491: All Eyes

on February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized Chapters

In Which Mackenzie Picks A Path

The seconds stretched out in the wake of those oh-so-inadequate words… of course, even without Embries’s will fixed against me, it seemed unlikely that I could have summoned a description of what had happened that would be equal to the reality, or even an approximate model of it.

I braced myself for all of the questions I wouldn’t be able to answer, the anger and confusion that would surely follow my silence… I’d felt smaller than I’d ever imagined I could in front of Embries, but it seemed to me like I was shrinking by the minute even still.

When I’d left the room I had felt somewhat in control, for once in my life. I hadn’t had a plan, exactly, but I had made up my own mind and taken action. Maybe it had been the only course of action available to me, but I had chosen to face it on my own rather than be dragged into it kicking and screaming.

Now the threat posed by Iona had been ended and the possibility of further repercussions for me seemed to be getting smaller and smaller… and yet I felt completely vulnerable and caught in an out-of-control spiral.

Worse, I could feel the eyes on me… Amaranth’s, and Ian’s, and Steff’s, and Two’s, and Dee’s. Any eyes would have been bad at that moment, but the weight of my friends’ stares was more than I could bear. In the weeks since I’d first come to MU, I’d been thrust into the center of attention enough times that I could bear it even if I didn’t enjoy it, but I couldn’t meet the gazes of these people who loved me and trusted me, who’d rallied behind me and stood up for me more times than I could count

Maybe it seemed sad that having even less than a half a dozen people I felt so close to… who I could trust and who trusted me in turn… seemed to me to represent an embarrassing excess of both love and luck, but it did. Maybe it was sad… maybe I was sad.

I knew they were looking at me expectantly, waiting with patience I hadn’t earned for me to elaborate or explain. I lifted my eyes to Amaranth, hoping that from her at least I could plead for some understanding… and discovered that I didn’t have to. Where I’d thought to see expectation, there was only concern.

Gradually I looked around and saw much the same thing on the faces of the others. They were all waiting to see if I would say anything else, if I was finished, but nobody was about to demand that I spilled my guts or narrated the whole thing right then and there.

Of course, it seemed obvious in retrospect… they’d all come together for my sake in the first place. If the whole situation had been a plotline on a TV show or something that happened to a distant someone else, any one of them might have wanted answers first and foremost because the mystery, the uncertainty, would have been their only stake in the matter. They had to be curious, but that was a small matter compared to the relief they felt at seeing me and hearing that it was over.

The problem was, they still looked anxious… if anybody had been in a chair, they would have been on the edge of their seat.

“It’s going to be okay,” I added. “I’m sorry, that’s really all I can say.”

That’s really all I can say I felt a twinge of falling back into old habits with that, as it felt a lot like the way I’d used to step around the truth without technically lying. That wasn’t what I was trying to do… I just wanted to let everyone know that they could let out the breaths they were holding. I couldn’t say with any certainty that I was or would be okay, but the thing was over, it was over and done with. What had happened wasn’t okay, would never be okay… but things in general could only get better.

A lifetime passed in a few moments, then a logjam broke inside of Amaranth and she threw herself forward, flinging her arms and tears over me.

“I didn’t think I’d see you again,” she said. “McAvoy said it was best that I forget I ever knew you. I told him… I told him that even… well, I said I was better for knowing you, my life was better and I was better and that I wouldn’t forget you no matter what.”

Amaranth wasn’t exactly a dainty little flower, but the words bowled me over more than the impact or her unfiltered sobs. She sounded so defiant when she said, and proud of it to the point that I could almost believe she meant it… but on some level, I’d always figured I was something of a fixer-up project for Amaranth.

“Why would you say something like that?” I asked her. I didn’t doubt that Amaranth loved me, but it seemed to me like our relationship was rooted in how she made me better. I knew she wasn’t perfect in any except a purely physical sense, but I couldn’t imagine how my presence in her life could improve it or her.

“Because it’s true, baby,” Amaranth said. “Being with you… loving you, owning you… it’s the first real thing I’ve ever had to be concerned about. The first immediate thing, I should say… the things I’ve read about and thought about are real, but there really is a difference between making an intellectual stand and actually committing to something, or someone. I have to think about things more… well, I mean, I’ve always thought about things, but now, with a real person, there are consequences if I’m wrong, and I can’t afford to be wrong…”

“Hey,” Ian said, coming up behind her and putting a hand on her shoulder. “We’re just kids, you know?”

