When Sylphs die in their homeland, the blessing of their goddess allows them to take on spectral forms and linger for as long as they like, passing on when they so choose.
When humans die, no such thing happens — at least, most of the time.
Spending months in close proximity to the goddess Sylvain herself, shooting television shows and making battle plans and fighting monsters alongside her, is… unprecedented, to say the least, throughout the planet Sylvain’s entire recorded history.
So unsurprisingly, no one anticipates the effect this prolonged contact has upon your fragile human soul.
You exist without being alive. You know things without thinking them. You feel nothing, but regret everything.
You cling to scattered memories — fewer and fewer as time passes. If you could think, if you could reason, if you possessed any of your naturally sharp wit in this state, you would guess you’re only skimming the surface of the long, dangerous life you once lived. Only remembering the last few memories you made before you left that life behind.
There are seven images and sensations that light up the numb, empty void you exist in:
An orange, crystalline pendant.
A voice listing times that go down, down, down each time it speaks.
Two letters, carefully sealed away in envelopes.
Your finger on the trigger of a child’s toy.
The sound of a gunshot.
And the stars above you.
Those seven experiences cycle over and over again, devoid of context, sometimes bleeding into each other. It’s a good thing you can’t feel, because if you could, they might hurt even worse than the wound that killed you. Even knowing this, you still can’t bear to let go of them.
But like the other memories you once had, they too are now fading without giving you any choice in the matter. You lose the way the pendant always caught the light, the feeling of the fountain pen in your hands as you wrote the letters. The hurt and betrayal in the counting voice. The last constellations you ever saw in the winter night sky —
Light-years away, a pair of deft hands runs across a control sphere.
PAIRINGS > 14198_EARTH_SYLVAIN > MEMORY SCANS > EDMUND CHICANE
You’re you again. More or less.
There are gaps in your memories. Fuzzy patches where the picture should be clear. You can remember remembering details before, but not what those details are.
But you know you are Ned Fucking Danger Discretion Butterfly Trustworthy Vamoose Kelly Chicane. And you can feel something pulling at you from behind, tugging you towards the sky above.
Oh, and you can see the sky again, too. The sun is the only star visible this time, beaming down on home sweet Kepler. The full moon is there too, sitting just above the horizon, as if it knows what this day means to humans and Sylphs.
The tugging grows stronger, but you resist. There’s a commotion nearby, and it’s been a long time since you last had the ability to feel curious. You’re not going to squander this rare chance now.
You drift closer to the mass of people, and you hear your own voice. You see your own face.
The season — no, series finale of Saturday Night Dead plays for the crowd, who react with equal parts laughter and longing. In the front row are Aubrey and Dani, tears in their eyes and hands interlocking.
Behind them, Barclay reveals a statue with a dramatic flourish, and you recognize Mama’s craftsmanship instantly.
It sinks in, now. That the world — both worlds, and maybe even more than the two that you knew — are finally safe, and their inhabitants are happy.
And out of all the things they could be doing, with this great freedom opened up in their lives, they’ve chosen to celebrate you.
You still feel like you’re being pulled towards the sky, but you make an effort to linger a little longer. You catch glimpses of Duck, of Kirby, of Cryptonomica regulars. Of a tall, muscular woman and strange, bearded man whose face you can’t quite place — yet you still feel connected to them too, in a way.
Someone enthusiastically relays information about what life is like in a town called Chicane. It takes you a long time to piece together that you knew this town as Sylvain. At first, you chuckle at the rhyme, before the disbelief sets in. It’s the only time you seriously entertain the thought that you might be either in the world’s longest dying dream, or purgatory.
But the laughs and the cheers and the tears and the toasts to you all sound real. You pride yourself on your imagination, but you don’t think you could imagine this into existence.
Which seems to contradict all your hazy memories about pendants and countdowns and letters, but surrounded by partygoers, it’s hard to dwell on it.
You join in the celebration, laughing along with your own jokes from the tape and playfully elbowing Kirby while giving him pointers on how to keep the crowd under control. Either he’s a psychic and he can actually hear you, or he’s learned a lot about tourist trap management, because most of the time he actually does what you suggest.
Eventually, the party dies down. People go home, or to their friends houses in other worlds to visit for a few days. The sun sets, and the full moon rises higher and higher in the sky as the stars once again make themselves visible —
And you let go.
You’re staring at a familiar actor’s face from the other side of a… computer screen?
Hey there, Gosling Goat, how are you doing? you ask. Your voice comes out more robotic than you’re used to it sounding, but it still has a hint of your usual inflections.
Ned? Billy blinks, then enters a few new inputs through his control sphere. His voice is equally robotic, but pauses much more awkwardly as he continues. I’m… very happy to see you. I found your memory files earlier. But running them didn’t do anything…
He rubbed his chin. Even when we would turn those files into bodies, they needed one of us to inhabit them. If we didn’t, then they didn’t DO anything. Didn’t act alive. But I guess your mind was still out there. Somehow…
I’m afraid it doesn’t make a lick of sense to me either, Friend Billy, you reply. I seem to have spent my entire afterlife being as out of the loop as one can possibly be… what brings you to this neck of the, er, galaxy? Or universe? This isn’t Earth or Sylvain, is it?
It’s not. Billy sighs. I’m cleaning up a mess. I made… not all of it, but part of it. So fixing it is… the least I can do to make it up to y’all.
You’re a noble goat-man, Billy.
I’m not really a goat, you know. That body was just supposed to be temporary.
And I get the feeling I’m not supposed to be a ghost haunting your computer, either!
Billy laughs. So what do you want me to do with you, Ned? Do you want to keep being a computer ghost?
I don’t know. I’m not really sure what it entails, yet — I think I’d like to give it a trial run. But, you know… I may still not be caught up, but it’s a brave thing you’re doing there, Billy. Doing everything you can to fix your mistakes is… brave.
You smile as much as your digital form allows. And I am a firm believer that no one should have to walk that path alone. So you can count on me sticking around for a while longer, Gosling.