The Real Adventures in Capitalism
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“The Real Adventures in Capitalism” is a memetic condition consisting of spontaneously-occurring false memories of an animated television show of the same name. These memories are fragmentary, but portray a consistent picture of the show, even in subjects who have had no contact with other affected individuals. This allows for accurate reconstruction of the contents.

According to provided accounts, “The Real Adventures in Capitalism” consists of two 13 episode seasons, first airing in late 2013 and ending in the spring of 2018. Reports of severe delays and hiatuses are common. The art style and character design can vary significantly between episodes. The credits for each episode list only the voice cast, with all characters listed as being portrayed by themselves.

The primary parties, entities, factions, events, or persons referenced in “The Real Adventures in Capitalism” are believed to be fictional.

Episode 101: The Boss Lady

Everyone remembers the opening scene: Isabel slouched in her office chair, Emma standing proper and awkward, an army of corgis (all named Jeremy) delivering tubs of ice cream. Meandering discussion of the dire financial situation facing the Wonderful Workshops Toy Company, the Executive Board’s corporate mismanagement, competitors, Isabel’s loss of creative spark, and clever wordplay. The reveal that Emma is not nearly as humorless as first impressions would imply, and in her own way nudges Isabel out of her moping episode.

All’s well that begins well.

Episode 102: Ticker Tape Tango

Rubberhose animation, all black and white. A big band musical number, the tune and words escaping the mind and leaving the weathered impression of bombast. First appearance of the Executive Board with their ticker tape mouths and hissing voices and joyless enforcers of corporate propriety. Chases and pranks and pratfalls, slapstick and silliness. The memory is weaker here.

Episode 103: Isabel Becomes President

Emma is the vice president, no surprise twist there. Jeremy is appointed to be secretary of state. Chaos descends upon Washington as Congress desperately tries to restrain Isabel’s manic decrees and fun-oriented domestic policy. They fail, and watch on in misery and horror. The nation’s nuclear arsenal is replaced with jellybeans, cats and dogs live together in harmony, debt is turned into donuts, and political parties that do not involve dancing are banned. World War 3 seems inevitable after publicly informing Vladimir Putin that he “needs to go take a poop and come back when he’s less grumpy.”

The state of affairs only lasts for a few hours, as it is revealed that Isabel’s election was the result of a catastrophic mistake in vote-counting. She has already grown bored of politics by this time, and resigns gracefully.

Credits roll overtop images of nondescript men in sunglasses and black suits speaking to government officials and members of the press seen earlier in the episode.

At no point in the series is Isabel’s exact age or nationality stated. It isn’t known if the election was legitimate in the first place.

Episode 104: Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo Buffalo

“I know it’s a grammatically correct sentence!” Isabel exclaims, waving her detached arm around. “You didn’t need to point it out!”

Episode 105: The Beach Episode

Emma is sitting on a beach chair beneath an umbrella, reading a book. In the background, Isabel is playing with Jeremy, building a sandcastle, and jumping about in the surf. After five to six minutes, Isabel stops moving and shouts “Emma!” while pointing to a large white-grey form emerging from the water and making low, whale-like noises. A wave of pink foam washes onto the sand. Emma places a bookmark in her book, and rises from her chair.

Episode 106: Cryogenic Chaos

Frosty blue tubes of cracked and shattered glass. Dinosaurs wandering the halls, eating office plants and terrorizing the workers. Bigfeet wearing suits of squid and flatworm and flower. Red-robed cultists, faces too blunt and broad for cro magnon man and flesh carved up in squirming scars and scabs. Isabel dressed up in a tacky safari getup with a net. Emma provides handy dinosaur facts in crayon-colored interludes. Jeremy survives getting eaten. While the most dangerous escapees are recaptured, several re-appear later in the season for background gags.

The dinosaurs featured are feathered, where appropriate.

Episode 107: Heist of the Century

Isabel in bunny slippers and a planet-pattered evening gown, illuminated by a refrigerator light, staring at ransacked cabinets and a spray-painted decal on the wall: A black rabbit with a hammer.

