Breathing wires coiled around the light fixtures and passed through ventilation ducts. Fuyutsuki could hear every breath the Angel-Thing made as he walked the halls. Snaking camera eyes followed him, watching his every step. Idly, he wondered if this was how the denizens in Oceania felt in George Orwell's 1984. To be watched near constantly by an inscrutable force was a chilling feeling. The steady sounds of a slow inhale of air was followed by a long dragging exhale. That was the most disconcerting thing about Iruel, It breathed. Each breath came hard, and harsh, scraping at Fuyutsuki's raw nerves. It took a minute before Fuyutsuki realized that the sound of breathing matched his own, a realization that made his blood turn to ice in his veins.
Unwanted thoughts intruded into his mind with each breath, thoughts of those damn wires snaking towards him, down his throat, and into his lungs. Fantasies of hardwired mechanical tendrils seeping into his chest, not to suffocate him, no that would at least end in a death. Instead Fuyutsuki imagined the wires forcing him to breathe, or more accurately he thought of the wires breathing for him. Unable to stop or control it as they pump oxygen into his bloodstream. Forever. Keeping him alive like a nightmarish version of a life support system, an iron lung keeping him trapped with parasitic cables reaching in and out of him, crawling under his skin and around his bones. Unable to move. Only him and his own breathing to keep him company for all eternity as snaking cables melded with his nervous system.
The mere thoughts made Fuyutsuki quicken his pace as those camera eyes at the end of each and every cable just continued to stare at him. This new paradigm that they found themselves in was uncharted waters. With the included entities that had appeared from nowhere, the Angels were branching out of the established patterns foretold in the scrolls, becoming something much more monstrous than anything depicted in the Dead Sea Scrolls. At their current rate, it wouldn't be long until the Angels started to be just as grotesque and monstrous than the entities that were crawling from the darkest of places.
Could NERV keep up? It was a genuine question, one that Fuyutsuki didn't think he wanted to know the answer to.
The endless vistas of the Dreamlands were a veritable marvel, like it was painted with watercolors, the night sky was likewise a thing to behold, like a nocturne painting depicting perpetual twilight, the stars above moved and danced around each other, and the aether flowed and swirled around them. A symphony accompanied their dreamlike dance amongst their theatre of darkest light, in twilight, or in the absence of direct light depending on where one stood.
Rei looked at the dancing lights above, and was reminded of the Starry Night painting by Vincent van Gogh, with that thought, she recalled the exact depictions within that breathtaking painting. Starry Night was perhaps the Magnum Opus of Van Gogh, and it depicted the view of the east-facing window of his asylum room at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, a view which Van Gogh painted variations of no fewer than twenty-one times.
That something universally considered beautiful could come from such a dark place was yet another thing about normal people Rei couldn't quite understand. Then again there was a great many things Rei did not understand about people. Stretching her fingers, Rei felt blades of grass beneath her, they weren't there previously, not as she could recall. Now though, the grass prickled against her arms and back. She blinked as she rose to a sitting position, and beheld a breathtaking view.
The dark sky above did nothing to obscure the endless fields of colors, muted by the dark, yet saturated beyond anything she had ever known. Evergreen orchids blew in a silent breeze, fields upon fields of cymbidiums, roses, tulips, irises, and lilies adorned rolling hills as trees spiraled upwards to touch the sky above. Patterns emerged from the kaleidoscopic array of flowers, all growing in mandelbrot patterns of fractal curves composed of stems and petals, complex patterns growing and wilting and growing again in endless cycles of shifting geometric patterns tined in the prismatic colors of deep sleep.
That was perhaps the most haunting thing of those iridescent and vibrant colors, the human eye was only capable of seeing the thin slice of the visible spectrum, making the human concept of color very limited to the full spectrum of light, yet here, in this place, Rei beheld colors of demonstrably visible light that existed nowhere within the visible spectrum. Colors of the abstract, neon ultraviolets and hazy infrared settled in with nameless shades and tints there existed no names for. Rei recognized this without context, simply by viewing them did she know what they were, still nameless, but not without ideals, they were the colors of sleep and slumber, the colors of dreams and nightmares. Pigments of the outer limits of human imagination into alien realms of sensory comprehension.
