Chapter Eighteen
by Apollymi
Disclaimers: Yu-Gi-Oh! is owned by Takahashi Kazuki and all associated copyright holders. Therefore, unfortunately, I own nothing here, except the storyline.
Word Count: 3,032
Archive: DarkMagick(dot)net, FanFiction(dot)net, and Apollymi's Grimoire. Anyone else, ask first.

He had to keep reminding himself that it was far from the first time that Mokuba had disappeared or gone quiet or otherwise made himself unavailable. His little brother had no love for this place and its inhabitants' habit of ignoring him. He didn't always see a need to subject himself to that level of abuse.

It was troubling, though, that he couldn't recall a single time that Mokuba had been gone for so long. If it had ever happened before, he couldn't remember it. Beyond that, there was something else missing, something that was more elusive, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. He would remember it eventually. He was quite intelligent actually. There were few things he couldn't figure out if he applied himself.

Whatever it was that was missing, it had a name. It was a name that was on the tip of his tongue, just elusively out of reach for some reason.

That was what he was thinking about in Kawai Shizuka's office instead of paying attention to what the terminally cheerful doctor was blathering on about now.

Wait a minute...

"Bakura." That was the name he had been trying to remember since last night. He wasn't sure what it meant--if it was a thing or a person or what--but that was what was missing: something called Bakura. That was a step in the right direction, if he had managed to remember that much. The rest would surely follow... right?

"'Bakura'?" Kawai questioned, tilting her head just slightly in her obvious confusion. "Who's that?"

So maybe it was a name. That was another step closer to what he wanted, namely answers.

"They're supposed to be here," he answered after a few moment's debate. He didn't particularly want to share this information with Kawai, but there was a possibility that she could tell him who this Bakura person was and where he would find more information on them. No, not 'them'. "He is supposed to have been here since last night."

A small frown marred Kawai's face, but her voice remained unrelentingly upbeat as she spoke. "I can't say I recognize the name. You know you're supposed to let me know when a new voice starts talking, Kaiba. When did Bakura show up?"

He shook his head heavily side to side in negation. "He has never 'showed up'. He was supposed to be here last night, but he's not here."

"Is Bakura a new voice you've heard? Like the others?"

He had to think about that. He knew what Bakura's voice sounded like, in a weird way that was like the memory of a vivid dream, so that was a possibility. If he pushed himself hard, harder than he would have thought it possible to push himself, he could almost get half a glimpse of a face. He knew he had an impression of light features: white hair, pale skin, blue eyes that were washed out to a shade of almost gray. A word that came to mind was 'whitewashed,' which seemed an odd thing to think about a person, but nonetheless one of the first to come to mind to describe someone. He had never had a single visual hallucination in his life, so...

"No, he's not just a voice," he stated with more certainty than he felt at the moment.

What he didn't know was why he was so certain. All he had to go on was that word, 'whitewashed', and that just didn't seem like a possible word for a person. He had the faintest impression of a voice--and okay, that was somewhat common for him--but he had never imagined a face to going along with any of his voices before. Never once in his life had that ever happened. He rather suspected that he lacked the creativity for something like that.

"He's real," he insisted once more. He just wished he didn't sound like he was trying to convince himself of that fact. He wanted to add on to that, but somehow it didn't feel like the right time to say that Bakura might just have been as real as Mokuba was. Mentioning Mokuba was hit and miss around here on the best of days, and today didn't strike him as the best of days. There was another fact niggling at the back of his mind that he could provide, though. "He was supposed to move into Honda's old room."

"There's no one in Honda's old room, Kaiba." The woman's voice was gentle but over a steel core. It reminded him of someone else, someone that took a little more thinking to place: Amane, Bakura's pseudo-sister, a woman who struck something the back of his mind as someone who could one day be a friend... but right now was someone that he cared about. "We would never move someone into Honda's room so quickly after what happened."

"But you did before." Where was all of this coming from? It was like the words wouldn't stop running out of his mouth, and it was weird, and he was just going to keep going with it. "You put Bakura in there, and you said Bakura has a lot of issues to work on before he could leave, but he and I just walked out the door a day or so later. I remember all of this so clearly... and Gwyllgi and Malik and Mai and..."

