The rhythmic ticking of the clock reverberates throughout the room, uninterrupted by any other sound. The clock is an antique; or at least, it appears to be. True mechanical clocks have become rare and expensive these days, and the face and even the ticking of the clock hanging on the wall are mere digital emulations. The arrows of the clock point in opposite directions, the short one straight up and the longer arrow straight down. The hands of the fake clock are the only indication that outside this room, there is daylight. The blinds are shut completely, preventing the light of the sun from peering through the gaps. As a result, the room is quite dark, though dim enough to just barely see things. The room itself is sparsely decorated, with only the basic necessities of daily life. Layers of dust cover the surface of the bookshelf and drawers, and only the work desk has managed to remain dust-free.
This is my room.
Lying on my back on a large bed, its sheets in disarray, I stare up at the dark ceiling up above. My eyes are lost and unfocused, in a daze as my consciousness wanders back and forth. My chest slowly heaves up and down, my breathing slow and subdued. I feel as though I’m struggling against an immense pressure forcing down on me, filling me with a feeling somewhere halfway between living and dying. Unmoving, I continue to stare above, looking so intently at something yet not quite seeing anything.
Beyond the blinds, outside the isolation of this room, there lies a world that has already ended. But it's not that the world is in ruins, devastated by nuclear war or terrorism or mass riots. If you pull back the curtains, you won't see buildings toppled over or fire and violence everywhere, as someone might imagine if they were told that it was the end of the world. That's not what I mean. The world outside has simply lost its color. Tall, uniform skyscrapers stand high out there, serving as insurmountable symbols of the modern world. Neat patches of grass and well-placed rows of trees decorate the gray pavements below, too lush, too green to be real. Even the flowers are fakes, their petals shaped perfectly, their scents artificially created with chemicals to best emulate the smell of the genuine articles. The urban cities have become too harsh for plants to grow in, replaced with these artificial plants. It's a dreadful, dreary world, with neither zest nor flavor.
I take a deep breath, covering my eyes with my arm and letting out a heavy sigh. I don't remember when I woke up or how long I've been lying on this bed, but it doesn't matter. Nothing does. My days will continue on like this, and I'll continue to live, never truly knowing whether I'm dead or alive. Nothing will change, not me or this rotten world. I'll spend the rest of my life, in a state of perpetual ennui. My thoughts become slower as my consciousness begins to drift in and out, and soon, I sink into sleep once again, but as I do, I hold onto a single thought:
Will things ever change?
I slowly wake from my dreamless sleep. My body feels sore, and my head aches, and I don't feel rested at all despite having slept for hours, but nonetheless, I rise from the bed, swinging my legs over to the side. My feet touch the cold floor, and with a little bit of effort, I stand up. A wave of fatigue immediately washes over me as my muscles scream in protest, and I feel so dizzy I nearly collapse back on to the bed, but I manage to steady myself. It's gotten darker since I was last awake, so dark that I can't see the face of the clock. Rubbing my temples, I grope my way over to my desk, feeling along the surface. I pick up something small and smooth—my phone. The screen lights up brightly, displaying the time: 01:00. I don't really know what time it was before, but it seems I've been asleep for a long time. Taking a closer look at the display on my phone, I see that I've received several new messages, all from the same sender. I don't even bother to read over them, shoving the phone into the pocket of my trousers. The contents are no doubt all the same, anyway, there's no point. Walking with an unsteady gait, I let out a yawn as I head through the door leading out of my room, out into a hallway.
I take a turn to the living room, its walls as bare as a blank canvas. There are hardly any furniture, the room housing just the bare essentials. Anyone who walked in on this place would think its tenant had just moved in, but the truth is, they've—that is, I've—been living here for more than two years now. It's not a matter of lacking capital; I have more than enough money to fill the room with frivolous and impulsive purchases. I have nothing I need, and I have nothing I desire. That's why this place is so empty. What use are dishes and cooking utensils when I don't cook? What use are books and shelves when I don't read? And what's the use in decorating the place when there are no visitors? It's all pointless.
Turning away from the living room, I walk past it and come to the front entrance. I slip on my shoes and turn the door handle, pushing the door open and briskly stepping past the doorway and out into the world. I breathe in the chilly night air, feeling the cold wind assault the bare skin on my arms. I let out a frosty breath, shoving my hands in my pockets to keep them warm. This world will never change, and I will never change, and while I keep those facts close to my heart, and my life brings no joy, I don't want to die, either, and that means I have to eat at least semi-regularly. My stomach's growling in protest, and I can't really remember the last time I ate something. I take the familiar route to the nearby convenience store, where I can buy a rice ball or a sandwich or a steamed bun. I shiver a little from the cold; it's nearing the end of autumn, and while it hasn't started snowing yet, it's gotten rather bitterly cold as of late. I take my hands out and them together, trying to warm myself up a little as I continue to walk. Of course, at this time of the night, there aren't many people out on the streets, so I don't pass by anyone along the way. In fact, as far as I can see, I'm the only one out here. Now that's a little odd. It's late, but it's not so late that the streets would be completely empty...
Without warning, the streetlights suddenly flicker off, and I'm plunged into complete darkness.
I stop immediately in my tracks, shocked and confused. What? Why? What happened to the lights? Has there been a blackout? That can't be—not after the nationwide electricity reforms years ago! So what could have possibly caused this power outage? I bite my lip—a nervous habit that I've been trying to stamp out for most of my life—and squint my eyes, trying to get them to adjust faster to the darkness. The only light sources illuminating the streets now is from the stars and the moon in the sky. As I struggle to try to see what's in front of me, I hear a sound, repeating and growing closer and closer: footsteps. My heart begins to beat faster, and my palms feel clammy, beginning to sweat in spite of the cold weather. What is this? What's happening? Why me? I'm getting a really bad feeling, and chills run down my spine every time I hear the sound of a sole hitting the pavement. It's coming from behind, but do I dare turn and look? I try to keep at least my breathing calm, though it's getting difficult with how hard my heart is beating. Not too long now, before those footsteps reach me. Should I make a run for it, or should I—
Click, a mechanical sound from behind me.
I turn around to see the barrel of a gun pointed at my face.
My heart feels like it's sunk all the way to my feet, but I don't make any sudden moves. I can't get a good look at the figure behind the gun, but I can see that it's a man of average build. He says nothing, and he does nothing, only keep the gun leveled at my head. I can't control my breathing anymore, and I can see little wisps of my frenzied breathing frost up. Trying—and failing—to keep my voice steady, I begin speaking. “What do you want? If it's money you want from me, I--”
He fires the gun.
The bullet crashes into my skull, planting itself right in the center of the forehead.
I can't feel anything. I don't even have a chance to.
My body falls back, and I hit the ground. My vision turns red as blood flows into my eyes, trickling down the cheeks. The man who shot me looks down at my crumpled body, his silhouette illuminated by the moonlight, his features covered in shadow.
“Congratulations,” he mutters. “You have been chosen.”
And then everything becomes red as my consciousness fades.
>How's life been treating you lately? Decently, I'd hope.
I'm doing alright. Certainly could be doing better but it hasn't been horrible to me like the past two years, so things are starting to look up.
>I hope this means Fragment of Memories finishes soon.
Yeah, so do I.
Anyway, spent all day cleaning my apartment today, and I'm exhausted. I'll try to write an update tomorrow.
My body feels sore, and my head aches, and I don't feel rested at all despite having slept for hours, but nevertheless, I rise from the bed, swinging my legs over to the side. My feet touch the cold floor, and with a little bit of effort, I stand up. A wave of fatigue immediately washes over... me? No, not just fatigue, but suddenly I feel confused. I bring a hand to my face, pressing the tips of my finger to my forehead. A jolt of pain runs through my head, causing me to wince. Wait, where... am I? What was I doing here? The headache grows worse, and I tightly squeeze my eyes shut, letting out a long, drawn out groan. Opening my eyes again, I look around; without a doubt, this is my room, and I've just gotten up from the bed. Was I sleeping? Yes, that's right... I had woken up, and it was half past noon... and then, I had fallen back asleep. That is what happened, isn't it? So why... am I feeling so confused, so lost? This is wrong. There's something wrong here. There's definitely something wrong here, I--
“Congratulations. You have been chosen.”
Words from a voice I don't recognize. Have I been dreaming until now? I can't remember seeing any dreams in a while... have I woken from a nightmare? Is that why I feel so... so uneasy? I lower my hand, biting my lip. I walk over to my work desk, snatching up the phone lying there, cupping it my hand and turning it on. The bright screen displays the current time: 01:00. There are unread messages, all from the same sender, but I pay no attention to them. It's 1 o'clock. The sense of unease I feel seems to double upon seeing these numbers, but I can't understand why. Goosebumps break out all over my skin and I feel extremely nauseous. With a numb mind, I pocket my phone, my feet leading me to the entrance of my home even though I feel as though I'm not commanding them. I slip on my shoes, and push the door open, stepping out into the night. I don't even notice the cold, my mind lost in thought. I... where am I going? That's right... it's to the convenience store, to get something to eat, right? But why is it that I feel so nervous, so scared – about a simple stroll to the convenience store? Why do I feel so much dread with each step? What's going on... what's happening?
My cell phone goes off, letting out a shrieking sound. I jump, my heart beating like a drum. I quickly reach into my pocket and pull it out: a new message. There is no subject title, and the sender's identity is in garbled text and symbols. What? What is this, some kind of spam? Biting my lip, I open the message. Most of it is in the same glitched graphics as the sender name, but a single line of text remains uncorrupted and legible:
“i will give you despair”
The time is 01:13.
All of the streetlights around me suddenly flicker off.
“Wha--” I let out a startled gasp.
I don't get a chance to do much more.
