Saturday, March 17th, 2029
Electrical impulses that sting and resonate with the human heart, they sound off like a clock, tick, tock, tick, tock. They ring through my ears and strangle my soul.
“Again!” howls an obviously pleased Micah from halfway across the white room.
The energy flows through me and I’ve exhausted all of my screams, my entire body is numb. My eyelids fall, unable to even keep them up anymore.
“No, no, it is much too early for a nap, Johnny boy! The fun has only begun!” He cackles.
I don’t respond, I can’t respond. I’m tied up, so even if I wasn’t numb I couldn’t move anyway. The only thing that works is my brain and only just barely. I hear a thud and force my eyes open. I’m lying on my back, staring up at a blue sky The tips of trees just barely enter my view. A hand enters my vision. I painstakingly scroll my eyes down and follow the hand to an arm and an arm to a shoulder and then to a body.
It’s Sarah. Also around her, there are dozens upon hundreds of trees surrounding us, but we’re on what seems to be a dirt path within the forest. Sarah is wearing a beautiful long red dress. Her bright blonde hair is done up in a bun and only seems to shine off of the dress. It flows and sways with the faintest wind and then I remember she was holding out her hand to me.
“Come on, silly, take it,” she says, laughing.
Her face creases into a smile and I can see her face more clearly now. She’s wearing a bright red shade of lipstick and her eyelashes look longer than ever.
“Don’t be scared. You’re safe here,” she says.
“H-How…?” I ask, finding my voice.
I take her hand in mine and she helps me to my feet.
“You’re dreaming. I am too. At first I was back at my house during the day of your trial, but when I walked through the door I was here, now,” she says.
“What’s with the dress?” I ask.
“I…I don’t know. I’m not wearing this out in the real world, nor was I before,” she says.
“Why don’t we go find somewhere…else to talk? This place, while nice to look at, isn’t really my cup of tea.”
“I have so much to talk about…” I say.
“I know and I have much to ask. All I ask is that we walk and talk. Maybe find somewhere nicer to sit.”
“Worried about that dress of yours?” I ask.
“It’s good to know you’re still funny.”
It’s strange. Here in this dream all of my worldly pain is gone. All of my aches and pains and possibly fried brain is just nonexistent. I feel like I woke up today without a care in the world. Of course, I know this isn’t true and I have a limited time here, but as long as I am I can find out some info from Sarah about everything.
“So, where are you and everyone else?” I ask, beginning to walk down the forested road.
We pass underneath some of the trees which provide a nominal amount of shade.
“Funny, I was just about to ask the same thing.”
She steps on a branch and it snaps, causing her to almost trip. I step in and catch her before she falls and then I notice she is wearing red high heels that look like they could blind the sun.
“Were the slippers too much, Dorothy?” I ask, chuckling.
“Okay, enough about my wardrobe. There are more pressing matters at hand!” She says, holding back laughter.
“Okay, well, I’m in California. There’s this seabed called The Acheron, in the middle of it is The Statue of Liberty. I’m in there, inside the statue. Reinhardt and Micah have built some high tech lab inside of the statue,” I say, a little too quickly.
“W-Wait, like, the Statue of Liberty?”
“Yeah, the very same.”
“We’re trying to find you, but it’s so much harder than it sounds. We’ll try and get there as fast as we can,” she explains.
“Where are you now?”
“I don’t know, I lost track a bit ago. I was so tired I just fell asleep,” she says.
We step out into a clearing, the sun once again returning to its full time job of making everything sweat. Funny thing, the sun is the first thing I notice, compared to what I should have. Out in the middle of this acre-wide clearing lies a giant statue of a giant monster.
The statue looks to be made of stone, but it stands enormous, probably about fifty feet tall and double that wide. It looks to be lion in shape, but it has two heads. One of them being a lion and on the back of the lion’s head is what looks to be a goat, or maybe even a ram. The tail is different, also. It seems to be a giant outstretched snake, maybe a cobra.
“What is this thing?” I ask, walking up towards it.
“Hell if I know, it just looks like a random mash of animals to me,” Sarah replies.
