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Perils Of Probability: The Technicolor Terror From Beyond The Hyperthetical!

by Vast Error

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1.
It begins like every other Hollownull. That is the crux of the problem.
2.
The music is playing, the TV stand boasts a collection of horror movies for every taste, and there are enough drinks and snacks to appease a much bigger group than the dozen who’ll be there. They’re slowly gathering already, trickling in ones and twos. Falling into the familiar pattern of a group who’s gone through these motions enough times that they’ve faded into mundanity. It’s supposed to be a party. Instead it feels like trying to fit the pieces of a broken plate back together— all of them are still there, but enough went missing in the breakage that they don’t fit together quite right anymore. Serpaz pushes the thought into a corner of her mind and plasters a smile on her face. She’s got no use for downer metaphors tonight. She’s got a party to host, and she’s going to make sure that it is perfect. But elsewhere...
3.
There are worlds out there that teem with life: loud and bustling and colorful, messy with the tangled fates of their myriad denizens. Not beautiful— in fact, often quite hideous— but at least interesting. This variant is not one of them. It used to be colorful once, but then color became a memory, and now even the memory has faded into dust and decaying grays. If boredom had a physical manifestation, this would be it. An empty expanse of flat land, with only the husks of old buildings, nearly abandoned, for the eye to snag on. Dead earth and deader sky; not even a gust of wind simulates drawing breath. Then: a flicker. A presence, beading through the membrane of the universe like blood from a pinprick. A globule of color swirls with dizzying vibrancy that defies the monochrome backdrop. It undulates, shivers, contorts itself into a spate of forms, one after the other, a rapid metamorphosis from everything into something that wouldn’t shatter a mortal mind. Eventually, it settles. Knocks that dust right off. And begins searching for someone who will listen to it. Because this may be a dreadfully boring probability in an already dying world, but it is not dead yet.
4.
Here’s a question, dear listener: what do tight narration and the parasitic possession of a host body have in common? You make them dance for you. You tiptoe into the thoughts of your hapless protagonists, one tender touch at a time. You don’t cause pain—not yet. You caress. You probe for those dark hollows where all the juiciest stuff lies hidden. And then, when you find it, you dig in. You don’t rush; there’s no reason to, they’re yours now. Each bad habit, each little secret, each twisted little thing that makes them tick—they’re yours to feast on. There’s so much color to be found there, in the dark crevasses tucked out of sight. And it is all delicious. Then, when you’re done, when you’ve had your fill and you’re left with the hollowed out husk of your former host, you flush them with your own colors and marvel at the beauty they create. Of course, eventually you need to move on to the next place, the next planet, look for the next friend. The universe is vast and you’re so very hungry. Okay. I have another one for you: what do interdimensional travel and a Hollownull party have in common? They tend to get messy.
5.
What’s the first thing to go wrong? Serpaz misses it, blissfully engrossed as she is in a board game whose rules she didn’t read all the way through. But the light shifts and what looked like an intact plate is back to being a collection of shards. Serpaz tries to fix it, tries to goad more people into joining her game. Not even Jentha bats an eye. When that fails, suggests that they watch a movie or tell each other spooky stories, or… Everyone’s drifted to their own corner, or into one of the other rooms. The light from the TV screen bleaches all the colors from the floor, from the empty furniture, from the pile of DVDs that stays untouched. Nobody cares. Nobody cares when Serpaz starts to fume about them not caring either.
6.
And nobody looks up when Serpaz leaves. For what feels like ages, Serpaz sits in the fire escape of her hive, kicking her legs through the gaps between the rusted bars. Each kick rocks a wailing screech through the structure, as though the entire staircase might peel off the wall and collapse into itself like an accordion. She kicks harder. The screech burrows under her skin until it feels like it’s her bones that are vibrating. A second pair of legs joins hers in kicking. She turns on the newcomer, expecting to see her matesprit, there to comfort her as he often does— but instead sees herself.
