Disclaimer: If they were mine, SGA wouldn't have been cancelled
Spoilers: Tiny one for 'The Eye'
Warnings: Mention of torture
THIS IS NOT THE SOUND
by Blue Shadowdancer
This is not the sound of his death. Not the sound of the sonic bang as compressed air is ignited by sparking cordite, expanding explosively through a metal barrel and forcing a deadly cylinder of lead out towards him, a bullet with his name stamped deep inside it shooting through the air along its unstoppable path as fast as a thought, as fast as terror…
He's been waiting on a knife-edge for that sound, expecting it, anticipating it, but this is not it.
This is not the sound of his life ending. Of nerve endings firing, synapses sparking, of the chambers of his heart contracting and pumping frantically, desperately, valves forced open, dark red blood squirting from severed and splintered arteries and veins, drip drip drip into a growing pool, as air rattles through his starving lungs, alveoli grasping at oxygen, pulling it in, fruitlessly, as it simply leaks out of him again, supply vessels ruptured far beyond repair, millions of hungry, thirsty cells screaming in pain as they suffocate slowly, the delicately balanced machinery of his body juddering and faltering to a stop. A close.
He's been waiting for that sound too. Each day has only served to bring him closer to it. He knows this. Blindfolded, lying on a cold hard floor, his world has been the world of sounds. Of footsteps; some harsh and loud, and some soft. Rattles of keys. Voices. Threats. Demands. Taunts.
And other senses too. Casual kicks which leave unseen but sorely felt marks on his ribs. Rancid breath, hot and fetid, from faces pushed close to his own, and the tang of sweat. Dry food which is sometimes forced into his mouth. Stale water which dribbles down his face. He feels the indignity of it, but without sight, and with his arms held back at such times by yet another unseen gaoler, he is powerless. He never touches the blindfold. He's learned, now, that that brings with it immediate punishment, almost unbearable in its intensity.
To begin with, this was redemption. He hasn't forgotten, even if it seems that everyone else has, that he's cracked under torture before. Not this time. Never, never again. At first, resisting was a conscious effort. Now it's the only thing he has to hold on to. His silence on all the subjects which matter. Which he can't betray. The only thing they can't make him give up.
This, though, is not the sound which foretells more agony, more resistance, resistance which is gradually beginning to crumble, to fail.
This is not a sound he has expected to hear, but there's nothing new in that. He's been hearing things for a while now, hearing shadows swirl softly around him, and flailing his arms wildly to try and catch one, but he never can. At first, while he still believed he was thinking rationally (it's hard for him to tell when that period ended), he had assumed that the soft whispers of sound were more games being played by his gaolers, more ways to torment him. And then he had realised that they didn't exist except in his head. Not even sounds at all.
Lately, though, he's known that it's ghosts he's hearing; dimmed shades of souls who've known this cell, this living hell, before him. But now they're free, and can pass through walls and float away, away, up through the sky towards the clear cold points of stars set deep in night everlasting. Now it's with desperation that he snatches for handfuls of the immaterial, pleading with them, begging them to take him with them.
But they never do.
He doesn't know what size his cell is. Or if he's even in a cell. He could be in the centre of a massive hall, for all he knows. But the claustrophobe which is never far from the surface can't believe that. His world is constricted by restraints around his legs which fix him in position, and by a dark cloth wound tight around his face which doesn't reveal even a chink of light, and he can't stop himself from imaging that the space he's in is hardly bigger than his body. Coffin sized. He can close his eyes and try and think of wide open spaces, but his mind betrays him, and it's then that the only sound in his ears is the staccato drum-beat of his heart and his frantic gulps of air which hardly satisfy his lungs. He can't afford to hyperventilate, but it's been such a near thing, so many times…
Before this sound.
This is not a sound he can understand, but it's one which he knows he should. Familiar, and half-recognised, like music heard once within a dream. Maybe he dreamt this death in advance. No, no 'maybe' about it. Even before here, he remembers imagining his death, in waking crises and in nightmares, so many times that it's almost inevitable that when it happens, he'll have pre-imagined it. Funny, though, how he's never prepared for it. And he isn't now.
But no, no, this is not that sound. Not the slow striding footsteps of Death, heavy booted feet thudding against the floor, dark robes fluttering, the air swishing with the scythe's swing. It's the sound of voices, loud and strident and fast, faster than he can now keep pace with, and the words are lost in the swarm of noise. He doesn't care, anyway. He retreats within himself, trying to find a deeper darkness than the one pressing on his eyes, because now there'll only be more torment, more pain, and although resisting is the only thing keeping him sane, it's also killing him slowly, killing him by inches, his desperate, clawing hold on life tearing away. Better if he can't hear. Better if he doesn't have to experience, can hide from, whatever new terror is waiting for him.
And then the blindfold is pulled from his face, and bright light pierces his unprepared eyes, bright, bright, burning light, like looking straight into the heart of a fusion reaction, his retinas scorching as bands of iris muscle expand and pupils shrink and contract, but too slowly, and he hears himself screaming at the pain, squeezing his eyes as tightly shut as he can, only dimly aware of the hands on him, shaking him, voices in his ears. Just a flaring agony of pain. Pain. Darkness.
Sound isn't important. No sound. No sensation. Nothing. Nothing. Let this be the end. Please, please, let this be the end.
Time has passed, again, and he's been moved somewhere, somewhere with the illusion of comfort, his aching body supported by something soft. He stays perfectly still. It's an art he's become good at. If he opens his eyes they'll shine that blinding light again, that new, dreadful form of torture which he needs to avoid at all costs.
His ears begin to work again. He hears them filtering in, slowly. The sounds.
These are not the sounds he has been accustomed to. These are the quiet sounds of lowered voices, and beeping of machines. He stays still. He has no doubt that they've moved beyond ordinary torture, into something overseen by mechanical senses which have no feelings. Drugs and experiments and medical investigations.
This is not the sound of torture being prepared. These are the sounds of people. Just – people. These are voices he… knows.
Words echo in his mind, nouns, names, which he has suppressed from his memory for fear that they could slip out accidentally. He doesn't move, but he hears a soft beeping getting faster, and then a bustle of movement around him. Hears voices. Words. Nouns.
A name. His name. He'd nearly forgotten it. It sounds strange. Gentle touches. He doesn't open his eyes, because this is a dream, a good dream, and he doesn't want it to end. Doesn't want to wake up into the cold hardness of reality.
Don't wake up don't wake up don't wake up…
His eyes open.
There's a face there, waiting for him. Watching over him.
"John?" he asks, his voice scratched and quiet, his body feeling weak as a kitten's.
"It's ok, Rodney, it's ok." The reply is choked, and equally quiet, but firm and sure. "We're all here. You're safe now."
He blinks. Takes in the face above him, blurred by a sudden upwelling of tears, and beyond that, the familiar walls and ceilings of Atlantis, and beyond that, an open window and the clean, salty smell of the sea.
"You're safe," John repeats, still quiet.
And this is the sound. The sound of his life beginning again.
He listens to it. And smiles.
He's safe. He's home.
I really hoped you liked this, and please do leave a review and tell me what you thought! Also you may like to check out 'Missing Moments', a series of 100 word episode tags. Thanks for reading! :)