In the Act I Prologue, the party experienced a series of visions/experienced in the moments before waking:
Lifeless. Empty. Devoid of thought or sensation.
You are nothing.
You are no one.
The darkness is eternal, without beginning or end, until…
In the void there is the sound of a BELL.
Then, a series of whirs and clicks. It makes no sense to you.
And then a voice. Flat, genderless, inhuman.
It isn’t language, per se. It’s a word (or an idea?) in your head. A direct mental connection, the transmission of somebody else’s thought directly to the inside of your mind.
The BELL tolls again.
An image explodes into your mind from across the impossible void. You see a yellow city baking in the desert sun, surrounded by mountains. You hear a gluttonous cacophony of growls and barks, like hyenas squabbling over a carcass. You hear screams, human screams, screams of pain and anguish. You see flags and banners and writing and none of it makes any sense.
Then, close up, a face. You see the face of an old woman. Brown, wind-scoured, leathery skin. Eyes cloudy with glaucoma. Long, thin, wispy gray hair. An expression of horror on her face.
It’s all gone. There’s nothing.
“Identify the nature of the interference.”
The BELL tolls again.
A STABBING PAIN cascades through your consciousness. Your awareness explodes in a rush of images, too many to process, all overlapping, some yours, some belonging to others, some that just make no worldly sense.
The images coalesce on a hut. A sand-blasted, gray, wooden hut lurking beneath the shadow of a hideous tree. A tree with human heads for fruit. There is a sickly sweet smell, a deep bass chuckle, then PAIN – MORE PAIN – and then…
Another face. Hanging over you. Human. Male. Middle-aged, maybe older. Long charcoal beard. Dark circular glasses, tinted purple? A dark, flat, square hat. His mouth is clenched in fury. The veins on his neck are bulging. He’s looking down on you. Down on you from above. And his image in your mind is rippling, waving, distorted and twisted like you’re looking at it through warped glass. Or through a rift. Or a portal. And then..
But in this darkness, words begin to form in your skulls, echoing through the eternal damnation of your endless sleep.
These words echo in your minds (remember hide survive destroy), bouncing off the walls of your consciousness for a moment (remember hide survive destroy), before their desperate insistence is muted by the first voice again.
“They don’t know who they are. Wake up. Wake! Up! If you can’t remember, the—”
The voice is cut off by another explosion of pain roaring through your mind… which shuffles loose a weight… a terrible weight… a cloying numbness. Gravity suddenly coalescences into existence. And you start, slowly, to slip out of the dark place. Falling, falling, falling…
Towards a light.
A sick yellow light.
You’re aware of movement around your body now. Movement and voices. They hit you from all directions in the moments before you burst through the blasphemous yellow light.
There’s a female voice. She communicates in words you… understand, though you don’t think she’s using language. Not really. Her words hit you in intense bursts, like you’re only hearing pieces through the thick static of your broken mind. Your brain, after an unknown length of time lying barren, is working overtime now to try to process.
The female voice says:
“What it says may be… (static) We’re outside… (static) and both (static) perished. (static) Redeem yourselves, and save… (static) Which (static) will you wake to?”
Then, a male voice speaking in a language you all understand, though you don’t yet remember its name:
“SHE said to make you suffer, and so we shall. Body and soul. Inside and out. There and here.”
Then, a different voice. Metallic. Inhuman:
“You have been observed. This is not permitted. Initiate purge.”
The sounds and sensations and voices are speeding past you now as you fall into the sick yellow light.
There is a final quartet of voices now, these ones very, very familiar. So familiar that you can’t tell if they’re coming from inside of you or out.
“Go, go, go!”
“This is your only chance!”
“Don’t waste it!”
“Come on, dammit!”
And then FLASH.
First Reference: Act I Prologue
Other Notable References: Chapter 6, Act I Epilogue