7.
Her copy is smiling. Something she cannot name lurks in its eyes, beneath a whirlpool of algae green and petrol blue. It’s hypnotizing enough to make her not question it. "You look upset", her copy says. "What's the matter?" "Nothing." Serpaz offers a smile that matches that of her copy. "Me? Upset? I’m not upset! Why would I be upset? I'm never upset." If her friends are party poopers that always bring her down, and if she’s so bored she wants to carve her brains out of her skull, that doesn’t mean she’s upset, does it? It takes her a moment to realize she said all of that out loud. Her copy grins from ear to her. Its eyes glow brighter, teal and canary yellow. "I can show your friends how to have fun," it says, "but I'd need your help." "What do you mean?" Serpaz asks. The fire escape sways around her; the corners of her vision coil into blooming fractals. "You’re so bright," her copy says, its mouth stretching just an inch too wide. "Too bright for this empty shell of a world. You don’t deserve for those so-called friends of yours dulling your colors." It’s not an answer to Serpaz’s question, but it’s exactly what she wants to hear. It soothes the voice at the back of her mind, the one that she often manages to forget. The one that says it’s her fault everything’s falling apart. That if she wasn’t so much— or if she could be more— their friend group would be as happy as they used to be. She clears the lump in her throat. "What do you need me to do?" The copy laughs a laugh that's much unlike her own. No snorting giggles, but a suave cackle, if such a thing exists. And it begins to morph its shape, twist and contort in place as it dribbles chroma from every pore and animates the setting around them. Then it begins to sing. "Oh my my my... whatever do we have here? A troll all by their lonesome Such a pitiful sight! Tell me, dear, whatever drove you From the party here tonight? I can tell you have the spark Of that there is no doubt But I've picked up a trick or two Even you've not heard about! Every party needs a stellar hosting Someone well versed in the ways of fun I promise that I say this without boasting But I must assure to you that tonight has just begun Here now, you must come a little closer How else can you see what I have here? Now to make a delicate incision Watch as I make this knife disappear! Ahahahaha! Parasitic For each critic It will take control Every party needs a stellar hosting Someone well versed in the ways of fun Let's raise a glass and have ourselves a toasting To us together making this party the bestest one! Truly each of them are sleeping Minds are barely used at all I'm just doing due safe-keeping I'll feast upon every soul! There's simply no chance denying What is fact and true If you help me, they'll be crying The life of the party is you! Parasitic Catalytic Let me take control The life of the party... is doomed! Ahahahaha... hahaha! Who's ghostwriting now? Mwahahahahaha..."
8.
Witch Stew 02:16
Serpaz’s copy reverts back to its initial state and gives her a dazzling smile. Then, the copy reaches under her own jaw and, with a nail that’s entirely too sharp, slices her throat open. Blood spurts out, except it’s not blood. It’s thick and viscous and it shimmers in a cascade of colors, each of them alive, reaching. Green and pink and icy blue merging and devouring each other and staining her copy’s skin and clothes alike. All the while, her copy keeps smiling. She fills a vial with her blood and presses it into Serpaz’s hand. "All you need to do is make sure your friends ingest that", it says, oil-slick blood dribbling down her chest. "It will make them remember how to have fun." "Just make sure you don’t swallow any of it."
9.
As Serpaz steps back inside, she steps back into herself, too. What did she just agree to do? She looks at the vial in her hand. Its contents have a dangerous gleam to them, and Serpaz is reminded of the smile of the creature that wore her skin while blood poured from its slit throat. A shiver rakes through her body with such force that she nearly drops the vial. She casts about the room. Nobody seems to have noticed her distress— or her return, for that matter; all her friends are there and yet not one of them can even be bothered to look at her. They stare at the TV’s vacant flickering, or chat amongst each other in subdued tones, or stare out into the nondescript darkness. Frustration mingles with helplessness. These are supposed to be her friends? These people who cannot even celebrate together? A crystalline crack snaps Serpaz out of her thoughts. She’s clutched the vial so tightly that a hairline fracture has shot up the side of it. It’s a near thing, but it’s not broken. The liquid inside shimmers even brighter, and once again, Serpaz sees it for what it is: A solution to her problems.
