She didn’t know where she was. She remembered a monster chasing her. She remembered doing something to drive it off. But now she was standing in a field of mirrored grass, and even those few memories were being crowded out.
Noise filled her ears. Noise like she had experienced as a child, when everyone was talking but she couldn’t join in. She searched for something, a strand of coherent thought that could make everything make sense. But there was too much.
She was staring at the boots of someone she didn’t know. Or maybe it was someone she used to know. He stood above her, conducting the meaningless noise as if it were a thing of beauty.
She tried to stare at his face, but it kept changing. It was her father, it was Burnout, it was Rachel, it was Will. The faces all fit perfectly, but none of them belonged.
Tina opened her mouth, but no words came out. The man-thing in front of her stopped. His eyes searched across the field, towards the city in the distance.
His mouth opened and a powerful voice rippled towards the city.
“The city is built on the souls of its founders.”
For the briefest moment, the noise stopped. Tina felt her muscles relaxing for the first time since she had awoken in the field.
He looked down at her.
She tried to say something again, but he shook his head.
The man dropped to one knee and placed a single finger on her forehead. A whisper echoed between her ears.
“Do you know who I am?”
She managed to shake her head, and the man’s face dropped. All at once the noise returned. Tina pulled her legs towards her chest and focused all of her attention on the man’s shoes. For the briefest moment, it worked. But the noise was too insistent to be blotted out by such a cheap trick.
“The buildings have memories.’
The man’s voice rang out again. This time, it did not stop the noise; the meaningless sounds only grew louder, as if they were trying to push the one coherent sting in their mass as far away from her as possible.
Tina covered her ears and shut her eyes. The man didn’t stop conducting the noise, but his whisper echoed in her head once again.
“You can’t escape; you can’t hide; you cannot control what you will not face.”
The noise doubled in strength. What little help covering her ears had done, it now only trapped the noise closer to her brain. The sound reverberated in her skull and in her chest, forcing the air out of her lungs. She tried to scream, but it didn’t make any difference. The only one who might have been able to hear her didn’t even glance at the girl at his feet.
Tina crawled towards him, reaching out to grab onto something; praying that he could stop the noise even for an instant.
Her fingers brushed against his shoe, and the noise stopped.
“The streets are filled with the pain stamped into them day after day.”
“And you ignored it.”
The venom behind the whisper drained the warmth from her blood. The man’s eyes met hers for the first time, and the icy blue gaze pierced through her. A little bit of strength started to work its way into her.
“No.” The sound of her own voice surprised her.
“Yes.” The man raised his hands again, but the sound did not return yet. “You failed to listen. You failed to hear their cries. Now, it is all you shall hear.”
The noise came back, louder than ever. Only now, it wasn’t random. She could hear scream sof pain and rears of joy. She could feel the rivers of sorrow being boiled into steams of hatred.
“You wasted me on toys. You saved a few when you could have saved thousands.”
A man imagined the stain his fall would leave on the pavement in front of where he worked. It was the funniest thing he’d thought of all day.
A killer felt the weight of the gun against his thigh. He walked slowly away from the aller as the sirens drove past him.
Tina pulled at her hair. Every thought every emotion these meant felt echoed through her entire body.
“Why?” She croaked.
“It is who you are. It is who I am,” The whisper echoed. “We collect what they leave behind. You chose to take what you could use. They chose to keep what gave them joy. Now everything left behind flows into the only source it has.”
In the next instant, Mach was on her feet.
“You cannot control what has passed. You can only choose what to do with what is left behind.”
He turned towards the city again. Tina followed his eyes and saw two figures approaching.
They were made of mirrors too. Effigies of humans made from silver and glass. One moved quickly towards her. It was trying to say something, but it had no mouth to talk with.
She looked at the man.
“They have come for you. They want you to wake up.”
She stared blankly at him, and turned backed towards the mirror-person. He was gesturing towards the man; he seemed to be concerned, but she didn’t know why. The noise didn’t seem nearly as loud as before. He gestured for her to follow him; to go away from the field.
“You can leave if you go to the city. But it will only grow worse if continue to act as you have.”
The mirror-man nodded and made a gesture to follow him. Tina took a step forward, the silver grass was surprisingly soft against her feet. She turned towards the man.
“Who are you?”
The man began to conduct the noise once again.
“I am what was left behind.”
A thunderous clap echoed through the field.
“I am what was always here.”
The noise seemed to swirl towards him. The mercurial sky began to bulge towards the field.
“I am what gives you strength.”
The sky burst and a flood of liquid metal spiraled down towards him.
“But I am not what makes you strong.”
The flooding silver forced Tina towards the city. The mirror-people were already gone.
Mach woke up.
There were people around her. She recognized them, but it took her a moment to understand who they were.
Burnout leaned in from the side of the bed. “How do you feel?”
She groaned as the light hit her eyes. She felt the needle sticking into the back of her hand. She felt the bed pressing up against her back. She felt the cool metal pressing up against her arm.
“I can’t feel my legs.”