three colors in the
m o n o t o n e
On the day he wakes up to a world in false, fading tones, he does not wonder who he is. Without others around him, there is no reason to know. So he wanders, aware of but not uncomfortable in his bright, synthetic colors, and he asks nothing of his crumbling surroundings.
He is a stranger flitting through ruined worlds of sand, steel, glass, chrome. Soon he forgets of when he woke, and walks because he has always been walking. He passes through thousands of piles of rubble, and cannot recognize the sentient forms they once took because their images are gone from his memory. Only greys, yellows, and browns whisper in his vision; only the sounds of metal cracking or debris drifting color his hearing. Although a vague sense that something is not right with the world pervades his mind, slowly that too is replaced by a quiet acceptance of all that surrounds him.
Everything about this world encourages stillness achieved through the fluidity of forms – a metal pyramid he passes by one day disintegrates into shrapnel the next, then iron dust– and he has no doubt that at the last, he will join that divine calm.
All this is his world until another presence breaks it.
This presence is red, a brilliant red he has not seen before, unmatched by the inconsistent hue of rust speckles or the alienating glow of sunset. The only color that resembles its intensity is the mark on his own chest.
For the first time, he stumbles. The figure cocks its head, and its full-bodied lips curve upwards.
"So, you've awakened."
And the miracle of language and words blossoms within him, a forgotten facet of his existence suddenly exposed. The muddled objects of his world gain clarity, and wonder is born in him again. He inhales sharply, and that sound alone reawakens him to the vibrancy of his own voice, unused for so long.
"I didn't think you'd change so much," the figure says, an amused lilt in its velvet murmur. It comes towards him, red heels disturbing the sand. "You look so confused it's unsightly. But you're still him…"
The figure, now so close to him that he can feel the air its every movement stirs, traces a red hand over his shoulder and down his arm. Then, with a tremulous inhale, it embraces him, and the touch of another being causes him to remember the world that this once was – a world of robots and the humans that they governed, a world of misshapen forms and their cries against their creators. And with that realization comes the curiosity that had lain dormant in him until now.
"Do you know who I am?"
The woman laughs. She is taller than him and blocks out his view of the muted world. "You really don't remember anything? Not me? Not even him, the one who could never forget you?"
"No," he whispers, tormented by the secrets of her hair, her crimson eye, her upturned lip. "Do you know me?"
"More than that," she sighs into his shoulder. "I was created with you, along with another. When we first opened our eyes, we saw the same things… but you've forgotten that, of course." Her voice, so throaty and deep, drops even lower and sets him shivering in her arms. "I wonder how you could have forgotten everything, even the perfection he envies you for…"
Her arm slips down from his shoulder and hooks onto the gold, crooked instrument at one side of her waist. With a quickness unfitting for the quiet, complacent decay of his surroundings, she drives its extended blade into his chest.
"Remember it!" she cries as he writhes, remembering pain as something from a distant life come back to him. Pain is a few paint splotches thrown against a white canvas. Blood is a new color, a deeper red than the one she wears. He stumbles back, pulling the blade from his chest and lunging at the woman. He kicks, punches, thrusts, remembering an ancient language of the body from his memories, as she responds in the same language of diverting blows, dodging, and spinning infuriatingly away. "Yes – fight me! Remember that strength! I won't let him meet you while you're in such a naïve state!"
She twists from him and grabs the golden blade before leaping over the hills of shrapnel and sand. He cries out as the tear in his chest closes, and hearing his voice so at odds with the peacefully decaying world beckons forth that question, now given shape with language and meaning – Who am I?
Leda hates this crumbling castle. Every movement raises dust. Outside, the robots that have gathered thus far clamor and shake the very foundations of the stronghold. They are surrounded by ruin, and their only hope out of it slouches in the room's only chair, dull eyes trained on the masses outside.
A thousand motes of dust dance on a languid sunbeam. Leda leans against a pillar and watches the stone ceiling erode. She can't take it for much longer. Although she has not felt it yet, she knows the same process is occurring in her own body. Her paint will flake and chip away, revealing a rough chrome surface as dull as the world outside. She will not share its ruin.
