For Tay. Who taught me dreams and kindness.
For Brynna. Who taught me understanding.
For Casey. Who taught me to face fears and stand up for myself.
I one day hope that you will learn from the previous two.
"It's like wishing for Raine as I stand in the desert, but I'm holding you closer than most, because you are my heaven."
I am the Shadows.
A short story
I tapped my pen on the faux-wood desk as I looked at the paper before me. My favorite ring harmonized with the plastic pen as the black crystal collided with it. The paper felt stiff as I tried to smooth out the curled edge, wrinkled and crackling from the imprints the blue ink had made on it, and looked at my introduction.
"The gnarly bushes shine and gleam, reeking of repulsive beauty, but as you run through the labyrinth of darkness, the foliage scratches and rips your flesh at the surface. You hear the howls of pain, but keep running, faster and faster, in hopes to escape. Each new turn brings you to a deadly trap, a walkway to hell…"
It was supposed to be a metaphorical essay on what my school meant to me.
It wasn't that happy of an essay.
As Mrs. Akimoto lectured us in the distance, I zoned off into my own little world of my literature. I could smell the cold condensation dripping off of each leaf, the moisture engulfing me into an uncomfortable blackness, surrounding your vision. The ice-cold, powdered dirt hitting, pit-pat, against my bare feet, the small dust preventing my toes from feeling the soft skin they were used to. My breath, panting, wind blown out of my chest as I ran faster, never stopping, never caring to remember where I had begun or where I would end. The sharp inhales pierced my throat, saliva rising in my air tubes, clogging my airway, coughing, kneeling over and coughing, never end-
I opened my eyes to see my plastic desk shadowed by my face. I sighed and tried to revert back to my state of endless running, the air gripping at me, trying to use its weight to bring me down, the small leaves poking me in the forearm. It felt like they were hard enough to hurt my skin, but soft enough to not pierce it. I pulled my arm to myself and kept running as fast as I could, halting in my tracks with every turn, being careful to stop running into the drops of rain falling from the sky, plop, right on my forehead. They were huge, they hurt as each landed on my forehead, the same spot, over and over. I stopped in my tracks, looking up. I groaned. "What the hell!" I exclaimed in an angry moan. One icy drop landed right in my right eye and opened them to see a long yellow pencil poking me in the forehead.
I raised my head off of my arms and looked at the dark boy who had been responsible for waking me up from my dream. "Thanks." I whispered as I sat back into the bowl of my chair. Mrs. Akimoto had a pet peeve about me falling asleep in her class. Most of my teachers did, I realized as I heard a loud ticking from the clock, and tried to push it out of my mind.
"Anytime." He turned to his notes and I looked at the factoring equations on the sheet before me. They just looked like a jumble of numbers, letters, and symbols, almost like alphabet soup, and me trying to wade myself out in the middle. But it seemed that no matter how hard I swam, the numbers would just take me down with them until I was dizzy with confusion.
"I saw you sleeping, Aden." I hear a nasal voice say sarcastically from across the room, loud enough in hopes of getting me in trouble from Mrs. Akimoto.
How ironic. I was writing a paper on how much I hate this school and all the bullies here, just as one greedily chooses me to prey off of for his next meal. I rolled my eyes and slouched further back in my seat. "Okay, guys, I'm going to go tell someone to fix the clock, I'll be right back." Mrs. Akimoto said.
"My god, he's so annoying." Khayden said next to me, and I laughed in agreement, sighing in relief as Mrs. Akimoto left.
"Tell me about it." I hated this school. I hated this island. I hated this country. That's why I wrote. It was a whole different world, almost as if I fell into the scene and became the character myself. I could dream and never wake up. I could have my own alternate reality. I set my pen to the paper and sailed off into this other world.
"…but as you see the door to freedom, old and broken, you sprint before you, bare feet bleeding. A small knot of a root trips you on the bottom of the cold ground, and you wait for the inevitable smack of the dirt against your forehead, but it never comes. You fall, fall, fall…and open your eyes to an eternal blackness, engulfing you, as you soar in the never-ending pit."
"Aden- Aden. You seem a bit distracted with your writing." I jumped up, startled, to the sound of Casey's nasal voice seep, no, screech, through my eardrums, and turned around with the papers in hand. I smacked them on his stomach in surprise, and he snatched them out of my hands, laughing. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
"I dread coming to school. Every time someone laughs in class or whispers to a friend, I always assume it's about me, and I shrink back into my desk, my heart crumpled, dying as if someone had thrown it into flame." He recited, mimicking a high-pitched girl's voice, from the hand-written piece. He and Johnson, behind him, laugh. My eyes grew darker than a smoldering coal, and I rose to my full height, almost as tall as Casey.
