<Chapter 01: A Ghost>
Dasha’s heavy eyelids struggled to open. Several small lights peppering through the darkness fought their way into her sight.
Surrounding her was the night sky, above, below, all around in its vast and far reaching glory.
Instead of being overcome with fear, it’s like…when she was a small child hiding in a dark room, counting down the seconds before the seeker came looking…a darkness with that kind of vague and comforting, yet jittery feeling.
The night twists and churns…The stars swirling around like soap suds in a washing machine, the darkness became the water, and she was the "clothes" bundling clean.
A refreshing hint of mint lingers on the tip of her heart, the cooling sensation relieved a burn she hadn’t even known was there. For it had seized her veins, numbing her down to her toes, masquerading the danger lurking in the dark…Relieving the pain, the rot that unknowingly crept inside her and hollowed out her bones.
The stars elongated, flashing past like a degrading old film…the blurry scenes between its flickering distortion continued to be replaced, one by one.
A man awkwardly holding her in his arms…A woman softly tugging her cheek, nervously smiling towards the man…Children circling her, who was much smaller in size to them.
From the window of a bus, watching the tall trees, large buildings, and water in the distance drift by. When the bus came to a screeching halt and a black figured man walked in through the doors, the film broke apart and frayed.
The broken film shuddered, white rooms, excessive undulating beeps, distorted faces, a playground ripped from the mulch, then to a colorfully dull room of plushies and pillows.
The endless visitors passed by the window, the forest scape was falling apart as the years went by, replacing nature with monotonous shades of gray and white.
The scenes kept changing, and then there was a “her” all grown up and attending work with other adults, gulping down the morning coffee, apathetically facing the day.
She had no friends to chat with. No one but her mother to send a goodnight text to in the dead of night…There she was, holding onto the broken pieces of a life that had long fallen apart, but determined to live it out the best she could.
The film, full of bitterness, abruptly stopped and left behind a shard of white.
The shaking hand she lifted up to reach for the light, was as broken as shattered glass held tightly together with glue, so thin and withered...only a small breeze would crumble it into dust.
She stepped into the light and fell into the darkness.
This time fear’s serrated knife slashed into her sunken abdomen, and the film that had stopped shuddered into a new sequence of flashing darkness…that was until a tower fell into sight.
Amidst the shattered reality broken dreams froze.『Her』world slowly sunk into oblivion.
• • • •
How strange…was that…all a dream?
A surreal fantasy that somehow…felt nostalgic but oh so distant and unreachable?
『Master, I've completed the task.』
A voice roared into her head like a pair of headphones with their volume set to max.
When she tried to lift her eyes the surroundings glared into existence, forcing her to wince in response.
『Mm, good. Have you grasped the feeling?』
A startling voice continued despite her bedazzled state, lingering softly at first, then pounding into her ears like war drums determined to burst open her skull.
She cupped her ears to stop the sound, but it didn’t work.
Thud. She fell to her knees, cowering into herself, hoping for these foreign voices, this strange language to stop taking a hammer to her.
It hurt…so badly it hurt.
In mockery to her wishes the torturous nails on chalkboard continued, the voices sweet but unable to appreciate, the volume an explosion set on decimation and destruction.
『The feeling nauseated me. My head and feet seem to have swapped places while my heart raced through every one of my veins. In an attempt to correct the imbalance………….』
Quiet, it was finally quiet. A heavy buzz lingers in her ears, the drums are gone and only the dull ache pulses as its harsh but lingering memory.
Where is this place? She blearily looks out from her kneeling knees, absentmindedly staring at the pair of men chattering amongst themselves.
It was strange…Their mouths were moving, yet as if a mute button had been pressed, outside of the undulating buzz, not a sound was heard…sounding quite like an old television that had its sound box damaged, or a speaker still working underwater…not quite distinct, but still perceivable although quite soft.
Though curious, her attention was captured on the fluttering strands dancing in the breeze. Why…Why was their hair so terribly long?
One who’s hair was that of moonlight dyed blue had his hair down to his ankles. The other was not far off either, the pomegranate dyed hair barely skimmed the tops of his knees.
She reached for her own hair that was barely an inch below her shoulders, feeling a shiver down her spine at how much maintenance one must go through for hair like that.
But wait…a funny feeling of deja vu struck, and she felt that her hair was long like that once before, but then…why did she cut it so short?
Her head fell to the side, a white mist surrounded her mind, disorienting her attempt at remembering.
Strange, very strange…not only that…she felt as if she’d forgotten something. Today…today something important was to happen…but what was it again?
Her head hurt too much, the fuzzy mist truly was determined not to move despite her urging.
And so to stop the pain, she looked around to discern her location.
A strange place this was as she noticed the hoop-like shape of the room, a perfect circle, the walls seamless, the encompassing stairs leading down all around her, and even more odd were the symbols painted everywhere, climbing up six pillars shooting into the air.
In addition to that, when she looked up at the sky, no ceiling was there to cover it. Instead directly overhead was the full moon.
What is that? Her eyes squint but then blink in confusion.
A wobbly line cut right down the middle of the moon, seemingly blown by the wind like a downcast flag that had no knowledge of the laws of nature.
That can’t be right. The breeze was moving to the left, not down.
『Finally—– As I thought- a genius like you will do nicely.』
A sharp tug of the hair and her trance was grabbed, yanked down by the soft yet hair rising voice of the moonlight dyed man.
When she caught sight of him pulling open his mouth, upturning those thin lips into an eerie gleam, goosebumps stood at attention throughout her entire body, and an electric shock jolted her awake.
The pomegranate dyed man called out, a tremble to his voice, seemingly concerned, but also apprehensive. One foot had retreated back whilst a hand jumped to his chest. A visible trail of sweet slid down his temple and off his chin.
The thick and muggy atmosphere did not feel quite right. In fact it smelled of acidic gasoline. She felt just one tiny spark would be all it’d take to set off the bloodlust circulating in the air.
『Clementine, oh Clementine. Our time together has finally come to an end.』
Time slowed down to a crawl. One froze while the other walked forward. A sluggish pace following the click of the muted clock. Each thud of his boot resonated with her heart, the silence suffocating her lungs.
She sucked in a sharp breath, feeling the tension rung tight like rope ready to snap…and swallowed with great difficulty.
And just like that, before she could blink, the spark ignited and the fraying rope split apart in a resounding pop!
A moonlight colored hand bolted forward, frozen fingers grabbed hold of those pomegranate dyed locks and yanked. The free hand wrapped that unresponsive neck that hadn’t the strength to utter a scream.
Despite the poor pomegranate dyed man’s struggles…his hands fighting to release the hand strangling him…clawing at that pale bony wrist, his strength seemed all too weak.
Her vision blurred and contorted, quite like blending paint with a brush, the darkness swayed back and forth, obscuring the chilling murder scene enacted before her.
It had happened way too quickly. She was beyond confused and her legs felt weighed down by lead, her mind heavy with water, boiling and angry.
For just a moment she closed her eyes, to shake away the fullness, the expanding ache that wished to pop open her head…and by some miracle…it worked.
So when she opened them again, shock, panic, and extreme heart freezing horror trembled up and down her body…