Note: Okay. Part of me never thought I would revamp this project. Some of you may have seen it before. I released this story awhile back but removed it after it fell into a state of limbo. I stopped working on it along with my other project for the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Nightscape. The difference here is that Soul Coil actually had a shot in hell of being revitalized. Nightscape, on the other hand, I have no desire to bring back, but I'll go into more detail about the history of these two stories in a separate note for those who are interested.
Until then, I hope you all enjoy this new and revamped version of an old project. Feedback and critique are always welcome.
Enter the Night Life
I woke up in the dead of that cold, winter night with a brain-splitting headache. No, it was much more than just a headache. Not even a migraine could compare to this pain. I ran my fingers through my hair, clawing at my scalp until blood coated my fingers.
I flailed around wildly and fell out of bed, slamming against the unforgiving floor. My brain felt as though it were being torn in two. I wanted to cry out in agony, but my scream was caught in my throat. I could hardly breathe.
Control over my body was lost just as quickly as my voice. Whether it was the pain that distracted me from the thought of climbing back into bed or the fact that his body did not want to move, I could not recall.
Suddenly, the pain subsided. What just happened? I wanted to cry a second ago and now it was all over. Surely this wasn't caused by my head injury? What else could it have been, though?
With that hellish pain gone, I slowly rose up off the ground. That was probably the worst pain I've felt in my young life. Even being stabbed did not compare to whatever that was.
The experience left me wide awake. I turned to my alarm clock and was stunned at the time. It was still so early. I had probably only been asleep for an hour and a half at the most. I tried forcing myself back to sleep. I must have laid there for thirty minutes, but I lost the little patience I had and got right back out of bed.
I approached the door and prepared to leave my room. I paused for a moment and listened. I could hear something. It was faint but it sounded like voices. I immediately assumed the television was left on downstairs.
Leave it to my sister to make a mistake like that.
Surely enough, my assumption was correct. Well, I was right in part. The television was on, but that wasn't by mistake. I saw my sister sitting on the sofa with her eyes glued to the screen.
She should be in bed by now, but she was as wide awake as me. I stood there observing quietly. What interested me more than her being up past a decent hour was the television. The volume was so low. There was no way I should have heard it from upstairs while my door was shut. I was struggling to figure out what was being said on that stupid cartoon she was watching when I was only standing a few feet away.
I thought I heard voices while I was upstairs. In fact, I know I did but that couldn't have been coming from the television.
I quickly grew bored of arguing with myself. I was probably getting worked up over nothing anyway. Besides, there was something else I needed to take care of. I stepped out of the shadows and into the blue light that radiated from the TV screen.
"Hey," I called out. My sister jumped at the unexpected sound of my voice. "What are you doing up at this hour. Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"After this episode," she pleaded.
Reluctantly, she followed my demands. She went for the remote and prepared to turn off the television, but I was quick to stop her.
"Leave it on. I'm going to be up for awhile."
She stared at me with a look of betrayal. "Why do you get to stay up but I don't!? That's not fair!"
Despite her puppy dog face, I would not be manipulated. I stared down at her sternly. Where those tactics would probably work on our parents, it will see no success with me.
"Because I said so," I argued halfheartedly. "Now go upstairs and do your homework or something."
"But I already did it," she whined.
"Then go to bed."
Murmuring to herself, she bolted out of the living room, giving me a nasty look as she went. As she went up the stairs, I heard something. It wasn't the television. It sounded like someone was speaking right into my ear.
"You're a terrible brother."
I immediately turned around and responded. My sister just barely made it to the fourth step when I called out to her.
"What was that?"
She turned back to me with a look of confusion. "What was what?"
I stared at her with a blank expression for a few seconds. She seemed genuinely lost by my reaction. I honestly don't even know what was said, but I could have sworn I heard someone speak and she was the only other person in the house or at least she'd better be.
"What did you say just now?"
"I didn't say anything."
