In honor of last last life, I’ve written this fic inspired by this post of mine! No spoilers for the final session ahead.
There’s something wrong with him. Maybe it’s a backwards line of code somewhere that’s screwing him up, but something about the way the game is processing him being Red is wrong.
“Kill, kill, kill,” the voices in Lizzie’s head cry.
“Die, die, die,” the voices in Jimmy’s head hiss.
CW: death, blood, suicidal thoughts (more acceptance inevitable death, but it presents as very suicidal).
Fic below cut!
“I understand, now,” Lizzie says.
Jimmy tilts his head. Lizzie catches his eye, grins. Her teeth come to pointed ends. “What Joel meant,” she says. “He told me, once, that being Red was loud. I didn’t get it until I heard them.”
Neither of them have been Red for long. Both of them had fallen to the other’s trap, and in that strange exchange of accidental betrayal, they’ve found camaraderie. Not trust, never trust. Not now that they’re both Red.
“You can hear them, can’t you?” Lizzie whispers, and Jimmy leans closer to hear her over the cacophony of voices in his head. “The way they chant. Over and over. They want blood, Jimmy. They want me to kill.”
Jimmy shuffles away slightly, freezing when Lizzie laughs. The sound is shrill, harsh, more manic than he’s ever heard it. “Don’t worry, Jimmy,” she giggles. “I won’t kill you. It really wants Green blood. I do need to ask Joel how he deals with it, though,” she says, sobering suddenly. “Hearing it constantly--’kill, kill, kill’--it’s a little hard to ignore, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Jimmy mutters. “Yeah, it is. I don’t think I’ll be able to ignore it much longer.” He absentmindedly scratches his arm, wincing as he reopens a sore. Was Lizzie going to stay with him, right until the end? Will she be by his side, a new ally, one who will actually care for him?
“I’d better be off, then,” Lizzie says, and his heart falls a little. She picks up her backpack--a spare of Jimmy’s, all her stuff burned--and hefts it onto her shoulders. She pauses for a moment, stood there in the front lawn of Jimmy’s exile hut. “I’m going to go see what Joel is up to. You’re welcome to join me--I’m sure everyone would love to have you.”
Because it is everyone, isn't it? Everyone he could possibly ally himself with. Joel, Mumbo, and Scar--and presumably Skizz--have all formed a team, are running in a pack together.
None of them want him, though. Sure, maybe Mumbo would want one of his old allies on their team. Maybe Joel would want someone who knew Scott as well as he did (though he would never betray Scott, especially not to Joel, especially not to a Red). That wasn’t wanting him, though. Not like Joel wanted Lizzie. Not like Mumbo wanted Grian. Not like Scar wanted everyone. That was just, “Oh, Jimmy’s also Red. Might as well let him join.”
And he would just slow them down, anyways. The voices grow louder, only returning to their normal level once he opens his mouth to speak.
“No thanks,” he says, pulling a strained grin onto his face. “I’ll be fine on my own. I like it, sort of.”
“Alone, yeah,” Lizzie says ruefully. “Alone with Scar as a neighbor and Joel just over the hill?”
Lizzie adjusts the straps of the backpack, then takes it off and opens it up, checking her few possessions. If Jimmy didn’t know any better, he’d think she was stalling.
“Well,” she says at last, pushing back her knotted hair (it had once been magically tangle-free, but on Red, it has rat nests that are impossible to pull loose). “I guess I’ll be seeing you.”
“Right. See you soon,” Jimmy says. He tries to put as much conviction as he could into his voice, but it comes out flat. Lizzie turns what is certainly meant to be a sad smile on him. It appears more hungry.
Then she’s gone, off into the dimming afternoon, the buckle on the backpack glinting in the sun. Jimmy watches her go until she’s out of sight, standing motionless in his front yard, the world silent but for the voices in his ears.
He’s heard it from Grian, from Joel, from Scar, and now from Lizzie. Reds have voices in their heads intent on blood, urging them to murder with no distinction of friend from foe. Yellow Life Jimmy hadn’t understood. Red Life Jimmy understands all too well.