“I’m not,” Amaranth sobbed.

“How long have you been out in the world?” he said. “You’re a fucking precocious newborn.”

“Or a precocious fucking one,” Steff said. “You guys want to come in out of the gossip? You’ll catch your death of Trina out there.”

We drew into the room and Ian shut the door behind us. There was something like a shift in the atmosphere when the door closed. With no predator out there specifically after one of us and no Law agents lurking around, the room felt a bit like a sanctuary again.

Okay, as far as I knew Feejee was still out there, there were plenty of people who hated me, and the room wasn’t any more private or secure than it ever had been… but it was like coming in from a very cold place to one that was only kind of warm. The fact that it was warmer was all you cared about.

Actually, that was a pretty good description of what it was like to come back to my room in the winter.

“Here,” Ian said, pulling out my desk chair. “You look like you need to sit down.”

“I do, thanks,” I said, but I guided Amaranth to it and then took my place at her feet. We both needed to sit down, and we needed comfort, and we needed each other… her as much as me.

“Thank you, baby,” Amaranth said.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

Ian handed me my mirror.

“We couldn’t get through to anyone, but I bet it’ll work now. You should probably try to get a hold of Lee, I guess,” he said. “He’ll be worried. And maybe he can explain a few things.”

I started to open the compact, then shook my head and put it up on my desk.

“I’ll contact him about something else to let him know I’m okay tomorrow,” I said. “I don’t know if he’s going to get in trouble for trying to warn me or anything, but I think maybe we should leave him with whatever shred of plausible deniability he might have. And thank you for your help, everyone… it means a lot.”

“Collectively, we accomplished nothing,” Dee said, and I had another random insight: everyone in the room, except maybe for Two, felt as inadequate as I did. They didn’t know what I’d been through but even if they couldn’t begin to imagine how bad it was, they knew it wasn’t good and that I’d faced it alone.

“You were willing to help,” I said. “That’s enough.”

“Through circumstances beyond our control, our help was unnecessary,” Dee said. “That is not quite the same thing. I told myself that I was not able to follow where you went… there was too much scrutiny on your movements, and not enough cover away from the building.” Her head dipped, and I saw shame in the gesture. “The truth is that I lost my nerve… I do not trust my ability to remain undetected, moving under a starry sky.”

“You tried,” I said. Telling her that she wouldn’t have been able to make it inside even if she had been able to follow us to our destination probably wouldn’t have been the best way to make her feel less inadequate, so instead I just said, “You gave me some idea of what I was heading towards. I don’t think anyone else could have done more.”

“I suppose not,” she said. “But your distress is palpable to me, and I regret that I did not try harder. I do not believe I would have suffered any worse consequences than expulsion and repatriation, had I been caught interfering.”

“I don’t know if I’d count on that,” Ian said. “Law doesn’t mess around, and I don’t think they’re fans of your people.”

“I can’t imagine why they shouldn’t be,” Dee said. “We are an exceptionally orderly people. Chaos is a luxury we can ill-afford. They should be more concerned with Steff’s kin, who manufacture chaos as an antidote to too-long life.”

“Yeah, they really probably should,” Steff said. “But you live in dark caverns far away from where any human’s ever explored, which makes you chaotic by default.”

“How?”

“Because they don’t know what you’re up to,” Steff said. “They probably don’t know what we’re up to, either, not as much as they’d like to but we’re pretty to look at and make a convenient buffer against the more overtly nasty things in the woods.” She shrugged. “Law. Chaos. It’s all politics, really. If someone wanted to overthrow the Imperium, they’d call that chaotic even if it was to replace the system with something more orderly.”

“In any event, given the shows of power Ceilos made on behalf of her students in recent days, I doubt I would have been met with lethal force,” Dee said. “I have no excuse for not trying.”

“Yeah, but even if you just got yourself expelled, don’t you imagine your goddess would be kind of pissed?” Steff said. “You said you’re here because you think it’s her will.”

“I do not know the reason that I was meant to be here,” Dee said. “I could be meant to serve a greater role in events such as this.”

“Do you really think you were meant to help me?” I asked.

