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Cause [1.4.14]

The room was pure white. Not the white of snow, or of a cloudy sky, but the sheer pristine white of a sterile hospital. The white of emptiness. The mansion was pure white and it glowed with an almost ethereal power.

Inside one of the many rooms, Aspasia woke up thinking about the day’s events in her mind. It was delivery day.

“Everyone up! Delivery!” she yelled, not bothering to check the clock in the hall as she exited her room. She knew the time – late enough for Min to be awake, but early enough that it would really annoy Xerxes.

Naturally, he wasn’t happy. As Aspasia flounced down the landing to the top of the stairs, tying her dressing gown together, and Min poked his head out of his bedroom door, beaming, there was an explosion and Xerxes’ door rocketed off its hinges, slamming into the opposite wall. Xerxes stood framed in the empty door frame, gripping the midnight smack, wearing blue pajamas marked with a pattern of little tugboats.

He walked a fine line between looking threatening and looking ridiculous.

“WHAT THE FUCK, ASPASIA.”

“Shut up. Come help.” Aspasia replied. Min nodded.

“Let’s go, Xerxes! Time to get all your sweeties!”

Xerxes came charging down the hall after Aspasia and Min, who were descending the stairs. “I got sweeties?!”

“We get the same damn thing every week, Xerx. Of course you got sweeties.”

“I didn’t get any last week.” Xerxes said with a pout. The trio reached the bottom of the stairs and began to make their way to the entry hall, where they knew the boxes of food would be waiting for them.

“You did,” Min said. “I just confiscated them and put them in the top cupboard because you blew up about twenty of our DVDs.”

“Oh. Right.”

The boxes were, as expected, sitting in the entry hall, as if by magic. They weren’t marked, and it was only by opening and checking each one could they ascertain what was inside – Aspasia, of course, already knew. Min began to hand boxes to Xerxes, and Xerxes carried them to the kitchen with ease. Aspasia took one or two other boxes that contained other essentials, such as detergent, light bulbs, spare door hinges and much more, and took it to the storage cupboard. Min followed Xerxes with another box of foodstuffs, and began to put things away in the kitchen.

“No, Xerxes, that goes in that cupboard with the tins.”

“OH MY GOD. I’M TRYING MY BEST.”

“I know, you’re doing a wonderful job. Just- no, no, that’s not long-life milk, that belongs in the fridge! Oh goodness me…”

Aspasia walked in with the final box of food and began to stock the fridge and freezer.

“It’s weird. We always get the same things each week,” Min said. “But for example, this week we had some milk left over. So we got one less milk with this delivery.”

“We get what we need, to the letter. If we don’t eat things, we don’t get more of them.” Aspasia replied.

“Isn’t that fucked up, though?” asked Xerxes, standing on his tiptoes to put a box of cereal in a high cupboard. “It’s not like we send a list or something, we don’t know who delivers it, but apparently they’ve gone through our cupboards at some point, the creepy asshole!”

“I… don’t know.” said Aspasia, feeling the words turn sour as she said them. She hated not knowing things.

“I do wonder about who delivers this stuff sometimes…” Min mused.

“Clearly, someone with a vested interest in keeping the three most powerful beings in existence alive.”

“Is that what we are?”

Aspasia shrugged. “Eh, probably.”

“I certainly am!” Xerxes crowed. Aspasia gave him a withering glance.

“Yep, you look threatening in those pajamas.”

“MIN GOT THEM ME.” Xerxes growled, blushing furiously. With his boxes emptied into the cupboards, he stalked off, leaving Min and Aspasia to finish up the rest of the unpacking.

“I’ll admit…” Aspasia said quietly as Xerxes walked out of the kitchen. “I appreciate that you still do presents for his birthday every year. Whoever delivers these things to us… they’re damn nice to deliver presents on each of our birthdays.”

“Not so nice for you; you already know everything you’re ever going to receive.” Min said, closing the fridge with finality as he finished packing it tightly with food. “But I think Xerxes enjoys it more than he lets on.”

“I honestly wish he’d grow out of this argumentative, childish phase already.”

“Aspasia. Not nice.” Min said.

“You can’t fault my logic. He is still a child, mentally.”

“Aspasia, please…” Min replied, visibly uncomfortable. “Let’s talk about this another time.”

“We already will. This evening, about seven minutes past eight. Well, that’s my boxes done; I’m off for the time being.”

Aspasia began to walk away, leaving Min to fold down and flatten the boxes, then place them with the recycling on the other side of the kitchen.

“Alright.” he said. “Time for breakfast.”

He tended not to have breakfast himself until he was certain that Xerxes and Aspasia had eaten. Searching through the newly-stocked fridge, he decided on sausages, bacon and fried eggs for the morning’s breakfast, and muesli for himself.

Soon enough, there were two frying pans with sizzlings eggs and bacon in, and sausages in the grill, cooking nicely. Min picked up a book on the island in the middle of the kitchen, kept there especially to read whilst waiting for things to cook, and began to absorb himself in it; occasionally, he would lean over and turn the sausages, as well as making sure the bacon and eggs were cooking acceptably. Light was streaming into the kitchen through the big windows, reflecting off the white that covered the entire mansion, creating a warm, drowsy atmosphere.

