He had surrendered himself to destruction, lined with the promise of creation. All around him was his very own cycle of perfection. The various, intense and powerful bursts of gold, flickering shades of violet when touched, engulfing the shrouds of screams in a wave of white. True beauty had never been painted in so many colors.
It didn't matter they were dying, why should it? There would never be a shortage of criminals, in fact, with each inmate that disintegrated into nothing only provided the room for a brand-new haul of prisoners.
His eyes grew wide, his heart began to swell with the excitement of...
Something wasn't right, his joy had suddenly ceased abruptly. He shook his head, which seemed to do the trick, and he continued to absorb the scene before him.
The flames had consumed most of everything now. The screams had stopped, only the roar of their folly. They couldn't stop there, oh no they had just begun hadn't they? That couldn't be all, no, there had to be more to burn.
The Warden turned his head and searched for Ash amidst the wavering flames. His friend was not far behind, though he had abandoned his once fiery companion, it's charred corpse lie mangled against the few inmates it had managed to take down with final breath.
Ash however, whose already grotesque complexion had slowly begun to melt down the exposed areas of what was left of his skin, dripping from his hands and face as wax from a candle. He didn't seem to notice this, and neither had the Warden. Both were too overcome with the desire to burn.
Though he felt this deep passion for destruction, the Warden could only gaze in awe of the truth the fire provided. He felt as though his inventions, his creations, his world was being shown to him as they truly were for the first time in his life. It really was something beyond even his imagination.
And then, without warning, blinding and powerful, he felt no breath. Ash's last flare had hit another gas-line, a major one at that. The resulting explosion forced the two of them crashing into opposite sides of the inferno. The Warden, in spite of struggling to replenish his lungs with air and for the most part protection from his suit, as his head came in contact with a singed slab of wall, the writhing beauty of the fire instantly became still, silent and endless blackness.
Falling deeper into the void of his mind, on the outside an hour passed. And then another, and another. The fire had begun to die, there was nothing left to burn.
He couldn't see or hear anything, though he could feel himself falling. There was no use for thinking now, his imagination alone couldn't possibly save him. Not from this. And this realization took a firm hold of him. He was no longer falling, but completely still in the void.
"You need to wake up. Right now." It was a shrill, and hissing voice that spoke into the darkness.
"Right now." The voice snarled once more.
The Warden clenched his eyes, a dreadful pounding erupted into his temples. He couldn't hear the crackle of the fire, that had been replaced by the relentless ringing in his ears. How long had he been out? Why was everything suddenly so heavy?
Where was he? And where was Ash for that matter? He made a move to clutch his throbbing head only to feel nothing but the suit encasing him. He fumbled around for the button to open his soot-caked visor, finding the panel covering it had become warped from the blast. Furious now, eyes forced closed by the horrid waves of pain, he tore away at the chest of his suit, balling his fists and angrily slamming them into himself.
Fortunately, he did not have to continue this long, the small panel chipped off and with one last thrust of his fist, his visor opened and he devoured an intake of warm air. He would figure out how to get the rest of the suit off later.
"We are lucky not to be dead." The voice skittered about.
"I'm... not dead...?" His eyes opened, though they were struggling. He tried to focus on the blurry form fidgeting around his vision. Slowly, shades of violet and salmon met with wild, yellow eyes and a sharp but crooked smile.
"No." Responded the creature standing before him, clawed fingers splayed out and twitching frantically as though each were searching for their own throat to tear from someone else. "We are not."
"They are all dead though, Jailbot too." It spoke again, salivating from every syllable, circling the Warden, now on all fours.
"And even your new friend. But don't worry," It chimed, growling its words as innocent as possible. "You don't need them, you've got me-eee. This is just like last time, remember?"
The Warden looked around. His heart sank at the sight of only black and grey instead of the vibrant reds, violets and yellows. Where had it all gone? He looked above him, hoping to see the beauty from... before; his creations. The thick smoke billowed overhead, the slight wind dissipating what it could. And in the break of smoke, he saw-- nothing.
Years he had spent developing them, nurturing them. Looking into the sky for answers brought only his first memory of them, and the Child which continued to toil restlessly before him; the pictures inside the young boy's mind awoke, and they began to breathe. They acted on a will of their own, but he had made them. He had willed them into existence. The colors, all of those beautiful colors had come from him.
And now... Everyone, everything was gone.
"I do." The Warden finally, though solemnly replied.
"Well, what are you sitting on your ass for? I can't fix this mess on my own, you know!"
"Would you just shut up and let me think for a minute?!"
"Time is wasting, you fool!"
"Is it? There is no one here but you and I, as you said. And I am quite content with sitting here until I can figure out what is wrong."
"The fire wasn't obvious?"
"Quiet. That's not what I mean and you know it. I feel... Different."
"You are just tired."
"No, no... It's more than that."
"You need to redecorate now, all this soot is boring. And dirty." The Child cringed as the smoldering head he had been kicking into collapsed upon itself.
