Chapter 19: A Light at the End of the Tunnel

We decided to pause briefly out of respect for our fallen friend, Jargon.
The fall from that ladder has still left me completely and utterly lost… I’m having a hard time recollecting who I am and what my purpose is. Everything that has happened so far has seemed unreal… and terrible. Everyone I travel with seems to be coming more and more distant as we travel – any relationship I seem to have had with them before is all but dissolved now. Since my knowledge of who they are eludes me I’m not sure how to remedy the situation – but worse than that, I feel the same feeling coming over me.
This place makes you forget. Everything around us has its own sad story about what it’s been through. I can hear the walls speaking as we move through them. The water drops and moaning of weight bearing down on them tells a story that’s been 20 years in the making; one of betrayal, tragedy, and suffering.
These people look up to me like I’m some sort of god among men. I’d hate to see the disappointment on their faces if they were to learn that I’m on the verge of insanity just like they are. But there are these “abilities” I have. I don’t think I had them before as they feel… untrained.
Whatever our fate I’ll just be happy to finally be out of here and back to my home. Do I have a home? Does anyone love me and expect me back? I hope my questions will be answered before this place buries the answers forever.

{Excerpt from Phantom’s PDA}
[Begin audio]
*Phantom’s boots clink as he shuffles slowly across a metal catwalk near some sort of large machine next to him. The tears on his face, streaking through the dirt have already attracted enough dirt to be completely visible on the surface. He walks aimlessly on, barely remembering where he is going and what his mission is.
He passes by rooms, glancing slowly at the numbers as he walks by. Every shift of his eyes are heavy and painful. It feels like half his soul is gone and the other half is attempting to compensate, barely keeping his legs moving in the process.
“Room 4b”
This is the one. He approaches the dirty window and looks inside. The room is silent as death. Everything is covered in a thick layer of dust, masking the various objects littering the room. He slowly turns the knob on the door. Dust falls from door frame as the door slowly creaks open. Dim light from the hall enters the room. A stirring sound comes from inside. Phantom snaps back to reality for a moment to bring up his gun and point his headlamp around the room.*
Phantom: H… hello?
*The sound of dirt scratching across the surface of the floor comes from somewhere in the room. Phantom points his headlamp towards the noise. The light passes over a boot coming from what looks like a supply closet of some sort. He follows the boot up to a leg, then a body, and then a face.*
Phantom: Kateryna?
*The boot retracts slowly back into the supply closet as the body props itself against the wall of the closet. The eyes slowly open.*
Kateryna: Brother? Is that you?
Phantom: Yes It’s me! Oh my God I thought I’d never see you again!
*Phantom rushes over to his sister and hugs her. She returns the embrace weakly.*
Phantom: There’s so many questions I have and so much to tell you. I don’t even know where to begin. But you… how did you get here? Tell me everything.
Kateryna: It… it seems like such a blur now…
*Kateryna coughs and gags.*
Phantom: Here… have some food. When was the last time you ate?
*Kateryna stares blankly back at him as if she doesn’t comprehend the question.*
*Phantom gets out an energy drink and assists Kateryna as she drinks slowly from the can.*
Phantom: There you go… don’t say another word until have something to eat.
*Phantom rummages through his supplies, pausing when he sees Jargon’s journal, which he picked up by mistake. He closes his eyes and sighs heavily, shoving the journal aside while he searches for food. He stops when he finds a nice tin of meat and stew. He offers the food to his sister who reaches up weakly to accept, her hands shaking as she grabs onto it. She eats slowly, as if she is being forced to eat a toxic substance - barely keeping it down. When she finishes, Phantom asks again:*
Phantom: Kateryna, how did you get here? And what happened to you and Mother?