"Stop!" I exclaim as I reach for the notebook high above me, my voice cracking. He couldn't read those, they were filled with transcribed dreams, stories, fantasies and novels. He couldn't read my dreams. They were odd and confusing, and for some reason, somehow, one of his best friends was in all of them. He couldn't know that. That's too embarrassing.
"Oh, what's this?" Casey turned the page as he stood up on a chair. "The Jabberwocky? An airplane? Man, Aden, how much do you write? And how much of this is true?"
I could feel the heat rising to my face as I grew uncomfortably nervous. My hands were clammy and cold, and I grabbed his ankle in hopes to pull him down from the chair and fall. My fingers pulled around his leg, but as soon as it touched his, I felt his knee flex and his foot come forward and bluntly strike me in the nose. I could feel a crack shatter through my ears and looked up at the lights, everything covered with a slight veil, like a vignette of black engulfing the corner of my eyes. I felt the loud thud of my head against the ground echo throughout my skull, and slowly, a voice began to fade into my ears. It was him. Reading my story.
I ran through the green grass, which never seemed to end, the light bouncing off of the setting sun. It fell through each blade like a sheet of color, and reflected against each and every surface nearby. I ran and ran, not knowing what from, but knowing that no matter how my legs burned, no matter how many cuts I endured on my bare feet; it was all worth knowing that I never had to go back. Tears streamed, hot down my cheeks, burning small canals into my skin as I shut my eyes to relieve the pain.
I ran for what felt like hours, the sun falling until darkness melted into every crevice of light and hope, and eventually I reached a small orchard of trees, with leaves of yellow and pink softly falling through the air as pitch black ensued the departure of the hot sun.
"Aden!" I heard a voice yell in the wind, following me, seeking me out.
"Aden, stop! It's not worth it!" The voice tried to reach out to me, warm and calming, but now in sharp breaths after running this far. I could feel it trying to grab me, trying to help me, but instead it tripped me over a blunt object and I fell to the soft earth. My hot tears reached the soil and I whimpered in pain.
"Stop, Aden, stop there. I need to talk to you." The voice stopped dead in its tracks, and promptly I tried to pry myself from the moist ground, but there seemed to be invisible vines, pulling around me, dragging me back onto the bed of grass. "No, Aden, don't fight it, just stop." The darkness reached into my soul, immobilizing me to the point of exhaustion, and I lay limp, defeated, in a pile of downfall and tears.
I sobbed, harder now, that someone had found me. I couldn't be seen then, not ever. The voice reached out to me, and this time, I let it shroud me in its warmth, its comfort, its serenity. "It's okay to cry." I could sense a hand reaching out to me as the voice stabilized.
"Don't touch me!" I shrieked in a high-pitched tone, strained in every direction. My voice sent out like blades, throwing in every direction, hoping to find my follower and injure them. The crying stopped and I could feel the vines breaking and snapping as I used all of my strength in my back to rise from the grave they made for me. I stood up, taller in feeling than in sight, and the darkness helped me reach my greatest size above them.
"Aden, I'm sorry. I never should have- I never would have- I should have stopped it while I had the chance. Just let me help you, let me finish what I started." The voice overcame me, like a blanket in a storm, and I immediately fell to my tiniest of sizes, my voice no louder than an ant's, my opinion no more than it of the vegetation surrounding me.
I fell once more to the soft dirt, my tears returning, my heart seemingly stopped. "It's okay." The voice repeated, and a long, muscular yet twig-thin hand reached out to me and rested on my back. The coldness disappeared and the wind stopped howling, and the warmth from the hand spread like a glow through to my toes. "I can help you get away from all this." The muscular, masculine hand reached out to me, leaving my back cold and empty, and I took it, my own hand feeble and weak in comparison.
He pulled me up to my feet and gripped my hand tighter. "Come with me." And we ran through the wind even faster than I had come. I could feel the dirt deteriorating beneath my feet, and hear the wind howl past my ears as the ground morphed into a hard surface. I could hear the wood beneath me echo, and knew that we were running on a bridge, somewhere to another world. Somewhere where pain didn't exist, and I saw small bursts of light and color appear out of the blackness. I heard his feet, bare, also, sound as if they were knocking on the bridge, inquiring about the chamber of even darker blackness beneath us.
The bridge's surface morphed into a cobblestone pathway, and grass on each side, as I could hear. "Trust me," he whispered as we ran past the trickling streams and dancing trees.
"Why?" I asked in a small voice, considering stopping running, but his hand held on fast and I decided against it. I heard our feet touch the stone, pit-pat pit-pat, over and over until he responded.
