Quick Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or the world they inhabit. They were created by the fabulous people at Zombie Orpheus for their equally fabulous RPG, Masters of the Metaverse! Be sure to tune in to Twitch.TV/zombieorpheus every Monday at 6PM PST to see more!
Rosie was excited. For the first time in a long time, she hadn’t woken up with a leaden ball sitting in the pit of her stomach. Walking behind Wyatt, she flanked Maddox as they entered the owner’s box to watch Crash take on his first opponent in the Tournament.
She remembered her first rodeo. The sound of the crowd, the smell of the ring, her horse stomping his foot ready to go. It had thrilled her beyond belief. Riding out into the middle of the ring, hearing the applause, knowing that she was about to give them a show unlike anything they had ever seen, Rosie had felt like maybe she had found her place in the universe at last.
If she was honest, she had always been on the outside. Her brothers stuck together, too old to think it okay to play with their little sister, and so she had often gone off on her own. She liked to wander in the fields, listening to the wind and the horses, looking out at the far horizon and dreaming of all the places she would go. Her family had always been rodeo people, always lived in the same square mile of town, never venturing beyond the circumference of their personal globe. But she didn’t want that. She wanted to go and explore, to see what was possible, to find people who felt like she did, people who would understand the workings of her heart because it was the same as their own. The problem was, Rosie loved her family.
“What are you doing?” Maddox hissed.
Rosie flushed and shrugged sheepishly, “I just thought it would be funny.”
“What would be funny?” Maddox looked over Rosie’s shoulder, “You’re tying shoe laces together?!”
Rosie just grinned. She had no better answer to give. She wasn’t stupid, she knew exactly what she was doing. It was Loki, creeping around her mind, whispering and beguiling. She’d been tricked enough in her life to see it clearly. And yet, she didn’t know what else to do. The stupid games, the rash decisions, the flippant disregard for anything or anyone, including herself. It was all for show. It was as in control as she had felt for months. But she didn’t feel any better.
Rosie knew the truth. In acting like a trickster, she was simply becoming the people she had been fighting against her entire life. And she hated herself for it.
Her father had told her over dinner. One night, as her brothers wrestled for the baked potatoes, her father told Rosie that her dreams of leaving were done. “It’s a childish thing, Rosie.” he had said, barely looking up at her, “Time for you to start working the family business.”
Her mother had smiled, “It’ll be nice to have the whole family in the outfit again. You know, I really do say we are blessed to have our children with us. Not many families do. It’s a wonder, it truly is.”
Rosie felt her mother squeeze her hand and forced a smile. She nodded her assent and asked to be excused. There was no point in trying to eat any more. The tears were stuck in her throat, nothing else would pass.
Going into her room, she pushed the door shut and turned on the light. One by one, she took down the photos and posters of far away places and great adventures. With careful precision she tore them, piece by piece, and dropped them into her trash can. Finally she reached under her bed and pulled out a small shoebox. Inside was a white envelope and inside that was a bus ticket to California. Rosie tore it in two.
“The sooner we get the secret solved, the sooner we can get you disconnected from these avatars and prevent whatever terrible things that might happen to you.”
Rosie glared at Zenda, “Sorry, I’ve been disconnected from my avatars once before and you’re sure as hell not doing that again.”
He blinked, “Would you like to continue to exist or would you like Loki to have this?”
“Unsure at this moment.”
Zenda looked as surprised as Rosie felt. Until she had said it out loud, she hadn’t realized how true it was. To be willing to cease existing, to allow another being to consume her body and soul, to give up and become a willing puppet was not something Rosie had ever thought herself capable of. But as soon as the words were out of her mouth, she knew them to be true. She wasn’t sure if she still wanted to be here and that terrified her.
It wasn’t the powers that beguiled her into giving Loki more control, even though teleportation was a freaking blast. It was the utter pointlessness of trying to prevent the inevitable. Her entire life had been composed of moments dictated to her by other people. Go here, go there, be this, be that. Don’t ask questions, just do as you’re told.
“There’s another option we could try out.”
“Let’s hear it.”
Phil, her manager, shifted uncomfortably in his seat, “It’s a little bit compulsory.”
“Compulsory. It means it’s mandatory. It was in the small print of your original contract. I don’t know if you actually read that far but…”
Rosie chuckled, “No! That’s why I hired you. You’re my manager!”
