Jan. 13th, 2010
[A dream pops into being—not dramatically, but quietly. Hesitantly, almost. The surroundings are vague and indistinct; they’re irrelevant. The ground is solid enough to walk on, but it feels unstable as if it might tilt away at any moment. Justin is present, staring at the featureless walls, barely there himself. He appears to flicker like an image on a television with poor reception. He can’t be touched. He can’t hear anyone.
Justin begins to talk, quietly and entirely to himself. As he speaks, a blurry image whirls into existence. It’s a boy—Justin’s age, perhaps a little older, certainly more handsome, wearing a red leather jacket, a cocky grin, and possessing all of the confidence in the world.]
What would he say? If he were here? It would involve a derogatory remark, and possibly a suggestive sneer. He'd wonder why I'm not drunk or high, then he'd say something idiotic to draw me into an argument or get too close and tell me that he knows how—
[Justin’s voice dies and he stares at the other boy, face blank. The boy in the red leather becomes more solid—more real, perhaps, than Justin—and addresses him directly. He has a charming smile and a charismatic presence. Justin doesn’t react to him.]
Do you hate me? ...I had to do it. I didn't want to hurt you, but I had to show you what she's really like. She's not good enough for you. She doesn't appreciate you. She's like your mom, and dad, and everyone else. I'm the only person who really cares about you.
[Justin eyes the boy—Richard—critically, skeptically.] Philosophy's dead. Richard's dead. I'm dead, even if I'm still functioning.
[Richard continues as if he didn’t hear Justin, reaching out to brush Justin’s hair back. The gentle gesture abruptly turns violent; Richard grabs Justin by the back of the neck, pulling him close.]
I think I'm the only person who sees how incredible you really are. Don't go away, Justin... come on. What we did... together... how many people can say they've done that?
[Justin doesn’t flinch or, indeed, show any sign of being moved by the words. He making no effort to get away.]
If the monsters were people, they must be people who had the capacity for evil. How like them am I? I was almost convinced that I could be entirely forgiven and escape what I did. I'm unsure now. Maybe the City feeds on the wicked, draining them and warping them into monsters to guard the clock. No one who is good and innocent--no one like Shilo or Abby--could become monsters. The monsters are people like me. Perhaps nothing I do can change that.
[Richard reverts to his initial gentleness, still oblivious to Justin’s words, practically radiating a concern that, while convincing, feels deceptive.] It's safe here, okay? You don't have to worry about anything anymore...not your mother or your father or school, or anything. It's all moot.
[Justin lifts an arm. It’s an almost imperceptible movement, but Richard vanishes abruptly. Justin gains solidity, becoming more real in the absence of his friend.]
What’s going to happen to me? [Justin sighs and apathy changes into melancholy. The change is subtle and his voice is still flat.] He's the Verlaine to my Rimbaud. Rimbaud gave up writing when he no longer had Verlaine... he was twenty-one.
[He glances over his shoulder, not seeing anything.] I like plants. They're predictable, quiet, and not prone to cannibalism or murder.
[A woman appears. She has a gun at her hip and a confidence that rivals Richard’s. As happened before, Justin becomes a little less tangible as she approaches him and begins to circle, not unlike a vulture waiting for a sick animal to die. Her words are short and cold. Justin remains calm and stone-faced.] The person who actually killed Olivia Lake is gonna be executed. But the other one, who didn't actually kill her, if he cooperates... will have a chance at a real life.
What's going to happen to me?
Since you weren't the actual killer... with what you did down there for me... don't worry about it. I'll take care of you.
[Another image appears. This one is two-dimensional—a movie. Justin’s in it, body fully covered, saran wrap over his hair, and goggles on. Richard is sitting, looking at Justin searchingly; there’s a woman on the ground, face indistinct, feet and arms bound. Richard hands a frightened-looking Justin a pair of latex gloves. The Justin in the dream—the one still being circled by an apparently anxious female cop—watches, speaking.]
One cannot live fully without embracing suicide and crime. A pact made with relentless fire... that requires that while some live... others must die.
[In the dream-movie, Justin takes the gloves and, mechanically, straddles the bound woman. He wraps his hands around her throat and squeezes. His eyes are locked on Richard. Tears threaten, then fall. The woman with no face is still and dead. Richard nods. In the dream, the cop—Cassie—walks away and fades into the surroundings.]
The only way to purge the world of unfairness, corruption, lethal ideologies, and hypocrisy is to murder the unfair, the corrupt, the idealists, and the hypocrites.
[Abruptly, the two-dimensional scene flickers and disappears. The prison—the one that sunk in the City not so long ago—closes in on Justin and the rest of the dream scene. Everything is clear and solid-looking now, with none of the nebulosity of the beginning of the dream. Justin sinks to the floor, hands around a now-bruised throat, blood sluggishly dripping from numerous vertical cuts on his exposed arms. He’s crying, shaking—almost whispering.]
I could have let her die, but I didn't. I saved her, and she--she didn't save me, and she killed him. We paid. I just want another chance... to start over. I haven't hurt anyone else. I wouldn't... I'm not like that. I'm not…
[Cassie comes back, clad entirely in black. If she was cold before, she’s fully frozen now. She looks down at Justin contemptuously as he stammers out a defense.]
