Some of you might be wondering whatever happened with Circe’s dress after we left it with the witch a few adventures ago. Well, wonder no longer, because here’s what happened when we went to get it back!
I materialized in the gallery of worlds, in front of the opening to the Witch’s dungeon. I stared a bit at the door which was still the same strange morphing meld of metal and flesh and shrugged my head. A movement in my peripheral vision alerted me to the fact that Circe had arrived there as well now.
I looked up at her and gave her a wry smile and a wink as I said, “Now, behave alright? Nobody needs to get punched here OK?”
Circe just shook her head and shrugged as I opened the door. As before, the sharp and pungent smell/odor of chemicals and rotting flesh and electronics wafted out at us, I coughed for a bit, “Oh that’s so rank…” I said as I hesitated to enter the doorway.
“Stop being such a baby,” Circe said as she pushed me aside and entered the lab. I sheepishly followed her as we entered it proper, as before the place was a ghoulish place filled with items that seemed to embody the mantra of “organized chaos” to a T.
I closed the door behind us, making sure that the entrance to the gallery wasn’t left open. After all, the less information this old crone had at her disposal, the better for everyone involved.
Circe turned to me and sighed, clearly annoyed with the fact that we hadn’t been greeted yet, “So, now what?” she asked me.
Looking around the room, I saw several human-sized containers filled with various liquids, one of them had the dress prominently visible. I pointed to it and replied, “Well, I say we start there.” as we both walked over to it.
We stared at it for a good while, the dress was somehow retaining a vaguely humanoid form as it floated in the middle of the tank. The black glossy material seemed menacing as it was lit by sharp light coming from below.
I frowned at it and looked at Circe with a quizzical look, “Do you get an odd feeling about this too?”
She scoffed and smiled at me, “You mean like.. is this thing going to jump out at us?
I nodded, “Kinda yeah. I think we’ve been playing too many games where that happens.”
“If she’s messed with my dress, I’m going to kill her,” Circe said with a grim tone of voice.
I steeled myself as I felt a tentacle slither onto my shoulder from behind, it gently grabbed hold of it and I could feel how cold and clammy it was.
“Cleaned it was, very very cleaned.” came Seina’s voice from behind me with an oddly melodic tint to it.
I looked over my shoulder and this time, her body was apparently just a silver mask, polished to a mirrored sheen, it was supported by tentacles that had the same aesthetic going for them.
I raised my eyebrow in mock surprise as I replied to her, “New body?”
Her body undulated a bit in before the answer came out, “Oldest body.. belonged to a noble it did. His mind died eons ago. I kept the body as per our bargain.” and again, a strange melodic and somehow metallic giggle emanated from the mask.
I shrugged, trying to maintain my composure, “It’s pretty, but .. what happened with the rest of the body?”
Some of the tentacles motioned close to her face, mockingly caressing it, “This IS his body… beautiful… slimmed… exacting.” a gurgle afterward made me wonder if that’d been a giggle or something else.
I reached over and poked the mask with my nail, it made a slight metallic sound, “Cute, but .. we’re here for the dress.”
The mask immediately turned away from me as she drifted past me and Circe. Here we could see that all the tentacles seemed to originate from somewhere behind the mask, but due to all of them being thick, it was hard to tell if there’s was central mass underneath them. Seina faced the container and her tentacles grasped it as she put her “head” as close as possible to it.
“Ah.. the dress. Yes,” she said with a breathy voice, obviously excited about the bare mention of it. She paused for a bit before she continued, “Such a curious dress. Would you be…” Her mask cocked slightly to the side, “interested in… trading for it?”
In a blink, Circe had both her swords at the ready as she calmly replied, “I’m going to say this only once, give me my dress back or I start finding out how many of your bodies I can kill before you realize how serious I am.”
