It should have been simple.
They had everything: thirty-five litres of water, twenty kilograms of carbon, four litres of ammonia, one and a half kilograms of lime, eight hundred grams of phosphorous, two hundred and fifty grams of potassium, eighty grams of sulphur, one and a half grams of fluoride, five grams of iron, three grams of silicon and trace amounts of other elements. All that was required to make a human body had been theirs to use.
For years, they had spent hours on end, toiling over the books, working hard for this one great achievement. Years of tears, sweat and blood had been spent on the greatest achievement they could endeavour—human transmutation.
But the floor was awash with blood. Pain seared through his nerves.
His brother's screams still echoed in his ears, reverberated in his mind like the last anguished screams of a tortured ghost. Or was it his? Was he still screaming, from the agony of his lost leg?
It should have been simple.
And it was.
He just simply failed and paid the simple price.
One left leg and the life of his dear younger brother. Laughably simple, a trivial price to pay.
Now move on. There's nothing to see here. Leave the little boy. Let him bleed to death, alone in the cold room, in a house with no family, where the memories are razor-sharp. Move on.
"Where am I?"
It was hard to see through the mist, pure white as an innocent soul and as intangible as his… His what; what exactly was it as intangible as? He couldn't remember. The thought slipped off him like water of a duck's feathers. Try as he might, he couldn't quite remember who or what it was that he was thinking about.
Something cold, bitterly cold touched his cheek. He touched his face with a hand and felt a cold, moist droplet. Thumb against finger, he massaged the water into his skin. He frowned. Was it rain? But it was far too cold for it to be rain. He opened his hand.
A snowflake, as soft and white as a feather, fluttered onto the palm of his hand. It melted there.
He looked up.
"Snow?" he wondered. "But it's July."
Slowly, he grinned, a big wide grin on his pale face. He spread his arms and welcomed the snowflakes. The young lad welcomed the cold that floated down from the grey, morose heavens. He welcomed the flakes as white as innocence, as if they could wash away his sins.
Footsteps echoed around him.
They weren't his own.
He looked around him, his eyes darting wildly. Through the mist, he could see a shadow. Vaguely human in shape, it ran away from him, fled into the mist.
"Hey, wait!" he called out. "Wait up!"
The figure receded into the distance.
Golden eyebrows furrowed. "Hey!" he called out to the figure, but it was no use. The person didn't hear him. Perhaps they were too far away. Maybe, they didn't want to listen. Either way, they didn't stop and it wasn't long before he lost all sight of them.
Still, it wasn't as if he couldn't follow them. The road, though winding, was the only one there. To his right, the ground fell away abruptly. To his left, it rose so steeply, it might as well have been a wall. If he followed the road, he would see them eventually. There was no way he couldn't. It was inevitable.
Eventually, he came to a sign that stood to the road's right.
It welcomed him to Silent Hill.
He stopped in his tracks.
Why did that name sound so familiar? Had he been to Silent Hill before? He wondered. Perhaps, he had. The sign itself seemed very familiar, worn and grimy with old age. Its letters seemed comforting, warm with memories of a long, forgotten past.
Slowly, he smiled. He remembered now. A long time ago, his father and mother had taken him to Silent Hill. His brother had gone with him too. He had only been about eight years old when he'd visited the little town; his brother was a year younger still. That had been a long time ago, about eight years, but he still remembered the days they'd spent there, fishing by the shores of Lake Toluca.
It had been a peaceful town. He remembered the quaint little houses, so beautiful in their simplicity. There had been a fair when they'd visited. He could remember the games. Al had won all of them and he had lost all of them, but at least his little brother had been kind enough to share the prizes. The carousel, the Ferris wheel, the fireworks—the memories persisted.
Without knowing it, he had walked the rest of the way.
The town was quieter than he'd remembered it.
It was unusual for a town to be so empty. Nothing stirred. In the cold mist, he found himself all alone. He saw no happy people, their bright smiles like sunshine made real, made life. There were no sounds.
Where was everyone?
He walked up to a little shop and peered through the window.
