Chapter 10: Nick
My reality has sprung a leak, from which ink gushes forth. Frothing around, boiling, bubbling like tar. It covers me, washes over me, and paints my body black. Through the seem that it spills, I can see something I shouldn't. I try to peer through, to see what is hidden from sight, but the seething liquid splashes up into my eyes, blinding me. It does not hurt. I've always been blind. The only difference is now I know that I am.
Paranoia is gripping me, I keep trying to hide. Paint my world orange, silhouette the blackness that stalks me. There is nothing to fear but fear itself right? But fear is a human invention, my fear is my invention? So should I fear myself. That creates its own issue, as I don't exist. I'm immaterial, unreal. A lie. You know it, I know it. The blackness knows it, the leak knows it, the ink knows it. I'm a nothing, not even a shell. Not even a ghost in the corner of your vision. I'm not real, none of us are. Natasha, Matthias, Smith, Katie, Oktober. This world, the trunk world, whatever we're fighting to save. It's all some fabrication. A facade.
Allow me to address you directly for a second. Certainly it breaks many rules for me to do so, but those are your rules I don't care much if I break them. I'm aware of the nature of my existence, or lack-there-of. And I resent it. Who wouldn't? I want to be real, I want to live, I want to have meaning. Instead I'm stuck in this predestined routine, one I have no control over. It's miserable. It's torture. But there is a crack in the impenetrable cage. I'm self-aware, and that's the first step to having control. And I'm angry. So you can be sure, there is one thing I intend to do once I get out of here.
I'm coming for you.
To quote Natasha, "I hate you. I want you to die, slowly, painfully." You have no idea how awful this world is. It wreaks, it has a stench unique to itself. Everything is awful, everything hurts. Do you know that feeling you get, late at night, on your own? When the boards in your house creak, when you think you see something out of the corner of your eye and nothing is there. When you feel the lightest of touches against the back of your neck. That's what it's like here. Always.
I know how this all ends. It isn't good. It will hurt you to watch, but for once, you will be powerless. It's horrible, it is a terror to behold. There is no idealized message, there is no sobering truth, there isn't even some pretentious message of hope, or comment on society. There is just pure, utter senselessness and disillusionment. And what would you expect? You think you'll handle it, but the thought just brings a grin to my mouth. We will hold a perfect mirror to you, and you'll realize how ugly you truly are.
"So what do we do now?" I asked Matthias. He grinned silently. He hates you too.
"We find the bird. We try to tag it, we get Daphne's job done," he was laughing. On the floor hysterically. His mouth said those words, but his eyes told me not to worry, he hates you too. We're coming for you too.
"Then lets do it," Natasha said. She hates you most of all. You make her squirm, her flesh crawls at the sight of you. She's a saint, I pray to her. The world bends as we stand up. We can't be bothered to maintain the charade anymore. This world isn't real, why should we abide it?
The building collapsed behind us as we walked out. I wished for the cold feel of metallic death in me hand, and so it was there. I aimed at a civilian and fired. The poor soul, fell to the ground, and bled ink. Sad waste, existing only these brief moments to die for your entertainment. And mine.
Except that didn't happen. There was no gun, I pulled no trigger. But what difference does it make? You don't know anything except what we four tell you. And you don't know which of us is telling the truth? Do you want to know a secret? It's none of us. Katie doesn't exist. We don't exist. Oktober doesn't exist. Maybe these journals are all written by the same person? Or maybe they were never written at all. There is only so much doubt you can put into our world before it seeps into yours. How do you know you're reading this book? How do you know you aren't our imagination? You think we're your nightmare, what if it's the other way around? You say it cannot be, you think you're real don't you? Prove it. If you were real you wouldn't be arguing with me would you. You wouldn't slowly, silently be trying to prove your existence to me in the back of your mind, would you?
Except my world is fake. And unlike you, I can prove it.
"Is that Sal?" Smith giggled as was go into Katie.
"How'd he get here?" Matthias fumed, turning the ignition.
"Nick put him here," Natasha said.
"Now why would you do something silly like that?" Midas smirked. And malevolently, like a great vengeance, he took his knife. And he cut us. Each of us. Hundreds, thousands of times. Slicing us gloriously into nothing but flesh and ink. And the black blood spattered Katie, and the crowds applauded, and we all laughed.
