The Nightmare World

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Chapter 13

(Where am I?)

I find children sitting in the garden. They're all laughing. sharing each other’s toys.

Young Monica: Hey, let's play hide-and-seek!

Young Ray: Great idea! I'll be it!

One child turns away, fiddling with his toy car.

(That's Thoma...)

Thoma's little brother pouts at him, but then young Ray decides to close his eyes and starts the game.

Young Ray: One, two. three...

Young Monica: Ray's counting! Let's go!

(This must be a dream.)

(This brings back so many memories.)

(I feel like I'm having a good dream for change.)

I watch my younger self run to a certain spot.

But then she stops.

Young Jessica: Oh no! Where do I hide?

Young Ray: Eight. nine...

Young Licht: Come with me!

Without anywhere else to go, the young girl runs with her friend.

(Ah...)

(I remember.)

(Licht and I hid in the old shack that day.)

(It was so much fun.)

(Sweet, gentle Licht.)

(What are you hiding behind that mask?)

(Did you know what was going to happen to us?)

Subaru: Jessica, wake up.

Me: Hmm...?

I open my eyes to find Subaru staring at me with a worried expression.

I turn my head and see Ray sitting by the window, writing something.

Subaru: You didn't wake up right away.

Me: Oh... I was having a dream.

Subaru: A dream?

Me: Yeah, of when we were kids. It was about Licht. I didn't realize we could dream here in the nightmare world.

I try to get up. but my muscles are so weak that I almost plop right back onto the floor. But Subaru's strong hands keep me from falling.

Subaru: Are you feeling sick?

(I was fine. wasn't I?)

But...

Me: I just feel a little dizzy.

Ray looks concerned as he stares at me.

Me: Maybe because I just woke up.

Ray: Hmm... Well anyway, just stay here until you feel better.

(At any rate. I don't think I’m sick.)

(Maybe it's because of the dream.) Slowly, I start to return to my dream. For some reason, that time we were playing hide-and-seek stands out so clearly in my mind.

Young Licht: Ray won’t find us in here.

Young Jessica: Phew. You sure saved me. I didn't know where to hide!

Young Licht: You're such an amateur.

Licht sits down next to me.

Young Licht: You're lucky I'm the hide-and-seek master!

In that small shack, we felt so close. Suddenly, Licht pulls two Iollipops from his pocket.

Young Licht: Here's one for you.

Young Jessica: Ooh, I love lollipops.

Young Licht: I know.

I look at him, and he looks away, his face red.

Young Jessica: Hehehe. Thank you.

That day. they didn’t find us until after sunset.

When Father finally burst into the shack. Licht and I were huddled together, sleeping.

(It was so much fun...)

(I wonder if Licht will ever remember?)

My heart was pounding in my chest when Licht was beside me.

When I think back to it now,I'm overcome with bittersweet sorrow.

Subaru: Why are you smiling?

(What? Oh!)

I abruptly shake my head.

Me: No reason! Haha!

Subaru: Are you really okay?

Me: I'll be fine. It's nothing senous.

Subaru throws me a doubtful look. but lets the subject drop.

Subaru: Don't overexert yourself.

Me: How long was I out for?

Subaru shakes his head.

(Right, we can't tell time in here.)

Subaru: Not too long, thankfully.

Me: Help me up, please.

Subaru wraps an arm around my waist, pulling me up as he supports my body weight.

(Time to go.)

Getting on my feet, I look around. and sure enough, we're back in the last place we lost consciousness. We're in Ray's old living room.

Me: Where's Licht?

Ray: He wasn't here when I woke up.He must be hidinor

something.

Ray scoffs, ferociously running a pen across his notebook.

(What's he doing?)

Subaru: I was the first to wake up, but I didn't see Licht either.

Me: What? No way...

(Is Licht really guilty then?)

I shake my head. trying to curb my suspicions.

(I want to trust him.)

(We won't know anything for sure until we find him.)

Me: For now. let's

(Let's look for Licht.)

Ray interrupts me before I can finish.

Ray: Here, it's done!

Ray's eyes light up under the crimson light shining through the window.

Me: What's that?

Ray: A map.

(A map?)

Ray: I tried to recreate the places we've been.

Subaru and I lean closer to get a better look at Ray's scribbles.

Subaru: What is that?

Ray: What do you mean?

Ray holds up a notebook full of drawings we can't make sense of. Subaru: Everyone says doctors have bad handwriting. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

Ray: Are you saying my map sucks

Subaru: You said it. not me.

Ray looks at his drawing and gives me a glance.

Ray: You can understand it, right?

(He doesn’t seem to have the slightest clue how bad it is. That's kind of adorable.)

I press my lips together, holding back a giggle.

(It looks like a kid's drawing.)

But it seems like Ray worked.

really hard on it.)

Subaru: Spare her, I beg you.

Ray: Think you can do better?

Subaru comes closer and takes Ray's materials from him.

Subaru: You want a map?

Subaru works across the page like a skilled artist.

(Wow...)

The lines and curves are so much better,the details making it easy to identify the pIaces.

Ray: Hmph, Show-off.

Subaru: You're one to talk.

(They're so funny to watch.)