"Dio," she says.
He turns his head a fraction of an inch towards her.
"Aren't you going to tell them who their leader is?"
"I told you. They don't want me. They want him." He clenches an armrest, laying his gaze on the stone floor. Against the placid and decaying greys, Dio is a startlingly vivid presence. He cannot help but catch the eye, even when he slumps or broods.
Leda finds herself fondly smiling. She cannot look at Dio without thinking of his analogue in white. "Casshern. And you can see why. Lately he's been growing more responsive to the world around him… he won't surrender himself so easily, and that makes them all want him even more." She speaks slowly, wondrously, to the deteriorating ceiling. "The thrill of trying to catch something that won't be caught is incomparable to anything else."
Dio stands with such force that he pushes the chair back several feet. He turns, and Leda congratulates herself for igniting that spark in his eyes.
"If you think so," he growls, "why don't you chase him yourself?"
She steps forward despite his guarded stance. When Dio is angry, Leda is ecstatic. The intensity of his anger, an intensity absent in their caresses, lights up the otherwise dim setting. She says, "You and I shouldn't have to worry about something like that. We should just use it to tempt the others." He is the color of a twilight sky, the rich color pale oceans aspire to imitate, and his wrath gives saturation and vividness to their watercolor world. "You, after all, are going to be the empire's ruler, and I…"
Leda grabs his shoulders and pulls him down to the dusty stones. He comes unwillingly, dropping to his knees but no further, and keeps his hands closed coldly by his sides when she presses her head to his chest. She hides herself within his vibrant colors, his smooth surface, to forget about the drab and dying castle.
"You have to lead them," she breathes, and slowly presses him down until his back is to the floor. "What we have will never be enough, but you must lead them even so."
Dio pushes her off, eyes smoldering. The movement is so rough, so harsh, that Leda smiles and smiles – here is a strength and perfection comparable only to Casshern's. And it surpasses even his, because Casshern is rediscovering himself and coming back together with a quiet elegance befitting the strongest of robots, but Dio fights and struggles and tears himself apart in a brilliant blue blaze.
"Not yet," Dio says. He moves to stand up, but Leda shoves him back down with both hands locked around his head. She kisses him, closing her eyes – this is the taste of life, she tries to convince herself – this is it, his hands trying to push her away, his lips twisting from hers, his eyes angry and confused. His vivacity, that defiance of lurking death, sets her afire.
Unrelenting rain pours into the crevice and washes the stiff yellow buildings in darker and fuller colors. Dio leans against a sandy wall and listens to Casshern scream and writhe on the cracked ground. For all of the mechanical grace the other exudes, eternal life seems to come with its fair share of agony. He huffs, watching each rivulet of rain carve through his own patches of rust.
Casshern turns upon the ground and briefly looks at him. Those cyan eyes, the same as his—! Dio clenches a hand behind his back even as he feels part of his armor crack from the strain. He's spent too much time wondering how they are different, and now that they are finally together he is beginning to think that it doesn't matter.
Dio can wait forever if that means he will get the chance to defeat him. Rust, fractures, stains – these are nothing compared to the thoughts that have split him open since the time he and Casshern first awoke to the same sights and sounds.
Minutes pass in the rain, though they are nothing compared to the hours that have lingered on in the sun. Endlessly turning shadows paint the planes of Casshern's face ocean and electric blue. The rain mutes his cries until Dio realizes they have stopped. They are entrenched deep in the night's colors when Casshern opens his eyes again and just barely turns his head towards Dio.
He is too weak to speak. Each limb falls limp against the ground that drags him down under the mercilessly open sky. Dio can feel Casshern's newness in the way his body seems to glow in the shadows, every muscle strained beyond mortal limits.
Somehow Dio understands. He leaves the building's edge and walks to where Casshern is splayed open under the rocking bowl of the sky to be consumed by rain and wind. Slowly he slides his hands under Casshern's neck and knees and brings him away from the exposed plains. Dio props him against the wall of one of the buildings and wonders if his own body feels the same. Smooth, lightweight, even warm – no, he realizes, tracing a finger down a hairline crack on his arm.
