Rated T for language.

Summary: A series of scattered nightmares along James' long, hard road out of hell. Mature language.

-::-::-::-::-

A World of Madness

-::-::-::-::-

Three years. Has it really been that long?

His memory is very vague, shadowed over in things that he's promised he'll never let himself see. They're all too painful.

He knows he should remember something; it is very important. He doesn't know why, but his mind is telling him to stay away from the trunk.

So, he will stay away from the trunk.

James knows he can't take the main road into town. He presses on the brake and the car slows to a steady crawl as he eyes it. The big, broad gate. It's rust-red and imposing, and it forces him to park. There's no one here, and James, as disorganized as he is, doesn't even try to park in-between the lines. What does it matter? He snatches the worn map from the passenger side and steps out, leaving the door open. If he finds out that someone actually stole this piece of shit by the time he comes back, it'd mean very little to him.

More reason to disappear.

Though he finds his body is still at war with the notion of dying, his mind is made up. Perhaps, given time to assess, his heart will stop beating so furiously, trying to remind him that being alive is a good thing, and his bones will stop aching, and his lungs and his empty stomach will stop their pleading. Don't leave us.

Don't you like to eat? Don't you like to breathe? Don't you like to feel?

leave me be.

But they won't. Ghosts tug and pull at him. He's aware of a great misdeed, but it won't come to the surface. It has taken on the form of an aneurysm, lying in wait like a wild cat in the bush. All through the town it veils itself in tarp, or hides behind the doors he can't access. When it reveals itself, it will spell the end of everything.

But he needs the answer, no matter how terrible it is. He'll search for it. High and low. He takes to the stone steps and runs out into the dirt path, hearing things screech through the obscurity of the foliage. Crawling. Hissing.

Mary. You've got to be found.

-::-::-::-::-

James drops his flashlight. It skitters away from him across the cracked, dusty linoleum, taking its precious light further and further away, until it stops to spotlight a sphere of decrepit drywall. Looking as if it was raked off with something like human nails.

"Shit," he spits, fumbling toward the light, hating its indispensability. The sounds of his boots clopping on the ground unnerve him.

If those bitches hear him, they'll be limping down the hallway soon enough, their pipes dragging by their sides and ready to swing.

Be very quiet…

I'm hunting wabbits.

-::-::-::-::-

One of those armless things, the ones that were skulking around on the streets in the daytime, is trapped behind bars. It hisses at him, bending its back and opening its chest, readying its deathly gargle. Its garbage-hued skin is nauseating to stare at in the dark. It's like all the shit in the toilets solidified and became that thing. It even sounds wet and squishy when it walks, moaning under its skin. Its platform shoes are burdensome for its real feet, dragging them along like cinderblocks, wrapped in flesh all the same.

He lifts the shotgun to his lower abdomen, his finger curling around the trigger.

Poor little fucker.

-::-::-::-::-

Mary's clothes glare at him. Limp ghosts. No shoulders, breasts, arms or hips to fill them.

Sad, purposeless things. Just like him.

Behind Mannequin-Mary, plastic legs squirm.

Thank God he found the handgun first.

-::-::-::-::-

Red Pyramid Thing has found him again.

This time, it isn't staring at him through the bars. It isn't glowing. But it's discernible enough, standing more than a few feet away down the murky, watery hallway of the catacombs.

Had James been ballsy enough, he could have waited for it in its little butcher room. And then the bastard could box him up and hang him from the ceiling like so many of the guilty others.

Red Pyramid Thing wouldn't die after he was gone, he knew. Only he would die—the death of a fool, at that.

So James turns around and heads for the ladder.

-::-::-::-::-

Angela carves lines in the tattered rug with her knife. The floor is filthy, yet she is lying on it in some sort of daze. Before her is a large mirror, encompassing the entire wall. It showcases their ugliness. James stares back, and is tempted to feel his face again. Somehow, it still doesn't even feel like he's really here. Or that she is, either.

This could all be a dream.

But does he want to wake up?

-::-::-::-::-

It bats its legs at him, advancing slowly because it cannot see. He stands there, watching it approach. Maria backs away. "Do something."

He steadies his pipe and swings at it. It totters to the ground with a muffled squeal.

He stomps on it, hearing the plastic crack. It stills.

His radio is still going, though. There's more here… closing in.

-::-::-::-::-

Beneath the metal grating, its black tongue seeps through, whipping at the air. Desperately wanting his feet to step over them so they will have blood to taste. The mouths on its arms are also its pussy.

Is this hell?

No, he decides.

This isn't the hell of Christian lore.

This is his.

