It was his first night in this bed; it was lumpy and musty and the sheets didn't feel clean. It also felt too big, but his brother hadn't climbed in with him, like he had hoped he would. Instead, Edward had turned off the lamp and left the room quickly, saying he would check on him later.
It was cold in here, too, and no measure of squinching himself up inside the threadbare quilt was warming him up. He pressed his lips together to keep his teeth from chattering.
He was actually scared, not of anything specific, but of a feeling he couldn't put his finger on. It wasn't like being afraid of a genuine threat; it was just fear. Al hadn't felt so childish in years. Years. The last time he had felt this way he must have been six or seven. He was being a big baby. His first night in this weird world, and he wasn't going to disgrace himself by telling his brother that he was afraid of the dark.
Time passed, too long a time; with a sinking feeling, Al acknowledged that he wasn't going to fall asleep any time soon, although he was exhausted. That feeling of being awake in the night reminded him of something that remained deep, deep in his subconscious, like a bad dream that had gone on for years on end.
He watched the edge of the full moon move away from of the window. That meant that at least an hour, possibly more, had passed, for the planet's rotation to have nudged its satellite out of his view. Of course, he wasn't entirely sure what the circumference of this planet was, whether it was the same as the one he knew, and whether its moon was the same one he had seen all his life until now. It looked the same, but this place didn't feel the same.
He heard footsteps. Slow, deliberate. He knew the pattern, the tell-tale sound of Edward's specific gait. It was new but ancient information in his mind, and his head began to swim. What if it wasn't him?
The door creaked, a shaft of light from the hallway cut into the room and onto the wall he was staring at. He couldn't see his brother but he heard him breathing. Al held his own breath; he didn't want Ed to know he was still awake. His brother paused a long time, and Al had to expel a breath.
He held it again. Eventually, Ed went away, shutting the door quietly behind him.
More time passed. This was probably the longest, loneliest night of his life. His body was shivering and aching with exhaustion but his mind raced and wouldn't calm. Thoughts came and departed without completion, images competed for center stage but then eluded his mental grasp when he tried to focus. Everything that had happened in the past few days seemed impossible and dreamlike and vivid all at once. His head began to ache, and his eyes were so dry he could barely blink as he stared at the window.
It was so late now that he wanted dawn already, wanted the night to end. And then, the door creaked open again on its hinges, slowly, slowly, and he realized he hadn't heard any footsteps this time. That was odd. Ed could never pull off moving silently, even without shoes.
An internal chill swept through him, a chill so violent that he felt his bones shake. Someone was there, but it wasn't Ed. He wouldn't turn around, he wouldn't, and he couldn't if he wanted to; he was paralyzed. Who was it? He wanted to turn around, but he could not.
The someone approached the bed, was coming close, he could feel the presence but something was off, there was no substance, no breath, no air passing through it. Whoever it was, wasn't usual.
He didn't believe in ghosts, he didn't. It wasn't a ghost: in a moment his logical mind processed formulas for sanity: you're exhausted, you're hallucinating, you're asleep and dreaming. Don't react, don't react, you'll make a fool of yourself and disturb Ed. Do nothing.
He tried the same trick he had used with Ed: held his breath and waited for it to go away. The presence stayed near the bed, behind his back, he felt it. He told himself not to look. He finally managed to close his eyes, tightly, and, biting his lip, he willed it to go away. He wanted to shout for Ed, he didn't care, now, whether he made an ass of himself, he didn't care. But when he opened his mouth, nothing came out. Instead, he felt a tear slide down his cheek.
Suddenly he felt an absence behind him, felt the presence gone just as clearly as he had felt it there only a moment before. He felt his own breath return, and turned around. Resting on his elbow, he saw the room was as empty as it had been all night.
"I'm not sleeping in that room ever again," Al told Ed the next morning as they sat over a grim, silent, late-morning breakfast. Ed, slumped over his coffee, dark shadows under his eyes, looked about as rested as he felt himself.
"It's too cold," Al said. "I was freezing all night."
"Huh." Ed took a sip of coffee and made a face that suggested that it tasted awful. "I always found it was plenty warm enough for me."
"Well it wasn't warm for me. " Al paused, hesitating to say the next thing that came into his mind. "I felt like something in the room didn't want me in there."
"Huh?" Ed said, looking up. It was the first time he had looked at Al's face all morning.
