[fic] Digital Devil Saga, "Waking Dream" Waking Dream Digital Devil Saga series MAJOR SPOILERS through end of 2 Sera-centric. Approx 1800 words.
Sera wakes slowly as if coming to the surface of a large amount of fluid, floating to the surface and gasping her first breath as if, all this time, she hasn't been breathing air. The taste is surprisingly empty and she opens her eyes with a small frown on her face.
Something is wrong here, she thinks, and I need to change it.
It's that thought which compels her to rise from her bed. She's naked, but finds herself curiously unashamed of her nudity; it feels, curiously, both like and unlike her body. Dreamily, she moves to feel what it's like to move while feeling as though she's still lying down, then looks around. The room is small and familiarly decorated; someone has left a uniform out for her. The undersuit is white, not the (standard) black. She pulls it on carefully, fastens the corset, buckles the sideless skirt to the corset, pulls the jacket on over and buckles that as well. It fits her perfectly, as though it were made for her. She wonders who may have laid it out for her.
And then she hears the gunfire; a sharp tat-tat-tat-tat that seems to startle her heart into beating. She looks about, wide-eyed; it passes her room; a moment later there's a strangely light thumping of bare inhuman feet carrying a heavy body.
The world's wrong hits her hard enough to make her stumble. It reminds her incongruously of sunlight; she can't imagine why. He's desperate, she realizes -- they both are, but the man doing the chasing is more desperate than the man being chased. She opens the door to see them vanish down the corridor. The man being chased is scrambling, half on the ground, pushing himself off again with one hand as he tries to get out of the way.
She feels a sudden kinship with him; she has to help. She has to help both of them, has to help all of them. All she can do is pray; nothing comes to her except comfort.
It may not be enough. But.
She fills her lungs and begins to walk after them.
"Mama -- where are we going, Mama?"
"None of that," her mother says. "I'm a professional here, you realize. Call me 'Doctor'."
His tongue's in her mouth. She thinks, panicky, I don't want this, I don't want it! She's always known this is what he's wanted from her. She's known it since before she even met him. She can't bring herself to fight him but she hates it. It feels strange, slippery, and it tastes strange, sharp and ferrous. Of course it does, she thinks a moment later. Heat is full of the people he devours daily. Hourly. It's her first taste of other people and her chest tightens, spasms, hurts.
You want to eat me up like you eat up everyone else, you want to hurt, you want to take and tear me apart -- oh, she's seen it, it's not pretty, she forgives him but he hurts them as he kills them -- you want to use me for what you can get out of me-- She aches; her stomach clenches, her throat tightens.
He pulls back abruptly to stare at her as her eyes start to burn. The expression on his face is terrible, because it's not what she was expecting. She was expecting hunger, desire, sadism. What she gets is hurt. Concern. Guilt, a deep unhappy shame -- You've never felt like you've done anything wrong in your life before, she thinks and I did that to you, and then she can't face it any more, pushes past him and runs so she can be alone when she falls apart.
Sera's stomach aches. She thinks I want but can't put it into words, what she wants. She's so unused to wanting things anymore.
She's not sure what came before that she used to want.
Him with his gentle hands and his gentle smile and his gentle eyes. He treats her like she's the centre of his world; he treats her like she's God.
She craves him with a shy desperation. She'd do anything to keep him smiling like that, to keep his love.
Love, she thinks, and reaches out a hand at him as her stretcher passes. He clasps her hand for a moment, and tells her gently, "Good luck, Sera. Do your best, okay? And after, I'm going to get you some ice cream. Have you ever had ice cream?"
"Don't be stupid," Doctor Heat growls. She flinches away, tries to ignore him. "You know that too much sugar in her bloodstream--"
"Oh, come on," Doctor Serph says. He's laughing, just a little; she beams at the sound. "It's a treat, you know."
"I'll do it," she whispers at him as they pass. "One minute. I'll do it."
"I know you will," he says, smiling at her.
She smiles back.
"That girl is the devil," Varin -- Beck -- says, and she remembers:
It comes back to her in a flood. Data dump, she thinks (with some bitterness) and feels tears spring to her eyes. She turns away and starts walking, hands held at her sides as though keeping from touching anything would stop her from corrupting everything she passes near to. She doesn't think it helps much.
It's my fault.
It's my fault.