Episode 108: Jeremy, Jeremy and Jeremy

In order to save Isabel from a board meeting, three Jeremies band together to stage a rescue attempt. Being cute dogs in possession of minimal brainpower and no thumbs, they spend the rest of the episode doing things more appropriate to their station in life. Cuts to an exasperated Isabel, mere moments from rescue but for the Jeremies’ lackluster efforts, are interspersed throughout.

Episode 109: Therein We Find the Shark

Two rows of men and women in spotless labcoats wail on sharks trussed up by their tails. Isabel and Emma are led down the center causeway by a man twelve feet tall if he was an inch, his knuckles raw and bloody. The nametag at his breast pocket reads “M. K. Harker”.

“You see, the real shark was inside us the entire time,” he says, pointing to his chest. Isabel nods in agreement.

Above their heads, the mangled corpse of a dream-whale shark hangs as a trophy.

Episode 110: The Green Hart

Three men at the corner table:

Edwin, dark and dour, whose heart held only the clink of coins.

Theodore, young and bright-burning, the venture-scholar-soldier.

Reginald, who kept his head in the clouds and his hands at the workbench.

The first would stay in London, sink deep into the inky shadows of its back-alleys until he was inseparable from that unimpeachable gloom.

The second would set out around the world, butler in tow, and delve into all the secret places hidden from the sight of the natural sciences.

The third took his toys to the World’s Fair, Chicago. It could have gone better, but it came to be that he received a job offer from the Anderson Factory. They were looking for a new draftsman to design their toys.

Episode 111: The Terrible Tale of Mr Redd

He is pale like curdled cream, save his hair. That is red. His hands are likewise red. He prefers the straight razor, but will use whatever is on hand. A screwdriver. A protractor. A newton’s cradle.

The security cameras see it all: he moves, the lens does not. He jumps from screen to screen and the camera never shifts to focus on all the red, or the Misters and Misses lying still in the halls. He cannot take out his fester-anger out on his father, his father is long dead.

He never stops talking. Narrating a cavalcade of all the faults wrought against him by his dear departed father. His companion nods serenely, but does not interrupt. Mr. Redd does not appreciate interruptions.

He kills the Misters, he kills the Misses, he kills the workers and the guards and tears the wiring out of the drones and he won’t stop talking.

He kicks down the door of the boardroom with a boot stained with blood and shit. He kills the dusty gray beancounters, and stomps their sagging gray heads into red paste on the white tile floor.

Mr. Redd’s companion smiles. He has too many teeth for his mouth. They fall out and plink on the floor, crowded in a jaw twisted by the strain.

In the doorway, Isabel. She is wearing a striped sweater. She tries to say something, it sticks in her throat. She is crying.

Redd lunges. Emma is in-between them. Too fast. She shouldn’t be that fast. Deflection, redirection, palm to the chest. Redd slides back but does not fall.

Emma says nothing, nor needs to. Isabel runs, scrambling over herself.

The fight is a thing of beauty and muscle-clenched terror. There was budget that went into this. Redd is everywhere, swinging around like a maniac. Emma is rooted, defensive, solid. Redd rambles. Emma doesn't.

“Who are you?” he asks, blood dribbling down his chin, shiv buried in her shoulder

“Nobody important.”

She breaks his arm, shatters his jaw. Redd falls, Emma runs. The ground shakes, and Mr. Hungry, for that is his name, places a hand upon Redd’s shoulder.

“Thank you, my boy. Your services are no longer required.”

Red looks up, and sees that Mr. Hungry is made of teeth.

Episode 112: The Big Crunch

White text upon black: “In the outer darkness, there is weeping and the gnashing of teeth.”

Sound only: The grinding of molars, the tear of meat, the slither of a tongue on blood-slicked gums. Swallow.

Faint whisper: “It is very hungry."

No credits.

