Bitter Honey must deal with being home alone with Sour Sweet who has lost her grip on reality.
Sour Sweet's schizophrenia has been in remission for many years. But with remission often comes a false sense of security. She hasn't taken her pills in weeks.
Her husband is leaving on a weekend trip. Sour and her daughter, Bitter Honey are excited for some quality time together. However, that quality time will be interrupted when erratic symptoms begin to resurface with a vengeance. Now a toddler must deal with being home alone with a mother who has lost her grip on reality.
Contains: mental health issues, the endangerment and brief verbal abuse of a toddler, conspiracy theories, a very smug Anon, nudity, language, magical yet violent hallucinations, the Antichrist, and suicide contemplation.
Sometimes comfort can be the enemy. One gets too comfortable, too sure that everything's okay, will always be okay, and before it's even realized, the world has gone to hell. Of course, the thing that makes it worse is the knowledge that it could have damn well been prevented.
Comfort can be the enemy that causes someone to forget to take the one thing that ensured that comfort in the first place. Of course, the blame wouldn't be laid squarely upon one person if there were others involved. Loved ones who were supposed to be looking after them. Supposed to be noticing such things as the fact that their wife's pill bottle had been completely full for the last several weeks straight.
Second Person woke up in the bed alone. He shuffled to the edge, stretched, and stood. He took a step and quickly had to avoid tripping over his packed suitcase his groggy mind had forgotten was placed at his bedside.
Probably should have had it by the front door, all ready to go, he thought.
Second hauled the suitcase up. He carried it downstairs where he found his wife in the living room, staring at the TV. He placed the suitcase by the door and went to lean over the couch, behind her.
"Sour? Did you get any sleep last night at all?"
Sour shook her head. "Nope. Came down here to see what's on late at night. Turns out it's just infomercials for useless crap and phone sex ads. I went ahead and called up 'We Are Legal, We Swear' for the lawlz. My operator claimed she only had the job in order to pay for med-school. So I shared some of my connections. Real nice girl. Her moaning could use some work, though."
Second was used to his wife's spur-of-the-moment adventures, so none of the phone sex business bothered him. There were more important things to be bothered with.
"Sour, is there something wrong? You've been having trouble sleeping all week."
Sour shrugged. "I'm fine."
Second stood there in worried silence before uttering, "Should I cancel my trip?"
Sour turned to give him an icy stare. "I said I was fine. Besides, don't you want to beat the pants off of Anon this year?"
Second smiled. The Perdita Finn Award. It was by no means the Nobel Prize in Literature, but still it had been his ambition since beginning his writing career to earn one. Of course, someone else seemed to have a monopoly on it.
"Ah, the great Second Person/Anon rivalry," Second said with great determination. "He thinks he's so great just because his fantasy novels are all so ridiculously long." He shook his head in frustration. "His last one was his worst. Anon just cranked out a loose trilogy which his publisher then bound and marketed as a single, thousand-page doorstopper like it was some significant literary accomplishment! You don't see me doing anything pretentious like that! It's not about my size, it's about my execution! Isn't that right, honey?"
Sour rolled her eyes. "Male authors and their obsession with their word lengths."
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Sour furled her brow. "When's that old man next door going to realize that hammering away at 7 AM is a war crime to those who haven't had their coffee yet?"
Second laughed. "Come on, he's got a lot of housework to do now that he's retired. His wife has a 'honey do list' a mile long."
Sour twirled around to give him a peck on the lips. "Want to know what the first thing on my 'honey do list' for you is? To take a shower. Have some consideration for the other nostrils on the plane ride, would you?"
Second chuckled and obeyed.
While he was getting ready, Sour went to work preparing breakfast. By the time the plates full of eggs and toast were laid out, Bitter Honey had awoken and found herself drawn to the kitchen by the delicious scent. Because of Second's trip, Sour thought it would be a nice idea for her take the Friday off as a vacation day from the hospital as well as allow her daughter to take a sick day from pre-school.
"You ready for our mama-daughter three day weekend, sweetie?" Sour asked as she saw Bitter coming into the kitchen.
"You bet!" Bitter giggled while still rubbing the sleepy from her eyes.
Second soon came down to join his girls for breakfast. He finished quickly and gave his daughter and wife their goodbye kisses.
"Have fun, daddy," Bitter said as she received hers.
"Kick some bookish ass," Sour said likewise.
Second grabbed his suitcase and left to catch his flight.
"So, Bitter," Sour said as she began to put away the dishes. "How do you want to kick off our big adventure?"
Bitter looked up at her and grinned.
Around noon, Sour carried Bitter outside to the car. She secured her daughter in the car seat in the back.
As Sour got into the driver's seat, she asked, "Wanna stop by Fast Food Wagon for a Sunny Meal before we see the zoo animals?"
"Yes, please!" Bitter cheered.
Bitter couldn't be happier. She had spent all morning since breakfast rattling off a long list of what her and her mother could do together this weekend. The zoo, the park playground, Silly's Pizza and Arcade, a binge-watch of the Discord the Happy Draconequus show... the possibilities were endless for the eager four-year-old. She couldn't wait.
They pulled into FFW's parking lot and went in. It was the lunch rush, that very special time where everybody should know better to avoid, but they go to eat in anyway. Sour ordered her usual, a carrot dog with extra relish as well as Bitter's Meal. After five minutes of waiting, Bitter noticed her mother becoming irritated. Her eyes darted around as if she was looking for a face to punch.
She reached up to tug on her shirt and assured, "Our food's coming soon."
The look on Sour's face was as if she just snapped out of something. She glanced down at her daughter and mumbled, "Yeah. Of course."
Eventually, they were seated at a table and enjoying their lunch. Or at least Bitter was. Sour still seemed to be in an increasingly bad mood.