You have to believe me! When I went over there...I had no idea. I never thought I'd... I had to show him. I just want a chance! I want to start over! I want--
It doesn't work that way. You get one life, and whatever you do with it, whatever's done to you... you gotta face that. There are no second chances.
[Cassie and the prison dissolve into nothing. Justin returns to his normal state, uninjured, hair neat and long-sleeved shirt buttoned. He stands, blank once again.]
I wonder if the dead can disappear. If no one can see or hear us, and no one thinks about us, do we fade?
[Faces materialize—faces from the City. Friends long gone, like Lan. Abby, grinning broadly and holding a Caf-Pow. Shilo, a shy smile on her face. They’re quickly overwhelmed by darkness, leaving Justin with a person who, in spite of the foggy quality of her features, can only be Road. She smiles sweetly and proceeds to cut herself in half—very literally--with a knife. There are voices—familiar ones, City voices—but they’re too numerous to catch. The voices rise to a dull roar. Road is replaced by Justin—another Justin, mirroring the one present in the dream. This shadowy Justin pulls a bound woman into view and holds a surgical scalpel to her cheek. His voice is low and quiet.]
Try not to cry.
[The shadow Justin aligns the scalpel’s sharp edge with the girl’s cheekbone and cuts. That image cracks and shatters into nothingness, leaving Justin alone once again in his featureless dream world. Abby’s voice echoes in the nothingness.]
I'm very proud and I don't even know you.
[And then Shilo’s voice, clear in the fog.]
Can't a person wake up and decide to start over? Of course it won't be easy. And it will take more than a day, but that makes them special. Worth appreciating. I guess I like the idea of a new start.
[Justin stares at the featureless world around him, his face just as unreadable as his surroundings. Blankly, he begins to talk to himself.]
It can take up to ten minutes for the condemned to die in a gas chamber. Potassium cyanide pellets are dropped into a holding tank of sulfuric acid, resulting in the generation of hydrogen cyanide gas. …This gas kills via metabolic asphyxiation. Accordingly, the brain is one of the first organs to suffer its effects.
[He looks bothered by this momentarily. That emotion is fleeting.]
Convulsions and hallucinations may precede unconsciousness and death.
Oct. 22nd, 2010
This nightmare is a chaotic roar, a confused jumble of moments that may or may not have happened. The world is fractured like a broken funhouse mirror and, in each distorted shard, a story plays out. Sounds and sights and emotions overlap. It’s overwhelming. If, however, the mind can focus on one of the multiple and simultaneous shards of thought…
Here, Justin sits in a bleak cell that has no defining features. It could be anywhere, at any time. It’s cold. Justin’s face is as blank as the nondescript walls around him. There have been no visitors, and there is no hope that any will come. It’s just as well. Visitors might bring emotion with them, and it’s simpler to sit and feel nothing than to let the germ of emotion into the sterile environment. Emotions feed fear. Better to accept the inevitability of death with cold apathy than with fear.
Over there, Justin stares down at a body that has broken on the same rocks that break the ocean waves. The waves are deafening, crashing like thunder and drowning out all other sounds. Fear, anger, guilt, pain, and despair linger in the air, nearly tangible entities.
In another fragmented moment, Justin pulls the trigger of a gun. The bullet moves impossibly slow and its target is ever-changing. It hits a bleach-blond head that those who have visited Justin’s nightmares will recognize; it goes through Sorrow’s face; it passes through a young woman’s neck. Blood is everywhere—in the air, on the floor, beating against every sense organ. The gunshot echoes on and on.
A faceless woman is speaking to Justin here. She’s wearing an officer’s uniform and her voice is cold. You get one life, and whatever you do with it, whatever's done to you... you gotta face that. There are no second chances. She pauses; the silence is louder than her voice was. I'm not really interested in what a murderer's idea of just and unjust might be.
And here Justin is being torn apart by monsters that look like corpses in varying states of composition. The sounds from the creature’s mouths are inhuman.
There, Justin in is the forensics lab performing an autopsy. He looks sick to his stomach. The corpse’s face is visible and shifting—a rotting skull, Abby Sciuto, Shilo, Neil, Todd, Zia. Its identity changes relentlessly and endlessly until it settles, and, for a moment, Justin is dissecting his own corpse.
There’s a final Justin amid the chaos, fruitlessly trying to shoot himself in the head. The gun’s chambers are empty, but every click is as loud as a gunshot.
Numerous Justins, numerous horrors, numerous nightmares all playing out simultaneously. Sounds, emotions, and images are confused, difficult to pull apart. The shattered-mirror dreamscape howls… and collapses into silence. The shards fall, splinter further, and then come together in a single image. Many Justins become one. A broken world turns into a dark, broken-down building with creaking floorboards and empty window panes. After the auditory chaos before it, this scene is a remarkably quiet one. The ocean murmurs faintly in the night. Justin—a singular Justin—sits on the edge of a dilapidated balcony, feet dangling out over the rocky coast far, far below.