Episode 113: The Factory

And from the crumbling Workshops, that cocoon of childish joy, rises the bleak and terrible countenance of a dark and horrible Factory.

Episode 201: Road Trip

A bright purple convertible, all spoilers and chrome, speeds down the deserted highWay beneath the burning light of alien suns. Emma is driving. She’s got her hair pulled back beneath a red bandanna, sunglasses, a band t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, jeans. She’s never, ever worn jeans before, not in this show. Things have changed. They’re on the run now.

Isabel sits in the passenger seat, Jeremy curled up in her lap, a thousand-yard stare down at her dirtied sneakers. She looks like she’s been punched in the stomach, had the life stolen out of her breath. She says nothing.

Emma cycles through radio stations. Solar flare rap. Shattered Deus’ new bronzecore single. The Sarkic Tabernacle Choir. The smooth hip-hop of Old Crab. Goat-drinker loneliness-songs. Yeren throat-chanting. Eventually, she just turns it off.

“It’s not going to stop hurting,” Emma says. “Closure is a load of horseshit.”

The bone-dry desert, orange and pink, flashes by.

“I’m sorry, Isabel.”

Episode 202: Pit Stop on the Borderland

The swine-things at the window are detailed, rotoscoped, hideous in comparison to the friendly pastels of the rest of the diner’s patrons. They snort and squeal and scream in the night, clawing at windowpanes, gnawing at the doorframes. Emma leads the building of barricades. Isabel hides under the counter. She has barely said anything this episode or the last. The barricades hold for the moment, but they will splinter before dawn comes. Emma looks exhausted, for the first time that can be remembered.

Something is going on inside Isabel’s head, no viewer privy to it. But she acts without prompting, and concocts a plan far more sober-headed than most. Battle plans are drawn on the counter in ketchup and mustard. Salt shakers are marched through their paces in preparation. A counter-attack is designed, striking the swine-things where confusion might drive them to retreat along with the coming sun.

She’s never been like this before. There’s no going back after it.

Episode 203: Red Planet Blues

There is a funeral on Mars. No one was invited, but two guests show up anyway. Emma carries an umbrella, though the blue-white sun is weak in the Martian morning. Isabel cleans the sand off the solar panels and wakes Opportunity up for one last time, to send the girl off.

Episode 204: Maximizing Prophet

A fellow in a red turban and black bathrobe mans a stand of bootleg toys. His name is S.D., and he scratches his scraggly beard as Isabel inspects his merchandise. He admits to no wrongdoing. His words coat the ear in snake oil. You hate him and love to hate him. Smarmy, silver-tongued, razor-eyed bastard.

The pair keep running into him, all over that cosmic crossroad marketplace. Each time he’s selling something new. He balances scams like spinning plates.

A comet falls to earth, and from its core steps the DEER. It will not be the end of this world, but no one knows that now. The market town scrambles to escape its path. Isabel’s attempt to delay or redirect it go nowhere – Emma is forced to drag her to safety.

SD is vaporized when he challenges the god. Not out of bravery or self-sacrifice, no: pure self-aggrandizement. Without a sound, in a flash, he is gone.

Hanging in the metallic fog, a moment before the wind wipes it clear:

YOU AIN’T GETTING RID OF ME THAT EASY.

Episode 205: Hard Times in the House of the South

The Empress is dead! Utmai C-jen VI is dead, murdered in her own sanctum, murdered in her own Summer Palace, murdered with her daughters and sons and consorts! Murdered and cast down by the northerners! Treachery! Treachery! They come under the banner of the five-pointed star, the crown of their Red Emperor, those black-clad men of the land of Göc!

They all forget the little bastard, sired by a commoner in a village far away. The simpleton-princess. As the bombs go off, and the gas fills the streets with corpses, as the firing squads execute each block in turn, the gamboling black-furred brute Zhos-Who-Makes-Wonders steals the girl away. By hidden paths and a secret Ways, the tinsmith takes the last Empress out of her burning kingdom.

In his vest pocket, he has a Library card.