*Kateryna looks straight ahead, the light in her eyes barely visible as she seems to search her past thoughts. Finally, she speaks:*
Kateryna: When… Mother and I found information on the power plant and started to dig further, we found some military references. Things like secret radar projects, scientific experiments, and eventually mind-control research. We got hold of a top secret document referring to a place known as Sector X…
Phantom: Sector X… I’ve seen that – it’s somewhere here in the power plant.
Kateryna: Yes. When we attempted to get more information about the project we started to draw suspicion. Our sources were less and less willing to give us any more information and we started to draw military attention. Then one day they came for us…
Phantom: I remember that day… when I came home nothing was there. I had no idea what had happened to you. It wasn’t long after that that I first came into the Zone.
Kateryna: We spent days in isolation before one of the commanders finally came down to speak with us. He asked us what we were doing, specifically why we were so intent on obtaining top secret documents. We told him about our search for Father. He seemed to know who we were talking about as we told him the story. After that, he told us he’s help us find him. We were suspicious but glad to accept any help he could offer.
Phantom: Why do I not like the sound of this…
Kateryna: Well… our suspicions were correct. He got in an APC and started driving. We drove for hours, all the time he talking to some other soldiers in the APC in hushed tones, every once in a while making some remark about the NPP. Finally, we stopped and the ramp descended. The soldiers in the APC started talking excitedly and started to look scared. Then the commander approached us and said:
“I told you I’d help you find your missing Father. Well, here you go.”
He pushed us both down the ramp and the APC drove away, leaving us alone. It took us a minute or two for everything that had just happened to hit us, but after we had gotten back to our senses, we realized where they had left us.
Phantom Where were you?
Kateryna: Pripyat.
Phantom: You must have been so scared. I was there myself just a… when was it… I can’t remember now.
Kateryna: We thought we were dead. We took shelter in one of the abandoned apartments as night set in. The rooms were cold and damp so we had to huddle together to keep warm. Mother started coughing and vomiting in the early hours. We didn’t have a Geiger counter on us, but I knew that the radiation levels were hazardous and that she was getting sick from the radiation.
Before morning, I looked out the window near us and saw what looked like giant fireflies in the street below us. When I looked closer, I saw that it was actually people with strange lights on them!
Phantom: Monolith…
Kateryna: Yes… I believe that is what they called themselves. I immediately ran down and drew the attention of one of them. He turned to me and looked at me with the strangest look in his eyes… almost like he wasn’t looking at me at all. I knew there was something wrong with him, but I was desperate. After going on about some “Wish Granter” and “children of the Zone” or some nonsense they found Mother in the apartment and took us both to their headquarters.
While there, they took good care of us – made sure we had food and protection from the elements. Everything was all well and good for a few days besides the odd behavior from the men there. Then one day that all changed…
Phantom: Go on.
Kateryna: We decided to sneak some weapons from their armory as well, knowing that we would need them where we were going. After we had everything we needed, they gave us some of their suits and the strange objects that the lights came from. After some more gibberish about the Zone and the Monolith they finally gave us an ultimatum:
“Join with us, as sisters of the Zone – or be forgotten as an orphan.”
At that point we started to get second thoughts about our well-being there, so we ran. As we ran we found that we were going much faster than either of us ever knew we could. The men behind us were also running incredibly fast, but I think our adrenaline exceeded theirs and made us go even faster. Eventually they gave up, screaming curses and threats after us. By the time we had a chance to take in our surroundings we found that we were standing directly in front of the NPP.
Phantom: I remember the sight… I know there’s no way to describe it and do it justice.
Kateryna: No… needless to say it was not the same as pictures show back then. We knew we were in incredible danger, so the first thing we did was try to find a way inside the NPP without attracting too much attention. We decided to search around the backside of the power plant, hoping there would be a maintenance entrance somewhere that we could break into easily. Lucky for us there was one pretty close to that side of the power plant and we got right in.
Phantom: Lucky indeed. We went the long way and had to fight off not only an army of mutants, but other Stalkers out to kill us.
Kateryna: Was that giant creature out there? The one that looked like a head with legs attached?
