What’s left of Jonathan Sims no longer needs eyes to See.
What’s left of Jonathan Sims no longer needs food to survive.
What’s left of Jonathan Sims is more monstrous than any human being.
But he isn’t human, is he?
(He, he, he. The pronoun he worked so hard to earn sits wrong in his head now, turning his stomach in a way both completely alien and painfully familiar, all at once. It would be more appropriate now.)
He’s something in between. Maybe even less than that. Something altogether different . How much of Jonathan Sims is even left?
He wonders that frequently.
He ponders that now, absently, watching the hearth fire. ( Seeing a wasteland, bodies twisted and mottled and screaming screaming screaming — ) How much of him is him?
How much of him is worth salvation?
(‘Salvation.’ That’s the wrong word. People deserve salvation. The best he should hope for—pray for— is salvage. He is not worthy of salvation.)
He knows he’s been staring too long (or maybe his eyes are closed—it’s hard to tell anymore. It doesn’t matter. He Sees it all anyway.), but pulling himself out of the trance-state of Observance is becoming increasingly more difficult. It’s easier when someone shakes him, nudges him, anything to bring focus back into his body, hateful thing that it is.
He forces himself to blink (eyes open, ah, good), to roll his stiff shoulders, to stand from his folded position. No one’s here and he can’t leave. “It’s safer, Jon. You know they track you too easily, we’ll be back soon.” The words echo in his mind, spinning and tangling with every other thought in there that’s not his. ( never mine never mine anymore not my dreams not my thoughts not my terror and pain and fear and yet it is, it’s all mine mine mine — )
Jonathan Sims takes a very deep breath, overwhelmed by the disgustingly delicious feeling ( taste ) of helplessness, of worthlessness and self-loathing and dread and pure, pure anguish.
Jonathan Sims allows The Archive to exhale instead, because it’s so much easier to exist beyond attachments, even if it’s all pretend. Even if it's only for a little while. It’s so much easier like this. To let him slip away and instead just be…
It doesn’t feel, doesn’t have the myriad emotional connections, doesn’t need anyone, doesn’t need anything except the blistering hum of fear it was created to store, a sustained note of hopeless agony that the whole world now sings. ( My fault, this is— Hush. ) The Archive needs only to allow itself to sink into the sweet terror of the world that created it, sustains it. The Archive doesn’t care about the petty hope of the band of assembled rebels attempting to fix everything, because The Archive Knows that it’s absolutely fruitless, but won’t it be interesting to See what happens. There’s never a shortage of things to watch, now that reality has fractured.
Its eyes are bright and many, not just those that flare all across its vessel’s form, but those in the sky, those of every human in terror— which is all of them, every one of them. It’s a mouthwatering feast, and all it has to do is breathe it in, allow the wash of it to push anything else from his mind. The Archive is a conduit, absorbing and relishing in the agony of mortal existence.
The Archive is always acutely aware of its(his) own suffering mixing in with the rest, never fully detached. It should taste bitter, it should hurt, but it only adds masochistic harmony, and it feels so right that he should also hurt, should also rip his throat ragged and bloody, for his—its—his— God.
It never lasts long, the separation. He can’t sustain it. Beholding demands that he witness, and to witness he must be present.
Jonathan comes back to himself on the floor, as he always does. His skin aches, the thin lacerations over every inch of him raw and irritated, normally pale lines ripped red from opening where skin has no business being able to blink. He feels overwhelmed, over-sensitive and hollow, sated yet ravenous all at once. He stares at the ceiling, seeing unfinished wood, gouged through with the marks of ash and blade. (He Sees— a woman in her home, the world is empty, she’s hoarse from sobbing, her skin is raw and coated with earth, she stands in water to her knees as the hallways she should know contort and warp around her— a child holds a stuffed animal, clings to it, the bear clings back, too many spindly legs that dig lovingly into soft skin, the promise of safety in infinite numbers, never alone again— a man, face streaked with dark tears, laughs and laughs and cannot stop as he clutches the moth-eaten head of his partner, his nails are caked black with gore, his teeth match, his hands are burning and burning and burning— a family of five, the children pushing what remains of their parents towards a precipice, a gaping maw that reflects everything and nothing, endless and void, they are unseeing and silent and twisted, limbs too long, their teeth too sharp—)
He knows he’s crying (has, is, will, it never ends, never begins), can taste the salt on his chapped lips, mixing with copper from his excoriated throat, can feel how his eyelashes clump with moisture, how his lungs ache for oxygen. He wishes fervently that he could die, but he doubts (Knows, fears) that any of them will ever truly be able to die.
He wishes he had a cigarette. The burn of smoke would at least mask the tantalizing flavor of horror that always seems to linger on his tongue these days. At least the burn in his lungs would be from ash and not just an effect of giddy, revolting relief that drinking in the suffering of others now brought. But then, comfort is a fleeting thing now, hard to find and harder to hold. Still, it’s something he wishes he had, a vestige of a life he’ll never know again.
Jonathan is not resigned to this, to his fate, but, simultaneously, he also knows there is little hope of fighting it. The best he can do is help and hope those he loves will make it through. (He knows, as the Archive Knows , because whatever separation he attempts to put between them is false, they are one and will always Be. He Knows this will not end well. Their fates are as arbitrary as the circumstances that placed them here, and in the end it will all mean very little.)
So he stays still, looking up at the exposed beams of the ceiling, waiting, Watching , and mourning.