Death Is the Only True Freedom

1. Fade to Black

At first Shinji Ikari would have simply written a note, but somehow it seemed fitting to him that this message be left behind in the only true materialistic good that he could call his own. The S-DAT had carried him throughout his days, giving him sollace and respite where no actual worldly place could. It's origins were long lost on him; as far as Shinji could remember it had always been in his possession. It was his only constant, and doubled as his escape from everything, everything from father's abandonment to Misato and Asuka's decided abandonment of him, and everything in between.

Well, Asuka had not so much abandoned him as she was still in a coma at the hospital. She had been that way for almost four weeks now, the result of years of pent-up anger and childhoood trauma that had been vicously and mercilessly released by the Fifteenth. But if she was conscious she would probably no sooner leave the apartment and Japan, but mainly him, her hatred of him being no secret in the least. Why would she wish to remain around someone as worthless as him, anyway?

Misato, however, had no excuse to leave the apartment. All of her furniture and things were still there, but she was never actually there. She never even ran home to eat her instant mix dishes anymore. Shinji had no idea where she was or what she did, but he could only conclude that it was because he no longer needed to pilot Evangelion. With the destruction of all seventeen Angels and the safety of all mankind guaranteed, it was obvious that she no longer needed to be his commanding officer, and therefore had no more need to be his legal guardian. Afterall, ever since father left he had moved from foster home to foster home, staying no longer than a year at most in one place. That's how it always worked. He had stayed with Misato for almost a year now, so even if he was somehow still required to pilot she would have probably had her fill of him and asked him to get out and stay elsewhere.

It didn't make too much sense to him, though, that she would simply not return home. The apartment unit was in her name, and Shinji was only there at her discretion. Whatever the reason, Shinji would not be staying too much longer anyway.

He breathes in, not so much out of a biological need for the essential gases, but because he is mentally preparing himself. The note that he had written could have served as his cue card, but he had already opted to throw it out along with the rest of the trash this morning. So instead he had to recall as much as he could of what he wrote, rehearsing it all in his mind so as to make sure that nothing was missed. Why he was even bothering to go to all this trouble was beyond him, it was doubtful that anybody would actually care. However, in case there was ever a demand for an explanation, one could be provided.

Checking everything more out of nervous habit, Shinji confirmed his inventory. The revolver he had found in Misato's underwear drawer; check. Bullet; check. Blank cassette tape; check. And most importantly, the S-DAT, complete with fresh new batteries; check.

He took the revolver in one hand and exposed the revolver's cylinder with the other. He then inserted the bullet, letting its rim strike the cylinder with a small clang. He then closed the cylinder, set the revolver down next to him on the bed, and took up the S-DAT

There was an audible CLICK! as Shinji pressed down on both the "play" and "record" buttons simultaneously, causing cassette's tape to move against the contraption's read/write head, leaving the only proof of his final words in the form of a modulated magnetic signal.

"I have decided to take my own life. These are my final words, to any who wish to know.

"I have no idea who will listen to this, and frankly I don't care. I acknowledge that I could just be wasting my time on this, but in case anybody wants to know the truth, here it is.

"First, let's get some things out of the way. This is not some pathetic teenage angst-ridden plea for attention. Nor is this a cry for help. I am beyond help, and after nearly ten years of hoping for attention and receiving none I have finally let go of that hope.

"I am not depressed, I am not mentally deficient, and I am not in any way, shape or form under some sort of external influence. I have thought this through for the past week. I do not simply know, I am CERTAIN beyond all reasonable doubt that this is the only way.

"I have decided to do this because I finally understand the truth. I am completely worthless. To everybody. My own father left me as a child, and only contacted me a decade later because he had a purpose for me. He admitted it himself that the only reason he called me back was to pilot. But now I no longer need to pilot, and so he no longer has need for me.

"Misato, my commanding officer and legal guardian, has now abandoned me. I remember her once saying that she only joined NERV to kill the Angels, to enact her revenge for her father. It's only natural that she took interest in me, then, because I could help her get her revenge. But now they're all dead, so she must've gotten what she wanted out of me. It was only a matter of time before she left me, too.

