Author's Note: Before you ask, I picked Henry as the main character because he had the most undeveloped background of all the protagonists, and the most story potential. Don't worry, James and Heather will show up later! Constructive criticism will be venerated, printed out and taped to my computer screen so I end up looking at it sooner or later. :)
Summary: Eight years later, Henry is drawn to Silent Hill by a letter from Eileen and nightmares of people who followed a similar path. Questions about his own past and his link to Walter Sullivan lead him to believe that there might be something more sinister at work behind his return…and someone else he needs to save. JamesMary, HenryEileen.
Warnings/Pairings: Violence. Death. Psychological torture. Typical Silent Hill fare, in other words. Probably the most 'adult' thing I've written or will ever write, considering what I normally prefer It's…more optimistic than you're average SH fic? I think?
Some pairings are canon/near canon. All of them are het, no slash. Sorry fangirls, it's just not my thing. -sheepish smile-
Disclaimer: Silent Hill and all related subjects © Team Silent, Konami, etc. I'm just borrowing it for a bit, and I don't profit off of this except from the warm, fuzzy feeling reviews give me. Although I sure wish I could steal Akira Yamaoka's musical talent.
The Torn Photograph
Chapter One: The Seal
A man's face, hidden in shadow and visible for only a moment before being swallowed into black. Recognizable, yet somehow changed from what he remembered. Was that him? No, but someone he should know. As soon as the thought crossed his mind, Henry was bombarded by thousands of images and ideas: Letter Mary Death Angela Town Silent Hill Special Place Red Pyramid Maria Eddie Laura Murderer Forgive me please forgive me PLEASE FORGIVE ME
They stopped, leaving the fading impression of a women's picture. Light brown hair, conservative clothes…Henry knew she didn't look anything like the person from before, but he could swear the same sense of knowing her from somewhere before intensified the closer he studied it. He knew who this person was. She was important to him (or was it him? He didn't know), even if he couldn't figure out how. Had he seen her before?
Pyramid Head was barely visible in the distance, out of focus as if Henry was viewing him through an unadjusted camera lens. He could see it coming closer, dragging that huge knife along the ground with each step, the screech of rusted steel making him cringe.
Henry blinked, and then It was right there towering over him. The butcher's smock It wore appeared to be covered in more fresh blood than usual, and radiated an unholy red light regardless of the impenetrable gloom around it. The sound of harsh breathing reverberated through the bizarre metal pyramid on his shoulders, which hindered but failed to impede It's movements. It regarded him impersonally in silence, any expression of emotion either hidden or nonexistent to begin with. Despite this, Henry could feel the hatred and sheer anger washing over him in cold, biting waves.
The word came unbidden to his mind, the implications making him shake with fear. Henry was rooted to the spot, unable to run or hide as he watched It bend back and prepare to strike him with the knife. The roles then reversed, as reality asserted itself with horrifying clarity: he was the murderer. It was only his executioner.
The knife swung down.
Over and over Henry would evoke the memory of that part of the dreams in the weeks before he left. He had tried to make sense of it, even going as far as to draw what he remembered…and the ones he would rather forget. Such as the monster he'd somehow dubbed 'Pyramid Head', one of many prominent recurring elements and the one that drew his attention the most. As well as the fact that every dream in some way involved the vacation town he'd practically grown up in until the age of fourteen.
However, that was the extent he could apply logic to the three dreams. The beginnings would always change depending on the dream, disjointed and difficult to understand but unsettlingly familiar. One was about a father searching for his daughter, another about a man searching for his wife, and the last one about a girl searching for revenge. If there was any actual connection between the three people, Henry forgot it almost minutes after shaking himself awake.
All the same, he dutifully recorded them in his sketchbook and writing pad, recalling things he'd overlooked before with each passing month. Next to the innumerable newspaper articles and other printed material Henry had gathered since he'd left Room 302, he was starting to develop a collection of strange theories about Silent Hill. If the incident with Walter Sullivan had taught him anything, it was that recurring dreams about blood, rust and despair were never something to be ignored. Every time the strangeness of the stories stopped him from continuing his research of the town's bloody history, Henry remembered the people who had disappeared or died under mysterious circumstances and persevered. He had survived, somehow. It was the least he could do for the other victims.
Which is why when an envelope appeared in his mailbox one day with no return address, Henry wasn't surprised, although that quickly changed when he read the letter inside it.
Henry, I need your help! Please come to Silent Hill, I you don't have much time!
