Sometimes, he saw their shadows.
Impossible. The room was black as moonless night over Alternia, an impregnable force of darkness. How could he possibly see a shadow? But he did.
Unmistakable broad shoulders, a series of thudding footfalls, heavy from worn boots. He, Equius, was the worst. The very second Gamzee began to tire, he could feel those strong hands winding the noose about his neck, wrenching him up high and leaving him to dangle like a harlequin. Gamzee never fought it anymore. He had, once. Fighting it only brought more guilt-ridden pain, more punishment from the unseen ghost that haunted him. Once Equius had his fill of torment, the ropes were released, and once again, Gamzee was left to his own devices, robbed of any hope at sleep.
Hissing began should Gamzee try to think of happier times. Nepeta wouldn't allow such things. Each happy memory was plucked from his think pan like gold from the black sands of a riverbed. She did so with such grace and cruelty, it made Gamzee often tear up with conflicting emotion. She was stealing his happiness, like he'd stolen hers, yet the simple act of her doing so made Gamzee believe he was being punished justly, that forgiveness would come soon enough. Her prods in his mind were like pinpricks in the dark, sharp little needles that bored in without hesitation, sucking dry any passing fantasy of honor, relaxation, or peace. Once Nepeta had her fill of anguish, the mental bonds were broken, and once again, Gamzee was left to his own devices, numbed of all emotion but sorrow.
And then Karkat would come.
Open the door like it was nothing.
Step inside, the beam of light cutting through that immeasurable pitch like it was nothing more than an illusion.
He'd be all too near, within Gamzee's grasp, within range to be hurt like Nepeta, like Equius...
"You think today might be the day?"
"No. This is fine."
He'd never leave, he had to keep going. He'd have to keep going through these tortures, these terrors and nightmares. Every one he survived, he was a little closer to redemption, a little closer to forgiveness.
Karkat always left easily. He'd give Gamzee his space, time, food, anything he needs. But every time the door shut again, a new shadow would emerge. A new shadow with a gaping hole, wanting comfort, wanting solace, and unintentionally killing everything Gamzee liked to consider sane about himself. Tavros would always come out and simply hold Gamzee close, bleeding on him as he soothed the older troll. Whispering in his ear...
"It's okay, G-Gamzee..."
"You're going t-to be alright...."