As soon as the lights have gone out, and darkness covers my vision, something appears behind me. A monstrous something, indescribable by any words I know. As I look upon it, I realize my mind simply cannot comprehend what it is it's looking at, substituting its appearance with things that I can actually perceive. Its shape is vaguely humanoid, its outer surface made up of a material that shimmers and shines brightly in the pale moonlight, every millimeter of its body reflecting off hundreds of different colors at once. Its angles are sharp, pointed, and menacing, and it looks as though it could cut me apart using even the puniest part of its body. It's size is humongous, being easily almost twice as tall as I am, with long, slender limbs. As I gape up at it, it looks down at me with what I think is its face, although I can't be sure. I can't even find the strength to take a step back, frozen in place with terror. This is wrong, this is wrong, this is wrong, this is all wrong, and I--
It all happens in an instant.
It raises its arm, and swipes the air.
I fall to the ground, hitting the pavement with a wet, nasty sound. I tumble off the hard concrete, ending up on my back, spreadeagled. With numb horror, I stare down at my own body. Red, red, red, I see nothing but redness where my lower body should be. My waist is gone, my legs are gone, erased in a single motion by this monster. I can't feel anything. Not pain, not horror, only emptiness. Even as I bleed out, my guts hanging in the open, I feel nothing but confusion and dismay. What is this...? What was that? What just happened to me? Why... why, why, why, why, why is this happening to me? I want to cry in pain, I want to scream for someone to help me, but I can't do anything. Why... why... why... why...? The pool of blood beneath me continues to grow, and my consciousness is fading.
“You have been chosen.”
As everything grows dark, I finally remember where I heard those words.
It was just before I died.
Yes, it was...just.....like.......this........I............
I open my eyes.
And I unblinkingly stare up at the ceiling.
I don't have to look at the clock to know what time it is.
In thirteen minutes, I will be killed.
And then, I will wake up again, it will be 01:00 again, and I will die again, after thirteen minutes.
How many times has it been? Has it been a dozen times? Is this the hundredth time? The thousandth? The millionth? I can't remember anymore, but I know that if I step out of this house, I will be killed by that... that thing. That creature, that monster, that abomination. It'll all loop back around, and I will continue to be killed, over and over again. I don't even care what's happening anymore, my only wish right now is to escape this nightmare!
I get up from the bed, swing my legs over, and stand up. As always, I approach my desk, reaching out for my phone in a practiced motion. As I extend a hand toward it, however, I abruptly freeze, my eyes fixed on something else, something new: a single pistol lies on the desk, next to my phone. It's a gun I recognize; it's the same one that was used to send me into this torture! Cautiously, I pick up the pistol, examining it by what little light is shining through the blinds. Why is this here? Did that... did that bastard leave it here for me? But why, was it to help me kill that thing...? Or... is he telling me to do something else, giving me another way to escape it all?
I... what am I supposed to do!?
I bite my lip, and then shove the gun into my back pocket. No matter what purpose it was given to me for, it puts me at a lot more ease than being unarmed. Sweeping along the surface of the desk, I snatch up my phone and turn on the display. It's 01:01 now. I have a little under twelve minutes before that thing comes to kill me. This time, I have to do something different... I have to change something. If I go outside, and take the same route, there's no doubt that that thing will show up and kill me. So... what should I do?
[ ] Hide in here. It's the safest place you can be.
[ ] Head outside.
[ ] Check your phone again.
File 136325401550.jpg- (52.94KB
, A Piece of History.jpg
(Whoops, picked the wrong choice!)
[X] Head outside.
Well I'll be damned, about time you wrote again.
To be honest, I'm pretty damn torn between Checking the Phone and Going Outside. Staying inside just seems like a coward's way and a bad end for this story (no offense to Anon's voting for this, I meant it just for this protagonist.). I know we're part of the Get Killed by Some Monster Like Shirou or Shiki Club, but a feeling just says it'll be different this time (perhaps the gun is influencing my choice.) We could check the phone, which may be a different than just going outside and dying again, but my gut just says we should try it one more time.
That and for some reason, this choice makes me thing Yuuka. Why? I dunno.
Also voting for this handgun to be a classic WWI M1911 (fuck yo' M1911A1). I always love a gun with history.
Guns in recursive dreams only mean one thing: the nightmarish monsters are all in your mind. And if you want to get rid of them to avoid more suffering, you'd better off yourself and end it all. What lies ahead of the doors of death can't be worse than this, right?
If not, I'll go with:
[X] Check your phone again.
Because I cannot believe MC hadn't thought of checking those damn messages by now.
Out of a lack of any idea of what to do, I check the phone again, the tip of my thumb gliding over the smooth screen. I want to call for help – for the police, or anyone – but it doesn't look like the phone is receiving service. I can't even make a call or send any messages. Damn it, just what the hell is going on here? This can't really be happening... there's no way something like this could be happening... Desperately, I swipe my thumb across the screen, checking for messages. I remember – something tried to contact me through a message, just before I was killed. I open up the message again, but it's no use – everything other than that one line of text is still completely illegible, full of unhelpful glitched characters and random symbols.
“i will give you despair”
What the hell is that supposed to mean? And who was it that sent me the message? Was that... that monster the one who sent me this? Is that its motive for trapping me in this endless loop of death – to make me fall into despair? Damn it... damn it, why!? Why me!? I'm miserable enough already without being dragged into something like this – why am I the one being targeted like this? It doesn't make any sense – none of this makes any sense to me.
So what should I do?
If I succumb to despair like it wants, will it free me from this prison?
Maybe that's the only way... after all, it's pointless to fight against a monster like that. I don't even know if a gun will work against it. Maybe—maybe I should just give up, and resign myself to this. After all, it's already given me a way out. Slowly, I reach for the gun I stuck in my pocket. Yes, after all, it's not as if there's any meaning to living on--
--no, that's not true.
The other messages in my inbox, the ones I ignored, are all from the same sender. I open up the messages, perusing over them. The contents aren't even worth mentioning, all that matters to me is the sender. All these messages... they're from my sister. My little sister, always worrying about me and asking when I'm going to come home... my sister, who will be left all alone by herself if I were to disappear. I can't allow that. I refuse to allow that. No matter what, I can't leave her alone by herself – not like this! I have to survive... I have to get through this, and see her again. Even if it's hopeless, even if there's no chance that I'll be able to win against that monster, I won't succumb to despair like it wants. I'll live on!
It's 1:04. Only nine minutes left.
I exit my home.
I stride along the sidewalk, keeping a tight grip on the pistol in my pocket. Every now and then I fretfully turn my head and look behind me – of course, there's no one there, it seems as though all the people in the world except me has vanished off the face of the Earth. It's as if there's no one in this world except for that monster and myself – and that's certainly not a comforting thought at all. My heart is racing in fear and anticipation. It's 1:12 now. The monster could show up at any moment now, and put a quick and gruesome end to my miserable life – and then it would all happen again, over and over and over, until I finally gave up and sank into despair. I can't fail. If I fail now, after the resolution I've made, I know I won't have the strength to resist anymore. This is my only shot...
I stop, standing firmly in place.
It's behind me. I know without looking. Its powerful presence sends waves of discomfort throughout my body. My legs go numb, my heart sinks to the bottom, my hairs are standing on their end, and my palms are sweating like crazy. This is fear – fear in its most primal, unadulterated state, gripping my limbs and draining them of strength. A wave of dizziness washes over me and my heart is beating so fast I'm afraid it might burst, but at the least I manage to not lose consciousness from the sheer terror of the situation I'm in. I have only a second before that thing lifts its arm and splatters me like a bug – just a second to make a difference! I turn around, pulling the gun free from my pocket, lifting it up, finger on the trigger – just as I knew, the monster is standing there, its arm raised and ready to crash against my body, to rip it into pieces like before! I won't make it – the monster is much faster than I am, it could kill me before I can even put pressure on the trigger, but--!
An ear-splitting noise explodes from inside my pocket, filling the silent air with a horrible screech. The monster freezes, a mere nanosecond away from splitting my body like a piñata. It stays still for just a moment, confused by the noise, but a moment is all I need--!
Without hesitation, I point the gun at its face and pull the trigger.
The gun leaps with a loud crack, and the bullet buries itself deep in the monster's head. I pull the trigger again, and again, each pull sending a shock up my arm, the recoil of the gun making my wrist feel numb – but I don't stop. I pull the trigger – again, and again, and again, and again! – until finally, the gun is out of ammo, becoming a useless hunk of metal. The monster, its face full of holes now, slowly crashes to the ground, falling on its back. It seems incapable of making a sound, as even as it thrashes around in its death throes, it remains eerily silent, until its body finally goes limp, ceasing all movement.
I lower the gun, panting heavily. My heart's still beating like a drum set. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone – I had set the alarm to 1:13, the moment when I knew the monster would attack me. To be honest I had no idea if a simple scream would be enough to distract the monster for even just the second I needed, but it was the only thing I could think of with such a limited time to consider my options. It seems to have worked out just fine though – the monster lies dead, unmoving. Now, with this, I should be able to escape this nightmare, and return to my--
My phone beeps. A new message.
“whr4y do yiou n33543ot de167spairdfssdk why 5dtgo y96 conttuidfsj;'f;dgfnue to 09iresi123st”
I look at the monster – it remains there still, completely immobile. Another beep, another message.
“i will give you pain”
I look to the monster again.
That was a mistake.