Now Casshern turns again towards Dio, lips parted, eyes exhausted. The rain slows, and morning paints the buildings back in their faded yellows. As the sun climbs, the whiteness of Casshern's body contrasts more and more with the dusty ground. His luster is that of all lesser colors layered onto each other until they reach an alabaster purity. Even Dio cannot dispute that wholesomeness, only wonder why his own body is a dirty and dark blue that breaks so easily. That face is the same as his, yet Dio does not bear it animosity anymore. There's no reason to destroy it. His body and mind are only trying to cling to something so he doesn't die without a purpose.
How stupid. But Leda has her child, Casshern has his assassination of Luna, and Dio has nothing but that need to defeat that fills him with ever more emptiness.
He watches the last raindrops collect on Casshern's eyelashes and lips. Soon everything will end. Soon nothing will tether him to this earth, and he'll never again see that reflection of himself in Casshern's cyan eyes and sharp angles. What a pity…
Casshern wonders what brought him back here. To Luna, he swore to leave until the robots forgot mortality once more; to himself, he swore never to return to places imbued with memories. Yet the pull that brings him here transcends emotion or will. It is something instilled in his very being, whether by programming or something deeper.
In the crevice of the earth where he laid in agony and immortality not a day ago, his brother and sister ruin against a shelf of rock. Casshern ducks his head and walks on. Embracing each other, they look so warm – no, he mustn't stare, because he no longer has anyone to hold and will not torment himself with wishes.
As he is passing, one of the figures shifts and says in a hollow voice, "I thought I told you to forget about me." Dio regards him through a cracked cyan eye, an eye that knows contentedness for the first time.
"I'm sorry." He steps away from them; it is hard. "I shouldn't be here."
"No," Dio whispers, and it sounds more like an objection than an agreement. Wishful thinking, Casshern tells himself.
But then Leda opens an eye. It was once the brilliant red that introduced brightness into his world's muted palette, and now it is as dull as that world used to be. "Come," she breathes.
Casshern falls, kneels, begs before them. Ruin enraptures their faces, painting them in terrible colors he cannot describe, and yet they have never looked more beautiful. Dio and Leda are breaking, first at the bodies and then in their senses. Their eyes meet his, and all clarity leaves his sight as warmth and wetness fill his vision.
In response, they loosen their tangled hands. Leda reaches hers, its red veneer chipped away, towards Casshern's face to thumb away his sudden tears. Dio traces his hand down Casshern's arm before gently encircling his wrist.
"This is how it's supposed to be." Leda's once-rich voice is now weak and sustained on only air. "We were born together… even if we cannot die together like we were fated to, this is close enough. This is enough."
Casshern clutches his face and Leda's hand over it, covering his eyes with her fingers and his. He cannot look at their rusting bodies or their upturned faces – it hurts more than seeing all of the color drain from his world.
"Listen to her," Dio murmurs, stroking a finger down the inside of Casshern's wrist. The weakness of his movement stuns Casshern more than any of the blows they have exchanged in battle. "Leda's right. We weren't meant to fight. My fault… but… now, though…"
His voice falters and fades. Casshern gasps for air that his body does not need, air to fill the torn spaces within him. His tears disturb the thin layer of dust that has collected on their eroded bodies.
"It's okay, Casshern." Leda's fingertips shatter in his hands. "It's like it's supposed to be." And she too falls silent.
In that crevice, that place where the earth broke so long ago, Casshern stays close to their faded forms even when their silence becomes something more permanent. Then he stands and begins to walk again. Like the day he first woke up to a world in false, fading tones, he does not wonder who he is, because the white of his body is without the red and blue reflections that define it.
Can't express the intensity of my feelings for Casshern SINS – can only attempt to replicate it through writing. This fic is to celebrate and commemorate my fifth anniversary of joining this site – 9/6/10. Thanks for reading and please leave me your thoughts.