*Phantom looks down in recollection.*
Phantom: Yeah… I think it was called a Pseudogiant.
Kateryna: I think it saw us as we went in. We saw it come around a corner just as we were entering the maintenance room. We were so surprised that we just stood there as it turned to face us. As soon as we saw those enormous eyes staring right at us we booked it. We got inside and stayed put for a few minutes. We could hear all kinds of bizarre noises coming from outside, we didn’t know what it was and we didn’t want to find out… but even weirder were the sounds coming from inside.
*Kateryna pauses. Tears well in her eyes and her voice cracks.*
Kateryna: As we followed the noise and passed all the decay and bodies along the way, we could sense that Father had been there. It was a strange feeling, but it felt like he was there with us. Almost like being haunted. As we got closer, we a saw a mutant coming towards us at the end of the hall we were going down. We freaked out and ran the other way, but it sent out some wave of energy at us that knocked us on the floor. We struggled to get up but the force of the energy was too much for us. As the creature got closer we started to panic and scream, knowing that we were about to die. But then it did the strangest thing…
*Tears begin to well in Phantom’s eyes as well, as he predicts the rest of the story.*
Kateryna: It touched Mother’s cheek, and then mine. It’s hands were cold and rough, but somehow it felt familiar. I got the courage to look up at its face. Its head was misshapen, the skin cracked and hair in patches around it – but when I looked into its dark eyes I saw a piece of myself in it.
Phantom *sobbing*: Mother always said you had Father’s eyes…
Kateryna: How… how did you know it was Father?
Phantom: Because I saw him too. He shared his thoughts with me, just before he died.
Kateryna: Died? No… Father’s alive. He keeps me safe!
*Phantom tells the story of his encounter with Father, and his ultimate death at the hands of Jargon. Kateryna cries through most of the story, especially during the retelling of the thoughts Father shared with Phantom.*
Kateryna: I… I knew something was wrong. He never went far from me. He knew his appearance frightened me, so he stayed with me in thought only, but I saw him walking by sometimes when he thought I was sleeping. He had such hate and pain in his eyes, but when he was near me, I knew that he would do everything in his power to keep me safe. To preserve me until the time was right…
Phantom: What do you mean?
Kateryna: He was fulfilling my wish.
Phantom: Wish? What wish?
Kateryna: That we would all be together soon. And now we are.
Phantom: Yeah, I guess so. But not in the way that I expected it.
Kateryna: Mother is here too!
*Kateryna pushes aside some old coats hanging from a bar in the closet above her to reveal a woman. She looks back at Phantom with a smile, her eyes refusing to blink as she looks upon her son for the first time in what seems like ages.*
Phantom: Mother…?
*Mother continues to stare, her smile unyielding. She sways slightly from the bar she is attached to by rope. Her right arm is nothing but bone with what looks like bite marks from human teeth all the along the length of it.*
Phantom: Oh my God…
Kateryna: Mother has been keeping me healthy, that way we could all be together again.
*Kateryna slowly stands up and kisses Mother on the cheek. The rope creaks as the corpse is disturbed. She smiles weakly at Phantom, but enough for him to see her chipped and worn teeth from gnawing on human bones.*
*Phantom, in shock, gets up quickly and backs away. Kateryna slowly walks toward him.*
Kateryna: What’s wrong? We did it! We finally found Father.
Phantom: But at what cost?! Mother is dead… and now so is Father. I killed an innocent man… one who’s been just as much of a father to me as my own father was because he was trying to protect me from that… monster! Jargon was right… my Father died that night in the NPP.
Kateryna: Lies! Father has been here, lost and lonely for years until we came here. He’s been searching for us just like we were searching for him!
Phantom: Yeah? And when you found him what did you think to do then? What about those responsible for the death and destruction here? Did you ever think about using the knowledge you gained here to bring those murderers to justice?