Little did either of them know, something was about to happen to lift that mood.
At the soda dispenser, a man just finished topping off his cup. He swung around too fast and collided into another man who was walking towards the machine too fast. Ice and soda spilled and ran down the second man's shirt and pants. It was a honest accident. There was no anger. The first man was about to sincerely apologize before he was cut off by laughter.
The loud, obnoxious, mean-spirited cackle of Sour Sweet.
Unamused glares from all across the restaurant directed themselves at the discourteous woman. Next to Sour, however, her daughter was giving her a more confused glance.
"Mama, that wasn't nice."
Sour ignored Bitter and continued on with her meal, now with a satisfied smirk.
They buckled back up in the car after they finished eating. Sour pulled out into the highway. As they drove on, Bitter's mind was still on her mother's odd behavior. Yes, her mother would often get angry, even argue, not to mention have something snarky to say about pretty much anything. But flat-out laugh at someone like some bully? She had never done that. Or at least, Bitter had never seen her doing that as far back as she could remember.
Bitter's thoughts were interrupted when she noticed her mother's eyes in the rear view mirror. They kept looking back.
Bitter assumed she was glancing at her and asked, "What is it, mama?"
"That car behind us."
Bitter turned to look back. There was another car at a reasonable distance behind them. Nothing out of the ordinary from what Bitter could determine.
"They're after us," Sour's increasingly nervous voice uttered.
Bitter cocked her head. "Huh? Who's – "
Sour suddenly hit the gas. "Don't worry, Bitter! I won't let them get you!"
Bitter gripped her car seat for dear life as the car jolted into high speed. Sour swerved and zigzagged erratically through the heavy traffic, earning furious honks from other drivers. Bitter tightly shut her eyes in terror. She refused to peek as she was jerked from side to side at every sharp turn her mother made.
Finally, there was stillness. Bitter mustered up the courage to slowly open up one eye. The other popped open when she realized where they ended up.
They were in their driveway. Back home.
Bitter looked ahead, confused. "Mama, I thought we were going to the zoo."
Bitter saw the reflection of her mother's eyes in the rear view mirror again. They were full of sorrow as she said, "Oh, dear. Are you disappointed?" Instantly, the genuine guilt in her eyes was replaced with sheer spite as she growled, "Life. Get used to it, missy."
As Sour unbuckled her out of the car seat, Bitter had never been so baffled in her short life. Bitter was set down on the ground and began to follow her mother back into the house.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Sour instantly halted at the sound of her neighbor's hammering. Bitter stopped as well, looking up to see Sour gazing off in the direction of the sound. Her face was almost expressionless as she began to nod along as if someone was speaking to her.
"Yes, yes..." Sour muttered. "I understand."
"Who are you talking to, mama?"
Sour didn't answer, opting instead to grab her keys, unlock the door and rush into the house. Bitter stepped in after her to see Sour scrambling about, opening and closing all the drawers. Finally, she found a notebook and pen. Sour dropped to her knees, bent down to place the notebook on the floor, and frantically began scribbling away.
"What are you writing?" Bitter asked as she glanced at the pages, wishing that she could read.
Her mother looked up at her with an unsettling smile. "Truth."
With that, Sour shot back up and pulled out her cellphone. She smashed her finger at one of her contacts with great excitement.
"Niban!" Sour cheered as she picked up. "I get it! I finally get it! I am among the awakened now! The weeaboos did 9/11, President Filthy Rich truly does have a very good brain, and all the rest of the world leaders are the Gorn from Star Trek in disguise!"
Bitter's jaw dropped. Her mother had never agreed with her grandmama when it came to politics before.
"Oh, Sour Sweet!" she heard Niban's voice joyously gasp from the other end. "I've waited so long for the day that I could proudly call you 'daughter-in-law'! Welcome to the reprehensibles, dear!"
"Deo Vindice!!!" Sour shouted in a disturbing tone.
That was it. There was no doubt in Bitter's mind now that something was horribly, horribly wrong here. There was only one possibility of exactly what it could be when it came to her mother. Bitter had it all explained to her not too long ago. 'Schee-zo-fren-ee-uh', as she always had trouble saying.
Bitter wasted no time in running up the stairs. She sped into her parents' room and spotted her target. Jumping up, she grabbed the bottle of lithium pills from the nightstand. She tried to open the bottle, but the child proof cap lived up to its name. She gave up and ran out with it.
When she came back downstairs, her mother was off the phone and wildly running her fingers throughout her hair.
"So much to do, so little of time, a world to storm, people to animal, purple must roam, shores to sea, west to east, grass to amass, old to gold..." Sour rambled.
"Mama, mama!" Bitter called, holding up the bottle and rattling it. "You need these! Please take them!"
Sour abruptly halted her babble and stared up at the ceiling. Then, ever-so-slowly and rather creepily, Sour glanced down at her daughter. Bitter once again rattled the bottle. Sour's hands departed from her now completely disheveled hair. A warm smile came across her face. At that moment, a glimmer of hope washed over Bitter.
Sour bent down and took the bottle. She held it to her face with a look of admiration for several moments. Instantly, her smile disappeared. She began walking away with the bottle.
"Mama?" Bitter asked with concern. "Mama, where are you going?"
With every step, Sour walked faster and faster until she reached the bathroom. Bitter followed her until she froze in shock.
"What are you doing?!" Bitter shouted as she witnessed Sour ripping off the bottle's cap.
Sour dumped the pills into the toilet and flushed. Bitter's disbelief then turned into fear as her mother swung around to face her. The look on her face was pure rage.
"You think you're crafty, don't you, brat?"
"Wh-what?" Bitter uttered, tears welling up in her eyes.
Sour hauled back and threw the bottle. It smacked into and knocked over a vase. Bitter jumped at the sound of glass shattering on the floor.