“It’s kind of creeping me out.”
“Me too, let’s keep going.”
I walk past the statue’s front paw and it seems to be sunken into the earth slightly. It is like somebody took this creature and just solidified him on the spot.
“Are you okay?”
“What?” I turn around to her.
“Out there, I mean. Are you okay?”
I don’t answer, because she sees my answer in my eyes.
“Oh, John, I’m so sorry.”
She walks over and gives me a hug. I hug her back, even though this is a dream I will take a dream hug over none any day. She holds me tight as I do her.
“What are they doing to you?” She asks.
“They want me to let Reinhardt into my mind, to have him live on through me,” I say.
“That’s…awful,” she says.
“C’mon, let’s keep going. I don’t feel comfortable being near this statue anymore,” I say.
I move on and she jogs up to keep up with me. Soon enough we’re going through more dense tree-infested areas, but the shade offers some protection from the overbearing heat. I complain, but Sarah is the one who has it worse. She’s in a full dress and make up and everything.
“So, what about the others?” I ask.
“What about them?”
We continue through the brush, a sharp twig jabs me in the side.
“Updates, what’s going on, et cetera,” I say.
“Oh, well, not much has happened. Everyone is just worried about you,” she says.
We emerge from the underbrush once more and enter onto a straight pathway that leads right into a large mountain face, a large cave entrance right at the center.
“Well, maybe we should go through there,” Sarah says, walking down the path.
“Really? A dark and most likely desolate cave is your idea of nice?”
“No, but I have the strangest feeling, it’s like something is just urging me to go inside.”
“I’m not going to convince you that going in there is a bad idea, am I?”
“I don’t think so.”
She’s already half way there. I sigh audibly and run up to catch up with her.
“I knew you’d come.”
“I knew you’d make me.”
“I did no such thing,” she says, grinning up at me.
We reach the base of the cave and I can only see a few feet inside before it goes pitch black.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“It’s as good as any. I mean, it’s not like anything can really happen to us here.”
She enters the cave.
“H-Hold on!” I say, running in after her.
The total absence of light is ten times worse than the overbearing sun by a long shot. I cannot see anything and have to hold Sarah’s hand as to not get lost.
“We don’t really know that nothing bad can happen to us here. I mean, Micah managed to slip a note into my pocket from the dream world, maybe there’s a connection between our dreaming selves and our real selves?”
“Hm, I guess that’s plausible and it isn’t like I’ve died in any of my dreams, so I can’t really tell.”
That gets me thinking. I only ever died in one of these dreams. The very first one, the one where Sarah kills me. Maybe it was because it was the first one nothing happened? I mean, maybe this power inside of me grew over time? It seems possible, but then again, anything could when dealing with this.
“Here, I think I feel it start to go upwards a little bit, watch your footing.”
“How am I supposed to watch anything?” I ask.
“Just do it, smartass.”
We keep moving and the land below us does seem to arc up at a near diagonal slope. We keep moving, but then Sarah stops cold in her tracks. “There’s something below, or maybe nothing below. Either way, we’ve reached the top of this slope. It could be a valley underneath, or a hole,” she says.
“Well, that doesn’t inspire much confidence,” I say.
“Wait, what are those?”
“Oh, you can’t see me pointing, can you? My bad, up above you!”
I crane my neck upwards and then I see the faintest of purple lights way up high, probably about eighty feet above us in the air.
One light becomes two and two becomes ten and ten becomes a hundred and soon enough the entire ceiling of the cave is illuminated by tiny glowing purple lights.
“They look so pretty.”
“What do you suppose they are?” I ask.
“I don’t know, I think I see some of them moving around, so maybe it’s something living?”
“Living? Like what?”
“I…I think they may be bats.”
I see some of the purple lights moving about and some of the lights illuminate the bodies of the other creatures, which do look to be some sort of bat with some sort of appendage that glows in the dark.
“Let’s try to move on without disturbing them.”
“Yeah, that’d be the smart idea,” I agree.
I look below us and I see a pathway illuminated faintly by the purple lights above.
