in a nightmare
You? A savior? Don’t be a fool, boy–you’re just a sacrifice–
He woke to a sharp pain in his side–unsurprising, given the amount of damage he’d done to it at this point. Though, the pain seemed to be stemming from more than just the scar…unconsciously he moved to try and relieve the ache, but the shackles prevented him from budging beyond the brick slab he seemed to be chained to.
Once again, hovering in that limbo between nightmares and reality. Or maybe this was his reality? He could see nothing but a reddish haze. Like a fog of blood, misting and giving way to plumes of what appeared to be flame, though he felt nothing but cold; though that may be due to the fact that, as he struggled to gain a sense of his surroundings, he realized he was entirely nude.
‘I am the shunned, the feared, the despised.’
That voice echoing all around, shaking him to the very core. Unable to distinguish if it was male or female, or if it was even human at all. “Th’ bloody hell–who’s there?! What’s going on?!” Fear gripped him, seized by the panic that this was, once again, something out of his control as he vainly struggled against the heavy chains, but to no avail. “Fuck–Nightingale, is this your doing?! Or is it…you…”
Judging from their encounter that to him, had only happened just minutes ago, it was unlikely; Nightingale may have been a stoic old cynic, but she wasn’t heartless. No, it was far more likely that the other, having been unsatisfied with just that little hallucination, had also decided to finally pay him a visit, this time in person.
‘She cannot hear you boy, nor can she save you.’
“What do you want?!” The Ripper…the creature that Nightingale claimed was necessary to save mankind, an amalgamation of the foulest side of humanity. Weakness was not something he could afford, certainly not at this moment but there was no denying the cold stream of terror trickling through his veins. Bound, stripped and wounded, he was utterly exposed and vulnerable, at the mercy of whatever it was this monster decided to do with him.
And he had a feeling mercy simply did not exist in its vocabulary.
‘None sing praises to my name.’
It came like a blight of shadow and death, ever so slowly towards him. Adam couldn’t help the panic that rose, his throat tightening and unconsciously he struggled, wrists bloody and raw but still the iron held fast.
‘None envy my form.’
Fuck, he had to get away–but he was trapped, forced to confront this darkness that he knew was also a part of his own self. A disgusting, evil part that ironically, defined much of who he was. The monster was right–no heavenly nurse or angel would come save him now; after all he’d done and failed to do, death was too good a punishment for him. A shambling clanking as if it wore some sort of armor, hidden beneath that ragged clock and always, behind that skeletal mask that now bore directly into his own emeralds.
‘I am the shadow, cast by the light of heroes.’
It reached out, Adam feeling the chilling bite even before the bone ghosted across his body, numbing each surface it caressed. “S-Stop, don’t touch me–!” He knew now, how Sio had felt the first time she’d been so cruelly violated during Stone Forest–completely helpless, all dignity gone as his body became nothing more than a toy, some piece of flesh to amuse whatever this monster thought of. The chains gave a violent rattle as he tried to turn away, but the shadow paid no heed.
‘I am the darkness, born in the shadow of nothing but a legend...’
“–Hnnng–!!” Faster than he could even blink did those bony digits reach out, choking off all air in an instant. “Ah–uggh–!!” A burning sensation of intense pain around his neck, the warm, bitter taste of copper flooding his mouth as the pressure increased unrelentingly, crushing his windpipe and sending a massive wave of pain throughout his body.
‘And so I hate. I resent.’
He was suffocating; flailing helplessly as he struggled to gain even a gasp, heart pounding madly from lack of oxygen as saliva trickled out his mouth, unable to so much as even let out more than a weak cry though the pain was beyond intense.
‘Nightingale! Please, help me…!’ But it was as the monster said.
Florence Nightingale was not here.