"Because I'm worth it. And you already know that, I know that in the darkest corner of your mind, in the cracks of your broken heart, you know what your decision is, and you know the truth. And the more you deny it, the more you realize that it's true."
I hear the words touch me and I began crying again, the tears streaming off my face into the wind. I began sobbing in fear of the truth, and he said, "Shhh. We're here." And we immediately started to slow down our pace. I don't know how I knew it, I could not see, I could not feel, but I knew that we had come upon an airplane. We had come upon freedom.
"Follow me." He said again, and he let go of my hand, running up the stairs to the inside. I followed him, feeling the lines in the metal steps as I ran up them. "You trust me, right?"
"Of course I do." I felt the words coming out of my mouth before I realized that I was the one saying them. I knew who this person was in my heart, knowing that they made me laugh, the made me feel loved, they made me have the time of my life three times in a day, but I couldn't realize who it was in my mind. I was lost, but with him, I knew where to go, he the light in the darkness.
"Then jump." That was when I realized that we were flying above the skies, above the bridge and the rivers, above the trees with pink and yellow petals.
"I- I- I can't." I stuttered. The plane shook beneath me, and slowly, it grew hotter and hotter and harder to breathe.
"Jump, Aden! It's the only way you can save yourself!" Suddenly the sky seemed to fall on me and I just stood there, frozen. "I'll catch you." His voice returned to the calming tone, and I felt him hold his hand in mine and gripped me.
That's when I fell.
As soon as my feet left the plane, however, I felt a thump on my back, two bony yet muscular hands pressing on my back, and I was back in the orchard, with the trees with the pink and yellow petals. I opened my eyes and saw who caught me. And that's when I recognized him.
"I said I'd catch you."
"Aw, what a cute story." His voice echoed in my head. I wanted to move, to punch him in his face, to make him hurt as he had made me hurt for so many years. But I couldn't.
"Dude, I don't think she's alright." Someone else dizzily stated as I drifted through and out volume in my hearing. I could just see a blur above me, grey shadows, yellow lights. I felt a slow river of blood fall from my nose onto my cheek, warmer that I could have imagined. The only thing that came clearly to me was the constant, loud ticking of the clock.
"Nah, she's okay. It's just that her mystery man didn't catch her. Who is he, anyway?" Casey persisted as I could barely hear a word he said. As he realized that I was actually hurt, he stepped down from the chair and sighed as he reached for my hand and tried to pull me up. As his weight pulled mine up, I could see better. The fuzziness went away, and the blood immediately fell from my brain. I was grateful as I attempted to regain my balance, but the one moment that I felt tippy, his fingers fell from mine.
And that's when I fell.
And there was no one there to catch me.
I saw the desks and lights rush by me; I could feel the air shooting past my head. All the breath was sucked out of my chest as I fell, and blackness took me by surprise. I kept falling, for seconds.
I opened my eyes. I was just falling, falling, falling, in blackness. I reached out my arm, no bruises, no blood, and let it run through the black air, but all I knew was that I wasn't in the classroom, for sure.
I could feel the trail of blood left by my nose soar in droplets through the blackness; I could hear the wind howling by my ear. But I could see nothing.
My arm reached further, it tried to grip onto a wall, a place, anywhere that wasn't here. I could feel dirt, a root here and there, cold and wet, slippery to the point where I couldn't grab onto it. I must've been dreaming. This is usually how they would start.
I let myself fall into the hallucination, waiting for the part where Raine would appear, where he would guide me through the dream, where he would tell me how to wake up. I waited as I fell. I fell as I waited. But he never came. Raine was the boy in my dreams. Raine Takahashi- not that he would ever actually speak to me in person, he was popular, hanging with Casey and his posse, good looking, kind. We only spoke last year in class, but other than that, I didn't see him.
The coldness grew bitter the farther I went.
"Aden." I heard Raine speak my name, but as soon as I twisted my head backwards, it stopped. No one was there.
"Time is running out." Another voice followed.
I heard the ticking come back to me, echoing louder and louder in the tunnel of nothing. "Raine?" I asked to the nothingness, and it only ticked in response.
"Aden!" He shouted again.
"What?!" I yelled again, but no one was there.
"ADEN!" The shout became louder, and suddenly I felt a sharp weight on my chest. I couldn't breathe, the air came out in short spurts.
"WHAT?!" I shouted now, and I sat up. I opened my eyes and saw the glowing light blur behind a silhouette. Behind it, more appeared, and they all swayed into three per each, shaking with the scene.
"Geez, I just wanted to wake you up. No need to yell." The silhouette spoke with Raine's voice, and I still couldn't focus on the scene. I smelled honey and mulberries, yet I'd never even seen a mulberry in my life. It reminded me of tea, and it made me even dizzier.
