The boy had been running for hours in his mind, and who knew how long that was in the real world? Time and perception do not exist in dreams, and this nightmare was no different. However, as he feeling began to dull down, the boy felt a lingering sense of doom begin to creep up and smother all other emotions, even his fear and panic. At first he could not imagine why, but the answer finally dawned on him after collapsing from his mental exhaustion.
He knew he would never wake up.
He knew that this was part of his punishment.
When he was still truly alive and capable of sensation, his last selfish flourish in the world was to create a realm without singularity or individuality. He destroyed the world, because he was scared. He was scared up fate and his father, of a painful death. He was worthless, and wanted to be surrounded by people whose virtues would render his weaknesses inconsequential. He created a paradise for himself, and a hell disguised as paradise for the rest of humanity.
Unfortunately, when faced with this seemingly perfect, flawless world without boundaries, the boy panicked. He had gone too far. It was too bold a move, something he had no right to do. He ended the second world, but he never truly awoke from it. The souls of the world were wreaking their revenge upon him; he wanted to create a world with a monstrous conglomerate of consciousness for his own safety and comfort, so fate saw to it that he ended up trapped alone, within his own, individual mind.
Forever... That was it. He had been holding it in for so long, the boy was almost surprised to feel the hot stinging in his eyes that signaled the beginning of an onslaught of tears. It was the first time since he ended the world. It wasn't silent, contemplative crying; it was inelegant blubbering that physically hurt him and made it almost impossible to breathe or see. Shuddering overtook his fragile body as he tried and failed to exert self control, and for once the solitude felt like a blessing.
There was a voice. The boy couldn't for coherent syllables in the state he was in. He tried calling out, ,but could only manage a choked cry.
Shinji, can you hear me? Can you follow my voice?
The voice had no sound or distinguishing qualities, for it was projected directly into his subconscious. He didn't know if he should be afraid.
Stand, it commanded. Let me guide you.
The boy tried to push himself to his feet, but the effort was futile. His body was still coursing with fear, regret, and strange emotion,and he had no control. Even while piloting, he had never felt so overwhelmed. Was this how Asuka felt when the Angel... defiled her mind? he wondered, shuddering. If it broke the will of such a strong, confident, fiery girl, there was no way the boy stood a chance. He resigned himself to his fate.
The presence in his mind would have none of that. Shinji, listen to me. Sweet Shinji, darling Shinji... This is your final chance to return. So follow my voice, love... I will help you stand...
Whether the presence;s intent was truly benevolent, the boy had no idea, but a warm emotion coursed through his body like warm tea to someone starved and freezing, and he found himself revitalized. A final chance, huh? he thought, A final chance for what?
Regardless of where the second try would revert him to, back to the world of Instrumentality or the world of individuals, he decided it would be better than timeless solitude. He would follow the voice, wherever it led him.
"Doctor, his pulse is beginning to fall!"
"What? There's no way that can be. He passed the threshold!"
"...And he's passed back over it again. Approaching normal levels."
"Restart of mental activity! The graph's marking normal level of consciousness for coma states!"
"Breathing is steadying. It's not so faint; I can clearly see his chest rise and fall."
"It appears... there's a sudden flood of endorphins as the adrenaline is released from his systems. Note this?"
The blond doctor, wide eyed, shook her head in disbelief. She stood against the white, sanitary wall, removed from the excited combination of jubilation, panic, and confusion from the six doctors seeing to the boy. "Shinji Ikari..." she muttered, "You're a little coward. You were dissolved into nothingness by an Angel, but you came back. You destroyed the world, but you brought it back." She glanced to the beeping monitor and took a few notes on a small pad of paper. "Just who are you, Shinji?"
One of the other doctors turned to her. "You say something, Ritsuko?"
She pursed her lips. "Nothing important." She wondered where the boy's caretaker was, however. Did she not remain kneeling by his side all night? What could have torn her away?
The doctor's first question was answered when the dark-haired woman opened the door with a defeated look on her face. Upon seeing the doctors, she froze, preparing for the worst, but soon glanced at the screen displaying the boys vital signs. the relief that coursed through her features was like nothing the doctor had ever seen.
"Misato?" She tried to bring her friend back to reality. There was nothing to be relieved about yet. "Misato... we're still not sure whether this condition is permanent, but we think it may be. Especially if attacks like that continue... he has a week or so at most."
