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posted on Archive Of Our Own on the 1st of november 2022.
97,289 words.


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Мор. Утопия | Pathologic

Artemiy Burakh | Artemy Burakh/Daniel Dankovskiy | Daniil Dankovsky

Artemiy Burakh | Artemy Burakh, Daniel Dankovskiy | Daniil Dankovsky, Andrei Stamatin | Andrey Stamatin, Peter Stamatin, >the rest of the gang really. you know the game.

Additional Tags:
Rated M for Medical Malpractice
Burakh-centric narrative
Burakh figures things out about himself (GONE WEIRD)
Canon-Typical Violence Gore and Medical Gore
Canon-Typical Feeling Like Shit About Things
Canon-Typical Weird Stuff (or weirder depending on your tolerance levels)
Graphic Depictions of Illness
Dankovsky serving some Marble Nest realness if you know what I mean
Canon-Compliant until I decide I don’t want it to be anymore
there’s a love story in there. there’s a whole lot of other stuff but it very much is a love story.
Slow Build
Slow Burn
Falling In Love
Developing Relationship
a sprinkle of “alcohol as a disinhibitor”
Dreams and Nightmares
is it dissection if the person is technically dead but also speaks to you (which the dead do not do
>making a little brew of both games’ events places and designs
intentional tense changes
skipping over game meta elements so i can put my own :3
skipping over entire game events when i feel like it because BUDDY IT’S LONG ENOUGH!
in-dreams Fucking With You
no beta readers we just explode.


“All stories are about Death, except the ones that are about Life, which by deduction are also about Death. All dreams are about devouring, except the ones that are about throwing up, which by deduction are also about devouring. Everytime Burakh would dream he would eat: he would eat voraciously, passionately. His teeth would tear through the thread binding waking world and sleeping world like he was pulling stitches. Like he was trying to pry himself open. And he was: at the threshold of that wound, between the open lips of this parted cut, laid and lived the snaking path of his ways; the rope he was to walk to the knowledge of the Earth and the knowledge of everything else.”

Burakh comes home to nothing, and to something else entirely. Waking, walking dreams bear witness to him (and he bears witness to them) — a long story about strings of dreams for the dream-eater, and what he finds in that lingering hunger: death and defiance, life and love, and all of their satellites.


(marvel guy voice) well that just happened!
Sorry it took so long, I was pushing a boulder for a year/getting my liver eaten by the eagle. You know how these things go. 

Disclaimers! Written for my sake as an exorcism and now it’s all of you’s problem too. English is not my first language, so if you see me going back and forth between British and American spelling, 50% chance it’s on purpose, 50% it is not, and you won’t have a way to know. A number of passages in this fic were written under the self-direction (well “direction”—let me finish!) of surrealist automatism, which is something I do for fun but here it’s for A Purpose, and then re-worked so it made bare hints of sense. My tip is: get comfy, sit back (or lie down or do a handstand whatever. I don’t live with you) and fuck it we ball.
Others: I like to put Pathologic Classic HD and Pathologic 2 in a little jar and shake very hard and then write from the goop that comes from this, so while this follows (mostly) the narrative and relationships if P2, some characters, places and side-events will be described according to their PCHD iterations. I mixed and matched the westmost part of the Town, so the Cape can be mentioned, but the Stillwater is set in the Atrium (I’ve also decided it would look A Specific Way. you’ll see). My tip: fuck it we ball (x2).

[chapter 1]    chapter 2    chapter 3    chapter 4    chapter 5
chapter 6    chapter 7    chapter 8    chapter 9    chapter 10
chapter 11    chapter 12    chapter 13    chapter 14


       Coming-of-age rites come to those who do not come to the coming-of-age rites. When he turned twenty, Burakh started feeling this dull, blade-long pain that dug into his neck from the back of his mouth down — wisdom teeth, he realized. They felt agitated, thrashing in his gums like cornered dogs, seeking escape. Wisdom my ass, he thought. Then he did get wiser; a simple reaction to him threading classes and courses like beads on the long leather necklace of the line of his time away from home. It was tight around his neck, but not suffocating.

