It is sundown over Jerusalem, and the fountain water is running red with blood.
He touches his fingers to his side and they come away sticky; Altair is reeling and Desmond is gasping for breath and the both of them are very, very aware that the world is going black at the edges. It's a simulation, Lucy says. It's only a memory of something that never happened—
But it hurts.
Sundown over Jerusalem. The western horizon is blazing crimson, and red is staining the cobblestones, and in his ears his heartbeat thunders; Altair closes his eyes and sees a cold white room of steel and glass; Desmond breathes in the dust of the city streets beneath the Syrian sky. Just a memory, but memories can hurt—perhaps she's forgotten that, he thinks, and Altair wonders at this golden-haired woman before the dream fades out again.
Just a simulation. It's never happened.
Blood on the streets and blood on his robes and blood splashed all across the sky. The Holy Land is a dangerous place. There are ten thousand different ways to die, and Altair did not suffer any of them because nine hundred years later his legacy is lying beneath the harsh lights of a different world and dreaming of him; ten thousand different ways to die, and Desmond will discover them all before he is through.
Desynchronization. Altair presses his hand against the wound and breathes in against the pain. Desmond tilts his head back and feels his fingers going slick with blood. He's dying, and Jerusalem is going dark.
Only a memory. Only a second-hand remembrance of something that never happened to another man, this dying—
—but it hurts every time.