A/N: HELLO. This is a post-AU ending fic that is a semi-vague crossover with PK Dick-verse (specifically Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? but with elements of other worlds). We own nothing. Even our socks are on loan.
If you read this first chapter in the vein of attempting to figure out one hundred percent of what's going on, you'll be left with gaping holes of confusion and distress. The style is fragmentary. It will come together piece by piece... Until then, enjoy the ride. :D
Please read and review-we do love feedback.
She remembers the smell of ash in the cigarette tray and the brown hazy light. The light got brighter in waves as the cars passed by and the sirens wailed in the distance. Ash fell like snow through the blinds; dust floated like small flakes of heaven. Though, what she remembers is no longer certain. The memories, the dust and ash, is far from reality.
Still, she remembers. She had been sitting in a chair, her hands laced on the table and her legs kicking back and forth. She hadn't been wearing any shoes, then—she usually didn't. Her hair had been pulled back because she was trying to do something important, though what she was supposed to learn from it, she wasn't sure. (She's sure now—the trick is the subtlety, knowing that she was only to guess, not to know. Every moment is just a turn in the game.)
The carpet had been full of grime. She imagined that at one point it had been red, but she couldn't quite tell. Its color gave way in streaks where her feet had passed, fading from the mangled aubergine-black into something slightly grayer, a star expanding and falling into itself, the black before the red. The carpet, she knows now, is not her colony's dying sun but rather the blood-red eye of Mars, the planet she had never (yes she had, her mind insisted) seen.
In front of her had been a picture of a man. The photograph was old, yellow around the edges, and the ink had faded until she could no longer see the color of his eyes. It was small, too, as if it had been taken only out of curiosity—a normal picture. But the man did not belong in his own picture. He looked back over his shoulder with a strange smile on his face, like he saw her watching him and was distantly amused that she would even perhaps it was something else. Perhaps the photograph was little more than a reflection, and his true face was hidden.
She remembers, on the side, that papers were also scattered about the table, but it was the photograph that was important. The photo took center stage.
"Who is he?" she asked, looking away from the man in the photograph up to the mentor on the other side of the table. She doesn't know where he came from, but there is ash on his collar. (A story's beginning, she was once told, is a happy accident. From nowhere to nowhere—the story writes itself.)
His reaction was slow. She watched her reflection in the thick lenses of his glasses—she was the pale girl with the yellow hair and the big blue eyes, her hands laced coolly in front of her, eye blinking while she waited. He was wearing a suit that day, as he did every day, and his wrinkles attempted to hide pride and pleasure but did not always succeed.
He did not smile, but then, she didn't expect him to. "This," he pointed to the photograph, finger covering the man's face, "is our greatest enemy."
His finger moved from the photograph. She looked at his face again, looked at her mirror in the glasses: in the glasses there was only her face, only herself.
"His name is Light Yagami. We know him as Kira," the mentor continued, bringing his hands together before him. The dusty light caught in his glasses until, like the photograph, she could no longer make out the color of his eyes.
"How do we know?" she asked, looking back up to him. This time the man did smile. Her curved reflection didn't smile in return.
"Because he always fits, though he has hidden that fact very deeply. We have little in the form of evidence, of DNA, or even of theories. What facts and data we may have had have been lost in one fire or another. What we do have is intuition, deep in our hearts, even when there's nothing in our minds. We look at this man and we know that he is Kira, and no one else."
"But Kira is over three hundred years old. It couldn't have been a single person," she said, and the words seemed to echo against the ticking of the clock.
The mentor opened a file that also rested on the desk and brought out three other photographs, these much more recent. The man was the same. Still he looked at the camera with that strange smile, the same smile—as if he knew what the photographer was thinking, had known before the thoughts had even taken form. She had thought then that perhaps he knew what she was thinking. (She still had that feeling, the feeling that he wasn't looking at the photographer, but rather that he was looking at her.)
"Kira has many gifts, some of which are known, many of which are merely guessed. This photograph is old, but there are others." The mentor paused, and his eyes flicked up to hers. "This man is very old and very dangerous."
Her legs stopped moving. Her eyes caught on one of the more recent photographs; he was walking, his hair a strange auburn color and his eyes golden. He was looking over his shoulder and carrying a leather briefcase in his right hand, but she could tell that he wasn't really looking—he was seeing, and he was smiling.
"He's the reason we're on the colonies, isn't he?"
The man nodded. "One of them. We were once on Earth, but we found that we were too easily destroyed when we were in his eyesight. The opposition to Kira has grown slim. Now, more than ever, we must take care when we approach him."
