Birth can be a frightening time but the soul looks up at her, eyes bright with optimism.
'Will life be good?' he asks.
In the bed nearby his mother curses, already wondering if she should have had that abortion, and the girl in black reaches down to ruffle ginger hair.
'Yeah,' she says. 'And hard and scary at times, too. But in the end it will be what you make of it.'
He nods, walks towards the small body ready to take its first breath of air, but stops and looks back at her. 'Will I see you again?'
'Yes, you'll see me again, Walter. And then you'll be able to tell me if life was worth it.'
The sound of wings fills the ward, and a sharp wail rises over it.
The first time he understands what his mother does is when a client bends down to pat his head. He meets their eyes, yellow in the dim light of the hallway, and all the pieces slot together with a painful jolt.
Later, in the nightmares that leave him hard and shamed, his mother's clients will always have yellow eyes.
Walter gazes into the mirror, the article on Kitty Genovese still crumpled in his hand. His ugliness is the ugliness of all of humanity, a species that produces bastard whoresons like him. That watches while an innocent dies in reach of help.
He cannot bear his reflection and, when he meets his own eyes, a hook catches in his heart. He will make himself a face he can stand.
Their bodies twine together in the grass, Daniel's blunt hands slide over the ridges of Walter's spine as he arches. Daniel's mouth is warm on his, and they kiss like they can only breath from each other's lungs. Around them animals graze unconcerned, this place has always been a refuge for the lost. The sun is bright on their skin, and here they are naked and innocent a long way from the grimy city and its shadows.
Eyes like stars watch them from the shadow of an oak. They are his people, dreamers even when awake, but this is the only mercy he will give them.
Rorschach strips off his coat, still wet with blood, and lies down on the bed. He presses his face, still masked, into the pillow and tries to shut out the world.
'Don'T WoRRy,' says a voice. 'I wAs wITh heR at tHe EnD, I ProMise.'
He looks up and sees a girl, barely adolescent, with rainbow coloured hair and mismatched eyes. The door and window to his apartment are still closed, and he would have heard them open, so she must be a hallucination. Perhaps not surprising after the shock of tonight.
'YoU're miNe nOw too,' she says. 'I kNow iT's reAlLy haRd, cHanGing. ANd yoU'rE noT gooD at prEtenDing YoU doN't kNow tHinGs thaT HuRt. I'm bAd at tHat Too.' She pauses, and he sees his own pain mirrored in her strange eyes. 'Do YoU liKe floWeRs? I HaD aN iMagiNary one oNce.'
She sits on the bed and takes Rorschach's hand. Since she's just a hallucination he doesn't have to hide his weakness for once, and he holds onto her like a drowning man. She's still there when he falls asleep.
A huge man with red hair pushes twenty dollars into Walter's hand.
'I think I'd know if the end of the world was nigh,' he says, grinning at some private joke.
His dog manages to look deeply unimpressed.
Perhaps he could have made another choice, dropped the idea of a mask killer as nothing more than a failed theory. Perhaps Daniel could have missed the connection between pyramids and Veidt. Perhaps Jon, with all his power, could have thought of another way to end it.
But Rorschach pulls off his mask, tears already freezing to his face. In a shadowy garden, a page turns.
It ends in Antarctica, with the sound of wings.