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Literature / The Touch of Heaven

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The day has shifted. For it is today that the peasant braves the tyrant; that heart precedes wit; that the pigeon triumphs the hawk; and never has there been a brighter day. But peace is fleeting; and tranquility momentary; for everything must eventually be paid for.

The Touch of Heaven is the third part of The Heaven Cycle, and the direct sequel to From Heaven's Door. It can be read on FictionPress and is followed by Heaven and Hell.

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Four months after breaking out of Paradise, the surviving applicants of the program have taken residence in a New Jersey town called Haven. Tango and Mint have settled together in an apartment and the former is waiting on word from their parents to fly into New York to develop a proper cure, but this suddenly goes awry when an eccentric girl named Celia arrives outside Haven, fleeing from a gang of raiders that destroyed her settlement. It turns out Celia herself is also an immune, and shortly after this is revealed, Tango gets wrapped up in the machinations of a war between Heaven and another dimension appropriately called Hell, learning that the immunes are people who's minds are more evolved than others – and are being recruited for a war Tango is fated to stop. All the while, the energies of Heaven and Hell threaten to burn Haven to the ground, forcing Tango to stand their ground and defend the town as best they can as eldritch forces called the Never-becoming descend on Haven.

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The work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adorably Precocious Child: Although Mint's technically a young teenager – fourteen – they're still decidedly child-like and Tango notes they're still way too excited at the prospect of getting a job than any other fourteen-year-old would be.
  • Affably Evil: Despite being a raider willing to resort to methods like kidnapping and murder to gain his own ends, Jango's really not that uncivil to Tango and Miles and stresses the fact he doesn't actually want to resort to the methods he does.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Celia is detached, eccentric, socially awkward, and seems to have trouble empathizing with or understanding with other people's concerns, finding no moral wrong with stuff like kidnapping or dragging people into frantic, life-threatening rescue missions.
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  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Alice is almost unrecognizably different from Mint; they're a stone-cold sociopath willing to sacrifice an entire town to destroy any trace of the life they once had as Mint in a stark contrast to Mint's All-Loving Hero personality.
  • An Aesop: Everything changes, eventually, and although it might be hard to move on, ultimately, everyone has to to do it.
  • And I Must Scream: Tango theorizes this might have happened to some of the people in Haven during Jango's attack; rather than simply being killed, the Never-becoming devour their minds and leave them as non-functioning, mindless vegetables – which is even worse.
  • Anti-Villain: Jango really isn't that keen on being the villain in the first place and he outright states he's not looking to take any lives he doesn't need to take – going to the point of sparing the life in everyone in Celia's settlement even as he razes the place to the ground. Jango's worst actions only come at the end of the story, and even then, Jango's literally been robbed of his free will by the Never-becoming and was driven to madness in the process; Tango manages to detect a few thoughts from his lingering humanity solemnly stating he just wants to be free.
  • Anyone Can Die: In stark contrast to the previous story, the bodies start racking up fast in the last third; Mayor Pleasance, Donald Jones, and Miles are consecutively killed off in a matter of one chapter and they're followed up by virtually the entire town of Haven, implying hundreds of off-screen casualties named or otherwise, then Alice, Jango, and possibly Tango themself. Granted, many return in Heaven and Hell, but Miles, Jones, and Pleasance remain dead.
  • Apocalypse How: The war threatens to drag all of reality into a class Z, with all three worlds being dragged into the Necrosis. Thankfully, that doesn't happen by the end of the story, but Haven itself is subject to a Class 0.
  • Ax-Crazy: Every raider, most prominently Jango, has devolved to this due to the Never-becoming's influence.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: Tango's final confrontation with Alice is held here.
  • Big-Bad Ensemble: Jango is, for all intents and purposes, the antagonist driving the story, but he's not quite the only Big Bad. Both the Never-becoming and Alice end up hijacking the conflict, with the Never-becoming destroying Jango's mind and Alice leading him on to massacre Haven, setting up the climax of the story. Technically, Alice is only a Disc-One Final Boss who only worsens a developing conflict—but without their influence, nothing would proceed as it does, and once they're gone, Jango and the Never-becoming remain and threaten to swallow Haven.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both Jango and Alice are defeated, but Tango sacrifices themself to do the former and Haven is still utterly destroyed with hundreds – if not thousands – of lives lost in the attack on Haven. Tara Waits finally flies in to pick up the surviving applicants, too late to see Tango. Regardless, Mint still clutches onto the hope that Tango might one day come back and vows never to stop believing.