“Hch–y-you, you…!” How he was still conscious he didn’t know…perhaps it was on purpose, forcing him to suffer because he was convinced now–this was his punishment for failing Sio. For failing to save the one thing that was the most important of all, to him and the world. “Wh-why…” Blood flowed out of his mouth as he felt the vessels burst from the pressure, the all-too-familiar scent of hot, metallic slaughter causing his stomach to churn.
‘I feed on the cries of those who drown in the darkness, and curse those bathed in the light.’
Suddenly there was an image of a young woman–she couldn’t have been more than thirty-something–patrolling the rows of wounded soldiers with naught but a lamp in her hand. The Angel of Crimea, as she was then. And just as quick a switch, to the elderly woman he knew now, wheelchair-bound and stalking the dark alleys of London for her next target.
A shadow, cast by the light of heroes…and suddenly Adam thought he knew why the Ripper was so angry, driven to this insanity. Created solely to be the scapegoat for something that was entirely a cover up…forced to take on the bloody legend while the true killer hid herself comfortably behind the accolades, the praise.
And then DOGOO had the gall to resurrect both of them, and in the same vessel, no less.
Incoherent gasps gave way to the desperate squeal of pain as its grip tightened even more, if possible. Those soulless sockets that bore into his own, as though finally addressing him for the first time.
‘Curse me all you want boy, but you cannot escape your fate. Though I despise the light, she wants you alive...’
Something was scrabbling just outside his peripheral vision, some sort of creature…? But what did it mean, that Nightingale had specifically told the Ripper that he was to be spared? Did she have some sort of deal going on, a method of controlling this demon wherein he was not only their sole link to the outside world, but collateral as well? So in the end, Nightingale was still nothing more than someone who played with the trusts and bonds of those around her…
He was truly cursed, more than he ever could have imagined.
‘It is not my choice, but she demands it. So consider this the only gift you will receive from me, then.’
Without warning, the skeletal hand released him and by instinct he gasped for air. Though, if he’d known what this ‘gift’ had been…perhaps asphyxiation would’ve been more preferable.
The scrabbling that had been just out of range of his vision came shooting forward–only registering at the last split-second to be some sort of grotesque worm, before it forced its way into his mouth. A revolting, vile taste saturated his tongue as the slimy creature attempted to wriggle down his throat, choking him as his gag reflex tried desperately to vomit the thing out–but to no avail. He thrashed wildly as those many legs dug into his flesh, thrusting itself down his already-crushed esophagus.
The only sound, aside from his own screams of agony as his body convulsed with unbearable pain, was the continued, inhumane laughs that reverberated throughout the atmosphere.
‘Be grateful; for that worm contains her virgin blood, which will restore your pathetic body.’
A lowly chuckle, as if it was almost amused
‘Did you truly think you were all alone when you bedded her for the first time?’
For a second the pain seemed to vanish, only to be replaced by pure anguish as he realized the true meaning behind those whispers. Sio…this monster…! Tears spilled from his eyes, no longer caring just how pathetic he appeared in front of the Ripper. What was the point; he’d been beaten, tortured, broken beyond any sort of capacity for logical thought. If he ended up dying here…maybe it was all for the best. He barely even flinched as bony hands roughly grabbed him by his silver strands, the pain hardly noticeable anymore.
‘Do you understand now? You are not any sort of hero.’
A crack appeared in the mask, its crevices growing greater until the entire thing shattered apart and his eyes grew wide at the sight–
‘YOU ARE THE OFFERING!!’
“–dam, Adam! Adam wake up, you’re having a nightmare!”
Screams and tears. That was how he finally woke up, at last free from the horrors of his own soul. He bolted upright from the mattress, gasping for air as he unconsciously grabbed his own throat–raw from crying out in his sleep but otherwise the same–before a wave of nausea consumed him and he vomited all over the covers, heaving up what little contents were left in his stomach. That disgusting worm…he could still feel it crawling down his throat.