*Kateryna looks back at Phantom, confused and hurt.*
Kateryna: Why can’t you just be happy that we’re all together again?
*She retreats back to the closet and grabs hold of Mother’s bony hand.*
Phantom: Have you looked around you recently?! You’re living in the middle of the deadliest place on earth, in a dark room with the body of our dead mother who you’ve apparently been EATING, while the mutated remains of our father roams the hallways like a zombie. Happy is not a good word to describe how I’m feeling right now!
Kateryna: Then I’ll take you to see the Wish Granter. Once you make a wish, you’ll be happy again.
Phantom: Wish Granter… you’ve seen the Wish Granter?
Kateryna: Of course. It was all the Monolithians talked about. I had to see if it actually existed.
Phantom: I’d heard the rumors but I always thought of it more as a symbol of wealth in the center of the Zone… not an actual existing object. Where is it?
Kateryna: In the Reactor 4 sarcophagus.
Phantom: Can… can we go there?
Kateryna: The way will be dangerous without Father to protect us.
Phantom: I’ve made it this far and waited too long for this moment; I’d be a fool not to make the most of it.
Kateryna: Come. I’ll show you the way.
{End excerpt}

[Begin audio]
Gremlin: What’s wrong?
Virtue: I… don’t know. I can’t sense him anymore. I don’t know where to go. Dammit…
*Nimbus comes up and places his hand on Virtue’s arm.*
Nimbus: Hey, it’s alight man. You’ve gotten us this far with only a few scratches, we’re lucky to have you with us.
Virtue: Barely a scratch!? Jargon is dead! If I had been faster we could be with us right now!
Gremlin: Virtue, you did your best and that’s what counts. Some things are just out of our control… especially in this God-forsaken place. Don’t blame yourself for what *could* have happened.
*Virtue takes off his headgear and throws it on the ground, then sits down on a bench off to the side of the hall and puts his head in his hands, his thick black hair running through his fingertips. Random thoughts bombard him as his elevated stress level attempts to balance out his thoughts. His thoughts switch between the present and his mysterious past. The more he tries to dig up memories from his past the more frustrated he gets. Finally, he stands up abruptly, picks up his headgear, and continues on without a word. The rest of the group scrambles to catch up to him.*
Gremlin: Hey! Wait up! Where are you going?
Virtue: This way.
Gremlin: Did you regain your senses?
Virtue: No.
Gremlin: Then how do you know where you’re going?
Virtue: I don’t.
*Gremlin catches up to Virtue and speaks quietly, but harshly:*
Gremlin: Look. We’ve all been following you on this wild goose chase like little goslings but I’m seriously starting to doubt your stability right now. We all are.
Virtue: I don’t blame you. I’m about to fucking lose it.
Gremlin: If I need to I can resume leadership of the mission, but I’d rather not have to. They all believe in you, as do I, but ever since that bump to the head I don’t know who you are anymore.
*Virtue stops.*
Virtue *shouting*: I don’t even know who the fuck I am anymore!
Gremlin: Shh… you’re going to cause uncertainty among them. We need them in top working order, and in this place it’s not easy.
Virtue *shouting*: Uncertainty?! Try this one: I don’t know who I am, or what my purpose is. I just woke up in this hell hole with all of you following me around. I’m sorry, but until the memory of why I’m here comes back to me I’m not fit to lead this little expedition into hell.
Gremlin: Very well.
*Gremlin looks back to the group.*
Gremlin: As of now, I’m assuming command of the mission. I’ve deemed Virtue mentally unfit to continue in his position anymore. Any objections should be noted now.
*The Stalkers are silent.*
Virtue: I see. I don’t remember what my relationship was with each of you before my little accident, but you must have been a pretty sorry bunch to be around.
Nimbus: Ouch…
Gremlin: That’s enough. I realize you’re under a lot of stress. Just regroup with the others and cool down for a bit.
Virtue: Don’t fucking tell me what to do.