Inside, it was dark and miserably empty. The shop had been a confectioners and he could remember when he and his brother had visited it with their father and mother in tow. His father had paid for a toffee apple, one for each member of the family. He could remember the sweet smile of the shopkeeper, how she'd also give them a bag of Albion toffees.
There was nothing there now. It looked as if the shop had been abandoned for years.
The next shop along was just the same. So was the one further down. Each one he came across was deserted, the wares ruined with age. He didn't know what happened, but whatever it was, it had been abrupt.
Scum grew on cups of what might once have been coffee. The café was full of unfinished drinks, the cups stained with what remained, fungal growth thriving off others. The stench of decay filled the air.
Slowly, he turned his back on the shops and made his way back down the road, back the way he'd come. The shops gave way to houses, dilapidated with broken windows, boarded up windows, lawns with overgrown grass, rotting wooden picket fences, collapsed roofs. How had he missed all this?
The mist failed to obscure the decrepitude.
Yet it was getting thicker. The snow had stopped now or perhaps it hung cloyingly in the air and added to the fog, made the mist thicker, until his vision was obscured with white.
His heart skipped a beat and he felt it leap up into his throat, as the ground gave way. Instinctively, he reached up and tried to grab something. He managed to grab the edge with one hand, his other dangling beside his body. Slowly, he reached up.
A crack sounded and the noise struck his very heart. It pounded furiously, terror welling up inside him, filling him, gushing out his eyes.
The rock broke and he fell.
Someone had grabbed him by the arm. In the mist, he couldn't see who it was, but he was grateful. He reached up and grabbed the arm with free hand. A manic smile of relief on his lips, he felt his body ascending. His feet scrabbled against the vertical surface, against the clean cut rock.
"Are you alright?" asked the man breathlessly, as he knelt down beside the blonde-haired youth.
His breath was also ragged, as he knelt on all fours on the ground. "Yeah," he managed to reply, as he looked behind him. It was still misty, he still couldn't see beyond the thick white veil. "Thanks," he said gratefully.
"You're welcome," replied his rescuer. "Name's Roy, Roy Mustang."
"Ed," he told Roy. "Edward Elric." He looked up, as he got back up to his feet. "Thanks," he said again, redundantly, as he straightened up. He turned again and tried his best to peer through the mist. "I could have sworn this road goes straight."
"It does," replied Roy.
Ed frowned. "But I stepped off the edge, didn't I?" he exclaimed.
"You stepped over the edge, alright," agreed Roy.
"What? But you said…"
Fingers clicked and a burst of flames filled the air. It burned brightly in the mist, heating the moisture, vaporising it, clearing the air.
"What…? What is this?" cried Ed in disbelief, as he stared at the road. "The… It's gone!"
He stared in disbelief at the vast chasm in front of him. The road ended abruptly, its jagged edges jutting out over a vast abyss. It extended to his left and to his right. The chasm cut through houses, through gardens. It left nothing in its wake.
"I… I can't see the other side," gasped Ed.
"That's not half of it," responded Roy. "Just look down."
Ed turned to glare at the man whom had rescued him. The black-haired man's lips were twisted into a smug, self-satisfied smile. "Why?" he asked Roy curiously.
"Just take a look," responded Roy. "Aren't you curious as to what could have happened?"
The blonde-haired youth turned round to look at the chasm, this vast abyss that seemed to stretch out forever. He stepped cautiously back towards the edge and looked, peered over, down into nothingness, down into a complete absence of anything. Just as he couldn't see the other side of the chasm, he couldn't see the bottom either. It was as if the entire town had been torn free from the land and suspended in nothing.
"How is this possible?" cried Ed. "I came into town this way."
Roy looked on grimly, his hands in his pockets. "I've tried every other road out of this town, every other road I could think up of," he told Ed sternly. "They're all like this. We're completely cut off from the rest of the world."
This was impossible. How could something like this happen?
Edward couldn't believe it. He just couldn't. "When did this happen?" he asked Roy.
The black-haired man shrugged silently.
"But… there must be some way of getting out of here," Ed protested, his voice strained. "Have you tried the phones?"
"They're all dead," responded Roy. He whirled round, as if he had heard something. "I've…" he began cautiously, as he turned back round to face Edward, "I've tried all the phones I could find. Not a single one works." Roy turned his head again. "We're completely cut off. There's no…" He slowly trailed off. "Stay back!" he cried and with a snap of his fingers, he shot out a jet of flames.