I nodded my head and turned away. She continued on up the stairs and I was left wondering. I believed her. That voice didn't sound like anything she could produce. I brushed the thought from my head thinking that I might just be more tired than I thought.
Before I could take a seat on the couch, I heard another voice. This time, I knew it belonged to my sister and when I looked back toward the staircase, I quickly confirmed my assumption.
"I almost forgot," she announced with a strange shift in mood. "A girl came by asking to see you."
Was it Asahina!? Please say it was Asahina! If it was then she can come to my room any time of the day and night. I wouldn't mind her waking me up.
"I don't know who it was," my sister abruptly proclaimed, instantly dashing my hopes. "I've never seen her before. She didn't say her name, but she had blue hair and she was kind of tall. She left a present for you in the kitchen."
That was suspicious. I don't know anyone who met that description. No one that was alive at any rate. None the less, my interest was thoroughly peaked.
My next stop was the kitchen. It didn't take too long to find this weird package. It was just a small cardboard box sitting on the counter near the cutting board. There was ribbon tied neatly around it.
Someone really went the extra mile here. It was all for nothing of course because I sliced through the annoying ribbon with a knife. It was pretty, but it was ultimately a total inconvenience.
I opened the box and stared down at a cookie sitting next to a folded piece of paper. I took the paper out first and looked over its contents. I was expecting something less vague, but of course, it had to be the vaguest message in the world. Only one word was written on it.
What does that mean? Am I at war with someone and I don't even know it? I did not even bother with the cookie. I immediately threw the thing away. If I don't know where it comes from then why would I even think about eating it? For all I know, the secret ingredient could be arsenic.
I woke up to freezing temperatures. My eyes shot open only to see nothing but darkness. The TV must have gone off at some point while I was out, but that still didn't explain the cold. It was so freaking cold!
Why was it so cold? It felt as if my body had been encased in ice. I tried to move, but my body was not responding.
"A simple answer for a simple question."
There it was again. This time it was unmistakable. A voice was speaking to me. I heard every word of what was said. It was completely audible. Carefully I listened to this man speak. His voice was so soft and gentle. It felt… ethereal.
"Hear me well, boy, because I will never repeat myself. The reason you feel so cold is simply because you are cold. Your body is currently ice-bound. Do not panic. When you awake from this seance, all will be well."
"Who's there," I stammered. I was told not to panic, but how was I supposed to listen to that advice in the first place? My body was frozen and I couldn't see a thing. How could I not panic?
"I have decided to take up residency in your body for the time being," the voice continued, ignoring my obvious dismay. "My colleague, Mercury, will give you all the details at a later date. Preferably a time when you are fully conscious and capable of contemplating my words. You will help us achieve our goals and we will do the same for you. I have seen the desires in your heart and they are obtainable. That is all. You may rest assured. I will disturb you no longer."
I was so lost. I had no idea what was going on. I struggled to keep up with what the stranger was saying with everything that was happening. I cried out, demanding to know his identity, but he said nothing specific. Nothing I could understand.
"When you arise from the realm of dreams, look to the sky just before the sun pierces the eastern horizon. Look toward the star that shines brightest and you will find me."
I sat upright in my bed. Like always, any dreams I may have had were totally forgotten the moment my alarm clock went off. I lunged toward it and slammed my hand down on top of the thing. Silence fell upon my room for a few seconds. I did not bother trying to go back to sleep. Any moment now, my sister would come barging into my room, shouting at me to wake up as she took the cat and left.
This never happened. I laid there in wait for the longest time but it was still dead quiet. I stirred from the blankets and looked toward the window. It was still dark outside. I groaned and kicked my alarm clock in frustration.
The actual time still remained a mystery to me. All I knew was that it was way too early to be awake. As I tried to go back to sleep, not even bothering to reset my alarm, I thought about something. I wondered how I ended up in my bed, but this was not the first time something like this has happened. Every time I fall asleep in the living room I sleepwalk my way to my room.