Kawai reached over to him, something he could never remember being a frightening gesture from the doctor before today, and wrapped a surprisingly strong but delicate-looking hand around his forearm. "So this is what you fear the most," she said in a voice that was very much not her own, not one that he... No, he recognized it. It had spoken to him once before in his life, when he was still with Gouzaburou. It still sent chills down his spine and made every hair on his body stand on end. "You fear for your own sanity, that the people you know are not real. This is good, little listener. You should fear it. You've disrupted our plans to quietly slaughter the remaining gods, and so we shall have our fun with you instead."

The hand let go...

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

Put like that, and suddenly it was all he wanted to do: beat on someone until the flesh broke and blood poured forth, until what was supposed to be on the insides was on the outside and everyone could see. That had to be the most glorious idea he had heard yet in this place and certain was a lot better than anything anyone in charge had ever proposed.

The problem was that he couldn't decide if he wanted to kill that woman, Mazaki, first or last. Sometimes he thought it would be best to get it over with so he didn't have to hear her anymore, but other times he thought he wanted to make sure she suffered most, so having her go last would be best. He was relatively certain that she was the one who kept making recommendations to up his pills, all the wall talking about things like she knew anything. She didn't know anything...

Wait, stop. Just stop. This wasn't right. This wasn't what was supposed to happen.

No, not that. It wasn't that it wasn't supposed to happen. It was that it had already happened. And it hadn't just already happened once: this had to have been the second time by now for him to be realizing it so easily and so quickly.

Mokuba was supposed to be right next to him at this very moment. Bakura was supposed to be showing up tonight.

What the hell was happening up there in the real world? What was he missing?

He remembered a voice, one that sounded like a thousand nails going down a thousand chalkboards, echoing through his head on top of itself. Right now, he would take Malik threatening to poke his brains out with an icepick again over this. If he had to live through this loop one more time, he might just lose his mind... except that he was fairly certain that that was the intended result. He didn't want to give them what they wanted, not if he could help it.

Well, this was more than he remembered before. He had barely managed to remember Bakura before. Now he had faint memories of Malik and a lot of the others, at least the ones that were connected to Bakura and that he gave half a damn about. He remembered why Mokuba wasn't here now, since his little brother was in Annwn, safely tucked away from the daevas.

The daevas... Now that was a valid option for what was happening here, why he was separated from everyone else, why everything had suddenly gotten beyond the pale for weirdness.

He just somehow had to find a way to get back, and... and... Well, now, there was a bitch. He couldn't remember what had been happening when he got stuck here. It had to have been something important for the daevas to trap him in his worst memories, forcing him to face his worst fear over and over: that he was more insane than he had ever realized.

What he did remember from before was that he had been feeling frustrated. Something had not been working out in ways that pleased him.

The daeva that had spoke into his head had said something about a plan to quietly kill the few gods left in the world and how Kaiba had done... something to interrupt that plan. He hadn't disrupted it, but he had made it more difficult, so they were torturing him for it.

It didn't seem much like torture. He had dealt with more pain at the hands of his uncle than he was experiencing here. That was odd to think: that a middle aged human had known more about pain than demonic beings that were systematically trying to wipe out the world. Not that he was going to say any of that out loud, of course.

But then, the gods could hear what he had been thinking. Could the daevas do the same? Because in that case, even his thoughts weren't private. He would have no sacrosanct area just to himself.

And maybe that was the torture, just as much as not ever seeing Mokuba or Bakura or anyone who was a real person... or god... or what have you.

This couldn't go on forever, right? There had to be a way out of here. He just had to find it. And he would too.


But he was ready to be out here now. He winced his eyes closed tightly...

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

Put like that, and suddenly it was all he wanted to do: beat on someone until the flesh broke and blood poured forth, until what was supposed to be on the insides was on the outside and everyone could see. That had to be the most glorious idea he had heard yet in this place and certain was a lot better than anything anyone in charge had ever proposed.

The problem was that he couldn't decide if he wanted to kill that woman, Mazaki, first or last. Sometimes he thought it would be best to get it over with...

No, shit. This wasn't real! This wasn't the real world. This wasn't what was real.

This had happened too many times already. Someone had set the world on a broken record that was starting to skip. This was one ride he wanted to get off of right the fuck now. It was like the most demented tilt-a-whirl on the planet.

Bakura, if you can hear me, get me out of here.

He wasn't above begging. If he thought it would make any difference, he would call out to every god he had met in the last week and hope that one of them would be able to do something for him. He knew realistically, though, that only Bakura was likely to listen to him.

Whether or not Bakura could hear him was another matter altogether. But there was no way Bakura would hear him if he didn't try calling out for him, so he just had to keep trying. If he kept trying, maybe, maybe, Bakura would be able to hear him.