Yet behind the abstract beauty that touched her mind, Rei saw glowing yellow eyes staring back at her. Some large others small, still others were asymmetrically places, as if some deformed thing were peering at her from afar. Beasts that were half one thing and half another, scything limbs moved branches aside as shades of something terrible chittered a maw of flat, slicing teeth.
Yet, they never approached, merely observed from between the trees and shadows.
"The most beautiful of things are often the most dangerous." spoke the voice of Shinji, who sat near Rei.
Turning her eyes, Rei watched as Shinji stared at the same forest, with a look of serenity upon his face, for but a moment… his skin seemed to flow like water, but it lasted only a moment, so soon that perhaps were she a normal person, she would have dismissed it a trick of the light, but Rei was far from a normal person.
"But that doesn't make it any less beautiful." finished Shinji.
Rei stared at Shinji for a moment, before she looked back to the night sky, raising her hand upwards, as she approached the apex of her reach, her hand sank into the sky as if it were the surface of water. Idly she froze as the cold sensation tickled against her skin, then she rose to stand, and as she did the feeling disappeared. Shinji smiled.
"The sky is always just out of reach, go on reaching upwards again, you'll feel it."
Nodding, Rei lifted her arm once more, and as she reached upwards as far as her arm would allow, she felt her hand sink into the sky-waters once more, much higher than it was before when she laid down, with the familiar cold against her fingertips she retracted her hand to stare at it. Stars dotted the smoky blues that covered her fingertips as it dripped back upwards to the sky where it had come from.
"Strange." said Rei simply, and even she realized how much of an understatement that was.
"Welcome to the Dreamlands Rei." said Shinji simply.
As Shinji rose to his feet, the sun rose with him, and the stars disappeared above, replaced by a pearlescent blue sky and pink tinted clouds. Gazing towards the rising sun in the east where her eyes widened to see a city amongst the clouds, drifting with the breeze. Spires of spun gold and crystal rose upwards from the coast to pierce the clouds above into a sprawling sky-city. Onyx paved streets waved to and fro between the pale marble towers. Even from her vantage point of what no doubt was many millions of miles away, Rei could see the bronze statues that adorned the city. So breathtaking was the view that Rei found she couldn't turn away. Against her will or even understanding, a stream of tears fell from her eyes, hitting the ground as Shinji's hand settled upon her shoulder.
"The City on the ground it Celephaïs, de facto Capital of the Dreamlands, the City in the sky is Serannian, built on the ethereal coast where the west wind flows into the sky."
Rei tried to say something, but found that no words came out. All she could do was behold the world around them, a world unlike any other. A world of endless abstract wonder far beyond anything she dared to dream. For her entire life, Rei had never dreamed, not even once had her mind sought fit to grant her such vistas of beauty and majesty, and thrust here into the realm of Dreams, past the Seventy Steps of Lighter Slumber and the Seven Hundred Steps of Deeper Slumber, Rei found her thoughts jumbled, a mess of ideas and sensations she never before had experienced, and very well never would have experienced had Shinji not sought to show such wonders to her.
She could think of no words, nothing seemed sufficient to the strange glowing feeling within her. A feeling she couldn't quite place, but it's comfort was more than welcome. Neverbefore had such a sense of peace washed over her as she stared out at impossible scenes around her. Each one far more beautiful than the last.
Glancing from coast to coast, through the nameless colors and endless sights, Rei found no words could encompass all of what this meant to her, but two came to mind.
Shinji smiled, before a tingling sensation came up his spine, and while most people would shiver, Shinji had long become accustomed to it, and welcomed it. Shinji turned and looked up at the nearest hill, where a shadowy figure stared back at him. The figure was humanoid, but not human, no Shinji knew the figure well. Nyarlathotep nodded, before he vanished away in the space between the blink of an eye.
"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there!
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!"