"LITTLE BITCH TRYING TO POISON ME?!!?!!?!?!" Sour screamed at the top of her lungs.
It didn't matter that Bitter fairly understood that Sour wasn't in her right state of mind. In that moment, Bitter's four-year-old brain could only process that her mother was screaming at her. The toddler burst out crying and ran away.
Bitter darted into her room, straight to the perceived safety of under her bed.
Terrified, there she stayed for the rest of the day, weeping on and off. She neither saw or heard from her mother in that time. There was no call for dinner. She fell asleep that night with a wet face, an empty stomach, and a brain racked over how she could help her mother.
She rose out of bed. As Sour passed her bedroom mirror, she gave her reflection a smile. Her reflection didn't smile back.
<Such a disgusting body>
Sour realized she was naked. Her robe was hastily picked up and put on to hide her "shameful" form. She opened the door. The hallway walls were melting with puddles of wallpaper amassing on the floor.
<The puddles will kill you>
Sour began hopping and dodging so her feet would avoid the wallpaper. She let out a sigh of relief when she cleared the hallway and went downstairs. She began to open all the curtains to allow the morning sun in to brighten up her happy home.
<Statistics say that over 150,000 people in the world will die today>
Sour headed into the kitchen. There was breakfast to make. She placed a skillet onto the stove. Out of the refrigerator, she retrieved the eggs. She opened the carton and was about to pick up an egg.
<No, no. Not that one.>
Sour promptly chose another egg.
The smell of cooking wafted upstairs and under Bitter's bed. Her empty stomach jolted her awake. The toddler crawled out. Bitter stretched and wiped away the dust bunnies, her languid mind momentarily forgetting the reason she was even under there in the first place. Remembrance quickly hit her, though.
She rushed downstairs to the kitchen. Her mother appeared completely normal at first glance. Bitter went over and took her seat at the table. Sour placed a plate of scrambled eggs in the center. Bitter looked up to meet the intense gaze of her mother.
"Are we worthy?" Sour asked.
Bitter blinked. "Uh... yes?"
Sour slid the plate over to her after a moment of hesitation. Bitter frowned. Nothing had changed. As Bitter ate her breakfast, Sour sat across from her, completely silent.
"What do you want to do today, sweetie?" Sour finally asked.
Bitter's eyes widened with the memories of yesterday flashing before them. The laughter at others' misfortune, the road rage, the screaming...
She nervously gulped down a bite of egg, before answering, "Watch TV."
Sour and Bitter sat on the living room couch. Sour picked up the remote, switching the TV on. She then began furiously flipping through the channels. Bitter glanced over at her mother, wondering if she was even trying to find something to watch. Finally, she stopped on a certain news channel reporting on a certain recent natural disaster.
Sour scoffed loudly and obnoxiously. "What a bunch of PONY PUCKEY! There is no flooding. All that water the FAKE NEWS is showing is CGI courtesy of their HELLYwood elite buddies! All apart of the NWO's plan to bring a God-fearing red state to its KNEES!" She turned to her daughter and asked with a warm smile, "Don't you agree, Bitter?"
Wide-eyed, Bitter simply put on a fake smile and nodded. When her mother looked away, she sighed.
I wonder if daddy is having more fun than us? she thought.
Second Person straightened up his tie in the mirror.
This is it, he mentally pumped himself up. Time to take the literary world by storm.
He grabbed a copy of his novel, Chocolate Eyes and tucked it under his right arm. He marched towards his hotel room door. He placed his hand on the handle, then stopped. His head shot down in shame.
"Really, dork?" Second sighed to himself. "You were seriously about to go out carrying around your own book?"
Yes, Second's social awkwardness had never fully gone away in all these years. He turned and tossed the novel onto his bed. He was about to leave once more before he suddenly let out a frustrated groan. He quickly went to his suitcase. Out he pulled a pair of reading glasses.
"Okay, one dorky move and that's it," he muttered while putting them on.
With that, he finally left his room.
Second kicked off his career at the Canterlot Gazette, starting out as a coffee-getting intern before being assigned the fluff pieces. Following his passion, he decided to take it up a notch with fiction. Novels about life's ups and downs, childhood, adulthood, parenthood, those kind of deep, philosophical topics. Okay, one novel featured space aliens. But only one. Chocolate Eyes was his fourth so far.
He wasn't a household name. He had no calls from Hollywood moguls wanting to butcher his vision and slap a cash grab up onto the big screen. What he did have were a decent amount of positive reviews on Amazon, a few 'thank you for this' e-mails by readers who found themselves touched in one way or another by his work, and not to mention a couple of uproarious podcast interviews.
Of course, his career may just be about to get a significant boost.
He arrived onto the floor of the Vanhoover ProseCon to be greeted by the sight of busy show booths and autograph areas. Tonight would be the ceremony for The Perdita Finn Award. Awards of any kind always sound impressive. Especially when there was a chance that a Goliath such as Anon could be defeated.
Their "rivalry" all started when Second first broke into publishing. Anon had been on a convention panel when the topic of that year's debut novels came up. Being the prick that he was, Anon brought up Second Person by name and mocked his work, stating that it was the worst debut he had ever come across. Not only was this in front of a large audience, but the video was up online still to the present day. The internet never forgets, and neither did Second by golly! From that day forward, it was "on like Donkey Kong" as Second told Sour before she chastised him for using such a dumb expression. Second and Anon had been trading insults ever since.
Speak of the devil...
Heading his way was Anon, who was strolling along and laughing with his posse of groupies. Society at large wouldn't buy such a thing was possible. Most authors would even deny such a phenomenon happened. Second, though, was observant enough to know better. If an author had at least semi-good looks, the bestsellers (i.e. money), and enough audacity, they could get laid from writing books.