A blood-curdling shriek pierced the silence.
"What did you do?"
"Alchemy," responded Roy Mustang calmly.
"I know that!" protested Ed angrily. He pointed into the distance at the still smoking figure now slumped against the ground. "What did you do that for, you bastard?" he cried demandingly.
"Take a closer look."
Ed turned round, the anger on his face dampened with a perplexed furrow of his brows. "What's that supposed to mean?" he snapped. "Why don't you just give me a straight answer?"
Slowly, the black-haired man shook his head. "You wouldn't believe me even if I told you," he replied. His lips cracked into a strange, twisted smile. "Even I don't quite believe it," he murmured under his breath, just audible enough for Edward to catch the words. He chuckled humourlessly.
The golden-haired youth didn't like the way Roy laughed. He didn't like the way the man's voice cracked near the edges, the strange dullness of his eyes. There was something very wrong with him; he didn't trust this Roy Mustang one bit. Yet who else was there here?
Slowly, he made his way towards the smoking body, away from the edge, his back turned dangerously to the man. He edged cautiously to the body slumped in front of him, some fear nestled in the back of his mind, his breathing ragged from a strange anxiety with no cause in the present. He didn't know why, but he just knew that, somehow, he wasn't afraid to see this thing that failed to twitch, that just lay there still as a corpse.
A gasp escaped Ed's lips. "What... what is that thing?" he cried.
"I don't know," replied Mustang from behind Edward. "I just…" He exhaled sharply. "Perhaps… No, it couldn't be. It's forbidden."
The charring made it difficult to tell, but Edward could still see the thing wasn't human. Human in shape, perhaps, but it didn't resemble a human, not a healthy one at least. Its charred skin covered everything from the waist upwards. The thing resembled a man wearing a straitjacket made out of charred skin, its face devoid of any orifices. What did it look like before Mustang had roasted it to death?
Slowly, Ed crouched down beside the body, his eyes incapable of tearing his gaze away from the charred flesh. "There're more of these things out there, am I right?" he asked sternly, as he slowly reached out towards it. His fingers nearly touched the charred skin, but something, possibly nerves, made him pull back.
"The town's a dangerous place," Roy told him.
"What could have caused this?" wondered Edward, as he straightened back up.
Roy shook his head. "I don't know," he replied. "I just don't know. This place, it was fine no less than two weeks ago. Then, without warning, the place just…" He sighed, as he ran a gloved hand through his pitch-black hair. "I sent my best men to investigate. None of them returned. Not a single one."
How could he have missed it? Edward was usually so perceptive. So how was it possible that he hadn't picked up the fact that Roy Mustang was dressed in military clothes? He shouldn't have been so unperceptive.
Ed brushed a few stray strands of golden hair out of his eyes. "What's wrong with me?" he wondered inaudibly, as he looked around him. He couldn't remember how he'd even ended up on the road to Silent Hill, let alone how he'd ended up straight in the town.
"This place used to be so peaceful," said Roy, his face drooped into grim solemnity. "I came here for my holidays." He smiled. "The women here…" he said, then he chuckled with a slow shake of his head. "Let's just say they were very friendly." He frowned. "Hey, where do you think you're going?" he called out.
The youth stopped in his tracks and turned his head back to glare at Roy Mustang. "I'm going to find a way out of here," he replied sternly. "Got a problem with that?"
"You can't go alone," protested Roy. "It's too dangerous for a little kid like you."
"Little?" growled Edward angrily. "I'm not little!" he shouted. "Besides, I can take care of myself."
Roy smirked. "Sure you can," he said sarcastically, as he gestured behind him at the great gaping chasm. "Like the way you fell off the edge. I was impressed the way you managed to... Oh, no, wait. You were going to fall to your death, weren't you?" He frowned. "What are you doing here alone, anyway? What happened to your parents?"
"I don't have any parents," snapped Ed, as he made his way across the road to the ruined house, split in half by the gigantic chasm.
"I told you, there's no way out of this town," said Roy sternly, as he grabbed the youth by the shoulder. "I've checked."