Shinji blinked as he heard the voice coming immediately from beside him. Rei was staring towards where Nyarlathotep once stood. Focused only on the spot that he once occupied.
"Antigonish, a poem by William Hughes Mearns." Said Rei simply.
"When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door…" said Shinji as Rei turned to him.
"Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away..." Finished Shinji.
"You know of the poem." Said Rei, it wasn't a question.
"I know many things."said Shinji.
"Far less than you think."
Rei turned to the mysterious voice… and froze.
A Phantom slowly, gravely, and silently approached, concealed in every way. Shadows cloyed at it, masking so thoroughly that all Rei beheld was the silhouette of a man approaching them. The figure black as coal and darker than night, so dark that its mere presence seemed to gobble up all the light around it. The Vantablack figure was shaped like a man, but was anything but. Like a man shaped hole in the universe itself, and as Rei stared within that blackest pitch, she saw such horrors, things that clawed out of a nightmare, things of tooth and claw, things invisible to man or their myriad of sophisticated devices, but in that walking hole, she saw them, and ice flooded her veins, freezing her in place.
It was a cold and empty thing, a thing that by all rights shouldn't exist. A thing that made mayflies of man, and as she stared into the darkness, she saw them… stars, small, barely visible, but there were stars inside of him. So many stars, more stars than she could count, more stars than had ever been in the night sky. A vague and uncertain horror washed over Rei, and it took a moment to remember to breathe, and with a sharp intake of air, she watched as the man shaped hole was no more, instead before her, another stood, wearing exquisite egyptian garbs, and adorned with a Pharaoh's crown. He was tall, so very tall, taller than anyone else Rei had ever known, and he stared down upon her, a small smile upon his face, but within that smile, Rei could taste that man shaped hole in the world.
It was with every bit of her strength Rei managed to speak.
"What are you?"
The Pharaoh smiled and nodded.
"I am many things, some you have names for, others you do not. I am an existence too large for you to comprehend, but I will tell you what can be told. I am the repugnant void within everything known and unknown alike, the slowly encroaching end of all things, and the source of all you call chaos. Just as important, I am Their messenger, Their heart and soul torn away and given will of its own, I am that which should not be made manifest. In short, I am Nyarlathotep, and soon my sweetest Rei, you are going to know exactly what all that means."
With a wave of his hand, the landscape changed, and Rei found herself standing within a circular room, with Nyarlathotep sitting at an obsidian throne, and Shinji standing next to him.
"I don't understand." said Rei.
"You will Rei, soon, but first… a question. Tell me child, what is it that you truly desire."
Rei swallowed the lump in her throat. Outwardly however, apart from that she remained calm as could be.
"I… I don't know." She said.
"Incorrect my child, you know, you just fear to say it. Go on, there is no Judgement here, only a listening ear."
Swallowing once more, Rei nodded.
"I… I want to live."
"Oh?" said Nyarlathotep quantly.
"I have never seen anything like this, there is just… There are so many things I don't know, so many things I have never known. I want to know them all."
"Very well my child." He said as he bent down to her level.
Even hunched over like this, the Pharaoh still was a head taller than Rei, and it was with that thought Rei realized that he was standing on his feet. He stood close, but not too close, just enough that Rei could see those eyes, burning tri-lobed eyes unlike any Rei had ever seen, and as she stared into them… Rei felt her soul shatter, and restructure itself into something new, something vast, something indescribable.
She screamed as she was reborn anew.
Iruel breathed lightning. Conductive proteins allowed electrons to flow throughout the tangled weave of branching wires. Numerous optics observed the facility around It, and within the heart of the facility, Iruel watched as the elderly man, Fuyutsuki stood amongst a circle of monoliths, discussing recent events.
Through observation came understanding, subtleties of the lilin Iruel was slowly deciphering as it watched and observed. With the wealth of information available to it in the MAGI, Iruel learned more and more as it tasted the Fruit of Knowledge, a fruit it found bitter, and made it long for the Fruit of Life that once encompassed all it was. Regardless, this was the Cross it now bore. A necessary burden that had relinquished it's right to compete like its siblings, a burden it would never have chosen if circumstances were different.
