N: What the hell else do I do.
N: I keep asking myself that. I ask myself that question over and over, across miles. Distance beyond reckoning. The trees and open fields and buildings and roads are a blur of black and gray. The sky is full of holes. The world is like a massive thing stirring in its sleep. I ask myself over and over. What the hell else do I do?
N: My mind slingshots back to where this all began. My life broke before the world did. But it broke along the lines of existing weakness. Cracks running through everything. It was broken before it was broken.
N: I was broken.
N: Too scared to have a normal job. Too scared to drive. Too scared to leave the house, some days. Told myself it wasn’t about fear, and it wasn’t, that’s not all it was…
N: But it was.
N: I miss being scared. I miss being connected enough to things to feel scared.
N: Sometimes I feel like I’m chasing something through the dark. Sometimes I feel like I’m being chased. Being chased by voices. Chasing my own. But it takes all the running we can do to stay in the same place.
N: She hasn’t spoken to me since the last time. But I hear her in my head, when I try to sleep. I see her face in my dreams. So I do remember what she looks like. Back when everything was simpler. Her face. Her hands. Her body. Her voice, her mind. How happy she used to make me.
N: I thought.
N: Thought I was in love. And I probably was. But also I wanted to feel… safe.
N: And it was a lie. Everything was all a lie.
N: This voice, that I’m sending into the dark. Throwing it like a stone. To chase. If you’re out there, if you can hear me, maybe you can chase it too. Maybe if things are broken for you, you can find a way to fix them. Maybe you can do better than I can. Maybe you can find people you trust, people you love. Maybe you aren’t alone.
N: Or you’re just a fantasy. You’re as imaginary as the god my mom prayed to. The one who was supposed to condemn me to hell. Which maybe did happen, because, well.
N: What. The hell. Else do I do.
N: I’m going to try. For you, even if you aren’t real. For me. Not for her. Not for him. Not for them. Not even for all those other people. They’re already gone.
N: But I’m here.
N: And I’m going to try.
N: Almost there. I’m very close now. I think.
N: I’ve been following maps. I’ve been following directions. But in the end… I think I was following something else. Not sure what. Some kind of homing instinct. Some part of me that switched on in the last however fucking long knows where it has to go.
N: What with all the thinking about time and space that one would do in this situation, I’ve been finding myself thinking about gravity wells. Things you can just spiral into without knowing it. If this is some kind of ground zero… maybe I never could have gone anywhere else but here. Maybe I never had to worry about finding my way here at all.
N: I stopped to take a breath. Eat a snack. Think, I guess, for all the good it’s likely to do me. I don’t know how you prepare for something like whatever the hell it is I’m going to do. Maybe part of me is scared of it. Think about gravity wells, okay, think about event horizons. There’s going to come a point where I can’t turn back anymore.
N: Could be I hit that point already. Could be I hit it forever ago.
N: But once I’m there… That’s it. I’m really in it.
N: I never wanted to save everyone. I didn’t know anyone else ever needed saving. Still not sure what I think about that, to be honest. Still not sure what I believe.
N: What he said about the… the voices. Beings. Them. I don’t know what to call them and he didn’t give me any guidance there. I keep wondering if they’ll try to stop me, if they can attack me somehow. But there’s nothing. Not a peep from them.
N: It’s all so quiet.
N: This area doesn’t seem like anything special. It’s just a big stretch of flat, empty nowhere. There’s barely even any trees. It’s like this collection of unused fields, grassy wastelands. Here and there I’ve seen some chainlink fencing but there aren’t any exciting or intriguing signs on it or anything. No skulls and crossbones.
N: Guess it makes sense someone might want to keep it as boring a place as possible.
N: Of course, I haven’t gone through a reset yet, and there’s always the question of what it looks like on… on the other side, right? Might not be as isolated as it seems now.
N: Might or might not be any number of things.
N: I’m going to get some sleep. Just an hour or so. Got some time to the reset and I’m fucking exhausted.
N: Think I might need as full a tank as possible for… whatever comes next.
N: Well, there’s a gate.
N: Gate and a guardhouse. No guard, obviously, but there’s a gate and it’s locked and there’s some pretty serious razor wire strung along the top. And fencing, far as I can tell in every direction. I didn’t make a full circuit on foot but I drove around as far as I could see. Just the one gate.
N: I did not come this far to let a fucking gate stop me.
N: (sound of car going into reverse) So it’s not going to stop me.
(Car stops, engine still running, long pause.)