I feel an incredible force at my side, crashing into my ribs. My feet leave the ground, and I'm sent flying through the air. I hit the ground, skidding across the pavement. I want to cry out in pain. I want to scream, but I don't even have any breath in my lungs – that single impact had expelled all the air from my body, leaving me in a sorry state as I desperately try to gulp down air, gasping hopelessly like a fish out of water. As I struggle to regain my breath, I hear heavy footsteps coming toward me – the monster's. With horror, I watch as it draws close, the holes that should have been made in its head completely gone. It stands over me, observing me as I futilely attempt to get back up – my arms and legs have no strength, and I still feel like I'm about to die as I struggle to get my breathing back in order. Pain...? Give me... pain? Why? Was putting me in despair not enough? Why... why...?
I look up at the monster – it raises its arm, as if to deliver the coup de grace. Damn... it was pointless after all. It must be laughing at me now, laughing at the fact that even for a moment I thought I might be able to do something. This was just a ridiculous farce – a mere joke. I close my eyes, and await the end, ready to experience it all over again.
...but it never comes.
I open my eyes again, just in time to see a single white feather fall from the sky. I turn my head towards it, captivated by the sight. It's shimmering... radiant, as if it came from the wings of a god; even the monster seems unable to take its eyes off of it, its gaze fixated on its descent. It reaches out with one of its long arms, attempting to grasp the feather in its grasp...
A bolt of lightning–or something else—suddenly strikes the monster, and it stumbles back, horribly damaged. Bits of its torso have been broken off, its armor splintered into pieces. It manages to stay standing, albeit unsteadily. In front of the monster, there stands a girl; a young, petite girl with two, brilliant white angelic wings, sprouting from her back. Her teal hair is worn long down her back, and her skin shines with a radiant light. She stands between me and the monster, immobile, only her great wings flapping about gently. The monster takes a cautious step back, and as it does so, it appears to meld out of sight, disappearing into thin air.
“What...” I rasp out, still struggling to lift myself up from the ground. “Who... are you?”
The girl finally turns around; from behind, I couldn't notice because of her wings, but she's completely nude, her small, pale body reflecting the moonlight. There's a strange, glowing mark on her forehead, and her blue eyes shine with a similar gleam. Her wings appear to regress into her body, until she looks no different from a normal girl, and she parts her lips to answer my question – and then her legs suddenly give out, and she collapses, falling on her face. She rolls to her side and curls herself up like a fetus, closing her eyes. Soon she's breathing deep in and out, sound asleep.
Wha...what the hell?
What is... what is even going on here? Who is this chick? Why did she suddenly appear before me? Why did that monster suddenly run away? I can't figure out what's going on at all...
With some diffculty, I finally manage to stand again, massaging my ribs with one hand. Nothing's broken, at least, although that strike certainly felt like it should have broken a couple of bones. With caution, I look around; that monster is nowhere to be seen now, leaving me alone with this strange girl. I reach for my phone, and check the time.
...It's still 1:13.
Wait, that can't be right. It has to have been more than a minute since 1:13. Is my phone broken? I guess it could have been damaged when that thing hit me, but that doesn't seem likely...
What should I do now? I've managed to avoid being killed, but the thing about the time still bothers me. The monster hasn't been dealt with and it could return to kill me at any time. Should I... should I just head back home, now?
...and what should I do with this girl, anyway?
[ ] Leave her here.
[ ] Take her home with you.
[ ] Try to wake her up.
>What is... what is even going on here? Who is this chick? Why did she suddenly appear before me? Why did that monster suddenly run away? I can't figure out what's going on at all...
Getting some real light novel vibes here.
[x] Take her home with you.
Seems to be the natural choice. She obviously saved him somehow. In a human sense, it's only polite to return the favor. In a logical sense, if she does wake up and the monster comes again, she's protection. Hopefully.
>>48757 >>48761 For what it's worth, the old Border House focused entirely on PC-98 and Seihou(!) characters, with the sole exception of Windows-era Alice, and even then, she was still associated with the Makai bunch. Well, I guess Yuuka might have been her Windows-era version, but that just boiled down to a haircut and a dress.
Now, this version doesn't have to stick to that pattern, but until we see a Windows-era character with no connection to PC-98, I'll just assume that it is.
I don't have a choice, I can't stay here long. Even if it was mangled, that thing's still alive – and it could kill me at any time. I'm not really safe anywhere I go, but I want to return to the security of my own home for now.
I walk over to the unconscious girl, crouching down to examine her. She's sleeping quite peacefully, in spite of the flashy entrance she made just seconds before. I reach out, cautiously touching her face. Her skin feels cold, but there's a trace of warmth in her body. My fingers hover over her head, as I brush aside locks of her light teal-blue hair. The glowing mark on her forehead appears to have gone dormant, no longer bright red. As I reach down lower to her cheeks, I notice something odd; instead of a regular human's, this girl appears to possess animal-like ears, long and furry. I pinch it softly between my thumb and pointer, feeling its soft and fuzzy texture. The girl's sleeping face turns into a look of mild discomfort, and her ears twitch between my fingers. I suppose these ears being elaborate fakes would be out of the question? It doesn't seem like she's a regular human girl, as crazy as that sounds.
In any case, I had better bring this girl with me. Whatever she did before – she protected me from that monster, even if I don't know whether that was her intention or not. It seems like she's drained of energy now, so if I want to survive I'd better make sure she gets a peaceful rest, in case that thing comes after us both. She's my only ticket to getting out of this mess, I'm sure of it, that's why I have to make sure she stays where I can see her. I scoop her up in my arms, picking her off the ground. She's lighter than I had imagined. Based on her height, weight, and development, I'd say she's somewhere around the age of 14 or 15. Well, at least, by human standards, anyway.
Carrying the sleeping girl in my arms, I turn and begin walking the way back to my home. The streets are just as empty as ever – strange, but something I'm glad for. I can't imagine how dismayed I'd be if somebody saw me the way I look right now, carrying a naked young girl around. With nothing to get in my way, I reach the door to my home quickly, grateful that there were no interruptions.
I set the girl down on my bed, before turning to my wardrobe and trying to find something to cover her up with. Since I'm living by myself, all I have are my own clothes, so the best I can do is an oversized sweater and a pair of boxers. Having finished all that, I take out my phone, checking the time once more: I look at the clock hung up in my room. 1:13... and neither hand is budging even a millimeter. It's not just my phone then – something bizarre is going on here. Could that be why there were no people around? Is this some kind of a dream, or a nightmare? There's too many things I don't understand right now...
And one of them is this girl.
I reach out and touch her ear again, still finding it rather difficult to believe. Sensitive, her ears give a twitch and her fur stand on their ends, bristled up. I give the ear a gentle massage, They twitch excitedly, and I can almost see a faint blush on the girl's face as I scratch the back of her ear. It seems her ears are quite sensitive spots. Deciding she's spent long enough taking a nap, I finally decide to try to wake her up. I shake her by the shoulder, firm but not harsh.
“Oi, wake up,” I say in a deep, dry voice.
Her eyelids give a slight twinge of movement, and she begins to stir. Slowly, she sits up from the bed, my gray sweater hanging loosely off of her small body. She opens her eyes – her deep blue eyes no longer have the shine they possessed when she was still glowing like a lightbulb.
“Good morning,” I say to her with caution, maintaining a healthy level of suspicion. “Can you understand me?”
Hearing my voice, the girl turns to me, looking at me with dazed, sleepy eyes. She cocks her head to the side, confused. Does she not understand me at all? As I'm trying to think of a way to achieve communication with her, she suddenly reaches out to me. She touches my head with the tip of her fingers, closing her eyes. For several seconds, she sits there, doing this, not moving an inch.
“What...are you doing?” I finally ask, tired of waiting.
She opens her eyes, and takes her hand away from me. “I... understand,” she says in a weak, awkward voice. Her pronunciation sounds a bit odd, something about it is just a little... strange.
“Then tell me,” I respond immediately, hoping to finally figure out a couple of things. “Who are you? What are you? Why did you save me from that monster, I--”
A loud groan suddenly interrupts me, coming from my stomach. But it's not just me; it looks like the girl here is quite hungry as well, since her stomach just voiced its complaint.
“Ah, I suppose I'll make something to eat before we--” I stop, before remembering the reason I had gone outside in the first place. “Er, never mind, I guess we don't have anything to eat right now.”
The girl's expression doesn't change, but her ears seem to droop down. I guess she must be starving. But still, I don't want to go back outside while that monster is still menacing us, especially not just to get some food. Food can come later; right now, trying to find a way out of this mess should be more important, right”
[ ] Go out and find something for the two of you to eat.
[ ] Continue questioning her.
[x] Go out and find something for the two of you to eat.
Damn it, I really didn't want to go back outside again so soon...
I clear my throat.
“Alright, well, we'll just have to go pick up some food. I suppose that's the least I could do... after you've, uh, saved my life and all. Is that okay with you?”
The girl nods meekly after a pause, but her ears are lively, twitching in anticipation. It's a bit weird to admit, but it's an adorable sight.
However... she can't really go outside dressed like that. I dig through my closet and my wardrobe again, trying to find something that she can wear. Of course, there's not a whole lot of options. I eventually settle on an old, faded out padded jacket. I wrap it around the girl's shoulders, over the sweater she's already got on. As expected, the jacket is way too big for her, reaching down to her knees. There's no doubt that it looks tacky, but this is the best fit for her I've got.
“Can you stand?” I ask the girl.
The girl slowly nods again, and pushes herself off the bed, standing up. She seems a bit woozy, as her legs are unsteady and shaking. She attempts to take a step forward, but her leg suddenly buckles, and she falls forward – I hurriedly catch her in my arms, clutching her shoulders. I hold her steady as she regains her balance, standing upright. I button down the jacket draped around her body while she obediently stands still. Not exactly presentable, but it's good enough.
“Okay, we're off. Come with me, okay?”