“Well, what do you know? Those bats are more helpful than I originally thought,” I say, stepping onto the first section of the path. It’s about as wide as my foot, but it extends all the way across a giant chasm onto another section of land about thirty feet away.
“Please don’t fall.”
“I’ll try not to, I really don’t want to test this theory of mine about dying in here,” I say.
“Stop joking and focus.”
I move a foot forward and then two and then I’m halfway there. I take a deep breath as sweat runs off of my brow. Even without my worldly pain here I can still sweat up a storm. I keep my focus and make it to the other side.
I turn around, “Okay, it’s your turn, please be careful,” I say.
I can see her dimly illuminated across the chasm, the purple bat-light radiates perfectly off of her red dress and she looks so beautiful.
“I’m taking off these stupid heels first. Screw walking in them.”
I see her slip out of the high heels as she puts one foot in front of her, holding her arms out to balance herself.
“Slowly and steady,” I remind her.
I can hear her breaths, slow and constant. She makes it to the halfway point and I can see her start to shake. She stops in her tracks and closes her eyes.
“C’mon, you can do it!”
“I’m really…really afraid of heights.”
“C’mon, you’re doing great. You’re almost there.”
“You’re one to talk, you made it already.”
“This isn’t the time to argue, it’ll only freak you out more,” I say.
“Okay, I’m sorry.”
“Me too, now focus on your breathing. Breath slowly and calmly and walk towards me one step at a time.”
“Okay, here I go.”
She takes one step and then another. Her breathing remains constant, but she has her eyes closed.
“Sarah, you’re going to need to open your eyes, there’s a bend in the path coming up you need to watch out for,” I say.
She opens her eyes and looks down.
“Okay, breathe, just breathe Sarah. You’re doing great, just keep pushing on.”
“What is this, me giving birth?” She asks.
“Joke when you make it here,’ I say.
She puts her right foot in front of her, but ends up tripping on one frill of her dress, her foot doesn’t find safety on the path. I can see her start to buckle and bend.
“Sarah! Grab onto the side!” I yell.
She falls over, but reaches out her right arm. She manages to grab the edge and keep herself hanging. She reaches her other arm up and grabs onto it with her other hand.
“I am not letting some stupid skinny-ass path take me down with it!” She calls out, pulling herself up. She reaches her elbows over the edge.
She comes up and swings a leg over and is standing back up.
“Don’t count me out just yet!”
She runs the rest of the way and jumps onto the larger land mass. She nearly stumbles backward and begins flailing her arms to regain her balance. I catch them and pull her forward, making me lose my balance and fall the opposite way, luckily, away from the chasm.
She laughs and offers me her hand. I take it and we both sigh a breath of mutual relief. We continue down the path until we reach the end. My heart stops beating at a million beats per second.
Sarah stands next to me, looking at me, into me. She’s the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.
“You really are something different, John,” she says.
“Art isn’t really my thing,” I begin.
“Painting and drawing, sculpting and creating. It never was something I was good at.”
“Okay? I mean, not everyone can do it…”
“I was going to say that it doesn’t take an artist to know when they’re standing in the presence of something beautiful.”
Just like how Reinhardt controls my mind at times in the real world, here it’s sort of the same. I feel a different sort of being speak out for me, my inner courage.
“John, that’s…that’s sweet,” she says.
I figure, “To hell with it. I’m dreaming.”
“Sarah…I need to tell you something that I’ve been thinking about. In times of crisis, we really see how little time we actually have here,” I say.
“What?” She asks.
“Sarah, you’re the coolest person I’ve ever met. I know we haven’t known each other long and we may not much longer-”
“No, stop it. You aren’t going anywhere, John. We’re coming to get you. Things are going to be okay,” she says.
“I think I like you,” I say and she is looking at me, still and silent.
“Well, John, I think I like you too,” she says, slowly.
“That’s…that’s great,” I say.
“John, can you promise me one thing?” She asks, letting her head fall just ever so slightly.
“Please…please don’t die…don’t give up, okay?”