The mask turned around to face us again as a cackle came from it, “Such impatience and no mind for business! Well, it will be as you wish then…”
And with this, the water began to drain rapidly from the container, soon enough the dress was resting in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the tank. A humming sound and the glass fogged up completely and after about ten seconds later, the fog cleared and the dress had been mounted on a stand. Stairs came up from the floor leading up to the tank as the glass casing receded into the ceiling above.
Seina took a step to the side and mockingly bowed with exaggerated movements as she said, “Your dress… ahem… madame…” and she cackled out another creepy laugh.
Circe sheathed her swords and moved up to the dress and touched it with trepidation, she turned back to me and said with astonishment in her voice, “Wow… it’s completely dry!” and here she gave Seina a suspicious look before she added, “If this is a replica, we’ll know and then we’ll come back for you.”
Yet again, Seina’s mask moved around in a strange manner, the body language was impossible to read. Eventually, she replied, “No, your dress, as gifted, as deserved. No… tricks.” as her voice made the end of the last word into a sharp-on-off sound.
Circe bundled up the dress and looked back at Seina with even more suspicion in her voice “This feels heavier.”
Seina floated closer, the mask enthusiastically nodding in her direction as her voice replied with a feverish, excited tone, “Yes yes… a curious thing that blood. Curious mysterious, beautiful.” she paused before she added “Unique blood, probably… seeped… infused… joined with it.” A long exhalation came from the mask before she moved even closer to Circe, “Might I ask… where did you get it?”
Circe ignored her as she brushed past her, walking down the stairs that receded back into the floor behind her, the glass casing was also coming down again from the ceiling. In the back, Seina floated excitedly behind her. Eventually, she was close to me as she turned around to face her again, flatly replying, “I bought it at a trader that printed it for me.”
Seina hissed in an irritated way and her voice turned to venom as she spat out, “The blood! Where did you get the blood?!” as her mask vibrated in anger.
Circe smirked back at her and cooly replied, “Wouldn’t you like to know huh?”
Sensing that we’d outstayed our welcome, I held up my left hand to silence them both as I added, “I think it’s time for us to leave, we have other business to attend to after all.”
“Master calls eh? .. Yes, be a good boy and follow your orders,” Seina replied with venom still in her voice as she abruptly turned around and floated/walked/climbed the other way deeper into her lab. Her crazed cackling laugh echoed all around us until she vanished behind a corner.
I exhaled loudly and touched my shoulder which was dry, I looked at my fingers and murmured, “Creepy bitch.” to myself.
“Eh, I think she’s greedy, makes her easy to predict.” Circe said with a smile, then she indicated the door with her other hand and added, “Let’s go, the sooner we can get this all behind us, the better.”
Then we both moved out into the gallery of worlds, as before, I made extra sure that the door was properly closed behind us. As we moved towards the doorway for castle Odylfius, I looked at the dress and asked her, “So.. the dress is heavier huh?”
“Yeah, feel it, it’s definitely heavier than before. Not by much, but.. you know, I can tell.” She offered me the dress.
I waved dismissively at her “I have no idea how heavy your dress is… but I do know who does!”
Circe scoffed, “Jones?”
“Come on, let’s head to our own lab,” I said with a smile as we entered the infinite stairwell in the plane of air. As we were heading down the curious construct, I asked her, “Have you noticed that this is the only world which actually has the stairwell present now?”
From behind me, Circe replied, “No, but now that you mention it yeah.. this is the only one that does it, all the other doors lead directly into the worlds now. I wonder why that’s changed, not that I’m complaining about it mind you.”
I sighed wistfully “Probably because I don’t really need it anymore. It’s been years since I needed to even sit down and close my eyes to focus like that before entering a world.”
We walked down the stairs in silence for a while, outside, the infinite sky was pitch black. Rain was falling and lightning streaked across the sky, occasionally sharply illuminating the stairwell on the inside, making the torches on the inside seem meek by comparison.
“You know, I remember in the beginning, sometimes you’d lose focus and your body would just get oddly translucent, then you’d regain it again and solidify as before,” Circe said with an equally wistful voice.
