Disclaimer: Nope, don't own Tekken.

Author's Note: So how's everyone doing? I dunno where this came from.


IMAGINAERUM


He dreams of story time and the river ghosts; of mermaids, rude, raving harlequins and gigantic toys.

They walk around him as though he is the symbol of hope, peace, love; yet inside, he understands that they taunt him with their unblinking eyes. They smile, then they laugh, then they twirl and everything repeats. It is false. It is not true and it never is, never would be, never could be. And yet he wishes to be part of it, because it is better than what he knows.

A pretty little doll, with a head full of woollen, red hair, falls to his feet and chokes out a sob. He bends over and picks it up, the button-stitched eyes staring up into him as he observes the knitted thing. Her hands move, ghosting over his knuckles with utmost gentleness; and before long, the stitching of her mouth comes undone until all that is left is a gaping, horrified expression.

And then a voice comes through, on the wind; "this one's dead."

The toys are now alight, screaming, and the harlequins, dancing mad, slink away into the darkness. The mermaids, now with fangs and their skin melting away, drop backward from the windowsill. They take the river ghosts with them, and plunge into the sea that he cannot see, but can hear, smell, wish for and desire to walk along. And he watches it all, alone, now hiding in the corner. His veins burn.

The sky outside turns, shifting from that rested, calm blue into a chaotic mixture of grey. And then that splits too until he sees a different kind of grey, a grey more chilling than that of the storm he dreamed. And then he sees himself looking back, a mask over his nose and his mouth, and the water surrounding him, and his veins burn all the more.

Shin jerks up and screams, but he's too weak to break through the glass.

"This one's fine. Dispose of the other."

There is nothing but burning, and he wants to start dreaming again; but as the body in the tank beside him is dragged out, he knows that he's not going to sleep again tonight. No, he's not going to sleep again tonight, and he shuts his eyes and just waits for whatever's to come next. He waits for the next day, because that's all he can do.


He sees a slow, simple youngster by a busy street. He's filthy, and his clothes are tattered, but somewhere in his eyes, he's not lost hope as he hums a tune. There's a begging bowl in his shaking hand, but people pay no mind and simply walk by, cellphones glued to their ears, or eyes focused on the setting sun before them.

His small, blue lips attempt to hold a smile, but he hurts indefinitely. Nobody notices. But Shin does, as he walks by and chases that horizon.

Yet as he walks, the path grows smaller, as do his surroundings. But the sun never changes its shape, colour, size. He gazes behind him, realising he cannot see that little boy anymore, or that street, no matter how hard he squints. Shin looks back to the sun and tries not to squint. He's successful, because he is here, and that's how he knows that he's… here.

When he looks away again, everything's changed. There are no dolls or harlequins or starving little boys. There's only a seaside hotel just beside him, and a cliff before him, where grey waves claw towards him and beckon him to try. Just to try and see. Wait and see what's on the bottom, because it's most enticing.

He looks to the ground and finds he is on a path again. It leads right to the cliff's edge. The path, though, is not made of concrete or stone. He sees faces, people he knows, or used to know, or is yet to meet. They smile, laugh, groan beneath his shoes. He sees a girl with pink hair directly before him, and she smiles sweetly at him and offers him a dango treat.

So he bends down and he grabs the protruding item, ripping it from the ground until it is real in his hand. He tastes it, he makes up a taste for it. The girl smiles and the entire cycle repeats, so he takes another, and another until he realises that the image will never change. With two spares in his hand, he looks behind him and sees that boy again, leaning against the seaside hotel, humming the same old song from that world away.

Shin walks to the boy, who looks up at him with those same, hopeful eyes. He gives him the two dangos, and they're fervently and quite literally ripped from his hands. Yet, there's no pain, as Shin looks to his hand in confusion and watches it bleed, watches his fingers, broken and even beastly, merely hang there as though they were never alive in the first place.

"Sir?" he then asks, starting on the second dango.

Shin sees his veins on his arms. They're protruding, green and black, pulsating. They burn. And it's here he knows that this dream too will be ending soon. He downs the remainder of his dango, flicks away the tiny stick and observes the boy. Somewhere, he can hear the boy's voice, still humming that melody. It's all around him, everywhere.