I put my hands on her shoulders and pulling her close, “I promise you, I won’t. I’ll keep fighting them,” I say.
She places her hand on my face and then nuzzles her head beside my face.
“It’s…It’s so strange.”
“Say again?” I ask.
“How one person can be so close, yet so far at the same time…”
I am quiet and I pull her into a full hug, holding her close to me.
“You smell so nice,” I say.
“You’re smelling a dream.”
“A dream can be anything we want of it, right? I’m imagining the way you smelled the day we met at the park.”
“It was like…faint, but noticeable at the same time.”
“I hadn’t really thought of it,” she says.
“So, is this the part where the two people who think they like each other kiss?” I ask.
She thinks it over for a second and then looks me in the eyes, her own blue eyes shining.
“In your dreams,” she says.
For a split second I can feel a slight tinge of disappointment, but then she smiles and I understand.
Our lips connect, our bodies illuminated on the outside by the purple luminescence above and on the inside by the luminescence of our souls. It’s soft, but loud spoken at the same time, fair but giving.
We both open our eyes simultaneously, just taking each other in and then it ends just as quietly as it begins.
“C’mon, let’s get out of this dreary old cave,” Sarah says, running off.
“How can you still run? I’m still exhausted after my nerves nearly took a fall back there,” I say.
“I don’t know, maybe you gave me a boost of energy?” She asks, laughing.
I take in a deep breath and begin running after her. The ground moves up again and the farther we move from the chasm the darker it becomes. I look up above us, but don’t see any more of the bats flying overhead and soon enough we’re back in darkness.
“Okay, we should slow down, we don’t know what could be ahead,” I say.
“What’s that up there?” Sarah asks.
“Once again, I can’t see…” I begin, but I stop myself.
I see what she’s talking about, in the distance I see a small white light, and it almost looks like the exit of the cave far off.
“Why is it all white?” Sarah asks.
“Well, the entrance was all dark, pitch black. We couldn’t see inside it at all, maybe this is the same?”
“Except for it being too dark…”
“It’s too bright outside?”
“Well, whatever it is, it is outside. Let’s go!” She says.
We begin running and I nearly trip on a rock, underfoot, but I keep going. The light gets closer and closer until we run through it. My vision fills with white and all sound ends. It’s just absolutely nothing and everything at once. Color returns to the world in thick greens and dark blues. A nighttime sky filled with stars is painted into the sky and luscious green grass sprouts up from below. A circle of trees bounce up, a metal plate joins in the middle of them.
I feel my body touch the ground and I look beside me to see Sarah standing next to me.
“Just what is this place?” I ask.
“I don’t know, but it is very mysterious.”
I walk up to the circle of trees, looking down at the plate in the middle, it is circular as well.
“What do you think this thing is?”
“I dunno,” Sarah says, walking up next to me.
I walk closer and tap it with my foot and in an instant I’m enveloped with white light. I hear Sarah scream something out, but her voice is cut off as the world around me changes. The dark starry sky is replaced by a giant ceiling hung extremely high, higher even than the cave’s. Two walls run perpendicular, boxing me into a large room the size of several football fields. Torches rise from pedestals, lighting the path ahead, illuminating the darkest corners of this new area. A few hundred feet down rises a large altar that looks to be a few hundred feet tall itself, a walkway spiraling around the outside of it like a coil.
On the left wall is somewhat large door resides. Just then I hear a sound and behind me I see that a human-sized white light is forming above the metal plate. It begins disappearing, leaving a confused Sarah from its grip.
“J-John? What is going on?”
“I think it might be some sort of teleporter,” I say.
“And…where is this?” She asks, looking around.
“I don’t know, it looks like some secret altar. I want to go check that door over there, I think it is glowing,” I say.
I didn’t see it immediately, but I do believe I see a couple of spots on the door glowing from this distance.
“Come on, let’s go,” I say.
We begin walking along the path, the fire keeping our path clear.
“It’s so dark, why does it always have to be so dark?” She asks.
“I don’t know, even that cave exit seemed to be dark with it being night out. Then again, time isn’t really consistent here,” I say.
