Rei opened the door and entered the shop, pausing on the threshold to glance up at the bell attached to the door, which had sprung to life and alerted the shop owner to her entrance.
"Welcome, welcome back!" said the round and wrinkly faced shopkeeper cheerfully, his eyes barely seeming to be open, "How is your painting going miss?"
"It goes well," she responded nonchalantly, taking a few more steps into the room, until she was stopped at the desk behind which the owner sat, her eyes zooming across the shelves, examining every paint, dye, base relief and canvas. "I am out of paint and require more."
"Of course, of course!" he stood up from his stool, his simple clothing swaying loosely around him as he ducked beneath the counter, coming back up with a set of marvelous paints. "And the paintbrush I gave you, is it working well?"
"Yes," she inclined her head slightly, "it serves its purpose."
"I see, I see. And, if I may ask, what exactly have you been painting miss? You are in here an awfully lot, and yet I never get to see any of your, what I am sure must be, beautiful works of art."
She blushed faintly for a moment, but the color faded quickly and she was back to the calm, expressionless face that she was accustomed to. "It is for a school project. An art class."
"Ah," the owner said, nodding as if he understood, "but you must have at least one or two paintings that I could see? I would very much like to see them, if that would be alright with you miss."
"Perhaps," she said quietly, considering that it might actually be nice to have someone to show them to, "I will bring one of them next time I require more paint, I think."
"Good, good," the shopkeeper broke into a wide, cheerful grin, but without teeth.
He had a way of being so overly happy sometimes that it made Rei wonder how he did not explode. She found it almost inhumane and illogical. But then again, she only saw him when she was around. It made her wonder if he was always this happy or was just like this when she was around.
She accepted the paints and then pulled her NERV ID from her pocket, handing it to him. He typed a few things into the computer, and then swiped the ID through his scanner. "Fifteen percent off again miss, for being such a valued customer."
That was strange too. In Rei's experience, no one ever turned down money. Especially when he held her NERV ID, which theoretically gave him access to billions of yen, a small share of NERV's treasury. Why he actually marked her down, when she could easily afford to pay more than anyone else, she did not understand.
If she had been a little bit more observative she might have noticed the sheen of dust that covered the shelves, the floor, the paints, and even, seemingly, the old shopkeeper.
He handed her back the card and she returned it to her pocket. She took the collection of paints and was about to leave when her eyes locked onto a canvas sitting on an easel behind the counter and next to a rickety cot, which she assumed to be where the shopkeeper slept.
She paused for a moment, curiosity getting the better of her. "What is that for?"
The shopkeeper blinked in surprise, and then slowly turned around to face the bed and canvas with a great effort. After he had looked at it for a moment, he blinked again, before turning back to facing Rei.
"That canvas, you mean?"
"You paint on it."
"Ah . . ." she said, frowning slightly. No one had ever answered one of her questions so logically before. In fact, now that she thought about it, the only time that she could ever recall having heard someone respond in a similar fashion was when she herself answered questions. "I questioned why it is so close to the bed."
"Oh," he said with mild surprise, settling himself back into the position he had first been in, and then smiling uneasily, a toothy grin that was different than his earlier cheerfulness, "it's for when I wake up in the middle of the night, after having had a dream. Sometimes, if I like the dream, or it's really powerful, I like to try and paint it."
She looked at him strangely for a minute, a question on the tip of her tongue. She wanted to ask, to know what it was like to dream, especially one powerful enough to cause one to want to paint it. But she could not bring herself to ask. She could never bring herself to ask . . .
"I see." She nodded and then turned away from the man, walking to the door and opening it. "Thank you."
And with that she was gone.
Chapter 1: . . . In the Dreams
Prereading by Eric Blair and Dartz-IRL
Disclaimer: See first chapter for full disclaimers to Evangelion and the works of HP Lovecraft. Just to repeat, I do not own either.
It was a disembodied feeling. Weightlessness, like he could go anywhere, do anything. A sense of freedom; freedom from the burden of responsibility, freedom from worry, freedom from plans, freedom from the demands of the all important scenario. It was an utterly joyous, rapture-like feeling.
It was unfamiliar and he didn't like it.
But his dislike didn't make the feeling go away, it just meant it consumed all of his attention. He fought the feeling to the best of his ability, but even his great will power and self-control could not block it all. The longer he fought the harder the struggle became, until he began to realize that he would not be able to shake the feeling. He felt powerless, another unfamiliar feeling.
Submission was not something he usually considered. It just wasn't, because losing could not be allowed. His life's struggles were too crucial for losing to ever be an option. He could admit when he had been out-maneuvered or defeated, but only in the case of a battle, never in an entire war.
But this . . . he could not stop it. There were no chains to fight, no jailer to trick, no light at the end of the tunnel. The feeling came within him, stopping him from truly resisting. Whatever was causing the feeling was controlling him from within, somehow driving him into the backseat of his body, completely out of control.
He had no doubt that he was not the one creating the feeling. Such a thing was so utterly alien to him, so repulsing, that he could never have created it himself, even in his wildest dreams or nightmares. Its existence was a blot on his conscience, an impossibility.
The din of his mental struggles faded, the shackles pulled too taught for any further resistance. He could only watch now, as his conscience plummeted deeper into an ocean he had not known that he was in.
All was darkness. He was clearly too deep underwater for any light to penetrate, though for some reason this did not worry him. The feeling blanketed all of his insecurities, masking whatever he should fear or worry about.
