DISCLAIMER: Gundam Wing property of Sunrise and others. Story property of Frances Marie, do not post/distribute without written consent. For entertainment purposes only.

This confusing and confused short story is taken indirectly from a lone facet in the mentality of the Gundam Wing series (which I was fantatically absorbing at the time) and my own weirdness. It's not necessary to know anything about Gundam Wing. I just credit it for some inspiration.

Written the night of September 11, 2001.

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"And in the naked night I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking,

People hearing without listening,

People writing songs that voices never shared.

No one dared

Disturb the sounds of silence."

-- Paul Simon, "Sounds of Silence"



The Logic of Reality



Moonlight illuminated all it touched, sparkling nature with strange silver clarity. Trees, flowers, and grass looked both familiar and alien, the individual boughs and blades seeming so startlingly clear and shining with such dazzling perfection that one's sight reeled, vision blurring until unable to distinguish where one form ended and another began. Only the flower petals refused to glow with the light of the full moon, preferring to proudly display their own colors to the night.

But he was immune to its beauty. The sense of detachment - of seeing it all through glass, through a fogged haze, in a photograph, or in a painting - founded only the familiar hollow, surreal acceptance. He knew it was there and understood it was there, could see the moonbeams play on his skin and feel the grass shift under his feet. It existed, yes, but what of it? It was acceptance without appreciation, awareness without recognition.

It was not disbelief or denial; denial was weakness, disbelief ridiculous. Facts were facts, impossible to erase or pretend the nonexistence of, stupid to feign surprise at. Facts came from the senses, and it was impossible - illogical - to deny the senses. Fire was hot, ice was cold, the sun was bright.

The logic was foolishly simple, but he had survived on it for so long and through so much it seemed pointless to develop a new one. He could not remember when he first knew it. Perhaps he had learned it somewhere, perhaps it was trained into him by years of hardship, perhaps it was something born of a subconscious effort to tolerate the harsh world around him. He cared minimally; such knowledge was irrelevant to him. Regardless of where the reasoning came from, it was reasoning he held to.

The shade of silver that had coated the green things and himself flickered as a gray wisp of cloud obscured the moon, and the light faded away, leaving him in the blind stillness of night. Only the occasional wind rustled past, shaking willow, birch, and maple branches and sending leaves to the ground to shift the darkness.

He barely moved, unaffected.

The night did not frighten him. People feared the night because they feared what they did not understand, feared their own vulnerability, feared reparation, or maybe even feared themselves. He was unafraid of the night - not because he was wise or fearless, but because he knew that what he feared did not come from the night. He did not know what it was he feared.

The knowledge did not grant him reassurance, but only tired resignation. He had never known gentle reassurance. He did not miss it, did not long for it. It was as irrelevant as the blackness that surrounded him, maybe even more so, for it led one into a false sense of security, though what he shielded from was unknown. It did not come from the senses, and he did not trust what did not come from himself.

But he was not even sure if that was to be trusted. The temptation of giving in, of facing his demons and letting his mind rest, was strong. The temptation to forgive himself was almost a physical pain, but he did not give in. It was not in himself he could seek solace; he doubted he would find anything but illusion and rationalization, lies and mockery.

But there was little else he knew to turn to.

"Do you hate yourself?"

He did not move to justify the voice that spoke in quiet, unjudging observation. He knew he would see nothing but darkness.

"Do you hate yourself?"

He did not reply, indifferent.

"Do you hate yourself?"

It was asked again and again, a litany of repeating questions, until the individual syllables blended together in a dissonant cacophony of barely- recognizable meaning, a monotonous yet musing ring of noise that pounded into his ears and echoed through the air. Over and over, the unseen voice probed.

"Do you hate yourself? Do you hate yourself? Do you hate yourself?"

The words sank deeply into him, writing and rewriting themselves into his mind until his head throbbed and his eyes swam, and he fought the urge to retch. This was no matter, he had felt pain before, he told himself fiercely. Pain was peripheral.

Fighting the pain, battling the nausea, unconsciously his own voice, cracked and low from disuse and fatigue, answered the night.

"I don't know."

Silence. The wind whipped against the trees and grasses with more force, tossing hapless flower petals into the air to brush his still skin, silk against leather. There was no sign of the moon.

His unseeing eyes strained in the darkness, his mind numb. "I don't know... what I'm supposed to think."

It was the most honest statement he could remember uttering, and it stunned him. It was like a wedge had been placed between the impermeable wall and himself, a wedge made of intolerable self-anguish and unknown strength. It was as if someone had pulled away the fog, the haze, leaving only himself and the ideals he still clung to desperately. His mouth was dry.

"Is this real?" he croaked. His dry lips cracked.

The unreality of tonight, the unfitting of his revelation into his logic, would have been terrifying if he had believed in being afraid. He might even have hoped it to be a dream, though he scorned his own disbelief. He should know by now that things always got worse. He should be used to it.

The voice, pulsing and wild minutes ago, lowered to a tone of gentle contemplation. "What is real?"

The light of the moon glimmered from behind the charcoal-colored veil in the sky, fighting to shine and losing, to hide and leave the earth in silent abandon. The fierce gales lost their fervor, becoming soft streams of air that glided listlessly and sent petals spiraling to the grass. A quiet, separate tug of wind brushed his cheek thoughtfully and traced faded scars.

He had an answer prepared. It was the same one he had all his life. He could not trust ideals or feelings - both could be manipulated so effortlessly, so precisely, to fit someone else's aspirations. What one felt was real: what his senses told him was the truth. What could be heard and seen and understood was needed. Nothing else mattered. Everything else was extraneous and unnecessary and... dangerous.

"What is reality?"

Why could he not bring himself to speak it? Why was there this missing - something? A sense of losing something precious? He owned nothing, took credit for nothing, had nothing to offer. There was nothing he could have possibly lost. But the blank emptiness in his soul he never knew existed was now a profound ache that gripped and seared his lungs, a void that he tried in vain to fill. There was nothing to fill it with.

"What is your reality?"

His reality.... Did he even have a reality? Or was it another illusion? The senses could be influenced, warped, manipulated. Pseudo-reality, he thought distantly, a fake authenticity. He had been existing in the same dreamland in whose existence he did not believe. Or maybe reality was a dream in itself, a fabrication that trapped those foolish enough to hope in it.

Was all his life a lie?

He could no longer be certain. He was too lost to be certain. But maybe he had always been lost, drifted along and buoyed by his despair, ignorance and stubbornness, and had just never realized it until now. He did have a reality, he thought ironically. Reality was always limited to what one understood.

The wizened, bowed willow branches were a darker black against the night of the sky. His fingertips brushed against the bark urgently, detachedly, tracing the contours of the worn wood and feeling the weaker, lighter bark crumble beneath his touch. He did not know what his hand searched for, did not understand the desperation that made him tremble with frustration. He tried to feel something other than dry, rough fuel, instead searched for something more. Something true, something real. Something ordinary people possessed.

Suddenly and inexplicably enraged, he slammed his fist against the willow.

The tree shuddered and groaned, then fell silent again. The moon peeked from behind the gray curtain, his splintered hand shining in the pale light, only to vanish again. The air was still.

"Maybe," he said harshly to the moon, the sky, the trees, "maybe they're the ones who are missing something."

And he left it all behind, knowing, in a strange way, that he was right.

~ End ~

Began: September 11, 2001

Completed: October 28, 2001