"Nothing. That was a stupid thing to say. Never mind." Al pushed the plate of toast away and waited for Ed to draw him out, but he didn't. A clock somewhere behind him ticked rustily.
They finished their breakfast in silence.
The room didn't look any more inviting the next night. Al put off bed for as long as he could. The clock in the flat ticked balefully; it was past midnight. His brother was nearly asleep with his head on the arm of the sofa. On the other end of the couch, Al sat, his feet tucked under him, hands pressed between his knees to keep them from shaking. As it got later, Al could hear the night in the strange world deepen. Nights of terror, here, a country full of dead people.
He had seen it in the faces of the people they passed on the noisy, dirty streets that day. The low, grey sky, the damp air. Dead leaves. Uneven streets, filthy gutters. People here looked lean and hungry and spent. Al could detect a layer of anger or fear on the faces of nearly everybody, he thought. It wasn't much different from how the people of Lior had looked, right before the reconstruction. In a town of burnt out houses, the people seemed as hollow as their lost homes. Only, in Lior, the sun shone hot and the natural optimism of a desert oasis brought them back pretty quickly. Here, in this cold place called Munich, people seemed to be struggling even though their war had been over for years.
Ed had assured him that they had summers here too, and blue skies and flowers and all that. Al found that hard to believe. At that funeral today for Ed's friend…it had been much as any funeral in Amestris would be, people had behaved the same way, solemn and sad because someone had died young. Ed had been very sad at the funeral, that had been pretty obvious, but Al had been too distracted by his own discomfort and disconnectedness to be of any use to his brother. He felt inadequate, and he was sorry about that.
Things were different than he'd thought they would be. He had imagined that as long as he was with his brother, everything else wouldn't matter. He was pleased, of course, that he was with him now, but that anticipated, instant happiness had not yet materialized. This world aside, his brother was grown up, and different. So much the same, and yet, so changed. Al couldn't stop looking at him.
For the past two years, the organizing principle of Alphonse Elric's life had been the goal of being in the same place, and at the same time, as his brother. That was it. At one point, it had seemed that he had been asking quite a lot of the Universe, but as it was, the thing had been achieved. Here they were, in the same room, at the same time.
His brother had grown up without him. He was in the odd position of knowing him both intimately and not at all. When he watched him here, speaking that strange language and interacting with strangers, he was an alien being, a stranger to him.
He shaved, apparently, because Al had found a brush and a straight razor among his things. He read books about subjects Al had never even heard of: astrophysics, thermodynamics. He spoke a strange language fluently. Even his clothing—button-down shirt, waistcoat, stockings, buttony trousers, somber coat, so much of it made of lumpy, thick wool—was grown-up and complicated and oddly formal.
Still, he felt that impulse to be protective, as he knew he had when he had been in armor and his brother had been a soft, small person. Now he was the one who was soft, and small. Not only that: he was without the ability to use alchemy, totally defenseless. It was so strange.
Ed stretched his arms out and arced his back, yawning dramatically.
"We should get to bed. We have things to do tomorrow," he said, sitting up.
Al squeezed his hands together between his knees, harder. He had said it at breakfast, and hoped that his brother remembered it, but now that the day had passed, he felt ashamed for behaving like a child. Edward swung his legs to the floor and sat with his hands on his thighs.
"Ready?" he asked.
Al looked at him, waiting for some give. No? He wasn't going to acknowledge that earlier conversation. Maybe he'd forgotten; it wasn't important to him.
Al bobbed his head in assent. Ed rose from the sofa, then offered his hand to help him up. They hadn't touched one another all day—Al had suppressed several impulses to hug his brother; every time he felt the urge to throw his arms around him, or even so much as put his hand on his back or his shoulder, Ed had quailed and backed off.
Couldn't say why, he realized, as he let his brother pull him up with his strong but soft hand. Al wanted to hold it a moment longer than he should; the brothers stood and faced each other, hands grasped, and Al tried to catch and hold Edward's eyes.
He couldn't help himself.
"You're still sad," he said. "From today."
"Yeah," said Ed flatly, releasing Al's hand and turning to walk away. It didn't sound as if he had anything more to say. As he followed his brother toward the bedroom, Al couldn't help wishing things were different, that that stupid Heiderich hadn't died and made Ed so unhappy, that his arrival in this world hadn't been marked by the death of someone his brother had obviously cared about. It was inauspicious.
