The Nightmare World

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Chapter 15

(Licht is alive. and he's in a coma.)

I'm so relieved, my legs feel like they might give out.

(He's alive!)

But

A sudden trepidation comes over me. knowing that he might not be in the best condition.

(We have to find him before it's too late!)

Ray: Why are you two huddling in there? I told you to call me when you found something.

Ray walks in, hands on his hips. Subaru: We found a file of everything we're looking for.

Me: Yeah. Everything we need to know about the orphanage is here.

I hand over the folder and Ray takes it quietly.

Subaru and I look at each other.

waiting as Ray skims through the files.

Ray: This is...!

His eyes run rapidly through each page until he stops and leans back.

Ray: So...all our assumptions have finally been given proof.

Subaru: Yes, we were right about most things.

Ray grits his teeth.

Ray: This is the cause of everything that's happened to us. How could they even approve such a research proposal?

Me: Ray...

Ray: There's something we call ethics. This isn't even debatable. They clearly treated us like animals.

Subaru:

Subaru doesn't say anything. but he looks upset.

(Does he feel the same?)

Ray: Nobody’s happy about this, old man.

Ray hisses out a frustrated groan.

Subaru: It's no use complaining. He's dead.

Ray: Yeah, and we're out here. dying.

I bite my lip.

(I know it's wrong, and I can't speak for everyone.)

(But...)

(The only thing Silas Ackerman did wrong was thinking he knew best.)

Me: Let's look on the bright side. At least we're far from where we started.

Ray: You're quite the optimist.

Me: Is that a bad thing?

Ray finally chuckles.

Subaru: Nah. it's part of your charm. Even in a desperate situation like this, it's

refreshing to hear something like that.

Me: How is that charming?Aren't you supposed to look for the silver lining in everything?

Ray sets a hand on my head, tousling my hair.

Ray: A lot of people can say that, but they're not as convincing.

I can't help but smiie.

(That's good to know...)

Me: Ray. Licht is alive somewhere. We need to find him.

Ray looks at me, then flips through the pages again.

Ray: Yeah, finding Licht is our top priority now.

(Yes!)

Ray: The experiment is no longer a mystery. Now, about Licht... Do you have

any clues as to where he could be?

Me: Hmm...

Subaru: I would say a hospital. but considering the circumstances. that doesn't seem likely.

Ray: Yeah, no norma| hospital is going to take in someone who's in a coma from some crazy experiment.Which means he's probably somewhere in this orphanage.

I think back to the room where we first met Licht in the nightmare world.

If I remember correctly, there's a door at the back of the records room leading to another room.

I realize that given our current location. the room where we found Licht should be right around here. But all I see in front of me is a wall, with no door in sight.

(Something's strange about this wall...)

I knock on the wall. The areas

where the door should be seem to make a different sound.

Me: I knew it. It's hollow on the other side. There must be a room!

Ray: Huh. A hidden door. Now that I think about it, this is where Licht was in the nightmare world.

Ray gives the wall a kick. and the door opens with ease.

Subaru: Father must have made modifications after the fact.Guess there's something really important back here.

(Something important. That something must be...)

I feel my heart jumping in anticipation.

(Licht is on the other side!)

I try to take a step. hoping to find who I'm looking for.

A familiar scent hits my nostrils. It's the room we found Licht in. The only thing that's different is

that there are medical supplies and equipment lying around.

Ray: It smells like a hospital in here.

We look around and find shelves with different medical equipment.

Subaru: Guys.

At the corner of the room, we find an occupied bed.

Me: Is that... Licht?

We draw closer to see a young man with dark hair and pale skin.

There are numerous tubes attached to his body, his face haIf-covered with an oxygen mask.

A surge of emotion comes over me as I recognize him.

(It's you!)

(Finally, I found you...)

The corner of my eyes start to

burn. and I grip the bed frame to keep myself from falling.

I try to reach out, but Subaru

intercepts my wrist.

Subaru: Careful.

Me: Ah...

He lets go of me, and I put my hands together close to my chest. feeling the ache as I watch Licht's chest rise and fall with each breath.

Ray:

Ray focuses on the wires attached to Licht’s body.

