Vainglory: Part Three of The Cambrian Project

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The Princes continue to toy with the subjects of The Cambrian Project, but just how different are the Princes and the subjects? And how far are the subjects willing to go to prove that they're more than just a variable?

Submitted: December 14, 2012

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Submitted: December 14, 2012

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How hard is it to catch a cab around here? It’s barely a quarter past noon and the streets aren’t even that busy. It’s almost eerie how quiet things are considering it’s a weekend. Oh well, ‘panta rhei’ right? I swear the lengths I go for a cup of coffee.

It took a second but I finally found a cab willing to stop for five seconds to humor a girl’s strange compulsion towards morning caffeine. It was an odd looking cab; your typical four door sedan, except it was black and it had the word Chthonic written on it in red letters. I was honestly not in the proper mindset for speculation at the moment so I hopped in hoping I wouldn’t care enough to let it bother me.

It did.

So did the driver.

She was a younger woman, around my age, or at least she looked like it. I couldn’t really place a finger on what age she was really, and once again a lack of stimulation can lead to apathy in most cases. This was one of them. She had short blood red hair hidden under her hat that bore the same Chthonic label.

That word again.

“Where to, Miss?” she said in an almost obnoxiously professional tone.

“There’s a café down 21st Street called Vainglory, have you ever heard of it?” I asked.

“I’m familiar with the location.” She replied in that same tone.

“That makes things easier then. If you don’t mind my asking, what made you decide to be a taxi driver?” I had to ask.

I couldn’t really see that much of her from where I was seated but from what I could see, she was gorgeous, and I’m fairly certain that she could’ve convinced most employers that she was worth hiring.

“I suppose you could say I’m in between jobs at the moment. There were several occupations that were suggested that I pursue. This was simply one of many.”

“Did they all involve dealing with unreasonable people like me on a daily basis?”

“They did, though I don’t particularly mind. I enjoy getting people to where they need to be. For instance, it seems like you’re in the need of a stimulating environment.”

“You can tell I’m that drained?” I sighed and rolled my eyes “Lately I’ve been thinking I need a complete change of pace. I’ve…”

“Lose your train of thought?”

“Yeah…Completely. I have no idea where I was going with that.”

“You weren’t about to complain about your job?”

I was. If I could remember what I did for the last week aside from screw around, that is.

No…I don’t think so.”

“I think you might desperately need some coffee.”

“I think you’re right.”

“We’re here. I’d say you’re in luck but it’s a bit late for that.”

“I suppose, but don’t you mean early?” I asked as I started to get out of the cab.

“No.”

“Hey do you think I could have your card? I might need you again while you’re job hopping.”

“I have a feeling that won’t be necessary.”

“Well you could at least tell me your name.” I said as I finally closed the door.

“Charon.”

“That’s a pretty name.” I said.

She smiled and tipped her hat before driving off. Our little encounter served to distract me from how much I needed coffee but it was only a temporary measure.

I rushed inside and ordered their signature ‘Vainglory’ brew. If I had to describe how it tastes I’d say it tastes like accomplishment with just a hint of self-indulgence. Okay, a lot of self-indulgence. Does it honestly sound like I care? It really shouldn’t.  

One of the brewboys, which is what I liked to call the men that worked here, had just taken a break and decided to make himself comfortable in the chair seated across from me. Normally I’d be a little miffed but he wasn’t bad on the eyes. He had short messy black hair and grey eyes and looked oddly dapper in his green button up shirt. He was fiddling with his phone as if he was having a bit of trouble, occasionally cursing under his breath. Or at least he was until he caught me looking at him.

“Oh I’m hope I’m not a bother, Miss.” He said nervously.

“The only thing bothering me is the fact that you’re the second person today who’s called me ‘Miss’ on my day off.” I said as I let my head sink into my hand.

“From the looks of things, the first person didn’t exactly leave a good taste in your mouth.” He said.

“She didn’t even leave a taste in my mouth.”

“That’s a problem?”

“I guess not. Speaking of problems, are you have any luck with that right there?” I motioned to his phone that he thought I didn’t notice.

“You saw?”

“You were almost too sneaky for me to notice it at first but I managed to catch a glimpse.”

“I must have let my guard down. I’ll have to account for the distraction sitting across from me.”

He is too freaking cute. I wonder if he’ll fit in my purse. I wouldn’t mind taking a snack home with me.

“This is going to sound weird, but I’m having trouble finding a certain contact in my phone.”

“Did you delete it?”

“I hope not.”

“Who are you looking for?”

“You know…I’m not really sure.”

What the hell?

“You mean you forgot them after you deleted their contact? That’s low.”

Not like I haven’t done the same thing before but still…

“I mean I woke up, found my phone, and tried to get in touch with someone but for some reason I couldn’t remember who. It’s bizarre.”

