The ocean of blood went as far as the eye could see. Unspeakable anguish in the place of the midsummer land that was once their home. The Third Impact.
Somehow, the world was able to become what they knew it to be after the Second Impact. People were able to come together and rebuild, and breathe life into something so hollow and so longing.
Miss Misato witnessed that, but it very much seemed like she was gone, as was anyone else. All that remained was Shinji's feeble hands clutched to her throat, thumb against the windpipe.
She guessed that she felt numb. It was hard to say.
They killed her, didn't she? She lost that battle. She awoke and became one with her Eva, her mother, and she killed all of the enemy Evas. She ripped them to shreds but somehow it didn't matter.
It didn't matter because she didn't matter.
Then she died.
But she had it. Three and a half solitary minutes of faith in herself, a victory that cracked her smile so sharply. Permission to be the cocky pilot again. She could quip and joke and destroy. But that was over now.
Her crumbled arm wrapped in bandages longed to touch, to be remembered again. It needed to feel, so her hand came up to Shinji's face and touched it.
Nothing. There was nothing there.
Yet he felt something it seemed for Shinji's tears began to empty onto her face like hail. His hands bent inward and retracted back to him as he clawed at the ground, back arched like a feral cat.
It was at this moment that she felt a tremor in her flesh, a dangerous hollowness that created a panic.
Something was wrong with her eye. Everything seemed so narrow, like peering between the crack of a door.
Watching Shinji cry like this was almost amusing. This method of seeing, this distant image of him before all the red, gave her some voyeuristic delight.
It was because there was a bandage over her face that concealed an empty void. They must have taken her eye. Her fingers caved into her palms as she imagined tearing the Evas apart again, but then she remembered that they were likely gone, as was her Eva Unit, and that she was just a fourteen year old girl again, just like everybody else.
Like everybody else.
She was breathing.
She didn't want to be breathing. She didn't ask to breathe. She begged for death and it welcomed her, and they forced her to live, forced to fight, and now she was here at the end of the world.
And the people who made them fight were dead.
Shinji wouldn't stop crying. Stupid Shinji.
On the shore of a new world and neither of them could get up.
In this moment of quiet, it felt as if she should become suddenly cognizant of a breeze passing through. Anything, there had to be some kind of sensation to pick up on in a moment of desolation. But there was nothing but Shinji's tears.
She wanted to kill him. This cowering, loathsome creature that couldn't look away from his phantoms for a moment to reach out to her and help her. She wanted to wrap her hands around his throat to and watch him sputter and squeal as the life faded from him.
Yet she remained there, flat as a board, as dead as the rest of them.
At least Shinji had the courage to move.
Her eye narrowed and some recognition floated through her mind.
It wasn't them that did this to her.
Surrounded by black, choking, phantom hands to her phantasmal throat, her eyelids refusing to shut, and she could feel it all happen, their screams as the thousands of Rei crawled across the planet and ended every last one of them.
People who regretted everything, people who regretted nothing, people who didn't know how they felt, people who saw this as fitting despite the absurdity of it all.
It would have been nice.
And as she thought that little phrase, it echoed all around her in the empty chamber, rattling her arms, some pain desperately trying to claw its way out of her and breathe.
Her chin thudded into her chest and her eyelids drooped over her. How nice it would have been for Rei's deinty hands to hold her face as she melted away into nothing. She wondered if it hurt as much as it appeared to.
Then she became angry because she hated Rei.
But it would be nice to die to a friend.
To somebody who loves me.
Then she screamed she knew Rei hated her too.
And the scream rang loudly and pierced her own ears, and she crumpled into a ball, knees folded to her chest, to escape the echo she had caused.
Stupid quiet Rei. She could see those eyes that didn't ever find the need to open all the way, that tiny expressionless smile that didn't deserve any praise. How was it that this girl who felt nothing could be so powerful, could be so useful and such a warrior?
Rei's crimson eyes watched her from far away in the darkness, no different from the eyes that watched her from plain sight, and Asuka shut her eyes, hoping they would go away, the current of the darkness bending her head upwards, her hair drifting away from her face.
And a tiny voice echoing through her mind, a whisper, a hand just for her to hold onto, a hand that beckoned to her.
"Forgive me," it hissed to her. Wavering, too friendly, too broken, too fragile, not strong enough.
Crimson red miles away and all of a sudden the hand wasn't a hand, it was one long finger curled up to her.
Glowing green eyes.
Her breath cut short, quivering, heart contracting inward, everything growing apart from each like, the body collapsing.
Her eye, she actually lost her eye. Good, she deserved that.
Her Eva looked at her, the finger on her cheek, and she felt tears drip out of the empty socket on her face.
This was her mother, and like always, she felt so eclipsed by her. Even when she was dead, the memory of her hanging from the ceiling wouldn't go away. But now she was floating there in space with her. She had seen everything Asuka had accomplished.
I matter because I pilot Eva well.
