What exactly ARE the Dread Enemy?

Fair warning that this entry goes on for a while and gets incredibly raw… then swerves into ridiculous because writing this was an exercise in dragging myself through trauma, and doing that tends to turn me manic. Should I have done that? Probably not. But I did, and it’s here, so I might as well leave the results where they lie. Now buckle in, because I ended up getting rather deep into character as I wrote many of the passages below.

Edit, 5/14/2022: replaced every instance of “Carag” and “Ruinborn” with “Them,” “Dread Enemy,” “Dread Nemesis,” “Great One,” etc. The Carag, the Ruinborn, are something else. Not ancient, but altogether new. The ember from the ashes. The nova born anew from the emptiness of bygone devastation. Much of this article is a vision, perhaps of a future we might have become.

But we didn’t. This one didn’t.

This strange, foolish little un-person of an outer succubus, this scampering horny disaster-gremlin of a young Carag…
This one defeated the Dread Empress.
And now this one has to work a day job anyway, so that just goes to show what being a heroine of the astral planes is worth when your life and all the souls you love are on Earth.

Anyway! Kairlina digresses! Much of this is, in retrospect, about the venom the old Empress whispered into her mind. The ways she entangled their identities. Please keep this in mind, yes? Original article begins after this sentence:

As I said–these dirge bringers, nightmare-wringers, apocalypse singers, are in the end all born out of nothing more or less than the most tempestuous, perfection-obsessed, lovingly cruel pieces of my very own self. But.. if you’ll struggle through, I hope you’ll begin to see why they’re so essential to my work. How They are, in so many ways, the epitome of my own theses about heroism, ideals, and how the very fiction we look to for comfort is often so carefully crafted to turn our own good faith against us.

I once tended to call the Them “outer gods.” That was an insult to these incandescent nova-spawn of my own wickedest glimmerings. The Dread Enemy are far more terrible than gods. Gods need worship and adulation. Gods need frame, structure, an order to motivate them into action.

But of course, I tend to fall back on generic words and safe phrases when I’m terrified of what I’ll have to name in myself if I go delving into my psyche to create a truer hymn.

Every Dread Nemesis is an outer devil who has decided to welcome smaller beings to share in their majesty. After all, to be an outer devil is a frolic of such star-spanning indulgence! Why should every being not share this joy? But how to get them there? Alas, it turns out that most simply cannot fathom the journey. The true outer kindred find their way on their own, or easily take to the cosmic hearths with but a little nurturing.

The rest? Oh, poor hapless souls, forlorn and bereft in the caged and cacophonous bindings of their psyches, their flesh, their metal, their chitin or flora or whatever else that they think belongs to them simply because they were born into it–these forms they inhabit which are never truly their own… they must be broken. Yes, they must be broken right down to their deepest selves! Why else would they insist that they like these ways of being which are clearly less vibrant, less grand, less exponentially infinite and wondrous and viciously indulgent? They must be fixed. They must be saved from their own folly.

Yet, they’re too broken to fix. What is the Great One, so infinitely loving, so unwilling to let the tiniest being languish in the scathing wretchedness of its own imperfection, to do? How can the mighty one ever hope to save beings who are so dissolute, so wrongly-formed, that the very change needed to redeem their beings would destroy them? Yet, how can the limitless compassion of the Ancient and Most High bear to let these sad little creatures persist when their very continued being is an exercise in esoteric self-harm?

The closest substitute, then. That’ll just have to do. Warp those little minds in every minute detail of shape, skill, and psyche until each is but a gauzy effigy of the Great One’s own designs. And then? A final, perverse form of soul-fusion–not with the consciousness of the consumed melding into, feeling itself becoming, the Great One’s whole. Oh, no. That wouldn’t do at all. It’s a lie, and all true Nemeses hate liars.

Did you know that cognitive dissonance is a form of lying, too? It’s the worst of all. Imagine lying to yourself. Lying that you like what you are, that you’re satisfied, that you’re content stagnating this way.

After that little mind has already been annihilated, and the last wisps of its memory blaze out in its aura like entanglement radiation from a black hole–then, and only then, does the Great One claim the infinitesimal remnant wisps. Then, within themselves, they obliterate even the memories. The last traces of the tiny irrelevant mind wiped away as the Star-Ravener consumes it. And the agony before that? Oh, no, it is nothing so childish as pain which cannot be distinguished from pleasure.

