A/N: This is a new thing. It's not so much "alternate universe" as "multiple universe." Bear with us. Also, Matsuda quotes PK Dick in there somewhere; we're not that insane, and that wasn't us. Just like Death Note. Y'know.

PROLOGUE: An Introduction by the Notebook

Imagine a stage.

You are seated in the audience seats and watch the still black curtain. There is nothing particularly imaginative about it, nothing outstanding; you see the dust on its hem as if that makes it somehow less significant than it already is. It is ordinary, it is a guise, it is little more than a mask. You find yourself tiring of masks.

The curtain lifts to no music and to an empty stage. The stage may as well be empty, you think, for you can't see a thing. You are looking at more darkness, more black curtains; this annoys you because you came to see the show, not the shadows. You have no time to be patient. There is a time limit to a tragedy, and time wears on.

It is the walls that illuminate first, burning themselves into existence like rising embers poked by some unseen presence. They rise flickering into yellow life until they seem not to be walls at all, but have instead become burning pillars.

This, you think, is the stage.

A faint spotlight appears far in the back of the stage, up stage center, highlighting a group of shades surrounding a fallen man in a blue suit. The men who are the shades seem to be little more than furniture, only statues put there for effect; their faces are concealed by dim lighting as they look down upon the fallen man. Perhaps they are statues of weeping angels, but you feel this will become clear with time and do not spare them further thought. The stage remains like this, with its lone man surrounded by hollow creatures, and meanwhile, the spotlight becomes steadily brighter. It is only the setting, little more than a picture. You must wait for the story to come.

As the stage brightens you see red flowers upon his suit. Then you realize that they are not blossoms: they are spreading. A sense of certainty comes over you that this lighted man, this still man, is dead. No one moves on the stage, but the stains grow and a pool is spreading beneath him. The shades remain meaningless, but their non-existence begins to gather shape and form. Dust catches in the light and drifts down, looking for all the world like flakes of snow falling upon this man's untimely grave.

His head faces you, he opens his eyes, and he smiles.

He stands, then, allowing you to see him as he truly is. His golden eyes are almost covered by auburn hair that seems more scarlet than it should be in the lamp light. His skin is unearthly pale, perhaps by fault of the lighting or perhaps by death. He brushes down his stained and wrinkled suit while looking at the shades around him with a soft smile.

He turns his gaze on you and he begins to walk forward. There is a chill in your bones.

This is the narrator and the director.

He reaches the edge of the stage, his final steps echoing in the darkness. His smile loses its softness and while he looks like an angel, the red on his jacket tells you otherwise. You realize that the stage is only a stage to him, that the actors no more than puppets, and that you too are a part of the story. His realm is larger than yours, and he assimilates you into his own production.

"I am not an illusionist," is his introduction. It does not lack.

"Reality bends to me; it always has. Humans often mistake cheap stage gimmicks for my work and my work for an illusion. So do keep in mind: I am real. I am reality." To the hollow men on the stage he spares a condescending glance. "Don't explain me away as they have. It's not a wise choice to make."

He turns sideways and surveys the yellow walls, a critical eye watching their rising and fading color. The stage is a sham, a cheap imitation of the true world; it bends and twists and writhes under his gaze.

"I've decided to begin at the end, or if you're picky, anend. There are many endings to this show, and this is only one of them. Despite what they think, only one road leads to the yellow warehouse. There are many roads to wander. Besides, I get bored of myself, sometimes."

The shadows behind him do not move, and yet you think they should. (But they are only pictures.)

"This is perhaps the least complicated of endings, which is why I've chosen it. Best to start out slow and build from there. I am Caesar and I have two men named Brutus, but I did not ask them why. One of them had a gun, and one of them had a notebook. I suspected neither, and yet I directed it."

He stops, then, and looks up as if distracted by something; a musing expression appears on his face. For a moment he looks purely human, as if he were nothing else.

"Of course, that wasn't me. I'm something entirely different. I was not shot to death in a warehouse, but I was in the warehouse just as you are now." From the almost somber look in his eyes it appears that he has made some important distinction. Of course, he is never truly serious, and this distinction will remain to you forever unknown. He is, after all, the trickster.

He cocks his head and with that same musing expression, he elaborates. "Think of me not as the actor, the man you see here, but rather as the guiding spirit. I am the director, I am the stage lighter, I am the set designer, and I am your narrator. I'll be explaining things as best I can as we go along. I do not make illusions, but the play… the play is an illusion. The play is not my art. I didn't make it: I fiddle with it, keep it in check. I play the role but I am not the role; the role knows this, as he knows he is not me."

The men circled about him turn to face the audience, yet it looks as if they have hardly moved, unlighted as they are. You realize, now, that there is something horrible and unrealized in their existence—you thought they might be important, that they might mean something more. But you see now that they will never be more than shadows cast by his hand. They are not their own. His blood glows upon the stage in its puddle. The man in blue smiles. He always seems to smile.

"This role and I. We are separate, yet we hide behind the same face. He accounts this to his own madness and forgets that I exist. At times. It is true that he is irrational, but that does not mean that I do not exist. To him this world is the one he prefers—because in this world I remain quiet. I let him find his yellow warehouse at the end of the road. But there are so many other paths to choose from, and I become so tired of staying silent."

The narrator holds his hands widely, humbly, tracing the world of the stage and the reality it represents. You cannot help but notice that his arms stretch to fit a cross, and that when he stands like this, the world fits into the palm of his hands. "For him and for you, I have only one question. What is this quintessence of dust?" He smiles as if he has made some allusion that you should be awed by, but you don't understand what Hamlet has to do with a dead man in a yellow room. The story has begun its end, you think. It is a droll, weary end that winds more than it should.

But he narrator steps back slowly to his position among the shades; as he approaches, the shades begin to appear more human. You begin to make out their expressions. Seeing them, you realize that they aren't dead-eyed statues; their faces tell you everything. Humanity at its truest, half-formed, uncertain. They are only shadows, but they are better than this eerie, unnatural creature will ever be. As their faces light with that divine spark, you realize. The ending isn't a tapering off, as you believed—it's a climax. Yet the narrator takes no notice of this jar in the flow; he merely steps back into the center of their gaze.

The humans don't see him, you realize, because they are still looking down where his body once lay. To them he is nothingness; he is no more real than the stage he has offered up. His words are full of half-truths and lies. He is the illusion, the illusionist, and the god of this world he has created. One need only look at their faces and see an entire history, fabricated by this mad god, in a single instant of lighting and narration. (So then, they are still statues after all, no matter how expressive their stone faces).

The narrator still stares at you with those blazing eyes—as if he knows what you have just thought. He snaps his fingers and gives one final command before the stage disappears into the darkness once again.

"And with that, let's start the show."

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