(Sweat runs down my forehead in streams. I feel like I'm rotting away. I look up with weary eyes to see only darkness. Not the kind I grew up in. No, rather, this is a darkness of my mother's design. I was so happy when she seemed to show such an interest in me last night. She told me she would be training me this week. How proud I felt that she was taking me under her wing and lending an active hand in my training. Sure she wasn't all loving or anything when she mentioned it, but I didn't expect her to suddenly be all sunshine. It's just not her way. Now I wonder if she decided that it would just be fun to pass the time torturing me all week.

Case in point, the torture device she has me locked up in now. It's a large, black, metal box. It seemed larger on the outside though. Now that I'm crammed inside it I feel like I've been stuffed in a shoe box. She's got something hooked up to it that has the air so hot and stale it feels as if it burns my throat and lungs. The heat is to such a high degree my sweat spends a very short amount of time on my body before it evaporates. Which means I'm breathing my own sweat as it stifles in the thin air of this chamber.

The nearest I can tell I've been in here for five hours. My lips are dried to the point of cracking and bleeding. To add to my discomfort my most recent wounds re-burn everytime the sweat touches them. It's as if every few minutes someone pours acid onto various parts of my body. My muscles ache and feel as if they deteriorate with every passing minute. Even if she did let me out now I'm not sure I could actually pull myself out of this contraption. I feel so weak. It barely registers that I've started speaking some of my thoughts outloud.)

I don't get it. What the hell am I supposed to learn in here? How does this help my training? Mother are you just doing this to fuck with my mind? Are you trying to remind me of the place you left me in?! God damnit!

(With an ounce of strength I didn't even have, I throw the weakest punch of my life. My fist connects and bounces off the interior wall of the chamber. Well that solved nothing. My hand hurts though. Brilliant. With all my strength sapped from my body the only thing I'm running on is anger and will. My will is unfortunately eroding. I've been through so many horrible things during the tenure of my existence and yet this one simple test is more trying than I could have ever imagined. The anger I had a second ago is fading. I'm just too weak to even hold onto the emotion. It takes more energy to conjure fury than one would think.

I stare out in front of me while attempting to prevent myself from passing out. My body slumps down as I've lost the strength to hold even the most basic of postures. What is the point of all this? Things flash by in my peripheral vision that I know aren't really there. Then everything seems to fade as I pull inward. At first my mind wanders to a memory of Angel and I after our experience with the demon that was Liz. An image of Angel's tense, but caring features floats loosely through my mind. The mopey expression that seems to adorn his features constantly is there as usual. I focus on his eyes before his visage disappears from my mind completely. I delve deeper within myself, letting all other surface thoughts fade.

My past flashes by in fast forward before dissolving into nothingness. The emotions I normally feel from my past aren't really there. It's as if I'd watched someone else's home videos. I felt nothing. No attachment. No emotion. Nothing. At this moment I feel nothing towards anything. Descending further into myself I see lump of purplish, black flesh. It pulsates as black, viscous venom pumps out of it in spurts. A putrid scent excretes from the black toxin, yet part of me isn't revolted in the slightest. I know I recognize it, but I don't know why. Nor do I know what it is. What I do know is that this organism is disconnected from anything.

Its fluids can't travel to its intended destination. Instead the putrid liquid just spills onto the area around it with each pulsating movement of the fleshy organism. What does this mean? I fixate on it. It functions much like a heart except it's been cut away from the veins it should be connected to. It's not my heart though. What pumps out of this thing isn't blood. It's something else....that's when it hits me.)

My core.

(Somehow I've reached the very core of who I am. The image disolves until I am once again left alone in this hot box. If that's my core then why is it connected to nothing? Why is it full of that black, foul liquid? I've never seen anything that viscous, that putrid. I could almost feel something off of it. Rage, bitterness, hatred. It was like those emotions were laced within the venom that spurted from my core. why wasn't it connected to anything? Why can I feel nothing now? I'm so tired. So light headed. I've lost track of time now. I also don't know how much longer I can last in here. My thoughts swirl and somehow it doesn't make things harder to figure out. In fact it seems almost easier. I think I understand now.

I'm not sure how much time goes by after my realization. Suddenly I hear the creaking of metal as well as a couple of steely clicks. Then the door is ripped open. Cool air rushes in and hits my face with the strength of a hand. It's one of the most beautiful feelings I can recall. A figure stands in front of me. My eyes struggle to focus through the brightness of the light that now invades my senses. After a moment my eyes begin to focus. I feel my body sway, but I'm hardly aware that my mind is attached to it. My mother comes into focus. Her crimson hair hanging freely in all it's slightly crimped glory. Her wild, pitch black eyes glaring down on me like an angry sun trying to scorch the planets it shines on. Her harsh words barely reach my ears in my hazy-minded state.)

What have you learned whelp?

(It takes me a moment to even form words with stale dryness that has filled my throat and mouth. I feel like my mouth is full of sand it's so dry. I know that if my answer is wrong she'll be shutting me back in here. Still I don't have the strength to even worry. I just utter the words she's demanded.)

My emotions...are the source of my strength...

(I pause to attempt to swallow. I almost panic as I find myself caught in the middle of this attempt. I find myself unable to breathe until I'm able to finish this dry swallow. I don't wanna try that again. I just have no saliva. Not enough to even keep my throat open if I'm not careful. She waits impatiently for me to finish.)

If I disc..disconnect myself from it...I..I will...fall..

(Her lips form into a slight smile. That slight smile fills me with happiness. It's amazing how just the slightest of muscle movements from her can lift me up or slam me down. So much power in so little movement.)

Good. Today's training is complete.

(As soon as her last syllable is uttered I fall forward onto my face. The world shifts around me till all goes dark as my eyes roll into the back of my head. Soon there is nothing.)