And then a voice, from the sea; "his vitals are failing."

When the boy speaks, Shin still hears the melody, "What is the colour of our lullaby?"

He doesn't understand.

He doesn't understand as the world collapses and burns and fades around him, as though the colours are being washed away on the paper. But paper is dead without words, without colours, without a thought or a meaning or a wish. Shin tries to recall the taste he made up for the dango, but all he can taste is copper on his tongue.

The world is gone. Shin jerks up and screams. The metal around his arms gives way a little.

"This one's fine. Vitals stabilising. Dispose of the others."

Shin does not feel as tired as he had in the past. His eyes follow the witches and murderers in white lab coats as they drag more bodies away. His eyes in particular settle on a form that he sees littered all over the place he's supposed to call 'school', the place he's supposed to call 'safe', the place he's supposed to call 'home away from home'.

The man approaches when he notes that he's being stared at with distaste. A gruff laugh soon follows as he jabs his oily thumb into the tank and leaves a mark on the glass, "Keep fighting it, boy. You'll only die in the end!"

There is nothing but burning, and he wants to start dreaming again; but Shin simply watches the figure of Heihachi Mishima leave the laboratory and waits for his temporary, guarded release. He's not going to sleep again tonight. He wonders if he's ever going to sleep properly again. He longs for the days when he was kept up by essays as opposed to experiments.

When the boy speaks, Shin still hears the melody, "What is the colour of our lullaby?"

The water drains around him, but only for a little while.


The path beneath him is filled with faces once again.

Shin jumps between each of the faces and he wonders. He wonders who she is, with the pink hair and the constant dangos. He wonders who she is, with the pigtails and eyes alight with determination. He wonders who he is, the man whose skin is practically sewn together with dear memories and dearer regrets.

He sees one familiar face and immediately gazes down at his school friend. Jin looks back up at him solemnly, as though he wonders why Shin is standing atop him like a giant. So he asks slowly, "Why are you here, Shin?"

He shrugs and feigns a laugh – it hurts to laugh, in the tank and in here. He sits beside the image of Jin and simply looks to the art gallery opposite him, in the ghost town where the roads are always glistening with the everlasting rain. He wipes his hair away from his eyes as Jin speaks again, "The faces of the past keep calling me to come back home… Do they do the same for you?"

Just like that kid and his colours, he doesn't get it. And he's too careless to want to work it out.

"What is the colour of our lullaby?" Shin instead counters.

Because Shin knows about his curse. Same team and all. The only one that he could trust. He never pried for details back then, because it's none of his business and he doesn't need to know; but now, now he thinks that maybe he should know, because it could be the key out of here and the reason why he keeps imagining so many worlds and why he's trapped, confined, contained and tortured outside of the realm of his mind.

Jin's eyebrows knit together in frustrated thought. There are several moments of silence, of nothing but the sound of the rain beating down on the faces in the pathway. He then looks up to the man and speaks as though the riddle is as simple as an equation on the whiteboard, "Survival."

And the rain sings; "this one's pulse is rapidly fluctuating."

"Survival?" Shin presses, turning to look at Jin's face, only to find he is no longer there.

His veins burn and the skies are painted green and black.

"Is this normal for him?"

"No. He is showing resistance. He's strong…"

The sky is torn asunder as faces from the real world shine lights into his eyes. Shin screams and hears alerts, warnings, and he can feel the screws come loose beside his biceps. One, a woman with a nasally voice, calls for Heihachi, asking on how to proceed; he instead gazes into Shin's glazed eyes and watches them dart back and forth, ravenous and furious.

"Sir! How do we proceed?" the nasally one presses again. Urgency fills her tone.

"Inject more of it," he says, folding his arms across his chest.

"But sir –"

"Do as I say!" he roars, almost backhanding her towards the console. She bows in apology, clipboard in hand, and begins to write down instructions, results, things as more of… this curse… this thing… is forcefully injected into his system through the IV drip.

A rush. It burns. It always burns and Shin always screams, because it hurts. It swarms into his body, his blood, like poison even, and it eats away at everything he had made himself into over the duration of his life. A red colour soon speckles itself in front of his eyes, and he quickly notes it to be blood from his nose, flowing in the tank's water.