I ignored the thought as soon as I reached this conclusion and buried my face into my pillow. I was pretty close to falling back into a peaceful sleep. Almost. So close yet so far.
A voice rang out in my ears. I nearly hit the ceiling when I jumped at the sound of someone speaking to me.
"Rise and shine!"
I threw the blanket off of me and searched the room. Nothing moved. There was no one around but I know what I heard.
I got up and checked every corner but I still came up with nothing. "Who said that," I finally shouted to my obviously empty room.
"You won't find me if you keep looking around like that."
There it was again! The same voice I had been hearing off and on all night! It wasn't just my imagination. It couldn't have been. This time it actually responded to me. Was I going crazy? I did suffer a recent head injury, but surely that wouldn't be enough to cause something like this. It's not like I have a history of schizophrenia.
"You're not crazy," the voice proclaimed to me as if this stranger could read my thoughts. "I thought the Boss went over all of this with you. Do you forget things that easily?"
"What are you talking about, who are you?"
It was the best response I could come up with. I still couldn't figure out where this person was hiding. I had already checked every possible spot I could think of but he was still nowhere to be found.
"How many times do I have to tell you," the voice asked in a frustrated tone. "If you keep looking for me in random places, you'll never find me."
"Then where are you!?"
"Inside your head, of course," the voice replied. "Hope you don't mind, but my boss and I are using your skull as a new hideout. Don't worry, I won't go peeking around in your thoughts too much. Although, I've gotta say, some pretty weird stuff crosses your mind every now and again. Hey speaking of weird stuff that's been happening lately..."
Yeah, speaking of which…
"What's up with that note we saw in the kitchen? Why does someone want a truce with you? They even left you a cookie too. You did the smart thing by throwing it away. It could have been poisoned. Either that or you and I have the same cynical way of looking at the world."
"Better safe than sorry," I responded. Then it hit me. I was actually having a conversation with a disembodied voice. I still have yet to get his name. I really must be going crazy.
"You aren't going crazy," the voice continued, once again peering into my very soul after promising otherwise.
"My name is Mercury. I'm a Humanoid Interface just like your buddy Nagato who I hear is knocking on heaven's door as we speak."
Now it was all starting to make sense. Maybe I should have listened to this guy from the start. I really wasn't going crazy. Still, the mere mention of her name killed my mood.
I frowned and sat down on the bed, no longer willing to remain standing. I suddenly didn't have the energy for that.
"An interface, huh," I asked aloud. I don't know why I even bothered talking aloud to this oddball. Perhaps it was just my own way of coping with the fact that I was having a conversation with an alien inside my head.
"Well, that explains a lot. So, you know Nagato?"
"Why don't we go for a walk," Mercury offered, but I was having none of it.
"Why don't you answer my question?"
Mercury said nothing for the longest time. I heard him murmuring something in the back of my mind. I couldn't tell whether he was talking to himself or to his 'boss' but he eventually spoke up after such an awkward period of silence.
"Let's take a walk," he repeated. "I'll answer your question there. You could do this for me, or you could be left guessing. Just make up your mind soon, though. Nagato's life depends on it."
So much had happened over the course of these past two months and winter still wasn't over yet. I was finally home from the hospital for a head injury. Of course, that was only after being attacked by a certain blue-haired maniac in an alternate dimension.
Then, this nonsense happened and I was left in the wandering down a lonely, snow covered road pondering to myself if this madness would ever end.
Needless to say, I did what they asked. I got dressed and took this mental debate outside. What else could I do after he mentioned Nagato? More importantly than her, though, I had to know who this person was. What was going on? How were they even accessing my thoughts, to begin with? Was this a function Nagato was capable of too?
I pondered this as I practically had to wade through the snow. It was at record levels at this point. The days rolled by but winter had yet to leave. Granted, we still had awhile to go before it was all sunshine and blooming flowers, but this was starting to get ridiculous.