No matter how many times he reread those words, he was always left with more questions than answers. Henry hadn't heard from her in months, ever since their last telephone conversation in early October and just before the dreams had started. Eight long years had passed since the incident in South Ashfield Heights, and they'd stayed in touch without fail. For Eileen to stop calling for months on end and then send him a letter without explaining her sudden disappearance was not only strange, but out of character for her.
Which is why only a few days later he found himself driving towards a place he hadn't visited in nearly a decade. It was raining heavily, and Henry was sure he would be lectured when he got back for not giving two weeks' notice, but he knew he couldn't afford to wait. Journalism wasn't a slow-paced profession by any means, even if the Ashfield Adviser was currently overstaffed. And now here he was, parked in an empty lot next to a decrepit restroom. The Observation Deck, according to the few maps he'd been able to find online. He was shivering in spite of the early September heat wave, gripping the steering wheel like a lifeline and trying to calm down.
In a spectacular show of either badly-timed misfortune or an ill omen of things to come, the road was blocked. Some kind of police barricade stood in the way, impossible to drive through or climb over. He'd have to get out and take the long way around, with only his dim memories of the nearby trail leading him. Unpleasant as the storm outside was, there was a good chance it was better than whatever awaited him in that town.
I can do this. Walter Sullivan is gone, nothing's going to happen to me. What am I afraid of? I've been to Silent Hill before, and I'm prepared for the worst..
That much was true. Henry Townshend had changed, through paranoia as well as necessity. The lengthy and thorough investment in gun lessons might have been excessive, but Henry felt it was a justifiable after facing monsters with nothing more than a broken golf club at times because he didn't trust his ability to shoot straight. Richard Braintree's old revolver, which he had kept all this time, was stashed in a nearby pack. Along with ammunition, he'd packed a flashlight, a radio to call for help (a cellphone was a bit too far out of his price range, he'd only just recovered from the sudden move from South Ashfield Heights), rations, and everything else he could think of needing in a survival situation.
Besides, I survived that dark world once before…if there's something like that here, I won't make the same mistakes again. I can't afford to be careless this time.
Exhaling heavy, he loosened his grip and leaned back against the car seat. At first, going on after the events at South Ashfield Heights had been difficult. Telling himself that he was going to change, no matter how much he meant it, hadn't made things better instantly. The guilt had been even worse. So many people had died thanks to his ineffectual opposition to Walter Sullivan…and yet, it was thanks to their deaths that he was still alive. All the same, he'd do anything to get himself to stop thinking about the people who had died because he was too damn-
No, thoughts like that wouldn't get him anywhere. Hadn't he already been through this, worked out the problems with himself and his life as best he could? Somehow he'd come to associate his failure to save them as meaning that he bore the brunt of the responsibility for their deaths, and his subconscious wasn't about to let him forget that. And even now he still made the same mistakes, going for so long without calling Eileen about the nightmares, when all it took was picking up the phone and dialing a number he'd long ago memorized. He had to remember to rely on other people now sometimes.
But now it's too late, and you have to fix things before somebody gets hurt.
With that final thought, Henry knew he had to stop wasting time. Eileen was in trouble, and he had to rescue her as soon as possible. Grabbing the pack and slowly opening the umbrella next to it (if needed, it was the easiest thing to use as a weapon without having to reload or look suspicious) as he got out of the car, Henry closed the door. It didn't look like he could drive into Silent Hill from here, he should have taken the long way around to begin with.
Looking out across the parking lot through the few sparse pine trees, he could see Toluca Lake, which was just as beautiful as he last remembered it. It was a shame he didn't have his camera, the scene would have made a nice picture, even with the trees in the way. Not that he would have stopped long enough to do so.
Then again, the rain had lessened in the short time he'd spent trying to convince himself this was something he needed to do. His relief at the improving weather was cut short as he noticed an ominous fog rolling in, obscuring the lake completely from view as he watched uneasily. Sunny days were rare in Silent Hill, but he'd never seen mist develop that fast before.
The stairs leading down from the parking lot were the only way into Silent Hill that remained unblocked, if the dilapidated sign saying 'Toluca Lake' was anything to go by. Descending them and continuing on down the worn path, what little courage Henry had dwindled away to almost nothing after only a few minutes when he saw what lay ahead. The trail was longer than he remembered, although bizarrely clear of brush, as if it was used frequently. Keeping his imagination from running wild was hard to do as the fog surrounding him became thicker and thicker. For all he knew, it could be the normal resort town he'd visited so many times in his childhood…or it could be something on par with Room 302, maybe even worse.