He's dark-skinned and dark-haired and moves with a fluid catlike grace. He likes it when they let him have music, and he likes to dance to it. "Rhythm's in my blood, Sera," he tells her, and does this little wiggle that makes her break into helpless giggle.
His name's Cielo. "I'm here 'cuz dey tole me I was a psychic," he tells her.
She blinks wide eyes at him. "What's a psychic?"
He waves his hands like he's tracing patterns in the air with them. "It means dat I can feel t'ings other people can't," he says. "Kinda weird, ja? Dey brought me here to test me."
"Oh," she says. "I'm here 'cause M-- Doctor Angel brought me."
"Phew! That iron-plated bitch? Ehh, don't make that face," he protests a moment later. "You gotta keep smilin', you know? Just keep smilin', and de world, it'll get better to match your smile."
The next day he doesn't come back from his tests.
Sera stares up at the tall spire of the Karma Temple and clutches her head. She's hurting from the inside out; it throbs and aches and makes her feel unlike herself.
Words spill. She says, "I don't understand! What sort of God would want to destroy everything?! What could humans possibly do to make God want to destroy everything!? They're just people!"
Serph puts a hand on her shoulder. He doesn't say anything. The words vanish; she can barely feel the ghost of their passage.
She presses at her forehead; a terrible headache has tightened there. She says, "I-- I'm sorry. Did I say something?"
There's blood on the monitors. She can still see; she can't stop staring. She can't look away.
I did this, she thinks with something a little like panic, a little like pain. They're sending soldiers in now to stop the monster that's rampaging. It's eating everything in its path. She watched Argilla go down sobbing and begging him not to. She watches Dr. Heat try to claw his way to safety, watches him look up at the monitors and mouth four words; he's shaking too hard for her to make them out on his lips. He hadn't had the strength to say them aloud. And then it gets him, dragged him back while he tried to reach for something to fight it off.
It's not your fault, she thinks, but then It is! I wanted this, it's all my fault. She can't put more words to it than that. Hearing Serph using her, using everyone around him, she'd wanted it all to vanish and then, and then--
The soldiers have opened fire and what Serph has become wheels around and charges at them. She doesn't want to see this any more; she closes her eyes and screams, covers her ears, and slowly passes out.
She doesn't want to wake up again. She thinks that'll be enough. Maybe that'll be enough.
"You know," she tells Argilla shyly, "you're like a sister to me."
Argilla smiles at her in pleased confusion. "What's a ...sister?"
Taken aback, Sera gestures. She's not really sure herself, she finds. I never had a sister. She says, "It's -- it's a girl you're close to."
"Like..." Argilla hesitates. "Jinana?"
"Um," Sera says. "I'm not sure."
"Oh," Argilla says. She considers, then tilts her head and smiles again. "Sister, hm? I like that. Okay." She offers her hand to Sera. "Sisters it is."
Voices outside. She doesn't quite wake, but they penetrate enough that they drift around the edges of her dream.
"And... if she stays in there she'll live?" A man's voice; it makes her cringe away.
"She'll live," and that's an old woman. "And if she's out she'll die. It's a shame, isn't it? She's a lovely little girl."
"Yes... a lovely girl," he echoes and -- oh, that's Heat, she thinks. Hello, Heat but she can't quite wake up.
The old woman says, "I do have to ask -- do you think it's cruel, to keep her in there to dream always of the past? Given all she's suffered..."
"But she'll live," Heat says. "And maybe her dreams will get better eventually." She shivers with sudden shock; he's put a hand on the outside of the EGG. She almost comes near to waking, but sinks down again after a moment. "I mean, the dreams... those aren't her fault. She shouldn't suffer for them."
"Oh? Whose fault is it?"
"...Serph." His voice is thick with pain and anger. She trembles away from it, forces herself deeper into sleep. There is blood on the other side but it's familiar, at least, and doesn't scare her so much.
Her chest hurts.
Her head hurts.
Seraph turns away, face hidden. Gently, carefully, Schroedinger reaches out and touches Seraph's cheek.
"It's sad," Seraph says.
"Sad?" Schroedinger nods and says, "life is suffering, after all."
"Then why do we live?" Seraph asks.
A hint of a smile. "Is that all that life is?"
"No." Seraph turns back and watches them. They're so young, and so new while so experienced. "I ...want."
"You are the catalyst," Schroedinger says. Seraph trembles with potential.