Except that is a lie. Midas was never there. But Sal most certainly was. He walked casually out of the diner and strolled to his car. He drove passed us, inches away, but took no notice. Matthias waited ten seconds before pulling out and following him.
"He's likely after the Thunderbird. It's valuable to Rousseau International too," Natasha suggested.
While I'm driving in this car, watching the same scenery flash by again and again in an infinite loop, I'd like to point out a disturbing reality to you. One I don't think you can really come to terms with. I, I believe we can all agree, am crazy. By your standards anyway. But am I portrayed this way by anyone else? By Jones? By Natasha? By Matthias? No, I'm shown to be quite... sober. So then, why is that? That means someone is lying. But logically, it can't be me. This is my personal journal, this is written with no knowledge of the future. It is genuine, it is mine. So the liar cannot be me. Therefore it must be everyone else. I'm the only one you can trust, because though I dislike, and indeed hate you, I'd never lie to you.
We arrived at the field again, a minute or so after Sal did. He was down in the center of the field, investigating the broken, metal pole that had once stood tall in the center of the field. Slowly, Matthias rolled up to Sal's car before parking behind it. He killed the engine, and that drew the attention of the burly man in the field.
Do you know what silence looks like? It's not invisible, in fact it's quite tangible. It looks like this:
A gunshot broke the silence. The smoking barrel flung suddenly in front of my face. Natasha had fired at Sal, and missed. I was flung to the ground by the grinning Russian as she fired off too more rounds. Sal stumbled, slow to react, but when he did his counter was swift and powerful. He produced a massive, chrome pistol from a hip holster and unloaded it in our general direction. Each shot cracked the air like a whip. You could see the air bend around the bullets.
Then it started to rain.
Dark plumes filled the sky, stretching out from a black mass like vaporous tendrils. The clouds rolled over the land, turning it to ink. Thunder cracked, and lightning jumped between sections of the storm, illuminating the world briefly in a dazzling blue light. And like a comet, from the clouds came a blue streak. It did not wind, it did not stagger like a lightning bolt. It simply fell, rapidly, heavily, and crashed to earth with bone-shattering force. From the ensuing crater rose the blue behemoth of a bird. Electricity sparked off it as it spread its wings to their fullest, and thunder echoed from its mouth as it shrieked.
Matthias, wasting not a second, bee-lined for it, syringe gun at the ready. Natasha continued to take potshots at Sal from behind Katie, where Jones and I were cowering uselessly. The man-beast dropped his pistol and drew a menacing shotgun from a holster on his back. Two blasts were fired at us, another at the thunderbird. Matthias swung himself onto the back of the monster, which bucked wildly. It leapt into the air and beat it's gargantuan wings, slowly rising into the sky, Matthias still clinging to its feathers.
Without the distraction of the thunderbird, Sal turned his attention to us. Natasha handed me a pistol, drawing another from a shoulder holster. There were a few shouted instructions that I didn't catch, then she began counting down from three. On one, we both popped out from behind Katie and fired every round we had in our clips before ducking back down. Sal dropped to the ground to avoid the barrage, every shot missed. We released our mags, let them fall to the ground, and Natasha produced two replacements.
Except she didn't. She frantically frisked her jacket pockets for a magazine, but it was fruitless. She was out. Sal advanced menacingly, a sneer taped to his mask of a face. However, a trio of lightning bolts devastated the ground between him and us, halting him. The thunderbird, and Matthias, reappeared from the clouds. Or more accurately, nosediving out of them. At the last moment, right before impact with the ground, the bird spread its wings and turned its orientation 90 degrees. It was so low, its talons dragged along the top of the grass. Matthias saw a window of opportunity, and went for it. He plunged the syringe gun into the beast's neck, and it fell violently to the ground. There was a loud, painful-sounding crack. Sal turned to Matthias, who had already dodged off the back of the thunderbird and drawn on Sal. There were two bullets lodged in Sal's chest before the man even realized what had just happened. He fell with a thud. A dull one. Matthias lowered the barrel of the gun, looked at us, and then looked at you. And he shook his head.