_Standing in the field after our madcap escape from GLaDOS, I was feeling overwhelmed. I barely heard the rest of his companions as they talked about the future; their plans, what direction to take next. Nodding along unresponsively, I only spoke when Brevan had decided to return to his home; the manor in Gullykin, to check on the state of things. According to him, it was the best bet we had of determining where in time we were. Past, present, I cared not. _
“I must restock my supplies, I will remain here for a day or so,” I bluntly replied, walking away from the rest of them. Looking back on it, I must have wandered absentmindedly around the Goldmeadow Mountain several times, my mind ablaze with everything that had happened. Finally, I decided to set up tent, the moon hanging high in the sky being all the light I needed to set up shop.
I stared long and hard at the moon after I finished my work. It looked the same, as it did a day ago when I had last seen it. But did the moon actually change with time? Or was it simply an eternal, timeless orb set against a blackened tapestry? I am ashamed to say that it is a topic that I have little knowledge on. My initial supposition was that we had been moved backwards in time. It was proven false by a document that Brevan had found on the ground in an abandoned Gullykin; we had moved forward in time. But how far into the future were we? I let my mind wander dangerously to the thoughts that I had been keeping from my own heart; that I would be able to see her again, my love, that I could have prevented the tragedy that befell her. That befell us.
Head bent over my lap, small drops of water dripped from my eyes onto pants. From my gazes at the night sky, I knew there were no clouds to drop this precipitation. I touched the wet spots in confusion, then my own face. My eyes were wet. I had been crying. I didn’t understand, not at first. Why was I crying? This wasn’t possible, shouldn’t have been possible. Wasn’t that what my potion, my mutagen was for? This didn’t make any sense at all; was my body developing some sort of immunity, a resistance to the emotion-suppressing effects my potion had? The alchemical narcotics, the demonic possession, the nights of sleep deprivation; all had been taken to ensure that all my emotions would be forever gone from my mind and my heart. There was too much pain, too much loss, too much guilt for any one man to bear in there. Shijjerax was what had remained of that charred, decayed husk of a personality; an emotional garbage heap buried somewhere in my mind, summoned forth only when I drink the mutagen. If I was crying without the mutagen, if my heart was really bleeding from its pain and misery, then that meant only one thing; I was undoubtedly going to lose my mind.
I quickly began to examine myself and my mutagen, double-checking to make sure that every ingredient that I had mixed into the potion was present. It was a careful balance; if a single herb was out of place, then something like this could have happened. It was the most logical solution I had. After several hours of checking, I was convinced. There were no corruptions in the formula. None.
Night came and went, and the sun was creeping into the sky. Yet I still didn’t have my answers. Becoming increasingly more desperate in my search, every seemingly helpful train of thought I had lead to a dead-end experiment. I could almost hear it, Shijjerax laughing hysterically at my plight. The insanity of emotion was creeping up on my mind like a plague, tearing every perfectly calculated thought asunder and leaving only an overpowering urge to find the reason for this change, and to find it fast. I had no intention of being reduced to a pitiful, emotion-controlled gibbering animal.
In a final act of defiance, I grabbed the mutagen and drank it in a single swig. Like usual, a surge of power rushed through me, exploding into every fiber of my being. However, to my amazement, my personality remained in control. I quickly pulled a mirror from my portable laboratory; my skin was as dark as a drow’s, my hair a snow white, and my eyes were wild, radiating a golden sheen. My arms and torso were rippling, bulging with the strength afforded to my body by the mutagen. I was Shijjerax in body, but myself in mind. I dared to hope that my solution had triumphed over madness. I laughed; an alien reflex fitting for the alien feeling of elation that quickly began spreading through my body. It danced in my blood and lit up my face. This feeling, I hadn’t felt it in years. I left my tent and took a deep breath of the fresh air of the Wild Hills.
I felt good; better than good, giddy. Dare I even say, happy. I dropped my lab coat onto the grass; was it always this green? I could barely control my relief; I began laughing uncontrollably and left to frolic among the meadow. Why did no one live here? The meadow was glorious; I have never seen such shades of amber anywhere in the world. I sat among the grass and sang until my voice grew weary, then danced with the wind until my legs ached. But my heart, as tired as it was, begged for more. My stomach growled at me like a Bulette. I ran back to my tent and grabbed some rations; whatever I could find, and ran back to the meadow, sitting in the dirt and enjoying the food; not only for its nourishment, but for its taste; it’s glorious, explosive taste.
I had fallen to my back to watch the clouds roll past, humming merrily to myself when the mutagen’s effects finally wore off. I sat up quickly, unsure of what I had just experienced. I remembered the feelings, but not the emotions. I was confused, to say the least. The simple joys, they were in my head, but inaccessible; as if they had been returned into that same box that I metaphorically locked all of my emotions in; a locked box to which the mutagen was still the only key. Such simple joys, I had not experienced them in ages, not since … not since I had sold my soul to a demon. And my body to GLaDOS.
GLaDOS. The realization hit me like a bomb, an explosion of truth igniting my intellect. Could it be that her saving me, that her restoring my childhood had actually had even greater consequences? Shuriel rubbed his temples in thought. Ever since meeting GLaDOS, my mutagen had unleashed a being that called itself Shijjerax; an alternate personality within my own head that was the embodiment of chaos and destruction. Just like a demon. Could it be that when GLaDOS rebuilt me, back when I first met Brevan, Omar, Jewel, and Zerrik, that she made a mistake? That she had mixed demonic essence inside of my very being, creating Shijjerax. Or maybe it wasn’t an accident. Maybe it was an experiment, and when she fixed us from the time-wrecking effects of the Chronostream, she also fixed me. She had found us several times in the mortal plane when she was locked away in her own little demiplane; was it possible that she could track me and me alone? Or maybe, each in our own ways, all five of us are her experiments. Maybe she has done something to each of us; changed something vital about our souls that we have yet to realize. The realization, while startling, was the only one I had for why my mutagen had suddenly changed.
Shijjerax was now happy. He was carefree and gleefully spirited. I needed to examine this phenomena more. I need to collect data. But most of all, I needed to rejoin the group. I had made a pact with Jewel, after all. I promised her to assist her with her goals, and I did not, and do not, have any intention for her to find fault in my absence.