No sooner had the thought crossed his mind when he noticed the vague outline of an old wishing well up ahead, half-hidden by the fog. As he came closer and the mist parted, he saw an older man peering into the depths, as if searching for something important. Henry was momentarily uncertain whether or not he should bother him for directions, but was saved making a decision when the other man turned around to face him. After staring at each other in amazement for a second, it was Frank Sunderland who broke the awkward silence.
"Henry Townshend?" Frank said in disbelief. "Is that really you? What on earth are you doing here?"
"What am I doing here?" Henry repeated, more than a bit bewildered himself as he gestured towards the other man. "What are you doing here?"
Frank laughed softly, shaking his head. "I never thought I'd run into you in a godforsaken place like this. How long has it been? Six years?"
"Seven." Henry replied, with an unexpected surge of guilt. "I'm sorry I didn't stay in touch."
Frank dismissed that with a wave of his hand. "It's alright, I understand it must have been hard to think about South Ashfield Heights. I didn't recognize you at first, you look so different from what I remember. Amazing what new clothes and a shave can do for a man."
Henry suddenly felt self-conscious, avoiding eye contact and crossing his arms. "I just felt it was time for a change. I needed to start somewhere."
Frank nodded, sobering at the reminder of Room 302 and Walter Sullivan. "I understand. With all the new neighbours moving in after you left, things changed for me as well. I haven't rented the room out to anyone since you left."
"What brought you here?" Henry asked, shifting the conversation away from life after Walter Sullivan's defeat. As much as he would like to sit and catch up with his old superintendent, the sooner he finished this conversation the better.
Frank immediately reached into his pocket, pulling out a brochure and a photo and offering them to Henry. "I received these in an envelope yesterday, without a letter or even a return address."
Reaching for the brochure first, he read the first few lines.
Welcome to Silent Hill!
Silent Hill, a quiet little lakeside resort town. We're happy to have you. Take some time out of your busy schedules and enjoy a nice restful vacation here.
"…It's just an ordinary brochure about Silent Hill." Henry stated, thinking aloud without realizing it. He looked up from the crinkled paper with a questioning expression. "Why would someone send you this?"
"It gets stranger." Frank handed the photo to him, pointing at the woman in the picture. "This is a picture of my son's wife, Mary. The same one my son had when he disappeared with her. She had a terminal illness, and I guess James thought it would be a good idea to bring her to their honeymoon spot one last time. I'm the only other person with a copy; her mother gave it to me before she died."
Examining the photo of the young, smiling woman dressed in old-fashioned clothes, Henry was struck by a familiar feeling, as well as a revelation. This was the same picture in his dream, he was sure of it. But how was that even possible? And why him, why not Frank? What connection did she have to the man in the dream? Was that man James Sunderland?
Unbeknownst to Henry, Frank surveyed the surrounding woods and then lowered his voice. "The way I see it, this is a message. Someone wants me to come here. I don't know how or why they got something so important to James, but I have the feeling I'll find out soon. I just hope I'm not too late."
Tearing his gaze away from the photo, Henry wrestled with the idea of telling Frank about his dreams. Even though he had only known the older man for a short time, he suspected that Frank didn't know what he was getting into. Henry had told him about Walter Sullivan and Room 302 a few months after the incident, but the elder Sunderland gave the impression of being a practical man unprepared to deal with the supernatural. Not that Henry was an expert for that matter, but he had lived through something similar before.
"What about you?" Frank said with curiosity, and it was obvious he'd been waiting to ask for some time. Henry was so deep in thought, that it took him a second to realize the question was directed at him.
"Eileen sent me a letter asking me to come and help her." Henry answered, leaning against the well out of the rain. It had slowed considerably now, even if the mist suddenly seemed even closer than before, if that was possible. "I haven't heard from her in months, and I'm worried she might have gotten herself into something serious."
Frank clapped a hand on Henry's shoulder. "Well, good luck then. It was good to see you…I'll keep an eye out for Eileen."
Henry blinked, readjusting his now-ruffled jacket. "You aren't coming with me? It might be easier to find them if we work together."
Frank hesitated, an odd look in his eyes that gave Henry pause. "No, I think this is something I have to do alone. You can keep the photograph, in a town this small we're bound to run into each other eventually. I'd feel safer knowing someone else was looking for my son and daughter-in-law."
