Tea Leaves and Green Jade

Drive, Data, and Madness

Match Nine: Drive, Data, and Madness:

-Present Day-

I turned the box over and over in my hand. Yao, Hen-to, and Fei don't know anything about this yet. I don't think I even know how to approach them on this. I haven't even brought myself to open the damn box. Why would that old man give it to me in the first place? How did he know me? Did he know my father? I shook my head to myself.

That's not possible. That old man didn't look rich, so why? I sighed and dropped the box at my side. This is getting me nowhere. Well, only one way to find out. I moved the box into my view and pulled it open. A confused look came on my face.

What the hell is this? A piece of paper was folded up into a square. I unfolded it and a flash drive fell in my lap. I looked down and picked it up. I couldn't find a label on the outside. Okay, this just got weird. I'm not seriously going to go plug this into my laptop and look what's on it, am I?

Before I knew it, I booted up my laptop and pulled in the flash drive. This could be a prank at my expense. I just need to get this over with and stop thinking about it. The window for the flash drive popped up. I saw only one folder. The Wasteland? I clicked on the icon to open it up. One video file was titled, "End of Days." At first, I frowned at the title.

This is a joke, right? Yet, I was a big enough sucker to click on the file. The next thirty minutes changed everything.

Crippling figures covered in mud and dirt crawled across a barren landscape. A blindfolded little girl sat strapped down and beaten in a chair in the middle of a darkened room. A young woman dressed in scantily clad white and blue circled a golden pole on a glittery stage. Another little girl looked down at her feet as she pointed to her right.

The clip had no audio. The images looked really grainy as well with them jumping from shot to shot. Okay, what is the point of this?

A pair of jeweled hands laid out the tarot cards from the main deck. The Lovers card appeared on the screen. Right away, I remembered what that old man told me. My stomach dropped as the next few images flashed across my screen. Different people were nailed down to crosses dead. The first one was a man, possibly a doctor or therapist, with his cross outside his practice. His neck looked broken at an angle with his mouth wide open and dried blood under his eyes. Another victim was a woman nailed down to another cross on top of an apartment building. Only, her cross was upside down with her pearls tightened around her neck like a noose.

What the hell is this?

The third victim made my eyes grow big. This one was dressed in a school girl uniform nailed to her cross, but she had no head. A low whisper filled my earbuds. I couldn't recognize what it was saying, but I had to guess it was in Japanese. The whisper turned into many voices repeating themselves. The cross images repeated themselves while speeding up. Soon, it got to the point that they blended into one image before the screen went black. I was thinking that was it until a loud noise like a death filled my earbuds. I screamed as I hit the floor. As the clip ended, I sat on the floor, panting.

What would that old man send me something like that for? I rose to my feet and closed everything down. It should've ended there, but something wouldn't let me let it go. That was probably what led to me slowly going mad that year. However, that wouldn't be my only problem. On my nightstand, my phone rang. I leapt back in the air before I realized what it was. Calm down, stupid! It's only your phone; answer it! I gathered up my wits and crawled over to my phone.

"Hello?" I asked.

"Ju? Is that you?" a guy's voice asked on the other line. I dropped my phone on the floor.

"Hello? Hello?" the man asked at my feet.

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