Eventually, I reached the park. It was desolate, but I expected nothing more at this hour. Only drug addicts and I were foolish enough to hang around here at this time of night. Finally, my new friend decided to speak up.
"The Boss says it's cool to answer your questions now. All he asks is that you keep your eyes on the sky and look for the morning star."
"Look for what," I asked in confusion.
"Venus, my friend," Mercury informed. "Search for Venus."
"Is that your boss's name?"
That answer surprised me. I still had yet to actually meet the other interface that was using my head as a winter retreat. I didn't even know the guy's name. This one's name was Mercury which was odd enough, but if the other guy's name wasn't Venus then why the hell were they asking me to look for it.
Again, to my surprise, Mercury did not outright answer the questions I had swimming around in my mind. By now, I was pretty sure he could hear just about everything I was thinking. Guess I'll just have to ask them outright.
"I'm confused," I proclaimed aloud. I tried not to think about how wrong this scene looked. A crazy man talking to himself in the middle of the night. How long would it be before the boys in blue took notice in me?
"You said you're an interface just like Nagato and you also told me her life was in danger. I guess I already knew that so why don't you start by explaining this to me?"
"Easy enough," Mercury snarled. He spoke with a sort cockiness that did not exactly fit the tone of the conversation. "The Boss and I are in the same boat as your friend. We were to be destroyed by our creator, but being the resilient little interfaces that we are, we managed to escape. We knew you were important to the current development down here. We know you're a key figure when it comes to that annoying girl that seems to be so damn crucial to the universe. Likewise, we also knew the Data Integration Thought Entity would be forced to back off if we took up residence in either your head or hers so we chose the most comfortable option and that leads us to now."
I couldn't really blame them for choosing me over Haruhi. Why the hell would anyone want to live inside Haruhi's brain. Her mind probably resembles the second circle of Hell. A constant tempest of winds that blow in every which direction.
It was interesting to hear that these two were also betrayed by the DITE. I wanted to ask how it happened, but there was something more pressing at the moment.
"Wait, so you guys are essentially using me as a human shield, right?"
Suddenly, Mercury did not sound so cocky. "Not at all," he said with a forced laugh. "Think of us as brothers in arms. We must always be prepared to make sacrifices for the greater good!"
So, in other words, they're totally going to use me as a human shield. Glad we got that cleared up. I just wish this guy would be a bit more honest about his agenda. It would make my life a lot easier.
Mercury ignored my thoughts and went on with his speech. I knew he could hear them, he just probably didn't have a shot in Hell at refuting them.
"Just because nothing's happened recently doesn't mean your friend is safe and she knows it," Mercury informed me. "It isn't exactly a secret that the Entity is not pleased with Yuki Nagato. She has already admitted to you that she knows it's plotting her fate but what if I were to tell you that Nagato was not going to last through the winter?"
His words felt like a meteorite had just crashed into the very spot I was standing. I knew I would have to do something soon. Nagato's fate was pretty much sealed until I could figure out a way to stop it from happening.
She would have been safe had I have just swallowed my pride and accepted that world. I probably would have died early there, but I never anticipated it to be a utopia without Haruhi around to screw up our lives over and over again with her stupidity.
"What do you mean," I suddenly inquired. It was a stupid question. I knew exactly what he meant when he said that.
"I mean, she will be killed and replaced with an identical unit sometime within the next month or two," Mercury snapped.
Wait a minute, did he just say replace!? As in, an identical Nagato will take her place and no one but her creator would be the wiser? I never even considered such a thing, but now it seemed so blatantly obvious. Why would the Entity not replace her? Of course, it wouldn't just outright kill her, throw her corpse into oblivion, and leave us all guessing about her fate! It would just bring more risk than reward when the godly Haruhi finds out that one of her friends is missing.
"Keeping quiet are we," Mercury said, interrupting my train of thought.
I don't get this guy. He can read my thoughts so why is he acting like I'm totally silent right now? Even now, he ignores me. It's infuriating, especially in a time like this.