He glares at Heihachi and tries to make it as menacing and angry as possible, but he cannot hold it. He feels dizzy, weak, woozy; and the woman speaks again, noting down the progress – yet he cannot hear a word she says this time. There's only the sound of water.

Survive, Shin; he repeats to himself, drowning, just survive.

And all he hears as he falls into unconsciousness, "He is strong."


Imagine.

Shin's amidst the cotton candy clouds. He walks on the air as though it is the ground firm and unyielding beneath his feet. He extends his arms and he laughs against the rush of air he feels, but unlike everything that's ever been in this place, it's real. It's real…

He sees that sun again and bounds after it like a dog after a bone. That freedom, that light, that will be his. He will take it into his hands and he will hold it, caress it and ask what the future holds for him. And he will not be given an answer, because it is he who makes his own destiny, his own fate, and he'll be damned if he lets another shape it to be something he dislikes.

And as he approaches that sun, he sees those river ghosts and mermaids, with their melted faces and their piercing screams. He sees the harlequins, raving mad and angry, and those gigantic toys that simply stare at him with soulless eyes. He sees that boy, humming that tune with his shaking hand, questioning the colours of the colourless. He sees the dango girl, the others, and Jin, urging him to survive; but from what?

From what, he wonders? And why?

And he takes the sun into his hands, and he laughs; "there's a problem!"

He is the breath of nature, in the early air of the dawn of life. And as he holds the sun, away from all below, a sight to silence the heavens, he laughs again and again and again. The only thing that burns now is what he holds in his lecherous hands. And even then, this is a different burn. This is not pain. This is power.

Shin wonders how much he's lost it now, alone in the laboratory, because he is all that is left of these experiments. He cannot hide in his dreams much longer, no matter how much he clings to the fantasies, or the deranged child, or the unfamiliar and the familiar. He doesn't realise he's shaking until he looks into the sun and squints, because it's shaking in his hands.

And he crushes the sun in his hand, and he laughs; "it is taking over!"

It doesn't burn. Nothing burns, even as his veins glow green and black.

It doesn't burn!

And as the last of the sun's light fades, so too does his imagination fail. He stares back into the eyes of curious scientists, and there's nothing but flashing red behind them. The screws are so loose now, so so loose; and he wants to know what that woman is writing down on that stupid, goddamn clipboard.

Glass shatters.

Shin emerges from the casing, and water sloshes over the tiles of the laboratory. His hands are shaking, just like in his mind as he looks around. There used to be at least twenty other students here, and instead, he sees at least twenty empty tanks. His eyes divert to the woman with the clipboard, and he immediately steals it from her tiny hands.

And as he reads over, the alarms keep on screaming, and one calls for Heihachi Mishima.

He never comes, because 'he passed not so long ago', one reminds the other.

Subject: Kamiya, S
Testing: Immortality [M Cell]

That's all he needs to know.

The clipboard goes flying into the screen opposite him, because that racket just must cease. He clenches his fists, just so that they can stop shaking, because Shin will not be weak in the presence of these minds. He gazes over the scientists again and notes from the corner of his eyes that his veins continue to pump those same two colours. But this is not a lullaby anymore.

One approaches and pushes his glasses further up his nose, "Kamiya, how are you feeling?"

Those simple words do his head in.

There are screams like those in his imagination. There are melting faces like those in his imagination. Questions, far simpler than those his subconscious posed to him, and he refuses to answer them as he slaughters them all for this torture. For those that did not survive, and for what is to come for him.

They do try to fight back, but they forget… he is beyond all mortality. He is beyond all mortality because they have made him into a beast. A creature of their imagination. Jin briefly flashes through his mind, and that same urge to survive strikes him as they try to hold him back. But to no avail. And what hurts him most is he'll never truly have his revenge. Now… he can only dream it. Just like he dreamed out another life.

He's smiling like a clown until the show has come to an end as he grabs the only clean shirt that hangs on the back of the door. He is free but enslaved to whatever remains of his cracked mind. Because his lullaby is yet to end, the colours are yet to fade, and all that is left for him now is to survive the best way he knows how.

He leaves the laboratory as green and black fade.