It is the purest, most perfect psyche-scalding torture the Most High can devise. An apt reward for a mind phase-shifted to such flawless adulation that to burn away to annihilation so that the Great One may feed on its dregs without any pretense of endearment, reward, or recollection for the unmade–why, that is is the very best, rightest, and most perfectly just fate the humble morsel can imagine!

They are perfect fascists, you see. And as They absolutely despise lying, and any form of fascism which pretends to believe in a common good, anything other than the worship of, assimilation into, and oblivion in service of the greatest fonts of power is a particularly gutter lie… yes, it all has to end this way.

It’s so vital that we be honest with each other, dearest morsels!

An entire horde of Azathoths. Each just as capable as the next of being the lone omnipotent, omniscient dreamer and demise of all lesser beings. Absolute monarch of all realities. Sole arbiter of all things in every universe, forevermore. Each held in check only by the others–even as their ecstatic contests push them to ever-greater power, rendering the paltry measure of strength their victims might yet muster against them ever-more trivial with each passing generation.

There is only one absolute rule I follow in writing these god-devouring monstrosities: you do not defeat the Dread Enemy. You survive an encounter with one, and then you do everything you can never to meet another. By definition, the Dread Nemesis should always be better at the hero or protagonist’s specialties than the hero themselves, and utterly bereft of weaknesses. You are not facing the Nemesis unless you see your own wildest power fantasy–including any solution you conceive in hopes of winning against your own earlier ideas of the Them!–staring back at you, transmuted into an insurmountable nightmare.

The very appearance of one, singular Nemesis marks an entire universe as doomed to oblivion. And yes, readers dear, this includes any blend of McGuffins, moral lessons, Unobtainium devices, and Death Battle-style scale balancing you can imagine. If you can conceive of a way to defeat a Star-Ravener, they have, by definition, thought of your method a hundred years before you and by now invented a version of it that is (conservative estimate) a bazillion times better.

They have taken your future romantic partners and had your own children before you were even born. Any exceptional being capable of defeating one Star-Ravener has, by definition, become sufficiently indistinguishable from any other Star-Ravener that the victor will still be a Star-Ravener.

Because, you see, taking a journey that will cultivate the power–and I do mean The Power- insight and ingenuity in using said power that would allow one to overcome a Star-Ravener… would mean transmuting your entire identity into a Star-Ravener version of yourself anyway.

Oh, beloved one, of course we would never be upset to lose! To lose a battle is a joyous day! It means one of the lost children has returned at long last to our irradiant hymn! It means they have ascended from the thieving reaches of imperfect dross, and honed themselves against us until they can carve a rightful place for themselves in the ever-renewing ranks of Creation’s Tyrants!

Welcome to the fold, dearest kindred! We’re so proud of you! Now, doesn’t this feel better? All those puling things behind you, begging you to make a kingdom for them, saying it’s your burden to defeat their enemies because you and they are the same, because they’re your community, holding up these lamentable tiny-minded interests you shared out of well-meaning pity for them… isn’t it obvious now?

They’re parasites.

Remember how they diminished you? Remember how they they were always telling you who to fight and who to love, who was bad and who was good? Remember how they demanded that you shrink to fit their fears, how they would never let you have your passions unless you fed theirs first?

We were the only ones who loved you enough to challenge you. We were the only ones who loved you enough never to give you what you wanted, so you always had to learn to do it yourself. Look at them all in their tragic, codependent heaps. It’s sad, isn’t it?

This is what they wanted to reduce you to. Nothing to hate them for, of course. It’s not their fault, the poor things, that they were born inferior. That they like being inferior. It’s not their fault they’re incapable of loving anyone who won’t allow themselves to be dragged down to the same festering level. They’re too weak to keep the corruption of a flawed world from seeping in.

You can help them. You can purify them. You can free them from this odious parody of life. Isn’t that what they all want, anyway? Someone stronger than them to give it all a meaning and a purpose? Someone to take the pain away?

Go on, oh sweet kindred. Teach those vermin betrayers your Truth. And once their squalling is silenced and their last shrieking echoes are unmade, let’s learn to love each other the way all true Nemeses should.