But as he sunk deeper he began to catch faint glimmers of something, a light that should not have been there. At first he put it off to some sort of strange fish, but as he grew closer and the flashes grew more numerous it became apparent that this was not created by some lone inhabitant of the deep.
It came into visibility nearly all at once, a grand city, unlike any he had seen before. His first taste of viewing it was as a whole, taking in faded colors and distant shapes that he could just barely recognize through the filtered lighting. The light was not coming from any specific point, but emanating faintly from the area as a whole.
The most apparent strangeness was its location at the bottom of the ocean. He knew of only one other city in the world situated like this, but it was obvious to him that this was not old Tokyo. He had seen what had become of Tokyo, and this society appeared to have suffered a similar fate, but his eyes found numerous differences between the two. This city lacked all signs of underwater life save for a few algae and corals that he could not recognize, a stark contrast to Tokyo's old streets, which had been flooded with fish, whales and sharks, as well as all manners of lesser aquatic life, just after its sinking.
As he came closer and closer he began to make out individual buildings and structures. At first he took the architecture to be unidentifiable because of the dim light. But as he grew closer it steadily dawned on him that it was not a trick of the light, and what he was seeing was really there.
The designs were unlike anything he had ever seen, and he was a widely traveled man. The constructions were all jumbled together, like the planners had tried to cram as many of them as they could into a fixed amount of space, if any planning had taken place. Then there were the wide, sweeping angles both in the buildings and the framework, often times seeming to laugh in the face of nature's true and just laws. The shapes and structural supports that made up the structures were strange, bringing to mind circles and a feeling of incompleteness, like there were some supports that could not be seen.
His eyes wound through and around the buildings and the city's streets, trying vainly to establish some purpose, some logic to the mass of stone and rock beneath him. From his vantage point well above even the tallest tower he had the whole layout spread before him. But the longer he looked, the more confused he felt.
It seemed a conundrum, a lie, that such a city could stand. It could not be, and yet it was. His vision, flickering across the phantom citadel as a whole, was not lying to him, though his mind could not bring itself to accept what it stated to be true.
He was literally landing now, the distance having diminished to the point that he was surrounded on all sides by the structures. Grasping what frayed ends of his thoughts that were still there, he pulled himself together as he landed on what passed for a street.
While he hadn't been traveling quickly by any means, he was still surprised to find how lightly he landed. He just stopped traveling down.
Looking around, he could now see why the whole city seemed to glow faintly. Every wall, building, and pillar was covered in a dripping ooze, giving off a faint light, just enough that they were collectively brightly visible from afar. However, in close proximity most of the light became blocked out, leaving the corridors and what passed for streets faintly lit.
Turning about, his eyes hungrily drank in the city floor, searching for any recognizable figures in this madness. After a maddening one-hundred and nine degree turn, he finally found a pair of pillars, supporting an obtuse building. Rushing over to them, he examined them closely.
They certainly seemed regular enough. Two cylinders, simple and recognizable for the most part. His thirsty eyes drank them in, calming him with the familiarity.
But what was this? As his vision adjusted to the dim light, his eyes found markings on the stone, hieroglyphics of various shapes, sizes and depths. They covered both of the pillars, and glancing around he could now find the fiendish markings on all the pillars, monoliths and walls, coating every structure in sight.
Most of the time the markings were random strangeness, a chaos of dots and pinpoints of only slightly varying size, but sometimes they held semi-recognizable shapes. These were the worst, because he could actually understand what they entailed. They told strange tales of men like fish, of fish like men. In some places he could identify the surface, and what looked like the fishmen talking to regular humans. He gasped as he found, always nearby to these trans-species conversations, pictures of piles of dead human bodies.
What was this madhouse? He sunk into the ground in the middle of the street, as far away from the warped buildings and rambling pictures as he could be. Surely such a place as this could not exist; surely he was in some sick nightmare caused by paranoia, stress, worry or some insane mixture of the three. This city could not be, he could not be in this city.
A loud, thunderous grunt shook the area. He scrambled back to his feet, spinning to face where the sound had seemed to come from. His eyes were wide and his body would've been covered in sweat if he was not already covered in seawater.
Through his entire journey it had remained quiet. That had been his single, final lifeline. The quiet serenity of the deep. But now, with the last sound, even that had been shattered. It was almost like everything in this dream was designed to break him, to take away his last hope and sanity.
Everything quieted down after the first sound, but he dared not move, in case he should miss the sound of something sneaking up on him. He could feel himself at his mental limit, something he had not been at since the death of his wife. There was too much doubt in his mind that he would miss something of importance if he moved, so he stayed rooted to the spot.
Then it came. A seemingly random chortle of sounds, that he could only truly translate by fancy, and even then only into a jumble of letters. It was deep, a bass grunt rising from some undetermined point, but at the same time it was soft, a tinkling of a bell in a great storm, in a way that he dared not dwell on. It came from everywhere and nowhere, as if from the very ground he tread upon, and from high above.
The only mercy the sound truly brought was relief.
He bolted straight up in his bed, clawing off the sheets and sweating bullets. Rolling and falling out of his cot, he hurried off to the bathroom, where he proceeded to retch his guts out. There, bent over the toilet after finishing, he shook his head and tried to clear his thoughts.
Had it all just been a dream? Yes, yes, it must've been. He'd had no body; he'd have been crushed beneath the weight of the ocean, let alone drowned. There was no way he would have survi-
But why was he even thinking about this? Here he was, back in his home dressed in his pajamas buried inside of the geofront, far away from wherever the city had been. There was no way that he'd been there, it was silly to even worry about whether or not it was a dream.
