"Filmed live and on location from across the river Styx, deep in the Fields of Punishment, at the one and only Screaming Tower. Tonight we bring you Tower TV's hottest new show, 'Wooden Wails and Words', where your words will most certainly come back to bite you ensuring a wail of a good time for everyone else!
And here is your host, the crimson haired wooden beauty, the one and only, WOOODDDDEEEENN Girl!"
The crowd cheers, going absolutely wild. They were crying, their bodies torn and minced. Many of them were missing pieces. Some of those pieces seemed to have been poorly sown back on or replaced with a wooden part of some shape or variety. I could see one poor soul had had a foot sown to his wrist to replace a lost hand. It was the wrong color from the rest of his body. White, when he was clearly black. He stood out because he had a hard time clapping it and I think as a result of that he was clapping extra hard. Like he was afraid his claps weren't gonna make enough noise to satisfy his mistress.
He, like all of them, was in visible great pain, but still they fought against it to shout and cheer. For that was this rooms game. And by this point they've long since learned that losing only brings greater pain.
"Thank you! Thank you! Oh, please. This is embarrassing."
She says a lot of things she doesn't mean implying she might want you to stop. But high above her sits an octagon. And on each side of it, it has directions. Like 'cheer'. And the game is Simon says from there. Regardless of what is said or what you hear, you do as the sign says.
She giggles and looks out at the crowd, spinning in the middle of the room and taking in the applause.
"Come now, this is just too much. We have to start the show."
But still the sign reads cheer. Frantic desperate eyes jump back between her and the sign. They're tired and the mixed messages are almost more than most of them can process.
"Gosh, can't you control yourselves?" she laughs, her face cracking and her smile reshaping to reveal a big, bright, sadistic grin.
High above her the sign finally changes. 'Cheer Louder.'
The crowd panics, as they slowly becomes aware of their mistake. They were already giving it all their poor tattered bodies could give. The sounds in the room turned more frantic and violent as the crowd desperately tried to up the volume of their cheers, many of them standing. Others slamming their hands as hard as they could together trying to generate something louder than before.
"You call this devotion? Where is mommy's love? Don't you just /love/ me?"
The new order gave many pause. Anyone thrown off enough to stop was pulled violently under the stands by their strings. Desperate die hards with some fight left in them grabbed at their seats, screaming in agony.
Those who didn't falter started stomping their feet and positively screeching. It was all they could do to make themselves any louder. I had to cover my ears as the crowd approached deafening levels. I could make out Mother laughing over the crowd. She was loving every minute of this.
'Shut up and sit down'
Everyone grew quiet. Many of them breathing hard, but trying hard not to breath too loud. Anyone who had managed to hold onto their chairs long enough crawled back into them. A quiet sob could be heard across the room. Loud enough, it seemed, to catch Mother's eye. She stopped and turned toward them. They didn't even see her. They had broken into an inconsolable fit of tears and sobs, curled up into their own lap.
Sobs turned to screams so quickly as she was slowly dragged under the stand, clawing and screeching at the top of her lungs. A brief break in screaming gave way to begging. "N-NO! I'M SORRY! I'LL BE QUIET! I'M QUIET! NOOOOO!"
But her begging would go unanswered. And from there it was just... just more screams the rest of the way down. Everyone around her had inched away, least they get grabbed and dragged down with her. The surviving audience shifted uncomfortably sniveling in their seats, terrified to make so much as a peep.
"Finally," she said in relief as if none of that had just happened. "I thought they'd never settle down," she said to the camera.
And a quiet wave of uncomfortable laughter filled the room.
"Without further a do, lets introduce tonight's guest, Fracture!"
I stepped out from the one spot in the room that didn't have any light being cast on it to reveal myself and after a brief moment the crowd worked itself up into another roar of cheers.
I waved my hands up, egging them on.
But almost as if directed to do the opposite they fell quieter and less enthusiastic as if unimpressed once they had actually seen me.
'Scowl and stare at. Whisper maybe?'
And they fell quiet. Staring at me. Scoffing. Groans. One or two of them cleared their throats. I could hear some whispering and murmurs.
"That's not nice..." I commented spinning around to look at everyone before dropping into my seat.
"Guess we can't all be winners can we?" she giggled, trying to slick her still motionless hair back before all of her joints suddenly gave out and she fell limp into her chair like a doll tossed aside when it was done being used. After a moment of not moving or saying anything at all, as if someone had started playing with the doll again out of the blue, she sat straight up like a person and looked at me. Her eyes locking on mine.
"So, first time on the show. That's a lot of pressure. How are you holding up over there, child?"
"I got to say, Mother, I'm feeling pretty good. This may be my first time on 'Wooden Wails and Words' but I saw a lot of screen time on your last talk show, 'Wired for Words'."
"My I had almost forgotten about that old show. I think you were one of only ten guests to survive on it. What a grand honor."
"Well as I understand it, it had ten episodes, only aired when I visited, and I was the only guest on very episode. So yeah. Great honor. In fact, it was quite possibly the greatest."
"Aww, honey child. Is that sass?"
"No Mother. I loved having my very own show dedicated to me."
"Aww, child. If you keep answering so well, how am I ever to find cause to harvest that beautiful tongue of yours."
"You'll never know and I'll never tell," we both said at the same time. An old catch phrase. She loved running gags.
"On where do the years go? It feels like just yesterday you were this tall and scared to death I was gonna rip your stomach open and coat myself in your entrails."
"Oh Mother I... am still very much afraid that."
"Aww. Baby," she says said putting her hands up against her static grin. "If only I could make you short again. Hmmm.... do you really need your knees and shins?"