I can't help but smile at the unexpected interaction.

(This is them opening up to each other.)

(That's a relief.)

Ray: But did you guys notice?

Me: Notice what?

Ray holds up Subaru's map. dragging a finger from one end up to the middle

Ray: These places don't really connect. The areas aren't this close in real life.

Me: !!!

Subaru: I noticed that on the way here too. The orphanage in the real world is abandoned and surrounded by a forest.

Me: You're right. In the nightmare. there's no forest around the orphanage.

Ray: It's possible that this nightmare is made up of places from our memories.

Subaru: Woven like a spider's web.

Me: Huh? The park is in a different place from where I recovered my memories? I thought for sure it was over here.

I let my fingers glide across the

page.

Me: That's strange.

Subaru: What if it‘s shifting?

Ray settles his fingers on his chin.

Ray: Like, every day, it moves around, leading us to where we should go.

Me: We have to find Licht. Maybe he knows.

Ray: ...Right. Personally,I don't trust him. but he definitely knows the most about this world. Jessica,you and Licht were good friends, right? Do you have any leads?

(Now that he mentions it. Licht did seem to be particularly fond of the courtyard.)

We find Licht right where we expected him to be. He's sitting on the swing in the playground,eyes cast down on the ground.

Me: Licht!

I run over to him.

Me: I was worried about you! Why did you go off all by yourself?

Licht looks up at me, exhausted.

(Does he feel responsible for what happened to Thoma?)

Licht: Sorry...for everything. It's all my fault.

Me: Y-You didn't get your memories back. did you?

Licht shakes his head.

Licht: I'm sorry...

Me: Licht. listen. We need your help.We're trying to connect all the things we've found so far.

I glance at Ray.

Ray: Until I find out what's really going on, I can’t trust you. But you're probably the only one who can answer our questions. So I'm asking you to help us.

Ray holds out his hand to Licht.

Licht apprehensively shakes Ray’s hand.

Licht: I'll do my best to answer.

Subaru:

Subaru and I make eye contact and exchange a subtle smile of relief.

Ray: Thoma died because he couldn't accept his memories.

Subaru: That's when we learned. If we reject our memories, the monster grows stronger.

Licht: I see. It seems we have no choice but to accept the truth, then.

Ray: If we want to survive, yes.

Me: Also, Father's name...

Ray: It's Silas Ackerman. The name plates we found here and there line up with what we saw in our memories.

Licht doesn't say anything. but I notice him stiffening upon hearing the name.

Ray: It seems that he's the founder

of Bluebells orphanage.

Licht:

Ray: He's responsible for all these atrocities.

Licht: Silas Ackerman...

Licht looks ahead.

Licht: l

Suddenly, we can hear children giggle.

Ray: Look, Jessica. That's you.

My body instantly stiffens.

Subaru: And Licht.

The scene from Licht's memories unfolds before us.

(But why am I there?)

Young Licht: Jessica! Look what I got!

Young Jessica: Ah! But we shouldn't eat cookies after lunch!

Young Licht: Shhhh.

Young Licht: Don't be so loud!

The young girl immediately covers her mouth with both hands.

Then she leans closer to whisper. Young Jessica: We'll be in trouble if Father finds out.

Young Licht: Oh, he won't be.

Young Licht: I'm his real son, after all.

(What?)

(Licht is Silas Ackerman's real son?)

The two children share the cookies as they fade into the distance.

Ray: Y-You...

Licht: l...

He looks at me, the Iight in his eyes coming home from their long absence.

Me : Licht...

Licht: I remember now.

Licht bolts out of the swing, but even in his haste, he takes my hand gently.

Licht: It's you. You're the friend I’ve been

waiting for all these years.

He fiddles with my fingers, interlacing them with his own.

Me: Licht...

(Do you really remember?)

(At long last, the Licht that I remember is finally back.)

Me: You're finally back.

I force myself to smile to hold back the tears.

Licht: I know, Jessica.

He mutters faintly and wraps his arms around me.

Me: L-Licht?

I catch Ray and Subaru staring at me, and I gently try to break away from Licht.

He lets me go reluctantly, staring into my eyes.

Licht: I finally found you again.

(T his is all so sudden, but I'm really glad he remembered.)

Licht: Let me make up for lost time.

Me: Thank you, Licht.I'm glad you're back.

I smile at him. and he returns it with his own.

Just then, another scene becomes apparent for us to see.

Father: Listen, Licht.

Silas Ackerman's assistant comes in with a pitcher of water and five glasses.

Father: Imagine that these five glasses are your friends. Can you tell me what's inside them?

Licht: There's nothing.

Father: Not quite. There's air.

Licht: Air?

Father: Yes. We can't see it, but it's there, right? Your friends are all carrying something inside them that we can't see. It's fear. Licht. And loneliness.

Licht: My friends are scared and lonely?

Young Licht's eyes are downcast, his expression sad.

Father: Yes. but we can change that.

Silas lifts up the pitcher full of water and starts filling the glasses with equal amounts of liquid.

Father: This pitcher is you, Licht.You're full of wonderful memories. You see. your wonderful memories are like this water, displacing those invisible. painful memories. Do you understand, my son?