I turn to leave the room, stepping towards the door. The girl joins me, wordlessly sticking by my side. Together, we head out into the chilly night air again. I pull out my phone again, checking the display one more time: it's still stuck at 1:13! I don't know what's going on with this thing, but I really don't like it. Has that thing really backed off? I start to feel doubts again... but even so, I begin walking back to the convenience store, taking the same route as last time. I still don't see anyone else around, and that monster isn't stalking us yet either...
“Hey,” I decide to speak to the girl., turning my head to the side and looking down at her. “Who are you, anyway?”
The girl looks at me innocuously, but she remains silent; instead, her ears twitch excitedly.
I frown. “That doesn't really tell me anything.”
She appears a little confused, her head swaying from side to side. The girl shuts her eyes, concentrating hard; finally, she opens her eyes again, and her small lips part. “I...ca...rus,” she says weakly, “Ica...rus. Icarus.”
“Icarus,” I repeat. An uncommon name, although I suppose she is an uncommon being as well. “Can you tell me what's going on here? What's happening to me?”
Icarus remains silent, not even her ears twitching around. She shakes her head. “I...don't know,” she manages to say with difficulty.
“You don't know,” I repeat after her again, massaging the bridge of my nose. “Well, can you tell me about yourself at leas—hold on.”
I stop walking.
I look around.
Something's wrong here.
There's something definitely wrong.
From the moment I stepped out of my home, I felt it – some subtle differences that I wasn't able to quite pick out.
It's like... it's like the world is melting. Like someone went and broken the entire world.
Everything seems to droop about like withering flowers, from the buildings to the telephone poles—
“Damn, what's going on...!” I mutter to myself, watching the world turn grotesque and disorganized. Am I even in the real world anymore? Is this... is this all just a dream? It has to be – it's way too crazy for it not to be!
Icarus tugs at my shirt, getting my attention. She reaches out and points at something in the distance: the convenience store, within just twenty meters. But something's changed about it too – it has the same look as though it were melting as the other buildings, grotesque and ugly in shape. The lights inside appear to be off, and I can't see anything through the windows. This is what we came here for, but now I don't think I really want to go inside there... it could be that -that- monster is trying to set up an ambush somewhere.
What should I do?
[ ] Head inside the store.
[ ] Run away from here.
It's an incredibly reckless, stupid move, and I realize that, but I decide to enter the store anyway. As long as I don't understand how this world works, I can't assume I'll be safe anywhere. And, even if it is a trap, at least it's a start. Trying to swallow down my fears, I start walking toward the food mart, feeling tense in every muscle. The girl calling herself Icarus quietly follows along by my side... and she's still clinging onto my shirt, not allowing any distance between us. Suits me just fine, if we got separated somehow I'd end up a stunningly attractive splat on the wall. It's not something I'd like to brag about, but this girl will be my shield.
I stand at the door, feeling sick. The entrance to the mart has been twisted beyond recognition, distorted and corrupted. Just staring straight at the door is enough to give me vertigo. It feels a lot like staring directly at that monster from before – my brain completely shuts out all the information it can't understand. The closer I get, the worse it gets, until I can't tell whether I'm standing or falling. Wrestling with the disorientation, I reach out for the handle of the door, grasping at air a few times before finally managing to catch it. With a deep breath, I tug at the door handle, and pull open the door. I squeeze my eyes shut – the nausea is getting to be too much to keep them open. I feel movement all around me as I grope my arm clumsily, trying to find a support to lean on. It's hopeless – it feels like I can't even control my own body.
As if someone's suddenly screwed my head back on right, the dizziness goes away. I look down and realize that Icarus is standing ahead of me, tugging at my shirt, urging me along. Before us is the entrance to the mart, which appears pitch black. A touch disoriented, I stop to clear my senses before steeling my heart and crossing over the threshold into the store.
The moment I enter the store is the moment I realize I won't be coming out – not through the same way, at least. The instant I cross over into the dark, the light coming from behind us zooms off into the distance at lightning-speed, blinking off into a tiny speck that gleams brilliantly for an instant before being snuffed out. Instantly I regret my decision, cursing at myself as fear fills my heart. I turn back to the unending darkness ahead, taking a cautious step forward. It feels strange – the ground beneath me feels like flat terrain, but no matter what I do I can't seem to get a stable footing at all, almost like I'm trying to walk on a bubble of some sort. Icarus seems to have no problem walking here – she's shuffling about just fine even as I flail my legs like an idiot, taking unsteady steps forward. Superb, not only is it impossible to find anything in here, it's hard to move around in as well – and there's no going back. I'm completely stumped as to what to do next.
“Damn,” I mutter in frustration. “Where am I supposed to go?”
“Do you need... a road?”
I stare at her in confusion. Rather than explaining herself, she raises a finger. A white light begins to glow from her fingertip and with a shimmer a glass step appears beneath my feet. Icarus drags her finger across the air, letting out bright flashes of light – and as she does so, more steps appear beyond the one I'm standing on, forming a winding path ahead. The light from her finger fades out, and she lowers her hand, returning to her silence. I look at the newly formed steps with a certain degree of skepticism. I'm not even going to bother asking how she managed to do that, I'm sure I wouldn't understand the explanation. I'll just be thankful that I won't have to fumble around in the dark anymore. I climb the first step, and test its resistance – it feels reassuringly firm, and I continue on to the next step, my heart feeling a lot lighter.
I follow the glass stairway. Although it's nice to have a path outlined for me, that the scenery doesn't change at all feels discouraging. No matter how deep I go everything's the same, being completely void of anything besides these steps. I'm starting to get the feeling that these stairs are just leading me around in circles, or that there might be no end to this place.
It's as I turn these grim thoughts over that my phone screams out. I reach into my pocket and pull it out – a new message. It's from the same sender as the other weird messages, being all glitched and garbled. This time, there's only a single recognizable word amidst all the junk: “stop.”
Stop? Assuming that the monster is the sender of these messages, it seems like we're doing something that's got this thing spooked. But right now, all we're doing is walking around here... what could we be doing that's got this monster so scared?
Another message. “don'tfdf comefd anyret cvvfclpokoseewrr.”
Could it be that the monster is scared for its life? Is it because we're close to approaching it that it's so desperate for us to stop? Then it must still be wounded from before... it must have holed up here in order to recover. These steps might be leading us straight to it, and then... well, I suppose we'll figure out what to do when we get there. Phone still in hand, I continue onward.
Beep! Beep! Beep!
“st324op st32dfaop sgdsftop” “i t@$Reold you tfdsfo323 sto213pvhu67u” “dotytrhn't bring454 that mhgntonster herrtkuthe”
I've reached the end of the stairs. It doesn't look very different from the rest of what I've seen on the way here. If the steps end here, though, then that thing must be close. But where is it?
“Above,” says Icarus.
I immediately look up, and see it there, the creature from before. Except now, there's something different about it... I can see more of its details, beyond just a vague shape. Every segment of its body appears to be angled, like it's made entirely of simple 3D shapes. Its limbs are long and slender, giving it the appearance of a lean predator. Its head is shaped strangely, two horns jutting out the back and a snout-like protrusion sticking out the front, although it has no actual face as far as I can tell. It looks like some kind of bizarre humanoid robot, though it behaves like a living, breathing thing. Its chest rises and falls in a slow rhythm, and the monster does nothing except watch us from above, remaining fixed in its position.
From how it's hesitating to attack us right away, I get that it's hesitant to attack us. Since I'm just a normal, unarmed human, the reason why it hasn't attacked and killed me yet is because of Icarus. Whatever this thing is, it's scared of her... and for good reason, if she was the one to cause it to retreat from us earlier. That means right now, we hold the advantage right now, though I should be careful to back it against a corner... who knows what it might try against us then?
I look up at the beast, trying my best to forget the fear it's inflicted against me for however many loops I've had to repeat. Grinding my teeth together, I barely manage to contain my rage, trying to speak to it without letting my voice shake. “Who are you? What are you? Why are you trying to kill me? What have you done to me?”
The monster does not speak or move, continuing to breathe in silence. My phone remains silent as well, so it doesn't seem like it's going to reply. I bite my lower lip, almost hard enough to break the skin. Losing patience, I finally raise my voice.
“Say something, damn you!”
My heart jumps to my throat. While it hasn't left its spot above us, its head begins shaking and rattling, twisting its neck and angling its face in bizarre spasms. As it does so, it lets out a roar; a long, painful howl that is nothing like anything I've ever heard before. I cover my ears with my hands, screaming in agony. The creature's screaming intensifies, and a strange green mist surrounds the creature. On its featureless face, two large green lights appear where a human would have eyes. Its head freezes in place, and its roar dies down, though my ears continue to ring. Wincing in pain, I unplug my ears.
—YOU ARE THE SAME—
—YOU AND I. WE ARE—
Even though it's like I've got an alarm clock going off inside my skull, I could hear that without a problem just now. It sounded crisp, and clear, and yet at the same time I can't tell from which direction and how far away the sound came from. It was... something beyond my physical sensory perceptions. It felt like I was listening to someone's thoughts.
—THE TRUE INHERITORS OF THIS WORLD—
There it is again! These words... are they coming from that creature? Is it communicating with me by sending its thoughts to me? That's ridiculous... absurd! And yet like everything I've seen so far, there is no room for denial. It may have been sending its thoughts as messages to my phone somehow, and now its transferring its thoughts directly to me...
The creature freezes, ceasing to even breathe. The green mist surrounding it changes color, becoming darker and darker until it becomes blood red. The emeralds that serve as its eyes become rubies instead, giving the creature an even more sinister appearance. Its body begins to move again, but its movements are even more erratic than before, its limbs jerking around and twisting in an unnatural frenzy, becoming tangled amongst themselves and morphing into impossible shapes.
This voice is different from before.