“Kill, kill, kill,” the voices in Lizzie’s head cry.
“Die, die, die,” the voices in Jimmy’s head hiss.
Jimmy had been Red for a whole day before Lizzie died to his trap. Like most Reds, he was gleeful, sated for a moment. Unlike most Reds, though, the need to kill vanished, as did the itch in his spine, his hands, his eyes--the sense of relief from causing Lizzie’s death had been the Boogeyman curse dissipating, not the voices calming. The bloodthirst never returned. The voices called for his death, but without the frenzy of being the Boogeyman, they were clearer, louder, more insistent.
There’s something wrong with him. Maybe it’s a backwards line of code somewhere that’s screwing him up, but something about the way the game is processing him being Red is wrong. He would bring it up to Grian, but he hasn’t seen him. Besides, it’s not too much of an issue. The were all going to die eventually, right? What does it matter if his fate is expedited?
He doesn’t eat. He’d tried to, but food tastes like shards of glass, bitter and scraping down his throat. He can’t tolerate it. Water is nearly as bad, his hand jerking as he tries to take a sip, the voices clamoring for him to choke.
He doesn’t allow himself near weapons--the voices grow so loud every time he does, he fears he might ‘slip’ onto his own sword. He doesn’t go out at night either, afraid that he’ll trip over his heavy feet, not move out of the way when a creeper approaches.
Today he glances out the window to his one scraggly sheep in the goat pen. He really ought to go shear it. He doesn’t have the energy.
It’s been nearly a week since Lizzie left. At first he’d been okay--certainly not good, but alive. He’d been able to go on a mining trip, pen a sheep, do some household chores. Now he barely moves from the windowsill or the porch, watching the trees across the way wave in the wind or the weeds in his small flowerbed grow.
He’s dying, and he knows it. He woke up today with a low fever, one that has been inching higher the longer the day goes on. The sores on his body from exploding in Lizzie’s trap haven’t healed, have only gotten worse. His skin is grey and peeling, balance unsteady, head pounding. He isn’t going to get better.
He’s terrified--or, he would be, if he had the energy. Instead, he’s mostly calm. A little sad--he’s so frequently alone when he dies, and he knows that he and the Southlanders haven’t been on good terms for a while now, and he’s barely spoken with Scott, but at this point he just wants someone here. He would even welcome Joel, as long as it means he doesn’t die alone.
He wishes someone was here to hold his hand when he finally goes.
He ought to have been gone a long time ago, but even though his body is actively decaying, Jimmy keeps waking up. He expected to die the night Lizzie left. He’s somehow held on, despite being practically deafened by the voices screaming incessantly for his death. And so, with the little time he has left, Jimmy lives peacefully.
He ignores the Greens that sprint through his fields as if he isn’t there. He doesn’t raise a finger against the Phantoms that swoop around his house each night (despite sleeping--he sleeps all the time, and yet they surround him). Today, on what feels like the last day, he wraps himself in blankets, sits in the shoddy rocking chair (that wasn’t originally meant to rock), and watches the clouds drift by, remembering a better time in a five-towered fort, or in a valley of flowers, or anywhere when he wasn’t Red.
He rocks back and forth, the creak, the wind, the bleating of his sheep inaudible. He’s deaf except for the voices. He’s alone except for the voices. He’s forgotten by all but the voices.
When night falls, Jimmy gathers what strength he has left and pushes to his feet. The world is shockingly sharp, edges more intense than they’ve ever been, and he blames it on his climbing fever. Heat pulses from his dry skin, in time with the pounding of his head. He shivers as his blankets fall from him, pooling at his feet, but continues inside. There’s another blanket on his bed, and a fire in the furnace. If he really needs them, he’ll come back out and get them.