Another oversimplified thought echoing throughout the chamber, spoken back to her in such a chipper tone, a voice that knew nothing. She twitched and her hair fell over her eyes, which was nice, because she needed to be alone right now and it was difficult with the Eva floating there, waiting for her to do all the talking for the two of them.
It was supposed to be her — she was the one destined to pilot Eva. Not stupid Shinji or soulless Rei, a girl who so thoughtlessly died for her.
It wasn't the same Rei that came back to them. Even Shinji could see that. Rei was never real; she was just some tool for NERV to use to kill Angels. It was sickening, and she pitied her. She smiled at the thought of Rei lying in the blood, attempting to feel something.
Maybe that was why she destroyed the world. Or maybe the world that did this to them deserved to die.
It didn't matter. Because she died before the others because she was weak.
Hands slamming against levers that wouldn't budge, screaming for a machine to listen to her, to let her feel that bliss again.
Without the Eva, I am nothing.
Everyone knew who Asuka really was. It was obvious. She overcompensated, she hated everyone so she could spend at least a few moments each day not remembering that she hated herself the most. So shallow and superficial and empty and utterly
The word echoed throughout the chasm, bubbles blowing by quickly, the Eva creaking as the moment passed between the two of them.
They were all always dying, this moment was not a surprise.
Shinji, curled up in his bed, paralyzed in grief, so unloved by his father, and terrified of making any decisions, who became something terrifying when given power, something that should not be allowed near any Eva.
Rei, deathly quiet as she listened to jokes and expressions that made no sense to her, committed to piloting Eva vastly more than the other children because nothing else in life was programmed to make sense to her.
Miss Misato, crying, all her prestige and stratagem fading away at the absurd notion of having to sleep alone for just one night, something burdened by so much pathetic insecurity. Sleeping around willingly making bad choices to fix something every way but the right one. Melting away into nothing at the sight of Kaji.
She had wanted him so badly.
But she was nothing to him, and the most received from him was laughter as he rolled her tiny frame off of his body.
I'm an adult. I'm more mature than the rest.
Everything was so obvious. They were all so weak and fragile. They all knew this about each other.
But when Shinji laid comatose in his bed every evening, did she care for him? Did she lay down beside him and ask what was wrong?
Did Miss Misato say anything when she heard Asuka scream in the shower when she thought she was alone?
A twinge of pain, a lie and her eyes widened as her Mother's gaze held steady on her.
I pretended I thought I was alone. I wanted them to hear me.
When the second Rei came to them, Asuka merely blinked, and spat at this creation even though she was only a baby. Her only sin was that her sister dared to make a sacrifice.
And when Asuka ran away and tried to —
Her Mother's warped finger brushed her cheek.
"Forgive yourself," it whispered.
When she tried to kill herself — did they care?
No. They made her fight.
Tendrils impaling in her, holes in her body breathing, blood becoming a mist.
This was what she wanted: the abyss.
She remembered what she had done, and it had reset.
Her bare feet laid on top of the mossy wooden planks, her hands pulled off her final scrap of clothing, and she felt real for a second.
She watched herself lower her clothes onto the chair, folding them nicely for whoever found her. Looking through the gaping holes in the ceiling, she felt the warm sunshine touch her bare skin, and it was the last good thing she would ever know..
She was so small, so tiny, so childish, only fourteen years old. A child pretending to be this powerful warrior, but here she stood, naked to the world. This was how her body should be found; they should see how worthless she was after all, alone and pathetic and needy and clingy and evil and cruel.
It was the perfect death.
Even though it hurt her to do so, she plucked the Eva clips out that were always on proud display in her hair. Because she would never pilot Eva again, and she was never a good pilot. She never deserved that badge of honor, all her brashness and bravado could no longer hide it. They had seen her try to move unmoving levers too many times.
She tossed the clips to the floor and they slid away into the shadows.
Her clammy hands clapped her hips and ran down her thighs. Flat and boyish. It hurt more than she wanted to admit.
Completely and utterly normal. Plump little thighs laden with baby fat, awkwardly joining her stomach which jutted outward from her hips, a strange crease above her thighs where her misshapen body came together.
Utterly featureless and plain in the mirror, the only color coming from a tuft of hair growing between her legs that made her so human and weak.
Flat-footed on the floor, she held back hot tears as she glared at the steaming bath tub, chastising herself for every moment not taken to step closer.
Blood ran through her veins that she was going to empty from her soon.
She wished she could have ran farther, hid where they would never find her, but it had to be now. Otherwise she wouldn't — couldn't — do it.
Cold steel brushed against her cheek, and it hurt despite the soft caress of her Mother. She felt a hesitation from the tiny touch. There was a longing from both to merge and hold on, but they could not. Her body could barely handle her mother's touch.
The finger drifted away from her and she floated their in space again, her ravaged body sticking to the bloodied clothes and bandages.
Her Mother wanted something more for her, to be someone else, to leave it behind and move on. To be a person. To be her mother's daughter and live a life beyond the tragedies she had passed onto her.
She could not speak or even move, facing this monstrosity in the darkness, this thing that she could not tame because she was weak. This thing telling her to forgive it—her, her mother.
