David stood in the curved sill of the airship window, his arms crossed at his abdomen, his fingers curled around both elbows. Between the vast background of space spread behind the curvature of the Earth and Sydney Barrett, he would always choose Syd to alight his gaze upon. She was the only person that mattered, here. Switch, too, but even she could wait a few more minutes for him to rescue her. Right now, all his attention rested on Syd.
“I love you,” he murmured, with as much truthfulness as he could muster. He did. He loved her so much, he would bend over backwards for her. Teleport to an airship in low-Earth orbit and prevent anyone from stopping him just to get to her, just to talk to her, just to get across to her that he would sacrifice it all. No one stood in their way. He would kill every last one of them before they did.
And when she smiled and raised her fingers, he smiled, too, because he knew that she finally knew he loved her. Even the low buzz at the corners of his mind felt the need to stay silent. Some didn’t like her. Others did. But David loved her, and that mattered the most out of anything and anyone.
But her fingers didn’t stay from his skin. Before he could think to pull away, she set her fingers lightly on his cheek.
And his world lurched.
His father and Amy walked ahead of him. He knew that much. What he didn’t know was how they had gotten so far ahead of him.
“Wait!” he cried, pausing to listen for their footsteps. Nothing came to him but the soft trills of the frogs in their trees - and his own voice, echoing back at him.
He bounded over a large fallen tree trunk, careful not to touch it with his wounded palm. He didn’t remember how he had gotten it, but it was there, and it stung like mad.
Then he stopped, and there was… peacefulness. No sounds of crunching grass beneath Amy’s and his father’s feet, guiding him on where to go. Only the constant trill of bugs in the trees, the wind through the leaves.
And King, sneezing as he hit David’s leg and tumbled to the side. He raised his head, his ears flopping as he looked up at him with his wide, brown eyes, as though searching for some judgement or resentment that his favourite boy might hold toward him for daring not to pay attention to where he was going.
“Amy and Dad are gone,” David said instead, looking forward. The chips on the ground looked the same to him, and so did the trees.
And all the devils were here.
The chipped paint on the wall dipped a little deeper. From David’s spot on the couch, it looked as though it were about to jump ship completely and break off and tumble to the floor in some daring attempt to run from the voices in David’s mind.
“Stop talking to me.”
Even the drugs weren’t helping this time. He had taken so many this time that he was sure they would purge him of every single voice he has ever heard in his life. Surely, there came a point when the poisons you took in your body killed your mind once and for all. Surely, the drugs could spare him that much.
But they didn’t.
See? Even your own body thinks you’re a failure.
“I said stop talking to me!”
Someone knocked at the door. David flinched and leapt up, stumbling toward the small walkway to his kitchen. “Go away!”
Why don’t you just admit it to yourself? You can’t get away!
The sound of jingling keys sounded from behind the door. “David?”
And then the door squeaked open, and Philly stepped through the door.
You’ll never amount to anything; you’ll never be shit!
Tonight, the room was seventeen degrees. David knew, because he was the one who had opened his windows to let the freezing winter air in. Dead bodies wouldn’t stink up a place so fast if it was cold. At least, that was what he’d heard.
What do you think you’re doing?!
He never much liked listening to anyone before. The doctors didn’t know what he was going through. Doctor Poole was in the hospital. Philly had never helped him. He couldn’t be saved.
This is a mistake!
“You know what hit me earlier?” In the interrogation room, David reclined back in his chair, his fingers laced tightly over his stomach, elbows rested on the armrests to either side. “I had no idea what silence was until Farouk was out of my head. Real silence.”
Lenny tilted her head, gazing at him harder than he ever remembered her gazing at him before. Maybe because her eyes were blue and striking, the way they never were before, back in Clockworks.
It bothered him little, now. He had her attention. “I can even hear the room.” He gestured toward the ceiling, around to the walls. “The air moving.”
This time, Lenny hummed, and he looked back at her. Where before, he would have heard the sounds of a hundred different voices telling him what to do and how weak and stupid he was, now he only heard the soft thrum of a heartbeat against the stagnant air. He could hear her soft breathing, could hear the faint footsteps outside the door, could hear the quick beep of a door opening.
We could be God, Dvd said, as David stared at his outstretched hand. On the receiving end: an unfortunate soldier of Division Three who had only just been changed into ash. You know that, right?
Along the walls of the cave of their mind sat as many of them as they could fit. Who couldn’t fit sat scattered across the rest of the open floor. Dvd and Divad sat on the steps. David sat, cross-legged and three feet in the air, in front of the doorway to the little hut. The heels of his palms were pressed against his temples, hard: having all of them here at once gave him a massive headache.
“What do you mean, this isn’t the best place?” Dvd asked. “It’s fine. Look. We’re all here.”
“Please, just listen to me for once in your life,” David sighed. “I think we need our own rooms.”
Divad narrowed his eyes. “Why? So you can keep us locked up forever? We already know you’re not going to let us out once you’ve got us in there.”
“No. Just - trust me. It would be better for all of us if we had our own rooms.”
“Are you gonna have your own room?” someone called from the back.
“Trust me,” David said, squeezing his eyes shut, “I will definitely have my own room.”
“Do you think he’ll like us?” David asked, lying on his stomach with his cheek pressed against the cold floor and his arms splayed out in front of him.
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“Because no one else does. And he’s our dad.”
God, he really missed Amy sometimes.
Unlike David’s head, Syd’s had no pockets. Hers was tiny, cramped, and barely had room for one train of thought, let alone several - let alone dozens.
The silence scared him.
“No…” he murmured weakly.
“It’s okay.” Then Syd was there, in his body, yanking him up to his feet and keeping him upright when he couldn’t find the strength to keep his balance. “It’s okay, David, don’t fight.” Her voice sounded louder than anything he had ever heard before.
“No.” As she tugged, he leaned away, but this was hardly a fight to be won by the likes of him, now. Syd’s body wasn’t necessarily weak, but David’s strength laid in his powers and not in any physical skill he might have had. Like this, powerless and so very alone, he was nothing. “No, Syd…”
“Everything’s fine.” Syd dragged him out the door and into the hallway. “Just come with me.”
I need them.