In the bedroom again. Al eyed the nightshirt he had worn the previous night, tossed into a little heap on the unmade bed. This morning, he couldn't get out of the bed fast enough. Now, it still seemed incredibly uninviting. His skin prickled at the thought of what had happened last night, while at the same time his brain rejected it as nonsense, the product of a disordered mind.
"You know what? I think I'll let you sleep in here tonight. I'll sleep on the sofa," Al said, reaching for the nightshirt and tucking it under his arm.
Ed looked at him. "No, I wouldn't feel right taking the bed…you need a good night's sleep more than I do."
Al found himself giving a small, bitter laugh. "Hah. I told you I couldn't sleep a wink in that bed. I think the sofa would be better."
"No." Ed's voice was hard and insistent. "I'm used to the sofa."
"I said no." Ed shut his eyes and held them closed for a moment, as if gathering some thought. His jaw was peculiarly set. When he opened his eyes again, they seemed almost damp. "I can't help thinking what Mom would say if I didn't let you have the bed. What kind of older brother would I be to let you sleep on a sofa?"
"But—" Al groped around in his mind for some memories. He found some. "You're the one who'll hurt after sleeping on a sofa. I'm all flesh and blood, see?" He pinched his right arm with his left hand for emphasis.
Ed wasn't buying it.
"I'm not sleeping in here," his brother repeated.
"I don't see how you were used to the sofa," Al began, "if this was your bed. It must have been Heiderich who slept on the sofa, right?" Al preened over his logic. He was almost certain something was going on here that Ed wasn't telling, but he had no idea what it was. One thing he knew: his brother didn't want to sleep in this bed any more than he did.
He wasn't a child, and he shouldn't be afraid. Unfair that he should be put in this position, a shivering, quivering child, when his brother, who had once been barely a year his senior, was a man, and here he was, a child, defenseless, in this horrible, moldy old bed.
Fucking scared out of his fucking mind.
It's mind over matter, he told himself. Everything is. Being afraid of a bad dream was nonsense, ridiculous.
The room was chilly and dark; the street outside the window, still cold, dark, night. When he leaned on the window sill, knees raised and pressed to his chest, he squeezed his chilled toes with his hands, and noticed two crows flying over the building across the street.
He was being selfish. He didn't want Ed to worry about him. He wanted there to be peace between them. He would sleep in this goddamned bed.
Sleep did overtake him, eventually, long after the last time he heard Ed moving around in the other room, long after the alien moon had once again filled his view of the window. His eyes did close, his heart did slow, his muscles relaxed, and he slid into a dream.
He shivered, the room was so cold, and he pulled the mangy quilt around himself, still half in sleep, he slit open his eyes, saw only the window, the light of the streetlamps, some black-looking clouds over a dark blue sky, and let his eyes close again, grasping at a dream in progress.
But then, behind him, a feeling of presence, a body next to his. He drew in on himself. The bed didn't creak or depress, but he felt someone behind him. Ed, finally come to lie down with him? He slit open his eyes again, smiled to himself. It would have been so much easier if Ed had just done this in the first place. Al relaxed again, didn't flinch when a hand rested on his shoulder and squeezed gently. Instantaneously, he tightened again. The hand wasn't his brother's: the fingers felt too long and slender, and the flesh was cool through his nightshirt.
Before his heart beat again, he spun around.
What he faced was a person, he was sure of that. There was something oddly familiar about the person, too; it matched what little he had seen of Heiderich, in form anyway, although the skin was not pale or pink as one would expect but a dusty grey, lacking any luster or hint of warmth. The face…he knew it from the photo he'd seen, the shape of the eyes, which were dark as pitch, as if the pupils were dilated all the way, no color to be seen.
It was terrifying, and, it seemed to him, his own heart had stopped beating, he held his breath as he faced him. Al found he had to pound the flat of his hand against his chest to keep himself from failing completely. His heart found its rhythm, although it was too fast.
He opened his mouth to speak but nothing came out.
The other was still lying on his side, right arm bent beneath him, the cold, slender hand cradling that grey cheek. He gazed at him, that ghost, specter, remnant of life, whatever it was, he gazed at him, sadly, it seemed to Al.
"I'm sorry," Al spoke. "I'm sorry you're dead."