Bakura, please...

He closed his eyes.

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

Put like that, and suddenly it was all he wanted to do: beat on someone until the flesh broke and blood poured forth...

He took back everything he had thought about this not being torture. Gouzaburou would have been proud of the horribleness of it. It was one of the worst things that could have been designed.

The entire world was a tilt-a-whirl gone out of control. He wanted off. He needed to get off it.

Bakura, please! Get me out of here! Amane... Malik... Mai... Bakura... Someone, anyone, please!

He was starting to lose track of how many times this had happened. Five? Six? Ten? Dozens? More than that?

There had been a goddess in one of Bakura's books, a goddess of the mad and the insane. Lyssa, he thought was what she had been called. He hadn't met her at a war council. Maybe she was dead. Maybe she never existed. It was tempting to beg her to release him from this.

He wasn't wasting his breath and remaining sanity on a deity who may or may not exist. No, there was no point in that. He had gods he knew were real. If they survived the assault of the daevas, they would help him. If they didn't...

There was no good in thinking of what could happen if they failed. Nothing good would come of that. They would win. They would win, or they would let the world be destroyed. Either way, he would be out of here sooner or later. He just had to hold on to his mind until then.

Otherwise, he would end up praying to join Bakura's unnumbered dead.

Please, Bakura! Please!

Against his will, he had to eventually blink his eyes closed.

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

Put like that, and...

And damn it.

How many times was this? A bare minimum number had to be six. Six repetitions, six loops, through these same few moments. It was brilliant torture.

No, it was probably best not to think too much about it. He would get out of this. Somehow he would escape this.

Bakura, please!

This time, when he closed his eyes, it was to try to block everything else out.

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

Oh gods, not again. Not again. He couldn't take this again. There had to be something someone could do to get him out of here.

And if Mazaki wasn't bad enough--and she was plenty bad enough--there was the laughter in the back of his mind. It was grating. It reminded him of fingernails grating their way down a chalkboard. It was definitely laughing at him. There was no doubt about it.

It was laughing at him, and there was nothing he could do about it. There was no one helping him. There was no one listening to him. If no one had come by now, no one was going to show up. There wasn't anyone out there to help him.

He just had to... had to... something. He was supposed to be be doing... something. He was supposed to be concentrating on... something.

He hoped it wasn't staying sane. Right now, that felt like a losing battle.

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

Fuck... Again? Again? How many times was he going to have to do this before he lost his mind? Or had he already lost his mind? He couldn't be sure. He couldn't remember. He had to get out of here. Was there any place besides here? Had there been anything besides this?

No, wait, he remembered the answer to this. Mokuba. Bakura. He wasn't sure he remembered what or who those names meant any longer.

He remembered the names, though. The names meant something. He had to hold on to that.

Mokuba. Bakura.

His name was... was... What was it again?

Kaiba Seto.

Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto.

Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto.

If he could hold onto those three things, he would at least have that bit of his sanity. He couldn't vouch for the rest of it. Other names, other places, other things... He wasn't sure that they existed. He wasn't sure that anything else was real. But those three things were. He could hold onto them.

Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto.

Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto.

If he repeated them enough, he would be able to remember them. He wouldn't forget them. Even if everything else was gone, he would remember them.

Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto.

Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto.

At least that voice was gone. It had been like a thousand nails on a thousand chalkboards all at once. It had echoed through his head over and over like a gong. It made it feel like the inside of his head was bleeding. It had been so long since he had heard that voice.

It had been so long since he had heard any voice besides the woman's, the nurse's.

"Mokuba. Bakura. Kaiba Seto."

Even his own voice sounded weird at this point.

He had to get out of here. He had to get out of here. He had to get out of here...

"Now remember, everyone! Hugs, not slugs!"

No, no, no, no, no, no... This couldn't keep happening.

No, he had to remember... something. Names. He had to remember names. Mokuba. Bakura. Mokuba. Bakura. Mokuba. Bakura.

He didn't know what those names meant. He didn't know who they belonged to. He didn't know if they belonged to real people or people he made up. He might have made them up. Something--anything!--to keep a portion of his mind intact.

Mokuba. Bakura. Mokuba. Bakura...


13 April 2014

I feel like I need to apologize for this chapter. Sometimes I feel like breaking my toys. I actually intended to do about six more "hugs, not slugs" sections, since that's what I call it in Scrivener, but... well... Let's just say that Kaiba's not the only one being driven mad by this.

Only one chapter left to go.


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