*Virtue shoves Gremlin into the wall as the group gasps.*
*Gremlin shakes his head, picking up his fallen sidearm and re-holstering it. He looks at Virtue as he does.*
Gremlin: I’ll say it one more time; fall in and let me handle things.
Virtue: Go fuck yourself.
*Gremlin stares unmoving at Virtue. The group looks on in anticipation of the next play. To everyone’s surprise, Gremlin throws a punch out of nowhere, nailing Virtue square in the face. Virtue falls to the floor in surprise. The groups’ jaws collectively drop as blood flows from Virtue’s nose. As he sits on the floor, Gremlin slowly offers his hand.*
Gremlin: I’m sorry I had to do that, but it was necessary.
*Virtue nods and reaches out for Gremlin’s hand. He grabs on, and then yanks down with all his might. Gremlin joins Virtue on the floor. Virtue turns over and decks Gremlin in the side of the head, yelling as he jumps on him and begins pelting him with blows to the face and body.
Gremlin gets a leg free and puts all the power he can muster into a kick to Virtue’s stomach. The impact sends him towards the opposite wall, which he crashes into, rolling onto the floor. As Gremlin approaches again, Virtue trips him, stands up over him and kicks him in the stomach repeatedly.
Zombie and Solitaire run up and pull Virtue back.*
Solitaire: Hey take it easy!
Zombie: Calm down.
*Gremlin stands up, rage and disappointment in his eyes.*
Gremlin: Fine. That’s the way you want it. Go. Do your own thing. When you decide you want to be part of the mission again come find us.
Nimbus: What?
Solitaire: That’s suicide! You can’t just kick him out!
Gremlin: He’s got a good sense of direction, he’ll be fine. It’s just his sense of friends and priorities that’s in need of improvement.
*Virtue struggles again while Zombie and Solitaire hold him.*
Gremlin: Go ahead, let him go. He obviously doesn’t care about the mission so let him do his own thing.
Enigma: No!
Gremlin: Look at him… he’s not the same Virtue I respected and called friend. No… that fall of his took him down more than just a maintenance shaft.
*Zombie and Solitaire let go of Virtue, who shakes them off with a glare. He takes a good long look at Gremlin, who looks back apathetically, then walks in the other direction without a word.*
Gremlin *to himself*: So much for making Jargon proud. While you’re pissing all over the friends who still have a pulse why don’t you do it all over the ones who don’t?
*The Stalkers stand there, hurt and unsure of what to do next. Then Gremlin speaks:*
Gremlin: Come on. We’ve got a mission to complete, and a promise to keep.
Nimbus: No… I can’t.
Gremlin: What’s wrong?
Nimbus: We’ve been through too much, he and I. I can’t leave him behind. It doesn’t matter what he says or does, I can’t abandon him now. I haven’t forgotten the meaning of friendship.
Gremlin: I won’t stop you.
*Nimbus looks at everyone with sorrow in his eyes.*
Nimbus: I’m sorry.
*He slowly turns and attempts to catch up with Virtue.*
*Enigma remains, her eyes on the floor.*
Gremlin: You either go with us or him. Just remember that we’re actually here for a reason.
Enigma: I… I know. I believe in your cause, but I also believe in his. Maybe he’s forgotten it, but I haven’t.
Gremlin: If you think you can get through to him be my guest. Just watch out for that right hook.
*Gremlin rubs his face, wincing in pain.*
*Enigma fakes a smile.*
Enigma: If everything goes well, we’ll see you when this is all over with. If not… then I’ll see you in another life.
*Gremlin mock-salutes her farewell.*
Gremlin: See you soon.