"I think the only reason she took me in was because she felt sorry for me. That's how they all start out, though; they always feel sorry for me at first. Not too long afterwards, though, they get tired of me. No matter how good a job of cleaning and cooking I do, people eventually just lose interest in me. Then it's time for me to leave. Why would anybody want to keep me around, though, when my own father didn't want me?

"I...suppose that I should be sad when I say all this. And before, I would be. But I'm no longer saddened by it. In fact, I've grown to accept it. No matter how hard I try, it's never good enough, and so people start to hate me. But it's finally dawned on me that nothing I do will make a difference. Why should I be saddened or upset with what I cannot change? In that light, I suppose it's only for the best that Rei and Kaurou died before they could get to know me.

"Hmph. Rei. I guess we were never that close to begin with. In some ways, we were finally starting to get to know one another. But she had always been so..distant from everyone. Except father, of course. Some days I really hated that they were close with one another and not me, but I respected her wishes and gave her the distance she required. Then she ended up dying to protect me from the Sixteenth. I didn't understand her sacrifice then, and I don't understand it now. But just as I thought she couldn't get anymore mysterious, I...found out some things about her. FRIGHTENING things. Things that have caused me to question what she really meant to me. Even though she is still technically living, she is dead to me, and out of respect for the dead I dare not say what I have found out.

"As for Kaurou...well, like Rei I no longer know what he means to me. He is the only person, the ONLY person, who ever said those three words that I've always wanted to hear. And it's not like he knew things about me that he shouldn't have, but it's like we had this..connection. He always knew the right thing to say, and for all I know he could have finished my sentences for me. But then he turned out to be the final Angel, and so I had no choice but to kill him. Maybe he wasn't my friend at all, maybe he was just pretending and just telling me what I wanted to hear. But at the time it felt genuine to me. Which is why it was so painful for me to kill him.

"But I had to. He deserved it. The one person who I could finally let down my guard and let into my world, and he betrays me. Not that it's a huge shock to me, though. People always betray my trust. Kaurou was little more than a reafirmmament of that, I suppose.

"But then again, rather than start Third Impact, he asked me to kill him. He fought back at first, but just as he was about to do it he gave up, and asked for death. He said to me, 'death is the only true freedom.' He didn't cry, he didn't frown, he was smiling the whole time. And not some nasty gloating grin, he looked like he was genuinely at peace. Never for a moment since I met him did he ever look any different.

"I think I would be executed for treason for saying this, but I wish Kaurou had succeeded. I wish he just went ahead and killed us all. And instead, the "angel of free will" tells me to give him death. Funny how that works. Almost ironic. Why would he go to all that trouble to deceive me, just to turn around at the very last second and allow me to live?

"He said, 'death is the only true freedom.' I've thought about those words ever sense I heard them, and I think I see the wisdom in them. He chose to die so that I could live. He said that my kind was in greater need of the future. I think he was wrong to think as such. Because I've also heard some other words in my life, and from my father, no less. He said, 'people are such sad creatures.' My understanding of those words is no doubt different from my father's interpretation, but I see the wisdom in them, too.

"Which brings me to my reason for all of this. I am a disgusting person, along with everybody else. I am disgusting because nobody can ever love me. All they can ever do is allow me into their lives because I have use for them. But other people are disgusting because they live as such. Nobody can accept me for who I am, only for what I can offer them. I finally see this, now. It's not all my fault, no longer am I solely to blame. It's impossible for people to love me not only because I'm unlovable, but because everyone else has no love in their hearts to give to me.

"All this time I've been blaming myself, when the truth is that everything I've done for others was always doomed to fail. It was always just a matter of time before everyone gave up on me. Now that I finally know this, now that I finally see that nothing I do will ever make it any better, I finally have no more wish to go on. I can no longer rightfully keep on living when I can see now that there is no worth in living. There never was. That must be what Kaurou meant. My only escape from such a fate is death.