“Specifically? It does not strike me as the most likely course of events, but it seems no more particularly unlikely to me than the idea that she should send me forth on behalf of any other person,” Dee said. “Perhaps I am meant to be more… pro-active in general. If I am called to serve any leadership role in my house or chapel, perhaps I should learn to lead now.”

“Or maybe you should take off your clothes more often,” Steff said. “I mean, that can only help.”

“You did fine, Dee,” Amaranth said, sniffling. “I was the useless one… I think the agents really believed I could bring Mother Khaele forth to do vengeance or something, but it was like it didn’t matter. They were worried about it but it wouldn’t have changed anything even if it was true.”

“It was bigger than them,” I said. “They got their orders from higher up… I don’t think anyone here could have changed what was going to happen, no matter what we used to convince them. But you weren’t useless… I don’t think I would have been able to walk down there without you by my side… and I don’t think I would have even bothered trying to protect myself if I hadn’t met you. Hell, I might have died or been arrested or expelled for something before now if I didn’t have you.”

“You say that, I haven’t exactly kept you out of trouble,” she said.

“Yeah, but can you imagine how much more trouble I might have got into if I was still under Puddy’s thumb?” I asked. “If not for you, I might feel like I had to accept any attention I could get, no matter who it was from or what it cost me. You knew what I was almost from the beginning and you didn’t care. That meant a lot, Amaranth.”

It was weird for me to be reassuring her and Dee, but I was reassuring myself in the process… I wasn’t alone. I had friends. They cared for me and looked out for me.

“You know, when I first learned what you were, I didn’t have to think twice about standing up for you because I’d already thought about it so many times before. Not half-demons specifically, or you in particular, but… well, I was petty sure that I was going to be amazingly tolerant of every race before I met anyone who wasn’t a member of a really pretty widely-accepted race.”

“And you were right,” I said. “You are. Amaranth, I couldn’t ask for someone more understanding than you…”

“I’m not, though,” she said. “I wasn’t… I didn’t understand anything. I thought I could just, you know, smile and tell you that it wasn’t a big deal… and everyone else would follow my lead. I mean, I think I’m well-liked enough, and I’m well-read and pretty smart… and racial prejudices are so silly and backwards, I thought I could show people a more reasonable alternative and that would be all it would take. Like, no one ever thought of that before or something.”

“Okay, that is pretty patronizing,” Steff said. “But it could be worse… you could be one of those people who thinks because there’s sometimes a hobgoblin in a TV show and we don’t have thrice daily lynchings that there isn’t any more racism. Or you could be Shiel.”

“I do not believe Shiel espouses those positions,” Dee said.

“No, but she bugs the crap out of me,” Steff said. “Partly because she reminds me of me a year ago. What I’m saying is, there are some much worse froshes than you.”

“What the hell is that, anyway?” Ian asked. “The past tense of ‘to fresh’?”

“It means first year,” Steff said.

“I know what it means, I just don’t see how it makes sense,” Ian said. “Etymologically. If you don’t want to say ‘men’, why not just ‘fresh’? It’s like somebody’s pointless in-joke somehow got turned into the PC term.”

“I don’t know,” Steff said. She shrugged. “I latched onto it because it beats being called any kind of a man all the time. A word’s origins don’t have to make sense as long as the word does.”

“I suppose,” Ian said. “I mean, what the hell does ‘sophomore’ even mean?”

“‘Wise fool’,” I said. “From the Elvish, ‘sophos’ and ‘moros’.”

“Actually, that’s a myth,” Amaranth said, regaining her composure a bit. “It just means someone who’s grown in wisdom. It was only a few hundred years ago that the spelling became standardized as ‘-omore‘, and the connection to ‘moros‘ arose later as a folk etymology.”

“Actually, you’re both wrong,” Steff said. “It’s from the old Elvish words ‘sophom’, meaning ‘your first album’, and ‘oros‘, meaning ‘was way better‘.

“I didn’t do anything, either,” Two said, in the tone of voice a small child might have used to say I helped, too! We all laughed, even Dee. “I didn’t,” Two said, frowning slightly.

“Yes, Two,” I said. “I know you didn’t… and I appreciate it.”

“Thank you,” she said.

“You can do me next,” Steff said. “But I don’t need any reassurance.”

