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like nails in my feet

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on days like this
I would just disappear

if it weren’t for you
and your love

like nails in my feet

-

He remembers very clearly, in the haze of her illness, the first time he looked at Mary and thought, Mary’s already dead. I don’t recognise this person.

She wouldn’t actually die for another year, and there were a handful of better visits after that. But maybe that was the moment that set it all in motion.

Or maybe the path was set earlier than that, maybe there was never any chance he would have acted differently. Maybe the end was locked in from the first cough.

Maybe they were both doomed the moment their eyes first met.

-

Silent Hill seems abandoned, all its familiar places turned strange. It doesn’t seem possible that it could have changed so much in three years.

(Three years? That can’t be right. It must have been longer than that.)

There are rifts in the road, barriers blocking his way. It feels like he’s being funnelled toward something.

It feels like the town is a breathing thing, like it’s trying to speak to him. Like he came here for Mary and found the town waiting instead.

There are creatures here that can’t exist.

Is this real?

Sometimes it feels like Mary is the only real thing he’s ever known, her smile and her voice and that brief window where they were happy. The illness seemed like a long, terrible dream.

He thinks he might still be waiting to wake up from it.

-

He’d talked Mary into choking him in bed, once. She’d been anxious afterwards, crouching over him, tracing his throat with her fingers. He’d promised he was fine, but she’d never done it again.

He tries to go back there when he needs to calm himself down. Presses himself into a corner with a weapon in his lap and his hand tight around his throat, feeling his frantic heartbeat. It tells him he’s here; it tells him that this is real, or real enough. It feels like a connection to Mary.

He can barely think through the terror when the pyramid thing comes at him. The door’s locked. It’s locked. He can’t get out, he can’t run, he—

And the pyramid thing gets a hand around James’s neck and lifts him into the air, and James can’t breathe, he can’t fight, he can’t do anything but scrabble at the fingers around his throat. The handgun clatters to the floor.

It’s the weirdest thing, but it calms him down, it clears his head. It reminds him of what he’s here for.

He can barely stay on his feet when the thing lets him go. But he manages to lunge out of the way of its knife.

He’ll survive. He has to survive. He doesn’t have a choice.

-

Maria stretches out on the hospital bed, pats the space next to her. He tries not to notice.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” he says.

“You said she died three years ago,” Maria says. “You’re telling me you haven’t looked at anyone since then?”

He can’t remember those three years very well. Nothing but Mary, a constant shadow, a constant weight pinning him down. How could he look at anyone else when she was still—

How could he look at anyone else when she was dead?

He shakes his head. “I can’t just forget about her. She’s what’s keeping me here.” He doesn’t just mean Silent Hill. “She’s my anchor.”

“Anchors are for ships, you know,” Maria says. “If you tie them to people, they drown.”

-

There’s a piano in the hotel. He strikes a couple of keys. They ring out too loudly and take too long to die away, and he stands frozen, holding his breath, realising too late that the noise might draw the creatures here.

He doesn’t think anything’s coming.

Stupid. He can’t even play the piano. It just – it reminded him of Mary; he wasn’t thinking.

Mary was always the creative one. She’d paint; she kept a diary. James can’t remember the last time he wrote something in his free time that wasn’t a shopping list.

She’d wanted a piano. They could never justify the cost.

If he gets out of here alive, maybe he could learn to play.

-

Room 312 really brings back memories.

He’s going to die here.

-

He remembers sitting in bars or in the corridor of their darkened apartment, trying to pull himself out of his thoughts. She didn’t become ill just to hurt you. This isn’t about you. You don’t have any right to sit around feeling sorry for yourself. She’s the one who’s dying.

This is about her. This is about her. This is about her. This is about her. This is about her.

He told himself the right things. He just can’t remember if he ever really believed them.

She never had a chance.

It’s not that he believes in fate, exactly. It’s that he doesn’t believe in himself. He was never capable of being better than this. She should have run from him. She should never have accepted his proposal.

And here he is, blaming Mary again.

This place knows what he deserves. Mary loved the town so much. It seems fitting that it loves her back.

-

James closes his eyes. He can feel cold air on his face, because he’s here, and he’s alive, for better or worse.

He hasn’t seen any monsters since Mary spoke to him. Never saw any here, in the parking lot above the lake. But he’s still holding the steel pipe, rusted and rough against his fingers. He thinks it’ll be a while before he can go outside without itching for a weapon, even when he’s away from Silent Hill.

He’s been thinking about starting to carry a handgun. Probably best not to. He’s already killed more than once. He doesn’t want to make it any easier in the future.

Strange to think about the future.

The lake is so tempting. He’s been drowning for all these years; he might as well admit it.

But Mary told him to go on with his life.

Mary is dead. Mary couldn’t have told him anything.

It doesn’t matter. He doesn’t have the right to turn down a request from her, whether she was real or not.

-

He can tell himself it was fate, or the drinking, or just the kind of person he’s always been. They’re all excuses. He knows he was in control of his own actions, right up to the point where he crossed the line.

The point of no return wasn’t the moment Mary stopped breathing. It was the moment he shoved the pillow over her face, and his entire body went no, I can’t, no, I can’t do this, I love her, I can’t be this person, no, no no no.

And he knew, in the same moment, that he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t go back now. She’d always know that he’d tried to kill her.

Every part of him was screaming to let go. But it was already too late.