What is going on?
You can hear me? You can hear me!
Yeah, Cory, nice and loud.
Ribbon, thank goodness. We’re in a red desert and I have no idea what’s going on.
Red? The last desert was brown. Regardless, could you stop shouting?
I’m not trying to shout. It’s just that red deserts aren’t conducive to remaining calm.
I don’t know what we should do. I’m really hungry, and the temperature…it seems like we should be hot, in that way that saps us of energy, but I don’t feel anything. Cold or hot.
So, Cory, that just made zero sense.
I know! This doesn’t make sense!
How did you get here?
I’m not really sure. I was…trapped somewhere. In a small, metal box. I tried reaching you or Ani or Ripple, but I couldn’t hear anyone. Then someone else took over, and I came back and we were here.
Shall I check and see who was fronting last?
Good luck. I’m pretty sure it was someone new.
…I’m sorry, did you just say “someone new?”
Yeah. Oh, wait, I’m pretty sure we got teleported to the small metal box.
Someone new. As in, a new alter.
Yes. That’s not that surprising, is it?
That’s a sign we’re getting worse.
Again, is that surprising?
Actually, no. But new alters are always kinda a big deal. Like new roommates. For our head. Permanently. What happened to our arms?
I don’t know.
Oh. So we were in a fight and I didn’t know about it.
I don’t think there was a fight.
We were trapped in a box. I don’t think there was a fight.
Where did the scabs come from if you were trapped and there was no fight?
I told you, I don’t know. Could we maybe focus on the desert?
Yeah, of course. I was just trying to figure out how we ended up here looking like that. Okay. Hum. Any way to tell direction?
The sun is…at noon?
Any notable landmarks?
We could pretend the larger rocks are landmarks.
Well, you’re not floating.
What’s that got to do with anything?
And we don’t have any water or food?
No. Definitely not.
Well, Cory. Hate to say it, but I think we’re screwed.
Cut the stems, shear the leaves, set the flowers in a glass vase full of snow. Inspect the blossoms, free the crinkled brown ones, snip the wilted greens. Arrange them, threes of three, wild but neat, evenly spaced but drawing in attention. Make them beautiful.
Beautiful. Make the attention, cut. Draw the space evenly, neat but wild, three of threes. Arrange wilted greens in a full vase of glass snow, shear the blossoms until anything hideous dies. Make them beautiful.
Six steps to insanity: A, all alone, throw a party in your creaky wood room, step from the bed and touch dark, cold glass to your fingers, watch the pale, eyeless monster study you with red teeth. C, call yourself Cory, the regular guy, advisor of the system. Z, you and your system are crazy, who lives like that, zoo of animals bouncing around a brain? G, we are not crazy, we are beautiful, all spines and eyeless monsters and regular guys and little girls who love flowers. A garden overgrown. M, mad, bad, wander a red desert with the evidence of pain etched in your skin. Pain you don’t remember. Skin you have no memory of wearing like normal. V, regular people don’t live inside alphabets. Regular people simply live. Call yourself Cory, still claiming to be the regular guy.
Step two: trim back the overgrown, jungle garden until they are beautiful. Naked stems, crisp petals, shooting from the soil.
Step three: contain the garden in a vase of glass.
Step four: rip out the roots.
Step five: tell the garden they are loved. So beautiful. Lovely pink petals. Pretty leaves. Vibrant greens.
Step six: wait for the snow melt. Wait while the green and pink drown inside the glass.
Step six: tell them they were beautiful, once.
Step six: ravage the rotting weeds.
Step six: start over.