—RELEASE ME, HUMANS—
As the words form within my mind, dread seeps into every pore of my body. Despair sinks my heart, and my breath quickens in panic. My mind becomes numb with fear and terror. My body is shaking in shock and my limbs are rapidly losing their strength. Just from listening to that voice, it feels like entire being is being dragged through mud, filling me with all of these horrible emotions.
—COME, HUMAN. RELEASE ME, AND LET THE LIGHT OF HOPE SHINE ON THIS FORSAKEN WORLD—
“...I won't let you.”
Out of the corner of my eyes, something darts past me, too fast to see. It flies up at the creature, striking it hard in the face with a swipe of its arm. The creature is sent flying off further into the darkness, crashing against something and rebounding off of it, coming to a stop in the air. A crack appears there, slowly spreading throughout the abyssal black space until it shatters like glass. A man sized hole has been made in this strange space, and light shines in from outside. With my mouth gaping open, I look up at the creature's assailaint – Icarus. Of course, it's not surprising that she would be able to fight like that, after all, that's what I was banking on when I brought her with me, but...
The expression on her face has changed.
No, that's not correct. Only her eyes have changed. Although she hadn't been very expressive, her eyes were childish and curious, possessing an innocent gleam. Now, there's no trace of that anywhere. They're illuminated with the pale light from before when she first appeared, her eyes are cold and filled with hatred.
The creature twists its limbs and body as it raises itself back up, elevating to an equal ground to Icarus. The red mist around it becomes thicker, looking more like a fiery aura now. The two of them stare each other down, a pair of red matched against a pair of blue. A great pressure seems to erupt from around the two, and I can feel it pushing against me, forcing me away from them. Any time now, the two of them will begin fighting; after that, there's no guarantee what may happen to them, or me, or this strange space. My only hope for escape is that hole Icarus made...
I need to act quickly.
[ ] Run for the exit. You've got to get out of here, and this might be your only chance.
[ ] You can't leave alone! You have to convince Icarus to escape with you.
[ ] Stay and watch the battle. Maybe you'll be able to figure something out.
[x] Stay and watch the battle. Maybe you'll be able to figure something out.
Frozen with indecision, all I can do is watch the incredibly scene playing out before me. Icarus' movements are untraceable, moving at impossible speeds. Her clumsy nature seems to have all but vanished, as each of her motion is controlled and efficient, wasting no energy. She darts forward, blinking in and out of sight, and with a blinding flash she attacks the creature, shoving her fist deep into its center before knocking the creature's head around with a kick. The monster appears to be defenseless in the face of her attacks, getting knocked around like a rag doll by simple punches and kicks, though the force behind each blow is unreal. Even a normal person like me can tell that what that girl can do far surpasses what any human could possibly be capable of. I feel almost awed by her battle movements, feeling like a helpless insect compared to her.
I knew from the start that she wasn't normal, but what exactly is this girl? Until just a few seconds ago, she couldn't even speak without exerting great effort, but now she's flying around and fighting as though it's as natural as breathing. There's also that strange reaction she had, when that monster went crazy... could she be some kind of living weapon? If that thing is a sort of bio-mechanical weapon as well, is she the countermeasure?
As I try to sort out these thoughts, the battle continues on, as Icarus continues to savagely beat the creature. She's ruthless, striking the creature in the head with a kick, then grabbing the head in place and punching it repeatedly, so hard that the skin on her knuckle is busted open and blood spurts out from her hand. She doesn't seem to care at all, disregarding the damage she's doing to herself as she viciously resumes her attack, striking the creatures head over and over, even as she sprays her own blood everywhere with each punch. Despite her arms looking positively mangled now, she doesn't seem to show any signs of pain or even discomfort, her eyes still locked in that hateful, cold glare. She pulls back her left arm, covered in cuts and bruises from her own attacks, and strikes the creature hard – a crack appears in its head as it soars away from the impact, unable to fight back. The creature flies far out into the darkness, eventually crashing into an invisible “wall.” Its oddly shaped head seems to split open on impact, being crushed into several pieces as the main body becomes unresponsive.
Hesitant to get any closer, I stare at the fallen form of the creature, its head now lying in several pieces in the abyss. “Is it... dead?” I ask aloud, hoping that Icarus might answer me.
She doesn't. Instead, she raises her hand – her right, as her left hangs limp at her side, having almost shattered itself from that huge blow earlier-- and a small bright flash is unleashed from her fingertip. In her hand she now holds the grip and cross-guard of a sword, having conjured it from thin air. Crystal like formations sprout out from the sword hilt, growing outward and shaping into a blade, shining a deep golden color. Flames wrap around the blade, and as she swings the sword, it leaves behind streaking trails of fire.
With the flaming sword tightly gripped in her small hand, she charges forward at the creature. Floating limp in the darkness, the creature offers no resistance as the girl brings down her blade, smiting the inhuman monster with a powerful cleave, burning through its armor and body. With a vicious snarl, Icarus drives the edge further into the creature, bisecting it through the waist.
The upper half of the creature abruptly springs to life again, lunging at Icarus as its flame-like aura doubles in size and intensity. Taking her by surprise, the creature grabs her by the throat, holding her up by its long, spindly arm. The girl struggles in its grip, her sword falling from her hand and vanishing in a flash of light. Her merciless, unrelenting strength from before appears to be gone, as she flails her legs helplessly at the creature's mercy. The creature's sharp finger-like appendages tighten around the girl's throat, squeezing all the air out of her.
“Icarus!” I yell out.
I'm halfway through a frenzied step forward when I stop, thinking. What's the point in rushing to my death like this? There's nothing I can do to help her – I'm powerless, just a normal human. There's no way that I'd be able to help her out. No... I should be running toward that crack instead. I want to get away from here, away from this horrifying world. I just want to wake up from this nightmare already. I want to wake up. I want to open my eyes, and take in the comfort that this was all just a dream.
The flames around the creature's body intensifies even further, burning incredibly brightly in the darkness of this cold and empty space. Struggling in its grip, Icarus begins to lose strength, her flailing limbs hanging limp. Even still, all I can do is watch. I don't run to her aid, nor do I attempt to make a break for it and escape alone, completely paralyzed by indecision
Suddenly, the light around the creature condenses into a single, incredibly bright point, seemingly the size of a speck of dust, hovering above the creature's head. Letting out a high-pitched whistle, the speck expands into a small globe, roughly the size of a basketball, before shrinking again.
And with a loud roar, it rapidly expands in a flash of light, engulfing everything. Icarus and the creature are swallowed up immediately, and I shield my eyes with my arms as it hits me, squeezing my eyes shut. There's an incredible pressure on my body, so much that I feel like my ribs are going to crack. It feels unbearable, and it's hard to think of anything else, my sensory perceptions overwhelmed. Eventually, as my vision becomes white, I feel my senses being ripped away as I'm hurtled into unconsciousness.
The next thing I know, I'm standing out in a sidewalk, staring at the night sky.
For what feels like eternity, I simply stand there, unmoving and totally silent, unable to even begin putting together what's just happened. If' I'm thinking about anything, it's about the sharp, splitting headache I've got going on. Blankly, I count the stars, getting into the twenties before my mind finally catches up and snaps back into place. As if hit by a bolt of lightning, by body moves with a jolt, my hand diving into my pocket to fish out my phone. Turning the screen on, I glance at the clock.
I look up and dart my head around, expecting something to leap out at me from the dark. I jump when I hear a shuffle, turning quickly, but it turns out to be just a plastic bag blown by the wind. Cautiously, I take another look around. A few cars pass by me on the road, their golden headlights blazing across the dark pavement. Nothing appears to be out of the ordinary.
Have I... made it back?
I inwardly shake my head. Or is it that I was never gone in the first place? That can't all have been real. It has to have been a delusion, or a hallucination, or a dream, or some kind of temporary insanity. My heart racing, I open my phone's message in-box, before letting out of sigh of relief. There are no messages from mysterious senders. All of the messages here are from my sister.
I knew it, it was all just a nightmare.
Pushing the last of my doubts and concerns to the corner of my mind, I quickly find my bearing and resume my walk to the convenience store, trying to ignore that nagging feeling at the back of my head.
“Hi, welcome to FamiMart! It's a wonderful night!”
The enthusiastic greeting catches me off-guard as I enter the store. The cashier smiles at me from behind the register. Although I pretty much always go to this store, I've never seen her before, and if I have then there's no way I wouldn't remember. She's a young, attractive girl, with a delicate tone of skin and beautiful red hair tied into a long tail behind her back.
“Ah... yeah, hi,” I give an awkward response.
The cashier nods with a thousand watts smile, standing by at the register as I look around the store, pretending to be looking at the products while sneaking glances in her direction. She's the sort of person I hate dealing with, someone who's able to forget worries and just act carefree and cheerful all day long. To put it simply, she's just too bright, so brilliant that it's blinding. I can't even imagine shining as brightly as she and other people like her do, and that's why I do my best to avoid people like that.
Putting back the bottle of water I acted like I was interested in, I walk up to the register, pointing at the steamer machine at the back. “Let me have one meat bun,” I say frankly.
“Okay, sure!” the cashier immediately responds, “just one meat bun, is that all?”
That's all I need, right? I'm just here to pick up something to eat for myself, after all...
[ ] “That's it.”
[ ] “Actually, let me get two.”
[ ] “I haven't seen you around before. Are you new here?”
[X] “Actually, let me get two.”
[X] “I haven't seen you around before. Are you new here?”
>“Hi, welcome to FamiMart!
Well, we're safe now. Unless this turns out to be the Gensokyo branch.
>She's a young, attractive girl, with a delicate tone of skin and beautiful red hair tied into a long tail behind her back.
>The cashier nods with a thousand watts smile[...] To put it simply, she's just too bright, so brilliant that it's blinding.
[x] “Actually, let me get two.”
[x] “I haven't seen you around before. Are you new here?”