Coming-of-age rites come to those who do not come to the coming-of-age rites; and sometimes, the coming-of-age rites make those who do not come to the coming-of-age rites, come. When he turned twenty-four, Burakh was uprooted from his comfortable-in-its-eventlessness life at the Capital, where his feet had barely started to anchor, and thrown onto a battlefield. 
Nothing better than a good war to make a boy into a man, they joked — they used to joke, because they knew they would die as men, just men, one lanky leg still dangly awkwardly into the waters of youth. Burakh didn’t complain, didn’t get to complain about his dull, knife-drilled pain. In the cold, the mud, the howling winds of the battlefield, it reigned with an unwieldy weight. His aching tooth ground his words — words were there barely needed. His aching knee, awake with the twinge of a minuscule fracture that he thought had been healed a decade ago, imperiled each of his steps — he wished he could run. Tear the cloth band on his arm that marked him as a medic and run.
Men who called him savior and comrade alike came to him with bayonet blades like bull horns through the thigh. (Burakh had already seen bull horns through the thigh — he tried to not think about it, not now.) They died under the pale linen domes of the makeshift field hospitals, smothered by their shroud-white weight. Their cloth walls faltered and swayed in the wind, in the rain, in the wake of whistling bullets like fluttering angel wings. (That’s what Burakh told himself. Tried to tell himself. There was nothing poetic about the way men bled out in his arms, arterial perforation severing limbs dirty off — not clean off; they were mangled, the epidermis, tissue, muscle and bone ground together in an almost-homogeneous paste.)

War didn’t make Burakh a man — that, he was already; it just made him a sadder one. Later, he locked himself in his apartment; he spent his days crouched in a corner, and his nights sleeping poorly, so poorly. 
The dreams didn’t make Burakh… well, he was not quite sure what they didn’t make him. He wasn’t quite sure what they made him either. He slept poorly, and sleeps worse now. The worrying letter doesn’t help.


       The dreams… were different. Once upon a time, they would have him wake up with his hand to his mouth, breathing deeply, deeply through his nose. He could not open his mouth, or he would retch in his own palm. Breathing in through the nose, still, made him nauseous. His dreams were vivid with the smell of wetted dirt clinging to gaping, cavernous wounds, crawling inside, almost, like maggots did. With the scent of rain washing off blood — the image followed him everytime he got himself in the shower. Once upon a time, these dreams were interwoven with those in which a clean, eggshell-white diploma was put into his hands, almost reverently so. 
Ha. He could dream. (He did.)
Of the crisp paper of the diploma and the wormy, squirming snake of a small intestine, only one made its way to his hands. Burakh had refused to take back to his cramped Capital apartment the rifle his commander had offered him for his medic services. A meager consolation for the weight to bear. Would he have been supposed to shoot holes in it to make it lighter? To make openings for the wind so it could carry that weight away?
I don’t make openings, Burakh would think. That’s my father’s trade…



      Burakh didn’t dream on the train ride, not… shapelily. When he closed his eyes, everything was moving, slowly, evasively. Colors seemed to attempt to come together, to tease formal existence, and then didn’t — as if shy themselves, as if seeing his gaze and wishing to avert it. As if they were merely rehearsing behind the heavy, swollen curtains of his exhausted eyelids.

Burakh was going home. He was going hungry. His mouth watered at the thought of white bread with jam, of hot tea with honey. If his father was sick like Burakh was afraid he was, from the tone of his letter, Burakh would make tea for him. He would sit by the bed and share the hot drink with him.


      He stepped off the train, and the air closed around him like crushing jaws. Twyre had set the steppe ablaze with its oranges, browns and reds, the pollen bursting and rolling forth like Plinian clouds. The atmosphere was thick, heavy, clingy. It felt like it had missed him and sought to hold him. It felt like it was warning him, and yet it hid: from it walked three silhouettes whose steps closed the space between the tracks, or rather the lulled memory Burakh had of the tracks, and Burakh.

The air clung to him. It clawed at him, his nose, his throat, his lungs — a burning, drowning sensation he knew he once barely noticed. It was the town’s way of showing her tough love. Burakh dashed through the streets followed, hunted, intoxicated by the pungent, autumnal, burning smell of the raw earth—through the town’s tough love and, he wished with an almost juvenile exaltation, with a heart-sting at his own past absence, to his father’s.


      He knew something was off, was very off, when he spotted the tail of a crowd as he rounded the corner in front of his house; the mass of silhouettes sprawled from the porch like a dangling limb. Mourning clothes, he noted, strewed like raven feathers on the yard. Mourning clothes and leather rags, covering the shivering, hazy silhouettes of Herb Brides — hazy as, Burakh barely noticed, his vision was growing blurry. 