"Uh, yeah. Very much so," I said hugging my legs.
She squeed at what I assume was me being awkward and adorable. I let my legs back down. Now was not the time to start acting like a terrified child.
"Oh you. Is wittle fwanky getting shy?"
"Oh the profanity too. I've missed this. Don't you like being called Franky? Didn't you pick that name?"
"No. I took the name Frank Tanner. Not Franky. There s no 'Y' in it. No 'E' sound."
"Oh my how you took it though. That poor doctor. He lost his job, he lost his family, and he lost his home. And then you went and took his name. Have you no shame, Franky?"
"Are we doing the rhyming thing now?"
"Surely you've nothing to gain, beyond inflicting agony and pain, by taking another man's name."
I groaned. Rubbed my temple. I hated this little game of hers.
"I just don't understand Franky, what was wrong with your old name? That cute little title you had given yourself when I first met you was adorable."
"Well as it turned out, 'the Fractured Guardian' is shit name. And it didn't hold up when I stopped living in a barren fucking wasteland and had to deal with real people."
"Aww. It was not. I don't understand why you ever gave it up. You were /so/ proud of it. Run the clip."
The lights dimmed and a screen in the back of the room lit up. It started playing an old home movie. Best I could tell, it was from Mother's perspective. Which is odd, because I know she didn't have a camera then... I theorize she may be able to project memories as film. And alter them too. Let me tell you, I know for a definitive fact that I didn't have a labcoat and a cowboy hat back then. My fabulous fashion sense didn't get to blossom until much later in life.
"Why hell there tiny person. Why are you so small."
"... I'm not small..." I commented looking back at the door and at my surroundings. I was clearly terrified. Particularly of the string. A mass of it wiggled at me and I backed up hard against the wall to get away from it. That string had already taken so much from me.
"Don't be stupid. You're like a tiny life size doll. What is your name? Is it Liar? Please let it be Liar. That would be perfect beyond all reason."
I was a defiant little shit. I was in a room, covered in guts and blood, standing before a living breathing talking doll and I somehow found my nerve. I glared hard at her, stepped out from the wall into the middle of the hall, puffed out my chest as much as I could with my hands to my sides and announced, "I'm the Fractured Guardian. You're gonna stop hurting people now!"
Mother fell silent for a moment. Stunned. And then the sound of constant cracking could be heard. My young self had a visible flinch with every crack of what I must assume was her face shifting to adopt a big grin.
"Oh my wooden me, you are THE most precious thing I have ever seen. I'm keeping you."
And then the screen went black and the lights turned back on as strings struck out at me.
"Just how could you ever give that up?"
"Are we still talking about my name or is this suddenly about when I left."
"Classy. We both know why I left. You're a scary monster."
"That's Mother Monster to you, brat."
"I know, /Mother/. You're not my Master. I had to get back to Father."
"You should have just signed up with me. We would have made such wonderful things together. I wouldn't have even discarded you when you broke. You would have gotten a glass case. /The/ highest imaginable honor. You'll be lucky if anyone can be bothered to bury you now."
"Yes, yes. I... really missed out there. Clearly, becoming a doctor and saving lives is a fruitless effort. I should have just let you use me like a rag doll and then let you shove me into a glass case when I stopped being fun. I was so blind."
"We'll don't try going back on it now. That ship has sailed. And then I sunk that ship and lit the sea on fire so you can just go fuck yourself."
"I'll just have to try to find some way to cope."
"More fruitless efforts. Its like you never tire of them. We've strayed from topic. I believe you were about to tell me why you were stealing training methods from other Fears to form your cute little sub-cults."
"That... is not what we were talking about... its also not true."
"Really now? Your Fire Cult isn't a collection of rage cases being taught to worship your Father in an effort to divert would be Crimson Knights from falling under the sway of the ever Dormant Brute as preventative measures to keep the Brute under lock and key?"
"And your Mask Cult isn't a reapplication of some of the methods used here in this very tower to condition and create 'Chosen', my will less loyal lackeys? "
"I'm sorry Mother. I need you to speak up. I can't hear you over the sound of how incredibly butt hurt you are."
A string from above me slung around my neck and lifted me off the ground choking me while Mother pulled out a phone from someone in the crowd. Another string got out my own phone and put it to my ear as Mother dialed, stomping at me in a huff. I heard one ring go off beside my head before the string pressed the button, answering for me. About an inch from my face, Mother screamed into phone.
"CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?!"
"Y-Yes..." I forced out between wheezes.
And just like that, the string around my neck undid itself and I fell hard to the floor, followed by my phone.
"Why are you here Fracture? What the fuck do you want?"
"I had an idea for a little show and I though you would be perfect for the lead role, director, and writer."
I looked up at the sound of cracks. Her glare had turned into something far more inquiring.
"So here is the deal."
"Hmm... it shows promise. With my guidance, it could be a master piece."
"Does that mean you're in?"
"Uh, sure. Shoot."
"I'll want a hug."
"I swear to god if you-"
"Oh come now Fwanky. Do you think I would ruin this beautiful Mother and Son bonding moment?"
So I opened my arms and we hugged... and I wheezed and groaned and then coughed up blood.
She had stabbed one of her wooden hands deep into my gut.
"Dumbass," she said letting go of me and letting me drop hard on the floor.
"Have fun walking home! Oh, and be back bright and early. I want to start on this immediately!"
I hacked up some more blood and pulled out my medical kit. "S-Sure... thing," I called after her.
I had a long trip home ahead of me.
But as you can see I made it. Yay me... fuck my life.
The Lord Guardian Fracture, out.