Part 22G: The Me Has Company In Limbo.

That Valkyrie, the one who explored Limbo, was named Rionya, and she served as a cautionary tale that parents told their children, and scientists told their clones, as they grew up on Valhalla, a warning that straying from the Valkyrie way could lead to madness and worse.

"Worse?" we would ask, as children, when the older folk would tell us Rionya's story.  "Worse than madness?"

OH YES, they would tell us.  There is much worse than madness, they would say, but would never elaborate.

Most people ended up assuming that Rionya was a myth, a folk tale, one of those things that parents tell their kids to keep them in line, not real like Hell or the Lattice World.

I say all this because it would be only natural to think of Rionya if you are from Valhalla and suddenly end up in Limbo.

And also because Rionya is standing over me as I wake up.

And she is mad -- in both senses of the word.

I can tell she is mad, crazy, insane, and also mad, angry, because she is literally frothing at the mouth, and because her eyes are wild -- wide and bloodshot and lacking any pupils whatsoever-- and her hair, which would have been down to her waist if not longer if combed stuck out in all directions, a bizarre hairscape of three, maybe four dimensions.  She is naked, and covered in strange tattoos that seem like words but aren't in any language I can understand.

She's standing there, probably eight feet tall, pointing a finger down at me.

And speaking in some sort of garbled voice.

I can't understand a word she was saying.

"What?" I say, as quietly and as nonethreatingly as I can.  I can't move -- all the stories about Limbo are true, that it is hard to move there, that physical effort won't move you -- and I am too shocked to be able to gather my thoughts.

Rionya garbles something back at me and sneers.

"I don't..." I say, a little louder, but she roars and interrupts me, leaning down and grabbing my left arm and lifting me up over her head.

I dangled there, held up off whatever passed for ground here, staring at her crazy face with little wordlike tattoos on it, those insane eyes looking into mine, for no more than a second before I manage to squeak out:

"Don't hurt me, please"

but if she understands it doesn't show.  She looks at me with one eye, then the other, and then with both again.  I can't imagine how she can see without pupils.

Then she puts me down in front of her, and I am standing, somehow, in the middle of a big blank empty nothingness.

She doesn't let go of my arm, though, and looks at me again, more closely, staring right into my eyes from less than an inch away.

Her breath is minty.

She would be quite pretty, actually, if she wasn't so scary and deranged and messy and tattoo-y.

We stand like that for a long time and then she backs up just an inch.

"Rachel" she says, and before I can say anything she pulls out a knife, slashes it down, cuts off my left hand, turns, and takes off running.

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