      “Basaghan,” he hushedly hailed one of them — the word, this tongue, the hop of the syllables against his palate and the taste of it made his mouth sting; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken it. She, grasping at her elbows and smearing dried red clay across her arms, was wailing softly. “What is all of this about?”

She turned to him, and two other Brides at her sides imitated her. 

      “About a death, khybyyn. He is dead.”

The Brides disappeared in a foggy blur — as Burakh’s eyes filled with tears. His throat tightened, trachea coiling into a knot and wringing out of him a wet choke; he didn’t see how the Brides’ eyes wandered his face, widened in realization, and one had to refrain from calling his name. 

      “Etseg eyh is dead,” repeated another one, joining the three. 
      “He was alive last evening —”
      “ — he was alive in the night — “
      “ — and then the train came; he was gone.”

Burakh didn’t understand why they repeated it, why they so thoroughly twisted the knife into the fresh wound — his fresh wound — over and over. He had to tell himself that they, too, were trying to make sense of it; to piece everything together; to find sense; nothing made sense; nothing could make sense. 

      “Do we have a cause of death?” he asked. Professional tic. He was horrified at how cold he had sounded.
      “He was found cut — “
      “ — open —”
      “ — a great blade by his side.”
      “It was murder.”

The Brides’ words hammered against Burakh’s temple and his cranial cavity echoed with them as if they had cut into him, too. 

      “When the train came, he was gone,” a Bride repeated, slow and steady, her voice trailing.
      “I just came by the train,” Burakh drawled. If he spoke too loud, his voice came out a whimper. 

His father’s presence hung there — at the threshold, the sill, the pale limen, just out of reach. Something in Burakh still believed he could push the door and find him, offering him tea; and find him, sick; and find him, at death’s door, voice raspy, dry, thin and wiry. 

      “We know,” asserted a voice.

Burakh lifted his head and eyes were on him. Peering, boring, drilling eyes. Foggy, severe, somber — accusatory. 
It dawned on him.

      “Are you kidding? Are you accusing me?”

Eyes stayed on him. Gazes clawed at his face like they wanted to peel it right off, tear from him the Burakh name, a punishment ripping from him the only thing he had left.

      “I need to get in,” Burakh whispered.
      “You can’t. As long as he is still in here, the house must stay closed.” ( Because he is still in there, Burakh realized. Still in there. Cold, stiff, sunken; waiting.)
      “They have locked it.”
      “Who’s ‘they’?”
      “The Mayor,” answered someone new, who had elbowed into the conversation — the townsfolk rarely listened to Brides, and Burakh jumped when he heard the stranger’s voice.
      “No, no, it was Olgimsky’s men,” interrupted another.
      “Olgimsky himself! I saw him,” someone else again.
      “The son or the father?”
      “He would never venture here!”
      “Are you saying I lie?”
      “Enough,” Burakh interrupted, “enough. Who do I need to go to for the keys?”

Keys to my own fucking house, Burakh internally fumed.

      “No, Olgimsky! I saw him coming.”
      “Don’t listen to him, he is half-blind. Go to Saburov.”
      “I could lend you a crowbar for a hundred rubles.”

So what you’re telling me is that I need to go to hell.

      “I’ll figure it out,” Burakh eventually said, and he dashed out of the yard.

He dashed and the wind bit at his face until he was crying, the pollen climbed into his lungs and meddled with the brewing, boiling grief. He dashed and he was followed.

Pain sinks. Pain sunk. Pain sunk him, and it within him, until he wasn’t sure they could be parted—until they weren’t, and felt like they never were.


      Burakh is no more.

The name falls on Burakh’s shoulder.


There was then a daze, a labyrinthic wandering; Burakh felt like he held his breath the whole way through.
There was Grief, who looked older because he was.
There was Lara, who looked older and sadder because she was, and sorrow eats at people; ate at her, ate at Burakh. There was sorry for your loss and sorry for yours, and Burakh didn’t remember being this much taller than her — but maybe she just was slouching. Surely, she was…
There was Stakh—well, there wasn’t, but there was in absence, in… bitter, seeking, stalking, red anger. The streets felt tighter because Burakh remembered being so much smaller, and because Stanislav was out there — out there, Lara told him, with the weapon he brought home from the battalion. Burakh didn’t even know Stakh had gone into a battalion. He thought about the ways they could have missed each other at this bitch of a war. Missed each other by how much? 
(Burakh knew you don’t bring back only a weapon from war. No, not only a uniform too. He knew what he was bringing back, but he couldn’t know what Stakh was.)

