A/N: More stuff for the 100 themes challenge!
Masterpiece of a game, truly. It's up there on my favorites list. Made a great manga too. However, playing the game at 3 a.m. with all the lights off when no one else is home is not reccomended.
Rated for (quite) dark themes, mild language, slightly graphic descriptions of death and violence, and stuff that only teens and above could appreciate anyway.
NO STRANGER TO LIFE OR DEATH
ALL THAT I HAVE
"You have your life, brother, and all I have is our scar. And that isn't even all mine. I have nothing."
I have nothing either. I have no memory, no voice. All I have is this scar. Why do you call me your brother?
"You let them tear us apart, you let them do this to the world."
I have no memory of my sin, if it was even my sin. I was a child, how was I to know what this Dabar fusion was...?
"You have sinned."
And my sin is all I have.
"Give up! I'm not going to forgive you. Not when you never even cared enough to remember me!"
He wants to cry out in frustration. He can't even remember who he himself is. So why should he remember anyone else?
The redheaded girl storms off in a huff, and, feeling guilty as he so often does, he follows. He must convey to her somehow that he cannot remember anything, so she will forgive him, so the guilt will go away.
She turns, looking annoyed, when she senses him behind her. "What?"
He looks at her apologetically. He opens his mouth, nothing comes out. She looks confused. He points to his mouth, to his throat.
At last she understands. "You can't speak."
Sadly, he shakes his head.
"Well... Can you write, at least? Clearly, you've got something to say."
He thinks. Writing. He does know how to craft letters into words. But what to write with? He has nothing. He bites down hard on his finger until the skin breaks and blood flows, and he messily scrawls a message on the metal floor:
I can't remember anything
She looks at him, surprised. "Nothing? Nothing at all?"
Again he shakes his head. He leans down to write again.
Who are you
She looks at the question fora moment, the crimson lettering glinting eerily in the dim lamplight. "Alice," she finally answers. He nods in understanding.
After another long moment, he provokes more blood from his finger and writes another question.
Who am I
She looks at him, sadness in her eyes, and shifts uncomfortably.
"You're Dextera. Koriel Twelve of the Right."
He blinks. His name. But it doesn't seem to him like his name. It feels as though he's just found it, and it doesn't truly belong to him.
What does that mean
She sighs heavily. "I don't know."
He looks at her, wanting so badly to remember who she is. But he cannot. He does not remember anything. He does not even remember himself.
After a moment, he gives up, and leaves her in the metal hallway, crying softly.
The last hope of a dying world, he stands helpless.
"Purify the Absolute God."
It is the Archangel's voice that speaks. The boy looks up, and he is there, hanging limply, impaled on a spike from a mutating Consciousness Orb.
"You were the one who caused this. Atone. Purify the Absolute God."
Almost as if by instinct, he steps forward, absorbed by the orb. He stands in a silver hallway, dimly lit and seemingly miles long. He cannot see past the veil of darkness before him, but he can hear a voice, far away, muffled by distance.
"Don't go crazy don't go crazy don't go crazy don't go crazy don't go crazy..."
He does not want to go further. He can feel the darkness seeping into his mind, muddying what thoughts he has. Shaking, he raises the Angelic Rifle and shoots.
A dazzling burst of light sends him staggering backwards and flies into the darkness, illuminating the hallway as it does. The voice ceases, suddenly.
"I... I..." He gives a start. His voice... He has his voice again! "So I've atoned for my sin?"
"Yes. This world will receive the peace it has so long needed..."
He suddenly realizes what this means, and dread floods him. "...N-no, wait... This isn't what I wanted... This isn't-!"
"This world's last hope is destruction."
Before he can make any move to stop it, the world is consumed by the Blaze again, but this time, not even the twisted remnants if its inhabitants remain.
All is silent.
He would have made quite the salesman in the days when there were still things to be sold, he had the perfect blend of cheery charisma and vulgarity, enough that people might have trusted him enough to buy something from him but would still worry about what their children might pick up if allowed to go near him without censorship.
Like his favorite word.
who would cuff him around the ears or accuse him of being inappropriate now? It didn't matter, the world had been blasted away by the goddamned Blaze and now everyone was dead, insane, or just too weary to care about anything.
So he peppered everything goddamn thing he said with the word. He used it as an expletive. An interjection. An adjective. He said it when he was happy. He said it when he was tired. He said it when he was pissed off. He said it all the goddamn time.
Sometimes he'd say it in a singsong way over and over again while he nailed coffins together. He didn't know who the goddamn coffins were for, but he was good at building them, and so, he was going to while away the rest of his meaningless life building those goddamn coffins.
He vaguely remembers that he was good at doing this before the Blaze, too. He worked in a coffin shop. He thinks, at one point, that he asked his boss if he could man the front of the store, and his slogan would be "Welcome to the goddamn coffin shop, where we can take care of all your goddamn coffin needs for less than the leading goddamn coffin companies, goddamnit!"
