THE WORST SORT OF PAIN
There is something tantalizing in the echoing screams of agony and pain; though not hurt personally, the hearing heart gets affected with searing pain, a scorch they cannot cool, itch they cannot scratch. Befuddled, the heart regresses gently back into silence, capsizing what it had felt because it hadn’t understood it; why is there pain if no one has wounded it? The bleeding stops and skin comes together to form a scar, and that scar remains hidden, awoken briefly in times least expected. It’s the unreasonable ache that spirals the mind, causing otherwise healthy soul to turn manic. Lino remained crouching behind a corner, leaned against the wall, his whole body soaked in thick, yet cold, coat of sweat. He had managed to get inside the necropolis with Writ’s help, yet, right now, he was wishing he’d stayed outside and chose any other option. Throughout his search, he had passed several dozen rooms taken up by all sorts of people, strapped to tables in all sorts of ways, repeatedly tortured in manners he hadn’t even thought possible. Some had their bodies skinned inch by an inch, yet kept alive and awake through it all; some had their bodies turned into bed of nails, some had their limbs stretched and bent in ways Lino only believed children could draw up; some, yet, were gently strapped to chairs, just enough they can’t shimmer loose, forced to watch people they loved undergo anything and everything. He felt sick, as though there was fire burning inside his soul he couldn’t put out; if he was ever confident in one thing, it was to always remain calm, no matter what. He believed his experiences had gotten him to that point; yet, his reality had collapsed after spending ten minutes in this place. He never believed in existence of good and evil; he simply adhered by the right of choices, regardless of what was at stake. But, he had witnessed evil, repeatedly; things he’d seen weren’t wrong choices, they were acts bounding reason, and even cruelty.
He felt his body shaking, yet he couldn’t do anything to stop it; his mouth had gone dry, his palms sweating profusely, fabric of reason slowly collapsing, being torn piece by piece. He knew it was neither time nor place to undergo a psychotic break, yet, no matter what he tried, he wasn’t able to either prevent it or stop it once it’s started. He found himself in a tiresome loop of endless doubts, recurring images of people tortured in worst ways imaginable, their soul-cutting screams of agony that ceaselessly echoed throughout the dimmed hallways of the necropolis, and myriad of memories he had worked hard on forgetting. He clenched his fists as hard as he could, forcibly digging his nails into his skin in hopes of jolting himself to reality. Though it worked, it worked but for a moment, just until another choir of agonizing screams bellowed out from hundreds of rooms surrounding him.
“Gather yourself,” a robotic voice suddenly overwhelmed his state of mind, healing him seemingly by words alone. “You can’t help them if you break down.”
“... did you know what it was like in here?” Lino asked, taking deep breaths.
“Why didn’t you warn me?”
“... how strong of an opponent you can beat isn’t the only way to gauge how strong you are,” the Writ replied. “You believe this to be the worst the world has to offer, but you are wrong. You needed to learn.”
“Heh,” Lino chuckled for a moment, wiping the sweat off his brow. “This isn’t like swimming, where you’d just throw me in the water and watch over me. Here? You give a heads-up at the very least.”
“... if I had given you prior knowledge of what’s in here, you would have built a wall to shield yourself.”
“Damn right I would have!!” Lino exclaimed.
“What would be the point, then? You would deflect the whole experience and would have not learned anything from it.”
“... you are being surprisingly chatty today.” Lino mumbled.
“... by all accounts, you are still a child,” the Writ said. “And you neither need nor deserve to witness this - or shouldn’t in an ordinary world. But yours isn’t an ordinary world. You had made a choice to pursue the truth; I cannot treat you as a child any longer.”
“... you’re one mean motherfucker,” Lino cursed, sighing. “But whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Thanks.”
“... I’m doing exactly what you’ve been doing all these years - deflecting, suppressing, pretending, lying. I’ve enamored your psyche with the same poison you have been using since you were young. You have to process it.”
“... I don’t think a gigantic place full of people who would kill me on sight while I’m trying to rescue my friends is either time or place to do that.” Lino said. “So keep doing it until I’m out.”