It was all he could think of to say.
The thing—Heiderich—still lay there, looking at him.
"But you should go," Al attempted. His heart was beginning to still. It seemed that it didn't mean him any harm, but he still wanted it to leave.
Heiderich was still for longer than any living person could have been, those ink-dark eyes not even blinking as he stared. Al crossed his arms and squeezed his shoulders with his own hands, looking back at the once-person. Al dared not move too much; the situation seemed to demand that he remain still and quiet. He feared that if he did something rash, the interloper would do something unexpected, and that could mean anything. His rational mind wavered, part of him still treated this as a dream perhaps fed by fever or anxiety or displacement, or all of the above.
Then he saw Heiderich's lips part.
Al felt his own lips part in awe. It was going to speak to him. Heiderich closed his own eyes, the lids were dark and purplish, bruised. The spectre seemed to be resting, but then stretched out his arm and ran his hand over the pillow that Al had recently abandoned.
"I'm sorry," Al found himself saying again. Now he felt pity, more than fear. "Whatever is bothering you, I'm sorry, but you have to go."
What did people do in this situation? He had heard of ghosts and spirits, but hadn't believed in them, of course, not since he was five years old. But there were people who were supposed to know what to do—priests, mediums, psychics, there were people who claimed to be able to deal with these sorts of things. But Alfons Heiderich didn't seem like that much of a threat, it didn't seem right to turn a professional on him. If Ed had been friends with him in life, he must have been a good person, a reasonable person…
"Please go," Al said, trying to sound firm, but hearing his voice crack.
Heiderich retracted his hand, thin fingers curled and he pressed the hand to his chest, opened his eyes. Al was shocked by a momentary flash of brilliant blue, but they faded to unfathomable darkness almost in an instant.
"Edward," said the spectre, his brother's name with that foreign tongue.
That was it. It only took a instant for Al to position himself to flee the bed, but in the moment he blinked, Heiderich was standing on the other side of the bed, right in front of him, proving, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he was not at all normal.
Al sat on the edge of the bed, hands held out before him. He curled his shoulder up to his cheek and winced as the cold, slender hand touched his cheek. The skin was cool, dry, like a very old person's might be, but it still lacked something, that spark. The specter loomed over him—Heiderich seemed impossibly tall standing up—and traced the fingers, gently, over Al's features.
Al slapped the hand away and Heiderich stood still, not registering surprise. It was impossible to deal with a creature that didn't have predictable actions, Al thought. He pushed himself across the bed, ran to the door and pulled it open without looking back
He ran to the sitting room and threw himself upon his sleeping brother as he was stretched out on his back on the sofa.
Ed roused when Alfons slapped his chest with his hands.
"Get up, get up!" Al breathed.
Ed blinked in the dark room. "What?"
Al couldn't speak, he couldn't get enough breath in his lungs, he only pulled on Ed's flesh arm until his brother gave in and rose from the sofa. Al clung to Ed's arm, and was gratified when he felt his brother pull him closer.
"What is it? Something scare you?"
Al nodded frantically. At the door to the bedroom, he stopped and Ed stopped with him. Al stared at the bed: empty.
With great relief, he found his voice, and the chill that had been penetrating his body began to subside. He couldn't help it, and didn't care: he pressed his face to his brother's shoulder, and was grateful when Ed put his hand soothingly on his back.
"I can't sleep in that bed," he said into Ed's neck.
Ed sighed. "Okay." Taking Al's hand, Ed led him back into the sitting room and sat down on the sofa, pulling Al down beside him. "This'll be cramped, but…"
"I don't care," Al smiled, feeling tears in his eyes. "This is fine."
Ed lay down, Al next to him, and it was the first time they were so close together in this world. Suddenly this world felt warmer, smaller, and less strange. Al lay spooned next to Ed, his back cradled in the angles of Ed's body, the two of them trying to economize with the narrow space.
Ed's breath tickled his ear, newly exposed since his haircut earlier that day. He didn't mind. He began to relax, to feel like he could finally, finally sleep, a real sleep, without dreams, for hours and hours, without being afraid. His eyes slid closed.
"He came to see you," he said, as he drifted into sleep.
His brother's arms encircled him and squeezed, hard.
Ed waited as patiently as he could for Al to fall asleep. It took a while; Al had had a real scare, and his heartbeat took a while to calm, Ed could feel it under his hand.
