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by MayDay
Rated: ASR · Fiction · Dark · #2319535
Theresa finds herself in a battle to the death with Rick.
Theresa was playing with dolls, the figures alive in her hands, when she turned around to get something and gasped. She dropped her dolls and screamed. Zander was there in an instant, snapping his eyes around the room and asking, “What's wrong? What happened?”
Theresa lifted her shaky finger to the figure across the room from her, staring with earnest and sorrowful eyes as he said, “Theresa, I can explain.”
Zander scrunched up his face and asked, “Who said that? Where did that voice come from?”
Theresa nearly fainted and she asked, “You can hear him? Zander, this makes no sense! This man standing in front of me is my imagination! Rick, how did you get here?”
Rick made a sound in the back of his throat that might have been a growl, it might have been a whimper, or both.
“Let me explain,” Rick started, “Remember in the treasure trove, when we were talking about imaginations? That was against Imagination Rule 6: Do not speak about imaginations. We...we disobeyed that, Theresa. The Imagination Rule Enforcers approached me and said that because we had broken the Imagination Rule, there would be consequences.”
Theresa frowned and complained, “That doesn't explain anything! What are the consequences?”
Rick frowned and said, “Okay, but for the record, I hate these consequences as much as I'm sure you will.”
Theresa glared at him with as much fear in her eyes than there was frustration.
“Spit it out already,” she snarled.
Rick took a deep breath and whispered, “I wish I was aloud to try not to win...”
“Win what?” Theresa snapped, and Rick winced.
“The battle to the death. Between you and me. Those are the consequences. I didn't make them, I don't enforce the rules, it's just they're forcing me to do this. Don't blame me if I walk away from here, back into your imagination, and you're lying here dead. I can't help it. The Imagination Rule Enforcers control me. I can't do anything I want.”
“But you can't go into a dead person's imagination! That's impossible!” Theresa argued. Rick frowned as he threw a spear down at her feet, not responding. Theresa trembled and asked helplessly, “But...but why? Why would the Imagination Rule Enforcers make you do this? I don't have any power here, I'm not even a real scientist! I'm just a kid!”
Rick nodded soberly and whispered, “I know. Imaginations are for people who don't have much excitement in their lives. Especially kids.”
Theresa leaned forward hesitantly to pick up the spear as Zander shouted, “I can't let you do that. You may not know this, Rick, but brothers are supposed to protect their little siblings. Not let some dude chop her head off or whatever you want to do.”
Rick turned to Zander and said, “I don't want to do anything. It's what I'm forced to do.”
Zander clenched his fists and growled, “Well, I'm not letting you do that either!”
Theresa put her hand on his arm to calm him and whispered, “It's okay, Zander. You can't stop it. Besides, what harm can an imagination really do to me? You wont lose me or anything.”
Zander shook her hand off and asked, “Don't you get it? He's not just imaginary anymore, Theresa! I can hear him, as if he's totally real!”
Theresa put her hand back on him, more forcefully, and protested, “Yeah, but that doesn't automatically mean he can hurt me, does it?”
Tears welled in Zander's eyes and he whispered, “I don't want to risk it, Theresa. I don't want to risk losing you. Not like I lost John, years ago.
“When I was only six years old, I had to leave my best friend, John. We had been friends our whole lives, but then at dinnertime, a nice couple walked into the orphanage where I lived. You know who they were. Mom and dad. I didn't want to go, but the last time a couple had wanted me, I had screamed and fought, and they had left without me. The orphan directer had a talk with me and this time, I knew I shouldn't. But every dinner after that, all I could think about was John, alone in the orphanage. I was rude to mom, and I teased you, all because of that one dinner. I don't want to lose you, Theresa. You're the closest friend I've had like John since then.”
Theresa felt tears teasing at her eyes and hugged her brother close. She loved that he trusted her enough to tell her about it, and she was afraid for her life. What if Rick succeeded? What if Zander was right? So many things could go wrong. But she bravely turned back to Rick and asked shakily, “So, when does this thing happen, Rick?”
Rick glanced at Zander apologetically and whispered miserably, “Right now. After I finish talking, the fight will begin and I will not be allowed to speak or act kindly until one of us is dead. I'll seem like a different person, a totally evil person that you can't reason with. I'm sorry, both of you.”
Rick stopped talking, and the battle begun. Rick charged at Theresa, looking furious, though he obviously was not. Rick had a spear as well as Theresa, and Theresa swerved to her left, barely dodging her death and the quick ending of the battle. Rick spun around and charged again, shouting, “You can't run forever, child!”