Ray: He's been kept alive all these years.

Me: Do you think he's okay?

Ray: Well. his heart rate is normal.

Ray looks at us from over his shoulder.

Ray: His breathing is regular too.

He then proceeds to check the other machines, clicking on the screen to see if there’s something else it can tell him.

(I'm relieved Ray knows how to deal

with these things.)

Ray: Hmm, this is really strange. Subaru: What is it?

Ray: The recent records show some heightened activity. I‘ll have to access older data from the EEG to compare if his brainwaves have been this active.

Jessica: EEG?

Ray: Electroencephalogram.

Ray presses a button. and the machine starts to hum softly. Not a second |ater, some paper starts printing.

We can see the lines clearly going above and below the margin. It doesn't take an expert to know what it means.

Ray: He might've been as|eep all this time. but his mind's been awake. In fact, he might actually be listening to us now.

We all take a moment to look at

Licht.

My head sinks.

He’s in peaceful slumber, but who knows how much pressure his body and mind have been under after all these years?

Ray: Go ahead.

(Ah...)

Ray puts his hands in his pockets and nods his head to the side as if telling me to go.

Ray: I think he'd appreciate some comfort right now.

I chuckle, if only to stop myself from crying, then lean close to the bed.

Me: Hey...

I reach out, taking Licht's hand.

(He’s warm...)

He looks like he’s going to wake up any minute, but he's trapped alone in the nightmare world.

The thought of it makes me feel helpless, and I grip Licht's hand

to help fight back my tears.

Jessica: We're here, Licht. I’m here.

I call out to him, but there's only silence.

(It's not like I was hoping for a reply...)

(I'm just glad that we finally found you.)

(You've been fighting for your life here this whole time.)

Subaru: Is there any chance of him becoming conscious?

Ray: I can't say, but we can try waking him up.

Ray goes over to the bed and takes out a flashlight.

There's a beam of light as Ray clicks it on, then uses it to examine Licht’s eyes.

Ray: Nystagmus... His oculomotor nerve is damaged.

Ray: This could be an aneurysm.

Me: No... What should we do?

I grip Licht's hand tighter.

(What should we do?)

Ray: Subaru, try to press a pen on his big toe.

Ray tosses a pen and Subaru catches it perfectly.

Subaru:

Ray: Give it some more pressure. We need to find out if he'll respond to pain.

Subaru nods,poking into Licht's skin, careful not to cause any real damage.

Ray:

(There’s nothing.)

Ray: He's unresponsive, Jessica... (No...)

Ray: As you can see, he's currently vegetative.

Ray: Medically. there's nothing we can do for him.

Me: But...

(Nothing we can do?)

I feel like my world has suddenly

gone dark.

Ray: Our one and only hope is to end the nightmare as soon as possible.If that world disappears, Licht's consciousness will be forced to come back to ours. In theory.

Subaru: You're probably right. We can't give up yet. Jessica. Licht is still here. alive and breathing. Now all I have to do is accept my memories, and we're good. I'll do my best...

Me: Subaru, Ray...

(I'm so glad to have you two.)

Me: You're right. We've still got hope. Let's make a future where we can wake up in this world again with smiles on our faces!

Ray:Atta girl! That‘s the spirit!

Ray: But this isn't good.Silas was the one looking after him. right? That means he was left here alone after Silas died.

Me: !!!

Ray begins looking around the room in search of something.

(What is he looking for?)

Ray: Where is it? Hmm...

Ray crosses the other side of the room, looking like he's on a mission.

(What’s he doing?)

He opens the cabinets one by one. murmuring something to himself. Subaru:

Subaru seems to understand what Ray's up to and starts searching the room.

(Oh... I guess I missed my chance.)

Ray: Found it!

Ray takes out not one, but three packs of IV fluids.

Ray: We should put these somewhere we can find them.

Me: Right...

I notice that the bag attached to Licht’s IV drip is empty.

(Oh. I should've noticed that.)

Subaru leans closer to me, and we watch Ray replace Licht’s IV.

Ray: There.

Ray steps back after hooking the bag over Licht's IV stand.

Me: Thank you, Ray.