Episode 206: Disaster on the Way

Dust from the DEER’s arrival rises still on the eastern horizon.

An upturned car, crumpled like paper.

The corpse of a Leviathan collapsed across the highWay, its belly swollen and split open.

The stench of rot, oozing and choking.

Brown slime, coagulating in the grass, knotted with tumorous blackened fibers.

Emma, drowning under a tide of Rotting Ones.

Isabel clutching Jeremy to her chest, thrown into a gap between worlds.

Episode 207: Among the Trash Gods

See the very beginning, a memory of a memory. All was dark, then split by light. The Brothers Three and then the Tree. All the cosmos in cosmic order, all boundaries set down, all gods above and below born of light and shadow, and last and loneliest of all, Emma Aiselthorpe-Brown. Nobody important.

She wakes up half-buried in a landfill, beneath a bronze dome. She wades through plastic and glass and interplanar detritus to a porthole: she is in a bathysphere, descending into the Abyss.

Take a universe, and cut it open. Make it bleed. Spill its guts out. Tear the corpse into chunks. Mix it with another, and another, on and on through thousands and ten thousands until it is an ocean on the face of the cosmos, and that is the Abyss. The bathysphere’s lights barely illuminate the crimson depths. Shadowed figures, teeth sharp, swim about in the ethereal viscera.

Emma turns to see her captors: three men with magpie heads and grotesquely fit. Trash gods all, collectors and sellers of worlds not yet digested by the Abyss.

They know a good prize when they see one. They know enough that you can find a buyer for nothings and nobodies down in the Court, and so they go. Down, down, to the Court of the Scarlet King.

Episode 208: Isabel Alone

Isabel is lost. Just when it seemed that there had been a new stability, her work was torn out from underneath her. She is aimless. She does not know where Emma is. She is afraid. She passes through Ways and worlds of increasing hostility and strangeness. The people here have a cold and hungry look. Jeremy is small comfort to her here.

She is found out. People talk down here in the Way-warrens; she’s been recognized. Reggie’s girl. Worth a pretty penny to some parties. She is pursued. She runs. She runs and runs and runs and the worlds blend together and the Ways overlap. The maelstrom sweeps her pursuers away, sweeps her away.

She is in the mountains, winter is here, and she has nothing left.

She curls up in the snow and cries.

Episode 209: Sins of My Father’s Hands

There once was a toymaker named Reginald Westinghouse who came to America to seek his fortune. He took a job at the Anderson Factory, where they chained him to his desk. He drew up toys in that sweltering steel coffin till his fingers bled and his nails cracked and the carpal tunnel crippled his wrists.

He filed through his chain and clawed his way to freedom, he ran far away, changed his name and his face, started again. The Anderson Factory slunk into the shadows, and he built toys just as he dreamed. All was not well, but it was well enough. He began thinking of an heir.

His son came out wrong. Despite all the care that was put into his making, he came out all wrong. He was all sharp edges and cruel, twisted thoughts. Reginald tried to teach him, but Redd refused to learn. He tore off the bars of his window and fled into the night.

By now, the good doctor was old. His finances were falling apart. His memory and his life were fleeing him. The spark of creation was dimming. He built a machine to keep himself alive, to stretch his life over as many years as he could. He hired a maid, to take care of him when the machine could not. He handed his company to a board of Executors, to care for it while he withdrew to his secret workshop, and began again on preparing an heir.

His daughter, too, came out wrong. Not like his son: she had the spark, she was joy and wonder within, but there was a veil of ignorance cast over her. Too much of an innocent, stuck inside her own imagination. He could not bear to be near her, so crushing was the acknowledgment of his failure.

He faded there, in the dust of his hiding place, as his daughter grew up happy and ignorant, and the executive board fossilized in their places.

The maid stayed with him until he passed, and then was on her way.

Episode 210: Wonder-Maker

There is an old man and a wolf there, shin-deep in the snow. His face is weathered and kind, his furs flap in the blustery mountain wind. He knows a secret, and has come to lead the girl.

