The Nightmare Plague: A Caged Mind, Complete

The workshop, as always, existed in a state of disarray, with the exception of an area around the center.  It appeared as though someone just cannot be bothered to tidy up past a certain point and dwelt in a microcosm in the center of chaos.  Fantastic creations stood in the corners, caked with dust, while the little sphere of order bristled with raw materials.  Carefully arranged bins of bolts, a few small stacks of wood waiting to be shaped, and jars of fresh paint were all in there, although the latter were showing some dust, as though the owner forgot they existed.

Teddy walked to a corner where a small device caught his eye.  At first glance it appeared to be a metal disc, something akin to an over-large pocket watch.  As he looked closer, it was a series of hoops, nestled within one another, and at the center a small, polished stone of some sort.  He began to wipe away the dust, curious at wonderful craftsmanship.  As the dust came away, he realized that the hoops were wood, finely inlaid with a dull, yet iridescent, metal.  His touch did something to the device, causing the hoops to begin turning, picking up speed quickly.  The movements were too quick to be certain, but he suspected they were frequently reversing directions and some of the hoops seemed to move through one another.

The bear stared intently, but the movement was too erratic to focus on for long.  After a short interval, the lines of the hoops disappeared and seemed to coalesce into something like a mirror.  Teddy began to smile at the image that developed on the curious surface, showing him a happier time.  As suddenly as it appeared, though, another image bled through, drawing an immediate growl from the bear, who turned and smashed the thing against against a nearby cabinet.  A weak, hollow voice in the center of the room began to chuckle, stopping to wheeze at times from the effort.

“What’s the matter, squinting little bear?  Did you not like that little toy?  I devised it to remind its owner of humility by a juxtaposition of the viewer’s happiest moment before being opposed by the worst of their actions.  Humility has never been your forte, though.”

The bear turned swiftly, snarling at the ancient man behind the workbench.  His sightless eyes were upturned, the frail body shaking with laughter until a series of long, wracking coughs took away his breath.  Regardless, he face remained a rictus, highlighting the mirthless humor he was enjoying.

“Your world became dark from too many such comments, old man,” Teddy said, walking to the bench before continuing.  “Which led you here, to this place where death cannot reach that tattered, miserable shadow of a soul you possess.”  The words dripped with mockery, the loathing evident in every barked word.

“Poor little bear, still so frustrated after these long years of searching for answers that continue to elude you.  Tell me, do you still pursue nightmares to stop or has this existence been entirely consumed with this search?  Ah, the silence speaks as a choir, rich and harmonious to my ears..”

Teddy began to snarl again, hissing through clenched teeth.

“You will never leave this undying existence, old fool.  You will be consumed yourself in efforts to aid me in the search for truth.”

“If you think this bear is other than what he seems, why have you not acted as your namesake would?  He would have gathered brave souls and charged headlong into chaos in search of a goal.  Yet, you lack that courage, determination to see the quest completed through valor.  Rather, your time is spent stalking for what you desire and using manipulation and my devices in place of cunning and a keen mind.”

The bear leapt forward, sweeping a pile of food into the further recesses of the chamber.

“You may not starve to death, but the hunger will be real enough.  Next time you might lose another foot.  I require more nightmare cages.  Now.”

The old man sighed, retrieving a number of hollow sphere formed out of intricately woven wire.  He slipped them into a bag before handing it to the bear.

“I figured it was time you had run out, so I already made more.”

Teddy looked into the bag, nodded in satisfaction, and tied it to his belt.  He smirked at the unseeing man before turning to exit.  He barely paused when the old man spoke again.

“What is it like, little bear, when you become as great a horror as those you are created to battle?”

A slight rustling sound told the man that the bear was gone.  He sighed, reaching down to rub the stump at the end of his leg.  The pain will never cease, always a throbbing reminder of what brought him to this fate.  He reached up and, with long practice, scooped a small amount of grease from a nearby pot and rubbed it around the other ankle where the manacle was beginning to rub the flesh raw again.  The rustle of the chain left a knot in his chest and the tears came again.

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