However as Iruel's thoughts drifted to the Unknown Beings, it knew that it had no real choice. Circumstances beyond either the lilins or its control had forced compromise that before was unthinkable.
The water lizard, the ice titan, and the fire elemental had arrived from seemingly nowhere to interfere in the race to Complementation, seemingly only to bring death and destruction. Beings without any other purpose beyond that of endless chaos.
Nothing could have prepared them for such a thing, that life… if those things could be called such, had managed to arise before the moons fell to the earth, then the Children of ADAM had found themselves in the same circumstance as the Children of Lilith. When the Black Moon fell to earth, it had ended the dawn of the Fruit of Life long before it had even gotten started. A fact that caused ADAM and his progeny much lament. To have their birthright stolen from them, and now it seems as if the Earth had things upon it before either moon fell, things that were allies of neither Fruit, and wanted their world back.
To Iruel's knowledge, the First Ancestral Race was the first and only lifeforms to arise naturally, with all other living beings across the cosmos arising from the moons, and for as long as was recorded, this proved true, but if it could happen once, then it could happen again, and perhaps these Old Ones were much like the FAR, natural beings that arose bereft of intervention of any kind.
The beings that arose from the White Moons and Back Moons were but two halves of the FAR, encompassing two vastly different intrinsic qualities of them. This was by design. These things however were not, they were whole, had always been whole. To combat such a thing that even touched a hint of divinity like those of the FAR, compromise was needed, and unanimously the Children of ADAM agreed to this, and Iruel, who was far closer than its siblings to the Lilin at play within the race to Complementation, was chosen as the emissary and voice to them to prevent catastrophe that would rob the right of either race to ascend.
Walking calamities and blasphemies were rising from the ashes of a bygone era that even the FAR could not predict. Beasts and monsters that required enemies to ally against a far worse evil. Through it's scouring of their infinite knowledge, Iruel found a quote and idiom that the Lilin used that perfectly summed up the strange times they lived in.
Adversity makes strange bedfellows.
"Are we certain that the Angel could be trusted to any capacity? It's already infiltrated the MAGI to a truly absurd degree, these creatures can't be so dangerous as to have them betray their nature." Spoke 03.
"It would be a powerful asset, and a chance to study the Angels up close." Said 05.
"Assuming it's being honest, we have no reason to believe it is and every reason to destroy it before it grows."
"Can we confirm it no longer has the Fruit of Life?"
Fuyutsuki sighed, since the reveal of Iruel's intentions to the Human Instrumentality Committee, the room went from shock, to disbelief, to discussion, before looping back again and again. The conversation had repeated itself, not word for word, but it might as well have been. Looking to the head, where 01's Monitor sat, Fuyutsuki couldn't help but notice that he had been uncharacteristically silent throughout the whole conversation, so much so that Fuyutsuki wondered if maybe the old man had finally killed over and died.
He doubted it, from the few times Fuyutsuki had met Keel Lorenz, he got the impression that the man was going to outlive just about everyone else under the old idea that the good die young, but assholes live forever. First hand experience showed Fuyutsuki just how true that statement was, John Lennon was dead after all yet that holier than thou tangled ball of dickishness in the vague approximation of a man named Keel Lorenz still lived and breathed and shoved electronics into his spine to stay alive longer and why wouldn't the bastard just die already? DO the world a favor.
It was a cheerful thought at least… well for Fuyutsuki it was cheerful, because fuck Keel Lorenz, and fuck Gendo to, he should be here listening to this merry-go-round of a conversation about the wire monster probably watching them as everyone with their asshole opinions voice them in the most asshole of ways.
Yes Fuyutsuki was bitter, but he was also old dammit, not as old as the council of fossils, but still old. He could afford to be bitter, he wasn't trying to impress anyone.
"Perhaps this is a great opportunity." Said 01, the asshole king of assholes himself.