"Anon, tell us about the magic system from Fogbirthed again, please," one of the women gushed.
Anon chuckled pompously. "Love to. It all started one thousand years ago in the world of –" He cut himself off as he saw who was in front of them. "Well, well, well. Second Person."
Trying to play it cool, Second simply nodded. "Anon."
"I understand that your new book is up against mine for the award tonight. Congratulations." Anon pursed his lips and brought his knuckles up to his chin, feigning deep thought. "But I just never knew that the judging committee regards substandard plots driven by Gary Stu-ish self-inserts so highly."
"'Self-inserts'?" Second repeated, his blood pressure already surging. So much for playing it cool. "I do not write myself into my books, Anon."
Anon crossed his arms. "Really now? Let's take your latest protagonist for example, shall we? He's Japanese American, very socially awkward, a liberal embarrassed by his far right parents, has a femdom fetish, marries his high school sweetheart who happens to struggle with mental issues..." He smirked while pointing. "... and often wears reading glasses in public because he thinks they will make himself look smarter."
Second blushed deeply as the groupies all burst out in laughter.
I really need to stop being so honest about myself during podcasts, he sighed mentally.
"Well, nice running into you, Second, but I really must go now. I have a book signing to get to. The line must be growing very long and very rowdy with impatience. You know how that is." Anon snickered. "Oh, wait. You wouldn't. Ta-ta!"
Anon led his groupies away, a few of them continuing to giggle and even encircling their fingers around their eyes to mock Second as they passed.
Second let out a defeated sigh as he took off the glasses.
"I wonder if Sour and Bitter are having more fun than me?" he wondered aloud.
Bitter ran up to the top of the stairs. From a safe distance, she watched as her hysterical mother began trashing the living room. Sour stomped and threw things in an attempt to kill the nonexistent rodents running all over the floor.
Bitter sighed. "So much for just watching TV."
Unbeknownst to Sour and Bitter, at that moment three shifty individuals had stopped outside and looked upon their home with great intention. One was a bright-eyed eighteen-year-old boy holding up a defective vacuum cleaner. He was fresh from high school and eager to begin his first day at being a door-to-door salesman. Hovering over him were two old-school "pros" at the sales game.
"Boy, oh, boy, Sham, my boy!" Flim announced exuberantly.
"This is it, nephew!" Flam said. "Your first bell ring!" He slapped Sham's back. "Ready to seal the deal?"
"Bat a thousand?" Flim added with his own back slap.
"Bleed a blue hair?" Flam added with another.
"Hook 'em and clean 'em good?" Flim added with yet another.
"I sure am, Papa Flim, Uncle Flam!" Sham beamed.
"Now go show the world why the Skim Family is best in breed!" Flim cheered, giving him one final slap to go on.
With a hop and a skip and a sore back, Sham went right up to the front door. He straightened his bow tie and rung the bell. Inside, Sour halted her assault against the rodent menace at the sound. She hesitantly inched over to the door and peeked through the peephole. She couldn't see an up-and-coming con artist holding up a vacuum cleaner. All she could see was a giant, snarling, disease-ridden rat holding up a vacuum cleaner.
Sham was about to ring a second time when he heard the sound of a window opening. He turned his head to see Sour Sweet popping into view.
"BEGONE FOUL PLAGUE OF THE EARTH!!!!!!" she screeched as she began to pelt Sham with wrapped cheese slices straight from the fridge.
Caught off guard, Sham took off running, dropping the vacuum on the lawn in the process. He joined back up with his mentors who were taking off as well.
"Sure, sometimes you encounter hostile territory, but that's what danger pay's for!" Flim assured through his panting.
"Why would salesmen get that kind of reaction?" Sham naively asked. "Don't they know we have a license to do this?"
"Heh, license," Flam chuckled. "That's a good one."
As Sour threw out the very last cheese slice, Bitter ran down the stairs and up to the window.
"Wait, come back!" Bitter called out to the escaping salesmen. "My mama needs help!"
They never looked back. Bitter sighed as she turned around.
Then, she saw it. Sour's cellphone on the floor, being one of the objects Sour threw at the rats. Bitter's eyes lit up. Of course! She had seen it being used before. She was sure that she could remember the right buttons to push and if she couldn't, she would be able wing it. She could call her daddy, Grandmama Person, Grandmama Sweet, Gretchen's mama, either one of her Aunties Sunny, Sugarcoat, Indigo, or Lemon, somebody! Anybody who could help!
Bitter rushed over and picked up the phone. She was just about to begin tapping at it before her mother's hand suddenly snatched it away.
"WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!?!?!" Sour yelled.
Bitter then witnessed Sour taking the phone, tossing it out the window, and then slamming it shut.
Sour whirled back around. "DON'T YOU KNOW THAT NICOLAE CARPATHIA DIED FOR YOUR SINS?!?!?!?!?!?!"
Once again, screams from the mother produced tears from the daughter. Sour stood there as she watched Bitter run away from her. Slowly, she then walked over to a wall, leaned her back against it, and slid all the way down to the floor.
"You're scaring your daughter," Sour muttered to herself.
She hauled back and gave her right cheek a hard, stinging slap.
Bitter had spent a couple hours once again hiding under her bed before she got fed up with it. She was not going to have a repeat of yesterday, she had decided. Crawling out, she went to her window. She wondered if she could leave the house for help. The old man next door was nice.
A shiver went up Bitter's spine as a thought came to her. What would her mother do if she tried that? She saw how she reacted when she was about to use the cellphone. If she went to leave the house and was caught... would her mother punish her?
A rumble in her tummy interrupted her fears. She turned to face her door. If her mother couldn't be relied on for food, then she would just have to get some herself. Bitter walked out.