She didn't say anything then because she felt as if there was something she was missing, some important point, just out of her grasp, that she dare not whisper in case the man in the photographs heard.
"We are the last of the organized resistance against Kira. People have stopped trying to find Kira and to see him as fallible, even as human. To these people, Kira is an immutable fact, a force of the universe—like gravity, like the tides and the pull of the moon. Nothing more. Only to us, his forgotten enemies, is his face even distinguishable from the face of this reality. This means that we are the only ones left who can stop him. This… is why you are here, and why I am here: because surely there must be a world that is better without Kira in it."
She is sitting across from him in the wooden chair but she is not looking at him. She is looking at the walls. There are pictures everywhere, hastily drawn—sketches of people, places, things, memories, moments, emotions. Pictures are everywhere and everything. They smell like smoke.
Her eyes lock on one in particular. It is a dilapidated house; the roof is falling in and the glass in the windows are broken. A gothic L was painted on its side in curved, dripping ink. It is brown and brown again as if it is the only color that it knows—walls, stairs, window frames and door, everything brown. There is no grass outside. The dirt is red, the pavement is dark, and the sun is like a vulture in the sky. It is painted in watercolors, and yet its reality was once so very vibrant.
The walls are full of pictures; the pictures are full of moments and words that are left unsaid and unspoken. The walls are things that are left forgotten because they have too many words.
She doesn't say anything, but then she turns to him. This time he is not smiling. He looks different when he doesn't smile. She doesn't want to find any more scattered pictures in her mind.
"My name," he says slowly, "is Light Yagami."
She says nothing because her eyes have found another face on the wall. She doesn't want to see this face any longer because she knows it too well, so she looks away again. There are too many pictures.
"You know who I am," she says finally, her eyes flicking back to him. He is smiling slightly, this time—not the challenging smile she normally saw, but something that almost pitied. He, too, is sitting, but he sits in a creaking couch and every time he shifts it groans with age (and he seems larger than her, larger than the room).
"Yes, I know who you are and I know what you are."
She closes her eyes so that she can't see the walls, the screaming, deafening walls that have always been there in her head pounding in her head. The memories are the photographs and they smell like smoke and fire. The memories are the walls in Kira's house. They are covered in pictures, stained in watercolor, and they mean nothing.
"It's your fault, isn't it?" she says with her eyes closed, throwing out the pictures, tearing them down from the walls because they aren't real, they aren't real, the pictures aren't real.
"Yes," he says lightly and the words echo in the emptiness. "Don't mistake me for someone else, though. These pictures are only yours."
"None of it was real." She opens her eyes and stared into his face, seeing only another watercolor painting. The pictures are the memories are lies.
"There were grains of reality. I took pieces, ideas, from my own world and put them in yours." He motions to the walls. She can not look because she knows what she will see there—her life painted on his walls in watercolor.
"My mother died when I was eight. There was an accident. I saw it happen, there was blood everywhere, and I didn't know what was happening. There were sirens all around and lots of men were talking—they looked at me but they were so big I couldn't see their eyes. She wouldn't wake up, she didn't even look, she…" She stops talking, trying not to look at the walls and see her mother's crushed features staring back at her (because they must be there, somewhere, sketched by his thin, pale fingers). She notices that her breathing is ragged and that talking has become difficult. "Did I not understand because I was little or because you thought that I would think I didn't understand? Can a replicant understand what it means to lose something you love, or did you just think that it would be best to avoid that issue altogether?"
Somewhere in the room a clock is ticking. The papers rustle in her mind and drop off the walls one by one. She can only watch—the tears blur the watercolor until it is only a shade and the pictures mean nothing. They are no longer real.
There is only Kira and Light Yagami left, sitting across from her with dragon's eyes.
"No one you knew ever existed—no one you loved, hated, cared for in any way, except for me. I am the only thing in your memories that is real. There are stories of other men like me, men from earth, men who think they are God. They give life but they can't give meaning—meaning is far different from life. Eventually their creations find them. They ask why, and these men don't have an answer. The maker always dies."
Sitting in a hotel room, she looked at the photographs. There were fifteen in total. She flipped through them carefully, ignoring the streaks of light that fell through her blinds. The sirens were racing past and the sun had already set. She was not sure what they were chasing, but then, she had never known what made the sirens give chase. It seemed almost random—when they came rushing past and when they stayed silent, who she would find bleeding in the street and who would remain living. Their screeching, wailing discourse faded into the night. She spared a brief glance through the blinds where she found the streetlights, like captured stars, watching her.
