Pt. I of IV


Passion is the source of our finest moments:
the joy of love,
the clarity of hatred,
the ecstasy of grief

- Angel ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer")


Flashing light ran the length of his vision, never pausing long enough to settle the strange shadows within his cocoon. A rhythmic pulse accompanied it, as if a giant fan whirred scant metres above him, sending down regular waves of sound. Yet there was no wind. Apart from the pulse - shouldn't it be louder? - there was nothing to hear. The world beyond had ceased.

The light was soothing, a comfort as he struggled between peace or fear. Nothing encouraged his fear, yet many times nothing was all it took. The expectations life had given him didn't apply here. All that surrounded him was the quiet pulsing, filtered through the blinking light.

Looking at this light blurred his eyes, twisting circles burned into his retinas when he closed them against the pain. This caused stronger visions; the circles writhing into an open-mouthed face, screaming silently at his prone figure. The face's features were circular and though the eye-sockets were empty, gaping holes of shadow, the stare was one full of hate. And a constant question.

This question had been asked at his funeral, though he didn't, for obvious reasons, hear how it was answered. His father had thrown the same question at his falling stock prices, the reaction to the untimely death of his heir. His mother had asked it of herself, judging her worth against her list of right and wrongs completed in her life. Though he was not to know, she was still ahead on points. His friends had asked the question in defiance, some with anger, others with a sense of loss, others still with a puzzled look upon their grieving faces, struggling to understand what they did wrong, how they could have changed everything.

Human folly is bred from such self-arrogance. To think one, two, even a handful of people could have changed the outcome was as ludicrous as thinking one person can change the world.

Whoever uttered it, whatever the mood, whichever emotion they attached to it, the question was always the same. Due to human arrogance, desirous to know everything, to possess knowledge, the question is always spoken. Why?

Why. Did the question thrash within his own head? Did he hear it beat from side to side within his brain like a trapped monkey within an iron cage, throwing itself time and time again at the bars until, caught deep within frustration, it rocked back and shouted so loudly to drown everything out? Did the question blanket his mind like white noise?

No. He'd never had to ask why. He'd always known. Gun in hand to head, pull trigger. Simple actions stripped him of life, simple actions performed countless times by others under situations of unbearable stress. But he had gone out on top. In full control. Accepting full responsibility.

Now, he was lost, puzzled by the pulsing. Death was supposed to be an adventure, the next frontier to liven up an existence soured by a boring life. Death was the ultimate trip, a fizzing pain-killer dropped into his staid glass of water.

Was he mistaken? Was he cocooned within this tepid world of half-light as punishment? Was he to be driven mad by the pulsing light, a cruel reminder of the colourful life he had voluntarily discarded?

Should'a held back! Should'a not pulled the trigger! Now you're gonna pay, for a long, long...

The nagging doubt was washed away by an outside screaming, barely audible. Indistinct noises followed, letting him know he hadn't imagined the scream to lessen the pain of his prison.

The noises continued, a rhythmic pattern out of tune with the dull pulses accompanying the pale light. Whereas the pulsing light was quick, the noises were drab thuds, rippling through the dull light with a deep bass-line. Sometimes he could barely make them out, so low did they travel.


Time floated lazily along, lost. All there was - one pulse, one thud, one light. Nonsense.

He was devoid of body. He was merely a mind, a group of memories with no physical connection.

Then - a rushing! Starting from a point far beyond, he heard the first sucking noises. Something struggling to gain breath. Now, his body returned, his eyesight weak but making out long limbs sandwiched into a tiny white area. The rushing increased, threatening to suck his hearing loose and carry it away. It gained speed and felt like it should rock his cocoon, though he never moved. Tiny seconds turned to eons of controlled pressure. He waited, feeling the tension rise as the pulsing light slipped away and shadows flickered erratically across the surface of his prison.

Then - a sound! Again, the bullet cracked from the end of the barrel, his head snapping back as he relived the crushing blow he'd dealt himself. The bullet again tore through his brain, scattering his life across the windows and upholstery of his car. The pain was immense, but lasted a fraction of the real event, this re-enaction only a lingering memory. Still he felt the taut leather of the car seat slide underneath his crippled body, his blood draining from his shattered head to leak over his spent arms and legs. Then the memory was gone, his corpus shifting instantaneously to this image; one last thought of himself in life.

Sensation shot through his frail corpus with the suddenness of the fatal bullet crack. The white light faded before his eyes, rotting so fast to emptiness it was possible to believe it was never there. The consciousness he'd desperately sought to close snapped awake within the body he now wore, and immediately felt wearied by the flood of sensations pouring in.

The pulsing had come alive. It lived within the air total, echoed on every breath, carried every other sound on its pulsing wings. Now it was louder, yet just as quick. What seemed so soothing before was replaced by a pulse of meaning. It was the pulse of an engine, a giant, all-consuming engine.

And it was close.

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