Henry nodded, handing back the brochure and tucking the photo in his left pants-pocket. With nothing further said, Frank continued down the long path, leaving Henry alone to contemplate the meaning of what he'd learned. Taking the picture of Mary Sunderland out of his pocket, he inspected it before putting it back. Henry should have told him about the dream. But why had Frank asked to go alone in the first place? It didn't make any sense. After what had happened back in Henry's old apartment, Frank of all people should know not to take risks.
Then a peculiar thought occurred to him. What if the town was responsible? It wasn't too unbelievable…Eileen had been possessed by Walter Sullivan, and Henry had felt a similar mental 'pull' every time he'd come across an item he would eventually need to use. Come to think of it, he didn't really remember why he'd picked up some things. Why would he think a stuffed cat was useful? If that was a case, then who knew what a whole town would be like?
You still don't have any proof this is going to be like Room 302. Don't jump to conclusions. Someone had to send that photo and brochure to Frank, but that doesn't mean anything supernatural is involved.
More guarded than before, Henry set out towards the town. A few stray raindrops were still falling, though fewer every minute that passed. The fog hadn't dissipated, but it was now thankfully less threatening than it had been during his talk with Frank. After only a short while, a rusted gate loomed out of the mist, which he hesitated in front of briefly before pushing open. Wincing at the scrape of corroded metal moving after far too long standing neglected, he noticed he was now in a small courtyard, with the faint outlines of various tombstones scattered around the area. He was in a cemetery, and a very old one at that.
There was a large deserted church to his left, which Henry ignored as he searched for the road he remembered lead directly into town. Nervously he made his way through the many graves, many that had been the victims of vandalism and decay over time as the graveyard was slowly forgotten by the residents of Silent Hill. Toluca graveyard had always made his skin crawl, the eroded headstones a quiet reminder of the darker things about Silent Hill he'd rather forget.
Despite his best efforts, Henry quickly became lost. The church, his only landmark, was hidden by the fog now; although not after he discovered a stretch of wall where the entrance used to be, newly bricked over. Evidently, someone had seen fit to put it further down the wall. What worried Henry the most, however, was the fact he clearly remembered Toluca graveyard as being small and relatively abandoned except from the occasional teenager on a dare. But the farther he went, the newer and better cared for the graves appeared, as if someone had decided to expand the graveyard and hire a caretaker to look after the property. Even the grass was cut short, with new followers laid out at the occasional grave he passed.
Stopping, Henry felt the familiar mixture of adrenaline and fear as he looked around the graveyard. A multitude of graves lay on all sides, stretching on farther than the eye could see, contrary to everything he'd known about Toluca Graveyard. This went beyond new management; there wasn't enough available land to make a graveyard this big, since it was on the edge of Toluca Lake.
Sitting down, he leaned back against a tombstone and closed his eyes, opening them to find nothing had changed, except for the words he noticed on the grave directly across from him.
Billy & Miriam Locane
1983 – 1991
They died before their time. Their memory will live on forever.
Henry averted his eyes, guilt taking the place of fear. He'd read about the young twins murdered by Walter Sullivan, but somehow seeing their tombstone made the reality of that gruesome event realer. Were they trapped in Silent Hill, the same way Cynthia and the others had been sentenced to an afterlife of torment?
Shaking his head, Henry stood up, newfound determination surging through him. He had to find Eileen; he couldn't give in and let her become the pawn of whatever forces were at work here. There was no doubt in his mind that if nothing supernatural was going on, he still needed to make sure she and Frank got out alive. He couldn't afford to take any chances, especially since he had a feeling saving them would be more difficult than it first appeared.
A soft breeze stirred the dead leaves in the cemetery, and as the fog shifted another dim outline became apparent apart from the vast number of tombstones. A monument, so huge it dwarfed everything else by comparison. It wasn't anything that looked out of place in a cemetery, just a stone angel crouched on a headstone. As Henry drew closer, he was confused to see that despite the intricate detail of the stone angel, the headstone itself was just a plain, unremarkable slab of marble with the name 'Leonard Wolf' engraved on it.
The angel itself was what caught Henry's eye; as humble as it appeared with it's head bowed, it was clutching something just barely visible under the folded wings and folds of the robe. Leaning down, he reached to touch the jealously guarded object, feeling cool stone underneath his fingertips and markings faded by the test of time. Without even stopping to consider the consequences, his hand started to close around it, carefully pulling it out from the angel's grasp. Straightening, he found himself holding a small round stone disc, emblazoned with an insignia he'd seen somewhere before. A triangle contained in two circles, both of which had other strange symbols inside them.