  • Body Horror: The mutated corpses of the dozens of people affected by the weak spots in reality succumb to this.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to Tango in quick succession, starting with Mint being overtaken by Alice and ending with Miles' death, which drives them to a nasty Heroic BSoD only Jenny manages to snap them out of.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Both Miles and Mint seem optimistic that Tango could reasonably succeed in what they put their mind to, but Tango's both too content and too anxious to do much about it.
  • Cessation of Existence: What happens to Alice; in the end, Tango completely erases the personality from existence and gives Mint their body back.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The metal plate Jones has in his head comes back when Tango desperately tries to talk to him, unable to telepathically breach the metal plate and thus leaving them unable to reason with Jones.
    • Mint and Tango's ability to warp reality comes in handy during the final battle with Jango and ends up defeating him.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Celia seems mostly rooted in her own world and is possessed of numerous eccentricities that made her sort of an oddball.
  • Contrasting Sequel Antagonist: Interestingly used with both Jango and Alice in comparison to Ash and Chayne from the first story:
    • Jango contrasts Ash; Ash is an openly cruel, hammy, impulsive sociopath of a man, whilst Jango is stoic, soft-spoken, and pragmatic. What happens to them when they connect their minds to Heaven and Hell respectively also contrast each other; Ash's plummet into insanity is a result of his own selfish, hedonistic desires and his eventual undoing by them is treated as inevitable and incredibly karmic. Jango, on the other hand, turned to connecting his mind to Hell out of a result to gain some knowledge to better the world as a whole and provide welfare for everyone who's been mistreated by the Association's extremist policies. Jango's eventual descent into a feral beast is portrayed as tragic and his eventual defeat is bitter at best.
    • Alice, in the meanwhile, serves as a slightly more subtle version of this to Chayne; both of them are manipulative, dangerously intelligent puppetmasters behind The Heavy of the story. However, Chayne is a misanthrope by nature who craves godhood for the purpose of creating a utopia. Alice, on the other hand, has no misanthropic tendencies and manipulates people purely for self-gain, and forsakes the potential of godhood purely because they're content the way they are and see nothing wrong with the world bar the presence of their amnesiac self. The most obvious contrast between them is while Chayne has a legitimate excuse and several moments of tragedy to her, Alice is a purely unsympathetic character who manages to rival Ash in pure evil.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Rooted much deeper into this than its predecessor. A race of incomprehensible, god-like entities and the rebellious beings they've created are about to be locked into a war that'll shred Earth apart and ultimately doom all of reality into non-existence. Even between this, there are a race of nightmarish, abstract entities that people on Earth seek to use, the harnessing of which drives them insane and causes them to attack Haven. Unlike last time, the applicants can't save the town.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Mayor Pleasance is briefly turned into a “black pincushion” by the Never-becoming spikes piercing through every corner of his body and several other people are killed or have their minds devoured by the Never-becoming.
  • Darker and Edgier: Much more so than From Heaven's Door: while the first part of the story isn't terribly dark, once Alice enters the scene, things become much darker; the eldritch horrors are played up, characters start dropping like flies. Tango comes close to losing hope and does for a short time, and ultimately, Haven ends up doomed with most of its populace implied to be dead even despite the best efforts of the protagonists – a stark contrast to the ending of the previous installment.
  • Darkest Hour: The story hits this through Chapter 16: even after Celia is handed to Jango, he decides to attack anyways, resulting in the death of Lt. Jones, Mayor Pleasance, and Miles, and leaving Jango completely free to attack and desolate Haven, all while Mint's seemingly permanently reverted into Alice and Tango almost loses hope.
  • Demoted to Extra: Jilton, Darby, and Lavender are all relegated to a secondary role so the story can focus more on Mint, Tango, and Celia.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Literally. Tango drags down Jango with them into a hole into Hell to finally stop him.
  • Dying as Yourself: Although it's ambiguous on whether or not he actually dies, Jango's lifted from the Never-becoming's control and returns to normal for a split second before he's sucked into Hell alongside Tango.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: Miles says this to Tango just before he dies.
  • Eldritch Abomination:
    • The Never-becoming are half-sentient, unformed thoughts that exist in a realm of Hell that represents unconsciousness. The Never-becoming are all driven by a desire to be something and something break free into reality, existing for brief periods at a time before vanishing into non-existence. They have horrible effects on reality; they cause weak spots in reality, can drive someone to mindless insanity with a simple touch, and every non-immune forgets they saw them once they vanish. Once Jango and his raiders get the bright idea to control them, all of them are driven to madness and enslaved by the Never-becoming's influence.
