Cutscene: The Sound of Silence

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Time: ????
Place: ????
Date: 17 June 2011

Smoke and fire are two things with which Tatsuya Sudou was intimately familiar. There have been times in his life where he might've given a great deal to be present at -- to be within -- such a mighty conflagration as this. The ancient frame of the blimp burns to cinders far more quickly than might be thought possible, the flammable materials and chemicals used in its construction catching fire with horrifying ease. It is a wonder -- a miracle, perhaps -- that Tatsuya Suou and his allies were able to rescue their young charges and escape what with such alacrity became a hellish inferno. The sea air tastes of ash, its astringent chemical reek acrid in the nostrils and lungs; even the occasional mouthful of saltwater cannot defeat the corrosive stench, though it certainly washes away the taste of blood and vomit.

The ragged group washes ashore after some little time, struggling through the surf to reach the safety of dry land. Mobile phones will be frantically checked, hair and clothing will be wrung out, skin will be pinched to make sure that it isn't all just a nightmare. After a few moments, someone will crack a joke. Back in the city, the Aerospace Museum still burns; the plume of smoke from King Leo's fires rises high into the clear blue summer sky. The crippled emergency response organisations will be scrambling to do something -- the fire is raging, civilians are in danger. However, despite the imminent collapse of that tower of heat-shattered glass, despite the consumptive power of the Masquerade executive's insane wrath, they made it out. They are all alive, and in once piece. And safe.

Meanwhile, Tatsuya Sudou drowns.

As he drowns, strange noneuclidean shapes rise out of the the sea of his mind, ringed by seething blackness; his dying thoughts stray not to comrades or loved ones but to the vast febrile plain of possibility that is his subconscious. Discordant notes rip bleeding rents in the beshadowed landscape, their brittle flute-like tones cut out of the void by a cascade of razor-edged mobius strips. Past, present, future, and a mad combination of all three bare themselves to his mind's eye like a sheaf of photo negatives, all cut apart and rejoined with scotch tape or rubber glue, the various pieces matched together as though they were strands of recombinant DNA. Dimly, he realises he can discern nothing. The strips are moving too fast, like film in an antique projector. He tries to reach out, to close his hand around one and yank it toward him, force it to stop and heed him like- like always. He can't even move his fingers.

They begin to cascade faster.

To be perfectly honest, this is not what he thought death would be like. He had always assumed that, even absent last rites, he would find himself in front of St. Peter's podium at the Gates of Heaven...after all he'd endured in his life, surely he deserved a final reward of peace eternal. Even in spite of the paradise he himself strove to bring into being, some part of him clung still to the promises of his mother's faith. A brief shred of doubt surfaces; perhaps this is Limbo, and he will float here forever -- or until enough prayers aggregate on his behalf, a possibility that in this moment seems...unlikely.

Beneath him, tongues of fire lick the landscape; the shadows they cast seem almost like angels in the opaque gloom. They reach through the cascade that surrounds him, reality's razor edge slicing them into tendrils that grasp and writhe. A vestigial impulse to struggle shivers through his dead nerves; this is entirely too much like his nightmares for his liking, but he cannot move...not even the sudden realisation that this could be his afterlife impels more than a whisper of movement, and even that feels like a titanic effort. The tentacles catch on his tattered clothing and bruised skin, leaving an oily residue that burns coldly in their search for- what?

One caresses his face, gently.

Hello, Tatsuya.

Oh, God.

It seems that even in death he cannot escape the Voices, nor their horrid attentions. His body twitches, the vague jerk the only sign of his intense inward struggle to get away, to avoid- were you thinking you could essscape ussss -precisely that. The cacophony begins, condemning shrieks assaulting his mind's ear in every possible tongue even as that goddamn tentacle continues to caress his cheek with the all the gentleness of a loving parent. It's always been this way, always; ever since he began to trust them, back when he was alone and so stricken after his mother's sudden death, they turned his trust back on him... He has gained so much from their presence, their tutelage, but... No, no, the thought that maybe he'd be better off without them never once finished coalescing before it was sensed and dismissed. These are gods; such a thought would be sacrilege...a sin, if an innocent one.

Better off without ussss?

The susurrus seethes, but there is an undercurrent of spiteful amusement in them now. Isss that what you think, boy? Out of the corner of his eye -- it is so dark, he cannot be sure -- he thinks he sees the spectre of a cruel smile, somehow. The Voices have increased in volume, screeching at an ear-splitting pitch as they fling imprecations at him, cries of fAiLuRe and InCoMpEtEnT and uNwOrThY riving him right in his battered heart. Bitter, frustrated tears leak down his temples, the only protest he can muster. The tentacle wipes them away, leaving burning ichor in their place.

You humansss sssay that Hell isss merely eternity ssspent removed from the presssence of God.

With no more warning than that, the glistening appendage lunges at his face with the speed of a striking snake. As the Voices gibber and shriek with discordant laughter, the azure-bellied tentacle takes hold of his eye and yanks, nerves and blood vessels shearing away beneath its horrid strength. It feels as though every nerve in his body is being torn out through that one socket; pain sears his synapses, conducting his last shreds of consciousness into a symphony of agony. Acrid blood pours from the wound, spilling over into the burning void below. Finally, finally, a scream tears itself from his throat, the feline descant stretching out into the vast cathedral of gloom for an echoing eternity before sliding into wet nothingness.

Blackness falls upon him with the finality of a theatre curtain, the whisper of its descent lost within the welter of noise, drowned out by the Voices' thunderous ovation.

But for Tatsuya Sudou, there is only silence.

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