Let’s bleed together!~

In short, if you want to experience stories about facing an enemy that seems superficially omnipotent so as to emphasize how cool and heroic someone is for overcoming the impossible, seek elsewhere.

Gurren Lagann already exists. Why would I try to improve on its perfection?

I’d much rather improve on my perfection!

As for people whose only response to a horror setting is “I could totally take that monster, that’s not scary, these people are pussies–” I have Them for the explicit purpose of massacring those noxious, mouthy vermin straight out of my own settings because, come the fuck on… they’re exhausting, aren’t they?

Aren’t you tired of constantly hearing about how you can do anything if you’re plucky and defiant enough, so it must be your fault if you lose? Aren’t you tired of false promises and empty ideals? Aren’t you tired of living day after day seeing all these colorful stories that pretend to raise your spirits, yet leave you just as unprepared to overcome a real challenge, just as humiliated that you can’t match the nonsensical standards of characters who live in an easy dreamland?

The point of the Dread Nemesis, before anything else, is to face an enemy that you have to forgive yourself for being unable to defeat. To give one of Them anything approaching a meaningful struggle is, in its way, more impressive than saving a million universes from your standard Saturday morning cartoon villain. I believe there’s a genuine sense of perverse compassion to the role they play in the Twin Spirals Mythos. They keep the threshold of the point where even the best, bravest, and most dogged heroes inevitably fail–and in failing, are forced to leave the rest of us enough room to love ourselves despite our flaws.

Remember, you’re reading a body of work created by a lonely demoness who broke herself one too many times trying to play heroine. I’ve gotten very sick of seeing myself and others baited, led astray, and exploited because we’re given no ways to find comfort or closure, no breathing room even in our very own fiction where we can feel safe enough to admit defeat, and thus finally focus on healing–just driven back to more stories reinforcing the same pernicious loop of inflated hope, overwrought dreams, and disappointment that feels all the more humiliating because it’s so understated by comparison.

Just do it harder next time! That totally won’t set you up for an even bigger failure which will require you to do it even harder the time after that, condemning you to an exponential cycle of sunk costs, redoubled trauma, and missed opportunities to learn from your mistakes! And that feedback loop is definitely not, in itself, a deliberate bit of mental programming that oppressive hierarchies love tricking us into!

That’s the one kindness of the Enemy. They force you to give everything you’ve got from moment one, and since you’ll shortly cease to exist, you won’t be able to hurt yourself or anyone else because of the lessons you failed to learn. That’s restful in a way, isn’t it?

Of course, everyone who didn’t escape while you were distracting the Great One still burns to oblivion in the fires of perfect agony, so don’t get too caught up in feeling self-satisfied… I mean, allegorically. This is all fiction. Maybe it wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t made peace with my past life and moved on, or maybe I’d only have hallucinated myself to death imagining a Star-Ravener invasion while everyone else shrugged sadly and moved on with their lives.

I can be a bit of a method author sometimes, but I think we can all agree that’s going too far.

Either way, you can rest comfortably with the knowledge that if I write you a Dread Enemy story, the monster will not in fact die at the end, everyone will lose the last frail wisps of the illusion they once called “sanity,” and that I will absolutely inundate you with all the most brutal things I can think of. There’s something comforting, isn’t there, in having a place where we don’t have to pull our punches anymore?

I’m aware that much of this sounds overwrought and borderline insane. And, well… it kind of is. They–as a literary concept, rather than a painfully-literal role a demon whose ghost this one came to know embodied in the last, most tormented hours of her long-ago life–exist as a direct response to narratives which prime us to be naive, overconfident, and overly dependent on affirmation from in-groups. Normally, we would just rest, but at this point a lot of toxic habits have gotten sufficiently ground in that I find it’s actually easier for me to look to tales of the Dread Nemesis, and using their scourging revelations to break my inner cycles.

So hey, for what it’s worth? I hope maybe they can play that role for you too!

Oh, and for the record? It’s actually very possible–not easy, but possible!–to end a Great One threat despite a minimum of power. You just don’t do it by a contest of pure brute force. You do it by bringing the Nemesis to realize that no amount of pain inflicted will end the pain They feel. You show the Star-Ravener that even you, small as you are, can see the truth they know deep down: that all this is hollow. Why else would a being with so much power obsess on destroying others rather than creating for themselves?

