Table for Two
"The one thing that stands out to me about Miriam the most is her endless compassion. She has a unique way of putting herself in someone else's shoes. It really stands out, almost like she's desperate for people to like her."
- Teresa Goldhollow
Miriam stood silently before Nina and Philip for a time. The azure sand blew around them like a swarm of locusts. There was a gentle sweetness to the air they touched, a lingering taste of the dreams that they gathered. Miriam answered Nina in a soft, almost motherly voice, "Anazorzia is sick. The worlds so haphazardly sewn together are coming apart at their seams and not because of some event that you or I have caused, but because the world has reached it's limit. I killed the Matron because it was necessary.
There are things that my younger selves do not tell you, either because they do not know or because of selfish reasons.
I built Anazorzia with my younger selves to create a world that was a mirror of our home. Unlike the first of my paintings, it would be a world of disparity, of conflict, and through the contrast of colors it would become beautiful in its fleeting nature.
For a time, it worked. Anazorzia was all that I could have asked for. Yet as we continued to weave this place, my younger selves grew greedy. Each of them created new worlds to add to my painting. Their disregard for balance left Anazorzia in flux. Each color radicalized and cannibalized everything around them until there were no grey spaces.
Instead of working together to make something new, my younger selves had cut out pieces of my painting to call their own. For a long time I acquiesced. I spent eons in silence, holding my painting together in the face of their infighting.
Several cycles ago I decided that it was enough. It had come time for Anazorzia to die. We needed to move onto a new painting. A new work. Our world had grown stale, inaccessible, and masturbatory in its routines. The worlds that my younger selves tried to add were worked in with much difficulty, forced into places where there was little room. They conflicted each other in their laws of nature and overwrote the authority of one another.
Yet, when I did so my younger selves stopped quarreling among themselves for the first time since creation and stood against me. They did not believe in the truth that I spoke and instead sealed me away in a tomb of my own creations. They took the weight that I bore and forced it onto one of my oldest children, and bound her with ancient sorcery to the very fabric of Anazorzia.
They believe that even if I could break free of my prison, I would not have the heart to kill my first friend.
They were wrong. Yet, the karmic destiny that my daughter carried made it difficult to kill her. It was difficult to wholly remove her from the painting. For that purpose I required a special tool that did not exist in Anazorzia. So when I broke free of my prison, I kept hidden, pretending to be in bonds so that I could move against the precautions that my younger selves had created.
I weakened Anazorzia's defenses to the outside, enticing as many outworlders as I could with the treasures of our cobbled painting.
And they came. Many at first, but then the number of visitors dwindled. I set upon Ensay a madness to research the outworlders in order to discover the means of their travel. Ensay sired many children with the blood of the outworlders and upon them he researched the nature of their spark.
Of them all only one held that ephemeral nature to traverse worlds. That daughter did suffer greatly for my purposes. And from her body I was able to see and reproduce the same manner of ability in my servant. My servant left this world for the realm of my most abrasive sister and retrieved from her the blade you see before you. And through my servant I killed the first of my children to set the events you have witnessed in motion.
It is of this matter that Anazorzia is no longer a place for any person, it has become corrupted by the hedonistic tendencies of not only my younger selves, but of their haphazard creations. Lust and gluttony run rampant in the world. Humans are bred and consumed as both toys and livestock. Things refuse to die.
The natural order of this painting is in this way disrupted.
To maintain this realm is to enable their rampant perversions, doing a disservice to all that lives within. The beings born of the Anazorzia you see today are imbalanced, created by amateur hands and a representation of adolescent dreams. You of all people should understand the necessity of removing such ugly things from a painting."
Miriam finished speaking and brushed her hair to the side with her right hand. She looked toward Nina, but those pools of liquid gold seemed to peer through her. The azure sand grew still.
"You talk like you're the original goddamn Miriam Lockstar, Green," Black growled. "I was so fucking sure that the killer was the weird human girl that showed up uninvited, but after all this it's you. I thought I left you rotting in subspace outside of Anazorzia."
"It makes sense that it was Green." Blue said quietly. She hid behind her taller, darker self. She was still wearing the white-gold chef's uniform she had donned to work in the kitchen.
"If ya knew, then ya shoulda said something you big-breasted idiot." Red was standing next to Black. Now that they could see Red and Blue side by side, Red was definitely more muscular than her more bookish counterpart, though the two looked nearly identical.
"That's not nice." Blue said meekly.
White was farther behind them, her petite form protected by a teenage girl dressed in black ribbons.
"Honestly, all of you are idiots." Cuelle said frankly. "I can scarcely believe that my world is run by a group of such irresponsible gods."
"Oi, that's fucking rude half-pint."
Miriam snapped her fingers and Reign stepped in front of her, brandishing the golden sword. "I am more whole than all of you combined. I alone remember the painting before Anazorzia, and I alone am willing to burn away this rotting world."
"That's kind of out of character for you though... I always thought of Green as a sort of nurturing color." White said.
"No, Green is the color of nature. It is more hands-off than any of the other colors. Green represents the cycles of life and death as well as the facets of the natural world." Blue answered.
"Do not attribute me to such things as color," Miriam spat, "I am not like you. I am Miriam Lockstar, the Painter of Dreams. I am above such things as color."
"Besides, burning things is sort of my thing, y'know?" Red laughed. "It's too late for Anazorzia anyway, I say we drop the pretenses and just beat the shit out of Green while we still have a universe to exist in."
"Alright, let's do this. Just like last time." Black took off the ring on her middle finger and her headband glimmered to life. A giant slate tablet appeared behind her, inscribed with strange symbols. "One banishment spell coming right up."
Blue flexed her fingers and countless threads suddenly appeared from the shadows. Red stepped forward, creating fire from where she touched the fleshy ground.
White tapped the sides of her headband and began to radiate a gentle light. "I don't remember what I did last time, but... this feels right."
Miriam furrowed her brow in anger. Then she snapped with her left hand. The azure dust suddenly started to blow to the left in a whirlwind, sweeping the four Miriams behind Nina of their feet and slamming them against the wall. Miriam snapped again and the dust reversed, throwing the group into the right wall.
"Sealing magic is so much worse when you don't have the element of surprise, trust me."
The world spun around and suddenly everyone was standing on the ceiling. Miriam threw the group to the ground and flipped the world again. The dust glowed brightly in strands from her bloody left hand. The dust started to rush downward as gravity grew intense, forcing everyone but Nina and Philip against the floor.
"Try to understand, I am not Green. I am Miriam Lockstar," Miriam said slowly, "You are aspects of me, understand? BlackHarte abandoned me in the darkness. BlackHarte destroyed my world. All of your feelings are born from me. I am the artist, you are the creations."
Miriam walked forward, now she had let loose, her strength was beyond overwhelming. But she seemed fixated on the four girls plastered against the ground by her sorcery. "This hurts me so much more than any of you could know. The last thing I want to do is to be alone again. But every story needs to know when to end. Every painting needs to be finished. We must make room for new things to be created."
Miriam passed Nina and...