"And there you have it. That is why I MUST do this. There is no other alternative, and if anybody is listening to this then you'd do well to end yourself also. Now, I suppose that no last will and testament is complete without confession. Not that anything I have to say is spectactular anyway, but here goes all the same.

"It was my fault that Touji lost his arm and leg in the Thirteenth attack. Father had no right to intervene, and before I would have blamed him. But had I been more decisive, maybe I could have found a way to put down his Unit without hurting him. But, in a strange way, it's for the best that this happened. No doubt he also blames me for what happened, and so he'll want to distance himself from me. His doing so was as inevitable as the sun setting in the west. Like everybody else, he would have eventually found a way to hate me and leave, so it's for the best that it all ends like this.

"Since I already mentioned that I killed Kaurou, my only other significant confession is that I...did something I'm not really proud of...when I went to visit Asuka in the hospital. It's so stupid, really, but to give you the Cliff's Notes of it all I...pleasured myself infront of her. I don't really know why I did it, I didn't feel like I was macho somehow or anything. It just kind of happened and then...there you go. But I suppose Asuka is now laughing at me somewhere, having the satisfaction of knowing that she was right all along and that I am a pervert.

"You know, I just thought of a funnly little parallel between her and me. She worked so hard to be good at piloting, to the point where it consumed her and became her life. But me, I barely had to lift a finger and somehow I was better at it than her. The parallel is that Asuka works so hard to drive everybody away whereas I don't have to do anything because nobody wants to be around me. She's loud, obnoxious, and rude. She must not want anybody to get close to her, why else would she act like that? Maybe nobody wants to be around Asuka, either, but she works too hard at it to notice. Oddly enough, she always has to be the center of attention. Maybe she hasn't realized the truth like I have, and so when people finally did leave her she was completely unprepared.

"Asuka, I know the last thing you'd want from me is my pity, but pity is all that I can offer. It's no secret that you hate me. And after you've always been so cruel to me, I should hate you too. SHOULD. And yet I don't. It's strange, isn't it? It's the same way with my father; he's done more than enough of his share of things to deserve my hatred, but I still can't do it. Before I think it would have been because I wanted their approval so desparately that I would let them treat me however they wanted and hope that they would just...somehow love me. But now I see that it will never be. There's no reason to hate them, though. They act as they do because, well, they're human. They'll never be anything more than that. And I can't really hold that against them.

"And like with Touji and Rei and Kaurou, it's just as well that Asuka hated me. Even if we had somehow managed to become friends, she would have just found a way to leave me. She would have gotten whatever it was that she wanted and then move on. As luck would have it, though, she hated me from the start. For that, Asuka, I thank you.

"My final acknowledgements also go out to father, the man who really started it all. Without you, I could have never seen how truly disgusting this life is."

Mashing his thumb down on the "stop" button, the S-DAT discontues recording with a CLICK. Shinji then picks up the revolver, and the gun makes it's own CLICK as he cocks the hammer down with his thumb. He pauses for a moment, then takes his free hand and picks the S-DAT back up. He presses "play" and "record" simultaneously, and once again breathes in deeply, but now as if he is nervous.

"One more thing. I..admit that right now I am feeling some reluctance and trepidation. But that's probably my body's self-preservation instinct talking. I admit that there's another reason that I do this, though. I am curious as to what happens to you when you die. This isn't the first time, either. I think...I think ever since my mother disappeared in front of me, all those years ago, I've always wondered what death would be like. Isn't that funny? Death is the only certainty in life, and yet it is our greatest uncertainty. We know nothing about it, yet we spend all this time and money to prolong our lives, all so we can abolish death. But or all we know it's the best thing that could happen to us. But because we do not know anything about it, we fear it. Do you go to a heaven or a hell? Are you reborn? Or do you simply cease to be? Nobody knows. But if what Kaurou says is true, then it's probably the last one. How can I truly be free when I'm just born into another existence?"