*Gremlin turns and walks away. Zombie and Solitaire look at each other in dismay, but continue with Gremlin on the mission.*

{Excerpt from Phantom’s PDA}
*Kateryna leads Phantom slowly down the hall. He follows closely behind with his rifle out. He’s amazed at how carelessly she wanders the hall, almost as if she’s getting up for a drink of water in the middle of the night. The thought of him and her together as kids runs through his mind unexpectedly. He thinks back painfully about how happy and carefree they were as kids and how everything was so simple back then. He remembers his dreams and aspirations, and the way his teachers always told him to pursue his dreams so that one day he would be rich and successful – a concept that he could never quite grasp since his friends were the only thing that made him happy.
Now, as he walked through the halls of the power plant, following the twisted shell of life his sister had become, he felt a morbid hatred for everyone who had lied to him. Life was not the way it was made to be in stories and movies. The reality of it all is that people are greedy, careless, and evil. Sure, some people he knew always tried to do the right thing, but in the end, it was the evil people with the power who always won. This was never more evident than it was in this moment.
Kateryna turns into a stairwell, up a few levels, and continues down a wide hallway that seems to stretch forever down both ends. She continues onward until she reaches a doorway. Inside, piles of a think black substance coat the walls in solidified stream of ooze. Phantom’s Geiger counter shoots up.*
Phantom: Uh… I don’t think you want to go in there.
Kateryna: It’s OK, it’s safe.
Phantom: But…
Kateryna: Trust me.
*Kateryna proceeds inside, stepping on the solidified piles of black ooze, which looks like a dark frozen ocean with her bare feet. Realization sets in.*
Phantom: That’s… that’s liquid graphite from the melted reactor core! That stuff is highly contaminated! How are you…
Kateryna: Too many questions. Just follow me.
*Phantom reluctantly steps inside. He takes a step onto the solidified graphite, his Geiger counter jumps into dangerous levels. He steps slowly over the sea; each step seems to sap life from his body. As he makes his way forward he quickly forgets about his predicament as he looks up to see where Kateryna is. Above him is the massive reactor lid that once held the control rods that drew the steam away from the reactor.*
Phantom: My God… this is it… this is where the accident started.
Kateryna: Yes. This is the Zone’s heart. The womb from which all her children were born.
*Phantom looks at his sister suspiciously, but is too distracted to question her manner of speaking.*
*The giant metal reactor lid is flipped upward – blown forcibly open when the heat pressure from the reactor erupted, sitting perpendicular on the top of the reactor, the bottom of which is buried beneath tons of solidified graphite, which they are now walking on. Kateryna proceeds up a ladder on the other side of the room, the bottom of which is buried beneath graphite, the top leading to a ledge somewhere above them.
She continues up the ladder and onto the ledge above. Phantom follows behind, analyzing the remains of the reactor as he climbs up it. He can’t help but wonder how much pressure would have been needed to cause the amount of damage seen all the way up the concrete shaft he is now within. He reaches the ledge, which is at about the same level as where the reactor lid has come to rest. He can see the hundred or so control rods sticking out haphazardly from the reactor lid – a giant space in one part of it easily indicates where the hotspot of heat and pressure built up beneath the reactor and ultimately erupted, causing the explosion and massive radiation leak which caused the beginning of the disaster.
Kateryna disappears above him. He continues to climb the ladder continued on from the ledge, looking on in awe at the massive, charred reactor lid next to him, looking like it could fall over and crush him at any moment. As he nears the top of the ladder, he can see a dim blue light coming from somewhere above him. His head peeks over the top of the ladder and into the room above. Near the other side of the massive room is an incredibly bright object, too bright for him to make out what it is before his eyes can adjust.*
*Kateryna calls from somewhere above him:*
Kateryna: Come on! We’re close now!
*As his eyes begin to adjust to the light in the room he can make more of it out. There are several mounds of graphite, dirt, cinder blocks, and twisted metal all around – the remains of Reactor 4. Above him, he can see the roof of the sarcophagus built around the reactor in an attempt to contain the radiation sealed within. It was obviously a failed attempt as demonstrated by the various holes in the tiled roof.