There was — out of the corner of his eye, at first, and then slowly creeping on, up, above — a Behemothic, Titanic silhouette that sprung from the middle of the river. Whatever it was, whatever it could be, it seemed to have eyes on Burakh, to follow his steps as he traced up and down the path of the Guzzle, trying to get a better look. He felt that thing’s gaze on him like the crawling, climbing legs of a beetle. It guarded the westernmost part of town like the Colossus of Rhodes once guarded the port before the Aegean sea (or so Burakh was told it did). It was light. It was of light. It pierced through the fog—it pierced the fog like a thin blade would the belly of a white whale. 
Standing right under it, Burakh still didn’t know what it was. It had something of a lighthouse, but no sea; something of a tower, but no windows; something of a telegram pole without wires, of a castle or a folded paper crane. It was guarding the tombs of the Cape, overlooking the Atrium, overseeing the Crucible; it was looming over the Cathedral like a gigantic magpie over a spider. 
The Cathedral was new too. He still remembered the island of steppe grass and flowers that once was in its place — where his father told him to not spend too much time, as it was right by the Kains’ windows. Burakh swallowed the memory back — it was bitter and thick and he almost choked. 

He threw a glance over the Kains’ fence for good measure, and was taken aback: someone was here. He had caught a fleeting, raven-flight-like glimpse of a silhouette that couldn’t belong to Simon, to Georgiy, to Victor or little Maria (who wouldn’t be so little now, and Burakh already wasn’t too keen on meeting her; he had been afraid enough of her mother when she was alive). Burakh thought he had seen black-clad shoulders, the crow-feather-flick of a gloved hand. 
He shrugged. None of his business. He threw one last glance at the behemoth behind and found it staring back. Stairs, Burakh noticed — five hundred of them, easily, if not more — circled around it, rising to… somewhere, maybe its top, its head, one of its many… planes. Its shape was incomprehensible from this close, just like it was from far away. It stood — teasing, taunting, peculiar and proud. It floated and, Burakh noticed too, pierced: it was bound in the earth with a spear-like anchor. A sudden, long shudder coursed through Burakh. He looked away. He left. The construction, whatever it was, whatever it had the power to be clawed at his back with its sharp, seeking presence.

There was a fire — he smelled it first. It was bitter, high-pitched, strident as it rose. Then, it grew dense, thicker, rotten with a foreign odor that cloaked its charcoal and woodsy scent. Burakh followed the trail of smoke — he had to throw punches to make his way. 
At the Bone Stake, a pyre was lit. 
Oh, a stake, a stake. 
The poor witch on it was no witch at all. (A horrified murmur bled through the crowd as they realized this too.)

There was — she walked into his path from a narrow passageway, as if growing from the wall — a Herb Bride. Burakh stumbled back — for a second, he thought he was seeing a ghost. He realized soon the umber swirls on her arms and chest were different; her face was adorned with particular clay dots.

      “Basaghan,” he called her, matter-of-factly. 
      “You are back,” she spoke. Her voice was smooth as rolling hills. (She didn’t seem too shaken by her sister who had gotten burned at the stake — or maybe she had not seen her at all.) “You came back. I knew you would.”
      “Do we know each other?”

She blinked slowly. Her almond eyes lidded with a torn pensiveness. 

      “I know you, kheerkhen.” (Burakh flinched at the word.) “... I wish you would know me.”
      “Have I forgotten you?”
      “Only you can tell.”

Yeah. Well, I can’t. What now.

      “Don’t not stare at me like this. Your gaze is heavy. Your hands are too… This is not good… Not now, not yet.”
      “Not yet? What do you have planned?”
      “Nothing I can tell you about if you do not remember me.”

Burakh pinched his lips in a thin line. The Bride watched the thoughts overcast his face like an incoming storm.

      “I’ll linger, kholboön. I’ll spring twyre in your wake. I will, until you come back to me.”
      “Thank you, basaghan. May Boddho caress your steps.”

The standard greeting. He hurried out of the conversation, and paced through the street.
Kholboön, huh?
Link. Bond. Tether. Burakh felt the web of the town close around him. He would have to mind the threads — he already had to. He had walked back in an air thick, muddy with things he had yet to understand.

