Ghosts in the Mind: Phoenix




Takes place after "To the Last Syllable of Recorded Time", and "Wolf" by Caro von Totth on her Ranger One site. Read those first. They're great, and this won't make sense until you do.)

I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind.

I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time.

I watched the world flip to the dark side of the moon.

I feel there's nothing I can do.

- "Kryptonite", by Three Doors Down

BETA Mountain

Personnel Apartment #614

03:17 AM local time

I've had so many nightmares lately. This one's new.

I dream that I'm cocooned in pure, pristine light. It's as warm and safe as the darkness surrounding it is cold. No, cold isn't the right word. This darkness is alive with ice, vibrating with rage as I walk the slipface between it and the light. But the aura around me is dim and thin, and the darkness fills with a silent howl of anger mingled with hunger. Does it want only my light, or does it want me?

Pure. Pristine.

It doesn't give me a chance to find out. It retreats as the light dims out. Left in a blank gray world of in-between, with all my pasts and futures destroyed, I'm so alone, so cold... The only thing left in me is the rage and the power.

And so I wake up screaming.

Pure. Pristine. Powerful. What a joke.

I know how they all see me. Untouchable. Inviolate. Enigmatic. A creature of the mind. They see the serenity I've trained myself to show. They see untarnishable innocence. Do any of them see me, trapped in my fragile bubble of light?

No, they don't. I can taste a bitterness in me that has nothing to do with the drug withdrawal. No one understands. No one can. They'd rather see the illusion of me. It's easier.

Pure. Pristine. Powerful. Innocent. Above all, they see innocence.

I don't realize that I'm still screaming until I can't scream anymore, until my throat is raw and the power lashes out like a brand and the rage clawing its way up from the pit of my stomach with a million poisoned claws burns me into silence. But the silence doesn't stop – it keeps on burning me, like ice and fire and a thousand suns burning worlds to ash; the whole universe is ash...

And I did it. I killed it all. I shattered worlds as easily as I've shattered everything in this room. I killed everything so everything could live. I killed Shane just like he killed me; everything that was real was false, and gods, gods I'm so confused. I'm so scared.

"...iko? ...Niko? Please respond."

I ignore the worried chirping of my AI. She'll have summoned a medical team. They should arrive in another few minutes. Not that it matters. I huddle on the floor and sift my fingers through what's left of a K'tran burial vase. The medics can't erase the memories of shame and desire and death. I'll carry those with me until I die. Maybe beyond.

A shattered fragment of mirror catches the beginning of dawn, and the reflection of a red-haired stranger with eyes as brittle and dry as old turquoise. Who are you? I ask her silently. Why are you here? Are you the only one left, too? Do you wonder why you're the only one to carry the burden of memory?

The sun comes up, all oranges and red and gold. It's warm. It's so good to see it that I don't react to the doctors rushing into the room with their instruments, their worry and fear as palpable to me as a touch. Let someone else take the burden of giving the world light this morning. I'm tired. I'm so very, very tired.

And my chest hurts.


Read Next: Ghosts in the Mind: Personal Demons