“Shh, it’s okay, it’s all right now…it was just a bad dream…” He was not in the pits of hell, being tortured by the demonic half of his soul; this was Greenwich, London, back in the room he’d grown up in with the windows closed and curtains drawn. His mother’s voice shook as she spoke, clearly concerned about his state but still she steadfastly held him, gently patting his back as he continued to heave. “It was just a dream, love…”
“It-it wasn’t…no, it wasn’t a dream–!” Another pause while he retched, though there was nothing more left to give–a messy pool of bloodied vomit making a mess over the blankets, his throat burned raw from the acid. “I-I know, it wasn’t–”
‘YOU ARE THE OFFERING!’
“Don’t think about it anymore, Adam. You’re safe now.” His face was being wiped with a warm towel, cleaning off the tears and whatever mess was left. “You should take a warm bath, or at least a rinse; it’ll help you feel better, and we need to change your bandages anyway.”
Shaking, he peeled back his sweat-covered shirt and examined the wound; already the blood was soaking through, some areas beginning to darken as it dried. “Shit…how long was I asleep?”
“It’s been just over a day since you came back; I decided to have the children sleep in my room, so you could get some quiet."
As his eyes finally adjusted to the dimness, he realized the clock was about to strike 3AM. “…Don’t tell me you stayed up all this time–mum, you need t’ rest too–”
“–Hush Adam, don’t worry about me.” Already she was gathering up the soiled linens to be washed. “…I was resting; but then I heard you, yelling like that…”
“…” What could he tell her, how to even begin…? DOGOO’s public explanation about just what exactly e-genes were and how they functioned had been rudimentary at best. How could they, when even the Commander and Dogoo itself didn’t know how they fully worked? Though Adam had never been one to be particularly religious or put much stock into the supernatural, what had happened in the past 24 hours with both Florence Nightingale and Jack the Ripper…it was all too much to be merely an extremely detailed hallucination brought on by his own guilt.
No, he couldn’t reveal that to his mother–though she would unquestioningly believe him, what could she do about it? Even worse, knowing her she’d probably get involved and demand from DOGOO just what exactly they’d done to her son.
Don’t make things any more complicated than they already are.
With shaking legs, he slowly stumbled into the bathroom, eyes wincing from the sudden brightness of fluorescent bulbs. Although he’d been sleeping for far longer than usual, it seemed as if he was even weaker than when he’d left the base; just turning the tap on and shedding his clothes took much longer than they should have, before he was able to settle into the water with a sigh, letting the liquid run over everything. Steam rose from the tub as he stared dully at the faint reflection from the tiles, debating if he even wanted to go back to sleep after this.
If this was how it was going to be during his entire convalescence period, plagued by nightmares from his past life…death seemed almost a more enticing option. But as soon as that thought even passed through his mind the wound ached, as if reprimanding him on his cowardly intentions.
Knock knock. “…Tou-san? Daijoubu?”
The sound as unexpected as the voice, the first thing he thought was that his son should be asleep–but given that they’d just travelled more than three timezones in one day, he should’ve expected the difference to catch up. "Y-Yeh? What is it, squirt?”
“…Can I, come in?”
“…’f course.” Slowly the knob turned and a sleepy-eyed, tousled-haired toddler wandered in, rubbing his eyelids. “…Can’t sleep?”
“Mmm mmm…sorta.” Another yawn, though he seemed rather awake. “Share?” He pointed to the tub, small as it was.
Although certainly it hadn’t been made for more than one person, and not one as tall as him, Adam had to admit that he’d gotten rather fond of the Japanese-style ofuro tubs that Sio loved to indulge in whenever they were in Japan. “…Sure.” The boy climbed in eagerly, crowded as it as and the water splashing over the edge, but it felt…comforting, to have his son with him.
They needed him, just like he needed Sio. How he ever could have thought about just leaving them behind…shaking his head, he sank into the water, not caring that the floor was getting splashed all over.
“…I miss her.”
“…Yeh. Me too.”