10.
Trust is a funny thing, isn’t it? Spend enough time around someone, let yourself get used to their presence, their closeness, and you open yourself up to every manner of danger without even noticing. All on the belief that they’re not going to hurt you. Suffice it to say, Serpaz makes quick work of her task. A round of drinks with some snacks on the side, and her friends find themselves inoculated with the creature’s blood. The last thought they have before their consciousness succumbs is that it tastes like candy. Serpaz’s friends go rigid. Glasses shatter between convulsing fingers and scatter on the floor, the sound drowned out by the music. Serpaz stands in the threshold and watches as her friends collapse amid violent shivers, bodies contorting in a soundless pantomime of agony. She’s still clutching the now empty vial. What has she done? But one by one, they stop shivering. They open their eyes again and Serpaz gasps as she’s greeted by that same iridescent oil slick swirl she saw in the face of her copy. They stand up, grins like slit throats spreading on their faces, and drag Serpaz into the crush of bodies now linked together with candy-flavored blood, and they begin to dance. All of them— except one. Because that’s the thing about trust. Sometimes, though not very often, it is justified.
11.
It’s a beautiful sight, all of them dancing in perfect unison, grinning ear to ear, eyes the true colors of the universe. Serpaz loses herself to the music, to the wholeness of her "friends" being fully together for the first time in so long. She was right all along; she just needed to find the right way to fix it. And, surrounded by them all like this, no longer arguing, nobody being avoided or ignored, it’s easy to convince herself she did the right thing. Alas, it doesn’t last long. One at a time, her friends begin to leave the dance floor and begin to pay their hostess no mind. Their eyes still glazed over with their petrol sheen and the smiles that never falter. They wander out into the fire escape in a manner near orderly, and begin climbing towards the roof of her hive. As she moves to try and stop them, or at least follow, Laivan enters the room. His eyes are clear from the swirl of otherworldly color, and they widen in shock to take in the unfolding sight. He looks around frantically. When he finds her amidst the chaos, his shoulders slump in relief. He rushes to her side, drags her out of the path of egress. Serpaz swallows back the acid that rises in her throat. She can’t bring herself to answer any of his questions, but she must. She caused this, and whatever else is happening to her friends, she’s the only one who can stop it. And then she’ll figure out how to get them back to the way they were.
12.
What they find on the roof is even worse than what Serpaz fears. An undulating mass takes center stage, its hungry eyes the only indication it’s the same creature that claimed Serpaz’ form only a few hours prior. Kaleidoscopic tentacles unfurl from the base of it, twisting and pulsing. A low hum bores into Serpaz’ brain, and she doesn’t know if it's that or the strobing lattice of tendrils that are leaving her dizzy. It takes her a moment to realize the hum is coming from their friends. Each of them is vocalizing at the back of their throats, the sound gradually growing in volume and pitch. The tentacles curl towards their helpless thralls. Laivan grips Serpaz by the shoulders. She hasn’t realized she’s already trying to lunge onto the roof, but she lets herself be pulled back into safety. "Can't just go in there." He says with a shaking breath. "We need a plan." She knows he’s right. She’s already caused enough trouble.
13.
Devolver 05:41