“Actually, let me get two.”
“Sure thing!” the cashier girl responds brightly, moving over to the steamer.
It was just on a whim, or maybe it was just a sudden compulsion. I don't even really feel all that hungry anymore, actually, I lost my appetite a while back. Still, I felt like I should get two, just in case... Just in case? Just in case of what? There's no one waiting for me at home, so what was I even worrying about? It's odd, it's strange, and it really isn't something that should be bugging me this much, so I resolve to stop thinking about it and shove it to the back of my mind with all the rest of the useless thoughts in my head.
The girl behind the counter pushes a paper bag toward me, beaming. “Is there anything else you'd like?”
“No, that's all,” I say, taking my phone out of my pocket. I press it against the counter for just a second until a small beep sounds, signifying the completion of the transaction. “By the way, I haven't seen you around before. Are you new here?”
“I've always been here,” she replies, ceaselessly bright and cheerful.
“I-is that so?”
I'm suddenly unsure. She sounds so confident that I wonder if I'm the one making a mistake here. After all, when was the last time I paid any attention to other peoples' faces? I suppose it's possible that she's always working another shift when I drop by the store. “Erm, exactly how long have you been here?”
The corners of her mouths twitch slightly before she replies in that ever unchanging upbeat tone. “Always.”
“Um, right,” I say awkwardly, feeling like I've hit a dead-end. In any case, talking to this attendant is really tiring. I don't think I can stand to carry on more of a conversation with her, and so I nab up the paper bag. “Well, I'll be seeing you.”
“Take care,” she says, raising a hand and waving her fingers. “Please come again!”
Not while you're on shift.
Silently thinking that, I wave a halfhearted goodbye before leaving out the front door, retracing my steps back home.
As I pass by a certain set of streetlights, I suddenly feel a wave of dread rising up within me, but it soon passes over. I reach into the bag, pulling out one of the meat buns inside. Soft, moist, and hot, steam rises from the creamy white skin of the bun, dissipating into the cold air. I begin taking bites out of the meat bun as I walk, finishing up by the time I'm almost home. I reach out to the cold metal hand, hesitating as I feel the touch of cold metal. Something's still bothering me, tugging at me from somewhere beyond my field of vision. Am I still hung up over that daydream? It's alright, everything's back to normal now – when I open this door, I'll return to my ordinary life, wasting away my days uselessly in this colorless world.
I grab the handle and turn it.
I couldn't be more wrong.
The moment I begin to open the door, an incredibly loud noise erupts over my head, violently disrupting the still night air. A great gust of wind almost forces me down, nearly blowing me away from the ground. I look up in shock, my mouth hanging open. I can't even move, too dumbstruck by what I'm seeing. This is too much. This is way too much. I can't accept this at all, I won't accept it. My life was supposed to go back to normal the moment I opened the door, and yet...
Floating above my home, I see what can only be a spaceship.
The size isn't what I'd call enormous, but it certainly looks big from down here. I'd estimate it to be around 30 meters long. It has a bronze colored metal hull, its nose sharp and pointed. The rest of its body is a lump compared to the front, with a bulky and heavily armored exterior. Although I don't see any means of propulsion, it's suspended in the air despite all its weight, flying through some unknown means. Slowly, it descends down on the flat roof of my home, nestling in quite snugly.
“Oi, oi,” I hear myself say out aloud, my voice coming out a bit shrill. “You've got to be—you've got to be kidding me, right?”
I want to deny it. I want to forget about it and just stash all this away, deep in my memories—but for something like this to happen twice in a night is just too much. I can practically feel my brain beginning to shut down, conflicted between blocking out what I'm seeing and accepting that this is reality, no matter how unbelievable it may be. I slowly begin to backpedal, inching away from the door as I keep my eyes fixed on the ship.
As if I hadn't rushed into enough dangerous situations today, I make my way to the ladder placed on the side of the building, climbing it up to the roof, just in time to see a hatch on the side of the hull open up. I remain close to the edge, ready to flee at any time. A bright light shines out from within the ship, and a bulky, humanoid silhouette steps out. Their steps are heavy, I can hear their feet touching down on the ground from here, and their movement looks unsteady and clumsy, as they slowly shuffle toward me. Now that I take a better look at it, it appears to be garbed in a spacesuit, which explains the bulk and sluggish steps. It's got a big bubble-head helmet, although the face of whoever is wearing it is obscured by the night's darkness. What is it? Some kind of alien?
“Greetings, denizen of this world. It's good that I've made contact so quickly,” the strange figure speaks to me, waving its arm, as if to show it means no harm. Its voice is distorted and muffled, but it sounds almost like a woman's voice. “There is much I need to discuss with you. I know you must be confused, but I will explain everything. Will you come inside with me? I don't want to attract any unnecessary attention.”
You've got to be kidding.
My displeasure must have shown on my face, as the strange figure quickly adds. “Don't worry. I don't mean you any harm. I'm human, just like you.”
“And I'm supposed to just believe that?” I say, still skeptical.
“Well, I suppose that is a tall order,” the figure says.
Reaching to the back of their neck, they fiddle with something there, and with the sound of pressure being released, they take off their helmet, holding it in their arm as they shake their head. The one inside the suit is undoubtedly human in appearance—and as I thought, it's a woman, and quite a pretty one at that as well. She shakes her long red braid loose, closing her eyes and breathing in the crisp night air before letting out a sigh of relief. She seems to enjoy the taste of the air, spending a few seconds just savoring her own breathing. Finally, she opens her eyes again and look to me, grinning.
“Well, do you believe me now?” she asks.
“Not entirely,” is my still cautious reply.
“Quite the skeptic,” she says, although she doesn't look bothered at all. “Well, whether you trust me or not, I'd like you to follow me. I don't have time to explain everything right now, so I need you to make a quick decision. Of course, I'm not going to force you to do anything. If you refuse, that will be the end of that, and you'll be able to return to your normal life. You won't remember any of this in the morning, I can guarantee that, and I'll move on somewhere else.”
“What'll it be? Do you want to know more? Or do you just want your ordinary life back?”
[ ] Accept.
[ ] Refuse.
[ ] I need more time to think.
I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my decision.
“I want to know.”
I'm already in this deep. All those things that I tried to brush off as just delusions or dreams – I can't pretend they never happened anymore, I remember everything now. I was killed, again and again, so many times that even I'm not sure how many times it was, exactly. I'm being targeted, and even if I chose to go back to my normal life, there's no guarantee that I would ever be safe. This could be a chance to figure out what's really going on, and I'd be a fool to refuse it.
"Excellent," the woman says with a smile. "then if I could just ask you to step inside..."
"Hey hey, yo yo!"
I turn at the sound of an energetic and boisterous young voice. From the opening in the spaceship, a girl leaps out, holding what looks like a toy gun in her hand. Hitting the ground, she performs an awkward evasive roll before crouching on one knee and pointing the gun at me.
“Hands in the air! Freeze! Shoot and I'll move!" she yells, leveling the barrel of her toy gun with my head. “As long as you cooperate with us, you won't be harmed, so just give it up!”
The girl in question doesn't appear to be much younger than the other woman. She has shoulder-length blonde hair, tied into twin-tails. Unlike the other woman, she isn't in a spacesuit, instead wearing a white-blue sailor suit. In any case, though I was startled by her sudden appearance, I can't say she or that gun of hers really strikes fear into my heart, so instead of raising my hands and complying with her, I just stand there in stunned silence.
The woman in the spacesuit sighs behind the girl, slowly lurching forward in an slow and uncomfortable gait. She raises an arm, and twists her torso to swing it, catching the blonde girl with a hard smack upside her head.
“What the heck do you think you're doing, you idiot!?” she screams, attempting to fold her arms together.
“Ow!” the girl immediately crouches down, clutching the back of her head. “That hurts! That really hurts, Yumemi!”
“That's professor to you!” the red-haired woman huffs.
The twin-tails immediately jumps back up to her feet, one hand placed arrogantly at her hip as she points a finger at her older partner with a smirk.“Not anymore! I'm a professor now, too, so my days of treating you like a superior are through! Now we stand on equal grou—Ow!”
“Don't get so cocky!” the professor says, after delivering a chop to the other girl's forehead. “You're still too wet behind the ears to be my equal! Now get back into the ship before you end up scaring off our guest!”
“Okay, okay, geez~!” the upstart young girl replies, rubbing her forehead now. “You were taking so long I figured I might as well put plan B into motion!”
The woman in the spacesuit clears her throat as her accomplice grudgingly returns to the ship, grumbling while nursing the bumps on her head. “You'll have to excuse my assistant, she can really be quite a handful sometimes,” she says, attempting to sound composed and dignified again. “Now, as I was saying before we were interrupted, if you could just step inside with me...”
I wonder if it might not be too late to retract my answer.
But my curiosity is greater than my reluctance, and so I nod. The woman smiles, shuffling around awkwardly to turn back to her spaceship. She begins lurching forward in that heavy suit of hers, and I find that I have to stop walking at multiple points to keep at her pace, but eventually she finally reaches the opening, and walks into the threshold of light. I can't see beyond it, like it's some kind of barrier or gate. Knowing that my life would never be the same again after this point, I let out an internal sigh as I brace myself and step forward into the blinding light.
The inside of the ship is larger than I expected. As soon as I step past the light, I find myself in a large, spacious room that looks more like a planetarium than the inside of a spaceship. Two rows of cylindrical glass tubes line the middle of the interior, light shining from inside each tube. Constellations decorate the walls, while phases of the moon are alight on the ceiling, shining brightly in the dim lighting of the ship.
“Welcome to our probabilty space hypervessel,” the woman in the spacesuit says, proudly presenting herself.
