Simon Marandur Edmund found himself in a place that he did not recognize. It was snowing wherever he was. The sky was low and grey, and the snow had already accumulated in deep drifts, muffling the noise of the city around him. Looking down at himself, he discovered that he was naked—but he was not the least bit cold.
He began to walk, his bare feet punching deep holes through the powder on the sidewalk. Monstrous grey and silver buildings loomed up on either side of him, their menace broken by the occasional square of yellow light that marked the window of an inhabited room. Simon felt a peculiar pressure on his soul, like a weight upon his chest. In a city as big as this one looked to be, it seemed strange that there was no one outside, even in weather like this.
He had walked for a good while before noticing that he hadn’t heard any sounds but for the crunch of his feet in the snow for the better part of ten minutes. He was engulfed in a complete and utter silence. Looking around, he found that he could no longer see any lights in the windows of the surrounding buildings. The sky had grown darker, and the snowflakes were larger and more numerous, falling heavily upon Simon’s bare skin. The temperature, though, still felt remarkably comfortable. Was this a dream? It must have been. Had Snake brought him here?
Simon looked around again. No, this landscape was not of Snake’s making. Indeed, it was a deeply unsettling place—almost terrifyingly so—but there was nothing Snake-ish about it. It was too subtle, too calm and quiet. Snake had always tried too hard to frighten him. Its methods were direct—speaking in his mind, showing him horrifying images and so forth. But this was new. There were no voices in his head save for the ramblings of his own consciousness, and there was nothing legitimately wrong with his surroundings. Silence was not frightening in its own right, nor was snow or solitude. There was no reason to fear any of these things. Snow didn’t kill; the killer was the cold that came with it. Silence was no murderer; no, the murderers were the things that broke it—an echoing footstep that should not have echoed, the snap of a twig, the ragged breath from a mouth other than your own. There was no danger in solitude; it was only ever a contributing factor in death. It was not solitude that killed the lonely man, but the noose of rope about his neck. It was not solitude that killed the mountaineer, but starvation or cold. It wouldn’t be solitude that killed you if something pounced upon you, unexpectedly, from behind. No, not solitude. It isn’t solitude if you aren’t actually alone.
Simon cautiously turned a full circle. Nothing. He continued onward.
As he walked, he began to hear the faint sound of music, the tinny kind, the sort that might come from a music box. It began to grow louder, and he realized that the tune sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. Straining to hear it better, he started to jog in the direction of the sound, desperate to know what it was, imagining that if he heard it at a higher volume, he might more easily recognize the song. But he was running too fast, and he slipped, falling face-first into the snow, which was suddenly as cold and wet as it should have been.
“Wakey wakey, madboy,” Seoc was saying, a malicious grin upon his face and a now-empty pitcher of water in his hand. “We ha’ a busy day ahead o’ us.”
“Fuck you.” Simon sat up and dried his face on a section of blanket that Seoc had not managed to douse with the pitcherful of frigid water. “What was that, snowmelt?”
“No, jus’ Sey’s leftover drinkin’ water.” Seoc set the empty pitcher back down on Seymour’s bedside table. Simon looked over and saw that the Aechyed was sitting upright in bed with a blanket about his shoulders, still looking a bit ill. Overall, though, his condition seemed to have improved immensely over the course of the night. “It got cold in here last night,” Seoc continued. “There was a thin layer o’ ice on the surface.”
“And you saw that the water had ice on it, and you thought, ‘Och, liet’s dump thes on Saymon an’ sae whit ’aeppens’?”
Seoc frowned. “I dinna soond like that. But yes. That is what I thought.”