    • “God” from the previous story is also given a concrete explanation: God is one of many once-normal humans who underwent “Ascension,” becoming one with their minds and instantly hyper-evolving into an entity completely incomprehensible to humans. Both Chayne and Mint are Ascension-capable humans.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • Both Heaven and Hell, from what we see of them. Heaven remains as mind-searingly incomprehensible as per usual and is revealed to have an entire host of god-like entities incomprehensible to humanity. Hell is a little more tame, existing as a mental dimension inhabited by thought-forms like rogue tulpas and the Never-becoming. Both can only be safely accessed by the Shades of those immune to the Phantom, as their minds are evolved enough to withstand Heaven and Hell's energies; Mint being physically exposed to the latter almost breaks them.
    • Haven itself becomes this after Jango attacks it. The Never-becoming are flying everywhere, the buildings have been distorted and the laws of physics broken, and there are weak spots in reality everywhere. Jango's plan in the end is to drag the entire town into a vortex and mutate it into something similar to a city-sized Mad Room to make it a paradise for the Never-becoming.
  • Enemy Within: Alice, Mint's malicious original personality, serves as this – and stages a Split-Personality Takeover once Mint has their neurochip removed.
  • Evil Albino: In a horrifying contrast to Mint, Alice serves as this once they awaken.
  • Facial Horror: The bottom half of Jango's face is essentially a scarred mass of exposed muscle and flesh.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Alice still retains a vague illusion of Mint's kindness, but it's mostly used to just drive in their villainous demeanor even further.
  • Foreshadowing: We get numerous subtle hints to the true identity of Celia before the reveal is dropped at the end of the story. Most prominently, she seems especially upset at the mention of Chayne Summers – her mother.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain: Oddly enforced at the end of the story with Jango. Initially, Jango does have a motive and a goal, but by the end of the story, the toll the Never-becoming have taken on his mind have reduced him to little more than an animalistic force of nature that can't be reasoned with and only seeks to destroy everything. Tragically, the real Jango is still in there somewhere, and Jango reverts back to his old self a second before he's drawn into Hell.
  • The Hero Dies: Tango sacrifices themself to defeat Jango and ends up physically drawn into Hell in the process — although their narration states they know they aren't going to die, nobody knows what can happen next.
  • Heroic BSoD: Tango suffers a particularly nasty one after Miles' death, to the point of completely blacking out. It takes a talk with their former personality Jenny to give them a little faith back.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tango drags Jango with them to Hell in one desperate bid to stop him from destroying the rest of Haven.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: Jango's ultimate defeat comes when he uses the Never-becoming to shroud his entire body in an attempt to defend himself. Tango just commands the Never-becoming to seize up his entire body, leaving him vulnerable enough for Tango to tackle him into Hell.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: After spending so long never actually facing any punishment for their long history of manipulation and delving to the most heinous they've ever been, Alice is finally defeated by Tango themself and utterly loses their cool for the first and last time. Cruelly subverted upon their return in the next story.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The story once again alternates between darker moments and more lighthearted material, for its first half, but the moment Alice enters the scene, the comedy leaves – and doesn't return to the story, period.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Everything Jango does in the climax is through the influence of the Never-becoming and, more directly, Alice's manipulation.
  • Mental World: A slightly different example; both Heaven and Hell are “mental realms” and are only accessible by thought-constructs or the highest forms of life. A straighter example appears when Tango engages Alice in their own mind; Mint/Alice's mind appears as an infinite snowfield.
  • Mind Screw: The mythology of Heaven and Hell unfolds in this way.
  • Mind Rape: About the most literal form of this occurs when Alice mentally forces Tango to relive their own rape at Ash's hand.
  • Mr. Exposition: The Preceptor's main role is to explain the concepts of Mylotheia, Heaven, and Hell to Tango. Justified, as he serves as The Mentor to Tango.
  • My Beloved Smother: Debbie serves as this to Miles, fretting about him and working her own anxiety onto him and raising a fit when she vanishes.
  • Nervous Wreck: Miles is a paranoid, anxiety-riddled mess most of the time. Part of it comes from the sudden death of his father. His mother, Debbie, is even worse.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Downplayed with Jones. His refusal to listen to Tango and Celia is partly because Tango is literally incapable of talking to him and Celia is a noted fugitive who's evidence to explain her situation would be, at best, far-fetched to Jones. He still fits the role, but it's out of a genuine desire to protect Haven and its citizens.
