in such a position. It had been months since she had been able to use her whip upon a patient with multiple impairments – but then, this was a test. She sighed internally before taking a sip of her tea. Daiyu was right; it was out of date.

Meera set the cup and saucer aside before signaling for the orderly to take it away. She murmured to him an order for mineral water with two slices of lemon. That would wash the rank taste away at the very least. The mineral water had been a personal and necessary expense of hers. Drinking nuclear waste would have been more preferable than the stuff that had come out of the faucets at the Guardian.

Daiyu declared her ‘pets’ dislike of Meera, which brought a curious expression to her face.

“Oh? Well, that certainly saddens me to hear, Mara,” Meera went on in her sickeningly sweet tones, “I would only like to be your friend and their friend. Why, I am sure we all have more in common than you could possibly imagine. Do they dislike many people?”

The orderly returned with the tall glass of lemon water and placed it quietly onto the side table next to Meera’s right arm. She did not acknowledge the man before taking the glass and indulging her senses in the cool, refreshing taste of citrus. The orderly had coughed quietly behind Meera. She kept her mask smooth, despite her irritation, as she begged Daiyu’s forgiveness before turning to the orderly.

“Yes, Orderly Artemy?” Meera asked in that same honeyed tone, although there most assuredly had been a bite to the man’s name as it left her tongue. The orderly leaned down to speak into her ear – a thing she would normally have not allowed, but it was a concession demanded of the mother mask.

“Apologies, Doctor, but a man has come to visit Daiyu.”

“My dear man,” Meera said with a wide, vicious smile, “The patient is receiving treatment. Surely this can wait. What is this visitors name?” They would most certainly wait, but Meera would have their name if only to use as a tool upon the patient. Perhaps it was a parent or an ex-lover or a manager. Whoever it was, their name alone might help to bring Daiyu back and chase this ‘Mara’ away.

“Erm – Beto, Doctor Alam. I didn’t catch a last name.”

The world stood still for half of a heartbeat. It couldn't be the same man. But then again, how common was the name 'Beto'?

“Beto?” Meera asked in an uncharacteristically clear tone. She kept her mask as smooth as satin.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Bring him in,” Meera said without thought. It couldn't be the same man.

God really had been testing her today.

"She had tortured hundreds, maybe thousands, in the name of understanding and reason. Torture made sense. You truly saw what a person was made of, in more ways than one, when you began to slice into them. That was a phrase she'd used on numerous occasions. It usually made her smile." 
- The Wheel of Time, The Gathering Storm, Chapter 22, Robert Jordan
The doctor lady’s tea was taken away and Mara mirrored the rejection with near mindlessness. While the doctor lady was talking, Mara became distracted when her pets were referenced. It was a strange sensation that rankled their haunches. While they never showed themselves in the daytime, Mara believed that they watched as keenly as the watchers in her dreams. Yet what little proximity  remained slunk to nothingness. They didn’t like the doctor lady, though Mara was uncertain why.

She spoke quietly. “No, they are usually inquisitive. They seem to want to avoid you. I’m not sure why. They don’t have friends though. They are my pets but we are not friends. That’s an odd way to put it.”

She’d never opened up so much about her pets. Usually the doctors found the topic nonsense, so Mara was keen to continue talking about her constant companions. Which was why a slim frown of disapproval bespoke her reaction at the interruption that followed. She didn’t know what was happening, but she kept her opinions to herself.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"

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