Statements on war. Audio recording by the Archivist, in situ.
Martin and John have been walking for 14 hours and 23 minutes. Martin thinks he should feel tired, but they truly have no need for rest anymore. He questions their mode of transport and suggests finding a vehicle of some sort. John tries to explain that it would not help; space is broken and the journey will take as long as it needs to take, regardless of how they travel.
He points out a tower in the distance. It is the Panopticon and the Institute, merged into something entirely new. They were hundreds of miles from the Institute before the Change, but now the tower can be seen from anywhere on Earth, and it can see them too. They will eventually reach the tower if they keep walking, but they will have to pass through every nightmare in between.
They are approaching the first nightmare already. In the old world they would not have been far from Kinloss Barracks, but now it is simply the Trench. The recording cuts off and when it turns back on, John and Martin are running for their lives in what sounds like an active war zone, with bagpipes loudly playing somewhere nearby.
They take shelter and find they are not alone. There are other people around them but they aren't aware of John and Martin’s presence. They were normal people before the Change, but now are just meat for the grinder. John starts speaking of the horrors of war as though giving a statement but Martin interrupts him, not wanting to hear it. John, however, knows and sees all of it, and he needs to let it out. Martin can’t and won’t be his outlet in this, but agrees to simply cover his ears as John speaks it into the recorder.
John speaks of the Trench, the front-line of a war that has no name and will never end. It is an unending meat grinder with an unquenchable hunger for victims.
In a transport vessel, Charlie sees his friend Ryan and many others die in a rain of bullets, yet they remain standing as they are packed in too tightly to fall. He can not move as he waits for the bullet that will claim his life.
His legs fall away in fear and he finds himself in a helicopter, strapped in and unable to move. He cannot hear cries of his fellow soldiers over the noise of the rotor. He cannot hear his own scream as he sees a rocket headed right for them.
Charlie lies upon the ground amid a twisted wreckage. The sleek figure of a drone watches him and silently follows as he tries to crawl away. He knows that when it finally decides to fire, he won’t even hear it. His crawls into the biting embrace of barbed wire that eagerly snakes around his limbs. He is trapped as the rumble of a tank draws near and he is soon reduced to a smear in the mud
Ishaan was promised valour and camaraderie, but even knowing it to be a lie, his only alternative was stagnant poverty. He was prepared to endure hell if it meant money for his family, but he had not known the full horror of the Trench. He is trapped inside the scorching innards of the tank, frantically pulling the firing lever as it is the only thing that reduces the heat for even a moment. Friend and foe alike fall before the tank’s advance as he prays the raining bombs will burst open his iron coffin and end his suffering. When his prayer is finally answered, the pain is beyond anything he could have imagined.
Hasanna wheels him into the overflowing triage tent. She approaches one of the doctors, which has a long body and many hands holding sharp instruments, giggling as it performs surgery. She considers asking what to do but knows it won't notice her. Outside, a line of civilians stretches into the distance but there is no room for them. She tries to apologise, but instead she closes the tent. She considers running but knows either side would gun her down if she tried. Sometimes she sees the enemy in the distance, their skin rough, dark, and scaly; they have tusks and beady red eyes, their viciously sharpened teeth behind lips smeared crimson with the blood of children. To call them monsters is the simple truth. They feel no pain or remorse, and seek nothing but carnage.
Sometimes, she can see the enemy’s triage tent and she can only imagine what atrocities take place inside. and wonders what atrocities are being committed there.
She sees Alexei, one of the enemy, look out over the battlefield. He in turn sees his enemies as shriveled and rat-like. He is beset by boredom. There is nothing to do but wait for the next attack or order and it drives him to despair. A haze moves on the breeze and screams rise in the distance. His comrades stagger out of the cloud, their teeth running down their faces like tears as the gas liquefies their bones. Alexei turns and flees.
He runs almost head first into a portly man in a tailored suit. A blood-red flower sits on his lapel and he begins to shake Alexei by the hand. “Good lad,” he says. “Good lad. Heroes one and all. A noble sacrifice.”
Alexei only wants to go home but with a single, jolly motion, the man plucks Alexei’s heart from his chest and places it in his wallet.
Next to Alexei’s bleeding corpse, Charlie wakes. There is about to be another attack, and heavy losses are expected. He picks up his gun, and goes back to the war.
Some time later they are walking through what sounds like water and Martin has fallen behind. He notices a new tape recorder and asks it why it’s there when the sudden ringing of a payphone startles him. Martin figures it must be for him as there is no one else around but he decides not to answer it and the ringing eventually stops.