There is a cave up on the mountain.

He wakes Isabel. He leads her up the mountainside. He can go no further, but the way will lead home, he says. He does not say goodbye, vanishing in a swirl of snow when Isabel’s head is turned.

In the cave, there is darkness.

In the darkness, there is nothing.

It is not the absence of light; it is the dark of the absence of everything.

Voices rise from the darkness. A chorus, a chant, an old song rising up from nothing…

And Isabel whispers…

“I raised up my hand…

…And there was fire.”

The flame dances, and in its light, there is Isabel and the multitudes of memory. Each Wonder-Maker and Fire Bringer back to the beginning, unbroken and unforgotten. She is of their number, and they are of her. She knows the secret now. Behind all things that exist, there is existence.

She will save her friend.

Episode 211: In the Court of the Scarlet King

Imagine now, the deepest point of the Abyss, the rotting Qlippothic tree, the Pit of Benthos' Hell…

A sun of black iron, pocked with eyes of sickly fire. Septic smoke and glistening ooze pours from its mouths. The water is thick with oil and flesh-slurry. Shards of bone and the corpses of old gods rise above the ice-crust, fashioned into crucifixes for the deities who were spared. Icebergs, filled with thousands of bloodied souls, melt slowly. Below its obsidian surface, there are faces, bodies packed together tight enough that each bone has been broken. Jellied eyes spin about in crumpled sockets; crushed jaws mouth agony without sound.

The air, cold and empty, thrums with the constant moans of pain.

Emma is dragged out of the damaged bathysphere in basalt chains. Teeth missing, eyes blacked, nose broken, lip split. The trash gods do hasty business here, exchanging her for a handful of souls to a beetle-headed duke.

Darkness overwhelms her as blind-idiot servants cart her off.

A cell, some pit carved from frozen flesh. The door vanishes as she is tossed inside. Motes of soul-residue cast a leprous light on the place. The duke will be with her momentarily; the whole business with Moloch needs to be taken care of.

One second turns to five, turns to ten. She has yet to struggle.

Then! With a jerk of the wrist, she snaps her chains. Pulls them apart like so much old thread. Stands up. Stretches. Wipes the blood from her nose and spits out a tooth.

Nobody would ever want to be here.

Nobody would be able to do what she is about to, either.

She presses her left palm against the wall, gauges its firmness. Curls a right fist one finger at a time, pulls back…

and…

THOOM

The beetle-duke’s palace shatters. Emma erupts from the crater in a bolt of sakuga, eyes set on the throne, the Throne, the THRONE of the King adorned in scarlet. She sprints atop the water, a blur. Faster, faster, faster, arms pump, a razor of slurry-water.

The monster designers have a field day. Characters barely stay on-model. Bones vaporize. Heads are ripped off, limbs torn from their bodies. Impacts shatter mountains and throw up tidal waves. Brimstone blood splashes paint the screen in monochrome. Dukes and demons and Leviathans throw themselves at her and her name is hyperviolence.

Her punches have shock collars, her jumps feel like they clear continents.

God as my witness, that man was broken in half.

Holy fuck, she is red-shifting.

Jesus H. Christ is that a NUCLEAR FUSION PUNCH?

The King sits on a black throne with seven red spears, which pierce the brides that lay bloodied at his feet, from whose wombs spew the great Leviathans that teem around that dread mountain’s base. A fist tightens around his lance.

Emma tears a Leviathan in two from jaws to tail and launches herself forward; not at the throne, but just off-center. Towards the smallest bride pinned to the barnacles and bones. She lands on the smooth grey flank, digs her fingers into the spear, and with the one cry of strain of this entire sequence, pulls it out. The seal is broken. The seventh bride is freed. The spear drops to the stone with the sound of tectonic thunder.

The King rises from his seat.

“Go!” Emma cries, dropping to the ground. The seventh bride is able to stand; she clutches the hole in her stomach with one hand, and takes up the spear that pierced her in the other. She forms a sign of Waymaking with a bloody hand, and vanishes in a swirl of darkwater and whalesong.