The Warden begrudgingly closed his eyes and waited for the barrage of images and noise to burst through him as it always had. He only saw darkness behind eyelids.
"I can't." The Warden replied monotonously.
"What the fuck do you mean 'you can't?'" The Child jerked his head up, glaring at the Warden with vicious eyes.
"Look, I'm trying! Nothing is happening."
"You still have something left, I wouldn't be here if you didn't."
The Warden gave the Child a disgruntled look. Out of everything he had ever placed into being, the Child was plainly all that remained. This did not however, inspire any sort of sentiment with the creature. In fact, the Warden began to feel his stomach churn at the sight of it.
He closed his eyes again, past the searing pain in his head it was excruciatingly difficult for him to settle his mind properly. Maybe he did just need one more go at it. Trying to search through cluttered thoughts of loss, pain and nausea he was able to find the feeling within himself; the will, the "something" he had little left of.
He couldn't possibly restore his beloved SuperJail in a state like this, no, not on will alone. And then, out of nowhere, he felt a spark flicker inside him. This took him by surprise, though it seemed the swiftly-becoming-feral Child had not noticed.
"You need to get up."
"You are a lot more bossy than I remember. And you broke my train of thought."
"Shut up and help me fix things! Everything will be better once this place is are restored."
"Look around you!" The Warden shouted. "There is nothing left! It's gone! All of it! You even said so yourself! All the color... My SuperJail... Everything."
"Which is why you need to get up and show me some fucking creating, now!" The Child howled.
"I'm getting rather tired of hearing you order me around."
"Shut up! You need me for this to work again and I'm only--"
"Do I?" The Warden pondered aloud, finally, though shakily standing.
"Do I really need you? Everyone is gone, what's the point in keeping you around?"
The Child, raking its claws along the charred concrete visibly bristled at this
"Don't be an idiot. You know fucking well that I am you."
"I have, as always been me. With or without you." he pointed matter-of-factly. "And as I recall, I created you. Not the other way around."
The Warden glared at the Child. As he looked upon it, he felt only disgust and resentment. He had relied on this creature far too long to find purpose, and as he saw things, he was more than perfectly capable of finding his own will again.
Until then, he had one use left for his old-self. The Child stood still, confused for a moment and seething with so much aggression his jaw nearly appeared to be locked in contortion.
But, from a speck of nothingness and appearing with a modest flash of light, a small and simple safe rest squarely at the Warden's feet.
"Face it, your time is up." His tone had lowered and made no effort to express sympathy.
"No, stop! Whatever you're thinking, you stop right now!"
The little door had opened, though neither had touched it. Inside, attached to the walls by bright and squirming daffodil and mauve veins beat a deep, rose-colored heart. Only, it remained the shape of a heart for a second before changing into the pulsating shape of an alligator, a bumble-bee, a light bulb. The heart sped through countless transformations, each one distinct from the other. The Warden cared not for this show, or for the Child who was watching it with undivided interest, rather his attention was kept on the gold key that had been placed into a lock on the floor of the safe.
"It's too late old friend," he said simply, reaching for the key.
"I've made my decision. On my own. It's for the best really." He finished, pulling the key out.
The heart inside wretched and twist as whatever the key or lack of had unlocked took over, seemingly shrieking with terror, fading from a pleasant rose to a deadly red from every bulbous pulsation. It had stopped changing now, it couldn't anymore. And coiling into itself, the Child dropped to its knees, clutching its own heart.
"You son of a bitch! Why would you... Y-you are f-fucking dead! You... NEED... Me!"
"I don't, actually."
The Child's face sank into a disparity that one might witness a hysteric toddler donning just before throwing a tantrum. His body began to dissolve into ash the same color as the heart, and in seconds he was nearly gone.
"I l-lied..." He hissed, just as blood-ash swallowed his torso, racing toward his stubby neck. "They aren't... all dead..."
The safe disappeared, with the same flash of light, but the body of the Child, what was left of it remained.
Oh? They weren't all dead? The Warden kicked up the last of the Child, sending a small cloud of ash and soot into the breeze. He examined the key he held in his hand, and for an instant, he thought about throwing it. Deciding against this, though having no accessible pockets at the moment, he simply closed his hand around the tiny key and began to walk.
There was nothing left, what did it matter at this point if a few had made it out? The opportunity provided by his and Ash's destruction was the only thing on his mind. He silently thanked his friend, making a reminder for himself to attempt to bury him later, if he could find him.
He wasn't without will. Of course he still possessed it, though his purpose for it had changed. His purpose had changed entirely for that matter. He had no prisoners, he was no longer a Warden. This did not upset him, oddly. Just the opposite, really. He would restore SuperJail, eventually. The spark he felt assured him it would be done. But the spark provided much more than that, he could clearly see now what limits he had. He could, and would still create of course, his gift of machinery was still very much intact.
Though the SuperJail he had known his whole life had met its end, it would soon give birth to new life, a new future. He could not wait to get started.