"Whatever, I guess I'll just ramble on if you've got nothing to say. As you can probably imagine, your friend would be doomed if it wasn't for us coming down from the heavens to grace you with this knowledge. The best part is, we have a plan to help you."
It was great to hear that I wasn't alone, but also pretty suspicious. Nothing in the world was ever free and from what little time I've spent with this weirdo, I seriously doubted this would be a charitable act.
"Don't think we just ran away, though. We have a plan," Mercury added. His confidence seemed to be returning as he said this. In fact, it sounded as if it was taking a turn for the sinister.
"A plan to destroy the Data Integration Thought Entity."
Okay, now this was getting spooky. I mean… the people in my head were already spooky enough but this was on a whole different level. Did I hear him right? Destroy Nagato's creator? Is that even possible!? How would it affect would it have on the universe as a whole if something that powerful just up and dies?
I guess they read my mind again because Mercury responded to my thoughts as soon as they materialized.
"Of course, we don't intend to just leave our fellow interfaces without a leader. That would just be asking for trouble. No, as soon as we succeed in killing our ruthless creator, the Boss and I will take things over and you won't have to worry about a thing."
"Now, I get it," I said aloud. Their agenda was as clear as day to me after he let that part slip. "Look, you guys can just be honest with me. You don't really care about Nagato, do you? That's just something to get me on your side, right?"
Yet another long pause.
"Correct," Mercury informed with surprising honesty. "We could care less about your friend, but should that really be a surprise to you?"
There were a lot of obvious reasons why I should care about a couple of strangers trying to overthrow an almighty alien deity, but surely they knew that. Mercury's tone was evident enough that he himself was not totally convinced of his own argument.
I decided to let it slide for now. Their idea sounded good, but then again, so do a lot of undesirable things. I couldn't think of a single logical reason why these guys would not hold true to their word. It wasn't like Nagato's existence was a bother to them now nor could I imagine that changing in the future.
Then again, these two could just be a couple of manipulative sociopaths. That's just as likely a scenario as them being honest. Probably even more likely.
Their argument was very tempting even if I had no idea who these interfaces were or what their true agenda might be. There's not a day that goes by when I don't think about waking up to a world where Nagato's existence has been erased. It's been mental torture just to get out of bed in the mornings to see if the inevitable had happened yet.
They didn't really convince me that night and I don't think they were trying to, but what they did get was my attention. How could they not, though? They were inside my head, after all.
Note: Awhile back, I cleared my profile of old completed projects and stuff I knew I was never going to work on again and Soul Coil was part of that purge. I kind of always had a feeling I would bring it back even if it was the only Haruhi Suzumiya project I would ever work on again.
Originally, Nightscape was published long before Soul Coil. I got the idea for the second project somewhere in late development of Nightscape. Soul Coil took on a lot of traits from its predecessor and ultimately surpassed it as Soul Coil actually had some semblance of a plot whereas Nightscape was one surreal scene after the next. Soul Coil was also the first and only story I have or will ever write in the first person. The reason I chose to do this back then and continue the tradition now is that most of the conflict takes place in Kyon's mind. Naturally, it just made sense for me to tell it from a first person perspective. I tried doing it from the third person viewpoint on both revisions of the story but they failed each time.
As far as Nightscape goes, as I said before, the chances of it being revived are pretty much zero. There's no reason for it to exist anymore. I've already taken a lot of my favorite elements of that project and moved it over to one of my newer works. Anything that hasn't been pillaged already has been worked into this story. For instance, you can expect Soul Coil to always take place at night, hence the title of this chapter. In fact, most of the changes in the overarching plot are because it's nighttime all the time.
The two Humanoid Interfaces that invade Kyon's mind have not only been renamed but have basically been replaced by two of my favorite characters that came out of Nightscape who are as you can already guess, characters who have been based on deities.
There are some other major changes I made and almost made to Soul Coil, specifically involving Ryoko who was almost cut from the story entirely, but I'll go over all of that while the story progresses.