She saw her mother in the living room. She appeared catatonic. Bitter tiptoed around her.
Bitter glanced around the kitchen. A cooked meal was out of the question, so she tried to think what she could whip up. She knew there were jars of peanut butter and grape jelly in the refrigerator along with some bread on the counter.
She went over to the dinner table, picked out a chair, and pushed it to the fridge door. She climbed up to open and retrieve the jars. She did the same with the silverware drawer to retrieve a table knife. Finally, she pushed it to the counter where the bread was.
To say Bitter's peanut butter and jelly sandwich was sloppy would be an understatement, but she did succeed in self-sufficiency. Before this, she had only watched adults prepare them. Speaking of which, she remembered her mother. Surely she would be hungry, too. A second sandwich was made.
Sour was still sitting on the floor, blankly staring off into space. Bitter climbed down and hesitantly went up to her, wary of getting screamed at once more.
Sour didn't move.
Bitter held out one of the sandwiches. "Want something to eat? I made it myself."
Sour's eyes lazily shifted over to her. Her brow began to furrow as if anger was slowly building up.
"They're not poison, I promise," Bitter quickly assured. She took a bite. "See? Mmm."
"Is the grape jelly grape?" Sour hissed.
"Umm... no?" Bitter took a shot in the dark. "The grape jelly is pineapple."
Apparently that was the answer Sour was looking for. She eased up and held her hand out. Bitter gave her the sandwich. Sour bit into it and began chewing at a snail's pace.
Bitter sighed with relief. She then sat down beside her mother so they could enjoy their dinner together.
When she finished her last bite, Bitter let out a satisfied, "Mmm." She turned to her mother. "Do you want me to make another for you?"
"Don't be like me," Sour suddenly whispered.
"Don't be like me when you grow up, Bitter."
Bitter gave her a small smile. "But mama, I want to be just like you."
"Never say that." Sour shook her head. "You don't want this. Be like your daddy and be a charming nerd." She chuckled a bit.
Realizing her mother was being coherent, Bitter asked, "Mama, are you feeling better?"
"Yes. No." She buried her face into her hands and let out a muffled, "I don't know."
"You need pills."
"I need sleep. What time is it?" She looked up at a clock. "Eight. You need sleep, Bitter."
Bitter pouted. "But I wanna stay up with you. Make sure that you're okay."
Sour wiped a tear from her eye and smiled. "I'll be fine, sweetie. I promise."
Sour got up, scooping the little one up into her arms. She carried Bitter to her room and tucked her into bed. She read her daughter a story until her eyes began to close. Just like any normal night.
"Now get some sleep," Sour spoke quietly as she stroked Bitter's head. "I've got to go check in on little Tarty now."
Bitter's eyes instantly opened back up. "Wait, little who?"
"Tarty Hito," Sour said matter-of-factly as she walked to the door. "Your baby brother."
"But I don't have a baby brother."
Sour giggled as she clicked off the light. "Of course you do, silly. Only he's not going to be like you where I hallucinate him once and then years later I actually do give birth to him. Nico-Stone's a sucky writer, but he's not that much of a hack to try pulling the exact same shit twice." She waved. "Okay, good night, Bitter."
Sour closed the door, leaving her wide-eyed daughter in total darkness.
Second Person took his seat in the packed auditorium. All around him authors, literary critics, and other assorted guests were buzzing with excitement, waiting for the award ceremony to begin. A couple rows in front of Second, he could see Anon with each arm around a groupie. As if feeling Second's gaze on the back of his bald, green head, he turned to shoot back a smirk.
"Hope you win," Anon sarcastically said.
Second tried to breath out his anger. He had to focus. His thank you speech was being mentally rehearsed with the notes on standby in his pocket.
Of course, he was prepared to lose once again as well. In his right hand, he clutched his cellphone. In the event that he won, he would immediately call home. Sour would be informed of the awesome news, there would be the promise of celebratory nookie upon his return, and all will be well. In the event that he lost, he would still immediately call home. Sour would be informed of the disappointing news, there would be the promise of consolatory nookie upon his return, and next year will be looked forward to.
Music began to play and the host of the event took the stage.
"And the winner of this year's Perdita Finn Award is..."
A cellphone vibrated and rang out into the night unanswered. It's only company was a defective vacuum cleaner and bunch of cheese slices scattered out along the front lawn.
Inside, Sour Sweet was on the living room floor. She was naked, her clothes having been tossed away in random directions. She was staring up at the ceiling, watching numbers fly around, the bigger ones catching and eating the smaller ones. Screams of bloody agony filled her ears.
"I'm broken," she uttered. "I need to be thrown away..."
The numbers were gone, not that she missed them. She needed a distraction. A distraction from all the thoughts and voices swirling inside her head. She also needed sleep, but that sure wasn't going to happen. So she tried to think of how to entertain her insomniac self as she wandered throughout the house in the nude.
She thought about her husband and how he wrote all the time. True, his novel writing was technically a job, but he did write fanfiction on the side just for fun. Sour smirked. His erotic crossover fics featuring Daring Do and Zapp from the Power Ponies were not too shabby. He didn't know she knew about them, but she did.
Sour thought and thought about what kind of fanfic she would write if she did one. What two characters from separate franchises could she make have sexy times? She finally shook her head in annoyance. This was stupid, she decided. She wasn't a writer.
She did know she was thirsty, though. Some water would be nice. She made her way towards the kitchen. Before she could go in, however, she nearly bumped into somebody exiting. Somebody very important.
Sour jumped back and respectfully saluted. "Your Excellency!"
The man before her had blonde, perfectly-styled hair with A-list Hollywood-worthy facial features. His piercing blue eyes stared straight into hers with bold intensity. They made her feel that no sin of hers could escape his sight. His fine, tailored suit represented his importance, his power and his place in eternal history. She was facing His Excellency, Global Community Supreme Potentate Nicolae Carparthia.
