Chapter 1: Waking Nightmare- Part 1
The gentle rocking of the train always put Edward to sleep; the visibly creased newspaper lay folded on his lap, his arms folded across his chest, his head resting against the window; the train had picked up speed hours ago and the scenery was nothing much but a blur of colours. Within reach, lay a diary and a pencil trapped between the hard wood and the soft but resilient pages helplessly rolled in hope to find an escape. It had been roughly seven months since the brothers set forth on their respective journeys to gain knowledge, Edward decided to head west and Alphonse set for east.
With nothing but the sound of the chugging train and the rapping of the pencil against its prison, Edward found himself slowly drifting to sleep. He could feel it creeping over his eyes, slowly closing them shut, pulling him into the darkness…he stood in an all familiar whiteness, a pale grey door loomed over him; it bore no marks, all had been scratched away, it was faded and very worn. It was cool to touch and refused to heave. Edward could hear himself chuckling, which soon turned to a belly aching laugh, patting the old door as an old friend, he turned on his heel to leave when he heard the gate creak open. Before he even could breathe in, a flood of screams poured out through the door. It was a painful concoction of deafening shrieks and screeches and maniacal laughter. No matter how hard he tried, Edward was unable to run, and he clawed vainly at the ground as he was dragged back into the abyss. He could hear himself beg, eyes blurred with tears. “Edward” came a voice from behind, “Save me, Edward, come home to Mother” continued the haunting voice as frosty hands gripped his face, “Let go” it hissed and he could feel its lip curl up in a smile and sunk its sharp teeth into his shoulder. “Ed…ward…”
Edward woke up with a sudden jolt; his brow wet with sweat and was on all fours. When they could, the brothers often spoke despite the distance. The nightmares started roughly around the same time and was more or less the same- the old door, the screaming, the voices; neither knew what they meant, they dared not wait for the dreams to finish. It ate them both because they could not shake off the nagging feeling that something awaited them behind those door, something desperately making its way to them.
“Do you think they will come?”
“In search of Truth they shall, for this is the beginning and this the end, this is where Truth comes to die”.
The metal snake let out a sigh of relief as it crawled into the station and to a complete stop, a reprieve to its aching body. The last of the passengers and luggage trickled out as the door slid open.
The snake groaned just a bit as Edward stepped off onto the visibly bare station. Both the beast and the young adult treasured the respite offered by the fresh air and the strong stable footing of the ground. A few idle leaves rushed to greet the blonde-haired, smacking into his face with every warmth and strength they could muster.
“Ed…ward” came a whisper from behind.
The boy swept so fast, making his head spin and trip on his luggage. “Edward”, came the voice again, it was closer than before. He frantically looked about him, he never felt so helpless and in dire need of his alchemy. “Brace yourself Edward, look beyond”, the voice tickled his ear, a word of defiance escaped him before he felt the darkness creep in again. Unlike the earlier dreams, this time he could smell the distinct burning smell of flesh mixed with gunpowder, the ground was soaked with blood and decaying flowers, debris took bloom in the ruins. “Please…no more…” his choking voice muttered as the ghosts of the past tore the ground, their sorrowful faces inches away from his. From the depth of the shadows, the vociferous sound of wings and metal bellowed bearing the weight of a living skeleton. From the corner of his eye, he could see a silhouette approach, “Edward, come to me, find your way to me” the silhouette spoke in a gentle encouraging tone. His outstretched fingers barely touched the edges of her train when much to his horror unseen monsters began to pull his his hand apart, finger pad by finger pad, digit by digit, slowly evaporating- the skin, the muscles, blood, tissues, bones- turned into vapour and merging into the fog. He could not even make out whether or not he was crying or whether all this was real or another waking nightmare.
Amidst all the noises, a clear cracking sound broke through the barrier. It got set into a rhythm and like an arrow, pierced through the un-seemingly impenetrable wall bringing with it a faint voice. Repeatedly, it repeated a word, hoping that it will reach the boy. “Edward”, it finally plunged through it all, breaking through the shield-wall. Blindly, the boy swung a punch in the direction of the voice only to meet a firm unyielding hand, “Brother!” the startled voice broke through the trance.
“Al…Alphonse...” Edward blinked in astonishment as he absorbed the fact that it was in fact his brother standing in front of him, in flesh and blood.“What are you doing here?”, “I am not so sure myself, I was pursuing a lead to this city where they practice this forbidden Alchemy but I was more successful in counting sheep and missed the station. I had the feeling that I had to be here so I was waiting at the other end of the platform when I thought I saw you alight from the train; do you know where we are?” Alphonse inquired as he helped his brother onto his feet. Mutely shaking his head, the elder one collected himself, “Perhaps we should ask the Station Master”.
Lo and behold, empty station! The scared leaves now gathered at their feet, seeking protection from the approaching unknown.
In an attempt to set an example to the trembling foliage, the brothers made their way to what they could make out to be the ticket counter. With its stained and cracked windows, the counter looked more like a portal to a gypsy’s world. Alphonse had to press his face into the glass to see if there was anyone, but a plaque card adorned in muted red colours with the words, “Closed, come back later” sat in place of the station master.
“Looks like we need to find shelter for the night”, dejectedly Alphonse informed his brother.