Cold calculation, firm and familiar, set in. It had been a dream, there was no doubt in his mind about that, however it had certainly been a very different dream than he'd ever had before. The buildings, city and hieroglyphics had all seemed very real, very pressing. Enough that he had, at first, questioned whether or not the dream was real. Why?
His usual dreams were entirely different from this night's. He managed a soft chuckle at the mere thought of seeing her in the nightmare city he had just visited. She would've surely destroyed the feelings of fear and uneasiness that he had felt permeating the whole dream, the whole city.
The smile faded gently. Remembering her was an easy way to calm himself, but if he were to dwell on her for too long it could stop him from accomplishing his goals.
The dream had been just that, a dream. Nothing more or less than he should have taken it for in the first place. He filed it away into his mind, on the extreme chance that it would eventually have importance.
Never mind it, now he needed to head to work.
Gendo Ikari stepped out of the elevator and strode to his throne over Central Dogma, settling in without even a glance at Fuyutsuki, who was standing behind and to the right of the chair.
"Status," he queried, a long time tradition the two of them had, their conversation having slowly been cut down to single words meaning whole sentences. After years of working together, it was all that was needed.
"Nearly nominal," Fuyutsuki responded, "The Magi have nearly completed their analysis of the earthquake yesterday. One of the techs hasn't show up yet though."
"I see. And how late is he now?"
"Close to two hours."
No more than five minutes had passed when Aoba pushed open the double doors and entered. His uniform was unusually crisp, as if he had been repeatedly straightening it on the elevator ride up, all too conscious that he would be arriving late and, worse, under the eyes of both Commander and Sub-Commander. His hair was equally tidy. At least, as tidy as it could be.
Eyes focused directly ahead of himself, he marched to the center of the bridge and turned to face up at his two superiors. Every eye on the bridge followed him, wary of the fact that he could easily be fired for being this late.
"First Lieutenant Shigeru Aoba reporting, sirs."
There was a brief pause, Gendo allowing his gaze to pick apart his subordinate. Aoba usually bore it rather well, simply accepting his superiors control over him. However, unlike his finely set clothing and hair, he himself was out of control, sweating like a pig and glancing around nervously once or twice.
"I don't need to tell you that you're late, Lieutenant. Why are you late?"
Aoba licked his lips, paused, as if considering whether or not to try something, and then said, "Nothing of importance sir, just let myself get worked up over a stupid dream. My own mistake, I take full responsibility."
Gendo blinked behind the protection of his reflective glasses. Apparently he wasn't the only one having bad dreams. Still, what was important was that he discipline Aoba now. He obviously couldn't be the only in the whole world to have had a bad dream last night.
"Your pay will be docked, and you will be expected to make up your work load for the lost time," Aoba blinked in surprise and looked up at him with his mouth hanging loosely, surprised at the light discipline he was being given, "Keep in mind that next time I will not be so lenient."
Aoba snapped back to attention and nodded. "Yessir!"
Gendo nodded and began to study the large holographic map projected across the room, dismissing Aoba.
Shigeru let out a soft sigh, unconsciously smoothed his uniform again and then hurried to his seat, intent on completing the several hours of work he had to make up. He had just settled in and begun to organize his tasks, when he heard Makato whisper to him, "Hey, what's up? Why are you so late?"
He stopped working for a moment, his eyes downcast. It was stupid, he knew, but it had scared him enough that he had stayed home for an extra two hours. He didn't want to tell Makato about it all, because it was pretty embarrassing. "No reason," he whispered back.
"Hey, come on man!" Makato's voice was as load a whisper as could still be a whisper, "I just spent the last two hours doing all of my stuff, and quite a bit of yours too. You can at least tell me where the hell you were."
A quick check revealed that Makato had, in fact, managed to do a fair bit of his work for him, as well as keep up with his own. That made his work load much lighter, but now he had to admit that his friend deserved an explanation, as stupid as telling him would feel.
"I . . . had a bad dream."
Over by his station, Makato nearly fell out of his chair. He steadied himself and settled back in, typing for a few seconds before he whispered back. "A bad dream?!"
"Yeah, I know, it's a really lame excuse. That's why I didn't use it on Commander Ikari. I'd probably have been fired if I'd really tried to push it."
"Yeah," Makato agreed, "but seriously, a bad dream? How old are you?"
"Hardy har har," he faked laughing, already knowing that it was going to be a long work day between all the work he had to make up and Makato teasing him about the dream in revenge.
"How can a dream be scary enough that you show up two hours late for work? I mean, come on man . . ."
He was already getting sick of it. With only a few hours of sleep coming in the first place, he'd been woken up around 5 AM by the stupid dream, and then he couldn't get back to sleep. Worse, he'd then been too afraid to leave his room, even to head to work. And now he was two hours late, looking forward to a jolly old day of catch up and teasing. The dream had been a grand start to a grand day.
"Look, I dunno, okay? There was this city, with all these weird buildings, and it was on the bottom of the ocean. I floated around in it for a while, heard these freaky pipes, drums and what sounded like some sort of harp in the distance. Then I saw some more weird shit, woke up and blew chunks for a while. Not a great night, and now I'm here getting bitched out. I expected it from the Commander, but give me a break Makato."