He hadn't been here long but he thought he understood the basic rules of this world, that they were similar to his own. When people died, they were supposed to stay dead. But here, apparently, there was a much stronger undercurrent of fear of death, and fear of the dead, and fear of ghosts and spectral beings. Amestrians did not trifle with ghosts, and they had not been a particular part of his childhood; on the other hand, most people here seemed to have believed in them, even in an abstract and half-assed way, in their childhoods, and some into adulthood.
He knew for a fact that humans were comprised of mind, body, soul, but it was understood—where he came from—that a soul could not exist outside of a body, not without alchemy, which didn't work here. However, as in the case of the homunculi, beings could exist without a proper soul.
He was there, he knew it, he knew it and that was why he couldn't sleep in the bed. He crept into the room, it was so cold, so empty, without him. He pressed the palm of his flesh hand to the bed, felt it give, that lumpy old mattress, the creaky bedsprings, and thought of the mornings they would wake up with itchy bedbug bites along their wrists, and somehow managed to find that funny.
On this bed, Ed had first touched another person's body in a sexual way. In this bed, Ed had lost his virginity, on that mattress, these rarely washed sheets, their scent, intermingled, still in the fabric, even though one of them, half of them, was gone forever.
He knew he was here, still, that he came into the flat, he had felt his breath over him early this morning, cold but warm, soft but sharp, a huff of air that ruffled his hair and tickled his ear, a hand ghosting across the flesh of his shoulder, his cheek. He could almost smell him, and he had thought it had been a dream.
But now it was deep night, almost morning, the time when time stands still and plays tricks on one's eyes. Ed stood by the bed, looking at the shape the mussed-up sheet and quilt made, a small, sad mound of material. The only times he had ever really been even content in this world had been when he and Alfons had been together, in this bed, when the world, any world, hadn't mattered. When he had first woken up in someone else's arms, it was the first time he had felt a connection not with this world but with his own, part of a pattern, a continguity, part of the array of human spirits.
And someone touched his shoulder. He nearly jumped out of his skin, his heart in his throat, as he turned.
"Come on, Al—"
Alfons Heiderich was there, as he had looked only days before, his pale skin luminous, his blue eyes bright, that sparkle they had, intelligence, affection….how he would remember him. But he didn't have to remember him now, here he was, in the flesh. Ed just stared for a moment, and Alfons half-smiled in that shy way of his and dipped his head a bit. The cowlick of hair at his parting bobbed across his eyebrow, just as it always did.
"You're here…but we buried you." Ed could think of nothing else to say.
"I had to see you," Alfons said. He held up a hand, inviting Ed to press his palm to his. It was real, and quite warm.
Ed did not draw his hand back, but instead applied more pressure, to show that he, too, was still here. Then Ed stopped pressing and they laced their fingers together.
It had only been three days, but it felt like forever ago, the last time they touched, when Alfons had put his hand over his own and he had promised that he would never forget him. At that moment, he had thought he was going home for good, and he had to admit, for a moment, he had been glad they were parting, because he had imagined they were both going to be happy. But now here he was, still here, in a world where he didn't belong, and Alfons, who belonged here, was just a shade.
How should he talk to a dead man? It turned out that he couldn't, not yet. Instead, he let the shade pull his arms around him and hold him for a moment. Already it seemed that his body was not quite entirely solid, not quite entirely warm, but it didn't matter. It was better than what he had had an hour ago, which was nothing.
They moved toward the bed and sat on the edge. Ed was afraid that if their hands separated, Alfons would disappear in a puff of smoke. The room was cold and Ed was aware of his teeth starting to chatter together. Alfons looked at him with concern, his skin whiter than usual, faintly glowing with luminescence in the dark room. Then Alfons touched Ed's face.
"I can't believe this," Ed said miserably. "I get stuck here, and now you're gone."
"I'm here now," Alfons said. His voice was more clear than Ed remembered it; it had the quality of glass, brittle, like it could be shattered. It seemed not to come entirely from Alfons himself, but existed in his brain.
"But you're not staying," Ed said. "Are you?"
"I waited for you to come back," Alfons said. "It seemed like years…"
"Two days," Ed said. "That's all it was."
They looked at each other, but the occasion was palpably sad. This was it, Ed knew. Their last time together.