Nicolae was the Antichrist character from the Left Behind franchise of Christian novels, kids books, PC games, comics, and low budget movies. It was a brief phenomenon in the late 90s and early 2000s, so much so that both The Simpsons and American Dad! saw it worthy enough to dedicate entire episodes to parody its plot. HBO even put out a secularized version with a similar name.
The only reason Sour was aware of it was because of Second. His parents wanted him enjoying wholesome entertainment instead of being "corrupted" by boy wizards or shiny vampires. And what was more wholesome than a biblical apocalypse chock-full of demon attacks and Christian beheadings? Of course, Sour thought the whole thing just came off as a modern-day Paradise Lost where the bad guy could be interpreted as the secret hero.
"No need for this 'Your Excellency' business, Miss Sweet," the global dictator assured with his silky-smooth Romanian accent. "Just 'Nicolae' is fine."
"What are you doing here, sir?"
Nicolae held up a small paddle. "I was about to play some ping-pong with an old friend if you did not mind."
Sour turned to see a ping-pong table with an old man waiting with his own paddle.
"Alo, comrade Ceaușescu," Sour greeted.
Nicolae Ceaușescu waved the paddle. "Alo!" This Nicolae, of course, was the real-life Communist leader which the Left Behind creators based their fictional Antichrist on.
"Want to play winner?" Nicolae Carpathia offered.
Sour shook her head. "No, thank you. Enjoy your game."
"We will, Miss Sweet," Nicolae Carpathia assured as he passed her. He then added, "Beautiful wings, by the way."
Sour raised an eyebrow before glancing over her shoulder. She gasped as she gazed upon an outstretched, yellow-feathered wing. She whipped her head to look over the other shoulder to see a second wing. Her hands shot up to feel her ears. They were not there. She reached up higher to find two new ears.
Her heart overflowing with excitement and joy, Sour jumped up. She found herself soaring above the clouds. Her body shivered with delight over the feeling of air flowing across her new appendages. Sour twirled through a cloud. She wished she could be as talented at ballet as Sugarcoat. Swan Lake would be the appropriate soundtrack right about then.
Sour was in sheer euphoria until she suddenly felt a painful sting and forceful yank on her leg. Her body was forced down. Sour looked to see a green vine wrapped tightly around her leg. Before she could act, more vines came up to constrict her. Sour strongly suppressed the urge to make a bad hentai joke.
Finally, her bound body reached the ground to reveal her enemies. There before her was Gaea Everfree ( who was kindly supplying the vines ), behind her was Midnight Sparkle, flanking her right was Sunset Satan, flanking her left was Juniper Monstar, and hovering above her were the beastly Siren forms of Adagio, Aria, and Sonata.
Midnight leaned in and amorously whispered into Sour's ear, "Nothing personal, Sour Sweet, but we're declaring this is a no-Horsegirl zone."
Sour's eyes narrowed. "You freaks are forgetting who you're messing with..."
Her entire body then began to envelop with light. The energy sizzled straight through and snapped Gaea's vines, causing the ancient spirit to scream out in pain. The other villains began to back up with caution.
"I am Sour Sweet..." she declared as armor magically materialized upon her. "... the element of MOTHERFUCKING BADASSERY!!!!!!!!"
She shot out her hand. A bow of bright, bluish light appeared in her grasp, an arrow to match at the ready. Sour wasted no time in drawing it back, aiming straight at Gaea. The ancient spirit, undeterred, launched at her for the attack. Sour let go. The arrow shot, splitting up into five just before impact.
One arrow pierced Gaea's midsection, two into each shoulder, and two in each forearm. Gaea winced in pain and grit her jagged rock teeth, but stood strong.
"Is that all you – " she hissed before noticing the glow of all five arrows growing in intensity.
They exploded. Chunks of her plant body scattered through the air. What was left burned and crumbled by sparkling, blue fire.
Sour shook her head. "What a waste. She really should have been the actual villain of Legend of Everfree in retrospect."
Enraged, Sunset Satan summoned up an energy blast within her hands. She was about to send it to Sour, before her face contorted and she began to gasp as if being choked. Acting on a hunch, Sour glanced over to see none other than Nicolae Carpathia. He smirked as he Darth Vader-ed Sunset Satan with his supernatural telekinesis.
"Not that you need the help, Miss Sweet, but I hope you do not mind me having a little fun myself," Nicolae smugly said.
Sunset Satan instantly swung her energy blast toward the newcomer. Nicolae did not move. The blast hit him directly, exploding with great force. Sunset Satan felt her throat loosen up.
The smoke cleared. There stood Nicolae, completely unharmed. His suit didn't even have a single burnt tinge on it.
He tilted his chin up in a gesture of superiority. "You have the gall to include 'Satan' in your name? You are nothing but, how do you say, a poser. But if you insist upon it, how about you take it all the way to its inevitable conclusion?"
"What in hell are you blabbering about?!" Sunset Satan demanded.
"'What in hell'?" Nicolae nodded. "Appropriate choice of words."
A loud noise jerked Sunset Satan's attention straight down. The earth opened up below her, revealing a fiery underworld. Sunset Satan gasped in horror. She turned to fly away, but chains instantly shot up and wrapped her body. Just as Sour was yanked down earlier, so too was the she-demon. The last thing Sunset Satan saw before plunging into the eternal lake of fire was the sadistic grin of Nicolae Carpathia.
Sour watched the scene with morbid curiosity until her distracted mind was taken advantage of. Adagio's dagger-toothed maw suddenly latched onto her left arm. If it wasn't for the incredible amount of magic surging throughout her body, Sour's arm would have been ripped right off. It quickly became clear that the Cheeto-Siren was merely holding her in place. Sour was then blasted by the singing of Aria and Sonata.
