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The demarcation lines melted into a boiling stew of imperceptions, remaining only in jellyfish like bits of memory, time, reality, and surreality. These elemental bits bobbed and roiled in imagined thermo-currents impossible for the failing soul to control. Focus shifted away from these markers of rational existence, toward gratification in the moment. If grasping any illusion provided comfort, if any fed his delusions of continued greatness, this he accepted as reality.

Guard up and senses alert, he pushed back hard against the triumvirate corner of floor and intersecting walls, eliminating the possibility of an outflanking. A curious mix of confidence and trepidation tugged at his constant preparation, his perceived ability against Her cunning trickery. He’d defeated her once he remembered, thought her forever altered, knew her banished to another system. What brought him here to this place of haunting, he remembered not, so long ago, so painful. Somehow, power, once absolute and feared, deserted him. Here, She lurked, that wretched She-daemon, stealing upon him in rest, wreaking torment, sparking his inner rage – and although unacknowledged, his fear.

Knowing not when, the She-daemon came in on a wave of benevolence, advocating love and light, offering him a change of place and a different way of life. She somehow sussed the roiling forces befouling his angry blood, and he knew and loathed, She watched him as if a zoo-kept animal with a conflicting mix of satisfaction and disappointment, hopefulness and pity, evaluating and scheming out his final demise.

In its stead, the She-daemon continued her nauseating mantra of love and light, a moronic repetition serving only to enrage over his forced helplessness. How dare any female defy his authority and mock his current plight? “How dare you challenge my right to impose what I will?” he thundered from the corner, only to hate himself for exhibiting the weakness. She-daemon existed only in his imagination, there only because he failed to suppress the last of his human compassion. Embracing this idea of She-daemon as his to control, he willed away the haunting apparition, mastering a world once more.

Others once cringed and cowered when he raged, daily, tirades sparked by the uselessness and incompetence of his staff – and whiny women demanding rights. He’d brought back the old patriarchal ways to his world, ways lost over decades as soft leaders gained sway and gave in to the misguided, intent on destroying millennia of proud heritage.

She first appeared then, a mere musician, one of some skill he conceded, a college student of all things. His security team fucked that one up; none of them knew of the upstart until She used her valedictory speech and her music to call for revolution. Beyond all reason, despite the bans on her performing, the weak clamoured for this anarchist to lead… and the damn fool refused. Her stupid decision, ever the bane of the noble but weak and characteristic of her sex, in the end it cost her.

He smiled remembering her final moments in custody, his personal raping of a woman who towered over him. A second memory, vague, of her post rape challenge of him to a one on one fight and loss wrapped a clenching fist around a pillow, thrown across the room. His fist slammed into the wall as an exclamation point, the special construction absorbing the force, dispensing it without damage to hand or wall. How dare this… this She-daemon fail to respect his power, not cringe in fear of his boundless wrath?

Because he knew, the She-daemon existed only in his mind.

Yet… he enjoyed this game with her, sometimes. He knew he could prevail over the She-daemon. She toyed with him, matching the intensity of his rage with her own in love and light, parrying every increase in him, right up until he felt blood ready to blow through his skin. She stayed serene and hopeful. If he showed her the full measure of his inner power, she would quiver and dissolve into harmless new thoughts of his restored majesty.

Divining circumstance, She-daemon came when his eyelids slid southward and diverted his vision inward. She-daemon could not face his eyes he knew, so he countered by concentrating on keeping his eyelids open. “Eyes open, she runs like prey from a hunter,” he gloated. Eyes open became the major new rule of his private netherworld, though he possessed no ability to remain awake forever.

Not ten feet in front of him She-daemon stood again. “Go away, She-daemon, do you hear? Go. Away. GO! LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!” he demonstrated his ferocity, but She-daemon offered only a simple knowing smile. “When I open my eyes, she’s toast!” he thought, believing his continued closure sporting, he in control.

“You condescending bitch! I raped you once; ripped your clothing off you, pressed myself on you… into you… and when done, stripped you of your sentience and your life as you existed. You feared me then, and you fear me now.”

Forgiveness powered calm, modulating a voice of reasoned healing. “No, Brellian, I do not fear you, not now, not seventeen years ago. Please recall you suffered a rather unsatisfactory result in the immediate aftermath of my rape, one I remind you occurred when two of your goons held me, while we squared off after just you and me with a different result, but it matters not. These things exist in the past, and I forgive you for your actions. No being can ever be lost if they choose not to be. Choose, Brellian. Choose which path you wish to walk from this moment onward.

“I did my research. I am aware of what you witnessed as a child; aware you adored your father, aware you misinterpreted which of your parents walked the side of love and light, and the anger learned from your failed choice sent you on a wayward path into adulthood.

“I will not live with hate. I choose to live a life of love, a path that leads me to reach out, just this once. You decide your fate by your choice. The decision to assist you rests with me, duly authorised, and I extend it now to you.

“You pronounced me unable to stand up to you – a momentary victory the rape, was it not? And what happened subsequently, my disembodiment and reconfiguration, life on another world… in the end, which of us prevailed?” She-daemon offered lucid remembrance and a statement of reality painful to his self-poisoned mind, as if a siren three inches from his ears.

“My troops disposed of you like so much trash!” Brellian raged again. “You exist only in some hapless spiritual world where you barely have the power to form an image to taunt me. Yet you presume to lecture me on where and how I should live my life? What life do you have left to live?

“They – the world – still fear me. They put me out on this remote island, alone and unable to communicate with anyone beyond its short borders. They fear me, I tell you. Even only as a spirit, you fear me! Your bitch wife fears me! And consider this: I possess the power to make you disappear again, whenever I so choose!”

“What new methodology leaves me powerless against its ability to make me disappear, Brellian?”

His mind, too long corrupted, slid toward failure. He saw the She-daemon petrified before him, unable to move. “I have you now! You come to me when I get sleepy. My eyelids drop, and then you appear here! If my eyes remain open, you cannot stand against me!”

“How interesting a theory, but you might wish to know of one problem – at least looking at it from my perspective,” She-daemon countered.

“What feeble perspective would that be, bitch?” he growled, flashing bravado to cover an uncontrolled twinge of nervousness. Confused, he pondered why She-daemon hovered not in the air as he seemed to remember, but stood solid on the ground.

The confusion ebbed as She-daemon slowly turned away and walked a few steps. Pivoting back towards Brellian, she offered her perspective. “Your eyes are wide open.”

She-daemon continued her exiting course, toward a resumed life made possible when extricated at last from his long ago machinations. She left Brellian to determine, and live within, his own reality.