The Seal of Metatron, an ancient emblem sacred to the cult in Silent Hill. He'd come across various references to it in his search through the history of Toluca County, although the purpose of the seal was never mentioned.
But what was it doing in a graveyard like this?
Turning it over to find the same sign on the back, Henry wondered what the odds were that he'd find an important Order relic in an apparently well-maintained graveyard. The only obvious conclusion he could come to was that someone had left it there on purpose, either for someone to find or as a final testament to the late 'Leonard Wolf'. Judging by the simple design of the tombstone, he had been important enough to someone that they were willing to pay for an expensive statue…but not important enough that they were willing to sit down an write an emotional epitaph like the murdered twins. Or even anything other than his name carved by an engraver. Leaving something valuable enough to pay for the tomb itself, and in a place that had often been a frequent target on vandalism in the past, was very strange.
For a brief instant, it occurred to Henry that perhaps someone had wanted him to find it. Shaking his head, he reluctantly decided to hold unto it, feeling he'd regret it if he didn't. Although he was uncomfortable taking something that wasn't his, despite his experiences in Walter's otherworlds, he reasoned that he could always return it later. Dusting away some of the cobwebs and dirt that had accumulated on it, the symbol suddenly seemed even more entrancing than it had a moment before…in fact, it was becoming hard to focus on anything but the bright red gleam of the paint, and how it seemed to glow…
A flash of red.
The whites drapes were fluttering in the cool wind. Despite the bright sunlight, there would be a storm later, if the weathermen were right. He was nervous. What if this turned out to be a big mistake? Adjusting his tie again after who knew ho many times, he stared into his reflection. He looked tired, and felt it too. He'd spent most of the past month running himself ragged at work and planning this wedding, but what he really needed was a good night's sleep. Why had he ever agreed to this?
"Time to go, James." A soft voice called, a familiar face suddenly next to his. Mary smiled, and put a hand on his shoulder, tucking her white veil out of the way with the other as she did so.
"It's bad luck for the bride to see the groom before the wedding." He mumbled, sounding sullen despite the grin tugging at the edge of his mouth. God, he loved her so much. How could he ever be sorry for marrying someone as beautiful and kind as she was?
She winked. "Superstition and folklore is my area of expertise, James. I thought you knew that already."
He looked back to his reflected, dismayed to find his tie was a mess now after fiddling with it so much. He tried to undo the damage, with little success. "I don't know…I'm just worried. I'm going to screw something up, I just know it-"
"James, dear." Mary chastised gently, reaching up and fixing it herself. "You won't, and even if you did, I wouldn't care. I love you, and you love me. Because of that, I want to marry you and you want to marry me. In order to do that we need to go through the ceremony. It's just logical that way."
He moved to look at her, raising an eyebrow. "Now you're just patronizing me."
"Not at all, James." Now it was her turn to hide her grin. "Unless you don't love me anymore, I'm afraid there's no getting out of it."
"I'll always love you, Mary." He couldn't even tear his eyes away from her.
She loosely draped her arms on his shoulders, gazing up at him in with unbridled adoration and a sparkle of amusement in her eyes. "Well then, I guess you know what we have to do."
"I think I have some idea." He replied, leaning close to kiss her. The sound of the door opening, however, made them look towards the noise and blush.
"Save that for after you're married." Frank Sunderland said wryly. "In the meantime, there's fifty guests, two ministers and an impatient caterer waiting for both of you."
"Then what are we standing around here for?" Mary took James' arm, smiling up at him. "We have a wedding to attend."
The white swirled together into red, tinged with sadness and regret.
Henry blinked, a throbbing headache making itself known as he found himself back in the dreary Toluca Graveyard, holding a priceless artifact and reeling from a memory that wasn't his. Shaken, he quietly pocketed it and pressed on, as the mist before him finally thinned and revealed a large, elaborate wrought-iron gate that could only be the front entrance. It closed with a loud creak, which echoed around the empty clearing. Taking a deep breath, Henry began to follow the newly paved road, trying not to dwell on the person he suspected was James Sunderland…and the tragic result of his marriage to Mary.
One thing was certain, though. He needed to find Frank and Eileen soon. If Silent Hill really was like Walter's otherworlds, or even worse, James Sunderland and his wife probably weren't alive anymore.
Ending Note: Future chapters will be out as soon as possible, hopefully quicker than my updating progress has been so far this year. The Seal of Metatron would make an awesome save point, wouldn't it? ;)