Sour hauled back and began punching Adagio in the eye as if she were a Great White. She let out a frustrated sigh as it became clear that that wasn't working. Then, with all of her strength, she swung Adagio around. Aria and Sonata cut off their harmonic assault as they realized they were being attacked by their now-weaponized sister. Aria was side-swiped and Sonata was slammed from above. Adagio finally let go.
Sour flew straight down by Nicolae's side. The Antichrist held up his hand. At his mental command, the skies darkened and roared. The Sirens didn't even time to scream before their bodies were hit by lightning and exploded. It began raining fish sticks. Sour caught one and took a satisfied bite.
"Who's next?" she asked the remaining villains.
Midnight Sparkle and Juniper Monstar flinched.
"Get them!" Midnight commanded, smacking Juniper forward in the back.
Juniper shot her an icy glare, but went anyway.
"I'm warning you," Juniper declared, shooting her fists up in an awkward fighting stance. "I've been trained by the top fight choreographers Hollywood can bu – "
Sour jumped up and punched the giantess straight in the nose.
Juniper shrieked as she dropped to her knees. "MY BRAND NEW, BEAUTIFUL NOSE!!! I BEGIN SHOOTING IN THE MORNING!!! WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO TELL MY AGENT?!?!?!?!"
Sour and Nicolae glanced at each other and shook their heads in disgust. Their attention then turned to their final opponent. Midnight quickly opened up a portal.
"You've won this day but I'll be back, Sour Sweet!" she declared. "After all, we need an open ending in case this fic gets a lot of likes and featured, prompting a sequel demand!"
With that, Midnight vanished into another world.
Sour turned to her partner. "Well, Nicolae, it looks like we make a pretty good team."
Nicolae gently placed his hands onto Sour's shoulders. "Sour, I promise to be always by your side."
Sour blushed. "Wh-what?"
"I have decided to rebuke Lucifer and all his evils. From now on, I will use my awesome supernatural and political powers for the benefit of mankind. And I want you to be my queen."
"Oh, Carpathia-senpai..." Sour gushed as she leaned in for a kiss.
Sour found herself back in her living room. She didn't have wings. There were no villains. No Nicolae to be found.
She took both hands and rubbed her face.
"What's the point anymore?" she sighed. "All my mind is good for is nearly having a hallucinatory affair with a fictional Antichrist and probably earning an angry letter from Shady Oaks Ministries..."
Sour walked up to Bitter Honey's room. She cracked the door open just enough to see her daughter sleeping soundly in her bed.
"Daddy will be home soon, sweetie," she whispered. "He'll take care of you. He won't scare you. The two of you will be happy together. You'll forget all about me..."
The door was closed back.
Sour put the keys into the ignition, pulled the car out of the driveway, and drove off.
The sea breeze felt nice on Sour's bare skin.
Small waves lapped at Sour's ankles as she gazed out at the ocean with a starry sky overhead. Nature, like beauty, was in the eye of the beholder. One person could look upon it and be filled with a sense of wondrous contentment. Another, however, could look upon it and be filled with a sense of bleak insignificance. It all depended on the mindset.
Sour's mindset was currently FUBAR.
It was the same beach where she had tried to take her life so many years ago. Then, a desperate Second and an apologetic father were there to stop her. Now, she only had herself.
"If you're going to do it, then do it."
Sour shot over an annoyed glance at the source of the sarcastic comment. The plaid skirt of the young girl's Crystal Prep Academy uniform rippled in the wind as she stared ahead, feigning stoicism.
"It's my right to end it," Sour noted.
"It's your family's right to mourn you," the young girl shot back.
"Why are you even here?"
"You tell little ol' me.You're the one conjuring me, aren't you?"
"I don't have the slightest clue."
"Maybe you don't really want to do it.Too cowardly to live, too cowardly to die. Sad."
"You were going to do it once. Don't judge me."
The young girl threw her hands up. "Of course I'm going to judge you! I am you! We've been judging ourself our whole life!"
Sour rolled her eyes. Having a hallucination of your bratty eighteen-year-old self as company really could put a damper on a suicide.
"Have I always been this insufferable? How does Second put up with me?"
The younger Sour shrugged. "Love? Masochism?Plot contrivance?Who knows?"
"It doesn't matter now," Sour sighed.
She took her first step toward the sea.
KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK! KNOCK!
Sour instantly halted. She looked all around for the source of the noise.
"What's the matter?" her younger self asked.
"The knocking. Don't you hear that knocking? It sounds like my next door neighbor's hammering. But... he's not here..."
Then, slowly, the hammering began to change. The knocks morphed into beats. Loud, hostile-sounding beats. Like a war drum. Sour's heart began to pound along with it. She didn't like it. What did it mean? Her eyes widened. Bitter. Bitter was in trouble!
Sour spun around and sprinted back towards her car.
"Bitter!!!" she yelled. "I've got to save Bitter!!!"
"Hey, when you get back home, put some damn clothes on, will ya?" she heard her younger self call after her.
Bitter's eyes shot open as she felt hands grab onto her. Above her was her mother. She had a trembling smile as tears streamed down her cheeks.
"Come on, sweetie," she said shakily. "We need to go."
Before Bitter could question, Sour ripped her from the bed. Sour ran into and down the hall. Taking Bitter into her bedroom, Sour shot into the closet. The door was slammed shut. Sour sat on the floor, placing her daughter into her lap.
"It's all going to be okay, Bitter," Sour assured. "Nobody's going to get you. I won't let them."
Bitter looked at her mother. There Sour was, naked, shaking and terrified at nothing, clutching her for dear life. Pity swelled within Bitter. Pity, but also helplessness. All she could do was to hug her mother tightly.
