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The pain returned to full strength. This had happened before. Evina was tired of fading in and out of existence so many times. When would it end? Yet, somehow, he was still alive. And he still felt deathly ill.
Evina heard the sound of whistling wind. There was a ferocious storm above him. He did not want to get up. He did not want to face anything else. He had already surrendered to his fate. What more was there to do? But eventually, he opened his eyes.
He was laying on a hard, bare rock. Small stones were scattered around him. He pushed himself into a sitting position and looked at his body. He was red and healthy again, but it couldn't be true. There had to be a catch.
Then he looked at his surroundings. He was on a rocky hilltop about two hundred feet wide. Then he gazed upward. Blood-red clouds swirled around like dirty water in a whirlpool. Lightning streaked across the dark sky, momentarily illuminating strange shapes.
"YOU IDIOT!" a voice shouted.
Evina turned around instantly to see his evil doppelganger standing a short distance away. It looked livid.
"You just had to wish upon that star, didn't you!?"
"What is this place?"
The Shadow ground its teeth. "You're at the edge of existence. Is this really what you wanted? You could have gone peacefully, but instead, we're trapped on this miserable rock between dimensions!"
"Ok, so how do we get out?"
"There is only one way out: down."
Evina stood up and carefully walked to the edge of the rocks. Down below, there was a swirling drain of black mist leading down to a place far beyond in the darkness. "What's down there?"
"Oblivion," it replied. "It's where you were supposed to go, but now you made it much more difficult. The sooner you get this over with, the sooner I can return to the dream world."
"So, what you're saying is that one of us has to be obliterated?"
"What do you mean by one of us? Haven't you learned anything at all? This is the end of the road! Your story is finished! I'm through with you! The end!"
"No, I don't understand. Why should I jump instead of you? What makes you so important?"
"I am a timeless being with worlds under my control and you are a worthless toon. That's why."
"If you're so powerful then why did you need me in the first place? Why did you make me go through all of that trouble to stop Johnson?"
The Shadow sighed. "I've been doing my work exclusively in the human world for a long time now but, as a result, there have been certain... consequences. A few of my experiments turned rogue, and naturally, I would take care of them myself, but my physical presence is limited to dreams, a miserable phantom realm. That's when I started looking into the realm of the unreal. Your father was the first to taste of my power. He complied without too much whining. Your mother was the next one, but she couldn't handle my strength. She was such a weak creature."
Evina clenched his fists. His anger was increasing with each second.
"And then you came along, and I knew I had what I needed to clean up this mess. You dealt with the cogs rather easily, but the real annoyance was that guy you just met. I had to neutralize him before he did any more damage to my world. And then there were those meddling monks. I needed to get them off my back."
"So, I was nothing but a tool to you!?"
"Yes, but don't take it personally. Everyone became my property the moment I arrived at your sad little world. It's unfortunate that they never realized it. I really thought you were different, but it turns out I was wrong. You're nothing special. And now that you're broken, you're no longer useful to me. It's time for you to go."
Evina was furious. "I'm not going anywhere! I can't believe you are just going to throw me away after all those times I used your power!"
"You think you have been using my power!? I loaned it to you when I chose to. Your freedom in the matter was only an illusion!"
"And what kind of omnipotent being uses its powers to torture people?"
The Shadow paused and looked back at the toon with disgust. "You know, I was growing quite fond of you, of your stubbornness and your courage. But now you've just become... annoying. You're a rogue hound that won't stop biting and growling and can't be tamed with no matter how hard I try. In the end, he needs to be put down."
"Enough! I'm not going to listen to your insults anymore!"
The Shadow growled menacingly. Its body began to bulge and contort. It transformed into a giant creature too grotesque to describe with words. It was a monster that put the mythical gorgons to shame, a monster that could kill you with the glare of its eye. It was so horrific that Evina stumbled backward and cried in fear. Never before had he been so terrified.
"You wanted to see my true form. Well, take a good look if you can! Witness the power you foolishly challenged! Did you not understand anything I said? I am the legend from the beginning to the end! Everything you ever were, every feeling you ever felt, and every enemy you ever fought was by my power! And now you cower alone against my infinite might! Nobody will stand in my way!"
Evina sat for a moment and gathered his remaining courage. He realized that he wasn't sent here by chance. This place was an arena. This was his chance to fight back. Then, at last, he looked back at the beast. "You're bluffing! If you really had infinite strength you could have killed me without wasting time trying to intimidate me. I know you fear me! It's so obvious!"
"Fear you!? Don't try to joke with me!"
Then Evina paused. He had become enlightened. The greatest secret of the tooniverse had been revealed. "I've finally discovered the truth. Now everything makes sense!
"This small toon form you see is merely a symbol. There is more between these universes than you care to admit. Your power doesn't reach as far as you wish. We know that the legend isn't about you. It's so much bigger than any of us. It's more than Johnson or Disney or the cogs or the whole world of Toontown. The legend is what holds the real world in balance: the real versus the unreal, the fun versus the work, the joy versus the pain. The legend of our universe is parallel to theirs to give them what they cannot give themselves. Just as they create and give us life, we give strength to them.
"We are made to work out their impossible struggles, live their wildest dreams, and do what they couldn't ever achieve. We are the embodiment of all their hopes and fears. We are a place they can run away to. To spend a day in the tooniverse is to escape reality for a day so that maybe, just maybe, they'll be able to face the next day with more courage.