Sensing that his friend was serious, Makato shrank back slightly, stopping again and typing for a few moments. When he continued, his voice was more professional and flat. "I'm sorry. Just . . . whatever. I could use your help on this earthquake analysis, if you're up to it."
"Sure," Aoba nodded intently, eager to put his tardiness behind him and begin the regular work day, "Have the Magi located the epicenter yet?"
Makato sighed exasperatedly. "See, that's the thing. Apparently there were earthquakes all over the place last night. We can't seem to locate the epicenter of the Tokyo-3 one, possibly because they all overlap so much. The Magi should be able to, but they keep giving us an error message."
"Earthquakes all over earth . . . huh. That's never happened before, has it?"
"Not during our lifetimes, no. Apparently only once in recorded history, back in the nineteen-twenties."
"Then it sounds like we've got our work set out for us," Aoba popped his knuckles and set to typing. He always found mind numbing typing to be the best cure for just about anything.
Overhead, Gendo and Fuyutsuki listened through the small transmitters they had implanted on the lower deck, for situations just like this one. Gendo sat up straighter at the first description of the unmistakable city, going rigid as Aoba went on to describe it in further detail.
Fuyutsuki, however, did not seem quite as disturbed. Rather, he seemed calmed at the idea of Aoba, another grown man, getting so worked up over a dream. Chuckling softly, his eyes darted to the left and then to the right before he remarked to Gendo, "Me and Aoba must be watching the same late night television shows, or we both ate something that didn't agree with us. I had a dream about like the one he just described. Sort of funny coincidence, really." He chuckled again, though this time it seemed much more forced to Gendo, without mirth.
Gendo didn't find it funny at all, in fact it seemed rather suspicious to him. Almost mechanically, he turned to look at Fuyutsuki. "A city that just seemed wrong, underwater, with runes and markings on every building. And there was a weird noise, right before you woke up?"
Fuyutsuki looked surprised for a moment, then said, "Yes . . . did you have a dream like that too?"
Gendo nodded slowly, his mind rushing through multiple possibilities. Being in a position of power as he was, his first thoughts were that someone from SEELE or another enemy organization had somehow created some sort of machine, in order to somehow remove him from power, gain secrets or drive him mad. There had been attempts on his life before, and he suspected that not all of them had been over budget grudges.
Who else would be targeted?
Fuyutsuki, obviously, and then Dr. Akagi. Aoba was an interesting choice for the supposed attacker, but then again he did have daily access to the Magi and was trusted by most of the senior NERV staff. Gendo would have worried about the second and third children and the captain, but since they had yet to be located he did not consider them in danger to this latest threat. When they were found he would worry, but for now there was no purpose.
Then there was always the possibility that this was being caused by the next angel, infiltrating their dreams to steal information or control them in some way. It was mind numbing to consider that they could be forced to give themselves up while the angel was miles away, undetectable. The Scrolls had not predicted anything like this until much later, but it still put him on edge.
He stood up and motioned for Fuyutsuki to follow him as he walked over to the lift, Fuyutsuki at his side. "It is a strange coincidence that all three of us would have the same dream like this."
Fuyutsuki stopped as Gendo boarded the lift that would take him out of Central Dogma. "Yes, but still a coincidence, I think."
"We cannot take a chance that it is anything more," Gendo said, bringing his hand to his face and pushing his glasses back up, "send Dr. Akagi to my office at once, and have Shigeru watched. I also want you to find out if anyone else has had this dream, and execute the necessary security procedures. I will be in my office."
"Do you think it is going to be a problem?" Fuyutsuki said seriously, "If it was some sort of infiltration like this, either by the committee or an angel . . ."
"We think alike professor," he said as he began to descend, "And I hope that it is not, that we are just two old men descending into paranoia . . . but I have never been one to rely on hope alone."
Fuyutsuki smiled as Gendo disappeared. 'No,' he thought, 'you never have been one to hope. Always to plan.'
It was with a certain, limited amount of fear that she opened her eyes. She half expected to find herself back there, but her red pupils found only her room as they swept back and forth. Nothing was different than when she had gone to sleep. Her clothes still lay on the floor, used bandages still lay thrown in the corner, her easel was where she had left it and Ikari's glasses were still on the nightstand next to her paints.
'Katholoo phagen,' she thought, 'what does it mean?'
Her mind struggled to put letters to the sound she had heard. When she had first heard it, it had been a deep, guttural bass like sound, rising from across the city she had dreamt of, but at the same time a faint humming from above her. Only by some unexplainable need to put sound to word could she translate it, even into such a strange set of words and letters as Katholoo phagen.
The sound played over and over again in her head, and she could barely resist the urge to shiver as it bellowed and tinkled. How her mind had invented such a sound she could not understand. It was unlike anything she had ever heard or seen before, a complexity whose answer seemed to be right beneath her nose. But, for some reason, she still could not quite put voice to where it seemed to come from, as if she didn't know in the first place.
She silently pulled off her covers and began to dress, knowing that she did not want to go back to sleep after such a dream. For her, adjectives such as horrible, fearful, or anxious were simply words, but in this moment she felt like a pressure of sorts was silently pending over her, like a sharp dagger lying some meters above and telling her of assure fate, but not when.
She paused briefly, wondering what she should do now. She did not usually wake up this early, and found herself with few structured activities for the day, strangely enough. Today was Saturday, so she did not have school and was not scheduled for any tests or activities at NERV until tonight. She knew that anything would be better than remaining in bed, the ever present threat of sleep capable of sneaking up on her.