I tried to take in a sharp breath of air, but the weight continued to rest in my stomach and I began to choke. I fell back to the floor, the thin carpet being no help. I heard gasps, and a girl said, "Get off, she can't breathe, idiot!"
I recognized that voice...But...Bu- My thoughts faded into the blackness that was slowly encasing my vision. The silhouette was blending in the darkening background, and the falling sensation ensued.
Suddenly, I felt the volume returning as the weight came off my stomach. "Time is running out." The girl said again. I opened my eyes, and normal vision returned. I sighed, saddened. I was back in reality.
I saw the lamps beaming in the back of my classmates, leaning over to see if I was alive. I quickly gasped for air, and this time, received it. The person sitting on me truly was an idiot.
I stood up and regained my balance, while everyone backed away. I saw the same silhouette trying to walk away, but I grabbed the back of his shirt, soft and still smelling like tea, and jolted his face square to mine.
"Idiot." I said as I glared at the person, still unrecognizable, and smacked my hand across his face, my favorite ring falling to the ground.
"Ow!" He exclaimed. "I'm sorry! I didn't know you were alive."
I just bluntly stared at him. That was the stupidest answer he could've given. Slowly, the scene came into focus, I could see the features beginning to be defined on everything, not just light and dark. As it all came clear, my balance was pulled out from under me, and I began to fall again before two small hands pushed my back upright.
"Woah. Time is running out." It was the girl.
"What?" I whipped around to look at her. It was Brynna. "Oh. Thanks."
I turned back to the boy, and then I recognized him. It was Raine, glistening eyes, dark brown hair, bright blue highlights and all.. But why? He didn't have class with me. In fact, Brynna didn't have class with me either.
"Why are you here, and why were you sitting on me?" I said woozily.
"Dude! You slapped me!" He reminded as he bent down to pick up the ring.
"I'm so sorry! I didn't know it was you! I thought you were, like, Casey or someone."
"So you would slap Casey but not me?"
"He kicked me in the face and made me faint!" I shouted at him. "He's bullied me for three years, no duh, I would do so much more than just slap him!"
He stared at me with a blank look. I did not regret what I said, although those two were friends, I was never one to back down on my word or hide from the truth.
"Time is running out." Brynna said.
"What?" I turned to look at her, but she didn't even look my way.
"I didn't say anything. I just want Mrs. Akimoto to come back so we can sit in on the lesson."
"Oh. Okay. That makes sense." The ticking intensified, and I glared at the clock on the wall. But when I looked, I realized that there was no clock. Just wires that led to it before it had broken. I blinked.
"Where's the ticking coming from?" I asked, but Raine simply walked away. He sat down at my desk, and I turned to Brynna.
"What ticking?" She asked as it grew louder.
"That ticking." I said again. I looked around the room. Most of the students have left in hopes of a free period, now that Mrs. Akimoto left, so there was just the three of us.
"What ticking?!" She asked again.
I spoke before I thought. "Something has to be ticking in order for time to be running out." Time running out...something ticking...running out...ticking, ticking...The words echoed in my head, bouncing around farther than I have ever been. Something clicked. I don't know what, I don't know why, but something clicked into place, snapped into its position. Something happened.
Brynna must've seen the light in my eyes brighten, because she asked, "What? What happened?"
I shushed her silently, searching into the copper cosmos of my mind, mapping out where I would find what I had just figured out...I passed gears and thoughts, trails of trains and chairs falling, always waiting...I fell past it, feeling the temperature drop near the edges, smelling the oil and steam, like a train station. I looked, and I knew it was near, just to figure out wh-
"Woah. This is creepily like what's happening now." I broke out of my trance and angrily glared at Raine.
"DUDE! I was about to-"
"Aden! Raine, you're not supposed to be reading that." I looked at him and realized what he was reading: the notebook.
"RAINE!!" I shouted in rage.
"ADEN!!" He shouted back.
"YOU DICKHEAD!" I whipped the book out of his hands and lost all words.
"No, wait I want to finish it! What happens next? Who's the dude? Why do you write about Portal?!" He reached for the notebook, but my glare kept him down.
"No. These are dreams."
"Well, they're damn good if you ask me." He sat back down and stared at me with his big eyes. "Please can I finish it?"
"You should let him. It's not like he's going to tell anyone." Brynna said before flinging it out of my arms and handing it to him. "Here."
"Nice watch." Raine said as she passed it to him. "Green?"
"Red." She said, confused. "Colorblind, much?"
"Actually, yeah. I'm violet blind. Blue is more intense and red is green and green sometimes is grayish. I'm going to keep reading."
I reluctantly sat down and let him finish.