Jimmy wants to collapse into bed, but he doesn’t. He makes the bed, slow, painstaking, until it’s neater than it’s ever been. Then he tidies up the hut as much as he can, putting away uneaten food, sweeping up the muddy tracks, putting his long-discarded boots in the chest beside his bed. He wishes he had the ability to mop up the dried blood that stains his splintering floor.
He doesn’t want whoever finds his body to also find a mess.
He’s about to get into bed, but a glance out his window shows the sheep, standing at the gate to the pen. He can’t leave him to starve. The sun has almost set. He’ll have to move fast.
Jimmy limps out of his hut--his left leg has begun to drag--and unlatches the gate of the pen, shooing the sheep out. The sheep doesn’t move, stares at him forlornly. He hadn’t had the time to name it.
He croaks something--it might be a name, it might not be. He can’t hear himself. The sheep doesn’t move. Jimmy sighs. It’s dark. He’s tired. He’s not going to die here, in his yard, where anyone could see him. He’s going to die in his own bed, warm and alone.
He ties the gate open with fumbling fingers, in case the sheep wants to leave at any point. Then he pats the sheep on the head and staggers back into his house. He leaves the door unlocked. Once his death message appears, someone might come looking.
His Southlands sweater (Martyn and Impulse had made them for everyone, to undermine Grian’s superiority--he bragged frequently about being the warmest in the Southlands) has tears in places, singed here and there. He pulls it on anyway. It still feels warm.
Jimmy lays himself down in bed, a sense of finality filling his chest. He pulls the blanket up, his hands folded over it. The fire crackles in the furnace, a candle flickers from the table.
Jimmy’s eyes close. He wishes that whatever god is granting him clarity would stop. He’s dying, and he’s dying right now, on his own terms instead of letting someone kill him or his own stupidity get the better of him. It would hurt less if he wasn’t aware of his every action.
“I don’t wanna be alone,” he thinks he says. The voices are deafening--shouting, screaming, shrieking for his death. He’s ready. He’s ready to give in.
Peaceful, alone, Jimmy slips away.
And then he wakes up.
He’s disoriented, confused, and a little annoyed. He didn’t want to wake up. He intended to die. But there’s noise--he can hear something over the voices--a knock.
Then his front door opens.
The candle has gone out, as has the fire, but light floods the room when Mumbo steps in, eyes gleaming red and only one maroon sleeve of his sweater remaining, the rest shredded. He tosses something purple up into the air, then catches it. An End Crystal.
“Hello, Jimmy!” he says cheerfully. He doesn’t notice that Jimmy is practically dead, should be dead, grey skin hanging off in bunches and littered with sores. In the hours that he’s been asleep, Jimmy’s fever has climbed even higher, blurring his vision and burning his brain. He can’t focus on Mumbo, can barely hear his words. Even so, he strains to listen.
“I’m thinking of setting a trap for Grian. Want to come?”
Jimmy doesn’t. He shouldn’t. He’s dying, in his own bed, in his sleep. He doesn’t want anyone to see how pitifully weak he is, that he can’t survive being Red.
He also doesn’t want to be alone.
And Mumbo asked him. Mumbo wants his help. Jimmy’s never been able to say no, not to his friends.
His death will have to be postponed.
“In the Southlands?” he hopes he says. He still can’t hear his own voice. He sits up achingly, swinging his numb legs over the side of the bed and retrieving his boots from the chest. Mumbo nods, his mouth moving. Jimmy has no clue what he’s saying. The voices are swelling in his ears.
They leave, the hut empty, the sheep gone from the yard. Jimmy stumbles along behind Mumbo, so utterly exhausted and ill that he can barely move. He’s not alone anymore, and that’s what matters.
He tries not to hope that Grian will fall into the trap. He tries not to hope that maybe, with Grian as an ally, he can ask him to figure out what’s wrong, fix the coding that broke him as a Red Life. Grian’s too smart to fall into the trap. Grian would sooner kill him. At least he wouldn’t be alone. At least he would be at home.
The Southlands. Home.
Jimmy would like to die at home.