Ray: No problem. Someone has to do it.It's not like he can take care of himself. Still, being in a coma for thirteen years...

Ray turns to look at Licht. his eyes downcast with what looks like pity.

Ray: Judging from the state he's in, he's probably been left like this for about a week.

Me: A whole week?!

The thought of it sends chills down my spine.

If we'd have been even one day later. he might not have made it.

Ray: Which means Silas was killed around that time. And it's also when we started having these nightmares.

Subaru: Us getting pulled into these nightmares might be the result of Licht unconsciously calling out for help. If we hadn't come, Licht would've died for sure.

(I'm so glad we could save Licht.)

Subaru: I found this while we were looking for the IV bag.

Subaru holds out a leather journal. Subaru: It's Silas Ackerman's diary.

Ray and I gasp.

I take the diary from Subaru.

The pages are yellowing. a clear sign of age.

(It smells a little funny too.)

Subaru:I've read a bit of it. but let's start looking into after the incident.

Subaru: We can save time by skipping past the parts we already know.

We flip through the pages. skimming through the writings carefully.

(This spans thirteen years or so.)

Ray: Wait.... stop there.

I feel a hand over my own,abruptly stopping me from turning another page.

Ray helps me hold the book in place, and I feel him peer in closer from over my shoulder.

Diary: "After the incident, I found myself at a loss. Do I grieve for my son. or do I grieve for myself?"

Then he leans back and folds his arms.

Ray: Let’s start here.

Me: Okay.

My eyes travel from the paragraph Ray just read.

Diary: "How has it come to this?

Licht, your father is a wanted man.I'm terribly sorry for putting your life and your friends' lives at risk.The governor has judged this experiment to be a failure. and I..."

I trail off, biting my lip.

Subaru steps beside me and finishes the sentence.

Diary: "I am to pay for my sins."

Ray: so the government came after him.

Subaru: It feels like he was more of a scapegoat.

Me : A scapegoat?

Subaru nods,flipping a page.

Subaru: The experiment was partly funded by the government.But it looks like they put the blame solely on Silas Ackerman.

Ray: So they washed their hands of the whole thing, huh?

Ray: How typical.

Jessica: But... he died recently, then that means he's been avoiding the institution for this long?

Ray: Right? That's almost impressive.

I look down at the page again.

Diary: "His alpha waves have been greatly erratic, seemingly stemming from nightmares during REM sleep.'Could it be that the subjects' stress and trauma contributed to this?What if the bad memories that I hoped to eliminate in these five children made their way into Licht’s healthy mind?I have polluted my own son’s memories to the point that he can no longer be woken up.I'm sorry. my son. Please forgive me."

My head snaps up, looking back at Licht.

Me: He's been trapped in our bad memories. But Licht didn't have any memory of our traumatic experiences...or anything at all, for that matter.The monster didn't appear when Licht got his memories back. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

Subaru: That monster is a manifestation of our trauma, which would mean Licht has no relation to it because he has no trauma.That's why the monster didn't appear.

Me: I see...So he’s in the nightmare world even though he has nothing to do with it?

(I’m getting confused. This is really hard to wrap my head around!)

Ray: Hm.... We can't conclude that

Licht has nothing to do with the monster.

Subaru and I both look at Ray.

Me : What do you mean?

Ray: Licht had anything but a traumatic childhood and was raised by loving parents. But as this diary states. his memories fused with the trauma because of the experiment. Just like Jessica said earlier. he's been trapped in our bad memories.

Subaru acknowledges this with a nod.

(There’s way too much going on here! I'm so confused!)

At this point, I'm not sure if I’m just too slow to catch on or if Ray and Subaru are just too sharp.

Subaru: Let's lay out and organize what we know again.

Subaru seems to notice me struggling with comprehending the

situation.

Subaru: Jessica, do you remember the purpose of the experiment?

Me: The experiment was to remove our bad memories and fill the void with Licht’s pleasant ones, right?

Subaru: Right, but instead. Licht was the one that lost his memories. His mind ended up becoming the void.

Me: Right. And then our memories flowed into that void.

Subaru: Exactly. The results of the experiment were the exact opposite of what they were supposed to be.