“... by then, you would have built up resistance yourself.”
“That’s the plan.”
“...” Lino stared at the asymmetrical wall, seemingly in daze for a moment. “I can’t do it.” he mumbled. “I know what you’re doing. All this... you’re just trying to use it as a catalyst. For her.”
“Yes.” the Writ replied after short silence. “She is your crucible.”
“... no. She’s a memory.”
“I know.” Lino said, smiling faintly while shaking his head. “I can handle it without you inserting me in situations like this blindly. No... I will handle it.”
“You are in an age where you’re just supposed to be developing complex emotional responses, namely guilt, sorrow and self-loathing. But, you have already developed them. Now, you have to process them. Not handle them.”
“Why suddenly now? You had all the chances in the Kingdom. Why wait until now?”
“You weren’t ready.”
“I’m still not ready!”
“Well, your unwavering faith in me is flattering, but it’s also full of shit. Let me save them first.”
“You will save them while dealing with all you’ve been exposed to. By accepting that she did what she did for you, that you did what you did for her, that both of you merely wanted the best for the other, and couldn’t see eye to eye over who was more important.”
“... you went digging through my memories?” Lino asked, lowering his voice.
“Are you ashamed of them?”
“... whatever,” Lino said, getting up. “You don’t show up to even utter a word when I need you, but you show up randomly just to screw with my head. Go ahead. Let me feel all of it. If my heart doesn’t rapture, I’ll buy you a freaking beer.”
“... your heart is strong, Lyonel. You’ve just weakened it by repeatedly hiding it from reality. Facades you put on may work for other people, and may even cheat the whole of the world into believing you are the happiest person alive. However, they will never turn into reality you so hopelessly desire.”
“Why are you still lecturing me? I told you, give it to me. You think I’m ready? Go on then.”
“... you’ve ran away your whole life from human connection. But you didn’t run away from those two. Tell me, what is the difference with them?”
“...” Lino got startled for a moment, a complex array of emotions displaying on his face repeatedly. “Their eyes.”
“What of them?”
“... the moment I met them, I knew... they understood. What’s it like to live a lie. I knew they wouldn’t push me.”
“... your Will is recorded, Lyonel. To face the greatest of walls, yet still persist in hammering through it no matter what. That’s who you are, not who I made you out to be. You’ve come here to help them, people you barely know, knowing you might die. That’s what you did when you went to rescue Aeala. That’s what you’ve been repeatedly doing ever since I met you. You and I both know it’s not me forcing the Will on you. It’s you being who you are.”
“... I know,” Lino said softly. “My whole life, I only knew one person who was willing to go over and beyond for me. She gave me hope. Made my days less... of what they were. I realized, long ago, that her being there for me saved me. Even after she left, she remained my anchor. I want to be that. A steady rock for other people that they can lean on, no matter what, how or where. I want them to know that if no one else in the whole world, I’ll be there for them when it counts.”
“What was she like?” the Writ asked. Lino suddenly felt his chest compress as he began being short of breath. “Talk with me. I’m here.”
“... she-she was... unique,” Lino replied, drawing shorter breaths while clasping onto his chest, trying to shut out the endless screams helplessly. “A mountain. A shield. Light.”
“...” the headache returning, feeling as though his head was being cleaved time and again while he felt like his eyes would pop out of their sockets any moment. A flush of memories assailed his mind; her crying face, the blood, the screams, their fight, his betrayal, the way she looked at him the last time they’d seen each other; agonizing screams, the images of people broken beyond repair, all blended into a singular canvas that drew up his life. Every bit of joy he ever felt was counter-balanced with a sky of pain, so much so he became averse to happiness. He learned to hide inside a thick shell, where neither pain nor joy could find their way in, yet, he knew his shell was beginning to crack, bit by bit. Eggor, Ella, Aeala, the Kingdom’s Fall, Demons, Ally... all of them found tiny cracks to slither through and lay deep inside, seething in silence. Unbroken, terrible, eternal silence.