Leave Your Body at the Door

It is not right that everyone read the pages that follow: a sole few will savour this bitter fruit without danger. As a result, wavering soul, before penetrating further into such uncharted barrens, draw back, step no deeper. Mark my words: draw back, step no deeper, like the eyes of a son respectfully flinching away from his father's severe contemplation. Leave your body at the door, for this is the story of a mind.

"He deserves this. He deserves this. You know it." No light sparkled in the eyes of blue sheet-metal. Every word was a proclamation; there was no feeling, no uncertainty. Was it still a human mind behind the words?

The second figure shuddered. "You can't say that. Please..."

"I hate him."

The rims of the boy's eyelids shuddered and rocked open to a slit. Far in the distance, he heard a mumbled statement that grew closer to him with each echo, louder and clearer until it formed three searingly clear words. "I hate him."

Who said that?

His vision was overlayed with sheets of white gossamer that blurred colors and shapes beyond recognition. The dark, curled spikes of his eyelashes framed his vision no matter how much effort he put into holding them wide. Could he move? He tried shifting his eyeballs left and right in the faint hope of finding something he could see, but he couldn't move them. What about his lips? Could he speak?

Help me, he croaked, someone help me...

The suffocating silence that followed told him volumes. He could not whisper the faintest sound, feel the slightest sensation. He was trapped within his body, a prison of his flesh holding him for eternity in a perfect, inescapable oubliette. He waited for the tears, but the familiar hot burning at his eyes never arrived. It was a blessing; people hated him because of his tears. No one knew what to do with a boy who cried, especially when that boy was supposed to be a hero. After the horror of the assimilation, of Instrumentality, there was simply nothing left to provoke emotion from the cold husk of his body.

I'll never cry again...

If his dead, limp body still had the capability of crying, he would a wept in happiness at the thought.

"Did you see that?"

Her companion's breathless exclamation failed to arouse any interest in the girl. "No," she murmured, simply stating the facts. Stating facts was all she seemed to do recently. She glanced briefly up at the boy on the bed. The sight made her grow warm with some alien emotion, and the bitter taste of tears or bile rose in her mouth. She couldn't stand to look at him, she even didn't know why she willing sat in his hospital room. The girl plucked one of the long strands of red hair from her head and devoted all her concentration to it as she wrapped it tightly among her fingers, studying the pale raised rings and bumps the skin formed as the thin cord wound around it. She couldn't help but wonder- if she could make it tight enough, would it cut her? Did she still even have blood?

The girl's older companion stood and rushed over to the boys bedside, ducking into his face. "Look at his eyes. His eyes." The girl didn't bother looking. "He-" the woman's words choked to an end as a sob rose in her throat. "is... is he awake?"

The girl froze. The strand of hair snapped, releasing her finger from captivity. "What did you say?" A compulsion started to rise in her mind. From Love? Hate? Revenge?

The woman at the bed shook her head, as if the quick motion would throw any amount of uncertainties and disbelief from her mind. After a second look told her that no, she was not seeing things, his eyelashes moved from something other than the gusts of her breath. She felt herself growing dizzy. The same feeling of empty dizziness she felt when he kissed him, and again when she was reborn from the red-orange sea of life. Carefully, she reached to brush some stray chocolate hairs from his forehead. "He's awake... he's finally awake." The woman jumped back, slightly startled as a few drops of clear liquid splashed on the boy's cheek, jerking her into to reality again.

Her commander persona started to seep back into her as she wiped her eyes. "Go get the doctor, sweetie." She rubbed the last of the warm, gel-like liquid from her eyes and snorted the burning, running mucus from her nose into her sleeve. Frantically, she rubbed the tips of her fingers in hard circles over her face to help herself return to normal coloration and a respectable expression before the doctor arrived. She halted as she realized the girl hadn't moved a muscle. "I know you don't want to be here. But please, please get the doctor. I can't leave him alone right now. I can't just- Asuka?"

The girl stood wordlessly, fists clenched. The metal chair groaned and rocked back on its hind legs until it fell back with a resounding clatter. Her head was tilted down, dull rust bangs hiding her steely eyes from her guardian.

"The doctor..."

It was clear that the girl wasn't hearing words, wasn't hearing anything.

It was as if her dull, dying body was jerked back into life for the first time since her rebirth. Her mane of shaggy hair was ignited by some unknown force and aflame once again, leaving a fiery trail behind her as she lunged forward onto the boy's bed and clasped her hands around his neck, squeezing it like an artist needing the last drop of red paint from a tube to complete her masterpiece.

She would not stop until she saw red.

"An eye for an eye," she hissed, "...Shinji."

This will be continued.