To Reflect Our Souls

"Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act, falls the shadow. Between the desire and the spasm, between the essence and the descent, falls the shadow. This is the way the world ends." (T.S. Elliot)

Warnings: spoilers, violence, cannibalism

1. Breathe

There are times when the pressure squeezes his head so painfully that he thinks the Meta-Beings won't be the death of him at all. The further down the Tower he travels the more he aches with the stale oxygen and deep scent of blood that is etched into the walls, the walls that are made of it by now. The smell of a fresh kill is always on his sword even if he flicks away bits of gore wipes the blood against his coat. And the rotten flesh and hearts can slowly contaminate a room and it's not true what people say. You don't get used to the smell.

It's even worse when he's suffering and so terribly weak, dragging his feet across the grates with the heat from the embers burning through his soles. The heavy tang of burnt flesh, of his burnt flesh when he isn't careful, has made him sick occasionally- sicker than having a stomachache. But he thinks it might be worse like that. When he's bleeding from godforsaken places and light-headed and holding onto his sword just from reflex and a stubborn will to live, it kills him inside to consume the flesh and hearts.

As if eating monsters that were once humans like him wasn't bad enough, to eat the rotten ones is even worse. The taste is horrendous and sometimes he'd rather die than touch those things, but he can't waste the life his brother gave him. He has to continue until the bottom or else nothing will ever change. It's so hard sometimes. Walking has become a chore and when he is struck with lethargy sometimes he just sits there to wait out the numbness, never mind his fatigue.

That feeling of not being able to draw air into his lungs almost stops his heart, literally. And it is even worse when he dies knowing that he has failed and that he'll just have to repeat the process all over again. The air leaves his parted, bloodied lips and he thinks this is what his brother must have felt in death. No matter how many times it happens, it will never stop hurting.

The oxygen outside isn't much better. There is no overwhelming pressure but there is a different scent. It is not of rotting flesh and blood, but of a still lifelessness and dust and dilapidated buildings. When he breathes again, reborn into a new body, he is revitalized but so very tired. He wants to sleep and never wake up. But then he knows that his brother will replace him, and that he must stay awake so his brother will not suffer too. Then again, his brother deserves the life that was stolen from him…

He remembers that he must breathe. Breath is life and life means hope- hope for a different beginning- that one day the world will heal and it will breathe life onto the planet again. If he cannot reach the bottom and find the truth, this distorted world will remain a distorted world of suffering and guilt. Every sacrifice will have been in vain.

A small, familiar pair of hands press against his chest that he cannot see and breathes that precious life into him and he wakes to see a sky bathed in red and wonders if it has always been this way.

• Yay, I'm back into the Baroque fandom with better writing. Seriously, I cringe at how that other one-shot was written. Maybe I'll rewrite it and include it here. Here being a series of drabbles, speculative pieces, and some one-shot length ones based on a list of 30 reflections my friend horseyfan showed me. A note: I don't write in first person and always write lengthy chapters. If anyone doesn't know about the part where "his brother will replace him", in the game when you merge with the Absolute God and are reborn into the Outer World you change "personas". You start off as the younger brother but in some scenes with the Phantom I think, and definitely in the ending when you merge with God, sometimes it will switch so that you are the older brother. To tell, the original is 99HP/99VT and the alternate 100HP/98VT I think.