-::-::-::-::-

Three gravestones. Three names. "Angela Orosco"… "Eddie Dombroski"… "James Sunderland"...

Only his grave is dug through. Their hells aren't for his eyes.

He steps in and descends. The fear, eerily enough, has vanished almost entirely from his heart. The dark fails to frighten him anymore. Perhaps it's because he's no longer afraid for his own life. Perhaps he knows, if this is where his life will end, it couldn't end in any worse way than he hadn't allowed it to thus far. He's seen it all.

When he reaches the door, and feels the cold mist enveloping his jeans like shackles, it might not be entirely out of the realm of possibility that he's going to meet a new one.

-::-::-::-::-

History has never been one of his best subjects, but he tries to impress her with some knowledge of medieval times, thinking the men in red hoods are inquisitors. Turns out, the portrait has been painted fairly recently, and the ceremonial robes are still worn to this day. That's what the curator said. And they aren't inquisitors—not by a long shot. They're priests, who've humbly modeled their attire after the angel Valtiel, The Attendant. They sway basins of incense down the pews to invoke the spirit of God, Creator of Paradise and the Lord of Serpents and Reeds.

"Lord of Serpents..?" Mary frowns. "But Eve was tempted by a serpent. Why would He—"

"She, Miss."

Afterward, James goes to great pains to get her to shut up about how shocked she is that Silent Hill not only has its own god, but that the god is female.

"Blasphemous," she says, and crosses herself.

It's never particularly bothered James who anyone answers to—providential or otherwise. But he's been brought up to believe certain things are sacrosanct, and he leaves Silent Hill for the first time with this belief unscathed.

His second visit has him wondering if anything is sacred. Since he came here, all he ever thought chaste, natural or divine has been distorted to unimaginable shapes. All of it… down to the very face of God.

And now he has his own Inquisitor. Just the sight of his blade is horribly punishing.

A very different face for Atonement.

-::-::-::-::-

The area is grassy and expansive. He thinks he just heard a horse snort. But there isn't a single living creature here except him. As he walks, unseen hooves trot the open ground. No matter where he beams his flashlight, nothing manifests itself. Until he sees the gallows.

Above the three square depressions, where the tablets of The Oppressor and The Seductress are placed, there are etched two Red Pyramids, brandishing spears, standing between an ill-fated stick figure.

James pushes The Gluttonous Pig into the last slot.

A deafening scream pierces the air, echoing into the blackness. The scream of the hanged man.

And yet the three nooses hold no visible throats.

-::-::-::-::-

"Do you like dancing?" Maria smiles.

"Not really," is James unimpassioned response, glaring into the stage lights she turned on. Her fingers find the pole, twirling around it and brushing against it. She turns to meet his eyes, her face bisected by the pole, and wraps both her hands around it, sliding up, then down. Revering its phallic form.

James would openly welcome thoughts of sex any other time, but right now, he's got a plan and a purpose. It seems all she cares about is distracting him. This isn't the time for lurid fantasies or sightseeing.

"I'm going," he grumbles, slapping the stick in his hand and tightening his grip as he makes his way to the exit.

Maria, jilted, grins knowingly after him.

-::-::-::-::-

Growling. It's not coming from anything he's seen before.

Rhich-yuuhl…

What the hell does that mean?

It's coming from one of the cells. He knows it's there, can feel its breath in space between the bars. But whatever it is isn't rearing its ugly head. Either on the ceiling or staring at him, mere inches from his face, he'd never know one way or the other.

Rhich-yuuhl…

Ritual.

It is all it says. All it knows.

James walks off. Leaving it there to chant into eternity.

The radio hums after it.

-::-::-::-::-

The last of them takes its final shot, the force causing it to swing back on its rusted lattice. With a pitiful creak, its charcoal feet curl in toward its bed-body and become silent.

Reality stretches like taffy. The world begins to lose shape. It swirls as if he's watching it flush down the toilet.

"James…"

Mary.

"James…"

What's happening?

Is it over?

Will he finally wake up now?

"James…"

A ceiling fan whirs by.

Hours later, he wakes up in the same space, the marble tiling replaced by moist, squishy soil and blunt grass. The roof is open and it's raining down on him. His clothes are soaked through and his head is throbbing. The chill in the air helps alleviate it somewhat, but mingled inextricably in that chill is the copper smell of blood.

Nothing has changed. The nightmare has continued.

Damn it. He heard her. She was here.

Now, the search must go on.

When the doors open, Brookhaven looks murdered. The walls are red, steely. Everything bleeds. His radio hums softly. Its agitation is only beginning.