He's starting to lose the colors.
It's been a while since he had a pie... a few days, maybe? There's no more sopor in his hive, or in the intertwining mystery of his sylladex, or on his dark carnival of a world. He's not sure how to alchemize more; the hulking white machines don't make any sense to him. The others can make them work, send him codes, and walk him through the process if they have time. His best friend Karkat set up a memo with step-by-step instructions specifically for him, but he keeps forgetting how to find it.
He hasn't told the others yet. No need to bother them. He's sure they'd ask him if it was something they needed to know.
But eventually, he needs them to know. He's starting to lose the colors.
When they're making plans to face the Black King, gaining some last minute levels and alchemizing more powerful gear out of the legendary quest items they keep swapping around, he pulls Karkat aside and mentions that he's got a headache. Karkat scowls at him, annoyed, always annoyed, and tells him to stop whining and go fill his Heath Vial. It's not his Health Vial, he tries to explain. It's not part of the game. The colors are missing and his head just hurts.
And Karkat knows it's the sopor; everyone knows it's the sopor. Power through it, he says, in words not quite so eloquent. It's your own fault for eating that stuff in the first place. You'll get over it. You'll be fine.
Of course he'll be fine, if Karkat says so. If you can't trust your friends to look out for you, who can you trust? So he keeps going on with a smile on his face, and ignores the headache and the nausea and the way the world is turning monochrome.
And when he thinks he's got time and nobody will mind, he closes his eyes and prays that it'll be over soon. Prayer feels strangely alien, without so much fog in his head. As if he can almost see where the words are going.
The howling of the King hurts his ears. Everything hurts his ears now, everything is too loud and too sharp and too bright, but this howl is different; this is a sound that he knows hurts everyone else's ears too.
He can see the psionics in the sky, Aradia's gleaming metal army taking the full force of the King's voice for the rest of them, Sollux seizing meteors in his psychic grip and hurtling them at the mutated black mass with streaks of screaming fire. The melee fighters leap from lilypad to lilypad and gouge at the creature's flailing limbs; the ones with long range weapons stand somewhere behind him and fire into the fray, and he thinks maybe he's supposed to be in one of these groups but he can never remember which one. And the howling of the King hurts his ears and now they're hot and wet and bleeding.
He covers his ears, closes his eyes, tries to shut it all out because there's no swirling rainbow fog to do it for him anymore, but it pierces him and there aren't any colors and he needs it to stop, he needs to make it stop now oh god make it stop, oh GOD make it stop...
yes, say his gods. WE WILL.
In a panic they retreat to the Veil, and they bicker pointlessly and lay blame and get angry at one another and act out of confusion and fear. He's not sure why, mostly because he's still got that headache, and his body hasn't purged enough poisons yet to really understand the world without them. But it's also because he can't comprehend how anyone could be sad or angry or afraid anymore.
He has seen his mirthful messiahs, felt the wrath of god fill him with holy fire. Heard them speak his name, choose him and him alone to be the vessel of their rage and power. His fingertips have worked miracles.
Terezi makes contact with the aliens while Karkat's asleep, and for a while there's a frenzy to know more about them. He avoids it, for the most part. He's not feeling well and he can't see the colors and he just sort of wants to lie in the horn pile and smile up at the ceiling and think about what it was like to be a vengeful god. He's sure once he gets used to the sharpness and the loudness and the brightness he'll start to think the way everyone else does, and see the way they do, and remember things like how to use an alchemiter.
And then Karkat tells him to troll the humans. He follows orders, because if your friends don't know the right thing to do, who does?
He's running blindly through the dark halls of the laboratory, screaming, his own voice hurting his injured ears. His head is pounding and he thinks he's going to throw up and he shoves something aside but it turns out to be a wall and he falls and his head hits the tile. Pain and sparks of starlight bursting in front of his vision, and of course he fell because he can't make sense of anything he sees, it wasn't like this before, it's not supposed to look like this, there are supposed to be colors!!
He rolls over and lies with his aching forehead pressed to the ground, some horrible, roiling emotion churning in his stomach, one he doesn't understand. Anger. He's angry, he hates. Hates those stupid words spoken by some alien boy, hates those two freakish creatures parading around on his computer screen, pretending to be his mirthful messiahs.
He's seen the messiahs, wielded their power. He knows them. He... he thinks he knows them. But his mind is reeling, the sopor is seeping out of him and he's painfully aware that far too much of his life has been a never-ending series of sopor-induced hallucinations. Maybe his gods never chose him, maybe that was a hallucination too. Maybe all his life he'd been praying to a couple of ugly alien fools instead of gods.
He's panicking, he needs to know. Face pressed to the floor he prays, prays desperately. Someone answer me. Tell me I didn't imagine it. Tell me you chose me. Tell me you're there.
And horribly, horribly, there is no more fog and he can see exactly where the words go. They echo on and on inside his head forever, and the only one who can hear them is him.
He lies there for what seems like an eternity.
His head is clear now, and the world is bright and sharp and painful, but the hole his memories used to drain out of is gone.
It's better now. Karkat said he'd be fine.
He isn't fine.
Karkat lied to him. Nothing is fine. He's only gotten worse and worse and it hurts and he can't take it anymore and Karkat knew and Karkat didn't care.
But it's better now. The hole is gone.
He touches the back of his head, where he hit it against the floor, and his fingertips come away bloody, bright with streaks of royal indigo.
After a moment, he smears it across the ground, then the walls, his face and his clothes and his hands.
And he watches the colors return.