You’re kidding, he’s an amnesiac? I guess that has its benefits. He won’t remember my number, if I even give it to him.

“I think you should hurry up and find out who it is you’re trying to talk to, I think they’re waiting on a call from you.”

Wait what the hell am I saying? I don’t even know this guy!

“You think so?

“I wouldn’t doubt advice from a total stranger. I could be an all-knowing seer for all you know.”

“Well then,” he started as he stood up “I shall take these almighty instructions to heart and meditate over them as I return to my endless toil.”

He took my hand and kissed it before he went back to work.

Fucking cutie! Wait…Shit I didn’t get his name! Damn it Lulu, get it together.

I still had a lot of time so I ordered another coffee and sat back down. I saw the guy a couple of times from where I was sitting but he wasn’t wearing a nametag so I still was unaware of his identity.

This coffee though…

I was so lost in my drink that I barely caught him walking out the door. For some reason I was about to get up when I saw the scariest looking woman walk in through the door. She had straight black hair that shot down her back and a walk like a supermodel. What scared me the most about her is the fact that she even scared me in the first place.  Her black dress looked almost like a nightgown and it trailed down to her ankles. She was wearing dark sunglasses so I couldn’t see her eyes, but I was familiar enough with the sound of four-hundred dollar stilettoes to know that she was wearing heels.

“Is this seat taken?” she asked, though I could tell she wasn’t really asking.

“Not at all.” I said with a smile.

I shifted my attention to the brewboy outside so it didn’t look like I was staring at her. Unfortunately for me she followed my gaze and turned to look behind her.

“Ooh, he’s cute for a younger guy. Friend of yours?” she asked, still looking outside.

“Hardly. I don’t even know his name.” I laughed.

“Seriously?!” she started as she turned around to face me “Shame on you, you almost married that man.”

I looked down and threw my hands on top of my head because it felt like someone had took an ax and swung it through my head but for some twisted reason it didn’t split open.

“His name is Milo. Milo Hernandez. I think that’s a much better name than ‘Subject Zero’. Wouldn’t you agree, Subject Two?”

I began to look up at her slowly. I was scared and confused.

Who was this woman?

Why does my head hurt like this?

And why couldn’t I stop crying?

I had a feeling that this woman had all the answers.

“Who are you?” I asked as I sat there trembling.

“My name is Lucy.” She said.

“Bullshit, who are you?” I asked as I wiped the tears from my eyes.

She took off her sunglasses and sat them on the table and I could see why she kept them on for so long. Her eyes looked like someone put a spotlight on a shattered gem, like a black hole was eating a sun. I felt that the more I looked into them, the more they drew me in.

“My name is Lucis, simply because I say it is, and because there isn’t a person alive who can tell me that it isn’t. I’m the Chthonic Princess and head of The Cambrian Project which you are a part of. My subordinates call me Madame, although professionally my name is Lucifer; Chthonic Prince governing the Sin of Pride. That better?” she said with a demonic smirk.

“I feel like we’re starting to get somewhere.”

“I had a feeling that I’d like you, that’s why I made it a point to come and deal with you myself.” she said as she pulled out a stack of papers from behind her. “Now let me see if I have my facts straight. Your name is Lucille Koh but you prefer to be called Lulu, nothing wrong with a nickname. Age: 28 years old, well aren’t you a young one? Ethnicity: I think they would normally have you down as ‘Other’ but for the sake of argument I suppose I’ll put you down as Asian/Caucasian. Ooh that rhymes, look at you! Birthplace: New York City, New York. It’s pretty cold there this time of year.”

It’s July, what the hell is she talking about?

“Status: Deceased.”

“What?”

“Well when someone typically uses the term ‘deceased’ it means that the person that they’re referring to is no longer among the living.”

“I’m familiar with the term deceased.”

“I’m surprised.”

I was getting annoyed but I had to keep my cool if I wanted to figure out what was going on.

“You haven’t finished synchronizing with Leevee’s plaything so it might be hard to process. Let’s chat until then okay? Do you know where the term Vainglory comes from?” she asked.

“No. Enlighten me.”

“Before there were Seven Deadly Sins, there were eight evil thought patterns, Eight Terrible Temptations if you will. They were Avarice, Sorrow, Discouragement, Gluttony, Fornication, Anger, Pride, and Vainglory. The difference between the concepts of Pride and Vainglory was that while Pride was the belief that you were above everyone else, Vainglory was the belief that everyone else existed to bolster your ego. I wouldn’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that you have a bit of both, which is why you’re here in Isolation with me.”

“I get that I can be a bit ostentatious sometimes, but don’t you think that’s a bit harsh?”