“Are you really okay?” Ian asked.

“I don’t know… I’ll have to think about that,” I said. “I mean, I’m alive… I made it through. I’m with you guys. I don’t think… I mean, I might not have very pleasant dreams for a while, and there’s a good chance I might break down crying before the weekend is over…”

“Then it’s a good thing we’re having a slumber party,” Steff said. It had been her idea to put that happy face on our gathering in the first place, back when the reason for it had been to lie low and avoid Iona. I wasn’t surprised at all that she was the one who was quickest to joke, or that she steered us back towards our original purpose. If anybody had asked me if I was up for company, I might have said no… but really the last thing I wanted was to be alone, or to have nothing to do or think or talk about but the thing I couldn’t mention. “Nobody sleeps during those anyway, so, you know, any nightmares are going to have to wait their turn.”

“And, baby, you’ll always be able to talk to us about it, when you’re ready to,” Amaranth said, reaching down to me. I climbed up onto her lap, grateful for the gesture and the closeness even as her words sunk in.

I wouldn’t be able to. I couldn’t. No matter how well-meaning Amaranth was, how understanding she wanted to be, she couldn’t help me. No matter how willing she was to listen, I couldn’t tell her.

But… she was willing. Could knowing that be enough? Probably not, but it was something.

“Thank you,” I said. “I want you to know that even if I never tell you, it means a lot… and also, it’s not because I don’t want to.”

“Do you still want pizza?” Amaranth said. “I think Steff has the right idea… if you’re up for it, we should just go ahead with our plans.”

My stomach gave a twist. It had been sorely abused during and immediately after the events in Embries’s office. The thought of eating anything ever again seemed unthinkable, the possibility of me being able to stomach any solid food or stand to feel my teeth gnashing and tearing into anything after what I’d seen seemed impossibly remote.

I could get by without actually eating, but the others couldn’t… and if I wasn’t eating myself, then I’d be watching, and in a way that would be worse. Also, the time would come when I would have to feed, and even if I could do that without using my teeth… for an instant, I saw two roads stretched out before me. One led to an endless future of consuming nothing but human blood, tasting nothing that had not been inside another person, nothing that was not part of another person. The other began with pizza with friends. It passed through some of the same destinations, but it was a much more attractive route… once the initial uphill portion was passed.

“Sure,” I said, smiling as well as I could. “Pizza sounds good.”

And with those words, forced as they were, the rest of my life began.


Soon: The rest of Mackenzie’s life continues.


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77 Responses to “491: All Eyes”

  1. Hey, folks… apologies for the delay. When I decided to delay the chapter, I had thought I would be able to post this from the road and thus get it up a bit earlier than this, but I forgot that I replaced my phone and my new one’s not modem/hotspot-capable (yet). So this is being posted via the not really great hotel internet. Chapter 492 will be up on Friday, as you might expect.

    Thank you for your patience!

    Current score: 0
    • Sylvan says:

      Up in plenty of time for me to read and enjoy. I say thank ya.

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  2. Burnsidhe says:

    Yay! Now to read.

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  3. Seeker in Justice says:

    “Actually, you’re both wrong,” Steff said. “It’s from ****an***** old Elvish words’‘sophom’, meaning ‘your first album’, and ‘oros‘, meaning ‘was way better‘.

    The ‘an’ above should be ‘the’ methinks. And I’m not totally convinced words’ needs the ‘.

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  4. The Dark Master says:

    Choose: take the easy route and allow yourself to fall to your trama. Or continue your life, even after what you have faced. Its nice to know that Mackenzie can understand how her life is taking her, and has decided that she does not want to fade away.

    This is the second time she has said those words of moving on, these are the greattest moments of her growth.

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  5. Burnsidhe says:

    There’s more than one:

    “Telling her that she wouldn’t have been able to make it inside even if she had been able to follow us to our destination probably wouldn’t have been the best way to make her feel less inadequate, so instead…”

    Another sign of how far she’s come from how she was at the very start.

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    • drudge says:

      He’ll probably guess the broad strokes in time. Mackenzie’s worries will no longer include Iona, and she now knows what Emberies *is*, which he knows she didn’t before. The information itself can’t be said, but if someone already knew what a Sea Devil was, what Emberies was, and that Law could be involved, guessing wouldn’t be too difficult.