They don’t have much time. The longer the creature feeds on its thralls, the brighter the colors beneath its surface glow, until it illuminates the night like the lure of a ravenous angler fish. Soon enough, the first victims who succumbed to its magnetic pull will find their way here, eager to be swallowed into its iridescent glow. The death of a world, as prosaic as a parasite’s meal. And so it would have ended, too— if Serpaz had not hesitated to inoculate her matesprit with its blood. She knew all along that what she was doing was wrong, didn’t she? After all, she’d have no reason to protect him otherwise. She must have known, somewhere beneath the grime of grief and denial, that no universe offers easy fixes. But let me bring you back to the end of the line, to the moments before this tale’s gruesome resolution. Two worn and bloodied figures facing down the blinding form of the creature that wants to suckle on their world until it’s bled it dry. Around them, the husks of their friends standing on the edge of the roof like sentinels or scarecrows. Serpaz and Laivan nod at each other. When the first flame flickers to life, the ever-present hum reaches a fever pitch. The two of them set to work.
14.
Silence. That’s all that’s left after that final scream: the ringing sort of silence that makes your skin crawl and teeth ache. Serpaz and Laivan look at each other across the theatre of battle, now riddled with the lifeless forms of those who were their friends mere hours ago. Blood oozes from their mouths and noses and ears, thick and ink-black, any trace of color erased once more. Serpaz is covered in blood too; it itches where it touches her bare skin. She tries to rub it from her forehead and only smears it instead. It’s not going to come out so easily. She offers Laivan a hesitant grin, feeling some more blood on her cheek pull uncomfortably. She made quite the mess, but they won, didn’t they? The two of them can figure the rest out. They can figure anything out as long as they’re together. Laivan doesn’t return her smile. Without saying a word, he turns on his heel and stalks off. We’ve had a good run, listener, but now Daddy’s caught wind of it, and he’s mad. And when Daddy gets mad, it’s time for the curtain call. So salvage whatever you would care to keep of this broken world and hope that you leave it before it blinks out of existence. I’ll see you in the next one.
15.
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16.
And so, yet another sordid chapter of probable cause comes to its end. Or, well, I'd liken it more to a sudden death rattle as its due climax is snuffed out by the guided hand of irrelevance. When the soaps get boring, what choice is there but to change the channel? I mean, we were even getting to the sad breakup trope, they don't even BOTHER with that one in OTHER adjacent yarns. But regardless, I do so hope your curiosity was tickled, this Hollownull night. At least I must assume it is, but from where I'm sitting, it could be ANY holiday. Arson Prevention Day, Arson Encouragement Day, Beaver Appreciation Day, Custard Pie Abstinence Day, or even the coveted Simultaneous Spontaneous Combustion Day. And if you don't celebrate any of those...well, you're not special. There was probably no need to even TELL you a scary story. Your life is already so boring that it scares me. Now, leave while you still can. While I can assure you that the continental breakfast is worth the hype, I CAN'T assure you'll find your way out if you stick around for it. The valet's got your ride, but... fix your tail-light. Much love.

about

On a branch of The Hyperthetical far flung from the true timeline, a traditional repitonian holiday is still being held: HOLLOWNULL.

A celebration of hedonistic nihilism. For one night, a soul is freed from the damning that comes with reveling in escapism and desire. Costumes that hide the self honor this thought, giving trolls a chance to live out deep fantasies. Pretending to be something they would never have the chance to be otherwise.

It's on this night, in a probability that's lost all color and luster, that an alternate SERPAZ HELILO meets something unnatural after a party gone sour.

[CLICK THE LYRICS ON EACH TRACK FOR A SECTION OF MUSICALLY ACCOMPANIED STORY!]

Full download link: Coming soon!

PLEASE do not buy this album, the re-listen count has been set to maximum.

Cover by Rurichoo
twitter.com/rurichoo

Written by Decadencethief, edited by austinado
twitter.com/decadencethief

Mimesis voiced by Marcie Hobbs
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Music by:

Rom M
Rabooski
votl
dbnet
Levc
VeritasUnae
SplitSuns
Rainy
koba
CASTIGADORA

Managed by the Vast Error Team

Additional mastering by austinado

Composer and track artist credits on individual songs!

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released October 31, 2022

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