Ed had not wanted to sleep in the bed that had been theirs, would not accept being alone in it. The sofa would be fine until he and Al could find someplace else to live. But now, with Alfons, it was where he belonged. He was surprised to find that Alfons's clothes came off, as before, although he was wearing the suit he had been buried in, which he almost never wore in life. He settled down into the bed with the ghost so eagerly, he knew that he must be on the edge of madness. Part of him questioned whether this was real at all, but most of him didn't care.
It was the same but different; Alfons's flesh still felt oddly insubstantial, and yet, he could touch and sense it, more the contour of him than the actual solid being. Alfons's hands and mouth on his own body caused intense shivers of pleasure that he had feared he would never in his life feel again. When they kissed the sensation was that of kissing a waterfall, cool, fluid, movement, not something he could hold on to.
Alfons lay on top of him, fingers tangled into Ed's hair, and Ed wished that they could stay that way forever. He didn't want this to be over, for them to be over, for morning to come and for Al to be in the next room. This moment was what he wanted to keep, for now, because he already mourned its passing, as a dearly wished for thing that had never happened, and he already knew how much he would miss it.
"Don't cry." Alfons was pressing tears off Ed's cheek with his thumbs, his face over his, only centimeters away. He didn't smell like he always did, or even taste so. Even so, it was enough to break Ed's heart. He didn't think he had had it in him, to cry like that, so quietly. It had been a long time.
Now he realized he was losing something he had never quite had, why it felt so insubstantial in his hand, against his skin. It wasn't until now that he knew.
"Did you love me?" Ed asked, his voice shaking.
Alfons held his eyes, and they were still that otherworldly blue, bluer than they had been life.
"I didn't deserve it," Ed said.
There was that little spark, the smile flickering across the face again, the real smile, the left side of the mouth quirking up.
"Don't say that," Alfons said. "Are you really going to send me to the afterlife a martyr?"
"It might be good for your image, help you at the pearly gates and all that, whatever you believe here."
Alfons smiled but grew serious again. "I don't know what there is, after this. That's why I didn't want to leave you, just yet."
"The Gate," said Ed. "But somehow I think if you're meant to be there, it'll be all right."
"Will I see you again?" Alfons wondered aloud.
"I don't know." Ed had never been good as dissembling. The tears were still leaking from his eyes but he no longer resisted it.
"Now I get to see if there are other dimensions!" Alfons said, excited, and Ed couldn't help but squeeze his arms more tightly around him. He felt lighter, though, and his weight was diminishing by the second. "I'll find out before you, I might add."
"Yeah." Ed pressed his face into Alfons's neck, but it was even less substantial now than before. "Don't stop talking," he said, willing time to stop its forward movement. If he could have stopped the world turning, at that moment, he would have done so.
Al was jolted awake. He felt as if a breeze had passed over him, or a small tremor, some phenomenon that had shattered his sleep. He had not been dreaming, but when he sat up on the sofa, he felt his heart beating faster than normal, as if he had been running from something. The room was still and cold, and Ed was gone. Al moaned softly as he willed himself to stand, head still reeling from too little sleep and too much sensory input, too much displacement, worry. Damn this world, damn it for even existing. He propelled himself toward the bedroom, because he knew that Ed would be there.
"Brother?" Al said timidly, before even opening the door. To warn whatever it was, he thought, then hated himself for being such a fool. He pushed the door open, and there was his brother, curled under the blankets, asleep, his flesh hand stretched out across the empty half of the bed as if he were reaching for something. When he came closer and bent over the bed, he saw tears on his brother's cheeks, streaks beginning to dry.
Al looked around the room. He could feel immediately that whatever had been hovering here was gone. He felt a sense of relief roll through him, mixed with remorse and grief for his brother's sake. Al sat down on the edge of the bed, pulled part of the quilt around his shoulders and watched Ed sleep, wondered who this Heiderich had been, who had lingered after him, and made his brother cry. He had been worried that his brother was not the same person he had known, that he had closed himself off, but it looked like he was more grown up than he could imagine.
This world had ghosts, and grief, and love, and Al sensed that his brother had found all of these in Heiderich. How strange, and yet, Al was comforted: the world kept turning, the luminous moon moved from the window. Dawn came, and with it, the new world, full of beauty and terror, just like the one he had always known.