Perhaps the commander was awake.
Gendo gave a final nod and Dr. Akagi stood up and left, glancing back when she was halfway across his office, giving him another look at the dark circles beneath her eyes that had answered most of his questions before he had even asked them. He had continued to question her for most of an hour nonetheless, needing to know every detail she had seen.
Strangely, her dream seemed to have differed slightly from his own. While his vision had been straight forward, complete and ongoing, she had described brief flashes at a time, pictures of the city, the streets and a brief few seconds when she had heard the sound. It had still scared her to no end, but Gendo could not find it as horrifying as what he recalled, thinking that the continuity had allowed more time for the images to sink in, for him to consider the wrongness of the whole city. Thinking about the whole thing was what had made him so fearful, and he could not help but find Ritsuko's quaking after just a few images to be weak, perhaps even childish.
He had not described his dream to her, choosing to keep his suspicions and fears to himself for the time being. For one thing, she did not appear to be in the right state of mind to deal with a revelation of that magnitude. For another, he did not yet know the nature of the whole problem, and did not want to reveal anything until he had more proof. He had consented to give the doctor the rest of the day off, as she did not seem capable of continuing work as she was.
Ritsuko turned back to facing away from him, exiting on unsteady legs. She pulled the heavy door open with both hands then made a speed exit, rushing through in order to escape before the heavy door swung closed, her lab coat just making it.
The door slammed closed and Gendo turned to his notes from the whole conversation, running through them another time. While the doctor had not seen the dream in the continuing detail and intensity he had, she had still helped out, her background in biology especially. Gendo had not recognized any of the algae, fish or other aquatic life in the city, but he had expected the doctor to at least recognize one or two, having much more schooling on this specific subject than he had.
He had been surprised when she claimed that none of the life forms she had seen during her dream existed. At least, not to the knowledge of the scientific community at large. It did make a certain amount of sense, he supposed, because the city could have easily been missed by the few explorations of the ocean floor that humanity had made.
'If it does exist,' a part of him continued to doubt, 'and isn't just a figment of everyone's imagination, or a plot by SEELE, or an angel. The weights do seem pretty stacked against this city actually existing . . ."
He couldn't quite bring himself to fully state that it did not exist though, even within his own mind. The dream had seemed so real, but at the same time impossible. That, more than anything, was what had scared him.
The door cracked open and he glanced up. Rei stood in the doorway, waiting patiently to be admitted. "Enter," he ordered, stashing the notes in a drawer in order to keep Rei from seeing them. When he glanced back up, she stood a few feet from his desk, perfectly still, the light from the overhead sephiroth playing gently across her features. She wore her school uniform and a slight worried expression, at least for her.
"What is it?"
Her eyes were focused directly forward, into Gendo's orange-tinted glasses. The light deflected back off of them did not bother her, as she had practically grown up with it in her eyes. The dim lighting in the office was also not an issue for her, as she had spent hours here playing with blocks and coloring books when she was younger.
She barely hesitated. "I could not sleep."
His frustration was immediately made evident, at least to her eyes. There was a slight twitch in his mouth, a brief wrinkle in his chin and beard, and his eyes narrowed a hair. To anyone besides her it would've seemed like he barely moved, but she knew his every little expression, something he'd found slightly unnerving when she informed him of it, since no other living person had cracked his code.
"What does it matter?"
"I felt uncomfortable," she said, her voice a barest hush, knowing fully well what his reaction would be.
"I do not have time to comfort a child Rei, you know that. If you have something important to say, simply say it."
"Yes . . ." she said in the same voice, before managing to gather up her thoughts and profess the more complete cause of her discomfort, "and I know that I should not be here. But the dream-"
His eyes widened marginally as it dawned on him. Of course, why hadn't be thought of it before?
"- unnerved me . . ." she seemed to stop and think about what she was saying for a moment before continuing, her face falling slightly with self disappointment, "I should not be here. I apologize sir," and with that she turned and walked away, flushing slightly with embarrassment.
Not a shout or order, simply spoken, but it was all it took for her to stop. She did not turn, nor question his reason for stopping her. Behind her she could, however, hear the sound of him taking off his glasses and settling them on the table, something he did sometimes when thinking deeply and away from others. He could not bear for anyone to see him rubbing the bridge of his nose. To be deciding, rather than decided. Rei and Fuyutsuki were the only exceptions that she knew of, the only two people allowed to see him as anything other than the god commander of NERV.
That Rei had been targeted was a partial surprise to Gendo. He had always considered her safe, beyond the reach of anyone else, but this shelter seemed to have only been a fancy of his. She could be trusted, he knew, but he still hesitated from telling her everything he knew. Best first to see if her dream was the same as all the others. He opened his mouth and found it incredibly dry.
"Inform me about the dream. I would not like it to . . . distract you."
She turned slowly, surprised that he was even interested. It was unlike him to pay mind to such petty things at this, but she complied with his instructions.
"There was a city. It was underwater, with strange buildings with markings on them, and then there was a sound . . . I don't know how to describe it." Her forehead narrowed with strain as she sought the sounds to describe the sound, the letters she had decided best fit it a few hours previously. Finally she said them, her mouth fitting around them strangely and uneasily, as if sounding what she had heard out.
Everything in the room seemed to stop as the two word like sounds echoed across the office. Gendo eventually nodded to himself, admitting that they were undeniably the same syllables he had heard in his own dream. Although they now lacked the bass like tone coupled with the whispering melody beneath them, they still carried a recognizable power and intensity, something unmistakably from the dream.