The clock ticked slowly, breaking the still silence like a knife, each sharp tick taking ages to complete. I tapped my green pen on the ivory paper, crisp and blank, thinking, wondering how I was going to finish the test. I was in a white room with mocking walls, so blank and blatant, glaring at me with the neutrality of their being, and I groaned internally. I put my hands to my face and rested them on the desk. I was the only one in the white room, the white desk and white chair my only companions. I hated white. I still do. I sat there, my hair with two 'rabbit-ears' on each side, as I usually do, the rest in a bun, and felt something on my right shoulder. It seemed to go right through my black shirt, matching the black jeans and blue converse, and straight into my skin, burning it. It was a finger, I could feel, and the second it touched me, I whipped my head around, my hair flying in my face, and opened my wide eyes wider in search of the source of the pressure.
Nothing. I blinked my eyes for a few moments, staring straight into the white oblivion, the room seemingly lasting forever. "No, no, but…" I stuttered, reaching out into the air. I grasped no more than the dust, floating around in the atmosphere. I turned back to my test. I was going crazy, that's why I was in there in the first place. It was all his fault. I thought. But who was he? Why was it his fault?
I sighed and put my head on my desk. It was oddly cool, though I could see no source of the temperature in the blank containment room for miles. I looked back at the paper.
"There is no need to hide, my friend, for I am just like you."
"There is no one like me." I said aloud, my clear voice echoing in the distance. It bounced across the walls for minutes, fading, slowly, away. I could barely hear it then, and the second that I thought it had disappeared, it came back.
"Yes, I am."
As soon as the waves of sound touched my ears, I felt the burning sensation again, but this time, as if there were a whole hand on my back. I turned again, and this time, when I turned around, I heard a whisper in my ear, but saw nothing.
"I DON'T KNOW YOU!" I screamed, my vocal cords ripping my throat. It was a shriek, one that tore in all directions, and it bounced across the walls, ripping my brain and mind into oblivion. The noise hit me like a different atmosphere, and I fell to the ground into a fetal position as I pressed my palms to my ears. The shrieking noise sounded like a banshee, and I closed my eyes for minutes until I hoped it had disappeared.
"Yes you do." It whispered, but this time it whispered into my brain, my head, and no matter how hard I tried to block out the noise, it stuck, like dice in a cup, rattling until the truth would appear.
I opened my eyes to a bright yellow mechanical sphere, looking at me in all perspectives. "What are you doing on the floor?" It said synthetically. "Go sit up and finish your test." I followed instructions, sitting back in the chair. "He will find you, stop looking."
"Who?" I turned back to GLaDOS, but she had disappeared. "WHO!?" I yelled once more, but this time there was no echo.
"He." I heard her say, and behind me, she appeared. "Wait."
I turned around, knowing that I needed to finish my test, but there was no one like me. There couldn't have been, I was crazy. I pushed GLaDOS to the back of my mind, and picked up my shiny green pen and tapped once more on the white desk. I tapped and tapped and tapped, only accompanied by the sounds of the ticking clock. Then I froze, wide-eyed.
The room was empty. There was no clock.
I dropped my pen and it clattered to the floor, focusing on the noise, closing my eyes until the ticking of the clock pounded louder and louder, next to my ear, in my head, surrounding my very presence, destroying each cell of sanity I had left, continuing, never stopping-
"You dropped your pen." The ticking stopped into an eerie silence.
I turned around and saw him, hand on my back, burning my very flesh away, and stared at his wrist.
There was a watch drawn on his wrist with a crude pen, shaking and twisting in a mangled sort of way. The second hand moved red and pointed, in the same beat as the ticking, but now I couldn't hear it at all.
I looked up at him, who promptly leaned over and picked up my pen, handing it to me.
"You should finish."
"You're not making an echo." I stated. Only then I realized that the test still existed, I was too focused on his being, studying who he was and why he was here. "Time is running out." I hurriedly reached for my pen, but he grabbed my wrist, making it burn with invisible flames.
"Time isn't running out." He said.
"Yes, it is."
"No. Look." He pointed to his wrist. The second hand stopped moving. "Time isn't running out."
"It is! I have to figure this out before time runs out! Who is he and why is he the same as me?" I yelled. He sat down, cross legged, his big eyes staring up at me.
"He is me."
"Who are you?" I asked in wonder, looking down at him.
"No. You know very well who I am. You've known for twenty three nights. But you keep thinking that time is running out."
"No." He pointed again to his wrist. "It isn't."
I sighed in confusion.
"Your hair looks different."
"I could barely recognize you. It took too long to find you in this dream." He said, still looking up at me. I crossed my legs in the chair.
"So you know who I am?" I raised my eyebrows. He couldn't remember me; I was just a lesser person. Someone who wasn't popular, rich, talented, pretty, or all of the above. I wasn't someone who was worth remembering.
