The Nightmare World

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Chapter 12

The medics bring out Thoma‘s body on a stretcher. I thought I'd only ever see a scene like this in movies. Part of me desperately wishes that this was only a nightmare,but...

Thoma‘s Mom: My little boy!

Thoma‘s mother rushes to the ambulance, trying to get ahold of her son's body. But her husband stops her before she does. She cries, her anguish ringing of the undeniable truth.

(Thoma's dead.)

I look over to Ray, who's still talking to the police.

(He looks fine now. but...)

All at once. I feel something creeping behind me.

Me: Ah...

I see Subaru smoothing out the blanket he just laid over my shoulders.

Subaru: Stay warm.

I smile at his simple gesture.

Me: Thanks. Subaru. Are you sure you're okay?

Subaru: It's tragic. Thoma was my friend too.

(Ah...)

I take his hand. squeezing it tightly.

Me: Yeah, and Ray needs our support more than ever. I don't want anyone else to die.

Subaru: We'll make sure it doesn't happen.

The conversation sparks hope in my heart. just as we see Ray coming towards us.

Ray: Let's go.

Me: Huh? Go where?

Ray: To the orphanage, of course.

(But that's...)

Subaru: Are you sure that's a good idea. right now?

You might not look it, but this has surely taken a toll on you. You're upset and exhausted. It would be better to rest.

I'm surprised to see Subaru so worried about someone else.

(We've definitely all forged a strong bond after all the struggles we've been through.)

Me: I agree with Subaru.It's been a tough night, Ray. Maybe we should-

Ray: We only have until sundown. We can't afford to waste time.

It's clear that he's pushing himself to keep from breaking down. A mix of fury and anxiousness seeps out of him.

Both:!!!

Ray: We're going to the orphanage.Now.

He frowns, walking briskly towards

Thoma's car.

(Thoma's car...)

I run after him, worried.

Me: We should return the car, Ray.

Ray: They gave it to me.

Subaru: What do you mean?

Ray: His old man says they don't want the car anymore.

(I guess to Thoma's parents, the car is only going to be a source of painful memories...)

Ray swiftly enters the driver's seat and turns on the engine without a hitch.

I can't think of anything else to say that might stop him, so I decide to go along. Subaru and I get into the car. knowing Ray is right.

(If we want to go back to our normal lives, we have to get out of the nightmare as soon as possible.)

(Even if things can't ever be

normal again...)

Ray drives us to the orphanage.

I catch glimpses of him from the rearview mirror.

(Ray...)

As soon as his name crosses my mind, his eyes suddenly shift across the planes of the mirror.

He catches my reflection off guard.

Me: H-How far away are we?

I ask. trying to calm my rampaging heartbeat.

(Why would you even look this way? Look at the road!)

Ray: Jessica.

His eyes slowly turn back to the road, his hand steady on the steering wheel.

Me: Y-Yes?

Ray: You said the monster weakened after you regained your memories, right?

Me: Yes.

(Come to think of it...)

With the suddenly serious conversation, I lean closer towards the front seats.

Me: That obviously wasn't the case for Thoma and Monica.I wonder why...

Subaru stirs in his seat and folds his arms.

Subaru: Actually, the monster kept growing.

Ray: I've been doing some thinking, so listen up.

Ray steers the wheel to make a right turn. Then, he tells us his observations.

Ray: Throughout our encounter. Thoma kept rejecting the truth of his memories. That's the only difference I can think of between him and me. (Ah!)

Subaru: Hm... You're right. The monster went berserk after he kept saying no.

Me: Wait a second. If that's true, then...

Ray catches my reflection in the rearview mirror again, giving a slight nod.

Ray: Thoma caused his own death by not accepting the reality of his past.

Subaru: So not only do you have to remember. but you also have to accept your memories and overcome them.

Me: That's...

(But I guess it's true. Ray and I are both still alive, and we overcame our past.)

(And now we‘re here.)

Me: so letting your past get the best of you means death?If that really is the

case, then that's harsh.Overcoming your past isn't easy.

(The reason I was able to overcome it was because I realized I had all of my friends from the orphanage...)

(I realized that my past wasn't all pain and suffering.)

But Subaru and Licht’s memories remain.

(I pray that they realize that the past isn't all bad.)