Rei, however, took it that he wanted her to continue. She floundered for a moment, searching for what else to say. The sound had, in her eyes, been the most important part of the whole experience, the clincher of the whole event. Finding anything else to describe was almost impossible after having heard it. "It was everywhere and yet, nowhere," she said, "it echoed up and down the city-"
"Yes, I know," Gendo interrupted.
Rei stopped in astonishment, her mouth hanging somewhat loosely open. "You know? Sir?"
Gendo reached into his desk and pulled out the notes he had taken from his meeting with Dr. Akagi. He beckoned for Rei to take them and she did, beginning to look over everything the doctor had dictated to him. Her eyes swept across his careful scrawl, taking in all the symbols he had attempted to draw at the doctor's recollection, the descriptions of the various things she had seen.
Rei was so taken in the descriptions that she did not even start when Fuyutsuki trudged into the room and dropped a thick stack of papers on Gendo's desk, spilling everywhere. His face was grave as he looked Gendo directly in the eye.
"Every last one of them report having seen something like the dream. Nine hundred and sixty three people who work for NERV. And there have been reports of even more in Tokyo-3, plus even some indications that it's world wide. What the hell is it Gendo?" he demanded, "Some sort of massively powerful angel that wasn't in the Scrolls?"
Gendo regarded Fuyutsuki for a moment. "It seems that it must be. SEELE would not have the need to target so many people, especially if the scope is world wide. I could see them targeting NERV, and perhaps testing on Tokyo-3, but the whole world . . . No, not even they would do that." He picked up his glasses and put them back on, though they immediately slid back down his nose part of the way. "I cannot think of anyone else who would do something like this either. It must be an angel."
"Then why was it not in the scrolls? According to everything we've learned they contain everything that should happen. If not in specific detail or chronological order, then at least in hinting."
Gendo picked up one of the papers spilled across his desk at random and looked it over. He threw it aside after a moment, deciding that it was of little importance. As he spoke, he continued to scan through the files. "Then something must have been missed. We will need to give the scrolls another thorough reexamining, just to be safe."
"I will contact the council at once," Fuyutsuki said with a nod, turning to leave.
"No," Gendo barked out suddenly, causing Fuyutsuki to freeze and Rei to stop reading and start when she noticed Fuyutsuki had entered, "We still can't rule out that they're somehow working against us."
The elder man frowned. "We both agreed that it could not be them. They do not have the need to do so, and probably not the means. This is serious. We need all the help we can get."
"No," Gendo repeated, the second time a little bit more calmly and confidently, though his voice still carried an uncharacteristic tremble, "It's too early to get them involved, trust me . . .and besides, all we have right now are dreams. Keel would dismiss it at once if it were brought in front of him."
After a moments pause, Fuyutsuki consented. The very idea of standing in the communications room and telling the monoliths about the dream seemed absurd, almost comical. "What should we do then?"
Gendo stood, palms down on the desk, his eyes roving for something. Finally, he found it. His left hand passed over the papers, grabbing one with a specific photo attached to it. He examined it for a few more moments and then slipped it into his jacket.
"We consult the scrolls."
Standing in an unmoving elevator with an appendage pressed up against the 'Door Close' button, a figure attempts to stuff an eye into the marginally cracked door to see the contents of the other side. Through the small hole he could spy just a few aspects of the room beyond.
The room on the other side was coated heavily in silver and glass, like some sort of vault or tomb. Thick, shiny metal plates covered the walls and a series of two inch thick, useless seeming glass window like points were on the far wall. The glare coming back off the windows made it impossible for him to see what was on the other side, if there was anything on the other side at all. The room was otherwise bare, except for the thick metal that permeated the whole of it.
The elevator door opened and he stepped out, tossing his cigarette butt back through the closing doors. His well-trained eyes took in the rest of the room all at once, his mind registering that the room was very small, adding to his knowledge that he was very, very deep inside of Terminal Dogma.
He had not planned to infiltrate this deeply so soon, but when the opportunity had presented itself he had not been able to turn it down. It was not likely that he would get another invitation, if the summons could even be called an invitation.
He gave a brief, curt nod to the two men standing in front of him. "What can I do for you, gentlemen?"
"Don't be coy Inspector," Fuyutsuki said, his voice clearly showing anger and frustration, "you're here to assist us how we say, when we say."
The smirk broke across his face all too easily as he went into the bow. "I am but a humble servant. Serving the two of you is the most joyous fulfillment of my life."
When he looked back up Gendo had still not moved from his position staring at the opposite wall and Fuyutsuki was glaring death at him. The elder man opened his mouth to speak, but Gendo cut him off. "We do not have time to argue. Inspector, come here."
Fuyutsuki changed targets and glared death at Gendo. "He's not classified to see these Ikari. You're risking an awful lot over this . . ."
"I am well aware of the risks I am taking professor," Gendo returned coldly, "and I would not do this if there was any doubt left in my mind. Now . . . Inspector, didn't I order you to come here?"
Kaji nearly jumped. With another smirk at Fuyutsuki when their eyes caught, he strolled over to Gendo. He stood there for a moment, waiting for him to stop starring at the wall and actually talk to him.
It didn't take long for him to become annoyed. Why the hell was this man starring at the wall and making him just stand there and do nothing? His time was more precious than to be wasted on this. If they were going to invite him down into Terminal Dogma he expected to get to see at least something good.