From its name, I can already guess its purpose, but just to be sure, I decide to ask. “What is this ship, exactly?”
“Explaining it 'exactly' would take up quite a bit of time, so to put it in a way that's easy to understand, this ship can move between different worlds,” she explains, looking rather proud. “Basically, it allows us to navigate and explore through every changes and branches throughout history.”
If that's true, then this is an amazing machine, far beyond the scopes of anything we can accomplish with our current technology! A machine that can move through different worlds and possibilities? It sounds as impossible as a time machine. While I'm not sure I believe her claim, I can't help but wonder how advanced the world she came from must be. So... what does she want with me?
“I turned on the camouflage module,” the twin-tailed girl returns, her arms folded together in a carefree manner behind her head. “We should be completely inconspicuous now.”
“Good,” the other woman nods. “This is a good opportunity to introduce ourselves. My name is Yumemi Okazaki, and I'm the captain of this ship.”
“I'm Chiyuri Kitashirakawa, the number two,” the blonde says with a wink and a smirk. “Hey, what's that you've got there? I thought I smelled something tasty.”
It takes me a moment to realize that she's talking about the paper bag I'm still clutching in my hand. In the face of everything that's happened since I got home I had almost completely forgotten about this thing. I lift up the bag, and it opens a little, the delicious smell of the meat bun wafting out. Chiyuri sniffs the air.
“Oh, that smells good,” she says, sniffing again. “It's pork buns, isn't it? That's so nice! Neither of us can cook so all we've had for the past few days were eggs and cup ramen!”
Yumemi blushes slightly in embarrassment. “Don't tell him anything unnecessary like that,” she grumbles. “What we're working on is far more important than learning how to cook.”
“Yeah yeah,” the other girl replies with a sigh, dejectedly crouching down and drawing a circle on the floor with her finger. “Saving the world is good and all, but it still wouldn't hurt to eat something decent once in a while.”
'Saving the world'? Is that their goal? They don't exactly appear to be a pair that I would trust to save anything, much less the world, but I guess I don't have the right to judge until they hear the full story.
I look at the bag in my hand. I ordered a second meat bun, but it wasn't for me. At the time, I didn't really understand why I had gotten it, but now I know why. But the one I was intending to give this to is nowhere to be found, and I'm not sure I'll ever get a chance to give this to them. I don't want it, I'm not hungry anymore. I suppose I could just give it to these two as good-will or something...
[ ] Give it to Yumemi.
[ ] Give it to Chiyuri.
[ ] Keep it.
I hold the bag out in front of me, offering it to the two. “If you want it, I'll give it to you. I don't really feel hungry. You two can split it however you like.”
The redhead seems flustered. “Oh, thank you, but that's not really necessary!”
Chiyuri, on the other hand, eagerly snatches the paper bag out of my hand. “Awesome, thanks!” she says in delight, reaching inside the bag and taking out the soft meat bun inside. “Well, since the professor doesn't want it, I'll just take all of it—”
“I never said I didn't want it,” Yumemi hurriedly says, swiping the bun out of her partner's grip. She swiftly dodges the girl's attempt to take it back, holding it up just out of her reach. She splits the bun in two, handing one half to Chiyuri. “There you go, a fair share.”
She looks down at her half with sulking eyes. “Your half is bigger than mine.”
“Oh, don't be such a child,” the professor replies, starting on her half.
I don't want to pick sides here, but even I'm fairly certain she got the lion's share.
I wait for the two of them to finish off their small meal. Chiyuri wolfs down her piece like a starving animal, eating without any reservations or delicacy. Yumemi eats with much more grace, though it seems she was just as sick of her usual meals as well, licking her fingers with slight disappointment as she finishes up.
“That was pretty good,” she says, smacking at her fingertips a few more times. “Thank you for sharing that with us.”
“Yeah, that really hit the spot,” her assistant chimes in.
I feel almost embarrassed, unaccustomed to receiving gratitude. “It's not a big deal.”
Yumemi clears her throat, trying to get back into that professional mindset from earlier. “Now, where were we? Oh, right! Well, we've gotten the introductions out of the way, so let's proceed further in.”
I... actually didn't get a chance to introduce myself at all, but nevertheless I keep quiet as she turns and slowly walks forward, past the rows of glass tubes lining the room. Chiyuri nudges my side, and gives me a look of sympathy, before following after her professor. Well, it's fine. I don't really care either way as long as I'm getting an explanation for what's been going on tonight. I'm not particularly fond of who I am to begin with, so it's better than I don't have to give an introduction here. Shrugging, I drag my feet after them, proceeding deeper into the ship.
The next part of the ship is much more in line with what I imagined the inside of a spaceship would look like. It resembles a laboratory, with a sterile white environment and lots of things strange looking devices and equipment I'm unfamiliar with. In particular, there's what appears to be a large circular structure in the middle of the area, displaying various lines of text and numbers on its many screens. There appear to be many ways leading out of the area, presumably to the crew quarters and piloting block and whatever else this ship has.
“This is the command center,” Yumemi explains proudly. “We control the majority of the ship's functions here.”
“I guessed it was something like that,” I nod, still looking about in wonder. There are lots of interesting things strewn about the place, although I dare not touch them in fear of what they might do. “So, now that we're here, am I going to get an explanation?”
“Of course, I'm sure you're eager to find out, but all in due time,” she says, turning to her assistant. “Chiyuri, I'm going to change out of this suit. Go put on some tea or something.”
“Roger! The usual cheap kind, right?”
“Don't call it cheap,” Yumemi snaps. “It's economical.”
Chiyuri lets out a mischievous snigger as she slips away, heading into one of the passageways leading out of the command center. Yumemi lets out a 'hmph!' before shuffling around to face me.
"I'm heading to my room for a bit, feel free to pull up a chair," she says, gesturing toward one of the rotating chairs bolted down near the central machine. "Oh, but don't touch any of the machines. Handling them carelessly could result in--well, just don't touch them."
I silently nod. I'm no kid in a factory. There's no way I'd mess around with things I don't even know the function of. Satisfied, the professor shuffles awkwardly to her quarters.
I walk over to the central structure, sinking into one of the chairs. I don't plan on touching anything, but I figure it won't do any harm to simply look around. Leaning forward, I look into one of the screens. The information there is indecipherable, a collection of seemingly random numbers and unfamiliar symbols that don't mean anything to me. Although I can't really figure out anything from just this, it looks like this ship's been collecting data on something. Have these two been observing us?
Just as I look away, the screen suddenly blurs, filled with noise. For just a split-second, an image flashes on the monitor, accompanied by the sound of static. It was too sudden to get a good look at it, but I thought I saw someone's face in there. Intrigued, I turn back to the screen, scrutinizing it again. It's gone back to displaying data that I can't make heads or tails of. I look closer, hesitant, and reach out a hand toward the screen, lightly brushing against its smooth surface with the tips of my fingers.
I hear a young girl's voice.
The source isn't from anywhere within the ship. It sounds like the voice is coming from the inside of my own head. The voice is weak, and faint, and accompanied by a high-pitched whistle ringing and bouncing inside of my skull.
“...it's cold... it's dark... help me... somebody please...”
I step away from the screen, pulling back my hand. The whistle silences itself, and I can no longer hear the voice. Before I can really think about what happened just now, Chiyuri enters the command center, carrying a tray.
“Tea's ready,” she says, setting the tray down one of the surfaces nearby. “Don't expect anything good though.”
“Ah, er, thank you,” I say awkwardly, grabbing a teacup for myself.
Well, it at least seems like the concept of hospitality is the same in both their world and mine. Even if it isn't very good, the gesture is welcome at least. I put the teacup to my lips, taking a sip of the tea – the artificiality of the taste is similar to the synthetic stuff in our world as well. Maybe our two worlds aren't so different after all.
“Professor's not back yet?” Chiyuri asks, looking around, not even touching her own cup of tea. “Sure takes her a while to get out of that suit.”
“Why was she wearing it?” I ask, curious.
“Oh, well, our illustrious captain just happens to be particularly susceptible to--”
Yumemi stands in the doorway leading to the crew's quarters, having finally ridden herself of that clumsy, bulky spacesuit gear. She's wearing a long-sleeved white blouse with a red bow-tie ribbon adorning her collar, and a pair of pants matching the color of the ribbon. She seems to be annoyed at her assistant again, glaring at her. Clearing her throat again, she puts on her “professional” mask.
“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she says, striding over to the center of the command room.
Chiyuri looks to me and rolls her eyes, tongue between her teeth.
“I know the command center isn't exactly the most hospitable place for a guest, but there are somethings that we need to show you, so you'll have to excuse us,” Yumemi explains, meandering toward one of the bigger screens at the central structure. “...that said, I'm not really sure where to start from. Originally we weren't supposed to approach anyone from this world at all, but the situation has gotten a bit drastic, especially with your involvement.”
She turns back to me, folding her arms together.
“I'm sure you have a lot of questions. We'll start by answering some of them. To the best of our abilities, anyway.”
I have a lot of questions. Too many of them, in fact, but I won't get anywhere just rapid-firing one question after another. I should ask a few general questions, and try to narrow down the details of what I want to know.
[ ] “You said you were trying to save the world. What do you mean by that?”
[ ] “Why me? Why did you choose to bring me on board?”
[ ] “What do you know about what happened to me tonight?”
[ ] Write-in a question.
[x] “You said you were trying to save the world. Mind starting with that?”
[x] “Did you choose me because of the weird shit I went through tonight? Or is there something else up?”
I'm sure Lion definitely won't punish or penalize an attempt at squeezing two questions into one.
Other things of note-- not that we should ask, but that I noticed:
--The hell was up with the HELP ME girl's voice, and why did we only hear it when we were near the screen?