The dark-haired woman considered this for a few seconds, but after her previous emotional panic she found that the news did not move her. Her strategic, commander's brain had taken over and was forcing her to weigh the situation objectively. The boy was dying, yes, that much was certain. But they would all die eventually. She had died already, but found herself saved by the end and reformation of the world. Saved by the boy. She did not know his motives for triggering instrumentality but, well, if she had the chance to destroy the world and bring him back from the dead, she would do so in an instant. Is this how Commander Ikari felt? she wondered, How this whole mess got started?
Her phone started vibrating in her pocket. She needed to get to work. After all, it was her job to take care of the world the boy thought was worth saving.
She flinched at the still unfamiliar title. Since the former commander and his assistant had yet to return from the sea of humanity, the leading position at NERV belonged to her. "Yes... what is it?"
"Commander... we've detected an AT Field."
The presence had stopped calling to him. Why did it stop? Was it abandoning him?
Are you there? asked the boy, his voice trembling slightly. Without guidance he was blind and unable to move. The silence lasted far longer than he anticipated.
Finally, and answer reverberated through his mind. I am still here, Shinji. I am only thinking.
Thinking about what?
Whether you deserve this. I am not sure if you do.
The boy hung his head. He knew this ray of hope was too good to be true.
I believe... that I will continue, for now. I can leave whenever I desire, after all.
Please don't leave me! the boy sobbed.
Oh? The voice sounded mildly surprised. I've left you before, and it destroyed you. For that, my Shinji, I apologize. But there was no other option, you see. Oh Shinji... A part of me is glad to know that you still care this much. Now walk.
The boy obeyed without question, even through his feet began to grow heavier with each step. To his surprise, the world began taking form around him. The could begin to make out the ground through the fog, a dark plane beneath him. He could even see the faintest lines of objects in the distance.
You will soon approach a statue. As you near it, you will tell me what it is.
Indeed, there was something in front of him. The shape was vaguely humanoid; if he did not have the voice's reassuring words of its lifelessness, he would certainly have panicked. His careful steps took him closer, and he could begin to make out more detailed featured. Finally, it dawned on him.
An... an angel.
A delicate, Renaissance angel with soft feathered wings. Romanticized. He wished he still thought of angels as something so pure and beautiful.
An angel, you say? mused the presence, How... interesting.
"What? What do you mean you've detected an AT Field?"
Shinji flinched at the loud, panicked yell that rang through his years. It wasn't the presence invading his mind. he didn't know what it was, but it was from somewhere that alien, outside the world of his mind, and it scared him. Dreams and dream-like states being what they are, however, in a few seconds the words floated from his mind, leaving him alone within himself once again as he passed the angel.
Now, Shinji, listen to me closely. Whatever you do, you are not to turn and look back at that angel Do you understand?
The boy nodded, but he could already feel the temptation building up within him.
Do not turn back to it.
He wanted to look. He wanted it so badly. But he was obedient and complacent. His guardian had once jokingly asked him if he'd ever been lobotomized. He wasn't going to suddenly grow a will now. He shoved his own feeling and urges away from his mind and stepped forward with more confidence.
Good boy, said the voice, but with an obvious tint of disappointment.
The boy panicked at the thought that he'd done something wrong. He had to be perfect. Wasn't this his last chance? He had to be perfect.
The commander ran down the halls like a woman possessed. She had to get to headquarters. There was an Angel approaching, returned from the sea of LCL alongside its distant siblings, the Lilim.
But the pilots couldn't pilot, and the world had not recovered. There were no weapons in working conditions, and no United Nations to guide the operation. The commander would have to face the Angel with nothing but sticks and stones.
No matter what motives Adam's children may have had at first, the third Impact would have changed everything.
But what truly had the woman panicked was not the deplorable lack of defense weapons or resources, it was that the Angel itself was not yet in sight, but the light of it's soul was already strong enough to encompass the new Tokyo.
A fourth impact... was suddenly not unheard-of.
AN: I'm afraid this has not been edited at all, but I wanted to get it up. I picture two more updates before this story draws to a close. I'd love to hear any predictions!
Also, I'd love to direct you to this flash game I happened upon, Loved. http:/ jayisgames. com /games/ loved/
Upon playing this, (And replaying. And replaying.) the only thing I could think of was, "Man, someone this game makes me feel like I'm Shinji Ikari at the end of EVA." Play it, and you'll see what I mean. It's currently influencing this story considerably.
Ciao, reviews are appreciated.