Spoilers: Full game spoilers for SH2
Warnings: Experimental style
Author's Note: Taking the 'Leave' ending for this
Summary: James wonders if he can ever go back, and how deep scars of the soul truly run.
The ghosts are crawling on our skin
We may race and we may run
We'll not undo what has been done
Or change the moment when it's gone - David Gray, The Other Side
A cheap dirty motel room. The floor is bare of carpet. The furniture is old and worn. It smells of booze and stale sex and sweat. It is one of a million, a hole in the wall hideaway that has seen thousands.
James lays on the narrow bed, sheet crumpled at his feet. He is tired and sore from a day of driving. He looks at the phone - green and ugly - and knows he should call someone. Anyone. Every night he tells himself this and every night he falls asleep without ever dialing.
He moves farther and farther from home and memories. He is not a broken man, but he is cracked and frayed. Wounded but not dead. And he isn’t ready yet to face his life, though he knows he should. He knows that he is being foolish, and these nights in motels are doing him more damage than good.
And after all he has gone through to heal himself….
But he sometimes wonders if he is healed or not. Sometimes he wonders if he only traded scars for scars. And he keeps moving, days filled with fast food and a new city and each night another dirty room. Not because he feels he deserves no better but because they are cheap enough to pay for with cash. He leaves no paper trail if he can avoid it.
He lays on the narrow bed and folds his hands behind his head. The air conditioner makes distressing noises. It rattles and whirs in the window, spitting stale air into the room. It’s an almost comforting sound and James falls asleep thinking of nothing in particular.
He wakes two hours later, sweating, sitting upright in bed and screaming the name ‘Maria’. And he feels a pang of guilt, somewhere inside his rational mind, because he has screamed out ‘Maria’ and not ‘Mary’. But that was foolish because it was only a dream. A dream of blood and fear and anguish, Maria reaching for him, begging him to save her, Maria bleeding, crying, battered body laid out on a prison cot….
He doesn’t feel guilt because he understands now. He regrets and he wishes it were different but he is no longer burdened by helplessness. And while his feelings are mixed and he knows he felt something for her, he contents himself with the knowledge that wherever she is now - if she’s anywhere - she isn’t suffering any longer.
And that has always been the important thing.
But his subconscious continues to do its job, recycling old images in a macabre filmstrip behind his eyes. And he has no power over it. Sometimes he dreams of Maria. He dreams of her deaths, the ones he saw and the ones his mind invents. Not every night. Sometimes he dreams of Mary, or that hellish town, or his father or things that aren’t important at all.
He tells himself it’s nothing more than some mental regurgitation. Not all dreams mean anything.
He should go home. He has nothing to fear. He took Mary to see Silent Hill one last time, and she died there. And he broke and needed to be alone and no one will question him. Everyone knew Mary was nearing her end. They were all just waiting. And now he wonders what they think now.
It isn’t morning, but James is ready to go. He washes his face and puts on a clean shirt and opens his wallet to look at the picture of Mary he keeps there. He likes to remember her like this, smiling. Happy.
He wonders if he can truly do as she has asked him and be happy again.
James moves on. He drives and forgets about dreams and ghostly towns and his worries become those of a mundane man. Where to stop for gas. How to find the radio station he’d been listening to when he started to move beyond range. Was that noise the car was making healthy or not.
Weeks go by. James drives and gets his car tuned up and decides he will never eat fish from a greasy burger joint again. There is a normalcy, and sometimes he picks up the phone to call home. He is making progress. A few more days, he tells himself. A few more days.
Another cheap motel room. They all begin to look the same. But here the phone is some nondescript beige color and the air conditioner is a broken corpse of machinery on the cement outside. The window is open and James strips down to his boxers and lays on the bed, the thin sheet pulled up to his waist. He’s driven so far and he begins to wonder if he ever intends to go home.
He sees the headlines. ‘Grief Stricken Man Disappears’. But at least now his grief is that of a normal man.
More or less.
He knows he has done all he can. He has gone through hell and back and found his salvation. There are no second chances, but there are extensions. He cannot go back, but he has been allowed to move forward. And he supposes in his own way that’s what he’s doing.
He falls asleep wondering, trying to block out the stuffy room. But he finds sleep easy enough. And he twitches on the bed and moans, face contorted, hands gripping the sheets.
Again he wakes, drenched in sweat and calling the name Maria. But this time there are no images of blood and death behind his eyes, and the sheet is stained. Lingering in his mind are images that make his gut clench. Visions of sex and flesh and sin. Maria, naked, legs wrapped around his waist. Maria calling his name with lust in her voice, begging him to take her completely. Maria laid out like a pinup girl on a narrow bed, waiting for him. He can feel her, all of her, the phantasmal physical memory tingling on his skin.
James stumbles out of bed. His cotton boxers cling to him and he winces, stripping them off. This dream doesn’t fade like the others. It remains, haunting, images burned into his mind. He steps into the bathroom and runs the shower, cold, ignoring the rust flecks that scatted down with the water.
He steps beneath the spray and leans his head against the tile, body aching. The cold water makes his muscles tighten and washes away the sweat and semen on his skin. But Maria’s face and form - strong legs, full breasts, teasing smile as she urges him deeper - will not fade. And his body aches in ways that are no longer physical.
This dream is worse than the nightmares.