Theresa shivered. Rick had been right, he did seem like a new person. Theresa did keep running. She ran for the door, shouting at Zander to get out of the way, and led Rick through the hall as he roared at her. Theresa wanted to believe she was dreaming, but she knew for a fact that she wasn't. Theresa led Rick into the living room, where her mom was reading. She looked up from her book and ordered, “Theresa, stop running around the house!”
Theresa glanced at mom apologetically and gasped, “I can't, mom! Rick is after me! He's trying to kill me! And I mean actually kill me!”
Mom clicked her tongue and repeated, “I said stop running around the house, Theresa!”
“Yes, Theresa. Stop running around the house!” Rick taunted with a laugh. Mom startled.
“Who said that?” she asked.
Theresa sighed as she entered the other room and called to Zander, “Explain to her, Zander! Tell her everything!”
Theresa ran through the kitchen and caught dad trying to figure out how to make dinner.
“Dad! Go to the living room and listen to Zander's explanation. I doubt it will take too long. Bye!” she gasped in one breath. Dad looked startled as he ran to the living room, where Zander was already starting to explain. Theresa ran as slow as possible—to conserve energy—with also staying far enough ahead of Rick so he wouldn't be able to reach her with his spear. Rick seemed to think that he had already won—or, his evil version seemed to—and he was grinning triumphantly. Rick suddenly fell back, and Theresa worried she had sped up accidentally. But when she took a glance back, she saw that Rick wasn't running at all anymore, not even walking. He was just standing. Theresa kept running, confused. She ran through the halls, not caring what way she went. And then, by some terrible twist of fate, she ran right into Rick's chest. She tumbled back and looked up at him fearfully. I'm done for, she thought pitifully as she crawled backward. She had dropped her spear when she crashed, and it was now a few feet away. She glanced at it in despair. If it had just been a little closer, she wouldn't necessarily be doomed. But alas, the chase had come to an end. Rick grinned, and Theresa felt smaller than she ever had before. She hated the Imagination Rules, and the enforcers of those rules. She only knew one Imagination Rule, and it was the one she had disobeyed. She stared at Rick, who waved his spear in Theresa's face and gloated, “Look at you, you pitiful child! Small, weak, pitiful child!”
Theresa whimpered.
“Please,” she whispered. “Please, you've chased me, you've beaten me, please don't kill me.”
Rick sneered at her.
“What are you going to do about it? You're powerless now, with me able to end your life in a single movement,” he gloated.
“I don't know if you even can kill me, really. Outside of imaginations,” Theresa said carefully. Rick kicked her. The impact made her roll over. She felt a sharp pain in her side and her breath was knocked out of her.
“Did that hurt?” he spat. She groaned, and Rick said, “Well then, it seems you have good reason to fear for your life.”
Theresa shivered and closed her eyes tight. This was all the Imaginary Rule Enforcers' fault. If only she could talk to them, give them a piece of her mind...her eyes snapped open in surprise. Of course! Why hadn't she thought of it before? Theresa looked up at Rick, standing there, spear inches away from Theresa's face.
“Any last words?” he asked. Theresa flinched and opened her mouth, wanting to speak. But no sound came out. She was too terrified to speak. She closed her mouth and tried to gather enough saliva in her mouth to say something. She felt darkness pressing in on her senses, and she forced her eyes to stay open. She couldn't faint now! It would just ensure her immediate death.
“Well then,” said Rick, sounding slightly disappointed. He raised the spear above his head, and started to bring it down. Theresa rolled out of the way, and Rick immediately redirected his jab toward her chest. Theresa rolled even farther to avoid the attack, but the spear scraped her arm. She shot to her feet and held the bloody wound, groaning in pain. A kick to her stomach sent Theresa reeling backward.
“Don't you know when to quit?” Rick snarled. “You're just delaying the inevitable. It'll hurt less if you just let me kill you!”
Theresa stabilized herself on the wall and flinched as Rick came at her again. She glanced briefly at her spear, lying all the way across the hall from her. A strong punch sent her sprawling across the ground. She saw a flash, and a new scrape on her shoulder made her grunt in pain as she writhed on the floor. A foot stomped on her hand, and Theresa began to sob quietly, biting her lip to keep from full-on crying. She looked up and saw Rick glaring at her furiously. He lifted the spear, ready to smash it down into Theresa's body. She was unable to escape, with his foot on her hand. A sickening grin was plastered across his face. Theresa trembled visibly. He shook his head, mockingly sad but clearly happy as he clucked his tongue.
“So sad. Little girl will never learn to fight properly,” he sighed. “Death will be a mercy for someone as pathetic as you.”
“I'd learn,” Theresa whispered. “I would. I'm only nine. I'm too young...”