Emma leaps at the King with a scream fit to dig into his chest and tear out his heart…

…and is swatted away by the back of his hand. She skips across the water like a doll thrown at concrete, clouds and sea cleaved as if by a sword.

She struggles to pull herself up from the broken ice, as the King steps down from his throne, and wades towards her, spear in hand.

Fade to black.

Far away, the seventh bride spirits the girl out of her chamber, steals her away to a land across the hills so quiet. There is peace there, for a moment.

The seal is broken, the cloud of fire rises up above Montauk Point.

The center cannot hold.

Episode 212: Dawn of the Final Day

A man in a tattered lab coat, stands on a high cliff by the sea. In his hands, he holds a book bound in leather: blackened, weathered, human. He lifts his sigil-carved arms high, blood drips onto his face and chest. He cries out to the storm with keening, formless sounds, and casts the book into the sea.

Listen…

Can you hear the footfalls of the brokentooth’d march, sweeping up through the past? The Daevites are coming. They are eating history.

The walls of Uruk crumble.

Harappa is devoured by demons.

Ramesses lies vivisected open atop the Great Pyramid.

Cyrus is paraded through the streets atop an iron spike.

Athens meets a relativistic kill vehicle.

Qin Shi Huang is flayed and torn to pieces, and still he screams.

Jerusalem is swallowed by a pit of cinders.

Rome chokes on chlorine gas.

Byzantium drowns in blood.

Charlemagne is crucified in the Palatine Chapel.

William’s men hang him from the mast with his own spine.

The Great Khan strangles his sons in their tents, and runs out into the steppe alone.

Baghdad is buried in the ash of its citizens.

Oh God, Joan, what have they done to you?

Moctezuma is fed molten gold before all his people.

The Mughals cannot stop the tide of flesh from the sea.

The rape of the New World is ahead of schedule.

The Reign of Terror enthrones a Hanged King.

London fucks its queen mother to death.

In Flanders’ Fields, the tumor metastasizes.

The Sarkists feed the Czar to his people.

The Germans walk out into the fields and forests to lay down.

Stalin starves himself in his own gulags.

The Americans build of themselves a great and hateful engine, and throw their children before Moloch reborn forever.

The Veil tears apart.

They are here. They are now. They are upon us.

***

The battle is met, across all the world. The camera does not turn away. Witness how the world dies. Do not forget these images.

The battle is met.

Burning mushrooms, orange-gold, spring up as after soft rain.

Fields of flesh, clawing up from the frozen soil and crawling upon the shores, hateful, hateful.

The nations of earth hold the gates for a moment, they break beneath the horde.

The Witch of Hope Lake stands beneath a burning Seal of Solomon, wind and water tearing at her rainjacket.

From the depths of the great library Yggdrasil slithers peacock-feathered Nahash, the serpent vast as mountains. He rears backs with fire upon his fangs; far above, Hakhama-MEKHANE, the goddess no longer broken, sits in the sky with her fleets of dreadnaut-angels. Brother and sister, guardians of man, reunited at last to watch the passing of their wards.

The Stars seethe with hate.

The Scarlet King rises from the Pit of Megiddo with all his Leviathans and demon lords.

The gods and all their hosts descend from the heavens and rise from the abyss, to make war with each other.

The good ship Solidarity is rammed into the Scarlet King at lightspeed.

The gates of the Silent Halls swing wide; three brothers in black ride three horses of white, and lead behind them a column of the endless dead.

Creation crumbles under the strain.

The Ways were torn up.

The Library burns.

Two sons of Adam meet for the last time, and die at each other’s hands.

Nahash is torn in two.

Hakhama shatters a second time.

The flame of all thinking beings, dims, sputters, and goes out. Stars are eaten alive. The dead are reduced to dust. The heavens are dark, choked with smoke and ash. The abyss is fattened with blood. All lights have been extinguished, across a billion, billion worlds.