“How many people have you kept around simply because they were willing to praise your achievements? How many relationships have you gotten into because the person called you pretty on a regular basis, and how many of those have you ended because you ceased to be more than a pinup for them to idolize? I get it, a little recognition is great but it’s lead you to do some stupid shit for the sake of your vanity. Let’s be honest, you and I both know that you thought you were better than all of them, but you kept them around. You would go so far as to apply for positions at different companies knowing you were well overqualified just so they would all call you.”

What she said sounded ridiculous, preposterous, insulting even, but it wasn’t a lie. Bit by bit I started to remember everything, and things were becoming clearer. I think I was already aware of what kind of situation I was in; I just refused to believe it because I thought it was too unfair.

“When did you first meet Milo? Better question, when was the last time you saw him?” she asked, although from what she’s been saying, I get the feeling that she already knew.

I had seen Milo around a lot when we were both in high school, but we only officially met in our second year of college. It was strange. Here was this silly guy with a 2.8 GPA who could barely hold a job for about a month, and yet I felt oddly comfortable around him. Two years and around sixteen ‘relationships’ later, I decided I’d allow some stability into my life for a change, so me and Milo started going out. It ended up lasting a lot longer that I thought it would have, and I can’t say I was unhappy. We both landed a job at the same office downtown and we made fairly decent pay. But there was always something nagging at me in the back of my mind. Like a little voice that just kept saying:

I’m better than this.

 After a while whenever a someone wanted to talk me up I’d end up following them home, mess around in their bed, then explain to Milo why I was out so late. It wasn’t that I disliked Milo, or that I started liking him any less. It was more that I liked hearing about how great I was more than him.

Then I met Cameron. He thought he was smooth but he wasn’t. He dressed nice though. That was a plus. He wasn’t particularly special, it was more he was convenient. If Milo and I got into a fight, there was Cameron. If Milo had to work late, there was Cameron. If I had to work late and Cameron just happened to be around…

I got a little full of myself though. I thought I could continue in convenience without consequence. At least I did until Milo walked in on us. Something hit me when he walked in and walked out of that room.

I fucked up.

That was the only thought in my head the entire day. I swore to myself that I’d try to find him and explain myself and that whatever he wanted to do from there would be something that I’d have to accept.

I tried calling him about a dozen times but he wouldn’t pick up, and when I got home his car wasn’t there. I drove back to the office to see that his car was still in the parking deck which meant that he had to have left on foot, or at least I thought. I walked around with my phone still trying to get in touch with him. I must have been out for hours, but I had to find him. Still that voice in the back of my head kept nagging at me asking “Why is this happening to me?”. I was pissed and obsessed and so wrapped up in my own shit that I couldn’t see things straight.

I was at a crosswalk waiting for the light to change. I kept thinking that the light was lasting longer than the Roman Empire and by the time it changed everyone around will have been dead for a very long time. As I sat there, I stared across the street and though both my vision and judgment were questionable at the time, I could have sworn I saw Milo. At that point I didn’t really care about anything else. I just wanted to get him to hear me out. The cars were slowing down so I thought the light had changed and I dashed across the street. No other vehicle had moved except for the large truck that thought it could make the light. Even though I figured that something like that was inevitable, I never saw it coming when it hit me.

“Get it now?” Lucy asked.

Now I was sobbing.

“Was that really him!?” I asked.

“It was indeed. If you asked me he seemed pretty happy to see you. I can’t imagine why.” She said.

“So he’s dead too?”

“Yup. He took Cameron’s car and drove it off a cliff.”

“When?”

“Right after he saw you two.”

“You said he was Subject Zero? So you did this to him too?”

“In a sense. The project was still in its earliest stages then, so we built a lot of what you see now based on a conversation between him and Charon. That’s why he’s Subject Zero, because when we began with him, we were starting at point zero, absolutely nothing.”

“But he’s here!”

“He was.”

“He just left!”

“So?”

“That means I can catch him! I can talk to him!”

“You had your chance already, and you didn’t even recognize him. Besides, both of you are dead already so it won’t do you any good.”

“I don’t care!” I screamed as I stood up.

“Fine by me, you’re synchronization is complete. Anyway, since we’re both very busy people with people that we need to see; good luck out there.”

Screw you too Lucifer.

I walked out of the café and headed down the street in direction that Milo went. I was so determined to catch him this time that I failed to notice the gigantic shadow swimming in the reflections of the buildings around me. I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find him anywhere on the streets. I reached an intersection and began looking around frantically. Finally I saw him standing on the other side of the street. Little did I know, the Leviathan had me cornered.

“Milo!” I shouted as I ran across the street.

As I reached the middle of the intersection the Leviathan was upon me with its mouth opened wide.

I never saw it coming.


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