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I’m sorry.

The paper is blank.

sorry so sorry please forgive me forgive me mary i was so wrong

so wrong so wrong

i'm sorry.
i love you.

The paper is blank. The letter that brought him here, hoping to find some answers, to find her – it never existed. All in his mind. Chasing after words that were never written, hope that didn’t exist.

Because he must have known what awaited him, somehow. Because he wanted to punish himself.

(Mary’s going to die? You – you must be joking...)

-

The staircase is ablaze when he reaches it, and he should be more surprised by that than he is. Angela is standing there, staring at a picture, seeming not to notice him, not to notice the flames that lick at her clothes. When he begins to ascend she turns and sees him and thinks he is her mother, and he backs away and she comes closer, Mama... why are you running away?, and then she realises who he is and starts and apologises, and she wants to die but he doesn’t want her to, he wants to save her, but in the end he knows that he will fail.

“James,” she says, turning slowly oh so slowly, and for a moment, with the fire blazing around her and her eyes hardened with resolve, she seems almost beautiful. “Give me back that knife.”

“No,” he says, taking a step back. The heat is unbearable. “No, I – I won’t.”

“Saving it for yourself?” she asks, and the scorn is painful to hear.

What...?

“No,” he says, and his voice sounds strange to his own ears. “I’d never kill myself.”

(No. I’m... I’m not like you.)

As she walks away from him, into the fire, he cannot tear his eyes away from her knife in his hands. The blade is stained with something red.

-

I... I brought you some flowers.

It should be strange, hearing his own voice here, a conversation that happened years ago. But nothing really surprises him any more.

He hears her screaming at him and he can remember how he felt as his voice echoes back to him from the past, hurt and confused, and he hesitates in the middle of the corridor and the voices die away and he shifts and suddenly Mary’s voice rips through him, pleading with him not to go, and even though it’s not real – it already happened – and even though it’s agony to hear it all again he stays, he listens to her sobbing out the fears that he made real.

James - wait, please don’t go! Stay with me! Don’t leave me alone – I didn’t mean what I said – please, James, tell me I’ll be okay! Tell me I’m not going to die! Help me...

-

Mary.

Mary is standing at the window. Mary is standing at the window, staring out of it, brown hair and plain dress and unmistakeable.

Mary, but when he calls her by her name she turns around and scorn is in her gaze and in her voice and she isn’t Mary, she’s Maria, and when will he stop making that mistake?

But he doesn’t need her any more. He knows the truth. He is finished with her.

She says that she is everything he ever wanted, and he shakes his head and says quietly that she will never be what he wants, because she’s not Mary

and before he knows what has happened she has transformed and a whiplike tentacle has curled around his neck and he cannot breathe, he can barely think as he is hoisted off the ground and slammed into the wall and the pain is unbelievable and without thinking barely able to see he grabs the handle of his gun and raises it and fires one, three, six times and tries to run but his mind is full of pain and static and his legs aren’t working properly and he scrambles back, he claws his way back across the metal grille and tries desperately to reload and he fires again and again and again and after what seems to be hours she falls and lies there and sings his name through him in Mary’s voice

James... James... James... James...

and it’s everywhere around him and it’s swallowing his mind and driving him insane and he can’t bear it, he can’t think, and so he raises the shotgun and takes careful aim and as he pulls the trigger he closes his eyes and turns away, because he somehow knows that the creature will become Maria when it dies, and he doesn’t want to see her die again, he doesn’t want another person’s blood on his hands.

He stands there for a long time, trying to get his breath back, trying not to think about everything that he has done.

When he opens his eyes, Mary is lying on the bed as she lay there when she was ill, when she was dying, and his throat is tight with hope mingled with fear, because he has found her at last but he knows that what he did can never be forgiven, and when she coughs he realises that he is going to have to watch her die again.

But there is still time in which to speak. For a moment, they are alone together, and she can curse him or scream at him, can do whatever she wants to him, and he will let her because he deserves it, because all of this is worth it to see her one last time.

She looks over and says his name weakly, dying, and even if she is an illusion he knows now that she is so much more real than Maria ever was, and before he knows what he is doing he has stepped forward and is asking for what he has no right to have.

“Forgive me...”

She tries to smile. “I told you that I wanted to die, James. I wanted the pain to end,” and for a moment James wants to say that that was it, that the only reason he did it was because he couldn’t bear to see her suffer, but he knows that it isn’t true and he cannot let her make excuses for him, and so he confesses that he hated her, he wanted her out of the way, he wanted his life back.

(“You killed me,” she says, and it seems to echo for ever in his mind, you killed me you killed me you killed me, “and you’re suffering for it. It’s enough, James.”

But it’s not enough, he knows. It will never be enough.)

(“James...” she says. “If that were true, then why do you look so sad?”

She’s willing to forgive him, he realises, amazed. She’s willing to forgive him, even now, even after what he’s done. And it almost makes him feel worse, because he resented her so much when she was ill. She had never deserved his hatred. He never deserved her love.)

She is dying. He is going to have to watch her die again, and they both know it, and he says her name quietly and he touches her gently and he loves her so much it hurts.

“James... please. Please, do something for me.”

She touches his hand, weakly, Go on with your life, and then she is gone.

And maybe he does. Maybe he finds Laura again and takes her with him, out of Silent Hill, because that’s what Mary wanted, and they go and he starts a new life without her, but always with her memory and the memory of what he did, because if he forgets again then he will be even more of a monster than he is already. Maybe Laura learns to trust him, eventually, and they share their memories of her and James sees that he is more than a murderer, that he can be a parent, that he can be a good person.

Or maybe he stares at her for a moment and considers the words, her final request to him, and it’s not something that he can deal with. Maybe he picks her body up – the body colder than it should be, she was alive, she was talking just a second ago – and he takes it to his car and there are no monsters any more because he has seen inside himself, he knows that he is the monster, and even if he can’t change the past he can change the present and destroy the future and so he puts her tenderly in the car and gets into the driver’s seat and hits the accelerator and the metal of the barrier screams when he hits it and the water of the lake is freezing but he embraces it, he loves it, he loves the town because it tried to kill him and death is what he needed, what he deserved, and he is laughing as the water rushes into the car and he holds Mary in his arms and