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    • Not her, the other girl says:

      “I’m not, though,” she said. “I wasn’t… I didn’t understand anything. I thought I could just, you know, smile and tell you that it wasn’t a big deal… and everyone else would follow my lead. I mean, I think I’m well-liked enough, and I’m well-read and pretty smart… and racial prejudices are so silly and backwards, I thought I could show people a more reasonable alternative and that would be all it would take. Like, no one ever thought of that before or something.”

      Amaranth has grown too.

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  6. Zergonapal says:

    A satisfying close to this arc. I wonder though if her father will rock up wanting to know what Embries wanted of her, or if he is aware of Iona’s disappearance and has guessed what has happened?

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    • Ylistra says:

      If he doesn’t already know, the big gaping black hole that he finds while searching Mack’s memory of the event will speak volumes. He’s well aware of Embries’ true form, the extent of his power, and Mack’s perception of the events leading up to the missing night. If he finds a blank spot in her memory, he should have enough details to take a pretty good guess.

      Mostly I think he’ll be pleased that Mack is still alive.

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  7. ghotistix says:

    um, did you skip 489 for a reason? cause, it’s really bothering me (sorry, i can’t help it). just wondering.

    p.s. sorry again

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    • Burnsidhe says:

      It’s really bothering Mack too.

      Reread 488. Pay attention to what Embries says about Mack not being able to tell anyone.

      Keep in mind Mack is the person through whom this story is being told. We’re riding along, spying on her thoughts.

      Go back again and pay very close attention to what Embries says to Mack.

      Now, answer for yourself why it is that 489 is “missing.”

      Current score: 1
      • Burnsidhe says:

        I apologize if that sounded snarky. I think it’s a very clever way of getting around some rather thorny issues, AND it leaves us as readers free to imagine what happened, which makes it way worse than it might be.

        Undefined nightmares are much more creepy than ones written down.

        Current score: 1
        • beappleby says:

          Although she did manage to get a little information out when she wasn’t thinking about it…

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          • Burnsidhe says:

            The only thing she can directly say, apparently, is that she can talk about it. Someone who’s quite observant and knows Mack well, along with the other entities involved, could probably piece together the gist of what happened. The details are likely to remain a mystery.

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            • beappleby says:

              “My stomach gave a twist. It had been sorely abused during and immediately after the events in Embries’s office.”

              This implies, if nothing else, that she was vomiting severely. It could be taken to mean that she partook of the meal, or that she was vomiting then, too – or trying to but unable because of his control.

              Of course, it’s always possible there was some other factor.

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            • fka_luddite says:

              The end of the paragraph:

              … the possibility of me being able to stomach any solid food or stand to feel my teeth gnashing and tearing into anything after what I’d seen seemed impossibly remote.

              says quite clearly it was only what Mack saw, not anything she herself did.

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            • Arakano says:

              She goes on to say “after the things I’d seen” – not “after the things I’d seen and done”. So, yeah, I remain firmly in the “did not partake of Iona” camp. 😉

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            • beappleby says:

              Right. That makes sense. I didn’t think she had, anyway.

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  8. Jollylawger says:

    Not that I am suggesting that this ought to be the end of this story… BUT.

    This is a very satisfactory conclusion to this story-arc, and would be a fitting finale for the story as well. I always hesitate to read on-going serials because they rarely end well… often they just stop updating. So it is a high compliment to your ability as a writer to make a good finale.

    Hopefully the next arc starts (and ends) just as well.

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  9. Nick says:

    Embries did a good, horrible, inhumane, cruel, and correctly conceived job of demonstrating(pun intended) the paths of humanity as compared with the paths of monstrosity for Mack. Again, we have only ONE being that has become a BIG monster, on Embries class, from a small monster, like Iona and Mack.

    Mack can see what it is to be a monster, fulfilling appetites and being able to do as she will, or be a member of society with friends and support and love, for the price of knowing that part of herself cannot be satisfied.

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    • Nick says:

      Pun on “inhumane” also FULLY intended.

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    • slaxor says:

      or like her father (and Embries), she could do a little bit of both.

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  10. arsenic says:

    Wow. I literally can’t imagine a better situation/group for Mack to come home to after something like this. She must be doing something right. O_O

    I know this is one of the worst days in Mack’s life, but I can’t help being slightly envious of her. I wish I had a group of people like that in my life.