“Yeah, I never really thought about how things must be for you when I use imposition in your worlds.”
Circe leaned forward towards me as she cooed, “Well, at least you’re not doing it like in the old days when you’d vanish suddenly and we’d have to explain what happened.”
I turned my head back towards her, “I do hope that my body stays behind nowadays when I fall asleep at least.”
Circe shrugged, “Depends on where we are. If we’re in the castle, you still vanish like in the old days. If we’re somewhere else, your body usually excuses itself and leaves. It’s kinda obvious to us that know you that it’s not really you though. Elvis has left the building so to speak.”
I nodded to myself, “Yeah, that’s the autopilot body.”
“Good thing too, been a lot of times when that’s been useful.”
And here we both fell silent as the doorway to the castle suddenly showed up in front of us. As always, the tower had decided that it’d been long enough. I opened the doorways and stepped through while Circe followed closely behind me. As we stepped onto the castle roof, the wind that blasted against our faces was icy cold and full of snow.
I wrapped my coat around me tighter “Brrr… good thing I brought my coat with me.”
“Let’s get inside!” Circe exclaimed as she rushed forward and put down the dress as she pulled up the hatch leading down into the castle. She looked up at me while she dropped the dress inside, “do you mind fixing this shit? We all hate this stupid hatch and ladder you know?” and then she scrambled down the latter as best as she could.
I started down the open hatch at her and replied, “Fine, but later, I’ll go over it in Minecraft and see if I can’t arrange some sort of extension. It won’t be pretty though.”
“Fuck pretty.” Circed barked out at me as she got off the ladder and picked up her dress.
I climbed down as well and closed the hatch above me, cutting us off from the storm outside. In the dry and warm area below, I opened the door leading out from the stairwell and found myself staring into a long darkened hallway where the faint light coming from the door made the shadows seem like they were coming alive in front of me. Ah right, this was the attic, the infirmary was one level below us. I closed the door and muttered to myself something about it being creepy.
Circe’s voice drifted up from below the stairwell “Fairy, stop wasting time, let’s have this analyzed already!”
“Yeah yeah, took a wrong left turn there. I’m coming.. ” I replied as I headed down a floor in the stairwell and found her standing inside of the corridor leading to the infirmary and the lab, we veered off towards the left at the lab and Circe pushed up the double doors with her butt, still holding the dress in her hands.
As we both walked through the lab, on my left I could see the three big glass tubes that contained the odd and colored liquids. On the furthest part of the room, there were some old cages strewn about. Why? Who knows? They were there along with the strange tubes when I found the place once upon a time. I stopped in the rightmost corner and nodded to myself.
“Time for some magic.. table-io.. or something!” I said as I waved my hands mockingly and in a puff of purple/white smoke, a big metallic table appeared. The surface had a dull, grey sheen to it. I knocked on it and the dull sound confirmed that it was solid metal. I chuckled to myself and added, “I think I just created a table out of tungsten…” I tried to move it, but of course, it wasn’t budging a fraction of a millimeter.
Circe put her dress on the table and took a step back from it, giving me a furtive look.
I approached the table and asked her, “It does look like your dress, are you sure you’re not just imagining it?”
She scowled at me “Pretty fucking sure, even the texture of the fabric feels off.”
I grunted in dissatisfaction as I waved my hand around, out of the ceiling, some piping grew and stretched down, forming a rig where more tools appeared on hooks, meanwhile the center of the rig became transparent, then slightly yellowed as it turned into a giant light that sharply illuminated the dress below. Above me, past the tools, a button labeled “cycle” extrudes itself from the rig.
As always, I glanced at the ceiling as I intoned “Sarah, can you analyze this dress and compare it to the last iteration that you on file before it got stained by blood?”