He swivels behind him to see where Kateryna is climbing another ladder at the back of the room. This ladder leads up to a large concrete platform of some sort that appears to look out over the entire room.*
Kateryna: Up here!
*Phantom follows behind, climbing the tall ladder cautiously behind her, being careful not to look down as the ladder creaks and moans under their weight. As he lifts himself onto the platform, he turns around and looks over the room, feeling dizzy from the height. He can now see the entire room. As his eyes adjust he can make out the object in the center of the room. It appears to be a giant rectangular crystal of some sort. *
Phantom: It’s… the Wish Granter! It looks like a giant crystal monolith. Now I see why the Monolithians worship it like a god.
Kateryna: Follow me. This path will lead us straight to it.
*Phantom follows Kateryna over rigged board walkways spanning across concrete structures and mounds of dirt, sand, and graphite. The makeshift walkway spans across the back of the room and around one side of it. They carefully traverse it, drawing ever closer to the light of the monolith.*
Kateryna: It’s just through here. Come on!
*They clear the last structure along the line of large concrete islands and step onto the platform housing the monolith. They both stare on in awe at the wonder towering over them. Phantom glances over at Kateryna who is mesmerized by the light of the structure. Seeing her face in the light reveals much that Phantom had not noticed before in the dark; her skin is rough and cracked and her hair has fallen out in patches. He feels sick, and looks back at the monolith.*
Kateryna: This is it. Now is your chance to make a wish that will make you happy.
*The urgency of the moment overwhelms Phantom. This is his chance to make one wish that will change everything in his life.*
*He walks toward the monolith, Kateryna observing in awe from her position nearby. He stops directly in front of it, turning to face it. As he looks into the bright blue light being distorted and mirrored by the crystal, he swears he can see into his very thoughts. He sees his face reflected back to him, but it’s different somehow. He can see himself surrounded by his family in a place far away from the Zone, away from pain. As he observes, he remembers his thoughts of all the lies he was led to believe growing up… all the promises of adult life and how good it would be, all shattered by the immense pain of reality.*
Kateryna: Yes… you’re seeing what you want. Now make a wish from the depth of your heart.
*As he looks deeper into the light of the monolith he takes his focus off himself and his family and sees a world of pain around him. Where he and his family are happy and carefree, other people around him are still suffering. He can see a dark shadow in the background, out of which emerges the infamous smokestack from the top of Chernobyl – not far from where he is currently standing. He sees the evil things crawling from ooze, spreading out form the center to infect the rest of the world. He remembers Jargon and his crusade to stop the evil from spreading, and to redeem the lives of his fallen friends by ending their meaningless existence. He knows that he wants.*
Phantom: I wish… that there would be no more pain in the world.
*Kateryna smiles and touches her head to the floor in submission to the will of the Wish Granter.*
Kateryna: May the Zone be praised!
*Phantom shifts uneasily at the words of his sister, finding them eerily familiar to those of a brainwashed Monolithian, but allows the sanctity of the moment wash over him. He holds out his arms as he awaits the granting of his wish. His thoughts shift to those of his Father, who suffered at the hand of the military along with his coworkers and countless other victims on that fateful night in the NPP. Then his mother, who died in search of the true fate of his father. His sister, who held on to a thread of hope to sustain her life as she waited for her wish to come true. Everyone in his life who had ever felt pain, the friends and families of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, his friends in the Zone, and those who died unknown. He breathes in deep, imagining all of that being wiped away and made anew. The room around him is silent, a deep hum coming from the Wish Granter.*
*He slowly opens his eyes. The light of the Wish Granter washing over him life a cleansing river. He looks into the crystal and sees himself staring back, but this time all he sees within is the reflection of the wall behind him on the other side of the room. Confused, he looks over at Kateryna who is still bowing to the Monolith, speaking some gibberish to the ground.*
Phantom: Kateryna… what happened? Did anything change?
