I woke up in a daze. I saw the purple-orange sky above me and heaved a sigh of relief. Images flashed through my mind, of my friends falling down into the pit of fire, and I began to cry profusely. I felt utter hatred for myself. I rolled over to see my Self sitting cross-legged on the grass, regarding me with sullen eyes. I wiped my eyes and sat up, trying not to let any more tears escape.
"What happened?" I asked in a half-normal, half-distraught tone.
"I pulled you out. I knew that the Shadow would be too much for you to bear for very long. If it's of any consolation, neither you nor anyone else in that room could've been hurt. It was a ploy, enabled by visual projections produced from your memory."
I breathed another heavy sigh, "It looked so real... I had no idea it was going to be so harsh. There's no way that thing is a part of me."
"And yet, he is. The Shadow is your inner foil, the embodiment of every part of you that you shun. He is a small part of you, but he is also the most demanding."
I shook my head, wincing at the various things he'd said.
In private, you damn your friends to shame. In public, you'd bend over backwards for them.
"He'll do whatever he can to turn you against yourself. The Shadow does not lie outright, but he will play your weaknesses to his advantage. He is the devil's advocate of your soul."
I shook my head, unable to push the image of my friends falling into the pit out of my mind. It was so sick, so morbid. How could that thing be part of me?
"He's not as strong as he once was, I'll have you know," my Self said, staring off into the middle-distance (which I found to be a bit much.. I didn't really picture myself as being this dramatic, did I?), "The Shadow reached the zenith of his power when you were in the throes of depression, years ago."
"Was he responsible?"
"For the depression? Not quite. You see, the Shadow does not bring about any negative emotion in you directly, but he uses your weaknesses to make you produce these emotions on your own. Your depression was caused by your own hand, but the Shadow played the biggest part in turning you against yourself. The more you listen to him, the more power he gains."
I listened carefully, trying to piece all the information together.
"What about when I was healed?"
My Self smiled, "That was quite the moment, that was. I'd been repressed for many a month. I was very unbalanced, as the Shadow held an increasingly large monopoly over you (mind you, any imbalance among the dimensions is not good). When you were healed, the reversal was almost immediate. The Shadow's power diminished vastly, and it has been decreasing ever since. The Domain turned from fire and brimstone into rolling, green hills, and the Anima evolved into the next stage of her development. The Senex was also borne from your healing. Things remain relatively unchanged unto this day."
I nodded, "The Senex told me about the Anima."
My Self smiled, "She is a very important part of you, possibly the most important. You will speak to the Anima in good time. I can tell you, however, that she is not particularly fond of the anger you have been harboring lately."
I sighed, "I can't help it. There isn't anyone I can really talk to about this, so I have to deal with it on my own."
My Self looked at me with some meaning, "You have us, in a completely non-schizophrenic sort of way," he winked, "but you should be off to see the next dimension. I trust you've had enough time to regain your senses."
I looked around uneasily.
"Don't worry," my Self started, "you will not meet another one as bad as the Shadow."
He lifted his hand and pointed to another portal, "I think you might actually enjoy this one."
I rolled my eyes, "We'll see."
I lifted myself from the pleasant touch of the grass and hopped the stepping stones to the portal my Self had indicated. I looked above the portal and once again read the inscription.
I scrunched my face. It was an interesting name for a dimension; then again, nothing here was ordinary. I decided to just go along with it and step through the portal.