Everything looked wrong. His misshapen hands, the disjointed movements he made, the reddish tinge to his vision. It looked off. Fake. A parody of reality formed by an addled mind. The childish description of a toddler's nightmare.
But everything felt real.
So sickeningly, horrifyingly real.
Arthur watched, a passenger in his own mind, as hands he didn't recognise expertly handled the weapon he held. A Colt Cobra 2nd Issue 38. Beautiful in design, deadly in execution. A collector's item coveted by any avid pistol collector and Arthur was about to sell it. It was almost sad that he was giving up such a nice tool, but money was far more valuable to him. It always had been, always would be. A lesson taught by a harsh reality in a world that didn't care about the struggles of an older brother. Starving wasn’t something he wanted to face again and hospital bills didn’t come cheap.
Not in America, the land of the free.
Arthur watched, horrified, as his hands passed the colt over the desk to the entity rubbing its hands in glee. A featureless mass of shadow and darkness, it was only vaguely human in appearance, devoid of detail and warmth. Emptiness incarnate. A crack in the world that shouldn't exist.
That's how it always appeared in Arthur’s dreams.
A caricature of life that had stolen the one most precious to him, his greatest mistake, the demon that would haunt him for the rest of his life and the reflection that stared back at him every time he looked in the mirror.
What he had become?
Arthur screamed, shouted and raged at himself, trying to reach out and take back the instrument of death.
DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT! DON'T DO IT!
TAKE BACK THE FUCKING GUN!
It was an exercise in futility. Arthur had no control here. He was only a passenger, a witness to the crime that would take everything from him. It was depressingly poetic, the punishment he deserved but never received. His guilty conscience made manifest to remind him of the single greatest mistake of his life.
He could hear it already. The noise that always accompanied his nightmare. The incessant beeping of a ringtone with a backdrop of police sirens getting louder by the second. Barely noticeable at first but on its way to intolerable levels.
The anthem of his guilt.
WAKE UP, WAKE UP, WAKE UP!
Arthur tried to force himself from his nightmare to little effect. He didn’t want to see what came next. Didn't want to answer the call. Didn't want to feel the anguish of regret. It was futile.
Arthur watched in abject horror as he picked up the phone. He was no longer sitting behind his desk, but suddenly standing in the middle of a white hallway that stretched into eternity.
“We need you to come to the hospital.”
A detached monotonous voice that spelt out his doom.
Plagued by indecision and guilt, Arthur has fallen into the chasms of despair and depression, trying to come to terms with the consequences of his actions.
His friends tell him that it wasn't his fault, his therapist that he should leave the past behind him and his colleagues that he can change nothing. But Arthur knows better. After all, no one knows what he's done. No one knows the life he's lived.
But just six months after the loss that would change his life forever, Arthur is given a second chance. Redemption. The world has changed; evolved, and with it has come the intangible and esoteric energy of Ether, as well as the system that governs it.
With new rules to live by and a path to redemption before him, Arthur now has a way to right his wrongs. At least he thinks so. After all, nothing is quite impossible when you can rewrite reality itself.