*Kateryna remains motionless, still muttering some gibberish. A loud sound comes from somewhere nearby. The ground shakes and a pounding noise comes from somewhere outside. The roof groans in protest as rain assaults it from above. The pounding continues, every time it does the ground shakes. A large section of the sarcophagus collapses off to his right, metal and concrete come crashing down with a load roar. Rain comes pouring in through the dark red clouds above him. The raindrops hiss like acid as they impact the ground beneath them. As he looks up through the hole in the side of the room, he can see two massive eyes staring back at him.*
Phantom: What… the… hell…!
*The Giant Pseudogiant they encountered on the way in is looking into the sarcophagus, rain pouring off of it as it stands outside. It roars into the room, sending a torrent of wind in, knocking Phantom off of his feet. The creature marches in, knocking down sections of wall as it does. It reaches the platform, it’s enormous eyes directly leveled with the two little insects and the bright shiny light. The ceiling continues to moan above them until finally that section of the room gives in. The creature looks up in curiosity. As it does, a large section of roofing slides directly into one of its eyes. The creature roars in pain and stumbles backwards, shaking the room as it does. It slams into a building behind it, crushing it into a million pieces before collapsing to the ground.*
Phantom: Holy shit…
*The roof continues to collapse in the corner of the room, pieces of it falling on the platform Phantom and Kateryna are standing on.*
Phantom: Kateryna! Get up, the roof is collapsing!
*Kateryna remains motionless, appearing glued to the ground.*
Phantom: Come on! Get up or you’ll be killed!
*As he yells, another portion of roof falls in, collapsing on the side of the platform Kateryna is on. She disappears under a pile of metal and concrete.*
Phantom: KATERNYA!
*The roof ceases its collapse, revealing a gaping hole in the side where the creature can be easily seen lying down next to the power plant like an artificial hill. Small pieces of concrete roll off the walls, but the rest of the ceiling holds up. Phantom rushes over to his sister.*
Phantom: Kateryna!!! Answer me! Can you hear me?!
*Phantom digs desperately through the debris in search of some kind of life. He shifts blocks of concrete aside until finally he sees a bruised, outstretched arm lying across a pile of blocks.*
Phantom: Kateryna!
*He continues to dig until he uncovers the rest of her body. Blood covers most of the debris beneath her. She stirs weakly.*
Phantom: Oh my God! Kateryna! Why didn’t you move when I told you to?
Kateryna *coughing*: It… was not… the will of… the Monolith.
Phantom: What does that mean?!
Kateryna: It was your wish. You wished not to feel pain, and you no longer will. I am the proof.
Phantom: What do you mean the proof! By letting the building collapse on yourself you’re taking away the pain?!
Kateryna: Yes.
*Phantom looks on in horror, trying to make sense of the events taking place. Suddenly, he begins to understand.*
Phantom: I… feel… nothing.
*Kateryna smiles.*
Kateryna: Then your wish has been granted.
Phantom: What?! This isn’t what I wished for! I wished that there would be no more pain in the world… the Wish Granter saw into my thoughts and saw what I wanted. This isn’t right!
Kateryna: the Zone does things in its own way. We must learn to respect and trust its intentions, even when we do not understand them.
Phantom: That’s what those lying bastards told you wasn’t it!
*Kateryna looks back inquisitively.*
Phantom: The Monolithians… they got to you somehow.
Kateryna: This is their holy land. Their Mecca. They travel here seeking guidance. When they came, they found me and showed me the ways of the Zone…
Phantom: No…
Kateryna: I became a child of the Zone, and now I fulfill my destiny as pre-destined by the Monolith…
Phantom: No… no! No! This can’t be. It’s all a lie!
Kateryna: Trust in the Zone, brother. Give yourself to it, and you will be set free.
Phantom: No… no… it’s wrong… all wrong…
*Phantom continues to rant in disbelief as his sister slowly dies in front of his eyes… but he feels no pain. His wish is granted.*