"Yeah. It looks nice."
"Thanks." I smiled at him and he smiled back. This was weird. Weird but nice.
"Finish the question, or GLaDOS will make you do a harder one."
"But I can't. It's a lie." I stated. "No one is like me."
"I'm exactly like you."
"No you aren't."
"Yes I am."
"The question is a lie." My voice echoed in my head. Lie. Lie. "Lie!" I exclaimed. "You said dream. I'm dreaming."
"No, just think of what's real and what's not." He hesitated, but still stayed on the floor.
"No, this is a lie. This is a lie! Everything is a lie! The cake-"
"Stop spending so much time on the internet. Focus."
"It's all a lie, it doesn't matter if I focus or not. This is a lie." I used my finger to swipe at the table and it slid into oblivion. "This is a lie." I kicked a chair and it turned fuzzy, like a hologram, as my foot passed right through it. "GLaDOS is a lie." I heard her shut down, and the pressure in the air released. He stood. "You're a lie." I whispered as I rose to meet his eyes, and he looked intently into mine.
"Stop searching, it will find you."
"No. You're a lie."
"No. I'm real. I'm just like you. I'm as real as I've ever been, four months ago, or one night ago, I am real."
"No you're not." It couldn't be true, he was just a figment of my mind that would never leave.
"You're fake!" I yelled at him. "You. Are. FAKE." I put my hand on his shoulder, but nothing happened. "You have to be!"
"Aden," he said calmly, "the more you deny it, the more it comes true."
"You sound like my friends!"
"Am I not one of them?"
"NO! You're not real."
"The more you say that, the more you realize inside the truth. Admit it to yourself!"
"No! I'm dreaming!" I pulled on my hair in frustration. This couldn't be happening.
"ADEN!" He grabbed a hold of my face and made sure I understood. "I'm as real as when I wave in school, or when go to the library for holocaust survivors. I'm as real as when I made you laugh so much in English, or helped you present that teacher her gift, or when I even kissed you in a plane!"
"Why did you do that?"
"Because I needed you to fall!"
"Because you need to learn to TRUST ME!"
"BUT YOU'RE NOT REAL! You're YOU!"
"NO, I'm NOT. You know just as well who I am as I do, and you know inside your heart the truth, and as long as you don't admit it, you won't TRUST ME."
"Why do you need me to trust you?!" I shouted back at him.
"I can't tell you!" He shook my head and tried to get me to understand. "You already know!"
"WHAT? I don't! Now just tell me why!"
"I can't!" He let go and began to run away from me into the white nothingness.
I sprinted after him, and kept up behind him. "Why!?"
"I can't tell you!" He shouted, running even faster than before. My feet began to burn, and my legs were on fire.
"Why can't you get out of my head?!" I shouted at him as my feet hit the ground one by one, the air passing my face, the pain in my spine seeming out like daggers. No matter how much it hurt, I had to keep running. Time was running out, and I needed to catch it.
"I can't tell you!" He shouted back to me.
"This is a dream! You're not real! I should be able to stop you, or make you die, or make the whole dream at the end of a cliff! Just tell me!" I said, but as I said it, the white faded into an orange, green, and blue landscape. I saw the ivory melt into rocks, falling off ledges, as he stopped running and walked to the ledge of the cliff that had just jutted out of the end of the surface. The whole earth was silent, and yet the landscape was louder that I could have ever imagined. He walked to the edge of the cliff.
"Tell me!" I approached him.
"Jump after me."
And that's when he leaped off of the edge.
Raine flipped the last page rapidly, looking for more words. "What happened next?"
"I'm not sure, I woke up." I said, not looking away from my desk.
"Oh. Well, I hope you jumped after him. Whoever he is." He handed me the book back carefully and flipped up the hood of his jacket.
"So what now?" I turned to Brynna.
"You need to go to the nurse. I assume Mrs. Akimoto was called to the dean with Casey...so she won't be coming back for a while." She kicked up her feet on the desk and sighed.
"Is it even possible...? Don't keep falling, search for a way out." Raine whispered under his breath.
"Yeah. The nurse is right over there." Brynna pointed in the direction of her office.
"No, not that. Nothing." He shook his head.
"What? We're smart. Brynna could be a psychologist, she interprets my dreams every time I write them out." Brynna shrugged in agreement and turned her legs toward him.
"Well, I was thinking of Casey. I have two questions."
"One: Do you think that, somehow, two people's sub-consciousness's could be intertwined?"
I thought for a moment. It could be plausible, for instance, they could think the same, or have same sub-conscious thoughts, or the like. But maybe he was being a bit over-dramatic.