The boy doesn't answer immediately, settling his gaze on the pitcher, now almost empty.

Silas walks over to his son, lowering himself so that they are at eye level.

Father: Don't be afraid. I won't let your water run dry. We can make plenty of memories to replace those you give away. I'm sure your friends would be happy to help.

Father: You know this experiment can't be completed without you. Licht. I'm counting on you, alright?

Young Licht blinks twice. lips quivering to say something.

Licht: My friends won't suffer anymore, will they? They'll all be happy. Right, Father?

Father: Of course.

Licht: Then I'll do it!

The young boy's eyes light up, full of hope. Silas pats his son's head. a triumphant smile on his face.

Father: That's my son. I'm so proud ofyou.

Out of nowhere, a familiar bell rings.

The clock strikes ten at night. and Silas stands up.

Father: Time for bed, Licht. Rest up well for tomorrow.

(Oh, so the bells that ring every night at ten o'clock are connected to the orphanage bedtime.)

I look at Licht intently watching the scene as it changes into another revelation.

The children are all strapped to their beds, a number of medical instruments clinging onto their bodies.

(Is this one of those human experiments?)

This looks like the first of them. This is the truth that I've been so nervous about finding out. Several adults in white lab coats are meticulously working away.

I watch the apparition of my younger self closely. One of the doctors attaches a device to her head.

Doctor 1: Code blue! Code blue!

I quickly turn around when I hear a man's voice yelling.

(Oh no...)

Young Licht starts convulsing, alerting the team.

The doctors try their best to stabilize the boy, preparing the apparatuses.

Father: Out of the way! I'll handle this.

Father desperately tends to Licht. Father: You there! Keep the other children in check! Licht. please! You’ve got to pull through!

Doctor 2: His pulse is dropping!

(Licht!)

I grab Licht's hand, pulling him back as the vision fades.

Me: W-Wait! What happens to Licht?

The vision gives me no answer. The entire area becomes dead silent. Cold sweat trickles down my neck.

(It's a sign!)

(The monster is coming!)

Ray: Stand back!

We all try to anticipate the forthcoming attack on Licht. It's the same pattern we've seen before. The vision comes when we least expect it.

After that, we're all so focused on what's happening. we forget something is coming. Then the monster tries to eat us once the imagery becomes a blur. However...

No matter how long we wait. the monster doesn't appear.

Me: What's going on? Why isn't it showing up?

Subaru: Don’t let your guard down. Subaru reminds us as the apparition completely disappears.

But even after a few moments of silence, there's no sign of the monster coming.

(But why?)

Not that l was hoping for it to

show up. Who would?

(But this is so strange...)

Ray: We should be safe for now.

We ease up upon hearing Ray’s words. the tension leaving our shoulders.

We all look at each other, both in wonder and relief.

Ray: So that's what happened.

Ray puts his hands on his hips.

Me: So Silas Ackerman had good intentions.He only wanted to take away our bad memories.

Subaru: But that doesn’t make what he did right.

Ray: Exactly. It's still a violation of our rights.

I understand where they're coming from.

Even if the whole experiment was done out of goodwill, the end result was undoubtedly a tragedy.

(Some ended up losing their lives.) (And it seems like even Silas himself died because of this.)

Licht: It's because I helped... It’s my fault.

Ray: Don’t say that. It's not your fault.You were doing everything you could to save us. So um...well. y'know... I'm sorry I doubted you.

Licht smiles at Ray.

(Aww, it looks like they’ve made up. I'm so glad.)

But Licht‘s smile quickly disappears.

He looks bewildered.

Me: Licht... Are you okay?

Licht lowers his head. clenching his fists.

Licht: I still don’t know what happened after that day.

Ray: Because the experiment failed,

clearly.

Licht: !!!

Me: Hmm... But it did take our bad memories away.

Subaru: That means it only partially succeeded. The rest was an obvious failure. They failed to transfer Licht's good memories to us, and Licht...

He swallows hard, not finishing his sentence.

(Licht... I don't know what to say to him.)

Licht: Haha. So what happened to me? Did I die? If I'm dead, then that would explain why I can't go to the real world.

I try to take his hand, but he pulls away unintentionally.

Licht: Ah...

Even though he's the one who let go

he looks me like I rejected him.

He looks just like I did when I found out I was abandoned as a child.

(Licht saved us back there.)

(I want to heal his heart too.)

(But his situation is so unique and complex that I don't know how to console him.)

(If I was him, what could someone even say to make me feel better?)

(I'm sorry, Licht.)

(I'm sorry for not being able to do anything for you...)

I stand there, watching Licht sink to the ground.

After a while. my vision starts to get blurry, and I can hear the sound of the bells fading in.

(Wait! I want to stay with Licht! My eyes meet Licht's.

Licht: That's it!

Subaru and Ray start falling sleep, and I feel the haze creeping through my consciousness.

Licht: Go to the records room in the basement! The code is L0129!

Licht:Remember it, Jessica!

(L01...)

ltry to repeat the numbers in my head, but they‘re replaced with an urgent need to know.

(Licht...will you be there?)

All too soon, I drift off to sleep.

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