The sound was soft, compared to the chaos and din of the impact and explosion, but so sickening as to be deafening. For long moments, echoes of the wet pulling noise, the obscene crackling crunch, filled Paul’s ears. Whether his eyes were closed or not, he couldn’t tell, but he saw nothing. Instead, he could only hear.
Eventually, or a few moments later, the rest of the world came rushing back in. He felt shockwaves pressing through him, battering his very core. Light drove through his eyelids, spearing into the back of his skull, and heat pulled his skin painfully taut. The other sounds, the tearing metal and the clattering shrapnel and the screaming, screaming, screaming that wouldn’t shut up, they flowed around him and into him, and almost overwhelmed him. Yet steadfast in the cacophony that subsumed his sensorium was the memory, the softly-held echo of that first, all-encompassing murmur.
Next thing Paul knew, he was pushing his way up through the muddy echo, out of the smothering softness and into hard white light. With an effort, he opened his eyes.