Rick laughed.
“Too young for what? To die? Seems like familiar last words to me.”
Theresa shook her head.
“Too young to know much,” she whispered. “About fighting.”
Rick scowled at her.
“Really?” he asked skeptically. “Someone as imaginative as you? I doubt it. You've had years of experience under your belt. And you've learned practically nothing!”
Theresa opened her mouth to protest, but found she couldn't. Rick was right. What was wrong with her? Why couldn't she fight? Was it because she was in the real world? Rick's scowl deepened, and he began to plunge the spear. Theresa writhed desperately on the ground.
“Wait!” Theresa shouted, closing her eyes tight. She waited for the death blow, but it never came. Instead, Rick's harsh, impatient voice reached her ears, “What? This is your final chance.”
Theresa took a deep, mostly relieved breath and opened her eyes. She saw the spear less than an inch from her face.
“Rick...could I talk to the Enforcers myself? I might be able to dissuade them from making you do this to me. And I don't want to die, especially to the hands of the man I helped just yesterday,” she whispered. Rick stood rigid, as if the idea had not occurred to him before, and he felt it should have. Then he shook the look of and scowled.
“What makes you think talking to them will change their minds?” Rick snapped. “They're ruthless. They won't listen to a child's pleas. If you could persuade them to let you live, do you think they would have ordered death to a child in the first place? They'd probably kill both of us as soon as I led you in there. I'm not sticking my neck out for you.”
Theresa looked at the spear in the man's hands, still pointed directly at her head. She swallowed with difficulty and asked quietly, “You wouldn't risk your life for the girl who made you visible again? The girl who imagined you into existence in the first place? I'm begging you, please at least give me the chance.”
Rick hesitated, then sighed. The spear vanished, and he held out his hand to help her up. Theresa took it tentatively, and cringed in pain as Rick pulled her to her feet. In one of his hands a coiled rope appeared, and she stared at it in confusion.
“You're going to the Enforcers as a prisoner. That way I can at least try my luck pretending to not have understood that I was to kill you, not take you prisoner. If they refuse your offer, it'll be no skin off my nose,” Rick explained.
“And all the skin off mine,” Theresa whispered as Rick tied her wrists together securely and took the end of the rope in his hands.
“Won't they suspect that you knew when they see my wounds?” she asked, looking herself over. Rick glanced back at her, and the spear returned to his hand.
“You got a better idea? Or are you ready to die?”
Theresa's pulse quickened, and she stammered, “I mean...I could put on a sweater to hide the scratches.”
Rick's spear vanished once again, and Theresa let out a relieved breath.
“Then let's do that,” he growled, tugging her toward her room.
She followed him into her room, and she opened a dresser drawer. She took out a gray sweater with the words When Death Calls and a picture of a gun aimed at a bruised and bleeding man. Zander had bought it for her. When Rick saw it, he just rolled his eyes and climbed onto her bed. Theresa followed him. Rick started jumping, making himself look silly, and Theresa asked, “What are you doing, trying to break my bed? That's what mom and dad say jumping on the bed does.”
Rick glared at her and said, “This is how to get into the World of the Imaginary, you do a childish thing like jumping on the bed.”
Theresa shrugged and started jumping on the bed beside him. Just then, mom, dad, and Zander burst into the room, fear wild in their eyes. Zander got onto the bed and asked, “What are you doing, Theresa? Where is Rick, did you lose him?“
Theresa shook her head and explained, “No, he's right here. He agreed to my suggestion that instead of him killing me, he'd take me to the Imaginary Rules Enforcers so I can try to reason with them.”
“Why are you wearing that sweater? I thought I told Zander not to buy that for you?” mom asked, stepping forward to get a better look. Theresa was surprised.
“I didn't know that,” she said defensively. “Zander, you never told me you weren't allowed to buy this sweater!”
Zander shrugged.
“My money,” he said.
“But it's so gruesome!” mom protested.
“So is what it covers,” Theresa admitted. Rick thumped her on the back of her head, and she rubbed it as she turned to look at him.
“Ow!” she said. “What was that for?”
“You don't need to go blabbing about what's under that sweater, Theresa,” Rick growled. “That's the reason you put it on, remember?”
Theresa glared at him. Mom and dad startled at his voice, and even Zander seemed a little bewildered. But Theresa wasn't paying any attention to them right then.
“No, the reason was to trick the imaginary Rule Enforcers, in case they do decide to kill me. Just so they don't know you weren't clueless.”
Rick grunted, and dad asked, “And just why, young lady, are you jumping on your bed?”
Theresa opened her mouth, but she didn't get to answer. She vanished.
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