Save one.

Thirty-six saints gather on the mountain slope, and together fulfill their ancient destiny. The passing of the world in this cruel and horrible fashion could not be helped – they had been waylaid by the forces of the world too long to prevent the horrors of the King.

But they might break the seal upon him. They make the final sign, and pass into the mists.

Upon the ashen firmament of Yesod, the King raises a new throne.

Episode 213: The End of the World Goes Like This…

Open upon the dark and starless mists. There is a man there in the stillness, wearing the robes of the Thirty-Six. He is praying: lips move, there is no sound. He is weeping. At his feet lie two mangled bodies. He builds a cairn for each. There is little left to bury.

“Ah my brothers, you have left young Set alone again,” he says, wiping his lined face.

Around him, the dark mist shifts, and there is soft whalesong.

A’habbat steps forth, the spear in her hand. The girl Grace is by her side, dressed as her patroness. The bastard Empress, veiled in gold and red, clasps a trinket of Zhos’ to her chest. Harker the Fist chomps on a cigar, dumps the remnants of a great goblin shark on the ground. S.D. is last, riding upon the DEER and wearing a different body.

“Fucking little reunion of fools we’ve got here,” he grumbles.

“Fools we are, but we are the Fool’s fools,” A’habbat says. She taps her spear on the ground and it splits it into seven parts. “That will have to do, Fawn.”

S.D. snorts as he takes his fragment of the spear. Set goes to each of the six in turn, places his hand upon the weapons; the tips glow phosphorous white. The seventh stands embedded in the ground and goes unchanged.

The little Empress asks as she loops her toy’s cord around her weapon, and sings a nursery song of long-vanished Antarctica.

Harker tightens his sandals.

The DEER paws at the scabbed-over gravel.

In the distant fog-depths, a glow forms as if a campfire seen faintly in the gray of predawn. It grows in brightness and breadth until the curtains part…

***

At the very bottom of the Abyss, the cries of souls in torment have ceased. The bloated black sun lies cracked and half-sunk in the slurry. The Throne is empty. All the dukes and demons of hell left with their master. Not even echoes remain.

A broken body lies curled in a field of ashen sludge.

Emma.

The scene lingers. There is no music.

Feet crunch in the snow. A pair of bright red sneakers comes into view. Emma’s eyes open, just barely.

“Easy there, easy there…” comes a voice from off-screen, and careful arms lift her up.

***

..and Isabel is there, a tottering Emma leaning heavy on her shoulder. She waves to the audience with a smile.

“Hey guys. Sorry I’m late.”

She eases her assistant to the ground and props her up against a rock. Emma’s appearance is terrifying; nobody could look like that and still be alive.

“Thank you, for everything,” Isabel says as she places a hand on Emma’s shoulder. Emma makes a weak noise of acknowledgment, but nothing more. Isabel stands up and turns to the rest of the group.

“Right then!”

She snaps her fingers and is set alight with fire that has not been seen since the beginning. A cascading mantle of stars falls on her shoulders. She takes the seventh spear from A’habbat and wreathes it in oldest song. Galaxies spring into being and fade away old and happy in her footsteps. A Jeremy-shaped fireball jumps out from her shoulder, runs around her feet, and returns to the flames.

“You all ready?”

“We are,” A’habbat answers.

“Great. Let’s go say hi to your dad.”

Isabel waves her hand and the mist flees, as if sucked out of frame by a vacuum. They stand before the Throne.

The King is waiting for them. There is nobody else left. He has eaten his servants.

He flashes forward. His lance plunges through A’habbat’s stomach. He laughs. Laughs? Whatever sound is made, it is only the apparent glee of its maker that names it so.

The seventh bride spits blood and dark water in her father’s face. She wrenches herself free, blood and plume-smoke pouring out of the wound, and stabs him in the stomach. Harker jumps over her shoulder for the assist.

Memory fails at piecing together the exact sequence of events to follow. There are too many parts, too many frames put into each movement.