Sarah’s voice echoed around us in its usual ethereal manner, “Certainly, initiating scan.” as an array of beams carefully traced the details of the dress for a bit only to flood the entire dress with light at the end. We both stood silent, waiting for the details. Eventually, she spoke again “The current iteration of this dress is about 5% heavier than the preceding one.”
Circe gestured in the air excitedly and grabbed onto me, “SEE? I told you! SHE DID SOMETHING TO IT!”
I broke myself free from her grasp and looked at the dress again, “Sarah, if you check your records of the weight added to the dress by the blood, can you account for all the extra weight?”
A silent moment before her voice rang out again in the chamber, “No, there is no correlation there.”
“If you compare the blood being removed to the blood being added, is there a match in volume?”
“Negative/No, the two volumes are not the same. However, if combined, they match up with the original volume of blood added.”
I nodded to myself, “I suspected Circe, she couldn’t get all of the blood out of the dress after all and I think she knew that.” I touched the dress and run my finger over it, “Feels the same, but… if she wanted it, it must have been for a good reason.” I paused for a bit before continuing, “Maybe this is a setup later for us going into Dracula’s castle.”
Circe gave me an alarmed look, we’d talked about getting her second sword, but it was agreed that it would reside somewhere in a world we had where Dracula existed. She exhaled briefly and replied, “I don’t know if I wanna wear this dress though, I know how fucked up the inner world shit gets when the world decides to mess around.”
I gave her a warm smile, “I think you’ll be alright. After all, what’s the worst thing that can happen here? You put it on and you die a horrible death. And then you respawn. Hardly worse than anything you’ve experienced in War World right?”
Her mouth became a dismissive line as she studied the dress, “I don’t know about you, but having a creepy blood-soaked dress that a witch like her wants isn’t really instilling a sense of calm in me you know?” then she looked back up at me and added, “Can you give me a containment locker for this for my room?”
Meanwhile, Niky’s tulpa Andrei, having watched from the sideline, quipped “Pah. I could get the rest of the blood out.”
I smiled to myself “Now there’s an idea” as I turned back towards the table and the dress, “Sarah, can you extract the remaining blood from this dress?”
“A moment,” she said as the lights came back and she examined the dress. After a while, the lights ceased and she delivered her report in a dry neutral tone, “Negative/No. There is no remaining blood in the dress that I can detect.”
“So how do you account for the increased mass then? There simply just can’t be nothing that’s making it heavier, right?” I said, wondering where this was leading up to.
“The dress has an increase in fabric density in certain places.”
“You mean… the blood just became… more dress?” I said as I poked at it, wondering if it would come alive and try to eat me.
Circe sighed, “Great, this is gonna turn out to be some kind of creepy Cronenberg movie crap, I just know it.”
“I’ll examine your room and see if we can’t fit you a nice glass case where you can store the dress. Oh wait, you have a big closet, how about I just turn the right portion of it into a containment area?” I said as I smiled at her wryly.
“Sure, that works, then I won’t have to stare at the creepy thing when I go to bed.” She replied.
“So it is and shall forever be.” I intoned dramatically as I waved my hand.
“Good, then if we’re not going to go after Desenda right away, I’m gonna head down and stuff this in there,” Circe said as she folded up the dress and headed out the lab towards her bedroom.
I stayed behind, eyeing the table, “I could use an off button…” I muttered to myself as another button labeled on/off emerged next to the one labeled “cycle”. I grinned “Oh nice, a mind-reading workbench, how useful!” I pushed the button which turned off the bright light illuminating the metal table. I patted the table and said, “Good table.” and then promptly despawned from the room.
And that as they say, was that. It’ll be interesting to see if this dress has any interesting properties that’ll manifest later when we go into the world of Dracula. After all, Circe does want her second sword!
If any of you have any questions or comments, feel free to chime in!
Thanks! And yes, me and my tulpas discovered long ago that creating a framework with rules like these was essential…
This was quite the strange tale. I definitely find it fascinating how your inner world is hard-coded with limiters and…