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  11. Marut6bine says:

    “The other began with pizza with friends.” The other with should be “and” or “and with”.

    M.

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    • Oitur says:

      This way works too. Look at it this way: what’s Mack doing? Having pizza with friends. She’s starting the rest of her life with what? With having pizza with friends.

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    • “Pizza with friends” is what the path begins with. It’s neither non-standard nor colloquial.

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  12. Kaila says:

    Ok, we’ve had reaction chapter, and now moving on chapter, so what’s next?

    Wacky hijinks with hints of morbid…wait…Steff…with excessive morbid humor?

    I don’t want to downplay the importance of the last few chapters, but I really could use an ‘up’ after reading this one.

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    • Elisabeth says:

      I think Alexandra is starting the new book soon, the one where Mackenzie goes to a new dorm and starts her second year. This seems like a good closing for the first book.

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    • Angnor says:

      I hadn’t considered this chapter particularly down. It actually came across as pretty upbeat to me.

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      • Kaila says:

        I, personally, could use an up. This chapter isn’t depressing or anything.

        I’m just looking forward to having something to read to get my mind off things.

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        • Robert Bates says:

          well, for those who really need an ‘up’… I have this one webcomic that has updated everyday for YEARS now, that will have you rolling in laughter and side stitches…. http://www.schlockmercenary.com

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        • drudge says:

          If you’re looking for a good consistent, amusing story I’ve got this comic right here. The format’s a bit weird but it usually updates FIVE times per day.

          http://www.mspaintadventures.com/

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          • bramble says:

            KIDS AND FUN.

            *cough* I mean, you read Homestuck, too?

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            • drudge says:

              Yes, yes I do.

              KIDS AND FUN

              TROLLS AND HOMICIDE

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            • bramble says:

              Although now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’d recommend it on the criteria of being a “happy” story. Amusing, yes, but the humor tends to be very dark, especially once the trolls show up.

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            • drudge says:

              The thing about homestuck is that Andrew moves so fast he tries to stop you from thinking about how ridiculous the whole thing is. In his own words

              “THE MAIN VILLAN IS A DOG WEARING FUCKING SUNGLASSES.”

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            • bramble says:

              He’s also got a way of making you like sociopathic characters because at least they’re not the psychopathic ones. I mean, remember back when people thought that Terezi was a villain?

              But we probably shouldn’t clog up the ToMU comments talking about Homestuck, should we? Suffice to say that it’s a complex, funny story and people who like ToMU would probably also like Homestuck. >:]

              Current score: 0
      • beappleby says:

        I think everyone’s still just in shock.

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  13. The Dark Master says:

    Looking back at the last bonus story made me remember something. AE, have you ever played Planescape Torment?

    Current score: 0
    • Nope.

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      • The Dark Master says:

        Alright, I’d just noticed some similar characters and was curious if they might have been influenced by the game.
        If you’re interested in computer RPGs, it is one of the best D&D based ones for its story.

        Current score: 0
  14. Oniwasabi says:

    Ah, College. A time when most of life’s problems could be solved by ordering a pizza ^_^

    Current score: 1
  15. Sapphite says:

    Bravo.

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  16. Witmer says:

    “You guys want to come in out of the gossip? You’ll catch your death of Trina out there.”

    …you give Steff all the best dialog. =) This is just awesome.

    Current score: 1
  17. Laszlo says:

    This was great chapter and I really like the way it is heading for Mackenzie now. She seems to be getting her life in order now. Looks like the “encounter” with Embries might actually be a good thing and not the totally devasting thing he was predicting.

    But there is one phrasing of tense that seems a bit wrong:
    “demand that I spilled my guts or narrated the whole thing”
    seems like it should be
    “demand that I spill my guts or narrate the whole thing”

    and there’s a misspelled word:
    I was petty sure
    should be
    I was pretty sure

    Current score: 0
  18. Zathras IX says:

    Please come in out of
    The gossip before you catch
    Your death of Trina

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    • Kaila says:

      Hmmm…that’s just cheating I think.

      But I do really have a soft spot for doggerel(or just on-the-spot) haiku.

      Current score: 0
  19. Rey d`Tutto says:

    A Pleasure to read, as Always.