Phil sighed, “Yeah, I was afraid slash hoping you would say that.”
“Afraid slash hoping?”
That had been the last conversation she had had as a normal person. Minutes later, she was loaded into a van and carted off to The Program’s main building. The whole way over she couldn’t get Phil’s words out of her head. Hoping? Hoping she hadn’t read the fine print? Phil, the man she had trusted with her career. The man who she had relied on to keep her moving up had known that she was a rabbit caught in a snare and had never said a word.
She had hated Phil for a long time after that. Mostly because it was easier than focusing on the truth. That someone in her family had to have known too. Someone had to have been aware of what was she was being volunteered for. Worse, someone had to have set it up in the first place. The betrayal of that act was so deep and so painful that she had never spoken of it to anyone, not even Hex. She kept it close and guarded it like a talisman, a powerful ward to protect her from being tricked again.
All she wanted was control. Control over something. It seemed that all she had left was shoe laces and her own soul. Even those were questionable.
Looking into the pool, Rosie beheld herself for the first time in what felt like a lifetime. Standing at the edge, she saw her hair, her costume, her boots, the trappings of her old life encasing her in chains. She wasn’t prepared of her eyes. The hollowness of them, recesses of pain and grief outmatched only by the aching hole where her heart should be. She was well and truly broken. She saw it now, as clearly as they did.
Her brothers had offered to take her out to train for her first rodeo. There was a new horse that Rosie was getting used to and she was grateful for the help. Galloping around the ring, she had felt like she might actually be able to do this, to live this life. It wasn’t California, or any of the other exotic places she had imagined, but it was home. Her family was here and maybe she could learn to love the rodeo as much as they did. It would be her choice this time. She would make it work.
A piercing whistle came from the fence and the horse reared up. Turning, it began cantering toward the gate as Rosie fiercely tried to bring it back under her control. Nothing she did seemed to work and she felt the animal move without any regard for her. At the last moment it stopped, leaving her breathless and flushed as her brothers laughed themselves silly at her expression.
“What? Aw come on! It’s a joke! We trained it to come when you whistle. For part of the act! Don’t be mad Rosie! We did it for you! We just wanted to surprise you is all!”
She had smiled and nodded, assuring them it was all right. Dismounting, she made her way to the bathroom. It wasn’t until the door was locked that she collapsed, sliding down onto the floor as silent sobs racked her body.
Rosie pushed against Loki and felt the god give way. Willing herself into the driver’s seat, she closed her eyes and wished.
Take me back. Take me to Sentinel City. Take me home to her.
A slight flex of power and then…nothing. She heard Loki’s voice, softly pitying, in her ear, “Oh darling. Did you really think I could do that?”
Rosie fell backwards, allowing her soul to plummet to the lower decks. She was a god and it still wasn’t enough. She still couldn’t get back to her. It felt like the greatest trick of them all. Infinite immortal powers and all she could do with them was destroy herself.
“Monday is proud of Rosie.”
The words hadn’t made sense at the time, not really. And coming from Zeus they had made even less. After all Zeus didn’t know who Monday was, Crash did. At the very least Crash knew about the letters signed by Monday. Not that she had shared what hers had said. None of them had. None of them had talked about the mysterious papers, in spite of the hints dropped by Andi and Zenda. Rosie had slipped hers away and pretended it lost.
She didn’t know this Monday. She didn’t even know if the others did. It could all be just another trick. Another ploy used by Rhodes or The Program or The Founders or any other number of countless beings in these ridiculous and magical worlds that wanted things from her. But something about it felt real. Something about it felt honest. And maybe that was the worst part of all.
To tell the truth, Rosie wasn’t even sure who to be angry at any more. Rhodes was the latest target but even she could see that he was likely a man doing a job that other people told him to. He was just the easiest one to blame and she didn’t have the strength to stretch. So she lashed out. The others believed that she was just angry or hurt or lonely. And maybe she was all of those. But more than anything she was empty. She had nothing left to give. Nothing left to hope for or try to be. Everything was gone and she would likely soon follow. She wanted to be better than she was being, wanted to find in herself the decency she expected in others, wanted to return to the spirit she had had when Hex was with her. But all that was left was an empty hole.
She wanted to collapse and be left alone forever. But those words, those strange and hopeful words kept echoing inside her mind.
Monday is proud of Rosie.