The Last of Us [Descent into Madness]
Mrs. Carson is still there when the uniformed cops arrive on the scene.
With CSI, Frau Schmidt takes careful study of this latest crime scene of Simone’s doing. Mondo walks over to Mrs. Carson. She’s volunteered to question the baglady further, knowing full well what the old woman really is. Mrs. Carson is a regular around here. Mondo has seen the baglady many times before foraging in the alley behind Starbucks.
“My name is Miss Kane. I’d like to ask you some more questions, if that’s okay with you, Mrs. Carson. I know that the officers who arrived first on the scene asked you a lot of questions, already … but …”
“Mrs. Carson used to be worshipped by millions of their own free will, willingly and willfully they worshipped Mrs. Carson. And. Mrs. Carson’s acolytes were legion. Now, Mrs. Carson is largely ignored. Now, Mrs. Carson have to make used the acolytes of precious Mrs. Carson.”
Mrs. Carson smiles covetously at Mondo. Her hungry, bloodshot eyes rape the girl.
Briefly, Mrs. Carson’s eyes fluoresce. In that glow, a notion is implanted in the girl’s mind. Now, Mondo knows where the old woman lives. Accompanying that knowledge, for a fleeting moment, the girl experienced the euphoria of a drug high akin to shooting up reanimation reagent. The girl’s reaction to this type of hypnotic abduction is what you would expect and what you wouldn’t expect.
The expected response? Mondo treats the euphoria as much more than just a transient experience of intense pleasure—definitely treating it as the “much too brief” transfixing indulgence that a junkie should and would crave. In other words. She completely and utterly loses herself.
The unexpected response? Mondo resumes being herself as soon as she’s no longer being mesmerized by Mrs. Carson. She easily and trivially finds herself.
Remember: Although the wisecracking, gun-toting, oftentimes no-nonsense robotic-esque Mondo is a drunken, junkie, whore, she’s also a lunatic as well, and there’s no way to reliably mind control the insane, therefore her unexpected response shouldn’t be so unexpected after all.
From Mrs. Carson’s point of view. If the girl could be completely hijacked on the spot, that would awesome. If not, she will eventually succumb. Either outcome is a win-win for Mrs. Carson. Because. Either way. The girl becomes Mrs. Carson’s newest coerced acolyte.
These days, Mrs. Carson only has one acolyte at a time. Currently, she has none, because she used the previous one to death. This is a common cause of demise for those poor, pathetic wretches who she forces to be her acolyte.
“I have more questions about what you saw, Mrs. Carson.”
“Bullshit! You want Mrs. Carson to use you. Have wanted that since the first time you laid eyes on Mrs. Carson. You will go to where Mrs. Carson lives in the sewers and you will used by precious Mrs. Carson as Mrs. Carson’s acolyte!”
“Nope. Now, to my follow-up questions …”
Mrs. Carson turns her back on Mondo and pushes her shopping cart down the alley away from the crime scene. Mondo wisely chooses to pursue the only eyewitness to the crime.
Once a Ladies Council member, always a Council member. You’re LC for life.
A thousand years ago, Councilwoman Carson went off the reservation. Councilwoman and then LC president Renate “Sabrina” Hutte met a similar fate shortly after Councilwoman Marshall’s murder.
At the time of her fall from power and her descent into madness, Councilwoman Carson was the chairwoman of the Council’s powerful Ways and Means Committee, a committee second in power only to the Council’s Ways and Rules Committee.
Between the time of Mrs. Carson’s departure from the mainstream and Ms. Hutte’s similar egress, Ms. Hutte regularly visited Mrs. Carson on Mars. Ostensively, the purpose of the visits was to check on how her very close friend was doing.
When Mondo catches up to Mrs. Carson, the older woman instructs the younger woman to take over pushing the cart. Mondo does as she is told. Complying with her elder’s stipulations without hesitation. Tellingly, Mrs. Carson doesn’t tell the girl to turn off the hygiene mode for her frumpy outfit.
This is an area undergoing gentrification. It butts up against skidrow. As they walk down the alley toward skidrow and its impoverished denizens, Mondo asks her questions and Mrs. Carson politely answers them. Occasionally, Mrs. Carson will pause in their discourse to look behind them, and she always turns back around smiling.