    AE, you keep cranking the Realism knob past 11. For as fantastic as the land of MU is, the Characters are living beings, and I enjoy their Trials and Triumphs.

    Current score: 0
  20. Null Set says:

    Ok so, apparently, every time Mackenzie plans on having a pizza party with a group of friends, something horribly traumatic happens to her.

    AE, do you have some dark history with pizza?

    Current score: 0
    • arsenic says:

      So true. The only pizza party attempts I can think of are this one and the one with Barley and Puddy, but I can’t remember any at all that went well.

      Btw your name and avatar = win.

      Current score: 0
  21. ShadowKat says:

    AE: you forgot a chapter tag for Two.

    Current score: 0
  22. Kitsune 9tails says:

    Well done and satisfying.

    Current score: 0
  23. Billy Bob says:

    If the reason that we don’t get 489 is that Embries won’t let her share with anyone, then this story shows leaks already. I think that someone reading this would be able to infer a lot.

    Current score: 0
    • Burnsidhe says:

      Certainly. Inference is something Embries apparently doesn’t care about. People can guess what happened all they like.

      All he wants is that Mack keeps the details to herself, doesn’t reveal any of the details, can’t confirm or deny other people’s guesses, AND has to live with the memories without the benefit of talking to others.

      Current score: 0
    • I’d hope that most people reading this would be able to infer a lot. I should probably give up this writing thing if most of the audience can’t work out that the thing that chapter 488 made pretty explicitly clear was about to happen did, in fact, happen.

      Current score: 0
  24. Denyre says:

    I’m starting to like the missing 489. I feel like I’m relating better to Mack’s friends now.

    Current score: 0
    • Rey d`Tutto says:

      If AE ever decides to publish this in a Dead-Tree edition, keeping a few Blank Pages where 489 falls would work.

      Keep the page Headers & footers, Page Numbering, etc., but either leave the pages otherwise blank, or if AE had written it, and is keeping it hidden, then replace the characters of the text with periods.

      This is a sentence.
      …. .. . ………

      Current score: 0
      • potatohead says:

        Though, replacing the actual text with an equal number of periods would technically make it possible for someone with waaaaay too much time on their hands and a cryptology degree being wasted to actually decipher some of the chapter.

        Current score: 0
      • I’m sitting here and all of a sudden a title and subtitle for it popped into my mind.

        “A mouth full of morals” … “in which nothing is said about that which cannot be (un)seen”

        Current score: 1
  25. Sindyr says:

    Good job, AE! We appreciate your hard work, as always. 🙂

    Current score: 0
  26. Nice wrap up to this arc.

    Current score: 0
  27. dragonus45 says:

    I just want to say that i have been a fan of the tales of mu universe for many years. And i have always tried to put in donations when i had work and free cash. Your stories have always managed to capture real people, even if most of the time their people i want to slap for being so immature. And your world lives and breaths as a rich atmosphere for the story to take place in. For a long while tho i have been drifting off, only checking one a month or so or going months without and catching up all at once. But these last few chapters have grabbed me by the balls and told me to sit down and shut up. Kudos to you. Much kudos and one internet.

    Current score: 0
  28. Dirk says:

    Man I leave for a few weeks to let a couple updates build up and I come back to a new site and a crapton of updates. Nice.

    Current score: 0
  29. alexander says:

    you know, I don’t hope for an ending, but, if it were, this is actually a really good place to end the story. Mackenzie learns her TRUE place in the world, story over. (at the very least though, I do get the feeling this is a volume closer)

    Well done!

    Current score: 0
  30. 2nt9 says:

    I personally enjoy how this arc ended, and cannot wait to see how mack fares during her summer break and subsequent return to a whole different living arrangement ^^

    Current score: 0
  31. Sebatinsky says:

    Amaranth:
    “…well, I was petty sure that I was going to be amazingly tolerant of every race before I met anyone who wasn’t a member of a really pretty widely-accepted race.”

    I think “petty” should be “pretty”

    Current score: 0
  32. Lara says:

    I can’t think of anything worse than going through significant trauma and never being able to talk to anyone about it. I’ve been through trauma that I could never discuss with anyone in person, but at least I could talk to someone anonymously online, using a service like blahtherapy… this just sounds awful, poor Mackenzie 🙁

    Current score: 0