Shattered firmament is thrown about in the razorblade wind. The DEER clears a path through the sky, its metallic gaze sweeping across the broken skies. The Empress and Grace fight in synchronicity. Harker grips his spear in his teeth to free his bloodied knuckles. S.D. screams and panics, swinging to and fro. Set and A’habbat masterfully counter his blade; Back and forth, back and forth, feet dancing, blades singing. Isabel flits about like a lightspeed firefly, training streamers of starstuff. She is a sharpened line, a cutting edge. The music swells above the corpse of the cosmos, calling up emotions that the waking world has deadened in the heart.

Some distance from the battle, the Brothers Three watch. An old exiled man plays cards with the youngest and finally, finally loses.

Watch now as the true blows are made. Hold fast to that hope, do not be troubled by what is to come.

Harker strikes first, piercing the King’s right eye. He is knocked from the air and crushed underfoot. S.D. pierces the left eye and is bitten in half with the DEER. Set pierces the liver, and is impaled. The Empress stabs him through the stomach, and she is smashed to pulp. Grace renders his right arm useless and is knocked flying out across the dark waters.

A’habbat drives it through his blackened heart, just as the king drives it through her own. He sets a foot on her chest and pulls his weapon out of her lifeless body. The goddess has not yet hit the ground before Isabel is on him. Blades clash and sing and glow and the world fades around them until there is only a great darkness. They stand upon black waters among the drifting ashfall of the consumed Tree.

There are now only the two. A good fight is always just two. This fight has always been two.

The fight is all to exist for as time.

There is a final clash of blades, and the combatants are sent spinning away from each other. There is a pause, the sizing-up before re-engagement the wolves a-circling each other. The King is wounded; Blinded, impaled on six spears, bleeding oceans into the deep. Isabel remains afire. Emma stands beside her. She is smiling.

At no other point in the entire run of this series has Emma Aislethorpe-Brown smiled.

“It’s been fun, ma’am,” she says, patting Isabel on the shoulder.

“Wouldn’t have been half as good without you.”

The King roars, charges with blade raised high.

Emma’s hand darts out. Isabel leaps up on it, balancing on tiptoes. Emma rears back. Muscles bunch, tense, strain under the pressure…

Watch and see…

The Emma Aislethorpe-Brown Fastball Special.

Isabel is a beam of fire, cutting the cosmos in half, a vapor cone of tattered spacetime rippling behind her.

Emma’s broken body turns to ash, starting at the fingers and working down. She is still smiling.

The king’s face is frozen in a contorted moment of realization.

Isabel lets loose the final note of Creation’s war-song against oblivion…

And punches a hole right through the Scarlet King’s skull.

The King stumbles. Isabel lands on the darkness. He turns, and in turning to face her again he falls to one knee. Blood burning sunbeam gold drips from his wound. He lifts his left hand, and his shattered weapon, he makes as if to drag himself forward.

He freezes. His arm falls. The Brothers Three appear behind him, dwarfing the King who thought himself so mighty. The Youngest’s sickle shines without light.

“Enough, already.”

He slits the King’s throat. No wound is left. The corpse of Khahrahk the Worm sinks into the deeps below. The Middle Brother spits on him for good measure, and makes to do so again when the Eldest raises his hand.

Youngest and Middle appear for a moment startled, but accept the sign that has been made. Their duties completed, they fade into their own deaths and coalesce back into the dark form of the Eldest.

There is nothing at all now. Only the Death of All, and the Maker of Wonders.

She holds out her hand.

“Shall we dance?”

All-Death takes it gently.

“As we did in the beginning.”

They dance there at the end, eldest son of greatest dark and the light that was his opposite. They spin and twirl about each other, orbiting bodies drawn closer. Their forms brush, intertwine, become one. There is no beginning nor end to the light or darkness now, only the soft notes of completion.

Fade to black.

After a time, Isabel speaks:

“The end of the world goes like this: Everyone lived happily ever after.”

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