He snickers to himself, thinking what a great goddamn hustler he would have been back then.
The boy has died in many ways, at many times, in many rooms. He has died of sheer exhaustion, trying without success to find a portal to take him out of this godforsaken place. He has died from the tiny bones of his ear piercing through his brain after hearing the shrill keen of the Hana-nip, his body shut down by Kato's poison, a hail of bullets from Seventeen, blown to bloody bits with the head of Jerryrom, the life sapped away from him by Sin-monis, in the electrifying embrace of the Or-Huganous, cut down by the blade of whatever force controlled those pitted coffins. He is no stranger to Death. And he is no stranger to Rebirth.
An odd sort of calm comes about in the final moments (the ones he has experienced over, and over, and over - he wonders, will it ever be permenant?) like being lulled off to sleep, rejoining something he never knew he had lost, but then again, like it was long ago, it is torn away.
Why did you let them tear us apart? Brother...
He wakes to the critical stare of crimson eyes against the backdrop of a crimson sky, and hears the words, "Go back and try it again. You had better not fail this time."
He can never offer up a response.
But he meets with a death he has never known today, dragged beneath the surface of a pool he slipped into, weighed down by the weapons at his belt and the enormous gun at his back. His chest burns, he struggles to rise again. He fights against Death, it will not take him again, not now, not after he's come this far, he simply will not be forced back to the beginning...
For once his death does not have that sense of calm at the end. He is struggling, fighting, trying to cry out - as if he could, buried by water or no. He has never had a voice that he could remember.
And then it ends, and he's gasping, spasming on the dirt ground of the Outside, and again the Archangel stands over him, and again he has failed.
"You will never atone for your sins that way. Death will not save you from facing them. You will not be allowed peace until you right the wrongs you have committed. Whether you remember them... or not."
"You'd better stock up on those little goddamn syrines you see. Oh, and bones. Those will help heal your goddamn hurts. 'Course, eat the wrong bone, or inject the wrong drug... And you're screwed, goddamnit. But you can't really die, so, it should be no goddamn problem if you do."
The boy stands listening to the eerily sourceless voice of the coffin builder. Who, evidently, is also a dungeon builder. He'd trapped Meta-Beings down here, and the boy had thought perhaps it may be a good idea to train in a closed, safe environment...
Little did he know, the man's dungeon is anything but safe.
It is as merciless and unforgiving as the Neuro Tower itself. The Meta-Beings are never under the man's control. It seems as though the man just put him down here without a care as to his fate. He hadn't even specified if there was a way out.
The boy looks around. This floor must be empty by now, he is sure of it. He's killed all the Meta-Beings here...
He starts to search for the portal to the next floor. This dungeon is like the tower, it must have those.
He's exhausted after searching for a while. He's already come down four floors, and this one is sprawling and expansive. He feels as though he's going in circles, and yet he feels that every time he turns a corner he is in a new room entirely.
On this floor, liquid fire oozes beneath the metal grating of the floor. It is a great distance down past the metal mesh, but the radiating heat it gives off is only amplifying his exhaustion, so he takes off the heavy coat draped over his slender form. It is fireproof, made of asbestos, but it is too heavy and the boy knows he will die of heat exhaustion if he continues to wear it.
He is ready to collapse by the time he reaches the portal. He gives a wordless breath of triumph and makes his way towards it, staggering and stumbling over the damaged floor.
He realizes too late when he trips onto a place where the lava is much closer to the surface, and the heat snatches at him immediately, flames gnawing through cloth, charring his skin. He crawls away too late.
The acrid stink of burning flesh fills his nostrils, and, fighting the agony he has no words to voice, he inspects the damage. The fire has eaten away most of his left thigh, and the wound extends up to his torso. He can see his exposed gut, blackened with burns. The blood that oozes out is thick and dark.
He will not survive this. This is too much for a syringe or a healing bone to take care of, even if he were able to get up and search for one.
He lies there, feeling himself start to go numb, willing himself to die so he can start over once again.
And the last thing that reaches his dying ears is a laugh, and the mocking voice of the coffin builder:
"Shouldn'a ditched that goddamn coat! Well, lesson learned, kid... Safety first! See you outside, goddamnit..."
"This tower is... a puzzle, of sorts. No floors are ever the same. The height of the tower itself it never the same."
The Archangel explains this to the boy as they step through the first floor of the tower. He looks around. Why... why is he doing this? Why is he in this tower, armed with a sword, and what is this sin the man keeps speaking of?
"You must not allow it to confuse you. If you are determined enough to achieve absolution, you will find a way..."
Absolution? For a sin he cannot remember comitting?