Ray: The person responsible for this is him.

By 'him' of course, Ray means the man we know so little about. Images of "Father" flash through my mind.

(In my vision, he was kind.He didn’t seem to be anything more than just a teacher at the orphanage.)

Ray: It seems like he collected some kids for the orphanage so he

could conduct his experiments.

(That's awful...)

Me: But why would he even do that?

(Maybe he had other plans for us.)

Ray: Rich people do a lot of shady things.

(And it’s somewhat sickening, toying with lives like this.)

Me: But Licht

Ray:

Ray's grip on the steering wheel tightens.

I purse my lips and don't say anything more.

(Licht, just who are you?)

Subaru: so, this "Father" could be the owner of the orphanage.

Ray: Most likely.

Me: Thinking back on it. I can't think of anything suspicious about him. He just seemed like a kind-hearted teacher.

But let's hope we can find some hints at the orphanage.

Ray: Yeah.

Not too long after, Ray stops the car in front of a mossy gate.We step out of the car and gather outside the gates. The structure is pretty much intact on the outside. but the inner structures seem to be hollowed out. I look up to see the signage rusting from years of neglect.

Me: Bluebells...

My own voice sends a shiver down my spine.

(It's real.)

(We're here.)

Subaru: It looks even creepier than in the nightmare.

Me: Yeah, definitely eerie...

Subaru:

Me: Subaru?

Subaru stands there, frozen.

Ray: Come on, we don't have all

day.

But Subaru stays glued to the ground. an insect hovering around him.

(Is that a bee?)

I hear murmurs. but I'm unsure where they're coming from. Until I walk past Subaru, who's closing his eyes and mumbling.

(What?)

Subaru: Go away. Go away. Go away.

The bee circles around Subaru like a vulture.

(Don't tell me...)

The bee settles down on Subaru's hair.

Subaru: Is it gone?

I gently sweep the bee off of Subaru's hair.

Subaru: !!!

Subaru's shivers slightly.

(He's like a little animal...)

After how dauntlessly he stood

before the monster, seeing Subaru afraid of a bee like this is endearing.

I can't help but giggle.

Subaru: Wh-What?

Ray: Come on, quit fooling around. We're going!

(I've never seen him anxious like this before.)

We follow Ray through the gates of the orphanage.

Me: So...

We walk cautiously around the overgrown grounds.

Me: You're afraid of bees, Subaru?

Ray. who's in front of us. snickers.

Subaru: It's not that...

Subaru sounds dejected. He must've been trying to keep it a secret.

(But why?)

Me: A lot of people are afraid of bees. It's okay .

(But I didn't expect Subaru to be one of them.)

(It's kinda cute in a way.)

Subaru: You don’t understand. Subaru covers his face with both hands and runs his hands through his hair in frustration. I got stung once. It's not as simple as being afraid of them. It's more like a phobia.

Me : Oh, I'm sorry to hear that...

(Now I feel bad for making fun of him.)

Ray: You got pretty bad luck. then. Subaru: Story of my life.

We drop the subject of Subaru's trauma. It's clear he doesn't want to talk about it further. We make our way across the yard, Iooking past the growing moss across the cobblestone pavement.

Ray: It feels weird, doesn't it?It's like walking through

actual history.

Me: That's true. We've seen this place at a lot of different times throughout its history.

Subaru:

Subaru stops, turning his head towards the west wing.

Subaru: It would be easier if we knew what we're looking for.

Ray: Anything that could help. Most importantly, something about that man called "Father."

We head towards the front door. The building is certainly in a dilapidated state, some parts of it threatening to collapse.

Subaru: What if it suddenly caves in?

I don't think we should go that way.

Ray: I didn't expect you to be such a worrywart.

Subaru:

Subaru looks displeased, but he

doesn't argue.

Me: But this is what we came here for, Subaru.

I take a step closer to Ray.

Me: We should make the most of the time while the sun's up.

Subaru: Well, if you insist. I won't stop you.

Subaru gives me a worried expression, but it quickly disappears. He continues walking with the same expression, seemingly unfazed.

(Huh, I guess he wasn’t scared.Now that I think about it. he doesn't seem to be very attached to the idea of staying alive.)