As he got closer to Gendo the glare off of the windows finally lifted and he was able to see that they were not windows, but glass containers. Behind each was a piece of extremely aged, and in some cases damaged, paper, spread out to their full length. It made Kaji feel like he was in some sort of museum, especially since they scrolls were all in a language he could not recognize.
His mouth went dry as he realized what he was seeing. The reason for the room being this deep was no longer a mystery. Why Fuyutsuki considered him an unnecessary security risk was now all too clear. In all his hopes and dreams, Kaji had never expected to find this room and its contents, most especially not this soon after he arrived.
"T-The Dead S-sea Scrolls . . ." he stuttered out, still disbelieving that he was where he was. It all seemed like another strange dream.
"Yes," Gendo said without turning, "I bet you never expected to see these."
"Of course not," he said, finding his voice and lacing it with venom in order to keep his surprise and shock masked, "Should I have? These are the biggest and most important secrets NERV has, and you're showing them to someone with my security clearance? I had taken the two of you as a little more cautious than this."
Behind him he knew Fuyutsuki was at once giving Gendo an I-told-you-so look and glaring daggers into the back of his own neck.
"Unimportant," Gendo said, finally turning, "Tell me of the dream you had last night."
Kaji blinked. "My what?"
Gendo did not open his mouth to repeat himself. That was fine with Kaji, he had not misheard. "My dream? Are you serious?" He glanced back and forth between Gendo and Fuyutsuki. He could no longer mask his shock. "You brought me to see the Dead Sea Scrolls . . . because I had a bad dream last night?"
Gendo sighed and turned back to looking at the scrolls. Fuyutsuki stepped up behind Kaji so that he was whispering into his ear. "Listen up Inspector. We don't have a lot of time right now, so when we tell you to do something you're going to do it."
Kaji didn't even flinch, turning his head over his shoulder so that he was looking the old man directly in the eye. "You don't have much time . . . so you ask me about a dream. Right, maybe I'm missing something, but that doesn't seem to say 'time is of the essence' to me."
Fuyutsuki growled right into Kaji's ear and prepared to say something more, when Gendo interrupted him again. "Bring him in professor. Tell him everything we know at this point."
Fuyutsuki turned to look at Gendo, his face a further mixture of anger, complete business and shock. "Everything?"
With a calm nod, Gendo answered. "Everything."
Rei was not cleared to see the scrolls, so she could not go with Gendo and Fuyutsuki. They had bid her return home, saying that they would contact her if they needed her or learned anything new. So now she found herself standing in the middle of her apartment, wondering what to do.
She tried not to think about the implications of it all. About the notes from the commander's discussion with Ritsuko and the strange but recognizable symbols that he had doodled at her description. About the number of people who had reported having the dream, to the point that it could not have been a coincidence. About the dream itself.
No, she just wanted to take her mind off of it all for a little while. So she set up her easel and got out the new paints that she had bought the day before, preparing to paint.
It would relax her, it always did. Ever since she had drawn her first painting for school she had known that it could relax her like nothing else. She felt rapture at the feeling of a paintbrush in her fingers, release when she looked at the empty canvas waiting before her, waiting for whatever she wished to place upon it. There was just something about it that she loved.
She gazed up and down the canvas, visualizing what she wanted to fill it with from top to bottom, side to side, corner to corner. It was her last canvas, she dully noted, she should've bought more the day before when she went to get the paints.
Eventually she decided what she wanted to paint. It would be a sailboat on the high seas, surrounded by surf and with an incoming storm. She decided how far in the distance she wanted it to be, making soft marks with a pencil before she made the more permanent paint strokes. Adding a horizon, she outlined the churning sea and the dark clouds above.
Finally satisfied, she began to paint, filling in her ready made marks. As always, she became lost in the feeling, allowing her creative mind to take over her body in order to make the painting all the more enjoyable and better looking. From the outlining she had an idea of what the final draft would look like, but what finally came out always surprised her in some way. Either because it was better looking than she had expected it to be, or because her creative mind added things when she wasn't thinking.
She finished and stepped back, examining the image of the turbulent sea and the storm clouds rolling in. Noting that they were much, much better than usual made her feel a little tingly inside.
It was when she decided to check out how the sailboat in the direct center of the picture had turned out that she froze, her eyes glassy with shock and horror. There, rather than the sailboat she had decided to paint and expected to be there, was the city.
A tall citadel rose up most prominently, the hideously distorted buildings surrounding it, situated as if they were on some sort of island. She could not believe that she had managed to somehow paint them with the same latent intensity and feeling that she had felt the night before when she walked among them, but the more she looked the more she could not deny it. Her eyes still could not follow the buildings, even though her hand had just constructed their image.
Her lip quaked, mouthing just one word. How? How had she painted this? What had possessed her hand as she created this monstrosity? Surely she had not wanted to draw it. Surely she had not meant to bring this abomination of a picture into the world.
With a cry she fled her apartment. She could not bear to look at the picture for a moment longer, yet destroying it or turning it away from her never crossed her mind. Destroying something of such beauty, even such a vile beauty as the painting, was beyond her ability. And, somehow, she knew that turning the picture away would not stop its horror from creeping through her now tainted apartment, nor stop her from turning it back so that she could look at it again.
He felt propelled by something he could not see. A feeling, an emotion, a call. It was like he was slaving under an invisible whip that he could neither see nor feel, but still would not dare stop because of.
