The glinting of light off of Rahkshi armour had turned to the burning of a million stars in a midnight sky, and I watched it all as I fell from those inky heights. I was back in my own body - or at least as much of it that I could possess in an astral plane - and as I plummeted, I felt the winds whip past my skin and a heavy weight cling relentlessly to my back. The stars flashed by me, becoming nothing more than streaks of light zooming upwards to a single point of vanishing, turning the world into a three-dimensional optical illusion.
"Are all these lines straight, or do they curve? Look closer folks, the answer's right in front of your face!"
I tried to turn around, tried to see my final destination - badum tss! - but the weight on my back kept me from facing anywhere but upwards while it pulled me downwards, down, down. Like an anchor, it kept me fixed and immobile, preventing me from even seeing my future grave. All I could do was watch the pretty stars while they burned above me, beyond interest from their lofty seats in heaven.
But heaven had angels, and they swooped down from the sky to save me, save me, save me! Legionnaires and lieutenants, Toa and Vortixx, they all seemed to just step out of the space between the stars as easily as if they were walking out onto a street. They reached out to me, Toa with too many arms and Vortixx with too few legs, their relative positions shifting every time I blinked until they were within arms reach. So close, so close...
I reached out, my hand clumsily grasping the first angel, but there was never contact. Our forms were nothing but smoke to each other; we passed through each other like air flowing through air.
I could hear the whistle of winds as my death approached.
"CONTACT!" they would yell when I hit the ground, a final dirty joke before the celestial curtains closed for the night's show.
I groped madly in the dark, trying to find salvation. The Toa and the Vortixx flickered like television signals during a thunderstorm, Day's form blew away like smoke when I reached for him, and Melna's crumbled to dust as soon as our hands met.
All the while, my personal anchor was dragging me down.
One by one, my angels vanished, until I was all alone.
Contact in five.
The anchor kept pulling me down, and I knew I was about to die and that I wanted to die full of life and struggle. A voice echoed in my head that "You must be the whole, Lux, not the half." Was it mine? I couldn't be sure, but I knew it was the truth, and the whole truth at that, and oh god that joke was painful to listen to.
(Q & A: What's scarier, my impending demise, or my puns?)
I tried to spin around, fighting the inertia pulling me downwards and the weight keeping me there. My hands ran along my back, roughly tracing the outline of the thing clinging to it, and I gripped it until my fingers felt like they were going to pop off my knuckles, straining my arms to gain the strength they needed to wrench this anchor free.
Contact in four.
I could almost hear the grind of pearly gates opening up for me. Or, maybe it was the sound of a boat being docked at the river Styx. Hard to tell when you're falling god nows how fast.
Do or die.
Success or sacrifice.
Contact in three.
With a suction cup-like pop I felt the weight being lifted from my shoulders. Drunk on joy, I tossed the shape aside and used the force of the throw to turn in mid-air. I was suddenly, facetiously, inexplicably curious to test my newfound freedom, and curious to see my former anchor with my own eyes before I died. Exuberant with relief, my lungs expanding just a little more than usual--
--and they tensed when I looked down.
Before me, under me, whatever; I saw a crude caricature of myself in free fall. It was a watercolour painting that had been left in the rain; my grin was too wide, too smug, too toothy; my eyes were a dull, blind green; my arms and legs were stretched abnormally long; and a misshapen crown of silver sat perched on my head at the jauntiest of angles.
The other me opened his mouth, started talking, but no sounds came; or maybe they did, but were lost to the roar of the winds. For a moment, though, I swore I could see the words that poured from my - his - maw. I watched as the words "hero" and "lover" and "worthy" escaped his mouth and caught the wind, fluttering through the night sky like scraps of paper, ghostly yet coherent.
I watched as each and every one of them caught fire.
They burned down to ashes. The ashes of ashes. Nothing but memories.
And I don't have memories anymore, do I?
I wanted to retch, as if that might save me now. I wanted to weep, to scream, to run and hide, but that wasn't about to happen. Numb with shock and horror, I almost didn't realize when the other me reached out, his face contorted into a mask of ... well, of shock and horror, I suppose.
Two peas in a pod, two sides of a mirror, ain't we just?
He's falling. I'm falling. We're both falling.
I thought that I should hate him, fear him, be repulsed by him ... but, but, but I couldn't. Just couldn't. Despite it all, despite him weighing me down, crushing my hopes, mocking my very being, all I saw was a scared guy who was about to die, and knew it all too well.
A guy who needed a protector.
I reached out to him.
Our hands clasped together, solid as the earth and safe as houses, and before our eyes the world exploded into a sea of white light.
"If you two are quite done..."
I woke up.
"... and if you're not, maybe go fetch me a bucket before you decide to continue this nonsense."
It was the same bed as before, but my limbs were free. I turned my head, trying my very best to ignore the weight on my back, pulling me down; tried to keep the tears and the shakes back.
(Don't think about the slug, think about the guy you helped)
"Uhhhh, hey guys," I said, trying to be non-chalant about the whole "getting infected with a parasite and going into a two-day long acid dream coma" thingamajig. "What's uuuuuu..."
"######, could someone g-get me a bucket to-oo--"