"Yes." Brynna said.
"It is possible." I agreed. "But, you do want to make sure it is in fact true, not just some theory you played out of proportion."
"Okay." He looked down at the desk and twiddled his thumbs underneath. "So, question two...who was the guy?" He looked back up at me and I widened my eyes. I could feel the blood rushing to my head and my ears grew hot. Oh god.
"Um...um..um..." I stammered. Brynna looked at me with an urgent look, we both knew that it was him.
"Let's move on. To the nurses office we go!" She shouted as she raised her arm and marched to the door.
"Let's." I said as I rose. I sighed and stood up, but the second I straightened my knees, gravity rushed to my head and I couldn't tell which side was which. I felt myself falling to the right, but I couldn't move to the left for the life of me. Everything seemed like slow motion, I could feel every second ticking by. I couldn't regain my balance. I was a goner.
"Woah." I heard as I felt two arms pull me up by the sides until I could stand up on my own. My vision focused and I saw Brynna in front of me, realizing that the person currently putting their hands on my shoulders was Raine. He steadied me. "Are you alright?" I nodded, but he left his hands on my shoulders.
"Time is running out." Brynna stated.
"That it is, but she can't walk. How can we get her there if she can't walk?" I heard him through my left ear.
"She doesn't need to walk. The land can walk for her." Brynna said, almost in a daze.
"Wait, what?" I said drowsily. The ground can walk?
"What?" Brynna said as Raine's grip tightened.
"The land walks?" Brynna snapped out of her daze and looked at me in confusion.
"What? Hurry, we have to go to the nurse." Brynna just turned around and walked towards the open door.
"Lean on me for balance. Casey must've kicked you hard." I laughed quietly and felt my skin grow warm with pin-pricks when he put his arm around my shoulder and put mine on his. "This is going to be tricky." I leaned on him and felt the ground magically appear beneath my feet. I warily took a step forward and felt more confident. As we walked out of the door, Brynna raised an eyebrow at me, and I felt the heat return to my head.
As we walked to the elevator, I realized that I didn't need much help, and our grip relaxed as we walked naturally. The only time I felt dizzy again was when he looked at me, and that's when I swear he knew. I don't know how and I don't know why, but there was something hiding in his eyes. It was as if I could look into them forever, or else they would pull me into the depths of his soul and never let me go.
I just looked down the majority of the time, partly because I didn't want to look into his eyes again, and partly because I didn't want him to see me all red and blushing.
"Thanks." I whispered as we silently hobbled down.
"No problem. And if Casey ever gives you any more crap: tell me, because I can blackmail him. I'm never going to forgive him for this."
"Raine, I haven't talked to you for six months. You don't have to, I'm not that important."
"To the land you're important." Brynna said right as she pressed the button.
"Wait, what? The walking land? What are you talking about?" I looked at her with disbelief.
"Wait, yeah, what?" Raine looked at her with the same expression.
"The land," she said. Raine held his breath for a moment and I could see the silence creeping on his face. He let out a short puft of air.
"Oh." His eyes widened, bigger than I have ever seen before.
"What?!" I looked at both of them in exasperation. "What land?!"
The elevator dinged and Brynna relaxed. Her shoulders dropped and get eyes seemed less cloudy. "Let's go!" She exclaimed.
"Yeah, um. Let's go." I heard Raine stutter as he talked.
We walked into the elevator and I glared at Brynna again. "What are you guys not telling me!"
Brynna looked back in confusion. "What?"
"We didn't say anything out entire walk here. You were enjoying yourself too much."
I stared at the ground and felt myself blushing again. "Yeah." Raine nudged me in my side. "We didn't say anything."
I sighed. "Fine."
He unsurely let me off his shoulder and I walked to the inside of the elevator. "Time is running out." Brynna said. I sighed again and didn't say anything.
She pressed the small button with the eerily glowing "1" on it and I waited for the slow drop of the elevator; it never came.
"What?" Raine said, jamming his pointer finger into the button-like hole. "Hurry up." He said.
"Go." Brynna agreed. The elevator seemed to respond to her. It lurched down, almost falling completely, ten times faster than it should, lights out, before returning to its normal speed.
I looked around in the darkness, crouched in a corner, paralyzed in fear. It was cold, and I could feel a slight breeze hit me from my right. I heard the odd echo, like a beast in a mountain, before remembering where I was.
"Brynna." I whispered. No response. "Raine?" No response.
I felt something nudge me in the right rib, and I immediately sent a kick to its side and heard a sharp inhale. "Ouch." I heard a shallow groan.
Oh. It was Raine.
"Sorry." I whispered, my voice cutting through the blackness. "The power went out."