Min’s mind often wandered when he was reading. Who did deliver those goods? It had to be someone outside of the universe, because Aspasia didn’t know who it was. But as far as he knew, nobody could exist outside of the universe.

The questions got more complex the more he delved into it. How did this figure know what food they’d used that week and how much they had left, to replace it perfectly each week? How did this figure know their birthdays? Why would this figure go to the trouble of getting presents that they could give to one another?

It made little sense, and there didn’t seem to be an answer. They’d spent years considering every possibility, but had never worked out quite what a mysterious figure would want with them, considering they were trapped in the mansion until further notice.

Aspasia had mentioned that the door was opening soon, though. Perhaps they would discover their purpose after that, or meet the person who had effectively raised them. Perhaps…

Min shook himself into wakefulness and put his book to the side. Getting two plates out, he called into the living room. “Breakfast!” He heard a scuffle and knew that Xerxes was going to the table. Aspasia would already be sat there, knowing exactly when breakfast would be ready. Piling the plates high with bacon, sausages and eggs – extra sausages for Aspasia, extra bacon and only one fried egg for Xerxes – he made his way through the living room to the dining table on the far side of the room. They sometimes had breakfast sat at the island in the kitchen, but Min preferred them to use the big dining table for cooked meals such as the one he had prepared.

Light shone through the huge picture windows that lined the wall connecting the kitchen, living room and dining area. Xerxes and Aspasia were sat holding their cutlery, waiting for food to arrive. Min delivered the plates to the table and pranced off.

“I’ll get some milk for you, Xerxes.”

“I’m having tea.” Aspasia replied. Min nodded as he left.

In relative silence, Aspasia and Xerxes tucked into their meals.

“Xerx.” Aspasia said. He looked up.

“Hm?”

“I’ve not told you yet, because it wasn’t yet the time to tell you… but the door will be opening soon. In about a week.”

“HOLY FUCKING WHAT?!” screeched Xerxes, letting his fork clatter onto the table. “Why the hell would you not tell me this?!”

“I’ve known since I was born, you insufferable pillock.” Aspasia sighed. “This is the right time to tell you. I could have told you in advance; I could’ve planned it all out for you two. But I have known that there isn’t a need to.”

“STOP CONFUSING ME. YOUR WORDS ARE STUPID.” Xerxes said. “What are you trying to say?”

“I’m just trying to say that you didn’t need to know before now. But now you do need to know, because at the end of the week we’ll be preparing to leave.”

“Right. And then! And then! We get to cause chaos!” he yelled.

“No.” Aspasia replied.

“What do you mean, no? What are we doing when we get out, then?”

Aspasia cursed inwardly as she approached the point where she was going to have to say it a second time in one day.

“I… don’t know.”

“AYYYYYYYYYY!” Xerxes yelled triumphantly. “SOMETHING THE BITCH DOESN’T KNOW, HOLY SHIT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WE FINALLY FOUND OUT WHAT MINOR THING THIS DAFT BINT CAN’T KNOW INHERENTLY! WE NEVER THOUGHT THIS DAY WOULD COME, BUT MOTHER OF FUCK, HERE WE GODDAMN ARE!”

Min came back in. “Xerxes, please quieten down. We know there’s limits to Aspasia’s omniscience. No need to be so excitable about it.”

He placed a glass of warm milk and a cup of tea, stirred twice with one sugar, with just as much milk as necessary. With everyone’s breakfasts finally sorted, he sat down at the table to join the conversation.

“So, what do we need to pack, Aspasia?”

“Not much.” Aspasia said. “Our weapons – not that it applies to you, Min – and the clothes on our back.”

Xerxes was thoughtful for a moment. “So, this delivery… is our last, huh?”

“Yes. It’s… it’s been a good nineteen years, you two.” Aspasia said, looking down and focussing on eating her bacon, not willing to meet them in the eyes. Min smiled gently, but Xerxes scoffed.

“Wish I could say the same.”

“Xerxes, please. You know we’ve looked after you well.”

“I’m only four years younger than you!” he snarled. “Why do you treat me like I’m a kid?!”

“You are.” Aspasia said. “But you’ll learn… I hope.”

He scowled at them both and munched on a sausage.

“Anyway, I’m going to make some breakfast for myself and tend to the garden. I think the indoor garden is looking a bit, um…” Min replied, tailing off.

“Overgrown.” Aspasia said.

“Yes, that.” he said. “Xerxes, would you like to help me with that?”

“Sure, what the fuck ever. I had no plans anyway.” Xerxes muttered. Min nodded, and bustled off to the kitchen to fix himself breakfast.

With a glance at Xerxes, Aspasia walked past him and up the stairs, silently searching her virtually infinite knowledge for the answer she burned to know: just what was going to happen to them once they left the safety of the mansion?

Cause [1.4.13]
Cause [1.5.1]

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