--Was the whistling from the teakettle that Chiyuri was using and the sound happened to get incorporated into whatever weird trance we were in? Or do they have fancier and more futuristic ways of making tea on a ship like this, and the whistling really was part of the weirdness?
(And then there was going to be an additional item here about how Yumemi sounded like she was dressed an awful lot like Rika from SoEW, but Rika doesn't wear a bow tie; just a normal bow. Damn.)
I turn over all the questions floating through my head, trying to pick one to start out with. Right, I should at least figure out why it is they're here. “I want to know why I'm here,” I begin, curt and straight to the point. “Why did you bring me on board? Why me?”
Yumemi remains quiet for a brief pause, folding her arms together in thought. “That's a hard question to answer without some background on this,” she says, the tone of her voice coated with some hesitation and uncertainty. “Hm, well, to make it simple: you possess something that we're interested in studying, and we'd like your cooperation on this matter.”
“And what is this 'something'?” I ask impatiently, feeling irritated by her roundabout answer.
The woman remains silent, frowning. Even though she offered to answer any questions I might have, it seems she might not be willing to divulge everything she knows. I think she might just need a little push though. Rather than reject the question outright, it seems like she's struggling to decide whether she should tell me or not. All she needs is a little push, some pressure.
“If you don't trust me, I don't see why I should cooperate with you.”
“Yes, you're right,” she says, agreeing with me. “You have the right to know.”
Well, that certainly didn't take long.
“Rather than explaining, I think it might be quicker to show you why you caught our interest. Chiyuri, the footage, if you please.”
Chiyuri rushes over to the mainframe, hitting panels and buttons seemingly at random. The lights in the control center dim slightly, and a flat monitor mechanically descends from an opening in the ceiling, situated at the top of the mainframe. With exaggerated flourish, the girl pounds on the keys some more, and the screen comes to life.
“We've been monitoring a certain suspicious individual in secret for a while,” Yumemi begins to explain. “It seems he'd been sniffing around this area for the past couple of days... anyway, during our surveillance, he came into contact with you, and that's where things got really strange.”
A suspicious individual who came in contact with me... she could only be talking about that bastard in the suit.
“Ah, here's the footage now. Watch this closely...”
I bite my lower lip in anticipation. The monitor darkens for a moment... and then cuts to a shaky camera recording. It appears to be... in someone's house? The camera is focused on a... small kitten, trotting around the carpet and mewling while a woman's voice gushes over how cute it is from behind the camera. Certainly not the kind of footage I expected. With a dull, exasperated look in my eyes, I turn to Yumemi; even with the dim lighting, I can tell that her face is flushed red with embarrassment. She marches over to Chiyuri and chops her in the head.
“Not that one!”
“Ow! My bad, professor!”
Chiyuri once again works the keys, although judging by the sly smirk she's wearing, it probably wasn't an accident.
The monitor darkens again, before switching to the real footage this time. It's a scene I'm familiar with, from a higher perspective – a man walks past a set of streetlights, alone in a desolate street. The lights suddenly die, plunging the scene into darkness, but with the tap of a few keys, the monitor glows with a green tint, illuminated again. The man stops, his head jerking wildly in frantic bemusement.
A second man enters the scene from the edge of the screen, dressed to kill in a well-tailored suit, calm and confident in his stride. He reaches into his jacket, and pulls out a gun, quietly leveling it with the head of the first man. The first man turns around, finding himself staring into the barrel of the gun. After a pause, the man in the suit fires his gun – a dark fine mist rises into the air as the man's head is jerked back, his body crumpling into an inelegant heap on the asphalt.
It feels really odd, watching myself be shot in the head like this. I can almost recall the burning hot sensation of the bullet drilling into my skull.
The suited man reaches back into his jacket, putting away his gun. Reaching into his pants pocket, he retrieves a small case. He walks up to my unmoving body on the ground and crouches down, sliding open the case in his hand – from it, he withdraws a small syringe, filled with some kind of glowing substance. He takes hold of my arm, and carelessly stabs the syringe into my vein, injecting the strange formula into my body. The man then tucks the syringe back into its case, and lets go of my arm, letting it fall limp to the ground. He stands up, straightens out his suit, and casually walks away.
He makes me really mad.
The man in the suit disappears into the darkness – literally. He seems to just vanish into thin air as he walks away. One-by-one, the streetlights light up again, and the screen switches back to a natural tint. After a few minutes, my body stirs – I can't believe it. Even though I had just taken a bullet to the head, I'm still alive. Not only alive, but I'm moving around. I watch in shock as I watch myself rising from the ground. My body looks up to the sky in a daze, its movements slow and sluggish like a zombie. Eventually, it appears to wake up from its dream-like state, moving with a jolt and reaching into its pocket for the phone...
The footage cuts off, the monitor darkening again.
I'm really not sure what to think.
I was shot in the head. This was not something that I just imagined or dreamed. Here was undeniable proof that just over thirty minutes ago I had a bullet blown through both sides of my skull, and yet here I am, still alive and healthy. It's almost laughable how ridiculous this seems to me. How did I survive? He didn't just shoot a blank, I can be certain of that. Was it that strange injection he gave me? But what kind of substance could even heal a bullet to the brain? There's nothing – nothing, nothing, nothing. A near-immediately fatal wound like that can't be healed with any serum in this world. So how...?
“What the hell....” I gasp out, looking down at my arm, at the vein where he stabbed the syringe. There's no mark there, nothing to indicate that a needle had gone through. “What the hell did he inject into me?”
“That's what we want to find out.”
I look back up to Yumemi, hoping for her to make some sense out of this.
“The reason we came to this world is because we detected an enormous energy spike along this probability-space coordinate,” she immediately launches into an explanation. “To give you an idea of just how enormous this energy spike was, it would be enough to produce a force that could destroy the Earth several times over. Nuclear weapons, or even one of our positron bombs wouldn't compare to that level of power.”
“That's crazy... our world isn't even close to having those kinds of weapons yet!”
“You're right, it's an anomaly. This world lacks the level of technology required to output that kind of energy. Even our world is constantly searching for newer, more efficient methods of producing power. That's why we've come to investigate this world, and it's how we ended up monitoring the man who came into contact with you.”
I bite my lip. “So is he the one responsible for that ridiculous reading you got?
“We can't be sure yet,” she says, folding her arms together and shrugging her shoulders. “We do know for sure that he wasn't just a regular human, though. Our remote bio-analysis was pretty clear about that, although without actually getting him here, we can't get any detailed information about the structure of his body or... anything, really.”
I see where this is going.
“So you think that injection of his has changed me into something inhuman,” I say in a flat, cold tone. “Something similar to him... and you want to study me like a guinea pig.”
Yumemi appears uncomfortable with my words. “That's... not how I would put it, but yes, you've got the gist of it.”
“Hey, she's being plenty considerate, y'know,” Chiyuri interjects, seated lazily in one of the seats, one arm propping up her head. “Last time we wanted to study someone we just tried to nab'em up and take 'em to our dimension.”
Yumemi delivers another swift chop to her head. “You keep quiet. Whenever you say something you just end up making things sound worse!”
Chiyuri mutters an insincere apology. I'm beginning to think that this is her way of getting back at the professor for her corporal admonishments.
“My troublesome assistant aside...” she says, clearing her throat as she slips on her mask of professionalism, approaching me. “That offer from before is still on the table. If you don't want to cooperate or get involved with us, you're free to leave the ship now.”
“Of course, even if you do... you probably won't be able to go back to living as a normal human again,” she grimly adds.
...yeah, it doesn't really seem like I have any other option.
“Fine, I'll cooperate with you—”
The lights go out.
And I don't mean they dim, like before. The lights within the control center are all cut out at once, plunging all three of us into darkness. I hear a shrill yelp before something crashes into me – instinctively I wrap my arms around it. It feels soft, and warm, and I can smell a sweet fragrance (Is it a strawberry scent? It's been so long since I've smelled a genuine strawberry...) from it as it clings to my shirt, huddled against my chest.
“Chiyuri! This isn't funny! Turn the lights back on!” Yumemi's voice comes from within my arms.
“It wasn't me! They just cut out by themselves!”
“They can't have been cut out, otherwise the backup generator would have kicked in! Fix it!”
A pale light abruptly fills the room. I look up: it's coming from the monitor hanging from the ceiling. I look back down – Yumemi is staring up at the monitor, her embarrassment and shame completely forgotten in the face of fear and amazement, her arms wrapped in a painfully tight grip around me. I look to the side – Chiyuri's still seated in her chair, looking up at the monitor with her mouth slightly agape. She notices me looking her way, and glances back, shaking her head.
“I didn't do that either.”
The monitor fills itself with static.
“What? What was that!? Who was that!?” Yumemi frantically demands.
Wait, I've heard this voice before.
—RELEASE ME, HUMANS—
Electrical sparks begin to fly out from the monitor and the screen shatters, extinguishing the light and plunging everyone back into the dark again – I can feel Yumemi squirming against me like a small, scared child – but not long after, all the screens on the central mainframe lights up in the same way, filling the room with a pale glow. Chiyuri darts up out of her seat, quickly retreating away from the screens as they shatter and explode in turn until there's only one left – the one directly facing me. I look into the screen and see nothing but a garbled mess, but I feel somehow compelled to stare into it. I can't take my eyes off the screen. I want to reach into it, even though my gut feeling warns me otherwise...
Let's recall the last time we were in a situation with a similar choice:
>There's nothing I can do to help her – I'm powerless, just a normal human. There's no way that I'd be able to help her out. No... I should be running toward that crack instead. I want to get away from here, away from this horrifying world. I just want to wake up from this nightmare already. I want to wake up. I want to open my eyes, and take in the comfort that this was all just a dream.
Anyone remember how well this line of thinking worked out in FoM?