Strangely enough, he didn't even want to stop. Whatever was calling him drew him like a moth to a flame. Surrendering was easy for him, now as much as ever, and struggling against impossible odds was not.
The call guided him down a steep, thin pathway. He broke into a trot at the downhill, pushing himself in order to reach his destination all the sooner. Being late was not an option. At least, not one that he could have thought of without breaking into tears.
The path leveled out and he was once again surrounded by the disjointed buildings. However, now that the call had taken him completely and utterly he barely even saw them. They were now merely obstacles that had to be circumvented, keeping him from his goal. Fortunately for him the call wound through and around them, or else he would have run into one of the buildings in his frenzy to heed the call's command.
He turned into a courtyard, a large yard space with various pillars, obelisks and monoliths situated around it. A little off to the side sat a fountain which seemed strangely out of place. Directly in front of him was a set of steps, leading up to an alter. The call directed him here.
Something in his mind buzzed, but his body ignored it, focusing on completing his orders. He walked now, though still in a confident and purposeful stride. His eyes were dead, focused nowhere. They did not notice the blood coating the alter or the shadows that danced around it in a bizarre way. Likewise, his ears did not pick up the sounds of the pipes, horns and drums that surrounded him.
He was close, just about to begin his ascension, when suddenly the call stopped entirely. It was by no will of his own that it stopped; the call rather seemed to just die out, like it had been overrun by something stronger, but that he could not see. The great drums beat no longer, though the mad dancing shadows either did not notice or did not care that their beat was gone, as if they had their own beat to dance to. His eyes, strangely enough, found themselves staring down at his shuffling feet, as if he was in his regular life.
His mind reeled at first, a splitting headache striking. It felt like he had just been pulled back from the edge of ecstasy. Like he had finally found everything he wanted, but had been jerked back into reality just before the feelings had taken root and become permanent. And now he was crashing, having known paradise for just a few seconds. Unfortunately, that was all that had been needed, as he now knew that everything he longed for was possible, and that he was being kept from it in some way. He wanted the call to come back and take hold of him, to take him along to the paradise that had been promised. He felt abandoned, having been left behind and lied to again.
He could barely wonder how he had managed to escape the plug and end up here, wherever here was. Unbeknownst to him, his right hand reached up feebly and pawed at the air in front of him, as if wanting to continue towards the alter. But his feet stayed planted, as he did not yet know where he was.
Gradually, his head cleared. That was, until he brought it up and glanced around the courtyard. His eyes were the same as usual for a few moments, as they took in everything surrounding him, but then expanded rapidly when they caught sight of the bloody alter before him and the direction his feet were pointed, how he had one foot half way in the air, about to take the first step. His scream echoed throughout the strange city.
He stumbled back, intent on putting as much distance between himself and the alter as he could. And, preferably, as quickly as he humanly could. Although in a hurry, he did not dare remove his eyes from the image of the alter, as if he was afraid of it chasing after him if he did not keep an eye on it.
So he shouldn't have been surprised when he tripped over the fountain and his full body went into it. The way his luck was running at the moment, he also shouldn't have been surprised when his head connected with a curious box and abnormally angled stone resting in the fountain.
He felt himself beginning to black out. Then, just before he went out the whole way, his whole world glowed with the power of a thousand worlds, as if each and every one of them was inside of his head. Then his headache surged back worse then ever, until everything fell apart and he awoke to Asuka's scream.
I'm glad everyone enjoyed the prologue, and I hope you all found this first chapter to be as entertaining. It took me a while, yes, but I'd rather aim for quality instead of update speed.
From what feedback I received, the omake from last chapter was pretty well liked. I've already written the omake for this chapter, and once again I will say that it's far from the funniest thing ever, but it's not bad either. Like last time, all I need in order to give you the omake is two complete sentences in a review, one of which cannot be "Update soon".
I must, however, add that I need somewhere to send the omake to. Email works best, because FFN PMs have a tendency to distort, but I can PM if anyone wants it that way. Let me know, either in the review or in a PM. If anyone did not receive the omake for last chapter for some reason, I apologize. Please contact me and I'll send it your way.
Anonymous review responses: If either of you wants the omake from the first chapter, feel free to contact me in any way and I'll be happy to send it to you.
Shadow of Chaos: Believe it or not, I had actually heard of Demonbane and have a torrent of it waiting to be downloaded. I don't watch a lot of anime, but it's definitely on my 'to watch' list. If I like it, I might give a crossover/fusion/AU a shot or maybe even some reference in a later chapter, depending when I eventually see it.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft: Words of caution are always welcome. To be honest, I'd not set them side by side quite like that and noticed how different they are. However, I will say that (in theory) I think they could both benefit from adding aspects of the other. Whether or not I manage to pull this off is up to you, and I can only promise my best.
I've not read Sic Semper Morituri, though I have heard of it. The multiple crossovers aspect plus the sheer size of the fic throws me from really wanting to start. Besides Children of an Elder God and Sic Semper Morituri, I only know of two other HP Lovecraft/Evangelion fics.
Those are Hallowed World by The Mustachioed Cat, which is not his best work but has a very unique and interesting world, and World's Fading Light by Languid Scripture, which is very true to Lovecraft prose in my opinion. But other than those four and my own, I don't believe there have been any others.
That's all I can think of for now, besides maybe to apologize for the ridiculously long author's notes. Next chapter will, hopefully, come a little bit faster than this one, but I can't promise anything with school starting back up. See everybody then.