There was sleep, when evening had come — at Lara’s house, on a sofa cold and hard he vaguely remembered jumping and playing on. Silence, as she hid in her room, clad in her woe; as Burakh tried to not let his overflow and spill onto the pillow. Cold, as he shivered. As he thought about Death. Black, as he sunk into sleep in the way one might sink into—there was death, all silent, all cold, all black, overflowing and spilling onto the floorboards. He shivered and shivered and shivered until consciousness was reaped from him. 



      White horses do not come before death, carrying it high and mighty. No beast walks the doorsill, bending its long swan neck to enter the room, hollowing its back so the Reaper on it might have to barely duck her head. Its hooves do not beat the floorboards like a ticking clock; its bony, pale, sunken face does not move towards the bedridden old or ill, and its breath does not sweep across the dying’s face, with one single exhale banishing Life from their features.
Except when it does. 
Burakh awoke and it was standing there, in the room. It was tall and frail, hooves flaking where they met the planks, splitting from ground to coronet. Its hips protruded sharply as if it had been starved, its eye sockets were empty. Still, its head sought Burakh’s face, moving and swaying with a reptile-like finesse and dangerosity. Its nostrils flared.
It opened its mouth and spoke — it had a human voice:

Ah, Burakh, son of him, companion of mine. Haruspex, cutting blade into animals-like-me. Into animals.”

Burakh couldn’t move, pinned by its hollow gaze. He couldn’t speak. His thoughts were tangled, mangled, fear hammered against his chest — where his heart should have been, and was not. 
The beast flashed its teeth — human teeth — in a smile — human smile.

We’re confreres, are we not? I am not done doing the rounds.”

It moved its head again, seemingly lost in thought. Its voice, sibilant, scattered in the room like a cold draft.

Thou have not met him, have thou? Thou shalt meet him who witnesses me. Thou shalt witness me. Thou shalt see me satiate feed my neverending appetites.”

Its voice dropped.

Burakh, it’s only just the beginning.”

It left. Its hooves, indeed, beat the floorboards like a ticking clock. 
In its place came darkness.
Burakh couldn’t explain it. Couldn’t have explained it. Pitch blackness, overpowering, unforgiving, unspeakably loud: it whispered his own rapid, raspy breath back at him. When he extended an arm, he touched—something, something thick, something plumose and velvety. Fabric. 
It was draped over him. Around him. It had an incomprehensible shape — again. It had walls.
Room? Place? House? Home?
Something sharp punctured through. Burakh jumped back, startled. It wasn’t a knife — a single blade of scissors, rather. It drew a single line across a few centimeters of the fabric, leaving a cut that wasn’t seen, that wasn’t seared, that wasn’t drawn; it opened still: two fingers, long, pale, thinned at the tips, slithered through, parting the fabric open like a simple pocket.
In the interstice, ghostly, livid, came forth an eye — the face behind could not be seen, and Burakh could only make out the curtain of dark hair, long on the side. The iris was a striking, painfully piercing blue, dotted in its middle of a pin-prick hole for a pupil. Blade obscuring the rest of its features, the apparition spoke: 

      “Ah… and who might you be?”

Burakh, dumbfounded, didn’t reply right away. 

      “I should be asking that.”
      “Should, maybe.”
      “This is my dream,” Burakh asserted.
      “This is my realm.”

Burakh sat there, in the realm, in the cocoon of stuffy, surreal black fabric. He didn’t move — afraid he would accidentally shake the peculiar dream off, wave away the wraith like nothing but a cloud of smoke. 

      “I thought I’d be here alone,” spoke the specter. “How strange. How interesting.”

He seemed to ponder something.

      “We’ll meet again. We’ll meet.

And before Burakh could ask him his name, or pull it, or banish it, fingers and blade waned into the darkness, the cut was mended, and nothing remained — nothing but a darkness silky and suffocating. A realm of nothing, or nothingness

      Burakh woke up choking, curled on himself as if beset by colics. That dream—that dream was different. Shapes had emerged; pale, hollow, blade-sharp, awfully comfortable in their polish and bite.
Do not start making me miss my war nightmares, Burakh thought as he worked to unclench his jaw. Do not.  
He tiptoed in Lara’s bathroom as she slept and washed his face. The water ran a cloudy, milky grey; then, before he turned off the tap, a thoroughly diluted pink. He left — dawn was pink too. Clouds were low and sorrowful; it felt only right to bend the chine under their weight, under that crawling, creeping heaviness.


There was the steppe, there would be the burial.




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