He stops the recording for the final time and puts the barrel inside his mouth, gently fellating it. He then shuts his eyelids and prepares his senses for the sudden explosion of heat and sound that he is about to feel. All it will take is one bullet through the brain stem to guarantee his end. Even if he somehow completely misses his brain tissue, he'll more than likely bleed to death from the wound, and since he is the only one in the apartment right now, nobody will be around to call the paramedics to come and rescue him.

Not that anybody gives a damn about him enough to something like that, anyway.

But just as he's about to pull the trigger, Shinji's eyes open back up, as a sound that he had not quite been expecting reaches his ears. Through his bedroom door and down the hall, the front door has slid open. After it opens he hears somebody calling out for him.

"Shinji?" Misato yelled out. "Shinji? Are you here?"

"Ah shit." Shinji mumbled to himself.

Misato swaggers in through the front door, apparently exhausted from the day's activities but relieved to be home at last.

Kaji's death had fallen upon her hard, but in the end she had managed to succeed in carrying out Kaji's dying wish; to discover the truth. Several weeks ago, she had uncovered the plans for Human Complementation by Commander Ikari and SEELE, and with no time to spare. It seems that the Commander had a different arrangement in mind, which angered SEELE greatly, and so they were prepared to destroy both the Commander and NERV with their own line of mass-production Evangelions. SEELE was literally moments away from issuing the attack order.

But thanks to Kaji's information, Misato's initiative, and three certain bridge technicians, the files had been delivered to the UN and every national government in the world. With the truth exposed, the mass-production Evas had been shut down moments before they were to be activated. The JSSDF had been informed of the situation, and naturally when the order came to attack they were prepared to ignore it.

Not long afterwards, Commander Ikari had been promptly arrested, although the members of the SEELE committy had yet to be found. But with their conspiracy unearthed, they quickly lost the support of their subordinates. The UN swore to continue their manhunt for Keel and his partners, to bring them to justice for their crime against Humanity.

While the trials were still on-going, Misato had played a crucial part in the hearings. She had been out of Japan completely for the past few weeks, since the trial was being held in Switzerland, chosen for its political neutrality and lack of any investment whatsoever in any of the Evangelion units. But with her testimony now complete, Misato had been authorized to return home, something she had been looking forward to for the past few weeks. Mainly because she was worried about her two charges.

The pain of losing Kaji again had plunged Misato into a depression no amount of alcohol could drown. She instead chose to continue his work, to seek out the truth of the Human Complementation Project and Project E. In the process, however, she became buried in the search for the truth, and had shut out everything else. It had only dawned on her at the hearings that she had completely left Shinji and Asuka behind. She was not so much worried about Asuka since she was a strong girl, despite her current condition, though the possibility that the redhead German had awoken had crossed her mind. It was mostly Shinji that she was worried about.

As their commanding officer, it was her duty to know as much about her subordinates as possible. She knew of their pasts, and she knew their psychological profiles better than anyone else, having lived with them for nearly a year. Asuka had her share of pain and abandonment, and was in need of help as much as anyone else, but Misato knew that the coma was something that Asuka would have to beat on her own, and in the meantime Misato could do nothing for her. She could help Shinji, though, but he had always been far more delicate than Asuka, and like Asuka did not take well to abandonment.

They grew distant since Kaji's death, and Asuka's disappearance and coma had done little to help, but it wasn't really until Kaurou's death that their relationship had become truly strained. Misato tried to comfort the boy, assure him that Kaurou's death was the right thing. But Shinji would have none of it, and became angry with Misato. Misato was wise enough to know that this was not a battle she could win, and decided that the only thing she could do was to continue on with her work.

Her work was now complete, but at what cost? Did he run away again? She couldn't rely on Section 2 to keep tabs on him, they had demonstrated their inability to do so time after time. And if he did run away, where would he run to? Still, he had run away at least three or four times during his entire stay as a pilot, and had always returned. In most cases, he hadn't even left the city.