Nevertheless, he does not lack determination. But as soon as the Archangel has left, he is lost. Had he a voice he would cry out in despair, because he has been searching for a port for hours. Every room looks the same. He cannot remember which hallways he has been through and which he hasn't. And the Meta-Beings won't stop coming.
Ready to give up, he stumbles into a room he hasn't before and gives a gasp of surprise. There is a pool, glowing green, with an orb floating above it, and the redheaded girl he met with before. Even if this isn't a port, he's found another person. Company, for a while.
Someone to remind him he isn't the last unmarred being in the world.
She looks a bit annoyed when she see him. "...Hmph. You again. What are you doing here?"
He looks at her for a moment, unsure what to do, before she suddenly says "Oh, that's right, I forgot. You can't talk." Her tone is almost apologetic. He looks at her questioningly, and as if she knows what he wants to ask, she shakes her head. "No. Don't hurt yourself just to talk to me."
He nods. He wishes he could talk. He wishes he could still remember her.
After a long silence, she clears her throat and asks, "Are you lost?"
Again, he nods.
"Well, I'll help you find the portal."
He looks up and gives her a smile of thanks, and she starts to return it, but quickly frowns. "Yeah, yeah," she mutters. "I still haven't forgiven you."
His limbs are heavy with exhaustion but there is still spring in his step as he follows her, taking her warnings and avoiding what battles he can as they search for the portal to the next floor. They come to what seems to be a dead end.
"That's odd," she says.
The boy steps toward it, examining it carefully. He thumps it with the heel of his hand. It sounds hollow.
Alice jumps forward to warn him an instant too late, and the wall whips around, revealing the face of Bubgel, pinning him and smashing his ribcage. He coughs, droplets of blood scattering in the air before him.
Job done, the animate wall moves away, down into the darkness of the hallway. The boy slumps to the floor.
Alice drops down beside him. "You should have been more careful." There is accusation in her tone and tears in her eyes.
Why mourn him? He cannot die. This is a temporary setback.
"Will you... forget again, when you come back?"
He doesn't know what she means, but he shakes his head.
He doesn't hear the rest of what she says, but before he dies he sees her mouth his name, Dextera.
His name? When was that his name?
He can't recall her having said it before.
He's lost another piece of the puzzle.
Though they of the Outside are in such close proximity to eachother, they are alone, each and every one.
It bothers some of them. Longneck badly wants to go talk to one of them, any of them. But all he gets from the Horned Girl is an agonizing repetition of his own thoughts, the Bagged One can only sob helplessly and repeat things she has heard from others, and the Coffin Man is distant and disinterested. He is too afraid of the others.
The Baroquemonger could not care less whether he is in solitude or not. He has long since learned that apathy was the best path to take in this trash heap of a world, among these broken remnants of the people that once inhabited it. His face has been hidden by bandages so long he no longer remembers why he keeps it covered.
The coffin builder has found that he quite prefers solitude. He likes to build his coffins in peace and fill in the silence by whistling tunes he can't remember where he picked up. He doesn't mind when the boy without a name or voice comes by, probably because he's so quiet, but the others, like Longneck and the Bagged One and the Sentry, irritate him.
It is said that every living thing must die alone. Is that not what they are doing now, dying? Slowly, but surely, because this existence, or whatever it is, cannot be called life.
They die alone, each and every one.
PLAYING THE MELODY
The boy with no name and no voice often comes to him, bearing the consciousness of another felled soul, presenting it to be read and deciphered. It is a task the Baroquemonger carries out willingly, but without enjoyment or annoyance one way or the other, for he has long since abandoned emotion and its troubling complications.
It is far better to live without it, in this place, among these people.
But today the boy comes without a soul to be offered up and picked apart, he simply raises one pale, trembling hand, and points a finger.
The man does not know what this means, until he follows the direction of the pointed finger and finds that it is directed at the strange instrument slung around his waist, hanging at his backside. He detatches it and holds it out. "This?" The boy nods.
The soul-reader wonders why he pointed at it. Perhaps he wanted to add it to the odd little collection he was starting to leave with the little packrat boy across the wall. He sees not how this would be a problem, and presents it to the boy to be taken.
But he shakes his head no and pushes it back. He taps it twice and makes a gesture as if to say he is confused.
"...You want to know what it is?"
The boy nods, a ghost of a smile coming to life on his face.
The man examines it. What a question indeed, just what is the stange thing? After a moment of thought, he manages to recall what it was used for before the Blaze, and simply answers, "Music."
The boy does not understand.
By some old instinct or skill only his body could truly remember, the man puts his fingers to the strings and plays an old melody he has heard the coffin builder whistling to himself sometimes. The instrument is a bit off-key, he thinks mechanically.
But the boy stands with a look halfway between the joy of an old happy memory and the despair of so many things lost, and tears are streaming silently down his face.