"No shit, Sherlock." He whispered back. I could feel his hand groping the air, until it finally reached mine. It send even more shivers up my arm, but the warmth made me feel better in the cold, bitter, empty elevator. He gripped my hand tightly.
"Brynna?" I called out.
"She's not here." Raine said.
"What do you mean?" My heart rate quickened. "She has to be here, we're in an elevator!"
"No, we're not." Raine said.
"What the hell man, we're in an elevator! You're sounding like you do in the dreams!"
I gasped. I couldn't believe that I had just said that.
"So it is me!" He said in exclamation.
"Who?!" I tried to play dumb. Shit I couldn't believe that just happened.
"Now that we're on the same page, you need to fall!" What was happening? What was he talking about?!
"Dude, stop this! You shouldn't tease me about these things! Those were personal stories, now fuck off!" I tried to tear my hand away from his, but he just gripped it tighter. I pushed myself to the wall of the elevator, my back pressing against the frigid metal.
"No, Aden, seriously. You're not the only one who has those dreams. And I've been here before, so just trust me. Fall!"
"DUDE. Stop! We're in an elevator and this is no time to make fun-" I felt something touch my back. It was a hand. But how? My back was pressed right up against the metal wall. I gasped.
"Now you see."
I closed my eyes and thought.
There wasn't an elevator.
Brynna wasn't there.
And Raine was having the same dreams I did.
"Aden, stop thinking and open your eyes! You need to fall!"
I opened my eyes and heard the howling wind in the background. By this time, I was freezing.
"Here. If I give you my jacket, you'll warm up. But you have to promise me that you'll listen to what I say from now on." I felt his hand fall from mine and then replaced with a warm bundle of cloth.
"Put it on and jump. It gets colder." His voice echoed with such authority, I shut up and put on the jacket.
It was warmer than I had expected. It smelled nice, too, with the same tea-like mulberry scent, and softer even at that. He grabbed my hand again and said, "Jump."
I tried. I really did. I tried to move my legs, but I couldn't. The wind grew louder, and I tried to bend at the knees. I tried to jump.
But I couldn't.
"ADEN." He grabbed both my hands and looked into my eyes. "You have to jump. You have to jump. I swear, if anything happens to you, I'll take care of it. If you're in danger, I'll save you. I've been here before. I know what it is. Just trust me. You need to trust me!" I pulled my hands out of his and ran them through my hair. I wasn't worried about me being hurt, it was him getting hurt. I t would be my fault. I messed things up, I meddled and annoyed. I wasn't one to be able to help. "Aden." His hand was placed on my shoulder, which sent ripples of warmth through my body, and continued. "If you won't trust me, the connection will be broken." Connection? What connection?
He faced me, back to the abyss, and opened his arms like an eagle. And he fell.
He fell into the abyss, he fell into the blackness, he fell into nothing at all. He fell into death and life, as the spitting aura below him was beautiful and deadly. But he still fell.
"RAINE!" My throat ripped and I felt my eyes stinging. He couldn't have jumped. He just couldn't have. "RAINE!" I screamed again, but this time I was running to the edge and I jumped also. I did it almost subconsciously; he couldn't be safe. I felt the wind whipping on my body and felt his jacket flapping in the wind. I closed my eyes and fell into the dark, cold, hole.
I felt something grab my hand. It was another hand, but bony and muscular at the same time. It was Raine. He squeezed my hand once, warmth returning, and I knew that he would be okay. It was just a trick to get me to fall. He pulled away and I took in a sharp breath of icy air. "Remember what I said earlier." He whispered and I felt him drift away.
I opened my eyes and saw the blackness. The wet blackness that engulfed me when I had passes out. The same blackness I feared and couldn't escape. My lips grew blue and numb with the sudden chill, penetrating my black jeans and shirt like none other could. My vest flew upward, flapping against my arms as I tried to remember what he said.
Don't keep falling, search for a way out.
His voice echoed against the walls, empty, falling.
There could only be an echo if there was a definite stop to the endless space.
I looked up for him, but instead just felt my notebook thump against my head, bluntly. It was almost as if I had fallen into the notebook itself, and the glowing pages showed me the beginning of one of the dreams.
"`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe."
My voice rang clear through the meadow of the fluorescent grass, dancing with the wind as it grew unruly and uncut, uneven in patches. It was my favorite poem at the time, a glorious ode to Lewis Carroll. I had it recited from memory, my audience being nothing more than the mere blades the seemed to last forever into the horizon. There were no buildings, no mountains, no clouds, and no limits to what could happen.
The wind gently howled into my ear, whispering secrets of an age dead before me for generations, in a language of the world that modernization had failed to hear. I tried my hardest to listen, closing my eyes, but it was almost as if the language had died, and the gust bl