"There is someone out there who provides me my strength, and the closing of the portal cannot separate me from him. I am a fragment of him. You already know who I am talking about."
"Will you shut up already!? You can't possibly think you can beat me because you were destined to, right?"
"No, you see, there was no destiny because destiny isn't real! I couldn't control how or where I was born. I couldn't do anything to prevent losing my parents. I didn't choose to become infected. And no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't leech you out of my body, but that isn't the point! I could have given up at any time, but I didn't. It doesn't matter what you do to me! It doesn't matter how you manipulate my emotions or push terrible thoughts into my mind. You can beat me down, you can take everything from me, but you will NEVER define who I am! I am not like you, and I never will be, because I choose my own destiny! I make my own identity! And if I was following the path that led us here, then fate had nothing to do with it. It was the result of my own choices!"
"Choice!? Everything I said about choice was a lie! You never had any choice!"
"I've always had a choice! You are nothing but a worthless parasite, and I am NOT going to fade away and become a monster like you. I know now who I am!"
"ENOUGH! Tell me once and for all who you think you are!"
The toon stood up, and there was a glowing light in his eyes. He felt reinvigorated to do something. He was not going to take his death lying down. He faced his enemy with a cosmic strength that wasn't his own. "I AM THE EVINA!"
The monster reeled back and screamed with evil rage. It was pulsating and contorting in a repulsive, unnatural way. "I'M ENDING THIS NOW!" It leaped toward Evina with amazing speed.
Evina managed to narrowly avoid being crushed. He ran as fast as he could until he found shelter behind a pile of rocks. I know there must be a way to defeat it, I just don't know how!
"SHOW YOURSELF, YOU COWARD!" it bellowed.
Evina crawled between the maze of rocks silently. He still didn't have a plan.
"Fine, have it your way," the monster continued.
A nauseating sound began. Evina didn't know what was happening, but black fluid began to run through the cracks in the rocks. It was a poisonous, evil ink. He remembered the vines on the memory core. Its sting was just as painful as dip. He tried to clamber to higher ground while remaining hidden, but the fluid continued to rise. He had no other escape. If he was going to fight, he would have to embrace the pain.
Evina grabbed a rock and threw it away. It distracted the monster momentarily while he jumped from the cliff and onto its back. The pain was unimaginable. He blindly hit it with all his strength.
The Shadow roared in pain. Its body was far more vulnerable and weak than it appeared. It spun around until Evina was flung off, then it picked him up with a slimy appendage. It ran to the cliff to throw him off.
"You don't know the horrors of oblivion!" it hissed. "You have no idea the kind of fear, pain, and darkness that are down there, but you deserve it all! You should be on your knees, begging me to spare your pitiful life!"
"Well, if I'm going down then I'm taking you with me!" Evina cried. He managed to wiggle free from the monster's grasp and fell to the ground. He grabbed its leg and it collapsed with a loud crash. Then he sprinted back to the rocks before it stood up again, and he hid behind an unstable boulder.
"YOU CAN'T HIDE FROM ME!" The Shadow shouted.
As Evina expected, it jumped forward again. Evina pushed back against the boulder until it toppled over on top of the monster.
A terrible, high-pitched screech tore through the air. The monster, although wounded, shape-shifted itself out from under the rock.
Evina grabbed a sharp stone and jumped down onto his foe, stabbing it as hard as he could. The monster's pain was his pain. It was so awful that he wanted to give up.
"You will never be free! You are nothing without me!" it cried. "I am the only good thing that you ever were!"
"NO, I'M NOT!" Evina screamed back. He felt himself sinking into the monster's body. It was like a fire engulfing his body. He cried out but did not stop his attack. The fire was spreading. Eventually, it reached his head and entered his mind.
There was so much darkness now, so much fear, so much pain, so much sickness, and so much hate. His head was on fire. The hideous face of the monster was staring him down. Now Evina wondered why he was doing this. He was terrified of being alone. He didn't want to go through with this. He wanted The Shadow back. It was intoxicating. It was the only presence he knew. It was the only thing he desired, just like those black beans.
"YOU WILL OBEY ME!" The Shadow bellowed.
Evina struggled with all his might to resist. Finally, he replied, "NEVER!" And with all his strength, he ripped his mind free to resume the attack.
The Shadow was growing weaker and was beginning to wither away. It curled up into a disgusting ball. Evina jumped to his feet and kicked it as far as he could. It rolled toward the cliff but stopped a few feet short.
"OBEY ME!" it repeated.
Evina ran toward it and kicked it again. It rolled off the precipice.
The monster grasped the cliff with all its strength. It morphed back to Evina's shape, ink bleeding from its body. "Please, help me!" it begged.
Evina stared down at it without moving.
"Don't you have any mercy!?"
Evina wanted to have mercy. He wanted it more than anything else. But he knew there was no other option. Even now, the black eyes held no remorse, only malice. "You can have the same mercy you showed my mother."
The Shadow was mortified. "NO!"
"Go back to hell." He kicked the beast, and its broken body tumbled down into the swirling abyss. It disappeared from view and was never seen again.
Evina kept looking down for a minute. He was still in shock. He couldn't believe what he had done. Finally, he stepped back and turned away. He limped over to a rock and sat down by it. The pain had turned to numbness that spread until it filled his whole body. His skin became rough and scaly. He couldn't move his limbs. But even though he knew his life was over, he felt perfectly calm. "It is done," he whispered. "I win." He collapsed into a pile of graphite dust, and the wind carried the ashes away.
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