“Maybe, just how long do you think has passed in the real world?”
“Huh, I don’t know. I wouldn’t say a whole night, because I’m sure the others would have woken you.”
“It’s a funny thing how hours of time in here could in fact be less than a second, a fraction of a second out there.”
“Hell, if time stayed like that, we could explore nearly forever in here,” I say.
“I would like nothing more,” she says, smiling. We reach the step before the door and closer now I can confirm my suspicions. On the face of the door lies seven crystals that look eerily like a comma. In some sort of a small circle, each of them colored a different color of the rainbow. Inside the circle is a smaller ovular crystal that glows with all seven colors at once.
“Woah, I never thought I’d see one of these in person,” Sarah says.
“One of what? And technically, you aren’t even in person, still a dream,” I remind her.
“I know that, but to see it even here is something else. It’s…well, they’re called Magatama.”
“Magatama? What does that mean? And how do you know of them?”
“I saw them in a book I read. They’re known as one of the three sacred treasures of Japan.”
“Now that’s a name I haven’t heard of in a long while,” I say.
“All I know is that, the book I had didn’t go into much detail.”
“What’s with the funky shape? Is it supposed to mean something?”
“It said that the meaning is that.”
“The meaning of the shape is the shape itself, it wasn’t patterned after anything specific, apparently.”
“That’s kind of baloney. I was expecting some deep explanation about how it was connected to the moon or something,” I say.
“Well, this could be taken deeply, just on the opposite side of the spectrum,” she says.
“Speaking of spectrum,” I say, leaning in closer, “Just look at these colors.”
I press my hand on the center crystal and it begins to glow even brighter. The ground below us begins shifting and I can see the door beginning to move.
“What did you do?!”
“I don’t know!”
Sarah grabs onto my arm for support and the door opens fully, revealing darkness on the inside. The shaking stops.
“Just what do you think is inside there?” I ask.
“I don’t know, let’s look,” she says.
A flash of light.
Suddenly and quickly, two glowing eyes open up from the darkness. They’re small, but growing larger. Sarah doesn’t seem to notice, she’s still walking in.
“Sarah, there’s something in there,” I say, grabbing her arm.
“What?” She turns around.
A shape emerges from the shadows, putting a clawed hand on the side of the wall.
No, not him.
“Sarah, we need to get out of here now!” I scream.
Sarah turns around, time slows down. Another claw emerges from the darkness. It soars through the air in a terrible arc and pierces Sarah’s heart. She’s lifted off of the ground as the ferocious claw enters and exits her body. She screams once and it echoes through the entire room. I can feel my stomach flip inside out as I watch the life drain from her face as she is lifted into the air. Out of the darkness emerges Micah in his full terror, beast form and all. I get a dangerous sense of déjà vu as Micah thrusts his other claw through Sarah’s abdomen. He laughs once as he rips her in two, just as he had done with Barry Rainwater.
My voice is lost, I cannot speak. I’m frozen in place. Micah tosses the two sacks of flesh that used to be Sarah to the side and turns to me, he seems to grin.
“It’s time to wake up, lover boy, you have work to do,” He growls.
I barely hear him. Sarah’s scream repeats in my head on an endless loop. I don’t even realize that I’ve woken up, I’m lying on the floor of the white room and everything is white. Micah is standing over me, human once more. I’m staring at him, past him. I’m staring into space. It may have been just a dream, but I can’t get her scream out of my mind Micah bends to his knees and holds up a flashlight and flashes them over my eyes.
“Hm, doctor’s prognosis is mental trauma, caused by some sort of…deranged animal,” He says, turning off the flashlight. “Oh, wait, that was me,” He chuckles.
I say nothing. I cannot find my voice, much like in the dream I cannot speak, move, do anything. He bends over once more and stares over me.
“Just the right amount of mental trauma, excellent,” He says, beginning to drag me by the arm. “Now, it’s time for the exposure process,” he says, cackling. The world moves alongside, I’m merely a byproduct. I can only watch as I’m being dragged throughout the hallways. I’ve seen my worst nightmare.