"Bullshit!" he shouted, as he threw the man's hand off his shoulder. "I came here today," he shouted. He pointed in the direction of the edge he had fallen off. "Down that road; straight from Resembool! You telling me I walked here over thin air?" Ed whirled round. "There has to be a way out of here," he said more quietly, "and I'm going to find it."
Roy sighed heavily. "Then I'm coming with you," he said sternly.
"I'm telling you, I can take care of myself," protested Edward angrily.
"Do you know your way around?" retorted Roy sharply.
Ed stopped in his tracks. He could vaguely remember the town of Silent Hill from eight years ago, but there was, he had to admit, a possibility the place had changed. In fact, he realised as he looked at the ruined houses, it was possible that the place had changed, though through no design of the townsfolk themselves. No, it was definite the town had changed since the moment he stepped foot in it.
He swivelled round on the spot. "Do you?" he asked Roy curiously.
Roy smiled in response.
They had come to yet another chasm, a great gaping wide chasm in the ground. This time, Edward could just about see the other side, but it was too far away to reach. He couldn't do anything. There was no way to get across.
"What's on the other side?" asked Edward curiously.
"Gordon King," replied Roy sternly, "the local hospital." His hands clenched tightly, as he glared across the chasm angrily. "It's the only part of town I haven't been able to search yet."
Ed remembered Gordon King. One day, before their vacation could come to an end, his mother had become ill. He could remember how she'd collapsed by the lake edge for no apparent reason whatsoever. The very memory frightened him. He could remember running for help, leaving his little brother behind.
They'd taken her to the hospital not long after that and she'd stayed there for two weeks. He remembered visiting her with his brother, how'd they brought her a beautiful bunch of flowers. The smile on her face, he could never forget the smile on her face.
"I think… whatever's going on, we can find the answers over there," continued Roy, not caring whether Ed heard him or not. "Someone doesn't want us to leave and they don't want us anywhere near that hospital."
"You think someone's behind all this?" asked Ed, as he gestured to the chasm.
Roy continued to stare out through the mist. "Someone has to be," he replied. He turned and started to walk away.
"Hey!" cried Ed angrily and he raced after Mustang. "Where do you think you're going?" he shouted, as he caught up with the older man. "I thought you said I couldn't go off alone?"
"You're not alone, are you?" responded Roy. "Just stick by me and you'll be fine."
Ed's lips melted into a scowl. "What? You mean like some kind of dog?" he shouted angrily. "That I'd follow you around no matter what?" How dare Roy think he would just follow him around like some kind of loyal! He wasn't like that. He wasn't like some kind of defenceless little child. "You saying all you have to do is whistle and I'll come bound up like some good little dog?" He wanted to hit Roy, punch the living daylights out of the black-haired man. "You know what? Screw you!"
He turned round and started walking in the opposite direction.
"Edward, wait!" protested Roy.
No, he wouldn't wait. He had had enough of the man, enough of listening to that condescending voice, enough of the man's condescending attitude. So what if he was a high-ranking soldier and a State Alchemist? So what if the man was fifteen years older? He didn't have to listen to that Roy Mustang.
Gradually, his pace grew quicker. He broke out into a run. Ed kept running; he didn't look back.
Round the corner of a bar, he slumped against the cracked wall, his breath ragged, his eyes gazing up at the heavens. He saw the grey sky, the foreboding clouds that hung above him like the Wrath of God's judgement.
"I'll find my own way out of this damned place," he murmured. "Fuck him!"
Something approached out of the distance. He could hear it coming. It got closer until the scream of sirens was in his ears. The sound was deafening, so close it felt as if it had gotten into his head. He could feel it reverberating around in his skull, so painfully that it felt as if it would burst.
Edward clasped his head in his hands, screaming in agony, as the sirens shrieked in his skull. "What's going on?" he cried. "Stop it!"
His screams echoed in the mist, as the Darkness swallowed him.
Author's Note: Yes, I'm well aware that there is no Gordon King Hospital in Silent Hill. The name is a tribute to the Gordon Museum of Anatomy at King's College London, and some of their specimens have served as inspiration for some of the monsters that will appear later in the story.