(Unlike the rest of us. he doesn't seem very afraid of dying.)

(Even if he is a little scared of bees.)

I realize that he was just worried about us.

We arrive in front of the door. Ray gets ahold of the door knob. The creak is an eerie sound, and the cobwebs decorating the entrance come into view.

Me: It looks like those haunted houses in amusement parks.

Ray glares at me, and Subaru lets out a snicker.

Ray: Don't tell me you're gonna start saying stupid things like that from now on.

(Guess that was a little ditzy of me to say.)

Me: S-Sorry. It's kinda unsettling getting used to being scared.

Ray: Ugh... You do know this is a haunted house. Watch your step.

Ray seems to step in seamlessly, prompting me to just go for it. But the moment I step in, the floor creaks

Me: Ah!

Subaru: Jessica!

The floor beneath my foot collapses, swallowing my leg.

Me: Oh gosh!

(That was a shock!)

Subaru takes my hand and lifts me back up with ease.

Jessica: That really got me...

Subaru comes to my aid, and I cling to him for dear life.

Subaru: I got you. I got you.

Ray: Be careful, now.

As my heart beats on a rampage, Subaru rubs my back to help me relax.

Me : Thanks.

I take a few deep breaths until I'm able to stand up straight again. Subaru can let me go, but he doesn't leave my side, even as we brave these ruins.

Subaru: There's nothing here.

We stare at the vast expanse of the run-down orphanage.

Ray: We'll have to go up.

then,Ray looks up, eyeing the stairs leading to the second floor.

???: Ehehehehe!

Me: What was that?

We're distracted by the sound of giggling children.

(Wait, why? We're not in the nightmare world!)

???: Hahaha!

Ray: The sounds coming from straight ahead.

Ray: Let's go!

Me: Wait, Ray-!

Ray sprints off, and Subaru and I follow right behind him.

(Why would he suddenly take off on his own like that?!)

I try to chase after him as best as I can, but there's no way I‘ll catch up with him.

He disappears into the darkness.

(Oh no...)

Just as we’re about to move forward again. my foot gets caught on something.

Me: Ah!

Subaru: Jessica!

Subaru grabs my hand before I can trip.

Subaru: Careful.

Me: Th-Thanks.Where's Ray?

Subaru looks around. then shakes his head.

Me: Subaru, what should we do?

Subaru: Hmm...

Subaru has a troubled expression on his face.

(yeah right. Subaru hasn't regained his memories.)

(Even if my childhood memories are a little fuzzy. I have to be strong.)

Me: Let’s continue forward.

Subaru nods and we walk on.

After a little while, we come across a partially opened door.

Jessica: If I remember correctly. the atrium was over this way.

Subaru: The door's open. Ray might be in there.

What used to be the atrium has been reclaimed by nature and has basically turned into a forest.

We decide to go further into the place. hoping to find Ray.

We've been walking for quite a while now, but there's still no sign of him.

Me: What was Ray thinking?I can't believe he just ran off like that.

(I know how he feels, but...)

Subaru: He's surprisingly impulsive. huh?

Me: Right? He's always seemed more

logical than that. But I guess pain changes people...

Me: I wonder why we could hear a child's voice even though we're still in the real world. It's creepy.

Subaru: It's possible that the two worlds are starting to merge.

Me: What do you mean?

Subaru: I mean that if we don't find a way to escape, we might lose track of which is which. It's just a theory. Either that or our psyche has taken a hit.

Me: That's true. Whether we're awake or asleep. we're conscious either way. I'm worried. I hope Ray's okay....

Subaru:

I continue walking. my thoughts

fixed on Ray.

Me: He'll be okay. right. Subaru?

Subaru doesn't respond. Instead, he looks down with his mouth hanging open.

Me: Subaru?

Subaru:

(What's wrong?)

Me: Are you okay?

(Subaru's not showing it, but I wonder if he's exhausted mentally.)

Subaru: Let's go. We shouldn't stay here long.

Subaru starts walking. and I follow closely right behind him. We don't find Ray and decide to go back to where we were before.

As we exit the jungIe-Iike atrium, the main hall greets us with a haunting silhouette, the sun setting low behind it.

Subaru: We're right back where we started.

Me: Ugh! I can't believe we came all this way for nothing!