The photographs helped her think and remember. The photographs in themselves were little more than useless: his face rarely changed, and he was never in focus. Most of them were aged and yellow and smelled like smoke. But the photographs, she thought, are memories. (Memories more real and solid than her own.)
She closed her eyes but she could still see his half-hidden face; she smiled because that was good. She didn't need the photographs—she knew his face. He was like a ghost. He was always there behind the curtains and the backdrop. He was there in the beginning. She would be there at the end.
The bags were packed. The plans were set. Soon she would move.
This world was a lonely place, a forgotten star filled with too much hope and too little past. It had too many streetlights and houses and land, but that was nothing in the face of the infinite darkness. The sky was black with space. The stars seemed so small and so dim. They would scarcely notice her passage because they were so distant and so fragile—they may already have died, and she would never know.
One day (a day already past) they would burn out (burned out) and she would not know for a thousand years.
Perhaps, it would be the same with Kira.
There were replicants everywhere on the colonies. She'd watch them from inside the brown house with the boarded windows. Her toes would curl beneath her feet and she'd watch as they walked down the street trying to tell which was which. She gave them names when they passed under the strips of light in the boards.
Joseph walked as if a shadow was chasing him, making his way to the mines, his hair and face streaked black. There was nothingness on his face. That's how replicants looked, the new ones—their faces were blank puzzles. Later, they would change: Maria was an older replicant, so she walked slowly and her eyes flashed when she looked at the buildings. Her face was careful, but it was blank; her eyes blazed like streetlamps and her soul wailed in the darkness. Maria was very old, Maria didn't have that much longer to live, Maria's birthday cake had five candles. It would only ever have six—the Makers made them only ever have six. Bad things happened when a replicant lived too long. There was a rumor that they had a nasty tendency to turn into humans.
The mentor never looked at them very long before looking away. His eyes from behind the glasses would stare and stare, but most days he wouldn't say anything. He did say something once, though. They were outside of the house, her feet bare, his feet in brown leather. A man was walking past, but he was screaming and bleeding—he had been shot. No one moved. She watched him with wide blue eyes, but when he looked at her there was nothing but agony.
"What's wrong with him?" she asked the mentor.
"He's a replicant." The mentor took off his glasses and wiped them with a handkerchief in his pocket. "He must have become tired of not being human."
The people standing outside the buildings stared and stared. He fell on the ground and started to crawl. No one moved. She saw her mother there—but there had been people with her mother; there had been wailing and screaming and blood and agony. There was only nothingness on this street.
"Why did they shoot him? Did he do something wrong?" she asked.
"Maybe, maybe not. It's hard to tell. He could have run away from the mines, tried to get off planet, maybe. Or maybe he killed someone. For a replicant, those things are the same. There's no difference between murder and escape. They live in a different world from ours. I don't think even Kira knows quite what to do with them."
The dying man stopped moving and the sun watched him, watched and watched him, and never blinked. The sun never seemed to blink on those days. His shirt was stained red—she didn't know what color it was before the blood. He didn't even have a name, just a red shirt.
The mentor did not smile but looked down. In that moment he was all in shadow and she could not see his face. "Helen, have you noticed that even when a replicant kills a human, or when a human kills a replicant, neither of them die?"
His voice didn't sound like his voice then, not the voice she had known, but like someone else's, someone's voice that she had heard before but that she couldn't remember. A passing voice—a dark, passing voice whistling in the night.
The replicant died. She moved the body out from the street under the eyes of the noon day sun. His hands were cold and she dragged him slowly. His shoes scraped against the pavement and she couldn't help but think that they were the mentor's size, or close, and that she shouldn't waste something as precious as leather.
She remembers saying words, useless, angry (no, not angry, she was never capable of anger, not even then) words. She was alone then; there was no one to hear them, but they meant just as much as they would have anywhere else.
"I need to find him."
There was crumpled paper in her hands. She had torn it from a black notebook on the desk. It crinkled and shifted in her hands, imploding.
"This has to stop. He needs to be stopped. No one else, no one else can do it—I'm the only one. All the rest are dead; I'm the only one left. It has to stop."
She dropped the paper on the ground and stood, not looking as it unfurled itself like a flower. She remembers her eyes drifting to the window even as she walked out of the room, out onto the street, beyond the street.
There were no thoughts, no stars—just the words ringing like crystal bells in her ears.
This has to stop.