This wasn't real.
Another reality, a world where she became a failure, a washed-up fighter who struggled with sleepless nights that told her to kill herself — this wasn't the same person she knew so well in the mirror, or at least, what she forced everyone to see.
But no, this was real, it was the obvious ending to such a loser, and suddenly she was in that bath tub again and she was naked, hairless and pure and flat and forbidden and weak.
The little hairs not yet submerged stood on end from the chill, the rest of her skin below breathing.
Those sullen eyes that had held onto a blank darkness closed as her chest rose and fell with the steam and she smiled.
Floating in that space before her Mother, her hair fell to her shoulders and brushed the skin and she longed to be alive again.
How stupid of her, she thought. How Shinji of her to break down like this. Do you want to pilot the Eva or not you loser—this issue, this concept of not—being—able—to—be—yourself—was—ridiculous—and—
But still, she wanted to wake up, she wanted to be the Asuka who piloted Eva and killed Angels better than anyone again. Even though there was no Eva to pilot or Angels to kill.
Her Mother cocked her head to the side, massive finger resting under her chin.
I just want to be whole for right now.
Her wrist tightened, snapping under pressure, chin collapsing into the chest, shoulders slumping upward.
Maybe she could be strong this time.
Wake me up, please, wake me up now, I want to see the light.
Everything dead and gone, disappeared and probably happier elsewhere.
Shinji didn't notice when Asuka stood up and limped across the sands, nor did her splashes register to him as anything beyond white noise.
Ankle deep in the red, this was the world that they had for them, and if they died so would the world.
Already after her revelation, she felt a gnawing in her chest. She wanted her Mother back, to hold her again, and to guide her. But that was a relic of the old world and there was nothing she could do to bring it back.
She had already died once before after all.
She wanted to wade out into the ocean and swim until her body gave up on her.
A headache rippled through her as she stepped back to the shore and nestled into the sands, looking at this deranged vision of the world that was theirs to wander.
No Angels and no Eva, but she was still Asuka.
Asuka Soryu-Langely from Germany, born to Kyoto Zeppelin Soryu, daughter to a scientist that lost her mind to her work.
This was an experience that no longer made sense in this wreckage, something that could never be understood and would soon be forgotten.
"Shinji-kun, come here," Asuka said softly. She seated herself on the sand and waited for him to come to her.
A kid brother and his kid sister who needed supervision. In charge of a planet.
Sand shifted, piling up against her ankle as a shaking hand fell next to hers. She hesitated, then took it and clutched him tightly.
The blood moved in waves just like any other ocean.
A tingle up the spine, slimy skin rattling, desperate to become blackness once again, but her heart remained steady.
Shinji's pupils had shrunk so much. At any moment, he could go away too, so she held his hand tighter and he responded in kind.
There had to be more out there, more people who had the nerve to return to the bleakness, more people like Shinji.
Neither of them were special. There was no destiny. She bonded with the Eva because it was already born into her; not because she was an exceptional pilot or the fiercest warrior.
No history book would remember her and no one would ever love her. Not without the Eva.
She turned to Shinji, her face still frozen in a horror so unlike her. Three words came to her.
But they were not heard and her lips merely puppeted the movement of speaking. To be so vulnerable to this weakling was stupid, and suddenly she felt no different than she did in the abyss.
"Huh?" Shinji asked dumbly. He said everything dumbly.
She looked away and muttered under her breath, "Can you sit on my right side? I can't feel with this hand."
A tiny grunt to signify he heard her, and he obediently crossed past her, crawling actually, over her body, and she laughed.
He sat beside her and held her other hand and she was amazed at the sensations it gave her.
"I want to die," Asuka said weakly to Shinji. "I think I'm sick."
Shinji couldn't think of anything to say. Stupid Shinji. He was the worst one of them all to talk to about this.
"Do…" Asuka breathed in. "Do you want to die too?"
Shinji's lips shook as he responded in kind, weakly saying in that pathetic way only Shinji could muster, "Yes. I hate myself."
"Well then you are a fool," Asuka said plainly. Shinji's grip loosened and she felt him staring at her. "You are an amazing person. You were the best pilot of us all. You gave it up because you didn't want to hurt anyone and I don't know anyone else more deserving of a good life than you."
Waves rolled against her feet. Just like water. Maybe a little thicker.
"We need to keep each other alive, okay?" Asuka said again, her voice awkward in the abyss of silence around them.
His curt response was so fragile to the pain around them. She held him tighter even though it made her squirm. She knew that it meant something to him.
She grinned even though it felt disingenuine, and looked to Shinji like Miss Misato maybe would, and nudged him, and she got that smile she was looking for, even if it lasted less than a second.
It felt good and it brought a warmth to her chest.
Asuka looked away from Shinji and to where his eyes fell: the broken head of Rei lying in the ocean of blood, eyes forced open with a deadly smile.
She wanted to look away but there wasn't much else to see.
"Shinji," she said in a clipped tone, hands pushing in towards her, dragging the sand upwards,
"Yeah?" Shinji replied.
"I need you."