I’ve already posted this on Twitter, but I thought I’d put a higher-res copy into the world. And the increased space to write means I can talk about Aspen!
First off, learning how to render oil slicks/thin-film refraction effects for her has been a Task and a Half. Let’s just note that. I’ve gotten slightly better than what you see here. But only slightly.
Aspen doesn’t act like people expect trauma victims to, and she gets in trouble for it. She’s rebellious and promiscuous instead of withdraw and depressed, manipulative and angry instead of beautifully sad. She would tell you she’s not traumatized, or at least she wasn’t until the COPS went and ARRESTED HER after BEATING HER ASS in the STREET, and that would be wrong, but she’s very invested in the idea that what happened to her was no big deal. So she was homeless. So she and her dad were criminals. So when she was eight years old her father anchored a monster from the Abyss to her body and soul (and that of her older half-sister, Holly) to prevent it from dissolving local reality and sucking them through the hole? So what, so what, so what? She’s very mature for her age. She can handle it.
Spoiler alert: she is not handling it. And her court-ordered therapist, her parole officer, and her dad, who they haven’t forbidden from seeing her despite all the evidence that it would help, aren’t doing anything to help her. The authorities see her as a danger and focus on making sure she never has the capacity or chance to offend again; her dad is perfectly happy with her as a halfway-to-a-meltdown, utterly emotionally dependent cheerleader he can rope into doing pretty much anything he wants.
It’s not all horrible! She does have friends! A bunch of fuck-ups and losers like her, but real friends, and in them, and their solidarity, Aspen may actually find some healing.
Not that Aspen thinks that’ll happen. She knows, like she knows the universal language of numbers, like she knows how to get what she wants in an ugly world where the kind are destroyed and the vicious rewarded, that there’s two options. One: they figure out she’s not worth a damn, not a real person, and they ditch her for their own good. Two: she drags them down to her level, destroys everything about them that’s good, and discards the husks, just like Dad always taught her to…
(this just in: i am incapable of creating anything happy)
I do intend for this to have a happy ending. A real happy ending, where the deserving get to heal and go on to lead fulfilling lives, and where Aspen’s nightmarishly awful dad goes to jail forever. But it is the sort of story where all the characters get raked over the coals first. The further you have to climb, the better it is when you make it, etc.