I stomp my foot on the ground. letting out a fit of frustration.

(Wandering through that maze was nothing but a waste of time!)

Subaru scratches his head, sighing.

Subaru: We still have time.

I bite my lip, embarrassed that I lost my temper all of a sudden.

(...)

Subaru snickers.

Me:Sorry. It's not like me to just explode like that.

Subaru: You’re cute when you get angry, though.

Jessica: Oh, please.

Subaru: Yeah. just like that.

I pout, refusing to look at him.

Subaru: But I don't think you're really angry. You're just really worried that we didn't find Ray.

(Well, I am worried)

Subaru: Let's check the other areas.

With no luck trying to locate Ray, we end up at the entrance to the underground passage.

The echoes of our footsteps are the only sound.

The chilly air makes me shiver.

Me: In the nightmare world, we found Licht for the first time in one of these rooms, right?

Subaru: Yeah. that room over there.

We try to open the door.

Me: No good. Looks like we need a passcode.

Subaru: A dead end, huh? Let's check elsewhere.

We resume our search.

As we continue on our way, I'm struck by an overpowering scent of what smells like rusted metal. The smell reminds me of Thoma's death, and I can't help but gag.

Subaru: Jessica. look...

Me: !!!

There's a large bloodstain in the old hallway. Next to it is a partially wilted bouquet of flowers.

Subaru: The blood‘s dry. but it's relatively fresh. Given how big this puddle is,I doubt whoever it came from is still with us.

Me: Who could’ve done this...?

I turn to see a name tag on the floor, and I decide to pick it up. It has the name "Silas Ackerman'

(I feel like I’ve heard this name somewhere before... But where?)

As I'm caught up in my thoughts, I suddenly hear Ray’s voice from behind.

Ray: Finally. I found you!

Subaru: Where were you?

Subaru's tone is icy.

(Is he angry?)

Subaru: Did you at least find anything useful after you ran off on your own like an idiot?

Ray narrows his eyes in reply, panting heavily.

Ray: Sorry...

Ray looks like he regrets what he did.

(Well, this is rare.)

Me: Ray, I understand that you're anxious, but we have to stay calm. “Slow and steady wins the race.” right?

Ray: Yeah. you're right.

Subaru: Don't go off on your own next time.We’re all in this together, aren't we?

Ray’s eyes widen in surprise. clearly not expecting those words. Then he grins.

Ray: You sure got some guts to tell me that.

Subaru scoffs silently, as if trying to challenge him.

(Is this some sort of unspoken friendship between guys?)

(At least I know they don’t hate each other.)

I smile, thinking to myself.

Ray: What did you find, then?

Ray examines the flowers and the bloodstain.

Ray: Silas Ackerman...? If I remember correctly,that's Father's name.

(Huh. I guess his name was something like that...)

(I never really gave much thought about his name when I was a child.)

Subaru: Could he have been killed here?

Ray: Judging from the amount of blood, that's almost certainly the case.

Me: I guess that means we're not getting any information out of him...

Ray: You're right about that.

We talk about our next step as we walk towards the gate, the sun almost gone from the skies.

Ray: We‘ll have to access the old archives to findRay stops in his tracks, and so do we. Just between us and the entrance. a vision appears.

Six children are having fun in the playground.

(It's all of us. Even Monica and Thoma...)

The younger versions of ourselves are picture perfect. happy and without a care in the world. Feelings of helplessness take over my mind. I glance beside me and see Ray clenching his fists. I guess he feels the same way. Or is he mad at himself for wasting a whole day?

(Ray...)

I know he's trying to act like nothing happened. but he can’t deny it.

Thoma’s passing is too much for him to handle.

Ray: Let's go.

We continue our search until the last possible minute before leaving the building.

Ray: Lock the doors and windows.

We find ourseres back in the car.

(At least here, we can protect ourselves better.)

The blue tinted light of the crescent moon lights the sky. It's like death smiling on us, waiting for its next victim.

Me: Alright, let's see what happens tonight.

(We used to do everything we could to try to prevent ourselves from falling into the nightmare world.)

(Now here we are, waiting patiently for ten pm. to come.)

(We can't fight it. We just have to accept it.)

(This nightmare...and also our past.)

It isn't long before the bell rings.

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