Maybe, just maybe, he'd be lying on his bed, submerged in that head-set of his.

"Shinji?" she yells out through the doorway. "Shinji? Are you here?"

No answer, she muses to herself. She can't conclude that he's run away yet, he could just be asleep or not paying attention.

She pauses for a moment, ears tuned the characteristic unulations of Shinji's voice. In the background she can swear she hears murmuring, and then it stops. "Hello?" she yells out one more time. "Are you home, Shinji?

She advances to his bedroom door, distinct from the other two with it's "Shinjun's Lovely Suite" sign still taped to the door. She knocks on the door quietly but firmly. "Are you in there, Shinji? I need to talk to you." Hearing no answer and fearing the worst, she slides the door open ever so slowly, afraid of what she may find but too far in now to leave.

The door doesn't even move an inch when she gets her answer.


The noise catches Misato off guard, causing her to jump back. But she quickly gathers her senses and bursts through the door, already prepared for what she'll find and yet completely unprepared at the same time.

There, on the bed, is the now limpless form of Shinji Ikari. There are chunks of red and white dispersed all over the wall behind him. His eyes are shut, but he has a small smile on his face, a smile not unlike that of the fifth Child, Kaurou Nagisa. In one hand is the now empty revolver, smoke still curling out from the muzzle as if it is trying to flee from the scene of the crime. In the other hand is the S-DAT, the tape still recording what is going on. The area on the bed where is head now rests has a bright red spot on it that appears to be growing.

Misato covers her mouth and immediately turns away, her stomach feeling the need to expel its contents despite the fact that it has none. Tears from the coughing up mix in with the tears of the emotions that race through her mind, a million questions pelting her brain all at once. The first and foremost question is the most obvious: why?

She still has her mouth covered and her vision is blurry from the clusters of saline globules in her eyes, but Misato tries to gather herself and takes note of the S-DAT and its current function. She takes it from the deceased, rewinds the tape and listens. Every sentence she hears is like a searing hot coal that moves through her very being, but she listens on, until she finally gets to the last part of the recording.

"By the way, Misato, sorry about the mess. If it's any consolation, I cleaned the rest of the apartment today. You were probably on your way to kick me out of the apartment now, weren't you? I suppose I could have waited to leave, that way I wouldn't have made a mess in here. I don't know why I didn't wait."

"NOOOO! GODAMMIT, SHINJI, WHY DIDN'T YOU WAIT! WHY DIDN'T YOU HANG ON LONGER!" She grabs him tightly by the shoulders, shaking him violently as though that will rescucitate him. Shinji only responds by flailing his head like a rag doll. The futility of it all sinks in slowly and painfully, and Misato buries her face and sobs into the boy's unresponsive shoulder.

Shinji remains motionless, still smiling, finally free of it all.

Even though I've only written one other one-shot, I feel like I do better work with one-shots. "Coming to an Understanding" is still being developed, though. Actually, Chapter 8 is now up, but you know what? Don't read it yet, I hate it as is and want to change it. So I suppose I shouldn't have told you about it. AAUGH STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS!

Truth be told, the inspiration for this piece was, well, me. The first few paragraphs of Shinji's recording and that last bit about pondering death are from my own screwed-up head. I've never actually wanted to commit suicide, but there are days where I really do ponder it. A scary thought, don't you think? And some days I really do wonder what lies beyond death, and that it would be all too easy to put my life on hold to find out, no joke intended.

Well anyway, I was thinking of making another chapter for this piece. This first chapter is the darker ending, but maybe I'll put the happier ending I had considered in the next chapter? That was really the trick with this one; deciding the ending. I almost feel as though I've written myself into a corner, though; hopefully from the way I've written him, Shinji truly believes that he is alone and that death is the only solution. That's not exactly something you can just fix with a hug, you know? It feels like that the only way it can end is with death. Plus, if I do a happier ending I don't want it to be too happy, otherwise it's just sappy and silly and, yeah I hate that.