  • Outside-Context Villain: Haven is completely unprepared and unable to deal with the threat posed by the Never-becoming and ends up wiped out as a result. The only one even capable of fighting the Never-becoming are Tango and Celia, because they themselves have powers that are outside-context for the nature of the setting.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Tango and Mint have become this, up to sharing an apartment together. It's not platonic anymore by the end, however.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Pleasance, Jones, and Miles all kick the bucket in rapid succession to show the mortality rate has significantly risen.
  • Sanity Slippage: Jango and his raiders devolve from a clan of Noble Demons just trying to survive to feral, murderous beasts under the control of the Never-becoming. By the end of the story, Jango is far gone enough to the point where he can no longer form coherent sentences.
  • Scenery Gorn: After Haven is attacked by Jango and the Never-becoming, quite a bit of detail is used to describe the mutated Eldritch Location that the downtown area has become in the process; there are weak spots in reality everywhere, most of the buildings have been completely twisted into physics-breaking anomalies in the process, mutated corpses (or what Tango thinks are corpses, anyways; it's implied the Never-becoming might have just devoured their minds and left them as mindless, but still-living vegetables) are everywhere – and it's implied even this is tame compared to what the more inhabited areas look like.
  • The Sociopath: Alice is almost a textbook example of this – an alarming contrast to Mint.
  • Taking the Bullet: Miles takes a few fatal tendrils of the Never-becoming meant for Tango.
  • Talking to Themself: Once Tango enters their Heroic BSoD and blacks out, they talk with their original personality – Jenny – face-to-face in their own mind.
  • Telepathy: Celia has this, and she teaches it to Tango for convenience. Tango utilizes it to bypass their Heroic Mime status.
  • Tragic Villain: Jango, as an appropriate echo to Charles from the first story, is a reluctant example of an extremist antagonist placed in their position by circumstances out of their control; Jango and his family were infected by the Phantom and forced outside civilization by the Association. In his drive to liberate the infected people and topple the Association, Jango ends up connecting his own mind to Hell for the powers necessary for his goals, allowing the Never-becoming to inhabit his body. Unfortunately, the Never-becoming end up taking a severe toll on Jango's sanity, ultimately plummeting deeper and deeper into the abyss until he's pushed to massacre Haven by Alice. By the story's end, Jango is nothing more than a complete slave to the Never-becoming, with no control over what he's doing or what he's become any longer. The last remaining traces of Jango's sane mind are detected solemnly stating he simply wanted to be free.
  • Transhuman: Every immune is technically this, as they aren't so much simply immune to the Phantom rather than mentally evolved enough to withstand both Heaven and Hell's energies. “Gods” – or Ascended humans – take this to Eldritch Abomination levels.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Jango ends up as this to Alice, who manipulates him into attacking Haven to clear any lingering trace of their past life as Mint. Even after Alice is defeated, though, Jango continues to attack under the influence of the Never-becoming.
  • Villainous Breakdown: An extraordinarily satisfying example with Alice. After Tango manages to dive into Alice's mind, resist their Mind Rape, and manage to get the upper hand on them even in Alice's own mind, Alice finally breaks down after so long of being perpetually calm, patient, and smug, outright pleading for their life and bursting into tears as they cease to exist.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jango's main goal is to destroy the Association out of a genuine desire to liberate all those who have suffered under their extremist policies. Unfortunately, the more he turns to the powers of Hell to achieve this goal, the more his motives decay.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter XVI serves as this to the entire series: after so much dread about the potential of Jango attacking Haven, Alice spurs the attack on Haven, leading to the desecration of the entire town, the death and near-death of several characters, and a permanent change to the development of both the setting and the characters. From this chapter on, Cerebus Syndrome permanently sets in.
  • Wham Line:
    • In Chapter 14, we suddenly get a shocking change of character:
      Mint: Don't worry about them. I'm sure everyone will be alright. I just needed a distraction.
    • The line that commences the attack:
      Jango: You wish.
    • The very last line of the story:
      Celia: Mint... My name's Aria Summers. Chayne was my mother.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Although it can be presumed the Preceptor's still in Hell and has a role to come, he vanishes from the story after the halfway point (although Celia mentions the Preceptor told her about Tango's brief spell of unconsciousness).
    • More seriously, we get little input on the fates of several named minor characters in Haven after Jango attacks. It's likely not pretty, either way, as there is serious doubt cast on the survival of anyone in Haven after the Association's forces arrives.


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