N: You know, this isn’t even close to the craziest thing I’ve done at this point. (Engine revs) Fuck. It.
(Engine guns, sound of car speeding forward, gate crashing open, and strange, reality-warping sounds unlike anything we've heard before)
N: (clearly in pain) What the FUCK
(Sound continues. Car door opens, feet on pavement, stumbling, retching.)
N: That was… Oh God. I don’t even.
N: It’s not time for the reset. I don’t think. But it’s like… it was snapping in and out. It’s never done that before… Oh, Jesus, I feel sick. (Sound threatens to start up again.) No, please. Not again.
N: I don’t… I don’t know how to even start to describe what the sky is doing. Think like… The northern lights. But lightning. Sideways. Slow, and no color. No color at all.
N: I can’t stay here. The ground is moving. It feels like liquid. Everything feels like liquid.
N: Jesus fucking Christ, get your shit together. Get your shit together or run.
N: I can’t run. Not now. Not after all this. So it’s pretty much like I pictured. It’s this big bland thing, all boxy. Lines of windows. No sign. You passed it, you’d never think it was anything. Only it’s—
(Sound fractures again, then silence except for low drone and wind)
N: It’s ruined. It’s all in ruins. Looks like it exploded and imploded all at once. There are bodies. There are bodies… everywhere.
N: It’s a hole in the world and something came out of it.
(Radio crackles in the distance)
N: Shit. (Sound of running back to car) I’m here. I’m here, who’s this?
W: You’re there, aren’t you?
N: How do you know that?
W: Well, you basically just confirmed it. Sweetheart, I really need you to hear this. I need you to hear me. He’s probably going to contact you anytime now. Whatever he tells you to do next, don’t do it. It’s vitally important that you do NOT do whatever he says.
W: Everyone is dead on his side, aren’t they? Everyone is alive on mine. I mean it, honey. I told you. They’re not gone, they’re right here. But he wants to change that, and what he’s going to tell you to do… it’s going to make everywhere just like it is where he is.
N: …Okay, just assuming for a second that you’re right and I believe you… does he know that? Does he know that’s what he’s doing?
W: I’m not completely sure. But I think so.
N: Why would he want to do that?
W: Well, just to start with, he’s insane.
N: Why didn’t you tell me any of this before now?
W: He could be listening to us. Somehow. I had to minimize what he knew I knew. But you’re in the endgame now and I can’t afford to hold back. None of us can afford that.
N: Will it kill me? What he wants me to do?
W: I can’t be sure about that either. It could. Let’s say… let’s say I don’t know of any good reasons why you’d be safe. That is what I wanted this whole time, love. What I’ve always wanted. I want you to be safe. I want you to be safe and I want to see you again. I know you’re angry at me, you have every right to be, and I know I’ve made some… truly horrible mistakes. But I swear, I only meant well.
N: (mutters) Good fucking intentions.
W: What was that?
N: Nothing. (Sigh) So what do you want me to do?
W: Destroy the facility.
N: I’m sorry?
W: Destroy it. On your side. Or… Actually, when you get to the core, side won’t mean a whole lot anymore. But what happened to break it all, it never stopped. Understand? It’s still going on, and this place is destabilizing everything. If you can knock it out of commission on your end, with enough destructive power… it might sort of… snap everything back into focus.
N: Unbreak it?
W: Maybe. I hope so, I really do.
N: You know, I talked to him a while back, and he said pretty much the same shit about you.
N: He said you’d break it even worse than it is already. He did give you more credit than you’re giving him, he agrees that you mean well.
W: Love, you’re… you’re just going to have to decide who you trust. I can’t make that choice for you—
N: —goddamn right you can’t.
W: I just have to trust that you’ll make the right one.
W: That’s what love is, isn’t it? A big part of it. Trusting someone to do the right thing.
N: I don’t think you want to be taking this conversation in that direction.
W: Get into the facility. If you get in from his side, you won’t have to worry about a locked door. Make your way to the core. There’s an unnetworked terminal there. The access code is 5–star—upper case L—pound—upper case S—6–8–exclamation point—5–9–ampersand—lower case v—10–3–Lower case h—period.
N: You wanna give me a chance to write all that down?
W: You don’t need to. We both know that.
W: You’re recording this. You record everything.
N: How do you know that?
W: Hurry. You don’t have much time left. I love you, sweetheart. I really do.
(Radio cuts off)
N: Well shit. Okay.
(sound of walking)
N: Here goes everything.