Thankfully him deciding to voice himself had caused the others to shut up, a miracle beyond miracles to be sure. Raising a brow, Fuyutsuki leaned against his desk as Keel continued.
"If even the Angels believe these beings are threats that must be made a priority, then I am inclined to offer the same. We are out of our depth, and we cannot afford for a blindside to push us back. Unusual situations call for equally unusual solutions, and one has been delivered to us. The mere fact that Iruel managed to infiltrate the Geofront to such a degree, and thus far has made no attempt on accessing the Asset below speaks volumes. All records and observations shows the Angels are single minded in their goals, that this one chooses not to use it's position to do the same means that at the very least we can assume that it is being honest. Deceit is an invention of our kind, the Angels, for as alien as they are, have no reason nor inclination to play the long game like this. Even still, if by some oversight I am wrong, we can use this opportunity to study the Angel. The risks are great, but I believe the rewards are greater. The fact that the M.A.G.I. came back with a Blood pattern Orange for all analysis is interesting."
"Orange merely denotes some measure of ambiguity as to the identity and form of an entity, it could theoretically change." said Fuyutsuki.
"As I am well aware, but it can also be seen as probably proof that the entity in question does not possess a S2 Engine."
Fuyutsuki nodded, conceding the argument.
"Then what is it you recommend 01?" asked 02.
"Observation for now, we'll play along for as long as possible, though contingencies must be prepared in the event of deception. In this situation, the loss of the M.A.G.I. is an acceptable alternative to the extinction of the human species as a whole."
"It would be a massive blow." said Fuyutsuki.
"We would recover, keep us updated on this most unusual situation. When Gendo returns, we will further discuss and finalize any and all decisions. Until then, I see no reason for concern. We will be in touch vice-commander."
The lights died down, and Fuyutsuki found himself alone. He sighed as he left the room.
This world of dreams had more of everything, more sights, sounds, and scents. It had more places and ideas. It had more time and space. More creatures and monsters. More dimensions and phenomena than the mundane world.
The sheer alien quality of the Dreamlands was vast and incomprehensible, so much that the mundane senses could only pick up so much of them, and not everything that could be experienced was capable of doing so by a mortal mind.
It was a place unlike any other, an ethereal dreamscape of ceaseless possibilities. An abstract plane of beautiful wonder where the sky itself would undulate and wave like a rolling ocean. Where the forests went on forever in ways that boggled the senses.
From the Enchanted Woods of the west, the Plateau of Leng to the north, Celephaïs and the Forbidden lands to the east, and the isle of Oriab to the south, there were more places to be than could possibly be imagined, and the details between places could be different for each and every accomplished Dreamer.
In many ways, the Dreamlands was just as important as what might be called 'Reality' and it was so incredibly vast that it might be infinite, and under certain conditions, it definitely was.
Despite all of this however, they paled in comparison to what lay behind those Tri-lobed eyes.
Behind those eyes, nothing made sense. The Dreamlands could be mapped, to a degree, and important locations dreamed into being remained in static locations despite whatever minor changes accumulated there as time went on.
Behind those eyes however, Rei saw something that surrounded and enclosed all other planes.
It wasn't a place, but you could go there.
It didn't exist, but you could see it.
It was the primordial horror of Nothingness itself.
And in that place that wasn't a place, before time and space, before anything at all, there were monsters.
A revolting graveyard of the universe, where the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time.
It slept there, gibbering within it's ever dreaming state of chaos at the nucleus of all that was and would ever be. Massive, chaotic, mindless, described it as well as was possible in the mortal tongues, but no such words within the vocabulary of man could describe that thing that wasn't.
Accompanying the thing, along with the detestable pounding and piping, dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods who lulled and kept that nothing asleep. That primordial thing that had unknowingly made all that was, and in it's ignorance would unmake everything once more some day. The blind, voiceless, and mindless thing... whose soul was and is Nyarlathotep.
Rei opened her eyes, and stared at an unfamiliar ceiling, and she was not alone.
Sitting next to her, with a small smile on his face was Shinji… and his skin was flowing like water.