William Adler was a lot of things in life.
A sheriff, a detective. A pragmatist, a cynic. A Native, trying to make himself useful to the colonizers. A man who married and had children to fit in, denying his own heart.
Most of all, he was a coward with an empty heart.
The last few days of his life were strange recollections. He remembered standing, burned and bruised, in the Hendricks "castle", his plot to overthrow mortal corruption undermine by supernatural monstrosity. He remembered a kiss, a betrayal, a heart ache. Though the details were foggy much like the smoke of a forest fire, he knew he hurt the one person he truly loved, and both of them paid for it.
William - or perhaps a simulation of William, a Platonic shadow of the real coyote - finds himself in an endless cycle of time, Echo fractured across eras and epochs much like the multifaceted surfaces of its quartz. He sees and hears all manners of horrible evils he couldn't possibly have imagined, and his sense of order is broken. Only to be rebuild, again and again, in the realisation that he is not in control, he is a puppet to a stranger master he can't even begin to comprehend. There are shadows everywhere, but the light of the stars shines on him, blinding him and binding him to the rocks and to the land.
Light is white. Bones are white. Dust is white. The moon is white. The incessant radio noise is white. The glistening quartz is white. The blank abominations are white. Even his own face, once brown and gray, is now white, featureless unless his visage is needed.
Whiteness permeates even in the endless darkness, driving him mad as if he is locked in an ivory room, where the colors go to die. It is an infernal hell, where light can't leave him alone and he is forced to take refuge in the shade, where horrible things bring a light of their own. But even in spite of the snowy snowless world, he can still remember the black bands and the crimson eyes, and those are beacons of life in the world of death.
He finds that Sam is still alive, and in fact lives for a very long time. A miserable life, full of grief, reeling still from the betrayal of the coyote and from the sheer weight of the guilt and loneliness. In life William chastised men for crying, but in the light he cries and weeps, seeing Sam suffer like this. His tears are dust, his sobs are static, his attempts to reach Sam are ghastly apparitions that stokes the flames of hatred in the puma's heart, white hot like the midday sun.
"I'm sorry" he whispers again and again.
"I love you" he admits again and again.
"I should've protected you" he laments again and again.
Sun rises, sun sets. And one day the sun sets for Sam, wheeled by Todd's descendent. And he too becomes part of the whiteness.
William tries to reach Sam - or perhaps a facsimile of Sam? -but the wrathful "spirit" possesses Mr. Bronson, then his son, then Chase, then Flynn. William never manages to get a grip on Sam, perhaps because there is something halting his movements whenever he gets close to doing so. Eventually Sam becomes the puppet master of Echo's most vile creation, the burnt corpse of Flynn serving as executioner and witness alike across the endless parade of eras and epochs. Sam himself is a puppet, and William knows that his soul would never allow himself to become this horrible person.
So he cries. Its all he's good for these days. Crying lifetimes worth of oceans, making up for his repressed emotions in life.
But, at some point in time and space, the crying becomes violent. William is tired of seeing Sam suffer, is tired of not being able to comfort him, is tired of wanting to save him.
So he does just that.
White becomes orange and gold with fire. The cold light of the stars and the endless shadows can't touch him anymore. Echo howls madly, tearing itself over having lost one thing to torture. But suffering has to wield to will and love eventually.
William is no longer featureless. He is a living flame, and he aims for Sam. Fire burns red flesh again and again until it is black ash and Sam has no other choice but to look.
"William!?" he asks incredulously.
"Yes!" William says, tears in his eyes, and kisses Sam with as much love as he can.
Sam is fire as well, and like fire he is turbulent. Surprise, delight, confusion, anger.
"How could you do this to me!?" he hisses and cries, "I gave my fuckin' heart to you, and you threw me away like I was just a toy to you! And now you have the gall to playin' with my feelings like I'm some fuckin' fiddle!?"
"I know" William says, wiping tears, "I know you'll never forgive me, but I want to set you free. I was a fucking dumbass back then, because you were the other half of me, all along. I should have known that."
Sam regards him ambivalently.
"Even if I do forgive you how do you suppose you gonna "set me free"? We're not real, we're part of whatever this is."
"We gotta keep trying" William pleads, "Don't you feel it losing its grip on us?"
Sam looks around, then nods. His fingers entwine with William's, but he is still scared and resentful. Its good enough for William nonetheless, and he embraces Sam.
It began with fire. It will end with fire.
Screams pierce the eons, as passion and freedom will not surrender to the shadows or their light.
Another form of gold will immerse them, but it will be the light of the rising sun. They will awake to find themselves in a bed, naked and barren to each other, in a room with windows on all cardinal directions. Neither will dare to see beyond the windows, which will all produce sunlight, shining on them like a strange spotlight.
"Where are we?" Sam will ask, rubbing his eyes.
"Don't know" William will answer, "Though we're free. It can't hurt us anymore."
"I still don't get how this is possible" Sam will ask, "We're not real. I'm not the real Sam and you're not the real William. They died long ago."
"If we can think and feel, then we're real" William will say, "We made it, don't ask too many questions."
"Well, what will happen to us now?" Sam will ask.
"I for one would like to be in bed" William will answer, "Wanna join me?"
Sam will regard William, staring at him with blood-colored eyes like mesmerising rubies. He will soften, resting his head under William's jaws and into his neck, and will feeler safe for the first time in a century.
"Thank you" he will say, nuzzling against William.
Hands will pass through each other's fur, lips will touch. They will be happy, then rest.