They exit the alley and walk across Market Street, crossing the official boundary between the Kingsway West neighborhoods in Mars City, and this city’s skidrow. Mrs. Carson stops and turns around.
The pedestrians walk around them, as if the two women are not there standing on the sidewalk. The two women being ignored is not the result of the anonymity of modern life—i.e., it’s none of my business. It’s the work of a hex, plain and simple.
“I can see you human known as Simone Thérèse Fernande Simon. Miss Kane and I have faerie business to speak of. It is not for your mortal ears. Leave. Or, I will eat you alive. I will start at your feet and work my way up from there. In my heyday I was a trickster god. But. At this very moment in time, I’m just The Enchantress.”
Mrs. Carson gestures arcanely with her hands. Simone is decloaked. There’s a brief stare down. Simone wisely decides to back down. She walks away, reactivating her cloaking device.
Because of the hex. No one on Market Street is aware of the exchange. With the hex still in effect. Mrs. Carson and Miss Kane speak in earnest about faerie business.
“So, this Mrs. Carson of yours is all a ruse?”
“Now, you’re being stupid. You disappoint me with that question. Redeem yourself.”
“This Mrs. Carson is your ‘real’ life. This Enchantress, referring to yourself in the first-person, and any other such lucidity is the ruse.”
“Ms. Hutte visited you on a number of occasions after you fall from grace and before hers. Besides the usual chitchat. What did you two talk about?”
“How to disappear in plain sight.”
“She wanted a blueprint?”
“Indulge me, goddess.”
“Enchantress, not goddess.”
“Indulge me, Enchantress.”
“You become a disgrace, something low and vile. A drunken, junkie whore, who craves to wallow in filth all of the time. You lose everything, and I mean everything. And no one from your old life sees you anymore. You become invisible, so to speak. Oh. Don’t get me wrong. Supernatural society still keeps tabs on you, because, diminished capacity or not, you are still a very powerful being living in the vicinity of mortals and ROE is ROE. But. The surveillance is lax at best. So. As long as you don’t do anything too grievous, you can still deal a pretty dark hand to yourself and to others.”
“I presume this interview is over?”
“You presume correctly. You know where I live. Visit me whenever you like. But. Please, come alone when you do and expect to be used extensively as a she-male during your visits to me. Expect your visits to me to always be very long ones. Your first visit with me will be the very short exception of 48 hours in duration.”
The hex is broken as The Enchantress gives way to Mrs. Carson. Mrs. Carson takes back control of the shopping cart and walks away. Mondo follows her. This time, at a distance.
Mrs. Carson goes down another alley. Eventually stopping in front of the back wall of a derelict building. Leaving her shopping cart behind, she steps through the brick wall.
When Mondo reaches the wall, she also steps through it. It is pitch black except for a single, naked light bulb which illuminates a long flight of filthy concrete steps. There are no banisters. She descends the steps slowly, once her eyes adjust to the darkness and limited illumination. At the bottom of the steps is a dark, dank, dimly-lite basement. Raw sewage, a couple of inches deep, covers the floor. Bolted to the walls are rows of old, battered, rusting lockers. Standing in front of one of those lockers, waits Mrs. Carson. The one reserved for the belongings of Mrs. Carson’s lone acolyte whoever they might be.
This is where people come to lose themselves. Some people do it on a dare or for kicks, intending to do it only once. Many end up never leaving. Most do it with the intent of never leaving. The facility is completely automated and totally shielded. Anonymity and untraceability is guaranteed.
Mrs. Carson unlocks the locker. It’s already been emptied out. Mondo strips off everything and places it in the locker. The girl takes note of the fact that the inside of the locker is covered in arcane symbols that she has never seen before.
Mrs. Carson gestures with her hands.
Mondo’s hair lets down and gives way to a krazed. The girl’s yellow-blonde hair turns geriatric. She becomes infested with head lice, fleas, and crabs. Her teeth become so filthy, they look rotten. Her breath becomes fetid and wormy. Her hands klaw. Her manicure and pedicure give way to long, dirty, ragged fingernails and toenails. Mrs. Carson’s eyes glow again, and, this time, the girl blacks out.