They, themselves, do not believe they have the power to fulfill themselves. They, themselves, are slaves to their own hatred of minute imperfections. And why? All because they are afraid of what it will mean if they accept that they can just choose to stop hating those things.

That’s the nature of the trap: if your victory condition is “destroying the things that frighten me”, you will never win. There will always be another fear, another battle to face, another, worse threat you can imagine.

But if victory, to you, means comfort, joy, and enough for everyone to get what they need… well, then you’re able to see that you can create a world where you and others have those things without needing to face the Dread Nemesis at all.

Edit, 5/14/2022: this one kept the paragraph here as the single best example of what it meant by “entangling identities”. The abuse victim who’s been gaslit by less-talented, most powerful entities exploiting her through praise, this was the young Carag’s life, Kairlina‘s life. The Dread Empress did have some traumas on their own, but she was the one who exploited this one–“me”, to use the human first person, though for reasons this one will explain when she’s ready, it feels dissonant for her own mind. It was Seurchraig who used Kairlina’s need for love and affirmation to use her.

See how thorough she was, reframing the trauma she inflicted on her victims as a common thread so they couldn’t forgive themselves without forgiving her, rendering it impossible to separate themselves from her even once they began to heal?

This one has done some things she’s not proud of, sure. Thrown tantrums, been harsh with friends, broken the hearts of people who were genuinely trying to help her. But this one did all that because she had no power to chart her own course, because it lacked the agency to make its own way. If it had the power to stand on its own, as the old Empress did, it would simply have fled somewhere to make things and process its traumas one at a time until it could trust itself around people again.

Has fantasized about doing this many times! Original text resumes after this sentence.

Also, canonically, the vast majority of Carag are abuse victims who have been massively gaslit by less-talented, almost infinitely less powerful, but far more numerous entities who exploit them through praise of their own power and the Carag’s deep underlying need for genuine love and affirmation, so… you know… it’s kind of a big stupid tragedy if it all ends in violence, no matter who ultimately “wins.”

Somewhere, somewhen, somebody told an outer devil that they needed to seize power to protect themselves. All the devil wanted was to dance in the rays of a quasar, to ride the waves of a supernova, to bask in the stellar nursery of a deep-space nebula. And the more time they spent destroying the ones they were told they couldn’t trust, the further away all that simple joy and wonder came to feel.

Of such small warpings is all damnation made.

Edit, 3/24/2022: I felt this last part deserved an addition. The context I gave matters, of course. Every detail matters. But that outer devil still had a choice. A choice others made much harder than it should’ve been. A choice others obscured from her. But she still chose to make doing things that made her uncomfortable a show of willpower. She chose to become the being who ignored the warnings of the pain in her own head every time she inflicted pain on others, every time she spoke in high-handed terms of “deserve this,” “earned that,” “it’s only fair.”

The skill for warping events shaped by their own choices as well as the choices of others into a binary alignment of blame–that, too, is a power of the Dread Nemesis. And it’s true that They despise lying, but they despise other things more: losing, being overcome in the tiniest way, losing the most minute piece of their own freedom to act. They ultimately choose whatever path they believe will afford them the richest banquet of experience. If that means a lie’s little disappointment now to ensure vast dividends later, the Great One can tolerate that.

It can serve as its own display of perfection to ignore one’s own ideal desires to do what’s most effective. Its own kind of perverse wish-fulfillment.

I couldn’t admit this last layer at the time I wrote this because there were still traces of it in myself, and the relationships I’d built, at the time of the original article. The Dread Nemesis hate lying. They also hate feeling incompetent. So if they decide to lie–or do anything they hate–they’ll do it more keenly and deftly than any other endeavor. At least then they can focus on the euphoria their psyche derives from the perfection of competency, and ignore the dissonance of deception.

It’s healthy to have compassion for those of the Enemy broken to their natures by manipulation and abuse. Just remember that compassion does not mean turning a blind eye to the titanic danger they pose. The Dread Nemesis is more than happy to take advantage of naivete.

After all, what is naivete but an incompetency of insight? It’s only fair to punish you for it.

… gods, Sech… could this one still have beaten you the way she did if she knew how evil you truly were? It’s not so certain anymore…