(It‘s hard enough to remember my own past, but to think Licht is carrying around the memories of five people...)

(That must be so awful.)

Me:But Licht didn't have any memories.

Ray: We can thank the monster for

that.

Ray says with more than a hint of irony.

Ray: Five people's worth of traumatic experiences was more than Licht could handle. So they were separated.

Me: How so?

Ray: It's a unique situation. but you could say it's similar to dissociative identity disorder.

Me: Dissociative what?

Ray: Dissociative identity disorder. The symptoms are commonly referred to as dual or multiple personalities. That sound more familiar?

(There's the doctor in training. His analogies are very medical...)

Me: That's when there are multiple consciousnesses in a single person's brain, right?What does that have to do with Licht?

Ray: Let's imagine that the nightmare world is Licht‘s brain.

Ray takes out a pen and draws a sloppy circle on the dusty floor. Subaru and I squat down and stare at his questionable drawing.

(I’m guessing the circle is supposed to be Licht‘s brain.)

Ray: Licht couldn't handle five people's worth of trauma and separated the memories from his consciousness.

Ray draws a crack in the circle.

Subaru: I see.So the Licht in the nightmare world and the monster are two separate "personalities" within his brain.

Ray: Yeah. Though Licht is likely

the primary identity while the monster is a hostile, alternative one.

Me: I get it! I think I finally understand. So what we’re doing by recovering our memories is removing the alternative identity.

Ray: Yeah. something like that.

Me: Thanks for helping me sort that all out.

Ray gives me a gentle pat on the head before standing up.

Ray: Nighttime already. I'm gonna go look through more of the documents.

Ray heads back over to the records room.

(Guess I better do my part too.)

Just as I'm about to enter the door, I feel Subaru grab my sleeve. I turn to see him looking at me. brows furrowed with an uneasy expression.

(Subaru is the only one that hasn't regained his memories. He must be really anxious.)

(He can't even imagine what kind of horrible past he may have had.)

(That past of his could really change our future.)

Subaru's eyes go wide as if he just realized he was holding onto my sleeve.

Subaru: Um...

His cheeks go a little red, and he averts his gaze.

Subaru: Could you stay with me? Just for a little bit? Being with you is...really relaxing.

(This is the first time Subaru's asked me for a favor like this.)

That thought alone brings joy to my heart.

I'm happy that he feels like he can rely on me. but now‘s not the time. With nightmare time approaching.

our only mission should be to gather as much info as possible.

I take Subaru's hand in both of mine.

The warmth of my hands seems to have helped him relax, as he gives me a smile.

Me: Subaru. I know you're anxious...and I know you might even just want to run away in fear. But you've gotta do this.I'm sure you'll be able to. I believe in you. I want to keep you company, but I feel like learning more about the nightmare world would be more beneficial to you.

Subaru: Yeah. I guess you're right.

I let go of his hand. The smile that was on his face has already disappeared.

Subaru: Sorry for being so selfish. I know I need to be stronger.

Me: Oh...

(I didn't mean it like that...)

Subaru: I've got a pretty good idea of what happened in my past already.

Me: Wait, you mean you’ve already got your memories back?

Subaru: I don't need them back to figure it out. It's easy. My eye's the cause of it all. My parents abandoned me because of this eye. That's all there is to it.

Me: But...!

Subaru: It's fine. My eye makes people uncomfortable. I get it. It'll take more than that to hurt me. I'm used to it. anyways...I'm used to it, so I know I can accept it.

Me: Subaru, no. that's...

Ray enters the room, interrupting our conversation. Subaru seems unfazed. The darkness in Subaru's heart

might be a lot worse than I thought. His heart is twisted and torn because of the people around him.

(Is there anything I can do to mend that heart of his?)

As I'm about to reach for Subaru, my vision suddenly starts to blur.

I hear the distant ringing of bells.

Subaru‘s the last one. This will be the final nightmare.

I feel myself fall, and the last thing I see before hitting the floor is Subaru.

( No matter what kind of horrible past awaits us...)

(...please let there be a happy ending to it all.)

(Please let there be a future where Ray, Subaru, Licht, and I can all smile together...)

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