"I know it's going to be okay, mama. I know."
Unsurprisingly, the first things that caught Second Person's attention as he pulled up were the vacuum cleaner and the cheese slices on the front lawn.
The heck? he wondered.
He stepped out of his car and went over to investigate.
Second put his hands on his hips. This some kind of prank? What, are egging and teepeeing too mainstream for the kids these days?
His eyes were then drawn to something that wouldn't have anything to do with any young shenanigans. His wife's cellphone. He bent down and picked it up. He checked it, seeing the missed call notification from when he tried to call her last night.
Worry began to rise in Second as he immediately went straight toward the front door. It worsened when he found it unlocked. His jaw dropped when he entered to find the living room trashed.
Second's eyes darted around frantically, his heart racing. What the hell happened? A break-in? Oh, no. Oh, God no. Where's my wife and my daughter?!
"SOUR, BITTER?!?!" he screamed as he ran upstairs.
He reached Bitter's bedroom to see her empty bed.
"Bitter?!" Second yelled again.
"Daddy!" a muted voice called to him.
Second ran out, realizing that it was coming from his and Sour's bedroom. He called her name again as he reached it and received another "Daddy!". It was coming from the closet. Second yanked it open.
"Oh, dear lord..." Second uttered as he beheld his naked, shuddering wife and his relieved-looking daughter.
"Get away from us, you bastard!!!" Sour angrily yelled at Second.
"Daddy, mama needs her pills!" Bitter informed.
Second had to admit, half his worry dissipated knowing that some assault hadn't taken place. However, this was still serious.
He bent down at Sour's eyelevel. "Sour, it's me."
Sour whirled around, her back facing him in defense. "You are NOT getting Bitter, asshole!!!"
Second slowly reached out and gently placed his hand upon her shoulder. Her entire body flinched in fear.
"Sour, it's okay. Everything's alright now. It's me, Second. Your husband." He gently placed the other hand upon the other shoulder. Her body flinched slightly less this time. "Let me help you. You're going to be okay, I promise."
Sour's head hesitantly turned to look back. Her eyes were glistening.
Second smiled at her. "Will you let me come in there with you?"
"You're safe, mama."
Sour glanced down to the child she was protectively cradling. Bitter gave her an assuring smile. Sour glanced back at her husband. Finally, she scooted over. Second slowly crawled inside the closet next to them. He gestured for Sour to hand over Bitter. Surprisingly, she did without protest. An offer of his shoulder was taken up as well.
Second would lose track of time just sitting there in the closet, his wife and daughter in his arms.
Legally, Second Person was still deemed to be a competent adult so there would be no serious child custody case in response to his wife's relapse.
Personally, Second deemed himself to be incompetent and a failure, both as a husband and a father.
Sour Sweet was his best friend, his lawfully wedded wife, and his soulmate. Bitter Honey was his daughter, his pride and joy, and his world. How could he have not been there for them? He noticed at least one of the warning signs with Sour's sleeplessness. Couldn't he have made sure that she was taking her medication? Bitter said that there was reckless driving. What if there was a crash? Second had the scars on his left arm to know what a driver with impaired health could do. Bitter missed several meals. Why wasn't he there to feed her? Why? Why? WHY?!
Second's self-agonizing thoughts were interrupted by the pain in his hands. He was gripping the steering wheel too tightly. He loosened up.
He glanced over to Sour. She was silent, simply peering out the window. Her face seemed so full of thought. He wondered if she was seeing anything extra among the scenery at the moment. Second used the rearview mirror to look back at Bitter. She was following Sour's example, quietly watching the world go by. She even had a similar expression upon her face.
Second cracked a smile. Like mother, like daughter.
They pulled into the parking lot. The sign on the building read, "CANTERLOT PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL".
Second got out and opened the door for Bitter first. He unbuckled her from the car seat, picking her up and out onto the ground. He then opened the door for Sour. Similarly, he unbuckled her and with hand held, helped her out.
They entered the hospital. Second signed the forms that the receptionist handed to him. Every stroke of the pen pained him. A nurse came for Sour. Second picked Bitter up so she could be at eye level with her mother.
"Get better, mama."
"Sour, we're going to visit you as often as they allow us to."
Sour didn't respond to either of them. The nurse gently placed her hands on her and began guiding the way to her room. Sour compiled for a moment, but then stopped. She turned back around.
Second perked up. "Yes, honey?"
"Did you win your award?"
Second blinked. He had honestly forgotten all about that. "Yes, Sour. I did. Anon was pissed."
A small, barely visible smile grew on his wife's face. "I knew you would."
With that, Sour turned back around and followed the nurse. She had treatment to begin.
Leaving the hospital, Second took Bitter to the city park. He felt he had a lot of making up to do over his daughter's lost fun weekend.
Bitter grew excited, tugging at his hand. "Daddy, let's go to the roundabout first!"
Second chuckled. "Alright, alright. Just don't pull my arm off, girl!"
Bitter jumped onto the roundabout. She sat right in the middle and gripped the bars.
"Ready?" Second asked.
Not too hard, Second gave it a spin. Bitter let out a "Wooo!" as she went round and round. However, she wasn't completely satisfied.
"Faster, daddy, faster!"
Second shrugged. "Alright, you asked for it."
As hard as he could, he spun it. Bitter laughed. The entire world around her was a complete blur. Steadily, she began to slow down and to make out objects. She saw her father coming and going with each rotation. Then, something odd happened. She began seeing two men. It wasn't double. It was her father and clearly someone else. A man with blonde hair, blue eyes, wearing a fine, tailored suit, with a sadistic grin on his face.
The roundabout slowed to a stop. Bitter was joyously dizzy. The other man was gone, though. Only her father was there with her.